Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spring in the City

As a child growing up in Miami, I could never understand the reason for the big fuss about spring. My dad, who was born and raised in Tehran, would wax nostalgic about the flowers blooming and the trees slowly growing leaves again and I would just sit there listening to him and feeling very meh about the whole thing. Looking back, I realize that my reaction was totally predictable for someone who lived in a climate where the arrival of spring meant nothing more than that summer, that sticky, humid, rainy mess that is a Miami summer, was just around the corner. My lack of enthusiasm probably also stemmed from the fact that there aren’t many good holidays to look forward to in the spring (I think every child grows out of Easter at the age of 5, am I right?) and also because I have a strong dislike of pastel colors and as we all know, spring has not arrived until you walk into a CVS and see row upon row of baby blue, custard yellow, and Pepto Bismol pink.  

But now that I live somewhere where we actually experience seasons, I’ve been converted into a full-on spring enthusiast. I love walking around the city and seeing the first signs of spring everywhere: from the green leaves peeking timidly out of the tree branches to the tulips and ranunculus sitting prettily in their buckets at the flower market and of course, the long awaited debut at the supermarket of strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and asparagus! (P.S. Am I the only person who’s ever put an exclamation mark after the word asparagus? Probably). It makes me so giddy that I almost want to walk around town singing ‘Spring,spring, spring’ from that old movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. But I don’t because I don’t want people to think that I’m crazy. Both for singing out loud and for liking that movie.

Here are some pictures of spring in the city. 

Hope you're having a lovely, sunny day!


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lost in medical translation

Roman had pink eye last week and as he and I were sitting in his pediatrician's office waiting for her assessment, I was reminded of something I noticed when I first moved to Spain and started going to the doctor: here they use correct medical terminology for illnesses and ailments whereas in the U.S., we tend to use descriptive names or non-medical terms. To give you an example, Roman was diagnosed with 'conjuntivitis' by his Spanish doctor, which is the scientific term for pink eye.

Here are some more examples:

1. The disease we know as chicken pox in the U.S. is called varicella in Spanish which is indeed its   scientific name.
2. When your child has an ear infection, he actually has a condition called otitis media. In Spanish, we would just say he has otitis.
3.  If you live in the U.S., you've probably never heard the term 'pharyngitis' before but it just means sore throat. In Spanish, they say faringitis.
4.  When most people fall down and bruise their knee, they don't say they have a 'hematoma' which indeed they do. But this is what they would tell their Spanish doctor.
5.  We use the word 'myopic' all the time in English, normally in the non-literal way to describe someone who has no imagination. But perhaps most people prefer to use the term nearsighted instead of myopic. In Spanish, there is no other word for this condition. If you can't see what's right in front of you, you are miope.

I'm not sure why American doctors use this soft, non-scientific language. Perhaps they're trying to not scare or intimidate people by using these terms and that's why they opt for lay language. Although when you think about it, some of these descriptive terms sound much scarier than the actual thing. Imagine that you were hearing the word chicken pox for the first time. To me, the term conjures an image of a bird pecking me to death. I think I'd be much more afraid of that than of being told I had varicella which sounds like a kind of pasta.

I remember when we first moved here, after every doctor's visit, the Professor and I would whip out our phones and quickly Google Translate our condition to make sure it was what we thought it was and reassure ourselves it was nothing serious. Oh how much we've learned in the three years we've been here. Between learning correct medical terms and mastering the metric system, we could do very well in medical school right now.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share. If you like this post, you may like these other ones I've written about language and cultural differences:

Avoiding embarrassing (but funny!) mistakes in Spanish
'Go fry asparagus' and other weird things we say

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Black day

Yesterday a flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf crashed in the French Alps, killing all 150 passengers aboard. I know that most of you probably already know this unless you've been living under a rock or something, but I felt I had to mention it and that to not say anything at all about it here on the blog would be an egregious neglect. The truth is, I've been trying hard not to think about it and to stop myself from reading all the news reports that come out about it, but as the city is in mourning and everybody's talking about it, it's pretty hard to escape. It breaks my heart to think about the families of those on board and what they must be going through. It's so devastating, I don't even know what to say or why I'm writing this post. I don't want to bring anyone down but I just had to acknowledge it. Keep yourselves well dears.

(Photo found on Panasonic Lumix website)

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Palo Alto Market

Last Sunday we did something we've never done before. We went way out of our way to a neighborhood we barely know and stood in line for 45 minutes. We weren't there for the opening of a hip club (us? ha!), a trendy new restaurant or a concert. Nope. We were there to check out a new market that opened in December in the up and coming neighborhood of Poblenou. If you've never been there, Poblenou has a very industrial, almost gritty feel to it (I can best summarize my first impression of the neighborhood by saying that I somehow felt very aware of concrete) but it's recently become the home of many youngsters and hipsters, artists and innovators (watch this video if you want to learn more). Thus, it probably comes as no surprise that it's also the birthplace of the Palo Alto Market.

The Palo Alto Market seeks to create a different kind of open air market in the city, one that highlights local businesses and focuses on art, vintage fashion and home décor and handcrafted goods. But they also want the market goers to have fun as they're exposed to these new vendors so there is live music, workshops for adults and kids, gourmet food trucks and a general ambiance not unlike attending a garden party with 1,000 other people.

Here are some pictures from our visit:

At last the food truck craze has made it to Barcelona--and with such panache too. Isn't this truck adorable? You'd expect it to serve cotton candy or strawberry shortcake, but indeed it serves piadina (Italian flatbread sandwiches). 

I think that, in fact, most people came here to eat. That was certainly a major factor in our visit (plus a 45 minute wait in line certainly works up one's appetite), so I sampled the goods from this vendor (yummy) and then had dessert at the Çukor stand where they sold a wonderful dessert, kurtos, which taste very much like the cinnamon toast I used to make as a child. 

A picture of my lunch. Calamari on a bun with a spicy, Japanese mayonnaise. Not too shabby. 

You can see now why I said it's like a large garden party right? The foliage, the strings of lights, the pebbles crunching under your feet. A very beautiful setting for a market.   

These guys weren't the live entertainment I was talking about but they had some wonderful music and it contributed to the beauty of the surroundings. 

This market had many vendors that sold antique furniture and vintage pieces and we saw a lot of incredible pieces. This particular vendor had so much great stuff that I actually got really angry that my place is already furnished. 

I actually debated buying one of these enormous letter R's for Roman's room but the idea of carrying it on the metro stopped me. And how cool/terrifying is that big clown head? 

If you'd like to visit, the Palo Alto Market is located on Carrer dels Pellaires, 30. They are open on the first weekend of every month. Entrance is 2 Euro a person, children enter free.

Go, explore, eat, shop, and have fun! And let me know what you think!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Scenes from Palma de Mallorca & Valldemossa

Shortly before our trip to Miami for the holidays, the Professor, the little one and I visited Palma de Mallorca and the nearby hillside village of Valldemossa. Mallorca is one of the Balearic islands and is a popular tourist destination for many Europeans, especially the kind who like to party and get trashed--but that's not why we were there. Seriously. The Professor is a casual (mostly beer) drinker, my limit is two glasses of rosé, and Roman can just do a bottle of milk before he passes out (what a baby!). The Professor was there to attend a conference, and the little one and I were there to keep him company (aren't we so supportive? Wanting to explore a new city had nothing to do with our decision whatsoever).

Apart from being a party destination, Mallorca attracts people for its mild Mediterranean climate, beautiful beaches and breathtaking nature excursions. But since it wasn't the right weather for most of that stuff while we were there, we mostly got to know the capital city of Palma. Palma, with its beautiful churches and stately palaces, was definitely worth seeing and was especially charming during Christmastime with all of the lights up everywhere and winter carnivals taking place throughout the whole city.

Here are some scenes from our trip:

We arrived in Palma a few weeks before Christmas and, as you can see, the city was ready for it. This is the Plaza Mayor in the city center with strings of light hung all over the place. So beautiful, right? If we ever move back to the U.S., one thing I will miss most about Spain is the way the whole city sparkles during the holidays. Inflatable Santas on your front lawn just can't compete. 

Apparently kids are not excited enough about Christmas, or so think the people of Palma. Kids shouldn't be able to walk more than a few yards without seeing a balloon seller, a clown, a carousel, a fun house, or what have you. The whole of the city center was like a kid's paradise, or a parent's nightmare. I had to put down more than a few tantrums when the little one wanted this balloon or that balloon or that really, really big balloon that only barely resembled Hello Kitty. He also wanted to ride every single ride (and some more than once) and as he doesn't understand the concept of money and that mommy has to pay 3 euro per ride, he thought I was just being mean to him. Cue the melodrama. I did give in occasionally, as you can see. I guess I'm just a sucker for a happy baby.

More beautiful lights on beautiful streets. Are you starting to understand my fascination?

Of course, there's more to Christmas than lights. There's also fried street foods and this one is one of my favorites. Bunyols are a typical doughnut-like sweet but the dough is made from potatoes. Sounds weird, tastes delicious. 

After they are deep fried, the bunyols are immediately rolled in sugar. Then, they are immediately consumed

No trip to Mallorca would be complete without sampling the most popular of Mallorcan desserts, the Ensaïmada, which is a sweet, egg bread that can be filled with cream, covered in powdered sugar, or my favorite, topped with apricots.

The postcard image of Palma is this building, La Seu Catedral. Definitely one of the most impressive cathedrals I've seen and the major tourist attraction in Palma. On the day we visited, it was chilly and kind of grey but the beauty of this building wasn't diminished at all. 

If you have kids, you could make a visit to La Seu fun by hanging out at one of the cafés by the water and letting your kid feed the ducks. If your child is as mischievous as ours however, you might find that you're actually just restraining your child from chasing the ducks into the water. There's also a surprising number of people with really high tech, expensive, remote control boats who come here to play and that's fun to watch too. 

When we travel, we always try to find a nice spot for Roman to run around and burn off energy. We visited two great parks in Palma. This was one of them, located right next to La Seu and the other one was the Parque de las Estaciones by Plaza España pictured below.  

On the third day of our trip, we decided to explore a little mountaintop village near Palma called Valldemossa. We originally wanted to take the little, vintage train to Soller, but alas, the train was down for maintenance. So we took a less scenic bus ride to Valldemossa after hearing about its beauty from a few of the Professor's colleagues. Here it is:

It was only an hour's ride away but when you arrived, you felt you were in a different place entirely, totally removed from buses, taxis, shops, people, noise, and everything. It was just so beautiful and so quiet and so peaceful.

Even the shouts and laughter of the children playing tag in front of this church seemed muffled and distant. I'm telling you, this place was magical. 

This is a bust of Chopin, who came to live here with his lover and reportedly called Valldemossa the most beautiful place in the world. And, really, who are we to disagree with Chopin?

All of the houses were beautifully kept and for some reason, all of them had bright green trim. It seemed to be fitting of a place where verdant green trees and hills surround you

It's a tiny village so there isn't much to see but if you do visit, definitely plan to stay around five or six hours, long enough to enjoy a leisurely lunch by the fire and then some coffee and coques de patata, another Mallorcan sweet made of potatoes. And don't worry about any of the calories you consume because all of the super steep streets will definitely provide enough of a workout. 

Walking around the village, we spotted this ceramic pig outside a shop that sells jewelry and pretty things for your home. We decided to roll Roman over so he could say hi to the pig but Roman thought it would be more fun to caress the pig's butt. My little weirdo. 

So that was our trip to lovely Valldemossa and Palma. I'd definitely want to return some day. How about you guys?

P.S. For pictures of our last trip, to Aix en Provence, click here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Around here lately...

Sorry things have been so quiet on the blog recently! I actually have so many things to share with you guys but I fell victim to the debilitating disease known as procrastination. For me, procrastination feels a bit like how I imagine it would feel if someone performed a Confundus charm on you, you know? You have so many things to do, you're about to dive in, but suddenly, for no apparent reason that you can think of, you decide to drop all of the productive things you were about to do and start rearranging your books by color or picking the lint off your socks. So anyway, sorry little blog for my neglect.

To catch you up, three weeks ago we arrived back in Barcelona after a month long trip to Miami for the holidays. Miami was great: we spent time with family, saw friends, ate too much, shopped too much, watched too much tv, and generally had a wonderful time. I won't share any pictures of our trip though since they're mostly just Roman hugging (or refusing to hug) various family members. It'd be a bit boring of a recap, so I'll spare you. But! I do have some pictures to share from our recent trip to Palma de Mallorca so that will be up in a few days.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share some pictures of what we've been up to lately around here, so here goes!

This is a shot of the trees just outside my living room window. They're actually more like the skeletons of trees, and I for one, find them beautiful. The branches and twigs jutting out in different directions and the way they intersect and intertwine in a great big tangle reminds me a bit of a bird's nest. And to think that just two months ago, these same trees looked... this! One thing I love about living in Barcelona as opposed to Miami, is that we get to experience seasons! I now get to bitch about the winter just like everyone else! 

No matter the weather, kids still want to play outside. Roman especially, has always been mysteriously impervious to cold. The kid will kick off a blanket, pull of his socks, and run around buck naked if we'd let him (but don't worry, we don't!). Notice that we're the only nutters at the park though. Everyone else, sensibly, stayed inside that day. 

When we first got back to Barcelona from Miami, the extreme change in weather from balmy and tropical to wet and chilly meant that we all came down with a cold. First me, then the little one, then the Professor, just like dominoes. Our house was unkempt and wads of used Kleenex littered the nightstands and bookshelves (eww, I know). I decided that flowers would be the best way of injecting a little health and beauty into the place. Even though I still have a runny nose and can't breathe properly at night unless propped up, I think my pretty tulips do help put me in a better frame of mind. 

On the days where it's too cold or rainy to go the park, we wander the neighborhood looking for a warm place to camp out for a few hours with some tea and coffee and a chocolate milk for the little one. On Saturday, we discovered this newly opened family friendly cafe which is located right next to Parque de la España Industrial on Calle Muntadas. It has cute high chairs, a little coloring corner, and Legos which kept Roman entertained for an hour or two while the Professor and I chatted and flipped through magazines. 

Winter days can mean you're cooped up in the house for long hours, probably just loafing around and watching TV. You can break the cycle of boredom by busting out the board games. Here is the Professor kicking my butt for the third time in a row at Connect 4. I wish I could say that I lost because I was distracted and trying to keep Roman from licking a garbage can (which has happened), but in truth, I just suck at this game. 

Finally, over the weekend we changed Roman's crib into a toddler bed. We thought it was about time because while we were in Miami, he figured out how to climb out of his crib and he'd been doing it every chance he got. Sometimes he stacked his stuffed animals on top of each other and climbed over them and sometimes he just catapulted himself out with us having no idea how he managed it. One minute he'd be in there and the next minute he'd be coming to find us, doing his pouty cry and clutching his stuffed tiger. What an escape artist, that kid. I can picture him in there, like Steve McQueen, bouncing a baseball off the opposite wall and plotting. The transition to a toddler bed is only half completed though because we decided to push his bed against ours so that he's semi-trapped in there and so he feels that he's close to us without actually being in our bed. We figure eventually we can push his bed back against the wall where it normally is. I'll keep you all posted.

So that's what's new over here. How have you guys been?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Some useful things to have when you're expecting (Updated Version)

baby stuff

Remember this post from like a year ago? Apparently it's one of the most viewed posts I've ever written so over the Christmas break I decided to update it and repost it in case any of you missed it. My updates are in italics. P.S. In the future, if you're looking for this post or any other baby related post, make sure to check under the label 'baby'. 

A few months ago I found out that a good friend of mine in Barcelona (another American expat) is expecting her first baby, a little girl (!). We finally got a chance to catch up over lunch last weekend and she pumped me with questions about necessary items to have when you're expecting. Off the top of my head, I rattled off as many items as I could remember. But when I got home that day, I started making a more detailed list for her with links to the products on Amazon. Apart from telling her what I thought would be useful, I also told her what items I thought were totally unnecessary or which items we received and never ended up using. It occurred to me to post this same list here on the blog because I remember how overwhelmed I was when I was pregnant by all the lists of "must-haves" and "essential" items a baby supposedly needs. 

Before we get into the list, I think it's important to mention that what may have been useful for the Professor and I may not be for you. Our decisions on which products to buy were based on how much money we wanted to spend, the fact that we live in a big, walkable city where we don't need a car, the fact that our apartment is small and that we are not fans of clutter, and the fact that I'm a stay at home mom who breastfeeds and co-sleeps. So my advice to you would be to think about what would work best for your life as you read this list. With that disclaimer in mind, here are my recommendations:

For feeding your little one:

  • The My Brest Friend pillow  was something I used several times a day every day when nursing the little one. It's a real back saver and arm saver especially when you've got a newborn who nurses for hours so many times a day. As necessary as this was, the little one outgrew it really quickly and after he was two months old, I stopped using it. Since you might not use this item very long (or not at all if it turns out you're not able to breastfeed) my advice would be to borrow this item from a friend if possible or buy it secondhand. 
  • The Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump has probably been the most essential item I received. Even though I'm mostly a stay at home mom, I sometimes teach classes for a few hours a week and I need to leave the Professor a few bottles so he can feed the little one in my absence. The pump is very efficient but if you're going back to full-time work and still want to breastfeed, I would say to DEFINITELY get an electric pump. They're expensive but the manual pump that I have would give you carpal tunnel syndrome and it takes too long to fill a bottle. Apparently some hospitals allow you to rent out an electric pump from them so this might be a good option. Be sure to ask at the hospital where you plan to deliver. 
  • Comotomo Natural Bottles:  Even though the breast pump comes with two bottles, we registered for the Comotomo bottles since they are slow flowing (meaning your baby won't chug the milk) and because the shape is meant to imitate a breast. We used the bottles that came with our breast pump to store milk in the fridge and then we poured the milk from those into the Comotomo bottles. Now that the little one is eating solids and purees, we use the old pump bottles to store his homemade baby food. They're the perfect size! Note: I have two pieces of advice for picking out a baby bottle. The first is, don't buy too many. One or two should be sufficient because you may find that your baby doesn't take a bottle or that he/she has issues with the bottle you bought. The second piece of advice is to think about how difficult it is to clean the bottle you select and also how many pieces it comes with. I have to admit that one reason I liked the Comotomo bottles is because it's wide enough that you don't need a bottle brush and it only has two pieces to clean. 
  • You're going to need lots of burp cloths. In the early months, I had one in every room of the house because you never knew when a spit up/vomit situation would happen. I love the Aden and Anais burp cloths because they're soft and so big but really any kind will do. Note: baby spit up really smells and it gets stuck in a baby's neck and all their folds so don't be surprised if you're bathing your baby fairly often especially in the early days. 
  • I didn't register for breast pads, nipple shields, or nipple cream  I think if I'd have gone back to full-time work outside the home, I would have been more self-conscious of leakage and I would have bought the breast pads. I never needed nipple shields and the hospital gave me nipple cream which I only needed for a few days anyway.
  • Now that the little one is eating solids, I use this Immersion Blender to mash up all his food but any food processor or blender would work. As for spoons and bowls, just make sure whatever you buy is BPA free. Also, chances are you'll receive a million bibs as gifts and you can't see why you need so many but trust me, you do. 
  • The little one loves his mOmma water cup and we like that it's spill proof! Since he's teething now he also likes to gnaw on the straw. 
  • Of course, you won't need a high chair for the first five or six months, but I thought I'd throw in that we bought the ubiquitous IKEA Antilop high chair in white. It's inexpensive, slim and extremely easy to clean. As with the baby bottles, my advice to you when buying a high chair is to consider how easy it is to clean. If it's got a fabric cushion or a lot of tiny nooks where food can get stuck, I'd pass on it. Oh, and a note about buying a white high chair. Apparently carrots, tomatoes, strawberries and pomegranates all stain. This is not a big deal if you always wipe the chair clean immediately after every meal. But in case you don't get to the stain right away, I discovered that using a paper towel with vegetable oil easily removes stains from the chair. Sounds weird, but it really works

For putting the little one to sleep:

  • We bought this crib from IKEA along with an IKEA mattress and crib sheets and we barely use it. We never thought we would co-sleep with our baby since we were too afraid we'd roll over him or suffocate him. But it turned out to be the best solution for us. Even though we don't use the crib for night-time sleeping, I will sometimes plop the little one in there for nap or when I need him to play by himself in a safe place while I do stuff around the house. A play pen or pack n' play would work just as well for that purpose, but if you're living small like we are or on a budget, a crib will do just fine. Update: When the little one was around 11 months old, we sleep trained him and he's been using his crib ever since. 
  • I went back and forth over giving the little one a pacifier but in the end, I did and it truly did help him fall asleep. He doesn't go for a pacifier anymore but you might find them invaluable in the first few months like we did. My advice would be to buy just a few and see if your little one uses them.
  • We received many swaddles and only used them the first few days after the little one was born. He didn't like being swaddled and figured out how to get out of them. Interesting tidbit: Swaddling is not big in Spain. In the hospital where the little one was born, where all they do is births, the nurses had never seen a swaddle before and had no idea what to make of it. 
  • We never used sleep sacks but I can see where they'd be handy. The little was born in the hottest month of the year so we didn't start covering him with a blanket until late October. At that point, I started dressing him in warm, feet pajamas at night since every time I put socks or a blanket on him, he'd kick them off.

For diaper changes:

  • Hands down, the most used thing we own is the Skip Hop Changing Station. If you have the space for a changing table, that's wonderful. But if you live in a small apartment like we do, then this product is for you. It's made of vinyl so you can wipe stuff off it or wash it in case of emergencies. But when you're not using it, you can fold it up and put it away and when you need to go out, just grab it and head out the door. It has a compartment for extra diapers and it comes with a plastic container for baby wipes. P.S. I think diaper bags are unnecessary if you have a changing station. Anything else your baby might need (pacifier, bib, burp cloth) will fit in your purse or stroller basket. Update: We ended up buying a Skip Hop Diaper bag because the stroller we have has a very shallow basket and you can't collapse the stroller if there's stuff in the basket. The diaper bag has a long strap so it hangs right off the handlebars of our stroller whether it's open or folded up and that's super convenient since anything you might need (juice box, diaper, teething toy) is more accessible than if you had to rummage around in the stroller basket. As an added bonus, the diaper bag's become a very useful item to have every time we travel since we can fit so much in it. 
  • The little only had diaper rash when he was two weeks old and it went away as soon as we switched to perfume-free wipes. In any case, the hospital gave us a care package that came with diaper rash cream so we never needed to buy it. Update: Once he began eating solid foods, the little one got diaper rash more frequently so we always have a tube of diaper rash cream around. Our preferred one is Desitin.
  • The idea of a diaper genie kind of grosses me out so we never registered for one. Also we wouldn't have had the space for it anyway. We put dirty diapers in odor locking baggies we get at the supermarket. These ones are similar. Whenever we leave the apartment we just grab the full bag and toss it in the trash.
  • Another note on diapers: When the little one was born, I tried to spend as little money as I could but I learned a very important lesson: There are a few things in life you should never buy cheap, like luggage or car insurance. I also learned that you should never buy cheap diapers and that there is a difference between overnight and daytime diapers. Overnight diapers save you from the leakages that cause you to do laundry so often. 

For getting around:

  • Your choice of stroller will be determined by where and how you live. Barcelona is very walkable and has excellent public transportation. For that reason, the most popular strollers here are the Bugaboo and the Maclaren. This is because they are both lightweight strollers that take up little space in your home when folded up and are small enough that they are easy to navigate narrow and crowded city streets. The Bugaboo was way out of our price range so we settled on the Maclaren. We like that it's suitable from birth and light enough that we can carry it up and down the stairs in our building (we live on the 3rd floor with no elevator). Note: If I lived in Miami or Los Angeles or a city where you are constantly getting in and out of your car, I'd probably buy a stroller base with a car seat attachment. The Britax B looks good for this.  
  • It may seem unnecessary, but I'd advise buying a stroller liner. These attach to the stroller seat and can be removed for easy washing in the laundry machine. When your baby has an explosive diarrhea situation or spilled their chocolate milk all over themselves while in the stroller, you'll  realize that this was money well spent. As I've mentioned before, always think about how easy something is to clean before you buy it.
  • Easy as the stroller is, still easier is using the Ergo baby carrier. When we're popping out of the house to run errands or go for a walk, we strap on the Ergo and pop the little one in. He loves being pressed up against our chest and always falls asleep in it. Note: If I could go back in time I would have chosen another color besides black since you can see lint and spit up stains easier in black.
  • I mentioned in my original post that we don't have a car here in Barcelona so we didn't register for a car seat. But since we go to Miami for large chunks of time a few times a year, we ended up buying one when Roman was around a year old. There are SO many car seats out there and shopping for one can be quite intimidating. One thing I would suggest is to just bypass the infant car seat and buy a convertible car seat right from the get go that will grow with your child. The one we have is suitable from birth to 65 lbs. This is the one we have. A car seat is  a tricky thing to recommend though because experiences can vary depending on the size of your car, the year it was made, etc. Apparently, since 2002, cars have to come with the LATCH system which makes it easier to attach the carseat. If your car is older, it might be a little more hassle but as we have a newish car, this has never been an issue. Also we drive a mid-sized SUV so we find that the car seat is just the right size but if you have a smaller car, you might think it's really big. And keep in mind that if you buy a stroller system like the one I mentioned above, it'll come with an infant car seat so you won't need to worry about buying another car seat until your baby grows out of that one. 

For bath time:

  • We bought this baby tub and we love it. Because we're short on space, we love that you can fold it and put it away when you're not using it. We also bought the accompanying infant support. 

For play time:

  • I'm not a big fan of lots of bright, plastic and noisy toys so we have a very small collection of these. Up until a certain age, your baby will find amusement and entertainment in ordinary, everyday things (keys, water bottles, tissue paper, mommy's glasses, etc) so you don't need a bunch of stuff for them to play with. We got these stuffed animals because they're cute but the little one plays with them only sparingly.  
  • Ever since he was born, I've put him on his Activity Mat so he can stare up at the colorful hanging toys. When he got older he would bat at them and try to grab them. Now that he's seven months old, he uses this mat primarily to lie on his tummy and feel the different textures. He also likes the little mirror and the bird that chirps. I love that when he's not using it you can just fold up the mat, disconnect the arms and put the whole thing away. It's nice to not be surrounded with baby stuff all the time and take your living room back.
  • I've written before about his jumperoo. He, like most babies on Amazon, loves this thing. 

Other things that came in handy:

  • Nosefrida: Weird but effective way of clearing your baby's stuffed nose. Tip: If your baby's congested, take a hot shower and then bring the baby to the bathroom. The steam helps to loosen the mucus and is more gentle than the Nosefrida.
  • Sophie the Giraffe: Now that he's teething Sophie is a life saver. We take her everywhere.
  • Aden +Anais swaddle blankets: We didn't use these for swaddling but they're perfect as a light blanket, a discreet nursing cover when you're in public or to drape over the stroller on a really sunny day.
  • We received tons of clothes when Roman was born but most people like to buy a size up which meant that we had very little clothes that he could wear immediately upon coming home from the hospital. Make sure to buy yourself some of those cheap white onesies labelled NB for newborns just in case. 
  • Barcelona gets pretty chilly in the winter months so we bought this bundler to go on Roman's stroller. He's so snug and warm in it. You can see a picture of him in it here.
  • A last thing that I think is great and super useful. There is something called Amazon Mom I just found out about that gives you special deals and fast delivery if you subscribe. It also comes with coupons for baby stuff and a discount on diapers delivered straight to your door. We don't live in the U.S. so I'm not a member but it sounds pretty sweet. Have any of you tried it?

Things I think are unnecessary/things we never used:

  • White noise machine
  • Baby bottle dryer
  • Baby wipe warmer 
  • Infant swing
  • Boppy pillow 
  • Humidifier/Dehumidifier 
  • Baby mittens 
  • Video monitor
  • Play pen or pack 'n play 
  • Rocker/Glider
  • Baby food maker

I realize this was quite a lengthy post but I'm hopeful that some of you may find it useful one day. Good luck and/or congratulations!