February 12, 2020

It is important to have a positive birth story

Hi guys, missed me?

I was a little absent from the blog, but with a very good reason. On January 28th I gave birth to my little daughter!­čÄë­čÄë­čÄë
I had a good pregnancy, I have not been sick once during that time, but indeed the ninth month was the hardest. The pregnancy was advanced, I was tired a lot, I had no energy and so all I could do was to binge watch videos on YouTube. Did you know there is such a thing as Vlogmas? Well I've watched all the vlogmas videos I could find, in January :)

But that is over, let's get down to business. A disclaimer first, this will not turn into a parenting/children blog simply because I am no expert in the field. Only from time to time I will post a story or two from my personal experience. And today we are going to talk about positive birth stories.

We met our beautiful daughter at CHL (Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg). It was not my choice, not that I would've been able to make such a choice, we went there because the gynaecologist that followed my pregnancy worked there. I had a c-section, partly by choice, partly by the doctor's choice. It is a long story, which you will probably not read on the blog, but it was my choice and I stick to it till the end and you will see that even with a c-section one can have a positive birth story.

Prior to the date I had meetings with a midwife and the anaesthetist, I could follow some classes (I chose not to as the ones I was able to attend were in French), I visited the maternity ward, but all in all on the date I felt unprepared for what was about to happen. And in all fairness, are you ever prepared for surgery? Or to become a mother for that matter?

So during all these meetings I was explained what was about to happen, how the surgery would go, what will happen after, and was asked what are my expectations. My only expectation was to get out of surgery alive and if possible with a happy, healthy baby. I maintain that was not an unusual requirement, but as other future-moms would opt for hypnosis, or a certain music playlist, or giving birth in water, my request was catalogued as weird.

I was scheduled for surgery on January, 28th, but I only found out the hour of it the day before. As it was at 10 a.m., I would have to come to the hospital in the evening of the day before. I knew that, but as it happened I entered into a state of shock and anxiety and cried my brain out the whole night before and during the preparation for surgery.

In the evening I listened the heart beats of the baby (CTG) and was put a cannula, a plastic tube inserted into my veins and in the morning I would have another CTG (cardiotocography) during which me and my husband narrowed down the baby name list and about 9 a.m. the midwife came to get me ready for c-section. They took me with my hospital bed, down two floors, with a private elevator to the surgery room. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and despite me crying I saw the women that was operated before me and she was happy holding her baby talking with the nurses so different from the wreck I was.

Some clarifications first. Because I was able to by my insurance, I opted for a single room and for my husband to be hospitalised with me. That meant he would spent the whole time in the hospital with me, assist at birth, he had his own bed and his own food. The room was bigger than a hotel room and had all the amenities possible. In the bathroom we had even clothes for the baby, sleeping bags, also for the baby, bibs, pads for me, pampers, cream, sterilised water, a shower, a baby bath, towels...I tell you all you could possibly need. Of course being a control freak, I brought everything from home, but if you are not like me, all you have to bring is your nightgown and some pyjamas for the baby. They even provide you with compression stockings for after the surgery, I bought them as well :). I would advise you to do the same (choosing a single room, that is), even if I saw the double rooms and I can only assume you have the same amenities, it is better to be with your family and with your own business.

So on the date I was taken to the surgery room and my husband was prepped somewhere else. They were even kind enough to send someone to accompany him and again I was with the midwife or with the assistant of the anaesthetist the whole time, they were cracking jokes and assured me over and over again that everything was going to be fine. The anaesthetist came at some point and recognised me and he again explained the procedure. After changing beds, I was taken into a room, I had the anaesthetic and was able to calm down. My gynaecologist came and she was happy which made me happy and confident, then my husband was brought to the room and he hold my hand or my shoulder the entire time and in less than five minutes I've heard her. She was screaming her heart out, which gave her a good Apgar score, she went with my husband and the nurse to be cleaned and then she was brought to me. They stayed with me a couple of minutes and then went into the recovery room. I was sutured and again assured by the assistant of the anaesthetist that everything was fine, the whole time someone had their eyes on me and despite not being with my husband I never felt left alone (one of my other fears).

Within 40 minutes the surgery was over. My doctor and the anaesthetist told me everything went fine and then was taken to the recovery room to meet my husband and daughter. She was so expressive and had her eyes wide open and she was the most beautiful child ever. She was born on January 28th at 10.33 a.m..

The following days came and went and here we are two weeks later, me telling you my birth story. Despite crying and having anxiety attacks before the surgery, everyone was so friendly and I was treated so nice, that I consider my birth story a positive one. And it was, to my standards, I am alive and my daughter is happy and healthy. The operation is healing nicely, Ilinca gained again her birth weight and she now is holding her head, I don't know what that means, but I was told that is a good thing. We had three visits from the midwife and are waiting for the forth and last, we scheduled a visit to the paediatrician and we are on track. We sleep a lot during the night, but mostly during the day, we went out a couple of times, Luna adopted Ilinca from day one and now they are best of friends and overall I had nothing to worry about.

I wrote this article to assure future moms giving birth in Luxembourg that even surgery is not a big deal and that I felt supported all the way no matter my decision. Because that is what I consider important and a positive birth story, to be given all the facts and then to support your choice, either you want to give birth naturally (I saw the rooms and they have all you could possibly want including a giant bath tub to give birth in if that is your choice), or you opt for a c-section, it is entirely your choice as a woman and no one has the right of contesting or questioning it. I've read the statistics and Luxembourg has 30% births through c-section, so what? I don't give a rat's ass about statistics, I was informed and supported, I was the one making the choices and after all it was MY story. If you decide either way about birth, if you decide to breastfeed or not, if you decide to put pampers on your baby or washable nappies, rest assured you will have all the support of the staff and doctors. A least that was my case.

Our lives continue as they were, Ilinca is the forth member of our gang of misfits, we already have our first vacation planned, we socialise and let me tell you, your life is not over unless you let it be over. Yes a child will change slightly your life as you make room for her/him, but your old life needn't be over. As for loving another being apart from your dog and husband, somehow your heart will grow. I love Luna as much as before and I love Ilinca in equal amounts. I think these are the worries of any new-mom. Soon, as I would gather more info I will tell the story of Ilinca and Luna, or of small babies and fur babies.

As usual we can continue the conversation where I am more active lately, so on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

December 17, 2019

Luxembourg - Paint with the needle exhibition

If you happen to stumble upon this post, here is a little recap of the Painting with the needle project, for the ones already familiar with it, please skip forward.

The "Painting with a needle" is the pet project of Sewn Signs (Semne Cusute) Association from Bucharest, Romania. After initiating many exhibitions with the purpose of preserving our heritage and promoting the Romanian Peasant Blouse as an apotropaic shield, which included "Ie Veche, Ie Nou─â", "Ia-Aidoma", Ia-Aievea" and the collaboration with the ladies from the Republic of Moldova, "M─âiestria", after starting a embroidery shop and classes, then came this project.
Starting from the famous painting "La Blouse Roumaine" by Henri Matisse, eight ladies from the association recreated the blouse that maybe inspired the artist. We each researched the origin of the blouse and the embroidered signs, we than gathered the materials and started embroidering. We used linen cloth and wool, silk and metallic thread. We embellished our blouses with sequins and glass beads. And on December first, 2019, we met up at the Centre Pompidou in Paris to show our project.

The echoes of our Paris trip were so big that we had to continue and on December 13th exhibited the blouses in Luxembourg at the Romanian Embassy. More than one hundred people joined us for this unique event that took place just for a day, a couple of hours to be exact. They took photos, we shared stories, we had books about Romanian Blouses, we had prints explaining the project, we had Romanian cake and drinks. Although advertised within the Romanian community the admirers of the blouse found our little exhibition and we had French, Luxembourgish, Bulgarian and Albanian guests.

It feels special to see that the project you worked for the last couple of months was celebrated in this unique, cosy and intimate way. Here are some pictures:

As I was busy the whole evening, I forgot to take pictures, so most of them are saved from Facebook, from our guests, please use them accordingly.

As usual we can continue the conversation on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

December 10, 2019

France - Painting with a needle at Pompidou Paris

The projects of the Sewn Signs Association from Bucharest led by the architect Ioana Corduneanu are always the pinnacle of the field. First they started documenting the Romanian Blouses and with the fabrics and threads they found at that time recreated the first blouses sewn in a traditional way for more then 50 years. They reunited all their blouses in an exhibition called Old IE, New IE (Ie veche, Ie noua) and for the year 2015 believe me it was something short of a miracle.

A year later they opened the IA Aidoma exhibition in which they recreated estranged Romanian Blouses exhibited or just collected by the biggest textile museums of the world. I saw the exhibition in my hometown, fell in love and managed to bring it to Luxembourg in 2018. Over the years some blouses went out of the exhibition and other joined it, all in all around 100 blouses were recreated using just pictures of the museum blouses. Another year and they opened IA Aievea exhibition, this time starting form small pieces of fabric they recreated entire blouses, the level of knowledge and the work put into those blouses got them the appreciation of the Google Arts and Culture Institute and they are the only association and not a museum to be featured on that Google Online Gallery.

This year I was in Sibiu, Romania where they opened a joined exhibition with MaiestrIa group from the Republic of Moldova, where I've heard about their latest project, the Matisse Blouse.

In the early 1940's, Henri Matisse received a precious gift from the Romanian painter Theodor Pallady, a Romanian blouse. The French painter, fascinated by the complexity of the shirt and the craftsmanship of the seam, painted a series of paintings depicting women, dressed in Romanian Blouses. The most iconic painting in this series is exhibited at the Pompidou Center in Paris and is called "La blouse Roumaine". I saw it there for the first time in 2014, on a cold and rainy winter day, when I changed my thick sweater to a Romanian Blouse to take a picture.
This is the story of "La Blouse Roumaine" painting we know so far. From the painting, the ladies from Sewn Signs started the study: the distribution the ornamental fields on the sleeve indicated the blouse that inspired Matisse came from Bucovina. There are countless patterns from that region, only Ioana has digitised on her blog ( more than 900 sheets, but the main source of Bucovina models remains the Kolbenheyer's album.

In 1912 the Austrian Erich Kolbenheyer catalogued for the first time the stitch patterns he encountered in Bukovina, a Romanian territory that was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was fortunate it happened then, because after the First World War, when Romania regained Bucovina, we were poor, war-torn and our only concern was survival, not the collection of stitch patterns. The album has survived and these days one could find it on Google.

Then, the women involved in the project researched the fabrics and threads women had at their disposal in the 30's when the Matisse blouse was probably made. They came up with hemp and linen, hemp was mostly used for the working blouses, the every day blouses and linen was used for the celebration ones, which we call today IA. So Matisse's blouse was probably made out of linen, but not the industrial kind we find everywhere today, the rough, home made one.

So the canvas was linen, the uneven linen. What about the threads? In that time Romania was an agricultural country, the shepherds used to take their sheep in the mountains during the summer months and bring them back to the fields during winter. So wool was the main material and the Romanian women knew how to make the finest wool thread. We also know that the women from Bucovina were proud and invested a lot in their blouses. The legend goes that they used to sell two oxen for the threads they embroidered with. They bought silk and metallic wire from the Orient, the beads from the Czech Republic, which they most definitely used on Matisse's blouse, so we included them too.


So the latest project of the Romanian Association Sews Signs was to recreate the Romanian Blouse that Matisse had painted. By the time I've joined it there were eight other women involved, Ioana, Maria, Sonia, Daniela, ╚śtefania, Mirela, ╚śtefana and Daniela and each of us recreated her unique blouse starting from the painting.
On my alti╚Ť─â I've embroidered blooms because in my mind they were similar to the blouse in the paining. The rivers on the sleeve I made with Eli Belinde a sign for feminine power and strength. We all had more or less the same ├«ncre╚Ť, the orange line pained by Matisse, but of course it differed from one blouse to the next. Mine was made with wool, silk, metallic thread and beads.

And so, on December 1st we reunited in Paris at the Pompidou Centre to compare our work with the original painting. The experience was one of a lifetime. Besides the authorities in the field that embraced and praised us, the visitors of the gallery considered themselves lucky to visit at the same time as us. The Matisse's paining "La Blouse Roumaine" came to life.
We were an apparition and the echoes of the event are still present on social media. People took photographs, the keepers of the gallery pointed the crowds towards room 7 at floor 5, the guides compared our work with the painting asking us to stand next to it, it was a wonderful time and I am glad I was part of it.
I was with my friends and the three days spent in Paris were great and I still long for the memories made then. But the story of the seven Matisse's blouse goes on, I am positive the women in Romania will create even more versions of the blouse and who knows maybe next year there will be 20 Romanian blouses at Pompidou.

I hope we inspired you to dream and create and go over the norms and document your own Romanian Blouse. You have all our knowledge on the Semne Cusute in ac╚Ťiune group on Facebook, you have all the fabrics and threads you need on the Semne Cusute shop, you have the Blog and the Kolbenheyer album.

Paint with your own needle!

The photos belong to the people on social media and to Ioana, ╚śtefana, Andreea and Daniela who kindly shared them with us, please use them accordingly.

As usual we can continue the conversation on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

November 25, 2019

Belgium - Tongeren - Dacia Felix Exhibition

Recently I had the privilege of visiting an exhibition like now other, an exhibition that connects my home country, Romania with my now-living-in country Belgium/Luxembourg. Its name is "Dacia Felix" and it is organised within the Europalia Festival manifestations at the Gallo-Roman Museum in Tongeren, Belgium, an hour and a half drive from Luxembourg.

As I've written once more about Europalia when we went to visit the Br├óncu╚Öi Exhibition in Brussels,  an art festival in essence, Europalia celebrates every two years a country's cultural heritage. Established in 1969 in Brussels, the festival has events in all the neighbouring countries from October to January. The festival expenses are shared between Belgium and the invited country, and in 2019-2020 that is Romania.
When in 106 AD the Romans managed to annex to their empire the new province, Dacia, they found there a well established civilisation, different from the barbaric tribes they found in Britania, for example. Barbaric in the sense the Romans used it, is any populations that lives outside the Roman Empire. So, as you can see Dacia is not a reliable and well known, cheap car, it is the Province that existed in the territory that is now Romania, before the Romans conquered it.

The emperor that managed to conquer Dacia after two very destructive wars was Trajan and upon his return to Rome he build a column and a museum, in existence today, to celebrate his victory. Because he did that we now have a lot of information about the Dacians and some of those information were used in documenting this exhibition.

I think it is a mammoth exhibition with hundreds of small objects collected from multiple museums in Romania and transported safely to Belgium. The exhibition is well documented, presenting the stages of Dacian habitation of the territory as well as the migratory stages that passed through the territory, the Celts, the Scythians, the Greeks and finally the Romans. The audio guide explanations are well thought off and there are even simplified explanations for children. All in all a round event, worth visiting.

The exhibition will be opened until April, 26th of 2020 and the price ticket is 10 euros.
As we learned in school, Decebal the Dacian king and Trajan the Roman emperor were the founding fathers of Romania. It is said that after conquering Dacia, Trajan went to Rome and partied for three days displaying the spoils of war, among other huge quantities of gold, Dacians gold. Inside the museum he build to commemorate the occasion he placed two similar busts of Decebal and his own in similar size. The historians who documented this exhibition say he did that to prove how hard was his victory and that he conquered a well established people and not some scattered tribes. 
I have a personal history with these bracelets. A total of 13 gold bracelets were recuperated by the Romanian government from several diggers that found the bracelets around the Sarmisegetusa Regia, the former capital of Dacia in the time of Decebal. After a very long and intricate investigation all the 13 bracelets were recuperated and some of them were exhibited at the National History Museum in Bucharest, Romania. In that time I was a radio journalist in Bucharest and I've followed the story about the bracelets and even went to the opening of the exhibition. They are special because they prove the Dacians were gold smiths, the previous recuperated Dacian bracelets were made of silver and had the same design. It is believed that the gold ones belonged the the rich and upper class citizens of Dacia and the silver to the poor. They are also the prove that a well established civilisation inhabited the lands before the Romans came and conquered it. 
This is a ritualistic mask and the person wearing it meant to impress his adversaries. Its intricate design bears a lot of symbols we recognise today. I recommend you see it from all angles when you go and visit the exhibition and it is a must to take an audio-guide (it is free) and listen to all the explanations.  
Another ritualistic object, it is made of silver with gold inlay and some parts as the eyes and the horns did not survived. What I found interesting on the horn (it is a goblet) is that on it you can see women drinking from it, maybe a goddess?  
Another object that has a special meaning to me. It is an object made to support the outfit of the women, similar to a brooch. It was discovered in Bulgaria, as the Dacian territory stretched over the Danube, but similar pieces were discovered in what we today call, Romania. It represents a deity and the birds on her shoulders and a symbol of unity. It is important to me, because I've used an image of the piece in my conference promoting the Romanian Blouse. You can clearly see that the blouse had the similar shape and ornaments as a contemporary IA. So to see the piece up close and take my own pictures of it, is, believe me, an grand occasion. 

Of course the exhibition has many more objects, some more interesting than the ones I've chose to show you. You can only discover them if you visit. I hope you liked reading this post as much as I liked putting it together and as usual we can continue chatting on Instagram, find me @mademoiselle.ralu

November 4, 2019

Luxembourg - Anne's Kitchen Cooking Classes at Auchan

As part of the Kachen Blog Awards (I promise I will write more about that) I had the opportunity to cook alongside Anne Faber a Luxembourgish food addict, as she describes herself. She was the first contact I had with Luxembourg when I stumbled upon her cooking book at one of the book shops in town. The only book I could actually read at that time, the only one in English.

I've read the recipe book (I know you don't read it, you follow it in creating delicious food, but have you met me?) and even tried the Bouneschlupp with her twist so for a while in my cook book shelf at home there was Nigella and Anne. I have to point out that her book, Home sweet home My Luxembourg is more than just a book with recipes. It is also a guide of Luxembourg of some sorts, so every time I would see a place from her pictures I became more familiar with my new home.

Fast forward a couple of years when Instagram made it to Luxembourg and I've started following her, and marvelled at her delicious culinary travels, gabbled up her stories, saved her pictures as future inspiration. Safe to say I knew her cooking style and wanted to take part in her cooking classes. The day came mediated by the team of Kachen Blog Awards and I was the first one to sign up.
So on a sunny Saturday evening we went to the cooking classes at Auchan in Cloche d'Or. We had to make five dishes and I have to say that I made 80% of them alone. As you already know, my husband cooks in our house.
Here he is helping Anne in mixing the dough for sausage muffins.
As the title suggest, we made finger food with a twist, Smoked Trout Pancake Rolls, Sausage Muffins, Vietnamese Summer Rolls, Truffle Hummus, Sausage Rolls and Marmalade Fizz.
Out of all I liked more the Truffle Hummus on bread and the dip of the Vietnamese Summer Rolls which are made in a similar way to the Romanian sarmale, just that on the Romanian recipe the ingredients are cooked in the cabbage roll. 

After we cooked, we got to share the food and it was delicious, we talked and got to know each other and left the workshop with a doggy bag (which I shamelessly eaten myself saving nothing for Luna) and a goody bag. It was a relaxed Saturday spent in the middle of busy Auchan Cloche d'Or.
So thank you so much for this opportunity, Kachen Blog Awards Team, Auchan Cloche d'Or and Anne's Kitchen. I actually suggest following those handles on social media as you will find more about Anne's Workshops and about the Blog Awards.
I hope you liked reading this post as much as I liked putting it together and as usual we can continue chatting on Instagram, find me @mademoiselle.ralu