Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The story of Pixar at Amsterdam Expo

Last weekend we went to Amsterdam  for the "Pixar, 25 years of animation" exposition. It shows, through numerous sketches, the story of Pixar since its beginnings. We enjoyed the exposition, but to be honest we thought it was a bit pricey, at EUR 19 per person.

I think hardcore fans would be pleased, as you see tons and tons of drawings. I found interesting that you could see different versions of a character... admiring the behind-the-scenes process that goes on to choose the final drafts. There are also models, clay figures, and my favorite a Zoetrope that brought the characters of Toy Story to life in 3 dimensions.

You can visit the exposition at the Amsterdam EXPO buiding (Gustav Mahlerlaan 24
1082 MC in Amsterdam), near the Amsterdam Zuid train station until October 27, 2013.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I wanna be like the Honey Badger

 I have such an ability to stress for nothing... it's amazing. I wish I was better at not caring. This morning I had a dentist appointment and I had been dreading it for a full week. It went fine and everything is pretty much OK. I did not use to be afraid of dentists but lately I am just afraid they will find cavities every time I sit there. Then of course they are fixing a part of the tramway rails (it's summer after all) and there were less trams going. I had checked my schedule on a website that supposedly gives updated information. The tram I was supposed to take never came, I had to take another line and then transfer, and of course I was late. 5 minutes late, which in the end did not matter because they were delayed and they accepted me anyway but in the meantime the boy had to call for me and they told him that either I had to wait 2 hours or I would pay twice for the lost appointment. Does anyone have a recipe for zen? I wish I was just more calm about things, but I just tend to worry over all the little non important things to the max at every little chance I get....

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Breakfast Club: MY creative

 As I try to find ways of eating a more healthy and varied breakfast I decided to ask a few of my internet friends and readers to share their favorite breakfast. (My usual breakfast is  almost always the same, bread, butter, tea and some sort of jam). Today I am excited to bring you the super talented photographer and all around creative Michelle from MY Creative Photography. By the way, I would be thrilled if you would like to participate in this weekly series, in which case, just send a breakfast themed post to:

I was excited when Amanda asked if I wanted to contribute to this new series as I often try to eat healthy but often fail.  The recipes I share on my own blog generally lean towards the healthy end but temptation and the lack of planning often makes it hard to stick to a good eating regime.

One of the hardest things I find in eating healthy is my inevitable rush in the morning to get into work which leads to me buying some awfully monstrous breakfast on the go.  One of my solutions for this dilemma is breakfast in a jar!

This one is super simple but that is the point right.  You will need one grated pear, 1/3 cup of oats (I like the jumbo variety) and around 250-300 ml oatmilk, or whatever brand of milk you prefer.  I find oatmilk has a creamy luxury-ness to it that makes it feel 'naughty' although it is pretty low calories.  Then put the grated pear in the jar, cover with oats and then milk. You could also layer it alternatively if you are going to eat it straight out the jar.  By the time I have got to work the oats have softened with the milk and I feel I have had a much more nutritious start to the day.

This is also great with apple and though I haven't tried would be pretty good with mashed/chopped berries or even nectarine/peach type fruits.

The jar concept is also perfect for smoothies on the go.  What would you put in a jar?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Pressure cooker

A few months ago, after thinking long and hard, we got a pressure cooker. The decision process was  helped by the fact that I found ours at a very good price, with 55 % off the normal price.
Lately, we try to eat very little meat: we actually don't get any chicken, meat or fish with our weekly groceries, and when we do eat meat we try to make sure it is organic / biological. I don't know if this happens to other pseudo-vegetarians, but sometimes I get this really strong cravings (though it happens less and less and it often changes with the season). It is difficult to recognize this, but I do actually enjoy meat.

Anyhow, to get a source of protein we rely on beans, lentils, chickpeas and other pulses. (Quinoa as well, but I think it's not a pulse). The thing with pulses is that either they take hours and hours to cook or you have to get them in tins or glass jars. I  felt uncomfortable with the amount of glass and tin we were throwing away (and I don't have the patience to babysit the pans for hours), so a pressure cooker seemed ideal.

I grew up scared of "la olla express". You heard stories of pans exploding, and that little dancing, chirping valve on top, constantly moving was always a threat, announcing a disaster. As I researched whether or not to get it and what I could do with it I was surprised / amused to find out that they are very popular both in Latin America and in Asia because they save a lot of energy and mean less time spent in the kitchen, which translates as less warmth from hanging around the stove in already semi-tropical weathers. It also means that since food is cooked at high temperatures for shorter amounts of time, there are more nutrients available.

I am super happy with it. As it turns out the dancing valve is a thing of the past, ours has a security system that pops up with different shades of yellow-orange-red indicating the level of pressure, and when you are ready, the pressure just releases by itself until it reaches a safety level, meaning you can open  the pan without any fear. So far I have made a few lentil dishes, and a lot of Mexican-style refried beans (that are then used on molletes , quesadillas or just as a side dish). I know though, that there are a million other things I could be making... does anyone have recipes / experience with a pressure cooker? What's your favorite dish to make?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Animals in captivity

Zoos have always had a big influence on me. Up until today, if we visit a city and there is a zoo, we go. I really believe zoos can have a crucial educational and scientific role: they can for sure change the ways we act towards our environment and have a big influence on kids of all ages. I was one of those kids...  who then pursued studies in Biology and Veterinary medicine and who still yearns to do work that matters in that field, because I very very strongly feel we are all connected. I have volunteered at Zoo Education department activities and I have been involved in biodiversity conservation projects.

 However, lately I am becoming more and more uncomfortable with the idea of keeping wild animals in captivity. Of course there are zoos and zoos. And if it is done properly, if the animals are stimulated, well kept, taken care of, I do think the role they can have in changing minds is worth taking the animals away from nature. This task of zoos seems particularly needed for us humans who seem not to respect anything around us. I guess it also depends of the species: some smaller species are easier to keep in an environment that closely resembles their own. But for highly social and highly intelligent animals that also depend on culture, that learn from growing up in groups with older peers, it just seems that it's almost impossible to stimulate them properly, to have them live a dignified life in captivity, to recreate their natural lives.

  Perhaps we should start thinking of other ways to educate and instill this curiosity from early ages? Nature walks, visits to national parks, documentaries, interactive classes? (I am not convinced on ecotourism either, I basically distrust anything that's done for profit, and regardless of good intentions, going over and over and over to a protected place can alter the ecosystems it is supposed to protect. But I guess it depends on how it's done). How do you feel about this?

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Breakfast Club: Liquorice and Pumps

 As I try to find ways of eating a more healthy and varied breakfast I decided to ask a few of my internet friends and readers to share their favorite breakfast. (My usual breakfast is  almost always the same, bread, butter, tea and some sort of jam). Today I am delighted to bring you fun-loving Louise Elisabeth from Liquorice and Pumps. By the way, I would be thrilled if you would like to participate in this weekly series, in which case, just send a breakfast themed post to:

  When Amanda asked me to write about my breakfast habits I was totally honored. Me, writing about healthy delicious food, who would have thought? OK, so this asks for some background information: I used to be overweight, I still am a bit but I've lost around 33 lbs (15 kg) this year by changing my life. I think about what I eat, about healthy choices, but also about exercise. The devil is in the details, like taking the stairs in stead of the elevator.

Back to the beginning of all beginnings: breakfast. I can't start the day without a healthy breakfast. I have to work and study all day so I need a good base. My perfect breakfast contains: water, dairy produce (for my calcium levels), fibers, fruit, veggies and vegtable oil. Here is an example:

-Eggs scrambled with tomatoes, cooked in a teaspoon of arachide oil (I use a frying pan with non-stick coating)
-0% fat quark with a chopped peach (try some different brands of quark, some can be quiet sour but there are some really yummy options out there. The biological ones are usually very good)
-Whole-weat crackers (the extra fiber option)
-And my favorite tea, Moroccan herbs :D

Here are some tips:
  1. Take your time! It is totally worth it. It stops your belly from growling for cookies at 11 o'clock ;-)
  2. Try to minimize prefabricated stuff, they have so many weird additives. I have no idea what E numbers do or mean but cave men certainly didn't ingest them, so I guess I'm safe to avoid them ;-)
  3. Vary. Keep it interesting for yourself (and your family). Try different brands, different veggies and fruits (just found out Chinese cabbage isn't that tasty with scrambled eggs :p)
  4. Make it last: rye bread has loads of  fibers and is considered a healthy option. But if I had to eat it everyday I would go mental! So just find out what suits you and take in account tip 3 ;-)
I hope you enjoyed my fairly messy blog post and feel inspired to start your day healthy and happy!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A day in Metz

 After spending the day in Luxembourg, we decided to explore further around. I must have told you before how much we love France. Since we were so close, and after finding out that Metz is in fact loaded with history, we decided to drive and have a look.

"A Celtic oppidum, an important Gallo-Roman city,the Merovingian capital of the Austrasia kingdom, the birthplace of the Carolingian dynasty, a cradle of the Gregorian chant, and one of the oldest republics of the common era in Europe,Metz has a rich 3,000-year-history. The city has been steeped in Romance culture, but has been strongly influenced by Germanic culture due to its location and history." (Source)

  It is such a pretty city, crossed by the Moselle and Seille rivers. There is even an island (Petit Saulcy) where the castle-like Temple neuf is still standing. The cathedral, St. Etienne is beautiful and the Graoully dragon is one of the symbols of the city. How cool is that?

We stumbled with Aux merveilleux de Fred and the boy had to have a merveilleux. He is crazy about them... I have to try to make them at home once. A merveilleux is a delicate meringue sandwich, filled with whipped cream (sometimes flavoured) and covered in chocolate or another topping. That day, we were like hobbits and had breakfast not once but twice... the first time choosing for a 'pain au chocolat' and a 'escargot aux raisins', and the second one an apricot filled croissant and an eclaire with hot chocolate and orange juice.

There were quite a few murals that we found quite fun, including a building with eyes! What is your favorite kind of city?

Monday, July 15, 2013


We went for a weekend trip to Luxembourg this weekend, and it was glorious. It felt like a vacation, more so because it was oh so warm. I wish I had checked the weather report because I was a bit over-dressed.

The city is beautiful, with its old bridges, a valley by the river and all the green surrounding it. There are parks everywhere and the most amazing playgrounds for children too.

We had breakfast at  Chocolate House (as recommended by Dila). With such a name we were not going to miss the place. I had an almond-raspberry hot chocolate spoon, together with croissants, bread and different jams and chocolate paste. If you find yourself in Luxembourg, take a look at their huge cakes. Unfortunately we didn't get to try those. (You'll find them near the old center at 20 rue March√© aux Herbes).

Later during the day we met  the lovely Fiona and her husband Rasmus and we had the most delicious ice-cream at Bargello (13-15 rue du Fort Elisabeth).  I tried "Crema Fiorentina" (milk, eggs and lemon zest) and "Peach". You could really taste the fruit and it was oh so creamy. Mark had chocolate and mango and it was equally good. It was so hard to make a decision. Afterwards we went to an outdoor festival for children and families alike, called 'La nuit de merveilles', where there were all kinds of rather quirky jugglers, acrobats and street artists. It was a really nice evening... watching all the kids go crazy and stare in awe at the giant butterflies and  a man riding a chicken that was walking around the park.

The next day we went to Metz, in France, I will tell you about it soon, but, we pretty much spent the whole day eating delicious stuff from every bakery we found. Weekend road trips are definitely the best.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The breakfast club: Bits and peaces

As I try to find ways of eating a more healthy and varied breakfast I decided to ask a few of my internet friends and readers to share their favorite breakfast. (My usual breakfast is  almost always the same, though today, I had avocado pieces, a mandarin and some champignons and courgette, namely because we ran out of bread and cereal). Today I am delighted to bring you the thoughful Just Me, from Bits and Pieces. By the way, I would be thrilled if you would like to participate in this weekly series, in which case, just send a breakfast themed post to:

Take a Moment 

So when Amanda asked me to write a post about Breakfast, she suggested recipes, pictures, or a story about breakfast. What is ironic is that while I was sitting here contemplating a post about breakfast, my husband has been making sausage, eggs, and English Muffins. Me? I had a bowl of leftover pasta and have opened up every door in the house and turned on all of the fans in hopes that I won’t have to smell his breakfast.

I’ve never been very good at breakfast. Growing up, I remember my mother chasing me around in the mornings, begging to me eat something…a piece of cheese, an apple, anything! I mean, I’m not saying I don’t appreciate a great restaurant breakfast on the weekends, but that’s usually more of a “brunch” and I prefer it to happen anytime after noon.

It wasn’t until I went on my very first diet (Weight Watchers) that I discovered the importance of breakfast. How ironic that I needed to limit what I ate in order to appreciate eating in the mornings. I began to realize how breakfast does actually play an important role for the body. It “does a body good” or whatever they say about breaking the fast and all of that. But even still, even after realizing the importance of eating before noon, my breakfast repertoire was pretty limited. I basically rotated between three things: English Muffins, cheddar cheese sticks or Greek Yogurts. A lot of Greek Yogurt.

And then I got pregnant. And breakfast took on an entirely new importance. I absolutely needed to eat right away. Not just for me, but for the baby. And any semblance of breakfast foods went out the window. I ate mostly carbs – pasta, rice, crackers and quesadillas with a lot of cheese. So….if I have to say something meaningful about breakfast based on my mixed relationship with the idea of bacon and eggs, what would it be? Well I think what I’ve realized is that breakfast is about taking care of yourself. It is about having a structure to your day and taking a moment for yourself to be healthy and to be kind to yourself. I remember my mother, sitting with her cup of coffee, a healthy breakfast, and a novel…and I think – that is taking care of yourself physically and spiritually. Can grabbing a yogurt that you will eat in front of your computer at work really compare?

So what do we do? Do we restructure our lives to incorporate breakfast? Most importantly, do I get up earlier in order to find time for myself in the morning? Maybe the answer is…I’m on a trajectory. I never took care of myself that way until my 30s. Now, I’m taking care of me and a growing baby. Next, I will be a mom. I would like to be one of those moms who has breakfast for the family. Where everyone sits down and has a moment before the day starts. But honestly? I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll find that moment of peace in the mornings and create it for my family. More likely, my husband will take care of that. Because, really, I’m not a morning person.

But who knows? I’ve come a long way so far. From no breakfast at all to making sure I eat something every morning…that’s progress, right? So I will leave you with the hope that you do better than I do and you are able to find that moment each morning to take care of yourself. To be quiet and gentle with yourself and prepare for yourself for the day. Because damnit, life is hard. So pamper yourself with a blueberry scone or a delicate crepe.

This is a picture of what I ate for breakfast on my recent vacation. While there, breakfast was an hour-long experience. Words were not needed, just…enjoying the food and the view. I hope you (we) can find a bit of that in your day-to-day life.

This made me so hungry: Chilaquiles and huevos rancheros. Mmmmmmm.

*First image via here

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Biking around

 One of the things I love about The Netherlands is that regardless of the fact that it is one of the most densely populated countries (yep, you read that right), there is lots of green gems, woods, parks and scenic landscapes hidden around. Yesterday we went on a bike ride not far from where we live (though we did bike an hour and a half in all) and these are some of the things we saw. What do you do when the weather is nice?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Little kids and human nature

Gratuitous pic of the boy and his little bro a long time ago

Are little humans mean by nature, meant to  be "civilized"? Is kindness not natural? This weekend we were at a relative's birthday party, and there were 3 kids, a three-year old and two toddlers of 1 year and a half. Two of the kids, a 3-year old and one of the younger ones were playing very nicely, particularly one who's a born dancer and had already learnt a step or two. But the third kid kept bringing the others to the edge constantly.

Exhibit A: He "stole"/took a muffin from one of the other kids, knowing it was not his, subsequently coming outside to proudly show his spoils of war, with the other kid angrily coming behind. The thing is he had already been given a muffin, which he rejected, and his mom clarified that this kid does not like or eat cake.

Exhibit B: The same kid kept "stealing"/taking toys from the other kids. There were many toys, but he made a point of taking the ones they were busy with, from their hands. At some point they were all playing at a sandbox, and one of the kids had two shovels in his hands. So an adult intervened to tell them to share and gave a shovel to problematic little kid. At which point the little brat boy threw it away with emphasis. It seemed he did not even want it, but he got pleasure from making the other kids upset.

Exhibit C: There was a little plastic slide, and the kids were all harmoniously playing, waiting for their turn. This kid kept pushing the other kids aside, kind of violently, would not wait for his turn and was just there being annoying.

How does this happen? I know parents have the best of intentions. And it certainly did seem this kid enjoyed trouble-making. It's not like he was getting extra attention for it, he was mostly quiet, not yelling or crying but calmly tormenting the others for his own fun. Any child psychologists out there? Is it that this kid lacks attention at home and he has to call for it by his own peculiar means? I found it weird that the he did not seem to want the stuff he kept taking away from the others, because when he had it, he did not bother with it. It almost seemed like he enjoyed the  angry reactions from the other kids which is just sad....

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Breakfast Club: Pieces of Anna

As I try to find ways of eating a more healthy and varied breakfast (my usual breakfast is  almost always the same: toast with butter, peanut butter, or jam and tea with milk), I decided to ask a few of my internet friends and readers to share their favorite breakfast. Today I am delighted to bring you Anna, from Pieces of Anna By the way, it would be great if you would like to participate in this weekly series, in which case, just send a breakfast themed post to:

 Scrambled Eggs with Bacon and Tomatoes

When Amanda asked me to contribute a post on my favorite breakfast, I was thrilled! Breakfast is one of those essential meals for me that I cannot function without. But then, I got a little stumped.

You see, Amanda was specifically looking for healthy alternatives to sugar-filled breakfast meals, and I realized that a lot of what I eat for breakfast has quite a bit of sugar: cereal, toast with jam, waffles, etc. So I had to dig a little bit to figure out a non-sugary alternative that I enjoy on a regular basis. One of my favorite healthy breakfasts is rolled oats with golden raisins. It's delicious and super easy and fast to make. Unfortunately, we were all out of golden raisins.

Luckily, I recalled that I love all kinds of egg-based dishes for breakfast. Whether scrambled, sunny-side-up, or soft-boiled, I will eat eggs in any shape or form. So I decided to contribute one of my scrambled egg recipes. For a healthy breakfast, I often make scrambled eggs with veggies, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, or chives. Sometimes, I even make eggs for dinner, and that is what happened with this recipe. Because it was a dinner meal, I decided to add more protein to it, so I made my eggs with bacon. Here is my recipe.

Ingredients (1 serving)
2 eggs
2 strips of bacon
1 medium sized tomato, cubed
Salt to taste

Scramble eggs in a small bowl and add salt. Preheat the frying pan on medium heat. Slice bacon into small rectangles (about 2 centimeters wide). Fry the bacon to desired crispiness (I like my bacon on the less crispy side). If you are using a nonstick frying pan, and the bacon has generated enough grease, then add the cubed tomato. Otherwise, add a bit of oil or butter first to avoid burning your eggs. Slightly fry up the tomato (about a minute) and then add the scrambled eggs. Fry everything until the eggs are as solid as you like (I prefer mine a tiny bit runny).

Serve with a side of buttered toast (a slice of french baguette works really well).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

ABC game

 Kaitlin, from A Georgia peach abroad, tagged me for the ABC alphabet game, so I thought it would be fun to play. Thanks Kaitlin!

A: Attached or Single: Attached
B: Best Friend's: are all over the world, San Antonio TX, Bolivia, Switzerland, Barcelona.
C: Cake or Pie: Cake for sure. But I do love lemon meringue pie, fruit tartlettes (particularly raspberry) and caramel pie. So I guess I just like all the sweet stuff.
D: Day of Choice: Fridays and Saturdays are the best.
E: Essential Item: I always carry a box with emergency medicine, though I am trying not to use any of it anymore. Lately, my aluminum bottle of water is always with me.
F: Favorite Color: Green,  Red and Turquoise.
G: Gummy  Bears or Worms:Gummi bears, though I prefer gumdrops.
H: Hometown: I lived in Mexico city the first 7 years of my life, is that it?
I: Favorite Indulgence: Ice cream, or a creamy chai tea latte.
J: January or July: July, I am a summer girl.
K: Kids: I love them, I always have. I spent many summers working at summer camps and later at the Zoo education department, and  I love babysitting.
L: Life Isn't Complete Without: Travel.
M: Marriage Date: September 11, or May 31 for the legal bit.
N: Number of Handbags: I have a red one that I use all the time, but a few more in the closet.
O: Oranges or Apples: Oranges. I am crazy about citrus fruit.
P: Phobias: Worms. Or anything that looks like a worm... when I had to study them live at a biology lab I almost die.
Q: Quote: "It was hard to deny belief in the fact that a flower could be beautiful to no end" ("Era duro renunciar a creer que una flor pudiera ser bella para la nada"). Julio Cortazar.
R: Reason to Smile: Peonies by the window, books, weekend trips.
S: Season of Choice: Summer, and those first Autumn days when everything turns shades of red, orange and yellow and everything is warm.
T: Tag 5 People: If you would like to play, just consider yourself tagged!
U: Unknown Fact About Me: I was born with the aid of forceps.
V: Vegetable: Avocado, but that's a fruit. Zucchini / Courgette. 
W: Worst Habit: I tend to leave a trail of messes anywhere I go. Mostly books and stacks of paper.
X: X-ray or Ultrasound: Ultrasounds, I have had so many.
Y: Your Favorite Food: Milanesa de pollo (chicken schnitzel), guacamole, enfrijoladas, aubergine parmigiana, lasagne, tzatziki...
Z: Zodiac Sign: Gemini or a Monkey if you are talking Chinese Zodiac.

*Image via here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A sea full of mermaids

This Saturday we went to the Teylers museum in Haarlem to visit the exposition: " Een zee vol meerminen", a sea full of mermaids, which traces the fantastic creatures through history, cultures and folk art across the World. It shows how they passed from the realms of sailor tales and mythology, to the object of scientific treaties and then back to fairy tales.

It is not a secret that I love mermaids, they might be my favorite mythological creature. In Indonesia, if you go to the beach, you shouldn't wear anything green, it's the mermaids' favorite color and you might make them angry and jealous.

 In Congo, mermaids have been only recently introduced and they are used as a slogan and warning against the moral decadence they associate with western values and greediness.

 We took our little friends, but were heartbroken to disappoint them, as they somehow thought they would see a real mermaid. We had to break the news and tell them that mermaids in fact do not exist outside people's minds and sailor's dreams, and that there was certainly not a live mermaid at the museum. At least there was a model manatee. And a fake Japanese mermaid skeleton made up of a dissected fish and an ape. And they could sit and watch mermaid movies for a while. What is your favorite mythological creature?

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