Thursday, April 29, 2010

Children's Party Part II

Finally, here are some pictures from Isabela's party in Iowa. Sorry for the delay but the public library is the only place where I have Internet available.
Feliz cumpleanos, Happy Birthday!

Beli ran away from the pinata, I guess that leaves me to hit it?

If you have ever attended a Mexican children's party then you know the planning and preparation involved. Let me mention the food that was served: barbecued ribs, brisket (a meat marinated with spices and jalapenos then baked slowly), mashed potatoes, macaroni salad, and frijoles rancheros, for dessert; tres leches cake made by one of Mom's friends and I made a fruit salad. Sometimes I wonder why we put ourselves through the stress of cooking for thirty plus people. Why can't we have a small cake, pinata and spend a day at the park?

Morning of the party started hectic as everyone was preparing for the party. The community center had to be decorated, meals had to be transported, the three-tier cake was waiting for it's rightful owner at the Hy-vee bakery. Ahh let's take a moment to breath....
La fiesta was a hit with the kids and adults. My least favorite part was cleaning up. I told my Mom that maybe next year we could do something smaller, because it's a lot of work. We spent the previous day cooking and slaving in the kitchen for hours. I guess I shouldn't complain, remember the previous party where all I did was purchase the french salad and my mother-in-law did the rest? After the party we went home and ate more cake and talked about how much fun it was to see family and friends. It really doesn't feel like I have been away from 'home' for a year now. Thanks to technology such as Skype, talking to family is only pennies away.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A French Cafe in the Midwest

My older sister visited Paris a few years ago and she fell in love with the city, the food and the courteous people. For months she couldn't stop talking about her trip. So you can imagine her surprise when a french cafe opened its doors right here in her hometown , Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I remember her phone call a few months ago when she told me , "When you arrive from Croatia we have to visit this place!" Since today was a rainy morning it was the perfect opportunity to be indoors and spend a nice afternoon with my sister and her boys at a french cafe.

We arrived in the middle of their lunch hour, 11am to 2pm. There was a long line in front of us, luckily there were children's books strategically placed on the shelves to keep our kids occupied. As I looked around the cafe I was worried we wouldn't have a please to sit since we arrived during a busy time. We couldn't save a table because there was a sign that specifically said, "no table saving, please sit only after you have placed your order."

When I reached the counter the lady told me to hold on as she left the counter to finish the previous order. I replied, "no problem take your time." I knew it was busy and probably a stressful time as I reassured my sister after she whispered, "she doesn't seem very courteous." The cashier returned to the register and said, "Can I help you?" I said, "Yes I would like two coffees, one apple tart, one..... then she interrupted me to ask if I was having lunch. Cheerfully I replied, "oh no, we are here to enjoy your pastries and coffee." There was silence from her part so I continued with my order I repeated, "so that was two coffees, one apple tart, one napoleon, and three madeleine cookies." She gave us our total and we paid then another lady approached the cashier, I think it was the owner Isabelle and she told me, "since you are not having lunch the only table I have available for you is by the window, I need the tables for the customers who are having lunch." I said, "sure we will take it."

The table she was offering us was for two and there were FIVE of us. I continued in my restrained voice, "we can sit the kids in high chairs." She said, "I only have one!" I mumbled , "that's ok." I was furious but I didn't want to show my anger and frustration in front of the kids. Beli then started crying and the boys wanted to sit down, but we didn't have enough chairs. I thought, "Since when does it make a difference whether your lunch consists of a salad or a cup of coffee and a pastry?" Plus, didn't their website mentioned that if you had a party of 5 you could call and reserve a table? Maybe I should have called in advance for a table.

I don't think I will be returning to visit Croissant Du Jour as I'm not prepared to be segregated to the 'coffee section' because I choose not to order from their lunch menu. Who wants to drink their cup of coffee standing up? Although, I will add that the owner after seeing my sister standing with a 3 year old in her arms did bring one extra chair to our table. That was nice of her right?

What would you have done in my situation? Am I overreacting? This was not the customer service I was expecting after living abroad and returning to the States. I can understand this sort of behavior in Croatia but not the friendly Midwest I remember from my college days.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A day at the Park

The day after the party the weather was on our favor and we spent it at the park with the kids. Beli was ready to join her primos at the playground. Let's go!

Grandma running after her grandchildren.
After the park, we went home and had an ice cream party. Who wants a banana split?

Friday, April 16, 2010


Well we made it, we are in the Midwest! Beli did amazingly well. Although when we first set foot in the airplane she said, "Ne avion". I calmly talked to her and she was fine. The first hour of the 17 hour trip she refused to sit on her own seat but then she began familiarizing with her surroundings and later she was even running down the aisle with another little girl she made friends with!I'll be writing another post about my experience at the Chicago Airport because the gentleman who helped us get through customs deserves to be mentioned. As a parent traveling alone with a child, it's people like him that make flying a positive experience.It has been a bit difficult to adjust to the time change, but plenty of afternoon naps should do the trick right? Sunny weather, 80 degrees, it's warmer compared to Croatia!
Greetings to everyone and thanks for the advice about traveling with a toddler, the tips were very helpful; Beli was happy and so was I. Stay tuned for the Mexican children's party tomorrow, then next week I will be seeing Suze Orman with my older sister, (shown here holding Beli), we're also planning a trip to Texas, then our good friend Nando is traveling from New York to visit us. So yes, it will be one busy month. Hope you can join me on my adventures throughout the Midwest.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Have I mentioned what a talented and wonderful person my Mother-in-law is? Not only is she a terrific cook, but she also paints!

A couple of years ago she traveled to Colorado to help us take care of Beli while I returned to work full-time. Now, you can imagine the culture shock she experienced living in a foreign country where she didn't know anybody, didn't speak the language, couldn't really walk anywhere like she was accustomed to?

And so she turned to her paintings for comfort.
I hope that one day as my Croatian improves; I will be able to express myself and tell her in my own words, how grateful I was for the sacrifice she made.

I have insisted that she needs to place some her paintings at a gallery. I think they are amazing. But she is too modest and argues that it's only a hobby. What do you think she should do?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Croatian children's party

Planning Beli's birthday party was a piece of cake. Like my friends said, simple is better and they were right.

Compared to a Mexican fiesta, where you slave for hours in the kitchen preparing mole, asado, ensalada, postre y pastel de tres leches, a Croatian party is much simpler.

We had a small celebration at home with friends and family. I will admit, my Mother-in-law did most of the cooking, she is a terrific cook. She made pasta with zucchini in a white cream sauce, tuna pate, and a platter of percuitto and cheese. Hubby prepared cold-cut wraps and I supplied the french salad.

Total time I spent in the kitchen, less than 10 minutes, that's how long it took me to transfer the salad from the store container to a serving bowl. What can I say, I'm lazy and spoiled by my Mother-in-Law.

Beli and her cousin Yayo. The kids enjoyed playing amongst each others, and I'm happy to report there were no crying spells. Her two friends: MO is 18 months old, and ES is 22 months. Aren't they cute?
Grandma also baked this delicious torta, a chocolate cake with mascarpone cream.
Setting the balloon free.

Kisses Beli, and a Happy Birthday to you!

Her actual birthday is next Saturday which will be celebrated in IOWA! You guessed it, Mexican stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tips for traveling overseas

A week from today Beli and I will be traveling overseas to the Midwest to visit family and friends. Now I know what you might be thinking, "you are flying alone with a toddler?" And while at first I was nervous about the idea, now I can say with confidence, "yes I'm ready." And it's thanks to the many forums I visited online offering advice about flying with a two year old. Here is my list I put together as I want to make this a positive experience for the both of us. Can you suggest other ideas I might have omitted?

1. Have a positive and flexible attitude about the flying experience

2. Be prepared, for anything

3. Bring many of her favorite snacks

4. Wrap a little present for her to open when the situation in midair gets desperate

5. Don't forget her favorite medo (bear)

6. To be considerate of the other passengers I thought of bringing along ear plugs. Do you think this is a good idea?

7. Reduce intake of sugar, candies, etc..

8. I'm debating stroller or toddler leash? I know I might get strange looks with the latter one but safety comes first.

9. Dress for the journey, I found this tip interesting, via Good Little Traveler: Honor the journey, weight it with preparation, excitement and then dress for the occasion. Wear clean clothes that aren't ugly t-shirts, from personal experience dressing yourself and your children in matching, comfortable, nice clothes ( no stains or holes) results in at least two positive results:

A. Your fellow passengers' first impression of you, as with a job interview, is that you respect them, and the journey, and that you are not taking the experience lightly.
B.Your children will have tangible evidence that traveling by air is something special.

Agree or Disagree? I'm more of a comfort kinda girl.
Our itinerary: Croatia to Germany 1 hour flight with a 3 hour layover then 9 hour flight to Chicago, go through customs, then hop on connecting flight to Des Moines, 1 hour flight, then drive for 1 &1/2 hours to parents home. Iowa see you soon!
Now back to packing and planning that birthday party for Beli.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Croatia and the Countryside

We were blessed to have spent Easter Sunday at my husband's grandparents home in Bribir. As we were having lunch I looked around and saw the happiness on everyone's face. I asked hubby, "when was the last time your grandparents had all their four grandchildren together?" He thought for a few minutes then said, "it's been years." The war back in the 1990's affected their family greatly. Hubby's Grandparents, Aunt and cousins were exiled from their farm and seeked refuge in Serbia. Hubby's brother left to Spain and Hubby to the States. Several years after the war ended his grandparents were allowed back on their farm and I couldn't be happier for them.
There is something nostalgic when I visit their home, reminds me of my childhood summers spent in Mexico. Beli wanted the real eggs!

Grandma Vida said that I was free to have a small piece of her garden to plant whatever I wanted. I'm thinking jalapenos seeds. What do you think?

The land is cultivated by Grandpa and Grandma. In spite of being almost 80 years old, they are healthy and strong and I can't help but admire them, as they are such a joy to be around. You can see they are truly happy and are not bitter about the experience they had during the war. I don't ask too many questions because it's still a sad topic.

In case you are wondering why I have this picture of burning ashes, let me explain. These ashes are covering a peka or domed shaped oven which steams the food in its own natural juices, enhancing the flavour. Peka is a traditional Croatian dish which gives you the best grilled meat dish, according to my hubby. Since I'm vegetarian I can't agree or disagree but I will tell you that the bread his grandma made was delicious. With the burning ashes covering the lid, in about 2 hours you will have a hearty meat dish or half an hour for the bread. And of course the meal couldn't be complete without a glass of wine made from the local grapes.

End result was a succulent meal of veal and chicken with roasted potatoes and herbs.

Fluffy warm bread.
I got to pick my own lunch from the garden, who doesn't love organic salads?

Sweet cherry tree blooming and I wait anxiously for its vibrant red fruit to decorate the tree.

You might notice some of our decorated eggs are broken. I was introduced to the tradition of cracking eggs. You take the egg in your hand and the other person also takes one and you smash the eggs together, if yours crack, you lose! The winner gets to boast about the victory and challenge the next person. I lost, in case you were wondering, but I had so much fun that I didn't mind losing.

In Croatia the Monday following Easter is a national holiday with all the shops closed except for the grocery stores. While the differences of this holiday in comparison to the American way are plentiful and most interesting, one thing is for certain: the more reasons for celebration, the better, so experience both any way you can! I enjoyed my day eating Beli's leftover chocolate kinder jaje. What about you, how did you spend your Easter weekend?
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