Euro Trip with a Baby, Part 2

Welcome back to the second installment of the Euro Baby Chronicles. I can promise a continuation of our lengthy recap that may or may not stretch into a THIRD post. I guess we'll find out after I type for awhile longer.

Where did we leave off? Oh yes. The passport was recovered, dinner was delicious, and we had turned in for the night. We had a nice comfy bed and a lovely view overlooking the street in a charming hotel, although it turned out that the other half of our traveling party had issues with their shower. Sad times! I think the hotel made up for it with their delicious breakfast offerings though. Elise sampled a croissant and I ate another two myself, coupled with yet another hot chocolate. When in Rome, you know? Or better said...when in Paris, you know?


After enjoying her croissant, Elise spent a couple of extra minutes hanging out with Rachael while I went on a quick mission to buy some diapers from the nearby market. Turned out they were quasi-closed - they informed me I needed to leave after I walked through the very much unlocked door - but Elise clearly loved her quality time. 


Upon my return, we squashed all of us and our various suitcases, bags, and the recently-delivered stroller (!) into an Uber and sped across town to the Gare de l'Est train station to ride toward Colmar. Colmar is a tiny town in the Alsace region on the eastern border of France (wine country!), and if you want a visual, picture a village straight out of Beauty and the Beast and you'll be right on the money.

It was COLD. 

We also had all of our bags since we were going to end up in Basel, but Google had informed us that the bike shop next door would stow luggage for the day for a mere two Euro per item. Great news! The downside? The bike shop was closed for lunch, and would not reopen for two hours. The upside? The train station had a little restaurant. We camped out, drank some hot drinks, and waited until the bike shop employees had finished their afternoon lunch + siesta. After walking so many miles in the previous two days, I don't think any of us were sad about the forced break. 


When the appointed hour came, we dropped off the luggage and made our way into town on foot. It was as charming as ever and as lovely as I had remembered from my first time there, albeit much chillier. We found a sandwich shop for lunch and then proceeded to walk around town, stopping in shops where we wanted to investigate items we'd seen in the window and taking all sorts of pictures of our surroundings along the way. 


There were two places to note in particular: first, we found French Target. Monoprix has everything from diapers and wipes (thank goodness - I had just used up my very last one from home) to food to housewares to clothing, and all of it was adorable. Elise got a souvenir from here, because it's an unspoken yet widely acknowledged rule that you can't pass through Target/Monoprix and leave empty-handed.


I should add that I found the French generic-brand diapers to be significantly superior to Pampers. I'm still working on trying to get a subscription service sent to my house directly from Monoprix.


Second, we found an ice cream shop called Edelw'ice. 

Let's pause for a moment to really appreciate the greatness of that pun. 

I stood in the street and laughed out loud because hello, I'm a nerd. Had it not been so cold, I would have bought as much as I could from them just because I loved the name of the business so much. Here's a blurry photo taken so that I could revel in the punny glory for ages to come:


After laughing so hard, we needed a snack, so we hit up a nearby chocolate and pastry shop for our pick me up. Elise was beyond delighted to be released from the constraints of her stroller, and she didn't hesitate to let the entire dining area know about her glee. 


Fortunately, the window distracted her enough that we were able to make it through our tea and (yet more) croissants without shattering any porcelain dishware, and we left with full bellies and slightly damaged eardrums. Back to the bike shop we trudged to pick up our luggage and hop on the train to Basel!


Oh, and we gave up on the stroller for that last leg. Elise got the Ergo treatment instead.


The half hour train ride was quite uneventful as Elise fell asleep the moment we got on board. After a very active day, I think I may have appreciated her nap even more than she did. She was a total traveling champ on this trip and I was so very proud of her. Look at how happy she was, even when she was pooped!


She did have mittens...but she would just take them off approximately five seconds after I put them on. Every. Single. Time. 

The vibe of the trip changed a little bit once we got to Basel due to the change of purpose. I purpose was still the same, but Julie was heading back home, and Rachael was there on a business trip. Do you know who else was there for business? CHAZ! We overlapped with him for a grand total of two nights (he worked during the day, of course), and in that span of time we took zero pictures of us all together. Evidently our priorities were elsewhere - his with work and mine with eating carbs and sugar.


Basel is definitely a city, but it's a much smaller, quieter city than a giant one like Paris. The effect of that change was that every single thing is closed on Sunday, and we had arrived on a Saturday night. Nevertheless, Elise and I rallied on Sunday morning, got ready for the day, and eventually went exploring after her morning nap. 

As a quick aside - it is logistically difficult to shower while being single-handedly responsible for tending to a baby in a hotel room. We tried several methods over the course of the week, but this one was the most successful. I figure she already knows how to appreciate a good spa treatment.

Believe it or not, our 2.5 days of Basel exploits can be condensed into a few pictures and even fewer words: we came, we saw, and we ate. Success!


We're actively working on raising the next generation of cathedral lovers. 

Chocolate was obviously an important factor for me, and being in the Land of Chocolate, I was determined to find the best hot chocolate place in the city and drink it. I'm happy to report that I did find it, and it was delectable. Really, you can't go wrong when you're at a place that's dedicated to hot chocolate drinks. 


It came with a small piece of the actual chocolate used in the drink, a heaping pile of whipped cream ON THE SIDE, and a small glass of water to wash down the decadence. 

While it was amazing and absolutely worth the effort of seeking it out and drinking it while holding a squirmy child, I'm about to make a bold, entirely subjective claim: I liked the Musée d'Orsay's hot chocolate better. 


Overall, the slower pace we took in Basel was a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of touristing, and when we weren't roaming the old town streets, we spent several hours in the hotel like this:


There aren't very many things in life sweeter than a baby who cuddles in her sleep.

Well, I have once again used up more than enough blog post real estate for only a portion of our trip, so I'll continue to drag this out with a part three...


Euro Trip with a Baby, Part 1

As you may have surmised from the fact that I posted something here recently, we went to Europe and returned unscathed! The short version of it is that Elise was a champ at traveling, baby jet lag turned out to not even be a thing, really, and it was cold but not unbearable. Three cheers for that. But a single sentence does not a blog post make, so I shall recap IN FULL to appease the masses. Or myself. 

On February 28th, Elise turned 9 months old and I realized I had to get off my procrastinatastic butt and get packing before we left the house at 3pm for our flight. All I can say is praise the Lord for naps, or else we would have needed to buy all our things in another country. Every last thing. Naps happened, the suitcase and the backpack were stuffed, and a couple of spare items were tucked away into the front pocket of the Ergo since they wouldn't fit anywhere else. We hightailed it to the bus that transported us to the airport, and Elise, clad in her very best fleece pajamas, decided that the ride was the perfect time to practice her backwards swan dive. 


We made it to the airport in plenty of time, lugged our luggage + Ergo + stroller through security, gate checked the stroller, and boarded the plane. We were in the aisle seat, and while the middle seat was empty, the lady in the window seat made it no secret that she was not thrilled to be sitting near a baby. Specifically, she texted someone and then placed her phone in very plain view on the seat between us to make sure I saw it: "On plane. Seated next to an infant." 

Off to a great start!

Fortunately, she need not have worried, and I not-so-secretly hope that she feels a tiny speck of remorse for the snarky text, because Elise barely made a peep and then fell asleep for the majority of that first leg. SO THERE.


Other than that, there isn't much to report about flying, apart from the fact that Elise got a fair amount of sleep (for a plane ride) and I got none, but we both survived and were ready to go adventuring by the time we got to our hotel and washed ourselves up. Oh, except that our stroller was sent to Copenhagen instead of Paris. That was not fun, but we still had the Ergo. I resembled a pack horse with Elise on the front, my backpack on my back, and my suitcase in hand, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and while a vacation doesn't really count as a "desperate time," it was...laughable. As an added bonus, I probably burned more calories because of the extra portaging. 

I feel like I should add a quick note right here to inform you that the one thing I did NOT end up doing was using my real camera at any point during the trip, despite the fact that I toted both it and my extra lens around with us the whole time. As a result, the photo quality is entirely sub par. You've been warned.

Our first day in Paris was a short one, thanks to the time change. We arrived at 11:00, got settled and cleaned up by 2:00, and were out the door by 2:30 to meet our friends! The plan was to meet at Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées for a late lunch and some macarons, and then walk around the city until dinner. It turns out that Ladurée does everything confectionary well, and so instead of macarons, I opted for their French toast with rose chantilly cream and a raspberry coulis. 


What does rose chantilly cream taste like, you ask? It tastes like you melted a rose, poured the melted liquid into some heavy cream, added a dash of confectioner's sugar, and whipped it until it gets into its proper form. Basically, it tastes exactly like how a rose smells. By itself, I don't know if I'd eat it off a spoon for a snack. (Am I the only one that does that with regular whipped cream? Don't answer that.) But with the French toast and the raspberry? HEAVENLY. If you go there, you must try it! I insist!


Elise enjoyed the raspberries, and considering I can't handle the texture of raspberries myself, it was a win for both of us.

Once we finished up, we headed out into the cold to sightsee, but after a couple of metro rides, a long-ish time without milk, and a chilly wind, Elise decided she'd had enough. Our friends Rachael and Julie headed to a delicious dinner at a restaurant Chaz and I ate at on our honeymoon, while Elise and I went back to the hotel to warm up, consume Cheerios and veggie straws for supper, and hit the hay at 8:30. 


Based on how long this is taking me, I'll probably need to split this thrilling account up into multiple posts. I can just hear you shouting for joy. 

On to day 2! Feeling entirely refreshed, we got ready in the morning and, after nearly flooding the bathroom thanks to an open shower and a parent focused on the baby rather than the water volume, set out to explore. On the itinerary for the day: Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, and the Musée d'Orsay, followed by dinner with another friend who lives in the city. All in all, it was ambitious, but we managed to do it! 

Notre Dame is always an experience. It's gorgeous, and this time we were lucky enough to be there during a service, so we listened to the chanted prayers and readings (in French, of course!) while walking around the perimeter with all the other tourists. It always amazes me that they're able to carry on with the service with so many people roaming around, but they do, and we were grateful for it. Elise must have been in awe, because she merely looked around and didn't take the opportunity to test the (presumably magnificent) acoustics. I was grateful.  


After taking it all in, we headed to a nearby cafe and got some lunch before making our way to Sainte-Chapelle. The waiter was charmed with Elise, and by the end of the meal we'd made a new friend. Or at least, she had. 

Sainte-Chapelle had never been on my must-visit list in Paris, but it really should have been. Stained glass is always a sight to behold, but this was beyond comprehension. The closest thing by comparison would be what I imagine it would be like to stand inside a life-size kaleidoscope. Filtered light poured in from every direction, and it seemed like a fitting site for the relics of Christ, for which it was originally constructed. 


Elise WAS a little more enthusiastic about fussing here, but she quickly gave into slumber and all was quiet shortly thereafter. 

Since the Musée d'Orsay was less than a mile away, we continued our trek on foot. Rachael, a dear friend and also Elise's godmother, should have won an award for the day, because she did some baby-wearing! Elise should probably be counting her lucky stars/many blessings to have someone so invested in both her spiritual formation and also her Paris-touring comfort. 


And while I'm thinking of it, I'll offer a piece of unsolicited advice. Everyone *always* loves unsolicited advice. Here goes: when hunting for friends, always choose someone who loves your babies as much as they love you. You can't go wrong. And your children will know they're loved by a village, which seems like a pretty important thing to me. More love = happier kids, right?

That's enough advice for one post.

We ended the sightseeing portion of our day with a pass through the Musée d'Orsay. I actually prefer the Musée d'Orsay to the Louvre, and yes, I realize how pretentious that sounds when said out loud. Or even read in your head. But I've said it, and it remains true. The Musée d'Orsay is smaller than the Louvre, so it's much more manageable in a single visit.


While the Louvre has a plethora of famous older paintings (among other things), the Musée d'Orsay holds the largest collection of artwork from the impressionist and post-impressionist era, including paintings by Monet and Van Gogh. I particularly enjoyed/was amused by Monet's "Les Dindons," which is quite literally a portrait of turkeys on his patron's lawn. What's not to love? Elise also seemed to enjoy her jaunt around the museum.


Oh, see that stroller? It is not ours. It belongs to the museum, and in order to use it, I had to leave them with my passport until we returned it. PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THAT IMPORTANT DETAIL.


While the art at the museum was gorgeous and probably worth discussing at length, what I really want to discuss is the hot chocolate I had at the museum cafe. It was hands down the best hot chocolate I have had to date, not only on this trip, but ever in my life. And that's saying a lot, because just on the trip I think I drank hot chocolate nearly every day. I mean, if you can't tell by my inability to put it down for a photo, just look at Elise's longing expression:


Did I allow to her to have just a little bit of the whipped cream? Yes. Yes I did. Question my parenting choices all you want. We were in France. C'est la vie.


We finished up our time at the museum with taking photos by one of the two large clocks on the fifth floor. These couple of minutes resulted in some of my favorite photos from the trip, so it was well worth taking our turn in the informal line of tourists who also wanted to take the same photo. 


We returned the borrowed stroller in exchange for my passport and made the 40-minute trek back to our hotel for the night. Upon arrival at the hotel, the man at the front desk asked for my passport to check in, which is standard practice, and as I reached for it in its spot in the Ergo pocket, I realized it wasn't there. Not only was it not there, but I knew I had last seen it at the counter when I returned the stroller and had no memory of actually taking it. In addition, the museum was now closed, and our train to our next destination was scheduled to leave before the museum would open the following morning. Cue a solid 15 minutes of me trying to get ahold of anyone who might know someone able to enter a closed museum after hours to retrieve a passport within another locked area of the building in garbled French...chances were SLIM.

At the last moment, which was one of despair placated in the form of an exquisite chocolate-enshrouded more-chocolate mousse purchased at the patisserie next door, I reached into my coat pocket and unexpectedly withdrew the "missing" passport. I think it was actually miraculous.

I ended the night with a very tasty dinner with a friend I hadn't seen in a couple of years (hi, Sarah!), snapped a picture of the Louvre's pyramids under the moonlight on the way back, and went to bed feeling fat and happy. Although not too fat, because I'd walked over 19,000 steps that day. I'm sure that balanced out all the chocolate.


I think that's quite enough for a single blog post. Tales of Colmar, Basel, and a return to Paris still need to be recounted, so if you haven't already keeled over in boredom, STAY TUNED.

Nine Months of Elise

So we're really late to the party here. Two weeks after the fact is a new record, I think, but it'll be documented nonetheless. This delay has been brought to you by a heaping dose of traveling with a baby, to be recapped in the near future. Hold on to your glutes.


9-month-old Elise is lots of fun. One day she woke up and started pushing her walking cart, stood for a moment by herself without holding on to anything, and figured out how to climb the stairs all within the span of a couple of hours. We bought a gate for the stairs that weekend, because if she's left to her own devices, she'll find her way there within minutes and make her way up. 


She is infinitely curious, and loves exploring details, often on things I'm wearing. Buttons, necklaces, and (rather unfortunately for me) glasses are items of particular interest, and she'll spend many a minute poking at them with her pointer finger. 


She continues try new foods in the form of whatever is on my plate, and seems to be particularly fond of eggs of and oatmeal. She also continues to be the most talkative member of the family, and has expanded her consonant sounds beyond mamamama, dadadada, and babababa to include nananana (we're still working on BATMAN). She also enjoys clicking her tongue and opening her mouth over and over, which almost makes a whispery papapapa sound.  


When she's especially excited, she inhales with a raspy sort of gasp that sounds like a mix between hyperventilation and wheezing, which seems somewhat alarming, but really she's just so thrilled with whatever she's come across that she can't help herself. 


She's started to think that toots are funny and giggles whenever they occur, and she also cut her top two teeth. We're up to four! All her developments this month have come with a side of separation anxiety, most often evident when she needs to sleep in her bed, so we're working on that. She very much has opinions about how things should be, and isn't afraid to show some displeasure when they don't go the way she expects. I think that will be a good quality later in life, but right now it's going to keep us on our toes. 


I really can't believe that we're already approaching her first birthday. This year has gone by in the blink of an eye, and even though everyone tells you that ahead of time, there's no way to know what it feels like until it's happening. But I guess we still have a couple of months before we get to that point, so I suppose I'll savor these last couple of months before her first birthday as much as I can. 


And that's all there is for this month! 

The Gathering

They all start to arrive and with each person stepping through the door, I feel the house filling up with warmth and life. It's a beautiful thing, really. Hugs and laughter set the scene for an evening filled with beloved friends, good food, and discussions ranging from reminiscing over shared memories to hopes and dreams for the future. 

Our group - our tribe - started out much smaller, now over a decade ago. Brought together by nothing more average than college, we formed a small band and stuck by each other through the ups and downs of music theory homework, final exams, new relationships, breakups, and the day to day events of sharing an apartment.


Slowly, as the years went by, the group started expanding. First with boyfriends that were more permanent than the college flings, then fiancés, then husbands. In more recent years, we've added babies to the mix, and at this point we've run out of chairs around the dinner table and have started supplementing with folding chairs, high chairs, and Bumbo seats. And while we fill up the seats, we continue to fill up our memory tanks, drop by drop.


And tonight, we're celebrating. I sit at the overfilled table and am filled with both gratitude and nostalgia. I have dear memories from my own childhood of our living room filled with a host of our parents, the rest of the house spilling over with children playing house, or post office, or my personal favorite - moving truck. I'm not sure our parents appreciated that one as much as we did, since it involved wrapping almost every toy in the house in packing paper, but our imaginations ran wild, set to a musical backdrop of folk tunes.


I remember feeling a sense of fullness as a child. We knew these were friends, of course, but they felt more like family, and we experienced the deep richness of being surrounded by so many of those who loved and cared for us.


We're on the flip side now. We are the adults/parents, sitting and delighting in sharing life together through the more significant ups and downs that naturally occur as we mature, and we're watching our children create their own memories as a group. While the background music might be different - our musical skills lie more along the classical lines than folk - these beloved children now have their own cloud of witnesses celebrating their existence, rejoicing in their accomplishments, and tending to their growth.

The sense of fullness is still there for me, but has a different flavor. Perhaps a richer one, now that we all have a different perspective. More responsibility, more joy. 


How to Take a Baby Passport Photo

A few years ago - three years and a couple of months, to be exact - I needed a new passport thanks to my last name changing from Griffin to Woodstock. Aside: changing your name is wretched. And we're back.

I assumed that the way to get a passport photo was the normal way: you go to CVS, they take your photo, they print it, and you go on your merry way. So I did that, and I kid you not, it was quite literally the absolute worst photo of me I had ever (and still have ever) seen of myself in my entire life. Perhaps I should have just swallowed my pride and dealt with having a photo that reminded me more of a cow than myself on my ID for the next ten years of my traveling escapades, but I refused and decided then and there that I would take my own photos from thenceforth. I did, and I'm rather happy with how it eventually turned out.

However, taking a photo of oneself looking straight at the camera with enough of a smize to not look like a serial killer getting a mug shot done is one thing. Taking a similar photo of a baby is another one entirely. But in the interest of preserving Elise's self esteem for the next five years, I decided it was worth the sacrifice. 

The US photo requirements are many:

  • Your head must face the camera directly with your full face in view.
  • You must have a neutral facial expression or a natural smile, with both eyes open.
  • You must take a photo in clothing normally worn on a daily basis.
  • It must have a plain white or off-white background.
  • It must be a 2x2 inch square photo, with the head centered and between 25 and 35 mm from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.
  • You may not wear glasses, a hat, or any other head covering.
  • There may be no shadows.
  • You must be able to see both ears.

No big deal, right? It's not like kids move or look away from a camera or open their mouths all the time or anything. We got this.

First, I selected Elise's outfit with great care, despite the "normal clothing" requirement. She's somewhat hairless, after all, so I decided her shirt needed to be pink. I also decided that while she does/will wear it every day until her ear infection is gone, the Amoxicillin stain from the morning's dose should probably not be present. 

Next, I needed a plain white background with natural/bright light. Enter our cheap Ikea flat sheet and a rocking chair pulled next to the window.


Though the room started to look like a pauper's version of Netherfield after the Bingleys returned to London, it did the job. 

I then needed a way to restrain Elise in the proper position in the chair without making her upset. I ask you...what are Bumbo seats for if not for that purpose?


The only remaining necessary element was the baby, of course. I got her situated and gave her a ball to keep her hands occupied (and therefore out of the frame).


After that, it was just a simple matter of getting the right photo. We started off strong.


Maybe a little too much zoom. And movement. 


Aha. I realized I needed to add a song and dance to keep her looking my direction.


Gah, the thumb! She just thinks it's so delicious. Who needs a passport photo anyway?


Ok, cute. But she moved again and made it blurry, and remember how you can't have an open mouth? Come on. And I'm not even going to address the snotty nose.


Acceptable. And yet...the mug shot just wasn't doing it for me. Shouldn't the US border officials be able to surmise that she's not a baby criminal mastermind? I need them to be able to judge her character in five seconds or less, because obviously her passport photo is a reflection of my parenting abilities.


AND THERE IT IS. Crop a little on either side, bump up the brightness, and we are in business. It only took me 53 shots, but we got it.


Now, all I have to do is assemble her birth certificate, social security card, our marriage license, a printout of our airline tickets, and her baptism certificate, and both Chaz and I need to show up in person at the National Passport Center at our appointed time (which must be conveniently between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm Monday through Friday). The government, man. They like to make this so easy on us. 

But hey! Europe, we're coming your way, one official document checklist item at a time!

It's Happening

So my trip to London was a dream that I was hoping would come true maybe one day down the line. It's still a dream! I hope to do it! But just a few weeks after that idea came to mind, another opportunity fell at my feet. Chaz is going to Basel, Switzerland for work in March, and at the very same time airfares dropped to crazy low prices and suddenly...I'm going too. 

However. The way it worked out means that I'm traveling two days before him by myself. With a 9-month old. Overnight.


The cheapest way to get to Basel (I've found) is actually to fly through Paris and then take a train. That route also makes the tail end of the voyage somewhat leisurely, since trains don't have to be pressurized and it's quite simple to get up and walk around. It's a lovely train ride and I'm quite looking forward to it. But in this case, I'm also arriving two days early AND I have a couple of reward hotel nights that I'm ready to burn, so now I'm going to hang out in Paris for two days with a baby. This baby enjoys bread. Paris is the bread capital of the world.'s first croissant is going to be in Paris. I like to think that this is a wonderful opportunity to create some fun facts for her later in life. She's going to kill at at Two Truths and a Lie when she's all grown up.

 Here's an unrelated blurry picture of her eating a crocheted carrot, because it's cute.

Here's an unrelated blurry picture of her eating a crocheted carrot, because it's cute.

The best part about this trip is that two of my favorite coworkers are ALSO arriving in Paris early, so we're all ready to live it up and eat as much bread, cheese, and chocolate as we can handle while running around the streets of Paris. 

I may be just a little bit insane to attempt this type of trip, but when life hands you that kind of opportunity, you don't turn it down. And this time, I won't have to take a million bad selfies.


My Favorite (Plane) Travel Hacks

Have you ever read such a clickbait title? You must be so roped in! That's what clickbait titles do, right?

But for real, I've been spending a good amount of time each night planning a trip that may or may not end up happening because I'm a travel nerd and it makes me happy. As a result, I've been thinking quite a bit about the various tricks I've used over the years, and it's time to consolidate them all into one place. I also may be suffering from mom brain because I can't remember if I've already written this exact same post before. Oh well! 

Will this be useful to anyone else? WHO KNOWS. At least I'll have it for my own reference, I guess. You case I forget how to get from point A to point B without a guide.

Here we go.


1) Don't check bags.

Unless you absolutely have to, checking bags is a waste of time and money. Most airlines have a pretty reasonable suitcase size allowance for the carry on bags, and if you use a backpack as your "personal item," you've got yourself a lot of space to work with. If you pack smart and compact, you can totally make that work. Exceptions to this rule are allowed if you're traveling for a long time or you need to bring something crazy like an evening gown, but Honestly, this is probably not a "travel hack." It's just common sense.


2) Traveling alone? Play the plane seat lottery.

If the only good seats that are available are the ones that come with an extra charge, just don't pick a seat at the time of fare purchase. This is a bit of a gamble, but oftentimes if you get a seat assignment when you arrive at the airport, all the other passengers will have gone through the seat selection process already and filled up the bad seats. Since you have a fully paid ticket and the bad seats are full, they'll stick you in an open seat, INCLUDING the extra space, extra legroom, bulkhead, etc. options. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's awesome. And having done this a number of times, I'd say it is successful more frequently than getting stuck in the middle.


3) Or pick a seat in the back row.

Most people avoid the back row because of some assumptions: people keep walking past you, seats don't recline, and the bathrooms are in the back. I am here to tell you that all of these assumptions are pretty much false on bigger planes. For almost all transatlantic flights I've taken, the bathrooms have been in the middle, the seats DO recline, and the only people walking past are the flight attendants. That's not a bad thing - it's much easier to ask for extra water when you're right next to the spot where it's stored. The other advantage? Everyone else doesn't want to sit there, so most of the time, I end up with at least one (if not two) empty seats to myself. It's like a pauper's version of first class. Practically luxurious! And especially grand when sporting a 5-month pregnant belly. I can tell you that from personal experience.

4) Bring water.

While you can ask for a million tiny bottles of water, it's MUCH easier to a) not get up to ask for it and b) have a large bottle. Either bring an empty water bottle with you and fill it up at the water fountain once past security (so it doesn't get confiscated), or buy yourself a nice big one at the overpriced Hudson News stand in the terminal.


5) Hunt for the best airfares.

This probably also goes without saying, but unless it's absolutely required or you're traveling last minute, don't purchase a plane ticket immediately. Fares fluctuate often, so use the tools available to help yourself get a better deal. Sites like Airfarewatchdog and Scott's Cheap Flights are especially good if you want to get email alerts for low deals. If you have flexible dates, use a fare calendar (JetBlue has a really awesome one, and Google Flights is not far behind). However, my personal favorite trick is to buy departing and returning tickets separately, rather than round trip. I'll usually compare the round trip to the separate options, and sometimes they're the same. But often, unless I'm going super budget (hey there, Wow Airlines), separate legs = better prices.

 Living my best Economy.

Living my best Economy.

6) Window seats are your friend.

This one is 100% personal preference. But if I'm going to sleep on a plane - and almost all international flights from Boston are overnight - a window seat is where it's at. Just give me a neck pillow (worn sideways so my head doesn't fall forward), a probably-gross plane blanket, and maybe a stuffed up jacket, and I'm as happy as an overtired clam squished into a slightly-too-small shell for the next six hours. Which, for being on a plane, is to say I'm a pretty contented clam.

7) BYOP(harmecy)

After experiencing a variety of ailments while flying over the years, I've collected a small assemblage of over the counter drugs that are always with me on a trip. Headache? Would you prefer Advil or Tylenol? Stomach upset? I've got both ginger pills for nausea and Gas-X for...other discomforts. Runny nose? Here's the Sudafed. Heartburn thanks to pregnancy? Let me give you some Tums. Oh, and after traveling with a baby, you'd better believe that I now include Purell, regular wipes, pacifier wipes, and baby Tylenol to round out the stockpile. Travel with me and you will be fit as a fiddle from take off to landing.


I think that's it! If this is all redundant information, I apologize. At least I don't claim to be a travel writer. Happy travels!

Eight Months of Elise

Another month has gone by, so yet again it's time to document!

This kid's middle name should be Active. She very rarely wants to sit still, because there's so much to explore and she's developed a bunch of skills to do so. She was crawling awhile ago, and shortly thereafter learned how to pull herself up, and she has never looked back. She pulls herself up on e v e r y t h i n g, ranging from our media console to the coffee table to the kitchen island to the couch to her crib rails to our legs, etc. She's gotten really good at balancing and it's not an uncommon sight to see her loosely pressing a single hand against her latest support. Pretty soon I suspect that she won't need the support at all and will stand up anywhere! 


She suddenly developed a fondness for eating solid foods, which is great, and for most meals she wants to be in my lap, eating whatever is on my plate. So far she has yet to encounter a food she doesn't like, although she was a little surprised the first time she tried a green bean. She proceeded to chow down on a few more after that, so that apparently didn't hinder her appreciation for them. She's a big fan of eggs, oatmeal, broccoli, guacamole, and prunes, of all things. She also very much enjoys every flavor of Puffs, which is a great way both to get her used to different textures and also work on her pincer grasp, even though they have very little actual nutritional value. When she's not eating food, she's trying to eat everything else, so she might be on teething round 2...


She seems to have hit another round of somewhat unpredictable night wakings, so we're all a little tired. However, she makes up for it by being a napping champ during the day, so that, at least, is great. I'll take what I can get when it comes to baby sleep! Eight months of this parenting gig has taught me that everything is a (usually short-lived) phase if nothing else, so we grin and bear it when it's sometimes a little tougher, knowing it won't last forever. 

She's also discovered some very fun tricks, including kissing (albeit very wet and with a wide open mouth) and dancing to music. She'll stop what she's doing and start bobbing her head along with the beat. We think it's one of her more adorable stunts, and it makes me remember to turn music on more often while we're at home.


She quite despises getting dressed and having her diaper changed these days, presumably because both activities require staying still more more than 0.5 seconds. She's generally become rather skilled at voicing her opinions over such things, but she counters that by being delightfully content and smiley when she's doing almost anything else.


I feel so lucky to be her mom. I hope she always knows how loved she is, and that we think she's the bees knees, forever and always.

A Love Note to Clogs

Dear Clogs,

Some people say you are clunky and ugly. Others say you are only good for work. But I am here to tell you that I think you are beautiful and one of the greatest things to ever grace the world with your presence.

Your comfort level is unparalleled. Your convenience cannot be matched. Your cuteness factor is debatable to some, but to me, you are the loveliest. I will adore you forever and I will not be ashamed. Although I may choose to not wear you to work for fear of being shunned by more fashionable personages than I. 

 Clogs being splendid on a Thanksgiving walk in the woods in 2015.

Clogs being splendid on a Thanksgiving walk in the woods in 2015.

You have served me so well through the tumult of 4th grade, the academic rigors of college, the snowy winters of New England, several garage construction projects, and many a voyage through airport security. 


And let's not forget the late pregnancy and early postpartum days. So comfortable! So convenient! So easy! So little bending over!


Heels, wedges, boots, booties, sneakers, flats, sandals, and heck, espadrilles all have their places, but I challenge anyone to find a more functional, comfortable, and, if your taste even remotely correlates with mine, dare I suggest...cute shoe than clogs. Paired with the right clothes, I say they are adorable. I'm not sure my pictures actually do that, but I loved them nonetheless. 

And, dear clogs, I have my eye on a few more pairs of you for future purchases. Just look at these! Clogs WITH HEELS:

  Lotta from Stockholm  knows what's up.

Lotta from Stockholm knows what's up.

Or these, also from Lotta from Stockholm:

If they weren't out of my price range (I mean really...all of these are a little beyond the average price range, but humor me), I'd be all over these Sven clogs with a braided strap...

Braided Clogs.jpg

Not only because I like them myself, but also because they also have KID'S CLOGS. I can imagine almost nothing better. 

And so, dearest, loveliest clogs, I want to thank you for your many years of service. Thank you for filling an important gap in my wardrobe, for lasting forever, for your amazing durability, and most importantly, your encouragement for me to stand by my somewhat questionable shoe taste. I hope you become a trend nationwide so that I no longer have to justify my opinion to anyone who doubts your superpowers.

Love always,

A Clog Aficionado 

The Best of 2017: A Highlight Reel

It goes without saying that the best thing that happened in 2017 was Elise's arrival. Hands down, no question, duh. But curses. Now I've said it. So I'll just leave you with a Day 1 picture and a Today picture so that you can imagine how much goodness was in between the two.

 Lest you mistakenly assume she sleeps all the time, I counter that assumption with reality: we were up at 2:30, 4:30, 5:40, and 6:45 last night. I think she's teething.

Lest you mistakenly assume she sleeps all the time, I counter that assumption with reality: we were up at 2:30, 4:30, 5:40, and 6:45 last night. I think she's teething.

And now that we've gotten that out of the way, I hereby give you my best-of list for 2017. You that it's 2018. I should have written this a week ago.

Best Location

I/We traveled several places this year, both pre- and post-baby. These places ranged from Vermont to New York to Washington to Vienna to Prague to Budapest, and Budapest took the cake. I was 19 weeks pregnant and it was cold/snowy/icy in January, but it was beautiful, and I loved walking around the city in all its wintry loveliness with my wiggly (internal) baby as company. The food is delicious, the cost of living is inexpensive, the people are friendly, and the history is fascinating. 


Best Book(s)

I read a lot of things until May 28th. After that my reading rate went WAY down, but I'm hoping to pick it up again in the coming months. That should technically be easy since Elise currently prefers to nap with me rather than in her crib...but I'm getting off track. Unsurprisingly, my favorite books were on the topic of home and/or motherhood. 

I've loved The Lifegiving Home for a couple of years now, and I've definitely recommended it here before. It's a book that really gave me a vision for how I want our home to be, and it has lots of practical ideas presented in a warm way that is both encouraging and inspirational. Since the second half of the book has a chapter for each month of the year, I reread through those sections from September onward. I'm hoping to continue that as we move into 2018. 

My other favorite book, The Magic of Motherhood, was a recent discovery that I purchased on a whim during a ridiculous Amazon sale (where else could you get a hardcover book for $7.50?). It's written by a group of authors who collectively contribute to the Coffee + Crumbs blog, and it's organized into several short essays. I found that it was best enjoyed during nursing sessions, since I could read a couple of the essays in the amount of time it took Elise to eat. It's beautiful and uplifting while at the same time not shirking away from harder topics. Two thumbs up from me.

Best TV Show

We waited all year for this one! The Crown (season 2) is a show that we anticipated for 11 months, and then watched in about a week. It went by too fast! 

As an unabashed British royalty fan, it was right up my alley. We enjoyed season 1 last year, and enjoyed season 2 just as much this round. And both Chaz and I liked it, which is saying something about a British period drama! This also relates to my next category...

Best Website

I heard about this one on an episode of the Federalist podcast that focused on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's engagement. I don't really know how to describe, so I will just tell you that it has lots of articles on the royals (well beyond William, Kate, Harry, and Meghan), TV shows (The Crown!), and a HOST of things including unusual celebrity fashion choices, award shows, and other bizarre things. I'm very much looking forward to their coverage of the royal wedding in May. I realize that listing this website as my favorite of the year may reveal my shameful interest in celebrities rather than just the royal family, but...there it is.

Best Photos

These are all pretty much baby-related. I'm not sorry. As a result, they're not actually the best *quality* photos, just my favorites.

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I think that's it for my highlight reel. Onward to 2018!

Grand Plans

I had this idea recently that it would be very fun to take a group trip to London. Babies included, of course. It would be great to get a group of friends together, hop on a plane to a European location that is literally closer than the other side of the US, and gallivant around the city together, taking babies' schedules into account. This seems like a reasonable idea to me because several of my friends have babies around the same age, so it's the perfect opportunity. Most of them are still considered lap infants and would therefore be free on flights.


This idea first came about due to a dream. I had a lovely morning dream between Elise's 5:00 nursing session and her 7:30 wake up that some friends and I (plus family) were hanging out in London. It was so lovely that I immediately texted my friend around 8:00 and told her we should do it. I laughed at myself until I forgot all about it later that afternoon.

However, later in the week the idea leapt back into my (let's be honest...probably delusional) brain over lunch, and I turned an unlikely scenario into searching for air fares. 


Just consider it. YOU TOO could take a crooked selfie in front of the gates of Buckingham Palace.


Suddenly, my idea no longer seemed impossible, and I am convinced that I need to do it. I'd be happy with a family trip, a girls' trip, an extended family trip, a solo trip, ANY KIND OF TRIP. But trust me when I say it'd be more fun to go as a group. I've done the solo London touring thing and while great, it's more exciting to share the experience. Plus I know Elise can conquer a 6-hour flight, so we've got that covered.


So please, someone, sign up to come with me to England. It would be merry, I'm sure. Perhaps if we're feeling especially adventurous and the baby/babies is/are feeling particularly compliant, we could even take the train to Paris for a day. Let's hear it for the Eurostar. WHO'S IN? I've been bitten by the international travel bug and I will not be restrained. BYOB(aby).

And this time, I promise not to get stuck in traffic 45 minutes before the plane is supposed to leave. It wasn't my best moment.


Seven Months of Elise

Well, we've arrived at yet another month marker. This one snuck up on me. In all other months, I've started thinking of Elise as the upcoming month's age a week or two prior to the actual date. But this time? I thought she had a couple more days to go at least before she graduated from a half a year to a month plus a half year. 

This month brought with it a host of changes! She started crawling at six months plus three days, something I only remember with such specificity because the month change had happened so recently prior. While very exciting, I had rather been looking forward to the "potted plant" stage where she would happily sit on a blanket while playing with toys. No such luck for me. We went from stationary lying to very non-stationary moving in the blink of an eye, and there was no turning back. 


Our house converted from being quite safe to extremely hazardous overnight, and we're in the process of baby-proofing everything at the moment. In the meantime, we watch her like an overprotective hawk while she zooms around every conceivable area all the live long day. 

Within a week or two of crawling, she also decided she'd like to pull herself up to a stand, and we lowered the crib mattress ASAP. In lieu of having an easily accessible crib rail, she finds many a surface with which to serve her standing needs. The current favorite is a box of Costco wipes waiting to be stocked away.


She babbles all the time, alternating between syllables and growls to her heart's content. She's also sampled some "real" food this month, trying her taste buds at such exotic flavors as plain yogurt (with a touch of maple syrup), peanut butter (hooray for no allergies!), Thai massaman curry (hey, the doctor said to mash up whatever we were eating...), butternut squash and apple soup (sampled at our work's Christmas party), and avocado (which she despised). It seems that she appreciates many a flavor but hates any and all textures other than liquid, so we'll be introducing textured things later. That said, she does enjoy a good chomp on a whole carrot when the time is right. 


When she wants to sit still for long enough, she loves to read books, and I frequently watch her crawl over to her bookshelf to pat each book on the binding, apparently to signify her approval of the contents. As a result, several baby Bibles have made their way to the most easily-accessible shelf. 


She has a few favorite toys at the moment, and thoroughly enjoys time spent on her play mat.


However, she typically finds the tag on said play mat as interesting (if not more so) than the actual toys. 


She had her very first Christmas this month, and in spite of dealing with a bit of a cold during the festivities, she enjoyed herself and loved having her Nana, Papa, and two uncles around for the occasion. 


As previously stated in every month post since she's been born, we love her to pieces. She's the most marvelously delightful little girl and we think she's just the best. 


A 6-Month Report on Favorite Baby Products

When Elise was two months old, I made a list of my favorite baby products so far. I still stand by my list! But it was great for a newborn, and now we have a 6-month old (almost 7, actually!), and the list has changed a tad as a result. Thus, here is my list of current favorite baby products for a 0.5 year old kiddo.

1) Fleece booties: Winter in New England is cold. When cold, humans, babies included, need foot coverings. And babies in particular need ones that aren't easy to take off. These fit the bill, and they look so cozy that I wish they had them in my size. Elise wears them practically every day, and now that she's pulling herself up to a stand on the regular, we added some with grippers to her Christmas list. Be gone, cold feet! Only warm ones for us!

2) Wearable blankets: I don't know if this can count as an official "product" since I made it myself, but a rolling baby (or if I'm honest, a stomach-sleeping baby) made swaddles a thing of the past and we moved on to sleep sacks. There are some great ones out there (Halo! Aden + Anais! Hanna Andersson! Carter's!), but I wanted an especially warm one since we let our house get pretty cool at night, and I wanted one that wouldn't break the bank. Ahem: I'm looking at YOU, Anthropologie. And so I crafted one, lining it with both batting and flannel, with a cotton exterior. We use them every night and they successfully fend off the cold. 


Given enough time and a bit more practice, I might consider selling them on Etsy, but we've got a way to go before we get there. And rest assured...mine will not be $90.

3) Nuk Pacifiers: After a solid five months of refusing any and all pacifiers, Elise finally decided these were ok. I should put a disclaimer here in case anyone is taking my highly subjective word as law. Just because my baby ended up taking these doesn't mean another baby will. But they're going on my favorites list anyway, because they were hugely helpful in getting Elise to go to sleep more easily at night, at least until she discovered her thumb. 

4) Columbia Snowsuit: As previously stated, it's cold in the winter, and thus going outside requires some gear. This snowsuit keeps Elise nice and toasty, so her first snow experience was a great one. We got ours at the end of winter last year (before she was born!), so it was on super sale. I highly recommend going that route if you're particularly adept at forecasting clothes sizes. 

5) AngelCare Movement Monitor: This one is decidedly an investment, but for me it was 100% worth it. SIDS is a terrifying thing, and like a stereotypical first time parent, for the first few months I checked on Elise's breathing multiple times every evening and then every time I woke up at night while she was still asleep. After I started having nightmares about waking up and finding her not breathing, I knew I had to do something. This monitor entirely took away the nightly anxiety for me, and while I might be able to equally attribute that to a rather fantastic reduction in postpartum hormones, I love the peace of mind that it provides. It works even with my little non-wiggly stomach sleeper, so I'd say it's pretty effective. It also helped me feel a LOT more confident about putting Elise in her own room, which has been hugely beneficial for getting consecutive hours of uninterrupted sleep for all three of us. 

6) Baby Boden tights: There's clearly a theme going on here. Yet another thing that keeps a baby warm...these tights are so great. They're thick and wonderful and they, like many other things, periodically go on sale. We have two pairs and they are on regular rotation multiple times per week. I'm hoping they grow with her so that they last forever. Most Boden stuff is out of our regular price range, but these are very, very much worth a little extra.

Screen Shot 2017-12-27 at 8.51.57 PM.png

Here are the tights (in the cream color, obviously) in the wild. 

Exhibit A: 


Exhibit B: 


7) A cardboard box: This one isn't linkable since it is what it is. Elise loves sitting in an empty diapers box, and it's great because she's delightfully stationary. I recommend a box to everyone. And look! She's so pleased!


So there you have my current list. Honorable mentions go to the Bumbo Multi Seat, an Ergo baby carrier, the BundleMe carseat cover, and this extraordinarily baby-entertaining musical octopus toy, as they are used on the daily. Oh, and Elise's own thumb. Her discovery of her thumb as a self-soothing device was a sleeping game changer, but it's not exactly something that's available on the market. And of course, what would a baby product recommendation post BE without yet another nod toward the Solly Baby Wrap. I will proclaim my love for it for all eternity. Anything you think I missed? Tell me your top picks!

Six Months of Elise

At this exact moment a half a year ago, I was lying in a hospital bed with a 16-minute old baby in my arms. Upon her arrival sixteen minutes prior, she had been whisked over to the warmer to be evaluated by the neonatologist to make sure all her bells and whistles were in good order, and when she was declared perfectly healthy, they handed her to Chaz, who handed her to me. And after that turn of events, our little family's world has never been the same, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

It's hard to believe that was only six months ago. Every single parent on the face of the earth says, "I can't remember what life was like before Baby arrived," and we all just chuckle and carry on, but as with almost every saying that is repeated 'round the globe, it's completely true. That IS why it's a common saying, after all. But that doesn't stop me from repeating it once again. I can't really remember what life was like before Elise arrived. Heck, what did we DO with all of our spare time? 

In other news, Elise is six months old and is a ball full of energy. 


She's gotten significantly better at holding herself in seated position once placed there, although she hasn't quite mastered getting there herself. She's trying on the regular though, so I suppose that will come in no time.

She rarely cries, but she has zero tolerance for being on her back and will flip herself over on to her stomach and get up on her hands and knees before you can say Jack Robinson. 


She's pretty proud of herself, too. 

She talks most of the time, and has expanded her vocabulary to "Babababababa," "Bwahbwahbwahbwah" (I promise that's different from babababa), "Mamamamama," "Dadadadada," and "Brrrbrrrbrrrbrrr." She still enjoys both squealing and growling, although more often than not those sounds include syllables as well. What excitement!

Speaking of excitement, when she finds something particularly thrilling, she'll make a funny sort of inhaling gasp/squeak, accompanied with curling up into a ball and enthusiastically clutching the shoulder of whoever is carrying her. This combination of actions is usually brought on by walking down the stairs after waking up for a nap, going outside, or whenever someone says something excitedly. 


She seems to be within days of figuring out how to crawl, as she is able to move her knees while on all fours, and often rocks back and forth trying to get herself to move forward. Once she figures out her hands need to move as well, she'll be off to the races.


And last but not least, she cut two teeth while we were in Washington for Thanksgiving, and she is suddenly back to (mostly) sleeping through the night. Insert praise hands here. 


Other fast facts to note:

  • She took her first flight and handled it like a champ.
  • She had her first Thanksgiving and ate no Thanksgiving food - still on a fully liquid (milk) diet!
  • She's started sleeping in her own room at night, now that she's more consistent in not waking up. 
  • She's working on moving up a clothes size, and as a result has a rather inflated closet since she fits in 3-6 month but also in 6-9 month outfits.

And we love her to pieces. 

O Christmas Tree...

I think Christmas just got infinitely more exciting. I mean, Christmas has always been exciting, but with a baby, it became even more so. I'm not sure which is better: being a kid at Christmas or having a kid at Christmas. Perhaps we'll never know. Or at least I'll know after a few Christmases with a kid are under my belt.

Needless to say, I'm pretty pumped about this coming Christmas, and so we got started with the Christmas decorations a little earlier than usual this year, beginning with the Christmas tree.

In a perfect world, we'd go to the tree farm and cut down our own tree. I have such great memories of doing that for years as a kid and I'd love to pass that down, but it turns out that somehow cutting down our own is significantly MORE expensive than buying a pre-cut one. Someone explain that to me, please. Someone has to do all the labor of cutting, moving, arranging, selling, and attaching the trees to cars, but it's $20 less expensive than me going to the farm, sawing, transporting, and attaching everything on my own?

I digress.

Long story short, we got Elise's first Christmas tree at the local garden supply place down the road, but as far as pre-cut trees go, they had a really good selection and it was still fun. 

We headed to the lot on Saturday afternoon and perused the various tree options. There were several good ones! 


Our living room has limited options for tree placement, so we knew we wanted something not too tall and not too wide, but not too short and not too skinny. Basically, it had to be just right. Fortunately, we found the perfect one within a few minutes and then we made sure that Elise approved. 


When we couldn't get her attention to take a picture, we knew that was it. And so we played it like the millennials that we are and took a family selfie, then paid for our tree and got it on top of the car. 


As one does with Christmas trees, we brought it home, set it up, and filled it with decorations while Christmas music played in the background. Midway through we made breakfast for dinner, and then finished it up after we ate. 

We tried to take one more picture along the way, but it's a little tough while baby-wrangling and this is pretty much what we got:


And finally, because Christmas with a baby is magical, I took a few photos while she played with some lights to round out the evening. 


Since Advent starts later this year, we have an extra week to enjoy the season. We're celebrating at our house this year for the first time, and I'm quite looking forward to slowing down, savoring the preparations, the decorations, and the holiness in which these weeks are steeped. And I can't wait to watch Elise take it all in for the first time, since there's something especially lovely about introducing holidays to someone who's already filled with wonder over the regular day to day life. May we all anticipate Jesus's birth with such childlike amazement. 

Five Months of Elise

Somehow, another month has passed already and I'm back here to document. Usually I like to have a few posts between the month by month ones, I am without other filler. Besides, a regular dose of Elise updates is all anyone ever wanted, right? Ha.


This month, Elise finally decided that rolling from her back to her stomach is her new favorite activity, and if you put her down on her back, she'll be on her stomach within the blink of an eye. Occasionally, typically in the morning when she has the most energy, she'll do a few barrel rolls and go from back to stomach, stomach to back, back to stomach, etc. until she's reached the opposite side of whatever surface she's lying on. Needless to say, it has become even more difficult to get a non-blurry photo of her while she plays, since all she wants to do is move around. 


She continues to expand her repertoire of sounds, from the bottom of her range with growls, and the very top of her range with extremely high pitched squeals. The growls are particularly endearing, while the squeals could be considered ear-splitting. Upon experiencing them during a 3-hour car trip, Chaz said, "I think it's time to invest in some ear plugs."


She's got a little more peach fuzz on top of her head, and it looks like she's going to be blond, at least for now. With two brunette parents, I think chances are good that she will one day join the club. 


She has just started to be able to sit up by herself if put in position, although it's pretty hit or miss whether she'll stay up or tip over on her side. I'm guessing by the time six months rolls around, she will be doing it all on her own. She's also showing some signs of getting ready to crawl, pushing herself backwards in order to get up on hands and knees. 


All the changes have been pretty exciting, except that she has gone back to waking up a few times a night rather than sleeping all the way through. Nevertheless, we think she's the greatest, even when we're getting a bit less rest.  


With everything that's changed this month, we're so excited to see what next month brings!

Four Months of Elise

Things have been a little more...distracted around here these days, seeing as I'm writing this a solid two weeks late. Elise is four months old! She's growing like a weed! She's learning new things! Per usual, we must document.


My photos weren't as good this month because she was wiggling all around, exploring the world around her. Or at least her own fingers. At the four month mark, she is able to consistently roll over from front to back, and occasionally roll from back to front. However, she still prefers to reserve this particular activity for the most special of times, namely when she doesn't want to sleep. As with last month, her most favorite activity while spending time lying on her stomach is to try to propel herself forward, so far to no avail. She is an absolute pro at rotating herself in a full circle when she has the room though, so it's only a matter of time.


She talks all the time while at home or in her car seat, but when we're out and about she would rather observe everything than say much. Her favorite sounds include "Ummmmm," "Mmmmm," "Maaaaaa," and if we're really lucky, "Mama." I'm 100% sure that she does not associate the word with me at all, but it's rather gratifying nonetheless.


Her four month checkup revealed that she has grown a full six inches since birth, and she's off the percentile charts for height. However, if there were a percentile chart for hair growth, that would be incremental at best, seeing as she still gets called Baldie every once in awhile by perfect strangers. Let it be known that she does indeed have hair, but it's very light and very short. And it is growing! Just very slowly. 

And last but not least, here's a smattering of non-month-specific photos from the last month that deserve to be published just because we think she's the sweetest. 

 Is there anything better than a pajama-clad baby? I say no. 

Is there anything better than a pajama-clad baby? I say no. 

 Blurry, but her face is too good to not post.

Blurry, but her face is too good to not post.

 She thinks standing is the coolest. Some balancing assistance is required.

She thinks standing is the coolest. Some balancing assistance is required.

We love you, little bean! 

Apple Picking and the Start of a Tradition

When I was little, one of the key indicators that fall had arrived was going apple picking. Chapin Orchard was a couple towns over, and we'd visit the animals, take a hayride, and of course...pick apples. I don't actually remember what we did with the apples we picked, but they definitely all got eaten one way or another!

By the time I got to college, the yearly outing was treasured enough (and similarly loved by friends) that we made it a priority to go to a nearby orchard in the fall to continue the tradition despite being away from home. We added on apple cider donuts to the animal visiting, hayride, and apple picking, and that became as important as the other aspects. Perhaps more so, if I'm being honest!

I don't know if I really thought about it as a tradition until lately though. But this year, with a tiny human with whom we'd like to establish some annual traditions, it suddenly felt more important. So when my friend Meghanne suggested apple picking with our respective families, the idea was irresistible. 


So we loaded up our babies and met at the farm, and headed out to the orchard to gather our apples. 


Elise is still a little too small to get excited about the picking process at this point, but she did enjoy spending time in the wrap while Chaz and I did all the gathering work!


We stopped picking long enough to take a few family pictures, which is great since I have precious few photos of all three of us together. I mean, 99% of the pictures I take these days are of Elise and Elise alone, so it's nice to mix it up every once in awhile. 


We got some good ones of Meghanne's family as well! 


We each gathered a half a bushel of Cortland and Red Delicious apples, making sure to only grab the good ones. That turned out to be harder than expected, because many of the apples looked like they'd been afflicted with some sort of apple-y disease, but we managed to find some spot-free ones without too much trouble. Several of the good ones were high up, so Meghanne and I stood back and let the taller ones among us grab those. 


And before we left the orchard area, we made sure to get a group photo, because it didn't happen if it wasn't documented, right? Right.


As we walked back to the farm center, we found one of those...cut out things where you can poke your head through a hole. I'm sure there's a name for those, but I'm not educated enough to know what it is. So Wooden Hole Thing is the official term for now. Obviously, more pictures were in order, because when a Wooden Hole Thing is available and babies are present, such an opportunity should not be missed. Behold, a series of photos: 

 Elise wasn't too sure about it. 

Elise wasn't too sure about it. 


All the modeling tired Elise out, I suppose, since she cuddled right up and proceeded to fall asleep. 


We ended our adventure with apple cider donuts, since we had already established that the donuts were the secondary goal of apple picking. This farm did not disappoint - I'm pretty sure they were the best apple cider donuts I've ever had, and I've eaten quite a few in my day. 


In short, we had a grand old time. Elise definitely won't be old enough to remember this trip, but it's something I hope to repeat year after year so that we can start establishing traditions of our own. 

I love fall - I mean really, who doesn't - but it isn't just because of the pretty colors on the trees, the crispness in the air, or the sumptuous food that ends up on our tables with the change of season. Instead, it's the gathering in, to pull an idea from The Lifegiving Home (frequently mentioned here of late). I love the feeling of the pull homeward, the desire for warmth and stocking up, preparing for winter, and making things cozy. And so I made 11 jars of applesauce with our apples while Elise slept this afternoon. I took a little break when she cried a bit in her sleep, taking more time than usual to snuggle with her and breathe in her freshly-bathed baby smell before settling her back in her crib to snooze the afternoon away. Gathering in doesn't just have to be about stocking a home pantry. I gathered Elise in my arms, knowing that she won't be small enough to gather this way forever. I gathered memories of our apple adventure, storing them away for years to come. We're slowly gathering traditions throughout Elise's first year, hopefully giving her an anchor in life as she grows.

We're already planning on doing an apple picking trip next year, because traditions are important. They gives us the peculiar opportunity to gather both memories and hopes all at once. 

Three Months of Elise

Today, Elise is three months old! Insert a paragraph here about how fast time is passing and oh-my-goodness-HOWWWW. But all of that has been said before both here and by every parent in the history of ever, so I'll spare you the redundancy. Just please note that all of it - every last jot and tittle that you've heard from everyone - is 100% true. 


Three-month Elise has recently discovered her vocal cords and has been putting them to good use, having full-on conversations with us on the daily. Fortunately, she has not decided to use her newly discovered skills in places slightly less familiar than home, which is good news for us during church. I suspect those days are coming to an end, however, and we'll have to adjust our church service strategies to accommodate. 


She has also become the Drool Queen and enjoys chomping on her hands, making a bit of a mess wherever she goes. Toys occasionally find their way into her mouth as well, but at least for now, she enjoys looking at them more than playing with them. Her favorite toy is a stuffed cow from a school I visited for work last year, probably due to the dramatic color contrast between the black and white spots on his body. 


While she hasn't yet mastered rolling over, she does manage to get from tummy to back with only a tiny bit of assistance, so the day is nigh! She loves tummy time and prefers to spend it attempting to move forward in a sort of crawl rather than trying to flip herself sideways. 

When it comes to routines, we've been following her cues, and within the last two weeks she's established an astonishingly consistent bedtime between 7:30 and 8:00. She spends the first part of the evening sleeping in her crib, and then we feed, change, and move her into our room when we go to bed. She will sometimes give us a full night's rest, but most nights she wakes up between 3:30 and 5:30 looking for food and a clean diaper. She usually goes right back to sleep, though, so we don't complain! 


She has about 1000 nicknames, ranging from the formal Miss Elise to the much less formal Bean, Nugget, Goober, Grumpkin (when fussing), Peanut, and the list goes on. We think she's the coolest, and with every new achieved milestone, I'm both celebrating her achievements and begging time to slow down. After all, a quarter of a year (already!) is nothing to sneeze at. 


We love you, baby girl! We're so blessed to be the ones who get to watch you grow.

Levain Bakery Follow Up: The Homemade Version

If you recall, when we went to New York, I tried the famous Levain Bakery cookies and decided they were alright, but not hands down the greatest cookies of all time. Remember? I even made a preposterous claim that I liked my own cookie recipe better. 

As a result, I decided that I needed to turn the flavor of my cookies into the size, shape, and texture of the Levain cookies, and set to work. My two biggest peeves with the Levain cookies were a) the walnuts and b) the (lack of) a good dough flavor, so that's what I set out to "fix." 

There are a number of food bloggers on the interwebs that have already undertaken replica Levain recipes, so I started there. This one looked good, but a friend had already tried making this one and declared it was amazing, so that's the one I ended up using as my base recipe. That one turned out to be a good one, since the baker had already done the hard work of figuring out how much flour and chocolate chips were required to make up for the removed walnuts. And so I got to work. Here's what I did:


  • 1 cup frozen salted butter (grated on a cheese grater)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the grated butter and the two kinds of sugar until smooth.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated into the butter and sugar mixture.
  4. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix until smooth.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth. (I do this step in three batches.)
  7. Once all the ingredients are fully mixed, remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips. (There are a lot of chocolate chips, so don't be alarmed.)
  8. Scoop the dough into baseball-sized dough balls and place them on a cookie sheet lined with either a baking mat or parchment paper. There should be no more than four per sheet. Do not flatten the dough balls.
  9. Bake the cookies for 11 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are the perfect shade of golden brown.
  10. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them sit on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes to finish the baking process.

And oh. my. goodness. These were actually the best cookies I've ever had. My husband said, "I don't know how anyone could finish one of those in one sitting. I had a half of a half and I'm full!"


Well, folks, I'm here to say that I CAN finish one in one sitting, although I will also say that I probably wouldn't want to eat anything else until the next day, so if you make this recipe, eat at your own (delicious) risk. My friend Rachael and I sat down and consumed them alongside a glass of wine and the finale of The Bachelorette. They were, as she posted to Snapchat...