Our time living in Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Palm Springs and Joshua Tree

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Malibu Cafe & Escondido Falls

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

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

Lets start with Malibu Cafe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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?

 

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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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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