A Valentine’s Weekend in Jersey

Months ago, I had seen an advert on TV for Jersey. I wondered where this stunning place was, as surely an island with crystal clear beaches was not located that close to England. A quick Google search proved how wrong I was. I made it known to Richard that I was really intrigued by Jersey and would love to visit at some point. I assumed that trip was a while away as we have a lot on in the upcoming year, but he’s sneaky, and at Christmas, he surprised me with a trip to Jersey to take place over Valentine’s Day weekend…for just the two of us!

For those of you who don’t know, Jersey is one of the Channel Islands and is located to the south of England just north of France. The island is 5 miles wide by 9 miles long and full of some of the nicest people you will ever meet. I’m not joking about the nice people, and that is saying a lot from two people who live in Yorkshire. Everyone was always up for a little chat or available to offer recommendations. We were truly blown away by their kindness and overall relaxed mentality.

We flew from Gatwick for a number of reasons I won’t bore you with, but you can just as easily fly from Leeds Bradford or Manchester. From Gatwick, the flight was about 35 minutes, so I’m guessing it would be about an hour-long flight from Leeds or Manchester. Super easy and super short. Ideal.

We arrived on Friday night to misting rain and darkness, so we could just make out that we were driving along the sea during our quick taxi ride from the airport to our hotel, The Club Hotel and Spa, in St Helier. When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted warmly by the staff at reception. Richard had contacted them a week earlier for a restaurant recommendation for Friday night as we were eating in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant on Saturday, so once they knew who we were, we were asked if we wanted them to book us a taxi to the restaurant that evening. The service was flawless from the get-go. I’d highly recommend The Club if you are looking for an adult getaway.

The rooms are spacious and extremely comfortable and fully stocked with everything you could need. When we got to the room, we were greeted with bottles of chilled water by each bed side and freshly baked shortbread. The kettle was there if we needed it and real milk for tea or coffee was only a phone call to reception away.

As I mentioned earlier, the hotel recommended a restaurant, Ormer, for us the first night and it certainly did not disappoint. I should say that we definitely splurged on this trip and went all out on food and drink. We decided from the start that we were going to spoil ourselves and that we did! Ormer was incredible. We both had fish for our mains. Richard loves dover sole, which is traditionally served on the bone, but Ormer served it off the bone in the style of a deconstructed fish pie. He was a happy man. I have such a sweet tooth and I always go for a sweet pudding at the end of a meal, but that night I ordered the cheese board and it was a nice change. I really enjoyed the selection of cheeses that I was given, plus I had a little flashback to my study abroad days in Argentina as they served a bit of dulce de membrillo or quince paste with the cheese board. Exciting!

We were super rock star that night and promptly returned to the hotel after dinner and collapsed into bed. I believe we slept for roughly 10 hours! It was such a wonderful feeling to wake up refreshed on Saturday morning.

That day we decided to wander around St Helier and check out the shops. It was a good idea as the weather wasn’t spectacular, so going in and out of the stores was the best thing for a rainy day. (Plus, it gave Richard a chance to truly enjoy carrying the ultra lovely umbrella the hotel provided us in our room. This is serious. He became a full-fledged umbrella aficionado in one day.)

We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Relish, which is this funky little deli that serves these fabulous platters. (It is also a cool shop boasting an incredible assortment of meats, cheeses, antipasti items, and wine. Honestly, we would be broke if we lived nearby as it is was such a great little place full of culinary treasures.) I had the antipasti platter and Richard chose the reuben style one – they were both delicious! The balsamic marinated onions blew both of our minds!

IMG_6597After lunch, the rain had let up a bit and we decided to stroll along St Aubin’s Bay. About 15 minutes into our walk, the light sprinkle became a full on wind and rain storm in which we were both trying to cram under the umbrella. We sought some relief from the weather in one of the little shelters along the promenade until it calmed enough for us to head back to St Helier. It did clear up once more, so we enjoyed wandering around the harbour in St Helier and gawking at the incredible boats docked there. Our walk back to hotel included a stop for a glass of wine at a bar/restaurant where we were served by quite possibly the only unfriendly person in all of Jersey.

jersey1Elizabeth Castle is seen in this photo. When the tide is out, you can walk all the way to the castle. Very cool!

jersey2

jersey3

Once back at the hotel, we took some time to relax as we had big plans for our Valentine’s Day meal that evening! I’ll share about the rest of our weekend in my next post. Hope you’ll come back to read about the rest of our time in Jersey!

Advertisements

Back to Sherwood Forest

A few weekends ago, we went to CenterParcs in Nottingham with Richard’s side of the family. It was the third time in as many years that he and I have visited the lovely holiday resort. This time though, we stayed in one of the Exclusive Games Lodges, and it was amazing! It was the perfect size as there were 6 adults and 2 little ones in our group. It had four bedrooms all with en-suite bathrooms, a full kitchen, dining area, and a lounge with fireplace. The best parts though were the games room with pool table and giant beanbag chairs, the massive outdoor hot tub, the sauna, and the steam room. It was nice to have so much space and not have to tip toe around since the little babes were with us and went to bed early.

CPLodge

(I was so busy enjoying time with my family that I didn’t take many photos. However, I blogged about CenterParcs Sherwood Forest one other time and there are some photos there.) 

As I mentioned in my first post about CenterParcs from 2012, you are only permitted to drive through the resort during check-in and check-out times, which makes it a great place for families. Kids can ride bikes and scooters on the road or you can push a pram without constantly dodging cars. We enjoyed a lot of walking during the weekend bundled up against the cold.

On the day we arrived, we went for a swim in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. The swimming area is really great with the pool, rapids, water slides, kiddie pools, and hot tubs. If you plan to spend the day swimming, there is a cafe inside as well, so you don’t have to worry about leaving. It is a fabulous set up. We had a great time swimming with our girl. I take her swimming once a week, so I think she loved having her daddy there because she did not stop smiling and giggling the entire time. We spent most of our time in the big pool, but also checked out the kiddie pool. She kept trying to crawl in the water and had us cracking up because her legs would float not allowing her to get far at all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That evening, after she went to sleep, Richard and I snuck away for a meal at Rajinda Pradesh, which serves Indian food. We’d eaten here last year and enjoyed it, so decided to make a date of it this year. If you go to CenterParcs, I would definitely recommend this restaurant. (And maybe stay away from the Viognier on the wine list…it was quite possibly the strongest wine I have ever had and I was feeling tipsy after a half of a glass!)

On Saturday, the three of us went for brunch at The Pancake House on the lake. I had a nice stack of American pancakes with a side of crispy bacon. Just like home! That heavy meal was followed by me taking a yoga class. It was nice to have a little bit of me time and get a nice stretch in during our weekend away. The afternoon was spent relaxing in the hot tub and hanging out around the lodge. That evening, all eight of us went for a meal together at Cafe Rouge. When we got back to the lodge, we played poker and Richard came out on top winning us a little pot of money!

Sunday was also relaxed with a game of bowling and more swimming. We ended the evening with a walk to pick up some takeaway and enjoyed our pizza on the sofa watching television. It was the perfect finish to an enjoyable and relaxing weekend with family.

CPnight

I really recommend CenterParcs to anyone. We’ve been with and without kids and had fun during all of our trips. It’s a nice place to getaway without having to go far from home. Definitely consider it as an option if you are looking for a weekend away within the UK!

Conquering the Art of Driving in the UK

A long, long time ago, I wrote about taking driving lessons in preparation for my UK driver’s licence exam. (That is not a typo rather that is how licence is spelled here.) For my first couple of years living here, I walked, took the bus or train, hired taxis, and relied on friends and family to get me where I needed to go. I didn’t mind any of that, and, truthfully, I didn’t miss driving. However, with a baby on the way, passing my driving exam would present me with more independence here in England.

I had many months (from July 2013 to March 2014, to be precise) of driving lessons with a brief hiatus for the birth of our daughter. I studied hard for my theory exam using the recommended dvd and taking multiple practice exams. The exam has 50 multiple questions as well as a hazard perception test in which you have to click the computer mouse every time you see a potential hazard. It was not easy and nothing like the test I took in the US. It was much more intensive and I invested so much time into making sure I passed. Thankfully, I did pass with flying colors in October 2013 and continued on with my driving lessons. I booked my practical exam for two weeks after my due date because I was convinced she would be early…hahahahaha! She ended up being born two weeks late, so I rescheduled my exam for January 2014.

My instructor felt I was ready, and, more importantly, I felt ready too. We even looked at a few cars the weekend before my exam…maybe that jinxed me! You can probably gather that I failed. It was all going so well until I was about 5 minutes from returning to the test centre with the examiner. I got a little too much speed and things got messy. I didn’t crash or anything, just had a weird sort of stall thing happen that caused me to hold up traffic. It was not my finest moment. So, I failed. I’m a perfectionist and that fail was not easy to take.

Test number two was scheduled for some time in February. I failed that, too. Again, I was doing so well and was about 10 minutes from returning to the test centre. The examiner and I were chatting away about how I liked living in the UK. I came to a roundabout and my driver’s side tires (which are on the left side remember) went onto the white dotted line separating the two lanes in the roundabout. I knew at that moment that I failed again. I could have burst into tears, and I’m quite sure that I did later in the day. Talk about gutting! It is the worst to tell people that you’ve failed once, but to tell people you failed again is really not fun.

There was no way I was giving up though as we had invested a lot of money into my driving lessons and my (ahem…multiple) exams. I got home from that second failed exam and immediately booked on for my third attempt.

At this point I should explain that the driving practical exam is done in your driving instructor’s car with you and the examiner (who carries a dauntingly thick clipboard and makes notes randomly whilst you are driving, which leaves you constantly questioning how many marks you are receiving). The exam lasts approximately 35-45 minutes and includes driving on the roads as well as at least one parking maneuver.

This is compared to my US practical exam which lasted all of 10 minutes in which I drove around a neighborhood and parallel parked within four parking cones set up in the car park of the exam center. If I remember correctly, I ran a stop sign and still managed to pass on my first go. Honestly, there is no comparison. A good friend sent me this article and I can completely relate to the author’s experience. He puts it perfectly with, “A UK license is basically a PhD in driving.” I wish I could say this was an exaggeration. It is not. At all.

Test day number three rolls around and I awoke to absolute pouring rain. Great! The day was starting off differently from the other two already, so as much as I didn’t want to say that this time felt different, it really did. I sat anxiously with my instructor in the waiting room anticipating my name being called. I met the examiner and we headed out to the car. I had to defog the front windscreen and it took ages, so we sat in silence. It was awkward. And then, I realized I didn’t have the key turned the whole way, so only the electrics were working. I attempted to play it cool by slyly turning the ignition on, but obviously he knew. The windscreen cleared rapidly then and we were off.

I was more cautious driving than I was with the other two tests, but I felt calmer this time. I also felt confident that this was the last exam I would have to take, but I didn’t want to get too cocky. About 20 minutes into the exam, the examiner started to ask me questions about why I moved to the UK and if I like it. (Everyone wants to know!) I picked up on his Cockney accent, so I asked him similar questions about being a Londoner living in Yorkshire. The chatting made me feel even more relaxed and I just continued driving as if I was driving with someone I knew.

We pulled into the car park for the exam centre and the examiner usually waits for your instructor to come to the car before telling you if you have passed or failed. My instructor was walking towards us when the examiner told me I passed, so I literally yelled my instructor’s name and “I passed!” Way to keep your cool, Becky – ha! I was so excited!

As soon as I had a chance, I called Richard and could hear the hesitation in his voice as he waited to hear the result. Needless to say, he was thrilled, particularly because that meant the end of dishing out money for lessons and exams!

So, the UK driving exam was definitely a challenge. And, despite the fact that I now drive an automatic here (yep!), I am so glad I went through the process of obtaining the full licence in a manual.

A couple of months after I passed and after not driving a manual during that time, Richard left me in Edinburgh city centre to park his car as he was running late for the start of the Edinburgh Marathon. I spent the first 5 minutes trying to figure out why the car was making a weird noise every time I tried to drive. Yea, the parking brake was on. Oh well, at least I could still drive the manual. I knew it would come in handy at some point!

Our Girl Turned ONE!

It’s hard to believe our sweet girl turned ONE in December!

sbday2

We love a good party in this house, so we went a bit wild for her 1st birthday party. I’ll be the first to admit that I am by no means a crafty or artsy, so I was scouring the internet months before for help with invitations and decor ideas. We knew we wanted it to be rainbow-themed because one of her favorite books is about the colors of the rainbow, but I needed some creative help. Richard, on the other hand, has this creative side that most people don’t see, so he had some great ideas as well. With the internet and my husband as guides, I knew the party would be excellent and it did turn out so well.

The morning of was a bit of a disaster (that I really want to describe with some not-so-nice words!) because we had put up a marquee (basically a big tent) with heaters in it in the back garden earlier in the week to allow people to mingle outside as well as inside. Richard and his dad even lined the inside of the marquee with colored Christmas lights and it looked wonderful and went perfectly with the party theme. Well, the night before the party, a terrible windstorm blew in and it was actually lifting the marquee up in the air! In the rain and vicious wind, Richard, my dad, and I were outside taking the sides down from the marquee. We can look back now and laugh, but at the time, it was quite frightening to think this tent could just fly away at any moment! Richard had big plans for a back wall full of rainbow balloons, so he was gutted when it wouldn’t work out. Truthfully, so was I, as it would have looked great.

Originally, I had wanted to order a cake, but we decided to take on the task with me baking and Richard decorating. I’m so glad that Richard convinced me that we should do this. We had so many compliments on both how they tasted and how they were decorated. A few people even asked where we had bought the cakes! Score one for Team Becky & Richard!

sbday3

We had hot snack foods for the adults and kids, but the shining stars of the snacks were the rainbow fruit and veggie platters. We were really proud of these. (It’s funny the things that make you happy, isn’t it?!) I love Jelly Belly jelly beans, so we bought some in each color of the rainbow to add to the food table.

sbday4

Our little lady played with her friends and had lots of attention showered on her. We could tell she was getting tired (she had refused to nap that morning), so we lit the candle on her cake and sang happy birthday to her. She looked around at all of the people and had a little smirk on her face. It seemed it was kind of clicking that this was all for her. After the singing she went straight for a nap in the middle of her party! Haha…the life of a toddler!

sbday5

Because we had two cakes, we cut one after she went for a nap and used the other for a little cake ‘smash’ later on in the day. We did that with just the grandparents there, which was really nice for them to see her for a bit without so many other people around. However, we failed to consider that the cake was iced with fondant making it near impossible for her to do any smashing! Instead, Richard had to cut some of it and she went for it. It’s fair to say this girl loves her sweets!

sbday6

It’s hard to believe that our gorgeous and clever daughter is already ONE! (Honestly, I feel like I can definitely be inducted into the ‘parent club’ now because I have actually heard myself say, “I can’t believe how fast she is growing up!”) She keeps us on our toes and always laughing. She adds joy to every day, and I love that I get to spend my days with her. We love to watch her explore and pick up on how things work. She chatters non-stop and is saying “hi” and “Daddy” and a million other words that we don’t quite understand yet. She loves to eat and especially loves it when Daddy shares bites of his breakfast (either cereal, bagels, or crumpets) with her. She is becoming strong-willed and won’t hesitate to let us know when she isn’t happy. (The first tantrum, which stemmed from me not peeling her satsuma fast enough, was definitely a bit of a shock. Wow!) We’re so proud to be her parents and love when she gives us kisses and cuddles.

It was really nice to have so many of our friends and family there to celebrate our little girl turning 1, so a big thank you to all of them for coming! I think we were surprised at how many people we could fit into our house and it was definitely cozy, so maybe we should also thank them for being so accommodating and not flinching when not everyone had a place to sit!

I’m so happy we threw a party to celebrate her birthday (because let’s be honest…it’s really for the parents anyway). It was the perfect way to wrap up her first year of life that has been such a fun and wild ride for all of us!

A Night in with Friends

After a wonderful but busy Christmas season, we’ve now entered into ‘stay in and save’ mode, as have a lot of our friends. Last Saturday, we were invited for a relaxing get together at the home of two of our great friends, James and Amber. We chilled out and chatted and even got a tour of the beautiful home they are building just a short walk from their current place. A nice thing about going to the home of good friends is that they were completely fine with us bringing our girl and putting her to sleep at their house just as we were sitting down to a delicious homemade curry.

One of the funniest parts of the night was Richard’s amazement at watching his lifelong friend cooking a curry. He just could not get over seeing James cook this meal for us! He was even more blown away once he tasted the samosas, curry, and naan – all homemade! Richard kept telling him he must open his own restaurant. I agree that it was absolutely delicious and the right amount of spice for my liking.

The next day, I was thinking about what a fabulous night we had talking and laughing with these two. This will sound extremely cheesy, but that night was like you see in the movies where friends are smiling and laughing and full of joy for being able to spend time together. The conversation flowed as we reminisced about past memories and planned for future ones. We left with full hearts and feeling energized from spending quality time with such wonderful friends.

Thank you so much, James and Amber, for being such amazing friends that we’re so glad to have in our lives.

xx

IMG_6184

IMG_6186

IMG_6187

To Londontown We Went

Last year, during the last weekend in October, Richard and I went to London for our last getaway before our baby was due. This year, unknowingly, we booked the same weekend for the three of us to travel down south for a couple of days in our favorite city. In 2013, we had no idea what we were in for with a baby on the way, but I do know we hoped she would be an easy traveler and that she would just go with the flow. So far, she has proved to be an awesome addition to our travels – both near and far!

We had no real plans for our time in London aside from taking her to Hamley’s and Harrods to check out the toys. She is extremely curious about everything around her, so we were both excited to see how she would react to these two places full of sensory overload. If we had to do it again, we would skip Hamley’s. It was just too crowded.

Harrods toy department, on the other hand, was really enjoyable and just the right amount of hectic. It probably also helped that we got there just as it opened on Sunday, so we avoided a lot of the normal tourist onslaught. Our little lady loved looking around at everything there was to see, and we loved gawking at some of the crazy (expensive) gifts on offer. We actually found her Christmas gift there, which we think she will really enjoy.

After we left the toy shop, we wandered around the children’s clothing department and happened to notice The Disney Café. It was lunch time, so we thought we would give it a go. We really enjoyed it! The food was top notch, which we had expected from a restaurant in Harrods. The girl had a ham and cheese toastie cut into the shape of Mickey Mouse, Richard had a savoury crepe, and I had the mini cheeseburgers (and I was pleasantly surprised when the server asked how I would like them to be cooked). And, imagine my surprise when Richard ordered us a bottle of wine! It was such a nice lunch, and we loved watching our girl (wearing Minnie Mouse ears!) chomp away at her toastie whilst looking around at all of the older kids. She was in her element for sure!

lon1

After leaving Harrods we walked towards Hyde Park Corner to Buckingham Palace and on to St James’s Park. We stopped in St James’s Park because it was time for the girl to be fed. (Yes, she had just eaten, but sister needed her milk!) I plopped down to feed her underneath some fabulous towering trees. When she finished I sat her next to me in the leaves and she was amazed by them. She examined them and played for awhile, and it was fun to just see her taking in the textures and the colors of the leaves. Richard would pick up bunches of leaves and throw them up in the air, which absolutely amused her!

lon2

lon4

 

lon3

 

lon5

After leaving the park, we headed to Westminster and crossed the Thames at Westminster Bridge to the Southbank. There is a carousel on the Southbank, so Richard took the girl for a ride. She was unsure when they first sat down on the horse, but after a thorough inspection, she smiled big whilst pointing directly at me stood along the side. (Someone had to look after the pram and our shopping!) She seemed to absolutely love the ride, and Richard laughed the entire way around. And me? I could not stop smiling! I love those unexpected moments that we share when we are all together.

lon6

After the carousel ride, we decided it was time to call it a day (plus we had to get back to watch the Strictly Come Dancing results), so we set off walking back to Islington. Once we were near the hotel, I happened to spot an advertisement for Chipotle, and it was all I could think about since it has been ages since I’ve had anything remotely resembling decent Mexican food. We located said restaurant and grabbed takeaway to enjoy in the comforts of our hotel room. The day ended with us plopped on the bed in comfy clothes chowing down on delicious burritos and chips and salsa.

That weekend was made up of so many little moments that were completely unplanned. We smiled a lot and laughed hard and introduced our daughter to a number of new places and experiences. I don’t think either of us could have anticipated how much joy we would get from observing our daughter absorb the world around her. It was great to slow down and really watch her take everything in. This trip allowed us to look back on where we were a year ago – full of wonder about what our daughter would be like and what we would be like as parents – and realize that we are living our life as a family of three in the best way that we know how. And, in my mind, that is a great way to be.

I’m hopeful that we now potentially have a new family tradition of spending an October weekend in London! (What do you think, Richard?)

lon7

 

lon8

Frightwater!

Growing up, although Halloween was enthusiastically celebrated by my friends, it was never a holiday that excited me. However, as our girl is growing up in England where Halloween is more of an up-and-coming holiday, a certain part of me is keen to make sure she has the opportunity to experience many traditions that I grew up with in the US. She’s still a bit too young to understand exactly what is going on, but this past Saturday, we ventured to Lightwater Valley Theme Park in Ripon for some Halloween festivities.

DSC_0015

DSC_0006

The theme park transforms into Frightwater Valley for the Halloween weekend. A lot of the park is decked out in Halloween decor and the staff contribute to the atmosphere by dressing up or painting their faces. There are a number of additional Halloween-themed attractions just for the weekend like the Live Scare Maze and the UV Monster Puppet Show. A few of the attractions didn’t open until after 3 PM and some aren’t suitable for an 11-month old, so we couldn’t check them all out, but we could still enjoy some of the walks and the actors that took their roles seriously as zombies/creepy people.

DSC_0008

Richard and I are major wimps when it comes to scary movies, haunted houses, and the like, so that part of me is glad we weren’t able to ride the haunted train and venture into the haunted forest maze, but I do wish we could have experienced them so I could give a proper review of all of Frightwater. Maybe next year! It was funny to watch our girl look at some of the Halloween decorations and the actors walking aimlessly with blank looks on their faces. You could tell she was trying to process it all, but it just wasn’t making sense!

DSC_0027The Lightwater Wheel

DSC_0003Black Widow’s Web…maybe next time!

We were happy to be able to experience Lightwater Valley as a family and to take the little one on some of the rides. We enjoyed the Lightwater Express train ride around the park, Eagle’s Creek Farm in which you ride in tractors around a little farmyard with a variety of animals in it, and the Lightwater Wheel. We did plan to take her on some more rides, but when Richard went to take her out of her stroller, she was completely zonked out! So, that idea was short-lived and instead we walked around and enjoyed the day. Richard did ride The Ultimate, which is Europe’s longest roller coaster, and thought it was great. We also enjoyed wandering through Lightwater Valley Falconry, which is home to a number of birds of prey and some reptiles, ferrets, and rabbits as well. It was amazing to see some of these gorgeous birds up close.

IMG_5489Enjoying the Lightwater Express!

Of course, my American mind pictured a massive amusement park similar to Six Flags or Busch Gardens right off the motorway, but I was pleasantly surprised at the manageable size of Lightwater Valley and its beautiful rural setting. As a theme park, it is a good blend of rides that has something for everyone from our young daughter to those seeking something more thrilling. Being spread across the gorgeous grounds makes it feel as if you aren’t constantly fighting crowds. We really lucked out with the weather whilst we were there, and it must have made for a great last weekend of their regular season.

LVLake

DSC_0023

I’d definitely recommend Lightwater Valley for a family day out. I’d also recommend what I saw of Frightwater. Lightwater Valley is closed for the season, but they do have a few special event weekends coming up, such as Meet the Gruffalo and the Santa Experience. It is a place to definitely keep in mind if you are looking for a day out with the family!

Our tickets to the park were kindly provided to us by Lightwater Valley for the purpose of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Big thanks to Lightwater Valley for a fun day out with my two favorite people!

**********************

IMG_5497She definitely had fun!

 

A Weekend That Was So Much More

Two weekends ago, Richard was away (enjoying the Oktoberfest festivities in Germany, no less!), so the girl and I were on our own. I love our weekends as a family because our weekdays are so hectic, so I was a little sad when I woke up on Friday morning knowing that we wouldn’t see Richard again until Sunday night.

In a daze of melancholy and exhaustion, I grabbed the video monitor and saw the girl squirming in her cot and making her usual morning hey-Mom-I’m-here noises. I wandered over to her room and she greeted me with a smile, as she does every morning. When I saw that smile, the sadness didn’t linger and my heart was bursting as I smiled back at her and said, “Good morning, sweet girl.” After I picked her up, we opened the brightly-colored curtains and she waved out the window whilst I say, “Hello, world, we’re ready for another day!” We walked into the hallway where she continued her waves at a photo frame full of pictures from our wedding before we head back to my bed where I breastfed her then we snuggled for a bit.

I’d love to say that the rest of the morning was fabulous, but in all honesty, it was a little rough and I just felt off. Our girl is teething something fierce plus she is in a major growth spurt (or leap if you follow Wonder Weeks, which I highly recommend for any new parents, as it has been pretty much spot on for us). Right now, she is in a weird phase of high-pitched screaming, which is extremely odd for our smiley, laid-back girl. It is seriously ear-piercing!

This was one of those days where I felt super sorry for myself that we live thousands of miles away from my family. All I could think about was how badly I wished I could drive to my parents’ house and lounge in the living room with them whilst they swooned over their granddaughter. Also? I wanted someone else to cook for me. And? I wanted to avoid the overwhelming pile of laundry from our trip to the States.

I knew, though, that for the sake of our girl and her mood that I needed to snap out of this funk. When she went down for her morning nap, I decided to crawl back into bed and basically start the day over again after both of our naps. Honestly, this was the best decision I could have made. I woke up refreshed and ready to enjoy every moment of our girls’ weekend.

Over the next couple of days, I focused on spending quality time with my favorite girl. There were moments, like when we went to the park on Sunday and she loved every second I pushed her in the swing, that I wished Richard was with us to see the joy on her face. But, that weekend made me so grateful for our daughter and for our little family.

That weekend reminded me of so many things that I needed to remember. That the three of us are better together and that we have the most fun then. That we are incredibly blessed to be able to raise this sweet girl and to say that we are her mom and dad. That despite the miles that separate us from my side of the family that this is our home and it’s a place where I feel fortunate to live. That there are tough times, but really there are so many more amazing times. That I love that I have the opportunity to stay at home with our girl during these early years of her life. That even though Richard and I both like to have time away with our friends that we both come back from those times being even more grateful for our life together. That despite the fact that Richard and I have an extremely strong marriage we know it is still a constant work in progress. That he is, without a doubt, my best friend. That this life we have is pretty darn amazing, and I’ll take the good and the bad any day knowing that I have these two beside me.

So, the weekend that started with me feeling down about just about everything ended with me being reminded of what is important and of how fortunate I am. I’m so glad I chose happiness and positivity and to enjoy every moment of the weekend I had with our baby girl.

Have you ever wanted to start a day over again? Ever had one of those days/weekends/weeks where you are reminded just how fortunate you are?

IMG_4946 Look at that face! I love how she holds on to the swing…ah, my heart.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

I’m fairly sure that most of us thought our summer was over, but we have been pleasantly surprised with some great weather over the weekends, and we’ve been doing our best to enjoy it by being outdoors. A few weeks ago, we decided to spend the Sunday at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

We’ve driven past the park numerous times and it has always peaked my curiosity. Richard had never been and he was equally intrigued to visit. And our girl? Well, she’s just happy as long as the three of us are together and she gets to look around!

Pulling into the car park, it appeared that many other families had the same idea as us. It was great to see so many people of all ages out enjoying the day with family and friends. Many of them had packed picnics, and there were kids running around soaking up their last days of summer before school began.

We made our way to the main visitor’s centre, where there is a gift shop, a restaurant, and a snack shop. We paid for our parking, which is £8 for the day, then picked up a map to plot our walk. (You can pay for smaller chunks of time, but £8 seemed completely reasonable to spend the day wandering the gorgeous grounds without the need to continually be checking our watches.) We decided to walk the cross country walking route to the Longside Gallery that took us to the opposite side of the grounds from the visitor’s centre, which the map says is 2 kilometers one way. This walk takes you past many of the sculptures – in a range of mediums – and within viewing distance of the larger buildings on the grounds as well as through a pasture complete with cow pies (or, as I just learned from my husband, cow pats as they are known here). It definitely was a beautiful walk through the park. When we finished exploring, we made our way back to the visitor’s centre and had a late lunch at the restaurant whilst sitting outside on the deck upstairs.

We really enjoyed our day at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and will for sure be returning. It’s a wonderful place for families with all of the open space for kids to run around, and it will make a great addition to our tour of Yorkshire when we have visitors. If we get snow this year, I’d love to visit then as I imagine it is incredibly beautiful on a clear winter day. I just wish it was a bit closer, so we could go more often!

(Richard just informed me I don’t have many photos of the sculptures. This appears to be true! Oh well, hope you enjoy the photos anyway!)

DSC_0001

DSC_0002Molecule Man 1+1+1 by Jonathan Borofsky

DSC_0006Buddha 2000 by Niki de Saint Phalle

DSC_0009Everything is Connected by Peter Liversidge

DSC_0018

DSC_0019

DSC_0029Iron Tree by Ai Weiwei

And a super cute photo just because these two melt my heart….

IMG_4555

Exploring London with Our Girl

A few weeks back, Richard was to be in London for work, so the girl and I tagged along with him. Because we were driving, we decided to stay at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford to allow us a place to park and easy access to the tube. It also was convenient for me because there was a Waitrose just below the hotel, which became our go-to for quick and healthy food for me and our girl.

The two days we were there were boiling hot, so I wanted to be sure to enjoy the summer weather but also make sure that the little one was comfortable. So, on the first day, we walked a 5 minutes or so to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where the London 2012 Olympics were held. We wandered around enjoying the flowers and the buildings until we settled in under the shade of a tree along the river. Our girl and I had a nice little picnic, which resulted in her being covered in strawberry (her favorite food) juice!

IMG_4193

IMG_4192

The park was a nice place for us to chill. If you have older kids, there are water fountains that squirt up at various times and it was full of kids running and laughing through the water. There is also a sand and water play area for kids. It was a pleasant surprise to see how much they have transformed the park to cater to families. The thing I wish I had known though is that the Aquatics Centre to open to the public. How cool would it have been for us to swim in the Olympic Pool?! Next time, for sure!

QEOP1

We walked around the park a few times during our stay and really enjoyed seeing all of the buildings we saw on television. Although we were lucky enough to watch the women’s beach volleyball finals and the women’s marathon during the Olympics, neither of those events took place in the park, so we had never made our way out there until this trip. During our walks though the park, it was always full of people enjoying the weather and the beautiful surroundings. I hope that this area continues to bring people in, and hopefully its proximity to Westfield will help with that.

I definitely recommend checking out Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park if you have some time and are in London. It’s especially great for families. You can access it easily from Stratford Station via the DLR and the Jubilee and Central lines.

IMG_4203

With Westfield having such great access to the tube, our girl and I hopped on the Jubilee line the following day and headed to Green Park, so we could meet up with a friend who works near there. We did a little sightseeing first, and I made sure to take her picture in front of Buckingham Palace. We then headed over to St James Square for a picnic with our friend. It was a great place to get some relief from the heat and escape the busy-ness of the city during the summer.

We had such a lovely time down south that we’re already planning a trip back in autumn over a weekend, so Richard can join us for our jaunts around London.

PalaceSNot impressed with the Palace.