Friday, September 28, 2012

Other Bloggers

I follow plenty of blogs, each one bringing something different to the table.  And occasionally during my day one of these blogs pops into mind.  One I follow is called Herding Cats, and she has a series of posts called Taphophile Tragics.  In other words she finds cemeteries and gravestones interesting and writes about them.  I thought she had given up on writing the back stories of these long gone people but it turns out she just started a blog specifically about them, called Beneath Thy Feet.  I happen to live near a really old cemetery; I pass it going to the park, taking my daughter to school, letting the dog out, etc., and as I peek over the brick walls my thoughts occasionally trail back to her blog.  Now I have no intentions of researching the gravestones or taking her ideas, but I did happen to take a lot of photos there the other day.  So here's to you Nicola Carpenter, thanks for maintaining such an interesting blog.

Who knows, your blog may be the next inspiration for one of my posts!  Keep an eye out for a follow up post.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday #20

Link up here for Wordless Wednesday!

Google AdSense

These questions go out to you fellow bloggers, what's your take on Google AdSense?  Is it worth it or does it just clutter up your blog?  And are any of you using Google AdSense outside of the US?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Living Book

I just had a random fleeting thought, and this is the place for those, sooooo.... I'm sure someone has already come up with the idea but it crossed my mind for the first time today, a living book.  We use these blogs for so many things, why not use one to write a book.  One that is brought to life by the readers.  It's quite simple, I write a short beginning to the story and the readers comment on the direction they want the story to go and every so often I add another paragraph until one day we have a book.  We've all ad-libbed or done improve before, right?  It sounds like fun, a soap opera of words if you will.  Let me know if any of you out there find this interesting... if so, I just might create a separate blog for our collective story!

3-Day B-Day

Our daughter recently turned three and we celebrated with 3 days worth of parties.  No, there wasn't a party for each year she's been alive, it just turned out that way.  I didn't see it coming, in years passed it all seemed so simple.  There's always the big party, which we've done every year with our closest friends & family (that live nearby), I was expecting this one.  But since so many of our friends are golfers and this time of year there is guaranteed a competition on Saturday we had to move the party to Sunday if we wanted anyone to join in the fun.  This made it complicated, because it left her actual birthday wide open.  Not wanting to let the important day go by unnoticed we invited the immediate family over for cake and presents.  The immediate family is quite large, plus my mom & step-dad were here, so it turned into a full blown party quite quickly.  Especially when my husband decided to invite everyone to stay on for dinner.  This left me and my mom packing gift bags for the large b-day party late at night after a long day! 
Not even recuperated or cleaned up (the house & gifts, I mean) from the family party we went full swing in the large party at a nearby pancake house.  Even though the restaurant does most of the work, it's still a big event with 20-30 adults & kids going all different directions.  The weather was perfect & the moods were good, it was a success!  We're through Saturday & Sunday, and now on to Monday.  Since my daughter now attends preschool the Dutch expect you to help and join in the party at school (which is nice).  So Monday while she was at school my mom & I filled up snack bags and prepared goodie bags for the kids.  At 11AM there we stood ready for a 3rd party.  By the end of it all I was exhausted, and my parents too.  They aren't used to so many giggly playful kids, especially for days on end. 
Here it is a week later and I can't say I've actually tackled the left over mess.  Since my parents were here on vacation I didn't have the time to reorganize all of the toys (the old ones get packed up and the new ones find a place on a shelf).  As I write this I see there are still streamers and balloons hanging from the living room ceiling and presents & remaining goodie bags still boxed up in the corner.  I guess we all know what I'll be doing when I close off this post.  Despite the work, it was a great birthday weekend for our toddler (and for all our friends & family)! 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

10 Days

My mother & step-father visited us from The States for 10 days, they called last night at 3AM to let us know they had made it back home safe & sound.  Once a year we get a week or so together, sometimes we go there, sometimes they come here.  One downside of living far away from your family is the lack of physical time together, but the upside is they get to visit places they never would have seen otherwise.  My mom & step-dad have visited us many times since we moved to The Netherlands, I think this was visit # 5.  Each visit is different, the first few were packed full of tourist stops, like Amsterdam & Brussels.  But by now they have seen the big sights, plus adding a kid to the equation changes things.  Their visit a couple years ago was to meet our newborn, there wasn't any sight-seeing going on then.  This visit I managed to come up with places that pleased everyone, not costly and appealed to the interest of the entire group.  In otherwords, a little bit of history located in nature near a playground! 
My husband unfortunately couldn't take much time off work, but the day he had off we all (inc. the dog) hopped in the car and headed to the sea.  My parents live in Florida, so the sea is much different than the gulf.  Noordwijk held up its end of the deal... rain, wind, cold, and a lot of beautiful wipping waves.  A couple of days I borrowed the car while my husband worked and took them places like the World War II Liberation Museum in Son and the castle & gardens in Geldrop
On days we didn't have the car we walked, there is plenty to see in Eindhoven as well, like old cemeteries and endless green parks.  And during one of the schools days my mom & step-dad even ventured to Nuenen on the bus and toured the towns monuments.  Besides seeing the sights they were also able to see my toddlers activities first hand, and enjoy 3 days of birthday celebrations.  We dined out when we could, but they also enjoyed home cook meals thanks to a few years experience on my part!  And of course the bakery, I think my step-dad popped in there most mornings. 
Overall it was a great visit, and we were all sad to part, but thanks to the endless photos we all took (and exchanged) we can remember the trip for years.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I'll Be Back

In the famous words of the Terminator, "I'll Be Back."  Between my toddlers birthday celebrations and visitors from The States, there's not much time to squeeze in a decent post at the moment.  But within a week I should be back to blogging as usual.  Keep an eye out for Wordless Wednesday though!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Old Drawings #1

Back in March I promised I would give you all a glimpse of what I used to be able to draw when I was a teen.  I keep coming across great blogs about arts & crafts or peoples talents, so I thought I'd display some of mine.  To be honest I haven't drawn in a long time.  There was something about my mental state as a high-schooler that allowed me to flow creatively through all forms of art.  Nowadays I mostly stick to writing, I only have so much free time and I'd rather write than drag out my storage box full of art supplies.

I promise, I wasn't morbid, we just had requirements and one of which was to draw a skeleton, and here's the hand I managed to pump out (please ignore the bad scan) :
I tended to do my best work when I had an example, and this one was from a magazine article.  It was a woman wearing a kimono bending over, I just focused on the face.  (When you turn it the other direction you can see the proportions are a bit off, hey, I was 17 and not planning on becoming an art major) :

There will be more of these to come... only so many fit on the scanner, but those that do I'll be sure to let you see in the future.  Anyone else out there seemed to have lost a talent over time?  Or just let one disappear?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Yearly Membership

Why are fitness memberships so expensive?  I recently had the urge to sign up for a fitness class but have been quite discouraged after looking at the costs.  In general I am content with my elliptical machine, and I do walk often out of necessity but things like power walking and water aerobics have fallen by the wayside.  I've practiced pilates off and on for years from home, I love my dvd, but I thought if I enrolled in a class I would do it more consistently but the costs are no joke.  Either you enroll somewhere specifically geared to pilates or at a gym that offers the classes, and either way the costs are €200-€400 a year, if not more.  I am a stay-at-home mom, I can't dish out that kind of money on exercise, especially considering the entire family is signed up for other activities throughout the year (the combined costs really add up). 
The other day as I left the grocery store I heard this incredible music outside, quickly I realized it was coming from a dance studio.  Then a new idea popped into my head, I could sign up for adult street dance classes, I could get in shape and have fun at the same time.  Again I jumped behind the computer, looked up the dance school, and again I was disappointed with the costs, €300-€400 a year.  Realizing I wasn't going to spend the money, I thought I should buy a new exercise mat to help encourage me to do pilates more often, our hard living room floor isn't very inviting.  But again I was shocked at the costs, they want at least €25 for a yoga mat, what?  Either I'm the biggest tightwad in the world or everything is overpriced these days.  I guess for now I'll stick to my cross-trainer (elliptical machine) and pilates dvd, they're already paid for!  And if I can somehow get myself back in the routine, I need to get my butt to water aerobics because that only costs €2 a pop thanks to the yearly swim pass I already have for the city pool.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Puppy Class

Like most responsible pet owners, or those of us with naughty dogs, I've enrolled us in an obedience class at Hond en Gedrag.  I went into it with great hope and high expectations and walked away with a much different impression.  My husband says I'm overdramatic and blow things out of proportion, but feelings are feelings (and I am a story teller, of course my wording is elaborate!)  I do my best not to let the Dutch language hold me back, but it can get challenging at times.  I attended toddler swimming and water aerobics in Dutch, I did all of my driving lessons and examines in Dutch, I even used to work 40hrs a week at UPS in Dutch, and now puppy obedience class.  With every new situation new words apply, this may seem strange to someone who gets to speak their mother-tongue all day but those of us speaking a 2nd language you understand.  Your vocabulary grows with each new activity.
Back to puppy class, here I am foreign and already a bit shy about speaking Dutch in front of a group of 10-20 Dutch people and of course I had the worst puppy in the class bringing a lot of unwanted attention to myself.  Maggie, our puppy - a Wheaten Terrier, is a different dog inside and outside of the house.  At home she listens for the most part and follows commands, outside of the house she is a hyper and excited wreck.  And of course she didn't let me down at class.  She continuously tried to get away from me, she jumped & flopped all over the place, and even took a dump in the middle of the group (the only dog that went #2).  She barely followed any commands, even ones she was accustomed to.  I couldn't get her attention to save my life, everything was more interesting... the other pups, the people, the rabbit poop, the grass, my toddler & husband, the sheep, the kids playing soccer in the distance, you name it.  The trainers have you work in a circle and if a puppy is too distracted (or distracting to the group) they ask you to step back a little.  By the time the last exercise came around the trainer actually asked me to go outside of the fenced in area to work with Maggie, it was that bad.  This is great for a foreigner, I could barely hear what was going on, luckily my husband heard a few key things I missed.  After class I was mad, mad at myself for not being able to take control, mad at the dog for acting like an idiot, just plain all around frustrated.  If I could have found a way to quit right then I would have (even though this isn't in my personality).  At that point I knew I had to get a hold of myself, all of this was my fault, I watch enough Cesar Millan to know my attitude and reactions drastically affect theirs (this is also common sense).  Besides the periodic comments from family that if the dog is too overwhelming we can get rid of it, I knew I had to prove myself.  I'm stubborn, I'm not a quitter, and when I set my mind to something, watch out!
Over the next week I worked with her as often as I could, but I was still nervous about class.  When class day rolled around my mother-in-law gave me a pep talk and a few simple instructions and off we went.  This time just me & Maggie.  I approached it with a different attitude, I knew she was going to act up, I knew she was going to embarrass me, and I knew this is what the rest of the class expected also.  It could only get better from there.  When we entered I let her greet a few dogs even thought the trainers complained, she needed to get it out of her system.  When she pooped, I made sure to have a baggie this time.  And I was better prepared in general, baggie for the treats, outside toy, and I did my best to relax and take it all in stride.  Between each command I would give her a break (tip from the M-I-T), let her eat the grass and rabbit poop then return to training.  She was focused, she was ready, and she made me proud.  What a difference a couple of adjustments can make.  Of course she had her moments, during one exercise they were off the leash and supposed to come when called, she took off.  Apparently I left too much distance between us, she realized she wasn't on the leash and high tailed it around the fenced in training area.  Maggie had the time of her life, finally she could greet the other dogs and check out the training area, I couldn't help but laugh (she wasn't the only pup that took off).  I left the class with a smile and pep in my step, let's just hope I can get out of my own way next class.  (Surprisingly a tip I picked up from my husbands golf training audio book).
I've included two photos of Maggie, one from about a month ago, and one now that she's almost two times that size and after a hair cut.  We asked for a puppy cut and ended up with something else, maybe next time my husband should go with to the groomer.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Gift Certificate

Since I live far from my family, my Dad & I often send each other gift certificates for the holidays.  Many years for my birthday I get an gift certificate and I use it to buy shoes.  I can usually get Crocs or Converse cheaper in the UK than here in NL.  Here it is September and I've been holding on to my gift certificate for a couple months now.  At first I was too busy to sit down and find the time to search the hundreds of shoe options, but now that I have a bit more time I just can't decide which shoes I want. 
Do I replace shoes I already have?  I mean literally buy the same style and color because I love them and I'm wearing my current shoes out.  Do I buy something completely different?  Do I buy out of need, because my winter boots are too old?  Do I buy out of want, there are shoes that aren't practical but I like them?  What do you all think of the shoes I am considering?  (Keep in mind I am not fashion forward and I walk everywhere, so comfort is the key!)