Some places to stay in California by Tim

While we were in the US we travelled around California for three and a half weeks and stayed in some great places. We thought we’d blog on three of these private rentals for others thinking of travelling around Northern Cali.


When looking for accommodation we’ve really liked this website: You can talk directly to the home owners and there are generally good priced options for different group numbers. We also use to check for extra reviews and options.

1. San Fransisco – Telegraph Hill

This was a great place to stay to start our adventure. It is a comfortable 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment that sleeps up to 4 people located in Telegraph Hill/ North Beach area. It’s located in the Italian quarter which we were incredibly excited about! YUM! There was lots to see and do in the area including cafes, pubs, restaurants and shops.

Of the major attractions San Francisco has to offer this place is walking distance to Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Embarcadero, The Cannery, Pier 39 (ferry to Alcatraz, Sausalito, Tiburon, etc.), Aquatic Park and China Town. However, you will need your walking legs. We had a hire car so we were able to drive to see the Golden Gate bridge, Sausalito and Golden Gate Park.

P.s – There are loads of hills around Telegraph Hill, it should be called Telegraph MASSIVE Hills ;-).

Apartment website and info here: Telegraph Hill

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 7.36.06 pm






Thought by Jess – If you’re not into walking, there is a bus stop JUST outside this apartment. I would stay here again in a heart beat, it’s not a large apartment, but the price and location are perfect!

2. Pine Mountain Lake (Yosemite area) – ‘The Escape’

This was such an amazing house in a beautiful gated community on Pine Mountain Lake. With 3 bedrooms (sleeping up to 8), 2 full bathrooms and two big living areas this place felt like a hideaway in the mountains. The lake area is breathtaking and fantastic for families with lots to do, especially in summer. It was close to the cute little town of Groveland where you can find shops, cafes and markets and perhaps most importantly… coffee.

Highlights for us were seeing lots of deer and squirrel from our balcony. This place is only 45 minutes drive to the Yosemite National Park entrance which is well worth a visit (One of the greatest experiences we’ve ever had).

House website and info here: ‘The Escape’

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 7.38.13 pm






Thought by Jess – This was a wonderful place to get away and recuperate. Fresh-air and eating Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream in the spa-bath was just what the doctor ordered. If I was rich, I’d buy a holiday house here.

3. Redding – Emerald Acres House

Emerald Acres House is a cute and cosy 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom guest house on a gorgeous farm in Redding. During our stay, each day we would tour the farm to see the horses, goats, sheep, chickens, cows, turkeys and playful dog. Amy was in heaven! This was a great place for us to get some rest and have time out after a big few months leading up to our trip.

A special shout-out to the amazing Bret and Valda Christensen who own the farm and are such wonderful hosts. They were always ready to help out to make our stay enjoyable.

If you’re there to visit Bethel Church, it’s only a 10 minute drive away and shops are also just a few minutes down the road. Some other sights around Redding include the Sundial Bridge, Shasta Dam, Whisky Lake and Lassen Park.

House website and info here: Emerald Acres House

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 7.43.48 pm







Thought by Jess – Absolutely perfect for those with kids or those wanting to stay a little further out-of-town. It’s not 5 star, but it was exactly what we wanted. We will be back!

We really enjoyed our stays in each of these places and had no problems with communication, payments or facilities. We would recommend considering these options if you’re ever travelling in these areas.


Some happy snaps by Tim

Redding – A beautiful farm, wonderful animals and some good relaxation P1020687


“Hello Horsey!” (Pony) was Amy’s adventure every morning, she was in heaven with so many animals to see!


Coffee, coffee, coffee at Brew!


Combined Churches Good Friday service in Redding. AMAZING!


This crazy man is Chad. He’s a world changer and fire master! He and his wife Julia always encourage and inspire us. It was so great to see them.


This little kid melts our hearts everyday. It’s been such an blessing creating some incredibly family memories together.

Redwoods – One of the most amazing places we’ve ever experienced. Momentous and spiritually inspiring!


These trees are hundreds (some over a thousand) of years old and have been growing in secret beyond our reach. But God knew them all, even before they were giants, He saw them grow.

P1020801 P1020755 P1020765

Wilmington, North Carolina – Love this place! (Jess has declared she’s moving here :-P)


Our good friends Mike and Karen – We met these guys at a conference in Pennsylvania when we came to the US in 2011. It was a quick but divine connection. We spent 5 days with them in Wilmington and had a blast.


Wilmington… where Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, Iron Man 3 and half of Nicholas Sparks movies were shot.

P1020930 P1020959Amy loved ‘Uncle’ Mike


Bottles and bottles!


Watching Little League. A truly American past time and so much fun!


P1030029“GO Nationals!”


Amy’s first time on a boat, lucky she had her turtle life jacket.



Brave, ready to take on the world.


My girls – Dancing free!


BFFs – Even after a month of travelling 😉


Lunch on the boat after exploring Figure 8 Island. We shared our vegemite sandwiches!


Thank you Wilmington… Until we meet again.

An Easter Sunday at Bethel by Jess

I love Easter because it is the cornerstone of my faith and what I believe. I have attended Nexus church my whole life and I think this is the first year that I have not been there to celebrate Easter. It kind of made me sad. Our creative team put hours and hours of thought and practice into making these services easily accessible and relevant to the myriad of people who attend.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what Easter would be like for me this year being so far from family and friends. It turns out, it was pretty wonderful. It went a little something like this…

First up was a delicious breakfast with our dear, dear friends Laurie and Jim. Just being around these two makes me feel like a better person. Laurie fills my heart with joy and brings a smile to my face. The few hours we spent together were so refreshing and such a wonderful gift.

P1020812 copy

Next, we all went to the 10:30am service at Bethel and miraculously we got four seats together! It was a powerful service and as per my usual Easter Sunday modus operandi, I cried through almost every song.


We said a hurried goodbye to Laurie and Jim before dashing back to have lunch/dinner with Bret and Valda Christiansen who own the little farm-house we’ve been staying in. We joined about 20 other people for a tasty lunch of turkey and a rather special passover lamb, which Tim watched being killed and prepared the day before. Amy was in heaven following or being followed by Maggie, their 3 month old Labrador x Australian cattle dog.



Lastly, we had a rather relaxed dinner with the ever energetic and encouraging Chad and Julia Dedmon. I ate Bison for the first time in my life and they shared their tips on international travel while we laughed at each other.

We crashed into bed around 10:30pm slightly exhausted, but with full hearts and stomachs. All in all, it was a great day, even if Cadbury Cream Eggs and Red Tulip chocolate bunnies were absent.

Love Jess xxoo

Who is Lisa Kristine? by Jess

Who on earth is Lisa Kristine? For those of you who haven’t already Googled her, she is a humanitarian photographer.

Tim first saw a video on TED talks (LINK below) in which Lisa featured. It goes for about 20 minutes, but it’s worth a watch.

Pretty amazing don’t you think?

Somehow Tim worked out that Lisa’s gallery is in Sonoma, a town we where going to drive through whilst in California. So, of course we eagerly stopped by.


My first thought when we walked in was that I didn’t have room in my suitcase to buy anything 😦 That’s the problem when you’re travelling around, there’s no extra room in the suitcase.

Her photos are breathtaking. I think it’s Lisa’s ability to capture human emotion that moved me so much. You can not look into the lives of the people she comes into contact with and look the other way. The global statistics on slavery are given faces and names. It is Lisa’s gift to us and I’m so thankful for it. May people NEVER become a number or a statistic.

So who is Lisa Kristine? From my perspective, she’s an amazing photographer who is using her talents to bring light to a serious world-wide problem in the best way she can. She is a modern-day abolitionist.

Love Jess xxoo


Sights, roads and backpacks

Hi all! It’s been a while since we’ve written and this is why…


We’ll do a quick overview of what we’ve done so far though…

Our flight from Brisbane to San Francisco was ok. Between the three of us as we probably managed to get about 5 hours sleep. All in all, Amy did really well, so we’d say it was successful.


We stayed in San Francisco about 5 nights, having a wonderful time exploring and walking everywhere. You name it, we did it; Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, Colt Tower, Union Square, Golden Gate Park, piers and more piers, seals, dogs, more dogs and yes even more dogs! We also managed to track down three of the top rated coffee shops and sample their beans. YUM!



Next we headed down the coast to beautiful Santa Cruz for a night and had a lovely walk along the water where Jess saw a whale breach just off the coast.

From there we went to Yosemite (we stayed at Pine Mountain Lake) and spent five wonderful days surrounded by trees, fresh air and wildlife. It had snowed two days before we arrived in the National Park so it was just picture perfect. We had close encounters with deer, squirrels, birds of all sorts, plus cats and dogs (which Amy was most excited about). We spent two days in Yosemite National Park and did a three-hour trek. Well, it was meant to be a one hour walk, but we started from way down the park, so it took us three. Tim was in heaven and wouldn’t shut-up about Lord of the Rings while Jess may have prayed to God a few times that she would make it.


(Artistic impression of Yosemite Valley)


(You can’t see it, but there is white crayon under the trees for the snow)

And then… on our way to Santa Rosa, at a relatively busy truck stop, our car got broken into and Tim’s backpack was stolen 😦 Inside this backpack was…

  • Macbook air – with all our trip photos
  • 2 x Kindles,
  • BOSE headphones,
  • Our passports,
  • Birth certificates and marriage certificate – we need these for when we get our visas for Thailand
  • All other important documents and trip details.

County deputy sheriff Gil was called and took our statement.

Gil and Tim

The whole time we both felt really calm and that for some strange reason we felt like laughing. Not from stress, but because the situation was funny and we knew it would work out.

Deputy Sheriff Gil commented that we were handling it pretty well and Jess replied by saying she was choosing peace over stress. About 45 minutes into our ordeal, Tim got an email on his phone from a Christian couple, saying they had found our stuff (the important documents and IDs) dumped by their car in a McDonalds about 25 minutes up the road. PRAISE GOD!!! They had handed it into a police station near Sacramento. So off we went to collect what was found.

With a slight detour to Sacramento we get a new car and we finally made it to Santa Rosa. It was a long day!


(Take two – in the new car, stickers on our faces and back on track)

So, it all kind of worked out. We’re still finalising things with our travel insurance, but almost everything should get reimbursed which is a relief. Now we’re in Redding CA for a while… phew.

A few observations:

  1. Everyone we’ve met has been so friendly (apart from the people who broke into our car). Almost every day we have crossed paths with a delightful stranger who has just made our day.
  2. Americans think we’re from England. Most people think our accent is British, which makes us want to start every sentence with “G’day mate”.
  3. Amy is dog and animal obsessed and can spot any living creature within view. There have been many cute/embarrassing moments when she has spotted a four-legged friend walking our way only to squeal with excitement and scream out at the top of her lungs “Hello Doggie!”.
  4. America’s idea of a small anything (particularly drinks) is Australia’s idea of a large.
  5. If late one night you think about backing-up your trip photos to your external hard drive, but decide you’ll do it tomorrow… don’t wait 😉

So far it certainly has been an adventure with incredible moments, great laughs, amazing people and some hiccups along the way. All in all, we’re having a good ole time and excited to be in Redding for a little while.

Lots of love, Jess & Tim