Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My favourite Christmas ornament


Papa: Isabelle, je hebt een blauwe plek op je been, heb je je gestoten?
Isabelle: Ja.
Papa: Deed het pijn?
Isabelle: Ja.
Papa: Wanneer is dat gebeurt dan?
Isabelle: Om kwart over één. Nee, om tien over één.

Papa: Isabelle, you have a bruise on your leg, did you bump against something?
Isabelle: Yes.
Papa: Did it hurt?
Isabelle: Yes.
Papa: When did it happen?
Isabelle: At a quarter past one. No, at ten past one.

Birthday Party

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Last week, we discovered a poem by Annie M.G. Schmidt, called 'Isabella Caramella', promptly changed to 'Isabelle Caramel'. It goes like this (please to forgive bad non-rhyming translation):

Isabelle Caramel
gives her baby a bath
Isabelle Caramel
has a white woolen cat
and two white woolen mice
and a red-checkered bunny
and she has a crocodile,
called Petijn.
Isabelle Caramel
plays so sweetly in the sand
Isabelle Caramel
with some flowers in her hand
but as soon as nasty people come to visit,
she calls softly her crocodile Petijn.
And the crocodile Petijn
eats all the nasty people up
from their toes to their hair
hollihop and hollihap
For instance Miss Schoppetien
who doesn't like small children
Or the lady in the fur-coat
who nags and shouts all the time
and the crocodile devours
Mr Van Boven on the grass
to the last nasty piece of his nasty overcoat.
Isabelle Caramel, where is Miss Schoppetien?
Did you see Mr Van Boven, with his overcoat?
Do you know whether the fat lady left on her bike?
Isabelle Caramel knows nothing.
And she is playing there so sweetly
with her red-checkered bunny
while on the pavement next to her lies the crocodile Petijn.
Isabelle Caramel says 'there, that was that'
Isabelle Caramel gives her baby a bath.

True to character, we both had it memorized within a few days. And then one morning, Isabelle woke up and asked me whether I could make her a birthday crown (she'd seen this post, of course). As I was sewing, her job was to choose buttons and beads and things for me to sew on. At some point, she hands me the only crocodile button in our button jar. The following dialogue ensued:

me: tu veux un crocodile sur ta couronne?
you want a crocodile on your crown?
Isabelle: ja, dat is Petijn. Je moet hem op mijn koning doen, want als er nare mensen naar mijn verjaardag komen, dan eet Petijn ze op.
yes, it's Petijn. You have to put him on my crown (Isabelle uses the Dutch word 'king' to mean 'crown'), because if there are any nasty people at my birthday, Petijn will eat them up.

So to all of you who are joining us for tomorrow's celebration, I say:

"Beware! From the back of my daughter's head her crocodile is watching you!"

An end and a beginning

I cannot believe it's been a week since I last blogged. Seriously, this 30 Days of Living series nearly burnt out the blog instinct. Who would have thought it would be so hard? Maybe the whole thing about these 'one-month' challenges is that one should only have ONE of them per month?

Anyway, I really wanted to end it with a flourish; I had it all planned out, the 30th photograph was to knock you off your socks. However... the universe blew my plans to smithereens. You see, the 30th photograph was to be a positive pregnancy test. But although I am pregnant, by the time Day 30 arrived, no test would confirm it for me (too early...). So I waited, and waited and waited. And pondered, from my newly acquired frugal state of mind, the wisdom of wasting yet another 10 euro on a pregnancy test when I know perfectly well that I'm pregnant. Finally, on day 6 post-30th Day deadline, the dam broke, I gave in to the evil craving and ransacked the local drugstore. Only to lose the positive test. Actually lose it!

So, with some red winter berries to symbolise the news, I am delighted to announce that we are expecting a little fire pig sometime in August!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


A year ago today I began this blog. All day I have been musing on the distance travelled since. And on the stretchiness of time. Its circularity.

A year ago I was about to embark on the write-a-novel-in-a-month adventure. And where is that novel now? (this is a rhetorical question; I know exactly where it is: hiding in some dark corner of my C: disk). All year, I've been answering questions about THE novel with stories about the need for maturation prior to revision, the fact that it was only an exercise anyway, the other creative endeavours that the novel had made possible, in particular crafting. These stories were both contradictory and true, and reading between their lines, there is the story of what I have put of myself into that book, of tears and tears (vowel change), of high resonance and wisdom, of ecstasy and blood and sweat and more blood and more sweat (and ecstasy). Not to mention the staggering number of dried mango's. So much in fact that I can neither throw away the manuscript nor read it all the way through.

These days, my mind is on de-cluttering. The good old 'love it, use it or throw it away' principle turns out to be a tad more profound than I guessed at first sight. What does it mean to 'love' and therefore keep something? Why do I 'love' clothes I never wear, letters I never read, photographs I never look at, manuscripts I never get around to revising. Because somewhere deep inside I believe that these objects are me. I seem to have locked some shred of myself inside them; a shred too painful to look at, yet to dispose of it would be cutting off my own finger (or worse).

But what if the things I hold on to are only a reflection of what I hold on to inside. If I were to let go of the letters, the clothes, and the manuscripts, would I also be letting go all that I have locked up in my soul, all that I am carrying around in my backpack? But surely, if I carry it still, it is because I am not done with it? If I no longer have these gates into my previous experience, can I trust that what I have not worked through yet will come my way again? Can I trust that it will come at the right time?

Because if I can, oh the freedom of it. The lightness of being. The stretching of my wings. The amount of free space on my C: disk.

I look at that picture above, of a three-year old curly miracle in her bath, all the way back in 1977. I look at the curly three-year old miracle in my bath tonight. And I think maybe I do trust. Trust that all that I still need to see, read, hear and feel will come my way again. And again. At the right time. Even without reminders.

Day 22

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006

The months

The no-spending month is slowly but surely nearing its end. I wanted to write ‘it has been an amazing experience’ until I realised that my tense use was all wrong. It is still, and will remain, an amazing experience. This seemingly innocent decision, to stop spending money for one little month, has brought along a paradigm shift of such intensity and scope that it is still busy swallowing up my life as I knew it. Conscious spending, and in its wake conscious living, is true liberation. Instead of frustration, I found rich food for my soul. Instead of tension, release. Instead of doubt, deep certainty.

I have thought about it, and I think it’s the months that do it. Last year, by participating in the NaNoWriMo, an enormous paradigm shift was set in motion, impacting primarily the creative area of my life. The result was this blog, my ever-more serious flirtation with photography and the amazing discovery that one can actually make beautiful things with a sewing machine (of all things). To think that none of it existed even a year ago! No room of my own, no Japanese crafting books, no sewing machine, no toys, no bags, no blogs… What was it like to be me? I can’t even begin to imagine…

NaNoWriMo, No-spending, 30 Days of Living: all these projects last a month. A month is how long it takes for a paradigm shift to occur, to nestle, to seep through all the layers. And then, once the month is over… there comes the voyage of discovery through brand-new and breath-taking landscapes which have always been there… an old/new room in my house, an old/new window through which to look at the tree in my garden.

Last night, I found a book on the floor of my sewing room. Isabelle had apparently pulled it out of a bookshelf and left there. I don't remember buying it, and I have certainly never read it. It is called Soul Coaching: 28 Days to Discover the Real You.

28 days… Oops, there I go again!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Day 1

After running into it four times in one week, I can no longer resist the temptation. I'm going to ride the 30 Days of Living wave. Anybody joining in?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Library tales

I am a great fan of libraries, and an active member of three of them (two public and one University). I love libraries because they offer a cheap way to read an immense number of books you might not want to buy. Or do they?

Today, I heard that through a mistake in the system the University library has been sending me reminders to an old e-mail address I no longer use, which is why I didn't get any reminders, which is why I now owe them 35 euros (and the books of course), which is why I cannot borrow anything anymore until I pay the 35 euros, which wouldn't be such a tragedy if it weren't for the non-spending month (no, that's not true, it would be a minor tragedy regardless, but now it's aggravated), during which clearly I can neither a) buy the book I want to read nor b) pay the fine (although presumably, bringing back the books to ensure the fine does not increase any further should be not only possible but commendable).

Now, if this were an isolated incident, I might shrug my shoulders and blame it on the fickleness of fate. Unfortunately, it isn't. In fact, apart from the minor detail of the wrong e-mail address, I could tell this tale every month.

It seems that although I understand the borrowing bit of the library system, I have trouble coming to grips with the returning. It's not that I don't want to bring the books back, it's just that it consistently slips my mind. Until I need new books, at which point I'm desperate enough to pay whatever fine. But if I'm brutally honest with myself, I think being a member of three libraries, in my particular case, has been infinitely more costly than actually buying all the books I have been reading. And I read a lot.

So for the rest of the month, as I re-re-re-re-read the Forsyte Saga and long for Gilead, I will endeavour to invent a system that will help me out of my fining (or should it be fined) habit. Any help is welcome!

Corners of my home

This is the formerly very white wall in our kitchen. It has a total surface of approximately 18 square meters, and for as long as we've lived here, there has been nothing to break its paleness.

I have had many ideas: painting the wall some interesting colour (exciting but scary, what if I don't like it? and ultimately too much trouble, me very lazy), breaking the wall to make an opening into the living-room (somewhat outside the budget...), covering the wall in interesting vintage plates (don't own that many plates...), etc.

Then I had THE idea. I am slowly but surely covering the wall with paintings by my very favourite artist. So far, she's pretty affordable, she hasn't really been discovered yet (who knows, maybe this post will do the trick), and I simply adore her work.

Friday, November 03, 2006


My first frugality test: Marc's birthday. Everything homemade. The card. The gift.The cake (all gone now, Pear & Polenta from the River Café Cookbook III). The sheer pleasure. What a lovely way to do celebrations. I'm hooked (I hope Marc is too...).

And here he is, the birthday man.

In this picture is everything I love about him. He is kneeling on the floor in the kitchen, rubbing shoulders with his two-year old daughter, wearing a flowery apron (not homemade alas), and pounding 200 gr of bleached almonds with a wooden spoon. It makes me cry, just looking at it. The strength and the fragility in him. He is such an amazing man, and I am so very lucky. Thank you Marc, for sharing your life with me.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

For free!

Following a minor breakdown, I have decided to skip NaNoWriMo for now. Instead, I'm going to be kind to myself for an entire month AND spend nothing. The 'being kind' bit means you will see/hear less of me for a while. The 'spending nothing' bit means I'll want to share my discoveries with you. For instance, at the end of our street grows a magnificent, absolutely massive rosemary bush. I occasionally visit it with a pair of scissors.

Friday, October 27, 2006

More swapping

I found this great website for swapping books. It works like this: you list the books you no longer need on the website and for each book listed you get 1/10th of a point. Then if someone wants one of your books, you send it to them and that gives you more points (2 for sending within your own country, 3 for sending abroad). With these points, you can in turn 'buy' books from the website. Basically, for the price of postage and a book you no longer need, you get a book that you really really want. How cool is that!

The ironic hair-pulling tragedy here is that just over a year ago, I cleared all unwanted books from this house by bringing three large boxes of paperbacks to the local second-hand store. I got a couple of tenners for them. Now they would have been worth a goldmine... Still, I'm sure I can unearth some more unwanteds.

Now, do you know of any more websites like this one? For instance a website for swapping small hourglasses?