THERE IS MORE THAN FISH IN STEVESTON

As usual, it’s the small stuff that makes a spontaneous trip extraordinary. Happy Reading!

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TOO MUCH TIME

 RANDOM & (EXTRA-) ORDIONARY THOUGHTS during a bus ride

From Coquitlam to Burnaby

                                                                                                                                                       To fully appreciate Justin Bieber you need to be a teenage girl! Our male dominated household is a “Bieber-Fever – Free Zone!”

Blame it on my ears:  Katie Perry, Kelly Clarkson & Carly Rae Jepsen sound like one to me!

The movie”JACKASS” should be renamed into ‘Dumb Asses”.  Honestly, who comes up with this dangerous, disgusting stuff? Men?                                                                        While I am thinking about movies:  I don’t see the attraction of ‘The Walking Dead” either

 On the other hand, I think Peter Griffin is cool!  “Family Guy” beats “South Park” any day!

 What is it with men and their obsession with black socks?

 Forget about reading “50 Shades of Grey”. See what 50 shades of black socks do to your libido when you try to match them back together!

Best invention in the sock department: The ones with the names of the week printed on.    Or buy hiking socks.   They make it even easier to get the right foot into the right sock: They have the letters written on them!  This is a wonderful no-brainer for early in the morning.

The best invention for homemakers who are in charge of the laundry: Colour catchers! These sheets of paper changed my life! They save so much time and deliver what they promise!

Is it too late to teach our boys home etiquette? They need some fine tuning! Why can’t they compliment me on a job well done when I present a new dish? Instead they are yelling: “Don’t like it”.

Joey’s mom in Korea, (he is our exchange student) you did something right here: Your son would NEVER, EVER say something like that to me.  If he doesn’t agree with the new dish he quietly reaches for the ketchup bottle! He is a clever one.

 Mom was right when she told me fewer, but thicker rolls of toilet paper last longer than single sheet rolls.

Please anti-wrinkle cream – manufacturers, tell the truth, are your creams really working? I have reached the age where I want to believe your promises!

What happened, can’t “multi-task” anymore!.  I was able to read an e-mail, respond to it, answer the phone, watch TV and talk to Dominic – all at the same time!  Now I need quiet and peace to do one or the other! BUT, I am still able to make yoghurt and crunchy flakes at the same time!

Blueberries and pumpkin spiced lattes are an acquired taste.

Why should you drive with 16 and drink with 19? The other way around makes so much more sense to me..                                                                                                                                                                            Drink when you are 16, get shit faced many times over, puke and get it over with. Then become a responsible driver with 18. You won’t have any desire to drink anymore (or at least not so much).

I wonder where I will find Cruz’s well hidden birthday present. Probably at my next spring cleaning.

It was brilliant how Brando cracked the combination lock of our new suitcase. He watched YouTube got on with it. Scarry what teenagers know and learn from their downloads. But in this case, very helpful indeed – and easier than you think!

Wouldn’t it be nice to become Penny’s roommate and hang out with Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj? Would love to meet Howard’s mother …

Don’t know whom I am talking about? It’s the Big Bang Theory!

Would you like to add to this random rambling?  Please let me know!

HIGH FASHION

Most Popular Female Outfit

Forest Gump

First things first::

I decided to save my immigration fund and hit the road of pre-promotion for the book alone! With all the information at hand I figure, How hard can it be? Honestly, I don’t believe in short cuts: I have to put the hours in, make mistakes and figure out which way suits me best!

On the shrinking waistline? It is definitely not shrinking yet! Last week the bike was my best friend: Just going down to the grocery store equals a mini “Tour-de Maple Ridge!” It is all mountain terrain! The thighs are becoming more muscley but the love handles found their spot on my body they really like…..to be continued!

Our chosen country is a melting pot of different nationalities!  Immigrants from all over the world are calling Canada their new home! Which is cool, because it is all about globalization! We are all part of one big family, regardless of colour, accent or upbringing. One of the major differences between here and let’s say Germany (where I grew up) or The Netherlands (where we lived for 12 years) is the attitude towards being different!

Here ONE CELEBRATES DIFFERENCES, whereas  in the two European countries,

YOU NEED TO FIT in to be accepted!

Let me elaborate. Among the many acquaintances we met along the way and friends we made I am definitely not known as a fashionista! Far from it! I never know what is in fashion, I only know what feels comfy and what not to wear if you have short legs, a no bra size and.-now- wobbly upper arms.

Where we lived in our little village in Holland, the ladies look fabulous!!! They spent lots of money on the items displayed – and it showed! Name brands, the newest styles, well-groomed from tip to top!  Believe it or not, these ladies know how to cycle in their high heels,  how to balance their grocery bags and their kids on the front and rear seats of their bike AND still look good!   It was a pleasure to watch, but put on a lot of pressure to “fit in!”  Personally I believe as long as it is clean and not torn, put it on! Oh well, it is easier said than done! Especially there! Germany is the same. Even if people don’t mean to, you are being judged and looked up and down upon if you don’t display some sort of style! But this was then, this is now:

Imagine our relief when we heard on the radio that Vancouver still ranks among the top 5 places in the world to live, but is named “most unfashionable city in the world” by the people who should know!

One of the items Dominic (the “fashionable” husband) was stressed out upon arrival, was the added expense to buy a brand new wardrobe for our new life here in Vancouver!  Actually, we live in Maple Ridge,a still undiscovered gem in high fashion circles, ignored by any species slightly in tune with fashion!

Maple Ridge is a mecca for horse lovers, it is the rainforest of BC, the area of choice to bring up your children. Considering these facts one finds  residents displaying their flip-flops, rain boots or track suit bottoms more than anything else! Judging by the amount of sports wear seen in the street, one can come to the conclusion that the locals are  among the fittest, healthiest, most active  people anywhere (don’t know if this is true or not)!

Dominic is in heaven, he can finally live out his honest summer style, inspired by Forest Gump, and nobody gives him a second look! I am in heaven, because there is no need to buy any new clothes whatsoever!

Either way of living and attitude towards fashion is just fine. You have to decide how to deal with it on a personal level.! But here is the dilemma I am facing:

It is too easy to fall into the trap of “no-fashion”. It is too easy to put on the loose-fitting bottoms, crocs and hit the road. And the best thing is: Nobody cares! In order to keep some personal pride and get a sense of being ” extra-ordinary” I make sure to put on my European outfits every day (if they still fit over the expanding waist) and get fabulous compliments!

The Move

(Warning, this is a long one, but it is the introduction for everything that will follow…)

Our whole family recently moved from The Netherlands to Maple Ridge, BC, Canada.

Our family includes the American husband, our teenage son (15 years of age) our pre-teen (12 years) the youngest one (9) plus my German self. Reason for the change in scenery was our search for adventure, more space, wild nature and the language. And frankly speaking, after 12 years in the Flatlands of Europe, we just learned everything there is to know about the Dutch-Way-of-Life. Prior to our departure we both operated successful businesses- my husband as a self employed business coach and trainer, me as the proud owner of Strawberry Lounge.

What you are about to read is not an account of the vast differences in Dutch vs. Canadian attitudes or culture. Far from it- I am going to de-mystify the belief that

“You can only move countries, (or continents in this matter) prior to the arrival of your children or when your children are younger than elementary school age”.

We heard about this as well. Unconvinced about this wives tale we were more worried about the following two scenarios.  First, love would strike any of the boys and second, our own increased age would label us “unsuitable to be of any valid contribution to the country”. If we wanted to make the move, we had to move now.  We didn’t have any family, friends or business connections to rely on. It was up to us to make it happen!

On arrival to Canada we explained to our children they had one of two choices to make. To either live in the past or to give it an honest shot here in Maple Ridge. The Netherlands was the past, Canada is the present and will be our future.

Six months down the road we figured it out.

Our kids are happily settled in their Elementary or High School respectively. Each of them took their time to adjust to their new life. Unsurprisingly, our youngest son had the least trouble. Only two days after arrival he found his soul mate just two doors down the road. The middle son took his time and spent a couple of weeks on facebook, posting openly his mistrust and hate about his new home.  But let me tell you, after spending a birthday party with his new class mates it is all easy going with him. He happily mingles with his new mates on his way home, turned into an enthusiastic street hockey player and entertains the whole street in our den. And our teenager? God knows- he is a young man of few words.  But what we can gather from his tidbits, he thinks it is cool here. He also joined the neighbourhood street hockey team. To earn some money he scored himself a baby – sitting job, earned himself a cool mountain-trail bike doing chores for an elderly gentleman and made friends with other like minded souls.  He is good! When our boys talk about their previous life and their friends left behind, they sound fine. We can’t hear regret or sadness in their voices.

Let me share with you what helped make our transition so easy:

All of us speak English. Due to our back grounds we brought up the children tri-lingual. Daily life is easy with the same lingo. Watching TV, reading books or mingling doesn’t cause a problem. The school system is fabulous: The Canadians don’t believe in holding a child back. If any problems are encountered they get help along the way as much as possible. Both younger boys get extra help twice a week with their writing and grammar skills. Brando, the oldest, actually excels in every given subject! If you decide to move countries, make sure you are familiar with the new language.

Find a house and neighbourhood for the whole family.

Our original plan was to live in isolation, to live with as much space as possible. We lived like sardines in The Netherlands. Canada is the second biggest country in the world. Why should we cramp our style here? For some strange leap of faith we decided to buy a house along a totally different spectrum. We both fell in love with our new residency, situated in the heart of a neighbourhood.  Honestly, this is the best thing we have ever done!  Our new neighbourhood swarms with children and their parents are extremely nice and entertaining too. Thankfullywe have more boys than girls on top of our ridge and the ages range from seven to 14 years of age.  Each of our boys found the right match.

Our street is a cul-de-sac.  In the afternoon and early evening hockey nets are spread across the street to slow any traffic down. During hot afternoons our yards are transformed into battle grounds for water gun fights, they serve as backdrops for movie making, for hide and seek games or any other creative gimmick to pop into the heads of the boys. If the weather god plays tricks on us we have Plan B. All the houses have an entertainment system in their basements.

All parents have an unspoken agreement: We feed whomever we find in our house. Due to this arrangement our kids discovered KRAFT DINNERS and fell in love with MACCARONI & CHEESE. Because all our neighbours are so nice we often find ourselves sitting on someone else’s terrace having margaritas or drinking beer. Or, everybody else finds themselves on our deck outside. Quite often we throw our goods together for an impromptu BBQ. To make good things even better, one of the neighbours owns a swimming pool with the sign “open to all” attached to it!

Just a short, but very steep bike ride down the hill you can find the HOT ROCKS, three big rocks in the middle of a river.  This local swimming hole is ideal when it gets hot and for anybody brave enough to brace glacier water. Brrr, it is freezing, but refreshing.

Talk and talk some more! 

Find out where to find the deals!  Moving is expensive, especially when you make the plunge across the big ocean. All big electronic household items are rendered useless coming from Europe.  We could save cash by simply asking what item to buy from which shop. On a food related basis, I interviewed every female I came in contact with to share her secret shop for purchasing fresh produce and general survival items.  Everybody pointed me to the Superstore and the Farmers Market. Acting upon their recommendations I got a free savers card from each store to take advantage of their weekly specials.

 Watch what you are buying

North American food tastes different than Dutch and German food. God knows what they put in their bread, canned soups or drinks. Actually, I don’t want to know. All I know is that it takes time to adjust to the new cuisine. Bottom line is, adapt or start spending BIG for the flavours you are used to from Europe.

But, as I just mentioned, every EU import is very expensive. The Knorr and Maggi sachets have to wait for a special day, e.g. Canada Day.  A cheaper option would be to send a stress call to family or friends in the old country and ask for a care package.

Instead of spending big money on food one can opt to split the budget and shop big for clothes instead.  All the famous US labels like Ralph Lauren, T.Hilfiger, The Gap, Lands End or Banana Republic have Outlet stores – everything can be purchased for a fraction of the Euro. These shops also offer discount coupons on line when you purchase for the first time in their store.              Another good money saver is a Garage Sale. Dominic ( my husband) found us a “Broiler King” state of the art BBQ, a sturdy oak outdoor garden set, various chairs for our terraces, hockey equipment and a Nerf gun- all this for the tiny fraction of the retail price.

As a recap, these are our tried and tested recipes for establishing ourselves in the new country:

Talk and talk some more.  Let everybody know you have arrived. Open up your house for visitors. Canadians take their volunteer work seriously. I joined the ranks. So far I volunteered for school projects and for a two day community event. Both occasions are fabulous to meet and mingle with mothers, get to know the school and make new local acquaintances. Dominic and myself network at various events to get to know the movers and shakers of the business world and we visit lots of free social events to get to know as many individuals as possible.

We obviously have to put in the effort.  But we are more than happy and willing to do so.  You have to make the first step, the first commitment and the rest will follow automatically. The Canadians make it surely easy for everybody. They are welcoming, friendly, open minded, honest and easy going. Step by step we are building our new circle of friends and acquaintances here. It is effortless, fun and rewarding.

Somebody said: ‘”Home is where the heart is”.

Dominic and myself believe this. Accordingly, we pass the following message on to the boys:                      We are happy wherever we are, because we want to be!