Aug 23, 2013

The Ayling USA Trip 2013 - Part II

Friday 14th June.

We left those dear P's early Friday morning. It was time for our road trip, where we hired a car and drove up the coast along Highway One from the LA area to San Fransisco. We gave ourselves 5 days to make the drive with a few nights in Venice Beach and San Simeon along the way. Leslie dropped us off at a Hertz car rental where we had hired the cheapest 'compact car' on their list and then proceeded to pinch ourselves all the way to San Fransisco as we drove away in a very sleek black 2013 Mercedes C250!!! We felt so very blessed by this upgrade which was given to us because the car we had hired didn't have a GPS like we requested.

Mr A, my fearless warrior, was the first to tackle driving on wrong side of the road. And oh man did it feel strange! It's hard to describe the feeling to anyone who hasn't experienced it. We kept looking the wrong way for our revision mirror (M's brain finally convincing himself that he just didn't have one) and bashing our hand into the door each time we stopped and tried to put it into park. At the start, I felt like one of those bobble heads people put on their car dash, as I wasn't sure which way to look - where my controls were or what was around me! We found that following traffic was actually the easiest and I, in particular, found empty roads or carparks the hardest as I really had to think about which way I was turning and what side of the road I was veering towards. Making perhaps one wrong turn onto the highway (luckily deserted late at night in San Simeon and quickly corrected by Morgan) - ooops! It was such a fun part of our trip, even though our very first turn onto the highway we went the wrong way and started heading south instead of north :)!

Leslie and Nick live inland a little bit so we drove up and over the windy mountain and across to Laguna Beach area where we Stopped for Coffee and morning tea. We strolled along the beach, peeked into the cute shops and watched the crazy expensive cars driving past (feeling like we fit right in in our Mercedes!) We headed along the coast through Laguna, Newport, Huntington, Long Beach and to Venice Beach where we had hired this cute place a few streets back from the beach. We booked all our accommodation except one night in San Simeon through airbnb and I would recommend it in a heartbeat. It was so fun to stay like locals in some of the most amazing cities in the world exploring small parts that most tourists don't and there are some really amazing properties available for hire!

Once we arrived in Venice we went for a walk along the boardwalk picking up fresh cold juices,  stopping to look at the stalls of handmade goodies and artwork, looking in the shops and watching the interesting people in costumes busking and walking by. If you love to people watch, I would recommend Venice in a heartbeat. I feel like you could sit there all day long just watching the people go by and not grow bored at all. What a weird and fascinating place! With just a few 'funky' smells!

For dinner we headed to our local whole foods (we LOVE this place!!) and picked up a few breakfast and road trip snack supplies. We also both came away with a pair of Toms which I have been wanting forever but the shipping to Aus was too expensive. Those shoes are some of the comfiest I own and were perfect to wear for all our touristy wandering around each city.

That night, we drove back to the Venice sign to snap some pictures of it in all it's illuminated glory, then we drove into Santa Monica to explore and had delicious thai for dinner. After dinner we walked down to the pier (which I explored back in 2010 with my cousin Sarah.) It was so much fun to show Morgan a place I had been and loved before). We loved the late night carnival feel of the place, M taking some great shots of the park lit up at night and stopping for a little fun in one of their photo booths. I think we arrived back at our place around midnight after a long and fun filled day.

Aug 19, 2013

The Ayling USA Trip 2013 - Part I "

 We are very lucky that each time we fly into LAX (well my two times and M's one time) we have dear friends that drive up and over the mountains and come to pick us up and take us back to their place for fun shenagiangs and LOTS of laughter! And I mean LOTS! I do hope we get to return the favour one day and giddly collect them from our own airport because they are all sorts of wonderful!
I met Leslie back in 2007 (through blogging) and was lucky enough to spend some time at their lovely house back in 2010 which you can read a little about here, here and here. This visit, it was fun to see how much the kids had grown and changed since then. Ry is still her spunky gorgeous little self and I'm pretty sure Cade still has that crush on me! He is so dear. They were at such a fun age this visit and we quickly all became fans of one another. Especially Morgan. If there is one thing I have learnt from this trip it's kids LOVE Morgan! And Morgan, he is a big fan of kids! I am pretty sure he needs a whole soccer team of his own on day, and a swagger wagon too. Which he actually admitted on this trip 'weren't that bad' and that he 'wouldn't mind buying one one day!' but anyway that is another story for another day... Also a random thought, but Leslie - how did you manage to escape both our cameras so well!?!
here's a peak into what our four days with the P's looked like....

Monday 10th June.

- We flew into LAX around 10:30am. We were a little late arriving and then the airport changed our Arrival terminal (pretty sure that happened last trip too!) Top that with our phones not working in the country and no way to contact Leslie and we spent maybe the next half an hour both walking in and out of the airport doors to each arrival terminal and baggage claim area somehow missing each other each time! Till I had a bright moment of 'Why don't we just use the pay phone?" DUH! That moment when we spotted one another across the terminals was so exciting, especially when the kids came running full pelt at us. I know the kid's didn't remember me as they were too little when I visited last, so I am pretty sure they were just excited that they had FINALLY found those people that they were looking for! But I felt loved. Especially when I was tackled by Miss Rylan Mae and ended up flat on my bottom on the pavement with her on top of me!
- Our first stop was to Trader Joes (actually my first visit ever!) to pick up a picnic lunch and then we headed to the Great Park in Orange Country. And thus began our unlucky but very funny arrival at places which were 'under construction'. I mean seriously they must have heard we were coming because it seemed that almost everywhere Leslie tried to take us was 'Under construction' and it fast became a reoccurring joke. 
- We picnicked at the great park and looked at the big balloon and the carousel (I think we need to come back sometime when it is open!) Then we hung around Laguna beach waiting for Nick to finish work. I was shocked at how cold the West Coast Ocean was!
- Tried Trader Joes Kettle Corn for the first time - oh my word!!!
- On the way home we got an inside look at how competitive those Patopoffs are as Nick and Leslie raced each other home, calling each others bluff and getting stressed as they wondered which way the other would take and would it pay off!?  
- Once we arrived home we all jumped on trampoline together. We showed each other our 'moves', had a few mid air tea parties and took silly face photos. We have since found out that jumping is the perfect way to get over a 14 hour flight, although I have been told that 'Doing it' works the trick too ;) Oh Mr Pato!! Can you believe that M and I spent TWO whole hours on the trampoline just jumping away with the kids!?!?! And then jumped back on after dinner too!?
- To remember "What does a ninja drink? Warrrtaaa!!!"
- We had a perfect dinner outside on the patio in the warm summer evening under the festoon lights. It was blissful!

Tuesday 11th June.

- We had a pretty cruisey morning which started with a boardgame tournament with the kids. We played 'Headbandz'  Kinda like 'Celebrity Heads' where you have a name of a celebrity on your head and have to ask questions till you have enough info to work out who you are. I had to laugh at Cade who kept asking if he was a parrot (the picture on the front of the box) until we actually gave him the parrot card and then he immediately stopped asking!
- After games we headed to the local pool and swam and snacked and swam some more. Watching Miss Rylan learning to swim.
- Cade  announed that "I love you, and I just want you to stay forever"!
- Jumped on the trampoline some more - in fact Morgan and I tried to sneak onto the tramp during nap time but only succeeded in waking the kids up with our laughter and having Miss Rylan noticing us bouncing past the  upstairs window from bed!!
- We took Morgan to Walmart for the first time and spent ages just wandering around looking at silly stuff and searching for 'people of Walmart'
- I bought some makeup - seriously can't get over how cheap it is in the States. And we stocked up on some favourite US candy too. 
- Had 'In and Out' burgers for dinner. This was top of Nick's 'The Aussies must experience' list. It was yum!
- M couldn't believe his milkshake was only $2!!!
- Nick introduced us to Duck Dynasty....Mr A is now a huge fan and loves prancing around home with his Si t-shirt and tupperware glass of tea (oh boy, I have my very own redneck!)
- Then the boys (Nick and Morgan) had a ping pong tournament while us girls lazed and chatted on the couch. I have always dreamed that those two would get to play ping pong together one day as they are both addicts - to the point that both of them have taken their own bats with them on a daily basis! The tournament showed just how great a player Nick is as he wiped the floor with Morgan (someone who most people can't beat!) By the laughter and pure exhaustion they came back inside with, I'd say it was a great (and rather competitive) game.

Wednesday 12th June.

- Wednesday was Mr Nick's birthday and I was kinda sad that we got to have all the fun while he headed off to the office for the day - boo for being grown ups!
- We snuggled a little in bed in the morning with Ry and Cade and then headed to Temecula Berry Farm for our first ever 'You Pick' Experience. We were huge fans of the whole experience and M was SO excited and SO into the whole thing! Searching high (and low) for the perfect berries to fill his bucket with. It was very cute. I really wish we had more of these farms here at home as they are such a fun days outing and something I would love to do with our own kids one day.
-  We jumped some more on the trampoline - that thing was our daily workout while we were visiting, and oh my the laughter!
- Then Nick came home from work and some long time friends of the P's were in town from Kansas and stayed the night with their too littles. Such a great surprise and way to celebrate for Nick :)
- After the littles went to bed (and cutely plotted their adventures for the next day together) we had an adults game night and laughed over Apples to Apples and Catchphrase while eating a truck load of junk food like teenagers.
- M and I tried Root beer for the first time (M was a HUGE fan and has since been hunting it down back here at home). We also tried Hot Tamales and cinnamon gummy bears and watched as Nick, Leslie and friends tried a box of aussie birthday chocolates from us - boost bars, crunchies, dreams etc... 

Thursday 13th June. 

- Thursday was my 25th birthday and I celebrated my first ever Summer birthday. It was over 30 degrees!!!
- I woke up to a beautifully decorated kitchen and dining room complete with a scrappy fabric bunting, hand written sign by Rylan and cute drink flags (I wish I had taken more photos!) and the loveliest blueberry waffles, made with our pickings from the day before.
- We spent the day floating in the Lake and lazing on the shore, eating fresh shrimp salsa with corn chips and ice cold water. It was divine!
- I plaited and curled Rylans hair (which lasted until she jumped onto the trampoline and it fell flat lol!)
- The adults went out for dinner to celebrate the June birthdays and I think it's safe to say that Leslie and I won dinner. Our Pulled Pork was one of the most amazing meals I have ever eaten - I am sure we will both continue to have dreams about that meal for the rest of our lives. Like seriously!
- Morgan had his first ever tipping experience.
- Came home to a few episodes of Duck Dynasty and a spot of crafting.
And before we knew it, our time with the P's was over and it was time for our next part of the trip. We were excited about all the fun things we would get to do next but also sad to leave friends who live so far away and you never quite know when you will get to see again. Thank you Nick and Les for letting us stay in your lovely home and being such generous and wonderful hosts. We truly hope one day we can return the favour. Thank you for all the sweet memories, we love you all!
Until next time....

Aug 1, 2013

thoughts on being back home

Well Mr A and I are back.

Back from our amazing 6 week holiday to the United States, and I can't wait to recap our little trip right here. Seriously, all the places we were able to go and things we got to see blows my mind. I mean really did we actually shop beneath the bright lights of Times Square (at 2am) after catching a Broadway show? Did we really stand upon the soil of a plantation where the civil war took place? Did we really explore the most amazing castle perched high on the hill along the Californian Coast? And spend an evening barefoot in the country catching fireflies in a little jar? I mean really, just a few weeks back? Two weeks on Saturday actually.

To be honest it's been a little hard to adjust to being back to normal after six amazing weeks of jam packed awesomeness. Six weeks of side by side adventuring with my love, of seeing the dearest of friends and loving on their families and catching up with our own family. Of new experiences, new cities (new smells!) and new food. I'm finding myself browsing our grocery store aimlessly, trolley empty uninspired by the lack of choice we have here in Oz all while craving a Starbucks frappacino and just one more Trader Joes Peanut butter cup (good thing we came home with half a suitcase of those bad boys!)

But what I do know is I that I feel I have come home richer than when I left.

I know that I fell even more in love with my husband on this trip and it just reconfirmed to me that I have picked such a wonderful guy to create a home with. I swooned as I watched him take control and lead us through each new city, nothing too much of a hassle or daunting for him. I fell harder each time he had to navigate a new subway system, each time he ordered our food and dealt with the cheques (tipping is stressful people!), each time he carried both his and my heavy suitcases through the city while I carried our two tiny carry-ons, the time he got into a car on the wrong side of the road and headed into LA traffic at Peak hour and handled it like a pro, Each time I watched as he fell in love with another of my friend's littles, each time a little one got to ride on his shoulders (or tackle him to the ground in Jack and Elliots case!) and each time I'd catch him out of the corner of my eye, pick up and plant a kiss on one of those sweet babies, my heart would seriously skip a beat and I'd think this man is so amazing/wonderful/cute/sexy and oh my gosh he's mine!!!
He's pretty great that Mr of mine...

Oh and also, I have the most amazing bunch of girlfriends possibly ever. I'm very blessed by them and getting to stay in each ladies home (some new and some again) was so amazingly special. And to have them meet Morgan was a dream come true! They are women who inspire, encourage and uplift you and when you visit them, they seriously seriously spoil you! I simply adored being able to catch up with old girlfriends and meet some of their family members I didn't get to last time and to meet some new friends too.  Those girls are truely a gift from God and I'm missing them all so very much. Each and every single  one of them.

And of course those lovely friends who I didn't get a photo with! Courtney, Chantel, Dawna and Anna and our newest friends Becca and Amy :)

Now to plan our next trip back! (and next time Jess and Nikki we are taking photos together with our real cameras!?!)
But first ... an Ayling USA Trip 2013 recap!!