We are a small, happy family of four. My husband, a baby, a dog and me. My husband works on a yacht. A large, luxury megayacht which tends to be based in some fairly fabulous places. The thing is, where the boat goes, we go! When she was was just eight weeks old our daughter, Coco, boarded her first trans-Atlantic flight and since then we haven't stopped. This is a blog of our rather unusual yet adventurous life. No two days are the same.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Best Bits of 2010!

Seeing as we are all a little under the weather today (well actually Coco is pretty much better apart from a lingering cough - but she has kindly shared her lurgi with both Angus and me) and we are at serious risk of becoming 'snowed-in' if the piles of tissues decided to avalanche, I need to cheer myself up a bit. It is the end of 2010 and time to reflect. I am already formulating my list of resolutions which I will share with you at a later date but before that I would like you to join me on a jaunt down memory lane for a quick game of 'Best Bits of 2010'!

The New Year started perfectly shared with old friends and new at a party hosted by my dear friend who is quite literally the hostess with the mostess. This would be my first 'best bit' but really, although it deserves a mention, I think it really belongs in 2009. Despite loving January's snow filled fun I was happy to fly to Antigua at the end of the month after a long, nine weeks away from Angus.

My first 'best bit' was the 2010 Superbowl. Although the match was in Miami, the hoards of people spilled over to fill the streets of Fort Lauderdale and what a crowd it was! The New Orleans Saints were playing and so the general theme of the event seemed to be Mardi Gras - the colour, the people, the atmosphere - it was all amazing and although I don't know anything about American Football it was fabulous to witness the phenomenon that is Superbowl!

All our visitors were a huge highlight of 2010. When you are away from home, having friends and family come and share your life abroad with you makes a big difference. First of all there was Marcus who had to squeeze into our little studio apartment in Miami. It did feel like we were students camping out - with a baby! Then Mums and Peter came for a couple of weeks relaxation in Antigua. We had an amazing time but my 'best bit' was being able to share my first Mothers Day as a Mummy with my Mummy. Then Jennifer, my Mother-in-Law, came to enjoy the sunshine and boy, did we natter! Our next visitors were my Dad and Christine who managed to squeeze in a week over the famous Antigua Classics Regatta and it was lovely to have them (although they nearly didn't make it home due to the cloud of ash covering the UK after the eruption of Eyjafjallaj√∂kull).

During a trip home in May, we spent time with family and friends, all of which was as brilliant as always but the highlight for me was a picnic at Wardour Castle with mother-in-law and sisters-in-law and a family weekend at the end of May where our little crawler fell madly in love with her eldest cousins who were wonderfully adoring and attentive.

We had a fabulous summer in New England and it is definitely one of my new favourite places, I absolutely loved it. The scenery, our little house, our new friends, the beaches, our visitors, my new body, the Jack Johnson concert, hurricane, boat rides, Boston, Newport, Maine... it was all one big best bit really but there was a weekend that stands out as being the very, very best bit and that was our weekend in Maine for Coco's 1st Birthday. Such a happy, memorable time was had by all. 

Another summer highlight was Coco and my two week vacation back to the UK to see one of my closest friends getting married. The whole week was terrific starting with the hen party and ending with the most magnificent wedding.

Autumn in the UK was just perfect. We had our lovely cottage, Coco's Christening, time with friends, Angus's birthday, the Eden Project Half Marathon, noodle nights, and loads of time with family and friends - an overall best bit!

Our year is drawing to an end in Florida. We have had a superb, if not a little chilly, time here over the past few months. Coco's swimming is improving tremendously, we have managed to have lots and lots of family time which is a rare treat, we have made yet more lovely friends and found some beautiful places. Coco continues to bring us so much joy and is a 'best bit' everyday with new words and an ever developing sense of humour. Her singing voice leaves a lot to be desired sounding at the moment as if it is a call to prayer, but she is young so all hope is not lost! She eats like a horse (although she doesn't yet use a spoon - I'm hoping that will come fairly soon!) and climbs with such energy and bravery for such a little person. She has all of her teeth and such a lot of gorgeous, blond hair. She has changed so much in the last year and we are so excited to see all of the changes that 2011 will bring. 

One of the over all highlights this year was the day we heard that we had got our house. Next year we move into our own home, we will see Antigua again, we will continue to travel around the world but will come back to our own little house, with our own bed and our own things. 2011 holds such promise; Angus will hopefully get his Masters ticket, Coco will turn two, three of our closest friends are having their first babies and who knows what else? It is just so exciting! So many more best bits to look forward to!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What a great Christmas!

Ah, I can't believe it is all over so quickly! Where has Christmas gone? Angus is back at work, we are into the old routine and I am even contemplating taking the tree down as it just seems out of place now that all of the festivities are over. There isn't the fill-in of festivities between Christmas and New Year that we have at home. Here in the US, once Christmas Day is over, things quickly return to normal.

I'm not going to lie to you, I was feeling a little sad about Christmas. We love our families and adore it when we all spend time together. When we are all with each other you can guarantee massive amounts of laughter, stupidity and fun. To miss out on all the hilarity seemed so upsetting but I have to say, the idea of missing out was much worse than the reality. Don't get me wrong everyone at home, we would have loved to have been with you, but actually we had a lovely Christmas in Florida too. The biggest disappointment was the fact we missed the first white Christmas in my lifetime. All those prayers asking for nothing but snow for Christmas and then the one year we are away there is bucket loads of the stuff. Next year I am going to insist on Christmas in Lapland or somewhere equally as cold where I can count on sledging and snowmen.

When Coco's temperature soared on Christmas Eve (39.5!!) we thought that Christmas was going to be a washout or even involve a trip to A & E, however, the miracle that is Calpol and the fact that we have the bravest baby in the world meant that a wonderful time was still enjoyed by all. After present wrapping and stocking stuffing, Angus and I curled up to watch the original Miracle on 34th Street with a bottle of Baileys and a delectable feast of tasty nibbles before hitting the sack, full and happy. This was  our first Christmas together as a family. Last year Angus had been away working so we were determined this was going to be a special one.

I think I was awake before Coco, brimming with excitement and as soon as there was the slightest murmur from the little-ins room I was in there like a shot. All three of our stockings were opened with absolute joy, and Coco was very obviously over the moon at the realisation that she had some new toys. With travelling around all the time, she is a little light on toys and was in desperate need of some new entertainment.

It was fresh and sunny so we decided to hit the beach for a bracing walk, coffee and croissants. Having mainly previously experienced rural Christmases I loved the fact that we were sharing our Christmas morning with all of these unknown people. The beach front was quieter than normal but still had the early morning buzz of joggers, holiday makers, last nights revellers, roller-bladers and dog walkers. Every one had a smile on their face and there were constant calls of "Merry Christmas" between both friends and strangers.

Home for presents and Skyping - I have said it before and I'll say it again - Skype is amazing! How can we be 4000 miles away and Coco was able to open her first present in front of an audience at home? It still blows my mind.

Nobody should be alone at Christmas and if you have the power to avoid this happening then you should. The thing with boats is that there always has to be somebody on board so that person was inevitably going to spend Christmas alone unless, of course, you take Christmas to them - which we did! A full Christmas dinner (although we opted for beef instead of turkey) on the boat so that everyone could join in.

What a fabulously brilliant day - an excellent first family Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Neighbourhood

Check it out - it is a whole different reality...

The play park is pretty normal but lovely and just a couple of minutes walk from our home. How lucky are we?! The funniest thing is the fact that everyone comes here in golf carts! Nobody walks in Fort Lauderdale, you either jog or drive or, in our neighbourhood you drive around in a golf cart like it is some kind of holiday resort! It is very funny.

This is one of the less splendid houses - yes really.

A view of the canal.

A view from the bridge, everyone appears to have a private jetty!

And some of those jetty's have some pretty big private day cruisers on them!

They go to town on the decorations on this side of the Atlantic!

I think the Christmas decorations look so funny alongside the palm trees.

If I was to choose any house around here - this is my favourite.

Just in case you were wondering, as Coco and I walked around taking photos, I was wearing a t-shirt covered in hummus, I haven't worn make-up in at least four days and Coco had yogurt around her mouth from lunchtime because she won't let me wipe her face at the moment without screaming the house down! So we may be living amongst some of the most well groomed houses and people in Florida but we still have a lot to learn!

I hope this bit of sunshine helps to defrost some of you guys back in the UK?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

This Saturday I am grateful for....

Painkillers - last night we hit the town and did we ever hit the town! However, we are paying for it today, I just can't do it anymore. I am officially a lightweight. One glass of wine is fine, two and I'm a bit giggly and 3 and I'm sloshed. I should stick at 3 on a big night out and intersperse those with a couple of soft drinks not add a cocktail and a limoncello to the mix, that is plain stupid! Hence my being grateful for painkillers today - and there has been some serious pain that needed killing.

Having a daughter who is a sleep monster! - Today of all days Coco has decided that she needs to catch-up after a busy week. She has also been getting over a cough and had two teeth pop through so an extra nap was definitely well deserved. Both Angus and I are eternally grateful to her for sleeping for nearly two hours this morning and a further hour and a bit this afternoon! Her timing couldn't be better seeing as Angus and I are far from being on top form.

Rain - you may notice a theme emerging here, but it has poured with rain all day today and I mean constant, torrential rain so we have turned the Christmas tree lights on, put on the TV and bedded in for the day. Again, perfect timing!

So although I am not grateful for the fact that my partying days are definitely over, and the hangovers hit hard, I am exceedingly grateful that someone is smiling down on me and not punishing me too much. I have said it before and unfortunately I will probably say it in the future but I am never drinking again!

To see what others around the world are grateful for this Saturday pop over to see Maxabella. There are always some truly beautiful posts to enjoy over there.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hitting the town!

You will be very relieved to know that this week I am not posting a blog filled with doom and gloom - I am feeling much more chipper!

I am back on form and have managed to shake off the loneliness that was tainting my every decision and get back into the positive frame of mind that I am used to. We are living in America for goodness sake! I spent the whole of my childhood talking about my desire to travel and live overseas and here we are, doing it! Get a grip girl! Well, I have - I think.

I love the neighbourhood we have moved to. I have to tell you we are punching way above our weight in this area. It is the serious money part of town and we have been lucky enough to find an affordable rental here. The leafy streets are lined with mansions and houses straight out of 'Desperate Housewives', the sidewalks are clean, the sun seems to always shine (although it has been a bit chilly this week), there are always beautiful people who don't sweat when they jog effortlessly past you and Ferrari's and Aston Martins driving along the roads. The streets are entwined with Fort Lauderdale's canal network which gives idyllic snapshot views as you peer between the fences of back gardens leading down to the waters edge with swimming pools and putting greens (seriously, there are putting greens in people's back gardens!). We have a play park within a few minutes walk which is the cleanest tidiest park you have ever seen, full of children and not a parent in sight - all nannies. I am not exaggerating - we maybe living in someone's pool house (and a very nice pool house it is too) but the vicinity is very very posh! I will post photos over the weekend and you will see what I mean.

As well as getting to know our new area, we have also been getting into the Christmas spirit. We have a tree which is small but beautiful, an advent calendar (thank you Auntie Ilm) and this afternoon's activity is to make some Christmas biscuits. The original plan was to have a completely edible tree decorated purely with candy and cookies, however, the only downside of our new abode is that there is a bit of an ant problem so I'm pretty sure my original tree idea wouldn't have helped with that! So, the cookies are still going to be made, but will remain in a tightly sealed box until consumption.

Right, must get on. I have baking to do before painting my nails - yes, that's right. Our first night out in what seems like months! We've found a babysitter and we are off out to paint the town red, or gold, or silver or whatever you paint a town at Christmas time!

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's Friday, It's Daddy Time

I can not tell you how unbelievably relieved I am that it is Friday. It has been the longest 12 days of my life (definitely maybe). I love being a parent and you all know that I love the life we lead but now and again both the parenting and the way we live just gets too much. Before I embark on this self-pitying rant, which I am afraid it may well turn into, I just need to point out that I do know how lucky I am, I appreciate what I have every single day, but sometimes, just occasionally, those cons about our way of life, that are always there niggling away in the background, are amplified and become all I can think about for a while.

When I say cons, it is just one con really and that is loneliness. How ever hard you try, being on the move means that building a network of friends in every place we go to is bloody difficult. I keep really busy. I join groups, I walk, I go to playgrounds, I try really hard to talk to people when we are out and about, but actually making friends in the short amount of time we are in each place is really hard. One of the reasons the last 12 days have been even harder is that Angus worked last weekend so there hasn't been a break, it has just been Coco and I. Lack of friends and family around us equals no time-out, not even half and hour. We also had to move house in the middle of it all which was quite an effort and we were without internet for a few days. A small inconvenience you may think but when the cyber world brings my friends and family into my living room, it is heart wrenching to be without them all for a while.

However, Coco and I have filled our time with Christmas Card painting, lots of cooking (cooking is my comfort blanket and we currently have a freezer full of muffins!), book reading, tower building, music making, present shopping, play park climbing and Spot watching but we are both looking forward to mixing it up this weekend and having some Daddy time.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Girls in White Dresses...

This weeks Gallery theme is 'white' - I am assuming that it might have something to do with the weather in the UK at the moment?! However, although it is a little chilly for Floridian standards over here, there isn't a snowflake in sight so I have had a dig around my photo library and found this cracker from earlier in the year. So I am sharing it with you in appreciation of my all time favourite film, even though there isn't a blue satin sash to top it off.

I have just had a look in my reader and found 590 unread items (I have been very busy lately) so I am off to have a serious catch up and I will post more later.

To see more wonderful 'white' inspired photos pop over to Sticky Fingers and take a look.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Big News!

Oh my goodness it has been AGES! However, I do have a good excuse - last week I was a complete bag of nerves and could focus on little else other that going over and over and over our accounts to make sure we really could afford to buy a HOUSE! On top of the affordability, we were also waiting with baited breath to see if we could actually get the imperative mortgage. On Friday morning at about 6.58am (we're 5 hours behind the UK here) we got the call to say "full steam ahead". By 7.20am we had made an offer, by 8.05am we were negotiating and by 8.08am we had done a deal! The deposit is paid and we move in in March! Well, that is a bit weather dependant as the house hasn't actually been built yet but that is a minor detail.

Ah, deep breath - I am very excited.

Nothing is going to be changing too much, we will still be a nomadic family following boats around the world but knowing that we have a home to come back to, run to if we need it, be together in when we are all in the UK... it will just make life that little bit easier and more secure.

Anyway, moving in day is still a little way off and we are really stretching ourselves to do this so I am working my butt-off to earn the money to pay for carpets - hence the lack of blogging, or reading any other blogs (sorry). I will try and re-focus and not get too carried away with telling you all about the sofa I want or the colour I am going to pain the living room wall. After all, we are in America and there is still an awful lot of fun to be had over here.

Talking of which we discovered the world of remote controlled aircraft at the weekend which was absolutely fascinating. No seriously - it was. We stumbled across a park near here that has an actual airfield, complete with runway, totally dedicated to model aircraft. These planes are amazing and built as exact replicas of the real deal. There was even a jet plane, with proper jet engines and the distinct smell of jet fuel. Check out the video and you'll see what I mean.

On Friday we weren't just celebrating our house purchase, it was also Uncle Gaby's 30th Birthday! I can't believe he is 30 but we marked the occasion with lots of champagne (so he could drown his sorrows, I think he struggled a bit leaving his 20's behind) and birthday brownies complete with lots and lots of candles. (Not that I should be allowed to go anywhere near fire after nearly burning the house down last week! Seriously, I was standing the the middle of the kitchen holding a burning pan with flames reaching the ceiling! My great-in-an-emergency husband told me calmly to "put the pan gently in the sink" where the fire quickly ran out of fuel and all was well. It was a close one though.)

Anyway, Happy Birthday again Gaby (Baby to Coco which we are hoping might stick!) and I promise you, your 30's are way better than your 20's so there is no need to worry.

Just a quick aside before I get back to work while Coco sleeps - welcome to all my new followers! I can not tell you how exciting it is to have some new readers on board.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Days of Thunder

We have had such a great weekend and I feel much more relaxed. Yesterday we packed up our cool-bag and drove down to Homestead to the NASCAR championships. Now, I am no petrol head, neither is Angus but we have a very clever friend who is an 'aerodynamicist' (I think that's what you call him) for one of the teams and seeing as we don't get to see him very often and he was just down the road we decided to check it out.

I am so glad we did. Not only was it simply lovely to see Tom, but the racing was awesome! As we turned off the turnpike we could see the enormous track grandstand looming ahead of us. There were aeroplanes circling above with advertising banners streaming behind them, a vast car park rapidly filling with big, 4x4 trucks (everyone drives a truck over here) and the roar of race car engines audible before we had even got out of the car!

"I love big events", said Angus with a shudder of excitement.

I knew exactly what he meant. A county show at home in the UK, a festival or a football match, the atmosphere of a large event is just brilliant and it has to be said that nobody does large events quite like the Americans.

There were tailgaters with bbq's, rock bands, beer stands, corn dogs, a lot of baseball caps and cars! Oh the cars! They were so fast and so load and SO cool! Even Coco (in her protective ear-muffs) seemed to enjoy the thrill of the race - literally.

Catching up with Tom was just what I needed.  I love making new friends but the easiness that there is with old ones is sometimes just such a relief.

Anyway, should you get the opportunity to go to a NASCAR event then definitely do it, even if you don't like cars, do it for the experience. The noise, the smell, the people and the speed is straight out of 'Days of Thunder'. I would also be prepared to lay money on the fact that some of the drivers were dead-ringers for Tom Cruise!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Time to reflect...

and think again about what it is I am grateful for this week.

This is a really good exercise for me this Saturday as it has been a frantic week. I will explain in more detail at a later date but in short, Coco has been under the weather, we are in the process of trying to buy a house but it all depends on a mortgage and we have been waiting to hear for what seems like FOREVER! So, coughing child and high anxiety levels leads to the inevitable sleepless nights which then leads to... disorganisation, irritability, out-of-control eating (my achilles heal) - the list goes on!

So first of all I must be grateful for:

A patient family - just for putting up with me (especially Angus), supporting me, accepting the fact that contacting those of you in the UK has been low on my list of priorities this week... thank you all, I really am grateful xx

Running - it is such a great stress-buster, even in the Florida heat! I feel so much better and healthier after a good run, it helps me put everything into perspective and also makes me stop for a second and be thankful for the fact that I am so lucky to have a healthy body.

Genius Playlists - Why did I not know about this before? A friend recently told me about this little gem that itunes has to offer and it has completely changed my musical appreciation! I love it and am discovering and rediscovering music I didn't even know I had.

Old school friends - We are so lucky to have wonderful friends from our school days, I told you about some of them a while back here, but another lives in the US and this weekend his work brings him to Homestead, Florida so we are all getting together this afternoon. I am so excited, it is lovely seeing friends from home when we are away from family and friends so much of the time.

I'll leave you with a couple of photos of some old school friends and do pop over to Maxabella and see what everyone else is grateful for this week.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The joys of Saturday

I'm just going to make it. It's late on Saturday evening but I want to take a few moments to tell you that...

This Saturday I am grateful for...

Uncle Gaby - My lovely (not so little) little brother. I am always grateful for him but especially this Saturday as, out of the blue, he offered to have my darling daughter for the day to give Angus and I the day together - child free! He did it all with no hesitation; play, lunch, naps, a trip to the park, even nappy changes! It was amazing, we had a wonderful time on our day off (more of that later) and, I think, they did too!

The sound of a game of tennis - Angus and I met playing tennis. We were both pretty good in our youth! We don't get to play very much anymore, hardly ever in fact, but when we do I love it. We played today when we were child free and as we hit the ball back and forth in the warm sunshine, I took a moment to enjoy the sound of the of the ball as the bounce echoed around the court. That sound is so evocative, it brings back so many happy memories. We should play tennis more often.

A perfectly chilled glass - oh who are we kidding... bottle - of Sauvignon Blanc - Just because it is delicious and helps the world go around!

Thank you again to Maxabella for setting up such a lovely Saturday link-up.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Going Veggie

I never thought I would see the day that my carnivorous husband supported my decision for our little household to be mainly veggie for the foreseeable future. However, he does, he even seems to have kind of encouraged it after we both watched last nights movie.

One of the things that I have been fascinated by since spending a significant amount of time in the US is the food over here. Firstly there are a ludicrous amount of fast food restaurants. You drive down pretty much every highway and you are continuously confronted by neon signs welcoming customers to MacDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Wendy's, Dunkin Donuts... the list goes on and on. Fast food is cheap, easy and immensely popular.

It all seems a little stereotypical, America and the burger bar, and I'm certainly not saying that this is the way all American's eat, lets face it, junk food is becoming a problem everywhere, but you are very aware of it here. Even in the supermarket the shelves are lined with instant foods. Instant cake mix, instant macaroni, throw in the oven pizza, instant pancakes - you can even buy Egg Beaters, which as the name suggests is beaten egg! In a carton! There is obviously fresh produce but even this sometimes seems a little dubious. I bought and cooked a chicken in the summer, I usually do a great roast chicken, even though I say it myself (wiggling my head in pride), but this was so awful we threw it away (and made some instant macaroni instead - no I didn't, just kidding). It was just a bad chicken - and last night we found out why; we watched Food Inc.

If you haven't seen this film, you must. You will never want to eat another burger ever again. (Can I write that? Didn't Oprah get sued for saying something similar?) Having watched how the meat is produced and how animals are treated, I can't justify buying it anymore so we have decided we won't. We are officially veggie, apart from the odd occasion where we splash out and buy some free-range, organic, happy meat but we simply can't afford to do that all of the time. So it's lentil lasagne, vegetable curries and nut roasts in this household for the time being. We will still eat fish to ensure we all get plenty of protein but the red and white meats are going on hold for a while. Don't get me wrong, I'm not getting on my healthy eating high-horse, I was just quite shocked and I want to be sure that I know what I am feeding my family.

I was veggie for a good few years in my student wannabe hippie days so I am actually looking forward to experimenting with some vegetarian cooking again and introducing us all to some new dishes and exciting flavours. I'll keep you posted on how we are getting on and while we are doing that, watch the film.

Have you ever seen a film that changes your lifestyle?

(I'm taking part in Flog Yo Blog Friday - go and take a look)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Season? Beach Season!

It's Gallery time again. "Already?", I hear you say.

I've been rubbish at blogging this week... again. I just don't know where the time goes!

This week the theme is 'Seasons'. Well here in Florida there don't seem to be any real seasons. The winter is hot, the spring is a little hotter and the summer is really, really frigging hot! Last weekend the clocks went back so we are well and truly into 'fall'. The sticky humidity has made way for refreshing breezes and beautifully warm sunshine. It is quite honestly my absolute perfect weather at the moment.

This evening Coco and I had a picnic tea on the beach where Angus and Uncle Gabes joined us for a swim when they had finished work. Despite the warmth, Coco still needed some snuggles from her Uncle to warm her up after her autumnal evening dip.

Check some other seasonal offerings at Sticky Fingers.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Singing my troubles away

One of my very favourite bloggers is the lovely Maxabella from the wonderful land of Oz. Her blog is always completely inspiring, thought provoking and uplifting - I adore it. You MUST go and have a read. On Saturday's she always stops, reflects and tells here readers what she is grateful for. I am jumping on the bandwagon and would like to share with you some of the things in my life today for which I am thankful...

Skype - I am constantly blown away by the fact that I can sit on my computer, nearly 4500 miles from home, and I can have a clear, face to face conversation with my Mummy. It makes being away all the time that little bit easier. It is magic!

Cool Breezes - After a blisteringly hot week in Florida, the thunderstorms came, the air cleared and today we enjoyed a clear sky, warm sun and a beautifully cool breeze. We spent the afternoon at the park, walking, talking and playing and all at a comfortable, constant temperature.

Headache Pills - Although today has been blissfully relaxed, it didn't stop a nasty headache bugging me all afternoon. However, a bottle of water and a couple of paracetamol and I feel as right as rain!

My Husband - I've been a little homesick since leaving the UK and my gorgeous husband has spent today helping to lift my spirits. He even put The Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber in the car so that I could sing all my troubles away at the top of my mediocre voice!

What are you grateful for this weekend?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Show me the funny!

I've decided to link up to The Gallery this week. I have really enjoyed seeing everyone else's interpretations of the weekly themes since I discovered this brilliant Wednesday feature by Sticky Fingers a little while ago and I wanted to get involved! Hope nobody minds?

This week is 'Show me the funny' and this is what we have to offer...

Coco and I found this extremely funny, Daddy - not so much!

Without a doubt, Coco was a sicky baby. She was completely unfazed by it but you could guarantee that after every meal there would be a reasonably dramatic throw-up. The best thing was that generally it seemed to be Daddy that bore the brunt of the carnage. He had to endure sick on the chest, sick on his shoes, even sick in his mouth! (another story for another time) but the photo above was a classic. After a fantastic day a Ren Fest - I blogged about it earlier this year - Coco had guzzled a bit too much milk and Daddy endured the consequences! Poor Daddy xx

Monday, November 1, 2010

Loving Halloween!

I have secretly loved Halloween for years. I adore the feeling of being completely freaked-out and have been renowned for my ghost story renditions since I started going to sleepovers. I even enjoy the odd horror movie. Not the blood and guts kind but the freaky, spooky, Blair Witch kind.

As a child I was so jealous of American children at Halloween. The fancy dress, the trick or treating and the parties. Since I first watched ET I was fascinated by the idea of 'trick or treating' and was desperate to get involved but it just didn't happen in the UK in those days.

So last night was the biggest revelation for me. Halloween in America lived up to all of my expectations!

We were kindly invited to join some friends in their 'neighbourhood' for our first trick or treating experience. As the sun went down the children (and adults) come out in their droves. There were ghosts and witches, mummies and ghouls, cats and spiders and even a caveman (!). Groups of children knocked on doors and were rewarded with handfuls of brightly coloured, sugarific 'candy'. The effort people go to is extraordinary. One house had spooky music blaring out, you had to fight your way through the cobwebs to get to the door and then you were greeted by a full-size coffin the opened to reveal a revolting zombie. It wasn't until you'd run this horrible gauntlet that you could claim your chocolatey prize! Some people had baked beautifully iced muffins, others set up a little stand by their door overflowing with treats ready for their visitors. This is a tradition that is fully embraced over here and is seriously good fun. We met all our neighbours and planted the seed for some potential new friendships, everyone seemed to have fun - even though it was absolutely pouring with rain.

Coco managed to get into a packet of Skittles without us realising so was literally bouncing off the walls by the time we got home but still it was a brilliant, brilliant family evening.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Leaving on a jet-plane

Have I ever mentioned that I am terrified of flying? I would say that my terror is verging on phobia – terrible anxiety for about two weeks before each flight, palpitations, shakes and trouble breathing. Unfortunately, our life choice makes flying absolutely necessary for me. Not only do I have to do it, but I always have Coco with me and 90% of the time I am on my own.

Earlier this week we flew back to the Sates. Miami this time, a full 10 hours of enduring cramped seats, dehydration, intense baby entertainment and full-blown fear! Oh joy! In retrospect, it actually wasn’t bad at all. I am in love with Heathrow’s Terminal 5; the lack of crowds, helpful staff, clean loo’s and excellent shopping makes a huge difference when travelling solo with an infant. I did feel (and probably looked) like the world’s biggest lush as I stood at the bar next to our gate at 8.30 in the morning downing half a pint of Carlsberg! It’s my way of coping with the flight you see. Actually getting on the plane is sometimes a little tricky and so a soupcon of Dutch courage and I am up, up and away – literally! What must people have thought as they sat around drinking coffee and eating croissants whilst I fed Coco bits of egg sandwich as I downed my pint?

Once I am settled in my seat, deep breaths and I feel a little better. I am determined that Coco doesn’t inherit this fear so externally I try and portray an illusion of complete calm and serenity whereas actually the terror makes my head swim and my heart thump so hard it feels as though it will break through my rib-cage. My moment of relief is when the cabin crew get up and start moving around, in my head, if we have got that far and everything is OK we have a good chance of making it – plus, it means it won’t be long until I can have another beer! That’s it, I just have the two, one before boarding and one when we first take-off. It is enough to keep the nerves just about under control.

Now I have to focus on the next task – keeping a 14 month old entertained for a 10-hour daytime flight! I had chopped fruit, which I fed her intermittently (it makes her sound like a monkey), and a bag full of books and toys, which would hold her attention for the odd ten-minute time slot. I tried to encourage her to get excited about the Noddy cartoon on our entertainment system but the headphones were ripped off before they got anywhere near her ears and she then proceeded to wrap the black cord around her precious neck like a fetching necklace! The headphones were banished to the overhead locker along with the hundreds of plastic bags that contained blankets, socks and eye-masks. Seriously, there are potential hazards everywhere and you can guarantee that if there is anything dangerous lying around, Coco will find it!

Walking up and down the aisles is an obvious distraction, but let’s be honest, there is a limit to how many times you can disturb the people around you and those sitting in the aisle seats were getting visibly bored of Coco’s continuous “Hi’s” and “Bye’s”.

Throw a 45 minute sleep into the mix and a bit of turbulence just to keep me on my toes and we made it, landing in a hot, Latino, Miami. Our journey still consisted of passport control, baggage collection, car hire and the drive to Fort Lauderdale but I was so much better at handling everything when my feet were well and truly planted firmly on the ground.

Any suggestions on how to tackle my fear?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Go Team!

I've done it again! Why is there no time at the moment to sit for just 20 minutes and write a quick blog? I miss you!

However, here I am and although there are a multitude of fun exploits I could tell you about, it would be wrong to write about anything other than our awesome weekend. Just a few weeks ago I told you about our planned fundraising event, the Eden Project Marathon, well it all happened at the weekend.

I have to confess that I am always a little shocked at how far away Cornwall is. A three hour drive with a baby is never the best, even if it is timed to fit in with sleeps. Gone are the days when the motion of the car would keep Coco asleep for hours on end, now we are lucky to get an hour and then we are relying on continuous renditions of 'Rosie the Little Red Car' and endless boxes of raisins! However, we made it without the stress levels being too raised, checked into our hotel, Angus and Coco donned their running shoes and we hit the Eden Project.

On the Saturday it was the Fun Run. We met up with the rest of the family runners (it's like the athletic equivalent to the Sound of Music) and Angus, Bridgie, Marcus and all the children limbered up ready to take on the one mile course. There was a great atmosphere and I had forgotten how impressive the Eden Project is. The mile long course took the runners through the Biodomes, amazing for the kids - "I am running though the actual jungle!" said my three year old niece who heroically managed to run the whole mile with no help! She was definitely the star of the first day.

The sun shone on the Sunday and after an impressive breakfast it was back to Eden for the longer races. Marcus, my brother-in-law, was to embark on his first marathon attempt and I would be running the half marathon. We were both nervous and more than slightly intimidated by the size of the surrounding hills. However, it was too late to back out now, we'd come this far, trained hard and it was the moment of reckoning.

I'm not going to lie to you - it was hard. Really hard. The hills were big and relentless, one after another. Even going down was pretty hard on the knees. Nevertheless, I actually loved the first 10 miles; loo stops were easy (you'll be pleased to hear) and I felt fit and strong but the last three miles felt like they were never going to end, I had literally run out of steam. They did though, and the sense of achievement I felt when I crossed that finish line was unbelievable. More, probably, than anything else I have ever done. This wasn't just about the physical challenge, between us we have raised over £1000 for a fantastic cause that we all believe will make a massive difference - it has got to. 

Although we all did our bit this weekend with fun-runs, half-marathons, marathons and childcare the prize for momentous effort has to go to Marcus - a full marathon over that terrain is absolutely brilliant. 

Great weekend, awesome achievement... Go team!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Birthday Boys

I can't believe it has been a whole week since my last blog - rubbish!

Unfortunately I don't have much time, but I do want to make sure there is a record of some of the loveliness of last weekend before we embark on what I sure is going to be an equally lovely weekend apart from perhaps a little wetter.

So forgive me for being brief:

* Six mile run on Saturday morning through the beautiful (chilly) Dorset countryside with the sun shining, the birds singing and Buster running beside me.

* Yummy BBQ lunch with old friends and bubbles - does it get much better?

I should explain that there is a bit of tradition surrounding the fact that we spent last weekend with old friends. We (I say we because Angus and I actually share many of our school friends as we have been together since the dark ages!) are very lucky to be part of a group of school friends who are all still in touch. We don't see as much of each other as we used to but when we do, it feels really special. This weekend in September is always significant as three of the group have birthdays on consecutive days, 25th (Sam), 26th (Jase) and 27th (Angus) September! For as long as I can remember, if we have all been in the country, we have tried to get together. Unfortunately the group wasn't quite complete as Jase (26th September Birthday Boy) was horribly ill so missed out on the fun.

* Excellent dog-walk which included being chased by horses and coming face to face with a very impressive bull!

* Delish curry and lots more bubbles!

*A trip to Portland to support our brother-in-law as he completed his first half-ironman. An amazing achievement, we were all very emotional about it.

* The best Birthday cake EVER for Angus made by Bridgie, Hugh and Aurelia xx

Such a good weekend followed by quite a good week. I'll leave you with a photo I took of Coco yesterday having a ball on her new (borrowed) slide.

Enjoy your weekends and I will try to be more blog vigilant next week.

Friday, September 24, 2010

You've got a friend

Why are we all such sensitive souls? I was watching Coco playing with her cousins the other day. She is at the age where she is just beginning to really be aware of those around her. You can definitely tell that she is that bit more excited and certainly more distracted when there are other children around. We first noticed it in America when Hugo and her obviously began to bond. They wanted to watch and interact with each other - not all the time, but definitely some of the time.

Since we have got home Coco has been surrounded by cousins and friends of different ages and she is getting more and more sociable by the minute. She is learning from her peers, from activities to words. In the last week she has been taught how to use a slide, how to draw with a crayon and how to say "no" - all of which have been taught to her by other children. It is amazing. But fortunately, there is only one emotion at the moment - pure excitement. She has no idea that some of the children at toddler group dis her because she is too little, she doesn't take offence at being pushed over, she has no idea that some of her friends and more comfortable with each other than they are with her because they know one another better.

I was so saddened to hear how quickly a social consciousness is learned. By the time children are at nursery it seems they start differentiating between best friends and just friends. Children can even identify "friendships" and "acquaintances" and are acutely aware when they are being excluded or left out. I hadn't really stopped to think about how it all starts so early, these judgements and decisions about people. These desires to fit into a tribe or a gang, to work out who your kindred spirits are and how we sometimes try to monopolise them and make them solely ours.

I remember friendships being terribly painful when I was younger. I always seemed to be on the edge of a well established group, usually entering it a little late. I always had a lot of friends, don't get me wrong, but I was always terrible worried about getting between people, offending people and not fitting in.

I don't have that now. I have some amazing friends who I love dearly. I am incredibly lucky to have old friends, new friends and family who are friends and I can honestly say that, although I do feel lonely living often thousands of miles from most of them, a quick phone call or email often solves that. But now and again those past insecurities raise their ugly heads and you realise, scarily, that you still have to play those same careful cards that you had to play at school and those fragile egg-shells still need to be stepped on gently.

How can I teach Coco to have confidence in her friendships and relationships? That she doesn't have to control them because people will choose to be there for her and have fun with her, but they are also free to have many many other friends, as is she. I suppose enjoying her own friendship is key as well, not needing others to be at peace and feel fulfilled but to sometimes be able to just be alone.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I do run, run, run...

I mentioned a while back that I had started running again. I think at the same time I said that I would keep you updated on the progress of my return to fitness and promptly never mentioned it again. Well, this isn't because I haven't continued with my running regime but I have to confess, it hasn't gone quite as planned (not quite as rigorous as originally intended). But - these things rarely do, certainly in my case!

There were a couple of reasons I embarked on a new running programme. Those of you who have known me for a while may remember that I tend to agree to undertaking stupid challenges such as marathons, channel swims and mountain climbs. Although I used to be fairly sporty, I am not a natural runner - I'm just not built for it - which makes the challenge all that more interesting.

There is the vanity. If I'm not training for something- I will not run. I'm no gym bunny that's for sure. I need to run. I have thrown in the odd passing comment or two about the fact that I have been trying to loose weight over the summer. It's not a big thing, but I have worked pretty hard at it and lost a total of 35lbs since May. Now I've reached the weight that I am happy with, I need to get fit to help maintain all my hard work.

The most important reason for this latest is fitness drive is that I love pushing myself to extremes to raise money for charity. I give what I can to my chosen good causes throughout the year via direct debits, I pop the odd pound in collection cans, I donate my unwanted belongings to charity shops, but raising money by putting myself through a bit of pain and hard work feels like a good thing to do. I feel justified is asking people to support me because this isn't just for fun. Believe me - it definitely isn't just for fun.

This is the hardest it has ever been to get back into physical shape. It has been so long since I did any serious physical excersise that my muscles feel like jelly! Having a baby doesn't seem to been the best thing for my body when it comes to enhancing my chances of returning to peak physical condition. For a start my boobs are so heavy and droopy I am having to wear two sports bras to offer anything even close to adequate support. My hips are clicky - you'd have thought that a year on they would have fully recovered from that joyous stirrup experience but alas - no. Finally, the biggest confession, and I am only telling you this to prove that I am earning ever penny I am raising, my pelvic floor muscles leave a lot to be desired. I never, ever, EVER thought I would need a nappy to run at my young (!) age - it is mortifying! Now surely that confession deserves a pound or two?!

However, it is all worth it. Last summer my beloved father-in-law lost his brave battle against a brain tumour and it is for him that our family has decided to pull together and do something special. It's not just me going through this pain and discomfort - in October we are heading to the Eden Project to run in their annual marathon. My brother-in law will run a full marathon (what a hero), I will do the half marathon and Angus and his sister will be running the fun-run with all the children. Everything we raise will be donated to the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust, a fantastic organisation that is dedicated to child and adult tumour research in the UK.

I managed a comfortable five miles this evening with some whopping hills, the question is will I be able to manage 13 miles in just three weeks time? Wish me luck!

If you wish to donate - leave a comment and I will send you the link our justgiving page

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Caught in a support net

Oh it's good to be back at the computer again. I can't deny that it has been kinda good to have had a few days off. Away from emails, even phone calls (we don't have mobile reception in our new home) and more sadly, my blog and everyones else's blogs.

After a tiring but successful pack-up, flight, move-into-new-house week, (oh and let's add a quick Christening and Birthday party to last weeks activities too, just in case we weren't busy enough) we are now completely settled in our lovely new house in beautiful (but wet) Dorset.

I have been thinking a lot today about support networks. I think Coco's Christening was the thing that got me started. When I asked a dear friend if she would be Coco's godmother she said she was excited to become a part of our extended family. I love the idea of extended family. I am very happy for my extended family to grown and grow and grow and it isn't exactly small as it is! I'm not from your normal (what's normal nowadays anyway) kind of family. I have biological and non-biological siblings. I have dear, dear family friends who I consider cousins. I have a godmother who is as much a part of my family as anyone. I have nieces who I love like my own children and now Coco has all of this support around her too.

When I had time to stop for long enough to absorb anything over the weekend I saw all of those people I love doing all of these selfless tasks just for us. From my sister and mother calmly pulling together a fab BBQ on Saturday evening to my mother-in-law appearing with a beautiful table decoration on Sunday. My niece taking on the roll of supper-nanny for the whole of the Christening day and my mothers best friend hot-footing it down to Dorset from London despite having a husky voice after bellowing Land of Hope and Glory out with all her might at the Royal Albert Hall the night before. Everyone making these momentous efforts for Coco was just amazing.

A support network is often something that is lacking when we are on the move and so I appreciate it so much more when I am home. Yesterday I was literally woozy with exhaustion and a friend invited Coco for tea at the drop of a hat. Last night my sister-in-law popped over for a cuppa and to offer some company on my first night alone in our new home.

It's the little things, the half an hour of baby-sitting, the offer to do a dog-walk or to give you a lift somewhere. I think, having not been around family and friends for so long, I am blown away by people's generosity and the sense of community there is at home. I know people for a start - that helps when you need a bit of a support network. I hope I don't take advantage of it too much over the next couple of months and that I can offer some reciprocal support, but it is lovely to have some time amongst people I know and love, like wearing your favourite sweater on a rainy evening.

I even took advantage of having Buster back in the family fold this evening and was braver about letting Coco work-out eating her yogurt without my help. His support was invaluable, after all I don't have to clean up after her, he will do it for me!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Here We Go Again

I'm just taking a little break from packing. It will have to be a short break though as I am on a roll and I have less that 48 hours to get everything done, board our flight and wing it back to the UK! Aarrgghhh!

It is one of the only things I hate about our lifestyle (obviously I miss family and friends like crazy - but other than that), all the frigging packing!

You would have though I would be good at it by now, and I probably am getting better, but there is still a lot to learn and a long way to go  before I become a master. At this very moment in time it feels like absolute chaos. Actually, not absolute chaos, organised chaos but chaos none the less.

We seem to have more clothes between the three of us than we have bags...

And most of the toys are going to have to stay here.

The things I can never work out are:

Where did all the moisturiser come from?
How do I end up with so many half packets of rice and pasta?
Do ANY of my clothes actually go together?
Do ANY of Coco's clothes actually fit her?
Why do I have such an enormous medical kit and yet none of us are ever really ill (touch wood!)?
How do I even begin to work out which toys are essential and which can be stored?
Do I really need all this stuff that "might come in handy one day"?

If I was a proper packing / travelling expert I would have a capsule wardrobe for both Coco and myself. We would be elegant and stylish yet space efficient - as it is, I seem to have a heap of clothes that don't really go together and I wear flip-flops with everything, not because I want to, but because I never really know what shoes go with what. I would love to appear on one of those clothes shows where they completely re-vamp your wardrobe. Surely there is some mileage in an episode that condenses a whole wardrobe of clothes (including shoes) into one bag?

As for Coco - she seems to be a weird size. Most of her clothes are still 6 - 9 months and the 12 - 18 months stuff is enormous on her. What is so strange about it is when you see her with other children her age she looks the same, if not bigger, than most of them? What is all that about? I'd be very interested to know if anyone else struggles with the sizing of children's clothes. The problem is, she is all out of sync with the seasons. It is my fault for being a cheap skate and buying clothes in sales anticipating her size in time for the next season (wrongly it would seem). Oh well, I'll just have to tell her that the baggy look was in when she looks back over her baby photos in years to come.

Anyway, there is still loads to do and I haven't even started the cleaning or painting over the scratches on the walls! I must get on.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blown Away!

Well - actually we haven't been and nor am I! After all of the excitement of the last couple of days I was really hoping to have a power-cut at the very least, but the effects of Hurricane Earl ended up being nothing more that a few car alarms going off in the middle of the night.

The preparation was by far the most interesting bit of the whole event. Yesterday Coco and I drove to Connecticut to pick up Angus and Uncle Gabes after they had taken the boat down to a hurricane hole there as a precaution. Our journey back to Newport was a little hairy, no wind but the most torrential rain. There was that sense of nervous tension in the air, something big was about to happen. I was relieved to get safely tucked-up at home with a fridge full of food, a box of candles and heaps of loo roll (Angus's biggest fear seemed to be running out of toilet paper!). I had spent the previous day cooking up a storm (excuse the pun) so that we wouldn't all go hungry - tortilla, chilli, muffins, cookies, hummus - we were ready for whatever Earl was going to throw at us!

I have to confess - I love a bit of drama. I hate that hurricanes can be so devastating and I am fully aware how dangerous they are, but the idea of being involved in something so powerful and out of control I just find electrifying. We'd been tracking Earl all day and reports indicated that we would start to experience the worsening weather from about 6pm. So, at about 4pm we donned our foul weather gear and hit the streets. Newport's shipyard was chock-a-block with boats that had be hauled out of the water in preparation of the storm. Those that were still in had literally battened down the hatches. I have never seen so many lines tied to the dock and some had even taped across the windows.

This weekend is a holiday weekend in the US and Newport is one of their busiest summer destinations. You wouldn't believe that a Bank Holiday Friday evening could be so quiet. There was nobody around (sensibly) and signs in shop windows read 'Closed - I've run for cover'. I loved it, having the streets to ourselves and the sense of anticipation.

We spent the evening going backwards and forwards to the window watching the trees... nothing. At 9pm we decided to have an early night as we suspected we may be up for part of the night at lease! Well, at about midnight the storm hit. I woke up because of the car alarms but Angus slept through the whole thing and I'm not surprised. We have definitely experienced much worse storms back in the UK.

This morning (very well rested after a full 10 hours sleep!!) we discovered that Earl have veered East and was categorised a mere Tropical Storm by the time it passed our latitude. However, despite all of this, why let the truth get in the way of a good story? I can hear the tale I will be telling my Grandchildren - "your Grandfather and I lived through the great Hurricane Earl of 2010, you remember that dear? Oh, that was a terrible night!"