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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Apologies to the staff and regulars

Moving house is what expats do, it goes with the territory and ‘if’ that’s true, then I was born to be an expat.

I moved four times while living with my parents (that I’m aware of), while the boys were growing up I moved five times and this will be my seventh move since knowing Mr Sunshine. That’s sixteen moves in total, an average of once every three years. Statistics state that moving house is up there in the top most stressful things that you can happen in a person’s life, along with death or separation from a partner.

I’m not a big follower of statistic, yet it might explain why I’ve been acting a bit strange lately -stress can do funny things to a person.

I’ve made numerous ‘to do’ lists with links to web site and special notes. Sounds efficient? Nope, not really, do I actually need to list Esprit (clothes shop) in my 'must inform before we move' list.

I started finding things in odd places too, Sunday morning my ironing board developed Bambi legs. When investigating this cute wobble of my normally sturdy friend, I noticed I’d placed one of its legs in a bowl of yogurt. I can only assume the bowl of yogurt was on the floor because it didn’t fit in with any of my to do lists for that day and so had been removed from sight.
Yep.. ironing board and yoghurt combo

The yogurt wasn’t the only odd event but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back on Sunday. I needed to relax, calm down, chill out, loosen up (get pissed). However Mr Sunshine works on Mondays so drinkies in the Grote Markt were out of the question. Until – I had an invitation for coffee.

The coffee never materialised but the wine did, again and again and again. I don’t remember much but apparently I had a great time.

To the staff and regulars at the Cafe de Baron I would like to apologise for boring everyone with more stories of the Hairy Bikers Diet. I would also like to apologise for the dancing (hopefully not alone), wine assures me I have rhythm (Mr Sunshine assures me I have not). Finally would like to apologise for any confusion, while I’m sure in time we might all become great friends, it might not be quite so instantaneous as I indicated on Sunday. The invitation to Christmas lunch was perhaps a bit forward of me and as Mr Sunshine reminds me, we will be in the UK then so perhaps it will be a little far for everyone to travel.

Not sure what I'm thinking but I'm
obviously very pleased with myself
If this is what moving house does to me, it needs to be my last move for a while. This will be my fifth house since February 2010 and I need it to stop now. 

Is it just me or is Alfie smiling?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Sometimes life gets in the way

I’m not impressed with my blogging output lately, even Mr Sunshine has commented/moaned.

The holidays are over and it’s time to get back in my routine.

The thing is I can’t get into a routine because life just keeps taking over. For example we’re still sticking to the Hairy Bikers Diet, 7 Kilos I’ve lost so far.  Honestly it feels like a miracle, I'm stunned. I keep doing a double take every time I walk past the mirror in the nude (too much information?). Where did the tummy go? I just read that back to myself and heard Arnold Schwarzenegger rusty catchphrase booming 'I'll be back' . The only downside to the Hairy Bikers diet is it takes time, buying fresh ingredients and cooking everything from scratch is a challenge for the culinary handicapped like me.
I'll be back 

On top of my special needs manoeuvres in the kitchen, my new Open University courses began this week. Last year I started a 60 point introduction at level one, this week begins 120 points a level two taking it to full time study (Creative Writing and Worlds of English). As usual whenever I start something new, a little bit of OCD worms its way into my personality. So I’m trying to limit my time I check the new forums to once an hour (it’s tough), I have pushed ahead to week 3 on the tasks and the beautiful crisp new books are already littered with post it notes and highlighter marks.


There is one more thing I’ve been getting a little bit OCD about. Do you know the feeling when you want something to happen, something so good that it must be too good to be true, and something you’re scared to talk about in case it gets jinxes.

Pretty garden?
Well, last week we made an offer on a house. It’s the second house we've made an offer on, our makelaar Lennert (Special adviser for expats too stupid to understand Dutch after a year) said there was a reason we didn’t get the first house. He was right because ten days later our dream house turned up. The first day it went on the market 51 people rang for viewings, I was the eighth caller. By the time we viewed the house at 2pm the next day they already had three offers.

So what was so special about this house: the kitchen is badly designed, the garden full of dilapidated buildings topped with asbestos, the top floor is a death trap with a coffin sized hole that drops eight feet to the next floor.

Asbestos filled rotting outhouse
It’s perfect and it’s cheap!

I don’t care about badly designed kitchens as long as I have one, we can work on the garden and turn it into an Alfie friendly paradise. The death trip is a bit of an issue though but I’m trying not to think about that.
That's me in the corner, wondering how to open the oven that crammed in to the triangular kitchen.

So, the thing I’m afraid to whisper is – they accepted our offer!

It’s been through it building inspection already and passed despite a touch of woodworm in the cellar. As I write this I’m waiting for an email to say we got the mortgage and then if everything falls into place we’ll have the house by the 12th of October.

So life is exciting, busy and every so very often getting in the way.

I wasn't kidding about the coffin shaped death trap

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Hairy Dieters Cook Book.

I think Si and Dave would look right
dandy wearing these.

In praise of the Hairy Bikers.

Now some of you might think a cook book, and a diet cook book at that has no place in a blog about expats – but you’d be wrong. It might not be important for all expats, especially those who have managed not to gain an entire ring of lard. Those of us who have, and by those I mean me and Mr Sunshine. Well we have come to look on The Hairy Bikers (known to some as Dave Myers and Si King) as something akin to saviours. It’s not motorbike helmets I see them pulling over their heads but the great helms worn by knights in the middle ages. Take it a step further and those huge two wheeled beasts they ride could be replaced by four strong long silky legs. The Hairy Bikers perched on pure white stallions galloping past the windmills and across the flat lands of the Nederlands charging to our rescue (try and picture it without smiling!).

Personally, I can’t speak for Mr Sunshine, I haven’t had this big a crush since a group of tartan clad youths exploded in my life singing Shang-a-lang and tempting me to take a brief but passionate interest in roller skating.
My first crush - I had the trousers - yep I had the trousers!

I’ve wandered off the point, which was I believe the ring of lard we gained as expats. Of course there are no excuses; the lard is there because we put too much in our mouths, despite the fact I have zero culinary skills and have spent the last year cooking on a camping stove. People gain weight for all kinds of reasons; I should know I’ve tried them all: comfort eating, too much booze, chocolate addictions, boredom, pretending to eat healthily. As expat however we had another reason – we (Mr Sunshine and I) craved the familiar. All around the expat is the unfamiliar, the language, culture, street signs, is there any wonder we started to hanker after familiar tastes. Yet no matter how I tried the food just tasted odd. We’d need a bottle of wine to ‘take the taste away’ or Mr Sunshine would plead for a takeaway treat (we needed many treats each week). I can’t list the times Mr Sunshine dry retched his final mouthful of one of my meals and said ‘It’s not your fault honey; it’s the supermarket/meat/saucepan/gravy mix’.

He doesn’t say that anymore.

Minted peas and feta omelette
The Hairy Dieters have revolutionised our lives.

That may sound dramatic, but its true and we needed a bit of a revolution. I’ve discovered there is nothing wrong with the food in the supermarkets, the meats are just fine and there was never anything wrong with my saucepans. I now make weekly meal plans, I draw up shopping list, freeze extra portions. The bicycles are no longer covered in dust, Andy’s shirts are way too big and I’ve lost 5 kilos.

With the help of the Northern hairy lads we sit down to delicious food every day. Is there any wonder I have a bit of a Hairy crush going on? I can get into my pre expat jeans, our food bill has halved and best of all, I have daily compliments on my new found culinary skills from Mr Sunshine, an all-round win-win situation!

It's no good licking your lips Alfie, this omelette's not for sharing.

Actually not quite all-round win-win.  Our little hairy meal hoover, Alfie has been looking quite glum recently.