A legend has passed on

Today I woke up to the news that the mangaka of Berserk, Miura Kentaro, passed away on the 6th of May. And I was devastated.

I grew up with Berserk when it was released in 2003 by Dark Horse, together with Blade of the Immortal, it was my baptism in the world of Japanese comics. I was blown away by the work of detail in this dark fantasy world. The story was gripping, the style made you crave for more. Miura-san had me hooked on manga.

The joy I felt whenever a new volume came out and when I read the last page the tension harsh waiting game began for the next release. I wasn’t that active on the internet and the community in the Netherlands is very small, because I am not a big fan of going to anime-cons. The crowds just do me in. But I had a coworker with whom I could chat and speculate about the story’s progress.

When I grew older Berserk stayed with me. But you also find out the dark side of being the mangaka of a popular series. Your publisher wants a steady schedule in which you deliver quality work. And these schedules in Japan are insane. Look at Shonen Jump that comes out weekly, which means if you are serialised in that, you need to deliver a new chapter once a week. It’s crazy. Sadly, so many mangaka had to take a long period to recover their health. And with Twitter these days, they are exposed by the disappointment of their fans when their favourite series is on hiatus. Some comments are outright vile.

Miura-san struggled with his health and trying to keep fans happy. And now he is no longer among us. I have a deep respect for this man. Mangaka’s have assistants to help them but this is not an easy life. They often crunch together to make the deadlines pulling many late nighters. He wanted his staff to be able to have a family life and he gave them the chance.
Just wished he looked out a little bit more for himself.

I shouldn’t read the comments on Twitter under his respect posts, but sadly I did and still some fans don’t understand and called him lazy for not keeping up with the schedule or taking breaks. Crying about what will happen to the story. For me the story ended when Miura-san passed. I don’t need more. I’ll cherish what he has given me.

It reminded me of the time the wonderful Terry Pratchett passed away. I was blessed to have met him in person, we had a little chat about how his books gave me joy. I didn’t want someone else to finish his books, I was fearful that they couldn’t carry the spirit he had. So when I heard that in his last will he asked for his hard drives to be destroyed by steamroller my heart made a little jump. That’s the Terry Pratchett I know and love.

I have a few mangaka left on my list that give me the same joy as Miura-san. I hope they look out for their health.

Street Art Tour in Rotterdam

It’s been a taxing few months at the office and I needed a short break. When the commotion died down I mustered up my courage to ask for some time off. Mind you, my boss is not a difficult person but I just thought there was no space in the planning and I had to wait until the end of May for my other short break. So I booked a hotel in a remote part of Rotterdam, in the harbour area.

Rewriters Rotterdam have a map of all the street art locations across town and they do guided tours. But because Covid-19 is still throwing his merry self around I decided to try finding them solo. When it’s a bit safer again I will book a tour through them.

I haven’t found them all which was a shame, I did everything by foot and seeing that I haven’t walked long distances in ages I was knackered after two days. I could have gotten a OV-bike but I hate those with a passion. Coaster brake how I loathe you.

My love for street art is pretty big. I admire these artists as they use brick or concrete as their canvas. When I lived in Belfast the ugly and menacing murals sometimes were replaced by beautiful and inspiring street art. Balaclavas and guns hideous, animals or fairies or anything not remotely like a balaclava is awesome. I’ll write about the street art I found there in another post.

Disclaimer: description is my interpretation and does not reflect the artists. I can be totally wrong. 😉

Central District

Speech bubble
Baby turn the light on
You talkin’ to me?
We are absolute beginners
Tour de Rotterdam
Shapes

Near the Erasmus bridge

Gnomeo and the Eye of Sauron
Rockin’ Roller
Rock tha Boat
Truckstar 1
Truckstar 2

Central Rotterdam

The Birds
Crazy Horses
We are the world
Captain Colourful
Flower Burst
Soul Sister

I missed quite a few locations like the Great Wave off Kanagawa and Death. But that means I will go back with a decent bike next time.

Wholesome Twitter part 2

Yesterday had been a very tough day at work due to the snowfall and citizens being inconvenienced. Everyone worked their asses off to get things going but with less traffic on the roads, the road salt wasn’t able to do its work properly. The roads became skating rinks.

Mondays are my days off but Friday they requested if I could switch days because of the weather forecast. The trains didn’t run on Monday and the roads were dangerous so the work from home team was on full force while the office team might not be able to come in. It was busy right of the bat and didn’t slow down until late in the afternoon. Only perk was that time flew.

My call total was around 78 at the end of the day, which is an average of 10 per hour. I could do more but the calls were all explaining why the main roads have priority and the residential areas couldn’t be swept yet. And those aren’t 4 minute calls. ^^;; Road salt doesn’t work if not enough cars drive over it. Most people were understanding but we all had unreasonable people on the phone. Weather alert was red/orange with warnings to no go on the roads, but sadly this falls to deaf ears for some. I know some work cannot be done remotely but demanding your employees to come in and they get in an accident makes you an ass. Or ordering food to be delivered is just selfish letting someone else risk their lives. But yea, everything for the 24-hour economy.

So I needed some TLC and I went on a Twitter endorphin binge again.

https://twitter.com/uuumumudoll/status/1359107869384142849

I follow a lot of Japanese doll artists on Twitter, especially the anime related dolls. I’m always admiring the customs made that just make the original producer of the dolls pale in comparison. Look at the complete styling of this doll. The faceup is very cute, the wig styling is stunning and the outfit is amazing.

Because the heads are made of vinyl I have no confidence in painting or carving them myself. I feel safer with resin because when I mess up I can remove the make up with acetone. If you do that to a vinyl head it prolly melt XD.

I once tried my hand to buying a custom from Japan via Yahoo auction but I dislike bidding wars. The price can be steep but in my honest opinion it is worth it. Some people spend a lot of cash clubbing in the weekend, buy designer clothes or bags and I spend my money on dolls. Each to their own.

The wooden dolls made by Suekichi Haruo are just adorable. I mean those little ducks look like that duck pull toy that was around when I was a child. I think this design just makes me feel nostalgic. I am always attracted to simple but cute design and wooden toys and figurines never get old. Wood working is an admirable skill and I am sad the popularity had been dwindling the last decade. But I see a slight revival of it these days and luckily it is also becoming a sustainable revival. I’m not an advocate cutting down any tree to make stuff of it.

Further down Haruo’s feed you will find more cute designs like frogs and turtles. I had hoped to travel to Japan in 2020 and maybe stumble up these in a small store. Maybe next year. =)

My SO at times makes fun of me when I like cutesy pastry or desserts. I just can’t help it. In Asia you see this more then in the Netherlands because cute sells. We have elaborate cupcake decorations but cute cakes are more often bought for kids’ parties and I am judged too old for this stuff XD.

Another plan for the Japan trip was going to a character café and eat cute food. Even if it is more about looks than taste. Some YT’ers I follow were underwhelmed by the taste but I feel I need to have done it once to satisfy my appetite.

https://twitter.com/PonkichiM/status/1358931323159674880

PonkichiM is an illustrator that drew me in with their vegetable fairy book. The idea that hidden among vegetables and fruits you have these animal fairies was just so awesome. I really want a Napa Dog (Chinese cabbage Dog) and no worries they flee before someone tries to eat them XD.

Now these designs are being turned in collectable figurines and I am a little bit jealous of people that can order them. My Japanese is not anywhere good enough to order from the website and often they don’t ship abroad. One day I hope I can own my own Napa Dog, Sweet Potato Newt or Red Radish Fox. But for now I admire from afar.

Wholesome Twitter part 1

During the pandemic Social Media (SM) has been a blessing but sometimes a burden. With every channel you have drama and not so fun stuff and I really needed to filter what I take in so it won’t feed into my anxiety. My presence on Facebook is decreasing but on Twitter it is increasing. Easy to use and retweet stuff that I like from other creators. I say creators as I follow a lot of artists on Twitter but in moderate I also follow a few actors, musicians and writers like Mark Hamill, Stephen King, Tom Morello and Mark Ruffalo.

As I said earlier SM has it’s ups and down. Luckily, you can create a bubble for yourself and keep it relatively drama-free. Of course some of the accounts will post political statements at time. Stephen King and Mark Hamill have been really active the past four years discussing the political climate of their country, which everyone is in their fullest right to do, but I refrain to read the comments that they get. My SO said most of the shitty comments are by intentional trolls. But we all know the biggest online troll was president of the US of A and I really doubt he did this just for shits and giggles.

So yeah, I try to not get dragged in the Twitter drama as often as I like. That’s why I like to share some of the accounts that I follow for some wholesome content. =D

https://twitter.com/molcar_anime/status/1355719136815378432?s=19

Pui Pui Molcar aired by BANDAI NAMCO Arts Channel. If you like guinea pigs and handmade stuff this is a cute account to follow. Look at those little beady eyes of the guinea pig cars, so cute! =3 If you want to see their shenanigans, go check out their YT channel. Don’t worry about it being a Japanese show, it is complete visual fest and easy to follow for your kids.

https://twitter.com/dokirosi/status/1355631373105692679?s=19

Doki is a Brazilian illustrator / comic book artist / queer fantasy stories enthusiast / plant mom who has successfully launched an urban jungle Kickstarter so you can get enamel pins, stickers, tote bags and prints. I just love these types of illustrations and if you are a plant mom/dad who wouldn’t want a print or a pin of your babies on the wall. Fab use of colours and technique.

https://twitter.com/plussecret126/status/1355790365790400523?s=19

Plussecret is a Monchhichi and doll café based in Asakusabashi, Tokyo. I wanted to visit them on my trip to Japan in 2020 but alas the pandemic happened. You can buy Monchhichi & Friends goodies and tasty treats. When traveling is sensible again I will get my hands on Chimutan, the bunny you see on the left.

https://twitter.com/cocoro_bz/status/1355756151850233861?s=19

This plush hospital just melts my heart. Professional plush doctors and nurses take care of your beloved plushies and restore them to their former glory.

I used Google translate to get a rough understanding of the post (for Japanese it is really shit, don’t use it to talk to Japanese people please).

The seal is called Sirotan and was stuffed again to become a full and happy seal again.
Mr. Utsubo, the moray eel, underwent some dental care and has new cute little chompers.

My Twitter is @clogsnsneakers and I would love to connect with you 😀

Farewell to FFXIV

I never thought that it would happen but yesterday I cancelled my subscription to FFXIV.

Since the beginning of the pandemic I haven’t logged into my account but before that I wasn’t really active online either just doing events for new mounts/minions.

I’ve been playing the Final Fantasy MMO, FFXIV predecessor FFXI since 2005 and was hooked instantly. I met and made a lot of friends there, some to whom I still speak to. But if you really want to be good at the game, you need to get into Endgame for the gear.

The drama I encountered in FFXI was horrible. People hating on each other as rival Linkshells (guilds) and people just stealing items or backstabbing within the linkshell. I had enough and moved on FFXIV which looked like a more casual game to me. I even got my significant other to play it.

The storyline is amazing, I was excited for each announced expansion but the higher I got the more I came to realize is that in order to be good, you need the gear to back it up. As a healer it sometimes became difficult and the grind for better gear became a chore. Also players tend to point it out that you are lacking in gear/skills or just cussed at you. I try my best and don’t go around half-assing the dungeons but if you criticize me every step of the way it sucks the joy out of playing. My SO fell out with the game earlier as people didn’t like his playing style. It would be easier if we had two other friends to join us so we could just have plain old fun again. But alas, it is not so.

On this account I spend 1440 days which is almost 4 years that I’ve played this game but it does not bring me joy anymore. Part of me is sad, as I really loved the storyline. But the team behind FFXIV is developing FFXVI for the PS5 as a stand alone game which the story is going to rock I am sure.

I have until the 7th of January to tie up some lose ends in the game and move my collectibles to my character. I don’t want them to delete my living quarters due to inactivity and lose my in-game items.

Yoshi P and team thank you for bringing me a fun few years and creating Final Fantasy XIV. Maybe one day I will be back.

<bow>

4K battle
4K battle

Living without dairy.

Since last October I’ve been ill, which resulted in my stomach being more sensitive than normal and it never restored to it’s old self again. I felt sharp pains in my stomach and it bubbled and popped like old chemical factory, leaving me very bloated. At first I thought it was because I drank a lot of carbonated drinks but when I cut back on those, I never felt the difference. When I ate a cottage cheese cake my symptoms became worse and had a massive bout of the D. Others whom had eaten the same cake didn’t have any issues so it wasn’t food poisoning.

I have a few relatives who are lactose intolerant so I decided to cut back on any dairy products and my stomach settled down again. But if you look at any product made, a lot of them contain traces of dairy. Soups, sauces, cookies, cakes, drinks, cheese etc. So I have been looking for alternatives to replace dairy. I’m not a fan of soy milk, I drank some in Japan which is completely different than the brand you find here. I just can’t consume it without using a ton of sugar, which is also bad. Besides soy production isn’t always traceable to reputable farms, same as with palm oil.

Luckily our vegan friends have made it so that more plant-bases products came on the market, which made the choice for me a bit broader. I turned to oats and coconut based products. Oatly shows their carbon print and it looks promising, Alpro and Albert Heijn has expanded their product range massively on plant-based yogurts which fixes my cereal problem. I drink a lot of chai lattes and the barista range of Oatly & Alpro froth just as much as whole milk and leave me without the bloated feeling.

It’s been a week since I switched to mostly dairy free products and I feel much better already. I might have even found a vegan mozzarella that I like. Making my own sauces and soups is a pain but better for my diet anyway. The rest of the family also benefits of the freshly made stuff.

I am really happy to see more plant-based products popping up. Alpro has a great ice cream range, Ola already made a vegan Magnum (please make a vegan Solero) and Ben & Jerry’s joined the club. I’m just a little bit envious of people living in the Japan, they have plant-based patisserie. The lactose free cakes just don’t cut it here. That’s the only thing I will need to miss for now, New York Cheesecake and Bossche bollen. But there is some vegan cheesecake recipes out there, just need to make my own.

All and all I’m a much happier person now with my stomach in balance.

Japan 2020

I’ve been to Japan in 2006, but due to circumstances I didn’t have a nice time there (you can’t get a refund over a relationship’s break up). So, it has been my dream to go back there again and do it the proper way this time.

Japan

The plan for now stands: a few days in Tokyo, travel to Osaka with the shinkansen (bullet train) and then spend the last leg of the trip in Tokyo again. From Osaka we will do day trips to Hiroshima and Kyoto.

Hiroshima is a must for me and my boyfriend as we want to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. I am a great admirer of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the man who survived both atomic bombs, and the work he has done to advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

There is going to be a lot of firsts for me this trip. First time on the shinkansen, first time to Osaka, Hiroshima and Kyoto. The last trip I spent two weeks in Tokyo, then I missed a lot of stuff because the place is huge. That’s why we’ve made a list of what we’d really want to see this time . Hopefully we won’t overload ourselves by trying to fit everything in those two weeks.

The countdown has started and I can’t wait for it to be the day that we depart for our Japanese adventure.

Psychosomatic Illness

Limbic System

It was in September of this year that my body showed signs of illness. My emotions had been stretched thin for a very long time already, about to snap. But now my body was failing me. I woke up in the middle of the night by tremors in my legs, adding insomnia to the list. During the day I felt twitches in my face and body and worst of all my muscle strength deteriorated. Worst thing I could do was google the symptoms and that was exactly what I did. The results made me panic and resulted in even more sleepless nights. It could be Alzheimer’s, ALS, cancer, MS or any other neurological illness Doctor Google threw in my face. Great, now what? Time to see my GP.

I had to take several blood tests and stool samples to see if something was wrong physically. And because my anxiety levels went through the roof, I was referred to a specialist to help me cope with that. Waiting for the results of the tests was agonizing. When the results came in, the verdict was: your body is not sick due to a physical illness, you only have a shortage of vitamin D. But why am I feeling this weak, experiencing these pains and tremors?
My GP decided to refer me to a psychosomatic physiotherapist instead. I did discuss it with the other specialist and he agreed that doing both therapies would be too much for me and wished me luck with the physiotherapy.

The first session was an eye-opener for me. A psychosomatic illness originates from emotional stress and manifests in the body as physical pain and other symptoms. Depression can contribute to psychosomatic illness, especially when the body’s immune system has been weakened by severe and/or chronic stress. And let’s be honest, my life has been a roller coaster of emotions since 2016 when I came back from Belfast due to a family emergency. No steady job, money worries, my inferiority complex peaking, unsavory people sucking up my energy. But why did it come out now? I finally had a steady job that I enjoy, a relationship that is build on trust and a roof over my head. My brain was just overloaded and oversensitive and my body was giving me the signals that it had enough and I had to take care of myself.

My therapist gave several breathing exercises to relax and taught me how to breathe the correct way. My breaths were to high in my chest, making me use muscles that I’d normally don’t need to do the job, kind of like hyperventilating 24/7. No wonder I was worn out. Also gave writing exercises to change my way of thinking, my self-flagellation wasn’t helping my stress levels at all. It was hard to look at myself and try to see the parts that are worth it. During my depression I embraced the bad stuff and never looked at the good again.

Now we are a few months in the therapy and bit by bit I am feeling better. Taking extra vitamin D helps me build up strength again, otherwise I would have to move to a sunnier country to fix that issue. But confronting my fears and frustrations has been the right step towards healing. The tremors became less, became insignificant, something that I stopped fearing. The pain is bearable, not as sharp as before. I’m learning to say what I am thinking, no longer keeping my mouth shut out of fear of what people will think of me. I think 2020 will be another good year for me.

Tong Tong Fair 2019

Last Wednesday we went to the Tong Tong Fair in The Hague. When I was younger we did go often and after my father’s passing I decided I needed to go again once more.

My mother is from Indonesia and while I’ve never been there before my heart does long to the country. This fueled by the stories of her and other family members. But I know this is a romantic view that I have of Indonesia as my family left the country when they were very young and a lot has changed there. I do hope one day I can go visit.

The Tong Tong Fair gives you the chance to reconnect to your Indonesia heritage. You can buy Indonesian products, enjoy Indonesian food and listen to Indo music.
I do need to highlight the difference between Indo’s (I am one) and Indonesians. Indo’s have Dutch heritage in their family line. These are people who moved to Indonesia and started their life there during the colonisation. Indonesians are true locals so to speak.

The smell of the spices brought me back to the stories I’ve heard as a child. I could almost imagine myself walking along the rice fields. It is strange that you have a longing to a place you have never been before. But it is a longing that is fueled by my family’s history. It is sad to say that my grandmother is no longer with us, so I am unable to write down her stories. But I will sit down with my mother and write hers.

In the past the fair was bigger, with more stands telling the story of Dutch East Indies (the old colony) and the current Indonesia. But with the population who’ve migrated from Indonesia getting older, their stories are becoming lost in time. I’m a second generation, because my mother was born in Indonesia but a lot of people are third or fourth generation. Our ties with the past dwindling with each generation. People sometimes ask me why I find my heritage important. It’s because it made me, there are customs which are met with ridicule that I have from my Indo side. But I always say I have the best of two cultures, a thing that makes me able to understand how other second generations feel living in a country that sometimes not accepts them as their own even if you were born here.

It’s not been easy, living with an identity that pulls two directions. Not feeling your completely part of a culture because you are never truly Dutch or Indonesian. My skin colour gives me away for not being white but I am too tall to be Indonesian. People often piss me off by saying you don’t look Indonesian, holding on to the stereotypes portrayed in movies and books. But if they look at how diverse the Indonesian people are, people from Sumatra don’t look the same like the people from Maluku.
I am what I am.

One of the joys going to any Indonesian fair in the Netherlands is the difference in cooking you get to try. This year we got to try delicious treats from Surabaya, capital of the province of East Java. I enjoyed Soto Ayam with Longtong (Indonesian chicken soup with sticky rice), my mother had the same but with regular rice and my boyfriend had Sate Kambing with Longtong (skewers with goat meat covered in sweet marinade). The Soto Ayam is different then the one my mother makes, but just as good. Indonesian food is soothing for the soul.

While I was a bit sad that it was a lot smaller this year, I did enjoy myself. I’ll keep going back until I am able to set foot in Indonesia myself.

Indonesian garden
Indonesian garden
Soto Ayam
Soto Ayam
Sate Kambing
Sate Kambing
Kopi Luwak
Kopi Luwak
Exotic Fruits
Exotic Fruits

Record Store Day 2019

It been a few weeks since Record Store Day took place, an event which I have been looking forward to for ages. But one part left a bitter impression on me, hence why I took a while longer to write this blog.

For RSD it is always good to be there before the store opens. Some releases have a limited print run and if it is of a popular band, you might have to compete to nab it first. Promised to meet up with a friend and arrived just in time to see the doors being opened. There was a line before the store, but once inside everybody just pressed on, swarming the releases. I had been to the same store the year before but now it seemed more chaotic. And maybe it was just my anxiety acting up again. I don’t do well in crowds.

Sadly the record I really wanted, Orbital limited print 1500 worldwide, was nabbed before my nose. Fair play to the guy beating me to it. Still I didn’t leave the store empty handed. The 20th anniversary record of Right Here Right Now by Fatboy Slim was a welcome addition to my collection. I ended up purchasing 10 records that day. A big haul compared to the year before. I was even lucky to find the 2016 RSD release of Hooverphonic that I missed.

The weather was nice, we hung out at the bookshop before we had one of the greatest lunches I had for a while. Something different than ramen. 😉
I’ve been not feeling that fantastic lately, which is why I was happy that the day was fun for me. Great company helps too.

The bitter part didn’t start until the day after RSD. I’ve always detested scalpers. People who buy limited releases and sell them at a higher price later. I had this discussion with a coworker before with him saying business is business but I refuse to take part in that crap. So the day after the Orbital record was offered for €30 while you could have bought it for €12.99 on RSD. At least I found out who did this at Discogs making sure I’d never ever buy something from them in the future. Eventually, I managed to get it for £10.99 even if I needed to pay more in shipping than I would have in the Netherlands.

Scalpers ruin the hobby for me at times. If it’s not in the BJD world, it is after RSD when you run into them. But I got it for a decent price after all.

RSD 2019
RSD 2019

Dylan Moran – Dr Cosmos

I’ve always wanted to see a show of Dylan Moran, ever since I’ve seen him in Black Books on TV. His form of wit and dark humour fits my own tastes. When I found out that he was performing in Amsterdam, I had to go.

I was able to get some decent seats in the middle and the show was fully sold out.

How can you describe a stand-up show by Dylan Moran? In my honest opinion Teun van der Sluijs summed it up perfectly.
Moran’s live stand-up comedy is unique in that it merges two strands of stand-up that seemed incompatible for a long time: sharp observational humor, and surreal and fantastical language-based absurdity. On the one hand, he has a clear influence from what could be called an American school of stand-up comedy that is heavily observational. On the other hand, Moran’s comedy is characterized by a use of language similar to the stand-up comedy of Eddie Izzard and Ross Noble: surreal associative leaps between on the one side observations and on the other fantasies, verbally painting bizarre and absurd worlds, often through a use of stream-of-consciousness narration. His language is often highly poetic, resembling a James Joyce that has had one too many.

He portrayed the difference in generation where nowadays they call for an Uber while we had to ask someone else’s older brother or sister for a ride. Our dating methods were different, we didn’t have the social media around to select our prospective partners. You’d only hope there was a decent fella in the pub/school or at work.

The way he described his youth and his antics in life had me bursting out in tears laughing. Ireland in the seventies was like Chernobyl with clergy or the haunted screams of a fellow flatmate that she was the only clean thing in the house.

The best expression I’ve learned from my time in Ireland is the one I often us to this day. Just to try and cope with the bizarre and unreal world we live in, after you’ve woken up finding out once again this is a dream. ‘Oh, for fucks sake’.

I had a terrific evening, even running in to my friend Anneke, and giving my boyfriend a view inside my head. Because if I’d ever drink coffee, it would be as dark as my soul.

Outdoor doll photo session – Oisterwijk Fens

The best photos I make of my dolls is when I take them outdoors, often to nature reserves. I love taking photos of them, but I hate the stares I get when I am taking the photos. Luckily I am armed with my boyfriend these days, which makes me less aware of people staring at me.

I’ve visited this nature reserve in Oisterwijk quite often. I used to take my dogs there and spent many hours roaming the fens. In the early hours of the day it has very mysterious atmosphere, especially when there is fog. But today the sun was out, and so were the pollen. I love being outside, but my hay fever often kicks my ass the next day.

Fuyumi
Fuyumi
Fuyumi
Fuyumi

At one point a man thought I was taking photos of a mushroom, while I was posing Fuyumi. A very strange mushroom indeed ;P.

Pip
Pip

It’s still early in the season so the bug count was very low. During the hotter part of the year, the fens will be swarming with a lot of nasty that stings. After putting some colour on our cheeks, we treated ourselves with a big lunch. No photos were taken as I was famished and practically inhaled the food xD.

complementary action photo
complementary action photo

For my boyfriend it was his first time out to the Oisterwijk Fens and he really enjoyed it. I made him say it a couple of times, just to make sure 😉 We will certainly be back, maybe take his dogs with us next time.

Oisterwijk Fens
Oisterwijk Fens

Doll and Bear Show – spring edition

The Big Event Doll and Bear Show is one of the conventions I look forward to each year. Normally set in the fall, the organisation decided to also hold one in the spring.
One of the first conventions I went to was held in Rotterdam but they moved to a more central location in my hometown a few years ago. Often I go by myself, but sometimes friends accompany me.

You can find anything here when you are a doll or stuffed animal collector, even some very old antiques which cost a small fortune. I’m always happy to see if there is at least one BJD or Blythe related stand. This time there were four. I always wished I have a big bag of money for these conventions but with Record Store Day and Blythecon EU around the corner I had to keep to my budget.

BJD apparel
BJD apparel
Angels Designs
Angels Designs

I had been thinking to put my Barbie’s on display again, but I needed some nice clothing for the ladies instead of the default Mattel garb. Lucky for me ELENPRIV was also selling at this spring show. I forgot to take a photo of her stand, due to my excitement. But my girls have two amazing outfits. Well worth the price when you look a the quality of the fabric, design and skill.

Fashionistas
Fashionistas

And I couldn’t resist to buy another handmade bear. I wanted to take them all home, but that meant I had to rob a bank to do so.

Bear by Catootje en Co
Bear by Catootje en Co

Cheska was also spoiled a little with a new dress but I haven’t had the chance to take photos of her yet. Will do so soon.

All in all, a great Doll and Bear Show – Spring Edition for me. Bought some great outfits for my girls, a new handmade bear and had the chance to chat with some friends. Can’t wait for the Fall Edition.

Japan 2020

It seems silly that I am already planning what to see and do for my trip to Japan next year. 2020 seems so far away and I have no clue if I am visiting in the spring or fall. It won’t be during the summer because Japan is hosting the Summer Olympics. Besides that, I doubt I would like the humidity of Japan.

Last time I visited the country was some time ago, in 2006, so my visit is long overdue.

While discussing with my boyfriend what we want to see, I found out that I haven’t seen everything of Tokyo yet. I’m the only one of our group (my mother, sister, boyfriend and me) who has been to Tokyo before, but I am excited that I am going to see a lot of new stuff too like Tokyo Dome and other temples besides Senso-ji.

The challenging thing about planning a trip is that you have to find something to see and do for each of the group. My boyfriend wants to see kendo training and I know for sure my sister wants to go to the Pokemon centre. Eorzea Cafe is on my list, just need to figure out what my mother wants to see. I think one of the many beautiful gardens will suffice.

But I think we will be fine with whatever we do. I just want everyone to have a good time. And also try out many different ramen shops. XD

Japan guide
Japan guide

Soundboy Rock – Groove Armada

I saw this album pop up on Velvet and was intrigued by the cover art. I love that it was designed by eBoy. But was the music going to be good?

I got to know Groove Armada back in the day when they released ‘My Friend’, which came out in 2001. It was quite a funky sound, but so were a lot of songs at that point in time. I was more into buying radio albums which had dozens of popular songs on them, instead of studio albums by a single artist or group.

But you know what they say, you can’t judge a record by it’s cover. YouTube and Spotify to the rescue for a deeper dive into the songs.

Groove Armada haven’t lost the funk in their music. To my surprise they collaborated with Candi Staton, one of my favourite singers. ‘You Got The Love’ is famous (mostly due to The Source’s remix). When I listen to this album it feels like running in to an old friend. The sound is familiar but you still you find refreshing elements.

All in all I am glad I bought this.

Soundboy Rock - Groove Armada
Soundboy Rock – Groove Armada

Lost and Gone Forever – Alex Grecian

I was looking through Good Reads app while assembling my 2019 to read list for the challenge. I categorise my read books in there and also add new books that I wish to read when visiting the book shop. It’s hard for me to walk out of a book shop without a new book.

When I lived in Belfast and had access to Amazon Prime, I bought a Kindle. I already had an e-reader but the Kindle also let’s you watch their movies and series. I’m always on the fence with e-readers. You can bring as many books that you want on holiday or trips but on the other hand I miss the feel and the rustle of pages.
One of the perks of ordering with Amazon, they give you vouchers and I bought the first novel of The Murder Squad because of my interest in Victorian Times and the tale of Jack the Ripper. There is a lot of Jack the Ripper pulp out there but it was a free book, so no harm done if it sucked.

For me the book was a real page turner and I devoured it in a week and ended up stalking the bookstores for the next book in the series to come out. In 2016 when Lost and Gone Forever came out I lost track of reading. I had to move back to the Netherlands in a hurry, packing up 3,5 years worth of life in one month so I could be home with my family again. The stress I had with my mother hospitalised and not being able to book a direct flight to go see her made the experience living abroad terrible all of a sudden. Being stuck in Liverpool airport for 8 hours gives you a lot time to rethink your decisions in life.

It wasn’t until 2019 when I picked up the last installment of the Murder Squad series: Lost and Gone Forever. The previous book, Harvest Man, left us with the protagonist being kidnapped by Jack the Ripper. While Jack was only known for killing women, his imprisonment and torture by a mysterious society made him very angry and bent on revenge. After his escape he kidnapped Inspector Walter Day in order to get back at everyone who had done him wrong. You’d almost feel sympathetic for Jack’s torture but he is still a mad serial killer.

Lost and Gone Forever is set on year after Harvest Man. Walter’s partner, Nevil Hammersmith, ended up being dismissed from the Murder Squad. He then formed a detective agency where he took up small cases while searching for his lost partner. He does not know that Jack has his hands on him and that he is the pawn for his revenge on those who took away his freedom.

Again this book is a real page turner, also due to the fact you want to find out if Walter ever gets home safe to his friends and family. You also want to find out who will get caught up in Jack’s mad desire for revenge. Some writers tend to become extremely focused on the gore of Jack’s killings but Alex keeps the focus more on Jack’s genius but twisted mind while he kills in style. In a terrible way he became in artisan in killing.

I’ll keep it spoiler free but this fifth and last installment of the Murder Squad series left me with a satisfied end of the series. I didn’t expect this ending but it works. The writing style is nicely paced and there is a good balance between the two stories intertwined in one book: Hammersmith’s search for his partner and friend and Jack’s road down revenge and madness. I’m a bit sad it’s over but dragging the story on would have not made future books enjoyable to read. All good things come to an end.

Rated: 4,5 out of 5

Lost and Gone Forever - Alex Grecian
Lost and Gone Forever – Alex Grecian

Reading Challenge 2019

I started the Reading Challenge on Good Reads a couple of years ago. I think I started with 20 books to be read per year and now I already up to 30. I already enjoyed reading but this does help broaden my English vocabulary (since I only read English books).
One day I hope to write a story of my own. But the downside of the challenge is that I am picking up too many books which are outside my taste. I am open to new stuff but lately I’ve picked up too many pulp that took me even longer to finish than I had planned.

Books on my list for the challenge
Books on my list for the challenge

Worst of all, reading feels like a chore to me because the competitive part of my brain is telling me to hurry up and pick up the next one. This is something I don’t want. The challenge is supposed to be fun and I’ve been pushing myself to read more and more every year. I’ve lost sight from what I love the most, which is a good story.

It’s not bad to reread your classics. Every year I reread a couple of Discworld novels because the stories are true gems to me. I shouldn’t feel bad that I can’t add them to the list because they aren’t new books. It’s better for me to stick with what I like, instead of buying a new book because the cover looks interesting. If I don’t like the writing style, the book will never interest me even if it’s about Victorian times, thieves and murder mysteries. I learned that the hard way spending €20 on a book and not even being able to finish a quarter of it.

I don’t know if I am going to finish the Reading Challenge this year. I’ve lost interest in the competition, but I am not going to stop reading. I’ve done better research with my other purchases and picked some new novels by writers I already know. Got to finish the story line one day. At least I am returning again to why I love books. Don’t need to make a competition out of it.

Birthday bash: day out with my boyfriend

This week my boyfriend celebrated his birthday and I planned a special day just for the two of us. Last year I was working but I think it’s better for us to spend our birthdays together, away from work doing fun stuff.

I read in the newspaper that the Philips Museum in Eindhoven has a special vinyl expo which made a great combo for our other plan which was to eat ramen at Xu Noodle Bar. YAY!

The day didn’t start out to great with the train broken down on the tracks which meant less trains were going to Eindhoven and we ended having to wait an hour before we could take a less crowded train. The waiting game was played at Star Bucks, where they never fail to misspell my name.

Arriving an hour later than planned we rushed towards Xu Noodle Bar. I just didn’t want to get caught between the lunch break of corporate peeps. Lucky for us it wasn’t crowded so we could have a nice lunch with Classic Pork Ramen (extra meat for the birthday boy) and some tasty snacks.

Itadakimasu!
Itadakimasu!

With our tummies filled up we went to the Philips Museum which is right around the corner. We had quite a different expectation on the vinyl expo. I thought it was showing us how the pressing of the vinyl’s works but nonetheless it was still interesting. Being from Brabant we all know the impact Philips had on the industry of the south. It was awesome to see how the light bulb factory started and through the years the company developed a lot of other electrical products and became important in the medical field.

I would have love to see more about the pressing of vinyl, the display contained a timeline when Philips produced vinyl’s until the development of the first CD. I must say I am happy technology kept developing and making the devices smaller because the first tape recorder and record players were massive.

Bulb factory
Bulb factory
My grandmother had a carpet like this
My grandmother had a carpet like this
Retro bedroom
Retro bedroom
classic turn table
Classic turn table
Queen Gloria
Queen Gloria

All in all it was a fun day with my love.

Listening to vinyl; the new way

I was itching to set up my old bedroom as a place where I could relax, read and listen to some good songs. A couple of years ago I bought a ‘Stir it Up’ turntable made by House of Marley. The company uses a production method that’s environmentally sound and made out recyclables. It’s always good to be aware how your stuff is produced and what a company does to help out the world a little.

I needed separate speakers as the turntable has no internal speakers. My boyfriend as a musician has a better ear for sound than I have, so I asked him for advise when I saw an affordable pair. My room is not big or ideal enough for the expensive ones. The 42W Edifier speakers were a great pick for my first set up, more than enough volume and good frequency response on the low and high end of the spectrum.

Finding a suitable cabinet for my vinyl collection and turntable was the hardest part. At the moment I have 79 records and the collection keeps growing, so I need to keep in mind to have room to spare for future purchases. It’s Record Store Day every year 😉

my turntable setup
my turntable setup

I’ve categorized my vinyl on genre. At the top left you see that my Electronic section is getting full. For now my dollies have a shelf of their own, in the future they might lose it.
And I need better cable management.

It’s set up quite nicely with some sweet sound coming from the speakers. A great place to relax and spin some records.

Living abroad is fun

Due to various reasons I ended up working and living in Belfast, Northern Ireland for a few years and it was a real adventure. I landed a job in a call center and experienced a whole new culture and made loads of new friends. If you can make this leap abroad I recommend it.

Of course it wasn’t all peaches and cream. Finding a suitable flat was a challenge, but when you already have a job lined up getting a NI number (National Insurance) and
setting up a bank account is quite easy.

I keep getting memories about my time over there on my Facebook timeline, which moved me to write about living abroad.

Belfast had quite a troubled past until the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ which made steps in the peace process to end the dreadful period ‘the Troubles’. When I mentioned I had found a job there, people would ask me if it was safe there. I shrugged it off with the notion that if it wasn’t they wouldn’t bring people in.

To be honest, I wasn’t aware on how it was during the Troubles. I’ve seen the news which mostly was about the IRA bomb attacks in mainland UK, but Belfast was just a name in a song for me. Just like everyone, I know the words to ‘Bloody Sunday’ but never read into what happened that day. I knew absolutely nothing about the Troubles.

Living in Belfast made me aware what the conflict entailed. People shared their experiences with me and I was quite horrified that nothing was mentioned during my history classes. I made it my business to educate myself. As an outsider you tend to look at it very much in a black and white vision, but there were definitely so many grey areas during ‘the Troubles’. One thing is certain, a lot of people suffered. But despite all the suffering, the Norn-Iron (Northern Ireland) people managed to keep a positive attitude. No matter how bad shit gets, they throw a good dose of humour against it.

These days I am losing my grip on the Norn-Iron philosophy of ‘Calm yer tits’. I’ve been away from Belfast too long and keep getting worked up again over nothing. But you really learn to wind down yourself living in Belfast. The Dutch are conditioned to be on the clock (well I am). But Norn-Iron take it a step slower and seem to enjoy themselves more in life, even if their government is a bigger heap of shite then mine. Dutch politics is quite mellow compared to Stormont drama. I might write about it one day. 😉

I was lucky to call Belfast my home for 3,5 years. To be able to visit the many great national parks and monuments. To meet and make many great friends and best of all the craic we had. It was my home away from home and if life had a different destiny for me I would have still lived there even with the hassle of Brexit.

Belfast wall art
Belfast wall art