Thursday, January 29, 2015

#January Joy: Have a clear out / Get organised

It is a thing right? As a new year starts, we want to start clear and fresh, get rid of the old, cleanse and declutter the home in order to let the light arrive.

Very early this year (I think it was January 2) the American Book Center organized a trade-in day where you could bring in your old books and get book certificates in exchange, so off we went. The books that were not accepted were either donated or deposited in a Little Free Library. 

We wanted to liberate space in the lower shelves of our beloved Expedit bookshelf in order to arrange baskets of toys for Yu to discover. Since she started crawling she kept putting books and cables down to munch them and I was tired of telling her "don't touch this", or "don't touch that"; when in reality I want her to be able to discover and explore everything in as free (as possible) a way. In the meantime I threw away a bunch of really old magazines and newspaper that I have the bad habit of collecting, we got a few plastic buckets and tins to store her "surprises" and it all looks fresher and cleaner.

This is the result. Did you have a January cleanse, massive throw away, renewal?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Flamingo birthday party!

So, the birthday party! I keep talking about it, it is about time I showed you some snippets. It was such a joyful day, we feel so grateful and humbled to have our dear girl showered by the love and presence of so many people. She was a delight, napping in the kangaroo carrier without any fuss, waking up as soon as she heard the word "piñata".

The day before was hectic and I wouldn't have been able to do everything I did without the help of Yu's grandma, who was here the whole day, taking care of her.

 The menu consisted of Mole-Poblano-vol-au-vents (pasteitjes, for the Dutch) and broodje Pom (a Surinamese oven dish*) to honour the girl's Mexican and Surinamese origins. There were also mandarin and grape flamingo skewers; forest-fruit yoghurt; lemon-raspberry muffins topped with white-chocolate ganache; carrot-orange-banana sugar-free muffins for the babies; keksi (a Surinamese fluffy sponge cake) and hummus and veggies to dip.

I made her a lemon cake filled with raspberries, white-chocolate ganache and lemon curd.

The poor girl did not get to try it, but she got a healthy muffin.

The piñata was a big hit... many people were not used to the tradition, so it was fun introducing it. Always a blast among the kids.

The day went by so fast, we were all exhausted by the end. I was expecting to  get very emotional**, but it didn't happen, this day was all about her and her friends, young and old.

We feel so blessed.

*  << Within the Surinamese community, in both Surinam and The Netherlands, Pom is the most popular and best known festive dish. From 1667 until 1975, Surinam was a Dutch colony, during this period the country became a melting pot of cultures and religions. Surinam’s high ethnic diversity is reflected by its cuisine which became a mixture of ingredients and cooking techniques of local Indians, colonial powers, African slaves and Asian immigrants. These include different ethnic and religious groups such as Amerindians, Creoles, Javanese, Dutch, Lebanese, Portuguese, Chinese, East Indians, Jews and French Huguenots. At present, for all Surinamese ethnic groups Pom is a festive dish, traditionally served at birthdays and celebrations. To indicate the popularity of Pom, if a Surinamese is asked to name his or her favourite dish, nine out of ten times the answer will be Pom. "Without Pom there is no birthday” is a well-known Surinamese saying. Many happy memories, emotions, stories and myths are also associated with Pom. Within the Surinamese community Pom is frequently referred to as a dish of Creole and/or Jewish origin. It was introduced by the Portuguese-Jewish plantation owners as the Portuguese potato ("pomme de terre") oven dish. Because the potato did not grow in Suriname and had to be imported it was soon replaced with the root of the tayer plant. Pom combines three central ingredients: chicken, citrus juice and pomtajer (Xanthosoma sagittifolium). Only the latter is indigenous, and although all plant parts are edible, only the underground part of the main stem is used as an ingredient in preparing Pom. The main stem or corm is most frequently designated as pomtajer or pongtaya (lit. the tajer/taya for Pom).>>

 **Ask me about the anniversary of the day my waters broke, though.

Monday, January 26, 2015

#January Joy: Flamingo piñata

 Here we are again, for a second installment of the 'make-something-with-your-hands-#JanuaryJoy-challenge' I bring you this flamingo piñata that we made -you guessed it- for Y's birthday party!

We roughly based ourselves on this tutorial from Studio DIY . The first step of course was stealing a couple of big-enough boxes from the cardboard containers. (You should have seen me climbing on the container and almost slipping off it while the boy watched from the car). Next I free-handed the flamingo body on the cardboard and cut it. We used 9 cm. wide cardboard stripes for the sides, and two long pieces for the legs. Using brown adhesive tape (the kind that you use for packaging) we taped the flamingo body to its sides and finally, also the legs. Next, we covered the whole thing in salmon-coloured fringe strips made of crepe paper (save some black and white crepe paper for the face). I would have preferred to use silk paper, but I wasn't able to find it. We used simple white glue to stick the crepe paper strips to the piñata, eventhough the traditional way of making it would have required to make the structure stronger by sticking layers and layers of squares of newspaper with homemade wheat-paste (engrudo), letting the layers dry in between. Basically, papier-mâché. But with the Dutch winter such a thing would never have been ready on time.

Finally I used some transparent paper (a napkin again) to copy the form of the flamingo-face and then used it as a template to paint it using watercolors and a black marker. I cut the face on both sides, stuck it in place (with glue again) and voilà, all set. Except not.

The interesting part came one day before the party when we started filling our lovely piñata with candy. We had simply attached some strong string to the top so that we would be able to hang it. As soon as the weight of the candy pulled down, we knew it was going to let-go, cue the drama. Luckily the husband came to the rescue and saved the day by inserting some metal-wire (a twisted cloth-hanger) through the neck and head of the flamingo to give it some support.

Friday, January 23, 2015

#January Joy: Make something with your hands: Flamingo goodie bags

 When preparing baby girl's flamingo party, I found a couple of projects that I decided to make, the first one of which are these flamingo goodie bags. I am not sure if this is a thing everywhere in the world, but in Mexico it is quite traditional to give the kids a little candy-filled bag at the end of the party, as a thank you (and I think also as a consolation prize for those kids that did not manage to get enough sweets at the piñata).

You will need: paper bags, pink cardstock, glue, scissors, pencil, a black marker. 

The original tutorial includes a printable file with the template for the flamingo bodies and heads, but the paper bags I found in Holland were not the same size as American ones, so I started by drawing the pattern on a white napkin (it is translucent enough). Then I cut my napkin and made a template on a white sheet of paper, which I then used to trace and cut the flamingo bodies on the pink cardstock .
On a separate sheet of paper I drew the flamingo-faces and arranged them in such a way that I could make photocopies of my sheet and then cut them out and paste them over the pink cardstock flamingo bodies. Once everything was cut, the last step was to paste the flamingo-bodies on to the paper bags, and later the faces on the flamingo-bodies.

We filled the bags with candy and an age-appropriate simple little toy (found at the Flying Tiger) and labelled them with the names of each kid. I hope Yu's little guests enjoyed the treats.

I spent one or two afternoons at the beginning of Janury making these, and though a little-bit time consuming, I absolutely loved the result!

Oh and I absolutely
want the tote bag
that inspired
these little favor bags!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On becoming a mother

 It has been a year. A year that has been intense, magic, crazy, joyful, desperate and lonely at times. I have been wanting to write about the many ways in which motherhood has changed me in deep an intrinsic ways while I still managed to remain the same crazy, 5 year old at core that I am. Like a snake, shedding its scales, getting rid of the superficial, revealing the essential.

On those early, first days the most prevalent feeling was a fierce desire to protect our precious baby. I would (and will) stand in the way of anything and anyone that would attempt to harm her in any way.

When she was born, I remember a moment of having my life played out like a movie inside my head, realizing I had done lots of things, had many adventures, wanting to share it all with her. Books, movies, songs, places, trips.

Motherhood has given me a very clear cut grasp on the important stuff. Simple, mundane things that used to worry me do not worry me anymore. Other things, that I knew were awful before, have become a very vivid, real kind of painful. I can not bear to watch certain type of images in the news.

There is a certain ability to say no, an assertiveness that wasn't in me before. I don't care if I don't please everyone anymore, her interests come first and I will defend them no matter what. And I am no longer shy in certain situations, like the general opinion of the Dutch society on my accent when I speak, because what I have to say is more important.

Motherhood has made me understand every single little thing my parents have done and that understanding has made me aware and grateful.

Motherhood has made me efficient, even if at times it does not seem so. I spend my days busy, all the time. Running like the Red Queen, cooking,making sure little girl is entertained and stimulated, stuff is clean, everyone is fed and happy. All while still trying to find time for me, time to read, to relax a bit. It is difficult.

But it is the first time I have ever felt valued in a job, and I am sure what I am doing is trascendent. It is hard work, caring for little people. Only comparable to medical jobs, I'd say. Because at any moment the kid can decide to drink bleach or choke on a hook from the christmas tree she found laying on the floor. I always longed for this feeling when I was looking for a job.

Some days I think I am not cut for this, that I can't handle it. Days like today, where she is clingy, whiny and has been crying the whole day, no matter what I do to try and help her because she is (probably, you are always guessing with kids) in pain; there are a new couple of teeth coming, she has a pharyngitis and a cough that just won't completely go away since the beginning of December and just changes in intensity every week that passes.

And then there is the indescribable joy, the wonder. Those amazing moments when she laughs hard, when she looks at something new, when she discovers new abilities in her or finally masters a skill.

I like to believe motherhood has made me kinder and more patient, but those are the parts that I struggle the most with. When she is being difficult, I tend to lose my temper at the situation, I get frustrated at my own helplessness, at my being so clueless. I just want to be the baby and cry and please have someone make it all better.

It has only been a year, I have learnt so much, I have changed so much, I have remained the same.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#January Joy: Refresh your Style

 We are going to play this game and pretend I have loads of cash to spend on clothes for me. In real life, I survive on a capsule wardrobe, the trendy term for saying that I wear the same 10 garments over and over and over again. If I could, then I would invest in a bright pink coat with a round collar that looks like my grandma would have worn it in the 60's.

As you have probably noticed I am obsessed with flamingos so when I saw a lovely aqua green jacket (my favorite color too!) and a salmon-coloured sweater with tiny flamingos embroidered I went crazy.

Of course what I really need is a new, warm coat. I had been wearing a red coat from H&M for ages. When I say ages, I mean I bought it in Autumn 2003! But I love it so much and it was such great quality and it fit so well that I refused to let it go. Let it go, let it go.... (sorry still obsessed, like all 5-year old girls in the world. Have you heard the song in French? It's amazing).

Anyhow, I finally decided to search and look and reinvent myself and when I found a green coat I decided to give it a go. I am a red, red, red kind of girl, so choosing a different hue felt like quite the adventure. But I felt a bit like Dorian Gray, a never-changing portrait. And change is good right?

So this is what I look like these days, I wanted to have the boy take a real pic with a real camera, but mirror pic it is. Have you done anything with your style these days? Are you dreaming of new clothes that you don't need and can't afford?

Friday, January 9, 2015

#January Joy: Plan a Project: Birthday Party!!

 I can't believe it has been (almost) a year since our magical daughter surprised us 6 weeks earlier than expected. I am still overjoyed and in awe at the miracle that is having her with us, watching her grow and develop, become her own person, let us know what she likes, what she dislikes and the random things that make her extremely happy (the latest one is a set of blue balls on a string).

I might have spent a considerable amount of time the last couple of weeks perusing pinterest for flamingo-themed birthday parties. I almost died of cuteness when I saw the disguise above. I wish I was crafty enough to make it, but we all know I am not even able to put the sewing machine on. And there is also the matter of time to consider. With what time would I attempt to do something like that?
Time is for eating and for sleeping. And maybe for reading, cleaning up, taking a shower and going out for walks.

After an extensive search we found the perfect location for her party, the menu is set and we have been crafting a couple of things, thanks to the extra efficiency provided by having 2 parents at home who can work in parallel or in series while also doing all the everyday things that have to be done. I can't wait to show you more and hope we will all survive. (The husband has already told me this is NOT a production. I have to stop).

Inspiration photos found on: House of Sweet Bakery,   Cupcakes take the cake, Cake Central, Oh Happy Day,  The crazy life of a crafty girl , The little big company, Nordstrom and Babble.

Post edit : I wish I would have found these invitations back in January (by Paperless post), they are so pretty! 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

#January Joy:Try a new recipe / Marble cake

I don't know why, but never in my life had I made a chocolate-vanilla marble cake. So last Monday I decided to give it a try. I looked for different recipes, I normally trust  BBC Good Food or Martha Stewart but both of those asked for Dutch-process cocoa instead of real chocolate, so I was not sure if the result would be chocolatey enough.

In the end I went with this recipe from Joy of Baking, because it included yoghurt (or sour cream), brewed coffee, baking soda and dark chocolate. I have found that recipes that include buttermilk / sour cream / yoghurt + baking soda make for very moist, fluffy cakes so as soon as I found the recipe I decided this was the one.

And it didn't disappoint! The cake was really good, simple, perfect. To decorate it I just poured some melted chocolate over the top (I did not have cream to make a proper ganache) and some sugar figures that I had laying around. I do have to practice my swirling. For some reason I had more chocolate than vanilla in my mix, but more chocolate never hurt anyone.Oh and I used a simple 15 cm. pan instead of a bundt pan, and I don't really think it changed the results.

You will need
140 grams dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon brewed coffee 
295 gr. (2 1/4 cup) flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
170 gr. (3/4 cup) butter, room temperature 
250 gr (1 1/4 cup) brown sugar
3 eggs, room temperature    
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
80 ml (1/3 cup) greek yoghurt
120 ml  (1/2 cup) milk, room temperature 

What to do 
Preheat oven to 180ºC. Melt chocolate with the brewed coffee au-bain-marie (over a pan of simmering water) and set aside so it reaches room temperature. Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat the butter together with the sugar until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one, followed by the vanilla extract and yoghurt, until the mix is homogenous. Next add the flour and milk, alternating between the two. Divide your batter in two unequal halves (Animal Farm style) and add the melted chocolate to the "smaller" half. Grease and flour an oven pan and scoop the chocolate and vanilla batter, alternating the two. When you are done use a knife or toothpick to create swirls. Bake for 40 min to 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Take it out of the oven, let it cool, unmould and enjoy! 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Feliz día de Reyes

It is Epiphany, one of my favorite holidays. I just love the idea that the Message is for everyone, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, origin, beliefs. That is how I feel about faith.  That we are all in this together, that we are more alike than different. And the idea of Three Wise Men following a star is just magic.

I made bread (Rosca de Reyes), that we will enjoy later with hot chocolate and the kid found a small present under the tree (a tambourine).

Oh and I just recently rediscovered an old French hit from the 60's about the Three Kings. I might have been playing it on repeat since Christmas day.

Do you have any favorite holidays?

Monday, January 5, 2015

#January Joy

It is January again (for a few days now) and we are back to our everyday routine. I am so sad the holidays are over, it really was nice to be with the boy the whole day.

As other years, the always inspiring Rebecca of Florence Finds has started #January Joy with a list of challenges! At the end of this post you'll find the list of prompt, in case you would like to join (and share on twitter, instagram or your blog using the hashtag #januaryjoy).This time there are 13 challenges of which you can pick those that suit you best and there is no specific order you have to follow, so just mix and match them as you wish, it is about starting the year with energy, happiness and a dose of fresh air.

I am busy trying a new recipe today, and will be sharing it hopefully very, very soon!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Thanks, old year. Bring it on New Year.

There is not a speck of doubt that 2014 was a magic, amazing year. Early on I became a mom, when I was least expecting it. From then on everything changed and time became elastic. I know, such a cliché thing to say, but it is true. Every moment seemed to last forever and at the same time to pass so fast.

I am grateful beyond words for all the pure joy that we've been allowed to experience. For all the new friends and for being able to meet old ones, for the new places, for being able to wonder and marvel at the simplest things, through her eyes.

And I hope the next year will continue to bring us magic and surprises and sheer moments of happiness. I wish the same for you, too.
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