Thursday, February 19, 2009

Welcome to Team GBH

So I joined a new paintball team called Team GBH and had my first training with them on Sunday. They're a cool bunch of guys who are much closer, and even beyond, my age. I don't have any responsibilities except being a soldier and doing what I'm told. It's great. No worries about setting up trainings and tournaments or finding sponsors (unless Scott and Etnies takes an interest ;) ) or making drills or nothing. The guy who's training us is well-seasoned and well-respected and knows what he's doing. I'm on the 'A-Squad', which is the first team, though I'm not entirely sure of my position yet. But the best part was just hanging out with the guys, getting to know them, and playing for fun. 'Just for a laugh' as they say here in Blighty. Though we'll take tournaments and training seriously, we won't let it govern our lives and beat someone up if we lose. And since there are quite a few players, there is less pressure on me to commit to everything. While it was hard to leave Conspiracy, and I wish those guys the best of luck, I'm relieved and excited to play with GBH.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Netherlands Saga

Monday Feb 9: Out of house by 8:30am to get to Folkstone by our 10:15 check-in time on the Eurotunnel. As always, things were hectic until the moment we hit the road...
Part of our downfall was deciding to go see a movie the night before. A free babysitting offer came in and we figured we could spare the time since we're pretty good packers and don't need a lot of time to do it. Plus being able to spend some time w/o the kid before a week of 24/7 kidwatching seemed too good to deny. Wrong. I forgot my jacket of all things. Luckily my cousin Scott came through, but he should have had to. Other little things went screwy as well. The 2+ hours we spent watch Revolutionary Road should have been spent packing and alleviating our predictable morning stress. At least we got to the train on time and everything turned out hippy.
Got to Calais, set our clocks forward and hour and started our trek up to Haarlem. Googlemaps predicted it'd take 3h15min to get to the hotel. It ended up taking 6h. Now this did include about an hour of stops for lunch, potty, gas, etc, but still. There was a bit of traffic around Antwerp and some confusing directions. Whatever. Evie slept most of the time. Which meant we were in for a night of hell in the hotel trying to get her to sleep.
Nice little hotel called Hotel die Raeckse. The room was a bit smallish and we put an extra chair out in the hall to fit Evie's porta-crib tent thingy. After some settling, we wandered around Haarlem downtown to find a non-existent Indonesian place. Cute little area. Cool big church and main square with some pedestrian areas. Nothing too special, but fine. Eventually we found a nice Thai place and I had some good peanut coconut Musaman (?) curry and Jess had her spicy Pad Krawpow shrimp dish that she likes but can't get anymore at our local Thai place, Siam food Gallery. Evie was good as always but we held her for most of the time. But man, did she have a tough time going to sleep back at the hotel. And there's nothing worse than a crying baby at 11pm in a hotel. It's one thing if it's at home, but another if you're worried that the other guests are getting angry. After seeming hours of trading off walking and rocking and putting her in the stroller, Jess finally sat down on the bed to rest, and that's when Evie decided to fall asleep. Whatever. We figured the long car drive and how much she slept during the day threw her off. Both of us had sore backs and wrists from holding and rocking her so much. Hopefully Haarlem would be worth the torturous frustration of getting her to sleep at night.
Tuesday: Typical continental breakfast (at least it was included in the 65Euro price) and we were off to explore some more of Haarlem. Cold wet winds and rain most of the day. The worst part was not having a jacket and layering up with thermal shirts and a wool cardigan. God bless the big umbrella-ella-ella we brought.
Jess wanted to go to the Corrie tenBoom house museum. Who? I ask. Corrie was a Christian woman who helped hide Jews during WWII. Cool. So we met the 60ish tour guide and she gave us a well-rehearsed and scripted tour of the house and the secret room. We were the only ones on the tour. While the tour was recited without much emotion or pauses for breath, it did have a health dose of the Gospel. That was neat and made it a bit more interesting that the museum was also part of Corries legacy to spread the Word.
Scott met up with us later in the day and was my hero for bringing me a nice snowboarding shell and a fine selection of Etnies SWAG goodies incl. shoes and 3 zip-up hoodies. Yeah Scott. We went out to sushi when we couldn't find his buddy's restaurant recommendation, Cafe Bizarre. Odd. Seeing Scott was the highlite of the day and pretty much the whole trip. It was so cool to hang out with Scott and catch up with him. He's enjoying himself in Amsterdam working as a sales manager for Etnies. He's got a nice big place that we offered to us whenever we hit Amsterdam again. Sweet. I think Kirsten and I might take him up on his offer in April. (He's on couch-surfer .com if you're interested...). Sneaky Scott also grabbed the sushi check and would have paid for the apple pie if Jess didn't distract him while I paid. I'm really stoked for him and it was just cool to see him. We hung out a bit as kids during family gatherings and at UCSD, but haven't seen each other since our wedding. While Haarlem wasn't the best of places, it was worth it to see Scott.
Evie gave us some some more grief, but after rocking and walking for a bit, I just said 'screw it just let her play in her tent' and set her in the tent. But she played for a while then just fell asleep on her own by 11pm or so. Reprieve.
Wednesday: Got up and hour late bc my iPod reset itself to London time and woke us late. We wandered down to bfast and it was all cleared. Crap. But the hotel owners were super cool and brought us some food and hooked us up. Nice dodge.
Followed the walking tour on the tourist map to see if there was anything we missed. Some pretty little Dutch streets and 17th century houses. A picturesque canal around the edge of the downtown. When we got back to the hotel in the afternoon, Jess let me go back to a pipe shop I saw the day before while she rested with Evie.
The pipe shop, Jan van der Pigge est.1800, boasts it's the oldest pipe shop in the Universe. Wow. Plus, while I have a couple Dutch pipes, Big Bens, I don't have one that I actually bought in the Netherlands. One of them is from Malaysia actually. So I spend a bit of time looking over the pipes at the shop looking for one of the Royal Dutch Pipe series of Big Bens. I found a nicely shaped and pretty colored one. Big Bens aren't known as the best pipes in the world, but they can be nice and this one is decent. Nothing too flashy. Not my favorite, but it smokes well and fulfills my quota.
Walked around looking for Italian food that night. Walking a lot actually trying to get Evie to fall asleep in the stroller. She finally did and we settled into a nice little place on the main piazza called Applesauce or Applause or something. We had a simple pasta dish with a sauce of roasted pine nuts, basil, garlic, chopped tomato, and red peppers all saute├ęd in lots of butter and little olive oil. The pine nuts are what tied it all together. I tried to replicate it when we got back and got distracted and burn the butter...which crisped the garlic. So I said screw it and threw in some sundried tomatoes and mixed it with too much pasta. SNAfU. Oh well. I'll get it better next time.
Thursday: Woke up a bit earlier than the previous days, so around 8am, to pack, have breakfast, and bring the car around (the hotel also gave us free street parking). We saw the sun for the first time that morning and got really excited. Then it went away. Then it snew. Then it hailed. Then the sun came out again. Then it rained and snew again...while the sun was out. Weird. Then we were off. Scott couldn't stop talking about how good his favorite Mex food place was in Amsterdam, so we decided to hit it on the way down to Delft. It was only 2omin away, so we figured it was worth it to have some good Mex. A nice surprise was to see Scott again at the Taco Shop and hang a bit more.
Drove for about 45min down to Delft. Mini Amsterdam. Super pretty with canals and old timey buildings. Kinda wished we'd stayed there instead of Haarlem, but then we wouldn't have seen Scott. There is a couple huge cathedrals(?) on beautiful plazas along the canals. One of the towers is actually bending over the canal as the integrity of the foundations are being undermined by the canal. At least that's what I think is the reason it's leaning. (pic on right)
The Hotel Plataan is florally themed and each room is named after a tree. But the names are all in Latin so it was hard to identify where we were. Rhodopsis or something. The walls are all hand painted with odd little nature scenes and lots of naked people staring at you (see below). Weird but interesting. The headboard was a giant maple leaf. The gave us a complimentary drink down at the bar, so we hung out there and played Boggle (Foggle App on iPod) until Evie got too fussy. (Jess was addicted a similar Boggle-like game called Shake-n-Spell then entire trip. It's always funny to see her so engrossed in a video game. The last time I think was our little Tetris game that we took up to Big Sur). For dinner, I just went to a pizza place that I saw while we wandered around and order a Quattro Formagi (4 Cheese) to go. Then we watched '7 pounds' (we also got free internet in Haarlem so I used Xtorrent to download a buncha stuff: The Wrestler, Defiance, Australia, 7 Pounds, The Office, CSI, Underworld, Paintball movies, Pride and Glory, and a couple new albums) during and after we got Evie down.
Friday: No free bfast this time, so we went to a cool little place we like in NL called Bagels and Beans. While loading the car in the hotel parking lot, we noticed a bunch of chickens running

loose around the parking lot. Weird.
We didn't have to be at Calais until 4:50pm, so we decided to make a stop in Brugge for some chocolate and fries. It was pretty easy to do and we didn't get lost driving the confusing streets this time. It took us about an hour and half or so, I think, to get to Brugge from Delft. Then another hour and half to go from Brugge to Calais and back on the Eurotunnel train. Arrived back in the UK just a couple minutes after we got on the train in Calais since we set our clocks back again. After some crappy traffic, we made it back to the house around 7ish or so. Home again home again jiggity jog (as Mom used to say for some strange reason;) )-Chris

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Emergence of the Why

The Y-Chromosome that is.
This, I believe is my first entry in our 'family' blog that Jess has been faithfully updating and I occasionally drop in to read. But being a family blog, I have finally been inspired (by the Bowser Blog and Pat's historic Madrid Blog and a wandering around the backyard with my pipe for the first time in an aeon) to start putting down some of my thoughts and experiences. Not that I have a lot of time atm (at the moment: I've gotten into using a lot of the chat-acronyms from the kids) to write much but this intro, since inspiration for me often comes (too) late at night. It's 11:07pm and I need bed. So hopefully this is just the beginning. 'Nite.
-Chong the father
**this is my font, so all future posts written in this font are probably from me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Evangelyn is a Movie Star

Here's a short video of Evangelyn and some of her latest tricks. There's no rolling over, yet, but she makes lots of fun sounds and likes to try to eat things. The best is at the end, so you'll have to watch the entire film to see her really laugh.

Snowy Day!

We had a snow day today!

It was the most snow England has seen in 18 years and we loved it! It began to snow yesterday afternoon and continued off and on throughout the night. I woke up at 3:30am to check on Evangelyn and everything was white outside. It was so bright that I had trouble falling back asleep. Then at about 6am we got a call from work to tell us school was canceled. Aaaah. We all slept in, even Evie. It felt like a holiday. We made pancakes for breakfast, went to the Bowsers to watch Lost and Heroes, and then played in the snow until the sun went down. I learned how to roll proper snowballs for snowmen from my friend, Erica, and we all made a Chong snow family. Tomorrow we get to do it all again because there's still snow on the ground and school is closed again!
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