My little boy in January

Our little boy turned three in January and is a baby no more! This is seriously unbelievable to me, I just can’t see where the last three years went, or why they went so fast.

January was an eventful month full of travelling and social occasions. We started with New Year’s Day of course and although I don’t have a photo from the day itself, here is one of Shane gobbling up a mini poppadom in our hotel room at around 11pm on New Year’s Eve.

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He would not go to bed, which is understandable since we wouldn’t either. He was way more interested in playing Trivial Pursuit with us, but we had to give up on our game once he decided that throwing the pie wedges and cards around was the best of fun. At least he slept in the next day!

He started violin lessons at school this month. We considered signing him up in September already, but decided that he was too young. Around December, his teachers told us that he follows the violin teacher around and asks if he can sit in on the class and keeps wanting to touch the instruments. So, obviously, we gave in. I don’t think I will ever be capable of not giving him something he shows an interest in. It was definitely the right decision, he absolutely loves it. He was so very proud the day he got his violin and insisted on carrying it and his music binder himself. At home, he showed us how to take care of the instrument, instructing us not to touch the bridge or the horse hair. 🙂 Too cute!

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We also started doing a yoga class together on a Wednesday afternoon – there is no school on Wednesday afternoons in Belgium so you need to organise other activities. I take a half-day off and this term we are doing yoga (last term we did a music class). He loved yoga, the class is really well organised and I really like the teacher’s approach. He’s been looking forward to starting since I started going and I told him that he could come with me when he was three. He went on and on about it for months, even though he didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect. My husband once said ‘yogurt’ instead of ‘yoga’, so that’s what Shane associated it with. When asked if he knew what yoga was, he said: “Yes, it’s like yogurt”. I was worried that he woudn’t like the reality, but thankfully he enjoyed the class and we’ll be going every Wednesday for the next 10-15 weeks.

And his birthday – can any one boy get more presents than our Shane? Seriously, he was very confused in the end because the presents kept coming… He didn’t get everything in one day because posted packages arrived late and friends who couldn’t come to the party because of the snow left presents on our porch the following week. He actually woke up one night and sleepily asked: “Mommy, is it my birthday today?”

He was so good, he even handed over his dummy (pacifier) when he got up and said: “I don’t need this anymore, I am three now.” He wanted it back at bedtime, but managed without and he is dummy-free now.

Here are a few photos, one of him reading his card before opening presents in bed, one of him doing a Dora puzzle he got, and one of him enjoying his birthday cake. Chocolate, of course. Oh yeah, I should totally win some kind of Mommy award, since I not only made him a cake and some mini-muffins for his party, but, after all the guests went home, I made a second cake that he could take to school the following day. When all I wanted to do was collapse on the couch with lots of wine. Three-year-olds will do that to you.

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And here a couple more photos of Shane’s adventures. The first is from Wales, where Shane discovered the joys of an after-dinner babyccino – warm milk with frothy milk and chocolate on top. Unfortunately, he quickly learned that he can’t expect one of those after every meal, sometimes what arrives is just a little jug of cold milk for Daddy’s coffee. The second is of me and him at the pub on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t know how much football my husband actually got to watch, but we had a pretty good time.

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The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

8546358Surprisingly, what I loved about this book wasn’t what I loved most about Addison Allen’s other books. When I read Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen, it was the everyday magic that enchanted me most. I loved how the characters took the mysterious and magical and made it part of their being, normal. This magic is also present in The Peach Keeper and it’s beautiful, like here:

If anyone had been paying attention to the signs, they would have realized that air turns white when things are about to change, that paper cuts mean there’s more to what’s written on the page than meets the eye, and that birds are always out to protect you from things you don’t see.

But what I loved most about this book was the focus on female bonding. The power of friendship between women, the strength it gives to all involved, that sense of all belonging to the same club. It reminded me of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, a book I have loved for a long time. I loved that the main characters learned what true friendship meant and that they learned it from their grandmothers. And that friendship underpinned the town’s history. And that, in the end, it was friendship that was most important. One of the characters describes female relationships like this:

Because we’re connected, as women. It’s like a spiderweb. If one part of that web vibrates, if there’s trouble, we all know it. But most of the time we’re just too scared or selfish or insecure to help. But if we don’t help each other, who will?

This really struck a chord with me and I can see in my life that it is true. I am always willing to help a woman going through something I can understand, something typically female, even if I don’t know her very well. I will always lend a hand if support is needed, when it comes to difficult subjects like rape or abuse. I will be as strong as I can be for women in trouble.

I also really enjoyed the casually thrown around comments about life, the observations of how things work. They made my heart tingle with inspiration and sudden understanding of some deep truth, honest. Like this one:

Every life needs a little space. It leaves room for good things to enter it.

I believe in this – when you de-clutter, you are making room for new things in your life. When you leave something behind, it makes space for the new.

I think this next one is true too –  if you write things down they are more likely to happen, because you are putting more of your energy into them. What a great reason to keep making lists:

Most of her lists were about control, about breaking down her life into manageable pieces. But some of the lists were simply wishes. There was nothing more satisfying than putting what you wanted most onto paper. It gave substance to something that was before as thin as air. It made it one step closer to being real.

Or this one- such simple advice, yet it takes so much courage to accept and love yourself just the way you are:

We are who we are. It’s surprising how little say we have in it. Once you accept that, the rest is easy.

Or this one:

Happiness is a risk. If you’re not a little scared, you’re not doing it right.

Reading Sarah Addison Allen’s books makes me feel warm inside, her tone is so warm and so familiar. Reading The Peach Keeper was like curling up on the couch with a blanket and a cup of tea (I think I’ve said the same thing about Eva Ibbotson, and it’s true). Passages like these are wonderfully cosy, not to mention an inspiring use of language:

Being met by the sharp scent of chocolate mingling with the moist scent of brewing coffee had a dark, secretive feel to it, like Willa had finally found the perfect place to hide.

Occasionally, he would invite one of them on a date, and it would leave the recipient of his attention unable to leave footprints for days, as if her feet weren’t quite touching the ground.

She was tall like her brother, but had wide curves, as if one of her angular French ancestors had scandalized everyone by marrying a pretty stout milkmaid, and several generations later, Paxton was the result.

If you enjoy a bit of non-Harry-Potter-like magic, if you like authors like Joanne Harris and Alice Hoffman, I’m pretty sure you’ll like this book and this author. If you’ve read Addison Allen already, which book is your favorite?

I am linking this post to the Long Awaited Reads event organised by Iris and Ana. I’ve been meaning to read this for ages and when I saw it at the library I snatched it up, finally!

 

Crazy bookish goals for 2013

Finally, I managed to put together a list of reading goals for this year. Beware, it’s long!

1. Read books I own. My book-buying is out of control now and books are piled up everywhere. I need to do some serious weeding, but can’t bear to let a book leave my house without trying it first. Which means reading a lot of those books I bought ages ago and obviously thought I’d like but never seem to be in the mood for nowadays. If I don’t like the book after 50pages then I can give up on it. To help with this goal, I will join Iris in a personalised A-Z challenge: I will read a book per letter off my own shelves, by either title or author, I can’t decide so either is fine. If I don’t own a book/author starting with a letter, like X, then I’ll read one with that letter anywhere in the title/author’s name. If that doesn’t work then I’ll read a random book off my shelves to make up the number.

2. Read more library books. I can check out kindle books and have been reading loads from the library this month. Whenever I’m tempted to buy a book I have to first check the library. This goal obviously leads to more books read on the kindle, which is good.

3. Listen to more audiobooks. I can get these from the library too, just need to get set up.

4. Participate in more challenges. The ones I’ve identified so far are the What’s In a Name Challenge 6 and the Graphic Novels Challenge, but I might do more. I find that challenges structure my reading and, well, challenge me to read out of my comfort zone. I should probably join some kind of non-fiction challenge and somethings about reading by country.

5. Read more non-fiction. I want to know so much more about so many subjects, but will always choose the latest YA over non-fiction when my brain is tired, which is often. This is why I need a challenge. Some non-fiction I’ve been dying to read for a while:

  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  • The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
  • Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  • Why Buffy Matters by Rhonda V. Wilcox

6. Read books by authors I really liked, but haven’t read much of, such as these:

  • Eva Ibbotson
  • Octavia E. Butler
  • Helen Oyeyemi
  • Marisa de los Santos
  • Wilkie Collins
  • Tracy Chevalier
  • David Nicholls
  • Erica Bauermeister
  • Helen Grant

7. Read authors I have never read but have been meaning to try, like these:

  • Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Barbara Kingsolver
  • Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Kate Morton
  • Dorothy L. Sayers
  • John Green
  • Mira Grant

8. Complete the book exchange challenges I set up with Alex and Larissa last year but never completed. I need to read:

recommended by Alex:

  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • 84 Charring Cross Road by Helene Hanff (read in 2012 but not reviewed)
  • King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (read in 2012 but not reviewed)
  • Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

recommended by Larissa:

  • The Lovers by Alice Ferney
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • Promethea by Alan Moore
  • Ocean Sea by Alessandro Baricco

9. Read some of these books, which were all over the blogosphere on lists of favorites for 2012:

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns byRae Carson (Fire and Thorns, #1)
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles, #1)
  • Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
  • Every Day by David Levithan
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • Just One Day by Gayle Forman
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
  • Graceling by Kristen Cashore
  • The 12 Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
  • When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

10. Read some of these random books I’ve been meaning to read, including series:

  • The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
  • The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
  • Reached by Ally Condie (Matched trilogy, #3)
  • Murder Makes Waves by Anne George (Southern Sisters Mystery, #4)
  • Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse, #10)
  • Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse, #11)
  • Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse, #12)
  • Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse, #13)
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
  • Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (The Spellmans, #3)
  • The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz (The Spellmans, #4)
  • Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (The Spellmans, #5)
  • The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking, #2)
  • Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking, #3)
  • Faithful Place by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad, #3)
  • The Thief by Megan Whelan Turner (The Queen’s Thief, #1)
  • A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce, #3)
  • I am Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce, #4)
  • Little Lady, Big Apple by Hester Browne (Little Lady Agency, #2)
  • Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum, #2)
  • Something Blue by Emily Giffin
  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House, #3)

11. Read more classics, including Persephone books.

12. Read in languages other than English. Especially Polish. And maybe something in French.

13. Read at least 5 books a month, which makes a goal of 60 books for the year.

14. Have fun and don’t stress out if I don’t achieve these crazy goals! 🙂

Healthy Tuesday

It’s a big week for me as I implement a huge change in eating and exercise habits. Yes, the Game On Diet has started! It’s very strict and I’m struggling to plan five perfectly balanced meals each day, but I’m looking forward to all this health-consciousness becoming habit. I think they say you have to do something for 21 days before it becomes a habit and I’m only on day two, so I still have a long way to go.

(Incidentally, I am STILL waiting for my copy of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg to arrive from The Book Depository and it’s taking ages and ages. I guess I won’t be joining the January read-a-long that Joy is hosting as part of her New Years’ Resolution Challenge then!)

(And also, I heard that Amazon bought The Book Depository and I am very upset. Is there no hope for the not-so-giant companies out there?)

ReadersWorkoutsLiteAnyway.

I started eating healthy yesterday, but up until then it was like experiencing the death throes of my inner snacking and junk-eating monster. Seriously.

As for exercise, I pledged 400 minutes in January as part of Joy’s Readers’ Workouts and am well on-track. It’s mid-month and I have 190 minutes done – and I only started in the second week of January.

And to finish off, here are some healthy yummy-sounding recipes I pinned in the past week:

Some healthy living goals

Getting fit and losing weight have been on my list of resolutions for so long now, I can barely remember what I aimed for before. But it is only last December that I figured out what was wrong. I have had huge, enormous self-esteem issues since I was little and overeating became my comfort. I am getting better, I actually like myself now and am slowly progressing towards loving myself. Slowly. Sometimes I have setbacks and my brain has a nasty thought about me and I have to kill that thought. But that’s rare now.

Still, the damage was done. I am 36 years old, overweight, unfit and generally unhealthy. So I decided to add ‘Love and respect myself’ to my list of goals for 2013.

ReadersWorkoutsLitePractically, this means two things:

1. Along with Vasilly, Joy and Belle I am playing the Game On Diet. We start on Monday January 14th. Join us? It seems to be a really fun way of starting to live a healthier life and developing better habits. You get points for certain things, like eating healthy meals and exercising, and lose points for things like snacking. But you get some time off from the rules each week too. Fun, fun, fun!

2. I am participating in Readers’ Workouts, hosted by Joy. I will be posting something work-out or health related every Tuesday and linking up there. I am pledging to do 400 minutes of exercise in January.  Join in? 

My (mostly non-bookish) goals for 2013

I expect 2013 to be a thrilling year of self-discovery, with abundance, joy, laughter and general good times a-plenty. Woo-hoo!

Here is what I hope to accomplish this year:

1) Create more with my hands. I’m taking a course in Creative Therapy, but it’s only one Saturday a month and I miss the insight/peace/energy/understanding work like that gives me in between sessions. I want to make the time to make mandalas, to make collages to finger paint. Oh and I want to learn to knit or crochet too!

2) Learn about mandalas, including about how Carl Jung used them with his patients. I find this fascinating.

3) Learn the tarot. I got cards when I went to London in March and still haven’t made the time to explore them.

4) Love myself. I won’t say ‘lose weight’ or ‘get fit’ or any of the other phrases that have been on my lists of resolutions for over ten years. I’ve come to believe that it is all connected to self-esteem – if I love and respect myself then I won’t punish my body by eating crap and not moving.

5) Write more. I want to make more of this blog and I also have another project that will hopefully be launched in a couple of months. I’d like to develop my writing style and that needs practice.

6) Travel more. Now that Shane is old enough to be a pretty good traveller, we can finally do things like city trips again. I miss traveling.

7) Don’t spend money unnecessarily. This ties into the general idea of living consciously.

8) De-clutter our home. Seriously, we have a big clutter problem, I’m a hoarder.

9) Improve my relationships and give time to each, whether with my husband, son or my friends.

10) Read more. I enjoyed the freedom of reading with no pressure last year, but I think that my reading suffered. I will make some lists and join a few challenges so that I read a variety of books and interact with the community. A separate post on reading goals will follow.

Wish me luck! 😉

Weekend Cooking: New cookbooks!

weekend cooking

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post

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Happy New Year everyone! 🙂

I’m starting 2013 with 4 new cookbooks – I totally didn’t need them, but who cares? They are gorgeous and lovely and exciting and I can’t wait to get cooking!

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I’m super excited about Nigellissima, as I am a huge Nigella Lawson fan. I love her recipes and hope that her Italian food will be just as fab as the rest. Judging by the recipes, I think this one is a winner – I think I’ll try her Quick Calabrian Lasagne, Polenta Triangles with Chilli Tomato Sauce and Parmesan Shortbreads first.

I’ve been wanting the Wagamama Cookbook for years – I love eating there whenever I’m in the UK and always think that the noodle dishes would make great mid-week suppers. Their stir-fries and soups, flavoured with ingredients like lime, ginger and coconut, as well as Japanese things I haven’t tried yet, sound amazing. I hope whatever I make at least reminds me of what I love eating in their resraurants!

A friend got me Gino D’Acampo’s Gino’s Pasta after a conversation we had about quick mid-week cooking. I told her that I wish I knew how to make better pasta dishes, they’re so easy but I only do a couple of basic ones. If it’s not smothered in bolognese sauce then I’m no longer comfortable making it. I hope that this book will help me out!

I watched parts of Lorraine Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food on the BBC and I liked her style. Her Pan-fried mascarpone gnocchi and moussaka, as well as all the desserts, sound great and, indeed, easy.

Do you cook from any of these cookbooks? Did you get any new ones over the holidays?