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Moving

All That's Really Left to do is Party!

I leave in 2 weeks from today. Hard to believe, I know. It feels like it has been an eternity of waiting. Surprisingly, I am not nervous at all. Atti’s documents came back from the USDA so he is good to go. All I have left to do in so far as preparing, is actually packing my suitcases. But, if you have been reading for a bit, you know that I have done trial runs so many times, this should be easy.

My last day of work is on Friday and it is so nice to be able to enjoy my last week here in the States. Friday is actually a hugely exciting day, the verlo- gets the keys to our apartment, (he has promised to send pictures, so you guys can keep up with the apartment progress) and my family and friends start to come in for my EPIC WEEKEND OF MERRIMENT! Yes, it was totally necessary to screech that at you.

This weekend, I am having what I deemed “The Last Chance to Hang Out with Me Before I Become Euro-Trash!” on Saturday. Which basically means I have friends and family embarking to my parent’s house this weekend. They hail from all sorts of locales across this great nation to see the enigma that is me! (Modesty, was never my strong suit, but yet I have friends?) Sunday, there will be a lingerie brunch in my honor. My 87 year old Nana will be in attendance, yet somehow I do not feel the need to censor myself. Get ready ladies for a brunch of epic proportions! A brunch makes it classy. Obv. A special shout out to my Mom and bestie Christy for hosting. Did you know that when introducing people you are supposed to say their name first and their relationship to you second. So that sentence should have read, you know if I was polite like- A special shout out to Susan, my mother and Christy, my bestie for hosting. There I thought you something, in the SEO world they would say my blog now adds value.

I am annoyingly snarky when I am sublimely happy. Anyways, I really can’t wait to see my beloveds this weekend. I will miss them all terribly, but now they have a really epic place to come visit!

 

Not with a Fizzle, But with a BANG!

This week has been pretty strange to say the least. Yesterday, marked weeks until the day that I get on the plane to leave for The Netherlands. I know, I can't believe it is that soon either! Today, I learned that my company is not going to keep me on board after I move to Europe. It's fine, but I was expecting for Loek and I to have that as extra income, and it would have been nice to know before a week and a half before my last day. So, it is a little shocking to suddenly not have a job, like I planned. I didn't mention the possibility before because, I didn't want to jinx it.

I could dwell on this, but I can't help but, be so excited for the time to really get to know my new country, before I can get a work permit for a Dutch company. In 20 days, I move to Europe, and in 21 days I get to be with the love of my life. It has been 6 months since we have seen each other, so needless to say, we are excited! Loek gets the keys to our new apartment a week from Friday. So, my time before I leave will be spent wondering what it will look like when he is done. I will have to help him move the bulk of his stuff the first weekend I am there. That will be interesting, we don't own a car. 

Anyways, I plan to spend my new found freedom, learning nederlands, making use of my museumkaart, cooking the verlo- dinner, and learning to ride my bike. I could not be more ready for the next phase of my life to begin. I plan on spending the next few weeks going out with a BANG! 

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I Am Most Worried About Not Being Able to Learn Dutch!

Few people know this, but when I was little I had a serious speech impediment. I had to go to speech therapy all though elementary school, every year in the middle of math. (which explains a lot). They could never discover the source of why I didn't say things correctly and finally I was able to convince my mom that I shouldn't go anymore. I think the reason I couldn't talk properly is that I don't hear sounds properly. I then try to mimic what I think I heard, causing mispronunciations. As I have gotten older, I have been able to fake my way through and disguise my problem, but with a new language comes new sounds and that makes learning a new language 10x, harder than it already would be.

I also have no phoentical skills, I have never been able to look at a word and automatically pronounce it correctly if I have never seen it before. ( I can normally say it somewhat right in my head, but when someone says something has a long a, I have no clue what that means) I couldn't say Hermione right until after the first movie came out. Which meant that in school reading out loud was my worst nightmare. After years of practice, I again can fool people in English, but probably not in Dutch or Nederlands as they call it. I am confessing my deep dark secret so that you, my readers, can understand. My biggest fear about moving all the way to The Netherlands is that, I will not be able to integrate into society because I won't be able to learn Dutch.

I have not been actively pursuing trying to learn Dutch in the States because, I am convinced that I will learn it wrong! I need someone to tell me over and over how something is pronounced.  If anyone out there has some foreign language learning tips out there, or recommendations for Nederlands classes near Utrecht that are good, I would love to hear them. I am just thankful that I am still able to telecommute for a bit to my current job, so I dont have to feel even more pressure than I already do. But rest assured, The Verlo will make sure I practice everyday until I speak Nederlands as well as he speaks English.

 

Kindle, An Expat's Best Friend?

I really love to read, and I really love to own books. I think they are great conversations starters and I like for people to automatically know I am smarter and more obscure in my references that they are.( Please read sarcasm in that last statement) Which is why it surprised people when this bibliophile purchased an Amazon Kindle. I am in love with it now and I think they are great for expats to have. I chose the Kindle specifically for a few reasons. 

So, why did I buy an ereader? Well, I am moving to a foreign country where English is not the most widely spoke language, and I don't read in Dutch. Most books in English are imports so they are uber expensive. My Kindle with 3G allows me to download books globally. So, I could spend on average around 10.00 for a kindle book or a lot more for an import. Kindle also have a ton of free books, including 15,000 titles copy written before 1923. That means, I can read all those great Russian Novels, that I never got around to, for Free! They also have a ton of free new eBooks and other specials.

I bought the Kindle instead of another ereader for a variety of reasons. I have always been an Amazon person, so I went with what I knew. They are easy to use around the world, and I like that you can use it outside, with limited glare. Not too big of a deal in The Netherlands, but nice none the less. I really hate reading on the computer, but for some reason I have no problem with the Kindle. You can adjust the size and spacing of your text, and look up words if you are unsure. Plus, I found the accessories to be the best. I bought a euro plug so I am good to go.

There are of course, a few things I would change; instead of a list of the books you purchased, I wish you could see the image. And, I just really think  that organizing your titles could be a little better. You also have to get a special case with a light to be able to read at night. Which is fine, my light is powered by my Kindle.

All and all, I am extremely happy with my Kindle purchase and know that it will allow me to read more and cheaper than if I had to buy English books in The Netherlands. 

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I Leave in a Month from Today!

I can hardly believe it, I leave a month from today to go live in Utrecht, The Netherlands. It feels like it took a long time to get to this point, but it also feels like everything is happening so fast. I am sure this month will be a blur. There is so much to do! 

My fiancee was offered a new job this week, which is exciting and thankfully we meet all the IND criteria for him to sponsor me that he is able to take it. If you don't have a 12 month contract, they look at past employment so this is his last month of work at hive ins current company. This is also my last month in the office, my last day is the 23rd. So, three more weeks. On my last day in the office is also the day Loek gets the keys to our apartment , so he has a ton to do to get it ready to live in. 

This month is not all work and no play though, I am having a going away party and a lingerie engagement shower before I leave. I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family all gathered together for one big weekend of awesome. This also means that my mom and best friends have a ton of planning to do. Because, I want it to be epic! We have so many people coming in from out of town and I am truly grateful to have so many amazing people in my life. 

As far as prep goes, the last thing for Atti is, I have to send in his papers to the USDA. And, of course, I have to pack, and pack, and pack. Those of you who have been reading for awhile, know that I am an avid planner and occasionally do packing trial runs. I plan on making a video so you all can see just how it is done.

People keep on commenting on how well prepared I am, I don't think you ever can be for a life change so drastic as this. My whole world is going to change. I am incredibly happy with my decision to move to be with my love, but I would be lying if I didn't admit to a moment of panic a few times a day. But really, I can not wait for my adventure to begin.

I also plan on keeping my blog updated everyday until I leave. 

 

Atti Went to the Vet!

I've written quite a bit about my preparations for Atti's move with me to The Netherlands. This is because, it is quite a process and there is not too much online that makes it really easy. Last Saturday, Atti and I went to our USDA approved vet to have his European Microchip put in, as well as his rabies shot. I wrote a post about where to find a Euro Microchip, for those of you who are interested. You have to get a rabies shot either after or at the same time as the microchip insertion. I took Atti in a different carrier because I did not want him to associate his Sherpa bag with a negative experience.

Atti, was great. The vet said he was a fantastically behaved kitty, which of course I knew. The Euro 998 form was filled out and now I just have to send it into the Georgia USDA office to get it signed. Also, because he is flying with me and not below, he can be sedated. Which is awesome for everyone. It means he can go to sleep and wake up in Holland. The other passeng intereers wont be bothered either. Everyone will be a lot happier.

Atti did not want to get back into the carrier after his ordeal, so he crawled into my purse. He was so cute and comfy that I just carried him out that way. It is such a relief to have Atti, unlike myself, almost ready to go. 

 

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On Cooking

I love food! It is one of the great passions I have in my life. I love reading about food, talking about food, cooking and baking, experimenting with new flavors, grossing my friends out with my fearless pursuits of interesting exotic flavors, and of course consuming it. (Just don't let me near a red bell pepper, there is nothing more disgusting on this planet than a bell pepper, and the red ones are their own breed of disgusting). Some of my favorite memories come from food, I was fortunate enough to be able to bake my two best friends wedding cakes.

It should come at no surprise then, that over the years, I have acquired a pantheon of cooking supplies. Cookbooks, dishes, measuring cups, decorating tips, whisks, flower nails, and my prized Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer. Naturally, with limited space and bringing just 4 suitcases under 50lbs a piece, certain sacrifices must be made. Instead of transporting about 20 cookbooks to The Netherlands with me, I have been painstakingly writing out the recipes that I like from each of them. Yes, it is time consuming, but I have managed to put all the recipes I want into a two inch binder! I do the same thing with the uncounted multitudes of cooking magazines I had in my possession. All those recipes can be found on the magazines' websites- I've wasted a lot of money over the years. I made Loek check to make sure we have access to each site in Holland and then I write down the title of the recipe I want to try later, along with the issue that it came from. Of course, there are some cookbooks that just contain to many fantastic recipes so I brought those with me and left them with Loek when I was in Holland in April: The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. 

As for the rest, it is simply not coming with me. As much as it pains me, I simply do not have the room. Instead of taking the assorted measuring spoons and cups I had, crammed into several drawers,I purchased on set a piece of truly fantastic peices. I bought a beautiful flower shaped set of measuring spoons and a set of stackable measuring cups in the shape of Matroyshkas dolls. This way, I can measure my American recipes in cups and tablespoons. Everything else, can be bought there gradually, which will be better since my oven is going to be the size of a microwave, and my kitchen in a much more condensed space. My beloved mixer is going to my mom. I hope to eventually get another one for my Dutch apartment, but Loek is in shock of the price and space is limited. 

Thanks to a few new expat friends, I do know to bring baking powder, soda and karo syrup with me, as these things are hard to find in most Dutch grocers. I am sure that cooking using the metric system is going to be its own special challenge and I pledge to keep you posted about it here on my blog. 

*And, why yes, I did make that cake! 

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How To Decorate Your Apartment From Across The Ocean.

I might have mentioned the fact that when I move to The Netherlands, it will be into a brand new apartment. This is  both really exciting and nerve racking. It will be the first time, for both Loek and I, that we will live in a brand new place and the first time we will live together. Renting an apartment in The Netherlands is not like renting one in Georgia. Here, when I want to move I have a few choices: I can drive around, go to a standard apartment complex either in or out of the city with beige walls and appliances included. Or, I can go to an old house turned into an apartment and maybe get to paint the walls.

In The Netherlands, if you are renting in the public sector, you put yourself on lists. When an apartment becomes available, you basically get a shell of an apartment. It is not uncommon to have to put in new floors and light fixtures in your rented apartment. As well as, bring all the appliances you might need with you. When Loek picks up the keys to our new place, hopefully in a few weeks, we(he) will have to put in new flooring, put up wall paper, install light fixtures, paint, move all his stuff and appliances. Keep in mind, we don't have a car. I'm kind of glad I might get to miss all the fun!

I am a huge fan of decor, so naturally, I have been trying to be involved every step of picking out materials for our new home. What I have learned through this process is- 1. It is difficult to combine households anyway, when doing so via webcam is almost impossible. Things that I love, Loek seems to hate. So there is a lot of compromising 2. Colors look totally different if you don't have the sample in your hands.

So far, what we have agreed upon is a grayish laminate wood floor, and damask white wallpaper for the living room. Our apartment is mainly two rooms, a small bedroom and a catch all room that will have to be, our living room, dining room, kitchen and home office. When you translate it from meters, it comes to about 650 sq feet. The smallest apartment I will have lived in and perhaps the largest Loek will have lived in.

If anyone else is in the same boat, whether you are in the same country as your new live-in fiancee or across the ocean-I would recommend a ton of patience and compromise. For those of you trying to plan abroad- If you need to pick out materials, have your spouse go and pick up the ones they like and mail them to you. Look at lots of design blogs to identify both of your styles. 

I chose the white damask to make the room appear larger, while the pattern will add some texture. We still haven't agreed on what to do about the bedroom. In addition to all the materials we have to buy for our home, Loek and I are planning on purchasing a new closet from Ikea, right away. Eventually, I would love to get a new bed. But for the time being, we will share a futon. Aww, to be young and in love.

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Do Your Research Or Your Budget Will Suffer.

When you are preparing to move some place new, especially abroad, it is important to do your research. Often, the idea of the city in your head is not going to match reality. Loek tried to tell me about Holland in the Summer. He told me all about how our home would not have AC and neither does his office. In my Southern mind, I could not imagine. I was convinced that I was going to die of heat exhaustion. I knew it was bound to be colder there than here. But no air, the Dutch must be insane. It was not until I found a 24 hour streaming webcam and saw that people were wearing jackets in Utrecht, in July.... That I realized, I don't have enough clothes that I can layer.

So what does this have to do with my budget? Well, because of my "oh shit, I'm going to freeze" epiphany, I started spending money on things like jackets. Two beautiful wool coats to be exact. Because in my mind, if the dollar is less than a euro, my clothes might be cheaper here. I also went scarf crazy! When making my original budget,  I didn't think about the fact that I will have to buy things like suitcases. Since I overestimated on the amount of money that I would spend in other areas, I will still come out pretty much on budget. 

Here is my new money saving tip: When trying to save money, it helps me to think about what I can't have if I go out to eat or buy that magazine. When you compare what you could do with the money as opposed to what you want to spend it on at the moment. The better thing will win, hands down. 

Image from Pinterest. I really need to learn the art of light layers. 

 

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The High Exchange Rate for Peace of Mind

I think I have mentioned a few times that I am a worrier. I am almost always in a panic about something. I don't want to be this way, I just am. So you can imagine what my blood pressure was like in the weeks leading up to the Debt Ceiling Deadline. That's right, full on panic tizzies about what Congress was going to do and how that would effect the exchange rate when I was ready to move. 

Being an always plan for the worse case scenario kind of gal, I began looking for solutions to change my money into Euros, before August 2nd. It also didn't help that the price for a Visa in The Netherlands went up more than 400 Euros in July. At first, I looked into getting a passport card from Travelex. A kind of pin card that you can pre-load with Euro's before you go. Apparently, I wanted to do too big of a transaction for the day, so my bank blocked my getting one. When I called to get it unlocked, the customer service rep recommended my calling my local branch and seeing what exchange rate they could offer me for buying Euros. I did, and it was a few pennies better in my favor. But, when you are talking a few thousands of dollars, those pennies add up. 

So, I emptied what was in my savings account and purchased Euros from my bank. It was pretty easy, except for that they didn't know to type in The European Union as opposed to The Netherlands in order for me to get Euros, not Guilders. Luckily, I caught the mistake. The Euros were then mailed to the bank and I could pick them up 2 days later. The fee was like $10.00, it was really so easy.

Was this a better exchange rate than if I had used the ATM in The Netherlands? Who's to say? But I feel at ease knowing that I have enough Euros available to pay for my Visa.

In this case, peace of mind trumps cost. I needed one less thing to worry about.

Flickr Image above by donaldtownsend

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