Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Faraway Tree

A friend of mine who works in a bookshop gave the girls an audio book copy of Enid Blyton's The Faraway Tree, read by Kate Winslet. It took a little while for them to get into it, but they love to listen to it now, and it's been a pretty handy thing to have on the long car rides to Bundaberg. There are three books in the trilogy, and when you've spent 16 hours listening to the lot of them, you find you really want to do something more, or maybe that's just me? 

Anyway, I've made a Faraway Tree. From cardboard. Glorious cardboard. We had a real growing collection under the house, and I knew it was time to use some after the last tidy up down there. Steve was pretty happy to see it getting used. 

I feel I must look like a stalker when I say that I got the inspiration for this particular incarnation of the Faraway Tree from Ikatbag, who made one for her own girls here. But it really is a coincidence. And there was no point reinventing the tree, so to speak, given that there were already good basic guidelines to follow right? 

Here it is, in it's tall cardboard glory. My cardboard supplies came from my parents, (thanks for getting those new outdoor chairs and the bunk bed for the kids!) and also a random box that I picked up somewhere. I was using it to segregate the children in the car when they start to get annoying. Let's hope I don't need it for that anymore...

This Faraway Tree has a working wash basket lift, that you move up and down by turning the dowel at the top. The children love this particular feature, especially Hugo. He was the first to really investigate it. I hid the turning mechanism by cutting a channel in the top of the tree for the dowel to lie in.

There is a hole at the top of the tree, with the ladder leading up to the land above the cloud. The girls love to pretend there are all sorts of lands there, just like in the book.

Here is Moonface's round tree room with the ladder just outside. The most exciting feature of Moonface's room is that in the middle it has the start of the Slipery Slip, which goes all the way down the tree to the bottom and is by far the fastest way of getting down again after you have climbed up.

You can see the slippery slip going down the middle of the tree in the photo below. It does go all the way down to the bottom. Hugo initially tried to put cars down it, but they didn't fit. Thankfully. 

The tree also has little windows and doors that open and close for the people who live there, and also for visitors.

The little people who live in the tree at the moment are actually just peg dolls that I painted ages ago, (and the girls painted one each actually), that loosely look like Disney Princesses, but the girls have renamed to be tree characters without much fuss. That said, they have put a lot of other things in the tree, including the wooden Koalas (who blend in and are hiding in some of these photos), and all of their soft toys. Hugo has also housed some cars at various points.

One thing I do regret about this tree, is that I got so excited about making it as big as I could with the cardboard that I had, that I kind of made it too tall. Rachel (pictured with the tree below), can not see the land at the top of the tree unless she stands on tip toe, which makes it very hard for her to play there. Not that there will ever be a next time for this tree (I don't think), but if there was one, I'd make it shorter.

Since these photos, I've let the kids glue green "leaves" on (scrap paper, ripped up), to give it a bit more colour.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Job's Done

Remember last June, when I suddenly took it into my head to repaint the downstairs toilet to increase it's general aesthetic appeal? You can read about it here. Well, we had a free weekend, and suddenly were hit by a wave of energy to get some things done. 

Behold! One downstairs toilet with painted walls, floor and a new toilet seat.  

Such shinyness.

Completely different to the old floor. And now, when we look at the floor in the general laundry area, just outside the downstairs toilet, it seems that we have some more painting to do.

We also put up some hooks to hang extension cords, re-fly screened the front door, and I made these:

All in all, a good weekend.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Tea Travel Case

Steve and I have officially become tea snobs. We use loose leaf and have more than one type of tea in the house. In fact, we have at least seven regulars on the go.... It could be getting out of hand.

Anyway, what it means is that when we go away, we languish slightly, because we can't possibly take all of the tea with us. When we try to take tea with us, it's always a bit of an ordeal; have we got the infusers, the tea measuring scoop, the right mix of teas? Then, there is the practical question of how do we carry it all?

After taking several trips last year where the tea stuff was unceremoniously thrown into the top of a green bag of random food stuffs, I knew it was time to work on something else. Thankfully, my favourite blogger of all time has a pattern just for something like this! Ikat Bag had done a lunch bag tutorial in her Zip A Bag series that was pretty perfect.

I was just going to try to follow the tutorial and mess around with sizes until I got it right, but there was tricky curved seams, separating zips and loads of fabric layers that put me off. Luckily, right after the Zip a Bag series, or maybe during it, she also put out a full tutorial for the exact bag! You can see it here.

Originally I was inspired by the fabric I had used for the Document Case for Travel, and was hoping to use that for the Tea Travel Case too, but I figured I'd better do a prototype first to check that all the essential tea things would fit for travel. I'm glad I did, because while it does fit the infusers, scoop and two tins with a little room for an extra bit of tea, we would ideally like it to fit a third tin of tea, just in case.

Anyway, the prototype, which I made out of the spotty blue material (previously used in Sophie's shorts here), and scrap stuff I've had lying around for ages. Yellow stuff left from the Table Tent, some blue from who knows where (Rachel's Easter Dress maybe?) and some frog material that I think was a hand me down from 2013 somewhere. I've never used that before because there wasn't enough of it, but it was perfect for this.

I had to get a quality separating zip from Spotlight, but that was all I bought for it, so $6 on a bag is pretty good I think! I know I deviated from the recommended materials a fair bit, but I was using up stuff and it was a prototype, so I think it's ok. It turned out pretty fabulous anyway.

It's good for right now, and when I upgrade with a slightly longer zip and the final materials, we will be travelling in style with copious amounts of tea along for the ride.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Sophie's Birthday 2018

Being true to my word, I am here to document Sophie's 5th Birthday happenings. This year, because we had only just got home from the Big Travels, Sophie did not get a full blown birthday party. She did of course get cakes though!

I made some little pokémon cupcakes for the day of her actual birthday, where we spent time with friends. I took this photo very quickly before the kids reached in to grab their cupcakes.  

Then, on the weekend, we just had family over for afternoon tea, which consisted of a fruit platter, a bowl of popcorn and cake. I figured that was enough and also that way, people would eat the rather enormous cake and we wouldn't have copious amounts of leftovers.

Again, this is a rather terrible photo, but it's the only one I have. I saw how to make this unicorn cake on the internet somewhere. It's simply a rectangle cake that you cut and rearrange. Unfortunately I managed to snap mine in half when I was transferring it to the cutting board, so it's a little out of proportion, but it worked none the less. It took a while to ice, because of the fondant, but I wasn't going to risk butter icing that would melt in the Australian summer heat. I think the feathers as the mane and tail were pretty fabulous.

Sophie was only a little disappointed that she didn't get to help with the icing, because we ran out of time during the day and I had to do it while she was asleep at night. Oh well.

Now she's five. Next year she'll need two hands to show how old she is.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Things They Say

Rachel: "Mum, look at my toe. Isn't it mysterious?"

Sophie: "I really miss Dad. It's hard doing things on your own, hey Mum?"

Rachel: "There should be capsicum yogurt. Can we get some please Mum?"

Sophie (talking about new duplo): "This is marvellous!"

Rachel has an interesting way of talking about the concept of time. If something has happened in the past, she uses the phrase: "on a different day" and if it's going to happen in the future, she says: "after this day". It doesn't matter if it's yesterday, or last year; or if it's tomorrow or next month. For example: "On a different day we went to the snow." and "After this day, I'll go to kindy."

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Big Travels Part 2: Europe

Here is a continuation of the travel adventures from December 2017. You can read the first part here. Also, stuff happened on the flight from LA to Budapest (namely a stopover in Oslo, Norway) that you can read about here. Brace yourself, this is a long story.

The view from our Airbnb

Budapest. Stop one in Europe. We got in late at night, and thankfully, managed to sleep fairly well. We woke up lateish and Steve went out to forage our breakfast. Aside from the great location of our Airbnb (close to public transport and the city), the best news was that it was also on a pokéstop and the GPS would sometimes bounce us to the gym on the other side of the building. If you don't play Pokémon, sorry, but to those of us who do, this was excellent luck.

We then dressed up in many layers and ventured out for a walk. The girls were excited to be wearing their snow gear for the first time, and while they were warm, they were still shocked by the cold. They also disappointed that even though it was so cold, there was no snow to be seen.

We had fun wandering around Vajdahunyad Castle and the associated green spaces. No idea what we saw really, and the actual castle was closed for winter (this almost became the slogan of our trip. Even though snow is cool, I'd not advise Europe in winter for this very reason).

The girls tired quite quickly this day, still getting over the jetlag and adjusting to the new temperature, so we headed back home and got some takeaway dinner. The next day we again slept in (thanks jet lag) and woke up at 10 to head out pretty quickly after to meet up with some of Steve's Hungarian relatives. I said to Steve afterwards that family is pretty strange, because here we were meeting people we were practically strangers with to have lunch together and talk about our lives with, and that's totally ok, because we are family. Does that seem weird to you?

They were lovely people and lunch was delicious. They had booked a Hungarian restaurant for us to eat at and the meals were great. Steve had catfish stew, while I had some pork medallions in paprika sauce. The girls were pretty high maintenance here (jet lag I shake my fist at you!), so Steve carried most of the conversation with translation help from some of the better English speaking members of the family. Must learn some Hungarian if they ever want to come here!

After lunch we went on a bus tour of Budapest city called the River Ride where the bus actually drives out onto the Danube River and becomes a boat for the second half of the tour. The girls were really excited about this (we had told them about it in advance) and were practically screaming with excitement when it actually happened.

We hopped off the bus around four in the afternoon, which was around sunset, so we wandered through the Christmas markets, ate some food and headed back to our Airbnb for the night. The next day we had a train to catch to Bratislava, in Slovakia, but the girls had a terrible nights sleep and we all ended up sleeping in. Thankfully, my family did a video call at 8am which woke me up in time, or we would have missed it for sure.

The train station it self was stressful too, because it was not well signed and some parts were under construction. We found the most efficient way to do things was for the girls and I to wait with all of the luggage while Steve raced around finding the right way to go. We did make the train, with about 10 minutes to spare, which was ok, but meant we didn't stop for breakfast at all. Good thing I packed snacks. Lots of snacks.

Actually, on snacks, that was the best tip I had before we left from my friend Megan, was to get a pack of zip lock bags from the shops to take with us. Then, when we got carrots or cucumber that I cut up for snacks, I had an easy go to container for them. Or when we had left over food. Or the girls broke something and we needed to keep the bits safe. If you are going on a trip with kids, take a box of zip lock bags. You won't regret it.

Bratislava turned out to be a real highlight of our trip. The weather was cold, but lovely clear days. The first day we didn't do much. The train from Budapest and getting to our new Airbnb meant we didn't really get in till around two, and the girls were pretty exhausted. Luckily our new place was right near a coffee shop called Barcelona, so that was a win. Steve did some shopping for us, while the girls and I chilled in the arvo and we just ate a rather boring dinner in (chicken, rice and veggies - the girls really appreciated the familiarity). Rachel fell asleep on the chair at the table after eating dinner that night; travelling took it out of all of us.

Our first full day, we went out to Bratislava Castle, which was a restored castle and was beautiful. The view from the top tower was fabulous too and the girls got a kick out of exploring the place too.

After that, we wandered back home through the Old Town, looking at more Christmas markets, eating some fantastic food from a place called Fetch. Our Airbnb in Bratislava was again in a convenient place for public transport, and had the added bonus of being really spacious.

The next day we took the bus out to the zoo which also had a dinosaur park in it. Pretty exciting for the girls, and us, if I'm being honest. Tickets were discounted because it was winter, and a lot of the animals were hibernating, or off exhibit. Also, some of the dinosaurs had animatronics that didn't' work in the winter either. It was still fantastic, though I did feel sorry for the animals, especially the kangaroos.

It was a really cold day when we were there, and very faintly snowing, but you had to really focus to be able to see the infrequently flakes falling. We didn't bother telling the girls, because it was rather underwhelming. They were busy with the dinosaurs anyway. It was really nice to be out in a place where they could run and explore too.

Here they are having an in depth discussion about the map. I'm not kidding.

Our next day saw us get up really early to catch the bus to Vienna, Austria. Country number three for Europe. We found some lockers at the train station and stored our bags for the day while we wandered around. Vienna is pretty crazy impressive with it's churches and towers and fancy stuff. Steve, after an hr there, said he could totally live there and loved the old cool stuff. He was singing a different tune though, when the weather turned bad and reminded him of the dark days in Seattle.

We stopped at Wienner World for for lunch, where Steve was sure he could get a sausage of some kind, but was disappointed with there was nothing on the menu. We had ribs and schnitzel instead, and steamed veg for the girls.

We took an afternoon train to Salzburg, seeing snow for the first time out the window (though I was so tired at this point that I really missed most of it) and again were excited to find our accommodation (this time a "family room" in a hostel) was on a pokéstop. I have to say, that despite Salzburg being the place I was possibly looking forward to most in Europe, it was probably my least favourite. The weather was terrible (I know, I know, that's not Salzburg's fault!), and even though it was the home of the Sound of Music and Mozart, it kind of felt like it had nothing else.

We did do a Sound of Music tour, of which, many parts were closed for the winter (though, unlike the dino park in Bratislava, you didn't get a discount ticket - you were still paying full fare!). We tried to make the most of it, although I think Rachel's devastation when she realised she wouldn't actually get to see Maria and the children on the tour must have rubbed off on me, because I was really underwhelmed. The girls and I did sing our way through the park at the end though, so that was something.

Salzburg was our shortest stop in Europe (two nights, rather than three or four) and I'm a little glad. We picked up a car the next day and drove off to Innsbruck to meet the family.

When we tell people that we went to Austria and had Christmas with my family, they promptly ask how many of my family live there and do we get to see them often. It's a little... I don't know the word, confusing maybe, to explain that no, actually, all of my family are in Australia, but we all went over to Austria for Christmas. You can see this post if you want to know more about how that happened.

Anyway, everyone did their own thing, travelling to different places on different days and what not, before all of us meeting in Innsbruck to head to Kolsass (a little village outside of the city) for the four days over Christmas. A White Christmas. We arrived in Innsbruck first, and again checked out some Christmas markets - this one had a carousel! Total highlight!

Steve and Rachel ate a pretzel and the girls watched a kids puppet show entirely not in English. It was interesting to hear the other kids singing along and calling out at appropriate times, while we were all a little clueless. Fun none the less.

Sarah, her Steve, Fiona and Hugo met us at the markets. Hugo was delighted to see his cousins again. We were all really happy to be together actually. I think especially for me, I'd had six weeks doing solo parenting while Steve was in Seattle, then to LA, which was kind of relaxing, being with Steve again, but ended with a bit of a rush (last two days at Disneyland!) and then the first week of Europe was pretty full on. The girls didn't sleep well until Salzburg (look at that, Salzburg was good for something after all), so I was really fatigued just from that too.

Here we were at last, with family, looking at four days of just being together with nothing planned. So nice. And with the shops closed over Christmas, and a house with a full kitchen, we would be cooking some home made meals. And by we, I really mean mostly Mum. Who could go past a nice Mum-cooked meal when you've been travelling hey!?

We had an amazing house in Kolsass that was obviously owned by people with kids. It had toys and a garden area that was covered in snow. This is the view from the bathroom as the sun rose over the mountains at 8am. Beautiful.

The first day, Christmas Eve, we left mum and dad relaxing to go check out a ski slope. By the time we got to the bottom of the mountain, organised ski gear and made it to the bottom level of the top, it was already 10:30, so really, the day was half over. Steve didn't get to ski, which was a shame, because there were no group lessons available, being early in the season. There were kids lessons though, so we booked the kids in and played in the snow until lesson time.

We were really unsure as to how the kids would go at skiing, but they did fabulously! It has really made us consider a snow holiday in the future. They didn't even mind falling down, because of the novelty of the snow. We headed back home around four and had a quiet dinner in.

Christmas Day!

We went to a church in the village that was all in German, but was nice. It was strange not to hear any Christmas Carols though. The service had songs, but not recognisable ones. Anyway, even in another language, it was familiar and comforting to be reminded of Jesus on Christmas day.

The rest of the day we chilled out at home, finally ventured out into the snowy back yard to play and have snow fights. Fiona, Steve and I go excited building snow men. The kids tried to help, but it's a lot of hard work. They named the first snowman Bob and we quickly made him a very Olaf-shaped friend.

The next day was more of the same, chilling together, playing in the snow and resting before we would be parting ways. The Steves made the kids an ice house by making blocks of snow with a large plastic tub they found in the garage. And there were lots of rides down the slope in the large plastic tub too.

We left the next day and Steve dropped us at the train station before returning the hire car and walking back to meet us. The girls and I sat around in Maccas (with all our luggage) using their free wi-fi to catch pokémon. Fiona made sure that Mum and Dad were on their train and then came to say goodbye to us too. Then we were on the train to Munich!

This random photo of houses is something I loved about travelling. I can't imagine houses painted such striking colours in Brisbane, let alone buildings that are right next to each other like that. The girls had fun saying the different colours of houses as we went past too. Green, Red, Pink, Blue, Green, Yellow, Brown, Pink. So good.

After catching the train to Munich, we had a little trouble finding the Novotel because we went out the wrong exit from the train station and ended up walking the wrong direction for half a km before realising. Sigh.

This was one of the hardest parts of travelling with the kids. We were all lugging bags (kids included), and Steve and I had suitcases. We were all tired, but had to keep encouraging the girls and saying things like "we are nearly there!" a million times. When we realised we had gone the wrong way, we couldn't just jump in a taxi, or order an Uber, because kids means car seats, which we didn't have. So our only option was to turn around and keep walking.

We did make it, and chilled out for the evening. Luckily, there was a supermarket just down the road, so we didn't have to go far to get cheese, meat and bread for dinner. The next day we woke up to some quality snowing, so after breakfast at the hotel, we wrapped up and headed out.

The girls ran around in front of the hotel for a while, basking in the snow falling and being excited (who am I kidding, so did I!) Then we jumped on the train to the main parts of Munich to see all the touristy things. We saw a toy museum and the clock tower in the main square, but the cold weather was pretty rough on us, and we ended up heading home pretty quickly. 

After getting home, it became apparent that Sophie was indeed getting sick. She had a fever and her throat was sore. Steve stayed with her in the afternoon to look after her, and I went out again with Rachel to see a few more things and pick up our last souvenirs. I have to say, even travelling with just one child is totally different to all of us going out together! 

Kids being sick while travelling is the next hardest thing. Especially in a non-English speaking country, even one as fancy as Germany. Sophie had a really bad nights sleep that night, and we used up all of the kids paracetamol that we had bought from home. Her poor throat was so swollen she could barely talk and wouldn't eat much of anything. So the next day, we set off to find a doctor. 

We were amazingly blessed in that down near the local supermarket was a pharmacist. Steve had already been in to get some throat lozenges for Sophie, and they were really helpful, so we just went back there to start our search for a doctor. They were amazing. The pharmacist on duty spoke great English, told us of a kid doctor that was a 10 minute walk (with children) away. She gave us the address, directions and called ahead and made the booking for us too. Such a blessing. 

The doctors were great, and after a little wait, they saw us. Turns out Sophie had a virus, so there was really nothing we could do, but it was good to hear that from a professional, and know there wasn't anything else we could be doing. Here is Steve giving Rachel a lift home from the doctors.

When we got back to the hotel, Sophie (and Rachel, who was also coming down with the virus, though not as bad) just chilled out, so this time I stayed with them and Steve went exploring. He got to see lots of churches and buildings and cool old stuff around Munich, as well as eat some local fare before coming back.

And then, the end had come. We were packing up and getting ready to leave. Trying to make sure the suitcases were under 20kgs, looking for things we could leave behind rather than lug home again, ensuring that breakable things were securely wrapped, and that all the wooden stuff was easily accessible for customs inspections in Australia.

The flights were long, and hard with two little sick girls, but we made it. And everyone got some sleep. The girls watched the most recent pokémon movie pretty much back to back the whole way home, between sleeping and eating. Singapore airport is as cool as everyone says, and I wish I had more photos, but somehow in the transfer of photos from phone to computer, they got lost. 

I'm so thankful for our neighbours. One lot drove us to the airport and then our car back home, and then others who drove our car out to the airport to pick us up, on New Years Eve, none the less! And who looked after our house by collecting mail, putting bins out and watering plants. And Steve's brother who came and mowed the lawn. These people are amazing to me.

It was relief to be home. I love Australia, even more now than before. Sure we've got our problems, but it's beautiful and it's home.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Big Travels Part 1: America

Thus begins the record of the travel adventures from December 2017.

The girls were super excited to be finally on their way to see Steve when we left home for the airport. As was I. Only the usual airport hassles as we cleared passport checks and customs and onto the plane. Here are the girls with their travel buddies from my godmother and their fluffy neck pillows borrowed from some bible study friends. 

Though I encouraged them to sleep early, they didn't. They were however pretty great on the plane flight, and did both sleep in the end, I even slept too, though I'll never know why the flight attendant saw fit to wake me and give me a kids meal when both of my kids were asleep too.

I had wanted the reunion with Steve to be amazing and magical, but in the end it was really emotional and there were a lot of tears. I had had about four hours sleep in 48 hours, we were unable to find each other at the airport, and I couldn't get wifi anywhere which meant I couldn't contact Steve at all. When he finally got off the bus at the car hire place where we were waiting, there were so many tears. The girls hardly noticed because they were just so ecstatic that Steve was there.

Steve had driven in Seattle (up to Vancouver for the Thanksgiving weekend), so thankfully he managed driving to our airbnb really well. We just hung out that day, went to the local grocery store for supplies, lunch at Maccas etc.

The girls were tired, but also so excited to be with their dad and on their adventure that they lasted the day really well. We had told them that they couldn't sleep until after dinner. I was watching Rachel as she finished her first roll of sushi. It was like her mind did the math: "They said I could sleep after dinner. I've finished. I'm going to sleep." She put her head on the table and was out to it. It was hilarious.

We were all in bed pretty early that night, but managed to sleep through til 8:00 am! Take that jet lag! We drove out to Venice Beach late morning and had a bit of a look and walk around. Steve did some pokéwalking with the girls, which they loved. Actually despite all of the pokéwalking, we failed to catch the special American pokémon, which was a little disappointing. 

Sophie saw her first squirrel there too, which was exciting. She tells me now that squirrel's are her favourite animal. We were still pretty tired out that day, so we headed back home again fairly soon too. There is only so much you can do with kids the day after a long flight, even if they did manage to sleep through the night.

What I wasn't expecting on this first week back, was the way the girls really attached themselves to Steve again. They were so happy that their dad was back, that they were right next to him all the time. If he was sitting on the couch, they were right there next to him. It was beautiful, but I felt a little left out. Where was my time with Steve? I did get to have it, but it was a little hard sharing him that first week.

The next day we went back to the beach, this time Santa Monica, because it had been so great there before. The weather was very similar to an Australian winter actually, and there were Australian native plants everywhere! It was a little sureal to be walking along in Las Angeles and see Kangaroo Paw, Bottle Brushes and Bougainvillea. Did we even leave home?

We walked through downtown Santa Monica after some Chipotle lunch; delicious Mexican food! The best thing was these dinosaur features in the main street, which were just super cool.

We ended up back down at the beach at a small theme park called Paradise Pier. There was no entry fee but you had to buy tickets or an armband for rides. We ended up getting an arm band each, which was well worth it. The rides were pretty perfect for the girls and it was really quiet, so no lines at all. Steve was keen to take Sophie on some roller coasters, and to my surprise, she loved every minute of it. They are riding around in the second seat of the third section of the picture below. You can see Steve's hands in the air, though Sophie is too small to be seen.

Rachel was fairly devastated that she wasn't allowed on, being too small, but she did get ice cream instead, and that cheered her up a bit. It was a pretty rad day.

The next day we took the kids to a train museum, which was fun for them, and then a big park near Griffith Observatory. From there we went down to Hollywood Boulevard, which was probably the lowest point of our LA trip. It was so overrated, and when we got there it wasn't cool at all. Maybe if we could have done one of the tours looking at where different movies were filmed (which, I guess is not at Hollywood Blvd at all, you just start there), it might have been good, but with the girls, that was just not on the cards. It reminded us a lot of the Valley in Brisbane. Steve did try an Umami Impossible Burger, which, while a little saucy, was a good bite.

That night, I got to see some life-changing musical theatre: Hamilton. Oh my goodness. It was fantastic.

The entire thing is sung, so if you've got a soundtrack, you know all the words, but to see it on stage with the sets, costumes, choreography just takes it to another level entirely. Everything is so well done, it's just amazing. In an era of "Soundtrack Musicals", this is truly something new and well worth getting to see if you can. I hope it comes to Australia so I can see it again. The theatre it was done in, The Pantages, was just amazing too actually. Phenomenal.

The next day, we got up early, before the sun to drive south to Anaheim: Disneyland awaited! We were really lucky because in September, I had run into a friend of mine from teaching days at a trivia night and I had mentioned to her that we were planning on going. She had a friend who had been recently with kids and that friend ended up giving us a whole list of tips and tricks for doing Disneyland with the kids. It was expensive to get in, but so worth it, and the extra info we had meant we were pretty efficient with our time.

The girls were the right age for so many of the rides, and it was not busy, so I don't think we waited more than 15 minutes for a ride, and even then, that was only once. We bought our own snacks in, so we didn't have to buy too much food. We had booked a hotel for the night (we were doing two days at Disneyland), which again, was a great tip, because we could leave the park and walk back to our hotel for a rest in the afternoon. The girls really needed it, Rachel more than Sophie, but Steve just took Sophie back in the evening and they got to see the lights and go on more rides together, so that was pretty cool.

Here we all are on the Mary Poppins Carousel. This was probably the number one thing I wanted to do, so dream achieved!

The next day we were back again at California Adventure Land (which is just another Disneyland theme park), seeing more things and going on more rides. We were there at 8:00am, so no lines at all. I took the girls on another carousel, the Ferris Wheel and the Little Mermaid ride, while Steve smashed out three big roller coasters, including the new Guardians of the Galaxy one, which, from about 9:00am had a wait time of one hr at least.

We then went to a character breakfast in Ariel's Grotto, which was pretty expensive, but delicious and had the added bonus of five different Disney princesses showing up while you ate breakfast, so you didn't have to chase them all over the park for photos. The girls LOVED this so much. I have to say that being a Disney Princess would pretty much be my dream job. Get dressed up, walk around smiling and singing all day. Yes!

The girls were also really excited for Cars land, and just wanted to take photos of everything for Hugo. We had to leave about three to head straight to the airport for our flight to Budapest, but it was still a blast and we had such a great time. So much fun! Thanks America for being leg one of the Big Travels 2017.