Monday, December 31, 2007

For the Hate of Diaper Bags

I have an abnormal fear of diaper bags. When I was pregnant with Little Man I shopped around everywhere for something that didn't have that obnoxious padding, bears and pastel. I didn't have much luck. The only options were those type and the $200+ designer bags. It is bad enough to try and look stylish when your pregnant but then to be hit over the head with the diaper bag was just the last straw for me.

So my solution was to go ahead and spend the big bucks -on myself! I bought what a wise old friend of mine once called the "mom bag": a Cadillac with handles if you will. So every year my gift to myself and my Little Man is a stylish real purse (big enough to carry my stuff and his).

Take a look at my latest lusting (I found it in a recent Paris mag):

So, I think we need a little contest here: who among you has the ugliest bag?? Leave me a comment and/or email me your fugly!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Toilet Training on the Brain

Just for sh!ts and grins -Japanese style!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tour of Little Man's Nursery

Well here it is! Let's begin the tour left to right. At the very far left you see a bit of the pastel paisley silk curtain that goes from floor to ceiling (it was originally my landlord's). Then on the floor notice a low counter -it is actually a de-constructed Kaidan-dansu or step-chests so that the Little Man's toys can be easily accessible to him. The only place that I doubled it was in the middle so that I could put his stuffed animals there. Next we have the red collapsible boxes because you never know when or where they are going to fall hard.

Next on the ground is a litho I bought for the Little Man's birthday (every year I buy him artwork). These past two years I've bought them from the same artist who has sadly passed away in July. The crib -it is on loan from my landlord. It is a typical Italian made enamel birch crib. Then we have the collapsible laundry bin that is also a cool place for him to crawl into (when it isn't full). On the right I have a Japanese alter table where we change the diaper (for now). Later I plan on using it as a place for him to organize his own clothing.

I've tried to keep everything pretty gender neutral and cheery. I've also chosen to forgo a lot of the "traditional" nursery furniture for furniture that is real wood (as Montessori advocates) and can be used when he grows up (saves money in the long run). Also, none of it really cost me a lot which was an added bonus. What do you think?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Toys: Keeping it simple

So with the holiday season upon us so begins the avalanche of toys. I'm a really big fan of SIMPLE toys because it allows the child to use their imagination. The tickle-me-nemos of the world just don't have space in our toy basket because they are over-stimulating and then after five minutes their noise wears out their welcome.

What qualifies as simple? Blocks, music, books, musical instruments and as the photo proves even toilet paper rolls.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Museum Booty from the Picasso Museum

Take a look at this sweet little bag from the Picasso -it is our day out and about bag. I keep a days change of clothes, lunch & snacks, airplane, train and his water bottle. Little Man can access it all by himself if he needs something. The straps are long and short enough for both parents and for him to carry across the shoulder. Love this tote -art and convenience!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cool Museum books for kids (& one for the adults)

The Louvre in Paris has an awesome collection of cool things both in the museum and the museum gift shop. Here are a few of my suggestions: My Little ... these are great little books for short attention spans. They help children identify objects in the museum and in the artwork. How to Talk to Children about Art is a great how to for those who need a little direction.

Maman a dis que je peux = My mother said I can

This is another French commercial a little funnier though. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Monoprix Advertisement

This was all over the airwaves in France. What do you think: Cute or scary?

Diapers and Potty Training (the French way)

So while we were in Paris we ran out of diapers on the last day and needed to make an emergency trip to the local Monoprix (luckily they were still open at 8 pm). I had a hard time finding the Little Man's size. I could only find pull ups in his size -so I took what I could get.

Later that evening when I was talking to Adorable Friend and I found out why I had such a hard time locating diapers in size 4. It turns out that a famous French Pediatrician from the 70's encouraged parents to start potty training as early as 4 months. I found this incredible especially since I've been told not to push potty training at all ('let the child discover the need themselves'). So, children in France have and carry around there own little "popote." Not a bad idea. I think I'll give it a shot.

As I was looking at the bag of diapers I noticed that they donate one vaccine for a child. All I could think was "Wow, why don't they do that in America?"

Speaking of which take a look at the pull up without the crappy branding!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Euro Doll house for All

So, I'm in Paris minding my own business and I came upon this awesome piece of architecture from Belgium. How cool is it that they are building these awesome doll houses for boys and girls? Take a look at the sweet all wood design -if only I could have taken one back. Truth be told next time I'm in Amsterdam I'm picking one up there because the Dutch have more classical styles with working parts too. Still this one is pretty sweet but the price is steeper than that staircase -250 Euros.

Friday, November 30, 2007

FYI -Product recalls (again and again and again...)

Pacifiers that choke, confetti that is full of lead, toys that kill, jewelry that is full of lead, clothes that strangle -nope I'm not making this stuff up (I'm not that imaginative). Take a look at this site for the latest recall info put out by the US Govt.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ooo la la... Little Man's Paris wishes

Paris seems to be a paradise of shopping. I found some very nice things for the Little Man -take a look:

This is an awesome bookshelf that doubles as a good house or garage for all those lost toys

If I had seen this cute crib when Little Man was smaller I definitely would have snagged it (look at the heart border)
This big and little chair set would look very good for a reading room and at 99 Euro it is a bargain!
I've got more to post for tomorrow -stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Toys: What's in the Bag

We have been traveling like maniacs lately and we aren't the only ones. It seems like a lot of our friends are also going to travel with their little ones (yeah!). So I've been getting a lot of questions lately and one of these has been "what should we take?"

I'll take this as a good opportunity to share with you the Little Man's bag of toy goodies with explanation:

  1. cloth embroidered bag -it is distinctively for baby, doesn't make noise like plastic, can be washed when too dirty and has a draw string to keep it all in. I've left this bag on a plane before (by accident because we were trying to get to a connecting flight) and when we arrived in our new plane we realized we forgot and begged the crew to call and see if they could find it. The desk agent said, "People loose toys all the time -we really can't tell what stuff is yours." When I described the bag they found it straight away and drove it to our new flight -this is why it pays to have this bag (or any other distinctive bag)! Purchased at Fragonard in Paris.
  2. Toy plane -comes with lights and sound for when they need to be distracted. Can be purchased on almost any flight (trust me it is worth the money)
  3. Matryoshka dolls (aka nesting dolls) -any cheap set will do. If you're in Moscow they will cost you about 10 US Dollars or less on the street. They are good for playing where is the paper wad or for making a rattle. Take only 2 dolls so that you can keep track of the pieces.
  4. Soft small ugly ball -once you get to your destination or any open space you can watch them run around
  5. Magna Doodle -or any magnetic board for quiet and no mess fun. Show them how to draw or play tic tac toe
  6. Small board books -if all else fails have them pick out stuff and invent their own story
  7. Giotto Bebe crayons - these little wooden crayons beat the pants off of traditional crayons because they don't melt (good for when you go to the Middle East or anywhere else with strong sun). The color is better and it comes with a sharpener that really works. Can be purchased in Italy. If you can't get them then take only 3 crayons -red, blue and yellow so that you can avoid too much of a mess and to keep track of them.
  8. Clay (or play dough) -when all else fails make a little worms and then use these cheap fake scissors to cut them up with.
  9. A bus or car -anything with wheels because children like to push things around (hey, better this than you right?)
  10. A cheap pencil case (with zipper) to keep cheap pads of paper from your hotel and the crayons. This is also a good distraction to see a toddler try and open the zipper.
Remember to keep a magic number (7, 10 or what ever number) of things in the bag so that you don't leave any toys behind and so that your child can count out how many things go in and how many go out.

I've shown you mine now tell me what would you pack?

This stinks! Baby Changing Stations

In this day and age you would think that every public bathroom would have a baby changing station in both the mens' and womens' bathrooms -especially in AIRPORTS! Don't get me wrong, I love it and prefer it if there are family rooms but sometimes those are all taken (or not even offered).

Here is my BAD list of airports that don't offer equal rights in baby changing stations (not too surprisingly these are also nightmare airports because of the long lines and slow employees):
JFK Airport, NYC
Naples International Airport, Italy

Anyone else have one to add?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Allergies or Eczema?

This is Part 2 of my conversation with my sister-in-law Nicole about my niece Claudia, who has severe allergies to peanuts. She's the first in my family to have such severe allergies to nuts. In this part I asked Nicole how she found out it was an allergy and not some other ailment. I think you'll find this very interesting.

We had such a hard time identifying Claudia’s food allergies. When we called the doctor to ask what we can do about it, he said the magic word “ECZEMA.” We had to change the clothes detergent, use only non-soap based bars, change shampoo, use cream to keep the skin moist, etc, etc. Many of those things we already did and I felt like we got nowhere with his advice. So we became detectives and basically kept track of everything she ate, washing detergents, etc. Her problem was mostly at night; she could not fall asleep because of the itch on her back. She looked like she was scratched by a cat. I have no idea how she reached in some areas of her backside. She was 2 years old at the time. For about 3-4 months it affected us terribly. We had to stay with her at night rubbing her back for hours.

It was one day that it occurred to us that she drank a LOT of milk before bedtime, after bath. Sure enough, after the story and ten minutes into her nap she would wake up scratching like crazy. I called the doctor and complained about her skin again, and also mentioned that when she was about 24 months old her face became swollen when she tried a homemade mayonnaise. At the time I gave her Benadryl and immediately the swelling on her face disappeared. It was scary but I suspected the homemade mayo may have had something in it (like peanut oil) that Claudia might be sensitive to. The person who made it said it didn’t have any peanuts. But his kitchen was not nut free and it could have been contaminated by other nuts. Our own house was not nut free at the time. Usually people say they have no peanuts in the food but do not think of other nuts like pistachios, cashews, etc.

When she was about 2 years old the doctor gave her a RAST test, by taking a blood sample. The results of the blood test proved that her body response was an elevated level of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) when she ate milk, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts and some tree nuts. The nurse I talked to told me to avoid those foods to prevent the itch on her skin. What am I supposed to feed a 2 year old who needs close to 500 mg calcium a day? Luckily, Claudia liked cheese and yogurt and she had no external reactions from eating them. To this day she likes spinach,rice, fish and chicken which are high in calcium.

Anyway, a little after she turned 3 we got her tested again. This time we asked her pediatrician for an allergy specialist where Claudia was given the Skin Prick Test. The test lasts awhile. It was terrible. She cried the whole time and screamed, “Mommy, help me”; I had to hold her arms so she could not touch her back. She reacted to peanuts and tree nuts violently. The other foods seemed to cause no harm. Hallelujah! For half a year we had a nightmare in our hands. No bread, no milk, eggs, etc. I made her 3rd birthday cake wheat, egg, milk AND soy free. I learned how to make wheat free pizza, pasta and she developed well. These days she can eat almost anything; I am a happy mom, except when we go to birthday parties, or when we travel, or when she gets candy from her best friend who is Chinese and can eat peanuts for breakfast, lunch and dinner if she wanted to.

We’ve never had any anaphylactic shock, but we do carry Epipens (epinephrine injection) everywhere we go. Also, we carry Benadryl (antihistamine) when we travel by plane, attend parties or play dates. Claudia is aware of her allergy and she tells everybody who gives her food about it. We are used to it now but for others it is very easy to forget, especially when she looks and acts as normal and energetic as she is.

Do any of you (my dear readers) have questions for Nicole? Feel free to leave a comment!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sick of Chinese products

Another terrible story of bad or dangerous products coming from China are popping up daily. From date rape drug dots to salmonella laden food additives -when will this madness end?

I'll tell you when -when we stop buying cheap crap. Let's face it: the only reason most of us have this stuff is because the price is very attractive (even if the quality is dubious). We really need to start considering the longterm effects of buying cheap stuff from manufacturers who are looking to cut all corners -even at the risk of your child's health. So stop buying!

I can hear you already -"So what do we do now? Whittle our own toys?" That might not be such a bad idea after all. Did you know you can whittle a bar of soap? Also, if you go to a craft store there are millions of ideas for toys. Did you know that they sell clay that dries -you and your child can make your own actions figures/dolls/cars.

One of my fondest memories from childhood is when I made a doll house from a cardboard box -with an attached shoe box garage too! It is about time we start using our imaginations -show your children that things can be made instead of bought. This lesson will serve them well later in life after all not all things worth having are purchased.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Flying with Nuts -Part 1

A big thank you to my my sister-in-law who submitted this article. It is important enough that I think we should all be keenly aware what our children or their friends might be or are allergic to. Unfortunately, allergies can be life threatening. We count ourselves lucky because Claudia has never had an anaphylactic shock.

About a month ago we traveled to Romania to visit my Romanian side of the family and to introduce my husband to my relatives. Our daughter Claudia, age 4, is a veteran flyer by now, she has been traveling extensively since she was 1 1/2 years old.

I never thought of my daughter’s food allergy as a handicap or anything, but when trying to book through Orbitz I realized they have no options for people with life threatening allergies. They are concerned with vegan, low fat, low calories, etc. Their computer system needs to be updated to present times, when more and more people have diet restrictions because of health hazards; the diet preferences based on culture and religion, while important, are not as significant as having to avoid allergens in such a confined space as the passenger cabin of an airplane.

We had a scare on the Delta flight coming back home to US. From the start, the crew looked less than promising. From Bucharest to New York the flight is 10.5 hours long. We took crackers and a few other snacks for our daughter, just in case. The first snack served by the airline was peanuts. Bad for us, but a lot of people like peanuts. We politely refused the little packets of peanuts and told the flight attendants that our daughter is highly allergic and we will not have any.

Delta flight attendants are aware of the growing peanut allergy problem and the airline even has a policy of “safe buffer”. To make a long story short, it works like this: on another flight which served peanuts, the passengers in the row in front of us and we were spared of the peanut snack. But this was not the case on the return flight to New York. Smelling the peanuts around us, my heart pounded and I tried not to look worried; both my husband and I were watching my daughter’s face in case any sign of rash or swelling appeared around her eyes or neck. Finally the air cleared and we waited patiently for our next meal. For Claudia we chose a simple and safe dish: pasta.

We watched 3 movies, took a nap and played games to pass the time. We got really hungry and we anticipated our next meal with excitement: pizza. The description on the menu said nothing about nuts so we were hopeful Claudia will have a nice meal. When the food came, we were presented with a sandwich instead. We asked the flight attendants (again) about any nuts in the sandwich. I really feel foolish sometime when I keep asking the same question; but I owe it Claudia to make sure her food is safe. Answer being negative, we launched into devouring our sandwiches. My husband and I really liked the bread; it was a gourmet sandwich with blue cheese, tomato and basil on a bread baguette. Very yummy and we felt good to serve it to Claudia as well. However, she is not very keen on blue cheese (neither were some of the other passengers, we heard a few objections about the taste); so she only had a bite of bread before she started complaining about having an itchy mouth. I thought it was because she doesn’t like the blue cheese, she doesn’t even want to eat the bread, so I dismissed her by saying: “It is probably the blue cheese and basil you taste, please try another piece of bread”. At the same time I was pronouncing the words; my brain is processing the ingredients in the sandwich again: cheese, tomato, basil. Almost simultaneously with my husband we screamed the words: “Pesto Sauce!”. Before I go on about the panic that set in and I describe how quickly we found the Benadryl and gave it to her, I will explain the ingredients of pesto sauce, which is used in so many gourmet sandwiches: basil, oil, garlic, parmesan and walnuts or pine nuts. NUTS!! The antihistamine worked like a miracle, the itchiness in Claudia’s mouth stopped; we wrapped our unfinished sandwiches, placed them on a table far from her and waited. The entire experience had exhausted us.

Now I have mixed feelings about Delta. Half the time they were careful. It really matters who takes care of you in the air. The flight attendant’s care on the first flight saved us a lot of stress. The second crew kept giving us snacks and cakes which they had no idea what they’re made of.

If you have a child with allergies, you already know about the stress of flying. If you don’t have food allergies in your family, then enjoy the food, sometimes it can be quite delicious and fun. We love the little packages the airplane food is wrapped in. It is like having a tea party with my daughter every time we fly.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Museum Booty

In case you haven't already guessed I LOVE taking the Little Man to museums. There is nothing like hearing him say an enthusiastic "WOW!" when we enter a room or turn a corner. I love touring around leisurely while he takes it all in or takes a nap (he's really good that way). When we go we always have to have a break at the cafe and then our last stop is ALWAYS the museum shop.

I'm kind of obsessive really. I scour museum shops for cool gifts, postcards and toys for the Little Man. The museums here in Europe do not disappoint. I'll be showing you some of my unique and cool finds in this series, Museum Booty.

My first example is from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I may be a little biased when I say this but I really love what they have done with the museum. The renovations it has undergone have really given it an intimate feel and 'wow' inspiring feeling. Also, it was very easy to go through with a stroller (elevators and very helpful & friendly museum staff).

Now the goods -puzzles. No, I'm not talking about shoddy cardboard, lead paint laden, made in China, poison and/or choke your kid kind of puzzle with cheesy kittens and puppies. I'm talking about a real wood board jigsaw puzzle with some pretty famous paintings. Yup, these little beauties I picked up from the gift shop have Van Gogh's "Portrait of Marcelle Roulin" and "Fishing boats on the beach at Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer." Do you know what the MOST ridiculous things about them is? The price! They were less than 3 a piece! And you don't have to worry about them having too many pieces (only 20) nor do you have to worry about it being crushed in luggage.
On a related note and if you can't make it to Amsterdam -no problem! Install the Rijksmuseum way-cool widget on your computer to see their masterpieces (and descriptions!) and you can also order from their online store. Click here for the link.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Oh, I'm angry now!

One of my favorite baby blogs -DaddyTypes has a new post up about a docent at The National Gallery in Washington DC. I have to tell you it makes me very mad to hear that some docent is telling children that,
"Well, there are curators--do you know what that is? art experts who study and know what art is important enough to be in a museum--curators and art historians and other experts who say this is art, and even if it doesn't look like it's about anything and it doesn't make any sense, you just have to bear with it sometimes."
What the %^#@ is that?! Since when do we let Homer Simpson be a docent? Statements like that make art seem like it something for the elite or for the well studied and I have to tell you THAT is the biggest load of BS EVER!Take your child to the local museum* and let them take a look around and don't say a word. You'll notice that they can see and feel art all by themselves -they don't need a docent like the one above to squash their views nor do they need an expert to tell them what art is.

*I do not care if you feel like you are the world's most culturally illiterate parent just DO IT!

By the way, 50 points to the person who can identify the paintings here.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Yummy Playground Atlanta

For those of you who need a rest from juggling your little one on long haul flights in and out of Atlanta check out their international concourse -they have a toddler gym with mats! Great place to let off some steam for me and the little one. And catch up on emails too!

If you have a longer layover head out to the Atlanta Zoo it is really a very nice zoo with Pandas. For a super fun place to have a retro meets good old south food go to Agnes & Muriel's Restaurant. Try the sweet potato fries, sangria and gobs of other great food! Atlanta sure is a nice place for a wedding!
[Thanks to Mike & Laura -we had a great time!]

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dumber than dirt?

I've just finished an alarming article on the state of today's youth in American and it is chilling. The article is titled, "American kids, dumber than dirt Warning: The next generation might just be the biggest pile of idiots in U.S. history" by Mark Morford for the SF Gate. It is very interesting so I encourage you to click on the link, read it and tell me what you think and do you think this is a pandemic in Europe as well?

Women of Italy: Hands Off! It's all Mine!

So I've been wondering what cool thing I'd write about next (aka procrastination). Until this afternoon. This is not a cool subject it is a warning. For the umpteenth time I got felt up today by another woman! Women of the world be warned: when you come to the Mediterranean and if they know you are:
  • pregnant
  • going to be pregnant
  • used to be pregnant and could possibly still be breastfeeding
  • looking for a bra
  • or just browsing for shirts
  • female
You could be accosted by the little hands that grab your boobs (and I'm not talking about small children either!). Yes, middle aged women around here seem to zoom in on your boobs when you are least expecting it. Today I was at the beauty salon and out of nowhere the technician asks, "are you pregnant?" and quick as lighting she's grabbed my breast! If I had half a second I would have grabbed those hands and twisted them behind her back...errr......

As you can guess this happens fairly frequently and that is why they are so good at the hit-and-run. This type of unwelcome and unsolicited touching has happened at department stores, pharmacies (oh, you have mastitis let me see), markets, outside your home as your trying to dodge neighbors and now beauty salons.

Oh and by the way, when your pregnant, apparently, it is good luck to rub, touch or poke a pregnant woman's belly. You've been warned.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Is your little dracula teething much?

I have to admit I think I've tried everything for the crazy teething times including:
  1. over the counter teething gels -I'm not too fond of giving the chemical cocktail nor of having to put my fingers in the little bitters mouth --ouch!
  2. gripe water -good for the upset stomach that comes from so much drool
  3. amber -not too helpful but looks cute
  4. ibuprofen -good for night time use (both yours and theirs)
  5. frozen teething toys -what a waste of money! I had better luck with frozen waffle that he could eat instead of finding it on the floor somewhere. Frozen blueberries were a hit too.
  6. teething cookies -after about the third one the Little Man didn't even want to look at another and after having tried it myself I know why
  7. homeopathic teething tablets -works for about 20 minutes and then it wears off quickly

The thing that was most successful both on the road and at home was: Sofie! She's a giraffe native to France, where she is a childhood icon and staple. These days she's made of some sort of silicone material that kids can bite to death (well so to speak). She also makes a cool squeek if you need to catch a crying baby's attention. Sofie also cleans up pretty well with a little warm water and soap -she gets bath time with the Little Man and when I'm not careful I see Little Dog cuddling up to her too.

Did I miss any remedies that you've had experience with?

Monday, October 15, 2007


This is my little "shout out" to the environment for Blog Action Day. I'm going to list some easy things that you and your baby can do today and everyday:
  1. recycle, borrow and reuse with toys with other moms in your neighborhood
  2. use only glass baby bottles (no ugly chemical problems) and then when you're done pass them on to another mom
  3. best stain remover is boiling hot water on baby clothes (no dangerous chemicals to keep around)
  4. try to buy only natural wood toys (they last forever and also can be repaired)
  5. hand me down clothes from other kids and from other pregnant moms
  6. cloth diapers or diposable? how about neither! Read more here
  7. eat in season veggies (even if it all ends up in a blender as a pasta sauce or as a smoothie)
What do you do to help keep the planet livable? Leave me a comment!

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

What Artificial Color is your Hyperactivity?

Turns out that a recent study from the University of Southampton (UK) proves that there is a direct link between food colorants and benzoate preservatives that causes hyperactivity in children. I know that I for one do not want to be feeding fire with fire. As it stands I might have to look up exactly which colorants so that I can ingest them in order to keep up with the Little Man.

So, if you haven't already you may want to consider going COLD TURKEY from artificial colorants (at least where your kids are concerned).

We're baack!

Well, JetSetBaby missed the memo. I was supposed to be on retreat taking in the fantastic food, yoga and healthful meals at Locanda del Gallo in Umbria. [Yes, contest is now over and thanks to those who guessed] The Little Man was NOT sleeping (I suspect he was still jet lagged from the U.S. the previous week) nor was he eating. We wound up driving back home earlier than planned with me sulking the whole way home. Perhaps too much fresh clean air? So to turn the tables on my dear readers I give you this question: What do you do when your little one doesn't want to sleep or eat??

Monday, October 8, 2007


Oh lucky me! Little Man and I are off for a few days to go up north for some much needed rest, good workout and to visit some dear friends. However, I cannot leave you without a little something so...

Where am I going?
Hint #1 It is a special hideout (that can be found on my other blog site 2ciaos)
Hint #2 Here is a photo
Winner of this contest will get some Italian Chocolate Kisses (or if you are here in Italy then I will offer you your choice of U.S. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups or a bag of Tortilla Chips -yes, it is very hard to get these items here!). Residents of any other countries may get their choice (of course where legally allowable).

To enter leave me a comment with your winning answer and your email or way of contacting you. Good Luck!

*Sorry, this contest is not open to cheaters (friends and family that I've taken to this special place).

Friday, October 5, 2007

Enchanting Limited Edition Board book

While I was at the Museum of Childhood in London I saw a gallery of fantastic photos by Jan von Holleben titled, Dreams of Flying. The photo images are amazing not only because they are technically perfect but also because they have a wonderful innocent Peter Pan playfulness.

I was very fortunate to also score a couple of the limited edition board books in the gift shop before they sold out. The only other place to get them now is directly from Jan von Holleben's website -but, good luck because I've almost got my spouse convinced that we should buy them all out! For another hilarious (and more adult) photo from this talented photographer check out my other blog 2ciaos!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Little People's London

The posting has been a little slow but the travel has been heavy around here. Let me tell you about our little trip to London. We stayed at the Marriott Maida Vale (not the Marriott Gloucester Square that we usually do). Our stay was NOT very pleasant. We had requested 2 things: a crib and a babysitter. On arrival we found a typical old play pen with a plastic floor jammed between two beds. Do they really think that babies don't need or use sheets? So we had to call down for some. As for the babysitter they couldn't find one -in all of London or should I just say they didn't really try. The concierge "service" has A LOT to be desired (to top things off they gave us bad directions on more than one occasion). Did I mention that our view was of a shady boarded up building? The Gloucester Square run much more professionally and cleanly.
Now for the fun stuff!

in fun for the Little Man was the Museum of Childhood. They had a large indoor sandbox with all the accoutrements, Play+Soft large riding/climbing soft toys (be warned that they had to take away a lot of the pieces because older children were throwing them), exhibition of photos Dreams of Flying by Jan von Holleben, various science toys for the children to play with and they also had cool displays of child rearing through the ages (scary!). This is a child friendly and stroller friendly place with baby changing in both men and women's bathrooms! Did I mention that admission is FREE?!

#2 Hyde Park
In all of my travels I have never seen a park so organized, clean, accessible, interactive, tranquil, fun, historic, beautiful and with delicious places to eat. The photo of the willow elephant was a special exhibit that the Little Man enjoyed -'packed' full of fun. Also, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is a fantastic interactive meditative sculptural circle of flowing water. You can cool your feet here (the Little Man loved this) and it is completely wheelchair/stroller accessible. Who ever designed it did a fantastic job it is beautiful. Admission FREE.

#3 Hamley's Toys
This is the Mecca of toyland. The Little Man was overloaded and I think his eyes may have popped out. A good value is their wooden toys and the blow up garden toys. The sales clerks can be found everywhere and are very helpful and knowledgeable, you often find them playing with the toys! If you do get tired there is a cafe on the top floor where we saw Captain Hook hanging out. Admission FREE however breaking is not.

#4 Victoria & Albert Museum
Running through the Bamboo sculptures by the Brazilian designers Fernando and Humberto Campana was a riot for the Little Man and gave me a chance to see The Art of Lee Miller -which I recommend. Also in the center garden there is a cute outdoor cafe and seats. Admission to the V&A is FREE however admission to the Miller exhibit not free.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Warning: All Crocs are dangerous

As if worrying about lead toys, foot-and-mouth outbreaks and all other hazards of modern living now the newest is worrying about Crocs shoes. Yes, those little shoes on your little one is a danger on escalators (a little girl in Singapore got her toe ripped off!). Turns out the shoes get trapped in the "teeth" of the escalators or they crack between the steps. Scary stuff -for a full report click here and here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Confessions of a Veggie JetSet Mom

It is personal. Today I took the Little Man to his regular baby checkup and I found out that his growth has jumped! He has always been a vegetarian, none of those mystery jarred cat food smelling meat pots for him. On previously visits I expressed concern about his slow (but steady) growth when I was seeing other children grow fast and chubby. The JetSet Doctor took a long hard look at JetSet Dad and I and he let us know there isn't a slim chance he’ll ever be a Yao Ming (yes, we are not much taller than gnomes -it's those pesky genes). However, his recent stellar growth is good news for me because I live in a place that is hostile to the idea of a vegetarian let alone a vegetarian baby.

On Wednesday my neighbor was telling me about how a recent child custody case here in Italy was overturned because the mother was a vegetarian. Turns out the ex-couple’s child would beg his father for meat and McDonalds on his custody weekends. The judge (not a nutritionist or doctor) said that it is unhealthy to have a child not consume meat and that a child should at most be able to make that choice for themselves when they are 18 years of age.

I’m a firm believer in the adage, “If you know better you do better.” Doing better for my child that means that I try to make every meal count. Every meal is nutritious and prepared with the best ingredients possible. Meat has a dirty track record and I don’t want my money or family anywhere near it. I’m not saying going veggie is for everyone but at least getting more vegetables is.

Take a look at some of my Amazon “Veggie Reading” (on the ride side menu bar) for great ways to go vegetarian or even to learn new ways to incorporate more vegetables in your diet for the health of your family and the planet.

For the science:
  • The China Study : The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever
  • Also take a look at Dr. McDougall's website here
For day to day children's menu:
  • Raising Vegetarian Children : A Guide to Good Health
  • Feeding the Healthy Vegetarian Family
  • New Vegetarian Baby
For recipes that will knock your socks off (vegan style):
  • Vegan with a Vengeance
  • Also check out the website PPK Kitchen

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ciao Bambino

It is a great time to be a traveling tot. When I was growing up there were no special accommodations or services for children (except on airplanes where I would get the coolest stash of pilot wings, model airplanes and games!). My friend Beckie has alerted to the company Ciao Bambino!, they specialize in family travel. They have things available for everyone from baby to teens including places that can be baby proof and offer cribs! Right now they specialize in England, Italy, Spain and France. If you are hesitant to travel abroad with your baby this might be just the thing for you. They have tons of really good info on their website -check them out and tell me what you think!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Clean I can't do without

I shutter to think of the terrible stories of child poisoning due to hand sanitizers that have been circulating on the net and in newsrooms. The worst is that they are true. Luckily, I've never really been a fan of them (they looks suspicious to me and feel like they leave a film).

Instead I am a really big fan of Clean Well. I bought the bundle pack in March and I haven't put it down yet. It has a great smell and is made of natural oils (instead of the mystery science project ingredients). The bottles come in great sizes to take through the airport security (haven't had one taken away yet!). Little man also holds his hands out for a little spray down which he never did with the other stuff. In a pinch it is a handy, "ohh look at this" toy.

Anther thing I really liked and appreciated was that when I ordered from the company directly I got a real person and they sent it to me at my "strange" address. They were timely and friendly. I also love that it came fast and that it had my address written in by hand (I'm a sucker for good penmanship). Real products sold by real people -how cool is that?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Road trip in Civilized Style

I was recently sent a DVD of a show in the US that is called the Duggars Roadtrip. This family has (as of last count) 17 children! No, really you read correctly. They are not a mixed, blended or otherwise adopted family. These people are all from one mother and one father. As I watched I could not begin to wrap my brain around the idea of so many people in one house all the time much less in ONE caravan filled with children, car seats, food and water. So they took a long road trip from Arkansas to California in a 'pimped out' Winnebago.

One of the things that kept going through my mind was "holy ship! not only do they all have to dress the same but they also have to travel with no style -that really stinks!" (I was saying this in French ;) So I started thinking IF I had a large family (the ONLY way this would ever happen is if I pulled an Angelina Jolie) I would NOT want to have to travel in that bland fuel eating monster. I was imaging something a little more civilized.

So I open my email today and I now have the answer to my hypothetical question. Isn't she a beauty?! Now this is the way to travel people! The South East Coachworks Company refurbishes old buses into temporary living quarters, play buses, presentation buses, etc. That is an ideal recycle/reuse in action!
I just get giddy with the idea of all the great photos you can get from the top deck! What I wouldn't give to have that little gem in front of the house for a birthday party (instead of indoors).

N.B. Big Mahalo to Glo and thanks to Beckie for answering my question with this sweet ride!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Don't you dare pay retail in the US or UK!

I am not afraid to tell you that a lot of shopping for the Little Man these days is done on the net. The convenience of shopping at anytime day or night in pajamas and getting an opinion on whether it is a good value has been a boon to both my purchase power and personal satisfaction.

Usually I start out at Epinions to gather the most info on a product from people who actually bought and used the stuff. From there I have a general idea of what to look for when buying (let's say for arguments sake) a stroller/pram/buggy.
Then I start the Google search (go ahead and try the Google search button on this very page!) for the stroller/pram/buggy (aka the princely carriage). Wherever I end up finding the best rate I then search for ONLINE COUPONS! I'll say it again ONLINE COUPONS!
The sites that I've had the best luck with have been:
  • RetailMeNot -available in Australian, UK, Canadian and German versions
  • NaughtyCodes -not as flexible but some good values
And never forget to check to Ebay, there are a surprising amount of retailers and authorized dealers who sell exclusively on Ebay (when in doubt check their feedback) without the mortar-and-bricks' overhead you can get some BIG discounts. Do you have any others you like to use in your area of the net? Leave me a comment.

This article is dedicated to Jaime - may you never have to pay full price again.

Airplane travel made easier

Who likes to carry a big awkward car seat on to an airplane? No one I know and that is why I am so happy that there is an alternative.
Here on European flights they give you a seat extender (the kind that bigger people get to attach to their seat belts) and expect you to attach it to your own and looped around baby. As you can imagine it isn't really a great option. So from America I ordered this great new seat belt from CARES (it is FAA approved too). It straps the baby in just as if it were a car seat belt and the set up time is less than one minute. There are both written instructions and a video. As you can see if folds up nice and small too -what a great invention!

Great wipes!

If your little bundle is anything like mine -they hate getting their faces cleaned. That was until I discovered Klorane's wipes on a trip to France. These wipes are really fantastic because they are non-irritating, pleasant smelling and thick. I keep some on hand for when my Little Man has diaper rash -he doesn't complain when I use these wipes but the usual ones are murder on him. They are also excellent for taking off makeup.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Travel while it's Cheap!

I have 2 pieces of important advice for new parents:
  1. before baby is born go out as much as you can (go see every movie, go dancing, go to dinner parties, theaters, take a vacation)
  2. between 3 months and 2 years -TRAVEL!
On #1, soak up the luxury of not having to worry about a babysitter, or returning home on time, or the natural disaster that is going to rip through your house and take your newborn with it, or wondering if the sitter is secretly a drug lord who is currently at your home making crack (not that any of these thoughts EVER crossed my mind).

On #2, call me a romantic cheapskate but nothing beats not having to pay a full fare plane ticket for baby AND getting on the plane first AND exposing the little one to all the coolness that airports and travel bring. * The biggest complaint I hear from my friends when I tell them to travel is that 'they are too small to get anything out of it.' That is a load of baloney and even if it were true at the very least YOU would be out and about enjoying the trip. We were recently on a weekend trip to Lisbon with the Little Man (who is 21 months) and we saw lots of churches and museums. Yes, some of it got a little tiring (that is what the stroller is for) and then the rest he was wide awake and in awe. He went around saying, "WOW!" Seeing his excitement and awe re-inspired me to appreciate architecture, sculpture and just the general landscape of sight, sound and smell. He's not a jaded traveller like I've become and seeing things with him has given me a new appreciation of the mind blowing transformation in one's world view that only travel can accomplish.

*N.B. You absolutely positively must be organized to do a venture like this and to help you along I'll supply you the ingredients for my magic bag of tricks in a future article.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

What to do? Where to go? ARE WE THERE YET?

I just discovered a cool website called Go City Kids dedicated to parents and families in the US. This site covers everything from restaurants, childcare, daily neighborhood events and a lot more. They have listings for 50 cities in the US -even Billings (Montana?) is listed. I can't wait to give some of their suggestions a try next time I'm in the US. Has anyone used this site yet --what do you think?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Strolling 4 Wheeling Tourist?

My travel schedule doesn't look like it used to. Now, I'm adhering to my little one's nap and feeding schedule. Luckily, someone has thought about that for the destinations of:
  • Amsterdam
  • Barcelona
  • Boston
  • Brighton
  • Chicago
  • Copenhagen
  • Dublin
  • Edinburgh
  • LA
  • London
  • Miami
  • NYC
  • Paris
  • Portland
  • Prague
  • San Francisco
  • Sydney
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver
The makers of Bugaboo Strollers have come up with daytrips that include naps, maps and food. I haven't done any of their itineraries yet but they look good and the fact that they use local artists to draw up their maps is VERY cool. Now if I could only get my little artist to draw me a map to where he hid my mobile phone!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Vedes Munich Airport?

I have to say that one of my very favorite international airports is in Munich, Germany. Ever since my little man was born I've had a completely new view of airports. Gone are the days when I looked for the best Gin & Herring Bar (Amsterdam's Schiphol), the best Italian designer stuff (Milan's Malpensa) or the most competitively priced Brit stuff (Stansted). Now, I look for 2 things: big family/baby bathrooms and a good toy store. Munich has them both (not to mention free hot water by the Lufthansa boarding gates for the all important baby bottle making).
Everytime we have a connection through Munich I must admit I get a little excited. My first stop is to the pharmacy to pick up baby food and a mini aerosol water can (to keep baby's nose and skin stay humid which has helped to drastically cut down on colds and dry air). The next stop is VEDES. In this little shop you can find toys for every age and even for the picky toy loving adult in your life. Right now my little man is into the wooden Haba toys and the Selecta Spielzeug puzzles. The prices are also pretty good but when you're on your last nerve from a long flight the prices look REAL GOOD (not that I'm speaking from experience).
There is also a nice selection of quick eats. My favorite is the coffee and bread place called ARAN (Terminal 2, Level 05, behind security check). The soups and sandwiches are very satisfying and warm. As for drinks you have to love a place where they sell you the coffee (any style) AND the hard stuff. There is also an Organic Bistro there that I have yet to try.
FYI Schiphol is quickly going to topple Munich with its brand new "Babycare Lounge" that just opened July 24th. The Schiphol website touts,
parents can take care of their babies (in private), bathe them, feed them and/or allow them to sleep for a while in one of the seven bed cabins, which include comfortable seats for the parents
Have any of you checked it out yet? What do you think?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Dora, Deigo, Elmo -Get the lead out!

Now Mattel/Fisher Price has problems with lead paint toys and has issued a MAJOR recall. When is this madness going to end? China seems to want to poison everyone with lead these days. Why should you care what baby is gnawing on? Because lead ingestion can lead to these problems:
  • nervous system damage
  • hearing loss
  • stunted growth
  • reduced IQ
  • developmental delays
  • damage to kidneys
Also, another helpful link is the recall on Thomas & Friends stuff.
Personally, I am now going to test everything myself with at an at home test kit. You can get them at almost any hardware store.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

This baby is born!

Weighing in at a ton of info to be given this blog is dedicated to all of you moms, dads, care givers and gift givers. I will be offering up some of the world's best, coolest or just plain cute items that are must for babies with an international flare. So buckle up and note that there are no exits near you and thank you for flying with us!