Mom Shanti

Musings on living abroad, motherhood, yoga, and all the in betweens…

Mom and Tomtom! October 14, 2010

Filed under: Food,Kids,Nyon,Seasonal — momshanti @ 6:39 am

Oh the visit from a parent who lives overseas.  Or two!  I have Mom and Dad here right now, and my house is buzzing with their presence.  Nash is a wild banshee showing off for them, its irresistible to see how excited he is to have them here.  We are still working out names, but seems like Mom and Tomtom are sticking.  Mom came about from him hearing me talking to her on Skype, mostly when the connection was cutting and I would try to see if she could hear me by saying, “Mom?  Mom?”  So, Mom it is, its seems.  Thanks to my French-speaking husband, I am referred to as ‘Maman,’ so no conflict of interest here, if you were concerned about that.

As for Tomtom, I am not sure he isn’t confusing that for what he calls Uncle, which is Tonton.  He has seen plenty of Uncle Rusty and Dad on Skype, so no telling, but Dad is definitely Tomtom now.  And Nash calls for him incessantly.  He’ll even take bites of food for Tomtom when he isn’t even in the room!  “Eat your dinner so you can get big and strong and ride on Tomtom’s tractor!”  Okay, so maybe that one is more for the tractor than Tomtom, but “Have a bite for Tomtom” has also been effective.  Thanks to Tanya for the idea who was coercing her child with, “Bite for Mickey Mouse!”    Or another super effective one?  “Yo Gabba Gabba says eat your dinner!”

 

Broby from Yo Gabba... why the coersion at dinner is so effective!

 

So yes, back to my units, having them here is wonderful, and the first of its nature since

Nash was only a wee six-week old!  Mom has been here twice since  my last SC visit, so very grateful for her enthusiasm for international travel, I must say!  And oh, are we having fun.  Walks to town, romps in the garden, Gymboree with an audience, running around a château while simultaneously doing a bit of wine tasting…  and I am cooking up a storm with all the distraction for Nash!  Its fantastic.   (Okay, as fantastic as chopping half my nail off of my finger whilst chopping onions after a wee afternoon wine tasting can be… Aie!!)

 

Lausanne family

 

I must admit, times like these I am always weighing the pros and cons of parents close by and those that live oh so far away. With Fred’s family who are close by, we visit relatively frequently.  (Most of them, Tata Mag and Tonton Bastien are the exception in Canada, so ours is a visitation of even less frequency, sadly.)  I wouldn’t say every other weekend, but every few weekends, and its great.  Nash knows his aunt, uncle, cousins and Mamie quite well.   He gets antsy in the backseat when we pull into the driveway out of excitement to play with everyone and have their affections showered upon him… I didn’t grow up with family this close to us, but the way that I felt about family visitations as a kid, I know I would have absolutely loved it.

Or would I have?  Maybe the reason I would not be able to sleep at night in excited anticipation of visiting family from afar was because it WAS only a two-three time occurence per year.  And then we’d have an entire chunk of two weeks to really spend quality time together, getting to the point where we get on each other’s nerves, and then moving beyond that to the real meat of relationships and togetherness.

But then you have to miss them for the next however many months and months until you see them again, that I remember not loving so much.  Sometimes I toy with the idea of being closer to my family and then I realize that the months of planning and looking forward to seeing them, the joy at hugging after months of being away, and waking up to a coffee together day after day, this is something that I would also miss.  It really is a toss up!  And easy to write about with Dad softly snoring upstairs, Nash chatting in his bed about the day to come or dreams that he had last night, who knows, and Mom making her way down the stairs to a pot of freshly brewed…

Taste for the day:

This is an homage to my friend, Laura, who I have mentioned before.  When she was living in Geneva around the time that Nash was born, she was cranking out all kinds of incredible baked goods to help keep my post-baby body all nice and cushy for breastfeeding…  and one of my faves were Pumpking Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Oh yummy delight of delights.  Obviously my version wasn’t half the goodness of hers, but I am trying.  I actually had to modify mid-batch.  The agave completely liquified the dough (even when halving for the amount of the sweetener), so adding a half a cup extra of whole wheat flour sorted that right out.  And that even happened after I tried cooking liqui-cookies on the sheet.  Yeeks.  In the bin directly.

So yes, cannot even find the actual recipe anymore, but mixed up whole wheat and spelt flours in place of white and subbed one of the cups of flour with flax-seed and oatmeal.  Used a whole 2 cups of chocolate chips in my excitement of having some on hand again, now that Mom is here!  Organic chocolate chips… mmmmmm.   But it was a bit much, especially for Fred, big surprise, but for me, too.  Ah, also I do not have access to canned pumpkin, so had to cook the real deal.  Might have put a bit much of that, too, which could have added to the sauciness of the cookie dough.   Alas, they were all eaten, even if half the contingency of consumption happened as free handouts at Gymboree.

Sound for the day:  Listening to NPR’s All Songs/24 hour music off of their website http://www.npr.org…  One of my absolute new favorites.  Between Radiohead, the National, Tegan and Sara, The Be Good Tanyas, and now Polvo-  good good stuff.

Happy day, and a bientot!

 

Fall is falling! October 4, 2010

Filed under: Food,Kids,Nyon,Seasonal — momshanti @ 7:30 am

Zucchini Chocolate Chip muffins This is my breakfast this Monday morning while Nash has a grasse matinée.  Okay that half of the one in the back was about a fourth of it, the one in the front is a miniature version (for Nash) with flax added (next time I will add to the big muffins, too), but either way, they are amazing.  I am still able to find huge bright green zucchini here in Nyon, and over the weekend they inspired the muffins.  Actually, my friend Kelly’s blog inspired the idea with her recent zucchini cake (You are what I Eat), but I figured I would doctor up the recipe a little since I had no butter and wanted to use my grape seed oil.  I found the recipe at one of my favorite food blogs (Smitten Kitchen), and actually had chocolate chips on hand.  Finding chocolate chips is one of my self-admitted and oh so ridiculous complaints here in Switzerland.  Am I so American that chopping chocolate just doesn’t cut it for me?  Yes, and most especially in baked goods.  I like the wee droppings with the curl at the top and how they melt into perfect, yet subtle (okay depending on how many I use), little hints of chocolate in my goods.  And I was ready to sacrifice my last package as Mom arrives in a week with a few (hopefully) bags full.

Zucchini Bread (from http://www.smittenkitchen.com)
Adapted from several sources

Yield: 2 loaves or approximately 24 muffins

3 eggs
1 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar ( 1 cup of agave)
2 cups grated zucchini (used a little more)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (seems like a lot, but without salted butter, oh so necessary)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) (or ground flax seeds)
1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chocolate chips or a combination thereof (optional) (YES chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans, liberally. (See those pictures of the cakes inside their non-stick pans? Yup, they’re pretty much hanging out in there for the time being.) Alternately, line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla.

Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, as well as nuts, chocolate chips and/or dried fruit, if using.

Stir this into the egg mixture. Divide the batter into prepared pans.

Bake loaves for 60 minutes, plus or minus ten, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Muffins will bake far more quickly, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. (Mine took 20 minutes exactly, they cook really quick!)

my note- Substituting agave nectar will make the dough seem impossibly runny (and much less desirable pre-baked, unfortunately), but they always turn out fine.  Just make sure when you are doing this that you don’t do even exchange.  You will have complete liqui-dough if you do.  Usually half works fine, sometimes a little extra (thank you, Laura!)  Also, adding the flax helps.

 

Swiss Boskoops

 

These I found at a roadside honesty-policy stand (I will add a photo soon!)  They have apples, pears, fresh boxed apple juices, a few autumnal veggies, pumpkins, very strange wine jam confections and a little cash box with a slit where you are expected to dutifully pay what they ask.  This request is usually hand written on a little piece of paper tacked to the wall of the wooden stand.  It is in their driveway, and I sometimes wonder if they are sitting inside the window listening for the ‘clank-clank-clank’ of the Swiss franc to hit the bottom of the tin box.

Anyway, the end result of these apples was this tart.

 

Fred's apple tart

 

Or, rather, what was left of this tart.  My husband made this!  Okay, so I bought the ready-made whole wheat pastry dough, but he peeled, cored, and cut all the apples, prepared a very interesting base of mixed ground hazelnuts, pine nuts, and walnuts (I think), and then poured a yummy egg-milk-cinnamon mixture over the top, glazed it with butter and agave, let it cook an hour in a medium heat oven, and VOILA!  Delicious.  Just enough sweet from the tart Boskoops to balance the nutty crumbly base… I love when Fred bakes.  Fred’s dad, Claude, had a great talent for making amazing apple tarts. He had an apple tree growing in his beloved garden, and took great pride in slicing the apples very VERY finely.  His apple tarts from his apple tree were almost as great a pride as his rose bushes…  its hard to believe that he is gone.

 

Nash's early fall picnic

 

 

the view...

 

Saturday lunchtime, here is Nash having a picnic on our back stoop.   I set up one of my old salvaged crates from Tampa that I dragged all the way here when Fred and I moved six years ago, as if old beat-up wooden crates don’t exist in Europe.   Anyway, it is the perfect height and he loved having his own little table in the backyard, and it is very sweet for me that my old Tamps ‘piece’ is now something so useful!

And last but not least, our Saturday afternoon we decided to stop in at the Panier Gourmand (“The Gourmet Basket”).  I was astounded at the size of one of their pumpkins, and couldn’t help but prop my child up next to it for a photo-op.  This is the biggest pumpkin I have ever seen here.  I think living out in the ‘countryside’ of Vaud might change my relationship with courges (pumpkins).  In Geneva, I would see the odd pumpkin here and there at the grocery store, often already cut and packaged into little more-easily manageable slices, and even small ‘decorative’ ones come Halloween.  But pumpkin patches?  I have spent six years envying all the facebook pumpkin patch albums, I must admit.  But here, there seem to be pumpkins everywhere!  Already I have come across huge assortments of all colors, shapes, textures, sizes…  very excited about all of this.  And it makes me feel VERY fall, which is my favorite season, in fact.  It means butternut squash everything.  I overdid it with the butternuts last year, but have a coconut butternut squash dish on the agenda for this week already (sorry, Fred!)  Bienvenue l’automne!

 

BIIIIIG pumpkin!

 

 

Ohhhhh Mallorca…. September 30, 2010

Filed under: Food,Kids,Travel — momshanti @ 7:46 am

One of the perks about living close to Geneva at the heart of Europe is that a flight to, oh, say, Palma de Majorca is only a hop (skip and jump unnecessary) away.  Last week Fred took five solid days of vacation and we took the hour and half flight to Palma.  The first family vacation without skis in tow since Nash’s arrival almost a solid two years ago!  It was due time, and who better to convince me to embark on such a journey than my most recent Geneva departee (and beloved girlfriend), Laura, who I have been missing since February.  She also has a little boy who has about 13 months on Nash, and our hubs get along well, so we figured why not?

You would think living at the heart of Europe that we do these kinds of things all the time, and every time we do something like this I think longingly, ohhhh why not more often, but to be honest this is one the first of its kind in YEARS.  We’ve done the odd weekend here and there, but not a real deal week-long out and about just being wanderlustly obnoxiously oblivious yet oh so obviously TOURISTS.  And it was fabulous, even if we were obnoxious, which I assure you we were.  Oversized bags hanging off the sides of loaded down strollers, city map in hand looking up, down and around at sights, pushing our way into crowded restaurants and then plopping our nap deprived child into the high chair (Ipod in hand to watch downloaded Yo Gabba Gabba, mind you), him all the while protesting ‘WALK.’

But the flip side of all of that was that once we were at our little casa in the middle of the Soller orange groves, feet kicked up on the coffee table sipping lattes and catching up with two of our favorite people as our babies finally slept upstairs…  vacation at last.  At least until morning when the boys were up and as rambunctious as the day prior.  The two wee ones definitely had a love-hate volley going on throughout the course of the week, something that was good for me to see.  It’s funny that primal sort of ‘Here you, go, my friend,’ and then, ‘NO!! MINE!!’ dialectic that kids are constantly oscillating between.   Here in Geneva, most of my close girlfriends have girls.  And we adore those girls.  And I think Nash is having to learn about personal space and respect and discipline and kindness and sensitivity to a great extent from these girls.   I must admit that it was very enlightening to see just how different being around other boys can be for Nash.   It was rough and tumble like the kid had never experienced before, and for most part, he absolutely loved it.  It was the week of tackles.  Nash has officially learned how to be taken down and take it on the chin (again, for the most part, we had our fair share of meltdowns!)

So yes, our trip to Mallorca was amazing.  We took a little vintage train from Soller to Soller Port, then Soller to Palma, spent a morning swimming in Cala Deia, this remote little cove where we were seriously the very first ones on the playa.   We climbed through the cliff side village of Deia one morning, and strolled the old cobbled alleys of Soller many times over.  Wandering the streets of the port side city of Palma, watching Nash soak it all in all the while.  The food was amazing as to be expected, and most of my day was spent pondering the next course.   Fresh olives to open the palate at every meal, squid every way you like (even in its own ink, which surprisingly was one of the boys favorites!),  a little sobrassada (black sausage of Mallorca… their identity symbol from what I understand), fresh (unpasterized, of course, so off-limits for my 8 month pregnant friend, Laura) cheeses in many colors, varieties and degrees of pungency.  And the wine.  Oh the wine.  I mostly stuck with local whites, though I did bring home one of the reds certified ‘Designation of Origin,’ which I will be trying once the weekend is a little closer upon us (I am attempting  to detox a bit this week after last weeks indulgences.)   They were delicious.  It was all delicious.  But most delicious of all was sitting on the sofa with a glass of my Majorcan white and being asked by my sweet girlfriend if I would be the godmother of her son.

This week was indeed one to go in the books, folks.  Good, good times.