Wednesday, 30 May 2012

My Mom's Mother's Day Surprise

Charlie and I arrived in Seattle/Mount Vernon just a few days after Mother's Day.  My sister and I did a lot of scheming and planning behind her back so that our visit would be a complete surprise.  Amazingly, neither one of us slipped up and mentioned our visit and mom was (as you can tell by her scream) completely surprised!

We decided that Annie would invite her out to a slightly belated Mother's Day lunch at one of her favourite restaurants, The Olive Garden.  Annie and I arrived early and picked out a booth that could accommodate an extra chair and high chair after the surprise.  The staff was extremely accommodating and eager to help.  They set Charlie and me up in a banquet room that was hidden from the rest of the restaurant.  They brought Charlie juice and grapes and colouring books to keep her quiet and busy while we waited for mom and dad to show up.  I was surprised how nervous/excited I was for the big moment!

Charlie was clearly oblivious to what was going on!

Once they arrived, Annie gave mom a card and to open.  Inside was a drawing Charlie made along with "surprise!" written over it.  We gave mom just a few seconds of confusion before Charlie and I came to their table.  Kate was kind enough to catch the surprise on my iPhone!

When I called my mom on Mother's Day, I told her that I sent a gift and that it was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.  In the video, right after she saw us, she immediately starting saying that she dreamt that I was her gift!  How crazy is that?!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Visiting the Peterka's on their Urban Farm

welcome sign outside their door

My brother and his family live in Shoreline, WA (just north of Seattle) on their urban farm.  They have all kinds of beautiful crops, two beehives and even chickens!

(Forgive my crappy photos, I didn't bring the big fancy camera, so these are just iPhone photos!)


busy bees

Charlie and I had a fantastic time listening to a mini concert, eating fresh eggs and veggies from their yard and catching up on life.

home grown and home cooked

I heard all about their busy schedule of homeschooling activities and socialising and they asked me all about living in London.  Unfortunately we didn't get to see Meghan, but we did get to hear a bit about what she's up to these days as well.

of course Charlie convinced them to read her some books

Quote of the day:

"People say the problem with homeschooling is the socialisation and I say, 'Yeah!  I know!  We've got to stop doing so much of it!'"  -Brian

group photo (check out my brother's epic beard)


My niece and nephew, Devon and Zeth, are both bright and multitalented.  Here is a snippet of a song they sang for us during our visit:

This last video is of Charlie meeting one of the chickens.  She got such a kick out of them! The video ends with a shot of the busy beehive:

Monday, 21 May 2012

More Farm Photos

Kate got some pictures of our farm dance party on her camera:

we came to get down

Ms. Thang skipped her nap, but still managed to have a good time

Oh my goodness did this child have a good time dancing!!

the cake Kate made = the cake Perrin won at the cake walk

I'll end with the most amazing shot.  I realize it looks like I'm about to slam Perrin into the ground, but I swear I was being careful! 


Sunday, 20 May 2012


While Bethie and Charlotte enjoy friends and family in Seattle, I am having a holiday of my own, of sorts.  What I'm really doing is loads of work, but I am doing it in China, so maybe that's a holiday?  As I have no photographic evidence that I am actually doing any work, let's say it's a holiday.

 It certainly felt like a holiday to begin with.  I lucked into a complimentary upgrade to first, which made a 10-hour flight, well, fly by.
I made a very brief stop at an event at the UK embassy, which no one really seeemed to be enjoying.  My first meal in China: fish and chips, washed down with a glass of Pimm's. 
 We went to a great restaurant on our first full day here.  Here's one dish, which came with a bust of Chairman Mao sculpted out of vegetable.  They also had a dish named, "Jade Rabbits Making Love in the Rain", which I didn't try. 
 Here's me, eating snake at a night market.  Not recommended.  It's like the toughest piece of calamari you've ever had.  I ate some other things that were good there, and I would highly recommend going:  various steamed buns and some fried dessert things.  Coconut water, too.
 Here are some things I didn't eat.  They also had scorpions on offer, which were very fresh.  By that I mean that they were still moving after having been skewered.  Aside from the oddities, I'm loving the food here.  Chinese food for breakfast?  Yes, please!  Well, I suppose even the full English is "Chinese" here, but you know what I mean.
 This is at the Temple of Heaven, which is a massive set of gardens with old religious sites.  I would like to go again, but I would hire a tour guide if I did.
 Rose garden at the Temple of Heaven.
 This is a view of the Forbidden City.  We had a tour guide for this (who was named Vanilla), which really made it very interesting.  Really an amazing place with amazing history.  Beijing's air quality seems to be very poor.

Finally, here's me, in Tian'anmen Square.  That's Mao in the background.

Work's good, and it's interesting to be in a new place.  I miss Bethie and Charlotte desperately, though, and travelling just isn't the same without having them here to share it with.  Off to Shanghai on Tuesday night, and back to London on Saturday.

In Seattle with Perrin and "Auntie" Katie

Charlie and I arrived in Seattle yesterday to spend some quality time with "Auntie" Katie and my goddaughter, Perrin.  First on our list of things to do was hit Whole Foods where the girls got to ride in a pink car/grocery cart.  They LOVED it!

Today we went to Vashon Island where Perrin's school has a farm.  We got to ride a ferry to get there:

They were having a big shindig to celebrate the end of the year.  We ate loads of food, did lots of running around and even got a cake from the cake walk!  (Perrin chose the cake that we brought.  Shh, don't tell!)

Tomorrow is another big day!  One of Perrin's friends is having a birthday party in the afternoon and then Charlie and I will head to St. James to hear the Women's Schola sing Mass.  We'll also get to visit with friends while we're there. 

We have gotten to FaceTime (like Skype, but through our iPhones) with Jason who is living it up in China.  He has eaten snake and other interesting delicacies and is spending today (Sunday) visiting some famous attractions around Beijing before the big work week ahead.  We sure do miss him!!

Friday, 18 May 2012

A Great Morning

Cheerios, Pooh Bear and a Pooh video make for a great last morning in The Vern! 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


We've been a bit MIA because while Jason gets ready for a trip to China, Charlotte and I were flying to Washigton state to surprise my mom for (a slightly belated) Mother's Day! We'll also spend some time in Seattle while we're here. The trip over was rough at times, but really not bad overall. This amazing little toddler strap allowed Charlie to sit in her own seat on the first flight! It was fantastic! (Thanks, Mary!!)

The second leg of the journey was rough, but we had lots of super nice people sitting around us. In fact, someone approached me after we got off the plane to say that the wonderful woman who played with Charlie and helped calm her down was the "Super Librarian" Nancy Pearl from NPR!

Since I forgot my laptop, posting won't be as easy (I'm posting from my phone at the moment!) but I'll probably get a few more posts up before we get back home. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Good Morning Sunshine!

They say you should never wake a sleeping baby, but every now and then it has to be done.  A few weeks ago I had to wake Charlie up from a nap and thought I would use the opportunity to snap some pictures of her sweet, sleepy face as she woke.  

It made me think of this video that I took shortly after we moved to London.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Cloth Diapering

I was chatting with a pregnant friend (of this beautiful children's blog/online boutique) the other day about cloth diapers.  She is pregnant with baby number four (!) and was asking what our experience has been with them.  I was surprised to realise that we had never written about them on the blog, so here goes:

All the people I knew who cloth diapered used the old school ones that you fold and put plastic pants over.  I knew there must be a better option, and it turns out that there are loads of better options!  After doing a bit of research online, we decided to go with the Bum Genius 4.0 One-Size Stay Dry Diapers with a hook and loop closure.  We decided to go with the hook and loop as opposed to the snaps because I read that you could start using them earlier and that they allowed for a more tailored fit.  We were so excited once her belly button crust fell off so that we could start using them!  They were a bit bulky, but she didn't seem to mind.  Here she is wearing her first ever cloth dipe:

The diapers expand (by way of snaps) as your child grows and the inserts also expand.  There were many brands that required you to buy different sizes, so the one-size-fits-all Bum Genius diapers seemed more practical and less expensive.  

We started Charlie in these when she was around seven pounds and they worked brilliantly!

Speaking of money, we spent somewhere around $400 on our cloth diapers (although many of them were gifted to us).  Though the initial investment seems steep, I imagine that we will save thousands of dollars/pounds over the course of Charlie's pre-potty training years.  

We keep our diapers folded and in a basket on the changing table.

We also decided to go with cloth wipes.  If I had had more time I would have made my own, but instead we ended up buying these.  I had to cut the tags off when they arrived (they were huge!) but other than that, they've worked perfectly!  Unlike disposable wipes, these are thick and durable.  I can use one side, fold it over, use the folded side and then fold it again.  Even a big nasty poo can be contained with one or two wipes!  

We have a squirt bottle full of a about a tablespoon or two of liquid baby soap (whatever we happen to be using for her baths) mixed with water that we spray on the wipes right before we use them.  I've heard of people soaking cloth wipes in soapy water and storing them like disposable wipes, but that seemed a bit fussy.  The spray as you go system works well for us.  We also keep a small spray bottle and stash of cloth wipes in her diaper bag.  Using cloth wipes is really no extra work when you're already cloth diapering;  I highly recommend them!

We store dirty diapers in wet bags that we hang on the door knob of her room.  We have two so that one is always clean and dry and ready to go when one is in the wash.  We also have a small wet bag that we keep in her diaper bag for when we're out and about.  They have wet bags with all sorts of cute designs, but we decided to go with these simple ones.  

As for the poo issue . . . we've gone a little old school in that department.  Bum Genius sells a fancy diaper sprayer that you attach to your toilet to spray down poopy diapers, but we just shake it all into the pot and flush 'er down.  Because we simply flush the nasties away, we don't have the poopy nursery smell that you get from shoving poo into big plastic contraptions such as the Diaper Genie.  The only time our nursery smells of poo is when we've used a disposable diaper!  

Speaking of disposable diapers, we've recently started using them overnight.  They are able to handle ten plus hours of pee with more grace than our cloth diapers.  As much as we absolutely hate using disposable diapers (and the thought of my daughter's urine and fecal matter rotting away in plastic for hundreds of years hurts my environmentally friendly heart!) we also don't like waking up to an unhappy, wet baby.  We buy eco-friendly disposables, but even then, I still feel terrible about it.  Disposable diapers are one of the largest contributions to landfills and there is just no way around that!  I've decided to look into hemp inserts for overnight.  A cloth diapering friend of mine used them on her twins overnight and was quite happy with them.  

Overall, we have been really happy with our cloth diapers, but I'd probably give them a B.  If/when we have baby number two, we will likely upgrade to these organic Elemental One-size All-In-One diapers.  They are also Bum Genius brand, but they will fix the handful of problems we've had with our current diapers:  they're a bit leaky and the velcro has started to wear out.  My sister-in-law (who is a wizard on the sewing machine) helped us replace the tabs, but they are still not as grippy as they were when we first got them.  Apparently the snaps are way more durable.  As for the leakiness, the all-in-one diapers have a better design that address that problem.  It is a shame that we didn't get these in the first place because our current batch has really held up beautifully!  They could certainly make it through a second child, but I've now got my heart set on an upgrade!  

Cloth diapering wasn't a particularly difficult decision for us to make, but the idea of it certainly felt intimidating before we started.  Once we were doing it, however, we didn't think twice about it.  Yes, we have to do more laundry, but you do laundry all the time with kids anyway!  

Please feel free to ask me any questions and I'm happy to answer them.  I am a huge cloth diaper advocate and would love to convert more families to using them!

PS:  Though we've made an effort to adopt British spelling and terms, I just can't switch from saying diapers to nappies.  A "nappy" makes me think of Don Imus and I simply don't want to conjure his image multiple times a day.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Cinco de Mayo (or Cute Pics of Charlie and Emily)

Jason and I decided to host a Cinco de Mayo party this weekend.  Since many of our friends were out of town (it is a three day weekend here!) we ended up with only one other couple, but it was definitely a case of quality over quantity.  ;)

My friend Mary, her husband Rob and Charlie's best bud, Emily Bemily (or as Charlie calls her, "Emma") joined us for a casual dinner.  Jason didn't end up making his famous tortillas, but opted for enchiladas instead.  Mary and Rob brought over Corona (a specialty beer in these parts . . . ) and we noshed on some super yummy guacamole.  Despite good food and good company, the highlight was our two little ladies.  Though there was a bit of fighting over toys there was also quite a bit of adorableness.  Let's start with a portrait of Charlie in her Mexican Fiesta top:

Charlie plays with Rob (her new favourite person in the world) while Emily laughs in the background:

Emily is six months older than Charlie and is able to speak much more than Charlie does.  While they were eating at their little person table, Charlie kept getting up to play.  Emily, quite distressed, would tell her, "Sit, Char.  Eat, Char."  In the photo below, she's holding out Charlotte's spoon to her asking her to come back and eat.  Once she finally did, Emily fed her some ice cream.  The cuteness was hardly bearable!

Later that evening the girls took a bath together.  Charlie was so pumped up from all the ice cream Emily made her eat that she basically laughed the entire time.  She kept trying to crawl over poor Emily and thought it was just about the funniest thing ever:

 Even when she wasn't crawling over her, she wouldn't entirely leave her alone:

After bath time, the girls wanted to read some books.  Charlie went to bed absolutely exhausted and I'm sure Emily did, too!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Crystal Palace Park Zoo

While we were out hanging with the dinosaurs the other day, we wandered by the Crystal Palace Park Zoo.  It is quite small, but definitely someplace I can see us going back to time and time again.  Especially because they have baby lambs!   

Oh!  The cuteness!  

And ponies!!


The goats were also nice:


The zoo appears to be open every day except for Wednesdays, so I think Charlie and I may head there again sometime soon!  Although, it was hard to tell exactly what she thought of the place, given that her expression was this nearly the entire time:

What a profile!

On a side note, the farm is a part of Capel Manor College which seems to specialise in horticulture.  They had lots of beautiful gardens for us to admire:

They had some interesting species.  What the heck are these?:

I have to say that the parks in London are all so wonderful, but I think the Crystal Palace Park may rival even the best of the best in terms of entertainment for children.  Between the dinosaurs, zoo, great play area, cafe, open fields for running and a fantastic One O'clock Club (an inside play-area for little kids full of toys, books, etc.), I'm surprised we aren't there every day!
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