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The best and the worst of 2017

Twenty seventeen has been an incredible, wonderful and difficult year for me. There has been so much change, and though I value change and am cognisant of the benefits of not getting stuck in a rut in our lives, this year really was A LOT to take on. I’m going to share with you my best and worst. You should decide which way round you want to read it; I’m already worrying that putting all the worst bits in one place might freak me out!

2017, are you freaking kidding me, why are you being such an arsehole?

On January 2nd, Arijus left for his new job in The Hague, Holland. This goes in both best and worst. It’s here because this might have been one of the hardest experiences of our relationship. After seven and a half years together, we were living apart. This was so not the plan. I struggled to be at home without him, and felt myself slipping towards a darkness that I hadn’t experienced since we went through our (unsuccessful) fertility treatment. Even the hint of the possibility of being that depressed again sent my anxiety spiralling, and worst of all, my best friend, my confidant, therapist and sounding board, was not there to support me. It promoted a lot of introspection on my part, and feelings of failure that I was struggling so much, in comparison to Arijus, who (or so it seemed to me) had swanned off to his new job and environment full of enthusiasm. I may write about this in more detail at some point, but let’s go on. We’re only at the beginning of the year, and 2017 had more shit to throw at me.

In February, my dad, who lives in Jakarta, Indonesia, was in an accident and broke his hip. The whole situation was complicated by his not having medical insurance to cover the bills. I think this may have been the first time my brother and I felt the dreaded reality of the mortality of our parents, and had to try and deal with something this complicated; involving finances, emotion and adulting – all from 11,722km away. We got through it and my dad is doing well, although I can’t say I’m convinced of his dedication to his physio exercises! One positive to come out of this was that I experienced the support of my brother in a new way, and it was very warm and reassuring.

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In August, my beautiful Morty had to have surgery to correct his hip dysplasia in both hips. It was very upsetting to discover the problem, and the surgery and recovery was, and is, a big deal. However, I will forever be grateful to the amazing Wilbury Vetinary surgery, and their fabulous staff. I cannot recommend them enough!

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The middle and latter part of the year were scattered with lovely things, so that leaves the packing up and moving – it’s THE WORST – and some crap I’ve had to deal with regarding businesses that just couldn’t give a hoot about their customers.

We made the decision to move to Holland in September, as Arijus is still enjoying his job here and I (well, both of us) were fed up of living apart. Maintaining separate lives was also a strain financially. I am happy with our decision, but I’m not over letting go of our lovely flat in Brighton. It was not only the nicest place we’d rented together, but also two of our close friends lived in the building, AND I’d only finally unpacked the last box since we moved in earlier this summer!!

The crap with the companies is not small fry crap, it’s big arse crap, involving money, lots of complaints letters, and my time, BUT it’s boring, so I won’t go into it! Just, you know, when you feel like it’s a pretty bad situation, but then when you share it with your friends, their response reflects that it’s much worse than you’re admitting to yourself!! Urgh.

Yaaasss, 2017, I can’t even with your awesomeness!!

I’m not going to write the best bits chronologically, because the very best thing has to be shared first!

WE GOT ENGAGED! For our eight-year anniversary, Arijus planned a surprise trip to Roma, Italia! Up to the point where we were at the airport and he checked in, I didn’t know where we were going. I hoped it was Italy. Our first holiday together was to Florence, and we both feel a strong draw to Italy; we love the food, the history, the scenery, and still have many parts of the country we hope to explore together.

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The holiday was incredible, and incredibly HOT! Rome was everything I hoped it would be, and on our anniversary (28th July) Arijus proposed, as we were about to leave the Colosseum. The proposal itself was sweet and short, prefaced by my criticism of Arijus’s socks (they were a horrendous yellow, that used to be bright, but were now dingy with age) which is funny because that is just so us! I swiftly followed my “YES” with, “Did you just propose without a ring?” – again, so me.

Instead of leaving, we wandered around the Colosseum again, talking about what being engaged meant for us, and what to do about not having a ring (this felt important to me; I know not everyone would feel the same). The situation was that Arijus had ordered a ring, but it had been delayed and he decided to go ahead with the proposal (good call).

We found a temporary ring, later that day, and I made Arijus propose again at the top of the Spanish Steps. Because, reasons.

It was a wonderfully romantic holiday, and we were both so happy. Sharing the news with friends and family was very special too.

The Ring finally arrived in August, and we set up the third proposal (well, I did wait EIGHT YEARS) in a pretty square in The Hague, near the Mauritshuis museum. I think that knowing The Ring was coming, but having the time to wonder what it was going to be like, was worse than having it presented at the moment of proposal! I was really worried that I wouldn’t like it, and clearly Arijus had put a lot of thought and effort into it, but what if he’d totally missed the mark?! Of course, I worried needlessly; it is just perfect. We even have a song for it.

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Another special time was Arijus’s 30th birthday, in June. I spent months planning a surprise birthday party (it really helped that he wasn’t living at home – see, positives!) with lots of our family and friends. I wrote about it here.

I was thoroughly spoilt with what felt like LOTS of holidays in 2017. It definitely helped balance out the difficult times. Throughout the year I visited: Lithuania, Italy, Gran Canaria, and Spain. I spent the first eight months going back and forth to Holland too, which involved sight seeing and having friends to visit.

Arijus getting his job in Holland was also one of the best things. It’s a great step for him in his career, and that benefits us both. It’s definitely shaken up our lives, and we needed that; we were a bit stuck, and didn’t know how we were going to move forward towards our life goals. And now here we are, on an exciting new adventure! (The kitties came too, obviously.)

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I’m pretty excited about what’s in store in 2018. There will probably be some wedding planning. It’s also my 40th next October, and we’ve got big plans for that too.

I’m looking back on 2017 and feeling grateful for the wonderful people we have in our lives. In the tricky times, it’s amazing to experience the support of your friends and family, perhaps from corners you might not have expected it. I definitely know this year would have been much, much harder without them. Thank you.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all xxx

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I rode a bike! 

For more than ten years, I would not get on a bike. A combination of a fear of cars (totally reasonable, I’m sure any UK cyclists will agree), and a couple of bad experiences riding in the past.

So, it’s been quite a big deal for me to get back on. The safety of Holland’s cycle lanes and generally different (more respectful) attitude towards cyclists, plus the support of my ever-optimistic fiancé, were key.

When Emma came to visit, I threw caution to the wind, and let Arijus lead us off on a Saturday of cycling through the parks and to the beach. It was a beautifully successful day!

We found some gorgeous spots! This is Scheveningen Beach. Check out Het Puntje cafe if you’re north of the pier. A real hipster/surfer vibe and yummy food and smoothies!

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And it was so lovely to have Em staying with us! Looking forward to her next visit in 2018 <3

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Now, to get back on the bike and get confident!

Indonesian day

Oh, hey! My crazy year has had me all stop-start on this blogging situation, but I’m going to catch you all up from where we left off earlier this summer! Because I HAVE to tell you everything in order; it’s been all sorts of amazing, scary, fabulous, difficult. So, let’s cue that wibbly wobbly visual thing they used to do in TV shows back in the 90’s when you were being taken back to the past …

Where were we …? Oh yes, when Mads and Lucy visited me in Den Haag! It was so good, I can’t wait for their next visit, but I digress.

After our delicious lunch in Zebedeus, we walked round to the main part of Grote Kerk. This part of the building is still in use as a church. The Indonesian Embassy were hosting a Batik exhibition and fashion show. Batik is an age old tradition, found across several Asian countries, which involves using wax to create patterns on cloth, before dying. It is most developed in Java, Indonesia, where it is believed that the art of Batik predates written record. This art form has a long and complex history; one which my mother, born and raised in Java, promotes and helps to help preserve, through her charity work. She is particularly focused on reintroducing batik tulis as a skill to young women, so that they can not only continue to pass this down the generations, but also find work for themselves and be financially independent.

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The awesome displays were open throughout the afternoon, and followed by a fashion show in the evening. Sadly, we were too full to appreciate the traditional Indonesian snacks that were on offer, but I did help myself to a glass of wine. It would’ve been rude not to!

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There was a large display of batik from Java, but we saw batik from other parts of Indonesia too. The batik with the gold is from Bali (my spiritual home, but we can talk about that another time).

 

We stayed to see the first half of the fashion show, which showcased Indonesian designers who use traditional batik fabrics to create their pieces. Some were modern, some traditional. It was really interesting, but we were sat behind a few rows, so didn’t get any good pics. My favourite thing was the fashion show opened with traditional Balinese dancing, which I adore (and briefly studied, when I was about five years old!) and I was delighted that Lucy and Mads got to experience a little of that.

We snuck out at the interval (we did excuse ourselves in advance!) to meet Arijus and Ronique at our favourite Indonesian restaurant, Warung Bude Kati.

Needless to say, we stuffed our faces, choosing a rijsstaffel so that our visiting friends could enjoy a variety of dishes. Thinking I may need to do a separate post in the future about Indonesian food, and the Dutch/Indonesian connection! Some really interesting history there.

Another great day! I’ve been really enjoying discovering Den Haag with friends. More soon!

Ciao xx

 

Zebedeus 

I took Lucy and Madeleine to one of my favourite restaurants in The Hague, Zebedeus. It’s located in Grote Kerk, the beautiful, large church in the centre of town. Incidentally, Grote Kerk is one of the oldest buildings in Den Haag, and a venue for many concerts, exhibitions and more. You can read more about the Batik exhibition we went to in the church in my next post.

Back to Zebedeus. We had a truly scrumptious lunch and Lucy was very happy to discover from our helpful waiter that quite a few options on the menu were gluten free, or could easily be adapted. She chose the omelette sandwich on gluten free bread.

Madeleine and I chose salad. My butter bean, watermelon and feta salad was delicious, and I will be recreating this soon, once I find the sumac spice our lovely waiter advised me was the ingredient I couldn’t figure out. Mads assured us that her salad was also amazing. I had to take her word for it, as it had beetroot in it. Urgh.

And finally, the dessert! I will let our expressions speak for themselves!

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That’s happiness, right there. Lucy had a chocolate pecan slice, Mads had an apple crumble, and mine was like a pound cake with almond. They were all AMAZING!

Amsterdam, baby! 

My girls, Lucy and Madeleine came to visit me in The Netherlands. We had so much fun, despite Lucy having fractured her ankle a few weeks before she came out.

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A canal tour is perfect when one of your party is on a crutch! We took the Stromma.com 100 Highlights tour. It was good; an enjoyable and informative way to see central Amsterdam easily in an hour.

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The gorgeous Amsterdam Centraal Station.

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That moment when you realise no Starbucks barista will ever get your name right. Lol.

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This was also the day when Lucy didn’t like ANY of the photos … *rolls eyes*

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Well, we managed to get one or two (out of hundreds!) that were acceptable, apparently 😉

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I’m so happy so many friends and family are taking the opportunity to visit with us, whilst Arijus is working in Den Haag. But I’m starting to think I’ll be seeing this sign quite a few times!

Before heading home, we stopped at Salsa Shop for a deeeeeelicious burrito. They are SO GOOD. Also, they are huge, and Lucy and I were pretty impressed by teeny tiny Mads putting away the whole thing! We obviously worked up an appetite with all our touristing.

Sadly, due to lack of foreplanning (all my fault), and Lucy’s foot, we didn’t get to see everything we wanted to. On the list for next time: Anne Frank Museum, Van Gough Museum and Katten Kabinet! Because some of us are massive cat people. And by some, I mean all.

Our soundtrack for the whole trip: DESPACITO  😀

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Good times. So as not to bore you, I’ve split the trip into separate posts 😉 Enjoy more of our adventures in my next posts!

 

 

 

 

To market, I go!

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We finally went to De Haagse Markt. Despite visiting The Hague every month for the past six months, I had yet to go!

I love food shopping in interesting shops or markets! Even foreign supermarkets are exciting to me, because of all the different brands and produce. So far, in The Hague, we’ve found a hippy supermarket called Ekoplaza, which is all organic. Lovely, but not cheap. And an Asian supermarket that makes me feel so at home! As if I’m back in Indonesia. Even better, they stock both South East Asian ingredients AND Asian/Indian. Double happiness!

Back to De Haags Markt. We went on a Saturday, in the afternoon. If you don’t like crowds, I do not recommend this day or time! I struggled, and was exhausted afterwards.

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I can’t tell you how many times my feet were run over by those bloody granny shopping trolley bags, or buggies (I’m more forgiving of buggies).

But, it was totally worth it! We had fun looking around. We went for groceries, but half the market is clothing and electronics. It’s pretty crazy.

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The cherries were incredible. Huge, and extremely delicious.

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That’s our sweet friend Christina. The fishmongers looked amazing. Unfortunately, we hit a learning curve with the fish buying. Only realised when we got home, of course. Things you don’t think about if you usually buy your fish in the supermarket: asking for 750g of sea bass, but you mean fillets and he weighs the whole fish, guts it, then gives you the head, spine etc! And how to spot less than fresh fish 🙁 We bought tuna, and again, on getting home, realised he’d sold us less than fresh fillets. I could tell they weren’t that fresh (we have a reliable fishmonger in Brighton), but did some research to confirm.

As I said, a learning curve, and I’ll be more prepared next time! The genetically instilled Britishness in me doesn’t help; it’s just so hard to tell people what you want without being apologetic or feeling like you’re overstepping!

 

 

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Plantain! Pisang goreng plans ahoy!

It was a great experience though. The baker was excellent, as was the lovely lady we bought cherry tomatoes and a huge pineapple from. I’m sure we’ll be heading back for occasional bits and pieces. And I’ll know which sellers to watch out for next time!

It’s your party! Surprise!

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I spent six months planning Arijus’s surprise 30th party. (Oh, hi over there, I can hear your little comment “he’s 30 but it’s all about her”. Yes. It’s my blog. Deal with it.)

I loved it. The planning that is. I see how it could have been more stressful if I’d not left myself so much time but in this case, the most stressful time was the 48 hours before the party, when I had to pretend face to face. It was supposed to be 24 hours of pretending but SOMEONE came home a day early without telling me! SURPRISE! Oh, the irony.

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I loved planning and organising a successful surprise party, full of our wonderful friends and family, and making the love of my life so happy. It was great to be able to share the plans with Arijus’s sister, Ieva, and delegate the cakes to her!

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And I sang. Of which there are videos for posterity, however, I currently can’t listen to more than 30 odd seconds of them! That’s the sensational Corcovado Duo, backing me up and making me sound good!

Side note: I’ve know Dan (left) since secondary school, so about 20 years of my life!

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And our lovely Em was there.

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All in all it was fab. I think I’d be a pretty good event organiser (hashtag humble brag). I won’t bore you with all the little details, but feel free to ask! I’ll be on the lookout for the next party to organise …

I don’t believe in luck

Luck (n)

success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions

It’s the “rather than through one’s own actions” bit I disagree with. Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor in the UK, (I met him once, when I was studying psychology for my undergraduate degree) has spent years researching luck, only to find that you can change your “luck” by changing your outlook on life. Doesn’t that then mean that you are no longer leaving things to chance?

I’ll run through a few scenarios that bug me.

1.  I’m ill. A friend says: Oh, you’re so unlucky, you get ill so easily. WRONG. That’s my immune system, not bad luck. SCIENCE. When I started my teaching career, I was stressed and overtired. That led to several bouts of tonsillitis. I didn’t take the time to recover properly after each bout and this led to my immune system suffering. The less teaching I do, and the more I take care of my body, the more my immune system improves. Funny that.

2. My life situation is improving. An old colleague whom I hadn’t seen for years (we weren’t friends) says: You’re lucky you don’t have to work as much. WRONG. That’s teamwork with my amazing, supportive partner, who is willing to take his turn as the main earner because not only does he enjoy his chosen profession, but wants me to find something I can enjoy more. Plus we both work fucking hard to achieve our life goals, and like everyone, we have our ups and downs. Saying I’m “lucky” devalues all of that!

3. I’m having a bad day and everything seems to be going wrong. My mood is horrid, the day continues to get worse and I’m grumpy. Some might say I’m having bad luck. WRONG. My outlook and negative energy is causing the cycle to continue. I KNOW THIS and yet, I still find it hard to break out of the cycle. But through years of yoga and meditation practise, reading, listening to intelligent people, and my aforementioned amazing and optimistic partner, I am slowly learning that only I can make these negative days better. I can choose to ask a friend for help, or take myself outside, or read a book, or do some exercise.

I’m a bit introspective today! I’ll do a something more lighthearted next time. In the meantime, here’s a picture of a cat who doesn’t know he’s born. He’s living a charmed life! ;P

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January

So, I’ve been quiet for a while. Sorry ’bout that. Busy times, lots of change. Plus, I don’t really go in for all the new year shenanigans. I really feel that January ought to be like a time out month. I always seem to need to hibernate, and by that I mean, avoid people, shops and so on and get lots of sleep! I need time to recover from the previous year and contemplate the year ahead. If I do have any moments of activity, I tend to direct them towards making my home a calm and lovely space, where I can do a bit of yoga and meditate (this can be quite a task given that the love of my life seems to be one of the most untidy people in the world*).

Of course, I can’t avoid reality completely, and this January has been a foray into a new era for me. I’ve started doing some supply work and it’s been mostly positive. There was one less than positive experience, but I’m not going to dwell on it. Sometimes negative experiences really are a reflection of the other people you’re interacting with. If you know you did your best, what more can you do? I’ve thought about this a bit recently, and it’s helped me calm down more than once in a less than ideal situation.

I’m still at the stage of seeing how the dust is going to settle. Routine is not entirely possible, as I might plan to do something and then get a call at 8am to go in and teach. But I’m ok with that for now. At least I’m one step closer to my goal.

*I’m allowed a small margin of exaggeration here.

What’s in your way, is your way.

The title of this post is a phrase that took me a while to understand. A very lovely yoga teacher who I follow the teachings of on Youtube uses it in one of her videos. At first I was at a loss to understand. And then one day the light bulb pinged on. And now I love it and use it as a mantra when I’m facing a tricky situation.

It has been a crazy few weeks! I won’t bore you with the minutiae but I’ve been swamped and struggling to find time for everything, even more than I usually do. Studying is not happening anywhere near as much as I’d like. I am definitely not on top of the laundry. The cats are neglected (well, neglected compared to their normal indulgences). But my main issue is a massive brick wall of apprehension due to a big career change step I am about to take.

I have been teaching for 12 years. Eek!! And for the most part of that time, I have had serious issues with the education system in this country. I’m not going to get into it now. That’s (possibly) for another post. I went into teaching because I love kids. I still love kids but it’s time for something new. So I’m taking steps towards another career.

So many difficult decisions. I need to maintain a reasonable income. I need to make enough time to study, so that my new career can begin asap. I need to move seamlessly from one career to the next, cutting back on teaching gradually to make way for the proofreading and editing.

I am very lucky to have such a wonderful, supportive man in my life, who doesn’t hold me back from following my dreams. But that doesn’t change how scary this decision is, or that I’m the one who has to stand in front of someone and say, ‘I’m handing in my notice’. And always, in my weaker moments, the question; is this the right decision?

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So I started this post a week ago, and I have had a deadline bear down on me like a freight train since then, along with a massive kick up the backside (which I needed) and finally, the deed is done. I’m feeling relieved, apprehensive and emotional. I went from thinking about making this change three months ago, and feeling really positive it was the right decision, to feeling full of self-doubt. I needed the positive, certain me but she’s been hiding for a few weeks, so I had to tell the small, insecure, little girl me to get with the programme and step up.

Following my dreams has led me to much greater sources of happiness and contentment in the past. Of course there are little sadnesses in this instance, like saying goodbye to some amazing children who I’m honoured to work with, but in the end, I believe this is right for me. I’m finding my way.