Falafel

Dairy, egg, meat free. Can be gluten-free if you like.

Unhealthy made more healthy (or even very healthy) is my favorite kind of cooking.
I shared with you a recipe for burgers and banana pancakes. Now the time has come for a falafel tex-mex style. It takes max 25 mins to prepare and is a real delight! It is inspired by Jamie Oliver’s falafel recipe and our love for tex-mex food.

Ingredients (4 servings):
– 1 can red beans,
– 1 can any other beans,
– fresh coriander,
– a lime (optional),
– flour,
– cherry tomatoes,
– 1 clove of garlic,
– 2 peppers of different color,
– spring onions/1-2 onions,
– avocado (plus optionally coriander, onion, tomato, garlic),
– soybeans (optional),
– lots and lots of olive oil,
– corn tortillas.

1. Preheat the oven to whatever temperature is needed for your corn tortillas.

2. In a food processor blend beans (without their liquid), olive oil, coriander, juice from 1/2 lime).

3. Add 3-4 full tablespoons of flour and mix.

4. Form chops and fry them on medium heat until crispy on the outside (but with soft inside).

5. On another pan preheat olive oil add peppers and spring onions. Season with salt and pepper if you like.

6. Blend cherry tomatoes with garlic to get a delicious salsa.

7. Put corn tortilla to the oven.

8. On another pan fry green beans until they soften a bit (olive oil again). Season with salt and pepper if you like.

9. Avocado – can be just halved and served for everyone to take bits of it with a spoon. If you have time and will go for homemade guacamole (food processor: avocado, fresh coriander, 1 garlic clove, 1/4 onion, half of a big tomato, big lug of olive oil).

Bon appetit!

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Big books

We love words, stories and cuddling while reading. We love talking about books we read but we are also huge fans of big format illustration books. I was very surprised to find out many parents don’t know about them. Z started enjoying them at around 14 months but I know a boy who was very interested in these books earlier.

These books are big, A4 format, have no words but contain lots of stories. Usually you can follow each character on every page – that can be even 20 stories in one book. Then there are all the objects to name, to find, to follow. All the details to find. There is one particular series that we’ve read for almost a year now and I still keep finding new features!

They are also great for spending time together, great boredom busters for waiting in queues (pediatrician’s office, airports, trips). If you’re, like me, not a big fun of books that are made of boring squares of illustrations with names underneath, but you’d like a book with lots of objects to name then this is your win.

It is impossible to review all of them, but there is something for everyone. You can easily find a book that will fit your child’s interest and broaden his horizons, his vocabulary and his knowledge: space themed, animal themed, medieval themed, princess themed – you name it. Our favorites are:

1. A series by Rotraut Susanne Berner, which has an English title “In the town all year round“. It really doesn’t matter if you buy this book with German, French, Polish or English title. There are no important words inside. Illustrations speak for themselves. We have 4 parts, each corresponds to different season of the year, we follow same characters in the same neighborhood and observe how their life and surroundings change. Pictures are very realistic but you will find some funny twists (is a nun carrying a penguin lantern or a penguin shaped balloon a coincidence?).

2. Less realistic pictures, same concept. This time it’s the seaside, painted brilliantly. Aliens, a super hero, sea creatures and a nosy boy, whose mother is looking for him on every page. “At the seaside” (“A la mer”) by Germano Zullo & Albertine.

3. Not any less favorite than two above is a Polish series by incredibly talented authors – Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinscy. They are known outside of Poland for their beautiful books “Maps“, for which Z is still bit too young but I can’t wait to buy it in max a year. Their series that I want to recommend is a tale of a city called “Mamoko” (literally “I have an eye”): “Mamoko long, long time ago”, “Mamoko” and “Mamoko 3000″. Past, future and present animals, fantasy creatures and aliens – something for everyone, great for imagination. Pictures are fantastic, stories are funny. It does not matter at all that the title is in Polish, you don’t need to speak it to read these illustrations.

4. I lately bought 2 Ali Mitgutsch’s books via internet and I regret it. I don’t like the illustrations, there are almost no stories inside but a big plus for many details in the pictures.

If you buy just one, good big illustrations books you will see that they are addictive and you will thank me for making 1h waiting in the doctor’s office pass quickly. For more tips on books and reading check this post, Pinterest board and fb page.

Activities, crafts and DIY – why bother?

Some time ago I wrote about how you can exploit your everyday life and use them for stimulating your kids development (include them and let them help!). Today, I will try to convince you that organizing activities, simple crafts and creating DIY toys is worth a hassle.

I am a stay at home mum, who never planned to be one and who has been shocked (positively) how she enjoys spending every minute with her little Z. She surprised me every single day!

Most kids we know go to daycare at least 2 times per week or have a nanny, whose only job is to take care of them and entertain them. I always thought about payed childcare as an only solution for working parents and as a relief, energy-boosting solution for stay at home parents. And then, one day, it just hit me. Those kids do so many things during the day, they benefit from being with professionals, who have time for them. Me, on the other hand, I have so much more on my agenda! It is absolutely impossible for me to give Z my whole time. Kids in nurseries have days filled with music, painting, sensory play, outside activities and free time. They have the whole package. My goal is now to organize her day the same way that I would expect a paid childminder to do.

When we started including structured activities, crafts and play dough in our lives I rediscovered my passion for this kind of pleasure. I’ve had lots and lots of fun planning the activities, engaging and seeing my little Z’s excitement each time we do something different. It feels so fresh.

For a stay at home mum, every day is more or less the same. Arts and crafts help break that cycle! Exciting activity and laugh can change your attitude for the rest of the day, even if the fun includes cleaning up.

Whenever Z is ill, teething or agitated for any reason crafts and new play ideas save our relationship. And all those times she can’t seem to find anything to do… Few PET bottles from recycling drawer, water and glitter and bam! – toddler busy for 1h. I can either engage or sit quietly beside writing the blog. We laugh a lot while playing, she invents a lot while playing, I let her do what she wants to and stop when she needs to. W

Of course there’s never enough time and of course I’m always tired but this is why spending quality time together is so important. It relieves stress, it makes us laugh, it makes a day special. Every now and then is enough, as soon as you find out what you both like doing, you’ll be surprised how fresh the day will feel.

Convinced? Want to try? Check this list of
super easy play and craft ideas for toddlers:

Filling the bottles,

Painting on white ice,

Painting and drawing,

Sensory play with colored pasta and rice,

Playing with ice cubes,

Fun for tots feet indoors,

Fun for tots feet outdoors.

or check our boards on Pinterest!

The book and the sound

Books with sounds - how to choose them? How to use them?

Using books with sound is one of the easiest way of attracting attention of babies and developing their interest for books. Not every book with sounds is good and they all need to be used in a smart way. And be careful, they are real fun, they are addictive and they can easily take over your kids bookshelf. They are great for 6 month olds and 2 year olds. Z got her first when she was around 5 or 6 months and she still enjoys them.

I would definitely cross off the list all those with artificial sounds, with computer music, too loud, those that don’t provide any useful information or knowledge.

On the list on the other hand: realistic sounds, not too loud, requiring some effort or skill to play the sound and teaching something.

Z’s first was a book with sounds of different birds. It met my requirements and Z loved it. Later, I discovered this is a whole series of books with different sounds. We now have a few: birds, animals, vehicles. For the first few months we read it together as she was unable to play the sound herself and then one day she just figured it out! She quickly learned to imitate a pigeon, a magpie and a cuckoo. Being under influence of these books she was able to imitate plenty of animals by her 1st birthday.

http://instagram.com/p/r2xPeAl6IQ/

The books we love are French but I am sure you can find something very similar in different countries, too!

There also books without sounds but about sounds and making us make sounds. One of these books, a gift from our friends, is one of my favorite from Z’s library – The Noisy Book by Soledad Bravi. Reading it always makes us laugh!

Do you know any other nice, not noisy books with sound worth recommending?