Practically Perfect Pancakes

I love pancakes. More than most, probably. So today I want to share my recipe, so that you can enjoy them at home! I also find that pancakes are a perfect meal for kids who need some extra nutrients, with the right secret ingredients!

1 cup flour

4 tblsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg (whisked)

1 cup milk

3 tblsp melted butter

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, and the wet ingredients in a small bowl. Then pour the wet into the dry and mix them together gently with a wooden spoon (do not over-mix!). The pour the batter into a pan that is on medium heat. When the batter is dry on the outside and has bubbles in the centre, flip! This recipe makes about 8 pancakes.

This is the basic recipe, but can also be amped up in wholesome goodness by using whole wheat flour, a few teaspoons of ground flax seeds, an extra egg, and fruit or berries (blueberries, bananas, strawberries and apples work well!). They can be served with almond butter, nuts, jam, honey, or just plain butter. mmmm.

As a special holiday treat when I was young, my mom would add a bit of food colouring and make some great shapes! Orange ovals with chocolate chip faces for Halloween, pink hearts at Valentines, green trees or snowmen at Christmas, our initials just for fun.

Enjoy!

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Weekend picks: favourite websites

Ever since I discovered I was pregnant, I have been trying to prepare for birth and parenting in some way or another, and in this day and age that means scouring the internet for help. Here are some of my favourite websites and blogs:

Baby Center – This by far has been my most well-used resource. Weekly updates tell me what the baby’s up to, what I should be feeling, and compares the babies size to a fruit or vegetable, which is endlessly entertaining. Especially when I catch myself freaking out in the produce aisle of Carrefour, or at the market. “reeaallly, a PAPAYA???!”. I’m immune to it now. I know this because this week baby reached watermelon and I barely flinched.

Swistle Baby Names – I am constantly checking this blog, because at 38 weeks pregnant, I still have no idea what we are going to name this child. Actually, this is a small lie, because we have about 3 solid names picked out for a girl. The problem is that we have a 50% chance of having a boy, and in that case we will be screwed. Or our son might get a really feminine name. This blog lets people write in with their naming dilemmas and it has been super informative. It’s given us lots and lots of maybes but I am still checking daily just in case “the one” turns up just in the nick of time.

Cup of Jo – This blog is by a writer/mother in New York who has great taste in just about everything. She posts about everything from fashion and restaurants to breast-feeding in public, and I love hearing what she has to say.

Lay Baby Lay – Nursery inspiration at its finest! I’m not even very in to home decorating (and have very little skill in this department) but I find myself checking this website often for inspiration and just to check out the new and beautiful things! My favourite is “Zoe Ellen’s nursery” which is filed under “turquoise”. I think that if I were to design a nursery for Baby (which I suppose I will eventually) I think I would go for something like that one; gender neutral and eclectic.

You Can’t Call it “It” – Another great baby name site with lots of cool articles and ideas on baby names. I am getting desperate so I spend a lot of time on baby name websites. This one is particularly good!

What are some of the websites that you visit for pregnancy/baby/parenting advice? And how the heck did you find and decide on a name for your child? (I would love some tips! …and suggestions too!)

Fatherhood Friday

For this Fatherhood Friday, I want to highlight a fabulous dad that I first saw when this video hit facebook a year or so ago:

 

And then I saw him on Ellen:

 

And now I love to check his youtube channel every once in a while. I love his message about teaching his children about music, art and community, and his girls are just adorable! Check out some of their covers!

Do you sing with your children? What values are most important to you as a parent?

 

 

Children’s art

Today over Skype, my mom told me a terrible story about my three year-old niece at her art class. Terrible, because three year-old art should be exciting and free and spontaneous and fun.

My niece was at our favourite neighbourhood children’s drop-in art class that will remain nameless because at the moment I am very disappointed in it. The premise of the class is that the teacher reads a story, and then the children all create art around that story. So far so good, stories are fabulous provocation for art! But then the teacher laid out a sample of what the children’s art should look like on an easel, which today was a cat’s face. All of the children were to make eyes and noses and mouths and whiskers and put it together like the teacher’s model. Now, even this is sometimes okay. Teaching children how to create something step-by-step is sometimes a very good lesson, especially if you are constructing something unique or intricate, BUT I would hesitate to do this and call it art. So back to the story, my niece drew and cut out her eyes and nose and then to her dismay, she realised they were too big to fit onto her cat face! My sister noticed that she became a bit teary-eyed and asked her what was wrong, and she said “my cat doesn’t look like the teacher’s”.

To me, and any self-respecting preschool teacher, this whole scene is devastating! Not only is my niece not experiencing exciting and free and spontaneous art, but she is learning that art has to look a certain way, and that not conforming to a model means that her art is “wrong”.

Structured art (as opposed to unstructured art) is easy to spot, and if your child is in a preschool classroom, it is easy to tell if your child gets to experience art, or just to make it. If your child is taught structured art, you will see bulletin boards filled with the same artwork such as ladybugs with pre-cut spots or daffodils with pre-cut petals and leaves. I can find a million examples just by searching “ladybug preschool art” at Google images.

Unstructured art is art that encourages children to explore textures, colours, and materials, communicate an idea or story, socialize non-verbally with others, and sort through feelings. For a fabulous article on the many different languages of children’s art, try to get your hands on this:

Kind, S. (2005).  Windows to a child’s world: Perspectives on children’s art making. In K. Grauer & R. L. Irwin (Eds). StARTing with: Readings in Canadian elementary art education, 2nd ed. London, Ontario: Canadian Society of Education through Art

And for some great examples of amazing preschool art education, look at the art encouraged by these fabulous Vancouver preschools, Capilano University Children’s Centre, and Little Ark Preschool:

http://www.littlearkpreschool.com/gallery.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

Baby-wearing

Another thing that I saw a lot of in Germany is baby-wearing. Two of the world’s most popular woven baby wraps (Didymos and Storchenwiege) are made in Germany and it seemed like everywhere I went I saw people wearing them! They are made from beautiful fabrics and come with instructions on a variety of wrap styles. I ended up buying the Storchenwiege Inka (pictured above) and I can’t help but practice wrapping almost every day! I’m very excited to try it out for real, but I do have some apprehensions about its’ practicality.

Did any of you carry your babies in a wrap or sling? Did it meet your expectations? Would you use it again? What are some pros or cons that you experienced?

Mother Goose

I’ve taught songs and rhymes to parents and children for the last four years in Canada with the wonderful Parent-Child Mother Goose Program, and since living in France, have started up a class here as well! Today was our very last class for the season and I know I will miss our tuesday mornings together! In honor of our classes, I wanted to share a couple of my favourite songs and rhymes for you to use at home with your own little ones so I added a new page to this blog with the lyrics of some of my favourite songs and rhymes for children that I will try to keep adding to!

Many of them come from talented folk singer Kathy Reid-Naimen and her 12 award-winning childrens music CDs. You can listen to some of them here.

But my absolute favourite lullaby is by my favourite childhood singer, Raffi! May there always be sunshine.

Kindercafes

What I loved most about living in Berlin this summer was the family-friendly atmosphere just about everywhere. In my neighbourhood of Prenzlauer berg in particular there were dozens of parks and natural playgrounds, and best of all, Kindercafes! Coming from a typically grey and rainy hometown myself, I can completely appreciate parents’ need for a place to go for a break and for some time to commune with other adults, especially during those dreary winter months. Kindercafes offer a child-friendly environment where kids can play and be kids (noisy, playful, messy, crazy!) and parents can take a time-out and enjoy some top-notch kaffee and kuchen (coffee and cake)! What I loved most were the interesting menu items ranging from personalized pizza faces to homemade baby food, along with some super creative play spaces! Here are a few links to my favourites:

Cafe shoenhausen

Emma & Paul

Freund Blase

Knilchbar

Milchbart

Cafe Kreuzzwerg

Keiz Kind

Aren’t these amazing? If I had a coffee shop dream, this is exactly the kind of coffee shop that I would want to have! And if I had any type of artistic talent, I would love to design one too! As it stands, I will stick with what I know: taste-testing 🙂

Weekend picks: Children’s books

It’s amazing the memories that stand out from childhood. Some of the most vivid for me were reading with my sister and my parents. Now that I am awaiting the birth of my own child, I am thinking back to some of those classics that I want to have around again! Do you recognize any of these?! What were your favourites growing up?

Fatherhood Friday

I have a special place in my heart for dads. Maybe it’s because I have a great one, and I’m pretty sure I married one too.

Because of this, I have dedicated fridays on this blog to fathers!

Today I want to share this picture that a friend sent to me from Sweden:

I love it. As someone who has worked with children and families in Canada for many years and in many different capacities, I am overly aware of how mother-centric some family services and environments can be. Not so in Sweden! As well as having some awesome family policy, Sweden is a mecca for primary caregiving dads! I love that this sign challenges some of our assumptions about gender and child care.

What are your thoughts? Would you find a sign like this in your city/country/neighbourhood?

a post about not making pumpkin muffins

Today I was planning a leisurely post about pumpkin muffins (my absolutely obsessive pregnancy craving of late) but Baby had other plans. Instead, I spent the greater part of yesterday and today with painful contractions (at 36 weeks!) and decided to call my doctor. Apparently this and a few other fun symptoms led her to believe that I was in early labour and she told me to head to the hospital for tests. If they came back positive, I would have to deliver within the next 2 days! This was not what I was hoping to hear, I quickly threw together some necessities in case we would need them later (toothbrush, car seat, change of clothes) and we were off! After a few tests and a couple of hours of monitoring, all was deemed well and it was clear that Baby had changed it’s mind about an early exit.

From here I could go on to explain the quirks of the medical system in France, especially as they pertain to birth, or the weird and wacky practices I have experienced this year managing prenatal care in four different countries, but I won’t. Because I already did that here.

But I will conclude with the pumpkin muffin recipe that I would have made (and devoured) if I had not been so rudely interrupted. (Braxton-Hicks, you are an SOB). Please let me know how it goes for you if you decide to make them.

Also, if you have any tips on staying pregnant (at least until 38 weeks), I would really appreciate them!

Ingredients

I cup of pumpkin puree (roast the pumpkin in the oven
for 1 hour, skin, and puree)

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cups brown sugar

1 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 12 muffin
cups or loaf pan.

To roast the pumpkin, remove seeds and strings. Place it on
baking sheet, cut side down. Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven until
tender, about 90 minutes. Remove pumpkin pulp and puree in blender. Measure out
1 cup pumpkin puree.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking
powder, all of the spices and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together pumpkin
puree, vegetable oil and eggs. Stir pumpkin mixture into flour mixture until
smooth. Scoop batter into muffin cups or loaf pan

Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick
inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.