Horses and Cupcakes

When we first arrived in London, one of our first stops was to explore The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace. We learned that day that we could turn our ticket into a one year pass for no extra charge, so we did it. We enjoyed our tour through the Mews, however it isn’t the kind of place that you really need to visit regularly. Once you have seen the horses and the carriages, you have kinda seen them. So, the tickets have sat in my purse for the entire year, unused. It’s pretty amazing that after all this time I haven’t lost them. Well, as the tickets expire tomorrow I decided we needed to visit The Mews one more time, and I wanted to complete my collection of souvenir guide books, since I did not buy one on our first visit.

So this morning we ventured out and explored it once more. The carriages are pretty remarkable. The detail and craftsmanship that went into each one is pretty amazing. The largest carriage is the Gold State Coach, commissioned by George III in 1762. It weighs 4 tonnes and needs 8 horses to pull it at walking speed. It has been used for every coronation since 1821.

After our visit to the mews we we quite hungry so we stopped for lunch. While we were eating we saw a group of women come in and they were all holding cute little shopping bags. The bags immediately caught my eye. The name on the bag was Peggy Porschen, so I looked it up to see what kind of shop it was. Bakery! And it’s close! We didn’t have anything to rush home to, so the adventure could continue. Let’s go to the bakery and see what it’s like. I am so glad we did. It was a short walk to a very cute bakery that was full of amazing looking cupcakes, and the smell inside was amazing. It was a very worth while side trip.

It was the perfect afternoon. A short outing where we learned a little bit of history, saw some beautiful horses and had cupcakes. Everyone came home happy.



The Shift

Over the last month I have really felt the shift, the coming to the end of the adventure blues. We have 6 weeks left. The year that loomed out in front of us, long and full of adventure, is now short. We are trying to fit in any last minute trips, shows, museums…not wanting to miss out on things, knowing that there is still much we didn’t do. This has been such an amazing year. There have been hard parts, but life always has hard parts.

The opportunity for our family to live in London this year has been such a gift. Rob has had an incredible work experience and we have had a chance to see him thrive in his element and see him grow as he learns. We have met some pretty incredible people. We participated in an incredible church. The girls have had an amazing education through traveling, meeting new people, seeing the world through a different filter and even working through the hard parts of the year. This year I saw both of them step out of their comfort zones and try new things. I am really so proud of them and all that they took on this year and the way they embraced the adventure. They easily could have complained and allowed the hard parts to overwhelm them, but they chose to lean into the experience and live fully in the moment.

I keep thinking about the year wrapping up and trying to come up with a take away from the year or a way to summarize it all, but I don’t think I can. Maybe someday I will be able to, but right now it’s a special moment in our lives. London is a very special city and I am so thankful to have the chance to experience living here.

We have had two visitors over the last month and we have two sets of visitors still to come. The adventure isn’t over yet. We are going to enjoy each moment.



Tea and Bedhead

We have been so lucky to have so many friends and family visit while we have been in London. We know that it is a sacrifice of time and money to travel across the Atlantic, so we are always so thankful for any chance we have to visit with anyone.

This last week we were able to visit with friends that we haven’t seen in two years. Many things have changed for them in the last few years, including adding a baby to the family, so we were more than excited for the chance to visit and catch up on life. We “see” each other’s lives a bit on the internet, but as my friend has said, that is really only 1% of our real lives. So chatting over our morning tea with bed head was the perfect solution.

Their visit held the perfect balance of tourism and relaxation. We spent a bit of time each day adventuring out of the house. They only had a few things on their list of London activities, so it was easy to hit all of them.

The London Eye: It was a mostly clear day, so we had great views from the top of the 442 foot ferris wheel.

Feeding the birds at Hyde Park: This is always fun. There weren’t a ton of parakeets the day we went, but plenty of pigeons. However, everyone had a bird eat from their hand, so it was a successful trip to the bird tree.

Walk down Portobello Road: It is always fun to see the different vendors that are along Portobello Road. There weren’t as many out on the day we visited, but we still had plenty of fun browsing through several shops and finding the perfect souvenir for Bee to take home – a solar powered chick.

Eat all the food: Oh my. We sure accomplished this many times over. Fish & Chips. Mother Mash. Punjab. Honest Burger. Pizza. Food trucks.

One thing I wanted to do was spend an afternoon in Greenwich. We picked a pretty busy weekend to visit as it was the Tall Ships Festival, but it was fun to see the ships in the water and imagine taking off on the boat on the 11 month race. We also walked to the Royal Observatory, the goal being to stand on the Prime Meridian. Before we went to the observatory Rob read about it online, and found that the line painted on the ground inside the gates of the observatory is not the actual Prime Meridian. So instead of paying the entrance fee to stand on the not actual line, Rob navigated us with his GPS to the spot of the actual Prime Meridian. So we were the family standing in a line on a random spot in the grass posing for a cute, longitudinally correct photo.

Our 9 days together went so fast. It was full of laughs, peek-a-boo, baby snuggles, slobbery baby kisses (that left actual bruises!), many miles, lots of conversation, Uno, and joy.

We love you friends and can’t wait to see you again.




Last week the girls and I took an adventure to Rome, just the three of us. I have to admit that I was very excited about the chance to spend 4 days in Rome with just my kids, but I was also pretty nervous. In all of our traveling, Rob is the navigator, the transportation figure-outer, the language barrier talker, basically all the jobs I hate, and I am on vacation. On this trip I got to do all the jobs. Navigation gave me the most cause for concern. I have gotten better over the years, but honestly I have zero sense of direction and I can get turned around in my own home town. Armed with google maps and an international data plan, I was hopeful that I wouldn’t let my little family down.

And I didn’t. We never got lost.

We packed our days very full. In hindsight, I might have filled them too full, but oh well. I booked an underground tour of the Colosseum, which I thought was going to be the highlight of the trip for me. We had the opportunity to go on the arena floor, go underneath the colosseum and see the dark, narrow passageways where the 600 workers and animals were kept during the games, and we went to the third tier where the lowest class had to sit. During the tour we also saw the Forum and Palatine Hill. All of those things were very interesting and we heard hundreds of facts, but it wasn’t actually the highlight.

My highlight of the trip was on our last day. We had checked out of our hotel and had a few things on our agenda to see before we went to the train station to head to the airport. We went to the Pantheon and then we decided to browse through a shop and get some lunch. We picked up some fresh sandwiches and a cannoli. Then we sat down in front of the Pantheon at the foot of the obelisk and ate our sandwiches. Something about that moment struck me as special. We were all pretty tired so we didn’t really talk much, we just sat. We watched the people passing by laughing and taking photos. We listened as a woman at a nearby restaurant sang. We laughed at the dogs drinking water from the water fountain. It wasn’t anything special, but it was special. I looked around and I was amazed at where we were and was so thankful that we could experience this together. Not long later we went to the Circus Maximus where chariot races were held. I had a similar experience there. It is a large field with ruins on one end, and you can still see where the track for the races once was. There were people running around the track, people sitting and having a picnic, dogs running around…it was quiet and normal in the midst of this amazing Roman city. We sat on ancient marble steps and just watched it all.

There are so many amazing sights in Rome. We visited many of them. Trevi Fountain, where we all tossed a coin in over our shoulder, The Spanish Steps, The Colosseum. The Forum, where we saw the spot where Julius Caesar was cremated, Palatine Hill, Constantine’s Arch, Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican Museum, The Sistine Chapel, Largo di Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, The Pantheon, Piazza Navona, The Mouth of Truth and The Circus Maximus.

There were many funny things that happened too. We waited in line and bought tickets to get into what we thought was the Sistine Chapel. We climbed hundreds of stairs. I had been to the chapel before and I had no memory of all the stairs. When we got to the top of the staircase…we were in the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Well, that wasn’t what we had planned, but it was pretty neat to see. We had a good laugh about that, but not sure the kids liked that they climbed at least 1000 stairs for an unplanned visit. A note for the suggestion box – maybe make the signage a little clearer. On our way to the actual Sistine Chapel we met a man who really wanted to sell us “skip the line” tickets to see the chapel. He was quite persistent. As we got closer and closer to the entrance, the “special price just for you” was getting cheaper and cheaper, but I decided the line wasn’t long enough to pay the extra cost. Since he could tell that we weren’t going to buy the tickets he decided it was time to let us know that this was only his day job, and that he is an actor, singer, choreographer who has his own YouTube channel and at this point he shows us his Facebook page with his headshots, screen grabs from his acting gigs and other random photos. He was quite the character.

Taking this trip was awesome. I loved spending time in a new city with my kids. I loved exploring and learning with them. I loved being challenged to get out of my comfort zone. I loved seeing them walk confidently through the streets of a new city. I loved listening to them order their own food at the restaurant and attempt to say the names in Italian. I loved hearing them say “Grazie” and “Ciao”.

We had a wonderful trip and I am so thankful for all of this.

(Now it’s time for an obscene amount of photos…)


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!