19 November 2014

Django Girls Amsterdam 2014: This Dog Learned a New Trick!

aesthetic fauna // django girls amsterdam
On Sunday I had the honor of attending a web programming workshop organized by Django Girls, a non-profit initiative that aims to get women involved in technology, through free full-day workshops in HTML, CSS, Python, and Django. Volunteer coaches donated their brainpower and time and walked thirty-ish of us through creating our first web app (website). There were over 130 applicants; I was pleased as a flea on a dog to be included.

26 September 2014

Urban Sprawl: Finding Space for Greenery in the City

As a nature and very much a country person, I wither if I'm not surrounded by plants. After many months of envious sighing while perusing Pinterest, I finally delved into the worlds of tillandsia (air plants), moss, and enclosed terrariums, with varying degrees of success. When combined with the mister's moss gardens and bonsai, the sum of greenery in our home is deliciously exorbitant. Everywhere I look, theres something to be watered, misted, rotated towards the light. These are some of the new projects. And in case you missed the previous ones, check out my DIY book planter, hanging himmeli planter, and DIY vertical succulent garden (which also has a came in a photo below).

After returning from my nature-immersion riding holiday in Swedish Lapland, it was comfort to tend to my plants, however contained and pampered they are when compared to their more feral cousins. Almost all of these live full-time inside, although we do rotate some of them outside to soak up what little sunshine hits our back garden.

I hope this peek into our secret indoor gardening life provides you flora-craving city mice out there with some inspiration...

Happy planting!


24 September 2014

Tölt as it Moves You: Swedish Lapland by Horse

At both the Stockolm and Umeå airports I'm greeted with a cordial "Hey hey (hej hej)!" like by an old friend. It's a standard hello; Swedish is immediately kinder to my ears than certain Germanic languages (ahem, Dutch). I leave Umeå behind me and point the car north. The traffic thins. The lady at a tiny supermarket doesn't mind a big bill for a small purchase and smiles easily when I tell her why I've come. Ah, horses, Ammarnäs. Yes. You won't want to go home. How this stranger knows me already.

I stop partway to sleep in a barn-turned-b&b. The roads are unpaved and the house numbers difficult to find. At first, the quiet is unnerving; it throbs like a phantom helicopter oscillating overhead. Then it becomes a comfort, something I want to bottle and later uncap in the most chaotic of moments, when the children are clinging to my legs and batting at each other, complaining in dueling pitches.

In the morning I awake to dense fog and postpone my departure by a couple hours. There is a fly in the room; its buzzing leaves a snail trail of noise in the quiet air of my room. The drive is delightfully long and uneventful, outlined by a snaking, wide river dotted with huge, smooth boulders like turtle shells to my left, blue skies overhead, and ever-yellowing birches and pines parted by the road ahead of and behind me. Autumn is in full-force by the time I reach the thin mountain air. I switch on the radio. Easy listening and 80s seem to be the thing here. I flip it off and revert to silence. The car, at high speeds, makes a noise like crickets.

22 September 2014

Just Jump

Describing the process of offering creative work out into the pubic forum to be viewed, critiqued, and judged as incredibly intimidating is a cute understatement. It's more like splaying your guts in a brightly lit room full of people taking notes, serious expressions on their faces, with you behind a two-way mirror, watching. Bring on the Xanax.

I dedicated the month of August to submit photos for acceptance into live and online galleries, and a couple printed publications. I was hoping for one yes. So far, into three online exhibitions, two gallery shows, and a book. And I haven't heard back from everyone yet. The breath I've been holding in for a month has now been released. I've learned that when you can't see over the edge, sometimes you just have to jump.

Thanks, people, for supporting me along the way. For commenting, sharing, nudging, encouraging. I couldn't have gathered my courage without you.


Here's where to find me in the coming weeks/months:

A Smith Gallery: one photo in a gallery show, entitled Forgotten, with receptions on the 27th of September and the 25th of October, from 4PM-7PM. The gallery show will run all the days in between. Friends in the San Antonio/Austin, TX area - go take a peep, and send a selfie if you do!

Linus Gallery: one photo in an online gallery entitled A Natural Affair.

New Dutch Talent: four full-page photos in an upcoming book, and some of the work in a gallery show in Amsterdam, both upcoming in 2015. Dates TBA. Don't worry, you'll hear all about this again when I have more info (!)

Blackbox Gallery: one photo in a current online annex gallery entitled Black and White, two photos in an upcoming gallery show entitled Snapshot Aesthetic: Domestic and Everyday, and two photos in an upcoming online annex gallery of the same name (I'll share the link when it's available). The latter gallery show will run the 1st of October until the 20th. Portland, OR, friends- have a gander and let me know what you think!

31 July 2014

On Iteration, Reiteration, and Trying Again

aesthetic fauna | NYC
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."
Most people of my generation have been hearing this quotation all their lives. Most of us have accepted it without resistance, repeated it without much forethought.

After again witnessing this assertion rear up in a conversation recently, I felt uncomfortable at the prospect of trusting in it, an instinctive refusal to repeat it. Why? Because, isn't this what all creative people do every day? Take any creative endeavor, or, really, any endeavor. Writing. Photography. Baking. Tomato cultivation. Race car driving. Competitive cycling. Whether it's a physical muscle or a creative one we're flexing, in most ventures we must practice. Practice. Practice. Practice. Until we're nearly broken, until we all but give up.

21 July 2014

Domestic quickies

Although the sweltering heat feels like an ill-fitting coat on normally mild and wet Amsterdam, it means sunblock, picnics galore, wading pools, running around in underwear, and strikingly blue skies. I'll take it. And we're in the middle of a 24-hour rainy, cool reprieve before returning to summer, squared tomorrow.

Also, cute and hilarious: in the top photo, Julian is doing his new favorite thing, flopping his mask-wearing self on the floor, spread eagle, and exclaiming, I'M A BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY!!! Yes, yes you are, child of mine. 


14 July 2014

Quickies in de zon//in the sun

In the last couple weeks, I have planted, harvested, seen and experienced every emotion known to man/woman/dog/child, slept in, stretched my toes in the strangely freshwater Ijmeer, and surrendered myself to a long walk in relentless rain. 

Take what comes at you, peeps, because despite what you believe, you don't really have a choice.


13 July 2014

Hunting For Happy: Groth's Country Gardens

Groth's Country Gardens
We all have our happy places. Some of them are far, far away, too distant to travel to but once in a lifetime, and afterwards only in our minds. For me, that place is Loh Moo Dee Beach in Thailand, a nearly deserted stretch of white sand and pristinely clear water, only accessible by water or foot. 

I digress. An emotionally intelligent person keeps in the pocket a list of places nearer to home that serve as sanctuaries for the senses, the mind, the spirit. As an angst-ridden and often unbearably moody tiener, my local happy place was Groth's Country Gardens, a sprawling herd of greenhouses overflowing with vegetation from every continent and of every color. I'd go to walk, to smell, to touch, and to restore what equilibrium I could in the years many reminisce on as the roughest of their lives. 

11 July 2014

Tri-State Zomer Extravaganza

Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, May 2014: blooming flowers, budding trees, a late spring blossoming suddenly into summer, horses, a visit to a dearly departed (NL-->US, not life-->death) friend, a day trip to Chicago with my dear not-so-little-anymore and budding photographer cousin. Shit tons of playgrounds. Happy faces. Two easy peasy snuggled-up sleepers on the almost nine-hour flight home.

Bedankt, Mericuh. Het was goed.


10 July 2014

Thing Lust, Summer Edition

Never have I pined for an expensive handbag. Not once. It's been something I've wanted as much as, uh, front row tickets to an NFL game (barf). But last week in Paris, this beauty appeared, an etherial vision of cowhide and brass, with angels singing and everything. I'm so thankful it was a bag and not a human being, because if it were the latter, I'd have a mammoth crisis. Handcrafted in the UK, this bag is a tactile experience; no photo can accurately reflect its quality. 

I'm still a bit flushed and abashed for this inexplicable attraction, but in the way of all new courtships, I'm too giddy to keep it to myself. Until someone screws up and owes me big, I'll gaze longingly at the photo and remember the sensation of sturdy leather in my hands. Gaaaaah. Note to self: Never judge anyone, ever, for weird accessory fetishes.

18 June 2014

Trash talk

amsterdam rubbish strike
Amsterdam, the fancy old girl, is on day three of three in a trash collection strike, which, even as I type it, sounds insignificant. Until you lose your place counting the number of doorbells on a block. We're like sheep in a feedlot up in here, peeps. Packed tight and making garbage.

12 April 2014

Pastoral catharsis, a reluctant retreat to the city

aesthetic fauna // equine
Have fun looking at the horses today, the mister said as he walked out the door of our holiday rental in northern France last week, laden with rock climbing paraphernalia. It's what you wanted to do. 

Indeed, I had told him, with dreamy eyes and arms pretzeled over a fence, that I could stand there watching the small herd of four all day. His lighthearted comment struck me swiftly and without warning. Humans are adaptable, yes, but adapted isn’t synonymous for well-placed. Each second in the countryside reminds me that I never yearned to live in a city. I'm fine and dandy in Amsterdam, but plop me in the sticks of France, and I'm nearly high on the pollen-burdened breeze. Bumblebees as big as chestnuts floating heavily from blossom to sky. A German shepherd loping past our gîte every morning next to an old man on his bike. Rolling fields of yellow rapeseed blossoms. Winding gravel roads with only the occasional tractor grinding by. Wind not overshadowed by human- or machine-generated noise. I tolerate the city's din, accept its bustling tourist season, and, most days, even take pleasure in its conveniences and constant offerings of human connection. But hunger for it when I'm away? Nope. Not once. 

Just past the garden fence of our holiday rental, horses with their swans' necks angled at the ground grazed close enough that I could hear their tail swishes and stomping and contented sighing from the kitchen. I doubted that they'd been ridden in recent history, but they were friendly and once cared for dearly; they quickly accepted my existence after a successful nose-to-pocket inquiry yielded notes of carrots, apples. With my fingers I stripped the the sweating old mare of her haggard winter coat and left it for the birds in great, dander-dusted mounds. She stood still, breathed deeply, lowered her nose into my hands when I was done. Later, I saw her gallop across the vast pasture, just for a moment, before her hollow haunches reminded her of her age. 

I went without for two weeks. Internet, that is. I had everything else by my side. Five and a half books, several restful and late mornings, an embarrassing number of baguettes, and half a sense of peace later, I am slowly reconnecting. The transition from countryside-quiet to interwebs-loud is quite intense, I tell you what. 

Be gentle.

aesthetic fauna // man + son
aesthetic fauna // a rock, split
aesthetic fauna // boy
aesthetic fauna // loafing shed, northern france
aesthetic fauna // blue hair

25 March 2014

They Just Want To Be Alone

The fact that most people are pretty clueless about how to run a relationship is not going to help the situation. Learning-by-doing is all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. Incidentally, there should be a licensing bureau where testing is done to see if you are too stupid to marry or reproduce. When I am running the world, we will totally have that.  -Magnolia Ripkin 
I Just Want to Be Alone is to literature what your therapist, funny best friend, perfect mother, and high school English teacher who smoked and swore and wore cat-eye glasses are to you: all-encompassing, foundational, crucial. It All. Through a collection of some of today’s most powerful female voices, the book self-empowers, self-deprecates, and strikes an exquisite balance between humor and profundity, proving the theory that comedy is the finest source of catharsis. Both directly and with cunning stealth, these broads pass along invaluable advice makes the reader question, page after page after brilliant page, “Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”

23 March 2014

Bare: A Voyage

Today, I have lost nothing. My gratitude is boundless. 


p.s. There's still time to donate! Help send childhood cancer back to the nasty little hole it crawled out of. Every penny counts. 

07 March 2014

The Wall

aesthetic fauna // the wall
So, this time I'm not talking about the one in Berlin. When we moved to Amsterdam, the mister and I split up the decorating/furnishing duties. We were moving from a completely furnished home to one with nothing, and the task was a bit daunting, given the short timeline. He took the wall over the living room couch, a bare, blank monster of a thing. The end result was F***ING TERRIFIC: a tattoo drawing by Lina Stigsson, a few vintage taxidermy mounts, a rearing horse bookend found at the crazy big Berlin flea market, a majestic gilded parrot plate from Beat Up Creations, a couple photos to remind the children how scary both of our neutral faces are, and a dreamy shot from Lithuania. All three photos were taken by my ever-talented bed partner (closeups on his site).


06 March 2014

Observations From Concourse E

aesthetic fauna // dueling airport naps
On the way back home from Americuh in January, I had almost two hours of airport euphoria. Sitting in our airline's lounge in Chicago with one kid snoring and the other plopped empty-eyed and cherub-faced in front of a movie, I had nothing pressing to do. At all. Usually people complain about layovers but I couldn't have been more gleeful at the prospect of having no house to clean, no dogs to walk, no phone calls to make, nothing to schedule, no one to feed, no one to need me, nothing to do at all, save for making repeated trips between the free lattes and the magazine rack.

14 February 2014

Dear You - My Valentine: The First Time I've Acknowledged This Day With Sincerity

In a world increasingly populated by personal opinion, it’s easy to forget the real meaning of blunt, that it’s actually the opposite of cutting and sharp. By definition, it means “uncompromisingly forthright.” Sometimes being blunt doesn’t mean swearing or drinking or saying your kids are annoying the shit out of you. Sometimes it means saying exactly what you feel. Sometimes it means being vulnerable. Especially for us unsentimental types, it’s way scarier being forthright about our warm, fuzzy feelings than it is to muse on less, ahem, acceptable topics. (Exhibit A: the Being Naughty tab of this site)
If we’re truly committed to uncompromising forthrightness about ourselves and our perspectives of the world, we must show all of it. In my case, it’s a letter I wrote to my husband shortly after the birth of our second child. We were on holiday in rural France, getting dirty and exploring the grounds of a magnificently aged chateau and basking in the luminescent sunlight. All of our everyday stressors suddenly were at the bottom of a deep stream, far away. I found myself glowing with love for the man I often take for granted. As anyone with a marriage license and any number of children knows, these moments become sparse when the babies begin to arrive. Especially in those first murky months of sleeplessness and chaos, and especially especially after kid number two rolls around. Quality alone time? Romance? They are things as fantastical as a unicorn laying golden eggs. After a near-magical night out at a fancy restaurant and a wild drive on country roads, I was compelled to capture the way I’d felt that night, that week, to bottle it up tightly, to record it. Little did I know how precious these words would be to me later on, how often I would revisit them, and how effective they’d be in extracting me from some of my darkest hours.
Dear You,
Someday we will look back at this time with longing, this breath-short period in which we are young and beautiful, our children younger and even more beautiful, and the future something intangible, bright. A few days ago I awoke on the arched back of a quiet morning and was filled with such gratitude I could hardly draw a breath. Normalcy for us is something exquisite.
Our chateau is the kind of place where only some of the locks to the outside function, where the loudest noise in the walled garden is bees trafficking pollen from the pear tree to the wall of honeysuckle, only occasionally rivaled by birdsong or the muffled cough of a tractor. I pick wild strawberries in the garden outside our bedroom while our children take their midday sleep, the unfiltered sun warming the spot between my shoulders. The berries, no bigger than marbles, lie hidden under the plants’ squat canopy, candy-sweet and lightly red. I leave no leaf unturned in the pursuit of sweetness. May we always remember to do the same.

13 February 2014

One Candle. Wait, what?

aesthetic fauna // one candle
Yeah. I would have more believed a story involving me and a 6-month coma in the past year than our daughter turning one. I still feel like I have months left to plan her first party. Except it was last weekend. I'm still confused.

Our new place in Amsterdam is, like, a bazillionth the size of our grandly-proportioned living area of our old one in Den Haag. Which meant one of three things:

1. Have the party elsewhere, which means spending a good chunk of change on a day little darling butterbean won't remember. Nope.

2. Invite everyone I had at Julian's first two birthdays (23-27 adults plus the same amount of kids... eek). No effing way. It would've been all Lord of the Flies in here before the candle was lit.

3. Keep the guest list small, invite only people I keep in touch with on a regular basis and really, really feel I know. Maybe I'll piss I few people off. Maybe not. Cleanup=a breeze. Reasonable quantity of food prep. Hmmm... Bingo. 

The stress of planning for ten adults and seven kids didn't even register on my anxiety radar in comparison to planning the Monster Parties that came before. The afternoon was relaxed, gezellig, fun, and I remembered to talk to people and laugh. I am intensely grateful for the love that flowed at the party; it evicted most of my lingering homesickness and reminded me that my roots are real here, too.

And the cake? It was the best I've made in the history of me preheating an oven. Unless I have some sort of cake epiphany in the coming months/years, I'm making this cake for birthdays ever after. You probably already know I have a raging culinary crush on Deb over at Smitten Kitchen, but it just got restraining orderish after this recipe. Seriously. I might have taken more photos of the cake than my child. Yellow cake, chocolate sour cream frosting. Nothing fancy but perfect in every way. Reminiscent of Duncan Hines. People's eyes glazed over when they bit into their slice. Seconds were had.

Also on the menu: cheese straws (also Smitten Kitchen), polenta bites with arugula tapenade + radishes (Food & Wine), and mini feta + spinach pies (Jamie Oliver's concoction made tiny).

Eat up.

aesthetic fauna // yellow cake, chocolate frosting
aesthetic fauna // one candle
aesthetic fauna // one candle

11 February 2014

Geographic Polyamory, Part II: The Radiant State

aesthetic fauna // colorado
While Wisconsin is a stunner in winter with all that white and home to our kids' grandparents, this girl's got my heart. The mountains in the distance were a constant companion to my daily rovings back and forth across the Front Range. I fell in love with the jagged horizon all over again and had to remind myself to keep my eyes aimed at (least in the general direction of) the road. As much as I hung out drinking chai in my pajamas at my parents' house in the previous weeks, I focused nearly every minute of every day hugging my dearest people, under a dazzling sunshiny sky that pumped out both a decent layer of pristine snow in the middle of mostly 60°F/16°C days. For me, when it comes to weather, dichotomous wins the race. Oh, and I again found it necessary to pee in a terribly public place. Twice. I've gotten so good at it, I'm thinking up a tutorial for you less talented folks. No, seriously.
Okay, enough. What I really came here to do was to show, not tell. About mountains and sunlight, not peeing stunts. Soak it up. The RAYS, peeps, not the pee. 

(This is me stopping, effective immediately.)


p.s. In looking back at photos from this glorious week, I deeply lament how little I actually used my camera . For those of you not pictured, I was too entranced by your presence to think of anything but your face, your magnificence. 
aesthetic fauna // geographic polyamory, part II: the radiant state
aesthetic fauna // geographic polyamory, part II: the radiant state
aesthetic fauna // geographic polyamory, part II: the radiant state
aesthetic fauna // colorado moon

10 February 2014

Geographic Polyamory, Part I: The Frozen State

aesthetic fauna // wisconsin
Our five weeks in Americuh were a 4/1 split between Wisconsin and Colorado, respectively. Since you already sat through me whining about how homesick I am, let me reassure you that I won't do it again here. Instead, I'll give you tour of the good parts, because goodness was aplenty.

I kicked that polar vortex in its icy little crotch with a booted foot, took big bunny sledding for the first time, peed in a precariously public place, cross-country skied into kettles and over moraines, ate my weight in cheese curds and summer sausage (If you live outside the Midwestern US and have no idea what I'm talking about, please go here and order it. Eat it. Thank me later.), found a new favorite beer (multiple thumbs up for Spotted Cow), and instinctively remembered how to drive (and walk) on ice. Fearlessly.

Get ready for snow, kids in uncomfortable sleeping positions, cows, snow, and snow.

aesthetic fauna // wisconsin
aesthetic fauna // geographic polyamory
aesthetic fauna // wisconsin
aesthetic fauna // wisconsin
aesthetic fauna // wisconsin