Settling in. Or at least trying to

Our container with all our stuff arrived last Wednesday from New Zealand. It’s great to have our things again, but also very odd. It all seems so out of place. The furniture looks about as comfortable in our apartment as a fat girl in a skinny girl’s clothes. Not that the furniture doesn’t fit — there’s plenty of room, it just seems a little wrong. But maybe the wrong is just in my head. Actually, I’m sure it’s just in my head. Lack of sleep might have something to do with it too. The lack of sleep isn’t just Laurelin’s fault (in fact, she’s had quite a few nights of sleeping through recently), but the neighbors upstaris share in the blame too. I think they have no idea how thin the insulation between us and them is, and so I’ve become well acquianted with when they flush the toilet, when they play, when they open and shut drawers, when they walk/run, when they fight, when they shower… and I’m not even one of those nosy-neighbor types — I just hear it all!

Anyway, enough of that, here are some photos of move-in day.

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You wouldn’t believe it, but on the weekend we had enjoyed warm weather and Ben took the girls to the park. On Wednesday morning we woke to about half an inch of snow, in the middle of spring. The poor movers — it was so, so cold!

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The piano coming out of its crate. It stayed in tune pretty well, the only damage is about 3 stuck keys which will be fixed soon. Good thing we had insurance!

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Boxes everywhere. But slowly, slowly things are taking shape to a more sane kind of living.

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On Good Friday I left the mess just like that and dyed eggs with the girls. I wanted to make hot cross buns, but had no yeast, so we made hot cross banana chocolate chip muffins instead. :-)

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We’ve moved in!

Just a quick note to let you all know that we’ve moved into our new apartment where we hope to be for the next year (or more) in Jersey City Heights. We moved in on Monday and it’s been a bit of a shambles around here that is slowly turning into order. We don’t have much in the way of furniture until our container from New Zealand arrives, but on Friday our new living room set was delivered. How wonderful it felt to sit on soft chairs again! We had Ben’s cousin Hannah staying with us Wednesday and Thursday nights for a lovely quick visit, and I think she appreciated sitting on our new couches for about an hour too and having a break from sitting on the floor!

Now we eagerly wait for our container to arrive — it’s ETA in the country is on the 7th of this month, but then it could be 1-4 weeks until we get it depending on how long it is in quarantine and whether or not it has to go through some sort of customs exam. I really hope for sooner rather than later!

The apartment is a really great size. We have two floors, ground level and a first storey. Downstairs is the laundry, a bathroom and one big open room that I’m planning on turning into a playroom/schoolroom/guestroom. Upstairs are the bedrooms, two more bathrooms (who needs 3 bathrooms?!) and the living area. We also get a parking space, which is wonderful. Unfortunately there is no yard to speak of, but there is a really nice big park about 10 minutes walk away where Ben has taken the kids this morning.

It’s been nice to get out a bit more with the weather warming up a teensy bit. We’re looking forward to being able to go out again without multiple layers!

Life in limbo

Since the last time I posted, we’ve moved into our temporary apartment for the month of March, settled into a daily routine with homeschooling in the mornings, and all of us have gotten sick. New climate, new bugs — it was to be expected!

The apartment we’re in is nice and spacious, with 3 bedrooms and a big dining table where we spend a lot of time each day.

The best thing about this apartment would have to be the view. We can look out the living room window or our bedroom window, or go out on the porch and see Midtown Manhattan right across the river. It never gets old.

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The kids looking out the window, waiting for Ben to come home on the bus.

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However, while this place is very comfortable and meets all our needs, the interior decorating is not quite our style. I like art (though, not necessarily this painting), but I’m not sure that the size of this picture in the dining room is quite appropriate for the size of the room. 

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There are a few more …interesting… pictures in our bedroom, which in the beginning I found a little intimidating, but now I don’t notice them anymore. Well, I manage to ignore them most of the time.

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There are many more glitzy decor touches that I just don’t quite go for:

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Mirrors on the beds. (??)

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Fake flowers are an abomination and should be banned from all existence on this earth.

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The house has all these attempts at glamour, and yet the maintenance is a bit shabby, like the chandelier with only a few working light bulbs.

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I’ve saved the best for last. In the dining room, there is a throne. Yes, a throne. I ceremoniously placed all our school books on it. We call it The Seat of Education.

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We started homeschooling in earnest last week. I’m using Rod and Staff for Esther, and the Logos 2nd Grade curriculum for Marica. So far I’m very happy with it. The workload seems good and the work is at just the right difficulty for both of them. I aim to be done by lunchtime every day so that they can use the afternoon for playing.

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We also have signed the lease for an apartment for a year, starting in April. We’ll be living in the Heights section of Jersey City in a 3-bedroom duplex. It has a great big open space downstairs which I hope to turn into a playroom/schoolroom, which will double as a guest room when we have guests. I look forward to settling in there — I’m getting a little tired of being in so many temporary places! We’ll post pictures of the new place when we’re there. :-)

Marica got some Lego this past weekend as a belated birthday present from me. We went to ToysRUs and got totally overwhelmed with the selection but she’s happy with the one we ended up with. Man, Lego is much cheaper here than in New Zealand!

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There is no plug for the bath, so the kids have been taking showers, and Laurelin’s been having baths in the kitchen sink. This cutie melts my heart, and has her sisters twisted around her little finger!

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Packing up, cleaning out, giving away, selling…

That’s what I’m doing a lot of at the moment. And I’m seriously worried about this 4 suitcase limit. I’m just praying that our rental car can fit more than that because just our family’s clothing takes up 3 suitcases! That’s summer and winter clothing for 4 people after I’ve given away and pared down all I can. We’re very willing to pay for an extra few suitcases for going on the plane, but the challenge is fitting things into the rental car for the two months before we get to the plane!

On Saturday we hope to have a Stoop Sale (that’s what it’s called here in Brooklyn because people don’t have yards or garages). I’m so thankful that Lillian and Jeremy are going to be here this weekend to help out with that and with bits and pieces that need to be done.

Ben’s last day at work is on Tuesday. Despite interviewing a bunch of people, they still haven’t found a replacement for his position, and I think that has him leaving with a bit of a bad feeling. But that’s unfortunately the state of things.

We sold our bed on Monday, so since then we’ve been sleeping on the floor in our room. The kids think this is great because now they can rough and tumble all the more on our bed without the risk of falling off! Someone’s coming to look at the couch tonight, so hopefully we can sell that too!

I have so many things I want to share here on the blog about things we’ve done recently and people we’ve caught up with, but I’m lacking in time! I’ll see if I can do a bit of a summary post before we leave.

We’ve been having some really precious times with friends over the last few weeks, with memories I’ll treasure for years to come. We’ve got some more get-togethers planned that I’m really looking forward to, and at church this Sunday (our last Sunday at MeRF, <sigh>) they’re putting on a farewell lunch for us. I feel so humbled by people’s generosity and kindness to us not only recently but in the last 2 years. They have made our two years here so much more special, and have blessed us with friendships we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

Getting excited about Christmas

I love the month of December here in New York — I think it’s even my favourite time of the year, even better than beautiful spring-time April. It’s cold, but everyone seems to be in good spirits (as opposed to grumpy January!), there are beautiful decorations everywhere (I’ll have to get you some photographic evidence!), buskers sing “Feliz Navidad” on the subway, you get things like peppermint hot chocolates and hot apple cider, and random people on the street say “Merry Christmas”.

But maybe I feel especially fond of New York City in December because I love Christmas! I love everything about it: the music, the wonderful smells, the baking, the decorations, the festivities, the gifts…, and all these ‘little’ things undergirded with a robust and joyful deep thankfulness that God gave the most extravagant Christmas gift ever to set us free from our bondage to sin. If that is not reason to get excited and celebrate, then nothing is.

So we embrace the little traditions; we celebrate Advent, we decorate, we bake, we give gifts, we sing and make music.

I thought I’d share some little ways in which I’ve made our home more Christmassy — have I mentioned that we love Christmas around here?

We listen to Christmas music. And sometimes we even dance to them. Everything from traditional carols to Frank Sinatra crooning “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” (Marica is certainly dreaming of one. She can’t wait for the snow!). I’ve also been asked to be part of a Christmas Choir, and we’ll be giving a concert next weekend. I signed up because I thought, oh that will be easy — I’ve done Christmas music all my life! Uh… it turns out my Christmas music exposure has been pretty small. We’re singing all sorts of German and Latin and even American songs I’d never heard before. It turns out they’re actually quite difficult and I have to <gasp> practice at home! I think it’s going to be totally worth it though, the music is really beautiful.

I make the house smell nice. Sometimes that’s from baking, but I’ve also developed a love with scented candles (NEVER thought I’d say that!). At the moment I’ve got a Creme Brulee one that I wish I could eat. When that one’s gone I’m going to get a peppermint one!

I’ve also decorated an orange with cloves (such a fun and easy and cheap craft! Though I recommend using a thimble if you are going to make one) and it smells really good. I might throw it into some gluhwein at the end of the season.

We bake! This year is pretty busy, but I’m definitely still baking! Grandma Tschetter’s peppernut dough is already ripening in the fridge. Also on the menu are gingerbread men, Christmas biscotti (with pistachios and dried strawberries), Jo Seagar’s Port and Prune truffles, apricot truffles and ‘Christmas snow’ which is like rice crispy candy with extra bits and pieces thrown in to make it look Christmassy.

We read Christmas-themed books. I got a whole bunch of nice ones from the library, and we also own Duck & Goose — It’s Time for Christmas, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, Room for a Little One, Hettie’s Christmas Gift, an Advent Storybook, The Nutcracker (in Afrikaans), A Christmas Carol (not really for the kids) and the kids are getting The Carpenter’s Gift and How the Grinch Stole Christmas for Advent gifts. I buy a couple every year and slowly the collection grows.

The kids have a special plate and cup. They got these for Advent gifts last year, and they want to eat out of them all the time. We make meal-times an extra bit fun with Christmas cookie cutter sandwiches, and we’ve even had Christmas shaped poached eggs!

(Mum gets the crusts.)

We decorate. We’ve made some decorations, and bought some. I’ve been amazed at how dirt cheap some decorations are here, and they’re nice, not tacky! A little bit of inspiration goes a long way.

Add a little something to your usual shelf, and suddenly it looks like Christmas!

Some pine cones I picked up some months back in a red bowl.

We don’t have a Christmas tree, so I decorate in other ways. Hey, guess what my friend Jennifer turned up with last night?! The kids can’t stop staring at it, turning out the lights of the room so just the Christmas tree lights are giving light. They’re over the moon, thanks, Jen!

We made these cool Christmas decorations recently at Jen’s house. I’ll show you some pictures of that soon!

A pretty metal star I picked up from Target for $2.50.

Marica painted this angel (with a little bit of help) at the same craft afternoon I made the ball decoration I showed you earlier. The kiwi on the left was a gift from my friend Miriam, and the apple decoration I bought as a souvenir to take home.

Even the chairs get a bit of sprucing up.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make Christmas a bit more special, and all these little things add up to make the whole month more festive. I’d also like to think we’re making some happy memories.

Thanksgiving yumminess

Well, Thanksgiving came and went, and we had a lovely day. It was great to have a bonus day where Ben had the day off, and we enjoyed getting to know a friend from church a bit better.

One of the highlights of a day filled with thankfulness was of course the food! I enjoyed spending two days creating a feast. I love cooking! I love cooking good food! I love cooking good food for people to enjoy around my table, even if my table can’t be as festive or pretty as I might like in our current setting.

I don’t know if it’s because I had one glass of wine (ha!), or if my camera settings were just all wrong, but it was The Day of the Worst Photos Ever. Which is why there are not detailed photos of every single dish. (Thank goodness, I hear you say?) Oh well! Here’s what we had.

Roast TurkeyTurkey Gravy, Cranberry sauce, Strawberry and Spinach SaladStuffing, (yep, the stuff from the box. Though I did dress it up with onions, celery, carrots and mushrooms.), Challah rolls, Pommes DauphinoiseCurried Sweet Potato SaladWhiskey Glazed Carrots, and Green Bean Casserole with bacon.



Our table doesn’t have the room for salad plates, so our plates were wonderfully full!

And for dessert we had Pumpkin Pie and cream.

as well as an amazing Raspberry and Chocolate Mousse cake that our friend Eddie brought.

Brining the turkey was quite an adventure –something I had never done before. I cooked up some brine on Tuesday and let it cool. It looked cool and smelled pretty potent.

On Wednesday evening, it was time to get this turkey into the brine.

There was a little problem, though. I don’t have a container big enough to fit a turkey. Even my biggest pot here would hold about half the turkey. It’s times like that I try not to get frustrated with the fact that I have a fully functional kitchen sitting in storage in my garage back home. But I digress. I looked around at what I had. Option one was the cleaning bucket, but I couldn’t get myself to put food in there. Then I looked at my plastic drawer set… hmmm, this could work! So the contents of the drawer came out

the drawer set looked bereaved

but the turkey fit!

The only problem was that I didn’t have enough brine, so I made some more. Good.

Oh dear, now it was too heavy for the fridge shelf. Rethink this whole thing. Almost give up on the whole silly brining idea. Oh, a bag! Of course! (I didn’t have the foresight to buy a special brining bag). It worked, sort of!

And she turned out pretty good in the end, even if I say so myself.

Later that evening we had some fun with dressing Esther up in her old (too small) monkey costume and there were giggles all around! And look, how strange!– a photo of me! (Honestly, it’s better that way.)