We’ve hit the road!

The last week has been a crazy whirlwind of activity. We got rid of a lot of stuff, selling some things on Craigslist, selling a bunch of things at our stoop sale and giving loads of stuff away. Moving like this isn’t what I’d call an economical venture, but it’s been a great two years and the experience has been worth it.

Our stoop sale was pretty much a success, though I would have liked it if we could have sold a few more little items. In the end, the Salvation Army greatly benefited from our departure!

We had lots of opportunities to meet up with people over the last few weeks for plenty of “lasts”, yet unfortunately I forgot to take photos for most of the time!

I’ll share a few I do have. I haven’t written before about the great book group I attended. There were just 3 of us and we usually met once a month and worked our way through Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic chapter by chapter. It was so upbuilding and encouraging — a real highlight in the month for all of us. The food was a highlight too… I will miss you two so much, Damaris and Tionnei!

Friends of ours from church, Lyle and Julie, took us out for a surprise “Experience New York” evening. First they took us to an amazing restaurant with a great view over Columbus Circle and Central Park, and then afterwards to a concert by the New York Philharmonic at the Lincoln Centre! We were blown away by their generosity and we had such a blast of an evening. Thanks again, Lyle and Julie!

I have a few photos of our last Sunday at Messiah’s Reformed Fellowship. That was a sad, sad day, having to say goodbye to people we’ve come to love so dearly over the last two years. After the morning service they called us up the front and sang “God be with you till we meet again” to us. I was a sobbing mess! Good thing I had invested in waterproof mascara not too long before that. :-) They also put on a special lunch for us, which we really appreciated and enjoyed. Thanks, guys!

That Sunday evening we were invited to Jason and Tionnei’s place along with a bunch of other friends. What a great time of hanging out and enjoying each other’s company, even if it was really sad to say goodbye to people for the last time there too. Here’s a bunch of photos I took that night (I had borrowed a flash from Ben’s work to try out to see if I wanted to buy one for myself, and I went a little overboard on the photos.)

Our friends Jennifer and Sam had us over at their place for a yummy barbecue dinner, and the next day she watched the girls while we picked up our rental car. When we got back, she and Anna helped so much with cleaning that if I had to pay them, it would have cost a fortune! Here are some photos of our evening with them. Some of the Murphys popped over for a while too (they live just 2 houses down from Sam and Jen) to say a last goodbye.

Oh, and then I will have to tell you about the awesome fun my friend Anna and I had making pies and doing spa days with the kids, but those things deserve a post to themselves, and this one is already too long.

As for an update as to where we are right now… we’re on our way to the Holders in Knoxville, TN staying the night at some random motel in Virginia. I hope to keep you pretty much updated as to how the roadtrip is progressing as we go!

Love poem to New York

New York…

Your name invoked images, awe, presumptions
of ghetto, gangster, glamour, glitz.
Yet many will be surprised to know
I found in you much goodness and grace
just as ingrained
as the grit and grime.

I arrived in your muggy embrace on a stifling night in May,
and as I gradually acquainted myself with your form,
you grieved me.
Now, two years later,
I am grieved once more.
But the grief is different this time, my unexpected love.

“New York grows on you like a fungus”
says Anna.
I do believe she’s right.
Can a fungus grow in the heart?
Your roots burrow deep in mine.

You have taught me much about life —
I walk past faces hard as flint
inside them live eyes that have long forgotten how forgiveness feels
I walk over petrified gum ground into the pavement
I walk around the smelly legless homeless man
(do I ignore him this time, or do I smile?)
It’s physical and spiritual, this grit and grime,
But it makes grace more glorious.

Beauty lives in you too, City of Contrasts,
Your skyline’s famous fingerprint
Your proud bridges
Your art — you collect and inspire —
Your playground sprinklers tickling children
Your sprawling parks
Your wide harbor with the proud green Lady
Your beaches
Your Christmas lights
Your people.

African, American, Asian,
Hasid, Hipster, Hispanic (too many more to count)
Is there a place, religion or philosophy not represented here?
We all live side by side
on top of each other.
I’m pleasantly surprised by the peace
as I sit in the evening cool
on my Brooklyn stoop steps.

I am Lot’s wife,
One last look at this Sodom
that has been my home.
But you are not completely Sodom
because in you I have found many
who are righteous
who call on Him who washes us clean
like the summer rains your streets.

I know some of them
and I love them fiercely.
They are your roots burrowing in my heart.
They are what made you my home.

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.

The beauty of a farmers’ market

I love markets of any kind, but I especially like farmers’ markets. I can’t explain it — they just make me happy in the same way that flowers make me happy. On Saturdays there is a farmers’ market at Prospect Park, and we’ve been there a couple of times.

Last time we were there, I took some photos.

A small sample of some of the foods they sell:

They sell plants too, that vary according to the season (before Christmas they sell wreaths and Christmas trees).

New York doesn’t have a council-run compost collection system, so if you’re particularly concerned about that, you can bring your compost to the market.

There was even a group doing Irish/Country music,

and a puppeteer.

Maybe you think I’m strange, but I think farmers’ markets are beautiful!

20 years of friendship, and still going strong

In March, my friend Lizel visited us from South Africa.

Lizel and I have been close friends since we were seven years old, despite living apart for 15 of those. As kids, we would do all sorts of crazy things like pelt the neighbour’s house with mud cookies, or knock on people’s doors and run away, or take whoopie cushions into shops and walk through the aisles making farting noises.

We also used to busk together at Christmas time, split the money exactly between us, walk over to the church office and give them 10%, and then walk back to the shops to spend the money on Christmas gifts and loads of candy.

Her visit to us was only the third time I had seen her since leaving Namibia in 1998. I went back for a visit in 2002 and she taught me how to play the guitar. We wrote many songs and dreamed of being famous.

Having her here was fantastic for so many reasons — not least of them that I hadn’t seen her since she came to New Zealand (as a BIG surprise!) for Ben and my wedding in 2005, more than 7 years ago. We still can laugh so much that our stomachs hurt and our eyes water, and we’re not always even sure what we’re laughing about. Ben jokes that our maturity levels dip by about 10 years when we’re together, but I think that’s good for the soul sometimes! Lizel spent 12 days with us, and they were almost all jam-packed with sight-seeing, shopping, exploring and laughter. Here are some of the things we did together:

We walked the Brooklyn Bridge,

went through the financial district and saw Wall Street,

and took the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty,

and rode the subway quite a lot.

We spent a day in Central Park with my friend Neli.

We went to Prospect park once with the whole family,

and once on my birthday (without Ben).

We went on a double decker tourist bus to see some city sights quickly,

and we gawked at Times Square.

Lizel even got her photo taken with a NYC cop!

We rode in a yellow cab,

went up the Empire State Building.

(View of lower Manhattan and Jersey City across the river.)

We saw Wicked on Broadway,

and even got a photo with the lead singer afterwards (when she wasn’t green anymore!).

We went to Ground Zero and saw the memorial pools and the new World Trade Centers under construction.

We saw the view of Manhattan from New Jersey,

and we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We went shopping,

and Lizel bought a truckload of gifts for people back home (but not from Macy’s!).

We ate far too many yummy things, most of them containing chocolate of some form.

We also took a trip out of the city to Lancaster County to give Lizel a little bit of a taste of rural America. Marica stayed with friends that weekend who took her to a ballet performance, so it was just Esther in the back with Lizel. The whoopee cushion (with new! improved! technology — it blows itself up!) came along for the ride.

We saw beautiful Amish farms,

and workers in the fields.

We stayed at a farm that also has some cabins. The grounds were so lovely and peaceful, and the cabins were clean and comfortable. It did have a decidedly farm smell about it, though, but that all added to the authenticity!

And we went on the Strasburg steam train which was quite a neat experience.

If you’ve made your way through this post, I applaud you.

Whew, what a wonderfully fun and full 2 weeks! Let’s hope it’s not a whole 7 years before I see Lizel again!

I met The Pioneer Woman!

I recently had the fun experience of going to a book signing. It was fun, because I got to head out by myself for an evening, and fun because I got to meet someone semi-famous. I say semi-famous because if you don’t frequent food blogs or watch food shows on TV, you’ve probably never heard of The Pioneer Woman. I’ve linked to a few of her recipes on my blog, and I’ve made quite a few of her recipes. They’re all delicious.

Anyway, so I got to ‘meet’ Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, at a book sigining in the Union Square Barnes and Noble, I got my recipe book signed, and I got photos to prove it!

The Pioneer Woman, contemplative and in discussion with the person in line in front of me.

I find it hilarious that the book in the background is called “If Looks Could Kill”, because in this photo it looks as if she’s telling me my bag doesn’t match my outfit or something.

In reality she was probably asking me about my accent.

And you have to have a posed shot too. I look dopey in it — maybe because the thought ‘would anyone notice if I just took her amazing camera and ran?’ crossed my mind for a millisecond at that point.

She, on the other hand, is looking really good for someone who’s just been signing about 300 people’s books. Oh wait, that’s why I’m looking dopey — I was towards the end of a loooong line of people and had read so much during my wait my eye got all lop-sided like that.

Yay! One of the perks of living in New York City is that you get to meet famous people, like, all the time, dude. Practically everyone is famous in NYC, or so my sister seems to think. So that means I’m famous too. Who wants my autograph?