hawaii

You could say that my life changed in Hawaii. I lived on The Big Island for a few months in 2007, living and working on an organic coffee farm. It was there, spending my days working the coffee fields with nothing but my headphones and thoughts to keep me company, my nights reading, knitting, and writing, and my weekends hitching to explore the island that I found myself. I learned to rumba from a 70 something year old man. I learned to surf from the son of the first governor of the state of Hawaii. I woke before the sun every Sunday to swim with the dolphins at a local hidden gem of a beach. I woke up on my 27th birthday in a tent on that beach. I camped in Volcano and ate the best thai food of my life in Hilo. I spent countless hours hand sorting green coffee beans and learned to roast using a drum roaster. I wrote to my future husband from my studio there and never would have imagined that I would later walk the fields with him and our children. 

Last April we were lucky enough to take a trip back there with Stijn's family for his mother's retirement. There really aren't words that could do the beauty of the island justice. In trying to describe it I've always said, "it's like you've never seen color before." I am so very grateful to my in laws for making this trip happen, for giving me the opportunity to share this magical place with my family. 

the birth of arthur lee

"soon it will be time for the baby to become it's own separate person. one cycle is ending and, immediately, another is beginning. what has been called 'labor' is that in-between experience...the fulcrum...that small, short period of time and space between the baby's two worlds." -hypnobirthing

i cannot adequately put into words what an amazing and spiritual experience it was to be present for that fulcrum, the space in between the two worlds of arthur lee. i have labored twice myself and those experiences alone have changed me but it is an experience entirely different to witness a woman birthing.

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i am beyond grateful to my brother and sister in law for allowing me to be present in their most intimate moments to document the birth of their son. it was an honor.

on the farm

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this is the childhood i always dreamed of for my children. weekends spent on my grandparents farm. this weekend was perfect, full of hammock swings, creek exploring, learning to fish, and just play. there's something about the pace at the farm and the freedom my children feel here that makes us all the best version of ourselves.

St. Augustine 2015

we had only just arrived back in cincinnati from hawaii before i decided to make the solo drive down for our annual trip to florida. it was worth it!

laboring and not laboring

we spent labor day weekend on the farm. most of the weekend was spent eating, drinking, and playing. there was a round two volleyball matchup with the local amish (which may be becoming a tradition), eleanor explored a creek for the first time, a second cabin was built, and we released about 40 paper lanterns. there was a moment sunday evening when were were all sitting on the stage off the barn and the amish boys began playing harmonicas and spoons while the girls sang when i wasn't sure if i was awake or dreaming. you could say that it was a good weekend.

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right now

oma and opa

after a two week visit, we said goodbye yesterday, to oma and opa. we had such a wonderful time with them showing all the best of this city. there were lots of forts, lots of pancake and meatball making (from eleanor's pretend kitchen), lots of singing, lots of waiting for the bus (sitting outside watching all the buses go by), and lots of taking care of eleanor's imaginary zoo animals. felix started crawling the first day they were here and mastered eating food. i am so happy that they were able to be a part of these milestones.

when stijn and i decided to be together we knew that it meant one of us would always be far away from family. for the first two years it was me and now it is him. it breaks my heart that we can't all be together all the time but i am so grateful that we have all made travel a priority and are able to be with one another a few times a year.

flights are booked and we are headed to belgium for christmas where there is already the promise of pajama and dance parties and where a new baby will be waiting for us to hold.

thank you oma and opa for a wonderful visit. we love you and will see you soon!

la ferme

my grandfather bought a farm in indiana in the early 70's. on the property surrounded by woods, sits an old farmhouse, two barns, a shed, corn or soy fields, a pond, blackberry bushes, and our tree. i first remember going there with my grandfather as a kid to fish (which i never had the patience for). i can still remember the smell of that old house and of the soap he would use to wash his hands after gutting said fish. since then the farm has been a respite for his two sons and their families, a place we would go for a weekend campout or two. stijn and i exchanged our vows under that tree and my brother and his fiance will do the same next year. i'm pretty sure my cousins spent most of their summers there and perhaps it is the place where we all first drove something with a motor. a decade ago my uncle began holding big campout, family, music festivals, on labor day weekend, called gratisfest. they built a stage off of the barn, a half pipe for the kids, a bar, and lots of other additions. it's been a few years since the festival has officially been held but there is what they now call faux gratis and we are headed there this weekend to relax and enjoy the gift my grandfather has given his family. i'm not sure if he realized all those years ago how much that land would hold and mean to us but i am so grateful that we now live close enough that my children can enjoy it and create their own memories there.

here are some photos from a weekend there last month.

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hootenanny

us, sweaty

remember that weekend in july, the one where it was surface of the sun hot? where most people with a brain stayed inside in the comfort of their air conditioning or at least were within inches of a large amount of water? yeah, we spent it camping on a farm in indiana with our closest family and friends, celebrating our marriage. nothing like 100 degree temperatures to bond you to those that chose to suffer by your side.

here we are in january when it is the opposite of hot and the secret little being that was growing inside me making that heat all the more fun is now not much of a secret and almost ready to join our family. and i am just now getting to go through the 1000 images we have from our big hootenanny.

i can't help but laugh as i think of how unbearably hot it was and we have the pictures to prove it... here is a peek at that day.

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thanks to everyone who came and sweat with us. thank you to our family that traveled from around the world to be there. it was truly an unforgettable weekend and we are so glad that you were there to share in it with us.

all photos taken by lovely and talented tiffany dawn
there are far too many to post so view more here

christmas

put a bird on it
brown paper packages tied up with string
santa's helper

we had the perfect christmas!
we woke up christmas morning and celebrated with just our little family
before my brothers and my parents joined us for a day of food, presents,
movies, booze, more food, and all day pajama wearing.

more photos here

christmas traditions: tree hunting

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there are few questions as important in determining compatibility as, "fake tree or live tree." you may think i'm joking but i assure you that this is no laughing matter. in fact, i can recall at least one year in a previous relationship where this incredibly important decision was met with serious contention. i was relieved to discover that stijn and i were on the same side and therefore would not be finding ourselves having serious conversations and debates on the subject, the implications of which cannot be foreseen. thankfully we agree that a live tree is the way to go.

my commitment to live trees is rooted in a long standing strasser family tradition, hunting for that perfect tree at big tree plantation. for as long as i can remember, the weekend after thanksgiving we have made the pilgrimage to morrow, taken the carriage out to the fields, picked out a tree and cut it down, and then sipped hot chocolate while our tree was packed up for us. some things have changed over the years. we each buy our own tree now that we live in separate homes and we no longer listen to the chipmunks christmas album in the car on the way home but the tradition is just as cherished.

last year we were living in switzerland and couldn't very well fit a tree in our luggage so we went along for the ride and the nostalgia. this year we have travel plans to europe planned in the beginning of december followed immediately by christmas in cincinnati and so sadly it once again doesn't make sense for us to have a tree but that didn't stop us from joining the family as they all picked out their trees this weekend.

christmas tree hunting

christmas tree hunting

hopefully sometime soon we can have our own live tree and continue this tradition for our children.

more christmas traditions here and here

ANNIVERSARY

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart) 
i am never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear; 
and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling) 

i fear 
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet) 
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true) 
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant 
and whatever a sun will always sing is you 

here is the deepest secret nobody knows 
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; 
which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) 

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart 
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart) 

-e.e. cummings 


one year ago.

weekend bits

our weekend was spent entirely working on the house. more specifically, on the kitchen. stijn and my dad tore out the existing kitchen, took down a wall, took down the drywall and plaster covering a brick wall, took out part of the floor, re-routed heating and electric, and began rebuilding the floor and walls. i spent the weekend painting, unloading the truck, removing wallpaper, entertaining eleanor, and getting coffee and food. i am so impressed by those two men of mine and so excited to see the kitchen transforming into what is sure to be my favorite room. watching my husband and my father work so well together was almost as pleasurable as seeing the room take shape.
as i moved boxes from the truck into the house i realized many of them haven't been opened in years, a side effect of years of feeling like at any point the rug could be pulled out from underneath me. i was once again overcome with the excitement of having a home and knowing that my things can come out of their boxes and that they won't be going anywhere again for a very long time. this weekend i felt a sense of security i haven't felt in a long time. i'm safe here, i can invest myself here because we, my little family, are creating this life here together. thanks again to my dad and to stijn for working their rears off this weekend. you guys are amazing!

were back

our little family of swimmers

we are back from a week's vacation in st. augustine, florida! it was such a lovely week spent with my parents and my grandparents. we spent everyday at the beach trying to keep eleanor from eating the sand, we swam in the pool and e loved it, i got to read a book!, we ate some delicious food, visited with my grandparents, and walked through the streets of old st. augustine. it was so relaxing and a lovely getaway before we dive head first into home renovation.

lots of photos on flickr.

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my parents came to visit/help out at the house this weekend. we still have not closed and do not yet have possession but the city of holland will pick up any yard waste if you push it out into the street up until today. knowing that we had a lot of yard work to do and having planned visits around our original close date we got permission from the seller to enter the house and get some work done. we managed to take out some rather large bushes covering our driveway and walkway, tore the ivy down off the side of the house, and did some general clean up. the house looks so much better already! while going through the shed in the backyard stijn and my dad uncovered a metal letter "e". i think it's a sign that the house is for us. my parents have taken on some pretty big home renovation projects in their time and so it was so nice to have them walk through the house and help us to assess. i still find it overwhelming but i'm trying to be ok with it being a process and knowing that it will take some time.

home is where...

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house buying is stressful! truth be told stijn and i have been through the ringer throughout this process. because stijn is a foreigner, and therefore has no credit score here, the process of securing a loan has proven to be quite difficult. unfortunately, because i am not currently working and therefore have no steady income, my credit does not count. we understood that this was going to be the case and were prepared to have to jump through more hoops in order to purchase a home but we had no idea that it would be this frustratingly disorganized. the bank and underwriter seem to be flying blind, not able to anticipate what is needed, and therefore asking for the same document 10 times. you may recall that this is nothing new for us. we are well versed in difficulties with communication. (see story of our marriage) it just feels like we are wasting time and as our close date draws nearer it becomes painstakingly clear that we are not going to make this deadline.

in an effort to remain positive and to keep my level of enthusiasm high i now engage in daily drive-by's of our house. yesterday on our way to dinner while stijn was venting about a telephone conversation he had just had with the loan officer my car steered itself in the direction of that historic brick home with it's trees blossoming and it's tulips opening. just a reminder that it is all going to be worth it.

this house means more to me than i thought it would. i have realized that i have not had a home in years. the last time i felt at home was early in 2007, in my loft in over the rhine. in the spring of that year i packed everything and moved to hawaii to work on a coffee farm. when i came back and moved into my partner at the time's home i never unpacked. i never fully moved in. there just didn't seem to be room for me there. when that relationship ended i moved into a house once owned by my great grandparents. i had big plans for that little house but my reconnection with stijn and all the travel that went with a very long distance relationship kept me from fully committing to a home there. soon i was moving again, this time overseas, and again into someone else's home. stijn and i tried to make that apartment ours but knowing that it was only temporary made it hard to want to invest and settle. i do not see home as a place that houses possessions and i know that home is where we are and can be anywhere we make it but there are a few things that always make me feel like a place is mine, the most important of which, is my books. i am a book hoarder. i'm not a borrower of books nor a lender because my personal library is one of the things that i take great pride in. i love seeing all the stories that have marked my life lined up on a shelf. i love occasionally looking through them and remembering where i was when i was engulfed in a particular book. reading has always been a big part of my life and i wish for it to be the same for my children. i look forward to the day when eleanor looks through her parents book collection and picks one up to read. my books have been packed away in boxes for 5 years and soon they will be freed from their cardboard cages and lovingly placed on shelves to be admired and remembered again.

these are the thoughts i cling to as we struggle through the administrative process of home buying. soon we will have a home. a yard for eleanor to roll around in the grass, squirrels for kenya to chase, a porch for us to enjoy coffee on, a kitchen fully stocked with everything for me to test new recipes, bookshelves for us to unpack and arrange our books on... these are the things that keep me going through the difficulties. envisioning our life there in that house on 12th street. and what a beautiful life it is.

discovering the trails

trails

my apologies for being a bit quiet here on the blog this week but i have been out enjoying this beautiful weather we've been having here. 70 degree days have found eleanor, kenya, and i out exploring and enjoying coffee and books in the sunshine. yesterday we went to stu visser trails, part of the macatawa watershed program. as we walked along and i saw colorful birds and turtles and the beginnings of plants reaching out of the ground i thought of how fun it will be to go back when eleanor is a bit older and will notice the things around her. it's amazing how she is already changing the way i see the world.

london 2012

olympics

on stijn's list of things he wants to do before... has been to take his parents to the olympics. this summer is the year that he will do just that. we will be in london in august watching judo, beach volleyball, and soccer. still hoping to see some swimming and to be honest i don't know what judo is but it should be an awesome time.

how rad are these posters created by some british designers for the 2012 games? you can see all the posters here and purchase them here. i think one of these will have to adorn the walls of our new house! which one is your favorite?

weekend bits

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a weekend of firsts here in holland including eleanor's first swing set, our first trip to the dog park, and eleanor's first sled ride (thanks to my dad and his awesome christmas gift). we found out last night that our offer was accepted on a house. we are so excited and while we wait on our house we are already making a home.

more photos here

weekend bits

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Big Red Lighthouse (Holland, MI)

i hope all of you had a lovely weekend. we spent ours exploring our new home, baking mini cakes for our six month old baby, playing at the lake in holland state park, making homemade pizza for pizza night, and just enjoying life as a family. here's to the beginning of another great week!