Tag Archives: family

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

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

Sandkuchen


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.

    In My Kitchen: Rooted

    Chioggia Beets

    blogged at: earthapplestudio.com/blog

    Chioggia Beets


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

    Yesterday I picked our four beets from the garden. They’re beautiful things, Chioggia beets that I grew from seed. They’ve got red and white rings on the inside, but I was too busy putting them straight into the oven for roasting to cut them open and look. We’ve been loving the Roasted Beetroot with Walnuts and Yoghurt Dressing from River Cottage Veg – a brilliant cookbook if there ever was one. I’ve never picked a beet before and it was a mini-adventure in my backyard. Selecting, pulling, rubbing off soil, and washing all put me in a meditative mode. Beets. Beetroot. Roots.

    I’ve never felt rooted. I’m the kind of girl who doesn’t like to answer questions about where she’s from. Rattling off a list of locations and dates is somewhere between boring and obnoxious. I am genuinely curious about a life in which people grow up and live in one place, or at least have family that stays in one place, a place they return to year after year after year. I went to elementary school in South Dakota. We lived in Germany before and Saudi Arabia after. I went to a boarding school and never stayed anywhere more than two years in a row for maybe fifteen years. Then we moved to Haarlem. We had shifted by then from my fmaily to me and my partner, now husband. We spent a long time in Haarlem, six years. They were busy years, but not building years. We knew we weren’t staying. A lot of people knew they weren’t staying. No one was rooted or putting down roots.

    All of which is to paint a picture. I don’t really know what it is to feel rooted and may not even know how to do it. It’s an action, right? Rooting? It has to do with people and places and connections, building and digging deep. In my life, those things have been fleeting. So many of the people and places that have been important to me are no longer present in my (daily) life. Lately I’ve started to miss them, sometimes a lot. Things are slowing down a little bit. We aren’t moving or planning on moving. Lately, I’m starting to feel like I’m a part of a community here in Nijmegen. It is like a little magic every day.

    The past 48 hours have been full of little extraordinarily mundane moments, but each of them has been special to me. A friend called just to chat. I can laugh at myself over finding this special, but in all honestly, it almost never happens. Most of my close friends live in different countries and time zones. The last time someone called to chat, I asked the babysitter to stay an extra hour! While we were biking to school, we ran into my husband’s colleague who lives in the neighborhood. We did the Dutch version of a quick catch-up, biking together and chatting until our routes diverged. After dropping of Peanut at school, a mom invited a couple of us over for coffee. In the afternoon, Pumpkin and I ran into more people we know in town. And when we finally all got home, the kids took off to our retired neighbors’ house for a good 45 minutes of spoiling.

    When did this all happen to me? This life in which I see people all over town? This life in which I’m not anonymous? I am not always sure what to do with all this, but oh my am I grateful. Grateful that all these people make space for me and my family in their lives. Grateful that we have such a wonderful group of people around us. Grateful that my littles are surrounded by caring adults and fun kids. Grateful that the stars aligned and brought us to this place in the world where it feels like we can settle in and put down some roots. All of which will certainly involve planting more beets, many more beets!

    Braided Hazelnut Coffee Cake

    Braided Hazelnut Coffee Cake

    A couple of weeks ago, I had an internet exchange with a friend about coffee cake, this coffee cake. It’s a braided hazelnut coffee cake that my mom used to make when we were kids. When you slice it open, there are layers upon layers of lovely hazelnut-chocolate filling and yummy sweet dough. It looks like magic and tastes better. However, explaining how to make it without pictures was beyond me. So, last weekend, I made one and took a ton of pictures in order to share with you! It’s actually pretty easy to put together once you know the trick and would work equally well with any kind of filling. Ground hazelnuts aren’t easy to come by. During the holidays, they carry ground hazelnuts at the Aldi just over the border in Germany here. I stock up each year and that’s how I manage it. My mom used to buy whole hazelnuts and put them through a grinder when we were kids. You’ll have to see what works best for you. I’ve decreased the sugar over time, so there’s about half the sugar and half the icing I used in the beginning. This works great for us, but you might like it sweeter. Have a look and give it a try!

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    Perspective

    Plasmolen walk

    Last week we went to Plasmolen, a little spot in Limburg quite near our house, and went for a walk. Just 3 kilometers of sometimes muddy trails, a few walkers, a few dogs, a few bikers, a great little stream along the path on the last kilometer (great for kids who probably would have been starting to get bored), an ingenious fountain built into the crack of a fallen tree, and a whole lot of geese to honk at from a distance. Every month or so we remember to take a Sunday for a family walk in the woods. I spend half the walk talking about how great it is and the fact that we have to remember to do it every month. He laughs at me because we live in the furthest corner of our little city with forest across the street on both sides. But there’s something special about going to a different forest. And if you’re living in the Netherlands, something very very special about going anywhere with a hill. Seriously – hills are a huge deal for our family. Makes sense if you live in a mostly flat country. Hills give the landscape perspective, they get me thinking about change and challenges in the landscape and in my life.

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    Send off…

    Grandma & Grandpa visit

    This morning we said good-bye to Grandma and Grandpa. They have been visiting for a couple weeks. The littles have had a grand time basking in all the attention and love and I’ve gotten to do a whole lot of sewing and got time to get my Etsy shop up and open. It seems that Grandma and Grandpa enjoyed themselves as well – they keep talking about coming back! We call that a win for everyone. And, you wonder, what have I been making?

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    These days

    These days, these days full of school and pre-school commitments, holiday preparations, sewing, and taking care of the family, these days are full. Sometimes we get to dinner and it feels like the first time I’ve really sat down all day. Taking time to enjoy the forest across the street, the rare sunny moments, and these two amazing little people I get to live with – sometimes it doesn’t happen without a big dose of intention. So yesterday, we did just that.

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    To market to market

    Lindenmarket Stall

    Last week I achieved a major milestone. EarthApple went to market for the first time and it was a success! As is my nature, I spent loads of energy in the preceding weeks worrying about every little detail I could think of. My reward was a positive market experience. There was plenty of product. I worked on my display at home and then, miracle of miracles, it worked out on location. While my doubts about my design and sewing skills will probably never disappear or even decrease (sorry, friends and family who will have to continue to live with that), at least the logistics don’t seem to be too much of a problem. This wasn’t at all an independent project, though, I’ve had great help all along the way to make it all work.

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