Massive life changes ahead!

You can likely deduce from the odd post here and there that there are big changes ahead for us, and there’s a lot we haven’t officially shared on our social media.

In mid-October, we’ll be expecting our first child. It’s been such an adventure being pregnant in London and also travelling around Europe. In my third trimester, I’m still going strong on the morning sickness (which should be called pregnancy sickness because there is no time of day that it doesn’t strike). I’ll probably be one of those lucky 40 weeker’s (i.e. sick for the entire pregnancy). Thankfully, there is something called doxylamine that my sister recommended that has made it very manageable. The other big change is that at the end of August, Joe and I will be moving back to the US – San Diego to be specific. It has been an amazing 5 years in London. It’s been our home for a majority of our married life, and we’ve made such incredible friendships that are going to be hard to say good-bye to. There are a lot of reasons why we’re moving back, but a big one being that this is probably being the last opportunity for his job (that brought us out here) to relocate us back. Either way, with the many factors, it seemed like our chapter in London was coming to a close. It has very little to do with the fact that we’re having a baby. If anything, that was the really exciting part of the adventure we were looking forward to.

The move back is bittersweet. We love how simple life here is, and it makes you realise how much space you don’t actually need. We walk and public transport everywhere and we’re close to so much green space. There’s amazing food, and we truly love living in the UK/Europe. At the same time, there are modern conveniences in the US that would make life with a baby easier. More space for less money…because let’s face it, living in London is expensive, having cars and an extensive friend and family support network.

A big part of what we’ll miss is our friends network here. We found a lovely church just over a year ago, HTB Courtfield Gardens, where we’ve made some amazing friends that we wish we could hold onto for a bit longer. This past week we were at the annual church camping retreat with everyone, and I just had this sense of how special HTB and the community there is. We will really miss that. For me personally, it’s saying goodbye to another country and another city. Having moved around so much, I love how diverse and multicultural London, and our friends are. People are from everywhere and love to travel and explore just as much as we do. I’ve never “gone back” to somewhere I’d left, so going back to San Diego for me will probably be a harder adjustment than it will be for Joe, who grew up in San Diego. Saying that, it’s likely that our time in San Diego won’t be long term, so we also want to enjoy it there as much as possible.

We’re approaching our last 2 weeks of work in London, packing up our belongings for shipment and then heading to Asia for a 2 week holiday before flying to San Diego. I’ll have my first ob appointment in the US at 35 weeks, so it’ll be a different kind of adventure from there. London has made such an impact on us, and we’re both definitely open to moving elsewhere if the opportunity arises. Our lives are so much richer as a result of experiences, travel and friendships. I hope that as we move on, our friendships all over the world will still be accessible and that they will even come visit us wherever we end up.

2 years ago…

…we moved out to the UK for my husband’s job. It was an opportunity that had come up a couple times before, starting around the time we got engaged. I’d been in San Diego for about 10 years at that point and really wanted a change, and moving to the UK was exactly what I’d been hoping for! It took both times for the opportunity to come up and not work out for us to want to move, and get excited about it. So when it came up for the third time, we were both jazzed to go. We packed up our stuff, put half in storage and shipped half to the UK. It’s surreal when all of your stuff is in boxes, your cars are sold and you have no keys on your key chain. There is no physical place where all of your stuff is that you can run to. At that point, there is no turning back.

Looking back now, it’s crazy to think how hard it was when we first moved. When we landed at Heathrow, we had a driver meet us at the airport to take us to our corporate apartment in Reading. Reading is about a 30 minute train ride from west London and a little boring. The driver dropped us off at a building with a gated area and no way to get in. We sat outside with our suitcases, tired and jet-lagged. We had no phone, and no way of contacting anyone. We finally got a wifi signal on Joe’s laptop and used his soft phone, accessible from his computer, to call his HR who could get in contact with the person we were renting the place from. We were finally let in and dragged our heavy suitcases up 4 flights of stairs (no lift) to our small flat. It honestly wasn’t the smoothest start to our new life. I think those first few weeks I was really in cruise control just getting things done. Figuring our groceries, researching places to live, researching jobs, applying for jobs and taking interviews in London. Thankfully, within those first few weeks, we found a place to live in London and I got a job.

When we moved to our new flat in west London, we had no furniture as our stuff had yet to arrive. We made a big Ikea trip to get cheap dishes and cutlery to use in the meantime. We borrowed an air mattress and bedding and slept on the floor for almost a month. When Joe went to work, I stayed at home…and sat on the floor. I can’t really remember how I passed time, but I remember I didn’t have much to do πŸ™‚ My new work contract was taking some time to be written and in that time I was able to be home to take deliveries and installations. Whilst I was pretty bored (and uncomfortable because I had to sit on the floor), it worked out well.Β All was right in the world when our stuff was finally delivered. It’s amazing how much better you feel when you’re using your stuff…the stuff you’re familiar with. I think it still took us some time to get accustomed to things, but it got a lot better.

I think the first few months in a new city / country are the hardest. You kind of have to just power through and get your environment settled before you actually feel settled. Sometimes you have to also go through the motions until it starts to get fun. Most people say that it takes about a year to like London and 2 to love it. I think we were fortunate that we started loving it before our 2 year mark.

Has moving here been worth it? Absolutely. I mean, we miss friends and family and feel like we’re missing out on a lot going on at home, but we’re also enjoying our life out here. As someone who has moved around a lot, I see the positives of uprooting and making a new life somewhere. I don’t think we truly know what we’re capable of handling until we have the courage to drop everything and try something different. Was it a risk to move out here? Yes it was, but it has been such a huge growth experience that I’m glad we’ve done it. I know that I mentioned missing friends and family, but since being out here, we’ve been visited by so many amazing people. We both love to share our home and our city with friends and family. We’ve had some really great experiences with guests and hope to have many more in the future. There is nothing that makes us happier than to share our lives with our guests and see them enjoying London the same way we do.

At the end of the month, we will move into a new flat. It’ll be our 3rd move in 2 years and whilst moving is a pain, we are looking forward to being in a larger flat that is closer to Hyde Park and to the centre of London. We’ve been so blessed with the space to host friends and guests and we know that our new place will be just as much of a blessing as our previous places. Being able to live in London and travel around Europe has been such an incredible experience. Looking forward to enjoying the rest of the time we have here!

New adult bike rider…beware!

There are things in this world that are best learned as a child. Riding a bike is one of them. I am turning 30 this year and I only just learned how to ride a bike in December of 2012 in San Diego. I’d been “learning” on and off for a while but in December is when I learned the whole balancing and turning (both directions). I have 2 older sisters, and none of us learned how to ride a bike. It’s not that I’m the youngest and my parents lost the energy to teach me…it’s that none of the Moy daughters learned.

My husband is an avid bike rider and we have a lot of friends that are. Even though London is a big city, the opportunities to bike ride are more. Hyde Park is a 15 minute walk away (soon to be 2 minutes when we move!) and there are all types of parks and commons to explore. It’s definitely more of a cycling friendly atmosphere.

After I learned how to ride in December, we decided that I would get a bike here in London. I have to admit, I was really excited at first at the prospect of going on bike rides with Joe. We could go to Hyde Park, Richmond Park (pretty much any of the Royal Parks), take bike trips to English towns, cycle on European holidays…it seemed like the opportunities were endless! So we got me a mountain bike and the whole thing began.

The first weekend of gorgeous summer weather was the weekend that we got my bike. We decided to head down to Hyde Park on a Sunday afternoon….bad idea. It was absolutely rammed with people. For someone who is learning how to ride, people, bikes, children and dogs running around in all different directions is the most stressful thing on the planet. Not only was I afraid for my own safety, I didn’t want to hit anyone or anything. My palms were constantly sweaty and they kept slipping off the handlebars. This was also the trip that I learned how to mount the bike properly. Little did I know that most cyclists’ seats are higher up so that when you stop, you can’t just sit there and put your foot down, you have to stand up, take your butt off the seat and then step down. If you’ve been riding a bike your whole life (even if it’s just recreationally) you might think “Uhhh, yeah Deb… of course. That’s how everyone does it.” You wouldn’t be alone either. My husband was in that camp as well. So, he raises my seat height and I immediately have issues. I can’t stand up on my bike. I can barely balance riding the bike let alone stand up. Then there’s the mounting the bike. Pushing off on one foot, standing and getting your butt on the seat…this was a painful lesson. I had issues keeping my handlebars straight, getting enough of a running start and I kept scraping my legs up with the bike pedals. Thankfully, after a few painful tries, I was able to get going without too much hassle. It was during this particular visit to the park that I thought I would want a “learner” sign on the front and back of my bike so that people knew to avoid me.

We probably biked once or twice again in Hyde Park after that, and each time, dismounting was a serious issue. I just couldn’t figure out how to stop without tipping over…so I did running dismounts where I kind of just hopped off.Β  I was also still quite wobbly and I couldn’t quite figure out why. The theory was that perhaps my handlebars were too short but it was hard to be sure. A couple weeks ago, we tried to go out to Richmond Park. From Hammersmith tube stop, you can walk and meet the path by the Thames River. There’s a trail there that leads to Richmond park after a few miles. Richmond Park is gorgeous. Joe has ridden out there a few times and he’s taken photos of the wide fields, the nice trails and the deer that like to roam around. I thought it’d be a fun way to ride a longer distance. The Thames River path was nice…but it was bumpy, there were quite a few other cyclists, walkers, runners and people taking their pets out for a gambol. My stress levels still increase when people are around. My inability to dismount was becoming a seriously problem and I had a close call where I almost hit this mother and son who were out walking. I basically braked really hard right next to her and said “Oh shoot!” and it scared her half to death. She was super nice about it (it probably helped that I didn’t physically injure her).

We eventually made our way back but it involved a bit of a tantrum from me. It may or may not have included foot stamping and the words “I don’t want to do this any more”…

We got longer handlebars for my bike and took it out today. I was much more stable and confident. I even learned how to dismount (yay!). It’s still not the smoothest, but it’s a lot better than it was. I still get nervous when there are people around because I’m still learning control, but the variables are fewer. If you’re a new adult bike rider, I feel your pain. I see these little kids riding around without a care in the world and I feel jealous. They have it so easy! Don’t take for granted that riding a bike is easy because as a new rider…take my word for it…it’s hard.

Thankfully, after this whole experience, my patient husband has a better understanding of what it’s like to teach someone how to ride a bike. For people who have been riding their whole life, there are certain small things that are taken for granted when it comes so naturally to them from a young age. Hopefully some of these tips will help:

  • Balancing doesn’t come as naturally as you think
  • The road to becoming comfortable on a bike is longer than just 1 day
  • Don’t throw too many variables at the newbie such as “we’re going up a hill, make sure you downshift…but don’t downshift when you’re pedalling too hard or else it’s not good for the chain…make sure you downshift before you go up the hill”
  • Shifting lessons aren’t always welcomed. I’m trying to balance here…shifting is not my top priority. I would rather not run into a tree than to learn how to shift properly right now
  • Let the new person follow you so that they don’t have to expend the extra energy to decide which direction to turn in or navigating. Our attention is on riding (remember…not too many variables!)
  • Try not to pressure the newbie into feeling like they have to do well on a particular day’s ride. We’re probably already frustrated with ourselves and feeling bad for wasting a trip isn’t conducive to a fun day
  • It takes time for biking to get fun…be patient!

Edinburgh Panoramas

When it comes to photography, I’m still very much an amateur. Having learned photography in high school using a 35mm film camera and developing them in a darkroom, I was reluctant to take up using Photoshop. I have started using it a little now but it definitely doesn’t come as naturally to me as it does to others (and I’m considered part of the digital generation). One of the things I’ve discovered that I enjoy a lot is taking panoramic photographs. For those of you who follow my blog, you may have seen the photographs I took in Santorini. These days, point and shoot cameras and smart phones have software built in where users can create panoramic photographs. It’s such a great way to capture the beauty of a landscape or vista. The photographs below are individual photos stitched together using a software called Hugin. Here are 2 panoramas taken from Edinburgh castle. The first is from the walkway up to the castle and the second is taken from a higher point in the castle area. Enjoy!

Castle walkway panorama
Castle walkway panorama
The view of Edinburgh from the top of the castle
The view of Edinburgh from the top of the castle

Tower Bridge at Night

During the Olympics in London they hung Olympic rings from Tower Bridge. Here’s a night shot I was able to take one night we were out. The neat part about this photo is that we went to London Bridge to take some photographs and Joe was wearing his Chargers sweatshirt. As we walked up we heard a voice say: “No way! The Chargers?? There are Charger fans out here??” We stopped to talk to them and she told us that she’s Eric Weddle‘s mom and she and the family were there to see her niece compete in the Olympics. Pretty awesome πŸ™‚

Tower Bridge_Olympics

Watching History – London 2012

It’s amazing being in a city where you’re watching history take place. When we moved to London a year ago we knew that the Olympics would be here in the summer of 2012. I didn’t realise how momentous or special it would be. In the office we have TVs set up and learning about all the sports that I never really paid much attention to and following the GB athletes has been awesome. The atmosphere is amazing and hearing everyone talk about their experiences at the events has been great.

Having “come from” so many countries, I have a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to countries to support. To top it off, I have added GB to my list of countries to support :O) At least I’m never really disappointed when it comes to the 3 medal winners!

Yesterday we made our way to the Olympic Park to watch the women’s 3m springboard diving semi-finals. Everyone was so cheerful and helpful. The people working the games were really fun and would interact with people as they walked by. Everyone at the food stations and the workers were amazingly friendly as well. When we got to the park, we sat down to eat some lunch and shared a table with a family from Seattle but who have lived in England for the last 10 years. Chatted with them for a while and a couple from Oxford came and sat there. Everyone was just so friendly and there was an atmosphere of fun, anticipation and gratefulness for being able to be there. The only grumpy people we came across where a group of Americans who when we asked about whether 2 seats on a bench were available scoffed, said no and muttered amongst themselves, shaking their heads, about how everyone keeps asking. As a fellow American I found that quite disappointing, but we met others that made up for it.

We were really blessed that the weather was good. I’d been following the weather for Saturday all week, and it looked like rain showers on and off throughout the day. It was cloudy at first and sprinkled for less than a minute but we had intermittent sunshine and dry weather the rest of the time.

Cool story about the diving. When we made our way into the Aquatic Centre they scanned our tickets and I saw it come up with one of those negative dinging sounds and a red X. I felt a bit of panic and immediately I thought “But I bought these from the official website!” The nice scanner lady registered my panic because she goes “Don’t worry. Don’t worry. I don’t think it’s a problem with your ticket, but it may be a seating thing. If a view is obstructed, they probably want to move you to new seats.” Turns out, she was right! Our tickets for diving were quite near the pool level. Not the level that friends and family are in, but just the one above that. Unfortunately, it was at the other end of the Aquatic Centre (see photo for illustration). The new seats were SO much better! Very very thankful :O)

Enjoy the photos!!

Note the seating change. Such a great view!!!
First look at the Olympic Stadium
With our American flags
The Orbit

As an official sponsor, there were a bunch of McDonald’s around. I was really impressed by the price (not at all hiked up prices) and also by the quality. I think it was the best quarter pounder I’ve ever had!
At the Aquatics Centre
Inside the Aquatics Centre. The view from our new seats! I admit, the temperature was quite warm, so we did get a bit drowsy :O)
The Olympic pool
Practicing and warming up before the session
Where the athletes emerge from
The women’s 3m springboard semi-finalists
The Olympic rings!
The Olympic park really is huge. It took at least 30 minutes to walk from one end to the other
The Velodrome (aka “The Pringle”)
I think it’s one of my favourite buildings on the Olympic Park
They have Live Sites set up with TVs so that visitors can take in other events
On our way to the train station to go back to central London, we spotted the snipers

The Harry Potter Studio Tour

I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books. I’ve watched up to the 4th movie, but haven’t really caught up after that. It’s not that I haven’t really wanted to see them, but I just prefer the books so much more. They’re so rich in detail and leave more things to imagination. I’d been wanting to go to the Harry Potter Theme Park in Florida but just haven’t had the opportunity to. When I saw that this studio tour was opening in London, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to have something like the theme park, but cooler since it was the actual set that the movies were filmed on.

I don’t think I realised how well made and creative the movies were, until we visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour in north London. My sister and brother-in-law came to visit us and my sister is also a big Harry Potter fan (she was actually the one that got me into the books!). I thought it’d be neat to go check out the tour together. I booked the tickets early so that we could be guaranteed a spot. We took a day off from work, and went together. By public transportation, it’s a bit of a trek, so we decided to rent a car. The studio itself is quite easy to find by car as there is good signage as soon as you exit the motorway.

The nice thing, is that there weren’t many people there. We were one of the first groups let in in the morning, and as it was a Monday morning, it ensured we had the time and space to explore at our leisure.

I absolutely LOVED the studio tour. It is amazing how creative they had to be in order to create the film. Sets were created from scratch, artwork was painted (all the paintings on the walls of Hogwarts needed to be created), sculptures created. One of the most amazing parts was all the artists renderings of what certain scenes would look like. The level of hard work, artistic ability and imagination that went into creating the films really impressed me. If you’re in London, it is DEFINITELY worth a visit!!

The room under the stairs
Welcome to the Harry Potter Studio Tour! πŸ™‚
The Gryffindor costumes
The teachers’ costumes on display by the head table in the Great Hall
So pretty! From the scene at the Yule Ball
Also from the Yule Ball
The Leaky Cauldron
The hallway of the Leaky Cauldron
The potions classroom. It was really neat how everything to the last detail was there.
The boys’ Gryffindor dorm room
The griffin to Dumbledore’s study – “acid pops!”
The Gryffindor common room with some of the casual clothes of the characters
Dumbledore’s study
Some of the props from the movies
The sculpture in the Ministry of Magic
Death eater costumes
The Knight Bus
The Dursley house
My sister and I with Fawkes
Diagon Alley!
Gringotts
The store front of Ollivander’s
“WHY ARE YOU WORRYING ABOUT YOU-KNOW-WHO?
YOU SHOULD BE WORRYING ABOUT U-NO-POO
THE CONSTIPATION SENSATION THAT’S GRIPPING THE NATION!”
One of the best parts of the tour. A miniature of the entire Hogwarts castle
The detail in the recreation is incredible!
My sister and I with the castle
All four of us with the castle