Saturday, December 19, 2009

The house-Christmasified

Back in October we showed you some pictures of our new diggs. We figured we've gussied up our place a bit and now you deserve to see the new and improved (and much less pink) DeClercq home. We painted, got a few new pieces of furniture (some new and some just new to us), and for these shots put up some Christmas spirit.
*These pictures are pretty much in the same order as the previous post, and I tried to replicate the perspective as best I could.*

Here is the living room. Some nice green and white walls.
The dining room. Here we have some tan walls and new book shelves. (sorry for the mess on the table I didn't bother to clean up before taking some pictures.)
The Kitchen with its lovely tree. Not a huge change here, but we do have white walls instead of pink. However, we still have pink outlets. We just can't get rid of that pink.
The master bedroom. We put up some pictures in here and painted the walls a tan color. Depending on the time of day though, it looks split-pea soup green, baby diahreah brown, mold-on-the-hamburger-you-forgot-about-in-the-back-of-the-refridgerator-blue, and very rarely tan.
The to-be-nursery. Here we still have a lovely creeping vine and faux-shelf. Yes, we are still trying to place item on it. And yes, they still drop to the floor. The only addition to this room so far is the ironing board.
The guest bathroom. The pink is gone...mostly. I can still see hints of it which drives me crazy, but it is a huge improvement over the neon magenta that haunted this water closet.
A few bonus pictures. Notice the Christmas cheer.
In the bottom right you can see this year's Christmas tree.
And that concludes the tour. Stop by any time and say hello. Don't worry, this guy, Ricky, probably won't be around, unless Laura is making ribs. But Bobby is friendly and will gladly cuddle up next to you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sweet or Salty?

I forgot to post this during my original dinner party report. But, it was quite hilarious...

During dinner, coffee and hot apple cider were being served. I poured some milk into a creamer and grabbed the church's big sugar shaker and poured some into a sugar bowl.
About 10 minutes later the dining room exploded in laughter. One of the elders came back into the kitchen carrying the sugar bowl and a cup of coffee. Apparently, I had sent out a bowl of salt... not sugar. It took about 10 people to finally discover that the guests were scooping salt into their cups of coffee. Oops.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cranberry Bliss Bars by Laura

What can I say? I'm a proud husband. I love my wife and I love what she can make! Today I came home to carmel corn and almond roca. Yesterday she made cranberry bliss bars and fudge. The day before that it was snickerdoodles. Laura rocks!

Dinner Party

I was privileged to cater another party last weekend. The elders of our church threw a Christmas party for the staff. 40 people we invited.

The menu was as follows:

Hot Appetizer
Roasted Tomato Soup
a delicious blend of roasted tomatoes, onion, and garlic pureed with herbs and cream to bring you comfort in a bowl

Cold Appetizer
Autumn Salad
mixed greens tossed with pears, red onion, Gorgonzola, candied pecans, and finished with a red wine vinaigrette

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin alongside Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes
pork tenderloin stuffed with apricots and cranberries- fruity, flavorful and festive

Trio of Cake Dips
dark chocolate covered cheesecake, triple chocolate with mint, and white chocolate pumpkin spice

I am happy to report that even at nearly 6 months pregnant, I kept up with Jen (my most amazing assistant EVER) in the kitchen. Although by the end of the evening I had developed quite a maternity waddle and I was unable to stand in the shower. But, the evening was very well-received and we were bestowed with many compliments.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I know, I know

... we need to blog more. What can I say? Our lives seem so much less interesting now that we live in California again. But, to satisfy the curious... here is a picture of the only thing that seems to be changing around here.

The baby and therefore the belly seems to be bigger everyday. Literally, EVERYDAY.

We hosted Thanksgiving for our families this year. We have tons of space, but no place to sit. So we borrowed enough chairs to seat all 10 of us and eat all day. What better way to spend Thanksgiving?

This is my favorite picture from Thanksgiving: Adam carving a turkey for the first time. He did splendidly... although he did destroy that shirt.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Water Polo: got game?

A package was dropped off on the front porch yesterday addressed to me. I didn't order anything, though I'm sure my wife will still check the credit card statement just to be sure. Inside the package was this awesome little onesie (I have no idea how to spell that kind of word). No note, no reason, no name of giver.

If you are the kind and wonderful person who found such awesomeness, thank you. You will make my son the coolest on the pool deck!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Introducing: My Son!

Hi world. Laura and I went to the doctor's on Wednesday. The nurse showed us all the important identification parts and introduced us to our SON!. I would have taken her word for it, but she insisted on showing us the little detail.

As for the process-what an amazing thing!! Really! I could see the little fingers and feet. I wish it could have lasted a little longer. But after 15 minutes of that lady poking Laura's abdomen Laura seemed ready to be done. Wow. I'm so excited.

We are now accepting gifts of Legos.

Monday, October 19, 2009

the pink house

Adam and I have been in the process of settling in to our new home. We have the opportunity to rent an amazing house at an even more amazing price. The catch... nearly every wall was pink when we moved in. And on two non-pink walls, there were hand painted murals.
Here are a couple of pictures:

living room

dining room

master bedroom

mural in the to-be-nurseryguest bathroom

Since moving in, we have been very busy covering the pink. The living room, dining room and master bedroom have been painted. The kitchen and guest bath went from pink and more pink to WHITE. Glorious white. The guest bath took two coats of primer and two of paint to cover the fuschia sponge paint. Adam was very dedicated to covering every speck of pink paint. Wallpaper was also removed.

Needless to say, according to current pregnancy guidelines (aka: dumb rules that don't let you do anything but I am sure are good for the baby) I was unable to help prime, paint or move. So, to stay busy, I baked a wedding cake. See previous post.

The paint supplies are now safely stored in the garage and no longer living in the dining room. Yay! We are still sort of in boxes. We have some furniture that was given to us for free (read: other peoples throw-away stuff) that we are hoping to replace as the finances appear. But we still have more space than we know what to do with.

We are so happy to have a space to really call our own. And to have some of the stuff that we haven't seen in over a year. Hello stand mixer, food processor and toaster oven! How I have missed you! Adam is also happy to visit Home Depot every other day for screws, paint, brackets, electrical outlets (yes, he turned off the electricity for that one!), etc, etc. He even pruned the avocado tree in the backyard and cleaned the garage.

So feel free to come visit, you will be sure to have your own room, but you might need to bring your own bed!

We promise to put up some after pictures... once it starts to look a little more like an after in here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Since Adam let the cat out of the bag on ALL that is going on with us... I thought I would share about the wedding cake first. Because honestly, that might have been the most stressful of the news. The cake, not the pregnancy kept me up in the middle of the night.

Since this was my first wedding cake, I thought, why not go big? There were 500 guests, yes Five.Hundred.Guests at the wedding. In case you are unsure how that translates to cake... it means A LOT OF CAKE. The couple was highly, possibly morally, opposed to serving sheet cakes purchased from anywhere. They wanted every one of the 500 people to have the same shot at the wedding cake. So, I made more cake than I thought was necessary. The actual wedding cake was four tiers, each tier consisting of 3 layers. That is 12 cakes. Then, I made 3 sheet cakes, each with 2 layers. That is 6 cakes. Add them together, throw in the extra cake I had to make when I destroyed the first one and you get 19 cakes that I baked in 4 days. It was HOT in my kitchen. And my stand mixer was very tired.

The couple decided to go with all one kind of cake. Simpler for me. Vanilla buttermilk cake with strawberry lemon curd filling and buttercream frosting. It really was yummy and the filling was a beautiful pink color. Tasted like pink lemonade. How festive.

So, here is how it went down.
Day 1- juice a million lemons by hand for the lemon curd because store bought lemon juice is yuck

Day 2- bake 4 layers of 16" round cake... because this is what the first layer looked like when I tried to transfer it too soon. I knew it was too soon but I was impatient. I took a deep breath, snapped a picture, threw it away and then baked another layer.

Day 3- bake 3 layers of 12" round cake
Day 4-5 move (more on this later)
Day 6- bake 3 layers each of 8" and 4" round cakes
Day 7-8- unpack kitchen in our new home with my life-saving mother
Day 9- bake 6 layers of sheet cake
Day 10- make vat of strawberry lemon curd involving separating 4 dozen eggs
Day 11- make even bigger vat of buttercream frosting involving approximately 15 pounds of butter
Day 12- set up shop in church kitchen to layer cake, filling, cake, filling, cake, frosting and repeat for 7 separate cakes
Day 13- WEDDING DAY! assemble cake complete with plastic dowels and "please don't let this thing collapse on itself" prayers, add ribbon and piping, wait for florist to arrive with flowers, "assist" the florist in adding flowers... then collapse in a heap of headache and sleep for 6 hours

But, here is the finished product...
Not too shabby for my first try, if I do say so myself. And the good news, I would totally do it again. In fact, I would love to do it again. Even soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hello Dear World

Yes, we are alive. Yes, we still plan on blogging. Yes, Laura is going to have our first baby! We have moved out of the missionary house, we have moved into our new permanant (temporary) dwelling. We have a year lease on a great house. Laura baked, frosted, and delivered the wedding cake. It was a big hit. Life is rolling on for us. Actually, a little too fast. After all the moving, painting, and caking we have been beat!

Check back soon.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

food gig

I had the opportunity to put my schooling to work this weekend. I was asked to cater a going away party for 40 on Saturday. It really went about as well as anything you do with food can go. Dinner was served a little late due to some SLOW cooking chicken, but I figure it gave people a chance to chit chat.

I had a friend help with this event- which was a brilliant idea, if I do say so myself. She was a huge asset... hello, she did the Costco shopping, stuffed 40 chicken breasts, did dishes, and generally kept us on task.
Here's the menu we used:

cold spinach dip
garlic toast

caesar salad

artichoke, parmesan and herb stuffed chicken
loaded mashed potatoes

chocolate mousse in white chocolate bowls with raspberry sauce and fresh whipped cream

Are you hungry now??

Unfortunately, the only picture I have is of the mousse cups (yes, we made the chocolate cups), and there isn't even whipped cream on it yet. What can I say? We were too busy to take pictures. And I gave my photographer the night off.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

sugar buzz

Adam and I went to the grand opening of The Sweet and Saucy Shop in Long Beach.
It was beyond fun- beautiful store, delicious desserts.
Even though I was given permission to use any of the images, I was not able to load any of them... so click on that link above and be ready to crave some cake! How I wish I was getting married... just for the mini dessert spreads she does.

If you are anywhere within driving distance, you must visit. I recommend the chocolatey-coffee-kahlua cupcake. And Adam is a new fan of the double fudge cake lollipop. Be sure to bring some water, because you will need somethis to counteract the extreme sugar buzz that will come from "sharing 5 desserts".

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What Bobby does all day

Adam is back at water polo practice every morning. I'm not really sure what I do all day. But this is not about us. This is about our dog. He loves it here in the missionary house. Well, he loves it outside.

He spends his days... well, I'll just show you.

that is his tush in the front yard

If you look closely, you can almost see his tail.
It is blurry because it is wagging too quickly for me to capture.

he is completely submerged in the bush. This makes for a filthy dog.
But he is occupied all day looking for...

I am sad to say that this one is mortally wounded. He was dead by morning.
Bobby is a vicious hunter. So far, he has rid the yard of 2, yes 2 lizards.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Anaheim vs. Kandern

Laura here...
So I have been trying to decide how best to compare Anaheim and Kandern. It is a struggle because they are like polar opposites. Putting aside the obvious difference of country of origin, there is the big city vs small rural village, the frenetic vs. slowly plowing through life pace, the industrial vs agricultural, the grey vs green, the millions of cars vs Nordic walkers, the... well, you get the picture.
But the other night as I was falling asleep, I decided how to best describe it. In a beauty pageant, Kandern would win by a landslide. But in a fist fight, Anaheim would come out on top.

Anaheim is not pretty. It is cement and neon and traffic. Kandern is rolling green hills, afternoon thunderstorms, and cherry trees. But Anaheim has big streets, a grocery store on every corner, and Mexican food galore.

It also has the rocking-est missionary house around. And I am telling you now, they are going to have to pry it from our cold, dead fingers. We are going to passively refuse to move. It is awesome. And we walked to church on Sunday, which made me feel, oh so German... until we went grocery shopping that afternoon. But we did take our own reusable grocery bags. Because we feel the need to do that now. Adam felt guilty about the plastic ones. So, now we are the proud owners of a five-pack of the cutest EnviroSax bags around. Seriously, check them out... how cute are they?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Yes, we will blog!

Adam here- That is a promise. But we have been in such a state of transition for so long that it has just been tough to find blogging time.
So here is the rundown: We has a great flight from Basel to London to San Francisco. The long flight, London to S.F. was amazing. We were somehow lucky enough to get emergency exit seats! We were the first row between Business class and real people. We probably had a good five feet to stretch our legs. Plus, we were in an aisle of two seats which means that Laura only had to fight with me for the arm rest.

We have spent the last few weeks bouncing between Laura's parents and my parents. We presented about our year at Black Forest Academy to both Fairway Park Baptist and Lighthouse Bible Fellowship. We saw lots of family and friends. We even got a chance to go water skiing with Laina's (my sister) in-laws. Aside from a cut toe it was a lot of fun.

Now Laura and I are living in Anaheim. We have moved our stuff into Magnolia's missionary house. We will get to live here for a few months while we find a place. We've been meeting up with our friends from here and are very excited to catch up with more as the weeks move along.

Now, I am very excited to announce something that so many of you have been concerned about and praying for. I just heard today that my placement will be back at Buena Park! I don't know yet what classes I will be teaching but I am so excited to be returning back to that school. So thank you for your continued prayer. It seemed like such a long time for an answer but the Lord answered, and I am thrilled.

Keep coming back to check in on us. We promise to keep you updated here at DeClercq central. Ohh, that would have been a great name for this blog!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

We're home! We made it!

Adam here- This will be quick because I can barely keep my eyes open another moment. We arrived safely last night around 5 at SFO. We went to dinner with my family then came back to Laura's house. We met up with our Bobby. He licked us for 10 minutes without letting up. He didn't forget us!

Now, we are both so tired but my strict, no fun, no sleeping allowed mother in law won't let me go to sleep for another 11 minutes. I can't wait!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

the couch that couldn't

Monday morning threw us a curveball. The woman who was moving into our apartment, and buying everything in the apartment, and buying the car, won't be coming anymore. Whoa. Strike one for us (well, one and two- one for the stuff, two for the car). Then strike 3... the killer. We were informed that we had until Thursday at 5 to have everything EVERYTHING out of our apartment for the family that would be moving in.

So, we spent yesterday boxing up years and years of past missionary family stuff (read: junk). Then this morning, a crew of 5 arrived to help move the big furniture downstairs, into the basement storage. It took about 2 hours to get it all down there... and some creativity.

The couch was too big to fit down our two sets of curvy steps. They tried and tried. So, they lowered it over the balcony with ropes. Here is the play by play.
here's the couch looking so innocent
(and ugly, but that is beside the point)
and here's the skinny, curvy steps.
there's another set that look nearly identical to these
going down one more flight.

over it goes

like rapelling with the sofa (what lovely greenery we have in our yard)
swinging it to the man on the ground, yes, swinging
and, they've got it

Needless to say, this week has looked very different than what we expected, but here we are, sitting in an empty apartment on the floor. We are down to a mattress on the floor, our suitcases and our laptop. Just about where we were exactly a year ago, just in CA.
Wow, talk about full circle.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

visitors... a while ago

So, I have been meaning to post about our last visitors. I didn't forget, I just kept "not doing it". You know, you sit down and think, I need to blog about this, but then you get distracted by the 35 million other things on the internet. Ok, I admit it, I was online window shopping.
So, finally, here I am. Over a week after they left, has it been 2 weeks? No, just a week and change.

My mom and brother came to visit our German life. We love having visitors because it allows us to rediscover the things we love about Kandern. The quaintness, the good food, the beautiful green hills, the hiking, the slower pace of life. And it lets me feel so fluent in German. When someone visits and they say "gracias" instead of "danke" you feel, oh so bilingual.

While they were here, we drove to Zermatt, for count 'em, a grand total of three trips to the Matterhorn. Maybe it is because of Disneyland, but everyone from California wants to see the Matterhorn.

We spent one night in Gruyères, Switzerland in the cutest little town square around. We ate fondue* for dinner only to realize that 2 pounds of cheese between 4 of us = too much cheese. But, you have to eat gruyère cheese while in Gruyères. We toured a Swiss chocolate factory, which was one of the highlights for all of us. Unlimited free samples*. It was a test of will power and I do believe the chocolate won. We visited Colmar, France and enjoyed rosti*. Cast iron pans of shredded potatoes cooked in cream and butter and covered in cheese. Hello!

We spent a day in Basel wandering the pedestrian streets and making our way through a weekly market. We bought fresh pasta* for dinner and enjoyed bratwurst from a stand. It doesn't get more authentic than standing around eating brats* purchased from a truck. Like taco trucks, only with sausage.

We hiked in the black forest and tasted cherries* straight from the trees. I was so proud of my mom. She hoofed it up to Sausenberg with her kids. I may be just like her but she is just like her mom. She spent the hike up searching for mushrooms. Grandma would be proud.

And then, just like that, the week was over and they were checking in for their flight home (with two of our suitcases!).

*Note: my life revolves around food.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Romeo and Juliet

Adam here- I have taught Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet four times. I've taught this play to 9th graders (14-15 year olds). If anyone ever wants a challenge try teaching Shakespeare to this demographic.

But each year that I have my students crack the spine (sorry Robin) of The Bard's work I remind myself of a few things:

  • I didn't want to read Shakespeare
  • I believed the language to be too difficult
  • I thought it was too old and outdated
  • Every student, every year always has the same reactions that I had
  • Just as Shakespeare's works are timeless, so are the SAME complaints from students

And I can say, that after teaching many stories, poems, and plays, teaching Romeo and Juliet has been my most favorite task. Here is why:

  • The students generally have a basic understanding of the story, but they get to read it for the first time
  • Every time I have had many students excited to have read & understood Shakespeare
  • My students have gotten into the play, they enjoy the story and the characters
  • After a few scenes, my students realize that Shakespeare really isn't so hard
  • They love to analyze the film versions, pointing out the flaws of the films, the missing parts, and the differences between the written play (by-the-way students HATE when films change plots, characters, events from stories, they HATE it)

I have felt such an immense sense of accomplishment each time I have taught R & J that I don't think I will ever grow tired of teaching that work.

So with this as my background, I was pretty excited to go see the stage production of R & J in Shakespeare's Globe Theater (and yes, Andrew, I know that it is a fake Globe since the original was demolished and the current location is a little different that it was in Shakespeare's time, that's not the point!). I was not disappointed. It was well acted, the actors (though I did find Romeo to be pretty lame and generally a mischaracterization) were well cast, but I want to share what stood out to me the most.

The theater, as you probably know, is round. This is very different from conventional theater that we are used to, with the stage in front and all seats facing the same way. It wasn't a surprise to me that it was a round theater, but what I didn't anticipate was being so distracted by the other theater-goers.

Laura and I had seats on the third floor. We had a pretty good view of the stage, though we were off to the side a little. We also had a great view of all the "peasants" standing in the open pit area. From what I understand, a beautiful sunny day in London is rare. Well, we were in the theater on one of those rare days. The "peasants" were swarming throughout the entire play, trying to find shelter from the sun. They were also trying to find ways to avoid standing for 3 hours while still being able to see. The mass (maybe 75-100 people) circulated, leaning against the stage (where the actors tripped over them a few times), leaning against any pole or backboard they could find, sitting down or hanging off of friends.

There were also birds. I didn't ever think about birds, but pigeons would swoop into the open theater and dive past viewers heads, looking for scraps. This was very distracting. I didn't see anyone intentionally feeding these beasts, but they disrupted one of Shakespeare's finest. Shame on them.

The third thing that really caught my attention-I'm thinking now...I believe that this is the first stage production I have ever seen live of any of Shakespeare's plays-was how bawdy it was. I am no puritan when it comes to reading Shakespeare; I am well aware of the many dirty jokes in R & J. What surprised me were the quite dirty gestures that I have never found in the text. At times when I just assumed were characters talking, this production used rather graphic situations to add to the scene. It boils down to directorial decisions, I'm sure. Still, it was an aspect that I had never thought about. The situations generally fit the scene, and I'm sorry to say, made me laugh, but they weren't things that I ever would have imagined based on simply reading the script.

The last thing that I noticed was how sparse the set dressings were. It was an incredibly simple setting. There were no stage changes between scenes. If a scene changed, a character would carry on a very small and simple prop and use his language to convey the change. Again, things I knew, but seeing them made everything much more tangible or relatable. Then of course, there was the big sword fight between Tybalt and Mercutio. Sparks literally flew. Sure they were probably fake swords, but the action came across as very real. It was intense.

Okay, one more thing. (Spoiler alert: Romeo and Juliet both die.) After the final tragic scene, the play ended. But there was no dramatic hushed rushing off of stage to prepare for the curtain call. The actors jumped to their feet, quickly bowed and then the whole cast broke into a delightful song and dance! I couldn't believe it. It was like an Elizabethan dosey-do. As the actors swung towards the front of the stage the quickly bowed, jumped back into the dance and kept on singing. The audience joined in by clapping, and suddenly you forget all about the tragic, star-crossed lovers, and are swept up into this moment of joy and fun. I didn't expect that, and I loved it! (For those of you that have seen the Zeffirelli 1968 film and had to suffer through that painful "What is a Youth" song that carries on ridiculously long only to have the music stalk the viewer through the rest of the film, know how tiresome certain songs can make R & J. This was not one of those. It was upbeat, fun, and an utterly surprising high note to have the play end on.)

Call me nerd if you want, but I am now more excited than ever to teach Shakespeare again. Viewing this play gave me new insights to how Shakespeare intended his play to be seen. This will be an experience that I will carry with me through my career. And I got a poster! Yeah, for classroom decorations.

*photographs were taken during our Spring Break trip. We toured the theater, but it was under construction in preparation for this summer's play schedule.

Friday, June 26, 2009

theatre crawl

Adam and I did a quick trip to London this week... Tuesday to Thursday morning. A mere 48 hours. But you'd be surprised how much you can get done in 48 hours when you arm yourself with a Tube ticket, a bottle of water, and some money.

We saw the cutest little kids on our way to our awful hotel.

Hello, cutie little British children. I just want to pinch your cheeks.

We saw Billy Elliot at the Victoia Palace Theatre. The main actor couldn't have been more than 10 or 12 and he was just amazing. He could sing, he could dance up a storm, and he had such a stage presence.

The next day we wandered down Portobello Road and contemplated buying a big leather trunk. But, I don't think EasyJet would have let it count as our carry-on. So, sadly, it is still on Portobello Road. However, we did buy a cupcake. Not really a replacement for an awesome piece of furniture, but it does soothe the soul. And the bakery was just the cutest.

Then it was on to Shakepeare's Globe Theatre for Romeo and Juliet. More from Adam on that later.

That evening we grabbed one last show. We saw Waiting for Godot with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. They were captivating. It was thrilling to be that close to big famous people. Adam stifled his desire to wave. I was very proud of him.

I can't say that I really understood the play. But, I'm not sure you're supposed to. In my opinion, it is purposefully vague. You know, so you can make your own interpretations. I confess, we pulled it up on Sparknotes when we got home.

I am definitely going to miss the incredibly cheap European travel when we return to CA. EasyJet, will you please have $50 tickets to London from LA??