Sunday, June 30, 2013

Staycation and Vacation

A few weeks ago, Michael de Groot from the Deseret News in Salt Lake City contacted Niels about our staycation post. The article was posted online this week...while we are on vacation in the Netherlands! Talk about irony! You can read the article here.

A year ago, we were nearly moved in to the dream house and preparing for Marissa's arrival.  We regularly save for (nearly) annual visits to the Netherlands to spend time with Niels' family, but the extra costs of building a home, taking a loss on the sale of our previous house, and all the expenses of moving and moving in to a new house ate up our travel budget so we had a staycation instead.

This year, our travel plans are back on track, and I am writing this post from my in-law's home in the Netherlands. I'm hoping to post a few travel-related photos in the upcoming days but I'm sure you'll understand that I'll be spending most of my time catching up with Niels' family and practicing my Dutch!

Here are a few photos from our first few days in the Netherlands, where we visited the local market.
Streets full of fresh produce
Green and red peppers
Back home, we can only find green and (occasionally) purple asparagus. In the Netherlands, white asparagus is more common.
The largest beans I've ever seen! Note the regular-sized carrots in the background.

Can't be a Dutch market without cheese. The sign says: "Old Helmond. Old cheese with a royal taste." 
I was very happy to see the fabric vendor. And I was proud of myself for having a conversation with the vendor in Dutch. Unfortunately, the fabric I wanted was back at the store. 
Gorgeous purple flowers. 
I can never get over how inexpensive flowers are in the Netherlands.

One of the older buildings in Helmond. This one used to be a grocery store. 
The bike supply section at Hema, a convenience store similar to CVS or Rite Aid in the States.
A very common site in the Netherlands.

Tots Ziens! (See ya later!)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"Up"-Themed Wedding Gifts

This past weekend, I had the joy to attend the wedding of my longtime friend, Erin. I've written before about my brain injury and that one of the benefits of it is that it really clarified my friendships. Erin is one of those people that drew closer to me in the months and years after my injury. Niels and I were so honored to meet her Bob last year and were thrilled to share their big day.

The movie Up played a big part in their engagement, so it was a natural theme for their wedding as well. Originally, I had planned to have a quilt ready for their wedding, but I underestimated how complex the design is, so it will be an anniversary present instead. I decided to give them the ever-popular gift of cash. 

I wasn't happy with the idea of just giving a card to a friend who has done so much for me, so I watched Up for the umpteenth time with my son while browsing Pinterest to get some ideas. There are a lot of great Up movie ideas out there!

The first idea I had was to make a personalized famous couples print. I love this example from The Domestic Geek blog. (Click on the link for a tutorial using Word.). There are also several available on Etsy, if you don't want to make your own.
Please do not pin this photo from our site. Please pin from the source: The Domestic Geek Blog.
This was a really easy project to do. I changed up the couples to be meaningful to Erin and Bob. I used PowerPoint to lay it out so I could put the image of Carl and Ellie in the background. (I converted the original image to black and white). 

Of course, I had to include Carl and Ellie Fredricksen from Up at the top of the list. And since Erin played a big part in me and Niels getting together, I added our names to the bottom of the list. The font is Tw Cen MT Condensed.

The est. print was a no-brainer. Does anything say the joy of marriage more than the house from Up? The script font is Xiomara and the san serif is Tw Cen MT Condensed again. 

I got the image from a screen grab of the movie off my iPad.

Lastly, the Paradise Falls savings jug was the most fun of all. 

If I had planned ahead better, I would shopped around for a glass gallon jar of apple cider, but the local places I checked out only had plastic containers. So I took advantage of our Amazon Prime account to order a jug online (<-- Amazon Affiliate link). 

Once the jug arrived, I made the "Paradise Falls" sign in PowerPoint using the WordArt Styles feature to create the arch. I couldn't get a perfect match, but the idea is there. I spent way too long looking for a matching font with the print-style lower case "s" but finally gave up. I settled on Dancing Script OT. After printing out the label on cardstock, I used rubber cement to adhere the paper. I used green striped washi tape I had on hand for a matching look to the movie version. 

Now for the real present: cha-ching! We thought about putting dollars (or one big dollar) in the jug, but to be true to the theme, we went to the bank and bought 50 one-dollar coins. 

Our son was super excited to put the coins in the jug. He's very interested in money and counting, so we turned it into a little math lesson, counting to 50 by 1s, then 2s, then 5s, then 10s. 

Erin is an auditor so I suppose it's fitting that we gave her money for her wedding. There aren't a lot of people I know who are better with money than Erin and I know she and Bob will put their savings to good use.

And now, a few snapshots from Erin and Bob's super cute Up wedding!

Linked to:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What I Couldn't Say to Marissa at the Airport

One week ago, our teary-eyed family was driving to airport to conclude of our year hosting Marissa, our exchange student from the Netherlands.

Somewhere along the line, Marissa stopped being an exchange student to us, and become our Dutch daughter, D's big sister, our friend: family. We purposely chose a student from the Netherlands so that we could keep in contact when we go back to the Netherlands to visit Niels' family. We had hoped to return with her, but there's a very important wedding we need to attend next weekend. Our experience was so much better than we had hoped one year ago. and although I was unable to put together the words to tell Marissa what she has meant to us, although I suspect she knows.

So, one week after our family of four became a family of three, here are my sort-of coherent words of what I couldn't say to Marissa at the airport. 

1. Thank you for loving our son. 

We decided to have an exchange student with D was young so that he would hear Dutch from another native speaker. We had some concerns that a teen girl wouldn't be excited to have a little brother, but you and D bonded from the moment you met at the airport last August. 

The two of you share a love of Skyrama... 

...Little Einsteins, Tangled, and taking silly pictures. 

We LOVE that you taught him to clean toilets. 

And you also taught him that it's okay if Mommy and Daddy go out on dates sometimes! He loved his dates with you, and he misses you very much.

2. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

Whether it was encouraging Niels and I to go on dates, hanging with D when I needed a break, working with your parents to send gifts for us for Sinterklaas and Christmas, we are grateful for your kindness. Even now that you are gone, we are reminded of your thoughtfulness each time D opens one of the gifts you left for him to help bridge the days until we see you again (two weeks!). 

You told him that I would only give him his gifts if he napped and had a happy heart that day. He's missed a few days but he misses his big sister so much, sometimes it's hard for a four-year-old to make good choices when his heart is sad. We are glad your notes and gifts to remind him of your fun times together and bring his sweet side back out. 

I would have been easy to leave D out when you were with friends or doing big kid stuff, but you always made D felt big by including him. 

Of course, my favorite memory of your thoughtfulness was when I was sick and really craved soup so you and Niels made a valiant effort to make me chicken and dumpling soup. (Next time, skip the immersion blender, no matter how fun it is to use!)

3. Thank you for being a good traveler.

We share your love of traveling. And even though being 6'2" doesn't making traveling in a sedan with a preschooler the most comfortable mode of transportation, you took it in stride and were able to see a lot of America, and even a bit of Canada!

4. Thank you for being willing to try new things. 

We are so proud of the way you dove right into to new experiences. Your host organization, CIEE, suggests that you visit your host family's place of worship at least once. You attended with us every week, leading to really cool conversations about faith. 

When you first arrived, you thought you'd ride a bike to school...until you saw how un-bike-friendly American roads can be. You were very excited about the yellow school buses like the ones you'd only seen in the movies.

You have fully embraced and joined me in my Pinterest addiction.

You have celebrated American holidays like Halloween. 

We joked that between school, your friends, and your involvement with our community events, you know more people around here than we do!

We're glad you were able to attend American weddings (and are grateful to friends and family who warmly welcomed you), watched American football, took to cooking and baking (we miss your pizza dough!) and doing your own laundry, challenged yourself to write a sonnet in English, exercised with me at the fitness center, and put together many "poozles."

4. Thank you for being you! 

It easy to see why you made so many quality friends during your time year. I think of meeting Mehak those first few hours in Ohio, when we stopped at the school for a tour before we even made it home. And your birthday party in October. Less than two months before your arrived you had more friends than you could invite to celebrate turning seventeen. Deby, Sarah, Brittany, and your other friends are all welcome to visit (or babysit!) anytime. (And so are the Romanian carolers!)

Thank you for being a willing guinea pig for my sewing adventures and graciously accepting my imperfect gifts.

We love you!

We miss you! (Please come visit!)

You are family.

With lots of love from your American mom,

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