Update: Dropping a Ball – Food

I picked up our second batch of meals today. I found a nice woman that makes great food. Once a month, she makes us a batch of seven meals. It is so nice to try new food, to not cook and to not grocery shop. Tonight’s meal was a bit of a miss, though. Goat stew. It was well made, but, well… And then there are these buns. Wow! Yum! They are filled with beef or curried chicken. So great! I could wolf down five of these.


Cake Diary: Devil Ate Victoria

I love to bake. I would bake everyday if I could. I truly enjoy any chance I get to bake. Cakes, like writing, and I have a love-hate relationship. I love planning them out and making th components, but by the end of it I am so over it that I have to force myself to eat the finished product. Okay, force is an exaggeration.

I love chocolate. I love it so much that I am learning how to balance it out. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing after all. I have been known to put so much chocolate into a cake that it hurts your teeth or leaves you slightly ill. Wimps. I’m working on it.

Our neighbour turned 50 yesterday and he likes baking almost as much as he likes eating chocolate desserts. So my present to him is a birthday cake. I have limited time, but I want to do something memorable. It is a special birthday so go big or go home, I say.

I have a four layer cake in mind, but as I baked the layers today, two of them are very fluffy so it might be six layers in the end. Gravity has me concerned slightly. Ah well, I will go for it. It will taste great. 

I am calling it a Devil Ate Victoria cake. It will be a Victoria Sponge cake sandwiched inside of a devil’s food pudding cake. I am hoping to alternate the layers with dark chocolate ganache and marshmellow fluff icing. I have not used marshmellow fluff before, but I have a jar of it that needs to get used. And the butter and powdered sugar icing I made this afternoon looks like curdeled egg whites so I struck out in that. 

Now, how to decorate it? I think I will make a ’50’ on top out of foil wrapped chocolate eggs. That is very typically Dutch for this time of year so I want to give a nod to the fact that he (a Canadian) is celebrating his 5-0 here. And I am thinking of decorating the base of the cake in crumbled chocolate cake that I will have from levelling off the layers. Then, I will have gummy worms crawling up the sides of this very tall cake. I want to temper some white chocolate spelling out “Older than dirt” and place that along the cakes sides, but that will be a first as well so we will see if it pans outs.

I took some short cuts this time around. I used box mixes for both the Victoria Sponge and Devil’s Food cakes. Yes, I admit it. I am not above box mixes. They are basically fail proof which is really important to me when making a cake for a special occasion limited time. I also added a packet of instant chocolate pudding to the Devil’s Food cake. And I will be using store bought marshmellow fluff. I have some great baking cookbooks and I even picked out recipes from them and bought the ingredients then shelved them and went for Betty (Crocker).

So…stay tuned. Pictures tomorrow.

Camping at Home

The sun is finally out today, but it is still cold, wet and windy. We tried to go to the forest preserve close to our house, but E soon asked to go home. Poor little thing was shaking like a leaf.

So instead we made a tent out of a parachute-like tarp. It is multicolored so it came out looking like a circus tent. All the better for my three year old. She wanted to get pillows and blankets and puzzle inside of the tent. I have no idea why a tent equates with puzzling for my three year old, but I was just happy to have some low energy play time. She also wanted to ‘sleep’ there. I call it ‘sleep’ because it would just be singing and giggling and pretending to sleep. We will be sleeping in beds tonight, thank you very much.

She has inherited my ideas on camping that is for sure. She wanted to eat muffins and drink milk in the tent. And when she needed to pee, she ran inside immediately to the toilet.

Here is our tent:



Update: Dropping A Ball

I wrote a few weeks back about dropping one of the many balls that I juggle as a typical wife and working mama with two young children. My first idea came to me from a Facebook post in group created by and for local mothers. A local mother was looking for someone to provide meals for her family.

A personal chef

It sounds like something for millionaires, doesn’t it? Well, I responded to the post saying that I am interested in someone to cook meals for my family too. I got four responses within a day! Much better than I expect, but what does it cost?

One person’s food looked great, but they offered dishes by the kilogram (about 2 pounds). So a great idea for parties or bigger or hungrier families, but my husband and I and a very picky three year old cannot manage that. And I do not want to freeze portions and eat the same meal for a week. Next.

Another response was from the wife of a professionally trained chef looking to build private clients. That is all the info I got. She told me to contact her husband, but did not provide his name or email or address. Weird. Next.

The other one was a small business in a nearby town. They basically offered carry out. Expensive. Not very healthy options. I could do that with the dozens of restaurants in our neighborhood. Next.

The woman we went with is a single mom of two that cooks for her neighbors and other families. (She told me a lot about herself in the course of her cooking, but it is not my place to share that here.) She was very responsive answering questions and provided pictures. The offer was five meals for two adults and two kids for 75 euros. She brought all of the ingredients with her, cooked it at our house one Sunday afternoon in four hours, and cleaned up afterwards.

The kids and I were there the entire time and she offered me tastes as she went. The food was great. It was chicken based dishes with veggies in a variety of sauces. My Midwestern parents would call it stirfry’s, but they were mild curries, tandoori, and a few sweeter teriyaki style dishes. We could have easily stretched the dishes into two weeks of meals by adding more vegetables. As it was, we just added rice each night, but I could have put noodles or potatoes with it.

She brought individual reusable containers for me that are freezer, dishwasher and microwave safe (I paid five euros extra for this). I am weary of microwaving food in plastic so I either reheated a meal in a ceramic bowl or on the stove in a pan. So easy. Some of it tasted even better after a few days of marinating in sauce.

Here is what she made:



Verdict: Once a month. We invited her to come the last Sunday of every month to cook a week’s worth of meals. Our busiest week is the first week of each month so she will come the Sunday before that so we have meals ready for that week plus a few extra.

Our Visitor

We have a visitor this week. His name is Puk. He is a stuffed doll from our three year old’s daycare. Dutch education pedagogy centres around this little guy whose name is pronounced something in between “puck” and “puke”. I can never get the pronunciation quite right.

Puk teaches the kids about the weather, manners, seasons, etc. Part of the curriculum is that each child gets to take Puk home for the week. He gets to go on adventures with the child and it should get documented in Puk’s diary. Sigh.

Puk and his belongings have seen a better day. The poor thing has only pajamas and a green chenille jacket left to wear. I scanned through Puk’s diary looking mostly at the dates and pictures since it is all written in Dutch, of course. This doll and this diary have been making the rounds for over four years. He is older than my daughter!

So I freshened up his wardrobe today. A local store was having BOGO on all clearance items. I found him a newborn sized shirt, shorts and hoodie as well as a grey laptop bag to replace his sad makeshift suitcase with broken zipper. I spent nine euros in total. The shirt and hoody needed to be taken in so I cut the zipper off of the hoodie, shortened it and hemmed it. I shortened the long sleeved tee too. Puk is ready for a few more adventures.

The novelty of Puk has worn off quickly. He is not even sleeping in our daughter’s bed tonight. Yesterday, he went to (British) music class and a (Canadian) birthday party with us. That is enough, right? I mostly just do not want to lose him. I don’t want to be the family to lose Puk.

Here are pictures from music class (p.s. That is the teacher in the background and she is blowing bubbles…the highlight at the end of class) and of Puk with his new ‘pants’ and hoodie.



Gift Idea for Mom & Grammy

I’m a big believer that mothers – new, established, and grand – should get nice tokens of gratitude from time to time. Whether you pamper yourself or another, the recognition is nice. Many mothers receive a gift from their partners after the birth of a child. With the birth of our second, I decided I wanted to have something that incorporated motherhood and also the memory of my father whom died early into my second pregnancy.

So I went hunting on Etsy. I had received a gift certificate for Etsy and that emboldened me to make an investment in a nice necklace that I could wear everyday. It did not need to scream its sentiment to all who saw me. It was just my reminder. And I wanted to be able to wear it for work and while with the little ones.

I chose this from a Canadian shop named The Silver Wing. It has Swarovski crystals with the birthstones of my parents, children, husband and I. They are between two silver discs. One disc has a nice woven/flowery design that allows you to view the crystals inside. The back disc can be stamped with almost anything you request. Inside mine is stamped the first verse of “You are My Sunshine”.

Both of my daughters love to play with it. My youngest jingles the pieces as she stands on my lap and coos in my face. She used to play with my necklace while I nursed her. My oldest plays with it as she is settling in for a nap. I sway her in my arms and sing her our own private version of the “A,B,C’s” (the alphabet sang to the rhythm of “Frere Jacques”). She notices if I am not wearing it. “Mama, where is your neck-a-lace?”

Our own special bond. It turned out to be the perfect gift.


Dropping a Ball

Fortunately, I had a much needed day of downtime. My goal was to do as little as possible, but I just could not help myself. I still got in some shopping and sorted out some baby clothes to try to sell online.

I did treat myself to an early lunch, though. It tasted as good as it looked. This is a toasted spelt bagel with sliced banana, cinnamon and maple syrup.


Life right now is a bit too chaotic. We have all the typical demands of a household with two working parents and two children under the age of four. I am grateful for the health and security we enjoy.

Nonetheless, I need to do a little less. I need to drop one of the many balls I am juggling. I need to create the space to give myself a little more rest. Sometimes it feels like I need more rest and downtime than others. Sometimes I feel more sensitive, more susceptible to life’s typically daily sensory onslaught.

But which thing should go undone? Which activity could go undone? Which activity can this stingy, control freak offload or at least outsource? Food? Namely, grocery shopping and dinner preparation. I am looking into hiring someone to make semi-healthy dinners for our family. Surprisingly, I have a few choices here locally.

We have a cleaner that comes once a week for three hours. Don’t judge me, but I am also considering expanding on that. Does anyone else have any other ideas?