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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Let's Talk Driving

For the past 24 years, I have had my driver's license.  And, up until this point in my life, I haven't ever really questioned my ability to drive.  In the U.S., I would put on my seat belt, and everything seemed like it was second nature.  In Nigeria, I didn't drive there as we were required to have our driver, Fatai.  However, here, we are very much allowed to drive our own car.:)

We have a black Audi station wagon. read that right.  I drive a good old, National Lampoon's (ok, it's not that bad) station wagon.  I can hear my American friends laughing all the way from here.  But, this car is pretty common place over here.  As a matter of fact, Guy ended up putting a sticker in the window of the car just so that we would stop going and trying to unlock a car we thought was ours.  However thanks to the convenience of using bikes almost every day to go everywhere we need to go, we don't have to drive very often.  We filled the tank up in our car the middle of August, and we just had to fill it up yesterday still had a quarter of a tank in it.  It does take about 80 euros ( about $90 U.S.)to fill the tank which is very reminiscent of the gas prices in the U.S. in 2008.  So, biking is a much more economical option.

However, there are times when driving is more preferrable.  Perhaps, maybe when you need to buy more groceries than a bike can hold and you have literally lost your balance a few times on your bike and fallen off?? ( Just saying..not that that has happened to me..insert eye wink), or if your daughter's piano and ballet lessons are 4.5 kilometers away and you just don't want to hear the complaining of your 8 year old all the way there...those are good times to take a car...

The picture below is a metaphor for how my kids feel when I get behind the wheel here in Holland...
Elizabeth literally belted the carton of eggs in the seat to keep them safe when I drove.:)

Yes, it seems that even though with 24 years of driving experience under my belt, my arm pits start wringing wet and I almost forget how to operate a manual transmission ( oops forgot to mention that part).  Let's just say that the first few times the kids got in the car with me they each made the Sign of the Cross without any prompting from me! ( Insert NO eye wink...I am completely serious on that one!)

In the picture below, you can see the red path crossing in front of me...that is the bike path...they are EVERYWHERE!  If you come to Holland, do NOT mistake them for a walking WILL BE RUN OVER...or hopefully swerved around very quickly.  And don't just assume that a bike path is only for bicycles...they can be for motor scooters and small motor cycles as well.  Do you see those white triangles on the road?  If the triangles are pointing at you, that means you have to yield.  You also yield here to whoever is approaching from the right unless you are directed otherwise by the points on the triangles.  

And then you throw this biking sign in the mix....
Which means that the bikes can go any direction when the light for the bikes change including diagonally.  I know the picture doesn't show that, but that is what happens when the cycle light turns green. (You may remember that I mentioned in a previous post that bikes have their own light separate from the car stop lights). Just to let you know, the cyclists do not pay attention to where the cars are going....they expect that the car will see them...not the other way around.  And then you throw in all the one way roads and one ways in parking lots...

 Let's just say that for the first month we have been here, I thought I would need one of those neck wraps for people with whip lash.  Between the triangles pointing at me and the cyclists zooming around the car when I am trying to pull out onto a street looking both ways for traffic, minding the one way roads and trying not to hit a cyclist, and remembering how to drive a manual transmission....I felt like I had whiplash.:) It's a good thing that wine can work wonders on a sore neck!:)

I know it could always be worse...we could be in the UK or Australia and driving on the other side of the road as well!  I am not sure my 40 year old brain could handle all of that change at one time.:)

And in case you are wondering...the eggs did make it home safe and sound...but not without a few quick stops for cyclists who apparently have no "preservation of life" skills!!


Monday, September 26, 2016

The Weekend

It has been another whirlwind of a weekend. It almost seems like a blur.  Ballet practice on Friday night, an early soccer game on Saturday morning for Jeremy (with an impromptu VERY LONG bike ride to get there.)  Shopping in the City Center and a Groningen football game in the stadium.

A virtual visit from the "Flat YNO sisters" arrived on Thursday.:)
Love those girls!!!:)

Friday night was ballet...

Our Saturday monring bike ride to Jeremy's soccer game had a few surprises in store (besides the extra long bike ride to get there):)  Elizabeth wanted to know what it was, and I told her it was a maple leaf.:)

 Saturday afternoon, Elizabeth and I had a girls' afternoon shopping near the city center..

Elizabeth found Van Noort’s (a Dutch artist) painting in a shop window.  She was excited because they are studying about him in school.:)

We had to stop and get some of the best french fries in the world at Frietwinkel near the City Center.:)  Gotta love the contraption they serve them up in.:) We were screaming American because we have ketchup instead of mayonnaise with our fries.:)

Walking towards the City Center.:)
While Elizabeth and I were shopping, Jeremy and Guy were busy getting tickets to the Football Club (FC) Groningen soccer game for Saturday night.:)

Gotta love all the bikes in the background!

Guy's Dutch was a little off...somehow he ordered three beers and three sprites for 4 people...and we don't really like beer that much!:) But, I drank two and a half beers that night!:)

The game was quite an experience.  The Dutch people really take their football seriously.  For more informaton about the Groningen Football team, you can click here.

Going to a football game in Europe is unlike anything I have experienced before.  The fans are passionate about their teams.:)  As a matter of fact, I am posting a video of the energetic fans from the  opposing team at the game on Saturday night.  They sang the. entire. time.  I am NOT exaggerating.  For a full 90 minutes, we heard them sing for their team.  The players from the opposing team actually walked to the end of the field at the end of the game to tell them thank you.

The score ended up being 0-0, but we all agreed that it was something we will all remember. As well as our bike ride home involving being sandwiched between a car and city bus...we are all ok! But for a split second, I thought Elizabeth and I would be the PB and J in a car and bus sandwich!:)

Quick side note:  If you try to watch the videos on your mobile devices, a few people have told me they don’t work.  there haven’t been any problems watching videos on computers, though:)

Thanks for visiting! Doei!:)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Weekend in Pictures

On Friday, we celebrated our first family member’s birthday in The Netherlands.:)

Elizabeth made chocolate covered Stroopwafels to surprise Guy for his birthday.:) 

Jeremy beat Guy at chess on his birthday.:)

Aunt Conch sent some pretty cool gifts from Japan!:)
 Elizabeth had her first ballet class here on Friday night, but I forgot to take a picture of that.:)  On Saturday morning, we went to Jeremy’s football game...
Jeremy’s team won their Football ( Soccer) match!:)

We went to a food truck festival here in Groningen!:)

We tried Bitterballen for the first time!

some of the food trucks..we were there early:)

Bitterballen...for more info, click here

Before the kids ate the Bitterballen....
I don’t have a picture of the “after” but it is pretty safe to say the kids weren’t a fan. Guy and I, however are hooked! (and the wine there wasn’t too bad either!!!) We will be having bitterballen again!  (To my American friends...get your minds out of the gutter!! You know who you are!!! LOL!!!)

It was a busy weekend and since it is already Tuesday and I haven’t posted anything, I thought the best way for you to experience our weekend here is through the pictures I took!


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Welkom Huis

Anyone who has ever moved knows it can be a difficult to find the next home which feels just right for you.  When Guy arrived here in March, the task was no different for us.  It was a long process of long phone conversations and pictures being sent via text and email.  Trying to schedule conversations in a seven hour time difference while he was starting a new job, and I was shuttling kids to school and activities and trying to get our shipment ready for our sea container.  But, after two months and Guy living in an apartment over here, he and our realtor here (with some input from yours truly) found a perfect place for our family.  I have found out that it is not a traditional Dutch custom to just stop by someone’s home to say hello.  So, in true Dutch fashion, I am inviting you into my home to see where we will be “Hanging our hats’” for the next few years.  Welkom Huis! (Welcome Home!)

This is our home from the outside.

Our home is in an old Dutch building and I am not quite sure the age of the building, but when I saw it, it reminded me of the canal houses I saw in Amsterdam when we were there in 2009.  Both doors lead to our home.  Some homes on our street are divided into two separate apartments.  The door on the left would lead to the downstairs apartment and the door on the right, would lead to the upstairs apartment.  Our landlord owns all three floors and has turned it into a three story home.:)

I have to say I am really surprised by how warm it has been since we arrived the end of August.  I wasn’t expecting Holland to be quite so warm.  This past week the temperatures have hovered between 27 and 30 degrees Celsius (I am quickly adapting to the rest of the world!) and there is no A/C since the days in Holland of those types of temperatures aren’t as long as in Houston.  But, this American girl is not used to having open windows (without screens) to let the air in when it is so hot.  And believe me, on the third floor, where our bedroom is reminiscent of a Texas summer by the end of the day.:)  Here are a few pictures of the rooms on the third floor.  There is a full bathroom up there, too..but I thought I’d spare you a picture of that.:)

A few pics of our bedroom on the third floor.:)
Guest room:)

Kids’ study room with their desks on the third floor:)

Then there are the stairs.  I know I have told my friends about the staircases in our new home.  Knowing that Dutch people are among the tallest in the world, I cannot for the life of me understand how skinny and steep the stairs are in many of the homes I have seen here.

Staircase going from the third floor down to the second floor. 
The kids’ bedrooms, the “X box” room and another full bathroom are on the second floor...
Here are a few pictures of Jeremy’s room.  He has a balcony off of his bedroom with an awning that can be put out and retracted depending on the time of day and how much sun you want in the room.  There is even a box garden on the balcony which had strawberries growing there in June when we were visiting.:)

And, Elizabeth’s room...

Both the kids’ rooms have doors they can go in from the hall and there is also a sliding glass door separating the rooms as well.  So depending on if they are getting along at any given moment, they can open or close them.:)

The X box room:)

Then, the staircase down from the second to the first floor...

It’s so great to be married to a handy man!  I knew that we were going to need a place to keep our shoes and coats especially for when the cold weather hits, and Guy (being the engineer that he is) blocked off the second entrance door to the house and built some shelving for a “coat closet”..perfect!!
One of the kids favorite things about our new home is the old fashioned door bell and the mail slot!  I have to tell you that when the mail has come on a few occasions, It has sounded like someone has been trying to crawl through our door when the postman is delivering it and it thumps on the floor.  I al almost used to it now....and I have only had a few panic attacks this week when the mail has arrived!:)

Hallway when you enter our home.:)
At the end of the hallway, you turn left and immediately on the left is our living room..

The dining room is opposite the living room and looks out into our courtyard..

Yes, indeed folks, those are grapes growing in our backyard.:)

Just off of the dining room is a small work area where I have my desk and Elizabeth has her piano.  From there, you walk into the kitchen which also looks out into the courtyard.:)

Note our landlord and his family wrote for us on the built in chalkboard before we moved sweet:)

my European size oven

My American sized refrigerator sans working ice maker
Through the kitchen is the pantry and laundry room and a half bathroom...

My European washer and dryer...we have an on again off again relationship...

I know that whenever I have friend who moves, I always wonder what their new place looks like.  I wanted to share our home with you.  I really love the different aspects of the home here that make it so unique.  You may have noticed that almost every room has a fireplace.  None of them are working anymore, but at some point in history they did..and I like to think of all the people who have lived here over the years and who they were.  I have to give a shout out to Guy for doing such a great job with all of the legwork to find our home here. I love that I can ride my bike everywhere in town from our house.  The kids love that they can ride bikes to school each day.  Each and every day we are here, we are settling in and this house is feeling more like our home.:)
Thanks for stopping by to see our new huis.:)