January 25, 2015

52 Project: 4/52

Week 4
January 19 - 25, 2015

Top:  A frosty walk to school.
Ella in "mufti," Kate sporing her "baby bobble hat," and Annie actually keeping her hands inside her "sleeping bag."

Bottom:  An impish grin and a cozy a fleece blanket.  
Classic Teensa

January 21, 2015

Best of British

The clock is ticking and my time in England is running down, so I'm doing what every Anglophile dreams: I'm stockpiling British goodies.

I am doing all of this in a way that is unique to me.  I'm not adhering to the Queen's list of Royal Warrant holders.  I'm not purchasing luxury items.  I'm choosing things that are quirky, fun, humorous, beautiful, or meaningful to a person who has spent almost five glorious years in the Cotswolds of England.  

That being said, anyone who visits the UK should give these merchants a look when buying souvenirs.  I ♥ England hoodies are a dime a dozen, you can get Keep Calm gear in any country on earth, and Union Jacks are only acceptable in unusual settings.  Get something unique on your next visit to England!  Something like this little guy...

Natural Welly Ducklet - Union Jack

Union Jack on wellies = acceptable.
Our DCUK is called Pippa.  (The perfect name for a Pettyjohn!)  She's already a part of the family.

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Good old Cath.  Her prints are retro and not to everyone's liking, but she's English to the core.  I bought this ginormous tote (plus pyjama bottoms to match) in the post-Christmas sales.  I can't wait to bust it out next Christmas in Oklahoma!

If you've got kids, for heaven's sake get them an English tea set!
Emma Bridgewater is a British icon, and her tea sets for kiddies are fab.

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I'm not all about the Royal Warrant, but Molton Brown is amazing.
I wear the Gingerlily scent pretty much every day, I look forward to using my travel toiletry set, and I cannot face the Christmas season without their Frankincense and Allspice handsoap.  Everything they make is gorgeous.  I'm a HUGE Molton Brown fan.

Superdry Vintage Logo Hoodie
Ignore all that Japanese stuff.  The guy who created Superdry is from Cheltenham.
Everywhere you go in the UK you see the Superdry logo.
It's 100% English in spite of that "Trade Mark JPN."

English Garden Votive
Take it from a candle person, these are the best candles on earth.
I have pretty much every scent they make, and I love them all.

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This British designer's prints are everywhere.  Handbags, stationery, clothing, soft furnishings, you name it.  I love the geometry of her designs and need one for myself.  (Do you hear me, Nick Pettyjohn?  I need one for myself.)

Their brand claims to be "Fabulously British" and, well, it is.
I did not set foot in this shop until recently because I don't exactly fit the demographic.  It's like English Abercrombie.  While no self-respecting 30-something would be caught dead in Jack Wills in this country, I plan to wear my "Fabulously British" gear with pride in America!

Stoke-on-Trent Pottery
Whether it's Burleigh, Spode, Wedgwood, or Portmerion, it's all Made in England.
My Christmas china is Spode and my everyday dishes are Johnson Brothers, but I also like to buy serving pieces from any of these English pottery giants.

Antique Books
If you want gorgeous old leather bound books at bargain prices, do not look any further than one of the many British Red Cross charity book shops.  I visit our local shop at least once a week and have found individual gems and entire sets of beautifully bound classics that I will cherish forever.

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I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Barbour jackets are the next Hunter wellies.  Everyone wears Barbour here in the Cotswolds.  (Eight years ago I said the same thing about Hunter wellies.)  Their outwear is practical, stylish, and unique.  So very English.  (Once again, I need this jacket.  If only my husband read our family blog.  Sigh.)

All things Christmas pudding, mince pies, and Christmas crackers.
I bought all my girls Christmas tops for next year.  I also stockpiled Christmas crackers and anything that smacks of English Christmas.  Joules is a fabulous shop for all things English "town and country."  Most of my girls' clothing comes from Joules (or John Lewis or Boden).  I'm going to have to learn where to shop when we move back to the States!

We've purchased loads of art, dozens of cookbooks, and tons of other random bits and bobs, but I would love to hear from others who have come across precious jewels of Englishness!  Please let me know what I'm missing in the comments section!  I only have a couple more months here and the clock is certainly ticking...  :)

January 18, 2015

52 Project: 3/52

Week 3
January 12 - 18, 2015

Top:  H is for HUGE HUG.

Bottom:  While the bigs are away, the Teense will play.
Perler beads are like sprinkles and all the world is Annie's cupcake.

January 14, 2015

We're Going Home

Nick and I settled our cat on the console of the car and left Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2005.  

Exactly a decade later, we are on our way home with the cat . . . plus three little people we created along the way.

Nick's girls representing T-town.
Ignore Annie's terrified expression.  I assure you she's thrilled.

As of this Monday, my husband resigned from the job that has brought him joy, challenge, and purpose for the last ten years.  We've had a great run in Maryland, England, and Germany, but the time has come for us to put down some deep roots.  We're going home.  To Oklahoma.  To Tulsa.  The town where we went to college.  The place I met (and married!) my husband.

Best of all, we'll be near family for the first time since we've been parents.  Ella, Kate, and Anne will see their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on a weekly basis.  It goes without saying that beats the heck out of once every year (or less).

Our departure date is set for early April.  We're officially under three months away from going HOME.

These last ten years have been fantastic and I fear I will spend the rest of my life hanging on to them and assuring myself that they did in fact take place.  We really truly did live on the east coast . . . and in Germany . . . and in England!  But the words we're going home have never sounded so magical.

Even though it feels too good to be true, this is real.  This is happening.

You and I have memories
Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.

We're on our way home.
We're on our way home.
We're going home.

January 11, 2015

52 Project: 2/52

Week 2
January 5 - 11, 2015

Top:  Snuggling, tickling, shrieking, giggling.  Constant motion and constant laughter.  Life and photos are all ablur.  

Bottom:  Anne's new word of the week is Mo-mo.  As in, "Mo-mo, is it okay for me to remove every cap from your new set of markers from Santa?"

January 8, 2015

London 2015: The Kids Call the Shots

As you probably already know, we travel a lot.  It's sort of our thing.  

And when it comes to trip planning, Nick and I make all the decisions.  We name the place, we plot the itinerary, we choose restaurants, we call all the shots.  We drag our tiny kids through museums and art galleries.  We take them on tours that test the attention spans of adults.  We take them to restaurants so posh that they can't even get a side of ketchup.  

It's a miracle they haven't mutinied.  

Nick and I aren't mean about it.  We try to draw them in and make things as interesting as possible.  We read books in advance, we buy children's guides, we move slowly and let them take it in at their own pace, etc.  We try to make it fun too.  We eat a LOT of ice cream, let them choose their own souvenirs, and stop to play in parks at every opportunity.  But in the end it must be stated that Nick and I get much more out of traveling than our kids do.

We decided to kick off 2015 a little bit differently.  For Christmas we gave the girls a copy of Jennie Maizels's Pop-Up London along with a note.  The note said that we had booked a flat in London for a long weekend and it was entirely up to them to decide where we go and what we see.

For the next week the girls pored over their new book and other London favorites (This is London, Katie in London, etc).  They drew up a list, and from their list I created an itinerary.


Seven floors of blow-your-mind toy extravaganza.  Ella and Kate were in heaven.  Meanwhile Annie was extremely disappointed that we wouldn't let her have free reign to explore the awesomeness of Hamleys on her own.  (The Boxing Day sales were still on, and the place was heaving with shoppers.  I did not want to lose my baby in Hamleys.)  After over two hours in the shop, Ella walked away with a robotic cat, Kate a Beanie Boo elephant, and Anne a plush "meow meow" with a Hamleys collar.  

Annie spent the next three days with her "meow meow" clutched to her chest.  I want to call her M  part James Bond reference, part an allusion to the fact that Annie cannot yet say kitty cat.  :)

Where else on God's green earth can you sit on the lap of a Lego Queen Elizabeth II?

Or pose with Lego Beefeaters?  Or make a call from a red phone box made of Lego?!

Platform 9 3/4 

When we arrived at King's Cross station, we were informed that the wait for a photo at Platform 9 3/4 was over an hour long.  I was ready to throw in the towel, but my two tiny Harry Pottah fans insisted we stick it out.  I've never been so proud.

Kate the Hufflepuff, Ella the Gryffindor, Aubrey the Ravenclaw, and Annie the Slytherin.
Note: Only three of us have had our houses confirmed on pottermore.com.
But I have a sneaking suspicion Annie will be a Slytherin like her Grandpa!

Posing with our souvenirs.

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland

A fun phone call with a girlfriend from college (that's you, Goodwin!) convinced me that we needed to make a stop in Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland.  We went for brats, crepes, mulled wine, and Christmas cheer, and we were not at all disappointed.  The lights, the scents, the stalls, the laughter...it was magic.

Ella and Kate swear this is their favorite part of the entire trip to London.  They got to ride a roller coaster AND the big circular swings.  I've never seen smiles so wide in all my days.  

Happy with my cup of mulled wine.

Kate and Ella ready to ride the swings!

Winter Wonderland!

Borough Market

The following day we went directly to Borough Market for coffee, fresh-pressed juices, olives, cheese, pastry, bread, fudge, and so much more.  I was super impressed with my big girls for putting this on their list of sites to visit.  I think it might have something to do with the fact that they have heard me talk about its wonders so many times...  (They don't remember their last visit to Borough Market in 2010.)

While I love Borough Market with all my heart, I am always gutted that I don't have a kitchen in London.  It's a dream of mine to purchase all the fixings for a fancy feast at Borough Market in the morning and treat my closest friends for dinner that evening.  I suppose it's a dream that won't come true.  But at least this time Nick and I enjoyed a knock-your-socks-off cheese board in our flat after our kids went to bed!

Nick and the bigs at Borough Market.

Mega mistletoe.

Shakespeare's Globe

Once again, I am so happy that I've brainwashed influenced my children so effectively.  The Globe Theatre was on their list of things to see in London.  I've walked past it dozens of times, but I had never actually been inside.  It was fabulous.  Our tour guide was amazing and our experience was memorable in spite of the constant drizzle.

In the end, Ella was a bit disappointed in the Globe.  She had for reasons unexplained envisioned that she would learn more about and/or see a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream while we were inside the Globe.  It's apparently her favorite Shakespeare play (never mind that I didn't even know my seven-year-old could name a Shakespeare play) and she was keen to hear more about it.  But it wasn't a total loss.  As Ella Mae told me afterward, "At least now I know that the walls of the Globe are made of goat hair."

So there you have it.  Goat hair.

Inside the magical Globe Theatre.

Kate and Nick in the best seats in the house.

Tower Bridge's Glass Floor Exhibit

Just before we left for London, Richard alerted us to the fact that there is a brand new exhibit at Tower Bridge.  That light blue walkway between the towers (pictured below) now has a glass floor.

About to go walk across the upper expanse of Tower Bridge.

It was hysterically funny how afraid Annie was to walk on the glass.
She kept leaning over the "edge" and looking at us to check if it was okay.

Annie only stepped out on it after these two tested its solidity.

I'm not going to lie.  I was even more nervous than Annie.

Ice Skating at Somerset House

When Nick and I watched Love Actually this Christmas, I paused the film, pointed to the screen, and informed him that I wanted to go THERE this year to ice skate.  My "there" was Somerset House.

Ice skating at Somerset House.

Ready to lace up our skates and have a go.

Nick and Annie watched while the big girls did a few laps.

It was tough going for Ella and Kate right at first.
I would guess that I hauled them up off the ice 587 times on the first lap.

Ella's 432nd fall.

Kate's face says it all.

Less than half an hour later both girls had gotten the hang of it and were skating independently.
I can't wait to go again when they are much older.
I plan to fall at least a dozen times and cry loudly until they pick ME up off the ice.  ;)

London Eye

This was the culmination of our kids' trip to London: a ride on the London Eye.  It's now a hugely identifiable part of the London skyline, and our girls wanted to get on board.  It was almost everything they wanted it to be...apparently the glass floor at Tower Bridge had convinced them that the Eye would have a glass floor too.  :)

I always love a ride on the Eye.  It's magical to be suspended in a crystalline pod on the edge of the River Thames.  This ride was emotional for me remembering my last ride on the London Eye back in 2006 with Aunt Bev, Uncle Don, Layton, and Elizabeth.  I'm so thankful for those memories.

Elizabeth Kate, Elena Anne, and Ella Mae aboard the London Eye.

Family photo with Big Ben in the background.

Kids and adults all agree, this was an awesome trip.  I'm more than a little bit tempted to have Ella and Kate plan all future travel for our family.  They are old enough now, right?