Christmas Markets!

The Christmas market is an outdoor market of stalls selling goods and food, often at nighttime, during the weeks of Advent, and originating in Germany. Their popularity has spread all over Europe and even into North America in recent years (heck, even Ottawa started a wee one this year!)

While we certainly plan to make it to a German Christmas market at some point in our 3 years here, we knew it wouldn’t be this year. However, there are many Christmas markets happening not far from us that we thought we’d check out this season.

First off, we did a big one – Bath Christmas Market. The Bath Christmas Market is one of the biggest in the UK, and consistently awarded one of the best in the country (this year being no exception).



Bath is only about 15 miles from Bristol, but as things are in England, it’s a 45 minute car ride or a 45-60 minute train ride. We opted for the train because it’s cheap (£13 round trip for all 3 of us) and then we wouldn’t need to search for parking.

However, we were warned – – – being the most popular market in the country means it’s busy! We originally thought we’d go in the evening, but were told we’d hardly be able to move then, and there’s too many drunk people around. So we changed our plans and decided to go at opening. Good thing, too, because when we left 3 hours later at 1pm, we could hardly move!
(We heard that brawls broke out on later trains because they were so packed and busy… so we’ll stick with going early!)

Our favourite stall – we had to circle back around and return to.

So, we may have missed the ambience of the evening market and the lights, but as none of us like a crowd, we were very happy with our choice. We spent a whack-load of money at the stalls buying gifts and treats for others and ourselves. We enjoyed sampling cheeses, charcuteries, and spreads at many stalls, and drinking thick hot cocoa and mulled wine as we ambled around.

We got freshly made sugar doughnuts that will haunt my dreams until next year – they melted in your mouth…
Grabbed a pizza from a mobile pizza oven along with a cider for lunch. I love that the UK doesn’t limit you to staying in beergardens if you want to buy a drink.
Our pile of shopping on the train ride home.

Overall we just loved the Bath Market. It was easy to get to, a fun morning out shopping, and a feast for the senses.



The next market we went to was a few days later and a bit more local. Okay, a lot more local. The Henleaze Christmas Festival is a one-night affair a few blocks away from us. We live right on the edge of Henleaze neighbourhood in Bristol, and we really love the Henleaze high street to do our shopping and errands.

Nighttime, people moving, etc… and I think I had a sausage in my other hand. Sorry, this is the best photo I got.


Apparently this was the 12th year this festival has been running, and it’s a market of about 30 stalls and 3 blocks long. It was a Wednesday night, so we had to pick Sophie up from gymnastics class at school (2 blocks away) and scuttle over there where it was already fully underway.

Sophie said she saw every kid in her class except 2. We enjoyed the stalls and the music, there were school choirs and children’s entertainers. We didn’t buy much at all because we had just spent so much in Bath, and there really wasn’t anything new. I was a little disappointed, as I would have waited for this festival and bought more locally had I known. Well, next year.

But we enjoyed sampling the cheeses!

We were able to grab dinner at a BBQ stall, get give-aways at local traders (Sophie got a big box of 6 full-sized Cadbury bars at a law office!), and enjoy the whole festival with local cheer. Every time we move, we love being able to find these great things to be proud of in our new home town/ neighbourhood area.


The third market we went to wasn’t much- it was the smallest yet. We stopped in at the Christmas Festival at Sophie’s school on Saturday afternoon. I don’t have photos to show due to privacy for all the children present. But I was very impressed with the school’s ability to put on a festival with crafts, games, music, food, stalls, raffles, and prizes. Most importantly– and this is something so important I think we need to bring it to all Canadian school festivals and parties — there was mulled wine.
Yes… to get through a couple hours at a junior school function with children running amok everywhere, I was able to purchase a warm cuppa mulled wine.
This. Is. Just. Civilised.
Every school Christmas concert really needs to have a cash bar – they’d make a mint for the school!!!! And before you get your panties in a knot, NO, I’m not suggesting anyone get drunk around children. Hell, even put a one-glass maximum if you want. But that one glass really helps a parent get through the screaming children/the children singing off key/the waiting for the 400 children that aren’t yours to finish their part so you can watch your own kid for 2 minutes/the putting up with overzealous parents.
Sure, maybe I’m a curmudgeon, but I’m okay with that. School events need wine. This was the best school event I’ve ever been to.

I’m sorry, I wouldn’t have mentioned the last market, because I didn’t have photos, and it was so small, but it really needed a shout out, just for the wine.

Our tree this year in our new home. (With a few new ornaments this year from our travels and the Bath Christmas Market, too!) – I just wanted to share with you! xx



Well we can’t wait until next year or heck- maybe even the following year, when we can make it to Germany for a Christmas market. Now that we know how fun they are and have had a small taste, we will definitely be putting this on our short list and be aiming to get there!

St. Mary’s Church, Redcliffe

Once upon a time, before cars were around and it took three days to travel from one side to the other of modern-day Bristol, Redcliffe was its own thriving port town next to the busy city of Bristol. History notes that there was a lot of rivalry between these two cities (for age-old reasons too numerous and odd to recite here). However, in 2019 Redcliffe is just a part of Bristol, sort of a neighbourhood area marginated on the edge of the river. We’ve driven through and around the area countless times.

One building Redcliffe is famous for is St. Mary’s Church. Its spire is the tallest building in Bristol (at 90m). While we’ve driven past and admired it many times, we’ve never gone in. I was at a charity shop a few weeks ago and found this awesome ink sketch dated 1940 and picked it up. It now hangs in our front hall.

So now it was on our ‘to-do’ list of places to get to, things to explore.

We learned a lot. St. Mary’s was the church where merchant sailors would began and end their journeys, praying at the shrine of Our Lady of Redcliffe.

John Cabot came to St. Mary’s upon his return from his renowned sail to America where he discovered Newfoundland. (There’s a big main road here called Newfoundland Rd, too). He presented St Mary Redcliffe with a whale bone from his journey. It still hangs there today, 500+ years later.

The whale bone is to the right, directly above Sophie’s head.

Beside Sophie is a statue of Queen Elizabeth I, who visited St Mary’s Redcliffe and described it as “the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England”.

In 1997, five-hundred years after Cabot first set sail Eastward, a replica of his ship The Matthew sailed from Bristol on the same journey to commemorate it. The crew of the second Matthew gathered at St Mary’s Redcliffe right before they set sail to pray for a safe journey and receive blessing.

Model of The Matthew over the door of the Church

Here’s some photos of this gorgeous gothic church:

Then we stumbled upon a neat science experiment, right there in the Church, The Chaotic Pendulum.

There were a lot of notes about the building through history since it was built, about various wars and conflicts that threatened the entire structure. Most notable was the Bristol Blitz in WWII. Because Bristol was a hub for both aviation and shipping, it was a prime target for the Nazis and was the 5th most heavily bombed British city in the war. St. Mary’s Redcliffe was right on the flight path of the German Luftwaffe and suffered some minor damage.

During one large raid on Good Friday, April 11, 1941, a huge bomb hit only a block away, and a large chunk of tramline was thrown from the blast over the rooftops of nearby houses and landed in the churchyard. It’s been left there since, as a reminder of how close a call the church had and of how senseless war is.

We enjoyed touring St. Mary’s, exploring a little part of our new hometown, and are happy that we’ve now seen the building behind our lovely hallway picture.

PS- Happy Thanksgiving to all those back home in Canada celebrating this weekend! We miss you! We’re doing a roast chicken and all the trimmings this weekend, and I made Nanaimo bars for dessert and to share with the neighbours. Have a fab turkey day!!!

Day trip to London

We had to go to Ruislip (just north of London) where the Canadian military detachment is for Eric’s in-clearance (yes, they said he had to bring the whole family!) so we decided to make a trip of it and go to London for the day!

Unfortunately, it turned out to be a record-breaking hot day (33.5°C) and we were just melting!

Taken at 7am waiting for the train to London while we were still fresh-faced!

What to do with only 1 day in London? Well Sophie’s never been, Eric has lived here for a few months, and I’ve visited for days here and there. We know we’re going to be back a lot in the next 3 years and have a lot of opportunity to see everything we want and it didn’t need to be done all at once. So we decided to give Sophie a tour so she could get her bearings and see and decide just what it was that she wanted to be doing in those future visits, help her build her bucket list.

Sophie enjoyed the view

We took one of the Hop-on, hop-off bus tours. I always find these a good value in a big, new, city where I’m looking to hit all the tourist hot spots in a day or two (you can usually buy 1- or 2-day passes for these tours). We look for a tour that has a lot of buses (that run frequently), that have more buses with live commentary rather than just recordings (it’s always more fun to hear anecdotes from someone who’s been living there their whole life), and tours that have more than one line (the one we chose had 4 lines that criss-crossed the city plus a river boat we could use that we just never had the chance to). We also picked our company based on who went close to our hotel. Then we pre-paid for our tickets online. This saved us money, but also a lot of time when we wanted to join the tour.

We spent the first little bit touring around. We had a great guide who was informative, funny, and personable. I’m not one of those people to take many photos from a moving bus, but here:

Big Ben (and its tower) are encased in scaffolding for the next few years…. It sort of ruins the skyline of London, but it’s what you gotta deal with in order to preserve these things….
Going across Tower Bridge

We took the bus to the Tower of London and hopped off. We also pre-purchased tickets to the Tower so that we could save a few pounds but also avoid the lines.

Just when we got to the Tower. A lady asked Eric to take their family’s photo and he obliged. Then she insisted she take ours because “this lighting is terrific!”. She was right.

It was starting to get hot by now. The sun was baking. We had dropped our suitcases off at the hotel and they put our main insulin supply in the fridge for us, but Sophie’s small diabetic backpack had a spare vial of insulin in it as well. We don’t have a Frio case at all or any sort of cooler, as we haven’t got around to getting one yet. If you’re soon about to use the insulin, it can stay at room temperature up to 30 days. But insulin can never be frozen and never go over 30°C or it will be denatured. Well, in the direct sunlight, it was well over 30°…. We tried a while to always hold the bag in the shade, looking a little ridiculous as we moved about, but in the end we had to admit that there’s no way we can test if that insulin is still good, apart from a few bolus injections and Sophie won’t allow that. We can’t risk filling a 3-day pump with bad insulin and then having to discard the whole pump once we realise it’s not working.

So anyway, we got to the Tower and it was hot. And then we saw the poor Yeoman Warder…

He deserved a medal for this…

He said in the beginning that he didn’t want to hear us complain about the heat, and he was right. When the weather is bad (rain, etc) they shorten the tours from 1hr to 1/2-hr and he did for us too. They just couldn’t have everyone standing around in the heat that long, guests included.

But it was a lovely tour and we learned a lot about the Tower of London. Sophie and Eric went in and up the Tower itself. We saw the jewels, we walked the ramparts, and we had lunch! As we were leaving, another family came to say hi, just because they’d seen Sophie’s Dexcom and were a fellow T1 family. They had a little boy on the Dexcom and Omnipod and they said they just had to say hi to another T1 family on holiday! I think it’s so nice when someone does that and I do it myself, but Sophie’s still shy about it. Yet, she is upset if we don’t, though. (Tweens, amiright?)

Tower bridge from the ramparts

After our time at the Tower, we hopped back on to a bus and decided to head towards King’s Cross station. This was a surprise for Sophie. Her 11th birthday is in a week and a half and well, we really didn’t know what to get her. So since she is a massive Harry Potter fan, we said we’d take her to platform 9-3/4. I, personally, am not a fan, so it was all Greek to me, but seeing her so excited made me very happy too. She got her photo taken and then we took her to the store there and we said, pick out what you want, we’ll get it for your birthday! Her face was priceless.

The professional photo we bought

Sophie bought that Ravenclaw scarf (100% Scottish lambswool made by the same company who made the original scarves worn in the movies) and a Ravenclaw hairbow. She’s a happy girl.

By then we were getting tired so we hopped on the bus yet again and just let it tour us back to our hotel. We got to see more of London and then crash in our air-conditioned room. (And I mean crash).

Me, in front of a London city-scape, looking hot, tired, and deshevelled.

We went back out again in a bit for an Italian dinner then back to our room. Sophie was due for a pump change – here is where I’m so glad for our ‘bring 3x what we need’ rule. We tried to start up the pump and it didn’t activate properly!!! So we opened a second pump and tried it and held our breath and thankfully all was well. We would have had just enough insulin and one more pod to do it a third time, but barely (with the vial of insulin we now have to throw out due to heat!).

Anyway, pump change in a hotel again but we’re old hat at it now and it eventually went well. We have already ordered a Frio wallet to be delivered later this week for all our future travels to protect our precious insulin!!!

That’s it! That’s our day in London. We had to call it a night and hit the hay so we could be up early to leave for Ruislip at 7am. We were in offices all day long there but felt thoroughly welcomed by everyone at the Canadian detachment and know they genuinely want to help us acclimate and settle in to our home here in England.

London is a beautiful city and we can’t wait to come back on many day and weekend trips over the next few years!

Taken from inside the Tower of London

Moving in and moving around

Well we are now officially full-time residents of Churston! Our belongings all arrived in two shipments this week to make for an exhausting few days of unloading, unpacking, and now rearranging.

Our shipping container was packed so tight – they needed to send the last 8 boxes by air!

We still have oodles and oodles of work to do, exercise equipment to put together, spare room to make up into something resembling a room, outdoor furniture to put together, more gardening to do, pictures to hang, garbage to call a disposal company for. . . just endless amounts of work still. However, our beds are together and the kitchen is mostly useable (if not making sense or very tidy, still useable!)

The next step was to go to Trowbridge and pick up our new (to us) car! I’ve been driving all week as practice, knowing that I’d have to drive either the new car or the rental the 1-1/2-hour drive home (on both country roads and motorways) and I think I’m pretty adept at the left-lane driving now. The very narrow roads can still be white-knuckle harrowing but either I’ll get used to them, or I won’t…

Me in our new Peugeot car after I got it safely home 70 miles and parked in the drive.

On the way to Trowbridge to pick up the car, we stopped in a quaint little town, Bradford-on-Avon, for a picnic lunch.

We sat in a park on the river for lunch and those are just medieval buildings behind us.

The river Avon
Just a WWII pillbox we stumbled upon that had been built just after Dunkirk and the English suddenly genuinely fearful of a German invasion. Apparently these pillboxes are scattered all over England and mostly completely overgrown and forgotten.
For your plaque-viewing pleasure.


That’s all. Just a little update on our lives – we’re settling in, learning how to drive, visiting the grocers every day, exploring the neighbourhood and even a little further afield.
Heading off to London next week!

Preparing for our house-hunting trip…

What a relief!

Well, here in Canada, our house has SOLD and we’re now days away from our house hunting trip. The military sends Eric and me over to Bristol to look at and find a suitable house, then hopefully get a lease signed etc. We can also take this time to set up banking, look at schools, check in to Eric’s new office, and explore the area.

In the last few weeks whenever I’ve told people we’re going on this trip, they make some sort of exclamation about how lucky we are, to get a free trip over! Sure, I say, if we didn’t have *so* much work to do in only 5 business days, and if only we didn’t have to leave our T1D daughter behind and hope everything works out okay…

(Okay yes, the military would actually pay to bring her as well, but seeing as its the second-last week of school, and it’s such a long trip and a 8-hour time difference, we thought leaving her at home would actually be the least amount of worry and headache).

So how do new(ish) T1D parents prepare to leave their T1D daughter with her grandparents for 9 days and hope she doesn’t die?
Well, they over-prepare!

Our Everything Binder
Our Everything Binder

We need to remember that my parents are new T1D grandparents too…. and we live in BC and they live in Ontario, so they haven’t had a lot of time to practice! We knew this trip has been coming though, so we had my mom come visit in February for a week and she had an introductory course in diabetic care then.
My mom is also a retired registered nurse, so while diabetes is fairly new to her (she worked in the OR and her patients were usually unconscious) and today’s diabetic tech is definitely new to her – she’s not completely starting at square one.

So I wrote an Everything Binder.

My parents are coming in a few days before we leave, for a crash course/reminder/update in all things diabetic, but I’m still trying to write everything down, including everything routine and everything possible that may come up. Everything.

Examples of pages in the everything binder:
-how to deal with nighttime highs and lows
-how to use Dexcom trend arrows for dosing insulin
-how to best use an extended bolus if they eat out
-a list of good carb-free snacks, if my dad feels like popping to the grocery store
-step-by-step instructions on how to change an Omnipod and Dexcom (though we will change the Dexcom the day before we leave and hope they don’t need to)
-how to calibrate the Dexcom
-how to use glucagon
-codes and passwords for our house (door lock, WiFi, garage)
-a step-by-step guide to our TV and remote control (my parents are 70!)
-a map of the area with places they may need to find highlighted (stores, bank, pharmacy)
-a list of emergency phone numbers – everything from the nurses at the diabetic clinic to some neighbours and even another local T1D parent who could help out


It’s a rather large book of information, and I’m still worried it’s not enough. We will also be on-call 24/7 (all except the time we’re in the air, on our 10-hour-long flights).


In the end, we have to accept that it’s okay if she runs on the high side for the week (higher than we would keep her at), so long as she feels okay and is happy.

In the end, we have to accept that our daughter is almost 11 and smart as a whip, and can very well do most all of this on her own (including more complicated carb-counting and fractions and math than most adults!).

In the end, we have to accept that it’s okay to let go.


This is pretty terrifying to me, to leave her for the first time as a T1D (we left countless times before diagnosis and never cared!!!), but I know it’s got to be done eventually – may as well be now!

How do you prepare to leave your diabetic children with caregivers for extended periods of time?