Dec 22, 2011

howdy folks, how y'all been?

I haven't forgotten the blog!! This is honestly the first chance I have to sit down without interruption, and with the presence of mind needed to write down all that needs writing down. It's back to list form, baby. Ready?

1. We had some lovely farewells the week before we left. I feel we were able to see most people we care about in person. Of course the highlight was when I attempted to sing 'Where Can I Turn For Peace' in church, as my goodbye to the people that basically helped raise me. To any who didn't know any better I was simply the pianist's page turner, because two words into the song, I became too choked up to get another note out. Luckily it was a nice piano arrangement!

2. We had a really fun Sinterklaas celebration together with my dad, and my mother and brother in law. Sinterklaas really had his thinking cap on this year when he decided to gift all the kids wonderful personalised backpacks, filled with toys, coloring books, lunch boxes, pencils and treats. That's the kind of present that makes parents happy!

3. Our big day of travel was quite eventful. The first 'event' occurred during check-in, when Sander realised he had left the car seat we needed on the plane, in the car. The car was in long term parking, a good half hour away - time we didn't have. Thank heavens for taxis. Sander and his brother made it back with time to spare, after I finished checking in.

And off we went. There were teary goodbyes when we got in line for customs, aka 'the point of no return'. After that it was just us, and the real journey began.

The first flight was fine, except for two things. You're expecting at least one of those things to be the kids, aren't you? Well, you're wrong. The kids behaved so well, it was wonderful. Sure, they were still kids, and had the occasional whine, but mostly they were angels. It helped that the plane was fitted with individual movie screens, which featured a wide range of all sorts of movies, cartoons, interactive games, and flight information.

So if not the kids, then what could have been the proverbial wet sand in our underwear? The first source was to be expected: other passengers. The somewhat elderly couple in front of Elliot and I had a fit when Elliot got tired 3 hours into the flight, and had to cry himself to sleep for about 20 minutes. We got the whole deal: angry looks, audible sighs, elbow punches against their seat backs, loud complaints to eachother, and finally.... The Confrontation. The woman, who appeared to be the man of the two, turned around and hissed: "You should really try to settle him down!". To which i replied: "Wow thank you, I can't believe I didnt't think of that myself!". After Elliot's nap I decided to do a precautionary seat switch, but there were still sighs and looks pretty much every time one of us spoke, or got up to use the restroom.

The second source of weird should have been very unexpected, but unfortunately I have come to expect it on the longer, intercontinental flights. I am talking about rude and annoying flight attendants. We were assigned to Mike. Mike found out, within minutes of take off, that we are Mormons. He then made a point of laughing at our faith every single time he came by. Comments like "Catholics are strange, but you guys take the crown", or "So when are you having your next kid", and "How many wives you got there, buddy?" were the milder ones. Isn't it their job description to make the passengers as possible as comfortable as possible? His only redeeming quality was how complimentary he was of our kids. He called them his best travellers ever (though I get the feeling there is a long string of 'best travellers ever' before them) and kept giving them extra treats and Wings pins. I still think he was weird though. But then, I'm a Mormon.

Upon landing in Detroit the real fun began, or so we thought. We were beyond nervous to go through customs with our emigration packages and visas. We anticipated it would take forever, while we tried to keep our exhausted, unruly children in check. Nothing was less true. There was no line to wait in. We were helped by three customs officers at once, and the whole process was incredibly painless. A nice lady who had offered to carry our carseat off the plane for us (she took pity on us when she saw we had the kids, 3 backpacks, a diaper bag, a stroller, 5 huge carry-ons, a bag of important documents, and my purse to haul), also made sure all of our bags were taken off the luggage belt, and lined up neatly for us to collect after customs. Bless her soul. An airport employee grabbed all our bags for us and showed us where to go while we didn't have to lift a thing. Again no line at security, and before we knew it we were 'in', with a couple of hours to spare to get to our next flight.

Time to relax! The second flight was much, much friendlier. Poor little Julia got a horrible ear-ache that woke her up (all the kids fell asleep 10 minutes into the flight). This time many pasengers came to our aid with kind words, bubble gum and drinks. The flight attendants were also very helpful, and before we knew it, we got her back to sleep. After that it was a breeze. When we started descending into SLC it didn't matter that we were all so very tired. The city lit up so beautifully in the dark night, and excitement grew in all of us. The walk to baggage claim was almost delirious with the relief that it was over. We went around that last corner, down the stairs, and there we were reunited with my mom, Marissa, Benson, Ella, Kate, Mike, Kylee and Jace. There was a 'Welcome Home' banner and everything! It was a very happy moment. So happy that we didn't even care that one of our bags (the one containing Elliot's stuff, I may have cared more if it had been my things...) hadn't made it to SLC. It ended up being delivered to our doorstep that same night, so no harm done at all.

It was still a 45 minute drive to my parent's house, and it was in that sleepy quiet, wedged between two carseats, gazing at the beautiful mountains, that I had a little moment of panic. Of course my emotions were out of whack due to exhaustion, so I didn't let it worry me, but it suddenly hit me that we left behind everything, forever. I let the tears come, and then sleep took over. I hardly remember the last portion of our journey halfway around the world.

4. We have been adjusting amazingly! We hardly suffered from jetlag at all, especially the kids did so well. I got all of our bags unpacked the first day, and we quickly realised we were going to be very comfortable during our stay in my parent's basement. The girls share a room that has been decorated to meet any little girl's needs. The boys share the master bedroom - we figured we had best keep them behind closed doors - Elliot in a travel cot and Max all alone in the big bed. Sander and I spent the first week on the foldout bed in the playroom whch features plenty of toys and books (Sander and I have been having so much fun each night). We have our very own bathroom and the shared laundry room is down here too. We have everything we need acoomodation wise, and more.

The girls started school on Thursday, Dec. 15th. Lara in 1st grade and Julia in Kindergarten, until their English gets a little better. They love it there and come home every day with a backpack full of artwork/simple homework assigments, lots of stories about all their new friends, and a smile on their faces.

Everyone's English is improving by the day (mine included) and we are loving the Utah friendliness. We've had our first snow, and plenty of trips to Walmart and Taco Bell. Last night we drove around the nearby neighborhoods to look at all the beautifully decorated homes. Some will nearly blind you, or cause an epileptic fit, but most evoked a reverent 'woooooooow' from the kids. They're so pretty.

5. During the one week Sander was here he had an interview lined up at a great company situated only 20 minutes from our house. It offered an amazing salary, good benefits, and the opportunity to get settled in a challenging position with a bright future. Unfortunately he wasn't the only applicant and, as everyone knows, the economy is such that jobs can be very hard to come by. Let alone great jobs like this one.

But he kept progressing after each interview, and other candidates kept getting eliminated.

The recruiter took us out to lunch just two days before Sander had to fly back to Holland, and told us that they CEO wanted him to come in that afternoon to talk to their HR department. She said this was an incredibly good sign, and that we had reason to be carefully optimistic. After that meeting, the CEO wanted to ask Sander just one last question. We were told he would call us the next day, so Sander spent the day glued to the phone. Come 6pm, there had still been no phonecall, and Sander had turned into a nervous wreck. He was flying back to Holland the next morning, and the outcome of this job application dictated whether he was saying goodbye to all of us for a few weeks, or possibly months and months. Finally, at 8.30pm, the phone rang. He took it downstairs. Mom and I were upstairs, so we couldn't hear what how the conversation was going, so we anxiously waited. After what seemed like an eternity, Sander came up the stairs, his hands lifted high in the air. Grinning widely he proclaimed "I got it!!", and we all cheered. We then spent the evening calling friends and family and marvelling at out luck. Yet again we see a miracle, and get to feel the affirmation that we made the absolute right decision by coming here.

So, Sander went back home feeling great, we were left behind feeling on top of the world, and everyone is gearing up for the Holidays! Speaking of Holidays....

6. Some Holiday traditions over here will take some getting used to. I don't think you will ever see me drinking eggnog. I doubt I will be going as far as some in stapling twenty million lights to my house so we can be the shiniest ones on the block (is it just me or is there a competitive factor at play there?). However, I am learning of one tradition that I can really sink my teeth into. Literally.

People around here make and bring around Christmas treats and small gifts to all their neighbors, usually wrapped in the cheeriest of Holiday wrappings, and accompanied by an uplifting note.
They are often home-baked. See where this is going?

Yeah, I spent most of last Tuesday baking chocolate fudge cupcakes, topped with a sour cream and cream cheese vanilla frosting swirl, and crushed candy cane sprinkled on top. THAT's when I realised I was home, people. We took them around our neighborhood, which enabled the kids and I to introduce ourselves. It even started snowing while we were out.

7. We are having so many laughs! Like the time a fiddle arrangement of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' came on the car radio, and mom said: "I really don't like this version of 'Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem'.". Or the day when mom had a melt down driving Marissa's kids home. I need to save that whole story for another blog post though, it's that good.

8. We got to see Lindsey and her mom! It was soooo good seeing that girl again, I have just missed her like crazy. We all went to Denny's for breakfast (where it apparently is a major faux-pas to order only waffles and sausages) and did some bigtime catching up. I can't stand that she' going back to Holland instead of staying here with/for me, but I try not to let that show. I guess I can understand my happiness isn't her top priority. Sort of.

9. Lara turned 8 last December 17th! We celebrated it the Sunday before so Sander could be there. We had the best time with all her cousins there to party with her. It really was very rewarding to see them all playing together while I was sat in the front room with my siblings, just hanging out and chatting. There was cake and balloons and a plethora of presents, and one very, very happy big little girl.

10. We miss everyone in Holland so much! This whole thing really is a bitter sweet deal. Though we will never regret coming here, I wouldn't dream of complaining when we have so much to be thankful for, and we face our future with positive attitudes, we really have to take a moment every day to come to terms with the part of us that is grieving. Lara misses Naomi and her oma most of all. Julia misses school the most. Max asks for opa Maarten regulary. And I am longing to sit down with my best friends, laugh, and go to the movies together. Not to mention how badly I miss my husband during this Christmas season!

Wow, I think that covers it. Please excuse the lack of photographic evidence of aforementioned adventures. I am typing all this on an iPad and haven't quite figured out how to attach pictures yet. Expect a photos-only blog next time. Which will be soon.


Dec 3, 2011


I just wanted to let whoever checks this place know that I'm still alive! (albeit barely...)

I doubt I need to explain why blogging hasn't been a top priority, but just in case I do, I've made a nice little list of good reasons just for you.

1. I have 4 children.
2. The holiday season is the busiest time of year
3. My 4 children, husband and myself are leaving behind the life we know and taking the big leap into the relative unknown and moving to Ogden, Utah, USA in no more than 5 days time.
4. I have 4 children.
5. The voices are telling me to do other things with my time.
6. I got a lovely case of strep throat last Tuesday night, during my last week in Holland, possibly the busiest week known to man this entire milennium. When the fever was still with me this morning we decided to go to the doctor. You know it's bad when a seasoned physician looks into your mouth and goes 'wow, that's gotta hurt'.
7. Badgers.

There you go. Seven solid reasons why you simply can't be mad at me for not supplying you with regular entertainment and updates on me and mine. That said, I'm here now, so please allow me to get you up to speed, again in handy list form!

1. The kids had a wonderful farewell party last Wednesday afternoon. Lots of their friends and their parents came, many brought beautiful pictures/photographs/small presents and much fun and play was had. It was a very good opportunity for them to have closure in a positive way. It's good to face sadness I think. The other night Lara couldn't sleep and came to us, teary eyed and runny nosed. She realised how much she's going to miss her friends and loved ones and I let her get in bed with me and we talked about every single person she thought she was going to miss. We then shared happy memories off all those people and a smile quickly came back to her face. I just held her and told her everything would be okay. She said 'I know mommy', and fell asleep less than a minute later. Oh to be a child...
2. We sold The Beast! I'll miss that thing... my thighs won't, but I will.
3. Sander and I got released from our callings in church (both in Sunday School), I gave a talk, we had a RS goodbye party where I handed over all of my most beloved recipes to my dear sisters in the ward, and our names have been taken off the home and visiting teaching lists.
4. Sinterklaas came to school on the same day the girls had their last day there. They came home with presents and more beautiful drawings and pictures from the children in their classes, and of course lots of stories about Zwarte Piet. BTW did you know there is a 'VliegPiet' who makes special deliveries for Sinterklaas all over the world?
5. We have been on the receiving end of some very special acts of kindness. While I've been ill the huge workload that would have been much even for two people, all came down on Sander's shoulders. A couple of angels have dropped by to lighten his load by folding mountains of laundry, sweeping floors, looking after the boys, picking the girls up from school, dusting and doing the dishes. To all of you who have helped: we love you, thank you so much for easing our burdens. We hope to be able to return the favour.
6. I have 4 children. Wait, which list was this one again?

I know I'm forgetting things (since I always have, and most likely always will) but these things stood out. So there you go readers, now get off my case already.

Aw just kidding, I love you guys! I'll be blogging more as soon as I can!

Nov 18, 2011

like, scary good

Do you have any idea the kind of crazy to-do lists you get when you're planning an emigration? It's consuming my life at the moment. In a scary good kind of way. Scary because I am sometimes so preoccupied I forget to shower, and good because... hmm.. how shall I put this. It's just kind of cathartic getting rid of most of your earthly posessions, packing up only that which matters most, and finding that you don't actually need that much to be happy.

We had our final interviews last week and got approved! Again it was like a guardian angel came along and made sure everything went as smoothly as possible. The guy working our case at the consulate even said 'Oh, I saw that you guys were coming in today so I prepared all the paperwork last night to make sure you and the kids wouldn't have to be here too long'. And we weren't. It took less than an hour to get the good news that all our hard work and all the money we've already spent on this hasn't been for nothing. Then upon coming home and getting ready to actually book the flight we had another nice surprise: The ticket prices had gone down with 160 EUR per ticket! 

Now, I just want to say something on my little platform here. I know there are some who are upset and sad about us leaving. Some are worried for us and some just think we are certifiably insane. Some have made up their minds as to our reasons for leaving and some have come to the wrong conclusions. I'm sure there's talk and that that talk is divided between good thoughts and well-wishing, and gossip and lies (let's hope it's very unevenly!). 

I just want to say how grateful I am to everybody who shows their love to us in any way - whether that is through excitement and being happy for us, or by being sad to see us go, or by worrying for us. We appreciate our friends and family and all other loved ones so much. It makes us not want to leave when we think about all of you. If there's anything we can do for anyone, before or after we move, please let us know. 

It's comforting to us to know we have many wonderful friends and family waiting for us 'on the other side'(the dark side, as I'm sure some would call it! ha) in the USA. I hope that can be a comfort to those of you who worry for us. I hope it will also be comforting to know that we know this is the right thing for us to be doing. Ever since we made the decision to do this it has been like the entire universe has moved to open the path for us to go. Miracles have taken place. It has been a very humbling experience for us, one that I am beyond grateful for. Another thing I am beyond grateful for is a strong marriage. After 10 years it feels like Sander and I are closer than ever. Because of that certainty we are hopeful instead of scared and positive instead of pessimistic. We'll be okay because of that alone.

Well! With all of that said, I thought I'd share some of my recent 'likes' on Youtube with you .

1. Charlene Soraia - Bike

2. Winter Coats - Windmill

3. Fanfarlo - The Walls Are Coming Down

4. Sleighbells - Riot Rhythm

5. I Break Horses - Wired

6. Steve Mason - All Come Down

Nov 14, 2011

150 years

That's how much time has passed since the first Dutch people were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Friesland (pronounced 'Freezelund')- cause for a celebration and a road trip. Lindsey and I loaded the three oldest kids into the car along with plenty of snacks, drinks and music, and set the TomTom to an address I had never heard of, let alone ever been to. You'd think that living in such a small country as Holland, and having Fries blood (my grandmother was from Sneek) would have ensured many visits up north. But it hasn't. The only other time I really remember going up to Friesland was for a 4-day camp held in Appelscha when I was 16ish.

I wish I'd gone more.
The drive was absolutely gorgeous, as was the weather. We made a stop on the afsluitdijk to see what it was all about and stretch our legs. The kids would have been happy if that had been our only destination. But we got back in the car, drove on, and as time ticked on the views became greener and quainter. The best part was when I took a few wrong turns TomTom messed up, and we got to enjoy the extra scenic route.
The site where the monument is situated is a humble one. Set between two small farms it is separated from the quiet asphalt road by a narrow ditch. The windmill behind it and the grassy pastured that surround it give it a perfect Dutch feel, and I must admit that my patriotic side came alive a little as I listened to the mayor speak of the history of the place. It also made me feel proud of my Mormon heritage, and the kind of people we are generally viewed to be by anyone who has taken the time to get to know us just the smallest bit.
 After a few speeches a choir of missionaries sang, and everyone was given the opportunity to get a picture with the monument. Balloons were let up, and we all gathered at the neighboring farm where we were graciously welcomed with cake and drinks. As I looked around for a place to sit I noticed an elevated patio that looked quiet and cosy, so I headed over there. The only other person sitting there was an elderly man who motioned me to come sit next to him. He turned out to be the original owner of the farm, though his son and daughter-in-law now ran it for him. He told me all about what the area looked like when he was little, and asked many questions about my faith. He told me lots about his and we were happy to find many things we had in common. He reminded me of my grandfather, and talking to him was my personal highlight of the entire trip. Either that, or how soundly the kids slept during the drive back...

Nov 7, 2011

death and Jesus

It's a theme when you have my genes. This of course goes for the most obvious interpretation of that: everyone in my family eventually dies, and many of us believe in Jesus.... but that's not what I'm getting at. I think it all began with my brother Mike, back when his voice was still high and we called him Mikey-boy (I stopped calling him that around the time he learned to kill a human in 7 different ways using only his small toe and a paperclip). 

On Mondays we would somewhat regularly have Family Home Evenings at our house. For those of you not familiar with the concept, here is an overview of what such an evening looked like:

1. Your dad gets out his recorder and makes you sing along to him playing it.
2. The family prays together (this is often when the younger family members try to make their escape since mom&dad are supposed to have their eyes closed. Never worked for me.)
3. The serious part. This can either consist of a small presentation/lesson prepared by any one of the family members on a subject they deem worthy of discussion, or it's a 'family council' where a new idea is proposed, discussed and voted on.
4. Game/activity time.
5. Refreshments.

Sometimes these evenings were were so torturesome I had to find my inner happy place to make it through, but most of the time it was a lot of fun spending time together as a family, learning from eachother, and building memories. The funnest part about these evenings was that everyone played an important part in them. Everyone would be in charge of one or more of the items listed above, and they responsibilities rotated so that you did something different each week. 


One week it was Mike's turn to take care of the serious part of the evening. I think he must have been around 8 or 9 at the time. He came up with the idea to teach us all about Christ's sacrifice for us and what we can learn from it. He worked hard at it: had visual aids, scriptural references, and a clear story outline. He even made a beautiful title board with a picture of Jesus on it and the title of his lesson. The title he gave his lesson was:

Jesus died from Michael.

Example two: Only a short while later, when we had the missionaries over for dinner one night, one of the elders was talking about his family at home and told us that he had one brother. My sister Marissa, without a second's hesitation, turned her head, looked him in the eye and asked: 'Is he dead??'.

Fast forward to present day and a little boy named Max. We took Max to get his medical examination in Amsterdam last week. Part of that exam was an eye check. The doctor made Max focus on a person in a photograph he had hanging on his wall. This person was walking in a field, surrounded by trees, holding a rifle and wearing a rain coat. When the check was finished and Max' vision was pronounced perfect, the doctor asked him 'Who is that person in the picture?', to which Max answered 'He has a gun. It's Jesus.' 

When I put Max down for his nap I always tuck him in tight, give him a kiss and a cuddle, and softly whisper into his ear that I love him. This always makes him smile, and want to whisper in my ear as well. Instead of whispering 'I love you mommy', he says 'I KILL YOU!', and happily rolls over to his side, signalling that I may now leave his room.

Then there is one final example. An example that was no doubt fueled by recent Halloween celebrations (see pictures below). Last night I took Max and Elliot up to their room, got their diapers on, and tucked them into their beds. A quick kiss for Elliot did the trick. Max needed a little more because he had become very worried that there were ghosts hiding in his room. We checked the room together to make sure there were no ghostly stow-aways, but still I could tell he wasn't quite reassured of his own safety. Suddenly his face lit up and he shared his idea with me. He asked for his toy gun and added the following words: 'If a ghost comes, I will just ask Jesus to come, and then I'll shoot Jesus dead with my gun, and the ghost will be so scared that it will stay away!'. 
I suppose it's my own fault for teaching my kids to use Jesus as an example.

Do you see what I'm talking about? Death and Jesus - it's a theme.

Anyway, here are the Halloween pictures. We had a great night baking sugar cookies, dressing up, going trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, and watching scary movies.

Oct 29, 2011

read all about it - updates galore

I have so much to blog about that I dont even know where to begin. Actually, I do know. How can I not start with the most important thing? Sander turned 32 yesterday! He came home from work a little earlier than usual so we could have cake and sing to him. The amazing Shaila joined us for the fun part, and then we left her with the hard part: feeding the kids and getting them to sleep. 
We happily ran off to Scheveningen where we ate Mexican food (mmm, chimichanga!), played Glow-in-the-Dark Miniature Golf Halloween style, and watched the new All-Stars movie - Sander's choice of course. We had such a great time that is was impossible to not feel bad for Shaila when we came home around midnight and found the lights on throughout the house, and her cradling a verrrry sleepy Elliot. Poor thing had a rough night, but she kept telling us she enjoyed it a lot even though it had been tiring. We agreed that that sums up parenthood right there: it's immensely tiring, but equally as enjoyable.

The next blogworthy topic is our house. The house is officially for sale. The signs are out, the pictures have been taken, and it's listed online. Click this sentence to take a look at it! We could really do with a fast sell so that Sander doesn't have to be seperated from the rest of us for too long when we move....  so anybody you know who might possibly be interested, please direct them to us or the realtor's website.

Then there is always the subject of knitting. I've started quite a few projects over the last couple of months. Some I couldn't share because they were gifts and I didn't want to spoil the surprise, some because there were gifts and I accidentally gave them away before getting pictures of them, and some because I simply hadn't entirely finished them yet.But I fixed most of that now so here are some reveals!

1. Hugo, the Couch Potato Monster

2. A Slouchy hat for sister Perry
When she told me she lost her hat last year to a strong gust of wind that blew it into a ditch, I knew what I had to do. Then I couldnt leave her sweet companion, sister Ence, behind, so I knit her one too. That one I still need to get a picture of though....

3. A Winter Hat for Elliot
The poor kid doesn't ask for much, so I figure making sure his noggin stays warm during the coming winter is the least I can do. Mostly I just felt like a fun, quick project... and baby hats are the funnest, and the quickest!

4. A huge purple Scarf for ME!
Ugh, sorry for the awful picture quality on these. Ever since I took that photo of the sparkler my lens has been messed up :( Anyway... my old scarf was exactly that: very very old. As in, falling apart. So I decided it was time to be a little selfish and make something for myself for a change.

That concludes todays festivities. I wish you all a super serial spooky Halloween weekend! Booooo

Oct 25, 2011

too much pressure!

A professional photographer is coming to take pictures of our house today for the realtor's brochures and website. The realtor has instructed us to get the house looking something like this:
But in reality our house looks something like this:
OK maybe not quite that bad, but it sure feels like it now that we've been deep-cleaning for 2 weeks straight and it still doesn't even somewhat resemble the first pictures! AARGH!

Oct 22, 2011

covering Elliott

Oct 21, 2011

rated USW

Paranormal Activity 3 is hands down the scariest movie I've seen all year. I watched the first Paranormal Activity alone with Sander, in our bedroom late at night. For anyone who has seen it, you'll understand our mistake there.... we hardly slept that night. We watched the second one together with Liz on Halloween night last year in our fort in the living room - we figured building a fort would protect us from any and all evil. Sander had to get up 20 minutes into the movie to turn all the lights on in the house, and he kept pausing it because he thought he heard noises. Thus, Liz and I figured we had better screen the third one for him, to make sure he would be able to watch it without suffering a nervous breakdown. 

We rated it USW. Unwise for Sander to Watch. 

I have this thing where I have to have my legs up on the seat with me when a movie gets really scary. This becomes a little trickier when getting scared in a full movie theatre as opposed to the comfort and privacy of your own couch; the seats are a LOT smaller and you don't want your knee to hit the drink out of the hand of the stranger sitting next to you. It's just bad cinema etiquette, you know? This movie was SO scary though, that I came out of that theatre with debilitating leg cramps from keeping my feet up on the seat in a very uncomfortable position for, oh say, 95% of the film. I don't understand that there are people who don't get scared by the homevideo/documentary style scary movies. For me it all started with The Blair Witch Project. Ever since seeing that (again with Liz, when the pure terror caused us to spend half the film on each other's laps) I have basically been a basket case near any kind of trees. And now this. Thanks to the Paranormal Activities I will never be able to fall asleep with the lights off, or go for a late night snack by myself.  

And I love it.

Oct 18, 2011

recipe time

The fact that I haven't been talking much about baking doesn't automatically mean I haven't been doing a lot of baking. In fact, you could very safely state that the less I talk about baking, the more I am doing it, leaving me less time to talk about doing it. But I have been doing it, oh yes, I certainly have. And I have come across some absolutely fabulous recipes that I simply can't keep to myself.

1. Peanut Butter, Oatmeal & Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm a major fan of both peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and oatmeal cookies. I don't understand why I've never come across a recipe that combines the three before, it makes perfect sense! These cookies are everything I could ever possibly need in a cookie. I may have accidentally eaten the entire batch (it was half a batch, and the kids helped!) before I remembered to take pictures...

- Combine:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
- In your stand mixer cream together (medium/high setting):
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
- Add the flour mixture until just combined (slow setting) and then stir in:
1 cup rolled oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Bake at 175 C or 350 F for 10 mins, and presto: cookie heaven awaits.

2. Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Glaze
I made these for a babyshower recently and they were gone in a minute flat. It helped that I put them in the oven at the shower and they were served warm. If you're not a glaze girl (like I never used to be) then don't worry: these are so moist, so full of flavour that you absolutely do not need the glaze. HOWEVER. The glaze is soooo good with it - not too sweet and just sticky enough. This coming from the girl who never wanted glazes or frosting on ANYthing.

- Combine and set aside:
1/4-ounce/7gr package yeast
1/2 cup warm water
- In stand mixer with paddle attachment mix:
1/2 cup hot milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 cups flour (plus up to 2 cups more)
- Add yeast mixture and (switching to dough hook attachment if you have it - if not, knead by hand when it becomes too much to handle for your mixer) knead in 1 1/2 - 2 cups more flour until dough is easy to handle.
Knead for 5-10 minutes and place dough in a well greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size.
- Punch dough down, and roll out on a clean, floured surface into a large rectangle (about 15x9 inches, or 38 x 22 cms).

1/2 cup melted butter, plus more for pan
- Mix:
3/4 cup sugar, plus more for pan
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- cover rolled out dough royally in melted butter and sprinkle sugar mixture evenly on top.
- roll up the dough, starting at the longer side (tip: roll toward you!), pinch edge, and cut your roll of dough into equal slices (about 14).
- grease a pan with melted butter and sprinkle sugar on top. Place slices close together in the pan and let rise for another 30-45 minutes.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes at 170 C or 325 F, or until golden brown.

- Mix:
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Add water 1 tbsp at a time until glaze is your desired consistancy (should be somewhat runny). Spread/drizzle over warm cinnamon rolls and devour.

    Oct 14, 2011

    this post is awesome for two reasons


    I made you another mixtape. Put it on late at night, with the lights dimmed, preferably while stargazing:

    Night music by hummingdust

    1. Balam Acab - See Birds (Moon)
    2. Lana Del Rey - Oh Say Can You See
    3. Christian Scott - The Roe Effect (refrain in F# Minor)
    4. Gayngs - Cry
    5. Max Richter - Journey 1 


    I came across this on youtube and am now sharing it with you:

    Oct 13, 2011

    le sauce du nuggets

    There is so much I could tell you about this past weekend that I don't even know where to begin. Lindsey had her best friend Ashley come over earlier last week who crashed on our couch. The kids immediately fell in love with her. I'm sure this had nothing to do with the fact that she ran around playing tag with them and flying them around in the air the day she arrived, when we were asking ourselves how she was even still standing up.... We fell in love with this good natured, laid back, spicy food lovin' gal as well. Especially after she, together with Lindsey and two wonderful sister missionaries, helped paint our hallway. 
    When Ashley and Lindsey were deciding on what European city to go see while they had the chance, Sander kindly offered to have me go with them as their chauffeur in his work car, and suggested we go see Paris. He thought it would only cost us one tank of gas out of our own pocket, since we could fillerup on his company card just before leaving Holland. All we heard was: ROAD TRIP!!! and EIFFEL TOWER!!! and NO KIDS!!! and OH LA LA!!! Apparently seeing the Eiffel Tower was on some great 'things to do before I'm too old to do them without an oxygen tank' list Lins and Ash (as they will henceforth be referred to as) they made together when they were still in diapers. And they seemed genuinely happy about me crashing their party! I'm not sure if this really came across before, so let me make it clear that we were all very excited.
    The following day (Friday) we packed our bags, shopped for junk food to snack on in the car, and said goodbye to Sander and the kids at 6pm. We were on our way! We had some traffic at first, but that cleared up pretty quickly and before we knew it we were at the last rest stop before the border with Belgium, filling up on gas (which is a liquid, this never ceases to confuse me). When we got to the French border I noticed that it seemed like we had hardly used up any gas at all - a hopeful sign when you're a cheapskate like me. We kept going, and chatting, and eating all sorts of junk, and listening to music, carefully following the road signs with the appropriate city names that Sander wrote out for us on them. Rotterdam, Breda, Antwerpen, Gent, Lille, Paris. We made excellent time and got to the town of Stains around midnight. Stains. I felt right at home.
    Then came the first and really the only figurative bump in the road: The address for our hotel seemed to be incorrect as the TomTom lead us to a dead-end construction zone with absolutely nothing that resembled a hotel in the vicinity. After talking to some locals (I use the term 'talk' loosely as their English was non-existant and my French is, um, wobbly) we were able to find the hotel. The desk clerk, who spoke English bless him, gave us our room key and informed us that we had no toilet in the room but were welcome to use the communal one in the hallway. At a total of 37 Euros total for all 3 of us and the prospect of a bed we weren't complaining.
    The night went quickly for those of us who slept (Lins and I) and probably dragged on forever for those of us with a severely messed up internal clock (Ash), but come morning we  got up, decided against a hallway shower, and got ready to rough it in Paris. We drove into Paris tand pulled in to a reasonably priced parking garage on Rue de Passy, where we set off towards the Eiffel Tower on foot. Once there our feet remained an important part of the experience as we took pictures of the Eiffel Tower with our feet in the shots, and proceeded to use them to walk further to the Arc du Triomphe, along the Champs Elysee, around the Louvre and finally into the Notre Dame. While those two looked around the impressive cathedral, I sat down in a pew, rested  my feet, feasted my eyes, and thoroughly enjoyed the peaceful quiet. Well, at least until that chinese baby next to me started screaming his head off. I've been fortunate enough to been inside the Notre Dame several times before so I didn't particularly feel the need to walk around this time but could really use a break from being on my feet as my shoes were hurting my heels, causing me to walk silly and hurt my knee. I did the exact same thing when I was in Venice with Sander, and obviously didn't learn a thing about proper footwear. I am hoping the Americans can teach me a thing or two on the subject, but more on that next time.
    From the Notre Dame we took the Metro to the Sacre Coeur, where there was some kind of market/wine tasting festival going on. I got a little annoyed with all the merchandising inside the beautiful building and even considered buying off my sins for a split second, but once again the calm found inside centered me quickly and helped me control myself. Who am I kidding, it was the pure exhaustion from having to climb 13401 steps (I counted) to get up the hill this church was built on. The panoramic view of Paris is worth it though. Here is a shot I took last time I was there:
    Our day of Parisian Pleasantries ended with a metro ride back to Rue de Passy where we paid the parking meter and drove Ashley to the maze that is Charles de Gaulle airport, where she was hoping to catch a direct flight to SLC. Unfortunately she ended up spending a night at the airport and not getting home until another day later. She wasn't the only one who had an eventful trip back home....
    It all began when we stopped for food and checked out the rest stop's gift shop. Lindsey bought herself a miniature Eiffel Tower after much, much deliberation (it's OK Lindsey, you were tired and distracted by the prospect of french McDonalds). We ended up getting in the car without eating because this particular rest stop, though lovely, did not have the absolutely necessary McDonalds restaurant. Once back on the road we passed a McDonalds without remembering to take the exit and Lindsey realised she had neglected to buy a friend a souvenir at the previous gift shop. We pulled into the very next gas station where a very fed up  and forlorn looking young man named Florian sold Lindsey her 'objet d'art' with a deep sigh for less than it was listed as, because the prospect of punching another single number into the register filled his heart with despair.
    When the next 3 rest areas didn't appear to contain Lindsey's beloved McDonalds (sometimes you just gotta have it, you know? I know.) she had a stroke of genius and punched 'McDonalds' into the TomTom. There appeared to be a restaurant only 2.4 kms away from us! Happy days! We took the exit Tom told us to take. And another one. And then another exit. Followed by a few roundabouts and another exit. We were starting to get a little worried when the road signs all started saying Paris again and nearly didn't take the last exit Tom wanted us to take but decided to extend him our last ounce of trust... and sure enough, after 3 more roundabouts and a long country road, there it stood. Like a shining beacon of glorious, golden, greasy satisfaction in the night. It was late, we were tired, and we were still a ways away from the border, so we opted for the drive through. 

    'BONSOIRRR' the metallic voice of a young woman shrieked at us at the order box.
    - 'Un Chicken Nugget menu s'il vous plait' I said back to it.
    - 'Huh?' I replied.
    - 'Barbecue sauce?', I asked.

    This was going nowhere fast, so I put the pedal to the metal to get us to the parking lot as fast as possible - forget the drive through. I faintly saw an angry girl at the first window waving her agitated french wave to us dimwit tourists as we zoomed by. The girl at the counter inside spoke some english - thank goodness, because my translation skills become non existant when I'm tired - and we got our food and hurried back to the relative safety of the car. We were pretty sure we saw a human trafficking hand off going down as we tried to make our way back to the highway, and failed to do so, causing us to have to drive through a rather hostile village where they follow their own set of rogue traffic rules. It took us an extra hour at the very least, but we got our food, and our souvenirs, and even got to see something rather special on sale before we were finally back on the road to La Haye (that's French for Den Haag, duh):
    I like to think the price of 33 euros/kg isn't a coincidence.
    And there you go. We made it to the Dutch border on the same tank of gas we got the day before, and pulled up to the house safely at 1.30am feeling poor in energy, but much richer in experience. Thanks girls, for letting me a part of your fun!

    Oct 10, 2011

    quick to forgive... and fall asleep

    Mondays can be tough sometimes. In fact, any morning or new beginning of any sort can be tough when you feel less than well equipped to face it head on. Half the time I am too busy or too preoccupied with my own worries/problems that I end up starting my day badly, leaving me feeling frustrated, unorganised and less than energetic. It doesn't help that I am not a wise guru of any kind that can cough up thoughts or words of his/her own to stay self-motivated. I find myself constantly searching for some external source that is going to give me the fuel I need, until I can muster the internal strength to work through it. Not only work through it, but feel happy and peaceful doing it. As the name of this blog implies, peaceful is not a state I am in often (thank goodness I have happy down a little better... just a little). 
    This morning I was handed the exact inspiration I think I will ever need in the form of an inspirational talk given by F. Enzio Busche. Here are some of the words contained in this talk that, to me, echo pure truth for every single one of us.
    Embrace this day with an enthusiastic welcome, no matter how it looks.

    When you are sick, tired, or in despair, steer your thoughts away from yourself. In your life there have to be challenges. They will either make you stronger, or kill you, but you make the decision of which road you take.

    If you neglect to feed your spirit, you will reap unhappiness.

    When you cannot love someone, look into that persons eyes long enough to find the hidden rudiments of the child of God in him. Never judge anyone. When you accept this, you will be freed.

    If someone hurts you so much that your feelings seem to choke you, forgive, and you will be free again.

    Avoid at all cost any pessimistic, negative, or criticizing thoughts. If you cannot cut them out, they will do you harm.

    Avoid rush and hast and uncontrolled words. 

    Be not so much concerned about what you do, but what you do, do with all your heart, mind and strength. In thoroughness is satisfaction.

    The pain of sacrifice lasts only one moment. It is the fear of the pain of sacrifice that makes you hesitate to do it.

    Be grateful for every opportunity to serve. It helps you more than it helps those you serve.
    In many ways these lines remind me of how my children naturally are already - enthusiastic, eager to learn, always ready to help someone else, optimistic, and quick to forgive. And fall asleep. Actually that one only goes for Elliot. Have a great monday and week everyone. I will be back soon to tell you all about how Lindsey, Ashley and I took an impromptu trip to Paris. Oh la la!

    Oct 3, 2011

    on meatloaf , gold carriages and pensioners

    I have been MIA from this place with no good reason, and every good reason all at the same time. Chalk it up to all that insanity, just like pretty much everything else I don't have a better explanation for. The important thing being: I am here now! Now is all that matters. 

    Let us play a little game of catch up.

    1. I taught Lindsey how to make meatloaf. This is funny for two reasons. First: I only learned how to make meatloaf myself about a year ago. Second: I got to watch Lindsey knead raw meat and eggs. It was hilarious. I have pictures to prove it, and you can read the first person account of Lindsey's meaty misfortune right here.

    2. Prinsjesdag (Prince's Day) came around and marked the annual reading of our country's financial plan by none other than our queen, Queen Beatrix. She reads this plan whilst sitting on a throne in the Ridderzaal (Knight's Hall) in our city of The Hague. She gets to the Ridderzaal by exiting her working palace Paleis Noordeinde and getting into her (no joke) gold carriage which her noble steeds then ride over to the Binnenhof. This procession takes place right here in our city and is one of the bigger national events that takes place annually, and so, Lindsey and I figured it would be nice to go see in person. Lindsey for the first time, and the rest of us quite possibly for the last time. 
    We got to see her alright, in her mighty shiny carriage, with her immovable hair and ever present hat and everything. It was fun to see the whole parade, but some of the fun was killed by the mainly 55+ people standing around me who did not appreciate the fact that I had brought Elliot. Elliot was not having fun you see, and I expected no less. This whole thing happened in the middle of his normal nap hours, and consisted mainly of waiting - something 15 month olds are just not very good at. I had anticipated some crying... and cry he did. Though he didn't nearly cry and moan as much as the people around me, who, instead of using their precious energy to maybe help me, loudly complained to each other about my stupidity for bringing a baby to such an event. 

    I wondered to myself  'Do you really lose all memories of what it was like to be young when you pass the age of 55? Do you honestly lose all sense of compassion and good manners, and become a judgmental, agist, cranky sourpuss?'* This  is a range of qualities that especially the Dutch seem to excell at. 
    At one point I turned around to the particularly nasty couple behind me (who were also commenting on how happy they were that they weren't one of those 'brown' people the police would be watching so closely to prevent acts of terrorism), looked them straight in the eye (not difficult to do since we were packed together like sardines) and stood up for myself. I said: 'You do realise I can actually hear you, right?', to which they glanced around uncomfortably and mumbled something intelligable. I waited another couple of seconds to see if they had anything to say for themselves. Then I became worried they might soil themselves -they truly looked uncomfortable and you know, they were kind of old- , and I turned back around. 

    The moment I had repositioned myself the man, again loudly, said to the woman: 'Maybe this will teach her not to take small children along to such events, ::sigh:: youth today...'. Yep, they pretty much embodied every single cliche there is of narrow-minded pensioners. I turned around again, looked him in the eye once more, and said: 'Maybe this will teach you to in the future watch these events from the comfort and quiet of your living room where you don't have to worry about brown people being a threat to you ,or young, hard working mothers trying to teach her children about our country!'. OK so, maybe I didn't actually say that. And I'd like to pretend the reason I said nothing was that I was taking the high road, not deeming them worth another thought or word. The real reason of course was that, between frantically trying to keep the kids happy and having to listen to their whining for forever, I was worried I might have a fit if I turned around again. The only place that would have landed me is in a jail cell, charged with several counts of geriatricide.
    There he is behind me, looks friendly doesn't he? Sorry, no pictures of the actual gold carriage and our Queen - I had my hands full most of the time.

    * Of course I realise I just got unlucky here and that most of you lovely over-fifty-fivers are loverly people - my own parents being excellent examples!

    3. We got to go to the beach last week. The beach! In October! It was hot and incredible and fabulous and wonderful and we all got sunburns. I can't tell you how happy this made me - one last Den Haag beach experience. We ate grapes, TUCs with cream cheese, melkbroodjes with chocolate chips, potato chips and plums. We lazied around in the hot sand while the kids played in the water until they could play no more. It made me so happy.

    4. We have a date for our final visa interviews! On November 10th we will find out if the US will have us or not. If they do then we are currently thinking of December 8th as a good day to fly out

    5. This past weekend was our church's semi-annual General Conference, when our church leaders come together to speak to all the members (and everyone else interested) and remind us of how we should live our lives. That's not all they do though. They inspire, strengthen, encourage and exhude pure love. I came out of this conference feeling changed for the better and invite you all to read my favourite talk of them all over here. Feel free to browse the other talks that were given. Hardly anything will give you as good of an insight as to what I believe and how this church operates like listening to these men and women.

    6. I am on a diet. Sander, Lindsey and I are on a diet, actually. We have vowed together that October would be our month of health and that together we would stick to some gruelling rules. One of those rules means that I have to stop typing right now and start exercising. Ugh. Halloween is our day of freedom... come celebrate and eat yourself into a stupor with us!
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