Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas 2010

Though the card is a little late this year, here it is nevertheless, wishing you had an enjoyable Christmas and all the best for the coming year.
A rare, recent photo of us altogether, slouching it at Bryce Canyon in Utah.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Even though the trip was a little while ago now, I still want to post about it, if nothing else to keep up the facade that we travel a lot. The trip up itself was fairly uneventful, stopping overnight in Redding, northern California before pressing on to visit, and stay overnight with, some friends outside of Seattle. Portland, Oregon became our least favourite city due to a horrendous traffic back-up through the city. We even ended up getting off the highway for a bite to eat just to let it die down a bit. We were going about as fast as the restaurant anyway.

The next day saw the border crossing into Canada -- relatively trouble free except for some errant apples. Gaynor seems to take it a little personally when she has offending food. To be fair, there wasn't much warning fruit would be a problem. The weather driving into Vancouver was lovely -- the city itself is set in a spectacular locale -- and would prove to be one of the few sunny spots of our stay. Since we only really had one shot at the interview at the consulate we went to check things beforehand.

Happy Foreigners
Near the US Consulate and, despite being pressed for time, we still managed to stop and pretend we were in a movie.

The interview at the consulate went fairly well the next day, especially since I did not have a complete set of paperwork. I have to say, the US Department of State is one of the more efficient, helpful and reasonable vestiges of US bureaucracy. They gave me time to organise what couldn't be done before the trip, due to another less efficient US government department, with no need to schedule another appointment or to bring everyone back in. We hit the Vancouver Public Library so I could have some internet access back to my work to try and sort it out and everyone made the most of the unexpected delay.

Primal Gaynor
Gaynor likes to keep her reading current.

Eventually, the paperwork was sorted and I returned the next day to finalise everything. One of the aspects to renewing a visa out of the country is that it must be approved before you can re-enter. So if you are on some kind of schedule, there is always a bit of angst over whether it will be approved and delivered in a timely fashion. In our case, the member of staff was very helpful even suggesting they could complete the visa in shorter time if needed. Indeed, the visas were ready for pick-up on time on the Friday.

So with the business of visas out of the way, we had time to spend relaxing in Vancouver. We took in the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, a walk through gorgeous scenery, a ferry trip out to Bowen Island, a visit to the medal ceremony area for the Vancouver Winter Olympics and lunch in Stanley Park.

Of course, sometimes travelling coincides with birthdays -- Elijah's in this case -- and we do the best we can with what is at hand. He picked the restaurant and the birthday 'cake' and his ever-helpful sisters provided the finger candles. He's the kind of young man who patiently learns new things at museums so he can experience the sporting thrill of something like the Olympic staging area.

And then, with visas in hand, we headed south. The border crossing back into the US was more arduous with quite a long wait to be seen and then an hour of processing time. Seven people (Micah had a free pass), including fingerprinting of the older ones, just takes some time I guess. We stopped in central Oregon overnight and took the opportunity the next day to experience some of the famed Oregon outdoors with a hike to some natural hot springs. Incredibly scenic, wonderfully peaceful and deservedly relaxing.

Finally, we pressed on to visit our good friends in San Jose for a day or so, including Memorial Day. A trip to one of their favourite parks was a highlight for the younger children, especially the miniature steam train for Micah and the carousel for Bryna.

Riding the Rails
Micah had a great time waving good bye to people and hearing the train blow its whistle.

Bryna always seems to know where the camera is.

So we counted the trip as successful -- a long drive but some new things to seen and done. We can highly recommend Vancouver as a destination -- clean, interesting and a fabulous natural location -- even if you don't need to visit the US Consulate (which was at least one of those things).

You can check out all the photos of the trip on our Flickr page.

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Pitfalls of History

Despite a broken arm from playing tag in World History class, Mara remains upbeatedly nonchalant.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Micah's Morning Ritual

Like all civilized gentlemen Micah prefers to take the morning paper with his breakfast.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Micah Makes Two

The call to arms (or at least cutlery).

This past weekend we celebrated, with a couple of friends, Micah's achievement on making it to the two year mark. Despite the fairly hot weather, a barbeque was in order with Gaynor once again directing the menu and doing most of the food preparation. Needless to say, the food was excellent. We also supplemented Gaynor's food with a 3 foot long burrito we picked up from a local restaurant. We were wondering how best to eat such a thing but it soon became obvious (disappointingly, we merely cut it up).

Micah -- despite cutting his back molars at the moment -- had a great time. Many of the children stayed to play a bit longer, helping to make up for his two big brothers who were unable to make it. I know he's missing them but they both seem to be having a great time where they are at the moment.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Leaving the Country ... a Bit

Though the length of our stay here in the US is as yet unknown we don't want the children to lose touch with the other cultures they have been growing up in. So to that end, we are sending Elijah back to Canberra for his summer holidays and Joshua back to Germany for most of his. Elijah is specifically going back to play rugby with his old club since the coaching and opportunities here are lower and fewer[1]. Joshua is largely going because we are awesome parents.

Of course, for us it isn't as simple as ponying up a pile of cash for the airline tickets. Our entry visas to the US have expired and -- though our immigration status is perfectly legal -- must be renewed before the boys will be allowed to re-enter the US after departure. Somewhat inconveniently, one must leave the country and re-apply for the visas at a US Consulate. Even though Mexico is only a couple of hours away, we've decided to head the opposite direction and will visit the consulate in Vancouver, British Columbia. The decision is primarily for processing time -- Tijuana typically takes nine days and Vancouver two -- since one must stay out of the country until the visa is processed. Though we certainly would like to visit Mexico at some time in the future, it just doesn't work at this stage.

So we are treating the 4400km (2700 miles) round-trip -- roughly Port Macquarie to Cairns and back again[2] -- as this year's family summer holiday. If all goes to plan, we should have a few days in Vancouver with little to do but enjoy it. In addition, we'll also get to stop in and see a few friends on the way up and back.

Now all I have to do it make sure the van is up to the task ...

[1] I should know, having just finished as Head Coach of the boys' club.
[2] Or for our European friends, Amsterdam to Lisbon and back again.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Isn't It Ironic?

We were recently asked to help a local club, in which the girls participate, with gaining sponsorship. While I certainly applaud Pepsi's philanthropy, the irony of a soft drink company sponsoring health initiatives -- like the 100 Mile Club Ariana and Bryna both run in -- seems to be ignoring the elephant in the room. Better to give than not I suppose.

By the way, Ari and Bryna have both managed to run well over 100 miles this academic year. Both were the first girls in their grades to reach that level and Bryna is the current overall leader in her year level. She does it by keeping up with Ariana.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

The Most Expensive Part on a Southern Californian Car

Riding a very busy southern Californian highway each day for roughly one and a half hours gives one ample opportunity to observe plenty of aberrant and abhorrent driving behaviours. Being on a motorcycle one feels a little more vulnerable than usual and so simple-minded absences on the part of other drivers can become a dangerous situation. Of course, that's part of the charm of riding. :) However, two behaviours that I have seen repeated so often have lead me to theorise on that part of a southern Californian car which surely must be so expensive as to put it's cost out of the financial reach of the average driver. Lest they damage it -- and their savings account -- beyond repair very few seem to place their hands near the turn signal (indicators in Australian parlance) control. Turn signals rarely come on -- I'm now convinced it is a privacy issue for these people -- and when they do, they rarely go off.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Christmas 2009

I know it is a little late but here is a short photo essay from Christmas 2009. Since we were able to head to Utah to celebrate wit Stacie and Martin, Donovan kindly offered to let us come down to his place at Newport Beach and cook him a fabulous meal. He graciously provided the live lobsters -- fresh that morning -- and Gaynor did the rest.

Lobster, citrus-marinated chicken, honey-soy chicken, sausages, garden and ambrosia salads.

The company was pretty good too and with the sun out it was almost like back home.

Ariana made all the tie-dyed shirts for presents this year.

What is is about Elijah that invites a good laugh?