Thursday, May 26, 2022

In The Thick of It

I rarely have time to make art. Not the painting or drawing type; my art is in my words. At least I try to write here at least once a month, though I have so many ideas and stories I wish to share with you everyday and not enough time to let my fingers type them all out. 

Last month, my mom, brother and brother-in-law were here for a quick visit. It was short and so sweet. We spent some time here cooking (my mom was cooking a storm everyday); then, it was off to the coast in the town of Antibes. There we walked around, had coffees, went to the Picasso museum and a few outdoor markets. It was divine. To be surrounded by people and art and eating out again with others. I felt so alive. 

I got to show my brother-in-law Steven the English bookstore. As the name describes, it’s a bookstore with English books. I stumbled upon an author and book I had heard vaguely about: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I picked it up and actually finished reading it in 2 days. I haven’t read a book in its entirety in sooooo long. It felt so good and the ideas in that book inspired me in a way I really needed. I really believe that books find us when we need them most and when we are meant to find them. 

That book and the podcast Homemaker Chic as well as other books which have found their way to me have inspired me to make my life art. Simply in the way I care for my children, my husband, my chickens, my home, my plants, my garden; in the food I make. 

I try to make my art here, at least once a month because, eventhough I don’t have much time to indulge in writing, I feel it so crucial to my well-being. Since my family was here, I missed Anthéor’s 4th month post and then it took me nearly 2 weeks to collect enough eggs from my chickens and to find just the right afternoon with both bairns asleep to dye these eggs from natural materials for the 5th month photoshoot. And then, to plan for the right moment to take these photos also took time. But, that hour or so of time playing in the kitchen with nettle leaves, curcuma, hibiscus, beet juice, coffee, seeing how the eggs changed colors, it felt so exciting to me. I love that stuff. I love co-creating with nature. It gives me such pleasure and joy. I am always astounded by what we can create together. 


Instead of posting right after I took the photos, life swept me up again and I was extremely busy in the garden, a happy busy but I barely had time for anything else, so Anthéor’s 5th blog post was on hold. And now, my Father has been with us which has been so fun and we’ve been wildcrafting together, collecting nettles and elderflowers which are at the glorious height of their bloom. I want to make sirop de sureau this year with the elderflowers. I missed the last two years having been pregnant, but it was nice to harvest with my Dad, Roua and Anthéor. I'm going to make my syrup after I post this! 

Of course, I’ll post this now and in 2 days Anthéor will be 6 months old! But well, better late than never, and you know what, the value is all in the process of creating something, rather than the actual product. I could have given up on this little egg dyeing project and came up with a million excuses about not having enough time, but I choose to keep making art and creating even as a mother, even as a beekeeper’s wife, even as a homemaker. I am all those things, yes, but I am also a creator. So, I must keep on creating, keep the creating fire burning. 

What if we made each moment in our lives artful? I may not be able to capture each moment on camera or in a savvy instagram post, but those things are less and less important to me. These days, I’m all about just being present and really taking in the moment, just enjoying it for what it is.

My art is not just confined to a word document. It can be made in all the ways I create my life and in the type of life I want to create, one brimming with beauty and abundance.  

It takes honesty, time, observation, patience, compassion, forgiveness, hard create art, to create that artful life we wish to lead. As humans we are creative creatures, it’s in our nature to make things. But, as Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us in her book, it also takes light-heartedness and not being so serious about it all. It’s all important and it’s all not so important at the same time. It’s also good to just be a good enough Mom and not a super Mom. This concept is liberating. 

Since finishing this book, I’m looking through life with a new mindset. Somehow this book and the podcast and my garden and spring weather has filled me with new energy and positive spirits. There is so much to do. We are here for a short time. 

This new lens of just getting up and showing up everyday with the right intentions in my heart and doing my best, not only surrendering to the triumphs and woes of Motherhood and Homemaking but embracing it and learning and growing along the way with my children and the garden. What a gift. 

How liberating it is to accept good enough. At least I vacuumed and mopped the floors and maybe I missed a few corners or didn’t get through the whole house or only started folding half the laundry because something else came up, but at least we start something, try something and keep showing up to the work. I’ve been doing little bit of cleaning each day, practicing cultivating those good habits of wiping down tables after each meal etc. those little things that add up throughout the day. And when they are done, I feel so much better, the house feels better, everyone is in a better mood and I can be a good example for Roua and Anthéor. 

I used to be an all or nothing kind of girl. I’ll do it perfectly right or not at all. I’ll clean every corner of the house or not at all. I know better now. I’ll do what I can based on how I feel and how the family feels. Perfect is not the place we grow in. Doing and making messes and being curious and playing and having fun...making mistakes, being imperfect...that’s where we grow in. My curious daughter teaches me this everyday. She shows up to life everyday, curious, undaunted, playful and observant with a joyful heart. I want to have fun like her. I want to have fun with her and Anthéor and Jorris. We get to lead life on such a beautiful canvas, near nature, with some land to tend to and chickens and bees to care for, a place to call home and friends hang out with sometimes. So why not use every ounce of energy to create something beautiful. 

I want to make something as mundane as hanging laundry to dry and folding it an art. I want to create amazing food from nature with my family and friends and for my family and friends. I want to have fun doing it. 

This new thinking has given me courage when I need it most. With Jorris working a lot now that the new bee season well underway, I am managing the fort and kiddos solo often. And, taking care of a toddler and infant all day and night is hard work. But I love it even so. Even though it breaks my back and every corner of my body is aching some days, even though I cry and laugh and yell and say sorry and do it all again the next day, those pockets of beauty and moments of simple pleasure make it so worth it. And for those pockets of anguish and despair that can roll through like a tropical rainstorm, well, they are worth it for that bright sunshine and blue sky afterwards. 


I hope you’re feeling the positive energy of Spring too and that it inspires you to create something fun and beautiful. 

Monday, February 28, 2022

Gratitude and Love

Today the mimosas are in bloom as we celebrate our Anthéor’s 3 month birthday.  Spring is really just around the corner. I love it when Jorris comes home with a magnificent bouquet of mimosas from our apiaries on the coast. It reminds me that even while he is really busy, he thinks about me and cuts a bouquet of fresh flowers. Turns out, when dried, they also make great number threes for your baby’s 3-month photoshoot.

The delicate fragrance of the mimosas and their bright yellow ball-shaped flowers make me happy, like the way sunflowers do, except in a more subtle way. The bees also adore them and are currently working on them. Looks like the season will start early this year, with these warm sunny days and mild winter weather we’ve been having. We’ve been so lucky to eat outside in the garden during most the month of January and up until now!

Anthéor is still his smiley self. His cheeks are fuller and now he laughs out loud when you joke with him and give him kisses, or if you gently raise him up and down. He makes less baby dinosaur sounds, more cooing baby sounds, although he still has that dinosaur hand, as you can see. When he gets excited about something, he flails his arms like a baby bird trying to take flight. It’s the cutest thing. He still loves to tell you stories of another life, always with a smile. He enjoys when you sing to him and is always searching for something new to be stimulated by because he gets bored easily.

We’re still going strong with breastfeeding. He loves him some boobie, maybe that explains the cheeks and his long length. His legs hang longer now from the baby carrier, reaching my mid-thigh. His eyes are still light, grayish, hopefully turning green? I love the way he looks at me like I’m all that matters to him in this world. I still love how he holds onto my finger or shirt while he feeds. I love stroking his head gently and caressing his soft feather-like hair. He’s very patient like when I was walking his sister in the stroller and she fell asleep as he woke up and wanted to eat. We were close to home so I asked him to please wait and not cry otherwise his sister would wake up. He did just that and waited.

It’s easy to lose hope and fall into despair with the way the world is these days. At the same time, there is so much to be grateful for and to celebrate, such as our son’s 3rd month birthday. I look into his eyes and my daugther's everyday and they give me such hope and deep purpose. Still, I send love and light to all the children and people of the world suffering.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Let There Be Light

A few weeks ago Oma, Roua, Anthéor and I left our warm comfy home for a day out in the city. It was mine and Anthéor’s first real outing since he was born 5 weeks ago. The weather was kind with sunshine and made our 1.5 hour drive to the outskirts of Nice possible and enjoyable. On the way there, we made one stop so that I could nurse Anthéor. Other than that, he was a super baby and didn’t cry. Then we arrived to our favorite sandwich shop. I got petit pain au chocolates for Oma, a croissaint for Roua and the garlic baguette, her favorite. And a café eclaireand sandwich au poulet sandwich for myself. 

Of course we can’t forget the cappucino for Oma and san pe for myself. We were set for food and snacks throughout the day. 

The first line of business was our grocery shopping at our favorite organic shop where we also happen to be the vendors of their honey. We know almost everyone in there, not by name, but by face. And so, we were greeted with big smiles and many congratulations for Anthéor. Nearly all the employees said, “I saw the card!” We had also sent them a baby announcement card. The manager even called me over to the office to see where they had hung it. Right in the middle pole of the office and high above. It was touching. 

Next stop was the Action store where Oma got many art supplies and fun things for Roua and her friends. I found some decent looking bowls and noticed we were short of bowls at home so grabbed those. I am happy for taking action about something that bothers me rather than complaining. I had once heard somewhere that if we have to complain about something, we have time to fix it, so I decided to fix our lack of bowls instead of getting annoyed each time I would have to grab one out of the dish washer to wash or reach for one in the cupboard to find none. Our little home life has been happy ever since and everyone has complimented and appreciated the bowls. It’s the little things in life. I had also purchased a floor steamer cleaning machine. Now I am more motivated to clean our home with this tool because the wet rag and feet method were just getting too hard with two little ones. I need something quick and easy and so far this machine proves to be just that. 

Next stop was this home store where I was in search for a new stainless steel pot. I was looking for just a simple pot for soups, pastas, and big enough also for the occasional whole chicken. The one we had was a hand me down by oma and it had served it’s time and purpose. The handle kept breaking off. Talk about a big red danger alert to my mom eyes. There was an accident waiting to happen. I just had a vision of hot boiling water and then a handle breaks and little babes on the ground! Just typing that thought gives me goosebumps! So, it was out with the pot and in with a new one. I am all for trying to fix things first. We had already fixed this handle once. I wasn’t going to wait for an accident. So, with Anthéor in the baby carrier, I walked into the shop and found the pot. It’s been serving us so well, and I have a peace of mind in the kitchen. This is another instance of me taking action instead of complaining. It’s my kitchen and I know what I need. I don’t need approval from anyone. And of course, just as I suspected, the family appreciates the new pot too. 

My new mindset these days has been, “I get to do...” instead of  “I have to do...”. This was inspired by this podcast I listen to called Homemaker Chic, which is awesome and so inspiring. In one of the episodes, Shaye talks about how being a homemaker and mother is so much work, but we are so lucky that we get to do what we do. When we step back from it all and really see the gifts we have, we are so fortunate. We get to tend to our babes and home. We get to have a warm home to live in and take care of. That is such a gift that we get to participate in. And she is so right. I get to stay home and take care of my babes and my home and garden. There are so many artful things to be done, so much learning that can take place by my children and myself and my husband. It’s a unique role to play, this homemaker. And, it’s one of the most important, if not the most important role of my life. 

Truthfully, some moments of the day are so hard to get through and I feel like tossing up my arms and giving up. Raising two babies under two years old is hard. Luckily, my children don’t ask for much, and Roua has quite an independent nature. She already can put on her boots! Backwards sometimes, but still, this helps so much when we are trying to just get out the door. I feel like a ping pong ball most of the day. Meeting the needs of one child and then running to the next. Changing one diaper and then the other. Chasing Roua to get her jacket on with Anthéor in one hand and my cold cup of coffee in the other hand. 

But, I am not alone. Thankfully, I have a community of support. I have my husband, Gaëlle and Laurent, our friends and workers, whom the amazing government pays for as my maternity leave help for a few months. And for three months, I had my belle-mere (mother-in-law), Roua and Anthéor’s Oma. France is so awesome with social services. Both Gaëlle and Laurent have been helping prepare us for the next bee season as well as push Roua in her stroller or hang out with her as I prepare food, or sometimes they help me prepare food as well. Roua loves seeing her Tata (auntie in French) and Tonton (uncle in French) too! They play with her and read to her. She has a good connection with them and some afternoons I can just focus on taking in the laundry from the line with Anthéor in the carrier knowing Roua is in safe hands as she’s being pushed in the stroller for an afternoon nap. It really takes a village, after all! 

Through it all, I am being kind to myself, accepting that I can’t do it all and instead aiming to accomplish just one thing a day. For instance, if the floors need to be mopped, that will be my task for the day. And, if I finish that, I can move onto the next two things (usually I have a list of 3 things I wish to accomplish). But I try not to overwhelm myself, so just focus on the one thing. I am also being kind to and flexible with my family as well. Some days, if the children really need me and extra cuddles for whatever reason, well then, the floor can wait and that’s ok. 

I also aim to enjoy moments throughout the day, finding pockets of peace with little rituals like having a coffee in the sunshine outside in the chair by the chickens, watching something fun on Fridays while the babes nap, watering my houseplants on the weekends, teas throughout the day with supportive happy herbs, yoga and meditation whenever I can and in different forms of it (the other day just appreciating the smell of the mimosa bouquet that my husband brought home for me and the sandalwood candle that I had lit while nursing Anthéor was so relaxing and meditative). 

 It all comes down to intention and choice. Our minds are powerful. 

With the day winding down and a soft pink sunset setting in, we decided to make one more stop at another home store. I needed to nurse Anthéor anyway, and so while I nursed in the parking lot, Oma ran in to search for batteries for the Christmas light garland that she had created on our bookshelf where we hung all the holiday and baby cards we received from friends and family. As simple as it may sound, these were odd battery sizes so we couldn’t find them at the other stores. Laurent had even brought some earlier in the week but they were the wrong size. I had almost given up on this, thinking well, Xmas is over so why bother. But at the back of my heart, I thought how cheery it would be to have those lights work. We still have a long winter to go after all. 

I took a moment to admire the gorgeous sunset while nursing. Soon enough, Oma came back with a jubilant triumphant smile and batteries in her hands. We drove the 1.5 hour road home with happy hearts. And when we got home and put the batteries in, voila there was light! With a little perseverance, we now have a little bit more cheer. 

My post-partum experience this time around was hard. With Roua, we had just one baby to care for, but now, we have two. Gratefully, I had the help of Oma, but mentally, I found myself in some dark places during the first month. This time around I was really missing my parents being here. That’s one of the difficulties about living abroad, you’re so far away from family. I missed my Mom’s warm and nourishing Vietnamese foods and felt a bit upset that she couldn’t come, if only for a few weeks. I felt that once again for the second time she couldn’t be here.

The combination of changing hormones and my tender, healing body added to this feeling of blueness. But, something inside me clicked and I decided not to go down that path of depression, so familiar to me. This isn’t always possible. With depression there are hormone imbalances involved and so much more, so I am not at all saying that one can just choose to be happy and not depressed. It’s not always that simple, and I have been there where I couldn’t choose and had to go through that dark path, but that’s a story for another time perhaps. In this instance though, somehow I was able to choose. Instead of being upset at what things were not (my parents not being here, none of my mom’s food); I chose to be grateful for all the support and willing helping hands I did have right before my eyes (Oma, Jorris, Gaëlle and Laurent). We have our own little unique and beautiful community here, in the middle of no where, and that is something to truly be grateful for and to celebrate. It’s not what I pictured, but still it’s wonderful and I got nearly 30 days of postpartum rest with everyone’s help, especially my beautiful belle-mere. 

There are seasons in our lives where we have to be our own light, where we have to choose to move forward, stepping one foot in front of the other as best we can. There are times where the light of those caring friends and family can be of support and warmth. We can take that and should take that generous offer with gratitude. I was proud that Oma and I didn’t give up on the light garland. For me, it was a symbol of my own choice to choose light over darkness.


Friday, January 28, 2022

Our Little Dinosaur

Our little dinosaur is 2 months old today! We call him our little baby dinosaur because he makes little baby dinosaur sounds. If you could hear it, you would know exactly what I’m talking about. And, if you’re thinking “well, Tiff, how do you know what a baby dinosaur sounds like?” as my husband and belle mere (mother-in-law) questioned, just trust me, I know. 

It just so happens that from thousands of miles away on the other side of the world, my dear cousin Connie and Auntie Barbara knew about our son’s dinosaur ways and sent us dinosaur onesies and even a plush dinosaur teddy! Coincidence? I think not. Family just knows and we are just connected that way. 

It’s amazing how much this little guy has changed in just 2 months. Physically, his eyes are darker, not the light blue when he was just born, but they are still light! They are grayish, and I’m hoping they become green like his Papa’s. I love brushing my nose against his soft hair which reminds me of a birds feathers. He’s about 5kg or 11 pounds now! He was 6 pounds and 10 oz at birth. He’s gained 5 pounds in 2 months! Considering how much he loves to breastfeed and how often, I am not surprised. Luckily for me, this means I am moving in the opposite end of the spectrum and losing some of that pregnancy weight (which there’s nothing wrong with by the way!). I could probably do a post about body image and changes later. For now though, I’m just feeling good getting back to some form of Tiffanie I knew. 

Anthéor likes to stand already. He presses his little feet on your thighs and tenses up his legs when you hold him up as you sit. He’s like how Roua was. I suspect he’ll also roll over early. And when you hold him, sometimes he likes to push his legs strongly on your forearm to get his belly right where it feels good to him on your shoulder. He makes these sort of grunting effort sounds at the same time. 

What I love most about Anthéor is how much he smiles. He’s very smiley. His is the kind of smile that melts your heart and makes you teary. Even his eyes smile wide. When you talk to him he smiles and he loves to tell you stories (these stories sounds are different from the dinosaur ones). I love his kind eyes and zen nature. He rarely cries. 

We have a two minute poop rule with him. This means to wait at least two minutes before attempting to change him because most likely, there’s more coming. Experience gives you wisdom.

 He just loves to be near you and is very determined to get there. Sometimes when he is in his co-sleeper (crib connected next to the bed), I’ll turn around and see that he’s inched his way somehow closer to the bed. There’s those little grunting sounds too, along with his efforts to wiggle closer to your warmth. I’m quite surprised by how much “ground” he actually covers so even though he cannot roll over yet, I hesitate to put him down close to any edge of a bed, sofa, table, etc. He just loves to feel your warmth and cuddle and I love that about him. 

As I look down at Anthéor’s face this week, my swaddled ball of warmth and love, I’ve noticed in wonder just how big everything looks from when I had first laid eyes on his tiny squishy face. His ears look bigger, his cheeks more plump and eyes wider, and his little hand looks so much bigger as it grasps my finger while we breastfeed (love when he does this). I kept thinking to myself how much of a “big” boy he’s looking. When I take a pause from the chaos of life in the rocking chair with Anthéor to actually see him in his evolution and listen to his little snore, it is just astounding. Life is just miraculous. So grateful for two months with you my love. I love you so much. Cheers and joyeux moinniversaire (happy month birthday)!!

Friday, December 31, 2021

"Le choix du Roi"

They have a saying here in France, when you have a boy and a girl, “Le choix du roi,” the choice of a king. During the middle ages, a King needed a son to pass on the crown and a daughter to extend the lands and power of the kingdom through marriage. Therefore, to have both a son and daughter was ideal. As a peasant, I am honored to have been gifted the choice kings. We are so rich, for a healthy baby. He was born one month ago, in a pool of water at my mid-wife's home, with the help of his father who caught him. His arrival onto earth was magical. 

His gender was a surprise, we had wanted it that way; but I knew all along he was him. His name is Anthéor. We named him after a pristine place on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea near where we have some of our apiaries over winter. Jorris and I have fond memories of this wondrous place where earlier in our relationship as young wwoofers we’d spend weekends working on the apiaries of our wwoof host Philippe and camped in the J9 (camping car) with a most spectacular view of the sea. Now we have our own hives there and hope to share these memories, which happened what feels like so many moons ago, with our son Anthéor one day.  

We love the way the name sounds too, like a strong knight, courageous and honorable. So far, Anthéor lives up to the strength implied by his name. He kicks his legs and pushes himself on our arms to get up over our shoulders in the position he likes while making a squirmy-cute determined sound. Sometimes, he even stands on our thighs when we hold him upwards. He doesn’t cry very much, only when he is very hungry or wet and cold. He has a calm and sweet spirit. He smiles a lot and often. They tell me the smiles are just tics and he doesn’t know yet why he does them, but I disagree. My son smiles because he is just a happy baby. 

It’s that smile that rekindles my own spirit, one easily bogged down by the combination of sleep-deprivation and the everyday to-dos of caring for another little one and household. Thankfully, Roua, who is one and a half years old, is a great big sister. She adores her brother, caresses him gently and brings him his blanket. She has moments of being clingy towards me, mostly before bedtime, but other than that, she hasn’t shown much signs of jealousy. Watching her interact with him is the most joyful thing to witness.

Anthéor lives up to the chivalrous nature a knight’s name as well, having waited for Mom to celebrate her birthday and have a Thanksgiving meal the next day before coming. I’m sure that nourishing meal shared in fellowship powered me up for birthing him. I had contractions during my birthday Friday, while vintage shopping with the family, and then throughout dinner and movie that night with Jorris, into Thanksgiving lunch the next day Saturday, then the real work began and early the next morning on Sunday he was born. My Mom tells me that I too waited for her to have a last giant Thanksgiving meal at my grandma’s house before I came. 

I wonder if babies are just as nervous and excited as we are when they are about to be born. I imagine so. Imagine diving into a completely unknown world! If my theory is correct, Anthéor is courageous because towards the end few hours of labor, Jorris and I felt him kicking and wiggling about inside, like he was also working to find his way out, brave and ready to see the world that awaited him. I felt like he helped me in a way. 

As we come near to the end of another year, I am feeling reflective. November alone offered us so many opportunities to celebrate. The birth of our son Anthéor, my 33rd birthday, the 9th anniversary of this blog, a Thanksgiving meal of our dreams with my American bestie from New York Hilary and her family...the last date night for Jorris and I, at least for the next few years. 

I’m not one for resolutions, but if I have one wish for the new year; it’s to remember how rich we are even in the most challenging moments of parenting when it can be so damn hard to see the kingdom we get to live in, with nature, the bees, a garden, people to call family and friends. I wish to continue cultivating that loving-kindness and patience towards myself and my family, everyday. I wish to be present and remember to enjoy my babies and my husband and garden and home even if there is a pile of dirty laundry on the floor and last night’s dinner dishes in the sink. I wish to choose not to let those little things bother me. It’s ok. There will always be dirty laundry and dishes, but my babies will be babies only for a short time. I want to look back on these baby years when they are 20 and remember us having fun with them rather than complaining about not sleeping enough or eating cold food, or not showering or not having time to do those other things etc. Because I know that by then, I’ll be wishing they were little again so I could hold them as I did when they were babies. So, here’s to savoring these moments gone by too fast. Santé to you and yours. Happy New Year. Thank you for being here, always. 


Saturday, September 25, 2021

A New Season Awaits

There’s nothing more humbling than a warm bowl of homemade butternut squash soup and some crusty sourdough bread. Oh wait, there is! If that butternut squash came from your garden and the sourdough bread is from your own starter. I had this such experience the other night with my Roua baby; well, I suppose she is technically a toddler now?!??? But, in any case, I still love calling her my Roua baby. 

Papa was away working with the bees in the Lavender fields. Sometimes, like that night, he camps over so he can get work done over two days, checking on our other daughters and their Mamas and the brood babies. So, it was just Roua and I, like many times over the summer actually, just the two of us, well, technically, it was the three of us. 

Yes, three! Roua and I and baby in my belly enjoyed our first butternut squash soup of the season. I am 29 weeks pregnant, just into the beginning of my 3rd trimester. Baby was just as happy with the soup I suppose, as I felt little kicks, between sips of smooth soup (thanks to my new blender toy Jorris gifted us as a 3rd wedding anniversary present) and bites of toasted seeded-sourdough bread slathered with butter. I’ve been experimenting with adding seeds again to my breads and this particular combination of pumpkin, flax and poppy seeds is especially wholesome and fragrantly delicious. I think it’s mostly the pumpkin seeds being toasted that add such flavor. Roua mimicked me as I dunked my bread into the soup before a bite. Of course we saved a bowl for Papa. 

The earth has been good to us and offered a beautiful bounty of pumpkins and butternut, corn, tomatoes, courgette, zinnias, cosmos and favorite were the success of the sunflowers this year (thanks Sophie!). It was a small garden. We kept it simple; mostly because I could only do so much with my growing belly and a toddler to care for, but we enjoyed so much of our garden and thank her for all the food and lessons she has provided us. 


The sunflowers, who I had transplanted as baby plants which I got from my friend Sophie, struggled in the beginning, but my oh my have they established themselves and bloomed in such glory. They have been my greatest teacher this summer. I had planted them around June and patiently waited until September, watering and caring for them until they got tall and I could see little yellow petals peeking out of the green bud. I remained patient. Some moments I felt they would never bloom, but deep down I knew better. Mother Nature knows better. Then, the first bloom appeared on a day when I was having a hard time. I didn’t expect it at all and just happened to wander into the garden and the moment I saw that sunflower just magically like that, bright and yellow, I was reminded to cheer up and stay hopeful, that there is always beauty brewing and bountiful, we just have to be patient and believe. 


Despite the small size of our garden, I had never planted and gardened with such intention and thoughtfulness into where and what I planted. It was a giant milestone of an experience, a maturation as a gardener, I suppose. I envisioned how the white cosmos would grow in community next to the zinnias and why I wanted to plant it where I did, sort of at the entrance of the garden as to be inviting. And it turned out to be just that and this one plant of white zinnias has taken off and added such beauty to our land. Their purity and positive energy make me happy each time I enter the garden, and Roua adores them too, as she does all flowers and the butterflies who visit them. And of course, the garden plans herself as well and Mother Nature crafts gorgeous pockets of flowers and vegetables that I could have never imagined on my own. 

We also got chickens this summer! They have been such a delight. We have four for now and they are well-behaved and gift us their most delicious eggs for omelets, mayo, red fried rice, and pancakes, just to name a few delicious things we make with them. We got them from our neighbors Lolita and Dorian. They were their favorites but they didn’t want to mix them with the other new flock, so after careful consideration, offered us to be their new family and we gratefully accepted. The chicken house mansion, which my beau pere (father-in-law) built last year, is now put to use! We now have a chicken house with chickens! I love watching Roua interact with them. She helps me feed them food scraps and is about their size so it’s adorable to watch her waddle around and try to pet them. 

This week actually she has been successful at gently caressing one of the brown ones and the chicken stopped moving and spread her wings and Roua petted her so sweetly with her fingers spread wide and palm stroking the soft feathers. She managed to do it again another day and that time, laid her head gently on the chicken’s body. It was the sweetest thing to witness, my baby being so kind and sweet to another being. I had a proud parent moment. 

The bees have been good to us this season. They have made a lot of honey and we are so thankful. It’s been an intense period of juggling work and family life and couple life; but it’s September, fall is approaching and life is slowing down a bit so we can spend more time together. 

Still some preparations before baby arrives, and hopefully a little family holiday before then. I can’t wait to see Roua as a big sister. She’ll be amazing. She already blows baby raspberry kisses on my belly and gently pets my belly when she notices it. It’ll be so tender to see Jorris as Papa to a newborn again and for us to have a cozy winter together, nestled by our woodstove with homemade crusty sourdough bread and soup. Until then, I can patiently wait and savor this pregnancy, especially each little kick and wiggle I feel inside this abundantly amazing belly and body I am so honored to embody.

Cheers to you, thank you for being here, and may a new fall season invite you too to slow down and enjoy your family!


Sunday, July 11, 2021

Happy 1st Birthday, Roua!

Last weekend we celebrated our Roua baby’s 1st birthday! It was a beautiful day, joyous and heartwarming. All our friends were content and happy, as were we and Roua seemed to be as well. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, perfect summer weather for a garden sourdough pizza party! 

I ended up making 8 pizzas, just as I had planned! Go Penny! I had fed Penny a few days before, mixed the dough and then just started cranking out pizzas on the morning of Roua’s bday. It worked out really well with the timing, and with a few friends coming later, I was able to take a break and enjoy the party, making the last two pizzas in the evening. 

I had made a few chanterelle pizzas with creme fraiche and chives from the garden. The chanterelles we had harvested a few autumns ago in the mountains across from our house. I had rehydrated them and they were just as delicious. The other pizzas varied, margarita with just tomato sauce and basil from my potted basil, then a veggie pizza with summer veggies of courgette (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), onions and garlic, always garlic, can’t forget the garlic! They were topped with parmesan cheese and mozzarella and emmentel cheeses. One pizza had just onions and garlic and parmesan,  and it was delicious too. Overall, I received good compliments about the pizzas, mostly at how tasty the dough was. Thank you Penny! Roua thoroughly enjoyed her slices of pizzas too! 

Celebrating Roua brought friends from near and far. Our neighbors down by the bridge who also have a little baby were not able to join since they had another party to attend, but Dorian made an appearance and gifted Roua a drawing he had made of her the other day when she was over playing at their house. It was a beautiful piece of art and on the back, Lolita had written the sweetest messsage for Roua. Jorris' and my heart melted. Dorian stayed for a drink and then had to run, but his presence and their present for Roua was so touching. 

From far our friends from Digne came. Lise, Roua’s American bestie and her mama, Hilary, my American bestie and Papa Franck came. Lise had also just turned 1 two days before Roua! We were in the same birth preparation class with the same midwife. It’s been so wonderful and healing to have an American bestie like Hilary to write to and talk with, sharing in the experiences of Motherhood together. I am so grateful the Universe brought us together. 

After a delicious lunch including various salads from our guests, it was time for cake. I had made strawberry cake with lemon curd and vanilla buttercream frosting. Although we had a good strawberry harvest this year, more on that later, there wasn’t enough for the cake. But I had happened to see Lolita the day before explaining my predicament casually, thinking I would just stick with lemon curd, and she offered her garden strawberries which are an incredibly fragrant and sweet variety, mara de bois, the essence of strawberry-ness. I am so grateful for the community we live in. 

Of course, it was just like me to have never made a layered cake before and just make 2.5 on the first try. I stayed up until 2 am the night before the party and quite frankly was running on adrenaline at some point, but I pulled through and am so proud of my cakes! I really wanted to make Roua her own smash cake for her birthday and that goal just stuck with me, so I had to do it, or at least try. I am so happy with how it turned out and it tasted pretty good too. I did every step from scratch. The only thing I did “ahead of time” and only a day before, was make the buttercream. But now I know that you can make all these little steps a few days, sometimes even weeks before if you freeze them! I will take this into consideration the next birthday! 

We sang happy birthday, both in French and English. During the serenade, Roua had her serious face on, the one with the wrinkle between her eyebrows. She got that from her papa. It was so funny. I had made a candle from our beeswax. The wind blew it out. Philippe had sweetly tucked the wick between the rock and sign down at the bridge for me the day before on his way to work. See? Amazing community we live in, right?

At first, Roua was more interested in eating the candle then the cake and it took her some time to warm up, and help to break into, but eventually, she tasted her cake and I think rather enjoyed it. It was so satisfying for me to witness. What was more satisfying was how our friends enjoyed it too. I managed to save a few pieces for those friends who couldn’t make it. And had a sliver with some coffee for myself the next morning. 

Roua opened some sweet presents, played in the kiddie pool with the other kiddos and fell asleep wrapped in a towel in Sylvaine’s arms. Party well done. Then, a sprinkle of rain came, so we went inside and friends began to leave. Dan and Sylvaine stayed for tea and coffee and we got to catch up on each other’s lives, how our trip to the US had been in May, my brother’s wedding, their home improvement projects and summer plans. It was nice just to sit with them. After they went home, we had a few hours just to relax and then the last guests showed up, Philippe and Celine. I fired up the oven again and made the last 2 pizzas. We ended up having a candle-it dinner in the garden. Roua was in bed. 

And Philippe, always with thoughtful poetic gifts, gifted Roua a frame of honey from one of his hives from Roua! This is where Roua is named after actually, this natural place in the mountains where the dirt is red and where back in the day when we had first met, Jorris and I were just two wwoofers helping out Philippe with this hives there. Roua tasted her gift the next day and I’d say she appreciated every drop of the golden liquid on her little fingers. 

Reality turned out better than my visions for her birthday. Just seeing and feeling all the love Roua has all around her from all these truly genuine and caring people made me feel so happy, that she is so loved. And, actually, this was her 3rd party! She actually had 2 while we were in CA and also showered with love from all her cousins and Great Aunties and Uncles. I suppose as a parent, knowing your child is cared for and loved by more than just you is an assuring and easeful feeling.  

It was just what we needed as a family and couple. The bee season has been quite intense this year, honey flow is excellent but that means so much work and only us, so balancing family life with work life has been challenging for Jorris. As for me, watching over Roua most of the time has been challenging too. But the good energy we got from the party set us up into a better place, rekindling our spirits, reminding us of why we chose this life to begin with. Seeing friends and getting together to celebrate our daughter was just what we needed to reset perspective on our life here, to step back from the everyday chaos and just admire for a second the beauty of it all. When I take a moment to step back from the chaos of daily life and routine, and look at Roua, it’s such magic that she exists, that she moves with her own life force, that she smiles and talks and laughs and climbs and has even taken her first few steps. In just one year this sweet little baby I birthed is evolving everyday into her own little person, little but with big personality. 

I suppose it’s our own birthdays also, in a way. Roua’s 1st birthday marks my first year as a Mother and Jorris' as a Father. I take a deep breath to reflect briefly after typing that. What a whirlwind of wondrous and wild experiences, what suffering, what beauty, what growth. Thank you Roua for giving us a chance to celebrate you my love and for one year of magic with you. Mama and Papa love you so much! Happy Birthday, honey!