Second trimester of my first pregnancy: The Karate Kid

As I am entering the last week of my second trimester, I look back to it trying to figure out what stuck out the most about it. If during my first trimester things felt like an intense roller coaster of changes, these past 3 months have actually been serene.

It is said that, indeed, the second trimester is the easiest one. You are in between the hormonal/vomit storm and the Alien: Resurrection phase. You are still mobile and your energy is back on track. Plus, there are plenty of highlights to enjoy, especially if it’s your first pregnancy,

But let me detail each part of it, as I have experienced it.

Pump the Bump

During my first trimester I could easily get by as bloated or an avid beer lover. My bump was not so noticeable and I was shamelessly looking forward to the special treatment pregnant ladies get from everyone. Around week 20-21, I really started showing and was happy to see endearing looks on the street and to have strangers ask me about it. By the way, at this point we were already back in Spain, and you must know that it’s a very child-friendly country.

People bring their babies and toddlers everywhere, you can see kids playing in restaurants, hanging around with the adults until later in the evening and everyone is really excited about new babies and pregnancy announcements. Romania is pretty much the same, as we share the traditional family life, although I would say Romanians are a bit more strict with their kids.

Keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’

But back to the bump. Now, at 27 weeks, I can feel that it starts to get in the way and impact my body more and more. It’s getting harder to bend over and I have introduced a lot of maternity clothes or bump-friendly options. I can’t button any of my pants, so I use the hair tie trick or better go with elastic waists. But the superstars of my wardrobe are, by far, my summer dresses. My advice would be to avoid spending money on special maternity clothes and go for alternatives that you will be able to wear afterwards too.

Practicing non-sleeping

Another side effect of the bigger bump is tricky sleeping. Although I always slept on my side, being forced to only do that is surprisingly limiting. I miss turning on my belly and even sleeping on my back. To avoid tossing too much and to provide proper support, one would ideally use pillows all around. But it doesn’t work for me: 2017 is the hottest year ever recorded, I am in the South of Spain and we don’t have AC. No pillows for this bump, thank you.

More energy, more exercise?

I am ashamed to say that no, I haven’t exercised more. Heat is the biggest factor, because effort leads to dizziness really fast. With the increased blood flow and extended network of vessels, blood pressure can drop in certain circumstances. Dehydration is also noticed immediately and my body began bombarding me with Braxton Hicks contractions. In my case, they show when I walk or clean around the house, or when I am dehydrated. My belly turns hard all around and I get this tightening feeling, like having a rubber band ball in my stomach.

Hi, mommy!

The Karate Kid

One of the most exciting highlights of the second trimester is when you start feeling the baby move and kick. For me, this began around week 20 and it does feel like fluttering – butterflies in the stomach or popcorn popping. At first, you may get overly excited about gases moving in your bowels, but it’s an honest mistake.

Later, the baby really starts kicking and can be felt by the others too. Then you can actually see the belly move and you can tell where the baby’s head is by the asymmetrical bulging.

So what baby model did we acquire?

For some, including me, the baby’s gender is big news and I was super excited to find out. From the beginning of the pregnancy we have been talking about names and referring to it and somehow we inclined to think it’s a she. Which she is, my little amazon princess. Also, the Chinese gender chart was right, which prompted us to test it on our friends and family members. Our conclusion: the internet has different versions of the chart and only some are accurate.聽Finding out did not really influence any of the preparations, feelings or thoughts about the baby. But we did started calling her by her name and this made the bond stronger. We talk and sing to her and she responds with awesome low kicks and headbutts.

Well, these would be the major highlights of the second trimester, but I would love to write to you about the medical care I received in Spain, the food I have been eating and the nesting period. If you have any other curiosities, please let me know.

So long, grasshoppers, and stay tuned for more updates on the blog.

 

First trimester of my first pregnancy: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Not long after I started this blog, with new enthusiasm and a promise to post twice a week, I found out I was pregnant. A very happy surprise, since it wasn’t planned, only… well, not avoided. Since then, I’ve been documenting my first pregnancy as well as I can, but without going overboard. In fact, this is the philosophy I applied so far: not to overdo it, not letting the FOMO get to me and just taking it easy.

Here are some thoughts and experiences I had in the first 3 months of the pregnancy. I have been reading a lot about it and using some great resources, like the Ovia Pregnancy app and the Baby Center app. I recommend enjoying your own experience, as every pregnancy is unique. Don’t ever compare yourself to others, it only brings unhelpful thoughts to your mind.

The Nausea

I had the literal morning sickness, it did not expand over the day. Some mornings would require a trip to the bathroom, others just left me feel crappy for a couple of hours.

Pregnancy nausea is surprisingly… surprising. You don’t really have time to run, prepare and set a romantic mood. I kind of wanted to be close to a trash bin or toilet for the first part of the day, which is a weird thing to wish for. It’s strongly associated with smell. Or, better said…

The Super Smell

I could detect really faint smells and I was most happy when others were super late to notice them. I felt like a teenager that could hear high-pitched sounds while hanging out with older people who are deaf to them. Of course, the downside of this is that the world rarely smells pretty, it mostly smells shitty. …And we were in Bucharest for my first trimester, which is a city full of atrocious, offending aromas.

The Boobs

What can I say? The boob fairy was generous. I am still delighted by this new change, the only down side being that they felt super tender. Activities like running require extra thought in the logistics department: it’s imperative that you buy a good, supporting bra. Or you can run while hanging onto your boobs, because other people in the park will not consider that weird at all…

The Napping

Naps were聽magical. I felt super sleepy all the time. Not having to go to work in an office was a huge advantage for me. I truly don’t know how I would’ve managed the doziness, especially since the coffee intake is now restricted.

This sleepiness, combined with the horror of hanging out with tipsy people when sober, made going out a little weird. If we happened to stay out late (11-12 p.m. – the “old people late”), I would suddenly be sleepy. As much as I adore my friends, in those moments the only thing I wanted was to go home and jump in my pajamas. And if that didn’t happen instantly, I would turn into a demonic bitch from hell. Nothing would cheer me up except going to bed, everything else just made my mood worse.

The Mood Swings

This is, by far, the worst symptom I had during the first trimester. It also caught me off guard, as it did with the people close to me, because it is not mentioned so often when talking about pregnancy. Cravings, nausea and other stereotypical symptoms are much more manageable.

I am lucky to have an understanding family, friends who love me and a boyfriend that went through an emotional war zone and still supported me.

My advice is try to understand yourself and identify those moments when your hormones are taking over. Also, remember that your partner might also be nervous, scared and vulnerable and he needs your support. Let yourself enjoy the happy moments and be more tolerant, even if you feel like you’re entitled to be less tolerant because of your new status.

The Spirituality

Between vomiting in trash bins and yelling at my boyfriend, I felt truly happy with this new status. I am not a religious person, not even a spiritual one. I am tightly anchored into the practical side of life, but being pregnant makes me feel amazing.

The intricate system of life emerging, our amazing bodies achieving incredible things, the way we transform and adapt around this little seedling is truly awe-inspiring. And this feeling helps me fight stress, because I remind myself that no one is ever prepared for welcoming a baby, there will always be challenges and things we cannot provide, but as long as you embrace this inner happiness it brings, everything comes naturally.

Let me know in the comment section about your own experience: what were your highs and lows? Until the next time!

Big cat and little cat

Growing avocado from seed is a game of patience

By living in Spain, I get to enjoy one of my long-time goals of growing my own plants. Back home I did not have any success, I even managed to kill a cactus by over watering, so I thought I’m an incurable plant killer. Spain is notoriously sunny and we are lucky enough to live in one of those nice white houses, sharing the garden and pool with our lovely neighbors. Our part of the house has a large balcony which gets quite a lot of sunlight, so that is my new Savage Garden headquarters.

We started with the lovely experiment of planting avocado from seed. Because it’s gimmicky and because you get to see it come to life and we love everything about the plant. I did not expect it to test our patience for so long, though.

How to sprout an avocado seed in water

For the sake of having a live demonstration of emerging life, I chose the water method, which allows you to see the sprouting in all its glory. I did a little research online and got back from the market with two avocados that made a great guacamole. I went with two pits for two reasons: they can keep each other company and I increase my chances of having a little plant.

I washed the pits very well, got rid of all traces of flesh and used the toothpick method.

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One of the pits was put in water a week later than the other, which is why you will see a clear difference in growth between the two.聽The tutorials vary quite a lot when it comes to the water replacement: from daily, to weekly to not at all (just adding water as needed). On hot days or when they were left in the sun, I replaced the water daily, but it was done once every few days, even once a week. I think it’s good for them to have oxygenated water聽so I would go with replacing the water as often as possible.

Sprouting of the root

After three weeks, we finally got a sprout. The seed started to crack by itself and you could see the tiny root emerging. As you can see, the brown peel is almost gone. I did not remove it from the beginning, thinking it’s too invasive, but after sitting in water for more than two weeks, it came off by itself and I removed it when replacing the water. The second seed was still intact.

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After a month, you can see a聽slow but steady growth of the root. At this point, I was staring at it and talking to it, hoping that it would speed up the process, but it sped聽up my impatience. Seed #2 does not appear in pictures because it does not do anything yet.

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Five weeks since the planting we have this:

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Sprouting of the stem

Two months from planting, seed number two is showing its face! It was slower than the first one and it had some trouble cracking. I could see the root sprouting, but the stone was not cracked all the way, being kept together by the hardened peel. A quick snipping with a small pair of scissors did the trick. Seed #1 already has a short stem, making me a proud gardener. Look at the difference:

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After 10 weeks, I am finally looking at something green:

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As happy as I was to see the small green leafs forming, I started to get worried about some mold that has been forming on the cracks of the peel and the water edge. I have carefully wiped the white dusty stuff with a聽paper towel and hoped for the best. In retrospective, maybe some anti-fungal solution would have been good to use. The root is already curling at the bottom of the glass and having small ramifications. As long as the root has a white, active growing tip and the leafs seem healthy, the plant is doing fine.

This is the last photo I took of seed #1, 14 weeks from seeding. The leafs have grown, the聽stem has reached about 6 inches and it looks great. Most tutorials advise that you prune the plant when it reaches this height. I didn’t do it, it felt like masochism after waiting so long for this little thing to grow.

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Transplanting into soil

I did transplant both seeds in a tall flower pot (20 cm) with regular soil and some pebbles on the bottom to facilitate water drainage. I covered the seeds with soil only half way, to leave the top uncovered (just as they were in water). Another improvisation was to put them both in the same pot, I don’t know if this will seriously overcrowd them but we’ll see.

By the time the transplant happened, we have adopted an insane adolescent dog we named Susi (we will talk plenty about her in another post). As soon as I transplanted the avocados in the pot, I turned my back for 1 minute and found one leaf聽“stapled” by my dog’s sharp teeth. It’s a miracle she didn’t tear the whole thing apart, so I’m thankful.

I have no pictures of the pot because I did it on the last day before leaving to Finland for the winter holidays. Now, my neighbor is the plant sitter, so I’m excited to see how the plants will look when I return. I’ll be back soon with an update! Can’t wait to see how they’re doing.

 

Goulash inspired stew

As creatures of the cold and darkness, T and I both love stews, with their聽hearty, earthy flavors for cozy days. What can be better than the sound of rain splattering on the window,聽fluffy blankets you can tuck yourself in, a good TV show and a spicy smell emanating from the kitchen?

As soon as it got cold in The Valley of Joy, we had to make this goulash-inspired stew. The recipe I’ll give you today came after a few tries and I like to think it was perfected every time. How it began? I was looking for an original recipe for Hungarian goulash, reminiscing about the one I had in Miercurea Ciuc, a region with a large Hungarian minority in Romania. That stew stayed with me for a long time, as it was so simple, yet so rich, and it was cooked on an open fire, in a cast iron skillet. This is the type of cooking I love: rustic, authentic, joyful and simple.

After researching forums, recipes, and pictures, I have taken some basic rules for the Goulash. The additions I made next, though, threw away my stew in the highly blasphemous range for the cuisine puritans聽so I won’t dare to call it goulash, but a very distant cousin. The warmth, the earthiness, and the spiciness are still there, so I highly recommend you try it for colder days.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 kg lean beef, cubed
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4-5 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne (optional)
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 carrot
  • 4-5 medium potatoes
  • cooking oil, salt, pepper

Heat the cooking oil on medium-high fire and add the meat. Let it brown and when it’s seared on all sides get it out on a plate.

Chop the onion and saute it in the same oil, careful not to brown it. When the onion is translucent, add the meat back in, then sprinkle the paprika and give everything a good stir. Add about 1 liter of hot water, making sure the meat is covered, turn the heat to medium-low, then forget about it for an hour and a half. The goal is to slowly cook the meat and keep it tender, so no salt or tomatoes at this point.

After the first hour and a half, you can add the harder veggies, the carrot, and red pepper. I usually cut the carrot in slices and the pepper in strips or cubes. It really doesn’t matter, go with what you like best: chunkier veggies or a smaller cut. This is also the time to add the cumin, bay leaves, pepper, and cayenne. Give them another hour in low heat to release their flavor in the stew.

The last part of the stew is adding the potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges or cubes, the tomato chopped in small cubes, the salt, and garlic. You can crush the garlic or slice it, however you prefer it. You can add a little water to cover the potatoes completely. Monitor the potatoes, you don’t want them to become mushy. 20-30 minutes should be enough.

And voila! Chop some parsley and add it after you remove the heat and serve with rustic, thick crusted bread. You can also add a spoon of sour cream on top when you serve it.

Here we have the same stew聽but made with moose,聽while we were in Finland for the winter. It’s like beef on steroids, very lean and meaty.

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Enjoy!

 

A small introduction

What you will find on this page

I’m excited to give you travel journals with plenty of pictures, recipes, DIY tutorials, gardening experiences, language and expat life hacks, maybe some movie or music posts and special appearances by cats (because I love the little rascals).

My story

Almost 8 months since I have arrived from my home in Romania to the beautiful region of Granada. Why? Searching for happiness, a new inspiration, searching for myself… Maybe needing a vacation too much lately.

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Why Spain? Because jam贸n and because the rain here stays mainly on the plain, or so I’ve heard somewhere. I have moved to Lecrin in the Valley of Joy – Valle de la Alegr铆a and already explored some of its beauty, but this is only the beginning.

I am lucky enough to have a head start with this big change聽because I am not alone in this experience and I already had new friends to make and聽insight about the life here. But accommodating still takes time, I have exciting projects and goals ahead of me and each interaction, each day and each experience teach me something new.

Having this blog is my personal journal and documentation, but I am also very eager to share my experiences and some of the little joys in my life.

Feel free to leave comments and ask anything!