Friday, November 30, 2018

Update July 2017 (posting December 2018!! from the drafts....)

Blog update.

August bank holiday - Edinburgh 
Little did I know that the weekend we chose to visit Edinburgh was the Fringe Festival!!  What a fantastic visit we had - Harry Potter Tour, shows, climbing Athur's Seat, Josh making his stage debut, it was a great weekend!

2016-2017 offered the opportunity to resettle fully in London.  Jonah - senior year, Ally - sophomore year both at ASL, and Josh began his first year at Halcyon in 6th grade. 
Mom took up yoga teacher training and then began looking for work.  Dad continued to be pulled in all directions at TR.  Finchley remained the family mascot.

Where to start?
The school year started off without incident and all three seemed to settle in nicely.  Ally took a school trip backpacking into the French Alps near Chamonix.  Amazing photos and with her swim pals Lauren and Anna P.  Jonah's alternatives took him to Italy.  Lucky for Jonah, he had JD and Jagger on his trip.  Now those three can create a dynamic of FUN that certainly made for a memorable trip.  I'll let Jonah give you the details!  

Josh - 6th grade at Halycon London International
Josh went off to a week at a PGL type centre with the 6th and 7th graders from Halcyon.  He had a fantastic time and came back having made lots of new friends particularly with the 7th grade boys.  Josh continued to play soccer with Kinja (Wed and Fri practice and Sunday matches), school Tuesday 8-9am, and Swiss Cottage Thursday evenings.  He also kept on rockin his guitar lessons with JanMichael and his saxophone lessons with Paul.  He joined the after school ensemble at Halcyon and enjoyed music as a group.  We heard incredible accolades from his digital music teacher throughout the year and feel that Josh has some special music within!  
Mom began substitute teaching at Halcyon the past spring and continued to do so throughout the year.  Much of the time helping invigilate exams such as SAT and ACT exams with special accommodations for students and also the IB exams. What a privilege it was to be at school on the day of the student council elections, because Josh put himself out there for the role of treasurer and made a small speech in front of the ENTIRE SCHOOL.  Mom was very proud of him that day and he certainly seems comfortable speaking in front of groups.  Well done Josh.
Josh's closest friends this year were Ben, JJ, Swann, Conor, Daniel and Freddie; also Willem and Sam and Cosmo from 7th grade. 
This year Josh fell in love with scootering - skateboard park style scootering.  He would love to spend all weekend at the local skate parks and now masters heading over to the outdoor or indoor parks all on his own on the bus 31!  He also buses to school all on his own every morning and afternoon and take the tube to soccer on Wednesdays and Fridays!!  
Josh LOVES his iPad and enjoys Clash Royal and a ton of other games.  
But perhaps the most impactful part of Josh's year was joining the Boy Scouts.  He quickly became keenly interested and enjoyed attending the weekly meetings.  He also went on several camp trips with the Most Amazing Dad.  Highlight of all was the trip to Normandy France, where Josh discovered he is amazed and sorta obsessed in a good way with WWII.  


Ally - 10th grade
Balancing swim practices and school work coloured Ally's year, along with maintaining her Instagram account and keeping continual tabs on her friends via chatting, video messaging, FaceTiming, Snapchat and all other sorts of social technology connections. 
Megan, Josie, Riley, and Kat were her closest friends, along with swim pals and this spring Graham.
Chemistry proved to be an interesting undertaking and dominated the study hours.  English, Pre-calc, Band, Spanish 4, World Civilizations, Health and Phy Ed rounded out the course load.
Ally's enjoyment include hanging with her friends, going to get FreakShakes, anything involving food - making cookies, decorating cookies, baking cakes!!  Also they like to go around London and take photos, view street art (Leake Street), go shopping, and visit markets.
Ally rocked her school swim team!  She also continued to make a splash with her club team and qualified for the British Nationals in two events 400IM and 200 IM and will also do the medley relay.  
She was awarded two WorkX week-long "mini-internships" with ASL, first at General Mills and secondly with GTB advertising.  

JONAH SENIOR YEAR!!
Jonah started off senior year by joining the Cross Country team, a choice for which we were so proud!  He had some great races and prepared himself well for the winter swim season.  Unfortunately he ended the season a bit short (refer to the Italy school trip above) but nonetheless we were very proud of him!
JD, Jagger, Ned and Jonah became the best of pals this year and what a great group of young men.  They think for themselves and are bold enough to speak against the majority.  Olivia and Jonah spent as much time as possible together, studying, going out to eat, to movies, walking the dogs, hanging at each other's houses - continually together really!! 
Jonah's school work continues to shine when he puts in the effort and sometimes takes a hit if he doesn't.  He's got it in him and we know he can soar when he sets his mind to it!
At the end of the year he began to take an interest in weightlifting and working out - with JD at ASL.  And cooking breakfast!  The boy who never ate breakfast!  And perfecting the art of macaroni and cheese!  




October 2015 (posting this in December 2018!!) digging out of the "draft" folders....

update - October 2015
Jonah.
He's in 11th grade at Edina High School.  Over the summer he was working at Airmaxx Trampoline park but he didn't get enough work hours, so he also got a job at Punch Pizza.  He golfed when he could and played in some tournaments.  He really loves the game of golf and has a great game.  He played in the Resorter's Tournament in Alexandria and held his own really well.  He had quite a following with all the VanAmbers out there cheering him on.  The best thing is that he enjoys the game.  He also enjoys swimming on the high school team, but doesn't train outside of the season.  Until September when he decided to join Aquajets Swim Club to get in shape for the boys season.  It's fun to see him swimming, being part of a team, and improving. Now he swims Tues-Thur, works at Punch on Mondays and Saturdays.  The rest of his free time should be studying - he does well in school - but doesn't put in the hours of homework you might expect from a junior.  He loves to play video games - that could be his favorite thing of all, however as parents we don't want this to interfere with life =)  We insist homework and chores be done first.  Nothing wrong with gaming,  and it's certainly fun just don't want it to interfere with things we need to do.  He likes to read, watch sports, cook mac & cheese, and listen to music.  He has a blue Ford Focus that we got for the kids to drive and being the first one he doesn't have to compete with anyone to use it!  We did have a pea green Ford Focus that was quite nice but he accidentally rear-ended someone and unfortunately, although it didn't seem to have too much damage, the car was considered totalled. It's awesome to have him driving and it gives him a great amount of independence.  He loves to go to Chipotle.  His best friends are Josiah, Caleb and Evan.  He enjoys participating in the Wooddale Senior High Ministries.  This is the first year he doesn't have a music lesson or music choice in school - he was in choir last year.  However this year he chose to do DECA and has an interest in International Business.

ALLY.
Ally is in 9th grade at Valley View Middle School.   She babysits in our neighborhood and over the summer did babysitting for Grace & Anna often also.  She enjoys making homemade body products like bath bombs, lip balms, and skin scrubs.  She decorated her room almost entirely by herself.  She spends a lot of time on social media like snap chat, instagram, texting, and you tube.  She has a swimming account called caps.n.googles which has over 10k followers, and a you tube channel for her bath products and DIY.  She also likes cooking sweets - brownies, cookies, cupcakes.  Much of Ally's time is spent in the water - she swims a lot!  Right now she's on the Edina HS girls swim team.  The coach referred to her as "the one with the really long legs" the first time I met him; then when he met Dad he said "well that explains a lot".  She has dropped a lot of time this swim season.  She will return to swim with Aquajets after HS season is done.  She has a amazing coach, Kate Lundsten.  Most of all, she enjoys being on a team and swimming swimming swimming!!!  Ally plays the flute in the school band.  For her 15th birthday Ally paid 1/2 of a very very nice DLS camera and with it she has become quite the photographer!!!

JOSHUA
Josh is 11 years old and in 5th grade at Creek Valley Elementary School.  He is a wonderful friend and always being social.  He loves to ride his bike to school or around the neighborhood.  Josh's favorite sport is soccer.  He plays with the Edina Soccer Club.  He also loves to watch the sport on TV any chance he gets - especially Premier League.  Josh enjoys drawing cartoons, reading cartoon books, and looking at photo albums.  He has a thing for music - acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and recently now he started to play the saxophone.  He loves classic rock and knows more musical groups than I do...especially the Beatles, Michael Jackson, GunsNRoses.  Josh has recently become more and more interested in football.  He also ran in the elementary cross country race and did great representing his school. He loves to run around the neighborhood with his pals and sometimes they come and have pillow fights in the basement with the couch cushions or play legos up in his room.  

FINCHLEY
Finchley the dog is loved by all.  She is almost one year old.  She's mellowed a bit and isn't as mischievious as she used to be always looking to chew on something she shouldn't have.  We love to take her on walks and she loves to be with us all the time.  We can't imagine our life without this fluffy black pup!!

Dave & Ricki
Since returning from London summer 2014, Dave and Ricki have continually been presented with other options of going abroad again.  Each time they find a reason it's not right or the other side doesn't quite come through.  They haven't been searching for this, it seems to just keep coming back to them.  Finally a position with TR that Dave really wanted to take was just too interesting to pass up, and low and behold it seems that they'll be back in London within the next year.  Jonah was incredibly excited (as in, can we move tomorrow?), Ally was excited but then sad about leaving her swimming teams, Josh was upset and declared that he has just made all these wonderful new friends here....
Not sure if all of them can return to ASL - that's our big prayer right now.  Lord please open space for all three of the children to return to ASL!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

2016-2017 wrap up

In this post - looking back to last year!






August bank holiday 2016 - Edinburgh
Little did I know that the weekend we chose to visit Edinburgh was the Fringe Festival!!  What a fantastic visit we had - Harry Potter Tour, shows, climbing Athur's Seat, Josh making his stage debut, it was a great weekend!






2016-2017 offered the opportunity to resettle fully in London.  Jonah - senior year, Ally - sophomore year both at ASL, and Josh began his first year at Halcyon in 6th grade.
Mom took up yoga teacher training and then began looking for work.  Dad continued to be pulled in all directions at TR.  Finchley remained the family mascot.
Where to start?The school year started off without incident and all three seemed to settle in nicely.  Ally took a school trip backpacking into the French Alps near Chamonix.  Amazing photos and with her swim pals Lauren and Anna P.  Jonah's alternatives took him to Italy.  Lucky for Jonah, he had JD and Jagger on his trip.  Now those three can create a dynamic of FUN that certainly made for a memorable trip.  I'll let Jonah give you the details!

Josh - 6th grade at Halycon London International

Josh went off to a week at a PGL-type centre with the 6th and 7th graders from Halcyon.  He had a fantastic time and came back having made lots of new friends particularly with the 7th grade boys.  Josh continued to play soccer with Kinja (Wed and Fri practice and Sunday matches), school Tuesday morning football club, and Swiss Cottage on Thursday evenings.  He also kept on rockin his guitar lessons with JanMichael and his saxophone lessons with Paul.  He joined the after school ensemble at Halcyon and enjoyed playing music in a group setting.  We heard incredible accolades from his digital music teacher throughout the year and feel that Josh has some special music within!

Mom began substitute teaching at Halcyon the spring of '16 and continued to do so throughout the year.  Much of the time helping invigilate exams such as SAT and ACT exams with special accommodations for students and also the IB exams. What a privilege it was to be at school on the day of the student council elections, because Josh put himself out there for the role of treasurer and made a small speech in front of the ENTIRE SCHOOL.  Mom was very proud of him that day and he certainly seems comfortable speaking in front of groups.  Well done Josh.




Josh's closest friends this year were Ben, JJ, Swann, Conor, Daniel and Freddie; also Willem and Sam and Cosmo from 7th grade.

This year Josh fell in love with scootering - skateboard park style scootering.  He would love to spend all weekend at the local skate parks and he now masters heading over to the outdoor or indoor parks all on his own on the bus 31!  He also buses to school all on his own every morning and afternoon and take the tube to soccer on Wednesdays and Fridays!!
He also enjoyed playing basketball with London Sports.


Josh LOVES his iPad and enjoys Clash Royal and a ton of other games.But perhaps the most impactful part of Josh's year was joining the Boy Scouts.  He quickly became keenly interested and enjoyed attending the weekly meetings.  He also went on several camp trips with the Most Amazing Dad.  Highlight of all was the trip to Normandy France, where Josh discovered he is amazed and sorta obsessed in a good way with WWII.






Ally - 10th gradeBalancing swim practices and school work coloured Ally's year, along with maintaining her Instagram account and keeping continual tabs on her friends via chatting, video messaging, FaceTiming, Snapchat and all other sorts of social technology connections.





Megan, Josie, Riley, and Kat were her closest friends, along with swim pals.

Chemistry proved to be an interesting undertaking and dominated the study hours.  English, Pre-calc, Band, Spanish 4, World Civilizations, Health and Phy Ed rounded out the course load.Ally's enjoyment include hanging with her friends, going to get FreakShakes, anything involving food - making cookies, decorating cookies, baking cakes!!  Also they like to go around London and take photos, view street art (Leake Street), go shopping, and visit markets.


Ally rocked her school swim team!  She also continued to make a splash with her club team and qualified for the British Nationals in two events 400IM and 200 IM and will also do the medley relay.She was awarded two WorkX week-long "mini-internships" with ASL, first at General Mills and secondly with GTB advertising.



JONAH SENIOR YEAR!!Jonah started off senior year by joining the Cross Country team, a choice for which we were so proud!  He had some great races and prepared himself well for the winter swim season.  Unfortunately he ended the season a bit short but nonetheless we were very proud of him!

JD, Jagger, Ned and Jonah became the best of pals this year and what a great group of young men.  They think for themselves and are bold enough to speak against the majority.  Olivia and Jonah spent as much time as possible together, studying, going out to eat, to movies, walking the dogs, hanging at each other's houses - continually together really!!Jonah's school work continues to shine when he puts in the effort and sometimes takes a hit if he doesn't.  He's got it in him and we know he can soar when he sets his mind to it!At the end of the year he began to take an interest in weightlifting and working out - with JD at ASL.  And cooking breakfast!  The boy who never ate breakfast!  And perfecting the art of macaroni and cheese!




Monday, May 22, 2017

Prom

In this post...
"American high school style prom" in London!



















Friday, January 6, 2017

Insider's London

In this post...some tips for making the most of living in London

Suggestions for what to do while living in London - these are not my own....this list has been passed on within the ex-pat community from a longtime ex-pat before she moved away

now we get to enjoy all her tips!
 =)

England & Scotland Trips:

Royal Ascot - if you only do this once it worth every penny!!!  It was one of the best people watching and fun days out!!!

Edinburgh - Rosslyn Chapel (of Da vinci Code fame)

Fort William & Train to Malaig - one of the most picturesque train rides and you can do it round trip in a day (Harry Potter's bridge to Hogwarts is there)
Wales - St. Fagan's open air musuem, Techniquest - kids science museum (even the adults had a great time exploring)

Glamping - Highly recommend Featherdown Farms (Warren and New Barn - we also did Gilcombe and great farm tour but owner not as organized)

Oxford - Stay at the old Parsonage Inn!!

Cambridge - you must go punting so go in good weather

Bath - we took the big bus tour and got to see part of the country side too

Cotswolds - LOVE Burton on the Water, Stow on the Wold.....and many more great long weekend trip but you must drive it

Cornwall (northern) - we did Penzance and Mawgan (near Newquay) and enjoyed both.  But Mawgan and that northern coast line is incredible - visit Tintagle too (where they think the remains of the castle belong to King Arthur)

Isle of Wight - great family trip and the entire island is interesting: roman ruins, fossils, sea side all good stuff.  We stayed at the Waterfront Inn.  We took the ferry then train and rented a car - you need a car to get around the island

Greenwich - great day trip - take the boat one way and tube the other for a day trip.  Cutty Sark has been restored and is fun for all.  The Royal Observatory and standing on the Prime Meridian.

Family Vacations:
Spain - LaZenia  we always booked a villa from www.holidayrentals.co.uk  on the beach loved this area as not really touristy and only 20 min from Murcia airport

Austria - Ski vacation in Kirkdorf, the boys learned to ski in the same area I did as a child  We booked with http://www.tyroleantours.com/  Great kids skiing and great runs over 4 different areas, sleighrides, toboganing  it is great!

European Adventures:
Prague

Venice and Florence

Paris is a given as it is SO easy to get to.

Brugge - the best surprise as we had no idea what to expect and it was fabulous.  If you don't have much time skip Brussles and go to Brugge!!

Reims - Champagne tour from http://www.grapeescapes.net!!  I LOVED this, but then again I love anything with Champagne :)

Carcassone France - incredible walled in city near south eastern coast - if you go on a beach vacation in the region I wouldn't miss this!

Marrakesh - we really enjoyed our trip there but with recent events make sure you check with State Department to ensure it is safe to go

Top Tips:

Join English Heritage Trust and go to as many homes and castles as you want....even just if you see then as you are driving around the country.  That's how we discovered Dunne Castle in Scotland - it is featured in Monty Python when they toss the cow over the wall!

Register your Oyster Card - never run out of money and if you lose it they replace your card at the value you had on it.  It is easy!!

Family Rail Card - only £25 per year for up to 4 adults and 4 kids (you must travel with kids) and you get 60% off or more on fares!

Descale your appliances.  I know it is a pain but they will last much longer.  For toilets I love Harpic Power Plus Tablets - gets rid of brown stains in toilet!  Even washing machines and dishwashers need to be descaled if you aren't using the correct detergents.

Order Lightbulbs from LightBulbs Direct - they keep a list of what you've ordered so you know what types of bulbs you've gotten before.  We have 8 different types of bulbs in our house and it drives me nuts!

Most castles and palaces will validate your ticket for a year so you can go back with family and friends for a year!!  I know this is the case with Windsor and Hampton Court.

Need Fancy Dress (costume)? - my favorite store is Carnival Store @ 95 Hammersmith Road, London W14 0QH http://www.carnivalstore.co.uk

Need a cottage or place to stay in South Western England - http://www.helpfulholidays.com
Need a hotel: http://www.booking.com I like the comments and rates and we had great experiences

Panto - around the Christmas holidays lots of Panto shows will be put on around London.  We don't have anything quite like it in the US.  I highly recommend taking your whole family to a Panto.  I've attached an article that Farrell Harwood did for the Embassy newsletter.

Afternoon Tea - (not High Tea which is an American term) you can do this with or without kids.  I had the great pleasure of sampling a lot of Afternoon Teas during our time in London.  Each location offers something a little different to put their unique stamp on the experience.  I love the Dorchester as a quint essential British experience.  The Lanesborough gives you strawberries and cream.  The Berkley's Pret-a-Portea is inspired by the latest fashion designs.  All locations seem to have a signature Tea and it is worth sampling that particular tea!


Favorite Restaurants in London:
Duke of Kendal - Saturday nights Gilly the pianist is there and Sunday nights the locals sing all sorts of old song with some dressing up!
Hunan - 51 Pimlico Road Belgravia
Roast - Borough Market
Le Boudin Blanc - Shepherds Market - French food
Casa Malevo - Connaught Village - great Argentinian food - love the provoletto
Grazing Goat - Portman Village, great pub food and Bloody Mary's
Taqueria - Very good mexican - 137 Westbourne Grove - Perfect if you are going to Notting Hill/Portobello Road
Hush - Lancashire Court, great outdoor seating and brasserie food
Serpentine Bar & Kitchen (west end of the Serpentine) - great for a day out in Hyde Park. Great for the whole family!

w/ kids - Giraffe and Ask

Outside London:

The Fox & Hounds in Surry - right next to The Windsor Great Park - great weekend day trip as you could do tour of Windsor Castle too 
Isle of Wight - Crab & Lobster Inn PO35 5TR - you won't find it without GPS
Florence - Neone Trattoria trattorianerone@yahoo.it
Reims - Le Grand Cafe www.le-grandcafe.com




Kiwis in London

Posting some drafts which have sat in my "draft" file and were never published.
Better late than never.....

In this post - a couple of New Zealanders land in London and go on a cultural and sightseeing binge

My sister and her boyfriend came to London in April 2014.

We felt lucky to be the first in the family to meet this special Dylan we have been hearing so much about.




The visit of the kiwis brought us joy joy joy.  We got to host them for a good chunk of April and even left them alone to tend for themselves while we went on a week long trip to Egypt.  Lovely of them to water our plants, get the mail and tend to the guinea pig!!

We couldn't keep up with their adventures - which took them to every corner of London and much beyond.  The stuff they did, well, I think they may have covered more in their few weeks than we have done in three years.  Amazing.  Becca cooked us some amazing food (as in, a meal prepared for us when we returned from our Egypt trip, wow, that is extremely gracious sister!!), we loved chatting with Dylan about anything and everything (no encyclopedias needed when he is around), hearing about their visits, shopping, food they ate, etc.  We enjoyed a fun day trip to Warwick Castle, which is another post.  If you want to see more about all the stuff they did, see her blog (which is amazing to follow too, especially if you like fashion):



Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bank Holiday Weekend in Wales

Weekend in Wales - Bank Holiday Weekend 2016


In this post...how to get away from London for fresh air, hiking and castles!






Friday
Train 4:40 from Euston
Arrive Bangor 8:30pm
Cab to Hotel Port Dinorwic


Saturday
Cab to pick up rental car at Gwalia Garage Caernarfon
Park near Morrison’s Caernarfon - pick up snacks
Caernarfon Castle
10:00-12:30



Lunch at Jake’s Cafe (Hole in the Wall Street)  Super cheap simple cafe food
Walk across Pont Yr Aber to toss rocks into the sea and visit the park
Drive back to hotel
Drive to Castle Penrhyn - very quick visit, gorgeous (National Trust)
Drive to Plas Newydd to see beautiful views of Snowdonia, wakeboarding in the sea and sailing.
Drive to Menai Bridge for views
Drive to Tesco to pick up food - picnic dinner for tonight, breakfast and picnic lunch for tomorrow’s hike
Return to Hotel for picnic dinner and relaxation




Sunday
Depart at 7:30 am - arrive at Nant Peris Car Park about 8am.
Sherpa bus to Pen Y Pass to begin hike
Hiked all day, intended to take Pyg Track to Top of Mt Snowdon and take Miner’s Track back.  However we found ourselves following the Crib Goch...YIKES, very advanced and dangerous “clinging to rocks” along a knife-edge ridge with cliff drops!!  





Returned about back to car park about 4pm.
Brought back the rental car, walked (dropped kids off at Black Boy Inn before hand - there is a playground right next to it), to Black Boy Inn.
Had made 5:30 reservation at Black Boy Inn, arrived exactly on time!  We were starving and exhausted too.  Great meal!!




Back to hotel to swim and chill!


Monday
Hotel breakfast - yummy



Car at 8:45 to return us to Bangor for 9:22 train back to London, arrived about 1ish and home by 2:00!!


-----------------------------------------------------------------
Weekend in Wales - Bank Holiday Weekend 2016

Friday
Train 4:40 from Euston
Arrive Bangor 8:30pm
Cab to Hotel Port Dinorwic

Saturday
Cab to pick up rental car at Gwalia Garage Caernarfon
Park near Morrison’s Caernarfon - pick up snacks
Caernarfon Castle
10:00-12:30
Lunch at Jake’s Cafe (Hole in the Wall Street)  Super cheap simple cafe food
Walk across Pont Yr Aber to toss rocks into the sea and visit the park
Drive back to hotel
Drive to Castle Penrhyn - very quick visit, gorgeous (National Trust)
Drive to Plas Newydd to see beautiful views of Snowdonia, wakeboarding in the sea and sailing.
Drive to Menai Bridge for views
Drive to Tesco to pick up food - picnic dinner for tonight, breakfast and picnic lunch for tomorrow’s hike
Return to Hotel for picnic dinner and relaxation

Sunday
Depart at 7:30 am - arrive at Nant Peris Car Park about 8am.
Sherpa bus to Pen Y Pass to begin hike
Hiked all day, intended to take Pyg Track to Top of Mt Snowdon and take Miner’s Track back.  However we found ourselves following the Crib Goch...YIKES, very advanced and dangerous “clinging to rocks” along a knife-edge ridge with cliff drops!!  
Returned about back to car park about 4pm.
Brought back the rental car, walked (dropped kids off at Black Boy Inn before hand - there is a playground right next to it), to Black Boy Inn.
Had made 5:30 reservation at Black Boy Inn, arrived exactly on time!  We were starving and exhausted too.  Great meal!!
Back to hotel to swim and chill!

Monday

Car at 8:45 to return us to Bangor for 9:22 train back to London, arrived about 1ish and home by 2:00!!