On my TBR stack

What is better than reading a book in the afternoon on a rainy day? Or a sunny day? Or in the evening, or the morning, or … well, reading is just one of my longtime hobbies. As a baby I loved look at magazines apparently and as a 5 year old I made myself read books that I knew by heart. My love for books and stories led me to study English Literature and then work in a bookstore while going to uni. But after 10 years of working in a bookstore and reading everything that came my way, I was done with reading. It stopped being fun so I stopped reading. Besides, that coincided with my guy moving in with me and we had … other things to do. Continue Reading

50 Films to watch before you’re 11 (or whenever)

My grandfather took me to see my first film in cinema when I was nearly 6. I remember it clearly. Of course I had seen films on television, but to see one on the big screen with my hero (my grandfather was the best) was an adventure. We saw Pet’s Dragon, the original of course. Now you know how old I am, approximately. And though that film is not on The List, it started a life-long fascination with films. Continue Reading

Living in The Netherlands

Wow, that is quite a big title for a blog post. But there are some things I like to share about living in The Netherlands. My guy, as you may know, is British. Having a partner that comes from a different country helped me to look at the country I am living in with new eyes. Almost. You know: things I take for granted are suddenly strange, because I can’t really explain why it is normal for me! Continue Reading

My dog is awesome

It’s a pretty bold statement, but my dog is really awesome. When I was thinking about getting a puppy, we had many talks about what kind of dog we wanted and how we would raise him. We knew that there was a chance that owning a dog, with all the responsibilities that come with it, would be more work or harder or just not as fun as we thought. But after nearly two years I can only say: my dog – our dog – is just awesome. How did we get so lucky to have him? Continue Reading

How our dog and cats live together

Of course cats and dogs can get along! True, strange dogs don’t trust cats they don’t know. Cats are inclined to run away from loud dogs when they meet them outside. Our cats don’t trust strange dogs, but will happily let our dog snuggle up to them. They are also happy with visiting dogs, as long as they are well-behaved in their eyes. How did we manage to make the cats accept our dog?

Both our cats are rescue cats from a local shelter. We picked them up separately. First we got our girl, who was supposed to be a loner cat: could not play nice with other cats. It took us 2 years to realise that she actually was feeling lonely, so we chose a ginger tomcat from a large rescued cat family. He knew how to be social and he needed to quiet time after the house full of cats he grew up in. Somehow he understood that the girl wanted him to be there, but not too close. And he slowly got closer to her, whenever she allowed it. Now they eat together, their heads almost bumping.

But I always wanted a dog. It took us a while to settle on the idea of a chihuahua and then it took us a further while to find the right one. Meanwhile, we let the cats get to know a friendly dog who was calm, even if she wasn’t used to being around cats. The ginger tomcat fell in love with her. So when we eventually brought home a tiny chihuahua puppy, the cats knew what it was. Then all we had to do was train the puppy and teach him how to act around the cats. The cats helped with that part of the training. They taught him exactly what they allowed and what was not allowed.

Now they all get along fine. The ginger tomcat is the chihuahua’s best friend and wrestling partner; the tuxedocat girl tolerates him, but also challenges him to play. Of course as soon as the dog seems to be winning, she hisses at him and ends the games. And the dog listens.

Nothing makes me happier than sitting on the sofa with my guy, the cats and the dog. And just enjoying that moment, where everyone is just relaxed. It never lasts long. That’s what makes it extra special.

Roleplay story writing

Our roleplay site is called Steamhawke. It works a lot like role-playing games on forums, in that you will join in the story with a new character of your own. It’s been inactive for a year now, but who knows: we can jump in any time and start writing again. That’s the beauty of it. But there has been an ugly side too.

When we started Steamhawke, we didn’t immediately think of opening it for members. But we wanted to write with some of our friends again, so we decided we might as well find some new friends to write with as well. That did turn out great, because we came across Tals, who created this awesome addition to the story, and Hazy, who had never written for RP before and others like Book (who rounded off the story that was started) and Shixam (who just added many different twists to the setting). They all found ways to settle into the story and broaden the setting so that everyone had a good time.

Five and I have written for many rpg’s, and we enjoy writing together. The way we write, as a team, is simple: you discuss what you want to explore, you test out certain goals for the characters and you accomodate each other, both allowing room for what each writer is good at, and providing a safe place to try out things that each writer is less familiar with. The kind of story writing that is a combined effort and not a competition.

Sadly when it did turn into a see-my-character-shine contest, it just slumped. The story did not move forwards anymore, because some characters were busy playing out their own little story without considering how it would affect the overall story. The overall story kinda died.

But I am still very proud of the chapter in which everyone did their best to push and pull at the story. It reminds me that we did do great stuff together as the entire writing team. Hopefully I can get back to that level some time, with both old and new writers. But I will need to find some time to write again. And confidence. That too.

When we game together

F and I have always played games. Before we met and after we met. Before I met F, I mostly played solo games, offline. But when we met and had to go through the whole long-distance part of our relationship, we started playing online games, so we could at least spend time in game together. Guild Wars was one of those games. So when Guild Wars 2 was announced, even though we already lived together then, we started playing in beta. Well, I started playing in beta. I got in, F did not.

Then we moved house, did some other things that distracted us, had a very good reason for not playing, but now we’re back to playing in our casual style. It’s fun. I like it.

You would think only young guys who still live at home play these online MMO’s (or MMORPG). But a surprising number of couples play, and more women than you realise, and plenty of dads. Sometimes, whole families play. MMOs got this bad reputation which is not really reflecting reality. It is not addictive, unless you have a personality that allows for easy addiction. It is not a-social, in fact: online games can be very very social. And it is more diverse than you would think.

Why is it fun? Partly because you do run into people from all over the place, even if you play at a European server. You get a chance to relax by running around a breathtaking environment. And you get this sense of completion when you resolve a task in game. Or when you beat the crap out of someone in World v World. And it is harmless. It’s a good way to relax and feel like you have taken a mini vacation. Just doing something completely different from your day to day lives. That is why I like to play it.

Long distance

It’s not so much a ‘long distance relationship’ thing, though we did have to go through that phase for a while. It’s more a ‘being apart for a week’ thing, when F. has to be away for work. And it’s just weird. Especially since we did the whole ‘long distance relationship’ thing before. Now I feel as if I have to be just okay with it, because it is only a week and we can keep in touch much easier these days. But still. Fun it ain’t.

Why is it that when you are in a relationship you get that attached to someone’s presence? It’s not like I roam around the house crying and not knowing what to do. I do get on with it. In some ways I get more stuff done when he is not here, than when we plan our evenings together. I guess it is just boring when I am alone. That does not stop me from doing things we don’t do together. Like watching tv in bed … in the morning! That was one of my joys when I lived alone. I haven’t done that since we moved in together. Mind you, when you wake up in the same bed, my first thought is not ‘where is the remote control?’. But when he is away, me and the cats will watch some tv in bed before we get up.

The cats, that’s another thing. M. the girl is heartbroken every time F. packs his suitcase. E. the boy simply enjoys his absence, by lounging on F.’s side of the bed. M. greets F. when he gets back, as if life without him is worthless. Yes. She sometimes makes me feel guilty for not missing my guy more than she seems to do. E. is annoyed, and demonstrates that by not moving off the side of the bed that is contested between the two men of the house.

One perk is that my guy brings back goodies I love. Like tea. And chocolate. And magazines he picks up at the airport. So really. What do I have to complain about? Besides it being boring, and includes me doing lots of work around the house and, well, that I just miss him.

Self-service shopping

We live very close to a shopping center where they offer self-service shopping. You get a scanner, scan your products and pay at the register based on what you scanned. Yeah: they do trust you to scan all the products in your trolley. About as far as they can throw you. So they do ‘spot checks’ where they randomly pick you to scan a number of items to check if you scanned them. But you have to wonder how random it is, when you get picked every single Friday night.

Every Friday evening we do shopping. Not always at the same time, but most Friday evenings withing the same hour. And we get picked for ‘random checks’ 9 out of 10 times. We joked about it at first. Until the joke is just starting to wear thin and we say things to each other like ‘it’s still faster than normal queueing’. I would not mind if I had the feeling there were frequent checks and every other customer got checked. But I have not observed that. I have observed we get checked 9 out of 10 evenings based on I dunno what kind of spooky random algorhythm that they use. Can I borrow it for my lottery draws, please? I’d like a 9 in 10 chance to win sometimes.

So how random is it? I really have no idea. But I am mistrustful of these things, to be honest. I know there has to be a button the register-person can push to force a check based on whatever they rely on for instinct. That’s what I would built in anyway. So the supermarker employee can look in our cart and think ‘they probably try to get that beer for free. Better scan them!’ Because it always happens when we have alcohol in the cart. That’s how random it is. We don’t buy alcohol all the time and when we don’t have any in the cart, we have a better chance of not getting scanned.

In the UK the self-service shopping is slightly different that in The Netherlands. You pick up your stuff, go to the register and there you scan your products under the watchful eye of one or two employees. And they never re-scan your stuff. It is bloody difficult to get something passed them unscanned anyway. But no one seems to even think about it either! So… why us, why in The Netherlands?

I just wish I knew what made us so untrustworthy. … They never ever find something we did not scan. They thought they did once, but I KNOW we scanned it and it was on trhe scanned list. They just denied it was on there so we had to move to the regular queue. Weird huh? It’s just weird.

Questions on writing

Why write? I suppose writing is one of the things I should be writing about. Because I have a really complicated relationship with writing. I hate writing, I love writing. It has possibly given me the best thing that has happened to me. And it has frustrated me to no end. To explore writing, I will be tackling the 100 questions I found on this Dutch writing website.

Why did you even start writing?

Do I have to have a reason? Must I answer each question with another question? Why don’t you tell me? No, seriously. I started writing when I could hold a pen and form letters that made up words and sentences. I hated the actual act of writing, probably because my letter-writing at age 7 was labourious and slow. My mind went a lot faster than my fingers could push my pen. But I loved stories. I have a very precious notebook, in which my grandmother wrote my stories. In her beautiful and old-fashioned longhand she wrote down stories that were about elves, and kings, and queens and talking cats. So that’s when I started writing. But why?

What’s your motivation?

I want to tell stories! I want to explore things, situation, scenarios, characters and worlds. Do you understand that theory of parallel universes, created by each possible outcome of each possible decision? That’s what I want to capture, somehow. I know we live here and now. But what if … ? The possibilities are endless.

What are your expectations?

What I expect from my writing is that, no matter how I hate it, or frustrates me, it should give me some sense of satisfaction. The more I polish a story and edit it to perfection, the better I feel about it. But even sending out a diamond in the rough, so to speak, can be good already.

What are your possibilities?

I can write in two languages. But I suspect I am better at expressing myself in one of the two. Sometimes I wish I did not have to pick one language, but that I could use both to tell the entire story. I can write for me, and my guy, and be happy with it. But I do have the option to share my writing online, on my domains or my Wattpad account. I can publish without too much trouble or investment, for now. And I am old enough to stop being insecure, old enough to use my life experience and knowledge to help tell my stories even better.

Next installment the next few questions, about what I loe to write most of all.


Thoughts on getting a puppy

Getting a puppy has been on my mind  since I moved out. But when you work fulltime and are living alone you know you can’t offer the puppy all it needs. Besides working long days, the apartment I lived in was too small. It was too small for the cat I eventually got, too. But somehow you fool yourself into thinking a cat won’t mind. It didn’t become a possibility to have pets until we moved in together and got a slightly larger house. For the puppy we wanted to get a house with a small garden. And we have one now.

We’ve both had dogs in the past, but never together. And we both have different favourite breeds. And though I know that breed is not that important, the one thing that it does offer is healthier pups. I know not many people think this is true, but in the Netherlands official breeders of a particular breed will have a long list of rules and regulations to pass before a healthy pup can be born. So we are most likely going to go for a breed. But which one?

I absolutely love poodles. They are bright, smart, can have a sense of humour and have this awesome curly coat. He liked sturdier looking dogs, like the Akita or Shiba Inu. Both breeds are quite independent and smart. But we also have to think of the cats. Our youngest girl has had a bit of a run in with a dog that was slightly bigger than her. So we think we’ll do better to choose something that remains smaller than her. Which is limiting. But combined with what we like in dogs (independend, smart, loving) we are probably going to fgo with a chihuaha. And the youngest cat seems to like chihuahuas! And that is important.

Yes, it seems we are getting a puppy for our cat. Or both of them. The Ginger Tom seems to get on really well with dogs in general. Well, he is a very loving and friendly cat. And even though it is my dream, my wish, I think when we are getting a puppy we need to make sure everyone in the house likes him. Or her.