Spring has sprung

School life has begun again and fatigue and different priorities kick in, as always. Luckily, it’s the last part of the year, leaving me then two whole months to enjoy the last weeks of pregnancy, quietly preparing birth and an addition to our family of three in September.

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Spring is also making its way into our home, garden and heart. Cold and rainy days are still there, but every now and then, sun shows her shiny face and warms my chilly mood. I let Little Boy potter in the garden as much as he wants and it forces me to go outside too. He know how to play on his own, but likes to show me his finds and his activities, so I’m not allowed to hide inside constantly. So we prepare little picnics when weather is warm enough, and I do my kitchen work while looking through my window and seeing my love play and enjoy himself. On those days, life is good.

It gets harder when I have to go to school. While I like teaching, a lot, those few months of having my own rhythm and pace, focusing on home, family and myself, have given me a taste of what life could be like too, and I find it hard to integrate that into the day to day schedule of school days and teaching. Big part of it is because I have started in January, when school is already settled and routines have formed. For me, it was hard to get myself involved and care about the students the way I did before – starting to build a bond halfway the years is not the easiest of things and it’s mostly because I did/do not put enough effort into it. Pregnancy has to do a lot with it of course – those three months of everyday sickness and feeling horrible didn’t help and after that… well it just doesn’t seem worth it for the few weeks that are still ahead of us.

Oh well, we’ll tackle it day by day and in the end it will work out, as it always does. In the mean time, I try to get my thoughs refreshed by things that inspire me – getting in the kitchen, building routines and reading everything that catches my attention. Which is a lot.

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And feeling contentment with the soup bubbling away on the stove, made with bits and pieces I have found in the pantry and the fridge, sprinkled with some curry powder, knowing that it will warm us up in no time, nourishing our bodies and minds. It’s what I hope to find in the whole foods kitchen course I signed up for.

Hike – Moulin du Bayehon (Longfaye)

Sometimes, my husband has great ideas. Not very well thought through, sticking to a concept and waiting for me to work it out (or waiting until the very last minute because I refuse to), but great ideas anyway. Yesterday he took a day off, because he wanted to go for a hike. Weather forecast was rather ugly, he had no idea of where to go, our Little Boy has no hiking shoes, only boots (which are nice in the mud, but not very good for climbing rockes), and he decided the minute before we left, we should take a picnic. So I was rather grumpy, making sandwiches while a bouncing little kid couldn’t wait for us to pack everything.

Finally we left. We had decided on a hiking spot (I found someone who described the exact hike we did and took even better pictures), and said to each other we would walk for an hour to see how far we were and to turn if necessary. It was a 90-minute drive there, and I had estimated we would only be able to walk for two hours without Little Boy getting completely annoyed and crying and wanting us to carry him. It meant we would be in the car for longer then we were outside. Oh well. Sometimes my husband and his ideas…

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The closer we got though, the more I was looking forward to it. Little Boy was extremely sweet in the car, entertaining himself with a few toys we had packed for him. Landscapes were gorgeous. Sun was shining. Traffic was smooth. It felt like we were on holiday.

Once there, the hikes were very well indicated, there were only a few people on the road and after only five minutes we got to cross al little stream, using a wooden bridge alongside the rocks. Little Boy was sold on the spot and hiked his guts out, splattering through the little streams of rain water on the path, impatiently going for the next bridge and super excited to see that after a while the road would climb and the path became rocky. Problem is, the kid always wants to go first and sometimes that was just not safe. He often tripped too, mostly because he was running or preferring to stand on the most impossible stones he could fid. We had a blast and walked for three hours.

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His father was, in the meantime, getting completely warmed up to the idea of having a hot chocolate and a crepe after the hike. To his huge disappointment, all Little Boy wanted to do was  get in the car. Even the promise of chocolate wouldn’t help. Poor husband… devastated! I promised him we would all think of it as a funny story in a few years.

Actually, in my opinion, it already is.

Threads of wool and love

My grandmother will soon be 85 years old and is still as creative as I have always known her. When I was a kid, I once stayed with her for a week, and I have very fond memories of those days in the appartment. She instilled in me the love of making cards, cutting and gluing things, seeing the possibilities for every scrap of paper. And she learned me to appreciate onions.

The last few years, with a growing herd of great-grandchildren, she took up knitting again. Every now and then, she calls me to ask how much our Little Boy has grown, and what colors he likes lately. And then she knits her heart out.

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The very idea of it warms my heart. It feels like she puts herself in a long tradition of knitting grandmothers. It’s not how I knew her as a child. She was a bit of a special type in my eyes. She couldn’t cook (she always tried, but it didn’t taste good actually), she was not into wool, she smoked like a chimney (still does) and she has the most contagious laugh ever. I don’t even especially like what she knits.

But the love and attention that go into her work, feeling how my Little Boy is part of the family (we didn’t see that side of the family very often, due to the distance – which is nothing in comparison with distances most families in bigger countries have to face, but still – in our country it counts as far away), feeling how we are all connected through threads of wool and love.

Just around the corner

I’ve always had a problem shooting landscapes. I really stink at it! However, I can be so touched by beautiful scenery, that I silently (our loudly, depending on the occasion) curse my lack of skills. It’s something I absolutely want to learn, but I never take the time to do it properly. Because, to practice shooting landscapes, one should go somewhere where at least there is something worth that name. My garden is not big enough to be able to shoot landscapes…

But every once in a while, there is that shot, that precious shot, that nails it. Just around the corner, the first day of a new year, completely frozen and so breathtakingly gorgeous that I fall in love with this place over and over again.

 

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Reflections on Sunday #13

  • Easter holiday! Weather was not bright, so a lot of playing inside. But with a little creativity and a few cardboard boxes – we built a structure that still provides a lot of fun! Add to this a new set of stamps and some play doh and we’re good.

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  • We did venture outside too. A surprise visit of a pheasant in the garden made our day and I’m asked all the time to show some more pictures of it. On our stroll through the nearby natural park, we saw a whole lot of miner bees crawling out and making nests. Little Boy was very brave, once I showed him how they work and what they did. He doesn’t like flying insects.

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  • In the kitchen I experimented with nettles and made a delicious red lentil dahl. I also made some lovely meatballs that were the absolute favorite of my husband. It’s a recipe I found in Balls ‘n Glory cookbook, and I tweaked a little to make it more moist and filling. The recipe just called for mince and apple, and then crumbs to surround it. I added an egg and crumbs to the meat too and served it with buttered apples and puree. Success!

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  • Easter holiday means a lot of reading around, mostly online. One of the topics that had my interests, is homesteading. While our garden is little and mostly a playground for Little Boy and husband, I have put some seeds in the ground, but I loved reading about other aspects of homesteading too.
    This post was a great starting point. Her blog is absolutely worth checking out too  by the way.

 

  • And I decided to register for an online course about whole foods. I really love Heather’s blog and there are a few things I hope to learn along the way. Properly working with dried beans for example. And using everything until the last scrap. But mostly, I’m sure to enjoy her writing, her knowledge, her authenticity. She has a way of letting someone feel at home.

 

How was your week?

Imaginary self

I’ve always been a girl that has a double life. One for real and one in my head. Sometimes it’s an escape, quite often it’s just a challenge. There were always mental images of myself leading that life, and they didn’t always coincide with reality.
I think the strongest image up til now is one I came up with when trying to write a fantasy novel (very much inspired as I was then by David Eddings and similar universes). I’ll never ever finish that novel. I’m not a fiction writer. But, the main character stuck.

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I pictured a young woman, alone, living in a large sed, surrounded by nature and animals. She knew a lot about herbs and was creative and self-sufficient. She loved foraging, and making everything she needed. I know I know, that’s a very romantic picture of a probably very hard life.

What makes her more interesting nowadays, is her personality. She has a calm nature, is quiet without being timid, chooses her words wisely, doesn’t ever get tempted to gossip and doesn’t yell. Ever.
She finds peace and contentment in the simple things, loves cooking and baking and does so without making messes (how on earth does she manage to do that?). She folds laundry like a pro, she doesn’t mind cleaning, her beds are always fresh and fluffy. Television never gets turned on, she’s always happy to get out the art supplies, including paint, can play for hours with little cars and dinosaurs and never tires of playing hide and seek.
She waits happily for her husband to come home from work without falling asleep, and she engages with him an interesting and passionate conversation  about whatever subject seems right at the moment.

Yes, she sounds annoyingly perfect. But having her in my mind gives me rest. Because she exists, somewhere in my head, somewhere in my heart, somewhere in my soul. And because I admire her, and she is kind and sweet and compassionate and close, her presence doesn’t drag me down, but lifts me up and inspires me.
And for that she can be as annoyingly perfect as she likes.

Do you have an imaginary self?

Frugal fail: the nettle episode

I like the beginning of a month. First of all: all money is in, possibilities are lurking. Strangely enough, this motivates me more to be frugal than when money is tight at the end of a month.

One thing I’ve always wanted to try, was to use nettle in the kitchen. As it is still rather early in spring, my husband has not yet completely taken over the garden and dug out all the weeds, so I had spotted some fresh, young, tasty looking species. Hurray!

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Once picked (wearing gloves, of course), I rinced them in luke-warm water, thinking most of the sting would be out of it. No, it was not. Luckily, I remembered that vinegar helps with the itching. Learned that the hard way when I was a kid, lol.

I completely forgot about the nettles in the colander, focusing on making a delicious red dahl with rice (recipe to be found here, for those who understand Dutch or just want to be tempted by the gorgeous photography). The dahl was only a success for me. Little Boy had a taste, decided he liked it but started to beg for chocolate eggs. Meal time turned into a mess and when he tasted again thirty minutes later, he spitted it out. Husband, I already knew, would eat it politely and then decide to ditch the rest of his plate once he decided to have swallowed enough healthiness. Oh well, the more for me for lunch tomorrow.

A few hours later I remembered the nettles. Doing a quick search on the web, I let them sit, once more, for ten minutes in warm water (really warm this time), and then blanched them for a few minutes in boiling water. Smelt like fish?! Hmm.

I drained and cooled the green leaves, and got only a cubic inch of it left. Uh-oh. Then had a taste. More uh-oh. Frankly, it didn’t taste like anything. I had the feeling I could run out, repeat the process with any green leaf in my garden (let’s say our hedge, or the camelia plant my mother gaves of for Easter). Subtle taste? Try bland. Try grass. Try “I’m playing in my mud kitchen, want some?“.

So I chopped the whole bunch (oh yeah), and mixed it with a few spoons of cream cheese, to which I added lots of pureed garlic, pepper and salt.  Looks good. Tastes like garlic. Maybe I’ll fill a few little onions with it tomorrow. Or just put it on a cracker. Remembering it must be very healthy. Glad I didn’t go for nettle soup.

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But it’s weekend and my husband will be home and gardening.
I’m quite sure there won’t be a nettle left.
Amen.