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.
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!
My family and I have recently been thinking of ways we can help the environment as well as our local community in Kingston-upon-Thames. At ten and six, Moozles and Dubz are realising that we need to take an active part in taking care of our surroundings. Besides reducing our plastic consumption and recycling, we have started picking up litter as we walk around and when we’re on the school run. So, when we were invited to take part in a McDonald’s Love Where You Live campaign, we were thrilled.
There are seven bloggers, throughout the UK, who are involved with this campaign. There was a vote, where members of the public could choose which part of the seven regions would be cleaned up by the bloggers and McDonald’s volunteers. In Kingston, Richmond Park was chosen. Regular readers will know that I visit the park at least once a week for a walk. But this would be the first time that I would be picking up litter in one of my favourite places.
For those of you about to embark on a kitchen remodel, I am sure you feel equally terrified and elated. You have probably been designing and planning a perfect kitchen for a long time. And once the builders arrive, your dream will soon be realised. But before then, you will need to survive the remodel. So I thought I would share some tips that I utilised when we had a new kitchen installed five years ago. And yes, my kitchen did actually look like that – not enough cabinets so everything on the counter, and a big space where an oven should’ve been, red walls and wood cladding (which is why there wasn’t an oven).
Last term, in Year One, Dubz learned about space. And he loved every moment. Every day he talked to me about planets and stars and Neil Armstrong. So when we decided to visit Center Parcs in the beginning of August, we chose the Sherwood Forest location so that we could stop in Leicester to visit the National Space Centre. And we were not disappointed.
We visited the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida about six years ago. We really enjoyed it and found to be quite impressive. But our daughter found it to be a bit boring. The National Space Centre is definitely not boring. It seems to have been designed to enthuse children about our solar system and the steps we have made to explore it.
Regular readers will know that my son got his first passport last year, when he turned five. And since then he has begged me to visit lots of different countries. But since we spent a fortune going to Disneyworld at Christmas, we had to watch our pennies this year when it came to family holidays. When looking into European destinations for our May half-term holiday, we decided to visit The Netherlands. And when we discovered Roompot Beach Resort, we knew we had to book it through Eurocamp.
You may remember that we had our first Eurocamp holiday last year and absolutely loved it. And Eurocamp offers guests a 5% discount on the following year’s booking (every bit of savings helps!), so we were keen to book. One thing that attracted me to visit southern Holland is its proximity to Calais. We took the ferry over, and the drive to Roompot took just under three hours. That’s actually quicker than driving to many places in France.
Living in London, we are surrounded by so many cool places to visit. And Spitalfields Market is one of those cool venues. It is a unique and vibrant hub of activity where you’ll find art, music, fashion and more. And this September, there is definitely more. There is a new photography exhibit, FACES of Spitalfields, from photographer Manos Fotiou.
Launching on 20th September, the FACES of Spitalfields exhibit can be viewed as you walk around the market enjoying the various stalls, shops and restaurants. The photos are of the traders, porters, management and security with each photo having a lovely bio so that you can get a better feel for the people who work at Spitalfields.