Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cuban Lasagna



I still haven't seen the movie Julie & Julia, but through a friend I have been inspired by it.....to....you are not going to believe this....to COOK! For those of you that don't know, I really hate to cook.

Okay, so I will make something for the holidays...like the turkey on Thanksgiving or the lechon on Noche Buena, but it is only after I have studied the recipe for a couple of days and asked people questions and most of the time I have to have someone in the kitchen to make sure I don't poison anyone. Here in Maputo, most of the time, I have Elizabeth (our empregada) close by to make sure I don't totally mess it up.

But a couple of weeks ago I received an update from an old friend of mine, Christy. We were camp counselors when we were 15 and I don't think neither of us thought we would be exchanging recipes over the Internet in 2009...but here we are.

From what I remember of Christy, she is very organized and task oriented. As an adult our paths crossed in our professional life and I was amazed at her agenda. She was very meticulous about writing lists and scratching things off...you know me....I LOVE LISTS and having a to do list, but Christy was an expert. Well, fast forward to 2009....she went to see the movie Julie & Julia and she was inspired to cook, but cook in a way that would celebrate and bring her closer to her Cuban roots.

When she sent me the link to her blog and I read what it was about I had no doubt in my mind that she could do it (remember, she is SUPER organized). She was determined to cook all the recipes from a famous Cuban cookbook, Nitza Vilapol's Cocina al Minuto. Well, I won't bore you with my secondhand details, click here for the article on her blog. Here is a photo of Christy in the kitchen with her daughter


Well, back to the point of this post...I have been reading her recipes for a couple of months now and been missing Cuban food like crazy! And this week I saw a post about Cuban Lasagna and it seemed easy enough and I couldn't resit. I did it. I made a meal all on my own (well, Elizabeth might have chopped the onions) and it was delicious. I never knew that Cuban Lasagna existed and that Christy's aunt Moki was famous for it. But know Moki's recipe lives in Mozambique and it will be on my list of things I can make from now on. It is also a great dish for a party because it is easy and you can prepare it the night before and then just pop it in the oven the next day.

Muchas gracias Christy y Moki!

Here is a photo of my masterpiece after we ate half of it...by the way there is nothing wrong with the macaroni, I just used whole wheat.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Letter From Evan - My "Little" Nephew



Every since Evan was born I keep telling my sister that I can't get over how big that boy is. Every time I show his pictures to my friends in town they can't believe his age. Last week I showed my friend a photo that my sister sent me of Evan. It didn't have his age written on the back, but she swears he must be at least 3 months in the photo. Well, I asked Moqui and Evan was only 8 days!!!

Well, I don't know if Evan is happy about his aunt going on and on about his size. This is a letter I received from him (I think he got some help from my dad...his abuelo). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

Dear Aunt Melissa:

I have never met you, but here in Miami, mom, dad and "abuelos" are always talking about you, JJ and Luka. They always said how smart everybody is on that side of the family. You even sent us Luka's 1st freaking report card, to prove that he "inherited" the smart genes from you and JJ.

My bother Max got his first report card recently and his report card was as good as Luka's, even with the difficulty that his teachers speak mostly Spanish...and that is a lot harder than Dutch or freaking Portuguese.

I appreciate the fact that you put our Santa picture on your website so fast. But really I resented some of your comments regarding my appearance and size. I'm not big or fat or chubby. I'm actually extremely handsome for my early age. And the fact that I'm so freaking tall its because my Dad is 6'4" and my momy is almost 6 feet tall. So I have my doubts about you being the sharpest pencil in the box, like Grandpa says all the time.

I know you are coming in a few weeks and I'm eager to meet you and I know I will love you forever. So if I were you I would not mention this letter to mommy or daddy to avoid friction during my first encounter with my "Mozambican" family.

By the way I saw your recent picture in your "condition" and even this 3-month old knows that you are really BIG. What is your momy feeding you ????


Love,

Evan

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Scenes from our Christmas Morning


"Mami, can we go see if Santa came by last night.....PLEEEEEAAASE!"


Santa must have been hungry and the carrots for the reindeers are gone.


This was Luka's favorite present...a Nijntje Lego Set.


He also loved his Little People set.


"Papa, can you please open this now."



"Mami, I really want to play with my new toys...not take silly pictures."

To see more pictures from our Christmas morning click here.

Perfect Way to Say Happy Birthday

Happy Twenty-Two from KC and Sara on Vimeo.

I came across this video on one of the many blogs I like to read on a lazy weekend and I really fell in love with it. Not only is it a great video and the song is beautiful...but it makes me think of all the birthdays I spend away from my family and how I always wish I could be closer to them. But this is a great way to celebrate the next birthday. I can bake them a cake and made a video. The best part is that I will have the whole cake left for myself....ha ha.

Enjoy!

Post About a "Post-It" Tree



Due to my love of post-it notes it makes sense that I should have thought of this long ago, but this idea came from apartment therapy. Isn't it cool? I think next year this tree will appear in our house and what a perfect way to remember all your Holiday "To-Do" items...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Click on the image above to see it bigger.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Noche Buena



This was our 2nd Noche Buena in Maputo and I made a lechon (12 lbs.) and yucca. It had been two years since the last time I made these two dishes, but I looked for the recipes and got cooking. It took about 6 hours to make the infamous pig, but in the end it was worth it and I think everyone else thought it was very tasty as well.

The yucca is a different story. Here in Maputo we have mandioca or cassava. It is the same as yucca, but the only problem that it is NOT the season for it. I should have just scratched it from the menu, but I really wanted to eat it on Christmas Eve...Noche Buena wouldn't be the same without them. After going to a couple of markets we finally found them, but my empregada warned me that they weren't going to cook right. Well, she was right and the yucca dish was a little hard, but the mojito was delicious. I think I will try the same recipe in July (apparently when mandiocas are in season).

After the cooking was done we went to mass with Luka at the newly built Catholic Church. It was a rough time to take Luka to mass...7 pm is usually his bedtime, but we arrived at church and he was very restless and only wanted to sing the songs. As soon as the choir stopped singing he would yell, "One more song please." He also would clap and sing during the readings and the homily. I think I need to find a "singing" service for Luka and then maybe he will pay more attention.

I did manage to get through to him that tomorrow was Baby Jesus' birthday and he sang to him a couple of times today. Now I have to try a separate Santa Claus and Jesus. I think at this point he thinks that Christmas is more about Santa Claus than Jesus.

After mass we went home to prepare Luka for bed. After we had read him a couple of Christmas stories and left cookies for Santa we tucked him into bed and we were off to our Noche Buena dinner at our friend's house.

The photo above is of the spread...check out my lechon and yucca...and here is a photo of us enjoying our Latin celebration. We had food from Mexico, Peru, Cuba and the States.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

OMG, it is so freaking hot!



It is like 110 degrees today and I had to venture out to do all the food shopping for Noche Buena, Christmas and Boxing Day (Dec. 26th)...we have events all three days and I thought I was going to melt out on the street!

This means I had to go to TWO outside markets and THREE grocery stores to find what I needed and in the end I had to come up with substitutions for many things. I really miss Publix and Costco right about now!

My Christmas wish would be for it to SNOW....ha ha ha.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Maxwell & Evan Meet Santa Claus



Look at my super cute nephews. Evan is so big. Can you believe that he is about to turn only four months! Seriously, Moqui...what are you feeding that kid?

And look at Maxwell's smile...precious. I can't wait to see both of them and actually meet Evan for the first time in January. I think Luka will be very excited to play with his baby cousin. Lately, every time he sees a baby he wants to change their diaper, pat their back or put them to sleep. Do you think he is practicing?

Moqui, where did you take a picture with that Santa? The North Pole...I think he looks like the real thing. Maybe it is the real Santa...I know he is out there somewhere.

Merry Christmas!

19 Weeks

(can you see the hands over the face...the baby is either praying or very pensive!)

Well, I am in my second trimester and I am starting to feel better. The nausea is still around and I find myself hugging the toilet a couple of times a week...but believe it or not I am feeling better. The first trimester was pretty awful. I know that some women love pregnancy and I hope I get there soon.

I don't want you to misinterpret what I am saying. I love that fact that I am going to have a baby and the fact that it is basically a miracle is HUGE...but my hormones haven't really been cooperating and for the first 16 weeks or so of my pregnancy journey I was nauseous all day every day, had every type of food aversion, lost about 12 pounds and had chronic migraines.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel...the nausea is less, I have enjoyed a couple of meals and the weight is starting to come back on (that is good and bad).

But being pregnant has definitely been an experience. The human body is an amazing thing. Your body goes through so many changes...some too graphic to discuss on this blog...but I guess I just didn't know how my body would react. Although I have had a hard time with many of the "changes," they all have a purpose and my body is preparing for our baby's arrival.

I think just yesterday I had what Oprah would call an "aha" moment after our 19 week scan. There is a big baby growing inside of me! I didn't call it big...the doctor did. She said he/she has big feet (what a surprise!) and is pretty large for its age. She said he/she was bouncing around and if I could feel it. I have been feeling something...but not sure what. I guess it is the baby moving...that is what she said. Very strange, but very wonderful.

Well, here is the photo of our baby. We could have found out the sex by now, but JJ and I doing this "old school." We are going to wait until the baby is born to know the sex. Right now some of you are saying, "There is no way Melissa can wait...she has to plan for everything." Well people, I am really excited about the surprise and I think that moment when they tell us will be very special for our family. So, stop asking me what it is and get excited about the surprise.

We welcome any suggestions for names...JJ and I have heated debates over the subject. I have a couple of requirements:
- the name should be short, one or two syllables
- it should sound the same in Dutch, Spanish and English (Luka is said the same in all three)
- I love unisex names, but JJ is not so keen

In the end it will be really funny if the baby ends up with a name that violates all my "rules." But in the end we will go with a name that we all like and sounds good...but please send me your suggestions. Later I will post some of the contenders.

So that is what is going on with the baby for now. I will try and post photos of my expanding belly. It just expanded this week and I need to bring my nerve up to take a photograph. I really hate taking photos.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Talk about a White Christmas...



We are having a very HOT Christmas in Maputo. Yesterday it was about 102 degrees. We were so hot...but I got a little chilly when I opened these photos in an email I received from Marlotte, my sister-in-law in Holland. Talk about SNOW!!! The place is completely covered.

I wish they could send some of that chilly weather down our way. Christmas doesn't feel the same to me in this hot weather. For example it is just a couple of days before Christmas and I am about to put on a bathing suit for my water aerobics class...something is definitely wrong with this picture.

Happy Holidays and stay warm to our family and friends in Holland.



Sunday, December 20, 2009

Modern Family Tree



I don't know if it is because my parents had to leave Cuba when they were little and I don't have many old family photos from generations I never met or if it is because I know live very far from my family, but I am constantly thinking of the perfect way to display our family tree. Well I found it...

Isn't this the most perfect family tree? It would look great in our living room! Click on the photo or this link and see the other cool designs this company has.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Check out this month's delivery...


Just if you are curious...click here to see what we delivered to the orphanage this month. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Luka's Art Gallery

Here are few of Luka's latest creations. The turtle is from school and the water color painting is from our painting sessions at home. He LOVES to paint!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Our Little Oyster


Today was Luka's acting debut. His school put on their annual Christmas Play and Luka and his classmates were the oysters. For weeks they have been practicing their two songs and Luka has been a star at practice. The teacher always told us that Luka would help the other kids with the "steps" and words.

JJ and I were very anxious on the day of the show and so proud to see our little oyster perform for the first time on stage. JJ was ready with the video camera and I was ready with the photo camera. I knew there was something wrong as soon as we saw Luka walk on stage. He was eating his shirt...literally. I think he was really nervous. Imagine...a room full of 300 adults just staring back at you. I would be scared too. Then it happened...he saw mommy and it was all downhill from there. He yelled, "Mama, mama," and ran off the stage to where I was. I tried to get him back on stage, but nothing worked.


Not to come up with excuses, but the toddler group was the LAST to perform and they had to wait outside in the hot sun for 1.5 hours before they went on stage. All the kids were a little upset when they finally got on stage. That wasn't very smart of whoever organized the play. But I guess you live and learn.

Luka now has his first performance under his belt and things can only go up from here, right?

But let me tell you that he redeemed himself just 30 minutes after we left his Christmas Play. I had to go to the American School to deliver some Christmas Cards and they happened to be having a Primary School Performance. Well our little Luka must have decided that it was his time to shine...As the Kindergarten class was singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" Luka jumped on stage and sang and acted out the song. It was very cute and I couldn't believe it...Just a few minutes earlier he was running away from the spotlight. I guess he likes this song better and doesn't care much for being an oyster. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of this as I wasn't really prepared to see my son on stage at this point.

Here is Luka with Amelia and Tristan as they waited to go on stage. He really loves these two friends! Aren't they the cutest twins...



To see more photos from the play click here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

My Mozambique


Here is something I have had for a while, but just got around to loading on the site. It is a collection of some of my photographs that I took from 2006 - 2008 while living in Mozambique. It gives you a little glimpse into "My Mozambique." Enjoy and feel free to post comments....