Baby’s First Haircut

Max has very fine, straight baby hair that has needed cutting for a few months now. But where to get it cut? A fancy kid’s place? A salon? We settled for the neighbourhood barbershop. Max was in rare form due to new teeth… And I assume extreme sadness over growing up (sorry bud you’re not Peter Pan). But he made it through. And mommy had some non-alcoholic beer afterwards.

Exhibit A: Why Max needed his hairs cut.

Exhibit A: Why Max needed his hairs cut.

dad tried first. But he (or the crackers) weren't popular.

dad tried first. But he (or the crackers) weren’t popular.

Working his magic.

Working his magic.

Barbershop baby

head of pediatrics in the background (ie the other barber)

head of pediatrics in the background (ie the other barber)

Barbershop baby

Planning his escape

Planning his escape

so sad his lolli landed on the floor in a pile of hair.

so sad his lolli landed on the floor in a pile of hair.

i made cake afterwards.

Honey cake from Bon Appetit. Dense like banana bread but moist and delicious.

Honey cake from Bon Appetit. Dense like banana bread but moist and delicious.

No bee pollen or edible flowers but still pretty!

No bee pollen or edible flowers but still pretty!

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Notting hill carnival

Notting Hill Carnival 2015

It’s Europe’s largest street festival, and it’s in our backyard. Literally. The Notting Hill Carnival is a celebration of Afro Carribbean culture, replete with jerk chicken, hours long parades, speakers the size of a house, thousands of people, hundreds of police, several helicopters, and day drinking. Lots and lots of day drinking.  And then all night drinking.

We were warned that someone gets knifed here every year, but as we were going to have to suffer through hours of noise and trash, we thought we’d check out family day, ie Sunday. The first parade is at 6 am. On Sunday. We skipped that for the 1030 start. We left the house with max in his B is for Bob (Marley) tshirt and in a backpack. Our first taste of the festival – speakers 10 feet tall blasting out calypso, a man ODing and throwing up on himself, and a gang of people trying to prevent two guys from fighting. Awesome.  We quickly exited the sketchy area and headed to portobello road and the parade route.

But as parades go, it wasn’t exactly timely.

Notting hill carnival - where's all the people?

Dad and son

Happy despite the lack of parade, but sleepy, we headed back home for a nap. Well, the gentlemen napped, I learned how to crochet – kind of.

Around 5, we headed back out, this time with faux-ear protection for Max. The trash was way more, the people way drunk. We got some treats after struggling through the crowds. I chatted with some very drunk ladies who kept touching Max and my belly. Easier just to let it happen. Plus they defended Max from the weird guy in a wolf mask who kept pantomiming eating Max.

Notting hill carnival - treats

Who could eat this cute nugget?  Mmmm weird fried bread treat, curry, rice, and cupcake leftovers everywhere!

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Crochet flower headband

My crochet handiwork.  Carnival is almost like Halloween, but reggae calypso bright colour flower themed. I started crocheting straight lines but got bored. Thank you YouTube! Sadly I only has this weird pumpkin coloured yarn. I had visions of fall or something when I ordered it a few weeks ago.

Below is just some of the police battalions we saw. Police were every block. A remote headquarters was set up in the school near us, and the street by our house is ambulance central.

Notting hill carnival 2015

Literally walls of people.

Notting hill carnival - from the edge

This hyper lapse video gives you a taste of the sheer number of people. Businesses and houses board up like there’s a hurricane coming… And now I get why. So many people. So much alcohol and, um, other things. Loud loud loud music. It’s like Londoners never get to really let go – I guess drinking at the local pub not wearing scandalously skimpy clothing or a flower headband just isn’t the same.

There were more plain walkers than official parade people! And this all goes on tonight… Probably all night… And then all day tomorrow, a bank holiday. Joy. We won’t be partaking tomorrow.

Overall, for families I’d recommend skipping nap time to see the parade earlier in the day, grabbing lunch, and getting home by 3 at the latest. It got sketchy around 6. Yes the morning’s start was sketchy but overall family friendly. And the food was delicious! Though my tummy was a bit upset. Anyway, next year if we live nearby, I’d visit again in full feather floral headgear… And hopefully have a beer or three.

Our New Temporary Flat

pretty swank. It’s an old converted dairy with beautiful light, still in North Kensington but closer to the large (read normal sized) grocery store. We are aiming to live in Hamstead Heath, a little more densely populated but adorable and an easy commute.

If you pay attention in the video, you can see Max baptising his library card.

10 Differences Between the UK & US

A few of the initial differences I’ve noticed…

1. 7 hour work day, 4 weeks of vacation (holiday). Of course There’s way more work than 7 hours and I typically work 9… But still, sometimes just 7. And the shorter day seems to make people more focused when they’re at work.

Verdict: Like

2. Keyboards are whack. The @ isn’t above the 2, the apostrophe, quote marks, colon, are all in slightly different places. I didn’t realise how well I typed without looking or thinking.

Verdict: Dislike, only until I learn it.

3. The whole washing clothes situation. Most flats seem to having washing machines, but they’re smaller, and the drier function is built in but not typically used (see our washer below). We just put our dirty clothes in as we take them off. The wash cycle takes forever.. And you have to hang out the clothes afterwards, but somehow it’s so much easier!!! Yes really! And if it rains in the laundry you’ve hung, just think about it as an extra wash cycle. I less like hanging the clothes inside, but the volume is so small, it makes the task so much easier and less dreaded.

Verdict: Like

washing machine

It fits a small load of laundry, maybe 2 pants, 6 shirts, and some baby clothes. We did start using fabric softener to makes our clothes slightly less crunchy.

4. Driving on the opposite side of the road. We don’t have a car. And you can’t look at the direction of the parked cars to remind yourself about the direction because they parallel park all willy nilly. The pavement at crosswalks says “look left” or “look right” to warn the pedestrians. Either Brits are forgetful or there are a lot of immigrants / tourists. Generally it doesn’t matter to me, but I like how courteous they are.

Verdict: Neutral.

5. No screens in windows. Sure there are a few bugs but nothing like Boston. I think because it’s breezier here? More light is let in.

Verdict: Like

Gatos in the window

Oh my gatos, it’s a toddler in the window!

Window no screen

Oh my gatos, a toddler could easily fall out of this window, not that a screen would help.

6. Bath / shower situation. There are very few set showers, they all are detachable shower heads. Some are attached to the wall like ours, but some are just at the base where the water comes out. I guess you just sit down in the bath and use it? What I really hate is the partial glass partition that most showers have instead of curtains. Water gets everywhere. I guess I’m just not skilled with showering. (Side note – the iPad just suggested that the next word after shower be ingredients. Huh?)

Verdict: Dislike, but I love the instant hot water heaters instead of hot water tanks!

Bath with shower

Our current shower situation. The glass swings out, which Max of course loves. We all love reading a little Hungry Caterpillar while bathing.

7. Lots of parks and green spaces. Everywhere, more than Boston.

Verdict: Love

Hyde park max

Max back at Hyde Park, focused on getting back to the stream.

Teenage ducks fish in Regents Park.

Teenage ducks fish in Regents Park.

little-wormwood-scrubs-log

Little Wormwood Scrubs, just 12 minutes from our Zone 2 flat.

8. Food. Pub food, yuck. Ethnic food, ah-maze-ing!! Yesterday I had the best dosa ever, and then Ethiopian for dinner. Yum! Not to mention the amazing “aubergine” (eggplant) at our local Malaysian haunt. Then again, we couldn’t find salsa at our local market.

Verdict: Mixed

Injera loved by Max

Max will eat anything wrapped in injera (Ethiopian bread).

Haven't tried it yet... but will.

Greek Aubergine – Haven’t tried it yet… but will.

pub food

Despite our ravenous appetites, the verdict on this pub food was “meh.”

9. Grocery stores: In the city, there are lots of mini grocery stores with decent selection. Smaller than the Whole Foods in Brighton, but limited choices aren’t always a bad thing. The other wonderful thing is the availability of fresh produce. It’s not just at the grocery store but also in neighbourhood convenience stores! Yet the news still talks about how Brits don’t eat enough fruit and veg. Their favorites seem to be carrots and peas, which would get old.

Verdict: Mostly like

10. Public transit. We don’t have a car anymore. If we want something, we HAVE to walk. and then take the tube or the bus. It’s much more comprehensive than Boston, and cleaner than NYC. I’m averaging 7,300 steps a day. No idea what I did before since I wasn’t tracking it on my Android but 7,300 without even trying seems pretty good. Despite the Tube strike Thursday.

Verdict: Like

Max on the bus after the Gruffalo.

Max on the bus after the Gruffalo. Can you tell he desperately needs a nap?

BONUS! 11. International population. In part because of the European Union, in part because it’s just an international city, there are people from all over. Sure, the U.S. has lots of expats, refugees, transplants, visitors… But London is a different level, yes even than New York City. We still haven’t connected with an American group (or any group) but we’ll get there. The only issue is that our American friends and family aren’t here.

Verdict: Like, dislike, like, it’s both.

Future posts on the NHS (National Health Service) – it has already been an experience!

Exploring The Nightstand

In lieu of his playpen, which is now on the Vancouver Express somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, I’ve let Max play in our bedroom to get his customary independent playtime. He usually just goes in there, rearranges Caseys toiletries and plays in our luggage. Today he discovered a new passion while exploring our hosts nightstand…hairdressing. His Grandma Susan always says real men wear pink, but pink curlers?! I’ve decided to leave it in because it’s possible to take him much less seriously this way, case in point, the meltdown at the bottom.

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