Lent so far…

IMG_20180214_105953_059In spite of appearances, I did not in fact give up blogging for Lent… But the past several weeks have been marked with more than their fair share of both curses and blessings – a sort of “May you live in interesting times” kind of deal. So, after a delightful Mardi Gras complete with masks and crêpes…

Lent opened up with a bang – everyone (including Grandparents who’d flown half way across the globe to visit us – yay!) got sick with a relatively awful stomach bug – boo. We still all managed to have a good time taking a weekend trip to Antwerp and going to the Zoo – yay! (but not getting to any of the lace/fabric shopping I was wanting to do – boo.)


The next week was school vacation – yay! But we were still all recovering from being sick – boo. The weather was a bit unexpected… A polar vortex in early March? Um, ok… We did make the most of it though and got some really delightful sunny outdoor skating done and drank a lot of hot chocolate. I really hope we get to live somewhere with real winters next time we move though. We were really not equipped for -10C temperatures. As a result, I’m honestly surprised the kids managed to skate at all – never mind stand up again when they fell, they were bundled up with so many layers!


This Tuesday I finally got to have my regularly scheduled alone while the kids are in care only to have crippling waves of nausea that had me sitting on the couch for a few hours trying to decide whether I needed to call in reinforcements to pick up said children – which it turns out is not conducive to sitting down to type up even somewhat coherent thoughts. (I ended up being fine. The nausea subsided just in time to get a picnic packed and go get the small ones and take them to the park – because of course the weather has moved on and it’s now +10C in the afternoon!)

So here we are, blogging on a Thursday, but otherwise getting back into a semblance of routine. As much as I love winter and ice and snow (of which we got only a dusting) I am ready for spring and its boots+jacket ease for getting everyone out the door… And I just remembered it’s the big one’s half birthday so we’re going to have to make some cupcakes happen! Life just doesn’t stop, which I suppose is for the best.



Food pictures for your Mardi Gras!

Hem, so Lent starts tomorrow – which means that if I want to get a wrap up of the delicious food I made over Christmas it’s sort of now or never. So, how about now?!

Everything was delicious, some of it was healthy and there are link to as many of the recipes that I can find on the internet! Enjoy!

Pepperkakor! Super duper spick thin crispy Swedish gingerbread cookies from Fika by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall. Both authors are artists in their own right and you should probably follow them on instagram. (And buy the book and make Semlor for Mardi Gras next year… it’s not something that will happen this year, but it did last year and it was the best.)

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Christmas breakfast! We go to mass on Christmas eve, usually midnight, but this year we did 7pm… And so breakfast on Christmas morning is a lazy baked french toast affair. No real recipe, just white bread, berries and cream cheese drowned in eggs and milk before baking, drowned in Maple Syrup after baking.


Christmas dinner! We made tourtière for Christmas eve, but somehow I didn’t get a pictures… We made a mixed seafood chowder (kind of a mashup between a Laura Calder recipe and an Aimée Wimbush-Bourque recipe – huzzah for Canadian ladies writing cookbooks!) with this brilliant crudité idea from Simple Bites. Oh and Sterrenbroodjes from the store, because they were cute.

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Christmas dessert! Bûche aux biscuits – the recipe is from a kid’s Christmas book, but basically you smash up a package of cookies and mix it with a bunch of butter and sugar and cup of coffee, shape it into a log and refrigerate overnight. Then you cover it in melted chocolate and serve it with the tartest tangiest berries you can get your hands on because it is *sweet*. Sirocco did all the smashing and mixing. I did the decoration. The leaves are coloured almond paste – but we only remembered to make them on the second day of Christmas…

Somewhere in there… Tortilla flower. A house favourite that got our darling children hooked on recipe videos. There are worse things on Youtube for them to find… It’s also super easy and delicious.

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New Year’s eve! I stayed up until midnight making Stout Cranberry Mascarpone Chocolate TrufflesJust let that sink in for a sec. From The Beeroness, which is always delicious (and often a bit of work, but so worth it!) And Kyle took pictures of me, but not of the finished truffles… So there you go. (My awesome, nerdy, Tolkien quote sweater is from Tea With Tolkien – purveyor of delightful nerdy, Tolkien things.)

Epiphany! Apple-marzipan galette. Phyllo dough, a bit of marzipan, sliced apples, one big whole almond. Laziest galette des rois ever. Still tasty!IMG_20180106_184335409

I also received a cookbook for Christmas. (The Simple Bites Kitchen – Suspense is not worth it, good cookbooks need to be shared!) So there are actual nice pictures of recipes from there, but that can be for another day! Enjoy the feasting and have a Holy Lent everyone!



{SQT} What the small ones are up to…

There have been some changes in our weekly rhythm (I think to the better!) in the last few weeks and between that and catching a cold, writing has been a bit harder to get to. Hopefully I can throw up something explaining the changes and the reasons and all that interesting (to me anyway) stuff. But for now, here’s what we’ve been able to do between some unexpected nice weather and our new schedule!

1 – Building things!
This is a campground. It’s pretty elaborate. Everyone, oddly, is sleeping, which rarely happens around here! I have mixed feelings about Playmobil… so. many. little. parts. But the characters and vehicles are cute and fun and the kids are massive fans, and do more story telling with them than any other toys, so it’s a win.


2 – Dressing up!
At home we have a big suitcase for costumes, which I try to switch up seasonally. Currently we have “parent” costumes which Mistral is wearing bits of (glasses, backpack, baby carrier, baby bottle) and pirate costumes to go with a wonderful boat curtain for their bunkbeds (thanks Mémère!). We are really lucky to also have a variety of dress up clothes at the big library downtown – here you see Sirocco as Willy Wonka the Postman…

3 – Library time!
We really are blessed with some lovely libraries around here. The downtown one pictured above is a bit far and requires planning to get to, but there’s also a branch just down the street – which we hadn’t ever been in until this week! We had been TO it two or three times in the first few weeks we lived in town, but somehow it was always closed (the opening hours are only afternoons and not Sunday, which took 2 trips to discover then the third time there was a staff training, so it was closed again!). It turns out, they do in fact open, and it is lovely. Books, trains, colouring pages, and nice big windows looking on to an active demolition site. Mistral was especially excited about that last part – there were big machines eating rocks and sticks. Sirocco picked up a colouring sheet and then drew his own version of it and had me colour it.

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4 – Exploring our town!
There are some fun things to do if you’re ready to brave the wind on a 3 person bicycle… Including playing on the tractor-cum-play structure at the Kinderboerderij.


5 – Yarn bombing!
In this installment of my kids independently discovering odd pop cultural phenomena they are “building a boat” by wrapping our living room bench in a particularly ugly ball of yarn I was conned into buying “to keep until we have a cat”, which is to say, forever, because, sorry kids, we’re not getting a cat…


6 – Going on adventures!
We listened to The Hobbit (Le Hobbit, actually, but anyway…) for the first time with the kids – mostly for Sirocco’s benefit – over the Christmas break and it was an out of the park hit. He loved it. And now, he lives it. (And we’re on our second listen through.) And Mistral comes along riding on whatever is available, in the true spirit of those unfortunate recent movies (which they have NOT seen, don’t worry).

7 – Learning to focus!
As you can maybe tell from the pictures, and definitely know if you know us irl… these are a couple of rather active kids we have living here. There’s a reason they have wind names on this blog and neither are nice gentle breezes… But sometimes, something catches their interest and they take pride in doing it very well. And that’s really wonderful to see.


So, that’s what’s been happening around here, and now, we’re probably going to go into Olympic coma for the next little while… Do make sure to check out the other links at This Ain’t the Lyceum!  Especially if you’re looking for some particularly excellent vaLENTines day cards…



Rainy days, screen time and play dough.

The Dutch have *many* weather words… Motregen is one. It’s not quite rain, but it’s thicker than mist. It doesn’t look too bad, but it gets you soaked really fast. I’m normally quite firmly in the “No bad weather; only the wrong clothes” camp (I should read that book everyone’s been talking about). However. Motregen + strong headwind on the bike definitely counts as bad weather. It was miserable. Instead of my planned park outing we decided to go home and have hot chocolate and wait for the weather to change. It didn’t.

We don’t do a ton of screen time with the kids, but short inspiring videos can really feed their imagination. We watched this short documentary on a traditional bread baker and Sirocco was enthralled. Of course, as soon as it was over he wanted to watch more, of anything. But if I’ve learnt one thing in the last few years of mothering it’s how to redirect attention! “How about we pull out the play dough and YOU can be a baker!” He was sold. Both kids rushed to the play kitchen and pulled out play dough, rolling pins, cookie cutter, plastic knives and carefully brought them back to the table. I brought out some extra flour for extra realism (and partly because of slightly sticky play dough – cream of tartar is not the same here I think…)

Mistral went straight to her usual  game of bashing the dough with her hands and rolling pin with loud exclamations, but Sirocco tried some new things. His play reflected the attention he paid. Trying a new role, imitating the careful motions he had seen. Still-chubby small hands trying to move like the rough but skillful ones he’d watched a few minutes ago. Furrowed brows as he selected from his little tools the one that most reminded him of what he had seen. Observing. Learning. And of course commenting…

“Maman. That is NOT how we make bread at home!” But maybe it will be how he does, someday.



{SQT} Nature study notes – Wet Winter

1- The Plan

In an attempt to get more intentional about heading outside and observing nature (in spite of the damp and cold) I got myself a copy of Exploring Nature with Children. It’s a really lovely year-round nature study curriculum and so, with excellent intentions, I wrote in space for it in our weekly schedule (which I vaguely follow). Of course, Nature has her own plans… Wild windstorms on the day we were planning to head out. No problem, I thought, we’ll go tomorrow. Then Sirocco was sick. The next, next day, he seemed better in the morning and a rare Dutch Winter sun was shining!! We would eat lunch and head out. But then he didn’t eat lunch. He went to bed and fell asleep immediately…

2 – Sunshine

Thankfully, my mother in law was visiting and volunteered to stay with him while I took Mistral out for a much needed airing. As I mentioned, it was sunny.


3 – At the park

We got to the park across the street, it was lovely, sunny. We spotted birds – crows, seagulls, blackbirds, black-capped chickadees. And of course, various dogs with their owners.


4 – No bad weather, only bad clothes

We made our way to the swings and felt the first raindrops. But it was windy, and had rained earlier, so it was *probably* just coming off the trees. And the big black clouds over there a bit further than our house were *probably* getting farther, not closer. It was, in short *probably* not about to pour on us. And it didn’t. Not exactly. It hailed. Out of a sunny sky. Mistral’s expression summarizes my feelings. We were wearing the wrong clothes for this.


5,6,7 – Low key street-nature study

So, until we are over this bout of illness, we will talk and read and watch documentaries about the weekly theme and just keep an eye open when we are outside anyway… With the strange weather we’ve had here there are quite a few early signs of spring cropping up, and it’s a joy to watch the kids notice them (and insist I take pictures).


Hope you are keeping warm and dry and make sure to check out the others at This Ain’t the Lyceum! Happy weekend.



One of those days…

{This post contains random unrelated photos from a hike we took this summer, because sick kids and existential questions are not especially photogenic}

It’s been a long one and a tough one. The kids are sick, which is never a good start. Well, actually it’s slightly worse than that. One is sick and sleepy and the other is a fiery bouncy ball of wild toddlerness who can’t understand why I won’t take her to the park… Oh, did I give away which is which?


Sleep has been scarce for the last week or so, mainly due to a cold featuring yo-yo fevers that go away and spring back at you unexpectedly. You never know when someone is going to wake up dripping with sweat, or suddenly feeling better and hungry for a snack.

Of course, this is always the prime setting for an existential crisis. That and the two-day migraine at the start of last week, before the kids got sick. I think that the basic culture shock is starting to wear off, and now I’m just struggling with where I fit in here. I was adamantly against putting our children in the International School, because I didn’t want our life here to be in a little “expat bubble”. I had lofty ambitions of picking up Dutch effortlessly and quickly and fitting right into the local community.


I guess I forgot that “fitting right in” has never really been what I do. Anywhere. Ever.* Even my best and tightest knit groups of friends have come together because we were misfits in some way. A bit dreamier, but with varied dreams. A bit too loud about a few of the wrong things, not the same things, but close enough that we could talk about them. Writers, but not in the same genres. Artists or artisans, in different media.

If I’m honest, with myself and with you, there’s really something to be said for the expat community. If only because there’s that shared understanding that our situations are very different but, as the Queens of the Stone Age so eloquently put it, “Sometimes the same is different / But mostly, it’s the same.” The same waves of homesickness, the same confusion, the same uncertainty, the same difference.


Maybe this relocation isn’t about adapting to my environment. Maybe it’s about creating it. Without the pressure of conforming. Because I have an out, I’m not from here. What would I do, if I didn’t know any better? How would I dress, eat, work, play, live, if I didn’t have cultural expectations ground into me? Where would I be, if I were wild and free?

I’m not from here. Perhaps now is the time to embrace that.



*Excepting my own family of origin and the one we’re currently building, but even then, we’re a pretty odd and assorted bunch.

Sounds and smells.

The explosions started on the 28th and I think we only heard one or two today, so I feel like it’s over. The first ones on “Old Year’s day” started around 10. 10am. That’s right. Nearby and faraway, all over town, firecrackers, and later fireworks, fusing. For 4 days straight. Explosions in the street, crackling fires of old furniture, broken down bikes and dried out Christmas trees, shouts of joy, peals of laughter, car alarms, emergency sirens – to no one’s surprise.

The smells mingled oddly. Sulfur from spent fireworks, grease then delicious fried dough and sugar from the oliebollen carts scattered on every square, and through it all or enveloping it, the distinct smell of cool misty air that seems a bit too thick and too wet to breathe.

But the sights you ask? Not much to be honest. Until. Until the year was spent. And then – only then, magic. The sky lit up in all directions. You couldn’t turn and not see flashes. Gold and silver, red and green, purple and blue, bursting, twinkling, falling away. Starting back up, over and over, a minute, then two, then ten and twenty, for an hour, unstopping and another then fading, slowly into the now dark again night.

The New Year came in, with a bang. I hope it finds you well.


Belligerence and Chocolate.