28 November 2013

License to Give Thanks (and Have Your Whine, Too)

Image credit: Copyright Bettmann
November, for Americans, is a complicated month. Thanksgiving, a holiday beloved by many and taught in primary schools as a day in which Native Americans and settlers held hands and hugged over a great feast, is plagued by historical inaccuracies and, at worst, atrocities.

We are told to be grateful for what we have and to want not, yet the biggest shopping day of the year immediately follows, in which people reliably turn into monsters, and on each other, in pursuit of The Lowest Price. Seriously, everyone. Stay at home tomorrow and spend time with someone, even if that someone is your cat, or yourself. And if you're feeling unexplainably aggressive and consumeristic, punch a pillow and do some online shopping. And don't feel guilty about it. (But maybe keep the punching part to yourself.)

Being an expat has meant giving up my traditional interpretation of most (American) holidays, or at least bending them into a different shape. This will be my third Thanksgiving abroad, and they have ranged from sharing a table with a roomful of welcoming American friends who Get It, preparing a full spread for a miscellany of nationalities (Dutch, Pakistani, Dutch-Pakistani, and Russian), and, now, well, nothing. It just feels cheap to try to cook anything less than a full feast, so I'm not even trying. At the haggard state I'm in, I know better than to be using fire or knives.

18 November 2013


aesthetic fauna // roar
I really hate arbitrary repetition. Like, really, really hate it. But what I'd hate even worse is not pursuing a chance of a lifetime. Scratch that. TEN lifetimes. If you follow me on any social platform or are my address book, chances are you've already received an appeal from me. I have entered into the 2014 Fjällräven Polar competition. Winner takes all. And when all = a spot on a 300km dogsled route from Signaldalen, Norway to Jukkasjärvi, Sweden.
If you voted, thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you haven't, you can do so here. I would be forever grateful, and send you some happy thoughts and deep gratitude from the top of the world.

The mere thought of realizing this fantasy leaves me breathless. Very few times in your life will you have the opportunity to bestow upon someone such a gift, with as little effort as a quick vote. Now, friends, is one of those times. And, should you feel so inclined, share with your social network, whether it's by tweeting, sharing, posting, shouting from your rooftop, or mentioning at the water cooler at the office.

Do it. I triple dog dare you. 


15 November 2013

Green Literacy

In my ongoing quest to justify my obsessive succulent propagation, I came across a DIY planter at Apartment Therapy (does this guy look like a tattooed Christian Bale, or what?) and knew immediately whose Christmas tree it needed to go (grow?) under. My pal Christine loves her personal library so much that she couldn't leave it behind in an overseas move. Including the books she hates most.

Planter-making means book-defacing, so I knew I'd have to find one she would never, ever, ever need. And with her ever-growing foundation of Dutch, that language barrier doesn't present a viable argument. Thus, I was presented with a challenge. At my neighborhood secondhand book shop, I found an answer to my dilemma: a German-to-Swedish dictionary. Snap.

12 November 2013

Speculoos Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

aesthetic fauna // speculoos cranberry pumpkin muffins
There's nothing like the imminent arrival of guests to inspire spontaneous housecleaning, which is the main reason I invite people over, and the main reason our house gets tidied up. Win-win. The key is to leave one area laughably messy, so the eye is drawn to the chaos. Then no one notices food caked on the side of the high chair or the dust bunnies convening under the sideboard. It's similar to the deceptive but undeniably effective way I approach personal hygiene.

The other day, a very dear friend showed up with some very bad news. The good old US of A is eating up yet another one of my friends, right in time for Christmas. Bah humbug, times a bazillion. In a last-ditch effort to charm her into staying, I served her my best breakfast burrito, my favorite muffins. Although my pitch failed, at least my house got clean, I got to squeeze one of my favorite people, and she left with a full belly.

09 November 2013

An Affable Muse: The Cameraman

aesthetic fauna // an affable muse: martin buday
Meet Martin Buday. He tended bar at my favorite Greeley haunt, and we became fast pals after a few conversations unearthed a great deal of commonality (innate weirdness and quirky taste in movies). He's a marvelous photographer and credits his love of art and Indiana fried chicken to his grandfather.  Marty's eye for desolately alluring scenes is particularly evident in his ongoing Stay Golden series, which curiously examines and celebrates the man-made environment. Many of the photos were taken in my old stomping grounds, so I revisit the images often to satiate my need for a breath of home.

After his stint in Colorado, he got back to his Pennsylvania roots and moved to Philadelphia earlier this year. You can see more work or pop in to say hoi here.

Stay golden, people.

aesthetic fauna // martin buday
Untitled (Hedges)as featured on FlakPhoto

07 November 2013

The Scared is Scared: Bianca Giaever's Antidote to Gloom

If the sky above you is as dismal as the one hovering above Holland these days, you're going to want to take eight minutes out of your day to let in some light. And if you live in the tropics, you'll need to liberally reapply your sunblock at some point, which conveniently takes approximately the same amount of time.

This brilliant short film by Bianca Giaever will send a quiver of glee through even the most ice-bound of hearts. She harnesses the disorganized genius of her 6-year old's mind and organizes it into a poignant reminder to us that humanity is alive and well. 

Get your happy on, people.


06 November 2013

Thing Love: Rob Brandt's Crumple Cup

aesthetic fauna // rob brandt crumple cup
We had to start from the beginning, in terms of stuff, when we transitioned from Den Haag to Amsterdam in June and, thus, from furnished to unfurnished. Tableware, towels, a vacuum cleaner. Some of it isn't worth making interesting (i.e. vacuum), while some of the other things totally are. Conveniently, the Dutch are known for their design; here, quirky products prevail.

In my quest to thoughtfully set our table, I remembered a display of drinking cups I ogled longingly when we first moved here. There was a two-month lapse in between finding a babysitter and making friends, so I'd ditch the kid and spend hours making eyes at expensive kitchen gadgets at a shop in town.

05 November 2013

A Dirty Girl's Guide to Looking Clean

aesthetic fauna // a dirty girl's guide to looking clean
I started this post almost a year ago, in response to Sweatpants are The New Black over on The Nomad Mom Diary. Lynn is one of my muses, and although we've only met in person twice, we're basically BFFs por la vida. Whether she likes it or not. As soon as I was privy to her genius, I latched on like a leech.

She commences with this gem:
Listen up expat mommies. I am sick of you moms who rock the playgroup center like it were a catwalk at fashion week.
My initial response was an enthusiastic, "I know, RIGHT??" And then a friend pointed out, rather bluntly, that I should shut the fuck up, that I am that mom. And I had a bone-shaking laugh about her observation, and some things to say about it. Really, what it came down to was a realization that I am a master of trickery, and that I should pass along some intel to the pissy sweatpants mommas out there, and call a truce.

04 November 2013

On Homelessness

aesthetic fauna // fly
For those of you who already read my entry in the Expatica I Am Not a Tourist blog competition, I apologize for the repetition; redundancy sucks, I know. This time around, though, it's complete with fun links (a blogger's equivalent of song and dance). 

Sincere thanks again to all of you who voted me into first place; I am so very grateful.

A few months ago, I came across an article detailing general Dutch opinions about some of the nationalities who have settled within their borders. They feel ambivalent about the British. The French and Italians have nice holiday destinations but are frowned upon for various reasons.

Okay, fine. But Americans? Loud and empty-headed.

03 November 2013

Herfst Quickies, and a First Place-ish Kind of Day

My Sunday included some pretty terrific things, which were welcome guests after a gray and taxing week.

1. Beginning: I slept until 9.00 while baby daddy folded the laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and wrangled the kids.

2. Middle: I was totally tickled and honored to win first place in the Expatica I Am Not a Tourist blog competition, the spoils of which included meeting some fine new peeps and a free spot in one of the Amsterdam Writing Workshops.

3. End of the Middle: I (nearly) finished a meal on a cafe terrace, in between hail storms, while both kids snoozed in the buggy. At the same time. This kind of thing just doesn't happen very often. Much obliged, little people.

4. End: Right before carrying big bunny to bed, the two of us crafted chestnut critters together. Well, kind of. He sorted googly eyes and dictated where the glue and feathers went. Photos to come; in the meantime you can visit our goofy darlings from last year here.

5. End of the End: A newly de-bearded mustached guy brought me a late dinner in bed.

Thank you, day.