Other California Favorites

30 Oct
The beach in Cambria

Once we left San Diego, we were aiming to drive to San Francisco, but the drive from San Diego straight to San Francisco is 9 hours without traffic or stops. And we have 2 little kids. So we planned a few stops.

First we drove to a spot called Cambria, which was along the coast, north of Santa Barbara. Of course we drove through Los Angeles – I have never seen so many lanes on the highway, or such crazy traffic. We drove up to Beverley Hills, and made sure we saw the Hollywood sign. And then we drove to Santa Barbara where we stopped for a snack and walk around. And then on to Cambria.

In Cambria we stayed at the Frogmore Cottages, which is a beautiful little inn across the road from the sea, and with a lovely little restaurant just down the road. We had a lovely dinner and got the girls to bed in our lovely room. And then in the morning after breakfast, Reuben went for a run and the girls played in the sand across the road. And then we hit the road again.

This time we were heading for a little town called Murphys. I can’t remember where we stopped for lunch, but I can remember the scenery in California changing so much that day – from sea, to almost desert to mountains and forests. Amazing. Murphys was so quaint and reminded us of Clarens in South Africa. We explored a little and had a picnic dinner again.

The next morning we visited Calaveras Big Trees State Park, which Google had told me would be a good spot to see the giant redwoods, that wouldn’t be difficult to navigate with kids. And boy was it incredible. If you get the chance you need to see giant redwood trees since photos do not do them justice.

And after lunch and some more exploring in Murphys, we headed for San Francisco. Crazy drive out of the mountains again, but after that a relatively easy drive until we hit San Francisco’s traffic. Check back next time to see what we explored while we stayed in San Francisco.

San Francisco

Halloween Picture Books

15 Oct

I interrupt the California trip posts to bring you some of my kids favorite Halloween picture books, hopefully in time for you to also borrow or buy some to read to your kids. If that’s what you’d like to do – I didn’t grow up with Halloween but my kids and I are enjoying the fun, and trying to stay away from the extra scary.

First up is a true classic in my mind and so much fun for even the youngest readers and listeners. Halloween Bugs is full of fun things to find and a cute little story.

Next up, and probably my favorite is Room on a Broom by Julia Donaldson of The Gruffalo fame. This one is so fun and even my 2 year old will sit through this whole story, and even request it.

This morning we read Click, Clack, Boo! Which initially i thought was a little scary, but it came around and was actually quite funny. I can recommend this for your younger kids.

Then we have Peep and Egg, which is my toddlers book of choice to take with her ant the moment. It’s a really cute story about a character that doesn’t want to dress up for Halloween, even though his friend is very encouraging. I won’t spoil the ending for you.

I picked this next one based on my love for Winnie the Pooh by A. A Milne. Frankenpooh by Bruce Talkington is such a cute story about Piglet trying to turn a scary story into a fun and upbeat one. And filled with our favorite characters so what’s not to love.

Our librarian recommended The scariest book ever when I asked for non-scary Halloween picture books. And it’s pretty funny and the illustrations are such fun. I think it’s a great choice.

What are you and your kids reading at the moment? Do you enjoy reading Halloween picture books? Let me know what you think.

San Diego

8 Oct

In April we undertook a US West Coast trip, with our first stop being San Diego. None of us had ever explored the West Coast and we had 2 weeks to see as much as possible.

The Pacific in San Diego

We arrived in San Diego the day before Easter since that was how the flights worked out best. I managed to find a lovely Catholic Church for us to attend Easter Mass in our fancy new dresses before we stuck our toes in the Pacific from the west (we’d previously swum in the Pacific in Australia). I also found a French Bistro which was not only open for Eater lunch but didn’t charge a large fee per person – just their normal yummy menu.

French for lunch – Yum!

We spent Easter afternoon at Sea World San Diego, which was half aquarium (on a large scale) and half theme park. The girls loved the rides, and mommy and daddy especially loved seeing Orcas for the first time. The Orca show was incredible, and all the other exhibits were also well worth a visit. We all saw some animals we’d never seen before.

Checking out the dolphins
She did have fun even though she looks scared of the penguins
The Orcas were amazing

We spent most of a day, although you could easily Have spent longer, at the San Diego Zoo. Wow – it was the biggest and most interesting zoo I think I’ve ever visited. We were lucky enough to see the Pandas before they went home to China the following week. As an aside, China owns all the pandas in the world and they’re only on loan to other zoos. We used the Skyfari (cable car) to get to the top end of the zoo and then slowly worked our way back down.

San Diego Zoo

And then we spent an afternoon exploring the waters edge in downtown San Diego and having a great Mexican meal for our last dinner. We managed to squeeze a quick swim in too at our hotel before putting the girls to bed.

San Diego Coast
Mexican for lunch

When we left San Diego the following morning we made a quick stop at La Jolla beach to see the sea lions which was fun. And then we hit the road. Check back next week to see where we stopped next.

La Jolla Beach

Traveling with kids

1 Oct

We’ve travelled an awful lot with our kids. Sophie’s first trip was from Stuttgart, Germany to Johannesburg, South Africa, and she was a day shy of 8 weeks old when we undertook this trip. Some of the kids trips have been with mommy and daddy, and many have been with mommy only. I travelled with both kids on my own from Birmingham, Alabama to Johannesburg, South Africa when Audrey was only 5 months old and Sophie wasn’t yet 3 years old.

We’ve travelled to Australia from Germany and the US, we’ve travelled to South Africa from Germany and the US too, we’ve travelled to Europe from the US, we moved to the US from Germany and we’ve travelled within South Africa and the US. Wow – that sounds like a lot of travel even for me. But, when your family is spread out across the globe, then that’s what you do.

People always want to know how I manage to travel with the kids being so little, so here’s some of my tips and tricks. Although my best advice is probably just to do it and not worry too much, since you cannot be kicked off the plane once the doors are closed.

  1. Plan for having everything you need for the kids for probably double the length of your expected travel time. So if you’ll be traveling for 12 hours – make sure you have enough baby food and diapers (nappies) for 24 hours. Also, don’t forget some kids medication just in case anyone spikes a fever.
  2. If you think you need 3 changes of clothes, pack 4 or 5. Audrey blew through 3 of the 4 pajamas I had with me for our trip from Birmingham to Johannesburg before we left Atlanta which was only 3 hours into our 24 hour journey. Thankfully that was the end of needing new clothes, but I now pack an extra set just in case.
  3. Pack snacks and snacks and snacks. The airline will provide some snacks, but your kid might have favorites and might also need them before they’re available from the flight attendants. I invariably pack too many, but they don’t go to waste and turn into snacks for the trip.
  4. Pack kids ear phones. I ordered 2 different sets from Amazon and these have been my favorite – sturdy and limit volume really well.
  5. Then there’s toys and activities. I try to pack some favorites from their small toys, games and books, and some new toys. Here are some of our most popular activities: stickers, surprise toys from Target, new storybook, small dolls for imaginative play like this one and some books for learning to read like these. This Melissa and Doug toy was pretty popular too with the toddler who was about a year and a half old, and it wasn’t expensive, so I wasn’t overly worried about losing pieces. I try not to spend a fortune, since some of it may get lost – just keep an eye out for good deals in the run up to your vacation.
  6. And then the most important part of traveling with kids is to relax and try to enjoy the trip. Flexibility and a good attitude are key.
Bigger kid carry the on
Toddler carry on

Our favorite kids music classes

24 Sep

When we lived in Germany, Sophie and I attended Music Together classes for a little over a year. We loved the interactive classes, Sophie loved the instruments and learning to sing and also the friends we made from all over the world.

When we arrived in Alabama, I was excited to find the local Music Together arm, which is called Fiddlesticks music here, since it was the same format and the same songs we loved so much. Although, it was a new set of songs – there are 9 different sets of music, each with the same “Hello” and “Goodbye” song. Great car music too. And the same set is followed the world over at the same time.

Now that I am working and the girls are at preschool, we are no longer able to attend morning Fiddlesticks classes, so I did some research and found Kindermusik has afternoon classes that fit in with our schedule. We are into our second semester with Kindermusik, doing a mixed ages class and it’s just as wonderful. The girls love the fun and interactive classes, and the take home materials include cd and books – a new set every 4 weeks.

I would highly recommend any of these 3 programs for kids 6 months to 5 (only because I don’t yet have a child older than 5 since Sophie is almost 5). The children learn all about music, listening, instruments, singing and socializing. Have a look and see if you have a similar class available in your town.