Tag: travel

London, 2016

In a half-hearted attempt to clear out my drafted posts, I’m publishing them without much editing and tons of photos, starting with our trip to London in January. Enjoy!

Overnight flight Tuesday to Wednesday. I got about 3 hours of sleep on the flight due to a surprise wake up from a non life-threatening medical emergency. We were proud we were able to pull out cash, find the underground, buy Oyster cards, make it to rented apartment all by ourselves without a phone to guide us.

We arrived at apartment in Holborn at noon. Our host was very helpful with local restaurant and bar recommendations. We headed to Franco Manca for sourdough pizza for lunch. Delish and inexpensive! Bought sim cards with pay as you go data plans from o2 for our iphone 5ses. Both phones were up and running in about 5 minutes, so different from a phone back home! We overbought data but it was wonderful to have maps/directions, contact with each other while we were separated, access to social media, and the ability to contact our boys back home. We headed to Cittie of Yorke pub to meet up with WP folks. Too exhausted to think straight. Hit up Stainsbury’s for snacks, cheese and meat for dinner, and muffins for breakfast before watching HIMYM and crashing.

The Brians (husband and boss) had to get to conference by 8 but I slept until 9:30. Blissful! I enjoyed a quiet breakfast before heading out to the British Museum, a free history museum only a few blocks away. I explored Greek, Egyptian, and European artifacts and art before heading back to the apartment for Indian food and to be available while my mom took our baby to the doctor. Turns out he had an ear infection and while we didn’t plan on (or prepare for) our boys to be sick while we were gone, things went extremely well and Teddy started antibiotics right away. The conference was just on Thursday so I met up with Brian at the official after party at a pub just down the street from our apartment, a literal 3 minute walk! We loved being so close to everything!

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Ready to brave the cold, wet weather of a British winter
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The British Museum was established in 1753 and the current building was begun in the 1820s. It was incredible to see artifacts like the Elgin Marbles that I had read about but never imagined I’d ever see
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Inside the atrium of the British Museum
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This is a CLOCK! It was so beautifully intricate
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Carved coral bracelet, incredibly popular in Victorian times
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A gorgeous jet set
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Mosaic jewelry made in the 1860s
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Mummies in the British Museum
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Ancient Greek temple facade

Brian and I walked to Westminster Abbey on our first day of site seeing, about 35 minutes away from the apartment. The Abbey was probably my favorite part of the entire trip. We couldn’t take photos of the interior but it was definitely awe inspiring. For the two of us who love history, architecture, fascinating life stories, and learning, it was a gold mine! There’s a ton of great information at this site. Admission includes a free audio tour which really helped us make the most of our admission. We even ate lunch at the restaurant on site, the Cellarium Cafe. Not only did we not have to hunt for food, it was incredibly tasty!

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The north entrance of Westminster Abbey
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Abbey Courtyard
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The Abbey Cloisters

Westminster Abbey is very close to to the Palace of Westminster and it’s very famous clock, Big Ben. We had enough time to wander around the Palace building and across the River Thames to the London Eye. I am incredibly, paralyzingly terrified of heights and, desiring to keep this trip as inexpensive as possible, we happily skipped the Eye. We were able to make it back to the Abbey in time for the 5:00 pm Evensong service, sitting mere feet away from where the royal family sat for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We walked past Buckingham Palace after dark, which was a little disappointing since we couldn’t see much, but made up for it with an intensely delicious dinner at Wahaca, a Mexican restaurant, in Soho. I am extremely skeptical of Mexican food outside of Mexico but our meal was one of the highlights of our trip. We still talk about it 10 months after the fact!

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Palace of Westminster/Big Ben/London Eye
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A whole lot of London in one photo
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Big Ben next to the River Thames
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Up, up, up! I could never ride the London Eye and not pass out
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Buckingham Palace

The next day Brian and I walked 45 minutes the opposite direction down the Thames to the Tower of London. I have so many photos of our explorations on this day because the contrast of the very ancient buildings in front of the ultra-modern skyline of London was incredibly striking. The oldest building in the Tower (and my personal favorite) is the White Tower, which was begun in the 1080s. It is mind-blowing to experience to soak in the history of a place that existed hundreds of years before your country of origin was founded. After the Tower tour, my long-suffering husband waited with me at Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross station to get a totally necessary photo. To end the day, we met up with the other Brian and folks from Human Made for dinner and drinks before crashing.

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London Bridge is falling down, oh wait, its right there!
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The Beauchamp Tower was filled with etched and carved graffiti, some simple, some intricate. These were carved by the many prisoners the tower once held
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Guarding the Crown Jewels
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The White Tower
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The old and new existing together
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London Bridge
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Im a little older than 11 years but it was very exciting to see this train platform for the first time
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Im ready for Hogwarts!

Before we had felt settled, it was time for us to make our way back to the airport via the Tube for the excruciatingly long flight home. The flight from the US to London was 7 hours but the opposite direction was 9! We were very, very happy to get off that airplane in Atlanta! We barely had enough time to scratch the surface of all there is to see and do in London and want to return, possibly with our boys, to finish our tourist wish-lists.

The Magical, Disappearing Summer

This is rather awkward. I’ve meant to post, honest, but we’ve been having too much fun summering hard to worry about new posts or formatting photos or eating healthy dinners. Suddenly its July and I’m convinced the last few months have gone by at twice the normal speed.

In May we road tripped to Disney (another full post coming about that!) and celebrated Brian’s 30th birthday while we were there. Brian and I celebrated our 8th anniversary, I took a trip to Savannah with some of my dearest friends, and Teddy ended up in the hospital with RSV. By the time he got out and we felt sufficiently recovered, it was Memorial Day weekend when we did lots of yard work and my sister got engaged!

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Enjoying one of Savannah’s many parks with my travel buddies
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We watched *so much* Nemo at the hospital
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The benefit of having a room on the 6th floor is that you have an amazing view of all the vrooms and gucks driving around
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Ben’s favorite part of shopping for plans was the hot dog truck in front of the greenhouse!
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Putting Ben to work
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She said yes so we’re planning on an October wedding

In June I turned 30, we took a short beach vacation to Ludington (potentially a full post here too) so we could enjoy Lake Michigan and attend my cousin’s wedding, Ben had an amazing dentist appointment, we enjoyed our back yard oasis as much as possible, and Teddy went back to the hospital with RSV again. We have an action plan now so there’s less of a chance that Teddy will have to be admitted to the hospital again this summer. I’d really prefer it to be never!

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Teddy hates the sand with the fire of 1000 suns but he’s all about playgrounds
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T had a big break through in June when he discovered that he does indeed like the baby pool
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Babies in the pool
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Teddy was more intensely sick for a longer time than in May so we have lots of droopy baby pictures
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Look, Ma! No Oxygen! Teddy did really well maintaining his oxygen level while he was awake but needed O2 while sleeping for several days

 

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The downside of being in the hospital, other than the bills and feeling like a caged animal, was we had to miss a friend’s wedding. The upside was that since we already arranged childcare, Brian got to come with us!

July started with a bang (both literally and figuratively). We host my extended family for brunch on the 4th so we spent a few days cleaning and landscaping before going all-in on celebrating the US’s independence. Brian built a play house into the bottom of the boys’ swing set, we finally hung some pictures and projects inside the house, and we’ve made nearly weekly trips to the local farmer’s market.

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Ben is so thrilled to have a house with a doorbell
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Mmmmm. Michigan strawberries
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Independence Day parade
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This was T’s first parade as a toddler and he loved all the trucks and loud things

What do you have going on for the rest of the summer? We have more short trips, wedding planning, house projects, and large road trips to look forward to in the rest of July and in August. Maybe we’ll catch up again in September?

6 Months

Teddy is getting big! He’s just as round and jolly as he ever has been and is aware enough to interact with the rest of the family, including the newly discovered kitties!

In spite of all the tummy time he’s had this month, Teddy STILL refuses to roll over. By the way he twists around when he’s on his back, it looks like he might roll back-to-front before front-to-back. We’re still working on it and tummy time is a highlight of Ben’s day, even if Teddy isn’t too thrilled. Teddy’s hand-eye coordination has improved tremendously and he can usually get whatever it is that he is holding into his mouth without missing. Just last week he started trying to snatch food away from me so he’ll be starting solids super soon. We’re going to try modified baby led weaning with him like we did with Ben and adjust as necessary for his skills and interests. First foods will be banana and avocado!

Teddy’s 6 month appointment isn’t until nearly the end of the month but I’m fairly certain his growth has slowed down quite a bit. He still wears a lot of 3 month pants since his legs are so short and has plenty of room in 3/6 month and 6 month onesies. Size 2 diapers are getting tight because his little chunk legs so we’ll be moving on up to 3s very soon. In addition to not growing as fast, Teddy has slowly started to sleep longer and better at night (mommy is thankful).

The last month has flown by for all of us. We wrapped up our Florida trip with a (cold) beach day in Bradenton and drove home over Saturday and Sunday. Teddy did much better on the way home than he did on the way to Florida. We got in a good rhythm during the road trip of drive time with a movie, lunch for everyone at a restaurant with a play area, diaper changes, “quiet time” in the van with only music playing (both boys always slept well without a movie), afternoon break for Teddy’s sake, and perhaps another movie before dinner. Ben thoroughly enjoyed his long-promised pj day on our first full day home.

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Ben didn’t want to go in the water but had a blast playing in the sand all day. We’re going to prioritize building a sand box this spring
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Teddy Bear! I have a very similar photo of Ben on the same beach at the same age
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PJ and movie day. Ben was running a little bit of a fever the day after we got home from Florida and happily watched movies all day. Note: cowboy boots with pjs

We got home to our freshly painted dining room and kitchen and seeing how clean it looked was worth every second of extra preparation before leaving! We installed new light fixtures, light switches, vent covers, and outlets and framed and hung new art. Little by little, we’re starting to feel more at home.

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New light fixture (and it even has LED bulbs installed now!)
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Blue: Behr Swan Sea, White: Behr Cotton Knit
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New art!

Last week, Brian and I flew to San Diego with Teddy to attend WordCamp San Diego. Teddy did marginally well on the flight there. We were in the air when he thought he should be going to bed, which didn’t go over too well with him. He cried for almost an hour on the plane and fussed in the car almost all the way to our friends’ house but that was far from the worst case scenario.

The WordCamp itself was really well run and the speakers I got a chance to hear were knowledgable and interesting to listen to. Teddy behaved angelically for both days of the event. Many attendees remarked that they didn’t hear him make any noise at all! He happily played in my lap and slept in the sling when he was tired. Teddy surprised us by adjusting to the three hour time difference pretty quickly and not waking up at 4 AM a single time all week!

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We spent the first half of our trip staying at a gorgeous hotel and very much enjoyed breakfast on the balcony, even if it was cold by southern Californian standards
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One of Teddy’s many conference naps over the weekend. He is a big fan of falling asleep wherever I am

 

We had a chance to see Disneyland for a few hours one day and now we know that we’ll be headed back to southern California as a family. The best description of Disneyland as a frequent Disney World guest is that it’s like visiting somewhere in a dream that you’ve been in real life; it has a lot of the same parts but nothing is where you expect it to be. One thing that California Adventure has that Disney World does not is Cars Land, which is probably the most immersive and detailed area of a Disney property that I’ve ever seen. Radiator Springs Racers, the star attraction in Cars Land, was incredibly well made. I could have ridden it all day!

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Look at that tiny castle!
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Teddy and Brian in front of the New Orleans-styled Haunted Mansion
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Can I have those glasses, Daddy?
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Mountain range behind Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure. I’ve seen those mountains in real life and the false range looks so believable!
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Another rock formation decorating the queue for Radiator Springs Racers
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The three of us enjoying our day at Disneyland (photo courtesy of our friend, Chris Lema)
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Teddy did a lot of this on the plane rides home. It made the trip faster and smoother for everyone!

We don’t have any more family travel plans on the calendar until June (except a short trip for Brian to Vegas in early May) so we’re going to soak in all the at-home fun we can! The weather is warming up and flowers are starting to poke out of the gray landscaping so we’ll be taking long walks and playing hide and seek in the backyard before we know it.

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Teddy discovered the cats and gets fairly exuberant whenever they are close enough to pet

 

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The sun was shining and Teddy felt like snuggling. No more reasons needed to sit for a while with my littlest boy
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Tummy time is slightly more exciting when there are tag-things to pull on
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Mario Kart Wii is one of the first things Ben asks Brian for when he comes “home” from work every day
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Teddy was super excited for his first WordPress t-shirt experience
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I couldn’t resist seeing if Teddy fit in the doll bed. Not anymore!
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Big brother Ben cheesing on the way to Costco
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Teddy’s first experience sitting in a shopping cart. Both boys thought it was great and I didn’t mind having more space for food!
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I picked up a doorframe style baby jumper from Craigslist for Teddy. He loves that he can spin between watching Ben play in the front room and me work in the dining room
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Ben was SOOOOO excited that he could make his own frozen yogurt and kept asking for more M&Ms
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Crazy jumping cowboy (as decorated by Ben)

 

 

Favorite Things: Vacation Rental

One of our favorite ways to travel for the last few years has been “workcationing” in vacation rental houses. We love the space that a full house or apartment offers, especially if it means that our now two year old can have his own room and we have reliable internet for Brian’s evening work hours. While a rental house can mean lots of good things for our family for the time we’re there, we’ve learned that there are some essential things we can bring from home that make our stay even more comfortable!

Dish soap and sponges: There is no guarantee that a rental house will provide anything to wash the dishes you dirty so I like to travel prepared with a small bottle of dish soap and a pack of sponges (both from the dollar store). I don’t feel bad throwing them away when the trip is over if I haven’t spent much money on them and not having to wash or transport a dirty wash cloth is great!

Paper towel: I don’t use much paper towel at home but we use it constantly when we’re traveling. Cleaning up kid messes, cooking messes, covering reheated food in the microwave.. the uses are many!

Tin foil: Similar to my love of paper towel, tin foil can be used to cover food in the fridge, reheat in the oven, cover gross pans while cooking, entertain a toddler, and more!

Inexpensive kids dishes: I don’t know about your kids but my 2 year old has not mastered the use of an open cup and regularly drops dishes on the floor, certain to break if they don’t belong to us (of course!). To make sure we had the basics along, I bought a Take N Toss multipack from Amazon prior to our Florida road trip. The cups aren’t as leak-proof as the sippy cups we use at home but they’re recyclable if we can’t (or don’t want to) wash them and Ben is much more comfortable with something to call his own.

Roll of toilet paper: Have you ever been on a trip and discovered that the toilet paper at your temporary residence is so thin that it’s nearly transparent? Or, in some cases, toilet paper isn’t even in the house?! I prevent those issues by bringing a roll of the good stuff from home to give us time to run to the store if necessary.

Pop-up hampers: This was a new idea for our current trip and I already L-O-V-E having hampers with us. I bought two small pop up hampers from Dollar Tree and keep one in the master bedroom and one where we get the boys ready for bed at night. Having dirty clothes flung here and there drives me crazy and having something to tote the clothes around in makes doing laundry so much easier.

Powdered laundry detergent: We use powdered detergent at home too but it’s especially nice for travel because you don’t need to think about it exploding in your luggage, it can travel through airport security if you fly, and my favorite variety, Charlie’s Soap, takes only 1 tablespoon per load and I can fit 10 loads worth in a pint size jar!

Basic childproofing gear: Ben is, shall we say, so mischievous and curious that he often endangers his own safety while exploring. Also, he can open doors and will get himself up in the morning without telling us. To make sure we could all sleep soundly, we brought a few spare doorknob covers from home, his bed rail, and a locking baby gate. I can’t say that bringing a gate or railing would work well on an airplane but for road trips, it’s easy to pack them flat under the other luggage in the car.

How about you? Do you take advantage of vacation rentals when you travel? What is the first thing in your bag when packing for your stay?

2015 Goals

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For our family, 2015 will be defined by not only the things we want to accomplish but also by things we aren’t doing. This is the first year in many that we do not expect to add to our family. This is the first time in 4 years that we are not saving for another house. It’s likely we won’t accomplish all of these but having them written down will give me the satisfaction of checking them off one by one!

Financial

  • Save to pay cash for a minivan
  • Save $3000 specifically for emergencies and repairs at the rental
  • Start a payment plan to repay my parents for their loan from when we bought this house

House

  • Strip wallpaper in kitchen, dining room, and hall and prep for painting
  • Remove chair rail in kitchen and dining room
  • Have kitchen, dining room, and hall painted in late February
  • Paint kitchen cabinets
  • Replace kitchen counter, sink, faucet, hardware (possibly)
  • Replace kitchen, dining room, and hall light fixtures
  • Decide on exterior trim color
  • Replace windows (or at least start saving for that to happen in 2016)

Boys

  • Potty train Ben should he continue to be interested and willing (eek!)
  • Sleep train Teddy (he doesn’t get a choice on this one)
  • Work on number, letter, shape, and color recognition with Ben
  • Throw a simple yet fun first birthday party for Teddy

Travel

  • Disney in February
  • Fort Myers in March
  • San Diego in March
  • Camping sometime this summer
  • At least one Civil War reenactment

Self

  • Continue my commitment to healthier eating
  • Exercise and be active to (attempt to) shrink the mommy belly
  • Buy and manage my own domain for this blog (I said it! It’s going to happen)
  • Read through the Bible again this year with Brian using a daily reading plan
  • Continue my quest to cook with unfamiliar foods in ways that my family will eat them

So how about you? Do you find goal writing as exciting and full of promise as I do?