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Category Archives: At Home

Recipes, gardening, neighborhood happenings, and home improvement fun

Flashback to June: On our own, learning the ropes, enjoying each other

I had a hard time believing that, once my mom and sister left, we could possibly manage two children on our own.  Who would hold the baby while one of us bathed Everett and the other finished dinner?  Who would play with Everett while Eric worked and I fed the baby? How could I get both kids ready at the same time to go out, get back in time for dinner, and MAKE dinner all by myself while Eric worked?  HOW DO PEOPLE DO THIS?

Well, we have managed, and pretty well most of the time, if I do say so myself.  We even found time to enjoy each other!  Now, did I also find time to take pictures of it all?  Not really, but here are a few special moments from the relatively calm month of June.

The Festival of the Sea–this wasn’t a great day as we missed the best entertainment and it was crowded and Bryndís kind of lost it part way through, but we did discover this perfect place to throw rocks into the water.

There are no trains in Iceland, except for this old locamotive that’s parked by the harbor. I think there’s also a sign that says not to climb on it, but it’s in Icelandic so I claim ignorance 🙂

Nauthollsvík Beach, a very cool place; closest we’ll get to a real beach this summer.

June 17th, Icelandic Independence Day; Reykjavik got a little crowded as people from all over descended on the city for the celebration. We enjoyed the weather, some live music, and a classic car parade.

A true victory for me–we walked a good distance to Kjarvalstadir, one branch of the Reykjavik Art Museum that houses a lot of work by the artist Kjarval (love his stuff), and since it’s surrounded by a park I managed to time it perfectly so that Everett got to play for an hour, then was tired enough to sit still while I actually went on a TOUR! Then we all ate the lunch we brought in the museum cafe, and walked home in time for naps.  (I love Ev’s expression here, like, “um, Mom, I’m reading here”)

Naps all around, crucial to survival.

 

 

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Heima, part 4: Hanging out with Kiddos

We get out and about as much as possible as Everett’s energy level seems to increase daily and he needs more to keep him occupied than can be (safely, undestructively) found in our home.  But occasionally we do have a few lovely moments just chilling at home together, sometimes involved in activities together, sometimes everyone doing their own thing.
One of Ev’s favorite new things to do is climb into our bed with a book (or 5) and flip through them–literally, he loves just fanning through the pages–sometimes under the covers, sometimes sprawled out, and almost always with violently kicking feet and healthy doses of drool.
 This photo’s from awhile back, when we first moved in here in April, (and I have since had to retire that lovely red and white sweater due to a massive growth spurt in late April), but this fort stayed up for a few weeks and was a favorite place to summon Daddy when he came home in the evening.
At first, I thought this coffee table was an awkward height; then we set up the trains:)

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in At Home, Fun with Everett

 

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Heima, Part 3: Hosting

I LOVE hosting people in my home, though sadly pregnancy, newborn-bouncing, and toddler-chasing have made doing so more difficult than I’d like.  But we have had occasion to host three little gatherings in our flat.  For two of them I will refrain from showing pictures as they show little ones who do not belong to me, but we had our dear friend Diane and her family over just after moving in, then we hosted playgroup one Friday, which was a total blast.  It was chaos, to be sure, but a beautiful chaos of mamas and kiddos running about and I was very proud of Everett and how well he handled all these kids playing with his toys in his space.

That was three days before the baby girl was born, and the very day before, we had the pleasure of hosting our friends Nicola and David for afternoon tea and cake. Nicola is a friend of Eric’s from when he studied here on a Fulbright back in ’05-’06, and David is her lovely beau who was studying here for a few months this spring.  It was such a pleasure to catch them for a couple of hours before they both headed back to England!

This yogurt cake was FANTASTIC! and so easy. Being in Iceland, of course I used skyr. Recipe via Pinterest from Ezra Pound Cake.

Enjoying tea amongst the mess–Everett loves to show off for guests, and anyone we talk to on Skype, and this usually involves pulling out every toy, presenting it to the lucky recipient, then flinging it aimlessly but with force.

It’s funny to reflect on this afternoon that was so peaceful and enjoyable, and contained bits of conversation that went something like, “so when are you due?” “2 1/2 weeks to go!  Hopefully she’ll hold on that long!”  and less than 24 hours later, we were holding our little one!  Wild.

I must share that Nicola, despite only being in Iceland for a short time to visit David after a good spell apart, very kindly took the time to make us dinner later that week (a fantastic lasagna!) and they both got to meet Bryndís.  Life is so sweet sometimes.

 
 

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Easter, the weekend we barely survived

This is looking back a bit, but today and yesterday–when my visiting mother in law and I have taken turns feeling icky and dealing with the kids, and Eric has helped and given up some precious hours of writing time to do so–I’m having flashbacks.

I had glorious plans for making Easter a magical holiday for our family this year.  I was going to roast a leg of lamb and invite Eric’s colleagues for dinner; I was going to make Everett an Easter basket and fill it with a stuffed bunny made from the rest of the old sweater scraps, some sweet little sugar cookies decorated just for him, and some hard-boiled eggs died with all-natural homemade food dyes; I was going to make him overalls and finish his lopapeysa in time to wear both to church on Easter Sunday; and I was going to invite playgroup friends over for an Easter egg hunt (where? our non-existent yard? why yes, this is clearly a total fantasy after all). But we moved the weekend before, then Eric got sick, and the weather was rainy and cold and utterly miserable, then I got sick but still had to entertain a toddler, and everything was closed because they take a 5-day holiday here in Iceland.  So this is about all we managed: The Easter basket got made but I had no “grass” so used poly-fil (BAD idea); the sugar cookies got made then I realized I had no food coloring to make icing so they’re plain; and I did make it to Tiger for some new crayons and the fancy candy store for some special treats.  No eggs were boiled NOR dyed.

Fabric basket, inspired by these by GoodWishesQuilts on Etsy. Overalls made from the same fabric will appear in a future post:)

You can see here the banner I made.  A couple weeks out, I did manage to make several of these and write some letters to send to friends at home and in Europe.  A few of them did actually make it in time for Easter.

I made these banners very simple: watercolor wash in pastels over several sheets of heavy watercolor paper; cut out mini triangles (each only about 2 inches max from base to point), then used darker watercolor to write Gleđilega Páska (Happy Easter in Icelandic). Strung together with Istex Einband lace weight lopi yarn.

 The lopapeysa? finished except for the zipper, which made it in by the following Wednesday (pictures forthcoming, though he is wearing it in that first pic).  Overalls?  HA! eventually, but not even close to Easter.  Dinner? Chicken soup for the 3rd night in a row as we were all feeling poorly.  Church?  Got dressed and out the door, a valiant effort, but it was too late to get there in time.  Egg hunt? Like I said, complete fantasy.

We really tried to put on our tough-guy faces and pretend to enjoy Easter, but we were really glad when it was all over.  Within a few days, Iceland graced us with beautiful sunny weather that has held on more or less ever since, and for that we are EXTREMELY grateful.

Have you ever had high hopes for a holiday or birthday that just went totally pear-shaped?  This is so not my first, and probably not my last, and sharing these stories can give us all a good laugh and reinforce that “E” for effort.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2012 in At Home, My Projects

 

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Belongings: Indulge in the Simplicity

Last year, I attempted to start a series about the things I’ve learned through all this moving about, things that make family life easier–or possible–despite changing surroundings, as well as tips and tricks to keep logistical nightmares to a minimum.  I think I wrote a grand total of ONE entry in this series, which I’m still calling “Belongings” and picking up again now:)

When we returned home to our house in St. Louis last fall, after 8 months abroad, I really tried to be glad to be back, but I wasn’t.  The succeeding autumn consisted of a myriad of fantastic developments–namely, a lot of significant growth in several friendships–but also an onslaught of negative emotions that I couldn’t comprehend or really begin to deal with. One underlying factor that I have been able to identify was that for some reason, our house, small as it is, felt completely and totally overwhelming when it came to cleaning and organizing.  This was, of course, related to the fact that I was in the midst of first trimester ickiness and attempting to manage a very active toddler, and had many days without a car to get out and go somewhere (anywhere!) else.  I was frustrated by this–why is this so hard? I thought.  This house just isn’t that big, I should be able to keep it plenty clean and tidy and manage to get some kind of dinner on the table without it feeling like the biggest, most difficult task anyone has ever done.  But that’s how it did feel, and I blamed all sorts of factors and made lots of excuses, and ultimately avoided the work as much as possible, which only made me more unhappy about where I lived because it was chaos, and gross, and disorderly.  You can see where this is going: the cliche downward spiral.

I have a pretty strong feeling that most of you out there who have any sort of home for which you are responsible have felt many of the things I was feeling, so I won’t go into much more detail.  Except to say that I responded with a pretty much overall BAD attitude, coming to resent the house for being so burdensome, and even my husband and son for actually needing things from me (never mind how much I needed them too, wasn’t this all about me?)

“helping” me pack back in January

When we found out we’d be coming to Iceland, I was immediately excited about the possibility of living in a tiny apartment with only the stuff we could bring in our suitcases, much like last year in London.  I knew this would mean a return to a level of simplicity that is almost impossible to achieve except in these circumstances, and I couldn’t wait!  And I was right, because as soon as we got here, I felt like I could breathe a little more easily, despite all of my sadness for leaving home yet again.

There’s something just so beautiful and refreshing about a small space and limited stuff.  The way we live here and lived in London last year was not really sustainable in a normal, permanent dwelling.  So my advice to anyone who gets the chance to live abroad temporarily (or hey, even just house sit for awhile), is to soak up the simplicity.  Rather than bemoan not having a proper pie plate, find out if a springform pan will work; get creative with your accessorizing so that a bunch of cardigans, scarves, and camisoles stay interesting for 6 months; rejoice in the minimal clutter and the ease of having everything all on one floor; and finally, brainstorm on how to recreate as much of this simplicity at home while accepting the necessary level of chaos that comes with being planted somewhere for (more or less) good.

Living room (before we moved furniture to block breakable things that belong to the owners)

P.S. Can you tell I’m trying to self-help with this post?  t-minus 3 weeks before we fly back to the U.S.!

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in At Home, Travel, Writings

 

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Settling

I took an unintentional 3.5 month hiatus from blogging and quite a bit has changed since I last posted, like, let’s see: our home, the weather, the number of people in our family, the overall shape of my body, amount of sunlight in each day. . . I have lots of thoughts, pictures, news, and on and on to share, but for now, here are some highlights:

April 1-we moved from 107 to 101 Reykjavik, to an awesome flat facing the Tjorn in the center of town.  It was nice being next to Laugardalur park, but I’m much happier downtown where I don’t have to take the bus to get anywhere.

April-May, sometime–it stopped getting dark, at all, ever.

May 7th–Baby girl enters the world!!  I really look forward to sharing her insane birth story and a few precious pictures in an upcoming post:)

May 8-June 2–first our friend Kara visits, then my mom, then my sister!  Several fun day trips with everyone to other fantastically beautiful parts of this country

June–settling into life with two kids, fortunately with the help of some gorgeous weather!  Lots of time spent at the playground, in the kitchen, at playgroups, and the library.

Projects finished since March 13–Everett’s sweater (ALMOST in time for Easter), E’s Easter basket (now toy storage), easter garlands and letters for friends back home, E’s overalls, knit baby blanket, tiny baby sweater and matching hat, tote bag for a friend’s birthday, fathers’ day present.

In other news: a new addiction to Pinterest (something easily explored one-handed and while nursing or bouncing a fussy baby) has led to a growing project list and several yummy kitchen experiments.

Pictures and links to all patterns, tutorials, and recipes forthcoming!

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in At Home, My Projects, Travel

 

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Heima, Part 2

The kitchen here is tiny (though not as tiny as the Teensy Weensy Cafe).  A blessing and a curse, to be sure, but mostly a blessing.  It means that when stuff drops on the floor, I don’t stress because sweeping the whole kitchen only takes about 30 seconds.  And amazingly, it stays pretty clean, b/c again, it just doesn’t take that long to tidy up.  But one thing I love about this kitchen is the table where we eat all our meals together.  It’s cozy and small, but it looks so peaceful at night and first thing in the morning, when it’s been wiped clean of all the day’s gunk, and set right, with that cheery table cloth, and one light on in case one of us gets up for water or a snack.

I love that this table greets me in the morning when I bring Everett in, plop him in his booster seat where he will often play or snack happily while I make coffee and breakfast, because he loves sharing that table with us, so much more than he liked a high chair.  I also love the bright orange walls and the art by the woman who owns this flat, full of images from other parts of the world and lots of color to brighten the oft-grey and white world of concrete apartment buildings and Iceland’s winter sky.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in At Home, Writings

 

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