A month of new adventure

Rainbow sunset view from my bedroom is none too shabby…

Rainbow sunset view from my bedroom is none too shabby…

It is one month and one week ago we realised we weren’t going to fly to our new life in California on time, because the kids’ visas had been inexplicably denied. And a week of camping in our dusty, empty Walthamstow home, a week of cursing the Christmas closure of all the best takeaway pizza places, later that we finally took to the skies to begin a new chapter in Los Angeles.

A month we have now been here, camping in another hilltop home, slowly accruing furniture and new ways of life. This weekend our shipment of things arrives from its eight week ocean odyssey. I can’t think of what I have missed beyond EVERYTHING in my kitchen. I can’t wait to bake and make and fill my jars with flours and luxuriate in the use of more than one saucepan. Can’t wait to invite people for lunches and suppers. It’s been weeks we’ve had no television, and I’ve read so many books, but I am looking forward to vegetating in front of it again…if we ever buy a sofa.

A month’s worth of observations on our new home town. The biggest is how much there is of everything. There is often too much. I feel guilty at the supermarket, as though I’m condoning the colossal waste implicit in shopping there. Each Whole Foods - and I am never more than ten minutes from one - has enormous fish and meat counters boasting multiple octopus and massive crab legs, twenty different kinds of bacon, every cut of meat known to man, salmon marinated and smoked a hundred ways. A sushi bar, a taco bar, a deli. But these shops are never very full, so much must go to waste. Is it a sort of entitlement just having it there to gawp at?

Homeward bound on a January beach day

Homeward bound on a January beach day

Nowhere is full and there are never crowds or queues, which is relaxing and disconcerting all at once. I’m so used to being in a rush and a line and jostling for space. The traffic hasn’t ruined our lives yet, as we have the luxury of mostly travelling outside rush hour. The anxious parking panic that riddles driving in London with anxiety for me is gone here, there’s always space and it’s often free. Although I can potter to a few local places on foot, I miss having a neighbourhood where everyone walks everywhere and you therefore see and know each other. I miss the corner shop where I could grab a forgotten bulb of garlic on the school run. We are walking the 15 minutes to school and back here, but barely seeing a soul beyond gardeners and bees. So many magical and sweet smelling trees though!

School has been the most amazing change, having spent years unhappy with their London school and watching especially Pablo come out miserable and crushed each day. They are very in love with their new school. There seems in the culture here a much greater appreciation of the experience of childhood. School wants the children to enjoy learning, and there are so many wonderful resources. We have already had, despite a week-long teacher’s strike, an amazing school play by Pablo’s class about Harriet Tubman, with brilliant costumes and a set made of freedom quilt squares the children designed themselves. Indy and Pablo both starting after school Rock Band club living out their School of Rock dreams, and culminating in a performance at a Hollywood club next term. The club is sponsored by actual Slash. Glowing reports of doing actual experiments in an actual science lab once a week, as well as weekly art and music which was so depressingly missing in the UK. No uniform and so much time outdoors is another upside, whereas nightly homework for Pablo is a big downer. Parents take a massive interest in school and their children generally, with constant fund raisers and volunteering, as well as so many incredible sounding camps involving nature hikes, art… School starts and finishes an hour earlier so it doesn’t feel like I never see them anymore, which is another dream come true.

One thousandth ice cream…

One thousandth ice cream…

Of course we miss London very much, especially our lovely family and friends, Friday after school whines over wine and pizza whilst the kids go wild. Feeling grateful so far that so many have already booked to come and visit. We have space and will soon have the crockery to be able to feed you! Our new community has been so very welcoming, friends both new and old, and we have been invited to parties and suppers and fed and introduced to so many great people and places. When our bed was inexplicably delivered to the wrong street by a dopey FedEx driver, the elderly couple upon whose lawn it was dumped drove it over and insisted I not help at all as they lugged it into the house. We took them flowers the next afternoon and were greeted at the door by Mary with a parrot sat on her shoulder, which made the children very happy. A week later during a torrential downpour Mary appeared on our doorstep in a big glistening mac with flashlights and a radio as the power had gone out. So very sweet and thoughtful.

Weather has been half dreamy and half nightmarish, with a couple of weeks so far of absolutely torrential rain. Rain so hard it runs like rivers down the streets, filling our boots as we run for the car, and thunder so violent the house shook. A few spectacular rainbows glimpsed have been a treat but we are secretly hoping for more dry days. Of course we know the rain is desperately needed here so we can’t be too vocal in complaint, though “this NEVER happens here” does prompt an eye roll or a hard stare. Warm days we can spend sledding down sand dunes or gazing at the sunset over the ocean. Lovely beach parties into the evening, big new parks to explore. Secretly can’t wait for it to be “too hot” for a bit.

A few of our new favourite things so far…




land of kids

Half term is always the best, apart from being about 5 weeks too short. And the fact that everyone else is on half term too, which means that anything even vaguely desirable to do in London is totally heaving and usually sold out 6 months before you've even thought of doing it. But despite this, we packed our sacks of snacks and braved a trip to the South Bank Imagine Children's Festival, not for the *awesome* Grandpa Joe's Giant Storytelling Bed for Roald Dahl tales & epic bouncing, because I absolutely didn't get my act together in time and it was long sold out. However, for mums like me there was the fabulous Land of Kids pop up - totally free and unbookable and all over the Royal Festival Hall. YAY! 

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After fighting through the swarms of toddlers and buggies and agitated mums to park up and feed our gaggle buns and grapes and sandwiches (and ourselves very large coffees) until everyone was on a lovely blood sugar high and ready to rock, we headed up to Pirate School and let them loose. I haven't laughed so much in a long time, as the pirates dressed even little Indy in bandanas, patches and gold then led them on a rampage around the room ("Captain's coming! Scrub the decks!" etc). Lost & Found are the force behind the pirates, and I hear they even do parties so get in touch! The kids were too exhausted afterwards to even face the magical cardboard city building that we'd stuck on the agenda next, but seeing the vast kid-crafted cardboard kingdom stretching across the floor was pretty magnificent. Then it was off to get amazing churros and visit the baby animal petting zoo, cleverly avoiding the face painting…

Why can't half term be every week???

Elmo

I meant to post about this a while back but summer was too unmissable and I indulged in some major blog slacking. Luckily, it's all still going on and so still worth going on about. ELMO - East London Mobile Workshop - is awesome, and it thoughtfully popped along to our local park for a weekend of completely free, very indulgent artsy craftsyness. 

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ELMO is a roaming pop up artist's studio, housed in a converted Bedford Bus (it looks spectacular), offering free creative workshops across East London to kids and grownups alike. We spent a day creating some swoonworthy ombre and gold screen prints (Pablo was especially proud of one he made saying "Joy" for his auntie Zara Joy's birthday), but the real highlight was the following day's letterpress fun. The staff were incredibly patient despite the humming gathering of interested folk, and took a real interest in helping us to create some little bespoke prints. Pablo made an "INDY & PABLO" banner with his papa, and I reeled off a stack of temporary Cake of Dreams business cards. The whole experience was a lovely indulgence, and shockingly, utterly *free*. That's virtually unheard of in this town. Keep an eye on them @elmo_works for news on upcoming pop up fun. Next up is Film Making with no.w.here in Mile End. Is 18 months too young to start making movies....?

London Loves

Summer was teasing us for a couple of weeks, but now it has bid us farewell autumn is easing us in gently. Lots of sparkly, mild afternoons to run around in the leaves and get to grips with wearing jumpers again. We had a lovely last weekend with Nanna & Quinto before their return to Spain for the winter. After a morning at Coram's Fields we stumbled across an incredible French bakery, run by two enthusiastic and charming brothers, who showed us how they make raisin buns and gave us bags of free beignets whilst regaling us with tales of their family baking business in Cannes. Incredibly delicious and such a rare warm atmosphere. Highly recommended: Aux Pains de Papy. For god's sake buy some sacristans, like a hundred, and try not to eat them all at once. HEAVEN.

I basically only dress them in dungarees now. Can't help myself.

I basically only dress them in dungarees now. Can't help myself.

As we ambled back up to King's Cross, stuffed with croissants and brioche and with a french stick under each arm, we discovered the King's Cross Square Carnival in full swing. It would have been rude not to stay and brave the Helter Skelter, after which we headed up to Granary Square where the festival continued, celebrating the history of King's Cross with singing chimney sweeps, Victorian fairground attractions & some busty, dusty wenches.  

I think I'm a little bit in love with Granary Square now, and the whole regeneration of King's Cross. The perfect juxtaposition of old and new makes living in this big stinky city feel a bit exciting. 

Off he goes...

It's fair to say Ive been neglecting this blog the past month, but that's because it suddenly occurred to me that I was down to my last days with Pablo before he entered the school system and was no longer *mine*. Once school began he would see them more than me, which breaks my heart a little. So we've been making the most of the blissfully hot last summer days and traipsing to parks and museums and farms, trying to fill these final days with adventures together, generally leaving me too exhausted to string a sentence together. But it looks like I'm back in the blogging saddle, because yesterday this happened...

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Sure, there will be nobody here nagging me to stop checking Instagram on my phone and play cars instead for the trillionth time, or whining that they absolutely must watch TV immediately or they won't be my friend anymore. But what about all the nonchalant "love you, mum!"s he throws my way, the cheeky remarks and chuckles and heart-melting dance routines to Singing in the Rain? I'm not sure I can handle the sudden cutback from seven full days a week of that to two. And thanks to slightly terrifying new laws I no longer have jurisdiction over his schedule, really, as the school expects him there every single day on pain of financial penalty. So no sneaky long weekends or extra days together. Well, I'll see what I can do... 

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A prince of thieves

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Very proud of Pablo for raising £200 for Barnardos in The Big Toddle. I had to rustle up a Robin Hood outfit in about 30 minutes (ok, so we had most of the hat and a bow and arrow thanks to Konch having been deployed on a business trip to Nottingham vaguely recently. Inspiration clearly more Men in Tights than Kevin Costner) so not just a little bit proud of myself, too. He really loved learning about where the money would be going and glowed at the thought of helping children who have had a tough start. Plus he got to show off his impressive arrow firing skills to the girls at school, who were all dressed as fairy princesses. It was gorgeous. Special mention to his friend (King) Alfie who held his hand throughout the nursery rhyme procession and acted out some awesome battle scenes with him afterwards. Also to Ida's mum for bringing the biscuits...

ski babes

We went on holiday! It was the beginning of a very long enforced holiday from updating this blog, too, but I'm finally getting round to posting about it. I booked it on a whim, being desperate for a getaway and having the vague excuse of Konch's birthday being nearby-ish. A friend who'd been before couldn't stop singing its praises and it was so temptingly affordable that I couldn't resist. After the initial excitement of booking had passed, I began to panic a bit. What had I done? As the dark days of January and February kept us locked inside and longing for long afternoons on hot beaches, I suddenly realised, to my horror, that this was the first time I had ever booked us (or even just myself) a holiday somewhere cold. Very cold. With snow. WHY WOULD I DO THAT? The looks of confusion I was met with when I mentioned we were off on a springtime family jaunt to snowy Poland were also a bit off-putting. But once we got there all faith was restored. 

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We flew to Krakow, rented a car (complete with snow tires) and started off up into the Tatra Mountains for the two hour trip to Zakopane. We arrived in a winter wonderland - valleys of snow three feet deep and dark blue skies, air so fresh I immediately looked ten years' younger (probably), houses that looked carved from gingerbread. We each had apartments in Villa Dorota, a fairytale alpine lodge with loads of space and views across to snowy peaks. The weather was so sunny and gorgeous that I managed to snatch a full twenty minutes of reading on the terrace one morning and got an actual suntan.  

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A highlight for me was epic sledding in our own garden , but when we weren't doing that (or gorging on Kinder-bars by our wood fire, or eating VERY big sausages) we mostly went skiing. Pablo was zooming down the beginner's slope like James Bond (sort of) by day three, and afterwards there were infinite apres ski options - hot wine, big jars of lard to smear on your potatoes, and many raw, organic beetrooty salads. Most restaurants had built in play areas for the kids to frolic about in their long johns arguing over arcade games whilst we grown ups compared skiing aches and dared each other to try "hot beer" . We also visited vast indoor hot springs with multiple water slides, jacuzzi jets, whirlpools and outdoor relaxation zones steaming in the snowy wonderland. Everything was confusingly affordable - a grown-ups dinner out with vodka galore, wine, and three BIG courses of delicious, fresh food (+ atmosphere) came to £20 per couple. Ski hire was £20 for the week, lessons only £10 a pop. We didn't manage horse and sleigh rides, which are everywhere, or snowmobile hire, though I would love to if I ever end up there not with tiny children. The absolute highlight was just the fresh air itself - I had forgotten what that felt like after relentless London and it was incredibly energising. We are keen to go back one summer, when the hills are apparently alive with the sound of goat herding and the scent of wildflowers, and there are stunning lakes to visit for swimming. 

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lady lunch

Had a tasty lunch this week at my friend Laura's beautiful home, and caught up with friends and babies and home made whoopie pies from heaven (THREE, I ate three...) We even had a glass of prosecco, then about thirteen coffees. The babes had a lovely time exploring and it's crazy how fast they are all growing. Special honorary male guest was teeny tiny Tor Albion who stole everyone's hearts...

Indy mostly got her kicks by trying to tumble down stairs. Luckily she was thwarted. 

Indy mostly got her kicks by trying to tumble down stairs. Luckily she was thwarted. 

note the enormo-me reflected in the toaster, pre-whoopie-binge...

note the enormo-me reflected in the toaster, pre-whoopie-binge...

elf

Pablo had the starring role of elf-at-the-front-chewing-on-a-bell-off-his-shoe-instead-of-singing in his school Christmas concert 'Ralph the Reindeer' (me neither...) Costume making was a bit more fun than last year's "Biblical villager"... Thank god for old pillowcases, H&M and Dylon! The ears are his own...

After an exhausting performance, and an even more exhausting photo shoot by me, he was allowed home to open his first Christmas present - 'Farts Around the World' - from his best friend & fellow elf Edie...