donderdag 21 november 2013

Interlude: Singapore in videos

Today, random video's on Singapore that I've discovered over the last two years and fallen in love with. Please add you favourites in the comments!

Here is Singapore in all its splendour. Yes, this is really what it looks like. Now go and be jealous.

This video still cracks me up every time I watch it. I discovered it through Singaporean blogs (hello bookjunkie!) but when I show it to expats they can't believe Singaporeans could possible think this is funny as it pokes so much fun at them. I suppose they never read Mr Brown either.

The first time I went into this bookshop I slunk out again, so intimidated by the sheer volume of high browness inside. Then I watched this documentary. Now I'm one of the financial pillars propping them up (and so will you be, if you let me take you to Tiong Bahru).\

This is an addiction that S. is quietly indulging: the Singapore-based sort of sixties detective show Serangoon Road on HBO. Handsome rogue, historical Singapore, sassy women, Chinese gambling gangsters.

And one for the home team: here's TU Eindhoven gold medal winning solar car driving around Singapore!

NaBloPoMo November 2013

dinsdag 19 november 2013

Picture Post & Plaatjespost: Singapore Highlights

A quick and completely inaccurate view of life in Singapore - which in all its wrongness actually achieves more truth than a carefully curated picture gallery would. Or so I tell myself.

zondag 17 november 2013

Plaatjespost & Picture Post: On the move

I apologize for the blurriness - but really, baby J. is just fast.

The day is dawning that he won't be baby J. anymore. I'm not exactly nostalgic (memories are too fresh) but still... A two toddler household! It's a whole new world.

NaBloPoMo November 2013

vrijdag 15 november 2013

Netherlands Books: on Dutchness

This is not a guide to Dutch literature. If anything, it is a guide to books on Dutchness, because, funnily enough, the Dutch love reading books about themselves and their own national psyche.*

There are things that all Dutch people know about our national character. Yes, we are direct (yes, even according to Americans). Yes, we do have a strange fondness for dairy and bicycles (and how I miss those!). Yes, Zwarte Piet is to foreigners a slightly bizarre cultural icon, so please look at our tulips and clogs and windmills and waterways instead. No, we don't do fashion (what you call "basic", we call "getting all dolled up". What you call "getting all dolled up" we only see on television during the Oscars). 

But still, every time I open a book on us, Dutchies, there are things that surprise me.

This friendly book poking fun at the Dutch and written by Brits living in Amsterdam is now in its seventh edition. I'm not sure when it was first published, but I do know it preceded the internet by a good few years and that in one of the subsequent edition the authors noted that the book was a fantastic hit - in the Netherlands.

The surprise: While washing the dishes, the Dutch will continue to use the same water even when it turns cold. The water will only be changed if it is deemed to dirty to actually clean anything. (This still strikes me as eminently sensible.)

This Canadian lady has lived in Amsterdam for eight years and is a digital native. No wonder she turned her list into a website!

The surprise: Dutch people have birthday calendars, on which they (and only they) write the names of their friends and family. Generally, this calendar will be in the bathroom. (Yes, we have such a calendar. It is next to the kitchen door - and please do put your name on it!)

For integration purposes: I once picked up an integration booklet, aimed at new Dutchies as the people from across the Mediterranean and the Caribbean are called. It mainly had a lot of politically correct yada-yada stuff (punctuality, appointments, the infamous one cookie policy, the never close the curtains thing).

Surprising points of view: The booklet warned that weird as it may sound to the readers, tight trousers are not appreciated by Dutch men unless the women wearing them have nothing to fill those trousers with, and that, if women want to be taken seriously, they should wear shapeless sacks. 
Also: when not working, the Dutch like to tire themselves out by organizing non-work events, instead of sensibly doing nothing. The booklet explained that it would greatly help integration if the new Dutchies would get themselves involved as well, and if they preferred to rest, to do so in the confines of their own home as sitting outside watching other people, is viewed as "gloating" and "lazy". 

The standard: Lonely Planet guide
This is one of those cases where the writers get nothing specifically wrong... But they don't really do anything justice either.

This is not actually a book, but a documentary on the light in the Netherlands. It is gorgeous. 

The surprise: The Netherlands actually still looks like those sixteenth and seventeenth century Golden Age paintings. It's the water that does it

NaBloPoMo November 2013

donderdag 14 november 2013

Off topic: PND Awareness Week

Ten to fifteen percent of women who give birth experience pre-natal depression.

Ten to fifteen percent of pregnant women experience post-partum depression. These are not necessarily the same women.

This depression is hormonal, it is situational, it is to do with the character and disposition of the woman involved, it has to do with prior history and the quality of the relationships in her life. There are even links to breast-feeding (though old, this information has not been disproven, and is backed up anecdotally).

This depression has nothing to do with the baby or how the mum feels about her baby or her ability to be a mother once past the pregnancy and newborn hurdle. 

This week is PND Awareness Week at KK Hospital. KK Women and Children's Hospital in Singapore has a unit specialized in peri-natal depression, and is working hard in making sure they find and help all the mothers in Singapore who need them. Of course, there are more places to turn to, such as the Mother and Child Centre in Tanglin Mall and on East Coast for the expat crowd.

The great majority, eighty to ninety percent, of mothers will never have to deal with any of this. But for those who do, follow the links. Get help. You may not believe you deserve it, but you owe it to your baby. 

NaBloPoMo November 2013

woensdag 13 november 2013

The Netherlands by water

Water: it is the age-old frenemy of the Dutch. More than half of the country lies below sea-level, and the fight for survival has cost lives well into the twentieth century. But every summer and winter the Dutch will flock to beaches, lakes and canals for all sorts of water-related activity.

The Netherlands is is in its own language affectionately known as “kouwe kikkerlandje” - “dear cold frog country”. “Frogs” in this case refers not to the food, but to the fact that the whole country exists by virtue of canalizing water, not just in cities, but everywhere. Flying in, you know you’ve crossed over to the Netherlands when the land is divided into neat green, brown and yellow parcels by sparkling grid lines: the ditches which allow excess water to flow into rivers meandering into the sea, leaving green pastures for cows, slowly flowing liquid highways for trade and sprawling cities for humans.

This is where the Dutch go for recreation – not the pastures. The ditches and rivers and lakes.

Trade and defense
In the cities such as Amsterdam, Delft, Leiden, Utrecht en The Hague, the ditches are known as canals and young, reckless people sometimes swim in them. The canals were built for the triple purposes of transport (barges loaded with goodies could easily enter and leave towns), water management (both drinking and disposal water) and defense (dig a ditch around a city, pull up the bridge and an army has a hard time getting in).

The lovely view of the old city walls across the low-lying fields along the river a traveler gets when approaching the medieval city of ‘s Hertogenbosch (an hour and a half outside of Amsterdam) was also an old water defense trick. When, during the Spanish Wars, an army marched on the city, the citizens would dig holes in the dykes along the river, flooding the grasslands around the city, making it impossible to get anywhere near ‘s Hertogenbosch – or any other Dutch city. Historically inclined tourists might travel along the old “waterlinie” or “water line” as it’s called, and see how the walled cities in riverine areas turned themselves into “vesting Holland”: “Fortress Holland”.

The trade highway in the meantime stretched form the North sea all the way through Germany up to the Baltics. For a while during the seventeenth century, Dutch was the international language of choice for merchants along the Hanze route. The sleepy towns in eastern Holland (one to two hours outside of Amsterdam) still carry faint echoes of their former grandeur.

Sports and festivals
The canals also carry current grandeur: after the national soccer squad played the World Championship finals the parade was on water. The Dutch Gay Pride Parade also takes the form of a boating expedition, and even King Willem-Alexander went on a boat tour to celebrate his coronation, until he and his family decided to get off the boat to join dj Armin van Buuren and the symphony orchestra on their waterside stage.

This is what the locals do: on a balmy evening they grab food and drink, hop on a boat and tour the canals. On a hot day, they grab towels, bikini’s, swimmers and water bottles and head out to the nearest lake for a swim and lie on the grassy shore. On a windy day, the Dutch head out to the beach for a brisk walk and a “frisse neus”, a “fresh” or “chilly nose”, which they understand to be a good thing. In summer, the Friesian lakes (about two hours outside of Amsterdam via the Afsluitdijk) are filled with small sailing boats. In winter, all canals, ditches and shallow puddles are filled with ice skaters of different abilities.

And on the first of January, water is the theatre of choice for a display of sheer madness: hundreds of people take a dive into the sea wearing nothing but a pair of swimmers or a bikini with an orange beanie on top.

ps. I am cheating here, as I wrote this article for the Singapore American Newspaper.  But I figure, if you're Dutch reading this, then whatever I have to say is boring, and if you're non-Dutch this works as well as anything else. 

psII. Right, do's and don'ts for babies and toddlers then:
- do check on the weather and pack for all eventualities. Don't assume anything.
- don't bring formula milk, even the Chinese come and pay top dollar (yes, euro) in The Netherlands. But don't try to export it, there are quota's.
- go to a petting zoo, there's millions all over the country. Do also expect to get dirty there and be sniffled and spat at by the animals.
- don't think you can feed your child everywhere, there are Designated Places To Go Out With A Toddler, and they are McDonalds and any pancake restaurant. Do go to such a pancake restaurant, as pancakes are actually rather good. 
- do try and get your hands on a bakfiets and go for a spin (it's a good way to keep warm as well). 
- don't worry about traffic, if anybody hits you, it'll be on them. Those bakfietsen are built like tanks. 
- do travel light. Wherever you are in whatever city, walk two blocks and there will be a playground. On the way to the playground you will have walked past two Albert Heijns for emergency supplies. 
- don't worry about the sheer amount of water surrounding you. Remember, this is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. That wouldn't be the case if there were large amounts of small children drowning. Trust me, not even a toddler wants to get wet during a Dutch summer. 

NaBloPoMo November 2013

dinsdag 12 november 2013

Picture Post & Plaatjespost: Netherlands flag

Ever since the last National Day celebrations in August E. has an obsession with the Singapore flag. Whenever she sees anything flying that's red and white, she'll yell out "Singapore flag, Singapore flag", before bursting into songs like "Step up Singapore". (This is not a joke, nor an exaggeration.)

I felt I needed to take a stance and introduce my small ones to their own flag: Netherlands flag.

So I did. But as it comes without songs, or dances, or a nation covered in the thing, it has not made much of an impression.

Oh yes, I'm also throwing in a picture taken on a boat on a canal on a day that was actually slightly too cold to be out on a boat on a canal, but we did it anyway, had lots of wine and beer to celebrate, and had a grand old time, as you do when you're Dutch, have access to a boat and live near open water. 

(Yes, I know that qualifies ALL Dutch people. I am making a point here. More tomorrow!)

(I also am aware that I missed another day, but I am ignoring this in the hope that you won't scroll down this far.)

NaBloPoMo November 2013

zondag 10 november 2013

Picture Post & Plaatjespost: Remnants of the old hair

Because, let's face it, whatever is left on my head can't be new, right?

I also discovered the Lush a mere stone's throw from my office. And then I thought, in for a penny, in for a pound, so I got all the other stuff I sort of not really needed enough to go out of my way to buy as well.

Am really poor now.

But look fantastic. 

Next stop: The Netherlands!

NaBloPoMo November 2013

zaterdag 9 november 2013

Mumbai books: Bollywood, gurus and gangsters

I missed a day :( Let's pretend it's still Friday! So, since we all have two empty days facing us (no work! what on earth will we do with ourselves?) I very kindly decided to help you out and recommend three really thick books that only get better if you read all three of them in one gigantic go. (No pressure, as we like to say in the Netherlands.)

All three of the books are set in Mumbai, deal with gangsters and are utterly absorbing tall tales in that gray area where fantasy and truth mingle.

There is a set order in which you should read them:

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts - the fictionalised life story of an idealistic outcast Australian who ended living in a Bombay slum and working for crime lords (actually, you only need to read the first half, the second is slightly boring and outdated, set among heroic Taliban mujaheddeen, back when they were supported by the US).

Maximum City by Suketu Mehta - the non-fiction narrative of two years among movie stars and gangsters by an self-exiled Mumbaiker journalist from New York.

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra - a novel told backwards about the stand off between a Mumbai police man and the city's no 1 gangster. I know this doesn't sound thrilling. It is however the best book I have ever read (yes, dear friends, this means The Wasp Factory has finally been trumped.)

All three of these books are brilliant in their own way: Shantaram is the tallest of tall tales, and if you want to meet its author, you can by hanging out at Leopold's in Mumbai (S. did). The former activist-addict-criminal is now married to a princess.

Maximum City is a brilliant journalistic effort, taking you into places you'd never dare to go and coming back unscathed, but with an unbelievable wealth of information. This is what made me want to become a journalist. If you read the books in this sequence, you'll also catch yourself recognizing certain gangsters: the world Suketu Mehta describes is the one that Shantaram lived in. It throws new light on the tall tales - they turn out to be quite life size.

Sacred Games then is a proper novel (of the brilliant variety). But here comes the twist: Suketu Mehta and Vikram Chandra wrote a movie together which Chandra's brother-in-law directed, which Suketu Mehta describes in detail in his book (leading to a bit of a kerfuffle). All the while both of them were researching the Mumbai gangster scene - where Maximum City gets down to the nitty-gritty, Sacred Games shows the truth behind the reality.

If, however, you don't have two empty days in which to devour several thousand pages of text, however enhancing to your inner life those may be, I would recommend getting Vikram Chandra's short story collection Love and longing in Bombay. There are five stories, one of which features policeman Sartaj Singh, who later becomes the main character in Sacred Games.

S. however disagrees: "If you go to Mumbai, you should read Shantaram."

"I've already said that, can you pick another book?"

"No. There are no other books."

NaBloPoMo November 2013

donderdag 7 november 2013

Interlude: Bollywood videos

Tonight, S. and I are off to immerse ourselves a little more in the Bollywood scene, so I leave you with a few videos to share in our joy:

If you liked that, maybe you'll like this oldie too, the only romantic movie I know that manages to pull off a happy end, even though the star-crossed lovers die about a third of the movie in:

Not to mention this classic heist movie, which'll make my feet move everytime:

Ah, Hrithik Roshan, the man who is built like Brad Pitt, dances like Micheal Jackson and fights like Sylvester Stallone.

Ah, Bollywood, where such a comparison is meant as high praise.

I have always preferred Baz Luhrmann to Dogma. Even so, there was a time when I too thought Bollywood churned out ridiculous overblown dramatic and improbably complicated movies. No more. Look at the energy, the colours and the sheer joy that ignites the screen. This is what escapism is all about - this is fun and beauty and, yes, happy endings.

Quite often, I don't need reality, or even the beautiful, hard truth that great fiction uncovers. I quite like my world filled with laughter and joy. Bring it on, Bollywood!

NaBloPoMo November 2013

woensdag 6 november 2013

Bombay baby and toddler travel

Things we did right

We booked a luxurious serviced apartment, at exactly ten times the price of our most expensive hotel six years ago (way back when we were both child- and penniless). It was clean, it was spacious, it had separate bedrooms so the children could nap while we also napped, but in a different room. So we could have stayed awake, had we wanted to. There was the option. Nothing is more luxurious than having options.

We had our first lunch at the Marriott hotel with the unbelievable buffet including several tables filled with cheese 'n things, a salad bar, chaat makers, prata twirlers, veg Indian food, non-veg Indian food, pizza and fresh pasta and of course a central bounty island of desserts.

Also: we didn't really care what the children ate, as long as they ate (this has to do with sleep: non-eating children are also non-sleeping children in our household). This is why E. and J. survived on yoghurt, cereal and bananas for four days and why E. was allowed three desserts at the Marriott without taking a single bite of her naan bread (let alone try the saagh paneer, silly little girl).

We accepted the fact that traffic does not move in Mumbai and instead spent our time gazing out of the window at all the wonders passing us by, spotting coloured sarees, counting the goats, counting the goddesses, evading curious cows sticking their head through the car windows.

The most important thing we did right: we prioritized seeing people over everything else. So we hopped over to Lonavla for lunch to meet friends, we had chaat at what is undoubtedly the most beautiful condo in all of Mumbai, we took a walk along the beach and we saw almost nothing of the city. Or we saw everything, the whole teeming with life madness of it, but none of the actual sights.

Things we did wrong

Two five hour night flights in four days seemed like a bad idea and it was. The only good thing about it was that because all of us skipped two nights in four days we had no problem with jet lag either way, being bone tired and just happy to sleep.

The first night we decided to go into town to Leopold's for old times sake. Not only did it take us an hour and a half to get there, by the time we were there it was filled with beer drinking tourists and locals who did not quite know how to react to two blond babies thrown into their clubbing mix. And then it took us another hour and a half to get back.

I did not bring baby food*, stupidly assuming that I'd be able to get some non-salt pureed food for baby J. on the go. Somehow, I had forgotten that whenever we go on holiday E. will simply refuse all food on some sort of unknown principle, and will only eat things that are white (rice, bread, oatmeal, yoghurt, banana, potato, shrimp, crab, fish)** and mango. Baby J. while fond of his food, is actually not as good an eater as his sister (although size wise, you'd never know). So why I assumed things would simply work out, looking back, I have no idea.

* I brought milk powder, several bottles of water, baby cereal, endless amounts of rice cakes, bread sticks and raisins and enough bananas to feed a monkey forest. I am not completely stupid.
**Fried rice is no longer white and thus not fit for consumption. Chicken may be white, but is a hard sell at home too. 

We had no itinerary, but tried to wing it. This is not advisable in mad, gloriously unpredictable Mumbai. We should have picked an activity for each day and stuck with that, keeping the daily routine as normal as possible, instead of faffing around trying to do several things, ignoring nap schedules and sleeping times and ending up with two slightly crazed babes in arm.

It worked, and we had a two days of near comatose kids after we came back, but maybe next time we should be slightly more gentle with those two tiny treasures, give them a chance to recuperate and actually enjoy the city.

So, what did the children enjoy? 

E. spotted masses of birds everywhere, she got to push baby J. in a rocking cot, there was a yelling turkey at some point and a tiger-shaped hill that nobody could spot, she got to build a bed out of several chairs at the Marriott, after much coaxing I finally managed to hook her on mango lassi and the kid in the condo had this amazing toy kitchen and they watched cartoons.

Baby J. was particularly taken with the big bronze bell in the serviced apartment, had a lot of fun in the shower, discovered the joys of crawling underneath chairs and shaking them and took a great dislike to taxi's (sleeping in cars is so 8 months old).


Don't do this. But if you do, skip the nights, book a lovely serviced apartment, bring all the child food you can carry, order in all the other food, treat taxi's as sight seeing tours and above all, go and meet friends.


dinsdag 5 november 2013

Plaatjespost & Picture Post: Mumbai with toddler and baby

So, we went to Mumbai for the long weekend. This being the one with the Muslim public holiday on Tuesday (Hari Raya Haji), little did we suspect our hotel on Juhu Beach would be the sight for a wild Hindu festival as well on Sunday (Durga Puja).

But then, that's India for you - continuously springing surprises.

Two night flights, a three hour time difference, non-spicy food with chilis ("but those are not the spicy kind of chilis!"), two children who survive on yoghurt, milk and bananas, mad traffic and constant pollution - we will not be doing this again anytime soon.

And yet - we had a blast. We met lovely friends, we (the adults) ate wonderful food, we saw loads of animals (wandering cows, begging monkeys, touristy camels, goats everywhere, by the roadside, on taxi's, in riksha's), we saw loads of colourful shiny things, we were mobbed by adoring strangers.

It was good. Not advisable, definitely not a good idea, but still a surprisingly happy holiday.

maandag 4 november 2013

Lessons learned: Sleep Regression, Wonder Weeks & Science

So, due to toddler birthdays and other madness the Bombay post will have to wait... In place I am posting something which I have been mulling over for a few months now. It's about the book Wonder Weeks, which many mothers are great fans of, and the research history behind it.

But first, this needs to come with a disclaimer as I am about to stamp on a great many toes:

Just because something is not proven, it does not mean it is not true. It just means it has not been proven (yet).

I think you can now see where this is going.

Before I arrived in Singapore and started to delve into the English-speaking world of motherhood, I had never heard of "sleep regressions". I had also never heard of "wonder weeks".

So I asked around, and it turned out it comes from this research explaining that baby's brains grow in spurts and when such a spurt hits, you get a period of whininess, crankiness, fussy eating and bad sleep ("sleep regression"). This is followed by a "wonder week", when the baby has gotten used to his new abilities and turns into this delightful smal being marveling at the wonders of the world.

It sounded an awful lot like what I knew as "jumps", and that's because the book Wonder Weeks is nothing but the translated version of Oei, ik Groei.

Yes, Dutch readers, you may groan. See, "Oei, ik groei" has a very distinct reputation in its home country. And it's not one of sound scientific evidence. That is because there is no sound scientific evidence.

Here are some links to the discussion (all in Dutch, I'm afraid): the author and then-professor Frans Plooij explaining why he fired his assistant when she couldn't replicate his results and here is an interview with the fired assistant on the eve of the publication of her PhD thesis on the subject - in fact here is the link to the subsequent firing of professor Plooij from the university. For those interested in the nitty gritty science of things, here is the dissertation that could not replicate the original research.

The original research behind the book is based on fifteen mothers who filled out questionnaires, a couple of whom also were visited at home. Personal circumstances were not taken into account, and outliers were discounted. The author, Frans Plooij, states that his research has in fact been validated by English and Swedish research, but he does not provide links to these papers.

The thing that gets to me, and the reason I am posting this, is that it is usually mothers who pride themselves on their sceptic take on parenting literature, on their ability to figure out for themselves what is true and what isn't, who are taken in by the wonder week author. And many of them (if blogs are anything to go by) absolutely swear by his sleep regression theory. And of course they do, since the original research took the world like a storm, got translated into a gazillion languages and gave mothers everywhere relief: "so THAT's what's been going on!"

And none of them ever got to follow the critical discussion and debunkery that followed the publication of the original book, because none of them speak or read Dutch. This illustrates the importance of having a common language for science, because then the misconception of wonder weeks as scientifically sound could never have existed for twenty years.

Yes, the theory of the brain growth certainly seems very plausible, as do the jumps, wonder weeks and sleep regressions. There is however no empirical evidence that backs this particular theory up. This does not mean it is not true.

But, as a very experienced mother never tires of reminding me: "You don't get up happy every day of the week. Why should your baby?"

zondag 3 november 2013

Picture Post & Plaatjespost: Baby J. and Baby E.

Time flies when you're having fun! Baby J. is definitely no carbon copy of his sister E.: he's a mellow little fellow (unless you mess with his dinner), strong as a tiny ox, into balls and cups and things that roll (something which he himself never really got into).

He's crawling now, and does not listen to the word "no", but has a sincere respect for the word "nee". He babbles and talks and smiles and eats and sleeps and yes, that other thing too several times a day. 

And as you can see from the pictures, he's no little almost-albino like his sister. We joke that instead of having two children in which our genes mix, we have one for each side of the family.

I suppose our families are not that unlike each other either.

Nine months

Seven months

14 weeks

zaterdag 2 november 2013

Picture post & Plaatjespost: Baby J. lacht zich een kriek

Baby J. heeft zich verrassenderwijs ontwikkeld tot een uiterst vrolijk manneke. Nu is het zo dat ik dat al die maanden dat hij zich een slag in rondte jammerde, stiekem al wel dacht - we weten allemaal, zo'n moederhart kijkt daar natuurlijk dwars doorheen, door dat gejengel. Maar het was toch leuk toen hij dan na zes maanden ook gewoon echt een heel blij babietje bleek te zijn.

En zo mooi! Man man man, wat is het toch een knappe kerel.

Morgen een foto waaruit blijkt dat E. en J. met negen maanden sprekend op elkaar lijken.


vrijdag 1 november 2013

Nablopomo! Bombay, Netherlands and Singapore

It's the first of November or National Blog Posting Month!

And yes, I fully intend to take part once again. Also, I want to do a themed month again. Last year's on parenting was a success, at least as far as I'm concerned, since (in order of importance) I had a lot of fun writing the posts, some people reacted with interesting thoughts and conversations and I got a lot of page views.

So, without further ado I unveil this year's theme: places!

Well, that got you excited, didn't it?

Here's my idea: November has (roughly) four weeks. Each week I will cover one place with pictures on Monday (a picture post), what to do with a toddler and a baby, what NOT to do with a toddler and a baby on Tuesday and Thursday, on Wednesday I will discuss my pick of the local literature, and on Friday I will either answer questions or babble away in Dutch on a random topic.

So far I've decided on Bombay/Mumbai, Singapore and the Netherlands - all places with strong personal ties, where I've spent extended periods of time.

The fourth, I don't know yet. How about you give me suggestions?

Anyway - this schedule leaves today and the weekends for other things, like how are we nowadays anyway?

You may have noticed it's been a tad quiet around here. It's because I've got a job. And two small children. And my brain shuts down after 9pm, which incidentally coincides with the moment newly-three Blondie finally lies down, shuts up and goes to sleep. (And starts coughing - yes! The infamous cough is BACK!)

Speaking of the infamous cough: Baby J. does not have it. So if you like, I could do a few posts on The Differences Between Blondie And Baby J. (I could in fact go on and on and on and on and on about it, this being one of my specialty subjects, together with Ways In Which Blondie Showers Love On Baby J. That Are In Fact Life-Threatening To The Very Being She So Clearly Adores.)

Finally, for those of you living in Singapore: the wheather and climate people predict 10-20% more rainfall in the next two months than usual. So this might be a good moment to buy that new umbrella and invest in some flipflops and a plastic bag in which to carry your nice shoes.

See you tomorrow! On Monday, we'll kick off with Bombay in pictures - let me know what fourth city/place you'd like me to explore!


zondag 28 juli 2013

It's all about image: granola and yoghurt

This weekend I made granola and yoghurt from scratch (well, as much as you can really while not actually milking the cow or harvesting the oats). 

Today it's all about image and truth and how telling the truth can portray a completely false image.

Because see how I just showcased my superiority in the department of health and lifestyle while still remaining likeable by being faux-modest about my achievements?

But I am leaving out some Very Important Bits.

Such as: we have live in help. Making granola and yoghurt is a choice. I didn't have to clean up after myself, I didn't have to make dinner, I didn't even have to worry about unpacking the bag of wet clothes we brought in with us after we went swimming this morning - the bag I didn't pack either, just checked for the essentials. This leaves time for whims like reading blogs and then deciding to follow suit.

Another important bit: both my children like to take a long afternoon nap and miraculously, they manage to do it at the same time most days. Leaving me with time on my hands, as cycling hero S. generally needs a nap as well around that time and I am not much of a daytime napper.

Third bit of importance: we didn't have internet. Or tv. And our DVD-player isn't talking to the tv for some weird reason. And in order to make myself finish the biography of Singapore I have thrown all fun books out of the house. So, really, this was the only option left to me apart from actually reading the biography of Singapore.

Even so, while boiling the milk for the yoghurt, E. (who's officially potty trained in the sense that she knows how to use her muscles to hold it in and refuse to go to the potty or the diaper or basically anywhere until forced by nature which is why the granola includes lots of stuff like bananapuree, coconut fiber and dried prunes) did a humungous pee on the floor and I had to switch off the milk and drag the wet clothes of her and clean her up and then soothe baby J. who'd gotten quite upset at all the upheaval and needed a cuddle of his own before I could to return to the stove. 

Not to mention that the cable guy dropped by (YES WE HAVE INTERNET NOW HELLO FACEBOOK) who needed my input while I was monitoring the granola (it's prone to burning unfortunately) and when E. discovered I was doing internet-y stuff she wanted to watch Youtube videos and threw a bit of a fit when I wouldn't let her on the grounds that the internet wasn't actually up and running yet and I was running back and forth between oven and toddler all the while trying to keep a normal conversation going with the cable guy. 

Having tried out the recipes, I'll probably delegate the task of actually making the stuff to our live-in help, otherwise known as "Gem", in future, which in a weird expat-y way of thinking entitles me to claim the cooking as my "own" even though I've only given instructions (come to think of it, that's the way professional kitchen work anyway, isn't it? I've cheered myself up now.) 

But the picture makes me look all Scandinavian and homemaker-y and competent.

I like that. Just know: it's not the truth - not even a version of it.

vrijdag 5 juli 2013

Stuff that happened

It's been a while. As it turns out, second children are not necessarily a walk in the park compared to first ones. Who'd've thought?

And everything you've ever heard about how important eight uninterrupted hours of sleep are for mental and physical health: hogwash. It's perfectly possible to survive and (tempting faith here) thrive on six non-consecutive hours.

Other recent discoveries: people have feet.

Also: Cheese sticks float. And they taste so much better when finished off with a sprinkling of chlorine.

More stuff that happened in the hiatus:

For a brief while we had the most amazing view in town...

...until we moved again, to an apartment which discourages prancing about in underwear due to being massively overlooked but which is So Much Nicer in every other respect.

I lost more than my fair share of baby weight, due to sudden heartburn caused by chocolate and biscuits (seriously! I tested this hypothesis SEVERAL times) until said reaction miraculously disappeared and I gained (some! only some! of) the weight back.

Still, I had to go out and buy lots of lovely dresses as I found a job, for which I need to be properly dressed. I went to the interview in the very best dress I own, which turned out to be just right for the office standard, and since I can't wear the same dress to work every day, I had to go and clean out the Zara.

It turns out a career in journalism is not conducive to filling a wardrobe with presentable office wear suitable for a proper, grown-up, fulltime communications person.

Who'd've thought?