Quiet Time

Quiet time in the workroom.

I like my quiet time. Time when my mind can pick a direction and follow it for more than, say, 30 seconds and I can start to feel my body and mind rest and open. As a stay-at-home mom with two littles, there isn’t a lot of quiet in my life. My most important category of parenting tricks is quiet time. Quiet time as we understand it is not play time. Instead, it’s time in which everyone in the house is happily doing quiet, individual activities. Everyone in our family needs quiet time during the day and we do our best to make sure it’s part of our daily rhythm, usually just after lunch.

Peanut is five. He’ll be six soon and just started the first grade. At the moment he is going through what one of my books (yes, I’m that kind of mom) accurately described as mini-puberty. We’re toggling between flinging accusations and utterly sweet on a moment to moment basis. He is a sensitive kid who needs to turn off once in a while in order to recover and re-energize. Pumpkin is three and wants to play or help. Helping is a great alternative to play because she gets to be right next you and continue to ask a question every 30 seconds. To illustrate, when she gets her little chair to stand next to me at the counter, she explains, “If you need help you can say it.” That’s the sign that she intends to plant herself right there until I need help. She hasn’t napped in at least a year and is on the go from 7:00 in the morning until 7:30 at night. Without some quiet time to add a real break to our day, things just fall apart.

Quiet time started when Peanut was two and refused to nap. I once spent three hours trying to get him to sleep. After that, we needed new approach. We started with a pile of books nearly a foot high. I put Peanut and the books in his bed, and left him to it. Reference or art books with lots of pictures were the best and most engaging. He would sit and look through all the books before coming out 45 minutes to an hour, happy and calm. In all the years he sat with books for quiet time, I think he fell asleep once. These days he still likes looking at books but also uses quiet time to draw or listen to audiobooks. We have quite a few audiobooks (the Roald Dahl collection is amazing) but limit his time with them.

Pumpkin is a different story. She doesn’t enjoy books as much and thrives on being around people. We’ve try to find ways to do quiet time together. When I wrote the first draft of this post, she sat next to me at the table imitating my typing on her Fisher-Price cash register. A notebook and stickers are also great at the table. She might get out her little ironing board and “iron” scraps while I work in the workroom. Sometimes, I will lay on the couch and she will snuggle up between me and the back of the couch with a book or two. Other times, she will invent silent games to play while I take my quiet time.

We’re finding our way as the kids get older and quiet time changes. What’s important is that it’s a part of the routine in our home that we all participate in. If we’ve had some busy days or if they’re tired, the kids will ask for quiet time and we know how to give it to them. I like that they learn to listen to their bodies and feel when they need a break. As a family, it’s also a good and powerful thing that we’ve found ways to give ourselves a break in a way that maintains peace and energizes us for more fun later! Clearly, this isn’t the only way and I’d love to have more tricks up my sleeve, so tell me, how do you manage breaks in your home?

Friday Check-in

Pile of mending - done!

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!

The sun has been shining like crazy this week. Pumpkin and I had lunch outside on Wednesday. We go to the market on Wednesday mornings and are developing a serious and wonderful flat bread and olives lunch habit. Afterward lunch, I found myself doing some work in the garden. It’s been a while. Our damp, wet August didn’t motivate. But now we’ve got some volunteer nasturiums and winter lettuce on the front edge ready to take on the fall. Fingers crossed! Now, on to questions.

1. How are you moving forward at work?

It was hard to feel like I was making progress at work this week. A study day for Peanut on my dedicated sewing morning had me throwing up my hands in despair. Yeah, I over-react sometimes. But I also adjust. I went back over my blog schedule and made sure there are no more than three posts scheduled per week until the end of the year. Accomplish-able goals [link to planning] is where it’s at, I tell you. I also remembered that my production plan is a plan. When something gets in the way, the thing to do is ask myself the one question (thanks dad), “What’s really important?” Getting my bag design to version two took priority this week, so I did that instead. I did it gleefully with music and singing and dancing the my workroom. Felt like a good choice!

2. How did you improve your home?

Pumpkin and I spent a good sunny hour reorganizing the shed this week. It’s one of those things that needs to be done once in a while. Now the garden things are all together, the painting things are all together and guess what – we have an empty shelf! Hoorah. Space on the shelves equals space in my mind. Does it work like that for you, too?

3. How did you take care of yourself?

I’ve been allowing myself to be sucked into the internet in the evenings lately. This is not good for a person who’s just now emerging from half a decade of sleep-deprivation. I’m finally starting to understand and feel the link between sleep and my moods. Letting something as immaterial (literally) as the internet get in my way seems plain silly. My solution: an alarm on my iPod set for every weeknight. Around 10 pm, it crickets and gives me instructions, “Get off the internet. Do something useful or joyful instead.” So far, I’m being obedient.

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

Daily writing is going better. This week, I tried doing just a wee bit of planning before I started to write. It helped. For example, for this post I had a couple notes from earlier in the week of things I wanted to include. It makes for more focused and enjoyable writing time. The one time I didn’t have a plan I mind-dumped into a file that is going to be frightening to read when I get back to it. There are now 30 dots plus one after I finish this. Holy cow – I made it to a month! Yippee!

5. Talk about the picture.

Last weekend I plowed through a pile of mending and unfinished projects. Some of these have been sitting around for more than a year, but mending piles are like that. There was an unexpected satisfaction in getting this work done. Part of that was related to crossing something off my list. But it was more than that. Mending requires a combination of skill and creativity. I’ve been working hard on both this past year and it was rewarding to use both better than I would have a year ago. Mending is also a realization of values I am trying to live, particularly trying to limit consumption and to value what we have. So there you have it. My celebratory messy pile of mending done!

In My Kitchen: Soup

Frozen broth
Adding frozen broth to a recipe

Freezer containers of "base"

1/4 cup servings of base to add to soup
Soup in the make
Quick homemade soup that’s actually homemade

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

I got a lot of positive feedback on my meal planning post and thought it would be interesting to share a bit about how I fill in my theme days. During the school year, Monday is soup night. We have soup, bread, and cheese. It’s a great meal for us that is comfort food, relatively easy to make, and fun to eat. This week, I thought I’d share some tricks we have for making soup making even easier and a favorite recipe.

With only a few variations, soup making comes down to chopping up vegetables, adding broth, and cooking. Sauteing the vegetables before adding broth adds depth of flavor. Pureeing before serving is another option. Adding pasta, beans, or grains before serving is also good. As an added bonus, kids can usually help with soup making. School is out at one o’clock on Mondays, so it’s nice to have a dinner project that we can do together if the kids are interested. It’s also always cozy to have a big pot cooking away on the stove while we fill our afternoon.

I like to make broth from scratch. It sounds so time consuming, but it’s not and I prefer broth from live vegetables to broth from mystery powder. I’ve done it a couple ways. One involved saving all my “clean-ish” veggie cuttings. Think onion peels, carrot peels, ends of zucchini and so on. I keep them in the fridge until I had a bag full and then cooked it up in water for 15 minutes or so. Lately, I’ve been doing a cleaner version. The tops of a couple leeks that I’m planning to cook the coming week, a couple pieces of celery, a carrot (we get gigantic carrots in the Netherlands called winterpeen that are great for this), peppercorns, and a bay leaf. When I make it, I usually end up with enough for two or three batches of soup.

You can freeze extra broth in one-liter zip-lock bags. Put the empty bag into a liter measuring cup, fill it with strained unsalted broth, close the bag most of the way, squeeze out air bubbles, close it up, label it, and put it in the freezer. It’s a good idea to put something heavy on top of the bag so it freezes flat. A bag left on its own freezes with a bulge in the middle. Flat bags are easy to file in my freezer drawers and defrost just a bit quicker. The bags usually develop get a tiny hole somewhere when they freeze. When I take them out to use, I put them in a large bowl catch the drips. The other alternative is to tear the bag open and drop a big old frozen broth tablet right in the pot and let the stove do the work. It’s liquid broth within 5 or 10 minutes.

I also freeze batches of base and red pepper. The base is sauteed onion, carrot, and celery. The red peppers are sauteed with onion until tender and then whizzed with the hand blender. I put the base in small containers and freeze the red peppers in ice cube trays. In a pinch, I have been known to put together a bean soup with a base cube, a few cubes of red peppers, water or frozen broth, and soaked beans. It’s like magic!

The most popular soup at the moment is beef barley soup. We eat it once every three weeks, the Monday after my butcher trip. It’s very simple: chop an onion, a couple carrots, and a couple celery sticks. Cook them in water with a piece of soup beef (I usually use a shank slice), a bay leaf, and a can of tomato. Cook on low heat for a couple hours until the meat is tender. Take out the meat, shred it, and return it to the pot. 20 minutes before serving, add barley or pasta (alphabet pasts is a huge hit right now). When the past is done, season and the soup is ready.

A couple weeks ago I made a last minute soup came up with a new winner. I haven’t worked it out to a recipe, but I’ll be using the framework again soon! I chopped up an onion, red pepper, bit of leftover raw pumpkin, and carrot and sauteed them. Add one container of base and broth. Once the veggies were tender, I whizzed it with a hand blender. Then, I added a big dollop (3-4 Tbsp) of tahini and whizzed it again. Total nutty creamy soupy bliss.

I’d love to share some new recipe idea. What are your favorite soups?

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

Log Cabin Pillow and Template

Log Cabin Pillow

Log Cabin Pillow (back)

Log Cabin coloring

The design

Back in July, I wrote about a log cabin pillow case project. Today, I want to show you the finished project and share a coloring template so you and your littles can design your own. One question with the pillow project was whether or not involving Peanut in the design process would win him over for the finished product. It worked. He took his finished pillow camping this summer and it now lives in his bed. The extra bonus was the fact that working with him was so much fun.

I ran across his original sketches the other day and thought it would be interesting to share them. He started off with some fun and funky designs that were fun to look at but difficult to recreate. After I suggested he use one color per field, he worked towards his final design. I love his color selections and was so relieved and surprised that those colors were in my fabric stash.

The finished pillow more or less matched his vision. I made a couple adjustments to his pattern along the way (with much consultation) to compensate for fabric supply and measurement issues (ahem). After consulting with Peanut, I used the same colors as the front to piece the back and made some binding for the edges. The inside raw edges were also finished with bias tape. The quilt as you go method described by Suzuko Koseki in Patchwork Style worked out great. Next time, it would be interesting to try quilting it at the end next time to see how that works out.

When we were planning this pillow, I couldn’t find a log cabin pattern to color in. Instead, we used copies of a drawing I made up. This weekend, I tried my hand at making one on the computer for you to use. You can download click here to download the Log Cabin Coloring Template and try your own coloring or making project. Giving kids an opportunity to design their own quilted pillow is just fun. You could also put together a bunch of colored and cut out log cabin blocks to make a paper quilt or wall decoration.

Click here to see and download the Log Cabin Coloring Template

Friday Check-In

Voice Command Sewing Machine

1. How are you moving forward at work?

Last week I took a bag from my sketch book to reality and this week I’ve been carrying it. It’s always interesting to figure out what works and what doesn’t. It might be the size or the placement of straps or the type or interfacing. Next week, there will be time to adjust the pattern and hopefully make another version.

2. How did you improve your home?

I tried prepping dinner in the morning or just after lunch instead of waiting until 5 in the afternoon. Pumpkin loves to help in the kitchen and together we have a nice time. When five o’clock comes around, instead of me leaving the kids to their own devices while I try to cook, I can sit down with them and play a game or read a book or draw. One little change has the potential to add a lot of breathing space to our day. Love it.

3. How did you take care of yourself?

I’ve missed out on a lot of art, music, and cultural events since becoming a mom. It happens and that’s OK, but now it’s time to work on that part of my life again. On Tuesday night, I went to a video mapping organ concert event at the St. Stevens church with a couple girlfriends. The organ was built in 1776. It’s as old as the United States. The concert was beautiful and moving. The chit chat with the ladies after the show was wonderful. I’ve got a couple ideas for more outings this year and it’s going to be fun!

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

Writing every day is not getting easier as much as it’s getting harder. It’s not a new and exciting project any more and sometimes it frankly feels like a pain. It gets to the end of the day and then suddenly I remember that there’s writing to be done. I’m also having a hard time with figuring out what to write, which blog or other writing project to work on. But that said, I’ve got 24 dots now and that’s not nothing!

5. Talk about the picture.

Did you know that my sewing machine has a voice activated function? When I say “push” it back stitches. Does your sewing machine have any special functions?

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. We’ll try it for a season and see how things go!

Beauty. Simplicity. Utility. Quality.

MacBook Air cover

MacBook Air cover

MacBook Air cover

iPhone 5 cover

iPhone 5 cover

One of the wonderful things about starting a making business is that people ask you to make things for them. Every time someone asks me to make something, especially folks who ask me to make something they’ve never seen or trust me to dream up a design, I’m honored, deeply flattered, and terrified they’re going to figure out that every once in a while, I have no idea what I’m doing. So far, things have worked out and the special orders are one of my favorite parts of this business.

In August, I made a special order iPhone cover , and a MacbookAir cover. As with all special orders, I took advantage of the project to think about whether I want to make more. They would be a logical extension to the Earth Apple Studio shop and are in demand, especially Apple coming out with a new iPhone every time I turn around.

Debating whether or not I want to make the covers got me thinking. A couple of timely posts also reminded me of the importance of not taking on too much, of pruning as Eve Fairbanks put it. It’s tempting to start making lots of different things just to see what takes off. It’s also important for me to remember that my goal is to design and make beautiful bags. Every product I decide to develop or make along the way takes time away from achieving the bag making goal and those decisions should be made carefully.

To help myself along, I came up with a couple questions to answer before I move forward with developing or making new products. In addition to some basic market research questions about what’s available, pricing, costs, and audience, I found myself returning to two key questions.

  • How will my product be an improvement on what’s already available?
  • How well will the product represent beauty, simplicity, utility, and quality?
  • I only want to make a product if it improves upon what’s already available. If I can’t do that, then it’s better to leave it to folks who are already making them and making them well. In the case of the Apple product sleeves, it came down to a material choice. In all the sleeves and covers I’ve seen, felt seems to be the best fabric for making durable and beautiful sleeves. Check out Westerman Bags if you’re not sure. She makes gorgeous Apple product sleeves right here in the Netherlands.

    The second questions keeps me working to meet my own standards. If I can’t make something that is extra beautiful, extra simple, extra useful, or extra quality, I don’t want to be making it. It’s as simple as that.

    So there you have it, some new things I made and how I decided to not make any more. How do you decide which projects you want to work on? Are there more questions I should be asking myself?

    Inspiration: Quilt Exhibition

    Maria Hofmans: Linnen-Goed
    Maria Hofmans: Linnen-Goed

    Maria Hofmans: Linnen-Goed

    Maria Hofmans: Linnen-Goed

    Gert van Raalten: Watashi no Nihon no Takarabako
    Gert van Raalten: Watashi no Nihon no Takarabako

    Almut Raaijmakers: Wie het oude niet eert!
    Almut Raaijmakers: Wie het oude niet eert!

    Almut Raaijmakers: Wie het oude niet eert!

    Earth Apple Bib

    Last Thursday, I went to the Dutch Quilt Guild’s annual exhibition in Arnhem. There were some really beautiful pieces to look at. When I look at a quilt, I think about the massive amount of time, work, and skill it takes to make one. The color, fabric, and pattern combinations are inspiring. In Arnhem, I saw traditional quilts and art quilts. Quilts made with new fabrics, Japanese fabrics, linen, and scraps. A few quilts particularly struck my fancy and I thought I’d share them here.

    Linnen-Goed by Maria Hofmans is a gorgeous quilt made of linen. I loved the details. Each scrap pieces was quilted on so that there was a pretty pattern on the back of the quilt, too. The actual quilting was done in a very loose style, which I love because it shows that it was made by hand. Being able to stitch perfectly is important, but letting go of that can often give a more expressive result. The linen squares all vary slightly in color and they’re beautiful neutrals that look lovely together. I love the style of this quilt and am sure this will inspire some of my work in the future!

    I also got a kick out of this piece, Watashi no Nihon no Takarabako by Gert van Raalten. The colors are fabulous in and entirely different way. I love the punctuating color in the field of brown. The colors get to pop against the monochromatic background. My favorite detail on this piece, though, is the fact that the pattern runs out in the corner. It is a fabulous surprise to look at the pattern, be drawn into looking at all the individual colors, and then, oops! I love it.

    A third piece that made a big impression me was Wie het oude niet eert! by Almut Raaijmakers. It has a few repetitions of the same image, each using a different technique and the same colors. There was some applique, french knots, chain stitching, and beads. Then I took a step back for a bigger picture and realized that all the small pieces were on a background that was the whole image again, but gray on gray. The quilt works as a wonderfully patient exploration of the impact of different techniques.

    My bibs and a lot of my work are inspired by the piecing that is the basis of quilt making. Put two fabrics together and way they contrast or compliment each other can be transformative. Last week I made a new series of bibs. I used a beautiful fabric from Amy Butler’s Mid-Century Modern series and paired it with a contrasting rusty red. It’s in my Etsy store now. After two weeks of bib making, I’m going to move on to card holder making this week. I’ve got some fabric choices in mind and can’t wait to see how they turn out.

    Friday Check-In

    Boy watching caterpillar

    This week was the second week of school. It’s the week where we start to settle into the routine, start to see where we might have some problems and try to think of solutions. It’s also a week in which the weather finally turned and the sun has been shining. It feels absolutely glorious after the rainy cold end of August. Now, on to some questions!

    1. How are you moving forward at work?

    Without a doubt, the single most exciting thing that happened to me this week was seeing my Kokka Messenger Bag on the U-Handbook Facebook page. I was dancing around the house with glee. The lady who designed the pattern liked the bag I made from it! It’s like being back in school and having the teacher like your creative writing assignment (which never happened to me, by the way). Total satisfaction. The bonus was a lot of new website traffic (hi, all, hope you’re sticking around!) and I discovered some neat folks by checking who was commenting!

    2. How did you improve your home?

    This week I managed to keep the house neat. It was an improvement over last week when we were in “a bomb exploded in here” mode for most of the week. I also put together a slightly wonky tent-like drapery for over the kid’s new kitchen playing area. It’s starting to look really cozy.

    3. How did you take care of yourself?

    Just this afternoon, I took myself off to Arnhem for a visit to the Dutch quilting guild’s annual show. It was wonderful to take a break and to soak up some inspiration. I’m trying to take more, smaller, meaningful breaks for myself. This outing was a winner. I came home feeling refreshed and energized.

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

    This week was the first time I nearly forgot to write a couple times. The days got away from me and somehow, after writing about it for the first time last week, part of my brain must have been satisfied with how far we’d gotten. But the point is to keep on writing every day. It wasn’t always so easy this week, but then on the train this afternoon I found myself bursting with ideas again. I’ve got seventeen dots now. That’s only fourteen away from my first full month. I can do it!

    5. Talk about the picture.

    Last night after dinner, I checked on my kale and sprouting broccoli plants. The white moths have been busy laying eggs this week and the larvae are not invited to the garden buffet! During my search, I found a caterpillar. The kids spent a good long time watching him crawl on the table and up and along this stick. We even watched the caterpillar poop. Seriously, who ever gets to see a caterpillar poop?! It was neat to see Peanut especially so engaged in watching this little creature.

    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. We’ll try it for a season and see how things go!

    In My Kitchen: Meal Planning

    Greens from the Garden

    Purple and Green Basil Delight!

    Polenta before

    Plenta (joy!)

    Summer Veg


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

    So excited that Heather’s back this week! I got all excited about joining in after a long summer ended up writing a rather emotional little post last week. But I also realized that I’ve come to rely on this weekly sharing for some good inspiration for my own kitchen. Cooking every day is a job that requires serious creativity. The ladies who share give me ideas about using ingredients, different combinations, and even meal plans. Most importantly, they remind me what’s in season here and elsewhere and just how beautiful the obligatory time we spend in our kitchens can be – if we let it!

    Around here, school is starting here. One of our big shifts from summer into fall is that the after-work schedule picks up and I’m on my own with the kids a couple nights a week. As with all things in my life, this kind of situation requires some kind of strategy and hopefully a list or seven. Over the past few years, I’ve tried different approaches to meal planning and learned a few lessons along the way. My introduction to meal planning was a decision when we lived in Chicago to make pizza on Fridays. It had more to do with a new mixer and an obsession with learning to make a good yeast dough than simplifying our eating. Meal planning has evolved since then. I thought I’d share my current plan and maybe get to hear back what others are doing!

    Working with themes or categories has turned out to be my favorite system. It limits my choices when planning a particular day and encourages me to look for meals that fit within the categories and make the family happy. I try to keep an updated list of favorites by category and that can help if I’m not feeling inspired. I plan a week or two weeks in advance, often just before grocery shopping. Sometimes I get to spend some quality time with a favorite cookbook and will fill in days with meals that fit the category. Here’s the game plan for this season with a current favorite for each category!

  • Monday: Soup (beef barley soup)
  • Tuesday: Pantry (polenta)
  • Wednesday: Fish (salmon steaks)
  • Thursday: Pasta (pasta salad)
  • Friday: Pizza (four-cheese pizza)
  • Weekend: one big meal, one easy meal
  • The schedule is flexible. This week, for example, it was just me and the kids on Wednesday but we’ll all be home on Thursday, so we are swapping fish and pasta. The actual plan lives in my agenda/weekly planner. I make a little colored box on each day right over the dinner hours and write the meal plan in there. It works well because any notes about going out to eat are right there. Notes about anyone eating elsewhere are there as well.

    As for this week’s pictures, the garden hasn’t been the massive bonanza I hoped for this year, but look at those beautiful greens! They were delicious, although my attempt at spelttoto (River Cottage Veg strikes again) wasn’t so nice. It may have something to do with using the wrong spelt. Ahem. As for the basil, I feel like I cracked the code this year! We have four happy, healthy basil pots on the window sill and enjoy eating from them once or twice a week. No pesto volumes yet, but this is fantastic!

    We have (or maybe I have) fallen hard for the River Cottage Veg polenta recipe. It is incredibly delicious, rich, and cheesy with so little work! It was divine with the veggies. It’s something about the buttery zucchini and sweet tomato sauce and cheesy polenta… I must stop or find myself in the kitchen making more! I ended up adding quite a bit more milk both times I made it, but that could be due to the type of polenta I’m using. I’d be curious about other peoples’ experiences.

    The cake is Sandkuchen that we decided to make when all other afternoon plans fell through due to first-week-of-first-grade exhaustion. I’ve got a thing for the Dr. Oetker recipes that’s related to a couple childhood years in Germany. The surprise ingredient in Sandkuchen is corn starch, as much corn starch as flour. It gives the cake a nice dense texture. Delicious!

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

    Summer Camping: France

    The beach in Brittany

    Happy dancer

    House and fence


    Bench for little girls

    Crafting at the campground

    We had six weeks of summer vacation this year, meaning no school for six weeks. It’s a bit shorter here than in the States. Instead of getting ten weeks in the summer, we get six weeks and the extra vacation time comes during the school year. It makes for a more relaxed year. We like being able to plan a few smaller trips throughout the year.

    Our big trip was two weeks of camping in France. I think of it as my last right of passage for living in the Netherlands. The summer camping trip in France is a typical Dutch family vacation. It goes so far that the ANWB (the Dutch Triple-A) and the newspapers publish traffic alarms for when the roads in France will be especially busy with mainly Dutch vacation traffic. School is out on Friday and on Saturday, everyone from that region of the Netherlands (there are three) hits the road for France. They broke a record this year with over 800km of traffic jams on one Saturday. It’s a shocking phenomenon.

    We went to Brittany. It’s the part that sticks out way into the Atlantic and it’s farther away than you’d think! The first week was in a pretty little town called in Locronan close to the coast. We were with three other families and had a wonderful time. The kids were out of the tent and off to play with friends as soon as they were up. We went to the pool, we went to the beach, we went to a fantastic Celtic music festival in Quimper. Those kids danced so hard and so long and so joyfully, it was beautiful. I can’t remember seeing them look so happy and free. Loved it.

    The next week we went inland towards an area called the Perche. It was quiet. We got hopelessly lost on a little walk behind the campground and spent 45 minutes fighting our way through big stands of blackberries and stinging nettle. The way out involved sending Papa out to scout a route, climbing up onto big old hay bales, jumping down, and then getting through the stinging nettle before finding the road again. What did the kids say after that little adventure? “That was the best! I want to do it again!”

    I really enjoyed the quiet of this vacation. There weren’t a lot of touristy things to do or check off a list. We went by Carnac to see the Asterix and Obelix monoliths, a must for any boy who has access to the box set, right? We spent an afternoon in Chartres eating pizza for lunch and checking out the cathedral. Other than that, there wasn’t much to do. We hung out at the campsite. We made good use of the drawing and crafting time. The kids wanted to draw together and I (re)discovered how relaxing I find time with paper and pencil. It’s not that I can draw at all, it was just nice to lose myself in something that wasn’t an obligation.

    Now we’re back to school, back to work, back to routines and schedules. There’s goodness there, too, but it was really a break to have those days of nothingness and sitting outside. I just might be converted to a camping vacation after all!