One month, one week and one day

It has been an intensely busy season in our lives. I kept meaning to sit down and write up a post, but it seemed like something was always pulling me away. Now I’m holed up at my cabin and finally have a moment to breathe!

In the past one month, one week and one day (this post was supposed to talk about the past month, and then I got sidetracked yet again with blogging):

We ran the Blenheim Palace half marathon in Woodstock, England. It was our slowest half marathon to date, but the course was stunning, the sun was shining and we got to check England off our list of countries we’ve run a half marathon on. The race was pretty stressful at the start, thanks to delayed public transportation and our late arrival at the course!

image

We packed up and moved from England to The Netherlands. We agreed that it was, without a doubt, our worst day of travel ever–shrieking babies, excess baggage fees, my credit card got frozen, Joost’s debit card got frozen, delayed flight, broken suitcase, missed train… and the icing on the cake: pulling up at Joost’s family’s front door at 1 am, only to find out that the cab driver didn’t take credit cards. We had to turn around, go back into town and find an ATM. Overall, it took us 20 hours door-to-door. For the record, it’s about 250 miles in a straight shot from where we started to where we ended. Next time, I’ll swim/walk, thank you!

image-5

We ran the Amsterdam Marathon. This was our first full marathon and the months of training paid off; we finished! It was a long day, but one that we will never forget–except for miles 16-22. I seem to have blocked most of those from my memory. To be honest, I’m not sure if I would recommend this marathon. With the exception of a couple kilometers on each end, we didn’t actually get to run in the city itself. There’s not a lot of crowd support and the race organizers seemed to be overwhelmed with how many runners they had this year. No matter what, though, WE RAN A MARATHON!

image-1

We played tour guide for my parents, who flew into Holland for a long weekend. We saw the Rijksmusem, which recently reopened after an extensive, 10 year renovation. It was gorgeous, but very crowded. Be prepared to stand in a lot of long lines. They had a beautiful library, in addition to the famous Night Watch and the very strange coffin made to look like a vagina (entitled ‘Womb tomb’). I’m not going to pretend to understand that one. We also walked around Amsterdam, toured the inside of a private windmill and had our engagement party!

image-2

 

image-3

Joost’s parents hosted a wonderful engagement party for us in Holland while we were there. About 80 of Joost’s friends and family were able to attend, which was such a blessing, as many of them will not be able to fly to America for our wedding in May. It was fun catching up with friends and meeting new people, even though I can’t pronounce about half of their Dutch names. I had been a little worried how my parents would fit into Holland, but my fears were unwarranted; I had obviously forgotten that my dad is capable of making conversation with a blank wall and my mom is nearly just as social! The party was held in a little restaurant, decorated by pictures of us from around the world that Joost’s parents had surprised us with by blowing up and hanging. The food was incredible. There was a legit cornucopia on the buffet table. Need I say more?

image-8

image-6

We celebrated our three year anniversary with a night out in Amsterdam. Man, meeting in Australia feels like forever ago! We went for a run around Vondelpark, checked out the real estate and then had an amazing dinner at a restaurant called Fondue Fondue. It was, in case you hadn’t yet guessed, a fondue restaurant. Highly recommend.

image-7

We said goodbye. I swear, if I had a penny for every tear I’ve shed at the Amsterdam airport, I’d be a bajillionaire. Joost and I are back to being in a long distance relationship until his visa paperwork clears. We’re hoping that he’ll be able to come to America at the end of March or beginning of April. We are both suffering from the severe re-acquisition of what I call the ‘LDR humpback,’ which is permanently and painfully slouched shoulders resulting from leaning over a computer screen or phone screen for so long. Ah, nothing like dating a pixelated face a few thousand miles away. Luckily, he’ll be in the US for Christmas and then we’ll only have three more months of long distance to go.

Joost took the GRE, a standardized test required for PhD applications in the US. He scored within the range of all the universities he’s applying to and I am so, so proud of him! Ironically, as a non-native English speaker who is almost done with his masters degree in applied mathematics, he scored higher on the verbal section than the math section. Go figure.

I moved back home to America. After ten months abroad, everything seems very large and very loud and very fast-paced. I’ve been home for a bit over a week now and still cannot bring myself to unpack.

I said yes to a dress! My first week at home was crammed with doctors appointments and wedding dress boutique appointments. We went to three shops and I tried on probably 25+ dresses before I found one, but I love it and can’t wait to wear it. I never thought I’d be the kind of gal who gets excited about poufy white dresses, but apparently all things are possible. My grandma was able to accompany my mom and me to the last appointment, and the fun girls day ended with champagne for all of us!

The holiday season is going to be busy for both of us. Joost is finishing and presenting his Masters thesis at the start of December. I’m working holiday retail at the mall (PSA: BE NICE TO MALL EMPLOYEES!), which is sure to keep me busy, although most likely on the brink of insanity. The Europe/America time difference is much harder for us than the Europe/Australia time difference was, so we’re trying hard to squeeze in Skype dates when possible, but it’s definitely been a challenge having to re-tether ourselves to technology. If we don’t get around to updating soon, we wish all the Americans a happy Thanksgiving, all the Dutchies a happy Sinterklaas (say hi to the black slaves for me) and everyone a happy holiday season!

Advertisements

The Dirty T Word

This past weekend, we added to our Dutch visitor list! Three lovely gentlemen flew in from Amsterdam for a quick tour through Oxford and London. Job, Huib and Alexander (half Yank!) arrived on Saturday arvo. We took them on a scenic tour of our exciting town (it took all of about seven minutes) and then I cooked them their first ever taste of homemade Sloppy Joe’s!

IMG_7221

After dinner, we headed to our local pub, where we had the most culturally enlightening and entertaining conversation I’ve had in quite a while. I learned how to curse like a Dutchman!

In Dutch culture, words like f*ck and c*nt are perfectly acceptable. I know, right. Casually dropping the f-bomb is a habit of Joost’s that I was quick to nix. Because they’re English words, they hold very little meaning when interspersed into Dutch conversations.

Oh c*nt, I can’t find my keys!, your boss will say.

F*ck, did you see that today?, a mother might ask her children at the dinner table.

Apparently, dumb girls are referred to as skipping c*nts.

So I asked the boys, “obviously cursing in English isn’t a problem, but are there any super offensive Dutch curse words?”

Cancer!

Plague!

Typhoid!

Cholera!

Tuberculosis!

Polio!

I kid you not.

The Dutch have taken illnesses and diseases, many of which are no longer in existence, or are only found in the developing world, and turned them into dirty, vulgar terms.

CHOLERAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, one might wail after stubbing their toe.

Do you have polio?!, you would ask a lazy bum.

Plague face is somewhat synonymous with calling someone an a-hole.

But the mother of all insults, something that you could never say in public or be forgiven for, is calling someone a cancer sufferer.

I guess we can all agree that cancer is a universal f*cking b*tch.

IMG_7223

The next day, we went into Oxford and went punting again! Alexander was quite the skilled driver and successfully navigated us through the river and away from the trees (more than I can say for my own punting skills). Huib decided to feed the ducks leftover peanut butter sandwiches as we puttered along, and before we knew it, we had an entire flock of ducks eagerly eyeing our boat. Both the ducks and Huib got bolder until finally, a little ducking was ‘accidentally’ lured straight onto Job’s lap. It’s a bit hard to see, but we managed to snap a shot of Huib throwing the duck back into the water, while Job attempted to avoid the pile of poop the duck left us in panic.

IMG_7290

IMG_7291

We ended the wonderful day with a quick nap in the sunshine and dinner back at the local pub.

IMG_7270

IMG_7269

It was a great weekend and my cheeks are only just starting to recover from all the laughing we did!

Jumping in Pockets of Sunlight

Some family friends from Australia were passing through London this past weekend, so Joost and I headed into the big city to meet up with them! I’ve known them since… forever, really, as our parents have been friends before any of us kids were around. We’ve traveled to/around Hawaii, Minnesota, Whistler and Kangaroo Island together, so it was fun to be able to add London to our list. It is amazing how friends who live 10000 miles away from your home can make you feel homesick, as you reminisce about eating Swedish meatballs at Christmas in Minnesota, playing the ‘penis’ game (a mature and intellectual game played by teenagers around the world, where you take turns saying ‘penis’ in escalating decibel levels until someone gets too embarrassed to continue) while on a penguin tour in Australia and that time your littlest brother gave a rousing speech on the Pilgrims coming to America. Even though we only see each other every few years, we really have grown up together.

Joost and I started the day by waking up early and taking a bus to Oxford and then a train into London, where we met Alice and Annabel for a delicious brunch. Can we just take a minute to revel in how glorious it was to be back in civilization, where brunch exists?! Seriously. Glorious.

IMG_6975

 

After spending time catching up on the past three years or so of our lives over lattes, we ventured out to see some of the big sights. Even though we’ve now lived in England for four months (!), Joost has never seen London. I know. It’s just been too expensive/time consuming to get in yet, so of course we had to show him all the classic tourist destinations! We went to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. The weather couldn’t quite make up its mind, but we had fun frolicking in the pockets of sunlight when they appeared through the clouds.

IMG_6996

 

IMG_6988

 

IMG_6984

 

We split up for a bit in the afternoon so that the girls could get some shopping done before heading back to Australia. Joost and I wandered up and down Oxford Street (don’t worry, we found Ben’s cookies!) and through Hyde Park. We stumbled upon the Speakers’ Corner, a section of the park devoted to people having lively debates and protesting just about everything you can imagine. Our favorite was a black woman handing out fliers and wearing a sign in a campaign to ‘Save the Blondes!’

Later, we met up with Alice, Annabel and Susan for drinks and dinner at an adorable little wine bar. Susan grilled Joost on his life before giving him the Auntie Susan stamp of approval! 🙂 It was such a great day, getting out of our little town and spending time with good friends.

IMG_6999

The Dutch Invasion

Believe it or not, life has been pretty busy around here! Between wedding planning, trying to figure out visas, Joost studying for the GRE and starting the application process for PhDs, and my training for the Amsterdam Marathon, we have also been invaded this summer–by Dutchies!

We feel so fortunate that the Netherlands is just a stone’s throw away and makes visiting quite easy [sidenote: I think it’s a stones throw away; Europeans might beg to differ–it’s funny how your perception of distance changes when you’ve lived in a big country!!]. We’ve been busy hosting guests for the past month. I feel like I’ve spent most of my time either cleaning to get ready for a guest or cleaning up after a guest! Three weekends ago, Sipke and Lisanne came to visit; two weekends ago, Ronald came to visit; this past weekend, Toni was here!

Sipke and Lisanne spent a long weekend with us before embarking on a two week camping trip in England. We visited Blenheim palace again, where we had a picnic, trekked around the estate, and went inside a tree, a butterfly house and a giant maze. Sipke and Joost had an unfair advantage, as they were both tall enough to see over all the hedges! We also spent a day in Oxford showing them the university and eating Jamie Oliver’s tiramisu [<–if you’re ever in Oxford, this is a MUST!, says Joost, the tiramisu connoisseur].

IMG_6832

IMG_6831

The following weekend, Ronald, an even taller Dutchie, came to visit after a week of roadtripping through England. We spent a day in Oxford, notable because the boys walked both to AND from the city–they walked almost a full marathon that day (me, being the lazy marathon trainer that I am only ran about 10 miles). The most fun we had, though, was when we packed into Ronald’s classic mini Cooper [how.cute.is.this.car.] and drove through the English countryside to see the Cotswolds, a quintessentially British set of towns. I feared for the safety of the boys’ heads, as the towns seem to be built with only 5-foot-tall residents and visitors in mind. It felt a little like being in Disneyworld, where everything is kid-sized! Perfect for me, though.

IMG_6833

IMG_6834

Last weekend, Toni (OUR NEWLY APPOINTED BEST MAN! 🙂 ) flew in for a quick, 36 hour visit before he leaves for a round-the-world trip next month. Of course, we had to show him the best of all things Oxford.

IMG_6770

He was ever so kind to sponsor an activity that Joost and I have observed since we moved here: punting. Basically, you sit in a long wooden boat while someone stands on the back and pushes you down the river with a long pole. The crew members made it look easy. Every time Joost and I saw punters in the river, we would remark how romantic it seemed. NOPE. It is so much harder than it looks!

IMG_6800

IMG_6836

The stages of punting:

YAY! Let’s climb aboard!

The seats are wet. Now my butt’s soaking.

Toni, are you pushing? Oh, you are. Are we moving?

THAT’S A TREE! WE’RE RUNNING INTO A TREE! I now have part of a tree in my hair.

Aaaaaand it’s raining. Do you think our boat will sink if it starts raining harder?

Careful when we go under the bridge. CAREFUL OF YOUR HEAD! WATCH THE POLE! YOUR HEAD! Maybe we should just ditch the pole and pull ourselves along the trees.

IMG_6835

The best part was during one particularly narrow stretch of river, when 6 or 7 other boats all found themselves wedged in, trying to maneuver around each other. There were a lot of yelled apologies and warnings not to take each other’s eyes out with the poles. Toni and I just sat in the boat cracking up while Joost was left to weave in and around them.

Despite the weather and my inability to successfully punt without running into anything and everything on the river, it was great. I highly recommend it, especially if it’s sunny–although if you want to stay dry and on course, I might advise hiring a chauffeur!

IMG_6799

We ended the day with a beer, a burger and yet another trip to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant for a well-earned tiramisu. By the time we finished our bike ride back home (8.5 miles), I was dry heaving bacon aioli and orange zest fumes.

IMG_6808

We’ve got two weekends free before the Dutch Invasion continues; Alexander and Job will be here for a weekend and then the following weekend, both my parents and Joost’s parents arrive in London!

American Girls

This past weekend was one of the best weekends I’ve had in England so far! It’s funny how I always seem to say that when I’ve been hanging around friends…

Two friends are traveling through Europe at the moment, independently of each other. However, when we realized that we were all within relatively close distances to each other, we decided to plan a meet up in Oxford!

Joost and I ran to Oxford (9 miles–marathon training has officially started), where we picked up Becky from the Megabus station and then went to grab lunch, Ben’s cookies and lattes while we waited for Jbizz (aka Jessica, although I don’t think I’ve ever actually called her by her real name). We wandered the city and drank beer until Jbizz’s train came in. After taking inappropriate pictures with a nearby sheep sculpture, the four of us headed to GBK for burgers and more beer!

 

IMG_6217

The next morning, the girls and I went for a short run along the Thames, complete with interval sprints, burpee breaks and squats.

Joost decided to stay at home for the day and give me time to be in ‘American girl’ mode–he claims that I start speaking twice as fast and loud when in the presence of other American girls 😉 The girls and I spent the day in the city shopping, walking, taking hilarious pictures, drinking milkshakes in the sunshine, dipping our feet in the Thames and laughing. My abs hurt so badly; I love being friends with funny girls.

IMG_6184

 

IMG_6183

It was a weekend that was good for the soul. The sun was finally out, my runs went well and I got to soak up enough American girl time to last me for a while!