Vacation Update

Vacation in North Carolina

Vacation in North Carolina

Vacation in North Carolina

Vacation in North Carolina

Vacation in North Carolina

Vacation in North Carolina

We have just returned from a trip home to see Grandma and Grandpa in North Carolina. It was a wonderful trip. Our trips home are a funky combination of shopping, outings, and taking advantage of grandma and grandpa for non-kid time. It can be hectic and it can feel like there just isn’t enough time, but looking back – it was fantastic. We ate lots of good food. We spent a lot of time together. We went to the park. We walked in the woods. We saw the neighbors. We saw old friends. The days flew by.

Now we’re back home, working on jet lag again and getting ready to hit the old routine running. It’s 11PM right now and Peanut is upstairs whistling. This might end up being a very special week! My goal is to get ready for my first market this fall. It’s on Saturday, so time is short. I’ll be at the Herfstmarkt taking place at the Vrije School Meander in Nijmegen from 11:00 until 14:30. The market is great fun for families with lots of activities for kids, think candle making and open fires! Hope to see you there.

Friday Check-In

Littles at the Dam Square, Amsterdam

As I’ve gotten more serious about my writing and my work, I feel a need to be more accountable for maintaining balance in my life and for working on long-term projects. In order to do that, I’ve decided to transform my Friday Moment into a Friday Check-in. Here’s the plan. Every Friday, I’ll post a picture and answer five questions. They will be about my work, my home, myself, my project or goal, and the picture. I’ll try it for a season and see how things go!


1. How are you moving forward at work?

A get together with a friend to work on making shirts from our boys (she has awesome fabric, I have a great pattern) turned into a mini-workshop experience for me as a teacher. Not so much in the sense that I felt I was teaching. Going through the motions of getting ready for our work session felt like the kind of preparation I would want to do for workshops in my home. Pumpkin joined us. We were able to get quite a bit done with her around and the whole experience inspires me to reconsider giving workshops at home.


2. How did you improve your home?

Things were looking a bit helpless for a while there, but the house is back to tidy today. Yesterday, I found my perfect birthday calendar while we were out running errands. I’ve been wanting to replace ours (great for poop jokes, not so nice for kids) but resolved not to get one until I found one I was over the moon about. Waiting was worth it and it reinforces all the principles I’m trying to learn and follow about careful acquisition.


3. How did you take care of yourself?

This week, someone else took care of me. Rather, six ladies surprised me with the sweetest dinner I can remember. They gave me the gift of letting me know how they see me. They said some incredibly nice things. It was moving and an evening I’ll never forget.


4. How are things going with the daily writing project?

I missed another day. What is going on with me?! On the upside, it was a day I felt so low I barely made it out of bed. Wait, that’s not an upside. I missed a day. Better next time. Sigh.


5. Talk about the picture.

The kids and I spent a couple hours wandering around downtown Amsterdam this afternoon. It was crazy busy. I’ve forgotten how many people are wandering down the Damrak, say, any time of the day. The masses of people, the different languages everywhere, the traffic, and then doing it all on my own with two littles for the first time. It was an experience. They did great. We “looked our eyes out” as they’d say in Dutch.

In My Kitchen: Reality Check

Reality Check in my kitchen

Reality Check in my kitchen

Reality Check in my kitchen

Reality Check in my kitchen

Reality Check in my kitchen


I’m playing along with Heather over at Beauty that Moves. Here’s a look at what’s going on in my kitchen!

It has been quite the week in our house. We’ve had a bit of illness, a bit of last minute birthday parties in Germany, and a bit of getting ready for a long trip to grandma and grandpa. I’m feeling worn out and excited all at the same time. I’m taking a break from my meal planning series. Now’s a great time to catch up on soup, pantry, and fish days. I’ll do pasta next week.

As much as I’d love to be sharing pictures of yummy food, the fact is that most of our meals came together in a blur this week. Soup never happened, I think we ate leftovers. On Tuesday I made Indian food that only the adults liked. Last night I walked in the door at six, cooked like crazy for 45 minutes, and then at dinner Peanut told us he’d eaten fries and frikandel at the birthday party. In other words, Pumpkin wasn’t hungry after a roll late in the afternoon and Peanut had already had dinner. We could have eaten those Indian leftovers at least half an hour earlier. I could only laugh.

Today’s a reality check, because after dropping kids off at school, this is what I came home to. A kitchen in need of a attention that mirrors pretty much every other part of the house and, to a certain extent, my life just now. There were shoes left on the mat from Pumpkin playing shoe store yesterday morning. There were dirty dishes in the sink and clean dishes in the dishwasher. Our breakfast tray was still on the table (this is how we try to be efficient with getting bread toppings to the table in the morning).

My first move on entering this mess was to make a cup of coffee and attack the situation the only way I know how: make a plan. I used the last of the milk and managed a half-a-cappuccino. The lists have been made and I do believe I’m ready to tackle this day. Wish me luck!


Let me know how things are going in your kitchen, then click that link and go see more kitchens at Beauty that Moves.

Patchwork Game Bags

Patchwork Drawstring Game Bag

Patchwork Drawstring Game Bag

Patchwork Drawstring Game Bag

Patchwork Drawstring Game Bag

Last week I made five patchwork bags and listed one on Etsy. They are game/dice/toy/travel bags. The first patchwork bag I ever made was for Peanut back when he was one (the picture on the bottom). As we prepared for a trip, it became clear that he would absolutely need a special bag to carry his plastic nesting cups for vacation. Notice the trend? I might also have been looking for an excuse to do some patchwork sewing, because it fascinates me. That bag is still in use and still makes me smile. While working on this blog post, I realized depth of my affection for this particular style of bag and instead of holding back and being polite, I decided to let loose and tell you all the things I think are amazing about them!

A little bag for a small child is wonderful for its simplicity and endless possibilities. A bag that children can open and close themselves is a great object. These bags are great for travel. Their small size limits how much the kids can bring with them. If it doesn’t fit in the bag, then it doesn’t leave the house. Once out and about, toddlers love opening and closing the bags to take individual toys out. In the car or on a plane or in a restaurant, a little bag of special toys can provide endless entertainment. A bag can be a cave or a bed or a field, becoming part of play once it’s not holding toys. A bag full of peg people can become it’s own world.

Older children always seem to have a collection of little things to take along. Whether it’s acorns in the forest or the latest supermarket collectable toy, gathering seems to be a hallmark of 4-6 year-olds. A personal bag gives them a way to take their collection with them and imposes limits on how much they can take. It’s also a great way to take games on visits or trips. Games in boxes are bulky and the box itself isn’t always very sturdy. A card game or dice game in a bag is easy to carry and easy to identify.

The color and pattern combining that makes up patchwork allows for endless possibilities. There’s nothing more fascinating than to see how a piece of fabric can be transformed by its neighbors. Making patchwork pieces is an experience in endless variation. For this bag, I sat down one day while Pumpkin was coloring and started trying to figure out just how many combinations there would be for a nine patch piece. The answer is mathematical, of course, but working it out through coloring was fun. I imposed a couple rules because I was trying to figure out a good process for making multiple bags. The results were fascinating. Patchwork or quilt sewing is about the magic of the process as much as the beauty of the finished piece.

I’ve made a lot of drawstring bags over the years, always looking for a favorite method. I like a lined bag for anything the kids are going to use. Exposed seams on the inside are always a weak point and a lined bag has the added element of a surprise when you open it up. I’ve combined a couple different methods to come up with the one I used for these bags. Extra stitching around the string openings gives added strength there. Top stitching at the top of the bag keeps the lining in place and gives a pretty ruffled effect when the bag is closed. These bags can be opened and closed time and time again without wearing thin or wearing out!

So there’s my little drawstring bag obsession in a nutshell. With the Herfstmarkt at Peanut’s school coming up on 1 November, game bags in beautiful fall colors were just the thing to make. I’ll bring along my small collection of vintage games as well. A bag and a game would make a terrific Sinterklaas or Christmas gift. The bags are 9cm x 21cm (7.5in x 8.25in) and made of 100% cotton. There’s one listed on Etsy now, in case you can’t wait until the market or won’t be able to attend.

Friday Check-In

Bubbles and paint

Bubbles and paint

As I’ve gotten more serious about my writing and my work, I feel a need to be more accountable for maintaining balance in my life and for working on long-term projects. In order to do that, I’ve decided to transform my Friday Moment into a Friday Check-in. Here’s the plan. Every Friday, I’ll post a picture and answer five questions. They will be about my work, my home, myself, my project or goal, and the picture. I’ll try it for a season and see how things go!

Things are toodling along around here. School goes on and fall is slowly but surely coming on. We’ve been spending a lot more time at home these days. Empty weekend days seem to invite a day of crafting and working on projects around the house instead of forays into museums or wilderness. It feels good. I think we’re all loading up on togetherness and quiet time before moving into the next week. The feeling that this won’t last is starting to build. We have a trip back to North Carolina planned and the holidays are also coming faster every year. It’s nice to be building a reflection habit now when there’s a bit of space. I’m going to need it a little more every week.


1. How are you moving forward at work?

It turns out that my production plan has fallen nearly entirely to the side. I should revise it. This has been in part to a bit of laziness and in part because of a change of plans. I’m going to have a stand at our school’s Fall Market and decided to make a couple new things and to do some fall colors as well. There are five patchwork bags in brilliant fall colors ready to go now. I’m going to sell them with vintage games, which should be fantastic!

I’ve been waiting for a Moo.com sale to order Earth Apple stickers. The sale came by last week and I designed and ordered the stickers right away. I’m a bit nervous how they will turn out as this will be my first design (I’m using paint.net, it’s a free photoshop baby sister). They should arrive this week, so fingers crossed for great results!


2. How did you improve your home?

Last weekend I finished a knitting project and discovered a little universe of unfinished projects and notes at the bottom of my basket. Getting that cleared out was a good feeling. Now Peanut has a new monster hat, my knitting notes are up to date, and I have a great plan for Sinterklaas gifts using some socks I made that didn’t work out so well.

Yesterday I put a few pictures up on the wall in our living room. We have been living with bare walls in there for a year and a half. None of the pictures are new, but it took me quite a while to decide on what I wanted to do there. I didn’t want to buy anything new and big, it’s just not my style. An arrangement sounded nice, but then it took time to decide which pieces to use and how to arrange them. After finally getting that far, another two weeks went by while the idea marinated for the last time. Did I mention it takes me a while to make up my mind about things? Anyway, here’s the result. I’m feeling pretty good about it!

Living Room

We’ve done another furniture shift. At the end of the summer we shifted furniture in my workroom and the dining room and got an amazing free make-over. This time, we stacked two Besta units from the IKEA and put away a side table. Like magic, our living room expanded. Back in the dining room, we pushed the short end of our table right up against the bookshelves. It’s a gigantic table, so we’re not losing any eating space, but again, the room opened right up. I’m loving squished furniture just now!


3. How did you take care of yourself?

I haven’t taken very good care of myself this week. It’s been a lot of late nights for no good reason. Staying up late is a bad, bad habit of mine and one that I have the hardest time trying to break. What I am trying to do is to give myself a break and to stop being my own hardest task master. Setting your life up as a constant improvement project is exhausting. Learning to just be for a while and accept myself for what I am would be a good thing.


4. How are things going with the daily writing project?

I missed a day. In the middle of staying up too late and a head full of thoughts, I completely forgot to write on Wednesday. So there’s a gap in my dots. I felt pretty upset for a while (see task master comment above). Then I forgave myself. There will be more dots. Today, there are two.


5. Talk about the pictures.

Peanut received Art in a Box for his birthday. It’s a box of twenty A5 cards. On the front, there’s a piece of art. On the back, there’s information about the artist, discussion questions, and an art project. He picked an abstract art project to start with. We added some dish detergent to watery paint, blew bubbles, and put paper over the bubbles to make prints. They’re drying now so we can do more with them over the weekend!

In My Kitchen: Fish

First Chestnuts!

Pancakes for School

Fish Day


I’m playing along with Heather over at Beauty that Moves. Here’s a look at what’s going on in my kitchen!

This week started with a considerable collection of chestnuts from our first collection trip ever. It was fun. I haven’t perfected the art of roasting in the oven, but I will eventually. We also celebrated Peanut’s sixth birthday. One of the great things about living in the Netherlands is that pancakes count as treats. The kids love them! Dutch pancakes for kids are thin, pan sized, covered with powdered sugar, and rolled. I modified our American pancake recipe with a bit of extra vanilla sugar and a big wallop of cinnamon. I cooked the sliced apples briefly on the griddle and then popped them on top of the batter cooked side down. After they finished cooking, I rolled them up and held it all together with a toothpick. A relatively easy and relatively healthy birthday treat. Whew!

But the thing I was planning to write about was psrt three of my meal plan series. I covered soup and pantry days over the past two weeks, so now it’s time for fish. For reasons I cannot explain, fish continues to feel like an intimidating food. Maybe it’s because I so rarely have a fish eating experience that really satisfies. I like my fish fresh, light, and tasty. Soaked in sauce or battered and fried do little for me. While I’ve long wanted to do more fish cooking, only this fall have we successfully added a fish day to our menu.

It might be more accurate to call Wednesday market day. There is a market in a neighborhood near us on Wednesday mornings so Pumpkin and I bike down after dropping Peanut off at school. We have two goals; fish and our bread and olive lunch. The Wednesday market is a fairly sensible market. It’s neither organic nor gourmet, just good food and friendly people. There’s one stand with all pet foods. There’s another with sewing notions and a gentleman who fixes zippers. Is that not genius?

So, every Wednesday we bike over and get ourselves some fish. It’s fresh and delicious. We’re big fans of salmon but I don’t want to risk salmon fatigue. I’ve had the food fatigue experience before with both shrimp and crab. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing! We’ve fallen into a salmon every other week rhythm, which means I get to try something different every other week. So far, we’ve also tried tarbot (heavy, the kids didn’t like it so much) and halibut (very light and flakey, I loved it).

We’ve gradually been reducing our meat consumption over the years and are at an all-time low. It’s also usually our only meat-and-potatoes type meal all week. On salmon nights, we have salmon steaks pan-fried with a good seasoning of salt and pepper. I add a Turkish pepper to the adult pieces. A friend gave it to me ages ago and it’s the best spice in my cupboard. After doing a bit of research, I think it’s urfa pepper. Pan fried on a low heat, the salmon turns out beautiful every time. Boiled and broiled potatoes are a scrumptious accompaniment.

Do you have a favorite fish recipe that we should try? I’m always looking for new ideas!


Let me know how things are going in your kitchen, then click that link and go see more kitchens at Beauty that Moves.

Picture: Fish stand & bread & olive lunch