Books, books, books

I have always been a big reader.  You can ask my mom, she will tell you.  I used to take books to movie theaters.  We would go to the bookstore in the evening after she would get home from work, and by the time I went to bed I would have the book SHE JUST BOUGHT ME finished.  

isn't this considered a classic?
So, when I heard about the list of 100 books the BBC put out, I was interested to check it out.  I have done some additional research and seems like the list that is on my tab was only on Facebook, and never actually published on the BBC website.  But, even so, it seems like a good collection of mostly classic and a few more recently published books that should be read.  

Over the next year (and I am sure longer than that--have you seen how HUGE of a book War & Peace is?) I am going to read each of the books.  I have noted on the list (see 100 books tab above) which books have already been read, and will note when I finish the rest of them as well.  First up?  Pride & Prejudice.  

 I am a big fan of "chick lit" books, so this will be a challenge for me.   I will wait to read any other fiction books until I finish this list.  Hmm, I wish Hunger Games was on this list.  

Non-fiction?  Doesn't count.  I will continue to read non-fiction books now and then as I go through the list.  

Do you have any favorites on the list?  Books I should read sooner rather than later? 


Living in the Moment

Rushing, rushing, rushing.  Due to a bit of procrastination on my part, I have been rushing around for the last hour and a half getting everything packed that is needed for a four day trip to Dublin with two adults, a two-year-old and three-month-old.  Whew.  Done, with about 20 minutes to spare.

As I was rushing, I was getting frustrated.  Frustrated with myself for not getting stuff packed sooner (although to my defense, a lot of it is stuff that can't be packed ahead of time).  Frustrated with J#3 because his toys were all over the family room floor and I had to work around them (luckily I missed stepping on any matchbox cars.  whew!).  Frustrated with J#4 because she chose right then to be fussy (which is not a usual occurrence for her).

You see that tab up near the top of the page?  The one that says "1000 gifts"?  It helped turn my attitude around today.  

One of the items on my bucket list is to write a list of 1000 gifts.  The idea comes from a book that was published, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp.  

I am a planner.  If you have known me for any amount of time, you have likely figured that out by now.  So, I spend a lot of time looking forward to the next trip, the next week, the next...whatever.  Writing a list of one thousand gifts, that I have RIGHT NOW, helps me to live more in the now.  

To appreciate the spontaneous hugs from J#3, the smiles from J#4 and the fact that in less than 24 hours, I will be in a new city, discovering new sights with some good friends and my precious family. 

So watch for more items to be added to that list, and I will let you know when I get to 1000.  Because that means I get to check another item off the bucket list! 


What is a mom to do?

So, recently J#1 has been traveling quite a bit for work.  And it has left me in a bit of a quandary. 

See, usually there are two of us and two of them (little ones, that is).  But when he is gone it becomes two vs. one.  Usually, that isn't really an issue.  We spend all day long that way.  Me...and them. 

But bedtime is another story.  

Here is the quandary.  

J#3 isn't quite at an age where I can leave him by himself to feed J#4 and get her to sleep.  J#4 is easier to contain, but these days is getting bored easily, and at bedtime is ready for...bedtime. So, since J#4 was about 6 weeks old, each night I take J#3 up to bed, J#4 is left on her own in her crib, not very happy, until I get done getting J#3 to bed. 
Wow.  That was a lot of #'s in one paragraph. 

And bath night?  Oye.  Don't get me started.  I try to avoid them all together, because that just extends the length of time J#4 has to hang out by herself.

But, that is where I came up with a genius idea today.  

Who says staying at home with the kids won't give me great answers for interview questions in for future jobs?   "Can you tell me about a time when you had to come up with a new way of doing something?" 

Well, sure Ms. Interviewer.  It didn't make us any more money, but I did get an increase in smiles. 

Baths in the afternoon.  

Revolutionary, isn't it?  See, we are a "bath before bedtime" kind of family.  So I hadn't even thought to switch things up.  

You know how sometimes you wish you had a camera in your head, so you could take photos automatically without needing an actual camera?           Oh.  You don't?  That is just me?   Well, anyway...

I wish I could have photographed J#3's excitement when I went to get him up from his nap (which are starting to get shorter and shorter.  sniff, sniff) and told him he was taking a bath.  Hands in the air, huge smile!  
fun from beginning to end
So J#3 was taking a bath while J#4 was finishing her nap.  Benefits of an afternoon nap?  There is no reason to hurry and finish up.  So, ALL the toys came out today. 

talk about perfectly placed scuba diver toy, right? 

Wrinkled fingers and toes.  Happy toddler.  Happy mommy.   


32 questions...and answers

I am finally trying to be like a real, grown-up blog.  

I have added a few pages (see the tabs above?), including an "about me" page and a "100 books" page.  More about the "100 books" and "1000 gifts" page in future posts.  Today, I wanted to share part of the "about me" page, because it is probably a page you might not click over to.

Not me.  No.  When, I head to a new blog-that is the FIRST page I check out.  So, I wanted to give people a lot of info.

Granted, at this point, most of you know me IRL (in real life), but maybe you didn't know all of this information.  This is a collection of questions from across the great world wide web.   Sort of like one of those e-mail questionnaires.  Oh, and if you have any other questions, let me know.  Right now there are 32, since that is how old I am.  And, well, my birthday is in just a few short months (July, in case you want to send gifts)...

  1. What was your favorite food when you were a child?  Grilled Cheese Sandwich, although for the longest time I thought it was a "girl" cheese sandwich
  2. What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod? It is a tie between "There Goes My Life" by Kenny Chesney and "You're Gonna Miss This" by Trace Adkins
  3. What is one of your favorite quotes?  "People come into your life and people go. But it's comforting to know the ones you love are always in your heart. And if you are very lucky, a plane ride away." 
  4. What chore do you absolutely hate doing?  Dusting.  What is the point???
  5. What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?  Time of day:  morning,  Day of the week: Saturday, Month of the year: April 
  6. What sound do you love?  My son and daughter laughing.  
  7. What sound do you loath?  Whistling
  8. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?  I wouldn't ever want to stay any age forever.  What would be the point? 
  9. If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?  Tom Brokaw
  10. If you could witness any event past, present or future, what would it be?   President John F. Kennedy's inauguration
  11. If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?  Suzie.  That was almost my name.  The story I remember being told is that my Mom got to choose my name, but if my Dad would have gotten to it would have been Suzie. 
  12. Are you named after anyone?   Nope.  Well, I take that back. My middle name is my Godmother's name: Marie. Did you know though, that Jennifer was the most common name being used for babies in NYC the year I was born?  That would help explain the 3 Jenny's in my grade school class of 50 students.
  13. If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?  Mary (as in Jesus's mother)
  14. If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?  Pay off the last of our debt.  Duh.  Oh, and--since we live thousands of miles from our family and most of our friends--buy a plane. 
  15. What do you want to be when you grow up?  A writer.  And that is what I would have said 20 years ago too. 
  16. When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?  Reading or surfing the net. 
  17. What would you name the autobiography of your life?  Not sure, any ideas out there? 
  18. Have you ever had something happen to you that you thought was bad but it turned out to be for the best?  Too many things to list.  My mantra is:  "Everything happens for a reason".
  19. What was the last experience that made you a stronger person?  Moving across the world; having a baby in a foreign country.
  20. What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?  I was a bit of a goody-goody.  A few friends I hung out at my house and had a few drinks my senior(?) year in high school, and I totally wouldn't have gotten caught.  But, I told my Mom.  Yeah. I did that. 
  21. What’s the best/worst gift you’ve ever given/received?  I've received kleenex as gifts twice.  That would be the worst.  'Nuff said.   The best?  The gold necklace J#1 gave us for our first Christmas with a hand written note (instead of a card).  That was when I knew he must REALLY like me.  
  22. What do you miss most about being a kid?  I don't really miss being a kid.  But, if you twisted my arm I guess I would say it would have to be summers when there wasn't homework to worry about. 
  23. What is your first memory of being really excited?  Getting a Nintendo for Christmas--think it was 1987
  24. When was the last time you were nervous?  In my life as an expat, with my personality--this is pretty much a daily occurrence. 
  25. What is something you learned in the last week?  101 things about Irish History
  26. What is the best invention during your lifetime?  So far, Ipad/Ipod touch/Iphone
  27. How many phone numbers do you have committed to memory?  Thanks to cell phones, not many:  My Mom's,  my brother's, my in-laws, our U.S. cell phone (which are never on) numbers, our current home phone number, our old home phone number (sad to see that one go), and I justbarely have my mobile number here in memorized--so, eight.  There are about four more numbers that I could identify on caller ID by the first 3 digits though...does that count for anything? 
  28. If you had to act your age what behavior would you change?  Self pity. 
  29. Do you have faith in the next generation? Why?  Of course I do, because we are raising them.  And I think I am part of one of the great generations.  I am right on the cusp of Gen X/Gen Y--so do with that what you will. 
  30. How old where you when you had your first kiss?  14
  31. Do you believe a long distance relationship can work?  Absolutely, the first seven months (pretty much our entire courtship) J#1 and I were three hours apart. 
  32. Would you ever live in Los Angeles?  Oh, yeah.   In a New York minute.  But I would prefer New York City. 


Reaching for the Sun

It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.    ~Joyce Maynard

I am so excited and glad that we are getting the opportunity to live in Europe for a few years.  J#1 is able to do a job that he enjoys and get international experience on the business front.   Plus, we as a family get to see and experience so much that we probably couldn't have living in the U.S.  Since we have made a pretty substantial move in the past (to New Jersey from Minnesota), the decision to make our current move wasn't as "scary" as it could have been.  Don't get me wrong, things haven't always been easy.  But the benefits of living abroad just about weigh out the cons. 
J#3 checking out our plane to the Netherlands

Our children are too young right now to realize that they are having a very unique experience.  As they get older I am hoping that they are going to look back at this time and realize that their parents were "reaching for the sun" and they won't hesitate to do the same.  

J#3 walking the streets of Brugges, Belgium
So, when I am having a tired or lazy day, I need to remind myself to "reach for the sun".   Because those little eyes are watching (and often mimicking) my every move. 


Bucket List: Paris? Check!

What better way to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary than a trip to Paris?  We took off on Wednesday, April 27 and drove to our hotel just outside of Paris, near Disneyland.  The drive ended up being a little longer than expected due to some odd GPS directions around Brussels and a stop for lunch.  J#3 found a new "toy" to keep himself occupied towards the end of the trip: 
On the way home, the portable DVD player was even
more of a life trip-saver!

Thursday, April 28th,  was our 10th wedding anniversary.  This was the day we chose to head into Paris.  J#3 LOVED riding the "choo-choo".  Doesn't he look like such a big boy in this photo? 

After our required lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, we hopped on a "hop on/hop off" tour bus.  This was just the ticket, since we went to Paris sans-stroller for ease of getting around.  The bus provided a place to rest.  Plus, the weather didn't cooperate with us and was cold, rainy and windy.  So, having the shelter of the bus was great. 
We made sure J#4 was bundled up well

We were able to see some of the great sites of Paris from the bus...
our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower
The Louvre

  I had the camera, but was focusing on a map.  
J#1 made sure we didn't miss this great shot.  
Teamwork--guess that is what happens after ten years of marriage!

J#3 was excited about the Eiffel tower.
the girls
and the boys

Friday, we had planned to visit Versailles. But instead of learning more about those Royals, we decided to hang out at the hotel so I could watch the Royal Wedding of William & Catherine.  Because, this is likely one of the few times we will be able to view something like that LIVE, not recorded, and not at an insane time of day!   After the wedding fun--they sure picked a great weekend to get married, end of April marriages ALWAYS work out :-) -- we headed to the "outlet mall" near our hotel.  Needless to say, "outlet" malls don't really exist in Europe, due to the exchange rate.  Essentially, we would have paid about the same for something at their outlet mall as we would have at a regular, full-priced store in Minnesota.  Oh well, it was interesting to walk through an outlet mall with Dolce & Gabbana and Burberry.  

Saturday was probably the highlight of the weekend.  Guess where we went?
Arizona??  No...  Disneyland!!

J#3 went on his first ride.  He has been on a few merry-go-rounds, but hasn't really enjoyed them.  Luckily the few rides he went on were a bit more successful.  We did try the merry-go-round again.  He still doesn't love them.  But, he also didn't want to get off when it was done.  Talk about a love/hate relationship!  We are thinking it is because the horses go up and own at the same time as they go around in a circle.  There is a merry-go-round in the Centrum here in Eindhoven that is just cars (that don't go up & down).  I think we will try that one out eventually to see if it is successful. 

Pure joy.  First toy from Disneyland.  Woody from Toy Story.  
He also got a Buzz Lightyear.  Happy boy.

patient sister waiting
J#4 and I hung out while the guys went on the ride.
As you can see, I don't think she minded waiting around.  This time, at least.


After Disneyland, we headed to Animal Kingdom.  Ha.  Totally kidding.  We headed back to our hotel, and spent about an hour watching, photographing and feeding some ducks just behind our town house. 

Sunday, we headed back to Eindhoven.  Drove four and a half hours.  Straight through.  No stops.  Impressive for a family with a two-year-old and three-month-old, don't you think? 


J. Homemaker Series #3: Easter Dinner (better late than never)

Where have I been?!?!  Well, France.  At least for a few five days.  Is that a good enough of an excuse for almost two weeks without blogging?  Paris is on my bucket list!  More to come on that in a future post.  

First up, Easter.  Seeing as how it has been nearly two weeks since the day, I figured I better fill you in!

So, on my bucket list, under cooking, #2 is to cook a Thanksgiving dinner (pretty much on my own).  Obviously, this won't apply so alas, I can't check that item of my list.  Oh, and it will probably be at least two years before I can check that item off my list anyways--many favorite Thanksgiving dishes are hard to make here in the Netherlands, since some of the ingrediants are hard to come by.

But back to the subject at hand.  I DID make this whole Easter dinner by myself.  
lamb, cauliflower, potatoes and cookies!
Funny story about how we ended up with lamb.  Well...funny to me.  

What I was really looking for was ham.  But the only ham I could find within my walking radius was sliced (for sandwiches) or cubed (scrumptious in scrambled eggs).  Both not Easter dinner material.   On my search for the ham I stopped into a "vleesspecialist" (a.k.a. "meat specialist") that I pass each time I head to our mums & toddlers group.  

I asked Mr. Meat Specialist first if he spoke English.  "A little", he says.  That is what most Dutch folks say here.  And they then go on to speak more fluent English than my two-year-old.  Well, at this point that isn't too tough of a feat.  But my point is just that they usually can understand everything I saw and have a full conversation with me in English.   

I pointed into the meat case.  "What's that?"

"Lamb," says Mr. Meat Specialist. 

"I'll take it," said the novice cooker looking for something relatively seasonal, so to speak, for the rapidly approaching holiday.  Have I ever cooked lamb before?  Nope.  Was I a bit nervous?  Um, yeah.

So, did it turn out? Oh, yeah.  It turned out fabulous.  

Perhaps a new tradition was born.  I can't say that I was extremely gutsy or creative with side dishes (cauliflower with cheese and mashed potatoes), but one thing at a time, right? 

I turned to foodnetwork.com for this Herb Crusted Lamb recipe from Giada.  Love her!

The rest of Easter day was beautiful, in the 70s, and a fun day to relax and hang out as a family.  Here are some photo gems to enjoy: 
family photo.  fun. 

J#4 with her first Easter treat: Jelly Beans.  :-)

Oh, sweets.  After a my 40-day Lenten abstinence from sweets, Easter cookies and chocolate tasted pretty good on Easter Sunday.  
goofy #3

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