One.

Dear Summer,

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

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

happy first birthday our little Summer bear.

We love you so much

10 things about living in LA (the good stuff)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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That is a Target Face 

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

To The Lady On The Bus

 

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

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

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

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

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

Flower Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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B Sweet!

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

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

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love this sign as you come into the cafe 

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

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

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

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

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

Jolly Jolly Christmas 2016

 

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.

I think this photo sums up the whole experience

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LA Live

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!

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Caroline and me feeling festive 

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Culver studio lot

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.

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Christmas Eve

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!

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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.

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Christmas Day

 

Christmas Day

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.

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Olaf loves Summer, Christmas mayhem

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!

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The Tompkins clan after their Christmas Dinner

3pm and we went to Leandre and Carolines house, here’s a list of what we brought

The ham

Victoria sponge cake

Mulled Wine ingredients

4 x games

Summers new Zimmer frame walker

Presents

Wine

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.

Merry Christmas

The First Weeks of November

This is Steph. She’s awesome. We met at university and bonded whilst burying burnt sausages in the sand on Bournemouth beach. We then moved to London together and have no idea how we survived the first 6 months since neither of us had secured jobs, just desire in our hearts knowing that’s where we should be. When she told me that her and her partner in crime, Will, are travelling for minimum 9 months I was so excited for them, then she told me that she will be stopping over in LA I was even more excited!

So Steph with her super awesome organising skills messaged me a few a days before and had an itinerary all worked out, even down to where to eat! We were going to La Brea Tar pits! This place has its own magic. Who knew such amazing creatures like woolly mammoths used to roam the central streets of LA before any of these big celebrities did! It’s a really nice place and loved seeing the actual atrcheologists hard at work and cleaning up the bones.

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Actual archeologists cleaning the bones up real good

Social security office

If I want this blog to be real on how I have spent my days in LA then I have to write about the social security office, as that’s where I had spent a good few hours a week with Jennifer and Summer. After our first initial visit to register for our numbers we went back the week later to see if we can get our number before we get the physical copy. Your SSN is like your identity out here, I have been told by many people that you should never carry your card with you or give out the number willy nilly. Without it  means that we can’t really rent a home, open bank accounts or get phone contracts and most importantly Mark can’t get paid. These are some of the reasons we wanted to get the number early.

Kidville – 7th November 2016 

There’s this special place called Kidville that Alee introduced me to. It’s a place to take your kids to where they can go nuts and let out all their energy in the soft play gym.

And this happened to be the place where Summer could really stretch her legs and perfected her crawling.

There is no turning back now for her. I need eyes on the back of my head.

They also do classes there and we enrolled to Rock n Rollin Acoustic. I had been to baby classes with Summer in London and once you get into the swing of them they are amazing, I loved seeing how babies react to different sounds and songs. But this class was on another level. Since Summer was in my tummy Mark had been playing guitar to her so she loves them. Now this class involved the teacher and his guitar and another teacher who sang and harmonised. Harmonised! We were in for such a treat and the quality is so good. Summer enjoyed herself so much! And when Grandma puppet came out she couldn’t take her eyes off it! It was so nice to find this class and left singing the Baby Beluga song all the way home.

Anniversary celebrations

 

we celebrated 3 times…3 years of marriage = 3 celebrations (not really, it just happened!) 

27/11 – Moana

After a long drive back from San Diego we  managed to escape in the evening to watch Moana. Our anniversary is on Wednesday and it made more sense to watch it then to make it special, but somebody couldn’t wait that long so we had to see it tonight. Alee to the rescue and she came over after she was done at work to watch sleeping Summer.

It was worth the wait, I loved Moana- the music made me have goosebumps and the renders of the whole movie was so beautiful. All the characters were well thought out and sometimes random. The only thing missing (which isn’t that big a deal) is there was no love interest, no Prince Charming- which isn’t a bad thing, just guess it being a Disney movie and Moana being a “princess” I thought they would have someone. Guess I’m just a big soppy romantic at heart.

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Who knew that buying bath mats would make your house feel cosier – non anniversary information, just thought it was blog worthy! (hah!)

30/11 – actual anniversary

Everyone tells you that your actual wedding day goes so fast so savour the moment, but I honestly think it didn’t go fast at all and love reminiscing about the little things that happened that day. I caught myself thinking quite a few times saying “this time three years ago I was…” and each time it still gave me butterflies and filled me with the fondest memories. I can’t believe its actually been three years since we got married, so much has happened.

Once you’re married, there is a tradition that every year is represented by gifts made from certain materials , in theory this makes it easier to find gifts –  but if you’re like me and sometimes get carried away, you end up innocently telling people the wrong information and getting wooden gifts instead of leather! oops.

I ended up meeting Mark after work and we went for really good sushi at Sake House by Hikari

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Sex In The City Crunchy RollSpicy shrimp tempura and cucumber, topped with tuna, jalapeno, and spinach tenkatsu

and we were in pajamas by 8.30pm watching The Walking Dead – so romantic!

 

 04/12 Downtown Disney 

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Before we even had our flights booked to move to US we had it in our heads that we will spend our next anniversary at our happy place, Disneyland. Ah, it’s got so many special memories for Mark and me and the thought of being able to go there as it’s “just down the road” made it a perfect excuse to go. But, realistically it’s a 45 minute Uber ride away. Not one to give broken promises Mark said let’s go!

But….the more we thought about it, we realised that if we went into the actual parks we couldn’t go on many big rides unless we went alone as we would need someone to stay with Summer, and although we would have loved her to actually meet the real life Olaf and Baloo we can also wait until she would actually remember. So we compromised. we went to Downtown Disney. Now this place has its own magic and is full of great stores so we could do our Christmas shopping  And being so close to the festive season the place was covered in beautiful twinkly lights that made everyone smile. I had been saying to Mark that I hadn’t felt too Christmassy this year but then we discovered Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel  which had one of the most memorable Christmas trees I had seen in a while, I mean look at it!

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It was enough in there to even make Scrooge feel festive.

We managed to buy a lot of gifts (or ourselves a lot of gifts) so came home very happy. One thing I got myself was this amazing pin from Up. I don’t know where to put it though!

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