I had very low expectations before our visit to Madame Tussauds. I was pleasantly surprised. It was a very fun way to spend the afternoon. The wax figures are amazingly life like. Honestly, at times I felt awkward standing with them for a photo – they seemed so real!
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.
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.
Tomorrow is the official first day of school. Normally the days leading up to school starting would be full of school supply shopping, finding the lunch boxes that were pushed to the back of the cupboard, clothes shopping, washing backpacks, grocery shopping for lunch items and picking out the first day outfit. This year is quite a bit different. For school this year we chose an online charter school. This allows us to have a flexible schedule to allow for traveling and exploring while still completing the requirements for US schools. The format of the online school allows us to create our own schedule however it will be very tempting to delay the start of the school day and allow other things to sneak in. It will be a challenge these first few weeks to get into a routine and stick to a schedule. We may need to start out too strict in order to find the right balance.
To prepare for school we got each of the girls a desk and chair, and a few silly things to decorate their workspace; a globe pencil sharpener, a fun pencil container and a world map on the wall. They currently enjoy spending time at their desk, hopefully that continues once school starts!
Tomorrow starts a whole new aspect of our London adventure, with my 5th grader and high schooler!
This week seemed to fly by. It’s hard to believe that it is already Friday night.
Sunday and Monday was the Notting Hill Carnival. We heard crazy stories about it, and while it had its interesting moments, it wasn’t as intense as I thought. One funny moment was when Rob and I were sitting on the couch at about 10:30 Sunday night. We heard a strange noise. Unsure of what it was Rob looked out the front window and saw two people moving our large potted plants into the middle of the street. They were setting up a little courtyard for themselves with plants and chairs in the middle of the street. It looked lovely but we did ask them to move the plants back.
Now that life is starting to get into a bit more of a routine we are trying to explore something new in London at least once a week. This week we went to The Marlborough Contemporary. We saw The Salt Bride exhibit. I read about it online and was happy to see that the exhibit was so close to us. The photos were pretty amazing. It was a fun afternoon. We stopped for doughnuts along the way, so that made it extra fun.
Rob and I signed up for a half marathon at the end of September. Signing up for a race is great motivation to go on a run. As our training miles get longer we have been able to explore more of the city while running. It’s been great to spend some time with Rob too. He has been really busy the last few weeks, so I look forward to the longer training runs.
While we are in an English speaking country, we still have words to learn. Here are a few examples:
- “no fly tipping” – dumping trash in an area you shouldn’t.
- “does the school have good tuition” – Here tuition means curriculum. If you want to know about the cost of the school you ask about their fees.
- “off license shop” – a shop that can sell alcohol but not serve it.
- “biscuit” – a cookie, one that has a bit of a crunch to it. If it’s soft like a chocolate chip cookie they call it a cookie.
- “trolley” – shopping cart
We are definitely feeling more at home here. Life is feeling more normal. We found a hairdresser, we have library cards and a grocery club card. What could be more normal than struggling to find the dumb club card somewhere in your wallet!?
Our television viewing has changed quite a bit in the last 6 weeks. We watch a lot of BBC stations and especially the cooking competition shows. Masterchef, Masterchef Jr. and The British Baking Show are our two favorites. Watching those shows, especially Masterchef Jr. (The girl that won is only 9 and most of what she made I have no idea how to create. She was amazing!) made me realize that my children don’t know very much about how to work in the kitchen. So this week they had to make dinner. They each were given a day and they had to find a recipe, make a shopping list, go with me to the store and pick out all the things they needed, and then they made it. If they needed help I was there to help, but they were 100% in charge of everything. They both did a great job. We had Veggie Carbonara and Salsa Spaghetti. It was fun to see them figure it out, and it was wonderful to not have to cook! The youngest is already planning her next meal.
Life is so good. This is such a crazy adventure and we are having a blast. It still hits me every so often that we are living in London. This is nuts. Who would’ve thought that we would be here? It’s pretty amazing.
At what point do you stop being a tourist and become a resident? How long does that process take? I am not sure we have officially reached that milestone, but we are on our way.
I can tell that we are settling in: I know my way around the grocery store, the owner of the green grocer (a shop to buy fresh produce) recognizes me and knows my name, I am getting faster at counting change without having to read the coin to see what type it is (there are a ton of coins!), I can read a tube map almost a fast as Rob (well that may be an exaggeration, but at least I don’t get lost!).
This week we have been a bit more productive with our time. We spent an afternoon at The British Museum learning about strange creatures. We were quite disappointed that the dragon room was closed for renovation. It has also been unbelievably hot the last few days. To try and stay cool we went to The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. We had a picnic and enjoyed playing in the water.
Today the girls had their second horse lesson. The horses were a bit more temperamental today than last week. The girls had to work a lot harder to get the horses to do what they asked. It was frustrating for them, but in the end they were proud of themselves for working hard and ultimately getting the horses to listen.
It has been a good week. We are looking forward to the upcoming three day weekend. Monday is a bank holiday so Rob gets the day off. This weekend there is what has been described to us as a crazy huge carnival in our town. I am not sure if I am more excited or nervous about it. It sounds fun and crazy all at the same time.
We have been in our home for a little more than one week now. I am struggling to find a routine. We don’t have to go anywhere, so it is easy to just stay home and watch the Olympics all day. We have done that for many days in a row and it’s time to get into a routine, a rhythm for our days. I think that is easier said than done. The girls and I were talking about this yesterday. At home in San Fran we didn’t seem to have trouble finding things to do, but here we can’t seem to come up with a plan for how to fill our day. Why is that? We came up with a few possible reasons:
- There was always someone from the neighborhood to play with, so that was an easy, fun activity to fill the day. We don’t have kids on our street, so when your only playmate is your sister…that doesn’t always sound like fun.
- Running errands took up some time, but it didn’t take all day since we had a car to get us there and back pretty quickly. Here we walk almost everywhere, so errands take time, effort and energy, which makes us less excited about doing them.
- The kids enjoy imaginative play, but they didn’t bring any of their “toys” with them, so that makes play more challenging. They only brought art supplies and their instruments. The youngest is wishing she brought a few more play toys with her.
I also think that part of our laziness is that because our days were so full at the beginning of our time here, we have gone to the complete opposite extreme and allowed our days to be slow and at times boring.
With school starting in just a few weeks, I feel the need to get our lives on a schedule and allow routine to reign once again. I am hopeful that this week is the beginning of that change. The oldest has started viola lessons with a great teacher, horse lessons will also begin this week and starting in September the youngest will begin an acting class at the local theatre school.
Hopefully we didn’t go from slow and almost boring to too busy.
**As I finished writing this post I read this. Maybe it’s ok that our recent days haven’t been full to the brim, with loads of activities. Exploring a new park, walking to the movies, watching the olympics in our PJ’s, we have enjoyed our slow syrupy days, and that’s just fine.**