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Happy Birthday To Me!

I had the birthday that every 5 year old child would dream of. I had breakfast with the characters at Disneyland and oh boy (hah!) it was fun. So one of my most favorite things in the world is hotel breakfast and this is exactly what happened, and much more to this it was a buffet one! We played peekaboo with Plutos ears, got some bear hugs from Koda  From Brother bear and lots dancing with Chip and Dale. We might have eaten our body weight in pancakes and THAT caramel sauce but it was all definitely worth it. We have Rich and Leanne staying with us with their two lil kids, Florence who is 3 and also our goddaughter and little Lyssa who is the most happy and chilled out 9 month old you could ever meet. So with them and of course Mark and Summer next to me I was the happiest girl in the world.

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I can’t believe how fast this year has gone. Last year I celebrated in Brighton on the i360 and we still weren’t 100% sure if we were actually gonna be moving to LA or not, and now here we are still in shorts and and posing for photos and giving Mickey Mouse high fives.

Marks parents asked me how does it feel to be a year older and I replied saying it’s tiring. They told me it gets worse from here! But I am determined to still try and do as much as I want (within reason) and age doesn’t stop me.

Recently I’ve made more friends out here and they are creative people too and it’s only making me more driven to try out more things. I want to expand my photography skills, I want to learn languages, develop apps, learn coding, explore more, perfect the ukulele and I want to write even more stories! All this while being a good wife and the best mama to Summer I can be. Is this a lot to ask? Or sign of a midlife crisis? Either way I’m excited to see what this year holds for me and my little family.

Here’s a selection of pics from recent things we’ve been up to. We have had friends visit, we’ve found new beaches to explore, we’ve travelled to Temecula, we’ve watched sunsets and made some beautiful memories.

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UK! Home for 3 weeks

This is a jet lag, vanilla iced coffee induced blog post. We are 2 days back from a wonderful trip back to UK after 10 months of being away. My head is full of funny memories and my belly is stuffed full from all the chocolate, cakes, Nandos, fish and chips and Chinese we could handle! I could write for days about what we got up to, but I’m just gonna put some little things here. Our time was split between both families and luckily they’re only an hour and half away from each other. I like to refer to that particular journey as “the coastal tour” as its along the south coast and we used to do this trip every Christmas and probably all the other holiday seasons in UK – it’s the trip with all the roundabouts.

The wedding
The whole reason why we came back and the best reason is because Marks little brother Alex was marrying the wonderful Emma. This was a wedding of two beautiful souls and you could see every single detail they have put into it. It was great how they incorporated their love for the beach and surfing into the decorations and the music was amazing due to Alex’s involvement with music. They also used a real sword to cut their cake!
Summer was a flower girl too which made it even more special and with a ton of breadsticks and Moana on hand we managed to get her smiling down the aisle.

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The weather
It was a wet week in Bournemouth, which actually was quite a nice and refreshing! But… three days into it kind of changing our plans I was quickly over it and thinking of those blue LA skies! It was strange to be back in many layers and actually on the first day we had to make a shopping stop to buy Mark a jacket and Summer more warmer trousers.

 

The many animals we saw
So I realised that having your own children means you get to go back to places that live in your own childhood memories, and that’s really fun!

In Bournemouth we made a trip to Farmers Palmers where we met horses, fed goats, got lost in a maize maze, held Guinea pigs, rode go karts and played in a haystack full of slides.

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In crawley we went to Tilgate Park where we stroked donkeys, watched meerkats, spotted pigs, pretended to be kangaroos and saw swans in the lakes

In Brighton we went to Drusillas Park and watched many, many monkeys, saw penguins being fed, more horses and pigs, lots of birds and many exotic ones too like the servals and Binturongs!

Before Mark and me even had Summer we loved animals (Mark actually proposed to me at the zoo!) so to see Summers reaction to wanting to pet every animal she saw made everything feel so much more special. She was getting good at pointing them out in her books, but to see them in real life, that was just amazing for her. And with all these trips we went with family members and good friends, it was great to see how much joy the animals brought to them too, but mainly for them to see Summers personality.

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The family
Obviously one of the drawbacks of moving to another country is being away from loved ones. And going back means you want to cherish every moment you have with them. It makes my heart melt when I see Summer pouring pretend tea with her great grandma or how she calls both my parents Yaya and Yaya. I loved how her face lit up everytime her grandma entered the room (you should have seen her when she came in with a fascinator on her head!) or how she just wants to play with Bailey and Bradley – the family dogs. I loved watching her chase Zoe-Beth around and around and around and how she would just stare at her uncle Alex and uncle Brett.
Every time I think of those memories it makes me want to just pack everything up and run back home, but also know that there is so much more of America that Mark, Summer and me need to explore whilst we are here. Thank goodness for technology and FaceTime and all other devices that make it so simple for us to just call home and see a friendly face when things get a bit too tough for me out here

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Summer’s first haircut by Grandma

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So these are just small things I’m touching on about our time back. What do you look forward to most when going back to your roots?

 

Easter Bunnies

Easter Sunday

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Last year I remember our Easter being bit of a blur as we had just had Summer but I do remember I had eaten more chocolate than any human should have – I had eaten so much that it was affecting our newborn babies tummy and she was suffering from terrible wind and me feeling terribly guilty. So soon after that I had to say bye to all those delicious chocolate bunnies we had left.
This year though, I could eat as much chocolate as I wanted, except…they don’t have Easter Eggs like they do in UK! Crazy right! I thought so. But..they do love a good old Easter Egg hunt and with a child its kind of like the law to do one.
So when Mina asks us if we had any plans I invited her and her husband Joe and little Yuna over for a good old Sunday Roast at the Tompkins household…complete with an Egg hunt for the babies.

They arrived and of course we had the babies dressed in appropriate Easter attire and Mina pulled out a pair of rabbit ears too.
The Sunday roast went down a treat. Mark was very keen on making the best ever roast potatoes ( he was watching over me like a hawk even at the peeling stage) and my job was the Yorkshire puddings. Except, I went and messed that up. Used the wrong flour didn’t I and boom…burnt bottoms, I refused to serve the burnt bottoms, but made up for it with making cauliflower cheese from scratch!

For the Easter Egg hunt we got plastic eggs from Target that were already filled with chocolates and I went around placing them all at baby height around the living room. Every time one of the babies picked one up we would cheer and they would smile. As usual, Summer realised and got super excited every time she picked one up and would cheer so loudly for herself.

It was a really nice way to spend our first Easter here in LA. We usually have this day with family so did feel homesick whilst getting out the Bistro gravy but now have great memories of the day.

Hope you had a lovely Easter too!

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When the parents are here…

So my parents left today and suddenly the feeling of when we left them 5 months before all came flooding back and obviously I got a bit emotional.  3 weeks went super fast and it’s so much to write in a blog post as so here’s some highlights and summaries- get comfy.

Week 1

  • we picked my parents up from the airport and my mum had literally got about 30 different dresses for Summer ranging from fitting her right now until the age of 3! Each dress we pulled out Summer ooooohd and ahhhh’d and examined each dress. It was this point I realised we have a very girly girl
  • then Suddenly Summer got very sick and clingy and high temperature and the what’s that noise? Oh, it’s her cough that sounds like a seal. Hello Croup. Nice of you to join us a week before her big party.
  • Mark passed his driving test! That was Wednesday, Friday we get a new car and Saturday he’s driving to Santa Monica with a whole car full of things for the party day.
  • the big party. 8am and the bbq is already going and our house is brimming with food and all the best smells. By 11am we are by the beach reserving our area and blowing up balloons and inflatables. Everyone starts arriving and big smiles everywhere. My family from all over California start showing up as does the fog and marine lay. The party girl is asleep on her Lola for about 2 hours of it but when she wakes all her baby friends are here and she gets to blow the candle out and eat the biggest slice of cake to herself. She is loving being one.
  • then our surprise guest arrives. My cousin Christina surprises us all and has got a flight in (or 3 flights actually) into LA from New Jersey! Everyone is happy, especially her mum who she hasn’t seen for 2 months. Then everyone back to our house – didn’t know we could fit that many people in there but we do and Moana is on for the birthday girl. Drinking and eating carries on late into the night and everyone smiles from a brilliant day.IMG_0012IMG_0008
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    blowing out the candles with the Birthday Girl
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    crazy cousins 

    Week 2

  • new car and long drive to San Diego to see the family. We all stay at auntie Yollys huge house and make use of their pools. So many family members in and out of the house and so much food to go along with it. It was actually pretty good this time around as we got to explore more with the car and San Diego really is pretty!
  • we met up with Jocelyn, my high school best friend, can you believe we both have children now? So crazy! We hung out at Seaport Village – it’s very pretty there with lots of little boutiques and places to eat along the harbour. IMG_0102

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    Jocelyn and Harley at Seaport Village, San Diego 

Week 3

  • back to LA for some tourist time with the folks.
  • Universal Studios was super fun even though I had never seen this much rain fall in one day in LA before. It started out a bit rocky where everything goes wrong (yeah we did leave our bag with EVERYTHING in it at Starbucks right at the beginning) but it turned out to be a great day and the rain worked in our favour as there were no lines at the Harry Potter ride (which is amazing I might add) and we got to see a lot, there is so much to see that we ended up getting the SoCal discount card so we will be back soon!
  • my parents tried the metro! We went from Grand Central Market to eat ramen and then to Hollywood boulevard to see the stars. Like everyone says, it’s not as nice as you would expect and it’s only one road that’s good. But they did enjoy it. We got to experience downtown LA too- which not gonna lie, did scare me a bit with an active baby and parents who don’t really walk very fast.
  • Getty Villa was the place that everyone told me is very parental friendly and you should go. They’re not wrong – so much to see, mum loved all the pretty flowers and herbs and the gardens. Dad liked the architecture and learning about the Greeks and Romans, Summer loved the fountains and Mark loved the views. And me, I loved just being with all of them there as a family.
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    Grand Central Market food goodness

     

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    Getty Villa Views 

     

    We also went to other places such as the Observatory, Getty Center, Venice canals, Santa Monica pier etc and all along the way taking a million photos and making even more memories. Overall the whole trip went really fast, but it was so nice to have them here. It’s such a joy to see their faces when they’re around Summer and the fact that they could teach her new things such as “thank you” and “no, no, no, no (complete with finger wiggle) are moments that I am going to cherish forever. Now they’re back in UK and I am counting down the days till we see them again, but for now our freezer is fully stocked with all the food a girl could want. Thanks guys, we love you.

So if any of you have parents coming to visit or are going on a holiday out here and need some tips, then I will be happy to help!

 

One.

Dear Summer,

One whole trip around the sun – we hope we have made it a good one for you, this time last year we had no idea how much you would fulfil our lives with your gummy smiles, cheeky laugh, continuous chatting and your infectious ways of getting us to play with you. We didn’t know how much Bare Necessities we had to sing or how we need to carry snacks on us at all times to feed your healthy appetite.

You surprise us everyday whilst we watch you grow into such a beautiful girl.

happy first birthday our little Summer bear.

We love you so much

10 things about living in LA (the good stuff)

I can’t believe it’s only been just over 3 months since we moved here,  and a part of me can’t believe we’ve actually already been here 3 months already. This is one of those moments when time and logic don’t seem to be working side by side for me, everything feels so slow and yet so fast at the same time.

I’m not gonna say everything has been a bed of roses and its fair to say that we had a few low points in the first 2 months, there were battles with landlords/banks/shipping/permits etc but I guess that’s normal when moving to the other side of the world – we don’t know. We’ve never done anything like this before!

But since 2017 arrived we seem to be finding our feet a bit better and getting some kind of “routine” down. I’ve made some friends here and we’ve worked out where to get our groceries, best sushi, art materials – you know, the essentials from:)

So I thought now would be a good time to write down my top 10 (no particular order) of things I really like about living in LA. It would be interesting if I still feel the same a year down the line.

1.Green tea matcha frappuccino. The BEST refreshing drink around. It’s not too sweet and its green so it looks like you’re being healthy.

2. Culver City  – everyone says that you need to drive in LA, but with Culver City where we are residing we seem to have a lot on our doorstep. I mean at the bottom of our road is a hospital, Starbucks AND Sony Studios! we decided to live here as we it’s where Mark’s work is based and we thought at the beginning at least it would be good to not have much commute time. Plus we had Alee and our friends already living here which made it very appealing.

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3. Our new tableIt was one of those things I had envisioned before we arrived here that we would have this big table and we would have family meals there and have sketchbooks laid out ready to just draw when we want. And since it’s made itself into our living room it’s been exactly that, I am loving the games nights we have around it with our friends. right now I have a half -done puzzle waiting for me to finish it. But, we don’t have any chairs yet so we’re sitting on our boxes full of boxes from our shipping.

4. How soft the towels come out of the dryer. So apparently we’re spoilt as we have a washer and dryer in our apartment! In UK this is standard but not so much here, you’re good if you have one in the same building as your apartment, but to have one actually inside is pretty unique. I am LOVING the ways the towels come out so warm and fluffy, makes me feel like we’re staying in a hotel. But it does make sense why there are scenes in Friends and Big Bang Theory where they hang out in laundrettes all the time – ah the joys of learning life through sit coms.

5. Unlimited data on my phone. I know this one is a bit of a first world thing to bring up, but honestly I feel so lucky to have it! To have this in the UK would be super expensive but out here it seems to be the norm. I’ve found this most helpful when we are lost on our random outings and also those occasions where we need to calm Summer in her car seat – queue Bare Necessities on Youtube on repeat!

6. The sunny weather. It’s very cliche to put this in but it’s true. The weather is so glorious, well its supposedly is. We just happened to move here in the wettest winter since forever (right now there’s actually a storm outside) but when the sun does shine its so lovely! The whole place comes alive and everything just feels that much cooler. I like the vibe that goes with it too – so many places to get ice cream, beaches, everyone on skateboards, sunglasses and cold drinks everywhere! and the sunsets are just stunning.

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8. Amylee – she’s my cousin, but she’s more than that. Even though we grew up in different countries we always laugh so much when we’re together, since we’ve moved out here she’s helped us out more than we can imagine- even took us (and our millions of bags) in on the night we had nowhere to live! It’s also amazing to see how much Summer already loves her. It’s such a comforting feeling knowing you have family this nearby when you’ve moved so far out of your comfort zone. Thank you Alee, for the continuous help, the Backstreet Boy drives and the many Ramen’s we will eat together.

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9. Mina and Yuna – I will make a separate blog post about these two as I have so much to say about them, but they need to go on my list as they’re one of my favourite things that have happened to me since we’ve moved out here. Mina and Yuna are amazing and they like to eat ice cream. Here’s a pic to prove it.

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10. Target  – Fun fact, when we first moved to US and were living in the hotel I went to Target everyday. Literally everyday – you would think with no actual home I wouldn’t be able to find things to buy but I really, really did! It’s been our saviour on many occasion and then when Jocelyn introduced me to the Bullseye app it was a game changer. All that choice and the prices pretty low – what’s not to love about that magical place.

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That is a Target Face 

So there you have it. There’s my list – materialistic it may be  it’s these things that make a place feel more like a home and less like a holiday. Looking forward to expanding this list with our time here.  What would you add on yours?

To The Lady On The Bus

 

To the lady who was on the bus with me from Abbot Kinney to Culver City. Thank you so much for the bracelet you gave to Summer.

Summer was crying because she wanted to get out and crawl around, which she couldn’t as the bus was packed and she was strapped to me like a little kangaroo. I know you thought it was because she thought she was hungry and decided to tell everyone on the bus you thought that, at first I couldn’t hear you as the screaming from Summer was pretty loud and so you came to sit nearer to me.

As I am British and therefore used to people just staring at the wall  or looking at their phones on public transport I was a bit reluctant when you wanted to start a conversation with me. But I’m glad we did and your singing really did calm Summer down. You then were kind enough to take off your plastic bracelet, you had to pull over your hospital band and other bangles too just to take it off. You told me to give it to Summer when she was old enough to wear it and I said I would.

Summer saw the bracelet though and immediately wanted to tug it. As we were getting off the bus I let her hold it as it was making her so happy, a little too happy and excitable that I didn’t realise that she had dropped it just as we were stepping off the bus. It wasn’t until the bus pulled away that I noticed she wasn’t holding it anymore.

So I am very sorry that I am not able to give it to her when she’s old enough to wear it. But I do want to remember you and the kind gesture, and to thank you for breaking down my barrier of thinking strangers (especially on the bus) are all a bit strange. It’s hard to sometimes get past the first appearance of someone before you see how big their hearts are.

Flower Child

Today we said we will start being healthy: reality hit – just a little over 2 months until Summers birthday and we are planning on spending the day on the beach, therefore we need to look good! I mean, I’m gonna be taking a million pics and want to be able to look back at them without wanting to cry at myself!

So now we are going to make better choices on what we eat. Thank goodness the end of Peppermint mocha frappucinos (yum) will be off all the menus!

Mark and me were going to have driving lessons with my cousin Marv today and he lives in Santa Monica so we thought we would go to the shopping area early and get some lunch. On our healthy buzz I suggested going to Flower Child as I had been there before with Caroline and enjoyed it and Mark had never been. 

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So, in LA I think there are certain ways you can eat when going out. There’s the all you can eat life – where you can get a burger with all the toppings you want and embellish it with all the sides with a side next to your side. Or you can go super healthy life – where everything you eat is Earth friendly and super fresh. This is THAT kind of place, where people go after their yoga session and discuss their latest retreats over arty coffees #latteart

Summer had fallen asleep so it actually felt like the old days when we would go out for lunch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Mark even managed to get the sketchbook out and trying out the new pens we had splurged on the day before ( who knew there were so many different types of black pens…apparently Mark did, and we had to test them all..all of them) 

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So the menu  at Flower Child is made of different bowls or main ingredients and then you pay a little extra if you want to add meat. I went for the two bowl option of spicy cauliflower and smashed potato and then added beef steak on top. If I had some gravy it would have been like a mini roast dinner! but it was still so darn delicious

Mark went for the already made up  “forbidden” rice, we weren’t too sure what red japonica  was but went for it anyway. In his words, you didn’t need the meat as it was already so tasty. So I’m guessing it was a big hit.

I started looking around and taking in the interior and noticed that everyone here had great style, you were even allowed to bring your dogs there. I spotted quite a few lil pups begging for food under the table. This place even have a place to “park” your yoga mat!

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It is slightly pricey, but the quality of the food is good so you can justify it, but think it might be just a special occasion or a nice place to take friends.

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B Sweet!

Sawtelle Blvd is its on Japantown, but what we loved about this place (apart from the best cheap Japanese store Daiso with its surgical feeling lights and random things they sold – we came out with nail clippers, a lunch bag, and a mirror..) was they have a really nice Filipino inspired bakery called B Sweet. I had visited before with Alee but after our $2.25 a dish splurge on sushi  at Kula and then shaved ice at Blockheads we just couldn’t fit anything else in our bellies, so I had said I would go back another time and today was the day!

It’s towards the end of the street and you have to resist getting bubble tea from many of the cafes along the way, but then there it is all lit up with a cute outside area to sit and eat your treats

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love this sign as you come into the cafe 

We ended up getting a doughnut, but not just any, oh no! This one had ube ice cream in the middle, I mean look at that purple just calling you to eat it!

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Next is a personal favourite Filipino dessert of mine, halo halo! This version had both ube and ube ice cream as well as leche flan! But me personally, I feel like it needed more condensed milk

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We sat outside with our goods (and so I can take pictures) and I noticed this sweet little sign with the plants

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Also, there was a couple who showed up with the best most well groomed poodles, and you know that saying that dogs look like their owners? Well this was the case for sure, one of the dogs was even sat like his owner!

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A quick sketch I had done of the dog and owner being all matchy matchy