Tag Archives: Family

Visitors (at long last!!) and a sad Farewell….

Our children were so excited about their Auntie Kim and cousins, Harley and Ashley, arriving for a visit with us in Shanghai.  We had planned a whirlwind weekend site seeing in Beijing and Xi’an, plus lots of activities in Shanghai.  Ashley and Harley were mostly interested in shopping at all the fake markets!  They arrived on Saturday April 5th and after a brief nap at home, we were straight into Shanghai life.  Isabelle and Oliver were eager to play with Harley and Ashley!

Sunday April 6th was Jo, Scott, Georgia and Saskia’s last day in Shanghai and we had booked brunch at the Shangri-La to say goodbye.

Scott, Jo Sara and Owen - sad to say goodbye to good friends…...

Scott, Jo Sara and Owen – sad to say goodbye to good friends……

This was a great opportunity to introduce our family to the Ex-pat Sunday Brunch experience and the Shangri-La is a fantastic experience for this! Kim, Ashley and Harley really enjoyed the lazy lunch, endless food and booze!  The kids had loads of fun playing with their fiends for the last time in Shanghai….

On the stairs at the Shangri-La

On the stairs at the Shangri-La

By the beautiful water feature at the Shangri-La

By the beautiful water feature at the Shangri-La

All of us by the Seafood station.

All of us by the Seafood station.

Jo and I.  I am going to miss this lady :-(

Jo and I. I am going to miss this lady 😦

Saskia with Mum and Isabelle with Mum.

Saskia with Mum and Isabelle with Mum.

Scott, Jo, Sara & Owen - we had a lot of fun together in Shanghai.

Scott, Jo, Sara & Owen – we had a lot of fun together in Shanghai.

Owen and Jo posing on the displays at the Shangri-La

Owen and Jo posing on the displays at the Shangri-La

Cousins!  Harley and Isabelle, Oliver and Ashley.

Cousins! Harley and Isabelle, Oliver and Ashley.

After several hours of eating and socializing we decided to carry on the party at the Camel pub.  This has been a regular Tuesday night venue as they have a Quiz Night there every week and we have often met up to test our general knowledge and have some fun during the week!

The kids at the Camel pub - they all played pool here!

The kids at the Camel pub – they all played pool here!

A final farewell - I expect there were some sore heads the next day!!

A final farewell – I expect there were some sore heads the next day!!

The next day, Monday, was a holiday for me (Tomb Sweeping Festival) even though the kids were back to school.  So, after taking the kids to the bus in the morning, the rest of us set out to visit some Fake Markets and shop, shop, shop!

Our first stop was to Tai Kang Lu, a lovely shopping area that has little back alleys full of art galleries, shops and cafes.  We stopped at Kommune for delicious coffee:

Biggest latte I have ever had.  The mugs are very cool and you can buy them (so Kim and Harley did!!)

Biggest latte I have ever had. The mugs are very cool and you can buy them (so Kim and Harley did!!)

Chopsticks on display at Tai Kang Lu

Chopsticks on display at Tai Kang Lu

Entrance to Tai Kang Lu

Entrance to Tai Kang Lu

After coffee and shopping it was off to find Minging Mary’s.  This place is a legend in Shanghai.  It is a fake outlet in the basement of an apartment building.  You have to know where it is and be taken by someone who is known (the first time).  I had heard about this fantastic place (extremely high quality fake’s) but never visited before.  Luckily for us, Owen had been before and knew where to take us!  I did not know what to expect when we walked down some dingy stairs into a dark corridor in the basement.  But, moments later, a man appeared and unlocked 2 doors into huge rooms of merchandise.  Ashley and Harley thought they were in Heaven!!  I must admit, I could not believe what I was seeing.

After a little bit of bargaining, we left (full bags!) and went on the Fake Market at the Science and Tech Museum (the AP Plaza).  Kim, Ashley and Harley decided to skip lunch so they could maximize shopping time!  Good job we had eaten some snacks at Kommune to keep us going.  Once at the Fake Market – Owen showed Ashley and Harley how the bargaining was done and worked hard to get some good deals for both of them.  Ashley restocked his wardrobe in 1 day!!

Ashley showing off his many purchases from the Fake Markets

Ashley showing off his many purchases from the Fake Markets

I had a few days of work to do before we were heading off to Beijing and Xi’an at the weekend (separate posts).  But, on Thursday before our train, we went to Kerry Parkside for a few hours of pampering at Dragonfly.  We had a leisurely adult lunch at The Brew and then all had massages, manicures and pedicures.  Aaah – relaxation!

Ashley's lunch at The Brew

Ashley’s lunch at The Brew

Summer Vacation Fun – Germany & UK

The summer arrived in Shanghai, school finished and that means – time to leave Shanghai!!  The kids last day of school was June 27th and on the 28th we were all on a plane heading back to the UK.  Both children had EXCELLENT school reports – which obviously made us very proud.  They are happy, excelling and trying their best at whatever they do – I cannot ask for more.

We arrived to glorious weather in the UK.  Blue skies, brilliant sunshine and heat!  We spent several days with family: my parents had celebrated their 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary earlier in June so we had a family meal out to celebrate.  It was wonderful to see Isabelle and Oliver re-connecting with their cousins – they picked up as though it was only yesterday that they had seen them!

Happy Cousins: Oliver, Oscar, Isabelle and Maeve

Happy Cousins: Oliver, Oscar, Isabelle and Maeve

I love this family photo: Back - Owen, Emma, Peter and Sara Front - Isabelle, Maeve, Oscar and Oliver.

I love this family photo: Back – Owen, Emma, Peter and Sara
Front – Isabelle, Maeve, Oscar and Oliver.

We also had a brilliant day with my favourite Uncle and Auntie who live in a lovely village next to a Country Park that the kids loved.

Then it was off to Germany!  We flew into Munich and drove 1.5 hours to Steinberg am See in Bavaria, passing lots of hops growing on the way – it is beer country, after all!  What a wonderful reunion with Steffi!  Steffi was our first Au Pair in America and quickly became a part of our family.  She has visited us many times since she returned to Germany and we keep in close contact.  It was our turn to visit her, especially to celebrate the occasion of her wedding!  Even though we had not met her Fiancé, Heiko, before this trip, he and his family welcomed us although we were family members.  Both sides of our “German family” treated us so well and we felt like we were at home.

We had a couple of days to settle in, re-connect with Steffi’s friends and family, before all the festivities started.  First was the “official” wedding.  This event was in Regensburg at the Rat House (Town Hall) and was just for immediate family.  We were shocked and stunned to find that we were also invited to this celebration.  After a short ceremony, with Steffi and Heiko in traditional Bavarian costume, it was off to a lunch celebration.

Just Married (first time!)  In Regensberg with Steffi and Heiko.

Just Married (first time!) In Regensberg with Steffi and Heiko.

Immediate family (plus us) after the ceremony.

Immediate family (plus us) after the ceremony.

Stopping for photos on a bridge in Regensburg after the Town Hall ceremony.  On our way to lunch!

Stopping for photos on a bridge in Regensburg after the Town Hall ceremony. On our way to lunch!  It was a lovely walk through the town and many people commented on the new bride and groom.

We were lucky with the weather here too, as they have had so much rain that many areas had been flooded.  But, it was sunny and hot with beautiful blue skies for our whole week in Germany.  The town hall wedding was on Thursday, with the church service on Saturday.  So, Friday we went to the “Moving Ground” which is a large play area by the huge lake.  There was so much for us to do there and we had a lot of fun on water slides, trampoline bungie jumping, normal trampolines and a giant inflatable bouncy dome.

Enjoying the Moving Ground at the "Am See" part of Steinberg!  Fantastic things to do for the kids - big and small.

Enjoying the Moving Ground at the “Am See” part of Steinberg! Fantastic things to do for the kids – big and small.

We woke to another beautiful day for the wedding.  Rushed off to get Isabelle’s done – as flower girl/bridesmaid she had to look perfect!  Oliver also got his hair cut so he would look super smart in his new suit!

Gorgeous children!

Gorgeous children!

Posing by the wedding car.  The flowers made it to the church, lake and reception!

Posing by the wedding car. The flowers made it to the church, lake and reception!

The wedding was so much fun.  Even though it was all in German and I could only follow bits of what was going on, the atmosphere was terrific.  All of Steffi and Heiko’s friends and family were so open and friendly.  Steffi, of course, looked absolutely gorgeous – Isabelle thought she looked like a Princess.  After the church service, we went to a local cafe for cold cuts and beer.  This is when Steffi and Heiko were off at the lake having photos taken.  Meanwhile we were all socialising and enjoying the sunshine.  Once they returned we then drove in a long convoy to the reception hotel about 10 minutes away.  Even this was fun as all the cars were honking their horns and driving in a wavy crocodile fashion.

The beautiful bride and groom with 2 wonderful children!

The beautiful bride and groom with 2 wonderful children!

The flower girls, plus Oliver and Patrick (Steffi's nephew).

The flower girls, plus Oliver and Patrick (Steffi’s nephew).

There was traditional Bavarian music playing as we arrived and it was time for coffee and cake.  Heiko’s mum and Steffi’s mum had spent several days making the most gorgeous range of cakes for this part of the day.  We all ate several!  While everyone was enjoying the cake, the music kept playing and the dancing started.  Then it was time for the “Bride Stealing”!!  One of their friends stole Steffi to another location and Heiko now had to win her back.  We all walked to another restaurant to the bride’s secret location  and enjoyed some games while waiting for the Groom to come and rescue Steffi.  This was very different from any other wedding we have attended and we all enjoyed this part.  After several humiliations on Heiko’s behalf, he won her back and we returned to the restaurant for dinner and more dancing.

All of the guests had their picture taken with the frame - it will make a lovely photo album for the happy couple!

All of the guests had their picture taken with the frame – it will make a lovely photo album for the happy couple!

After more food, much dancing (I enjoyed learning some bavarian dances!) we had to leave as the kids were fading fast.  As it had been such a full, fabulous day, I was surprised that they made it to 10:30pm!  The party was still going strong as we left – such a brilliant event.  🙂

We spent the next couple of days enjoying the Moving Ground at the Lake, site seeing in Schwandorf and the Pony Hof in Steinberg.  Steffi and Heiko have delayed their honeymoon until later in the year, so we spent these days catching up with them and relaxing after all the lead up to the wedding.

We took some boats out on the lake – one even had a slide on it that the kids loved.  I had a go at water ski-ing which I had not done since living in America.  I had also never water skied on a cable system before so it took a couple of attempts to master the corners of that!  (I ached soooooo much the next few days after!)  Both children mastered the paddle boats while I was water ski-ing – displaying great balancing skills.  They had plenty of fun in Germany!

Isabelle and Oliver had swam across to Steffi and Heiko's boat.

Isabelle and Oliver had swam across to Steffi and Heiko’s boat.

Both of them stood up and could work these boards.

Both of them stood up and could work these boards.

Water ski-ing!

Water ski-ing!

All too quickly our time was up and we had to return to the UK.  It was a fantastic visit and so wonderful to be able to see our lovely Steffi get married.

Back in the UK and time to catch up with other family members and friends.  It is always a whirlwind visit and impossible to see everyone.  Mum and Dad babysat a couple of times so that Owen and I could enjoy adult nights out with Laurence and Mark & Sandra.  We also arranged for Isabelle and Oliver to see special friends from the UK.  It was a joyous reunion and Isabelle was especially thrilled to see her best friend again.  The 2 of them were thick as thieves, just like they had never been apart.

Isabelle and Aimee spent the entire day in the pool!

Isabelle and Aimee spent the entire day in the pool!

Sam and Oliver - 2 buddies back together!

Sam and Oliver – 2 buddies back together!

The giggling did not seem to stop between these 2.

The giggling did not seem to stop between these 2.

Happy chappies!

Happy chappies!

Grandad soaking the kids in the garden.

Grandad soaking the kids in the garden.  He also got a little wet from their water pistols!

We had 1 scare with Oliver – a severe allergic reaction to something (probably peanuts) meant a visit to the A&E / ER to reduce the swelling and rash.  He is now going for an Allergy panel test to let us know exactly what we need to avoid.  He gave us all a scare though.

The weather really makes a difference to a British Summer.  When it is sunny and warm, it is so easy to fill many hours at the park, with the hose or at the pool.  That is all Isabelle and Oliver wanted to do, anyway!  The time seemed to fly by too fast.  Not enough time spent with my Mum & Dad or with Sandra (my BFF), never mind so many other people that I really wanted to see.  The downside of the Ex-pat life 😦

I returned to Shanghai after 3 short weeks away, leaving my 3 loves in UK.  It is heart-breaking to be apart and I miss them all dreadfully.  But, they would all be so bored in China as no-one is here.  So, I am busy working, working, working and trying to stay out of the blistering heat and humidity that is Shanghai in July and August.  It is countdown mode for me until they return.

Happy 7th Birthday, Isabelle

Isabelle was very excited about her birthday and was in countdown for at least 3 weeks beforehand!  She was also excited to connect with her friends from Jordans School.  She wanted a Princess Party and so we booked Dandy Doos in High Wycombe where Isabelle and 5 of her friends had brightly coloured hair highlights, manicures, face painting, got dressed up in Princess dresses and enjoyed pizza and a chocolate fountain.  She had a fabulous time and was so happy to be spending time with her closest friends, especially her best friend, Aimee.  Poor Aimee had fallen off a climbing frame and broken her elbow so was wearing a bright pink cast.

Princesses at the Party - Rebecca, Georgina, Isabelle, Aimee, Hattie & Maddie

Princesses at the Party – Rebecca, Georgina, Isabelle, Aimee, Hattie & Maddie

Isabelle in Princess heaven with Rebecca and Aimee

Isabelle in Princess heaven with Rebecca and Aimee

Planning a party from long distance and then only having a couple of days to finalize the preparations was a logistical challenge.  I was happy that Dandy Doos organized most of the activities, goody bags and the overall party.  It was down to me for pizza and cake!  Off to Tesco I go for a cupcake celebration – which turned out to be the perfect sweet treat for the girls.

Making a wish

Making a wish

Oliver had been enjoying a playdate with Aimee’s brother, Sam while the party was going on.  They both arrived at the end, just in time to enjoy some pizza and cake!  Oliver was very happy to see Sam again – they had been good friends when we lived in Chalfont St Giles.

Sam & Oliver

Sam & Oliver

I know that Isabelle enjoyed her party.  As it took 3 washes to get the colour out of her hair, I am sure that I was not popular with the other Mum’s!  All the girls had fun.

On her actual birthday, she got celebrate all over again with party number 2!  After opening her presents in the morning it was off to the Paper Mill Pub in Apsley for a lunch with family and friends.  Owen and I had been there earlier to put up some balloons and take her cake.  Owen had found a lovely bakery that makes custom creations for special occasions and they did not disappoint with this beautiful princess castle:

Princess castle cake for the birthday princess

Princess castle cake for the birthday princess

We had the entire upper level to ourselves and this was perfect for the kids to run around and do what they wanted.  When we arrived, our good friends Jez and Caroline were already there and so we could catch up, while catching the sun rays on the deck.  They have promised to buy each other plane tickets to Shanghai for their Christmas present so we are very much looking forward to seeing them in 2013!!  Mark arrived (on his lunch break from work), Kim & Harley arrived soon after, quickly followed by Peter, Emma, Maeve & Oscar and Mum & Dad.  Sandra, James & Madeleine completed our celebration party.  A lovely leisurely lunch with lots of laughter, food and wine.  The 4 kids were at one end of our table and were having the time of their life with Isabelle’s presents, toys and colouring.  As there was no-one else to worry about, we could all relax about the noise and let them play.  Although it was Isabelle’s birthday celebration, it was just as much for Owen and I to see our friends too!

Sara, Isabelle, Harley and Kim

Sara, Isabelle, Harley and Kim

Isabelle, Caroline, Jez & Oliver

Isabelle, Caroline, Jez & Oliver

Madeleine, Isabelle & Sandra

Madeleine, Isabelle & Sandra

Kids all playing.....

Kids all playing…..

Eating cake at the end of the meal.... and the best group photo I took :-(

Eating cake at the end of the meal…. and the best group photo I took 😦