Friday, 31 December 2010

Another year over...

Well the year is nearly over, the oliebollen have been brought and we are preparing for a quiet evening in just Mrs Stace and I.

At midnight the neighbourhood will go nuts as hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of fireworks will be let off.  Last year it continued until 2 am(ish), and I suspect it will be the same this year.  The only problem is our cat.  Firework safety is something that has yet to reach the Netherlands, and very young kids will be walking the streets today with a rucksack full of fireworks and a smouldering lighter.  They randomly throw fireworks at whatever is on the street, whether they be cars, people or animals.

Today will not be my favourite day to be out and about – or a day for our cat to be out.  So instead he’s sulking in the attic :)

One of my Christmas presents has turned a little expensive…  My parents got me Jamie Oliver’s 30 mine meals.  Taking a look through the book there seems to be some nice recipes.  But, the advice in the book is to use a mixer to save time.  Now, I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy a mixer for a while.  I love cooking, but don’t have the time or energy recently to start.  So we went to the shops and looked at a food processor.  This then turned into a planetary mixer; which tuned into a Kenwood mixer with liquidizer and mincer attachments (and a wish list of other attachments for the future…)

But…  It’s started making itself useful already.  I ran out of time before Christmas to finish my mince pies – using them mixer I had 20 made in less time than it took to make the pastry normally.  And the pastry recipe in the mixer seems fool proof.  And the kitchen was not left looking like a flour bag had exploded.  Happy, happy, joy, joy as they say :)  Let’s see if it’s as useful for the recipes.

Yesterday I went to a clinic to discuss having my face zapped.  Something that I have been discussing with my therapist for a few months… Whether I transition or not I want my beard gone -
It’s the thing that tips my mood when I catch my reflection most of the time; I’m fed up with making my face bleed, even with an electric razor, trying to get rid of as much shadow as possible.

I had a consultation, was warned about the pain, time and quite a few times I was told that it’s permanent – are you sure you realise this. After the discussion there was a test patch done.  ‘Some people say it feels like an elastic band, others say it’s worse’ I was told again.  The system they use is eLaser a zap of laser light followed by a blast of EMF.


Not too bad actually, the elastic band thing this about right.  Not pleasant by any means but OK…


Hmm, not the best, but doable


Starting to get a little more painful now…


I have to endure this for 45 minutes!

Each zap is fine, nothing too major – as I said an elastic band is a realistic comparison.  Now imagine that someone is pinging your face over and over with the same elastic band!  Suddenly a little ping isn’t any more…

I have to call my insurance company, but am not hopeful of them covering the cost.  The clinic has had an offer on for the last month or so where I won’t have to pay the VAT, bringing the cost down nearly 20% if I pay today (last day of the offer…)

This has taken quite some mental effort.  This is (as was pointed out to me, a lot) permanent.  There is no going back to shaving everyday should I ever change my mind.  It’s not cheap.  And Mrs Stace is not quite happy with me doing it as she likes the stubble (though she isn’t stopping me).

But if it stops me having some mental anguish about my face then it should be worth it…
2011 is going to be interesting…

Happy 2011 all, I wish you the best for you and yours.


Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas Presents

Just a quick post-Christmas post...

Mrs Stace and I have a wonderful Christmas day.  A late brunch, opening presents under the tree, and a Christmas lunch that started at 4 and ended at nearly 9 (we decided to leave a large gap between courses so that we wouldn’t feel stuffed).

I received some wonderful pressies from Mrs Stace and my parents.  As normal we went way over budget (my fault I just can’t pick presents for Mrs Stace and want to get her the lot…)

But some of the best were not the expensive ones, some were cheap but full of thought, others were free and just full of thought.  As I said Mrs Stace and I had a wonderful day together.  What more could you want for Christmas :)

Any my mum gave me a fantastic present on the phone.  She called to wish us Merry Christmas and to see what we had bought each other (but I couldn’t tell her as we had not opened the presents by then).  We chatted for a while and then she had to go as they had people coming for drinks.  Just before she went she went really quiet, into a whispter.

‘And babe, merry Christmas Stacy’

What more could you ask for from your parents…


Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Whilst agonistic I do celebrate the (Victorian) spirit of Christmas - so here are my Christmas wishes to you all, and an e version of that card that we made for this year!

A feel good story...

I was just reading this and thought it a really great story to share at this time of year...


Saturday, 18 December 2010

And it looked so pretty...

From inside the office.  Or even when we went for a walk during lunch.

The snow hit Hilversum yesterday.  As it hit the rest of the Randstad (the 5 major cities in the Netherlabnds).  Mrs Stace was shooed out of her office by her boss in case it turned into mayhem.  I sent the guys that work for me home and was planning on leaving myself and working from home for a while. I was supposed to be meeting with a few (ex)colleagues after work, but that was cancelled as people were worried about getting home.  Unfortunately I had to interview someone for the role of the other team lead and the guy was already on his way to the office so I had to stay.

I did the interview and checked the trains - 'rijd vandaag niet' was plastered all across the information that I could get to (which wasn't the official site as that had crashed with all the people looking at it).  In case you had not guessed that means 'isn't going today'.  Looking at the traffic site I was decided that I would have been no better off in the car - there was a sea of red on the ANWB (Dutch AA) travel site meaning all motorways were stationary.

I walked to the station to see what I could do.  There seemed to still be trains going to Amsterdam Central - but I would have been worse off there if I couldn't get further.  A bit of searching found an employee of the NS who was swamped with angry people.  Eventually she had time for me.  I managed to put a smile on her face by offering my sympathy for the stress she was having with angry people (it's not her fault it snowed is it).  She told me the best thing to do was to go home and try travelling another day.  I pointed out I was trying to get home, but did have the offer of a sofa should it be required.  Apparently there was a chance of getting out of Amsterdam - but it was not huge.  So I called my friend back and stayed at his place and took him up on his offer.  Had some nice french food (he's from France), played some Teken on the 360 - I haven't played that type of game for more than a decade but managed to do OK with some finger mashing and luck (his girlfriend probably came out on top, he lost and was not happy with it).  Played some Worms (again his girlfriend won one, and drew one with me) and had a race with him (one win each) and finished with some Guitar Hero (which I have never played before and, how can I put this...  Oh yes, I sucked.  Totally - I never realised it was so difficult!)

This morning I dragged myself out of bed (it wasn't an early night) had some coffee and croissants (the French really know where to find nice food!) and tried to get home. Most of the intercities had been cancelled, but the slow trains that stop everywhere were pretty much OK this moring.  I don't normally take them - they are not that comfortable and take an age - but I just wanted to get home!

So here I am, a total time of 21 hours to get home - but thanks to a good friend it was not anywhere near as bad as it could have been, and was for others.

The speed in which the snow fell was the cause I think.  At 11am there was no snow on the gound, by 2pm there was 5 inches of it, and it didn't stop there.

Be safe all,

Thursday, 16 December 2010


I had a very interesting journey to the office this morning.

About halfway here it sounded like we had hit something:  lot's of clatering, a bit of bouncing in the carraige.  About 2 minutes later it happened again and the train stopped.

A couple of minutes later we move, slowly, into a siding and the conductors got out of the train to take a look.  Then they came in, then went out again.  One of them came in and made an announcement 'Due to a small unknown technical issue we are stopped.  We don't know what's happened, but we should be moving again in 15 minutes'.

Then he went out again.

About 10 minutes later they came in again.  'We've solved the small issue, and will be stopping in Amersfoort for a techincal inspection'.

The train then moved, *very* slowly onwards to my stop.

When the people got off at my stop we all looked at the carraiges to see if we could spot something - but there was nothing obvious to the untrained eye.

Mushrooms because we were kept in the dark for a long time, and lied to (fed on ****) when they did :)  Small technical issue = something just fell off the train...  Problem fixed = Mechanics are going to take a look 20KM's further up the track...


Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Happy, happy, joy, joy

Just a quickie - cause I'm really happy...

I just got off of the phone with my cable provider (cold call whilst at work, but hohum).  It was one of the wonderful conversations where I was called Mrs from start to finish.  In Dutch as well.

I really have to figure out just how I speak on the phone and try it when out as Stacy...

(Shame the guy from the cable company was not so happy - I turned down his offer of premium sport and film channels before he even started his spiel)

Monday, 13 December 2010

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Yes, I apologies.  It’s corny. It’s cliché.

But I love it.  Christmas has filled our week this week.  On Monday the first Mince Pies came out of the oven.  Made especially as we were decorating the tree that day (I had to wait until after the Sint had left Holland!).

So we annoyed the neighbours with Christmas tunes – traditional, 50’s swing and 80’s pop – whilst decorating our tree.  And eating homemade deep-filled mince pies, still warm from the oven with a glass of sherry (family tradition) in the glow of the Christmas lights afterwards was just…  Ahhhhhh…  Love it.

One of the rooms in the office went to a charity second hand shop (well I say shop – it’s more like a warehouse) and we were so impressed with the results that my room clubbed together and we brought 6 Christmas cones with lights, 50 silver balls and a few bits and bobs to make the room festive.  And even the guy who doesn’t like Christmas chipped in and spent as much time as anyone decorating the room.

Friday I took another a mini pre decorated tree into the office – we brought it when we went away for Christmas one year and wanted something to put the presents around or Christmas morning – to finish the effect.  It’s lovely when you walk in first thing in the morning, when it’s still dark and you have the seven sets of fairy lights throwing a wonderful light into the room.

Shame that with the radiator broken it’s like a dry sauna in there – 27c today with a humidity of 22%.  Not pleasant – hopefully it will get fixed tomorrow morning…

On Saturday we went Christmas shopping.  Not something that I enjoyed last year – but my what a difference a year can make.  Don’t get me wrong, still no idea what is going to happen – but I could just enjoy the shopping this year, looking for presents that I knew Mrs Stace would like.  It took a long time.  Something’s are a risk, and there was a little calling mid shopping to renegotiate the budget (Mrs Stace does ask why we set a budget if I just call every year to extend anyway).

We finished the day with a drink in a local bar – away from the crowds and really relaxing.  We had a nice long chat.  About the shopping and about things in general – it was a great end to a great day.

Now I just have to wrap the presents, over the year we strip the nicest looking adverts from the mail that we get each week to use a wrapping paper.  Trying to wrap something large is a nightmare as it turns into a collage, but for the smaller presents you can get really nice effects.

And I have to arrange an English Mini Buffet for the office party.  It was decided to do a multi cultural thing and all us buitenlanders have been asked to do something from our own countries.  It's hard to believe just how hard it is to get food from a country that is so close by! I'm struggling more than I expected to find English buffet food...  Hopefully I found a supplier for most things, and I am supposed to be learning how to make Scotch eggs this weekend :)

That’s about it this week.  At the moment I am on a high, long may it continue.


Monday, 6 December 2010

12 Months

12 months ago today I turned my life upside down - I had a the start of an anxiety attack and everything came flooding out to Mrs Stace.  This time last year I was expecting to spend this Christmas alone...

I was going to do a reflection on the last 12 months, and started to write it on the train.  I will (probably) finish it - but it has turned into quite a personal reflection and I will probably keep it to myself...

So instead I will go with this...  12 months on from thinking I had destroyed my life I spent this evening drinking Sherry, eating home made mince pies (Delia's mince meat and my mum's pastry recipe), putting up a tree and listening to Christmas music.  All with the wonderful company of Mrs Stace.

And even with the unknown's ahead, feeling much better than this time last year.  But then I am always happy after putting up the tree :)

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Stupid Drivers!

A quick post about last nights trip home...

After we left my sister in laws the roads were starting to get slushy - the temperature had raised to about 0 and it had started to rain a little.  This meant that the snow (which actually provides an amount of grip if you treat it right) had turned to slush (which slips a lot more).  My mother in law was not happy that I said I would be fine driving home (they had offered us a bed for the night, but I am shattered after the week I had and just wanted to sleep in my own bed) and called us to say that the roads were very slippery when they left (15 mins before we did).

So I was driving slowly, making sure not to use the brakes when I didn't need to and everything was fine.  It started to slip a little in a couple of places, but nothing major or truely unpredictable.  We reached the motorway and it was better - not as good as on the way there but more than manageable, albiet at slower speeds.  Until someone decided it had got too slippery in front of us and half an emergency stop (90kmph down to 40ish for no reason).  Thankfully there was enough space between us, but it did rather put my heart in my mouth...

We got back to our exit of the motorway and I was slowing down for the exit when a transit van started to get closer and closer.  On the slip road itself all I could see was one headlight and a ford badge filling the rear view mirror - which started to get me annoyed.  He must have started to slip at some point as suddenly there was lots of space between us.  Appraching the junction traffic lights I tried to make sure that I could be in the lane he wasn't in should they change to red - which thankfully the didn't.

At the next set of lights he was along side of me and I could see it was a minibus full of people - I assumed it was a taxi and commented to Mrs Stace that I would not be happy if I had hired that mini bus to get us around. Whilst the lights were on red I heard him revving the engine lots and rocking back and forward on the clutch - but gues he must have slipped when the lights changed to green as he was a long way behind me suddenly (and I was only doing 60% of the speed limit).

Then a couple of KM's along there was a red light, I started to slow down early - working my way down the gears and saw this van move into the lane next to me.  Then speed past me.  I remember thinking 'if you don't slow down soon you are not going to stop'.  Then thinking 'really, you need to stop'.  At the last moment I actually thought he was going to do it.  But no.  He slammed into a stationary Merc at the lights with such force that the merc was propelled into the BMW in front of him which was in turn moved about three car lengths into the junction.

I pulled behind the van to offer my details to those hit as a witness, and make sure everyone was OK - putting the hazzards on the car to warn those coming down the road still.

And what did the driver of the Minibus say (it wasn't a taxi BTW I was wrong in my assumption).  "I tried to stop, but it's just to slippy you can't do anything can you'.  Except that the BMW did, as did the Merc, as did I.  Those types of drivers are what I truely hate about this weather - that accident was not waiting to happen.  Someone who had no idea how to drive caused that accident.  Idiot.  I spoke to the driver of the BMW today, turns out that 15 people got out of the minibus designed for 9 when the police got there...

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Winter Wonderland…

Well you have had it in the UK for a while now, but this week the snow hit Holland as well.  Two days before the garage were due to swap my tyres to my winter ones.  Thankfully the car behaves wonderfully in this weather, and the most important (and busy) roads are so well maintained that they were just wet – stopping wasn’t a problem.  The side streets were more treacherous – but without the volume of traffic they were more than doable with a little care when slowing down.  I must admit to playing somewhat on the empty roads and especially in the office car park which is also empty when I arrive at 7ish :)

Wednesday I got my winter tyres and playing had to stop (they just grip too well).  Good timing too – yesterday the snow started in earnest (5cm since 9am this morning!  It’s 11:45 as I write this).  We are going for Sint Klas today with my neice and nephew – having enough grip is something I am pleased about.

The poor rabbit is having a time of it.  She’s getting old now (just turned 9) and her hip is starting to play up.  So instead of living in the snow as she has done in the past years she is spending a lot of time in her bedroom buried under piles of straw.  According to the vet we are fine to leave her there as long as she eats and drinks still (she is).  The cat is just going mad as he doesn’t like the cold.  He runs out in the morning to do his stuff and comes back within a couple of minutes and spends the rest of the day inside pining to go out, but refusing to go out in the cold.  As such he’s busy having lots of mad half hours to burn his excess energy.

Outside of that it’s been a tough week…  Things have been interesting between Mrs Stace and me this week.  On two fronts, the shopping – which was possibly too much too soon for her, and my body image.  The first lead to a little iciness, nothing major – but it was a little uncomfortable for both of us.

The second issue caused a much bigger problem this week.  As I may have written before, I have a serious problem with body image.  At 5’10” and 73KG / 11.5 stone (last time I checked) I am not overweight.  But when I look in the mirror that is not what I see by a long stretch.  I am very aware of the path that I am treading here and I make sure that I eat enough (to be honest I also like unhealthy food) even if I feel really guilty about it afterwards.  This was brought up somehow during a meal this week which caused Mrs Stace to get angry at me obessing and me to get upset and walk off.  She came after me and we had a discussion about it (healthy discussion, not arguing) and after I calmed down we finished food.  We both discussed these issues with our therapists this week – and they both said the same thing about it.

The problems causing the arguments are not the cause of the arguments – Mrs Stace is not in competition with me regarding my clothes or anything else.  Rather she is probably feeling that my femininity is threatening hers.  The things that trigger the arguments are typically female things.  And she is supposed to be in the female role, me having those issues can make her think that she is being forced into the male role.  It’s something that we have to work through, and no doubt is going to take an amount of work from both of us.

On the subject of my body image my therapist told me I’m text book.  The way that he explained it to me is that I can’t expect to just be unhappy with ‘those’ parts of my body that are obvious, and teenage body image problems (when mine started) can be caused by not wanting the body to grow up.  Girls have this when they start to get bigger, and in my case I just don’t want the body to change to be an adult male (makes sense to me).  Without me telling him more than saying I have bad body image he managed to tell me exactly what goes through my mind with it – makes me think that he is on to something there…  He also said that I *have* to watch my weight.  I am not allowed to lose any weight at all, and I have to make sure that I don’t over exercise.  Once a week I have to weigh myself and make a note of it, and response accordingly should I start to lose any more.  He also said that should I transition I need the weight I have, and should expect (and need) to put on another 5KG or so.  Wonderful…  He did also say that if I transitioned I would likely lose the body image issues as my body started to change – I’m not sure how I feel about that as it just adds more weight to my need to transition.

On a bright side he did compliment me on my ability to pick clothes that suit me – it’s nice to know that the clothes I pick are not marking me out when walking down the street.  Which is a wonderful bridge to a nice close; I managed to speak to a complete stranger with confidence this week whilst out as Stacy.  For the first time I actually felt comfortable doing it – and I got a pleasant smile and hello back.  Just a stranger passing in the street – but it felt great.

And on that good note I’ll call it a day.  Hope that you all have a good weekend, and that you manage to enjoy the winter weather without it having too much negative impact!