27 May, 2013

My first Lustrum

Five years ago yesterday I hopped on a plane from Bristol and flew to the Netherlands to live with Maarten after almost a year in a long distance relationship.  Five years ago yesterday I was planning a short term solution to our problems of not being able to relocate to Australia.  Five years ago yesterday I was full of hope, confidence and excitement for the future.  Five years ago yesterday the weather was warm (damnit!).

So how has my short term solution panned out?  Well, not so short after all.  Life seemed to get in the way.  We bought a house, got married and then had a baby.  Now that baby is a toddler and we're no closer to moving to Australia.

How did I celebrate?  With a new bicycle!  One of the greatest aspects of working in the Netherlands is that every year in May you are paid 8% of your gross salary as "Holiday money."  Essentially you put money aside from your salary each month and are given a lump sum in May to help with whatever it is you plan to do over the summer (holidays, renovations, savings, whatever).  I decided to do two things with my holiday money: contract an amazing professional illustrator to create some graphics for my blossoming crochet business and buy a new bike.

A bike has been high on my list of priorities for more than a year.  I have to carry Raina to and from day care quite a bit, so I have been carrying her on my back in my Stokke MyCarrier since she was about ten weeks old.  I'm not exactly sure if it's against the law to do this, but it's really not recommended although I've always felt safe and in control.  But, this was never a long term solution.  Both my and Maarten's bikes are not really suitable to attach a child seat to, we don't have the space to store a trailer, and we don't have the spare 1600 euros for a bakfiets and nor do I want to push that sucker around all day long.

So, I started looking around for cool bikes.  My friend Sanne (hi Sanne!) bought a new bike a couple of years ago and I remember her saying that if you're going to spend s bucket-load of cash on a bike, make it a cool one.  And what a cool bike I found!

It's actually even cooler now, because Maarten bought a bright pink seat for Raina, so she sits just behind the handlebars and absolutely loves it.

So is my integration finally complete?  I complete my daily life in Dutch, I've been naked at the sauna, I eat and enjoy boerenkool, I use the word "Gezellig" in normal conversation, I am no longer even mildly surprised when I'm elbowed out the way so an old lady/kid/business man can get on or off the bus before me, I moan about the weather every single day, I always hold my line while cycling, and now I have an awesome bike with a child seat.

What's left?  Where will I be in another five years?

Edited to add:  Because I'm celebrating a significant event in my life, I have followed the rules and have brought a tart to work for my colleagues to share.  There's officially nothing left in my path to full integration!

23 May, 2013

Tuineren - An Update

Remember a couple of weeks ago I talked about our front garden renovation project? Well, it's finished!

What do you think?

Looks great, doesn't it?  Now to get those pots I was talking about and scrub the remnants of the ivy that I ripped of the walls about two years ago....

06 May, 2013


For some time now we have been those neighbours.  You know, the neighbours with the ugly, unkempt, overgrown front yard.

The ground was covered in wild strawberries (the inedible kind), lots of spiders and dandelions.  Thankfully we had a hedge to hide it a little bit!

We decided months ago that this year we would fix it.  So, we've been sitting inside looking at the crappy weather for months, just waiting to get outside and work on becoming the neighbours that don't have the ugliest garden in the street.

Saturday was step one:  I got in and chopped our thorny hedge off at ground level, earning myself quite a few prickly splinters.  Took me back to my shed hand days, where I had hands covered in black dots from all the thistles....

This was a bitch to get out.  They all were, actually.

Yesterday was the day to dig out the roots.  I figured it was going to be a monumental task as one shovel had already fallen casualty to the cause on Saturday.  This time I tried with a pitchfork, who very quickly succumbed to the same fate.

Enter Maarten.  Together we scrambled around on the ground, digging to our elbows and then finally pulling each stump out one by one.  For once my weight came in handy; being able to use my body as leverage to pull those suckers out.

Last stump!

Now we have an even uglier garden, but it will soon be transformed into a clean paved wonderland with a couple of colourful pots to make it look inviting.

Here's what it looks like now.  But not for long!

I can't wait to proudly walk to the front door, rather than skulk in pretending I don't really live there....

And just because the garden isn't ugly everywhere, here are some photos of our back garden, which I'm enormously proud of!

Tulips love my garden.  So do moles.

Minus a tree that Maarten's dad chopped down for us.

What we are talking about

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