Thursday, May 31, 2007


Moscow, May 2007

the sisterhood

Valentina's Datcha, May 2007

walk in the forest

Valentina's Datcha, May 2007

my grand-father

Moscow, May 2007


Valentina's Datcha, May 2007, 6 am

Russian photography

Marc has taken some photographs on our trip to Russia which, in different ways and for different reasons, I find extremely moving. I would like to share a few with you here, and I have been thinking about how I want to present them: I have found it quite impossible to make series of them, and words fail me when trying to tell their 'story', so I think I'll just give them to you one by one, in the disorder...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


So I didn't make it myself. I didn't receive it from someone who made it themselves. I didn't buy it from someone who made it themselves. It is not second-hand. It is not made from organic linnen. It was dirt cheap. Because it was mass-produced. By a 'not-so-good' company. It is altogether a very politically incorrect item of clothing.

And yet... I shamelessly adore my new smock.

And so I officially pledge to wear it until it wears itself out. To use it as a model for more of the same (clearly hand-made this time, and only from recycled organic materials). To continuously love and honour it long after fashion has left it behind. To make it my 'always right' outfit. For pregnancies and in between. For summer and winter. For work and play. And all other seasons.

(ok, I guess it should be 'almost shamelessly'...)


After writing that brave post last night, I spent an hour crying my eyes out, imagining myself a lonely old woman lying forever alone in her lonely cold bed, sniffing the cold lonely air for a melancholy whiff of long-gone curly heads. Then, exhausted and somewhat lighter I went to bed and picked up Mrs. Dalloway (who incidentally also muses on her cold lonely bed).

I had been reading for about ten minutes when I saw the mosquito net across the room move; a very sleepy ghost emerged, made its shuffling (because sleeping-bagged you understand) and tottering (because of being asleep you understand) way over to my bed, looked at me through half shut eyes, mumbled 'het is donker in mijn bed' ('it's dark in my bed') and fell into a deep coma right next to me. It was 9 pm. The sun had not yet set. It wasn't dark anywhere in the house. But who's complaining? Not me. I briefly inhaled the well-known smell of her hair, put my book away, cuddled up and went straight to sleep.

Now that is called a respite.

Monday, May 28, 2007

the end of an era

Isabelle is asleep upstairs. In her very own child-size bed. For the first time in her three and a half years.

Recently, having re-discovered this lovely book by Jan Ormerod, she started talking about having her own bed, just like the little girl in the book, and it just so happened that a very good friend (thanks again Sammy!) had one she was willing to donate. Anyway, the bed arrived this morning and Isabelle was excited as a flea (that's French idiom); we were busy the first half of the day choosing the right blanket, the right sheet, the right pillow, the right mosquito net (??). Then she spent the rest of the day 'just sitting' on her bed. She refused to have any dolls or stuffed animals in it, because it is 'her' bed. She also refused to let any of us lie in it to try it out. Mine. Mine. Mine. She said.

I am so happy and excited for her. So proud too: in the span of one day, she expanded. Stood taller. Broader. Bigger. It was an amazing thing to witness.

I am also a little sad for myself. Since the 23rd of December 2003 until today, with only two notable exceptions, Isabelle and I have slept in the same bed, cuddled up together, every single night. That is exactly 1250 nights.

And now she is gone.

I try to tell myself she did not go far (I think if I reach my arm as far as it will go, and if I lie with my head where my feet used to be, I can still touch her). I try to tell myself she'll be back (probably as soon as tomorrow morning 6 am for a cuddle). But it still feels like far, and it still feels like forever.

My little bird is spreading her wings. And I can't tell apart the taste of sadness and the taste of joy in my mouth. I think this is called love.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

balcony report

We're going to Russia on Saturday, for a week, and who knows in what state we will find the balcony when we come back, so I thought I'd share some of this year's successes so long as they are with us: strawberries in the making, lavender, basil and tiny tim tomatoes. Inside, we have sage, more tomatoes, some sorrel and more strawberries. Isabelle was involved in every step, sometimes with great enthusiasm (planting seeds) sometimes rather reluctantly (she seems to think dirt is dirty! crazy girl!).

self-portrait with shorn head...

... I mean 'new haircut'.

rain at last

Who would have thought I'd ever say this: the rain, it is just sooooo good!

Not that we didn't enjoy the two straight months of sunshine, but when the first fat drops hit the pavement Monday morning, Isabelle and I went a bit crazy, we simply couldn't wait to put on our raingear and go jump through the puddles. And drink a cup of rain tea of course (like Lena Lena). And the smell of rain! Extraordinary! So sweet and juicy and spicy too!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

banned banner thoughts

As you might have noticed, I got rid of my banner. I didn't like the old banner anymore, but even though it grated on my nerves every time I saw it, I couldn't take it away because... i didn't have a pretty new banner to replace the old one. And this got me thinking. About why my blogging has been rather sporadic these last few months, even though my mind is so full. And I have reached the conclusion that I keep running into the same snag with this blog, and it's a snag I run into in other places too (surprise surprise!).

It has to do with the gap between how my mind/being actually functions and how I think it ought to.

Me, I have a number of interests in life: a voracious reader of both fiction and non-fiction; really really into food (both on the eating and the 'making of' end); a radical feminist; a craftster; a student of drawing and painting; a photographer in the making; concerned about the education system and what it does to children, and how and whether I can avoid the worst of it for my child; concerned about the environment and how I can make a difference, right here right now; concerned about how girls are portrayed in children's literature, and avidly searching the world for appropriate reading for my daughter; wanting to write children's books myself; concerned about the consumer society and regularly making desperate attempts to change my own consuming patterns; practicing yoga; really into philosophy, religion and spirituality; really into body work psychotherapy; really into self-analysis and wanting one day to be a therapist myself; passionate about giving birth and everything surrounding that process and dreaming of becoming some kind of professional dealing with pregnant/birthing women; attempting to grow things on my hot hot balcony; writing poetry; reading poetry; baking bread; music; films; organic food; etc., etc., etc.

The only thing is, I'm not into all of this at once. What happens in fact is that I tend to obsess on one or two topics for a period of a few months, making fast advances and fascinating discoveries on the way, and then I 'lose interest'. There follows a period akin to a hibernation of the mind, in which nothing much seems to be going on, and I spend most of my time either watching light comedies, BBC costume dramas and detectives on TV or reading The Forsyte Saga. This is a period in which I tend to judge myself for not 'sticking with things', for always 'dropping out', for 'not knowing my mind'.

Until one day, something catches my attention, and I'm off again, on some wild wild ride to discover and learn more.

What I have come to see, though, is that these periods of 'nothing' are really needed for all the new stuff to settle, to find a place, to take root. That every time I come back to a topic/idea, it is with more depth of understanding and a clearer idea of both my thought and the concrete actions that follow from it. So in that sense, it really is like winter hibernation, when all growth takes place underground, where you cannot see it, which doesn't mean it is not happening.

The other thing that I have come to realize is that I do not have to make a choice of one or two things that interest me and stick to them for life. In fact, my life is infinitely richer because I have many many things that I am passionate about. And what's more, different though these interests may seem on the surface, they cross-fertilize each other constantly and are in fact part of a larger pattern, a pattern I will probably never be able to see in its entirety, since I am sitting at the heart of it, weaving the tapestry of my life.

Back to the blog. I keep thinking of it as a 'crafting/photograph blog'. And I haven't been crafting or taking photographs since I got pregnant. So I haven't been blogging.

I have been reading though, and doing yoga every single day, and coming up with exciting discoveries about parenting, about buddhism, about consumerism, about what does in fact grow on my balcony, about guerilla gardening, and much much more.

And I have been dying to write it all down right here. But none of it involves a needle or a thread. And there are no pictures to support it either. So I have been silent. And a little bit sad. Afraid to disappoint you (of whom I know nothing, not even whether you exist), and disappointing myself in the process.

Thus freedom begins: with a banner, or rather without one. And may the white space above stand witness to how open this blog is to whatever happens to be on my mind.

pot holders

This is today's project, from Lotta's scrumptious (my new '!' word) book. As far as the process is concerned, this was far more characteristic of my general sewing experience than the shirt I made last week.

It all began so well: calm as a wide wide river, and almost as sure-handed, with Feist's new album playing in the background, I cut out the pattern pieces, pinned them onto the pre-washed, pre-shrunk and ironed fabric, cut out the fabric, marked the seams and began to sew. For a while, all was pure soothing meditation. The sewing-machine, the universe and my hands one flowing motion.

But then something went wrong (something always does). And I mean REALLY WRONG. As in, so wrong, it took me more time to fix it than I had planned to spend on the entire project (including washing and drying the fabric). By the time I was done fixing, I had turned from a wide wide river into some kind of demented mountain dervish, muttering under my breath and swearing at all and sundry (who were mercifully absent; in fact, this is the moment when even the cat decided to beat a safe retreat). Feist was starting to seriously get on my nerves with her naggy voice, and I suddenly realized looking at the clock that Marc and Isabelle were about to come home, and I was still up nowhere creek.

So, heart racing, and with the gnashing of my teeth for only musical accompaniment, I completed (read 'blotched') the bloody pot holders in just under 5 minutes.

I tell you, being Buddha is not easy. Not even with a sewing-machine. Every day, though, I get to try again...

And still, when all is said and done, they don't look half-bad (especially from a distance, with your eyes half-closed) and they are certainly a tremendous improvement on their rather dead predecessors.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Believe it or not, my most beautiful sewing project to date (seriously, you should see the detail on this one, me very proud), from a pattern in my gorgeous new Japanese children's clothing book

was rudely pooh-poohed by the plebs on account of it being 'just white'. Isabelle says she will not wear it unless I embroider flowers, leaves AND sheep on it. Shockingly ungrateful, don't you think?

For the record, this amazing shirt is not 'just white', it's made of a scrumptiously fine Indian cotton fabric, with vertical stripes in different shades of off-white, almost see-through, and silver. Me, I would give much to have a shirt like that (unfortunately I haven't yet figured out how to magically turn a child-size pattern into a grown-up-with-large-belly pattern) (plus, the fabric is all gone now).

There's nothing for it, my next experiment will just have to involve fabric that has first been approved. In the meantime, I'm off to do flowers, leaves and sheep...

newly shod