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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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.

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.

Starting Photography 

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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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?

 

Updates

And boom! just like that 2 months passed by, it’s now July here in L.A and it’s a sweaty one I tell ya!

Some things that have happened:

  • We had the Halsteads over for two weeks at the end of May. 4 adults and two children under the same roof, I have no idea how many strawberries we went through! It also meant 2 birthday celebrations, 3 trips to Disneyland, one including Summers first time (I’ll write about this in a separate blog post) many trips to Target and a weekend being reunited with some friends in San Diego.
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A lil bike ride around Coronado Ferry Landing, San Diego
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Summer practicing her wizardry at Universal Studios 
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our little Minions 
  • we celebrated our first July 4th and spent the daytime with our Korean/Canadian friends eating Italian food – nothing better than celebrating the country you’re in with a big slab on lasagne! And then on to our friends house who are currently residing in Abbot Kinney to watch the fireworks from their rooftop garden. It was a beautiful day full of food and laughter. Lots of ooohs and ahhhs all around, but to be honest it seemed that our neighbourhood had been practicing for this day for a few weeks as we would hear one (just one) firework go off at the same time every single day. And everyday it would make the same dog bark.
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our first 4th July experience 
  • Summer learnt where her belly button is and needs to check its there around 3 times a day. She gives it a little poke and then looks around to show anyone and anything that will have a look.

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  •  I passed my driving test have been driving around like a boss. When I say boss, I mean I can safely drive myself to friends houses, the mall and Summers classes. I still have to tell Mark every single time I get in the car so someone knows what I’m doing, and there are some days where I am literally filled with so much anxiety about even thinking of getting behind the wheel that I’ve almost cancelled a few appointments,  but once I’m in it’s all good and I am actually starting to enjoy it!

 

  • I’m so very nearly finished on the project I’ve been working on over the last few months. It’s a children’s book I’m illustrating based on Noah’s Ark and its about helping children to use the potty. It’s a fun story but of course with it being Noah’s Ark, I have had to draw most animals twice! It’s been a bit of a struggle trying to find that working mumma balance and find myself most nights working once Summer has gone to bed at 8pm until the wee hours of the morning. It will all be worth it in the end though! Here’s a sneak peak of the flamingo.

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  •  Apart from having Nursery rhymes and Moana daily on our tv, we have managed to catch up on a couple of programmes. Have any of you watched these? I’d love to know your opinions.

Master of None – maybe I relate to this more as I have experience being second generation in an asian up bringing in a western culture, but this series has a nice warm feel about it and the tall dude, Arnold really does make me laugh. Him and Dev are definitely a comedy duo.

Flaked this one is more about location. It brings nostalgia to Mark and me as when Summer was first born  we would watch an episode when I would feed her in the early early hours of the night. It was back in London when we knew about the idea of maybe moving to LA but nothing was official and it was all a big dream. Second season on and we are watching it and knowing all the streets and places they’re hanging out in. Once again it’s the other characters, in this case Cooler That makes me laugh. I want a friend like him and his positive attitude.

Okja– this film came onto Netflix recently and I loved the whole art direction of it. Feels like a mix between a Miyazaki film and a Wes Anderson. The vfx of Okja are so impressive and make you want to have one of your own.

Big little lies we have just started this one and I can feel myself getting into it. My first impressions of it were that I have actually met some mums similar to the ones in the programme which makes me chuckle, I’m intrigued to see where this one goes and also makes me want to visit Monterey. It looks beautiful!

So that’s it for now!

What have you been up to?