So much going on, so little time

First of all, Happy Holidays to all of you whom I hadn’t wished it to before. As you will have gathered from the previous post, I’m back home in the Netherlands now, to experience¬†some cold weather and family warmth over the holidays. The past two weeks have been hectic, but fabulous, pretty much the story of my life these days ūüôā

There were holiday parties, such as the ISI party at the California Yacht Club which was cool, I got invited to another party by Jigish, of his company at a fancy club in Holllywood, which was totally different (but cool too, especially the part where I got to witness people too drunk to dance trying to dance anyway :D). I gave a presentation about my project at ISI. There was me ending up at a photo exhibition of reggae artists as the only white female (and with my hair getting blonder and blonder these days I was really too white for that venue), then a failed attempt to locate Candy Cane Lane, but still it was an excellent evening (adventure baby yeah!). I also saw a wonderful amateur performance of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” (although the main part was played by a pro) in a church. There was a successful attempt at locating Candy Cane Lane (proof is to be found on flickr). I threw a tiny little pre-holiday party for my housemate and neighbour in Venice, yet another great evening. My last evening in the US in 2007 was spent in most excellent company at a magical place just around the corner from where I live.

On Friday I set out before sunrise to get to the airport to catch my flight back to Europe. LAX is probably the most unorganised, messy airport I’ve ever seen, but everything went fine. Even my bag made it back to Amsterdam with me! I didn’t sleep much on the plane because I had treated myself to a raspberry mocha at Starbucks in Atlanta, but still enough to not be completely wasted when I met my parents again at Schiphol airport. We quickly went past my house in Leiden to pick up my mail (thanks Steve for dropping my stuff!). And there I got my first little culture shock, upon meeting my housemate. I never really realised Dutch people are among the tallest of the world, but after being about the same height as, or perhaps a little shorter than most people I hung out with in LA, my housemate just seemed incredibly tall to me, whereas before I considered him of quite a normal height :). We then drove on to Etten-Leur, since I’m staying with my parents these holidays.¬†After greeting my brothers and sister I did go for a little nap in my own bed (I have three beds now! 1 in Leiden, 1 in Etten-Leur and 1 in Venice!) which was excellent (I was completely gone, when mum woke me up I replied to her in English, adjusting to another language after a few months takes a while! There are¬†also other things I need to get used to again, such as drinking water from the tap and wearing a jacket when I go out). Mum and I then went for a little walk to the shopping centre, but they were closing soon, so we didn’t spend any money. In the evening I watched my favourite TV-show (Mooi Weer de Leeuw!) in my PJs, with my brother Hans and a cup of tea, thankfully nothing has changed there :).

On Sund ay I woke up¬†at a reasonable time, went outside, saw people ice-skating and decided I wanted to ice-skate too before the ice would melt. So I did :). When I got home my brother Frank was just on his way out to go climbing with some mates, so I joined him to the climbing centre which we had pretty much to ourselves the whole afternoon. Frank and his mate Roman are amazing climbers, showing off with lead climbs and crazy overhangs. I was pretty happy with doing a 5b, not hindered by any knowledge of proper climbing technique, which I do need if I want to complete that overhang I try every time I go there (which is not that often, but still. Damn, so much to do and so little time!). In the evening Diana, a good friend of the family came to help us out with our Christmas decorations. She does this every year, and this year they had waited until I was home because I do like to mess about with holly, pine branches, moss and sparkly powder. She didn’t only bring the necessary appliances for some dead good creativity, she also brought some belated birthday gifts (everyone is just too good for me!) in the form of chocolate truffles, a butter knife and a chocolate cookbook (featuring exotic recipes such as chocolate sushi and duck with chocolate sauce. I already used it for chocolate sauce at the Christmas dinner¬†this evening :))

Yesterday I woke up really late, so there wasn’t much morning to do stuff. But in the afternoon I went shopping, got some last minute groceries for the Christmas dinner and got a new toothbrush. I like buying new toothbrushes. In the evening I connected my iMac and started wading through my music collection and sorting out stuff I want to take with me. I also watched Taxi 2 with Hans, which is a hilarious film.

Today we celebrated Christmas. My parents spoilt us with great presents ( my sister got a chocolate fountain!¬†How cool is that!) and there was good food as well. My sister and I got a bit too enthusiastic about the dinner, so we basically have enough to last us for at least the rest of the week, and I also think my grandparents took some home (my dad’s parents also brought fabulous tomato soup and apple pie and my mother’s parents a huge vegetable salad, and the dog, although she was for company, not for dinner). After my grandparents had g one home my mother found out that The Sound of Music was¬†on TV, the sing along version! What more could one want for Christmas? ūüėČ

Holiday feelings

Even though Christmas is already pretty close, I don’t really realise.¬†This is probably because it’s still warm here (warm enough to walk outside barefoot after the Christmas reception because my cute shoes were killing me,¬†or to cycle to work in a t-shirt). I can’t think of any other reason because Christmas decorations are omnipresent here, as well as little quartets¬†in the street singing Christmas carols.¬†And palm trees with Christmas lights look cool, but just different…Anyway, there is snow nearby, the picture below is the view from my office with snowy mountains (far away, but still¬†;))

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Movies and more during a most satisfying weekend

Friday: Atonement! Finally it came out here so on the first night it was on I got my arse to the cinema to watch it.¬†I’d also gotten Paul crazy enough to accompany me, which turned out to be an excellent idea because he’s pleasant company, doesn’t mind driving¬†to Hollywood and helped me get a big poster of the film (I’m not telling you how here ;)). The film was great, I loved the fact that they had been able to preserve the way the book sometimes tells things from different view points and the last scenes were just heartbreaking…

On Saturday I went to LACMA to the Dal√≠¬≠ exhibition, which was cool, although the focus was a lot on his films (not surprising in Hollywood I guess) so there were a lot of storyboard sketches and not really his best paintings. I also saw a bit of the permanent collection, but at some point I got a bit of an art-overload so the rest of the collection has to wait until a next visit (perhaps with mum?). On the way back there was the Marina Del Rey holiday boat parade which was really nice. On Sunday I went to the farmer’s market, had a nap (Sunday afternoon naps are just the best) and went to Santa Monica to finish off my Christmas shopping, in which I succeeded so I’m very happy (it’s also quite unique because I’m usually still running around the shops the day before Christmas to get the last bits and bobs). No more christmas songs, busy shopping streets for me this year though and I also treated myself to two new t-shirts and a recipe book¬†ūüôā In the evening I went to a restorative yoga class, which was physically not as demanding as usual yoga classes but to¬†clear your mind for 1.5 by just lying on the floor in most positions is quite a challenge in itself.¬†It felt good afterwards, but I’m not sure if I want to do this every week…ah well. And that was my weekend, now I have to get changed for the ISI holiday party…

Having fun in Venice and Santa Monica

Yesterday I up early to walk along the beach and watch the waves, it was a gorgeous day so barefoot and a shirt were good enough at 07:00 in the morning :). I tried to run for a little bit but I get bored of it very quickly and I’m just crap at it so I gave up on that fairly quickly. I’m just trying to find ways to work out on days I can’t go into the water either because the waves are too big (yesterday and the day before), or too small (last week), or when the water is too dirty (this weekend, since the forecast predicts rain, supposedly the rain also takes rattlesnakes down from inland to the beach :S) because I have too much energy if I just sit at my desk all day.¬†Anyway, after breakfast and a shower I cycled to work, although I did pause rather long at the jetties¬†to watch the surfers.¬†There were only 4 surfers in, as the conditions were only suitable for people who really knew what they were doing, which was very impressive.¬†I took about 100 pictures in an hour and I still need to sort most¬†of them out…I also stopped at the pier for a bit, for a totally different view of the waves and to see some gorgeous rainbow sprays ūüôā

After work I did some serious leftover veggies cooking by making ratatouille with the courgette, aubergine, yellow pepper, carrots and tomatoes I still had in my fridge, accompanied by potatoes with rosemary, garlic and olive oil from the oven, Laura is helping me eat it but I still think¬†it will last me for a while…I needed a good meal because the next thing on my schedule was a visit to a wine bar in Santa Monica (midweek drinks, great concept! ;)).

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