Thursday, April 29, 2010


We are staying at a sort of vacation park, with a bunch of houses and a big rec center. Every day, as soon as the kids wake up, they convince someone to take them there. The main attraction: a ballenbak (ball pit). The kids are not the only ones who enjoy playing in it. Joe's still just a big kid.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Another typical German town. The houses were so cute, and most have been around for 500 years! If only we could all take care of our homes that well, to last that long. We did a lot of playing around, and silly posing.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A reunion

We drove to Germany for our very first van der Put/Valk reunion. We have rented a great house right on the other side of the border (of Germany and Holland), in a town called Bad Bentheim. It's only a 2 hour drive from the West of Holland, but for the Dutch that's quite a distance. Amazingly the landscape starts changing soon after the border as well. There are actual hills, and way less people.

Living in the US, unfortunately limits the amount of time I get to spend with my opa. He is 87, and still doing very well. I miss visiting with him, so it was great to see him again today.
(that's NOT me, but my look-a-like sister Emma)

We visited the castle of Bad Bentheim. It's a rather small castle, but it was a very fun visit. Europeans are not so scared of being sued, so they still let you climb up dangerously steep stairs, and only protect cannon holes with 2 bars, where children can easily slip through and fall to their deaths.
Emma and her boyfriend Jan keps the kids occupied
They had some pretty fancy salad tongs back in those days!

Beachly Sunday

In vacation mode we skipped church and headed for the temple grounds instead. Zoetermeer has a small temple, but it's lovely nonetheless
Trying to show the Simmons some more things real Dutch people do, I took them to the beach in Den Haag that I went to with my tante Siegried (a grandma that was my opa's second wife). I remember that Siegried would make wonderful brown sugar sandwiches, and load me on the back of her bike. We would then ride the bike to the duinen (sand dunes), and make the trek to the beach. This beach is relatively far away from the road, and attracts many families. It also minimizes the amount of nude people, a BIG plus! As a little girl I remember Siegried taking me to a playground in the duinen, but after asking some people, I'm not sure if that's still there.

Mike figured that he might as well still dress like it was actually Sunday
The kids didn't seem to mind the cold ocean.
In the afternoon we reunited with all my family. Everyone except Carlo was there. I haven't seen everybody for a long time. Even Wendy who lives in the US. We headed to the Kinderdijk, which is a place where a whole bunch of windmills are located together. A few of them are still operated, but most are just part of a historical preservation program. Ginger found her new best friend in her cousin Kenzie. The last time they were each other, Kenzie was just a baby.

To the homeland

The days are all melting together. I can't remember when we did what, but we've had a lot of fun. It might have something to do with jet lag, or the busy schedule.

My creative writing is under a lot of stress right now, because I'm trying to live up to the high expectations Mike Simmons has given me. I think he's the first person who's told me I am a good writer, so now I'm all nervous, and worried that I'll mess up. But then again... up to now I just write whatever I'm thinking, so I think the best strategy is to keep doing what I've been doing.

We had the best flight between America and Europe! It was the first time we have flown non-stop, and man does that make a difference!! Plus, we were lucky enough to travel with KLM, which is a 5-star airline compared to the 1 star poohole of American Airlines. I guess the Dutch are more service oriented. Each chair had their own tv, with literally dozens of movies, tv shows and games to choose from. No more worrying about children who get bored or sit backwards in their chairs to terrorize the back neighbor. There was so much choice, that I wanted to just skip the sleeping, and almost wished the trip was actually longer. The food was excellent as well. There was even Dutch Fanta! (very different from the chemically flavored American Fanta). Sorry if I'm sounding a little Dutch biased right now... I am among all Dutch folks.. I guess they're rubbing off on me.

Each time I visit Holland I feel a little more like a visitor, and less like a native. Especially the first day.

After watching movies all night, we got to the hotel of our "old" friends the Simmons (they're really not old, we've just known them for longer than any of our friends- 7 years). They have been living in France for the last 9 months, and are just at the tail end of their adventures. I was just lucky enough to be here to show them a little of my home country. So while we crashed at their hotel, they went on a bike tour through Amsterdam. When we drug ourselves out of lala land, we joined up with them at an awesome flower parade. Once a year the big flower garden puts millions of flowers on floats and shows off why Holland is famous for flowers. Just standing on the road, it seemed like my nose was in a bouquet of flowers.
After walking a few miles we took the Simmons to a typical dutch pannenkoeken (pancake) restaurant, and introduced them to the delights of sugar syrup, bacon, and carbs.
(pics come later)
We caught Joe and Mike sneaking into a "coffeeshop" *dutch name for weed shop- and NO they didn't buy any

Joe and I really enjoyed staying with my cousin Talita and Camaron a few years ago, and were lucky enough to stay with them again. Joe and Cam are 2 peas in a pod. Each time we tried to go to bed, Cam would crack another joke or start another anecdote. It would be fun to live in Zoetermeer and spend more time like this with them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ph matters

In high school I detested Chemistry. I had a hard time grasping the principles, plus, I was convinced I would never need it in the "real world" anyways. I guess I was wrong. Living here on my little farm, I've found several uses for chemistry knowledge. First, my pool. It's imperative to keep the swimming water balanced. Balanced water keeps the algea and germs aways. It feels good to the skin. It looks clear and sparkly. Having a Ph between 7.5-7.8 it very important. I learned that Acid lowers the Ph, while Baking Soda makes it higher.

This was some knowledge that would prove very helpful to me yesterday. As I spent 90 minutes peeling 11 hard boiled eggs, and creating puckered/cratered eggs, I wanted to pull out my hair. I kinda knew that fresh eggs were harder to peel than older (store bought) eggs. I just didn't know why. Apparently it has to do with the chemistry of the egg:

"In fresh eggs the albumen sticks to the inner shell membrane more strongly than it sticks to itself because of the more acidic environment of the egg. The white of a freshly laid egg has a pH between 7.6 and 7.9 and an opalescent (cloudy) appearance due to the presence of carbon dioxide. After the protective coat is washed off the egg shell the egg becomes porous and begins to absorb air and loose some carbon dioxide contained in the albumen. This reduces the acidity of the egg which causes (after several days in the refrigerator) the pH to increase to around 9.2. At higher pH the inner membrane does not stick as much to the albumen so the shell peels off easier"

Some website suggested adding baking soda to the boiling water, to manually raise the Ph of the egg. I was open to any suggestions. So with a little fear (after last night's peeling fiasco) I set out to boil some more eggs today. Here are the steps to hard boiled Farm Fresh Eggs.

1. Use the oldest eggs you have. A few days in the fridge makes a big difference
2. Bring the eggs to room temperature.
3. Place eggs, single layer, in a pot, and cover with 2 inches of cold water
4. For about 1 dozen eggs, I added 1 Tbsp Salt and 0.5 Tbsp Baking soda.
5. Bring water to a boil (rolling boil), then cover.
6. Take off the heat, and let sit in hot water for 12-15 minutes.
7. To shock the eggs, run cold water over them, and then let sit in icewater bath for 15-20 minutes.
8. Watch the difference! It only took me about 20 minutes to peel 16 eggs. That's about 8 times faster!!

Now I don't have to be scared to make deviled eggs, egg salad, or potato salad anymore. And it'll be much easier to attempt eating a dozen eggs a day.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Remember my disclaimer in my nature intervenes post? Well, we are to that point! Our flight got canceled again, and when I went to reschedule my flight, they informed me that everything is booked full until next Sunday. That's bad for several reasons.

1. We are ready for vacation NOW.
2. Our hosts will have other guests, so we'll have to find another place to stay.
3. The Simmons won't be able to meet us in Holland.
4. This is so close to the end of the school year, that the kids are missing all sorts of important/fun events.

Blah! That's all I can think of right now. I'm just about ready to throw in the towel, and wait to fly until school is out in June (except we can't, because we're supposed to be there next week for a family reunion)

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Keeping in the spirit of our holiday (aka vacation) that hasn't started because of the volcano, I was determined to have fun here in Texas. Unfortunately Joe had to work, but luckily we have his parents close by. We drove into town with Joe super early, and spent the morning relaxing, chatting, and planting flowers.

Our main activity for the day was the Museum of Nature and Science. Boise has a similar place called the Discovery Center, and my kids always loved going there. It turned out that getting a year membership was only slightly more expensive, so we went ahead with that. Now when any of Liz's grand kids come to visit, she can bring them for free. The museum was very child oriented, and had fun activities like a bone digging site, gravity center with bubbles, and pretend areas. But you know where they spent the most time? The pretend farm! Sterling thought it was so fun to collect wood eggs. Ginger had a blast riding her John Deere tricycle. Note to self: get her one!
We also were lucky enough to see a movie at the IMAX theater. We watched a movie about Alaska. The footage was amazing. Everything from close up polar bears, flying through the air, and stampeding animals. And it seemed like you were right in the middle of it, because the screen was almost dome shaped. After the movie, we had fabulous steaks at Applebee's, and then Redbox movie. What a great day! Thanks mom, for spending it with us!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Nature intervenes

Mother nature is more powerful than any of us. When a volcano in Iceland decides to burst and throw a large dust cloud, and when the winds are SE, all of northern Europe will shut down their airports. The last I heard, 17,000 flights were cancelled. Ours is one of those. Although I feel inconvenienced by this, I can't help but think about any of those other 600,000 people who might have a very important event to get to. What if you were trying to get married, or get to a funeral? We were supposed to show our friends the Simmons around Holland, and luckily we were able to reschedule that for next weekend.

So, for once, my procrastination has paid off. As of this morning I still hadn't packed, cleaned, or done the yard work I should have. Now I have all weekend to do this. And I'm taking advantage of this extra time, and doing some much needed deep cleaning.

disclaimer: if the volcano decideds to keep bursting, and my flight gets cancelled again, I will not be as understanding!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nasty Job

As per Dee's request, I entered the dark crevices of the chicken coop. These are the day I wonder why in the world I have chickens. Of course the answer is eggs, but sometimes I wonder if it's all worth it. Besides the fact that I spent $70 on feed the other day (and regularly), today I pulled out 6 - 50lb feedbags of poop. Of course it wouldn't be that bad if I just cleaned it out regulary, but somehow cleaning the coop always ends at the end of the list :) It makes me feel justified for charging $2/dozen for the eggs.

Unfortunaly I'm still not done, but the hens were all coming in to lay, so I didn't want to disturb them. This job also counts as my workout for the day. My hands are sore, and my back hurts. I even worked up a sweat. Now I just need to get this smell off me!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Neon Pink

It wasn't until she realized in the parking lot that I wasn't going to take it off... when the blood curdling screaming began. It started so nicely. She was excited to check in, and was telling everybody that she broke her arm. She patiently waited in the waiting room, and even cooperated for the x-ray. Then she picked out the hot pink cast, and let the nurse put it on without problem. But then she decided that the novelty had worn off, and that she preferred her sling. It took a lot of coaxing and bribing to get her into the car, and she didn't stop screaming until we were right in front of Walmart. She had to either stop crying and get bubble gum, or go straight home. I knew she would go for the bubble gum.
So now she has the cast for 6 weeks. It didn't dawn on me until after it was on, that this 6 week period goes into swimming season. That will be interesting...Oh, by the way, the x-rays didn't show a break. However, since young children still have a lot of cartilage around their elbow (which doesn't show up on the x-ray), there's a good possibility that that is messed up. The doctor told me there's no way of knowing for sure, unless we take an MRI. I can see the dollar signs swimming in front of my eyes with that. He said the best thing is to just treat it as if it is broken, and cast it. Clothes will be a challenge.... Especially in cold Holland.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


While Joe and Sterling went camping at the pig farm, the girls and I went to Jessica Morrison's house for a slumber party. We had plenty of junk food, a lot of fun talking, and a lame movie. It was so lame, that we both fell asleep and decided to quit watching it. It was so fun to have girl time and get out of the house. This morning after the guys got back, and before we went home, Ginger fell off the trampoline. We knew she must be pretty hurt, because she's a really tough cookie, and doesn't cry unless she is really hurt. Well, she cried/screamed, and wouldn't stop. We decided to put a little sling on her, and give her some pain meds to see if she would feel better. It seems like she's in no pain as long as she doesn't move her arm too much. If she's still not better Monday, I guess we'll have to get some x-rays to see if she broke anything. For now, we can't afford the $800 ER bill. So much for having medical insurance.....

Friday, April 9, 2010


Last night I had a good dose of art and culture. Joe's aunt Barbara founded the ArtChix. A sort of book club geared to art. She presented a wonderful slide show with works of art from the Victorian Era. Then we headed to the Dallas Museum of Art, where we enjoyed painting and photography from the mid 1800's. It was very interesting to see a painting right next to it's photograph counterpart. The artist would simply leave out things they didn't like. For some reason it never occurred to me, that they would do that. And have always silently wondered where they found these wonderful empty landscapes. Silly me.

We all shared some of our favorite foods, mine being Monica's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Everybody was raving about them (which is not surprising), and asking for the recipe. So I got it from Monica's blog, so everyone can make these fabuless cookies.

Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies (makes about 4 dozen)

2 1/2 c. blended Oatmeal (measure after it's blended)
1 c. Butter
1 c. Brown Sugar
1 c. Granulated Sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
2 c Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Powder
12 oz Chocolate Chips
4 oz grated Hershey bars (or white, butterscotch, M&M's or any other chocolaty goodness)
1 1/2 c. Chopped nuts

1. Blend oatmeal in a blender, making 2 1/2 cups of fine powder.
2. Mix the Butter and both Sugars until creamy.
3. Add eggs and vanilla, and blend.
4. Mix the Flour, Baking Soda, Salt, and Baking Powder, and add to the above. Mix quickly. Don't over mix.
5. Fold in Chocolate Chips, Hershey bars, and Nuts.
6. Place cookie dough balls 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.
7. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.

If you don't want to bake all of the cookies, make a dough "log", and freeze it. Then, when you want quick cookies, slice off 1/2" slices, and bake for about 15-17 minutes.

I just love how you get the nuttiness of the oatmeal, without having to chew on big chunks of it. Plus, these are very crunchy (they remind me of those super expensive cookies you can get at grocery stores, like Pepperidge farm)

Thanks again for the recipe, Monica! These are my favorite chocolate chip cookies of all time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Yes I can

Did you ever do something you didn't think you could. Or maybe it's not that you didn't think you could, but just that it was easier to have someone else do it for you? And then when you finally do it yourself, how did you feel?

Tonight the lawn really needed to be mowed, but the riding mower wouldn't start. After a phone consult with my husband, the analysis was a dead battery. It would have been so easy for me to throw my hands in the air, and say: "I tried", and give up. But something made me want to do it myself. Maybe just to prove to myself that I can do hard things. (okay maybe jump starting a battery isn't that hard, but still).

Jump starting a battery is one of those mysterious scary things. What is the power going to do to me if I do something wrong? Will I get thrown to the earth, and die on the spot? Probably not. And then there is the mystery of the Plus and Minus signs, and the fear that I'll accidentally mix them up and cause thousands of dollars of damage. Again: highly unlikely.

Anyways, with some trepidation, I hooked the cable up to the suburban. All of a sudden that car seemed like an all-powerful beast. Then, trying not to let any of the clips touch each other, I hooked up the lawnmower. Just a little spark as I hooked up the last clip. The moment of truth: turning over the lawnmower engine. And then elation. I did it! I can do hard things!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The earth is round

Everything I ever believed in has been nullified.

The carpet has been swept from under my feet.

I am crushed.

Those are just a few of the emotions I am feeling right now.

This morning started as a very normal morning. I grumpily got up to my alarm. Shuffled out of bed. Poured the kids some cereal. Made lunch. And sat down to check my email.



The shock of my lifetime. My mom informed me that her and my dad are "going their seperate ways"



This doesn't happen to my family! This happens to "those" people. Not MY parents who always taught me you stay together

No.... matter.... what.

This affects me directly. It brings into my mind questions about temple marriage. Not whether it's right, because I KNOW it is. But because I have always fervently believed that temple marriage is forever.


Not until things get rough.

And yes! This comes as a surprise to me. Imagine somebody telling you the earth is flat. Or oxygen is really water, and you promptly start drowning. Or the stars in the sky are just twinkling lights on a big blanket, and there is no such thing as a universe. Something you believe with your whole soul, is not so.

Don't misunderstand me. This is not a judgement on my parents. I don't know the extent of the situation, and I don't want them to feel I'm mad. It's just that my whole world has been crushed to pieces. My foundational belief on the institution of temple marriage, for our family... crumbled away.

The scariest thing is: if this can happen to MY parents, it can happen to ANYBODY!

Even me.

This puts a huge resolve in me, to put in the extra effort in my marriage, where I might have slacked off.

To REALLY follow the prophet's counsel.

To make sure I say "I love you" as often as I can.

To do the little things I know makes Joe happy.

To better myself, so I can be a better wife and mother.

Maybe I can make my earth round again. Expand my universe. Give myself oxygen.

I HAVE to.

For MY sake.

Friday, April 2, 2010

How I do it

How do I keep up with 50+ of my families, friends, and acquaintances blogs? Without wasting my life on the computer? Easy: Google Reader. A problem has arisen though, now that more and more people choose to have a private blog. I can see their reasoning. But still. They can't expect me to check their blog every day, just in case they decide to update, right? (I'm ashamed to say that even my sister's private blog only gets read by me twice a month)

While I was chopping kale in the kitchen for a dutch dish "boerenkool", it came to me. A stroke of genius. Or, at least that's what it seemed like to me. If all those folks with private blogs would just set up a public proxy blog, the updates would still come to my google reader. It would make it easier (and a lot more likely) for me read their blog, and they would retain a larger percentage of their readers. So here's how it would work:

Say my blog is I want to go private. So I set up a new public blog that's very similar say: Then, every time I write a new post on my real blog, I post a link on my feed blog, which links back to my real blog. Sure, it's a little more work, but at least I wouldn't loose 90% of my readership. The readers following that link would still have to log in with permission, so my original blog would remain private. You get your google reader update, and I keep you as a faithful follower.

Now if only blogger came up with an easier way to do this. Like, a way to click a little button while writing a new private post, that will automatically send a feed to google reader.... I'm sure they're working on it. I would think...

Click on my blog links and see this genius idea in action

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