Friday, 23 January 2015

Ella's 1st Christmas!

So after our action packed day of fun in London on the 23rd, Christmas Eve was a much more chilled affair! We had a lazy morning, and then a chilly walk around a lake and nature reserve near where we were staying in Bedford with Byron's dad and brothers.

We found this awesome swing...

and Ella loved getting a push from Uncle Ja!

If only they had fun swings like this near where we live!

She also played train driver...

and we couldn't leave without a pic by the totem pole! to relive memories of our fave place, Vancouver!

I spent most of the evening whipping up this Chocolate Orange Brownie Trifle for our Christmas Day dessert! 

Layer upon layer of brownie chunks...and chocolate orange...and milk chocolate orange mousse...and white chocolate orange mousse...and more chocolate orange...and more brownie! Yeah it was a bit of a beast! with a lot of cream to finish it off!

Before I knew it, Ella's bath time and bedtime had snuck around and we hadn't even done any of the preparations for Santa yet! So, we wrapped her up in a blanket once out of the bath and brought her downstairs to do them all.  I was a bit apprehensive because generally on any normal night once out the bath she becomes grumpy pretty quick as she is just ready for her cot already! but to my surprise she was all smiles and seemed to know something exciting was about to happen!!

We read 'The Night Before Christmas' together, it was the copy she had been given by Santa himself when she'd visited a few days before!

We also got the 'magical' reindeer food we had made up at our grotto visit, and took it outside to sprinkle it in front of the house so Santa knew just where to land his reindeer!

Job done!

Then it was time to leave out the 'Santa key'! My lovely friend in Scotland Eilidh made this for Ella.  Since we didn't have a chimney for Santa to come down, you leave the key outside your front door and he uses it to just let himself in! 

Ella was loving the whole thing! 

All ready for Santa to pick up!

Finally it was time to hang up the beautiful stocking that my school friend Alice made for us.

Isn't it amazing! Again, since there was no mantlepiece we had to make do with hanging it on this drawer! and then it was time for little Ella to go to sleep and to dream of sugarplums and Rudolph and Elves filling up Santa's sleigh!

When Christmas morning rolled around, we ran downstairs to see if Santa had been! Yes he had! 

We had some time just the three of us before the rest of the house woke up! 

Of course, Ella already had the best present of all! Meowy the cat! He was definitely her favourite thing about staying at Byron's Mom's house!! 

Getting festive with Daddy during breakfast!

and then the rest of the presents arrived, and as everyone else woke up it was time to open them! 

Look at her little face! She clearly knew something good was about to happen!

Prezzies overtaking the house!

Ella's 'main' prezzie from Santa was this Chimpanzee puppet which she thought was the best thing ever, she gave him a great big hug when she got him out of the wrapper! it was too cute! 

She also got her first 'pet'! A hamster in a ball! which she loved chasing around - sadly when we got it out the ball at a later date it chased her around my parents house and now she's petrified of the thing! but on Christmas day she was still a fan!

She got these lovely animal letters spelling her name all the way from Tanzania thanks to her Granny!

and her whole stocking consisted of little Hello Kitty musical instruments - she has enough to start a band now! and she's super musical so she was loving them!

The trumpet is a fave instrument of hers! she can't operate it herself but loves it when we play it for her!

She needs to learn what way up to hold her drumsticks, otherwise she did pretty good beating out a little rhythm! 

and cymbals and maracas were clearly too exciting!!

Daddy tested out his new prezzie - by trying it out for size with Ella inside!

and Ella also got this DJ table from her uncles! We'll see if she's got the Braithwaite gene for mixing!

Our stepsister Ashleigh sent us lots of yummy goodies from Canada like mint m&m's - I was excited!

As were Ja and Cam, we love goodies from the other side of the pond!

Ella loved her snowman story book from our other stepsister Jen and her husband Rob.

Once they arrived, it was time for more present opening!

Smiles all round!

Ella got to pull her first cracker! and wear her first cracker hat!

We had a delicious feast prepared by Kathy with some of the yummiest stuffing ever!

and Ella had her first taste of pigs in blankets and all the trimmings!

She relaxed with Grandad at the table while we let the food go down, and then we went on a nice after lunch walk!

We tested out our new backpack for real and Ella was loving it! and keeping nice and cosy in her new booties from Granny and her gloves from Grandad!

This was the only picture I got of the three of us on the day...our first Christmas as a little family!
It was a great one! and Ella loved every minute of the exciting day...and we loved watching her enjoy it all! It was also nice to all be together as the Braithwaite extended family on Christmas day - someone's always been in a different country at all the other times! 

I didn't get one of her in her Christmas get up so here she is just before bed time...all partied out and ready to do the whole Christmas thing again the very next day as we travelled to my parents!

Ella will come to learn that multiple Christmas' are always a good thing! 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

It's Christmas time in the City...ding a ling!

One of my favourite family traditions growing up was our London trips on Christmas Eve! It just wasn't Christmas without a trip to the big smoke to check out the amazing light displays, buy the last minute prezzies...that sometimes had gone on early sale already! go to our favourite haunts like Selfridge's and St. Christopher's Place and of course the obligatory stop at Brent Cross on the way home! 

So naturally I wanted to introduce Ella to this tradition, especially because North Wales is not so good at doing Christmas and they are seriously lacking in decent lights...and we have discovered that Ella is a huge fan of lights so I knew that she needed a light display worthy of her first Christmas and nowhere can beat London and their lights! so when it turned out that we might end up heading down South over the Christmas period I had only one action packed day of light and foodie fun in London town!

It did not disappoint! 

It's probably been one of my favourite days to date with our little family ever! and Auntie Mara got to join is for all the festive fun too!

Ella was on top form! and it's clear that she loves London as much as her Mommy does! 

I had planned an action packed itinerary to try and maximise our time in London, we began in Covent Garden with the biggest tree Ella has ever seen! She was loving it!!

She kept trying to reach up to touch it, and was just looking at it in amazement!

There's something magical about Covent Garden's giant baubles...

and twinkly light filled candy cane alleyways!

and I knew there was no way we could leave London without indulging in some amazing Ben's Cookies! Auntie Mara insisted that we bought a whole box full, we naturally agreed! 

and somehow even Ella knew that little red box was a special box! 

You just cannot beat a Ben's cookie on this side of the pond!

 We had to pose for a pic with this giant reindeer!

 and then headed across the Thames to Southbank.

Ella still adores being on Daddy's shoulders and just didn't stop smiling the whole way across the bridge...

she was squealing away like she was king of the world up there! it was super cute!

Southbank is one of my all time fave places in London, some of my happiest memories have been spent there! They have the amazing real food market there every weekend, and they had a special Christmas market on too when we went.

Tons of cute little huts selling all kinds of goodies, like the amazing duck fat triple roasted fries we snacked on and these marshmallow filled chocolate coconut concoctions too!

There was a Christmas tree maze...

and this fun gingerbread men cutout - is that not the cutest little gingerbread girl you've ever seen?!

There was a little train running up and down the river that I had planned to take Ella on but when we got there I saw it was priced at £4 and thought that was a bit extreme for the 2 minute there and back ride we were going to get...

but for some reason I decided we should do it anyway, and oh man it was one of my favourite moments of the day! Ella was hilarious! She was peering out the window and waving at everyone in sight...

like she thought they were all there to watch her! She was just loving it, and it was some of the best money spent to see her little face lighting up and just having so much fun! 
She is such a character!

She also got to go on the carousel with Daddy, which she loved too! The fist pump says it all!

We stocked up on goodies from Outsider Tart from the food market there, because they do some of the best American style baked goods in London! 

We hopped a tube, which again Ella thought was just great! 

Smiles all round at Piccadilly Circus! One of my fave stories from Byron's childhood is that after moving from South Africa to London at the age of 12 on his first trip into London he was pretty excited about getting to Piccadilly Circus, expecting to find a circus of course, and so imagine his disappointment when it was just a load of big buildings with lights on!! I guess the name is misleading ;)

As we headed to Carnaby St, we found this Byron restaurant and Gem bar right beside each other! It was too perfectly placed not to get a pic of!!

We headed to Kingly Court where one of my all time favourite cupcake companies had just opened up their first London storefront.  Loved Crumbs & Doilies cute little turquoise shop and the yummy cupcakes we picked up! (but only ate the next day!)

Kingly Court just oozes coolness, especially in all its festive glory!

Our day revolved around the fact we were going to grab a late lunch at Stax Diner.  It is owned by Bea, of Bea's of Bloomsbury - my favourite London bakery and since she's American herself I knew her diner was going to be the real deal!

Crates and crates of A&W greeted us as we walked in the door, and I knew we were on to a winner! 

Their milkshake menu is extensive! and I'm a little bit in love with anything chalkboard like!

They open up these large windows and you can sit in the window and watch the world go by in the court down below...

and they have vinyl wallpaper and lampshades made out of giant tins of nuts! 

I'm not gonna lie - this ferrero rocher milkshake was one of my main reasons for visiting! and it was seriously amazing!

Their triple cooked fries and chicken burgers would make any Southerner (US) proud! 

my only complaint is how do you possibly choose between a root beer float and a triple thick milkshake?! Fortunately I got a taste of both, thanks Auntie Mara!

and the other reason we HAD to eat here on our day of festive fun? The Camem-burger, yes that's a beef patty topped with a whole disc of deep fried camembert and spiced cranberry relish! It was Ah-maaaazing! 

and Ella got to chill out in her highchair, making herself comfy with legs out and everything! so she was happy! Plus we gave her all our straws - there is nothing that makes her happier in a restaurant than plenty of straws!!

Carnaby's lights never disappoint!

Loved these lightbulbs!

and the giant headphones!

We stumbled across this amazing steel drum band on Regent St! which I was ridiculously excited about because growing up I always used to say it's not Christmas until you've seen a dressed up Santa playing a steel drum on Regent St! Granted...there were no dressed up Santa's in sight...but Ella didn't seem to mind!

She love love loved their festive tunes! 

and danced her little legs off! She was quite the entertainment!

Loved this peek at the lights in St. Christopher's Place...

and we topped off our day at Selfridge's - my most favourite place in London! We love that shop! and all the goodies inside! and as we headed to the bus stop to take us back home we turned around and snapped this picture perfect shot of that moment in time that captures so brilliantly why we love London.  

There's no where else quite like it! 

and I was SO happy I got to share its magic with Ella!

Here's to many more Christmas trips to London in the future!