Tuesday, March 29, 2011

La petite bump - 20 weeks

Somehow, I've reached the half way point already - 20 weeks pregnant today!!!!!!!!! The months have absolutely flown by and I have this feeling that the next few are going to go by even more quickly - it's going to be another busy summer this year but I can't wait!

Since my last post, my little bump (which I thought was big then but seems like nothing now!) has expanded rapidly and is now unmissable - I don't feel like such an imposter going into baby stores anymore! I've been taking weekly photos for my own amusement (they don't always turn out great - please excuse my not-prepared-for-timer-going-off 20 week shot as quite frankly, I couldn't be bothered to re-take it!), here's how my little belly has popped lately...

It's been an interesting journey so far being pregnant in 2 foreign countries - I found it especially difficult in Switzerland with eating out as food choices were so limited at restaurants, but I have to say, my limited experience of the health care there was a good one. I only had 1 check up while we were away (mostly just to test my blood pressure which had been worryingly high) and found the doctor to be really excellent - I got an appointment quickly, they were relatively on time, spoke excellent English and the doctor was really thorough. It was a relief having this appointment as we found out my BP had dropped significantly - it just goes to show what a low sodium diet can do, it appeared to have made a world of difference. Now I just need to keep it that way!!!!

It's such a relief being home as it feels like we can now really start getting prepared for the arrival of our little one. We've got a few appointments coming up, including the BIG one - the 20 week echo (which I'm having done a little late as I couldn't get an appointment this week). Yes, we are finding out what we're having - we are both really curious and want to know already!!!!!! But the plan is to keep it to ourselves :-) We also start the first session of the antenatal course this weekend which should be interesting... I'm a bit nervous but really looking forward to it. And to celebrate being home, we made the most of the spring sales last weekend and went a bit nuts at the baby store - came home with a matching cot & change table and a... PRAM!!! A Maclaren one of course - much to the amusement of the staff at the baby store upon seeing our surname on the furniture picking slip... :-)

I've also come to the conclusion in recent weeks that Stroopy may have a future as a kick boxer - he/she started pummeling away at about 18 weeks (although I had been feeling those 'flutters' for a few weeks already) and lets just say, those first real kicks were unmistakable... Mitch has even been able to feel them! Along with Stroopy's head - now that is a weird feeling and sight... I (gently) poked and prodded though until he/she moved back into a more comfy position :P

I'm so happy to be home and loving that everything is all coming together - I'm starting to feel a bit more organised. Stroopy, I can't wait to meet you :-) 

Friday, March 25, 2011

And we're back :-)

Home... It's so good to be here :-) We arrived back in Flatland late yesterday afternoon to a whopping 18 degrees (!!!) and I can't even begin to explain just how good it is to be here... I have really missed this place. Our big drive home (about 860km) was slower then normal as it appeared that half the autobahn was undergoing road works but we made it through. It was funny, as soon as we entered Nijmegen, we both breathed a sigh of relief - it was surprisingly refreshing to see flat & open spaces, flowers blooming, people riding bikes everywhere, a busy town, friendly faces... We dropped into our local supermarket on the way in for supplies and even that was exciting - I was so happy to see reasonably priced meat and Mitch was super happy to see a stroopwafel!!!! I've spent the day madly unpacking, cleaning, washing and just settling back in... Now I need to go brave my trusty fiets again - the last time I rode my bike I was only 11 weeks pregnant and compared to now (at almost 20 weeks), the bump was non existent.. Wish me luck :-)

Ahhhh... It is good to be home :-)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Switzerland - the final countdown

Somehow, we have made it to our final week in not-so-flatland... I must admit, the last 8 weeks have absolutely flown by, although it hasn't been easy. It's been an interesting time here in the land of mountains and it has certainly made me appreciate Holland more then ever. It's not that I don't like Switzerland - truly, I do like it - but I like it as a holiday destination, not as somewhere to live. When Mitch and I traveled through Switzerland in 2007, we had the most fantastic time and so I think that our expectations of what life here would be like were wayyyy too high (especially when it comes to food!!!!!). Holidaying in a country is such a different experience to living in it (and we didn't even have to go through residency processes etc) and although the last couple of months have been really tough emotionally, I'll still enjoy holidaying here.

Switzerland is a beautiful country, that's for sure - nothing can quite compare to the snow covered alps, mountainside chalet villages, pretty lakes and... more mountains! But if I'm going to be completely honest - I've really struggled these past 2 months with life in general here. I have felt so isolated in this part of Valais, stuck in between the steep mountains (it almost feels suffocating at times - it's amazing the difference as soon as you drive somewhere such as Sion - the mountains don't feel so enclosing) and where the nearby towns are downright depressing and look like they should be in Eastern Europe, not in a wealthy country like Switzerland. It's also very, very quiet here and there isn't much to do, shops shut super early and I miss there being 'life' around. It also hasn't helped with the actual location of the apartment we've been renting - up high on the mountainside, it affords spectacular views but doesn't help with the isolation factor. It's no secret that I've found it really tough living here and I can't wait to go home. It also hasn't helped that I've been sick twice since being here - once with the most shocking gastro bug and now with a horrible head cold that seems to be getting worse, not better. Mind you, it hasn't been all bad. I have enjoyed seeing new places and lots of scenic drives and I will miss hanging out with our Aussie friends - especially 'Citron Tart Day' :-)

Switzerland, it's nothing personal - you are a beautiful country but I'm afraid life here just isn't for me. It's been a trying time but thankfully it's nearly over. It's time to return to the country of miserable weather & bikes - Flatland, I can't wait to see you :-)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lac Souterrain de St-Leonard - the largest underground lake in Europe

Last weekend was our final one in our 2 month Swiss trip. It was rainy and overcast up here on the mountain on Saturday (which happened to be a public holiday) but we headed towards nearby Sion/Sierre where the sun was shining - only to go underground...

We visited the largest underground lake in Europe which although we'd been planning on going there a few weeks earlier, it had funnily enough only just opened up on Saturday. Basically, to see the lake you pay the entrance fee which gives you a guided tour by rowboat. The tour took about 30mins which felt like a loooong time seeing as the lake was only a couple hundred metres long - but still, it was nice to sit and look through the crystal clear water, check out the giant trout and get sneezed on by people who don't know to cover their mouths (luckily I already have a shocking head cold)....

The day was topped off nicely though with what would have to be the best meal we've eaten in Switzerland - a yummy Italian meal at a recommended restaurant in Sierre. We've had a pretty bad run with eating out here (total opposite to our experience in 2007!) so it was nice to finish the trip off with a decent meal :-)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

When I don't have access to my sewing machine...

When I don't have access to my sewing machine - I knit!!!!! Over the past couple of months I've missed my machine - but I've had fun knitting up various little items for the baby and have even had my first go at stenciling & painting some little onesies :-)

Some knitted beanie & bootie sets. It's hard finding nice unisex colours to knit things in so I have a feeling Stroopy will have a lot of orange!

My first and last attempt at a baby blanket - it took me MONTHS!!!!!

My first attempt at a knitted cardigan. Now I'm knitting up some chunky orange booties to match!

More beanie & bootie sets (you can tell who took the first photos & who took these - my & me little camera just don't compare!)

The fishy onesie is my second attempt at using contact to make a stencil for painting onto fabric. It was so simple and I think this technique could get addictive!

My first painted onesie

And the back !
I have one plain white onesie left to paint before we go home - hmmmm, what to stencil next????

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making the most of our last weekends in not-so-flatland

Last weekend was our second last one here in Switzerland!!!! Yes, that does make me happy!!!! I have been really homesick for Holland these past 2 months and it's not been easy. It doesn't mean we can't enjoy ourselves though so we have been making the most of our time here though and crossing a few things off our to-see list. On Saturday, we kicked off the weekend with a nice mountain drive over to Grindelwald, a ski village in the Bernese Oberland. We took a beautiful mountain pass for part of the trip and I have to say, the mountains there were truly spectacular. Even after seeing the view out the window here every day, these mountains were impressive.

Finally we arrived at Grindelwald just in time for a wander around the shops (there was a yummy chocolatier in particular!) and some lunch before heading back to Martigny.

On Sunday we headed to the little village of Gruyeres. It's obviously known for it's cheese and our main purpose in going there was to visit a cheese factory & chocolate factory but the town itself was surprising - by far the nicest one we've seen this trip. Perched on a hill, it was tiny with lots of old buildings, a chateau and plenty of restaurants serving the local specialty - meringues with Gruyere cream.... Yummmmm......

After wandering the streets of this cute little town, we headed back down the hill to La Maison du Gruyere - the cheese factory. I must admit, it was a little disappointing. We were given a sample pack of 3 pieces of cheese with our entry ticket but there was no tasting room and you didn't even get to walk through the factory - just had to watch from above (not that anything was happening) and listen to the annoying voice of 'Cherry the cow' on the audioguide.

The disappointing cheese factory was well and truly made up for however at Maison Cailler - the chocolate factory. It well and truly exceeded my expectations! We turned up just in time for the English 'tour' which basically felt like something at a theme park. We started off in an elevator that smelt of chocolate and then spent 20mins walking through a series of rooms which explained the history of chocolate with mannekins and lights and sound etc. It was actually really well done! Finally, we hit the cocoa bean room and then got to see the chocolates being made before hitting the tasting room. The only thing that tainted the experience was the extremely cranky & rude Swiss staff member in the tasting room. I think that had the staff been dressed as Oompa Loompas, she might have felt less cranky. I mean, who could be cranky when pretending to be an Oompa Loompa! I did feel a bit like Charlie Bucket wandering around the chocolate factory and it was definitely worth the visit... Although I felt rather ill for hours afterwards - both Stroopy and I had a major sugar overload!!!!!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

One year ago tomorrow...

It's hard to believe that one year ago tomorrow, we packed up our lives in Australia and moved to Europe for the second time. The time has gone by so quickly; it truly doesn't feel like it's been that long since I've set foot on Aussie soil. And it's even harder to believe just how much has changed in one short year - new country, new language, new friends, new side of the road, meeting new relatives & a new health system just to name a few... And the biggest & most exciting change: a baby on the way :-)

After a year away, it's funny to sit here and think of just how much has happened in such a short space of time. We really never expected to move back to Europe when Mitch finished his PhD - it wasn't that we didn't want to, we had such a fantastic time in France back in 2007 but I was SO determined that if we were going away for 2 years, we were moving to an English speaking country! Anyone who knows us well knows how much we've wanted to go to the States - from when we moved to France (we had originally been looking at going to New York as Mitch was interested in some work there) to when we got back, Mitch was informally offered a job with a company in Silicon Valley and so we had in our heads for 2 years that we were going to San Francisco. It was all looking very promising, only to find out just before Christmas 2009 that the company had lost a heap of funding and wasn't allowed to employ anyone new :-( They tried their best but finally we made the hard decision that we couldn't be in limbo anymore and needed to make some plans - and so the job hunting began... (and then only 6mths later when Mitch ran into them at a conference - they had a job opening.... Oops, bit late!!!).

I can't recall how many jobs Mitch applied for but we spent quite a few late nights putting together his cover letters and applications. We never really stressed over it but knew the right job would come up and before long, he had a few offers. We could either go back to France or - he was offered 2 positions on the same project, one in Switzerland and one in the Netherlands. He was offered both these jobs on the same day and we had to make a quick decision - Holland it was! Although I was confident we had made the right decision, there was always this niggling thought in the back of my mind - should we have gone to Switzerland? A year later, I can now see that we made the best possible decision that day for our situation. Living in Holland sure has it's ups and downs, but I have really fallen in love with Flatland. The weather is just plain awful for more then half the year but the people are among the warmest, kindest and most friendly I have met on any of our travels. I love how everyone cycles absolutely everywhere, I love their sing-song strange sounding language (which resembles English spoken backwards) although it does get frustrating when I can't communicate in it properly, I love seeing windmills in random places, I love their supermarkets and well - who can go past a stroopwafel!?!?!

Moving overseas, especially over 16,000km from your family and friends, is a big deal and not something to be taken lightly. Thinking back to our flight to the UK last March, I have to laugh at myself. From Mitch being offered the job, we had a total of 8 weeks to give notice to our jobs (well, for me anyway - Mitch's contract was ending, hence the hurry in finding a job!), pack up our belongings (& try to decide what to take with us - not an easy thing to have to pack for 2 years away!), sell our car, sort out visa issues and begin the hard task of saying goodbye to our family and friends. Mitch didn't finish up at work until the day before we left, my visa didn't arrive until 2 days before we left (don't get me started on my visa nightmare - it's lucky we were able to even leave the country) - it all happened so quickly, I don't think I had time to really process what was going on. After 3 farewell parties, we were finally at the airport - feeling very overtired and relieved that everything worked out and we were on our way. Even so, the realisation of the huge move we were making didn't hit me until we were on the second leg of our flight between KL & London - all of a sudden (ok, it could have been brought on by the fact that my tv screen didn't work and they couldn't do anything about it cos it was a full flight), I found myself teary and emotional. I think I spent a great deal of that flight hysterically crying and gulping out 'what have we donnnne?!?!'. I feel so silly thinking about it now cos it's not like me at all - I LOVE an adventure - but as soon as we landed at Heathrow and I saw a very familiar face there to greet us, I felt so much better.

12/03/2010 - the final farewell at Brisbane airport!

Since that awful plane ride, I can honestly say that I've never looked back - I think moving here was the best possible thing for us. Mitch loves his job & has met some fantastic people there - it's a great work environment. We've found a great bi-lingual church, it's been really fulfilling getting in touch with my roots and just gaining more of an understanding of my family & where I come from, and living overseas & all these new experiences has been really enriching personally - we've both grown so much, individually and as a couple. We've also been really lucky to be able to broaden our horizons and see so many more new places - last year alone we traveled through England, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Greece, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland and of course, the Netherlands. All that being said though, I've also come to realise that there is no place like Australia. The freedom, the ease of, well, everything (things like licences and health care and bank accounts are so much more simple to organise), the weather, the beauty... It's in a league of it's own and I've really come to appreciate it more being so far away. Plus, I really miss my friends and family, like you wouldn't believe. But, I believe that everything happens for a reason and I truly do think that we're in the right place for now - it won't be home forever but I'm so glad we ended up in little old Flatland :-)

Monday, March 7, 2011


So last weekend was the start of 'carnival' here in Switzerland - the time of year when the Swiss let loose & celebrate! I wasn't quite sure what to expect other then the fact that we would likely be the only people in the country not in costume. Every town & village has some sort of festivities going on so on Saturday we headed off to nearby Sion to see what was going on. I must say, Sion is by far the nicest town we've visited in this trip - if only I'd known, I would've looked for a place to live there and might have a rather different opinion of quiet Valais! There was plenty of nice shopping, restaurants, pretty buildings (soooooo different to Martigny which resembles an Eastern European cement block), cobbled streets and it felt like it had a bit more life to it - it was rather uplifting to visit even if we were only there for such a short time.

Anyway, as I was expecting there were heaps of people in random costumes and before long, it was time for the main parade to start. The parade basically consisted of confetti canons off trucks (shooting loads of confetti onto everyone - quite pretty) and lots of guggenmusic (Swiss marching bands who all dress in weird matching costumes) and small children setting off firecrackers under our feet (my friend actually got burnt on the back of her leg). The combination of the crowds, the noise and the firecrackers soon led me to not feel so good and I started to feel the good old warning signs that I was going to faint - luckily I pushed my way out of the crowds and made it down onto the pavement without fainting. I felt so woozy and sick and it was not a fun experience sitting on icy cold cement with more kids setting firecrackers off right in front of me so once I could stand, Mitch and I sat in an outdoors cafe and watched the parade from a distance (and all the crazy kids setting off firecrackers & throwing them at each other & annoying old people with silly string). I just wasn't feeling great after that experience so we sadly decided to call it a day and have a quiet night at home rather then braving more guggenmusic for the night. But anyway, our brief experience of Swiss carnival was interesting and I'm still finding bits of confetti everywhere - here's a few snaps from the day!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

For the Dad-to-be...

For the Dad-to-be that is nearly impossible to buy presents for.....

Today is Mitch's birthday and although he told me not to buy him anything (skiing was his 'present' apparently), I couldn't help myself and put together this little kit for him - the 'Dad-to-be toolkit'. It was much to his surprise (he's a boy and totally didn't click when I lugged home a gigantic Manor bag on the weekend and never unpacked it) and we both got a bit of a laugh out of it this morning!!!!! I have to say though, I had a moment with the newborn nappies - tell me, are babies REALLY that small?!?!?!?! Happy birthday to my Mitch :-)


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