Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia

A quick weekend girls trip to Barcelona was enough to fall utterly, completely in love with Gaudi’s work starting with the still unfinished La Sagrada Familia. Time is of the essence when visiting Gaudi’s masterpiece. Take the time to absorb the quiet noise, but don’t forget that it’s still primarily a house of worship. Reservations are needed to enter but once inside, you can linger all you wish.

Most valuable tip from locals: Don’t miss your ticket time for the main gate nor for a tower visit!

Tip for those with children, vertigo, claustrophobia: If you choose to climb the steps of either of the 2 towers currently open to the public, don’t look down. You may also wish to skip stepping out onto a balcony, too. Just saying.

Special thanks to gal pal Ana & my Bella for posing it up for me. Muwahhh!

Chitchat pack 1.5: Back to School, Tech and Fashion Trends to Try

Summer’s drawing to a close and I’m in a late summer panic… not enough hours in the day to make up for all the things I still want to do before my child heads into (gasp) first grade. Where did the last couple of months go? Sure we’ve done some traveling in Europe but for the most part, we’re going to hit the next school year with more traveling ahead (Budapest and repeat trips to Paris, Prague and Vienna) and a lot of experiences to add to our family bucket list (indoor ski/snowboard/skydive!). We’re also mentally steeling ourselves for a new school year with more homework and extra-curricular activities for a little one: sport (equestrian vaulting), fine art/music (Irish dancing, violin). I’m reading that last sentence and breaking out in hives. In all seriousness, I’ve done some light research lately and here are some back to school tech and fashion trends that hit my radar recently. I’m hell-bent to try some ASAP. Sure, it may feel like throwing a bunch of ideas to the wall to see what sticks, but at this point in summer vacation, I’m willing to try just about anything to feel like I’m ahead. 


SLEEP CHALLENGED KIDS & PARENTS:rabbit who wants to fall asleep

I’ve got an early and passionate reader entering first grade. The kind of kid who waits until we think she’s asleep so she can sneak the light back on to read “just one more chapter.” So we’re going to struggle a bit to get her back on track with her sleep cycle… while the sun is still technically up! I stumbled on this lovely book a day or two before I noticed book reviews by NPR, Fortune and Yahoo Health. So for once, I’m ahead of a trend. Or maybe just ahead of mainstream media.

So for your back to school sleep troubles, try reading Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin’s The Rabbit who wants to fall asleep. Be prepared to nod off yourself. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

And here’s the link for the free e-book!

TECH TO CHECK OUT:Sworkit fitness app

Fitness App to try: Why wait until the New Year to ramp up a fitness resolution?




Homemade Fruit Roll ups

Sending snacks in with your youngster doesn’t always require a trip down the snack food aisle. Unless your school requires that everything be storebought, grab some fresh fruit and honey (or agave syrup) and a few minutes to prep this super easy recipe. It’s from Megan at What’s Up Moms.

FASHION FOCUS – What’s in your closet this fall?

MINIMALIST Wardrobe FAQ minimalist wardrobe faq

I’ve started downsizing my wardrobe again. I’ve looked at the capsule wardrobe trend–33 pieces per season, basic uniform for the work week, and so on. This article, though a few months old, is one of the BEST I’ve found to help me get through the common troublespots and pitfalls, of wardrobe culling and building. Just in time for the winter season and chunky clothing!



USA: Back to School Style for all ages  A quick video by Darcy Camden, a Seattle TV channel stylist, shows current trends in the US for back to school.


One of the newest additions to my child’s wardrobe is Dutch brand Vingino. She tends to wear the same favorite pieces often until they wear out (or she outgrows them) so I appreciate well-made clothing that’s also super comfortable and stylish. Vingino is the first denim line that she immediately looked at in one of our local stores here in Germany. (She usually doesn’t wear denim)

EUROPE: Fall/ Winter 2015-16 CPM Kids Catwalk

Six international brands presented their Autumn/Winter 15-16 collections at the leading children’s fashion catwalk organised by Children’s Fashion Europe from 24-27 February 2015. Designers at this show included: Blue Seven, Bóboli, Canzitex, Emily Rise, Maria Naumova and Mayoral. These 2 videos are from that show and are fun examples of European kids fashion. 

It’s harder to get some of these fashions in North America, but the styles here in Europe for children reflect a great design aesthetic that wears really well. I’ve noticed that the clothes that tend to get handed down to younger friends (or sold to second hand stores) are the pieces that are well-made from quality materials and they rarely are flash-fashion, cheaper lines. Personally I’d rather promote reuse and upcycling than throwing out clothing that don’t last past one season when my child has outgrown them.  



EUROPE/Commuter Fashion:

Fashion among commuters vary slightly in every city I’ve lived in or visited. When we lived in Japan, I used to gape in awe at the commuters on their bicycles, carrying an umbrella and chatting on a mobilephone. I haven’t noticed fashion take a front seat to practicality on cyclists, whether commuting or exercising. However, in some European cities, some bloggers have taken note of style in their parts of the world. Take a look!

Copenhagen Cycle Chic:copenhagen-cycle-chic

Yes, you can look fab and cycle to work. I love the tag on this page: “Dress for your destination, not your journey.”

Amsterdam Street Style:

After Dark:



Since I missed posting last week due to a last minute trip to Amsterdam (that’s another post), I’m sharing 2 videos this week.

Another Kurt Hugo Schneider video Featuring the Air Wheel (& a great cover of 1D)

And to prep for football season (USA PEEPS), here’s a little OMI for you, courtesy BBCRadio 1Extra Live Lounge.

ChitChat Pack 1.4: Tech in our Home

chitchat pack small bites The summer is flying by quickly. The past week has had unbelievably good weather – sunny and not too warm – perfect for reading outdoors. I’ve done quite a bit of reading this summer (love the Kindle app for my Android phone) but also am addicted to watching Periscope. (I’ll chat more about it in a minute.) We’ve got a lot of tech in our home in the form of cameras, smartphones, iPads and our computers. So it’s no surprise that our child is comfortable with different technology and software. She’s a natural behind the camera and knows how to take decent photos on our phones as well as with digital cameras. (She even videotaped a series of how-to-make-origami animals a couple of weekends ago. I need to edit them for her but other than setting up a tabletop tripod and camera for her, she did everything else – impromptu scripting, set up, etc.)

david fugazzotto photography

Isabella captured her father perfectly here when she was 4 or 5.

We monitor her use and have taught her how to use our basic equipment (cameras, laptop, mobile devices) and to respect our rules for what she can watch and which sites she may visit. Also, since my work computer is located in a shared family space, I’m conscious of what I view and read on screen now that she’s reading at a 9 or 10 year old level. I’m also careful what I post because she’s bound to Google me or her dad one day. Teen angst is bad enough without being embarrassed about something your parents wrote about you when you were younger.

Anyway, moving right along to a few of my favorite discoveries from the last few days. This has become a blog post of mini-blog posts, eh?

dog with a blog screenshotDog with a Blog

The other day, little B was feeling under the weather so I let her use my computer for a while to watch iTunes, specifically a Disney show she loves, Dog with a Blog. It’s a clever little show with a blended family and smart, charming kid actors. Sometimes the parents are corny, naive, and maybe a little clueless about what’s really going on in the mind of their teenage daughter. Just like in real life.

Podcast: Stuff Mom Never Told You

SMNTY broaches topics that my Filipino mom would NEVER in a million years talk to me about. Never. This enlightening podcast allows me to listen to those touchy subjects in the car, on headphones, in private. Brilliant! PS: Headphones are strongly recommended for those who blush easily.

clementine daily screenshot Clementine Daily’s Daily Quotes

When I need a little boost, I’ll seek out an inspirational quote or 2 or 3. I adore the daily quotes in Clementine Daily, founded by Design for Mankind‘s Erin Loechner. And who can deny the calming pull of peach and white?

Visual Supply Co’s Journal

If you love eye-catching photography, creative shoots, brilliantly designed pages, check out VSCO’s Journal. You won’t need to open an account to surf the journal’s collections. Here are a couple of my favorites. Enjoy!

common comfort izzy rael Izzy Rael: 15 year old uber blogger/photographer

Izzy’s website Common Comfort is such a gorgeous site that it’s hard to believe she’s only 15. Check out her VSCO photo collection here.

Mustafah Abdulaziz: American photographer based in Berlin.

Fantastic collection “Water”… See his latest photo collection here.

Social Media updates

Why Facebook Strong-Armed an App Developer and Crushed His Viral App

I’m unsure if I would have downloaded an app that could show who unfriended me on Facebook, but I do find it interesting that Facebook quickly dashed it into the ground. An app like “Who deleted me” would help quickly clean up friends lists much like how Twitter users can see who unfollowed them via other 3rd party apps. Perhaps Facebook will create an option in a future update? One can only hope.

screenshot periscopePeriscope Rocks!

I’m a relatively new Periscope user and I’m still figuring out the ideal time to catch up with those I follow (being across the Pond from popular US based Periscopers can be painful!). Wait, you don’t know what I’m talking about? Start off with a quick read from popular photo site, FStoppers. Even if you’re not a photographer, this article gives you a good idea what it can be used for in terms of sharing information “live” to up to 1000+ viewers and having it up for followers for 24 hours. For instance, Hubby and I were watching Neil Diamond in the UK last week live on Periscope – one of his crew was broadcasting from the arenas (it was announced on Periscope and Twitter feeds).

Here are 2 broadcasts I enjoy watching on a regular basis  (nearly daily!):
Portrait photographer Peter Hurley (he’s funny and engaging)
American expat in Rome Katie Parla She’s a historian and a foodie who broadcasts Roman sights (popular and obscure)

33 Websites That Will Make You a Genius

Bookmark this site for a rainy day or weekend project. Medium provides a wonderfully concise list of useful websites to make you smarter about practically any subject.

Music and Video’s interview earlier this year with Michael from Marlais

marlais michael museradio Marlais’ Electronic – folk music brought MuseRadio out to Berlin earlier this year for a great interview. You can read more on the MuseRadio blog and catch the podcast here.

Cheerleader – OMI: The Filharmonic (A Cappella Cover)

I grew up in Texas with traditional Filipino parties that always had a Minus One or Karaoke sing-off. Singing contests were part of our Filipino community and to this day, there’s a sense of pride when popular rock and YouTube stars include singers with Filipino blood. Lea Salonga, (Black Eyed Peas), Darren Criss (Glee), AJ Rafael (YouTube) and now The Filharmonics, who played the Filipino acapella group in Pitch Perfect 2.


ChitChat Pack 1.2 – Sound Bites

chitchat pack sound bitesAs I’m writing this late in the night (early in the morning?), I’m listening to a mixtape by Scottish-born DJ Stillhead. It’s a super-chill mix to start with and perfect background music to write about this week’s collection of stories and links. I’m a natural sharer and with each new discovery, I bookmark, tab, highlight relentlessly with the diehard intention to share. Sometimes I get a common theme going and other times, it’s a literal, verbal hot mess or brain dump. This week’s edition is a collection of Sound Bites, focusing on 2 of my favorite themes: Music and Food on a global stage. You see, after living in Europe, Asia and the USA, I would be hard-pressed to ignore the different cultural influences pockmarking my musical and gastronomic tastes. I hope you’ll check out some of these special finds, enjoy listening or reading about them and maybe, just maybe, seek them out in your piece of the world. Because, dear readers, [Tweet “the world has so much to offer and what’s life without a bit of adventure?”]

Intentionally Mysterious: A Freunde von Freunden mixtape by DJ Stillhead (AKA Alex Cowles)

A couple of years ago, I attended a blogger conference in Berlin, a city that visitors either love or hate. I’m one of those travelers who enjoys the cultural mix that makes Berlin unique and alive, more so than other cities in eastern Germany. Two of the conference speakers came from Freunde von Freunden, an international publication that introduces different cultures, cities, industries from around the world. I learned that mixtape talents often came from the local Berlin music industry, which is just as much a melting pot as the city itself. Stillhead’s mixtape for FvF is best listened to while traveling. Plug it in to unplug from your crazy morning commute.

FvF mixtapes found on Mixcloud or iTunes are unique and you can count on a new one every 2 weeks.

Mixcloud link:

Freunde von Freunden Mixtape #90 by Stillhead by Fvonf on Mixcloud

Discover Paris with Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos

meet me in parisI won’t lie to you; we love Paris. Heck, we love France. My husband is a bonafide Francophile although I think he could live anywhere in the world and be happy. When I stumbled on this little video after having visited Paris at the end of June, I had to share it here. While we do make a point to visit typical tourist spots, we also prefer to mix up our itinerary with a lot of wandering, preferring to enjoy the overall experience as much as possible. You’ll see a lot of the Paris I love when you watch Eve Jackson’s video with 3 prolific British artists (a singer, portrait artist and actress). You’ll get a look at a food and music lover’s walk around Montmartre, wander through a favorite Parisian museum housed in an old train station, and visit an artist’s studio. (You know I paused it a few times to catch the names of a couple of the food shops they visited for our next visit to the City of Light!)

Did you know that July is National Ice Cream Month in the USA?

japanese ice cream It’s no secret to anyone who’s lived in Germany that the Germans love their ice cream or “eis”–the creamier, the better. And the Italian gelato ice cream truck is a favorite sight to see year ‘round. (Eis Tony comes to the bottom of our driveway at 1700 or 5pm, every day, rain or shine.) There are so many yummy flavors in this world from personal favorite Goma or black sesame ice cream in Japan to straciatella in Europe.

Here’s a lovely and yummy recipe from chef and author David Lebovitz for Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream.

And to top off your ice cream dreams, a more recent writeup on an adventurous ice cream shop in Australia with luscious and experimental flavors and toppings

Another great list from Matador Network: 9 Things that only happen when you travel solo

life is a daring adventureIf you caught last week’s ChitChat Pack, I mentioned that I only recently started becoming comfortable traveling solo. Why? When I was in the Navy, at one point while assigned with the 7th Fleet in Japan, I always needed a travel buddy to leave the ship whenever we pulled into a foreign port. Before then, I’d only had a chance to wander around a new city a couple of times on my own timeline with my own checklist (or non-checklist). Of course, I quickly figured out with whom I was comfortable traveling around a strange city and I have fab memories of those visits! But there’s a lot to be said about traveling solo. This quick list of 9 things is so very true… I’ve met some of the most interesting people and collected fantastic memories that would not have happened if I wasn’t traveling solo.

Profile: German Violin maker Frank Rittwagen

A couple of weeks ago, our child decided that she wanted to learn how to play the violin. I thought maybe it was just one of those fleeting whims that every young child gets. (Natch, she’s still very much obsessed with it so we have a trial class at a local school soon.) Neither my husband nor I play the violin (he played briefly as a youngster before switching to trumpet). I’d hoped perhaps she would want to learn the piano or keyboard first. I don’t normally subscribe to “signs” but when I was listening to FvF’s mixtapes earlier, I found their profile on German violin maker, Frank Rittwagen. Maybe it’s a “sign”…


make wine not war syrian wine We live in wine country (that’s my child running through a nearby vineyard) and I love learning about the different wines produced in this region, especially when the local vineyards open up their businesses and offer dinner a couple of times a week in the summer. Imagine my surprise when I learned about a pair of brothers who, against all odds, are continuing their family dream of making wine in a Syrian war zone.


International Mashup:

We (my child and I) are fans of YouTube musical artists. I’m also a fan of mashups. Here’s a crazy fun mashup from uber-popular Kurt Hugo Schneider’s channel from earlier this year when he and his buds traveled to India. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading! Comments are always appreciated (unless they’re totally snarky and rude or you’re a spammer, then you’ll get the big D).

Cheering you on,

Photography Credits: 

  • Britney Brown, Des Moines-based photographer. You can find her at Britney Brown Design or follow her on Facebook 
  • Morguefile. One of my main go-to free stock photo sites.
  • Canva. I use this fantastic and free/low-cost site for simple and beautiful graphics for use here on my blog, my business site Global VA Connect, and on social media.


ChitChat pack 1.1 – Links We Love

chitchatpack1.1 links we loveHave you ever experienced writers’ block? That staring-blankly-at-a-white-page zoned out look? I’ve been in a writing slump lately and hoped a bit of personal travel would help. While it helped to recharge, the brain cells still needed a sumpin’-sumpin’… a spark. Not sure what it is, but even after a trip to Paris and visits with out-of-town friends and family, I’m still on the hunt for the elusive spark. I’ve started and stopped a half-dozen writing projects in as many weeks. I’ve recently started a 3-day Business Blogging Badass Challenge with Anne McAuley that had me thinking of all the “stuff” in my overflowing inbox, all the potential content! Every week I get tons of stories in my inbox. So I scrubbed, I hemmed, I hawed. Finally…here’s a small collection of links we love, digital finds, favorite stories, tips & hints.

Older parents rock!

We never intended to be older parents. Since we didn’t marry until our early 30s, we knew we’d be a bit older than other parents when our child/children reached schoolage. What I never expected is that I’d be (1) in my 40s and (2) retired from one career when our daughter entered kindergarten. I don’t think it takes a research study to tell me that being older and having more financial means to provide for my child has an impact on our overall lifestyle and yes, happiness. But it’s still an interesting 2-minute read.

[Tweet “Older Parents are happier parents according to German researchers”]

Just in time for summer festivals: A beer and food pairing guide

beerfoodpairingWhen it’s hot and humid, sometimes a cold beer is the perfect drink to accompany the different foods available at the different festivals here in Germany and around the world this summer. I wish this infographic was a bit bigger as it’s a Tweet from The Wine Wankers in Oz. (Maybe they’ll see this and post a full image? One can only hope for a pocket-sized version…)

Beer and food pairing guide

And what festival would be complete without the local version of a hot dog?

ultimate hot dogOne of my favorite traveling food critics, Andrew Zimmern, waxes poetic about the ultimate hot dog. Here’s his ultimate hot dog… recipe! Pssst… it’s more than just a grill or a pot of water on the stovetop!

Andrew Zimmern’s ultimate hot dog

Solo travelers will appreciate this next piece!

links we loveAs an introvert who loves to travel but hates crowds, I’m lucky that my husband shares similar tendencies. It’s only recently that I’ve taken to traveling solo and have enjoyed London, Berlin and Paris for a few days at a time to recharge. If you wondered how an introvert travels solo, take a few minutes to read World of Wanderlust’s guide to understand the introverted wanderer.

12 Tips for the Introverted Traveler

Bargain lodging doesn’t have to be a flea motel

I love a bargain and am always on the lookout for unique places to stay. If I’m traveling solo or with my child, I also look at places that are relatively safe but offer a bit of culture outside the door. This collection of hostels around the world makes me want to book a ticket.

10 Awesome Hostels around the World

Campers and caravans: the ultimate roadtrip

camper_TII worked with a family guy who loved to travel around the US in his luxury RV. His twin boys loved being able to stretch out while mom or dad drove the huge RV, sometimes towing their car, from state to state, coast to coast. I enjoyed hearing the stories and especially hearing about how much money they saved by staying in campgrounds than in expensive hotels. Maybe one day, we’ll join the camper craze! Conde Nast traveler recently reviewed the best campers for summer road trips.

Summer project: Closet Detox

The Chalkboard online magazine is a new favorite addition to my daily feed and I’ve been following the Closet Detox this summer. My goal is to get a capsule wardrobe started by the time summer ends. However, I need a serious closet detox first!

The Closet Detox Part 2

RIP Chuck

I’ve been following one of the original mom bloggers, Heather Armstrong of for years now. I admit, I started following her because of the fantastic and funny photos of her dog Chuck. If you are an animal lover, do not read this without a box of tissues nearby.

Read Dooce’s tribute to Chuck “How I wish I was not here” 

Taylor Swift on repeat

This week’s most addictive tune on endless loop in our home, thanks to the wee one who’s a big Taylor fan.


Thanks for reading! I hope to do this on a regular basis to jumpstart each week. Comments are always appreciated (unless they’re totally snarky and rude or you’re a spammer, then you’ll get the big D).

xoxo, Melody

The Best Children’s Suitcase: The JAKO-O Cupboard Trolley

Childrens suitcase

Checking in at the airport

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I apologize to y’all because I’ve been truly busy working with awesome client projects at Global VA Connect the last couple of months. I’ve got several blogs in draft mode, waiting to be scheduled. However, with spring in full swing and travel on the mind, I thought I’d start the week off with a product review. Since we just came back from a last minute trip to see family across the Pond (Atlantic), I thought I’d share a quick review of JAKO-O Children’s Cupboard Trolley, what I now consider the best children’s suitcase with wheels.  I’ve highlighted 3 main reasons below: it’s age and height appropriate, its excellent design promotes efficient and organized packing (frazzled parents of independent children, this is a MUST), and it’s lightweight.


There are 2 sizes available, based on the child’s height. I’ve met some really tall 6 year olds… in fact, just this past week, we met a friend at a playground and her 6 year old was a full 8 inches taller than our child! That little girl would be perfectly fine with either the small or large model. The smaller is appropriate for a child 1 meter tall; the larger is meant for children 1.5 meters tall. Our daughter is just over 1 meter tall and it was perfect, even with the small trolley bag attached (it slides nicely over the telescopic handle).

She used the trolley bag as her main carryon, although we ended up carrying it since the little books tucked inside actually made it heavier than it looked. (I wish it had backpack straps, she wishes it had wheels and a telescopic handle.)

childrens suitcase

4 shelves and an antique milk jug of marbles


My favorite quality of this trolley is it’s truly a cupboard, with adjustable (velcro) shelves that have nice straps to contain clothes. The designer placed a lot of thought and consideration to the commuter child (visits grandparents or divorced parents) or the frequent child traveler.

Our 6 year old packed her bag herself with minimal help (a checklist to use and a final visual check from a parent), sorting clothes, toiletries & a few toys onto each shelf so she could easily find them later. She even managed to keep her clothes off the floor at her grandparents’ homes this past week when we were traveling. (Her old suitcase was one big space and even if she used small organizer bags to separate clothing like undergarments, socks and hair accessories, we’d still see a huge mess on the floor.)

There is no space for hanging items but her frilly little church dresses and tulle skirts easily rolled (no wrinkles!) and fit into one of the 4 shelves.

Outer pockets: The 4 side pockets were a nice size and could fit her toiletries, hair accessories and a couple pairs of shoes.

Laundry/sport/wet clothing bag: included in purchase is a nice size waterproof bag that matches the gray shelves. It’s perfect for dirty clothes or wet swimsuits.

Suggestion for Jako-o designer: Place a handle at the base, where the wheels are located so that it’s easier to grab out of the boot (trunk) or off the baggage claim. Also, add 2 wheels and make them all 360 degree spinner wheels, too. It would make for easier transport through busy airport terminals like Atlanta and Heathrow.


Since it’s a lightweight bag and smaller than typical luggage, we really don’t fear overpacking. In fact, if you look at the photo above, you’ll see a milk jug of marbles. That heavy antique glass jug wouldn’t fit in my luggage without tipping it over the maximum weight but was tucked in nicely on the bottom shelf of my child’s bag. (We did ask her first as it’s the polite thing to do.)

Nice to know information follows… 


It’s a bit pricey for a one-time trip, but since we do travel quite a bit for long weekends as well as weeklong (or more) trips, it’s worth the 99+€ for the cupboard trolley. This will likely be our last luggage purchase for her for a couple of years if not more. It’s well-made and protected contents well. If you want to protect your investment, you can also buy a trolley protector, a waterproof bag cover for a few euro more. (We didn’t)


Since we live in Europe, those are the links I’ve added above. Unfortunately, JAKO-O stores are located Germany and apparently, mail order is only available in continental Europe, Great Britain and Ireland. I’ve scoured English speaking sites but haven’t found a wheeled suitcase quite like this one. *If you know of one, please share!


Cost and exclusivity aside, this is the best single luggage purchase for children we’ve seen. No other bag has been able to address a child’s need for organization and independence as well as Jako-o’s cupboard trolley. And the colors are vibrant but not tacky, yet easily identifiable in baggage claim. I’ve hunted around for something comparable for myself, to no avail. I may just head back to the store to pick one up for myself. 

Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation, product or discount for this review. 

The Nanny Files: 8 Very Simple Things You Can Do To Save Your Sanity When Traveling With Kids

Tuesday Tips with Tasha

Carriage Ride Vienna Spanish Riding School

Waiting for our Carriage Ride outside Vienna’s Spanish Riding School (I really like this photo of them!)

Happy Tuesday, Blog Family! A few weeks ago, our dear nanny pal Tasha had a short Q&A session about modern childcare options. She’s been quite busy as a London nanny of 3 active children so we had to delay her next post to this week. When I asked her what she’d like to write about, we bounced around a couple of ideas until this one landed. Perfect for all the upcoming trips that families are oft to do when warmer weather strikes. (Although I suggest traveling in winter weather to get out of the winter blues!) Without further adieu, here are Tasha’s 8 proven simple things you can do to save your sanity when traveling with kids.

1 Have snacks, ALWAYS.

The last thing you want is to have kids saying “I’m hungggrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyy” and go on and on and on till you go in the shop to get something (which then turns into another nightmare). From ricecakes to fruit, have something to give them. I normally carry 3 different sets of snacks, plus something for yourself.

2 In the car, on the tube?

travel by streetcarSo you say you don’t want the kids on the iPad or phone the entire time? Get them too choose a colouring book/sticker book and a small little toy with which they can play on the journey, and stop the boredom and restlessness from appearing!

3 Let your children have their own little backpack, WHICH THEY KNOW THEY HAVE TO CARRY.

This allows them to have free access to the colouring books/reading books and little toys while on the journey and reduces the amount you have to carry. Make sure you tell the child before you leave he will be carrying it and be FIRM. If you end up carrying it, what’s the point?

4 Know where the toilets are located wherever you are going.

Simple, logical yet sometimes forgotten.

5 Write your mobile/cell number in PEN on the child’s arm.

Don’t write the child’s name just ‘mum’ ‘nanny’ ‘dad’, just in case they get lost. This helps ensure that someone will contact you.

6 Have a password with your child.

A pre-agreed word for safety to be used in case a stranger ever turned up and said ‘your mummy told me to get you’ and wanted the child to accompany him. If your child knows there is a password, he would ask the stranger for it, and know that he shouldn’t go with that person without the password. Remember if someone is picking up your child…..tell them the password. 

7 Have a plan A, B and C.

Just in case, you never know…and this means you can move onto the next plan without anyone knowing but yourself.

8 Don’t stress about what anyone else is thinking about how your child is acting, or the way you’re parenting.

If your child misbehaves, tell them off and don’t be afraid to do so because you’re out in public. Otherwise your child may become the ‘nightmare’ child as she knows you won’t do a thing once out in public. If your child is talking loud, playing her games, is happy and having fun, but the people around her don’t like it…tough! You and your children have every right to be there too. There is no need to get stressed over other people.

So, lovely readers, what did you think? Do you have your own tips to add to this list? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! 


Special thanks to Tasha for her easy to remember tips and we’ll see her soon, here again on a future Tuesday! If there’s something you’d like her to discuss, pop it into the comments or send an email to Thanks for stopping by!

Marilyn Monroe + Love: Free Valentine’s Day Printable

If you visit my Facebook page, I’ve been adding a printable a day this week leading up to February 14th. It’s been fun finding a favorite quote and mashing it with a graphic to make a free Valentine’s Day printable for you.

Today’s quote is from one of 20th century’s iconic sex symbols.

Click here for your free printable! Love Marilyn Monroe Love Marilyn Monroe

Friday Freebie: Free Valentine’s Day Printable “Love & Motherhood”

With Valentine’s Day around the corner,

I’ve decided to pull the mental creativity plug, the one that’s been in place for a while when I’m working on my paying gig and get into the mood with a free Valentine’s Day printable poster for you. Today’s freebie is about love and motherhood. Be sure to come back during the next few days or check out my Facebook as I’ll be creating a few more quotable posters, all ramping up to this fun and sweet holiday. (I may also create some coloring pages since I’m sure my little Muse will be by my side at some point, wanting and creating inspiration for her own projects.)

free valentines day printables

Free Valentine’s Day Printable

Next week is a busy week in the Fugz household with non-candy Valentine’s day cards to make for the kindergarten class of 18 (and teachers too!) and a couple of local parades that always fall around the same weekend. I wrote about our little town’s parade a couple of years ago. For this year, we’ll also stake out a good candy-catching spot at our city’s Fasching (Carneval) parade, so we need decent (warm) costumes since that’s at least 3 hours in the winter chill. The Mainz kid’s parade has over 3,000 participants and lasts over 2 hours!

However, back to Valentine’s Day…

I started thinking earlier about the origin of Valentine’s Day.  No, sir, it wasn’t always a marketing scheme like in the UK, USA and even Japan. That’s only been since the mid 1800’s!  So, are you curious? Check out The History Channel’s fantastic short video about the origin of this auspicious day. It’s informative and visually appealing… good enough for me to share with you, my faithful readers!

Don’t forget to click here for the downloadable poster: love motherhood poster

Modern Child Care, Mary Poppins and Tasha the Modern Nanny

nanny interview

Tasha spent a Saturday morning with us as her interview

One of the biggest stressors in a working parent’s life is how to handle child care. Modern child care with busy households differ across the globe, but for me and many Western mothers I’ve met, Mary Poppins and other fictional nannies like Nanny McPhee, can seem like a pipe dream.

This isn’t going to be a post about what’s better: stay at home moms (SAHM) or working moms with children in the care of someone else or work at home moms (WAHM). I’ve had ALL roles over the last few years and now, as a WAHM, my family is again experiencing a transition. I’m here to say emphatically that what’s best for one family isn’t the same for another. There are too many variables to consider for each family, each child. However, in future Tuesday posts, I hope to highlight observations on modern childcare options and concerns that seem to be a common theme in many countries around the world (Japan, US, UK, Germany for instance). A good friend and a UK nanny, Tasha, will also keenly contribute her thoughts and experiences in these posts too.  (So make sure you subscribe so you know when a new post comes out!)

Why write about child care? A couple of months ago, a viral video showing shocking abuse by an African nanny of her toddler charge raced through the Internet and lit up social media pages and electronic news media. Many blogs focused on this Ugandan nanny and the long minutes of abuse she handed out to the little girl who could barely speak, let alone walk.

So starting this month, I’d like to introduce readers to how child care is handled around the world, starting with a short Q&A with our Thoroughly Modern Nanny in London, Tasha.

Tasha is not Mary Poppins nor is she Nanny McPhee, although with her lovely British accent and unflappable personality and no-guff tolerated rule, she is as close to the ideal nanny as one can be…without the talking bird-umbrella and incredible, bottomless carpet bag. She’s a lot like the book’s heroine: “energetic, smart, presentable, and sensible” according to The Hairpin’s Mia Warren, who wrote a fantastic character review of P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins. By the way, I do tend to describe Tasha as our Mary Poppins. Here’s why.


Hiring a Mother’s Helper

A few years ago, soon after we moved to Germany, I decided to hire a part time mother’s helper or personal assistant. I’d just taken a full-time job as an executive assistant about 30 minutes from home but realized soon after saying “yes”, that I needed some help managing the household. In stepped a real-live Mary Poppins, our modern nanny and dear friend, Tasha. She lived with a German family nearby as their au pair and only worked with my family for about six months before returning to her native England, but the positive impact on our lives is still felt today. (In fact, we love her so much that we’ve included her on a quick weekend trip to Vienna so she can help with childcare for our family and four other families and also get some downtime of her own.)

Carriage Ride Vienna Spanish Riding School

Waiting for our Carriage Ride outside Vienna’s Spanish Riding School

She visited us a couple of months ago and I finally got the nerve to ask her about writing down her experiences: the good, the bad and the ugly. She would never speak ill of her past employers in a public forum but she was game to share advice, especially professional topics like what to look for in prospective employers or how to find positions as a nanny or au pair. When she returned to England after our visit, she agreed to answer a few introductory questions with this first post. She’ll be visiting Global Family Treks as often as possible for a new series we’ve dubbed “Tuesdays with Tasha”. We’ll definitely learn more about life as a young professional child care provider and hopefully, over time, get a peek into her life as a proper British nanny.


And now a few words from Tasha, our “resident” British nanny…

Question 1:  Tell us a bit about yourself.  Why are you a nanny now and how did you begin your journey?

Hello! I am a 24 yr old professional nanny: qualified, first aid and food safety trained. I have cared for newborn babies to teenagers. I live and work in London.

I came into the profession by becoming an au pair in Chicago, taking care of a month old baby girl, a type 1 diabetic 6 yr old boy and an 8 yr old boy. This was four years ago. I still talk to the family and once a year, they bring me over for a holiday/vacation. Once in Chicago, I found that my organisational skills were really useful and that I was quite naturally gifted in caring for children, which was the BIGGEST surprise to me, as even 6 months before I didn’t believe that I would with children. And nearly 5 years later I have taught babies to talk and walk,  potty trained toddlers and a whole lot more.

Question 2:  What are the top 5 things that you wish all parents would consider before hiring someone to care for their children in their home, whether an au pair or a nanny?

  1. I wish parents knew and understood exactly what they want from their childcare provider.
  2. That they shouldn’t expect their childcare provider to deep clean the house unless being paid extra (and) at the rate in which cleaners are paid for in the area.
  3. Parents should not have different rules for themselves and the childcare provider; children and babies should have the same routine throughout. If you do not want your nanny to give your child (the) TV/iPad/iPhone, you shouldn’t excessively give it your child as they will ask their nanny/au pair. If that is the norm with the parents, they will get confused as to why it is not (the norm) with the nanny/au pair.
  4. I wish parents would consider whether or not they want the nanny to have full care, part care or help within the home, so that the childcare provider can be organised and plan routines, and work with the parents, than keep being blocked when trying to.
  5. I wish parents would organise and consider before getting a childcare provider what discipline routine they would put in place and work with the nanny/au pair together this would enable the parent to back the au pair/nanny if a situation occurred with the child.

Question 3:  What are the main differences between a nanny and an au pair?  And do they differ greatly in different countries?

An au pair is not to have sole charge of the child. An au pair is from another country and is there for a cultural exchange. Au pairs are generally younger, ages between 18-26 without much experience.

Nannies organise playdates, appointments, lessons etc.  Nannies can live in and out and are paid more due to more responsibility. Nannies have experience or qualifications and sometimes both, and ages can vary. Nannies are more likely to have been screened and checked e.g. DBS/CRB check*, background check and references.

*in the UK, a DBS check is a Disclosure and Barring Service check. DBS was formerly known as a CRB or Criminal Records Bureau check.

Question 4: What’s a favorite memory you have as an au pair or nanny that you can share?

My favourite memory is when I taught the first first baby/toddler to walk… Chicago Winter December 2000, she was wearing a bright pink snowsuit and we were in Starbucks. I took her out of her stroller and put her on her feet. I had to walk maybe 7 babysteps away and she walked to me. It was a very proud happy moment. Starbucks gave me a free coffee and her a baby-ccino!

Question 5:  What’s one thing you’ve learned as an au pair or nanny (no names please)?

I learnt that I always had to stand up to what I believe in, and not let myself be pushed around. I learnt that I had to be more confident in skills and abilities to know when I am right but also when I’ve made mistakes and to take responsibilty for them.


Do you have questions for Tasha? Post them in comments below and I’ll forward them. If there’s enough interest, we can do a Q&A as often as needed.

modern nanny

A farewell photo before Tasha moved back to the UK