Goodbye 2011 | Hello 2012

Wow, it's Dec. 31st, the last day of 2011 and it feels as if the year has flown by. Didn't we just celebrate New Years last month??

Last January, I picked 'Peace' as my One Little Word for 2011, because I felt 2010 had been very hectic. Didn't fulfill its promise too well, now did it?

2011 was dominated by my grandfather's illness and the deaths of both my grandparents in April. I had some health problems and took a break in August and September to prevent a complete burn-out. There was another 'restructuring' at work in October (turns out last year's reorganization didn't work out as well as was hoped) and I lost 2 of my pets in November.

But there were fun things too!

I finally got to travel to Egypt, Istanbul and China - 3 destinations and 2 more world wonders crossed off my Life List! My parents celebrated their 40th (!) wedding anniversary this month. I got a brand-spanking new car in June. I treated myself to a drool-worthy KitchenAid mixer. I managed to lose 8kg (approx. 17,5lbs) this year through Weight Watchers. I finished not just one but two LOAD's, in May and September *pat on back*.

Anyway, I've given it some thought and my OLW for 2012 is 'Change'.

I'm not happy about my health (and having a serious talk with my GP next week).
I'm not happy about my career.
I'm not happy about my personal life (how long will this man-of-my-dreams stay in hiding???)

So, in short, I've decided that 'A Change Is Gonna Come' in 2012 {thank you Sam Cooke}


- I want a new referral from my GP to visit a specialist regarding my vitamin deficiency (my vitamin D levels fluctuated from 13 in April to 27 in July to 86 in September (thanks to a new supplement) and back to 35 in December. For the record, below 50 is generally considered to be bad...)
- I want to re-evaluate certain relationships. I feel that I'm investing a lot of energy in some, while it's completely one-sided.
- I want to explore different career options. That might mean I'll have to take a step back financially, so I also want to learn how to live on a tighter budget (never a bad idea!).

In addition, there are also some smaller resolutions for the new year:
- I want to take up swimming and/or boxing again.
- I want to lose 12kg in 2012 - one for each month. (That seems realistic and doable, right?)
- I want do get back to regular Bento-ing.
- I want do to at least one LOAD this year (there are 3 each year, generally in February, May and October)
- I want to continue Project Life on a monthly basis.
- I want to keep being creative in general - that's why I started Everyday Creative after all!
- I want to make at least 1 scrapbooking page each week - enter PLOAW, Project LayOut A Week.
- I want to cross of some more items off of my Life List - our trip to the USA has already been booked, Grand Canyon here we come!
... and I'm sure there are other things that I just can't remember at the moment ;-)

All in all I've got my work cut out for me in 2012!


Breaking Dawn Part 1 (a.k.a Twilight 4.1)

Part one of the final instalment of the Twilight Saga premiered this week, and of course I had to see it!
I thought the special effects were really cool, I liked the creative solutions for some of the scenes (transformation scene - very CSI) and the honeymoon scene did not disappoint either. All in all very nicely done! Now we'll have to patiently wait another year for Part II... (patience is not my strong suit...)

Here's the trailer:


Minus 10%

Almost 9 months ago to the day, I had had enough (again) and decided to lose weight (again).
A lot has happened since then, and eating healthily has not always been on the top of my priority list. But I faithfully kept attending the local Weight Watchers meetings (I guess I need that kick in the butt!). With result, because as of today, I've lost 10% of my initial weight! Woohoo!
I still have a long way to go, and I'm not losing it as fast as I would sometimes like, but I'm slowly but surely getting there! Go me! ;-)


Everyday Creative

Inspired by a recent magazine article in Flow Magazine about 365-day-projects and other bloggers who've done/are doing something similar, I'm starting a new project as of 1Nov2011: Everyday Creative.

The goal is to do something creative every day (hence the title...). Unlike others out there, I'm not pinning myself down to only one discipline (I have enought self-knowledge to know that I'll be bored quickly if I don't mix things up a bit). I've already got some project ideas lined up, such as a quilted comforter, next year's LOAD (of course), a crocheted afghan, handmade cards, a travelling journal about China etc.

The plan is to post a weekly update on my new blog, so stop by sometime to check it out!


China revisited (Part II)

Thu 13-10-2011: arrival in Xi’an at the crack of dawn. Our hotel is across from the train station, but we are so early that the rooms haven’t been cleaned yet. Taking a nap is impossible when one of the maids comes in to remove the bed sheets but doesn’t replace them…
We leave the hotel at 10am to go to the city wall for a 14km bike ride. The bikes are pretty rickety, the wall has potholes and I cycled approximately 4 times in the past 5 years. Yeah, not going to happen…
For lunch we go to a dumpling restaurant where they serve dumplings of which the shape shows what type of filling it has: a bird for chicken, a bunny for rabbit, a walnut for (you guessed it) walnuts etc.
Close to the restaurant are the bell and drum towers and the Muslim quarter with its many souvenir shops. I even spot a Walmart across the street! We return to the hotel after a short visit and thankfully my room has been made! I pop in next door at McD’s for dinner but that’s all for the rest of the day – the lack of sleep is really catching up with me.

Fri 14-10-2011: visit to the terracotta warriors outside Xi’an. In order to get VIP parking (and not having to walk 45 mins from the parking lot), we stop at a government shop en route. I give in to temptation and buy some souvenirs.
At the TW-complex we are in luck when one of discoverers is signing books. (We are told he makes a rare appearance but that might very well be a ploy to get us to buy an autographed book…). I flee the movie theater where they show a very bad quality film about the history of the terracotta warriors because it’s giving me ahead ache and decide to go ahead and visit the 3 pits. Pit 1 is the most well-known because it houses the rows and rows of warriors. Pit 2 shows some of the cavalry and pit 3 apparently is the command center with the generals.
A lot has not yet been uncovered as the archeologists haven’t figured out yet how to excavate the statues without them losing their paint within 20 minutes or what to do about the mercury that was used to simulate a river.
After lunch at a very touristy restaurant, we return to Xi’an to spend the rest of the day at our leisure.

Sat 15-10-2011: an early morning flight to Guilin, which means the alarm goes off at 4.30am – YAWN! The ticket printer breaks down at the airport, which causes us to barely make our flight in time. On the up-side: we are at the very front of the plane, which means we are off immediately upon landing.
After our arrival, it’s another 1,5hrs by bus to Yangshuo. The whole group has lunch at the Twin Peaks Café in West St (Yangshuo’s main street), after which we leave to go rafting on the Dragon River. This sounds a lot more exciting than it is: there are a few minor rapids (and yes, when I forget to lift up my feet in time, my jeans are soaked up to the knee…), but mostly it is very relaxing.
At night, we attend a light show about the history of the ‘Drum People’ (the traditional people in this area). The show has a cast of thousands – very impressive!

Sun 16-10-2011: there is a long bike trek on today’s program, but I don’t feel up to it due to the long hours yesterday. Instead I spend my day exploring Yangshuo and relaxing.
During breakfast at a local tourist café, I noticed they served my favourite guilty pleasure from home: fries with mayonnaise and peanut sauce (a.k.a. patatje oorlog). When in Nepal a few years ago, I had it, so now that I’m in China, I need to eat this as well! I vow to return for dinner, and just as I’ve finished the last of my fries (which are a bit greasy but taste ok), I’m joined by F, W and C, who also decide to try a patatje oorlog. After a little while, D&M and L&M also join us for drinks. M shows us the waving-Mao-watch she bought because she thought it was funny, and what do you know? A street vendor comes in and F treats the rest of us 3 girls to a Mao-watch as well ;-)

Mon 17-10-2011: free time until 3pm when we leave for a boat tour on the Li River. The day before, you could sign up for different morning activities such as tai chi or a cooking class. Decisions, decisions… I chose the cooking class.
Our teacher Jessica first takes us to the local market to buy ingredients. There are a seafood section, a vegetable section and a meat section, amongst other things. Especially the meat section causes a bit of culture shock and some of the group have difficulty stomaching it. Let’s just say that, yes, it is true that they still eat dogs in China…
The cooking class itself is a lot of fun and we make (and eat) 3 dishes: dumplings (fried and steamed), stir-fried noodles with vegetables and kung pao chicken. We are pretty good chefs if I do say so myself!
After the class, we decide to have a drink at the Twin Peaks Café where we meet N and R, and are later joined by F, W, C, K, D and M too.
The boat tour that afternoon is lovely. Great panoramas and we stop at a little village along the way as well. After the boat tour, we have our last group diner of this trip on the shores of the river.

Tue 18-10-2011: we are supposed to leave Yangshuo at 10am but the airco on the bus has broken down. Fortunately it is fixed quickly, and we are on our way only 1hr later.
Instead of spending 21hrs on a train to Guangzhou, we are taking the bus on the newly finished highway. This highway is SO new, that there are hardly any gas stations (read: restroom stops) along the way yet. This makes for some tricky timing to prevent ‘accidents’…
We arrive in Guangzhou in the early evening and a few of us decide to go to a Cantonese restaurant along with local guide Rose. There is a bit of a misunderstanding when R wants to order a snake dish and the waiter comes in with the live snake in a bucket to show us its size… This makes M, D and C so uncomfortable that they decide to leave. The rest of us decide to stay and we manage to convince the staff to let us choose our own dishes from the menu. In the end, we settle on some ‘safe’ vegetarian, chicken and beef dishes. R has chosen a crocodile dish instead of the snake (it was only possible to order the entire snake, which would be too much for our party). I tried it, and you know what? It does NOT taste like chicken ;-).
Despite its rocky start, the evening turned out very well – and tasty! – and has since been referred to as the ‘snake incident’…

Wed 19-10-2011: another early start as our bus leaves on 6.45am for the ferry terminal. The ferry takes us in about 2hrs to HK over the Pearl River. Upon our arrival at the Panda Hotel, not all rooms are finished, so we decide to go for lunch first.
After lunch it’s possible to go on a tour to Victoria’s Peak, Aberdeen and Stanley Market, but I prefer to explore HK by myself. After jumping in the metro to Tsim Tsa Shui (and changing lines unnecessary along the way…), I take the Star Ferry to Central. The Escalators (boasted as being the world’s longest escalator with 800m) are a bit disappointing: instead of a few tall escalators, there are a lot of small ones. I expected escalators to rival the ones in the London and Prague metro stations! Nonetheless you cover a lot of height, which becomes very clear when I need to descend quite a bit to get to the HK Hard Rock Café (respect to the ladies in heels in Central!).
After dinner, I take the metro back to Tsim Tsa Shui for the river bank laser show. I’m a bit early, which gives me the opportunity to walk along the Avenue of the Stars, HK’s own Walk of Fame.
The laser show is very nice but only takes 10 minutes. I decide to look for Daiso, a Japanese department store that is supposed to be located at Mong Kok. With the help of some locals, I eventually manage to find Jusco, a store that carries Daiso products. When I get back to the hotel at 10.30pm, utterly exhausted, I see a banner advertising the fact that the exact same store is also located in the shopping mall underneath the hotel. Figures…

Thu 20-10-2011: final day of our trip! S joins me to visit the Giant Buddha at the Po Lin monastery on Lantau Island. The statue is high up in the hills and you can either take the bus or a cable car. We choose the cable car, which provides awesome views of the area (you could also take a glass-bottom cable car, but after our Shanghai adventure, we decided to chicken out and take the ‘regular’ cable car instead). It almost feels like an amusement park ride!
There is a bit of a touristy area before you get to the Giant Buddha, where we do some souvenir shopping. After some very greasy fried dumplings for lunch, we make our way to the statue. There are 260 steps to climb up to the statue, and both of us decide to appreciate the view from the bottom ;-)
I contemplated visiting Victoria’s Peak in the afternoon since I did not have enough time the day before, but the rest of the trip is taking its toll and I cannot get myself to do it. Instead I join S at the hotel pool for a bit of reading and lounging. We are later joined by F, W, N and R.
After dinner, it’s time to say goodbye to those who are staying a bit longer in HK. Then I do some final bento-shopping at Jusco. N has told me a few days ago that she’s interested in bento as well, so I surprise her with a little bento starter kit, which is very much appreciated ;-)
We finally leave for the airport, and our flight leaves promptly at 11pm.

Fri 21-10-2011: after some 12hrs in the air, we touch down at Amsterdam where my parents are already awaiting my arrival. After saying my goodbyes to the rest of the group, they whisk me off to their car, and barely 1 hour later I’m home .

It was an amazing trip, but I can’t help feeling happy to be sleeping in my own bed again!

Here are some pics of all the stuff I brought home...

1) Mao hat for my dad; 2) statues of the terracotta warriors fro friends; 3) shopping bag from Beijing; 4) postcards and other paper goods; 5) miniatures for my souvernir showcase; 6) signed book about the terracotta warriors; 7) Mao notebook and watch; 8) carved rabbit 'chop' (with my name in Chinese), a hanger with deities (?) that I thought was cute and rabbit chop sticks (rabbit = my Chinese star sign); 9) key chains for my mother; 10) magnets for a friend.

1) insulated water bottle carrier; 2) 2 bento boxes; 3) large & small rice paddles; 4) Japanese grater (for garlic, ginger etc); 5) sandwich cutter; 6) triangular bento cups; 7) cute shaped containers; 8) jelly cooling elements (oops - upside down!); 9) cute sauce bottles; 10) small mellon ball (or other stuff!) shaper.

China revisited (Part I)

Wed 5-10-2011: off to China! My mom accompanies me to the airport by train.

Thu 6-10-2011: arrival in Shanghai. A combination of exhaustion, nerves and heat (the Chinese apparently like warmth – both the airplane and airport are an oven!) make me feel sick to the point of vomiting.
While the rest of the group go to dinner and attend an acrobat show, I stay at the hotel. Way to start off my vacation, hopefully this is not a taste of what is to come…

Fri 7-10-2011: well rested and feeling 100% better. A busy day visiting the sights of Shanghai: observation deck at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Shanghai Historical Museum, Yu Yuan Gardens and Bazaar, tea ceremony, lunch, the Bund, Jade Buddha Temple, jade shop, dinner, boat tour on Huangpu River to view the Shanghai skyline, and finally Nanjing Road. Whew!

Sat 8-10-2011: free day to roam around Shanghai. Taxi to People’s Square/People’s Park, where I come across a Pixar exhibition at the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art. Then back to Nanjing Road for souvenir hunting. I end up at the Bund, where I MUST take a picture with the Bull – a replica of the Wall Street Bull in NYC. After lunch, taxi to the Shanghai Aquarium. My instructions to the cabbie? A drawing of a tower and a fish… (the aquarium is next to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower). You don’t need to speak Chinese fluently to get your message across ;-)
Then back to the hotel since we leave for the train station at 4pm. Being one of the youngest in our group, I’m delegated to the top bunk. It’s a challenge to climb up there and the entire night I pray I don’t have to go to the toilet so I won’t have to climb up and down in the dark and potentially break my neck…

Sun 9-10-2011: arrival in Beijing. When we get to the hotel, which is within walking distance from Tiananmen Square, I take a power nap in the hope to catch up on some rest after not having slept a wink on the train. After lunch, off to the hutongs for a riksja tour. We also visit the Drum Tower, a local supermarket and a local family where we get educated by a very enthusiastic man on the art of keeping crickets and grasshoppers ;-) A short visit to a scenic street that used to be famous for its Opium houses which have since been converted to tourist shops.
For dinner, I make my traditional visit to the Hard Rock Café.

Mon 10-10-2011: early start to arrive at the Great Wall before the masses. The views are awesome with the autumn colours! After lunch at a roadside restaurant, we visit the Summer Palace where the impirial family used to spend its Summers. It was the stage of a lot of intrigue, especially at the hands of Empress-Dowager Cixi.
I choose to forego the Beijing Opera at night and instead have dinner at a restaurant close by. The extensive menu has some very interesting dishes ranging from duck flippers to offal. I go the safe route and have a delicious vegetarian dish of potato, eggplant and green pepper. I even manage to order part in Chinese: yi ge mifan (1 portion of white rice) and yi ge cha (1 tea) . Apparently those lessons in Mandarin have not entirely gone to waste ;-)

Tue 11-11-2011: Crossing Tiananmen Square to get to the Forbidden City. The complex is so huge and crowded that everybody goes their own way.
It’s a nightmare to get a taxi once outside, so I decide to walk to the Lama Temple (according to my calculations when consulting the map, it should be around 4,5km). Halfway there I spot a McD across from a metro station. Lunch first, metro second…
The Lama Temple is supposed to be the largest Tibetan temple complex outside of Tibet. The architecture is lovely, and one of the buildings houses a enormous Buddha statue made from a single piece of sandal wood – amazing!
Once I get back to the hotel, I’m exhausted from all the walking around and impressions during the day. After a power nap, we leave for Peking Duck dinner, after which I go back to the hotel instead of visiting a Kung Fu show with the rest of the group. It is again a nightmare to get a taxi, and I already picture myself stranded in the middle of Beijing… Fortunately the staff of the restaurant is willing to help out and they finally manage to get me a taxi. Phew!

Wed 12-10-2011: Final day in Beijing, and following the advice of our tour guide, I decide to visit the park near the Temple of Heaven with S. After getting conned by a cabbie (we agreed on RMB 40 to take us there and all of a sudden he charges us RMB 60, because of the heavy traffic. We end up settling on RMB 50 to avoid any further discussion), we enter the park where it seems half of Beijing is either dancing, tai chi-ing, playing cards or mahjong and what not. In Europe, people would look at you like you are crazy, but here it is common place to exercise and socialize in a public place.
Across the street from the park is the Pearl Market, a big building with all sorts of shops. S and I only make it across half of the bottom floor before we escape from all the eager sales people. Not our cup of tea. We take the metro back to the hotel (which proved to be very easy – the cab would have been completely unnecessary!) where we split up since I want to get some supplies for the train ride to Xi’an. I end up eating an early lunch with the same dish at the same restaurant as Monday night. YUM!
We leave for the station at 2pm. On the train, N and I are again doomed to the top bunks. Another restless night…


Happy Songs

Do you know that feeling when you are listening to some music (for instance on your MP3-player) and a certain song comes on, and no matter how crappy your day may have been until then, or how foul your mood may be, it just brings a smile to your face???

Here are some of my Happy Songs:

makes me want to get up and dance ;-)

not my favourite version, but still pretty cool

love the Scottish accent!
{for those wondering, "havering" is (quoting the band here) "talking shite" ;-) }

supercool song!

this song always reminds me of the movie Strictly Ballroom, one of my favorites

similarly, this song always reminds me of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, another one of my favorites. And yes LotR-fans, that is indeed Elrond as a tranny - LOL

Awesome song!

Love this song!

love that guitar

toora loora toora loo-rye-aye!

classic song in a classic movie

Love Marvin's version, CCR's is OK, but this one is my favourite!

Moves like Jagger

I know, I'm a bit late jumping on the band wagon since this kinda was 2011's Summer hit...
I'd heard this song on the radio but never realised it was by Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera (the combo might seem odd until you know that Adam Levine and Christina were/are both judges on the Voice). Anyways, once I knew the artists, I had to download it - pretty cool song! Until you can't get it out of your head for 3 days straight, that is... ;-)

Here's the video:


The joys of jet lag

This is getting ridiculous: for the 3rd night in a row, I woke up at 4.30 a.m. (it is 6 hrs later in China...)
Shouldn't I be over this jet lag by now??? YAWN!


My trip in numbers

1 world wonder
2 train rides
3 flights
5 boat trips
at least 5 Unesco World Heritage Sites
6 cities
7 tour guides
8 beds/bunks
10kg luggage (to)
13kg luggage (fro)
18 fellow travellers
21 days
1687 pictures
approx. 2360 miles
approx. 3810km


Back in town

I just got back from my trip to China early yesterday morning - still battling a killer jet lag ;-)

I was a bit nervous about this trip initially, but that proved to be completely unnecessary. We had a nice group of people, the sights were awesome, and I don't think I've EVER had such delicious food on a trip! YUM! (some of the dishes I tried will certainly make an appearance on my food blog in the near future!)

Photo impression will follow soon.


Off to China!

Last day of work today, I'm off to China next week - FINALLY! :-D



Excuse me while I am a bit star struck: these past few days 3 of the Ella Bootcamp instructors (and internationally known scrapbookers/stampers) left comments on some of my posts.

Nichol Magouirk, Wendy Smedley and Lisa Dickinson, thank you for your kind words!
(and all of you other commenters too of course!!)


the MotherLOAD - Day 26 | The Final Day!

YESSSS! I did it!
I completed 26 scrapbook pages in 26 days - I'm pooped! ;-)

Today's prompt was to make a page using your own unique style that you've identified over the course of the MotherLOAD.

Here's my page:

So why is this page typically me?
- I used a neutral cardstock base.
- I used multiple photos.
- I used a very clean, linear design.
- I used small doses of patterned paper.
- I hand-journaled.
- I used minimal embellishments (only alpha stickers for the title).
- I used an A4 format.

Can I just say that I totally love how this LO turned out?? And I didn't even use a sketch!