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ShaSha and Papa Come to Town

My parents were here for a nice long visit. It was great to spend so much time with them. We were able to travel together, see some of London, and they could really see our London life. My mom really enjoyed strolling down the street buying this and that; cheese, wine, bread, pastries – happy hour was extra fun. My Dad liked walking to the cafe for coffee, watching the girl’s horse lessons, and making crazy memories with me.

We traveled to Lyon, France to visit long time family friends and explore. Keith, our host, is an amazing tour guide and took us to see amazing sights. We toured the ruins of Lyon, Pont du Gard, the Reformation Wall in Geneva, John Calvin’s home church, and the Palais des Papes in Avignon. We learned so many things at each location – I will never be able to remember all of it. I am so glad that my kids were able to see these amazing places and hopefully we will retain some of it’s history.

Something else that I really appreciated about our time in Lyon was the time that we were all able to spend together. Spending time with my parents, kids, and Keith’s family was very special. I loved how they included my children in their conversations and allowed them to participate in whatever way they could, regardless of the topic. We talked about culture issues, music, politics, religion, history, and my kids may not have understood all of it, but they were welcome participants in the discussion. We sat around the living room singing, playing instruments, laughing, eating and reminiscing. Not only was it a learning trip, it was a trip that was also good for the soul. Being comfortable together in a welcoming home was perfect.

When we returned to London we had many fun times ahead, the first being my Dad and I had an appointment at the tattoo parlor. We had joked for many years about getting a tattoo together, and while I knew that my Dad didn’t have issues with tattoos, I didn’t think he would ever really do it. Well, he surprised me and told me to book an appointment. So, we did it. Craziest Father Daughter date ever. Our design is special in that the three dots has been a symbol for “I Love You” for a really long time. Now we will have it forever, a reminder of our love for each other forever. Not long later we had an evening at the theatre, and a birthday to celebrate. We made the most of each day we had together. We weren’t always on the go. There were a few days of sitting around watching our favorite show Heartland together. Side note – my Dad used to make fun of us about how much we liked the show. He would go read while we watched it. My Mom somehow convinced him to sit and watch a few episodes with her and now he is hooked!

We had a fantastic visit and the days flew by. I can’t wait for them to come back in the spring so we can get to all the activities we missed this time!

 

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Torino

Rob and I were very lucky to get to have a weekend away in Italy. My parents arrived for a visit just in time for me to be able to join Rob at a conference where he was asked to speak. The kids got to have a weekend being spoiled by ShaSha and Papa and Mom and Dad got a weekend away – win, win.

I always like traveling, but it’s extra fun to join Rob on work trips. It is always fun to see him in his element. Watching him prepare and present his talk, then sitting in on any interviews, and interacting with other presenters are all part of the fun. And if I am being honest, tagging along on the speaker dinners are pretty fun too. Eating amazing food and listening to stories told by the other presenters was pretty incredible. Stories about how things were on set “back in the day” to what was difficult about a certain aspect of a current film project.

Rob is a really smart guy. I know this, but it is always amazing to see it first hand. While doing interviews he generally didn’t know the questions ahead of time, so watching him flawlessly answer questions with ease was fun.  One of the funny moments from his interviews was when he was asked about his current project, the Han Solo film. “Can you tell us anything about the visual effects in the Han Solo movie?” His answer after a brief pause – “No.” The interviewer didn’t know what to say so he just moved on.

One afternoon we had some free time so we walked around the city. As we walked around we saw plaques in the sidewalk in front of homes. We learned that the plaques were memorials to individuals who lived in that home who had been arrested and taken to Auschwitz and ultimately killed. It was sobering to think about the people who lived their life everyday walking the streets of Torino, eating at the cafe, taking their kids to school, walking to church and then one day they were taken away. So much sadness and history in this small town.

I am so thankful for our weekend away to experience life with Rob and for the amazing opportunities to see the world.

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Happy Birthday

This last weekend was my birthday – one of the big ones. 40. How did we celebrate? My family took me to Paris for the weekend. I could write down a play by play of what we did and where we went, but instead I want to tell you about the things that meant the most to me.

I was not looking forward to this birthday, not because I was turning 40, but because I was going to be away from my friends. I had been apart of other friends’ 40th birthday celebrations and I always imagined that I would do something like that too, a big dinner with my closest friends, a weekend away wine tasting or running in a crazy epic running race with my girlfriends, however he Atlantic Ocean stood in the way of that plan. I think Rob saw this coming and he made a fantastic birthday video with messages from my friends and family. (Side note: he wasn’t able to get to everyone that he wanted to, so he is sorry for missing some people, it wasn’t intentional at all.) It was so fun to see everyone’s faces and hear your voices. Yes there were tears, but that just means that you did your job well. I have watched it many times since and it still makes me smile. So, thank you to everyone who sent a message. Maybe next year we can all go on the epic weekend run.

There were many things about Paris that were amazing. The one that really stands out is when we saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle. We thought that it happened at 10pm, so we slowly started making our way towards the tower a little before 9pm. We got on a bus and enjoyed the little mini tour while we got closer to the tower. The plan was to get crepes and wait for the sparkle. I didn’t really even know what to expect, I had just read that the “sparkle” was a fun thing to watch. We were almost to our stop when all of a sudden the tower started to sparkle. It was beautiful. I literally grabbed the oldest’s leg and gasped. We jumped off the bus as fast as we could and ran over to a nice viewing spot. It felt magical. It only lasted a few minutes, but it was memorable. We then learned that the sparkle happens every hour, so we hung around, ate some crepes, walked around and waited for the 10pm sparkle.

Saturday’s plan was to spend the day at Disneyland Paris. It felt like Disneyland, just different. Their magic hours are for 2 hours before the park opens, so we were able to get on several rides without any line at all. Several rides were closed for renovation (Thunder Mountain Railroad!), so that was disappointing, but we went on as many as we could. Tower of Terror remains my favorite ride. It’s just as fun in Paris as in Anaheim. Pirates of the Caribbean is also pretty fun. They have some of the scenes in a different order from the ride in Anaheim, and I think it works a little better. After the first drop you land right in the middle of the battle between the two boats. They haven’t “Jack Sparrow’d” the ride, so it was fun to see the original ride again. We stayed at the park until closing so we could see the night time show. Seeing the fireworks over the castle was beautiful. It was a great way to end the evening. We walked back to our hotel tired but laughed about all the fun things we did.

Sunday we headed back into Paris for a quick look around town and a stop at Angelina’s, a tea house. I read about their amazing pastries and hot chocolate, so it was a “must see”. It did not disappoint. The pastries were delicious. I splurged and ordered two – pain au chocolat and tarte au citron. The hot chocolate was great – very rich and super sweet. It was a beautiful restaurant. I sat back and sipped my hot chocolate, looking around the room and couldn’t help but be thankful for this crazy life.

Rob worked really hard behind the scenes to make this weekend happen. His day job takes up most of his time and when you add in the additional traveling he does, there is little time for extra. So instead of sleeping, he spent his time working to make my birthday weekend special. Watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle, eating crepes, croissants at Disneyland, pastries in Paris…these are the things I will remember about turning 40. Thank you for being a part of it!

 

 

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A Day Out

Last week we took a day to be tourists again. It had been a while since we explored our town. We headed over to the O2, a large indoor arena, to have a day of fun. Our first stop was to the Emirates Aviation Experience. Rob and the girls had a chance to fly an A380 in the simulator. They had a great time and now feel quite confident that they could fly us home if the pilots were to need help.

Next came fun at Sky Studios. The girls tested themselves to see if they have what it takes to fight like Iron Man – of course they do! They kicked the robots butts! We each got to sit at the anchor desk and try our hand at being newscasters. I’ve never read from a teleprompter before, it was pretty fun. There was also an Age of Ultron Virtual Reality Experience which was pretty cool.

After all that work we were hungry so we stopped for some Brazilian food. It was amazing. I spent some time in Brazil many years ago and the food brought back so many memories – the rice, beans and sausage, the cheese bread, the meat, the Guarana (soda). It was fun reminiscing and enjoying the all you can eat buffet. There was no need to eat dinner that night.

Nissan also has a space in the O2. Here we were able to virtually test drive a Nissan Leaf, play Gran Tourismo and try to race a wheelchair in a 100m race. I always thought the wheelchair races looked like a lot of work when I watched the Olympics, but it is A LOT of work. It’s crazy hard. Like really crazy hard. My race was only 40 seconds and my arms were sore for 2 days – I also have zero arm strength, that may have something to do with it, but it is still really challenging.

After our time at the O2 instead of taking the tube home we took the river bus on the Thames River. It was a fun, relaxing way to end our day out.

Meal Planning

Meal Planning

While I haven’t ever really loved cooking, I do enjoy it. I am not a very creative cook. My Mom can create amazing meals out of the most mundane ingredients. I am not that kind of cook. I need a recipe and clear instructions. Before we came to London I never had trouble with meal planning. I looked in my recipe box or online, chose a few meals, made a shopping list and that was that. In trying to plan ahead for our move I chose some of my family’s favorite recipes and scanned them so I would have a good supply of resources to draw from when cooking meals. That was a great idea, in theory. In practice it is not turning out to be very helpful.

Take today as an example. This morning I spent some time looking through my scanned recipes, and some online and chose 3 meals to make. I made my grocery list and set off for the store. 45 minutes later I arrived home frustrated as I was only able to find the necessary ingredients for one of my meals. I have bits of the other two meals, but not enough to actually make it. Now I have to figure out if I attempt to find the missing ingredients somewhere else, substitute, or come up with an entirely new meal based on the ingredients I was able to find.

Meal times never felt stressful before. They do now. I never know if I will be able to make what I have planned or if I will have to try again. I would love to know what other families here make for dinner. There are a lot of already prepared meals in the store. Do families eat those often? We found a great Indian food family pack that we have enjoyed several times. There are also lots of “meal deals” at the store; any 3 items for £7, stir fry veggie pack, protein pack (chicken or beef strips), noodles – I have done this several times.

My root beer pulled pork will have to wait as I couldn’t find root beer anywhere. Split pea soup will also have to wait for another time as the green split peas were nowhere to be seen. However we will be able to enjoy creamy mustard chicken and veggies.

Bon appétit.

Sister Time

Sister Time

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We are quickly approaching two months that we have been in London. Those two months have been full of family time. The first month was hotel living, which gave us very close proximity family time, and the second month has been living in our own place, which has given us a lot more room to spread out and space to escape each other.

While we have found a church that we really enjoy, their programs and groups took a break over the summer, so we haven’t yet met other families to connect with. The girls haven’t been able to meet other kids their age as the youth groups were also on summer break. So, that means that the girls have spent the past two months together…all. the. time. That is a lot of sister time. I am pretty sure that if my sister and I were together 24/7 at their ages, someone would have gotten hurt.

While they have their moments of disagreement and frustration, I have to say that I am amazingly proud of them. The majority of the time they are happy to be together and enjoy each other. They enjoy the same movies and music, and iPad games and enjoy talking strategy with each other. Recently the youngest has started reading The Harry Potter books and that has given them even more to discuss. Now that school has started they have their own lessons to complete, but they are working in the same room. I hear them talking to each other and helping each other out.

I am so thankful. They are very special girls. They could have complained about so many things over the last two months, but they have taken everything in stride. I believe they are truly enjoying this adventure. I am so excited to see how they grow and change over the next year. I am excited that they get to live this adventure together, creating memories that they will talk about for a very long time.