Sep 3, 2014

Goodbye to Summer.

So long, Summer. Those 6 weeks of warm, perfect sunny days were bliss. Splash parks, pools, sandboxes, evening picnics in the park overlooking the city. We lived it up.

I had planned our beach trip for the warmest month - August - but sadly the wild British weather had other plans and a hurricane off the coast in mid-August sent us straight into Autumn. It was on average 60 degrees the whole weekend, the sun peaked out from time to time, but we still had a beautiful trip seeing the southwest coast of England, looking out into the ocean during the day and at night, and just slowing down for a few days.

On the way out to the coast, we made a sort of out of the way stopover through Cheddar Gorge to see these amazing cliffs and stop for lunch. Henry collected some rocks and loved watching the people climbing up the side of the cliffs.

A walk through the cool town of Penzance, and down to the harbor to see all the colorful boats.

Lands End - the most southerly point in the UK.

Looking for the moon and stars.

Kynance Cove was so gorgeous! Also, so cold! We walked down to the beach and joined the throngs of British people who had prepared for the weather with thermoses of hot tea, wooly jumpers, tents, umbrellas, and bikinis for the sunny weather.

Henry's beach VW van. He kept seeing VW vans driving around with boats and surfboards on top, so when he saw this little toy, he HAD to have it. ;)

St. Michaels Mount was beautiful (and closing up right when we got there so we didn't get to see the inside) and we enjoyed the walk out through the causeway during low tide.

On the way home, we were driving close to Stonehenge, so we decided to swing by and see it. It was so impressive, and the grey clouds and wind helped to set the mood.

Henry's face here says it all! He was pretty cold and over it at this point.

We had a great trip, as what was our last little weekender as a family of three!

Aug 14, 2014

We are moving!

The impossible has happened! We are moving out of our shoebox Highgate flat to a slightly larger shoebox in West London! I have the contract sitting in my inbox right now to review, and we should have it signed, sealed, and delivered by next week, then we move mid-September. I'll be about 32 weeks pregnant at our move.

Definitely one of the craziest decisions we ever made was to move to London, and we really had no idea what to expect other than - they speak English there, how hard can it be? Turns out, kind of difficult! It is hard to move to a different city, and even harder to move internationally and figure out how to do banking, grocery shop, navigate a new culture, and be a foreigner. We have grown to love it here. I think summer sealed the deal for us. 70 - 75 every day and the occasional rainstorm to keep it real. One thing that attracted me to our current Highgate flat was the natural light and white walls. It is something I realize that I need in my life: lots of light. I did the english basement thing for a year, and I was scratching the walls by the end of our year-lease. Side note: they call basement apartments "garden flat" here. Isn't that much more appealing than a dank basement? ;) While I'm happy to be moving on, I will miss the leafy quiet of Highgate and our first little flat here in London, with all its quirks (weird neighbors, foxes going through our garbage, middle of the night dance parties in the flat above ours (or clogging?! someone hates us upstairs).

Our new flat is just the next step I was hoping for. In terms of square footage, it's not too much bigger than our current place, but we have a huge front room/dining room combo, a nice big bedroom for us (a long narrow bedroom for the nursery), and most of all huge windows in every room on a second story terraced home. I cannot wait to move in and get settled before the arrival of baby girl.

I was talking to my sister in Virginia the other day (who is currently getting induced and should have her new baby here any minute now!) about how small our homes feel. She said to me: our place is just so tiny, I just wish we could move. Our place is only 950 square feet!
I just couldn't help but laugh. Our NEW place is 720 square feet and it feels like a palace to me! I think our current flat is somewhere around 600 square feet.
Funny how perspective can change your mind about something.

Anyway, this post is quite rambling, but I wanted to record my thoughts on how happy I am to be finding a new little spot in London, looking forward to exploring West London and finding our favorite parks, cafes, hidden gems, etc. that come along with a new neighborhood. It's hard to believe we've been here nearly a year.l

Aug 12, 2014

Hampton Court Palace

A few weekends ago, we woke up Saturday morning with a blank slate and I put in my vote for Hampton Court Palace. Unable to think of anything else quickly enough, Mark was forced into a Saturday of train travel and palace gazing, under the rainiest of skies. The rain held off for our entire hour-long journey out to Hampton Court, but as soon as we got off the train to walk the 5 minutes to the palace, the skies opened up and that was pretty much the end of any hopes for a dry day.

We spent most of the day hopping between huge palace kitchens, Henry VIII bedroom and great halls, and even got outside to admire the gardens (so many amazing gardens - even a hedge maze, my dream come true). We learned more about the strange life of Henry VIII and more about his 6 wives and how they made the palace their own during the short or long stints as queen. Did you know he was married to his first wife for 20+ years? I didn't know that. And that he only became moody, head-choppy Henry VIII after a bad accident that rendered him with a bad leg and possible brain damage. We watched a PBS documentary on netflix about Hampton Court palace and Henry VIII last week and it was a nice companion piece to this tour.

Anyway, I digress. The palace was beautiful. The gardens were breathtaking. Henry (the 2 year old, not the former King of England) loved running around outside when the rain would break for a little while and we had a little chase through the hedge maze that I will always remember. We loved the strangely manicured triangle trees behind the palace, the koi pond, the royal tennis courts, and the huge palace kitchen. The palace is set right by the Thames river so it is quite idyllic and peaceful. I can see why it was a favorite of the royal families for a time. Just a simple country house away from the hustle and bustle of London. Right. 

Lots of photos of our day out below! Including a photo of yours truly with a barely there bump (oh how things have changed) and a happy frolicky Henry. And gardens. Lots of gardens. 

Aug 7, 2014


Today I've just decided to take it easy and not feel guilty about it. Most days we get out of the house and do something fun, but in the past 3 weeks have mostly been spent looking at a million different potential homes in neighborhoods all over London (and London is soooo much bigger than any other city we've lived in, especially when you are taking public transportation everywhere). I think after all the flat hunting, baby growing, and 2x getting sick from eating my veggies (for some reason with my pregnancies I cannot eat many raw vegetables - my stomach can't process all that fiber. It's frustrating!), my body is like - hey, you! I'm done! Not to mention Henry, who has been the biggest trooper of all, is really done with being dragged around to meet agents and see flats after our trip out on Tuesday.

Henry has been watching cartoons and playing on my phone all morning, with the occasional handful of pretzels or blueberries. I've been taking care of paperwork to (hopefully, fingers crossed so hard) nab the cutest little 2nd story flat on a leafy street with Holland Park and some great museums and a huge mall right around the corner. And researching birth centers in our new neighborhood. And starting to plan a little beach vacation to help us all take a much needed break from stress and craziness. All while sitting in my comfy chair with the fan pointing directly at my face.

27 weeks pregnant. Taking a break for a day. Baby's orders.

Jul 30, 2014

Nowhere to nest

Ohhhh friends, nesting. I'm 26 weeks this week, just a couple weeks shy of that third trimester (already!?) and my nesting instincts are in super high alert mode. I tried to ignore it, because after all - we are MOVING soon (I'm the dumbest person for doing this), but last week I couldn't put it off any longer. I sorted through old baby clothes, completely moved everything around in the living room, and we (Mark) cleaned out the fridge. It's not much, but it's all I could do.

I am kind of dying inside that I've put us in this position to move right when I'll be getting tired and won't be able to get things done as quickly. But I keep telling myself that it's much better to be a little tired while moving into a new place than to try and flat hunt with a newborn and toddler and get anything done with the soon-to-be little gang!

I've been so focused on researching neighborhoods and hunting for that perfect unicorn flat that doesn't exist, that I've hardly been thinking of how life will change so soon with a new little baby girl in our arms. Funny, because she kicks all day long, she's a wiggly thing, and Henry always reminds me of the baby - wants to kiss my belly, invite the baby out to play kickball with him, and feel her kick. She's a constant reminder of why I'm working so hard right now to get us all settled and happy before she joins our family.

When we moved into our current flat, we had no idea where we wanted to live, and we only had one day to look at about 15 flats, and less than 24 hours to choose a flat after seeing them. It was a whirlwind of a day. I was looking at old emails I sent our relocation specialist, and I requested we look for flats in: Islington, Clapham, Notting Hill, Highgate, and Fulham. Those neighborhoods are all over the map! We had no idea what we were doing! Now that we've lived here for a year and I've figured out my own routine and abilities as a stay at home mama, I've realized Highgate is a little further away from everything than I want to be. It's easy enough to get on the tube and zoom down to central London, but I find myself wanting to spend more time in the huge (and free!) museums in South Kensington, and it takes us an hour of buses and trains just to get there now. So I'm hoping we can find somewhere with an easy bus ride to museums, close access to parks, and a good family-friendly neighborhood. I basically want to find the Capitol Hill (DC) of London, is that so hard to find? :)

I'm looking in parts of West London, and hopefully we'll find that perfect flat! We've seen four already, and nearly put in an offer on a flat in Ladbroke Grove, but going to hold off for another week just in case something else becomes available. I'm so ready to make this happen, and get my nest on so we can really get ready for baby girl, who doesn't even have a place to sleep or a place in the pram. So much to do!

Jul 15, 2014

23 weeks and feeling fine

Last night my friends threw a small Bastille party, complete with a fabulous spread of delicious crepes and all the fillings you could ever dream of. One of my guy friends asked me how the whole pregnancy thing was going and I launched into this (hormonal-induced?) diatribe of how great the 2nd trimester is and how happy I am and etc etc. I went on for a good 2 minutes before I realized he was mostly just trying to be polite and probably, as a single man, didn't really care to know all the intricacies of trimesters and weeks and hormones and the run-down I gave him. Oops.

It's a funny thing, pregnancy. I've had some pretty serious ups and downs with baby #2. We had been trying for awhile to get pregnant again and had two miscarriages after moving to London last September. The first miscarriage I shrugged my shoulders and said we'll try again, but the second one wrecked me. It was really very hard, made more difficult by the fact that nearly to the day of my second miscarriage, two of my sisters announced they were very early on in their pregnancies. After a couple weeks of taking it slow and just trying to come to terms with what had happened, I decided to focus on my health and to improve my eating habits and start exercising again, so I could feel proud of my body again. And I did it - I gained muscle and lost a few extra pounds, started eating more greens and grains, less cookies and ice cream, and after about a month I felt renewed. Two months later, I found out I was pregnant again. I was so nervous to even sneeze or run too fast for fear of miscarrying again, but here we are 23 weeks into the pregnancy and my belly is swelling larger every day. I finally stopped having morning sickness about 3 weeks ago, and now I just feel great. And yes, I'll tell anybody who asks all about how great I feel. :) I have so much energy, my focus is ever-so-slowly returning to me. I've taken on several projects "just because", including:
1. We are moving to a new flat sometime in the next two months
2. We transitioned Henry out of his crib, and he's now sleeping on his mattress on the floor. He's doing great with it.
3. POTTY TRAINING. Again, he's doing great but I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I thought potty training in 3 days meant he'd be totally good to go, no accidents, but of course things are never that easy. We are on day 6 and he was accident free today, but mostly because I badger him with "do you have to pee?" every 20 minutes.

Not to mention all the nesting I'm doing of shopping for baby girl, taking stock of what we have vs what we need, stressing over double strollers vs stroller/ride-on board.

I feel incredibly blessed and lucky to be in this stage of life. So many tender moments talking to Henry about the baby - he's taken to kissing my belly lately (he's also become quite the little kissing boy, it's hilarious) and will sing to the baby with me. I hate that I had to experience miscarriages and endure 3 unending months of horrible morning sickness, but it has made me so grateful for the miracle of pregnancy and feeling well again.

Jul 10, 2014

Henry's first photos and art direction

I've been pretty lazy about bringing out my nice camera this year, but occasionally I'll remember and start to use it again. I brought it out for Portugal and it's been coming on outings with us ever since. And one little boy is taking a notice. I can hardly take a photo without him running over asking to push the button or take a picture of something.

So the other day I let him take a few photos in our living room (while heavily heavily supervising him over a carpet). He wanted to take a picture of his bus, and then he insisted on another picture of the bus inside the dump truck. It was so cute to watch him think of new photos to take, and he directed me on where to put the bus and everything. Future director? Or just bossy? ;)

The first couple photos are test shots (by me). Just thought his little hands were too cute not to share.

Jul 3, 2014

Traveling The Algarve, Portugal

We've lived in London for nearly 10 months, and about 6 weeks ago, I finally heard about the Algarve. How had I missed out on this little piece of paradise my entire life? As an American, we mostly hear about European beaches on the Almafi coast and Greece and maybe some parts of southern France, but nobody really talks about this hidden little secret of the entire southern coast of Portugal. Due to my frantic attempt to travel as much as possible before baby #2 comes along, I booked us tickets lickety split and a few weeks later we were off! We 4 days in mid-June, which seemed to be the perfect time - weather wasn't too hot yet, and since school is in until July here, the beaches weren't crowded at all.

Below are some photos from my camera, and we have many more from our iPhones I'll try to post here soon.

The End of the World (Sagres, Portugal)

The drive into Salema, the little fishing village beach. We drove back twice just for the fish. :)

Hen had a lot of fun building sand castles and collecting rocks

The best fish we've ever had in our lives. Caught and served on the same day.

White sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and laid-back feeling that reminded me of the Caribbean or parts of Mexico, and the most beautiful cliff-lined beaches I've ever seen. We stayed in Lagos, which is known for the Ponte de Piedade (point of rocks) with beautiful rock formations of grottos, caves, and secret, sheltered beaches. We rented a car and drove to Sagres to see The End of the World and Salema, a sweet little fishing village with a beautiful beach and the best, freshest fish I've ever eaten anywhere. We only saw a small part of Portugal and I've always wanted to visit Lisbon and listen to some moody fado and eat more of the incredible Portuguese cuisine. With any luck, we'll return someday to this beautiful country.