Friday, 27 February 2015

52 Weeks: Week 8

Week 8: Gelato

About once a week I take the girls out for an afternoon treat after school. Since we live in sunny California the weather is usually warm enough for frozen treats - actually, even when it's not warm enough we still go out for frozen treats! Sometimes we'll get frozen yogurt or ice cream, but more often than not we'll get gelato.

We're lucky to have three good gelato stores on Shattuck Avenue all within easy walking distance of Ava's school so we try to mix it up a little. Caravaggio (1797 Shattuck Ave) is the closest to school and has a great range of flavors that the kids love so we tend to go there the most often. They also make delicious affogatos which is great when I need an afternoon caffeine hit! 

Almare (2170 Shattuck Ave) is located in Downtown Berkeley close to the BART station. We tend to go here when we're on our way to BART, the library or after school optometrist appointments. Almare has a great range of authentic Italian gelato flavors plus they make Italian hot chocolate which is a great Winter treat.

Our other favorite gelato store, and where we went this week, is Lush Gelato (1511 Shattuck Ave) in the Gourmet Ghetto. Lush is located in Epicurious Garden which is kind of like a small upscale food court. The seating is located outside over three levels of decked garden space. The girls like coming here because it's lovely to sit outside next to the water feature. Lush features the most gourmet flavors out of these three gelato stores. The flavors are often better suited to an adult palate and at times can seem quite experimental. They're all delicious but the kids find it best to stick to the simple flavors like strawberry or chocolate. Or in Ava's case this week, donut flavor! Imagine a glazed donut churned into gelato. Pretty tasty. Lola always, and I mean always, goes for strawberry no matter which store we go to. She'll often taste test another flavor but ultimately goes back to her favorite when it comes time to choose. Poor Mathilde doesn't get her own gelato yet - although she desperately wants it! She shares a little of mine as long as I don't go for one of the more grown up flavors (ie. the ones with alcohol!). 

Here's a look at this week's after school gelato pit stop... 

Ok, now I want gelato!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Ten Months Old

Ten months. We've hit double digits. Before we know it we'll be celebrating Mathilde's first birthday. I still can't believe my little baby will be one year old in just two months. I am in total denial!

For much of the last month Mathilde has been sick. Nothing major, mostly a nonstop cold that just won't seem to go away. And then there was an ear infection that hung around for a few weeks. And let's not forget the allergic reaction to the penicillin that she was taking for the ear infection. Let me tell you, waking up to a baby covered in hives with all this talk of measles going around is no fun. I'm pleased to say that the ear infection has cleared up and the hives have gone away. I wish I could say the same about the non-stop running nose!

On top of the nonstop illnesses, Mathilde has been teething. This means she has been extra grouchy, but she finally has a tooth! That first little tooth popped through just a few days shy of her 10 month birthday. Not one to conform to the norm though, Mathilde's first tooth is a top one. Like most babies, Ava and Lola's first tooth was a bottom one so I was quite surprised to see a little sliver of white tooth poking out of Mathilde's top gum while her bottom teeth are still hidden well below the gum line.

All of that sickness and teething grouchiness made it very tricky to shoot Mathilde's monthly photo. She just didn't want to sit or stand on her own. She wanted Mummy cuddles. Most of my photos came out like the one below until I found the one thing that made her happy (other than Mummy cuddles).

Her rocking horse! I was so sure that we'd end up with her rocking horse featured in her "I am 10 months old" picture but then she stood still and smiled long enough for me to catch a shot or two.

Mathilde is now really steady on her feet, standing for minutes at a time without holding on and even dancing on the spot. She's not fussed about taking any steps on her own though. A few weeks back she did take five steps in a row but she hasn't done it again since. Every now and then she takes one step but tries to take the second step with the same foot. And the third. And the fourth. And so on until she almost ends up doing the splits! She will take one step to walk between say the couch and a chair so I guess it's just a matter of time before she feels confident enough to continue with more steps. 

Right now Mathilde is obsessed with Ava's gecko Cookie. Cookie's enclosure is close to Mathilde's change table so she sees him quite a few times a day. Whenever we get close to Cookie's enclosure she points at him and makes a c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c sound. Cookie seems to be quite interested in Mathilde too as this noise always makes him come out from under his log! He usually hides away from people but he seems to be fond of Mathilde - which is crazy as she's the one person in the house who can't be trusted with him! I think we're going to have to get a lock to go on the front of his enclosure as it's only a matter of time before Mathilde works out how to climb up the drawers to get to the top of the dresser that he lives on.

Speaking of Mathilde getting into things, that's her favorite thing to do right now. Nothing is safe anymore. She opens drawers and throws tea towels, plastic plates and measuring spoons all over the kitchen floor. She opens cupboards and pulls saucepans out. She opens the dishwasher and rearranges things. She pulls everything out of the washing basket. She gets into everything. If it can be gotten into, she'll get into it! 

When she's not pulling things out of cupboards and throwing things around Mathilde likes to ride her rocking horse. She can climb on and off it on her own and can make it rock. She likes to make a "brrrooom" noise like a car as she rocks! She also makes that noise when pushing around toy cars or riding her ride-on wooden car. Or swimming. It's also the noise she makes to blow bubbles in the water!

Mathilde's other favorite things over the past month include pressing the buttons in the elevator (while saying "buh buh"), washing her hands and splashing in the sink, trying to flush the toilet, climbing the bunk bed ladder, waving "bye bye", brushing her hair, trying to put on shoes, rolling around in the basket of clean washing, and as always, swimming and bath time. She really is a water baby this girl.

At Mathilde's ten month check up on Monday we discovered that her being sick so much lately has meant that she pretty much hasn't gained any weight since her eight month check up. She has gotten taller/longer and her head circumference has increased but her weight has plateaued. She had put on weight but then refused to eat solids and only wanted the boob while she had the ear infection. All that weight that she put on came off and she hasn't put it back on yet. So now I have to try and fatten her up! Time for lots of avocado and salmon. I'm also starting her on cow's milk a little early (it's not usually recommended before twelve months) which should help her gain weight. So far she seems to like it - especially the novelty of drinking it out of a big girl cup! 

Hopefully next month I'll be sharing my roly-poly walking girl with a few more teeth!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Lunar New Year in Berkeley

This weekend we celebrated the Lunar New Year with a festival here in Berkeley.

The Fourth Street shopping district came alive with the the sounds of traditional Chinese music, the color of ornate dancing lions and the excitement of the crowds.

We arrived just in time to watch the Lion Dance performed by Kei Lun Martial Arts. The girls sat and watched in awe as the performers brought the colorful lions to life. Lola was a little scared when the lions came close to us but Mathilde couldn't get enough of them. In fact, my little one (in her lion bib!) was keen to join in and kept crawling onto the road where the performance was taking place!

This was followed by a performance of a story about a big bad wolf, a flock of lambs and a lion - the brave hero. Children from the crowd joined in to play the part of the lambs. Ava and Lola were too shy to join in, but part way though I could see that they wished they had. It certainly looked like fun! The big bad wolf danced around attempting to trap the lambs in his lair. The shepherd tried to fend him off but was no match. This is where the lion came in. After a dramatic battle involving swords the lion finally defeats the wolf and the lambs are safe. Hooray!

The finale of the festival was a parade and store blessing. Two lions, two big headed monk characters and a band of musicians visited the stores and restaurants along Fourth Street blessing them as they went. We joined in the procession that followed. The stores that took part in the blessing gave out candy to the children. As you can probably imagine, this was Lola's favorite part of the day. She certainly has a sweet tooth, that one!

The girls had a great time at the Lunar New Year celebration. We haven't been to the local festival before and usually just attend the parade in San Francisco (which will be held on March 7th). The parade in San Francisco is fantastic but it's so big that it can get a little overwhelming for the kids. Plus it's held in the evening which means that we have tired kids to bring home on BART afterwards. While we'll still most likely go to the parade in San Francisco, it was a nice change taking part in a smaller festival. The crowd was much smaller and the kids got to get up nice and close to the performance. It was a beautiful day and it was so nice to be out in the sun watching the performers.

Happy Lunar New Year!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Popcorn Ice Cream Cones

Ava's recent birthday party at Fenton's Creamery was a first for me. It was the first time that we hosted a party at a fully catered venue. All of the food, entertainment and decorations came part and parcel with the booking. Apart from the invites, cake and party favors there was nothing else I needed to do. I kind of felt a little lost. Usually I'd spend hours scouring through Pinterest for ideas for party food, party games, party hats, photo booth backdrops... This time there was none of that.

There may not have been much for me to prepare for Ava's party but there certainly was for Lola's ice cream themed birthday back in October. In fact, I made so many ice cream themed goodies that I never got around to sharing them all with you! So before Ava's ice cream party becomes a distant memory like Lola's, let's have a look at some of the ice cream treats I made back in October. Same theme, different party.

First up I'm sharing this super easy recipe for Popcorn Ice Cream Cones. Think Rice Krispie Treats made with popcorn instead of Rice Krispies shoved into an ice cream cone and covered with sprinkles. Actually, that's pretty much it! So easy they almost don't need a recipe, but I'll give you one anyway.

What You'll Need
2 (2.75oz) bags microwave popcorn
1 (10oz) bag marshmallows
1/4 cup butter
12 ice cream cones

Pop the popcorn in the microwave. Remove any unpopped kernels and set aside in a large bowl.

Place the sprinkles into a small bowl with an opening wide enough to dip the finished popcorn cones into. Have the sprinkles and cones ready on your work surface as you'll need to work fairly fast when you get to that step.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir until melted.

Remove the marshmallow mix from the heat and pour over the popcorn.

Stir the marshmallow mix through the popcorn until combined.

Now for the fun part; AKA the messy part!

Spray your hands with a little cooking spray. This will prevent them from sticking to the popcorn mix. With your hands, form balls of popcorn big enough to fit on top of the ice cream cones. Shape the bottom of the ball into a cone shape and fit it on top of an ice cream cone. Push the ball down a little to secure it to the cone. You'll need to do this gently to avoid breaking the cone. You might need to play around with the shape a little to get it looking just right for your cones. You'll want to work fairly quickly to shape and assemble the popcorn balls and cones before the marshmallow cools and sets. I don't have any photos of this particular step because my hands were kind of oily and sticky!

Dip each popcorn cone into the sprinkles.

Set popcorn cones aside to cool and you're done.

These popcorn cones can be stored in an airtight container for two days - although if your kids are like mine they won't last that long!

I made these delicious popcorn ice cream cones for both Lola's birthday party and for her to share with her preschool class on her actual birthday. They were hugely popular both times. They really do look like ice cream and they're so simple to make. Plus the cone makes them really easy for kids to hold while eating.

Here are a few variations/additions that would work well with this recipe:

  • Half fill the cones with candy before adding the popcorn ball on top for an extra surprise.
  • Drizzle a little melted chocolate over the finished popcorn cone and top with a cherry instead of decorating with sprinkles. You'll want to place the finished popcorn cones in the fridge to set the chocolate.
  • Mix sprinkles or chocolate chips through the popcorn and marshmallow mix.
  • If you'd like to make your own marshmallows instead of store bought ones you can find my marshmallow recipe here.