Snow

I have been craving snow this year. I long from my childhood memories in huge banks of snow, snow days home from school, sleigh riding with the neighborhood kids, and Mom making hot chocolate for us when we came inside. These are such strong memories for me and I wish it was something that I could pass on to my kids. I realize it’s just not the same. We can make other memories. At least we live in Cadier en Keer where snow seems to come and last more frequently and longer. Hugs to that. Thibault was cold after 30 minutes, but Flora was our snow champ. She loved it. It was perfect timing for the book I was reading, Wintering. It’s good to know there are other people out there who like the cold!

Moving through this with books

I’m currently reading Wintering: The power of rest and retreat in difficult times. Seems appropriate for a cold January lockdown. Thankfully, I have been finding myself lost in a great books lately. Group by Christie Tate was one of the best books I have read all year. I couldn’t put it down and it was the perfect holiday read. 2020 was a time for me to take my reading to a new level. I exceeded my good reads challenge and started creating better evening habits. More reading and meditating in the evenings. This remains my new goal in 2021. Jaap and I have not sat together to watch T.V. in the evening for the past several days. It feels good, but I also enjoy the evening snuggles of a good series or movie with him. I am trying to read more and more because it makes me happier and it feels better than scrolling social media. Another goal! Less social media. I have deleted Facebook from my phone and to be honest…I don’t miss it. I feel better. There was a point after New Year where I found myself on and off my phone the entire day. Come evening time it just feels awful. So, I’m really trying to commit to not doing this to myself. Who am I looking at on social media anyway? The news of course. That was one of the reasons why I liked picking up Facebook. I could just see a few headlines (non-stop) and pick an NPR article to read. But, it’s just not worth. I love staying in touch with the Catskill girls this way, but in reality, it’s possible to check Facebook 1X per week and still stay connected. So, that is my new goal. Checking in to Facebook 1X per week and to stop checking Instagram all the time.

I’m also committing to myself that I will only read books that I enjoy reading. Seems simple. Too often in the past two years I find myself trying to get through books that I don’t like and most of these reads are coming via book club. I’ve started to have feelings of annoyance from book club. Books that don’t interest me, books that are too depressing during depressing times, etc. Reese Witherspoon’s book club has put me in a good place. These are great reads that feel satisfying. And dare I say— Flora is turning into a little book worm. She was taken away by reading De Waanzinnige Boomhut van 26 verdiepingen this week. It was a dream come true. Toasting my glass of red wine right now. Cheers to good books in 2021!

Weekend Calm

This weekend was full of rest, relaxation, fresh air, and tidying up around the house. I was never a person who needed the weekends to look forward to. But now, I need them to survive. Judith describes are job now as soul crushing, mega boring, and unrewarding. Exactly. I used to love going into work and now I hate remote teaching. It’s so physically draining. It’s hard to cope. I’m SO GRATEFUL our kids can go to the noodopvang 2X per week. Thank God. In the meantime, I’m trying to breathe deep, stretch a lot, keep up with my daily meditations, and just keep on going. Hugs to myself.

Sallandse Heuvelrug & Deventer 2020

I just love this view. This is the Dutch landscape. Overijssel and the Sallandse Heuvelrug is my new favorite area. This national park has so many beautiful spots. Our Landal park was cute. We made the best of it. Rented some bikes, drank gluhwein on the playground while the kids played, the kids got to roast some marshmallows at the tipi, and hiked. I’m happy we decided to go ahead with the trip. Even though the pool was closed, it was good to have a change of scenery.

We took an evening walk in Deventer. It was actually my favorite day of the trip. A refreshing walk in nature in the national park (preceeded by a lot of complaining and crying–of course), cold fresh air, beautiful scenery, a cozy movie afternoon by the fire with coffee, followed by this evening stroll in Deventer, and a late dinner. It was such a fantastic day. I loved it. I have wanted to go to Deventer for some time now. Such a beautiful place. Lots of independent shops (two bookstores!), little eateries and tea rooms, tiny, quiet streets. It was beautiful. We will return sometime when life goes back to normal.

Some moments of our evening walk with all the Kerst lampjes.

Christmas 2020

Our first (and hopefully last) lockdown Christmas. My kids look so grown up when I see this photo. Thankfully we could visit Jaap’s family is small bits. I always love Christmas with the Jansens. No drama, just Christmas. We had a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner, just the four of us. I absolutely loved it. The children sat through a three course, homemade dinner with my holiday stuffed mushrooms, gulash from the slow cooker, and Spanish flan (Flora’s request). It was just a magical evening. Luckily, Santa paid us a visit. Nobody was too anxious or overly excited. Kids were thrilled with his gifts. My mom sent us a lot of presents and it really brightened the morning. I gave Jaap some tips for next Christmas. No more cookbooks. I will leave it at that.

I love these beautiful Christmases with Jaap’s parents. We missed the annual walk to the nativity scenes in Oirschot, but the Chirstmas sing along at the piano was a highlight for me. Meanwhile, I have been completely engrossed in Group by Christie Tate. What a fantastic memoir. I couldn’t put this book down. The second Christmas in a row where I had a book that completed captivated me. It felt warm and fuzzy. Merry Christmas.

Christmas Eve Eve

Look how cute Flora is here. We’ve had a hilarious time rehearsing our Kerst Voorstelling, just some songs we are putting together to sing at Opa and Oma’s house.

A new tradition was born

I have definitely lowered my Christmas time expectations this year. I wish I could tell my 35 year old self, “Just relax and enjoy yourself.” Keeping my Christmas expectations low has actually helped me enjoy everything. Watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with the kids the other day was magical for me. Luckily, Thibault was willing to sit through Charlie Brown Christmas too! These moments just warm my heart. Getting good use out of my winter drinks books! I’ve been focusing more on reading and picking books I enjoy.

Yesterday we built gingerbread houses from Ikea. Last year they were sold out and I was crushed. Jaap and I were in Ikea late October, they were there and I picked some up. My friend Cyrille came over to help us decorate, I made some great royal icing from Tasty and it was a huge family hit. Thibault and Flora loved it! Thibault couldn’t stop talking about his gingerbread house, his beautiful room, the curtains, the smoke out of the chimney. It was so freakn’ cute! Opa said he wants to join this tradition next year. I can’t believe how much sugar my kids are eating each day.

This will be my last post for 2020. I’m going to enjoy the quiet Christmas Eve festivities, be present, meditate, try not to eat to many sweets, continue to exercise, and think about some healthy New Year’s Resolutions. XOXO

Moments of joy through sadness

A photo collection of things that are bringing me joy this holiday season 2020. Monday evening’s press conference regarding the new coronavirus lockdown brought a huge mass of sadness and negativity to my thoughts. This lockdown is serious and in my opinion extreme. Gyms, schools, stores, every possible out of the house activity is canceled or closed. It’s hard not to drink off into dark thoughts, but today was a success. I meditated last night, did yoga this morning, and felt okay-ish the entire day. I wanted to post these Holiday Season 2020 moments to remind me of the beautiful things that are still happening in and around my home through these dark times.

On Saturday we went out for a chilly late morning walk to one of my favorite spots, Eijsden Castle. Afterwards my friends Billy and Cyrille came over to bake Christmas cookies. It’s become my one day of the year for entertaining. Despite living through a pandemic, this didn’t even happen last year because I got the flu. I’m happy that it was able to go ahead this year. More moments of joy— walking around Maastricht with Cyrille while sipping hot gluhwein, baking baking & baking, my winter drinks book I purchased from Book Depository’s “Beautiful Books” section, making homemade chocolate, and watching movies with Jaap on the couch. And I can’t forget to mention our beautiful Christmas tree. I love this tree. I think it’s one of the best we have ever had. Flora picked it out within two minutes and it’s way to big for our living room, but we moved it’s location into the corner by the dining room table. It fit’s perfectly there.

Autumn Walk Collection 2020

We’ve had some great walks in Zuid Limburg this Autumn. Plenty of time on our hands to explore hikes and places I have always wanted to visit in the area. Hikes with friends in Meerssen, a hilly hike in Gulpen, exploring the Brunssummerheide, a visit to Kasteel Hoensbroek, and our usual favorite— a bike ride to the American Cemetery in Margraten. I must admit. When musuems, theaters, and zoos are closed I am happy that we live so close to nature. At the same time, I miss the Hudson Valley so much this time of year. Nothing beats the colors of Autumn in NY. Of course.

Holiday Lights

A few weeks ago we went for an evening family walk with one of Flora’s friends. Maastricht has this beautiful light trail that winds through the city centre during the holidays and I have always wanted to walk it, but you know when you have little ones getting out of the house on a Saturday evening can be tricky. It seems that 2020 is the perfect year for us to do this.

It felt like a big night out for us. Simple things like walking around the city at night are super fun now during pandemic times. We did a decent route through the city and stopped near the Vrijthof, ordered some pizza & pasta takeout, and had an outdoor dinner at Amersplein. The kids had a great time. It was beautiful and the city felt quite empty. It was a fun time, but I really miss normal life. It seems I am in an okay place right now. Last month was difficult with Thibault starting school, but we made it through Thanksgiving and Sint (another post coming) and I am feeling okay. I just miss my parents, family, and friends more than I could have ever imagined. The hardest part is not knowing when this chapter will close. With that said, Sint has now returned to Spain, our tree is up, and we are gearing up for a relaxing Christmas.

Thibault, Us, Autumn 2020

Hiking in the Brunssummerheide

I love this photo that Jaap took of us walking through the Brunssummerheide. It was a beautiful day.

Lots of things have happened this past month. The biggest that Thibault has turned four and is not at primary school. It was an extremely emotional week for me. I was crying a lot. Multiple times a day. It was an emotionally draining time. The good news is that he’s doing really well at school. He enjoys going each day and so far, it seems that things are going well. Our little man likes to wear effeminate clothing. I was so scared to let him open himself up to a new world like this. I had some great chats with lovely colleagues, his teacher, and of course Jaap, always being there to lead us through these challenges. It seems to be going okay. He enjoys going to school, he loves his teacher, and he is settling in well.

We had a small Halloween celebration with some other families in Cadier and good friends of ours. Very short and sweet, but I’m positive next year Halloween trick or treating full on will be back.

We have had some great hikes, a trip to Hoensbroek castle before everything closed down again, a trip to Toverland (that resulted in a trip to the ER with a fractured arm for Mr. T), and his birthday celebration.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am nervous. It’s always a difficult week for me, but this year seems even worse. Our usual family Thanksgiving at Ann’s house in Belgium has to be canceled. We will have a quiet dinner at home and lots of good family time this week. Sint is in full force! And I’m just happy when this week will be over. Giving myself lots of self care moments this week.