Baby, it’s cold outside!

Last night the girls had a lovely surprise of some cards from their cousins (thanks, Ilse, Estelle and Hendrik!). What was funny to us was that they asked how our summer has been, which of course, it very much has not been. It is well and truly winter here! In fact, we seem to get almost weekly dumpings of snow and then it gets so cold that everything turns to ice. Earlier this week we had some ice rain after snow, which made things slippy-slidey and treacherous, but also produced some pretty impressive icicles. They were hanging from pretty much any surface they could cling to. The next day was sunny all day, and it wasn’t until late afternoon that I got a chance to take some photos — you’d think that by this time they’d all have melted… many had, but there were still lots! Needless to say, it’s cold here. :-)

Spring is here! (and some going away thoughts)

It seems that spring came a month early this year, after a winter that seemed like it never quite happened. Last year we had so much snow, this year, nothing to speak of. So much for the nice sturdy new toboggan I bought last autumn!

Spring is my favourite season, especially here in New York. There are blossoms everywhere and in gardens where there are usually nothing, tulips and daffodils push through the dirt. Flowers make me happy. :-)

I’ve been taking photos ever since the first flowers appeared, so come enjoy some spring photos with me!

Prospect Park:

Ground Zero:

This tree was the only one that survived the 9/11 attacks, and was just a charred stump ten years ago. It was transplanted to the Bronx Botanic Gardens and nursed back to health. It now is planted in the 9/11 memorial. They say it’s the first to blossom and the last to lose its leaves in the fall.

Central Park:

Pennsylvania:

On our street:

Near our house:

Lower Manhattan:

And The High Line in Manhattan:

I love how full of hope spring is — everything bursting with new life. All through the spring we were blessed with a stream of visitors whose company we enjoyed. The kids especially liked having someone else squish into their tiny room, and we’re thankful for the guests putting up with sharing a room with two little ones without complaint!

It’s been good to show people our favourite New York sights, and I must admit that I felt a bit melancholy taking Lizeth over the Brooklyn Bridge, because it was quite likely my last time on that beautiful bridge.

We have just over one month left in New York City, and I say that with more than a little regret. I love this city, and I love the dear friends I’ve made over the last 2 years. I’ve enjoyed the many warm summer days in playgrounds or parks with the kids and our little picnics.  I’ve enjoyed the opportunities we’ve had here to explore museums and parks and landmarks and restaurants. I’ve enjoyed being useful at church. I’ve enjoyed having my eyes opened a bit to how things work in a different culture. I’ve appreciated realising that most Americans are not the arrogant snobs people outside the States think they are. I’ve appreciated the difficulties life in the city brings, because it has brought growth, and more of a can-do attitude. I could go on… all to say that this place and the friends I’ve made here have crawled deep into my heart and will make leaving very difficult.

But leaving we are, and I’m preparing my heart so that I can leave cheerfully and with hope for what the future holds. I’m excited about our planned 2-month roadtrip across the States. I’m excited to live near many relatives again. I’m so happy that my kids will see their grandparents on a regular basis again. I’m looking forward to living in a real house again — with a yard and a garage. And hey, we’ll have a car again! I’m excited to have a vegetable garden and to be able to pick flowers from my own garden again. I can’t wait to use my own washing machine again instead of a laudromat.

So yes, I get sentimental and look around me at all the new life and beauty around me, and I’m hopeful and excited about the new chapter of life God is opening up for us in our going home. Like a snowstorm in spring, life is often bittersweet.

We survived Irene

We’re posting this from a rescue boat (with free wireless internet) that lifted us from the roof of our flooded apartment early this morning. We’re sipping complimentary cocktails as we traverse the streets by boat, witnessing how New York has turned into a lake full of broken branches and leaves, a veritable Venice. Thankfully we took our bath full of clean water and 6 gallon bottles of drinking water. It was also a good move to pack a couple of bags with our things so we could evacuate quickly when the luxury rescue boat came, otherwise we would have had to wait for the third-class inflatable dinghy that came later. We’re being taken to the rescue facility on the Upper West Side — we don’t want to be seen at the one near Battery Park, it’s not nearly hip enough.

Just kidding!

Actually, there has been flooding in some areas, but nothing here. There was some heavy rain and some wind in the night, but nothing at all drastic. And technically Irene was demoted (sorry, Irene) to just a tropical storm, so when she reached us she was not the hurricane she used to be.

All to say that with all that hype beforehand, we woke this morning with a slight feeling of being let-down. That was… it? But seriously, we’re very thankful that it wasn’t worse and that we have come away from this unscathed.

Anyway, I thought I’d post some before and after photos of our street and backyard, so you can see the extent of damage (ahem) in our neck of the woods for yourself.

We were prepared!

We had some bags packed just in case things turned ugly.

We even brought our potted plants inside!

Our street before the storm, on Saturday morning when it had already started raining a bit:

And after on Sunday morning:

The backyard before:

And after:

Hurricane Irene

Most of you are probably aware that Hurricane Irene is currently moving up the East Coast of the States, and will most likely pass through, or very close to New York City. For those of you who are interested, we are not in an area likely to flood, and we don’t foresee needing to evacuate at all. We will quite likely lose power and/or water. August has been one of the wettest months on record for NYC for years, so with the soil already wet there is the danger of trees toppling in the high winds. The city’s entire public transport system has been shut down since noon today until Monday — the authorities seem to be taking this pretty seriously.

Right now it’s already raining quite hard, but there aren’t strong winds blowing yet — they’re likely to start later tonight. If you would like to track Irene’s path, you can do that here. The city’s entire public transport system has been shut down since noon today.

So, we’ve done what we can to prepare, and we’re just sitting this one out. Please keep the people in the path of this storm in your prayers. As I said, we’ll quite likely lose power (and with it Internet) so if you don’t hear from us for a day or two, don’t panic. We’ll get in touch as soon as we can!

Okay, so it’s just a teensy bit hot here

You’ve probably heard about the heat wave that has hit us here in the States. It’s a steaming sauna — free! We seem to be spending time here when all the records strike. Record snow, record heat. That’s okay, we like experiencing all sorts of things! Just pray that our air conditioner and fans keep working. :-) Oh, and that if there’s a breeze, it doesn’t come from the river — we’ve had a few, uh, sulphurous days earlier in the week.

Thank goodness for playground sprinklers!

Beautiful Brooklyn Botanic Garden

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with our friends Julie and Abby Murphy and Damaris and her 2 cute kids, Elijah and Sophia.

The gardens were amazingly beautiful and dressed in their Spring finest. The cherry trees were in full bloom and we had a great time just marvelling at such glorious beauty. Spring is a really spectacular season here in New York, so I thought I’d share some of the beauty with you!

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has the largest concentration of flowering cherry trees outside of Japan. Talking of Japan, here’s a pic of the serene Japanese garden viewed from across a pond full of koi fish.

We made sure we got plenty of photo opportunities! Here’s the lovely Abby:

And some of the kids:

And Damaris and little Sophia:

Some close-up beauty:

And from below:

Marica had walked the half-hour walk to the Garden already, and yet she could not stop running and jumping and generally expending energy I would consider precious if it belonged to me! I am continually amazed that someone with such a low food intake can expend so much energy!

The lilacs were blooming too and their smell was amazing — I wish I could transfer smells electronically! But then again, maybe I don’t. :-)

Below the lilac bushes grew a carpet of Grape Hyacinths. They always look so cheery, like the kind of flowers that fairies would dance around.

There was also this very interesting sculpture made out of vines or branches. It also gave me plenty of opportunity to play with the camera!

Near the sculpture was a little stream with a tiny little bridge across. I thought I could get a cute picture of the girls together. As you can see, Esther expresses her feelings quite well with her facial expressions!

There is this walkway lined with Crabapple trees, below. (Isn’t it stunning?) When we were heading home we wondered what some commotion was about, only to look up and see that the resident falcon that’s kept at the gardens to keep the rodents at bay had caught himself a nice pigeon for lunch!

Walking home, I tried to capture a shot of a line of cherry trees in front of the impressive building of the Brooklyn Museum. It’s so big, I could only get half of it in the picture!

If anyone wants to visit New York City, I highly recommend the month of April. Not too hot, not too cold, and certainly very beautiful!

Preschool poetry

Last Friday, Marica’s preschool put on a poetry recital that parents were invited to. The kids had all worked hard at memorising the poems — they recited 3 poems and then sung Mary had a little lamb, and they did really well! It was all themed for spring and was about rain, baby animals and flowers. Here are some cute photos of the action:

In New York, everything has to be compact, even where kids’ backpacks and lunch boxes go. Notice the stack of stuff in the background? Those are the cots for naptime.

A nice opportunity to get a photo of just Marica and me.

Marica’s 2 best friends at preschool.