Category Archives: Travel
A few weeks ago we piled into our little car and drove to The Cotswolds. We’d planned to leave early in the morning, adding half an hour to our estimated leaving time because newborns somehow add at least that to your estimated leaving/arrival time. We also planned to head home early as to get the kids home in time for dinner and normal bedtime. Neither of those things happened. But, because we had to stop and change diapers and nurse, and because our pub lunch took so much longer than we thought it would, and because we’re learning that for every hour the directions allot for you actually need one and a half, we got to really relax into our day in The Cotswolds. Sometimes it’s a gift when things don’t go according to plan, and schedule and structure have to take a back seat to spontaneity.
It was freezing cold, but sunny and it felt wonderful get get some fresh air in our lungs and sun on our faces. We tucked Roux into his cozy Solly Wrap and Lulu into our new Nuna Ivvi Savi stroller – loading the base of the stroller with extra layers of clothes, water bottles and snacks for the kids, and all of Roux’s diapering supplies and burp cloths, etc., and we… strolled. I put a lot of thought into before choosing the Ivvi Savi stroller which is a big luxury stroller vs. the Nuna Pepp Luxx which is a sort of luxury umbrella stroller.
Our main complaint when we are traveling is that we feel bogged down by stuff, which is honestly a bit claustrophobic and cumbersome. It seems we are always carrying a few bags, plus my purse, my camera, a kid or two. So, we opted for this stroller because it’s heavy enough to hang bags on, and the basket underneath is large enough for all the things we need to be out and about as a family of five. If our kids were older and needing less stuff like diapers, back up clothes, and the like, we would have opted for the more lightweight stroller. The Ivvi Savi stroller is also great for “off-roading”. It has substantial tires, and a base that’s high off the ground which makes it great for muddy footpaths or bumpy cobblestones.
Anyway, as I was saying, we mostly just wandered through the streets in Stow-on-the-Wold, meandering through fleece alleys, narrow passages designed for counting sheep as they paraded by on their way to Sheep Street (the site of a medieval sheep market), popping into a couple shops, an art gallery, and a St. Edward’s Church.
We paused for a bit letting Kyle nerd out about this door on the backside of the church which Tolkien fans (which I am not) believe is the inspiration of some Hobbit-y place called “the entrance to Moria”… again, I’m not a fan myself, and I feel that watching Lord of the Rings is a form of torture, but the door is very old and very beautiful, and that was impressive enough for me.
After meandering through the little town, we got in the car and headed to find a pub for lunch. One thing we are learning with quite a few disappointments under our belts, is that you really should make a reservation at pubs especially if it’s a Sunday, and especially if it’s within a week of a holiday. We were very kindly turned away from The Fox Inn, but quickly found ourselves seated by a cozy, crackling fire at The Horse and Groom. Kyle ordered the Sunday Roast and I got Fish and Chips; I seem to have a hard time straying from this pub classic. A nice glass of red wine, a warm fire, people coming in with their dogs and their boots caked in mud, and a baby snuggled up on my lap? That’s a pretty great way to spend an afternoon.
Afternoon gave way to an early winter evening and we loaded ourselves back up for the drive home. We headed out at golden hour and the landscape was incredibly magical. At one point Baby Roux was crying, so Kyle pulled the car over and I got out to nurse him on the side of a side road. I stood for a bit nursing him next to a field of sheep.
The light was gold and lavender and I felt that if I was wearing a long dress and my hair in a bun and walked far enough out into the field that I might happen upon Mr. Darcy. I knew better than to wander out into the field pretending to be Elizabeth Bennet on her way to Netherfield Park from a lesson I learned once when I was feeling very much like Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face being photographed by Fred Astaire, and I fell on the marble staircase in the Louvre. So, I just stood by the field, imagining for a moment what it would be like to live in the little cottage down the lane, and then we buckled back up and made our way home.
We’ve spent that last few weekends at home, chipping away at making our rental house more comfortable and home-like, but we’re getting antsy to explore more of England in the coming months, particularly the coasts, countrysides, and National Parks. Any suggestions are welcome!
We’ve spent these past couple of weeks being really quiet, embracing the chilly weather, then embracing the strange balmy weather, and now embracing the pouring rain. I’ve spent a fair amount of time sipping tea and editing photos from our trip to France. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that we got to have this trip as a family. One of the main reasons that we took this leap abroad was that it would allow us the proximity to travel; to take our kids to some of our favorite places, and to discover new places together. France is most certainly high on our list of favorite places – not to mention favorite people and favorite food! Perhaps it has something to do with it being the first place that either Kyle or I ever set foot in Europe. It holds such a special place for the two of us… now for the four (soon to be five) of us.
We began our trip on the coast of France. We took the train from London to Paris, met my cousin, and spent the night at his home before loading into the car for a (surprisingly relaxing) five hour drive to their vacation home in Meschers-sur-Gironde. When my cousin had sent me a note the week before our trip telling me to make sure and pack the girls’ swimsuits and sandals I thought he must be confused since my only beach experiences in October and November required multiple layers of wool socks and long underwear!
As we drove Southwest from Paris the chilly, foggy grey gave way to sunshine, and by the time we found ourselves meandering down country lanes we had the windows cracked and were marveling at the greenery and gardens along the lanes. Within moments of having parked the car at the beach, the girls had embraced their cousins, had their pants rolled up (or ditched completely), and had hopped straight into the surf!
The morning after we arrived, we walked down to the market in town where we bought fish, vegetables, fruit, cheeses, and salted butter. The produce was just beautiful: dirt-encrusted mushrooms, translucent grapes, verdant spinach, fragrant clementines! The girls and I each got an apple and we walked, eating our apples, to the local bakery for baguettes, and, of course, a daily selection of croissants. We spent the rest of that first day at the beach, soaking in the sunshine, the crisp air, and the wonderful sound of the waves and the kids playing in the water.
The following day was spent exploring a nearby beach, and I made every effort to take it all in, hoping that I could absorb enough sunshine and butter to get me through the grey winter that I knew was just around the corner. Gigi and Lulu ran around non-stop with their cousins, they climbed to the top of the lighthouse in Coubre with Kyle and my cousin while I trekked alone over the dunes to the beach – since climbing to the top of a two hundred foot tall lighthouse didn’t seem advisable at all for this stage of pregnancy. A while later, they all joined me for sandcastle building and playing in the water. Kyle and walked along the beach as the sun set and everything felt so good, so positive.
October gave way to November and we spent the first day of the month picnicking on the hilltops and exploring the bunkers of Pointe de Suzac. In the afternoon my cousin took his kids to see their Grandmother, so we were on our own. We loaded up a small bag with beach toys, and walked through the crunchy leaves, down the path to the Plage de Nonnes. I mostly just sat on the towel feeling very pregnant and very happy while Kyle and Gigi worked away at the most elaborate sandcastle. I had no idea Kyle had these sandcastle building skills, but now that I know I imagine they will be called upon again and again on future beach adventures.
The following morning we shook as much sand as we could from our clothes and shoes, and loaded up the car to drive back to the city. We’d decided to venture into the heart of Paris to stay at the apartment of another wonderful friend, Cécile, who is like an Aunt to us. We hadn’t been planning on staying in the city, but we couldn’t resist taking the girls in to experience it.
I remember hearing an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow where she talked about her Dad taking her to Paris for the first time because he wanted her first trip to Paris to be with the one man who is going to love her for the rest of her life. I was lucky enough to visit and see Paris for the first time with my Dad, and that trip and time with him is one of my greatest treasures. We emerged from the metro and onto the dark street, and hurried towards the Champ de Mars. We made it around the corner and into place just in time to see the tower light up and glitter. I felt so overwhelmed that my daughters were getting to see Paris through our eyes, holding our hands, held close and loved so deeply by their Dad, just the way I had gotten to on my first trip.
We headed straight from the Eiffel Tower to Cécile’s apartment, and the moment we walked in I felt a wave of comfort, familiarity, and warmth. The girls and I made ourselves at home while Kyle popped down to the Rue Cler for a rotisserie chicken, a baguette and some cheese, and a few vegetables that would make up our dinner. Once the kids were asleep, Kyle and I mapped out our next few days in our favorite city.
We started our first day with a visit to the Marché Bastille, which has to be one of the most inviting and fun things to do in Paris. We sampled everything: tart passionfruit, sweet proscuitto, subtle persimmons, piping hot Nutella crêpes, spicy radishes, bitter espresso, crunchy cherry tomatoes. We could have spent the entire day their eating everything in sight, but we already had lunch mapped out, so we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from the market and made our way on foot deeper into Le Marais, by way of the Place des Vosges, to L’As du Fallafel where we placed our order, and hopped eagerly in line to wait for our food. Once we had our falafels and frites in hand, we walked back down the street the way we’d come and popped into a small park, quickly found ourselves benches to sit on, and proceeded to tuck into the overabundance of food we’d just purchased. After lunch we made our way to and through Notre Dame by way of Berthillon, and then over to the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore. Then it was home to the apartment for a simple dinner of bread, cheese, and all the goodies we’d bought at the market.
The following morning was the first and only day of rain during our whole trip, we bundled up in our layers, caught raindrops on our tongues, and then warmed up inside the Musée d’Orsay with Cécile, strolling somewhat quickly through the various exhibits in order to see what we could see while the kids were still enjoying it. We had every intention of spending the day on the go again, so after the museum we parted ways with Cécile and began to make our way towards the Louvre. We made it as far and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. We stopped under it for shelter from the freezing rain, and ate sandwiches we’d brought with us. We saw the buses heading back towards the apartment driving by every ten minutes, and decided that going back to warm up would be wiser than dragging our shivering selves all over the city.
After a nice midday rest, the afternoon turned a bit warmer so we rallied and walked to Eiffel Tower with the kids, stopping for a hot chocolate along the way. We began to make our way towards the metro with the kids to take a train out to my Aunt and Unlce’s house, but by that point it was raining again, and the kids were in full melt-down mode. We stood on the train platform, already having bought tickets, and decided that we needed to just go home and get them in bed. We walked home by the lit up Eiffel Tower, gave the kids a quick, warm bath, and had them sleeping soundly by 7:30pm.
The following day was our last lovely day in the city before we would be heading back to England. We started the day with a walk across my favorite bridge, Pont Alexandre III, where the girls and I each made a wish and tossed a cent into Seine, and I told them about the time during our honeymoon when I’d made a wish for a family to love in that very spot on that very bridge. We strolled through Jardin des Tuileries, past the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel that had kept us dry the day before, and admired the Louvre from the outside (cause, honestly, the idea of taking kids into that museum sounds like a nightmare). We walked and had a “make up” brunch with my Aunt and Unlce at Le Pain de Quotideien before taking the girls to buy macarons, which we ate in the sunshine while watching kids push their boats around at the Jardin du Luxembourg.
After an evening spent with Cécile and her partner, Jean-Marie, we climbed into bed in the apartment for the last time on this special trip. “I want to stay in this cozy apartment for twenty more days!”, Lulu declared, and we all agreed with her. We made our way home the following morning, sad that the wonderful vacation was over, excited to cozy up for the winter and get ready to welcome our baby, and incredibly grateful for the whole experience.
We’re settling back into our daily routine after a couple of seriously up and down weeks. The girls both started ballet, I had my first midwife appointment, we’ve been enjoying lots of drizzly days at home, and sunny days at the local park and digging up worms in the backyard. I’ve been baking lots of banana bread, roasting chicken, making stock and soup, and experimenting with all things that can be cooked in a cast iron skillet. I’ve taken tips from two of my favorite ladies, Amanda and Bethany, and am working on making our house a cozy semblance of a home. Amanda has great posts about keeping your house tidy, cozy, and wonderfully inviting. Bethany has great tips about establishing routines, and for homeschooling. Their blogs have been monumentally helpful for me these past few weeks as I attempt to create a little life here.
We wrapped up September with a trip to the emergency room, which really rattled me. Lulu fell and hit her eyebrow on the coffee table when Kyle was out of town. I was on my own with the girls and had no idea what to do… I mean, I knew what we needed to do (not our first adventure with sutures), but had no idea how to do it. After some fumbling, we called a taxi and the three of us made our way to the closest ER (A&E here in England) where we spent the next four hours amongst equally sad and sorry folks waiting to be patched up and treated.
The thing that buoyed me up through the anxiety and desperate aloneness of the experience was our taxi driver. He made the evening so much better by offering his advice on where to go, drastically undercharging us for his services, coming all the way back to the hospital to pick us up hours later, and giving me a big hug when he dropped us back at home. His kindness made all the difference in the world that evening; it didn’t, however, prevent Lulu’s cut from opening back up overnight.
Rather than going back to the ER, I opted to do a little DIY patching up. Honestly, I couldn’t stand the thought, both logistically and emotionally, of going back for another round at the ER. I had a good cry, gave the kids a good bath, and then headed to the local pharmacy and store to buy supplies to glue Lulu back together myself. I didn’t feel very strong or capable throughout the ordeal, but looking back I can see that the girls and I did a pretty damn good job getting through it together as a little band of brave musketeers.
Kyle returned home to a much wearier and more worried wife than he’d left, but we rallied to celebrate his 35th birthday with a quiet family dinner that included brownies from a box, the season six finale of The Great British Bake Off, and putting together our plans for a trip to Sweden the following weekend. After the trials getting utilities set up, having Lulu patched up, and wading our way through the homesickness, we were ready to bust out of England for an adventure.
So, off we jetted to Stockholm to properly celebrate Kyle’s birthday, visit with my brother who’s been living there, meet up with Swedish friends, and wander through the city for a few days. This is our second trip to Stockholm, and it was just as magical the second time around. Stockholm is such a beautiful, inviting, magical city – it’s quickly coming to rival Paris for my favorite European city.
That our opportunity to explore Stockholm meant three days with my brother which included warm, much needed hugs, and his offer to babysit the girls for a few hours so Kyle and I could go on a date to walk through Galma stan and grab dinner, was just the cherry on top of a wonderful weekend. We mostly just wandered around without too much of an agenda, which is my favorite way to travel, but we did spent a whole day playing at Skansen and Rosendals Trädgård.
After Stockholm we hopped on a cross-country train to Gothenburg where Kyle was slated to make a collaboration brew with a Swedish brewery. Kyle worked one full day, and the girls and I ventured out of the city to explore Styrsö, one of the islands that makes up the Gothenburg Archipeligo. We had a wonderful day and I seriously impressed myself. Normally it’s Kyle who navigates the trams, buses, subways, ferries, maps, and schedules – especially in foreign countries! But I got the kids down the hill from our airbnb rental (which, given that I was 28 weeks pregnant and there were a lot of stairs, a loaded stroller, and two freezing cold kids, is worth noting), onto the tram, then into H&M to buy warm hats and mittens for the girls, then onto the next tram, then onto the bus, then off of the bus (which, given that Lulu chose that moment to have an epic tantrum, is worth noting), then onto the ferry!
We had no objective other than to wander around the island, enjoying the sun and changing leaves. Our first stop was a small cafe where I got myself a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea, and double scoop ice creams for the girls (offered up for free by the cafe owner – no doubt in order to both please the gals, and to dwindle their ice cream supply before the even chillier Swedish weather kicks in). Kids will eat ice cream with gusto in any weather! Or at least kids will eat half of their ice cream with gusto in any weather until their lips go numb. Then they’ll abandon their ice cream to play at the park. Which is what we did for the next two hours.
I just let them play while I watched the water, the wind in the trees, and let that lovely Swedish red of the houses fill my vision. I felt so grateful for getting to be there on that little island, on a beautiful fall day, with my wonderful ice-cream-enthusiast-tantrum-throwing-adventurous girls, and a babe hiccuping away in my belly. We walked around a bit before making our way back to the ferry, back onto the bus, the tram, to the grocery store, to the next tram, back up the path and the huge flight of stairs, where we took a quick shower and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner.
Even though this move has been less than smooth, and even though the transition into this new life has been so much more challenging than we anticipated, and even though there’s been (many) moments when I’ve wanted to scramble backwards to our old, familiar life, I’m grateful for it. Every time something is hard I try to remember how much we are learning from it, and every time something feels easy I have extra gratitude for that ease.
Moving to a foreign country, even an English speaking foreign country, is full of challenges and is… uncomfortable. There are so many reasons that we made this move, but one of the main ones for me was that I felt the need to get out of my comfort zone, to hit the refresh button, and to challenge myself. That doesn’t mean that I’m necessary handling all the challenges and discomfort with grace and composure, or anything closely resembling grace, or composure. But I am navigating it, and that’s something. I’m learning to celebrate my capabilities, and to recognize when I need to ask (or beg) for help.
One thing we discovered from our trip to Sweden, is that one of the main benefits of this move is our freedom and the ability to travel to so many wonderful places. We came back from Sweden with the realization that getting up, out of the house, and into Great Britain and Europe is our main M.O. during this time abroad. This weekend we spent a day in London, touring around, and eating a lot. Next up, a trip to Oxford to stay with new friends, and we’re planning our first (of many) trips to visit family in France! My Amazon cart is loaded with travel guides, and everything we need for a top notch first aid kit, we are armed with UK healthcare cards that cover us for emergency room visits abroad, and our passports are ready to be filled with stamps.
We’ve been here in England for just over a week now, and we are slowly settling in. It feels very fall-like this morning; drizzling and chilly. Kyle headed off for his second week of work at his new job as a head brewer for a smallish brewery close by the house, and the girls and I are finding our footing in our new house, on our new street, in our new town, in this new country. We’re spending the day the way we’ve spent most of our days here so far: eagerly awaiting orders from Amazon and IKEA. We are about an hour outside of London, and where we live feels very similar to the Pacific Northwest. It’s nice and familiar-feeling: lots of trees, and green, and rain, and grey, and coffee. We don’t have a car yet, so most of what we’ve seen and explored so far has been by foot or bus. There are lots of parks and paths, and everyone we’ve interacted with has been incredibly warm and welcoming.
The story of this move is still taking it’s time to catch up to us… there was no way that if you’d asked me six months ago I could have seen this on the horizon. In the beginning of March, Kyle came home one day and declared that he needed a job change. As soon as he said it, it completely made sense. We’d been not entirely happy for a while, having a hard time in general, and when he said that it all seemed to click into place. He was just wrapping up a long stretch of school to finish his Masters’ degree, and even though his job was great and steady and wonderful, we needed a change. Fast forward through several interviews with a number of breweries in different areas of the US, and a few abroad, and we found ourselves committing to this particular brewery here in England.
We’ve always wanted to move abroad. We’ve always wanted to travel with the kids. We used to sit in our one bedroom apartment and scheme and dream about selling all of our belongings and moving to Europe. But then we got a kitty, and then we had Gigi, and then Lulu, and we bought a house, and we slowly became a part of our community, and we loved where we lived, and we made wonderful friends, and we had a garden, and furniture that we liked, and a routine, and health insurance, and family within driving distance. We had everything we wanted, but our last, challenging year, Kyle’s need for a job change, and that deep-seated longing to see more and taste more and experience more pulled us out of our life and into this one.
It has been exciting, but also incredibly hard. I underestimated the physical and emotional challenges of this kind of move – especially while pregnant! It is absolutely an adventure, but it’s not been easy. The process was slow and stressful, and Kyle spent three months without working before we got here. As I sit this morning in our new house, that doesn’t yet in any way feel like or resemble a home, waiting for our orders of things like: a mop bucket, a pair of scissors, a baking sheet, bath mats, garbage cans (or bins, as they’re called here), pots and pans, and laundry baskets, I can’t help but feel set right between feeling excited, and feeling homesick. Letting go, it turns out, is equally liberating and heartbreaking. Embracing change is equally thrilling and scary. I’m equally happy that we’re here, and wondering, “What the $!@£ have we done?”
It feels great to be wrapping up the “Moving To England” to do list that we chipped away at for the past few months, and to be settling in here even as everything feels… well, foreign. As we settle in, get utilities installed, furniture delivered, rooms deep cleaned, and laundry done, I feel like we’re slowly embracing this space as ours – maybe it won’t ever feel like “our” home, but it will certainly work as a good, cozy, home-base for the adventures and experiences we’re going to have while we’re here. This move is, at the very least, an opportunity to wake up and engage, to be open where I’ve been rigid, to be brave, and to say yes to as many new experiences as I can. That will include exciting things like trips to Paris to visit family, weekends in Sweden, and taking the kids to the zoo in Amsterdam, as well as simple day to day things like making our house feel like a home with cheap IKEA furniture and candles, and dedicating myself to being a home-educator.
I’m not sure what all of this change will mean for this little space I’ve dedicated to writing in for the past several years; there will still be plenty of recipes (once I figure out the grocery store, Celsius, grams, and those pots and pans and baking sheets arrive), but I imagine there will be more about travel and exploration. I’m looking forward to sharing about our journey here. Most of these photos are copied over from Instagram, where I’ve been sharing quite a bit.
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I wanted to share a few photos from our California vacation. We had a truly great family trip and it was just what we needed after the past few unpredictable and difficult months. There’s nothing like long hours on the road, especially if that road is the Pacific Coast Highway, to reset your spirit. The girls did amazingly well in the car, and adapted pretty well to all the various settings and towns we stopped in; we were pretty much on the move the entire time. This trip made me want to get out the map (and our passports) the moment we got home and start planning our next adventure.
We arrived home to full on summer. The girls and I have kept the adventures going. We’ve been cherry and blueberry picking several days in a row with friends…
We spent a long day up at Lost Lake…
…and a few nights camping on the coast with my friend Kate and her son. It’s felt great to keep on the move, planning adventures, getting out of the house as much as possible. Adventuring with kids isn’t alway perfect or easy but it is so much fun, and it’s great for me to get out of my comfort zone and attempt to embrace chaos a bit; something I am working on these days.
We also somewhat randomly ended up cooking a huge Thanksgiving dinner for our best friends/next door neighbors. Long story short I pulled a frozen turkey from the chest freezer while looking for something to grill and forgot about it on a 90 degree day for 2 hours. By the time I remembered I couldn’t put it back in the freezer so we decided to embrace it and do it all out. I made a Brined and Roasted Turkey, Sourdough Stuffing, twice-baked roasted garlic mashed potatoes, a big salad, gravy, and Cherry Cobbler (following my Apple Cobbler recipe).
Other than Thanksgiving leftovers, we have mostly been making simple salads. Lulu loves to help me cook lately. She’s actually very patient and a good listener in the kitchen. Her favorite job is to shake up the salad dressing in a small jar. I also made a simple, delicious quinoa salad that I took with us up to Lost Lake that I’ll share with you really soon. Aside from small things like Garlic Bread and simple quiches (which can be made early in the day and eaten cool for dinner with a salad), we have been avoiding the oven… especially since our AC broke. I’ll also share my quiche recipe with you soon!
I hope you all are having a wonderful start to your summers!