Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Eight Tips about Traveling with Two Kids

This year we did a fair amount of traveling between France, Romania, Germany and the Czech Republic. We traveled by car most often but we did fly once and that is rare, other years we would fly more often and with have at least one lay over. Maybe we are getting old or just tired or is it because we have a company car that we chose to do more driving this year?  In any case, let me tell you some things I've noticed you might find useful or at least interesting when traveling with kids.

1. Kids need to learn how to be bored
Our philosophy is that we are not here to entertain our kids. We don't own a tablet, our kids don't have regular access to our phones. On trips, by plane or by car we take just the basic paper, coloring book, crayons, a book, their favorite plush toy and one extra toy, a lego or a car. Not even new stuff or at least not necessarily, it may happen that I have some new book for them but that's not a rule. So how do they entertain themselves? The answer is in the question, they entertain themselves. They look out the window, talk to us, talk to each other, draw, color, sleep, play with each other, play with us, they play alone, we sing and so on.... Sometimes we might listen to some songs or a story on a CD, other times we listen to the radio, other times it's quiet.

2. Don't over pack
Some stuff you can buy at your destination such as diapers, milk, baby food, even clothes. We ask our parents to buy these things for us so we don't have to pack diapers into our checked in luggage. It often happens that we don't even have checked in luggage.

3.Take into account the kids' life rhythm
I try to schedule the trip around their sleep patterns. My kids are 5 and 2 and a half and they still nap after lunch so if possible and this is more easy to do when driving, we try to leave after lunch so they sleep in the car. We sometimes drive at night, my husband and I taking turns behind the wheel. Some kids sleep in the car, others don't, consider this as well.

4. Take short trips or stop often
They will get bored, you will get tired so just cut the trip so you and them can stretch your legs a bit. Stop for lunch at a rest stop on the highway, find a park with a play area for kids.

5. Reduce your expectations
Ok so you will not see all the cool stuff along the way, that's ok. Kids might throw up in the car or on the plane, they might cry, that's normal, try to enjoy the trip anyway. Also you really don't need to cook every meal, baby food is safe and the big brands widely available. It's a trip, a break from the routine, you'll get back to the good stuff at home.

6. Seat belts and child seats are mandatory
There is no discussing this rule, we explained it early on and enforce it every time. They know why it is important to have the seat belt and we generally get no comments even when the seat belt sign is on during a flight.

7. Make it interesting for them too
Explain where you are going, why, what and who you'll see along the way or at the destination. It will also make for discussion points on the trip. Find some attractions for them, a zoo, a science museum

8. Use the internet to plan your trip
We book apartments through airbnb and booking.com and use tripadvisor and other sites to prepare the trip and get advice about sights, restaurants. I find that a good preparation of the trip makes it less stressful when I'm in a new place with two hungry kids. We prefer apartments to hotels because it makes it feel more like home, we can cook some meals and it's usually cheaper to get two rooms so kids can go to bed at their regular hour and parents can still have the evening to themselves. Sometimes it can be fun to live the hotel experience and we do that too and kids love the breakfast experience.

Whatever you do, travel with your kids, they will thank you later.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Sunday Club

I have this group of friends I've known since high school. And I mean really good friends, people I've known long and I've shared experiences with, we have a common history, our own vocabulary, a group culture of sorts. Of course I've gained friends since then, really good friends from Uni, work or elsewhere. That core group of friends from long ago is still there, enriched. The groups of friends have mingled, became friends, the core is still there. They are the Sunday Club.

Before, when we were in high school and after, in uni, we used to meet at least once a week, usually on Sundays. We'd have lunch, or rather brunch, or just a cup of something hot (or cold, depending on the season) and talk. Our lives, our loves, the books we've read, the movies that made our hearts stop, even politics and economics, the way in which the world moves, whatever topic touched us in any way was brought up and made a good starting point for others. Time used to stop around us, we were just friends around a table, enjoying  a good moment.

And then we each left in the four corners so now we only meet twice or 3 times a year. It's always as nice, but now we spend time talking about us more than about the world. The world comes in discussion too, but only because we make it move now, not the other way around.

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Baking with Kids : Zucchini Quiche

Perhaps the best way to get kids to eat something they normally wouldn't is to hide that food into a dish that they would eat. One such example is hiding zucchini inside quiche. My kids love the savory dish in almost any combination and to be honest I bake a quiche every other week, making it one of my go to dishes. Of course it varies almost every time but I do have some favorite ingredients, zucchini being a recent addition to this list.

It is also very easy to involve kids in preparing this quiche. Mine love to chop mushrooms and zucchini with plastic knives, safe and useful. They help me by whisking eggs and creme and in the end mixing the ingredients and pouring in the mould. The boys feel useful, they see how the food is prepared and maybe they will eat it better because of the pride they feel in having cooked.

Enough about my kids, here is the recipe for this mouthwatering zucchini quiche.

1 large zucchini
1 small onion
1 cup mushrooms
3-4 free range eggs
250 g sour creme
1 cup grated cheese
1 pack quiche dough  
salt, pepper, curry, etc
optional - cherry tomatoes, diced bacon

How to
Peel and grate the zucchini. If you have organic produce, you can keep the skin after you wash it. Chop the onion and throw it in a pan of hot oil, when the onion is translucent, throw in the zucchini. Stir. Wash and chop the mushrooms, throw them over the zucchini and onion. Stir some more, add salt, pepper, some curry if you want. The whole is done when the mix is no longer watery.

In a bowl, whisk 3 or 4 eggs, depending on egg size and the size of your baking mould. Add sour creme, grated cheese and the vegetable mix from the pan. Mix all together an pour over the quiche dough.
Bake for about 30 mins at 180C

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

How the Czechs Clear a Path

[EN]It's winter already nd sometimes, global warming aside, this means we will soon have to find our way through snow.

The following photos are not recent, they are in fact from last winter but they are a good example of how snow is delt with in a country used to the white powder. I want to see if they do the same good job this year (provided they will have enough material to work with) so consider these photos as comparison material.

[RO]E deja iarna și asta înseamnă, de multe ori, dacă lăsăm la o parte încălzirea globală, că în curând va trebui să ne facem cărare prin zăpadă.

Pozele nu sunt recente, de fapt sunt din iarna trecută dar sunt un exemplu bun despre cum se ocupă de zăpadă o țară obișnuită cu pudra albă. Vreau să văd dacă vor face treabă la fel de bună și iarna asta (dacă au și material cu care sa lucreze), așa că puteți să considerați pozele astea ca și material de comparație.
As you can see, there was quite a bit of snow but they chose to only clear a narrow path for people to walk on safely. I saw this in the whole neaighbourhood, in Pilsen but also in Prague. The rest of the snow was thrown over the grass.

The roads and cars are also taken care of. Once the snow stopped, people get the shovels and brushes and start clearing the snow from the cars, as you can see with the red car above, there is snow around but not on it. The roads are mantained by the city hall, but not completely cleared, just enough to be practicable. They come in with small snow ploughs and clean the roads and sidewalks.

După cum vedeți, căzuse destul de multă zăpadă dar au curațat doar o porțiune îngustă a aleii, pe care oamenii să meargă în siguranța. Am văzut același lucru prin tot cartierul, în Plzen dar și în Praga. Restul zăpezii a fost dispersat pe iarbă.

Străzile și mașinile sunt și ele ingrijite. Cum s-a oprit ninsoarea, oamenii iși scot lopețile și periile și curăța mașinile, cum se vede in cazul celei roșii de mai sus, rămâne zăpadă în jurul ei dar nu pe mașină. Străzile sunt întreținute de primării dar nu sunt complet curățate decăt cele principale, restul, răman practicabile. Se vine cu un plug mic și curăță străzile si trotuarele.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Czech Changing Tables

When I was a new mom, one of the things I struggled with is going out because I knew  that at some point I will have to change my baby. And I feared that moment. Luckily for me, I quickly found out that 1. I can change a baby on any flat, stable surface, provided I had a changing mat or towel or anything similar and the baby was in no danger of falling and 2. most public places in the Czech Republic have such a space, you just need to ask, sometimes it's just an Ikea changing table by the ladies' bathroom, other times it's a complete nursing space. This reminds me, they nixed the nursing chair in Ikea Zlicin.

In Romania, however, I haven't seen so many changing tables but tables are starting to turn and I saw at least two places with baby changing anemities when I was in Bucharest, last May. I don't need those anymore, my youngest is almost one and a half and I can change a number 1 with him standing and hopefully number 2 comes before we leave the house. Still, good to know for when the unexpected happens.

In writing this article, I was inspired by some of the blogs I read, written by moms like me and so I  took pictures of changing tables wherever I went.

At the swimming pool, in the women's locker room area. There are 3 such tables because they give swimming classes to babies and there is an area for kids. At the club where I go we just change them on the floor.

 In the restaurant of an ethno museum. This one is really complex, an overkill if you ask me (No one did, I am just posting this to the sky), would work great in a smaller flat perhaps, lots of storage space.

At the local mall. Nicely decorated, clean, modern. Sure makes shopping a nicer experience when you know you can spend as much time as you need in the shopping center.

If you have pictures of changing tables or nursery rooms in public spaces, please do share.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Cum se Schimba Tevile in Cehia

Prin cartierul nostru se schimbă țevile de câțiva ani, stradă cu stradă. S-a început cu strada principală și se continuă cu străzile mici, una câte una, cam o stradă pe an. Au schimbat țevi de gaze și apa și canalizare acolo unde era nevoie. La fiecare stradă au lucrat câteva luni dar a fost mereu în extra sezon, adică primăvara-vară, când nu e nevoie de gaz pentru încălzire. Traficul in zonă a fost bineînțeles perturbat, problema cea mai mare a fost lipsa locurilor de parcare, oricum o problemă destul de mare în zonă. Și totuși nu a fost atât de rău pe cât mă așteptam.

Când au ajuns pe strada noastră m-am temut că vor distruge dalele de piatră care sunt doar aici, pe celelalte străzi sunt dale din acelea ca biscuiții. Surpriza plăcută a venit destul de rapid după începerea lucrărilor, au făcut multe găuri in trotuar și  pe stradă dar pe măsură ce terminau o porțiune a lucrării, acopereau o groapă. Iar supriza cea mai mare a fost că au păstrat dalele originale. Mai jos, poza înainte și după.

De când au început lucrările s-a comunicat prin afișe iar șeful de șantier a mers din ușă în ușă să discute despre când ne convine să se închidă gazele pentru racordarea fiecărei case. Per total, aș zice că cehii se ocupă foarte bine de șantiere, nu știu cât de bine e făcută lucrarea.

Bonus, băieții au putut să urmărească buldozere și excavatoare la lucru.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Weekend dedicat istoriei in Plzen

[RO] Weekendul respectiv a fost deja acum aproape o lună, dar eu am uitat sa postez. Oricum, orașul Plzen este mai mereu plin de evenimente variate pentru copiii și aduți. Evenimentul principal din weekendul dedicat istoriei, a fost cel legat de povestea orașului Plzen si de împaratul Rudolf al II-lea. Acest împarat este cunoscut mai ales pentru protecția oferită alchimiștilor și despre legenda uriașului Golem. Mai puțin cunoscută este legatura dintre împaratul Imperiului Roman și orașul berii: în secolul al XVIIlea, Plzen a fost capitala Imperiului timp de 9 luni, cand Rudolph și-a mutat întreaga curte aici. În fiecare an se organizează evenimente pentru a marca momentul și de multe ori se leagă de alte festivaluri sau expoziții cum ar fi weekendul gradinilor deschise, expoziția de cactuși, festivalul internațional de folcor sau noaptea bisericilor.

Noi am început weekendul de sâmbătă, vizitând gradina de meditație și memorialul victimelor răului. Îmi pare rau că am ratat noaptea bisericilor dar a fost vineri și eram prea obosită. În schimb gradina a fost o oază de liniște cu multe flori, foarte bine intreținută. Am măncat si frăguțe. Cred că vom mai veni, se poate vizita, costa 50 de coroane.

Revenind la weekendul istoric, pe scena principală, aflată în piața Republicii, au fost începănd cu vineri 9 iunie, mai multe spectacole legate de perioada secolului XVII, muzică, dans, teatru. Nouă ne-au plăcut cel mai mult acrobații vagabonzi și teatrul pentru copiii, chiar dacă nu avea nimic de-a face cu epoca.

Pe lângă acestea au fost alte evenimente cu sau fără legatură cu istoria orașului și un târg. Noi am mai fost și la festivalul internațional de folclor care se desfășoară in fiecare an în perioada asta. Am văzut trupe cehești, bretone și slovace. Mi-ar fi plăcut să vedem și ceilalți invitați, italieni și americani dar parcă au fost atât de multe evenimente și prea puțin timp.

Ce doi băieți ai noștri sunt interesați de tramvaie și cum istoria orașului este legată și de fabrica Skoda, am profitat de ocazia de a face un tur al centrului cu un tramvai vechi, construit în 1899. Cred ca ăsta a fost evenimentul principal pentru băieți, nu vânătoarea de comori prin centru, adaptata mai mult copiilor de școală.

Prin oraș s-au plimbat zombie si tot felul de fantome, a fost un concurs de costume infricoșătoare, asta ni s-a părtu ca nu prea avea legătură cu istoria dar nici o parte din celelalte evenimente și activități. Una peste alta, a fost un weekend în care nu puteai sta în casă. Și vremea a fost superbă.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Czech Living: When You Hear Wedding Bells

While commenting on some blogs I read, I started to think about how relaxed Czechs could be, compared to Romanians. The first wedding I attended here, I didn't know I was actually crashing it - I thought I was having a beer in a crowded pub, with my friends and someone's grandma. Didn't seem strange the only available tables were near the toilet nor did I wink when the cook offered free goulash.

Only later I noticed the girl in a vintage dress and the great grandma leaving the party early with some of her grand kids. And then I realized the cook was the best man and our waitress spoke French. She was the one to cue as into the subtleties of Czech wedding style. The girl in the dress? That was the bride.

Here, in Czechia, you invite your family and friends to attend the ceremony, usually in the town hall of your village or a nice baroque castle, sometimes in a church, baroque as well but not in both of these places, one ceremony is enough, either religious or civil, as long as there is someone licensed to officiate. After the pictures are taken, you and your better half take only the relatives closest to you and invite them for lunch. Meanwhile, I don't know what happens to the rest of your guests, but you can ask them once you met them later, perhaps in your favorite pub that you booked for some refreshments and partying.

And that's it. No fuss, no 200 guests and a band. I think the biggest part of the wedding budget is the photographer and the fee for renting the castle. Because there would be no Czech wedding without pictures in front of a castle. Preferably while the bride and groom clean up broken dishes. Or eat soup.
Picture from Girl in Czechland http://girlinczechland.com/2010/06/24/quiz-time-check-out-just-how-czech-youve-become/

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

DYI Paper Helicopter for Rainy Days with Kids

Are you inside on a rainy autumn day with nothing to do and an energetic child who  loves helicopters (and planes and trains and buses)?

Here's a tip for an activity you can do with him (or why not her?), old school or maybe Montessori: build something like a paper helicopter using sticks from ice creams you ate during summer and cardboard paper? Really easy,; I found this in a kid's magazine.

All you need is cardboard paper, 4 wooden sticks like the ones for ice creams (the "propellers" are from Magnum), glue, a cardboard tip from the separators inside the boxes in which eggs come in - goes under the propellers. My 3 year old was happy to cut, fold and crease (as instructed by me) and even happier to play with his new toy. There is room inside for a little toy friend.

PS. I also had a baby screaming for attention so I made a mistake and put the windscreen on the side - the green paper is rotated 90° - but I actually like it better this way, otherwise I would have had to paint a white square in front.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Homemade Kid's Play Kitchen

My 3 year-old loves to cook for us. Of course it's just make belief but he is learning a lot and I also get to see what he's picked up from us. I often cook with him around and I get him to help me either by peeling a carrot or stirring the eggs for an omelet. This way he feels useful, he learns new things and hopefully will get to appreciate the food.

Until recently he didn't have a play kitchen at  home, he just had fruits and vegetables he received at Christmas, the Ikea ones are really well made and some dishes made out of plastic food containers, his own invention. Once, he decided his oven was under the couch, another time he had an imaginary sink by the bar. I like his creativity and imagination so I was in no hurry to buy him a kitchen but he played with one at our friend's houses and in the play areas at restaurants.

The second reason I wasn't in a hurry to buy him a kid's kitchen is that those things are expensive! Most are branded and they sell them for a bucket of money which I don't think is fair. On top of it, many are just plastic and not very pretty in my eyes. Wood kitchens are even more expensive, even second hand ones. Again, Ikea have a nice one but do you do when the kid outgrows it? Ok, probably not happening soon.

I liked the idea of making the kitchen myself so I turned to the internet and found ideas for cardboard kitchens. You can buy the cardboard boxes with the cut outs and drawings from these guys KiddoBox Toys, thanks Miruna for the tip.

But still, the idea to make it for him with him was still there. So I started gathering boxes in the garage until the light came up in my head that my husband had this nightstand/cupboard he had bought for his dorm room which was now gathering dust with only a sweater in it. The end result is below:

I scoured the cheap shops to find the bowl for the sink and the metal gas stove protection I used as a...gas stove, not that difficult to find. I wanted to put some sort of fake faucet but decided against it because he is using the screws and buttons from the wood workbench as buttons for the stove and faucet for the sink. I don't ask questions. it's like it is. The fruits and other produce stay in the cupboard and his mixer and laundry machine on the lower shelf. And voila! You might be asking why the wood tools there? I just needed a place to put them and this seemed perfect, out of the reach of a crawling little brother.

The young chef cut the double sided tape himself as I instructed him and we put everything the way he wanted it. I could've bought the cardboard kitchen, or the one from Ikea which has the added advantage of storage space but the excitement in the kid's face as he was sticking the sink bowl to his dad's old nightstand...priceless.

Tonight we had salmon soup with hot peppers, coconut and yogurt, all together. Yummy! :)
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