What to Pack for the Baby

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This is just a silly easy post to write! But it’s still useful to keep a list around.

What we packed for Alma for her six-week-old vacation: 

a sun hat (mostly useless, poolside umbrellas were a must)

a swim diaper (ended up keeping her out of the sun/water altogether)

two blankets (one warm, one light)

diapers (forgot wipes and bought them there instead)

single-use packets of formula, a bottle, two pacifiers

a warm sweater

two carriers, one nice, one form (see below for detail)

a scarf to drape for nursing privacy or block the sun or for warmth

fun summery clothing inherited from her sisters!

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I like to use a form carrier, like the becco or ergo, in airports. You can leave it on through security and my girls often napped in it right up until we sat down on the plane. They ask you to take it off before takeoff.

And I like to use a sakura bloom silk sling, especially in restaurants or going to events, or generally when I’m not trying to lift children/grocery bags/walk long distances.

Alma’s hotel sleep style:infant_vacation

Mostly she slept like this on our bed because I found the condo crib too deep to be useful–all that bending over and reaching! She is the first baby of mine who likes swaddles, this is my make-shift way of swaddling her. A week after taking this photo, I realized I could simply tie the aden + anais blanket and skip the binder clip altogether. At a second hotel I didn’t even ask for a crib, and used a couch cushion as her bed.

Flying with Alma, I remembered how delightful it is to fly with a baby that age, compared to say, a nine month old. They just curl up, nurse, and keep you company. Of course I had my corner seat to nurse in, with Joe and Joan as my bolsters (Lux was across the aisle, with strangers). I have nursed from a middle seat, with strangers on both sides, it is doable but it’s awfully nice to have a row with your people, if available.infant_vacation

No matter what seat you are in, bring one of those airline pillows that don’t actually do anything for adults; the ones you can buy in any airport gift shop. They work so well for infants. It is my favorite thing to rest her head on that instead of my balanced elbow or propped arm.

Alden & Harlow

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It’s a treat to visit a place you’ve been watching from afar. I saw Alden & Harlow, a new restaurant in Harvard Square next to Brattle Theatre, photographed on a thought for food, and then thoroughly written up on tiny urban kitchen. Between the two of them, and this Boston Magazine post about AH’s cocktail menu, I was positively desperate to check it out. Fortunately Natalie and Anna are always game to visit new spots and we got a date on the calendar quickly.

What is really fun about the menu is the fact that everything is a small plate, but very shareable and priced well. Three of our favorites–the kale salad, the butternut squash salad, and charred broccoli (with squash hummus!)–were priced at $9 and completely divisible by three. In all, we shared eight plates, including dessert. It was so nice to get to try so many flavors–especially when each plate was packed with different textures and tastes–nuts, seeds, oils, yogurt, seasonings of all varieties. The flavor medleys matched our conversation as we found ourselves talking almost exclusively about travel–past trips and future dreaming. Natalie, just back from Thailand, is planning trips to Turkey and Argentina. And Anna has a nearly perfect West Coast trip just a month away.

The service style is spot on–no rush to continue ordering, we were encouraged to just enjoy and relish, and order more as we wished. The cocktails are wild–local, extremely seasonal, and unlike anything I’d seen. I hesitate to recommend a specific one for you, but I will tell you not to miss the house bitter with your dessert.

One last thing–I couldn’t believe how good the chips and dip where. You’ll hear from everyone all about their salads and amazing veggies, but I love a good chip & dip snack and this three-onion-dip was delicious and the chips were so crunchy and fresh. Best chips, best dip, respect for that.

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St. Thomas

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It was a glorious week on St. Thomas. I couldn’t believe what an easy four hour direct flight it was. And on Jetblue, to boot. Thus we sallied into the airport accompanied by several bags of bluechips each, and plenty of DirectTV. If only Joan hadn’t spent most of the flight attempting to chew through my headphones.

We went to the US Virgin Islands so we didn’t need a passport for Joan and there were no customs to trudge through after we landed. (I was interested to learn that the US bought the islands from Denmark around the time of WWI, wisely outbidding Germany.)

Did I complain once about travel with children? Banish the thought. I love how a toddler will be delighted by a twenty minute ride, and the baby by an abandoned playground that you happen upon. I believe we were at the beach by 9am every day. Back to our hotel room for naps around noon, and then back out again in the evening. Several times we had the girls in the pool by moonlight.

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I can’t even imagine sailing up from Europe on some explorer’s boat, way back when, and seeing these islands. Just so beautiful, everywhere you look. Warm clear waters in a rainbow of blue shades, mangrove trees shading the beaches with their glossy green leaves, an eternal breeze keeping things comfortable, clouds blowing over before they have a chance to get stormy.

We stayed at the Ritz Carlton residences because a friend generously offered the use of their condo there. I would stay there again in a heartbeat. We didn’t rent a car and we rarely left the resort. This definitely wasn’t an integrated cultural experience where we hunted down a hip airbnb and tried the local places. It was a full-on relaxation fest.

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We packed half of my suitcase with snacks so as to avoid being reliant on the resort’s restaurants. A further plus to the snack suitcase was that Joe and I felt comfortable, budget-wise, indulging beachside in some of the ever-present frozen drinks. My favorite: a mint mojito blended with ice and coconut milk. Basically the best three ingredients in the world, combined into one. I’ll be doing that one at home. To avoid Lux seagulling our drinks, several times we ordered virgin versions for her, like a lime coconut mix.

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When we did go out, happy hour was a thrill. It’s illegal in Boston to have happy hour (what? seriously). Going to places that had $3 drinks from 3-6pm was delightful! Despite the temptation of frozen drinks, I also became a big fan of Presidente beer while we were there. Yum.

Several of the signature drinks on the island had nutmeg dustings on top. I thought that was great trick to mellow out the sweetness and add a little kick.

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We did wander over to St. John’s for the day, the other US isle. We did not see any of the feral donkeys as I had hoped, but I found some lovely local avocados, for $5 each. (For comparison, a box of butter at the grocery store was $7.50!) Bigger than my hand, as you can see, and quite sweet. We also stocked up at the local grocery store on butter, eggs, milk, kefir, bread, coconut water, cereal, and peanut butter.

I’m already scheming about coming back when the girls are older, renting a sailboat and visiting more of the islands. If we went again, I think we would rent a car, just to avoid tallying taxis fare into every foray that we planned. Particularly because taxi rides are valued by the number of passengers. Joan wasn’t counted, but Lux was. However, it was a treat to travel sans-carseats, especially for Joe (our resident mule).

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Booked!

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I mentioned that we were using the addictively clickable airbnb to find a spot in Rome. Well, I quickly became overwhelmed by the options and let Joe take over. After a couple of late nights, he found this spot and we booked it! It’s the location we wanted, Campo di Fiori, a one bedroom (4th floor walk up, gulp) with a crib, and the perfect patio. It was important to us that we’d be comfortable just staying in most nights since Lux will probably go to bed early.

This patio + salami + extra candles = best restaurant in town.

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I appreciate that things like a full kitchen and free wifi are assumed with apartment rentals. It’s amazing how hotels sound so lovely when it’s just the two of you, but with a rambunctious kiddo the space of an apartment seems so much more relaxing.

The only sad part for me with a rental v. hotel, and this is just silly, is that you have to go hunting for your breakfast. I’ve been using Elizabeth Minchilli’s Eat Rome app to scout out relaxed bars nearby for breakfast.

 

Rome again, humble this time

Here’s a funny old picture of us in Italy. We had just started dating, and I was there for the summer intensively studying Italian so I could get all my language credits in and graduate on time. Joe wanted to come visit but I was sort of like “I’m doing my own thing over here.” And then, when I had one month left I was like, “Hey come visit! please come please come” So he dropped everything and splurged on a ticket and showed up (I’m not sure I would have been so gracious, in his place).

I took him on bus rides to my favorite hill towns, checked him into his hotel because no one there spoke English, brought him to the best gelato shops, and showed him the fine art of an afternoon apertif in the sun. We took long walks during the typical evening passeggiata and drank too many espressos.

Then we went to Rome for a few days, where I am always out of my element. I get flustered when Italians insist on speaking English, when things feel crowded and commercial, and the streets are filled with crummy tourist things for sale. But he, an architecture student, was over the moon about every nook and cranny of the city.  Oh, the perfect cafe is closed, I would complain. Oh, but look at that wall, he would say. This pizza is overpriced, I would sigh. I think this was done by Bernini, he would exclaim. I wanted to have leisurely breakfasts under porticos, he wanted to actually see every last old stone (as I fondly referred to them). 

And surprise surprise, two summers later, he went on a drawing trip with his architecture class. They stayed in the city and walked every street of Rome, setting up on street corners, spending the entire day drawing. His initial crush on the city turned into headlong infatuation (two of our four living rooms walls are covered in Rome maps).

I think every couple has those leitmotifs in their relationship, things they reference constantly that form a strong part of their history together. When we realized we really wanted to get one more trip in before Lux turned two (the mental doomsday on parents’ calendars when children need a full priced air ticket) Rome was first on our minds. Of course I’ll be going for the salami shops, the cappuccini, the food, the markets. Joe will be going to draw.

Honestly if you put a photo of the Pantheon in front of me, I would probably barely be able to identify it. And if you dropped Joe into a new city and asked him to find a delicious affordable dinner at a tiny spot critics recommend, he wouldn’t have a clue. I didn’t get this when we over there before, so young and so new together, but we can graciously divide our skills and share our knowledge. This time, I’m looking forward to saying to Joe, “what is this place again?” over and over.

And since psychologists have verified that the best part of vacation is the anticipation, I’ve got my planning-anticipating fired up. Finding language memorization apps, following new blogs written by Roman foodies, examining airbnb rentals, attempting to at least faintly learn some of the history, checking out old travel issues from the library. If you’re a travel junkie and have some favorite blogs, apps, websites, tell me about them please. I’ve got till April to learn every last thing.

 

Animal Prints in the Hudson Valley

Last weekend we went to a tiny (50 people) wedding in the Hudson Valley. The Hudson Valley begins about an hour north of New York City, and lies about 4 hours west of Boston. We stayed at this cabin, found through airbnb. It was an tough decision to spend a little extra for the trip when we were booking the place (our airbnb hosts required a 2 night reservation) but once we arrived I was so grateful that we stayed somewhere relaxing and fun.

I don’t know how I managed to pack all the cheetah print things (2) Lux owns for one weekend, but there it is. It might explain why the chickens were terrified of her. Yes, the bangs are a situation right now. Product developers: I suggest looking into hairclip glue for toddlers.

There were literally kittens, KITTENS, frolicking in the yard. At the grocery store up the street, everyone casually bought a bag of cider donuts with their morning coffee. THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. I thought to myself.

I sat on the front porch and worked on an embroidery project–badges for the bride and groom to wear around to announce their new status to the world. Lately I am loving these types of projects, especially ones I can give away immediately. Joe sketches it for me and I stitch. Do you need a badge in your life? let me know.

I have not attended very many small weddings but this one was just perfection.

Everyone arrived in time for dinner the night before. It was held at a small inn, and as the evening progressed, toddlers and young children were lulled to sleep and tucked into bed in whatever rooms were available. There was a bowl of mint and many bottles of bulleit bourbon. The guest list was so small that the bride was able to introduce each person to the rest of the group, a real treat when you know you want to be friends with everyone in the room. We drew pictures of our hopes for the new couple. I roughly sketched Cuba (because that’s where they met!) accidentally using a purple crayon for the ocean, but while I put Lux to bed Joe rescued it.

At lunch the next day, we ate for almost five hours. Again toddlers were tucked away in rooms (I walked in on a little one sleeping while hunting for a bed for Lux!) and checked on now and then. Conversation and sunlight ebbed around the tables. Before dessert there was a brief pause to break two pinatas in the yard. Guests favors were little boxes of French macarons and French herbal tea.

Right before we left Boston, Noelle posted this breezy quiche that uses frozen spinach and pie crust. I made it for the trip and we ate it for breakfast every morning. If you’re traveling, I think something like this is perfect because it tastes good at all temperatures and doesn’t get that road-weary look that old sandwiches do. Frozen spinach is my favorite for how easy it is to work with.

 

 

Maine Last Weekend

We went to bed so early! What is it about being away from your living room, with its built-in suggestion of tasks and chores, and away from your laptop, that makes it so easy to go to bed?! The sun poured through our windows beginning at 5am and I didn’t mind since we’d gone to bed at 10pm.

We had lobster rolls on our first evening. I like a place that toasts the roll, assumes chips are included, and sells it to you for $11. Unheard of in Boston. Thurston’s also served potato salad with fresh dill, bits of red onion, and corn. And a corn and crab chowder that was almost entirely piles of shredded crab. We shared a pitcher of a breezy drinkable beer called Thurston’s Lobster Ale, of unknown origin.

We tried peaches on the grill. Flesh side down, they ended up tasting faintly smokey but wonderfully warm and mushy. We ate them with vanilla ice cream mixed with grape nuts. Apparently this is a standard flavor in Maine. Strangely delicious. “Like a perfectly soggy bowl of cereal,” Joe said. I wouldn’t agree with that since I don’t like soggy cereal, but it does describe the texture.

We went for exactly one hike to the top of one mountain. At the top there was a puddle full of silky mud that Lux fairly slithered into. She ended up coated in mud and had to be hiked back down half naked.

A soup kitchen was raising funds by serving dozens of popovers, four different kinds of jams, and coffee in small tea cups. Obviously we had to attend. Then we wandered out to the rocky shores to hunt for rocks to give our stone-carving friend (we didn’t find any good ones).

I started reading My Family and Other Animals because it was on the shelves of the cottage where we were staying. It’s a memoir of a family that moved to an island in Greece in the 1930s, written by the youngest brother. I love it.

Lux has an empty jar of almond flavoring in her mouth. The perfect size for sore gums to chew on.

Links for travel in Southwest Harbor & Bar Harbor: seriously spectacular ice cream at Mt. Desert Ice Creampiled on lobster rolls at Thurston’s, a soup kitchen that also sells meals at Common Good Soup Kitchen, buy clams, mussels, and eggs only from Rat’s and always from Rat’s.

This weekend / Maine

We’re driving up to Maine tonight. We’ll leave around 7pm and play loud music until Lux decides she’s sick of this hipster scene and falls asleep. In this photo from Maine last summer, Joe’s wearing his t-shirt from Saturdays NYC that he has probably worn every week for the last year. We need a new one, and I love them all.

I hope we can:

pick up some raw milk (for mozzarella/yogurt making)

sit on a porch and play in a yard, two very foreign concepts around here these days

have a tasting flight at Mt. Desert ice cream (strawberry fig balsamic sorbet! girls scouts gone wild!)

see sunrise on acadia mountain in the morning

and garage sale in the afternoon

buy a pile of mussels for dinner and do nothing except set them on the grill, put the lid on, and then pull them off one by one as the open.

I hope you have some summery things planned for yourself. Finally buying a carton of strawberries, perhaps? Treating yourself to a jarful of lemonade? Borrowing the Sunday comics from your neighbor’s newspaper? Stopping to talk to all the dogs? (this is Lux’s plan for sure)

My Five Favorite Nantucket Spots

Today I have a brief guide to Nantucket on Show + Tell. The 5 spots I recommend are my most favorite things on island, especially the dump with its Take It or Leave It shack. Show + Tell is a blog run by graphic designer and Columbus OH resident Allison Lehman. Everything there is lovely to look at, but I particularly enjoyed her recent tips on blogging series.

I like that Allie limits her guides to 5-6 things because it makes for easy reading. However, I know many of you are in Boston and probably going to visit this summer, therefore I hope to have a longer guide for you next week. Writing this one for Allie reminded me of all things I truly love on that island.

Nantucket Last Weekend

The shops were just waking up, some of them sparely stocked but eagerly open anyway. We stayed with our old roommates, made big dinners and said things like, “the ol’ crew back again!”

We went to the public driving range, bought six baskets at $5 each and sliced away at every last ball.

We sprawled on the beach and let Lux pick up all the bits of crab shell she could find.

I made my first batch of mint lemonade with black tea. Nice in the afternoon. Even better with bourbon in the evening. (five tea bags, one canister frozen lemonade, one bunch mint)

Lux tried my pancakes. She tried my chocolate doughnut. She chewed a marshmallow. A first-sugar-on-the-first-birthday baby she will not be.

We scampered around the grocery store buying ears of corn, loads of fresh dill for potato salad, slabs of salmon for the grill, and extra paper towels.

When Lux napped, we lit a pile of charcoal and had s’mores as an afternoon snack. Joe believes in six squares of Hersheys on each, I grew up with three so six seemed insanely decadent. What about you?

Last year’s Daffodil Festival on Nantucket, and a recap of our last summer there