Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Magic is Alive

It feels like we are living on the cusp of of a big change in our life as a family.  Our oldest is in grade 8 (she is 13 years old), our middle child is 11 years old and our youngest is 9 years old.  My husband and I wondered how this Christmas season would change for us and so far nothing has changed... magic is definitely in the air and it makes my heart happy.  Don't get me wrong, I am sure the doubts are swirling around.  I feel like our middle child has such a strong belief in magic and wants to believe that he just carries on and questions very little despite what the word on the street is at school and on the bus.  Our youngest is very much a believer right now as well.  Our oldest has always questioned more but we just carry on, talking very little about what's real and emphasizing the magical part of the season.  She was 9 years old when she started asking questions and after a few silent tears from me, I told her that magic lives in our home and believing is a choice.  Santa Claus, the North Pole, Reindeer and our Elf are just part of what Christmas is anyways.  We are celebrating the birth of Jesus and that will always remain the centre of our Christmas celebrations.

They each wrote their letter to Santa and Jean and Alex got a swift reply:

It's wonderful to see a personal note at the bottom that relates to their own letter... thank you to all of Santa's elves that take the time to reply to each letter sent to the North Pole.  We are still waiting on the third reply but that letter was sent later than the first two.

Alvin the Elf came into our life quite a few years ago before the elves decided to be in so many homes.  He arrives on December 1 each year and in the mornings he comes back from the North Pole and finds himself in different predicaments.  This little guy is our link to the big guy and Jean and Alex are always excited to find him each morning after they wake up.  On this day he got into the laundry soap area and got himself in a mess (a nice smelling mess though). 

December can be a very busy and full month.  We try to do as much as possible with all the Christmas preparations and extra events that happen.  I sometimes have to take a step back and watch the magic and excitement in our children's eyes and remember how times will change very soon.  This year the kids wanted to decorate early so we got a fake but beautiful Christmas tree and we had our living room all decked out earlier than usual but the kids want to participate because it's important to them.  I know that someday I will be decorating by myself possibly so I want to savour these moments. 

As I sit here and write this, early in the morning, I wonder where Alvin the Elf is (my memory fails sometimes) and if he will bring a small smile to the little faces here.  Ah yes... hopefully she will open her eyes and see him from where she wakes up.  Tee hee...

Friday, 10 November 2017

Trip to The Netherlands

 All of my grandparents immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in the early 1950s.  I grew up with thick dutch accents but really didn't hear a lot of dutch, about their childhoods or reasons why they left their home country.  As an adult, I can only imagine how hard it was to leave but the circumstances for leaving were serious and the promise (if you work hard) of a better life was there for them to take.

For many years I have wanted to travel to this land.  My mom had a "special birthday" and I thought maybe that was a good time to travel... I wanted to go with her and once I approached her, we then asked my brother and sister to join us on this adventure.  A year and a half later the time came and off we went... flights were booked months ago, accommodations were arranged and an itinerary was planned.  All of that didn't take away from how much work went into leaving our own little families but we all have amazing spouses who supported our travel dream.  Away we flew!

We arrived to sun and warmth after a long flight (I traveled from Ottawa to Toronto then met them for our flight to Amsterdam).  We found a cafe with a patio (the first of many) and enjoyed just finally being there.  I won't forget the was awesome and we were still only in Schipol Airport!

We picked up our rental car and Ben drove us to Den Haag, where we were staying for the first few days.

Once we settled into our apartment in downtown Den Haag, we went for a walk and to have dinner.  There was a little bit of rain but this was the only time we had rain on our whole trip.

The day after we arrived we met up with our cousins, Jack and Josee.  They live in Canada now but are originally from Holland and happened to also be visiting.  We spent two days with them and they acted as our tour guides.  They took us to the Masdag in downtown Den Haag not far from our apartment, which is an art museum that holds this spectacular panorama... we stood on a platform that showed this scene all around us depicting the town of Scheveningen in as it was in 1880.  This is the area (more or less) where my Grandpa Rimmelzwaan is from.

This trip was filled with wonderful unplanned experiences one of which was the parade we watched not too far from where we were staying.  The Dutch Royal family were participating in the opening of parliament and they held a parade beforehand... so many royal fans were out on the streets.  It was so much fun to watch and learn.

We then drove to where our Grandpa Rimmelzwaan's family lived (until he was about 3 years old).  This was a farm which is now a restaurant and tennis court club.  It is in nice condition and we were able to walk around and then have lunch.  During the war, this was kept intact because the German military used it as a place of recreation.  The Rimmelzwaaan family did not live there at that time.
My grandfather has stories from his childhood of the German occupation.  As a child, I didn't understand but as I adult, I often think about what he told us and cannot imagine that life.  We heard more stories during our travels... fear but bravery is in every story.

This is the view from our rooftop balcony in Den Haag... such a beautiful city.

The following day we drove to Voorburg, about a 20 minute drive that took us a wee bit longer due to unfamiliarity with practically everything related to driving in this country!  On a side note, it took Ben just a few days to become more comfortable and actually started enjoying the tiny streets in our small car.  Thank goodness for small cars!
Voorburg is where my Grandma Bloetjes (Bontje) is from.  Mom didn't know of any living relatives to visit but she did know the church the Bontje's went to and where their house used to be.

Next stop... Pijnaker; a 15 minute drive away from Voorburg.  This is where my Grandma Rimmelzwaan (Kerkvliet) grew up and where her niece, Nicoline and her family live.  I connected with Nicoline on facebook last year after my aunt Susan mentioned that I should.  Nicoline was so so helpful and wonderful during my planning process and was a gracious host when we visited.  Her sister, Helma came for the day to spend time with us as well.  These two ladies are my dad's cousins and it easily felt like family, as did all of our time spent with relatives.  This is where Nicoline lives with her husband, 3 sons and her mom.  It's a beautifully restored place and I am so thankful we could visit.

Nicoline arranged for us to have bikes and we went on tour to Delft.  It was spectacular!

Nicoline took us to her place of work, an orchid greenhouse.  The flower industry is HUGE in the Netherlands.  As a result, buying a stunning bouquet of flowers is easy and affordable in Holland!

Once we arrived in Delft, we climbed he church tower... not my idea of a good time because the stairs were steep in a tiny space.  I did make it up halfway and turned around to slow my heart rate down.  The rest of my crew went the whole way up!

I took a lot of photos so I cannot share them all here on my blog... it would be way too long BUT this picture speaks to me of Holland.  This view of a canal, flowers, buildings close to water and bicycles is very iconic of the Netherlands.  I love Canada but I fell in love with biking in Holland.

The main reason I wanted to travel to Holland was to experience where my ancestors are from and maybe connect with them a little bit more.  I also love to travel.  
This building below is where the they left from to travel by boat to a new land, Canada.  It must have been frightening to leave... by boat with maybe only one person you knew (your new husband) and set out for a new life.  As we toured the Rotterdam Harbour, these thoughts were in my mind.

After a BIG day of touring... Den Haag to Rotterdam and back... we ended up at this beautiful restaurant where we were treated to lots of wine and really, really good dutch food.  Thank you Jack and Josee for being the most gracious tour guides.  We will never forget this experience.

After 4 nights and 3 full days of busy touring and visiting, we left Den Haag for Hoorn.  We drove about 1 hour from Den Haag (approximately... might have been less) and stopped at Edam.  This was the cutest little village with beautiful streets filled with old charm.  This village is known as a stop for tourists but we enjoyed the small crowds to find cute shops and a good bistro for lunch.
We also stopped at my Great Aunt, Tante Bets' apartment not too far away... she lost her husband just this passed August, my Om Pe.  We had a visit with her and walked around the village she lives in as well.  Mom had a longer visit with her and left with a mantle clock that has been in our family for a long time.  Such a treasure... and it made it home safely to Canada!

By late afternoon we arrived at to our next spot, Hoorn.  This was a nice surprise... a beautiful town and an even more beautiful apartment right downtown.  I planned our accommodations and this one was a great surprise... I would definitely come back here.  Our host, Sophia, was kind and gracious and very happy to provide us with ideas for what to experience while staying here.

The day after we arrived in Hoorn, we decided to relax and just walk around the downtown core and experience the market.  It was busy but really interesting and the shopping was great!  We ate great good, bought some souvenirs for our family and some treats for ourselves.  It was another beautiful day!

On the Sunday, we had a full day planned... we drove to Zaanse Schans, where there was a living museum of windmills profiling what they were used for many years ago.  In the past there were many, many windmills all over the country that were lumber mills or flour mills but now there are very few.  We toured any active lumber mill and walked around the traditional houses and a wooden shoe factory.

After a late lunch, we headed out to find a bike rental shop so we could ride through the countryside... mom had a tour planned for us.  This was my most favourite experience on the whole trip which is funny because I wasn't so sure about it to begin with.  I don't ride a bike very often and 17km sounded like a lot for someone like me.  Give me beautiful scenery and flat roads any day and I would bike a lot more often.  I smiled the whole time...

Many evenings we enjoyed a simple supper just like this... good bread, cheese, meat and wine.  This meal also included some veggies and delicious fig jam.  We would play euchre, chat with our families and head to bed early.

Onto the last part of our trip... Amsterdam.  We left our wonderful spot in Hoorn for a two bedroom suite near Schipol Airport.  We hopped on a shuttle to the airport and then the train into Amsterdam.  We did this two different times which was easy and fun!  This took us right into downtown Amsterdam which was quite a shock to our systems compared to the rest of our trip... crowds and so many different types of people from everywhere!  It also felt less dutch with Starbucks and other chain restaurants dotting the landscape but after walking a few blocks we were back into dutch territory with "coffee shops" on every corner and bridges lined with bikes over the many canals. 
This picture shows part of Dam Square and is a busy spot! 

The first evening here we met up with some Bloetjes cousins which was so much fun!  They took us out for dinner and we had great conversations.  Connecting with cousins was part of our trip that ended up being so much fun and "bucket-filling". 
** Immigration can disconnect families.  This doesn't mean it isn't necessary to make a new start but the downside is that the descendants of that family don't get to know more relatives.  In our case, we have first cousins but nothing beyond that nearby and therefore the family can feel small.  This trip allowed a connection to occur and now I have new relatives to know... mostly via facebook but that's pretty awesome!

We spent a whole day just walking around the downtown portion of the city along the canals.  It was a beautiful day.  We found a great restaurant to relax and eat another good meal and late afternoon we had a reservation for a canal tour with "These Dam Guys Boat Tour".  It was on recommendation that we use this company and it was very fun and informative.  By the end of the day our feet were tired and we were happy to head back to our apartment.

It was a trip of a lifetime and something I will treasure forever.  These people are my own and despite that fact that we live separate lives and far apart, we came together to celebrate our heritage and spend some meaningful time together.  I smile thinking about it.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Cultivating Creativity

Mondays can be a fresh start... it's a nice feeling.  
My mood isn't in the best place today but I had some goals for the day and have completed most of them plus I made a point to sit down a sew.  I found an easy quilt pattern on pinterest and decided to use a pretty collection of fabric.  It makes me happy to use fabric I bought for no particular reason but that I loved it.  

While I sew or make jam, I LOVE to listen to podcasts.  Today I felt like some inspiration and guidance... I need it these days... so Brene Brown and Oprah filled my space and it was very uplifting.  By the end, I was in tears, but good tears.

I am on a journey.  It's a super scary journey.  I am putting myself out there in ways I haven't before but by taking baby steps hopefully I can reclaim some happiness.  I am also trying to breath in some goodness that will help clear my cold and build my immunity.  I feel like my summer sickness is still lingering.  It needs to take a hike and go far, far away from my home and family... we are DONE with being sick!

Anyways, I will share my completed quilts soon - I feel like I am on a roll right now!  My creative juices are flowing again and I really missed that.  By the way, Brene Brown mentions "cultivating our creativity" and it stuck a chord with me.  I have been missing taking the time for myself to be creative.

Onward and upward.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

My Turning Point

Confidence is a gift.  I think.  I am actually at a place in my life were I realized that I am lacking and I need to do something about it.  To be honest, I didn't think it was something I lacked until recently...

For me, approaching my 40th birthday (and now a bit past it) made me realize a few things about myself.  Being honest with myself has been hard.  I am struggling with my mental and physical health.  I don't feel quite right.

I am raising three children and one of my wishes is that they are confident but how can I teach this if I don't feel that way myself.  I can't decide if my lack of confidence is relatively recent or not.  I think my thirties did a number on me and now I am in a bit of a slump where I just kept on keeping on.  Don't get me wrong, I am where I want to be but there are just a few tweaks here and there I want to make and from this realization came the fact that I am just not confident in myself, my thoughts, my abilities and my opinions.

I compare myself to others.  It isn't good... I know that.  I haven't always been this way though.  This is more of a recent thing.  I wish I was as fit, as smart, as good at commitment, as focused etc... I look to others for confirmation in myself.

This has to stop.

So here's the beginning of my continued journey for self-acceptance and confidence.  This is my turning point.

Oh and it's been a while, but I will be sharing some of my sewing creations soon!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Renee's Wedding Quilt

This winter I was approached by a friend of an acquaintance to see if I would  be interested in making a quilt out of her wedding dress.  Ack!  I was intrigued... I did some research, we met a few times, I asked fellow sewing friends for advice and ideas... I played with the fabric of her dress and we came up with an agreement as to what she wanted made and what I could handle.  I was excited!
I regret not taking a photo of the actual wedding dress... next time!  I also regret not taking enough PHOTOS! 
So the following pictures show some of the process from cutting the dress up (this was definitely the most stressful part) to sewing the squares together to the finished project. 
There are two contrasting fabrics:  the dress (lace overlay) and the train (taffeta-type fabric).  The lace overlay was difficult to cut and piece but I went slowly and it came together surprisingly well.  I changed my needle a few times but my pfaff co-operated nicely.  I stitched-in-the-ditch to quilt it together because I didn't want to take away from the dress; I felt the least amount of quilting would keep it clean looking and showcase the lace overlay.  Speaking of clean... white/cream fabric is challenging to keep clean especially in a farm house filled with flies daily.  Ugh.  

It was a simple quilt design made into a 4foot square throw or wall-hanging.  The cream coloured fabric contrast is difficult to see... but it's a subtle quilt that is stunning up close.  I love it.  My client loves it to which made me very, very happy.  Cutting into a wedding dress is not for the faint of heart but with lots of measuring, planning and measuring again, it came together. 

I am super proud of this finish... linking up with Amanda Jean at Crazy Mom Quilts this week.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Being Here


Tonight I am feeling so thankful...
For the spring that is trying to come. 
For kids that want to games, sports, anything!
For being here. For being able to be here for my kids when they need me, even if they don't always know it. 
For friends that I can count on. 

Monday, 6 February 2017

My Quilty Christmas

If you follow me on instagram, you may have noticed one of my recent projects... Quilty Christmas; pattern by Lori Holt (Bee in My Bonnet).  Last year a friend and I noticed some of the quilt blocks and then the whole quilt on instagram and pinterest and we were curious about it because it was so cute.  We searched online and could not find the pattern anywhere so I emailed a few quilters I follow that I knew made the blocks and one of those quilters emailed us her collection of all of the instructions that were posted on instragram.  The designer, Lori Holt, would post instructions on instagram as a "quilt-along" to follow in real time.  There was no book or pattern printed to purchase but this wonderful fellow quilter gladly shared her collection of instructions with us.  Go and visit her blog, Thistle Thicket Studio or follow her in instagram, like I do.  My friend and I were so happy that she shared with us so I dedicate this blog to her! 

Some of the block instructions were in the book "Quilty Fun", by Lori Holt, but with a little changes to make the blocks more "Christmasy".  I purchased the book and I love it because it is filled with so many other fun block patterns and ideas to use with the blocks.  Her quilts are eye candy to me...
I have a large collections of scraps so I really wanted to create my quilt using what I had but I ended up buying some fat quarters to help me along and keep the colours looking "put together".  In the end, my quilt is scrappy but has quite a few fabrics the same throughout.  I used a lot of the collection "Cookie Exchange" by Moda

I enjoyed the process, most oft he time.  My biggest complaint would be that for all of the cutting and piecing involved, I wished the blocks were bigger.  I would cut and sew and press and curse... and then the block would come out super small.  I wish I had thought ahead to make more of the blocks bigger then I would have had a bigger quilt in the end without much more effort.  The mittens block was the most difficult for me.  I must have made it 5 times.... and in the end I just kept the two "right-hand mittens" and moved on to the next block.  **Note:  I don't think they were actually too difficult; I must have been preoccupied with something else... like... preparing for Christmas!

I had the quilt top done for Christmas so I hung it on the wall without the border and binding.

Once the kids were back in school, I finished the whole quilt, folded it up and put it away... I know I will be happy to see it next December!  I am so proud of it and I learned A LOT.  I want to also thank Shari (my friend who was also sewing blocks of her own) for keeping me motivated with our own "quilt-along".  Sometimes that's all we quilters need to finish something amazing!