16 December 2008

Happy Crimbo!

Fiona and Matilda - from our Christmas card

Another long break from bloggin' but Ms. Matlida has been keeping me very busy these days. Speaking of Matilda, a quick update...she is doing very well.

She has turned 3 months and is starting to let her personality shine. She smiles and coos and is really turned into quite a character. On the medical front, she has been taking all of her bottles by mouth and we will soon be discontinuing her overnight tube night feedings - HURRAH! We have also been able to stop the anti-seizure medications which allow her to be more awake, alert and interactive. I think this little girl is going to be just fiiine. ;)

The Stapletons are ushering in the Crimbo season in frenzied style. Fiona is really enjoying all the lights and sounds of Christmas. She loves singing "Jingle Bell Rock" at the top of her lungs and just recently developed an appreciation of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Fiona: "Gigi, who is singing on this?" My mother: "A choir, Fiona". Fiona: "It's BEAUTIFUL!!" She also enjoys driving around looking at the decorations and seeing what the day's ornament is from her advent box.

Getting into the festive spirit, we recently went to visit Hope, TJ and Gabrielle to decorate and bake sugar cookies. I will leave you with a few photos from that entertaining afternoon. If I don't get back 'round here before Christmas - HAPPY CHRISTMAS to all my friends and fellow blogger mates!

My little happy elf

Gabrielle and Fi - Fiona says the dough was very sticky!

The girls "stirring up" trouble after watching "Rudolph"

06 November 2008

Stay at home Mum, that's me

Sassy, Fiona and Tilly (in baby Bjorn)

It has been another big jump in time since I posted. Tilly is keeping me very busy with feedings, doctor's appointments, therapy sessions and bouts of colic. Life is crazy but I am loving every minute of having her home and being with her!

Today I officially turned in my notice to work that I will not be returning. It was a hard decision to make as like everyone, we are not independently wealthy and these are tough times. But Tilly must come first. Besides her medical challenges, I WANT to be there for her. I don't regret putting Fiona in daycare at 4 months old. Daycare has been great for her - education wise, socially, etc. - and Fiona will remain at her 'school'. However, looking at my grown up Fi, I realize how quickly time passes and how precious all those moments truly are. I don't want to miss them with Tilly.

This is a good thing as I will also be free to be there for my 'big girl', too. I recently went to her Halloween party at school. Simple as that - got in the car and went. No asking for permission. No juggling my meeting schedule around....just being there for my daughter. Boy, was Fiona thrilled to see me walk through the door! As satisfied as I have been in my "career", it didn't hold a candle to seeing her face light up when she saw me.

This is what life is all about. It will be an adjustment but I am prepared to stay busy and productive, connecting with my former work colleagues, friends, and even make some new ones! I am excited to embark on this next stage!

I will leave you with a few recent photos..

Fiona and Tilly - Fi's not impressed with the crying spree

My little Swiss Miss :)

01 October 2008

It's been a loong time...

Just wanted to briefly stop in and post an update...

Mummy and Tilly

Matilda Ruby Stapleton aka "Tilly" was born on September 12, 2008! Since her entrance into the world, she has been in Children's Hospital due to a few complications. During the c-section, she came out with her cord wrapped around her neck twice and had to be intubated. Since her admittance to the hospital, she has had feeding issues due to a mean case of GERD and acid reflux. On top of this she has had 4 seizures due to her Dandy Walker syndrome (which was diagnosed in utero). Today, she is having a fundo and "g tube" (feeding tube) surgery to help eliminate her reflux issues so that she can begin to feed better and come home.

We have been through a lot in the last 3 weeks and it has been tough on our 3 year old who doesn't understand why her little sister can't come home. However, we are a strong family with a very supportive community and we can face any challenges that come our way.

I will update here as I can. Hopefully we will be changing cloth diapers and talking Tilly for walks in her sling soon! Until then, we would appreciate all the good karma and prayers you can send our way.

08 September 2008

My Little Marsupial

This may be my last post for a while as I am due to give birth to my 2nd little girly bird this Friday!

On Saturday, my friends Janet, Suzanne, and Emily threw me a beautiful baby shower complete with loads of organic-y (is that a word?) goodness. One of the items I am most excited about trying out is my New Native Sling that I received from Suzanne.

I am a big advocate of "babywearing". Babywearing is the practice of carrying baby in a soft carrier close to our body. Cultures around the world have worn their babies in handmade slings and have passed on the tradition from generation to generation. The benefits of babywearing are endless but here are just a few (according to pediatrician and parenting guru, Dr. Sears):

1) It is natural! Your baby has just spent 9 months in the warmth, safety and security of your womb. It only makes sense that having your baby close to you once s/he is born would be beneficial also! The baby continues to hear your heartbeat, feel the rhythm of your breathing, and hear your familiar voice. What a better way to transition your child to life outside the womb?

2) Babies worn close to their parents cry less - up to 43% less! In the Western World where babywearing is not as common, it is acceptable and even often advised to let babies cry. In the majority of cultures throughout the world, babies spend the majority of their time in the arms of their mother or a relative.

3) Sling babies learn more. Since the majority of their time is not spent crying, sling babies are in a state being alert and aware - taking in their surroundings to a greater extent. Photo by Louise Batalla-Duran

4) Sling babies are "humanized" earlier. Babies are intimately involved in their caregiver's world. Their proximity to their caregiver allows them the opportunity to experience what their parent is experiencing - human interaction!

5) Sling babies are smarter. The exposure to a variety of experiences and stimuli allows the baby's brain to develop and grow exponentially.

6) Babywearing enhances speech development. Sling babies are more attentive - focusing in on adult conversations.

7) While breastfeeding is a great bonding experience for mothers, babywearing allows fathers, grandparents, siblings, and babysitters to develop strong bonds with the child.

8) It is convenient! You can breastfeed discretely in a sling. You can have your hands free and still go about your daily activities.

9) My friend Suzanne even commented that she liked that her daughter, Kitely, was "protected" from the general public when she was in her sling. She liked that she could go out and about without strangers approaching her wanting to touch and hold the baby.

10) Last but certainly not least, there are numerous medical benefits. Babies with colic and acid reflux benefit from the more upright position of babywearing by reducing gas bubbles and aiding in digestion. In fact, many sociologists and anthropologists have found in cultures where children are primarily carried, colic is non-existent!

Now I swore by my Baby Bjorn which I used every day with my first daughter, Fiona. Fi loved to snuggle up close to me and hang out like a starfish as I rushed about my busy day. I had tried a sling but never felt like she was secure and always worried whether or not she could breathe in there all tuck up like a pea in a pod. I had resisted the idea of trying a sling with #2 until Suzanne raved about the New Native version. She even went so far as to call it her "life saver". So I thought, with a recommendation like that, I have to give it a try!

I have to admit I did a little research before I received the sling. I googled the sling and instantly fell in love with the sleek look and small pocket-like appearance of the New Native version. (Apparently this version is called a "sash style carrier" or "pouch".) I like also that there are no clips or rings that might slip loose - very reassuring that the sling is all one piece! Another great thing is that the company makes an organic cotton version so I can rest assured that little one won't be exposed to any toxic chemicals as she rests. Needless to say, the advanced research just got me more excited to receive the gift! I was delighted to receive the organic khaki version and can not wait to try it out when Tilly is born! I will keep you posted...

Until I post my review, if you are interested in baby wearing, check out these links:

* Babywearer.com
* Babywearing.com
* Wearsthebaby.com
* Wikipedia's entry
* Peppermint.com's site on choosing a carrier

~Cheers, Kimberly

26 August 2008

Wooden toys to the rescue!!

Our first baby shower was indeed a hit and I received loads of wonderfully organic gifts from my friends. I will have to post photos as soon as I get them all downloaded. In addition to having a fabulous baby shower, Marcus and I managed to finish up the nursery this past weekend (the results of which will be another blog post soon!). Good thing as I have now been put on bed rest due to high blood pressure....no fun at all!

Due to previous complications with Fiona's birth (overdue, didn't dilate, not coming down the birth canal, you name it), I am having to give birth to our 2nd child via c-section. It's not ideal and conflicts with my "natural" lifestyle; however, the baby's safety and well being is of utmost importance and so, we have scheduled the date - September 12th!! Unfortunately I don't think I will be able to hold off until then especially with the latest complications. So I thought I would get in one blog before I am possibly whisked off to the hospital...

In my quest to raise bring up this baby in the "green way", I have been researching baby toys lately. You can't stroll down a baby aisle these days without seeing "BPA - free" plastered on the sides of baby bottles and sippy cups. Concerned parents and advocates everywhere have been instrumental in demanding the removal of the toxic plastic, Bishphenol A. Fortunately, the battle is being won and even mothers and fathers who wouldn't consider themselves "green" are steering away from bottles which leach toxins into their baby's milk.

But not so "mainstream" or as well known is another toxin lurking around our children -


According to the Enviroblog Phthalates "Cheat Sheet" - Phthalates are a common industrial chemical used in pvc plastic, solvents and fragrances. In children's toys, pvc is most commonly found in the "squishy toys" - those little bath books, chewy toys and teethers. Yes, toys your baby repeatedly puts in their mouth and chews on! When pvc breaks down it releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems. Definitely something every concerned parent wants to avoid giving to their child! (To read more about the "poison plastic", check out this very informative website.) Other great resources include Greenpeace's 2003 toy report card which includes a list of safe toys and US PIRG'S report on toy safety.

Kudos for the efforts of leading toy retailers such as Toys 'R Us, Target and even Wal*Mart who recently called for a reduction in the use of phthalates and lead in toys. Toys 'R Us are going even farther by stating that any manufacturer that wants their products to be carried in Toys 'R Us or Babies 'R Us must be produced without the addition of phthalates. (read more here.)

Great strides are being made but what can you do to protect your child now? What are the alternatives? Go back to the basics! Wooden and organic cotton cloth toys are a very good solutions! In my search, I came across some excellent websites that offer natural alternatives:

* The Soft Landing - offers great bpa and pvc toys and teethers including items made with natural rubber

* Nova Natural Toys & Crafts - I love this site! Loads of toys including baby play toys, riding toys, and dolls

* Peapods Natural Toys and Baby Care - beautiful natural cherry wood rattles!

* Holgate Toys - This company has been producing high quality wooden toys since 1789

* Oompa Toys - most products are manufactured in Europe where they are more progressive in their safety standards!

These sites offer great products but are often more expensive. I was delighted to come across Sassy's brand of toys that can be found in the Babies 'R Us chain and are much more affordable. Sassy has produced "Sassy Earth Brights" line of toys which are "inspired by nature". The line includes an adorable cherry tree rattle, mushroom rattle, and nice cloth picture album. Sassy has been a leader in eliminating pvc in their toys and their products have been recommended by Greenpeace, Dr. Greene, and other concerned watchdog groups. We have received some of their toys already off our baby registry and I think our little one will just love them!

One last word on the topic, when purchasing wooden toys, remember to choose sustainable wood options and that toys do not have toxic finishes including non-toxic paints. Beeswax, linseed and walnut oils are safest. With cloth toys, choose natural hemp. wool, and organic cotton that has not been dyed with toxic dyes.
Happy, informed, shopping!

18 August 2008

Well chuffed!

I have been a huge fan of the "Lu 'n Am" blog spot for a while now. (As you may remember, Lucie "Lu", is the person who goaded me into starting my own blog.) Their site is full of tips on living an affordable, sustainable, and green lifestyle. It is inspiring to an "old dog" like me to see the "younger generation" take up the banner for the environment. So imagine how honoured I was when they asked me to join their blog as a regular contributor! Well, I was "well chuffed" indeed!

Now I am feeling the pressure... I am not sure exactly what else I can contribute to their blog as they are so innovative and creative in their quest to live in a green way. But I will do my best to help "fight the good fight".
On an unrelated note...I will be having my first organic baby shower on Thursday of this week at the fabulous Nature Kids Mercantile. So stay tuned for photos from the fun-filled event!

11 August 2008

"I love ants, Mummy, they are our friends!"**

** Fiona to me this morning as we are walking out the front door

I had always hoped my daughter would love the outdoors as much as her parents did. This morning's conversation was yet another affirmation that we are helping to instill in our 3 1/2 year old an appreciation for nature, the environment and animals. This got me to thinking...

Much has been written lately about the disconnect between today's children and their exposure to the natural world. It has even spawned a new type of disorder "Nature Deficit Disorder". In a recent study, it was determined that exposure to the natural world may be as important to children as adequate sleep and nutrition (from Tim Gill in his article, found here.) The National Wildlife Federation says that the research is showing that children with regular exposure to the natural world benefit by being healthier. They state children who regularly spend unstructured time outside:

* Play more creatively
* Have lower stress levels
* Have more active imaginations
* Become fitter and leaner
* Develop stronger immune systems
* Experience fewer symptoms of ADD and ADHD
* Have greater respect for themselves, for others, and for the environment

Do we really need data and research to tell us what we grew up knowing? Well, apparently because enough of the world's children are not getting outdoors! Let's hope you don't fall into this category, but if you do, it's not too late!

So where do you begin? There are endless possibilities and it can all be a bit overwhelming, but remember, every little bit helps, so start small. If you would like to raise a child to appreciate Mother Earth and its inhabitants, consider these simple tips:

1. go on a nature walk - this could be at a park or in your backyard! turn over stones, examine an ant hill, walk outside after a good rain and talk about earthworms!

2. create a garden with your child - examine the life cycle of plants and vegetables while instilling a sense of responsibility (watering, weeding, etc.)

3. don't be afraid to let your child get dirty! - we are obsessed with anti-bacterial soaps and germs these days. Some of the world's healthiest children grow up on farms, getting "stuck in"; so let your child create mud pies and dig in the dirt!

4. allow your child to collect things from nature - as long as it doesn't disturb the natural habitat! In Fiona's room, you'll find an array of downed pine cones, shells from the beach, an abandoned bird nest and on any given day, a vase full of dandelions.

5. celebrate natural "holidays" and mark special occasions with earth friendly gifts - Attend Earth Day or plant a tree on Arbor Day. Participate in your local events or start one yourself! Rather than buying your child another Power Ranger, why not celebrate a birthday by adopting an animal in their name or having a star named after them?

6. make environmentally friendly reading materials part of your child's library The Lorax by Dr. Seuss is no longer the lone beacon for future treehuggers; there are endless books out there with environmentally friendly themes. Visit your local library or bookstore or search Amazon.com's listmainia for suggestions

7. look to earth friendly/animal friendly organizations and websites to help find activities you can share with your child:
National Wildlife Federation combats nature deficient disorder with their 'green hour' activities
The Humane Education site is one of my favourites!
Children of the Earth is a site I just discovered
The National Resources Defense Council has an excellent site just for kids including an online magazine
National Geographic has a special children's section

8. visit nature centers, museums, and those nearby institutions that foster an understanding and appreciation for the environment - We did our homework and learned that our local nature centre, Ijams, has a wonderful series of classes known as "Nature Preschool". Each month there is a theme, such as amphibians. The class teaches the basic characteristics, incorporates an art project and is accompanied by an animal visit or a nature walk. Pictured below is Fiona learning about opossums (notice her tail!) at Ijams. (She loves Ijams so much that when asked where she wanted to have her 3rd birthday, she exclaimed "IJAMS!" She even had frog cupcakes at her request.)

Fiona learning about opossums at Ijams (notice the tail!)

After this morning's conversation with my daughter, I pondered on my way to work, the age old question...how much of Fiona's personality is nature (genetic) vs. nurture (our child-rearing techniques).

In favour of the genetic argument, you have to take into account that Fi's Daddy is an avid scuba diver and loves to be around any body of water - lake, ocean, stream, swimming pool, etc. As for me, I was raised camping in the Grand Tetons, have stomped around the Great Smoky Mountains almost all my life and embrace the title "Treehugger" whole-heartedly. So it could be said that it is "in her blood".

Conversely, there is the nurture side of things... we have worked really hard at exposing Fiona to all things natural. We have a strict "no television" policy during the week and she watches only 1 hour on Saturday and Sunday. As a result, she fills many of her free hours playing outside, going to the park, the mountains, aquariums, visits to the beach, etc. So could it be that simple exposure to the natural world has made Fiona a "treehugger in training"?

In the end, I determined it didn't matter one way or another how our daughter came to love the environment and animals. I am just so fortunate that she did! I will leave you with some of my favourite photos of my daughter out in nature...

Fi giving the butterfly a "drink of water" - Grand Cayman butterfly sanctuary

Visiting a farm in England

    Fi splashing in the stream - Great Smoky Mountains - and offering me some acorns

    And finally...relaxing on a tree with her walking stick

    06 August 2008

    "Strawberry's" field, erm, nursery

    Why is it that you have 9 months to plan and yet you still find yourself at the end of a pregnancy running up against deadlines?

    Perhaps it is just me but I sailed through the first 8 months of my pregnancy blissfully aware that I needed to create and decorate a nursery. One would think that having done this before I would be sitting back, enjoying the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. But no, as I type this blog, I sit in what will become our little girl's room. The nursery is a sparse room with a computer desk.

    Well, in our defense, at least the nursery is no longer Fiona's playroom. We have made SOME progress. We had to relocate the toys, kitchen set and art center. What was sacrificed to create a play room for our eldest and her sibling-to-be? Marcus's "man cave" - his pride and joy - an authentic English pub. No longer does the Guinness Draught neon sign adorn the walls. No, Todd Parr framed prints have taken its place. It was a sad day as many happy British parties were hosted there and many memories made. Perfect pints and glasses of Rioja are replaced with chocolate milk in sippy cups and Honest Kids juice pouches.

    With a clean slate, I have had no excuses not to get the nursery all prepared. (This phenomenon of preparing for the arrival is commonly known as "nesting" for those of you who haven't had a baby). I am delighted to announce that things are finally coming along..thanks to IKEA and a little ole website known as Etsy.
    For "Strawberry's" nursery, I knew I wanted something "earthy" - birds, trees, nature theme - and yet, "girly" - in pink and green.

    I didn't want to go to Babies R Us or one of those other stores that have prepackaged ideas and the standard crib bedding sets. I knew that I could find something I would like more on my own. I boiled down the necessities and figured out all I really wanted for bedding was a decorative crib skirt and bumper pad. I could provide a cheaper organic cotton option by just purchasing organic crib sheets. On a recent trip to IKEA, I found the perfect cotton canvas fabric. The fabric is bright kelly green and reminds me of grass. (Believe me, the picture doesn't do it justice).

    With the crib bedding down, I could focus on the walls and decor. Marcus suggested that we paint two walls pink and two walls green. I loved the idea! So off to find paint.

    We had been on a search for environmentally-friendly, low VOC paint for a while. (VOCs are solvents that are found in most paints that contribute to indoor air pollution, allergies and asthma in children, and the destruction of the ozone layer). Most of what we could find online was expensive. But thanks to Treehugger, we found out Lowe's had a great option! Luckily Lowe's carries the Olympic line of paint which have no VOCs, is affordable, come in a variety of colors and is Green Seal certified! Read more about Olympic paint here.

    Now for the decor... For this element, I turned to one of my favourite sites, Etsy. com. For those of you that haven't visited the "place to buy and sell all things handmade", you are missing out!

    Etsy is great because it allows you to support up and coming artists by purchasing one of a kind items at an affordable price. I knew I could find what I was looking for to decorate the nursery. Etsy didn't disappoint! After a short search for "bird nursery print", I found these two prints. The little bird to the left is in a strawberry patch (how appropriate)!!

    I also had a Land of Nod gift card that I hadn't used so I surfed over there to find another fabulous piece - their kids tree removable tree wall decal. This would serve as a perfect mural for behind the crib. Voila!

    I love how everything is finally coming together! All I need to do now is to host the French paint and champagne party (are you still up for it, Lu?). I would also love to have Lucie create a personalized art piece for the baby (hint, hint) and then I think the nursery will be complete. Though I have dragged my feet a bit this time, in the end, I think we are all going to love our little one's nest.

    27 July 2008

    Managing "solid waste" :)

    I have been very busy since my first real post. On my quest to be a more earth friendly mother this time around, I have been conducting a lot of research on better options for "number 2" aka "Strawberry". Though Fiona was born a mere 3 years ago, I have learned so much about the things we expose our children to every day without our knowledge. Though I started to beat myself up about the choices I made with Fifi, I knew I could only move forward. Things are progressing, fortunately. The options that are available today are so much more accessible and affordable. Even Babies 'R Us has tons of organic options - hurray! My latest passion...cloth diapers...

    It all started with my neighbor who brought over a Knoxville Holistic Moms newsletter which had an advertisement for a new business that just opened up called Nature Kids Mercantile. NKM is a natural store for kids which features organic cotton clothing, natural cleaning and beauty products, as well as wooden toys. I was very excited to see this type of business being opened up in the Knoxville area. One of the main goals of the owner, GuruBani Whitney, is to create a community of like minded individual. This includes offering yoga, parenting and cloth diapering classes.

    Prior to Jill bringing over the info on NKM, I had been conducting some cursory research on cloth diapers. After realizing that just in our family, we single-handedly consumed over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine in order to produce disposable diapers for Fiona for just one year , I knew could not make the same mistake again. There are just so many reasons why choosing cloth diapers is the only way to go - economical, environmental, and health reasons. (If you aren't convinced, go here and learn more! The facts and the benefits of cloth diapering will make you think!)

    Early on, I stumbled across the G diaper system at my local Earth Fare. The G diapers just seemed like an easy transition from disposable diapers when compared to the old fashioned flat diapers that you have to fold yourself. I thought this was all that was out there. Little did I know a simple newsletter and a Saturday morning class would open up whole new world to me..

    So, I immediately called and reserved a spot for the July 19th cloth diapering class. This would be the perfect place to learn more about cloth diapering in a "safe" environment. The class was fantastic! Very small and intimate with a relaxed atmosphere. The creator of Zoonique cloth diapers (her handiwork featured above) who lives just down the road in nearby Oak Ridge led us novices through the world of cloth diapers. I ended up learning a whole new vocabulary - All in Ones (AIO), doublers, prefolds, inserts, contours..... Bloody hell, there are so many options according to your price range and desire for convenience .
    During the class we got a little off topic but hey, that was okay! We talked about everything including toxins in our baby products, why America is so behind the rest of the world when it comes to banning gentically modified foods and produce and how environmentally aware young people are today. It was so comforting to find folks like this in my own backyard!
    In the end, I decided that G diapers, whilst a better option than disposables, is still not the best option. The liner or "absorbent" part of the cloth diaper is still producing waste and still has chemicals which will come in to contact with baby's skin. Besides, you have to wash the outside or cover of the G diapers; so, if I am washing the cover, I might as well toss the insert in as well! Voila - no waste!
    Armed with more information, I became an ardent advocate of cloth diapers. Instead of the G diaper, I decided to go with the pocket diaper with hemp or flannel liner inserts. After considering all the brands out there - Happy Heineys, Fuzzi Bunz, Kissaluvs, Bummis, etc., I chose to "think global and go local". I want to use the Zoonique line of pocket diaper. The creators were smart to add some special patented features that just pushed it over the top for me. Of course, I like that I am supporting a local mother of 4 also!
    I am sure that "non-believers" will question my choice but that's alright. I know that this is the only option for our family. Besides all the practical advantages, there is the more shallow point...cloth diapers are so much more individualistic and fashionable! Who wouldn't want to adorn their baby's bum in such cute creations? Ha, ha, ha!

    09 July 2008

    Tagged (A Day in Hadleigh, Suffolk)

    Lu threw down the gauntlet and tagged me to prepare a post representing my favourite country, my city or state. I have chosen to blog about one of my favourite places on Earth - Hadleigh, Suffolk, England.

    Whilst preparing this blog, I found that Lucie's post and mine would be similiar in that despite the geographical differences, England and France, have quite a bit in common.. well, like most other European countries, (Marcus would kill me if he knew I referred to England/Great Britain as "European"...) English folks like to eat, drink, and socialize.

    First a bit of background info...Hadleigh is a small village in the county of Suffolk in East Anglia on the eastern coast. I always relate Hadleigh's location to something most people know - it's about 2 hours northeast of London. Hadleigh has a special place in my heart because it is where Marcus's family lives. I have made many happy memories there.

    Hadleigh’s history is a long and fascinating one, so much so that the Council for British Archaeology placed Hadleigh among 51 towns “so precious that ultimate responsibility for them should be a national concern.”

    Archaeological finds from the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age have been unearthed in the area, as have the remains of a 1st century Roman villa and other Roman artefacts and there is evidence of a 5th century pagan Saxon occupation in the area around George Street.
    Hadleigh later came to prominence as one of Viking King Guthrum’s royal towns and it is thought that the Danish leader - who died in 890 - was buried in what is now St Mary’s churchyard.

    This area of England is particularly beautiful in my opinion because it is mostly a farming area. It reminds me a lot of East Tennessee with its gorgeous rolling green hills. In the spring time, the countryside is lined with beautiful yellow fields which contain rapeseed flowers.

    Rapeseed field along the road to the next village, Kersey

    So now we shall embark upon a typical day in Hadleigh. ..

    The English are no different than other folks in that they love their food. Despite its bad reputation, I have to say, they have some excellent culinary offerings.

    The day might start out with a full traditional English breakfast which consists of eggs, bacon (thick and hearty - not the puny Oscar Meyer stuff), sausage, tomatoes (one of my favourites!), baked beans, mushrooms, and black pudding. I pass on the black pudding as it is is a blend of onions, pork fat, oatmeal, flavourings - and blood (usually from a pig). I generally just have porridge and toast. Of course, the only drink to accompany any meal in England is a nice "cuppa" of hot tea. While we have tried to find American substitutes, there is nothing greater than the tea in England. We always have to get a supply of PG Tips tea bags when we visit.

    After our breakfast, we venture over to the lovely walking paths right near my in-laws house. The path takes you along the River Brett to Toppesfield Bridge. There are always ducks in the river and Fiona loves to go feed the ducks. Here she is with Auntie Stephanie throwing bread to the ducks on a recent visit to Grandma Rae's.

    Following the river walk brings us into the town center where we do a little sightseeing...

    The Guild Hall

    In the center of town are some beautiful buildings featuring gorgeous architecture. The Deanery Tower was built in 1495 and was intended to be the entry way/gateway to a grand residence for an archdeacon. However, the stately home was never built. The Guild Hall was built in the 1430s and was used to trade wool and cloth. It has housed a number of different businesses and non-profit entities. It was once home to a grammar school which Marcus attended as a boy.

    St. Mary's Church

    St. Mary's Church is one of the grandest Suffolk churches. It is one of the only churches in this area that is adorned with a medieval spire. It was built in the 14th century and is also one of the longest churches. I love to walk amongst the graves and crypts that are scattered in front of this magnificent church.

    After browsing in the second hand book shops and boutiques along the High Street, we head out to the nearby village of Monks Eleigh for a nice lunch at Bridge Farm Barns (formerly known as the Corn Craft). This family farm features a gift shop, a quaint restaurant, and craft shop. "Corn dollies" are featured prominently through the farm. Creating the dolls from the last sheaf of corn is an art form dating back to the pagan times.

    I have to visit every time we go because I MUST get my cream tea fix. A cream tea consists of English scones, Devon clotted cream, garnished with strawberry jam and a hot pot of tea. The pictures do not do a cream tea justice - believe me! It is a little bit of heaven on Earth.

    After a bit of shopping at Bridge Farm Barns and a full belly, we head back to Hadleigh. There we would meet up with some friends at the pub - an English tradition. Pubs are the focal point of most English communities. No doubt the regulars will be stationed on their favourite bar stool. Over a pint of traditional British cask/real ale, a stout, lager or cider, we would discuss the lastest football (soccery to the Americans), rugby or cricket matches or perhaps try our hand at one of the many 'fruit machines' - gambling games that feature many different themes.

    Since we have had a few pints, we could then hop on the bus and head into Ipswich city centre for a little shopping. Public transportation is cheap and easy to find in England. With petrol prices the equivalent of $8.00/galloon USD, many people park their cars and take advantage of buses and trains to get them around. For those who do drive, they tend to drive small, fuel efficient vehicles like the Smart Car.

    Once in Ipswich, we could browse around "Marks and Sparks" - Marks and Spencer, one of the most iconic and widely recognised chain stores in the United Kingdom. For more upscale shopping, we might head over to Debenhams or for those who are looking for fashion on a budget, how about H&M? My trip to England isn't complete without a "poke 'round" my favourite shop - Accessorize - a store dedicated to nothing more than jewelry, purses, and scarves.

    All this shopping may have stimulated our appetite so we venture over to our local "chippy" for a "take-away" order of fish and chips. A traditional dinner would consist of battered cod or haddock fish, thickly cut potatoes slices (french fries), doused in vinegar and wrapped in white parchment paper.

    If you aren't in the mood for fish, how about another British staple? A nice curry! Curry is the English description of any of a general variety of spicy dishes, best-known in Pakistani, Indian, Sri Lankan, Nepali, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, and other South Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines. Curry houses are quickly outnumbering the traditional fish and chip shops. In a relatively short space of time curry has become an integral part of British cuisine, so much so that, since the late 1990s, Chicken Tikka Masala has been commonly referred to as the "British national dish".

    After a nice dinner, it's back to the pub for karaoke or heading out to the nightclubs with your "mates".

    I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the East of England. Cheers, Kimberly

    07 July 2008


    It's only appropriate that this first blog entry be entitled "enchanté" as it is Lucie who brought me to the world of Blogger. For those of you who don't know, Lucie, she:
    • originally hails from France
    • is an amazing artist
    • is a style diva devoted to affordable, creative, sustainable living
    • is a woman my daughter adores
    • oh yes, and is my cousin's girlfriend

    My daughter, Fiona, and Lucie as 1950s domestic goddesses

    I am honoured to know her and her family.

    Recently, Lu called me out on her blog for not having my site up and running yet. She further challenged me by tagging me to post an entry about my favourite country, hometown, city, state, etc. I am up for the challenge but thought it might be a bit more appropriate for me to first introduce myself since I am new to the blogosphere. So here goes..

    Tree Huggin' Mummy with Fiona - May 2008

    My name is Kimberly. I live in East Tennessee nestled amongst the beautiful Smoky Mountains with my British husband and 3 year old daughter. We have daughter number two on the way - due in September. I grew up in a military family so we moved around a lot. This not only fed my desire to travel but nurtured my spirit which thrives on change.

    After high school graduation, I moved to the Washington, DC area and lived in various suburbs around the nation's capital for four years. I was able to exercise my activist nature by participating in a number of marches and protests. From there, I went on to complete my undergraduate degree at James Madison University majoring in Cultural Anthropology and History. (I have long admired Jane Goodall and Margaret Meade and had hoped to make as big an impact as they have.)

    Flash forward two years and a failed marriage, I found myself single and the world my oyster. My girlfriend who was helping me through my divorce suggested that we embark on a lifelong dream of going to England. In the spring of 1999, I took my first trip to the UK and was smitten. Determined to move to the land of fish and chips, double decker buses and great cups of tea, I looked into a Master's degree programme at Birmingham University. It is on one of my "reconnaissance" trips that I met Marcus - the landlord at Molly O' Grady's Irish pub above Victoria train station.

    Marcus and I had loads in common - he had grown up moving around too: Africa, Holland, Malaysia, the Bahamas, etc. for example - and from that day forward became inseparable. After I completed my degree programme, we decided to hop the pond to America (his decision!) and become husband and wife in August 2000.

    We enjoyed five years of wedded bliss before our first child came along. Fiona was born in April 2005 and has been the joy of our lives for the last three years. As I mentioned before, we are due with our second daughter in September. (Marcus who has 3 sisters has determined he is destined to be around women all his life!) We have a pretty estrogen dominated household - Mummy, Fiona, baby girl on the way, and three female pets - Lulu dog, Molly cat, and Biko cat.

    Our lives are hectic but zany and fun-filled.

    As for my "career"/occupation: after 7 years in the non-profit arena, I made an effort to find a more sane life. I work now in the insurance business but I find corporate America and I are not good bedfellows. I strive to secure an occupation that will allow me to travel encountering new cultures for a living (Travel Channel: here I am!!).

    Throughout my life, I had always been interested in "saving the world", nature, the environment, conservation, etc. and becoming a parent has only reinforced my ideals. I continue to learn, grow, and become a better world citizen. I am thankful for my friends, my fellow bloggers, and the caring community out on the www who continue to inspire and guide me on my quest.

    Hopefully this little introduction provided some insight into my life. Stay tuned because there is more to come...

    Next up... a trip to jolly ole England