Monthly Archives: August 2019

On… traveling solo with a baby

I just got back from a week in Ireland. My husband had three weeks off, so took both the big boys (age 5 and 7) for a long trip to see his family. I had to stay in NYC and do a little writing (about which, more soon) and so the baby and I went solo to join them for a week.

We flew via London, because it’s the only way to take a day flight from NYC, and we know how excruciating the night flights are with a baby. It all seemed very manageable when we booked it. Getting up at 5am to catch an 8am flight from JFK? Fine. Holding a ten-month-old on my lap for a seven hour flight to London? Fine. Changing terminals at Heathrow, which involves a bus and weird extra intense security and an insane amount of walking? Fine fine. Flying to Cork and landing at midnight, local time? Piece of oh holy shit what have I done.

I would never have done it solo with our first baby. But somehow with the third kid – and this sounds flippant and arrogant, which I am not, or perhaps I am, but not about babies – everything seems so much easier. (I was back writing a pilot for NBC when Arthur was two weeks old. I forgot how to spell my own name for a month after Errol was born.)

Anyway, we survived, because a) it was only a day, and because b) I am a damn genius at practical planning and am probably wasted on writing when I should be, idk, leading troops into battle. So although this is fairly off-brand for me, in case there is any chance that you have to do similar at any point in your life, here are my tips for traveling solo with a baby:


An Ergobaby Original. Make sure it’s this one – the classic Ergobaby Original. This thing is the Sandra Bullock of baby carriers. It turns up looking good and does its job better than anyone else, year after year after year. He took two naps of about an hour each in it on the plane.

(NB: I don’t like the new version of the Ergo, the 360. I just got a secondhand one from my local moms board in NYC, as I thought Arthur might like to face outwards, but it gave me such a sore back, and he seemed totally freaked out to be drifting through space without being able to see me. So back to my old Ergo, which we’ve had for seven years. It’s the absolute best.)


A messenger bag aka fanny pack.

Okay, stop sniggering, Brits and Aussies. (Americans: fanny means VAGINA.) I wear one of these in my day-to-day life lately – I have a tiny red one from Uniqlo and I wear it cross-body, over my shoulder, not around my waist. It’s super lightweight and comfortable and chic. For the flight, I dug out this bigger Herschel one. Mine is white, which is an extremely foolish color for a bag, but I like it. I wore it around my waist, which is def not chic and I didn’t feel like the coolest cat but that’s fine, I am not the coolest cat, I am a grown woman taking a baby 4000 miles around the world.

In the messenger bag:

Passports, tickets, wallet. Obviously.

Extra long phone charger. So at the airport you can charge your phone even if you’re forced to sit ten feet away from the charging station.


A tiny portable remote charger, just in case.


Chocolate, because… chocolate.


Neosporin. Some people put this in their nostrils when they fly to prevent getting a virus. I am not one of those people, perhaps because I have the robust constitution of a convict who survived the perilous journey from Britain to Australia (which two of my ancestors did, different story, wrong forum). But I just like having it around in case of emergencies, particularly when I’m with the jumping-off-everything-more-than-two-feet-high big boys. Ditto bandaids. And by the by, someone once told me the best way to avoid colds and whatnot when traveling is to take your own pen. You can chop Neosporin up and snort it all you like, but once you sign a receipt with a random pen that 40,000 other people have touched that week, you’re still screwed.


These pacifier leads are the absolute best. I’ve had them since Arthur was born. So good when we are outside the house and he might need to nap and therefore have a Paci. I usually have one attached to Arthur (not around his neckline, I realize odds of strangulation are v slim but… you never know)  and one attached to my shirt (because I am also frequently attached to Arthur). And we like these pacifiers but whatever blows your hair back, obvs.


Bioderma Atoderm Lipbalm. I have a long and emotionally involved history with lip balms, but I have only used this one for months and months now, and I’m normally treacherously disloyal when it comes to lip balms. Love it so hard. I have about six of them floating around various bags/pockets/my desk/my makeup drawers.

An emergency diaper change pack – which is a sandwich bag containing two diapers, wrapped around three wipes (ie, the waterproof out side of the diaper on the wipes), so you can grab and go fast without having to go through the rigmarole of unzipping the backpack. (Sometimes I even stash the emergency diaper change pack in my jacket pocket to make it even easier. If I can give you one tip from my entire motherhood experience, this is it: have a tiny emergency diaper pack at all times.)


Perfect Bar. These really are the perfect fuel, I had three or four of them for the trip. Coconut and Peanut Butter is the best imho. Eat one and you won’t be hungry for hours, and you won’t have a sugar crash, either. I hate being hungry on planes and the food is never good, or at least, never good enough, and it’s hard to eat with a lap full of squirmy baby.

A tiny pack of tissues, just in case.

A couple of tiny packs of wet ones, just in case.


And lastly, wireless earphones, so you can half-listen to podcasts, if the mood takes you. (The Daily, Fat Mascara, Conan O’Brien, Mueller She Wrote, How I Built This and Getting Curious with JVN current favorites.) Don’t forget to download the podcasts first. Nothing more annoying than taxiing down the runway and realizing you’ve forgotten to get them, and in-air wifi is expensive wishful thinking.

Okay, so that’s the messenger bag contents.

NOW: a backpack! Yes, you also need a backpack. Don’t fight me on this.



I have this one from Amazon. It is a sturdy workhorse. The reason I love it: the stretchy pockets on the sides. You can put the thermos in one side, and a half-finished bottle in the other. It’s not too big and can take a beating.

In the backpack:

Seventh Generation Baby Wipes, Free & Clear Unscented and Sensitive, Gentle as Water, with Flip Top Dispenser, 504 count

More diapers (I like to err on the side of ‘seriously?’ as in: one diaper per hour of travel, yes, this takes up a lot of space) and wipes. I usually use Water Wipes but for travel, a nice hard seal like the Seventh Generation one is great.


A large muslin (as a peekaboo toy, as a mop, as a picnic blanket, as a nap cover, to dry bottles when you wash them in sinks on the go and the airport is out of hand towels, etc).



A thermos of hot water boiled at home for making formula (they’ll let you on the flight with it, sometimes they make you sip it, sometimes they make you do that weird test with a strip which shows them it’s not, idk, secretly a bomb cleverly disguised as H2O?). The boiling water on planes is… not good. Even the air hostesses are always like ‘yeah, that water is not clean’.


Formula in one of these clever things. I have an old French one that we got when we were living in Zurich when Errol was a baby, and I also have the Dr Browns one – I needed both for such a long trip. Keep in a large ziplock bag in case the top comes off.

Two bottles, stashed in a large ziplock bag. (I’ve been around the baby shit block – you know, the block full of baby shit? right that one – too many times to claim that any single product is THE BEST but Comotomo is very good for babies who refused every other bottle for FIVE MONTHS like Arthur. It’s also exceptionally easy to clean.)


Two toys. I grabbed this thing (it’s called the Hug and Tug… snort), and some Duplo blocks. Arthur would rather crawl or talk to people up and down the aisles of the plane (“GA GA GA?”) but a toy can distract for a good five minutes.


A touch and feel board book. I had this one.

Baby food. Arthur will nibble whatever I’m eating, but still mostly survives on milk, so I took three pouches, a single oatmeal travel thing where you just add water and go, and rusk biscuits. Again in a large ziplock bag. (I love a large ziplock bag, in case you can’t tell.)

My laptop and charger. Which are both annoyingly heavy but I couldn’t leave them in the suitcase. Whenever Arthur napped I would think about the laptop longingly and wish I could get it out to write.


Two spare footed pajama onesies for Arthur. He normally only sleeps in these, so it felt odd keeping him in one all day, which is so stupid because he is a baby Gemma FFS he doesn’t notice these things. And the pajama onesie is warm and easy, and you dont have to worry about socks falling off etc. I changed him into the second onesie one half-way through the flight to London, when he was a bit grubby, and kept the third in case of a pooplosion that, thankfully, didn’t happen. (Until we got back to NYC, but that’s a different story.)

Womens Heat Holders: The Ultimate Thermal Sock

I wore these warm socks, because planes are cold…

… and these Birks, because taking off real shoes to go through the security scanner is just an incredibly annoying hassle one doesn’t need when one is carrying a baby. (Or ever tbqh.)


And last but not least: my sister leant us her travel stroller, the Mountain Buggy Nano. HOLY SHIT. This thing is fantastic. It’s lightweight yet sturdy. It folds up the size of a tiny booster seat, so you can take it right on to the plane and stash it in an overhead bin (which is great as strollers get trashed when they store them underneath the plane, we lost a great one in Errol’s first year, thank you American Airlines). I goddamn love it.

And SCENE.  I hope this is helpful. Normal programming – ie conversations about books and tv, about once a month – will resume soon.
















On… MCMC Fragrances

I like perfume. (We’ve discussed this in, oh, so many previous sessions.) I like reading books about it (like this and this). I like smelling old smells and new smells. If I have a morning to myself with no work or small children, I like to go to Barneys or Aedes de Venustus and smell everything. I like buying almost-empty perfume bottles from Etsy for $10 because I can tell from the font or the label size that it dates from before 1981 and contains ingredients now long-outlawed by the good old EU and, hell, I just want to smell them before I die. I like reading perfume blog posts from 17 years ago, you know, the kind written in Comic Sans, because the new perfume blogs are all #influencers and I don’t trust them. I find it all very soothing.

My favorite perfume of all time is Miller Harris L’Air de Rien. The perfumer, Lyn Harris, sold Miller Harris a few years ago and opened a little perfume boutique in London. It’s called Perfumer H. I’m *dying* to go. Read this, about their scent Rain Wood: “notes of galbanum+ elemi with a transparent heart of waterlily pepper, frankincense, myrrh resting on a base of wet + humid woods of juniper + cedar wood to make this an effortless fragrance for hot summer days.” What the hell does that smell like? I have NO IDEA and I WANT TO KNOW.

Fox once called me a Perfume Nerd, but I reject that appellation. I’m not an expert. I just like it. And have you noticed how people who call themselves ‘Nerds’ are actually just passive-aggressively boasting that they know more than you about the subject in question? Whenever I’m at a party and stuck next to someone who calls himself, for example, a Comedy Nerd, I stifle a tiny sigh, and don’t say ‘Wow, you must know everything about comedy and therefore have a truly superior sense of humor! You win.’ Instead, I smile and say ‘how fascinating’ and finish my drink as fast as I can so I can get away.

Anyway, darlings, where were we?

Yes. I like perfume.

For my birthday this year, Fox gave me a custom perfume workshop with Anne Serrano-McClain, at her MCMC Fragrances studio. She’s an incredible perfumer, she trained in Grasse, and is also a charming and interesting and easy person to hang out with. We talked for three hours straight and somewhere in there, made an absolutely gorgeous scent.

Here’s how it works: you turn up at her studio (ideally with a vague idea of the kind of smell you want – something light and floral, something sexy and musky, something fresh and lemony, something dark and spicy, whatever blows your skirt up). You smell dozens and dozens of smells. I wanted to make something that smelled a bit dirty and earthy and musky, but not too sharp or sweet.



Then Anne creates three versions of your perfume, each with slight variations.


You take them home and wear them for a few days to decide which is your favorite.


And then she bottles it up and sends it to you. The final result from my session is all warm skin musk and earthy oak moss and creamy tuberose, with a whisper of black pepper and coriander to rough it up a little. Oh you guys, it smells SO GOOD. I’m obsessed with it. Truly. If you see me on the street, come up and smell me. I won’t mind. Send this post to people who love you so they know that this is what you want for your next birthday. (I’m into subtle hints like that.) Email