Rambling thoughts

The year starts off differently here in the northern hemisphere compared to the southern hemisphere. In some ways it doesn’t really feel like a new year — school and work just keeps going after a short break for Christmas; whereas in NZ just about nothing happens the first few weeks of January because 90% of the country is off somewhere on holiday. Neither is better or worse, just different.

We took the week between Christmas and New Year’s off school, but were right back into it at the start of January. The girls are doing really well, and learning and growing. We still have attitude struggles, but those seem to be getting better too (I’m still working on mine most of the time!).

We have had a couple of snowfalls of maybe half a foot or so, which the kids always enjoy. On the whole, though, this has been a really mild winter. There have been a few days that our temperatures have been the same as those in Christchurch! I don’t know if that says something about our winters or about NZ summers…

At the start of January, we had cousin Eva stay with us as her last stop before heading back to Vienna. It was a delightful visit! Lots of quiet and relaxed conversation. She even cooked us a gourmet meal one night, which was really delicious.

In January, Trump was sworn in, as most of the world knows. I don’t know what to think about the man. I don’t know if he’s really clever and shrewd or if he’s just a complete narcissistic idiot. He backs certain things that I’m very happy about (he has pro-life policies, for one), and then he does and says other things that are just beyond comprehension. I don’t know what the next 4 years will hold, but I do know that whatever happens it won’t be a boring ride. Seeing that I don’t like exciting roller coaster rides, my response has been to laugh, or for the most part the ostrich in the sand-type of response. The less I know, the less my blood pressure rises. This is probably not the best response, but I know whom I have believed, and He’s ultimately in control. I’m not trying to be fatalistic, I just really don’t want to know every crappy detail of what stupid thing Trump tweeted now. Too much freak show makes one freaky. End diatribe.

Yesterday I finished the Whole30. It’s basically a program where you eat only whole foods (fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, nuts and seeds) for 30 days to give your body a break and to find out when you re-introduce foods how they make you feel. I’ve been wondering for a long time if dairy makes me feel groggy. We’ll see. :-) The first two weeks were hard, but then I got into a groove and it stopped bothering me. I didn’t even feel like I wanted the stuff I used to, and I can now even stomach a cup of coffee black. I think it would be too restrictive to eat like this 100% of the time, but I’d like to eat like this most of the time for the main reason that I got rid of my stupid mind fog. I could get a full night’s sleep and wake up tired — no more of that (except when I don’t actually get enough sleep!). That feeling of walking into a room with a purpose only to get there and wonder what on earth I’m doing there is gone. Some people report big weight loss and lots of energy… I can’t really say that was the case for me, but for the sake of some clarity of mind, I’d be willing to forego a few things.

Laurelin has been growing up. She’s so cute, so clever, and so… challenging. She’s a champion tantrum thrower and a very feisty fighter. I’m sure fighter in her will stand her in good stead one day, but for now they just make her mother bone weary. She’s a lot of fun when she’s not decided that she wants something to go her way. Which is a lot. Unfortunately for her, she has pretty stubborn parents too, so she seldom wins a fight. Maybe she’ll learn it’s not worth the energy soon and give it up, ha. It’s so funny — usually after a major tantrum, when she finally calms down, she’s so tired she needs a nap!

I’ve been thinking. Startling thought, I know. :-)  I’ve been thinking that our modern lives are just too busy, too full of distraction. I took an 18 month break from Facebook a while back, but have been back on it again for a few months, and I’m struck by how easy it is to procrastinate. How short my attention span can be, how I’ve trained myself to skim articles instead of actually reading them and then when it comes to reading real books I catch myself skimming. Bad habits are easy to form and hard to break. It’s not like Facebook is this big stumbling block for me, it just seems like such an apt metaphor for the rest of life. Everyone’s busy with trivial stuff, we’re all busy chasing… what, exactly? I do believe that God created us to work, and to work hard for His glory. I just wish things were simpler and more clean cut, and less busy. Busyness seems to kill joy. I guess it takes a lifetime to figure out how to find a healthy balance in it all.

I’ve been reading Door to Freedom by Jana Kelley, the same author who wrote Side by Side that I reviewed a while back. It was a very enjoyable read, and I’m hoping to post a review of it soon.

I signed Marica and Esther up for homeschooling ice skating classes for the winter, and they’re loving it! There’s also the perk that I get to join in on the other side of the rink. I’m way worse at it than the kids, and have had a couple of pretty hard falls, which makes me afraid of falling again, which in turn doesn’t make one skate very well. I’m gaining confidence, though! It’s a pretty fun way of working a bit of physical activity into the schedule.

You might have noticed I haven’t been posting on a weekly basis recently. Or maybe nobody’s noticed (or they’re relieved!). I don’t have time to blog because I’m sitting on the couch drinking tea and reading People magazine. :-) No, it’s not for lack of wanting to — it’s a matter of getting around it with the few spare hours in the day when the kids are in bed.

One of the things taking up evening time recently is my new role as Gifty Weddings‘ new marketing director. <cough/> We’re trying to push Ben’s little side business a bit more, but I know next to nothing about marketing, so I’m learning on the job. Hopefully I don’t lose us too much money in the process! Hey, if any of you know someone getting married soon who would like the idea of using a gift registry that is not tied to a specific store, please point them to Gifty!

Thus ends my (very) rambling thoughts.

Easter 2016

This year’s Easter was a busy but lovely one. We kept up the tradition of making hot cross buns and egg dying, which the kids always love,

 

and on Easter Sunday we hosted a large crowd of church folk for a yummy dinner, followed by some rousing hymn singing. It was such a great time with people enjoying each other’s company and having some great discussions, mainly on theology and life. It was so wonderful to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection with such a neat bunch of people!

Before the dinner we had an Easter egg hunt for the kids, which was of course full of excitement.

And while we were all dressed in our Easter finery, we asked a friend from church to take a long-overdue family photo of us. We had a little fun posing in the street with midtown Manhattan in the background. Unfortunately I didn’t realise I had my transition lenses on (stupidest invention ever), so that doesn’t look the greatest, but that’s okay.

Cooking with friends

When I was in high school, a woman in our church (hi, Jantina!) got a bunch of us young’uns together for a day of cooking at her house. She gave us some basic recipes and tips and together we spent the day cooking and baking. Such a simple thing, but I remember that day very fondly and with much gratitude. I always thought I’d like to do something like that too, one day when I was a grown-up. And then I realized that, actually, I’m already a grown up, and I can do this now!

The nature of the church we attend in New York is that people come from all over the metropolitan NYC area, and we are very spread out. It really limits the contact we have with each other during the week, so whenever we get together it is great.

This was no exception. I wasn’t exactly teaching new skills to young’uns, because we’re all pretty close in age, but it was really fun just cooking together with a bunch of girls, to have an excuse to use my pretty tea cups (though looking at the photos now I notice that my table sorely lacked a tablecloth!) to drink tea of various sorts and eat the fruits of our labors.

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Esther and Marica did a bit of helping too. Here Esther is chopping mushrooms, which was very nice of her because she detests them!

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We made made bread and soup and a very nice dinner. It was a great team effort!

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And that reminds me, I should get my act together and start planning our next cooking day!

A hobbit comes of age

As everyone knows — well, at least everyone who’s a fan of Tolkien — a hobbit comes of age at 33. I turned this ripe old age the other day, and had a fabulous party, mostly organized by Franci, my lovely hobbit-wife.

No Admittance Except on Party Business

We had some great, down-to-earth hobbit food cooked by Franci with some help from Lillian: loads of mushrooms (fried in butter), homemade bread rolls with “Beorn’s” creamed honey and butter, Mum’s meatloaf (“dwarvish meatloaf”), punch (“Miruvor”), ale from The Green Dragon, “Sauron’s eyeballs” deviled eggs, and lots of other yummy things I’m forgetting.

I wrote a little speech that kind of paralleled Bilbo’s speech at his “eleventy-first” birthday party (and Frodo’s 33rd). There were a couple of Lord of the Rings-based games and riddles.

Gandalf quote

There was a small crowd of maybe 15 mostly from church and a couple from work. A few people even dressed up.

In true Hobbit-fashion, Franci and I organized and wrapped gifts for each of the guests (though there were no silver spoons).

Gifts for the guestsAll in all, a fun time! I highly recommend a Hobbit coming-of-age party for your next trend-setting event. :-)

 

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.)

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

It started snowing on Sunday morning and continued snowing through the night. This morning we woke up to almost 2 feet of snow and a totally transformed neighborhood.

This is what it looked like trying to get out of our metal gate:

Up to the front gate. Check it out: our trash cans have hats on!

Some person’s car in front of our house:

Jeremy’s car:

The steps up to the house next door.

Some steps up the block. They look like mini ski slopes!

On Sunday night we had a bunch of people hanging out at our place. Jeremy, a friend from Philadelphia who lived in Christchurch for a year, is staying for a few days. Lillian is still here, and we had Shannon and Erin from church. Shannon couldn’t go home because of the snow so she stayed the night too and came along to Central Park for some fun playing in the snow.

Shannon:

Lillian:

Me:

Ben enjoyed his first snow shovelling experience. I think if he lived somewhere where he had to do this regularly, it would get old fast!

Esther with some fans. Marica isn’t in any of the photos because she was sleeping on the couch most of the day — her and Esther have been really miserable with the flu and they seem to have passed that on to Ben and me now…

I had to get to the grocery store in the morning and had to try and make my way through this to be able to walk on the road that had been plowed earlier.

I stayed home with 2 sick kids and the rest of the crew traipsed off to Central Park. Here’s my handsome husband laxing out with a snow footstool.

Playing under a gazebo:

Jeremy:

Shannon and Lillian got their pant legs frozen stiff!

Hey, it’s Narnia!

The taxis are still going.

Can you believe that this is in the middle of a big city?

The lake had a slush layer on top. Not for ice skating! It is rather picturesque though, isn’t it?

I apologise for all the photos to those of you with dial-up. I had a really hard time deciding which ones not to put in!

Tasty Recipe and more

Last night we had some company (a work colleague of Ben’s) and I made a new recipe. I have a very bad habit of trying new recipes when we have people over, but this time it was definitely a winner! It’s called Aussie Chicken and it is a delicious combo of chicken, bacon, mushrooms, cheese and honey mustard sauce. You really can’t lose! Serve with rice and salad to cause some serious happiness.

They brought some cupcakes for dessert (cupcakes are really big here in NYC) and Marica enjoyed the icing.

Other exciting news is that we’re having some more guests. Ten of them, to be exact! The van Wichens (Ben’s oldest sister and her family) are staying with us on Thursday and Friday night and on Friday we’re packing in as much of New York City as is possible with 10 children in tow. It’s going to be interesting here with them camping in the backyard and in various spots throughout the apartment on the floor and totally worth it — can’t wait!

Oh, and I can’t resist adding in this photo of Esther, The Bath Lover, having pulled herself up and standing looking at the bath filling up!

And one last one to make you smile: Tandem Airplane Rides with Pappa!