Friday, 29 November 2013


This Thanksgiving, even though I am not in the United States, I am thankful.

I admit that, most of the time, I am able to ignore my homesickness through a sheer force of will. I love my life here in Manchester. My husband and my son are my favorite people to be with in the world. Yesterday morning however, I was hit hard with longing. Longing for my family and for the familiar traditions, food, and noise of Thanksgiving in San Antonio. I worried that I wouldn't make it through the Skype session we'd arranged without bursting into tears. By the time it was skype-o-clock, I was feeling better and had procured the ingredients to make a pumpkin pie. (Did you know that it's really hard to find a pie tin in the UK? By really hard, I mean neither of the 2 grocery stores in our area had any.)

So here is where I will tell you things I'm thankful for:

I'm thankful for my son and my husband. I simply adore them. They are both kind and clever and beautiful and funny. Every day I am happy to be theirs.

I'm thankful for my parents. They are so loving and supportive. They are also so understanding. I know they hate (HATE!) the distance between us- especially now that Linus is around. And I do too. However, I have the joy of my marriage and son to make up for it. They have to wait for our all too infrequent visits. They are such wonderful parents and grandparents. We are all so very lucky to have them.

The biggest thing that I was thankful for yesterday, though, was this:

I'm thankful technology and that my G'ma doesn't really understand it. We connected to my family before they sat down to dinner on my brother's iPad. When my beloved G'ma was handed the iPad, we spoke briefly and she got to talk to her first-born great grandson. I didn't, however get to hear whatever she tearfully said to us after that. I think this is a very good thing as I likely wouldn't have been able to keep it together. Instead, I had a good laugh as I played charades to let them know I couldn't hear and the iPad was passed back to my brother to fix. We got passed around the kitchen of my Aunt and Uncle's bustling house and said hello to everyone. Linus sang some songs and met his cousin Wyatt. We were introduced to my cousin's fiance- a lovely girl. The laughter and noise and hub-bub of preparation almost made me feel like we were there for those brief moments. And it was wonderful.

Today, I made my pumpkin pie. In a loose-bottomed flan tin because that's what I had. And it was good. And for that, I'm thankful.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

A Different Option: Big Cup Little Cup Nespresso Pods

The other day Ross and I had a conversation.

Ross: People are talking about Gravity. Have we heard about it?
Me: Yes. It's with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in space. We watched her on The Daily Show the other day talking about it.
Ross: George Clooney?
Me: Yes. (pause and eye roll) No. Sandra Bullock.
Ross: (confidently) George Clooney is the one in the Nespresso Commercials.
Me: Yes. That is what he's primarily known for. (huge eye roll)

The best ways to get Ross' attention are by relating something to coffee, British comedy from the first half of the 20th century, or Frasier. He's a unique snowflake.

All this to say that coffee is important in our house. You might remember when I told you about our coffee machine, the aforementioned Nespresso. We are still really happy with it more than 2 years later. Well the people at Big Cup Little Cup read that post and offered me the chance to try some of their coffee for free in exchange for reviewing their product.

Needless to say, I was super-excited to get my first product review offer. Who doesn't love free stuff!?! I knew Ross would be thrilled to. He replied "Free coffee is my second favorite kind of coffee!" Clearly, good coffee is in first place. With free AND good coffee taking a special place above the ranking system. It's very scientific.

Let me tell you a little bit about what Big Cup Little Cup has to offer. They are a smaller company that is trying to take on the might of Nestle and offer an alternative to discerning coffee drinkers with Nespresso machines. They are a UK-based company who offer 9 different varieties of coffee in pods that are guaranteed compatible with most Nespresso machines (check which ones here). They also offer free shipping on all orders over £50.

One of the boxes we were sent. And one of the pod packets.
We received two different varieties to try: Millers Yard Espresso (Little Cup) and Highwire (Big Cup). One thing I like is the simple labelling system. It tells you right on the box whether your coffee is meant to be made as a "Big Cup" or a "Little Cup". With the Nespresso pods, I can never remember which fancily named "flavour" should be made which way. BCLC makes it easy as I know just from looking at the box which button on our machine I should push- the one with the picture of the big cup or the little cup. It would be even better if packets the pods come in were marked too. I like to put my pods in a bowl next to the Nespresso machine and I couldn't do that because the two varieties were indistinguishable if they weren't in their boxes.

Now lets talk about the biggest advantage of BCLC pods. What is the best thing about coffee? I'll tell you. The smell. Mmmmmmm. Fresh grounds. Nespresso pods don't smell at all. Once you open the packet that a BCLC pod comes in you get a huge whiff of delicious coffee smell. So good.

Too bad there's not smell-a-vison.
I found the coffee to be on similar par with other non-Nespresso pods. BUT! But, Big Cup Little Cup offers more varieties and can be recycled pretty easily. You don't have to drop them off or arrange for a pick up like with the Nespresso pods. You can just take care of it yourself. You can even make use of the grounds for compost! The styles that we tried were both 10 strength (the strongest they offer). Ross and I both agreed that they tasted more like a filter coffee than an espresso-based drink. That was sort of nice as there's no real way to make a traditionally brewed coffee with Nespresso pods. It's always good to have options. I'd have to try some more BCLC varieties to see if this is common across all their styles, or unique to the ones we tried. We found the taste to be good and the price even less than the Nespresso-branded pods. In addition, the customer service was great. It felt like a real personal touch that you wouldn't get from a big company.

Cutest cup of coffee ever

If you're looking for alternative pods for your Nespresso machine, I'd encourage you to give Big Cup Little Cup a try! You can't have a Linus coffee mug though. That would just be creepy.

**Big Cup Little Cup provided us with 2 boxes of their pods to try in exchange for a review. They didn't compensate me in any other way. All of the opinions expressed are my own. No one tells me what to say, buddy.**

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


I've mentioned in the past that Linus was... slow... to jump on the Mama train.

He'd happily share a hat. Er, plastic tub.

My darling boy certainly loved me, but he just wasn't eager to name me. He had "Dada" down for a long time before he ever uttered the word "Mama" in reference to me. Heck, he even had Grandma and Grandpa. He was obsessed with Jack, the little blond boy in Mr. Daydream after a single reading- proclaiming "Jack!" and pointing with delight.

A look of love

I started to think that the problem was that he didn't understand that he and I were separate people. We spend nearly all our time together and it seemed to jive with his confusion regarding why I needed a name. That theory made me feel warm and fuzzy while I waited to hear the sweet sound of "Mama". I still think it was true.

Suddenly, one day, he got the hang of it. Now it's a constant refrain. This morning on the tram, he was introducing me to the packed car of people. Pointing over his shoulder to where I stood at the handlebar of his stroller and proudly proclaiming "Mama!" to all his new friends. I love it. I love the sound of that repeated syllable. 

As and expat, I treasure "Mama" even more. All of Linus' friends have long-since moved on from the initial sounds to the standard "Mummy". I'm a unique amongst a sea of mummies. I am Mama, hear me roar. I really hope he sticks with it for a long time. I know that most likely, he'll eventually switch to Mummy. He's bound to hear it and adopt it once he goes to school. Heck, he already hears it from Daddy. So for now, I'll treasure these days of being Mama.

All this intro to say that there's a new development. Linus loves to look at pictures of both Ross and me. He gleefully identifies us. In the last week, though, he's has gone a bit Mama-crazy. The following are pictures he has pointed to and said "Mama".

This one was first. The lady on the box of Tyrrell's Crisps. I was less than flattered.
To give him the benefit of the doubt, my coat did look similar. And she's wearing a hat. I like hats.

The bill painter at the rubber duck factory in Ten Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle.
Slightly more flattering.

Janice on this poster from The Muppets. Ok. I can handle that.
Then Scooter. Sigh.

The (evil?) queen on Linus' alphabet puzzle.
At least she's pretty.

I wonder what's next.
Any one else have a child with a slightly adventurous opinion of what "Mama" looks like?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

20 months

Dear Sweet Baby,

You are 20 months old and we love you so much. That should come as no surprise. We think you are so fun and funny and just all-aroud-awesome. In that respect nothing much as changed. Daddy and I look at each other every day and marvel at how much we like you. You make us smile and laugh so much.

You still love "sa"s

You have learned so much in the last few months. Running, jumping, and talking up a storm occupy our days. You are just starting to put together some phrases. "Bobbin Song" was your first word combo. You love to sing "Wind the Bobbin Up" and ask for it often. You are also working on manners. You know the signs for "please" and "thank you". If I ask you to ask for something nicely you are very good at adding please to your request. Sometimes you sign it, sometimes you say it, and sometimes you do both. You will sign "thank you" when prompted, but haven't started saying it yet. It's really interesting to me to see how your language develops. You are maintaining a neat combination of signing and speaking.

You are learning so much and we've inadvertently taught you a few queues that we think are hilariously awesome. When someone says "fast feet" you run in place. When someone says "What are you gonna do?" you put your hands out as if shrugging your shoulders. When you are cheering yourself or someone else on at an accomplishment you will put your arms up in the air and say "Did it!".

So cute

Perhaps our absolute favourite is your response to the question "Are you OK?". If you are, in fact, ok- you respond "Sha sha". It is too sweet. We're not sure if you're saying "ok" or something else, but it clearly means "Yep. I'm fine." We ask you multiple times a day, just to hear you say it. It is also useful because if you're upset or have had a little tumble we can ask and know that you're no seriously upset or in pain. I need to get it on video. I'll be very sad when you say it. Same goes for you saying "bup" instead of up. Sweet boy!

You love to climb and slide. You are finally getting on board with swimming. You think Mommy and Daddy have beautiful singing voices (You're not wrong about Mommy ;)). I think your favourite activity is bath time. You LOVE to slip and slide while the water is draining. Bath time is both my least and most favourite time of day. Least because it's the end of the day and sometimes I'm just tired and thinking ahead to the dinner that still needs making after you go to bed. And most because you are so cute and fun, splashing in the water and laughing your sweet little giggle. Needless to say, the giggle wins.

You don't believe me when I tell you bath water is yucky.

Your sleep is still great. I could do with a longer nap. You're down to just around and hour in the afternoon. But! You generally sleep from 7PM to 8AM, so I can't complain. You are doing fine with eating and are starting to come out of a picky phase. You love fruit, cheese, and raw cabbage. Pickles and olives are a must. Generally, you want a bite of anything Daddy is eating. Even if you've just finished a meal.

I always said "I just don't understand those mothers that won't cut their son's hair. Mooning over curls." Well I eat my words. Your curls are glorious. I am worried that they will be ruined by a haircut, so I'm holding out until you start to look like a girl. Daddy doesn't mind, given that he'd forgo haircuts altogether if he could. 

You are still a bit shy when we go to toddler groups. You don't cling to me, but you are hesitant to fully join in. You won't really do the motions to songs, even though you do them with me at home. I think you just like to check things out and take the lay of the land before joining in. I can't disagree with that approach. 

Ribbon hat at music group

You are your mother's son and are really into accessories. Sunglasses, hats, bags. It's not unusual for you to cycle through multiple hats in a day. You love to carry bags, throwing them over your arm and saying "Bye-bye" cheerfully. On the other hand, you are also a Daddy's boy. You generally want Daddy to pick you up and hold you when you're upset and lately you are very unhappy if you and I go somewhere without Daddy. Daddy just beams at you. You are free and easy with kisses for both of us, though for some reason, Daddy is often greeted with a head bowed. You present your head, sometimes even the back of your neck for kisses. I more frequently get your mouth or cheek. When you give hugs you go "Ahhh" contentedly. 

I can't believe how much you have changed and grown in the last few months. Every day you do or say something new and we think "how did you learn that?!!?" You are an amazing little man. I say it every letter, but we adore you. Every day, you make my heart full of love. I think you are the best thing I've ever done. 

Love you so much,