Monday, May 26, 2014

Anyone's got tips for traveling with babies?

 Baby Y. will be going on her first transatlantic flight, and as we slowly start to prepare, I am getting a bit overwhelmed with all the tips around. What seems to be clear is that we should make sure she is sucking on something during takeoff and landing.

So far, inspired by these parents, I am preparing goodie bags with some traditional Dutch candy (Haagse Hopjes, butterscotch caramels, Kandijkoekjes) and earplugs along with a funny little note.

Other than the basic stuff (plenty of diapers, enough clothes, baby wipes, a few toys, and a couple of blankets) is there anything else that we should be bringing? 

Our stroller is huge, and as much as we love it, I don't think we are bringing it, as we have heard baby gear gets really bad treatment, so what we are bringing is her baby carrier and her car-seat. I kind of wish we had this gadget that lets you move the kid around the airport and also functions as an extra luggage trolley. 

Does anyone have any experiences here? Opinions? Ideas?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ice-Cream World Tour: Fanielje in Leidschendam

 I have been wanting to write this post for about a year, but we hadn't had the chance to come back to the source. Last year, the winter lasted very, very long. A good friend of mine had come to visit us last April, specifically to bike along the tulip fields. However, even if it was already mid-April, except for some dandelions here and there, no flowers were in bloom. So, instead of taking the tulip route (Bollenstreek) as we had planned, we took the bikes and went from Zoetermeer to Leidschendam, stopping in the old center for pancakes and ice-cream. For some weird reason we didn't have the camera with us at the moment, but I did not forget that ice-cream and we were determined to go back. That first time I tasted their orange ice-cream and it was glory, no artificial flavours. It was like licking a soft, fresh, real orange.

Anyhow, we have been blessed with glorious summer days, which for us mean only one thing: ice-cream. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the best ice-cream I've tasted in The Netherlands, maybe in other countries too. It is the real-deal. Perfect, creamy, natural. This time we tasted strawberry, tiramisu, lemon and cookies. They were all delicious. I can not wait to come back for more. The center of Leidschendam is very pretty too, if you are ever in the area you shouldn't miss a visit to Fanielje (Sluisplein 6, Leidschendam).

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Childhood memories (and giveaway winner)

I loved reading all your childhood stories, so thanks to everyone who participated in the giveaway. My first memories involve zoos, playing in the water, my little brother and cake. Now that I think about it, I wrote a post on that over at Lauren's last year. To think so much can change in 12 months.

But I guess what you are here to find out  who is the winner of 20 USD at Cotton Babies (picked with the help of And that would be: Ambyr, of the D girl with her hilarious story:

"First childhood memory? Hmm. Well - I remember my aunt gifted me an old barbie - but she was ugly - so I gave her to my friend down the street. I think I was 8 or 9. My mom told me to get the barbie back - but my friend couldn't find her. Probably because she was super ugly. I wouldn't doubt that my friend burned her or fed her to the dog. lol"

Congratulations Ambyr, I will email you the coupon today! Thanks again to everyone who took part in the game. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Temperature. Or, the concept of cold.

This post has been written by the husband, a little bit like Kamel appears every now and again over at Better in real life. Speaking of which, you should absolutely read K's mother's day post. It is just, so beautiful. This will most likely not be a regular feature, but maybe now and then we'll get to hear M's voice. 

Wind, hail, and rain do nothing to the boy. Shown here: Windproof raincoat bought in Barcelona, when it was supposed to be glorious, sunny warm and instead it started raining dogs and cats.

Amanda and I are having a lot of discussions about the temperature lately, since the arrival of our little Yulia. We have had our funny misunderstandings in the past, like me having to buy sweaters and a windproof jacket in Barcelona while visiting Amanda, but the differences in our thoughts and perceptions are very clear today. Our main discussion regarding Yulia is whether or not she should be covered by a swaddle when she is carried around in the house.

Amanda grew up in warm and sunny Mexico. Sure it can get “cold” there in the mornings and evenings, but the temperature never drops beneath 10º degrees Celsius. And sure, she spent some time in Switzerland, but the warmth of the Mexican sun never left her mind. She walks around the house on slippers and most of the time has a blanket wrapped around her. She “claims” that there are these “huge” drafts, making parts of the house colder than the rest. So it is no surprise that Amanda thinks that Yulia needs a swaddle, since she is a small baby and the house is cold. The more blankets she is covered in the better.

I, on the other hand grew up in rainy and windy Holland. Where the temperature does become negative in winter. And since Holland is a bike country, I spent plenty of time biking in the rain, snow and hail. During exam period you would spend the first 15 min of the exam getting warm and dry. I walk around the house on my socks and in a t-shirt. I don’t feel any drafts or temperature variations throughout the house.

So, according to my view, Yulia does not need a swaddle in the house when I carry her around in our house. Even during the short trip she takes naked from her room to the shower, where we install her bath.

temperature is a numerical measure of hot and cold. Its measurement is taken by detection of heat radiation; particle velocity or kinetic energy, or, most commonly, by the bulk behavior of a thermometric material. It may be calibrated in any of various temperature scales: Celsius, Fahrenheit, Kelvin, etc.

The temperature indication throughout our house is a cozy 20º degrees Celsius, but it is funny to see that an objective value such as temperature can be perceived so subjectively based on one’s background.

How are you influenced by your background?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The epic saga of the cloth diapers (and a CottonBabies giveaway)

 Alternative titles to this post: do not ever use UPS! Or CottonBabies is the best!  Anyhow, last November while I went crazy reading everything about cloth diapers, and after having finally decided what we were going to do I found out that CottonBabies had a pretty nice deal on their BumGenius diapers for CyberMonday. As it happened, my brother and my sister-in-law were visiting the US at the time and they asked us if we needed anything. One of my closest friends happens to live there and so, realizing that we were going to pay EUR 13.5 per diaper, instead of EUR 24 per diaper, the decision was a no-brainer. For the 24 diapers that we wanted we saved a total of 250 EUR . Not a neglectable quantity at all (specially if you consider that with that amount we got the crib, the mattrass, the moses basket and its mattrass). Anyhow, because we ordered our diapers before 14:00 on a Monday, we  (well, my friend) was supposed to get them by that Thursday, or Friday, at the latest, considering a worst-case-scenario delay of a day. My brother and SIL were going to be staying in the US until the next Monday, and they were meeting my friend on Sunday, so there was plenty of time. The idea was that my brother and SIL would bring the diapers back to Mexico, and then my mom and dad would bring them to us in February when they came to see our baby. A perfect plan, no?

Well in comes UPS to completely mess up and throw the whole plan to the drain. You see, CottonBabies offers free shipping (within the USA) with every order, and orders placed before 14:00 EST ship the same day. If you want your stuff faster there is an Express option in which orders are guaranteed to arrive within three business days from the date of shipment. This option is fulfilled by UPS 3-day select, in which the delivery is done by the end of the third business day. Well, you know where this is going. First of all, our order did not ship on the Monday we ordered (as it should have because we ordered around 11:00 EST), but on Tuesday. Even so, with the Express shipment the company guaranteed that the diapers would be delivered by Friday, so, no problem. Well, yes problem. UPS simply did not comply with their conditions, blaming there were many orders going around the country because of the Black Friday deals. Fine then, but then, as a company, wouldn't you make sure that the order is still fulfilled within the chosen, guaranteed conditions? As soon as we knew the order did not arrive on Friday, we contacted UPS. After going through a long answering machine and speaking to a computer we finally get to talk to someone, who had no idea where our package was, could not do anything about it, would just say sorry but not fix anything and informed us that the package would be delivered by the end of the day on Monday (which it was, but, by then, my brother and SIL were already on their way back to Mexico). We could not get a refund or any kind of compensation from them, no matter how hard we tried.

Anyhow, deep breaths. How were we going to fix this? After thinking long and hard we decided to ship the diapers to Mexico via UPS standard, instead of normal post, because once a package crosses the border the post can take forever to deliver a simple letter and it is not rare that stuff just simply disappears. (Shipping the diapers to Europe either by USPS or other carrier would have been way more expensive). When you ship from the the U.S. to Mexico, customs clearance by UPS is required, but the cost includes routine customs clearance. The shipment was accepted, and even though this solution meant we were spending 60 USD more than we were planning to, we'd still be saving money in comparison to the price of the diapers in Holland, and the diapers were on its way. I love to track packages, to see all the random places where a box stops on its way to their recipient.

That's how I found out, quite early, that something weird must have happened because at some point the package, although already in Mexico, was on its way back to the shipper. To make a long story short, Mexico did not accept the package. We never got a clear answer on this, no matter how much we pushed the people at customer service, but from reading around it seems that our diapers did not clear customs because all clothing coming from the USA is assumed to be made in China and Mexico recently decided to impose high anti-dumping quotas (which range in 500%) on  Chinese Origin goods. (Never mind the fact that BumGenius Elementals are fully made in USA, with local materials.) Within a few days the package was back at my friends' where it had started. And we still did not know how on Earth we were going to get them because we really did not want to pay >100 USD to have them shipped to Europe and then pay taxes over everything. We sent the longest complaint ever to UPS... and after days and days of emailing back and forth, it turned out that although UPS made a mistake in accepting the package from the start (because they act as a broker, they should have known that the shipment was going to be refused due to Mexican regulations), they could not -as a company- do anything about it. Instead they instructed us to process the complaint further at the specific UPS shop from where the parcel was shipped.

My friend went to Mexico in March, but she was not able to bring the diapers with her. An uncle of hers was planning to visit her, and offered to bring the diapers to Mexico, but he ended up cancelling his trip. In the end, it was my friends' kind sister who brought the diapers to my parents, and they sit there, waiting for us.

In the meantime, we did contact Cotton Babies about the whole issue (because if the order had arrived that Thursday in the first place, none of this would ever have happened). We are impressed. They have the nicest, friendliest, kindest staff ever. I did not even have to fight for anything. I did not have to send a million and one emails to get our case escalated to someone with the capacity to make decisions. I simply explained what had happened and how inconvenient it all had been, and they not only immediately refunded us the total amount that we paid for shipping, but they gave us a 20 USD coupon in compensation as well.

So this is where you get rewarded for reading all of this. Since Cotton Babies only ships within the USA, and given how complicated it was to get the diapers to where they should be, I am sharing the full 20 USD with you, by giving the coupon away. Anyone can participate, but be aware that you need a USA address for the delivery (see above). If you are not in the USA, you could always use it for a present. If you want to try cloth diapers, this is a chance to get a diaper and see if you like how they work. But if cloth-diapering is not for you, they sell all kinds of other stuff, from wooden  toys, to baby carriers, swaddling blankets, bottles, cups, nursing bras, baby books, shoes, clothing...

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me your first childhood memory or other fun story from back in the day, and fill in your participation in the box below. For an extra entry, you can tweet about the giveaway and fill it in as well. The giveaway will be open until next Wednesday, May 14 at 3:00 P.M Amsterdam time, when I will choose a random winner. I will announce it on Thursday May 15, so be sure to come back and check if you won!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 This is NOT a sponsored post. I am only writing about my experience and I am giving away the coupon I received from CottonBabies as compensation for the whole epic journey that our diapers went through. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

#1day12pics: a walk in The Hague

 Yesterday was one of those glorious sunny days that make Spring so wonderful. I know, I know, I sound like a broken record. But really, it was special. We had a couple of friends and their 18-month old little boy visit us and afterwards we went for a walk in the city, taking advantage of the weather and the kermis* or fair. Always so much magic and fun: the street food, the games, tje candy, the kid  running around. I documented the day and linked up with Michelle from MY Creative (she of the Eat&Snap photowalks, remember Paris?) for this month's #1day12pics challenge. Here's a glimpse of our Saturday.  Click here to see the photos individually. How's your weekend going?

* I love that the word Kermesse actually comes from the Dutch Kermis.

"The term is derived from 'kerk' (church) and 'mis' (mass.) The word became borrowed in English and French, originally denoting the mass said on the anniversary of the foundation of a church (or the parish) and in honour of the patron. Such celebrations were regularly held in the Low Countries and also in northern France, and were accompanied by feasting, dancing and sports of all kinds.Arguably the first kermesse was an annual parade to mark the events of 1370 (some sources say 1369) in Brussels, when all the Jewish population of the city were burnt alive after being accused of profaning a basket of communion hosts, which were said to have bled when stabbed. According to one source, those Jewish residents who could prove that they did not profane the hosts were not killed, but were merely banished from Brussels These festivities still survive in the form of funfairs, while the old allegorical representations are now uncommon. Whereas nearly every village has a kermis once or twice a year, the large Zuidfoor or Foire du Midi (South Fair) of Brussels and Sinksenfoor (Whitsun Fair) of Antwerp attract many visitors during several weeks"

Friday, May 2, 2014

Becoming a bit Dutch

 It's funny, but one of the unexpected things that changed in me when I became a mother is that I lost whatever fear for ridicule I had left and I just started speaking Dutch to everyone. I don't care anymore if I speak it with an accent or if I am constructing grammatically perfect sentences. I have this need to understand everything and to be a full part of the society. It started at the hospital, where even-though most of the personnel was fluent in English, I insisted on getting the explanations in Dutch and on trying to answer back in Dutch as well.

Then, last weekend the whole country celebrated Queen's King's day and I insisted on wearing my Royal-Delft -Blue-and -windmills sheer blouse, painting my face and dressing the kid in an orange onesie (after all, she wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the health system, how could I not feel the 'Hup Holland Hup'* when we pretty much owe our daughter to this country).

Oh and I have become obsessed with getting the best deals, buying everything in discount and collecting coupons. It's like a sport. I get a thrill of buying stuff (that we would normally buy anyway, like detergent, toothpaste or bread) at half of its price. It reminds me of Lily Allen's: 'Nan you're a window shopper' ("You only buy the paper to cut out the coupons, You-re saving 50p but what do you want with tampons"). We've always tried to be frugal, but I am taking this to a whole other level. 

King's day (former Queen's day) is such a fun day because aside from the general festive environment the whole country turns into a giant flea market (or vrijmarkt) and all kids take the opportunity to bring out their old toys and resell them or trade them. I think it is a great lesson in recycling and reusing. And little Yu got her first, colourful wooden walker for 5 EUR. The husband didn't want to let me buy it because: "where are you going to keep it?", but I ended up convincing him. It's so cute. Of course I wanted to get all the wooden toys, but unfortunately, that was not allowed.

Have you ever adopted traditions from places you've lived or traveled to?

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