Monday, December 15, 2008

Peace on Earth

Mike, Amber, Ediza, Maggie, Golden and Sherpa wish you a beautiful holiday season!

Today we took Maggie for a walk in the freshly-fallen snow, ate warm chocolate chip cookies and wrapped Christmas presents. We hadn't been in the snow since we were in the Swiss Alps back in June. The fluffy flakes that fell today have left us dreaming of a white Christmas.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

'Tis the season

We walked two llamas -- Mac and Golden -- in the 25th annual Historic Downtown Sonora Christmas Parade. The parade is held each year the night after Thanksgiving. Last year the llamas wore packs with presents in them, while this year we put lights and bells around their necks.

Thousands of people lined Washington Street to watch the parade and get into the holiday spirit. We continued with the momentum of the parade by attending a Christmas craft fair today and tomorrow we'll cut down our Christmas tree. Not bad for it still being November.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Second fall

During our around-the-world adventure from February until July we stayed in a variety of accommodations: guest bedrooms, fancy hotels, cheap motels, historic homes, modern lofts, a chateau, a motor home, and so on. Now we can add another to our list: tent cabin.

This weekend we stayed in a canvas tent cabin in Curry Village, a longtime establishment in Yosemite Valley. Our heated tent was just a short distance from an area roped off (and now permanently off limits) due to a large rock slide last month.

Despite Curry Village being the site of a convention for recovering alcoholics this weekend, we managed to drink a bottle of champagne (and eat way too many chocolate-covered espresso beans) in celebration of my 27th birthday!

Earlier this year, during California's spring, we were in New Zealand during their autumn. So, really, we are experiencing fall for the second time this year. The crisp air, the foliage, it's amazingly similar whether you're in California or thousands of miles away.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

This Halloween Amber and Ediza were a pair of witches while I was some sort of disco-hippie pirate.

We started the day with Ediza's usual Friday morning singalong and ended it with singing around a bonfire at an elaborate Halloween festival put on by the Sierra Waldorf School.

Before we left, Ediza posed with the massive 26-pound pumpkin she picked out a few weeks ago at a nearby apple farm.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Meet Maggie (a.k.a. Draw)

Last year for Ediza's birthday we got her a Lavender Lab, a stuffed puppy filled with lavender. This year we got her the real thing!

Meet Maggie, an Old English Sheepdog who joined our family this weekend. Maggie was born seven weeks ago at Rainbow's End, another group home for the developmentally disabled. Her parents are Babs and Buster and she has six brothers -- that's right, she was the only girl in the litter.

While Maggie's name is technically short for Magnolia, Ediza still seems to like the name Draw. As you can see from the photo, Maggie has a white face, blue eyes and she's very tiny -- at least for now.

I guess potty training a toddler wasn't challenging enough so now we've added housebreaking a puppy. Finally, they both fell asleep this afternoon at the same time!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ediza turns 2

Ediza celebrated her second birthday with an around-the-world themed party at a nearby playground. The celebration was inspired by all of the great children's birthday parties we witnessed in Amsterdam's Vondelpark.

For Ediza's party, guests were sent invitations that resembled an airplane boarding pass.

Those attending the party (like Amber's mom below) were encouraged to wear ethnic clothing. I wore a shirt from Peru, Amber wore a dress she got in Paris and Ediza wore a Chinese dress we bought her at Silk Alley in Beijing.

Amber made some neat decorations using construction paper, glitter and photos from old National Geographic magazines. Globe balloons, world maps and postcards from our trip were among the other decorations.

As for the food, there was hummus and vegetables for Greece, pizza for Italy and eggrolls and fortune cookies for China (ironically, the latter came from a Chinese restaurant called the "Great Wall.") To top off the meal there was a homemade globe cake alongside cupcakes and French truffles with miniature flags from countries around the world.

Party favor bags had stickers on them with sayings like, "See the World" and "Travel Light." They were filled with crayons, rainbow-colored bubbles, lollipops and globe bouncy balls. Ediza's goodies included a tiara, hot pink Crocs and a fancy tricycle. Today Ediza has been talking about riding her new trike "back to China."

Last year Ediza celebrated her first birthday with an elaborate outdoor tea party. This year she traveled the world and partied at a playground. Wonder what next year will bring?

Monday, September 29, 2008


We traded in Sonora's heat for the chilly California coast this weekend. On Friday we drove down to Monterey and stayed with Maggy (one of the women we camped with at Strawberry). In an attempt to find her house we ended up at Lovers Point in nearby Pacific Grove.

After playing in the waves there, Ediza checked out this statue of a little boy and his toy sailboat.

The next morning we toured the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, where we saw sharks, sea otters, penguins and these mesmerizing jellyfish. Like a quote on the wall read: "The sea is as near as we come to another world."

Later that day we took Ediza to Dennis the Menace Park, a popular playground that both kids and their parents seem to enjoy.

On Sunday we drove down the coast to Point Lobos State Reserve, which bills itself as the greatest meeting of land and water in the world. While I wouldn't go that far, it is pretty spectacular. We walked sandy paths along rocky cliff tops, watching waves crash below and pelicans fly above in unison. Here I am pointing out some noisy sea lions to Ediza.

Hours after eating a picnic lunch there we returned to Monterey to meet up with Maggy and Karen (the other lady we camped with) for dinner at a local Indian restaurant. After eating a savory meal of samosas and curries we smoked mango-flavored tobacco out of a hookah. Only in California could you have a weekend like this.

Monday, September 1, 2008


We just returned from another inspiring Strawberry Music Festival. At the four-day festival, held at Camp Mather near Yosemite, we camped with two fun women from Monterey. We hung a large, colorful paper mache butterfly above our tent. In the photo below, Amber and Ediza are releasing a real butterfly from inside the tent.

Strawberry has a very relaxed, family-oriented atmosphere. Kids are pulled around in wagons, there's outdoor yoga classes by the lake, and of course there's nonstop music -- both on stage and off. Most of the festival's music is bluegrass and folk based, however, there's usually an eclectic lineup. Here's Ediza dancing in the Music Meadow to Chic Gamine, a talented Canadian group who sing some songs in French and even Spanish.

Amber got to do some crazy dancing with two of her longtime friends, while I got to have some long overdue conversations with people I haven't seen since before our trip. Our around-the-world adventure, obviously, was a main topic of discussion. In general, the festival has a very cultured, global feel to it. Fittingly, here's a flag of the earth hanging from some tall pines.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Magic of the Night

We're continuing to adjust to life back in California. The other night I went with some friends to see the band Hot Buttered Rum at Black Oak Casino, and the following night we went as a family to Magic of the Night. That's where all the shops in downtown Sonora stay open late and there's live music on every other street corner.

We watched belly dancers, one of them being fellow blogger Thalisha. Our friends Brandi and Kevin, known as Mountain Mischief, performed a crowd-pleasing fire dancing show in the park. Just as they did at our wedding reception two years ago, they put on a great show at Magic of the Night.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lake Ediza

We wrapped up our around-the-world odyssey with a backpacking trip to the lake we named Ediza after -- Lake Ediza.

On Friday we got our backcountry permit in Mammoth Lakes and then spent the afternoon at a park on Mono Lake. It was there we met a group of tourists visiting from Paris. You should have seen the look on their faces when Ediza told them "au revoir" -- French for goodbye -- as they left. Further proof that it's a small world, at this remote park we met a family from Washington D.C. The son wore a Baltimore Orioles baseball cap and the mom went to the same college as me.

That night we were met by Amber's little brother, Bruce, her sister, Andrea, and Andrea's boyfriend, Russell. We camped at hot springs in the high-elevation desert near Mammoth. There, Ediza climbed on this boulder wearing her cool dude sunglasses from Queenstown, New Zealand.

The next morning we got packed up and drove to the trailhead. We took three llamas with us to help carry the gear (although I think I got the heaviest load of all -- Ediza). Once we hit the trail, we eventually climbed up these steps (though merely a fraction of those on the Great Wall of China).

Then we (llamas included) crossed rivers.

Finally, we made it to Ediza's picturesque lake high in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of the Inyo National Forest.

On Sunday we had a picnic along the lake's shore and we all took a dip in the freezing yet refreshing snowmelt water.

This was Ediza's second visit to her lake. Amber and I took her last summer when she was just eight months old. She sure has grown a lot since then.

On the hike we took our llama Golden (above with Ediza), his father, Puytu, and the unstoppable Tenario.

Three years ago Puytu and Tenario hiked with Amber and I on the John Muir Trail, which spans more than 200 miles from Yosemite National Park down to Mount Whitney.

Yesterday, on our last morning, Amber cooked up some pancakes with Lake Ediza in the background.

Of all the beautiful places we've visited on our epic adventure, Lake Ediza is right there at the top of the list.

The clear blue skies (other than the occasional smoke from nearby wildfires) provided the perfect backdrop for the rugged Minarets. The only thing that would interrupt the flawless sky was an airplane flying by here and there. I wondered what they were doing up there, where they were going.

Once we hiked out of the backcountry, Russell learned that his family was evacuated and his home almost burned down due to a wildfire raging between Mariposa and Yosemite.

As they rushed home, we drove up over mountainous Sonora Pass, known for its steep and narrow roadway. As I drove, Amber was vomiting her dinner in the back and Ediza screamed from her car seat. Way to go out with a bang!

Here's a self-timed group shot of us on our last night at Lake Ediza. I'm holding a bag of dehydrated smores. Yum.

By the way, some people have asked about the continuation of the blog, and we've decided we'll still post from time to time as we find it's the best way of staying in touch with everybody:)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Circle Home

We've made it back home to Llamas of Circle Home ( in Sonora. The ranch, owned by George and Christine, is home to about 70 llamas (not to mention a dog, cats, parrots and a tortoise). It's also a group home for four developmentally disabled gals -- Shannon, Heather, Susan and Kim (who made us homemade "welcome back" cards).

We've been settling in, unpacking and going through five months worth of mail (including three big boxes we shipped home). Last night Amber played on her new softball team, The Fighting Cavities (they're sponsored by a local dentist). They won 15-5.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Trampoline nights

Monday night we went to a country carnival in Maryland, where Ediza rode the carousel (although much different from the ones in Paris). Tuesday we flew to Oakland via Kansas City (our 10th and 11th flights of the trip). Wednesday we went to an evening farmers market in Mariposa and then slept on the trampoline under the full moon.

We have been visiting with Amber's family in Mariposa, the small town she grew up in near Yosemite National Park. Amber's sister, Andrea, and her mother, Pat, have been enjoying their time with Ediza. Here's her dad, Valen (he was born on Valentine's Day), with a rattlesnake he caught at their house this summer (he grew that beard during our trip).

Yesterday I took Amber's little brother, Bruce, to hike Yosemite's famed Half Dome. The hike is 16.4 miles roundtrip, but we ended up walking about 18 miles to and from my car. I find Half Dome the most satisfying of all day hikes.

The first half of the hike you pass by Vernal (below) and Nevada falls before making your way to the cables that take you up the steep granite dome.

On the trail I talked with all kinds of people: an Italian couple who live near where we stayed in Milan, a man who sends money he earns from cutting hair to poor people in Indonesia and two guys who we gave water to after they ran out.

I've hiked Half Dome more than a dozen times, including once when I wrote an article about the crew who installs the cables. And yes, Ediza's been to the top, too. Amber and I hiked the trail last September and I carried Ediza on my back.

Here's Bruce at the top of the 8,842-foot summit. Once we returned to Mariposa we ate pizza and Amber, Ediza and I spent the night on the trampoline again.