A Day Out

This weekend, while Rob was away, the girls and I took Saturday as a touring day. We didn’t know what to expect since we hadn’t ever done an organized tour before. The day began with an early wake up to get to the coach station by 8am. We loaded up the coach (side note: coaches are hired busses, the red public transportation busses are busses. the guide also joked that public transportation drivers are called bus drivers and coach drivers are called gentlemen.) and we were on our way.

Our first stop was Leeds Castle. If you have time to read about the history of the castle, it is pretty fascinating. The first stone castle was built during Henry I’s reign, around 1100. Around 1278 Queen Eleanor of Castile, the first wife of Edward I, bought the castle. Edward and Eleanor were married at the ages of 15 and 12. Their arranged marriage was part of a political deal. Getting married so young doesn’t seem like it would end up working out, but it did. They fell madly in love with each other and ended up having 16 children together, although not all of the children lived very long. Eleanor didn’t like leaving Edward’s side so she even traveled with him to battles. When she died he had 12 stone crosses built to mark the route of her funeral procession from Lincoln to London. The castle saw many changes over following years and eventually ended up being sold and became a private home in 1926 when Lady Baillie purchased it. The castle is beautiful and much of the ground floor has been restored to it’s glory when King Edward and Queen Eleanor were there. The top floor remains as it was when Lady Baillie owned it. The grounds are also beautiful. It was snowing while we were there so it felt even more magical to walk around the lake and see the maze with everything covered with a bit of snow. I wish we had more time to explore the grounds, and even try to make it through the maze.

Our second stop on the tour was Canterbury. It is a fun little town. The main attraction here is the Canterbury Cathedral, which is the “mother church” of the Anglican Church. We didn’t have a chance to go inside, but we did learn a lot about the history of the Cathedral. It is beautiful on the outside, and I am sure it is even more so inside. We enjoyed walking around the city and browsing through shops. We found a museum, The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. They had a huge range of art on display. It was really interesting to see London recruitment posters from WW2, paintings depicting the murder of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered inside the cathedral in 1170 at the hands of 4 of the king’s knights, and amazing paintings of animals, which I think were the girl’s favorite part of the museum. We also saw a crooked house, which is the second most photographed building in Canterbury, the first being the cathedral. The house started to lean after renovations were done on a chimney inside the house. It continued to lean and would have fallen over had the city not stepped in and reinforced the home with a steel frame. To see how severe the lean is, check out the angle of the front door.

Our next stop was in Dover to see the White Cliffs. We didn’t have long there, but we did spend about 10 minutes at the waterfront looking at the English Channel and taking photos of the cliffs. It was pretty foggy and overcast, so we couldn’t see much, but it was fun to be there and to be able to touch the water. The youngest and I were trying to put our hands in the water, but we were surprised with how quickly the water came back and we ended up with our feet in the water too, shoes and all! Soggy shoes make for a memorable visit to Dover!

The last stop was Greenwich. The plan was to take a walking tour, but it was quite cold and rainy, so the tour group made the decision to drive through the town while the tour guide gave a bit of a history lesson. We then boarded and earlier Thames River Clipper boat to head back to London.

We had a really fun day. It was fun to see new sights and learn new things. It was fun to laugh together over wet shoes and funny stories about Kings and Queens. It was fun to walk around getting snow caught in our eyelashes. It was fun talking with the tourists from America who were surprised to learn that we lived here. We had a brilliant day.



Day by Day

Lately our days have been filled with regular life, dabbled with special outings. Mornings are filled with completing PE requirements and working on school assignments. I am getting a refresher in US state capitols, Spanish 1 and Algebra 1, which is a lot harder than when I took it in high school.

One morning a week I go to Alpha, a course at our church, Holy Trinity Brompton. It is a course that is designed for those who want to explore the Christian faith, ask questions and share your point of view. It has been really great. I have gotten to know some people from the church and I have been able to learn a lot from the videos and the discussions. Rob and I are also attending The Marriage Course. That has been wonderful to have a set time each week that we get away to have dinner together and invest in us. The topics have given us a chance to talk about things that we hadn’t before and learn new things about each other. After 19 years there are still things to learn. We have spent a lot of time investing in our kids and I am realizing that investing in our marriage should be just as important. Our time at HTB has been a really growing time. I am glad that our pastor at Marin Covenant Church recommended we try it out.

With Rob’s work schedule getting busier that leaves the girls and I with some time to ourselves. We spend a lot of time watching movies, playing solitaire, and lately going to the theatre. We had the chance to see Wicked and Matilda. (I have to admit that for the first 30 minutes of the play I was quite confused. I had the story mixed up with Madeline. I wondered how the story was going to change from little girl with awful parents, to her living in a french boarding school.) This weekend we have an excursion planned that we are all looking forward to. We will get to tour a new part of England and spend the day making more memories.

A new family activity has been playing cards. Rob taught us how to play poker. The youngest is quite the player. It’s fun to watch her decide if she is going to fold, call, or her favorite, raise. She has said several times, only after she won, that it would be more fun if we played with real money.

Thanks for letting me share our life with you. If there is anything you’d like to know about London, or our days, let me know!



6 Months

6 months ago today we arrived in London. It’s really hard to believe that we have been here that long. In one way it feels like we just got here, but then again it feels like this has been home for a while.

The other day the girls and I were out for the afternoon and we stopped at a cafe for a snack. Sidenote – if you ever have the chance to have Nutella steamed milk, get it. Yum. We talked about our time in London and about some of the things we will miss when we return to California and some of the special memories from our first few months here.

For me, there are many little things I will miss. I love having a fresh croissant with hot chocolate or tea. I will miss the ability to walk to the bakery and pick up a sweet treat, or even some fresh bread. I will miss being able to send my kids to the store at the last minute for the one missing ingredient. I think about the first time I asked them to go to the bakery and buy bread for dinner. They were so nervous and worried. Now they are experts at it. I will really miss how easy it is to get everywhere. When we want to go to a museum or the theater, we hop on the tube and go. We don’t have to worry about traffic or parking. I thought not having a car would be a problem, but in reality it hasn’t been a big issue at all.

I will miss all the special times the girls and I have had together. This year is unique in so many ways. We are having the chance to live in another country, but with the girls enrolled in online school we are also able to spend a ton of time together. If school gets done early enough we are able to visit museums, enjoy time at a park, walk around the city, or just hang out at home watching movies. One of the girl’s special memories will be feeding the parrots. They both get so excited when the birds land on them. I get a bit overwhelmed, but they love it.

After spending so much time here we are slowly becoming more British. Trousers, lift, queue, trainers, take-away are all words that come out of our mouth very easily and we don’t feel strange saying them. I don’t even have to think about what each coin is worth, I just know now. I can navigate the tube pretty easily without a map. Those who know me well will know what an accomplishment that is…I get lost easily!

Looking ahead to the next 6 months we have some guests to look forward to and hopefully a few more trips. The girls would love to see Rome and Greece, Rob and I would like to see Ireland and Scotland, and we have to see Stonehenge. Hopefully we can make it all happen!




The last 9 days have been a whirlwind of food, fun, adventure and laughs. We had a very special visit from some LA friends. Over the course of their visit we walked over 60 miles. We saw Big Ben (or The Big Ben as their son likes to call it), The London Eye, Hyde Park, Diagon Alley, The Ministry of Magic and even Gringotts! We traveled to Paris to see The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, and Notre Dame. We ate donuts from a street vendor, Indian food, fish & chips, pastries, scones with lemon curd, baguettes, crepes, and pain au chocolat.

I think it’s rare to find couple friends – when both the husbands and the wives get along and enjoy being together. I think it is also rare to find couples with kids friends – when everyone gets along and enjoys being together. We have found those people and it is a gift. We may not see each other as often as we would like, but we pick up where we left off. It’s special and we are so thankful for them.

I loved the pile of shoes at the front door, and the glasses parked around the kitchen. I loved hearing their son giggle with my daughters every time he heard “Bakerloo” in the tube. I loved having my friend sitting with me on the couch. I loved everything about their visit. It was sweet and special.


Family Time

The last several weeks have been full. Rob’s job is quickly approaching lightspeed. Once the holidays are over he will be jumping to hyperspace and be in full production mode. With that in mind we wanted to make the most of the precious three weeks he has off over the Christmas holiday. We spent 5 days in Venice, Italy. We didn’t have any plans for our visit. We just took our time exploring the city and as we stumbled across activities we did them. It was a great slow paced vacation, something we all needed.

Rob learned of a company that provided free walking tours of the city. That was a great way to learn some of the history of Venice while getting recommendations on things to do and see during the visit. We visited the oldest bookshop in Venice, attended a string quartet concert, toured the island of Murano, where they make all things glass, ate cannoli’s, drank hot chocolate (which is like drinking hot chocolate sauce – super rich!), took a ride in a gondola and took lots of naps.

Venice is a very unique city. There aren’t any cars, so you walk everywhere, or take a boat. Meals are slow and deliberate. It’s easy to get lost. The passageways are narrow and there are many of them! There are many streets with the same name, so you may think you are in the correct spot, when you aren’t.

When we returned from Venice we had one more Christmas surprise for the kids – a trip to Hogwarts. It seems as though Harry Potter has been a running theme for us this last year. We all read the Harry Potter book series, watched the movies and we were all fortunate enough to be able to see the new play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We knew a visit to the Harry Potter studio tour would not disappoint. We enjoyed walking around the sets and seeing the costumes. It’s amazing how much detail went into everything. The hand painted portraits on the walls, the hand lettered labels on the potion bottles, the book covers that are on the books in library and Dumbledore’s office. The level of detail and craftsmanship is remarkable. We had a great time.

We have more things to look forward to in the remaining time Rob has off from work. We will have a quiet, simple Christmas morning. We haven’t ever had a Christmas morning that was just the 4 of us, so while it feels a bit different, it is nice to have a slower Christmas morning. However I do miss my Mom’s stuffed mushrooms and the rest of her Christmas morning spread! We have dear friends coming to visit soon and we are so looking forward to seeing them, showing them around London and getting to travel a bit with them.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas. Thanks for reading along as I share some about our life in London. Happy Christmas all!



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!




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.


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!




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.