Tuesday, December 17, 2013

HouseTrip London Apartment Review

One of the dilemmas we have when planning London adventures is whether to stay the night or try to do everything we want to do in a day. And yes, I realize this very much falls under "first world problems." The train ride to London from our closest major train station is only an hour. But there's a balance between the expense of the train tickets to get into the city (which can be around $50 per person if we don't plan ahead), the expense of a hotel room for a night or two, and then the kid factor: how hard do we want to push the kids to see a lot of sites, without much rest or downtime?

We've done it both ways (day trip itinerary for London here and weekend itinerary for London here). They both have their positives and negatives.

So when the opportunity to check out one of HouseTrip's London apartment rental properties came about, I jumped at the chance to take in a few days in London, knowing we'd have a place to call home in the evenings. Especially in December, when the city is full of Christmas magic.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Off to London, Be Back Before Christmas!

We're off to London this weekend to experience some of the Christmas events held in the city. Then we'll be back home just in time to enjoy our first holiday in the UK before jetting off to Portugal for the week between Christmas and New Year's. I can't wait for both trips, and to share more about our experiences here. For now, I found the following post, provided by Crown Relocations, about British expats pretty fascinating.


Moving by numbers: top travel statistics for emigrating Brits

Did you know that, Immigration into the UK is a matter of much debate, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)? A total of 1.28million highly-skilled British citizens are now living abroad. This is a considerably higher figure than any other developed nation. By contrast there are 865,000 highly-skilled German citizens living abroad and only around 400,000 from the USA.

This is not the only startling statistic concerning emigration, so here are a few more.

144,000: Brits left the UK in 2012

Migration overseas does not seem to be running out of steam either. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) an estimated 144,000 British citizens emigrated from the UK in the year to December 2012. 56% of the total emigrants leaving the country did so for work-related reasons and of these, 64% left for a definite job with the remainder planning to look for work once there.

5,000: Graduates looking for work overseas in 2011

 British graduates are increasingly looking to expand their horizons by looking overseas for their first job. In 2011, more than 5,000 graduates looked for work in locations such as mainland Europe, America and Asia. This was 1,000 more than the average before the financial crash.

Students from the country's top universities are even more tempted; figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency suggest. Almost one in ten British graduates from universities such as Cambridge, Oxford and Exeter who found jobs in 2011 were working overseas. This includes those who found employment with multinationals that operate in the UK and were posted overseas.

Around 40% of graduates working overseas were based in mainland Europe. Approximately 20% relocated to the Far East and 12% were in North America.

1,062,000: Brits living in Australia

The top destination for emigrating Brits overall was Australia. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 1,062,000 British expats living down under. Of these, just over a quarter of a million were retired.

The Home Office suggests that between 4,000 and 8,000 pensioners retire overseas annually. This is down from a peak of 22,000 in 2006.

The next most popular destinations overall were the USA (829,000), Spain (808,000), Canada (608,000), Ireland (289,000) and France (253,000). Just under a quarter of a million had relocated to New Zealand and South Africa.

100: Countries with over 1,000 Brits expats

In total there are more than 100 countries that are home to populations of at least a thousand British expats.

(Content sponsored and provided by Crown Relocations. Arrows Sent Forth assumes no responsibility for its accuracy.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Product Review: iPad Snugg Case

Like many parents these days, our iPad is a pretty essential part of our travel gear. It's entertainment for our boys, a way of staying in touch with friends and family back home via Facetime, and our mechanism of internet access for work, activity research, restaurant recommendations, and so much more while we travel.

Needless to say, it's really important to us that this vital and pricey product be protected. So when The Snugg contacted me to review one of their travel cases, I took them up on the offer.

Friday, December 6, 2013

6 Months as Expats

We recently passed our six-month milestone since moving to England. Quite frankly, it went by somewhat unnoticed to me, mostly because I was busy celebrating Little Arrow's 2nd birthday that same day.

But then it occurred to me that I no longer really calculate how long we've been here. It's not something I think all that much about these days, other than when people ask me. This shows how far we've come since my last update about our feelings post-move (I wrote this post 2 weeks after we moved here.)

Don't be fooled by my smile. I totally cried my way through the 4th of July.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy 2nd Birthday, Little Arrow!

I like to write birthday posts for each of the boys (which eases my guilt over their COMPLETELY EMPTY baby books). If you want to catch up, you can read Big Arrow's 4th birthday post here, and Little Arrow's first birthday post here. This week, we celebrate the second year of Little Arrow's life!

In so many ways, his first year was just a blur and life mostly continued to revolve around the schedule and activities of his big brother. (Although my sleep deprivation that year was 100% his fault.) So I suppose this year was Little Arrow's coming out party. As I planned trips and thought through the day ahead each morning, my attention turned much more to his needs this year. I suppose that this is a sign of what a relatively easy baby he was, and what an energetic toddler he became in year 2.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Passports with Purpose: Win a $100 UncommonGoods gift certificate!

The online travel blogging fundraiser, Passports with Purpose, is back again, this time working with buildOn to raise money to build schools and adult literary centers in Mali. Passports with Purpose groups together many travel bloggers from around the world who collect prizes from various sponsors to give away in return for donations to a particular cause (in 2013, we're supporting the charity buildOn). You can read more about Passports with Purpose here.

I participated in the fundraiser last year, but my heart feels even fuller for its cause this year. A big development happened in the Arrows Sent Forth family back in September, which I haven't shared much about on the blog. But Big Arrow started school (kids in England start full-time at 4, as opposed to 5 or 6 in the U.S.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tips for Visiting Stratford-upon-Avon with Kids

When my mother-in-law came to visit this week, I had planned a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon. Our conversation in the car on the way there consisted of the three adults naming every Shakespeare work we've read. It had been at least 15 years since any of us had read anything, and almost everything we had was forced upon us by a well-meaning high school or college English teacher. We could count the total number on our hands. The conversation was interrupted with questions like, "Where are we going again? Is there a playground? What's a play?," from 4-year-old Big Arrow. Oh dear.

So I was beginning to worry that perhaps we weren't the right group of people to be spending a day in Stratford-upon-Avon. But just like the twists and turns in a Shakespeare play, we had a wonderful day there.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

0 Days in Paris, 2 Days in London

You've already heard the tale of our weekend getaway gone wrong in the Peak District. Since we're on a roll with the travel failures, let's move on to our canceled trip to Paris. Could there be anything sadder than that?

The thought of a long weekend in October in my favorite city in the world had been the proverbial carrot on the stick, enticing me to plow through the lonely summer months here and the stress of sending Big Arrow off to school in September. The icing on the cake was that my brother and sister-in-law were visiting us and had never been. I was so excited to experience the city again, and for the first time as a mom, and also with two of my favorite travel companions (they've joined us on trips to Arizona, Chicago, Michigan, and hosted us in Minneapolis).

We had even arranged a babysitter so that the four adults could paint the town red and live it up. I couldn't wait to see the City of Lights at night again.

Alas, as their visit approached, both Arrows became quite ill with a stomach bug. My parents were visiting at the time, and I was glad we hadn't made any travel plans for their visit. In fact, my mom and dad saw a lot more of my living room than they did of England. As they headed back to the U.S., the bug seemed to be lingering well beyond the normal 48-72 hour mark.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book Review: The Family Traveler's Handbook

I can't recall the first time I stumbled upon The Mother of All Trips. I do know that Big Arrow (now 4) was just a baby, I was finally starting to feel my feet under me again after becoming a mom, and I was beginning to fantasize about actually traveling with him (beyond the grocery story, mommy and me class, and the library). It was one of the first family travel blogs I ever read, and to this day, it remains my favorite. Mara Gorman's writing challenged me intellectually, her stories made me laugh, and her tips gave me the confidence to feel like I, too, could follow in her family's footsteps and create our own travel memories.

I'm excited to share that Mara has written a book, called The Family Traveler's Handbook. I'm listing a few reasons I love it so much below, but in short, it is now going to become my go-to baby shower gift. And if you're a parent, at any level of travel savvy, you need it too. (You can buy it on Amazon here.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Weekend in the Peak District that Never Was

It is far easier for me to write about amazing "days out" (as they say here), or the really fun trips we take. It's always more enjoyable to rehash memories that are full of smiling faces and fewer tears.

But late September into mid October found my family in a bit of a travel funk. A big part of me wants to forget it and move on, to not even tell those stories here. But in part, this blog serves as a family scrapbook. When we reflect back on this experience living abroad, I want us to remember that we lived the high moments to their fullest, and survived the low points that made us stronger as a family. And so I proceed with the first of our "misadventures." Our weekend getaway to the Peak District.

In hindsight, I should have known from the beginning that this trip was doomed. I had originally purchased a Groupon for a hotel stay plus admission tickets to several attractions in the area. But the booking via Groupon went haywire and took me hours on the phone haggling with customer service reps to resolve. I also realized after the fact that all the attraction admission tickets included that made this such a great deal were places that already offered free admission. Grrr. Annoying, but we moved on.

Upon our arrival after dinner on a Friday evening, all was going well. The room set-up was ideal, as far as hotel stays go. One double bed and two twin bed cots. Particularly hard to find in Europe. The boys took a bubble bath in the giant bathtub and did flips and twists on the hotel room bed. Naturally it took them awhile to settle into slumber, but by 9 p.m. they had succumbed to their fatigue.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wild Wicklow Tour, #TBEX Dublin

I have made plenty of travel mistakes (I'll be writing about our recent string of bad travel luck soon, actually). But sometimes, a little mix-up leads to the most wonderful discoveries.

When I had originally planned my travel to Ireland for a conference I wanted to attend, I had assumed it would take place on Friday and Saturday. Perfect schedule, as my husband would only need to take one day off from work to cover childcare. I even booked my flights without double-checking. Turns out, the conference started a day earlier, on Thursday, and ended Friday. Even if I could have adjusted my flights, my husband had work commitments on Thursday.


But this left me with a free day to explore Ireland after the conference ended. Fortunately, the conference organizers had connected attendees with several group tours, allowing us to experience more of the country without having to do a lot of planning. I happily signed up for the Wild Wicklow tour, and I couldn't have been happier with my perfect day in Ireland.

Some places defy words, and the beauty of the Wicklow mountains is one of them. So I put together this little video. I think it should be titled 1 Minute of Irish Heaven.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Love O' Ireland

I've always had a bit of a love affair with Ireland. Although not merely for its sweeping landscapes and what I consider to be the best accent on the planet. My romance started about 12 years ago when I visited my then-boyfriend/now-husband, who like many American college kids was studying abroad in Dublin.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Photographing the Streets of London

One of the biggest adjustments of being an expat, especially with young kids, is suddenly finding yourself without a support system. Our families were so generous about spending time watching the boys whenever we needed a break or had something we'd prefer to do without them. I've also really missed my network of mom friends, who even on a rough day, could turn my mood around with a playdate at the park and some fun conversation. I'll be the first to admit that the last 5 months have been very high on the intensity scale in terms of parenting for me.

Fortunately, we found a wonderful babysitter within our first few days here. But like any busy family, we typically only utilize her for parent meetings at school or the rare date night. And luckily, we continue to make progress in making friends, too.

Over the last few weeks, I had purposefully planned a few breaks away from the Arrows. I knew I needed a little sanity check, and these moments provided that for me. (And I'm now strongly encouraging my husband to plan similar outings for himself.)

My first big break was a day-long class on street photography in London. I'm not sure I left any better at photography. I think what I enjoyed more than anything was the chance to take my time with my camera, which I'm still getting the hang of. Goodness, my children do not wait patiently while I set up the perfect shot. So just the act of pausing was such a luxury.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite pictures from the day.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Oslo Opera House

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Vigeland Sculpture Park

I have probably mentioned before that while I love art, I know so very little about it. There are some cities so closely tied to a particular artist that I find myself longing to learn more after visiting (Barcelona and Gaudi, for example). That's exactly how I felt about Gustav Vigeland after exploring his work throughout Oslo. I'll admit to having never even heard of him before I started researching the city. But his brilliance is inescapable when you visit Oslo.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Oslo with Kids: Itinerary and Advice

Oslo is a city that has intrigued me for quite a while. It seems so modern. And yet still retains a lot of European charm. And while Norway might be better known for its stunning fjords and gorgeous countryside, this city is worth spending a few days in if you're planning a trip to the country, particularly with kids. During our 9-day swing through Scandinavia, we had 2 1/2 days in Oslo, and it was a perfect amount of time to enjoy its many offerings.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kids in Europe Must-Have: Digital Camera

One of my biggest fears in coming to Europe with children as young as mine (4 and 1) was that it would be challenging to take them to some of the cultural sites: historic homes, old castles, abandoned ruins, towering cathedrals, etc. (You know, basically everything that makes Europe so charming and beautiful.) It just seemed such a shame to come all the way across the ocean and not get to experience those things, forever confined to amusement parks and playgrounds.

But we have pushed past those fears and pressed on. And I have to say, 90% of the time it's a fun experience for everyone. I hope to share some of my tips and tricks in the months ahead. First up is my top tip for keeping preschool-aged kids happy at sites like this:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gorgeous Gothenburg

We chose Gothenburg, Sweden as our stopping point on our drive from Copenhagen, Denmark to Oslo, Norway during our Scandinavian holiday solely because it was the halfway point. The more I read about it, the more promising it looked as a good city to spend a bit of time in, and we were not the least bit disappointed.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Few Leisurely Hours in Helsingborg, Sweden

The brief time we spent in Helsingborg in southwest Sweden is one of my favorite moments from our Scandinavia trip, in part because it was completely unplanned. It reminded me of why this experience living abroad is so special: Slow down, Mom. No need to rush. Put down the guidebook. Take the moments of travel and memory-making as they come.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Kids, Naps and Travel: A Survival Guide

A very dear friend recently asked me what my policy is on naps while we travel. (Unfortunately, she was not referring to whether or not I nap while we travel. The answer to that is whenever I get a chance, YES!) This is a huge dilemma for parents with young children like mine (4 and 1). Do you slow down and try to get them down for proper naps? Or plow through a full itinerary and hope they catch some zzz's in a stroller or in the car?

Snoozing while the traffic roars by on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Boughton House

I'm interrupting my posts about our trip to Scandinavia by sharing a little fun we've been having exploring the English countryside near our home. Barely a weekend goes by that we don't go somewhere new, including our trip to Boughton House. It's one of the things that make the more difficult aspects of expat living bareable.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Copenhagen Canal Boat Tour

We're a fifty/fifty kind of family. A little something for the kids to enjoy, a little something for the adults. Granted, it sometimes seems as though we spend much more time at the playground than we ever do at the pub, but we still aim for some type of balance. Especially on longer trips to places that we may never get to experience again. Our time in Copenhagen during our recent Scandinavia trip is a good example.

We had spent the previous day in mostly kid-focused pursuits. The children's wing of the Nationalmuseet. The Lego store. Then late afternoon playtime at the park and gelato (ok, the gelato was just as much for the parents as the kids).

The following morning, we arrived in the Nyhavn area along the harbor. It was so charming, the weather was beautiful and the boats were calling out to my husband and I. We really wanted to explore Copenhagen by taking a canal boat tour. Would the kids be able to handle an hour of sitting still? (Could we keep the water-loving Little Arrow from jumping overboard?) We stocked up on snacks and took a chance.

We started by letting them run off some steam around this big anchor. All the boat tour companies seem to start and end in this area.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Copenhagen with Kids: Itinerary and Advice

Before beginning our week-long trip to Scandinavia, our first three days in Copenhagen were the portion of the trip I was most looking forward to. And it did not disappoint. Frankly, I'm surprised this isn't a more popular city to include in the typical American's European travels (or Brits, for that matter). There was so much to see, it's easily walkable, and everyone speaks English. Win, win, win as far as combining ease of travel and loads of fun.

We basically had 2 full days, and 2 days where we spent some of our time arriving and departing. Ideally, one more day in the city would have been nice, but we were able to cover most of what I had hoped to see in our time there. You should know that we returned to our apartment each afternoon for naps. If your kids are a bit older and don't need that, you could cover more ground. (Although my husband and I were both thankful for the downtime, as we did a lot of walking.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rosenborg Slot and Kongens Have

Next week, I'll be sharing all the details of our 3 days in Copenhagen during our recent trip to Scandinavia. If I had to pinpoint the kids' favorite activity of this segment of our trip, the answer would be visiting Rosenborg Slot and the surrounding park, Kongens Have.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Planning a Week in Scandinavia with Young Kids

I mentioned in my previous post that I spent a lot of time planning our week-long holiday in Scandinavia. While I read a lot of great blog posts about individual attractions in each location (see my Pinterest board about Scandinavia with Kids), I couldn't find much information on how to put it all together into one trip (particularly because we weren't interested in seeing the area via cruise ship, as many do). So I thought I'd share our itinerary, what I'd do differently and what I loved the most. Here are more detailed itineraries and info for Copenhagen and Oslo.

Our 1-Week Scandinavia Itinerary:

Day 1: Travel from London to Copenhagen, Denmark.

Days 2-4: Explore Copenhagen.

Day 5: Drive from Copenhagen to Gothenburg, Sweden, with a stop in Helsingborg, Sweden (via the bridge to Malmo in Sweden, not the car ferry in Helsingor, Denmark).

Day 6: Morning in Gothenburg, then drive from Gothenburg to Oslo, Norway.

Day 7-8: Explore Oslo.

Day 9: Travel from Oslo to London.

Nyhavn area of Copenhagen

Monday, August 5, 2013

Our ApartmentInCopenhagen.com Rental Experience

I spent hours upon hours planning our recent trip to Scandinavia. More time than I’ve ever spent planning a trip before, actually. For some reason, a lot of the logistics of this trip just didn’t fall into place as easy as one would think. More on that in a future post.

I usually start my trip planning by researching our lodging options (which, for our family, is almost always a rental property.) I was scouring some of the larger property rental websites and not finding much that looked suitable for us. Then, as I was perusing a guidebook I checked out from the library, it listed apartmentincopenhagen.com as a good option for properties for the Copenhagen portion of our trip.

Bingo. I found several apartments that were perfect for us. All at prices that were reasonable, very much in line with what I was seeing on other websites. And often cheaper than a hotel stay.

Our home away from home in Copenhagen.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

How To Spend an Impromptu Day in York

I learned two very valuable lessons during an unexpected extreme change in weather during our camping trip to the North Yorkshire coast a few weeks ago.

1) Never trust the weather forecast, especially in England.

For a week leading up to our trip, we were assured of 80 degree days, sunny skies, and not a rain drop in sight. I got to work researching beachside restaurants, outdoor adventures, and fully embraced a weekend of wonderful weather. I never considered what we'd do if this forecast didn't play out as expected. (I know, I know, I can hear the laughter of every British person who ever reads this... Such a naive American expat I am!)

2) Embrace the lack of plans.

Here is where my husband excels and I struggle. When we woke up to temperatures in the low 50s and fog clinging to everything, I was frustrated and wanted to throw in the towel on the weekend. I said we should pack up our campsite and start the drive home. My husband reluctantly agreed.

But once we were on the road, he suggested we stop in York. Lots of people have suggested we plan a long weekend here, which we had (and still have) every intention of doing. But since we were passing right through, why not spend a few hours walking around, he thought. Such a smart guy.

And what a time we had, in just our brief time there. Keep in mind we didn't know a bit about the city before arriving (and still know very little!) Here's a taste of what we experienced.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Camping on the North Yorkshire Coast

We spent a memorable weekend camping along the North Yorkshire coast a few weeks ago, in a large caravan park nestled along the cliffs between Scarborough and Filey. While our campsite left a little something to be desired (think no trees and directly adjacent to the playground), the view just about a hundred yards away was pretty spectacular.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Savoring our First British Summer

I'm having one of those weeks... Little Arrow has been grouchy and is barely napping. I picked Big Arrow up from his summer day camp yesterday, only to find him sitting on a bench with a raging fever. Naturally, as tends to be the case in our family, my husband is away on his first business trip since we moved here. So I get to juggle all this by myself for the next few days.

So I sat down tonight, after bedtime duties dragged on for over an hour, and just wanted to see something that would make me smile. And make me thankful for this experience. Cue the family photos on the beach montage.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Biking at Rutland Water

One of the reasons that Stamford was recently named the best place to live in Britain is due to its close proximity to Rutland Water. This is Europe's largest man-made lake, and is also a large nature preserve. (For my Hoosier readers, this is the equivalent to living a few minutes from Lake Monroe). There are tons of outdoor recreation opportunities available here, from cycling to fishing to sailing.

On Father's Day, we decided to rent bikes and pedal our way around as much of it as we could in a few hours. I couldn't really take pictures and ride safely (especially with Little Arrow strapped in a seat on my bike). But this is generally what most of our ride looked like:

Thursday, July 4, 2013

That's One Way to Meet the Queen

On our first day trip to London, we convinced Big Arrow to leave lovely Hyde Park by telling him we were going to see the Queen. We thought he'd think that sounded exciting, and we were right. Of course, we were merely going to walk over to Buckingham Palace and check it out. There was no actual invitation to meet the Queen. (But I check my mail daily, Your Majesty, if you're reading...)

So when we arrived, Big Arrow was very amped up. And then he did what any right-minded 4-year-old does when approaching a gate like this.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Penguin Pie and an Honest Mistake

I should preface this post about penguin pie with a few disclaimers.
  • My husband and I are fairly adventurous eaters.
  • I'm very gullible.
  • Earlier in the day at the same festival where the purchase of penguin pie took place, a vendor was selling kangaroo burgers. If such a thing as kangaroo burgers exist, then doesn't penguin pie seem plausible?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Visiting Belton House with Kids

One of the things I'm learning from this experience is the value of a personal recommendation. You see in Indiana, I was already pretty well-versed on the great spots to visit, best hikes, gorgeous parks, and fun weekend getaway ideas. While occasionally someone would suggest something I hadn't done or wasn't aware of, it wasn't my primary source of travel ideas.

Now here I find myself, staring at a map of England without much guidance other than brochures or websites, all proclaiming to be the best sites to see. So I'm learning that word-of-mouth to be extremely valuable, the places our realtor or a new friend or our neighbors suggest as a good place to go with the kids.

A visit to Belton House is the perfect example. Had I stumbled upon its listing in the National Trust guidebook or flipped through the pamphlet, I probably wouldn't have planned an outing there. Not that it didn't look beautiful. It just didn't seem to be anything beyond a fancy house. But someone told me they used to visit often with their kids, so we gave it a try.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Half Day in London: Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace

One of the goals we have as a family during our three years here is to really get to know London as well as we can. It seems only natural to take advantage of our close proximity to one of the world’s greatest cities (we’re just a couple hours away by car, or 45 minutes by train).

So I’m kicking off what I hope is a series of posts on how to spend a full day or ½ day in London with young kids.

For our first day trip, just 4 days after arriving, we hopped on a train in Peterborough bound for King’s Cross station, one of the main train stations in London. Given that it was a rare sunny day, we planned to spend the bulk of our time in Hyde Park, so from King’s Cross, we took the tube to the Queensway stop on the red (Central) line. (This stop does not have elevators, so you'll have to navigate your stroller up some stairs.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Exploring Peterborough

Our first two days in England were full of errands. Tracking down car seats, car shopping, unpacking our few belongings, finding a grocery store, etc. And negotiating with overtired kids, one of which was sick. But since we were in a very small temporary apartment during our first week, after a couple of days we were itching to get out and explore.

We still had a lot on the to-do list, so we didn’t venture far that third day. Our apartment was in Peterborough, a fairly large city by English standards. My husband’s company is in the process of opening an office here and he’ll eventually be commuting here. So it was a good chance to familiarize ourselves with the area.

The boys were up really early that day (thanks, jet lag). Naturally our first stop was here.

There should really be a limit on how many tantrums can be thrown before parents are properly caffeinated.

Fueled up and ready, then it was on to St. Peter’s Cathedral. Probably what Peterborough is most known for, at least from a tourist’s perspective. It dates back to the 12th century, although it has sustained some damage over the years. Henry the VIII’s first wife is buried there, and more recently Queen Elizabeth has visited on a couple of different occasions.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Take A Stroll Around Our English Village

We didn't know exactly where we would be living for our three years in the UK until two weeks prior to arrival. (And even then, we got a call the morning we were flying out to say our lease was in limbo. A bit stressful.)

My husband found a beautiful home in a small village a few miles outside of Stamford, itself a charming town and popular tourist destination. While I was confident in his home selection, I was unsure about village life. 400 people? Sounded pretty isolating to me. Especially knowing I was arriving with no friends and few connections.

But guess what I love more than the house itself? Village life. I thought I'd take you on a walk around Collyweston, our village in Northamptonshire.

Do you mind if this cutie joins us? He loves an evening stroll. And he just celebrated his 18 month birthday!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

We are here.

Having an ice cream cone in Hyde Park, London
I've been trying to find a way to sum up my emotions, mostly for my own personal reflection when I look back on this experience years from now. So here's where I stand, two weeks in.

I am trying mightily to adjust to the new lifestyle, learn everything there is to learn as quickly as possible. All the changes, right down to how we wash our clothes, is frankly exhausting, but also exhilarating. And I'll readily admit to being a little homesick, particularly after two weeks of no Internet connection and very little contact with family and friends back home. But not in a "I want to go home" way. Just in a "I wish this place felt more like home already" way.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Room with a View

We wrapped up our U.S. travels this spring with stops in two of my favorite cities. I think you'll recognize where we were just by taking in the view from our hotel room at each place.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ha Ha Tonka State Park: Tips for Visiting

I've been so caught up in planning and executing our move to England that I've really neglected blogging about our great trip to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri back in March. But since I'm now relegated to hotel living for a week, and no more cleaning/purging/organizing tasks to face (until we arrive, of course), it's time to dig into that trip.

The far and away best adventure we had while there was exploring the castle ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton.

A castle in the middle of Missouri? I was as surprised as you. Apparently at the turn of the century, a prominent Kansas City businessman, inspired by the grand castles he saw in Europe, found a gorgeous piece of land high on a bluff and built this enormous palace. Unfortunately, between the Great Depression and a fire that ripped through, the castle fell into ruins. But fortunately for the rest of us, the land is now a state park and the castle ruins are open for exploration.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Navigating Stamford via Church Steeples

My husband is off in England this week, hopefully finding us a place to live. We depart 3 weeks from today for our 3-year adventure in Stamford, so time is of the essence.

I'm learning that one of the questions you are frequently asked when embarking on an international move is, "What are you most nervous about?" I'm sure if there were a language barrier, that would be tops. But since there is not, my biggest concern is learning my way around. Getting out and about is essential to my happiness, so I know it's a fear I'll tackle early on.

In addition to that whole "drive on the other side of the road" issue you find in England, I happen to have a terrible sense of direction. I sometimes still have to ask my husband how to get from point A to point B in the town where we grew up. I'm that bad. So learning my way around a place that was built upon the curvy, narrow, original Roman roads will undoubtedly confused me for quite some time.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Family Vacation in Mississippi Gulf Coast

This post was sponsored by Mississippi Gulf Coast. All opinions shared are my own.

Since having kids, we've headed to Florida at some point each winter (except this year). It's my yearly pilgrimmage to the sun, something you're deprived of for months on end in the Midwest. I also vacationed there for many spring breaks throughout middle and high school.

I tend to be a sight-seer type while on vacation. I like to visit new spots, explore a variety of attractions, hit up a museum or two, etc. But I also know when to slow down and take a breather and just relax on vacation, and some time on the beach is definitely my preferred format of R & R.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ben's Cookies in London, a Sweet Reminder of Home

I truly enjoyed and appreciated the six days I spent in England in January with my husband, sans kids. But it was the longest I'd ever been away from them, and toward the end of the trip, just the mention of them brought tears to my eyes.

I think beyond just the amount of time apart, this had more to do with the fact that we spent the entire week in England working on plans to uproot their lives. I kept looking around our soon-to-be-home, wondering if they'd like that playground or behave in this restaurant. Would they make friends easily? Adjust to the change in dialect? Be excited about the schools we were touring?  Feel comfortable in this particular house?

So while you might ordinarily spend a trip away from your kids focused on relaxation, we spent our week obsessing about them and their well being.

On our last evening, we had a chance to pause from all the practical matters of executing an international move with young kids, and instead got to stroll London at night.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday, Big Arrow!

I really can't believe I'm writing Big Arrow's 4th birthday post. This birthday is hitting me harder than most. Perhaps its because he'll start school full-time this fall, and no longer be by my side all day. Or because we're about to rock his world by moving to England. But 4 just seems so grown up, so far removed from the baby and toddler years. Sigh.

Maybe it's not the best of days to be writing about my love for him. Afterall, here are just a few reasons he threw epic tantrums this week:
  • His pizza was too soft.
  • His slinky was not making the right swishing sound.
  • He wanted to draw all the characters from a tv show on a piece of paper and they wouldn't fit.
  • I gave his brother the grape vitamin instead of a red one.
  • I stopped him from slamming his finger in the car door. "BUT. I. WANTED. TO. HURT. MY. FINGER!!!" he screamed for all the neighborhood to hear.
Double sigh.

But aside from these moments of high stress and frustration, these past four years really have been delightful. He's taught me so much about appreciating small moments, simple memories, and taking time to laugh.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Children's Garden at Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis

One of the greatest challenges of traveling with a child Little Arrow's age (16 months) is that they have a never-ending need to move. Even more so when a toddler is cursed with blessed by a rambunctious personality like he has.

During our 8-hour drive to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri last week, I knew I needed to plan the a good break point for him to really get his fill of exploration on his own two feet (and out of his car seat). Fortunately, recommendations for the Children's Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis popped up from two of my go-to family travel blogs, The Mother of All Trips and Visit Flyover Country.

My husband was convinced I merely wanted to visit one more botanical garden in my quest to see them all. Always a naysayer, that guy!

Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to explore much of the gardens outside of the children's area. But I can still attest that this is an ideal outing with two little ones. We parked the stroller at the entrance to the children's garden (which is completely gated off from the rest of the park), and let the boys loose for several hours.

The Children's Garden is a pretty amazing play area, coming from a mom who knows her way around a playground or two.

I loved how this tree house was tucked away for kids to climb up to.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Advantages of All Inclusive Family Holiday Deals

The following post was supplied by the Direct Holidays travel website. I'm still learning all about the concept of European "holidays!"

It’s no wonder more and more people are choosing to stay within the UK for their summer vacation,
nowadays. With the cost of some holidays through the roof, it can be a little frustrating when you
have to be frugal. It’s easy to get carried away when considering a summer holiday, with activities
and meals and full itineraries. If you want to have the opportunity of escaping home turf this year, be
sensible and take a look at the various holiday deals online.

You may be surprised at what you can afford, especially when you consider what all inclusive holiday deals actually entail. Sure, the initial outlay may be more than what you’d usually spend, but if you break down what’s included, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much such a vacation saves you.

Think about it – when you do manage to go abroad for your holidays, it’s not just the cost of a flight and accommodation that hits you. Whether you’re in a half board hotel or self catering apartments, you still have to find the money to feed yourselves. That ice cream your daughter would love? The can of pop you would like to quench your thirst? It all adds up and your spending money will be gone in no time.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hiking at Muscatatuck Wildlife Refuge

In preparation for our move to England, we haven't been doing much exploring or traveling (aside from our trip to Missouri earlier this week... I can't wait to share more about that!). There just seems to be so many tasks that need to be done around here, and we're saving as much of my husband's vacation time as we can for exploring Europe.

But a few weeks ago, I was desperate for a day out. I wanted to be reminded of how fun my kids are, away from battles over the same toy, 4 a.m. wakeups, and food being flung from high chairs. In other words, we needed a break from the day-to-day routine.

It was a sunny and unseasonably warm Saturday in early March. The hiking trail at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Seymour, Indiana was calling out to us.

It's one of our favorite places. As is usually the case there, we didn't see another soul until the volunteer at the nature center greeted us. Instead, we shared the trail with sunshine reflected on lazy steams of water.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Minted.com Review and Giveaway

I am far from an interior decorator, but I do enjoy adorning my walls with travel memories. My dining room features a canvas print of this picture. My living room is decked out in photos I have taken on various trips to Europe. My hallway has black and white prints from Paris. When we decorated Big Arrow's big boy room, we chose airplanes as a theme. We use a blanket my husband got in India as our bedspread. I love to be inspired by and reminded of travel adventures all over my home.

Because of our upcoming move to England, one of my goals for 2013 has been to be braver. I know this experience will force me out of my comfort zone in so many ways. But I want to embrace the experience with open arms. When else in our lives will we have this chance? One way to encourage this is to, once again, surround myself with positive messages.

So when minted.com (you might know the site as a popular place for wedding invitations) contacted me to host a review and giveaway, the first thing I did was type "travel" into their search feature. When this print popped up, I knew it had to be the first thing to hang on the walls of our new home in England:

Monday, March 25, 2013

We're Heading Back to England... And Plan to Stay Awhile

As you may have read, a couple of months ago my husband and I traveled to England without our sons. And while it was a kid-free getaway, it also involved househunting, school touring and attempting to learn to drive on the other side of the road.

Because we're moving to England!

My husband works for a large, Fortune 500 company. And while working for "the man" (as I like to tease him) has its drawbacks, one of the perks was that we might have an opportunity to move internationally for a period of time. We've desired that kind of experience for our family for years. With facilities all over the world, we didn't know where or when something would come our way. And then I got the text that changed our lives back in November when he was there on a routine business trip.

(Please note my husband's calm, matter-of-fact tone, complete with practical details like train ride duration. Then note my tone. It appears I'm having a panic attack. This is us in a nutshell.)

And now here we find ourselves, planning to set off "across the pond" for the next three years.

A little FAQ to sum up the situation:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mad About March

It's March Madness, and this is Indiana... so what else would I post on a Friday other than this?

From my son's preschool field trip to Hackman's Farm Market. No barn in the Hoosier state is worth its wooden exterior without a hoop, right?

In all seriousness, our family basically closes up shop and shuts down business for the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Afterall, my degree hails from basketball powerhouse and small-school-done-good Butler University.

Enjoy the tournament, whoever you cheer for! (As long as they're not playing my Dawgs...)

Monday, March 11, 2013

What We Spent on Spring Break

Cost of family travel is a common topic among parents. And this recent article in the New York Times definitely got the family travel blog group I'm a part of buzzing. In it, $4,500 is given as the cost of a "budget" trip for spring break.

Say what?! I don't know about you, but $4,500 and "budget" don't belong in the same sentence as far as I'm concerned. So I thought I'd take a look back at what our trip to Florida for spring break last year cost our family of four.

I outline our expenses below. You'll see that we spent well under $2,000. And by no means did we keep a tight watch on our wallets while there. We ate out often (at least once each day, usually at sit-down restaurants). We still went to major attractions, like the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. And we stayed in a 2-bedroom condo across from the beach. I didn't even really think of this as a budget trip. 

In fact, this was the most expensive trip we took all year. The rest of our travels in 2012 involved driving, staying with family, or both. So we were comfortable taking on the expense of this vacation, knowing that our other travels were significantly less.

COSTS for 2012 Trip to Madeira Beach, Florida

Dinner out at sit-down restaurant:                                                                                        $50
Groceries:                                                                                                                                  $103
(included diapers, wine, beer and beach toys in addition to food supplies)

Toll at Fort De Soto Park:                                                                                                          $0.50
Lunch at sit-down restaurant:                                                                                                  $45
Dinner (pizza take-out) :                                                                                                            $14

Day 3
Expenses at Farmer’s Market:                                                                                                   $10
($5 for 2 empanadas, $5 donation for balloon animal)

Lunch at sit-down restaurant:                                                                                                    $32
Dinner at sit-down restaurant:                                                                                                  $60

Day 4
Zoo admission:                                                                                                                              $48
Lunch at zoo cafe:                                                                                                                         $27
Seafood dinner take-out:                                                                                                            $48
Ice cream:                                                                                                                                      $10

Day 5
Lunch at sit-down restaurant:                                                                                                     $35

Equipment rental:                                                                                                                         $48
(Included jogging stroller, baby swing and pack n play. $48 is after I used a $20 gift card.)

Rental Car:                                                                                                                                      $306
(included 2 car seats for 5 days)

Vacation rental:                                                                                                                             $406
(2 BR, 1 bath condo across the street from beach for 4 nights)

Flight to/from Indianapolis/Tampa for 3 people + 1 lap child:                                               $538      
1 checked bag:                                                                                                                      $40 ($20 each way)

TOTAL:                                                                                                                                             $1820.50
You spent HOW MUCH to take me to Florida?

Ways we saved:
·        Free fun at places like Fort De Soto Park and hours spent on the beach across from our condo.

·        A trip to the grocery store meant we always ate breakfast at the condo and the adults had an adult beverage each night when kids were in bed, instead of drinking at restaurants or bars.

·        We stayed across the street from the beach instead of beach front. We also only stayed 4 nights instead of a full week. With kids so young, we find this is a good length of time. Plus, my husband doesn't have to use as many vacation days and we can take additional trips throughout the year.

·        Our condo did not have a pool, which was a huge price break when comparing similar properties in the area.
·       My parents dropped us off and picked us up at the airport, so we had no parking expenses.

Ways we splurged:
·       We rented car seats, a stroller, pack n play and baby swing. We also checked a bag. I despise lugging stuff through the airport and it was much easier to have those items waiting for us upon arrival.

·       Our 2-bedroom condo. We avoid staying in hotels for more than just a night or two because our kids are so young. Everyone sleeps much better this way.

·       When pricing flights, there were several options that had one stop which were $50-$100 less than the direct flight we booked. But it was so nice to have my toes in the sand within hours of leaving Indy.

·       We love to eat out when on vacation, so while we could have had more lunches and dinners at our condo, we enjoy trying out great restaurants in the area.
You can't put a price tag on memories like this.

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Walking on Travels and Suitcases and Sippy Cups.