Friday, July 29, 2011

Vegan Cupcakes

My facebook status today says that my life changed 16 years ago when Allen was born.  Every mother quickly learns that life before your first born and life after are two different things.

At 7 months of age Allen had already so turned my life upside down that he prompted my grandchild-desiring mom to tell me "All children are not this hard."  To which I responded "you have four other married couples of child-bearing age, don't expect me to do this again any time soon."

By the time Allen reached 7 months, he had been diagnosed with asthma, multiple anaphylactic food allergies, severe eczema and had undergone skull surgery.  I count Allen's first year of life as the most stressful time in my life.

He still has asthma and has gone on to have other surgeries and yes he has those food allergies 16 years later.  Which is why I bake vegan cupcakes for him (thanks for the cookbook Paula!).  This morning Kyra and I spent a good amount of time in the kitchen preparing chocolate/vanilla swirl and margarita (fresh lime juice, tequila and salt)  cupcakes. I'd upload some photos of them except Allen has used up almost all of our monthly internet allotment so no photos on my blog until after the first of the month.  Trust me they look pretty and taste great.

Yes my life was turned inside out but is so much richer and funnier and joyful with him in it.  (I could do without the surgeries though)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


One of the many things Kyle had to do when moving into our house in Belgium was arrange for phone and internet service.

Belgacom (the phone and internet provider) gave him several service options ranging from dial-up with limited downloads per month to DSL and unlimited megabytes per month.  Kyle chose the second highest option which gave us fast-ish internet and 100 megabytes per month.

The last three months we've been hitting the limit of 100 megabytes earlier and earlier in the month.  When we hit it our internet speed drops to dial up speed.  This was sort of workable when we hit the limit on the 29th but as that crept to the 21st  or this month the 15th it has become unworkable.

Within the SHAPE community there is a genuine dread of working with Belgacom.  But the lack of internet tipped the scale and motivated me to make a visit to the Belgacom office.  We definitely wanted high speed and unlimited megabytes.

Yes I had to wait a bit (under twenty minutes - not bad by Belgian standards).  I talked with the customer service guy and saw the graph of our internet usage (a steadily climbing line) and arranged for the top tier service.

Good news - we are going to have it.  Bad news - it doesn't kick in until August.  Good news - for 5 euros I could purchase an additional 20 megs for the month which takes us out of dial up speed.

The new service requires a new router which Belgacom provided.  I was sent home with the router and instruction guides - 2 of them.  One in French and one in Flemish.  I was told to hook up the new router before August 1st.  So this morning I gave it a shot.  And hooray!  Here I am on the internet, that I hooked up using French instructions (and lots of pictures).

I'm looking forward to the faster speed next month.  Uploading photos onto this blog takes several minutes at our current speed - I hope it is faster next month.  If so, watch out - more photos coming your way.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Theater Camp

This summer three out of four Dunlaps are involved with SHAPE Players' theater camp.

Allen spends morning at the theater working on back stage production - painting, carpentry, costumes, etc. In general I think he likes what he is doing.  What he likes best is hanging out with all the other teenagers who are working there as well.

Kyra is a camper - this means she experiences the fun stuff of camp - learning theater stuff and is part of the production.

I am the choreographer.  This means I get to work with over twenty kids of varying ages and dance abilities and most challenging - differing desires to be in theater camp.  Overall it is fun and the kids are great, even if they are loud!

The camp is putting on a production of Cinderella next week.  They are doing the Disney version and I would have to say they are doing a good job.  Lines are memorized, choreography is memorized, the set and costumes look great.  Some of the kids are amazing actors and are quite good at getting the audience's attention.

The theater intends to offer an after-school version of this camp a couple of times throughout the school year.  I think Kyra is seriously considering this.  I am on board to help with choreography.  I think Allen will jump ship though and return to cross-country and track.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Yes, I know I have not been a consistent blogger these days.  In December I was sick.  In January, I got cast in Tartuffe.  In March and April the kids were out of school more than they were in.  Then I was cast as Laurie in Oklahoma.  Then school let out and now I have a part-time job and kids out of school for the summer.  I'm going to try to be a bit more consistent but time will tell.

I also have found some blogs that are keeping me busy.  I'll spare you the craft blogs - I like them.  I want to make the cute, lovely, crafty things I see on them.  I lack a craft store and supplies, so I simply look at them and wish.

This blog is torturing me.  Random Abs.  I hate doing core exercises.  I am putting on some (just some) of the weight I lost doing shows.  I have yet to make it through a complete routine (there is a new one every day) but I try to do at least half.

Best title for a blog - Rage Against the Minivan. I've been reading "best of" and generally poking around a good portion of this blog.  One of my favorite recent postings is this one - The Lengths I Will Go to, to Avoid Making a Phone Call.  I don't think I would go quite this far, but I'd come close.

And if you are interested in Christian and inter-religious dialogue and liberal Christianity doesn't make you flip your lid, I like Rachel Held Evans. I enjoyed 12 ways to make Arminianism Cool again.

You might like some of these.  You may not.  Just thought I'd share some of what I'm finding on the web these days.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I Miss Window Screens

For whatever reason, Europe lacks screened windows.  Most places also lack air conditioning.  So when the weather gets warm (warm is relative - let's say 70 degrees) windows are opened and fresh breezes blow through homes.

Open windows without screens invite not only cross breezes but house flies.  In rural areas where one lives with horses and cows all around, it means lots of house flies.  You know that annoying fly or two that makes it in to your house as you come and go?  Multiply it by 12 and have them all prefer your kitchen.

When it is not pouring rain and 50 degrees in July, we can have some lovely temperate days - partly cloudy  with temperatures in the 70s.  This gives rise to the debate to open up the house to enjoy the weather or keep it closed to avoid lots of flies.

We do have several fly control systems in place.  We have an outdoor fly trap.  We have an indoor bug zapper - this works better on our other flying visitors, as the flies don't seem to be attracted to the light.  Kyra is often willing to go on fly swatting missions a couple of times a day.  Dobby is also helpful - he tries to catch the flies and when he does he eats them - I've decided to find this helpful rather than gross.  I've ordered an indoor fly trap from Amazon which I expect this week.  I hope it helps.  I also attempt to keep things as clean as possible and not leave any food out anywhere to attract flies.  Kyle, Allen and Kyra aren't quite as scrupulously clean as I would prefer.

Even with all this, we generally have 4 flies buzzing around at any given time.  This started about a week ago and I expect it to last until mid to late September.  A fact of life that I could let really bother me or one I could just say, "Well, that's life in the European countryside."  Most days I try to just let it go.

Next summer though, I am looking forward to my screened windows and doors back in Virginia.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fun with Street Signs

 When Kyra and I visited Florence, I spotted a few street signs that were not typical.

They had something extra.  It was fun to see what a creative person added to them.

I thought you might enjoy them too.