Last Kisses & Mini Funerals 

I have been hosting many mini funerals lately. It feels like saying goodbye to the family goldfish with a flush down the toilet. Sometimes it feels like that last kiss (or more) from the boyfriend you need to break up with. 
It is grief on a bite sized scale. 
I love clothes. More specifically, I love shopping. I love the feeling of purchasing stuff or finding that perfect thing so much that I kind of hate it. Buying something nice for myself is a kind of reward. It is an indulgence. I get a rush from it. 

Shopping is like chocolate cake. It serves a purpose and I enjoy it, but if I consume too much, I literally feel ill. I have never gone into debt over it or anything like that, but I have worth and hiding issues tied up in just like people have with all sorts of objects. Labelling this an addiction is over the top. 

I am a functioning person. This is me letting you behind the curtain. So, please no labels, no judgement. I can do that very well on my own, thank you.

So, back to these mini dirges. I prefer to think of them as last kisses. You are what you think, after all. 

I am saying goodbye to most of my wardrobe. It isn’t serving me anymore. I now have a clear idea of how I want to look. Thank you Allison. The rest has got to go. 

Most of the clothes were very easy to let go. Some clothes I had my reservations about. I am finding that wearing them one more time clarifies for me why they need to go or stay.

I force myself to wear them for an entire day. I am proving a point to myself. D Day. Judgement Day. Stay or Go. Around lunchtime or after I have been out in the world a little, I feel uncomfortable or embarrassed a little by the piece of clothing. There is no place for that in my life.

So begins the process of letting go and saying goodbye. It is not a crying and nashing of teeth. I am a grown ass woman. I am out in the world. I am at a cafe or in the grocery store. No one can see this on the outside. It is an inner clarity. A small switch flips. 

Yep. This shirt (or pants or shoes) goes. Decision made. 

So where is it going next? Am I going to try to sell it or give it away? I wash it and separate it from the rest of my wardrobe. Off and out it goes.

The next day, I make a point to wear an outfit I feel great in. It reminds me of how I want to feel and reminds me that clothes can make me feel great. There is no place in life for clothes that don’t make you feel great.

Flush. Kiss. Sniffle. Shed a tear. Say your goodbyes. 

Clear out that closet and make space for…

  
(Photo by Morethananexpat)

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Make up Makeover

2014 did quite a number on my body in general and my face in particular. Turning 35 and my second pregnancy (and child) were the one-two punch that literally changed the playing field for me. Okay, enough sports metaphors. My skin is dryer, more wrinkly, and acne prone than ever. In my teens, at least I only had acne to deal with.

Being eight months postpartum with one more size left to drop does not help either. I am putting more emphasis on my face and hair since I am not satisfy with the rest of it. Only now do I realise how well my body bounced back after our first child. Hindsight is 20/20 and not helpful at all.

Before I went back to work in November, I got a facial and got talked into changing up my make up regime. I used to wash my face with baby bath soap then put in Olay of Olay with SPF followed by Maxfactor Facefinity Foundation along with mascara, eyeliner and eyeshadow.

The facialist suggested I add Aromatherapy Associates Soothing Serum and Face Oil along with the Oil of Olay and then to only use mineral powder foundation instead of Maxfactor. I tried it, but added Maybelline concealer under my eyes.

I don’t know. It just looked like I was wearing a mask. It is so difficult to even out the new patchy spots and zits and hide the circles under my eyes without looking like I have a mask on. And all that make up just exacerbated my acne, I think. So I am trying a proper face cleanser. I am trying out Body Shop’s Camomile Cleansing Oil.

I feel like I have woken up to this whole confusing world of cosmetics. Well, I ignored it all for as long as I could. And it seems to have gotten even more complicated in the past few years. BB and CC cream? What? And I never thought I would be applying oil to my face. Is it all just marketing? It can’t all be hype, right?

My skin seems to be getting thinner and more sensitive. I have read that is normal with ageing….awesome. So I am experimenting with going with more natural products (i.e. more expensive). That is why I am trying the Body Shop cleanser and Aromatherapy Associates stuff and am seriously thinking of trying out Origins BB Cream instead of Maxfactor foundation. It just smells so nice and feels nice. Is that enough of a reason?

Ugh. I am spoiled for choice. There are just so many moving parts and I would like to drop things from my morning routine instead of add more, but I want to look my best. And looking my best matters. Whether it gives me more confidence or makes people respond to me better or both, I don’t know.

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Bankrupt Holidays

My employer declared bankruptcy yesterday. Merry Christmas!

When a collective effort falls short it is a strange sort of failure. Everyone put in so much effort for so long. I feel both relieved and ill. My body aches as if it has finally allowed itself to feel the daily stress that has been accumulating for months. Adrenaline courses through my veins thinking of all the possibilities and interviews in the days ahead. And it is Christmas.

My cynicism has grown exponentially in the past year. So has my paranoia. When will the next proverbial shoe drop? I took my three year old to a new play group today. The chasm I feel between myself and others seems palpable. I am so lost in my loss that I find conversation difficult. I just wanted to lose myself in my daughter’s happiness and play with the abandon of a three year old. I was too exhausted for that so, thankfully, she graced me with rare cuddles and hugs. She is normally far too busy.

On the other hand, I feel so grateful. I live in The Netherlands, a land with a fifty percent tax rate. Yeah, that is high, but it means that when you really need it, the government is there. Unemployment benefits entitle me to a month of benefits for every year I have earned a wage here.

And my two little ones are healthy. This past year has also brought me the most gorgeous blue eyed girl I have ever seen. She is pure joy. I think of our three year old as ‘the light’ of our little family. The house comes alive when she wakes up. She is infectious. All of this uncertainty puts me on edge.

Worn Out

I am just worn out. I keep telling myself how good our life is and how lucky we are, but I am just pooped. So I am truly sorry that it has been so long in between posts.

Wiglet is nearly five months old and her big sister E just turned three last month. It is all I can do to keep the moving parts clean and the refrigerator stocked. I went back to work part-time. It is very stressful in general at the office, but I find it oddly relaxing. I could fall asleep sitting at my desk with a warm cup of tea and a screen glowing in front of me. I hate pumping, but find myself looking forward to my 20 minutes of solitude in a broom closet listening to an audiobook trying to drown out the sound of my electric breast pump. I am listening to Ken Follett’s “Winter of the World”. It’s depiction of life through World War II will put your life in perspective in a heartbeat. It has given me a kick in the pants during more than one marathon nursing sessions with Wiglet or solo pity party.

Theme song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want….But if you try real hard, you might just get what you need.”

Life is full.

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Sick (Holi) Day

From our holiday in Devon in May….

My apologies for how long the gap has been since my last post. I blame the baby. I am now in my last trimester, the sixth month. While I feel Wiglet kicking everyday, I just cannot believe there will soon be two little girls in our lives. I look at our two year old and simultaneously wonder how I will love another being as much as I do her; how will I find this new child as adorable; and how will the thing I hold most dear cope with no longer being the center of her parents’ universe? It breaks my heart to think of having less time with her as I care for a newborn, but I chose this. I chose this because I think it will eventually make all of our lives better.

Thankfully, my mother is here for a month long visit. To celebrate, we are on a one week vacation in Devon, England. I really wanted to make it a memorable trip so I rented us a lodge (e.g. condo) on the grounds of a castle. Bovey Castle is gorgeous and has been converted into a hotel, restaurant and golf course. It is the closest I could get us to Downton Abbey, a favorite show of ours.

The vacation came with one surprise. E came down with chicken pox the second day of our trip. I shudder to think of us unwittingly adding to cocktail of bugs flying around the airport and airplane. That eliminated the heated indoor swimming pool at the castle and the daily children’s activities like egg collecting from the estate’s chickens and visiting the playroom. E has been a real trooper, though, and happy to tag along in the car on outings as long as Papa carries her. Thank goodness for the Tula toddler carrier! we are also never far from a 24 hour pharmacy here so we stocked up on children’s antihistamine and what E calls “Owwie Cream” to stop the itching.

On My Mind: February 9

Today marks the end of Week 21 of my pregnancy and I am feeling really good. Except for the pregnancy panel on my jeans, I do not feel really feel pregnant and that is the best I can ask for at this stage. I do love feeling Wiglet move inside me, though. We had our 20 week sonogram this week. Everything looks normal which is everything I hoped for. We are having (another) girl!

Knowing the baby’s gender, seeing her in the sonogram, and feeling better than I have in months is getting me into nesting mode. For me, that means sorting and pitching. I started with E’s old baby clothes – the premise to help me keep my clothes spending on Wiglet under control. She basically only needs a few newborn-sized items since, with E, we had overestimated a newborn baby’s size and ability to spit up. I love Carter’s one piece zip up pajamas! Thanks to my mother’s upcoming visits from the US, she will bring them over for me.

Next I take on getting our spare room ready to become E’s new bedroom. I really love the idea of lofting her bed, but I am terrified of her falling out of it. In the meantime, she will stay in her crib. I see a visit to IKEA in our future.

Thanks to my new IPhone and my ever growing use of my IPad, I am reading and listening to more books. Right now, I am reading, two books – “Notes from a Blue Bike” by The Art of Simple’s Tsh Oxenreider and “A Small Fortune” by Audrey Braun. I am listening to “The Stories of a Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett. My other recent Audible downloads have been the latest books by Tori Spelling, Billy Crystal, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sue Kidd, Malcolm Gladwell, and Anna Quindlen. I have an eclectic, mostly mainstream taste that is very loyal to a dozen or so authors. I am also a sucker for celebrity autobiographies especially if they will make me laugh.

Needless to say, I am not watching much tv, but that is mostly because I have worked my way through all of the series I follow. Ann Patchett and Tsh Oxenreider, though, are pushing me to leave the tv off and make more time for the things I always wish I had more time for. So far, Ann Patchett’s book “talks” mostly about becoming a successful writer. Writing is probably my first passion and, if I am honest with myself, the one skill I hold most dear. I would love to do it for a living, but have always stuck to my more practical, more reliable and more marketable skills – namely accounting.

Ann’s advice is basically, stop the excuses and start putting in the time. And Tsh says basically the same thing about blogging, the way I could imagine myself writing for a living. So here I am, forcing words to (web)page.

I bought Tsh’s book, what I think of as “The Blue Bike”, because of a lot of parallels I see in our lives. She has (and plans in the future to) live with her family overseas. Partly from this experience, she now values living a more simple and intentional life. These are popular catch phrases especially with the 30-40 something crowd, but I like her perspective. I do not intertwine my perspective with Christianity like Tsh does, but we were raised going to church so I understand where she is coming from. Living simply and intentionally are ideals of all religions and, in my experience, the mind, body and soul’s most contended state.

For me, living in The Netherlands means living in a house half the size I’d have in the US, but three times the price and in general having far less choice on everything from cereal to diapers to shoes to cars. Having less space and choice has forced me to live slower and more intentionally. And thanks in large part to the Internet, I can digitally access as much or as little from the world as I choose. I have my bad days, but overall I am very contend. So in the coming weeks, I plan to write about what that looks like for me and my family.

Triple Threat

This weekend I tried three different recipes – muffins, scones and waffles.

Last weekend I made banana peanut butter muffins. They turned out perfectly – except my husband and daughter hated them. My husband lives by a tenant that peanut butter belongs only on bread and he seems to have passed it along to our daughter. Oh well, more for me.

So this weekend I went back to flavors passed success. I tried a carrot, zucchini and banana muffin. They did not rise as much as I wanted, but they were a big hit with my panel of two judges.

Periodically, I slip down the rabbit hole of buying new cookbooks. Amazon and the Kindle app for my Ipad make it far to easy (and relatively cheap, thank goodness). I watch tv and search through Amazon. Before I knew it, I’d bought two new cookbooks and sampled several more. I bought. “Baking: From My Home to Yours” by Dorie Greenspan and “Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook”.

So far, I am really enjoying Greenspan’s book the most. I found it inspiring that she bakes something nearly everyday. I thought I had begun to go overboard lately on baking, but clearly there is a whole other echelon of home bakers out there. And as strange as it sounds, I like the writing in the book. Her explanations seem clear and friendly.

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That said, the first recipe I tried out did not turn out as I expected. I tried Toasted Almond Scones. They just did not rise like the ones I have eaten in the past. I think it must go back to the difference in what she refers to as all-purpose flour and what the Dutch call self-rising flour. I (obviously) have not figured out the difference completely yet, but I think I need to substitute one tablespoon of cornstarch into every cup of flour. That means I take one tablespoon of flour out of a cup of flour and replace it with a tablespoon of cornstarch. Does anyone else have any ideas?

For lunch today, we christened our new waffle iron. My husband’s Holiday bonus this year from his employer was a choice from a huge online catalog of gadgets and experiences. We chose a waffle iron (that we are going to try to multiple purpose as a panini maker). It was between that or a chocolate fountain. I could use a chocolate fountain every day, but SHOULD I?

For our first try, I found a Sour Cream Waffle recipe. I know it sounds weird, but it was the winner because it used up some spare sour cream and whole milk I had left over from other recipes. You do not actually taste the sour cream at all which is a great thing. The cinnamon and flavoring (it calls for vanilla, but we used almond). Since the iron is heart shaped, I am already searching Pinterest for waffle dessert recipe for Valentine’s Day.

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