Category Archives: Never done before

Bruges, sleepless nights and banana cake

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We spent last bank holiday in Bruges (weekend of 24/25 + Monday 26) and I was hoping to write a post about it the day after we got back. As you can see, it didn’t happen.

The trip was great, the place is so so beautiful (even Laura was sad to come back home), but our accommodation wasn’t great and I ended up having a sleepless night, which ruined the following day, which ruined the rest of the week.

Speaking of sleepless nights, sleep in our house seems to be a roller coaster. Some days good, other days bad. Beatrice is not too bad, I am ignoring some of the cries in the middle of the night (because it is not a proper cry, it is more a “dream” and she falls asleep within seconds. I do tend her when she is really crying, which was the case yesterday, 1st June, when she didn’t sleep at all) and we have great nights when I only go to her once. I can live with that. On the other hand, miss Laura has been a pain, sleeping in our bed since too long now. Again, I can live with co-sleeping, BUT I cannot live with someone kicking me through the night. The night after we got home (after a sleepless night, remember?), she kicked me three times: on the face, on the breast and on my ribs. Not a gentle kick, a Bruce Lee kick, that left me in pain the whole of the following day. If you want to see me deadly angry, just mess up with my sleep.

And because I cannot return the kids to wherever they came from, what do I do? Call Supernanny? Sleep in the living room? Run away? No, I stuff my face with things that are not good for me and will make me overweight again eat. Within 6 days, we had two banana cakes (very yummy) and a creme caramel. Oh, well, I think I’ll have to resume the diet once my mum goes back, next Saturday.

So, what’s with the banana cake? We had a few bananas that were nearly going bad and I was sick of throwing bananas in the bin so I googled a banana cake recipe and found this one here. But I had to adapt because I didn’t have certain ingredients, so here is (are) my version(s) of it:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil – I quickly melted it on the microwave
  • 150g caster sugar – I also tried with muscovado sugar and the result was good
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 190g flour (2nd time I used 150g of flour and 50g of ground linseed, as I had loads at home and don’t know what to do with it)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 30g of preferred chopped nuts (I used pecan the first time and mixed nuts the second)
  • 60ml coconut milk

Method:

  1. Grease and line a loaf tin. Mix oil, sugar and vanilla.
  2. Add the mashed bananas, mix well.
  3. Add the egg, mix well.
  4. Stir in the flour and the milk. And finally add the baking powder.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin. Optional: sprinkle with a tablespoon of demerara sugar to give a crunch topping (I did that the 2nd time but didn’t like the result that much).
  6. Bake at 180 C until a skewer comes out clean. (it took me about 45 minutes)
It was the first time I  baked a banana cake and it was so yummy that I didn’t wait it cool. As a result, I had to bake another one two days later (because more bananas were going to waste and because I was stressed with something else).
Our window view in Bruges

Our window view in Bruges

The banana cake saga: the first attempt

The banana cake saga: the first attempt

The banana cake saga: the second attempt

The banana cake saga: the second attempt

Creme Caramel, beautiful and tasty after nearly 4 hours baking (it doesn't take that long though)

Creme Caramel, beautiful and tasty after nearly 4 hours baking (it doesn’t take that long though)

Who would have thought that this little angel is a Bruce Lee in the making?

Who would have thought that this little angel is a Bruce Lee in the making?

Have you been to Hastings?

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We went to Hastings for the first time on Saturday. It’s a good hour drive from where we live. The place is on the south coast of England and if you have never heard of Hastings, that’s ok. Google it! Hahaha just kidding. Hastings is famous for the Battle of Hastings of 1066, when the Normans conquered England.

The actual town where the battle took place wasn’t even Hastings – the place is called, tah-dah, Battle. Original, isn’t it?

So, our first stop was this cute little medieval town called Battle, where the cathedral and the battle field are. Entrance is free for under 5s, seniors get a discount (I think it’s about 6.50) and adult is around £8. We got falconery (whatever it’s called) and archery sessions included, but we couldn’t be bothered to wait.

Pushchairs are not recommended if you want to go around the whole field, but the good news is that you can leave it at the room you collect your audii guide from.

Laura enjoyed part of the walk (the whole round takes about 40min), but she was tired and bored several times. We stopped for a picnic and then for a quick relaxing time, when she almost fell asleep. Other than that, she ran a lot, played with the audio book (she was actually listening to it), asked to be carried several times.

Battle is adorable. Tiny buildings (cottages), sweet local shops selling all sort of lovely decoration objects (all of those things you don’t need but still end up buying). I saw a couple of shops I wanted to go back – including a charity shop selling cooler stuff than the stuff in my area – but I didn’t have the chance to go.

We had lunch there – the main street is full of cafes, but very few restaurants or pubs. We managed to find a pub (I don’t know about you, but I love pub food), where I had a yummy grilled seabass with prawns (I think they were crayfish though) cream, new potatoes and broccoli/baby corn/cabbage. The boys had fish and chips, my mother in law had chicken and bacon salad and Laura had chicken nuggets. Service was really good. Not pricey.

Here are some photos of the first part of the day. These were taken on my phone; I have more in my camera, I’ll post them later. The 2nd part of the day will come tomorrow.

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Back to school

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As part of my “something different” project, I went back to the books. For the last month, I was learning about the UK in order to take the Life in the UK test.

The test is one of the requirements to apply for British citizenship. Fair enough: if you want a British passport, the least you should do is to speak the language and know a bit about the country.

I took the test today and passed. Next step is to fill in a 15 page form and pay several hundreds of pounds and wait.

Hopefully the whole household will be 100% British in 2012.

P.s.: I still need to register Laura in the Brazilian consulate – at the moment she is only British.

Nothing special, just me being me

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On the train back home, this guy sat next to me. It was one of those 3 seat rows and he was in the middle. The guy was big. Big as in tall and big as in fat. Fat to the point that half of his leg was on mine and half of this arm was on me. If I was cold, it would have been nice. If I knew the guy, I would have probably leaned on him and slept. I have absolutely nothing against fat (or in this case, obese) people. I don’t feel sorry for them, I don’t dislike them. I think people are much more than their physical appearance, and normally fat people are extremely sweet and have a great sense of humour. I’m not slim. I might not be totally obese (you might be surprise to know that my BMI is quite high and got very close to the obese limit), but I will never be slim.

Back to my point: nothing against fat (or skinny) people. But a few months ago I was a bit annoyed with a piece of news on TV, where an obese lady was defending her right to be fat and that people should accept it. Not only that – she was claiming the right to have TWO seats on tube or trains because she was big. And she was having a go at a doctor that was trying to tell her that being fat is not an issue as long as you are healthy – but normally obese people are part of a high risk group. And she was also outraged when the doctor suggested that obese people that refused to treat themselves were also expensive to the country, as there is a great number of people suffering from deceases caused by obesity. Dude, honestly? Is it too hard to understand that? It’s like smokers that think that they can smoke, don’t want to stop, and the world should adjust to their needs. And when they fall ill, they demand that the health system treat them.

I can’t stand selfish people. I’m totally fine with obese, smokers, anorexic, drug addicts… that seek help and treatment and I’m totally fine that these treatments are funded by my taxes. I’m not fine with the stupid fat woman saying that she will be fat, she has the right to be fat, she will eat the world just to be fatter, that the train companies need to provide bigger seats or double seats for people that want to be fat and then seek public service to treat her heart attack because of her fat.

P.S.: I’m talking about REAL OBESE people, not chubby people.

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Yesterday I watched a show about a sub-celebrity (Claire Richards) dubbed “the world’s most famous yo-yo dieter”. Basically the show is her attempt to lose weight and keep fit, but as with most compulsive eaters, she cannot stay away of food and she eats until she gets sick.

I’m not a fan of this sort of show – reality shows featuring celebrities I have never heard of – but I have to confess that I thought that the girl is naturally sympathetic and funny (as opposed to scripted sympathetic and funny, if you know what I mean).

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I’m paranoid about my body. I think I’m obese (I’m not), I want to lose a lot of weight (but I can’t follow my stupid diet), I’m not happy with my looks. I do what all chubby girls do: eat a Big Mac (or equivalent, as I don’t eat at MacDonald’s) with a diet Coke. While I was still at the old job, I had a pack of sweeteners for my coffee. I was shocked impressed with the amount of people that didn’t have a clue what the heck the sweetener was. They used to call it my “special sugar”. And a couple of people asked me what it was for. Helloz? 21st century? London, one of the biggest cities in the world?

But, yeah, it is very hard to go on a rigid diet here if you have a sweet tooth.

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I had two days off in between jobs. They were brilliant days. But being at home also means that all sort of people knock at your door. One of these days, Naomi knocked. She is a 19 year old Nigerian girl, very pretty, with amazing skin and slightly Asian eyes. She is very chatty and shows interest in people and their life experiences. Naomi works as a volunteer for Practical Action, a charity that helps people in Bangladesh, Sudan and Nepal. The organization she represents uses simple but effective solutions that give the local people means to maintain themselves. So instead of giving the fish, they teach them how to catch them. Naomi was very passionate about it and researched a lot about these places and their costumes. Not only that, she is a good listener and learned a lot from my neighbours. One of the nice things about the UK is that you find a lot of people that love to travel to different places and learn about their culture. People that go to Thailand to spend 6 months travelling across the country, but not only for the beaches. It’s one of the main things I like about Europeans, especially the nordics (maybe it’s their Viking spirit). Anyhoo, Naomi was telling me about my neighbour’s experiences in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sudan. Isn’t it ironic that I find out about my neighbours’ travel experiences through a student from somewhere near Coventry? The other interesting thing that Naomi told me is that Practical Action also helps university students that work for them, for example: engineer students can help the charity by coming up with projects to be implemented in those countries. In Naomi’s case, she said that working for the charity is helping her with her communication skills, as she wants to work with PR. Some people might argue that the charity is exploiting these students, but I like Naomi’s positive attitude of learning with this experience. She sat on my living room floor and we chatted for about an hour. In the end I sponsored floating gardens in Bangladesh.

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Despite extremely tired, I’m loving my new job. My tiredness has nothing to do with the job – the environment is very relaxed, people don’t work under pressure, everybody is in a good mood… Today we had a team barbecue and the whole Global Entertainment team left at 3pm! Free booze & food. I had to leave early to collect Laura, but still managed to eat some ribs with potatoes and have a coke.

But this is not the reason (at least not the main reason) I’m loving my job. They see me there as a very experienced person that has a lot to add to the team. But in fact it is a new job, different from everything I’ve done before, and I am learning and will continue to learn a lot. My manager is giving me time to get into my role – I’ll have a couple of weeks to go through materials and reports and to meet internal people. There is nothing extremely urgent to do. I have a Christmas project that I’m already working on and I’ll have to start working on the plans for 2012 and 2013 soon, but it’s so unusual to have time to do things.

Another positive thing about this job is that I have support. The team coordinator helps me so so much – not just to adjust to the company, but she is managing my diary (!!!!), sorting out log in details to the systems, arranging hardwares I might need, etc. And she does it all with the biggest smile in the world, like it is a true pleasure to help. I love her already. My manager is also a sweetheart – isn’t it great when you like your boss?

Anyway, I’m feeling very comfortable there and also very excited about my projects. I’ve been thinking and planning a lot and meeting with loads of people – each meeting gives me more food for thought and sometimes my head hurts with so many ideas coming of it.

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It’s late and I better go to bed. We will have another tough night, as little baby having really bad coughs and waking up every 30 minutes. I feel for her and can’t wait to come the weekend and spend the day taking care of her.

Despite these little issues (runny nose and cough – blame the nursery that insists in keeping the kids outdoors in the cold weather. Fresh air my ass!), this has been her best week so far at the nursery. She is loving it, doesn’t cry, doesn’t need the dummy, is eating extremely well. BUT (there’s always a but, right?), she reduced her two 30-minute naps (sometimes a 30 min and a 1 hour) to ONE 40-50 minute afternoon nap. Of course she comes home exhausted, but she can’t relax. She wants to explore the house and play with me as much as she can. Who can blame an almost 16 months old child for wanting to be awake? Exploring the world at this age must be fantastic!

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Night-night

Another Never done before

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This morning, while on the train to work, I was thinking about something different to do today. When I left the station, I was decided I was going to have a relaxed morning – I was late to work and I would have a decent warm breakfast somewhere. I was already dreaming about scrambled eggs & bacon on toast. It was when I spotted a guy selling The Big Issue magazine and I decided to change my plans completely.

This week's issue

I’ve always wanted to buy this magazine, just to see what it is about – and it’s not bad. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a magazine run by a charity that helps the homeless and vulnerable housed people, as their website describe. It’s a weekly publication and it costs 2 pounds. What I didn’t know was that the vendor pays 1 pound for it – so they keep 1 pound for themselves. What I didn’t understand is if this guys have to pay for the magazine in advance and what happens if they don’t sell the magazines… anyway, maybe I’ll ask them one day.

The thing is, normally the magazine vendors are very sympathetic, always say good morning to you, but have very sad eyes. You can see the suffering through them. When I approached this guy, I said good morning and he replied with a smile. The I gave him the 2 pound coin and he seemed very surprised – oh, you want the magazine!? And he thanked me and wished me a good day. I didn’t buy it just for the sake of helping the guy – I wanted to read it and I did, on my way back home. And I might buy it every week; it’s only 8 pounds a month. Probably the price I would have paid for a nice breakfast in central London, minus the calories.

Snippets

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I have just watched two episodes of Suppernanny US. First of all, if I had to pick up a superhero, it would be Supernanny, above Wolverine, Iron Man, Spiderman and all the others. That woman is my hero, my inspiration, a true superstar! Second, I really hope I would never get to the stage that I would consider asking supernanny’s help. Because let’s face it: your house needs to be a bit worse than chaotic to get Supernanny’s attention and time. And if there’s something I really don’t want is to live in a chaotic home.

In today’s episode (ok, it’s a 2009 eps, and I recorded, so I have no idea when it aired in the UK), she helped a family with TEN children. 10: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. The oldest is 15, the youngest is 8 months old. Not only that, but the mum’s dream was to have a dozen – yes, 12 – but the dad didn’t want any more children – shame on him! And if this is not enough, the dad is also an alcoholic. I cried a river watching it. Not because of the parents – loonies – but because of the children, especially the two older ones, who had to look after their siblings like they were replacement parents. These kids, 14 and 15 years old, didn’t have the chance to do stuff that 14-15 years old kids do because they were too busy feeding, changing, dressing their brothers and sisters. And mum would go mental if they didn’t “help”.

The thing I love about Supernanny is that the woman tells everything to the parents face. In this case in particular, she pointed out that mum’s problem was that she didn’t have a supportive mum and a strong family herself, so she was trying to compensate this having a football team. And she didn’t trust dad, her husband, to help with his own children because of this alcoholism. And the poor kids had to suffer the consequences. But of course, being a scripted show, it has to have a happy ending and mum and dad are good people and love their children and wanted to make it work. Dad went to rehab and was more participative at home looking after the kids, mum stopped expecting too much from the older children and wasn’t shouting so much and all the kids were happy.

Why did I cry? Because I’m terrified about the remote possibility of being a bad parent and screwing my children’s head and having them saying they are not happy. I know that I am doing a good job for now, I chose a great and responsible man to be the father of my child and that Laura is an adorable and very good girl. But it is still scary to think that you are responsible for someone’s life…

P.S.: I’ve also become a softie with motherhood – I cry when I listen to the song Aquarela.

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Laura’s 3rd day at nursery and little one is making us proud. Today I dropped her off as I worked from home. She wrapped her arms around my neck and wouldn’t let go and cried a little bit – but only after her little friend Nathan started crying horribly. According to her key carer – here we have 3 kids (0 to 2) per key carer, but of course the children are looked after by the other girls as well – she is doing great for her first week. She said that normally kids don’t want to eat and don’t poo when they start at nursery, but Laura is eating very well and pooing. And guess what? Yesterday she had 6oz of cow’s milk (200ml?)!! She never has cow’s milk at home (except with coffee, and just a little). She didn’t have milk today, but I told the lady that she can offer her whenever.

Things I’ve noticed since she started the nursery: she is in a better mood at the end of the day – exhausted, but happy and playful. She is very tired by 18.30, but she doesn’t relax straight away. It still takes a while for her to drift off and sleep, and she is still waking up several times in the middle of the night (last night she ended up sleeping in our bed). She might be overstimulated and too excited to cool down, but hopefully this will change.

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I finally got a fruit/vegetable rack! No big deal, but it was really annoying that we didn’t have one. Now we do and I’m loving it.

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I’m surprised with how messy we are and how many things we collect! I tried to clean/organise the mess a bit today and the more I organised the more I found things to organise. So many papers!!!! My next mission (with no deadline) is to organise the living/dining. We are almost there, only 3 items to go. One of them I will try to sort out in the next month.

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Is it just me or houses with kids have toys spread all over the rooms? There isn’t one single room in this house that doesn’t have several toys around it. Hall, kitchen, living/dining, all bedrooms, both bathrooms… Even the garage has a couple of toys! Goodness me!

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Continuing my project of doing something different from time to time, today I drove to the nursery and back without the GPS! No big deal, the place is 10 minutes drive from here, but I admit: I don’t leave the house without the GPS telling me where to go. Well done me!

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And one last thing: I’ve been trying to film what I think it’s the cutest expression in the world. When we are upset with Laura and we look very seriously at her, she looks down, then turn her eyes up, still with her face down, and opens a sweet and shy smile to us. Her face is so adorable that we have to control not to laugh and hug her – otherwise she will learn the trick and we will have no authority to tell her off. But her face is something that can’t be explained, needs to be seen. I will try to get it on video and share with you