Monday, September 30, 2013

A Little Slice of America

I think of myself as a pretty worldly person. My favorite food is sushi; I've traveled to more than forty countries; I speak a (very) little of several languages. But the truth is, I'm an American. There are many, many benefits of living in England, yet occasionally I find myself missing home. I mean, how hard is it to get a milkshake for crying out loud?!

I've finally found my little slice of home right here in the Dales. Thanks to a couple of friends who recommended checking out the Yorkshire Dale Ice Cream Farm, this weekend I enjoyed a real American milkshake, grilled cheese and short stack of pancakes. Perhaps I went a little overboard :)

Billy-Bob's  is exactly what you'd expect from an American diner--good food, good music, and good decor. It is extremely kid friendly and has a fantastic playground. I was tempted to jump in the huge hay stack obstacle course.

It's the little things that make me happy.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dear Zahara: 3 Months

Dear Zahara,

Happy three-month birthday! Many people told me how quickly this time would pass, but I really didn't understand what they meant until now. In many ways, you are a totally different baby than you were a couple of months ago.

Life has definitely gotten easier this month. Thank you for that! The main difference is that you are now sleeping well. You go to sleep around 9:45 pm and you usually stay asleep until around 5:30 or 6:00. Then you'll go back to sleep until around 8:00. We all are so much happier with more sleep.

You've hit a lot of new developmental milestones this month. Firstly, you found your other hand. Now you spend a lot of time trying to put both fists in your mouth at the same time, and steepling your hands like some tiny evil villain.

The cutest thing about you this month is that you've found your voice. You are constantly cooing and practicing talking to mummy and daddy. No real words yet, but combined with your giant gummy smile, you are now an irresistible force of cuteness.

You are also getting really good at holding up your head. You especially love when daddy or I hold you so you can use your muscles to look out the window. You love watching the cars go by.

You've become much more aware this month. You easily recognize mine and daddy's voices and will turn your head to find us. I love that so much. Though you're still sleeping in our room, we've been spending more time in your nursery. You love looking at all the bright colors and shapes in your mobile and gallery wall. It makes me so happy to see you grinning and cooing.

We've become quite active this month, with an activity scheduled almost every day. On Mondays we do Pushy Mothers in the park. That is still really fun and good for mummy. On Tuesdays we do Baby Sensory, where we learn sign language; massage; and other fun activities. Wednesdays and Fridays are our "free days" when we often catch up with friends and try and do chores around the house. Thursdays we have our swim class. You really are starting to love this. Last class you worked so hard that you fell asleep in the pool at the end! It was absolutely adorable.

Though you are getting more smiley and giggly by the minute, you also went through a pretty significant mental and physical growth spurt last week. It was not fun for anyone. You were only happy in mummy or daddy's arms. You also caught your first cold, which meant a few very miserable days for everyone. Happily, you're on the mend and back to your smiley self.

Happy birthday baby! Daddy and I love you very much!

Monday, September 23, 2013

She Was A Day Tripper

You may not know this about me, but I'm a huge Beatles fan. It was the music I grew up listening to, and the music I still love today. I remember laying outside by the pool while "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" blasted over the speaker. I remember sitting in the airport by myself waiting for my flight to visit my grandparents and listening to the Help album. I remember pouring over the cover notes of the newly released anthology. When I got to college and found out that I could take "History of the Beatles" as one of my core credits, I couldn't sign up fast enough. And, when the going got tough during the long hours of labor, John, Paul, George and Ringo were there through it all. So why did it take me two years to finally make the two-hour trip down to Liverpool, where the Beatles got their start? I have no idea. But I'm glad I can finally check it off my list.

I really enjoyed Liverpool, but to be honest, I was a little disappointed with the Beatles aspect of the city. We visited the major highlights: the Cavern Club; Penny Lane; Strawberry Field; and the Beatles museum. I really enjoyed the museum, but the rest of the sights were pretty unimpressive. The museum was pricey, but very well done. I loved the interactivity of the exhibits and how detailed the designs were.

Zahara and I in the "Cavern Club"
Super fan
On the Beatles' first flight to America 

The Cavern Club, the legendary venue where the Beatles made a name for themselves, is alive and well. In addition to hosting tribute bands and up-and-comers, it also provides Beatles tours. We just popped in for a quick photo op.

Penny Lane and Strawberry Field were the most disappointing. Penny Lane has no resemblance to the song, other than it is still a roundabout. None of the shops listed in the song are still there, nor is there any signage or acknowledgement of its history. Strawberry Field doesn't even exist anymore. The only thing left standing is a yellow and red fence filled with graffiti. 

Liverpool as a city is pretty nice though. I enjoyed walking along Albert dock and the pier. I also loved the pedestrian-friendly city center. We found a great tea shop called Leaf that I would highly recommend. If I lived closer I could definitely see myself hanging out here more often. It reminded me a lot of an old hangout in Washington, DC called Tryst--big comfy couches, lots of tea choices and yummy cakes.

We stayed just one night, and I think that was the right amount of time. I didn't feel rushed to see anything but I didn't feel like I had too much time either. Of course with Zoey we weren't doing too many museums or historical sights, so I'm sure you could spend a lot more time there if you weren't with a two-month-old. 

So that's where we've been lately. What about you? Have you been anywhere fun recently?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Very Colorful Nursery

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of bright colors. My wedding invitations were pink and orange and the tables were decorated with fresh bell peppers, limes and strawberries. My college roommate even knitted me a rainbow blanket once.* When it came time to decorate a nursery for Zahara, I knew my "theme" would be colors. Lots and lots of colors. I am completely enamored with the way it turned out. Zoey's not sleeping in here yet, but we love coming in here to get dressed and read books in the morning.

Let's take a little tour, shall we? First up is the gallery wall. My mom and I worked on this when she came to town in August. Everything on the wall has special meaning, and almost everything is DIY'd.

  1. Picture of a manhole cover in Zahara, Spain. It was the only memento we could get since we were completely rained out. 
  2. Cardboard Z. This was so easy to make. I'll show you how on an upcoming post.
  3. Frames that my friend Karen made for our meet-the-baby shower.
  4. My favorite maternity picture, taken by my friend Sarah.
  5. Fun fabric owl that my mom and I made.
  6. Duct tape Z, by my best friend Katie.
  7. Beatrix Potter Z. This is especially cool since Beatrix Potter wrote her famous tales in Northern England.
  8. Cork from celebratory champagne the morning after Z was born.
  9. Pictures that Deanna took of a newborn Zahara. My mom and I updated the frame with fabric.
  10. Handmade wooden sign from Whitby, England.
  11. The hat Zoey wore home from the hospital. 

To the left of the gallery wall I finally found the perfect spot for my scrap fabric map.

Zoey can lay in her crib and stare at the map, the gallery wall and a homemade mobile. I found this fun pink ball at a thrift shop for only a couple of bucks. Then I used dental floss to hang my mobile below it. This was a fun, easy and cheap project. I'll blog about it soon(ish).

I created a little reading corner with a rocking chair, a couple of IKEA spice racks, and a wire bathroom caddy-turned bookshelf.

I picked up these awesome colored lights in France last year. I am completely obsessed with them.

Hebrew blocks spell out Zahara

Rounding out the room we have her dresser/changing table with the fun banner from her meet-the-baby party.

Since the walls are papered and we're renting the house, we couldn't paint. I think we managed to infuse fun, bright colors into the room anyway. This room makes me so happy. I hope that Zahara enjoys it as much as I do!

*Funny story about the rainbow blanket. Katie had just taken up knitting and was excited to make me a birthday present. Knowing my love for all-things colorful, Katie decided to make me a rainbow. Things were looking great after the red, orange and yellow. When she got to the green, that's when she realized that she inadvertently made me a gay pride flag. Figuring she might as well go all-in, Katie finished the blanket and added rainbow tassels around the edge. I mean, why not?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Zahara's First Swimming Lesson

Dan and I both grew up with swimming pools in our back yards. In Texas, where it's pool weather most of the year, I spent countless hours splishing and splashing away. My sister and I played all sorts of pool games like Marco Polo and ring toss. I used to put the brightly-colored rings around my ankles and pretend I was a mermaid. Tell me I'm not the only weirdo who did that, right?

Though we don't have a swimming pool of our own here in England or back in Marlyand, it is really important for both Dan and me that Zoey is comfortable around water. That's why, at two-months old, we enrolled Zoey in her first swim lessons!

The classes are a half-hour long and are specifically designed for infants. We have ten classes this term. Normally they'll be on Thursday afternoons, but since we couldn't make the first class our makeup class was on a Sunday. That was great because it meant Dan could come.

Initially we both got in the water, but Dan asked if I would let him have this lesson since I get all the other ones. Isn't that sweet? I love how hands-on he is.

During the class, Dan held Zoey in the "face-to-face" position, in which he holds her at arms length and says "kick, kick, kick." Eventually she'll associate that movement with kicking and learn to do it on her own. The teacher also dunked each child for the first time. The key is to say the baby's name, then "ready, go." That allows the child, eventually, to prepare for going underwater. At this age there isn't any preparation on their part, of course. Zahara looked pretty stunned when she came out of the water. She was confused and a little scared, I think.

My favorite part was when the babies were all sitting on the ledge of the pool with the parent in the water singing "Five Little Monkeys." You know the song:
Five little monkeys were jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said
No more monkeys jumping on the bed
At the last line, the parents lifted the babies in the air and brought them into the water. Then they brought them back out again and started the next verse. It was really cute.

At first a half-hour classes seemed way too short to accomplish anything, but it was actually almost a little too long. Zoey got cold and hungry half-way through the class. I'm not sure how much she actually enjoyed it. We have our second lesson today. I bought her a wetsuit that will hopefully keep her a little warmer. She loves baths, so I think she'll love swimming too. I'm sure it was just a very confusing lesson for her. I'll let you know how today goes though!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Five Years In And Still Going Strong

This weekend Dan and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary! It's hard to believe that five years have already flown by. It's been a pretty jam-packed half-decade though. We bought a house; lived on two continents; traveled to more than 20 counties; adopted a second cat; and had a baby!

This anniversary was pretty low-key compared to past celebrations. Last year we were in Prague drinking beer and exploring castles. This year we were high-fiving when we got our two-month-old to sleep at 9:00 pm. Then we went to bed. Not exactly the stuff of romance novels, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

We knew this would be a different sort of anniversary and agreed we'd delay our celebrations. We're thinking about a weekend in Paris or Barcelona later in the fall. Dan couldn't help himself though--he's such a romantic at heart. He gave me a gorgeous bouquet of flowers (including some from our garden), and a bottle of my favorite lotion from Israel. Isn't he the best?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sweet Tooth Traveler:Whitby

Hello? Anyone still out there? Sorry it's been so quiet here this past week. Since I last posted I enjoyed a lovely Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), took a quick trip to Liverpool, finished Zoey's nursery, and introduced Zahara to the pool. I have so much to share--once I've edited my 1,000 pictures.

In the meantime, have you been to Whitby, England? If you live in Northern England, I'm sure you have. It's a must-see location for me. Getting there is half the fun, as you drive up the steep cliffs of the Yorkshire Moors. The town itself is so charming, and the abbey ruins are beautiful. But, you know me. My favorite part of Whitby is the cake shop :)

Sweet Tooth Traveler: Whitby, England
Whitby, England is best known for its stunning sea-side views; gorgeous abbey ruins; and links to Braum Stoker’s Dracula. But let me tell you, don’t leave town without sampling the sweets. In particular, I never miss a chance to eat cake at Marie Antoinette’s Patisserie. These sky-high cakes and super fresh scones are worth the trip. Last time I was there I got a slice of chocolate brownie cheesecake and a slice of banoffee. Delicious! The cafe is tiny, but charming. With only a few tables downstairs and a few more upstairs, it makes for an intimate tea-time setting.

Click here to read the full post.