Kids and Caffè in Turin

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ImageIf you ever have the luck of finding yourself in Turin, have a coffee. Or five. And if you’re with kids, it’s still possible to enjoy your ristretto, or macchiato, or cappuccino, or latte macchiato, or espresso, or… you get the idea, while they sip a gorgeous, freshly pressed red orange juice.

Although I haven’t seen a caffè yet, that’s particularly child-friendly in its interior décor and playing area, people’s friendliness and affection towards children make up for it. I’ve never seen so many people so fond of kids. Everywhere we go, in the streets, on trams, in shops and markets, people talked to both my kids and were saying all kinds of sweet words to them.  Sure it was in Italian, so I didn’t really have a clue, but the tone was enough to understand. So don’t worry if a place doesn’t seem like it’s for kids. People will welcome you with a smile.

In typical coffee bars, once you’ve mastered the art of ordering a coffee as you want it, at one counter, you need to wait and get your order, drink and then go to another counter to pay. It’s a comical set up, but it seems to work. In small or most new places, the counter serves all purposes, which makes the whole experience all the more interesting. You’re never sure if the person in front of you is waiting for a coffee, drinking one, or waiting to order or to pay. And it’s a little tricky if you’re alone with kids, because it’s easy to lose them in the forest of legs from all those standing people. But it’s all doable.

There are a few places that serve your average Western Starbucks-like coffee menu.  Busters Coffee is one of them. Exki is another, though in smaller formats. And a lot of places have free wireless, so you can always check your Facebook, in between running after your toddler and sipping your cold coffee.

A good combo of having coffee while kids were still able to play was going to places with terraces where we could sip our tiny cups while our toddler ran around or played with a fountain. Or to take a coffee-to-go at Busters or Exki, and sit at a Piazza in the sun. Whatever you chose, you’ll be sure to enjoy it.

 

Soy free chocolate letter for Sinterklaas

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IMG_3284Yesterday we celebrated Sinterklaas. Technically St-Nick’s day is today and it’s his death that is celebrated, but who’s reading?

One of the Dutch traditions of Sinterklaas is the chocolate letter. Everyone gets one, mostly, the first letter of their name.

So here’s our challenge. How do you get a chocolate letter without soy for your toddler who’s allergic to soy? You can’t. I haven’t found any, in all the shops (also biobmarkets) that I’ve been to in Rotterdam. Even asked a chocolate maker in his workshop.

So the answer is, you make your own. And it’s easy as pie. Or, as chocolate in this case.

I admit that we saw this coming, and ordered a letter-shaped mold online. You can buy them by the letter. Then, we got dark baking chocolate from from Vivani which is soy free. You can find it at the Gimsel in Rotterdam, in the baking section. Finally, we got a  box of Rice Crispies, available at the Jumbo supermarket.

Tempering the chocolate.

A few tips. While I’m no expert at making chocolate, here are a few tips.

  • Keep your chocolate pieces the same sizes so that they melt evenly
  • Use a double-boiler (bain Marie). Don’t let the water from the pan touch the bowl. Once the water has boiled, turn down the heat. Chocolate doesn’t need a high temperature to melt.
  • Avoid contact with water like the plague, otherwise your chocolate will seize and become thick and grainy (still edible though)
  • Keep stirring until your chocolate is all melted

While the melting was going on, we filled the letter mold with Rice Crispies 1/2 way. Once the chocolate was melted and liquid, we poured it in the mold as we stirred it with the cereal. We evened the mix a little and put in in a cool place. And voila. The whole thing took about 20 minutes.

Next challenge: get the toddler to actually taste the chocolate letter.

Boobs Out review – Coffee Company Rotterdam

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A few Sundays ago, my husband and I packed up the kids to go for coffee on Sunday morning. It was sunny and quiet and we had a nice walk to Coffee Company at the corner of Meent and Pannekoekstraat. (Yes, it’s actually called pancake street!).

Coffee Company gets a thumbs up as a place to breastfeed, also if you have a toddler with you. There are benches along the windows with nice pillows, so you can sit comfortably.  They are made of leather and are quite wide, so it’s also suitable to let your baby play sitting or on her belly (as you hold her of course). In a corner, there are a few games for kids, so your toddler is also nicely occupied. There is even a jug of water and glasses available, so no need to depend on anyone for water.

The woman behind the counter was really sweet and friendly and made us great coffees. Also very important.

So I yes, I like and recommend.

Homemade baby wipes solution

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At home, we use cloth diapers as well as cloth wipes.  We have a little system where we keep a thermos of warm water by the changing table and a small bowl to pour the water in and dip a cloth wipe.

Today, inspired by a slight but ominous rash on my baby’s bottom, I decided to make a more sophisticated solution to clean her bum.

-       2 cups of chamomile tea

-       1 tablespoon of honey

-       1 tablespoon of olive oil

-       2-3 drops of tea tree oil

Ok, so it’s not that sophisticated. But it’s homemade and organic, and I trust it 100%. Tea tree oil is antimicrobial and antifungal. Chamomile is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-allergenic. The olive oil will protect the skin and keep it moisturized and the honey will disinfect and help healing. This will hopefully keep the rash at bay, and soothe otherwise smooth and happy bum cheeks!

For a more in-depth article check out my inspiration for the recipe:

http://www.b-ecochic.com/homemade-baby-wipes-2.html

My first mamafiets

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A few weeks ago, I got my very first mamafiets- a bicycle for mamas.  A beautiful black Montego. And it’s awesome.

It’s got a low middle bar, for easy step on/off, wide steering handles, and a longer rack in the back with a seat. The front part, including the wheel, can be locked so that the handle doesn’t swirl out of control and hit you on the spine when you’re securing your kid in the back seat. I also added an extra rack and basket in the front. So very Dutch and I love it.

For the time being, I have 4.5 month-old Aenea still in the sling. When she’s about 9 months old, she can graduate to the front seat that we’ll install.

To be honest, I’m fairly sure any bike with a similar frame (one with which your back is straight) would do. But since I needed a new bike anyway, I indulged in a bit of gadgetry. The good thing about this one is that the frame is 49cm. It fits me well, since I’m not quite as tall as the Dutch average… I know that Giant makes them in 45cm, but the option I had only came in baby blue. Puch also makes them in 45cm, but they were sold out, even at the factory. So this left me with the Montego Liberty.

Biking with both kids is somewhat of a challenge. You need to get used to the weight behind, the wide steering, which is different than with a normal bike, and the weight in the front. But it’s very doable. It’s great to be able to ride with both kids. Makes me feel like a super mama! Like so many here in the Netherlands!

What’s in your baby products?

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A while ago, my darling friend recommended a great book to read. It’s about all the crap that resides in most cosmetics and ultimately ends up in your body, having been absorbed by your skin. Here’s the book’s website http://thegreenbeautyguide.com/.

And on the website, there’s an article about baby products. Don’t think that just because they’re made for babies, that these bath gels, oils, lotions, milks, yadiyadiya are safe. Many also contain harmful ingredients that are absorbed quickly through baby’s skin. The author suggests a few brands that are trustworthy.

I myself use a brand that I love for mama/baby products. It’s called Earth Mama Angel Baby. And lucky for me, they are sold at the Groene Passage here in Rotterdam. The only possible downside is that they use orange oil − the author says there shouldn’t be any citrus oils because they could be irritating − but my kids seem OK with it. So it’s a small compromise.

In any case, this book has made me decide to either stop buying cosmetics with crap and [try] make my own.

A secret in Rotterdam

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While in the Rotterdam city center, have you ever been sweaty/exhausted/fed up from shopping, with an annoyed toddler and a hungry newborn, and longing for a nice coffee/drink/lunch in a peaceful place with lots of green?

It exists. And at the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s a piece of heaven.

And to make it even better, breastfeeding is a breeze. You’re outside in the shade or sun, on chairs or couches. Your toddler can run around and you can have all the peace of mind in the world.

For some very mysterious reason, when we go with my husband and the kids, the place is almost always empty. So on one hand it’s nice and quiet, but on the other, I desperately hope they stay open.

So now, the only thing left is… to wait for a combo of nice weather and shopping-if-you-must.

http://www.depappegay.nl/home/brasserie/

Caffe Belmondo

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Caffe Belmondo Rotterdam
Image by L.V.M. van Daalen

Caffe Belmondo, the Italian espresso bar is a great place to have coffee in Rotterdam. Most importantly for me at the moment, it’s a great place to breastfeed, AND have coffee at the same time (they have decaf!)

In the middle of the place, there are very comfy armchairs with low tables, perfect to sit in with your baby. There isn’t a place to change diapers, but the small area for toilets is behind a closed door, and there’s enough space there.

A you walk in the place, you give your order at the counter, and they come and bring it to where you’re sitting. They have no problem bringing you a glass of water with your order and do so with a smile. I make a point of that because drinking water is very important while breastfeeding. And you don’t always want to buy bottled water, nor have any with you. [As a side note, I once went into the Douwe and Egberts on Blaak when it opened. I was breastfeeding my first baby at the time. They actually refused to give me a glass of water. Really. The guy said no. And didn't even feel bad about it. I had to buy a bottle. Seriously, if a bar can't give me lousy tap water with my order, they don't deserve my patronage.]

The staff at Belmondo’s is incredibly friendly. All of them. They are also children friendly and never make a fuss about your toddler running around wildly, picking at the sugar, the napkins, stirring sticks, and knocking things over. (You know, in case yours does that…)

Thumbs up for Caffe Belmondo.

Kids’Kuff – walking safe with your child

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Inspired by my toddler’s minuscule listening skills when we’re walking outside, I decided I needed something to hold him while I’m pushing the stroller with the baby. My hand works, but then he lets go and runs off constantly.

So I made my very own wrist band and called it Kids’Kuff . I put it on Noli’s wrist and hold the other end, or tie it to the stroller.

The idea of making it was inspired by this blog: http://smallthingsbynona.blogspot.com/2012/04/child-safety-wrist-strap-tutorial.html. It’s a great start. Unfortunately, once I made this version and tried it on Noli, he unwrapped himself within a minute, and looked at my husband and I as if to say, What else you got?

So Chris and I put our brains together and came up with an updated version that Noli can’t crack. Yet.

Here’s how to.

  1. Take a nylon strap (the kind that’s on a backpack), about 1.5 meters long.
  2. Sew one loop at one end.

    steps 1 & 2

  3. At the other end, sew the soft part of a piece of Velcro about 15 cm long, on each side, 13 cm from the edge.
  4. Take a shorter piece of the rough side of Velcro, about 13 cm long, and sew it into a loop, with the rough side on the inside of the loop.

    steps 3 & 4

  5. Sew the loop at the end of the band (the one with the soft Velcro), with the loop on top of the band. Meaning, make sure the band does not go in the loop.

    step 5

  6. Once you have the loop sewn on, pass the entire band through and pull until you get to the soft Velcro. This end should stick to the inside of the loop.

You can adjust the side as you wish. And obviously, you can make your own adjustments and choose different sizes.

Voila. Noli can’t open this one yet. So far, he’s OK with playing with the Kids’Kuff inside the house. Let’s see what’s it’s like outside. Happy walking!

PS. This is a homemade product. I’m not guaranteeing it’s flawless. And, please don’t take it as a replacement to hold your kid’s hand. Rather, it’s an extra safety item to keep your child close.