Thursday, August 28, 2014

Around the World in Books: A Long Way Gone

Do y'all remember a while back when I posted about joining some other blogger's in an Around the World in Books Reading Challenge?  Well, today I am back to post about the first book I read for the challenge!


I'd been wanting to read this book for quite some time. Back when it came out I was insanely busy with life in general and it went by the wayside. However, when this challenge came up it was the first book that popped into my head. I think this happened for a couple of reasons:
  1. I find memoirs to be very captivating
  2. The story of a child soldier is one I feel needs to be told and understood so it can hopefully be prevented
  3. The setting is unique: Sierra Leone 
However, once I began reading the book my heart went out to Ishmael. You see, Ishmael and I are the same age. Seriously, he was born just days after I was born.

So, this book completely put my childhood into perspective:
  • When I was fretting over cowlick not cooperating on picture day in 7th and cut it off, he was running from insurgents.
  • I was wielding a curling iron while he was wielding a gun.
  • When I was out school shopping and then not wanting to wear certain clothes I'd bought because they weren't what everyone else was wearing, Ishmael was trying to keep the clothes on his back that he'd had for years clean.
  • When I complained about going to school, all he wanted to do was go to school.
  • When I refused to eat under-cooked steak as my mom "mooed" Ishmael was undergoing reintegration into civilian society.
These things really spoke to me. Do I feel guilty for them, no, and I shouldn't because we were born into two completely different situations. I will say though, this book has made me more grateful than ever for those opportunities I did have and regardless of how silly they seem now, I am happy I got to experience those situations.

A few things from the book that really spoke to me:


"That night for the first time in my life I realized that it is the physical presence of people and their spirits that gives a town life." Chapter 3, page 29
Yes, yes it is . When we were in Orlando back in 2004 or so when a hurricane basically hit the city head on which really shouldn't have happened and people were out of their homes for weeks and weeks we actually found it difficult to sleep at night knowing our neighbours weren't there...in fact, at one point we decided to head back to our parents house on the weekend because it was just too weird without people. So, I could only image crouch in a home where an entire village has fled because they are afraid of the people who may come to "recruit" them to their cause.

Page 54
I loved this page because these kids were finally seeing some normalcy in their lives. Even though they weren't with their families they were being treated like family and had even gotten to a point with others where they could joke around!
I also found it humorous here that even though he grew up with so much less than I did, compared to others in his country he was "soft" so to speak! He didn't have the skills needed to survive in a town other than the one he grew up in-attending school and having his needs attended to!

I think this is a fantastic book and recommend everyone read it! It is a short, quick read only being 200 some odd pages. I am even making my teenager read it. I think she will thoroughly enjoy it as she is the age of Ishmael in the books. 
The writing isn't totally fluid, but as a reader you can sort of see his thought process as he wrote. The other thing I didn't like was he didn't elaborate the ending and I had to search online to find out more about his adult life....wow, that sounded super creepy! ha!

So, on that note, I will leave you to go buy this book and enjoy it.


Culture Shock #6: Deodorant

So, when moving deodorant was something I never considered having a problem finding...until we were out.

So, I know quite a few people don't use deodorant here...not my thing, but, it is a fact of life. Sometimes being in crowded spaces smells even worse than normal because of this situation. I think I know why now. Deodorant is mostly sold in those aerosol bottles here...and according to the kiddo many kids use it as perfume, yeah like body splash, not as actual deodorizing stuff for the underarms! The students the kiddo attends school with were quite fascinated by her stick deodorant. She was a little freaked out by their questions at first, thinking, uh how sheltered are you people?! Now we know! Most of them grew up here in Europe so I guess they haven't seen anything but what is available...which isn't stick deodorant!

So, as I was saying we ran out of deodorant. Not being the aforementioned people who don't wear deodorant we needed to find some stat. I looked all over and couldn't find any...except at one place...etos. Sadly they don't carry stick deodorant, but the weird roll on kind that was super popular around 50s, 60s, or 70s I'd guess? Not real sure of the actual date, but it has the weird roller ball in the middle...



The pros about this though:

  1. It is Nivea. I've always loved Nivea but the pricing of Nivea products in the US can be insanely expensive. Here though, it seems to be a very popular reasonably priced brand.
  2. It comes in a glass jar.
  3. It smells amazing.
  4. Fairly compact.
  5. I don't have to worry about it drying out and scraping my armpit, like sometimes happens with the sticks I usually purchase.








I will say I wish I had brought more stick deodorant, but only because I love the smell of the degree I usually use. The Nivea I bought for hubby smells divine...seriously I kind of wish I could bathe him in it lol





Have you ever lived somewhere you couldn't get a product you considered fairly normal? How did you cope?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mostly my week in review of workouts, but a little WIAW

So, this last week I've been pretty busy with school starting back up and job hunting. So, I've been not so great at the taking pictures of what I ate thing...but, ya know, I managed to pull a few things out of my photos.

First though I want to talk about my workouts. Things have been going amazing so far! I am on week three of a P90X2/PIYO doubles schedule I made up for myself. It is wicked intense and I had to seriously up my protein, but it is really paying off. I am seeing sooooooooo many changes! I can do one full pull up many times throughout the day. This is super exciting for me. My goal is by my birthday I want to be able to do five consecutive pull ups (along with seeing my abs).



Wednesday: X2 Recovery and Mobility and PIYO Core
Thursday: X2 total body and upper body
Friday: X2 Yoga
Saturday: X2 Balance and Power, Core
Sunday: Complete rest
Monday: X2 Core and Piyo Upper....I half assed the core I'll be honest. I wasn't feeling well and toward the end I just felt like I couldn't do any more so I skipped through 2-3 exercises. *sigh*
Tuesday: Plyocide and Piyo Buns...excellent day...totally made up for yesterday and now my lower abs are on fire.
Today: Piyo core and a bike ride. I will try and fit in the recovery and mobility DVD if I can't though I will at least foam roll at some point.
After this week I am convinced I love breakfast. It is my favorite meal because that is what I have the most pictures of....
Mmmm coffee!!!

I have a high schooler now. For the first day I made this amazing french toast casserole...recipe will be coming soon!

Mmmm...banana's, blueberries, and peanut butter...breakfast of champions!

I actually fixed this for the kiddo for lunch a few days ago...the wrap was sweet potato hash, half an apple and some cherry tomatoes.

This was from when we went back to school shopping. It was a delicious lunch to keep us fueled for the insane day that laid ahead of us.

So, that is pretty much it for this week's What I Ate Wednesday! Hopefully next week will be full of more fun, interesting eats! 

P.S. Check out the rest of the party over at Peas and Crayons!



Travel the World in Books: In Too Deep (Due South Book #1) Review



These last few days, well the last week or two really, have had fall sweeping in here in Amsterdam. We have had a ton of rain, heck, even the leaves are beginning to turn!

It was a fantastic day for running errands! Not cold, but not warm....and just a wee bit of rain to mix the whole walking thing up. Not enough to make it miserable, but ya know, enough to make you feel like your in a movie and can enjoy the rain.

On my walk home I took a bit of a different route because I realized this may be a quicker walk. All in all, I think it will be but I was stunned by the colour of the trees! I know the weather is cooler but I could not believe the colours I was seeing out there!

So, this weather has us turning to more indoor activities. Ok, so mostly reading and video games. But, since I started the Travel the World in Books reading challenge a few weeks back, I've been reading a bit  more than usual.  That is why when I got the chance to review In Too Deep, Due South Book One, I was totally ecstatic! Not only did it take place some where I have never been, but dream of going, it is also within my favorite genre!


I will be honest I didn't have high expectations for the book. The cover is pretty cheesy and the title is just one giant innuendo. I love cheesy, innuendo filled books, but they usually aren't the kinds that you admit you read. I can't promise this book isn't like that, but it at least has a strong, smart main character.

It starts off telling a bit about the main character, Piper, and her career. She is a police officer who is part of a dive squad. The dive part is a part time gig, but she gets assigned dives as needed. She has a hard time with these, but not for the reason I initially assumed....which, was one of the finer points of the book.

Fast forward a chapter or two and she takes a trip to her home town where she see's the man she left the island because of....these are people who are supposed to be in their 30's so when the banter between them turned venomous I almost put the book down thinking geez, really, these people are 30-something I think she can think of more mature behavior for her characters....but, I am glad I stayed because the very next chapter it starts the story a bit from his end! Not from the total beginning, but from the moment she arrived....I love that when an author tells a story from multiple perspectives.

If I continue on I will give too much away, but the book is worth a read. It is engaging, keeps you guessing, and my favorite part-when I'd think I knew exactly where the story was headed, she would veer off in another direction and that is what keeps me engaged as a reader!

Cheesy, romantic, and yet exciting, can't ask for much more from a book! Plus, the kiwi slang is super fun. ;)

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Neighbourhood Tour!

We moved in to our permanent place in Amsterdam in July. We were 100% settled by early August...by 100% I mean we had all necessary furniture to be comfortable. We still have quite a bit to get as we need more lighting, tables, and stuff to put on the walls...but we are comfortable and are enjoying our new home.

We have gotten the opportunity to tour our neighborhood a number of times whether it be through running or biking so I thought I would share that with y'all....

This is the view from our backyard...if you follow me on instagram you've seen this (if you aren't follow me now and holla so I can follow you back)...but this happened on Wednesday, and I couldn't resist taking a photo! The park back there is always full of kids playing, people taking a walk, pets mulling around it is quite a nice area to have right behind us.

Now, let's hop on my bike and we can see the rest ;)


If you bike directly across the street and park your bike, you cross a bridge and come to this! I would never have expected to see this behind the bridge....we are so lucky!

As you wind your way through the trails you come back on to pavement and will find this gorgeous garden:

Lots of lovely flowers and well groomed bushes....
Then we have this area near the water with a small bridge and lots of lovely flowers that are highly water dependent (I assume) since they grow in the water! haha

As you keep wandering there are several places that have animals in them:

In this pen there are kangaroo's....

In this one, there is a, well, a cow...he didn't look very happy to see me...
In fact, he looked slightly frazzled...I wonder if some tourists were getting to him? 

Eventually you wind your way around to an open field...
This is a fantastic area with lots of trees for a picnic....





Now, in the park on select Sunday's we have the Pure Market:


You can get all sorts of delicious things but some of our favorites are the rotisserie chicken on this open flame cooker...how awesome is that?! I've never seen anything like it!

There are guys using a wood smoker and serving up fresh food....

Here are some other things you can get....

Fresh juices, pepperoni, butter whipped with edible flowers, dried cherries, and dried mango, and the Nanaimo bar ;)

Now, if you ride your bike behind the park and go toward a town called Amstelveen you will come to this:

I love this windmill! It is a huge tourist attraction too. I took a picture from the "ugly" side because there were too many people around it the day I tried to photograph it. But, it is a gorgeous piece. It has dates on it from 1600 something to 1960 something. I'm curious to know exactly what the dates mean. I do believe someone lives in the windmill also, it is very well groomed and there is always the same car out front.

If you keep going down this road you come to these:

Behind these gates there is a little play area for families...then a little farther down...

You can meet Rembrandt. He's always looking very stoic. 

Now we will hop back on our bikes and ride over to the train station:
This is just a five minute bike ride from our house, a brisk 10 minute walk or a slow 15-20 minute walk. The station allows us quick and easy access to a number of buses, trams, metro's, and trains. We can get all over the city here or all over Holland! We are lucky to have it so close to our house between this and our bikes we really have no need for a car (which I hate driving so I am so glad!).

If you take the metro down one stop and get out...you'll find this sign outside the Amsterdam Zuid Station:
Does this mean it is just a kiss for one ride?! How far is the ride? Is it the same kind of ride I'm thinking of? It doesn't help that the literal translation of "alleen halen en brengen" is "just give and take" haha....

Seriously, I think it means that is where you can pick people up or drop people off...possibly could be where you hail a cab but those are usually marked with a giant blue "T" much like the universal blue "P" for parking...but still pretty funny translation. This gave us a good chuckle when we were making our way home one night!

Well, I hope you enjoyed the little tour of my neighborhood! We are really loving our area, there is so much to see and do...we really lucked out!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Culture Shock: #5

I haven't done one of these for quite some time so thought I would do one now!

The first thing that has been really hard to get used to is how nosy everyone is here! Honestly, I am a pretty nosy person but sometimes I feel these people step a bit over the line.
Example 1:

See this beautiful red hair color?! I took her to get this done as a back to school treat. We get to the salon and the stylist, who was recommended to us by a friend, immediately wants to know "why" she wants to get her hair colored red? What?! Does any woman need a "why" for coloring her hair?! My daughter being ever graceful just says simply because she wants something different...ya know, being a teenager and all they like to experiment...he then suggests she get caramel color highlights because he thinks that will look better. She turns to me with a very distraught face, I leaned down and let her know that if he didn't want or couldn't do the red we could go and find someone who would/could. He even said to me as he was trying to talk her into the caramel highlights, "Well, if this were my daughter I would not let her dye her hair red", I responded "Well, thank goodness she isn't your daughter then." He finally relented and did the red and it looks amazing, but what was the deal with him giving his opinion on the matter...I get that he can and should give an opinion about the shade and counseling on weather or not we would need to lighten the hair first, but no he went straight to the criticizing stage and it was shocking.

Example 2: 
It is a nice 68F outside, not raining, sun shining...we walk to get groceries I'm wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and runners, kiddo is wearing basically the same. As we walk into the grocery store someone on a patio jumps in front of us to ask us if we are cold....um what?! No dude, it is 68 degrees outside, not cold. Finish shopping, walk home someone else stops us to ask for directions, once we gave them to him we start to walk off but he calls after us and he says, "I don't mean to be forward, but aren't you cold?" Uh, no, no, not cold. Why do you people even care?! I could see if I was standing in the rain, in a bathing suit on the side of the road shivering but I am enjoying a nice walk in the sun fully dressed on a nice summer day!

People are nice enough, I just find it interesting that people are so bothered by and feel the need to give unnecessary advice on such trivial matters.
In example one I was paying someone to give her what she wants...in my opinion, unless you cannot do what I ask then I don't need your opinion on the matter. I know what is best for my child and what I am willing to allow her to do. It is just hair, not like i am allowing her to tattoo her entire scalp red!
In example two I told my daughter next time someone asks if I am cold, whether I am or not, I am going to say "yes" just to see what they would do. Think they'd give me a jacket or a lecture? haha

No one has been "rude" per se, and I don't really let these things bother me, but I think this is definitely a cultural thing as it isn't the first time incidents like this have happened. It just makes me wonder what gets into people and why they think they can be so forward to a total stranger? Not to mention it is really creepy when you jump in front of someone and command their attention to ask if they are cold. Just weird peeps, just weird. 

I will say though, living with people this outspoken I have really learned to speak up and be heard. I always tend to be a bit timid in giving my opinion, I am more reserved than most that way, but when someone gives me their opinion now I've learned to tell them, I see your point, but I view it differently and give my opinion because sometimes it means getting what I want to getting what they want to give me.

Weather....odd or not?


This has been our weather forecast...it has only changed slightly since I took this photo...we've had a few more days in the high 50's...that is only a little weird I mean it is August after all...where are the dog days of summer?! Guess I'd have to go to the Mediterranean for that?! But, that is not the weird part I have talked to several locals and here are the things I've heard about the weather:
"Oh, Amsterdam's crazy weather is back"
"Oh, this weather is unusual is usually isn't this wet"
"Oh, wait until winter you'll be sorry then it is wet, snowy, and overall sucks"
"Winter is great, usually very mild"
Ok, what?! People, you supposedly are from here...as far as I understand your predictions should be somewhat similar! I know weather is unpredictable but everyone is constantly contradicting each other. Those four statements are from four different people, all total strangers that I chit-chat with while out running errands. I know if you ask me and other people I'd grew up with what the weather is like where we are from in Jacksonville and we'd probably all say the same thing!
So, Amsterdamians get it together...what exactly is the weather like "usually"?! If it really is unpredictable then adopt the motto of Kansans: "Don't like the weather? Wait 5 minutes!"

I will say though the early fall this one time around is kind of nice. I would like to ask for one more heat wave, but I won't hold my breath. 
Surprise treat!
So, now that I have ranted a bit, I promise that won't happen again...I got a surprise treat and is just one reason why I LOVE living here! We went to the Pure Market  a couple of weeks ago, it was a super cool place with really unique products. There were even some American and New Zealand expats selling there...which was a fantastic surprise. Well, as I'm walking by the American Baking Company I see this gem:

Oh yes folks that is a glorious, gorgeous Nanaimo bar! This is half of it because I ate half before I remembered to take a picture. It was a true Nanaimo bar too...fantastic recipe. Delicious and I go to talk with some other Americans & a few Canadians who were in line also. I hope they are back at the next one as I am needing a fix. It was such a nice surprise to find a little bit of "home" (by that I mean North America) so far away!

So, tell me have you encountered some insanely nosy people in your life? How did you deal with it?









I'm baaaaaaaaaack! WIAW +my week in workouts!

Well Hello! It has been about three weeks, maybe four since the last time I posted! Here's why:
S-U-M-M-E-R!!! 

Here in Holland my daughter only gets a 6 week summer holiday. I wanted to take that time and truly enjoy it with her and to enjoy the lovely weather we had. I say had because I am convinced all vestiges of summer are gone...we are well into fall-like weather. I do have a ton of posts to come though about all the fun and exciting things we did during our summer holiday. Most people left Amsterdam to vacation other places, but we had so much to see around here we decided to stick around and explore the city. It truly is a gorgeous place to live!

Anyway, I haven't done one of these for quite some time so thought, since today is the first day of school I would take some of the free time I now have and show y'all what I've been eating and what I've been doing for workouts!





Some things I had for breakfast this week:

That cinnamon toast reminds me of a donut. I put a good helping of butter on it, sprinkle it liberally with cinnamon sugar then put it in the oven just until the butter is melted so the bread isn't really toasted, it is gooey and amazing.

Sweet potato apple hash & I threw in some shredded carrot ;)

Examples of lunches:

This was lunch yesterday, 8/19...bbq chicken pizza made on a tortilla...it was delicious!

This was "lunch" last Tuesday when we went back to school shopping. This was at the "largest Starbucks in Europe". It is in an area of town called Rembrandtplein-where there is a giant sculpture recreating the Nights Watch-it is always packed with expats and travels, hardly ever locals.

Dinners:
Homemade chicken nuggets, black bean burgers, and some pumpkin soup, and cranberry juice which may or may not have been spiked with the Ciroc my husband brought me home from his visit to the states ;)

This was one I made while hubby was in London last week as it is one he would NOT have been a fan of! haha it was whole wheat ravioli stuffed with spinach that was cooked in a little tomato puree and some cherry tomato and purple onion! Served with an amazing salad of course!

Snacks/Desserts:

Dessert a few nights ago: Shakeology date smoothie with a little whipped cream ;)

Delicious cinnamon latte.

Shakeology bowl! It makes sooooooo much! 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup almond milk, scoop of shakeology, 1/2 banana, tablespoon of chia seeds...blend together and top with other half of the banana and a generous spoonful of peanut butter!
Week in Workout
A few weeks ago, back in June or July sometime I watched that video that went viral of that girl on American Ninja Warrior that absolutely kicked butt on that obstacle course, this inspired me to really get my upper body strength up and really get back to being serious about my health. This really started back in May/June, but I have kicked my workouts in to high gear since then. I started running again and then just last week I started P90X2 & PiYo. I am doing doubles each day. I chose these two because I knew they would both work the areas I am weakest in: upper arms and core.

Seriously, I am not sure how long it has been since I worked my transverse abdominal muscles but it must have been a while and I think it is why I was getting such a bad "pooch" in my lower belly. I will say after taking up running again and doing these my abdominal muscles have pulled in a bunch and I can pull myself up 2/3 of the way on our pull up bar!

So, without further ado, this has been my schedule:

Last Thursday 8/14: X2 Total Body, ab ripper, and PiYo lower
So much DNA removal! hahaa
Friday 8/15: X2 Yoga...Skipped PiYo Upper
I woke up so sore Friday morning and I modified all the pull ups in Total body...I could hardly move my upper body...Yoga was painful, but helpful and I modified just about everything. I couldn't imagine doing upper so I skipped it.
Saturday 8/16: X2 Balance and Power and PiYo Drench
This is what it came down to lol I had to put down a towel so I wasn't sliding around on the mat!
Sunday 8/17: Rest day...it was so glorious I literally laid around all day, didn't get out of my PJs and made some easy Taco's for dinner.
Monday: 8/18: X2 Core and PiYo Sweat
Was finally feeling human again and could do an arm hand on my pull up bar.


Tuesday 8/19: Plyocide and Lower Body
Today, Wednesday 8/20: X2 Recovery and Mobility and PiYo Core. I may or may not do recovery & mobility. I like the basis of it with foam rolling and stuff but it doesn't have enough flexibility work for me so I think I will do my own stretching routine where i can really work my splits, and my standing splits. I am also working on my scorpion and a few other more difficult flexibility poses. 

Well, I think that about sums it up for this week! I am so excited for the end of this month, I am determined to be able to do at least one full pull up by August 31st! What have been some of your goals this month?!