Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Positive reinforcement

Emma's new favorite word is "bravo!" only when she says it, it's pronounced "bavow".

We use it a lot with her; encouraging her to walk, complimenting her when she manages to pop the lid back on something, eats up her meal, repeats a word correctly or simply attempts a new word such as the very difficult "chaussures" which currently sounds like "shushuuww" when handing us her shoes.

She has taken to the word and so nowdays she is exclaiming "bavow" all the time and for almost anything. She is so full of pride and smiles it's hard not to acknowledge it - even when she's done absolutely nothing special. Oh well.

We'll have to find something "more bavow" for the successes to come!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Feel wealthy with Wii - Virtual Buying Power

Naturally, since we live in Austria, we have French satellite TV (nothing logical there, I was just trying out my early morning sarcasm) and so we have been exposed to (and sometimes depressed by) the relentless hammering on about the barely-there-and-falling-fast purchasing power of the French. I know, it's not nice to mock, but really...!

Anyway, the
below is from Canal + les Guignols de l'Info and I thought it was absolutely spot on and so brilliant I wanted to share it with you - even in French.

pouvoir d'achat = purchasing power

Kind of reminds me of a movie I saw as a kid, where people got into cabin-like contraptions that kind of looked like today's self-managing public toilets, to make love. Charming....

Monday, November 17, 2008

What does Emma want?

Emma is in this really talkative phase where she mixes German, French, English and some of her own lingo, sometimes making it a challenge for us to understand her. However, her favorite word at the moment is very clear indeed; "Non" or rather "Nôn, nôn, nôôônnn!"

In case you're wondering, that's me talking to her in French.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Emma in the kitchen

Most evenings while I prepare dinner, Emma likes to sit on the kitchen counter and tear up reorganize the tea bags, pull out all the zip bags from their box or push things into the sink... nowdays she's getting a bit tall for the kitchen cupboards so I guess we'll have to figure something else out...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Emma in her fireman pants

When Emma is tired of walking (or frustrated, fed-up, impatient) she drops to her knees and reverts to her rapid crawling... fine by me -except when it happens in the muddy, wet park.
Ta-da! Firemen pants!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Emma update - walking

The weather in Belgrade was gorgeous -Indian summer after autumn? - and so once again we out outside for our Slava. Emma tasted Ajvar, Ruska Salata, Pogacha, Sarma, Soup, and naturally, the torta while sitting in the highchair Baba (my gran) had bought for her first grandson Djordje over a decade ago.

Deda and Nathalie bought Emma her first pair of real shoes (for walking!) and what better place to take her first outdoor steps than on the banks of the Danube?

Here she goes!

I better book a massage, my back is already aching from assisting her in walking.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Emma's world

This morning, before heading off to "school" Emma and I played with her painted blocks.

I named what she pointed at while she held each block before passing it on to me. There was a striped zebra, a green alligator, a white duck, a yellow giraffe, colorful flowers and birds, autumn leaves, a pink rabbit, red and black lady birds, etc.

After a little while, Emma pointed at the Lion and said "Emma", pointed at the rooster and said "Papà" and then, looked up at me while pointing at the butterfly and said "Môman".

Ah, the love tinted eyes of a child. Nothing like it to make you feel like a million dollars!
...and uh, honey, it could have been a lot worse (pink piggy, the mule...)

Come to think of it though, she does see herself as the king of the jungle!

Friday, October 10, 2008

"Vienna-Take-2" two month round-up

It's been roughly two months since we've moved to Vienna for "take 2" after many months in Geneva (or nearby Geneva in our pad in France). As luck would have it, this little milestone will be celebrated by a little urlaub as we head back to our pad and Geneva for a week.

It's going to be great to see friends and family and I'm interested in seeing Emma's reactions to them; does she remember them? does she remember her room there? and our little routines and trips to the local market?

I know they are all really looking forward to seeing Emma and I'm sure she will impress everyone with how much she has learned and grown and how much more she can do and how well she communicates. (Well, I'm her Mom, I'm bound to think she's the dearest, smartest, cutest little toddler ever!)

Anyway, back to the point of this post. Since it's been nearly two months after "Vienna take 2" I just wanted to take a look at how much better this time has been than last year (thank heavens!) and consider a few things I'm grateful for in Vienna and elsewhere:

  • our home here is solid and not undergoing any kind of construction, it's warm and comfortable and I enjoy seeing our colorful carpets and chachkas brighten the window sills and keep the autumn chills out. Our flat is in a leafy area, near a beautiful park where Emma can play and we can pick up kastanien and I can access some shops on foot which makes a huge difference!
  • Emma has joined the sunshine group at her kindergarten and is happily doing what toddlers do in perfect normality (although of course she is exceptional to us!)
  • this also means I have a bit more time for myself after 14 months of 24/7 I really appreciate it
  • my state of mind this time around is much more open to enjoying Vienna (not totally unrelated to having a bit more time and less chaos at home but also the ever important timing, timing, timing...)
  • my Dad has successfully undergone a fifth operation in two years as part of his ongoing battle against cancer (tests, op, chemo, tests, op, tests, chemo, more tests, good news, and less good...). I am very proud of his spirit and courage and am so happy he manages to remain his usual self (voracious appetite, stubborn and all) malgré tout.
  • the above point, more than ever, makes me thankful that apart from my Dad and my cousin L., and some pain in the butt thyroid issues that run in the family, we are all pretty healthy and kicking
  • Steph is happy in his position here and manages to travel a bit less and come home in time to bath Emma. I'm also grateful that he is such a great Dad, getting her up in the morning, bathing her in the evening, playing with her at the park and feeding her soup while I prepare dinner so we can all be together in the kitchen in the evenings.
  • I guess all in all, in these times where the stock exchanges worldwide are diving and according to French TV, people are really struggling to pay end of month bills, medical expenses and even fill their fridges, I am thankful that we are ok.

Ok, well that's it for now- there's lots more I could write but I have to pack our bags and close up before leaving.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

First steps

Emma is now standing totally on her own and finally taking more a few steps (with my help). I say "finally" because she really weighs a ton and I can't wait until I no longer have to carry her!

Anyway, "first steps" mean that we're going to have to get her some outdoor shoes pretty soon (apparently a baby who has just learned to walk takes around 176 steps a minute) and I have absolutely no idea where to do this (in Vienna or Geneva!).

Apparently the fitting process is very important (it still amazes me that people can order shoes on the Internet!) and I have to say I am not looking forward to that.

Here are some tips on baby feet, fittings and shoes.

As much as I'm appreciating the lovely autumn in
Vienna, there are times I really wish we lived in a hot climate with no need for tights, gloves, hats and shoes...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Yummy creative endeavors (recipes)

As I was recently saying to someone, if I'm creative I'm happy. Or at least I'm not in the doldrums. However, my creative juices can be directed towards different endeavors and it seems I am a serial monogamist. At the moment it's cooking. Yeah, cooking.

I understand many people, especially those who have to do it everyday, a couple of times a day, find it a chore and nothing like a creative outlet, but trust me it can be. And it makes it better for everyone, the cooker, the cleaner and the eater(s). And, seriously, there are plenty of things you don't need loads of time to prepare either. Plus, it's another way of sharing love with those you cook for - including yourself!

Here's a selection of my latest favorites.

Waldorf salad variation
Especially loved by those who have a slightly sweet tooth. (original recipe and my version, I'll let you figure it out)

  • 1/2 cup chopped lightly toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely sliced (unfortunately didn't have any)
  • 1/2 cup red seedless grapes, sliced green organic grapes, whole (or raisins)
  • 1 medium apple, cored and chopped
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise natural yogurt to taste
  • 3 cups of lettuce didn't have any so used endives instead
  • fresh lemon juice to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
Mix the veggies, fruit and walnuts in a bowl. Separately mix yogurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Combine the two and sprinkle with some walnuts.

Oven-roasted ratatouille

I got this recipe from Clotilde at Chocolate & Zucchini

I took this picture just as I was about to place the ratatouille in the oven so as you can see the veggies are still raw, but it gives you an idea of the end result.

I have reproduced Clotilde's recipe below for convenience.

* 2 onions
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 aubergine
* 1 zucchini
* 2 green peppers (surely, if you have red or yellow it's ok)
* 8 small tomatoes (I use the tastier olive shaped ones)
* 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
* 3 sprigs fresh thyme
* olive oil
* salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Peel and slice the onion and garlic. Rinse and slice the veggies. Rinse the herbs. Combine everything in an oven-proof dish. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.

Cover your dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. By now, the veggies should be cooked but not colored, and there should still be cooking juices at the bottom of the dish.

Remove the foil and bake for another 30 to 45 minutes, until the cooking juices have evaporated and the veggies look well roasted.

Remove the herbs and serve now, or later, or keep some for tomorrow's brunch.


Sunday brunch or oeufs cocotte

The key thing here is the oeufs cocotte. Scrumptious.
You'll need:
-a little ramequin per person,
-a larger relatively shallow oven dish,
-fresh eggs
-some sort of soft white cheese or crème fraîche, (or double cream)
-whatever veggies* you have in your fridge and an oven.

It's an easy and quick dish and very versatile so you can add practically anything to it. Plus it's yummy and filling.

I had some organic ham, some cherry tomatoes and mushrooms so that's what I used. However, you can use tuna, peppers, artichokes, onions, gouda, boursault, zucchini or whatever else you have left in your fridge.

1. Turn on your oven to 220°
2. Boil some water in the kettle
3. Place a sheet of newspaper or kitchen paper on the bottom of your shallow oven dish. This will avoid the water boiling over once in the oven
4. Pour the boiled water ("bain-marie" style) into your large and relatively shallow oven dish half way up on to the kitchen paper. This will help the eggs cook.
5. Grease your ramequin and put some crème fraîche, Chavroux, Boursault or whatever white cheese you are using at the bottom of your ramequin
6. Place diced veggies* and other ingredients (tuna or strips of ham etc.) on top
7. Break your egg (I actually use two per person because my ramequins are rather large and we have an appetite) over the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper
8. Place the ramequin in the water in the large and shallow oven dish and place in the oven for 10 or 15 minutes depending on how runny you like your eggs.
9. Once done, you may wish to sprinkle paprika, parmesan or herbs (chives are yummy) depending on what else you've used, on the top.
10. Serve with other brunch favorites (cheeses, hams, etc.) or left-overs and bread or toast.

N.B. you can of course combine steps 2, 3, and 4: just place warm water in the oven dish (don't forget the piece of kitchen paper at the bottom of the dish first) and let it come to the boil in the oven. Then place the ramequins in the dish.

* Veggies: if you are using veggies that need pre-cooking, just sautee them in a little oil in your frying pan before hand (not the case of tomatoes for example)

Favorite combinations are: cheese and ham; spinach and ham; tomato and bacon (in this case place the egg at the bottom and bacon on top); salmon and cream cheese with chives . The combinations are truly endless.

Well, that's all for today, but I'll keep you posted soon with recently discovered soup recipes (excellent for Emma's dinner!) and my feta and tomato quiche.

Bon appétit!

Small victories, big difference

At the end of her third week in kindergarden, Emma is back to her 2 hour nap routine, although it now takes place at the kindergarden and from 11h30-1h30pm. Why is this so great? Well, for one she needs the sleep. But it also means I no longer have to spend my afternoons with Crankerella. Emma's beauty sleep means she's in a much better mood, which almost always guarantees that by sunset I'll be in a better mood too. (I'm crossing fingers it lasts!)

This week we have also made a huge progress when it comes to brushing her teeth. This is something I have been trying to do since May. On and off. Every time Emma would hate it so much I would give it a break for a couple of weeks and then try again. It's been very traumatic for both of us. I felt like I was pulling her teeth out rather than trying to brush them. Well, finally, she will let me brush them a little longer each day without it all ending in tears. We even use a little toothpaste (elmex for kids).
Every morning after popo we brush our teeth, and every evening after dinner and before the bath we brush our teeth and we even occasionnaly use a little tooth paste (Elmex for kids). Yipppeee! This is a TRULY BIG victory!!!
Also, I have now installed a step ladder in front of the sink and every day when we come back from the park or school and before meals we wash our hands! Yippee! This is also a victory 'cause Emma does not like her hands being touched nor does she like cold water, but it never caused the huge tears tooth brushing did.
At the moment I seem to be spending a great deal of time catching mugs or pepper grinders in mid-air, grasping at my mobile phone in an attempt to stop the bill from being astronomical as Emma has decided to call Asia, wiping snotty hands and noses, and basically just running around in circles trying to put out small fires. Ah, the career of a times it's just not gratifying and so exhausting - but I know in no time at all, things will have changed and I'll be discovering something else with Emma and family life... ups and downs and merry-go-rounds.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

back from beautiful Croatia

We've been back from Croatia for a couple of weeks now but got caught up in kindergarden routines, the flu etc. and so I never got around to telling you about our little holiday in beautiful Croatia.

It's grey and around 10° in Vienna and autumn has come in most of Europe, so let me indulge my desire for sun and light by sharing a few observations and some pics of holiday weather with you. Hopefully it will help combat the sniffles!

Below the gorgeous view we woke up to every morning from our balcony at Villa Izabela.
Despite the familiarity of the destination (we had been in the region of Makarska Riviera in 2005 and I have spent many a childhood summer on the very same beach), or perhaps I should say, because of the familiarity of the place, I really enjoyed our holiday. Being an expat can mean that routine and familiarity are treasured more than adventure and novelty at every step! Taking Emma to the beach and watch her discover the salty water, pebbles and seafood was part of the fun. Not having been on a real holiday for ages made it more precious.

A note to new parents thinking of going on a holiday with their young one: Unless you can afford a suite, staying in a rented flat rather than in a hotel room really makes a huge difference. Not only can you cook, eat, play or nap when you feel like it, but you can actually enjoy your evenings à deux by having dinner, a chat, playing cards, watching TV etc. while your babe is safely asleep in another room. A Baby-call can also give you a little parental freedom. We managed Mojitos across the street one evening.

It was also fun to meet and interact with the owners of Villa Izabela to the point where they made us the most delicious palačinke (crêpes) twice and we helped their daughter with her English homework. Kind of like being part of the family.

The other great thing about this region's coast is that thanks to the "Sobe" (rooms) or "Apartmani" (apartments) the locals take part in (so logically also benefit from) the tourism. This means the coast has not been spoiled by huge hotels, locals feel less "invaded" by the floods of tourists since they are actively taking part in the logistics and benefiting directly from their stay. As for guests, their stay feels more homey thanks to home made food and morning and evening chats on the stairs or the patio. What a refreshing change from big hotels where you are just another guest needing a clean room by noon. If you value anonymous travel though, Croatia is not for you. Or at least not in June or September, the quieter, more privileged seasons.

Ok, now for some pics!

We also went to Plitvice, but the weather wasn't so good while we were there as you can see in a selection of my pics below.

The scenery and colors are spectacular. I'd love to visit in the winter time when there's snow. Here are some beautiful pics of Plitvice in the summer time
by Julius Silver. Definitely worth a visit if you're in that neck of the woods.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sources of Joy

Emma has been going to the kindergarten for two weeks now and so far, seems to have taken to it like a fish to water.

She gradually went from spending 30 minutes to an exceptional 5 hours yesterday (9am to 2pm including lunch and a nap) after she had caught the flu, got better and passed it on to me. I desperately needed some extra sleep.

She is the youngest of the sunshine group (there are three different age groups) and their little liebling (darling). Melanie, the group teacher and the leiterin (head) are amazed at how calmly she observes other children cry as their parents leave. I give her a kiss and we wave "ciao ciao" and off I go. They even asked me for the "recipe" for an "Emma"!
Ok, she is good, but they are still in the honeymoon phase. At home, she is much more "assertive", especially when it comes to brushing her teeth or when she is unable to achieve something she is trying to do, like to open a can - then watch the sparks fly!

I must admit though, she has always been very sociable. After she was six months old, I regularly left her with her tata yéyé (my sis-in-law), her Gogo (my mum), her baba Aka (her adopted gran) and Bruno (adopted granpa), for whole afternoons at a time. She also actively participated in lunches with my girlfriends in Geneva (Sev, Nicole, Tania, Léo, Nora...) and weekly ice-creams with Baccarha. She came to the hairdressers with me, was breastfed at the dentists while (yes, while) the hygienist was cleaning my teeth (a first for the hygienist she told me afterwards) and was regularly involved in any other social activity I participated in before her bedtime. (Another benefit of not having been in Vienna this whole time - who knows? she might have become a hermit like me!)
At school, for now, she only goes so far as showing staunch determination when retrieving her dummy, water bottle or a toy from another little one's paws.

Emma is also the only one in the sunshine group who does not yet know how to walk. So she crawls enthusiastically from "corner" to "corner" (the tree corner, where they read stories, the play corner, the meal corner, the nap corner, the cooking corner...) often pausing to extend a new-found toy to the teacher or to a "colleague" as we have come to call them.

Apparently, Emma's new non-spill water bottle (with built in straw so you don't need to tip it) is a hit among her class mates! (thanks for the reco' Lind.)
Steph and I also went to our first Elternabend** (parent-teacher meeting all in German!) on Wednesday. It made me feel so grown-up!

We learned that the three pillars of her "school", as we call it, are hygiene, routine and independence.
Kids are taught to wash their hands when coming in and before meals which always take place sitting down at the table be it for a snack or lunch.
Naps are preceded by relaxing music and play is adapted to children's biorhythms and is gradually calmer as lunch time then nap time approach.
We were told about the leiterin's wish to put a stronger emphasis on musical activities and the calendar system for each group, where we can find out about planned events (excursions and outings mainly for the over 3 year-olds) and unplanned ones like a bout of Kopfläuse (lice) for example.
We also learned that
Emma is good at putting things in boxes but did not wish to participate in the baking of cookies and that she responded to "Viens!" following many unsuccessful "Komm!".

Oh-oh, I am definitely going to have to learn German.

Anyhow, Steph and I are very happy about how things are going. Emma seems to agree. Let's hope it continues this way so we can both (Emma and I) grow independently and I can have something more interesting to tell Steph when he gets back from work than what I read on the Internet or what novelty Emma came up with (not that she's not interesting, but you know what I mean).

I read a quote from a Harvard University psychology professor Daniel Gilbert on another Expat mum's blog (Did I Sign Up For This? An Expat Mom's Life). It really echoed in me:

"Parents tell me all the time that: 'My child is my greatest source of joy'," he said.
"My reply is that: 'Yes, when you have one source of joy, it's bound to be your greatest'.

So here's to finding other sources of joy.

**A parte on the parent-teacher meeting dress code: Contrarily to Singapore, there were no Gucci handbags, Todds shoes or Dior sunglasses to be seen. This was more like big woolly sweaters, casual shoes and jeans. Steph was among the most formal having come straight from the office. Phew! what a relief! Honestly, how can you manage the In Style look with a toddler?)

Emma's first ever drawing. Looks like Arabic to me, no?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Raspberry monster

Nothing beats raspberries for Emma's 4 o'clock

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

on her own two feet

Luckily, Emma's little bout of flu didn't last long and she is healthy enough to go back to kindergarden. In the meantime she learned to pull herself up.
My turn to be slightly under the weather now (thank heavens for Strepsils and Lemon Sip! They just keep you going) although I did manage to drag myself to my second Pilates class in Vienna. Yipee!
Only thing is, not sure what is causing my sore back and bones today...the flu or the exercise.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

First sniffles

I guess we're pretty lucky not to have had any so far (Emma is nearly 14 months old) and it figures that is should happen after a week in Kindergarden. Although, the autumn chills (more like winter when in fact today is the first day of autumn no?) that had people wearing woolen hats, boots, long coats and sprouting umbrellas, are probably as much to blame.

Anyhoooo, Emma spent last night trying to breath through a very congested nose, banging the mattress with her hand in frustration as she miserably sniffled at having to loose her dummy in order to breathe.
Today she's as hot as a bun and a understandably a bit cranky.

I finally got out my nasal aspirator and "blew her nose" early this morning. She absolutely hates me decongesting her nose, but I should have done it earlier anyway- she's now out for the count and getting some much needed rest.

If you have any advice on how to make Emma's first sniffles easier please let me know!


Emma's now up, changed and dressed and has had her breakfast. She's still hot as a bun, with temperature at 38,7°C, sneezing and coughing a little - although I think this is due to the excess mucus running back into her throat.

Found this bit of useful information and have put the humidifier on in her room. Right now we're breathing in Eucalyptus essential oils.

Wish I could ask her to blow her nose but she doesn't know how yet not having ever needed to. I guess you have to have had a cold or two and be over one to know how.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

First day, new job

Dear friends and family,
When you next call, should you hear a strange muffle, shuffle and crackle, or even a dead line, consider not hanging up straight away or calling us back. It might be our new, self-appointed secretary.

Indulge her will you? She is a little gruff but she is new to the profession and so will sometimes make you wait (and me work!) before you get either Steph or me on the phone.

Rest assured, she is currently undergoing training and shows great promise. She demonstrates intelligence and determination. Admittedly, her patience rivals that of Deda and needs to be worked on. She is often adamant that she knows best and is sometimes a little resistant to our suggestions. Nevertheless, she is already a valued member of our team family and we are confident that, in time, she will prove to be a great talent and successfully overcome new challenges.

In the meantime, dear friends and family, we appeal to your sense of ahem, perseverance, and ask you to persist in trying to reach us... we don't yet have any friends in Vienna and appreciate the interaction.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What do you know!?

Tomorrow is Emma's first day at Kindergarden! and I just sent out my resume for a part-time position in Vienna... who knows? life might not be so grey here this winter!!

I'm pretty excited about Emma going to "school" tomorrow. Her first week will be all about induction so she'll be there a little longer each morning. Today I ironed her name on some of her clothes and prepared her bag with a change of clothes and nappies.

I look forward to an hour of peaceful window shopping in the area of the kindergarden tomorrow morning. Cross fingers that the new routine won't totally mess up her sleeping.

By the way, what's with the winter weather in September? today was freezing in Vienna!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Scientist on the loose

At the moment one of Emma's favorite activities is feeding us her biscuit when she's not trying to throw it over the side of the table or stick it in the satellite decoder.

She is now crawling around everywhere at the speed of lightning. Naturally, she's opening all containers, boxes, drawers, cupboards, spilling out their contents on the floor before meticulously inspecting each and every object like a true little scientist. What does it sound like? taste like? feel like?

She has figured out how to turn on the TV and so enjoys pressing buttons.

Another favorite object is the mobile phone. Yesterday she called me using Daddy's and left me a message. Today, in a moment of weakness ("aw, alright, have it, just let me finish writing this email...") I figured there wasn't much danger as it was turned off.

ha! I so underestimated my little one! In a matter of moments she had turned it on and reading: "PIN invalide, veuillez entrer le PUK" !!!

Thank heavens for Swiss efficiency! After a series of questions Swisscom gave me the PUK number and my phone was up and running again... and so was I -after my little scientist!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

up, up and away

We're off on our first holiday since I was three months pregnant with Emma - (we flew to Thailand from Izmir in January '07) and I can tell you we have been looking forward to it a lot!

That also means it's our first holiday with Emma (to a place other than a second home or family) so packing has been quite something (powdered milk, bottles, plastic plates, food for the trip, some toys, nappies, wipes, baby suncream, hats, cot, buggy, car seat...) !

We're heading for Croatia again (we were there in 2005), because t
he coast is beautiful and we can drive there relatively quickly, easily transport all the baby stuff and be mobile while we are there.

We'll be spending our first night just outside Zagreb in a place called Samobor (here) and then heading down to the Makarska Riviera where we've rented a small flat in Baska Voda.

For our second week, we'll be heading up to Plitvice National Park for 3 days and then we'll see...

We're really looking forward to it.

Must get Emma out of bed now and give her some breakfast.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Happy Mummy

It's not quite as much an event as when my books cleared customs in Turkey, but it's always good to receive an order of books in English - especially before we leave on holiday! Happy, lucky me!
I'll let you know what I think of the toddler books as soon as I've gotten my teeth into them.

For books to read when pregnant (or if you have a pre-toddler baby) see this post. Over a year down the line, I definitely recommend Tracy Hogg's Baby Whisperer solves all your problems. Her E.A.S.Y (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You) routine and general good sense really helped us with Emma!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

and Buc (pronounce Buu-uch)!

My Dad did this thing with Emma (and no doubt with us when we were small) where he touched foreheads with her saying "Buu-uch" while she sat on his lap. Gradually, Emma started moving her forehead in toward my Dad's as he would stop half way. Since they don't see each other that often, I continued playing this little game with Emma, and now it's something she does spontaneously with her favorite giraffe, Sophie, when she first picks her up in the morning or indeed the camera.

UPDATE (8th October 2008) below Emma greets squash with "Buuuuch":

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

back to Turkey...

No, we're NOT moving back to Izmir! but it sort of felt like being there on Saturday.

We visited Brunnenmarkt in the 16th district of Vienna. Lots of veggies, fruit, shoes, cheeses...

and lots of people from the Balkans and surroundings. We heard languages from the former Yugoslavia, Romanian, Polish, Turkish and saw stalls held by Indians.

It was a lot messier than Bostanli market but hearing stall holders calling out "buyurun" and seeing signs with the price indicated next to "ekmek" (bread) felt familiar even without the sun and the sea. When we saw a Turkish restaurant in the middle of the market it made us nostalgic for the food, so we went in for lunch.

I had some "sarma" and veggies, and Steph had a "tavuk" (chicken) kebab and couldn't resist the baklava and çay. Wouldn't you know it, the owner of the place comes from Izmir.

While we were there, we tried out Emma's new portable "high-chair" in preparation for our holidays in Croatia. Actually, it's pretty handy having our own portable baby highchair wherever we go since a lot of places don't keep them and especially now that Emma can eat most of what we eat and wants to "participate" a bit more.

On Sunday, we went to another restaurant we had spotted a while ago, off Mariahilferstrasse: VaPiano. A really nice environment with a good concept: Pizza, Pasta and Salads (as well as drinks and desserts) tailor made with the toppings/content of your choice. Yummy, central, affordable, non smoking (there is a small smoking area), ideal for a quick lunch, and - they have highchairs for kids!

VaPiano in Vienna: Theobaldgasse, 19, Wien 1060 - Tel:01/581 12 12

Monday, August 25, 2008

Poop Show - 2nd Installment

Some of you may recall this post where I wondered about the "landing" in the toilets in Vienna.
Jonathan Davis had contributed a comment including a link to an analysis of a Dutch toilet (apparently what this "model" is called) pointing out the same downsides as I had had the pleasure of experiencing:

The first encounter with a toilet in the Netherlands can come as a shock to visitors from abroad. The platform upon which the result of the digestive process lands is what shocks. The construction of the Dutch WC ensures that the smell of the product of human digestion spreads further and that the visitor to said place is confronted with his or her own 'end product'

Well, it looks like the Dutch doctors are not the only ones to reason that being able to examine one's faeces was like getting a photography of one's health.

Interested in learning to distinguish a "good poop" from a bad one?

Friday, August 22, 2008

old rituals, new places

In Geneva, Emma and I got into the habit of going for a weekly post-nap ice-cream with a good friend of mine at this fantastic ice-cream place in Carouge called GelatoMania.

They have a huge choice ranging from unique ice-cream flavors to the more traditional ones. Most are yummy, yummy, yummy although some I find just too oxymoronic (like the calypso = shrimp cocktail or the ham and melon one with real bits of parma ham in it!). Happily, they are kind enough to let you have a taste of the weirder flavors so you don't have to buy it to find out it's just too weird for your pallet. I, for one, could just not swallow the chèvre and the one with pepper.

My preferred flavors over there was "ananas-basilic" (Pineapple and basil - so refreshing!), the ginger-chocolate (mmm...) as well as the more classical "Fior di latte". I also quite liked the black chocolate (very intense!) the green tea and the "pistacchio".

Since we've been in Vienna, Emma and I have been striving to keep up the good habits and so after her afternoon nap and a detour by the fruit & veg market (held by Turks! yummy, if expensive fruit) for some raspberries, we head over to de Rocco's for some "After-eight" ice-cream (my current favorite).

I'm sure this little routine is doing wonders for my post-preggie bikini silhouette...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Smart, cute and eco-friendly all-in-one

How ecologically green are you?
Most of us try to use as few single-use plastic bags as possible. Yet, I for one, often forget my big re-usable carrier bags in the trunk of the car or even at home
because most of the green carrier bags are big, ugly and bulky and don't fit into your purse (if they do, they won't be able to fit all your food shopping in).
So unwittingly, I end up either having to pay for a carrier bag -paper in Switzerland, re-usable plastic at Spar in Vienna, re-usable plastic covered material in major supermarkets in France- or get a free plastic one (unfortunately most places in Switzerland). Even if I have managed to remember my bulky re-usable carrier bag, I end up with a couple of plastic ones when buying fruit and veg anywhere but a market, if only to weigh the fruit and veg. So much for saving the planet and thinking of my kid's future.

Another inconvenience of most re-usable bags is that many cannot be machine washed so once you've spilled some yogurt, say, you can either through the bag out (paper) or have to scoop out the mess and wipe it with a cloth and that's a real pain in the tush.

So, I am thrilled, to promote (because I really think it's a very smart idea and anyone who knows me, knows I love smart inventions) and hopefully convince you to buy a
Trolley Dolly bag so that you never have to use another plastic bag again.

  • you will take this one with you when you food shop
  • it will fit and carry all the stuff you buy
  • it will even fit your parking ticket/tube card, pen, shopping list, I-pod...
  • it can be machine washed
  • it will not break
  • it is rather cute
  • you won't need to use any plastic bags (not even to weigh the fruit and veg)

Imagine the thrill at the till when you say; "no thanks, no bag required, I have what it takes".

Have a look at the below. It's Zoe, mother to three and the inventor of the Trolley Dolly Bag

Then compare it to the one you have or one of the below:
flip and tumble
chico bags
turtle bags

if you're as smitten as I was this is the place to go!

Happy shopping!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Vienna take 2, week-end N°1

So how was our first family week-end back in Vienna?

We went bicycling with Emma for the very first time and lost her hat.
As you can see, I was a bit wobbly in the beginning, but in my defense, Em' kept kicking my bum and tugging at my top.

I was a bit disappointed by the lack of bicycle lanes in Vienna, I thought there would be at least as many as in Geneva and I haven't seen any so far!


We discovered Emma had played Indians with her nappy cream during her nap... (hadn't realized she'd taken it to bed with her from the nappy station)


She also managed to stand for the first time (doesn't she already look computer literate?!)

notice the cute "déhanché"


We decorated and improved the garden wall:



Better, no? What do you think?

We had a yummy macchiato at Bar Italia (not the London one!)

Finally, the sun came out and we visited the MUMOK (Museum Moderner Kunst) and saw and exhibit ironically called Bad Painting good art which was interesting.

The pictures below show the MQ (Museums Quarter) with lilac concrete sun-beds, classical architecture and cafés.

A really interesting mix and in my opinion, a great idea to avoid culture getting that old and dusty feel. There was even a DJ at work in the centre of the "platz" and Mojitos going round. Nice!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

what really matters

I have grown accustomed to seeing our furniture in very different settings;our flat in Vandoeuvres, the house in Zeytinalan Izmir, our first disaster area flat in Vienna (Zuckerkandlgasse) and now this one in the 18th bezirk of Wien. It's surprising how you somehow manage to make it fit the new layout with a little creativity (e.g. sometimes we have room in the kitchen for a table and sometimes we don't, sometimes our desk is a a desk in the guest room/study and sometimes it's a console table in the entrance or hall where we dump our keys and mail)

However, upon arrival in this new flat, the strangest thing happened when I saw our furniture all set up in the right rooms with our pics up and little knick-knacks laid out; it was like seeing a dead man (so I guess that would be a ghost?). I mean I was really surprised to see it all again. As if it had all died and gone to furniture heaven and could not possibly be in our home again. Weird huh?

I guess it can be explained by:
-not having gone through the process of actually moving out of the flat of the 19th moving into this one (since my honey did all the work while Emma and I were still in Geneva/France)
-the fact that I have sort of settled in our pad in France, making it my new home with pics, decorations, new clothes, bed sheets, cushions etc. as well as new routines, coffees and ice-creams with friends, etc.
-but mainly I think it's due to the fact that I tried so hard to put the Zuckerkandlgasse disaster out of my mind, that I kind of threw the baby out with the bath water as it were.

How weird is that?! It's taking me a little time to consider all these belongings as mine and enjoy them again.

I recently suggested to a friend she do without something (or rather someone) for a trial period before actually deciding whether or not she wanted to do without. Coincidentally, I realized that having lived without practically all my belongings for nearly five months, I manged quite well. In fact, I was just fine.
Admittedly, I bought new furniture , clothes etc. in Geneva, but still, it made me realize how many things I have that I don't actually need, and how they are not the be-all and end-all in terms of making my home. All these things are nice to have, but I if required, I can start over (with a little spare cash and some time) and be happy.
A refreshing, empowering thought.

Likewise, I realized that being in a smaller more compact space had its benefits, especially with a little one. Sometimes we realize how much less is really more. Granted, the two flights of stairs leading up to our pad in France (carrying Emma and groceries), doing all the cleaning (hadn't done it since student days!) and the reduced space was more than compensated by the fact that I could see friends and be in a place that was familiar (easily find my way around town, speak the language etc.). So, how cool is it to realize that I have not grown accustomed to being a spoiled-expat-spouse?! Very.

So... I'm going through stuff and I'm going to give lots of it away and make space for now.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Back in Vienna!

So, we have been back in Vienna since Sunday 10th. ... So far no major disasters. Yippee!

A close call though; the newly acquired Mummy-car, a second-hand black automatic Polo, refused to start on Monday afternoon when I decided that it would be nice to get out after Emma's morning nap and lunch. Turns out the portable GPS had sucked the life out of the battery. Luckily we managed -did I say we? Uh, I meant; my star of a husband and the VW service (Emma and I were sending good vibes) to resolve the issue speedily enough and on Tuesday morning the car started on the first attempt.

Emma has adjusted rather well to her 5th bedroom (!!!!) since birth (and I am not counting the maternity ward or family visits) and is generally sleeping ok (although last night she let out a few screams I think might be due to more teeth pushing out).

The new flat is super nice, lovely and bright and spacious, surrounded by our own garden which is accessible from all the bedrooms and the living room. Very best of all (aside from the fact that we never have to go back to that horrible construction area we thought was going to be our home in Vienna) is that there is NO UNPACKING REQUIRED since my star of a husband did it all (with a little hired help) so that we could land running and not get bogged down in boxes. What more could I ask for to make "Vienna take 2" a totally different experience? Cross fingers people!

Today is "Mariä Himmefahrt" so we'll be enjoying a long weekend with Daddy/hubby and getting out and about.

Tune is soon for more...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

stuff she does when sitting

clapping, pushing, banging Emma and her aunt Annabel.

Emma opening presents

And the winner is... the potty!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

12 month check-up

On Monday 28th we went for Emma's one year check up:
10,750 kg (feels like a lot more to me!) 75cm (that's 25cm since birth!)
and she had 2 vaccinations which are giving her a bit of a fever...

Although I don't really want to start fitting Emma into a box, it is kind of reassuring for a first time parent to read up on development milestones so that you know what to expect and have an idea of what your kid should be up to when.

(Above: waiting for the doctor with Annabel also known as "tata yéyé")

According to the development milestones listed by baby weekly (which I have really enjoyed receiving and am sad is ending at week 52 since Emma's birth!) Emma is "ahead" in using her hands (has been removing socks for ages, lifts heavy objects, puts things in baskets, pulls them out, claps...) and can recognize gestures by words (clap, tap, "dodo"), she will point to things she wants instead of crying (although she cries when you remove something she wants). However, she seems to be "lagging behind" in anything that has to to with actually getting on to her two feet; no standing, walking nor even proper crawling so far!

The pediatrician said she is pretty heavy which makes it more difficult for her to walk but that the key thing is she is moving around, the "how" isn't so important. I think they only start worrying if your babe isn't walking at 18 months.

In the waiting room at the Pediatrician's with Annabel (aka "tata yéyé")

Some more great news is that now she's allowed to eat practically everything. So tonight I made her some of my favorite meatballs in the world - Baba's recipe! - but a mini version for her lunch tomorrow and hopefully the day after. Hope she likes them.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

my first year with Emma

On Monday 28th we went for Emma's one year check up:
  • 10,750 kg (feels like a lot more to me!)
  • 75cm (that's 25cm since birth!)
  • and best of all she's now allowed to eat practically everything!

Although I don't really want to start fitting Emma in to a box of development criteria it is kind of reassuring for a first time parent to read up on development milestones so that you know what to expect and have an idea of what your kid should be up to.
According to the development milestones listed by baby weekly (which I have really enjoyed receiving and am sad is ending at week 52 since Emma's birth!) Emma is "ahead" in using her hands (has been removing socks for ages, lifts heavy objects, puts things in baskets, pulls them out, claps...) and can recognize gestures by words (clap, tap, dodo) she will point to things she wants instead of crying (although she cries when you remove something she wants). However, she seems to be "lagging behind" in anything that has to to with actually getting on to her two feet; no standing, walking nor even proper crawling so far! The pediatrician said she is pretty heavy so it makes it more difficult for her to walk but that the key thing is she is moving around.

In terms of stranger anxiety, she doesn't seem to be experiencing too much of that and is generally quite curious when seeing a new face, hearing a new voice etc.

Today, on her birthday we went back to the clinic where she was born to sort of reminisce and say hi to the midwives and nurses who made it a wonderful time for me a year ago. ONE WHOLE YEAR AGO!!!!!

"In raising my children, I have lost my mind but found my soul."
- Lisa T. Shepherd

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Emma - July 2008

nearly 1 year old, not exactly crawling - more of a bum shuffle - but already have loads to say... and um, dribble... Too much a-shakin' for my milk to stay down

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Emma update


Today for the first time, at 11 months, 1 week and 2 days, Emma tried pulling herself up with the bars of her play pen. Her bum got nicely off the ground, hung in the air a few moments while her face sprouted a determined expression and her hands gripped the wooden bars, then she plunked back on to the multi-colored sponge lettered carpeting of her play pen.
In truth, she has actually been lifting her bum off the ground by grabbing on to me or legs of chairs, but this is the first time I've seen her use the wooden bars and keep so upright.

She is still mostly bum shuffling to get around, albeit much more efficiently now, and is grabbing, opening, shaking and strumming anything she can get her hands on. She can now swiftly get from her back on to her tummy and from her back into a sitting position - although she tries the latter more eagerly on our bed than on the floor where the landing surface is much softer should she not make it the first time around. When I put her on the floor, she moves with one leg under her bum and pushes with the other. I'm not quite sure how this works but she definitely get from one corner of the room to the door in no time at all.

Favorite activities
While I am under the shower she loves opening the bathroom cupboard under the sink and pulling out our stock of toothpaste, soap, and my Veet wax strips. She systematically tries shaking, knocking, banging each object individually or against the floor, cupboard or anything else she can reach.

She also loves: removing her hat as soon as you've put it on her; handing you objects and then reaching out for you to return them; tearing up Mummy's magazines; eating bread (and especially anything she can eat on her own); looking down at where she was sitting/lying before you picked her up; playing peek-a-boo; throwing things on the ground then looking down to see where they are (yes, I pick them up dozens of times); trying to sit up while I'm changing her nappy (not so great); most of all, her pink star-fish.

Another favorite is bath-time with her duckies, hippo and the dolphin and recently discovered that clapping her hand against the water makes a great sound ans splashes Mummy! Yesterday she took to tapping her hand against her wet tummy and really enjoyed the musical effect.

Right from the start, Emma has been very sensitive to rhythm and music. Be it Church bells, drumming sounds, the electrical sounding music produced by one of her toys, me singing or clicking my tongue even Amy Winehouse gets her bobbing up and down and puts a smile on her little face. Too cute, even if I am her mother.

Sleeping is still fine
At night she goes to bed at 7pm and gets up at 7am. This has meant that since April when we managed to get rid of the "dream feed" by moving it gradually from 11pm to 9pm while decreasing its quantity and simultaneously increasing the quantity of milk at 7pm dinner time, I have had my evenings "off". Yay!!!! She still wakes when she looses her dummy especially now that she is so mobile in bed and end up sleeping across and at the bottom of her cot. Grobags are a must as she loses the covers in no time at all.

During the day she still has two naps. In fact, at the moment they are very regular and the patters is the same on most days. Mornings: 9h30-11h; afternoons: 2h30pm-3h15pm. This is a bit tricky as it means I really need to work my day around naps, lunch and tea-time but gradually and when she is ready, we'll decrease the morning nap and try to increase the afternoon one so that we end up with one big nap.

Looking forward:
I'm hoping to have switched naps before Emma starts going to the day-care centre in Vienna mid-September so that there are not too many changes at once. But in between the move, holidays and starting day-care as well as trying to respect her need for two naps it's going to be a bit of a challenge.

Well, I guess there's the update on Emma. Hopefully I'll manage to do this a bit more regularly in the coming months, especially as I am sure there will be lots to tell!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Stub out your cigs

Today Geneva bans smoking in public areas (restaurants and cafés) where smoking wasn't already banned.
Hurrah for kiddies and Mummies and well, for anyone who wants to enjoy their food.

I wish they would make lunch-/dinner-time "smoke free" in restaurants not big enough to have proper non-smoking areas... especially in the winter time

Friday, June 27, 2008

Making sense of the election process in Zimbabwe

It's really funny and really worrying...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

home (made) improvements

I'm pretty proud of my homemaker efforts.
Emma's room (in our Pad in France, the "Poirier") needed curtains. However, finding something suitable proved harder than I'd imagined since our new windows meant no drilling holes...

Anyhow, in the end I found plain white linen ones:

Sewed on some colored curly-whirly polka dots to cheer them up, like so:

It's hard to tell with the lighting but these are mighty fine curtains straight from the heart! (Who knew I could find it in me to actually sew!!)

And our little Leo has her own jungle opposite her cot:

This little pad of ours is getting better and better... Now all I have to do is paint a picture or two to decorate our living room...