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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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
 Hi Boy
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

 

Laguna Beach

The other weekend we managed to adventure out of LA and visit Laguna Beach down in the OC. Now, my only knowledge about this place was from MTV show  – Laguna Beach so I was expecting big houses, long beaches with golden sun and the ladies with over sized sunglasses and little dogs hanging out their designer bags. I was not expecting an abundance of little boutiques and art galleries! – I welcomed the pleasant surprise with a nice boba drink and big smile on my face.

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It was our first trip to the ocean this year and we picked a nice day for it. Even had a little picnic on the only piece of grass we found. I love people watching and we seemed to have picked a perfect spot for it.
I think Summer was pleased to be re acquainted with the sand

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All in all it was a great day trip and change of scenery of Los Angeles. It was on my bucket lists of places to go whilst we lived out on this side. And yeah, I was humming the tune to OC most of the way!

 

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!

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?

6 Months, 6 Updates

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. IMG_4419

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

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13 Reasons Why

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!”

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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 🙂

Easter Bunnies

Easter Sunday

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

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

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

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

Hope you had a lovely Easter too!

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When the parents are here…

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

Week 1

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

    Week 2

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

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    Jocelyn and Harley at Seaport Village, San Diego 

Week 3

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

     

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    Getty Villa Views 

     

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

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