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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
I remember when I was younger asking my mum what she wanted for Mother’s Day, or what she wanted to do, she replied the same thing when it’s her birthday or Christmas – she wants something I have made or just be there for the day. I always thought this was strange but now I completely get it. Mother’s day and its meaning has a whole new sentimental feeling now i’m a mum. It’s a day where you realise that, wow! what you have achieved is actually something quite spectacular. To raise a baby (including animal babies) is hard work! that’s a lot of responsibility for anyone and the fact you have a day to appreciate that must mean its a big deal!
So for my first ever one Mark so very thoughtfully made it a day to remember.
But before we’re going to delve into that I wanted to just talk about the much hyped Au Fudge restaurant. We went there the day before to celebrate Summer’s BFF’s birthday, little Yuna turned one and we needed to make this a big deal so we went to a celebrity owned “kid friendly” Au Fudge restaurant in Beverly Hills. This celebrity happened to be Jessica Biel..and also Justin Timberlake’s wife.
My honest opinion though, is that I thought it would be more kid friendly. I mean, the tables and chairs are pretty close together and no strollers are allowed in the actual restaurant. They had a pretty good selection of high chairs but the food options were minimal for the kids (especially for one year olds and under). We opted for the mac and cheese which was pretty tasty and went down well with the babies. What I wasn’t too impressed with though was when they put the food down they told us “be careful the plate is very hot” and then proceeded to put it down RIGHT in reach of Yuna. Luckily Joe spotted this and was there with his protective dad arm to move it completely away. Overall the staff just didn’t seem to like children! maybe its because they’re surrounded by them all day – but we had our reservation for 4.30pm so it wasn’t too busy at all.
The selling point of this place is they have their own “creative space” which is super nice, well decorated, beautiful airy room that kids can play – but, you have to pay to go in! So from the outside it looked pretty nice! I saw they had “au pairs” that work in there that can look after your child whilst you eat – this is a super great idea but think it would be more beneficial for kids 2 and up.
Overall though, the food was delicious – I wanted to take more pics of the food and our seats but the actual restaurant where we ate was pretty dark. Maybe we wouldn’t have noticed it as much if the other rooms weren’t so airy and light, but you can see what I mean in this picture.
But they do have a fun photobooth and the interior of the place is pretty cool!
My advice is if you go to ask for seating in the patio area – it’s bright and colourful in there and looks like it had comfy cushions too! After saying all this though, I would probably still go again, the wine we had was pretty yum and I think as Summer gets older it will be more fun as she can play whilst us guys can get on with adulting!
So the big day arrived and I came downstairs to Summer giving me a card that she had scribbled all over herself. I could already feel myself welling up but just didn’t want to show it, and then Mark with a bunch of flowers telling me we’re getting my present later – I get presents!!
That present was a trip to the ceramic cafe Color Me Mine in Santa Monica where I got to paint something of my choice! This was creative and sentimental! way to go Dad! we ended up painting an “I love you” mug which is complete with a *really* messy baby hand print. I had free for all with what to do and my mind got a bit carried away and ended up with the most random and most sentimental piece of clay i’ll ever own. I can’t wait to pick it up in a weeks time.
Next stop was Universal Studios! we have an annual SoCal Pass so its a nice feeling knowing we can kind of go there whenever we want (except for black out dates which we once realised as we pulled into the carpark…) we know we couldn’t really do any of the rides today, but we could just enjoy being there and look around and watch a show. We ended up eating our lunch whilst watching the Transformers “Meet and Greet” (apparently Summer cheered when Megatron came out – everyone else boo’d….) We played in the Minions Super Silly Fun land and we watched the Animal Actors show – which is very entertaining! I didn’t think Summer would be able to follow all the animals, but she was so, so excited every time a dog came onstage or everyone applauded. Much to my surprise and amusement she was right there cheering along with them all.
Overall I had a super great day with my little family. Just what I needed really as it can sometimes be quite all overwhelming this mothering stuff! Hope you all had a great mothers day too! let me know how you all celebrated 🙂
Half a year of being an American citizen. It also happened to be the wettest 6 months California has had (The rainy season now ranks 2nd all time in 122 years of records) maybe it was a weird way of the world making it easier for us to ease ourselves into living here! Anyways, here are 6 small updates since I last wrote on here at Easter.
No particular order
1. More furniture
For the longest time we had our TV on a huge cardboard box that the table came in. It served its time well but was showing signs of dipping and knew with having guests coming to stay it was time to finally get a proper table. Well, we kind of cheated as it’s actually a book case turned on its side from Ikea but it fits our living space well and it seems to be ok when it comes to being baby proof. We also got this amazing teepee from Toys R Us to hide all of Summers toys, she loves it and it’s like her own little space that she can rule.
2.Driving Those who know me well know I have a proper fear of the roads. This stems from being hit by a car when I was 16 which prevented me ever having the need to pass my driving test. But I did at the ripe old age of 27 and actually did it in London! If you’ve ever driven in London you know how crazy the roads are and alas, this meant I was never really one to want to hop behind the drivers seat and go for a ride. So I became dependent on public transport (which is so good in London) and Mark driving us around. But LA is a driving ball game. It’s not as practical to rely on public transport and literally you have streets where there are just no pedestrian walkways. So I have to bite the bullet and just do it. Apart from the fact that you’re on the right side of the road which makes me automatically want to be driving too far right, and the fact that you can actually turn right on corners on a RED traffic light (whaaat) its starting to feel more “normal”. To make it easier the car we ended up getting is automatic one less thing to worry about with clutch control and I can’t just roll backward when on a hill.( That one had made its way into my subconsciousness and become a reoccurring nightmare for me)
So now I just need to battle freeways and I’m on my way. One piece of advice I got for freeways was it’s exactly the same as driving on the normal roads except you’re going really, really fast! See, should have nothing to worry about! Eek
3.Summer can now walk When did this baby grow up so fast? eyes needed all over my head now – this girl is walking/stumbling/falling/running/dancing her way around and its amazing to watch. I tried to capture some of her expressions and poses through drawing
At the time of writing this we have NOT finished the series. This alone is a little problem as it’s literally all I can think about. I’m one of those people who doesn’t realise how much to affects my brains and thoughts and moods and especially my dreams. I mean, I had a dream the other night that I had died and come back invisible and that was after watching Petes Dragon! So when it comes to TV series I need to pace it out, for the sake of my heart. But this series is different. I just wanted to keep watching and watching, we even did 4 episodes in a row!
There’s something very compelling and haunting about it. Maybe the fact it’s kind of relatable as we all went to high school and know people like the characters, or maybe it’s the topics they’re covering in the series. It’s probably a mix of good story telling and right casting and actors that makes it so addictive, but I also kind of want to get to the end so I can carry on with life. I do know though that hopefully it will make people think more before judging and consider their consequences of their actions a bit more. On another note, I really do miss listening to my walkman. Anyone else want to have the yellow one like in Fern Gully? I bet my Michael Jackson tape would have sounded even better on that if I owned it.
Any of you guys watched it? what do you think?
5. My book came out in Spanish
Some of you might know or even own my first book I illustrated called Mr Mustachio! It was such a great project to work on and loved all the media hype behind it too. So when the other day I had a quick look at my Twitter I was thrilled and surprised to see I had been in tagged with this picture from the publishers of the book now out in Spanish!
Everyone say “hola Don Mostachio!”
6. New Book deal
And this leads onto my new book deal! I am currently working on a really fun project which I can’t say too much about but it does involve Noah’s Ark and potties…lots of them. I can’t wait to share more of it all with you guys soon!
How has your last 6 months been? let me know i’d love to hear!
Thanks for reading 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
27th December – So the Christmas festivities feel like they are slowly ramping down, which is strange as usually at this time in the UK it becomes Mark and mines most busiest period trying to cram in seeing as many people as possible along the south coast and end up with at least 4 Christmas dinners and a couple of trips to China Garden (ahh I miss China Garden)
I spent a long time feeling like I’m missing a whole whirlwind of magical moments of Christmas 2016, every time I logged onto social media I was seeing pics of people at Winter Wonderland in London or people talking about the adverts on TV, everyone was dressing in an abundance of layers and glamming up for their Christmas parties, which was really lovely but made me realise how it still feels very much like I’m in a bubble out here. Slowly the decorations were coming out in LA and the music was playing in all the shops, but I’m just not sure if I’m ever going to get used to seeing a Christmas tree next to a palm tree.
But to make the most of the situation I seemed to have come across quite a lot of mega huge Christmas trees!
First stop Santa Monica where we met the main man himself Mr Santa Clause. Now this is the most spectacular of all Santa’s I’ve ever encountered. He had a real beard, he had shiny buckles, he had a jolly voice and he also had a key… this is attention to detail and I was mega impressed. Summer on the other hand, not so much. Poor girl had just woken up and then she was placed in the lap of some big guy with white beard, it was all too much and the screaming started, then the lady with the big camera and huge flash starting clicking away and I could see Summers eyes darting around trying to make sense of everything whilst looking for mummy and daddy who were trying to calm her down.
When I think of downtown LA I think of the Staples Center and this is where LA live is!
At the time we went it was sponsored by Target so the bullseye red and white signs were everywhere along with a giant snow globe and crazy inflatables, but overall it did actually feel pretty festive there.
Also they had the biggest Christmas tree I ever did see right in the middle of the ice rink. It’s nice to just stare at it. I’m not sure if I just wanted to feel more in the spirit and plus it was actually pretty cold but I was there wearing my red bobble hat!
For a way to meet new people locally I joined this group called Culver City Moms and it’s great! Nice way to make me feel less lonely, they are always sending invites to events. One invite was to a neighbourhood party at Culver Studios just around the corner and they had built a cute ice rink (synthetic) and had fake snow covering the place. We all got our free hot drinks (hot choco) and huddled around watching the ice skaters. The lighting of the place was pretty good – I guess they had access to the best lighting in town being a studio! We found out that they filmed the likes of E.T, Beetlejuice, Hook, The Matrix to name but a few on these grounds. That’s pretty magical.
Never would I have thought I would be spending one Christmas Eve on Venice beach, but that’s what happened and it was such a marvelous and a (very) windy day. We got the bus! Which for one seems to be a totally taboo thing to do out here, but it’s actually fine. I mean yeah, there are a few colourful characters now and again but they’re harmless and you get them anywhere you are in the world, right?
We found this shop along Venice beach that sold the nicest skateboards our eyes ever did see. It didn’t take long before Mark and me were there picking out our favs and dreaming of our new life where we have them on us and just whip them out and whizz around and weaving through crowds of people, totally forgetting that we have a very wriggly 9 month old too!
Still though, we might get one each for the future. One thing thats so great about the vibe here is that anyone and everyone seems to be trying to skate along here. It’s so refreshing to see girls/boys/men and women all there with their planks of wood and its all totally normal and acceptable.
We ended up walking from Venice to Santa Monica along the boardwalk with the windy breeze in our hair and big smile on our face.
The big day had arrived! and Summer gave us a small Christmas gift by sleeping until 7am…7am!! Thank you!
Having a first Christmas is one of those moments where you want it to be memorable and “perfect” for them. In reality though, Summer is only 9 months old and is she really going to remember this? I better record all of it though in case she ever wants to see it! So I rush downstairs and turn on all the sparkly lights before Mark and Summer make their entrance to see what Santa has left them as I wait grinning with my camera in hand. All week I had spent my time shielding off the poor Christmas tree whilst Summer attacked it with her sticky hands and tried to hang off it using the baubles as grips to hold herself up. Then there’s the wrapping paper battles, countless times I would find her with glitter round her mouth where she’s had a nibble.
So on 25th December I thought I would let her go crazy and had all her gifts laid out for her. And low and behold she was just not interested in them! We spent the next couple of hours giving her gifts trying to get her to look at each one separately, but really all she wanted to do was to play with the first one we gave her. In my head I thought she was gonna go crazy with all the wrapping paper and presents but in reality I think it was all a bit overwhelming for her! She did love all the gifts, especially her new walker – personally I think she looks a bit like an old lady trying to walk with a zimmer frame but I think she’s loving her new found freedom.
Next was a lot of Skype calls to U.K. To family and friends and was great to see their faces but then suddenly it was time to put the ham in the oven! And boy did that ham come out well! Thanks Mum for the recipe!
3pm and we went to Leandre and Carolines house, here’s a list of what we brought
Victoria sponge cake
Mulled Wine ingredients
4 x games
Summers new Zimmer frame walker
Summers pyjamas and blanket
a lot of snacks
They only live around the corner, but it was a struggle to get it all there, and of course we forgot things so Mark had to run back.
We spent the rest of the afternoon evening eating (a mix of English, Filipino, French and Russian food), playing games (who knew there was a game called Love Letter: Batman!) oh and of course there was Home Alone on in the background – I forget every year how great that film is, we got so into it that we ended up watching Home Alone 2 straight after!
Although I missed my family and it felt strange not being in UK I had a great day and know i’ll remember this one for a long time.