I promise more interesting projects will be revealed soon (dresses!). But it was so satisfying to finally get this off my list. And my new sewing set-up made it really, really easy.
If you recall my older crafty goals (I stopped posting them because there was no progress at all), I’ve mentioned making a table cloth and/or placemats a few times. We have some store-bought placemats, but they are stained and I think they can’t be washed or otherwise cleaned (though I might try to clean them soon, I have an alternative now if they fall apart). In The Netherlands, I used to have a lot of tablecloths and I loved using them, but I got rid of them all, thinking they would blow off the table anyway. Cause that’s what happened in our little apartment. But in this house, we eat in the kitchen and even though we run the ceiling fan when we eat (to keep flies off our food) things stay put. So I can use table cloths after all.
I had this plaid cotton and it was just the right size to use for the two of us (covering half of the table). And since one isn’t really practical, I cut up an old sheet to make two more. I like the plaid one the best with our plates and the others may end up as something else as soon as I find some fabric I like better, but for now, it works.
You may recognize that sheet. I already cut it up for another simple project, a few months ago, making three project bags for my knitting. And since I had just the right amount left over after cutting two table cloths roughly the same size as the plaid one, I made a fourth project bag. I was one short after all.
Last month I chickened out of writing about how it’s going with my one word. Because… actually, it wasn’t going too well. And it still isn’t. But maybe I have to accept that too (accept is my word this year).
Three things I’ve learned so far:
1. I really, really struggle with accepting the not so fun, but inevitable bad parts of life. I fight to change things and if I can’t fight, I try to escape my feelings. Usually by comfort eating, but also mindless browsing blogs, Instagram or Pinterest. I really, really need to work on that. It’s okay to try to come up with solutions, but there are things that just happen and there’s nothing I can do about it. Lean into it. Accept.
2. I can’t do it all. That’s something I’ve been struggling with my whole life and I really need to accept that, since I’m not getting any younger and I will be able to less and less instead of more and more. But in my mind, there’s always room for more things to do. Bookkeeping for several small businesses, keeping a rather large house clean, maintaining a giant garden (um… as soon as I get rid of all those thornbushes), renovating a house, editing novels, writing newsletters and press releases, writing a blog (two!), sewing, knitting, reading, go to the beach, meet with friends, spent time with my husband, talk with my children and parents on the phone… That’s what I do and yes, it’s a lot already. But certainly, I could start another blog (or two, or three – so many ideas!), take more writing assignments, write a new novel, try to write a cozy mystery or maybe a book about knitting or sewing or cooking, start a youtube channel, make stuff to sell, draw, paint, grow herbs and make herbal remedies, take a few courses (Papiamentu, local herbal, sewing)… Oh well, you get the drift. Nope, can’t do it all. Accept that. Choose.
3. I’m living a wonderful life. Strangely, I can’t really accept that. Is it my Calvinistic upbringing that tells me this can’t be right? I always feel like I can’t be living on a beautiful island, have this beautiful home, this wonderful husband, these amazing daughters (and two great future sons-in-law too). There’s always this little voice that says it won’t last, I don’t deserve this, something will go wrong soon… I know it’s silly. Though part of it is true, of course. Sad things will happen (see #1.). But that doesn’t mean my life isn’t wonderful as well. I want to live in the moment and enjoy every minute of it, feel it. Savor it while it lasts, without constantly thinking it won’t last. Accept the blessing. Just be happy. Why is that so hard?
Long ago (in a galaxy far, far away – or so it feels), I had a room of my own. To sew, to craft, to write, to store my stuff. It was a gift for my birthday and I loved it so, so much. As our family and our needs changed, I first moved my stuff into another room and then lost that room completely because we broke out a wall. But I still had a table to craft on when I wanted, so all was well. In this house there’s a lot of room, but not a lot of rooms. I can’t just claim a whole room of my own. Well, I’d like to claim the (currently unused) upstairs room, but we agreed to clean it up and use it as a guest room/office, maybe even adding a small kitchen and a bathroom in the future. That would free up the room we now use as a guest room, but it will take time. So a few months ago, when I tried to get back to sewing, I put a folding table in the entry room, brought my sewing machines to that spot and… left it like that. Needless to say, it quickly turned into a mess, collecting everything we needed to drop… somewhere. When we returned from The Netherlands, I added a whole lot of yarn to it and it’s been sitting like that ever since. But… no more! Two weeks ago I started by organizing my yarn into one of those plastic drawer organizers. It may not be beautiful and instagrammable, but it does look so much better!
Noticing how well this worked (I can actually see what yarn I have!) made me realize I needed another one of those organizers for my fabric and sewing things (because this solution was getting buried under my other stuff). So last week I finally bought one and it got to it right away. And that freed up enough space to actually be able to use that table.
After (ignore the hole in the wall, this room is still very much on the to-do list):
Of course, I’d rather have a nice table and a beautiful cupboard for this (like the one we have in the kitchen) and I’d like to paint those walls and hide that hole. But that will come. Some day. For now, I love seeing this every time I walk into the house. Or actually, most of the time I see this:
Yes, I am actually sewing! Being able to take stuff out, work on it a bit and then leave it out until I have time/want to sew works like a charm!
We’ve been living in this house for about half a year now and while there are days when I feel completely at home, it sometimes still feels so new and temporary. Last week I finally realized why: we still hardly have any real furniture! Well, we do have a bed, of course, but no real closets (the cloth ones we bought are falling apart). We do have that beautiful cupboard in the kitchen and a table, but my “pantry” is still a bit make-shift (shelves on concrete blocks). And on the porch, where we spent most of our days, we still had plastic chairs and a foldable side table. It’s about time to change that. But… you know. That tight budget. And the fact that cheap chipboard will disintegrate within a year. Luckily we do know a thrift store on the island and we have a car that can actually hold a bit of furniture. So we decided I’d start doing what I did in Holland too and visit that thrift store when I was out for groceries anyway. Of course, I didn’t have to get groceries that week. But we did drive to town (a lot, actually) to do some paperwork and at one point we were very, very close to the thrift shop. So I hinted to T. that we might as well take a quick look. Much to my surprise (we were quite tired of all the driving around), he agreed. “What do we need?” he asked. And I listed: “Coffee tables (multiple because we move around with the shadow), maybe some chairs or a couch, a bookcase, a sewing table and something we could use to store clothes and linens.” He didn’t even blink. That man is used to the way my brain works, I guess. They were a bit short on the bigger stuff, but on the third floor, we found two matching coffee tables. Really dated, brown, seventies style. But sturdy, real oak and kind of beautiful in their own ugly way. Oh, and cheap. So we took them home. I cleaned them and rubbed some oil on that neglected wood. And then we put the small one between our chairs on the front porch (where we spent mornings and early afternoons) and the bigger one between the beds on the new porch (that will get a real roof someday, but we do sit/lie the rest of the day there because at that point the front porch is way too hot). It’s kind of goofy, I know, but these silly tables bring a smile to our face every time we see them. “It’s finally starting to feel like a real house”, T. said. And I couldn’t agree more. Now if only the rest of my list would magically appear in the thrift store… (but isn’t it great to know T. has the same bad taste as I do? – I actually rather like this type of furniture).
I really want to be more mindful of what I eat and what I cook. And since traditional journaling doesn’t work for me (never has), but blogging certainly does, I thought I’d take pictures in my kitchen every day (or so) and share kitchen notes regularly.
So here’s what’s been going on in my kitchen lately:
:: I have been making salads and experimenting with new (to me), different ingredients (beets!), but I could use more options.
:: I’m thinking about trying this recipe (or something similar, without the cheese)
:: I did some experimenting with arepas (cornbread). * Baking them in the oven instead of in a frying pan works (just turn them once after ten minutes). * Adding oil to the dough instead of baking them in a layer of oil doesn’t work * My first try to make sweet arepas (with cacao and sweetener) was a total miss. It hardly had any taste. Next time use more sweetener (or add banana?) and cacao
:: I’m thinking about adding spices, onions, mushrooms and maybe even a bit of bacon or ham to them so we can eat them as is something instead of using them as sandwiches
:: A few weeks ago I made this very simple dinner that tasted really great, so I’m writing it down to help me remember: 2 boneless chicken thighs, 1 small can of corn, 1 small can of peas, 1 larger can of lentils, fajita seasoning.
:: Last week I found myself preparing a lot of raw veggies for a beach bbq and ended up eating them myself at home
:: I wonder if I could prepare smaller portions like this for a few days ahead to help me eat healthier (I usually don’t feel like cutting stuff when I’m hungry/craving, I just want to eat)
:: I’m thinking about meal planning a lot. I usually just buy a lot of staples and decide how to use them when it’s time to cook, but I feel like I got stuck in eating the same things over and over. And that’s not helping with the whole “don’t snack between meals” thing (if I look forward to a meal, it’s easier not to snack). There are also a lot of veggies in the supermarket that I don’t have the faintest idea of what to do with, so I never buy them. And I tend to buy things and then forget about them. So yes, doing a little bit of meal planning might be nice.
Next week could look like this (though I might switch days here and there):
Monday: steak/ pointed cabbage something (I just realized I bought one last week and forgot about it) I’ll probably combine it with minced meat, onions etc.
Tuesday: chicken, broccoli and probably some other canned veggies, rice (I have a bag of broccoli in the freezer, but it’s a lot of stems and I don’t like to eat those as a single vegetable)
Wednesday: Casabe with this corn/zucchini salad (sorry, Dutch recipe) and some meat (T. doesn’t do vegetarian – maybe chicken or bacon in the salad?)
Thursday: BBQ (2 types of meat, corn, salad)
Friday: fries, snacks (I’d like to add a salad to this and maybe make sweet potato chips) – we eat this every week before we go out and meet friends at Happy Hour (you can get food there, but it’s expensive and not quite tasty)
Saturday: easy meal (probably combining some meat and canned veggies into something edible, like the dish I described above)/ eat out
Last week I was driving around town to get groceries. It wasn’t my most lucky day, I might add. I wanted to get home as fast as possible because I left a sick husband (flu) there and I wasn’t fully up and running myself. But somehow I kept running into delays. I had to drive to a supermarket far away to get something we really needed and I spent ten minutes waiting for a traffic light that decided that my lane wasn’t going anywhere and then five minutes to get out of that lane without getting into an accident and take a detour. And then the road was blocked, just before I arrived at the supermarket and again when I tried to get off the parking lot with my car full of food. But… My goodness. That last delay… It’s Carnaval here, you know. They love their parties and holidays here, but Carnaval is the most important. It’s part of the quest for a culture of their own, started fifty years ago. The parades we still have were actually initiated by Dutch people (I read a book about the Curaçao Carnaval a few weeks ago), but they shaped it into something really special and authentic. It’s a real community party, out on the streets, where everyone can join in. They save up for it all year and there are several parades spread over two weeks. (I blogged about it before: here and here) This one was very special though. The local nursing home decided to have it’s own parade (I don’t know if they do this every year), with their own truck. Loud music on a truck is essential for a good parade, they say (in the big parade, every group has its own truck). I guess they could never do the big parades since that would mean spending hours and hours in the hot afternoon sun. But they still didn’t want to miss out. So there they went, wheelchairs and all. At the end of the parade, I even spied a bed and there was a bus following with people that I assume weren’t able to be out there. But there they were, celebrating their own Carnaval party. I parked my car and just enjoyed the view and those happy, happy faces. It brought a smile on my face too. And maybe a bit of a tear in my eyes.
I actually had a post planned about three things that are on my mind these days, but this one thing took a whole lot of words, so I kind of cheated and cut it into three parts.
1 I’ve been struggling a lot lately with feelings of guilt about leaving my family behind. I knew when we made this decision (over two years ago already, wow) that this would be the one reason for having a hard time with our move, but I thought I’d work through it and, you know, be done with it. But it keeps coming back. I’ve been trying to push it back in the wrong way (taking valerian and emotional binge-eating), but of course that makes it only worse. I think this may be the reason for a lot of things not going to well right now (my health included).
2. I was thinking about this (feeling frustrated about it, actually) and I realized I will probably always feel like this. Because that’s normal. Don’t all parents (mothers?) feel guilty sometimes about things they should have done differently? Don’t all children (daughters? – I’ve noticed it’s mostly women who suffer from guilt) feel like they should be doing more for their aging parents? Yes, our move made things harder and I’ll have to deal with that. But not moving would have made T,’s life miserable and I surely would have felt guilty about that. So, what I’m trying to say here is that I think I should accept (yes, that’s my word for 2020) that feeling because it’s there for the long run. I think Carole once wrote about “leaning into sadness”. I really need to learn that. Lean into it when it’s too strong and go on with my life when it’s just background noise.
3. Also… (trying to put those feelings into words helped me see through the raw feelings): I need to remind myself that love isn’t limited by circumstances. Circumstances (in my case the distance between us) are no more than a practical obstacle and there are ways to work around those. I can’t sit next to my family often, hold their hands or put an arm around their shoulders. I also can’t help them physically (you know, by driving them somewhere, or helping them clean). But our love language has always been the strongest in talking and listening. So much talking. Talking through problems, talking through hard times, not so much by stating prefab solutions, but by just listening, asking questions and thinking out loud, together. Or just talking and listening and keeping up with their lives, even if it’s just about the small things. And no, phone calls aren’t ideal and I never really liked using the phone (it’s a thing – one of the girls has it too, though she can easily hang out on the phone with me for hours). But it’s the one thing I can do from here and it’s an important thing: be there, be available. Talk, listen, even if it is for hours and hours. Sometimes calling my girls or my parents feels like adding another thing to my neverending list of things to do, another hour taken away from days that already feel too short. But it’s not a to-do, it’s not a waste of time, it’s an act of love.
So, if you’ll excuse me… I’ve got people to call 😉
On a brighter note (ha! pun sort of intended), here are three sunsets for you to enjoy:
Well, that was fun! I usually have only one, maybe two projects on my needles, but sometimes I just have to give in to the urge to start more. And so I did. I have no less than four projects going right now and I’m actually thinking about casting on for just one more…
The first one I cast on for was Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Baby Surprise Jacket. No, there are no (grand)baby’s in my immediate future, but I’ve always wanted to make one. And I figured I’d better start practicing before I’ve got baby’s to knit for. Or something like that. I just wanted to try this. I have to admit though, that I almost gave up on it. I had to start over a few times because I didn’t read the pattern right. But now I’m well on my way and enjoying seeing it grow.
My second project will hopefully turn out to be a swimsuit (or bikini) cover-up. I’m winging it, so I hope I get this right. It is a lovely soft cotton yarn though and I love knitting with it.
Next project in line is a simple shawl, knit in a lovely shiny (but slippery) cotton on needles that are a size or two too big, to create a light and see-through fabric.
And then, of course, there’s a hat. This was actually the first project I started after finishing the cowl, but then I got distracted with all my other ideas. I was going to do something creative with that ribbing and I hope I remember what it was when I get to it.
So, two out of four projects that I can actually use myself and around here. Not too bad, isn’t it? The baby jacket is knit in cotton too, so I may find myself a baby on the island to gift it to. I am running out of project bags, by the way (must make more), but luckily my knitting bag is big enough to handle them all and even more (yes, I always keep a book I’m reading in my knitting bag too, don’t you?).
Last Saturday we spent an afternoon on the beach with friends. We had a bbq, drinks and lots of fun. I know I sound like a broken record, but this is what makes life here on the island so great.
I love the fact that this whole thing was “planned” only a week in advance (which was actually rather early, usually it’s just a few days). One couple brought up the idea and the location (San Juan beach – we’d never been there before) and asked who was coming, we made a bbq in the sand and everyone brought (way too much) food and drinks.
In Holland, it used to be so hard to plan a gathering with friends or family. You’d have to set a date weeks or even months in advance and it still would be hard to get everyone together in the same spot on the same date. It was often stressful to decide who to change the date for or not. Also, gathering inside most of the time, or in a (small – in The Netherlands we don’t have that much room) garden, means you have to be careful about how many people are actually coming.
Here, gathering with friends is so simple and relaxed. And that makes it so much (more) fun!
I’ve loved this cowl/showl from the first time I saw it on Chris’ blog, and I was so happy when she send me the pattern (it’s not available online yet, I think). But of course, life got in the way of making it right away. And then I started, but let it sit for a while. That was all my fault though. The pattern is written well and the instructions are quite clear. It’s also not the most difficult lace pattern to remember. I kind of had a hard time with all the counting for the increases, but that’s my problem completely (you know, headaches, sinusitis, knitting in company). When I finally took some time to sit down and concentrate, it knit up like a dream. I made the biggest size (V.3) and even though I think it’s supposed to be a bit larger, I love how it sits around my shoulders and I’m looking forward to wearing it, though that will probably mostly be when I’m in The Netherlands since this is acrylic yarn and it will be too hot most of the time. Now I want to make one in cotton, so I can use it here.