Vino and veg: Pasta pesto

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Last week I made a pasta dish that we often make when we are hurried, tired or not very motivated to cook anything too complicated. I paired it with a lovely white wine and it went so well together that I thought I’d share it with you. It is quite simple and very delicious – particularly in the summer when the vegetables are at their peak. Pasta dishes are handy for us because they can easily be adapted to suit the likes and dislikes of the children. They eat pasta with sliced raw vegetables (cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and carrots) and roasted pine nuts. One prefers pesto and cheese while the other likes simple extra virgin olive oil – both are easy to accommodate and are no extra work!

I use wholewheat pasta or whole spelt pasta which once cooked, I douse with extra virgin olive oil and then I stir in a healthy portion of vegan pesto. I then top it with a variety of oven-roasted vegetables, pour a glass of wine and dinner is served! I would guess the whole process from start to table takes 45 minutes at most.

This time I used aubergine/eggplant, red onion, carrots, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts and fresh arugula and basil to top our pasta and I paired it with a lovely wine called Scaramanga White from 2015. If you read my first post about wine and food pairing, you will notice that this wine is also from the South African wine maker Nabygelegen. It is a beautiful wine which does well on its own at a picnic in the park or paired with food. It is made from a blend of three grapes: 60% Chenin Blanc, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Verdelho. This blend gives great balance, but also a diverse flavor pattern and makes it a fairly easy wine to drink and combine with food.

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It did very well with my pasta dish because it is creamy, full-bodied, and off-dry with plenty of structure. The creamy notes and oak spices were a perfect match for the earthy flavor and creamy texture of the roasted aubergine. The subtle sweetness of the wine highlighted the sweetness of the roasted red onions and carrots. Those same sweet and creamy notes, together with its floral, citrus and spiced bouquet, provided a nice balance to the tart acidity of the tomatoes, the astringency of the arugula and the peppery basil. I would certainly pair these two again!

If you’d like to try the combination yourself, here is the recipe (in the loosest sense of the word). It serves 2 adults.

Ingredients:

  • Wholewheat of whole spelt pasta
  • Pesto (I use this one, which is vegan, but there are probably many out there or it’s pretty easy to make it yourself)
  • 1 medium-sized aubergine, cut into cubes (2.5 cm or 1″)
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 2-3 carrots, washed or peeled and sliced into coins
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes for roasting, whole (plus whatever the kids eat raw)
  • 100 g (or 3 small handfuls) raw pine nuts
  • a handful of arugula per person
  • 5-7 basil leaves per person
  • Parmesan (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (425 degrees F). Boil water for pasta (with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt).
  2. Prepare the aubergine, onion and carrots. Toss them lightly in olive oil, place on a baking sheet and put in the preheated oven. Make sure you flip them after about 12-15 minutes. Total cooking time is approximately 25-30 minutes.
  3. While the vegetables are roasting, roast the pine nuts on the stove in a pan over medium heat. Keep a good eye on them and shake regularly – they tend to burn quickly once the pan is heated. Once they’re ready, put them in a bowl to cool a bit.
  4. Put the cherry tomatoes on a smaller baking tray and add them to the oven for the last 10 minutes while the vegetables are roasting.
  5. Once the tomatoes are in the oven, cook the pasta.
  6. Stir the pesto into the cooked and drained pasta.
  7. Place your roasted vegetable trio on a thin bed of pasta. Add the tomatoes, tear up the arugula and basil and add it to the top. Finally add your pine nuts (and Parmesan, if using) and enjoy!

If you’re looking to try this wine and live in Amsterdam, you can get it at Eriks’s Delicatessen. If you live elsewhere, I’m sure a simple search online will provide alternative vendors.

Vino and veg

Okay. Confession time. I like wine – a lot. Not only is wine delicious, but each bottle has a story. Like many things, some stories are more interesting than others, but each bottle comes from somewhere, is made by someone and contains some kind of grape. I like those kind of stories, just like I like stories about food. I like reading about food, looking at it, talking about it, cooking it and eating it. For most of you, my dear friends and family, this is probably old news. For those of you who may not already know it, as a family, we eat predominantly vegetables, but are known to have fish occasionally and even meat, though very rarely. While our vegetarian lifestyle is relevant to my story, the reasons for our choices are not and so we’ll leave those aside.

What I do want to share with you is how these two loves of mine – wine and vegetarian food – play together. If you’re like me, when you visit a wine shop or read about wine, first you read the description of the wine followed by the recommendations for food pairings. The suggested pairings are often simple at best – meat, poultry, fish or vegetarian. I don’t know about you, but that’s just not enough information for me. Vegetarian (and vegan) dishes offer a very wide variety of flavors and textures and thus wine pairing opportunities.

What I’ve discovered during my food and wine journey is that I don’t always find it very easy to pair vegetarian dishes with wine. I have a lot of respect for those sommeliers in fancy restaurants who can pair a beautiful and mouth-watering vegetarian dish perfectly with a wine so artistically and masterfully that both the food and the wine, each lovely on their own, are elevated to another level entirely. Oh my! To an amateur like myself, that can be both inspiring and pretty intimidating. However, after a conversation with some of the staff during a recent visit to the lovely vegetarian restaurant in Cork, Cafe Paradiso, I decided that I would not be deterred. Wine appreciation is a subjective thing, so why shouldn’t I give it a try? On my quest to enjoy this experience at home, I started keeping a little journal about my experiences/experiments (both positive and negative) and thought it might be fun to share them with you here since I suspect that I may not be alone in my desire to make a nice pairing.

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wine-pair_27848438000_oSo, for my first pairing, I’d like to show a pairing that was pretty tasty. The dish is one that we eat pretty often with slight variations based on the vegetables in the fridge. The dish is served on a bed of red and white quinoa topped with beet blocks, caramelized red onion and fennel slices, sliced portobello mushrooms, and cavolo nero (also known as black kale or Tuscan kale) and topped with feta cheese made from goat’s milk. I paired it with one of my favorite Pinot Noirs: Snow Mountain, The Mistress 2015 vintage from the winemaker at Nabygelegen. While writing this post, I read a press release on their website that the 2009 vintage of this particular wine was served during the 60th Jubilee lunch of the Queen of England. Now that is a pretty neat story! Although I wasn’t able to find much about the wine itself on their site, I did read some interesting articles about their 2013 and 2014 vintages written by Michael Olivier if you’d like to read more about it.

wine-pair_28026145072_oIt is from the Bovlei Valley in Wellington, South Africa and although it is a fruit-driven Pinot Noir, it is subtle, complex and elegant with typical earthy and mushroom-like flavors as well as spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and a bit of vanilla. The earthiness tasted great with the nutty quinoa and the earthy mushrooms, which I cooked separately on a fairly high heat so that they had a nice smoky flavor, and the red fruits, think raspberry, strawberry and some cherry, paired well with the sweet and earthy beets and also gave a lovely contrast to the creamy and salty goat feta cheese. Overall, a successful pairing!

Perspective

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One of my oldest and best friends is visiting my family this week with her daughter. It has only been a few days since their arrival, but it has been terrific to see her. Although her trip was a bit rough, traveling alone with a sick child, I think she is enjoying her visit as much as I am. We don’t see each other much, in fact, the last time was probably over 3 years ago, but as is often the case with your oldest and best friends, you just carry on where you last left off and as if little time has passed at all. Wonderful!!

We’ve shared stories about our children, our daily lives, our beliefs, our mad and totally out-of-control obsession for blueberries, and reminisced about our childhood spent as neighbors. All of these stories have got me thinking about perspective. In a world where social media allows you to “edit” what you share about your life, it can often seem like everyone else has the “perfect” life. My life, though filled with lots of wonderful people, is far from perfect. I am far from perfect. My friendships are far from perfect. The past few days have made it even clearer to me how important it is to have actual in-person contact with your friends and the importance of sharing stories with them. It gives me a sense of perspective. For example, her children are a few years older than mine, so she’s been through a lot of what I’m going through now. Though I know that phases pass and my kids are growing up so quickly, it gives me some comfort to know that my relationship with my children will continue to develop and the things that might be frustrating to me (and them) now will no longer be an issue in just a few short years. I’m certain there will be other frustrations, but we will cross that road when we get to it!

Living in a city with friends that have only known me in my life here is really great, but it is also very nice to share stories from my younger years with someone who was also present during them. It’s really fun to see where her perspective on shared childhood events overlaps with mine and where it differs. I’ve learned how important our friendship was to both of us, but also how most of our memories of playing together (which was probably almost daily) took place outside on my parents’ farm and how this life outdoors influenced both of our beliefs and values as adults. We have looked back as adults at the games we used to play, the time we spent together, our relationships with each other and with our families mostly in delight but sometimes in horror – the mix of a childhood filled with magic, curiosity and imagination, yet also the unfiltered and brutal honesty that children call their own. My choices in life have brought me to where I am now, but I sometimes wonder if I (and my husband) succeed at passing along the magic of the trees and fields of our childhood to our children – these lovely children who are city-dwellers and will most definitely have a different experience and perspective than we did. I try to focus not on the experiences that they don’t have in the city, but on those that they do and have faith that this urban environment will provide them with just as much magic as our rural homes did for us.

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One of the stories my friend and I have shared was about some rock piles and tree formations in one of my father’s fields. This particular field is located directly behind my parents’ house. When I was a kid, my father always had about 20 head of cattle, usually located in one of 3 fields. These fields and the woods behind them were some of our favorite stomping grounds. Literally. We both remember stomping down squares of my dad’s lovely long grass (right before haying season even) in order to create “rooms” for the “houses” we imagined we were building to shelter us from the imagined tornadoes which might come and transport us to Oz. Great fun! Why we didn’t take shelter on the rock pile is a mystery to me now, though I do suspect it has something to do with my fear of snakes and my conviction that they all lived there in that pile. Still, we did play on the pile which was studded with birch trees, swinging around and rearranging rocks to our hearts content. A stone’s throw behind the rock pile was a longer island of trees – as long as a football field, full of trees and bushes and raised so we had to climb up onto it. I can remember taking refuge there on this “island” that we were stranded on, pretending to forage for our survival in the thick greenery and building small dwellings from fallen branches and sticks. My friend remembers the big island exactly as I do, but in the summer before last, my perspective on that island was changed forever.

That summer our family flew “home” to visit my parents. It was a nice treat because my husband’s parents flew from Ireland to join us on the Tug Hill Plateau for part of our stay. Though they don’t see each other often, living on opposite sides of the pond, our parents get along very well. Both of our fathers are farmers and so they spent most of their time together outside in and around the barnyard “hanging out with the cows” (my words, definitely not theirs). Our mothers spent time inside enjoying crafty pursuits, reading and commiserating on the life of a farmer’s wife. One morning, as is common on a farm, some situation of great urgency arose – this time it wasn’t animals in the road who had escaped the fence yet again, no, this time it was a first-time heifer that had calved in the night and the calf was missing. My motherly instincts kicked in and despite being clad in my pajamas, I grabbed my mother’s pink rubber boots which were two sizes too small and stuffed my bare feet into them, running out the door to look for the poor new calf, hoping I would find it alive and kicking and that it hadn’t fallen prey to the local band of coyotes. I volunteered to look through the woods and fields which I considered to be my old stomping grounds and once I climbed over the gate behind my brother’s house, I set off sweeping back and forth through the field, searching in the deep grass for the lost calf. Now, I haven’t lived around cattle in over 20 years and in those 20 years, my father has expanded his herd considerably. I knew that at the opposite end of the field, there were nearly 60 head of cattle roaming around that weren’t familiar with me, that are skittish and spook easily and, most importantly, that included a full-grown Red Angus bull. I realized as I entered the woods that I might have been out of my depth and so I started glancing over my shoulder with great regularity, praying I wouldn’t see a stampede of spooked cattle racing in my direction.

As I picked my way through the woods, I noticed that the trees had matured in the years I’d been gone and that the plethora of undergrowth that used to flourish there, including wild blueberries, had taken their leave, forced out by either lack of sunlight or by hooves that were no longer restricted to the fields as they had been in my youth. The forest seemed to be a smaller than I remembered and I covered the ground quickly in my nervous state. As I proceeded to curve around to the other side of the woods, I came out at the back of the field and the line of my father’s land. I hadn’t found the calf yet, but it dawned on me that, as I continued towards the back corner of the field, the herd of cattle was probably between me and my exit route. I started getting more and more nervous and I discovered that I also needed to avail of the facilities at my earliest convenience. As I paused between the trees at the edge of the field, I strategized about where I would run if a herd came running my way. My mind immediately went to the large tree island. I thought if I climbed up the slope, the running cattle would be deterred and I’d be safe. It was also on my way to the exit. Even better. As I made my way unrushed towards the island, there was still no sign of the herd, but I noticed that the “island” looked much smaller than I remembered, didn’t look very green or lush and that it definitely no longer boasted a slope to deter that imagined stampede. Surprised and a bit disappointed, I continued on towards the rock pile a little bit closer to the house and to my preferred exit. As I climbed onto the rocks to get a better vantage point to survey the situation, I looked up towards the gate next to the barn and the house. I saw my mother-in-law waving frantically that I could return to the house – they must have found the calf. Relief!

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As I picked my way down the rocks to make my way across the field, I looked up and noticed the herd heading leisurely towards that very same gate from the far front corner of the field. I guessed I could probably make it if I walked briskly and started off. I was about a third of the way to the gate and I stopped to re-access whether I could still make it before the herd arrived. My mother-in-law saw me hesitate and look at the herd and she hollered out that they’d found the calf and I could come back. Her shrill shout spooked the herd, which accelerated quickly in the direction I was going. Just as quickly, I turned around and ran back towards the stone pile. I took a brief break to catch my breath and decided that the far back corner was the safest option as it was farthest away from the frenzied herd. I took a deep breath and started walking away from the herd towards the fence line in the back corner, glancing over my shoulder every now and then. About a quarter of the way to the fence line, I realized that the herd, having seen me, had turned – likely out of curiosity, but I wasn’t going to stop and find out. I wasn’t sure if I could still do it, but nevertheless I decided to make a run for it. As a kid, the two-strand electrified fence was easy to squeeze between, but with a larger herd, my dad had updated it to a five-strand fence and a stronger fencer which is not so easy to navigate without getting a major shock. Still, the full jolt of adrenaline had kicked in and I decided to try. My legs and heart were pumping and my feet, cramped into those boots, took me as fast as they could to the small grove of trees at the edge of the fence. Without looking back, I approached the fence running, I swooped down, grabbed a stick from the ground and in what felt like one very fluid movement, I fell to the ground, using the stick push up the fence, and rolled through the poison ivy and brush out to the gravel on the shoulder of the road. Thankfully no vehicles were passing or my panicked actions might have caused an accident. I just laid there for a few minutes in the gravel trying to catch my breath. It took me another few minutes to get back onto my shaking legs. My pajamas now stuck to me as I slowly walked on wobbly knees and pinched feet along the roadside back to my parents’ house where I would finally get to use the facilities and wash off the ivy before a rash started. As I plodded along, I was suddenly struck by the fact that the refuge of my youth was one no longer. A bit saddened by its loss, after a few choked breathes, I took heart in memories of adventures on the high seas, being shipwrecked on that island of trees and learning the importance of imagination, lifelong friendship and perspective.

A story about birth

Yesterday was my birthday. It was a good day. My long-abandoned annual birthday run was replaced with an equally pleasant walk in the park with my daughter and a lovely hour-long yoga session in my studio. My family and I met a friend in a café for some cake (or cocktails – depending on whose account of the afternoon you hear) and the babysitter came, leaving my husband and me to go on a date which included dinner and some jazz, and in typical Amsterdam-style ended with a 35-minute bike ride through a very stiff and slightly wet head wind. This may sound quite challenging and unwelcome at such a late hour, but over the past few decades, I’ve discovered that it provides a beneficial service: that of clearing cocktail-induced clouds from one’s head. A splendid birthday on all accounts!

Happy Birthday Mommy

For as long as I can remember, each birthday, my mother told me the story of how I was born. It was early in the morning that cold February day and she wasn’t due for another five days. She woke up early that morning because she couldn’t sleep. Labor wasn’t the first thing that crossed her mind, but she felt uncomfortable in the bed, maybe a bit restless. Despite the early hour, my father had already left for work, so she rang her mother, looking for some comfort and advice. My grandmother, having given birth to six babes, was an expert in the matter. My grandmother told her not to fret, got in her car and drove the 10 minutes to pick my mother up, bringing her back home. My mother showered, washed her hair, and felt a slight rise in the pressure of the situation – nothing she would really call labor, but still, something was afoot. They decided that a trip to the hospital would be a good idea as it did seem she was heading in that direction. It was mid-morning at this point, so she called my father who would have a break at work around that time and told him that she thought she might be in labor and asked him to bring her to the hospital. My father, being the ever practical man that he is, suggested that his mid-morning break was not very long and perhaps she might wait until he had his lunch break a few hours later, when he would have a longer window of opportunity to bring her as it was a 30-minute drive to the nearest hospital. Mom must not have been in the throes of labor because apparently she agreed to this. Eventually my father showed up and picked her up, making the drive and arriving at the hospital early in the afternoon. Once she reached the hospital, her wait for my arrival was very short as I arrived at a quarter past two. Happy day!

More than three decades later, it was my turn. Now, having heard this story so often and for most of my life, I had a much romanticized idea of how giving birth would be. In Holland, giving birth at home is quite common and encouraged. I even planned to have my daughter naturally in a birthing pool at home and though we did fill it once and have a little splash in it that hot July, unfortunately, she had other ideas. My experience, which was in the hospital, was less than romantic, being significantly longer and far more painful than the story my mother had shared with me through all those years – my story – a story which I’d unknowingly adopted as a preview of my upcoming birthing experience, projecting ideas of a swift, natural and yet reasonably painless delivery. The lesson learned? Even if your mother tells you how it is, one woman’s experience of giving birth is not another’s. Ouch.

This year’s birthday was special to me in a way. It occurred to me that my very first birthday spent in Europe was my 21st. I lived in Strasbourg, France at the time where I was studying during a year abroad and life was an adventure, ripe with possibilities. One of those possibilities eventually led me to stay in Europe and spend my next 21 birthdays in Amsterdam. Now I used to be fairly good at math and so I according to my calculations, I have officially (or non-officially, since I’m not a certified mathematician unless being on the Mathletics team in high school counts as a certification and I’m pretty sure it does not) lived half of my life abroad. Not a big deal, really, and yet I find myself wondering where this adventure I am on will lead in another half a lifetime. A lot of people see the start of the New Year as a time to reflect and evaluate the direction their life is taking, making course corrections as they feel the need, but I feel this more deeply on my birthday since it’s my own personal New Year. My life, like many, has been filled with plenty of ups and downs. The past decade has held some pretty great things and some pretty dark things. I don’t want to discredit the bright points of these years for they were certainly present and important, but the larger picture has in truth held much darkness. Fortunately, I feel that I am slowly emerging from the darkness, reclaiming a sense of the person I once was, embracing the magic of life again and hoping that I can continue on my adventure with a renewed sense of purpose. This year could be pivotal…and, in fact, it will be. Inevitable decisions and change lay ahead for me personally and for us as a family. These are both stressful and scary and yet, for the first time in a long time, I feel drawn to make them. I take some comfort in the fact that my journey has brought a sense richness to my life, whether it felt like an adventure at that particular moment or more like the ultimate defeat, and I know that my next step will bring another life experience to the table. With a new year ahead of me and a course that is as of yet unknown, all I want to do is approach it like I once did, with both determination and an open mind, a sense of curiosity and wonder and a belief that it will bring me to where I’m meant to be.

Thanks for reading.

The challenge of reconnecting to my story

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When I started this blog, I really believed that I would hit the ground running. I planned to post once or twice a week and cover a range of topics that I inspire me. I would find my inner joy and share it here, hopefully continuing to find inspiration in the act of blogging and maybe even providing some joy and inspiration to others. I quickly realized that whipping out a blog post was definitely not as easy as I had imagined (and hoped) it might be. Having said that, I discovered that I actually do enjoy the process of writing. I wasn’t sure if I would before I started. I sat down one afternoon and compiled a list of topics that could serve as food for thought and I even had the good fortune to inherit a laptop which would allow me to sneak into my studio where I might close my door and focus on writing with fewer interruptions from my youngsters. It seemed like a recipe for success…but after a few posts, I suddenly found that I was doubting myself. I thought my tone might be too academic, my interests might not be shared by others, humorous anecdotes about my family might somehow offend them, my photos might not provide enough visual interest, my efforts might just prove that I cannot really write and that blogging had proved to be a mistake. And so to stop the dark thoughts of doubt and fear, I stopped carving out time to sit down and write…and time passed and that was okay…until it wasn’t.

My memories of childhood are a jumble of playing outdoors with the neighboring kids, 4-H club meetings, playing games with family, and listening. I was always drawn by the conversations of adults around me, often boring to a young kid, but occasionally my patience was rewarded with getting to hear stories that they shared when the kids were elsewhere. Stories of family members, those living and gone, stories of adventures had in their youth, stories of winter storms that threatened prolonged isolation and by extension starvation, stories retold true or otherwise about the demise of those who lived in rougher times and etched out a harder life than the one I knew. I remember finding this all so very fascinating and exciting! A glimpse into another world, like a living book.

Now that I live in the city with my children, I find that I’m not nearly as connected to this tradition of telling stories as I once was. In December, I found myself sitting in a warm and crowded room in front of a fire with a glass of whiskey together my husband’s family. I sipped and listened to his father and uncles recall stories of men they knew in their (younger and) wilder years. After a pause in the storytelling, my father-in-law mentioned that I might share similar tales from my side of the pond. Surely I knew some, but at that moment, I panicked with something not unlike stage fright. How odd. I’d always loved to both listen and tell stories, but now that the opportunity presented itself, I froze. I couldn’t think of any stories to tell. I suddenly felt disconnected – from myself and my traditions. They, of course, took it all in stride and continued weaving their tales until the early hours, none the wiser to my disappointment that I couldn’t weave my own. That moment stuck with me. It made me realize that the art of telling a story is something that is important to me. It made me remember why I started to blog in the first place – to tell my story.

I am quite sure that before I had children, the speed at which my life passed was steadily increasing, but there is something about their presence that makes the days feel long and the months and years feel short. I do know that if I don’t stop and reflect on my life, it flows by like a stream, long days blurring a bit in the flow. Does this happen to you, too? Once an avid reader, at the end of the day, I now seem to lack the ability to concentrate on reading, but as a student of language and literature, I miss the words, the vernacular and the stories. I have been feeling the steady and increasing draw of words – to capture the story of a moment and, in its telling, to pause and to savor the moment, resisting the unrelenting flow of life just a little. I feel a renewed commitment to sharing my story here in the hope that it will resonate with others and connect us because isn’t it this connection that matters most after all?

Making natural skin care products

I am always looking for ways to reduce the chemical footprint in our home.  A few years ago, I started using white vinegar as a fabric softener, for example. When I started, I feared that our laundry would smell of vinegar, so I added a few drops of essential oil to the vinegar bottle and used a small cup in each wash. After a while, my fears proved unwarranted, so I reduced the amount of drops I used, eventually using just straight vinegar. I find it makes the laundry softer and doesn’t leave any residual smell despite being hung to dry after coming out of the wash. I also use other natural cleaning items around the house which I used to consider strictly as food, such as lemons and baking soda.DPP_0004

The next step came when one of my aunts told me how most deodorants contain an aluminum-based antiperspirant which can have a negative effect on your health. I read about breast cancer and Alzheimer’s – both which run in my family – and their suspected links to the use of antiperspirant. A scary thought. I thought it must be possible to find a “clean” deodorant that I could feel safe using. After a few evenings trolling the internet, instead of finding a safe product I could buy, I found a great recipe for homemade deodorant which I’ve been using for about 5 years and am very happy with. I do like a bit of variety, so I use a different essential oil for each batch ranging from the original grapefruit to orange, cinnamon and my aunt swears by tea tree oil. It’s a little messier to put on, but even my husband – who smirked and shook his head when I first told him I was going to make deodorant – now uses it as well.DPP_0002

When I stumbled across a recipe for beeswax lotion recently, it seemed like another great way to incorporate natural ingredients into our body care products. I haven’t been sorry – it works great for really dry skin and eczema. Since I love the smell of the cocoa butter lotion I used to use, I incorporated some pure cocoa butter into the recipe and enjoy the subtle aroma it leaves behind. I liked it so well that I actually purchased Kendra’s booklet with lots more natural recipes and have already tried the body butter recipe, which is a bit easier to apply at room temperature, and plan to try to the lip balm recipe once the weather turns. Biking around Amsterdam is great and all, but the winter weather can be brutal on your lips!DPP_0005

I’m not sure what the next step will be, but I am always on the lookout and haven’t regretted getting rid of the chemical-rich and store-bought products at all. How about you? Do you use natural body care products? Do you have any favorites?

Behind the scenes: machines

I am happy to be back here again. The household routine has been a bit askew the last while which, despite my best intentions, has kept me from sitting down or even thinking too much about sitting down to write a post. The last month and a half have brought plenty of good things – a birthday (including a surprise party and an evening of food and music which I may eventually write about), a visit from family, a school vacation, a much-needed break for this weary mama, an evening or two (or three) filled with friends, food and wine, a new beginning in a pop-up shop, a child starting pre-school and a (dare I say it) spring breeze whispering of change and possibilities. Putting these things into words, it now dawns on me that there are plenty of good and perfectly valid reasons why I have been away from this space and oft absent from my studio. Though I have missed both spaces, I must confess that I am most grateful for all the events that have been keeping me from them!

Enough about all that! I thought it might be fun to give you a little glimpse behind the scenes. Given that I always find it quite interesting to see how the lovely crafty people on the blogosphere make their creations, I thought I might share a little bit about my sewing machines. I use two different ones, which I daresay are both (vintage) manual machines and have both been given to me. I love both and use them frequently, though I do sometimes catch myself drooling over the fancy digital machines I sometimes see in tutorials.

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The first machine is a Singer 7033, which was very generously given to me by my neighbor’s sweet mother a few years ago. She bought it pre-loved herself and was looking to provide it a new home – lucky me! I can only imagine all the lovely things which have been made with it by its previous owners before it landed in my studio. I have since added a few presser feet to my collection and am extremely happy with this machine, which handles denim like a trooper and, armed with a walking foot, quilts up a storm. Both of these things have supplemented my older machine wonderfully (though admittedly, I use it for all kinds of other sewing, too, much to my delight).

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The other machine I use is a very well-traveled and well-loved Kenmore Convertible Model 1785. This machine has immense sentimental value to me. It was the machine that I learned to sew with. According to the inside cover of the manual, my mother bought it back in Oct or Nov 1981, though I think that can’t be right given the story they tell of the shopping trip. She and my father drove to Sears (about a half an hour drive) on their motorcycle (yes, you read that right) and picked out this sturdy machine as my mother’s first new machine. They bought it and drove with it, my mother holding onto it to balance it on the back rack of the motorcycle, those 30-odd minutes to our house. I feel a special kinship to it because I, too, spent many a weekend afternoon in the summer on the back of that motorcycle while we went out just to drive around.

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Some tape and washi tape which serve as seam guides for some of my projects.

When my grandmother passed, my mother inherited her machine, passing this one to me. At the time, I was already living in Amsterdam, but I was determined to bring the machine back with me. The €12 mini machine I had bought at the Blokker had served me well enough, but I was ready for more serious sewing adventures! The transportation of the machine itself was a challenge as the domestic leg of my flight is flown in a tiny little propeller airplane. A machine this size wouldn’t fit in the overhead (nor did I feel comfortable putting such a large and heavy object up there in all honesty), but it also wouldn’t fit under the seat. It’s not large, so I was allowed to carry it on, but in the end, I needed help from the flight attendant to stow it. I explained to her quickly what it was and that I had inherited it from my mother upon my grandmother’s passing. Either I wasn’t clear (which was possible as I was emotional at the passing of Grandma) or she didn’t hear me properly, but she seemed to think that the machine had belonged to Grandma and jokingly referred to it as such. I appreciated (and needed to hear) her humor and so played along, and in the end, we ended up putting “Grandma” behind the back seat of the plane, tucked away neatly and safely.

A little ring that has been taped on the case since I brought it home. No idea what it's for, but seems like it belongs there now, so I haven't removed it.

A little ring that has been taped on the case since I brought it home. No idea what it’s for, but seems like it belongs there now, so I haven’t removed it.

On occasion, I think back to that trip and how I worried and fretted about how it would work out, bringing a machine overseas, uncertain if customs duties would need to be paid or how I would find an adapter and transformer in order to be able to use it at all, all the while pondering where I’d ever find the space to store it in my tiny Amsterdam flat, and then I smile, thinking of “Grandma” and how I am now – many quilts, skirts, aprons, curtains, shirts and years later – quite certain that she had meant for it to work out all along!

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The little dot of nail polish on the fly wheel is to cover the spot where the metal is flaking off. It took me a while to figure out why I had small cuts on my finger, but once I did, I put a thick dab of nail polish on it to seal the stop and protect my hand!

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{this moment}

{this moment} – Joining in the end of the week ritual inspired by SouleMama. Sharing a single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

{this moment}

{this moment} – Joining in the end of the week ritual inspired by SouleMama. Sharing a single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

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{this moment}

{this moment} – Joining in the end of the week ritual inspired by SouleMama. Sharing a single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

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