Our California Adventure (Part 2) – Laguna Beach, Newport, and Whale Watching


This is the second instalment of our California trip, read Part 1 here.

After three days, it was time to leave San Diego and head to Orange County, where our next hotel awaited.

On the way there, we made a stop at Laguna Beach for a few hours of wandering and beach time. We also took a drive round the residential areas – one of my favourite things to do. I love having a nosey at all the different types of houses and getting a sense of what it might be like to actually live in a place. Laguna Beach did not disappoint. It’s a very aesthetically-pleasing neighbourhood with lots of lovely houses and more of a small town vibe than somewhere like Newport (which is actually rather big). I’d put Laguna in my top three places to live in Southern California, for sure.

laguna beach

laguna beach

Now, we know I love a TV series more than anything. There’s just something about the character development and length of time per story arc that hooks me way more than a film can usually do. This part of the trip, and LA, was full of TV show memories for me. I kept saying to Sam, “Remember in so-and-so series when this happened? That was here”. To which he’d respond with “Remember that bit in Grand Theft Auto? That was here”.

I didn’t do much research into the hotels we were staying in before we left, it wasn’t vitally important to me and I just thought I’d leave it as a surprise. So, when we checked into the Pelican Hill Resort, our first thoughts were “Woah. This is a bit nice”.

pelican hill coliseum pool

It’s the kind of place where you will see more chauffeurs than people driving their own cars. It is the kind of place where you can book your children into an etiquette class. The Coliseum, a breathtakingly gigantic circular pool overlooks the golf course and the ocean beyond. The food is great. Pelican Hill has a 5 star rating, and if you’re looking for a luxury stay in Orange County, you’ve found it.

pelican hill childrens pool

californiaorangecountyPelican Hill is situated in the hills above Newport (It’s featured in some of the establishing shots of The OC). The bungalow’s huge vaulted ceilings make the space feel airy and very light. There is a secluded balcony area with comfy cushioned sun loungers, and, the part I got most excited about, a GIANT bathtub.

pelican hill bungalow california

Pelican Hill was right above Crystal Cove, which was one of our favourite beaches from our trip – I love a cove. It’s part of a state park, so it doesn’t have anywhere near the foot traffic of some of the town beaches, and the landscape feels a little more wild.

crystal cove



crystal cove

crystal cove

Our two most eagerly anticipated food experiences happened during our Orange County stay – Arlo’s first time at IHOP, and our first In-N-Out burger – an enthusiastic two thumbs up for both.


Balboa Island was another highlight from this section of our trip. It’s a great place for a potter – lots of cute little touristy shops and little blossom-lined streets with colourfully-painted houses add to the ‘holiday town’ vibe. It was fairly quiet when we were there, but I can imagine this place bustling with visitors in the summer months. Obviously, we had to try out the famous local delicacies, Balboa Bars and Frozen Bananas – glowing reviews from all family members.

balboa bar balboa island

balboa island


balboa island




balboa island“They REALLY like the American flag in America” #stuffArlosays

balboa island

balboa island


Sam and I knew one thing we really wanted to do during our time in Orange County was a whale watching boat trip. There are a wealth of options available in Southern California. Sam took charge of choosing our trip, doing quite a bit of research before we left for our holiday. He decided on Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari, as it is a small boat (never more than 49 people on board), and a catamaran (infinitely better for travel sick me) and had fun things that we knew the kids would like, such as underwater viewing pods and a boom net at the front of the boat. It also leaves from Dana Point, which lots of people told us was the best place for a whale cruise.

whale watching california


There were lots of families on board, and several groups of repeat customers, which is always a great sign. On our 2.5 hour trip, we saw bottlenose dolphins, thousands of common dolphins, sea lions, a minke whale, and the best part for me, a humpback whale. Seeing a huge whale in the sea, getting a sense of their sheer size up close, is one of my ‘life list’ things, and I’m pretty sure I can tick that off now. The humpback was surfacing every four minutes, we stayed with him or her for about 15 minutes, never sure exactly where it was going to surface. at one point everyone was on the left side of the boat except me, stuck at the back under a sleeping Rory, when the humpback surfaced and sprayed its blowhole just two metres away from where I was sitting – AMAZING. That was my second ‘best moment’ of the holiday.


newport beach california




Next post: Disneyland, LA, and Santa Monica.

Previous post: The flight, La Jolla, and San Diego Zoo.


A massive thanks to Visit California for sending us on this adventure, and to Quintessentially Travel for organising our activities and helping us plan all the small details.



Our California Adventure (Part 1) – The flight, La Jolla, and San Diego Zoo

Last year, we made this video, and were chosen to go on a once in a lifetime family trip to California. For a long time, it felt like something that was happening in the distant future. Until suddenly it rolled around very quickly, and now, here I am, back at home looking at photos of an amazing trip that I can’t quite believe we actually went on.

Our itinerary took us from San Diego up through the coastline of Southern California to Santa Monica, stopping at four or five areas and doing a lot of family activities along the way. There is a LOT to report, so I’m going to break it down into quite a few posts.

But first, here’s a sneak peek from my phone:


I’ll start with saying how massively apprehensive I was about flying 11 hours with the boys. The last flight I did was a really stressful five hour flight without Sam, when Arlo was 11 months old.

(For anyone wondering when are the best/worst ages to fly with kids, definitely from crawling to around three years old is THE WORST. Young babies are easy – they like the movement and white noise of the plane, they aren’t heavy enough to make your arms go dead, and they won’t get bored. Three year olds and up have a basic understanding of time, you can reason with them / bribe them, and they are able to amuse themselves to a workable extent. A toddler will want to walk the whole time, won’t be able to get comfy sleeping upright, and will complain loudly. Hi Rory. )

To make matters more daunting, the plane was a 3-3-3 seat formation, leaving the choice of only one of us being within reaching distance of both boys whilst the other sat across the aisle, or splitting up taking one child each and leaving two strangers in the third seats at the mercy of our children’s flailing limbs and toy missiles. We went with option 1.


I bought up Tiger’s entire supply of stickers, colouring and activity books, and cheap toys. And when that was done, I went to HEMA and bought some more. For two night flights. We bought a tablet just for this occasion. We had snacks, we had clothes changes. I was going to be PREPARED.

We needed approximately 10% of all of that stuff.

Arlo was a plane pro, taking to the whole process like a duck to water. He didn’t need any help entertaining himself, and once he was asleep, he slept until we woke him up when we were due to land (better than at home, FFS!!) Rory, as usual, wasn’t happy unless he was ON me, and on the flight out he was running a temperature and coming down with the same tonsillitis virus that Arlo had just come out the other side of – literally, the same day, one got better, the other went down.

BUT, we must have all got some sleep and rest in there somewhere, as the time passed by pretty quickly and never once really felt like an ordeal. Doing this trip has made us realise that long haul with young children really is quite do-able. In fact, I’d take an 11 hour night flight over a five hour day flight any day, and I’m no longer of the view that we should be ‘putting off’ long haul until the kids are older.


Another thing I was apprehensive about was driving. I don’t know what you call it, whether it’s a spacial awareness, co-ordination thing or more to do with a sense of geography, but I can just about deal with knowing my left from my right. Trying to flip reverse that when thinking about left and right turns from the ‘wrong’ side of the road sends my brain to mush. And there was going to a be LOT of driving to do (not as if you can walk anywhere in America).  As Sam had just passed his test, we were originally told he wouldn’t be able to be added to the insurance. So I was totally prepared to drive everywhere. But we thought we’d ask again once we’d landed and were actually at the car rental desk, AND THEY SAID IT WAS FINE.

That was my first ‘best moment of the holiday’.


Our first stop of the trip was San Diego, where we stayed for three nights at the Four Seasons Aviara. We haven’t experienced hotel stays with the boys before, but it worked really well for us. As we were making the most of exploring our surroundings, we were having long days outside of our hotel room, crashing out at the same time as the boys. And for the times that they were asleep and we weren’t yet, most of the hotel rooms we stayed in had balcony areas to hang out on. Two double beds gave us more sleeping room than we have at home – Rory bunked in with me (as if he would ever contemplate sleeping anywhere else), and Sam shared with Arlo. I slept far better than I do at home with three of us sharing one double.


We had no set plans for our first full day, so decided to go for a drive along the coast towards downtown San Diego to get our bearings. We made a random stop at La Jolla, not realising it is listed as one of the top things to do in the San Diego area, and Sam and I kind of got a bit a lot excited when we saw the sea lions down at the children’s pool.


La Jolla sea lions


Hashtag Sealfie:



We continued on driving down the coast to Mission Beach and had our first experience of just how big Californian portion sizes are as we had lunch on the boardwalk watching the surfers and the skaters go by.

On our second day, we went to San Diego Zoo. We did the Discovery Cart Tour, which was a great way to see huge sections of the park much faster than you would at walking speed. There are big double decker buses that cover a similar route, but the discovery tour is a much smaller golf buggy type vehicle that can access the smaller paths and sections of the zoo. Plus, Arlo and Sam, the biggest wildlife fanatics in the family, got to ask lots of questions.


san deigo zoo discovery tour

What I most appreciated about the guided tour was that we got to hear lots of really cool stories about some of the zoo’s residents, which is the sort of insight you just can’t get when walking around a zoo by yourself. My two particular favourites were an anecdote about a jaguar destroying a bowling ball, and learning all about the cheetahs and choosing their rescue dog pairings – I’ve never seen anything like the Animal Ambassador  programme at any other zoo before, and it was probably the most interesting part of the zoo for me.

san diego zoo




Here’s Rory being true to form, petting every single goat he could find in the Petting Paddock:

san diego zoo petting paddock

And here’s that portion of our California Adventure as seen from my iphone:

california adventure

Next up, Laguna Beach, Newport, and an awesome whale watching trip. Stay tuned.


A massive thanks to Visit California for sending us on this adventure, and to Quintessentially Travel for helping us plan everything down to the small details.


Rory at 23 months


I used to do these updates fairly regularly for Arlo, and I have failed miserably to do the same with Rory. I’ve been keeping a few notes that I wanted to record, and now that Rory is approaching two (3 weeks!!), I thought it was about time for a little update.

There is always so much to say. I often find myself remembering little things later down the line and coming back to add them into these posts. I will start by saying that my boys’ differing personalities compliment each other well, and Sam and I really appreciate experiencing their differing characteristics and interests. No one else in the world will ever be able to make me laugh as much as Arlo with his sharp questions and his way of seeing the world. My heart swells watching Rory appreciate pure joy in the simplest of ways.


When Rory is in a good mood (which is most of the time), he’s up for anything. He wakes up smiling, he embraces fun wholeheartedly, he sings, he dances, and he wants to be where the fun is AT.

Rory has been singing before he could talk. Whenever he has an opportunity to join in with a song, he will. It is unbelieveably cute and possibly one of my favourite things about Rory at this age. He also enjoys a good dance whenever he can.


For whatever reason, Rory has a huge love of things that fly or fall out of the sky. He squeals with joy at The Shapes’ entrance in Mr Maker.

Rory and Arlo continue to have a lovely bond.  I love watching them play together, enjoying each other’s company. I know I am lucky to have two boys who care so much about each other at this age. Rory misses his big brother terribly when he’s at preschool. He cries when we leave, not because he wants to stay, but because he’s sad about leaving Arlo. Arlo is an incredibly caring big brother, one of his favourite things in the world is getting a cuddle from Rory. There has never been one hint of jealousy from Arlo towards Rory, I don’t think the emotion has even occured to him as a possibility, and I’m so proud of the way Arlo has, and continues to, welcome Rory into his life with only pure love and affection.



Rory loves animals. His favourite animal is a pigeon (mainly for chasing purposes). He also LOVES Grandma’s dog Oscar. It delights me to see that he is a dog lover. He cuddles up to him and follows him around the house. His affection for Oscar and the joy he brings him makes us excited for a time in the future when we can have our own dog – Sam and I have always been huge dog fans, so it’s just a matter of time (when we have a house with a bit more space and the children are school-age – IT’S ON).


Rory’s penchant for full throttle tantrums far exceeds anything Arlo could manage at the same age. He’s firmly reached that awkward stage of fierce stubborness combined with a lack of awareness and a lack of language skills to understand WHY it’s not OK to do certain things. No, you CAN’T walk through the car park without holding my hand. Yes, you DO have to use the stairs to get to the slide. Taking your jumper off is NOT the end of the world. No, you CAN’T get off the plane at 30,000 feet in the air.

Rory still doesn’t sleep very well at all, waking three times per night on a good night, and only settling next to me. But at this point, that’s more of a result of circumstances than anything else. We can’t help Rory transition from co-sleeping to his own bed without tears (he really isn’t happy unless he’s lying next to me), and in a two bed house, our options are: have him cry in our room, or have him cry in the room he shares with Arlo. Either way we play it, at least three people are losing out on sleep whilst this happens. Which is why we never attempt it for long. The next kid is getting a crying room.

In recent weeks, Rory has started falling asleep IN the cot, which has taken us almost two years to achieve. He won’t let me leave the room, but he’s happy for me or Sam to hold his hand through the bars whilst he falls asleep. This point with Arlo, getting him to fall asleep happily on his own in cot, was the point he started sleeping through the night and being able to resettle himself at night. This happened slowly somewhere between 19 – 24 months. I thought it was ‘the key’. But with Rory, he’s falling asleep in the cot but still waking up and being VERY angry and upset if he doesn’t get to see me / sleep next to me. He likes sleeping next to someone and its clear that his journey to sleeping in a bed on his own for the whole night will be different to Arlo’s.


Whereas Arlo has always been a very competent and early linguist, Rory wasn’t in much of a hurry to talk. Up until a few months ago, he had only about six words (but lots of attitude to ensure we always knew what he wanted, regardless). Then somewhere around 21 months he had that massive language explosion that I remember Arlo having at 15/16 months. Overnight, Rory was having a go at pronouncing anything and everything, meaning his vocabulary instantly expanded. He was stringing 3 word sentences together, and was all of a sudden a fully blown talking toddler. I’ve found this sudden developmental leap fascinating with both my children – it really makes them go from baby to child overnight.

I love his mispronunciations. He can’t yet say C sounds, so a cuddle is a ‘Duddle’, a kiss is a ‘Miss’. He calls himself Ree Ree, and he has a whole host of ridiculous nicknames, the majority come courtesy of his older brother.

It’s lovely going through this toddler stage again. The first time round, I don’t think I really understood how fleeting it is. I often find myself stopping to gush over something cute that Rory just did. And, to me, his tiny little voice is one of the sweetest things.

Rory, you are a little ray of sunshine.


* Collaborative Post



Summer Garden Style with Homebase

summer garden

Last week’s uncharacteristically warm Spring weather was the type that makes me immediately want to prettify my garden and start filling up my planner with barbecue party dates. We’ve been so lucky to have such a beautifully warm Spring, my winter blues are well behind me.

I’m really looking forward to summer days in our garden. Rory was just walking last summer, but now he’s gallivanting around at a speed to rival Arlo’s, and the garden is very much their happy place. They can spend hours out there without getting bored. Summer really is the best season.

I’ve partnered with Homebase to bring you the best of their 2015 Spring/Summer collection. My thoughts immediately turned to the garden for this project, Homebase is more often than not, the first place we go when we need anything for our garden, and so here are my picks of Homebase’s 2015 collection to help create the perfect summer garden style.

summer garden style


1. Our patio area is crumbling, old, and really doesn’t look the best. But, in the right light, and with enough pots, plants, and climbers, it can almost pass for ‘Rustic Mediterranean Charm’. I like to opt for pots in different sizes, colours, and styles to create a mismatched look. Terracotta and turquoise work particularly well together, and I love these rainbow planters.

2. Candles are an evening garden must, and this bronze tealight holder would look perfect as a table centrepiece or a hanging ornament.

3. and 4. Summer is all about colourful tableware. These coloured bowls would be great for those of us who enjoy an over-the-table instagram foodie shot, and I’m also loving this cheerful yellow terreccotta dish.

5. Keep a throw or two handy for when the night draws in, or for lying out on the grass.

6. Have I mentioned before that mint is my favourite colour? This mint green serving tray will make light work of carrying all those drinks out to the garden table, and is the sort of versatile year-round accessory that can easily find a home inside during the colder months

7. These cute citronella frosted glass candles would look great anywhere in the garden.

8. These colourful cushions are the perfect summer accompaniment to a wooden garden chair – adding both comfort and brightness. Homebase’s ColourMatch range offers a wide choice of colours to suit every pallette, and the Habitat patterned cushions create a lovely accent feature.


Thank you to Homebase for partnering with Sorry About The Mess. 


A winter trip to New York

Remember that time I went to New York?




new york skyline sunset



central park fountain winter







grand central station


grand central station




empire state building new york



new york skyline







The bars in Brooklyn and East Village

The revolving bar at the top of the Times Square Marriott for an interesting lift experience and a 360 degree view of the city.

BUT, the view from the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg gets the award for ‘Best view of the skyline’ on our visit. Go for a drink at the Ides at sunset or after dark.

The World Trade Centre Memorial and Museum. Make sure you allow around three hours, if not more, if you want to see everything.

Brunch at Buttermilk Channel was our favourite.

We also loved brunch at Five Leaves.

Walking Brooklyn Bridge

Watching the sunset from the Staten Island Ferry.

Is January a good time to visit New York?

We were taking advantage of a few main factors by going in January – obviously, it was my 30th birthday, and Sam was already in the states on a business trip, so we only had to pay airfare for one in order for us both to travel. It was a no-brainer that we’d go at that time of year, but if you are deliberating over a winter break or going at a different time of year, here are my tips.

It is cold. If you are a NOT a cold weather person, probably best to avoid going to New York in winter. It is often very snowy. And / or rainy. I have a feeling we got very lucky with the weather we had. There were a couple of freezing days, then a couple of mild, sunny days. So, we were able to walk around outside all day and the weather didn’t have any effect on our sightseeing. January weather in New York can be much harsher than we experienced. Two weeks after our trip, there was a blizzard, flights were cancelled, and everyone got stuck indoors for several days.

Also, I have a feeling that things like Central Park, and the Highline look their best when the leaves are in bloom. So, if this is your ‘once in a lifetime’ trip, I’d try and avoid winter. Unless you’re going for the Christmas stuff, or snow is your thing.

Is five days in New York long enough?

We were very lucky to have a personal tour guide in our friend Tommy, who’s been living in Brooklyn for a while. It meant we took the most efficient route between all the landmarks and the sightseeing stuff, didn’t waste time looking at maps or getting lost, and visited a lot of bars that we definitely wouldn’t have discovered on our own.

Sam and I are happy to be on our feet for long days (and really, it all seemed so easy and LIGHT doing it without the children). By the end of our second full day, we’d covered the majority of things on our ‘must see’ list, leaving a more relaxed pace for the remaining few days.

If you’re on your first visit to New York, I’d say a week is the ideal length of time to give most people enough time to do everything on your wishlist at a non-stressful pace.

iphonecollageNY1 iphonecollageNY