Thursday, July 28, 2011

Getting in those last few dates before baby...

With only 3 weeks left until D-Day, the realisation has well and truly sunk in that this is the last time in our lives that we will truly be on our own. I don't think that parenting necessarily ends at 18 - once you have kids, you have them for life. Mitch and I love our couple time and we love getting out and about together and we're trying our best to get in those last few dates before bubba Stroopy arrives... I'm feeling a bit big and uncomfortable and going too far is out of the question, although last Friday night I did have a moment of madness and suggested to Mitch (in all seriousness) that we up and drive to Paris for the weekend. We seriously considered it for all of 5 minutes and if I wasn't 36 weeks pregnant at that point, it'd definitely be the type of thing we'd do but thankfully our logical brains kicked in and realised the timing just wasn't right.

Instead, we decided to settle on a nice little country drive into Germany. Considering the corner of the Netherlands that we live in, going to another country for the day isn't a big deal. It's easier then driving from Brisbane to NSW in fact. Germany is close enough to cycle into but Belgium, Luxembourg and France are also within reach. We have this favourite little pub just over the border in Kranenbourg that we've been to a handful of times - it's not at all classy, but the food is cheap and tasty and it's fun to sit, people watch and practice our high school German. It'd been almost 6 months since our last visit though - I'd been avoiding it because of my high blood pressure, the food is yummy but oh-so-salty. Plus, it's kinda depressing having lunch in Germany and not being able to drink the beer!!!!

The schnitzel was even better then I remembered - Lochie, these photos are for you :-) Mitch and I were thinking of our nephew while we were eating, who at the age of 9 managed to eat his way through an entire schnitzel and chips meal while us adults struggled with our same sized meals. I'm still impressed with his efforts, it's no easy feat to chomp down one of these portions! Lets just say I was waddling more then ever after lunch!



We also decided to do something that we used to do really regularly in Australia but haven't done ONCE since moving to Holland - going to the cinema!!!! Movies are played in the original language here and subtitled in Dutch (except for children's movies I believe which are dubbed) so unless we want to see a foreign film, it's easy. I didn't realise just how much I had missed our movie dates until we walked into the cinema and that all familiar smell of popcorn hit me - it'd been awhile.

I've been to the movies in a few foreign countries actually - India being the most entertaining, there is nothing quite like seeing a Bollywood film in India! The Netherlands was also an interesting experience. We actually have the choice of 3 cinemas in central Nijmegen - not bad for a small town. There isn't as much choice in actual movies as I had hoped for, but it's better then nothing. Ticket prices were surprisingly not bad - 9,25 for a regular movie and a little extra for 3D. We lined up, bought our tickets and then joined the line for the candy bar. I found it amusing that you can buy beer to take into the cinema (beer was just in the fridge with the Sprite and Coke, a strange sight!), we settled on some sweet popcorn that was surprisingly good and our all time favourite - peanut M&Ms, I don't think Mitch and I have been to a movie together without some peanut M&Ms, ever since our first date more then 10 years ago.

We doors opened for our movie and we went to go in only to be told by the ticket checker that we had the wrong tickets. Yes, we had asked for Pirates of the Caribbean and been given Harry Potter tickets :( We hadn't even looked at what was written on the tickets, just assumed we had been given the right thing. He decided that seeing as they were the same price (both 3D - not that 3D improved Pirates any, it was a pretty bad movie), we could just go through anyway rather then lining up again. So, in we went and found a seat. A few minutes later, we discovered that we really should have checked our tickets as it turned out there was allocated seating (I know they have introduced this in a lot of cinemas in Australia, but never in the ones we went to in Brisbane). A lovely Dutch couple politely told us we were in their seats but were nice enough to not make us move as it turned out they had gone through the same problem with being given the wrong tickets but had gone back and exchanged theirs - which I was quite thankful for as once I had settled in that seat, there was no way this pregnant belly was moving in a hurry.

The most bizarre thing I found about going to the movies here - they still have INTERMISSION!!!! Yes, intermission! I didn't know that still existed, but half way through the movie, it suddenly stopped, the lights switched on and everyone walked out. Mitch and I sat there wondering what was going on (until we saw the giant PAUZE displayed on the screen), it was definitely a new experience. Everyone went out and came back in with fresh snacks while we sat there wondering how long the break was going to be for.

With only a few weeks (or hopefully less!!) to go, I wonder what we will do for our next few dates. I'm thinking that another trip to the movies & dinner is sounding like a good idea!!!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vierdaagse 2011

Vierdaagse 2011 - our second experience of the 4 day marches and also our last. Friday was a holiday here for the big finale with most local workplaces being closed - Mitch's lab being no exception, so we spent the day in our little apartment watching the festivities from above. Amazingly, it didn't rain but it sure looked cold out there (much colder then it appears in the photos!) - I was very glad to have the perfect viewing spot that was also warm and cozy!!!!


 The day started off a lot slower then last year - granted, we did manage a huge sleep in that morning but when we got up at 9.30, there was hardly anyone out and about and the road was still open. Finally, some walkers started to appear but it wasn't until after lunchtime that it really livened up and the crowds came through. I was pleased to see the dancing policeman (and policewoman) were back this year - up on the podium all day long, dancing away as they directed traffic through!!!!




I have to say, I think the pregnancy hormones were a little out of control on Friday and so I didn't really enjoy the festivities as much as last year - the loud, blaring music was especially really getting to me. However, the clean up proved to be quite amusing!!!! When the trucks came through shortly after the walkers had finished, not only were spectators riding on the back of them, people decided to use it as an opportunity to get rid of their unwanted goods. Two couches and a bike were heaved into the back of the trucks and somehow, squashed down - it was actually really quite amusing to watch!





And now, our little town has returned to it's former quiet state. The podiums and bunting everywhere have no doubt all disappeared by now and you'd never know the festivities that took place only a matter of days ago - life goes back to normal.

Friday, July 22, 2011

La petite bump - 36 weeks

Cankles - it's now gotten personal. Or rather, I should probably say 'cankle' as it seems only my right ankle has swollen up and has been looking and feeling utterly revolting, whereas my left ankle is pretty much normal. The same thing happens with my hands where my right swells a lot worse then my left (wearing my rings is now a thing of the past) so I'm thinking any photos Mitch manages to take of me from now on are going to be left side only!!!!

Really though, to have made it to 36 weeks without a single stretchmark has made me so, so, soooooooooo incredibly happy that my cankle is nothing to complain over (although I'm convinced that the stretchmarks are going to get me right at the last minute!). I'm just thankful that although it doesn't feel like summer here, it's still warm enough to wear my birkies every day (in fact, I haven't worn any other shoe since I broke my toe in APRIL!) because if it was winter, I highly doubt I could fit my right foot into a boot.


Although it's hard to tell in photos, it definitely feels like my belly has grown even more since my last post with each growth spurt seeming to happen extremely quickly. Shirts that fit me one day won't even pull down over my not-so-petite bump a few days later and I'm getting frustrated with trying to find something to wear each day. But that's just the latter part of pregnancy I suppose - it won't be too much longer til the little one is out :-)

We've been pretty lucky with how many times we've seen our little boef on the screen (12+ times so far!), although I think I would have preferred to not have the stressful circumstances that have necessitated all of the recent scans. We got another nice, long Stroopy viewing earlier this week after a persistent headache and a quick visit to the midwife revealed my blood pressure had skyrocketed - so requiring an instant visit to the obstetrician at the hospital. After more blood tests & BP monitoring, everything turned out to be ok and we got to just sit back and enjoy seeing our little bubba dancing around on the screen. Stroopy wasn't being particularly cooperative but according to the obs (and also our midwife on Wednesday), I'm not hiding a big baby in there. Stroopy is a little one apparently - but only time will tell if that's true or not!

36 weeks down, 4 to go - can't wait to meet you little boef :-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's that time of year again...

It's that time of year again in Nijmegen - the Vierdaagse is now in it's third day. Known as the 'International Four Day Marches' in English, our neighbourhood will once again become transformed tomorrow into the finishing line of this huge event. Unlike last year, we haven't actually seen much of the festivities - mostly because the thought of going out late (especially while it's cold and raining!) at 35 weeks pregnant and listening to extremely loud music while everyone around me gets to drink tasty Dutch beer, is the least appealing thing right now.

Even without going to any of the parties, it's been very easy to tell what time of year it is. The official vierdaagse flag (or at least, that's what I'm assuming it is?!?!) is proudly displayed on the flagpole of many houses in our neighbourhood and our usually quiet little town is covered in orange & green bunting and overrun with people.

I took a little trip into the centre yesterday and it was actually quite refreshing hearing some many people speaking English - there are Aussies, Americans and British everywhere!!!! I was amused though at an elderly American couple commenting on how cold it is and wondering how the locals don't appear to be freezing - their answer to their own question being that this weather is probably 'hot' for the Europeans!!!! (and I was thinking no! no! no!!!! It's so cold here at the moment - this isn't summer!!!).

The most amusing thing for me about the vierdaagse is how early the Dutch like to claim their viewing spot for the finale. Last year, the couches and chairs on our street started appearing mid week and I thought that was pretty organised. This year however - the couches and chairs started appearing on SUNDAY!!!! Almost a week in advance and yet, no-one steals them. They just sit out there all week on the footpath, and it doesn't seem to bother anyone. One of the things I've noticed in the time we've been living here is just how organised and efficient the Dutch as a whole are, but still - getting your spot claimed this far in advance still amazes me.




I'm looking forward to watching the festivities tomorrow - from the comfort of our dining room windows, of course. There is no way this pregnant belly is pushing through the crowds of people!!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I need inspiration...

So in light of recent events, I'm really having to take it easy at the moment (which considering I'm almost 36 weeks pregnant, probably isn't a bad thing anyway). Taking it easy = no more fietsen and a lot more time at home then I'm used to. A few weeks back, I went a little nuts with my knitting & sewing and here's some of the results (captured poorly by my iphone, excuse the pics!) - I remembered how to fair isle....

Baby sheet hat - I would've preferred to use my standard beanie pattern and just add in the sheep  pattern as it's an unusually shaped beanie. Pattern found here

'Spring chicken' softie - pattern found here

Another attempt at fair isle, this time using my standard beanie pattern but with a K2P2 cuff and adding in the elephant pattern

Matching baby beanie, mittens & socks

Knitted monkey softie - this is actually the 3rd one of these I've made but I'm keeping this one for Stroopy. Pattern found here

A bird taggie - I saw these in a baby store and decided to make up a pattern for myself!

After these efforts (and quite a few more I didn't take photos of because they either gave away baby's gender or hinted too much at our preferred name!), I seemed to have reached a dead end. I want to sew, I want to knit - but I am totally and completely lacking inspiration. Every day I get out my big tub of fabrics, read crafty blogs and search for patterns online but with no results. I just don't know what's wrong with me!

So I've reached a decision - I think I'm going to take my Nanna skills to an all new level and learn how to crochet. Now, keep in mind this isn't the first time I've attempted crochet. Mum tried to teach me once or twice a few years ago and I just couldn't get the hang of it. Like when I was learning to knit, I'm hoping I just need a bit more patience and a few more goes to figure it out.

So, for a soon-to-be (I still need to buy me some crochet hooks!) beginner crochet-er, does anyone have any tips / advice for me???? I'm motivated but have no idea where to begin!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Arnhem Openluchtmuseum

Last weekend Mitch and I decided to go visit our local open air museum at nearby Arnhem. We had actually been planning on going up north to Enkhuizen & the Zuiderzee museum but miserable, rainy weather up that way and the thought of a sleep in (we somehow slept in until 11.30am!!! Guess we are just making the most of it before the little boef arrives!) resulted in us staying a little closer to home. On my midwifes instructions, I'm not meant to be doing too much anyway & taking it easy as much as possible in an effort to keep my BP under control so we decided to just spend a couple of hours slowly wandering around the museum on Saturday afternoon. Slowly being the key word - I feel like the pregnant lady waddle has definitely kicked in :P It was actually my second visit here - I came here with Dad last year while Mitch was working and after a great report from Dad and I on the museum, Mitch had been keen to come visit it for himself.

As it's name suggests, the Openluchtmuseum isn't just any old museum - it's entirely outdoors. Various farm buildings, cottages & windmills from a variety of eras have been relocated from all over the Netherlands to the museum.

Barn


It wouldn't be a Dutch open air museum without some windmills!!!

Fishermans cottages & boat making section








It's set up quite well - there are people in costume at most exhibits who are there to explain everything and things are in working order (eg the windmill is grinding) so you can actually see how things work. The interiors of the farmhouses are all traditionally furnished, right down to the stinky potato peelings in the kitchen sink.

Inside of a grain mill

Paper mill - it was reallyyyy noisy

Inside of an old farmhouse - where the family and animals slept in the same room

Cellar

There were clogs in every house, of course :-)

There was a nice little street which had places to eat, a gift shop, a sweets shop (where we naturally had to pop in to buy some drop - Mitch's favourite lolly, usually I can't stand the stuff but it seems that pregnancy has altered my tastes... I think I demolished half the packet!) and a poffertje cafe. The most amusing part of this section however - the 'hole in the wall' lolly dispenser in the sweets shop. These foul looking means of getting a quick meal (usually along the lines of croquettes or cheeseburgers) are unbelievably popular all over the Netherlands. Usually they are located right beside a take away joint or cafe where for a similar price, you can get the same thing (only with less food poisoning risk), yet I ALWAYS see locals eating out of these 'hole in the wall' places. I just don't get it - in fact, last weekend we even saw one in the middle of nowhere on our trip to Groningen. I wish we took a photo of it - it was a wall beside a toilet block on the road side of a dijk. Seriously. I know the Dutch aren't known for their cuisine, but the hole in the wall food still astounds (and amuses) me!

Sweets in a wall - just in case you can't be bothered walking the extra  2 steps into the sweets shop itself...

Despite the overcast day, it was a lovely temperature outside for once and made for a nice afternoon out. I've been there twice now so don't feel the urge to go again, but it's a day out that I'd recommend to anyone wanting to get an overview of life in the Netherlands throughout the ages in a day.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A day trip to the other end of the country - Groningen, The Netherlands

Since getting home from Croatia, we've had pretty quiet weekends. Mostly because I've been feeling pretty exhausted but partly also because we've had such awful weather. Except for a brief 2 day heat wave a couple of weeks ago, it's rained basically every day and has been overcast and chilly - colder then a Brisbane winter during the day in fact!!!! After a month of quiet weekends however, I've been getting restless. I want to get out and about and do some more sightseeing before Stroopy arrives. Last Saturday was another day of miserable, rainy weather but we decided to ignore that fact and take the little red car on a road trip to the top end of the country - Groningen.

Groningen is both a province and a city in the very north of Holland. It's been on my to-see list for awhile, however there is currently an ad campaign playing on tv that motivated us to go to Groningen city last weekend. It's a 2hr drive from Nijmegen so we got up reasonably early to make the most of the day and after finding a park in the city centre, took a wander around.




First impressions = I wasn't impressed. Neither was Mitch - hence our lack of photos for once. Perhaps it was the fact that it was raining, overcast and cold, but I don't know - it just didn't live up to my expectations. Although most cities in the Netherlands tend to be quite similar, there are still some stand out ones (Utrecht being my particular favourite) and I think I was expecting Groningen to have a bit more character then what it did. There was certainly plenty of shopping but the city just didn't have the same atmosphere as other big cities here, such as Den Haag or Maastricht. The markets however were pretty good - lots of amazing looking fresh produce and the best frites stall we've eaten at yet (sorry to my previous favourite in Amsterdam - you're now second best). My frites speciaal (hot chips in a cone with mayo & curry sauce) was so good that I wanted seconds - the special kruiden they added at this stall just topped it off perfectly.

After we'd tired of the city, we headed back to the car (where a stranger kindly told me I looked ready to give birth and patted me on the shoulder with a look of pity on her face when my reply was to tell her I had 6 weeks to go - c'mon, I'm not THAT huge!!!!!!) and decided to take a little road trip. We headed further up north to the coast via the back roads, driving through lots of really cute villages, spotting plenty of windmills along the way before arriving at the big dike.



The plan had then been to go to the amazing looking Bourtange Fortress but with a 3hr drive home, we had run out of time already. Although Groningen city failed to impress, what we saw of the province was lovely - I'm keen to go back and check out the fortress one day... Perhaps next time will be with Stroopy in tow!!!!

The final destination - Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

The final stop in our week long Croatian holiday was the renowned Plitvice Lakes National Park. Because the budget airlines near us only fly into Zadar in the north of the country, it seemed like the perfect excuse to visit the nearby lakes & waterfalls. After our detour into Mostar, we arrived back up north, all feeling exhausted after a long day on the road, only to find our accommodation we had booked wasn't exactly as expected - apparently booking 3 rooms at this place = 1 room with a double bed, single trundle bed and fold out couch... And apparently this is adequate for 5 adults?!?!? It was late, we were tired, there was no-where else to go and after much arguing with the owner, we finally agreed to stay at a much lower rate. Thankfully the 5 of us are really good friends (if we can spend 5 weeks straight living in each others pockets in one of the most challenging countries to travel in = India, and not only come home still friends but wanting to hang out again less then 24hrs after arriving home, you know you'll be friends for life!!!) and managed fine in the end - brought back memories of those good old school camps with all of us giggling and acting like kids.

We woke up the next morning and headed off into the mountains - as we got further from the sea, the temperature stats on the highway signs got lower and lower. I think at one point it said 13deg - and none of us (bar Mitch) had jumpers and were all in shorts/tshirts and a dress in my case! Once we had reached the park, it was POURING rain, freezing and just plain miserable. We then discovered that it's near impossible to see much of the park without doing significant amounts of walking (I had read previously that you could take little shuttle buses all over the park to sightsee from but it wasn't exactly the case). I was on doctors orders to not walk very far so that was out of the question - however, despite the rain and slightly $$$ entry fee for a park, we sucked it up and bought tickets with the intention of just taking a boat ride across the lake.












It was worth it - on the boat ride over, we somehow managed to end up with an entire boat to ourselves. The rain cleared and the water was a gorgeous shade of blue, not to mention crystal clear. There were little waterfalls, lots of fish and ducks swimming around. We stopped on the other side for a hot drink, became easily amused by a glass door that warped our features and took a more crowded boat back to the other side.

I think that to get the most of of this national park, you really need to be able to do the hikes. We all love a bit of a hike (the 5 of us actually trekked the Himalayas together) but unfortunately the weather and my medical state at that point in time just meant it wasn't going to happen. I'm still pleased we got to see the park though - it would've been a shame to go all that way and not visit. And that brought our Croatian holiday to a close - a beautiful country, one that I'm pleased to have finally seen and ticked off my travel to-do list :-)

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