Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

On the first Christmas

Dear Zac,

Given your premature arrival, you spent your very first Christmas in the NICU. Your Dad, Granddad "Jolly", Grandma and I all came to visit you, oh-ing and ah-ing over your crib. Jolly had brought you a newborn Christmas outfit for photos, but you were still so small that it looked like you had been swallowed by a red circus tent - but it was cute! Your Dad had his second big hug from you and we got a few family happy snaps of the three generations of Apperley men. You all look so alike it was scary. Even the nurses commented on it.

Daddy and Santa must be very good friends as you received a truck load of toys. They are all sitting under the tree waiting for you to come home. Sure, all the toys are bigger than you, and you'll need to get a bit older before you can play with them, but I know Santa enjoyed picking out your gifts and putting them under the tree.

After an hour or so of staring adoringly at your little face (and hands and toes and tubby belly) we had to leave to go spend our first Christmas in Denver with all the other Aussies.

It was a great day. Somehow we managed to get all 5 Aussie families in Denver at that time to the one house to celebrate Christmas together. We had a huge dinner, shared a secret Santa, and the big boys had a war in the backyard with their pellet guns. There were children laughing and playing, grown ups eating and drinking, and everyone enjoying that special time of the year together. However, you were a notable absentee. We all just kept reminding ourselves that you would be there next year, enjoying the wrapping paper and ignoring your new toys.

On boxing day, Daddy woke everyone up early to come visit you. You had just had physiotherapy and were wide awake! After changing your nappy, then changing it again because you waited until we wrapped you up and messed in it again(!) you had your first hug with Jolly. Well, I thought your Daddy looked proud when he hugged you, but your grandfather had this smile of pure joy on his face while he hugged you. He took a dozen self photos on his phone and swore he saw you smile when you heard your Daddy's voice. I don't know about that... But you were definitely peaceful. Or at least you were until you messed your nappy again. The smell was so bad that Jolly asked to put you back in your crib! I'm sure that will be a moment of pride in the future...

After we played with you for a while, Daddy drove us up into the mountains for lunch. The drive was lovely. We saw winter in all it's glory: towering white mountains, frozen lakes and snow frosted roads. We walked on water (well - frozen water); your Grandma was dazzled by the mountains - I think she was so snap happy that she ran her camera battery flat; Jolly saw some ice fishermen and had to pull over to have a chat; and your Dad and I dreamed of a day that we could have a family weekend away in the mountains. It was a good day.

You are growing so well, slowly putting on weight and learning to breath. We marvel at the little improvements that you make each day. We daily hear from our family in Oz, sending their love and prayers, and asking us to give you a little extra squeeze from them. You are truly spoiled with love.

While your first Christmas was a year earlier than we thought and not quiet the way we may have wished, it was so very special. Your Daddy and I are so very proud and fall a little more in love with you each day. Christmas is always a special time in our family, and now it is even more so as we have you to share it with.

Lots of love

Mum and Dad

Friday, 9 December 2011

Surprise Mum and Dad! I couldn't wait any longer!!!

As I hope you all know by now, Zachary Bruce Apperley surprised Tristan and I with his very early arrival in the wee hours of 30 November. He was born at 28 weeks (so 12 weeks early) and weighed in at a tiny 810 grams and 35 cm long.

I can honestly tell you that was the longest day for Tristan and I. It started in with Tristan leaving for work at 5am. I had been uncomfortable all night so I got up and had an early shower and tried to eat some breakfast. About 40 minutes later I was back in bed dozing as I had a doctors appointment with our specialist a few hours later.

We had been visiting our specialist once a week for the past two month or so. Early tests had shown some "normal but elevated" results. It turns out that RJ just wasn't growing as well as he should have been and the doctor wanted to keep a close eye on us.

On this regular check up, one of the scans didn't come back very well. I saw it on the screen, closed my eyes and prayed, thinking well there goes our Vegas turbo trip this weekend. The doctor came in and started to ask a few questions and tested my blood pressure. Those results were worse. More questions. Yes I was sore in the ribs, no I didn't have an appetite, yes I had been feeling off color for a couple of days, no RJ hadn't been moving much...

Gently squeezing my hand our wonderful specialist explained that he was concerned about what he had seen and wanted to admit me for a few tests, and that there was a good chance that RJ would need to be delivered early. I think I stopped listening at this point - panic set in. I was only 28 weeks! Surely this wasn't happening!!!! Due to his concern, the doctor wanted me to go to a different hospital in the city. More panic!

Tristan was still at work at this point, so I started to try and get in contact with him while the doctor rang the hospital. Somewhere autopilot set in, and all I could think about was how was I going to tell Tristan the news without appearing like a crazy woman - oh and tell him that his long awaited Vegas trip was cancelled. Following a huge hug from the doctor, orders to tell Tristan to call him, and a promise that he would come check in on me, I somehow made it to the car and Tristan rang me. It only took a second for him to take control and tell me that he would meet me at home and we would go to the hospital together.

Home, pack, panic, tears and Tristan telling me it was ok.

About 2 hours later we checked into the hospital. We went straight into a delivery suite, RJ was hooked up to a monitor, and they vampired test tubes and test tubes of blood from me. An hour or so later, a new (blonde) doctor sat down with us and explained that I had severe preeclampsia and that the only way to treat it was to deliver the baby. They gave us 48 hours and a hit of steroids to get use to the idea. Tristan and I sat there is shock for a while, and then started the phone calls. Luckily the time difference was on our side!

About 830 I sent Tristan home for some well deserved sleep. We both presumed it would be a long 48 hours and we would need all the rest we could get. I settled down for a night of being tied to a damn machine, but was comforted by the gentle and regular sounds of RJ's heartbeat. Of the three of us, he was handling this situation the best. Not even a flurry in his heartbeat. He was fine - not a care in the world.

An hour later blonde doctor came back to my bedside and explained that my results were worsening. They were delivering RJ by emergency C section tonight! I rang poor Tristan who had only just put his head on his pillow to tell him that his son would be arriving tonight and that he better come back to the hospital.

3 hours later, heavily drugged, Tristan held my hand as the doctors bought little Zac into the world. It was 325am and we were parents.

Zac was rushed off to the neonatal ICU to make sure he was ok. I later found out that he was fine and came out breathing - unusual for a baby of his age and weight.

Tristan spent the next two days ping ponging between my recovery room and zac's crib. He was a hero, managing to be everywhere, and exactly where he was needed every moment of the day. No wonder he was exhausted by the time I got home a few days later.

A week later and I'm fine, though still bruised from head to heal, and Zac is exceeding our expectations, growing and developing wonderfully everyday. While he will be in the NICU for several months fattening up, we are positive that we will be bringing our little wonder home in no time at all.

Given that he is in ICU and in a humicrib, we won't be posting any photos for sometime. But I can tell you he has the dominant Apperley genes, "strawberry blond" hair and a great fighting spirit that resists being swaddled at every turn. Apparently you arms should be above your head when sleeping, and legs should be able to kick randomly whenever you feel the need. The only part of me my son seems to have inherited is a love of sleeping on his belly (or face planting as my friends so lovingly tell me).

Tristan and I are so grateful for the love, prayers, and support from you all over the past week. It has been truly appreciated and given us added strength when we were running on empty.

We will endevour to keep you all updated on his progress over the next few weeks, though you'll have to excuse me if these blog posts are even more irregular as we get use to our new schedule of spending time with our little man at his bedside.

Know that we are in great spirits here in Denver, missing you all like crazy and wishing we could share these special moments with you all.

We'll keep in touch

Lots of love,

Tristan, Penni and Zac

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

4 days, 4 states and a Grandfather

Now that Tristan and I have a "regular" routine, we have been able to make plans for a few trips.  "Turbo Tourism" is on the agenda ladies and gentlemen!

The first turbo trip was down into the DEEP south.

First stop: New Orleans. NO (as the locals seemed to label it left right and centre) is by no means a big city. It's almost Canberra size - just with a population 4 times bigger! Tristan treated me to a very fancy hotel room on the 33rd floor with a view of the Mississippi river and the French quarter.  Conveniently, it was also only a few blocks away from Bourbon street.  After walking Bourbon street in the afternoon, we sampled the local cuisine (deep fried seafood) and watched as the night came alive! Despite being a Tuesday night the street was packed with people, drinking frozen daiquiris from plastic cups, and barely legal ladies inviting the general population into their pavilions of  fun and pleasure.

While Tristan (literally) drank up the ambiance,  I had a horrible realisation that I was an innocent! As worldly as I thought I was - well Bourbon street cleared me up of those misconceptions quick-fast! It was GOLD! Probably not a place to be pregnant and sober, but fantastic all the same! Definitely a place to play and go wild! I have no idea how a person would survive mardi gras there, but I would love to find out! A very memorable night, despite needing to go to bed at 1030 because I simply couldn't stand any longer.

The next day we explored the French quarter and ate breakfast at one of the well known french "patisseries" Cafe Du Monde.  So disappointing! The drinks came in a can, and the only food you could order were beignets- a doughnut kind of thing that tasted like the soles of your shoes  - ewww! The water front was nice, but it was easy to see how the city flooded.  It's mostly at or below sea level and the drainage is limited... but it is iconic.

We then drove East to go on a swamp tour.  I wasn't too keen, but as it turns out, it was one of the best things we have done so far.  We saw so many beautiful birds, racoons, and of course alligators.  It was a great experience. I think most of the wild life have a sugar addiction as the tour guides fed all the animals marshmallows (which they couldn't get enough of!).  It was really an "oh wow" moment when you realised the diversity the region. Of course, it was also the moment that Tristan discovered that my feet had doubled in size and were squeezing out between the gaps of my sandals... travel + humidity = embarrassment and very sore feet! 

Shortly after we left Louisiana and entered into Mississippi and we finally saw the "beach".  Sure it was man made, manicured and looked about knee deep as far as the eye could see, but it was water enough to make us feel a bit home sick.  We dipped our feet into the Gulf of Mexico, drove passed about 10 casinos and finally caught up with Tristan's father, Roger.  It was so nice to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice so far away from home.  RJ definately could feel it, as it was from that moment that he started wiggling like a little worm - and just hasn't stopped!!!

The next morning, despite having an opportunity to sleep in, we got up early to start the next adventure. But first, there was that Tornado warning - a lovely alarm clock whatever the time of day.  We jumped into the car and kept heading east (past the storm) into Alabama and found a huge memorial park complete with battleship, submarine and huge air hanger.  It was slightly raining when we arrived, so we looked in the hanger first. It was awesome. There were mostly "modern" aircraft so I could actually recognize a few of them.  Tristan, as always, went snap happy especially when we saw the Blackbird (only aviation geeks will appreciate that one).  Then outside it started to rain, and pour and rain a little more.  Tristan braved weather to have a look at the sub, while I stayed safe in the hanger, looking a pictures of the damage Katrina did to the displays.  A few minutes later Tristan came back a drowned rat and we decided to hit the road again. 

A few miles further down the road, we made Florida  - well the very western edge of Florida anyway. Our destination was the naval aviation museum.  It was this massive building, filled top to bottom with planes.  There were no spaces or gaps - it was just all planes! However, they were mostly older aircraft.  Tristan scurried around taking photos and I strolled around slowly.  There were displays on space aeronautics that were cool, but all in all I think I appreciated the Alabama memorial park more.  While there Tristan sweet talked his way into a back stage tour of the museum's flight line. The guide was a retired bloke that just wanted to have a yarn and tell his stories. It was really nice and he had a couple of stories about Australia.

We then jumped back into the car and drove back through Florida and Alabama to Mississippi to spend another night with Roger.  Spending time with both Tristan and his Dad makes you remember how many similar mannerisms they have.  One would answer a question and if you weren't paying attention you would have sworn that it was the other one replying.  It still makes me laugh when that happens.  The Apperley traits have bred true and strong between father and son.  I just know RJ would have joined in if he could.

It was another early morning and we headed back to Louisiana to fly home.  First we visited the American WWII museum.  After spending so much time studying this period of time it was very interesting to hear the story from a US perspective.  The museum was very much like the War Memorial in Canberra (thought much smaller), however, it had this fabulous Steve Spielberg/ Tom Hanks movie at the start that walked you through the war.  It was "4D" but of greater value was that it visually showed so much of the story that a still museum just isn't able to do.  The academic in me picked at all the (huge) gaps (and bias) in the story, but it was very interesting to see it through the eyes of another. 

3 hours at the airport, and a 3 hour flight back to Denver and we were home!  Happy feet (or at least feet returning to a "normal" size)

Following 4 states in 4 days I was exhausted, and poor Tristan had to turn around and go straight back to work the next morning.  But it was worth it:  seeing Roger's face as he got to look at the sonogram photos of his grandson, watching Tristan boast about life, getting to see so many of the sights and delights of the aviation world in a few days, seeing (and tasting) the south, and ticking a few states off our to-visit list.  Happy family! But exhausted!

We have Thanksgiving in a few days. We are hosting.... gee I hope I don't ruin the turkey. I'll let you know...

much love

Thursday, 10 November 2011

All things orange and black

I think the universe is trying to tell us something...

It all started the week before Halloween, when we received a lovely surprise package on our door step.  It was a wonderful gift from Aunty Lisa, Uncle Miles, Patrick, Lachlan and Juanita for RJ:  A West's Tigers jersey and shorts.  As you can all imagine, you couldn't wipe the grin off Tristan's face.  Another generation of Tiger's supporters in the family (sigh).  The cute little orange and black outfit currently has pride of place in RJ's bedroom, and it's not unusual for Tristan to wonder passed, pop his head in for a peak, and walk away with a cheeky, knowing smile that his boy will grow up loving Tigerland.

Later that week, we "celebrated" Halloween at a friend's house. They decorated their entire basement to look like a creepy dungeon. It was fantastic!  Tristan and I dressed up as a gangster and a flapper - I think I looked like a pregnant whale, and Tristan looked like he was wearing his PJ's in public.  It probably didn't help that he was wearing his tracky pants and Tiger's jersey underneath.

Given that it was Halloween, the colours orange and black had prominence in the food and drink, decorations and candy.  We only decorated the entry of our house with a jack-o-lantern (cut by Tristan) and a smiley face in the mirror.  We had about 50 kids come trick-or-treating to our door.  There were some very cute costumes, some that were a little bit too grown up for kiddies to be wearing, and one terrifying clown that gave me bad dreams that night.  While I'm glad this tradition doesn't have a foot hold at home (yet) it was nice to experience it from this side of the fence.  I'll have to think up a good costume for RJ to wear next year :-)

This week we got to experience one of the most wonderful things ever - seeing our son in 3D.  During a scan, the lovely lady showed me what RJ looks like - in orange and black.  I actually think the world stopped for a few seconds while I soaked up that tiny little image.  Needless to say, daddy's genes are dominant with the Apperley nose and chin on display.  I think I might have a look in with his little squinty eyes, that even opened during the scan.  His little hands are cupping his face, and you could even see his little nails starting to grow.  It was AMAZING!!

Last night, Tristan surprised me with a lovely date to see the Lion King in the city.  We got all dressed up and spent over an hour stuck in traffic getting to the theater. Once there, the visual spectacular was incredible - overwhelmingly dominated by orange and black.  As we watched the lovely story of Simba, I couldn't help but letting the pregnancy hormones overwhelm me when Mufasa cuddles his son, and when at the end of the show the show the cycle continues when Simba does the same. Ahh - life reflected in theater (or vice versa). Good thing that Tristan was so entranced in the show, he didn't see me have a little teary in the corner.

All in all, I think the universe is subtly preparing Tristan and I for orange and black in our future.... not sure if that means RJ will be a raging ranga like his dad with dark eyes like his mum, or if basketball looking aliens are about to invade, or that the harvest festival has infested my brain and I have become colour blind to the rest of the rainbow spectrum... pregnancy may have made me a little more crazy than normal...

Oh, and for all those on baby bump watch, I can confirm that I am looking more than festively plump - there is definitely something going on inside my belly. I'll get Tristan to get a photo soon.

Lots of love

Tristan, Penni and RJ.

Monday, 24 October 2011

All About American Culture

Dear Family,

After nearly 4 months away from you all, missing the familiar things in life, we are slowly adjusting to American life.  Tristan finally convinced me that our study needed to be unpacked (there was a red couch in there - who knew?), the basement is becoming more man cave like every time I sneak a peak (he has set up the stereo, tv and other man contraptions that assist with man-nesting), and next weekend we will get to "celebrate" our first Halloween.  Yes, life here is falling into place and American-isms are slowly invading our life.

A very important part of American culture is the national love affair with corn.  This weekend Tristan and I submerged ourselves in corn - somewhat literally.

At home corn is a simple idea.  It's a vegetable, usually yellow in colour, often bought frozen, and in our house, served frequently with peas and carrots.  In America, corn is much much more complex.  There is corn that you buy as a vegetable, though it is usually white, and is seemingly exclusively served as a BBQ food.  There is corn that is better known as high fructose corn syrup that is used in EVERYTHING as a sweetener in lieu of sugar cane.  Then there are the "foods" made of corn: corn bread, and candy corn. And lets not forget ethanol, corn flour, corn oil and corn starch. I've even drunk out of a plastic bottle made from corn by-products.  And my personal favourite corn-ism - it is even in local toothpastes (not mine).  Yes, corn is very important in America.

In America, once the mega machines have collected in finest corn harvest (and then collected the dregs for the first round of by-products), some enterprising farming individuals get creative and create mazes in their corn fields.  Imagine enormous corn fields, 10 foot tall, being cut into patriotic pictures for the city folk to play in during October.  Sounds like fun? You bet!

So a car full of Aussies piled into someone's big blue car (we all seem to own them) and drove for an hour or so, into the country to play in the corn maze. For the bargain price of $10 we got to play in two corn mazes, and as a bonus we could play in the corn pit (think sand pit, but filled with dried corn husks), the giant slide, go to the petting zoo, and catch the mini train-a-go-round.  And to top it all off, there was a pumpkin patch so you could go with your family to choose your Halloween pumpkins. It was the family fun day paradise.  Families seemingly came in with a picnic for the day and spent a quality day together.  It was like a happy snap from a television movie - except that it was real! And fun. 

We ran into the maze, split up, and raced each other for the end of each maze.  It was a very dry season, so the corn stalks were mostly brown.  Mixed with the dust of the field and the piecing blue of the sky, it was easy to get turned around. Lucky for us, there were clues spread around where you had to decipher very complex questions (how many time do you sing the word "happy" in Happy Birthday, and what is the last body part you touch when dancing to Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes) to be given the correct direction.  It was such innocent fun, you couldn't help but smile.  For the record, we won the second maze ;-)

Following the maze and an adventure in the pumpkin patch, we piled back into a big blue car to explore another American culture classic - one that Aussies pay pilgrimage to as well: BEER.  Colorado is famous for it's micro-breweries.  As luck had it, within 20 minutes drive of the family fun corn maze there were two micro-breweries for "us" to sample.  One of the great things about the breweries is that they offer "tasting" plates.  The boys, with their highly developed pallets, sampled selectively from the tasting plates and concluded the same thing: Aussie beer has more flavour.

After the boys enjoyed a plate plus a pint each at the first brewery, we moved onto the second brewery where we also got to indulge in the American cultural love of overloading a plate of food.  I have learnt that all good meals should be served on a plate big enough for a lion to eat from - and come with a side of fries. At least it was tasty.  Here the boys sampled some watermelon flavoured beer... and apparently it tasted good... maybe they sampled a little bit too much...

Yes, we sampled high American culture this weekend. While I'm sure Australia is guilty of all the same corn crimes, it sure is more in-your-face (and highly entertaining) here in the US. And while I have become a label demon, determined to avoid fructose, I do have to admit that playing in the corn was a lot of fun. As was the beer - or so I'm told.

Much love

Penni and Tristan

Friday, 14 October 2011

The big blue car

Dear RJ,

When you were still a peanut in my tummy, Mummy and Daddy bought a second "family car" for our wild adventures in America.  Some called it a Ford Expedition; a huge near 3 ton V8 with leather interior, sun roof and a bunch of other modern conveniences that your Dad loves (!) - I called it the big blue car.

For our very first long weekend together as a family in Denver, we decided to go on a road trip with the big blue car.  We took off on Friday afternoon with hope of making Canon City - about 180km down the road.  Lucky for me, we HAD to drive passed the outlet shopping centre, so we picked up a few "supplies" on the way. We also took the opportunity to drive through the Garden of the Gods national park in Colorado Springs - unusual enormous red rock formations in the middle of the rocky mountains - it looked like the outback had moved across the world. The big blue car took the opportunity to test its breaks when a few deer bounced out in front of the car and we drove on to be geeky and check out the US Air Force Academy.  There were so many professional sporting fields on the campus, you felt like you were driving through an Olympic village.  While an impressive campus.... well, at least your Dad got to take some photos of aircraft.   The big blue car drove on and made it to Canon City just on dark.

The next morning, we woke up early and caught a train along the length of the Royal Gorge.  We were in the Executive carriage, so we had a glass roof to look out of to see the spectacular views of the gorge.  Your Dad braved the freezing morning to ride in the open air carriage a few times to take some photos, but I stayed huddled up inside.  After the train, we drove the big blue car to the Royal Gorge Bridge.  There was patchy snow along the side on the mountains which was very pretty.  After wondering around the park for a little while, the big blue car drove over the bridge, and we made our way through the mountains on our way west.

The further we drove west, the more snow that appeared.  We drove around, through and near over a few of Colorado's 14,000 ft mountains.  Having never seen snow piled up on the sides of mountains, trees crying icicles, and the world layered in white before, I thought it was beautiful.  Your Dad enjoyed being able to put the car into all-wheel-drive to drive along some the of the more slippery portions of the road, and winding down his window to take photos of the spectacular scenery.  We actually got to drive past one of the premiere snow fields in the state, Wolf Creek.  Famous for its seemingly endless supply of powder,  the park received 3 ft of snow that weekend and was the first field to open.  Finally, after hours of driving (with no bathroom stops!!) we arrived in Durango.

The next morning, we had another early start as we left the big blue car to rest in the hotel car park and took
a bus to the historic village of Silverton.  The bus ride was as fantastic as the car drive the day before.  Up over 10,000 ft passes, down through sleepy valleys, and past more and more (and more) snow, with the occasional hint of autumn colours on the side.  We arrived just before the old steam train chugged into town.  Seeing it arrive, you could really get a sense of how the old miners of yore trundled into town from the "city" for supplies before setting out to seek their fortunes.  We had lunch in a local brewery, in which your Dad sampled widely, and wondered in the dirt street of this little village.  While none of the shops were particularly appealing, it was barely 2C outside, and despite wearing our winter coats, it was much too cold to dally outside for too long.  I believe that it was the very first time I had EVER heard your Dad say that he wished he had some gloves!

After a few hours wondering around like homeless vagabonds, we climbed aboard the steam train for our adventure back to Durango.  While this sounded like a romantic trip, it was actually 3.5 hours of freezing cold on hard seats.  Nursing a hot chocolate, I'm not sure that I moved that entire time - but I did get the occasional nap in along the way home.  Similar to the Royal Gorge trip, we followed beside a meandering stream for the duration of the ride.  There were some spectacular near frozen waterfalls, a drop off where the train only narrowly fit on the track beside a sheer cliff, and scenery that felt out of this world.  But it was so terribly cold (!) and such a long trip (!) that I'm not sure that I made the most of it.  Your Dad even got bored of taking photos and I suspect had a little nap on the way back.

That night we had a lovely three course meal at one of the local restaurants in Durango (best meal to date in the US), and went to bed early as we needed to track back over 650km to make it home the next day.

We did a bit of back tracking in the big blue car the next day, passing Wolf Creek and the spectacular mountains that reached the sky, but did get to visit a few more little towns along the San Louis Valley.  While it was still very cold that morning, the heated seats of the big blue car made it very toasty.

In the top north east corner of the valley was the strangest natural phenomenon that you could imagine - sand dunes piled high beside the snow capped peaks of the rocky mountain.  These are the tallest dunes in Northern America, and can reach up to 10,000 ft. Because of the winter like conditions, there was snow along the peaks of the dunes - it was like looking at something off a science fiction movie.  Your Dad and I started to climb to make it to the top of the tallest peak together, but the altitude, my general lack of fitness, (and you!) meant that I sat down half way as your Dad sprinted up the tall sloops like a rabbit.  As I sat, I saw families playing with their pets, riding sleds down the sides of the dunes, and children rolling down the sand without a care in the world.  It was like time was in a happy bubble in this place, where only laughter and happiness existed.  It was very peaceful.  After 20 minutes or so, your Dad bounded back down the dunes, and held my hand as I made the slippery decent.

Then the big blue car drove us home.  After a bit of dinner, and some bad tv it was time for bed. 

And that is the story of the big blue car's first road trip.

Sweet dreams

Love Mum and Dad

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Getting back into the swing of things

Now that Tristan is back, life is slowly swinging into a pace of normality... kind of....

After Tristan got home we HAD to go buy new kitchenware. Apparently we needed grown up cups and plates so we could have people over for dinner.  And of course he needed a new coffee machine so he can avoid drinking that dirty water the locals call brew at least once a day. There were several things that I NEEDED too: maternity jeans, clothes for baby, and chocolate... there seems an imbalance somewhere.... must be pregnancy hormones...

There is still plenty of things to be done in the house.  One of these days we may sort out the study so it resembles somewhere that you could spend time without being buried under a mountain of paper.  The basement is still pretty bare.  I imagine that will be corrected in time. And of course, we still need to put some sort of window covering in the bathroom down stairs so you can spend some alone time without the fear that someone is looking (it's 3 metres off the ground, and at a different height to the neighbours windows, but still...)

A daily routine is slowly beginning to emerge which includes me getting up at 8 so I can make water aerobics at 9, Tristan going for a run about the same time, him disappearing to work for a few hours while I bake bread and attempt to think of something exotic for dinner, I then watch way too much bad tv while I continue my sewing.  At 7 we eat, and due to RJ exhausting me I go to bed around 9.  All in all, I think people forgot to mention that domestic bliss often equals monotony.

Last week, we had the joy of seeing little RJ on the big screen.  While he still hasn't moved enough for us to feel it, on the ultrasound he was wiggling all around, full of energy and spirit.  Hopefully that means he is getting it out of his system early so he will sleep through the night from day one.  Wishful thinking perhaps...

There is another pregnant lady from the UK who I have met, and she has been helping me find all the little bits and pieces necessary to complete our preparations for RJ's arrival next year.  He finally has a few clothes to wear, but as February is one of the colder months in Colorado, we need some extra heavy duty winter gear.  Lucky for me the clothing store that was pointed out had lots of Disney one-piece near snow suits for brand new out of the oven baby Apperley's. It seems that poor RJ will be showered in Disney themed gear from his Mum, planes, trains and cars from his Dad, and fishing gear from his grandfather.  All in all, I think it is safe to say he will be spoiled with love.

We are told that the beautiful weather will soon turn cold, so we are enjoying as much time in the great outdoors before the snow flies.  This weekend we adventured into the mountains to go leaf chasing.  We went on a lovely 2 hour drive on some back roads in the middle of woop woop to see the colours of autumn.  However, I think we picked the wrong road for that occasion and all we found was a lovely steam, trickling its way beside the road.  There were so many men in their waders, with their fly fishing gear, trying to catch that elusive trout that is trying to make it up river to spawn.  All I could think was how great it would be to sit on the bank with a good book and watch time dribble away to the music of the river over the rocks.

At the end of our drive, we decided to detour as drive up Pikes Peak.  While this was the second time RJ and I had made the adventure up the mountain, it was the first time Tristan had driven up, and the first time we had all made it to the top.  On the mountain we got to see the colours of the season - it was beautiful! Sigh! And the top! Wow! As we drove up, a huge Hercules was trying to fly up over the mountain at the same time. I'm not sure it made it over - I think he had to go around.... It was one of the many times that we wished we could take a photo from a memory as we just couldn't get to the camera in time.

On the top of the mountain, it was a bit cooler, but we were still in t-shirts and shorts.  And then it started to snow! Tristan was like a kid a Christmas! It was so special to be standing on the top of a mountain with our growing little family together.  I think it is going to be a very special festive season this year!

As we settle in, we are definitely missing you all from home.  There are so many special moments that we wish we could share with you more intimately, but alas, all we have is this blog.  We hope that you are all well.

Lots of love

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Reunion - Part 2 - San Diego

Following San Fransisco, I got to spend the week living with Tristan.  

Flashbacks to Bruce Hall ensued: small little rooms where you got to eat, sleep, cook and study, in close proximity to many others; fellow "in-mates" getting home at 5am and stomping through the hallway (the difference obviously being that their 5am home coming was from work - not the pub); and seemingly people have no laundry etiquette in any joint living facility anywhere in the world.  It was like going home :-)

The next weekend, we drove through the chaotic traffic of LA to get to San Diego.  I loved this city! We stayed in a lovely hotel in the heart of the gas lamp district, about 4 streets away from "the" main street.  After getting in late, we had dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant that understood that one plate of food doesn't need to feed a family of four for a week.  Tristan bought me a lovely long stemmed rose from a street vendor and we got to listen to the sounds of the city as people hit the town, as we nursed some lovely food. 

As an observation, there are very few unattractive people in San Diego. Tristan's roving eyes confirmed my suspicions. There are at least 4 hot girls to every guy, no one wears flats or jeans, and everyone is always smiling. This is most definitely a city you can have a lot of fun in. Despite feeling like a lump surrounded by so much beauty, I couldn't help but enjoy being around so many happy, energetic people who were looking to have a good time. 

We had an early night and headed to SeaWorld the next morning.  It was great!  We saw dolphins and whales shows, aerobatic displays, and so many animals I lost count.  Tristan took some amazing photos at the show (check out FB).  The crowds weren't too bad, so we leisurely wondered from show to show to see the sights and delights of the world under the sea.There were a few rides that Tristan went on with friends while I sat in the stands mumbling about how in the animal world the male seahorse had to sit on the bench while the girls got to go and play.  However, when I saw how wet he got after the white water rapids, I didn't mind sitting and watching so much.

That evening we went to the Top Gun Bar. Tristan was like a kid at Christmas as we walked there.  From the movie, you think you know what to expect...well, the movie didn't have it quiet right... It's actually a BBQ restaurant - the type you would never eat at.  It was dark and dingy and had people's left over "clothing" on the fans. The walls and benching were all plastered with photos, number plates, stickers you don't want your kids to ever read, and hats from every navy ship that had ever docked in the bay (San Diego is a big Navy city).  It was quaint in a peculiar type of way, just not what I expected.  We sat at the bar while Tristan ordered a beer and bought a t-shirt, but to be honest, I couldn't get out of there fast enough! But for Tristan, the memorabilia, including Mavrick's flight helmet, the piano Goose played Great Balls of Fire on and the many photos from the filming of the movie made the place unforgettable.  One for the boys I think - ladies only go if you have hand sanitizer in your bag or plan to drink so much that it won't matter.

The next day, in the spirit of the naval history of the city, we went aboard the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier from WWII.  I think it is safe to say that both Tristan and I would have been too tall for the US Navy back in the day.  While roaming the (I really want to say "boat") ship, we ducked and weaved our way around, doing our best to not knock our heads.  On the flight deck, Tristan's favourite plane of all time the SkyHawk A3 was on display.  Unfortunately, he had left the memory card for the camera in the computer, so he couldn't get any good photos.  But I think the opportunity to touch such a machine made up for it.  While we could have spent hours wondering the decks of the "smallish" carrier, I had to cut the trip short, as I was flying out that afternoon. 

There were no tearful goodbyes, as Tristan would be home in a week, but I couldn't help but feel a bit melancholy to return back to our house in Denver alone.

San Diego is a great city - I think that all family and friends that come to visit should make a side trip there.  It's family friendly city with Seaworld and the Zoo, even the carrier would be great to show to the kids.  It's easy to walk everywhere, and people are lovely.  However, it's also a city that you could have a great time with a group of mates, all out to have a good time. 

Definitely on my to-go-back-to list.


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Reunion Part 1- San Franscio

After weeks apart, Tristan and I finally reunited this weekend!!!
Given our differing schedules, we hadn't had all that much time to talk on the phone over the past few weeks, so we were both looking forward to some quality time together. I was looking forward to/terrified to show him my expanding waistline and growing belly.  On the flipside, Tristan was looking forward to showing me his finely turned physical form, honed by hours of running.
We met in San Francisco. A city I knew from movies and bad tv shows as home to the cable car, golden gate bridge, and many, many sleep hills.  What tv failed to mention was that even in summer, it barely got over 23C, it was windy and foggy, and what looks like a rolling hill isn't - it's a disguised mountain (probably not, but it sure felt that way when I was walking up and down them!!)
We stayed in this lovely little hotel in the heart of the city, within walking (mountain climbing) distance of Chinatown, the wharf, and all the other tourist traps.  It was great!  On that first night, we wondered into Chinatown to get our fill of Asian food - something I had been craving! We chatted and talked: I finally got all the details of how Tristan's phone went missing; he learnt about all the "fun" parts of pregnancy he had been missing; and we discussed the important things in life - the upcoming NRL grand finals.
The next (foggy) day we went on a bus tour of the city.  We went to the gold gate bridge - you could really see too much of it - but it was definitely a highlight! We saw the lovely public parks, the wharf, all the Victorian and Edwardian houses that make San Fran famous, Nob Hill (where all the snobs apparently lived in the early 1900s) and the city centre.  The city is so irregular - with no real flat landscape the cityscape flows up and down with residential buildings seemingly standing at the same height as city sky scrappers.  It was crazy, but the uniqueness of the city added to its charm. 
We had a late lunch/early dinner at a waterside seafood restaurant, and devoured a feast! Living so far away from the coast in Denver, seafood has become a new delicacy! Who would have ever thought! 
After wondering around the tourist district, we waited in line for 45 minutes and caught a cable car home - or at least we tried.  It broke down on a hill (mountain) and we had to sit (slide up and down the seat) for 15 minutes while the mechanics fixed the problem.  200 meters up the road, the track came to an end, and we walked (hiked) the last mile home.  I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow that night.  Given it was barely 8pm, Tristan went and wondered Chinatown, looking for a bargain on a new camera lens.
Between baby RJ and the "rolling hills"of San Fran, I was exhausted! So the next day, we took a gentler option and caught a bus out of town and explored one of the old red wood forests of California. It was bliss to be surrounded by trees and fresh air.  We also got to cross the golden gate bridge!  That afternoon, the bus dropped us off at a little tourist town full of antique shops, art galleries and salt water taffy stores.  We slowly meandered our way along the main road, then caught a ferry back to the city.  It was great to walk around, hand-in-hand, and just hang out.

We caught a ferry back to the city, and walked up the crookedest street in the world - Lombard street - back to the hotel.  My lovely husband gave me a hand to climb up the street.  It felt like a marathon, and I was just as proud as if it were when I finished it.

That night we had Indian.  Another food I had REALLY been craving! Although our favourite butter chicken wasn't on the menu, we still managed to order enough food for a family of four, and clean off our plates.  I think RJ may now come out tandoori orange, but it was so worth it.  I can't remember being so satisfied by food,
!0AOn)jur)final)`ay*ij)San*Braj!2@*Prhqtaj*`ratad(uha(aodipkc)`is|"qrfackd/sl"avesd/sd(ukg(qbfsc/si$kw/ultkb�!caubct/sg�t home at the end of the day.  Given all the one way streets, up and downs, back and forths, I really admired the way he was able to make it to our destination.  Once we parked the car, we went to collect our golden tickets - tickets to Alcatraz.  Most people had to book theirs weeks in advance, but somehow our concierge finagled a couple of tickets, and we were off to the Rock!

This was the highlight of Tristan's trip, and he could barely contain his glee!  As per our tickets, we arrived at the wharf 30 minutes early, and lined up with 200 other excited visitors to catch the ferry across the Bay.  That day the sun had melted the fog and we could finally see the entire bridge all at once as well as the city scape.  It made for some fantastic photos!

Once on the Rock, we had an opportunity to watch a documentary on the history of the island, and take an audio tour of the old jail house.  It was really interesting.  However, after a few hours, we caught the ferry back to the city, and drove the 5 hours home.

Despite the weather being a lot cooler than I expected, it was a great weekend.  Tristan and I will spend the next few days hanging out, and then next weekend we will go on our next big adventure together to San Diego - we can't wait!

Missing you all at home

Tristan and Penni (together - at last!)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

My failed adventure

My adventures this week prove that  even the best laid plans can go wrong...

One of the other wives (Zoe), a friend of hers from home (Marika) and I all planned to go for a two night get away down towards the southern Colorado to explore some of the bigger tourist traps in the state.

Zoe drove for this adventure in her great big Jeep. Once we finally woke up and got on the road, it was lunch time when we checked into our hotel in Publeo.  We then set out for our first destination: Royal Gorge (http://royalgorgebridge.com/). It is this spectacular bridge over a 1000 ft gorge, with a mini wild west park around it.  We walked across the bridge, visited old town Cannon City, saw a long horned cow that made a Clydesdale look like a pony, caught the cable car back across the gorge and then a vertical train down to the bottom of the gorge to see the stream.  It was a great afternoon, despite the thunder and lighting. 

We left fairly late in the afternoon, to go back to town for dinner.  When we got into the car, we could hear a knocking sound from the engine.  It's possible the car had been making that noise on the way to the gorge, but due to the quality conversation and fantastic music, we never heard anything.  We rang Zoe's husband to inform him the car was making a bit of noise, and he said not to worry about it. So we got into the car and drove back to the hotel.

At the hotel, ignoring all husband's comments to not worry about it, we all piled out of the car and looked at the engine.  It wasn't any of the fan belts, and the water, oil and other mechanical type liquids were adequately full, and nothing seemed particularly hinky (technical term).  Acknowledging that Zoe's husband could have been right, we chose not to pay any attention to the constant knocking and went to tea.
The next morning, after a lay in (Marika and I) and some uni study (Zoe), we set out to drive to the San Luis Valley about and hour and half south east.  The car was still making that god-awful sound, but we were so excited to go to the alpine sand dunes, that we didn't pay too much attention....

About 40 minutes in the journey the car jolted - it kind of felt like it lost a gear/power. but it picked back up and we continued on.  Carefully.  What ever it was, it didn't like it when the driver tried to get a little power out of the car to over take... 10 minutes later, it happened again, but this time we pulled over.  

We were on one of the main state highways, however the road was a bit narrow.  Climbing carefully out of the car, once again, we all knowledgeably moved to the front and examined the engine.  It seemed fine...but now the car wouldn't start...
So an hour later, the tow truck picked us up and drove us to the small town of Trinidad (with some quality country music on the radio).  The mechanic tried to start the car there... but the pistons and whatever they were attached to exploded and sent shrapnel flying.  We figured at this point our adventures were done.  Trying to think practically, we rang around for a hire car, but we arrived a 5:05pm.  Everything was closed, so we were stuck there for the night. 

We booked into another hotel, and sent an SOS to Denver for one of the other families to come save us.  The next day, we checked out of two hotels, collected our belongings from the car (that is still sitting in the garage down there) and one of the boys drove us the 4 hours home.  You can't imagine how grateful we were to him.

It wasn't quiet the adventure we had planed on but we did learn a few things.  
1) always have a phone charger in your bag - you'll never know when you need it
2)  if you have nothing to your name but the clothes on your back, you can buy everything else at Walmart
3) pizza and a margaretta will always cheer your friends up
4) and ignore your husband when he says the noises from your engine "will be right". He's wrong! 

Tristan's adventure at 6 flags also went sour this week with his phone going overboard while he was on a rollar coaster... not sure what lesson he learnt, but I'm sure that the result will be a new iPhone! 

All in all, we are safe and healthy, and have had a good laugh at ourselves.

Missing you all

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Our little stowaway

Dear All,

As you should all be aware by now, Tristan and I had a little stowaway with us when we left Australia a few months a go - we were in the very early stages of our first pregnancy. 

This made our departure from close friends and family interesting....

While it was lovely to be able to tell so many of our loved ones to their faces that there were expecting their first great grandchild, grandchild, niece/nephew, there were many more people who we weren't able to tell as it was so early.  This was made even more interesting when, in our excitement, we would blab to a room full of people, and then had to remember which if our friends knew and didn't know.  However, I am quietly confident that of those people who came to our farewell party in Canberra, no one left with our some firm suspicions.

While the theory of having an Aussie made baby made complete sense to me when we left, it has curbed some of the fun that  I could be having in my first few months in a foreign land.  Morning sickness has made mornings unbearable and a required bedtime of 9pm.  Poor Tristan had to make the most of the first few weeks together to get our house and cars set, as I was laying in bed feeling sorry for myself. All my welcome drinks have all been virgin and I've been a picky eater to say the least (God bless breakfast cereals !!!). Most of this has passed now, though I still need a strict bedtime - I feel like I'm 10 again!!

Luckily, we have had plenty of support of this side of the Pacific to help me through those tougher days while Tristan is away. 

Doctors tell us that little RJ (Rueben Jnr) is growing well and has an enormous head - I wonder who he gets that off! He has a strong heart beat, and spends plenty of time playing acrobatics on the ultrasounds.

In a couple of months we'll find out if it is a he or she so I can occupy myself decorating the nursery.  As a part of our furniture package we were given some beautiful white baby furniture. However, the white room, with white blinds and white furniture needs some colour!!

It will be fun to catch up with Tristan in a few weeks so he can see my ever growing belly! 

We'll keep you in the loop as both RJ and I grow bigger. 

soon to be proud parents 
Tristan and Penni 

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Penni's first adventure in Colorado

Fellow adventures, 

Today I set forth on my very first adventure in Colorado! 

Tired of being home alone, Zoe (another Aussie wife) and I set out on a grand adventure.  

First we needed to venture on to the Interstate 25 hwy - the scary 6 lane highway in which going at 70 miles an hour (the speed limit) will see you being run off the road for going too slow!  Deciding that we wanted to avoid any peak hour complications, we left home at the more reasonable hour of 9:30 am.  This also enabled us to sleep in ;-) 

After fighting off the trucks, RVs and speeding cars, we safety made our way down the 45 miles of freeway to Colorado Springs.  While the freeway avoids all the little towns, we still got to see the spectacular mountain scenery.  The mountains are like nothing you can describe - they jump out of the seemingly flat paddock, in to red, roaring peaks that you need to crane your neck to see the top of.  And then, to completely confuse you, many of them have flat tops - like a giant has come along and cut the top off - it is really incredible.  Then there are others that tower into the sky forever. 

Once we made it to Colorado Springs, we avoided the town - other than to pick up a smoothie - and headed for the mountains.  

Pikes Peak is 14,115 foot above sea level.   Also known as "America's Mountain", this monster is the most visited mountain in the USA.  You can take the 13 mile hike to the top, that apparently takes more days than there miles.  You can take the old cog train to the top: a 4.5 hour return trip. Or you can drive up the Pikes Peak Highway, through forests, past reservoirs, and on some truly twisty steep roads.  We chose to drive. 

And WOW!!! what a drive!!  It is 19 miles from the toll gate at the bottom of the mountain (7,600 ft) to the summit.  To get to the summit you drive through four major "life" zones: the foothills (6,000 -8,000 ft), montane (8,000-9,500 ft), sub-alpine (9,500 - 11,000 ft) and alpine (>11,500 ft).  

At the toll gate at the start of the park available oxygen is 74.9%.  As you can imagine, us poor Aussie girls were more than a little shocked by this statistic, so we decided to take it slowly. 

Supposedly, the foothills are scattered with wildlife, but all we saw was a squirrel.  As we drove up the mountain we stopped at various photo points to ohh and aww - and of course I forgot my camera. There were mile markers along the road so we knew how far we had come, and there were funny signs such as "bigfoot crossing" along the way.  

We made it half way and into the Alpine zone and decided to stop for lunch at mile 13.  At this altitude you could defiantly feel the difference in temperature, so I got out my cardigan and wondered into a log cabin full of souvenirs and a cafe.  We had a terrible lunch of coloured cardboard (cheeseburger) and glue (hot dog). At 11,400 ft the available oxygen was down to 62.6%, so the walk from the car to the loo with a view left me huffing and puffing, so we decided to proceed with caution up a little bit further so we could see the view from above the tree line.  

I inched forward, passed the compulsory brake stop on the other side of the road, and up through the most twisty turny road I have ever been on. Hairpin would be an understatement!  Further and further we drove, until, seeing a drop straight down to the bottom of the world, I pulled over.  I kid you not, the drop off was enough to make your stomach drop and your knees weak. But it was 360 degrees of beautiful spectacular scenery.  It felt like we were sitting on the edge of the world, looking down on the world unspoiled by people. 

It was at this point we realized that we made it to mile 16 - 12,780 ft (58% available oxygen!!).  That was enough! So we decided to slowly descend back into the real world.  I made it down safely - with the perfect brake temperature according to the brake stop man.  It was funny how I could feel myself picking up energy and endorphins as we went down. It was a very strange sensation. 

Next time, we want to take the old cog train to the top. The drive was magnificent, but as a driver I didn't get to see as much as I would like... next time

stay tuned for the next great adventure :-) 

wishing you could all share these adventures with me

love Penni 

p.s. Tristan is well too - only a few weeks I go visit him for some more California adventures!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

They Crazy month of July

Hi Everyone,

July was the CRAZIEST month of our lives! 

We arrived in Denver on 5 July and the crazy began! While we were lucky enough to have a rental car and a serviced apartment, we only had 3 weeks together to buy a couple of cars, find a house to live in, furnish it, and get prepared for a few months apart. 

We looked at about 12 houses. They all looked like cookie cutter homes out of a Plesentville film: some were breathtakingly beautiful, but out of our budget; some were so filthy you would have thought that gorilla's moved out the day before; and some you could happily live out your life completely content in.  They all had similar features: double story + basement, backyards with polite hip high fences so you can chat to your neighbours with ease, double ovens, and 3 garages.

In the end, we found two houses (across the road from one another) that we REALLY wanted. One was a 5 bedroom house with a lovely kitchen, great living areas, and small deck. The other had 3 bedrooms, smaller living areas, 3 outdoor areas and the most spectacular views of a lake.  Following the flip of a coin, we moved into the 3 bedroom house - the other Aussie family that moved over at the same time as us took the other house. So we are neighbours! 

Next we needed to furnish the house.  The catch: it was so enormous that we could have easily fit our old house into it.  Luckily, the other families help set us up with a furniture rental company, and after several hours scrolling through pages and pages (and pages and pages) of options, we selected everything we needed - and more! 

Tristan took care of finding us suitable cars to own.  He selected two Fords: and Expedition and and Explorer (the fact that he owns 2 Fords should bring mirth to many).  The smaller Explorer is the car that I will drive until the snow flies.  The Expedition is currently owned by one of the Aussie families that will go home in a few months, so we won't collect it until October.  It will be the "family" car (read: gas guzzler), so I think it will be my car in the end, as I will do less driving ;-) 

Lucky for us we are surrounded by many lovely Aussie families that spolied us during these few weeks with dinner invitations, and trips to the baseball and the mountains.  I can't even tell you how many times we ate out or at other peoples houses!  We really got to experience the good life.  We saw the Rockies win (baseball), experienced the boutique nature of the local breweries at a beer festival at Breckenridge (a lovely snow village that is at a higher altitude than Mt Kosciusko), learned about the gold rush days under a mountain, went to the outlet mall at a place called Castlerock (very strange looking rocks surround this shopping village), and ate and ate and ate EVERYWHERE. 

We conquered driving on the right side of the road. However, I'm still learning to drive on the interstate corridors that are 5+ lanes, speeding at 120kms/per hour +,with 1000's of cars swiving in and out to the various exits.  The most difficult thing about it all is that it can be difficult to see the lines on the road... so staying in your own lane... well....when it's raining and dark... ekkkk!

While I'm not sure that Tristan noticed the impact that the altitude had on a few drinks, I most definitely noticed that walking up and down stairs left me huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf. It is also incredibly dry! If you don't moisturize your skin can crack in days.  It is also very easy to get dehydrated, so everywhere we go you need a couple of water bottles on hand.  The smaller adjustments you need to make when moving to the other side of the world.

So with the lease signed, car in the drive way, and many Mexican men crawling through the house setting up the furniture, Tristan and I finally moved into our new home on
22 July.  Unfortunately, we only got to spend one night together in the house before he left for training..... Checkout my facebook if you would like to see pics of the house. It's lovely!

After a week (or two or three), the internet is connected, the cable guy has come and gone, endless tradies have come in to fix the teething problems of moving into a new house, and life and become more steady.  I have found our mail box - not in our front yard, but down the road and around the corner with the rest of the neighbour's.... I think that is the strangest thing I have come across.

I've found the local SUPERmarkets - the large bulk carriers; the slightly smaller walmart that is a Coles and K-mart in the one-stop-shop; the cute little green grocers that sell fresh vegetables and other "health food"including baking ingredients that I recognise; and the super green grocers that have everything local and organic including a lunch buffet and chocolate factory...mmmm.

Life's good, busy, and still an adventure :-)

Missing you all so much! Hope you are all safe and well

Saturday, 9 July 2011

All systems go!

Dear Loved Ones,

In an effort to keep in touch with everyone, we thought we would start a blog.  In this way, we can tell you all our stories, and keep you up to date. 

As you might recall, we left Australia on 30 June.  We were lucky enough to to fly business class Sydney - LA! WOW! That was an experience.  We were wined and dined, watched a bunch of movies, played games, and were able to lay our seats right down into a bed.  Thank goodness!

It was a 13 hour flight. While we left Australia at 2pm we actually arrived in LA at 10am on the same day!  As well as gaining a day, we were able to avoid getting any serious jet lag, as we slept on the flight over, by exploring Venice Beach and Santa Monica. 

The beaches don't really compare to home.  They are very wide, with sand like you would buy when you were cementing - rough - with people EVERYWHERE, and the "super cool" wading out into the waves to catch that perfect (1-2 foot) break.  They however did have a great boardwalk to walk from one pier to the next, and the side show freak show alley to wonder through to watch the local entertainers attempt to con the tourists out of their cash. 

We did this walk a couple of times (and Penni managed to get her self some impressive blisters as a result) and it was really lovely.  As we were there for the 4 July Long weekend, we really got to see how people live and celebrate - the same as us at home: friends, family, BBQs and beer :-)

We went into Hollywood one afternoon to see the sight and delights of the rich and famous.  LA generally is a grubby city, and despite it apparently being a very affluent city, there were a lot of buildings is disrepair, with graffiti and general grim almost everywhere.  We walked along the Hollywood walk of fame, seeing some of our favourite stars, but very many more that we hadn't even heard of.  

As we had to catch a bus back to Santa Monica, we didn't get to look at any of the museums, or inside any of the famous theaters, but we did manage to have afternoon tea at Hooters. 

On 5 July we flew into Denver.  It was beautiful to watch the mountains as we flew in.  While it might be 90 in the city (around 32C) there is still snow on the mountains.  The grass is green and lush, and the city looked like a giant lego land from the sky.  In the afternoons and early evenings we get spectacular thunder and lighting shows - and while this did result in a Tornado warning in our first few days of arriving - it is spectacular to watch.   

We have been very lucky, with all the Aussie families already here providing us with help.  They did some grocery shopping for us before we arrived, have come with us to look for houses, and we have already had a couple of BBQs.  They are a lovely bunch of people and  I am sure that they will all become great friends. 

Now were are on the hunt for a new home and two new cars! 

Let the real adventure begin! 

As you all know, you can reach us on facebook and Skype - but feel free to comment on here too.

We will try and keep you all updated each week.

Miss you all very much

Love Tristan and Penni