(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?
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!
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!
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.
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!!!
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.
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!
For a while now I have been wondering what to do with a stack of old jeans tucked away in my closet. I am no longer into the boot cut and most of the boyfriend cut are too baggy for me these days. I had actually considered trying to sell them but then it dawned on me... just refashion them!!
So I went to my main source for creative ideas... Pinterest of course!
Now I just might actually take on two projects - turning jeans into shorts & jeans into capri's! And all without a sewing machine!!!
Thanks to two sources on Pinterest here are my possible projects :
The first project - jeans into shorts (according to Refinery 29)
Now instead of explaining it step for step I'll just refer you to their link.
Hopefully this will fix the fact I actually only like one pair of jean shorts I own!
The second project - jeans into capri's (according to By Your Hands)
(Since I don't have a sewing machine I am going to use the technic I'll learn from the shorts instead of the zig zag stitch she suggests.)
Again, here's a link to their site instead of explaining it step for step.
Now the capris seem way more challenging than the shorts, but if it works it would be nice to have actual capris instead of rolling up my jeans!
If and when I get around to it, obviously before the summer, I'll be sure to document my progress and keep you updated.
It's hard to motivate yourself to keep jogging through the winter, well, at least it is for me. Today it was -2C (28F) and 2 weeks ago it was -3C (26F). Do you know how hard it is for a Florida native to grasp jogging in these temps?!
Some days I have to watch out for ice, today there was frost everywhere, and even a small snow flurry. It's hard on your breathing, especially for someone with mild asthma like myself. It takes you twice as long to warm up before you even get going. You have to buy special clothes, and wear a hat & gloves, there is so much more to think about. What happen to my fun, motivated, short (30-35 min) jog twice a week to keep fit?
Besides the weather we have been sick off and on for about a month now. All of this is causing my pace times to go down, down, down. This is really frustrating, because every time I get out there I want to see improvement. There has been no improvement since winter hit back in December.
Usually after a month I switch up my playlist and jog/walk times. Mostly because they have become too easy and I need to step it up. I haven't adjusted my playlist in a while because I am struggling from beginning to end of the jog. Finally I realized I just needed to do it, good or bad weather I needed to make it more challenging in order to get over this slump. So in the weekend I adjusted my playlist, rearranged some songs, added a few, and of course lessened the walking time & increased the amount of time I would jog. I was a little nervous this morning before starting out.
See, I am taking jogging slowly, especially after injuring myself in the beginning (besides the asthma it is why I still rotate between walking & jogging). So for me jogging just 30 seconds longer is an accomplishment. In total I added 1 1/2 minutes to my jogging time with this new playlist. Today was the first day I was going to jog 5 minutes straight without walking to catch my breath.
And I did it! Fog, frost, cold, & nerves, I still did it!!! And oddly enough, I felt motivated and it wasn't as bad as I expected. I am really glad I decided to push myself. Maybe my body will not say that tomorrow, but who cares, I did it!
My wardrobe has a few key items that I wear often. My American Eagle "jeggings" and my Graceland boots. I don't like spending a lot of money on clothes or shoes because they can so easily get damaged, but if I find something I like I'll just keep buying it again and again.
But what happens when the store let's me down?
Take American Eagle for example, I have been a dedicated customer for over 15yrs! But this past year I realized their jeans just aren't the same anymore, what am I going to do!!! A few years back I jumped on the "jegging" bandwagon and haven't looked back. (Actually I have a stack of "boyfriend" jeans I don't know what to do with.) When I visit The States I pick up a pair of AE "jeggings" or have my Mom send me a pair for the holidays, it's the easiest way to keep stocked up overseas. But the pair I bought back in March 2014 just didn't fit right, I tried to shrink them, I tried everything, and yet after 30 minutes they are baggy and falling off. I thought I bought a dud pair and had my Mom send me another pair for Christmas. They're not as bad but still I can't keep them on all day because they just can't keep their fit. I compared the labels of my old jeans with these, old jeans 99% cotton + 1% spandex, new jeans 99% cotton + 1% elastane. Supposedly spandex and elastane are comparable, but I'm telling you the jeans just don't have the same fit anymore and they are impossible to shrink to become more fitted. I am highly disappointed. I actually think I might have to try out a different brand, it's not like I can wear the same 3 pair of jeans that do fit for the rest of my life. Anyone else notice the difference in the American Eagle jeans?
Another dilemma on the horizon, is my favorite autumn-winter boots are wearing out and I can't find anything comparable in the stores right now! To some they are extremely ugly boots, I must admit when I first moved to The Netherlands I never would have worn them. But time wears you down, and you end up adjusting your style. And actually you'd be surprised how many outfits these boots go with. I can wear them with "jeggings" & "skinny" jeans, none of my other boots can handle the extra material of the "skinny" jeans. I can wear them with light or dark colored jeans. And because of the sneaker like sole I don't mind walking distances in them. I could go on and on. Anyway, I've been occasionally checking the 2 stores that carried them and they don't have anything like them anymore. I have the feeling I am going to have to either pay more money elsewhere or find a different style. I know the stores have to change styles every season, but that doesn't mean all of the people do. I should have bought 2 pairs when I waited a month for the sale, arg! Any store let you down recently by discontinuing a shoe model?
My sister-in-law did tip me off to a store worth trying here in Eindhoven for jeans, but that doesn't solve my shoe problem. I'll let you know if I can find replacements to my basics!
I've been promising big news for a while, so here is 1/2 of it... my husband starts his new job today!!! After 12 years of hard work and dedication to the same company he decided to branch out, and landed himself a job at Microsoft NL. It was a natural step considering he has been working with MS CRM since it was first released in Europe. Needless to say we are all very proud of him and wish him the best. I've been a Microsoft fan for ages, and have been pushing him in this direction for a while. But being the good businessman he is, he waited for the right timing and job opportunity.
My husband knows Dynamics CRM inside and out, and it will be great for him to work with other people as enthusiastic as he is to get the product further into the market. He's already made a name for himself within the European CRM world, who knows what will happen with Microsoft now backing him!
I wish him the best, and am happy to say we're now part of the Microsoft family.
Here he is leaving for his 1st day of work. Yay!!!
Looking to firm up your abs in 10 minutes? What about tighten up your arms? Well, I have two go to dvd's that help exactly with that. I've mentioned these pilates dvd's in the past but here 2 years later I'm still turning to them for the in between workouts.
(If you're a little overweight and still fairly fit these workouts are perfect for you. If you don't exercise regularly or are more than 20lbs overweight they are most likely too hard.)
My go to 10 min ab workout (for the past 10 yrs) is :
This one actually gives you obvious results in your arms. It doesn't bulk you up but manages to firm your arms and help create a bit of definition. It also has 4 other 10 minute workouts.
I've tried at least 5 different 10 minute pilates dvd's and I promise the two workouts I mentioned above will give you results within a couple weeks.
At one point pilates was my main form of staying in shape. These days I try to jog twice a week, and use pilates when I see my arms or abs could use some attention. Or during the weeks when I know I over ate in the weekend. The beauty of these 10 minute exercises is that you barely break a sweat, if you even do at all, unlike cardio workouts.
Unfortunately last weekend we packed up my beloved crosstrainer (elliptical machine) into a storage unit. But to be fair, I haven't been really using is since I started jogging, plus the weather is too cold for my crosstrainer workouts in our outside shed! When we eventually get a house we'll be sure to bring it back home and incorporate it into our fitness regime.
Besides jogging & pilates (wow, I almost sound fit but I promise I have 5-10lbs that come and go monthly) I dabble in other home exercise dvds. I recently just tried some of Jillian Michaels workouts, but I'll save that for a future post.
If you haven't noticed the theme, I like to save money by not having a gym membership. I can use the same exercise clothes for jogging, pilates, & the crosstrainer. And equipment I have collected over time as I find them on sale. I have pretty standard stuff like an exercise mat & light weight dumbbells, and of course a couple fads like the balance board & kettlebell. All of this keeps me fit for little costs and saves time by being able to do it from home.
It's only been 10 months since the last "music moments" so I would say it's time for an update! So, what am I listening to right now? Basically there are two albums I can't get enough of at the moment.
You all probably know Chandelier from the radio (depending on which country you live in). Love this song, it has a great story and beat.
Another popular single from this album is, Elastic Heart. Again, a song full of emotion and a beat that just makes you bob with. Too bad the music video is getting such negative press. I actually think Maddie & Shia did a uniquely great job.
I really appreaciate that Sia (helps) write her own songs, it makes them seem deeper and more heart felt. The entire album makes you feel you've stepped into someone else's head. Besides the two most popular singles, there are other songs worth checking out on the album... Fire Meet Gasoline, Hostage, & Straight for the Knife.
I mentioned them back in 2013 when they were competing on X Factor and now they finally have an album out!!! Loved their style from their first perfomance on the show.
I am not sure if their music is playing on US radio's or not, but it should be. It is yet to make it here in The Netherlands, but I'll keep my fingers crossed.
They have to videos made and the songs are great, Scarecrow & Little Do You Know. The songs are catchy & meaningful and make you want to sing along.
For their first album I think it went well, they didn't venture too far from the style that we all fell in love with during X Factor. Other worthy songs on the album, Bumper Cars (it definitely needs an official video), I Love You, & Back to You.
Hope you all give them a chance and enjoy these two albums as much as I do!
Where have I been you ask? (Or maybe not, ha-ha!) Well, I allowed myself to get so ridiculously focused on my daily schedule that I turned into a human robot. It happens!
Finding balance in life is so important and yet so hard. We can't do it all at one time.
You know there are the things you have to do to survive... there are things you have to do to be a good wife & parent... there are things you have to do to run a house... plus juggling school & sports... there are meals to be made & bags to be packed... bills to be paid & plans to be made... there are hobbies & down time... I could go on and on.
But how do you juggle everything and still have an ounce of spontaneity & freedom left?
That's where balance comes into play.
I think it will be a life long commitment, just like health. There are no quick or easy answers. It's just doing what's right for you & yours.
Thanks to a holiday refresher, and of course my husband pointing out the side road of life I had decided to veer down, I'm trying to get back on track. Trying to find a way to balance the needs, wants, & of course fun in life. I hope to get back to blogging, writing, & photography. But first things first, I hope to get my personality back! For the sake of my husband & daughter, and family & friends!
So here's another step down the road of life, a step towards balance, my first blog post of 2015! (Nothing like the pressure of the first post of the year, ha-ha!)
Hope all is well in your corner of the world and HAPPY NEW YEAR!