Our time living in Los Angeles

After many long chats, mental exhaustion and wanting the power to see into the future we have decided that now is a good time to move back to UK. This decision did not come lightly as we have had the best two years out here and because of that it’s making it a lot harder than I thought to leave.
Summer had a lot of firsts here, as soon as we arrived she learnt to crawl in the hotel room (impeccable timing haha) she took her first steps, had her first Christmas and first birthday (and second) all with the Pacific Ocean only 5 miles away.
But I also had a lot of firsts, first time I have lived in a different country, first time actually properly driving on my own, first time starting a photography business and a big one, first time mama trying to work out how to raise a little human the best way possible.
It’s two years of my life that I want to cherish, to be proud of our achievements as a family and to look back as a wonderful life lesson.

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Obviously it wasn’t all plain sailing as we wouldn’t of had the urge to move back to UK, We did struggle…a lot. It was mainly financially and adjusting to certain things but something didn’t sit right with us and as a family we decided in order for us to live our best life and for the sake of Summer now is the right time move back. It’s not like when we moved here we knew it would be a walk in the park but we just didn’t expect to be caught up in so many pay monthly deals and having no credit score really did screw us over. Before we knew it we were paying double on many things we found out didn’t need to be, I found it difficult to send Summer to classes/ day cares when I knew in England it was so much cheaper or in fact free.
I don’t think I’m a Scrooge of a person and would often agree or justify spending money on things just to try and live a normal life, but when it came to the point where I am panicking that we don’t have enough money to eat until rent comes out then I feel like something needed to change.
I toyed with the idea of getting a part time job or even full time job daily, but the money I would make would just cover the day care so it seemed kind of pointless to me as I knew I was more than capable of looking after Summer myself, and I also wanted to spend these quality years with her. But also, I managed to work on a picture book and start a photography business all while Summer napped or just worked late in the night so I guess I was never really not working. It’s just hard to see that when you’re not picking up a pay cheque monthly.

So now, after a few days of sleeping on the floor and scrubbing our walls clean we have shipped our belongings back and have 5 huge suitcases, a car seat and stroller to bring back with us onto the plane.
I have no idea how Summer is taking everything so well. She’s adjusted to not having her toys, her bed and no tv. She knows they’re all on a big ship on their way to Lolo and Lola’s house and she knows she’s going to be going seeing them very soon. Every time she sees a plane in the sky she tells me she’s going on a plane to have an adventure and is super excited about it.
But it breaks my heart her not knowing she won’t get to see best friends all the time. I really don’t want her to forget her time here and am planning on making her a photo book to look back on.
Thank goodness she’s also been brought up knowing about FaceTime. We have already done some practice runs and I’m pretty impressed how two two year olds can actually communicate through looking at an iPad! They both got just as excited to see each other on the screen as they do in real life, so this gave me huge hope that they will forever have some kind of relationship.

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I am going to miss the small things, how I was able to just walk down the street to one of the most picturesque Starbucks and draw/type away. How we would always hear helicopters in the sky. How every time Summer done something great it would be followed up with “good job”. Obviously going to miss the sunshine. I don’t think Mark has worn trousers for two years now and I’m going to miss the general hospitality and welcoming (however fake or not) of people wherever you go.

We had been here through Trumps augmentation, through the craziest water downfall LA had experienced in 30 years and we even felt an earthquake.
I felt like we discovered amazing places and made friends that I now consider family. It’s been the most challenging, heart felt, two years and grateful for this chapter in life.

Los Angeles, city of stars. You will forever have a special place in my heart and already excited to come back.

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Palm Springs and Joshua Tree

We are slowly making our way through the USA bucket list and Palm Springs had been on there for quite a while. So on Memorial weekend I managed to book a last minute hotel and we set off for a mini “banchaaaaa” (adventure) as Summer kept repeating in an excited voice.

A couple of things first though, I thought Palm Springs was a LOT further than it actually is so was expecting long drives with nothing but sand around – it’s not it took us just under 2 hours, and second, everyone kept saying “be careful, it’s hot there” and I was like, okay…but really….but it is actually scorching there!! If I lived there I think I would just have to live in a swimming pool. We welcomed that sunshine with open arms.

 

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So the first day we went look around Palm Canyon Drive and was loving the small boutiques and hat shops. Made me want to buy a hat of course (I didn’t) and fell in love with all the art deco books and postcard and art work they had to offer. I already love the style and look of The Incredibles so it was kind of looking into real life version on this.

We were recommended to go eat at Tylers restaurant for lunch and it was so so good! Food felt really fresh and good size portion and catered for kids well. Then after food it was more walking around. FYI they have the most swankiest Starbucks I have ever seen on that street.

Then a check in to the hotel . To be honest our hotel was nothing special as we literally just needed a place to stay for one night but it was super great it did have a pool and Summer got to splash around and let out all the energy.  She also loved the huge bed and the fact I let her jump around as much as she wanted on it. Mark had it in his head that it would be super fun for us to all stay in one big bed, and yes it was fun- except he forgot that his daughter is one of the most wriggliest sleepers in the world and he ended up waking up with her foot around his neck!

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The next day we went to explore the Indian Canyons and did a bit of research and found the Andreas loop was best suited for us. It’s a one mile round loop around a really awesome oasis in the middle of the canyons. We did the hike pretty early in the morning as we were worried we were going to get frazzled. It’s honestly one of the best hikes i’ve ever done. Even Summer loved it, pointing out all the lizards and Chips and Dales (chipmunks) she could find. It’s a good one with toddler as she could walk most of it. There are a few rocks here and there you have to step up which Mark just carried her.

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Next was to a little town that we had been told about called Pioneer Town. Now, this is no normal town, this was a western movie set made in 1940’s that soon became an actual place to live! It’s pretty cool, like you’ve just walked onto the set of Westworld or you expect a piece of Tumbleweed to just roll on past you.

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Our final destination was the infamous Joshua Tree National Park. I could look at those strange shaped trees all day and would love to camp by them in the near future, but that weekend we just did a quick drive around to the Hidden Valley Trail. 

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The trail was a perfect mix of HUGE rocks, crazy trees, landscapes for days and easy walking marked paths that Summer could enjoy on her own. I know she had a good time because the whole way around (about an hour) she did not stop talking and pointing at every single thing she could see.

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It was a super nice break and felt way longer than 2 days, I guess its because its the memories you get from it makes it feel like so much happened.  Our journey back was interesting. We decided (well, the sat nav decided for us) to kind of go the back route back to LA and it literally felt like we were in the middle of nowhere for a good hour or so. No other cars on the road, the roads had potholes and just vast land as far as we could see.. it was the kind of scene that you imagine on a proper across America road trip with your arm out the window blasting songs, it was kind of like that apart from we had Peppa Pig blasting out the Ipad.

And to end this post, here’s a pic of me and Summer on a rock 😀

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Malibu Cafe & Escondido Falls

There’s this place that had been spoken of but I had not seen it with my own two eyes. There is talk of a waterfall hidden in the Santa Monica Mountains. This was my version of The Beach, I needed to see it. Its called Escondido Falls and it’s a 50ft waterfall that has a 3.8 mile round trip hike to go with it.

So one Saturday we thought we would make a day of it. I had also heard of a place called Malibu Cafe that seemed like it was pretty near and was eager to check out. BUT whether I would recommend to others to do these two places on the same day i’m not too sure.
Both are beautiful in their own special way but both totally different experiences.

Lets start with Malibu Cafe

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Now this place is Instagram heaven. Literally everywhere you look, every angle you turn it’s ready to be snapped up like it’s all been planned. This is down to the layout and the choice of decorations. But not only does it look all ready for Pinterest photoshoots, its actually pretty cool what they have to offer. It’s kind of like going to a mini festival without having to camp. They have designated areas for certain cocktails, an array of food options (hello BBQ sampler plate) and a super chilled restaurant that you can people watch to your hearts content. All of these urrounding the grass areas filled with open tables and oversized chess pieces and and Jenga. Personally I think it’s great as you can kind of let your kids run free without fear of them escaping too far all whilst sipping on that pink cocktail you saw someone else taking photos of.

There’s also a bit at the back of a small lake/pond complete with decking and huge chandelier which i’m sure they’ve hosted a few weddings or two back there. Perfect scenery.

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The reason why i’m hesitant to say to do it on the same day is because it’s very trendy. I felt completely out of place rocking up in my gym shoes, workout leggings and not-so-fitted-don’t-care-if-i-sweat top. I know that nobody would even care and there’s no signs on dress code but I just didn’t feel comfortable. It was like showing up to a birthday party where everyone had made an effort and you turn up in pyjamas. I had my huge sunglasses with me that day though so with those I thought I could get away with looking slightly cool as well as hiding my no make up face. But, we still had a great time and would definitely go back some day with a group of friends.

After we had stuffed our faces and taken in the vibe we went off to search for the waterfall

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When we first started the hike I was a little taken aback as we were walking past these HUGE Malibu mansions, totally felt like we were going the wrong way, but with the groups of enthusiastic hikers marching past you, you know you’re on the right track (literally), slowly the mansions fade away and you’re on the dirt and surrounded by an abundance of tall trees with mud beneath your feet. Apart from Baldwin Hills, this was the only other hike we have done in L.A and I really did enjoy it.

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Even Summer enjoyed it. She loved the fact we let her walk quite a bit of it (which no doubt added a fair chunk of time on our round trip) she was so excited finding all the different types of sticks, jumping in puddles, listening to the birds and even the frogs! There’s also areas where you literally have to step on stones to cross paths of water which makes it feel a bit more adventurous.

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We made it to the lower tier but if you’re feeling all Tarzan like then there is another waterfall that is 100ft bigger than this one, it’s meant to be stunning – Google images showed me it is! and apparently not too far from this one. But for us, it was a really nice change of scenery and great way to spend our weekend. Next one we will tackle is the one to the Hollywood Sign!

 

 

 

 

When your besties have babies – Jocelyn

Let me tell you a little story about a good friend of mine. Actually, I think Jocelyn is more than just a friend – we grew up telling people we were cousins as we already called each others families aunties etc, we had spent so much time together growing up listening to all the boybands, learning all the dance moves to the biggest RnB artists out at the time, we spent nights completing Street Fighter with EVERY character on the SNES (still one of my biggest achievements in life) and we were in a lot of classes together through High School. When the internet was just coming big we even shared an email address! now, that is definitely a bestie.

But all those nights dancing around in the living room using the remotes as mics came in handy for Jos as she went on to becoming a model and being a member to a huge girl group, Kitty Girls,  in the Philippines. – (for me, not so much, it was only put into practice on drunk karaoke nights) but while she was on the other side of the world being a mega superstar and I was burying my head in work in London we always kept in contact and I could always count on her to be there for me. We were even lucky enough to go and visit her while she was out there, and when she was in UK visiting we would make sure to see each other (and eat all the food she has missed).

So now for the first time in 14 years we live in the same country, and even the same state!! and what makes it even crazier is that we both now have children. I was very lucky recently to take photos of her newest addition, the beautiful Kingsley Rose. This was a special shoot as Kingsley’s dad was currently deployed with the Marines and he hadn’t met her yet. Also Auntie Zeny was visiting too so we got to get some pics with her in them.

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It was so great to see Summer and Harley playing together too. Summer loves Harley so much she has even named one of her bears after her. Harley has such a sweet nature and took it naturally to become a big sister to Kingsley.

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I am so grateful for the short time we got to spend together while we are both in the same place, we’ve done pretty well, we’ve had a more than a few trips down to see her in Murietta and at 8 months preggo Jocelyn and Harley came to visit us in LA where we got to show them some of our sites (what a trooper!)

Jocelyn, Brandon and the girls will be moving to North Carolina soon so who knows when we will get to hang out again like this. But I do know that friendships like this are forever so i’m already excited about the all the new memories we will make together.

Interview with a 2 year old

A bunch of questions to remember and look back on how Summer’s personality was when she turned 2. She’s a crazy, smart, sweetheart with a loveable sense of humour and puts a smile on our faces everyday.

Can you say your name?: yes, Summer. Everything is said in third person.

Nicknames: Bubba, Sumi, Sum Sum, Monkey, Summersauras, Summertoa, Baby

How old are you?: two and one week  – tries to do the fingers, but shows me three and half fingers up 

Favourite food right now: ICE CREAM, cheese, yoghurt, strawberries, eats a banana every day. Also can eat about 10 oranges in a row if I let her. Hard to get her to eat meat (blaming it on the texture)

Favourite songs right now to sing: Happy Birthday (to Summer) , Baa Baa Black Sheep, Let it Go (nearly all the words, nearly in tune) Ice cream song, and around and around is the name of the game. I See the Light from Tangled,  also, Tap your sticks song.

Recent obsessions: Sticks, picks any up she can find and collects them too (hope this isn’t the beginnings of a hoarder) Sleeps with Momo (Moana) and Baby and a bottle of water in the bed every night. likes wand shape things, always wants to hold something or take a toy with us when we are out.  Loves Peppa Pig and Dinosaurs too. Also have to read 3 books a night before bed.

 Special words: Gaga – water
Meemeeyaaaa – sleep 
havagoodayyy – have a good day  
I mama, I dada, I Summer – I love mama etc
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Wooahw (like Joey) 

Favourite toys/things to play with, tea sets (she has 3) play dough, drum sticks. loves anything with colouring and painting. Stickers.

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How far can you count: one to ten, sometimes misses out one and nine. knows all the colours.

favourite places to go: the beach, Woodbine park, at home playing with the toys, swimming with daddy, Yuna’s house. Disneyland.

Best friends: Yuna, Joaquin, Tita Alee and Cheechee (Audrey). Once had weird obsession over Gymboree teacher Sam. (kept following her around and only wanted to play with her)

Memorable moments of being 1: Moving to Los Angeles, Meeting Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. Popping your elbow socket out. learning to walk/run/jump.

Most likely to be when you’re older: some kind of artist, loves drawing and singing and playing drums.

We love watching you grow and seeing you light up when we play with you and interact with others. Keep shining, we love you very much, our Summer Grace x

 

January

Just over two weeks into 2018. I might have got that “New Year/New Beginnings” mentality (oh hey, sparkling new gym membership card) but if it means it’s an excuse to have a fresh start and the drive and motivation to try new stuff then I’m all up for it.

I can’t say it’s been the easiest of days at the moment.  I have a lot of friends going through some pretty tough times right now, many unexpected life events and some even devestating, makes me realise once again that i’m so far away from loved ones. This also means I value more of what I have to live for and enjoy each moment as it happens.

On a happier note I know two babies already born this year! Both girls and both adorable and gonna rock the year of the dog.

Some of the things we have been up to:

We found a good Dim Sum place! it’s in San Gabriel called Elite and not all fancy. Just good old fashion tasty food. There’s a bit of a wait but its ok it was worth it. Pretty good way to spend the 1st day of a new year.

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A drawing of our food – with added faces 🙂

Everyone is sick, literally every family I know in LA has caught some kind of lurgy. There’s a crazy stomach bug going on and also the common cold just seem to linger around. Mark and Summer just seem to keep passing it to each other so it just circulates in our home, but touch wood I have been a strong mama and managed to avoid it!
The other day Mark came home feeling pretty rough and Summer laid herself on the floor next to him complete with her blanket and just stayed next to her daddy. It was the cutest.

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Along with that there’s actually been a few days of rain so Summer and me have spent a LOT of time just being at home. It’s okay though – we got out the play dough cake maker machine and have done a lot of dressing up, my love of hats seemed to have been passed down to this little one.

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And then the sun came back and we took a nice wonder around Century City Mall and I got my camera out. This place is seriously built to be Instagrammed!

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So there you have it, just a little update. How’s 2018 been treating you so far?

 

Reflecting

And now it’s 2018. It’s always nice to write reflection posts as it makes you realize what you have achieved from the last year. Usually I find I have accomplished more than it ever feels like,  so these type of posts make me feel good and actually like I have been living my life and not stuck in some auto pilot timeless circle.

Here are a few highlights from 2017

Making new friends

This was a big one for me. I like to think I’m an outgoing person and easy to talk to, but realistically I’m an awkward mumbling mess who is never really sure I’m making enough eye contact and smiling at the right moments. On top of this i’m now the one with the accent so trying super hard to make sure people actually understand me.
So for me to make new friends was a terrifying thing but also a little bit exciting. I knew I just had to throw myself into it and with Summer being my passport to many clubs/events/classes I thought there must be likeminded people out there. In the first month of 2017 I went and joined a mommy and me class, a fitness class and a local moms group on Facebook.
But actually the two closest friends I have made have both been by pure accident. The best type of accidents that could happen. Now I consider these guys almost family, they’re the ones I turn to when I have a million questions about places to go, food recommendations, help with Summer, questions about living in US and many other random questions.  But the biggest part is we are all there for each other and making each other laugh and smile.
I am fortunate that I actually have family here already and also some friends from UK are here too, so have a great support group around me, but making new friends was a big thing for me and I’ve found some for life, and Summer has too!

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All the visitors

When you tell people you’re moving to LA of course you’re gonna have friends visit. And I am all about this! Also with a lot of friends working in the film industry we were bound to have people passing through who want to stop by and say hi. We have been super blessed to see so many familiar faces over the year and show them all the great things this beautiful place has to offer.

Some of the best bits have been:
– my parents coming and showing them the life we have out here.
– finding some great restaurants and reasons to eat at them (it’s easier with a child to not go to these places so it’s a great excuse to get dolled up and make effort!)
– knowing you can have 3 kids and 4 adults all living pretty well under a 2 bedroom apartment for a week – and nobody wanted to kill each other!
– the many beach days we could take them to around the coast.
– the amazing funny memories that i’ll have forever from great people coming to stay with us.

 

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Trip back to UK 

As mentioned in a previous blog post  our trip back to UK was a special 3 weeks. Not only was it obviously nice to see everyone and attend my brother in laws wedding, but it was great for everyone to see how much Summer had grown and see her personality shine through. Every time I think of the moments she was bonding with her grandparents it makes my heart burst, and seeing how well she got on with her cousins and my friends is something I had longed for to happen. Everyone commented on how happy a child she is and its actually something i’m super proud of. It can get very tough for me sometimes being so far away from everyone and Summer is a handful at times, so to know people who I care about really think i’m doing a good job it makes it a bit less painful for me to be so far away.

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Also another one I have written about recently, but since then I have squeezed in 8 photoshoots! I can’t actually believe it when I think about it, how something I’ve always thought about doing just actually went and happened. We even went to the City Hall and I got all the right documents in order to make it all legit! I’m loving the idea of capturing peoples memories and the look of their faces when I show them the back of my camera at what I can see makes it all worth it. The plan is to make the money from this and buy myself better equipment so then I can keep taking even better photos and possibly take up some courses too. For weeks I was watching live Webinars on the internet for information and knowing what to expect on shoots. These have been like gold dust to me and the knowledge I took home from them are invaluable.
I have an Instagram account too for the Studio Sunny Side Up if you want to have a looksy.

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And there you have it, 2017 all wrapped up into a few neatly preserved paragraphs. The year of course went a lot deeper than this and had some crusty moments where I wondered if we had made the right decision moving to the other side of the world. It’s been challenging and testing but the good moments have certainly outweighed these, and that’s what life is about, right? it’s about experiences. They help you grow as a person whether they’re good or bad and you learn from them.

So here’s to 2018 and more experiences and everything it has to offer.
Bring. It. On

 

 

Let’s do this!

I’m sure this has happened to a few people, you take photos of day to day experiences, get hooked on the idea of catching a glimpse of life and being able to treasure it forever and before you know it people are asking you to take pictures for them too.

It’s such a privilege to have people let you take their picture and I absolutely love the look on their faces when I’ve captured something that they like. So one day, after many talks with friends and family, a little lightbulb started flashing in my head whilst Summer sleeps literally on top of me. I decided now was the time to launch Studio: Sunny Side up!
This will be a little project where I will be mainly using natural light to take photos of families and couple and even their pets if they do so let me.
And with anything, practice means perfect and I mean I have the perfect little model with me 24 hours, might as well take advantage of her cheeky face!
So these are the pics from our first shoot we did. I had this idea in my head where Summer would wear her Halloween dragon cape and be running through a big grassy field full of autumn colors, lots of wide shots and big trees everywhere. Perfect! And I knew just the spot nearby at Kenneth Hahn. So the weekend came and we head there and little did we know they didn’t take card and needed cash. So out of the car park we went and to Target to buy something so we can get cash back, but no. We had to use our credit card due to another long story which also means no cash back. So no Kenneth Hahn for us today. Next was a long drive around Rancho Park, surely there’s somewhere in there that we can get out and not get hit by a golf ball?? If there is then please can you tell me where!

So we tried going up in the high tops of Franklin Canyon Park just up from Beverly Hills. Now this place is beautiful and so quiet and for a few minutes I thought I had bumped into Scarlett Johansson (but after some “proper”checking Mark assured me it wasn’t her) it just didn’t have the flat and scenic overlook I had in my head. So off we went again.

and then it hit me, let’s just stay local and go to a place I’ve been to many a times, the wonderful wooden walkway of Baldwin Hills in Culver City. If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend visiting for a little walk and take in some fresh air and scenic views. It’s located above Bill Botts playground and goes up to the baseball fields Which is where we took the photos.

with all these changes of places we actually ended up getting here at the perfect sun setting time, we got the autumnal feels and Summer loved running around being a dragon while I got to play around with all the settings on the camera.

Let me know what you think!

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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