Author Archives: DanielleinMons

European Children’s Clothing Size Conversion Chart

I know I’m not the only parent that has trouble with European clothing sizes for babies and kids. And I don’t imagine it’s just the foreigners here – Belgians must find this complicated, too. Not only do babies change clothing sizes every few months, and sorting is already a nightmare, but the numbers mean nothing to me! (A size 68 equals 6 months, 80 is 1 year old, etc.) I thought it would get easier as my 4-year old only changes sizes once or twice a year, but my brain still does not process the difference between sizes 104, 110, 116 and 122. (Those are sizes 4, 5, 6 & 7).

So I had pinned a handwritten cheat sheet in my daughter’s armoire several years ago, but I’ve had the intention (for 4 years) to make a pretty version as a gift for friends that have new babies.

Four years  later, as I’m learning new design software, I’m so proud to have made this myself! 🙂 Thought I’d share it since I know it could be helpful for you.

IMG_4992So, how to read this chart: on the left is the child’s age (and US size equivalent). On the right is the ‘European’ size, which is a reference to the child’s height in centimeters.

Also, as I understand, size 68 (6 months) is usually worn starting at 3 or 4 months, and when your baby reaches 6 months, they start wearing a size 72 (9 months) and so on. That is, the number is like a maximum size. Your kids wear size 2 until they turn 2. Then they wear size 3 from age 2-3. Of course, the size your child wears depends on his/her relative size, these are just guidelines. My girls easily wear a size one or two years older than their actual age.

If you’re curious, I made the chart design by taking a picture of one of my girls’ dresses. As if to prove how little girls don’t have the same taste as their mother, neither of my girls would wear this dress (yes, they started choosing and refusing clothes as soon as they turned 2). I decided to make use of it as I could (the background to the chart!) before giving it away.

Here’s a more unisex version.

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and another design I like:IMG_4890

Just baby sizes:

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or after baby sizes:

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I got a little carried away! 🙂

I’d love some feedback if this is helpful or if you could imagine some improvements!

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So, as an eco-foodie, I have a pet peeve about superfoods. They almost always seem to be exotic! (Goji, açai, avocados, kiwi, tumeric, etc.) Because exotic is luxury? Because the grass is always greener on the other side?

Whatever the reason, I’d like to point out some local superfoods where I live. I’m certain that wherever you live, there are also local superfoods. My list probably applies to northern climates like Canada, the nothern US, Ireland, UK and northern Europe, like Belgium, where I live.

1. Walnuts

Walnut photo from flickr Creative Commons

Walnuts – Local Superfood (photo from flickr Creative Commons)

Of all nuts, walnuts have the most omega-3 fatty acid, which among other benefits, helps reduce inflammation in the body (an extremely common problem caused by Western/American diet). The Lipid Clinic at the Endocrinology and Nutrition Service in Barcelona, Spain has led studies that attribute the walnut to increase blood flow (related to heart disease) and lower cholesterol. Walnuts are also a good sourse of Vitamin E, flavanoids, and ellagic acid, an anti-cancer phytochemical.

“Walnuts have too much fat” is out-dated thinking. We now know that this kind of ‘healthy’ fat is good for your body, and especially the brain, in reasonable quantities.

Sources: Conquering Any Disease by Jeff Primack

2. Blackberries

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lastaii/

Blackberries, local superfood photo by lastaii on flickr

“Marionberries, Boysenberries, Loganberries and other blackberries are high in gallic acid, rutin and ellagic acid, a known chemopreventative, with anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. With their dark blue color, blackberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of fruits regularly tested (in the form of anthocyanins, fighting free radical damage in the body). Blackberries are also rich in Vitamin C and fiber, which have been shown to help reduce the risks of certain cancers. Blackberries are low in calories, carbohydrates and have no fat, which makes them popular in low carb and low calorie diets.”

Sources: Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission & http://berryhealth.fst.oregonstate.edu/health_healing/fact_sheets/blackberry_facts.htm

3. Stinging nettles

Stinging Nettle (ortie en français)

Carri Thurman‘s post on Ruhlman.com states:

Nettles are replacing kale as the superfood of the moment, boasting the highest levels of protein and plant-digestible iron of any other green and high in vitamins A, C, and D as well as calcium, potassium, and manganese, according to Janice Schofield’s book Nettles.

According to Susan Weed:

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a common weed throughout much of the world. The dried herb makes a nourishing herbal infusion that packs more energy per cup than any stimulant, and without the downside of caffeine or stimulating herbs like cayenne and ginger. Tired teenagers, sleep-deprived new moms, stressed executives, wakeful menopausal gals, and wise women of all ages depend on stinging nettle to restore mood, replenish energy, and guarantee sound sleep.

Nettle is amazingly rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, especially the critical trace minerals: anti-cancer selenium, immune-enhancing sulphur, memory-enhancing zinc, diabetes-chasing chromium, and bone-building boron. A quart of nettle infusion contains more than 1000 milligrams of calcium, 15000 IU of vitamin A, 760 milligrams of vitamin K, 10% protein, and lavish amounts of most B vitamins.”

4. Cabbage (sauerkraut, kim chi)

Red cabbage slaw / salad

Red cabbage slaw / salad

A known cancer fighter, cabbage has more Vitamin C than oranges! According to Dr Mercola,

“Cabbage has the highest amount of some of the most powerful antioxidants found in cruciferous vegetables – phytonutrients such as thiocyanates, lutein, zeaxanthin, isothiocyanates, and sulforaphane, which stimulate detoxifying enzymes. Research has shown these compounds to protect against several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and prostate cancers. They also help lower the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or “bad cholesterol” levels in blood, which can build up in arteries and cause heart disease.

Rich in vitamin K, cabbage provides 85 percent of the body’s daily requirement. This is very important, not only for bone metabolism, but as a known Alzheimer’s disease preventative by limiting neuronal damage in the brain. The 54 percent daily value of vitamin C supplied to the body with one serving of cabbage is impressive, too – even more than oranges – which can help scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals and protect against infection.

Cabbage is also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B6, folate, and manganese, as well as healthy amounts of thiamin (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). It also provides iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium for strong bones, and potassium for regulating the heart rate and blood pressure.”

Fermented cabbage, as found in sauerkraut and kimchi, increases its superfoodness. The process of “lacto-fermentation” has nothing to do with milk. It’s that famous probiotic lactobacillus bacteria that makes yogurt so good for you that is also present in fermented veggies.

I’m a fan of lacto-fermentation because its an eco-friendly food preservation method (no heating/freezing/fossil fuels involved), and even more, its the only food preservation method that increases nutritional value! The sour taste takes a little time to get used to. I like to add just a spoonful to salads or other meals, to acquire the taste over time.

5. Kabocha, Red Kuri, Winter Squash or Pumpkin family

'Potimarron' or Red Kuri Squash (kabocha) from my garden

‘Potimarron’ or Red Kuri Squash (kabocha) from my garden

And last but not least, the Organic Authority says:

“Kabocha squash is an excellent source of beta-carotene, owing to it’s bright orange flesh, which can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for healthy white blood cells, good immunity and for vibrant eyes, skin and hair. A single serving of kabocha squash provides 70% of the day’s recommended requirement!”

A good source of iron, vitamin C and some B vitamins, it also contains fiber.

Another cool thing about walnuts, blackberries and nettles is that they are free if you can find them in a friend’s yard or in nature. Just a friendly reminder, the walnuts at your local supermarket were probably not locally sourced. And the berries ‘grown in Belgium’ at my local supermarkets are often out of season, not organic, and most likely grown in heated greenhouses (or warehouses).  This isn’t to say that its a sin to buy them at the store, I just like to be aware of what is really local and eco-friendly vs. convenient in my life.

Both cabbage and pumpkin can be grown in your garden. I’ve never tried to grow cabbage, but pumpkins are super easy if you can get past the ‘slugs eating the sprouts’ season!

The list doesn’t end here. 5 more local superfoods coming soon!

Marc & the Ferme Fourmanoy near Chièvres, Belgium

Marc runs the Ferme Fourmanoy in Tongre, near Chièvres, Belgium. He actually grows organic grains and uses his own flour to bake the breads and pastries sold at the farm bakery!

"Je garantis ce produits sans aucun adjuvant chimique." I guarantee that this products has no chemical additives.

“Je garantis ce produit sans aucun adjuvant chimique.” I guarantee that this product has no chemical additives.

Proud to manage the production process from beginning to end, Marc sought out ‘ancient’ varieties of wheat, spelt and rye (in order to ensure quality and avoid the health issues with modern wheat). He saves and sows his own seeds, since these ‘ancient’ varieties no longer circulate on the seed market.

Our GAC* in Mons purchases bread (spelt, sourdough, multigrain, …) and pastries from Marc every other week. When we visited his farm, he told us that it was a little strange for him to deliver to a GAC (CSA/Coop) because we are his only customers with whom he doesn’t have direct contact. Person to person contact is important for him – all his other sales are direct from the small store at his farm or at his stand on the market. (He is on the rue des Juifs at the Friday market in Mons. Other markets listed below.)

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When I recently visited his farm, the bread was still baking, so I only have pictures of pastries. I regret not taking a picture of the behind-the-scenes bakery. It’s charming. I hope to update with more photos after my next visit.

Crème patissière - pomme (Apple and Belgian pastry cream tart)

Crème patissière – pomme (Apple and Belgian pastry cream tart)

Chocolate eclairs

Chocolate eclairs

Tartelette aux prunes (Mini plum tarts) & abricot (apricot tarts)

Tartelette aux prunes (Mini plum tarts) & abricot (apricot tarts)

Fourmanoy's 'moelleux au chocolat' (chocolate cake)

Fourmanoy’s ‘moelleux au chocolat’ (chocolate cake)

"Tarte à la crème avec un peu de citron"

This was a surprise hit – kind of like cheesecake, but that’s not the right word. Anyway, it was with a hint of lemon. Delish.

The prices are exceptionally reasonable, especially for organic artisan made bread

The prices are exceptionally reasonable, especially for organic artisan made bread

Quick French – English Grain (céréale) translations for his price list above:

Froment = wheat, épeautre = spelt, seigle = rye

noix = walnut, tournesol = sunflower (seeds)

levain = sourdough

Marc sells organic bread, pastries, cakes, eggs, yogurt and more at the following markets in Hainaut: Marché d’Ath on Thursday, Marché de Mons on Friday, Marché de Tournai on Saturday and Marché de Chièvres on Sunday.

His farm store is open on Wednesday afternoon from 2pm to 7pm and Saturday all day.

Because I'm a chocoholic.

Because I’m a chocoholic.

– Contact Info –

Ferme Fourmanoy

Rue Albert Quivy 12

Tongre – Saint Martin

Belgium

068/65.90.51

* A GAC or ‘Groupement d’Achats Collectifs’ is the Belgian name for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). (Also called GAS, GASAP ‘Groupement d’achat Solidaire à l’Agriculture Paysanne, … or AMAP in France) Our GAC in Mons was created by a group of friends and families who wanted to buy directly from local farmers and support local organic agriculture. We order meat, bread, cheese and vegetables from various local farmers and meet every other week to split the order between households. More details another day.

Daring and Sharing, this is why I’m blogging

I used to judge bloggers in my head. I don’t think it was an idea I had on my own. I must have read something 15 years ago about our generation that blindly exposes our navel-gazing selves and thought we blog egocentrically. Yet, I’ve devoured bloggers stories and recipes and ideas for just as long and I don’t recall judging anyone specifically (except for the commenters). I love and have been greatly influenced by Colin Beaven’s No Impact Man, Heidi’s 101 Cookbooks, random food blogs, random mom blogs, homesteaders and I almost forgot Raffa. But me, blog?! Why?

Well, for me. This is an exercise in daring. Daring to overcome that inner voice that says I’m not good enough, that no one would care to read what I have to say, that I don’t write well enough, etc. Daring to be vulnerable. If you haven’t already, please watch Brene Brown’s TED Talk that was a major inspiration to dare to be vulnerable.

And, I’ve got stuff I want to share. That’s to come, but I imagine my posts will reflect some of these themes in my life: American (Louisiana-Texan) living in Europe (French-speaking Belgium), so… cultural comparisons, bi-cultural relationships, French-English language fun, eco-living and eco-cooking and eating (that’s my thing), raising bilingual kids, attempts at whole-hearted parenting and living (yay Brene again), and more, who knows.

Here we go!

5 Simple Ways to Make the World a Better Place, Starting in Mons, Belgium

1. Change your energy provider from Electrabel to Lampiris. It takes about 10 minutes. You’ll probably end up saving money. You will shift your support of nuclear power to wind, solar and biomass energy.

Find your current electrical bill. It has all the info you need on it. Call 080040123 or go online here. Fill out the info in about 10 minutes. You don’t need your landlord’s permission. You don’t need to contact Electrabel. Lampiris deals with them to make the change.

2. Support local farmers.

You can try to find them at the market in Mons. The Friday market is from 8am to 1pm, with most local farmers in the rue des Juifs. The Sunday market is also from 8am to 1pm, extending from Place Nervienne to Place du Beguinage.

The local farmers are usually pretty inconspicuous, because they don’t have a ton to offer. They don’t usually have bananas or pineapples, but there are a few exceptions that mix their own offer with exotic fare. I’ll see if any of them will let me post their pictures and get back to you. 🙂

Another fun way to fun way to support local farmers is to go harvest your veggies at their place. I know of two women who grow organic produce, but they’re not really close to Mons center, so bring a friend for the ride!

Joëlle, at the Ferme du Gibet in Neufvilles (Soignies) uses the cycles of the moon to grow biodynamic vegetables. (I’ll explain that another day.) Address: Chemin du Vieux Gibet, 11, à Soignies.

Marie harvests her organic crop right before your eyes in Dour, on Wednesdays from 5pm to 7pm and Sundays from 10am to 1pm. Here‘s a news report of her (in French).

She’s just across from the Ferme du Moranfayt, where you can find organic meat and dairy as well as a little organic food store, open Tuesday through Friday from 9 to 6pm, Saturday from 10 to 5 and Sunday from 9 to noon. Address: 14, rue de Cauderloo in Dour.

3. Move your savings to an ethical, transparent bank or co-op. Like Triodos or New B Bank. Or support a local project with Credal. Or a microloan with Kiva.

4. Walk. Or ride a bike. Cyclists can join the Graqc and get insurance coverage. More info at the Maison des Cyclistes at the Mons train station. And, or, carshare with Cambio.

5. Compost your kitchen scraps. I believe that composting helps us better understand the cycle of life. It doesn’t start with us. It doesn’t end with us. Don’t break the cycle by tossing it in the trash. Its such a simple, yet concrete action.

6. (Bonus!) Do something that makes you happy. Especially if you’re a parent. Especially if you’re stressed. Program it as a priority in your schedule this week. Go dancing or sing or paint or run or visit a friend. Happier people make the world a better place.