Monthly Archives: June 2014

World Cup and another simple recipe

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And the World Cup is back (well, for a long time now)! It seems like yesterday we were all in our new home, with tiny baby Laura in our arms (she was 2-3 months old in 2010) watching a few matches with us (time difference wasn’t so bad). I was on maternity leave and could follow most of the games. My maternity leave ended yesterday, but because of the time difference, I can watch most of the games, if I want to.

So far so good, the World Cup in Brazil is not bad, despite all the negative expectations. At least from what I’ve seen on TV, the stadiums are beautifully done, people are behaving ok, most of the matches are very exciting, and there are lots of goals to keep us happy. There will always be one or two boring games, so let’s hope this WC has had its share of boredom with Ian vs Nigeria and Brazil vs Mexico.

The most interesting part of the World Cup, though, is following the comments on Twitter. I don’t follow that many people, but it’s always great fun to read what the “experts” have to say about the games. It started with the Olympics in 2012 and now I’m always looking forward the next big event to be tweeted about.

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I shouldn’t need to say this, but I am supporting Brazil. Always. We might not be the favourites or the best team, but, hey, it’s my duty to support my home team. Other than that, I tend to support whoever wins. Just so I don’t have to suffer with defeats.

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Apparently this is the best World Cup ever. I can’t tell, but I’m loving all the images of Rio on the BBC and ITV during the games. Ops, I’ve just seen Spain being sent off back home. Oh, dear, well done, Chile, but not an expected result to Spain.

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I was planning to cook loads this weekend, but I just realised I have two events to go: a kids party on Saturday and a baby shower on Sunday (instead of celebrating my birthday, I’ll celebrate a friend’s baby). So I’ll have to leave all the baking for the following weekend. After that, we are off to Croatia. I can’t wait!!

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And here is another simple and quick recipe for those days that time isn’t on our side. I adapted it from one on Tesco’s website (here) and it was really good. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the pastry from scratch, which would have been healthier, but as I said, it is for days we don’t have the time.

What you will need:

  • One savoury pastry case (photo below – the one I used. it’s quite small, but was enough for one meal)
  • 1/2 onion – grated
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 45g bacon into cubes (I used smoked lardons)
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic (I didn’t have garlic gloves, which would have been better)
  • 1/2 courgette, sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 75ml single cream
  • 50g Gruyère, grated

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How you prepare it:

Preheat the oven at 180C.

Fry the onion in the olive oil until brown, then add the garlic and the bacon and cook until bacon fat has melted. Add the courgettes and spinach and cook for 5 minutes. Put this mix into the case. Mix the cream and the beaten egg and season (I added a pinch of salt, as I didn’t find any pepper). Pour the mixture on top of the courgette/spinach and add the granted cheese. Bake for 20 minutes and turn the oven up to 200C and bake for another 5 minutes (check not to burn).

What I loved about this dish is the flexibility of adding any toppings I like – almost like a pizza. It’s a great way to add vegetables in our meals. For fussy children, you can even blend everything together and have a creamy vegetable topping.

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Done!

First day

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I’m on my way to a presentation in central London. As usual, I didn’t prepare myself the night before and as expected I forgot to bring several things with me. Like a cardigan. Cardigan and oyster card/railcard are two items that commuters should have on them.

I am very sleepy. Mainly because I’ve been going to bed too late for someone who is awaken at 5:30am (4:48am this time). But there is also the rocking of the train, that is almost like a mother putting her child to sleep. It’s going to be an interesting week; I’m glad my stops (both to work and home) are one before the last , so not too bad if I fall asleep on the train.

The week shouldn’t be too hectic, as everybody in my department are away, either on holidays or conferences abroad. So it is not even like I will get loads of phone calls, because the time difference is in my favour.

Going back to forgetting stuff, a couple of other vital items, such as earphones, are missing. But one I left behind on purpose and I think I will regret deeply: the breast pump. Those who have been to the weaning stage probably will sympathise with the pain it is to have the breasts full for too long. I’m not planning to stop breastfeeding Beatrice (unless she wants to), but I’ll limit the “usage” of the “equipment” to mornings, evenings and middle of the night. Those who have been there might sympathise with the pain of expressing milk in the communal bathroom. Despite being a right, expressing milk at work is just not convenient to me. I did the same with Laura and breastfeeding carried on until she was 20 months old and she decided to stop.

Now, on to the best part of going back to work… I’m going to wrap up this post now and grab my book. Have a lovely day you all! “Happy Monday!”

Spring has sprung!

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That the weather in the UK is bipolar, we all know. After a couple of weeks of nice hot days, since the weekend it’s been a bit blah, quite cold for my liking, and a bit wet. But there is a positive side about this shitty weather of ours: this country is so green, but so green that you have to be thankful for all the rain and mild temperatures. Better this than burned grass and dried leaves everywhere.

Since last summer, we’ve been trying to make our garden a nice place to look at and, weather permitting, stay in. It all started by replacing the lawn with artificial grass – the best thing we’ve done in this house. Back then, we added a few plants to the new border and more recently, we added a bunch more all around. It is still work in progress and it won’t be just as we like until the next year or so, but that’s the beauty of a garden, isn’t it? Watch it grow and transform…

For those unsure whether having kids or not, I suggest trying gardening. Looking after plants is the perfect metaphore for raising children. You have to look after them, wet them, remove the weed, feed them, protect them from heat and cold and bugs. It has to be a daily job, if you miss one day, your plant might die. But when a flower blooms, it is the joy of your life – it’s like seeing your child growing and developing. 

I confess that I have very little patience and talent to look after plants. I can water them, remove a weed here or there, but that’s it. Don’t ask me to replant flowers every year, or to deal with slugs, or to look after plants in winter, because I won’t (and neither will hubby). So we’ve chosen all year round plants and got ones that require little maintenance. One thing I am quite excited about, though, and I know I’ll have to dedicate some time to it, is growing veggies and herbs. We already have fruits at the back – well, two apple trees and a few strawberry plants. A few days ago we planted mint, thyme, sage, parsley, basil, chilli pepper, rocket, watercress, spinach and cauliflower and some of them are already growing. If all goes well, at least I will have another hobby for when I retire and I don’t need to have the third and forth kids. haha

Here are some photos of the plants a couple of days ago. I’ll update this in a few days or weeks.

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My very first (UK) hen do

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Last month I went to my very first hen do in the UK. I got married here, but I didn’t have one. My friend L (Bea’s Godmother) is getting married end of July and a group of girls went to Oxford to have a girls only weekend. It was Beatrice’s birthday and my first time away from her. Should I feel guilty for sleeping so well on a king size bed only for me? If I should, let me know now and I will pretend I am.

The theme of the weekend was Alice in Wonderland. It started with an afternoon tea on a boat cruise in the Thames river, following the route taken by Lewis Carrol in 1862, when he conceived the adventures of Alice. The cruise took about two hours and we passed by stunning locations, but we were too busy drinking tea (and coffee and bubblies), chatting and playing games to pay much attention. We went to a pub afterwards and in the evening we head off to a comedy club. In between, L had to do all sort of things and take photos and I must say that I was impressed that she took everything in such good spirits. I don’t think I would have done half of what she did. After the comedy show, half of us (mostly the Brazilians) went back to the hotel, while the other half (mostly the British) stayed another couple of hours, drinking and dancing. I was very tired and sleepy and by breasts were exploding (still breastfeeding, remember?) and I was so looking forward a great night of sleep… I knew L would understand. hehe

It was a lovely weekend, with great girls, fun activities and laughter. I had forgotten how a comedy show can be a great evening programme (as an alternative to night clubs or pubs), I should do this more often.

 

 

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Final countdown and quick and easy food

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I’m going back to work on Wednesday.

I am going back to work.

I am.

Depressed.

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At least, we are very close to sorting out Beatrice’s childcare. My preferred option didn’t work out very well and neither did Plan B and C. Plan D might be a great option, so fingers crossed.

The plan now is to keep her at home until September and then both girls will go to the same childminder – Laura only from 3.30pm, after school. I’m still anxious about it.

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So when I’m depressed and anxious, I like to bake/cook/eat. I tend to always cook the same stuff, but my plan is to create a 4 week menu to vary what we are eating here. The “catch” is that the recipes need to be simple and quick to prepare and have “room” to to add as many veggies and fruits I possibly can. Ah, they won’t necessarily be super healthy all the time.

This week I tested a couple of recipes and the result was quite good.  I will share my experiments/experiences here and would welcome any suggestions, ideas, tips. The first one is the easiest cake in the world.

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A week or two ago, we went to a barbecue at a friend’s house and she was “baking” a cake. Well, she was putting it together, as it doesn’t require any baking. I loved the idea of having a yummy cake ready in 20 minutes, from selecting the ingredients to putting the last strawberry on top, so I decided to give it a go when my mother in law arrived. Here is the recipe (sorry, I don’t have photos of the step by step):

What will you need?

Two flan cases, similar to this one (never kind the brand, I guess, but this was the one I bought, the medium one, which is small-ish):

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1 can of caramel (I used a bit more than half, it depends on how much you love your sugar)

Lots of strawberries

300 ml of cream (or maybe less)

Caster sugar (or condensed milk, as I used) – to taste. I didn’t add much because I thought it would be too sweet

Some sort of liquid to moist the case (you can use milk, or baileys, or juice – I used orange juice and I liked it)

 

How do you put this together?

Place one of the cases on a plate or where you want to serve your cake. Pour half of the juice/milk with a spoon – make sure it is moist, because this case is dry as sand.

Cut the strawberries and place them on the case – how much is up to you. I used quite a lot. Then put the caramel on top (it doesn’t make any difference which order you put the caramel and strawberries)

Cover the cake with the other case, but this one facing down (bottom up). Pour the remain of the juice.

Now, here is a step I’m not 100% is needed: my friend covered it with foil paper and left it in the fridge until 10 minutes before serving. And only then she covered it with the cream. I did this because I prepared the cake the night before and I was scared of putting the cream straight away and not being good. But knowing me, I wouldn’t have had the patience to decorate the cake just before serving it.

The cream is also easy: using an electric mixer, mix cream until it is consistent enough to spread on the cake – but not too much or it will become butter – and then add the sugar, mixing a bit more. I used condensed milk, 1/3 of a can, and mixed by hand.

Here is how the cake looked like:

(The beauty of this cake is that you can fill it with anything you like; use your imagination and enjoy). Laura helped decorate it! 🙂

 

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Laura: 4 years old

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This post was meant to be be written and published on the 22nd May, but, hey, you heard the excuses before.

– Mum, can I have red hair?
– Uh. I suppose you can, when you grow older.
– Like, when I’m five?
– No, much older than that. But why red hair?
– I want to be like Ariel. And Jodi

Jodi is one of the teachers in her nursery and one of these days she came to me to say how proud she was because Laura said she wants to be just like Jodi when she grows up. I used to love the idea of having red hair when I was younger, but I was a teenager, not 4!

I am not the type of mother that think her kids are the most intelligent, beautiful of all. I actually think that Laura is pretty average in terms of intelligence – not a genius, but not slow either. And I’m quite happy about it. And, yes, I think she is beautiful, in her own way. A beautiful mixture of indigenous Brazilian and Eastern European. I love her smile, her eyes and her hair. I love her feet, her hands, her legs, her clumsy ballet movements. I love her mind, her personality (well… do I? Let me think… hehe).

There are a couple of things that drive me mad – the change of mood within seconds and the tantrums for no good reason (happy with tantrums that make sense). Unfortunately the tantrums are almost on a daily basis. Fortunately, it seems that she is getting more mature and can get out of them quicker than a couple of months ago.

She is a mini adult – the way she talks to us, clearly inspired by how the teachers talk to her at school, would be perfectly normal if coming from a 15 years old or a young adult, but hearing that tiny person looking at us very serious and asking “where are the bowls I left in the kitchen before I went to school? Who told you to put them away?” is hilarious.

She has finally got to that stage where she can play happily on her own. I love to watch from the distance, but it is also great to have a quick break. Not sure if it is something of this age or if it is her personality, but she is not a big fan of staying on her own/alone though. Not only when it comes to playing, but mainly when it comes to sleeping. We are trying to get her to sleep in her bedroom, but she just won’t take it. Last time I asked, she said she was afraid of the dark and of being alone (so, alone in her bedroom with the lights on is not an option for her).

If she is in a good mood, she lets Beatrice do whatever she wants to her. When Bea scratched Laura and I told her off, Laura said “it’s ok, mummy, she is just a baby and didn’t mean to; it doesn’t matter”.

She is being tested for asthma and seems to be responding well to the inhaler. I wasn’t so keen on it, as it has steroids (small doses, but still…), but she is so much better now. I could try a more natural option (what? what?) but she is such a pain when it comes to putting anything in her nose/mouth.

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– My mum locks me in a tower and she never lets me out.
– Really?? Why would she do that?
– Because she is mean. I only leave the room to work.
– How come you are here, then?
– Oh, I found a key and escaped. But she will come back and lock me again.

– Mummy, I’m Elsa.
– No, you are not.
– I AM. DON’T YOU DARE SAY I AM NOT. YOU DON’T SAY THAT. THAT IS SO RUDE!
– You can’t be Elsa. You are not blonde.
– I AM ELSA, I AM BLONDE. (and crying a river)

She is so into Princesses, and loves Frozen to bits. She knows how to sing “Let it go” from start to finish and knows the choreography. She kisses stuff pretending they are frogs. She always asks to have her hair done like TV/film characters: two plaits like Lalaloopsy or Anna from Frozen; one like Elsa. One pony tail like Barbie; two, like whoever.

The other day she told me she liked Ben 10 and Spiderman.

She likes to put on shows and perform ballet movements and she isn’t shy in public. She danced ballet in the middle of the Our Lady church in Bruges and even had a few people asking to take pictures.

She won’t go to sleep without a bedtime story. Or three. She also likes when we create our own bedtime story.

She likes when we sing for her and when we make up songs. Especially when they have her name in it.

When I drop her off at nursery, she is always shy and doesn’t want to stay. Apparently it lasts for 30 seconds after I leave her there.

She still speaks Portuguese, but she is loosing it a bit. I need to find playgroups with Brazilian kids and parents urgently!

One great thing about kids this age is that the more ridiculous their parents are, the better. And I am making the most of it before her teens.

 

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Laura being cool in Bruges

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Laura being Hello Kitty

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Laura “reading” a book in Portuguese.

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Laura sharing a ride with Thili

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Laura when she comes home from nursery

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Laura showing that she doesn’t have any sense of boundaries and space

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Laura riding “Dumbo” in Bruges

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Laura with some of her hundreds of books

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Laura being British and enjoying the sunshine in a freezing pool

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Laura and Elsa having a snooze

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Laura and BFF Iona

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Laura waiting for Bea at the bottom of the slide. To tickle her.

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Laura going down a proper big kids slide, for the 10th time

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Laura as supergirl

Beatrice: 12 months old

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This post was meant to be written and posted on the 10th of May. I was away on the day, didn’t have the time to write something beforehand and schedule, I forgot after that.

Beatrice is one year old. One year. When Laura turned one, I was expecting her to become a “big girl” overnight, like she would pop and start walking, talking, dancing, writing, reading. Not only it doesn’t happen like that, but also Beatrice is still… a baby. They call it toddler in English, but I can’t remember differentiating it in Portuguese. There are babies and children and teenagers and adults. So Beatrice turned one and she is still a baby.

An adorable baby. Yes, she is quite challenging when it comes to sleeping and I don’t know how to deal with it. Other than this, she is such an easy going baby, she is always happy, she hardly ever complain about something – and when she does, it’s when she overly tired or very very hungry or her nappy is bursting with poo. Most of the times she has her ways of telling us what she wants without crying. Like pulling my shirt and giving me the “what the heck you are hiding these for? I’m hungry, woman!”.

She is sweet and calm, but she also has her anger moments, and can get aggressive and scratches, bites, slaps, screams and throws herself on the floor whenever she doesn’t get what she wants (not that frequent though).

She has very clear facial expressions and, although she is not talking proper words, some times it is just so easy to understand her. And when her expressions don’t help, she just grabs your hand and takes you where she wants to show you something. She also understands everything. My poor memory doesn’t let me remember when Laura started understanding things, so it all seem quite new with Beatrice. If we say “Beatrice, give me Laura’s shoes there on the floor”, she knows exactly what shoes we are talking about, even with other pairs nearby. If we say “time to sleep”, she lays down on the floor and pretends to sleep.

She is so sociable and loves children. She points at children and tries to interact/play (even if they are photographs, bless her). She kisses and hugs them and it is just so sweet to watch (not just me saying, I hear this a lot).

She found her pointer finger and points at everything and every one: an airplane in the sky, a child in a shop, a flower in the garden, a duck on a book… she enjoys it so much that she can spend several minutes (a lifetime in baby time) pointing from one thing to another – as long as she has an audience.

Books are still one of her favourite things. I’m trying to teach her the animal sounds but the only one she can imitate is the fish (open and shuts her mouth) and the pig (she snorts).

She loves playing with dolls – so cute to see her putting them to sleep.

Whenever she does/makes something she feels proud of, she claps her hands. Like going upstairs unassisted or putting objects in a box.

She is very active. She is great at walking, climbing, going upstairs. She figured how to reach higher shelves by climbing boxes, stools and anything she can find on the way. Despite her dangerous explorations, she has never had any serious fall or accident.

She is learning to spin around, like a ballerina. Influence of her big sister, me thinks. She finds it very amusing and loves when we laugh.

When she hurts herself, she comes straight to me for a kiss on the injured area. If she bangs her head, she takes her hands on the head (always between her ears, even if the injured area is a different spot), puts on a suffering face and comes for a cuddle. I’m not sure how she learned that, but I think it’s from Laura, who until now asks for a kiss whenever she hurts herself.

She is very cuddly. I didn’t notice it myself, until several people mentioned it. A few friends even compared her with Laura, saying that Laura wasn’t as a baby. Anyway, she loves to be hugged and kissed and to be cuddled – and vice-versa.

She loves going out. We have to be extra careful whenever we open the door as she just goes.

She discovered TV recently. Laura was watching whatever and she stopped to watch, went closer to the TV, touched it, chatted to the characters and turned her back to play with her books and toys. From time to time she points at the TV and says something, but it doesn’t last more than a minute.

I gave up trying to list the words she says, because they are very random and aren’t frequent enough to say that she actually uses a particular word.

She has three teeth: two at the bottom and one canine at the top. She is teething – and suffering with it – but no signs of other teeth yet. By the way, teething was the only reason to date why she has ever had medication. She had a couple of very bad nights and we just assume it was teething pain and gave her Calpol for relief. Other than that, she is so much healthier than Laura ever was at the same age. (touch wood)

She is drinking cow’s milk now and again, but breast milk is still her main drink, and she wakes up at least once in the middle of the night for it.

No idea about weight, but I’m planning to check it when she has her next set of immunisations (which is on 10th of June).

 

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Beatrice and her mate Deniz

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Beatrice checking out what’s in mum’s bag

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Beatrice making sure the dummy is safe and tasty for her dollie

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Beatrice learning to drive

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Beatrice showing mummy that it is easy to be a mother of two

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Beatrice having a plum

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Beatrice loves bags and shoes – even when they are not real bags (but big sis’ sticker pack) or real shoes (but big sis’ socks)

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Beatrice wearing big sis’ wellie boots (she asked to put them on)

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Beatrice making a mess but who cares when you are being cuddled all the time by such a sweet little baby?

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Beatrice wearing daddy’s sunglasses in Bruges and making mummy wonder when she should cut her (Bea’s) hair.

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Beatrice playing with her new toy