Settling In

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.



Behind the Scenes



It’s hard to get a full picture of someone’s life based on social media posts alone. While everything looks like it’s all butterflies and rainbows all the time, there may be some uncomfortable parts too. So this is to give a different perspective on what our life has been like. This is not meant to be read as complaining or petty, just a fuller picture of things.

We have been living in a hotel for the last 20 days. What does that really look like? That means we are living out of a suitcase. Where is that one shirt I wanted? Oh, it’s at the bottom of the suitcase. I have to unpack the whole thing to get to it? Forget it, I’ll wear the one that’s on the top.

I don’t know about you but I don’t wash my jeans after every wear. So, after a few wears they stretch out a little bit and you put on a belt. Well, the belts are in a box that is in the hotel’s long term storage, so you end up wearing jeans that are so stretched out it doesn’t really work to wear them.

You can eat out for every meal for a while, but after some time you really just want to stay in your room to eat. So you have the hotel empty the mini bar so you can put some food in it. You go to the store and try to figure out what you can get to make a meal that doesn’t require cooking. Veggies, cereal, yogurt, milk, fruit, bread, pb, jelly, lunch meat, hummus, cheese, crackers, chips, oatmeal and ramen noodles – (just add hot water from the kettle). Cereal is best eaten out of a water glass, and noodles out of a tea cup. There aren’t many dish options so you have to use what you have.

While our hotel is nice, and we are super happy to have adjoining rooms, there isn’t a ton of space. We are living among many suitcases and boxes piled around our beds. I can’t tell you how many times I have stubbed my toes on the furniture trying to navigate around the room. (However I stubbed my toes all the time while living in our house, so this may really mean I am clumsy.)

Let’s talk about laundry. I normally do laundry several times a week but right now that isn’t really feasible. Here my options are, spend a fortune having the hotel do the laundry, or put the laundry in a suitcase and walk one mile to the laundromat and get it done there, then walk the mile back. It takes some time but it’s much more cost effective.

I love my family, but sometimes we all need our space. In the hotel room there isn’t anywhere to escape. We are in each other’s space 24/7. Sometimes tensions run high, but we have been able to talk through it and have learned to give each other grace. This is why we go out all the time. We don’t really want to sit in the room all day, so we find ways to fill the day. We like exploring but touristing gets tiring. We are learning our way around the city and learning the tube, but being out and about everyday can be too much.

All of this to say, each of us is amazed that we get to have this opportunity. It is not lost on us that we are having a once in a lifetime experience. Our hotel situation is temporary and soon (hopefully!) we will have our own space, where we will have food in a kitchen, a table to sit at and a washing machine readily available. We are happy to be here and are looking forward to the next phase of our amazing adventure.

When we look back on our first few weeks here, these are the things we will remember.


10 Years of AllyZabba

Christmas day, 2005. Sitting around the Christmas tree with my husband, 3 year old and 11 day old life was crazy and wonderful. My sister and I had been playing around with the idea of starting a business together. We both enjoyed sewing, so maybe a quilt shop would be fun. After thinking about it, we realized that the quilts would be too expensive…no one would actually buy them. However, the business bug was stuck in my head. Under the Christmas tree was an envelope. To Jill From Rob. Inside the envelope was a gift certificate. Rob would register a domain name and build a website for me to sell my crafts. Later that day, the idea for AllyZabba was born. Were we crazy to be doing this now? 2 small children, one of them not even one month old! Whatever. Let’s just jump in and see what happens. Over the next few weeks Rob built the site and I started sewing blankets.

Christmas day, 2015. Sitting around the Christmas tree with my husband, 13 year old and 10 year old life was still crazy and wonderful. This year our family has the chance to live abroad for one year. This is super exciting for all of us. We will live in a new environment, meet people from all over the world, travel, explore and experience life like never before. Knowing that this change was on the horizon we needed to make some plans to be away. One huge obstacle was my business, AllyZabba. I couldn’t run it from across the pond, so really the only option was to find someone to take over the reigns.

Amazingly, finding a new owner wasn’t as difficult as we thought. Our long time friends, David and Laura, said that they were interested in running the business. This was a perfect solution. They are the perfect team to take over where Rob and I left off. We couldn’t be more excited for them to take AllyZabba and make it their own.

Over the last several days we have reminisced about the early years.

Remember when we got our first order from someone we didn’t know!?Remember when I used scrap material to make patchwork burp cloths! Those were cute but a lot of work! Remember when I used to wash every blanket in dreft baby detergent? Gift baskets were a fun experiment.

It has been such a great 10 years. We have made mistakes and we have had great successes. Our customers are pretty awesome. The majority of our success is because of them. They come back again and again and they tell their friends about us. We couldn’t be more grateful for them.

Now it’s time to press ahead to the adventure that awaits across the pond in 2016.


Trying Something New

Last summer when we registered BigZabba for 7th grade she had to choose her electives rather quickly…like with just a few minutes to choose. How was she supposed to choose without any knowledge of the classes or teachers? She could choose up to two electives. Pretty quickly she decided on engineering (which was a super cool class but that’s for another post), but the second elective was a harder choice. She really wanted to try playing the viola in the school orchestra, but having zero experience with a stringed instrument, or the alto clef, the principal was unsure if the teacher would allow her to take the class. Much to our surprise, the teacher said that if BZ wanted to try learning the viola she could enroll in the 6th grade orchestra since those students also had little experience, and she may feel more comfortable being with students who have similar playing ability. While BZ wasn’t totally thrilled with being the only 7th grader in the 6th grade class, she understood why that was best. In addition to her daily orchestra class she had a weekly lesson with a viola teacher and by January she had improved so much the orchestra teacher recommended moving her up to the 7th grade orchestra class.

Now here we are at the beginning of 8th grade and I can’t believe how much she has learned in just one year. It has been amazing to see her excel in such a short amount of time. This last week we attending an orchestra concert and were so proud. We are so thankful for her orchestra teacher who was willing to take a chance and give BZ the opportunity to try something new.



The Magic Flute

One of the many things I love about our local elementary school is the many “extras” that are offered. There are many opportunities to participate in music, art, technology and many field trips. This week I had the pleasure of watching my girl participate in an opera, The Magic Flute. The San Francisco Opera Guild came to her school and worked with the kids. They held auditions, made scenery and rehearsed. It was a great experience. LZ (LittleZabba, my youngest daughter) played the part of The Second Lady. She was so excited to get to participate in a play with professional actors and actresses.

I have always thought that she would be a natural as an actress, and I think I was right. While she was a little nervous to perform in front of the school, she didn’t let her nerves get to her and she played the part of her character perfectly. I am pretty sure I was the one clapping the loudest when it came time for the cast bow.

As we were leaving school she said,

I’m sad it’s over.


Granted Wishes

When we decided to move we made a family wish list for our new home and neighborhood. One of the big items was – horses. The girls really wanted to be near horses, or ride them..anything to do with horses would work. Amazingly, we now have an equestrian center right across the street. The girls have been taking riding lessons for the last several months, and they are loving it. It has been such a treat for them to have this experience. They are learning how to care for horses and they are becoming more confident in themselves and their skills. I am so thankful for this amazing gift God gave my girls. Such a big wish list item, and He provided.