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.

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

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

Up.

Then, down.

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

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

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.)
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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.
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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.

No.

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.)
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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!
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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Full Circle


I waved off my parents this morning after a two-week visit and my heart is torn.

It was one of the most surreal moments of my life so far: introducing my son to his grandparents; hearing myself refer to them as "Por Por" and "Gung Gung", having only ever associated those names with my mother's parents.

And as I handed him over to be held, he fixed them with a look so certain that it shook me: pure recognition. As if to say, "What took you so long?"

How did he know?

Over the next two weeks, I watched as they doted on him: my dad humming the University of Oregon fight song ("Go Ducks, go!") as he marched him to sleep, my mom coaxing him to smile and gurgle (which he did, and seemingly only at her encouragement - no one else's) - and I felt sad that we would have to say goodbye so soon.

They babysat while I sneaked off for an hour's blissful postnatal massage; watched him as I attended a hospital appointment in Surrey, my mom texting me to say, "He's fine! Take your time! Window shop if you want, get some retail therapy." I bought a soy hot chocolate at Costa in Waterloo station, watching dizzily as commuters rushed past me - remembering that part of my life that's still in there, somewhere.

I took the tube home and asked my dad - an architect - to sketch our house, as a keepsake.

Our first home.

I passed him on the landing in the mornings as I carried the baby down the stairs and glimpsed him working, intently, in his sketchbook.

After he left, I stared at the drawings and took in the pencil strokes until tears threatened to dampen the pages: each blade of grass in the garden, and a faithful rendering of our Audi A3 parked in front.

And so, I've come full circle: mirroring my parents' trajectory of living abroad, starting a family abroad, and waving goodbye - back and forth, back and forth. A 9 or 10-hour journey (depending on the tail wind) back and forth, across the ocean and another country, transversing time, memories, love, continents. Little toes that seem to grow by the day. Smiles that become increasingly forthcoming. Chubby fists that extend overhead; arms outstretched and wanting.

Waiting.

If I thought that being an expat was hard, being an expat with a kid is much, much harder.
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Monday, May 7, 2018

Travel Link-Up: How The &*%$ Do I Travel With A Baby?


This month's travel link-up topic is "Travel Challenges" - and it couldn't be more timely. We're heading to a friend's wedding in Antibes later this month and I just ... I mean ... how the &*%$ do I travel with a baby?

"It's the best time to travel!" they say. "All they [babies] do is sleep!" they say. (Mine doesn't - at least, not during the day, which is better than not sleeping at night, I suppose!)

I thought I had enough worries travelling on my own, but now I have things to think about like diapers, bottles, strollers, pacifiers and ... how do I get him to the airport in a cab (answer: we'll book a cab with a car seat). Through security (dreading this in particular)? On the plane (answer: probably in a wearable carrier)? I've been told to nurse him during takeoff and landing to help his little ears adjust to cabin pressure, but I can totally picture myself fumbling and him crying and both of us being a mess together on the plane!

In short ... HELP!

But on a lighter note, I'm looking forward to staying in the very Instagrammable Airbnb John found in Cannes (a pool! Pretty tiles!) and seeing my friend get married in the beautiful French countryside.

And I'm glad the flight to Nice will be short as it'll be "practice" for our longer flights to the US and Hong Kong later this year to see relatives, but I'm having serious anxiety - not to mention the fact that he'll have had his second round of vaccinations a few days before, so will probably be a little ratty on the plane.

If you have kids, or have travelled with kids or small babies before, do you have any tips? As I said before, HELP!

This month's Travel Link-Up is hosted by Emma, Angie, Polly and Binny. Head over to their blogs to read more about their travel challenges!
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Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Ultimate Gift Guide For New Parents



(... or for yourself, if you're expecting!)

Figuring out what to buy for new (or expecting) parents can be a challenge: what would be practical and useful, but stylish and fun at the same time? Here are a few of the favorite items for our newborn that I've bought or that we've been given by friends. Each one has been indispensable (or, in many cases, just darn cute) in its own way, and I guarantee it'll be a hit for your new parent friend (or you!).

These XXL muslin cloths can be used for everything - and I mean, everything. I use it to: wipe spit-ups, tuck under our baby's head when he's feeding, provide a bit of coverage when I'm feeding in front of other people, and generally placing it under his head wherever he's lying/sitting to avoid any messy post-feed vomits.

A friend from Australia recommended this and I'm so glad we bought it (in fact, we have two!). Our baby loves it and it allows his hands to be up by his face, rather than down by his side like traditional swaddles. He's happiest and most settled when he's in his Swaddle Up.

This has been a surprisingly useful purchase for us. So much so, that I bought two sets: one for upstairs and another for downstairs. The shark hamper is perfect for tossing dirty muslins and clothes into (which quickly collects!) and we use the storage box for diapers and other changing accessories. 

I really wanted to buy the Sollybaby wrap, but decided to forgo the expensive customs duties and taxes we'd incur if I ordered it from the US. Luckily, Ergo just released its new Aura wrap and our baby settles fantastically well in this. It's comfortable, easy to use, and comes in a variety of stylish colors.

Because who wants to be fussing with snap buttons at 3 a.m. when the baby's just vomited for the second time and needs to be changed? These are pricey, but they have zippers on both ends and - trust me - are like gold for sleep-deprived parents.

I shunned all breastfeeding products but decided to try this (and managed to buy it second-hand) after my little one became too heavy for me to prop up and kept rolling off the pillows I placed under him. This pillow is fantastic for helping the baby latch correctly and gives mom excellent support too.

Our newborn (usually) loves baths and, since he's a little more awake during the day now, I try to give him a little leg and tummy massage using the fragrance-free baby oil and baby balm in this set, which friends sent to us shortly after he was born. 

My manager at work bought this for our baby and it is incredibly soft and cuddly! I adore the shape of this unique teddy.

I use this in the changing bag for diapers, wipes, and extra outfits. It's super affordable and is very useful, especially as the "wet" part is perfect for storing soiled clothing when you're out and about.

 I never thought I'd be into personalised clothes for our baby, but our neighbor gave us this onesie and it is so adorable. It's excellent quality and makes for a very thoughtful gift.

I searched high and low for a baby record book that wasn't too corny or too formal ... and ended up buying one from Mamas and Papas. Their record books have spaces for a family tree, scan photos, and family photos, along with plenty of space to record "firsts" and "favorites". So sweet.

Forget the cute outfits - bibs will outlast the growth spurts babies go through and are very handy for catching spit-ups, drool, and later, food! The White Company makes them in chic patterns and generous sizes. I bought two.


*Products marked with asterisks contain affiliate links - this means I receive a percentage of each sale of the product. So far, I've made a whopping £0.71 from affiliate links, so, you know, it's going really well - I'm thinking of quitting my day job. All joking aside, the products I've mentioned above have either been purchased by me or for me - and they're truly my favorites! xo

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Mothering


There is a photo - amongst hundreds of photos - that I love of me and my son.

It is early morning, and the sun is streaming into the room we sleep in. I am smiling up at the camera, bare-faced; eyes full of contentment. He is sprawled on my chest asleep, a wild mess of chestnut brown hair pushing into my chin and one chubby arm extended upwards past my shoulder, fingers curled into a fist.

Every time I look at that photo of us, I am reminded of the unrescindable bond between us - that of a mother and child. After he was born, I had a vision of us meeting underwater in a vast ocean, seeing each other for the first time - me, reaching out to him and he, swimming steadily towards me. It was very much a sense of, "Ah, there you are." Because I had waited for him all my life.

It is a more romanticised version of how we actually first met, with me having labored for 42 hours and losing four pints of blood and him being abruptly pulled from me with forceps, sustaining significant bruising, given five "rescue breaths" and rushed to special care without us having any skin-to-skin contact. I was in a daze when they brought him to my side in the operating room, my finger just grazing his cheek. Even then, his eyes flickered toward me as I said shakily, "Hello, sweetie."

I didn't see him for 36 hours after that.

But - as crazy as it sounds - we already had an inexplicable connection. After all, he spent 8 months residing within me, his arms and legs stretching as they do now when I pick him up for night-time feeds.

In his early days, doctor worried that he hadn't passed his first meconium, the dark, tarry stool that newborns produce. They murmured about possible blockages and x-rayed his abdomen as he lay in his incubator receiving phototherapy for jaundice - wires connected to his hands, nose, chest, and feet.

So I asked to hold him, and the first thing I did was cup his knees: to feel the familiarity of them under my hands, as they had felt jutting out under my ribs when I was pregnant. Then I patted his bottom, just like I did when I was pregnant with him. And he let out a little heave and voila: he pooped! I laughed and felt like a miracle worker.

Two days after we'd been discharged, we were readmitted to the hospital again. Doctors told me I needed to feed him 60 ml of formula or breast milk on a three-hourly basis, to boost his plummeting weight. "It would be exhausting and impossible for you to express 60 ml of milk for him at each feed," the consultant explained. Having exclusively breastfed him for the first couple weeks of his life, I stared at the empty bottles and teats they placed before me and cried. Then I stared at the bottles of formula they'd put on the table and cried harder.

So, I sat and proceeded to express 130 ml of breast milk in one sitting - and continued to express at least 60 ml for him after every short stint of nursing.

I did this despite my body being in the full throes of exhaustion and recovery. I was fatigued and beside myself with worry. At just over a week postpartum, I could barely walk from the hospital bed beside him to the bathroom down the hall - I shuffled and grimaced in pain every time I sat down.

I cried all the time.

But somehow, my body continued to provide for him.

So I laughed when I read the concerned email my dad sent me yesterday, saying I looked "tired and wasted" in that beloved photo of me and my son. I read it while nursing him at midnight, stroking the chubby folds of his neck as he suckled in a dream-like state.

Because, to me, I have never looked more beautiful, or healthier, or happier.

Even though I'm my son's mother, I hadn't felt that way until I saw myself in that photo - mothering. I fed him, bathed him, advocated for him, and worried tremendously about him ... but I still didn't feel like a mother.

But now I notice how he reacts when I walk into the room or when he hears my voice; when he falls asleep against me when I take him out for a walk in the sling, or when he curls his fingers around mine and brings it into his chest as I feed him.

And that grainy photo, taken on my phone, of the two of us, is a reminder of all these things.
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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

5 Lovely Things You Can Do For a New Mama (and Papa!)


I'm slowly adjusting to my new role as a mother (so surreal to write!) and, because our newborn spent time in the hospital and because my own recovery has been a slow (and hard) slog, I've quickly realized how invaluable it is to ask for - and receive - help.

Even in the tiniest ways.

The day our newborn was discharged from hospital, my mother-in-law arrived from her interrupted holiday in Spain to help, and I couldn't have been more grateful. Like, in tears grateful. She always knew exactly what to do - not only with the baby (it helps that she's a retired midwife and health visitor), but with simple household chores. Her help around the house meant that I had a few extra minutes to catch some sleep whenever I could, and John wasn't run ragged trying to hold everything together.

So, if you know a new parent, here are 5 things you can do for them that will be guaranteed to be helpful.

Bring food. Always bring food - especially food that can be frozen and reheated quickly. Soups, pasta sauces, casseroles, and snacks will be gratefully received, especially if the parents were totally caught off-guard by a baby who arrived 4 weeks early (that's us!). I WhatsApped my NCT group to let them know our baby came early and received a separate message from a couple asking if they could bring around some food for us they had prepared. I'd envisioned cooking in batches to freeze during my maternity leave, but wasn't afforded that time with our premature baby, and the thought of cooking when we were just beginning to find our feet at home felt overwhelming (and we didn't want to depend on unhealthy takeout). I nearly wept when I got home: eggs, milk, a fresh loaf of sourdough bread, homemade muesli bars, frozen homemade apple cake, moussaka had been left on our doorstep. Our fridge and freezer were stuffed to the gills for days by their generosity.

If you don't bring food, offer to cook. It's a little extreme, but nearly every day, my mother-in-law would walk to our favorite grocery store and buy ingredients to make nourishing meals for us, which she would prepare and present to us right after I'd fed the baby. From pork loin steaks with baked potatoes and sour cream to steaks with steamed spinach (crucial for my iron levels as I lost nearly 2 litres of blood during delivery), it felt amazing to eat home-cooked meals after weeks of microwaved meals and hospital food. It doesn't have to be complicated - when I was pregnant, my friend Sophia came over and made the most amazing roasted cauliflower, capers, and parmesan linguine. I'm salivating at the thought of it!

Ask if there's anything you can get to make the mom or dad more comfortable. When my best friend called me while I was in hospital anxiously awaiting test results for our baby, I sobbed to her that I didn't have any clean clothes that were nursing friendly or that fit my postnatal body. John was driving back and forth to our house to get me stuff, but nothing fit. I still had a bit of a bump and very swollen legs and ankles. She arrived two hours later with a bag full of maternity and nursing clothes from H&M ... I tore the tags off and changed right in front of her! It made all the difference when I was stuck in hospital, already feeling emotional and stressed about our little one's progress - having clothes that fit and worked well while I was nursing him made me feel not only more comfortable, but also more human.

Bring distractions. I vividly remember scrolling through Facebook during our second stint in hospital with our baby and watching a 2-minute clip of an Olympic figure-skating routine (which was on at the time) - those two minutes gave me the most heavenly respite from the exhaustion and stress I'd been experiencing. So, along with the clothes she brought me, my friend also stuffed the newest issue of Hello! magazine in the bag for me to read. I laughed, but it worked! Reading about Meghan Markle's upcoming nuptials provided an excellent distraction for me and helped me cope with the anxiety I had over our little one's well-being.

Offer to hold the baby or do chores around the house. Our friend Nick crashed at our place last night and, in the morning, he offered to make me breakfast, hold the baby while I had a shower, and deposit the bed linen he used in our laundry bin. Granted, we're good friends, but I didn't feel shy about asking. My mother-in-law would always ask me, "Is there anything I can get you?" while I was nursing, and she'd helpfully pass me my water bottle or stuff an extra pillow behind my back - it's those little things that make the world of difference to a new mama.

Are you a new parent, a parent-to-be, or a new auntie/uncle, perhaps? I hope these suggestions are helpful!
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Friday, February 23, 2018

News


Dear Friends,

Many of you will have already seen our news on Instagram, but John and I recently welcomed our sweet little boy into the world, four weeks earlier than expected. As a result, we spent quite a bit of time in the Special Care Baby Unit immediately after he was born and, subsequently, in the children's ward of the hospital for a further stay, but hopefully he'll be home for good now.

There were so many things I wanted to share with you about my pregnancy (it was a very, very happy time for me), but I chose to keep it offline for a few reasons - mostly because I've experienced multiple pregnancy losses and I wanted to protect friends who were in similar situations. I knew how difficult it was for me to see "bump updates" and week-by-week pregnancy updates online (even from people I knew and loved) when I was trying to navigate some of the darkest days of my life.

And because of this, I wanted to protect myself too, during this incredibly precious (and often terrifying) time.

I would love to write more about my experiences and share the story of our journey when I have a moment to begin processing it all, but for now, we are just enjoying getting to know our lovely boy. I won't be sharing any photos of him or his name at this time, but I look forward to slowly introducing him to you in different ways on this blog in the following weeks and months.

Welcome to the world, Angloyankobaby.

Lots of love,
Jaime xo
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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In Praise of the Luxe "At-Home" Wardrobe



I've been steadily making my way through political and legal dramas - namely, Scandal, Suits, and The Good Wife - and one thing I always notice (besides the catchy dialogue), is the impeccably luxurious at-home wardrobe every lead female character seems to have!

As soon as the Louboutins are kicked off, it's all about sexy (but oversized, always oversized) off-the-shoulder mohair sweaters in blush-pink and grey, waterfall cashmere cardigans, cloud-grey sheepskin slippers - all worn while cradling a large glass of red wine (see: Rachel Zane and Olivia Pope).

This casual-but-oh-so-luxe "at-home" look is in sharp contrast to the fitted and tailored Dior dress suits and jackets that each heroine power-walks her way into the office in, but still says, "Hey - I can still look effortlessly chic and expensive at home."

I. LOVE. THIS. LOOK.

In reality, I wear a fleece robe from Primark 99% of the time. But, when I feel like making an effort, I'll drape myself in what my friend and I dub our "at-home" cashmere (slightly worse-for-wear but still soft and comfy), snuggle my feet into a pair of sheepskin slippers, and pretend I'm Meghan Markle for the day (minus the being engaged to Prince Harry bit).


Just Sheepskin's slippers feel especially heavenly when I've returned home after pounding the streets of London. The DREAM step gel memory foam insole makes me feel like my feet are enveloped in clouds - and the fact that they're waterproof means that I don't have to worry about dripping water on them while I'm fixing up some dinner in the kitchen.

I have the Duchess Sheepskin Slippers, which I'm a huge fan of (mostly because they, um, glitter).


And don't ask me why, but sometimes, I like to sleep or nap with a dim light on (or the curtains open) with an eye shade over my eyes. I know, it makes no sense. But I do it (especially if John's away for work and I'm feeling scared of the dark).

I saw this one from Oliver Bonas in a magazine and treated myself to an impulse purchase (something I'm trying to cut down on this year but nevertheless fall victim to!).



Other places I love for luxe "at-home" items are:

  • The White Company (their waterfall cardigans are both luxurious and comfortable, plus they're smart enough to wear outside the house in case you accept a last-minute invite to lunch/brunch/dinner)

  • H&M's Premium Quality line - I buy a lot of my cashmere here (especially when it's on sale!) and the quality is really, really good.

  • COS for oversized sweatshirts in quirky silhouettes.

  • Petit Bateau for Breton tees and comfy sweatpants.

Are you a fan of this luxe at-home look? What do you like to wear in your downtime? I'd love to know!        

Sheepskin slippers courtesy of Just Sheepskin - shop the collection here. All opinions are my own.                           


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Monday, January 8, 2018

New Year's Resolution: Shop Small


Over the past year, I've undertaken several wardrobe culls and participated in this eye-opening review of our finances - both of which have made me take a more critical view of how I shop and where I shop.

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I love fashion, trends, and accessories, and that they form an important part of who I am - there's no point in denying that. But in order to keep a closer eye on my spending and to invest in quality items that will last a long while, I've drastically reduced my fast-shopping purchases and, instead, focused on buying quality, artisanal pieces ... after giving them a lot of thought.

One of my favorite destinations for accessories-browsing is Postcards Home. Their global-outlook on homeware, stationery, accessories and kids' products are especially appealing as they remind me of our travels. And because they work directly with independent designers and illustrators, each item is unique.


I've had a lot of compliments on my Sari Bead Necklace from the House of Wandering Silk - a social business based in New Delhi, India that partners with handpicked NGOs, cooperatives, women's groups and artisans to produce beautiful, ethical products.

These sari bead necklaces are made from small wooden prayer beads which are then wrapped in vintage silk sari remnants - how cool is that? No two necklaces are alike. Since my wardrobe color palette is pretty bland (think lots of black, grey, and, um, greige), this necklace always manages to stand out.

What are your favorite independent shops to buy from? Have you discovered any new ones lately? Let me know!

Huge thanks to Lucy Coleman, founder of Postcards Home, friend, and beautiful business-woman extraordinaire for sending me this gorgeous Sari Bead Necklace. Without a doubt, all opinions are my own. Shop the rest of the collection of  Postcards Home here. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Angloyankophile. 
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Friday, January 5, 2018

The £300 Hair Dryer - Is It Worth It?



Of all the tech products we own at home, the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer seems the most extravagant. After all, my eyes bulge at the thought of spending even £80 on a curling iron, let alone £300 (the Dyson Supersonic currently retails at £299.99 at John Lewis) for a hair dryer.

But one year on, what do I really think about it?

We were driving up to my father-in-law's last weekend, when I mentioned that I'd "packed the Dyson". John frowned. "What do you mean?" He thought I meant our vacuum cleaner (that's "hoover" to you Brits), which would have been funny - showing up at his dad's house with a vacuum in hand. "I mean the hair dryer," I said.

Because really, if we're travelling within the UK, I take it with me everywhere (I even took it with us to Lime Wood). As luxe as any hotel may be, I know the hair dryers in the rooms and spa just won't cut it against the Dyson Supersonic.

Just to give you a bit of context, I have short/shoulder-length thick, straight hair. It takes quite a while to dry, but I use one of those quick-dry turban towel things as soon as I step out of the shower to absorb most of the moisture.


I also wash my hair most days, so that's something to consider as well as you read my review. John hated the sound of my Babyliss hair dryer and the length of time it took me to dry my hair, particularly as I shower in the evenings and it would often drag bed time into the late hours, despite him having to get up for work at 5:30 a.m.

So, one day, he marched us over to John Lewis and demanded (more like, asked politely, because it's John) to try the Dyson Supersonic. The funny thing was, their display model wasn't working that day, but we were so insistent about trying it that the John Lewis staff ended up calling an electrician to fix the electrical outlet so we could give it a test run!

A few minutes later, John headed to the till, Dyson Supersonic tucked under his arm.

So, here are some facts about this pricey gadget:

- 3 precise settings for fast drying, regular drying, and styling
- 4 precise heat settings 
- Airflow of 41 litres per second
- Weight of 618 grams
- Negative ions to reduce static

The Dyson Supersonic comes with a non-slip mat and a storage hanger, plus three diffusers (one for curly hair).



Pros:

- Significantly reduces drying time. While it previously took me about 10 - 15 minutes to thoroughly dry my hair, it now takes approximately 4 - 5 minutes (I've timed it!).

- Comfortable to hold. As the motor's in the handle, the dryer has a nice balance to it - my arm doesn't get tired holding it up!

- Relatively compact and stylish in design. It's easy to pack because it's not long or heavy.

- Magnetic nozzles/diffusers. I love the magnetic nozzles that are easy to pop on/off. On most days, I don't bother using the narrow diffuser (because I'm lazy), so I keep the wider nozzle on (though John takes it off every time he uses it, grr!). But when I want my hair to be shiny, sleek, and pin straight, the narrow nozzle really does the trick.

- Quieter than most hair dryers. The noise is definitely more pleasant than the roar of my previous hair dryer.

Cons:

- Chips easily. If you're clumsy like me, then you'll need to be careful - I've dropped this twice by my dressing table and a bit of the paint has chipped off (don't tell John!).

- It's not that quiet. I think one of the earlier claims (though I'm too lazy to Google the quote/article to support this claim) about the Dyson Supersonic was that you could hold a conversation with someone at a "normal" volume while using it. You can certainly do that at the lowest setting, though you do need to raise your voice on the middle setting (which I use most) and you'd certainly be shouting if you were chatting on the highest setting. Still, it's much quieter compared to the previous hair dryers I've owned (plus, because the drying time is significantly reduced, you're using it for less time).

So, would I recommend the Dyson Supersonic? Yes, yes, yes - a thousand times yes. Especially if you have thick hair like me and you spend a lot of your time washing, drying, and styling it. Is it worth the price point? If you use it to the extent that I do, then yes, but if not, then maybe stick with a Babyliss or GHD model.

Do you own a Dyson Supersonic hair dryer? What do you think of it? If not, would you think about buying it? I'm curious to know!
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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

10 Things I'm Grateful For in 2018


1. Having a job that I secretly look forward to going back to after the Christmas break. When I was making dinner yesterday, John came up to me, all sad looking, and said he had a "case of the Mondays". First, I corrected him and said that he actually had a case of the Tuesdays, since that's when we were actually heading back to work, but then I felt bad for him because it made me realize that - sure, I was sad that our lovely holiday was over - but I genuinely wanted to go back to work again (and to see my friends there!). "Never leave that place!" he said, like a puppy that had been kicked. Poor thing.

2. Having a husband who puts Frozen on BBC iPlayer on his phone for us to watch when our flight's delayed (and who laughs at all of Olaf's jokes). Our recent flight from Innsbruck to London Stansted was delayed, then eventually cancelled (we had to take a bus to Salzburg in the end) due to "poor weather conditions" (i.e. fog). As I wasn't feeling great already, John wasted no time in distracting me with Elsa's magical ice kingdom. And I might have caught him crooning, "For the first time in foreverrrrrr ..." when we got home like, six hours later.

3. Peppermint tea. An all-around winner. Digestif and anxiety-reducer all-in-one.

4. Underfloor heating. We returned from our week in Austria with cold bathroom floors after turning off the underfloor heating before we left and I bellowed, "THIS IS INHUMANE!" (Yes, I absolutely realize that underfloor heating is a luxurious privilege and has nothing to do with human rights, but just roll with me for a moment on this one ...)

5. New technology. My UK driving test is scheduled for later this month and can I just say how much I'm looking forward to having driver-less cars in our lives? Every time I approach a roundabout, I feel like closing my eyes and hoping for the best (please don't tell my driving instructor that. Please.). For now, apps, Google Home (who provides witty answers to questions like, "Hey Google, do you want to build a snowman?" with, "Sure, the cold never bothered me anyway!"), etc. are making my life so much easier (which is all great until we begin to encroach on Black Mirror territory, at which point it all becomes a bit terrifying).

6. Our neighbors. They take in our oversized post when we're at work, put our trash bins back in their place when we're away, and popped around on Christmas Day for a chat and a drink. They cook for me when John's travelling for work and bring champagne over to share when it's their birthday. They shared their shower when our boiler was broken. WHAT KIND OF STREET IS THIS?!?!

7. London bus drivers. They deal with drunken abuse, the narrowest of streets, and cyclists that come out of nowhere (and I mean, nowhere - it's like they've Apparated ala Dobby in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) with the patience of saints. 

8. Pubs. It took me over a decade of living in the UK to finally appreciate them, but yeah, I was the one who brightly suggested we stop in for a drink at the local pub on our muddy country walk to the next village last weekend when we stayed with John's dad. Back in London, we have our favorite (with our favorite table), and heading there on a frosty (or sunny) evening for delicious food, friendly company, and (sometimes) live music, is such a lovely treat.

9. Our new sofa, arriving February 2018. It's gonna be large, it's gonna be comfy, and I'm gonna disappear into it all day long.

10. Netflix, for introducing me to Korean soap operas. Thank you for providing endless hours of entertainment, which I listen to at a high volume despite not understanding a word and relying completely on subtitles.

What are you grateful for in 2018, whether or big or small? I'd love to know!
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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Travel Link-Up: Je Reviens


If 2017 was all about discovering new lands (Iceland and Morocco, to name a couple), then I think 2018 will be focused on returning to the places we loved most. Every time John and I fall in love with a new destination, we invariably say, "I can't wait to come back." But we never do.

So, I'd like to make 2018 a year of "returns":

A return to the vineyards of Bordeaux, perhaps; the memories of sand whipping 'round my ankles at the Dune du Pilat and people-watching in outdoor cafes still imprinted on my mind.



Or a return to Iceland, where we'll attempt to chase the Northern Lights once again - this time, hopefully, with more success - and an irresistible visit to the milky thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon.


A return to Hong Kong is definitely on the cards - my visit earlier this year a mere taster of reunions and adventures to come.


And I loved our recent visit to Mayrhofen so much, I'm tempted to spend next winter in the Alps as well - whether that's French, Swiss or Austrian.


At some point, I'd love to return to the New Forest (although, who am I kidding - what I really mean is that I'd like to go back to this hotel) and be enchanted by the ponies once again.


Cornwall is a favorite of ours, and I know I'll be longing for these coastlines in the not-too-distant future - perhaps when it's nice and warm.


Finally, John and I were so besotted with Sri Lanka when we went in 2015, it's bound to be on our list, although India is calling to me too, after last year's whirlwind trip to Bangalore - this time, Rajasthan is my dream destination (and, you know, if someone wants to invite me to a wedding so I can wear a sari again, that would be great - thanks).


Where are you headed to in 2018? I'd love to know!

This post is part of January's Travel Link-Up, hosted by Emma, Angie, and Polly. Head over to their blogs to read more about their travel wishlists!
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