Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I guess I should get started....

It has been nearly a week since the plane touched down from India with the last three of us to come back from Chennai. And since I walked into baggage claim and turned on my phone it has been full on life again with phone ringing, texts blinging and emails coming at a fast and furious pace. Tulip Talks that needed to be mailed that day, two birthday parties that were ready to be held that upcoming Saturday (I forgot I might possibly have jet lag?!?!?!?!), laundry, unpacking and so much more.

Needless to say, there has been little down time, except for the naps that seem to be required almost daily to try to get my body back to working order. I think the heat really might have taken it out of me more that I thought.

I got together with six of the American women that were on the trip with me this morning for coffee to reminisce and chat about it. We all seem to be going through the same things. The napping. The feeling like we could have taken on the world and now we are back here. The freezing weather (ok the 30 degree centigrade temperature change). Wishing we could go back - NOW.

Looking back at the hundreds of photos I have taken brings back the memories. I survived the smells and 'dangers' of India that Jim was worried about - the curries and spices that I don't like here. I survived the trash strewn alongside the roads. I even survived the crazy driving. That part was quite exhilarating at times. I now will not blink when I see the Dutch riding their kids around on bikes without helmets. Not a big deal anymore.

We have all decided to head to the SkyDrive to share our multitude of photos since many of us are avid photographers. We took photos of each other, of the villagers, of the villages and so much more. Who knows how long it will take to go through them all, but I know we all saw the week through our own eyes and its amazing to see the minute differences someone else's perspective puts on it when you were in the exact same place. I can't wait to see all the other photos.

I will have more photos on my facebook page, but for now, here are the photos from the wee early hours of Saturday night (Sun 2am) when we arrived at our hotel in Chennai after the long flight and Sunday driving to Pondicherry.
 

Andrew's Percussion Group Taiko Concert

You can see Andrew at about 57 seconds in the upper right hand corner in a black t-shirt (with the longish blonde hair!)

Andrew's Percussion End of Year Concert

Andrew is in the green shirt in the center...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spreading Her Wings

This morning we sent Emmalee off on her first big trip on her own. She is competing in a multi-international school swim meet this weekend in Stavanger, Norway.
This is where she is:

View Larger Map

Jim took her to the airport to meet the first wave of swimmers at six am. Their flight was at 7. The second wave, which unfortunately had all her friends was due to fly out at 8.30. They all plan to meetup in Stavanger at 10am.

She had her bag all packed last night with the essentials. The weather didn't look to bad for Norway in spring. Highs in low 40's (F). But not much time for anything but swimming and a bit of socializing Friday night with a cross school dance.



She is competing in six events over two days - Friday and Saturday: 

  1. 50 meter backstroke
  2. 25 meter backstroke
  3. 25 meter freestyle
  4. 25 meter individual medley (25 meters of each stroke - backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle)
  5. 50 meter backstroke
  6. 50 meter freestyle
We can't wait to see how she does. She has been enduring 6am practices 2 times a week since January like a champ. (So has Jim who has been doing the dropoffs!) She gets to stay with the team at a Radisson in Stavanger and will find out who she rooms with when she gets there. She is crossing her fingers it will be her BFF, Dhriti.


Will post her results when she returns.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

On Thursday it was a very busy day for our family. Emmalee had her usual 6am swim team practice that Jim shuttled her off to.

Andrew and I managed to get to school on time. He had been practicing for weeks for a special group performance with four of his classmates in Unit of Inquiry.

Andrew, Ian and Thomas were with Sydney and Darcie to perform an Indian Folk Tale about The Lord Of Death called Yama who married a mortal woman (Sydney) and they had a son (Thomas) and how he grew up to have some of his father's great powers and became a famous doctor because of that -- and what happened. It was a great performance. The kids had to write their own script after reading the story. They had to make masks, choreograph the steps and dances as well as the music to go along with the story. Because only the eyes showed through the masks, their movements had to be exaggerated. Of course you know who was the LORD OF DEATH, right???
His group got many laughs (Andrew still wasn't sure why they got so many laughs, but it was for good reasons!) I personally (and not because I was his mother!!!) thought he was among the top two.


Andrew's 4SH Folk Tale Performance from nikki rhomberg on Vimeo.

And after school Andrew had to perform again in the percussion group he has been playing in all year in a benefit for Earthquake Support. I think he was quite nervous to perform for two groups in one day. He did get a reward of a rice ball and a lollipop after the concert in the afternoon so that was a good reward for him then.

Can you imagine Amsterdam without a little pot?

It was Emmalee's last day at art class, so the teacher decided to let her get her hands dirty and throw play with some clay and throw a couple of pots.

The first one turned out very pretty but the bottom was too thin so when she went to cut it off the wheel, it cut through it.  The second one, she learned very quickly and it turned out nicely.

When I arrived to pick her up, she was up to her elbows in wet clay, 'Ghost' style grinning a big smile.


Emmalee making a bowl on pottery wheel from nikki rhomberg on Vimeo.

She was torn between continuing art and challenging herself by taking gymnastics with some of her friends for the last trimester. Gymnastics won out, so another lucky child on the waiting list will get to experience art for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday February 22, 2012 - DUBAI DAY 4

After a late night of safari, we decided to take it easy this morning. A breakfast of cinnamon toast crunch cereal again some of us headed up to catch some rays by the pool, while others caught some rays in front of the the tv. We'll leave that up to you guess who went where --
We walked to the beach so Jim could go for a quick swim before lunch.


He really wanted a chance to swim in the ocean/sea while we were in Dubai. The rest of us weren't too keen on that idea, but we agreed to go along and wait on the sand for him. As we walked up to the beach we found signs that were warning us that there were rip tides.

So no swimming for Jim. Of course it had to happen the day he chooses to go to the beach. Surprisingly, most people were staying out of the water.


The kids did hunt for shells and find matching ones. We laid on the sand and soaked up the sun for a while. Just enjoying the sunshine was nice.


We decided to walk up to find lunch. The kids had already eaten some leftovers at the hotel, so it was just Jim and I that needed to eat. We found an Asian type restaurant in the book and got a great table under an umbrella. Everyone got fresh juices to drink. Jim got a tasty Thai steak salad and I got a stir fried noodle dish with quails eggs in it. Both were really good.


Of course a trip to the Promenade wouldn't be complete without a stop at the ice cream shop for the kids. So, for the walk home, both kids got a scoop of ice cream. Just right to finish off a day at the beach.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday February 21, 2012 - DUBAI DAY 3

The kids had been looking forward to Tuesday ever since we said that we were going to go on the safari with their friends from school. Emmalee's classmates Georgia and Stephanie and Andrew's classmate Brandon. Stephanie's brother Matthew was the cool, but odd man out. He had to put up with the pesky 9 year old boys and the giggly 11 year old girls and was such a good sport.

The Duffs came over for a late lunch and a quick kids swim at our pool around 1. We were enjoying the sunshine reminiscing about how much all of us missed Australia -- and how much we didn't miss Amsterdam at all. The kids went in and out of the water. With the tall buildings, we had to keep moving to stay in the sun.

Around 3.30 the safari company rolled up in 2 four wheel drive vehicles. We split up and the girls all three went into one vehicle with the Lairs and we went into the other and off we went to start on our safari.

First stop was a crappy convenience store with a bathroom and lots of men trying to sell beaded head thingey for the girls and the towels for the men. Needless to say, we skipped those, but bought water and and juice and sprite for the kids.

We then headed out to begin dune bashing. With Georgia's mom, Tanya in our vehicle, it was a riot. We offered her the front seat because she said she gets car sick. You should have heard the screams. Funnier than a roller coaster ride. She kept trying to grab the driver. Eventually ended up holding my hand since I was in the middle of the back seat so that she didn't grab the driver. We saw a camel and her calves. She ate a banana whole then tried to come in the window to get more.

We then stopped to let everyone have a run up and down (and a few rolls up and down) some sand dunes. Or just fill their shoes with sand not sure which one. Then a bit more dune bashing before heading to the final site for the show and dinner.

We arrived at the site and set up at tables for our groups. Kids at one table, adults at another. Then off for camel rides, sand boarding and a bit of 4x4 for the boys. The food at this one was much better than the last safari. (Don't we sound worldly when we can compare safari foods?) There was brick oven baked flat bread, chicken shoarma, falafel (which Andrew absolutely LOVED), and a buffet spread after the belly dancing and other dancer show. And once again, Andrew got singled out. Instead of the cane dance like last year, this time the dancer pointed at her ring finger and made a signal to ask as if he were married or single. Too funny. Not quite the "I got used" that he felt last year, but once again he got looked at.

We went on a safari with friends from the kid's school on Tuesday.

The girls got their henna tattoos. They wandered around the site together in a nice three-some. Even though the three of them didn't usually hang out together at school, this gave them a chance to get to know each other better and I think that Emmalee really liked that opportunity.

By 9 we headed back to the cars and headed back to our apartments. When we got back, you wouldn't believe the amount of sand that had to be cleaned out of Andrew -- almost an entire dustpan full of sand. And then when he laid down in bed the sand just dumped onto his pillow! Not so fun... Joys of really thick hair....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday February 20, 2012 - DUBAI DAY 2

Monday appeared to become Kids Day.

Before we arrived in Dubai Jim ordered an Entertainment Book. Instead of one book, it came with two books filled to the brim with coupons for every type of eating establishment and store you could imagine. There are malls all around Dubai. The first day in Dubai the kids spotted Build a Bear and daddy mentioned there might be a buy one get one free coupon in the book. Which of course meant that they started planning their bear building right away.

After breakfast and a swim we headed to the mall for a bear building session. The kids paced the bear box trying to choose the best bear choice for their bear to stuff. Eventually the chose matching bears in pink and blue. They stuffed, kissed the hearts to go inside, stitched closed, fluffed and dressed up their bears. After receiving the bears' birth certificates, Hugs (Andrew's bear) and Lexi (Emmalee's bear) were all set to go with them.


Build a Bear from nikki rhomberg on Vimeo.
Kids visit build a bear


We headed to yo sushi for for lunch. Again with the book. Buy 4 plates get 4 free. Two coupons later, we were a happily fully family. Enough choices to choose from.

Quick walk back to the apartment and up to the pool for a lay around the pool (or swim for those who were brave with cold water).

Headed to Dubai Mall for KidZania. KidZania was recommended by a friend of Emmalee's as a great place for the kids to play and hang out. It sounded like a big version of the children's museum in Chicago. So, we walked through the mall and found the place. Checked them in and the received an electronic bracelet and a  'ticket'. It looked like a first class Emirates plane ticket. We dropped them off at 4.30 with the plan to check back in at 8. Off they ran and Jim and I went to explore the mall.


KidZania from nikki rhomberg on Vimeo.
Kids spent a long afternoon and evening playing and creating at a just for kids zone called KidZania


First stop for us was the movie theater to see if we could catch a movie while they were in, but nothing worked out time wise that we would want to see so we just decided to wander. It was unbelievable walking through one of the largest malls in the United Arab Emirates. There are over 1,200 stores, 160 food places and lots of other entertainment places. It is huge. And filled with American food restaurants. One of our food stops was P.F. Changs for lettuce wraps and salt and pepper calamari for appetizers. Jim got non-alcoholic beer, which he claimed was almost beer-like. 

Then we wandered some more. Looked at the ginormous candy store where Jim found Garrett's popcorn -- you know the the Chicago popcorn that has lines down the block. The popcorn was fresh. He got a medium bag and left the store with a happy smile on his face. We even found a second Garrett's shop at another spot in the mall later!

Looked at the indoor aquarium filled with sharks, rays, eels, tropical fish and huge corals. People crowded around to view it, and even paid money to take glass bottom boat rides!

Checked in on the kids at 8. Jim got a bracelet and he was given 20 minutes to go in to check in on them. He said he walked into this miniature 'world' and went all around and couldn't find them. As he was just about finished walking all the way around the kids walked out of the flight simulator. They had just completed flying a plane. And of course they told daddy they wanted more time. Much more time. So they bargained another 90 minutes.


Jim and I headed to Macaroni Grill for yet another American Dinner. The server offered us a booth right in the front of the restaurant and both of us were ready to tell him no, take us to the back away from the foot traffic. He looked at us really funny and then we realized it was because the front seats were 'front row' to the aquarium view. So we took them. And got great view and good food.

Picked the kids up at 9.30 and heard about how Andrew worked at McDonald's and made his own happy meal, Emmalee painted finger nails, the kids both created their own perfumes, they flew airplanes, worked in a bank, studied for degrees and so many other things I have forgotten now. 

As we left we were able to watch the famous fountain do its show -- people line up early to watch the show. It was a bit windy so we even got a bonus spray. If only it was hot instead of chilly.

If there was a KidZania near us, I would say it would be a hit. And if there was one in the US, then I would say it would be a blockbuster. I don't know why it hasn't be done yet... Maybe we should do it when we move back...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday February 19th - Dubai DAY 1

Arrived early early, am. Much different than last time. Emirates was a much nicer situation. I don't think we will fly overnight again. Not so comfortable. A very loud flight. Emmalee is the only one who got any sleep at all. Andrew watched movies and slept the last 30 minutes. I tried but it was just too loud even with noise cancelling headphones. And uncomfortable seats. After getting off the plane we had to walk a really long way this time. Last time we arrived the terminal was so much nicer there (Emirates), too!


Grabbed a taxi and headed to the apartment. It was a beautiful apartment. The code was all set and we went right in. Two bedrooms/bath with a long patio running the length of the apartment.


Went up and hung out at pool for a while. Then went to the Dubai Marina Mall for breakfast. Ate at a place that was called Carluccio's that was similar to Maggio's (back in OZ). Very strange feeling to find something like that. Emmalee had a crepe with forest berries. Andrew enjoyed a traditional egg, toast and bacon (turkey of course) While Jim and I had the egg, toast and mushroom with bacon breakfast. Everyone had their fresh juices (apple, mango and pineapple) and the coffee was wonderful Italian coffee.


 
After that, the kids checked out the build-a-bear to plan their building for the future. Jim found a shoe store and bought rather ugly, but functional (ie cheap) tennis shoes. Emmalee spent time shopping in H&M and planned to go back at a later time. 


We headed back to the apartment and sat at the pool. The water wasn't heated so there was no way I was getting in. Emmalee was teaching strokes and flip turns to the boys -- she said they needed alot of work!


Eventually late afternoon after Jim went for a run we went to the Promenade and Jim got to stick his toes in the Arabian Sea. Emmalee only made it half way across the sand due to the huge blisters between her toes. The boys ran for a bit, posed for photos and then gave her a piggy back ride back to the blacktop.


Found a Mexican restaurant for dinner. Chips and salsa. With jalapenos in the salsa. No beer for Jim being a Muslim country -- in fact, Jim should have bought beer at duty free when he had a chance because there was no alcohol to be found pretty much. All the drinks were virgin -- margaritas, pina coladas, etc. Kids got many different types of drinks on this trip because of this.


While we waited for dinner had to take Emmalee into the bathroom to clean off her foot and get the sand out of the blister -- put the sprayer they use for cleaning themselves at the toilet. to good use. I did run it for a good couple of minutes before using it on her foot of course!

And here is the slideshow of the day as a whole...
Day One Dubai from nikki rhomberg on Vimeo.
First day in Dubai

Friday, February 3, 2012

First Real Snow

Andrew woke up this morning and instead of getting reading for school he headed for the window. He noticed there were teeny tiny flakes fluttering in the air and ran thru the house yelling Emme Emme its snowing.
I hated to crush his spirit by telling him it was hardly snow. But it wasn't enough to even make a mark on the ground. Needless to say I made them to get dressed for school and off we went to school. Skipping the whole way to the car.
The kids -- not me. I was humoring them. They were giddy. I was not. I figured they were going to be disappointed. Fast forward 2 1/2 hours and they knew something I did not...
Flakes were falling fast. And heavy. And fluffy. It was quite fluffy. So, with a prime viewing location from our windows, I could see the snow coming down quicker and quicker.

 
 

I called Jim to tell him if he was going to get home before Midnight he might want to catch an earlier train. He planned to catch the 4.15 train instead of the 5.15 train. No problem. Especially since it had quit by 3.15 for the most part.

I picked the kids up from school at 6 -- Andrew had a movie after school. Emmalee stayed to play with friends. I got the run down on their day. The kids finally got to PLAY IN THE SNOW at recess. You know... snow balls,  sledding, sliding and all around snow-foolery. They had a ball. So much so that after school Emmalee spent the whole afternoon playing outside with her friends. After five years of snow withdrawal it was just what the kids had ordered.

I will also say that the Dutch SUCK at clearing the roads. They only clear the bike paths. They don't shovel the sidewalks. They don't clear the tram tracks. It sucks. The only thing that I am thankful for is that we have the Volvo XC90 and that the German's require we have Snow Tires if we drive in Germany in the winter so we have winter tires. Driving to school to pick up the kids was a piece of cake. Easier than driving in the rain. Only thing I had to worry about was the other drivers, scooters, walkers and bikers. Which means alot. But I felt safe driving. Thank goodness for snow tires.

Monday, January 23, 2012

It's a Book

Andrew is growing up fast. He loves to read. The librarian here suggested a funny book to read. A very junior book. But a very cheeky book (as they would say in OZ) He couldn't wait to come home to read it to me on Friday. I finally convinced him to read it to me on camera. It's even funnier with the pictures that go with -- so if you have a chance, check it out of the library if you dare...
It's a Book from nikki rhomberg on Vimeo.
Andrew reads It's a Book by Lane Smith. Watch him try to keep a straight face while reading this story about two animals who are in two different worlds when it comes to the different medias of reading...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

First Day Back at School 2012

I would never have thought Wednesday would have come quick enough. (Think the kids might have thought that too!)

Alarms were set -- Emmalee didn't actually need hers, even though she was the one that had been sleeping in more. And was woken up at 7.25. Dressed, breakfast of yummy nutritious donuts because I am a good mom and I LOVE them for the first day back, teeth brushed and out the door on time.

We all survived the first day back to school. Even Andrew's piano lesson. WHOA!!! Surprisingly, kids were tuckered out. Andrew did his homework, ate dinner, showered and read. Then he hit the sheets and hot water bottle for some shut eye before 7pm. I mean he was dead to the world by 7pm! This is the kid who wouldn't think of going to be before 8.30 during the holidays...

Emmalee finished up her things and we did stories and she read until just before 8pm and it was lights out. A quiet night for all of us for the first night back to school.

But we all survived!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Birthdays are a rite of passage

Today is supposed to be a day that Jim would prefer to be mostly ignored. In fact, for the past month or so, he has been telling the kids that we are not celebrating it. I think mostly in hopes that in hopes that IF we don't celebrate it, then he won't cross the threshold from the 30's to the 40's. I have been telling him it's only 30-10 or 20-20 but he won't fall for it. And of course with kids you can't not celebrate it.
Add that to the fact that in the Netherlands birthdays are a BIG deal. People have been asking Jim at work for days, confirming that he will be there on the 5th. Not just because it is year end. Not just because Abbott would FALL APART if he wasn't here. But rather, because they knew his birthday was coming up. They usually decorate the birthday person's office. The b-day person brings in a treat (purchased if they aren't lucky enough to have a good cook at home) Jim got to bring in 5 dozen mini chocolate brownie muffins with white chocolate drizzle. Very professional looking. He even texted that they were quite a hit!
And when he got into work this morning, he was greeted with this dazzling banner...
As you can see, living above a tanning salon has its perks. And 40 really isn't looking so bad after all... He is aging quite well! Except for the strange colors around his head....

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lost in Translation

You would think that at 9 and 11 the kids would have the English language pretty much wrapped up by now. But I think that all this travelling to different countries has done a number on their language skills.
You see, when we lived in Illinois we had a nanny that spoke a tiny bit of Spanish to the kids, so they got some exposure to the Spanish language that way.
When we moved to Australia, not only did they learn a whole new way of talking, accent and vernacular, but they also got to learn a bit of Japanese in school.
Now that we are in the Netherlands, we have thrust yet another set of languages upon them. Emmalee is in her 2nd year of Dutch in school and Andrew has opted to switch to French (I would have done the same in his shoes!!!) after a half year of Dutch.
Whenever we travel to another European country they hear other languages - German, Italian, French, Swedish, Flemish, Danish and many others I have forgotten - we try to get the kids to speak a teeny tiny bit of the language if they know it. Even if its a thank you or hello in the language. My problem is that whenever I am greeted by someone with another language I automatically go into Spanish mode. Then French mode. It makes things tough. So, saying thank you or hello or good-bye in Spanish, then French then just looking confused is usually what happens.
This weekend we were in Paris for New Years. And in true European style, the hotel rooms were sooooo roomy. (NOT!) As one member of our party was in the WC relieving himself, you could hear what was going on. I said something like, "he did a big one(Yes, so lady like I know) but what Emmalee heard... and repeated to giggles galore... "he dropped a penguin". Then later when walking around the city and I was in dire need of a WC, I said I needed to "liquidate some assets", Andrew thought I said I needed to "liquidate some acid". Bit different of a situation and Emmalee said that would really hurt and I would have to agree. Still more giggles. So, if you ever hear that someone needs to drop a penguin, don't mind us...
They still crack me up.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 in Review - March


March started out with a bit of a surprise. Uncle Phil came in for a short visit. He flew in on the 1st so the kids came to the airport to greet him and were so happy to see their uncle for the first time in a really long time. It was great to have him in town, even if only for 12 hours before depositing him in Einhoven to meet up with school buddies to do a European tour.
Emmalee continued to work on her Cheerleading skills as well as her social skill.
I went on my first AWCA road trip heading to a place called Nijkerk that had a reputation among husbands for breaking the wallets and banks. You know -- the Polish Pottery Outlet. I didn't do too badly. Plus I had a couple of things I knew I needed to pick out for presents to bring back over summer vacation for Katie and mom. I went to a couple of other outings with some of the ladies and had some fun laughs with them.
The crocuses and the daffodils were starting to pop up everywhere. It was so strange to be back in the Northern Hemisphere with the seasons we were supposed be used to after 4 years of off seasons.
Mid March we took our first family road trip to Brussels. The capital of CHOCOLATE in Belgium. And Waffles. YUMMO. It was a bit chilly there, but we visited the chocolate museum. Had a bratwurst from an outdoor stand. Ate belgium waffles until the kids were stuffed. It was fun.
We checked out more markets -- seems Amsterdam has markets coming out of its streets..
And when tragedy struck Japan, the kids' school bonded together and showed how no matter how many different cultures are combined together at ISA, they can come together and make a difference.


2011 in Review - February

February might have been a shorter calendar month, but it was still a month that was jam packed. The kids were getting used to having two kittens underfoot. We all had to get used to living in an apartment. We all had to deal with the Dutch language, Dutch transportation (bikes, trams, cars, etc) Dutch weather and so much more. On the plus side - the kids finally got their first taste of snow. It came in the form of big, fluffy snowflakes that fell and they got to catch on their tongues. Passers-by must have thought we were crazy, but the kids loved it.
I joined the American Women's Club of Amsterdam (AWCA) in hopes of meeting some English speaking friends who might share some interests as I wasn't sure the school was where I planned to spend my time this go around.
Emmalee joined the cheerleading team at school and made friends very quickly.
The kids got the opportunity to take not one, but two classes at the Van Gogh museum in ENGLISH, courtesy of the AWCA to try their hand at painting and learning about the impressionistic painting style.
We checked out a local market or two but weren't brave enough to brave a bike, except for Jim who braved the bike ride to the train station and back to work each day...




2011 in Review - January

Since last year was a slack year for blogging I thought maybe I could do a year in review in 12 parts to recap what we did so hopefully we won't forget all we've done this past year.
I think January was one of the busiest and hardest months we went through as a family. We traveled thousands of miles. Crossed multiple time zones. Said more good-byes than anyone should ever have to and then had to start all over with brand new 'hellos'.





Time to Shake Out the Cobwebs

Welcome to 2012.


Gelukkig Nieuwjaar. Joyeux Nouvel An. Happy New Year. 


Hard to believe it is a brand new year already. I have spent the past year neglecting this little blog. It's not that I haven't had things to blog about, it's just that this first year abroad has been quite an adjustment. And I haven't adjusted yet. Every time I would go to write a post, it was not the most positive of postings.


Fingers crossed, 2012 will be a brighter year.





Monday, September 5, 2011

An amazing Dutch artist

While I am not sold on all things Dutch (unlike some who can be convinced just by Stroopwafels) I saw this article and think its really amazing. I hope to be able to see one in person soon.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sports Day at ISA

Today was a sports carnival at ISA. Kids had a blast - there was tug of war, water carrying contests, huge blown up ball rolling, running races, bouncy castles, dancing and more.

Museum of Bags and Purses

A group of ladies from the AWCA and the neighborhood here decided to head over to the Museum of Bags and Purses for a visit and then out to lunch. Since I hadn't been there (or most places for that matter) I thought I would tag along and enjoy the views and the company.

Met Tami, Kim, Sue, Roz and her mom at the tram stop in front of Albert Heijn on Beethovenstraat just up from our place. Hopped on the 24 and headed into the city. We chatted away until the tram came to an early stop. None of us speaks (or understands) Dutch, so when an announcement was made and everyone started to exit the tram we figured we better head to the front to figure out what was up. Evidently an accident was what...
Tram door opened up into the bus rear view mirror! OOPS!
Had to hoof it to the museum. Luckily Tami has a good sense of direction and we made it directly there.

Once we got in, there were three floors of hand bags, some dating back to the 1600's for both men and women, to look at. The handicraft and workmanship was amazing. It makes you stop and think -- honestly I have to say that there are very few people now a days that have the skill (or desire) to do that sort of a thing and those skills will become a lost art. Its kind of sad in a way. But there were some beautiful, amazing, oddball, ugly, unique and famous bags all contained under one roof!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Handover Meeting


Today was my first official meeting as a board member of the American Women's Club of Amsterdam. I joined right after I moved here, but a couple of months ago I was approached by a couple of the members, including the president, Carol to consider the First Vice President position (which was vacant) for next year (2011-2012). I thought about it, talked to Jim and decided if I was going to spend time and be a part of the club, I might as well be involved in the planning part of it too. So, I told them yes and was voted in at the meeting in April.

Thursday morning was the handover meeting where the outgoing members were supposed to pass on their information to the new incoming people. Problem with that is there hasn't really been a VP for the last few months and the one before that left due to health problems and the one before that has just dissapeared. Not sure why. So I am stepping into unknown territory I guess. Got to listen to background on the club, a bit of the structure of the club and see some the the people who don't always make it to meetings. Then at the handover time I sat down with Carol, the president and we just chatted shortly about my 'duties'. Mostly planning the upcoming speakers, finding a place for board meetings (volunteered my house since I have a big dining table, no kids during the school day and its central to public transportation, and doesn't cost to host there. My biggest concern will be putting together the Christmas bazaar and June luncheon since I haven't been to either one and both sound like they are big deals. Hope there are committees to work on that!

Its definitely a mix of people in the club. I knew about a third of the people there. As usual, I stuck around til the end and started to pick up coffee cups and snacks to take to the kitchen. As I was heading back to the living room for another trip, one of the ladies stopped me and asked if I was in a hurry. I said, well, I needed to go soon to get my license but not a real big hurry and she said GREAT -- could you please clean up so the hostess doesn't get left with a mess? As four other women are just standing around talking. I mean, seriously, I was already in the process of picking up. And was happily doing it -- that's just what I do -- I hate to leave without helping clean up. But seriously, this lady had the nerve to ask me and then didn't even bother to help out. She just stood around and joined the other four ladies talking. And it was gossip/general talk, not club business. Just because I am the new kid on the block doesn't mean I am on clean up duty. I thought it was quite rude (she is Dutch, so maybe that is an excuse -- or not!)

I know I will have alot of personalities to deal with within the club, and hers is just one of them. So, I just put a smile on and said sure and went on my merry way and kept doing what I was going to do anyway. I figure what comes around goes around. It has to, right?

You've seen one DMV, You've seen them all...

A few weeks ago, I finally got my Dutch Residence card. Doesn't mean I am a Dutch citizen. Just means that I am legally allowed to be in the country for one year -- AS LONG AS I AM WITH JIM RHOMBERG, MY SPOUSE, (Who I had to prove I was legally married to, even though it had been 12 years and two children) AND HE IS WORKING IN THE NETHERLANDS. Then next year, my residence-ship is up for review again in February. UGH!


Any-hoo, now that I have that, I can apply for a Dutch driver's license. Actually, I must apply for one. Within 6 months of getting my passport stamped upon my first arrival. But I can't apply for a license until I get a residence card. You know, one of those funny little laws. So, after four plus months of waiting for my residence card, I can now apply.



First I had to fill out a form that states I am medically sound to drive a car. Basically I had to answer in affirmative to all their questions (it was all in Dutch -- we had Jim's extended family translate it for us months ago and it's been sitting there waiting...) Mailed it in, registered mail for 7 euros because heaven forbid I have to figure out how to re-translate it and also pay for the form again (29 euros).

Two weeks after sending it in, I got a letter (again in Dutch) from the CBR. I took it to the school since the initials CBR were vaguely familiar. The ladies in the office translated it for me and told me I could take the letter in and get my license started. YIPEE!

So, next day after my AWCA board meeting I punched in the address into the GPS and headed to the XXX Gemente office. Had my envelope with the letter, two passport type photos, my US drivers licenses (old and new with no photo) and not so high hopes. Everyone told me that you get sent back at least one time when trying for a license. Found the place OK. Even had someone give me their parking meter ticket so I didn't have to pay. That was a good start.

Showed the person at the counter the letter, got my normal window letter and number and took a seat. Called Debbie on Viber figuring it would be a nice long wait. Very quiet in there. Orderly.

Not too long of a wait. I would say 15 minutes max went by and I was called up. Showed the lady my paperwork. She took it all. Including my licenses -- no now I have no US identification, except for my passport. Seems a bit odd, but everyone says just tell the DMV that I lost my license when I was overseas and get a new one. Need one anyway since mine hasn't had a picture since I renewed while living in Sydney I guess anyway.

Paid my 46 euros and was told I now have to wait 4-5 weeks for ANOTHER letter in the mail telling me whether I have been approved to come and pick up my license. UGH! At least the lines move quicker here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When stress balls get stressed...

One happy stress ball, on holiday from Italy. Travelled by train and plane to Amsterdam.


Spent a few weeks with a newly nine year old boy. Who obviously was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more stressed than this stretchy little ball could handle...

Kaboom! (Or should I say Kapoof!)

Daddy thinks Grammy should have come to clean up this mess. -- This was only the non-living part of it. Couldn't risk photos of the living part because tears + powders mess makes cement like mixture and had to clean it off of t-shirt, jeans, socks, face, hair, etc. And try to not re-live the splatty pig memories...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Water

I am Water
You know me for your daily drink
I flow through pipes and taps
Creeks, canals, rivers and more
That's where I come from too

I am Water
I can't be wasted
Or later on I will not be here
You can't have my salt water
Or else you'll get sick

I am Water
My foe is Evaporation
It's not fun when I go up
But it's fun when I come down
-- original poem by Emmalee
for unit of inquiry (Grade 5)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Last of the Single Digits


May 3rd my baby became another year older. Another year closer to the double digits as he likes to say. I like to say one more year of the single digits.

We had a very sad good-bye to grandma and grandpa early in the morning, since Grampy didn't look at the calendar before booking their return tickets to the US and once again booked a return flight on Andrew's birthday. We did a little early celebrating on Sunday with a dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and dual Kindles for the kids. What excitement on their faces when they opened those birthday gifts (early for Emmalee, but since she was getting one too, made sense for her to get hers, too and put it to use for school now, too!)

I made an appointment at school, per Andrew's direction, to come in and deliver his birthday buttermilk cookies iced in purple and orange frosting (favorite colors!). Andrew got to wear the special class birthday hat while handing out cookies and then the class sang happy birthday to him in at least four or five different languages and styles. Definitely very international!

We opted for a quite night at home with Andrew getting the dinner of his choice. HE chose an all American boy's favorite -- KRAFT mac n' cheese. I had head out to the International grocery store to find it, but was able to fill that request. Didn't even have extra cookies for dessert as I think he said he had NINE cookies over the course of the day and his tummy was full.

I'd say the birthday boy was happy though!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ajax win - Amsterdam in Chaos

Thursday we got a letter from the Gemente which is the local municipal police in the area. It was obviously all in Dutch. It wasn't addressed specifically to us, so I wasn't exactly worried, but I sent it to work with Jim to be translated.
Of course, he got busy and forgot to get it translated. Luckily, Emmalee's friend Carmen is Dutch and so when she came over this weekend, Jim remembered and had her translate it for him.

The crux of it was a basic letter of advice that the local soccer team, the AJAX (pronounced AYAX) would be playing for a championship that they hadn't won in 7 years and there would be screens up to watch in museumplein and Leidesplein -- also big drinking areas. SO, if the AJAX win, the city would probably go nuts around 4-5pm onwards. And if they lost, it also could go nuts. So, if you were a soccer fan, you would probably already be there. But if you were a local and in the areas affected by the fans -- ie US, be prepared. Do not go out. Expect chaos. Expect noise. Expect another Queens Day.

Well, " Ajax end seven-year wait for Eredivisie title" By 5pm we could hear the people cheering as they went past our house. Heading into the city. Now its a steady stream of people heading back out at almost 9pm. Horns honking. People cheering. Red and White. Like a river of people.

Dual Sleepovers

We think we have learned the art of keeping the peace in the house on weekends when the kids request a sleepover.

Rather than having just one child stay over, we opt to let the other kid ask a friend over so there is no butting on on the duo's fun. Seems the best way to keep both siblings happy. Funny thing is -- they usually end up playing all together in the end. But if it was just a single sleep over with one kid on their own -- I guarantee that the solo child would be getting in trouble for bothering the duo or fussing because they are left out.

Take last night for example. Andrew asked Malachy, a classmate, to stay over. Emmalee had Carmen, a local friend stay over. The boys played games, Wii and various other things. But by the time I got around to making pizza and it was out of the over for dinner, I found them all in Andrew's room playing with the camera and talking and giggling. Doubt that would have been happening if it was a trio.


Then it was Night at the Museum movie for dinner and dessert. Kept them occupied, chatting and laughing. At the end, DJ Daddy put on iTunes and the boys (with no apparent self esteem issues at all) and girls danced and danced to various dance songs in the living room until meanie mommy said it was getting late at 9.30 and said time for jammies and teeth brushing.
Malachy and Andrew

When it was time for pick up this morning, both pairs were still going strong. Having a ball and getting along perfectly. Much better than the usual outcome from our house and solo sleep-overs.
Malachy and BIG Dirt

Saturday, May 14, 2011

It's Like Starting All Over

The middle of May. Four and a half months since we moved to Amsterdam. And I still haven't gotten into the groove of blogging yet. Not that I don't have things to blog about. And not that I don't want to record them to remember what we did. It's just that I haven't had the go-get-em to put fingers to keyboard.
First it was the excuse that I didn't have internet. Then it was that I needed my computer to download photos. Then I was so far behind that I didn't know where to start. Then I got our overseas shipment and had to unpack, which set me back OH, I-don't-know-how-long. Then just when I almost got through all the boxes -- and not that I didn't have stories about movers, moving in and the concept of cramming square crap into round spaces... Mom and Dad arrive to help whip the house into shape before we fly off to Italy for a whirl wind 12 day tour. Of which I did no blogging. Next thing I know, they leave on Andrew's birthday, we throw a party and we are here at the middle of May. Oh My!
UGH!
So, I guess baby steps. One day at a time. I will write about the funny things I see. One Day At A Time.

Like Friday night we were watching a DVR'd episode of Australia's funniest home video's. One clip had a raccoon running his paw through a yard sprinkler so it looked like he was playing a harp. Andrew laughed at the raccoon playing the fountain in the yard. Which makes me realize that we need to get the boy back to a place that has a yard that can be sprinklered. The things we take for granted!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Operation Write Home

I'd like to say I have spent the last week completely unpacking the boxes from our sea shipment and that our house is totally put together. But that would be completely untrue. The boxes are unpacked... some on the floor... some put away... the rest stacked who knows where. Its a monumental task to move from a house to a flat/apartment.


So, in the meantime, I have been busying myself with the American Women's Club of Amsterdam. Today there was an offshoot of the crafting group, "Snippets" and I was invited to join and help out. Five of us got together and worked on hand made cards for the troops overseas.  Its Mission: Supporting our nation's armed forces by sending blank handmade greeting cards to write home on, as well as cards of gratitude to encourage them.


So, in the course of just a few hours we made fifty hand crafted cards. It was fun getting back into the crafty scene (having not done anything like that since Illinois) and this group of ladies seems like a good bunch to get to know. The time just flew by.


Went to lunch at a cafe afterwards and trammed back home just in time to pick up Emmalee from school.

Dutch Treat: Stroopwafel

Thanks to Amsterdam-Magazine
Dutch Treat: Stroopwafel
You may have already sampled some Dutch treats. If you’re brave you might have even tried herring (raw, with onions) or salty liquorice. But what about the stroopwafel?
First things first: don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a simple biscuit. The stroopwafel is in fact an ingenious feat of Dutch culinary design. Seriously tasty, it will take all your self-discipline to avoid addiction. Ready? Read on to discover where to buy, how to eat and even how to make this Dutch delicacy. A stroopwafel (translation: syrup waffle or treacle waffle) consists of two thin slices of baked batter with a caramel-like syrup filling. The stiff batter is made with flour, butter, brown sugar, yeast, milk, and eggs. Then it’s shaped into egg-sized balls and pressed in a special waffle iron. Once baked, the waffle is sliced in half while it’s still warm, and the thin slices are glued back together with a warm filling of syrup, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon.
Stroopwafels are best when freshly baked. At the Albert Cuypmarkt, baker Ruud Joinking creates them right in front of you. As the delicious scent travels through the market, the customers line up with their mouths watering.
See how Emmalee and Andrew's mouths are watering -- before they are all sticky and syrup-ey!!!

And the same thing happens at the Ten Katemarkt, the Dappermarkt, OR AT THE FRIDAY MARKETS AT AMSTELVEEN MALL or any other market where you’ll find a street vendor. If you can’t get them freshly baked, here’s the trick for the next best thing: get yourself a hot beverage and place a waffle on top of the mug. You’ll see that it’s a perfect fit! Now comes the true test of character, where you have to exercise some self-control . . . and wait. Slowly the stroopwafel will absorb the warm steam and turn gooey. This is the time to indulge. Enjoy!
Stroopwafels are available in most food stores, and cost around €2 per pack. Pick some up for your family back home; trust me, they will love you for it! In fact, stroopwafels are so popular, they’re even being exported to Brazil, China and South Africa. If you want to make stroopwafels at home, be aware that specialised equipment is needed and recipes are generally closely guarded secrets, passed down through generations like heirlooms. But we have decided to share our secret. The Duikelman cookery shop on Ferdinand Bolstraat sells a stove-top waffle iron for approximately €25, and this our family recipe:

INGREDIENTS

The Waffles:
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 (7g) sachet active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
The Filling
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tbsp dark corn syrup

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat iron
Waffles
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
Cut the butter into the flour. Mix in the sugar, cinnamon, eggs and yeast mixture. Mix well and set aside to rise for 30 to 60 minutes.
Roll the dough into 12 small balls. Squeeze each ball into the preheated iron and bake for about 30 seconds.
Cut the waffles into two thin slices and spread with filling, and then stick them back together.
Filling
In a saucepan boil the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and dark corn syrup until it reaches the soft stage (234-240F/112 -115C).
This should make about twelve fresh yummy stroopwafels
And if thatís not enough, you can always make some more…
By Linda van Sande

Sunday, March 20, 2011

When to Visit??

When should you visit? Anytime... We are happy to have visitors. Amsterdam seems to be the gateway to Europe, too!

Thanks to Amsterdam-Magazine.com for their information...


Sunny day at the Dam
SUNNY DAY AT THE DAM

SUMMER

With the sun setting late into the evening and temperatures hovering around 22 degrees, Summer is an obvious time to visit Amsterdam. One downfall, everyone else agrees. Though summer in Amsterdam can be very busy, it is still a dreamy time to enjoy the city.
Events:
June
Holland Festival
Throughout the month of June, the biggest performance art festival in the Netherlands occurs. Opera, theatre, music, and dance will be performed throughout the city.
Vondelpark Open-Air Theatre
Musical theatre, live classical music, and dance at the beautiful open air theatre in Vondelpark all summer long.
Open Garden Days
The public can view 30 gardens of private homes and institutions along the canals on the third weekend in June.
Roots Music Festival
World music festival at the Oosterpark and Concertgebouw in late June.
July
Over Het Ij Festival
Large-scale theatre, music and fine arts in the NDSM shipyards in the north of Amsterdam in early July. Www.overhetij.nl
Julidans
A renowned dance festival that draws around 20,000 visitors in the beginning of July. Events throughout the city.
Kwakoe
Celebrating Amsterdam’s Surinamese and African cultures: a massive food, football, and music fair takes place in Biljmer park every weekend in July and early August.
August
Amsterdam Pride Festival
Amsterdam’s gay pride is the largest gay event in the Netherlands. Parties and events occur throughout the city on the first weekend of August. Make sure to check out the climactic gay pride boat parade on the Prinsengracht!
Canal Festival (Grachtefestival)
A wonderful classical music festival around the Canal Belt in the second half of August. 

Pluk De Nacht (Open Air Film Festival)
Amsterdam’s free open air film festival occurring for 10 days in early August. Located at Studio K and at Het Stenen Hoofd.
Uitmarkt
Local theatre troupes and orchestras perform for free in the Eastern Docklands on the last weekend of August.
Tips:
During high seasons, the city is very crowded, lines are long and things are booked far in advance. Make sure to book hotels and hostels far in advance. Many museums such as the Anne Frank Huis and the Rijks Museum offer options to purchase tickets online to skip the que!
What to Pack:
Amsterdam summers can get as hot as the 30s but drop down to cool temperatures in the evenings so make sure to pack for both hot and cold weather. This isn’t the city’s rainy season but Amsterdam loves to give a spontaneous shower so make sure to bring your umbrella or a waterproof jacket.

FALL

As the temperatures drop, so do the number of visitors making it easy to find cheap airfare and accommodations in the city. Though this is Amsterdam’s rainy season, there are still many nice fall days to spend on terraces and at outdoor markets.
Events:
September
Open Monumentendag
One the second weekend of September, registered historic buildings are open to the public.
Jordaan Festival
A music and theatre party in the beautiful Jordaan neighborhood on the third weekend of September.
Dam tot Damloop
A 16m foot race between Dam square to the Dam in Zaandam on the third Sunday in September.
October
Amsterdam Marathon
An epic marathon that begins and ends at the olympic stadium and involves running through the canals of Amsterdam. Held in mid October. Amsterdam Dance Event
A giant party!700 Djs and 80,000 dancers attend various parties throughout the city at the end of October. Www.amsterdam-dance-event.nl
November
Museum Night
Over 40 museums stay open in the evenings offering live music, lectures, and after-parties on the first Saturday in November.
International Documentary Film Festival
The biggest documentary film festival in the world. International features and shorts are screened for ten days in mid-November.
Sinterklaas Parade
St. Nicholas and his helpers Zwarte Piets arrive to Amsterdam on a steamboat from Spain in Mid-November.
Cannabis Cup
An international marijuana competition hosted by High Times Magazine. Expositions, parties, and award ceremonies are held in late in November.
Tips:
Take advantage of the autumn leaves changing colours use the Vondel park as the backdrop to your photographs. Check out the many cultural arts, music, and dance events occurring in the city.
What to Pack:
Waterproof yourself. Bring an umbrella even if you start the day with the sun out, Amsterdam weather is unpredictable. A windproof and water proof jack and many layers of warm clothing.

WINTER

Though the winter can drop to very low temperatures, Amsterdam is extremely beautiful in the snow and holiday spirits and activities are high through Sinterklaas and New Years!
Events:
December
Sinterklaas
The Dutch celebrate their Christmas (Sinterklaas) on December 5th. Before Sinterklaas heads back to Spain, he leaves the presents for the kids on each doorstep. In the evening, poems are read and gifts are shared.
New Year’s Eve
Amsterdam knows how to welcome the new year. Street parties and fireworks are happening over the Amstel, in Museumplein, Dam Square, and Nieuwmarkt!
January
Amsterdam International Fashion Week
Amsterdam is a city known for progressive and stylish Design. Along with catwalks there will be parties, lectures, and galleries open to the public.
Jumping Amsterdam
A top equestrian event held at the RAI center in late January.
February
Chinese New Year
During Chinese New Year, festivities, music, dances, and more occur in Amsterdam’s Chinatown: On the Zeedijk and Nieuwmarkt area.
Commemoration of the February Strike
In memory of the 1941 general strike against the Nazis on the 25th of February. Wreaths are laid down at the Dockwater monument in the Jewish quarter.
Tips:
Amsterdam flights and accommodations are at their lowest except for the holidays so make sure to book around those dates if you can. The sun sets early (around 4:30 -5:00) in the winters so start the day early to avoid the vampire lifestyle.
What to Pack:
Pack warm waterproof clothes. Bring a heavy winter coat and waterproof gripped boots, you may have to do some walking through the snow!

SPRING

Amsterdammers are in good spirit as the days slowly get longer and the flowers begin to bloom. Come and enjoy the sun and nature during these months.
Events:
March
Silent Procession ( Stille omgang)
On the Sunday closest to the 15th of March, Catholics walk along the Holy Way to commemorate the Miracle of Amsterdam.
5 Days off
A festival celebrating electronic music. Several venues such the Melkweg and Paradiso bring in Djs and artists from around the world to play house, techno, minimal and more!
April
Queens Day
Celebrated on April 30, the birthday of Julian the mother of the current Queen Beatrix, Queen’s day is the biggest day of the year for the Dutch. Everyone wears the national color orange and celebrates the day on the streets, on a boat, anywhere and everywhere! Also, a city wide yard sale occurs. Party and shop all day!
World Press Photo
The best photojournalist’s images from around the world are showcased at the Oude Kerk from April through June.
Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival
Celebrated for over 25 years, this film festival screens the latest Sci-Fi, fantasy, horror, cult, animation for 11 days every April.
May
Art Amsterdam
An annual modern art fair in late May with more than 120 galleries from the Netherlands and abroad exhibiting art and emphasizing new developments in art.
CinemaAsia Film Festival
A ten day film festival surrounding the topic Asia with a focus on more Indonesian films held in late May at the Ketelhuis Cinema.
Rememberance & Liberation Day
On May 4 Queen Beatrix lays a wreath for the victims of WWII at the National Monument on Dam Square. On May 5, the end of the German occupation in 1945 is celebrated with concerts and parties, especially in the Vondel Park.
Tips:
April 30 is Queens Day, the country’s biggest celebration of the year. If you love to party, don’t miss out this day. If you hate crowds, avoid this holiday!
What to Pack:
The weather in the spring is a mix of a hot and cold days so prepare for both by packing layers. Make sure to bring an umbrella and a waterproof Jacket.