Thursday, July 13, 2017

Egg-free Baking and Favorite Recipes

If you're a regular reader or friend on Facebook, then you are probable aware that one of our three girls has food allergies. We discovered them the hard way while I was single parenting back in Norway (but thankfully had immense friend support and great medical care).

It's been a journey since then of reading food ingredient labels closely, translating labels from Russian and Azeri (via Google translate or our amazing nanny), and making sure restaurants understand what we are asking when we inquire about food allergies, yet still being uncertain if they truly understand. We ordered a child's hot dog one time only to have it arrive smothered in mayonnaise. When we told him she wasn't able to have it because of the egg allergy they took it back and brought us the same hot dog in a new bun and had attempted to just wipe off the mayo (which they didn't do a great job of at that).

It's nerve-wracking here since allergies are not common and epi pens are not available to be truly comfortable. It's also obviously very challenging - one brand of pretzels contains egg, but another doesn't. One baby biscuit in chocolate contains nuts, but the vanilla brand doesn't. When something just contains egg or nuts in small amounts we are fortunate that Olivia doesn't have an anaphylactic reaction, but her poor body has eczema breakouts and rashes. Our nanny helped to discover which snack was the culprit of this painful rash.

It's been worth the effort and research to find new recipes and substitutes to bake delicious treats that everyone can enjoy together so Olivia does feel left out. Below are some of my favorite recipes that we've tried and I'd love suggestions of others from people who are learning to bake/cook without eggs.

Egg-free Cake

My journey of baking egg-free started with the twins' smash cakes for their first birthday. I tried out a recipe a friend from Norway sent me and was pleasantly surprised that the cake tasted amazing and both Jason and I agreed we would use the recipe regularly.

Here's the recipe link. I omit the cocoa powder if I want to make vanilla cake/cupcakes and I've never actually followed the recipe of making it in the baking dish. I always do it in a mixing bowl and transfer.

Egg-free Cookies

Olivia loves cookies so I am glad to have found this recipe. They definitely have a different consistency than cookies with eggs, but I don't think it's super noticeable. I've also frozen these in dough balls to pop into the oven whenever I need cookies last-minute. The challenge here is that a lot of the chocolate chips I have are either processed on a facility or same equipment as peanuts. If anyone has suggestions for a brand of chocolate chips that are nut-free entirely please share. :-)

Egg-free Pancakes

We don't often make a big breakfast, but sometimes on the weekends it's a nice treat. We tried substituting with mashed banana and while Olivia enjoyed them, her sister were not fans. We wanted to find something that we could make and all enjoy instead of having to make two and worry about cross-contamination. This recipe is great, but we made some slight modifications for our own taste (slightly more cinnamon and one time we ran out of vanilla and used maple syrup).

I also apparently haven't bothered to ever take pictures of them devouring them so eventually I'll try and update the blog the next time we make some. :-)

Egg-free Waffles

I borrowed a friend's waffle maker and tested out this recipe for waffles. We couldn't taste any difference and everyone loved them.

Egg-free Brownies

We recently had some friends over and when she suggested brownies I knew I needed to try and find a recipe without eggs. This one was great, but tasted slightly more cake-like than I would prefer. It definitely still has some brownie consistency, but wasn't quite like the egg-version in my opinion.

I looked at a couple different recipes and both had you make the roux-like mixture and one used some brown sugar rather than just white. Since brown sugar is hard to come by (and super expensive) here, I used 1.5 cups white and 1/2 cup brown in my recipe.  I also didn't have enough cocoa powder, but after reading the comments below just added a couple squares of baker's chocolate into the melted butter mixture.

Egg-free Banana Bread

We recently had some bananas about to turn for the worst so I decided to try my hand at finding a recipe for egg-free banana bread. I used this recipe, but added chocolate chips at the request of Jason.

I also found this graphic that I think it really helpful and I continue to look-up when I'm checking on substitutes. I recently tried the flaxseed replacement in a boxed pancake mix and boxed cake mix. It tasted great in both, but I felt the cake was too crumbly and think I will stick with the recipe above.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Evelyn and Olivia's 2nd Birthday

Happy Birthday Evelyn and Olivia!

Today was your actual birthday (see 24 months post here), but since we had the massive jungle party a couple weeks ago, things were pretty low-key today. Madi and I started off singing you Happy Birthday with candles in your favorite treat – Cinnabon.

Afterwards we got dressed and went with my friend Tricia to one of the water parks called Bilgah. The girls had a lot of fun playing in the water and laying on the lounge chairs before taking naps in the car on the way home.

We spent the afternoon playing outside in the backyard on the trampoline and swings before eating pizza and watching a movie. We sang Happy Birthday again with Daddy after dinner and blew out the candles on this little cake (decorated by the proud big sister) before Madi’s show that she put on for all of us. 

[Real life - only Evelyn ate a piece of cake. Madi got sent to her room for arguing and being disobedient before dinner which resulted in no cake and stubborn Olivia refused to finish one bite of pizza and kept saying "no pizza, no cake" after we explained to her she wasn't going to get any. Just in case you thought the day looked a little too picture-perfect, ha!]

By the end of the day Evelyn was saying Happy Birthday to everyone and it was precious. It’s easy to take for granted how quickly the time does fly (although the days can seem long) and I loved seeing these sweet memories on my Timehop today. 

Happy 2nd Birthday our beautiful and fun Evelyn and Olivia!


Evelyn and Olivia: 24 Months

So this is it – the final monthly update on you two! I know that I will be glad when I go back to these, but they far from capture all of the things that I wish I could hold on to forever in your growing up. It’s cliché, but it does happen so quickly!

- Both of you are still waiting on our upcoming flight to the US for your molars (or so I assume since that’s when your big sister always choose to get new teeth!)
- You are both saying so many words and sentences and asking questions based on your surroundings. You are picking up on so many things around you and understanding so much.
- You know some basic colors (pink, purple, blue, yellow).
- You both love play-doh, jumping on the trampoline (Evy is getting off the ground, but Liv isn’t quite yet), sandboxes, and swings.
- You are both still taking one nap a day and will regularly ask to go for “paci nap” not long after lunch and walk yourselves up to your room.
- Both of you are still showing signs of wanting to potty train, but we just don’t have enough stability this summer with our US travels to dedicate the time needed to properly work with you.

Evelyn Grace

You are our spunky, friendly, peace-making (most of the time) little girl. You usually give whatever toy your sisters want to them even if you were playing with it first. You love to laugh and we’ve found your secret ticklish spot and take advantage of it regularly. You prefer Daddy to Mommy and found it hilarious to say “I love you Daddy” when I asked you to say “I love you Mommy” in front of our guests. (And because you got such laughter in our reactions you find it hilarious to do it now every time! ;-) ). You are such a joyful and fun daughter and you love to play with your sisters, read books, play play-doh, jump on the trampoline, swing, and do basically anything your big sister Madi is doing (even if you are too small).

Happy 2nd birthday sweet girl!


Olivia Ann

You are full of attitude and sass (obv from your Daddy). You are quick to turn away help or hugs from strangers if you don’t want it as you prefer to tackle things on your own first. You are happy playing with play-doh and dice and legos by yourself for hours. You love to cuddle, play in water, and love pandas. You have started playing imaginary games with Madi and she’s quite entertained to have a partner. Your current favorite is pretending the grass is lava and climbing up the slide. You walk with pep in your step and we wouldn’t trade your personality for anything. You are hard-headed and stubborn and once your mind is set to something there’s no changing it. You are great at climbing and have copied your big sister in holding the two cribs and using your feet to climb the wall.

Happy 2nd birthday sassy girl!



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fourth of July 2017


Today was pretty uneventful - as expected for a Tuesday when you're an expat and your husband has work like usual. We look forward to celebrating America's Independence on US soil again in the future, but for now are thankful we are able to call America home. And are even more thankful that in less than two weeks the girls and I will be flying to the US for a whole six weeks!!

It's been over a year and a half since we've been back and are l-o-n-g overdue for a visit! I can't wait to see friends and family, shop Target, eat Chick-Fil-A, and use a double grocery cart at Sam's Club. #expatdreams

And because I was able to snag super cute photos of the girls this morning (under the bribery of gummies obviously), here's a couple more of these sweet sisters. ❤️


Friday, June 30, 2017

Monthly Wrap-up: June Part 2

Today is the last day of June and officially summer since today was Madi's last day! We have a couple weeks here in Baku before we head to the United States and I've got a long list of things I want/need to get done before the trip. Until then, here's the rest of the fun we had in June (catch Part 1 here).

You don't see the changes daily, but seeing the side-by-side Madi has changed a lot!

I got to spend one Friday morning with just the twins. We were the first customers at Starbucks and had the place to ourselves (which was good since the video is evidence of what a frappucino sugar-rush looks like; and no, they didn't each have their own. I just separated the one into two cups to prevent a screaming competition). My friend Liza commented on Facebook that it's a young Darcy and Jason having coffee, haha. Guess we do each have our minis. ;-)


  1. I've been getting up early and running in the morning with my friend Hayley, which means I have more time for things like making omelets for Jason and me during the week. It's been nice to be up before the girls and get back into exercising.
  2. Evy dressing up and smiling at her Daddy.
  3. Liv likes to bury herself in the sofas and of course she needed to be surrounded by pandas.
  4. Their favorite birthday gift - baby doll strollers from Meri.
  5. We were able to buy an outdoor table from neighbors moving back to the US and have enjoyed quite a few meals and snack times outside.
  6. Cat snuggles.
  7. I had Madi's parent-teacher conference with Ms Naza and got all wonderful feedback. My personal favorite? How kind and how she's friends with everyone and her affinity for mathematics. #nerdfamily
  8. Madi's school had a summer concert and Madi told me that morning she wasn't going to cry like at the last concert. I was surprised she remembered how she'd acted and was happy to see her smiling and having fun during this one.
  9. Reading before bedtime. 
Madi attended her friend's pirate party and had a blast! She got to see lots of her friends from school, including the school director, Ms Marsida, who we will miss since this is her last year at Bumblebee. 

Allergies. My personal opinion, whether right or wrong, is that it's my responsibility to bring a snack for Olivia to have when we go to someone's house for playgroup, birthday party, etc. I've been blessed to have a couple friends who always makes sure there is egg-free food at playgroup and get togethers, especially for Olivia (thank you Helene and Christine!!) and I appreciate it greatly, but don't expect them or others to do the same. I just ask that others do not give my girls any food without asking me so I can ensure it doesn't have eggs or nuts.

One afternoon Madi and her friend made cookies and the mom brought some over for the kids a couple days later then they were having another playdate. I didn't have any egg-free cookies ready, but I had rice crispy treats and Olivia was perfectly content eating that while the others had a cookie. No big deal. However, a couple days later the mom sent me a message that she'd made more cookies and this time they were egg-free! She'd said she was heartbroken Olivia couldn't have one before and it definitely made me cry that she went out of her way to accommodate Olivia's food allergy. As you can see Olivia was thrilled with her special cookie!

These two girls are playing together more and more and love running around! They've also started saying "cheese" for pictures and giving us a smile. They are well-trained, ha!


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Monthly Wrap-up: June Part 1

We had a lot of fun in June with multiple birthday parties (including our own), long weekends, and lots of play outdoors and with friends.

We visited our friend Jessie's pool with their kids and our friend Christine's family. My girls have mastered not smiling at the same time for pictures and preferred sitting on the towel and eating crackers to getting into the pool until it was almost time to go home, naturally, haha.

  1. Breakfast shenanigans with some Lucky Charms a friend from church brought for the girls.
  2. Evy stealing my camera to take pictures of Ta-Ta cat.
  3. Strawberries freshly picked by the gardeners for us. Soooo delicious!
  4. Coloring fun with Clementine.
  5. Picnic outside.
  6. Snack time outside. We will attribute their lack of smiles to having recently woken from naps.
  7. Evy climbed into her car seat, put her arms under the straps, and buckled the top buckle. We weren't going anywhere though. 
  8. Liv tucking herself into the doll bed to go "nigh nigh".
  9. Books and snuggles with my younger girls. ❤️

One Sunday after church we headed to the Cinnabon for a treat. All was well until one twin pushed the other knocking a plate over and breaking it. Hopefully we are allowed back because these three love Cinnabon!

Madi's good friend Clementine was out of town for her birthday party plus the two of them have been asking for a pajama party. Anna and I decided to spend a Saturday with the girls starting with breakfast just the four of us, playing all day at one another's houses and the school end of year fair, followed by decorating their own mini cakes and a movie in their pajamas. They'll be apart the whole summer so I'm glad they got to have this time together before both our families left for the summer holiday.

The girls have been amazing us lately with their recollection and inference skills showing they are understanding and processing so much! One evening after bath time we were playing with the girls and were amazed when both Evy and Liv sang Five Little Monkeys!



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Holiday Weekend: F1, Dalga, Mud Volcanoes

This past weekend was a long weekend - it turned out to be five days as a result of Ramadan, which normally we would have used as an excuse to travel, but we had already purchased our tickets to Formula One. It turned out to be nice to have a few days at home and do some things around the city rather than pack up and head out of town.

Formula One

We started the long weekend by attending Formula One. Jason got to attend last year, but I stayed home since we weren't sure about childcare (since we'd just moved to Baku). Our wonderful nanny Meri watched the girls all weekend and they had a blast. We took Madi with us on Saturday and she loved watching the two pink cars and seeing the "fire car" (aka safety car) on the course.

The girls played at a friend's house and got to hold their pet turtle. Evy was thrilled!

Dalga Aquapark

On Monday we packed up and headed to one of the aquaparks less than an hour away. We met up with friends there and had a lovely time. Eveyln never really took to the water, Madi took a bit to warm up, and Olivia was in the water basically the whole time having a blast on the water slides!

Mud Volcanoes

Tuesday I took the girls to a singing playgroup in the morning while Jason got our bags packed to head to the mud volcanoes. We've been before, but thought this time we would bring swimsuits and let the girls go crazy. They were all a bit hesitant at first, especially Evelyn, but then they started tossing piles of dried mud into the mud volcanoes and loved being splashed with the mud. It was fun to watch them run around laughing and the light breeze made the weather really pleasant and not too hot.


We spent the last day of the holiday taking the girls to their favorite indoor play area Wonderland and then relaxing at home in the afternoon. Madi still has two more days of school this week and then she'd off for summer break so there will be loads more fun to come I'm sure!

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