You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


2 Comments

What Went On and Froggy Fun!

I told you how things were starting to kick off here in Neuchâtel as spring starts and we did our utmost to see as much as possible resulting in a busy but fabulous weekend!

quinzaine & jardins

Our weekend started with a wander into town to see the Quinzaine Neuchâteloise. We wandered through the Jardin Anglais which they have just finished replanting for this year towards. The dragon in front of the Casino was looking very smart in red and green and E gave him a roar just to show who was boss.

A little further down there was a brocante going on filled with second hand items in varying states of wear. We also stumbled across one of the Boîte à Trocs (a neighbourhood swap box) which you find all over Romandie. There are 6 in Neuchâtel and although I have read about them I haven’t actually seen one yet. I love the idea of having a place you can put books you’ve finished with or some of the kids old toys for someone else in the area to make use of. Unfortunately it was looking pretty empty so we will have to pop back and fill it up. Goodness knows the kids are growing fast enough to fill one with their clothes that are now too small.

Carrying on past the brocante the gardens turned into a series of lily pad arrangements complete with a flower fog and a golden princess who’s dress and hair were made of plants. A garden wreath design told us that this is to celebrate Neuchâtel’s 200th anniversary of it’s membership to the Swiss Confederation.

Town was packed with stands mainly linked with the shops taking part in the Quinzaine but there were also other stands which I didn’t expect to see including one by the Jardin Communautaire. Unsurprisingly they were also taking part in the Fête de la Nature that I also mentioned. The Jardin Communautaire is trying to create a communal garden on the rue du bassin in the centre of Neuchâtel with the help of the neighbours. Along with this project they are trying to create awareness of urbain flora and fauna and associate themselves with various cultural events. To celebrate the Fête de la Nature that weekend they were doing tastings of various plants made into cakes and cordials. Among others we taste Nettle (Ortie), Dog Rose (Églantier) and Lemon balm (Mélissa) cordials and even a nettle chocolate brownie – all of which the kids enjoyed thoroughly. The ladies were very busy but I managed to get them to pose for a photo before we headed on.

bol d'or collage

It was a beautiful day and the Bol d’Or was stunning to watch from the lakeside – unfortunately for them it was rather laking in wind so it was perhaps the slowest race they have ever had…

Festival goer

That afternoon the kids and I popped over to Cornaux to get a little preview of what was in store for the Corn’Rock festival that evening. A few local connections meant that we sneaked into the sound checks and had a play in the festival grounds soaking up the sun. Even Teddy got to join us on our outing as a rare treat.

stars and hearts

Treats continued as we made ourselves a rather spangly tea using all our biscuit cutters to create a rather appetising feast. If your kids ever decide to get fussy I’m almost willing to bet you can get them to try anything if it is star or heart shaped and colourful.

froggy fountain

That Sunday we decided that we needed to make the most of the fact that it was the Fête de la Nature and head up to the Botanical Gardens to see what exciting things were going on. However, when we arrived the place was so busy we headed on into the forest which was a lot calmer. On our stroll along the path from the Rocher de l’Ermitage (a large rocky outcrop above the gardens) we came across a little frog water trough which over ran down a little stream into a pond teaming with tadpoles.

Well one adventure turned into another and we ended up with a family of frogspawn to look after but that’s another story!

Hope you are all keeping well and stay tuned for news on our new tadpole babies.

Advertisements


2 Comments

Waste and Sustainability

dine below the line

A friend of mine is currently taking part in the Live Below the Line challenge. It is an admirable idea: you have to live on a £1 for groceries per day per person for 5 days and donate what you would usually have spent on your shopping to the cause while at the same time experiencing how those who live in poverty exist on a daily basis.

It got me thinking whether we should be taking part and what it would entail. Could we do it as a family? Would my children be able to live on that little food without becoming hungry rampaging monsters? For that matter: would my husband pack his bags for the week and ship out untIl it was over?

I sat down to chat with the Hubby and we discussed the matter. He was not totally against the idea: we decided that it was a good cause and that we should definitely sponsor this friend and continue giving to our usual charities but it would be a more effective exercise for when the children are a bit older. With older children they could actually understand why they were being deprived and we could discuss what help we could think of to give those in need as a family.

In the meanwhile I did a calculation as to what our budget would actually be for a day. It is not a simple matter of typing £1 into xe.com you have to take Purchasing power parity (PPP) into account. I found out that on the US site you were allocated $1.50 a day. As per The World Bank website $1.5 are needed to purchase $1 worth of good in Switzerland. $1.5 with the current exchange rate gives me 2CHF as my daily budget.

So I sat down to work out a weeks worth of meals on a 56CHF budget and quickly saw how much of a challenge it was going to be. I wanted to be as sustainable as possible. We can all live unhealthily for a week on junk and then go back to normal but you aren’t getting a true experience of someone in poverty’s daily struggle.

To remain healthy the kids needed a litre worth of milk to get their calcium requirements every day and we would need some too. Since we were packing in calories on our budget there would be no more skimmed milk and instead we would all go for the whole milk especially as it is higher in vitamins and minerals. We need 10.5 litres a week for the family which represented 27.5% of our budget.

Looking at breakfast the clear winner on cost was porridge. A kilo bag of oats was half the price of most packaged cereals and we could cut some of the milk with some water to cook it and make it go further. We could feast like kings on porridge in the mornings and cut back on the other meals during the day.

Next I looked at fruit and vegetables. The cheapest veg I could find were tinned tomatoes 800g were a mere 90 centimes so I got 3 tins. Carrots were the cheapest fresh vegetable I could find at 2.95CHF for a bag of 2.5kg, onions were the next cheapest at 3.50CHF for 2.5kg (unfortunately you also get a lot more waste on onions than carrots) and 3.80CHF for a bag for of 2.5kg apples. All the other fresh produce was totally out of budget and I was surprised at how expensive the frozen options were too. Finally for our greens I opted for an 800g bag of frozen spinach for 2.60CHF. There went another 27.5% of my budget.

With over half my budget gone I looked at my meal options. Was I going to go with rice, flour or potatoes as my filler for the week? I opted for flour as I could think of many more basic recipes I could adapt for my budget. With flour we could live on pizza, pasta, bread, biscuits and batter-based dishes which all fill you up on very few ingredients. The cheapest I could find flour was for 90 centimes a kilo and 3 kilos would do for my week’s meal plan.

I would need some oil or fat for cooking and I opted for Olive oil as a luxury I prefer the taste and sometimes we would be having pasta with oil and cheese so it had to be tasty.

The biggest luxury item was the sugar that I needed for baking bread. Since I had splashed out on it we would make some biscuits too as snacks for the kids but even so we used less than a quarter of the kilo bag so I guess that would be an extra for the following week giving us more to spend on meat if we were truly living on this budget every day.

As I couldn’t afford a big box of salt I bought a box of 6 vegetable stock cubes to flavour our food. A box came to 1.50CHF and maybe over a period I could save for a box of bouillon powder which could be stretched further but maybe we would prefer to spend the extra on meat.

Yes, I keep mentioning meat as protein was the toughest thing to squeeze into our budget. I opted for a large 800g block on mozzarella for 3.75CHF which would be carefully rationed, 20 eggs for 4.80CHF and a 400g bag of mixed mince for 3.80CHF. That was the best I could do and hoped that the extra protein in the milk would be enough for my growing kids. This all came to a mere 26g protein per person per day if divided equally (not including the low values you would find in the other food stuffs).

The CDC recommends the following to give you an idea on what we should be eating.

Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein
Grams of protein
needed each day
Children ages 1 – 3 13
Children ages 4 – 8 19
Children ages 9 – 13 34
Girls ages 14 – 18 46
Boys ages 14 – 18 52
Women ages 19 – 70+ 46
Men ages 19 – 70+ 56

So let me give you our very basic but hopefully filling meal plan:

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast
Porridge Porridge Porridge Porridge Porridge Porridge Porridge
Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
Tomato Soup Eggy Bread Onion Soup Tomato Soup Burger sandwich Carrot soup Onion Soup
1/2 loaf 1/2 loaf 1/2 loaf 1/2 loaf 1/2 loaf 1/2 loaf 1/2 loaf
Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner
Yorshire Pudding Pasta Pizza Pasta Pizza Pasta Pizza
Spinach Tomato Sauce Spinach & Egg Tomato Sauce (Margherita) Spinach white sauce Spinach
Snacks Snacks Snacks Snacks Snacks Snacks Snacks
apples apples apples apples apples apples apples
Carottes Carottes Carottes Carottes Carottes Carottes Carottes
Biscuit Biscuit Biscuit Biscuit Biscuit Biscuit Biscuit
Milk for kids Milk for kids Milk for kids Milk for kids Milk for kids Milk for kids Milk for kids

I stretched the meat and veggies as far as I could but I had to allow 20% of my vegetables to be waste (trimmings). Here are some example of the stretched recipes.

2 days worth of Tomato Soup

  • 800g tinned tomatoes
  • 150g carrots
  • 160 onions
  • 1 stock cube
  • water

Onion Soup

  • 600g onions
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 10g sugar
  • 1 stock cube
  • water

1 loaf of Bread

  • 225g flour
  • 10g fresh yeast
  • 5g sugar
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 150ml water

Yorkshire Pudding with mini meatballs

  • 200g mince
  • 200g carrots
  • 100g onions
  • 110g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 290ml milk
  • 30ml oil

Biscuits

  • 360g oats
  • 240g flour
  • 160g sugar
  • 450g milk
  • 40g oil

Pasta

  • 200g flour
  • 3 eggs

Pizza base

  • 250g flour
  • 15g fresh yeast
  • 5g sugar
  • water

Tomato Sauce

  • 800g tinned tomatoes
  • 150g onions
  • 200g carrots
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 1 cube vegetable stock
  • water

Despite the high calorie foods listed I think we would definitely start shedding the extra pounds fairly rapidly if we followed a 56CHF budget diet. The lack of wine, meat and cheese not to mention cups of tea would be very hard to adjust to. While we generally waste very little the exercise of planning for such a challenge has made me reevaluate what we consume.

I do spend a lot more than 56CHF a week but I buy locally and bypass supermarkets avoiding imported or non fair-trade products whenever possible which brings our costs up. I believe that in this way we are helping to support the social system and doing our bit. This was another stopping point for me as if I were to do the living below the line challenge I would want to do it sustainably and would have to compare with the local farmers’ direct prices.

What are your thoughts on this latest campaign? Is it creating the right sort of awareness? Does it encourage less waste or rather does it encourage people to spend on cheaper less sustainable products?

If you wish to donate to one of the charities associated with living below the line please do so here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/uk/charity_donation


Leave a comment

April Fish!

I had to introduce my little girl to the concept of April Fool’s Day today as at nearly three I think she is finally old enough to get it.

When we woke this morning I explained to her what day it was and what people generally do on April Fool’s Day. Then I attempted to get her to  play a joke on Daddy to which she responded,

“No Mummy, you are silly.”

Not put off I headed down to get breakfast ready. I had prepared E’s bowl the night before: I froze her current favourite cereal with some milk in a bowl (hiding some ice cubes underneath so as not to be too wasteful). So all I had to do this morning was to top up with a bit of fresh milk and there was no immediate noticeable difference.

cereal

Ever hungry E tried to dig straight in to her breakfast only to be able to dislodge one flake while I ate my bowl happily next to her. Undeterred she tried again.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“Mummy its stuck!”

“Really? Mine’s ok. Look!”

*Frantic attack of the frozen cereal commences.*

“Mummy!”

To which I crack and explain, “April Fool’s!”

“Oh… Silly Mummy!”

I offered her a normal bowl of cereal and she was happy with only a few mutterings of “silly Mummy” from time to time between mouthfuls.

We soon made peace though when I showed her what she had for her tea later. Over here “April Fools” pranks are known as a “Poisson d’Avril” and I got the kids a couple of little marzipan fish from our local Chocolaterie to celebrate today. I love this place and think they do the best chocolate truffles I have ever tasted! If you are ever in Neuchâtel you need to pop by but be warned the owners are approaching retirement and I’ve heard they are going to shut the shop when they do. As good an excuse as any for us to eat their chocolate while we still can.

poisson d'avril

I think in E’s eyes it was just another normal morning with me being just marginally stranger than normal. I can’t wait for next year!

Hope you had happy pranking too this morning.


3 Comments

Diet Bake #2: Bakes with Fruit

For those of you who didn’t see my previous post I am currently compiling a list of recipes that won’t completely sabotage my diet and allow me and my daughter to carry on enjoying baking. While there are many diet bakes out there I am trying to find healthier recipes rather those that simply substitute ingredients like sugar with artificial sweeteners.

Diet Bake #2 Bakes with Fruit

This week I have been trying out recipes that use fruit for the sweetness rather than huge quantities of sugar.

My first recipe is a Baby Led Weaning one I’ve adapted. This Banana Bread basically gets all of its sweetness from the bananas and sultanas and it is actually my hubby’s favourite.

Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 100 g wholemeal self-raising flour (you can use plain flour but just add 2 teaspoons of baking powder)
  • ½ teaspoon mixed spice
  • 50 g butter
  • 75 g sultanas (or raisins)
  • 200g mashed bananas
  • 1 egg beaten

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and lightly grease a 450g loaf tin.
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl with the spices. Rub the butter into the flour or use a blender until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  3. Stir in the sultanas and make a well in the centre of the flour mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl mash the bananas and add the egg.
  5. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mix and fold in.
  6. Put the mixture into mould and place the oven. Turn the oven down to 160°C and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. When it is done a skewer should come out clean when it is inserted.

For this bake I actually used 3 mini loaf tins instead and baked than for 25 minutes in a same temperature oven. This meant each loaf gave 6 slices (so 18 slices in total). I sometimes think choice of tin is everything. 2 smaller slices seem more satisfying to me than one big one and sometimes a small slice of a square bake can seem like more than one of a round cake. I guess it is like that experiment where they use highball glasses and tumblers to distort perception of quantity by Wansink, B. & van Ittersum, K. (2007). We are so easily fooled by optical illusions we might as well use it to our advantage.

With 18 slices 1 slice was 2 WeightWatchers points, while 2 slices was only 3 points (yay!) and this came to only 64 calories per slice!

N.B. These banana loaves also freeze really well.

Next I had to try out an apple recipe. You can’t do a fruit bake series without one but surprisingly trying to find a good recipe to work off was pretty tricky as they all tend to be laden with sugar and butter.

I eventually found a one but lowered some of the sugar quantities as I found them unnecessary Next time I might try lowering them further – it depends so much on the fruit you use.

Apple and Pear Cake

Apple Cake

Ingredients 

  • 3 ½ medium apples or pears (you can actually use any fruit e.g. peaches or plums)
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 230 g caster sugar
  • 125 g plain white flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 120g butter
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C and line a 20cm square tin (or 23cm round one)
  2. Peel, core and chop the apple and pears into slices and place in a bowl.
  3. Add the lemon juice, cinnamon and 30 g of sugar and leave the apple to sit.
  4. Sieve together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. In another bowl or a mixer cream together the butter and 200g of the sugar and then add the eggs and vanilla.
  6. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined.
  7. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan.
  8. Arrange the apple and pear slices on top and place in the oven for 45 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  9. Cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

This cake gives 12 slices at 6 WeightWatchers points a piece or 224 calories. Ok, it isn’t the lightest cake but its really yummy and it could be so much worse.

I love Mary Berry but her recipes are generally not very WeightWatchers friendly. She generally seems to use more fat in all of her recipes than anyone else. They are darn good though. You can understand my surprise though when reading through her book I came across one that looked like it might fit the bill. Here are Mary Berry’s Blueberry muffins.

Blueberries

Ingredients 

  • 250 g white self-raising flour
  • 1 level teaspoons of baking powder
  • 50 g butter
  • 75 g caster sugar
  • 175 g blueberries
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 250ml semi-skimmed milk 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and grease a muffin tin or place cases in a 12 hole muffin tin (I use silicon muffin trays so I don’t use cases)
  2. Measure the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs (you can do this in a blender).
  3. Stir in the sugar, zest and blueberries (don’t do this bit in the blender though or you will destroy your blueberries).
  4. Mix the eggs and milk and add it directly to the dry mixture the mixture and blend quickly.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases (almost to the top).
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the are well risen, firm and golden,
  7. Cool in the tray for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack and serve warm.

These muffins are suspiciously healthy at only 4 WeightWatchers points a piece or 157 calories.

I’m going to finish on a very healthy sounding one Banana Bran Muffins.

Banana Bran Muffins

Ingredients  

  • 115g butter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 115ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 175g wholemeal flour
  • 100g wheat bran
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease a muffin tin or line with muffin cases.
    2. In a large mixing bowl or blender, cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
    3. Add the bananas, milk, vanilla and eggs and mix well.
    4. Combine the flour, bran, baking powder, baking soda and salt and blend into the banana mixture.
    5. Pour the mixture into the muffin tray or cases.
    6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the muffin comes out clean. Cool in the tray for five minutes then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

 

This mixture makes about 14 muffins. They are also only 4 WeightWatchers points a muffin or 212 calories but you could add a handful of chopped walnuts to the mix which would bring them up to 5 points or 276 calories a muffin.

With all of the banana recipes I find that if you can keep them a couple of days they just get stickier and yummier! So try to hold off a bit.

Wow, thats a lot of cake. Don’t worry we aren’t going to eat all the cakes ourselves we have the whole family including our 93 year old Granny coming to tea so hopefully they will all get eaten.

Happy baking!


4 Comments

Calling it quits

My little boy turns one tomorrow and I’m still breastfeeding.

birthday

He has been a struggle to breastfeed from day one: he slept the first 24 hours, waking to feed only briefly 3 times. However, he gained weight after the third day and fulfilled the minimum feeding requirements. I was told not to worry, your body is on automatic second time round, and that there is very little you can do wrong; “all will be fine”.

My daughter just fed and fed from the word go. She would latch on and stay put. E woke every two hours for a feed till she was 4 months. It was a miracle when at 6 months she slept 6 hours straight! M was already basically sleeping a full night by then. He never woke to feed and while my initial milk supply was great it soon started to dwindle.

When we weaned at 6 months we did baby led weaning (BLW). This meant we went at his rhythm giving him the same as us minus any salt. M didn’t start slow like his sister but tried to eat full meals immediately. He has always had great hand eye coordination and so it wasn’t much of an issue apart from the fact M decided he didn’t really want the milk anymore.

I felt like I was forcing the milk on him and then he decided to make things even more difficult: he would only eat in a lying down position in a darkened room. Ok, I know I shouldn’t have put up with it but I was so worried about him not feeding I didn’t want to push my luck.

The paediatrician seemed happy with him at his 9 month check and just told me to make sure he was getting his calcium through other sources. Up to then I had been pumping like crazy to maintain supply and also to give him some milk for his time at crèche.

Both my kids do some time in daycare despite me being a stay at home mum. We have a few good reasons for this:

  1. This is how we fought the jealousy aspect with my daughter. Giving her a day with mummy suddenly stopped the tantrums and nasty behaviour towards her brother. I also love having the one on one time with both kids.
  2. It gives our children the opportunity to play with their peers. There aren’t really that many activities you can do with your children where they can play with other kids here. Being a stay at home mum is pretty rare (most mums work at least part time) meaning most kids are in crèche so there isn’t a big enough demand for lots of play groups.
  3. Crèche is where our children speak French. We have a strict English only house as is often the case with those trying to keep their mother tongue pure in a foreign speaking country. Establishing these zones will hopefully mean that our children will muddle their languages less and get a real foot in anglophone culture before they start full time school and get froggied.

So, to up his calcium, I started introducing baby yoghurts and then some formula.

Tomorrow as he turns one M is in theory fully weaned and can have cows’ milk. I should be proud of getting to a year but actually I feel sad and disappointed. I fed E up to 16 months and it felt natural to stop. With M I feel like I’ve been probably forcing it for a while but I haven’t done the same for him that I did for his sister (like with so many other things). Its like I’ve let him down and thus let myself down.

Doubts enter my head: maybe it’s because he took a bottle straight away (E only took one at 10 months); maybe it’s because we offered a bottle too early; maybe I didn’t feed him enough in the first few days… On the other hand my logical side is telling me that I’ve done great. I don’t frown on anyone who has stopped after two weeks deciding its not for them so why am I giving myself a tough time?

I’m totally ready to stop and yet not. I’d love to see out the winter but then I’m really not producing enough anymore for my growing boy. I put him down tonight with yet another struggle to give him any breast milk with the intention that that was my last feed.

Have any of you had such different children leading to similar parenting dilemmas?


4 Comments

Abuse!

Sometimes things get a bit silly here but the kids seem to enjoy it so I tend to just get egged on.

I was attempting to quickly prepare dinner for some guests this weekend while at the same time as making the kids’ dinner. As all mums of small children will know this is never allowed so we develop distraction tactics.

M was giving me the “I’m so hungry, I’m fading away” chat so I slipped him a goldfish nibble. Total mistake! Was he content with just one? No! Soon I had something small and now very dribbly trying to climb my leg and I was unable to move. I caved and gave him another which in turn gave me some short lived respite until it was swallowed.

goldfish

Cue brainwave: I started to lay the goldfish out in a line. Not only would M have to move to eat (taking up more time) but I could also lead him anywhere by means of goldfish bribery.

My initial line went round the kitchen island, just as a improvised obstacle course, to test my theory. Then we took a turn into the hallway towards the kids playroom/study where E was playing happily. It worked as a giggling M got gradually closer to his toys and away from the dangerous kitchen.

M trail

E soon came out to see what all the giggling was about and shrieked in delight at the goldfish trail (starting to eat her way along it too).

Ok, I know it is probably some mums’ worst nightmare (their kids eating off the floor) but we are a pet-free and shoe-free house and they had good fun.

Disclaimers:

  • The floor was very clean pre the goldfish crumbs explosion.
  • No children were harmed despite the abuse during this improvised activity. In fact maybe their immune systems were improved.


Leave a comment

An Alternative Valentine’s Day Card

Today I decided to treat my family with a special Valentine’s Day breakfast. Instead of the usual cereal we had boiled eggs with a difference.

This is such a simple activity I can not believe I haven’t tried it before! All you need are some permanent markers and some eggs.

I recommend drawing on your eggs at least 10 minutes before you put them in the water to boil as the pen has more of a chance to dry and be absorbed into the shell. You might even be best doing them the night before. However, if you are in a rush like I was, it doesn’t matter and they still turn out great.

pan

I hope I have given them a gift in more ways than one as eggs provide complete proteins. Complete proteins are a protein source that provides all of the essential amino acids (also called high quality proteins). They keep our stomachs full and our bodies going all day long.

I will certainly be surprising the kids more often with designer eggs for breakfast.

eggs

Happy Valentine’s Day! (Again)