Palm Springs and Joshua Tree

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Malibu Cafe & Escondido Falls

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

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

Lets start with Malibu Cafe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Natural History Museum

In between a week of everyone taking it in turns of getting sick in the family, and many hours still playing with the Cake Mountain Play-doh set, it was time to actually make a date with friends and go to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles 
Thanks to a nifty Groupon deal we are proud members and got all of us in for free! So there we were, Catalina and I and Summer and Joaquin all ready to see some bones.

I actually think the kids were just as excited to be going on the train as much as seeing dinosaurs. What is it about getting on them that makes them SO worked up that they have to repeat the word “train” about 100 times? By the time we got to the actual museum they loved how much space there was so just had to run. everywhere.

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and they wanted to touch everything.

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which I guess is fine as that is kind of what you do in museums anyway, right? oh, there was also a LOT of pointing and dinosaur noises

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So my experience of going there with two toddlers to NHM (Summer is 22 months and Joaquin is 20 months) is prepare yourself for them to be more interested in the space around and the environment rather than the actual objects that are on display.
Summer is going through a dinosaur obsession right now (yes, that is Arlo from Good Dinosaur she is traipsing around with her) so she was really into seeing them, and Joaquin loves a good mode of transport so he spotted a few vehicles around which got him excited. There are the rooms with taxidermy animals in them which look like they’re from The Night at the Museum movie which I loved, but for the kids I think they got slightly scared as they are pretty dark rooms. Plus, we weren’t too good on timings and ended up sharing the rooms with about 50 school kids on a field trip. Not gonna lie, was a bit scared to put Summer down when she wanted to run incase I lost her and couldn’t see her in the dark room.
Outside there is a great space for eating and the Nature Gardens are amazing. These alone are worth the trip if you didn’t want to go inside. They have the get dirty zone where you can run around in the mud or splash in the water features and by pure accident trying to find the exit we stumbled across the edible garden where they grow many things that smell delicious.

We only managed to do the first floor as it does get a bit overwhelming and we were getting hungry – no one can concentrate when their bellies are rumbling, but I want to go back to explore more.

I managed to catch the Tattoo exhibition on a different visit and I highly recommend it. I don’t even have any tats myself but still found the exhibition fascinating.

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Overall, I think it was a successful trip and even just walking through Exposition Park I know there’s plenty more for us to explore.

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?

 

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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