:: we went, so my pictures tell me, to the beach quite often, both in the Netherlands (Scheveningen and Schouwen) as on (sub)tropical islands (Bali and Gran Canaria)
:: I had a lot of fun with some friends in the Efteling (where I didn't take many photos, I was too busy chatting)
:: two books were published, a large print edition of an older book and three short novels. I also wrote two books and a short novel that will be available next year. That would explain why I feel that 2012 was a very busy year ;-)
:: I went to a lecture and to Manuscripta and met some author collegues there (Marlies Verhelst, Olga van der Meer, Wilma Hollander, Anita Verkerk, Elly Koster, Marte Jongbloed and Marelle Boersma)
:: I got some very nice comments on my books and even a present from both long time fans as new readers
:: I had a "real" vegetable garden for the first time and felt that harvesting my crops was the best thing I ever did (even the large, large amount of endives)
:: we enjoyed the little bits of summer that we had on the roof terrace or at the fire pit
:: I (re) found my love for cooking and baking, kept knitting and even dusted off the sewing machine
:: we enjoyed Sinterklaas, Christmas and other family gatherings
:: three girls had exams and three girls got their diplomas
:: ...among lots of other things
It was a good year.
Oh, those homemade gifts... I always want to make something, but there have been a few years without. Sometimes I just don't have the time (or energy). Traditionally Sinterklaas (December 5th) is time for giftgiving in our family, but that was not an option this year.
So when inspiration struck, I decided to change the rules (that are just traditions anyway) this year and play Sinterklaas at Christmas (that would be Santa Clause I guess...)
For my brother and his wife, who weren't at our Sinterklaas celebration, I knit some wash (scrub) cloths out of some white, uneven spun cotton that I had in my stash. I put it in a nice box with some shower gel. I thought it looked quite nice (I think I'll make more of these)...
I was already knitting potholders with the same cotton (I had a lot). For me, actually. But I already made some potholders for my mother once and I remembered she liked them very much. So I thought they might make a nice gift. Much to my surprise what I planned worked, and smoothly too. One side is knitted, the other side is cotton (cheap tea towels that are too thin to dry well, but make an excellent source for small pieces of cotton). It's lined with molton.
And since I was getting so much inspiration from Soulemama I decided to try and make peppermintbark this year. Of course I had to adapt the recipe and make it lactose free (we wanted to taste some of it too). I used coconut milk instead of cream (if you let the can stand for a while, the thick part floats to the top, and that is comparable to cream), and I used dark chocolate instead of white (since I couldn't find lactose free white chocolate).
Oh my. That tastes so good. We all ate a lot of it. A lot. Luckily I made enough to fill three jars, that made a nice little gift with the potholders. And there's still some left. (Hmn, losing weight will have to wait a little while longer).
We've had a great Christmas. Full of family and gathering, candles and music (it isn't Christmas without Jim Reeves and his Christmas Polka), home made presents (more about that tomorrow) and our traditional gift of books under the tree.
It was good.
I like those last hectic days before Christmas, full of fun last minutes plans and ideas. Sometimes that can be a bit too much, but luckily I learned (the hard way) when to stop, breathe and toss the lists. So that's what I'm going to do right now.
Stopping, breathing and enjoying.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas!
I wasn't going to do it, no matter how inspiring Amanda would write about it. Too busy, too tired.
I kept my promise for Sinterklaas, since I was really not in a position to craft then.
But now... I do have some time. I'm just pondering a new book and thinking about a Christmas story. So maybe I could... Oh well, nothing wrong with trying. And if I can't get it done in time, nobody will have to know I tried. Except you guys. Shh, don't tell ;-)
Of course we do have a Christmas tree too. It just had to wait till after we celebrated our youngest daughters birthday (she turned 20 last Saturday - oh my, how time flies!).
And just because I like some natural things too (I'd like much more of that, but there are too many allergies...) I put some branches from the garden in the strawberry container I got for Sinterklaas. That color screamed Christmas to me from the start...
I used to love baking. I won't say I baked daily or even weekly, but I did for every special occasion and I usually was planning to bake more. But since some members of our family found they have a lot less stomachaches when they don't eat gluten or lactose, things started to get complicated. Gluten happen to be the stuff that structures bread and cake.
I tried a few recipes, but failed at most of them and then I gave up.
Until today. I decided I just had to try. I started with brownies. I did succeed at those before, since they are meant to be a bit gooey. So that worked.
And then I read the back of the flour mix and saw a recipe for cake. And I had some cupcake forms lying around. So I thougt I'd give that a try as well. The mix had to be used up in a month anyway, so no harm done if I failed.
But I didn't. They came out pretty nice, they taste good and they have a nice texture to. So now my mind is filled with possibilities... adding things like spices, nuts or chocolate, decorating them...
Yes, I do love baking!
Recipe info: I used Schar Mix C and margarine without animal fats; for the cupcakes I used the recipe on the back, substituted the milk with water and baked them for 25 minutes, for the brownies I just used my normal recipe with lactose free chocolat (normal pure often doesn't contain milk, just traces of it, which is no big deal for us)
Decking the halls sounds like a lot more than it is at our house. Most of our decoration is kitschy (I think that's okay for Christmas), but simple, far from designer stuff and most of it is years old. But I do love opening the boxes and finding a place for all those little ornaments.
I wasn't going to blog today, because my home is a complete mess. I was trying to find our boxes of Christmas decorations, but ended up reorganizing our bedroom (because those decorations are in the build-in closet that we call lovingly our attic).
But then I received an email that I just had to share: my Biblion review (the most important review in my little corner of the writing world). It's very, very positive. Such a relief!
(it feels like bragging to translate the whole thing, so I won't)
That picture? That's the only Christmas decorations I did put out already: books. Of course ;-)
I already wrote last week that Gouda still feels like home for me. So, being down with flu and manuscript fever, it was the perfect place to do a bit of last minute Sinterklaas shopping.
I do visit Gouda almost weekly. The cheap supermarket there has good parking space (better than the one near me), I love their thriftshop and I also go there to buy office supplies.
And I've been to Gouda to visit a dear highschool friend. She found me through Facebook and she is living in Gouda now. Which is kind of weird since we grew up in a very different town, far (for Dutch measures) from here. It's a small world.
But I hadn't been to the old town for a while. And yet I immediately felt at home. I knew where to find the good shops and I knew where fun little shops come and go each year. I smelled the incense of "that New Age shop" (that still is going strong where it's always been - as is the Christian bookshop) and strolled along the canals like I did twenty years ago. I saw myself walking down the Kleiweg, first pregnant, then with the double twin carriage, and then pregnant with the double twin carriage. I saw women with toddlers and was reminded of my own kids at that age. That made me feel really nostalgic and could almost imagine myself living two decades ago again (it sounds even longer ago when you say it like that).
Luckily I was distracted by someone that wanted me to donate money for a good cause. She asked if I had children. Oh, that's such a mean trick to make you weak... But than she asked how old my 'little ones' were and I giggled. 'Well, I think they're your age!' That did bring me back to down to earth, all right.
Since I was in the neighborhood, I popped in at my optician's. I had to have a checkup, but forgot to call to make an appointment. But she had time. A lot of time, since we chatted away for more than half an hour. We have known each other for fifteen years, I think. My eyes were a bit better again. But that's not good at my age. If this keeps up, reading glasses may be needed (or bi-focal contactlenses, but I really like the contacts I have right now).
I got all philosophical and thought that this is proof that people change a lot faster then the places they live and I had few vague thoughts about the transitoriness of men and the lastingness of towns like this (Gouda is almost 800 years old).
But then I wanted to take the passage next to the C&A back to the car park and that was not possible. That whole little shopping center was gone. Oh well. Nothing lasts forever.
I was planning to write a long post about Sinterklaas, winter and everything that goes with it. But I've had the flu and I really need to work on getting my manuscript to the editor today. So I'll let the pictures do the talking (again).
:: before: wrapping, writing rhymes, cooking (pea- and tomatosoup)
:: during: lots of sweets, laughing, eating, talking, unwrapping
:: after: full stomachs, empty dishes, colorful mess, happy cat
:: this is the cover of my new book (that will release late Spring 2013). I love it.
:: the title is "Tegenstelling", that means "opposites" (as in 'opposites attract')
:: it's a sequel to Incognito and Dilemma (a trilogy, isn't that great?)
:: this is the first book that I got contracted for before I wrote it
:: even worse: the flyers were sent out into the world last week and I was still writing it
:: I thought I had six months to write this book
:: but life got in the way. In a big way.
:: that's the reason I have been stressed out these last weeks (months)
:: but now it's finished
:: well, almost. I'm having second thoughts about the ending. A romance novel that doesn't end with a kiss. Is that even possible? (it does suit the main characters, that's a fact)
I love Rotterdam. I never lived there and it isn't really a beautiful city (though it does have it's charme - I should take some pictures of those places someday), but I still love it. I went there yesterday to shop for Sinterklaas and of course I visited the market. To look for Sinterklaas presents. Well, that was my story. But mostly because I like browsing there so much.
There was so much to see. It's a shame that I'm still camera shy. I don't feel comfortable taking pictures in places like that, not even with my small camera. So you have to take my word for it. There were vegetables and fruit, bread, nut and fishes. I even saw some big crabs, though I didn't like that at least one of them was still alive.
Some boys were dressed up as "Zwarte Piet" to collect some money for a cause that I forgot the name of. I gave the first of them some money and told the rest that I already did. The fourth time I said: "I keep running into you guys." He said that there were a hundred of them. But when I was looking for one of them after shopping to give them the rest of my small change they were all gone.
There were lots of booths selling covers for phones that I don't own and other booths that sold great cloths in sizes that I don't have (anymore). I decided that now I really want to loose some weight, but first I bought myself a bag of double salt liquorice (that didn't taste quite as salt as it used to do when I was a teenager).
Of course I had to check out the second hand stuff. Really, when you know you can't see all the booths, the logical part of the market to choose is the part that has the antiques and vintage stuff, isn't it? It's the good part. And the expensive part. At least it usually is. Yesterday I didn't buy anything. The only thing that appealed to me was a little cute box to hold incoming letters, but I have nowhere to hang it, so I left it behind.
There was a man buying a big vintage leather suitcase and someone said he should, because you can never have too many of them. I think she's wrong. In my house there isn't even room for one of them.
A woman asked for the price of a box of silverware and I thought it was her husband that broke out in spontaneous laughter when he heard it. But that was an other man. I have no idea what he thought was so funny, but it was the good kind of laughter. The kind that makes you smile.
And I think that's the reason I like the Rotterdam market.
There is always someone there to make me smile.
It's that time of the year again. While blogs from other parts of the world talk about "starting to plan" for Christmas, I'm rushing to get things together before Sinterklaas again. It always comes down to the last few days. But that's okay. I love it.
Traditionally in our family the big bag is filled with small gifts, each with a little rhyme about the gift and it's receiver. Good for hours of fun and laughter and togetherness.
To get into the spirit - and because I'm running out of time (I need to go shopping for it today, fun, but exhausting) - I'm (re)posting some pictures of Sinterklaas in earlier blogyears.
Yes, I'm looking forward to it!