Thursday, April 17, 2014

German candy filled Easter eggs ...

When i was growing up, one of my favorite Easter traditions was the hand painted Easter eggs my mom made each year. This is an old German tradition where normal hen eggs are emptied out and painted, then filled with sweets / candy for Easter. 

It's a little late to be posting this, just days before Easter, but if i don't do it now i'll forget again next year !

When you're about to use eggs for baking or making scrambled eggs, take a normal knife and gently tap one end of it until the shell cracks. Carefully pick small pieces of the shell away until you have a hole about the size of a small coin. Rinse the inside of the egg out with lukewarm water, and place them on a piece of paper towel or dish rack to dry out completely. I store mine in an old egg carton and gradually add to the collection in the weeks leading up to Easter.

What you will need once you are ready to make your eggs :
*  some bottles / glasses to stand the eggs in while they dry
*  straws
*  paintbrushes, craft / acryllic paint (slightly runny quality is best)
*  water for rinsing
*  Markers and stickers and glitters can be used too
*  acryllic based varnish / Modge Podge for sealing the paint
*  bags of the candy you want to fill the eggs with
*  raisons or cotton wool and tape OR tin foil and glue for closing the eggs 

The wonderful thing about making these is that it really can be a craft activity for the whole family and it's great to let younger kids decorate eggs too, even if it's just a bunch of colored scribbles they make.

1) Insert a straw into the egg and hold in place as you paint each one in a base color - white works well, as do lighter colors like yellow, pink and pale green.  You can choose a color scheme for a batch, like pastels or pinks and yellows, or just paint them all white and add the accents in brighter colors after. Modern schemes like grays and neon pinks would look beautiful too.

2) Once each egg has been painted, stand it on the straw in a glass / jar to dry.

3) Then the fun begins. Decorate each egg with flowers, rabbits, modern swirls, butterflies, hearts, scribbles or stickers. Have fun - experiment - you will find your own patterns and style the more you do them. 

Put each one back on its straw in the glass / jar to dry completely.

4) Varnish each egg carefully and allow to dry.

5) Once dry, place each egg opening side upwards, in an egg carton. 

6) Fill with candy - jellybeans, M&M's, skittles, raisons, pieces of chocolate all work well - you want candy that is small enough to fit into the opening of the egg easily.

7) Once the egg is full, the top can be sealed with cotton wool or raisons as they can be tightly packed into any spaces, and then sealed with two pieces of tape, crossed over. You can also use small squares / circles of tin foil / parchment paper for baking - add non-toxic paper glue to the edges and press into place.

These are perfect for Easter baskets, for decorating the table at breakfast, and for Easter Egg hunts as the coat of varnish means the paint will not run if they're lying somewhere damp outside.

Happy Easter !


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Music ...

Sometimes a song follows us around and haunts us a little. This song by Of Monsters and Men from Iceland, is one of those. The first two times I heard it i was driving and forgot to later look it up on the radio station's website. Yesterday as i climbed into the car I was actually thinking about this song and wondering how i could track it down as i'd heard it as part of a long set both times before, and I didn't know the band's name. As i turned the key and the car started up, it came on the radio. Just like that. I love synchronicity.

The video is sad but it's a beautiful song. It's not new, the album was released in 2012. But it's new for me, so i just wanted to share it.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lost ...

The landscape is burnt orange and brown
Trees black and glistening-wet after rain.
Misty morning and the road winds
up and down hills.

If i could keep driving where would i go.
Would the road take me to where my 
other life waits ?

The feeling of lost is nothing new,
It's been the shadow tugging at my heels all along.
It nips at me when i sit down to rest,
It tells me things I don't want to hear ...

Like that i didn't do enough, 
and that i missed all my chances.
That i wasted my time and made selfish choices.
That i lost my path along the way
And now it's too late to find  my way back.

I listened to the wrong voices more than once,
and ran when i got scared or confused.
Decisions made in fear instead of with courage
Now i'm haunted by the emptiness.

When i was young and feeling lost
I searched for a bar to lose my senses.
In numbness i could crash and forget for a while. 
Loud music on a dark dance floor,
Storming angrily.

Feeling lost it's easy to fall into the wrong bed, 
To go looking for answers in all the wrong places.
It can be hard to stay calm and to go through the
motions when it feels like something more drastic is called for.

I learnt long ago in that faraway place that madness is a 
just a way of sinking into the lost, of letting go 
rather than carrying on the fight.
I understand, that wanting to sink into nothingness.
It's a way out that doesn't hurt as much.

Nowadays storming doesn't help much, 
and there are no bars and no wrong beds.
There are no lovesick poems for distraction,
No dreams of a new life ahead.

Only the burnt wet landscape and the same routines.
And me wondering what to do with my shadows.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Dear Tree ...

Dear Tree ...

We only knew you for a little over 8 months but you were the first thing we saw out of our window every morning. First you were summer-green and leafy, then you dressed in golden colors for Fall. And then winter arrived and stripped you bare and covered your base in ice and snow. The long cold weeks took their toll and the melting snow uncovered the cracking and rotting which made you even more dangerous than your height or the fact that you grew so close to our house, or that you had split yourself into four long stems, all of which made you very likely to topple in a high wind. But four like the number of our family.

You've stood here for years, before this house was built. You watched another family grow their boys from small to big, watched them leave the house to marry and move across the country. Watched their parents grow old and love this house and eventually have to say goodbye. Watched a new family move in. A family who had waited a long time to have a home. A family with noise and energy and lots of running and laughter. Two little ones who loved your shade for the slippery-slide on a hot summer day. A man who fell in love with the house mainly because of you standing beside it.

Today we said goodbye to your beautiful big branches and watched you slowly falling, piece by piece. They were gentle with you, the tree service men. They took their time as they climbed you, and secured each piece of you as it came down. We watched in silence from the house, and felt the sadness weighing. It's quite a responsibility to decide the fate of another living thing, to bring you down before nature was quite done. I wonder how people live with cutting down entire rainforests.

Last night I had a dream. I was walking in a sunny forest and it was home, South Africa. But then all of a sudden you were there in my dream, a clearing with light flooding in. There you stood, dear Tree, and i walked up to you and touched your bark and we talked about what today would bring. I told you how sad i was to have to do this, but that i have to put the safety of the little people in my house over and above your beauty. And in my dream you quietly told me you understood. It was a lovely dream dear Tree.

Tonight as your branches lie in pieces stacked a little violently across the lawn, and a huge pile of woodchips from your branches lies waiting to be moved, just remember that you will live on in a new vegetable garden, and in the woodland carpet of a fairy garden-playplace we'll be building for our little princess when the snow melts.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On happy days and eating cake ...

Today I am grateful for a 9 year-old who baked brownies for his mom's special day. All by himself.
For my mom's milk-tart recipe which my husband made for my birthday cake. And which just had to be eaten for breakfast. Because that's how we roll in this house.
For my 4 year-old reciting the entire book of Madeline to me at bedtime. Including words like 'solemnly' and 'distressed'. Off by heart.
For handwritten cards and little ones carefully choosing earrings and a heart-shaped locket to give, for a magazine and a book just waiting to be read.

I am grateful for an early dinner and a beautiful birthday cake on the weekend.
For being so spoilt by a friend over birthday-morning coffee ... for her knowing just excatly what i needed today (and always). 
For a playdate where everyone laughed and cake was eaten and catching up was done.
For husbands who leave work early even when it's really hard, to be home in time for dinner. For not having to cook.

For Facebook and email and the phone, which allow messages to be sent immediately across the distances, and letting me stay in touch even though I am far away. I often think of how it was long ago when mail had to come on a ship and took many many months. How did my family manage that, the ones who said goodbye to their son when he left for life in Africa generations ago. When they couldn't pick up the phone or send a photo via email, and a letter took a lifetime to arrive and by then the news was months out of date. I can't imagine.
So today i am grateful for all my friends and family and for all the lovely birthday messages. Thank you.

I am grateful for the most gorgeous weather we have had in months. In spite of the snow still on the ground (and more due tomorrow night), today before a swimming lesson, we had our first playground playtime this year. We even took off our coats. Outside the snow is melting and we drove home with windows down. Stepping out, Baby.

I am grateful for daffodils bursting into bloom and reminding me that spring is just around the corner. For sun streaming into the house today. For basketball that could be played outside.

I am grateful for 4 year olds who love the movie 'Frozen' as much as I do, so much that we had to buy the soundtrack and now listen to it over and over in the car on the way to and from pre-school, both of us singing at the top of our voices. We know almost all the words. It is a perfect birthday soundtrack.

It was a good birthday today. And for that, i am grateful.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Store Windows ...

A few windows of late ... I am looking forward to being able to put up a Spring one soon and hope the weather will play along !


                                        Winter Holiday ...

                                          Wedding ...

                                              Valentines ...

The Bakery turns 3 ...

Friday, February 28, 2014

Thoughts on staying home and then maybe going back to work ...

Today i got told by my offspring that i was born in the last century and don't know anything about life today. While the first part of that sentence may be true, i wasn't thrilled about the second. To top it off, they then went on to explain that since i no longer go to school and no longer work (along the lines of that i stay home all day long and do nothing - their words, definitely not mine) ... I basically know nothing.

i didn't wail or yell or gnash my teeth. I didn't cry or stomp out of the room or lecture them about what i do all day long. Much as I wanted to. I told them that i already finished school and so i know everything. And that i'm most likely going back to work once said offspring are both in school full-day. One cried and one was excited to have a babysitter. I explained that it's still a while away and that I have nothing figured out yet, and that i'll tell them if and when. But it was good to test the waters, for myself as much as for them.

It's been on my mind a lot lately. I always said i wanted time off when my children were little - at least until they went to school. Although I went back to work with Hayden it was only until he was 2, and then I resigned for us to move to the States. I cried and cried the day i handed in my notice. I remember feeling as if someone had died. I felt numb and alone and scared and as if I was setting part of myself adrift, maybe never to meet her again. It took me a long long time to get used to being at home. Much as I loved sharing Hayden's whole day, each day, I felt so lost, so useless. So unimportant somehow. As if my value depended on being needed at work, fighting a crisis and coming up with a solution to a problem. I missed working with a team of people who were fun and creative and young and full of vision and energy. I missed the buzz of the office, the thrill of a project deadline, the coffees and the beers on Friday afternoons. I missed the weekend feeling. I missed the focus and knowing where my place was. Life at home was so very very quiet and lonely - just the two of us trying to find our places in a new country where even grocery shopping was a major stress. Even though the food labels were in English, everything felt wrong and different and all I wanted was Marks and Spencers ready meals for kids. And the security of work, where some of the time at least, I knew what i was doing.

But I found my groove. It took time. A very long time. A lot of sadness and feeling lost but then I started to hit my rhythm. I started to notice that I felt happy after an afternoon spent outside at the park, baking cookies, doing finger painting. I was achieving something quite different to when I went to work each day, but it was rewarding on a different level. A year down the line I felt secure and comfortable with my decision to stay home. I had been able to focus on settling the three of us in our new country. Because of my being home, Clint was free to really focus on work - to work late nights and be in early for meetings without the stress of who was going to pick Hayden up from daycare or put him to bed. And i was happy with that, surprisingly for me. 

And now it's years later and I've been away from work for ...over 7 years. They've gone so quickly when I stop to take count. I like being at home. I like knowing the small details of the kids' lives. I like making snacks and picking them up from school and tucking them in at night. i like that one of us is able to be here to bear witness to their day-to-day. I love the photographs I get to take, the tea parties I get to sit down to, the baking and the laughing and the watching of growing and playing and figuring life out. Of course there are bad days and times I wish I could run to the other side of the world. But most days, this is exactly where I want to be. With a little more time to myself - for painting and writing. I have definitely been missing both. And for a long time that shone like a beacon on days when things were hard ... that soon, both would be in school full day and I'd get to have hours to myself to work on my own creative work, not knowing where it would go but wanting, finally, to be able to do that again. But still being here for them when they got home.

Now i think it might be time to be back at work in something which actually pays ... and it's scary and overwhelming and I have no idea what i want to be when i grow up. I have worked in newspaper layout and book publishing and waitressed and managed a picture framing business and done window displays and sold occasional paintings and worked in the gaming industry. I am good at learning new roles but at my age I don't want to start over, not so much. I have no idea where i fit in or what i can do. Or want to do. The fire and ambition which drove my twenties has somehow burnt low, or maybe gone out all together. When i imagine my perfect day, I think of sending the kids to school and spending the morning in my studio. I imagine concrete floors and white walls and sunlight streaming in. I imagine the walls filled with drawings and canvases half done, waiting to be finished. I imagine a dog lying at my feet and the music playing and that's really where it goes ... simple and quiet. I imagine some freelance work here and there, and maybe some windows or design work or writing or something. Being home in the afternoon when the kids get back and then the day would be all about them. Somehow, magically, this would all result in a pay check now and then. I'm not sure how but that's the beauty of daydreaming. My heart aches at the thought of missing out on time at home, at someone else doing my job here, at not being here all the time. Which I guess is why i'm writing and thinking and trying to work it all out. Priorities and balance and we all want and need different things. There is part time work and maybe I could be lucky ... but would i be happy doing something half way ... not being able to really throw myself into a role, a company. A lot of questions and no answers.

This wasn't the post i was planning on writing ... i was going to talk about spring and how this house has become a creative battleground for me, not feeling as if it will ever get finished. But i guess this is what's on my mind at the moment. How we transition from one chapter to another, even when we don't want to. How to do that gracefully and so that everyone's needs are still met. How confusing it all is, the working vs staying at home, and how many volumes and millions of books and articles and blog posts have been written on the subject. I don't have anything new to say. I am still figuring it all out, and might never get there. But one thing I do know. I had a friend who carried on working when she became a mother - three times. Her children went to daycare and she sometimes worked from home and then it was a nanny full-time when her eldest went to school. I remember the juggling acts and the stress of making it all work and how she sometimes said it was really really hard, being a working mom. But she was doing it so that when her kids were all in school one day, she would still have her career - she would not have lost her place on the ladder of success. She'd not have to start over or wonder what she could do, or have lost her confidence. She'd have her place in both worlds.

As her youngest son and my daughter start school in a few months time, she's definitely in the winning seat as far as career goes. She's miles ahead of me in terms of confidence and having her place in the working world. But I wouldn't trade my 7 years of being at home for anything. I wouldn't trade the sticky hand-holding, the being there to kiss boo-boos better, the wiping of tears and naps on the couch together. I wouldn't give up the dress up games and candy-land and losing at monopoly to a four year old. The spontaneous tea parties, the playmobil worlds, the playdates, The wonderful creativity and laughter i have been able to be part of, the adventures and the walks and the snow fights and the picnics. The bearing witness, the sharing, the being part of. For me, that was my choice and I'm so glad i took the leap all those years ago. I might be completely lost in terms of career and work and have absolutely no idea how to re-enter the work force, if i even want to, or know how to, or can. I might cry about how that part of myself that i set adrift really did get lost and that i really never will get her back ... but another piece of me came sailing towards me the day i walked away from work, and that's the side of me I have loved growing into.