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taking stock

We've just gotten to the end of a cold snap here in Seattle and the other day I captured my kieskei rhododenron looking veritably sugared in frost. The image inspired me to revitalize the appearance of this website, giving it a much needed bit a freshness. 

If you scroll down the archive list for this blog, you'll see that it has been active for a little over ten years now.  Sometimes just barely active, but a least something written down every year for a decade.   In the early days, the blog had a different name (extemporaneous) and a different location (blogger), but it was more or less the same:  occasional notes from daily life.  Reading those early posts, my life seemed very different back in those days.  I was in school, had a boyfriend, and took casual cross-country skiing trips. Sometimes I yearn for the freedom of those days.   Things are much more permanent now in my life -- a child, a husband, a career.  Yet adventure still happens and when it does, I notice and value it much more.  Writing and keeping an account of life, milestones and travel helps me take stock of the changes.   Will I still feel like writing in this format in another 10 years?  I'm not certain, but I do feel like writing today.   

Happy New Year.  



travels, revisited

Although it has been 5 months since we took our trip to Iceland and France, I wanted to continue documenting our travel.  In some ways, it's nice to have a gap in time between the experience and writing about it.  The space helps distill what you really want to remember and reflect on; a lot of the minutia of travel slips away.  I also knew I had my hand-written travel journal to provide some details if needed.   So we continue on our time in Iceland, exploring the southern pennisula.

Iceland:  Reykjanes Penninsula 


We headed back down the West coast of Iceland from Snaefellnes, moving to a new lodging South of the capital in a village called Vogar.   We chose this village for the second part of our Iceland trip since it was close to the airport and Reykjavik, but also a quiet remove from the city.  On our way down the coast, we stopped to visit the town of Borgarnes, which we had bypassed on our way up to Snaefellnes.   I had read about a small playground for children in the town that had been hand-built over the years by a local resident and we thought it would make for a nice waypoint on our drive. After a little wandering around, we found the park tucked into a hill by the school. 

Bjossarolo, as it is called, was built it over a span of several decades, using re-purposed lumber and other scrap items, such as old steering wheels.  The man who built it loved children and wanted them to have a place to explore. There was a fort with several access points, a few swings, slides, cars to drive and more.  Jonas loved trying out everything and the park is ingeniously bulit into a hillside, so it is somewhat blocked from the cold wind.   

It was a great location to enjoy the sun and get out some energy before more driving. 

We had lunch at a kaffehaus which was used as a location in the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."   I guess in the film, the cafe was transformed into a Papa John's Pizza (love the American product placement) and they had still photos from the movie in the cafe.   It was a nice spot for our standard Icelandic lunch (soup, bread and coffee) and to pick up some treats for the road.   I also bought some lovely handspun Icelandic wool, colored with plant-based dyes.   It's a thin type of wool called tviband which is traditionally knit into a shawl called a hyrna.  A shawl for myself is already on my needles.  

We drove directly from Borgarnes to Vogar, bypassing Reykjavik.  Our lodging was an Airbnb rental and we wanted to check in with our host, Dagmar.  Her rental is in the loft of her house and was lovely.  The photo above is from the window of our loft.  She was very welcoming and had made us warm skonsur, which are very simlar to pancakes, complete with homemade jam to go along with them.   The skonsur were delicious and perfectly timed, since we had to drive straight to the Blue Lagoon for our reservation.   The Blue Lagoon, a geothermic pool built into black lava with a white silica mud bottom, is everything you are warned about:  expensive, touristy and magical.  We spent several evening hours warming ourselves in the steamy pools, painting our skin with the mud and relaxing.   Jonas loved the experience and we felt it was worth the side trip.  I didn't take any photos while we were there, but this image captures the pool fairly well.  The color of the water is a strange, irridescent blue and we did feel quite restored after our soak. 

The next day we had originally planned to go into Reykjavik for the day, but instead opted for a day exploring the southern penninsula, Reykjanes.  The area has lots of geothermal features, rugged sea cliffs and a few small villages.   We walked the trail along the coast out to the lighthouse at Gardur and found this old fishing boat along the way.   

The fact that fisherman once braved the North Atlantic Ocean in this vessel baffles me.  We were chilled enough walking in the sunshine right by the coast in our puffy coats.   Can you imagine fishing, wearing seal-skin rainwear, in a brutally cold ocean?   Icelanders are a tough, tough people.   At Gardur, we found a more sea-worthy vessel to explore.

On the walk out to the lighthouse we had promised Jonas a warm drink if we could find one. There was an odd cafe by the lighthouse, which seemed to exclusively serve tourist busses. The owner insisted we wait to pay until after we had eaten our cakes and cocoa, but when we went to settle up her credit card reader wouldn't work properly and we had no kroner on hand. We were trapped for a small while until she called the bank and was able to fix the issue.   Luckily we didn't have to leave Jonas for collateral while we went in search of a cash machine.   

On the way to another village, Grindavik, we stopped at a few geothermic sites which were interesting.  If you walked along the boardwalk near this fumarole, the cloud would sprinkle you with a warm and salty rain. The area reminded us of Yellowstone, but not quite so dramatic. 

More dramatic are the sea cliffs -- filled with nesting birds.  We walked to the top of a large hill to check out the view.  In Grindavik, we beachcombed and found a cafe for another Icelandic lunch.   The barkeeper there was a younger man who was easily the most chatty Icelander we met.  He gave Jonas a length of "splice" -- a type of fishing rope he had been braiding.   We hung out in the cafe until they began to set up for a broadcast of the football game.   The atmosphere in this part of Iceland reminded me very much of the countryside of Ireland.  Those small, windblown islands have some kindred features.  

We returned to our loft and prepared for an early departure in the morning.   Nick ventured out on his own and found a very well-built stone roundhouse out in the fields.  

In the morning we boarded our flight to Paris and watched the golden grasses blow on the island as we ascended.  Iceland is a beautiful, quiet country we hope to visit again.

Next stop, France.  



We've broken ground on some new territory here, starting first and foremost with Jonas' biking skills.   He quickly went from needing a 'shadow' running next to him during biking to being a pretty shrewd biker. 

We skipped traning wheels and instead would jog next to Jonas as he got the hang of a pedal bike.  His balance started off really great, thanks to a few years on his balance bike, but he didn't really understand the concept of pedaling, especially to go up even a slight change in elevation.   Jonas' bike, a sharp, orange Hedgehog made by a SF company called Cleary, also has hand brakes, as opposed to coaster brakes.  Convincing Jonas he didn't need to drag his feet to brake (a la balance bike) was another obstacle.   There were a lot of elements to adjust to and we spend a lot of time in shadow mode.   Soon enough though, he was able to do most of the parts of biking without help.   Getting started on his own might take the whole length of our street, but he could do it!  

Now the challenge was to keep the kid in control and safe.  He was a bit of a speed demon and would zip around corners and we had to bike along with him to keep up.   This meant being a lot further away and giving up control over him on his bike.   Nick was the primary bike partner and things were really improving fast.   Every day Jonas wanted to do the bike loop around our house.  We're lucky to have the pond with pedestrian trails literally behind our house, since it is a good place for a beginning biker to improve his skills.   Jonas was feeling pretty impressed with himself one evening and wanted me to come along for a final family ride of the day.   At one point, Nick moved to the right and slowed down to let Jonas past, but Jonas just kept following him, not slowing at all, and ended up catching the rear tire of Nick's bike, careening off into a parked car and then doing a face-dive into the gravel driveway.   

He had a pretty nasty cut on his chin that didn't stop bleeding on its own, so after 15 minutes of deliberation, we decided to rush him over to Seattle Children's Hospital's Urgent Care before it closed.  We were able to get seen right away and they never made a fuss about us bringing in a kid who might need stitches 10 minutes before they closed.  I work in the outpatient pharmacy of the hospital which is right across from Urgent Care and talk to the providers quite a bit during my evening shifts, so I know they're a good crew. We had a nurse taking care of us who had seen us back in April when Jonas came in with pink eye.   She is a great nurse and was so good at putting Jonas at ease.  He was very opposed about going in to Urgent Care and as we were racing over there stated that he thought they were probably closed already so we should just go back home.   But when it came down to it, he was quite brave through the process and held very still for the two stitches that went in his chin.  

The chin has healed pretty nicely, but he has a bit of a scar remaining.  More importantly, he was not deterred from bike riding and has been on a few longer rides and showing a great deal of control and navigation skills. He also learned how to stop using the brakes and is saving the soles of his shoes from lots of wear and tear.   

Another first that came soon after his first stitches, was the first day of Pre-K.   We moved from our co-operative preschool to a very sweet school in our neighborhood called Little Nest.   Jonas is in the Pre-K group called the Owls and they do a lot of playing and exploring in addition to doing some Kindergarten readiness.   The teachers are all very loving and invested in what they do.  The school is also fairly small and has a good sense of community.  It's Montessouri-inspired, but incorporates many teaching styles.   

School picture 2 weeks post stitches. Kids heal like magic!

Jonas seems to really enjoy school when he is there, but does a bit of dragging when its time to get ready in the morning.  He's there four days a week for a four-hour session, which is a nice step up towards kindergarten.   It also allows me a good chunk of time to work on projects and take care of household business.

The other first we've had is first sports experience.  Jonas is playing on a U5 soccer team in a neighborhood soccer club.  The team was sparked by a group of parents from our preschool last year, so we see lots of kids we know on the pitch.  It also happens to be at the elementary school 2 blocks from our house and is a nice walk in the evening.  We've had great weather for practice, which is nice, since I volunteered to coach the team and have to be there.   Coaching is a first for me, and definitely a stretch of my skills.   Still, its fun to see the kids running around and I'm glad I can help get them out there.  



Within the past two or three years, the options for home sewists wanting to make well-fitting, stylish clothing have exploded.  Gone are the days when I flipped through a Simplicity catalog, picked out the least horrible item and then made it about halfway through the pattern before giving up.  (Ok, that was in middle school, but I doubt patterns in those giant books are much improved).   I have at least 6 sources I can turn to for excellent, accurate patterns and more things I want to sew than I realistically have time to complete.   My collection of hand-sewn garments that I wear on a regular basis is starting to look substantial in my closet: 

The latest is from the Deer and Doe collection -- a pattern company based in Paris that has fabulous frocks and a nicely curvaceous model.  I think that part of the reason that my dress came out so well is that my body proportions are actually the same as those the pattern was drafted for.  The pattern itself is the Aubepine, which translates to Hawthorne in English.  It has a pleated bodice and sleeves and I opted for the short sleeve version.   I was very intimidated by the pleats, but think they came out nicely and add some personality to the finished dress.

The waist is empire style, gathered with a casing for a ribbon.  A lovely detail that also makes the dress quite comfortable.  It is fully lined as well.   I used Cotton + Steel lawn for the main fabric and a blue cotton voile for the lining.

The Cotton + Steel fabric was amazing to sew with and I just bought some more for my next project, along with an eggplant colored double gauze and a fun batik in tomato red. 

I bought the fabric from one of my favorite fabric shops/sewing studios in Seattle, Dry Good Designs.  Its an airy location to spend an afternoon sewing or to browse around in a nicely curated collection of fabrics.  I hope to have a few more garments hanging in my closet by the end of summer!




For the past month, Jonas has been telling everyone who will listen that he's 4 and 5/12.  To the excitement of everyone, our precocious child will be officially 4 and 1/2 this Friday.  He's come a long way in the first half of this year -- he can ride his 2-wheel bike almost entirely by himself (those hills are tough!), he mastered Uno and has been learning the nuances of penny-ante poker (the art of bluffing is hard to convey to a child) and has navigated 3 different summer preschools with aplomb.  However, the half year mark usually brings a little discord with it, and this year is no exception.   At least daily we have a crying meltdown over some small injustice (the wrong spoon!  mom helping with something he can do on his own!).   


 Despite some emotional overloads, Jonas has been a good helper around the house and in the garden.  This is the first year of our new garden area and I've enjoyed having more space for edibles.  We had the upper lawn removed in the spring and built 3 raised beds from our old fence.

 A few new crops we tried out this year were kohlrabi (excellent!), gem lettuce (iffy germination, but great lettuce when it gets going) and sweet peppers (from starts).   The peas and beans did well, as usual, despite the relentless heat and summer drought.   We put in asparagus crowns that we hope to enjoy in a few years.  Some of the more decorative edibles I put in were a artichoke and cardoon plant.  Cardoon is a relative of artichoke and the stems of the plant are edible.   My plan is to fill in the area around those plants with herbs this fall and make the garden area feel less bare.  We'll also do some winter greens and favas for cover crop.   The garden always takes a lot of work, but it's a nice place to spend a few hours in the afternoon when the shade sets in.   


We've been staying close to home this summer, but have a road trip to California planned for the end of August as well as family visits.   Nick and I used to take road trips quite a bit in the early days, and hopefully this trip will be just as enjoyable.   We're hitting Oregon City, Eugene, Florence, Eureka, Bend and Portland -- territory we've covered before but that will feel fresh with Jonas along for the ride.   


This past weekend we had another new experience: family group camping.   Usually we do more backpacking than car camping, but we thought camping with a bunch of other families would be fun for Jonas and a nice way to socialize.  We spent 2 nights at Coal Creek Campground with 5 other families and it was very enjoyable.  The kids ruled our camping area; running, playing and exploring to their hearts' content.   We did a short kid-hike on Saturday following by a swim in the Stilaguamish River before dinner.  Each family took a turn cooking, so there was time for relaxing and chatting.  The group is already planning a trip for next summer!   


We hope to do at least one backpacking trip before the weather turns to fall and we will camp out near the Oregon dunes at the end of the month.   Camping was a highlight of my childhood (except the moldy-oldy tent my brother and I shared) and Jonas loves the experience as well.  He's really coming into his own this year and it is fun to watch the expression of his personality.   Yesterday he did a few paintings for our niece's 10th birthday -- one of a rainbow in the California sky and another of Seattle rain and sidewalks.  I thought the rendering was perfect.