Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Ice-Cream world tour: Lisbon

We recently went on a weekend trip to Lisbon. It was the boy's birthday too. Just as we were walking one of Lisbon's steep streets, after we played at a small park we found the perfect place to celebrate: Gelato Mú.

Its decoration is simple, clean and pretty in white, light green and natural wood. It is long enough to fit our stroller (several actually, as another family came after us) and you can peek at their small kitchen / factory to see how they actually make the ice-cream. They only use fruits that are in season. They use a  process of ice-cream making in which the ice-cream sits a whole night to make the flavours just more intense and guarantee the perfect texture.

 I had a strawberry milkshake, we also tested chocolate (we are classic, I guess) and we had to have the tiramisu as well.

I wish we could have stayed to try all their flavours. You will find them at Campo Martires da Patria 50 in Lisbon very close to Jardim do Campo Santana. 

Highly recommended! 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Building our Christmas traditions

This year the tree was in place early, before the husband's request to only set it until after his birthday because the toddler was insisting. There is something magic about lighting candles, taking out meaningful ornaments, looking forward to the light.

I have slowly started to build our little family's traditions. On the 24 I always, always make my mom's Spinach-Ricotta lasagne. The 25 in the morning we go to mass at the English speaking church. It is a very festive, joyful celebration, full of children and families of many nationalities. This year on the 26 we are also going to see a children's ballet perform "The Swan lake". Earlier in the season we already went to see "The nutcracker".

Photo from the Academy on Classical Russian Ballet of The Hague
 I am learning so much from being the mother of our little Yu. She is crazy about ballet so that makes me research and learn with her. I knew the music from the nutcracker (mostly from Fantasia) but I did not know the story. We got her this book (must be the book of the season because the English version is sold out everywhere) that explains the story and has little buttons to play the music and it is well... magic to see her dance and recognize the parts of the story that go with each piece.

We also organize a yearly posada, that is a Mexican celebration that represents the time when the Holy Family arrived in Bethlehem for the Roman census to ask for shelter. It is complete with a piñata and kids holding candles outside while they sing a special song.

Yulia has been very interested in the story of baby Jesus and so we have started a small collection of books on the subject. I particularly love Mischa Damjan's "The little seahorse and the christmas pearl" an allegory which narrates the journey of the little seahorse on his way to deliver a special present to the "christmas child" who was born at a stable in the name of all the sea creatures. I have also started collecting different handcrafted nativity sets or crèches. Whenever we visit a church we look for the "nacimientos".

Apparently they all went conga dancing.
 We also set the chrismas stockings my mom made  by the window, for lack of a chimney. It is hard not to succumb to the consumerism of the season, I am guilty of wanting everything I see, from that lovely scarf, to those earrings, to another costume for the toddler (dressup play is so fun), another couple of books and on and on and on. There are also 3 magical entities that show up with presents between the 5 of December and the 6 of January (Sinterklaas, Baby Jesus/the angels and the 3 kings), closely followed by Y's birthday in January.

However we have tried to follow the famous formula Want-Wear-Need-Read and we try to make sure that the girls get only 1 present per occasion. That means they will both get fancy matching dresses on the 24th, plus some Duplo for the toddler and a little thermos for the baby (how is she already on solid food!);  on the 25th the angels/baby Jesus will bring them a book, and the 3 kings will bring a toy to learn electricity for the toddler and some little boats to play during bath time for the baby. I tried to keep it simple and somehow it still feels like a lot.

Lastly, we really enjoy looking at the lights, christmas trees and decorations in the city. Last Friday we took a stroll around The Hague just to marvel at the lights.

What Christmas traditions do you and your family have? I wish you all the happiest holidays, all the light and love and peace.

The Pope is thinking what am I even doing here?

Magic fairy lights in one of Lisbon's main shopping streets .

Friday, December 22, 2017

Try-day Friday

Don't mind the mess in the back. I am really bad at selfies. Also, the skirt needs ironing.
 A few days ago I received an email from Ashby from Dia&Co challenging me to find confidence through fashion and inviting me to join their series Try-day Friday, the idea being to step out of the box to try new styles; new outfits, things that you own and never wear.

Lately I have been in a bit of a rut, fashion wise. I am such a cliché. I literally wake up have my coffee, shower and run, run, run. By the time the girls are asleep I am so ready to crash as well (and I often do). I have never been someone to spend hours and hours in front of the mirror, but now I do it even less.  Between the cold weather and the time it takes to actually take clothes out of the closet  I am always wearing jeans, a warm fleece sweatshirt and tennis shoes or boots. All the time. So I thought this would be a fun thing to do.

We recently took a long-weekend trip to Lisbon and I was happy to find tights in bright crazy colors (pink, yellow, green!) as opposed to the gray, brown, black, and if you are lucky, red, that you can find here in The Netherlands. My Bolivan best friend, the historian who now lives in Barcelona inherited me this brown tulip skirt with pockets that is not something I would have chosen myself. Out of ignorance, I guess. It is high-waisted. I think my fashion soul stayed in the 90's because I always tend to pick clothes that fit at the hips. I decided to wear it with my new tights, a colorful silicone teething necklace I got from my dear and bright friend Hayley and some colorful sneakers I once found at an airport. Then, inspired by the lovely Kirsty I painted my nails bright pink and added glitter to make it festive. What have you been wearing lately?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Our Bapao recipe

It's been so long since I posted a recipe, but this one I had to share. They are one of the husband's favorite foods and I don't want to forget the recipe (given to me by my mother in law).

Bapaos (Bakpau or Bah-Pau) are small, round steamed breads filled with meat or chicken. Their origin is Chinese, through Indonesian cuisine they became popular also in The Netherlands. They are often eaten with sweet chilli sauce or ketchup, though this is not common practice in China. The name probably comes from the Chinese pao (包) that means bread.


1 kg. flour
14 gr (2x 7gr. packages) dried yeast
lukewarm water
1 tbsp sugar
a pinch of salt

400 gr. minced meat
1 onion
spices (seasoned salt, pepper, herbs)
Oyster sauce

Wax paper

What to do
Mix the flour with the yeast and sugar. Add lukewarm water to form the dough (first about 500 ml) then keep adding until you reach the correct consistency: meaning it does not stick to your hands and you can form balls. 

 Let the dough rise, about 1 hour, depending on room temperature.

In the meantime, cook the filling. Here you can get creative as you can use pretty much any filling you want, from what I read some people even do sweet bapaos. We sautéed the onion until it became transparent, added the meat and seasoned it with salt, pepper, herbs and oyster sauce.

Once the dough has risen make little flat disks, fill them with a small amount of meat and close them to form balls. Then attach a small piece of wax paper to make sure they do not open while being steamed.

Arrange the bapaos in a steamer pan and let them cook. It took about 15 minutes for us.
And voilà you are ready to enjoy! These warm little buns are a success with old and young, if my 3 year old will eat them you can be sure they are delicious.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Marks & Spencer leaves the continent

Image via AD

I know, I know. It is old news that M&S is leaving The Hague. We heard they were closing down about a year ago but then it didn't happen and I kept secretly hoping their departure would be postponed forever.

Marks & Spencer opened in The Hague at the beginning of 2014, around the same time that our daughter Yu was born. I remember my parents coming back from the center on those first postpartum days  with tubs of their lemon curd yoghurt. I didn't know it would become such an important place for us, one of our safe places in the city. They had the loveliest café, full of light, a view to the city, and a giant Escher painting. They served the nicest tea, cakes and of course scones with jam and clotted cream. Whenever we went for lunch there we always had their Tikka Masala chicken, with bread and mango chutney. Not only that but they had the most perfect -and private- changing room together with a giant breastfeeding seat.

Photo by Niki from Life in The Hague

I have memories of so many coffee dates with friends there: Yu and one of her best friends M. learning to crawl and then racing down the ramp that led to the tables by the windows. Getting lunch with my mom just a couple of months ago, heavily pregnant and dead tired from walking the city, having smoothies with a friend that has now moved to Scotland. Searching the aisles for their Empress Grey tea (often out of stock), so loved by many. Buying jelly fruits, chocolate and even an amazing penguin-party-at-the-igloo cake for Christmas.

Last Wednesday I was walking the center and I saw they were having a clearance sale. As in, everything should go, and then they leave. It was so sad to enter the building, find the 2nd floor was already empty and most of the stuff was gone. No baby clothing left (aside from a pack of 5 bodies and some summer hats), not one sad box of tea (all tea! gone!), just some random things around. I asked a manager if they were really doing that bad, but he said the decision was made to close down all European Marks & Spencer shops, not just the Dutch ones.

It feels so sad. I know I am not alone in the feeling. I know it's just a shop, but it feels a part of our early days is going.  Are there places in your city that make you feel like home and bring you back to happy times?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The morning coffee

Or how I am becoming my mother.

For as long as I can remember my mom would wake up and drink her cup of coffee before she even had breakfast, before anything happened. She would often say she could not function without it and would request nobody talk to her until she had it.

Now I understand. I have loved coffee for quite a long time, started drinking it regularly during my years at university, then stopped because it made me nervous, shaky, borderline psychotic, then came to see the ritual as a moment of calm, to be enjoyed with friends while talking. I almost completely stopped when we were struggling with infertility, then started again when Yu was born. I drank so many delicious lattes while going through the city during our long stroller walks. Most recently, when I was doing the working-mom run every morning I would reward myself with a proper Italian coffee at the train station on the days when I was able to quickly get it before running-running-running to get to the train and to the office on time.

 Now that I am staying at home again and being ever-so-tired all the time I look forward to my coffee every morning. I don't want to say I need it but it really does wake me up and I enjoy every single sip. For it to happen I (or the loving husband) need to wake up very early, normally after the baby's first feeding, so that I can drink it before the get-ready-to-go-make-breakfast-pack lunch-dress-the-toddler-brush-teeth-here-are-your-shoes-put-on-your-jacket dance takes place.

We recently got a milk foamer and it has been the best kitchen gadget addition since... the KitchenAid probably.  We use it everyday, for the toddler's loved babyccinos as well, who now also drinks her "coffee" a cereal-based caffeine free alternative called Bambu.

Do you have any morning rituals? Any favorite gadgets? What can't you live without?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Luxembourg with small kids

The first time we went to Luxembourg I was secretly 7 or 8 weeks pregnant,after the IVF that brought us Yu.  During our long walks there we discovered the most amazing playground in a city park and we prayed we'd be able to come back with our children. It has the form of a giant pirate ship wreck and all around there are sand pits and water pumps where the kids can run around and get wet.

This summer my mom was with us for a couple of months and at the end of her stay we wanted to take a short weekend trip. We remembered Luxembourg and thought it would be a great place to visit.

Our first stop was of course that playground, at Parc de Monterey (45 Avenue Monterey, at the intersection between Avenue Monterey and Villa Louvigny). It was a warm sunny day. That place is really paradise for the small ones.

 Another fun thing to do with children is taking the "Pétrusse express", a little green train that takes you down to the old city, where you will see the Fortress and the main historical sights. Our 3.5 year old loved the experience. She also found it very amusing to listen to the explanations through the headphones. The train leaves every half an hour from Montée de Clausen near the Bock Casemates.

While we were walking down in the "Grund" quarter we found yet another very-well-thought-of playground.  Aside from the games for kids it had an outdoor gym, a super clean bathroom a hammock and the most amazing skate park, the perfect place to have a picnic.It is near 2 Rue de Saint-Quirin

 If you need to breastfeed I fell in love with  Namur (27 rue de Capucins). It is a small pâtisserie-café that supplies the royal family (if it is good enough for them...). They have a changing table (though you do have to go up quite a few stairs) and the best strawberry milkshake ever. While we were there, at least another 3 moms were there with their small ones.

There is a small playground nearby and the cutest children clothing and toys shop, Palazzo kids, just in front (30 rue de Capucins). We also visited the famous "Chocolate house" (20 rue marché aux Herbes), right in front of the Grand Ducal palace. Breakfast was nice, the hot chocolate is good, we loved the rock n'roll decoration in the 2nd floor, but for some reason the place was better in our memories.

 When  we first came to Luxembourg we met Fiona and Rasmus who took us for ice-cream at Bargello (13-15 rue du Fort Elisabeth). Naturally, we had to go again. They have delicious gourmet ice-cream flavours. I had ricotta with fig and it was very, very good.

We really like the city, if you are in the area it is the perfect place to visit for a couple of days.

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