Thursday, May 30, 2013

Baby Moon to London

For our final trip before the baby came we wanted to go somewhere easy and fairly relaxing. We were initially thinking about taking the ferry to Ireland, but our friends Sarah and Kyle invited us to London. They had already planned the whole thing so all we had to do was show up. It doesn't get much easier than that!

We took the train from Harrogate down to London on a Friday afternoon. Train travel is so great. It only took a few hours and we were able to play cards and watch the beautiful scenery roll by. Once in London, we strolled around for a bit looking for a place to hang-out for the evening. We came across a really fun restaurant in Camden Town called Poppies. It's a '40s-themed fish and chips shop with a live band! How fun is that?

Live music at Poppies

Our only real plan for the weekend was seeing The Book of Mormon, a hilarious musical written by the guys from Southpark. While I'm not a fan of Southpark, I really enjoyed this show. At times it was a bit over-the-top, but the songs were really funny and the acting was fantastic. The theater was gorgeous and intimate. It was just a really fun experience.

The rest of our weekend in London was spent meandering through various markets and shops, including the legendary Harrod's department store. You definitely need several hours to explore this unique store. My favorite departments were the food hall (of course), and the pet section. There you'll find products like shampoo specific to the color of your dog's coat; beer for dogs; and of course all sorts of pet treats and clothes. And trust me--none of these things come cheap. I saw one tiny dog sweater selling for more than £40! And that was the cheapest sweater I saw!

The food hall was filled with hundreds of delicacies from fresh produce and pastries to exotic dim sums.

Giant garlic

Camden Market was equally impressive but in a totally different way. There are thousands of booths and shops that spill from the locks to the former horse stables and down main street. It is really an impressive sight and you could easily get lost in there. The variety of items for sale is astounding. At one shop you'll find gorgeous hand-made jewelery; at another vintage tins and china; and at a third leather bustiers. Mixed in with all of that are tons of food stalls selling everything from Mexican to Malaysian. It is a treat for all of the senses.

It was a perfect weekend, and though I was thoroughly exhausted by the end of it, I'm so glad we went.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

36 Weeks!

We're in the final countdown now! I'm less than thirty days from my due date and next week she'll be considered full-term. I am definitely getting excited to meet her. I wouldn't say I'm nervous. I'm more anxious I guess. I know that first-time moms usually go late, but if she were to come in the next couple of weeks that would be fine by me.

How far along? 36 weeks
Maternity clothes? Putting on pants is a struggle. Skirts are way easier
Stretch marks? None yet
Sleep? Not great. It's a cruel joke that people say to sleep now while I can
Best moment of the week: My maternity massage
Miss anything? Not too much this week
Movement: Still a one-woman circus in there
Food cravings:  Weirdly, I really wanted a veggie burger this weekend
Anything making you queasy or sick: Nope
Belly Button in or out? Out
Wedding rings on or off? Still on
Happy or Moody most of the time? Happy
Looking forward to: Being full-term next week!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why I'm Glad to Be Pregnant in 2013, or a Maternity Clothes Retrospective

I've recently come across some fantastic pictures of my mom and mother-in-law pregnant. They both look amazing, but I have to say their clothing leaves something to be desired. My mom is constantly telling me how lucky I am that maternity clothes have come so far since she was pregnant with my sister and me. Now I know what she means.

Pregnant with my sister, 1986

Pregnant with my sister-in-law, 1991

If anyone can carry off these hideous clothes, it's these two lovely women. Seriously, aren't they the cutest? 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Adventures in Substitute Teaching

I occasionally substitute teach at the American school in town. I haven't worked too much this semester, mainly due to scheduling conflicts. Last week was actually my first week back, and boy was it memorable.

I was subbing for Mr. Alvarez, the Spanish teacher. No problem. Hablo un poco de español (I speak a little Spanish). However, Mr. Alvarez also doubles as the gym coach, meaning I, at nine months pregnant, had to organize a game of indoor softball for 16 eight-year-olds!

Calli the gym coach?

Thankfully the principal realized that I may need some help and called in an additional set of hands. The class actually went surprisingly well, but I did get some hilarious comments from the kids. My favorite was the little girl whom I've subbed for previously who said it was nice being coached by "an old person." She corrected herself to say she meant someone she knew from before, but the damage was already done. Out of the mouths of babes, right?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

35 Weeks!

We spent a lot of this week getting ready for the baby. I guess my nesting instincts have really kicked in. You should have seen me at's like I was preparing for Y2K part 2. We bought enough canned goods, paper towels and cat food to last a century--or at least a couple of months. I know we'll probably want to get out of the house once she's born, but the idea of running errands with a newborn is very unappealing. Hopefully stocking up on basics now means we'll be able to walk around the neighborhood instead of having to go to the grocery store.

I also did a lot of cooking and freezing. So far I've made chicken pot pie; beef and barley soup; and mulligatawny soup. I still plan to make a meatloaf and Italian wedding soup. It's comforting to know that we'll still be able to eat well without having to cook in those first few weeks.

How far along? 35 weeks
Maternity clothes? Yes, but I'm actually more comfortable in skirts than my maternity jeans
Stretch marks? Nope
Sleep? Not the best. It's hard to find a comfortable position
Best moment of the week: Spending a care-free Sunday with Dan
Miss anything? Wine
Movement: YES! I thought she'd be slowing down by now...nope
Food cravings:  Still lots of sweets
Anything making you queasy or sick: Not really
Belly Button in or out? Out
Wedding rings on or off? On; thankfully not too much swelling at all
Happy or Moody most of the time? Happy
Looking forward to: Our last prenatal class tomorrow

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Traveling in the Third Trimester

With the last of my pre-baby travel complete, I'm over at TripWolf giving some advice to other traveling moms-to-be.

Traveling in the Third Trimester: Tips and Tricks
At 34 weeks pregnant, I just completed my last bit of travel until after the baby arrives. I’ve been traveling throughout this pregnancy, and thankfully it has gone extremely well. Each trimester has its own considerations, but the third trimester definitely brought the most challenges. Here are a couple of tricks and tips that I learned along the way.

Traveling while pregnant can be relaxing

Click here to read the full post.

Monday, May 20, 2013

DIY Fabric Tea Bags

Even after digging through my scrap pile to make my USA map, I still had a lot of little scraps of fabric leftover. While browsing Pinterest one day, I came upon the idea of making fabric tea bags. I am a huge sucker for anything in miniature and I absolutely love tea parties. Several of my good friends have little girls whom I love to spoil, so this was a perfect fit!

DIY fabric tea bag

Making the tea bags is really easy but a bit time consuming depending on how many you make. Somehow I turned myself into a little tea bag factory and made a ton at once. This is a really quick project if you're only making a few though.

The first thing I did was grab a bunch of fabric scraps and a tea bag. I folded each fabric in half with the right sides facing each other. Using the tea bag as a template, I traced both the bag itself and the little tag on to my fabric.

Then I cut out each bag and label. Each one should have two pieces (a front and a back). Keep the pieces together, still right sides facing each other, and sew three sides leaving the top open. This is similar to how you'd make an unlined bag.

Three sides sewn, top left open

Next, flip the tea bags inside out. Since these are so small, it gets a bit tricky. I used my seam ripper to help push the corners in. With the bags right sides out, I added a bit of filling to give it a more realistic feel. I used pearl barley, but in retrospect I probably should have used something like cotton stuffing or some other material that can get wet. But I've seen other people make heat pads out of pearl barley so it should be fine. Put in as much stuffing as you like. I only used a little bit to mimic the feel of a real tea bag.

Once I filled my bags, I cut a piece of twine and put one end inside my bag. Then I sewed that end closed.

I grabbed my two label pieces and flipped them so they are right-side out. Then I stuffed the other end of the twine in between labels and sewed all four sides. This should leave the twine securely fastened between the bag and the label.

And that's it! You've got an adorable tea party waiting to happen. Add a tray and a tin to keep your bags in if you're feeling fancy. I hope my little girl friends love these as much as I do.

Also, thanks to everyone who took my reader survey for my 300th post. There's still time if you haven't completed it yet. It only takes a second and I'd really love to hear from you! Click here to take part.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

When it Rains it Pours

Allow me to update you on our most recent house drama. Last we spoke, my boiler had a catastrophic failure and I was left with no heat or hot water. The good news is that the electrician was able to provide a stop-gap and we now have hot water. Thank goodness!

Unfortunately, when creating this stop-gap, the electrician did something with the pipes that caused one to explode. Gallons of water poured from the guest room ceiling all the way through to the kitchen downstairs.

Guest room before flood

Guest room after flood

Dan was the first to see it in the morning and grabbed a bunch of buckets to catch as much water as possible before turning the water off to the house completely. The pipe is now fixed and we have water again (but still no heat). Now we just wait for everything to dry out before they put the carpet back in. 

I'm hoping everything will be back in working order before the baby comes. We have our boiler repair scheduled for May 28-29, which was the absolute earliest they could do. They originally scheduled it for June 10, but after calmly explaining to them that my due date is June 20 and that I need this done sooner, they made something happen.

It just goes to show that you should be careful what you wish for. I wanted water in the house and boy did I get it!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

300th Post!

It's hard to believe, but I've reached another blog milestone--300 posts! I have enjoyed the process of blogging way more than I ever thought I would. It has been such a fantastic way to document this unique and exciting time in my life. I am so thankful that you've chosen to come along with me on this ride. Thank you!

Let's look at some of my blog stats.
I want to know more about you though. Want to fill out a quick survey? Pretty please?

Seriously, thanks so much for reading. I love you guys :)

See my other blog milestones:
100 Posts
200 Posts

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

34 Weeks!

This week we had a really fun "baby moon" with our friends Sarah and Kyle. At 34 weeks though, I really am done traveling for a while. We had such a fantastic time London, but man was it good to get back home.

The ligaments are still an issue, so thankfully I don't have any big plans from now until little one arrives. Hopefully I can just take it easy and get ready for her. Though I definitely want her to keep cooking for a while, I read that if she were to come today, most likely she would be born without any serious medical issues. How amazing is that?

Another side-note on the fruit comparisons: they really don't work very well. This week I'm supposedly a cantaloupe, but I already was a cantaloupe at 20 weeks. Very confusing. All I know is my belly is big, and so is she!

How far along? 34 weeks
Maternity clothes? Mostly
Stretch marks? None that I can see
Sleep? Not great at night, but I'm the queen of cat naps
Best moment of the week: Baby Mooning in London
Miss anything? A nice cold glass of beer sounds amazing
Movement: So. Much. Movement.
Food cravings:  All sweets, all the time
Anything making you queasy or sick: Ligament pain
Belly Button in or out? Very much out
Wedding rings on or off? On
Happy or Moody most of the time? Happy
Looking forward to: Continuing to grow a healthy baby

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Things We Take for Granted

This week our boiler had a catastrophic failure. It had to be turned off immediately lest it explode. Seriously! Since our hot water is connected to our boiler, it now means we are completely without heat or hot water. Even though it's May, temperatures in Harrogate have only been in the 40s, so it's COLD in the house.

Thankfully our landlord is being very responsive and we're in the process of getting a new boiler. Unfortunately, since it's such an old house, there's no quick or easy way to fix the problem. All the pipes will have to be redone and every single radiator in the house (of which there are eleven) will have to be replaced. Only once that's done will we have hot water again. Under the best circumstances, we may have heat and water again in a week. Under more realistic circumstances, it could be up to three weeks. Isn't that exactly what an almost-35 weeks pregnant woman wants to hear?

In the meantime, I'm cuddled up next to the fireplace wearing every piece of clothing that still fits. I'm also contemplating what I'll look like with dreads. What do you think? Yay, or nay?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Relaxing in Lithuania

One of the best parts about living in Europe is the ability to explore new territory relatively cheaply. It's not that I'd never heard of Lithuania before, I just didn't know that I wanted to go there until I found incredibly cheap flights to Vilnius, the capital.

What made Vilnius the perfect destination was that it is a small town with a concentrated old city. There is not too much to see, which, at 31 weeks pregnant, was perfect for me. I needed a place where I wouldn't feel pressured to do too much.

If I were not pregnant, I think one day in the city and a couple days in the rest of the country would be the perfect amount of time in Lithuania. We had five days! Even the tourist information representative was shocked that we were in her country for so long. You know what though, it was one of the most relaxing vacations I've taken in a while.

As usual, we spent most of our time eating :) I am pretty much an expert on every bakery and cafe in Vilnius now.

How we spent most of our time

I really love Lithuanian food! It's basically down-home comfort food. I couldn't get enough of the mushroom and cheese dumplings and beet soup. The food may not look like much, but trust me, it was amazing!

Dumplings at Koldunine

Amazing beet and mushroom soups at Gedimino 9

I always try to find free tours in new cities. We lucked out and found a great three-hour walking tour put on by the Tourist Information center. It was more of a local's point of view, rather than a tour specifically for tourists. I loved it. My favorite part was when we crossed over to the artist colony of Uzupis. This quirky neighborhood considers themselves separate from Vilnius. They have their own constitution and mayor, and once a year they have an Independence Day celebration. Fittingly, their Independence Day is on April 1st. If you want to visit Uzupis on that day, make sure to bring your passport. You'll need it to enter their "republic."

Vilnius has an absurd amount of churches. We only managed to see a few, but there are more than forty. Like Saint Petersburg, many of the façades are painted in pastel colors to make the city appear brighter during the long, dark winters.

One of the main sites in town is the Gediminas Tower. It is the only remaining part of the upper castle, and it offers some great views of the city. You can walk to the top of the hill, or you can take a quick funicular.

View from the top of the tower

On our last day in Lithuania we took a day trip to Trakai. It's a quick mini-bus ride away and will only set you back a few bucks. The town is even smaller than Vilnius, but it has a gorgeous castle that is surrounded by water. It makes for some dramatic views. In the summer you can rent boats and paddle around the castle. Doesn't that sound lovely?

One of my favorite things we did while in Lithuania was seeing the Cirque du Soleil show Alegria! I've wanted to see any Cirque du Soleil performance for a long time now, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Tickets weren't that much less expensive than they are elsewhere, but the theater was tiny, meaning every seat was practically front-row!

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any pictures in the theater, but trust me when I say it was incredible! The sheer athleticism required by the performers is breathtaking! My favorite acts were the trampoline (where the whole stage turns into a giant trampoline), and the balance beams (where men fly through the air and land on beams held by other men).

And thus marks the end of flying for a while. It's strange to think that this was the last vacation with just Dan and I before our lives change forever. Though things will never be the same, I can't wait to see what comes next.

P.S. Check out my post on TripWolf for a more detailed look at Lithuanian sweets. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

33 Weeks!

This has been such a fun week for me. I had my awesome maternity photo shoot this weekend and am feeling great. I've been taking it easy and making sure to listen to my body. It's been helping a lot. Dan and I have checked off a lot of must-do items, so I'm feeling pretty comfortable. The biggest news is that we bought a car seat. Now we're legally allowed to leave the hospital with her. Baby still has a ways to go, but when she comes we'll be ready for her!

By the way, I know some of these fruit/veg comparisons get a bit...unique. I'll help you out. Last week was a jicama (a really delicious, crunchy vegetable). This week is a durian (a disgusting, smelly fruit).

How far along? 33 weeks
Maternity clothes? Most of my tops are maternity, but I've been wearing a lot of stretchy skirts
Stretch marks? No
Sleep? Ugh...not great this week. Between getting up to go to the bathroom and trying to toss and turn, it hasn't been the best
Best moment of the week: My maternity photo shoot, by far!
Miss anything? Not really
Movement: Lots of body parts flailing around
Food cravings:  Still craving sweets
Anything making you queasy or sick: Not drinking enough water
Belly Button in or out? Out. I thought it was done, but I was wrong
Wedding rings on or off? On
Happy or Moody most of the time? Very happy
Looking forward to: Going to London this weekend

Pinterest Challenge: Scrap Map of the USA

Like the rest of the DIY-lovers around the world, I have become totally hooked on Pinterest (click on the Pinterest category on the right side-bar to see some of my projects). I've followed the Petersik/Bower Pinterest Challenge for a while now, but never got my act together enough to actually participate. Not this time! I was on it!

Months ago I saw this amazing, yet incredibly intimidating scrap map from See Kate Sew. I immediately loved it, but wasn't sure if I could actually do it. After sitting on my thumbs for ages, I finally decided to just go for it.

Kate's map [source]

The main intimidation factors were a) that I needed to cut out 50 (!) individual states; and b) that I'd have to top-stitch each one of those states. There's no getting around the first part, but I made some adjustments so that this became a no-sew project. That cut out a TON of time, and I think the result is just as good.

My scrap map!

To make one of your own, you'll need around 50 scraps of fabric. I was shocked to see how many I had in my scrap pile! I used a few of mine twice and borrowed the rest from friends. This should be a cheap project, so don't go out and buy 50 different fabrics. Don't be afraid to use unusual fabrics; I used cotton, knit, upholstery, velvet and denim to name a few. 

I decided not to get too crazy about this project. Instead of matching each fabric to a particular state, I just grabbed as I went. I tried to make sure the states didn't clash, but I didn't do much more than that.

Per Kate's instructions, I pulled a map of the US from this website, copied it into Microsoft Paint and printed it in poster size. Then I just taped the pieces together to re-form the map.


Warning: the map is good, but it is a bit pixelated on the East Coast. Those states are so small anyway that it gets hard to tell where the state lines are. The best thing to do is have another map handy to compare state shapes.

Now the fun part starts...making the states! I started with California and worked my way east. The western states are so much bigger and nicer than the east. You'll start to wish the US stopped at the Mississippi halfway through the project, but keep going. It's worth it!

To make a state, first cut out the paper state from the large map. Trace that shape onto a piece of fabric and cut it out. Here's where I differed from Kate's tutorial. I knew that I didn't want to sew each state, so I used the red Heat n Bond. This stuff is amazing! It basically creates fabric stickers. I traced my state onto the Heat n Bond and followed the directions. For more difficult fabrics (like knit or velvet), I ironed the Heat n Bond first then traced the state on backwards. I made all the states first before moving on to the next phase of the project.


The original map did not include the Great Lakes, but I had a fun blue velvet fabric that I wanted to use. I'm glad I did.

Tracing the Great lakes onto Heat n Bond

Tracing and cutting the states took a lot of time. However, once I did a few, I got into a rhythm. I found it easiest to do it assembly-line style: cut five states from the paper map; trace each of those states onto fabric; cut each fabric state; then attach the Heat n Bond. Make sure you label each paper state. It helps when you're looking at a few states and can't remember which is which (I'm looking at you Dakotas!)

I lined the states up as I went along to make sure they were fitting well together. 

Once I had all my states cut out and Heat n Bonded, I got out a large piece of muslin. Working with only a couple states at a time, I peeled the back of the sticker and attached it to the fabric. 

It wasn't sticky at all until I ironed it, so it allowed me the freedom to move the pieces around for the best fit. The beauty of this method, aside from not having to sew, is that you can fudge the fit a little by overlapping the fabrics if needed. I had to add a tiny sliver to Maryland to fill a gap, but you can't really tell. Can you?

I still need to sort out a frame/canvas for it. I had one in mind, but this map is just a smidge too big. So if you've got any ideas, I'm all ears.

I am so happy I finally got off my tush and finished this project. Can't you just picture it in the future nursery? Now my kid can be just as nerdy as her parents :)

Be sure to check out the other Pinterest Challenge projects: