War zone

I feel like I’m in a war zone at the moment, the number of fire crackers going off has increased to every few seconds! I’ve gotten used to it now though to the point it doesn’t scare me anymore and make me think a gun has gone off.

We stopped off at the supermarket briefly before getting ready to go to Ben’s (and family) tonight for Oliebollen. We’ll have to come home early around 9pm cuz apparently it’s not safe to drive on New Years Eve. Alex tells me that the fireworks and firecrackers are so bad that they damage your car so you have to close all the windows in your house and stay inside.

Machiavelli

Tonight we went to dinner at a friend of Alex’s, Ieke and her partner Andre. Ieke is vegetarian and since I’m not really a huge meat eater I really enjoyed the vegetarian meal we had for dinner.

After dinner, MORE Oliebollen (I’m gonna get so fat from these) and then I got introduced to the game Machiavelli. This is actually a pretty cool game, although not the easiest to follow in dutch. They teased me for taking too long to decide, but it was bloody hard trying to translate the cards (I had an English list I wrote next to me) plus with them trying to explain the rules to me at the same time I was deciding…….arrrrgggh. But it was fun as I got into the gist of it.

It got a bit hard for me when I got one of the purple cards which are special cards and are only explained in dutch. These cards you should really keep private as they can help you win the game, however I had to reveal my card to the others just so I could get it translated. I was losing anyway, so it didn’t matter a whole lot really, lol.

In the end, I continued to lose, and I lost quite grandly 😉

I’m so gonna get that game when I get back to Adelaide…..apparently it’s available in English. Who wants to play it with me? 😛

Vicki and Robert leave

In the morning once we got up (had a bit of a sleep in after the late night) I spent some time helping Vicki with her website. We were hoping to maybe do our private balance class, but we ended up spending too much time on the website and finally had to say goodbye around 4pm.

It seemed all too short to say goodbye so soon, but I’m convinced we’ll meet again one day. I have to say that even such a short visit has strengthened the ties between us and I feel so privileged to have met all of the guys.

And again, especially to Vicki who went out of her way and actually booked a flight just to visit me, even though expensive at this time of year.

Vicki, Robert, Rien and Janne……….thanks guys, I’ll always remember it 😉

Forum people arrive!

Today I finally got the amazing opportunity to meet some long time forum friends. Vicki (Red) and Robert (Sigma) arrived first and I’ve known them for 4 or 5 years or so. Especially Robert who I’ve known the longest from the old forums before I started btstalk.com and before I was an instructor. Meeting them was like having known them the whole time. There were no surprises, they were everything I expected in real life.

I have to thank Vicki especially for making the trip here from the UK. I really appreciate her going out of her way and booking a flight to come see me. I hope it isn’t the last time and hopefully I’ll get to meet her family one day. Alex and I just need to earn lots of money some how so we can afford a trip to the UK in the future 😉

Rien (Voidbrain) and Janne arrived next and I’m so glad they came along, even though I haven’t known them that well from the forum. We spent the afternoon chatting and catching up, and I felt entirely comfortable with everyone, I felt like I was amongst friends.

In the afternoon Janne got out her blood pressure monitor and we all had fun checking our blood pressure. Mine was the lowest, although it was a bit higher than usual for me, since I’ve been having fairly low blood pressure lately (which is normal in pregnancy). Janne is a midwife, so she also brought along her Doppler machine which is a device which enables you to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. I have been able to hear the baby’s heartbeat with the obstetrician but it was awesome to be able to share this with Alex. 

We captured this moment with the video function on my digital camera.

We decided to go for a walk to the nearest shops to introduce Vicki to the experience of Oliebollen and Alex promised us that it was a 17 min walk. It seemed like it took rather longer, so after the warm Oliebollen experience, Vicki and I timed the walk on the way back which amounted to a whole total of 30 mins instead!!! Not sure if this is partially due to the fact that (as Alex informed me later) Vicki and I led the group the wrong way on the return walk.  😆  Vicki described the Oliebollen experience as tasting rather like donuts, and I guess she’s pretty close with that description (except without the icing and lighter and fluffier for those familiar with aussie donuts).

After all this we went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, which wasn’t really quite a Chinese restaurant. Basically it seemed to be a combo of chinese, indian and malaysian food…….I think.

It was hilarious with Vicki and I trying to decipher the menu. I have managed to figure out that “kip” = “chicken”, but it was hard really figuring out what everything was. We were looking at getting a banquet for all of us and while Vicki and I were struggling with one of the banquet menus, the waitress helped us out by suddenly handing us an English version of the menu! 😆

Chinese Restaurant - Janne, Alexander and Robert

After tea (DINNER!) Janne and Rien left to make the trip home, while the rest of us went back to Alex’s apartment. I have to thank Robert for giving me the most wonderful neck and back massage. I have heard rumours that he was good and I can now confirm it’s true! Alex was supposed to be picking up tips while I got the massage, but I think he got distracted talking with Vicki. I think Alex could be really good at massages if we didn’t get distracted all the time, lol.

We were going to muck around and do a balance class together, but I got too tired to teach a balance class. Or maybe I was just too relaxed after my massage.

Annelies

Dyke 

Today was an amazingly huge day. We (tried to) get up early for the 2.5 hour drive down to Zeeland where Annelies lives. Annelies is an old forum friend of mine that came and spent 3 weeks with me in Adelaide about 4 years ago. How time has passed but it’s funny how the memories came back that we could share. I had the opportunity to get to experience some of her life which we used to talk about all that time ago, including a brief visit to where she works and her horses.

Alex and MelWe had a quick lunch first…….chips, fries, patat……whatever you want to call it. We drove to one of the dykes which was fascinating to see. I always imagined that the dykes would be some kind of wall holding the water back, so it was a little different from what I imagined. It was too cold to stay out there for long though (for me), so we had a look, took photos, Alex and MelAlex tried to touch the sea, then Alex and Annelies walked back while I ran to the car before I froze to death!

Then we headed to the Deltawerken which is an amazing structure which holds the sea water back when the storms become too rough. It’s incredible the amount of soil they would have had to bring in, the technology and the strength of the structure. Apparently there’s engineers that come from all over the world just to see it.

Deltawerken

After we headed to the stables to see Annelies’ horses. She has an Irish cob which Alex had a ride bareback on. It was getting dark, but she was a very quiet pony and after I showed Alex the “controls” he pottered around in the arena. I haven’t ridden for a while, and I wasn’t going to start again while pregnant, but cuz she was so quiet I jumped on aswell and had a bit of a pony ride for a bit.

Annelies had a balance class to teach at 7pm, so we went home, got changed and headed to the gym. I was looking forward to doing a balance class again and Annelies offered me to team teach. I knew the first 2 tracks of the mix she was doing, so I revised them. It felt weird initially teaching in a different country and I was initially very self conscious of how well they’d be able to understand my English, so I was careful with my cues and tried to make my instruction very clear. Their technique was very very good so that made it easier and the manager of the gym, Tanya, came in and took photos (which I hope to get a copy of). After I taught the first 2 tracks Annelies encouraged me to continue, but I didn’t know her mix so I got my ipod out and did an unprepared mix, trying to pick whatever tracks I knew I’d remember off the top of my head. It was difficult cuz I’d been teaching the new release back home and here they haven’t launched yet. Annelies finished off with the meditation in dutch. The mix I ended up with was:

  1. BODYBALANCE at Fitness FitaalSacral Nirvana – BB17
  2. Sweet Harmony – BB17
  3. I am not my hair – BB36
  4. Miserere – BB24 (By request of Alex)
  5. Street’s of Philadephia – BB24
  6. Crazy – BB39 (sneak preview for them)
  7. You Got The Love – BB35
  8. Nobody Knows – BB35
  9. Bathe In The River – BB35
  10. Yearning of the Sword/Rachel’s Song – BB17

I was really impressed with the gym, the quality of the facilities and how welcoming they were of me and allowing me to teach there. I really liked Tanya and she seemed very professional. Some of the photos of the class are available at her site.

On the way home I nearly got scared half to death when a loony driver on the freeway was travelling, at a guess, in excess of 160km per hour. I dunno what the driver was doing, but he swerved so close to us as to hit our mirror. We were already doing around 120km/hr or so and even though I was very tired it scared me so much that I actually kept awake the entire trip home. Congratultions to Alex for not letting it rattle him while he was driving, cuz the noise when the car hit our mirror was loud. It hasn’t helped my fear at all of driving on these crazy roads in Europe!

Out for a jog

Finally starting to really get over my cold and after all the food and festivies I’m bursting to exercise again. Hopefully I’m not getting too fat from all the good food here?

Alex has no full length mirrors, only a face height mirror so I have no idea how my body looks, lol! Nor does he have any scales so I’m absolutely blind to what the effects of the food might be having. Hopefully with all the holidays nearly over and my cold over we can get into the gym a bit aswell.

So I went for a jog tonight, despite it being freezing cold outside, and cuz Alex has come down with the cold I have had he just rode his bike alongside me. I didn’t think I’d make it very fair, I thought I’d jog about 100m and fall in a heap. However I felt quite energetic and enjoyed the jogging, but eventually I felt pain in my hip flexors which is the result of the pregnancy hormones, so I had to stop and walk a bit. I could have continued jogging for a while if it wasn’t for my hips. I guess they’re getting ready for birth, not for running around……grrrr.

Christmas Day

Quiet relaxing day for Christmas Day which was nice. Much nicer than previous years I remember which used to involve getting up early, rushing to one set of parents house, over eating, rushing to the next family and eating more, then eating till you just feel sick. Stress, presents, expectations.

It was nice instead to spend the day together, Alex and I, and I also spent some time uploading the photos so far to the gallery on groupfitness.org.

In the evening we went to Ben and Ineke’s again for dinner. This time it was a fried grill, where you cook your own food on the grills on the table. I got addicted to the meatballs and ate way too many of them!

This is also a good time to mention the wonderful gift that I received from Alex’s dad. When I was having significant computer issues at home, Alex’s dad decided to get me a powerful laptop as a gift. This is incredibly awesome and I feel so appreciative of him doing something so significant for me. It’s so great that Alex’s family are so accepting of me!

Christmas Eve Dinner

It’s a dutch tradition to celebrate Christmas Eve more rather than Christmas Day, so for Christmas Eve we had dinner at Alex’s place. Alex’s brother and family, sister and his dad all came over for fondu. First time ever having fondu for me. I had only heard of having cheesy or chocolate fondu’s, so having one with meat and salads was new to me.

Christmas Eve dinnerWe went shopping first for the food and I wanted to make an avocado dip (guacomole) but there were no ripe avocados. We were starting to get too pressed for time to go to another supermarket but then Alex remembered that he needed to get a tablecloth, so off to another supermarket. We couldn’t find a park so I got out and quickly checked the supermarket…..no avocados or tablecloths. In the meantime Alex had found a park and went into another store to get the tablecloths. So no time then to stop at another supermarket, so we decided to forget about the avocados.

When we got home I started preparing stuff and we suddenly remembered we’d forgotten the most vital ingredient! The oil for cooking in the fondu!!! So this time Alex went off on his bike since it’d be quicker and I asked him to see if there were any avocados while he was there. After a third trip and a third supermarket we got everything we needed.

Ben and Ineke and the kids arrived and so I continued preparing food and Alex picked up his dad on the way.

After all that, we had a great dinner and thankfully everyone seemed to love my guacomole!

Ben and VegemiteAfter dinner (which I keep calling “tea” and confusing everyone) we had a relaxing evening mucking around with the kids, I showed Ben some photos of mine, we played with dog with the laser pointer and I introduced the “family” to some aussie vegemite. Ben and Ineke didn’t seem to mind the vegemite crackers 😉

It was a special evening to spend with Alex’s family and I’m so glad to be able to have this opportunity. It’s good to have this time before Alex get tied down with our own kids and family.

Madurodam

Today we met up again with Ben and his family and drove the hour and a half trip to Madurodam, which is a tourist part with minature replica’s of The Netherlands. During the drive we stopped at McDonalds first on the way, which pretty closely resembled McDonalds in Australia. The food though, like most other food here, tasted of better quality and I think I could probably end up eating it more if I lived here. So thankfully it tastes like crap in Australia so I can’t be tempted!

IceOutside Madurodam there was a pond thingy with water in it, which was almost frozen aswell like half the canals and waterways here. I’m still fascinated by the ice, since at home, at most we might be lucky to get a thin film of ice overnight on the horse water troughs. But we never ever get ice remaining during the day, let alone such large volumes of ice! So Alex, for my benefit, put his foot through the ice and picked up a big chunk of it for me.

Alex next to a minature windmillIt was interesting looking at all the replica’s as we wandered around. There were little amusement things where you could put a coin in and something would happen. One of them was a rollercoaster which unfortunately got stuck at the top, but then Ineke gave it a little shove and got it going again. I also got a really cute set of minature clogs delivered to me by one of the minature factories though which was so cute!

We tried to look for Apeldoorn amongst the replicas, but it seems there’s nothing important enough in Apeldoorn to add to it apparently?

Seagull at MadurodamWe all found the large seagull pretty amusing, because not only was the seagull a bit larger than usual, but next to the minature buildings and canals it looked funny. I took a couple of amusing photos of it and he seemed to follow us around quite a lot. I’m convinced that this seagull is an attention seeker and he enjoyed posing for my larger than life photos. Or maybe he just wanted some food?

Mel in oversized clogsAfter Madurodam we headed to the beach at Scheveningen where I can now say I’ve touched the sea in the Northern Hemisphere. I must say though that the water is too cold for touching it be a sane action, but I did it anyway! I’ve been told that apparently it’s a New Years Day tradition to strip and run into the sea. You’ve seriously got to be kidding me! Alex keeps threatening to take me to do it, but not on your life! I think going into that cold water would literally kill me, lol.

We stopped to warm up at a beach side restaurant that offered pretty terrible service, but it was warm. Because we weren’t ordering dinner they would only let us sit in a particular section and wouldn’t allow us to move the tables together so that we could sit together. But it was nice to have a hot chocolate and thaw out and I tried my first taste of bitterbollen. These balls have ragout in it, which although I didn’t recognise the name I do recognise the taste from a recipe that my aunts always used to make on Christmas Eve (for those who don’t know my family is dutch). I happen to LOVE ragout and I’d forgotten how much I’ve missed it!

Dinner was later a restaurant called Drie Konijnen which stands for Three Rabbits. Again my appetite was fairly small as I seem to only be able to eat little and often. I get hungry often, but can only eat small amounts. However Ben and Alex made up for it with their hearty appetites where they consumed an amazing 4 serves of spare ribs! The unique thing about this restaurant is that when you order spare ribs, you can get unlimited return serves. I was stunned as I watched them get serve after serve. Apparently the record was 8 plates, but I think we ran out of time rather than them getting too full. Then to top it off Alex ate some of my chicken that I couldn’t finish off!

Alex’s brother and family

Last night we went to meet Alex’s brother, Ben and his family with his wife, Ineke and kids Sara and Benjamin. It was really wonderful meeting them and I felt so comfortable with them. Ben and Inneka both speak excellent English which was great although the kids can’t speak English, but they are beautiful children. Street Ducky

When I arrived they gave me a couple of gifts which was so sweet. One for me and one for the baby. I got a block of chocolate which I know won’t last very long, haha! And for the baby we got a cool street duck.

Wok RestaurantFor dinner we went out to a wok restaurant where you choose your food raw and then take it up to the cooks to get it cooked. It was cool, although I made the initial mistake of putting too much food on my first plate, meaning you don’t get to try as many varieties of dishes. I found I couldn’t eat much anyway, as I think the baby is leaving less room for my stomach these days. Or maybe I’m just doing too much sitting around and eating? I tried a couple of dishes anyway and some of the pre-cooked samples of food like spring rolls etc.

The food all tasted of excellent quality. Apparently it was a fairly affordable restaurant and compared with Adelaide I thought the quality and taste of the food was brilliant. I’ve noticed here that the food tends to be really good in comparison, especially anything fried and dairy foods. I’ve also noticed how clean everything is here. The toilets at restaurants and floors, including supermarkets and shops. They seem to pay much more attention to keeping everything clean. It feels really different to go to public toilets here and I guess that contributes to why you have to pay for most public toilets?

Ineke, Alex, Sara and I

Frost?

I don’t know if you can call this a frost, but by Australian standards it definitely puts a “frost” to shame.

Heavy frost

When there’s dew overnight it freezes on top of the previous dew and it ends up with heavy layer of ice everywhere. You can’t quite see how white it is from the pic, it doesn’t really do it justice. Almost looks like snow, except it didn’t fall out the sky. I think it looks beautiful (from the warm comfyness of Alex’s loungeroom)!

Later as it warmed up a little (I think from about -2C to approximately 1C), the ice began to fall off the tree’s and it looked like snow falling……creating a thin layer of snow around the base of the trees (which Alex delighted in throwing a small snowball at me later).

Dusseldorf

The trip to the Christmas markets in Germany only took about an hour and a half, which by European standards is a long drive……..but I think it’s cool that you can be in another country in such a short time! It only took 30 mins driving to get to the border, which was relatively non-descript. I asked Alex to let me know when the border was coming up so I could take a photo, but when we got there it was just a sign with a German flag on it and Alex said “oh, I think we’re in Germany now” lol. We weren’t too sure, but then we started seeing signs written in German so we were in Germany.

Reibekuchen

The first stop as we walked past the Christmas stalls was to try out some Reibekuchen. Have to admit it was pretty yummy! Even with the apple sauce and I’m not big on sauces. The people serving us were dressed in……..well……….funny looking German clothes. The Reibekuchen, directly translated, apparently means “rub cakes”. They’re made of mainly potato and their “rubbed” to create a mush and flattened into cakes. Whatever, they’re delicious and they remind me a bit of vegetable fritters.

The atmosphere was great and all the little Christmassy and non-Christmassy knicknacks that were being sold. I thought it amusing that Alex overheard a German guy complaining (in German) about all the Dutch and English who don’t bother to learn the language. lol, that’s me! Well, it’s not that I didn’t bother. I did 4 years of German in highschool, but I can’t remember hardly a word of it and I’d never feel confident enough trying to use it. Their English is way better than my German is!

I had to take a piccie of these guys doing what I guess is called “busking”. At least, I think they might be although I dunno if busking exists in Europe like it does in Australia. But anyway, they were playing music and they were playing it on weird looking instruments.

Buskers

The markets were spread out over different areas with 6 in total, and as we came to the third or fourth market I found and purchased my first gift to take home to my friends. I saw it and immediately knew it was so appropriate 😉 Then I tried some Champignon’s, German style…….yum! You can see a piccie of me stuffing my face in the gallery.

Wrong wayWhile we were looking for the last market we took a wrong turn (I won’t comment at all on Alex’s map navigating skills, he’ll hurt me 😆 ) but I’m glad we did cuz I got a chance to take this serene postcard looking picture. Been trying to play with the different settings on my camera, and most of them come out like crap, but I like this one.

On the way back we stopped off at one of the stores to use the toilets for free, since it seems you have to PAY to go to the toilet in Germany! We returned to this store so that I could buy a nice jacket that I’d eyed off last time we were there (for the toilet, haha). I felt a bit frumpy always being rugged up with 4 layers of clothing (no kidding!) and I wanted to feel a little bit sexier and it was on special for 90 euros.

On the way home I was sooo tired I actually fell asleep in the car, despite my incredible fear of Alex’s driving on European roads, lol. I’m not used to the different driving style yet and I’m absolutely terrified I’m gonna die. Despite that, I couldn’t force my eyes open any longer and slept through the scary drive home. 😉

oh great

Now both of us are sick this morning……Alex is coming down with a cold aswell. I must have picked up some foreign virus on the plane. oh well, battle on hopefully.

Didn’t sleep well last night so I’m up earlier catching up on writing my blog while Alex sleeps. Lots of orange juice and paracetomol for me!

Quieter day

I rested for quite a bit of the day today as this cold seems to have gotten worse and it’s really taken it out of me. I’d have spurts of energy that would only last barely an hour but yet haven’t been able to sleep well though. I think I’m mainly over the jetlag, but I guess I just feel really run down now.

The Christmas tree we bought was down in the storage room (as recommended by the garden centre – the tree has come from freezing temps, so they say to store it overnight first so it can adjust gradually to the warm) and so Alex prepared the tree by cutting off the base etc, while I tried to snooze. Later we decorated the tree together which is again another European tradition.

Decorating the Christmas Tree

In the afternoon we went to Alex’s work and he showed me around. There was some kids play on which we saw a bit of which obviously I couldn’t understand a single word of. I got pretty tired and exhausted after walking around for a bit, so we went home again where I surrendered to the couch while Alex prepared the spaghetti that I was going to make for him……..I gave him instructions while I laid in a coma, haha.

Still, despite feeling so unwell I still got myself together for combat in the evening. There’s only 1 combat class at the gym so I couldn’t miss that! Thankfully Alex drove me to the gym though instead of riding the bike in the cold. The combat class was great, although I struggled and felt myself pretty out of breath. Still, I was determined to give it a go and I have to say that following combat in another language was even harder than following balance. Although I was really lucky I remember most of the chorrey, although the warmup was lost on me. It was the warmup from BC31, so not from long ago but I just didn’t remember it. It was quite amusing at one point during track 4 (Listen to the Bagpipes) the instructor must have cued everyone to stop but of course without understanding the language I kept going as per the chorrey. Alex also did the chorrey, but the instructor had made a mistake. The instructor stopped, the entire class stopped, we were doing the knees and everyone looked at us, the instructor looked us……then we looked at each other and stopped. It was quite funny! Normally I would follow instructors despite whether it’s a mistake or not, however doing combat in dutch brings a whole knew meaning to “precueing”for me! 😆

Anyway, need to rest up and get a good sleep as we’re heading off to Germany tomorrow for a Christmas thingy. So I get to go into another country, yeehaa. Another “travel location” I can add to my Facebook 🙂

Getting a cold

I haven’t been sick in ages, but I guess all the travelling has finally weakened me and I’m starting to get a cold. I hope I don’t get too sick! Maybe that’s why I’m feeling the cold so bad, cuz you’re more sensitive when you’re sick.

Today we went shopping and also purchased a Christmas tree….like the real one’s that is European tradition. There weren’t many places left selling them so we didn’t have a lot of choice when buying one. As it was we got a fairly good quality one that was quite expensive, however we got charged less for it somehow? Seems we paid 25 euros instead of 30 euros (I haven’t learnt how to do the euro sign on this keyboard yet). While we were walking around the garden centre I couldn’t believe that I actually saw clogs for sale! I thought that was just an old touristy thing. Didn’t realise they actually still buy and wear them!

Clogs

After we got the tree home Alex challenged me to driving his car. I gave it a go, jumped in the other side, kept trying to grab for the gear stick with my left hand groping at the door, haha! I only drove around the small streets that make up around his apartments, I’m so not game enough yet to drive on the roads. Maybe one day soon when I’m not quite so tired and I can concentrate better 🙂 It was all a bit of fun though although Alex got scared when I kinda went over one of the (harmless in my opinion) curbs around the corner! 😛

We had plans to go to the gym in the evening so we ate before going out. I made Alex my chickpea salad that I thought he’d have no hope of liking, but he actually liked it (minus the olives)!

We finally made the trip to the gym for my first foreign gym class! Went to balance tonight as I was hanging out for a stretch. I was quite surprised at how late their classes go as this class was from 9pm-10pm! Alex introduced me to the instructor and she announced me to the class, haha. At that point that was the last thing I understood as the rest was in dutch. I have to say that’s an incredible experience doing a class when I didn’t understand a word of it! At least I remembered most of the chorrey, but as she was mixing with old releases my memory was a bit rusty in places. Without understanding her at all she seemed to be a very good instructor with lots of visual cues and corrections amongst the participants and she had a great connection and projected an incredibly caring personatity.

Then after the gym……..the cold cold cold bike ride home again! arrrgggh