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Backpacking with Baby

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Going backpacking is a great way to see the world. Everything you need is, literally, strapped to your back, making it easy to move from one place to another. It makes you stop and think “What do I really need? What am I actually going to use?” as you pack, because you have a finite space to fit everything into. It’s not for everyone, but Pat and I have always enjoyed backpacking, having done it around most of Asia and all around Canada and Ireland.

We thought that might change after we had a baby. A lot in our lives changed and we thought the way we travel would change, too. But after spending the last nine days backpacking through Portugal with our seven month old daughter, I can honestly say that backpacking made it much easier on us and was even less expensive than an all-inclusive resort trip would have been. Here’s what we did:

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  • We packed two 20 kg backpacks. One backpack had my clothes, the baby’s clothes, medicines, toiletries, swimming diapers, my cosmetics and books we never got to read (the joys of parenthood). The other had Patrick’s clothes, the baby’s bedding, a sling for places we couldn’t take a buggy and extra raingear and footwear for all of us. We also packed a smaller backpack with all of the things I would normally have in Maeve’s diaper bag: diapers, wipes, snacks, a sippy cup, nappy sacks, extra clothes, her jacket and sun hat, teething toys and plastic spoons. We used this backpack as our day bag. The only thing of any value we brought along was our Nikon.

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  • We booked our flights using flight points from one of our credit cards. If you’re getting a credit card and like to travel, make sure you get one that gives you flight points! They are a lifesaver. We paid an extra €40 for Maeve to come along (this was with Aer Lingus).
  • We got Maeve’s passport well in advance, but really, once you have the photos and paperwork ready to go you’ll have the passport within 10 working days.

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  • We bought a cheap, second hand stroller from a charity shop for €10. It was a piece of junk, but had comfortable lining, a hood to protect Maeve from the sun, working straps and it folded up neatly so it was easy to take on the plane.
  • Once we arrived in Portugal we would leave our larger bags, strap the baby in her stroller, sling on the smaller backpack and go exploring.
  • For things like walking tours, we would use the baby sling instead of the buggy. We used a blanket cover and a hat to protect Maeve from the sun and always picked the shady side of the street for walking. We never had to use sunscreen and she never got sunburn.

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  • We researched the things we really wanted to see and do beforehand so we had a rough nine-day guideline. We kept things very loosely organized so we could always go back to the hotel for a nap or change plans at the last minute (if you make hotel reservations, try to get a free cancellation policy!).
  • As for accommodation, we only booked the first half of our trip as we didn’t know how the baby would travel or how exhausted we would be towards the end. That way we could stay put for a few extra days or, if we were all up for it, visit somewhere new by train.

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  • We avoided touristy restaurants, which tend to be overpriced, and stuck to cafe breakfasts of coffee and pastry and authentic suppers, which were very reasonably priced (and also baby friendly – most restaurants had high chairs available and the wait staff kept the baby well entertained!). We ate a lot of lovely meals but didn’t indulge in any Michelin Star dining experiences.
  • We used the train, tram, bus and subway systems instead of taxis or car rentals. It was cost effective, the baby enjoyed seeing all kinds of random strangers and we got to know our way around more quickly than we would have if someone was chauffeuring us around.

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These are just a few things that made our lives a lot easier while we were travelling with Maeve. If she were a different baby then perhaps we would have had a harder time – if she didn’t like strangers and became anxious when placed in a new environment, then maybe we would have had a completely different experience. We lucked out in the baby department I guess; she’s a born backpacker just like mom and dad.

Another great resource for travelling with babies can be found at bibliocook.com – an especially recent article written by Caroline outlines tips for long haul travel with kids. Great reading if you’re planning a trip with your babies!

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A Belated St. Patrick’s Day Greeting

Hello, friends!

Pussy Willows! In Urlingford, Co. Kilkenny

Pussy Willows! In Urlingford, Co. Kilkenny

We made it to Portugal and back in one piece. Actually, even better than one piece (if that’s possible). We flew out last Friday (the 7th) and returned to Ireland after nine blissful, sunshiney days touring the country with our backpacks and baby in tow. We flew back to Ireland the day before St. Patrick’s Day for obvious reasons – I mean, we couldn’t let Maeve celebrate her first Paddy’s Day in another country. It’s bad enough that Pat had to celebrate Ireland’s huge 6 Nations win in another country (believe me, I’ve been hearing all about it).

The Kennedy Girls at Grandad's

The Kennedy Girls at Grandad’s

It was my first Paddy’s Day in Ireland, too. As we approach my one year anniversary in the country I marvel at the fact that I haven’t been here longer. I feel like I have. Not in a bad way; it just really feels like home. And as lovely as Portugal was (much more on that to come), it was equally lovely to come back – first to Tipperary and then to our little house in Waterford.

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It was in Tipperary that we celebrated Paddy’s Day. Two of Pat’s siblings were home, as were our nieces, so we had a very low-key celebration involving Shepherd’s Pie, Portuguese Egg Tarts (Pastel de Nata) brought back from our travels and tea. Of course, we took the girls to a nearby parade in Urlingford (which is in County Kilkenny – Pat’s small village is right at the edge of Tipperary and doesn’t do a parade). It was a great fun with lots of village “inside joke” floats we didn’t get and other more general ones we did.

Father Ted Parody

Father Ted Parody

A float about emigration - Canada, Australia or Johnstown (down the road)?

A float about emigration – Canada, Australia or Johnstown (down the road)?

Of course, there were two separate floats celebrating rugby star Brian O'Driscoll

Of course, there were two separate floats celebrating rugby star Brian O’Driscoll

Local hurling champs

Local hurling champs

I have so much to say about Portugal, but it can wait – I wanted to wish each and every one of you a Happy Belated Paddy’s Day, however you celebrated and wherever in the world you are.

Sláinte Mhath!

Cranberry Pistachio Loaf

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So it’s Thursday.

It’s been a crazy few months, and tomorrow morning we’re heading to Dublin Airport where we will fly to Portugal in the afternoon. Patrick needs this vacation so he can de-stress from work. I need this vacation so I can de-stress from “not working”, aka staying home with baby all day.

I mean, I love my daughter. I just need to de-stress. Babies are stressful. Who knew?

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I’m actually really excited for our first family vacation. Some people will think we’re crazy bringing a seventh month old along for a week of backpacking through Portugal, but I firmly believe that as long as we’re relaxed, she’ll be relaxed, too. All will be well. We can dip her little feet into the sand (though probably not the water!) at the beach and tote her along in her sling as we taste-test port wine. We’ll visit some friends in Lisbon and explore the markets and fortresses. All will be well.

I need to keep thinking positively. Maeve is teething and although I can see a little tooth down there, it has yet to break through her gums. She is not in the best cheer these days, but she loves it when dad and I are both home – hopefully that means she’ll enjoy being on vacation with the both of us. Fingers crossed!

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For our last day before vacation we did what we usually do on Thursday mornings – we went to our local breastfeeding group so Maeve could play with her friends and I could have a cup of coffee with my friends. I made this deliciously moist loaf to have with our coffee and, as it was gone before I could have a slice, I have to take the ladies’ words for it and say it was yummy.

Until next time!

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Cranberry Pistachio Loaf

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Rind of one lemon

2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup AP flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup whole cranberries

For the glaze:

1 cup crushed pistachio

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp vanilla

3-4 Tbsp milk

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees Celsius, no fan). Line a loaf pan with parchment, or generously butter and flour a loaf pan if you have no parchment.
  • Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer (or hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about one minute on medium speed). Add the lemon rind and vanilla. Mix to incorporate.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each egg. Add the buttermilk.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture. Add the salt. Mix until just incorporated.
  • Fold in the cranberries.
  • Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake it in the preheated oven (center rack) for approximately 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the loaf. Peel away the parchment and cool completely on a rack.
  • Make the glaze: mix the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla & half the chopped pistachios in a bowl. Gradually add the milk until you have a glaze of medium-thickness (you want to be able to drizzle and pour the glaze but you don’t want it to be so thin that it won’t stick to the loaf).
  • Put cooling rack with the loaf over some parchment or a pan and slowly pour the glaze over the loaf, coating it completely. While the glaze is still wet, sprinkle the remaining pistachios over the top.
  • This loaf will keep for about 3 days if you keep it in an airtight container (it’s actually nicer the next day!). You can freeze it indefinitely, just don’t add the glaze until you’re ready to serve.

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