Monday, January 12, 2015

Sydney {month 7}

Another month has come and gone.  Sydney turned 7 months on January 9th.  The older I get, the quicker time goes.  I just learned that when the work day was established, it was decided that people would work 8 hours, sleep 8 hours and have 8 hours to themselves.  I'm happy to report that I am getting my 8 hours of sleep, and I'm definitely working 8 hours but it's those last 8 hours that seems to go by way too quickly.  

This was a busy month.  There was a lot to celebrate: Hanukkah, Christmas and Brian's 33rd Birthday.  And, we also hit a number of new milestones.  First solid foods, started rolling from belly to back (finally), started rolling around her play mat and started waving.  At first it was a frantic full arm wave, but she has refined it a bit.  Her daycare calls it a "princess wave".  She also started saying "ma maa ma"(although I love it, she has no idea what it means), started sleeping on her belly and sort of started giving kisses.  If you can call an open mouth slobber on your face a kiss.  She also started riding in her big stroller (instead of the car seat clipped onto the stroller), and went in a swing for the first time.
I'm 7 months and I like to eat everything but food
We celebrated Hanukkah with the Lederman family at Mike & Danielle's newly renovated, and beautiful house.  It was really nice to be with the whole family and it's so fun with all the kids running around.  Nate, Connor and Billy are such sweet cousins to Sydney and I love seeing the big kids with the babies.  Sydney was spoiled rotten for Hanukkah and has been enjoying her new toys and clothes from her aunts, uncles and grandparents.
Lighting the Hanukkah candles
The cousins at Hanukkah
Family Hanukkah photo - Sydney loved the menorah and really wanted to eat it 
We had a really sunny and warm day down in the Bay so I took Sydney to the park for a swing.  She thought it was okay.  I only gave her a tiny push her because she is still pretty small but I did get a few smiles out of her.
First time on a swing
in her big stroller!
Both Brian and I took from Christmas Eve through the New Year off from work.  We flew to Portland to celebrate Christmas with my parents and sister.  It was a great trip and so fun for Sydney to spend time with my family.  MarMe got in the Christmas spirit and set up a tree for the first time in years.  Judging by how many gifts she got, Sydney must have been on the "nice list" this year.  She was surprisingly good at helping unwrap her gifts and loved the bubbles and homemade dried apples she got in her stocking.  She has also been enjoying her new toys, and can't wait to grown into her homemade tutu from Aunt Jenn.
Family Christmas photo
And all the girls on the Simon side
Happy baby - she would be even happier if she new
those were presents for her right behind her
MarMe & Grandpa Billy helping her unwrap her gifts in the stocking
Thanks for letting us borrow the cute Christmas outfit Adele :)
Chats with Grandpa Billy
Smiles for MarMe
snuggles for Aunt Jenn
It was a little chilly in Portland but Aunt Jenn and I took Sydney to the park.
She still wasn't very impressed.
And she wasn't sure about the slide either
We really love our friends up in Portland and wish we could spend more time with them.  To any Portland friends reading this - remember, there is always an open invite to come visit us.  It's warm and sunny down here, we have 2 spare bedrooms, extra diapers and baby toys :)  We were lucky to meet a few new babies on our trip too. 
Meeting Sawyer.  Molly and family were also in Portland from Minnesota for the holidays.
It was so nice that our trips overlapped and we got to hang out.
And then there was the visit to Julie's.  We showed up with a baby who just had a serious blow out.
It was so bad that Brian walked Sydney in with straight arms and we took her right to Julie's bath.
It's a good thing we weren't visiting friends without kids...
The other big thing that happened in Portland was Brian's Birthday!  Since we had eagar babysitters, we took advantage and went out to celebrate at Olympic Provisions.  Olympic Provisions is a meat restaurant, specializing in sausages and such, perfect for Brian's birthday. We had an incredible charcuterie and the most amazing winter veggie dish.  My mom also made a homemade ice cream cake to celebrate (I had made brownies and a cheesecake to celebrate Brian and Richard's birthday in California with the Lederman's, so my dessert duties were done).  It was pretty incredible - chocolate cake with chocolate/peanut butter ice cream and peanut butter icing.  Thanks Mom!
The Birthday Boy
Making a wish
Brian and I were so excited to start feeding Sydney real food.  We have this vision of Sydney being the perfect eater and loving all types of food, just like us.  We had decided to go the route of feeding her both purees, or food we smash, as well as sticks of whole foods.  We wanted to start off with her feeding herself, a method that I have heard and read about, and really agree with.  Skip the rice cereal and oatmeal and introduce a lot of different foods and tastes at once.  

Turns out, our little Peanut was not as into food as we were hoping.  The first food we gave her were Yams - both pureed and in steamed sticks.  She was super interested and pretty good about putting them in her mouth (like she does with everything) but there was a bit of a shock when she tasted the flavor.  She gagged every time she tasted it.  And, about 5 minutes after we gave up, she threw up everywhere.  Fail.  She gaged on virtually all the food we fed her this month.  Here are all the foods we tried: Yams, cauliflower, carrots, cucumber, avocado, bell pepper, banana, cheddar cheese, apples, applesauce, dried apple, crab, oatmeal, homemade pita chips, hummus, acorn squash.  You may wonder if she liked anything from this list.  Yes, she did.  She like cheese, pita and hummus.  Not really what we were hoping for.  But, things are slowly getting better and she is starting to get used to different flavors.  She is now eating oatmeal, which I was hoping to skip entirely...She loves sucking on dried apples.  Now we're starting to work on veggies.
First time with real food
I'm not feeling so hot
Here are some more of my favorite photos from the month:
I still think Sydney is so adorable wrapped in her towel after a bath
I'm just chilling Momma
Who is this guy?
Cuteness in the tub
cracking up with Dada
Hanging out at the Portland breweries
Momma's turn
sweet pea
She is loving knocking down towers now
7 month couch photo, with a little wave
7 month photoshoot
What a month it was.  It was wonderful to be able to spend so much time with Sydney at the end of the year, but it made going back to work tough.  This next month I have a work trip so I'll be spending my first nights away from Sydney.  It will be hard for me & Brian, in different ways.  We also have a weekend trip to Tahoe, so pray for snow!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Weekend in Africa {Marrakech Morocco}

I don't think we really appreciated our trip to Marrakech as much as we should have.  Looking back at the photos and remembering our time there, it was incredible.  But, at the time, it was a tough trip for us.  Brian and I just found out I was pregnant, and it was too early to tell our friend Linda who was traveling with us.  

The easy part was not drinking.  We couldn't find a beer or bottle of wine anywhere in Marrakech. We went to one fancy dinner and we were all shocked that they didn't serve alcohol.

The hard part were the fumes and my exhaustion.  Because of the heat, most of the small alleyways/streets were covered, and all day long motorcycles would zip around leaving their exhaust behind.  I was so worried about breathing the air since I had been reading about how my baby's major organs were developing that week.  On top of that, I was in the period of pregnancy where I was just exhausted, so walking around all day and night was tough.  But, I survived and we now have a healthy little baby, so all is good.
I walked around a lot like this - trying to stay away from the fumes
When we arrived in Marrakech, our taxi dropped us off on the edge of the Medina, which is the city center, and we met a lady who walked us to the Riad (a traditional house with a courtyard in the middle) where we were staying.  The streets/alley's were like a maze and I honestly didn't think we would ever find the place again if we left on our own.   But we were hungry and anxious to see the night markets, so we ventured out.  Thank goodness Brian has a great sense of direction.  We would have never made it back that night without him.

The Night Market was in the middle of town.  It was incredible.  There was section of food stalls and surrounding that area were other people selling all sorts of goods.  There were also a good number of snake charmers and trained monkeys, as you would imagine, all of which were just for the tourist.  They just made us sad.

It was a terrible decision on our part, but that night we ate dinner at one of the food stalls in the market.  And, we knew it was a bad idea - the last thing we wanted was for me to get food poisoning - but we were caught up in the experience.  And we would have loved, loved these stalls and probably would have eaten there every day under normal circumstances.  Just our luck, Linda had recently come back from a trip to Tahiti where she got food poisoning, so it was a mutual decision to stay away from the stalls after that first night.

The same lady who showed us the way to the Riad came every morning and cooked us breakfast.  She would make different types of breads that we would spread honey on, fresh orange juice, mint tea and coffee.
The courtyard in our Riad
On the way to the Night Market
An escargot cart
part of our dinner
Linda with one of the chef's at the cart we ate at
finding our way home at night
"x" marks the spot?  Arrows pointing us home?
I loved this - the neighborhood kids had a soccer field spray painting in a courtyard.
We saw them out there playing a few times
Our first day, we set up a private tour with a guy named Abdul.  We wanted him to give us the lay of the land and show us what he loved about Marrakech.  He was perfect.  We started off with a little history of Marrakech at Koutoubia Moque but quickly moved into the Medina. After a stop at Ben Youssef Madrasa, which is an old University that has been turned into a historic sight, we made it to the area that Abdul grew up in.  He led us through the crazy winding streets with grace.  

Brian at the University
The courtyard at the University, the detail of the building was incredible
The gang
Looking down at Brian from one of the rooms upstairs
Abdul took us to 2 very memorable places during our time with him.  

First was a local bakery.  Behind an unassuming door was a virtually empty room with a massive wood fire oven.  This was a bakery that families and business brought their bread dough to every day to be baked.  Often, kids would drop it off and pick it up on their way to and from school.  A few guys stood around baking the bread all day long.  Abdul told us that they could tell each family's bread by just looking at the dough and there were sheets of doughs lined up to be baked that all looked exactly the same to me.  It was impressive.

The door to the bakery
The bakers at work
I couldn't really get a good shot of the oven
classic tourist shot
This wasn't near the bakery but I assume this little girl was getting her bread from her local bakery
The second stop was just across the street, next door to a bath house.  We walked in and saw a bed, or rather, someone's room.  And when we walked to the other side of the room, you could look down and see the tenant.  A man who was tending a fire.  This fire was the heat source that heated the water for the bath house.  All day long he had to tend to the fire and keep it going.  As a side job, he also used the hot coals to slow cook tagines for friends and neighbors (and Anthony Bourdain when he visited Marrakech).  Then, it got a bit cheesy when Abdul asked him to come up and play us some music on his traditional Moroccan guitar. But, we were entertained.

tending the fire to heat the water
traditional music session
we even got to wear hats...
Back on the street, we were cruising through the Medina with Abdul and we heard a huge commotion.  Abdul saw what was happening and proclaimed there was a "traffic marmalade" as he pushed us into one of the stalls.  There was a lot going on - donkey's pulling carts, men pulling carts, everyone going different directions and, of course, a few motorbikes.  Everyone was trying to get down the street at the same time and they didn't fit so they were crashing into the stalls and causing chaos.  We didn't really laugh about it at the time, but after we left Abdul, we got a pretty good chuckle from his English translation of "traffic jam" to "traffic marmalade" - he must have learned British English - hehe.   Abdul recommended a lunch spot for us and that is where we parted ways.
The start of the "traffic marmalade"
The aftermath
Beautiful streets and colors
I got such a kick out of the donkey's pulling carts
We were here
The lunch spot Abdul sent us to was fantastic.  They made simple meat tagines and bread and they did it very well.  We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around, people watching and taking coffee breaks since there wasn't any alcohol being served anywhere.

enjoying lunch
more street shots
street markets
I would have loved these juice carts
pretty architecture
The main square from a coffee break
The next day, we headed out of town to do a cooking course.  We definitely appreciated being out of the medina and into cleaner air.  I thought it was a nice way to spend an afternoon, but the two chef's I was with thought it was a bit amateur.  We made bread, a few salads and a tagine.  We came out inspired and all went searching the medina the next day for a tagine and dish to kneed bread in.  It was a bit of a challenge to bring back these souvenirs on our Ryan Air flight but all safely made it home to London for Linda & Dublin and eventually California for us.

Our set up - here we go
Hard at work
The finished product
Our last day we spent walking around the medina.  We all really wanted to buy some spices, and especially some saffron since it's a local specialty and you should be able to buy it at a good price.  Unfortunately, tourist are often sold fake saffron, and we didn't really want to deal with trying to figure out what was good and what was bad.  Same with Agron Oil.  We really needed Abdul to help us navigate these purchases.

More cool streets
approaching the main square
Night markets
The city at night
Markets at night, again with the Koutoubia mosque in the background
The girls in the neighborhood we stayed in
Linda & Brian on the roof of our Riad
I mentioned we didn't find alcohol anywhere in Marrakech, well, we finally came across some at the airport, and everyone (one of my first experiences with "fake drinking") was pretty happy about sitting down for a beer.

This was our last big trip while we lived in Europe before moving back to California.  I was so excited about planning this one and it definitely was an experience.  From the bustling night markets, to the donkeys used as transportation to hearing the Call of Prayer all throughout the day, it was a place like no other I have experienced before.  It was also our first time on the African continent and we can't wait to get back there to explore some more.