United States of America · 27 Days · 43 Moments · December 2018

7 January 2019

It’s still only 12 degrees but after how we’ve been living that can only mean one thing... POOL TIME. For a family that doesn’t enter their own pool unless the temperature is higher than 26 and the pool is heated to 35, this is quite the shift. We went for a drive into Palm Springs, saw Elvis and Priscilla’s honeymoon house, ate some much needed sushi for lunch and I finally got my date shake. Then back to our happy place, the Parker, for more swimming and relaxing before a night of drag queen bingo at the Ace.

6 January 2019

We only chose a few spots to splurge on accomodation on this trip and Palm Springs was one of them - neither of us could wait to get to the Parker, so we packed up all our stuff (the more room you have, the more mess you make) and hid the things we broke and headed straight off, with just a quick stop off at The Palms restaurant to say we’d seen it. (We saw it.) I wanted a famous date shake on the way but the place was closed, so we found ourselves at the Parker early, which was fine by everyone. All the boys agree this is our favourite home base on the trip. We had a delicious lunch, wandered the grounds for a while, playing table tennis, giant chess and pétanque. Then we had a night watching the Golden Globes in while Scout gave us his own red carpet fashion show.

5 January 2019

Pioneertown is an old fake town that was build as a movie set for 1930s westerns. In recent years the cool kids have moved in and it’s now part tourist attraction, part hipster enclave. Every second Saturday they stage a gunfight, which worked perfectly with my highly hones itinerary, so we hotfooted it from lunch to the town to make it in time. Unfortunately it was cancelled that day I hate it when people f@*k with my precious itinerary. We had fun anyway visiting the shops while the boys played cops and robbers (cowboys and Indians not being woke enough for us), but went home for more games and hotubbing before our dinner reservation back in Pioneertown at a little music venue called Papi and Harriets, where once Paul McCartney randomly appeared onstage for a surprise gig. I was hoping for Stevie Nicks this time but no music legends were in the house. Lucky we still have Milo and his Piano Man on harmonica.
The next day we’d intended to walk some of the Joshua Tree trails, but we were all a bit done with nature. Instead we played more Sorry!, toasted marshmallows, had a soak in the outdoor hot tub (we feel warm because of where we’ve come from but it’s still only 7 degrees out) and hit up the local town, which is very cool but also feels like a place bad people would run away to when they need to hide.

4 January 2019

Back on the road through the desert towards Joshua Tree. We decided to do this with no water in the car and very little petrol, because that’s how stupid we are. It made for a tense journey, until we found Roy’s gas stop. Roy’s has been a pit stop for travellers on Route 66 since Jesus’ time. Haydo was enamoured, as was I until I needed to use the bathroom. After an incredible drive through the cholla cactus strewn landscape, we eventually arrived at our Airbnb, the Joshua Tree House, a beautifully styled home with a perfect collection of puzzles and board games. Where has the game Sorry! been all our lives? We ordered pizza, lit a fire and had a perfect night in.
The next morning we got up for the ultimate Vegas experience - no, not Britney - a breakfast buffet. The amount of food on display at 9 in the morning was terrifying, but somehow we managed to sample quite a bit of it. We eventually rolled our bodies towards Old Vegas, which was much cuter than the new. Scout decided he wanted to be a Chippendale because he also likes to be shirtless. I don’t think any of our hearts will stay behind in Vegas, but it was good to see once.

3 January 2019

We arrived in Vegas pretty bedraggled and checked into our hotel. They must have felt sorry for the dirty family they saw in front of them because they upgraded us to a swanky suite overlooking the strip. Scout loved Vegas. We know because he kept saying ‘I love Vegas’. Not a great sign. After settling in and enjoying some personal space (and two bathrooms) we went for a walk on the strip, which was... eye opening. Vegas is Disneyland for adults and maybe the Saddest Place on Earth. Weirdly, this walk, not hiking Zion, is where my bits started to feel like they might fall out. We saw the gondolas at the Venetian, the flamingos at the Flamingo, and then we dropped the boys back at the room while Haydo and I went downstairs for a quick grown up drink sitting at a bar that had slots built into it. We won nothing and enjoyed it less but I felt close to Nanna. We finished at the Mat Franco magic show, which had Scout and Iggy in raptures and even Non believer Milo cracking a few smiles.
The next morning we headed off on the hike we really wanted to do - Canyon Overlook. We drove into the national park, through the incredibly long and dark Zion Tunnel though the rocks and found the path. Along the way we crossed brides and went through caves, stumbled across mountain goats and braved snowy precipices with no fences. Finally we made it to the end, with a glorious view across Zion. This was part of the trip I was really looking forward to and was getting worried I wouldn’t be able to complete, but we did and it was worth it (and better yet, all my bits stayed in). This baby will definitely have an adventurous spirit. Back in the car... next stop: Vegas.

2 January 2019

As we all took well earned poo’s after our journey we strapped on our walking boots for our first trail. Emerald Pool trail. The boys were as spritely as a Christmas tree post Jan 1, but we ventured out while the sun cast a staggering hue across the cliff tops. The top half of the trail was closed off due to an waterfall freezing over, but that didn’t stop four strapping lads from scaling the intrepid path like Bambi on ice the musical. Juz refused to take on the challenge due to having a baby and morals... boo. Big smiles all round for hiking in Zion
She was a cold one this morning at the sun slowly rose over Park City Utah. Another barmy -21 degrees. Time to blow this popsicle stand and head to Zion national park. Back in Sherryl Crow (our newly named car) and on the road. Today we were hoping that warmer weather would be ahead but alas the roads were as white as doves in mating season. We stopped at the most quaint diner in all of Utah. El Bambi. 60’s diner music sweetened our ear speakers and our pants were suitable charmed by our waitress (who we all thought had a serious crush on Haydo). As the sun hit its peak so did our eyes... Zion’s mountain range was in our views and boy and boy Zion wasn’t ly’n about its beauty.

1 January 2019

Right across the car park from the Ice Castles happens to be the Midway Crater, a natural beehive shaped geo thermal hot spring. We braved our swimwear in -20 degrees to swim outside in water that was 35 degrees - ‘swimming inside a volcano’ according to Scout. It’s deep so everyone had to wear life jackets, but floating around in the dark cavern and feeling properly warm for the first time in weeks was heaven (especially for my enormous fat guts). Getting out, however, was terrifying. We were all tired after such a big day so we ordered room service and went straight to bed.
Park City is an old mining town that turned into an upscale skiing town once the mining died. It’s another adorable, snow covered Main Street covered in Christmas lights. We spent the morning wandering the shops, then ate lunch at an awesome Mexican cantina before picking up caramel apples and visiting the local museum, where a ghostly puppet in one of the real-life jail cells downstairs scared the bejeezus out of us. We’d always planned the visit the Ice Castles, a man made temporary structure that goes up every year, but unfortunately they weren’t opened yet so I emailed the P.R. and hustled us a private sneak peek tour, complete with ice grips and hard hats. It was incredible to see how they formed each individual icicle into thrones, slides, tunnels and forests fit for a Frozen set.

31 December 2018

We left West Yellowstone after defrosting the inside of our car again (indoor snow is not something we were prepared for) and headed on the road to Park City, about a six hour drive away. We arrived with only an hour to spare before our dinner reservation up on the mountain so we quickly layered up and headed for the restaurant at Cantons Village. IT WAS FREEZING. The walk from the car to the restaurant on the slopes was the coldest any of us had ever been. It made our noses run and our eyes water and then the snot and tears both froze on our faces immediately. But the restaurant was warm and fun. We had planned to eat and then go out to enjoy the festivities on the mounting but instead we stretched out our New Years meal for two and a half hours so we didn’t have to go back out side until the 7.30pm fireworks, which were great (seeing them above snow is so different to the harbour). We were in bed by 9. Success. See ya, 2018!

30 December 2018

After an hour of being crammed in a car with the world’s most irritating people. We had finally made it into Yellowstone. The bummer was, we couldn’t get into the hotel for a couple of hours. So we geared up, took off our wet shoes and head for the “zoo.” Scout loved the bears, I loved the wolves and Haydo loved the crows. We then had lunch at a bar and had some Mexican food that helped with some... problems. When we finally went back to the hotel we were surprised by a house inside a room. With a bed mad exactly Scout’s size. Imagine that! After hours of mum losing to Haydo in cards, we finally went on a magical journey to the greatest movie of all time. AQUAMAN!!! I enjoyed it a lot but for some reason, Haydo disagrees. I guess he’ll be unhappy when me and Scout name the baby, Arthur Grant Aquamanington
Our second day in Lone Mountain Ranch and I’m continuing to love my own bed, and while everyone was going down to the buffet breakfast, I was dreaming of murdering Delilah. When I finally got there Scout had a hot chocolate the same size as his head (not very big) and everyone else had finished they’re chicken waffles. I decided that this family has already been as annoying as the snow in my boots, and that it wouldn’t be that bad if I sat around and ate my breakfast at the same pace and Iggy getting ready for the day. When I was finally as full as a bull, we packed our stuff and headed for the lobby to check out. The problem was that the snow didn’t want us to leave and stole my phone. When we finally found it we went to the car, which was frozen on the inside. We got it sorted again and headed off to Yellowstone. It was one of the hardest goodbyes of my life. I’ll miss having my own bed. At the Yellowstone entrance we took some photos... and I made yellow snow

29 December 2018

Early start - we’re off to Lone Mountain Ranch. An 8 hour drive that had to be the most incredible of our lives. We stopped for breakfast in Bigfork a tiny town that was rumored to have the best Christmas lights in all of Montana. Covered it a think layer of fresh snow, it was the scene of Christmas dreams. We arrived at the ranch. Speechless. Heavily snowing we were shown to our log cabin. Fireplaces in every room, scout made the most of the complementary coffee station. We rugged up for our sleigh ride. A journey through the dark woods to a cabin high in the mountain where we feared on soup, bison and cowboy coffee. Scout uses an outhouse for the first time... we he looked down the hole and screamed ‘that’s disgusting, I don’t want to be a cowboy anymore!’. Montana just keeps getting better and better. Juz is becoming more pregnant (but still looks effortlessly beautiful) Hayden is concerned for their hike in Zion national park.

28 December 2018

Day 2 of bros N boards. Milo was the most excited of all the brothers to head up the mountain. He was practically running up the mountain in his sleeping bag... oh no, my mistake, we woke the devil this morning and anyone who came near the beast was given a look that most of America gives Monica Lewinski. But after some gentle persuasion and a quick geo cache under a bridge which smelt like Doritos and urine... we were off. Juz got a 4 hour massage and haydo realized that he has no friends. The boys were all gleaming with smiles upon pickup and we celebrated over ice cream sundaes in -8 degrees. Discussions of sponsorship deals were had and who would turn pro first. We also ate at last chair. Delicious. They served burritos the size scout. New rule - If you don’t finish your meal your on the kids menu the next night. Whitefish you have our heart. A 10 year reunion plan has been mentioned. Milo thinks he’ll be rich and will fly the family back before then. So 10 year Reunion it is!

27 December 2018

We woke up to SO MUCH SNOW. Opposite our hotel is a soccer field that looked like a winter wonderland. We continued the snowball fight obsession until Scout cracked it and took off his clothes in a huff (it’s a confusing theme). We went for a wander, a shop and a hot choccie downtown, then took the kids up to the mountain for their first day of snowboarding. They loved it and we loved the baked Brie, Frangelico and game of cards (and silence) by the fire back at the hotel. We all needed some alone time. Picked them up, had dinner and then settled down to a lovely peaceful night. I think we’re getting into the swing of one room living (finally).

26 December 2018

4am start, two three hour flights with a three hour stopover in between and a four hour drive in a car much smaller than the one we booked could have made for the worst day ever - but then we arrived in Montana/Narnia and it could not have been more magic. We stopped kerbside for a mini snowball fight but quickly moved on to our final destination: Whitefish, the prettiest little snow covered, Christmas-lit town you could imagine, perched at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Our hotel is lodge themed with a giant fireplace, deerhead and gingerbread house in the lobby. There are stuffed bears in residence. It’s perfect. We went down the Main Street for an Italian dinner and settled into bed dreaming of snowmen.

25 December 2018

Christmas Day! Santa came and filled our stockings with magic tricks and candy. Milo got a harmonica which will fill our ears with song (namely, one song: Piano Man) for the undisclosed future. We ate a satisfyingly NYC breakfast at the diner across the road, then an unsatisfyingly unchristmasy lunch at ABC Kitchen. Spent the afternoon uptown looking for toilets in Central Park, then back home for a last evening of packing and giant pizza.

24 December 2018

Had Xmas eve lunch at Carbone, then dragged Haydo - who had a hangover - around Gulliver’s Gate, a world in miniature which is RIGHT UP HIS ALLEY. Iggy, Scout and Juz loved it though. Picked up some Magnolia to eat off Juz’s fat guts (it tastes even better that way). Then early to bed after putting out Oreos and whole Foods baby carrots for Santa and his reindeer.

23 December 2018

Ended the night by having dinner inside a Christmas tree at Rolf’s. Haydo dealt with the terrible food by drinking a beer as big as Scout. But the decor was as festive as it comes.
Went to church for the morning via the gospel brunch at Ginny’s Supper Club (Justine cried of course). Found a playground in Harlem where Scout freaked out on the baby swing and Milo played b-ball with an invisible ball. Juz and Haydo surprised the boys with an early Xmas present - tickets to Book Of Mormon. Haydo took them to the show while Juz and Scout had a date at the hotel.

22 December 2018

Got up early to join the throng of crazed NYC parents for Santa’s final day at ABC Carpet and Home. Only took about an hour, which was nothing compared to Other days where the queue apparently ran for four blocks. Santa was real though (Scout tugged the bears to check) so he was worth the wait. Travelled to Brooklyn for the flea market but really just so Juz could spend a week’s food budget on a lobster roll (also worth it). Finished the food fest with a visit to Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain for the biggest and best sundaes known to humankind. And then we still had room for meatballs at The Meatball Shop where Scout decided hospitality is his true calling.

21 December 2018

Spent the morning at the Bryant Park Christmas market where we feasted on empanadas and dumplings and our new favourite discovery - hot apple cider. Headed downtown to visit Best Made and Economy Candy, where Iggy and Scout felt liked they’d died and gone to heaven. Then dinner at La Esquina for the best corn and tacos.

20 December 2018

Headed to the Rockefeller Centre to visit the Top of the Rock. Picked up bags full of Magnolia Bakery goodies and took them with us to Karaoke Duet 35 in Koreatown where Juz sang Dolly, Milo sang Nirvana, Scout sang Bruno Mars, and Iggy and Haydo sang everything. Ended the day appropriately musically by seeing School of Rock on Broadway, which was incredible. New York Slice on the way home. It was gross.

19 December 2018

Scout saw the big ice skating rink and Iggy and Haydo strapped on their skates for what can only be described as pickles on glass. Scout though the rink was one big snow cone and took every opportunity to taste a mix of a thousand rental skates and dried blood. We hit New York’s most famous and only ninja themed restaurant. Their job was to scare the shut out of you. Juz has gastro. Jumps scares and gastro go together like Iggy and a comb.
New York day 2. Bagels. Ess-a-bagel. Skip the 100 person line bagel. Juz’s 357 day research really paid off this morning. Jumped on a ferry to Staten Island. Saw the Statue of Liberty. Understandably Scout preferred her in Ghostbusters 2 (sometimes you just don’t want to meet your idols). Caught a train uptown to Central Park, we all ate hot dawgs and tried to walk on the frozen part of the lake. Milo’s foot was the only one brave enough to for a swim.

18 December 2018

4am start because we’re off to New York City or as Scout calls it... America. Hayden sat next to Milo, they really bonded. We were so excited to see the kids faces as they took in their first views of the city. Unfortunately the sleep was the main attraction on the car ride in. But we arose to Shake Shack. Milo’s eye were visible bulging. He ate with the intensity of a small African village. The theme of day one was food, and scout got to taste his first bit of street fair, the giant pretzel... or as scout calls it ‘a pretzel that is really big’. We are officially in full tourist mode. Rockafella, lego, NBC, F A Schwartz and about a thousand Christmas trees. Group consensus -We ❤️ NYC

17 December 2018

At night grew, so did juz’s appetite for zombies and vampires... turns out Nick Cage has something to do with almost every ghoulish story in New Orleans. Our guide was perfect and taught us all that if you have 7 coffees, anything can be interesting. And also for 200 dollars you can sit at an empty table and pretend your having dinner with a ghost. We also discover that 1.3 million dollars can by you a castle in the big easy. Speaking of teen idols, Juz got to seen Anne Rice’s house, MILO got to see Nick Cages and Scout got a boaster seat so he was just happy to see anything.
Headed to the French Market for a breakfast of Nutella crepes and fresh OJ. Picked up some voodoo dolls and Juzzy saw a psychic, much to everyone’s disapproval. Hayden and Justine escaped the tribe for a quick drink at the Carousel Bar in our hotel and then we headed to Willie Mae’s Scotch House for the world’s most famous fried chicken. We got through the queue in about 20 minutes and it lived up to the hype.

16 December 2018

Arrived in New Orleans, which on first impressions is way more Gold Coast than Anne Rice would have you believe. Wandered for a while taking in the atmosphere and then had dinner at Cafe Amelie. Had our first beignets afterwards at Cafe Beignet.
Had hoped to do some shopping in Breaux Bridge before we left but everything was closed on a Sunday. Took a lot of shots on the random crawfish Christmas themed photo boards around town and grabbed some poboys (gator for Iggy) and a bag of cracklins before heading back on the road to New Orleans. Stopped on the way at Laura Plantation to learn about creole and plantation family and slave history, which was illuminating and moving.
Had to leave early though for a swamp tour, which was so much more magical than we’d imagined. No alligators to be found on the surface because of the cold weather (3000 of them hiding underneath us apparently) but so much natural beauty and other wildlife.
Had the best breakfast made for us by Madeline and Walt at Maison Madeline - pain perdu with the local cane syrup, crispy bacon and fruit. We could have all stayed at that beautiful home all day - one really wasn’t enough to appreciate it.

15 December 2018

Woke up in Kemah, which feels like Malibu meets Balboa meets Disneyland meets the Truman Show. Went for a walk on the boardwalk and had a ride on the Ferris wheel. Drove to NASA. Went inside a shuttle, touched a moon rock, learned about drinking recycled pee, and had the most fun in the gift store. Said goodbye to Texas and got on the road to Louisiana. Stopped to pet a baby gator across the border, and eventually drove through some of the eeriest landscape we’ve ever seen to arrive at the most beautiful Maison Madeline, with its pretty Christmas decorations, twinkling fairy lights in the garden and roaring fireplace. Went to dinner at Cafe Sidney Mae for a classic Cajun country meal of shrimps and grits, gumbo, crawfish etouffee, hush puppies and GATOR which tasted like popcorn chicken (even though we’d just played with the baby version that morning - heartless family).

14 December 2018

Woke up groggy and packed up, sad to leave the Driskill but excited to start our five week all-in honeymoon. Went to pick up our 5lbs of Franklin BBQ brisket that we’ve had on preorder for six weeks, then tried to balance that out with an epic visit to whole foods where we saw our first fruits and vegetables in days. Attempted a picnic at the Texas Capitol. Wind fail. Found a brewery that would let us eat there. Then dropped off the mums to their apartment and got on the road. First stop Walmart, where Haydo regressed to childhood and the boys discovered a love of retail therapy and giant American cereal. Stopped in at a high school football game, which was madness, then an overnight pit stop in Kemah.

13 December 2018

The after party was great. After a hot tip from Erin (makeup lady to the stars) we visited Austin’s best Honkey Tonk bar. It was everything. Apart from Donna and her team throwing their work Christmas party, it felt like they’d opened up the joint just for us. We had our bridal waltz amongst the bright neon lights of Texan beer signs and a game of pool to feel like this wasn’t just a photo op stop. Jet lag has hit Milo hard, like last drinks for the town drunk at a saloon bar. we Texas so much.
WE GOT MARRIED. it was a windy mess, but it was our windy mess. The chapel was perfect. Small, intimate, Texan. I can’t believe I got to marry my best friend. Scout played hide and seek during the ceremony, but you’ve never seen 6 individuals with bigger smiles in their life. Juz (my wife) looked indescribable. A vision that will forever be burnt into my head. You looked great babe. I just wanted everything to go in slow motion, but then we got hungry and after some forced photography and many bribes with Scout we jumped in Phil’s 1955 jaguar and had our first moment to ourselves as mr and mrs name TBC. We also FaceTimes Shez and Ham and it immediate made us wish we had invited them.
We got married, y’all! We woke up to farts, feet and fatigue, the first realisation that this family of sardines were one about to officially become one and two we should have booked more rooms on this trip. Boys stink. Headed down to the restaurant to calm the nerves have a quick cup of tea and a play a full set. (Haydo won naturally because he’s a hunk and that’s why I’m marrying him). Then, a family pre-wedding brunch to moonshine (unfortunately brunch is only on sundays) but their world famous (unconfirmed) chicken and waffles were still on the menu and boy did we over order. The next hour was a blur of trying to get ready and keep scout distracted so he wouldn’t complain about looking like a pre teen backstreet boys member. They all looked so handsome. I hope she says yes...

12 December 2018

Landed in Textas after a 16 hour flight. Picked up our trusty minivan and headed off to pick up the mums in Fort Worth. The plan was to spend the afternoon at the Stockyards before driving to Austin, but instead we got to spend three glorious hours at AT&T sorting out our phones. Made it to the Stockyards eventually where not much was open but at least we got some Cowtown vibes. As it turns out, Scout is a mad keen shopper - in a vintage cowboy store he became fixated on a cowboy hat, cacti printed shirt, studded belt, buckskin vest and business tie look. Luckily talked him out of this obvious future buyers remorse (mine). We ate enormous chicken fried steaks (and Haydo drank a fishbowl of beer) at Hunter Bros ranch for dinner, then kicked off the 3 hour drive to Austin. Stopped for koloches in Waco, and finally made it to The Driskill, the prettiest (and most haunted) hotel in Austin, for serious wedding prep to begin.