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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