Our Thanksgiving plans were… well we didn’t really have any.  We thought maybe we would be in Redwoods National Park or maybe the Oregon coast.  We weren’t really sure how or if we were going to be cooking a turkey.  After we decided to head south to LA to visit friends we knew Thanksgiving would now be celebrated there.  But what we didn’t know was that we were going to be invited to my friend’s brother’s house for the big meal.

Thank you to John and Renu for opening up your beautiful home(of 2 weeks) to us for a Thanksgiving feast.  And to my dear friend and Jersey girl Sherry for cooking. What a day?

Can you tell these kids had some fun?

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We got to hold a one hundred trillion dollar bill… yes please!

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And take a picture with an Emmy Award.



And be reminded how thankful we are for good friendships!





We figured since we were in the Santa Monica area that we would reach out to our friend Alex who lives there.  He was excited to hear from us and just as excited to offer to take us out to lunch in Malibu…. he didn’t have to twist our arms, we were excited to see him and be treated to lunch.


It was great to see our friend and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with you Alex.  Thank you!

Hanging outside the restaurant.  Note Makenzie, she is reading.



Walking on the beach. Note Makenzie in the background, reading.



A little bit of cliff jumping.  I love these pictures.  Note Makenzie, you guessed it, she is still reading.

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Dipping our toes in the Pacific and Makenzie is still reading.



In every picture I have from this day Makenzie is reading but there were moments she took in the view and felt the frigid pacific ocean waters splash on her toes.  This kid… I’m so in love with her.



Much of this tour was focused on how hard Jelly Belly works to perfect the flavor of their jelly beans.  We were told that there are scientists on site that extract flavors from, say an orange and work diligently to give an accurate, as most exact possible flavor of an orange in a jelly bean.  So when I saw these flavors, I questioned how this was entirely possible.



We also learned that these jelly beans go through a long process and only make the cut if they are perfect.  If they are not perfect they are considered a belly flop and get rerouted and then bagged to only be sold at a Jelly Belly factory.



They also have artists that take pictures and recreate the picture with jelly beans.



We thoroughly enjoyed this tour and left with jelly belly ache from all the free jelly beans we ate.

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And yes, we were required to wear these hats.




The original idea was that we would spend two days here, those 2 days were scaled back to one when a friend called to tell us she and her family were in L.A. (but that is a post for another day).  And since we sat in traffic a long while trying to cross the Bay Bridge, our time here was short but sweet. 

First stop: Lafayette Park- I had shown Koah a picture I had taken of this park a year prior.  This was one of the spots that he requested we stop at.


Second stop: Mosaic Steps


Third Stop: Lunch and Dessert on Fillmore Ave.


Fourth and Final Stop: Randall Museum.  This museum had the perfect mix of activities for our family.

For the animal lover: An area of the museum dedicated to the animals.



For the hiker: A short trail just outside the museum doors.  The top offered some killer views of the city.



For the engineer:  Build a skyscraper and see if it can withstand the shaking of the board it is built on, like an earthquake.  This was tons of fun for all.

Construction Fail



More lessons on plate tectonics.



For the my model:



I loved this little place.  For a majority of the time we were the only people there.  I don’t know San Francisco very well but this place seemed to be tucked away in a little place that not many people knew existed.  I highly recommend this place especially on a clear day.




We ventured back into old town mainly because we were told by a local to not miss the old hardware store.  The kids were told that they had “old fashioned” toys that were out in the open to play with and also available for purchase. 

I must say it was a cool looking hardware store, far different than your local Home Depot.


As for the toys, I liked the fact that most were made out of wood.  Many were the standard puzzle type games/toys that can be found just about anywhere.  They were super expensive and the kids did not want to use their money here.  It is funny how they think twice about their purchasing when it is their money involved, not mine. Smile 

Freya spent more time playing on this box (pictures behind her) than she did in the hardware store.



We had some fun taking photos in a little park we found at the bottom of these stairs.  This was the street level at some point in time, although the sign at the park didn’t explain when or why… or at least I can’t remember if it did.

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How could we leave the heart of the 1848 California Gold Rush without sifting for a little gold ourselves… well, fools gold.  And if anybody was going to find it, it was going to be this guy.





Three reasons why I loved this science center:

1.  It was empty.  Which was great for us, but I assume not good for the science center.

2.  There was something for all 4 kids 6 of us.

3.  We saw things here that we hadn’t yet seen elsewhere.  After stopping at so many science/discovery museums things are all starting to look the same… this wasn’t the case here.


The main exhibit here is a T-Rex named Sue.  This particular T-Rex is about 90% complete, the most complete T-Rex ever.  We aren’t much into dinosaurs, so as impressive as this dinosaur was, my kids didn’t stop for a second to check it out, especially when they spotted exhibits that involved water.

As a side note,  you may notice that the quality of some of these pictures are superb.  That is because the day we were here there was also a photography student here.  He was taking lots of pictures of Sue and then he asked if he could take some pictures of us and the kids.  I said sure and the next day he sent us some of the pictures he took.

Meet Sue.

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I have to be honest, I’m not sure what they are looking at here but it must have been interesting.



Listening to the radio by biting on the straw.



Jeff and Korben spent a lot of time at this tube wall, creating the prefect path for a traveling ball. Between the water exhibits and this wall, it was like Korben had died and went to heaven. 




My personal favorite, the paper airplane shooter.

Airplane Construction.


And shoot…



While Jeff and the girls were shooting paper airplanes Koah was creating his own flying object with a paper cup and a fan.



But even better than the airplane shooter was watching Koah’s hair stand on its end.  For some reason this struck us all as very very funny.  Koah placed his hands on this large silver ball while Kenzie turned a crank, creating static electricity.   I know I know… it’s not nearly as funny for you as it was for us.  But you gotta love Koah’s face here.



A few other highlights.



As you can see here we had the place to ourselves, which always helps to make for a stress free day (mostly).



I highly recommend this science center.  We spend a good portion of our day here and it was well worth the stop.  It is in the heart of downtown Spokane, just steps away from the Spokane public library and only a few blocks to Riverfront Park.


We found it.




This is located in Riverfront Park at the heart of the city of Spokane.  We didn’t spend too much time at Riverfront Park since by the time we arrived there, there was little daylight left.  From what we saw the park seemed to have a nice variety of activities, even though some of the main attractions were closed for the season.

We were disappointed when the gondola ride was closed.  But that didn’t stop us from creating our own fun, like we have grown accustomed to doing.  The city blocks were a big hit for Freya.



In this area of the park the rides were closed and ice rink wasn’t quite ready for skating yet.  It was a neat little area that we unintentionally wound up exploring in search for a bathroom for the big K.  We never did find that bathroom.  So next time you are in Spokane stay clear of the  wet stop next to the little brown building by the…. oh never mind.



This park is well known for its beautiful waterfalls/rapids and its amazing bridges.  By the time we reached the falls we were only able to capture this one bridge by this one small area of the falls.  Not far from this bridge was another bridge that was super pretty.  We stood on it just as dusk fell and listened to the falling water although we couldn’t really see it.



This sign couldn’t have come into view at a more perfect time.  Freya was having a tantrum in the van about… well, that part is not important nor can I even remember.  It was one of those “take cover your life depends on it” kind of tantrums.  We had all made an effort to calm her with results ending in scratches and/or random van junk getting hurled at us.  But then I saw this sign…pointed it out to her and it was like a switched turned off inside her.  Instant joy!  I have thought about this sign often since this day and have even considered investing in one for those dire need situations but we all know it never works as good the second time around.



And then we went for ice cream but that is not too note worthy since it seems to be a nightly event.  Now there’s idea,  I travel the country testing out all the ice cream shops I can find.  No, all the bakeries I find…yeah that’s it!

I’m gonna stop now.  Good night!


This is the big M on the hill at Montana University.


After 11 tough switchbacks we did manage to make it to the top to realize just how big the M really is.  The short answer, it’s really big.  It was about 75 degrees and sunny which made for a spectacular view as well as a whole lot of sweat, and a little bit of complaining.  I never really imagined that we would be complaining about heat in Montana in mid October.

And as per usual this guy was the first to the top. Man o man this kid can move!  It’s one of the things I admire about him, his determination to finish what he has started, no looking back.



And here are the girls, we made it, in our time, closing in at the end.



I believe this was the point in time where Jeff felt the need to explain to the boys the importance of not throwing rocks down a mountain where many people are hiking.  It was also the same point in time when I was hit by a rock.   Lesson learned!



Even with this beautiful view the most impressive part of the hike for Korben was the aerial view of the Montana University football stadium, which I found quite impressive too.




Here is Jeff trying to make a plug for Twilio, if you can read his t-shirt.



But what goes up…… and going down is always harder.



Till next time Missoula, it’s been fun!


I’m not sure which Montana city I enjoyed more Bozeman or Missoula.  Each city has a fun vibe but offers its own unique experience.  I am told Bozeman and Missoula are arch enemies, at least in the college football world.

This is the town where I cut about 7 inches of my hair off so I will always remember Missoula for that.  I choose a place called the Cowgirl Salon.   I wasn’t sure what I was going to get from a place with the word cowgirl in it but I hoped for the best.  And the Cowgirl Salon delivered with a great cut.



Missoula has a great park on the river front with a large climbing structure.  I don’t recommend attempting to come here right after a Montana University football game ends. We were at this park twice.  Once in the evening (around 7) with one other family and right after the football game.  This place was a sea of maroon and white and quite frankly I was feeling a bit out of place.



We headed over to the carousal, which is located directly next to  Mayhem Park  Dragon Park.  The KOA we are staying at gave us free passes to ride the carousal.  The neat feature of this carousal is this.


Can you see the rings coming out of the dragons  mouth?  Each ring is colored, and as you come around (on the second fastest carousal in the US, I know we are talking carousals here) you can reach out and grab a ring.  If you grab the golden ring, you win a free ride.  Here we are ready for action…



Well, guess who grabbed the golden ring?… yep, that would be me! 



Here is Jeff trying to pull off the same golden ring grab that I performed.  He wasn’t successful, I guess I have skills at pulling rings out of a dragon’s mouth.  That must be worth something, right?

We also spent some time at the Barnes & Noble here in Missoula.  I point this out because I managed to whip up this cute hat while we were there.  And although my model isn’t happy, isn’t the hat great?



She is happy here though.



I have to mention the Big Dipper Ice Cream.  Every Missoulaian (is that word) told us about this place.  I must say they had the most unique ice cream flavors I have ever seen and tasted.  The super friendly staff will give you a sample of as many flavors as you ask for but you must ask.  The line is always extremely long, go knowing you will wait for a bit.  Start talking to some other families on the line (like we did) and you will get to the front in no time.  And when you get there try everything, you won’t be disappointed.  Some of the flavors available were, huckleberry, white mint oreo, rasberry amaretto chip, banana, and eggnog.


This was a fun day and I’ve been enjoying Montana way more than I ever expected to.  I still can’t imagine living in a land lock state.  A couple girls at the Cowgirl Salon said that they could never live on a coast.  They were telling me that the fear of earthquakes on the west coast and hurricanes on the east coast keep them living in Montana where there are no real fears of natural disasters.  She then mentioned that they get an average of 34 feet of snow each winter and for me, that is a natural disaster.


The 45th parallel is the border of Montana and Wyoming.  The owner of the campground in Bozeman told us about a swimming hole found directly on the border.  We were looking for this spot before we entered Yellowstone but came to realize the border is found inside the park. We didn’t see anything clearly marked at the border so we continued on.

Reluctantly I asked the ranger at the visitors center if she knew of this place.  She did and offered us a small slip of paper with the directions to the spot.  I’m not sure she would have offered us this information if I hadn’t first asked about it.  Because in all the time she was telling us about things to do in the Mammoth area not once did she mention this spot.

We followed the directions and found the Boiling River.  A quick change into bathing suits in the van and we were off down the trail, anxiously in search of this swimming treasure. 

The Boiling River is where Mammoth Hot Springs meets the Gardiner River.  And where hot water meets cold, a natural hot tub is formed.  And where the hot tubs form people pile up rocks to mostly enclose this magical water.  I felt like I had just found a piece of heaven when we came upon this.   This natural sanctuary was just as relaxing as it was invigorating.








This was a special day for our family and what better way to end our time at Yellowstone!  So it goes that my family and I, on October 14th, went swimming on the 45th parallel.