Friday, December 30, 2011

Valkenburg, Bruges, Thai with Luc and 5km on New Year's Eve!

Christmas markets are all the rage here. Every community has one and some are more famous then others. They are set up like a small little village in the cities centre. Small wooden huts are set up and filled with local goods. There are food stands and of course delicious Gluhwein (mulled wine). I find it really sweet but on a damp day it really hits the spot :) My mom sent me an email to let me know about a market she saw on the internet in Valkenburg. They have their market in caves. It was a short train ride and we walked through the village. It was a really great trip and I found a silver charm of a bicycle for my charm bracelet. We spent a quiet Christmas Eve together at home and opened presents together on Christmas morning. On December 25th they have Christmas and on the 26th they have Christmas #2. They actually call it Christmas day 1 and Christmas day 2. We stayed here but it was really quiet. Everything is closed for the 25th and 26th. We did a few runs in preparation for our race and just to get out. We were beginning to get cabin fever. On December 27th we took the train to Bruges. My mom and dad surprised us and paid for the hotel, train and a nice dinner. It was a wonderful trip and we really enjoyed it :) We stayed for two days and one night. The city was very romantic with old buildings and canals running through the city. There were horse drawn carriages and of course, a Christmas market. The photos are from our visit. We stayed in a boutique hotel in the city centre. It was perfect! We had nice dinner and a wonderful time wandering and exploring the city. Bruges gets two thumbs up from me :)
Last night we went out for dinner with Nick's boss Luc. He took us out to a little Irish pub for some conversation and to catch up and then we went to a Thai restaurant on the Reichstraat. I had been eyeing it for some time so I was really excited when Luc suggested it. It was delicious!
For New Year's Eve we are doing a 5km road race with friends and going to a party. I have a feeling that 2012 is going to be an
amazing year! I've been reflecting on 2011 and how many wonderful things we experienced and how we have grown. I think 2012 is going to bring even more excitement and growth. Bring it on!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

This morning I taught a spin class at UM Sport and biked home with plans to go to Valkenburg, to the Christmas Market. They have a Christmas Market in the caves, but the weather had another plan. We got sleet/ice rain, off and on, for most of the afternoon. So we've decided to try again tomorrow. Instead, I did some running around for our dinner party tomorrow night. I picked up groceries and a Christmas tree. Admit it, nothing says “Christmas” like the Christmas tree. No matter how close it is to the big day, it really doesn’t feel like Christmas until you’ve spotted the perfect tree, and then decorated it within an inch of its life :)
I bought a small potted ever green so that we can put it on the balcony in the spring. It makes me sad to cut down a beautiful tree so this little one is absolutely perfect. This little tree has definitely put me in the Christmas spirit. We went to the Blokker (like giant tiger) and bought Christmas decorations. I found two silver birds for the "Burds", I thought they were fitting. Nick found a small strand of white lights and we picked up antiqued ribbon and glass ornaments. Isn't it the most perfect little tree that you have ever seen. Gizmo helped me to decorate and Pumpkin was quick to check it out after her nap. I am so glad we have a tree and as you can see by the picture so is Maggie. She can't stop smiling! Isn't this picture so cute? I can definitely see a future in modeling for this cat :) Nick didn't like the back drop so he created this more festive one. He is so talented! After decorating the tree I was inspired to do a little research as to this traditions origin. Did you know that the custom of the Christmas tree dates back over 1,000 years to Northern Germany. The tradition didn't make its way to North America until the 1700's when German soldiers set up a Christmas tree at one of their camps and by the 1870's nearly every North American home had a Christmas tree. Pretty neat!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Only 10 Days.....but I don't want to talk about it

Every year around this time my mom starts her Christmas baking. Now I'm not referring to a few dozen cookies and one relaxing afternoon of preparation. I'm talking about a baking marathon and enough cookies for ten families. My mom's motivation is not one of obligation to bake for numerous people or even that she loves to do it. In fact she often speaks about how labour intensive it is but for her it truly is a labour of love. What she loves is making sure that each of us gets our favorite cookie for Christmas. She makes a special package of at least one large Christmas tin for each of us to take home. My sister Leigh is a very healthy eater but she can't say no to the "classic" chocolate chip. For Charlotte it's the peanut butter and marshmallow squares and the chocolate brownies. Everyone loves the thumb print cookies with the jam in the middle and sugar sprinkled on top. Aunt Elsie loves the short bread with a cup of tea and my dad always takes one and sometimes two of everything! I have no idea where he puts it. For such a small guy he sure can pack those cookies in. A big glass of milk and a stack of four cookies is a typical dessert for my dad around the holidays. Most important of all, well at least to me, is a very special cookie - the Alana cookie. They taste just like short bread but they have cherries and walnuts chopped up in them. Mmmm....She makes them every year just for me! How spoiled are we? But alas, this will be the first year that I will not have any of my mom's Christmas baking. It's sad but true...we're not going home for the holidays.
Today in class someone wished me a Merry Christmas and said only 10 days. I thought to myself - no way, it can't be that close but it really is. It does not feel like Christmas or the holiday season for me this year. I haven't bought any gifts or decorated my house. We don't have a tree or stockings hung up. There is no snow and we have barely even worn our winter jackets. I haven't heard one familiar Christmas carol on the radio or in the stores. Don't get me wrong, Maastricht is beautiful with Christmas lights and the stores are full of Christmas shoppers, so it is happening here, but this year just isn't going to be the same.
I have gone through moments of feeling down thinking about all the things I will miss about home but I have decided that I am going to be excited instead. This will be our first Christmas as a married couple and we get to spend it together. I know that Nick is in the same boat as I am and he is going to miss his family as well. So instead of sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves we have planned some special things to do to keep ourselves busy. We are having friends over for dinner and going out for dinner as well, we have planned some day trips to the different Christmas markets and we are spending a weekend in Brugge. Not too shabby! We aren't alone for Christmas, we have each other and Pumpkin, Gizmo and Maggie. Our family and friends are in our thoughts and I'm sure they will be thinking of us too. I am planning to skype my family when they have their Christmas celebration and I have sent out Dutch Christmas cards so that they know we are thinking of them. My friend Laura and I searched for the tackiest ones we could find :) I think I will try to make a real holiday dinner for Nick and I and we will look forward to establishing some new traditions for the Harris Burd family. Being away this year will make next year even more special when we get to be together with our friends and family again. For New Years we are running a road race and going out with two other couples. I sure will miss the Rodeo Red - the very finest in Ohio wines - as well as the fabulous company of Tina and Randy Burd to ring in the New Year. Last year they had to wake me up because I fell asleep at 10pm. Man I'm getting old!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Love is a Many Splendored Thing

Splendored??? Is that even a word? I love, love! Nothing makes you feel as good as when you hug someone really hard and they hug you even harder right back :)
Today on my marathon of traveling, everywhere I turned there were couples in love. The driver that picked me up this morning at 3:50am also picked up a young couple from the Maastricht business school. It was soooo early in the morning but the young man was chivalrous even at 4am and carried his girlfriends bag to the car for her and opened the door. Awwww.... When I got off the plane there was a guy at the gate holding a sign that said "Natalie, I love you!" and he was holding flowers. Awwww... At the train there was a couple of high schoolers that were making out on the platform. Kind of gross but there is something to be said for young love. On the ferry there was this beautiful couple. I say beautiful because they could have been models; tall, tanned and smiling. They were holding hands, hugging and gazing deeply into each others eyes with the backdrop of lake Lucerne and the Swiss mountain tops. It was right out of the pages of a romance novel. Yes, today was marked by young couples in love everywhere I turned. During my short time in Europe I have been blown away by the number of oldies in public make out sessions as well. This is not something that I have ever really seen in Canada. Yes, older couples holding hands but public make-outs, NEVER! People here are all about the public displays of affection. They stand closer in lines, they give three kisses to say hello and three kisses goodbye, they hold hands with everyone; children, girlfriends, the elderly, couples - EVERYONE - and yes they grope each other in public too.
So how do they do it? How do they keep the love alive? I've heard from a number of different sources that love and a passionate relationship is something you need to work at. Well, I don't believe it! I think that passion and love can simply be a by-product of a healthy existence and as they say "by having all your ducks in a row" by ducks I mean the important things in life and when I say row I mean in order or figured out. If you're taking care of you I think your relationships follow suit. I think if you walk and/or ride your bike everywhere you have more energy, you are in a better mood, you like your body more and you are more likely to want to share it. If you have shorter workdays and go on regular holidays you have more time together to enjoy each other. I think living in small European style households don't allow you to hide from one another. I think that a culture that encourages you to kiss people hello and good-bye has got love on the brain. I think a culture that embraces eating feel good food like cheese and chocolate, in moderation, is all about the finer things - the simple pleasures. In an environment like this, love is bound to thrive and in many cases to go public as I have witnessed. So what do you think? Do you need to work at love or do you need to work on how you live your life? Did Audrey Hepburn have it right when she said "The best thing to hold onto in life is each other" or should we be holding on to our remotes, big houses, over indulgences and belief that everything needs to be "hard work" including love.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Smell you later Maastricht

I am headed to Switzerland for another Osteopathy course. This time we are studying the bones of the face. I will be in Switzerland for 5-days and returning next Thursday. I've been told that the bones of the face course is a really great one but every course has been really great so I don't expect anything less. I'm always surprised by the number of new things I learn. My head feels so full of anatomy and physiology and techniques at this point I don't know if there is any more room in my brain. It feels like time has flown by but when I look at all the information we have covered I can see that the time has been jam packed. I can't believe we've only covered half of the content of the 5-year program.
Organizing myself for these trips takes quite a lot of focus and attention to detail. I have to request coverage for all my fitness classes, I have to make sure everything I pack fits in to a carry on sized bag (flying easyjet), I have to book flights, shuttle, train and ferry tickets and confirm my accommodation with the nuns. I went out this morning and bought some new boy cut underwear for my course as well. I know it sounds funny but last course we were studying the cervical spine (neck) and I didn't expect to take off my clothing. It ended up that we needed to stand in front of our colleagues in our underwear for a full physical exam. I was embarrassed that I did not have the proper undergarments. So this time, like a girl guide, not that girls guides hang around in their underwear but the always be prepared part :)
I realized this morning, when I was reviewing my itinerary, that I had given the wrong departure time to the shuttle service so I am waiting to see if they can pick me up 30-minutes earlier in order to make the flight. As we speak, or should I say as I write, I got the confirmation that the shuttle can only pick me up two hours earlier so it looks like a 4am pick-up and 3:30am wake-up. Yuck! What a pain!
I wonder if they have snow in Switzerland??? We still don't have any snow here and the weather feels like fall in Canada. It's very doubtful that we will have snow for Christmas :( Highly likely that we will have rain though :(

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ladies Night

Oh yes it's ladies night, and the feeling's right.
Oh yes it's ladies night, Oh what a night (oh what a night)!

Last night my friend Laura invited me out for ladies night at the movies in Maastricht. She has made it a ritual with two of her friends, Steph and Hannah, that once per month they attend ladies night at the movies. I thought this sounded like a great idea! I'm always up for meeting new people and trying new things. Laura arrived at my house at 5:30pm to meet the babies; Pumpkin, Gizmo and Maggie and to catch up before we met up with her friends for dinner. The babies loved Laura and because she has cats of her own she was not bothered by them running all over her in her all black ladies night attire :)
We had a reservation at a new Indian restaurant in the city centre. I haven't had Indian food in a really long time so when Laura suggested it I was thrilled. Laura loves to try new restaurants and we seem to have a similar palate for food so I was excited to try her suggestions. We met Steph and Hannah at the restaurant shortly after 6pm. They were great! Lots of fun and very easy to talk to. They both are very familiar with Canada and are world travelers themselves. They made me feel very welcome and at ease. We agreed that ladies night would be relaxing and fun and that conversation would steer away from politics and work. They are both PhD students and at this time of year are more then ready for a break from their studies.
Our meal was excellent! I had veggie samosas and a chickpea curry dish. It was delicious :) It was perfectly spiced. We had the opportunity to meet the owner who also serves in the restaurant and Hannah asked him about where he was from in India. He said he lived close to Nagpol. Hannah and Steph have both travelled parts of India and talked about some of their adventures there. They said that people are relaxed and trains are always late. Not just a little but we're talking hours late. It sounded like an eye opening experience to see the poverty and experience the pollution. I've never had the urge to go to India but I'm thinking that at some point in my life I would like to go and study yoga there in an Ashram. I have heard wonderful things about the Iyengar Institute from my yogini, Suzie. Laura is very adventurous and I'm sure I could talk her into this without too much effort ;)
We had tickets for 8pm at the movies so when we finished dinner we started the walk over the bridge to the theatre. We were going to see the movie, New Years Eve. It's by the same people who made Valentine's Day. A girly movie, for a girly night! They had glasses of champagne and grab bags for all of us with some really great treats inside. We took our seats and they had a fashion show by the store that sponsored the event. They were showing holiday dresses and the models strutted their stuff to Christmas music. It was really corny but we laughed and enjoyed the show. The manager of the theatre was a real "ham" and loved the lime light. He was eating up the opportunity to be on stage in front of a theatre full of women. He took his sweet time with the draw prizes, telling so many bad jokes that for once I was almost relieved I didn't understand the language. In the end we didn't win prizes but we all felt like winners! hahah...corny, I know. But we really did have a great time. The movie was good, the champagne was great and the company was amazing! The night ended with Dutch kisses and Canadian hugs. Thanks for the awesome ladies night and I look forward to next month when we get to do it all again :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.

On Saturday morning when I woke up I was tired and didn't feel like getting up. I contemplated how wonderful sleeping in would be but thought about the people who would be waiting for me at UM Sport. I teach a spin class on Saturday mornings and there is a group of regulars who depend on me to teach. So I mustered the strength to pull myself up and out of my nice warm bed. I looked out the window and it was pouring rain. I held off leaving hoping that the rain would let up but it didn't. I knew it was going to be a wet ride to the University but that there was no avoiding it. I had a brilliant idea that I would try riding my bike while holding on to an umbrella. I have seen the proficient Dutch riders do this with ease and thought I could do it too. I struggled to hold on to the umbrella and steer my bike and hold onto my bag and when I got to the bridge, dismounted and tried to push my bike up the ramp the wind took my umbrella and turned it inside out. I struggled with my bike, my bag and my umbrella, got frustrated and for a second it got the better of me. I stopped struggling, dropped my bike and bag and started to laugh. I looked like a complete fool. I tossed the umbrella into my basket and said "who cares", it's just a little rain. I jumped back on my bike and I pedaled faster to try to dodge the drops. I had a great class and when it was time to ride home the sky was clear. I got home and jumped into a hot shower. A hot shower always feels great but this one was exceptional. During "the best shower ever" I thought to myself, would I have appreciated this shower as much if I hadn't had to persevere the bike ride in the rain. Sometimes it's the challenges that make the small things that much sweeter.
In the afternoon I had an appointment at Toni & Guy to get my hair done. I had been looking forward to this all week. It was the perfect afternoon of pampering.
I really like how my hair turned out. They did a colour dip technique to give the look of being sun kissed from the summer. The ends are a few shades lighter then the top and they layered it. No more tree head! My stylist and colour technician were awesome. They had great energy and lots of great stories of back packing adventures across Australia.
We joined our friends Ben and Mandy for dinner at Pet Thai. Numerous people have recommended this restaurant to us and we have been meaning to go for some time. It is a very busy spot so Mandy made us a reservation for 7pm. The restaurant was very cozy with bright colours on the walls and thai inspired decor. Our meal was fantastic and the company was even better. The spice scale goes up to 15 so I thought I was being conservative ordering a 5 but the server quickly made the suggestion of going with a level 3. I am so happy he did! We were glowing from the heat of the food. At a level 5 I think I would have needed a cold shower to finish :)
This morning I taught a workout mix class at UM Sport to my usual group of Sunday morning students. They are so dedicated :)
When I arrived home Nick and I went to pick up groceries and to check out the Christmas market. I took pictures of Sinter Klaas (who looks more like a religious figure then our North American Santa Claus) Black Peter, I know this sounds inappropriate but that is what they call him and the beautiful Christmas decor of Maastricht. I'm really appreciating and enjoying all the small things.

"Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one." Dr Seus

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night...

We have had the most beautiful fall weather here in the Netherlands. November had average temperatures in the mid teens with lots of sunshine. We were told that this is not typical weather for this time of year and that we could expect a change pretty soon. Well when December arrived so did the yucky weather. It has been rainy and windy for the last two days. Because we ride our bikes everywhere this leaves us riding in the rain and sitting in damp clothes when we arrive at our destination. I hate when my clothes stick to me and when I get a chill it seems almost impossible to get rid of without a hot shower. Last night we were laying in bed and listening to the rain and wind howling outside. We have a skylight that gives us a view of what's gong on in the night sky and lets in the sunlight when we have it. Our bedroom is a loft, Nick can't stand up except in the middle where the peak is, and we sleep in the highest peak of the roof of our building. This makes me a bit nervous when the weather is bad.
In addition to the grey and rain I have really noticed how little day light we get. The sun doesn't come up until almost 8am and it goes down by 4:30pm every day. Nick leaves in the dark in the morning and gets home in the dark at night. The lack of Vitamin D is really starting to get to me and I'm lucky enough to have a schedule that allows me to get out in the middle of the day. I thought that the Canadian winter days were short but these are extremely short. It's a good thing I've been exercising as much as I have as this really helps to improve my mood and energy levels. Apparently, in the south of Holland, we will get some snow but not much and only for a few months. I much prefer a really snowy winter with sunny skies to the grey and rain that we have had the last few days here. I hope that this is not the tale of things to come over the next 3 months.
On Saturday I'm going to get my hair done. I haven't had it cut since July because I have been apprehensive to get it done here not knowing the reputation of the salons and the fact that there are so many to choose from. I've been going to the same stylist for 5-years and although my hair isn't complicated I am a bit anxious about having someone new do it. I feel a little I'm cheating on Rachel (my Canadian stylist). A friend recommended a place called Toni and Guys so I have finally made an appointment for Saturday afternoon. I am really looking forward to it! You always feel great after a relaxing day of beautification :) I dropped in to the shop to make the appointment and it is very posh and the staff were super friendly. I really noticed the customer service because it is not common to receive really great service here. The stylist I am seeing speaks english so that should be very helpful as well.
Saturday night we are going out for dinner with our friends Ben and Mandy for thai food. Thai is my absolute favorite food. Last night I made a thai inspired dish and it was awesome! Here is my list of ingredients and prep instructions. It was easy, healthy, quick and very delicious if I do say so myself.

  • mixed vegetables (seasonal root veggies)
  • tofu (cubed)
  • green curry paste
  • coconut milk
  • match stick rice noodles
  1. I grilled the cubed tofu in a warm skillet in olive oil (I like my tofu a little more firm and grilling it helps with the texture)
  2. When the tofu was lightly browned I added a variety of seasonal root vegetables (zuchini, brocoli, cauliflower, carrot kale, celery, bean sprouts) and a bit of water for steam.
  3. I mixed coconut milk and green curry paste in a small bowl, to taste, and added it to the skillet. I allowed the stir-fry to simmer, only about 10-minutes so that the veggies stay firm. I hate limp veggies!
  4. Boiled water and added match stick rice noodles, they soften quickly so keep an eye on them
  5. Plate noodles and pour stir-fry over bed of rice noodles
  6. Enjoy your delicious thai style dinner :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Home again, home again, dancing a jig

This morning at 10am we were reconnected to gas and electricity and were able to move back in to our apartment. Yiiiippppeee! It has been two weeks since we were cut off and it has been a challenging process to get everything turned back on. Nick had trials today so we moved some things last night. This morning at 7:30am we brought the cats, the litter box and as many other things as we could carry. Nick went to work and I went back to our short-stay apartment; cleaned and packed the rest of our belongings for the final trip back to our apartment to meet the contractor. I am so glad to have all of our things in one spot again. It took about 10-minutes for him to flip all the switches. The electricity came back on right away but the radi
ators weren't turning on. At first I thought it would just take a while for them to warm up but after an hour I was still wearing my touque and mitts. I fiddled around in the utility room
but didn't know where the pilot switch was. Nick came home at lunch and remembered that there was a box in our laundry room and I am happy to say I am snug as a bug in a rug :) Pumpkin, Gizmo and Maggie have been sleeping on the bed all day. The early morning walk over in the cat carriers was very tiring for them, apparently. I am starting to get excited for the holidays and have been checking out decorations at the stores. They have some really pretty and unique things here. I picked up a beautiful cranberry wreath centre piece for the table and we are thinking about getting a small potted evergreen to act as our Christmas tree. Thursday I went for tea with my friend Laura and we picked up dutch Christmas cards. I have been working on them and plan to send them out shortly as I'm not sure how quickly the mail will get overseas especially getting closer to Christmas. Maastricht has a Christmas market in the Vijhof that is currently under construction. I've walked down to monitor the progress a few times and I don't think it will be long now. There is a skating rink, a ferris wheel, mulled wine and vendors from far and wide. I'm really looking forward to experiencing the Christmas Market.
People keep telling me how wonderful it is. We are planning to go to Germany to check out the Christmas market there. They are supposed to have the best Christmas markets. Every day they seem to add a few more lights and decorations to the city streets. They really go all out!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Great Eggspectations

Nick and I are still living at our short stay apartment. It is becoming more of a mid range stay then a short stay at this point. We've been here a week already! We are hoping to be back in our place by the end of the week but who knows???? I am really starting to miss our little apartment. I find it really frustrating how long this whole process has taken. Do I have unreasonable expectations? I just think our landlord should have paid the bill as we have been paying him to do so and that the electric company should have shorter service time, especially in the winter months when they know we can't live in the apartment without utilities. We are currently paying into a new contract but are waiting for the company to come to our place to turn it on. No one can give me a firm date either. Arrrrghhh! That's right, arrrrghhh!
On a more exciting note, this Thursday I am going Christmas shopping with my Canadian friend Laura. I don't really have any shopping to do because Nick and I are taking a trip for Christmas but I love holiday shopping. I'm looking forward to grabbing a tea and just hanging out. The stores are a buzz and the streets are decorated with beautiful holiday lights. We have plans for Saturday night as well. We are going for dinner to Laura and Richard's house. Laura said she plans to make something with pumpkin in honor of the American Thanksgiving. I love pumpkin! A few friends from my spin class also asked Nick and I out for drinks. We have turned in to quite the social butterflies :)
Today was my busy day. I teach 4-classes on Tuesday's and it leaves me pretty fatigued. I finish teaching at 10pm and by the time I get home it's 10:20pm and I'm still wired from teaching. I have to sit and watch tv for a bit to unwind before I hit the pit. I always have great plans to get up early on Wednesday to make the most of the day but I usually need the sleep in for recovery. Tomorrow I would like to start the morning with a yoga class but we'll see how I feel.
Nick made me some delicious scrambled eggs when I got home. What a nice treat! I don't know how he does it but his eggs are way better then mine. They are always nice and fluffy and perfectly cooked. I'm not great at taking the time to eat after I exercise and he knows that I often neglect nutrition when I finish this late. Opting for my comfortable bed instead. I never feel very hungry and when I'm this physically tired I'm not motivated to cook. I realize that it is really important to fuel to keep up my energy levels and to help with recovery especially after teaching this much. I'm all about routine and I find that my eating routine goes out the window on Tuesday's. I eat mostly small snack type meals because of my busy schedule and that I'm eating on the run but today I made a focused effort to have nutritious snacks. I've been feeling a little run down lately and I think it's because I haven't been eating the right things at the right time. Thanks for the scramble Nick, they exceeded my great eggspectations!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Hello blog followers. Long time no chat :( I apologize that I have been MIA but we ran in to a strange series of events that involved us moving into another apartment for a short stay. On Tuesday of last week I taught my regular morning fitness class at Zenden. I jumped into a quick shower so that I could get going with the rest of my day. I had plans to go to the library for the afternoon and then to teach two classes at UM sport and one at Mac social club on Tuesday evening. I had just soaped up my hair when I heard a banging at our front door. The knock at the door surprised me and struck me as very strange because in order to get into our building you need to be buzzed in. The banging at the door persisted so with soap still in my hair I put on my robe and went to the door. There was a women with a clip board and two men with tools. They informed me that our landlord had not paid or renewed the contract with the utilities company and after several written warnings they were here to shut off the water and electricity to our apartment. This caught me completely off guard as Nick and I pay an all inclusive rent for the apartment and had not received any notifications. I asked them if I could give them money to leave it on until we could figure this out but they explained that they are a company hired by the utilities company and couldn't help us. They were kind enough to allow me to wash the soap out of my hair but following my shower I was quickly left in the dark, cold apartment with no running water. I called Nick and he rushed home, we went to our landlords place of business and he was very appologetic. He arranged for us to stay in another apartment until he can get this all figured out. The temporary accomodations are about a 10-min walk from our place, just over the river and a little closer to the University. He paid for a cab for Maggie, Gizmo and Pumpkin to be taken to the new apartment which was very kind. The new apartment has turned out to be a nice get away. It is much larger then our place and the cats settled right in. They love the long hallway and large windows. I would have liked to move into this place but it is 1400 euros a month. Out of our price range for sure! We are hoping to be back in our place by Tuesday but who knows. The people who disconnected our water and electricity said they thought it would be at least two weeks. I was pretty upset in the moment by the experience of having everything shut off but in the end there were some positives as well. The list of positives include; 1) Now we will be in charge of our own bills...a bit of cost savings 2) Pumpkin, Gizmo and Maggie are having fun in the new apartment 3) I had the opportunity to meet one of our neighbours...she offered to help when she learned they were cutting off our electricity and water 4) When I go to the University I don't have to push my bike up the bridge :) We are happy, we are healthy and we are still could be worse, much worse. Some exciting things are in the works since I was last able to blog. I start renting a therapy space in the New Year at the University sports centre. Very exciting! I have been asked to give two workshops for the fitness instructors, personal trainers and sports league coaches for staff training and we are going to Paris over Christmas. I really missed my blog while we have been MIA. It feels good to be back at it :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Party! Party! Party!

On Thursday night we were invited to the inaugural lecture of Professor Luc Van Loon, Nick's advisor. As is part of custom here in the Netherlands the Professor is then responsible for hosting a reception after the lecture and throwing their own celebration party. The party was a real formal event in a beautiful venue with an open bar, food, dj and dancing. Like a wedding reception. I find it very strange that it is a requirement to throw and pay for your own party but it's the Dutch way. They throw their own birthday parties too! I met lots of the spouses and partners of Nick's lab mates as well as his colleagues from the department. I met a girl named Laura from Toronto Canada and her boyfriend Richard. She has been here for 6-years studying and is heading back in the summer. She is planning to start school at the Naturopathic College. She has cats too so we exchanged stories. We plan to get together for a cat date soon :) We have a lot in common.
We had a wonderful time and Luc's friends, colleagues and students gave wonderful presentations and prepared some great movies. They bought him a piece of art that he has had his eye on for some time. You could tell he really appreciated everyone's efforts. People partied into the wee hours; dancing, laughing and cutting loose. Slayer came on at 12am and things just got crazy from that point on. Professors were head banging and slam dancing :) We left at 1am because I had to teach the next morning. I gotta say, I'm getting old! I was tired all day. Not because of the lack of sleep but because of the disturbance in my routine. I guess you could say I'm just a shadow of the party animal I once was ;)
The next morning came early and it was 11/11/11. On Nov 11th in Canada we recognize Remembrance Day and at 11:11am I took my two minutes of silence. We recognize the sacrifice that soldiers made in the great wars and we take the time to recognize current service people and their families. When I was walking across the Vijhof Square on my way home from teaching a class I looked down and noticed that there was a marker set into the stones that marked the liberation of Maastricht in September of 1944. It really hit home! This is where the war took place. My grandpa was here during that time and he was liberated by the Canadian troops. I would really love to see some of the war memorials before we leave. I think as a Canadian it's an important part of our heritage.
Here in the Netherlands (especially the south) Nov 11th marks the start of Carnival, the festive season. Yesterday, there were over 12,000 people in the Vijhof Square celebrating Carnival. There was music, dancing and good old fashioned partying. The young and old were dressed in yellow, red and green and partied all day and night. They wore circus inspired costumes but anything seemed to go. Nick and I got a real kick out of some of the older people's costumes. They are so elaborate and colorful. They really get into it! There was a live feed on tv from the Vijhof so I watched the festivities from home. It was packed. Nick and I had planned to walk down to people watch but after Thursday nights festivities I wasn't feeling up for another party. I hadn't realized what a big event it is. People come from far and wide to attend. We will partake in February when they have the week long party :) Some of my participants let me know that they would not be present for classes Friday morning because of Carnival. In the end it was my class of 45+ women from Zenden that missed class and not the students. Those party animals!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Straight Bizzle...Fo Shizzle :)

Translation...I've started my own business!

It's always been a dream of mine to have my own business and there is no better time then the present. Empower.ed Bohdi! With Nick's support I have developed a logo and a business plan. Let me know what you think of the logo??? It's a work in progress. I've been contemplating the name for some time, since 2007 to be exact. I settled on "empower" because I want to help others to help themselves and the ".ed" represents education. Because I believe education and knowledge are the path to enlightenment or "bohdi", in yoga. Hence the name empower.ed bohdi. Thank you friends who have helped me along the way to come up with a name that rings true to my beliefs and is so close to my heart :) When I was in Canada I registered as a business so that I could work as an independent contractor but this is my first crack at the real deal. I want my business to fill the gap in therapeutic exercise. I think there are great personal trainers out there and wonderful therapists but what about the in between. My mom has COPD and has been struggling to find someone knowledgeable and experienced enough to support her in starting an exercise program. I think I could be this person. With my background in strength and conditioning, my experience as a therapist and my certification as an exercise physiologist I believe I can offer a unique service to an audience that really needs it.
I've been sitting and studying in the library for hours and teaching tons of fitness classes and I wanted something special to work on. I take my breaks from studying and write down my ideas. Free time really does foster creativity :) My goal is to offer fitness classes, therapeutic exercise sessions and manual therapy to a community of learners who need support to take the first or next step toward improved health. I believe that "Anatomy is Destiny! So do some squats, it will change your life!" This is another branding idea I have.
I've been treating a few people, mostly through referrals, but I would like to expand my practice and my business while I am here. I've decided that I am going to start writing about health, fitness and wellness and post articles on my facebook page as well. I have found writing to be very therapeutic and love to share thoughts. I contacted a web developer to start to put together a website and Nick bought me a therapy table for Christmas. My dear friend Pam has connected me with a colleague of hers to discuss branding as well. These are really exciting times and I look forward to seeing where it all leads. No matter what happens I'm excited about the future and this opportunity to help others. Yours in health and fitness. Smiles :) Alana

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Charisma: Nature or Nurture

This photo is of my friend Pam and I at a Fitness conference in 2009. She is one of the most charismatic people I know! Strangely enough charisma's origin is in Greek and she is Greek :)

Have you ever met someone and instantly took a liking towards them? You can’t explain why, but you feel a fondness and being with them makes you feel better about yourself. I am very interested in people that have a strong sense of presence. The kind of people that can light up a room and command respect with their quiet confidence. There is a natural magnetism toward charismatic people and I want to know why.
So I'm sure your wondering why the interest and questions about charisma??? Well, I have been brain storming and working on ideas to start my own small business here in the Netherlands and have been doing research on what makes some small businesses more successful then others. I have been looking at businesses that essentially offer the same services but have very different outcomes. I think a lot of it comes down to charisma of the owner/ employees and connecting with people in the community. So my big question is are these charismatic people born this way or have they fostered it's development? Can we, the less charismatic, become more charismatic?

Through personal social research some of the key characteristics of charismatic people that I have identified are;

1) They smile a lot. The charismatic people that I have met smile a lot. Not in a creepy and excessive way but more in a positive and enthusiastic way. Emotions are contagious so a smile can go a long way. I definitely think that charismatic people have an authenticity in their smile but starting to smile more is an easy behaviour change to make. I have been pleasantly surprised by the response I have received to my smiling.

2) They are interested, open and curious. The most charismatic people are genuinely interested in others. In conversation they tend to ask more questions then they answer. They are great listeners who make others feel comfortable sharing without fear of judgement. There is a curiosity about them and a desire to learn and know more and they view every interaction as an opportunity to do just this.

3) They are fully present. Being present creates an intense focus and a feeling of being centered that is palpable. People are not accustomed to interacting with people who are totally present and it makes them feel special. They are more likely to share and open up. Have you ever really observed Oprah in an interview. In a room full of people, on national tv with a million potential distractions she is fully present. It's as if no one else and nothing else exists when she is interviewing.

4) They are confident. There is a quiet confidence about charismatic people. This confidence is very different then arrogance. Their confidence is on a deeper and more fundamental level and has come with experience from facing fears. They succeed and are confident because they have failed over and over.

5) They are assertive. Often times we think if we are "nice" and go out of our way for people they will like and appreciate us. They may in fact like you but the better question is will they respect and be drawn to you? People who are assertive with clear boundaries and expectations of how people should treat and interact with them are much more successful in relationships then the "nice guy/ girl".

6) They are amused. I know this sounds kind of funny but they don't seem to take things too seriously. They are relaxed and having fun and there is a lightness about them. They recognize what is important and what is not. What they have control over and what they don't. They have a good sense of humour about life.

7) They are socially free and authentic. When you are overly concerned about what other people may think then you often act in reaction to what you think they might say or do. When you are in this frame of thought you can not not be your most genuine and authentic self.

In conclusion, I think charisma can be defined as being along a continuum. I think the potential to be charismatic is within all of us. In my opinion charisma is a product of environment and being exposed to situations that allow it to further develop. Some of us may require a more focused and diligent effort at developing our own charisma but it is definitely possible. I think there are things we can work on every day. Today, in my yoga class I will work on being present :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Puuuuurfect Yoga Practice

I've made myself a list of goals for this year. It's a list of the things that I've wanted to see or do or learn that I've never had the time for. You know, the things that you just keep putting in the some day pile. For example, one of the things on my list is learning to french braid. I know it may seem kind of silly but I have always wanted to be able to french braid. I can still remember being a little girl getting so excited when my older sister Leigh would french braid my hair. Sitting in front of my big sister on the living room floor having her braid my hair and talking are some of my very special memories of our relationship. I thought she was so cool and I always felt so pretty with my hair french braided :) It's been one of those things that I have always wanted to do but have never taken the time to sit down to learn. Well, finally, I sat down turned on a utube video and am happy to say learned to french braid. Isn't utube awesome! This is how I tie Nick's neck tie's too :) One of my other to do's is to attend a yoga class at least once per week while we are here. I think it's important to take time for myself to do some exercise that is less vigorous and more balancing and I also want to continue to improve and grow as a yoga instructor. I think a great way to do this is to expose myself to as many different instructors and styles of classes as possible. To date I have been drawn toward the Vinyasa or Power Yoga classes because they are strongly rooted to the physical. I have a difficult time sitting quietly and getting out of my own head. So this morning I had planned to attend a power yoga class at one of the gyms I work at. A great perk of working at so many gyms is that you get to enjoy the classes for free :) When I sat down at the top of my mat in preparation for the class the instructor welcomed us and said that we were going to focus on Ujjayi breathing and meditation for the first half of the class. What???? I thought this was Power Yoga. She explained that she wanted us to be able to learn to focus on the breath during our vigorous Power Yoga class to improve the quality of our practice . We sat in a fire log posture for 20-minutes focusing on breathing and creating the sound of the ocean in our throats. My feet were asleep, my nose was itchy, my mind was running in circles thinking of all the cool things I had planned to do in the afternoon. My head was everywhere but on my mat and focused on my practice. I was compassionate with myself and kept trying to come back but needless to say, it was a very challenging morning for me. The instructor was excellent and I know there are many things that I can learn from her so I will be back. I plan to make Thursday mornings a regular class for me. I have also decided that I will start doing 20-minutes of my own practice at home each day. In the past it has proven to be a challenge because there are so many distractions at home. The biggest of which are my cats Pumpkin, Gizmo and Maggie. As soon as I put my mat down they swarm me. Pumpkin loves to lie underneath me on her back in the hopes of getting a belly rub. Gizmo squacks at me from the coffee table and Maggie loves to drag her bum across my yoga mat. Yuck! Seriously, it's a magnet for her.
I think I've got a plan to overcome these challenges. I am going to include them in my practice. I thought I was being original but there are dedicated websites to yoga for cats is just one example that I checked out. It is very cute. So I decided to try some of the Asanas with the girls and Nick played photographer; Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) with Gizmo, Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana) with Pumpkin and Tree Pose (Vrksasana) with Maggie. As you can see Maggie has difficulty focusing during yoga too :)

Monday, October 31, 2011

So what are you afraid of?

I thought that given today is Hallowe'en day that there is no better topic for my blog then that of fear. So what scares you? What are you afraid of? Is it spiders, the dark, being alone, snakes, birds - love you Cate! What makes the hair on your neck stand up and your stomach move into your throat?
I hate that feeling that wells up inside of you, the loss of control, the cold sweat, the thing that keeps you up at night. Are you ready? Today in my blog I'm going to get deep. I'm going to put it out there. I'm going to be honest. One of my greatest fears is FAILURE. At many different points in my life I have been consumed by my fear of failure and my fear of being perceived as a failure. Now don't get me wrong, my fear has never prevented me from doing things. If anything it has done the complete opposite. It is the thing that will not let me rest. It drives me forward from one thing to the next, to the next, to the next, to the get the idea. I'm constantly looking for the success that will set me free. Set me free from my fear of failure and inadequacy. Have you ever felt this way? With our workaholic society and everyone rushing around I think there must be lots of people out there who are like this but haven't taken the time to think about it. I've discussed this with friends and I know I'm not alone but that this fear manifests in different ways. I have a friend who admits to self-sabotage. He is a brilliant guy with creative ideas and a unique way of looking at the world. His fear of failure causes him to put up walls, to procrastinate, to avoid experiencing real failure by creating the failure himself. I'm sure we've all been afraid of failing on some level at some point and have self-sabotaged or run away or run ourselves into the ground. Please tell me you can relate!
One of my dear friends, Tracie Lee, shared one of her favorite quotes with me "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure". This was a really thought provoking quote for me because it made me take a step back and think of my fear in a different way. Is it that I'm afraid to fail or that I don't think I deserve to succeed??? Wow....thought provoking isn't it. She also told me to "grab 30 by the balls and show it who's boss". She is such a wealth of thought provoking quotes :)
Well, this year I'm turning over a new leaf. I deserve success! Success on my own terms. I will define it and I will achieve it and I will not need the praise of others to recognize that I have. I'm not afraid to fail because you can't fail until you stop trying and I'm never giving up! I'm grateful for the small successes every day and the opportunity to pursue new ones tomorrow.

This is your life. It's short.
Do something every day that scares you, don't live your life scared!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

They Make Mischief & Mayhem

Thing 1 & Thing 2
You ask, "Who is that?"
They're a Seussical pair from the Cat in the Hat

What do you think?
Pretty close, eh?

Happy 29th Birthday Char-bot and Happy Hallowe'en Everyone!
In the Netherlands they do not celebrate Hallowe'en so I was very excited when Nick's lab mate Ben, from England and his girlfriend Mandy, from Ireland, decided to host a Hallowe'en party. This year Nick and I dressed up as Dr Seus's, Thing 1 & Thing 2. We found the perfect blue wigs and wore red pants and shirts. It was really tough to find red pants so I had to buy us women's stretchy pants. Nick was a real trooper in his womens 2XL stretchy pants. The party started at 7pm so we left our house just before to walk across the Maastricht city centre. People stared and laughed and said Carnival! Some people didn't notice us at all.
When we arrived at Mandy and Ben's house they answered the door dressed as Dracula and his bride. They weren't familiar with the Dr Seus characters but really liked our costumes. It didn't cross my mind that people would not be familiar with Thing 1 and Thing 2. By the end of the night there were three pirates, Thing 1 and Thing 2, Dracula and his bride, a guy with his head shaved just up the middle and a bunch of dutch friends in their regular clothes :) We had a great time and really appreciated the effort that Mandy and Ben made. They had decorated their whole apartment, they had carved small pumpkins, made candy apples and a delicious spread of food and drinks. Because they don't celebrate Hallowe'en here it took a tremendous effort to set the scene for the party. Well done! We had a great time. Nick brought the Wild Turkey - Kentucky Bourbon, to introduce to his friends and we have lots of great picture of them getting their first taste of "the Bird".
Here in the Netherlands they have a celebration that sounds similar to Hallowe'en in some of it's customs and it is called Carnival. Carnival is a festive season which occurs just before Lent; the main events are usually during February. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations, which mark an overturning of daily life. We are looking forward to wearing our costumes again for Carnival :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Heavenly Experience, to be continued....

How do you get to paradise? It starts with a shuttle, then there is an airplane, then a train, then a boat, then a walk and it ends at Stella Matutina in Hertenstein Switzerland :)
I arrived back in Maastricht last night at about 11pm. Back to reality! Well, my reality for this year abroad. I've been in Switzerland since Thursday of last week at school for my third year of Osteopathy. I've been very lucky that I have been able to continue my studies in Osteopathy because the CCO has a sister campus in Switzerland, SICO. I really felt like this week I unplugged from the world and got rid of all the background noise. No television, no phone and being at one with nature. I was able
to immerse myself in my studies and the experience of Stella Matutina.
As I mentioned I had a lot of traveling to do to get there and numerous connections and switches in modes of transportation. I felt a bit like Harry Potter trying to get to Hogwarts :) The trip was beautiful, almost as beautiful as the destination. Flying into Geneva is my favorite. The snow capped mountains and the lake views blow me away every time I see them, 3rd and 4th time, no big deal :) The train ride from Geneva to Lucern takes you along the edge of cliffs and along lake Geneva, AMAZING! and the ferry boat ride to my school is, UNREAL!
When you arrive in Hertenstein, Isabel the school administrator said, "just call a nun to pick you up", just call a nun?!?!
I was advised that it was only a 10-min walk from the dock to the school so I decided to walk instead. My legs needed a stretch after all the sitting anyway. The ferry dropped me off at the Hertenstein dock and as it pulled away I had a real feeling of being deserted. I watched as the ferry pulled out and continued on it's trip across lake Lucern. I was in the middle of no where and I mean no where! Well, I thought to myself, my phone doesn't work here and there doesn't seem to be one around so I should just start walking. I wandered through the countryside; cows, sheep, forrest, fields, real countryside! After about 10-min I stumbled upon a small hotel and I used what little french I have to ask for directions. They said "Stella Matutina??" and I said "No SICO (Swiss International College of Osteopathy), I think??", they gave me a map and it was at this point a bit of fear lumped in my throat. Where the heck am I going? What am I going to do if I get lost on this island? The rest of the trip had been so straight forward. I've come so close.
Thank goodness the women at the hotel was right! About 10-minutes later; more open fields, woods, nature, following the road as it bends around a hill on the horizon I spot it, Stella Matutina, a truly heavenly place. Stella Matutina is a monastery that is cared for by a group of nuns and is where our courses are held. When I arrived at Stella Matutina I couldn't
believe my eyes. It is unlike any place that I have ever been before. The architecture is so well
planned - they think of everything, it is so clean and well cared for and they have done an amazing job of keeping the old world feel with all the modern amenities. When I approach the office in the entry hall to ask for assistance there is only one nun at the desk in her habit and customary dress. This is too cool! She really did look like a much older version of Mary Poppins. When I say I have a reservation she has a puzzled look on her face. She runs off and again the lump forms in the back of my throat. She quickly returns with a nun who kind of speaks English and when I say this I mean she spoke in French and I spoke in English. They speak Swiss German here which apparently is very different then German, neither of which I have any understanding. They were so kind and caring....I love the nuns! They gave me a tour which I got very little from aside from what I could see but appreciated the effort none the less. They showed me to my room which was humble, yet very comfortable, and I joined all the guests for dinner in the dining room. For the week I was spoiled with delicious meals.
All of the guests eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together in the dining room and it is served by the nuns at specific times of day. The food was very hearty and always in 4-courses at lunch and dinner; a salad, a soup, a main dish and desert. They were great about providing me with vegetarian options and food that I have never tried before but really liked. I was well taken care of. I arrived a day before the majority of my classmates because I was participating in a clinical day and had the opportunity to meet my teacher, Paul Wagner. We had meals together and walked around the village as well. He is from Vancouver and has a wealth of experience and knowledge about many things. It was nice to spend time with a fellow Canadian. For the clinical day I treated a nun :) She didn't speak English so some fellow students did the interview portion of the treatment. People in Switzerland speak many languages. When I say many I'm talking about somewhere in the neighbor hood of 4-languages and often jumping from language to language in a single conversation. I really need to work on that. I was told I need at least two by my teachers. I speak 1 and a 1/2 on a good day. It was a really great experience to team treat like this and to see how gifted the Swiss are with language. Arrival and Clinical Day were amazing and I will report on the remainder of my stay throughout the week. There is just too much to say for a single blog entry :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back to School, Back to School...

I have no reason for posting this picture except that I think it is AMAZING!

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I leave for Switzerland to start my third year of Osteopathy. My morning will start at 4:30am when the shuttle arrives to pick me up. The driver picks me up in front of our house and takes me to the Brussels airport. From Brussels I will fly to Geneva, get on a train to Lucerne and take a short ferry ride to Herststein where my school is situated. I will be staying at a monastery where they rent rooms to students and prepare your meals. I'm really looking forward to that. I told them I'm a vegetarian so we'll see what they come up with. I was told that when I arrive I can just call one of the nuns to come pick me up. Thoughts of Mary Poppins dance in my head. Chitty bang bang, chitty chitty bang bang :) I'll let you know if it lives up to my expectations.
I've been told that the views from the school are beautiful and I'm really looking forward to getting into the swing of things. Apparently SICO has both lake and mountain views. That sure beats the view of the 401 and Yorkdale Mall from our school in Toronto! I am hoping to get out for a few runs to explore the island while I am there as well. I have six courses this year that I will be traveling back and forth for between now and June. In June, I will be writing my BIG third year exams so this year is all about preparing for those. Tomorrow will be the first run through of the trip. What an adventure! I hope it goes smoothly. Luckily, travel here is very affordable and it will cost me only 125 euros for the trip, flight/ train/ ferry included.
I always get excited for the first day of school. I've been this way since I was a little girl. Mom and dad always hyped up the first day of school so I think I've been conditioned to look forward to school. I'm excited but I will definitely be missing my class mates and teachers from the CCO in Toronto (C-Blow, June Bug, Rad - my osteo yoda, Candy Ass, Ethmoid, Camaroon and the whole crew). We've become a real Osteo family. I would be the eccentric but lovable uncle in the family. Osteo's roll out!
I have promised them I will be back and an Osteo always keeps her word or is that the good witch from the wizard of oz???? I am both excited and anxious to see where I fit within this new group. They have an established osteo family of their own and I will be the second cousin that they've never met. But family is family, right?
Hopefully, they can look beyond my lesions :) and I hope my "BUFFALO!" goes over well. Friends from CCO know what I'm talking about. I have plans to bring my camera and will be sure to take lots of pictures to post when I get home.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I got high in Amsterdam

The runner's high that is!!!!!!!
Nick and I spent the weekend in Amsterdam where we explored the city like tourists and I ran the Amsterdam half marathon. Let me just start by saying, I absolutely loved Amsterdam! It was an amazing mix of serenity and beauty with the canals and the architecture but a buzz with excitement and people wanting to let loose and have fun.
Some of our many stops included the Anne Frank House, the Red Light District, Dam Square, some of the many canals, Van Gogh Museum - outside only :(, the Amstel River and Vondel Park. We stumbled upon a protest. We think it was regarding global warming but the only words we understood were the profanities. We got the main points I think....they are pissed about global warming! We did tons of walking but still have so much more to see. I wanted to take one of the canal cruises and a walking tour so that we could learn more about history but the weekend was too jam packed to fit in anything else. I felt like parts of Amsterdam were like Disney Land for adults. Some things were over the top and very commercial but what really appealed to me was the history, the setting and the culture. We definitely, want to go back.
After we had walked around the city all afternoon we were especially hungry and found a little hole in the wall restaurant. Our server asked where we were from and when Nick said America
he quickly chimed in that he was from Afghanistan and proceeded to call Nick "Johnny Boy" for the rest of the evening. He was very flamboyant and we enjoyed our meal very much. Some of us more then others :) The hotel that we were originally booked to stay at was a bit out of the way but gave Nick and I an opportunity to explore the city by bus :) The transit is very easy to follow and luckily Nick had figured out how to get everywhere we needed to go. When we arrived at the hotel we were told that the hotel was overbooked and they offered us a room at a hotel in the city centre - a better hotel in the heart of the city for the same price? SOLD! We stayed in Leidse Plein and walked 30-minutes through Vondel Park in the morning to collect my race kit from the Olympic Stadium. Start time was 1:30pm so we had lots of time to have breakfast, walk to the stadium, explore the expo and situate ourselves for the race. I think the walk through the park was my favorite part of the whole trip. Vondel Park is one of the most beautiful city parks I have ever seen. It makes Central Park look like the ghetto. I'm not sure how many times I said "Isn't this so beautiful?", Nick must have been getting tired of that but it
was. Part of the race ran through the park and it was spectacular. The course was the perfect mix of urban terrain and green space. We passed many of the major tourist attractions and there were tons of fans. The fans aren't as loud as the fans for the Scotia Bank Marathon or Ottawa race weekend but they were definitely there and numbered in the thousands. The Olympic stadium was built in 1928 and this was where the race started from and finished. We loved seeing the American and Canadian flags in front of the stadium. I was a little disappointed that I forgot to wear any Canada gear. The finish of the race was inside the stadium. We ran into the stadium and crossed the finish line after completing a lap of the track. It was AWESOME! When crossing the finish line I hammed it up and put my arms in the air, I couldn't help it the moment was screaming for me to do it :) I ran a personal best for the half marathon 1:37.03PR. It was a great weekend, the perfect day and I was extremely pleased with my efforts. There were 40,000 participants in the race and the crowd of runners never seemed to thin out like they do in the other races I have completed. The day was broken down into three different races; the marathon, 1/2 marathon and 8km with three different start times. The organizers sent the runners out in waves based on estimated race times to break down the field even further. I can only imagine what it would have been like if they had sent us all out at once. It was a wonderful experience to run an international race like this but for those who are looking to run really fast times I think it is difficult in a group this size. Overall, I had a great weekend and I'm thinking Berlin in April might be a good time to take a crack at another Marathon. Who knows, maybe I'm still high...a runners high of course :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

I got a notice today about my Dutch lessons which are scheduled to begin next month. I signed up for the lessons at the city when I first arrived and have been anxiously waiting to hear back from them. I got a letter to invite me to a meeting to ask questions and to make sure I qualify for the sponsored classes. Did I mention how competitive it is to get into these courses? At the meeting they told me it is the law that immigrants make an effort to integrate and that I was doing the right thing by choosing to take lessons. It was intense...I thought this was for fun when I signed up, only to find out I would be breaking the law if I hadn't. Nick is in trouble! Bad boy, bad boy, what you gonna do, what you gonna do when they come for you? The more exciting message was that I qualified and I could start as soon as there was an opening at one of the schools. The city is going to pay the majority of the cost of the course and I am responsible for 200 euros. These courses are usually over 2000. Lucky me! I waited again and finally another notice came this week that said that I am required to come in to write a Dutch proficiency test in order to place me in the appropriate class. I tell you, they sure do make you jump through hoops around here! I don't know why it is necessary for me to take an hour out of my day and waste the time of an exam proctor to tell them I know absolutely nothing. I filled that out on the application form. I understand that if you had some background this would be helpful in getting you started in the right class but if you have never heard or spoken the language before I think it's pretty clear where you start, THE ABSOLUTE BEGINNING.
I was thinking about the test today and for a second I actually considered studying. The type A in me hates to fail, refuses to fail, but this is one occasion that I know that no matter how hard I cram for this exam I am going to fail. Nick and I joked that if the entire exam asks only about saying good morning, thank you and how to count to eight that I may have a chance of passing it :) So after this final hoop I think I will be able to start class in November. It is an emersion program that runs full days so I should be speaking Dutch in no time. Fingers, Toes and Eyes crossed that I will be speaking Dutch by the New Year.

Monday, October 10, 2011

You’re Gonna Miss This, You’re Gonna Want this Back…

Do you believe I’ve been here for almost 3-months? On one hand the time seems to be flying by and on the other I feel myself counting down days waiting for this and planning for that. Do you ever catch yourself counting down the minutes, the hours, the days? Do you find yourself looking at your watch and saying only one more hour of work or only two days until the weekend? I find myself counting down more then usual lately; 9-months until I move home to Canada, 74-days until Christmas, a week until my half marathon, 4-more reps, 20-minutes more sleep before the alarm goes off…..but what would happen if we just lived in the moment? Just grabbed a hold of every second and lived it. I’ve just finished a book called “Zen, the art of being still” and the author raises a very important point. Isn’t all this time between events still life? As opposed to counting it down and wishing it away shouldn’t we be embracing it and appreciating every single moment for what it is, life.

Last night I was looking through our cd of wedding photos. Every time I look at them I can’t help but smile. Our wedding day was so filled with love it was bursting at the seams. I think it may be my most favorite day ever! I am planning to have a few of our favorite photos printed and framed to hang when we have our forever house, “some day”. Often, I catch myself thinking and talking about “some day” and whenever I ask Nick about “some day” he always says “Sunday??” which bugs the heck out of me. I’m not sure if he is doing it to be silly or if he really is trying to take me back to living in the moment or maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t know the answers to my “some day” questions.

I’ve come to realize that there are some things that are within our control and many things that are not. One of the things that are not is “some day”. You never really get to the “some day”. I’ve been talking about “some day” my whole life and have yet to get there. There will always be a new “some day”. It’s hopes, it’s dreams and it’s possibility. I don’t really want Nick to have the answers because that’s the excitement of the “some day”. What’s important is to not to be consumed by it but to live all the moments between your “some days”. Recognize that there is beauty in the small things; family, GELATO, hugs, double rainbows…… and that you don’t really need to sweat the small stuff; Nick not folding his towel after he uses it, Maggie snoring and keeping me up, missing the master beat in my fitness class (I will get you elusive master beat!)……. So the message is grab a hold of the ones you love and “Enjoy when you can and Endure when you must.” (Burd, NA)

In the title of my blog I reference a country song by Trace Adkins. The lyrics poetically express how you can quickly “some day” your life away. You should definitely embrace a moment and listen to it some time J

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What does thanksgiving mean to you?

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Is it getting together with family and friends? Feasting until you are so full you can't move? Is it pilgrims and pumpkin pie? Is it football and fall?
To me, Thanksgiving is the changing of the leaves; crimson, orange and gold. It's a run in the woods with the smell of pine needles and the sound of crunching leaves under foot. It's fresh cool sheets that mom took off the clothes line. It's apples that are hand picked from the MacIntosh apple orchard. It's the anticipation of the night before with a turkey floating in the bath tub at mom and dad's house in Spencerville. More then all of this it's time spent with my family and friends. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I guess you could say I've always had a thing for the Burd :) So why is it that a holiday celebrating the harvest and the giving of thanks for a successful bounty of crops has come to be my favorite holiday? It is my favorite holiday because it is a "pure" holiday. It hasn't been consumed by consumerism, there isn't the stress of a full schedule or the pressure of the pursuit of the perfect gift. I think I love Thanksgiving for what it isn't. It isn't a holiday; spent rushing around, spending money or filled with unrealistic expectations. For me, Thanksgiving has always been spent relaxing and spending time with the ones that I love. It is a holiday with the sole purpose of taking a moment, living in the moment, being thankful and giving of yourself.
I'm sure that you're also wondering how a vegetarian can love such a carnivorously focused event? Although I'm a vegetarian I can still appreciate the delicious smell of turkey and stuffing roasting in the oven and the mouth watering aroma of my mom's pumpkin pie spiced with nutmeg (my personal favorite). My Aunt Elsie always made the lemon meringue pie because she could get the meringue just right (Char's favorite). Last year mom and dad came to my house in Burlington and Nick and I made Thanksgiving dinner for them. I made a Tofurkey. What can I was terrible! I'm glad Nick insisted on making a real turkey as well. Once again, Nick saved the day. I didn't eat it but I was glad our guests didn't have to endure that nasty Tofurkey. This year Nick and I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving together with our three cats. We made dinner together; fish, salad, vegetables and a glass of wine. You can see it above and yes that is my new bike in the background. Dinner was delicious :) We sat with a candle at our cute little dining table and enjoyed our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, just the two of us. Make that the five of us ;) Pumpkin, Gizmo and Maggie were there too.
This Thanksgiving I am taking the time to formally reflect on what I am most thankful for. My "thankful for" list is too long to mention in full so I will give you the coles notes version. In short, this year I am thankful for; lifelong friends (you know who you are), new friends, new babies...and old babies :), a best friend who is also my new husband (glad to be rid of that old one...just kidding), tremendous opportunities, adventures in a new place, my health, my cats (the kiddies), continued learning and growth, the opportunity to create my own happiness and most of all for my family. Happy Thanksgiv'r! Love you xoxoxo.