Strawberry Fields Forever

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Strawberry season has begun! Last weekend, we found a strawberry farm in the country 30 minutes away that was open to the public. It was not only a first for the girls but for me as well. (I grew up in the tropics and in a huge city where seasonal produce is mostly imported.) The strawberry fields looked more nondescript than I’d imagined. I’d imagined a glorious field of reds but all that strawberry goodness was actually hidden under the low bushes just above the ground.

 

Off to the strawberry fields!

 

Tilly and Frida had been looking forward to the strawberries for two weeks now and they were pretty much estatic to see the little rubies in the field. After telling them to pick only the red ones, Frida went ahead and filled her little bucket like an expert strawberry picker. Tilly, on the other hand, spent most of her time eating one strawberry after another. Most of her harvest ended up in her belly rather than her bucket!

 

Little strawberry farmers

 

We’d managed to pick about 4.5 kg of strawberries altogether. After putting half of it aside in the freezer, we ate some of the rest fresh but there’re still so many strawberries in our refridgerator. I might make some of it into marmalade and allow myself to be inspired by this spaghetti with strawberry-tomato sauce recipe with the rest of our harvest. I prefer fresh strawberries but with such an abundance, I might have to get creative with the ways we consume them. How do you like your strawberries? Fresh, preserved or cooked? Do you have any great strawberry recipes to share?

 

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Henne Strand, Denmark

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Our short excursion to the Danish coast to celebrate a friend’s birthday three days ago allowed the girls to enjoy the beach. They’ve been to the North Sea before but were much too young to remember that. This time they were so amused and happy to be exploring the dunes and cycling and running along the very long beach in Henne. We saw many jelleyfish beached and quite a few pebbles and stones. The weather wasn’t optimal but we took the opportunity in between storms and rain to let the girls be on the beach and they loved it!

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Quick & Easy Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

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This is my go-to-dish when I am alone and craving something savoury for lunch. This quick variant of the classic Spaghetti Aglio e Olio is perfect for exhausted parents who want to giveĀ themselves a tiny treat when the children are napping or not around. It’s quite idiot-prove and if you love garlic (like I do), then don’t give it a miss šŸ™‚

INGREDIENTS

  • Garlic (two medium-sized cloves),
  • fresh parsley (a handful),
  • dried bird’s eye chilli (three to four),
  • olive oil, and
  • spaghetti

METHOD

  1. Put a pot of water to boil and cook the spaghetti as per instructions on the package.
  2. Peel and finely chop garlic.
  3. Roughly chopĀ chilliesĀ and parsley.
  4. Heat some olive oil in a saucepan at medium heat. I’ve used the olive oil from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes for more flavour.
  5. Add the chopped garlic and chilli into the oil. Take care not to let the garlic burn. Take the saucepan immediately off the heat if it gets too hot.
  6. Lower the heat and add the spaghetti. Quickly toss the contents of the saucepan. Make sure the spaghetti is mixed and coated with all that garlic-y, olive oily goodness.
  7. Take saucepan off the heat and add the chopped parsley. Toss the pasta again to mix in parsley.
  8. Add more olive oil again to your liking.
  9. Serve and enjoy.

 

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NOTE

You can leave out the chillies entirely if you’re not a chilli fan.

Here Comes the Sun

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Off with the shoes and bring on the sun hats! The weather has become so warm the past two weeks that the girls have been dreading putting on shoes. They love going barefoot. They even went the whole way at my husband’s birthday garden party last weekend by going about without clothes playing with water and sand. I love how they are so free, unrestrained and happy when the weather permits them to do that!

Is it alright to dress my identical twins in matching outfits?

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When I was still pregnant with Tilly and Frida, my husband and I told ourselves that we were not going to be one of those parents who’d dress their twins the same.

“They are individuals and we are going to bring them up to be unique persons. We are not going to dress them up in the same clothes,” said our young, idealistic soon-to-be-parenting selves.

Five months into parenthood, we found ourselves having to buy new clothing for Tilly and Frida after they had gradually outgrown their second-hand baby outfits that we’d either received as hand-me-downs or purchased cheaply from flea markets before their births. In between nursing the girls, recovering from a difficult birth, taking them out for strolls, housework and many sleepless nights, we managed to find some time and energy to shop for some clothes. With babies in our huge twin pram in tow, we manoeuvered through stores selling baby and children clothing, taking care not to unnecessarily wake the sleeping babies. Once we had found a blouse or a pair of trousers that we liked, we took two of it in the same size and headed for the checkout.

I understand that I might be getting quite a lot of criticism for making that choice. Many adult twins have voiced their resentment at their parents for having dressed them the same way when they were younger. Countless parenting websites with statements from parents of twins stress the importance of dressing twins differently.

I would like to offer a view that is honest on my part as a parent of twins. I would like to suggest that it is okay to dress twins similarly or even the same. The line that needs to be drawn however, is that parents need to allow twins to dress differently once they are old enough to articulate choice. My husband and I believe in inculcating individuality in Tilly and Frida and I think we’ve managed so far to do that with them regardless of dress style.

For parents of multiples who feel like the weight of caring for more than one baby at any given time is sometimes too much to bear, may I say that the debate on dressing twin babies/toddlers is such a trivial one. Don’t take what parenting advice you read or hear so much to heart because you are the best judges of your little ones and yourselves.

The main reason for us having sometimes dressed Tilly and Frida the same up until now is one of practicality. I hope that my grown-up daughters would not resent us as parents for having dressed them alike because I would give them these reasons for why we’ve sometimes done so.

 

A practicality of surviving twin parenthood

Sometimes we were simply too pressed for time and energy to shop for clothes. Shopping for clothes on the weekends was/is something we had/have to do besides other more important errands like shopping for grocery. As mentioned above, once we’ve found an article of clothing that we liked, we would just buy two of the same.

To curb the hassle of going to the store, I’d sometimes order clothes online. I would do that when my daughters were taking naps. At least then, I would have more time to choose what I liked for them. I say here “what I liked” because my daughters would not have been present to choose for themselves.

I did take the effort to personalise dress styles for my daughters but sometimes ended up going through too many questions that I found insignificant in the grander scheme of parenting:

“Okay, now that I have this blue blouse with mushrooms on it, what can I get for my other daughter that has roughly the same level of aesthetics? Because, you know, I wouldn’t want one child to have a nice blouse and the other be satisfied with something less, say a purple blouse with no mushrooms or any motives on it. But oh no, I can’t find a second article in this store that would help me in this situation.

“What if I get a plain blue blouse and a plain purple blouse? Similar but still different. That should be good enough, right? A good-enough-parent of twins? Oh look, they have plain blouses in different colours. Perfect.”

You realise how silly it is of me to be asking myself these questions. I just need to get on with this because there is a tonne of laundry waiting to be done.

 

When twins prefer to dress alike

So, I’ve now gotten Tilly and Frida two articles with different colours. Surely that would keep my daughters happy and at the same time, I would be fufilling my role as a parent of twins who champions individuality? Not quite.

“I want the purple one!”, Frida shouts excitedly as I present them with the blouses.

“No! I want the purple one!”, Tilly contests.

It ends with either one or both of them in tears and me in despair.

Now that my daughters are old enough to express what they like, we take them once in a while to shop for clothes. We let them choose what they like to wear but they change their minds every few seconds. Sometimes they are too overwhelmed by the variety from which they can choose so we try to present them with just two outfits and ask them to select.

Frida is the more outspoken one and tends to make a choice first. Tilly, being the quieter one sometimes chooses what Frida has chosen despite our efforts to let her know that it’s alright to like something different. In this situation, we buy them the same article because forcing them to be different is just as bad as forcing them to be the same. Sometimes the girls make different choices and we avoid a meltdown.

 

Individuality beyond appearance

In trying to be mindful about dressing our twin children differently, we may tend to forget that the kinds of individuality that are more important are the ones that go beyond dress styles. Yes, they may be dressed similarly, but they still have different preferences for things other than clothing and they still have different characteristics.

There are things that only you as a parent know but may not be obvious to others looking in from the outside, such as how one loves to drink milk and the other prefers juice. Or how one colours in bold dark strokes of green and blue and the other in every colour of the rainbow. Or how one prefers to be left alone during bedtime and the other to cuddle.

Onlookers who gasp at how parents of twins dress their children alike do not have the insight to the differences and uniqueness of your children. As parents of identical twins, you’ve probably caught yourself saying, “They look so different to me” when others ask how you tell them apart. That’s because even through those same or similar outfits, you know that both are not of the same person.

Why really bother at all what others think of how I dress my twin daughters when I know that I so often teach them that it’s not only wonderful to be different but also very fine to be the same? Or how I would tell them that they can still be different even though they look the same? What better way to lead by example when we as parents show our children that we are not bothered and affected by what others think of us?

To my pregnant self who judged parents for dressing their twins alike, I would like to tell her to try not to because those parents are trying their very best!

 

 

Spring and Dandelion Clocks

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Spring has finally taken a warmer turn. Last Saturday, Tilly and Frida took a break from their bike pedalling in the park to pick all the dandelion clocks they could find. Having failed at blowing them, they simply waved them frantically about. Some haphazard running, laughter and giggles were abound! Later that evening, the girls fell asleep so easily. Great weather coupled with active play outdoors always makes them sleep so much better.

Oven-baked Sweet Potato Crisps with Rosemary

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So this was more or less an experiment my daughters and I did last weekend. Involving the girls in the cooking process is always fun and it encourages them to eat the food they’ve cooked.

We’ve roasted potato and carrot wedges in the oven before and they’ve always tasted great so I thought, “Why not sweet potatoes?” The difference this time is that they are not wedges but thin crisps and with much less oil involved. I’m a fan of crisps and love savoury flavours. Since the herbs on our balcony are basking happily in the warm spring sun and are shouting out to be used, I thought I could flavour the crisps with some rosemary.

The experiment turned out to be fairly successful. The sweet potato crisps didn’t taste like the ones one would get in a typical packet of crisps since I only added a minimal amount of salt and oil to them. But they are definitely healthy and we didn’t feel guilty snacking on loads of them after that!

It’s a very simple recipe that reqiures few ingredients:

Ingredients

  • two medium-size sweet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • two to three sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • salt (to taste)

Tools

  • potato peeler
  • baking brush

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Method

First, I cut the sweet potatoes length-wise into half. Then, to get thin slices of the sweet potato, I simply “sliced”Ā  the cut halves length-wise again with a potato peeler. This way, you would get fine, delicate, long slices that are about 3 mm thin.

Next, I enlisted the help of the girls to arrange the slices onto a baking tray. Don’t forget to line it first with a baking sheet. When the slices of sweet potatoes are arranged, I brushed them on both sides thinly with some olive oil.

Then the girls tore some rosemary needles from their branches and sprinkled them over the sweet potatoes. After that, we sprinkled some salt over them.

Finally, I placed the tray into a pre-heated oven at 160 degree celcius. After five to seven minutes, I took them out and turned the slices over to be baked on the other side. This time, it took only about another three minutes until they were completely done.

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Note

Because they were so thinly sliced, I had to keep a look out so they wouldn’t burn. Also, since the slices were not all of the same sizes, I had to take the smaller pieces out of the oven earlier than the bigger pieces. Once the sweet potato slices were brown and curled around the edges, they were more or less done.

With the two sweet potatoes that we had, we baked them in about four or five batches. Frida munched on all the raw sweet potato slices that didn’t turn out well. I was a little afraid that she might get a tummy ache from that but she didn’t. Whilst waiting for the sweet potatoes to crisp in the oven, the girls sneaked onto our balcony and helped themselves to some chives. Cheeky little girls!

girls balcony chives

In the end, we had about a salad bowl full of sweet potato crisps. It took us only a few minutes to devour them all! The salt paired well with the sweet potato but I must say that the rosemary flavour needed some getting use to. I liked it but my husband didn’t find it so nice. He ate more of the crisps than I did though! The next time I make this snack, I would try a different flavour. What flavours do you think would pair well with sweet potato?