Benji's First Christmas

He’s really been into broccoli these days. We’re happy about it. (And yes that is Santa Claus in sunglasses on his t-shirt!)

He’s really been into broccoli these days. We’re happy about it. (And yes that is Santa Claus in sunglasses on his t-shirt!)

Being an even-numbered year, it was Christmas in Québec! (Alternating between NM and QC these last years has been working pretty well so far).

I had really been looking forward to Benji’s first holiday - so many dreams of Instagrammable photos of baby in front of the tree and all that. (I’M A MILLENNIAL AND I ACCEPT IT.) So it was disappointing to not be in our home and have a tree to decorate. Technically we could have had one in our temporary place, but we just don’t feel at home here. So…2020 it will have to be!

We started with an early Christmas dinner + present-opening séjour in Québec City, then spent Christmas Eve with Mat’s family at their annual gathering in Montréal. After that it was off to the country where some friends’ parents’ left their cozy home to us while they were away, and we toasted to 2019 with a lightening-quick stop at a lakeside chalet with friends for New Year’s Eve. (It was meant to be a 2-night stay but turned out to be just the one night. Because, babies.)

It went surprisingly well considering all the moving around we asked of Benji, and overall it was a successful two-week holiday promenade around the province.

Old schoolmates grow up and have babies! mat is holding david’s new baby girl, Julia. Benji is so outnumbered by gals!

Old schoolmates grow up and have babies! mat is holding david’s new baby girl, Julia. Benji is so outnumbered by gals!

In Québec City, Mat’s parents treated us to not one, but two, big holiday meals, complete with traditional eats like tourtière (meat pie) and a bûche de Noël (a kind of cake roll/log, a Christmas tradition!). And, oh boy, did we eat!

After a quick night back in Trois-Rivières to prepare for the rest of the trip, we were off to Montréal. We elected to rent an Airbnb rather than stay with Mat’s family, both to be able to stay a bit longer without becoming an imposition, and also so that everyone might be able to sleep better (Benji really needs his own room these days.) The condo we found was just perfect - too perfect - so luminous and spacious, and enviably decorated. And a real steal-of-a-deal, honestly. It was a full, three-bedroom apartment with a cook’s kitchen, dishwasher, washer and dryer, two bathrooms, and spacious as could be, for $80 a night! Seriously, I don’t know how we lucked out so well. Maybe we were due a little good karma after these months of craziness.

Some snaps of Benji diggin’ our sweet Airbnb rental in Montréal. We need to find him a piano like this! He loved it so much.

Despite only being in town for 4 nights, we covered a lot of ground. I can’t believe how smoothly it all went considering just how many dates with friends we made. We made a visit to Mat’s former boss and his family, stopped by our old apartment and chatted with my former roommate (so weird to see our beloved flat in the hands of someone else!), and some other city friends, including my gal pal Kaitlin and her whole family who was in town from the States, and our dear friend and one-time roommate Caro, a Québecker transplant to California. We Christmas-Day-brunched with Mat’s climbing buddy Bertrand and his girlfriend, and the day after Christmas we dipped into Mat’s government-sponsored marijuana with friends Rosa and Julien, and his brother Martin. (Ok, so not everyone smoked - including me, I never liked it much! And also I’m breastfeeding and not really sure about how that would be - but it was on the menu after Mat was curious to check out the new weed stores since it became legal last October. SO hilarious that we can now walk into a shop where government employees offer consultation for the best bud for your buzz.)

And of course, the annual Christmas Eve gathering at Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Garry’s. We ate like royalty and had our new-traditional Secret Santa exchange and gift-wrapping contest. (Feeling uninspired, I wrapped my gift in brown paper and drew a picture of a present with the caption, “Ceci n’est pas un cadeau de Noël.” I found myself ridiculously clever and hilarious, and yes, I was the only one.)

Benji got sweet gifts from his grand-aunts and grandparents - musical instruments, books, and stuffed toys that sing (and are sometimes hard to be made to stop singing…). I’m sure next year he’ll have a little bit more of an idea of what exactly was going on, but it was still fun to watch him react to all the stimulation. It probably helped him sleep, too.

We spent the days between Christmas and New Year’s in “the country” in the Eastern Townships, just east of Montréal. (The region we hope to move to when Mat is done with school!) In a very thoughtful gesture, our friend Andreas’s parents left their home to us while they spent the holiday away. We looked after their dog and cat in exchange for some R&R in a snow-covered countryside postcard, complete with deer grazing in front of the house at breakfast time. We did a whole lot of nothing but lounging around, reading, and taking walks in the snow. Amazing!

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Loafing around! Watching the countryside snowfall from a cozy living room. And Benji had his first feline encounter!

For New Year’s Eve we rented a cottage with two other couples with a new baby each, around the same age as Benji. (Laure and Andreas with Bleuenn and Val and Julien with Éléanore.) We were pretty last-minute in our reservation and ended up taking the only place we could find with three separate bedrooms. Unfortunately, “three separate bedrooms” was kind of a generous description of what ended up being a tiny shack with two actual bedrooms and a loft, which is not great for muffling the distinct cries of a <1 year old having trouble sleeping. As it turned out, Val and Julien had to cancel at the last minute because Éléanore was contagious with a stomach bug. (But they were thankfully able to join us for dinner on the 31st, while the grandparents stayed with the baby). Though, even downsizing to two couples with two babies, it was still a snug experience. We gave the two bedrooms to each baby and we four adults slept in the loft. Well, “slept” in the loft. Baby-tending kept us all up most of the night anyway.

Originally planned as a two-night stay, it became a one-nighter when Laure and Andreas, tired from their holiday bouncing around with the baby not sleeping well, decided to make an early departure for home. Mat and I were then left with the place to ourselves, but found it kind of lonely without the others, and it was neither the coziest nor cutest of cottages ever. So about an hour after the others left, we decided to pack it up as well! Lesson learned: Next time we do a cottage, it better be a château!

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a new year’s eve stroll on the lake by our rental cottage. though the stay didn’t go as expected, we had a really sweet afternoon en famille!

a new year’s eve stroll on the lake by our rental cottage. though the stay didn’t go as expected, we had a really sweet afternoon en famille!

All in all, a fun, friend- and family-filled Christmas in the Great North. I wouldn’t have changed a thing, except to have been able to “come home” for real, instead of this temporary rental we are STILL in, now more than 2 months after the fire. But more on that, I’ll save for the next blog!

Happy New Year, you guys!

A New Mexican Thanksgiving

A New Mexican Thanksgiving

I’d been planning to do some traveling during my maternity leave, and knew it would probably be just Baby and me since Mat would be in school. At one point, in a flash of madness (blame the pregnancy hormones?), I thought it’d be fun to do the Camino de Santiago in Spain - 100+ kilometers of walking - baby-in-tow, with my dad… He laughed incredulously and appropriately at that idea. A more feasible goal was to take Benji to New Mexico for Thanksgiving. (I still want to do the Camino though! I’m looking at you, Pops.)

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Baby’s First Roadtrip: New England (A Cautionary Tale)

Baby’s First Roadtrip: New England (A Cautionary Tale)

Mat had a week-long break from school so we decided to make the most of it, and as it turned out, we tried to make a little TOO much of it. I don’t know what I was thinking when I was planning it, but even though I knew that traveling with a baby brings a specific set of restrictions… I somehow thought any problems would totally pause if you yell, “Vacation!”

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Back again

My half-hour on-foot commute the other morning was slightly challenging, but super lovely.

It's been ages since I've felt like I had anything to write about. (It felt so try-too-hard-y to try making an interesting post about what we ate for dinner, or that how many times a week we have to clean the entryway of its sidewalk salt-stains.) But I keep thinking that I want to anyway. I mean, who cares? (Read: who reads this anyway? I see you, Mom. And I love you.)

The part that always brings me back around to wanting to blog is really the DESIGN part. I get so impressed/obsessed with the stuff I see around. It makes me go, "That's really cool. I want to do that." So why don't I? Ok, ok, I will. :)

So without further preamble (I always feel like coming back from a long hiatus deserves a 3,000-word update on everything that has happened since the last post), I'm just going to dive right in. And by that I mean, re-posting my old favorites (mostly the Travel stuff from my big 2014 Eurotrip) with some added commentary, and sprinkling in the new stuff as it comes.

Next up: Some updates.

:D

Turning 28 + Halloween in Galway

Turning 28 + Halloween in Galway

Twenty-eight. 28. It just looks weird. So did 26 and 27. Somehow, after 25, they started to melt together. With these "late-20s," I haven't anticipated each individual age, (16! 17...was almost 18! 18! 19 was almost 20 which was almost 21!) so when a new one comes around, it's like, "Huh, we're back here again already?" Time, you old coot.

Apparently when you turn 28 your start using words like "coot."

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Irish pool has too-small balls, and other adroit observations.

Irish pool has too-small balls, and other adroit observations.

The Irish do a lot of things their own way; phrasing ("Runners" are sneakers, you have "loads" of something instead of a lot, "having a laugh" means kidding, a "press" is a cabinet), scheduling ("Irish time" is a commonly heard phrase to note general tardiness, such as that of the bus). This weekend I can add to my list of these discoveries: Irish "pool." The balls are small(er) and are two solid colors instead of stripes and solids and don't have any numbers on them; the table is half the size of standard billiards and the rules seem to favor Irish players if you happen to be a non-Irish player. (Or so it seemed after a few drinks.) Needless to say, Team America lost miserably this last Saturday evening in a small bar the only bar in Letterfrack, in Connemara, a national park north of Galway.

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My new roommates like to play 'Power Rangers' and often have Nutella on their cheeks

My new roommates like to play 'Power Rangers' and often have Nutella on their cheeks

My new roommates are 3-year-olds, twins and go by the names of Nathan ("Nate-dog") and Dylan; they enjoy Rugby Tots, tricycle-riding, sword-fighting in something called "Power Ranger mode," wrestling each other and lollipops; also, they would like everyone to know they do not eat vegetables, thankyouverymuch. Their mom Niamh, (pronounced "Neeve") is a wonderful woman who loves her boys but is definitely long over due for an extended spa weekend; their dad, Conor, works for the provincial rugby team and travels more often than not. The family's home just outside of Galway is roomy and welcoming; my bedroom is big and comfortable, and the kitchen is stocked with things like doughnut-shaped biscuits (cookies) and breaded fish fingers. Traces of 2.5-ft. tall humans exist throughout the suburban home; handprints of varying colors, dribbles, artwork, and two of every toy.

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Galway, Ireland: Students, spiders and a shortage of best friends with red hair

Galway, Ireland: Students, spiders and a shortage of best friends with red hair

I'm in Galway and there are small spiders on the ceiling in my bedroom. At first I thought they were spiders, but they stayed in one place for so long and are so tiny they almost looked like small holes/cracks in the ceiling. Later, one crack had changed locations. Upon closer examination, it was confirmed: There are small spiders on the ceiling in my bedroom.

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Irish Arrival: Pretty good 'craic' and yes, there was Guinness

Irish Arrival: Pretty good 'craic' and yes, there was Guinness

Greetings from my very cute Airbnb room! It's a cozy spot, right on the River Liffey that flows through the city from the Irish Sea. My host, Liam, is super kind, and laid out a very nice assortment of breakfast items for me; I went for the Traditional Irish stone-ground wholewheat bread with some Traditional Irish red currant fruit preserves. I don't know if Liam just purchases Traditional Irish Products for his hostees, for an authentic effect, or if people are just generally really into their Traditional Irish Products around here. 

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