Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Keeping things orange

Dear Friends and Family,

Autumn is a beautiful time of year in Colorado.  It's like the world purposefully starts to slow down and get into the festive spirit. The leaves begin to change colour, the wind whistles as it blows, snow suddenly appears out of nowhere and frozen turkeys appear in every supermarket. It is also the start of football season when Colorado starts eat, drinking and bleeding Denver Broncos blue and orange -it's a special time of year.

This year we repeated our visit to the corn maze. 4 families adventured into the agricultural eastern plains of Colorado, in search of this year’s maze - a giant pictograph of the local quarter back, Payton Manning (demi-god to any NFL fan). The drought had a big impact on the maze this year; the stalks were only 6-7 feet tall (in fact you could often see over them) and they were considerably thinner than last year, but we had so much fun because Zac was with us. 

We played in the corn pit (not sand pit), jumped on a giant pillow, shot pumpkins out of a huge air rifle, caught a 'train' around the field, slid down an enormous slide on the side of a hill, and of course raced through the maze. What is so great about this place is that everything has obviously been made of farm left overs.  The train carriages were 44 gallon drums cut in half with a 'bench' and rope seat belts, the slide was obviously a mound of dirt left over from digging a basement, covered in a tarp with carpet cut offs to help you slide down, and all the veggies loaded into the air gun were those that would have never made it to the supermarket shelves. It really had that backyard/ farm yard/ neighbour’s yard feel to it - despite thousands of people running around. There were several school aged kids and two babies with us, so we got to have a lot of childlike fun. It was a beautiful sun kissed day full of wonderful family memories.

A week or so later and it was Zac's first Halloween. Daddy and I spent a couple of afternoons searching for the perfect costume... well one that fit anyway. As no one was hosting a party this year, we went to one of the other Aussie family's house so we could watch their kids go nuts. And they did! Our little Superman fell asleep before any of the frivolity even started, while the other Aussie kids collected buckets (no kidding!) of 'candy' from their neighbours while dressed up in some gruesome costumes! It was a true American experience to see hundreds of little monsters, ballerinas, zombies, football players, zoo animals and cartoon character running around the streets with pumpkin buckets in hand yelling 'trick or treat', with protective parents waiting patiently in the driveway reminding everyone of their manners. It's something I am very glad that we did.

Thanksgiving followed a few weeks later. Again the Apperley's hosted the event. A couple of families and a few boys from Tristan's work came over for the grand turkey feast. Tristan worked this year, so I was responsible for the turkey. I put it in the oven way to early and it was ready 3 hours before the meal - but it still tasted juicy and tender so it wasn't too bad. We just have a big roast dinner basically, which isn't the way that Americans actually do it, but we object to having boiled veggies with roast meat - that's just dumb! It confuses any locals at the meal, but since we also insist on generous amount of beer and wine, people get over it pretty fast.

That night I adventured out to the Black Friday sales. They are similar in nature to Boxing day sales, but every store participates and people go bananas for them. They camp out in front of their favourite stores, they turn up hours and hours early to place a hand on that one product they can't live without, and elbow everyone out of the way to get what they want. I just went as a spectator to this sport, but grabbed 3 or 4 toys for Zac. Turns out that I was able to get his Christmas presents and a couple of other older gifts for him for dirt cheap. It was a successful evening. Tristan woke up at stupid o'clock the next morning sales to do his shopping. As such, there is a state of the art home cinema upstairs, more Lego for 'Zac' and some tools laying around. An expensive, but bargain filled couple of hours.

And most importantly this Autumn saw us celebrate Zac's first birthday. Somehow we had survived the first year of Zac's adventure. Go team Mama and Dad! We shared the day with another little boy we know who is a week older than our little man. Both Mum's spent many days (ok - weeks) preparing for the day. There were about 20 people who were kind enough to come along to the first birthday parties. Zac happily sat on everyone's knee, ate too much (well sort of) and vomited in front of everyone. It was a good day. There were balloons, cakes (thanks Aunty Beck) and good company. It was a good reminder of the little community that we have built around us for support - we are very lucky.

So it was a fun filled 'Fall' in 2012 - lots of laughter, smiles and good times were had as the seasons moved steadily towards Winter.  Only one more until we are home.

Sending you all lots of love

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Planes, Trains, Ferries and Monorails

Dear All,

Our most recent adventure was to Seattle and Vancouver Island..

Zac happily slept and played through another flight as we drifted to the US far north west. On arrival in Seattle we were able to catch a train to downtown, and then a short taxi to our hotel. Yes - before we had even started our adventures we had been in a car, train, plane, another train and a taxi!

We quickly dropped our baggage and set out exploring.The first thing that we did was head to the water (almost ocean). To smell the salt brine, see the harbour movement, and feel that sea breeze almost brought a tear to the eye. We wondered along the waterfront for a while and then headed to the famous Farmers Markets. First we had to climb a million steps, with the pram, to get there - but it was worth it. The Markets are famous for fish flying through the air and of course fresh food. There were dozens of fresh flower markets, veggies, and the original Starbucks Coffee house. We bought some yummy cheese that wasn't orange - which is very difficult to find in America - and ate it with a fresh baguette and continued exploring. That afternoon, Zac took his first Merry-go-Round ride with his mother, his father ate a lot of seafood at local popular restaurant (another Man Vs Food find), we all rode on a ferris wheel over the water and caught the monorail back to the hotel. All in all it was a good day.

The next day we woke very early to catch the ferry to Canada. It was not a good trip!  Mama was thrown up on as we left the dock and got to wear parfume a la Zacarais for the entire day!!!  However, the rest of the day was pretty good. Dad tried to hire a mustang to drive around the Island on for the day, but Zac's seat didn't fit, so we ended up with a regular sedan. We drove to the most beautiful gardens and walked around for a few hours; through traditional Victorian and Japanese gardens, and a spectacular rose garden that took your breath away. We also saw a butterfly garden and ate at wonderful seafood restaurant with the best entrees EVER! The entire day it was wonderful to be on the ocean and to not be in America for just a little while. However, we noticed how much we had acclimatised to the US when everything was expensive, and we didn't have to tip!

Early the next morning, after a big breakfast at a cafe that sold sausage rolls, I got to visit my very first castle, set at the highest point of Victoria. It was very pretty, with each room 'restored' to a different period, illustrating the history of the building. We then returned to town and strolled through all the quaint little stores in the cold. The town reminded us a lot of Kiama so it was that small bit of familiarity that made it feel homely. We ate lunch at a pub full of cricket memorabilia, which Tristan LOVED! The funniest part was not a single staff member knew anything about the sport - so you could tell it was just a gimmick. After a long day we caught the ferry back to Seattle and our American life.

After a late night, Zac and Mum had a sleep in the next day and Dad went off to the Boeing factory to see the 747, 757 and 787 being made and got to walk factory floor. From all accounts he was like a kid in a chocolate shop. That afternoon we went to the world fair grounds and visited a very 'unique' museum, the (Experience Music Project) EMP museum, that focused on music, science fiction and pop culture. Despite loving each of these genres, I must admit that we felt very uncultured there. It was great to look at, but I don't think Tristan and I were 'artsy' enough to enjoy it. From there we went up the iconic Seattle tower for a beautiful view of the city and harbour, and caught the monorail and train to China town for a meal with flavour.

On our final day in Seattle, we went for breakfast in the IT district of town. (Seattle is home to both Microsoft and Amazon). It was AMAZING! I'm still salivating over the French toast and berry condiment bar! From there we went to the Pacific Science Centre and had Zac sitting all by himself at one of the floor activities - very exciting - and we went to a Tutankhamun exhibit with about 1000 other people. While very crowded, it brought back some great high school memories of Ancient History class. After a quick lunch of a meat pie (!) we caught a taxi back to the airport for the long flight home.

Seattle was great.  It was only a small city, and reminded us in some ways of Sydney. The food was great, I enjoyed catching public transport again, and it was so nice to spend some quality family time together. We also liked Victoria, Canada.  It was just like the little towns we grew up near and hold so dear. But most memorable of the trip was the water - we miss it much! It was unreal to spend a few days living by it again.

Sending you all much love
Tristan, Penni and Zac