Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kimono me

Welcome back from Easter holiday, I hope you had a great time. My Easter was the first as a family of 3, it was sunny and we had good food. More about that later, first, there is something I've been dying to share with you.

In high school I was a total Japan geek. Around 10th grade there was an anniversary of Romanian Japanese diplomatic relations and I visited expositions, shows about tea ceremony or kabuki theatre, I went to the opera and so on, I was even hoping to study in Japan. The whole Japanese infatuation continued but to a lesser extent well into my university years where I wrote papers about Japanese management and business styles.

Recently, my husband went to Japan (more pictures coming soon) and brought me a beautiful kimono called Yukata. There are many types of kimono, the yukata is a meant to be worn in summer or after baths and is one of the more common ones. It was surprisingly simple to wrap around: I just followed the instructions in the packaging and I didn't even need extra help.

Talking about packaging, this is how the kimono came. Notice the paper is the same pattern as the cloth? That is attention to detail!

 This is the patter on the cotton cloth of the kimono. The area outside the roses resembles the gift paper it was wrapped in.
 The kimono is very long. Basically it's a one size fits all, 165cm long for my 160cm in hight but it would be much the same length for a taller or shorter woman. When you put it on, you adjust the length so it comes to your ankles and you prevent it from touching the ground by wearing those sandals called geta. You don't shorten the kimono, there is no need. One more thing to notice is the folds, the way the collar is folded especially reminds me of a Japanese art, Origami.



And this is the kimono on me. I didn't have the obi, the sash which goes around the waist, I will have to make or buy one. Any tips on the colour? I was thinking blue. The only scarf I had was this burgundy one but normally red is reserved for children and teenagers. Oh and there is another rule: you wrap the kimono left over right, the other way around is reserved for the burial of the dead.

So, what do you think?
PS If you check on Wikipedia here (and please take time to also support the free encyclopaedia), you will discover all the types of kimono as well as a video on how to wrap the Yukata (the corresponding article).

Friday, April 18, 2014

How to boil the perfect egg for Easter

With Easter just a couple of days away, I thought I would tell you about my method of boiling eggs. Of course, the perfect egg is something very dependant on personal taste but for Easter, in Romania at least, you need them to be hard enough to break your cousin's egg in a competition, but still not have that greenish line around the yolk which means it's over cooked. Your final egg should look like this when cut:


What I do is I put them in cold water and bring the pot gently to a boil. Sometime I put vinegar and I always put salt because vinegar helps by keeping the white from spreading if any eggs cracked and salt keeps them from cracking when you boil them and makes the eggs easier to peel, afterwards.

Once the water boiled (or a little after, it's still ok, but don't let them in too long), I turn off the heat and let them gently cool down for about 12minutes. I set an alarm for that :) Then I put the eggs in cold water to stop the cooking. Normally I would change the water once or twice when it's too warm but I don't usually have so much time any more. Your eggs are now perfect for painting, dipping them in dye and so on.

In Romania, for Easter, we have a tradition of cracking eggs, you basically smack your opponent's painted egg with yours, but if you just want to enjoy your perfect hard boiled egg, you can gently crack it once by tapping it against the table then, gently, roll the egg on a hard surface, applying a little force. The crust will crack in more pieces and it will be easier to open. Also, water helps with peeling. Don't trust me? Try it! And, have a great, sunny Easter!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bringing up Baby in Czech Republic (2)

First part here.
 
Another topic I would like to talk about is medical care. I can speak basic Czech and I am now familiar with the medical vocabulary surrounding taking care of a baby. The doctor is very nice and helpful and we're getting the treatment free, as our baby is under my health insurance. Of course we paid for some extras such as non mandatory vaccinations. The non vax trend is unfortunately spreading here as well, but we have a level headed doctor.

The state run clinic or poliklinika we go to is well equipped and the child section is friendly. The visit schedule at the doctors is divided so that sick kids go in the morning. There are a lot of mandatory visits and all the info is in the little booklet where the doctor writes down the baby's health status. You have to have an attending doctor, here, who follows your child's development. You can change the doctor but I think you can have only one at once, since you have to register. This doctor will refer you to specialists if needed. I have been in contact with doctors at the children's hospital and I found them helpful and well trained. They do speak English but as I've usually noticed here with doctors and other officials, they would rather not, if they can avoid it. I also find that that, at least our doctor prefers not to take risks and a day or two in the hospital will be prescribed more easily than in France or Romania.

Kids here are not better behaved then children elsewhere, nor do they eat all their carrots and peas. Maybe they are more attached to the mother, since they spend more time with her but in Romania and France, I've also seen kids who would not stay 10 minutes alone with another caretaker and who are what you'd call spoiled.  Kids here do spend a lot of time outside, this is in the culture of doing sports, outdoor activities, but I am sure they also love the Nintendo DS and I have seen some who were mesmerized by their tablet. It's true that, compared to French children, Czechs are not so used to travel long distances from an early age: the country is smaller too and there are not many in our case, where grandparents are 3 countries away and we have to travel a lot (4 trips in 7 months).

These are my notes so far on having a baby in the Czech Republic. I'll write more as I learn more but so far it looks like a great place to have kids.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bringing up Baby in Czech Republic (1)

We're still bringing up baby in CZ but going all over Europe, we're all about international and multicultural. Everyday I get to spot cultural differences in child rearing or parenting as they say.

Generally Czech parents are quite cool with their kids. All the time I see kids playing without supervision in supermarkets while parents are concentrated on something or other, two rows away.  But at the same time, parents here are very concerned with their kids. Mums stay at home for 3 years and they think this is a very short time, the child is not ready to separate from his mum and go to kindergarten. They should ask French mums, their babies go to creche at 3 months.

Because parents are so concerned, kids of all ages have lots of activities. And they find it natural, not the result of the parents frustrations over not having had the same opportunities (they probably did) or need to compete. Kids do a lot of sports, spend a lot of time outside, either with parents or teachers. In kindergarten they learn a lot of basics like drawing and cutting paper but also dancing and music.

One great thing about having a kid here is that you can go to the pub or restaurant with your rugrat and you don't have to worry about people smoking or the kid getting bored. Most places here have a kid's corner full of toys, crayons and distinct non smokers' area. We went to a pizzeria that had a huge playground, trampoline, castle, small bikes plus changing tables at the gents as well and the pizza place down on our street has only 6 tables but there is a small place for the wee ones and a high chair. I even heard about a cinema in Prague which has special sessions for parents with kids: they let the light on so you can keep an eye on the children running around  or breastfeed and change the smaller ones, while still enjoying the latest Hollywood comedy.

There are also parents support groups available in most big cities and special cafés where parents go to chat while kids go to play. There are a lot of these places and some clubs have activities like swimming or gymnastics. Some will even take care of your kids while you party the New Year away. Of course, if you trust to let your kid with others and if you don't have grand parents available.

Speaking of grand parents, they are usually the ones with the weekend house where the child can discover nature and breathe some fresh air. They also pick up the kids from different activities after the mother started working again. Pretty much average babicka and dedecek. We don't have the luxury of having our parents around as much as we'd like but we appreciate the help they give us and the days, sometimes weeks they spend here with their grandson. In the future, maybe, we will relocate a willing grandmother.

Next part will be mostly about medical care and I will publish it on Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Alsace in Spring

About 2 weeks ago we did something every new parent remembers fondly and longs for: we went on a trip and slept at a hotel. Just the 2 of us. No baby in the car. He stayed with grandma and grandpa who were ecstatic to have the little one for themselves. Having a baby is something grand parents everywhere remember fondly :)

It was a romantic weekend for us, had a great lunch by the river, saw some new places and took a walk/run in the forest. We had apéro and coffee on the terrace and soaked in the warm spring sun. A delight, although we kinda missed the kid a little bit.

One of those houses by the water is my dream gingerbread house. But if I had a house surrounded by fields, this one below would be it. Plus, I love the mountains in the background.
 
We took a walk to the forest, where we saw this interesting looking tree. It's like it is in bondage.
The view to the village: a typical panorama of Alsace where you can see the church tower. I really love this area of France in every season (they totally rock Christmas markets) but spring is the season where it all becomes a huge garden. We were there in March so it was still crisp but come May, when all the flowers will be blooming, it will be heavenly.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Life update

Spring is here and it's been gorgeous. We've spent a lot of time outside, enjoying the sun and the little one is discovering warm wind on his face and sun in his eyes. So funny when he holds his breathe, surprised by these new feelings.

He is 7 months old already, has a good daily pattern of waking up around 7.30, taking his breakfast, playing a bit with me and then going back to bed for 1 1/2, 2 hrs, playing a lot and eating well until he falls back asleep for a second nap and maybe a third one, outside, in the air. The evening are sometimes more difficult, when teeth are starting to nag him. There is already a white bud on the lower gum and a second will soon follow. Bath time is so much fun though, the little fat legs and sweet feet won't stop moving.

I'll soon share some pictures of Alsace in spring. We spent there our first full night away from our baby. He was happy to be with the grand parents and didn't seem to notice we weren't there but welcomed us with the sweetest, warmest smile.

This spring is sweet, the baby is growing more and more, the future looks bright. I have plans of working on the garden and going on trips.And most of all, taking in all of this little baby wonder.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Good Moms

I took this picture in the house of some good friends. She is a great mother but her floors are never sticky and her kids are among the happiest I've seen.  So I guess it's possible.

The why are my floors sticky? Ah well, at least my kid is laughing like crazy.
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