Mama Camp in Charlottesville (+ packing lists)

 photo 65B5C4AB-786B-4191-B502-3C45BC07FDC3_zpsz7cg0did.jpg photo 673D12FC-9C11-4730-9E96-00629D3357E1_zps6k4j92ca.jpg photo BAA43F63-1F8F-4533-A4D6-360947972A4D_zpsbgerduog.jpg  photo C838B2AB-C302-44C3-AAD6-00702C072B68_zpsajjg9xkb.jpgAt the start of the month, I joined three of my best friends from college in our college town, Charlottesville—AKA the best city in America—because we hadn’t seen one another in way too long. The most effective way that I explained it to Mary Tobin was that it would be camp for mamas.

And I highly recommend Mama Camp! Should you find yourself packing for something similar, here are some ideas for what you might need:

    • Your cutest shirts and dresses to show off for your fashionable friends (i.e. the only two cute tops you like right now, and in my case: muumuus).
    • A selection from the huge basket of beanie babies at your mom’s house, to send home with your friends for their kids. (Side note: the new beanie babies with huge eyes are terrifying.)
    • Comfy jammies for lounging and chatting.
    • The most outrageous rental car you can find, to embarrass your friends.
    • Some ideas about what you’d like to accomplish. Our to-do list included:
      • Coffee
      • Bodo’s (the bagel place)
      • The Lawn
      • Take It Away (the sandwich place)
      • Wine
      • Chatting
      • Basil gimlet from Mas Tapas

As you see, the three essential factors we considered were food, drink, and shady, lovely spots to sit and chat. The weather was glorious. We ate two delectable dinners at Zocalo (on Charlottesville’s downtown mall) and Tavola (in Belmont), and spent a beautiful afternoon at King Family Vineyards.

We discussed:

  • Marriage
  • Parenting
  • How disgusting our dorm rooms were and how we’ve grown in the area of cleanliness.
  • Using regular clothes as maternity clothes and maternity clothes as regular clothes.
  • Birkenstocks
  • Flare jeans
  • Shows on Netflix and Amazon. My pick is Catastrophe. So so funny.
  • Beauty products
  • Schools, work, career paths, health, and many items and details that will remain in the circle of trust.

We always find our friend Anna Kate, though she often doesn’t realize it, to be a source of great recommendations: cute clothes, pajamas, Madewell jeans, dry shampoo, chic diaper bags, something to put in the carseat or stroller to keep it cool in the deathly heat (AK or SB, give us the deets on that, please!).

Our friend Ansley gets the trooper award, since she had some kind of stomach bug and was not feeling 100% all weekend. You could hardly tell since she remained her bright cheerful self, but we gave her a hard time for drinking less wine than the pregnant lady (if you lost track: that’s me).

Our friend Elizabeth is the encouraging one who will always tell you how great and cute and smart you are, and that you should write a book. She’s the one who told me to share on the blog my quick tip for packing up the family, which is simply this: I typed up our master Packing List on Evernote (but it could just be in Word on your computer) that I print out for every trip and modify for the occasion.
 photo C098993B-5792-44F5-A628-BEFD8CC22215_zpsvrdtxgmi.jpg photo 09632844-3B58-479B-A2B1-8711F1714327_zpsy3eo1f80.jpgI’m not yet a professional packer, but this way I don’t have to think through all the randomness every time we go somewhere. Some of our essentials, for example, are the girls’ special pillow cases, the noise phone, and cuddle guys. (What’s on your list?)

I think that’s all. I am a professional mama and this was an excellent professional development trip. Write it off!

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Viernes Santo [Good Friday]

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Last year on Good Friday, we were enjoying our last day in Cholula, so I wanted to share some pictures from the amazing procession that town holds every year to commemorate the Stations of the Cross. I don’t have the most accurate information about this tradition; I’ll just tell you about what I saw and share the pictures, which will not do it justice. Sincerely, I tell you, this was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I found it incredibly moving.

We woke up early with Mary Tobin and went ahead into the centro (town square) to claim our spot at the hotel restaurant where we’d already brunched twice that week—once to meet up with aunts, uncles, and cousins, and another time so that my mom could eat their chilaquiles. It was the perfect position along the colonnades from which to view the procession we’d heard so much about.

On our walk to breakfast, we saw this on one of the side streets:

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What in the world?

It was a chilly morning, and these people had clearly been there for awhile. After having swept the streets perfectly clean, they were working with huge stencils and buckets of what, upon closer inspection, we discovered were colorful wood chips.

(I love the picture above because of the little boy helping.)

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Further down the road, it appeared, another group of people were working on another section of the street. I was so curious!

We went on to our spot at the restaurant along the colonnade, and had to sneak around this to get there (apparently this section had been done at night or super early that morning):

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By the way, everyone respected the streets once the design had been laid, and didn’t step a foot on them until the procession came through.

We ate breakfast and made it a leisurely one so we could keep our spot and just hang out at our table until lunch time. (Thanks to a determined Abuela and a cute Mary Tobin the waiters were happy to oblige.) After a few bites I dashed out because I wanted to figure out what the deal was with this procession and all the street art. By that time we’d caught a few glimpses of the procession as it wound around the streets a few blocks further out from the centro. So I went around the corner on the opposite end of the colonnade, where we hadn’t passed by earlier, and I saw this:

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Another street full of people working! And on this one, it wasn’t one design repeated with the same stencil and colors, but they were busy with individual squares of separate works of wood chip sacred art—some very intricate and impressive.

(By the way, this was a little funny because the parade had clearly already started and they were racing against the clock. I asked one older lady when the procession was coming, and she answered half an hour. This also marked the peak of my Spanish speaking skills! Like, the best in my entire life! And, considering the day, it may have just been the Holy Spirit.)

Here are some of the designs:

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This was my favorite:

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Witnessing all of it made me nearly burst with questions: how long have they been doing this? Who decides who decorates which street? Are different parishes responsible for different parts? Is it the same every year? Do the artists jockey for prime real estate? (You could write a great little story or screen play about the old ladies competing with each other . . .) And where do all the wood shavings come from? But, as I wrote about here, there were a lot of Holy Week happenings whose meaning we had no clue about, so by this time I’d decided not to worry about the not knowing, and just enjoy.

I don’t know if you can tell in the pictures how beautiful all this was. I was moved on so many levels (and FYI, I was not pregnant at this time)—all the young and old, men, women, and children, working diligently and carefully, making the streets pristine, creating individual works of art that were powerful alone but breathtaking collectively. They were creating something huge and beautiful, pictures that would exist for half an hour, only to be trampled by the feet of the faithful and carried away in the wind.

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I found the procession itself a little on the kitschy side for an American sensibility, though it was still inspiring to see all the people out for this event. The procession stopped at different spots for each of the 14 stations and read the corresponding scripture passages. (Presumably! Again, I’m sure I didn’t know half of what was going on.)

As I think back on it, the language barrier and the not knowing was actually freeing. In our young family, we have traditions and rituals just starting, and it’s not important (or possible) for Mary Tobin to understand and articulate why we do certain things. And yet she senses that something is special—lighting candles (she LOVES), wearing a new dress for Easter this Sunday. In the first world, intellectual understanding usually trumps the physical, sensory side of worship and faith. But it’s that side of it that teaches us that some beautiful and mysterious celebration is taking place, even when we don’t quite understand.

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I mean, WOW. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We will all be in Memphis this year for Easter, and Mary Tobin will be wearing a new dress, sewn with love by Mama Rote (and in true second child fashion, Inez will wear one of MT’s old ones, once we locate it!). Wherever you are this weekend—geographically or spiritually!— I hope you’ll be be able to slow your racing mind and simply feel the beauty of the celebration.

Venid a mí todos los que estáis trabajados y cargados, y yo os haré descansar. (Mateo 11:28)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Tips from the Danes: Simple & Cozy

walking in Copenhagen

A year ago, we were exploring a new-to-us corner of the world: Stockholm for two nights and Copenhagen for the rest of the week. (Recall, Ashley’s advice on prepping for Danish fashion and culture, and traveling in general.)

Evidently, I’m a fake blogger because I didn’t record the trip after the fact. (Ashley did! Here and here.) But now that it’s getting cooler, the smell of autumn air is bringing back Copenhagen memories.

It was a lovely trip—obviously!—and the charming Scandinavian way of life and simple aesthetic were inspiring. Here are a few specific ideas to make your life simpler and cozier this fall:

  • Nix the top sheet. The Danes and Swedes sleep on a fitted sheet with just a fluffy down comforter. I did this last night, after Mary Tobin peed through our quilt and top sheet. (I don’t think she did it out of spite, but I can’t be sure!) So I stripped those and pulled out the comforter that had been stored away for summer. It was a delicious night of sleep. And if you’ve got two comforters, a separate one for your partner, I think it could solve some marriage problems.
  • Candles, that’s all. The Danes were so into candles it was ridiculous. Clear off all other tchotchkes and light your (unscented) candles. Ashley and her husband rented a furnished apartment, really just the basics—mostly from IKEA of course!—but it felt so cozy even as the days grew darker and shorter. I was inspired to evaluate what we really need, materially. (Of course, I did go nuts at their equivalent of the dollar store, stocking up on cool Scandinavian napkins and weird trinkets.)
  • French press. Yummier coffee, no counter space. I’m so happy we made the switch.
  • Go outside anyway. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.” All the restaurants and cafes still had their outdoor seating available. They added blankets to the chairs and cranked up the outdoor heaters. What a dream it would be to install an outdoor heater on our little balcony! But for now I’ll pull out our sturdiest blanket and park it out there.

Thoughts, feelings, emotions? Other ideas for creating hyggelige? Would you try any of these?

copenhagen hygge

P.S. For more on cultural differences—more than just tighter jeans and “blondes have more fun”—read Ashley’s thoughts as they wrapped up their year in Copenhagen: lessons from the Danes.

P.P.S. If you need another boost to simplify your possessions, here’s a post for you: Nobody’s Dream Job.

Cholula Churches

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Happy birthday, Mexico! Actually, I’m not 100% clear on the history behind Mexico’s September 16 independence day . . . I do know that it involved a priest-rebel yelling the “grito” on the night of September 15 . . .

Whatever the case, I think you should eat tacos (or one of the authentic recipes here) and drink margaritas this weekend!

The holiday reminded me to post some of the pretty pics from our trip to Cholula, though months have passed. Mama Rote, who was also on the trip, focused her photo efforts on the beautiful churches in Cholula (as well as the neighboring city Puebla), of which there are hundreds. Neither of us is big into photography (Can you tell from my cell phone pics on this blog? Sorry.), so I thought she was rather brilliant to narrow her scope in such an artsy photojournalist-ic way, specifically on the church towers against the sky.

All of these were taken with her phone—unedited!:

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It’s such an incredibly beautiful place, as you can see. Thanks, Mama Rote for your (phone!) photo essay.

Our trip to Cholula fell during Holy Week, which was a great time to visit, aside from the strange bank hours. As I mentioned, Cholula (actually two cities: San Pedro Cholula and San Andres Cholula) is known for its churches. When the Spanish took over the existing native city, they built churches on each and every pagan temple or worship site, and of course that was a lot, since there were deities for rain, sun, various animals, etc. Legend holds that there are 365 churches, one for each day of the year.

Over and over I wished we had a personal art history and/or religion professor to give more details on a certain church, how they were used since sometimes they were just a block away from one another, and a thousand other questions about the special displays for Holy Week. But I had to let it go and just take everything in. I did ask a guy in one of the churches what the fresh fruit hanging from the ceiling meant. Good Spanish practice, but not great for finding more information.

me: Hi. Do you speak English?
guy: No.
me: Why is there fruit in the church?
guy: For Holy Week.
me: OK. . . But, I don’t understand. I’m from the United States. In our churches, we don’t have fruit for Holy Week. The fruit means new life?
guy: Yes.
me: OK. Thanks for your help.

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The two required churches to visit in Cholula are Santa Maria Tonantzintla (where these pics of Mary Tobin and Abuela came from), with crazy syncretic decor covering the inside; and San Francisco Acatapec, with gorgeous gorgeous talavera tile covering the outside.

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That one was my favorite. The most beautiful church I’ve ever seen. We took pictures, but they don’t convey how overwhelmingly breathtaking it was. (No pictures allowed inside Santa Maria Tonantzintla, but you can learn more about both churches here.)

Which photo is your favorite? I love the yellow one at the top of the post, and the nighttime shot.

P.S. We considered it, but are not naming our daughter Cholula. (Or Sriracha, or Chauffeur, my brothers’ suggestions.)

Pack Light (But Pack Good)

Usually my packing represents the worst of both worlds: I bring way too much, and I still don’t have anything good to wear. But, for the past few trips I’ve made an effort to follow Ashley’s advice to pack light and rewear things. In order for that to work, though, you’ll need to bring only good clothes that you won’t hate yourself in.

It’s a cathartic process —ruthlessly evaluating one’s clothes and their wearability. As for me, I realized that I should probably just reduce my whole wardrobe to only those items that pass the trip test. But, as I said, it’s a process. It worked pretty well when I packed my favorite blue and brown tops to layer and mix with my favorite jeans (going with a single color scheme: advice from Cup of Jo), and maybe a dress or two that roll up nicely in my bag.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Wherever you’re going, they probably use toothpaste, wear clothes, and style their hair. . . as Clark Griswold says in European Vacation, “Europeans go to the bathroom, don’t they?” So if you forget something, don’t stress. You should be able to pick it up at your destination—which will add the cultural bonus of a genuine, non-souvenir shopping experience.
  • My mom pointed out that no one knows you, so there’s no big need to worry about how you look. Feel free to experiment and take fashion risks. In Cholula, I wore a couple of scarves in a kind of French-y fashion that I wouldn’t dare to wear here. They protected my sunburned neck, and some German tourists asked me if I spoke German. European chic. (Are Germans known for that?) To me it was a WIN.
  • On the flip side of no one knowing you,  I shouldn’t be embarrassed when my dad wears his ID and wallet in a pouch around his neck, as if he’s a young child who can’t be responsible for carrying a note home to his parents. The good news is that he will NOT be pick pocketed, and perhaps someone will strike up a conversation when they see a Tennessee driver’s license. I should let it go, or like my brother said, just think of it as an homage to Flava Flav.
  • Here’s a post on packing light from the old Bonobos blog (with packing list, for dudes). They also once posted travel tips, that I can’t find, including: leave something awesome behind for your host (think: rugby shirt, scarf, glasses), and remember what the “true bottom” of your rolling bag is when you pack.
  • Finally, I recommend trying out a Turkish towel. They’re great in general, but for traveling, they take up less room and dry way more quickly than a traditional towel, and can double as a blanket. In DC, find the Turkish towel stand at the Eastern Market flea market. Salt and Sundry at Union Market carries them, too, and it’s worth visiting the store to see how well they curate everything. But, insider tip!, Salt and Sundry buys their Turkish towels from the woman at Eastern Market, so, obviously, their prices are higher. Here are some similar online.

Are you a professional packer, or what?

Happy trails.

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Their Casa is Our Casa

pabla

Hands down, one of my favorite things about traveling to other countries has been staying with families in their homes. It embodies that most sacred of travel buzzwords: authentic. (Of course, the word authentic can cover over a myriad of inconveniences that you would otherwise never put up with.) Someone else’s home may not be the nicest place you could stay, or the most convenient—but it is probably the cheapest. It may not be representative of the whole country, but it’s real, and you can’t argue with that.

I wax romantic about the beauty of staying in someone’s home—being adopted, temporarily, into a new family—because of how powerfully it moved me on our mission trip to Paraguay a few years ago. The Paraguayans set a standard of hospitality that humbles and embarrasses me, since I’ve never been so generous with my home or time. The women of the church cooked all our meals; the guys drove us from place to place, insisting we never walk; everyone was so pleased to see us and excited to hang out each day. I ask myself, how would I help out if a group came to visit my church for a week? Maybe I’d show up to one event, or help with one meal. It would not cross my mind to say, Yes, we have room. You can sleep in my bed!

Paraguay Pabla y familia

Saying goodbye, with some tears, to our host family after the Sunday service.

Pabla and her family went way out of their way for Israel and me, as did her fellow church members for the other people on our mission team. We occupied her best room and were treated as honored guests. In the cold dark mornings, I treasured coffee and pastry time with Pabla, before the van came around to pick us up and take us to breakfast #2 with our team, then the day’s work.

(Free advice for travel in Latin America, or, actually, anywhere someone’s hosting you: eat what they offer! Fortunately this was no difficult task in Paraguay. Their food was simple, hearty, and good. Lots of meat, rice, potatoes, and, surprisingly, sliced beets at every meal. The risk, especially when there’s a language barrier, is that your hosts will be worried you’re not satisfied with the food. So even if you’re not hungry, try bites of everything, don’t look afraid or perplexed when faced with a new dish, and be more verbal and effusive than you think is necessary in your thanks.)

Pabla’s three kids were charming, and hilarious, and did their best to help me communicate. And I will never forget when Israel gave Junior a Listerine breath strip to try. You better believe his eyes popped wide open.

To make it just perfect, of course, there had to be the precious abuela. She didn’t live in Pabla’s house, which I didn’t realize until the end of the week, because she was there every morning when I got up. I was and am a lazy American. Abuela and I weren’t able to have deep conversations, but we smiled. I loved her and she loved me, and she offered to let me stay with her whenever I wanted to come back to Paraguay.

Paraguay Pamela Junior Abuela

¡Abuela!

More free advice (or as my neighbor would say, a “pro tip”): If you’re in a foreign country, especially if you’re staying in a private home, but even if you’re not, start off on the right foot by asking the host if there are any details about how the bathroom works that you need to know.

In some Latin American countries and elsewhere, you toss the toilet paper in the wastebasket instead of flushing it, since the plumbing is not equipped for that. And please, note well: in Spanish, hot is caliente. Ergo, the C on the faucet knobs in Mexico does not signify Cold.

I knew that much, but still, in Paraguay, Israel and I took cold showers for half the week. (In the middle of their winter. Not as cold as it is here, but we were ill-prepared coming from summer in the U.S., and didn’t heed our packing advisories. And, since their winter isn’t as cold, buildings don’t have heat.) But we were tough; we were doing the authentic experience, man!

We didn’t realize there was a switch on the wall to turn on the hot water heater before your shower. Of course, this electrical hot water system was their normal, so why would our hosts think to explicitly tell us how the shower operation went down? I never would have predicted that my week in South America would be one of the coldest of my life.

In the showers in Denmark, one knob controls the water pressure and the other is hot/cold, which is a pretty reasonable way to do it. Fortunately, our hostess, a fellow American, let us know about it right away. And by the time we were presented with an “eco toilet” in Sweden, we’d learned our lesson. “Yeah, we’re going to need some instructions on how to use this toilet.”

Mexican Made

Cabo San Lucas

This weekend Israel told me, “You’re just as Mexican as I am!” as I was elbowing him and pestering him to speak with the Mexican family next to us at a tourist spot here in DC (he could tell they were Mexican by their accent). His point, other than that I’m obnoxious, was that I can speak Spanish well enough to chat with them, if I really wanted to. Overstatement of the week, but I appreciated it.

It’s absurd to claim that I’m as Mexican as he is, but, since my husband was born there, our daughter is Mexican American and learning Spanish, and I now share a last name with a taco company, I’m getting to be comfortable enough to legitimately claim Mexico as my own, kind of.

I should’ve known that I was born to become Mexican because of my lifelong love of dresses like this:

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Oh so comfortable, yet festive for summer soirees.

Disclosure statement: Growing up, I got these dresses from my dad’s family in Texas. My family is far more likely to wear them than anyone in my husband’s family! Never seen mi suegra wear something like this. She’s a New Yorker, man. Nuances and stereotypes, hereby acknowledged.

By now, I’ve traveled to Mexico three times: to Valle de Bravo and Mexico City for our honeymoon, to Cabo San Lucas for my sister-in-law Ruth’s wedding last August, and recently to Cholula. Each time my confidence increases, and so does my love for the country and people.

Our honeymoon was wonderful, of course, but as far as language goes, I stayed in the shadows and let Israel be my personal translator (much as it didn’t help me at times!). On the day we met a lot of his aunts, uncles, and cousins, the best I could do was just try to keep smiling.

The trip for Ruth’s wedding was a turning point for me. With slightly improved Spanish, I was able to order things and chat a little bit more, plus I could say mi esposo es mexicano [my husband is Mexican], and that we were there for la boda de mi cuñada [my sister-in-law’s wedding]. I was claiming ownership and family connections. Plus, we had an adorable baby with us—great ice breaker. Plus, we were in Cabo, tourist area to the max, where most Mexicans speak English, and those in the service industry are trained to be friendly and helpful to tourists and to politely affirm our language skillz.

Plus, the spot was breathtaking, and the occasion was joyful:

Ruth and Tim
Beauty.

Cabo cake

Ortegas CaboAll the men wore guayaberas to the wedding ceremony. It was an awesome look for the whole group, and so cool and comfortable for the summer. Now I sometimes wear Israel’s, belted with skinny jeans or leggings.

MT getting freshMary Tobin made her flower girl debut, and she exercised her celebrity privileges by attacking this little boy with love. (He didn’t mind at all!)

Josie Israel Tim Ruth(We looked better before hitting the dance floor.)
girls in Mexico
My parents were the designated Mary Tobin-sitters for the week.
Mexico topless swimmingDad and Mary Tobin. Look at her arms! (Mama Rote shared this pic on facebook. Some of her friends saw her caption—“Topless swimming in Mexico!”—before the picture itself, and were sketched out.)

 

We would love to continue traveling regularly to Mexico. I’ve gained so much confidence during these few trips. We hope Mary Tobin and any futures niños of ours not only will feel comfortable with the language but also will have a sense of rootedness and connection, or at the least, familiarity, with Mexico. (Don’t worry, y’all; we still love ‘Merica.)

As I’ve thought back through some of the trips that I want to post about, there are quite a few in addition to Mexico: Paraguay; Chile; Copenhagen; Oxford, MS; Austin, TX . . . it’s almost embarrassing and feels excessive. I acknowledge that we’re privileged to be able to travel like this. But also as I review, none of the aforementioned were on a lark or solely for our personal exploration, though certainly that could be wonderful. Behind all the trips were people and reasons. Business, elections, dear friends living far away, weddings. (I guess we feel obligated to attend our siblings’ weddings; not a huge bummer when they take place in an awesome location.)

Travel is a decision to use resources now instead of saving or obtaining something else more practical. You’re making a bet that the experience will prove to be worthwhile. I don’t think we’ll regret our choices to invest time and money in these trips. I hope we’ve done it in a wise way—researching and finding good values, staying with friends, combining business and pleasure, using credit card points. Plus, no additional plane ticket for Mary Tobin while she’s under two! We’re feeling pressure to seize the day as that clock ticks down . . .

Even after getting creative and doing our best to find the best value, travel is costly. But when there are loved ones involved, in my experience, it’s always been worth it. (And after you travel with people, it’s likely they’ll become loved ones if they weren’t before—that, or you’ll terminate the relationship!)

How do you make those decisions? What’s your travel philosophy? Also, let me know if you have any questions you’d like me to attempt to answer, about Mexico, traveling with or without baby, my daring fashion choices, etc.

Vaya con Dios!

All Things Bright and Beautiful

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Here are some shots of Mary Tobin and her dear abuela from a few weeks ago, when we made our first trip to Cholula, Mexico where my suegros [in-laws] have a house.

Cholula indeed was beautiful, and full of the bright colors that I love. In these pictures outside of Santa Maria Tonantzintla on our first day there, we asked “Donde esta Mary Tobin?” or “Where’s Mary Tobin?” to get her to smile and be playful for the camera.

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Dientes?” “Teeth?”—another of my photo tricks.

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Thinking . . .

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There she is!

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By the end of the week, all she would’ve needed to smile was to see Abuela. They were best buds. Abuela taught her to wipe her nose and throw away the tissues, waving bye-bye boogies and/or adios, moquitos! They smelled socks (don’t ask), played with osito [bear], and dissolved into fits of giggles in the early mornings.

I’m planning some posts for the coming weeks with pictures, stories, tips, etc. from our Cholula trip, as well as some of our recent and not so recent travels that I never got around to blogging. So check back if you’re interested.

Hope your weekend is bright and beautiful! I anticipate Mary Tobin will go bonkers with excitement this weekend: Tia Raquel is coming to town, and tomorrow we’re going to the zoo [!!!!].

Tips from Ash: the Danes+Travel+Memories

In case you missed it, read part 1 in which we learned, among other things, that “no one overdoes it” in Denmark, style-wise . . . and therefore we’re doomed. Before even arriving in Europe, simply by posting this, I’m already trying too hard. Ah, well.

Ashley Tuite is helping us out with some advice for our trip to Copenhagen, and for traveling in general. This girl has been around the block—and I mean that in the most positive sense—so listen well! Take it away, homeslice…

just the Tuites hanging out in Santorini

Do you have any tips for dealing with “the natives” wherever you’re headed? Did you learn to say hello, goodbye, thank you in each language? What has been most helpful, or has it varied from place to place?

Honestly, since we have traveled so much this year, I haven’t had a ton of time to prepare for each trip as well as I’d hoped. I usually have the flights, hotel, rental car (if necessary), main attractions and restaurants down. We do always learn how to say “thank you” which goes a long way.

Lucky for you, I do know a little about the Danes and can prep you.

Hello is “hej” (pronounced “hi” with the emphasis on the “i”).

Goodbye is “hej hej” (pronounced “hi hi”). True story.

Thank you is “tak” (pronounced “tock”, but I often hear it casually pronounced as “tack”).

Everyone will be over the top nice, once you speak to them. If you pass someone on the street, they will definitely not look at you or smile or say hello and they might not even move over if you are walking in their way. So, watch out for that. But, you will notice that everyone will be very friendly to you once you engage in conversation.

Also, all Danes speaks perfect English with a cute, peppy, cheerful accent. Don’t ask cashiers or even random people you’re speaking with if they speak English. Of course they do, why would you even ask such a thing?

Thanks, homes! I love all this practical advice. And THANK YOU for telling me not to ask the Danes if they speak English. Faux pas averted.

OK. So, when you arrive in a new city, how do you decide where to go and what to do? We watch Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, and it seems like he usually goes to the local market first.

Goodness. You have better ideas than I do. Love the idea of following Anthony Bourdain through Europe. And, I totally agree with him about the markets. I’m about to do a few market posts on my blog – I’m crazy about the Euro markets.

We usually follow tripadvisor’s advice. We have not had a bad experience following their reviews yet. While they can err on the touristy side, it’s a great resource for a few days in a city and will absolutely put you in better places than if you simply walked around and found a restaurant or followed the city tour bus’s route (which most people do!).

You’ve done an outstanding job of recording your travels through your pictures and blog. Any advice on that, or on how to balance experiencing and enjoying with recording and remembering?

Thanks homes! I am so glad I’ve documented our travels. While at times I would have rather written about other happenings in the world or in our lives, I already love having the recorded memories to flip through on a rainy day.

In terms of balancing experiencing with remembering, I think you can easily do both. I took my camera with me everywhere and tried to document a lot of our travels. It’s a fun and easy way to remember what you’ve seen. At night, I jot down a brief outline of the things we did that day. It helps me remember what we did on action packed trips so I can blog about it later rather than miss out on the experience at the time.

So what’s your favorite blog post that you’ve done this year? Was it on the favorite place you visited, or do those not correlate?

That’s tough. I think my favorites are:

Our favorite memories have not been specifically seeing a beautiful new place or exploring something exotic (though those have been great). It’s been the times where we have really connected with a culture or have shared an experience with friends or family. We have loved living in Europe but it’s definitely caused us to hold tightly to what’s most important.

So, on that note: get here!

Hooray! Turn on the hyggelige for us! For the record, the Eiffel Tower post was also one of my favorites. Cracked me up. Thanks for sharing your rockstar self with the world! See you soon!

(!!!) [I promise to be better at playing it cool during our visit. Glad to see you out, homes.]

Tips from Ash: Copenhagen+Fall Fashion+Travel

Today I’m giddy, stressed, and highly caffeinated, because at the end of the week Israel-bear and I are going on a big adventure. Our dear friends Ashley and Tyler are living in Copenhagen for the year; i.e., living the dream and traveling all around Europe and beyond. Getting some work done, too, I’m sure. And we’re going to visit! I’m all amped up and nervous about the trip, so Ash has been talking me through things, and she’s agreed to let me share with y’all some of her hard-earned Euro travel advice—17 countries and counting!

You should check out her blog, Getting Accustomed Tuite. (Their last name is Tuite. To it. Get it? You can thank Ashley’s dad Branch for that gem!) I have absolutely loved following along in their lives this year through Ashley’s photos and writing.

So, listen in on my conversation with Ashley as we talk nordic fashion and packing, and check in tomorrow for the rest of her travel advice. (One more background item: Ashley and I call each other “homes,” as in homeslice, homey. Not sure why. Just don’t call her “Ash hole” even though that is one hilarious pun.)

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Help! I have Copenhagen Fashion Anxiety. What do we need to know? Does everyone wear black? Can Israel wear a puffy vest and other preppy clothes?

Here’s the rub, homes: The Danes are far cooler than I will ever be, so I’ve kind of given up.

But, since you’re much more capable than me, here are a few fashion observations so far this fall. Most girls are wearing leggings or very skinny jeans with baggy, neutral-toned sweaters or blouses, boots, and a dramatically chunky, knit scarf. I’ve seen lots of high buns, pops of color with sassy shoes or bags, lots of ombre and color-blocking. Hipster-esque but still fashionable. No one overdoes it with a funky, bright anthro top or dress and forgettable everything else. It’s a subtle, the-whole-package type of style.

I pretty much epically fail every day. But, I can’t afford funky Danish clothes and I don’t think I have enough Nordic swag to pull it off. You, on the other hand, have blonde hair so you might just fit in.

Here are a few images via pinterest to give you an idea.

Source: alixrose.com via Ashley on Pinterest

Source: zara.com via Ashley on Pinterest

 

Another thing to keep in mind, it’s much cooler here than in the US. We’re full-fledged fall at the moment. And, the seasons are not fickle here, unlike DC. There’s virtually no chance we will have a day in the 70s, or even high 60s. I still think it’s not that cold and know you can get by on sweaters and a light jacket, but others have said I’m too used to the temperature here. So, layer up! And, bring a rain coat. It will rain. For sure.

Do not worry about the weather, by the way. It’s kind of romantic and it’s when Denmark’s magic comes out. One word: “hyggelige”.

Izzy can totally wear a puffy vest. I see lots of puffy jackets here, especially in the winter. Preppy clothes? At his own risk.

Only kidding. We had a friend walk into Christania (look it up) with a pink polo and darker pink sweater tied around his shoulders and he stood out like a sore thumb. But, no one cared. People are totally chill in good ol’ Danmark.

So glad you told me this! Let’s be real, my closet is full of the Anthro-like statement pieces you described. Shoot. I’m going to tone it down. But get ready for “aggressive” (read: bright and preppy) American fashion from Izzy.

In your vast travels this year, have you picked up any amazing tips and strategies as you pack or prepare for a trip? Like only bringing clothes in the same color palette so they’ll all mix and match? Please share your secrets.

Maybe you should be the one giving me tips here? That’s a great idea. I would definitely try that – especially for the fall when you need so many layers.

My best advice is to pack light and re-wear clothes. It’s much more enjoyable to navigate airports and metros and cab rides if you’ve packed light. Unfortunately for you, you’re bringing hair products, bags, pumpkin puree, leggings – you know, the US treasures that I need. Hopefully it won’t weigh you down too much. [TAK, for real, homes!!]

You’re welcome! But OK, I’m about to go unpack and repack my bag and try to get rid of half my clothes . . .

[conversation to be continued . . . ]