Housekeeping: Contact Form Working Again

I just discovered that my contact form has not been working. My apologies if you’ve been trying to reach me and your emails were left unanswered. If that’s the case then please send me another email using the new form on my contact page.

Thank you.

And, of course, nothing says sorry like a picture of a fluffy white chicken. (I’ve been waiting for just the right time to share this photo).

Great Oregon Road Trip: High Desert Museum

To see a map of our entire journey and photos from our first day of travel, click here.

All Great Oregon Road Trip posts here.

We spent our third day in Sunriver at the High Desert Museum and then the SHARC water park. The only thing you really need to know about the water park is that my 62 year old mother enjoyed her very first ride down a water slide…with my 63 year old father. I enjoyed quite a few rides down the water slide myself with Thomas and Kei (Samuel wasn’t tall enough). It was quite the event and I wish I had taken photos but I wasn’t comfortable leaving my fancy camera by the pool. You’ll have to take my word for it.

I do, however, have some photos of the High Desert Museum. This was my second visit – the last time being when I was six months pregnant and Kei and I were on our unofficial babymoon. It’s a lot more fun with kids – although less educational due to the speed with which you are forced to move through the exhibits.

My Dad looks strangely at home in fake 1800’s Oregon.

We enjoyed a quick stop at the dinosaur exhibit.

Where Thomas dug up some bones.

While Nan and Grandpa took a breather.

And then it was time to go outside to re-create the same photo that we took on our trip 9 years ago. Never gets old.

Then we caught the Birds of Prey show – because if there’s one thing the Ishida’s won’t pass up on vacation, it’s a Birds of Prey show. This one at the museum was great, mainly because you are asked to stand in the middle while the birds fly over you from one perch to another. All we needed was a little more shade in the 90 degree heat.

Oh, and P.S. I have a new love for Owls.

I’m also not very good at catching birds in flight.

Thankfully some of them stayed still for a close up.

After about 5 hours at the museum, we headed back to Sunriver and enjoyed our time at Sharc before heading home. I was smart enough to pick up some bug spray during the day so I could safely step outside to capture a gorgeous sunset and moon.

Sunriver was fun but it was time to move on (or we couldn’t call this a roadtrip, right?). Tomorrow: Crater Lake.

Great Oregon Road Trip: Lava River Cave

To see a map of our entire journey and photos from our first day of travel, click here. The first half of our Volcanic Monument visit is here.

More Great Oregon Road trip posts.

We decided to stop at the Lava River Cave on our way back to Sunriver. There was a little trepidation thanks to this warning on the website:

It takes approximately 1.5 hours to tour the entire cave. Initial access descends 150 stairs to an uneven floor and can be challenging. Please wear close-toed shoes and warm clothing. Average temperature in the Cave is 42 degrees Fahrenheit.

But of course we were all up to the challenge, even after we were told to rent a lantern because, and I quote the guide, “there is NO light at all down there”. Dum dum dummmmmmmm.

The most surprising thing to me as we approached the cave, apart from the swarm of bees that surrounded the entrance, was the dramatic drop in temperature. We hadn’t even reached the cave opening when it felt like the temperature dropped from a comfortable to 85 to around 60F. It was a little spooky.

We descended the 150 stairs which weren’t too bad at all. Five year old Samuel had no problem with them and my parents didn’t find them too strenuous. In fact Samuel wasn’t even the youngest child we passed in the cave. I’m not sure if I’d recommend it for younger children, however. Five seems just about right.

At the bottom of the stairs we found ourselves in absolute and total darkness. No false advertising here. So you won’t be surprised to know that I took very few photos in the cave. It’s hard to find focus when you can’t see what you’re focusing on. Still, we managed to have a little fun with the lantern light.

Disembodied legs. Spooky.

The cave itself was pretty fascinating. The beginning of it was a little rocky and we had to be careful with our footing but about half way through we found ourselves in a perfectly formed tunnel with a sandy surface. The hike was flat and easy for the most part.

Sadly we didn’t quite make it to the end. We arrived late in the day and they told us that there would be a ranger in the cave to start guiding people out with plenty of time before the park closed. I think we had about 10 minutes of hiking left to make it to the end so we were a little disappointed, but the ranger assured us that, by that point, we’d seen most of what the cave had to offer.

The walk back was a lot quicker and we soon found ourselves back outside in the Summer heat.

I’m glad we decided to tour the Lava caves. It was definitely unlike anything I’d experienced before. Here are a few tips based on our experience:

  • Don’t tour the cave if you’re afraid of the dark.
  • This cave doesn’t have any tight spaces so it’s perfect if you like your caves…well…cavernous.
  • I probably wouldn’t recommend the cave for children younger than five unless they have experience hiking.
  • Wear comfortable shoes (we saw some people hiking in flip flops – insanity!).
  • Wear sensible clothing and definitely bring a jacket. 90 minutes is a long time when you’re cold.
  • Bring your own flashlights and lanterns if you want to save a little money. They have kerosene lanterns for rent but they’re not for kids so we had to take turns with our headlamp. One more would have been useful.

Finally, leave plenty of time to walk through the cave if you want to make it to the end. We cut it a little close.

Coming soon: Spending some time with pioneers and birds of prey at the High Desert Museum.

Great Oregon Road Trip: Newberry National Volcanic Monument

To see a map of our entire journey and photos from our first day of travel, click here.

More Great Oregon Road trip posts.

Day one of our Oregon adventure found us in Sunriver, Oregon. Sunriver is a small resort town just south of Bend and is made up of thousands of vacation condos neatly nestled amongst the pine trees. While Sunriver is a popular vacation destination for many Portland families, this was our first visit and it was a good first stop on our journey.

For the kids, the highlight of day 1 was a visit to SHARC, the new Sunriver water park. We got there at 4:30 on a Sunday so we were spared the crazy crowds but also missed some of the sunshine. We decided it was time to leave when the boys’ lips started turning blue. Of course I didn’t capture any photographs because I was too busy ensuring my kidWe had a good (although salty) pizza delivered for dinner from one of the few takeout places in town. It was all we could manage after a full day of packing, driving and swimming.

Our condo backed onto a lake so, at dusk, I braved the mosquitos to take some photos of the sunset and an adventurous five-year-old. Probably not the best idea but I managed a couple of shots before the critters forced us back inside.

Day two marked the beginning of what I like to call our National Park tour of Oregon with a visit to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This was Kei and my second visit to the monument – the last time we hiked the trails I was 6 months pregnant with Thomas.

It’s pretty incredible to see a landscape that is thousands of years old but still clearly identifiable as a lava flow. And it’s a lot of fun to introduce two curious boys to the wonders of nature. You want rocks? We’ve got rocks!

Before exploring the lava flow, we took a quick drive up to the top of the cinder cone which gave us some amazing views and a an appreciation for the size of the lava flow.

The air was a little hazy from all the forest fires burning in the Western part of the state.

After walking around the rim of the cinder cone, we drove back down the (VERY narrow) road to listen to a Ranger talk…

and take a walk through the lava field.

And then my boys decided to hold hands on the walk back to the car and cemented their reputation as THE CUTEST THINGS EVER!

We made a couple of stops to take a closer look at some crickets before heading to the gift shop – the first of many, many gift shops we stopped at during our vacation. I think we may have closed some of the National Park’s budget gap with our rock and crystal purchases alone.

Finally, we headed off for lunch at the Deschutes Brewery in Downtown Bend – although I don’t have any photos of that because we got lost and Kei and I had an argument and I didn’t fully let go of my grudge until we found some frozen yogurt. Frozen Yogurt is the best solution for most arguments.

I’ll be back tomorrow to share part 2 of our Volcano day which comprised of a walk through the lava tube – and I’ll end this post with another picture of my adorable boys. They were back to bickering a few minutes later so I’ll take these moments when I can get them.

The Great Oregon Road Trip of 2013

More Great Oregon Road trip posts.

In an effort to stay connected with my family (and refresh my Aussie accent), we make an effort to head home to Australia every other year. In the off year, members of my family will travel to Oregon. Usually it’s my Mum and sometimes my Dad comes as well. If we’re lucky we get an unplanned visit or two from my brother, Ben, and his family. (Note to my brother Jono: It’s been too long).

Between everyone we have averaged about one or two visits from family or friends each year – which means many, many visits to the Rose Gardens, Multnomah Falls and Cannon Beach. I think it’s safe to say that, as tour guides, we have covered the Portland Metro area and then some.

This year, when my parents came to visit, we decided to get out of the city and explore areas a few areas of Oregon that we hadn’t seen before. And, while we’re at it, why not cross over the border into Northern California?

So, in August, all six of us piled into the mini van and embarked on a ten day sightseeing tour of Southern Oregon. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll share photos and details of our trip including where we stayed and what we saw – the successes and the things we probably wouldn’t bother with if we did it again.

I’ll start the adventure with a map of our trip – all 840 miles (1352 Km) of it…

Oregon Road Trip Map 2013

…and a few photos of the drive down through the high desert to our first stop in Sunriver.

Coming soon: I hate mosquitos but love a good Water Park… and Volcanos!

A Very Harry Potter Birthday

A couple of years ago we decided that the boys would have a birthday party only on every even year. So when they turned 5 and 7, birthday celebrations were limited to a family dinner and maybe a friend or two over to watch a movie. And I secretly gave myself a little pat on the back for taking a step to simplify my life. Of course the downside to this plan is that Thomas just turned 8 and Samuel turns 6 in May and now I owe them a couple of birthday parties.

Cue the Harry Potter soundtrack…

Yes, Thomas is obsessed with Harry Potter, which meant that his dream birthday party had to take place at Hogwarts. Since flying to (fake) Hogwarts wasn’t an option this year, we brought the Hogwarts experience to our little house in Portland. It was a lot of work but, thanks to some internet research and a couple of ideas of our own, I think we created an environment that, although not  a perfect replica, would have made Professor Dumbledore proud.

I was so busy setting up and then managing the entertainment for 11 boys that I wasn’t able to take many photos, although I did run around in the three minutes between brushing my teeth and the first guest’s arrival to make sure I captured evidence of our hard work. I should have hired a photographer (Ha!). Here’s a small look at our crazy couple of hours in the Wizarding world.

Arriving at Hogwarts: Decor

Upon arrival, guests were invited to board the Hogwarts express through platform 9 3/4. I bought a brick wall backdrop on Amazon that we hung from our front porch with string. I found the platform sign online.

To help with the authenticity, Thomas and I had fun plastering Sirius Black wanted posters all over the inside of the house.

I found this idea online and thought it was so much fun. Sadly the Fat Lady painting and password request was lost on most of the kids. Thomas thought it was a little weird which made it worth the effort.

Most of the party took place in our dining room which leads out to the deck and backyard. The weather gods were kind to us and we managed to have the party in a perfect little two hour window between thunderstorms which likely saved my sanity.

I set up a “Potion” station with water that was available throughout the party. Later, during cake time, I used another idea I found online and added a little food coloring to the cups before filling them up with Sprite or Lemonade. The boys were excited to see their drinks in different colors. A fun and easy magic trick. I only wish I’d managed to get a photograph.


As the boys arrived I set them immediately to work decorating their magic wands. Kei cut pieces of dowel into 10 inch lengths and I placed a bunch of decorating items on the table including permanent markers in different colors, glitter glue and washi tape, but the biggest hit by far was the gold and silver duck tape. I was really impressed with the boys’ creativity and consider this activity a huge success.

Some of the guests even went on to decorate their “broomsticks”.

Kei had the brilliant idea to create them out of pool noodles because you just can’t play Quidditch without a broomstick, but more on that later. First we had to assign guests to their house with the help of a sorting hat that I borrowed from a very creative friend who made it for his own son’s birthday party.

We knew the sorting hat ceremony could prove problematic because almost everyone wants to be in Griffindor, so I made extra Griffindor badges (house crests printed on cardboard) and let the boys choose their own house. Kei provided the voice of the sorting hat.

By the time we finished sorting everyone into houses, it was clear that we needed to get everyone running around. Our original plan was to set the Quidditch field up over at the park but, with the threat of thunder and lightning, we decided it was safer to stay close to home. Kei built some very impressive Quidditch goals using dollar store Hoola Hoops and wooden stakes.

We set them up at either end of the yard and then Kei explained the rules of the game. I have no idea what he said because I had to set up for the next part of the party. When I went out to check on progress a few minutes later there seemed to be some method to the madness.

Party Food

While the boys were out playing Quidditch, I was inside setting up Honeyduke’s sweet shop. I found some really cute lolly/candy labels online and bought candy to match. The hardest part was keeping the boys outside until we were ready to open the store. Originally, the plan was to let them go through and fill their own candy bags but I decided that it would be better to have an adult manage the process. Still, they were able to choose the candy they liked and skip those they didn’t – although I wasn’t prepared for any child to say they didn’t like chocolate. It was shocking.

After Honeyduke’s (or was it before?) we had birthday cupcakes (cauldron cakes) and magic potion drinks while Thomas opened his presents.

Finally, with about 15 minutes left until pick up, we decided to let the boys come down off their sugar high by watching the first few minutes of the Sorcerer’s Stone. After two hours we said goodbye to 9 happy guests along with their new broomsticks, magic wands and a bag full of Honeyduke’s candy.

All in all a very successful party for a very special eight year old – even if I did forget to take a group photo. (My idea for a photo booth was also abandoned due to time and resources). I’m not sure if we’d do it again simply because of the amount of effort involved for a two hour event, but Thomas had a wonderful time and that was the most important thing.

And now, after I take a very long break, I’ll need to start planning a party for a six year old. Rumor has it that this one has a new interest in Vikings. What’s the Viking equivalent of Quidditch?

The Sweetest Tea Party (Event Photo Shoot)

Another post from the BRT (Before Road Trip) archives.

Meaghen and I met eight years ago in a Baby and Me group. We both had boys – in fact I think almost everyone had boys that year – then, a few years later we each had another boy. Our families were part of a larger group that went camping together each year and, occasionally, our husbands would get together to take the boys out for the day and give me and Meaghen time to ourselves when, let’s face it, I probably caught up on laundry and trashy TV while I’m sure Meaghen did something much more productive with her time.

Then a year ago Meaghen betrayed our boys-only bond by having a little girl named Lucy. I was only a teeny tiny bit jealous of the fact that she could now fill her home with pink if she wanted to and had a female ally in her house.  And I tried very hard not to envy the dolls that would soon cover the floors of her home amidst the toy cars. I eventually managed to get past the betrayal and accept the fact that there will be no pink in my house unless it’s of the eye variety.

But then, on Lucy’s first birthday, Meaghen told me she was throwing a girly tea party to end all girly tea parties. It was like rubbing salt in the wound…

…until she asked me to photograph it.

Of course I jumped at the chance. The last birthday party I photographed involved superheroes, legos and way too much wrestling. This time it would be about pink decorations and flowers and candies in pastel colors. Oh, and it was a child’s birthday party for grown ups – a way for Meaghen to say thank you to everyone who helped her through the first year of Lucy’s life. How could I say no to that?

Thank you, Meaghen, for asking me to capture this very special event – and thanks also for providing me with enough girly eye candy to carry me through the next couple of months. I’m planning an all-boy eight year old birthday party this week and I’m going to need all the soft, frilly memories that I can muster to get me through.