Sunday, October 31, 2010

Beer tasting party



The Facts:

55 beers were emptied
24 beers are still in my fridge
15 attendees (13 tasting-experts, 1 pregnant lady, 1 dog)
4.2 bottles average beer intake
2 severe hangovers

The Story:

It was back in July, warm summer evening, I went for dinner and drinks with Bart and Erik. One thing led to another and I learned that it was not only my Dad experimenting with home made spirits. Erik and his Dad were trying to brew their own beer. Attaboys! Of course, I had to twist Erik's arm to promise that when the beer is ready we will try it.
Fast forward a couple of months...Erik reported that the beer is ready, it was time to taste it! So we threw a beer tasting party!
(But not before I secretly tasted the home-brewed-liquid gold...and gave it two thumbs up ;-) ... )

To be honest, I did not expect who knows what from the party. I recently hosted a Wine tasting party too and I was wondering if people won't just think of me as an AA...lol May be I am not far off on that last statement, but I was wrong on my expectation...
I was so happy to see with how much enthusiasm everybody embraced the idea. Each of us was supposed to bring 5 unusual beers. Most of the beer came from Belgium (God Bless Belgium!), but we also had beer from Japan, Tanzania, Mexico, The Netherlands - including some local Utrecht beer!, Switzerland, USA, Scotland, Australia...and the most unusual one was the Coconut beer from Germany/Gana!!! Aside from Coconut and hop, we also tasted berry, cherry and banana beers. Strength-wise, we went from 4.6% (Corona) to 10% (Maredsous). Bottle sizes varied from 330ml to 750ml. Amazing variety, any way you slice it!!!
The Pragt's beer was a total success too...judging by the fact that even my hidden reserve bottle of it was open and gone... :-)
Good job, Erik!

To wrap it up, I'll simply say...I had an awesome time! With friends like that life is festive, fun, fabulous!!! With or w.out the beer... :-) Thank you for coming and I hope you enjoyed it too!

The Photos:

The evening in photos...CLICK HERE

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

babies



It's been a while since the last time a friend had a baby. But this year 5 friends are buying dippers, strollers, pacifiers and all that jazz. One in US, one in UK, one in Spain, and two in the Netherlands! Amazing!

Today I was very happy to hear that my friends Diana and Don had their Joshua on the 16th of October! Congratulations! :)
Diana is my best friend from the time we started playing with science. We've had so much fun times in Sofia, Japan, Alaska, Vegas and Washington...Andi, shall we go again to Thomas' land? :-)

I'm looking forward to adding four more photos to this blog ... :-)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

let's play


I promise to explain this post soon, but for right now...let's play :-) Would you spear just a moment of your time and particilate in the pole to the right - Will I move yet again to another country, and this time...to Australia? Thanks for your vote! :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

For whom the sirens go off


The other day a friend in Groningen twitted: 'De sirenes van de ambulance zijn geweldig om te horen, zelfs 's nachts. Elke keer denk ik: weer potentieel een leven gered!' / 'The sirens of the ambulance are great to hear, even at night. Every time I think, again potentially a life is saved!' The moment I read it I experienced an overwhelming realization and a flashback... A realization why exactly I've always liked the sound of ambulance sirens, and a flashback from my childhood. I must have been 5-6 years old, we were in the city with my Mom, and an ambulance with the siren on drove by. I'd never seen ambulance before, so my Mom explained that ambulances take sick people or pregnant women who are about to deliver to the hospital. Perhaps in my childish mind, 'sick' was already scary word, so I said 'I hope this ambulance was taking a lady to the hospital to have a baby'. And then I clung to my Mom's arm. And only the other night I realized that every time I hear an ambulance, I hear hope... Thanks Erik, for putting it so simple, yet so moving... Fun fact - Did you know that the ambulance siren sound in UK and US is different from the one in continental Europe? :-) For the US/UK click here and for Europe click here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Autumn morning


I love today's October morning. Spotless blue sky, Sun is out, air is cool and fresh, but not yet chilly. I have wrapped myself in a blanket of calmness, and I sit in the the garden with my morning coffee, and a cookie. My face is one big smile, my eyes are smiling too...my hearth beat is steady and strong. The street is quite, but from the distance comes the ocean-like sound of the cars on the highway. Life out there continues. I hear the doorbell, my ride to Diakonessenhuis is here. ... Two hours later I'm back home - the heavy white 'knee-to-toe' cast is left behind in the hospital. Pfew! What a relief!!! I have a new cast now - but much smaller one, as small as I could negotiate with the cast-maker. Good job, Iliana! It's blue and it almost looks stylish compared to the big chunky old one. And I can actually walk on my own - short distances, but still, a BIG step forward!!! For longer distances I'll still need the crutches. I am not allowed to drive, but I am allowed to bike. OK, I won't try it right away, because the foot muscles need to warm up for a day or two, but I'm on the way to healing...3 more weeks! But let me tell you how GREAT it feels that I can walk again, I am not prisoned at home anymore, I can go on the street and see people, I can slowly go to the park and look at the beautiful Autumn colors...I can even go to work (but tomorrow!)... Ah, the sweetness of freedom! The promise of the Autumn morning...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

choices



It's been 7 days with crutches. All along my friend Mette is telling me it's time for me to learn to enjoy just sitting on the sofa and do nothing. But can I? While I started to get used to the fact that I will be slow physically in the next three weeks...I could not slow down my mind, so I thought of the choices we make and how they shape us...because if I had not chosen to wear high heels for my date on Sunday, I would have (probably) not broken my feet and so on...
So, here are the choices I thought of...feel free to add yours...

Go on a date with the guy YOU LIKE, or with the guy who LIKES YOU
On a sunny day, sit on the COUCH with your cast, or sit in the GARDEN with your cast
On a rainy day, sit on the couch and munch on CHIPS, or sit on the couch and eat an APPLE
Have a COFFEE, or have a TEA
Wait for your friend to COOK FOR YOU, or JOIN YOUR FRIEND in the cooking process (as much as you could)
Read a BOOK, or watch TV
Expect your friends to CALL YOU, or CALL A FRIEND far away who would be happy to hear you on the phone
Have your friends ASK YOU how your feet is feeling, or ASK YOUR FRIENDS how their days go
Have SEX, or MAKE LOVE
See a DRAMA movie, or see a COMEDY movie
TRUST your friend to drive your odd car and take you to a party, or STAY HOME in the safe zone
BE DISAPPOINTED with the people who didn't check on you, or RESPECT THEIR CHOICE not to call you every single day
ASK questions, or ASSUME answers
Focus on the POSITIVE, or let the NEGATIVE take over

Choices, choices, choices... :)
This week I learned to ask for help, I learned to accept to be helped, I learned to be patient (somewhat!)...
What I also learned is...I have chosen the best friends! Again! :-)

ps. I even chose to keep my Saturday flowers promise! Thanks, P.!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

life with crutches - Part 2


Day 4. Cabin fever is taking over. I must escape! Determined to keep my dental cleaning appointment I call a cab to take me to the dentist office...which by foot is merely 650m away, but the one way streets and the park in between makes for a fun 2km ride. Before I know it my teeth are clean and I can go home. The light fog, the mellow weather, the smell of the Autumn captivate me and I decide to go home by foot, and by crutches. I mean, c'mon, it's only 650 meters, I can see the park from the office's front door, and my house is just on the other side of the park...It can't be that difficult! Well, surprisingly...it can! It took me about ten stops to rest, and 30 minutes to get home. My face dripping with sweat, my t-shit soaked too! On the positive side - I saw a couple of picture perfect spider webs (and their habitants), sprinkled with morning dew; a few golden leaves danced for me before landing on the wet green grass; I filled my lungs with fresh Autumn air. I love Autumn! Curious observation - five people offered sympathy to my slow motion movements. All five of them were 60 and above years old. I guess, they are the ones that can relate, they know we are not invincible, their life is more in sync with the pace of my walking... Harmony at its best! :-)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

life with crutches


Have you ever wondered what it is to be in a wheel chair? Or to have a mobility disability? I have! And these days I am getting some answers... On Sunday, after a wonderful afternoon in Amsterdam, I picked my bike from Utrecht Central Station and...fell off of it, ending with a broken foot bone and a cast. That last sentence actually summarizes a few hours of running to the doctor, radiology, first-aid, etc. etc....and the same friend who recently saved my broken spirit (see blog I had it) now helped with my broken foot. Will I ever manage to say a proper thank you? :) Anyway, aside from a very sincere thank you to all my friends who are helping me these days with the grocery, with the food, and entertaining me, driving me to places, being 'there for me' in person, of via the internet...I also want to share - life with a cast and crutches is a pain in the neck! (not only in the foot!) Every simple chore you do on a daily basis becomes a big effort, many extra muscles get involved, your healthy leg get exhausted from taking all the weight, showering is tricky, you can't even bring a glass with water to you table...because you have to hop...and before you know it, the water is spilled on the floor...Just try it and you'll see... But, nothing I can do about it, 3 1/2 more weeks in the cast...and all the fun that comes with it! :-) I can't wait to be back on my feet - literary! And appreciating it in a very new way!

i want to know his story





Do you know this man? I want to know his story...

His shoe polishing stand is on the South exit of the Amsterdam Central Station and one could easily not notice him amongst the crowds of people getting in and out. I actually never seen him with clients, but he is there every time I go to Amsterdam...
The first time I spotted him, a few months ago, he seemed to have just arrived. I would guess he came from Turkey.
He was wearing a simple suit and a light shirt, buttoned up to the neck. He was standing by his shoe stand, tall and proud, hands together on the front, patiently waiting for clients. He looked clean, close shaved, well combed hair, nicely trimmed mustache. He was observing with curiosity, but also with modesty the passing by people, which made me believe he is new to town.
In the following months, he seemed more and more relaxed, and at ease, and finally, this last weekend, he was sitting on a stool and rolling a cigarette. Routine must have settled. Yet, he kept his professional look - looking clean and well groomed, the shoe stand well organized, ready for the next client...
What caught my eye the first and every other time though, was this man's face and presence - I saw confidence, self-respect, and determination. I saw a strong personality. I saw a professional shoe-polisher - proud of his line of work. I was captivated by someone at peace. And I want to know his story...

The picture below is from Istanbul - a few shoe-polish stands by the Spice Market. They had more business than the man in Amsterdam. But I wonder, would any of them dare to go on their own, step outside of the comfort zone and try to make it in a new world? Would they have the strength? Would they have a story?

Friday, October 01, 2010

today I had it


It's not the first time in my life I've felt weak, but today I had it. I normally deal bravely with living in a new country, using a new language on a daily basis, money shortage, emotional turbulence, work boredom, but these last couple of days mixed a strong cocktail of all listed ingredient and escalated the pressure in to the point of waking up this morning ... short on breath, heart beat as if I've ran for dear life, and a paralyzing terror - can I handle it all?! After a shower, coffee and a grapefruit juice, fully awake, I realized that the terrifying feeling that I'm losing grip is still with me. So it wasn't just a result of a nightmare. I was really on the verge of losing it... I needed a solid stone to step on, a safe place where to catch my breath, a trusted friend to look me in the eyes and without words to reassure me that I will be o'right. Given the day and time, almost everybody was not available. Expect for one, who coincidentally was coming back from a business meeting, and on his way to take his 8 month pregnant girlfriend to the doctor. It took 5 minutes altogether, to sit with a cup of espresso, to look me in the eyes and smile. I took his hand for just a moment, and a wave of peace came over me. The power of the human touch! No words necessary. And then I smiled too, pressure was gone, I gained clarity... I needed a tiny alignment to gain strength, and I've found it...a mental switch from a very bitter 'today I had it', to a blissful 'today I had it all!'

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A promise to myself



Do you like my Saturday flowers blogs? Yes, they only consist of a single photo ;-)
Because that's what they are all about... and here is why...
Once upon a time, I lived miserably in the UK. And I desperately wanted to return to the United States - my home. However Life threw a wrench in the works, and I had to look for a new job elsewhere. I applied for a job in the Netherlands, and I made a promise to myself - if I get the job I want, I will buy fresh flowers every Saturday! No matter what!
Well, in the Netherlands such promise is easy to keep, it doesn't even cost a lot...
But what's more important is to keep the promise, and I am! It's great to wake up on Saturday morning, have your morning coffee in town, and then pick some fresh flowers to brighten your days during the week to come! If I have visitors, I let them choose the flowers for me. It's lovely to have the flowers remind you of your friends after they leave. Even the rainy days are not so gloomy with some bright colored flowers!
I think I'm lucky with my decision to come to the Netherlands, and I'm happy to keep my promise!

ps. At the time of writing this blog I have cast on my leg, so...I will have to ask a friend to get the flowers for me this Saturday, but the promise must be kept! ;-)

old poetry


WHERE WE STAND
We crossed the line too many times Both, with kindness and with selfishness It isn’t clear where we stand I need to redefines my boundaries You want me as a trusted friend I want you as a friend and lover And while I’m keen on ‘open-end’ Doubt in your heart is hovering Not the we are any perfect Match selected by the stars But I felt our hearts were pumping stronger closely, than apart... (June 2010) REALIZATION ...I have to trust when nothing else is option ... My strengths and weaknesses adjust - part of an unstoppable comotion called life, and lust for it - the magic potion, ,I have to trust, will take me through the motions... (June 2010) 'AS IS' I felt an urge to tell you all - answer the questions I ignored As time is passing, my shield gets torn - I trust you with my soul You say I’m deep and fun, at once - could I be otherwise? I wonder… Like butterfly performing dance around a flame, without burning…I’m syncing our sins (May 2010) UNSPOKEN ...the food is always so delicious, the wine is smooth, the bread is fresh, pretend we not to be judicious, and easily succumb to flesh... you see by now two tangled bodies, refuse I firmly such decoy you feel like God, i feel like Goddess, let's take it slow and just enjoy... (April 2010) CONTRADICTIONS We live through UPs and DOWNs... What is an UP, what is a DOWN? Is it 'Give UP' the right direction? Is it 'Calm DOWN' a wrong sugestoin? My happiness might make one sad... My sunrise is someone's sunset... My only choice is ... move along, I have to be and I am STRONG! (July 2001) REINCARNATION Again... I put all the pieces together and glue them into a whole Me - laughing, loving, happy...whatever I've been always meant to be... (June 2001)

World Beach Project



Summer days are over!
But one memory is here to stay - a memory of a summer weekend, when Bart and I went to the beach. The plan was to stretch on the warm sandy beach and forget about the world...instead we became part of the world...entering the World Beach Project .
We did try to sunbath for a bit, but the wind made the sand feel like sandpaper against your skin, so instead we played with the rocks.
You could see our modest art piece on the map (it loads slow!) - choose Europe, then zoom in on the Netherlands and you will see one of the markers is 'Hoek van Holland'
That's us :)

Hope you like it, and if you ever go to a rocky beach...play and join the project! It's fun! :-)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

Why Intelligent People Fail - Part 2


A few weeks ago a friend told me he'd found my blog and in his opinion my own entries are more interesting than the ones I quote from other sources. Could I get any better compliment? ;) Of course, the point was that my blog should carry my own thoughts...or else you will simpy buy a newspaper. Thus, I felt like I owe you my personal view on the article 'Why Intelligent People Fail'... so here it goes...my confession. First, I think the list of reasons well applies to both personal and professional side of life. And interestingly, both my personal and professional 'hick ups' could be attributed to the same weaknesess. At least I'm consistent! Lack of impulse control, spreading myself too thin and inability to delay gratification are my Achilles' heel. The common thread?...Lack of patience, hence the need for more and new activities to loose myself in...and I do! Too much adrenaline in my blood, I guess! But at the end of the day I often feel exhausted :( Now that I identified the problem (they say that's the first step towards resolving it), would I be able to do something about it? Let's see...and may be Part 3 of this post will follow. Until then, I'm open to hear your comments!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why Intelligent People Fail

Getty Images

Content from Sternberg, R. (1994). In search of the human mind. New York: Harcourt Brace. 1. Lack of motivation. A talent is irrelevant if a person is not motivated to use it. Motivation may be external (for example, social approval) or internal (satisfaction from a job well-done, for instance). External sources tend to be transient, while internal sources tend to produce more consistent performance. 2. Lack of impulse control. Habitual impulsiveness gets in the way of optimal performance. Some people do not bring their full intellectual resources to bear on a problem but go with the first solution that pops into their heads. 3. Lack of perserverance and perseveration. Some people give up too easily, while others are unable to stop even when the quest will clearly be fruitless. 4. Using the wrong abilities. People may not be using the right abilities for the tasks in which they are engaged. 5. Inability to translate thought into action. Some people seem buried in thought. They have good ideas but rarely seem able to do anything about them. 6. Lack of product orientation. Some people seem more concerned about the process than the result of activity. 7. Inability to complete tasks. For some people nothing ever draws to a close. Perhaps it’s fear of what they would do next or fear of becoming hopelessly enmeshed in detail. 8. Failure to initiate. Still others are unwilling or unable to initiate a project. It may be indecision or fear of commitment. 9. Fear of failure. People may not reach peak performance because they avoid the really important challenges in life. 10. Procrastination. Some people are unable to act without pressure. They may also look for little things to do in order to put off the big ones. 11. Misattribution of blame. Some people always blame themselves for even the slightest mishap. Some always blame others. 12. Excessive self-pity. Some people spend more time feeling sorry for themselves than expending the effort necessary to overcome the problem. 13. Excessive dependency. Some people expect others to do for them what they ought to be doing themselves. 14. Wallowing in personal difficulties. Some people let their personal difficulties interfere grossly with their work. During the course of life, one can expect some real joys and some real sorrows. Maintaining a proper perspective is often difficult. 15. Distractibility and lack of concentration. Even some very intelligent people have very short attention spans. 16. Spreading oneself too think or too thick. Undertaking too many activities may result in none being completed on time. Undertaking too few can also result in missed opportunities and reduced levels of accomplishment. 17. Inability to delay gratification. Some people reward themselves and are rewarded by others for finishing small tasks, while avoiding bigger tasks that would earn them larger rewards. 18. Inability to see the forest for the trees. Some people become obsessed with details and are either unwilling or unable to see or deal with the larger picture in the projects they undertake. 19. Lack of balance between critical, analytical thinking and creative, synthetic thinking. It is important for people to learn what kind of thinking is expected of them in each situation. 20. Too little or too much self-confidence. Lack of self-confidence can gnaw away at a person’s ability to get things done and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Conversely, individuals with too much self-confidence may not know when to admit they are wrong or in need of self-improvement. PS: I found this article interesting... And you?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

St.Ilia's Day



On July 20, Bulgarian Orthodox Church celebrates St. Ilia Day. According to the Christian religion St. Ilia is a Judaic prophet, a follower of Jehovah. In the Old Testament St. Ilia is known as an ascetic wanderer. In Bulgaria he is honored as sky patron. Ilinden is celebrated to prevent hail and thunderstorms. Whenever St. Ilia gets angry he either locks the rains into his cave or causes hailstorms. It is believed that St. Ilia crosses the sky in a golden chariot trying to kill the dragon that feeds on the wheat. When he shoots the dragon with arrows, on the sky appear thunder and lightening. St. Ilia's Day is celebrated by leather workers, fur dressers, tile makers and bakers. It is also a name day for everyone called Ilia, Ilian or Iliana.

ps: I did not write this blog entry, I found it in the webcashe of a non-exising page, so I don't even know who to thank about it, but I'm sharing it.

down memory lane with the roar of a military airplane


Hot summer day, middle of July... In the outskirts of Utrecht, my office has no air-conditioning, so the open window and door provide the life maintaining air draft in the near 30 deg C temperatures... I'm working quitely, and the humming of the cars on the nearby highway is substituting for the sound of the crickets I used to listen to during the summers back in Bulgaria...many years ago... And then, out of the blue, the roaring sound of a military airplane! Splitting the air in two and shattering the sky in pieces... Not so usual to hear these days! I feel a tasty adrenalin rush! I don't know where the plane came from and went to, but by the sound of it...it surely can't be too far, and it wasn't too high...the hair on my skin rises...for no other reason, but because this sound took me instantly down memory lane...and brought back sweet memories. Having grown up in a communist time Bulgaria, airforce was always alert and flying regularly in preparation for who knows what, or just to pretend we are ready to fight. The village I lived in was near by two military bases, and it was part of the summer fun with my Dad to listen to and watch the overflying MIGs or TUs airplanes and guess which way they are going, sometimes we'd see them, sometimes we would only hear the roar above the clouds, but we knew what the direction is, we also knew if they just took off of have been circling around. Ocasionally we would see formations of two or three planes, and being oblivious to the potential damaging power they had I would only see beauty in it. How easy it was to be a child...

Friday, July 09, 2010

Ashtanga Yoga



The first time I heard of Yoga was back in school when I was a 12 years old teenager, frustrated with not being able to perform a split in my Physical Education class. My Dad told me that Yoga practitioners are the most flexible people, so perhaps I can learn from them. Luckily, my uncle had a book on Yoga, so I dived in it , but all I found was photos of what seemed to be impossible postures, description of breathing techniques which I failed at, and cleansing exercises. It was not too exciting at first, but I tried some simpler postures and with time I discovered that I was gaining flexibility, to the point that I could do a right split after some serious warm up. Success!
Back then I didn’t care that Yoga means ‘to unite’ and that just the stretching is not the real thing. What’s more, I was probably not even doing the postures quite properly, but nevertheless I kept practicing through the years and I’ve noticed that after a Yoga practice I feel calmer.
Years later, having just moved to the States, stress level in my life was getting unbearable. I tried some meditation techniques I was taught , but it was hard to apply them – my brain was like a busy beehive. So I thought of trying yoga, but this time in a more consistent manner. Every Saturday morning, Sunday evening, and once during the week, I would go to various Yoga centrrs in Tucson, Arizona, and that is how I found Ashtanga Yoga.
It was just what I needed – series of strength and stamina demanding postures, a lot of flexing and balancing, synchronized breathing, and as a result - a light and strong body, and a calm mind. In only a couple of months I had (at last!) discovered the true meaning of Yoga – to unite the body and the mind, and to put them in harmonious peace. It felt so uplifting! Daily life became more positive and energetic, yet more relaxed.
Years came and went, yoga being part of them, sometimes more regularly practiced, sometimes not so. I lived in many cities, but I never found as good teachers as the ones I had in Arizona (with exception to one, but I had to relocate). Also I could not find the Ashtanga style I was looking for.
This Monday I went to my first yoga class in Utrecht – Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga!
Bingo! Perfect click with the place, with the teacher, with the style, with the class pace! My old Yoga skills kicked in after just a couple of Sun Salutations! I felt so hungry for more that I went again on Tuesday! I realized that while going through my daily ToDo lists, going to work, settling in my new place, paying the bills, etc. etc …some of the balance between mind and body was lost, there was a bit of a disconnect. And just a couple of classes brought back the feeling of being United. You go into a posture with an open mind and determination to do it at the best you can, you breath in, the whole world disappears, you are into the posture, you let go off everything on your mind, and you feel the balance, the posture become easier, you enjoy it, you exhale…sublime!

Ashtanga teacher Anne Nuotio says: “It is close to an experience of beauty. As you balance you are not thinking, the feeling is so totalizing. It’s like experiencing a beautiful sight in nature. Those are the rare moments in yoga when you are in ecstasy. I don’t know how it looks, but feels divine.”

Not all asanas come always easy to me – then the teacher would have to come and straighten me out. And often, only a slight alignment, just a millimeter in the right direction and ‘click’ , it gets much easier to hold the pose.
I wonder … is it the same in life … is it a minute alignment that could make everything easier and so much more enjoyable…with the right teacher…? And while I’m waiting for the answer of this and many other questions…I will diligently practice Ashtanga.

Namaste!