Clara’s First Fish

Earlier this year, Clara decided that she absolutely needed to go fishing.  It’s not clear where she got this idea, but she told her parents repeatedly that fishing was on her mind.

Last Friday, on the shores of Lake Nahwatzel in western Washington, Clara got her big chance.  She wasted no time: her first cast snagged a trout right away.  Her second cast also hooked a fish, but the line broke before she could reel it in.  She caught an additional trout before long.

Clara's First FishNicolyn joined her later, and Nicolyn also caught a fish (but she was too cool to be photographed with a dead animal).


The Michelangelos of Cardboard

Clara and Nicolyn have been diligently honing their cardboard-crafting skills, with much to show for their efforts.

Last month Clara learned a song at school about five little pumpkins sitting on a fence.  This inspired her to make her own fence and pumpkins.


Nicolyn built a little person out of cardboard boxes, complete with hair and arms.


“Every piece of cardboard has an artwork inside it, and it is the task of the five-year-old to discover it.” — Clara and Nicolyn Vance

Braving the Wilderness for Seashells

One of the things the Vances missed during their time in Switzerland was camping.  So, at the end of the summer, the Little Women decided to take their parents into the wilderness and see how it compared to their last camping trip.

They found a lovely spot at a campground near the southern Washington coast. Most of the other campers were there to dig clams and oysters for eating, but the Little Women were happy to just take their shells.

Nicolyn's Shells

Highlights from the trip included playing in the sand, cooking over an open fire, and sleeping thru the night even though the whole family shared one tent.

Clara Makes a "Sand Angel" on the Beach

Jenelle's Sandals

More pictures are here.

Super Legos

Recently the Little Women found Jonathan’s old space Legos. Annika and Clara wanted to build something “by-the-book” (or booklet, actually), but Nicolyn wanted to create something completely original.  Our readers can decide if she succeeded: according to Nicolyn, her creation drives, flies, goes up hills, and collects garbage.

Nicolyn and Her Lego Vehicle

Nicolyn's Creation

Wheels for Switzerland

Occasionally a reader asks about the chariot that the Little Women allowed themselves to be carted around in during their time in Switzerland.  Their vehicle was a Toyota Avensis Verso, which was never available in the United States, but could be described as a “mini-minivan.”  Three rows of seats allowed it to hold seven passengers, or the Little Women, their parents, and lots of luggage.

The CarSince the Avensis Verso is smaller than a regular minivan, it was a little easier to handle on narrow European streets, and it didn’t guzzle the $8/gallon gasoline as quickly.


Birthday Time

So Jenelle and Jonathan survived another year with Clara and Nicolyn.  The birthday girls each took rainbow cupcakes to their respective pre-school classes, which Jenelle made the night before.  Jenelle managed to find some radioactive-pink frosting to top them with.


The cupcakes were really just a dry run for the Peeps Rainbow Cakes that Jenelle made the next day.  Of course, Clara and Nicolyn each had their own ideas about what a Peeps Rainbow Cake should look like, and so each five-year-old needed her own cake.

Go West, Little Women

After three-and-a-half years in Switzerland, the Little Women are excited to return to the United States. They are looking forward to getting settled in the Seattle area.

The Little Women and their parents are grateful for the good experiences that they had in Switzerland and for the many good people they met there.

The Edge of Europe

The Little Women spent the last days of February exploring the ancient city of Istanbul. Along with being the largest city in Europe, Istanbul has roots going back to the 7th century BC and was the seat of four empires. This gives Istanbul the feel of a place where you could find artifacts just by digging in your backyard.

But instead of digging around in the ancient Turkish soil, the Little Women preferred sampling the local goodies. Although they didn’t like baklava and Turkish delight, açma and doener kebap were tasty. They also saw some great sights: ancient churches-turned-mosques-turned-museums, a beautiful palace, an eerie underground cistern, and more.

Jenelle and the Little Women at the ObeliskAnnika and Nicolyn at the Blue MosqueAnnika and Nicolyn in the Hagia SophiaAnnika on Pebble MosaicMany more pictures are here.

Another Christmastime Visit to Alsace

As part of their continuing efforts to drag the Little Women to Christmas markets all over central Europe, in early December Jenelle and Jonathan took their brood to Alsace, in eastern France.  After spending Friday night in a small town, they went to spend Saturday taking in the Christmastime atmosphere at the picturesque village of Riquewihr.  On the way to Riquewihr, they drove through another town, which was lucky enough to have wise men with real camels.

Camels in FranceIn Riquewihr, the Little Women found that the Riquewihr Christmas market featured traditional Alsatian delicacies, including the legendary giant bread.  Upon seeing the loaves, Nicolyn declared that she would not be able to eat one by herself. Riquewihr Christmas Market Super Bread at Riquewihr Christmas MarketIt wasn’t easy for the Little Women to wait while Mommy and Daddy did their Christmas shopping, but pretzels, macaron, and a trip to the village playground made it more bearable.

Little Women at a NativityMore pictures are here.