A garden for living in

For the Mach’ Was challenge to do something with gardens, here I’m doing something with mine. We’ve been living in our current house for almost 15 years now, which has both a front and a back garden. Not huge but big enough and green and a bit of an oasis for us. These two gardens have given us so much joy and so many memories over the years…

The summer after we moved in, the back garden became a building ground. We wanted grass and so took out a lot of the stone tiles…

The garden was used as a playground by our children (and our cats) when they were small…

It’s been a bit of a sculpture gallery as well…

Our gardens, front and back, are a place to chill…

… and eat and celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and national holidays…

They are places to be worked on, like trimming the overgrowth or making the front garden look nice again…

… and for our cats to enjoy (I’m including my old black and white cat who died years ago as well)…

… we use it for little family photo sessions with the kids, or with some of my siblings, or for recording video messages for someone’s birthday…

… we sometimes do our actual jobs in our gardens, especially during Covid lockdowns (and our neighbour’s cat sometimes comes to visit as well)…

… we gaze at objects flying over our garden, like a police helicopter a few weeks ago, or, preferably, hot air balloons flying over on some evenings in the spring and summer months…

We enjoy the spring and summer blossoms…

… and the winter…

… and magical lights at night…

Yes, we really enjoy our gardens and the lives we get to lead in them. Mr. Esther and I are talking of moving in a few years time to another town and a nice large flat with a balcony when the kids definitely leave the house. I wonder if we really will do that, though – move to a place without a garden. I think we may miss our own outside green space too much.

As the summer ends…

… I hope I can continue to hold on to some of the positivity I have come to feel during this summer. Getting away for our summer holiday to France this year has really lifted my spirits. It has also helped put things a little bit in perspective for me. Yes, I hate my job, but I only work 32 hours (i.e. 4 days) a week and work really isn’t everything! Working from home for a year and half during lockdowns and restricted activities has started to make it feel like it is everything, probably due to lack of other distractions, but it really is not everything. Also, work allows me to pay for things I enjoy, like that holiday in France, and I have quite a good amount of days off as well. I have decided that I really shouldn’t let my work frustration colour my general mood so much. I hope I can hold on to that as I continue to search for work that will hopefully bring me more joy in the future.

I have much to be thankful for, I realize again as I sit here in our garden in what may be one of the last days of summer before it gets too chilly and wet to sit outside much…

On weekends this September I have enjoyed watching my kids play their sports. Junior tries to fit in handball whenever he can during his very busy work schedule at his hotel and also trying to finish off the last of school so that he can hopefully receive his diploma in a month or two.

And yes, he scored that goal after a breakout play. Mini me has also been loving getting back into football again after the summer, seen here (in red and black on the left) in a defensive action…

Mr Esther and I look at each other and wonder where our kids’ love of and talent for sports comes from, as neither he nor I have it. We’re both really glad they do enjoy it so much as it’s not only healthy and fun for them, it’s also great for their social lives.

I also love seeing our kids adore our cats…

…. and when I see videos like this one of Mandy Patinkin singing prayers to his dog…

… I just grin and nod in recognition as we too are always singing to our cats (well, not prayers and admittedly, it’s mostly me singing, but you get my point).

I am thankful that socializing is happening a little more now. Not too much, I love my alone time, but a little more than during lockdown is good. I am thankful my family is all still healthy (my older brother in Israel did contract Covid a few weeks ago but due to having been vaccinated he had no symptoms) and my friends are healthy too. I am also happy to be helping some refugees through the volunteer work I am able to do at a Council for Refugees office for one afternoon a week (on my ‘free’ Wednesdays). I always feel so helpless when switching on the news, most recently with all the news coming from Afghanistan, and doing this volunteer work makes me feel like I can contribute to make at least some things a little bit better. Like it says in that famous ‘serenity prayer’: Gant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. So, I try to change the things I can and I hope that at least will keep me positive.

I suffer from the winter blues and I think the last round lasted almost until the summer holidays so I really hope to not sink into that again. Extra vitamin D, making sure I get outside more during the winter months and reminding myself of this mood in this post will hopefully help me stay positive for a while. Fingers crossed.

Anniversaries

Five days ago was my 7th blogiversary. I always forget when exactly but then at some point in September I think, “Oh right, isn’t my blogiversary sometime around now?” Just looked it up: the 6th of september 2014 is when I truly started this blogging journey and so far I have never regretted it. On to more!

Yesterday was another anniversary: Colin Firth’s 61st birthday. He’s turning into a silver fox. Many happy returns to him!

The most notable anniversay is the one today, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York City. Of course, I too remember where I was when they happened, visiting my parents for an afternoon during my maternity leave. My son was two months old…

… and I remember looking on in horror and being grateful that my baby was too young to understand the terror we were witnessing live on CNN. The fact that he needed care and attention and love helped to keep us somewhat grounded on what I remember as a very frightening and surreal day, even if we were a continent away. The effects of these attacks are still very much felt today, my children don’t know a world before 9/11.

May we one day all be wise enough in this world to find peace.

Fin des vacances

Nous sommes arrivés à la maison; fin des notres vacances en Loire-Atlantique et Bretagne! We’ve had a marvelous time and during our second holiday week we managed to do a lot and also nothing at all.

We relaxed at the cottage we had rented…

We walked in the nearby woods…

And saw beautiful things like the thousands of prehistoric menhirs lined up around Carnac…

… and had dinner in the picturesque town of La Roche Bernard…

We did a boat tour in the gulf of Morbihan, from Vannes to the prehistoric cairn on the island on Gavrinis. The prehistoric grave (built around the time of the pyramids) contained many geometrical carvings, it was just beautiful and fascinating to be there…

But not only the prehistoric site was fascinating. As we were on the island, low tide set in and, boy, did the water move fast! It was like watching a river with a strong current. Boats going against the tide were struggling to get ahead…

When we had left Vannes on the boat, it had been high tide. By the time we got back again some 4 hours later, the tide was low. Where there had been water you now saw land and the jetty, which had been horizontal when we had boarded, was now angled.

The boat trip itself was a lot of fun too, especially on the way back when there was more wind and we even got splashed (especially Mr E) due to going up against the tide in the wake of some other boats that had made waves.

We also went into Nantes again for a day, to see some of ‘Les Machines de l’Île’, just as Rachel had suggested (thank you!). The park is inspired by Jules Verne and Leonardo da Vinci and houses mechanical (partly fantasy) animals, also on carroussels. We didn’t go into the exhibition areas but we did ride the mechanical elephant!

We then went into the centre of Nantes for a late lunch and a gander around the castle grounds (which had been closed the first time we visited due to demonstrations in the vicinity)…

As we had some time to kill before dinner time and we didn’t want to walk anymore, we drove to the nearby town of Saint-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu where Mr E and I visited the 9th century Carolingian abbey, while mini me napped in the car.

We drove back into Nantes again after and had a lovely dinner at fellow blogger Agnès‘ home with her partner and her lovely daughter who is the exact same age (only 3 hours older) as my son. Thank you again so very much Agnès and family for your hospitality, for the tasty dinner, for sharing your art and your cats, and for the lovely time we had!

Last Saturday we had to leave our rented cottage and started on our 4 hour drive to Paris. We stopped in Chartres for an hour, for the sole purpose of visiting the cathedral there and seeing the stunning 12th/13th century stained glass windows…

We arrived in the Paris hotel at the end of the afternoon, dumped our bags, and then walked to the Eiffel tower which was about 10 minutes away on foot…

From there we took a train to Notre Dame and Quartier Latin where we had dinner. We walked around a bit after and then mini me and I walked along the banks of the Seine to a metro station while Mr E went off on his own.

Mini me and I had tickets to go up the Eiffel tower and as we got there at 9 pm, the Eiffel tower started to sparkle!

I have been up the Eiffel tower several times already but mini me couldn’t remember the last time she had been up, aged 4…

… so she was really excited to go up now, especially in the evening, looking out over all the lights of Paris…

We even (half) saw a proposal happening at the top. We heard applause, looked around and saw a young man get up off his knee and hug a young woman who had apparently accepted his proposal.

And that was it, the end of our French holiday. The next morning, on Sunday, we drove home again, only stopping for a lunch along the way. We got home in the afternoon. Junior was at work but the cats were there to greet us, just like they had greeted him when he had gotten home from his holiday in Portugal 6 days earlier. Our old red cat is outside a lot but did come by for a little attention and all our black cat wants to do is lie on top of one of us every single second of the day.

Time flew by on this holiday and we’re sad the travel part is over but at least we get to be with Junior again and Mr E and I still have one more week off work and yes, the cats are a bonus of being at home again as well.

It has finally begun

My summer holiday is here! We’re late this year as Mr Esther had some work projects he was committed to and couldn’t finish early. He was finally done with his work yesterday and I finished today. As I work at a university and most people there are already on holiday, it has been quite quiet. Was able to finish up some stuff and was also prepared for any necessary online holiday support but none was needed. I liked having some low-key work time, which meant I could take it easy.

It’s also been a week with some highlights outside of work.

Monday – we received a call that my son had hit his head hard against a steel column at work. I took him to the ER and he needed two stitches just underneath his hair on his forehead, but he’ll be fine, thankfully.

Tuesday evening – First time to the cinema with a friend since what feels like forever as I can hardly remember how long ago she and I had last been! There wasn’t a lot to choose from, so we saw Jungle Cruise, which was not the greatest but amusing for an evening.

Wednesday (my day off) – Both kids received their second Covid vaccinations in the morning, so we’re all set for the holidays now. In the afternoon the kids and I took my mother out to lunch and it turned out my younger brother had returned from Germany (where he had worked for a few months), so he joined us as well.

Thursday – Mr Esther finished work and we, together with mini me (Junior had to work), celebrated with dinner and a movie in Den Haag. We saw a Dutch WWII movie called De Slag om de Schelde (English title is The Forgotten Battle) which was quite gruesome but also quite good. It is indeed about a battle you never hear anything about, but an important one, as it was fought to make sure the Antwerp harbour was accessible for Allied supplies. It was really the beginning of the end of Nazi occupation in The Netherlands.

Friday (today) – Around lunch time I figured there wasn’t much left to do, so I set my out of office reply, packed up the laptop and now I have four weeks of free time stretching out before me. Well, not quite free time – there’s laundry and chores around the house that need done, but at least there’s no work to think of anymore. Pure bliss!