Saturday, December 30, 2006

Spending money

We went to a city yesterday to do some shopping. Both M and I were in dire need of clothes and shoes. We succeeded, and I even managed to find a pair of blue jeans. What is up with all those low-rise pants that end mid-butt? I want hip blue jeans that do not show of the color of my underwear when I sit down. I ended up buying a men's pair. I don't care though, I like them and they're comfy.

But the hugest money spending of our life happened Wednesday night. We bought our house! We had been renting it for two years, but were offered the opportunity to buy it. After two appraisals and three nights of careful discussing (because our landlords are M's uncle and father) we agreed on a price that was acceptable to everybody. Now all we have to do is finalize the mortgage and visit the notary to get the paper work taken care of.
I believe I'm growing up. Within a week I'm an engaged woman who owns a house!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A game and an important question

On the first day of Christmas we had about an hour to spare before we were supposed to go to my parents. We decided to go play a game of Rummicub. So I got the things ready, and started to sort my Rummicub stones, when M stood behind me. I said "Hey, you're cheating, move away from here!".
He laughed and put a wrapped box before me. "I bought you something". I was a little surprised and opened the box, to find this watch, only purple instead of white. When I got up to thank him, he said "I also had a question". He smiled and asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes! So we kissed and cuddled.
And then we played Rummicub....

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Really simple

Nothing fancy, but straight from the heart.

I wish everybody a very merry Christmas!
I'll be celebrating with friends tonight. Tomorrow morning I'll be going to church with my parents and later go to their house for some old fashioned game fun and a good dinner. And the second day of Christmas we'll do exactly the same at M's parents.

Lots of blessings!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas in the Netherlands

After I told you about Sinterklaas, it's time I told you something about the way Christmas is celebrated in the Netherlands. But of course the Netherlands is a country with 15 million people and everybody has their own traditions, so I'll explain the way we celebrate in my family.

In my country, lots of people are secular and don't believe in God. To them, Christmas is a time of being together with family and eating a big meal. Lots of those people do a gift exchange at Christmas too, after their children don't believe in Sinterklaas anymore. I am pretty strongly opposed to that, because in my opinion gift-giving at Christmas is an American tradition. There's nothing wrong with that, but I prefer to hang on to our own, Dutch traditions and exchange gifts on the 5th. Besides, to me, Christmas isn't about presents, but about something else.

About a week before the 25th, we would put up our Christmas tree. My parents always have a real tree, and so do I. I love the smell of pine needles! I always love that moment when the Christmas boxes are taken down from the attic. I would open them up and look at all the stuff in there. I did that again this year too, but that was because this year is only our second year to have our own tree, and I forgot what all we have. :-)

Because we are a Christian family, my dad would always start reading the Christmas story from the Bible, a few days in advance. Every other year we would celebrate Christmas with my grandfather. But if we were home on Christmas Eve we would go to church, to the night service. I always think it's magical to attend that service, late at night and with lots of candles.And then, on both days of Christmas (in Holland we have 2 days! That is because in the old days people would go to church on the first day and spend time with family on the second. Easter is also a 2 day thing here.) we would have a nice meal, play lots of games, take walks outside and do things like that. We have a pretty harmonious family so I have lots of good Christmas memories.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Typical Dutchnic

Sometimes I have these things that are so clumsy, they are typical. Like Tuesday, and today.
Tuesday I had an appointment at the dermatologists's. I had to have a little mole removed (nothing to worry about). I had a typical Dutchnic moment..
I showed up at the receptionist's desk, saying: "hi, I had a 4 o'clock appointment with dr. X"
she: "no you didn't, you were a no-show at 3."
I: "oh gosh, now what do I do?"
she: "I'll talk to the dr, he's in a good mood today. ...... Yes, he'll help you. Can I have your punch card please?" (I have no idea if punch card is a correct translation. In my country you need a card with your insurance and address info to see a dr. in a hospital. They look like 80's credit cards, but they use them to check if it's really you.)
I: "Great, yeah, sure, here it is".
She: "OK, Miss (last name of my love), come along".
I: "hold on, that's not my name, that's my boyfriend's name"
(not only did I show up an hour late, I also brought my love's punch card instead of my own!)
She, not even losing her patience: "you can go to the main desk and have a new card made."
That's what I did, and the dr. helped me. He told me to come back on Thursday to have the stitch taken out. I thought 2 days was awfully quick, but hey, what do I know about medical technology?
So I show up today, and the lady says: "No you don't have an appointment, the dr. isn't even in. Let me pull up your file."
So she does, and...
"I'll see you next week Miss, because your appointment is for the 21st!"
That is so typical...can I blame it on the mono?

2:00

You know what's really annoying? If you have mono, have been busy all day without taking a nap, and are not able to fall asleep even though it's 2:00. That's annoying!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Good day fruit

Today is another good day. I'm starting to get my old bubbly optimism back! Monday night I went to my parents and when I got back there was this big fruit basket that had been delivered! It was from all of my colleagues. And today there was a card in the mail with a book store gift certificate. I work at a great school with great people!
I've noticed for a few days that I haven't been able to sleep right away at night. So I cut down on the naps and am starting to get up earlier. Of course still not early, but 9:30 instead of 11:30. I do more in the daytime, which still makes me really tired, but I'm starting to feel like I can slowly start to work on getting my energy back. Because boy, am I out of shape! Yesterday my mom and I took a walk across town (about 2 km) to a kitchen store. She wants a new kitchen so we looked around and then walked back. That's a distance I can usually easily walk. I'll have to start building up again! Today I biked to the local supermarket (not even 1 km) and I could feel my legs. I'm embarrassed to say that... what kind of Dutch girl am I?The good thing is, I'm walking and biking again. And if I build it up slowly, I'm sure my energy level will increase as well. And I have plenty of fruit to help me!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pachelbel Rant

Pachelbel's Canon in D is something I really enjoyed to play. I played it when I was in orchestra in my foreign exchange year in the USA. I played the second violin part but I understand this guy's view of the cello part. Funny one!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Praise and cobbler

Today has been a good day. We slept in, I got breakfast in bed and then we cosily watched two Friends episodes. This afternoon we went for a walk (it was a beautiful day!) and tonight we fixed berry cobbler for dessert. I love berry cobbler, it's my absolute favorite American dessert. Tonight we have a dance class (we haven't been in three weeks but I feel up to it so we'll give it a try). In honor of this good day, here's my recipe.

Dutchnic's berry cobbler
Needed:
- 500 gr. fruit. Berries, apple, peach, or any mix of fruit. Can be frozen or thawed. Everything is good!
- 100 gr. flour
- 50 gr. butter, right out of the fridge so it's still hard
- 50 gr. sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat oven to 180° C. Put fruit in large oven dish, add half of the sugar and all of the cinnamon. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix flour and sugar and cut in the butter, using a fork or a pastry blender (see picture). When it looks like bread crumbs, cover the fruit. Put it in the oven.
After ±45 minutes you have a wonderful dessert. Careful, it's hot! Great with vla, whipped cream and/or ice cream. Enjoy!

Friday, December 08, 2006

St.Nicholas

This entry was inspired by DeepLight and Allis. I know that it is totally unnessecary for all of the Dutch people that read my blog. But I wrote it for my Xanga, so I decided to post it here too.

Tuesday, December 5th, we celebrated St.Nick's day. That is the day we exchange gifts in the Netherlands. In our country, the religious Christmas and the gift exchange are two different things. The day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ is December 25th, just like in other countries. We actually have a Second Christmas Day too, on the 26th. That's because, traditionally, people would go to church on the First and go see family on the Second.

But, back to St. Nick. We call him Sinterklaas, which is an abbreviation of Sint Nicolaas. He arrives on a steam boat (called Pakjesboot 12, or Present boat 12), about two weeks before the 5th. On a Saturday morning he arrives in the country, which is aired on national TV. The days after that he arrives locally, in ports, streams, or by car or other means of transportation.

St.Nick has a lot of helpers, called Zwarte Pieten, or Black Petes. They are boys and girls whose faces are black with soot, because they have to go down chimneys to distribute presents. Typically, little kids (the true believers) can put their shoes by the chimney (or back door, or somewhere else) before they go to bed, and when they wake up they find that their shoes have been filled with candy and little presents. This is done on the week-ends between the arrival of St. Nick and the actual celebration of his birthday (which is done December 5th instead of his real birthday, the 6th, because on that day he is too busy with his own presents).

On the night that his birthday is celebrated (typically the 5th, but the Saturday night is popular too, he can't be in all places at once after all) everybody is excited. After a knock on the window and a ringing of the door bell there is a big basket (which looks a lot like mom's clothes basket) full of presents and candy. There are traditional songs, and traditional candy. It's a great time for traditions.

The people that are not so believing anymore, usually draw names. It's kind of like a Secret Santa. You buy a present for the person on your paper and that's when it starts. You have to make up an original way to wrap it. For instance, if someone is a soccer player, you might hide the present in a papier-maché soccer ball. Or if someone asked for slippers, you can make him huge paper slippers and hide the present in there. Step 3 is to make a poem. In this poem, little jokes are made about the person. He has to read the poem out loud before he can open his present, so everybody has a good laugh.

Needless to say, St. Nick is my favorite holiday in the year. Anymore though, more and more people start giving presents at Christmas, once their kids don't believe in Sinterklaas anymore. I think that's a loss of our culture. Besides, Santa Claus was made up by Dutch immigrants in the United States who wanted to keep their tradition, yet change it to their new culture. And Coca Cola did the rest...Because St. Nick is so important, nobody has any Christmas decorations up until December 6th. That would be showing a lack of respect for St.Nicholas..

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Messed up

Sometimes my big mouth (or big fingers) say or type something that I mean well. But then I sometimes forget how I say things or to whom. And then sometimes people think I'm trying to put them down or make them feel bad. When I don't, I just expressed what I thought was necessary for them to know. Or I tried to help them but did that in the wrong tone of voice.
But now I feel bad, and I guess I deserve to. I guess even though I'm 25 I sometimes still have trouble thinking before I act or speak...talk about humbling...

Complain, or not?

Well, isn't this weird. I just went online to write a blog to complain. I've been so tired, it's hard to concentrate and it seems like all I can do is sleep and watch dvd's. I had one of those nights where you just sit and feel sorry for yourself. I watched one of those true-story-tv-movies and felt even sorrier for myself.
But...
When I opened up Outlook Express I found an e-mail from a friend in the United States, saying that his wife's spinal surgery went well. Her tumor was removed. I didn't even know she had a tumor....
Why am I complaining about being tired? Mono is one of those things that pass, provided you take good care of myself. This is one of those moments that are humbling and put both feet back on the ground....

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Vialisa

When I was in college, studying elementary education, I worked in a furniture store on week-ends. I got along great with the co-workers of the cash register. One of them was Lisa. Lisa was majoring in Development Aid at a university. She told me about being adopted from Bangladesh when she was two. And she also told me about her plans to go back to Bangladesh and found her own development organisation.
She did, in 2003, and Vialisa was founded. I offered to help her out with translations and editing Dutch texts, and became her first volunteer.

By now, Lisa has been living in Bangladesh for almost three years. She has an office and two schools, and she helps youngsters age 15-22 find jobs in appropriate situations. Kids in Bangladesh often have to work to support their families. But Vialisa helps them find situations where they aren't being exploited and are paid well. Most of the kids also get training on the job or are given the chance to go to school to study English and other things, like personal hygiene or how to manage a bank account. Vialisa has Bengali social workers that actually go into the slums to find and support children.
I'm really proud of Lisa, and of her organisation. Even though I don't always have a lot of time to work for Vialisa, I still consider myself lucky to be helping her help kids. I think everybody should donate to charity. Money, time, or both, if possible. It's really rewarding!
Are you looking for a new charity to support? Or are you interested? Check the website!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Fun book website

Because I'm bored already (I haven't even been home for a week yet, let alone two) I decided to do some Googling.

Apart from the ever cool Google Earth (I never realised how fascinating pictures from above could be, but they really are!) I found another fun Google site: Google Books. I found out about this site when I typed the first line of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" in Google, just to see what would happen. For those of you that don't know, (and you're forgiven) it's: "it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife". And what did I find out? At Google Books there's complete books to read! You can search by title, author, or random quote. How cool is that! Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, Little Women, all my old favorites. But also study guides for Harry Potter, information about the Dutch law system, facts about Indiana and all kinds of other things.
I guess they're licensed to put whole books online after the copyrights expire. I know for sheet music it takes 100 years, but I don't know how that is with books.

And of course I would much rather sit on the couch with a "real", paper book, I do think this website is a very useful library for looking up quotes. Or just reading that favorite chapter of your favorite book when you don't have it around. Or am I the only one who is that "bookaholic"?

Mono part II

It seems like since I've known that I have mono, I haven't been able to do anything. Everything makes me tired. I fold a load of laundry, I sleep. I unload the dish washer, I sleep. I clean the cat boxes, then have to sit on the couch. Everything goes in little steps but I'm not used to that yet. So I end up being suprised at being tired again already. This weekend a famous Dutch singer came to a festival in our town, and we had bought tickets for the event two months ago. I really wanted to see him so I went there for 2 1/2 hours and of course then I was exhausted. It was cool to see him, though.

The good part is that whenever I don't feel like doing something, I don't do it. I have to listen to my body, right? And the other good part is that my cross stitching is really hurrying up. It doesn't cost a lot of energy and it makes me feel like I'm doing at least something productive.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Mononucleosis

You may have noticed I haven't been online much in the past few weeks. That's because I've been tired, really really tired. After school I would just sit down, take naps or do something else that didn't require much thinking. I even took a home pregnancy test. That wasn't it, (thank goodness, because that wasn't the planning) and I was still tired.
That's why I went to the doctor's last week Thursday. I felt sort of like a loser, because what kind of complaint is that? "Doctor, I'm so tired". But since I do usually listen to my body I went anyway. He took me seriously and recommended a blood test, so I went to the hospital where they drew 5 tubes of blood. I called today and the assistant told me I have Mononucleosis, what we in Holland call Pfeiffer's disease. The white blood count was low and I had 2 out 3 Pfeiffer tests turn out positive. That combined with my symptoms told them that I was easily diagnosed. The HB was fine and so was my blood pressure (120/70).
And now? I'm still contagious (my M was happy to hear that, not! He said he'll still kiss me, thank goodness) and I should stay home for the next two weeks. The dr said "Tell the people at work the doctor said so. Enjoy giving into it. When you're tired, go to bed."
I guess my mental health day wasn't just mental, but also physical. And necessary.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

School system


Many people from abroad ask me how the Dutch school system works. Many people from the Netherlands do as well, because not too long ago many things have changed. That's why I'll attempt to explain everything. I found a diagram on the internet that might help clarify things a little. It's in Dutch though, but that doesn't matter because I'll use the abbreviations for the directions in my English explanation as well.

In the Netherlands children usually start going to school when they're four years old. The first two years of elementary school (group 1 and group 2) are comparable to the American and German kindergarten. The children spend most of their time playing in educational centers and corners, learning all kinds of skills that are necessary for when they start going to what Americans would call "first grade", but we call "group 3". This is the group where they start learning to read and write and do math and such. After this, things are pretty much comparable to the American elementary school, until the end of group 8 (American sixth grade). All children take a test, called the Cito test. The results of this exam, combined with the teacher's advice, decides to which type of school the kids will go after elementary.

In my country middle school and high school are one. There are three types: VWO, HAVO and VMBO. I'll generalize a little to makes things easier to understand.


  • VWO (Voortgezet Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs or Higher Scientific Education) is for the most intelligent children. It's a six year school whose diploma qualifies for medical school, law school, and other types of higher university.

  • HAVO stands for Hoger Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs, which translates into Higher General Secondary Education. After five years of HAVO you can go to HBO (Hoger BeroepsOnderwijs, or Higher Vocational Education). You go to HBO if you want to be a teacher, nurse, engineer, social worker, controller, finance specialist, there are all kinds of things possible.

  • VMBO is Voorbereidend Middelbaar BeroepsOnderwijs. This means Preparing Middle Vocational Education. The kids in this type of school are the ones I teach. It's the lowest level of school, and very practically oriented. It only takes four years, so you graduate when you're 16/17.
    The kids I teach are the future plumbers, construction workers, beauticians, assistant nurses and waiters of the Netherlands. It's a four year school, where the kids do a lot. They don't spend a lot of time learning from books, but they learn by doing. If you walk around our school you can see kids cooking, building brick walls, welding and washing each other's hair.

As you can see in the image, it's possible to "move up". If you've taken the highest level of VMBO (which is subdivided into 4 levels, but I'll explain about that later) you can obtain a HAVO-diploma by going to school for two more years. The same works if you have a HAVO-diploma and want to continue on to VWO.
Complicated, isn't it? I think it works well though. We have a way lower drop-out rate than many other countries. The practical people don't have to worry about books, and the book people don't have to worry about to much "doing". Almost everybody has a place where their intelligence fits in. And that's the most important thing.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sweet


Take a look at this. It's written by one of my two American host fathers. Isn't it sweet?

Monday, November 13, 2006

But you have no accent!

Every time I'm in the United States, people wonder why I have such a weird name (even though Nicolien tends to turn to Nikki pretty soon whenever I get there). When I explain to them that I'm from Holland, there are two responses possible.

  1. "Holland, really? I just love Copenhagen! My brother recently moved to Norway, do you know him? His name is Jim Johnson."
    If this remark doesn't strike you as funny, try checking the map of Europe. Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, which is two countries away from Holland (also know as the Netherlands) and not the same as Norway!
  2. "Holland, really? I just love Michigan! My mother/aunt/cousin always dances in their annual spring tulip festival. Oh and Grand Rapids just has a lovely outlet mall, doesn't it?"
    If you don't understand this, you're probably not from the USA. There is a city in the state of Michigan called Holland. Lots of Dutch people emigrated to Michigan. It's fun to check their phone book and see how many Dutch names you find there..

The people who make remark #2 usually tell me: "But you have no accent! How is that possible?". I still find that hard to believe. But I think that the combination of watching American tv and musical ears made my accent a little less detectable than with most Dutch people. The no accent has turned out to be a reason for some funny situations. Like when I went to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get my driving permit, and they asked me: "Hey, I see you recently turned eighteen. Would you like to register to vote?" "Er, thanks, but I'm not American".

Actually, this has been sort of a problem for me too. When I first came to my American High School, I wasn't as interesting to the other kids as most foreign exchange students. They didn't realize I was one, most thought I had just moved from another town. It even took one teacher a week to find out I wasn't American! That was because I told him Anne Frank was not German but Dutch. Thank goodness I didn't really have problems making friends.
The handy thing was that whenever I didn't feel like explaining the whole Holland/Holland situation I would just introduce myself as Nikki Jarboe and nobody would think that was weird.

Anyway, the reason for this post is this. Thanks, Cltgrace! Even the internet thinks I have no accent. What a compliment!

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Inland North
The South
The West
The Northeast
Philadelphia
Boston
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

PS: I did not mean to brag in this post. So please don't take it that way. Everything I describe here has really actually happened multiple times!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It worked, books, and plastic dishes


Thanks to the vinegar and the Biotex the bag was easily cleaned. Because of the vinegar the cats don't even get near it anymore, phew! And I found a funny website about taking pride in housewifeship.
Sorry I haven't been online much the last few days. I was too busy reading "Komt een vrouw bij de dokter" and "De weduwnaar" by the Dutch author Kluun. Two really awesome books about a man who looses his wife to breast cancer. Boy did I cry... it didn't matter that I was riding a train while I finished the first book. The good part about that was that I had to switch trains on a station with a book shop, which gave me time to buy the second book so I could continue reading right away.
I also went to a Tupperware-party. Yes, really. A friend of mine hosted it. And she's going to be demonstrating too, which will lead to me having my own Tupperware-party at my house. But I'll write about that later!
I have to go now. We're going to look at my brother's new house-to-be (i.e. the building site).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Stupid cats

They have three litter boxes... then why do they have to pee in a bag in the study? In a bag that isn't even mine??? And why don't I find out until they have peed in it at least three times....?
I better stop complaining and start cleaning.
I did learn on the internet that cleaning it with an enzyme containing laundry soap (like Biotex in Holland) is supposed to help. And then I'll spray with vinegar to make sure they won't come over there again..
Thank goodness it doesn't stink much. That would make it even worse.

Friday, November 03, 2006

To-do-list fraud

After sleeping in until eleven, I felt so much better that I decided to make this a productive day after all. I made a list of things to do: clean up, dust, vacuum, mop the floor, clean bathroom and toilet, repot some plants and iron clothes. It's funny how I always feel a lot better after making the list, even though I haven't actually done anything yet. I did promise myself to be able to relax after every chore, so I got to watch a few Friends' episodes after and during the chores too.

But I noticed something I do everytime I make a list: I add things to them that I have already done. Like today, when I saw my desk, I decided it was time to pay some bills and do some other administrative things. So I took care of them, and then went to my to-do-list and added "pay bills", which I could then of course mark out right away. I allowed myself to do this, because it was also a chore that had to be done and I did it. But really, it was fraudulous. Bad Nic! Does anybody else do this too?

It's four o'clock now and all I have to do is iron clothes, and then I'm totally done with everything on my list. And the things that I added to my list. I feel so much better!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Falling leaves

The leaves are falling. Everywhere. We changed the clock last weekend. We had a big storm last night and there's no denying it: it's autumn, definitely. And I can feel it, too. I'm stormy inside, and I don't know why.

Yesterday should have been an easy day, and it was, but it didn't feel like it. I only had to teach four classes, three of which went fine. The last one, however, did not go very well. Halfway through a practicum the kids were annoying me so much that I made them put all their instruments away and sit down. I then talked to them for twenty minutes, about how to behave (and especially, how not to!) when making music. I hope it helped.

After school I went to my mom's for lunch and a walk. That was fun, but still I felt stormy. I took a nap, but didn't feel better. And then, after choir rehearsal, I had a splitting headache so I went to bed at 21:30. My love was sweet enough to bring me a paracetamol at 3:11 (I think because my tossing and turning was keeping him awake as well) and after that I fell deeply asleep.

This morning I woke up at 8:30 thinking "Gosh what a short night". Thank goodness Thursday is my day off so I didn't need to do anything productive. I did decided to take call in sick for Friday. I'm just too stormy to work.
A very good friend of mine (she's sort of like a friend/aunt/mother) once said: "I allow my kids one mental health day per semester. Everybody needs a day just to rest their head once in a while". Good decision. Tomorrow will be my mental health day.

Don't worry about me. I'm still very happy and there are no problems. It's just a little stormy.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Quick and fun

Thanks, Cltgrace!
This makes me want to travel again. And I just got back from Denmark..

Your Travel Profile:

You Are Very Well Traveled in Western Europe (79%)
You Are Very Well Traveled in the Midwestern United States (75%)
You Are Well Traveled in Southern Europe (53%)
You Are Well Traveled in the Western United States (47%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in Canada (40%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Scandinavia (20%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in the Northeastern United States (14%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in the United Kingdom (13%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in the Southern United States (8%)
You Are Untraveled in Africa (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Asia (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Australia (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Eastern Europe (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Latin America (0%)
You Are Untraveled in New Zealand (0%)
You Are Untraveled in the Middle East (0%)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Copenhagen


We're back from three days in Copenhagen. I won't bore you with all the details of the trip (don't really feel like typing about three days now, and I haven't uploaded any pictures yet either), but here are some of the highlights:
- the Rosenborg castle and beautiful park behind it
- the Amalienborg castles (Copenhagen has a lot of castles and they're beautiful!)
- hot chocolate at Luna's in Christianshavn
- the "Women in Impressionism" exhibition at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (museum)
In this exhibition I saw a few paintings and this statue by Degas that I had just studied in my cultural history class. How cool is that!
- Lunch at Europa (ok, not cheap, but REALLY good and with a nice view)
- Dinner at Klimt's
- Dinner at Marius
- Hotel Ibsen's: friendly staff, clean rooms, great breakfast buffet

Interesting facts:
- all the public bathrooms I saw are clean and have warm and cold water to wash your hands with, and soap, and paper towels (which in Holland is not always the case)
- most of the people speak English (and pretty good, too!)
- the streets are clean
- lots of people drink beer in the morning (we had a 9 o'clock flight and people were already ordering beer)

So much for today!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cultural history

Even though this week is supposed to be my fall break from school, I spent the biggest part of the past few days working on an assignment for my cultural history class. It was pretty cool: we had to choose 4 artists from different art forms, and describe their work from the following points of view:
- the artist and religion
- the artist and political and economical power
- the artist and science and technical developments
- the artist and entertainment
- the artist and different cultures
- the artist and aesthetics

The teacher told us he preferred us to write about controversial people. That's why I chose Michael Moore for film, Madonna for music and Mel Gibson for drama. Less controversial, but interesting nonetheless was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for architecture.We had to quote at least four different sources per artist, which was pretty easy because once you get started there's lots to find.
So if you were wondering where I've been the past few days... I've watched Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11 (both Michael Moore) and I'm going to tell you a secret (about Madonna). I also read numerous books and internet articles. I thought it was really interesting to see the Michael Moore movies (which doesn't automatically mean that I agree with everything he says!) and to read the different articles written on him (which there are quite a few of, from lots of different points of view!). I also read lots of stuff on Madonna, who isn't any less controversial.
In case you're worried I won't get any relaxation: don't. We're heading off for three days in Copenhagen, Denmark tomorrow. So I'll definitely have my vacation!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Piano

12 March, 2007 I'll have my practical music exam. That day I'll have to fill 45 minutes with music of my own choice. I have to play, sing, arrange, organise and produce. In preparation of that I just played the piano for over half an hour. This is what I played:

- Waltz in Am - Chopin (love that, absolutely love that!)
- Gymnopédie - Satie (again: wow)
From "In Southern Seas" by Walter Carroll:
- Spraymist
And from "Sea Idylls" by the same:
- From the Cliffs (had never played that before, but it is beautiful)
- Ebb-tide
- A Passing Storm
- Alone at Sunset
Before I went to conservatory I never used to know Walter Carroll's music, but I love to play it now. It's within my reach (so not very difficult) but amazing. It's so romantic and totally fitting for the titles. He's not a very famous composer, but he wrote some pretty music.
Because I don't have weekly lessons at the moment I sometimes forget how much I do love to play the piano. I just reminded myself!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Multiple choices


Thanks to this blogging thing I've been back in touch with some long lost friends since a few months. Two of them are sisters, they're my American "host cousins" (cousins the family I lived with for a while when I was 17). They're so different.
They were raised in a really religious household (compared to Dutch standards, anyway). They were home schooled because their parents didn't believe in the public school system of their state. They did go to a private Christian school for a while.

Sister A (the elder) was always a little different than the rest of the family. She had a pretty steady boyfriend when she was fairly young. What happened after that, I'm not sure, but I know that she lost touch with the family. They didn't agree with the way she lived her life, and the choices she made. She went to college but only for two years and then she quit (not good). She married a guy her parents did sort of approve of (but couldn't live with him first). Now, two years later (when the contact had recently been restored) they're separated and heading towards a divorce. Of course her family doesn't approve of that either, because "no-one shall break what God has brought together".
I feel sorry for her. She told me, literally, that if they had been able to live together before getting married they would've split anyway and not have had to go through a divorce and the inevitable legal hassle.
She found someone else though, and is engaged again, and pregnant. I hope she's happy.

Sister B (the younger) was happy to follow in the family's footsteps. She married a Christian guy (good) who is even a teacher at a Christian school (very good). She also very consciously chose her life style. She loves her church and the people in it. She loves to teach people about Christ and hopes they'll follow Him.
I feel sorry for her, too. Because she recently thought she was pregnant, and had all the signs of a pregnancy. Yet she wasn't able to see a doctor because her health insurance didn't work yet (this would not happen in Holland). When she did go, they couldn't find a baby in her belly. So either it was a fallopian pregnancy (buitenbaarmoederlijk for the Dutchies) or she wasn't pregnant at all. Poor sister B. I hope she's happy too.

My point? I think the big difference in the way their family treats them is not fair. Both have been through a really hard time. Yet Sister A gets criticized and Sister B is comforted.
I've been e-mailing them both, and am trying to support them both. I think they both deserve all the support they can get.

Another thing for the Dutchies: comments like: "see, I knew those Americans were narrow minded" will not be appreciated. I respect this family a lot, even though I don't agree with all their opinions and all of their choices. And I really don't like to generalize....

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Happy harvest

We've been so lucky with the weather the past few weeks! A few rain showers aside, the weather has been really nice. It's still 20 degrees and sunny. And not only do I like that, the plants in my garden do as well. The tomato plants still give tomatoes, although I do pick them when they're not ripe and let them ripen on my kitchen table, because they'll rot if I don't. I also still have 2 or 3 zucchinis a week. And the bell pepper plant seems to have only just gotten started! The peppers don't get very big but there are a lot, so that's still pretty good. I hadn't even expected bell peppers to work out in this climate so I was suprised when I planted them for the first time last year. This year I have 4 plants instead of 2 and I'm even more surprised. They pollinate better so there's a lot more fruit per plant now. I guess next year I'll go for 6 plants... there's plenty of room anyway. And if I get too many peppers I can always give them away, freeze them or give them to the chickens.

I already wrote an entry about my dahlias. They are still beautifully in bloom. Last time I showed you pictures from Google, so today I thought it was time for some pictures made by myself.

And amazingly, my chicken still gives me an egg almost every day. One of the teachers at my school (he used to teach care of farm animals) told me chickens need 14 hours of daylight to lay eggs. And we now only have a little over 11 hours of daylight per day, so I expect her to start her winter stop soon.

Summarizing today's harvest: 2 vases of dahlias, 10 yellow and red tomatoes, 1 zucchini and an egg!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Bodyjam

For a while now, I've been watching my health. I cook better (using more vegetables and less cream and other fatty things), I eat more fruit and I try to get my recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day. It's going ok so far, and it makes me feel better and healthier. I can also notice it in my clothes and my general condition, for example when I have to walk lots of stairs.

Since I've always liked to dance, and my friend M (don't think this is boyfriend M) and I wanted to meet more often, she invited me to join her Bodyjam class. I tried it and liked it so much that I signed up right away. It's a high impact modern dance class with all kinds of influences: hip hop, salsa, bubbling, street dance. I've done modern dance things before but nothing compared to this. Apparently it's a world-wide thing. Three times a year a new Bodyjam routine is released and the class builds up a new dance. So much fun! And it's all arranged really professionally with good music mixes and well trained instructors.
It's close to where I live (less than 15 minutes away). And it's on Friday nights, which is really convenient for me because I can't use the following excuses, which usually start popping up a few months after I've started a new work-out:
- sorry, too much homework / school preperations for tomorrow.
- I'm really tired and I have to get up early in the morning.
- etc.
And since Friday nights I usually hang out on the couch (preferably with potato chips or other salty snacks) and don't do anything useful, this makes me feel really good. I'm home at 21:00 so that leaves plenty of time for couch potatoeing. And after moving my butt I usually don't feel like eating so much anymore, because it makes me feel guilty. And if I do eat chips, I think: oh well, I've already worked off those calories anyway!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Heart warming II


One of the new teachers at my branch of the school has been away for 4 weeks. We don't know if she's sick, over-worked or if something else is going on. Of course the principal knows and it's none of our business, but fact is that the kids haven't had any Dutch classes for the past month. And that's a long time, because Dutch is a class they have three times a week.

Last week I offered to fill in for her temporarily. I'm not very busy with the college now anyway, so I told the principal I'd like to teach some Dutch classes until November 1. They were happy with the offer and after a little deliberation they put me to work. So this week has been my first week as a music/Dutch teacher.

I already know all the classes I teach. Most of them I also teach music to, one of them I taught last year and only one group is new to me. One of the girls from the class I taught last year gave me a heart warming response.

Last Sunday my parents, M and I went out for a pizza in the town I teach. I hadn't set two footsteps in the restaurant yet, when a girl came up to me and asked me: "Miss, is it true? Is it really true?" So I said "What? I don't know what you mean."
"Will you be our new Dutch teacher?"
"Yes I will."
At which point she hugged me and said "Oh Miss I love you!".

I was super surprised. At the beginning of each school year we get confidential information about each student we teach. In hers it said (last year): "avoid all physical contact at all times. This girl has been through some nasty stuff and doesn't trust adults beside her mom."
The girl's mother stood behind her and just smiled at me. And I smiled back, and kept smiling all night.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Respect

M and I were gone this weekend. We went to visit my grandfather, who lives on the other side of our country (about a 4 hour drive). He's 93 so it's always really special to be with him. I have so much respect for him! Even though he's ninety-three he still lives independently. (He's lived in this senior house ever since he was 55, that's pretty cool. How many people get to pay off their senior home?) He eats from Meals on Wheels, has a weekly maid and a nurse who visits him three times a week. His neighbors are really attentive. Grandpa gives them the paper when he's done with it and they check on him and bring him French Fries every Friday.
My aunt is there one day a week and my mom goes over at least one weekend a month. She can't visit any more because of the distance.

I am always amazed by the amount of knowledge my grandpa has. He used to be an elementary school teacher and principal (yes I'm third generation!) and therefore knows a lot, but he's also really up to date on news and other current events. He has four grandchildren and knows exactly what they're up to. For instance, he'll ask me about my chickens and if the cat is ok again after his accident. I can't believe he remembers all that! Considering his age I wouldn't be surprised if his short term memory was failing a little every once in a while, but I never notice that with him. He always tells us stories about his youth and life after that, and even though the same stories pop up every once in a while there's always something new he adds to them.

He plays cards like crazy, too. Beats us all the time, I don't know how he does it. Of course he's in weekly training playing cards at the senior center, maybe that explains it. And if he hadn't voluntarily turned in his driver's license because he thinks he's too old to drive, he'd still be cruising around town too I'm sure.
I respect him so much, and of course I love him. We have a lot in common. Hopefully (not statistically) he'll be with us for a long time!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Procrastination


From m-w.com:
procrastinate

Main Entry: pro·cras·ti·nate
Pronunciation: pr&-'kras-t&-"nAt, prO-
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): -nat·ed; -nat·ing
Etymology: Latin procrastinatus, past participle of procrastinare, from pro- forward + crastinus of tomorrow, from cras tomorrowtransitive verb : to put off intentionally and habitually
intransitive verb : to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done
synonym see DELAY - pro·cras·ti·na·tion /-"kras-t&-'nA-sh&n/ noun - pro·cras·ti·na·tor /-'kras-t&-"nA-t&r/ noun
-------------------------------------------------------------
It's Thursday afternoon, the sun is shining and it's still 21 degrees even though it's late September. My chicken still lays an egg a day and the scabs on my elbow and knee are much better than they were. My whole shin is bruised still, but that'll be over soon enough.
Obviously, I have no classes now so this would be a good time to be working on my cultural history project. Or to be washing the windows (can't remember when the last time was I did that). Or to do various other household chores, like iron or pick up messes. But I don't feel like doing any of that!

Last school year I was so much more structured than I am now, but that was because I had to be. I was so busy that if I didn't plan everything, I was afraid it would all turn out to be a big mess. Of course it didn't. It did make me feel guilty every time I missed part of my plans, for whatever reason.

This year I have lots more time off (I work less and I have less classes to take), but I haven't used it very productively yet. I haven't even started to work on my thesis yet (but I do still have plenty of time) and that one project from last year that I haven't turned in yet is also still a work in progress.

What do I do? I read a lot more, which will eventually turn out to be handy for both my thesis and my cultural history project. I cook more elaborately (very good for my health and my relationship) and I go outside a lot more (again, health!). So it doesn't matter that I'm not working every minute of every day. I do what I have to do and if I don't feel like doing it that instant, I put it off for an hour, or a day. What matters is that it gets done and that I don't feel guilty. And I'm so much more relaxed than I was a few months ago!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Clumsy

Last Wednesday I had a clumsy moment. I don't even know how it happened, but I fell. I didn't fall from my bike, or from anything else, I just fell while I was walking! It happened after I had just gotten out of my car and had started to walk to school for the choir rehearsal.

It was weird, because while I was walking I was thinking about my brother, who has also recently made a fall. I wondered how it had happened and as I was thinking, I found myself lying on the street. A girl with two dogs came running to me: "Miss, are you ok?". I was shaky but all right, except for a scraped knee (boy has it been a long time since my last scraped knee) and elbow. And there was a hole in my pants, right on my knee. And they were my favorite-comfortable-bought-them-on-sale red linen pants.... with wide legs that my foot probably got caught in.

After getting up and getting my things together (of course I was carrying a guitar case, a backpack as well as a too-full music folder) I walked in the school. The seventh grade choir girls were all telling me about the hole in my pants and how I was shaking. I knew all that... My colleague sent one of them with me to the office, where I got a first aid kit and started to clean and desinfect. Of course this was a left handed girl so she couldn't cut band-aids because all the scissors we found were righties...but it was nice that she was chatting about all kinds of things because she distracted me. The cute thing was she told me that she thought that even though she was getting a little old (we're talking thirteen) she still fell a lot, and how her mom will always give her a piece of candy after she's fallen. "I'll bring you a lollipop on Friday Miss, I think you deserve one!"
She forgot it..but did apologize for forgetting and asked me if I was ok. And that was enough.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Laundry crisis

It doesn't happen very often, but once every few months it occurs at the M & Nic household: the laundry crisis. With that I don't mean the bleeding of a red sock in a white load of laundry. I mean the fact that M and I argue over laundry.

When we first moved in together, we discussed the house work and how we would divide it. We made an agreement: M promised to take care of the floors (vacuum and mop) and I would do the laundry.
This arrangement has worked well so far, but sometimes I get annoyed. I'll explain why.

We have one dirty clothes basket, and on Saturday I sort it. I make piles: a dark load, a white load, a red and pink load... it totally makes sense. I throw them in the waching machine and until that time there's piles on the utility room floor. Sometimes that means that when M comes out of the shower on Saturday night, he has to put his dirty clothes somewhere. However, he doesn't seem to understand the system. To me it's logical that his dark socks go on the dark pile, and his white undershirt should end up on the stack of whites. But he has two solutions:
a) walk in the utility room and put clothes in the middle of piles. He calls this the "multiple choice solution".
b) walk in the utility room and put clothes in the recently emptied clothes basket. This is the "good luck Nic" solution.
I've explained the system to him many times. But today he told me again: "I just don't get it!". I guess I need to find another teaching method.

Don't think I'm a whiny girl friend. (I try not to be, anyway!) I'll quote my professor in my opinion of this: "If this is your biggest problem, consider yourself a lucky girl!". And I do. I'm a very lucky girl to have a great boyfriend like him! He's very handy and can fix anything that's broken. And we did agree that doing laundry is my job, so I guess I shouldn't complain...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Good chicken news!

When I walked into the chicken shed today, I saw that Mej.Tok had laid her first egg!! Click here to see a picture, Mej.Tok is the big one.

After wondering why she wouldn't lay any eggs, I checked out some internet chicken forums (didn't know they existed but they do), and I learned that chickens need a dark spot to retreat in. When they lay eggs, they need to feel safe and a dark environment helps them feel safe.

Well, M had this wonderful idea... we had an extra unused litter box. So I put the litter box in the chicken shed, put some hay in it and four days later we have our first egg!!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Impressive moment

Today one of my 13 year old students fainted in class. When I asked her what had happened, she told me she was dizzy because she hadn't eaten all day. I remembered I had heard her complain about being fat before (she's such a pretty, well proportioned girl!) so I took her outside for a chat.

I didn't have to ask anything, she just started to talk. Dad had finally moved out of the house last Saturday, after breaking up and getting back together with Mom several times this year. Two of her friends had told her she was getting chubby. She's insecure and she wants to be a model. "That's why I don't eat Miss, because if you don't eat you don't gain weight." She also told me she's thrown up after meal time twice, but that her mother found out and got mad with her.

We had a good talk for about half an hour in which I explained a few things about how the digestive system works. And about the importance of food when you're a growing teenager. The funny thing is that I just watched a documentary about eating disorders last night, so I was able to give her accurate information.

She gave me permission to talk to the counselor, as long as I didn't tell her home-room teacher or her parents. Well of course not. Counselor (who is also her health and science teacher) will look her up tomorrow for a chit-chat.

She said "but Miss, you're spending half the class time on me! Why would you do that?". I told her that I like it when my students know lots about music and are able to sing well, but that my first priority was that they were happy and healthy. At that she just said "thanks" and smiled.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Dahlias and zinnias

Yesterday I walked around my garden to cut some dahlias. I guess every year I have a new surprise in my garden, this is year it's definitely this awesome flower! Last year I hardly grew any flowers (a few sun flowers), just vegetables. That was fine and we ate lots of healthy, good tasting fresh veggies. But this year I decided that my garden was big enough to add something for the eye as well.
I bought eight different types of dahlia tubers (roots) on sale without really paying attention to the pictures on the bags, dug a few holes and planted them. It took a while for them to form plants but they grew out to be nice and big. And about a month ago they started to bloom. The picture on the right (taken from Wikipedia) is my favorite. I have that kind in pink, yellow and white and they're as big as my hand and really beautiful.

Then there's also a few multi-colored surprises, like the Dahlia "Jean Marie". If you want to see a picture of this gorgeous flower follow the link and scroll down. Unfortunately Blogspot won't let me post three pictuers. I also have a little red/white variety that's on there, the "Duet".
And you know what the cool thing is about dahlias? They are really easy to grow, and they give you flowers from August until frost! And then you dig up the roots (they will rot if you leave them in the ground) and plant them again next year, and the fun starts again!

Another flower I started to grow in my garden is the zinnia. It was a little harder to grow: I had to sow them in my cold frame first, and when they were big enough I could plant them in the bed. It's funny because the bag contained multi-colored seeds so it really turned out to be a surprise which color they were going to be. I have red, pink and orange zinnias. Unlike the dahlia, which gets nasty after about a week, the zinnia will stay beautiful in the vase for at least ten days. And they also continue to grow flowers. Actually, cutting flowers helps the plant create more flowers. That's because it thinks it hasn't properly reproduced yet. And that's true, because if you cut the flowers they can't be pollinated and won't form seeds.

There's no real moral in this story, except that I'm happy with my garden! It's fun to see how people respond. Older people generally don't believe that it's really my garden. They tend to think that my mother in law (who lives down the street) works it. But then they start to question me and they're surprised that I really do know things about growing veggies and plants. And the other fun thing is that I've already inspired two friends (one of which is Sheila) to start growing vegetables!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Honored

Sheila just wrote a really nice post about me. In that post she refers to something I wrote about our friendship. Click here to read it (or scroll down).
Thank you, dear Sheila!

Heart warming

Sometimes I don't like working with the lowest level kids, usually I enjoy it, but sometimes I just love it. Wednesday I had a heart warming moment.

In our school there's a short break after every second class period. That means a break after second, fourth and sixth. After eight period there's no break: school's out then. In every break teachers are on duty in the cafeteria and hall ways to make sure the children behave. It's not a job I enjoy very much, because I hate being a police officer. You can hear me say things like: ""DON'T KICK HIM or I'll have to kick you!"(kidding, you get that right?), "Pick up that Snickers wrapper please", "Please don't stick peanut butter sandwiches under the cafeteria tables".... I'd much rather give kids compliments.

Anyway, back to Wednesday. Third break I was on duty, roaming the hallways, looking for kids behaving badly when I noticed these two third year girls whom I taught last year. They were whispering behind their hands and their eyes followed me as I walked through the hall. After a couple of minutes they called me and asked: "Miss! We were just talking about you... have you lost weight? You look really good!".
Talk about heart warming moments....

Yes, I did loose weight (but not very much).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Grandma's apple pie

After reading my last post, Yoastie asked me to share my recipe for Dutch apple pie. Because it's fresh apple season, and because I'm really proud of the pie, here it is! This used to be our Saturday and Sunday after church treat. My mom used to bake an apple pie almost every week when we were little (as long as the apples from our tree lasted).

Dutchnic's grandma's apple crumble pie

You will need:
- 500 gr. self rising flour
- 250 gr. margarine or butter
- 200 gr. white or brown sugar
- a package of vanilla sugar
- 1 egg
- ± 5 apples (I use Goldreinet or Elstar, don't know if those are available everywhere, they're sour apples)
- raisins and/or currants
- sugar
- cinnamon
- lemon juice

Heat the oven to 200°C (±400°F)
Sift the self rising flour and, using two knives or a fork, work the margarine through it. Add white or brown sugar, vanilla sugar and egg and knead until it's a good dough. Cover the dough and put it in the refrigerator.
In the mean time, peal and slice the apples. Add sugar, cinnamon and lemon to taste, as well as the washed and dried raisins and/or currants.
Grease a 28 cm diameter spring form (I use the margarine paper). Cover the spring form with 2/3 of the dough. If the apples are really wet, you can sprinkle some custard powder on the bottom of the dough before you add them to the bottom. The custard powder will be a nice sweet touch and it also absorbs excess moisture, but it's not necessary so if you don't have it, just leave it out. Put the apples in the bottom and make crumbs of the rest of the dough. Sprinkle the crumbs over the apple filling until you have a top crust (press on them a little bit to get them to stick together).
Brush the top with some egg or coffee cream for a nice shine. What also works is to brush the top of the pie with apricot jelly, but only do this after you take it out of the oven.
Bake the pie in the oven. I always do 10 minutes of 200°, then an hour on 175° (350°F) and then another 10 minutes with the oven door closed and the temperature turned off.

Very good with whipped cream, vanilla sauce or ice cream!

Oh, by the way: I got the picture off of the Internet. Don't have a picture of my apple pie...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Opposites and Foo Yong Hai


Yesterday M and I went to the Aquazoo in Düsseldorf with Sheila and her fiancé. It was fun, because even though we've been friends for, probably, six years now, this was the first time the four of us went somewhere together. We usually just hang out and play games or watch movies together.

While driving over there Sheila and I checked out bridal gowns in bridal magazines (Sheila is getting married in June), which was interesting. If you don't know Sheila, check out her log. It tells you a lot about her style and who she is. Her style and mine are very different.
We've had lots of discussions about our friendship and how it's funny that, even though we are very different, we really like one another. And we also do have a lot in common.

Sheila's parents are both from Indonesia so she was raised in a different culture than I was, even though she was born in the Netherlands and is
also very Dutch. Even after those six years of friendship we sometimes find something that is so totally different that it's funny we didn't notice that before. Looking back at that, it always raises a situation that I find very uncomfortable at the moment it happens. But then we talk about it and it ends up being funny.

For instance, yesterday I asked her for a recipe for Foo Yong Hai. She told me that she wasn't going to share it. I was surprised, because I've shared recipes (and other things) with her before, and vice versa, and it's never been a problem. But yesterday she was really firm in her not sharing the recipe. She explained to me that in the Indonesian culture recipes are handed down generation to generation, and it's not done to share it with others outside the family. I thought that was funny because in my family we also have recipes like that (like grandma's apple pie and mom's purple cabbage) but anybody who likes them can have them. But apparently in their culture food is so important that you just don't do that.

It took me a while to understand the whole thing. I was very surprised and at first a little shocked. She was suprised by the way I reacted. I thought: "why won't she give me the recipe? We're such good friends! Did I just totally insult her?" But then she explained why it was so important to her to keep the recipe to herself. Thank goodness she said she wasn't insulted and did offer to make the dish for me whenever I want to eat it. And in the mean time, I'll just try fixing something like Foo Yong Hai with the ready made spice mixes offered by our good friend Mr.Conimex!

This story reminded me that the differences between us are one of the things that make our friendship special. Sheila teaches me lots of things that I never realised. And it's good to have someone close to you who reminds you every once in a while that there are lots of different perspectives to lots of different things.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I am Sunset

You Are Sunset

Even though you still may be young, you already feel like you've accomplished a lot in life.
And you feel free to pave your own path now, and you're not even sure where it will take you.
Maybe you'll pursue higher education in a subject you enjoy - or travel the world for a few years.
Either way, you approach life with a relaxed, open attitude. And that will take you far!
And it's true, too! I do recognize myself in this. Funny! Thank you, Cltgrace!

Camp

I just came back from three days of 7th grade camp. Exhausting but fun. Thank goodness I didn't stay the night (I had college class on Thursday) so I wasn't as exhausted as my colleagues that did sleep over.
It's a good tradition in most Dutch high schools (grade 7-12) that the 7th grade classes have a camp in the beginning of the school year. It's a nice opportunity for the kids to get to know their class mates and for the teachers to observe the students. Wednesday we all rode our bikes to the camp location. It was about an hour and a half and the kids were complaining that they got tired. Which was good, because by the time we were at the camp they were nice and quiet :). We played lots of games, went swimming, bowling and Friday morning we rode our bikes back to school. The kids were tired and dirty (amazing how they bring suitcases full of stuff and end up wearing the same shirt for three days), we were just tired.

The weather has turned. After three weeks of rainy, 15 degree weather, we're back to 20 and sunny! Yeehaw. A lot of my tomatoes had started to rot but maybe some will live now that it's getting warmer again.

Tonight we're going to the movies, probably Pirates of the Caribbean II. And tomorrow to the
zoo in Duesseldorf (Germany).Oh and the chickens still don't lay any eggs. They are growing, though.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Traditions

This weekend it's fair time (kermis) in our small town. That requires a lot of explaining since Dutch fairs are way different than American fairs. No apple pies, pigs and crochet work, but a catholic mass, parades and lots of traditions.
Fairs in Holland usually take place at the end of the harvest times, so in august or september. They are traditionally catholic fests, which means they always start with Sunday Mass. The
schutterij (shooting guild) is the most important organisation that puts up the fair. It's hard to explain what the schutterij is, but if you follow the link, there's a good article.

This weekend used to be the end of harvest (so no more hard work for a little while) and therefore a time to celebrate. Everybody is dressed up in their best clothes, houses are scrubbed inside and out, gardens and lawns in perfect order. After mass, people go to their parent's or grandparent's houses to e
at soup and traditional salad. The kids don't go to school on Monday and Tuesday and most adults take those days off, too.

On Monday, contests are held to see who is the best at shooting cross bow and hand gun. The one who shoots the wooden bird off of the 10 ft high pole is elected Shooting King for the year and gets lots of honors. A parade goes to his house to pick him up, after which he and his Queen are taken to the fest tent in horse and carriage at the end of the parade.
On Tuesday there are games for the children like sack races and all 4 days there's a midway at the town square, right beside the tent.

Big thing is also the parties that are held in a big tent on town square. And yes people, this is Catholic Holland, so lots of beer will be served.. A band plays and it's a good time to catch up with people you haven't seen in a while (if the music isn't too loud).
My M is head of the division of the schutterij called the vendeliers (see pic, not of him but of a girl in our town's teenage squad of vendeliers). The vendeliers are sort of comparable to the flag squads some American schools have, only here its's adult men (and some women) who perform and do tricks with the flags. In the schutterij there are, among other things, also a brass band and a sort of drill team.


This morning we went to mass. It was beautiful to hear the band play and see all the people dressed up in their uniforms. No, I'm not a catholic, but I am proud to be a part of this town, where traditions are kept alive.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Exciting game

Click here if you have fifteen minutes and you´re up for some excitement! Thank you, Ampad! And don't give up, just use your mathematical skills and some logic. Just make sure you do better than I did!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Beautiful things

Everybody who knows me knows that I'm not good at hiding my emotions. If I'm happy, I laugh, if I'm sad, I cry... I cry at movies, or when I feel sorry for myself, but last night I cried because I saw something beautiful.
Two fellow members of my choir are mother and daughter (15). Four months ago, daughter ran away from home because she said her mother was too strict. She moved to her father's instead, who lives in the district of the city where lots of bars and clubs are. Father, being away lots of times, and disliking mother, decided to let daughter do anything she wanted to, even if that meant going to clubs (you have to be 16 but she looks 16) and getting home at 2:30 AM.

Mother and daughter have not talked in four months. Daughter quit coming to choir rehearsals because she knew mother would be there. But last night, on her birthday, daughter came to rehearsal.

Because we knew it was her birthday, we sang "Happy Birthday" to her and the director (my dad) congratulated both mother and daughter (though that was a little awkward since noone knew if they had made up or not). A little after that, mother walked out of the room, crying.
After rehearsal, dad and I waited in the office for about ten minutes, since mother and daughter stood in the choir room and talked. It was touching to see their body language change from arms crossed, to hands on hips, to a very open posture. It was also touching to see how much daughter looks like mother.
I walked by them to get a cup of coffee from the coffee machine in the adjacent staff room. When I got back they were hugging, gave each other a kiss and both went their seperate ways.
Wow!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Dennis update and schedule


We went to the vet twice on Saturday, but we didn't need to go on Sunday. He peed and started to perk up a little. He eats everything I put in his dish and then still asks for more. No wonder if you consider that this 5 kg (15.43 lbs) cat lost 700 gr (1.5 lbs) in a week.
I'm relieved! We go back on Wednesday for his last shot of antibiotics, and then he should be fine. Yea!

And to prevent this log from becoming a story of just cats and chickens, here's how I am doing!
I went to my college today for the opening of the school year. My schedule is amazing: I only have 1 class until fall break, and 1 class from fall break to Christmas. All of the other assignments don't require presence at school. That means
that, including work, my week will look like this:
Monday: 1 class 2nd 9 weeks, after that: nothing (I mean write thesis)
Tuesday: work afternoons, evening: Italian class
Wednesday: work full day and choir at night
Thursday: 1st 9 weeks 1 class, after that: write thesis
Friday: work

That should be doable. Last year I had to go to work/college every day, and there were 3 days a week where I had to be at both places so I was constantly rushing from one place to the next. Hopefully this year will be less stressfull!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Poor Little Dennis II

So I took Dennis to the vet this morning. He got another shot of antibiotics and I was told to keep an eye on him and if everything stayed quiet return on Monday.
Well, he did stay quiet. Too quiet. He tried to go on the litter box lots of times, but he couldn't go. He started to walk a little queasy again, and his eyes looked blurry. So I took him back to the vet at 17:00. He said he didn't look good (boy am I a good diagnostician) and gave him a different shot. He told me the first shot was related to aspirin, which tends to thin the blood. And when he pressed on the bladder, lots of urin and blood came out, so he had started to bleed again. No wonder he didn't feel good.
Now we have to watch him and if he doesn't pee tonight take him back in the morning. If he does and he looks better, Monday. We have a birthday party tonight. I'm glad it's only 2 houses away so I can go and check on him a couple of times.

Poor little Dennis


My cats go outside a lot. When the weather is nice (i.e. when it's not raining) and we're home, we let them go out. There are lots of interesting cat play places around our house. A vegetable garden, chicken shed, and 2 big fields behind the house, one of which with horses. Then there's the neighbour's chicken shed (where they have caught many a sparrow and starling).
When they play outside, I usually leave the back door open so they can come in to eat, drink or use the littler box. And whenever I'm outside, they usually stay close to me. I like that, because I can see what they do.
Last Tuesday something went wrong, however.
As usual, Dennis and Cilla had been outside all afternoon. They came in when it got dark, but Dennis spent almost all night on the litter box. We were conspiring a birthday surprise for my brother in law, and from the litter box he could see what we were doing. We made fun of him: look, he found a new chair with a lovely view!
Little did we know that he had a problem...
Wednesday he went outside, but didn't come in. He stayed outside all night and all day Thursday. Nobody had seen him in the day time though, which is very unusual. At 21:30 he walked in and went straight to the litter box. He couldn't walk straight, his fur was pale and he was very skinny. I called the vet and he told me to come to the office straight away.
The vet examined him and found that his bladder was clogged and therefore he couldn't pee. It had been like that for a few days (apparently since Tuesday) and it had been infected. Because he couldn't get rid of his waste, it had gone back into his veins and had started to poison him, that's why he walked so funny. The vet flushed his bladder and called me at 23:00 that all was well and I could pick him up after work.
What happened? He was probably kicked by a horse, which made him bleed internally. The blood had clogged his bladder. The vet told me we were lucky he came in and we found him, because usually cats that feel that badly find a quiet spot to die..
I took him back there this morning and he got another shot of antibiotics and anti-infection. We'll go back again Monday to see how he's doing. In the mean time he has to eat a lot, sleep a lot and stay in. He does look a lot better now though, thank goodness!