The Clinger’s Visit

Timing is a funny thing.  Wanting to return home immediately upon hearing about my dad’s health, and being advised not to, I was grateful that my sister Crystal and her husband Kevin were able to carry out their plans to come out to see us.  It felt like a piece of home with them here during this rough time.

This was both their first time to England and we decided to pack as much in as we possibly could. The weather could not have been more glorious all week, blue skies and sunshine near 70 degrees!   With Jace now having an ear infection and horrible cough and Cade still on the mend, they stayed home to recuperate for a few of our outings.


First up was Big Ben of course!  It’s a must to get pictures in the perfect spot with the telephone booth, even if we have to wait in line a bit.

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We walked all around Parliament and arrived just after they closed the doors to Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret’s Church, but admired it from the outside.  There’s no way to capture the magnificence of the architecture here, it needs to be seen in person to truly appreciate and grasp its scale.

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With jet lag kicking in (at least with Kevin!), we forced them to stay awake a little longer and took them on a stroll through Green Park.  The park was absolutely beautiful.  I’ve heard how lovely spring is here and I can see why now. Tyler attempted to make friends with a nearby goose, nearly losing a finger in the process!  We got double ice cream cones and made our way to Buckingham Palace.

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Because the changing of the guards schedule didn’t jive with our plans, we decided to just show them Buckingham Palace without all the fan fare.  It’s definitely not as exciting and easy to see why the Queen loves Windsor Castle in comparison.


We briefly showed them Trafalgar Square before the sun set and walked down Oxford and Picadilly.  I think they crashed pretty quickly back at our place and caught up on sleep for another packed day.



Crossing the Westminster Bridge over the Thames River has the most spectacular views.  I just started my first oil painting of this very scene, I love it so much.


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Clear skies made our view from the London Eye perfect.  Inside the largest ferris wheel in the world, we were able to see a magnificent skyline!  We’re still learning what the majority of the buildings are, but it’s so vast and beautiful just to take it all in at such a height.  We felt on top of the world up top!

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The London Dungeon tour was not as good as it was hyped to be.  We were herded through the depths of smelly, dark spaces to experience the recreations of gruesome stories of London’s history with Jack the Ripper, Guy Fawkes, beheadings of Henry VIII’s wife and the like.  Tyler thought it was great, but I think we adults would like those 90 minutes of our lives back!


Sometimes you stumble on the greatest finds. All Bar One for lunch was a nice surprise of modern British food.  Kevin experienced the fish and chips with mashy peas and we all loved our meals, which is rare at a British joint.

It’s not easy deciding on a show here, but the vote was to see “Once” again since they heard how much we loved it the first time.  What we didn’t know was nearly the entire cast had changed and they had a fill-in for the lead lady so it wasn’t nearly as good,  but I still loved the music.  On our way there, our taxi driver pointed our Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh (and husband to the Queen) in his car next to us.  I was astonished to learn he is 92 years old, not looking a day over 70 in my eyes!


They headed out early Friday morning to Paris for Kevin’s birthday and spent the night right near the Eiffel Tower.   I think they had fun doing the tour bus and seeing the major sites there.


Saturday afternoon, they returned and we celebrated Kevin’s birthday with his new favorite cookies from Ben’s Cookies.  They really are so much more delicious than they appear!


Since Portobello Market is only open on Saturdays, we headed there to explore and shop.  They found some fun things for their four girls.   Low and behold, we bumped into Tyler, Cade and their friend Mike who happened to be there too!  It’s Tyler’s favorite place on the planet.  He may be the only teenage boy to truly appreciate antiques I know.

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We walked down Kensington High Street and stopped in St. Mary Abbot’s church on the corner which we’ve always wanted to do.  You could spend hours in just about any building, reading all the rich history of days and people long past.

Hyde Park was full of people.  This weather really brings the locals out.  They checked out the grounds of Kensington Palace.  Our favorite duck pond was under construction, so no feeding the birds today.


Unfortunately our favorite little Italian restaurant was booked  for dinner so we chanced it going to a different one we knew nothing about.  Sadly, it disappointed but the company was nice!


They were able to explore inside the Tower of London and see a few other sights on their own.

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We all rode the double decker bus to church.

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Later that night we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral, showed them our first flat, and walked along the passenger bridge to Tableau to show them Lynn’s office.

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Monday was spent at Windsor Castle again.  Cade wanted to see it this time, but unfortunately Lynn had meetings and was unable to join us.  Guess we’ll have to go back yet again.  The Queen was there again, and we watched her caravan leave and the flag change.

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This time we made sure we went in St. George’s Chapel and were not disappointed.  King George IV began its construction in 1475 and it took nearly fifty years to complete.  It was built as a chapel for the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Britain’s highest order of chivalry.  It’s considered a masterpiece of Late Medieval Perpendicular Gothic.  It was an overload for the eyes to take in everything at once.  I am constantly amazed at the beauty of the ceilings in such places, in awe how they were constructed such a long time ago given their tools and technology.

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The Quire area is impressively built with medieval wooden-carved stalls  with banners overhead where the knights of the Order assembled.  Seven hundred 700 engraved brass plates of former knights attached to the backs of the stalls. Prince William became the 1,000th knight of the order in 2008.  Here’s a few pictures courtesy of the web.

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Ten monarchs are buried in the Chapel including Edward IV himself, Henry VIII with his favorite wife Jane Seymour, Charles I, George V and Queen Mary and George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.  Several notable weddings have taken place there as well, including many of Queen Victoria’s children’s.

Our grand finale evening was a night out to dinner and Les Miserables.  The show did not disappoint with spectacular voices, special effects, creative sets and powerful music.  The songs have been stuck in my head for weeks now, which is okay because I love this music too.


It was sad to say goodbye, the time flew way too fast!  Thanks Crystal and Kevin for making the trip out and experiencing life out here with our crew.  Great memories!

Ringing in the New Year!

A few days before New Year’s we got invited to spend the afternoon out at the home of Lynn’s colleague.  We finally got to check out the English suburbs!  We took the over ground train out the furthest we’ve been, finally getting to zone 5.  We’ve been teased for not making it out of zone 1 and 2 (except for the airport), but there’s so much to still see and do in the heart of the city we just haven’t expanded our adventures to the countryside yet.   It was our first time in a true English family’s home, which was lovely.  They have 4 children too, which is quite uncommon around here.  The boys were so excited to play with their adorable puppy.  To their delight, they had quite a few other pets including 4 guinea pigs in the large backyard, a cat, and gerbils.  Jumping on the trampoline was a great energy release for the little ones while we visited.  We all enjoyed a formal lunch of tomato soup, bread, sausage rolls, mini sausages, various cheeses, mince pies, and clotted cream ice cream with homemade chocolate sauce.  We’re all still getting used to the food here, but like most everything so far.  They had X-Box and Legos to keep them entertained so it felt a lot like home.


New Year’s Eve

With Lynn wrapping up the hectic year-end business at the office, the boys and I went and got food for our celebrations.  I looked everywhere for a fondue pot, but came up short so that tradition will have to wait until next year.  Tyler had plans to hang out with friends and go to the mall, dinner, movie and play games at his friend’s house later.  With the bus and tube services closed for the night, he ended up staying the night, which didn’t bother him a bit.  His friend got an XBOX One for Christmas so he was happy.

Gratefully, Lynn was pleased with the way the year shaped up.  He has worked so many long hours in the past two months and it was great to see the European office exceed expectations, so it was time to celebrate!  Originally we had planned to go watch the fireworks at the London Eye, but the weather turned stormy and we decided to watch it on the BBC instead.  When we saw the massive crowds of people on tv that had been saving their spot for hours, we knew we made the right decision for our group.

We had a pretty simple meal and treats and toasted in the New Year with sparkling rhubarb and custard punch.  We have discovered some very weird flavors of things here.  The rest of the night was spent playing some games with the kids. London Snap was a fun new game Cade got for Christmas, it’s like slapjack with English landmarks. Our other new favorite game is Wits and Wagers, which is a more exciting version of trivial pursuit.  Thanks Ryan & Suzette for the fun gift!


My parents called us from Chelan and we were able to face time with them and my sister’s family, who we regularly spend New Year’s with.  We miss family a lot right now.  I miss reading all our New Year’s predictions from the prior year to see who was right and who was way off! 

The little boys were determined to stay up until midnight and as the clock grew nearer, they got more hyper.  Cade spotted some fireworks and we heard loud noises right outside our window.  They had fun watching their own little show poking their heads out to see them right above them.  Every once in a while a new set of fireworks would light off in a different area, keeping them entertained until the big show.  We watched all the different country’s firework shows until our countdown.

Usually we’re fixed on watching the Space Needle light up, but it was a great sight to watch the London Eye and Big Ben as the backdrop for such an exciting event.  This year’s goal of those in charge was “flavored fireworks and the greatest number of people in human history having a simultaneous multi-sensory experience.”  People were given scratch and sniff programs and candy to match the peach snow, orange flavored bubbles, banana confetti and fruity mist rain down on the masses during the show.  Even being at home, we were all amazed at the creative, intense fireworks that looked like they were going to catch the city on fire.


Quite the show out our window. We’re glad we’re this high up!



This is why we didn’t wait three hours for a good viewing spot

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For hours, we could hear different sets of fireworks and a lot of sirens.  Not the best night’s sleep.

New Year’s Day

We could have kept sleeping, but rolled out of bed after 10:00 am.  I’m always happy when my kids sleep in when I need it.  One look out the window and we weren’t too excited about the weather for the big parade.  Lynn, Jace and I decided to check out the tail end, hoping by then the horrible wind and rain would have calmed.  We made it to Trafalgar Square and found a front row spot surprisingly.  The weather must have thinned the crowds more than usual.  I think we must have missed the best performers though, as most were young bands from the U.S. or random small groups.  The guy next to me was sure excited to see the cast of Mr. Who, something I have no knowledge of.  I felt really bad for all the drenched performers–they must have been freezing.

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Dr. Who

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We ditched the parade and got lunch at Nando’s, which was a little too spicy but fun to do with just one child.  How easy life would be!  The rest of the afternoon was spent watching movies and hanging out.

It’s been over two months since we’ve had a decent American style pizza and rootbeer, but we found a place not too far away and got take-away for dinner.  Pizza has never tasted so good!  We had to laugh when we saw their interpretation of sausage, olives and onion though with whole olives and sliced hard sausage.  You see some really strange items on pizza around here, it’s typically disgusting.  Who likes corn on pizza anyway?

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A few more games before bedtime and we called it a night.

Day After New Year’s

I let the kids skip school assignments for the day so we could meet up with some new friends at the London Transport Museum.  Although we were terribly late, the boys all loved checking out the history of the city’s buses, taxis, trains and underground.  There were so many interactive exhibits for them to explore.  Cade got to pretend to drive a big double-decker bus as the younger ones pretended to be run over.  They all loved driving the simulated tube train from stop to stop.  Thankfully we got a year’s pass, so we will return when there’s more time and less crowds.

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Right across the street is Shake Shack which we devoured for lunch.  American style hamburgers are another craving we’ve had since living here and it hit the spot perfectly!  Crinkle fries, shakes and “concrete” ice cream all ruined whatever healthy new year’s goals we had, but it was worth it!

Today’s weather was such a stark contrast from yesterday’s storms that we took advantage of walking all around Covent Garden.  There was a fascinating street performer balancing on his unicycle atop a narrow suspended rope while juggling three sharp knives.  I’m hoping it didn’t give the boys any new ideas!

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Sometimes getting lost while finding the bus stop or underground works out.  We ended up at Trafalgar Square again with all the activity.  Jace even warmed up to the idea of a picture with some of his favorite Star Wars guys, but was blinded by the sun.  Another unicycle knife juggler was performing and dazzling the crowds.  This whole area is so beautiful on a clear, sunny day.


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Our grand plans to go to the Dover Castle and  the White Cliffs were ruined with severe weather warnings for the coastline, so we will wait for the sun to hopefully return again soon.  Instead, we took the boys over to the Imperial War Museum.  Unbeknownst to us, it was the last weekend it would be open before a six month major renovation.  We arrived just in time, but they were far more crowded than usual and many of the exhibits were already blocked off, including all the planes.  They didn’t allow much photography, but here’s a few shots of the day with my blurry camera.

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While we wrap up the holidays and get ready to kick off 2014 strong, we look back at the past year in amazement and gratitude for the ways in which we’ve grown and bonded together as a family.   It’s not always pretty, but it’s been a fabulous, wonderful year as a whole we won’t soon forget.  Bring on the New Year with all its adventures and possibilities!

Trafalgar Square

After we finished up school, we headed over to Trafalgar Square.  Surprisingly, it’s taken us three weeks to get there.  While the weather continues to be sunny, we wanted to explore more outdoors and this open monument was the perfect place to spend the afternoon.  The kids were blown away by all the street performers.  They could not figure out how guys were floating on air until they watched one disassemble his platform.  There’s a little chair that hooks onto the metal pole and runs down their arm.  You’ll notice Jace is not in any of these pictures.  He wanted nothing to do with these people!

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This floating guy had the creepiest face!

A magician had Tyler help with his card tricks. He had Tyler write his name on a card and ended up choking on it and pulled it out of his mouth.  Pretty gross.  He was pretty good and even showed the boys how he did some of the tricks when he was done.


This magician amazed the boys with his tricks.

A freaky, gold Shrek guy pulled Nathan over for a picture and Nathan was a bit disturbed the rest of the time, claiming he was being stared at from then on.  There were other musicians and performers all vying for attention and money.


They kids tried climbing on the massive lions, but they were just too big.  Tyler finally made it on top, making his brothers all jealous.  It’s such a beautiful, open area with so much to see and take in.

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We went inside the National Gallery just to warm up, not really knowing what was inside.  Pretty quickly we realized there were no other children and many art enthusiasts enjoying the fine art.  We didn’t stay long, though I’d like to go back alone sometime.  Oh, and if you’re thinking of taking a picture inside—warning-an extremely rude French employee might bite your head off for trying.  Oops, I didn’t see that sign upon entrance.


The National Gallery

When we came out of the gallery, there was a life-like dinosaur roaming around.  Jace thought it was real and just froze.  He’s really gotten into dinosaurs and has learned many of their names.  When I showed him the extra pair of legs sticking out the bottom, he finally believed someone was inside.  We watched the dinosaur for a while, wandering around and then lunging at unsuspecting people making many scream.  There were a few kids in strollers who were a little traumatized, even though they were trying to promote a dinosaur show for children.  Cade got up close and got a good look at it.




We explored the area and got snacks and Tyler found a coin shop that had all sorts of rare money.  He’s been collecting coins for a while now and I was hoping his hobby would mellow out while we were here, but he’s been able to find even more exciting money here (confederate bills, Nazi notes and bags of world coins).  His Christmas list is now full of the most random things from these old shops.  The older the better with him.

We will definitely be back to Trafalgar Square another day, we loved it!