Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Family Fun in London!

Pin It Now!

[caption id="attachment_1720" align="aligncenter" width="454" caption="In front of Parliament and Big Ben along the Thames River"][/caption]

An hour and a half car ride. Then two hours scurrying through security and waiting in a never ending line for the plane to board and take off. An hour and a half on a teeny tiny, uncomfortable airplane (cheap, budget airline means sacrificing comfort). Another 45min at Stansted airport trying to get through passport checks..  A 45min (thankfully air conditioned) train ride on the Stansted Express to Liverpool Station where we were supposed to then take the tube to our final destination.

Another twenty minutes wandering the Tube station to figure out a new route because the route we needed was down. Thankfully, a lovely employee at the tube station directed us another route.

[caption id="attachment_1714" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Mr. Wright at the Liverpool Tube Station"][/caption]

An hour and a half later than expected, we arrive at our apartment. Sweaty. Filthy. And exhausted.

Traveling is hard. Especially in a different country and in a big city where everything is unknown and foreign. And even more especially with two kids under five in tow.

It’s intense to be in a place swarming with people, signs pointing to every which direction and not being entirely sure where to go or how; all the while with two little ones whining and crying because they too are tired and hungry. The difficulty of this trip is actually one of the reasons we love London more than any other city we have been to thus far.

It was a breath of much needed fresh air to have people stop and ask if we needed help getting somewhere.  And to have people offer to help us when they saw us wobblying up the stairs carrying a stroller loaded with kids and luggage. It is so comforting to have your fears eased and to allow a little bit of trust in strangers.

I’m not sure why, but most people I’ve talked to have said people in London aren’t sweet. Or helpful. Maybe we are some rare case, but our conclusion is London is the most kid friendly city we have traveled to in Europe. Not just in the sense that people are friendly to our kids, which they were a lot. But in the sense that for kids there was something to do everywhere we went.

Here were our Top Five favorite things we did as a family in London:

The Tower of London
The crown jewels. Beauchamp Tower. Bloody Tower. The White Tower. Grassy castle grounds. With so many things to see and explore, we spent a little over 2 hours here. For once, I was happy to see my freakish controlling ways have a positive side because I took the advice of Rick Steves and rushed my family to get the Tower of London first thing in the morning. (As in, everyone be up at 6:30 am, so we can leave at 7:30 am, have breakfast and tube it to Tower Hill). It was so peaceful and intimate to experience the castle grounds before the droves of tourist groups arrived. You know that feeling when you are up before the entire family? When it’s quiet and fresh and peaceful? That’s how it felt being early at the Tower of London. Oh, and it made for better pictures.

Here’s a picture of my sweet little family with the Tower Bridge in the background.

A lovely older man saw me taking this picture and asked if we would like a family picture together.

We climbed Beauchamp Tower and imagined what life was like as a prisoner.

[caption id="attachment_1684" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Prisoners in Beauchamp Tower"][/caption]

We toured through the White Tower and saw the armor of several different Kings.

[caption id="attachment_1685" align="aligncenter" width="461" caption="Apparently Henry VIII had some balls *ahem* or wanted to appear to have them anyway."][/caption]

The kids had a lot of fun on the third floor of White Tower touching the different types of weapons used by knights.

Then it was time for lunch. We were pleasantly surprised at the restaurant (across from the White Tower). The food was semi-gourmet (and had several healthy options).

Kids could make their own lunch box, which offered no sugar added juices, raisins, fruit and sandwiches.

Tower of London is absolutely a must see sight with or without kids!

Natural History and Science Museums
Many great things about these museums which are right next to each other. For one, they are both FREE. They are educational and they both offer hands on activities for kids.


Isn't the architecture of this museum just gorgeous??

This giant sequoia was 1132 years old when it died. It started to seed in the year 530. Amazing!

The creepy crawly section of the museum was my LEAST favorite part.

The earth science section however was pretty cool.

[caption id="attachment_1695" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Escalator ascending into "Mars" to the earth science area of the museum."][/caption]

There were so many other things to do at this museum and it was a fun way to start our morning.

Because there's no such thing as too much fun in a day we went to the Science Museum, which was right next door. THIS place was cool.

[caption id="attachment_1693" align="aligncenter" width="461" caption="Area about space exploration"][/caption]

The area dedicated to space exploration is really neat. Not just for kids, but for adults too!

We also got to learn about the steam engine.

But the kids FAVORITE place in the museum and possibly the entire world was The Basement. An area purely for kids to play with no rules.

They could run around like crazy people. Touch and yank on different things. Jump and climb. Get their hands wet and dirty. It was really wonderful to see their faces light up and see how happy this place made them.

For a moment I wondered how much more fun this place could be for parents. Like if there was a bar stocked with mini wine bottles. Conflict of interest? Yeah, probably.

My little guy ran through this over and over and over again. Every time he ran through he cracked up. It was so funny.

We left. Pooped and entirely exhausted.

SeaLife Aquarium

We decided on the last day whether this aquarium would be worth the cost (about 58 pounds, or $87USD). I’m really glad we went. The kids had a lot of fun and I think my husband had even more fun than them.

When you first get into the aquarium you get to WALK across this glass aquarium and look down on the sharks. How cool is that?

Both kids loved petting the starfish.

The penguin area was so cool. Literally. It was cold! They did a great job replicating Antartica.

Seeing sharks this close was really neat. I definitely love seeing them behind glass. That's as close as I ever care to get to them. I could see their sharp teeth just fine :)

Parks (Hyde and St. James)

[caption id="attachment_1707" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="St. James's Park"][/caption]

It was the epitome of summer fun in the sun at the parks in London. People riding bikes, playing Frisbee, having picnics, boating on the river. The vibe was so chill, yet energetic too. Simply put, it just felt happy

[caption id="attachment_1708" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="My sweeties at St. James's Park"][/caption]

We weren't the only ones who enjoyed the park. Everyone and their brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles were at Hyde Park.


This may seem mundane, but for us eating was a major highlight in London. You see, where we are from, in the countryside in Bavaria, the only option for fast food for lunch(or dinner) is McDonalds. There is no such thing as Panera Bread. Or Chipotle. Many places we have traveled to in Europe have funky hours (by American standards anyway). Lunch is served from 11 until 2 or 3pm and then places are closed until dinner time. It was so wonderful to have places to eat at that were not only open from 6am until 9pm, but that also served healthy, organic fast food. I was in culinary heaven.

[caption id="attachment_1710" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Yummy Italian Salad"][/caption]

Our most favorite place was this little eatery called Ravello. Oh, Ravello how I miss you so. I swear, I’m not exaggerating, this place had THE best latte I’ve ever had. Ever. For real.

[caption id="attachment_1711" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Picture of the best latte ever"][/caption]

We went there every single day for breakfast and most days for either lunch or dinner. They had eggs and bacon and toast and real fruit smoothies for breakfast. And for lunch, salads and curry dishes and sandwiches and pasta dishes. Meals cost us no more than 20 pounds. For us, this kind of eating was a vacation and was perfect. Not everyone has a maniac two year old with them. We do. So when said maniac two year old decides to have a maniac moment, it was a peace of heaven to know we can just up and leave at a moment’s notice, coffee in hand.

Of course we did the typical tourist stuff too, but these places were where we had the most fun as a family. I learned a lesson. Never have an assumption without knowing. I didn't think London was somewhere I ever wanted to go. Not in my top ten anyway. It ended up being my favorite vacation so far. I'm still on a high from how much fun it was. I can't wait to go back to London to experience the version without kids :)



Friday, May 18, 2012

Tapas and Sangria Bash

Pin It Now!

Winter in Germany can be depressing.






There was a need for some cheering up and celebrating. Spring and summer are such busy months, so I thought it would be fun to get some girlfriends together and have some yummy food, some drinks and catch up on the fun things we had planned for the summer.

I saw a really pretty party on Pottery Barn for a Tapas and Sangria themed party. I couldn't really define what a tapa was, but any mention of Sangria and I'm sold. Thanks to pinterest I was able to gather some lovely ideas to put everything together.

The decor was really simple and summery. I just wanted to vibe to be bright, fresh and summery. I made up some signs in photoshop to add some personalization to the party.

For the menu I made a few tapas myself and then the girls brought some dishes to share.

The girls brought:
-Potatas Bravas ( a traditional Spanish tapa)
-Salmon Bruschetta

-Sopapilla Cheesecake
-Honey Mustard Chicken
-Blueberry cupcakes with a lemony frosting

I blame the Sangria for not allowing me to take pictures of ALL the food.

I made:
Made this the night before. The flavor was bursting the next day. I used this recipe from

Veggie Quesadillas by the Pioneer Woman

These were incredibly delicious!! I sauteed the veggies the night before and also shredded the cheese the night before for easy prep before the party.

Pineapple and BBQ Chicken Quesadillas also by Pioneer Woman
Also incredible!! I cut up the pineapple and had the cheese shredded for this, but I grilled my husband grilled the chicken right before the party. Could have definitely grilled the chicken the previous day. Would have stilled tasted delicious (the leftover were great).

Pasta Salad
I used a recipe for homemade dressing from Served in individual cups. Just a little detail for entertaining to keep things simple and cute.

Pico de Gallo
I kinda just eyeballed the ingredients and threw this together, sorry no recipe to share.

Whoa! Was this stuff STUH-rong or what. The fruit was soaked in rum overnight. Delicious. After one drink we were all feeling happy and lovey.

Besides food and decor a party needs music! I downloaded some spanishy and fun songs on itunes.

Drinks. Music. Laughing. Games. And even karaoke! It was such a fun night. I also downloaded some free printable photo props and those turned out to be quite fun.

[caption id="attachment_1658" align="aligncenter" width="457" caption="I could rock a stache."][/caption]

They added a little glow when the sun went down.

It was a great night. I love girls nights. Can't wait to do it again.

And I leave with what I consider the best picture of the night:
 Sorry fellas. This spicy lady is spoken for :)

Until next time my sweet friends.



Monday, May 14, 2012

London, the Homeschool Way

Pin It Now! I'm so excited for our trip to London coming up. London was never on my top places to visit in Europe, but after a friend went and raved about it's awesomeness, I was curious to check it out. I found airfare for all four of us for $390 USD on  How do you NOT go when airfare is that cheap?? (Well...what I didn't realize was how INSANELY expensive lodging is in London. Like crazy. The exchange rate is crap. Basically it costs us double in U.S dollars. I found a great apartment though and I'll share that later.)

I've been researching a little bit on the web of where to go and what to do. We will be there for 3 1/2 days and at first I was thinking that might be too much time. After buying the Rick Steves London guide I think that's not enough time at all! There is SOOO SOO much to do. I'm working our itinerary out and hoping we can do all of the things we really want to. One thing that will help us survive this trip is keeping the kids busy and entertained. My little guy will be happy with food and just being able to run around. But Little Wright is at the age where she can really understand a lot, so I want her to be just as excited about the sites and history as we are.

I made a little "I Spy London" card. This week we are going to talk about all the different sights shown on this card. Her job will be to find these sites and then take a picture.

BTW, I plan to make this available for people to download. However these images are not mine. I'll insert my own photos when we get back and make it a pdf if anyone would like the file to use :)

I found this London Tower Unit on Lucy Learns. Aside from the facts and pictures of London Tower, there is a little cartoon about it too. Little Wright will love that.

Of course the Olympics are in London this summer. Though we won't be there for the actual Olympics, there will be all kinds of signage and things going on to prepare for the events. I think some brief information about the Olympics would be fun for her to learn about too. At Get Set London they have activities and games specifically for 3-5 year olds (and older age groups).

Project Britian has all kinds of information and facts on London's main sights and attractions.

I'm hoping that by learning about London, it will make the trip come alive for Little Wright :) The thing I'm most worried about is the two hour flight. With my two year old. Who is a maniac. Wish me luck :)