Sunday, 11 December 2011

How to make pepernoten

There is no Sinterklaas celebrations without pepernoten. Although they are available everywhere (in the Netherlands) for sale; they are in fact quite easy to make. In Rwanda, we cannot buy them, so we took some spices from Europe, and we made them here. The result was good!

We took the recept from Albert Heijn website, but for those who do not speak Dutch, this is the English translation:

What do you need?
- 150g butter
- 125g brown sugar
- 10g speculaas spice
 - 250g baking flour
- 4 big spoons milk

What to do?
- Mix all the ingredients until you have a ball of an homogeneous shiny brown color.
- Put baking paper or butter in an oven tray.
- Warm the oven to 160 C degrees.
- Make the small flat balls.

This is when the children can take part of the fun!

- When your tray is full with future pepernoten, set in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Sinterklaas was also in Kigali

When you are abroad is not so simple to keep up with traditions. Well, or at least, you need to put some extra effort to make your children participants of traditions from your home country. One Dutch tradition is Sinterklaas; who comes on December 5 to bring presents to the children. Luckily for us, and thanks to the Dutch embassy in Rwanda, last weekend Sinterklaas also came to Kigali! Although Paul was quite scared about him; Anna had no problems at all. She immediately went to sit with Zwarte Piet (of course, she wanted the cookies he was giving!).

Monday, 14 November 2011

One line a day diary

In the past, I started several diaries. Already since the time I was a child. And I did not finish any of them. After few enthusiastic starts, there was always something else that needed to be done instead of writing in the diary. In one of the issues of Flow, one of my favorite magazines, they suggested a genial idea. A one line diary.
This one is designed by Geertje Aalders, and it was for sale in The Netherlands. Well, I hope that this idea for a diary will fit some people; it does appeal a lot to me, and I hope it will keep my daily writing going!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

How to cook panellets

First of all, what are panellets? Those are little sweets that are eaten in Catalonia (the area around Barcelona) on November 1st.

Since we now live in Rwanda, and I have some free time, I decided to make some. Otherwise, my children will grow up without knowing what are panellets! After a quick call with my mother (great source of information concerning any traditional Spanish recipe), I got the proper receipt.

So, these are the ingredients you need:
- 250 gr almond flour
- 250 gr (brown) sugar
- 250 gr potatoes
- Decoration: chocolate powder, almond shaves, candied fruits

What to do next?
- Boil the potatoes until they are soft. Do not peel them!
- In the meantime, choose and prepare the ingredients you will use as decoration. Due to the restrictions I have here, I used what I could find: chocolate powder, almond shaves and candied fruits. But the most typical decoration would be piƱon nuts.
- When the potatoes are ready, peel them, and mash them with a fork.
- Mix the almond flour, the sugar and the mashed potatoes.
- Separate one third of the mix, and mix it with the chocolate powder
- Let the mix in the fridge for half an hour. Then it will be easier to make the shapes. Go for a shower and relax.
- Shape the chocolate mix as little pyramids
- Shape one third of the "white" mix in little spheres. Roll them over the almond shaves, so that they stick on the surface
- Shape the last third of the "white" mix in little flat circles. Put one candied fruit on top.
- Spread butter on an over tray and place the panellets on the tray.
- Whisk an egg, and paint the panellets with it.
- Put the tray in the oven for 15 minutes at 200 degrees, you can use the grill for the last 5 minutes.
- Check regularly, you will know the panellets are ready when they have a golden color.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Tomato salad with salted cod

Yes, this is one of my mother's receipts, totally in line with her line of thinking. So, it is easy to make, have few ingredients and an extraordinary result!

What do you need?
- Tomatoes
- Black olives
- Red onions
- Salted dry cod
- Olive oil, salt and pepper

f you live in Spain or Portugal, it is quite easy to buy salted dry cod. In the Netherlands, I could buy some in an Albert Heijn XL, in the section with international food specialities.

And then, what do you need to do?
- Let the salted dry cod in water the night before, and change the water a couple of times. You need to do this to get the salt "out" of the cod, so that it tastes salty, but not extremely salty.
- Cut the tomatoes and the red onions in small pieces.
- Mix everything in a bowl with the black olives.
- Add quite some olive oil, and a bit of pepper. Most likely you do not need to add more salt (due to the already salty taste of the cod), but that is up to you.

This dish makes for a really good starter; enjoy it!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Clothes ready for tomorrow

Paul is getting very organized on everything that concerns his clothes. And I am getting very concerned too when I see his "compositions". This is what he prepared before going to sleep...
What is the scarf for? Boots? We live in Africa! Anyway, I have started to use "his" system for my own purposes. So, I arrange his clothes when I know we need to go in a hurry the day after (e.g. taking a plane early in the morning). Then I go over my choice with him, so he agrees with it. And then in the morning, the whole dressing process goes really fast. In fact, most of the days he dresses all by himself now. Although, a couple of times, I realized (too late) that he did not take his pajama out, so he went to school with his pajama under the clothes!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Improvised bed in a safari park

Sleeping in the middle of nature, while animals are wandering around?

That is what Paul and Anna like to do. Well, not exactly sleeping, but doing all the fuss around preparing the bed, the blankets, the pillows and then jumping in it. We have quite some pillows at home that they can use to play around and pile on the floor. I recently bought the small carpet and textiles for the wall, and Paul is very happy about them.

And easy way to get his room in African style!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Playing with empty boxes

Sometimes children get very enthusiastic about the most simple things. For example, empty carton boxes.

I had to move few empty boxes to our storage room. In the process of getting them on the grass and unfolded, Paul and Anna had a lot of fun. Piling them up, climbing on them, or scrawling inside, everything was amusing.

So, if you get few boxes, give them a chance instead of throwing them to the garbage and let your children play with them!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Paul - Fashion show (1)

My son has a sense for style. He chooses his clothes in the morning, and of course, his accessories. And there is no way to convince him to change!

Today, he went like this to school. I swear, we live in Africa and it is relatively hot. The woolen cap and sleeve-less jacket have been kidnapped from the winter section of his wardrobe. The yellow Duplo block in his arm is a watch, he said. The grey Duplo block (obviously, he said) his smartphone. Oooopps, I am looking forward to see how he dresses when he becomes a teenager!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Happy birthday, Anna!

Today is Anna's birthday; happy birthday Anna!

I did not want to make it overcomplicated; so yesterday we did the crown (in the picture) and inflated the balloons for decoration of her chair and the living room. I would suggest all parents to have always in stock colored paper, scissors, glue and the like. With few things, you can really make almost anything! All my supplies come from Hema.

How to make the the crown:
- Cut the colored paper in long pieces (around 10cm wide) and make a string of paper. Leave it open.
- Cut a circle in a different color.
- Draw the letters and the "2" with glittering glue in the circle.
- Staple the circle in the middle of the string.
- Make the flower with pink chenille.
- Fix it with staples next to the circle.
- Close the long string around the head of your child, and staple it together. This way you make sure it is not too big or small.

And, of course, cake and candles are also needed! For a two-year-old is also very exciting to explain the whole process of blowing the candles; practice it a couple of times before lighting them!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Wedding time in Kigali!

Last weekend our nanny was getting married with our gardener; a big day for the household!

We were invited to the church, and sort of forced to be sitting in the first row. Not that easy, since we were with Paul and Anna, but ok. Paul felt asleep after few minutes (even with all the loud music around) and we kept Anna busy easting cookies. I was thinking it was embarrassing that Anna was eating in the church until I saw a lady sitting behind us who was just breast-feeding her baby. So, I guessed that a two-year old toddler eating cookies should be ok as well. The ceremony was full of music, so although all of it was said in Kinyarwandan, it was not boring at all!

After the church ceremony we went to our garden to take few pictures with the closest part of the family. To be honest, it was a very nice experience, and we were very happy to be included in the celebration!

Few advices for foreigners being invited to a wedding in Rwanda.

- Wear appropriate clothes. For men this means a suit with a tie, and for ladies a long dress. It is very likely you might be considered a guest of honor, and be a bit on the spot, so be sure you wear neat clothes.

- Being on-time or not? I am not sure about this point. In our invitation it was said that the ceremony in the church started at 14. We arrived there 5 minutes late. The bride & groom were waiting outside, and when we rushed inside, we found the church almost empty. The ceremony started few minutes later, and people just came in during the ceremony and also afterwards.

- Presents? Ask in advance about which present could be appropriate, depending on your relationship with the people getting married. If you plan to give money, consider giving it in advanced, so that they can use it to pay for the wedding. This way you also make sure it does not get lost, since you may not have the right moment to give it. During the reception, people close to the couple, gave their present and they also made a speech. So, be ready to hold a speech as well!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Hand-made elephants

The house where we stay in Gisenyi is located in a beautiful spot with views to the lake Kivu. We went up to one of the hills to get a better view on the little bay and take some pictures. Out of the nothing an old man appeared, opened a bag with some wood crafts and waited patiently for us to come back to the car. The gorillas were not my thing, but the elephants were quite cute. My mother finally bought a couple of them after some bargaining. Not that it was expensive; he offered the full family (five elephants) for 12.000 RWF (around 15 euros).

Congratulations to this anonymous artist for his good work!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Anna with her new sunglasses

Living in a country next to the equator means that sunglasses are something more than a fashion item. They are really needed!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Weekly planning - What do we eat today?

All parents know the feeling. You finish your work, run to pick up the children from school/creche, get home, and the QUESTION pops up... what do we eat today?

When having no children, it is all a matter of improvisation, checking what is in the fridge, and eventually, running to the supermarket to buy some missing ingredient. With children, the scenario changes to have a couple of hungry human beings who are crying for food. It translates into an equally desperate parent crying as well for a fast solution.

When we were living in Leiden, we put in practice the weekly planner. On Friday, we did a plan on what we would eat the following week. Then we made sure over the weekend to have all the required ingredients. And each evening we cooked for the following day (or made the necessary preparations, like preparing the sauce for the pasta or unfreezing the meat). And, very important, we kept the plan in a visible place: the fridge.

And here is what our weekly planner looked like, for your inspiration!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Baha'i temple in Kampala

What are the baha'is?

I heard about them for the first time during my visit last year to Israel. It is a religion founded more than a century and a half ago in Iran by Baha'u'llah, seen as the last messenger from God after Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. We went to Kampala (Uganda) for a long weekend, and I read in the Brandt guide that we could find there the only baha'i temple in whole Africa. So, out of curiosity, there we went!

The temple is really a island of peace in busy Kampala, and worth a visit if only to enjoy the pretty gardens. The baha'is who were at the temple were really welcoming and happy to answer all our questions about their religion. And they had to smile when Paul immediately started to help by cleaning around with a mop...

Few facts we learned:
What do the baha'is believe in?
- All humanity is one family
- Women and men are equal
- All prejudice - racial, religious, national or economic - is destructive and must be overcome
- We must investigate truth for ourselves, without preconceptions
- Science and religion are in harmony
- Our economic problems are linked to spiritual problems
- The family and its unity are very important
- There is one God
- All major religions come from God
- World peace is the crying need of our time

So far, I would say I could agree with all the statements above.

ANNA, by Paul

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Drinking milk?

Different interpretations of the same sentence. I say to Anna, "take your glass, you can drink your milk". Then I turn my back to go to look for some cookies. A couple of minutes later, I go back to the living room.

This is what I find:

Yes, apparently Anna understands: "I am going to have great fun, and make myself and everything around as dirty as possible."

So, again, in this kind of situations, put it into perspective, and take a picture. You will smile about it after a couple of days!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Banana cake (2nd trial)

This time it worked! Banana cake ready and delicious! There was no fire accident with the oven today; since I divided the content into two recipients, so that it would not overflow.

For more details on the banana cake receipt, you can read my first post on the topic.

So, even somebody like me can have success in the kitchen!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Kwita Izina - Gorilla naming ceremony

Last Saturday we went to Kwita Izina; the gorilla naming ceremony taking place in Kinigi. This is a yearly event when all the baby gorillas born that year receive a name. Obviously, the baby gorillas are not really at the event, but they are represented by people dressed as gorillas. That did not matter; Paul was fascinated by the "gorillas", althought he noted that the gorillas were wearing shoes.

We were expecting a sort of intimate event, but it proved to be a huge event with maybe 20.000 people. Some impressions below!

The left side of the scenario was reserved for VIPs; we could stay there. Children and people in general could come pretty close to the scenario, so that was quite nice. I do not recommend going with small children unless you can stay on that side! Below the right side of the scenario; really packed!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

How to reuse a paper bag as egg container

Constraints lead to innovation and new possibilities.
Daily, I find here examples of creative ways to make a better use of resources.

That is the way we get the eggs here if we buy them in the market. This is simply an A4, previously used to print an e-mail, glued on the edges to create a little bag. Isn't it beautiful and simple?

And I can only think again and again that we are so spoiled in Europe! There we seem to demand more and more unnecessary packaging for our products, simply to throw it away after is has been used. Why?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Get ready for darkness

We do not notice how important electricity is until we do not have it. In our building it is normal that the electricity goes out for a few seconds. The first time it was a bit frightening, -how long is it going to last? -, but in fact, it is just a matter of waiting patiently for a little while and the electricity comes back.

Yesterday it was not the case. We had heavy rain; lights went off and they remained that way. Candles? I did not think about buying them. I remembered that I had bought in Hema a little flash light, so we went to look for it (I had Paul and Anna, of course, ready to follow me and help me around in the darkness). I found the flash light, Paul found the batteries (miracle!) and then we went back to Paul's bedroom. Where are the scissors to open the package? Back to my bedroom, I finally found a pair of scissors, again, in the middle of the darkness.

Flash light package open, batteries package open. How to assemble the whole thing together? Arrgghhh. I tried but I did not get more than a few blue sparks and the smell of fire, a bad sign, all in all. It seemed like the light bulb should be put in a particular position; but I could not see where.

So end of the story. I put Paul and Anna to sleep, a bit earlier than usual, but it seemed not to be a problem. Needless to say, when lights were on again, I had no issue in putting together the lamp in less than a minute.

Lesson learned:
To have always a working flash light and candles ready and in a place easy to reach

Saturday, 11 June 2011

How to paint a child as a cow

Last weekend there was a fair at the school where Paul will go in September. So there we went, it seemed like a good activity for Saturday. There was a lady painting the children's face, and Paul decided he wanted to have his face painted. He was patient enough to wait for 15 minutes (it does not happen often), and then the lady asked: "What do you want to be? Maybe Spiderman?" Paul replied very sure of himself: "Nee, een koe" (No, a cow). OK! And the picture above shows the result of his wish!

Steps to be taken:
- Paint the face in white with a sponge
- Then add the black circles randomly
- Eventually, draw as well the "mouth" in pick

And above all, make sure that the paint is meant to be for children's faces and that it is easy to remove!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Banana cake (1st trial)

We do not have any shortage of babanas in Rwanda. So, I thought to put into practice my cooking skills, and I chose a receipt from Home Made, by Yvette van Boven, (by the way, winner of the cooking book in Dutch, year 2010). Together with imported yeast (found at a small supermarket here) and the children baking set from Hema, I felt totally prepared to start my little adventure.

I simplified the receipt, since it is not easy to find certain ingredients, and it came down to:
- 2 bananas
- 90 grams of flour
- half a little bag of yeast
- 70 grams of butter
- 70 grams of sugar
- 1 egg
- lemon rasp

Note that these are the amounts for a little children-size cake!

- Warm up the oven (I have here a gas oven, no way to know which temperature I am using)
- Cut the bananas in rings
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl
- Put some butter in the cake set
- It is recommended to use baking paper, but since I cannot find it here, I skip this step
- Put all the mixed ingredients into the cake form and put it in the oven
- Wait for an hour, and check from time to time how it goes
- How do I know if the cake is ready? Insert a stick, if it is dry when you take it out, then the cake is ready

It seemed easy to me. First the cake starting to " grow" too much, then it started dripping into the bottom of the oven. I did not get much concerned until the gas fed into the drippings and a little fire started inside the oven. Augh! So I had to take the cake immediately out, and fix the little issue; luckily there was no need to call the fireman.

So, you can see the result below, not really spectacular! And that is why there will come a second trial soon!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Primus guma guma superstar?

Primus guma guma superstar? What is that? Well, imagine a mix between "star academy" and what we know as "operacion triumfo" in Spain. But then placed in Africa. A couple of weekends ago there was a performance at Gitarama, the second largest town in Rwanda. So, there we went to enjoy the show!

It is still something to get used to, that people look at us from time to time, the muzungu, instead of looking at the show...

An amazing amount of energy was displayed by the artists playing; I am looking forward to see the final in Kigali! To get an idea of the show, check this video in YouTube.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

How to eat passion fruit

Since we moved to Rwanda we are eating more and more fruit. Many flavors are new to us, and we are happy to try them all!
One of the new ones is passion fruit. So far we are eating it by cutting it in the middle and taking the pulp with a spoon. Anna seems to like it a lot!

According to Wikipedia, fresh passion fruit is high in beta carotene, potassium, and dietary fiber. Passion fruit juice is a good source of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and good for people who have high blood pressure. So, it is not only tasty, but also healthy!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Moving to Rwanda

This is not exactly a post where I recommend some genial idea on what to do with children. This is a post to announce that in two weeks we will be moving to Rwanda. Our house is empty and all our stuff is shipped in a container. First to Rotterdam and then to Tanzania. From there it will go into a truck to Rwanda (expected time is three months).

So, although being full time with the children does not mean I have a lot of free time, I still wanted to share a picture on the lake Kibu in Rwanda. We were there last January to visit the place and decide whether we wanted to move or not. We decided to move and therefore there was some silence in the My Mama Day blog; all my time was devoted to prepare for the moving!

Change is scary, but so exciting!

Monday, 21 March 2011


Carnaval has just passed, but dressing up as pirates is something you can do at any time of the year.

The day care had organized a carnival party, so children could go with a special outfit. Paul is really picky regarding what he wants to wear, so I thought it made no sense to buy him something. He would probably just not want to wear it.

So... we made his pirate outfit together. I took some pieces of colored felt, and he could choose the colors he liked (he chose blue and red, not a surprise). Then he could cut them in little pieces and point where he wanted them placed in his trousers, T-shirt and hat. I just sew them in the right spot and it was ready!

On the day itself I used some special pens to paint his face, and obviously he also wanted to paint himself some extra lines in his face.

The result is the one below!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Handmade dog with toilet paper roll

I am always surprised by how patient the care takers of my children are.
Paul comes again and again with handmade stuff he does during the day. And I know that the care takers have to help around with more than one child at the time!

So, here is one of the little pieces of art: a handmade dog made with a toilet paper roll.


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