Hey! I'm a California gal who moved to London in 2002 to be with my British bloke. Come read about my adventures living in London, being a Stay-At-Home-Mum, coping with a tea and cake addiction and trying to assimilate into British life. Don't know where I belong, but can't imagine living anywhere else.
Bears have the right idea. Winter just makes you want to hibernate. Sadly, there’s no hibernation for humans. We have to keep going, even when we want to snuggle on the sofa with Netflix and cake. But I’ve decided not to let the cold weather get the best of me this year. So I’m making sure I go on weekly walks this winter.
You know that I didn’t grow up with this kind of weather. In fact, I didn’t even see snow until I was 20. And while London doesn’t get really cold weather, like some places, it gets colder than what I like. But for my mental and physical health, I need to walk. And out I go. Whether it is walking to and from school, or going for walks in Richmond Park, I’m trying to walk everyday.
For regular readers, you’ll have noticed the change in my blog and social media channels. I have gone from being ‘Californian Mum in London’ to ‘Elfa in London’ (although my website address has remained the same). Although my blog content will continue to be as before, I thought a name change was needed. So I thought I would share the reasons why.
I can barely believe it, but I have lived in the UK for 16 1/2 years. How can this be?! I remember arriving here on a two-year visa, ready to embark on a relationship with the loveliest British man in the world. I had never lived with a boy before, let alone moving thousands of miles to live with one. I was so nervous when I left California and arrived in London. But as you know, the risk was worth it. And so far, so god.
I seem to alternate with being very organised or being an utter procrastinator. And that goes with every aspect of my life. Annoyingly, this Christmas, I’ve been a procrastinator. I actually started looking at Christmas events and activities in early November but just couldn’t decide on anything. I still haven’t even booked a Santa’s Grotto. Eek! The thing about London, though, is that you have to book things well in advance. If you don’t, you may end up at home watching Netflix all winter (not the worst thing in the world, but boring after a while). In case any of you are like me this year, and are based in/near London, here are some fun Christmas activities that haven’t already sold out.
Even though I share fashion posts quite regularly, I am not very confident. But I try and get out of my safety zone and not just wear the same types of things. With that in mind, every year, for the past four years I have bought a beret. And every year I have returned said beret.
This year’s beret was gorgeous and leopard. But when I put it on, I felt like an utter impostor. I am not a cool young thing. I am 43. I can’t possibly continue trying berets, surely I must admit defeat.
I had planned to write a post on my favourite holiday destination. But then, I couldn’t decide which place was my favourite. But what a unique position that is. I have been to so many beautiful and/or interesting places that I can’t decide on a favourite destination. Travelling brings about many wonders – you learn about different cultures, taste new food and you may see a landscape completely different than what you’re used to. I may be able to choose a favourite when I’m 92, but for now I have quite a few favourites. But I thought I would share two of them with you.
Over 14 years ago, Husband and I went on our honeymoon to Kenya. We spent one week relaxing by the beach in Mombassa and then another week on safari in the Masai Mara. The safari was magical. We we were in wonder as we spotted so many animals, including cheetahs, rhinos, giraffes, elephants, and wart hogs. We even saw a pride of lions feasting on an animal they had caught. We went to Lake Nakuru – famous for its millions of pink flamingos (top photo). And we still joke about the afternoon we were eating lunch on the terrace and a monkey grabbed a biscuit out of my hand. It looked into my eyes, took the biscuit, and scampered off. Talk about a cheeky monkey!
One of the joys of London is the never-ending choice of restaurants and cafes. There is always a cool new place to eat at. And if you like Japanese food, then you have to try Ichiba. Opened in June 2018, Ichiba is the largest Japanese foodhall in Europe. And as it is located in Westfield shopping centre, in Shepherd’s Bush, you will be able to make a day out of it. Shopping and yummy food – what a wonderful combination.
My daughter and I adore Japanese food. My son is six and I have been trying to cultivate his love of new flavours. There was a tough time in our lives where for three months he only ate toast. Dark times, people, dark times. And while Dubz won’t touch sushi, I am trying to show him that there is more than that when it comes to Japanese cuisine.
Like most Americans, I am a huge fan of Thanksgiving. It’s basically Christmas without gifts. You can get together with your family and/or friends and eat until you have to loosen your trousers. What’s not to love? What one my favourite things about Thanksgiving is the dessert – and lots of yummy pies. Sadly, my children do not like pie. So a few years ago I had to come up with the perfect pumpkiny dessert. And here it is – a pumpkin cake so delicious and moist, plus it’s dairy-free.
My kids ask for this cake, even when it’s not Thanksgiving. I made one at the weekend to bring to a Friendsgiving celebration. My family were sad that they didn’t get enough, so I will be baking more this week. I like to bake in a bundt tin, because bundt cakes look fancy. It’s gratifying baking a simple cake and having people think that it’s more effort than it is. And this is seriously the easiest cake ever!
I have been blogging for five years now. One year into the blog, I registered as self-employed and turned my hobby into a part-time job. And for the most part, I enjoy working from home. There is a flexibility which means that I can work while the kids are at school, or in the evenings on busy days. It also means I can take a week off here and there when life gets overwhelming. But for all the benefits, it can be lonely.
I sometimes miss being in an office full of people. I miss chats while the kettle is boiling, jokes over lunch and after-work drinks. And it turns out that I’m not alone. In September, Epson held a briefing at their EcoTank Pop-up shop in Covent Garden. Vicki Psarias, from Honest Mum, was there talking about homeworking. She noted that 48% of freelancers felt lonely, blaming a lack of social life as one of the main reasons. Epson put on their pop-up during September and October to give freelancers a place to go and work.
I don’t normally think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday of November). But this year, I’m feeling festive a bit early. And I think it’s because my family and I spent the day in Leicester Square on Saturday. My daughter was at a sleepover, so Husband and I took Dubz for a fun-filled Christmassy day in central London.
We rarely get alone time with Dubz, so we were really excited about having a day with him in Leicester Square. Sadly, Dubz did not get the memo and thought it would be the perfect day to be grumpy. We spent half an hour arguing that he would be cold if he wore shorts and no coat on our outing. We then gave up, and when he went outside he realised he needed more clothing. This made us miss our train into Waterloo. At this point, we decided to start again and hope for a happier day.
Every year, Husband and I have a child-free holiday. Sometimes in the UK. Sometimes abroad. This year, we chose Hamburg. I call them holidays, but they’re probably technically mini-breaks as we normally only go away for three to four days. What constitutes a holiday, I wonder. Anyway, whatever it is, we went to Hamburg.
Choosing Hamburg was not very scientific. We basically had a look at where we could fly with our frequent flyer miles. And then picked three places we had never visited but seemed interesting. I did about five minutes of research and picked the one that seemed fun but not too busy. A few people asked me if we had friends or family there, as it seemed to be a random destination, but Hamburg is actually a cool and trendy city.