Circle of Stones: Interview with Valerie Budayr of A Place Like This and Jump Into A Book

March 26, 2010

I remember visiting Valerie’s blog for the first time in late Summer of this past year. I had clicked onto her site from the Vintage Swap, and I was so taken in by the depth and color of her photographs, that I spent hours pouring through her archives.

As she journeyed though Sweden in October, I came to my computer every morning to share a slice of her incredible world, and live vicariously through her with the magic and beauty she was encountering.

Valerie’s blogs (she has three, and they are all incredible), are so full of invaluable content, that they feel as though they should be a three part hard bound book.

What amazes me most about Valerie and her writing is that she is one of the most passionate people I know. Her subjects and topics have remarkable range; from honoring amazing women, to creating a reading corner for her children, to an old family recipe, or a colorful trip through a red barn filled with vintage goodness. There is so much to read and experience and enjoy through Valerie’s work, and she offers it generously to her readership everyday. She is an incredible woman who knows how to live, love, and give.

The Circle opens, welcome Valerie

Tell us about your family, and the life that you share together

In the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, live the 5 members of my little family. My husband and I have been married for 22 years and we have 3 beautiful children. Zuzu who is 20 years old and lives at the University, Mimi who is graduating high school this year, and Little O who is 11 and an inventor. Oh I almost forgot, we have a much loved cat named Oscar but we call him Katten.

The best way to summarize us is to say that we are a global family. My husband is from the country of Lebanon and has lived in the US since 1988. We met in Switzerland, where we were desk partners trying to learn the French language. I’m originally from Portland, Oregon, the daughter of Swedish immigrants.

When we were ready to have our first child we decided that my husband would only speak Arabic with the kids. Speaking another language at home was a common practice for me because of my parents and so it didn’t really seem odd that we would choose my husband’s language to speak at home. We both agreed that we wanted our children to be “global citizens” and to speak many languages, to feel at home on the planet in many capacities. As a family, we believe that experiencing life is the first key to learning. We have really placed our children in a variety of experiences and learning opportunities to support this idea.

Some interests that we have as a family include traveling whenever we can to wherever. We love to play music, watch movies, be out in nature, cook, craft, and be among friends.

You have three blogs that include amazing content. Tell us why you created Jump Into a Book and A Place like this?

A Place Like This was created just for the fun of trying blogging. My blog didn’t even have a name when I started. As time went by, I realized that my blog was a place where I could hold snap shots of family memories, whether that was of my little family or holding onto memories of the family I grew up in. Both of my parents have passed away as well as my sister. The blog allows me to hold onto memories for the kids, as well as keep memories of the fun things we are doing now. The name “A Place Like This” came about to describe the journey I’m on. Who knows where that is or what I’m doing? Whatever that is, it’s perfect in that moment, in that place and time. So the name felt right .

Jump Into A Book has been an incredible journey that I’ve had with my children and our love of reading. 10 years ago I started a mother/daughter book club called “Book Adventures”. Zuzu was in third grade and the school was making her be very independent and much of her school work was no longer done in a group but by herself. They also had a very rigorous reading program which didn’t allow for much reading time at home. I felt that I was losing our reading connection as a family. I created this book club so mothers and daughters could read books aloud to each other. After a few weeks, we would come together to make those books come alive through feasts, crafts, games, songs etc. We would experience our stories. The blogging format has allowed me to continue this love of book jumping. There are so many great books and so many adventures to take.

How did reading play a part in your childhood, and how has it continued into adulthood?

As a child I didn’t really like reading because I was a very slow reader and felt very jealous of those who could read faster than I could. My mother would iron on Thursdays and I would sit there and read to her. She introduced me to all of her favorite books. So though my family was always telling stories it’s really those early memories with my mother that cemented a future love of reading. My household had hundreds of books everywhere and everyone was always reading. So the role model was always there. As an adult I love reading and have several books going at a time. I also continue to jump into books with children and am constantly reading children’s literature. I’m truly a bibliophile. My house looks like the house I grew up in with books everywhere.

What do you impart to your children about the joys of reading?

We definitely have a reading culture in this family. There isn’t a room, including the kitchen that doesn’t have some type of reading material in it. We also converse about what we are reading which spawns on suggestions of other things to read. Authors are some of our best friends and we go many miles to meet them and support their work. The greatest joy of reading is when we can share it together. That can come in many forms, not just reading aloud but in experiencing that which we are reading about. Not only do we have a reading culture here but it’s counterpart “writing”. All of my children are avid journal keepers and through various phases of their lives, authors in their own rights.

How has your love of books translated into what looks like an incredible imagination that your children possess.

Books are just one of the vehicles of the incredible imaginations in this home. My father”Fairly Honest John” is the other one. We called him “Fairly” because he was a great story teller and for a time, an animator for Disney. There was always truth in his stories; it was finding which part was true that was the difficult part. 😉 You can’t very well tell your dad he’s making up stories so we just shifted the perspective to “fairly honest”. Story and living by imagination were the centers of his life. He imparted this to all of his children but also to his grandchildren. Both of my parents could make a book come alive. This was our “normal”. Living a creative life from our imaginations is what gave us new house inventions, very wacky clothing, the desire to be Laura Ingalls Wilder, and to realize that anything we can think of we pretty well could try and bring into being.

What advice would you give to parents who struggle with reading to children?

I’ve met so many little readers who come to reading through a variety of learning styles but the one that has held true is to just experience reading. So often times we look at the mechanics of reading but there is so much more to it than that. To make a connection to a child when they are very small by reading softly to them lays a foundation for a love of books. Experiencing those stories on any level deepens that connection. When it’s time to start reading to experience what an “A” feels like, looks like, sounds like, gives an experience which will be held in their memory.

Today life can be very hectic and busy. Reading can feel like one more thing that needs to get done. Instead of making reading a requirement look forward to it as a time to connect to one another. If you are reading” Little House on the Prairie”, pour some cream into a canning jar, add a rubber ball, put the lid on it, and with everybody having multiple turns, start shaking it until it becomes butter. Make pancakes the next morning and put your new butter on it. Your children will never forget this moment or this book. They will want to have more moments like this. Soon they will start creating moments like this for themselves and suggesting things to do.

I receive a lot of questions about getting boys to read. First and foremost have all sorts of reading materials about the topics they are passionate about. In their topics of choice make sure to have both fiction and non-fiction around. The more activities you can have around those topics the more information they will want to have. Always encourage much discussion around reading items and for them to reflect back via a journal or conversation those things they find interesting or not. Those things they found so fascinating. Usually I save online research and films to the very end but they are part of the experience. It’s so much easier to invite someone to read from a point of passion than a “should”. As they discover those things they are interested in, they will soon discover new topics of interest. It becomes sort of like a radiant map.

What is your favorite part of a good book?

I love it when the characters of the story are really inventive and creative with solutions. The best book is when I connect with the characters so much I don’t want the book to end because I will miss them.

You are of Swedish descent, and write passionately about your heritage. Can you give us a sense of what you hold most dear in keeping your heritage alive with your family?

My parents were Swedish and my extended family lives in Sweden. I own a Swedish company and I travel there a couple times a year. My whole self identity growing up was Swedish. I still live a duel life in regards to Sweden and America. I’ve also added a third culture and that is Lebanese.
My father passed away a few months ago and it has become even more important that I share my family’s traditions with my children or they will just be lost. We have also held onto my husband’s culture for the same reason. We want our children to be connected to their families just not by being a blood relation but through the beauty of culture. It deepens them as people.
In a Swedish life, family is central and celebrating or creating special moments in each day is paramount.

How has the blogging community changed your creativity and your writing?

It has been a very incredible journey. Before blogging I don’t think I would have identified myself as a writer, photographer, or crafter. It’s with the desire to create beauty in that blogging space and to hold memories, that I can now see the many facets of myself and of my family.

What have you gained from being a part of such a connected online world?

It has been such a wonderful thing to discover that the online world can be and is incredible. The talent of the women in the blogs I read greatly inspires me on so many levels.
• To embrace my “You can do it.” mentality.
• To be fearless when crafting.
• To be inventive.
• To create beauty.
• To preserve the planet.
• To experience this life and this world fully.
Though we are online friends, we truly live on this planet together. The same moon I look at tonight will be the same moon that everyone looks at tonight. I feel a greater connection to my global community because of blogging. It is amazing the kindred spirits I have met via blogging and each person brings so many gifts and talents. I also feel great validation from the blogging community for accepting me just as I am. It has helped me to gain confidence in the contributions I bring to this life and to be able to show others how much I value their’s.

Valerie has been kind enough to share her recipe for a Spring waffle celebration with us. I tested them out last night using gluten free flour (oh yeah, waffles for dinner), and they turned out perfectly. This recipe will be a family favorite.

Waffle Day

It isn’t truly Spring until Waffle Day. That’s what my mom always use to say. March 25th is waffle day in Sweden. Here is a recipe for you to make some of your very own. Each family has their own recipe. This is my family’s recipe for traditional heart shaped waffles. You can use a traditional waffle iron as well but honestly I need my heart shaped waffle iron on this day.

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of ground cardamom
3 eggs
¼ cups of sugar
2/3 cups of sour cream
3 tablespoons of melted butter
Butter for brushing the waffle iron
Powdered sugar
Jam and fresh berries to serve with your waffles

Mix flour and cardamom together and set aside. In a small bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together at a high speed for 10 minutes until the mixture is forming ribbons when you pick your beaters up. Take your flour mixture and sprinkle it over you sugar and egg mixture. Stir the sour cream until it is really smooth and then add it to your flour and egg mixture until your batter is smooth. Take your melted butter and fold it into the batter.
Heat your waffle iron on a medium heat until a drop of water sizzles on the waffle grid. Brush the grid with butter and spoon in the batter. Close the waffle iron until golden brown. Please read your waffle irons manufacturer’s instructions for length of time until done.
Serve immediately. Enjoy and Happy Spring.

Thank you so much Valerie for being here today, and for sharing your love of books, travel and family with all of us. Your work is inspiring, and you have made a true impact in our family’s reading adventures

Thank you Heather so much for this opportunity to share a little bit about ourselves. I am so honored.

To learn more about Valerie, visit her blog on life at A Place like this, and explore her family’s love of reading at Jump Into A Book.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

adirondackmama March 26, 2010 at 11:24 am

Valarie is one of those women who I just am is awe of. Such a wealth of knowledge. What a great interview….as always.

Oh and those waffles….I L.O.V.E waffles, they look amazing in their heart shaped goodness.

Hugs Julia


Beth Lehman March 26, 2010 at 11:35 am

Thank you for this!! This is a woman moms should know!! As a reading teacher with a book obsession – I really think it's important for parents to KNOW good books and to read them with their kids. Lots of parents at my school don't know how to pick books for their kids and they don't understand the importance of reading to them – no matter their age. It is so powerful the bonds that reading creates with children – the value and emotional connection placed on reading stays for a lifetime. In my graduate work, we have been talking about children who have had "1000 Book Hours" and how that increases their success in school – it's more than that, though – not just literacy but an emotional connection to reading and to parents. I am sending her link to all my mommy friends! Great interview!


AG Ambroult March 26, 2010 at 1:07 pm

LOVE Valerie, and her blogs. So, thank you for letting me get to know her a little better. She is so interesting, creative, amazing! And I love how she is always throwing out little casual comments, like "I own a Swedish company". Just tossed out there like an afterthought! She never ceases to amaze me.


recycled+revamped March 26, 2010 at 1:24 pm

I love it, and am so glad to find you!


Maeghan March 26, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Love it! I am checking her out. Those waffles sound awesome. Which GF flour did you use?


Andrea March 26, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Lovely! Beautiful photos, wonderful, inspiring words, yummy waffles. Can't wait to check out Valerie's blog!


Adrie March 26, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Great interview -thanks! I love "Fairly honest John" – hilarious.


Kiran March 26, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Very inspiring interview and best waffles ever. I just made them for breakfast. So good!


Francesca March 26, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Very interesting interview. I'm in awe of anyone who can successfully keep three blogs with amazing content, and as our family is bilingual I found very interesting to read about identity and heritage in a multi-cultural family.


liz March 26, 2010 at 6:41 pm

oh i LOVE the book cub with the feasts – and activities – etc etc what a perfect idea…. hmmmm….


Emilie March 26, 2010 at 11:09 pm

what a great interview! I look forward to getting to know Valerie


Nicola @ Which Name? March 26, 2010 at 5:40 pm

valerie and heather, what a lovely interview! i have visited a place like this a number of times, but not in depth and i am so glad to have a more thorough introduction to valerie. i still remember being struck by her post about teaching her kids about where their food comes from. :)
thank you for the lovely read with my coffee.
Which Name?


Lovely World March 27, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Valerie is one of my blog friends, and it is great to read about her here. Thanks.


Imene March 27, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I love Valarie's blog. I think she found my blog thanks to the first Vintage Swaps.
I read her blog daily and she's just an inspiration as a women and mother


Mousy Brown March 28, 2010 at 7:31 am

Valarie is one of the prizes I feel I have been gifted in the online world – an amazing and inspirational woman who's magic touches every person who reads her beautiful posts. Someone I feel honoured to call a friend. Thank you for spreading the magic! xx


Kate England March 28, 2010 at 11:55 am

Thank you for this wonderfully inspiring interview! Valerie is a woman to admire and be inspired by!


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