Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dear Zahara: 10 Months

Dear Zahara,

Happy 10 month birthday! Another happy month in the books! The highlight of this month was seeing G-mom and Pop Pop in Paris.

You are still really social and love being around people. Lately though you've been a bit clingy to mummy. You're perfectly happy to be around others as long as I'm holding you.

You never stop moving! You are crawling like a champ and can even make it up stairs; you haven't figured out how to get down though. You love pulling yourself up on everything--the table, bookshelves, the toilet (yuk!). This new-found freedom has give you a whole new outlook on life. There is so much to see and touch and yank! Current favorites are the TV cable cords, the vase on the bookshelf and the window curtains.

The only time you do sit still in when we read together. This is one of our favorite activities. We read all sorts of books, but every day we read the Gruffalo and the wonderful copy of Good Night Moon that Aunt Bradi made for you. You love looking at the pictures of her and mummy when you were in my tummy, and of you as a new baby.

Two more teeth are poking through your gums as we speak. You seem to be handling these teeth much better than the first ones. You're still sleeping well and we haven't had to give you medicine yet. I hope it stays easy for you.

Zoey, you are truly the light of our lives. We love you so much and are so proud to call you ours. Happy birthday!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sights in the City of Lights

We had such a fabulous time with my parents in Paris during Passover. We did a ton of walking to counteract all of the eating we did. No matter how many times I see the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and Versailles, it just doesn't get old. I could easily see myself living in Paris. Amazing food, great public transportation and beautiful sights---yeah. It wouldn't be so bad.

We spent one whole day in Versailles, which I highly recommend. We got so lucky with the most amazing, sunny weather. We took the train and listened to Rick Steve's free audio guide. I wish we had bought tickets in advance online so that we could have skipped some of the line. A good tip: if you aren't planning on using the free audio guide that comes with your ticket, and I wouldn't (it wasn't very good), you don't have to wait in the line at the door. That would have saved us around half an hour.

Though the inside of Versailles was stunning--especially the Hall of Mirrors--the gardens were the main attraction of the day. We took advantage of the beautiful weather and had a little picnic on the lawn. 

We loved exploring all the fountains and coves. In fact, though we had all day, it wasn't nearly enough time. We didn't make it to Marie Antoinette's hamlet.

We also spent most of a day at Montmartre. We ate the most delicious macarons at Maison Georges Larnicol before checking out the Sacre Coeur. All the macarons were delicious, but I especially loved the coconut; chocolate; and salted caramel flavors. The church was gorgeous; Dan even liked it more than Notre Dame. We did another Rick Steve's self-guided tour and saw the famous windmills, artist-filled square and Moulin Rouge.

Mom and I doing the can-can

This is just a small sample of the amazing things we saw in Paris. Stay tuned for more!

Read more about our time in Paris:
Passover in Paris

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Passover in Paris

This year we were lucky enough to celebrate Passover in Paris! Even better, my parents joined us!

We spent a week in the city of lights. We went a few days before Passover so that we could fully enjoy all the delicious French food first. Though I absolutely love Passover, the only downside is that macarons, croissants, and baguettes are off-limits. Don't worry. We ate ourselves silly for those first few days. We even had a bunch of amazing kosher food that we can't get in Harrogate: Indian, Chinese, falafel and shwarma!

We stayed in an apartment in the trendy neighborhood of Marais. There was some last-minute drama as the owners of the original apartment we booked canceled three days before our trip. Thankfully, Airbnb worked with us to find another place. It wasn't ideal, but the apartment was beautiful and made a great place for us to hold our seder.

Speaking of seders, both were very memorable and very different. The first night we went to a community event sponsored by Chabad. There were more than 200 people there! It was run very efficiently. Each table of 15 had its own Chabad leader. There were English, French and Hebrew-speaking tables. Our table was mostly Americans, with one couple from South Africa. Zahara did amazing! The seder didn't start until after 9 and we left around midnight. Because it was a religious holiday, we weren't allowed to take any pictures, unfortunately.

The next night we had a much smaller, more intimate seder at our apartment. And wouldn't you know, Zahara did not do as well this night. We tried putting her to bed, but she cried and cried until we brought her back out and let her be part of the seder. Maybe she just loves the holiday as much as me and didn't want to miss anything.

Of course we did tons of sight-seeing while in Paris.

Read more about our trip to Paris:
Sights in the City of Lights

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Day at the Farm

Happy Passover and Easter to you! Dan, Zoey and I spent last week in Paris with my parents and I can't wait to tell you all about it. But first, let me tell you about the day we spent at a working farm a couple of weeks ago.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, springtime in Harrogate just can't be beat--the gorgeous wild flowers on the stray, the almost-neon-yellow rapeseed fields, and of course the spring lambs. Every year the Heartbeat, a charitable organization with which I am involved, sponsors a trip to a farm to bottle-feed the new lambs. I missed it the first year, and last year I couldn't go because pregnant women can't be near lambs. This year I was determined to be there, and I'm so glad I was!

We saw tons of chickens, sheep, cows, rabbits, and of course lambs! We were able to hand-feed the sheep and lambs. Some of the lambs were literally only an hour old.

Zoey wasn't too sure about it all, but she did like the bunnies--especially Betty, who was easily the biggest rabbit I've ever seen.

Just another great day out in Yorkshire!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Istanbul: Final Thoughts

We took full advantage of the great weather in Istanbul by taking a cruise up the Bosphorus Strait to the Asian side of the city. Our Rick Steves guidebook had a good tip for us: take the public ferry from Istanbul rather than hiring a private tour. The ferry only costs 25 Lira ($11.80) for a round-trip. The boat takes you nearly to the edge of the Black Sea, where you stop for lunch in Anadolu Kavagi, an Asian fishing village. It was really nice seeing the major landmarks like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia from the water.

Rumelihisari Fortress


Another big hit for us was the Topkapi Palace, which was home to the Ottoman Sultans for more than 400 years. Make sure to buy a ticket to the Harem too; it was my favorite part. I learned a really interesting fact about the women who made up the harem: the Sultan was not allowed to sleep with them at will. The Sultan had up to four wives, and could choose a couple of "favorites" from the harem. The rest were strictly off-limits.

The palace gardens were beautiful, and the tile work throughout was absolutely stunning. The terrace, with its views of the Bosphorus, was a great place for a quick snack.

I was really surprised how much I enjoyed the food in Turkey. It was extremely vegetarian friendly, and even the simple dishes were bursting with flavor. I loved borek (a baked savory pastry filled with cheese), menemen (a dish similar to shakshuka), and surprisingly the Turkish Delight (known as lokum). I always thought I hated that candy since I associate it with an overpowering floral flavor. It turns out that there are many other flavors of lokum, including strawberry; chocolate pistachio; and pomegranate.

Trust me when I say I sampled pretty much every lokum in the city, and the best one by far was at Hafiz Mustafa 1864. We actually stopped there a few times because their desserts were so delicious.

All-in-all, it was a very successful trip--Zoey's first to Asia!

Read more about our trip to Istanbul:
Exploring Istanbul
Istanbul: Mosques and Markets

Friday, April 4, 2014

Istanbul: Mosques and Markets

I've already told you about two of my favorite things in Istanbul: the people and the hamam, but there is so much to love about the city. Istanbul has more than 3,00 mosques (!), so of course we could only visit a very small fraction of those. But let me tell you, the ones we saw were breathtaking. My favorite was the Süleymaniye.

The courtyard was majestic, and we had such a nice time playing with Zahara in the lush grass. Inside, the mosque is tranquil and cool. The carpet felt nice against my shoe-less feet (everyone must remove their shoes when entering a mosque). I learned a couple of interesting tidbits courtesy of our Rick Steve's guidebook:
  1. The carpet has a subtle design in it that helps organize those who are praying.
  2. The pillars were designed to blend in to the decor--a very different style than the Blue Mosque, whose pillars are obvious. I liked this style better.

Due to a scheduling error on our part, we missed seeing the inside of the Hagia Sofia, but we did get to check out the Sultanahmet, or Blue Mosque. The inside is stunning, but it felt very touristy compared to the Süleymaniye. Granted, we were there only a few minutes before the mosque closed for prayer time, but there was a whole tourist infrastructure that didn't exist at the Süleymaniye. It was almost an assembly line for taking off your shoes, giving you a scarf or robe if you needed one and ushering you through the door. Not nearly as peaceful as the Süleymaniye. The tile work is outstanding though, so it is well-worth a visit.

No trip to Istanbul is complete without seeing the chaos of the spice market and grand bazaar. The bazaar is called the oldest shopping mall in the world; it dates back to the 1450s and has more than 3,000 shops. You'll find everything in the bazaar from lanterns, to knick-knacks, to Turkish linens. Dan and I actually bought some towels after I fell in love with the ones at my hamam.

I especially enjoyed the pretty courtyard where we had an amazing meal; the street filled with more gold than I've ever seen in my life; and the alley filled with silver-smiths at work.

As busy as the grand bazaar was, it was nothing compared to our first visit to the spice market. Unlike Dan, crowds never really bother me. However, this was over-the-top. I couldn't move on my own; I was simply carried away by the tides of people. Don't take my word for it. Check out this video Dan took. It wouldn't have been so bad, but I was constantly worried about people elbowing Zahara in the head. Fortunately, we went back another day and it was much less crowded.

Stay tuned for part 3, where I'll tell you about our Bosphorus cruise, the Topkapi Palace, and my surprising love of Turkish Delights.

Read more about our trip to Istanbul:
Exploring Istanbul
Istanbul: Final Thoughts

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

British Mother's Day

Last weekend, in addition to finally changing our clocks forward, England celebrated Mother's Day. Though Dan made it very clear that we are American, and therefore ineligible to celebrate*, I managed to sneak in some merriment thanks to my yoga mummy friends.

We all gathered on the Monday after Mother's Day to swap gifts, drink tea and play with our little ones. It's the first Mother's Day for all of us, and it is remarkable to think how much our babies have all grown in this year. I met these women while we were all pregnant, so I have literally known these kids since the day they were born. Now, watching them all interact with each other is such a special treat.

Though we'll be celebrating "real" Mother's Day (as Dan says) in May, it was nice to take part in another British tradition before we leave here. Whether you celebrate this day or any day, happy Mother's Day!

*In fairness to Dan, he did make me an absolutely wonderful card with pictures from each of Zoey's nine months of life. It made me cry happy tears.