A few weeks ago I purchased a book called The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. If you don't know it, you can read more about it at juliacameronlive. I've been taking my time to get through the introduction, because let's face it I just don't have time to read more than 3-4 pages a day these days ... But anyway, it's really starting to get good. I don't know how this book avoided my radar screen for 35 years, but I'm glad to have it in my possession now. Basically, the book leads you on a 12-week course, divided into the following chapters: Safety, Identity, Power, Integrity, Possibility, Abundance, Connection, Strength, Compassion, Self-Protection, Autonomy and Faith. Each of these chapters is aimed at discovering and recovering your creative self.

Today I wrote my first 'morning pages'. These are one of the two essential artist's tools that Cameron explains in the introductory chapters. The idea is that you write 3 pages of stream of consciousness every morning. These pages are meant to be stuffed in an envelope and never looked at, read, or evaluated again. Their purpose is to get your silly, negative, critical thoughts (which originate in your logical/left/Censor brain) out (of the way) in order to unblock the creative thoughts which are struggling to make it out of your right/creative brain. Cameron's claim is that you cannot maintain a daily practice of morning pages for an extended period of time without "coming into contact with an unexpected inner power."

This sounds promising. Do you know of our have any thoughts on/experience with this book?

In the yoga class I took last year, we were asked to imagine a drain in the middle of the room, in which we were to direct our negative thoughts, the thoughts that don't belong to us but that need to pass through us. It's so important to recognize what is really part of you, versus what's just passing through, and to be able to focus your energies on the former rather than the latter.

Well I found the morning pages really fun and I ended up writing 7 instead of 3 ... I better reign myself in tomorrow, or I might crash and burn (out). Now seems like as good a moment as any to follow this program and hope it has some added value, at the moment when I need it most (preparing for Surtex 2013, my first trade show ever).

I will keep you posted as to my progress with The Artist's Way here, on the blog.

Today we went to a "Lifestyle Fair" here in Vught (a village just outside 's Hertogenbosch). 's Hertogenbosh (or Den Bosch) is a city of about 100,000 in the south of the Netherlands (about an hour south of Amsterdam). We've lived here for just shy of 4 years now (my how the time flies!) I definitely would have lost consciousness if you told me I'd be living here 10 years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties and living in New York City, but as I tell myself repeatedly, it suits my lifestyle at this stage (i.e with kids). OK, if you happen to be out past 10 pm in Vught you won't see another living soul on the street and may not even see a single light on (in other words, Vught is a bit boring) but it's not like I have much of a night life anymore anyway (other than sitting at my computer cranking out designs ...) My husband once told me that he observed, coming home from a rare night out, that the entire street was black, except for the skylight above my studio ...

When we were looking to buy our first house (which we did approximately 30 days before the market officially crashed here in the Netherlands, but that's beside the point ...) we looked here and in Den Bosch (where my husband works). But I loved how green it was here. My husband grew up in Den Bosch, so Vught (8 km from Den Bosch) was by comparison 'new territory' for him. He was also for it. The great thing about Vught is that we have beautiful lakes and wooded areas that we run, cycle and walk around, but it's also a 10- minute bike ride into the city, where there's shopping and culture to be had. The best of both worlds, then.

This Lifestyle Fair we went to today was at the 'Ijzeren Man' (the Iron Man), one of the nicest lakes in the area and an 8-minute bike ride from our house.

french_style_at_dutch_fair

dutch_lifestyle_fair_overview

It was a gorgeous fall day so we decided it was worth the €9,50 p.p. to be by the water and find out what a Lifestyle Fair is. (At least, I decided it was worth it. In hindsight, my husband would be totally justified in saying 'I told you so', but he would never do that, because he is a very nice guy.)

geese

Highlight: the girls enjoyed petting these geese, who were trained to be nice (and were remarkably soft and thus well worth petting!)

zebra_hide_at_dutch_fair

Unfortunately, not all of the animals at the fair made it there alive :(

deerskull_at_dutch_fair

Well, I can at least say we all got a workout.

juliette_running

That unguided missile in pink is our youngest, Juliette (2).

ruby_running

And I love this photo of our oldest, Ruby (4) in action while the kid behind her heads for the end zone with a giant plastic banana!

Poor Ruby clearly got my love of prints. How about the deer shirt with the polka-dot skirt, polka-dot sweater and mismatched socks (when she has them on)? And this is pretty subtle, as her outfits go ...

ruby_climbing

The girls get their fearlessness and athleticism from their Dad ... There's Ruby heading up to pluck some more plastic bananas ...

After all that jumping, running and climbing it was of course time to refuel, in true Dutch style, at the cheese tent.

dutch_cheese_2

Juliette couldn't keep her hands to herself. Cheese is one of the few foods she eats.

dutch_cheese

Just in case it wasn't Dutch enough for you yet, here are some clogs for good measure.

dutch_clogs

Well, there were very few people at the fair, even though it was such a beautiful day. We agreed there was kind of a weird atmosphere, like the fair was geared to a certain (wealthy) segment of the population in a way that just made you (us) feel kind of uncomfortable and gross.

dutch_ladies

I try to avoid that kind of 'scene' as much as I can. But I did stay behind to take some more photos while Robert and the girls headed home to make lunch (that's them in the background above; on the left you see Robert in a blue jacket).

Unfortunately, Robert inadvertently took my coat (which had my bike key in it) and I ended up having to walk home.

That annoyed me for about 30 seconds, until I realized that that wasn't really a punishment, on such a perfect fall day.

walkhomeinwoods

This is the forested path between the Ijzeren Man and our house, a place I often go running.

beautifulstreet

Today, everyone else was out running, along one of the most beautiful streets in Vught (the Loonsebaan), on an organized 5/10/15K.

thatchedroof

Isn't that a great thatched roof? Drool.

vughtseheide

The Loonsebaan also has its own restaurant, across from the Vughtse Heide (the Vught Heather), a nature preserve and favorite spot for (dog) walkers. Walking or biking, followed by sitting out on a terrace drinking coffee are typical Sunday activities here in the Netherlands, where just about everything (with the exception of - some - restaurants) is closed on Sunday.

beautifulhouse1

Here's another great house. At this point I was almost home, and totally content to be walking, having some time to myself for a change. Meanwhile, my husband was trying to fish Juliette out of a ditch, which she'd thrown herself into during a temper tantrum over the fact that I hadn't come with them. At least one of us was feeling peaceful and grounded ...

our_street

Here I am, nearing home. This is our street. Notice the bike paths on each side of the road. Bikes rule here. We live up where that tiny red car is, on the left.

ourhouse

Here's our house, in the middle, with the grey door. You can't really see it because my husband has been meaning to cut back those trees since we got back from our summer vacation at the beginning of August. Anyway, you can see the skylight I sit under when I'm designing and writing The Wonder in Us. This is a typical 1930's row house, built before the war with a lot of original details inside, like the granite floors in the hall and the stained glass sliding doors separating the living and dining rooms. It charmed us immediately when we first saw it, and it's been a great house, which has gotten cozier and cozier (or one could say smaller and smaller) as we've gone from living here with an 8-month-old to living here with a 4- and 2-year old.

When I walked in, Robert and Ruby and Juliette (with burrs in the back of her sweater, from the aforementioned ditch/temper tantrum) were waiting with fresh olive bread and walnut cheese from the Lifestyle Fair.

And that sums up our lifestyle anyway. These are very happy days.

Plus, I was able to give our tickets to a friend who went to the fair later, so I didn't feel like quite as big of a sucker for spending the €9.50.

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