Monday, 29 June 2015

Last Stop: San Diego

The final stop on our American road trip was San Diego, which was to be our home for our last four nights.  We stayed in La Jolla which is a gorgeous part of San Diego and I'd highly recommend staying in the area. Whilst close to all that San Diego has to offer, La Jolla was beautiful in itself and it was lovely to just stroll around.  We stayed at the Empress Hotel and I would highly recommend it.  We had a family room which was huge and equipped with a mini kitchen, dining room and master bedroom.  My daughter and I also loved the freshly baked cookies that appeared every afternoon! 

Just a five minute stroll from our hotel and we were by the sea.  We were also really near the Children's pool.  This beach has a wall built out to the sea to allow calmer waters for children. However, the calmer waters have resulted in the beach being populated by seals and their pups.  I think there is an ongoing debate as to if the seals should remain on the beach or if the beach should return to being a child friendly one.  

We were quite happy to just admire these beautiful creatures, if they were a little on the smelly side. 

Our favourite beach by far, was Shores beach. It was clean and had good facilities. It also had a great children's play area too, so when my daughter got fed up of chasing the waves after a mere 5 hours, we then walked to the play area. Our favourite times were spent just playing in the sea and building sand castles.  

There was so much to see and do in San Diego and I would love to return to see more of this amazing city. We visited an area known as The Old Town Market, which was this fantastic Mexican outdoor market with shops, restaurants and lots of local history and interesting buildings.  

We also visited the Little Italy market, which runs every Saturday from 8am until 2pm, selling everything from beautiful art prints to flowers and fresh fruit. My advice is to go hungry because the food looked absolutely delicious. 

Balboa Park was also stunning and worth a visit, though we only saw a tiny part of it. 

Pacific Beach and Mission beach had lots to do too, from the gorgeous beaches themselves to mini golf (a must on holidays), shopping and so so many restaurants!  I have never eaten so much delicious fresh fish and seafood as I did in San Diego!  

On our last day we went to the pier at Pacific beach and went to Crystal Pier bait and tackle, where you can rent everything you need to try and catch a fish.  My husband has never fished in his life, so between the three of us I imagined us pulling up a tyre or surfer. My daughter found it very exciting, even if she did nearly attach us to the hook on more than one occasion!! 

But would you believe we caught a fish!!! An actual fish!!! It was absolutely huge...(please note, my husband has very, very large hands which gives the perception of the fish being smaller than it actually was!!!!!). You have to do this if you visit the area and the owners of the bait shop were really lovely and friendly. (I can confirm that no fish were harmed during our fishing expedition, and after being dropped on the board walk, the fish was returned safely to the water!). 

It was the perfect day to end our perfect trip.  

I felt like we had seen so many amazing things and it was lovely to spend so much time together, just the three of us.  

"Fill your life with experiences, not things.  Have stories to tell not stuff to show", Anon.

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Friday, 26 June 2015

Fashion Fix Friday: The £8 Espadrilles

Espadrilles are everywhere at the moment, but I've not found a pair that I have loved enough or had the chance to buy.  But, whilst in my local Tesco, I spotted these beauties for only £8 and I had to snap them up!!

Unfortunately, they didn't have my size in store, but I ordered them from the Tesco website and they were delivered to my local store within two days free of charge! 

They are a really comfortable fit, well made and with a very subtle metallic thread running through the cream upper material. I certainly wouldn't describe them as sparkly and that very subtle shimmer is what I love about them. They are perfect for the Summer, throwing on with jeans or a Summer dress.  You may be able to hunt these espadrilles down in your local Tesco, or they are still available on the Tesco website, but be quick as they only have certain sizes left. 

Hope you all have an amazing weekend, 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Pregnancy Blog : Week 20

Eeek, how exciting! My first proper pregnancy blog! I had all intentions of blogging weekly about my pregnancy, but my little friend called morning constant sickness put a stop to that little idea (you can read about me sobbing in the bathroom here).  But, onto less sicky things and more happy tales now...I am twenty weeks pregnant and half way there! 

We had our twenty week scan this week which was amazing.  I didn't think I would be nervous, but I barely slept the night before and had a very strange dream involving a baby chimpanzee and a hot air balloon (don't ask).  The sonographer took what felt like ages doing her measurements and checks.  There was alot of me jigging around as baby was quite low down, and after she had tilted the bed and me upside down, she managed to get her measurements and then talked us through the scan.  Everything was absolutely perfect and as it should be.  

We asked not to know the sex of the baby, but I don't know, I thought the face looked like a boy.  But don't count on me for any intuition, as I was convinced my daughter was a boy throughout my pregnancy.  

We did take our daughter along to the scan and she peered suspiciously at the screen, before returning to her game of snap! 

Week 20 of my pregnancy is going well.  I am starting to feel a little more tired than I would normally.  I've had no real cravings, except if you count wanting every single food substance.  I feel like my body is making up for the fact that I hardly ate in the first 4 months of my pregnancy and I think I am certainly a tad heavier than I was last month. But honestly, I don't care.  The feeling of not feeling nauseous or being sick is AMAZING and I'm still on a high from actually feeling well, being able to do things and not spending the majority of my waking day in the bathroom.  

I am slathering myself in Palmer's stretch mark cream and then for good measure, I also top up with Bio-oil.  I'm like an oily fish when I emerge from the bathroom.  I have noticed a few little stretch marks on my hips and I can't remember if they appeared during my first pregnancy or not. I do know my body is a bit smaller this pregnancy because of all the running I did late last year (I did run a half-marathon...I tell this to everyone-whether they are interested or not :-)).  But I can honestly say, I don't give two hoots about these little lines.  My body has got to grow and my thankfulness of actually having the chance to have a healthy second baby outweighs any lines that appear on this body of mine! 

I'm feeling lots of movement, and I think I felt little fluttering's from around week 16, which I know is pretty early.  It's lovely to feel and Mr.Bee has even managed to feel the kicks too.  I love this stage of pregnancy, and did I mention I'm on a high from not feeling sick? :-)

Thank you for reading,  

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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Laid Back Santa Barbara

Our American road trip continued, and we arrived in Santa Barbara quite late in the afternoon (we had previously stopped at Monterey, San Francisco and New York).  We arrived and unpacked at our base, Lavender Inn By The Sea.  This was a lovely little place to stay, just a short drive to the beach and with lots of lovely finishing touches such as complimentary cheese and wine in the evenings, and mine and my daughters personal favourite, freshly baked cookies and milk in the afternoons.  

But don't think it's all glamour.  We had now been away for just over a week, with alot of stops, and packing and unpacking.  We really needed to get some clothes washed, and in all of the places we had stayed, dry cleaning was $10 per sock, or something silly.  We hopped into the car for a bit of local exploration and found ourselves at a very very local laundrette where we spent the next hour washing and drying our clothes.  All I can say is, don't waste your time with Disney world, my daughter found the whole experience quite exciting.  I've never seen a toddler so happy pushing a huge laundry cart up and down the aisles of washing machines and driers! 


The next morning we awoke early, and after a delicious breakfast, we visited the local beach and pier.  It was amazing to see dolphins playing in the sea, just metres out in the clear waters.  And along the pier, we met huge pelicans hoping to get lucky and waiting for the local fishermen to drop a fish. 

The obvious thing to do on a beach when you are a toddler is to dig a hole and then climb in it! 

Our day consisted of wandering around the beautiful coastline and eating. It was perfect. Santa Barbara had a really lovely laid back vibe, was really clean and easy to get around. 

I was a little shocked at the huge homeless population in Santa Barbara. I don't think I have ever visited anywhere where I have seen so many homeless people. There seemed to be so many that I actually Googled it and there appears to be a real homeless community, and I guess need for aid there.  We never felt unsafe or hassled whilst we were wandering around, but it is something that shocked me and made me feel quite sad for these individuals whose life is on the streets.  

I would highly recommend a stop in Santa Barbara.  There was so much to do and see, and we really could have spent several more days there. The city itself was so picturesque with a beautiful coastline on one side and rolling mountains on the other.  

We left very early in the morning, and headed back along the Pacific Coast Highway 1, for our fifth and final stop, San Diego.  

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Friday, 19 June 2015

The one about sleep

In those heady early weeks of having a baby, the prospect of sleep appears like a distant memory.  You could happily sleep stood upright, whilst in a roomful of people, simultaneously balancing a monkey on your head. But alas, hopefully, as the weeks to turn to years and your little one reaches toddler-hood, from 7pm until 7am you know you can catch up on your shut eye. What, yours doesn't do this? Erm, no.  Mine neither. 

It would seem everyone from the lady down the post office to the mum at baby group has an opinion on your child's sleep pattern.  And they are eager to give you their useful fool-proof tips, guaranteed to get your little one to sleep longer involving the weird and the wonderful.  From giving them a mud bath before bed, smothering them in lavender or singing twinkle, twinkle an exact 67 times, yep, that ought to do it. Hmmm. 

Here are a few more practical tips that I've gleaned from friends and family that I've found useful in helping my daughter to sleep that bit longer. And there's no mud bath involved.  

1. A good bedtime routine. 
Yes, I know you've heard this one before.  But, a good bedtime routine is absolute key in getting your child to sleep well.  Who wants to be running round the living room pretending to be a tiger one minute and then the next being told its time to go to bed and you must go straight to sleep? Exactly.  

We start our bedtime routine around 6pm with stories and quiet time.  Though I admit that sometimes if Daddy gets home late, this may be replaced by wild running around, but hey, nobody's perfect! We then have bath-time and another story and then tucked into bed around 7pm.  We do this every single night, unless say, we are out late, which rarely happens.  But because our daughter is so used to her routine, if it does gets pushed back or changed slightly, as is life, it's no big deal.  You may have your own routine or bed-times and that's fine. It's the consistency that's the key. 

2. A room that's not too light.
This may seem really obvious, but I never realised how light my daughter's bedroom got until the lighter mornings crept up on us.  And when the room is light, what toddler wouldn't think it's time to get up? We have black-out curtains which we found from Dunelm Mill and these are perfect for keeping the sunlight out. There is a subtle change in light so that my daughter does know the difference between the day and night.  If you have a VELUX window, then these black-out blinds from Itzala are just perfect and come in a lovely range of children's styles which are gorgeous for a child's bedroom. 

(To see this full nursery safari wall mural click here

3.  Not too hot and not too cold. 
Making sure the room is a perfect temperature is also a good idea. Something simple, but something that can be easily be overlooked. 

4. Outside noises. 
Children can wake up at the slightest noise early in the mornings.  Obviously you can't stop the milkman from doing his rounds, but maybe close the windows to reduce the noise. 

5.  And relax. 
From the moment a baby appears in the big wide world, everyone seems to have an opinion on their sleep pattern.  From sleeping too much, to having a child akin to an owl, you will probably have already heard it all from other people.  And we won't mention that lady from the baby group whose baby slept through the night from day one. Every child is different, and you really have to do what works for you.  If your child gets up at the crack of dawn and no matter what you try they won't sleep longer, then, take a deep breath and just go with it.  

Routines and children grow and change, and the more stress and emphasis we put on sleep, the worse the problem can get. You can't force a child to sleep, but only try and make little changes to help them and you get a good night's sleep, ready for the day ahead.   

Thanks for reading, and if you have any sleep tips or tricks, I would love to hear them in the comments below. 

VELUX kindly sponsored this post.  All content and opinions and entirely my own. 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Monterey Musings

We cruised along the Californian coast from San Francisco, to our home for the night which was the beautiful city of Monterey.  We unpacked at the Hilton Monterey, which was a very welcome and luxurious stop. I highly recommend staying here.  We had a quick dip in the outdoor heated pool (which wasn't that warm, so we swam extra fast) and then we made our way to the Old Fisherman's Wharf

The Wharf looks out onto the rugged coastline of California and was scattered with restaurants and gift shops.  It had a real old world feel to it and there were historic buildings around every corner.  We also spotted amazing wildlife from giant pelicans and sea lions to this huge otter just relaxing in the water.  

We didn't eat in the Wharf, but we did wander past this sign and I couldn't resist taking a photograph. It seemed like such a welcoming and child-friendly place!!! Though in my humble opinion, I would like to add that I have sat near adults in restaurants who behave worse than any children! 

In the morning, we did the 17 mile drive along Pebble Beach.  This is a world famous drive along the coastline and through the areas where the U.S Golf Open Championship is held, so I'm told.  My husband is a big fan of golf, whereas I, on the other hand am not.  I was a little dubious about the drive as I thought I may be a bit bored staring at golf greens, but there was alot more to it than that, and the scenery was beautiful. 

Unfortunately for us, the weather was a bit murky when we went, but on a sunny day, this place would be amazing to go and have a picnic and explore. We also saw sea lions, hidden coves and beautiful old Cypress trees. There was no rush to drive round and at least every mile was space to pull over and explore the area. Unfortunately, we only had an hour to spend but you could easily spend a day roaming around. We also met this not so little guy who landed on our car. 

After our drive, we headed to Monterey Bay Aquarium.  The aquarium has been voted as one of the world's best.  The setting is beautiful with both inside exhibits and outdoor areas. There were lots of interactive exhibits for the little ones. The aquarium was spotless and the tanks were beyond huge.  My favourite was this huge tank, I couldn't even explain how big it was, with shoals of fish that all swam in the middle and then they would suddenly change direction.  As there were so many of them it looked they were doing a synchronised dance. It's always hard to try and capture the actual atmosphere and beauty in photographs. 

We visited on a Sunday, and it was also Memorial weekend, and the aquarium was incredibly busy.  To the point where it was hard to see some of the exhibits which was a shame and I think this hampered our visit a little.  So try and visit in the week and not on a holiday weekend if you can!  

We could have spent so much longer in Monterey, but had to leave to get back onto the Pacific Coast Highway. Monterey was very picturesque with lots to do and see.  But for us, it was back on the road, next stop: Santa Barbara. 

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Monday, 15 June 2015

Next stop: San Francisco

The three of us arrived in San Francisco slightly the worse for wear, oh wait, that was just me, and I'll tell you more about that little drama next week. But, for the sake of this post, let's just pretend we are all bright eyed and bushy tailed as we disembarked the plane, caught an Uber (which was alot cheaper than hailing a cab), and made our way to Hotel Del Sol, our base for the next three nights. 

Hotel Del Sol was a good base for our travels and was in a fantastic location.  It was pretty basic, but it was clean and we got breakfast too, so for the amount of time we actually spent there it suited us fine. 

My husband has been to San Francisco alot with his job, so it was quite nice to let him take the lead and show us the sights.  On the first day we started with the most DELICIOUS waffles at a place called Home Plate. The service was amazing, it had high-chairs and was child friendly, and I didn't stop waffling on about the food for the reminder of our trip!  

With very full bellies, we wandered along the seafront and I got my first glimpse of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

We carried on wandering along and walked to Pier 39. This was by far one of my favourite places.  Yes, it is very touristy, but, I didn't think it was in your face or trashy like some tourist areas can be.  From the pier you could watch the sea lions bask in the sun, and who quite frankly, I could have watched all day.  

Also dotted along the pier were little shops, a giant carousel and restaurants.  We stopped for lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp.  Again, I was a bit worried that we may have chosen somewhere a bit too touristy, but the food was delicious and fresh and we had the most amazing view looking out to Alcatraz. If you have never heard of it, Bubba Gump Shrimp is a themed restaurant based on Forrest Gump, so there's lot's of film memorabilia, and the waitress even tested our knowledge on the film!  

Also on the pier was the Aquarium of the Bay.  It was a lovely aquarium and whilst it wasn't huge it is definitely worth a visit. We saw everything from jellyfish to sharks and my daughter adored the touch pool where she touched a starfish and manta-ray. 

On day two we had a lovely day trip to Sausalito which is a beautiful sea front city over the Golden Gate Bridge.  Most people tend to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and then catch one of the many ferries back, but we went for the easy option and went by bus. It was lovely to wander along the winding streets with an ice-cream in hand. 

We stumbled across a little gem on the Friday night and found a huge food festival called Off the Grid.  It runs every Friday night at the Fort Mason Center and there was every kind of gourmet food imaginable.  There was also drinks and cocktails and live music.  We arrived around 6pm and it was really child friendly and a lovely place to go and eat.  I recommend the truck that sells curry (and they kindly replaced my poppadom when it blew away!!) and the ice-cream taco's were out of this world.  My daughter had a taste of everything then did some dancing...apparently she is quite a fan of funk! 

And so came the sad time to wave goodbye to San Francisco. I cannot recommend visiting this wonderful city enough. There is so much to do there that I think we could have spent another week exploring.  But, alas, our travels were to continue on Route 1, the Pacific Highway.  We packed our bags and picked up a hire car as we began our journey along the West coast.  Next stop...Monterey. 

Thanks so much for reading and have you ever been to San Francisco? I would love to hear any tips or recommendations in the comments below! 

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