20 February 2019

Wells Cathedral

Here is a quick photo dump of our Sunday afternoon trip to Wells, which is just a short trip down the road. It was beautiful and snowy and picturesque and I can't imagine a more quintessentially English view. 

12 February 2019

Expat Family Blogs

Living and working as an expat may seem like a fantastic opportunity, but if you are relocating with a young family, there are a lot of challenges you may not have previously considered. The good news is that there are many expat families living and working around the world and sharing their experiences online. 

I am a big fan of expat family blogs. In fact, it just dawned on me the other day, that now that we have Ezra, Young Rubbish officially lives within that genre. I've finally arrived! 

Not only can family-centric expat blogs give really helpful information, but it can be fun to daydream about what it would be like to have family in Japan or Switzerland or someplace else fun and exotic. For that reason, I’ve teamed up with Allianz Care to spread the love and compile a list of my favourite expat family bloggers that can help give you tips on living, working & raising children abroad. Hopefully, you find a new read to love as well!

Based in: Singapore, UK, occasionally France

With two young children, The Expat Mama covers a wide range of topics including things like homesickness, children’s education abroad, and even baking. I really love her ‘The Expat Mama meets’ section, where she interviews expats from around the world about why they became expats, what they would do differently if they moved again, and advice for others moving to their location. It is a treasure trove of reliable information if you are considering a move to an expat destination.
Post to check out: If You Go Down to the Woods Today... (feeds my forest-loving soul)

Based in: Abu Dhabi

I really like bloggers who talk about financial and family matters in a really open and honest way. This blog by Keri Hedrick does just that, focusing on travel advice, family life and money matters from an expat perspective. If you are considering the costs of moving abroad or are interested in the kind of salary to expect as an expat, you'll probably find this blog helpful.
Post to check out: The Real Cost of Expat Living.

Based in: the Seychelles

Blogger Chantelle, and her husband Mark, knew from the outset that they wanted to raise their family abroad so they made the decision to move to the Seychelles only a month after marrying! They now have two children and Chantelle blogs about life as an expat in this tropical paradise.
Post to check out: Expat Family Guilt

Based in: Switzerland

This one is a really sweet blog by an American expat living in Switzerland with her three children. It follows their daily adventures and is a fresh perspective on the expat life. In particular, she discusses the pros and cons of raising her children in Switzerland and provides travel advice for the area. It is the perfect blog for parents dreaming of an idyllic Swiss life.

Post to check out: 24 Hours in Zurich

Based in: Germany

Yolande started out writing this blog (like most of us) as a sort of online journal. However, it has blossomed into a really great repository of helpful information about German life and culture. It is a great resource for young families in Germany and for parents of third culture kids.

Hopefully, this list will inspire you and take you on new wanderlust-ing daydreams! I hope these expat blogs will help answer some of the parenting questions you have about raising your children abroad. If you are one of those lucky families moving abroad, please ensure to protect your family’s health and get expat health insurance, especially if you headed to place without socialised medicine. Trust me, you will be so grateful you did. 

04 February 2019

January + Favourite/Regrets to Buy for Baby

January, January, where did you go? This month has just flashed past my face faster than I can believe. And now February has come in with a snowstorm and Ezra's experience with snow!

By all accounts, life is going pretty well. Some days, like the last two, are absolute perfection. Ezra has been the stuff of maternal daydreams--so snuggly and sweet, constantly looking up at his mama with his adoring dimpled smile and throwing his arms around my neck and giggling.

Then there are days like today. I just ran my fingers through my hair and almost gagged realising I have a head full of mini-dreads, thanks to Ezra burying his sick, snotty nose into my hair over and over again. He won't be put down for anything which means no expressing (still full time) or showering for the foreseeable future, but I can balance him on my shoulder, while I type, so... blessings?

In other news, Ezra has ALMOST started crawling thanks to a solid month of virtually nothing but tummy time. He can also take about 8 steps on his own on a good day. We also started weaning, which has been a mixture of baby-led and baby food. Amazingly, I didn't get much traction on the baby food until I realised he wanted to feed himself, and suddenly he became a hearty eater. There is no doubt he is a very independent little boy, which I'm sure will drive me to insanity when he gets older (but I'm enjoying it now--mostly because he pairs his self-determined streak with a ton of cuddles, so it somehow feels balanced).

January has been filled with fun times--a New Years Eve party with, what is now becoming, the annual game of Extreme Uno; a Mega Monopoly and mocktail night; and a Wagamama's birthday for our friend Byron. Ezra has been a champ for pretty much all of it, which makes my life a whole lot easier. I also am now a primary teacher on Sunday, which I absolutely love.

Also, now that it has been almost seven months since Ezra came into our life, I want to take a minute to reflect and write down a list of the best/worst things I bought before he was born. This is mostly for my own memory's sake, but I'll put links in case someone else finds it helpful.


1) Glass Baby Bottles
There are only two things I really felt like I splurged on, and this was the first. From nannying and working in orphanages, I learned really quickly what a pain it is to sterilise plastic bottles. Also, I know they say that they are BPA free, but heating up plastic over and over again just doesn't seem healthy to me, so I opted for glass bottles.

There is no doubt they are expensive, but I've happily got by with two small, and one large. They are sturdy and don't break when dropped (unless one comes flying out of a backpack on to stone--yes, this happened to me). They are a dream to clean and, when the time comes, retain a lot of resale value.




2) Bedside Crib
My second splurge item, as I bought almost everything else secondhand, was this sidecar crib. I love that it allows for cosleeping without the fear of having baby in the bed. Because I am a worrier, I can't imagine feeling comfortable in those early days if I couldn't hear Ezra breath or see his little glow-in-the-dark dummy move around. This also was extra helpful in the first week while I was attempting to breastfeed, as he was close at hand.



3) Books
My top three books for a newborn are the following:

First 100 Words
I hadn't realised this book was so large when I originally ordered it, but I LOVE that about it. It can stand up by itself and kept Ezra's attention better than almost anything else in those early days (and still does now). It really helps with vocabulary building, and you simply point and read the words provided or expand to more descriptive words easily.

UK and US

This book is an inexplicable diamond. It was floating around in a nursery class I once taught, and I swear I have never seen a book capture the hearts and attention of toddlers better. At six months even it is far and away Ezra's favourite book; he'll often hold it out to me to read.

The book itself is a simple story of a monkey with a banana, and his friend who comes along and also wants it. Even though it only has two words in the entire book, when read properly it teaches about sharing, manners, emotions, and friendship.
 UK and US

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Possibly the best and most classic children's book of all time? Honestly, it boggles my mind what a clever little book this is. It teaches: days of the week, foods, counting, healthy eating, biology, and change over time completely effortlessly. And it is just a beautiful little read regardless. The story is also simple enough to keep Ezra's attention even at 6 months, but engaging enough as an adult to appreciate.
UK and US
4) Wooden Toys
As I've mentioned, pretty much everything we own is a gift, made by hand, or secondhand, and the toys are no different. This partially comes from wanting to be frugal but also wanting to sensible about the environmental impact of plastics and my absolute love of pedagogies like Montessori. I'm always on the lookout on facebook marketplace or gumtree for wooden toys, but I did get this one new on Amazon, and it is one of my favourites.

UK and US

5) Breastpump
If I were not exclusively breastfeeding, I probably would not have purchased an electronic pump. However, it has been a godsend (having a child has taught me over and over that I was born in the right time in history).
Here is the handpump I used:
Uk and US

Here is the electronic pump I used:
UK and US
Both have been brilliant.


1) Cloth Nappies
I don't actually have a problem with cloth nappies, and had fully intended on doing them. But I did spend a fair bit of money getting everything together for something that didn't work out.

2) Formula
This is actually something I SHOULD have bought but didn't. I didn't want to give myself an out on the breastfeeding front so I intentionally didn't buy any and put myself in a really horrible position when I temporarily went dry on a Saturday evening after all the shops had closed. Nothing is scarier than having a newborn baby screaming at you in hunger and knowing there is at least 12 hours between you and relief. Prepare ahead of time.

3) Out of season clothes
I bought most of Ezra's clothes secondhand in bundles. There were largely in like-new condition, but several of them came with out of season clothes I was never able to use. Still worth it though, and especially now that I've seen how fast babies grow out of clothes, I can't imagine spending the money to buy everything new.

4) Colourful wraps
My sister-in-law gave me several colourful baby wraps, which I LOVE (and am seriously so grateful for), but I do wish I had gotten one or two in neutral colours. I'm not the kind of person that feels super comfortable showing up in bright yellow or lavender so it took some getting used to. A black or grey one would have done the trick.

26 December 2018

Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas! What a wonderful season it has been. 

This year has felt extra special. I’ve been puzzling why it feels like this is our first Christmas together, and I think having a baby makes it feel like now the Christmases count. Now I have to be on my toes with traditions and foods and magic. My mom did such a good job with holidays when I was a kid, so I am determined to bring the same level of wonder knowing how special those memories are to me now.

This is a text I sent Jon last week. I left Ezra alone to use the bathroom, and when I came back I found this. I think I gasped out loud because Ezra can definitely NOT crawl yet. For a good day or so I had no idea how he had gotten there (which was eerie) until he spontaneously started doing double rolls across the room. 

The highlights: Ezra started sitting up on his own on Thanksgiving, his personal best is to stand (on his own) for 7 seconds and he took his first two steps on Christmas Eve with his daddy. 

But, when I’ve told people that over the past couple of days, the conversation usually goes something like this: 

Them: He’ll be walking before you know it! 
Me: I know, it’s crazy! He took his first two steps on Christmas Eve. 
Them: What, really? Hold on a sec… how old is he? 
Me: Five and a half months. 
Them: Wow. That’s AWFully early to be walking… 

And they say that last line with that one incredulous eyebrow raised up—the one usually reserved for delusional mothers who think their kid can read at 18 months. But I swear it’s true—this kid is just dead determined to be mobile, even if I am doing my darnedest to keep him from skipping over the crawling stage. 

The problem is that I once read an academic article that suggested crawling was critical for some cross-brain-hemisphere something-or-other and even though I’m sure there have been other studies that may say the opposite, I can’t get it out of my head. So I’m stuck somewhere between super proud mama and massively paranoid mama, something I very much doubt will get any better as he gets older.

Last week, Ezra and I went over to Sophie’s to make some Christmas crafts and we ended up immortalised this little guy’s monstrous footprint in the process. It’s not an optical illusion either; that is really the size of his feet. My theory is that it's his huge, pressure-loving feet that are to blame for his walking so early. 

The print now proudly displayed on our mantle, almost like proof of a baby Sasquatch. 

We’ve been lucky to have had a lot of fun Christmas festivities this year—from pie parties to Christmas lunches to a cheese + pyjama party. It has been a packed couple of weeks. Lucky for Ezra his best bud Avery is usually there. He is starting to get to the point where he seems to recognise people, and I think he might be starting to recognise her. I’m glad he has a little pal to grow up with.

Look at this spread! Serena’s cheese party was fab, even though our offering (a posh, locally produced soft cheese) was sort of the rotten egg of the evening—almost literally. After a round of try-to-place-the-cheese-flavour, we settled on partially-digested cauliflower. So, yeah, not a winner. Some of the others though were delish, especially this toffee cheddar

Quick side note: I learned that the reason I haven’t been able to find any carmels in this country (before this year) is because I was calling them the wrong name. Here they are called ‘toffee.’ In the States, the brown caramelised goodness is called ‘caramel’ if it's runny, a ‘carmel’ if it’s soft and chewy, and ‘English toffee’ if it is hard like peanut brittle (the last one now rings especially strange). What are the runny and hard kind called here? This is still a mystery I’ve yet to unravel. 

Anyway, before several very irreverent rounds of Quiplash that night, I had my first taste of non-alcoholic champagne. It was horrible. However, there was Appletiser, so my unrefined, sweet-loving pallet was happy. Also, Ezra had on a bobbly Christmas tree headband, so all was right with the world.

And so ends Ezra’s first Christmas. My little Santa-baby, Freddie-bear was the squishiest, loveliest baby this season. I’ll be sad to take the tree down, not just because our living room feels more balanced with it up, but also because I love seeing all the wonder and magic in E’s eyes. Babies are the best. Christmas is the best. Can’t wait til next year.

19 December 2018

It's Christmastime in the City

I've officially given birth to someone who gets as excited about Christmas as I do. When I was decorating the tree, I put Ezra underneathe (to watch) and he immediately started hyperventilating. I took some photos to try to capture the looks on his face--this kid doesn't even know what normal food tastes like yet, but he already knows Christmas is the bomb-diggity. Clearly, he is my son. 

Christmas isn't the only holiday this season in our family. Jon's birthday is at the beginning of December, so we decided to spend it in London. First stop on the list was to get Ezra's Christmas present. I've been thinking about this little piggy bank for months now and it finally belongs to us.

We've been talking for years about the holiday traditions we'll start when we have kids, and now the time has finally arrived. Tradition one is at the National Gallery. We spent an afternoon wandering around and looking at all the nativity and Christmas-related paintings and discussed them with the little nugget. I'm not sure he got a lot out of it, but he pretended to pay attention so he gets points for acting.

This one isn't really a Christmas painting, but Ezra is ALMOST channelling the Madonna painting behind him. I think he must be a prodigy or something. 

Last painting on the tour is The Charity of Saint Nicholas by Girolamo Macchietti. It is a painting of the real St. Nick throwing a golden ball (in the real legend it was a purse of money) into the house of an impoverished nobleman. St. Nicholas did this to save the girls from prostitution and provide them with dowries so they could be properly married. 

Ezra obviously got the G-rated version of that story and his own golden ball (a cadbury chocolate orange, which his parents ate on his behalf) and a little mini-discussion about Santa. Jon and I are planning on doing Santa a bit differently. We are treating Santa as a pretend game, where the kids know upfront it is all just for fun. We separately came to the conclusion that we felt weird about lying to our kids about it, but we both loved believing in Santa and definitely believed in him waaay longer than is really socially appropriate.

Coincidentally, we ran into an old friend of Jon's who took a similar approach with her children (who are old enough to know already). Their knowing the truth never dampened the magic--they even still they put out cookies for "Santa" and get excited about the hoofprints in the snow. Even though I think it is a decision that is really personal for everyone's own family, to me this seems like the best of both worlds :)

We also went to Winter Wonderland, as is our annual tradition. This year we got to cruise through by going in the 'family entrance.' When it started raining we left early out one of the main entrances and there was at least a half hour wait to get in (IN THE RAIN! bleh.) 

Finally, we began our third tradition, which is to go to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaur bones. 

Ezra decided to pretend to be a fossil the whole time, so he didn't get much out of it. But Jon sure did... I got a front row seat to watch him revert into an eight-year-old-aspiring-paleontologist. He could identify every single skeleton without even looking at the nameplate, which is pretty mind-boggling given that it has to be almost 30 years since he even opened a book about dinosaurs.  In spite of myself, I was impressed. Can't wait til Jon's little sidekick is old enough to appreciate and enjoy this one. 

Also, I found dodo birds. Real ones. 

Christmas time is a billion times better with a baby. Which, because I'm a photographer, means way too many photos of Ezra in Christmas-themed costumes. Stay tuned... :)