restaurant review: wahaca and pinkberry (at bluewater shopping centre)

so even though pretty much every waking moment of my life is consumed by s (and i love it, i really do) i thought it might be a good idea to branch out a little bit in the blogging world. so let’s talk about food!

when p gets a rare day off, we like to venture out and explore something new. our days usually include eating, obviously, as well as shopping and mooching. today we went to bluewater shopping centre just outside of london. for those of you who haven’t been there, let’s just say it’s pretty much the mecca of the shopping world. it’s one of the top uk shopping centres, behind the westfield centres in london, metrocentre in newcastle, and the trafford centre in manchester. i’ve been to all of the top malls (apart from the new westfield centre near the olympic park) and they all live up to their reputations: full of tempting, posh stores and inappropriate romanesque statues. so we were excited to try this one out.

bluewater is situated just south of the thames estuary and looks like it was built in an old mining site. the hills around it have all been blasted out. it really looks so cool! the centre itself is a two floor triangle shaped building with hundreds of shops, restaurants, a cinema, and an event centre. the restaurants (the most important part, obviously) are varied and, for the most part, very posh. we decided to try out wahaca, an authentic style mexican street food restaurant, for lunch.

wahaca, complete with recycled bottle lighting!

i have to preface this review with the following: p and i consider ourselves mexican foodĀ connoisseurs. i’ve spent quite a bit of time in mexico (my parents go to isla mujeres, a tiny island off the coast of cancun, every year and have taken me and my sisters a handful of times) and p loves to cook mexican food at least once a week. we’ve had good mexican (chipotle), bad mexican (chiquito), and even great mexican (nanna mexico) outside of mexico itself. so we were equal parts excited and terrified to try wahaca (the phonetic spelling of the mexican city oaxaca).

we were not disappointed. the service was pretty good, even though we were seated next to probably the most negative family on the planet. p ordered the citrus fizz, a soft drink not unlike a mojito (minus the rum, of course), and loved it. i ordered a diet coke, which is a diet coke. šŸ˜‰ i’m always a little angry inside at england for not serving free refills of soft drinks or for not even having fountain drink machines, but hey, this is europe. smaller is the norm. we decided to order a few street food options each and share. p ordered pork pibil tacos and the chorizo quesadilla, and i ordered steak tacos and chicken taquitos. all the food was EXCELLENT. both taco dishes came as three tiny, perfect corn tortillas topped with pulled pork/steak strips, pico de gallo, cheese, and sour cream drizzle. the tortillas might as well have been flown in from the dusty streets of isla mujeres, and tasted as if they’d been made that morning by the tiny ancient mayan women i’ve walked past dozens upon dozens of times before. the quesadilla was standard: tasty but nothing unique. the taquitos were yummy and deep fried and also topped with pico de gallo. the portions were small, but were designed to be that way, since customers are encouraged to try lots of different options, tapas-style. we debated ordering seconds (since s ate half of the tortilla from the quesadilla and some of the pico) but settled on fresh churros with hot chocolate sauce instead. yum! the bill came to Ā£24 and we were not disappointed. p raved, ‘this is my new favorite restaurant!!!’ approximately two seconds after tasting the amazingly authentic tacos, and s screeched with happiness throughout. we’re definitely going back, and thinking about petitioning the company to set up shop in cambridge!

s and her cheeky face

before leaving to drive home (and sit in traffic at the dartford crossing…note to self, don’t drive on the london orbital during rush hour) we decided we needed something sweet. as i’m a fan of LC and the hills (i know, i know. i blame pregnancy and a bored me with cankles for getting me hooked on that one) i know all about the frozen yogurty goodness of pinkberry. there are only three in the uk (the other two are at westfield stratford city and selfridges on oxford street, london) so i really wanted to try it. us east coast girls don’t get much of a froyo experience, and in my hometown we only JUST welcomed a coldstone creamery. the staff were so friendly, i felt like i was back in the states. seriously, british customer service usually leaves something to be desired. not here. we sampled a few of the flavors, since we hadn’t been there before. i settled on a small (giant!) coconut with fresh raspberries, kiwi, pineapple, and blueberries on top. p got a small pomegranate with waffle cone flakes, strawberries, raspberries, and granola on top. we gave a lot of the fresh fruit to s, which she gobbled up quicker than you can say pinkberry. they didn’t have high chairs, so s sat on p’s lap and spilled red berry juice all over her white tights and her daddy, but no one minded. for around Ā£7, we could complain about nothing other than the lack of child seating and some mediocre granola. win!

faster, dad, faster!

conclusion: six thumbs up for our bluewater dining experience! stay tuned for more food reviews soon. i hope to do some cambridge based ones soon, also including their varying degrees of baby-friendly-ness.

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eight months

dear sophia,

i can’t believe you’re eight months old today! you’re a proper baby now with your very own personality and quirks. it’s fantastic to see you grow, learn, and play every day. i’m so grateful to be able to experience all of your firsts with you and wouldn’t trade a moment (even the not so nice ones) for the world. here’s what you’ve been up to this month:

playing: you still love to play rough, and i think we have your daddy to blame for that. you love flying on his legs, rolling around on the floor with him, and sitting on his shoulders. i think he secretly throws you in the air, too, but i’ll turn a blind eye because i’m only KIND OF nervous about you getting whiplash or hitting the light fixtures. only kind of. šŸ˜‰ you’re still rolling and sitting beautifully, but you can also sit up from a laying down position and have just just just started to CRAWL!!! it only happened on saturday and luckily daddy, gram, and i were all there to see it (gram was there via skype, unfortunately not in person). it really really is the beginning of the end now for us. time to bolt the bookcases to the walls and get some gates up. and vacuum daily. even though it makes you cry, the naughty hoover. you’re also waving at the baby in the mirror (who we talk to every day) and anyone else who will catch your eye, clapping along to if you’re happy and you know it (and justin bieber songs…i know, i know), and are this close to blowing kisses. you’re smiling, chatting, and experimenting with new sounds all the time. you like to play peekaboo and are starting to develop a cheeky little sense of humor when you offer food and toys but take them away before we can get to them. you NEVER stop moving (unless daddy is watching something like return of the jedi on tv!). you are SO MUCH FUN to be around. also exhausting. phew.

eating: BLW is going so well and we couldn’t be happier. you love your food, and have started to show preferences for certain foods over others. you like your veggies sometimes, but prefer breads and rice cakes to the really healthy stuff. oh well, baby steps! you also really don’t like cheese. whose baby are you, seriously?! when i let you feed yourself messy meals, the room is covered in rice and sauce. but you love it! you’re so proud of yourself when you can do it on your own, so we let you as much as possible. you still love eating out at restaurants, but spend most of your time flirting with the waiters and other patrons (i don’t know WHERE you get it from, honestly). you feel so special when i let you drink water out of the bottle or grown up glass, and seem to prefer it to sippy cups. maybe you’re trying to tell me something!

sleeping: this month you’ve come along leaps and bounds with your sleep schedule. you go down at 7ish without a fuss, after a bottle feed from daddy or a cuddly feed from me when he’s at work. you’re adaptable and rarely cry at night, probably because you tucker yourself out with all your crazy activity during the day. we still haven’t moved you, but i don’t really mind anymore because it’s nice to wake up and hear your little snores from the end of the bed. you’ve been suffering from a cough that just won’t go away for the last few weeks, so sometimes you wake up coughing, but can usually get yourself back to sleep. the only negative with your sleeping this month is your waking time. for some reason (i blame daylight savings time) your body clock decides to wake you up at 5am. every. single. day. i love that there’s time for family breakfast before daddy has to go to work, but seriously, girl. 6:30 would be fantastic, once in awhile. as a result of your early waking times, you still have three naps most days. yesterday was a record: first nap at 7:30am. it was a loooooong day. you’re also teething again, so i think it wakes you up earlier at naptimes. poor bunny! soon you’ll have six teeth (or more!) and will look more and more like a big girl.

socializing: as well as being a kinetic and energetic little girl, you’re a little social butterfly lately. we go swimming with friends every friday and usually stay in town for lunch. most days we go into town to meet daddy for coffee and quick cuddles while he’s in between services and phd work. we meet other friends occasionally for coffee and you love being out and about all the time. i’ve just heard cambridge is starting a kindermusik program for babies in the new year, so we’ll add that to our schedule soon enough! you love shopping with me (unless you’re tired, in which case you usually scream your way through john lewis until you fall asleep). we also took you to your first mini photo shoot this month (see a sneak peek of it in this post), which you absolutely LOVED. you hammed it up for the camera and francesca, the lovely photographer. maybe we should make some money out of you through baby modeling!!! JUST KIDDING, but seriously, we would make some decent cash. šŸ˜‰

it has been one heck of a month. you’re coming along so quickly that i often forget what you were like only a month ago. i look back at pictures of you as a newborn and feel like you’re a totally different little girl! thank you for letting me share this time with you. here’s to another fantastic month!

i love you!

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Eight months

guest post: baby led weaning wednesday at awayathomemom

one of my friends from uni in the states, away at home mom, blogs about her adventures with raising a baby in anĀ alternativeĀ setting. she, her husband, their daughter, and their berneseĀ mountain dog live in an RV and plan to travel the states instead of living the regular static american lifestyle. check out her blogĀ for her weekly baby led weaning posts, among other things. this week i guest posted about our BLW adventures (specifically throwing food, yum). enjoy!

seven months

dear sophia,

this past month has been CRAZY! on friday you turned seven months old. i think it’s about time i stop counting the weeks, but i take a picture every monday just to see how you’re developing.

this month i finally took you swimming for the first time, and you LOVED it! well, apart from when i dunked you under the water, but you got over it and get better every time we do it. you love kicking around the pool in an inner tube and splashing away for almost half an hour. you don’t love changing in and out of your bathing suit, but who does?!

you’re becoming a little pro at eating these days. you’ve progressed from eating sticks of food to eating pretty much whatever we give you. you still drop lots and spit bits out some of the time, but you can eat out of the palm of your hand and you’re definitely digesting most of your food (if you know what i mean, in the diaper department). you use all THREE (yes, three!) of your teeth to gnaw on things for quite a long time. meals usually take at least 30 minutes these days. favorites at the moment include any bread product, yogurt, tomatoes, and fruit. you eat three meals a day most days and sit nicely in any high chair. you love meal times but hate being cleaned up. in fact, your bloody murder scream is even louder this month (i didn’t think it was possible).

my little baby zoolander has finally learned how to turn left! you roll both ways around the room and you’re THIS close to crawling. when you’re playing on your tummy you can rotate your body around to get the toys you want. we think we saw you creep a little bit today, and we hope that next month we can report that you’re moving all around the place. even though that means lots more bumps on the head (something that has just started recently and stresses me out big time!). i think life is about to get a lot more interesting very very soon.

your sleeping is much much better lately, mostly because we (okay, i) finally plucked up the courage to sleep train you a little bit. last week we were at the end of our rope with trying to get you back to sleep in the middle of the night, so we let you cry in your travel cot for five minutes. the first time we tried this you cried for a total of eight minutes, and have never cried longer than that. you really can get yourself back to sleep if you try! you still rely on your dummy and frank 2.0 (yes, we lost frank this month, but mommy still doesn’t talk about it) to get yourself to sleep but whatever works is okay with us! you have two naps a day most days, unless you wake up particularly early and need an extra one to get you through the day. you don’t really need to eat at night anymore, but sometimes you like a feed and a cuddle after six to eight hours of sleep. we WILL be moving you into your own room this week (okay, i said it so it has to happen, right?) and you will officially be a big girl.

this month you’ve asserted your independence in lots of new ways and your lovely personality is starting to shine. you play nicely and happily by yourself and with other people. you know what you like and you’ll be damned if someone isn’t going to give it to you. you have a pair of LUNGS on you, girl! you love kissing and laughing and playing rough. you’re our lovely little baby girl now, growing up too quickly!

love you lots!

my lovely little girl ā¤

blw week in review: week two

this week saw relatively little dining on s’s part…i felt bad, but most days her naps tended to coincide with meal times and, frankly, i wasn’t physically ready to get up and do breakfast at the table every day. but these things happen and we tried to give s the opportunity to eat as much as possible, so the practice is still there.

my lovely baby sister visited for a few days this week, since she’ll be studying ooop north this semester, so we went out lots. we let s try a pub chip (big fat french fry…don’t judge me, you know you’ve done it) and a wedge of lemon (which she LOVED! i thought she would make funny faces but begged for more as soon as we gave it to her) at the pub the other day. i think she felt genuinely excited to be considered a part of the group, rather than being stuck in her pushchair the whole time. that’s one of the main reasons we decided to try this whole blw thing!

other new foods:

lasagna: so yummy, and s loves it! the few times we’ve tried it with her the lasagna has been store bought so it’s fairly high on the sodium scale…i’m not too comfortable continually giving high salt content food, so we’ll plan to make it from scratch in the future.

yogurt: we tried it at the very end of last week, but since then have realized that s loves the mango fromage frais and hates the banana. takes after her mother, i think.

asparagus: adorable to watch her eat it, and she seems to really enjoy it!

nectarine: really difficult for s to keep hold of (which i find with a lot of fruit…it’s so hard to cut into big enough pieces for her) but seemed to like it, more or less.

at the top of the favorites list is still toast with houmous and cucumber. i’m happy to let her continue practicing with these few foods until she gets the hang of chewing and swallowing. also we are loving gill rapley’s baby led weaningĀ book…it follows on pretty much exactly with how s is progressing and offers lots of advice. i’ve heard the cookbookĀ is really good too, so we plan to use that on occasion after s starts properly consuming food.

on the poop front (WARNING for those of you not interested in hearing about poop…continue on to the next paragraph), it’s evident that some food is being consumed. girlfriend STINKS. also, the digestive system is apparently not as efficient in infants, so lots of what comes out looks just like what went in. ok, i didn’t get too graphic there. let’s just say i am NOT looking forward to the day that s’s poop looks like grown up poop. not ready to cross that bridge just yet.

CHANGING THE SUBJECT…TO SHOPPING!

since i feel the need to get out of the house pretty much every day, this whole blw lark has been great for my john lewis addiction. i bought s this splash mat and these forks and spoons…adorable! next week: rubber gloves. i have never washed dishes so often in my life.

i leave you with an adorable (almost) completely unrelated pin i found this week…and yes, i’m planning s’s first birthday party six months in advance. you can never be too prepared.

six months

dear sophia,

today you are six whole months old. it’s your half birthday!!! when we met you exactly six months ago, frankly i never thought we’d get here. life was really hard for awhile when you were born, mostly because people aren’t meant to survive without sleep. but we made it through, with lots of tears, poopy nappies, sleepless nights, and unhappy mommy and daddy times. it was the daytime cuddles, lovely kisses, exciting developments, and so many more amazing moments that got us through it. i spent half of my time willing you to do the next thing, because everything you did was so incredible, and half of my time telling myself to soak you up just as you were. it’s already hard to remember the early days, but luckily your daddy is clever and has a much better memory than me. i’m sure he remembers our first trip out of the house (to starbucks, where else?!), the first time you smiled, the first time you threw up all over him (hey, all memories don’t have to be super adorable!), and everything else between then and now.

at six lovely months you have come so far! you chatter away all day long…and sometimes all night long, but you’re getting much better. you can sit up by yourself and like to play like that for what seems like hours, but in actuality is only probably fifteen minutes because you’re a baby and your attention span is still so short. you roll around the room like a pro, but only to the right. when you get angry you tuck up your knees underneath and push yourself along. you’re not far from crawling at all! you have two big fat razor sharp teeth at the bottom of your mouth, which you use to bite toys, food, and hands! you’ve just started eating big girl foods and sitting up at the table with us. right now your favorites are toast with hummus, cucumber, and pizza (but shhh mommy definitely didn’t give you any to try ;)). rough play makes you belly laugh, but you HATE getting dressed after a bath. you scream so loud when i change you that i’m sure someone will someday rush to our door asking if you’ve been murdered. you like watching television, and sesame street is one of your favorites. you still love listening to classical music, but enjoy a bit of pop on occasion too. your favorite books are goodnight moon, wynken, blynken, and nod, and the very hungry caterpillar. night times are not always perfect…you still wake up once in the night for a feed and sometimes it’s hard to get you back to sleep. we haven’t had the heart to sleep train you yet, but this month we’re going to move you to your nursery so we have lots of big steps in store for all three of us.

you are such a happy, smiley, lovely baby that everyone around us comments on your loveliness, and it makes me so proud to be your momma. thank you for giving me a fantastic six months. i can’t wait to see what you will do next.

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blw week in review: week one

this week we dove headfirst into the messy, sticky, and gaggy world of baby led weaning. i’m not exactly sure what made me (i mean us…sorry p, you’re so good at just doing what i want that it seems like we decide things together! ;)) want to wean s this way instead of the traditional route. i think what pushed me over the line was seeing a mother feeding her baby girl out of a jar and LICKING THE SPOON afterwards. i almost barfed. who wants to eat cold, insipid sweet potato puree?!?! not me, thank you. i have texture issues.

the first week went really well, considering s had never had anything in her mouth other than my boob and some toys (TMI? sorry). there was a significant amount of gagging on her end and an even greater amount of hand-sitting on ours. it took everything i had a few times not to grab s out of her highchair and slap her back. apparently gagging is good; it shows that her gag reflex is intact and that she knows something is in her mouth. most of the food she stuck in there came out, but there was quite a bit of sucking of mashed(ish) foods and some legit swallows. a momma has never been so proud!

i wasn’t very good with keeping detailed lists of her first foods, but this week we’ve tried the following to varying degrees of success:

cucumber – the first food we tried, and the all around favorite. cut into sticks with the skin on, they were really easy for s to hold, shove in her mouth, and gum (and chew! the girl has two teeth, after all) for a long time.

toast with houmous – a high-gag food, but s LOVES it. she sucks away all the houmous (or hummus for all you americans out there) until it’s soft enough for little bits to go into her mouth. she swallowed a few pieces once or twice…i think. it’s SO hard to tell whether anything that goes in stays in or not. my dining room carpet is evidence of this. on the shopping list for this week is a hardcore splash mat. preferably the size of the room.

rusk – these are twice baked biscuit/cookie things that can be eaten either whole or mushed up with water or milk. we gave them to s whole, but softened with a little bit of filtered water or breastmilk. i read some blog after giving these to s that says to STAY AWAY from rusks because they’re too sweet, not healthy, blah blah blah. sorry but i’m not that hardcore. they’re tasty, s likes them, and i bought the reduced sugar ones so i feel a little bit better about myself.

banana – i have no idea whether s likes this. just tonight she managed to bite off a piece and made the most hilarious face i’ve ever seen. she spat most of it out but didn’t seem disgusted so the jury’s still out on that one. also, it’s really slippery so hard to eat and so messy. how do you get food out of a baby’s nose? seriously, i have no idea.

s has also sampled corn tortilla, pepper, carrot, yogurt, plum, scrambled egg, zucchini, and grape (just sucked on it, they’re too small and apparently perfect choking size) so i’d say the week has been a success! i know she’s not really getting any nutrition from whatever she’s sucking/playing with/eating??? but it keeps her occupied, happy, and involved in family life. so i guess that means we’re loving it!

get back here, you slippery devil!

success!

what is this beautiful biscuit?!

mmm a taste of heaven.