Wednesday, February 10, 2016

2016 Update

Hello Everyone!  It's 2016 and it only took me just over a month to write my first post!  Not bad considering my track record lately.

Let's start with a follow-up.... the last post I mentioned wanting to get involved with charity work.  Turns out getting into volunteer work here in The Netherlands isn't easy.  It's almost like taking on a side job, contracts, large commitments, insurance... c'mon!  What ever happened to having a couple hours of spare time a month and being able to just go and help people or animals?  Sure I know it's for every one's safety, but they are also deterring usable people.  My husband seemed to find a good solution, and managed to execute his idea.  So the one person not talking about it was the one that actually did something!  (He also got lucky they came to the door looking for help.)  My husband and daughter signed up to walk around the neighborhood and collect money for the "hersenstitching".  (A charity that helps with brain related diseases.)  Unfortunately my daughter & I were sick that week and he had a couple large deadlines, so they weren't able to hit up as many houses as planned but they still played their part.

...another similar post was about helping out.  I can at least say I have been doing a small portion to help.  I have been going through boxes and boxes of baby clothes and making different piles -  sell - donate to a 2nd hand shop - and donate to a charity.  The charity donations have been easy, literally put the stuff in a bag and deposit the bag in the collection bin in our neighborhood.  It might be easy but it's good to know we are helping a baby/toddler somewhere in the world.  Dealing with the rest of the stuff is going to be a bigger project, and an upcoming post.

...normal life abroad... yeah, last time I checked we were still normal, oh wait, tax season is rolling around again.  No, in that we're not normal... because being Americans abroad we get to pay taxes twice just because the US says so!  Not fair, and definitely separates us from so many other cultures.  (Complaining about an unfair tax system and FACTA, will have to wait for the appropriate future post.)

...where have we been... we moved from the city to a small village back in the summer.  In many ways it really suites us and has changed our lives for the better.  In other ways, the distance from everything has proven to be a challenge on many occasions, but I guess with the good comes the bad.  We love the house and surrounding landscape, but wow, I had no idea keeping up with a house and yard was this much work.  Remember, we moved from a small two bedroom apartment to a house more than twice the size.  At times keeping up with it all is quite overwhelming, but I wouldn't trade it for the apartment again!  I guess less complaining and more working will do the trick. are the recipe clippings and cooking going, well, worse than ever!  I've stopped collecting recipes because I have come to realize I just can't cook well.  My cooking skills have actually regressed since moving, maybe it's lack of time or not understanding the oven here, either way wow!  Every meal gets served with an apology and it's growing quite tiresome.  A wife should be able to cook, especially a stay-at-home mom.  I never thought my cooking skills would contribute so much to how I feel about myself, but it's just getting embarrassing.

Well, after re-reading this I am wondering why the follow-up on everything has been more negative than positive???  Sometimes we just try and do everything, and we all know that's impossible.  Probably time to stop spreading myself so thin!  Have a great day!

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste! Salut!
:) Danica

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Charity Work

(Didn't plan on keeping up te theme of the last post, but guess it's on my mind.)  Ever since our 4 month old labrador puppy died we have been wanting to do something in her memory.  We actually wanted the three of us to do charity work with animals but to be honest it's not been easy finding something where they allow a 6yr old to join.  The holidays rolled around and the planning was put on the back burner until the new year.

But the feeling hasn't gone away, this need to help.  As Sinterklaas (Dutch holiday) and Christmas passed, I was overwhelmed with access around us.  And I don't mean our home alone, I mean the packed stores, the list of presents you hear people received, the endless parties full of food and drinks.  It made me think of the less fortunate... it made me often think if them.  Here some many people are ticking off their wish list when so many people have nothing or are extremely struggling.  I again expressed to my husband how much I want to sign up somewhere to offer our time.  But when you sign both parents up you start dealing with babysitters and logistics.

Then I was talking to my mother-in-law and she was having the same feelings as me, and we have decided to start exploring our options.  We hope to at least volunteer one time a month and see where it goes from there.  She is collecting a list of local places we can volunteer, and I can't wait to sit down with her and finally pick something.  Less talk and more action!

Do any of you volunteer?  If so, what have you found to be the most beneficial?  And for those of you in the Eindhoven area, do you recommend a place to volunteer?

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste! Salut!
:) Danica

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Helping Out

Sometimes we find ourselves in a position when we can help others... it can be little things like, a smile, holding a door, letting someone pull out in front of you instead of making them wait for the line of cars behind you... the list goes on and on.

I've mentioned before I help out at my daughters school quite often, but I don't just volunteer my time... another way I help is through photos.  Since I am at the school so often and get to witness little things here & there that other parents miss, I try my best to capture it on camera.  Like this morning for instance, the school was putting on a Christmas performance with the Kindergartners & 1st graders (Dutch group 1 & 2) for the parents, my husband & I arrived early and had great seats.  Turns out our daughter was in the back and there was no seat in which we really could have seen her.  Since I wasn't really able to capture her I decided to help out other parents I know that didn't have the best seats or only a phone for a camera.  I took pics of as many kids as I could and emailed the photos to their parents when I returned home.  Trust me, I wish I had those photos of my daughter, but at least I know I made someone happy.

Another way I help people out is by donating items instead of throwing them away.  What a waste to just toss a perfectly good shirt or household item in the trash when there are plenty of people with very little in their homes.  For a couple months now I have been collecting random items in one of our old moving boxes, and today (or tomorrow) is the day they finally get taken to the charity shop.  Hopefully in time to help someone out before Christmas.  I don't always take our old goods to just one secondhand shop, I  have been known to hit up 3 in one day just to spread the goods, and some items even go into a different container to be donated instead of resold.

So during this Christmas season (and throughout the new year), try and every once in a while to help someone else out.  If we all did one small kind act a week (or day) think about how much happiness we could spread!

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste! Salut!
:) Danica

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Anyone still there?

HELLO!!!  I know it's been a while, ok 5 months, but here I am again.  Trust me I think of the blog often but it takes a certain dedication I just don't have right now.  Plus everything that pops in my head is either too personal or too normal to post.

The main reason I took up blogging was to share my normal life abroad with others throughout the world.  And to help nearby expats find their way.  But now that I no longer live in a major city, I feel like I have nothing new to offer.  I am out of touch with big events in Eindhoven, and things that happen near the village I live in are too small to involve the international community.  But one thing I do have is 13 yrs of built up knowledge, so I can always fall back on that!

I think one of the neatest things that has happened to me through blogging was being contacted by a woman in Argentina who was going to move to The Netherlands.  She had questions about elementary school and life here in general.  We ended up emailing back & forth until she moved  And the other day as we sat having coffee together, watching the kids play, I was just amazed that our new found friendship started from this small blog.

Since I am not class mom this year at school I feel like I have had less opportunities to help out the new moms in the area.  But luckily my daughter is quite social and I met a few newbies recently.  Actually have a couple new play dates (inc coffee for the moms) lined up.

I find it so fascinating to meet people from all over the world.  To hear about what is normal to them, and share our cultures with each other.  It's also amazing just how many people take that step and move abroad, far from what they understand or are comfortable with.

Must admit though, my move here was quite cushioned considering my American husband was raised here and spoke Dutch.  And all of my in-laws are here.  I take my hat off to those expats who move without that cushion... who knows, maybe one day that will be us too.

I'll close for now, and fingers crossed that I post again this month!

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste! Salut!
:) Danica

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Where Have I Been?

I took a nearly 4 month hiatus from blogging, and boy does it feel good to be back.  When your schedule picks up you are forced to sacrifice something, and well, blogging was one of those things.  Now that school is out for the summer I am hoping to squeeze in a few posts over the next couple weeks.

The biggest reason blogging had to take a back seat is... drum roll please... we finally sold our apartment & bought a house!!!  It was a 4 year process, but definitely worth waiting for.

Not only did we buy a house, we moved cities.  We left the center of a busy city and moved to a little village with roughly 1,100 residents.  It's a big change, but a good one.  Now if I can just learn to sleep through the quiet nights!  Where are the sirens, motorcycles, and barhopping crowd when you need a good night sleep, ha-ha?

A lot of the roads leading from the main cities to our village are barely big enough for two cars.  But they are lined with trees & farms, which is a much better view than the concrete & endless buildings we had grown accustom to in the city.

Sure the house is going to require a lot more upkeep but so far we're happy to do it.  We were out doing yard work this morning with pleasure.  We often stop, look around, and smile at the improvement from where we used to live.  Patience does pay off.

There will be plenty more posts to come about this new phase of our lives, so be sure to check back periodically. 

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste! Salut!
:) Danica

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Recipe Clippings

In my family I am known for hoarding, and one of the many things I hoard are recipes.  The funny thing about this is, I am not known for cooking well, ha-ha!

Anyway, about once a month one of the local grocery stores prints a magazine full of recipe ideas based on products they sell, called Allerhande.  I keep them, well, almost all of them... and for years.  All with the good intentions of cooking some of the lovely ideas.

Well, during a big clean up my husband came across my stacks of Albert Heijn magazines and was not pleased.  He wanted me to toss the stack out but I convinced him to compromise... I was 1st going to cut out the recipes I want then recycle the rest of the magazine.  

This project sounded simple, I would be done in no time, reducing the stack to 1/8 of what it was.  Turns out it takes a lot longer per magazine than I imagined, I am still occasionally pulling one out and sifting through it.  

I was proud of my progress until my husband mentioned that if I was going to keep the clippings I was also going to have to actually cook some of the recipes.  Hmm.  This meant actually remembering to buy the items at the store... or actually risk wasting the food if I failed... or facing the reality half of the recipes are things I like but that doesn't mean my daughter or husband eat them.

Since this all started a couple months ago, I am happy to say I have tried at least 3 recipes.  And funnily enough they are all from the same clipping (oh jeez)!

The rosemary-pepper beef on skewers was a bit of a concern for my hubby.  It had a lot of hot red peppers and ran the risk of being too spicy to eat.  He thought I made a mistake somewhere, but in the end it was just flavorful and not overbearing.  Well, as long as you didn't lick your fingers.

The grilled chicken with avocado & corn salsa was also good.  The Tabasco mixed in added an interesting flavor.  I probably overdid the salsa, it was extremely filling, but it was all tasty and I was happy with the results.  Even if I didn't actually grill the chicken on the bbq.

And the empanadas, well, they looked great, the texture was perfect, but for some reason there was a total lack of flavor.  Apparently I made a mistake somewhere.  I thoroughly enjoyed making them & eating them, and next time I'll pay better attention to the recipe... there was marinating time in there somewhere that I left out due to time.

See, when making the recipes I have to translate them from Dutch to English, and sometimes I can miss something until too late or all together, oops!  I will not let it stop me though.  I have plenty more recipes to try out, and that's without touching the 8 cookbooks I already have.  One day I'll get to them too, hopefully before my husband asks me to throw them out also!!!

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste! Salut!
:) Danica

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Looking & Booking

I think over the past month or so I have definitely gotten another white hair, and by the end of the summer possibly a few more.  Why?  Well, I think after years of our apartment being on the market it has sold!  (Years as in 2011 and 2 realtors ago!)  This is great news!  That was until reality sunk in and I realized in a couple months my family would have no where to live. 

My days are consumed with two things.  Searching for a house to buy and searching for a rental for the period between selling & buying.  I've seen so many houses online and in person, they are starting to blend together.  The more I see the pickier I get.  Plus I have tried to make so many appointments for viewings, but the market is picking up and everything is selling.  The time of it being a buyers market is fading and our time is running out.  Even the rentals are booking up, and my stress level is rising.

But in the midst of all this stress there was one house that stood out, so we placed a bid and waited to agree on a price.  And today we heard they accepted our 2nd bid!  Nothing is on paper yet but this is really good news.  We're keeping our fingers crossed!

Now what do we do in the mean time?  I'd rather not move twice so we are trying to work something out with the realtor and people buying our apartment.  But to be safe I still have a few rentals lined up and will be visiting them next week.

One thing is for sure, I should have been a realtor because the majority of the companies have no idea what they are doing and are missing out on opportunities left & right.

I'll definitely keep you updated throughout this process.  And I apologize for not posting often enough but between volunteering at school and driving myself crazy with houses, my time is limited.

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste! Salut!
:) Danica

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Darrin Doll

The last time we visited The States my daughter discovered that the Chelsea Barbie doll had accessories just for her, like a club house & play ground.  And beyond the accessories there were also other little dolls to collect.  Being that she is 5 yrs old the Chelsea & Chelsea friends are right down her alley.  She already had one of the friends, Kira, and a couple Chelsea's, so we bought the swing set and packed it in our suitcase.  The club house was too big so my Mom was sure to buy it for Sophia's 5th birthday and ship it over.  (Thanks Mom!)

Of course on the packaging they advertise the other dolls, dolls they just weren't selling here in The Netherlands.  I could find Chelsea but none of the friends, and my daughter really wanted the little boy, Darrin.  I asked my family in The States to start looking around but no one could find it in the stores.  Strange.  We started checking online and saw it for really overpriced amounts compared to the Chelsea doll, even stranger.  Not wanting my family to spend over $30 for a little Barbie doll, I took it into my own hands to find one before her 5th birthday.  And surprisingly enough, I found it on Amazon in Germany.  Now, I don't speak German, but I do use Amazon a lot and Dutch isn't so far off, so with the combo I was able to order her one in time and didn't overpay (too much).

After that curiosity took hold and I started looking around for the Darrin doll again (not to buy but to double check the prices), and shortly after I ordered it via Germany I saw the price went up on Amazon in Germany.  I checked The States again and saw some online shops are now asking over $50 for the little doll, what?  Amazon in the UK wants double that!  Why in the world is this doll so expensive?  Was it a limited edition?  Did they stop producing them?  Anyway, I'm glad I found one in time!  Now I just have to find the Tamika & Madison dolls before she loses interests in the little ones and moves on to playing with Skipper & Stacey more often!

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste! Salut!
:) Danica