Improvising Easter eggs

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This Easter, we were determined to decorate eggs in Seoul! Nasty colds kept us from decorating with our friends, and so we decided to improvise. Finding white eggs is hard enough in Seoul (Homeplus is the answer to that mystery), but find them we did. A rumage through my baking cupboard uncovered blue and green food colouring, and our art box provided stickers and sharpies! Perfect!

In the end, I had the most fun with this project, with Ben checking in every few minutes to watch the eggs change colour! But decorating these eggs made me realize that fun and beautiful holiday projects can be done with very minimal preparation (I’m sensing a theme in my life), and I’m looking forward to next year’s eggs when Ben will be excited to make something too!

What easter traditions do you do with your family? Did you try any great art projects with kids this year? This great site has a million ideas!

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Fast and easy muffin recipe and the most amazing tip for having freshly-baked muffins every morning!

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It’s no secret that I’m not a great cook. I have a handful of great recipes up my sleeve that I can whip up in a pinch (this one immediately comes to mind), but when I try something new in the kitchen, it almost always turns into a gigantic mess. Most of the time I just need a completely fool-proof idea. Which brings me to today.

20 minutes ago I decided that I wanted to make muffins. A good healthy muffin is the perfect on-the-go toddler snack, a good quick breakfast, and perfect for my tea-time date with a friend tomorrow. A peruse through my trusty babyfood cookbook made me feel like an inadequate parent for not having steel-cut oats, wheat bran, or applesauce stocked in the pantry. And searching my all-time favourite cooking blog made me feel like the inadequate cook that I am.

So off I went in search of the notebook that I carried around with me everywhere last year. I found it in my throw-everything drawer and between pages of thesis notes, german homework, french homework, grocery lists, pre-baby checklists, appointment notes, baby name lists, and flight itineraries, I found a hastily scribbled note titled: MUFFINS underlined heavily. This is the MOST BASIC muffin recipe likely in existence. If you want to make muffins RIGHT NOW and you have literally 10 minutes to whip them up between putting your toddler to bed and collapsing into bed yourself, and you have only the very basic of kitchen utensils and ingredients, then this is the PERFECT recipe for you. Without any further ado, I give you: MUFFINS

2 cups Flour

3 tsp Baking powder

1/2 tsp Salt

3/4 cup Sugar

1 Egg

1 cup Milk

1/4 cup oil

1 cup of ANYTHING that you have in the house

(chopped fruit, nuts, raisins, cheese, WHATEVER)

Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the wet ingredients together. Pour wet into dry and mix gently just until combined. Bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes.

TA DA! MUFFINS!

Today I threw in some chopped apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and a couple of tablespoons of oat bran, but I could have just as easily used up some of the frozen berries I have in the freezer from Costco. Make them healthier by using whole wheat flour, or by throwing in some bran of some kind. Use less sugar if you like. Add some Streusel to kick it up a notch. I promise that these will be tasty and will make you feel like the competent parent and cook that you are 😉

P.S. If you want to have freshly-baked muffins every morning with very little effort (and who doesn’t?), cut a silicone or foil muffin tin into pairs. Fill each muffin cup with muffin batter, carefully put the muffin tin sections into individual freezer bags. and toss them in the freezer! When you want to wake up to fresh muffins, throw one of the sections of muffin batter into the fridge to defrost overnight. In the morning, put the muffin tin section in the toaster oven for 15 minutes (180 degrees) while you take a shower, and PRESTO! MUFFINS!

Sabina swims

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Ben and I have started swimming lessons, which has been super fun. And the 2-hour mega-nap that Ben takes after swimming class is awesome (and maybe even my favourite part)!!

But I have to admit that my teeny-weeny bikini days are over for now, and I’m still wearing the FABULOUS maternity two-piece that I bought pre-Ben! It is no secret that maternity bathing suits are super ugly. But I have found that most amazing suit that has seen me through my “maternelle aqua-aerobics” class in France, our mini-babymoon in Europe, and now toddler swim classes, and I still love it! The company is called Sabina Swims, and they are headquartered in Hong Kong. The secret is in the flattering cut of the neckline, and the drawstring sides that expand as you do… and then back again, making them the perfect post-baby suit too! Their new patterns come out in April so I just might pick up another.

The best part? Sabina Swims has free international shipping!

Happy shopping!

On baby naming

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So you may remember that we were having some minor difficulty with finding boys names that we could both agree on. Difficulty that started to resemble panic and infatuation. At the end of all that, we went to the hospital with 2 names for girls that we loved, and 4 names for boys that we were alright with (none of which were Benjamin) and ended up with Benjamin Rudolf!

Why?

I have no idea.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Rudolf is my hubby’s middle name, and his father and grandfathers’ names, and we both thought a namesake name was perfect in the middle name slot. (But I kind of like that people ask me, “Rudolf?? Because he was born at Christmastime?”  It would be hilarious if we had named little Ben after a reindeer just because he was born in December. Hilarious and tragic in equal parts. But I love that people think it enough of a possibilty to ask!)

Hubby suggested Benjamin about 4 days before he was born, as kind of a last effort to scour the baby name book and come up with something (anything!) that we could add to our list of boy names. We both vetoed it, and put it in the pile of names that we had considered, but not seriously.

And then he was born and we both (separately) thought, “Benjamin!” And so he was.

So now I look back at all of the those hours I spent reading name blogs and name books and writing list and after list and I think: crap. I probably should have used my time a little more productively… like maybe by finishing my thesis before Ben’s birth 🙂

Did you have a hard time naming your children? Did you have a process for coming up with names? I’ve heard everything from a brainstorming session over drinks a la Rosie Pope to hockey playoff charts that pin names against one another! How did you choose?

Birth Announcement

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Benjamin Rudolf was born on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 1:14am! At 3525 grams and 52 cms he was an adorable little bundle. And now he is ONE YEAR OLD!

For a long time I contemplated abandoning this blog (and I did for more than a year!! oops!), but it always felt like a loose end that needed to be tied, and so here I am back to writing.

I don’t think I need to explain my absence. Anyone who has a new baby knows that life gets extremely busy. And the very last thing this momma wanted to do was sit and the computer and type! Higher on my priority list were things like: sleeping. And eating.

Then I blinked, and he was one!

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Partly to blame was another international move. Three months after Baby Ben was born, we relocated to Seoul, South Korea. You can see what he’s been up to here if you like!

If you could sum up the first year of your baby’s life in a few words, which words would you choose? What could you manage or not manage in your child’s first year of life?what were your priorities, and what did you let fall to the sidelines? Any advice for new parents? Any regrets? I’d love to hear from you again!

Bringing on baby

4 days overdue, I am eager to meet this baby and to not be pregnant any longer. Pregnancy dreams are bordering on crazy, baby movements feel like ninja-kicks, and waddling is not my preferred mode of transportation. Now that I am past term, I have to go to the hospital every second day for monitoring, and if there is some progress will give me 14 days before inducing!! 14 days overdue?!! Nooooo thank you! But if there is no progress, we will be facing a C-section.

SO, I went to my midwife and asked for some tips. Here is what she suggested: sex, walking, resting (baths, sleep), belly massage , raspberry leaf tea, cinnamon tea, spicy food, and a homeopathic medicine that I’ve been downing like candy every 4 hours.

Were you overdue? Do you have any tips for bring on baby?

Baby Massage

Before leaving France, a friend of mine, who is in the process of becoming certified to teach baby massage, taught me some moves! The “squeeze and twist”, “swedish milking”, the “water wheel”, and it all sounded pretty nice. Apparently, infant massage is great for encouraging bonding, and has a lot of other benefits as well such as improving sleep patterns, relieving colic, gas, and constipation, and promoting the release of calming hormones. I have also heard that it is best to start baby massage early on in baby’s life. So I’m curious:

Have any of you tried baby massage? When did you start? Did you notice any benefits? Any drawbacks? Would you do it again?

Weekend Picks: holiday fun!

An unreliable internet connection eliminated an entire week of blog-writing and so here we are at another weekend, which also happens to be the first Advent, or the first of four Sundays before Christmas. I’m new to Germany and so new to the whole advent thing, and discovered very quickly the best part of being 4 weekends from Christmas: Weihnachtsmarkts!

1. Christmas Markets: 40 weeks pregnant and waiting for baby in a small German town surrounded by rolling pastures and livestock has been uber relaxing, but this city-girl needs a bit more excitement and if a Christmas market is the new thing in town, then I am there. We spent the weekend wandering through our local Bavarian market, tasting some delicious Christmas treats and smelling the gluhwein with envy.

2. Movies: Our second new discovery in town has been our local video store and I’m sad to say that it was the highlight of our week. I’m sure there are other mamas out there who might relate to the excruciating boredom and crazy uncertainty that comes with waiting for potentially the most painful and fulfilling experience ever to occur in my life, and in my opinion a little distraction is in order. Add to this that watching a Christmas movie is second only to a hockey game in my husband’s eyes and you have two happy campers. We have also discovered that for a Christmas cartoon quick-fix, youtube has some of our favourites.

3. Music: I say this with tongue in cheek as my husband, who some might say is Christmas-obsessed, has a favourite Christmas album that drives me absolutely crazy: Boney M. It happens to be the only album that he has downloaded on his computer and has therefore been on repeat all weekend. Here is a glimpse at the nightmare that is my Christmas music reality at the moment.

4. Cookies: I brought my cookie cutters and rolling pin to Germany with us and planned to make Christmas cookies as a labour project. I read that it’s a good idea to plan an activity to keep yourself busy with when labour begins to keep your mind off of contractions and to let labour progress while it is still easy to deal with. Always the optimist (and cookie enthusiast), I thought that perhaps starting on the labour project would help to kick-start actual labour and have baked (and consumed) at least 6 dozen cookies since arriving 2 weeks ago. No labour yet, and the baby feels humongous. Yep, that back-fired.

5. Snow: Okay, there’s no snow here yet, but it’s been hovering around 0 degrees every day and I’ve been promised snow very soon by a very reliable source. According to said source, 0 is very warm for this time of year, and I am inclined to believe it as it seems as if the locals think it’s summertime. As I was tromping through the town in my Ugg boots this weekend and shivering in a scarf and toque and jacket that doesn’t close in the front anymore, the locals seemed happy as clams eating in outdoor cafes in sweaters and jeans! And just last night as we were walking back from the Weihnachtsmarkt in the crisp and clear -4 degree night, we saw a couple laughing together, coats unbuttoned, eating ICE CREAM! Let me tell you, Germans are sturdy folk.

I came from a very “Christmas” family, and my husband’s family is equally festive and so the holidays are typically the highlight of the year for us. This year promises to be extra special as we are returning home to Canada the day before Christmas after being overseas for a full year, and with a new baby to boot. So even though it is still November, I’m happy to start the countdown to the holidays on this first advent!

What are your favourite Christmas traditions? Do you have any songs/movies/activities that you just can’t live without during the holidays?

Anticipating Birth

At 38 weeks and 3 days (5 hours and 23 minutes… no, not really) pregnant, I can’t help but think about what lies ahead. I have always had a bit of a fear around birth and so I have been reading about birth for months, or more accurately, 34 weeks and 3 days. As someone who has always worked with parents and children, I have heard my share of birth horror stories, and so when my good friend gave birth earlier this year and described it as “awesome”, I definitely wanted to hear more. On her advice, I’ve been reading only positive birth stories, as well as some informative (but not at all scary) books written by some well-known midwives and birth educators.

My preference for a natural birth had me a little bit scared in France, where our local hospital has an 89% epidural rate. But we decided instead to birth in Germany near my husband’s family and so we drove the 8 hours to a small city in Bavaria to wait it out. To be completely honest, I was surprised by just how natural natural birth is here! We took a tour of the hospital delivery rooms and they looked like gymnastics studios, with giant exercise balls, birthing stools, and ropes hanging from the ceiling! We also learned that all of the hospital midwives are certified in homeopathy, aromatherapy and acupuncture.

I have read all about what to do ahead of time: pack a hospital bag, buy supplies, wash the baby’s clothes, write a birth plan, but haven’t quite started on any of that yet. Instead, we had a lesson on birth from our midwife (how exactly does one use a birthing stool??), and sat through an entire 3-hour class on newborn care in German, nervously laughing with 5 other expectant couples fumbling to put cloth diapers around plastic baby dolls. Now we are just waiting and walking, walking and waiting. And drinking litres of raspberry leaf tea. Apparently it tones the uterus, and I have no idea what that means, but according to Wikipedia it can cause labour to start or be easier or something, so I’m all over it.

I would love to hear about what you did to prepare for the birth of your child, or the interesting ways you spent your time waiting! I am also curious if anyone has a story about crazy birthing equipment?!