Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Intimate subjects

"Tell it like it is" often is an expression used to excuse saying whatever you want without caring about the feelings of others. Sometimes it means talking about a person in a hurtful way. Sometimes, under the motto of 'calling a spade a spade' it means talking about things without delicacy.
Of course I think we should always speak the truth, but not every topic is as suitable for every occasion or to be shared with every person. Sometimes when blogging I feel called to speak about something for which I would use a different voice level in public or even in private. SSometimes these are beautiful subjects, like childbirth, or the joy between husband and wife. But they are... intimate.
I would like to use this button at the top of my post to alert people to this change in tone. Certainly, whatever is written on an open blog on the internet is by it's very nature public. But this way I wish to at least hang some sheer curtains over what is to come, allowing you to walk past with a smile, or to carefully step behind the curtains to listen.

I invite people to use this same button or to design their own. To add a quiet little alcove in your blogs if you want to speak about something that requires a bit more delicacy from both the writer and the reader. The button is not intended to be an excuse for any form of lewd posting or exhibitionist behaviour. Don't forget: sheer curtains won't stop anyone from actually reading what you say.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Not sure what hit me

I am still...sick. ICK! I feel like all I have done the last few months is talk about how I am sick. But ever since the start of november I have alternated between sick (cold, flu, cold) and slowly recuperating. Each time I am finally well again, it seems like an other virus is ready to strike. I am hoping that we manage to break this cycle before we return home to South Carolina after the holidays. I have so many plans (better meals for my family, better planning for my days) and a body that just isn't cooperating.
I need some vitamins or an immunity booster. Any recommendations?

Friday, December 26, 2008


I have had problems falling asleep my entire life, even since I was a todler. My brain seems to refuse to shut off and it takes hours of frustrated laying awake before I finally fall asleep.
I've had periods of insomnia throughout my teenage and adult life, but still everything has always been manageable. Still I've always had a healthy respect for sleep. Never more so though than after the last year. As anyone who has read through a few posts on this blog knows, my wonderful little boy had a big problem with sleeping. Not just the normal sleep deprived six weeks, not just the next three months... no. Joseph refused to sleep through the night until he was eight months. He kept waking up four times a night, with the night going from about 10.30 pm till 5.30 am.
I learned many things about myself during those difficult months. Although to be fair I think I learned most of it afterwards. During the eight months I was too busy surviving from day to day, from half hour nap to half hour nap. I do not like the person I become when I have a chronic lack of sleep. My personality changed, my brain didn't function the way it should. I have actual gaps of memory. I could not think of the simpelest words, like fridge. Or bread. Even 'baby'. ANd even the substituting 'thing' would simply escape me.
I started to feel insecure about myself, my life, my choices. I simply did not recognise myself anymore and I doubted if motherhood simply was something I was not cut out to do.

I am thinking of all these things as I am in the midst of a two week spread of bad sleep. From stress to illness, it seems as every other night there is something that limits my sleep to two to three hours a night. And I find some of the symptoms returning. I am definitely more cranky, and common words start to escape me again. Still, ten days... two weeks... with here and there a good night thrown in is nothing compared to what came before.

It is strange to rediscover in these last months, the person I was before sleep deprivation. It is a joy as well to see that I didn't actually change, that what happened was purely physical and not something I did wrong. In a way this annoying episode confirms that. It also makes me feel more encouraged towards future children. They might have the same difficulties as Joseph, but now I know that I have survived this and can do so again, that I will not be permanently changed into a shrew, even though I might feel like one on some days.
They also might be one of those fabled babies that sleep through the night after four weeks... in which case I probably will worry wether or not this is normal, but I think I will be able to adapt soon enough.

Topics to blog about

- Being a transplant from Europe
- the power of saying no: waiting for the right husband, not buying pretty things that do not fit in your style, teaching children to deal with hearing no, etc.
- Changes and saying farewell, Joseph aproaching pre preschool.
- Bento boxes
- homemade gifts
- monday: the simple womans daybook
- feminine friday
- Joseph is good catholic: little office of the blessed virgin mary he took out of his faters bookbag, the litany of the hours he removed from the couch a few hours later, pointing to mass and calling out "Jee' on tv. Giving kisses to baby Jesus.
- the funeral musings: all four women sitting in front, men and children behind. Where was the support? Did it have anything to do with a fathers lack of example>

Thursday, December 25, 2008

THe simple womans day book: boxing day edition

I've long admired the principle of "The simple woman's day book" to just allow a quick glimps into your house and mind. Inspired by Shannon from "after the fire" I decided to enter in today, even though it isn't a monday.

FOR TODAY december 26th, 2008

Outside my window...the dawn is slowly clearing through the grey of the sky
I am thinking how indulgent it is to have a little bit of computer time in the morning, tucked away in this little alcove in my old bed, while my husband and baby are sleeping. There are certain advantages to jet lag after all.

I am thankful for a wonderful Christmas yesterday. Last years christmas, the first one with a baby, was mired in a fog of over exhaustion and adjustments. This year things went so much better.

From the learning rooms: Life is learning. I am making good intentions for next year to learn to knit socks.

From the kitchen: being at my mothers house in Belgium for thanksgiving means I do not have to cook much. Instead I am enjoying delicious food. Today will be a left over day. We will have chicoree soup, left over chicken Agnes Sorrel, made by my aunt Mieke for yesterdays celebration, left over homemade eggrolls from my aunt Ligaya, left over guacamole from my mother and left over rice pudding from my mother. My tummy is growling already and I am considering which of these would be most apropriete for breakfast. Who wants to eat a sandwich with such delicacies awaiting?

I am wearing: my cuddleduds!

I am creating: a red, knitted scarf for my grandmother

I am going to Ikea either today or tomorrow

I am reading scores of Belgian magazines to catch up with what happened here in the non important news.

I am hoping that I will not get my husbands cold and that next year will see the positive trend of the last 4 months continue.

I am hearing my son who has woken up and been taken out of bed by his 'oma' which means I will need to quite playing around after this post. *W*

Around the house: the sound of Joseph's running footsteps and his voice are calling me. We cleaned up most things yesterday evening, so there is not much to do today, except enjoy.

One of my favorite things: getting kisses.

A few plans for the rest of the week: only a few? Go to adoration, plan a retreat, go to Ikea, go to my father, see my previous colleges from the catechesis, celebrate new years and go back home to the USA.. how is that for a busy week?

Here is picture thought I am sharing:

((I'm sorry, blogspot seems to be unwilling to publish pictures today. I will see if I can rectify this later))

Merry Christmas: in retrospect...

I just wanted to wish everyone a merry christmas.
Christmas with children is a whole other experience. As you can read here, I found that out for the first time last year in a fog of over exhaustion and dissapointment. Life with Joseph did not become much easier after that for nearly half a year more. Now, while we still have challenges, I feel like I am slowly returning to be a human being, which makes it much easier to be a mom. THe fact that Joseph is a wonderful, happy boy though, reassures me that I was a mom to him also when it was not easy.

This christmas so far has had it's own challenges. I will not even bring up the disaster of a journey that we had to Belgium or the annoying (though praise God not serious) ilnesses that we seem to go through each time we come here.
But there are things that are simply different when celebrating Christmas with a child. Traditions must change.. expectations be altered and the whole experience is a lot less cerebral and serene.

There are so many changes. We ended up not having a christmas tree inside at all this year. It was too much of a hassle to put one up in our own home when we were going to Belgium anyway on the 17th, and come back only after new year. And here at my mothers house, she -wisely- decided it would be much safer and simpler to put the tree outside. That also means... no ornaments in it as the ones we have are not suited for outside. That means no traditional decorating of the tree on the tones of Toon Hermans' Christmas skit and remarks about the little birdy that has graced the tree as long as I remember or 'my angels' the plastic, silver coloured angels of which one has a wing missing.

I did manage to put up a nativity scene in our house in the US, high up on the mantle since it is a beautiful, woodcarved scene that isn't intended for little childs hands. To compensate that, we bought a nice plastic nativity as well to put in the reach of little hands. Which lead to such wonderful exclamations as "Joseph, on't eat the baby Jesus!" But also to such tender scenes as Joseph giving little baby Jesus a kiss.
Unable to resist, we bought a second nativity for Joseph when we discovered the above duck nativity. With his duck obsession, it was a must. Fond memories include Joseph removing one of the three kings and adding a fireman duckie. New traditions are made. I think every nativity from now on will have to have fireman duckie somehwere nearby.

A bit more poignant is that we did not go to midnight mass for the first time in say... twenty five years. But with a todler finally on a semi decent sleep schedule waking him up at ten before midnight is just not an option. Instead we went to the noon mass today. A better choice. Despite it's lack of bells and whistles we were able to celebrate the birth of Our Lord with a happy toddler who even consented to remain in his stroller the entire time. When I went up for communion, my prayer was the same as last year: Lord, help me become a good wife, mother and above all a good Christian. I miss midnight mass, but as I have come to accept, this is a seaon in life where some things have to give way for other things. If I wish to celebrate a Child born unto us, I should not be grumbling and grudging about the things I need to change in my own beloved routines and traditions because of my sweet son.
Now more than ever, we are a new family, with new traditions in the making. Maybe I did not have a christmas tree with an angel that has a broken wing. But I had a duckie nativity, with one of the three wiseman replaced by a fireman. Life is good, Christ is born!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I found this one on Emma's blog and decided to join in

1. He’s sitting in front of the TV: what is on the screen? CNN or Criminal Minds

2. You’re out to eat. What kind of dressing does he get on his salad? He has a cesar salad with cesar salad dressing. Any other salad: Italian.

3. What is one food he doesn’t like? chocolate. Can you believe it?

4. You go out to the bar. What does he order? Not sure if there is a difference between a bar and a cafe, but if he orders an alcoholic drink it's usually a beer.

5. Where did he go to high school? John Burroughs High School St. Louis.

6. What size shoe does he wear? 11

7. If he were to collect anything, what would it be? Books and Star Wars stuff

8. What is his favorite type of sandwich? French Dip roast beef

9. What would the Husband eat every day if he could? fries. Or my chili con carne.

10. What is his favorite cereal? Raisin bran

11. What would he never wear? over priced clothes

12. What is his favorite sports team? Saint Louis Cardinals

13. Who is his best friend? Aside from me, Mandy.

14. What is something you do that he wishes you wouldn’t do? Worry

15. How many states has he lived in? Four: Missouri, Washington DC(I know, not a state, so Virginia) California and South Carolina, plus a year abroad in England.

16. What is his heritage? Mostly German.

17. You bake him a cake for his birthday; what kind? Cinamon raisin cake

18. Did he play sports in high school? golf and track

19. What could he spend hours doing? Working, reading, playing on the internet, spending time with me and Joseph.


Next time we travel, I am taking a rattle with me and I am yelling "unclean" "Unclean" all the way through the airport so people can be warned that they might want to reconsider traveling alongside us. We were fine when we flew to Washington, so I think Joseph is our little 'good luck charm' in travelling by plane.
It started with what I thought was a bout of nervous nausea. That became something akin to foodpoisoning the night before we were supposed to leave. It was BAD. The airline of course did not want to put us on a flight a day later since we had the cheaper, unchangeable tickets. (This despite the fact that they changed our unchangeable tickets months after they were booked because they cut a few flights out between the US and Brussels. But hey, only passengers need to be understanding of hard times. Airlines don't))
So, miserable with what I thought was foodpoisoning we started the hour and a half car ride to the airport. Joseph threw up in the car over his nice traveling outfit. It should have been a sign of things to come but we were naive.
Luckily I had packed a spare outfit and in a new onesie and new pants we travelled on. I can not praise my husband enough for he took all the childcare out of my hands and let me just lay down on the airport floor when that was possible. We were on time for our connecting flight and that one seemed to leave on time. Seemed.
Everyone went on board and then we sat stuck on the tarmac for three full hours with one stupid delay after another. The only thing I wanted was to be in the air, to have my sweet son fall asleep and to hopefully sleep myself. I was in constant fear of the toilet being occupied during one of my quick dashes there or that they would throw me off the plane if they noticed I was sick.

During this time, Joseph managed to blow out not just his diaper, not just his diaper and his onesie. But his diaper, his onesie, his pants, and even his socks. I changed him in the airplane toilet and after three of the longest hours of my life, we finally went in the air. Joseph behaved like a wonderful baby. I am so blessed so far each time with his behaviour as we travel. It took an age to get all our lugage, but everything did arrive and my mother was waiting for us. She took care of Joseph in the afternoon when I finally stretched out on a bed and could let the illness take it's course.
Everything seemed to be allright and ready for a nice vacation. Seemed.
The first night Bill became sick too. Clearly not foodpoisoning. Stomach flu. Joseph seemed happy the next day but vomited twice more and had diarrhea.
The next day my mother became ill. Jet lagged and unable to sleep at night my stomach refused to recover. I am now on day five or six of the bug. I am finally able to eat again, if I am careful with what I chose. Just in time for the first christmas party tomorrow.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wish I was at home... for Christmas

I grew up with this song. For me it is never Christmas unless I have heard it. While I travel home, I think of those in the armed Forces who have to celebrate far away from their loved ones.

Friday, December 12, 2008

just don't bring it in...

I have a fourteen month old todler. He is the most active, curious little boy I have ever met. My house is not spotless. In fact, my house is so far from spotless I am slightly embarassed. My biggest challenge is the floor. Joseph manages to get things on there that do not wipe off easily if they are not removed immediatly. And of course there are toys scattered here and there, and my desk, despite me tidying it once a week dares to collect papers and crackers and even a bottle of apple cider that belongs in the kitchen cabinet.
There. That is a disclaimer out of the way.

My house may be untidy it is, however, not cluttered. Maybe it is because I grew up in Europe where there simply IS less house to clutter. Maybe it is because I lived in a one room efficiency for two and a half year, where I only had a few kitchencupboards, two under the bed boxes and an armoir. But I do not have a cluttered house.

Just like there are only two secrets to losing weight (diet and exercise) there are only two secrets to having an uncluttered house: not bringing it in, and getting it out. The famous flylady program is right about that. You can not organise clutter. You can only eliminate it. The way to do that is simple. If you do not absolutely love it AND need it, do not buy it. Do not accept it if it is given. Do not let it cross the treshhold of your house. If it is already IN your house, and you do not love it and need it, get it out.

Old papers need to be tossed. Old clothes need to be tossed or given away. My husband and I share one (admittedly big) closet, and even with both of our clothes in it, it is not full. I own about six pairs of shoes in total. One pair of boots, one pair of black work out shoes. Two pairs of heeled shoes, and one pair of heeled sandals, and one pair of flats. I do not need any more, so I do not store anymore.
We were blessed with a lot of clothes after my son was born. At 14 months, of course he has outgrown many of them. I tossed a very limited amount of clothing that was just not usable anymore, selected some outfits that I had really, really loved, and donated the rest. Yes, we do plan more children but we trust that we will be able to provide new (or second hand) clothes for our new baby then. And in the mean time an other mom will be blessed with these.

My biggest problem in tossing is keeping things out of a guilty conscience. Remember that lipstick that you bought, that you have worn two times and simply do not like? You can not throw away a brand new lipstick can you? You spend money on it! Maybe you will change your mind? Maybe you will grow to like it. Maybe you will grow a tail? Keeping this lipstick will not make you like it more. So the only consequence of keeping it, will be that it takes up room in your house while it still will not be used and you will still not get your money's worth out of it. If you are not using it, and you can not see something changing that will make you use it, toss it NOW.

Living in an uncluttered house makes it easier to clean when you DO have the time. If I manage to spend three hours cleaning, I can have my entire house done, plus toss in a few loads of laundry at the same time. While I rarely have this time, it IS wonderful to know that while my house isn't tidy, it never is more than three hours away from tidy.

Feminine Friday

I gladly participate in feminine friday again this week and am taking my cue from the Barefoot mama. Her wonderful entry goes in search for the missing cute little girl dresses of yesterday. Now I am giving the subject a twist though. In my childhood, dresses were out. One of my biggest laments of being a child in Belgium in the late seventies and into the eighties is the lack of beautiful dresses. I was a girly girl. I loved dresses and would have kept them nice and clean too! For my confirmation, I ended up with a white pantsuit combination because it was impossible to find a nice white dress for the occasion. I am glad that as an adult I can find all the nice dresses and skirts that I have missed all these years.

Now that I am mother of a cute, wonderful 14 month old boy, my biggest frustration is the absence of cute, wonderful clothes for him! Where are the little sailor outfits? The tiny suits? The pants with white shirts and little ties. I am all too aware that dressing up has long gone out of the window for anything but weddings and funerals -and even there you can find yourself out of luck- I want to dress my little boy nicely. After all 'gentlemen' are one half of 'ladies and gentlemen'.

I can understand that in any given children's store, 70 percent or more of the clothes are intended for girls. After all, who does not fall in love with the cute little cardigans or sweet little dresses that the fashion industry allows those under the age of six. (After that age, mothers of girls run into a whole new set of problems.) But from the age of one, it seems boys are supposed to fall into one of the following three categories: basketball players, camo-wearing soldiers, or foul mouthed rappers.
Even if the slogan or picture is not offensive, the colours are loud and the style is ultra casual. Only now, around Christmas, you can find some cute little suits and shirts. Simply finding a real shirt with buttons is a challenge throughout the rest of the year.

Of course I am not sending my son dressed in a 3 piece suit to play in the sandpit, just as mothers of girls know that there is a time for a bit of lace trim, and a time for T shirts and knits. But when we go to church on sunday, or on a visit to grandma, I want him to look dressed up. After all, I am raising the next generation of gentlemen. If I want girls in 20 years to find men who know how to wear something else aside from track suits and jeans, I need to teach him now, or the idea of wearing a tie will be foreign and ackward to him at age 16.
Real men, know how to dress. And it is up to us mothers, to teach them.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I am learning to knit. Well, I am beyond the first stages of learning and into the fact that I am actually knitting things. Simple things. I have knitted three scarves, one shawl, and two pairs of baby bootees. The first pair was my very first knitting project. I am proud to say that it actually looked like baby bootees. A bit less proud of the fact that they would be rather big for any baby of the human variety, but maybe Sasquatch has a newborn that is in need of a pair. Especially if he has two different shoe sizes.
My second project was a lacy shawl. I could of course not start with a scarf or a hat like a normal human being. But the shawl worked out and after that came the scarves. And then I found courage enough for the second pair of baby bootees, which actually look very nice.

I turned to knitting after my son was born. Since I was about ten, I have done embroidery: napkins, handkerchiefs, display projects, pincushions I have love it. It takes a bit of time though to set up nicely, to have all the threads at the ready, the scisors need to be close by, to find the next stitch you want to add. It's a lovely passtime for long, leisurely hours of silence and contemplation, with beauty growing beneath your hands. But long, leisurely hours were a thing of the past with a newborn, and still are with a todler.

Embroidery didn't fit in this season. I tried, I wrestled, I promised myself to find time, but as you read in my previous post on this, I just could not do it. After a lot of frustration, and inspired by the book: "no idle hands, a social history of American Knitting" I decided to learn how to knit. After all, if pioneer women on their wagons, between cooking, child care, and birthing found time to knit,
I should be able to find the oportunity too, right?
To my surprise I actually did. While knitting always has been a problem, this time, learning from a cheap booklet, it actually 'took'. The rhythm sooths me and allows me to focus on other things. For a few weeks I managed to get up at 6.30 am and put half an hour of knitting and contemplative prayer in.

During the day I find that simple knitting is easy to carry along. I can even carry it with me while I walk behind my little boy playing in the garden. So many things have been 'knit in' these scarves. Laughter, worries, warm rays of october sun and the occasional autumn leaf that had to be plucked out... I think it makes them more precious.

I have found that knitting has a wonderful calming effect on me, which in turn has a postive effect on everything around me, even my household, though at the moment the house doesn't reflect that as we are still trying to get organised after three weeks of sickness and two weeks of traveling. I have found that it is easily tucked in little pockets of time, while relaxing and sometimes even while busy. I have found that it allows me to be actively engaged with my son and my husband while I am just knitting or purling along. Of course this might also be because I barely have a pattern to follow and am just knitting straight on. I am learning quickly to knit blindly to make it even easier to knit without too much attention.

No wonder that knitting has been a symbol of domesticity for so long, when it combines both convenience, practicality and creativity, in one simple craft.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One of those days

Today was one of 'those' days that all mothers seem to know. And I am writing this when it is only 11 am. Who knows what it still has in store for me?
It started with a bad night of sleep. Then with Joseph waking up at 6.30, after days and weeks of solid sleep till 7.30 and lately even 8.30 am. But no... he was awake, awake, awake and wanted out of the bed.
Okay.. without even much of a grumble (good mommy!) I took him downstairs. He wanted out of the sleepsack so I helped him and then went to make him a cup of milk. Somehow, someway... someWHY... in the few seconds that I had my back turned, he managed to take his diaper off. I had spotted it and immediately resolved to put a new one on as soon as I had put the milk in the fridge. By the time I had done so, Joseph had celebrated his accomplishment by peeing on the floor. And sitting contently in the midst of it.
Thank goodness for hardwood!

So, several paper towels, a dishcloth and a new diaper later, morning was back on track. Until my son saw me put on my computer and insisted that he gets to see duck. Since he does usually see him in the morning, I put him on my lap to go to youtube. He immediately slammed his skull into my face, crushing my lip against my teeth. Luckily no blood, but definitely swollen. After duck and after dadda had left for work, he tried to gauge out my eyeball during a session of 'let's climb mommy'. He failed, but was sincerely dissapointed that he was not allowed to push his finger into my eyesockets. Ah... the hardships of todler life. I am telling him often how he has such a cruel, cruel mommy.

The last incident so far was a new one on me. Joseph has been drinking out of a cup with a straw for months now. He is very proficient at it and while there has been an occasional few drops spilled, there have been no major accidents.
Today however, he decided, while I took my eyes off him for a second, that the lid needed to be pried off the cup while it was still half full of milk.
Once more I say... Thank goodness for hardwood.
Thank goodness for washing machines.

It is now 11.20 am... Thank goodness for naps.

Addendum: my beloved husband reminded me that he was the one who actually carried our little boy downstairs while I was shrugging into a robe. See... despite the fact that he has been weaned for nearly two months now, occasionally when he is hungry in the morning, Joseph just looks at mommy and thinks: FOOD! My not being too grumbling happened after I came downstairs and had Joseph on my lap. I did explain though that 6.30 am is way too early to be up.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Duck... duck... duck... duck... duck.... duck.....GOOSE

I was out of inspiration when I started this post. I always have such great ideas to blog about when I am in the car, when I am folding laundry, when I am singing the alphabet song. But when I here, sometimes I just get a whole head full of... blank. So I look around me for inspiration. And what do I see at a foot distance on my desk? A small rubber duckie with a flower necklace around his neck. Looking a bit further on the floor, I see a rubber duckie with a crown and a purse. On the hearth there is a duckie nativity. And I am sure that if I took the effort to just stand up from this chair I wouldn't even need to move more than a few steps away to see more ducks littering my living room.

Lest you think this obsession with duckies is mine: the blame for ducks scattered around belong to my fourteen month old son. He is fond of duckies. He is VERY fond of duckies. Okay... he is obsessed with duckies. How that happened, I do not know. One day, after a bath, he didn't want to let go of his rubber duckie. Probably he thought it was something fun to chew on.

Well, that one duckie turned into three duckies. Then there were duckies on his birthday cake.... and from there on a whole ducky empire started to build. My fourteen month old son who never wanted anything to do with any of the stuffed animals that were bought for him, went to bed with a stuffed duck today.
We noticed that his fondness for ducks started to become larger than life when in every single book he could spot a duck from a mile away. In Maisy takes a bath, the duck drifting in the bathtub became Joseph's main character. He even fills out the sentence: "Maisy takes a bath with .... 'duh'.
Things really got out of hand though when mommy remembered a cartoon character from the Netherlands and decided to show it to Joseph. By now I know the begin tune of "Alfred Jodocus Kwak" in three languages and am blackmailed into showing it three times a day on the computer. During our thanksgiving trip, Joseph rushed through every person in the airport that had a laptop to call out excitedly: "Duh, Duh" in the hope that they would show him the video. Even computerised cash registers are seen as potential duck - deliverers. And I would have never in my life thought that I would have occasion to invent a word like 'duck deliverers".

Anyhow, to allow you all to share in the duck enduced madness, here is the English version of Alfred Jodocus Kwak, aka, my sons obsession.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

December sixth is Saint Nicholas day in many countries around the world (december fifth in the Netherlands). In the US the tradition is only observed by some people, mostly Catholics. Finding the Saint Nicholas cookie cutters too late on a website to have them delivered, I decided to shape some homemade speculaas dough by hand. With a bit of imagination, you can recognise a bearded man, with a miter, bishopsrobes, and a staff in his hand.

On the evening of December fifth everyone puts their shoes in front of the fireplace and in the morning, the good Saint leaves candy and small gifts. Joseph received a little nativity scene and a pair of boots to use in Belgium at Christmas, mommy a knitting book and daddy a calender and a few cans of imported nalu.

We were extremely lucky to have a REAL Saint Nicholas near us. The local Orthodox Church has a yearly festival for this advent Saint. With the blessing of the local bishop The Reverend Father Thomas Moore is Saint Nicholas for one day. In memory of the Saints generosity, the children get one gold Chocolate coin, and on my request, Father blessed our Joseph. Unfortunately the only picture I managed to snap had Joseph looking the other way.
If you are ever near Columbia around this time of the year, come and visit. The festival is small, but wonderful!

Friday, December 5, 2008


Maybe it is a coincidence, or maybe on some days I share a few braincells with Shannon from "after the fire". But I made soup today. As a child I never liked soup, now as an adult, I love it. It's warm, it's filling, it's cheap. Unfortunately, my husband does not share my enthousiasm for many soups, but he loves my split pea soup.
Split pea soup is probably one of the easiest and most forgiving dishes. I have made it with beef broth, I have made it with some vegetable stock cubes. I have made it with plain water and real bacon... the only other ingredient really needed is.. you guessed it: split peas.

So for everyone who wants to make an extremely easy soup on a cold wintery day:

- Grab a crockpot or otherwise a large dutch oven cookpot
- Put in water
- Put in split peas
- Add extra flavour with some stock cubes, bacon, a hambone or whatever you have around.
- Put on low simmer for hours and hours till everyone is begging you to serve it.
- A great finish are some chopped up hotdogs or smoked sausage. If you prefer a vegetarian option; how about some garlic croutons.

There is just something about that big bowl of soup that allows you to relax on the couch and listen to the sound of the rain, the crackling of the snow or just the silence of the falling darkness. There are few things that will make a gathering as informal and friendly as a big bowl of chunky soup. It speaks of oldfashioned hospitality and welcome. It tells you the hostess does not feel the need to impress you and that you do not need to impress anyone. It whispers: be comfortable here. And don't we all want to be comfortable on those dark wintery days?

Welcome back

I've returned from the land of headcolds and wonderful family visits to find a wonderful surprise on my blog.

Elizabeth, from "a merry rose" has given me my first award! With apropriete pride I display it here, and want to thank her for encouraging me. I was having some trouble getting into the blog spirit amidst all the holiday preparations, and to find this really put me back to the keyboard!
Thank you Elizabeth, and I will strive to flutter my wings.