ROSE AND ZAATAR

A TASTE OF A LIFE IN LEBANON

Category: Baby

A new home

I officially started this blog on 9th March 2013 (after a 4-post-false-start in 2011) and today, exactly 2 years later, I am officially finishing it.

My first post was about a baby on a table, and making houses into homes.

And in this last post, the baby is a girl, who said this afternoon, ‘mama let’s make the table for papa’ and when I told her that we’d soon be leaving this house but we would take everything important with us (toys and books and babies…) she finished my list with the word home. 

From now on, you can find us here, at my new home, shared with a friend 5609 miles away, hope to see you there.

 

 

 

Advertisements

‘Happy New Kitchen Day!’ Or ‘Happy Five Pairs of Trousers Day!’

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now, leaving my long blog hibernation to mark the wonderful occasion of your second birthday. Its title was going to be ‘Happy New Kitchen Day!’ as that’s what we gave you as a gift, and on the day itself we managed to exhaust you with endless questions about your age and your presents, so that you ended up answering What day is it today? by saying New Kitchen! (and you’ve only recently stopped saying two, when someone asks your name!)

But more than a month has passed and I am still struggling with how to answer the question ‘What are you like as a two year old?’, with how to put you into words (of which you have so many now to string together like bright beads making necklace sentences, all the colours of the rainbow).

So I will stop trying to find the right answer, and tell you about today.  It is just an ordinary Thursday, but not so ordinarily, it is just the two of us, all day. No plans, no play-dates, no playgrounds. Something which used to terrify me, but now I treasure.

It has been a day of naming things, which is very important to you right now. You are no longer satisfied with generic answers like toy or flower when you ask what’s that? Now you insist what’s its name? 

First we named one of your dolls, who has always been just Baby, calling her Sophie (which you say in the sweetest way, as isn’t easy for you) after the little girl in your current favourite book ‘The Tiger who came to tea’.

Next I taught you one of the only flower names I know, lantanawhen we walked past it, as we have done so many times, on our way out for morning coffee. On our way home we picked one each, and carried them home, leaving a trail of little flame coloured flowers and the scent of guava.

And then, we decided to name the day too: five-pairs-of-trousers day.

The first pale pink pair pair had to be changed when you slipped outside on the terrace wearing your purple boots, not while jumping in puddles or pushing your buggy, but while trying to sweep away last night’s rain down the drain.

The second purple-grey pair had to be changed when we didn’t quite make it to the ‘big big toilet’ in time for you to ‘do a wee-wee in it’, which usually we do, numerous times a day, as it’s currently one of your favourite activities.

The third denim-blue pair had to be changed when you managed to open the bottle of orange juice all by yourself and spill some on the Starbucks armchair you were sitting on (and for perhaps the first time in 2 years I didn’t have a change of clothes for you in my bag- having already used it in the morning and not believing you could possibly need another pair of trousers today!)

Back at home the fourth bright pink pair, a birthday gift from the concierge,  had to be changed after a matter of minutes when we had another little accident, my fault this time, misjudging your position when I put you on our crazy blue broken toilet seat. (It’s a miracle that you are even willing to sit on it- but it has become normal for you- so much so that you are always surprised when other toilets in other places are not broken!)

And the fifth (and hopefully final) pair-a pretty pink gift from an Italian fairy godmother-you are wearing now as you nap (although I’m not sure they’ll survive the painting and cooking I have planned for the afternoon!).

When you wake shortly, I will ask what you dreamed of, as I often do, and I’m sure you’ll reply niente! (nothing), one of the words you always say in Italian and with a smile, in answer to all manner of questions (What do you want for breakfast? What’s in your tummy? What are you thinking about on the swing?). It always makes me think of the Italian expression, ‘dolce far niente’ -it’s sweet to do nothing.

Today has been like that, a sweet day with my sweet girl, that I want to remember forever. Like all of them.

 

Taken shortly after your 2nd birthday. Today you wore the same top, with all five pairs of trousers!

Taken shortly after your 2nd birthday. Today you wore the same top, with all five pairs of trousers!

Are you happy?

I started this post just over 2 weeks ago, on our last day in Lebanon before travelling to Europe for a month. Its title comes from a taxi trip we took across town that morning for a farewell coffee with friends. I spent the journey thinking back over the summer trying to decide which petal I was up to on my ‘love you, love you not’ Lebanon daisy.

My taxi driver, who that day was a lovely older man, a father but not yet a grandfather (I know this from normal-taxi-questions) must also have been a mind reader as he interrupted my train of thought with the not-so-normal-taxi-question:

Are you happy in Lebanon? (Subtly but powerfully different from the standard: do you like Lebanon?)

Yes! I replied instantly, knowing as I said it that it was true.

It is the same question that friends have been asking me here in the UK, when I tell them that we will be staying in Lebanon either a lot longer, or not so long at all. And every time I answer, the yes which caught me almost by surprise in the taxi, gets stronger and clearer in my heart. And it’s not just because, as the taxi driver went on to say that day, I have my husband and my baby with me.  It’s more that that, so much more. Even if sometimes I can’t quite explain it, even to myself.

And on that note I will say farewell, not forever, but for awhile. Other things are tugging on my heart strings and I need to put the blog to bed. But given my track record, I’m sure it won’t ‘sleep through the night’ and I’ll be back again soon.

Sweet dreams until then x

 

 

 

Four returns: she’ll be coming round the mountain…

The fourth and final return was ours. We went back to the Shouf Cedar Reserve, where we haven’t been since I was 7 months pregnant and unable to follow any of the footpaths for fear of falling forward onto my belly.

This time we were part of the Vamos Todos hiking group and even though I was still a little afraid of falling forward with my 22 month old daughter strapped to my front, they encouraged us to take the 8km trail rather than sitting on the bench by the entrance (where I sat the last time).

I asked the guide, who held my arm firmly and picked flowers for my daughter delicately, how long he’d being doing outdoor activities like this one:

Since ever!

His answer made me smile and reflect on the fact that my daughter has also been ‘hiking’ since ever, as the very first time we took a trip with this group, snowshoeing in Faraya, I was pregnant without even knowing it.

Another part of the return was remembering a song that I haven’t sung since our daughter was a few months old. When she was born the only childhood tune I could remember was ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain’. which I sang to her endlessly, inventing verses beyond the ones I knew about wearing pink pyjamas and riding six white horses. Fortunately (for us both) I soon replaced it as I remembered other old favourites.

But as we rounded our own mountain at the end of the hike, it came back to me again and since then we have been singing it every night at bedtime, with the old verses, and some new ones inspired by our day amongst the Cedars:

She’ll be wearing mama’s socks (over her sandals, because it’s so unexpectedly cold, and I forgot to bring any for her!)

She’ll be singing all the songs that she knows (trying to keep her busy and distracted from the cold)

She’ll be looking for the bus (which finally appears as we come down from the clouds)

and finally she’ll be drinking lemonade, fresh and cold (homemade by another guide and offered in plastic espresso cups to congratulate us on completing the hike).

 

Like Mother Like Daughter 2

Today we said another farewell to another lovely lady and her baby.

A bye bye Beirut cupcake

A bye bye Beirut cupcake

This is a card I made for her, to go with the shopping bag I gave her as a gift from Magnolia Bakery where we have spent many lunchtimes in the company of other mamas, trying to eat our cakes as quickly as possible before the babies in the buggies wake up and want some.

We had lunch there today, and I bought some cookies to take home for an afternoon tea with an old friend, who recently returned to Beirut for a visit (another one- they can’t keep away!).  We only arranged it this morning so I hadn’t had the time to bake anything, and it is almost unthinkable for me to invite someone over when both the biscuit box and cake tin are empty.

But I needn’t have worried as my daughter has recently come up with a new imaginary game where she puts her plastic cakes into a pan and then in and out of the oven, over and over again, always making sure she uses a tea towel as they are ‘hot’.

Oh where does she get it from I wonder?!

p.s. as I write about yet another farewell and return I remember that I am still missing a post for the fourth of my ‘four returns’– it’s coming soon, I promise.

Like Water for Chocolate

Yesterday morning I mentally added a new addition to my daughter’s ‘rhyming dictionary‘ when I realised that water sounds like chocolate, reminding me of the book with a similar name.

The whole day then seemed to take on a chocolate flavour:

Chocolate Icecreams

Mid-morning drawing session

Me: What colour are the ice-creams?

Her: Chocolate! (not water, and not brown as I had expected the answer to be)

Then while she napped (and probably dreamed of chocolate ice-cream) I made my first ever raw brownies

DSCN2319

Raw Chocolate Brownies

which she taste tested with me when she woke up and despite the fact that the cocoa is subtle not strong, she recognised it instantly as deto (chocolate)!

Four returns: the key

The third return was our concierge who finally came back from Syria, just in time to save the day, or rather my poor mother, who thought she had locked herself, and the sleeping baby, out of the house. Before I left in the morning we had gone through all the possible things that could cause complications in the four hours I would be away, from nap nightmares to power cuts to cuts and bruises. But we didn’t foresee that she would temporarily mislay the key.

Miraculously, with no Arabic except shukran (thank you) she managed to get the concierge to understand the situation and miraculously he managed to ‘break in’ to our apartment from the seventh floor, without breaking any doors or windows. And perhaps most miraculously of all, they didn’t wake the baby (maybe helped by the fact that they were mostly miming), and she slept on for another hour, giving her grandmother just enough time to turn the house upside down in search of the key, to the point of giving up, only to find it at the bottom of her bag after all.

Broken

One of your favourite words at the moment is ‘broken’ (or bo-bo, as you say it) and there has been no shortage of occasions for you to use it recently- from the CD player that keeps skipping to the rose that lost its petals when Mamma lent in to smell it, and not forgetting the lift of course, which is bo-bo on a daily basis, according to our scheduled power cuts.

Or unscheduled power cuts like the other day, when the electricity didn’t come back as expected and we spent ages with the concierge’s family while they tried to explain why the generator hadn’t come on either, struggling over the translation of one word in particular, which, surprise surprise, turned out to be ‘broken’- if only you’d known your favourite word in Arabic it would have been so much simpler!

 

Like Mother, Like Daughter

 More lovely friends are leaving Lebanon this week, heading home, half way across the world to Australia.

They will be going from a bright hot summer to a bright cold winter, a season which, thanks to some clever travel plans, they have almost managed to avoid for the four years they’ve been living here.

Although we’ve only known them for a quarter of that it feels longer and we will miss their easy sunny mother-daughter company like we’ve always had it; like a never-ending summer’s day spent eating sweet treats and paddling in the pool.

DSCN2241

A goodbye gift: ‘Like mother, like daughter’

A Rhyming Dictionary (for the under 2s!)

We are engaged in a constant guessing game with my daughter, as she learns new words faster than you can say… any of them!

So because lemon sounds like melon sounds like Miffy (the Rabbit) I’ve put together a little ‘rhyming dictionary’ as a guide. Here is the first installment:

apple, open

big, pink

broken, purple, bubble

door, stone, go

flower, giraffe

more, small

sleeping, baby (oh the irony!)

and, ever the Beiruti baby,

raining, raisins, washing, manoushe!