Thursday, March 29, 2012

Too easy

What a week...

Day 1: After a long day in transit, we arrived and picked up our rental car and drove to our temporary corporate housing - all prebooked courtesy of Mitch's new job. So much easier then having to find our own accommodation like in previous moves!

Day 2: Pick up bank cards. Start searching online for cars and rental properties; all without the need for google translate. Do some grocery shopping - other then the overwhelming size of the stores, it's so much more simple now with all labels being in English.

Day 3: Test drive the 2 models of cars we had in mind - didn't take many miles to figure out what brand was going to suit our needs best. Go to a VW dealer. Find the car we want. Bargain with dealer... Hello, new (ish - it's second hand but feels brand new to us!) car!!! It might be considered a compact SUV over here but boy, it feels like driving a (very smooth) truck after the teeny tiny Peugeot!


Day 4: Start viewing rental properties and exploring suburbs we are looking to live in. Quickly figure out where we DON'T want to live. Put in a couple of applications - rental market here is very competitive and as we are waiting on our social security numbers and have no credit history in this country, finding a landlord/agency who will agree to take us on may be challenging.

Day 5: View many more properties and find our ideal home - a wooden 3 bedroom house that has just been renovated...



Day 6: ACCEPTED!!! Sign lease and pick up keys.

In less then a week, we have not only bought a car but found a home! It's unbelievable. Mitch took 3 weeks off in between jobs to accomplish this but we did it so much quicker then expected. I keep saying to Mitch - surely something is going to go wrong soon, life in the USA is just seeming a little too easy right now... Here's hoping our shipments arrive safe and sound so we can actually move in! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

First impressions

We made it!!! It was a very long day not to mention a very long 11hrs cramped in a plane with a wriggling, teething baby (6 pearly whites and counting!) but we finally arrived in cold but sunny California on Sunday afternoon. Oliver cried (ok, screamed hysterically) at an opportune moment in customs and we were whisked to the front of the line which probably saved us hours - all went went well though and now we've just got to make the journey to Canada and back to activate our other visas. We've barely been here 48 hours yet but the change from Holland is well, quite a shock. My first impressions...

... Things really are BIG. Big cars, big open spaces (I'm convinced the sky looks bigger! Maybe it's just that I've forgotten what blue looks like), big bridges (spotted the golden gate bridge from the plane), big 'freeways', big pizzas, big carparks... I could go on!

... It's cold. At first it seemed colder then Nijmegen but it has been warming up during the day - a long sleeve shirt is fine. Apparently the temperature difference between where we are and the city can be quite huge (up to 20 deg - whatever that is in celsius, I'm still figuring it out) so I think we will be trying to find a rental in southern Silicon Valley where it's warmer!

... Being able to overtake on the left and right just doesn't seem safe on the aforementioned BIG freeways.

... Speaking English without having to think twice feels like such a luxury! I think it must be rubbing off on Ollie too - in the supermarket yesterday, I heard DADDY come from the pram. Seriously. It was clear as a bell, Mitch and I just looked at each other in shock! He is making more and more sounds these days, including his latest craze - he hisses at everything, funny boy!

... Living in the same town as Google is awesome... Hello free wifi!

... The trolleys are awful!!! None of the back wheels turn and it makes steering impossible. I've already nearly taken out a few unsuspecting people with my lack of skills with an American trolley...

... The supermarkets/shops at first seem pretty awesome but they quickly become overwhelming. I had to get out of Walmart in a hurry yesterday after suffering Reeces peanut butter cup variety overload.

... The light switches are just not logical. They flip the opposite way. It's confusing. I'm generally pretty adaptable but my brain just can't handle this change!

... There are in fact mountains in Mountain View! Well, they are in the distance anyway... Quite a shock seeing a more dry, hilly environment after wet Flatland!

More to come... Our USA adventure is only just beginning!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2 years on

It feels like it was only yesterday that we packed our backpacks and took off - discovered a new culture, took a few holidays to new places, had a baby and all of a sudden, our 2 years in the Netherlands have come to an end. I keep asking myself where the time went - I know we have done a lot over the past couple of years but I truly don't know how we are this far through 2012 already!

Everyone has been asking me recently if I'm looking forward to moving and the truth is, YES - I can't wait to go to California! I've been ready to hop on a plane for weeks now! But it's not because I am unhappy here. In fact, if it wasn't for the weather (I just cannot live in this climate, it's cold, grey and rains more days then not) I wouldn't want to move on just yet. We have made a life here for ourselves and despite the fact that the expat life in a country so far from Australia is tough at times, I enjoy our life here in Holland. It feels like we've only just gotten settled into a nice little routine and it's already time to leave. The past 2 years have been an experience I'll always hold dear - however there are some things that will always baffle me about this small, densely populated country, like...

... why a carton of a dozen eggs is only ever 10 ...
... why every town insists on testing its air raid sirens on the first Monday of EVERY month at exactly 12 noon - 2 years on and it still scares me! ...
... why 'hole in the wall' food exists!!!!! I have no words on that one, just imagine my face all screwed up in disgust right now. It's a method of fast food I will never, ever understand ...
... why simple grocery items can be so hard to come by (or are sold in really weird places) - like bicarb soda, icing sugar, food dye, just to name a few... And lets not forget how difficult it is to locate the cocoa powder in the supermarket (I've been relieved to know it's not just me that's had this problem!) ...
... why it's so frowned upon to put your Christmas tree up prior to 5 December ...
... why the Dutch don't do engagement rings (only found this one out yesterday and I am amazed!) ...
... why people own so many bikes. Although, thinking about it I can actually understand that one now - because bikes get stolen so often! Actually, I think the time that I felt most integrated into the culture was when our 2 person household owned a total of 5 bikes ...
... how people can text, hold an umbrella AND ride a bike at the same time ...

Despite all the ups and downs of our life here, there are still so many things I'm going to miss - mostly the people (to all of our lovely friends that we've made over the past couple of years, both Dutch and fellow expats - I'm going to miss you!) but also Europe in general and how close everything is... beautiful architecture... tulips... cycling... seeing windmills pop up in random places... the healthcare system (I've had a fantastic experience here with having a baby)... gouda - in particular the komijn version... speculoos... and my favourite, possibly the most awesome thing about this country - STROOPWAFELS! My waistline will be rejoicing but my I am going to miss these caramel wafer treats on top of a cup of tea like nothing else...


Dear Holland, you have treated me well over the past 2 years. Your people have made me feel welcome and at home and I've had so many opportunities to not only see and learn new things, but delve into the past and discover my roots. It's been an amazing journey and I feel like I have matured a lot in my time here - not only have my horizons been broadened but we've made the transition from couple to a family of three. Holland, I may not miss your grey skies and lack of sunshine, but I will miss so many things about the funny little land of clogs and tulips. But, here's to a new adventure -c'mon CALIFORNIA!!!!!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Our final Dutch day out - the Efteling

A day trip to the Efteling last week was probably our final little road trip here in the Netherlands. Friends had been telling us about this theme park (designed entirely by Dutch artist Anton Pieck) for the past year but I didn't want to go while I was pregnant - really, who wants to go to a theme park and not be able to go on the rides?!?! So, it wasn't until our last few weeks before leaving that we organised a day out at the Dutch Disneyland. It was a cold, overcast Monday - might sound depressing but it meant that the park was nearly empty! We managed to avoid the usual crowds and enjoy the experience without the rest of the country.

The Efteling has a fairy tale theme and even though it's catered towards small children, both Mitch and I really enjoyed it (I am a kid at heart!!!). We wandered through the interactive fairy tale forest...





... where there were a few fairytales we'd never heard of - tell me, what is the story of the donkey that poops gold coins?!?!


Took a ride on a steam carousel...


Went on some baby friendly rides (along the lines of the 'it's a small world' ride at Disneyland), I thought Mr Oliver might be scared at some of the loud noises but no, he had a blast as usual...


And we even got to leave Ollie with our friends while Mitch and I let loose on some of the rollercoasters... Including a WOODEN rollercoaster!!! It was actually way better then the loop the loop, fancy upside down rollercoaster... Perhaps because of the fear of being on a wooden structure, I don't know???


It was a lovely day out - a special theme park indeed, somewhere that I hope to take Mr Oliver back to when he is a little older :-)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A bit of birthday fun

Somehow another year has gone by - it only feels like yesterday that I put together this to celebrate Mitch's last birthday before Mr Oliver came along, yet March was here again before we knew it! After a stressful end to the week, we both felt like a low key day so had a relaxing time celebrating another year closer to retirement at home. On Friday I faced my fear of MESS and Mr Oliver got in touch with his artistic side...


He loved squishing his feet in the paint - the source of many giggles! And although we ended up with paint EVERYWHERE, it wasn't as messy as I was expecting (now that he's getting older, I can't wait to do more crafty things together!).

I think he was pretty proud of his masterpiece!


Pancake Sunday was moved to Saturday in honor of the birthday boy...


And the rest of the day was spent just hanging out and enjoying each others company!






Oh... And my Milo tin cake experiment? Well, my red velvet layer cake ended up being on a bit of a lean, but it was delicious! 



Given the choice, I'd definitely choose a proper cake tin but my 1.2kg Milo tin worked a treat this time around. I wonder what March 3 has in store next year?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Makes me :-)

When I'm having a stressful moment (and there have been a few of those lately - courtesy of our visas not going according to plan!), this little guy always knows how to make me smile :-)

Whether it's his gorgeous little laugh...


Or his cheery little face...


... with those big, inquisitive eyes...


... he always warms my heart :-)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Limbo land...

It's felt a little like our life is on hold lately. All our belongings have been packed and shipped to the USA from both here and Australia and we are basically living out of suitcases (well, we still have the basic necessities because our place came furnished, but it just doesn't feel like our home anymore). I'm busy, almost hectic at times with all the pre-move things to be done yet some days it feels like I have nothing at all to do. Trips into town no longer have the same appeal seeing as we have already filled our suitcases to the brim and I just don't have room for another thing. There are so many ideas I have of things to make and do but honestly, a lot of it just feels pointless while we are living in limbo land. So I have to say, I've become pretty good at 'making do' lately...

Anyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE to bake... I was craving a baked cheesecake the other week but without my trusty cheesecake tins, I was stuck. After a little too much time browsing pinterest however, I came across this recipe... Cheesecake CUPCAKES - finally, a solution to my craving! Out of all of my baking goods that were sent, I held onto a muffin tin. And boy am I glad I did! I've made these little beauties twice now and they are a winner. I haven't managed to take a photo either time though - they've just been eaten far too quickly...

Another thing we've been 'making do' with is Oliver's toys. Babies only get a 10kg allowance on flights so we had to choose carefully what toys we kept and shipped. Ollie gets bored pretty easily and his limited selection hasn't proven all that entertaining. I've now discovered that there are simple alternatives that keeps him happily playing away for more then a minute at a time - a plastic water bottle filled with macaroni... Homemade edible fingerprint... A big bowl of sudsy water and containers for dipping... And his favorite by far - a large plastic bowl filled with his bowls and bibs and other plastic goodies to empty and fill, over and over again. It's amazing how the simple things can entertain!


Books are another limited item. I've been trying to rid myself of my speed reading habits and read each and every word on a page while Oliver has been enjoying the same 3 stories time and time again - thankfully he doesn't mind repetitive storylines (he's more interested in chewing his socks then reading half the time!)... There's only so many spins either of us can put on The Gruffalo and I am sooooo looking forward to getting all his books out again!


I'm also learning how to live without a car - yep, the little red car finally sold! Although it was mostly just a weekend car (I love my bike and try to ride or walk where I can), it's been a little frustrating because sometimes there is just no 'making do' without a car, especially in a country where it rains seemingly all the time... Bring on the Californian sunshine I say :-)

Making do... I'm discovering that there are a lot of alternatives to things but I really can't wait to be settled in and not in limbo land anymore. In the meantime, I need to figure out how to make a birthday cake sans cake tin for a certain someone turning 28 tomorrow... I'm thinking of making do with an oversized Milo tin based on something I saw online... We'll see how that one goes!

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