Thursday, October 4, 2018

Interior Inspiration: The Baby Shelfie

As the end to our kitchen renovations draws tantalizingly near, I've shifted my focus to the nursery, where I'm hoping to move our little one imminently (though every night of sleeping next to him in his co-sleeping crib, I think to myself, 'Just one more night!').

It's pretty blank, save for a changing table, a single sofa bed, a rug, and a toy box, but we've ordered his "big boy cot" (a present from Granny, my mother-in-law) and I'm hoping to replace the framed poster on the wall where his cot will go (so not baby-friendly!) with wallpaper and some kind of soft wall-hanging (I've been trawling Etsy, but if you have any links, send them my way!).

So, I was super excited to get this bookshelf from Great Little Trading Company, which I'd pined after for quite a while. 

I built it myself (which basically involved putting a few screws in and using an Allen key once) and basically felt like Rosie the Riveter (though I waited for John to get home and mount it on the wall because I don't trust myself with a drill).

Annoyingly, one of the rods arrived warped, but I've rotated it in such a way that it doesn't show too much (I don't think). I wrote to Great Little Trading Company and asked for a replacement, but since they didn't have spares, they gave me the option of picking out the part I needed from a new set (and then returning that set to them - yawn, who has time for that?!) or opting for a £10 gift card ... I took the easy option, as I can see myself buying something else from them down the line (I love their toy boxes - we have a little pull along one).

Which leads me to the question ... what was your favorite book as a child? We've been reading 'Goodnight Moon' every single night (which my mom and dad read to me when I was small) ... and I keep skipping the same page every single night ('Goodnight nobody, goodnight mush.').

Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Work in Progress

Week 3 of not having a kitchen.

First world problems - I know.

My dream fridge is in place (and is dispensing water and ice with a merry twinkle) and I've already (impatiently) stocked the pantry with spices, baby food pouches, Cadbury fingers, mango chutney and more ...

... but ...

... it's this view that's been making me smile every time I walk through the front door: by replacing the window that was previously there with this a single-leaf steel-framed door, we're now greeted by this glimpse into our garden instead of a sad-looking washing machine and sink.

And, my neighbor has given me a set of keys so I can use his kitchen whenever I need to ... we've been cooking and eating together, which has been lovely (he holds and entertains the baby while I eat!). I know. What did I do to deserve such amazing neighbors (they also nearly performed a citizen's arrest on John's brother who came to check on the house for us while we were away, as they thought he was breaking in - ha!)?

In any case, this work in progress is teaching me lessons in both patience and gratitude. Patience ... well, that's self-explanatory. But gratitude for the things we have and can hold and can press a button to operate and can open and shut ... but gratitude, also, for the things we can't immediately see: friendships, kind neighbors, beautiful views, and this life. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The End of Summer

It was the kind of end to summer that felt unreal.

The kind where we sat out on the deck and ate watermelon chunks so cold and sweet, they hurt my teeth. The kind where crickets began to sing as the sun descended into the horizon, like an orchestra reacting to dipped lights in the theater.

It was the kind of end that saw us driving miles to Anacortes, stopping at Five Guys for milkshakes and burgers along the way. We packed our car onto a ferry to Friday Harbor; drivers turning their side-mirrors in before meandering up the metal stairs in search of stale pretzels and views of the Puget Sound. Some just slept.

California's wildfires brought a haze to the island that made everything grey and muted. Even the sun. I squinted and looked up, but didn't see blue for days. It was the end of the summer, but could it be the end of the world?

Because if it was, we were enjoying the best of the best: orca sightings just a few feet from where we stood; dolphins teasing us with their fins at sunset; seals doggy paddling to shore. Oysters so creamy, they tasted like nuggets of sweet butter; sandwiches that cost a fortune but were worth every penny. Birthday cake ice cream and spot shrimp and seafood Cobb salad with Ranch dressing and excellent table service.

Mornings spent watching the sun rise outside with a coffee in hand and a baby asleep in my lap, both of us wrapped in a blanket. Afternoons spent casting fishing lines into the water over and over again without success and crabs caught instead. Evenings spent marooned in front of the TV watching Jurassic Park and Disney films.

And because it was the kind of end to summer where I looked up one day and saw a baby I'd never met before - one who rolled from his back to front before looking to me for praise and approval - and I saw parents who looked older and a dad who just looked more tired ... because it was that kind of end, my heart seemed to escape its place in my chest and shoot through my throat, because it had nowhere else to go.

It hurt.

A lot.

But it was also exciting, and lovely, and bittersweet.

And it was the kind of end I wouldn't forget.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Six Months

Sometimes, I lift you onto my lap to nurse at night - just 20 minutes after I put you down to bed. In the crook of my arm, I feel that damp patch of sweat at the nape of your neck and your hot little head as it nudges forward and back.

I stare at your crazy long lashes still wet with tears, sticking together to form a neat little scalloped pattern.

With my other hand, I read texts on my phone from the other NCT moms - messages exchanged at a furious pace as we all work (seemingly!) in unison to get "you" - that's you, babies - to bed.

Distracted, I don't realize that you've finished feeding, and are now just using me as a human pacifier. I pull you off and gently put you back down in your cot, but you want to hold my hand. I slowly pull it away and replace it with the knotted ends of a soft fleece comforter in the shape of an elephant.

A finger replaced by a trunk.

Downstairs, your father not-so-gently reminds me that my maternity leave is halfway through and I "still" haven't obtained my UK driving licence. I roll my eyes and walk to the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water.

But something begins to knot in my chest and it has nothing to do with driving; it's the realization that six months have passed and I can't remember a time when you didn't look like you do now and I want to hold your hand forever and I can't and I want to co-sleep with you always but you'll be in your own room soon.

It's that I still remember the midwives shouting at me to push and the consultant obstetrician shaking her head and me signing a piece of paper in the operating room and whispering that I was allergic to Cyclizine to the anesthesiologist because I was too tired to raise my head and then the pulling and pushing and you weren't breathing.

So, I watch you breathe. Every single night.





I watch the little fleece elephant on your tummy go up and down.


Then, down.

You grab my fingers on one hand and pull them towards your chest.





Like you're rowing a boat to Sleepy Town.

And just like that, six months fly by and I've flown by the seat of my pants and every time I look into your laughing eyes, it's like they're telling me to keep up.

I'm trying. (But sometimes, I don't want to. I just want to love you.)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Interior Inspiration: Nursery Decor

I haven't put much thought into decorating or furnishing the "nursery" (I use " " because our baby is still sleeping in our room, as per NHS guidelines). While other parents were busy painting their nurseries in Farrow & Ball's "Borrowed Light" and hammering floating shelves into the walls to display copies of "Where the Wild Things Are", I was too busy fretting about whether my baby would make it to term or not ... so, the nursery remained very much our "laundry" room where we hung clothes to dry (and still do) until a few weeks - and even months - after our baby was born.

Then, we accommodated a chest of drawers that doubled up as a changing table ... and that was it. But slowly, over the past few months, we've added a few things to make it a little more nursery-like, in preparation for the day he finally moves into the room.

Night feed after night feed, I found myself going down the rabbit hole of Instagram accounts - bookmarking Scandi-inspired nursery decor and pastel-coloured cushions sold at eye-watering prices. On one of my early morning scroll-pasts, I stumbled on the beautiful prints from Munks + Me. The whimsical and imaginative (but not too "cutesy") prints caught my eye, and owner Kris kindly sent me three prints to add to our nursery wall (I especially love the rainbow and the lion!).

Another welcome addition to the nursery was this gorgeous "Keur" changing basket from La Basketry, which is available in turquoise and yellow. Handwoven in Senegal by a group of female artisans, the beautiful basket comes with a comfy mattress (which my little boy helpfully had an accident on not too long ago ...!) and is made of two local materials: a local Senegalese grass and recycled plastic strips. It adds real warmth to our nursery and my little one loves wriggling in it while staring at the antique map we bought at a flea market in Bordeaux whenever I change him.

Nookoo is a local business that sells homeware and children's clothes and accessories - I love their products. The mini cloud light sits on our changing table/chest of drawers and is helpful for evening changes, but we'll also use it as a nightlight when the baby moves into his own room.

We also have this Flensted mobile from Nookoo - have you seen these beautiful paper mobiles? We bought one for my niece when she was born. The giraffes are a nod to John's trip to Kenya last year - a place we hope to visit with our baby one day (maybe when he's a bit older!).

And finally, I'm wild about this Great Little Trading Company toy box I bought in their sale a few months ago. I use it to tidy his toys away at the end of the day, but it's so well-made and sturdy - it also looks great.

Although I can't imagine our little one moving into his own room right now, I know the day will come very soon ... the saying, "They grow up so fast!" is cliched, but oh-so-true. Sigh.

Do you have any favorite destinations for nursery decor? Let me know!

Posters courtesy of Munks + Me. Changing basket courtesy of La Basketry. Light and mobile courtesy of Nookoo. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

6 Things You Can Do For a Nursing Mama

I have been nursing for 5 months now and it's damn hard.

There's a scene in the aptly named "The Letdown" (available on Netflix) that made me laugh/cry: Audrey, a new mom, joins a new-parent-support group and struggles to get her baby to latch on at the first meeting ... various people, including the group leader, chime in with (read: yell)  their unsolicited advice until she explodes, packs up her bag, and walks out of the meeting (while accidentally leaving her baby behind - classic).

That's basically what it's like. It is not like those Botticelli-esque paintings where a cherubic child (or actual cherub, even) gazes adoringly into his mother's eyes while suckling at her breast (I can't believe I just wrote the words "suckling" and "breast" on here - now twice - has this really become that kind of blog?) or even like the mom you see in a coffee shop wearing a linen ring sling who just easily hefts her baby to her boob discreetly and the baby, satisfied, pops right off and gurgles lovely cooing noises.


It's tongue tie and "how's the latch?" and hiccups (I'm talking literal and figurative here) and milk stains and vomit and more. So much more.

Anyway, my friend and I were talking about how frustrating it is to feed a newborn and, more specifically, how frustrating it is when our partners casually walk into the room and go, "Oh, you're feeding. I'll go watch TV" or "Is he feeding? Okay, cool. Bye."

Nah. Not "Cool, bye." More like, "Oh, you're feeding? What can I get you? Water? Cake? A muslin?"

Here are 6 things you can do for a nursing mama - especially in those early days of nursing (cluster feeding, anyone?):

Make her some damn food. She's hungry. I promise you - she's freaking ravenous. A bagel, a slice of pizza (or a whole pizza) - whatever. Just make her some damn food.

Make sure there's some cold and delicious water within easy reach. Hand it to her every time you see her about to feed.

Do the laundry! Yes! Wash the mom's and baby's clothes! Because feeding is exhausting and those are chores that definitely need to be done!

Hand her a muslin. Because burps = puke. Or better yet ...

Offer to take the baby away to be burped once he's fed. My mom did this for me and it was ah-mazing. I melted into a puddle on the sofa or else ate the cold bagel I unsuccessfully tried to eat over the baby's head while I was feeding him.

If the mom is expressing, wash and sterilize any bottles, pump attachments, pacifiers, etc. Self-explanatory, really.

Okay. Rant over. I just had to get that off my chest! (Pun intended.)

(Also: I put that Organic Zoo sweatshirt pictured above on my baby for the first time a few weeks ago and he immediately puked on it.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

An Ode to French Butter (And Other Consumable Souvenirs)

We recently returned from a trip to France and as soon as we got home, I eagerly unzipped our suitcase and unwrapped my most valuable souvenir: a bar of Le Beurre Normand butter, still solid and intact despite not making it into my baby bottle cool bag (I realized it probably wouldn't have passed the liquid restriction, and I needed to bring the cool bag with me on the plane). Nothing fancy - I'd only bought it at Casino (the French supermarket, not to be confused with gambling on the French Riveria) - but still, so, so good.

Butter in France tastes different: creamier, richer, and all that more ... milky. I love it. I ate it every day while I was there, generously slathering it on pieces of crusty baguette we'd bought from the local boulangerie (John's eyes widened at every dollop I pasted on there, but I took no notice). I'm pretty sure I polished off a 250 gram bar in about 3 days, which can't be healthy, but, when in France ... *shrugs* I mean, don't get me started on the fresh vegetables ... I'd bring back a suitcase full of the produce aisle, if I could. Those tomatoes! Le sigh.

This morning, I crept downstairs while the baby was still sleeping and toasted two slices of brioche, before scraping a sliver of my precious beurre Normand onto each, and watching with quiet delight as they melted.

I've been really into buying consumables as souvenirs lately - they taste great, and don't take up any room once, well, consumed (which must be a relief to John, as I am constantly nagged about my "clutter" in the house - but that's for another blog post). Olive oil pressed on site at the beautiful masseria we stayed at a few years ago in Sicily is a standout favorite, as is the orange blossom honey John's dad brought back from Spain, which is nearly finished (I love spreading a thin layer on hot buttered toast).

What are some consumable souvenirs you've brought back from your travels? I'd love to know!
© angloyankophile

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