things I like

right now. (spring 2016)

July 6, 2016
FamilyMay2016

Oh it’s been a long while since I last updated you on all my comings and goings and readings and bakings and so forth. Life with two tinies in the house is intense, I don’t know how else to describe it. Some moments that is amazing-intense and some moments that is get-me-out-of-here-intense. Oskar is now four months old and Kaya just turned two (!) so although life continues to be chaotic, I am finally beginning to find some breathing space.

I’m not even sure how many months I’m catching up on here so I’ll just pick the highlights of things that I’ve been into recently…

 

reading.

I read Maggie O’ Farrell’s Instructions for a Heatwave in May, and LOVED it. It’s exactly my kind of novel – slow action and a huge amount of complex family and romantic relationships to sort through, in the best possible way! The characters unfold so beautifully, and she describes the settings so vividly without it feeling like there is lots of long description. I’d have maybe appreciated one extra chapter on the end to wrap up a few questions I still had regarding the Father’s disappearance. But also the way she ended it was beautiful in its ordinary-ness.

I also read Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. This felt like a book of two halves to me, and I much preferred the first half. The second half seems to try to fit too many years worth of story into too short a space and so I lost interest. I didn’t believe the relationships she created there because the characters didn’t have enough time to grow on me. And Caleb all but disappears which is a shame. But still, the writing is good and I enjoyed it overall.

I also continued using Jan Richardson’s Circle of Grace book of blessings as a devotional guide and I cannot rate this book highly enough. Her language is stunning and profound and multiple times it felt like the blessings came to me exactly when I needed their words, although I rarely knew it until the moment I opened the book.

 

watching.

These days I am for easy-to-watch because I most often watch while I’m feeding Oskar and rocking him to sleep at lunchtime while his big sister naps upstairs. But I discovered on UK Netflix the first season of Jane the Virgin, which I devoured. The days one or other kid woke earlier than expected were sad days indeed! It’s a comedy drama about a driven young woman who is artificially inseminated by accident! It’s filmed in the style of a Mexican telenovela and is highly addictive, very funny, and at the same time incredibly moving at moments. Definitely recommended.

 

listening.

I love love love Birdy’s new album, Beautiful Lies. I will happily listen to it over and over.

My podcast listening is slowing down these days as Kaya gets chatty on pushchair walks, which is when I used to listen (either that or she wants to sing and it’s just too cute hearing her sing “dingle dingle little star” to drown that out!). But my go to’s are Rob Bell’s podcast and the Sacred Ordinary Days podcast. Both usually have the effect of taking me out of my own head and reminding me of who I am and what I’m meant for, which is definitely needed in these intense mothering days.

 

cooking.

After Rasmus cooked like a crazy man through January and February, we’ve been happily living off our freezer in the last few months! We were also so grateful for the friends who brought meals around to us, despite having only known us a couple of months. That’s how you recognise good people.

On an overnight trip back to my parent’s in April I tore a recipe out of the weekend newspaper and made it not long later: cardamom, pistachio and white chocolate cake (scroll down for the recipe at this link) – oh so good! The recipe is from The Cardamom Trail cookbook by Chetna Makan.

Kaya and I bake together usually once a week and she’d getting much better at not leaving the two metres around her look like a flour bomb hit! We mostly make muffins, because they are so simple to do with toddlers – I mean, you’re not even supposed to mix them too thoroughly! – but also scones, granola and banana cake are regular go-tos. I’d love to hear ideas for other good things to make with kids if you have them.

 

Thames Boat Tower Bridge

in London.

  • We visited the V&A Museum of Childhood at Bethnel Green last month and loved it. In many ways it’s old fashioned – a whole lot of glass cabinets with old toys in – but they have lots of things to play with in between (including a sand pit on the top floor) and Kaya really enjoyed running around, trying everything out, and even spotting a few of her own toys in the displays (the benefit of hand me downs from your mum’s older cousins!)
  • Around home, we had brunch at The Nines one Sunday morning, and The Hill Station community-run cafe by Telegraph Hill park is a new favourite (not least because the park has a looong slide that Kaya is obsessed with).
  • We took the riverboat from Greenwich to London Bridge one Saturday. I think it’s probably the first time I’ve actually been on the river Thames in London and it was fun to see the city from a new perspective (and you can pay with oyster card so very convenient). Kaya loved it, and I think older kids would enjoy it even more.
  • We took the train to Crystal Palace park one very hot Saturday and enjoyed finding the famous old dinosaur statues. Kaya also got her very first soft whip ice cream from the van, which looked much bigger in her hands than it had when I thought up the idea! Yey toddler sugar rush!

 

Flight to Luxembourg

loving.

being a family of four. It deserves a mention, right?! We’re one member bigger since the last time I did one of these updates. That is so weird because it already seems a lot lot longer than four months since Oskar James entered our lives. And he gets better with every month!

Kaya’s birthday. My wee girl turned two in June and we had such a fun weekend celebrating her. On the morning of her birthday we had a little pancake party with five of her friends and their parents and it was simple and lovely. The cake I tried to make overflowed and then sunk in the middle but we stuck two candles in it and she happily ate it nonetheless! I can’t quite believe two years have passed but she is just a wonderful little person to have in my life.

The Kyria conference in March was a treat as I got to meet my She Loves friend Bev Murrill in person for the first time and hear her preach powerfully. The whole day was wonderful and Oskar was so calm the whole day so I didn’t even need to take him out and miss any of the talks. Days like that when I get to have adult conversation about something other than sleep schedules and breastfeeding are so very necessary.

being close to family. My mum drops in for Kaya’s bathtime sometimes after she’s been in the city for work meetings. In April I met a cousin for the first time, and I’ve seen multiple other cousins and family members at various points. Last weekend we went at stayed with my sister in Leamington Spa. My parents came up one Sunday to plant our garden with tomatoes and mange tout and marigolds, and my Dad dropped in on the way home from buying an oboe in Coventry. As you do. I really love this part of our life in the UK.

our trip back to Luxembourg. We took a long weekend last month to go back and visit all our friends. It was soul refreshing in the deepest way. Of all the places I’ve lived, Luxembourg gave me the best friendships and community, and we miss that a lot.

reunions. My friend Annie, from Wisconsin came to stay for a week with her friend Faith. Annie and I were penpals from when we were 11 and have met twice before, but not in over ten years now. Our lives look very different but it was SO much fun to introduce her to England finally (first train ride, first underground, first big city… I loved seeing it through someone else’s eyes). And Kaya adored having them to stay the whole week.

 

 

I’m linking up for the first time in aaaages with Leigh Kramer’s monthly What I’m Into post. I love having this way to catch up with the everyday details of people’s lives, and it’s a great way to find some recommendations for that next book or recipe. 

She Loves Magazine, Writing Elsewhere

What Would Jesus Vote?

June 30, 2016
What Would Jesus Vote?

I wrote this post for She Loves Magazine last Thursday, the day that the UK went to the polls to vote on whether they want to remain part of the European Union. Well, we all know how that turned out. Honestly, it’s been a hugely emotional week, as we try and absorb all the implications for our little family as well as the nation as a whole. Really, no one has any idea what happens from hear on out.

But I stand by what I wrote last week, hopeful optimism and all. How do we follow the way of “grace-filled love instead of hatred, genuine collaboration instead of fear, surprising generosity instead of greed”? That’s what I’m still working to figure out every moment of my day.

 

///

Last summer I moved back to the UK with my little family, eight years after I left for an internship in Brussels. In those eight years, I lived in two capital cities, got married, had two children, and made friends from so many countries it’s impossible to keep count.

One of the unexpected bonuses of living in countries where my grasp of the local language was far from fluent, was the lack of “noise” in my life. I couldn’t understand people’s conversations at the bus stop or in the doctor’s waiting room, so I was free to assume they were having fascinating in depth discussions about art and literature. (Ha!) I couldn’t read the adverts on every billboard so I could ignore whatever the next thing to guarantee me happiness was. And I could rarely understand the newspaper headlines, so I effectively missed out on eight years of political rants and in-fighting.

I never expected that within a year of coming home to the UK, my fellow citizens would be asked to vote on whether to leave the European Union. Today, maybe even as you read this, I’ll be walking with my toddler and my baby, around the corner, under the railway line, to our nearest polling centre and putting my cross on a piece of paper with just two choices–In or Out. (Full disclosure: I am passionately IN).

Yes, I have strong opinions on this vote. (Not least, because it could have big consequences on the future for my little European family.) But more than that, I have been dismayed by the tone of the talk these past weeks and months. Far from any rational discussion of the pros and cons of leaving the EU, the conversation is marked by fear, greed and hatred. And sadly, that only seems to be a reflection of politics as a whole in this country. (And, may I be so bold, many others in the West.)

There’s a familiar illustration of the frog that gets put in a pot of water and slowly heated. It doesn’t jump out, because it doesn’t notice the temperature change and so it is cooked alive. I feel like the frog that has been dumped back into boiling water and I am desperately trying to jump out…

 

Read the rest of the post over at She Loves Magazine.

motherhood, new horizons, She Loves Magazine, Writing Elsewhere

The Day I Decided to Let Curiosity Lead

May 19, 2016
The Day I Decided to Let Curiosity Lead

These days I have to work hard to open my eyes in the morning. The alarm clock glows yellow, but the numbers appear so fuzzy, I can’t read the time. No matter, it’s definitely before 6am. My thoughts and feelings match my eyesight at that early hour, like I’m trying to view them through a fogged up window. I’m sure there must be some clarity, and a good deal of positivity possible, but the words are blurred, however much I squint at them.

These mornings, my temptation is to try and wrestle back some control. When too much is confusing and uncertain, I attempt to put fences around the few things I see clearly in front of me. More often than not, that’s my small children, who are painfully clear as they jolt my day into gear far earlier than I would like.

Last week, we escaped to the park early one morning while the London commuters were still piling onto the Tube in their pressed suits, because I was craving silence, and both their voices—one still just a babble or a cry; one newly and irrepressibly vocal—were echoing in my head as if I’d been partying hard the night before.

With my coffee in one hand, pushchair in the other, I tried to regain control: “THIS way, Kaya,” I called, first in lightbeat tones, quickly growing more exasperated. I wanted to keep to the paths with this awkward heavy double buggy, but my headstrong girl was veering off them.

“Kaya, come on! This way! The ducks are this way.”

She looked at me and shook her head emphatically, then turned and headed off across an unmown meadow of grass.

 

It’s the season I’m in, but most of my life lessons are being given by my children these days. This one I need to learn over and over, about unclenching those fists and seeing what life might have for me off the path. I’m over at She Loves Magazine again today and would love for you to join me there.