Monthly Archives: November 2013


Wow, I have a good case of food coma. I just walked back from the Indonesian restaurant in the neighborhood and let me just say, it was REALLY good. I had an excellent sate tempeh and a vegetarian nasi rames- which is like a buffet of many tiny dishes on one plate. I thought my mom would approve and it was my way of remembering her today. I didn’t really want to think much about last Thanksgiving, since she had a chemo treatment scheduled for the next day so I decided that I would do something very different cuisine wise today. I do remember her vividly telling the oncologist how much she ate at Thanksgiving and telling him that her four children had all managed to get along, even if they were faking it, which just proved to her that they could. Even then, she still had that feisty spark. Sometimes it is unbelievable how much I miss her. I think it is a pretty accurate metaphor to describe grief as a hole that you can’t measure.

Also, at work, the pension speaker’s first name was Marijke. That was hard to sit through.

All of the boxes and wrapping paper are neatly stacked on the curb, waiting for tomorrow’s collection. Suddenly, there’s so much floor space. The usual Craigslist shenanigans applied with people sending 10 emails back and forth and then not showing up. In the end, it needed to go out because it is a target for small dogs wishing to write pee-mail. Actually, I am not really giving them enough credit. Given how much I have been working outside of the house this week, they have done very well.

The words aren’t really coming tonight so I think I will let them rest.

Impressionable Young Minds

I learned something new about Word Press today. Saving something as a draft doesn’t mean it will. I had written this post originally on the train returning from Venlo. The internet connection on the train was wobbly so I decided to save a draft and go back to watching the countryside go by. Well, the draft it saved contained the title and lots of white space.

Anyway, I went to Venlo today to give a lecture on software testing to the computer science students. Their professor made it a mandatory attendance which is always fun to know your audience is captive. I like to think that I entertained them and gave them something to think about. For sure, at the end several of them told me they were highly skeptical of getting any value out of this lecture but with mandatory attendance they didn’t feel they had an option. And they told me they were quite surprised and they thought it was the best lecture they had all year. I guess I would have to say it was my Game of Thrones references that really worked. Or as one of the professors said (in Dutch) to me “You really like to entertain. That’s a very American thing, isn’t it?” They gave me a bottle of wine afterwards, as a “thank you”. Venlo sits all the way in the eastern part of the Netherlands. It is a couple of hours by train. It is equivalent, scale wise, of travelling from Seattle to Tennessee. Not quite all the way out beyond the borders but close. From what I understand, Germany is 5 km away from where I was.

It did give me some things to think about on the way back to Amsterdam. One, I really love the fact that my employer gives me a first class Dutch railways train card for these kinds of trips. I felt very Ms. Fancy Pants sitting in the First Class cars. It is just more space and they are silent cars, meaning no cell phone conversations. Two, I do like to entertain – I like to talk to groups of people and learn from them. I think information sticks better when you make it relevant and interesting. Who wants to be bored during a presentation? Whatever else happens career wise here, as long as I stick to what I really like doing – problem solving with people, I’ll be okay. That doesn’t change, regardless of location.

Some very good news came out of Seattle this morning. Mom had wanted a Sleep Number bed for a long time. Last year, before we knew she was sick, I told her after my annual review, I was taking the pay raise and getting her the bed she wanted. I took Lawyerella along to pick it out because as I have been told “you don’t know really know anything about being comfortable”. This is very true. Well, we picked the right one and it was delivered to the new house in time for Mom, when she came out of the hospital/skilled care. She loved that bed. I slept next to her on it every night and I can tell you that there were many nights I would wake up because she was changing the level of her feet or her back, etc. I think it made her somewhat more comfortable. And I put it right in the living room so she wasn’t isolated, she was the heart of our family and belonged in the heart of the house. After she was gone, I told Rupert that I wanted the bed to go to someone else who could benefit from it, either because they couldn’t get a hospital bed or because they had to spend a lot of time in bed. We were in agreement on this. I didn’t just want to put it on Craigslist or blindly donate it to Goodwill. During this move process, it remained in the house, one last unfinished thing and I was getting worried about what to do. Well, today it went to someone with ALS. ALS is also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”. The ALS society picked it up and they were driving it straight to their client. It appears the family had been looking for a bed like that for their loved one for a while now. It seems like the intention was answered, it just took a little longer. So that feels really good.

For all of you headed to Thanksgiving tomorrow, be safe and enjoy yourself. Over here, it’s a regular work day and then tomorrow night, I am taking myself out for Indonesian food – to start a different kind of Thanksgiving dietary tradition.

Oh, and for Nespresso fans, there’s a new campaign with George Clooney all over it. I took a picture of the ad and put it in the folder. I think it’s pretty funny.

Live from the Sofa

Yes, that’s right. I am sitting on a sofa. Furthermore, it is a sofa in my living room and I am being serenaded by the snoring symphony of the dogs, who are sitting next to me on this sofa. It gets better. Every single box is unpacked. I am not claiming it is all organized but every box has been unpacked and its contents are in the room they belong in. Yeah, I have been busy. The next portion is finding someone who might want all of these heavy duty boxes and packing paper before Friday. I hate to just put them out for recycling so I will post them on Craigslist. Perhaps someone can use some or all of them.
It has been a busy couple of days around here. The movers were here on Thursday and they did a great job. Including two coffee breaks and a lunch, they were done with everything in 3 hours. Only one thing was missing and that was the footboard to the guest bed. It went to long term storage so they came back on Friday morning to bring it and finish assembling the bed. I have been really fortunate to have such good crews of people helping me with this stuff. And yes, even though we are on the ground floor, we did have to use the window to get the armchairs in. They were just a touch too wide to go through the front door. Joanne came down on Thursday to take pictures and help me unpack. It was good have company with all of the boxes. And she must have been channeling Move Goddess because she pointed out that if we flattened and folded the packing paper, we could get a lot more into the boxes that way. I was just on a crazy woman tear, unwrapping as fast as I could.
On Friday, IKEA came to deliver the sofa I had ordered the day after we arrived. I was dreading it because I ordered the same sofa that I had in Seattle (and is now in Lawyerella’s office) and I assembled it while Rupert watched earlier in the year because IKEA assembly takes a combination of motor skills, high frustration threshold, picture interpretation skills and the willingness to start all over when it becomes apparent you went awry. Assembling sofa 1 in Seattle did take the better part of an evening. However, since February (when Rupert and I had our IKEA adventure) it appears that they have changed the packaging. Ignoring the picture diagrams that insist it is a two person job, I went ahead confidently and started assembling. My mom always used to tell me, especially with IKEA stuff, to never tighten the screws all the way, just go part of the way until you are done. And of course, I had this in my head while I am charging along, feeling pretty good that I am showing this sofa who is boss. To the point that as I tightened all four bolts all the way, I said out loud “I know what you would say, Mom. But look I tightened everything all the way and nothing happened.” Moving along to step 4 in the pictogram, I proceed to turn the sofa right side up so I can attach the arms. This is the easiest IKEA item I have ever assembled. And as I finish turning the sofa right side up, it promptly falls apart. You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Turns out, I was so busy tightening the bolts, I didn’t stop to check that they were actually lined up and connecting both pieces together. So, out comes the special IKEA gadget to undo all the bolts that I had tightened and I am back to square one. Assembly the second time was much more effective. And when I was securing the arms, I didn’t tighten all the bolts at first.
Surprisingly, during all of this household upheaval, the cats are pretty happy. They are out and about. I think that they feel more comfortable with having things that smell familiar around them. It feels pretty good to have my stuff here. The dogs are loving the fact that they have all of their fleece blankets again. And we have their Chuck-It. Yesterday, we took it to the park and they ran their little legs off playing their versions of “Fetch”. They are doing much better at being free in the park and they even go up to where the other dogs congregate and play. They know now that when we get to the park boundaries, their leashes come off. Of course, the advantage of a tired dog is that they sleep solidly for hours, which gave me plenty of time to unpack instead of constantly being interrupted by George’s offers to “help”.
Yesterday, we celebrated Joanne’s birthday with a day out. Joanne, Marloes (her sister in law), Marianne and I took a small ferry over to Amsterdam-Noord to this giant warehouse that was like an etsy marketplace on steroids. All kinds of stuff, for your house, for your person, for hobbies you didn’t know you were interested in, you get the drift. This was perfect timing for me since having all my things delivered and unpacking really made me not want to ever buy anything again! I did end up buying three very fun winter bonnets from a Bosnian women’s collective because I don’t have any winter hats and Mom was the knitter, not me. Of course, I cried. Actually, all of us were pretty restrained in our retail habits. But there were some people that were walking out of there with both arms full of stuff. From there, we had dinner in this restaurant called Du Pont (The Point) which I think used to be the harbormaster’s house back in the day. Dinner came complete with a big grey cat sleeping on the bench at our table. Most cafes/restaurants have a cat, to keep the mouse/rat population down. The food was really good. And from there, we went to see the film “La Grande Belleza” at the EYE. It was an Italian film subtitled in Dutch. There’s a lot of the story I didn’t get, because I was trying to read the Dutch and I am just not that fast. It was a very good movie though and we were all tempted to get on the night train to Rome from Amsterdam Centraal. And then I took the tram home.
Today, it was back to unpacking and then to the park for more ball. The sun was out this afternoon and it just hits the sofa perfectly so we all enjoyed an hour of naptime. Marianne came by mid afternoon for coffee – this is awesome because I now have a place for people to sit! And then it was back to unpacking. After I finished the last box, we went for our night walk and then I said “you may now turn on your computer, grasshopper”. So, while I will still have a few hours work organizing things, the big part is behind me. This is the fastest I have ever unpacked. And tomorrow morning, I can just start work without banging my knees on a radiator or wondering where things are.
One last thing. There is a lot of tax in the Netherlands. You pretty much pay tax on everything, it’s included in the stated price. Of course, there’s a dog tax. It is about 110 euros per dog, per year. I registered the boys online last week, because the fine is even worse. On Saturday, in the post, came their credentials. For my 110 euros per dog, they each get a heavy medallion that goes on their collar that has the logo of the city of Amsterdam and their registration number. We’re not talking wimpy little aluminum tags that you make yourself at the pet store in one of those machines, we are talking industrial grade tags here. The boys look so tough with them on, I want to laugh. They have to wear this every time they leave the house. And all dogs, whether they are dachshund sized or Great Dane get the same sized tag. I think they could give that rapper French Montana a run for his money when it comes to looking tough in their bling.

Furniture tomorrow!

How exciting! Tomorrow morning, between 830 and 930, our stuff should arrive. My goal: tomorrow night, I will be sleeping in my bed. It will also be very nice to have something to sit on. Yesterday, I made a desk out of the radiator. It worked for awhile but I kept banging my knees into it. So much of the furniture I have was either my mom’s or her parents. A good portion of it came from the Netherlands, from my Oma and Opa’s house. Including their radio which will now work. Everything that is coming has either a memory or a purpose. I owe a thanks to the Move Goddess for giving me those two baseline criteria to use to decide if I keep something. I also have a lot of things that my mom saved for each of us. I brought those things too and they will go into long term storage until my brothers decide what they want to have. Sometimes I feel like an archivist. I look at it as these things were important to my mother to preserve and care for and so I will continue to do so. And there are some things I am just not ready to let go of.

I made a decision, in the early days after she was gone, to go through at a high level and donate things that I knew would be of use and that it would make her happy to think of where they ended up. With all of her beautiful yarns and knitting needles and things like that, I gave to the women who came cleaned the house every week, allowing me more time with my mom. I gave most of her regular clothes away, things that she didn’t wear often because she was saving them for some sort of occasion. I gave all of the special food and vitamins to the Food Bank. Things like that. But after going through the first layers, I stopped because then it was things that really reminded me of her or that she had made or worn to certain events. In my carryon bag, I packed her last hairbrush and the super soft slippers that Lawyerella had given her and her purse with her lipsticks still in it. And the pillow which I used to tuck under her head to support her just right. Those things all came with me.

Something else that is coming tomorrow is the little pewter memento urn I have of her ashes. It wasn’t allowed to fly because the TSA can’t see through it or some such nonsense so I had to trust it to the movers to pack properly. Which they did. They put it into a kitchen box, figuring that it would be one of the first things I would unpack and drew a big heart on the box so I would be able to notice it right away. I have been worried about it since it was packed really.

I guess this would be a happy entry but I’m crying pretty hard right now. It is like all of a sudden her death has happened again.

Care for a sprout?

Well, tonight I made a slight dent in the sprouts. I think I still have about 1.75 pounds left. I also learned how the oven works. This might seem like a no brainer activity but since it actually doesn’t come with any information knobs, you do have to read the manual. I am really grateful that the owners left all of the appliance manuals behind. You should have seen me trying to figure out how the dryer filter needed to come out and where the hell the condenser was. I am an old pro at emptying the water condenser out now but without the manual, I would have been either waiting for spring to dry laundry so I could hang it outside or I would have been looking for a Laundromat. I roasted the sprouts with sesame seeds, potatoes, shallots and the special Provence herbs that really did come from France (via Jo) and it came out pretty tasty. Of course, in the last 10 minutes, I threw some really aged Bastiansen cheese on top and mustard and I think that did the trick for sealing all of the flavors together. I have PLENTY leftover so there’s dinner for tomorrow.

Today was also the arrival of Sinterklaas and Zwart Piet into the Netherlands. Since Sinterklaas Day is celebrated in early December rather than Santa coming at Christmas, the festivities are underway. Of course, they arrive by boat into the canals and then switch to horses and they ride through the city. I was thinking about going but decided to wait until next year. I knew there would be a big crowd and it felt like something that would be more fun to do with other people rather than going by myself. Overall, I am okay with going most places by myself but this was a celebration and I felt like it should be shared. So, I will wait until next year.

Instead, I took the boys to Beatrix Park again. Conditioning, right? Well, George got much closer to the water this time, like right up to it. And there’s lots of groups of people doing group exercise training so he felt that surely he should join in and run with them. It was hilarious to watch and so typical George thinking he is being helpful. They did really well with other dogs today in the park so maybe this will work. As soon as they go back on the leash though, they go right back to being little thugs. I am always apologetic to the other dog owners when the boys go into thug mode but so far it seems like it is not a big deal. Everyone has been very cool about it. It just seems to be one of those things that is no big deal. Dogs bark at each other. Hmm, maybe all three of us have to learn together to chill out…

I went on a quest today to secure a handset for the home phone. I know, in this day and age, who has a landline? Apparently, I do and the cable company keeps sending me reminders that I haven’t connected my home phone or my television yet. Well, there’s an easy explanation for that – I don’t have anything to hook up. So, I went this store called the “KijkShop” literally translates to the “LookShop”. And that’s exactly what you do. Everything in the store is behind a locked glass case. You go through and browse it and when you see something you want to buy, you write down the article number, price and quantity on these helpful little forms. Then you go to the cashier and you give them the form and gnomes send your order up from the basement. Well, I don’t know if it really gnomes, it could be people. Unfortunately, the basic house phone handset that I wanted was not available so they had to make a reservation for me to pick it up. However, the dog poop bags at 3 rolls for 1.29 euros were so I didn’t leave entirely empty handed. It is kind of a strange experience, like browsing a museum. If the display cabinets are ordered by importance, the first cabinet is all coffee machines and the second is all home deep fryers. I have never seen so many choices for deep fryers in my life. If I find that I will need one, I know to go to the KijkShop – where the slogan is “Nu of nooit” – “Now or never”.

I also went to the HEMA and secured a pair of mittens in a more reserved color, turquoise. They were 2 euros. They are a little more upscale than my bright green ones and more durable so I will save them for when I need to go to work meetings and whatnot. But the rest of the time, bring on the dayglo. And I got some little dishes so the dogs and cats can have their own, instead of eating off the people set. I did manage to resist the various “good deals” in the middle of the store. It is easier than I thought, probably because I don’t have anything really in the house yet, and I kind of like it that way. And because if I am worried I missed something, I can always walk right back down to the HEMA.

Before heading back, I stopped to have a coffee and read the paper from cover to cover. I was having a Mom moment. Even more so when the weekend section in De Telegraaf had an interview with Andre Rieu. My mom loved Andre Rieu. We saw him together at Key Arena and then when he was at Key Arena again in March, I took the memento urn of her ashes that I have with me to see him again. I think I cried the whole concert through or very nearly. In case you didn’t know, Andre Rieu is Dutch, from Maastricht. And there’s these two PBS specials with him, one is a concert from Italy and it is gorgeous and the other is from the town square in Maastricht. Equally gorgeous. Mom used to watch those, they always came on during pledge season. She would talk about how she would love to see one of his concerts in either (or both) of those places. I am definitely going to do that. The other musicians she had a thing for were Roy Orbison and Canut Reyes (the long haired Gipsy King until recently). Well, Canut Reyes left the Gipsy Kings this year. Much like my mom left this year. And there were no Blue Angels in Seattle this year, which she also loved and would always say that “once the Blue Angels have been here, you better get your fleece on, winter is here”.

And I cleaned house and did the laundry. I have a hard time being still. Apparently that hasn’t really changed much yet. Tomorrow back to work. I am trying very hard to not work on the weekends. One step towards chilling out at a time.

Saturday Adventures

Well, it seems I am the only one awake at the moment. We just came in from our night walk twenty minutes ago and there’s a choir of snoring going on. Henry is buried under the comforter, George is lying under my computer and Moortje is curled up next to me. Lientje is maintaining her safe space distance from the troublemakers in the other room. She seems a little off today, just staring at her water dish and making weird little meows. I am not sure if she is just having her own sort of episode and trying to adjust or if there is something wrong. Of the four, she is the one who is the most sensitive to changes. Any change sends her hiding. Of course, she grew up with Mikha, the original Dragon Cat, so she is probably more traumatized than most. If she’s still weird (more than usual) by Monday, we’ll be going to visit the vet that we are registered at. Here in the Netherlands, you are supposed to register for medical and dental care (people and pet) with the practitioners in your neighborhood. So, conveniently, their pet clinic is next door to the Italian restaurant from the other night’s festivities.

Early this morning, I took the boys back to Beatrix Park. If I can get them used to the idea that going to the park means going off leash, they might do better with other dogs they see when they are on the leash. They did very well once we got into the park and they were off leash. George made a few moves toward different bodies of water and I could see his little brain working “She’s not looking, I bet I can get in there” but he came back when he was called. And then he decided to chase the flocks of pigeons and crows that gather on the ground looking for food. He will never actually catch any but it is fun to watch him try. I think we can go there again safely now that I know George won’t automatically throw himself in the water, he will think about whether or not he will get caught first!

I went to the market at the Noordekerk with Marianne. She introduced me to Winkel, which apparently has the best apple cake in Amsterdam. Judging by the number of people inside and outside, I’d say their reputation was justified especially since most of the crowd was Dutch. Of course, after eating a big wedge of it, I am inclined to say it was pretty damn good. The market was great, all kinds of small farms and craftspeople. I went a little crazy. I bought a kilo of Brussels sprouts. That would be 2.2 pounds of them. That’s a lot of sprouts. You can imagine that for the next couple of days, I’ll be roasting and experimenting with them. I will remember to be more mindful of lighter weight things when I buy them. I also got potatoes, red cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber, greens, sweet potatoes, cat nip, funky sea berry jam and cheese. I know, I just tried to stay strong and watch Marianne buy cheese and get a vicarious thrill but I couldn’t do it. I got some too. It’s the amazing vegetarian rennet organic milk cheese from Bastiansen – the green pesto and cumin kind. And it is green.

Speaking of green, my first purchase was a pair of gloves. And they are a green that is so bright that Marianne reminded me not to wave my hands around too much or the airplanes flying into Schiphol might be distracted and try to land. They are the color green of a dayglo nightstick. Which I find funny and of course, they won’t disappear into the bottom of a dark bag. They were, however, only 1.50 euros so they won’t last the winter.

On my way back from the market, I stopped at the American Book Center in the Spui to pick up a copy (and get it signed) of the book “Stuff Dutch People Like”. If you get a chance, it’s a hilarious blog to read. And if you don’t, I have copy now for all my houseguests. That part of the Spui is lined with bookstores, all kinds. It makes sense because the University of Amsterdam is right there. It is in the Grachtengordel (literally the Canal Girdle) and the architecture is stunning. Lots of people only want to live inside the Grachtengordel which I could understand from a historical and beauty perspective but for me, our neighborhood is great. And I have canals too, even if they are named after farmers instead of Princes and Kaisers 🙂 I added some pictures of what I saw today to the folder.

Reading the paper is getting easier. I read it cover to cover except for the sports section. Now if I could just learn to write in Dutch more quickly!

My brother, Cedric, called last night via Skype and he said that I sounded more relaxed than I had for a long time. And that made me think about how I am feeling about being here. I so miss my mom and being here doesn’t bring her back but as much as I can be at the moment, I am happy here. This was a good move for me. And I am reminded of her in so many ways every day, which I am so grateful for. I am looking forward to Thursday, when our furniture arrives and I can hug the purple chair and think about the fact that I am sitting in something that she made for me, here in this city that she loved and in an house that I would hope she would have said “I could live there”.  

Sometimes you shouldn’t

but today I really did. Consequences be damned. I made all kinds of questionable (for me) dietary choices. And while right, I am not feeling so good, at the time, it was really great. I went to the Albert Cuyp market with the boys and they made all kinds of wins at the floor level. I am pretty sure they have stomach cramps. For me, I stayed above the gutter level and ate a giant stroopwafel hot off the wheel of the stroopwafel baker. And then I went to Sonny’s and had Vlaamse frites (Flemish fries or patat frite) with spicy peanut sauce and took the falafel home with me for dinner. But wait, there’s more. This afternoon, at the office, it was apparently Vega Friday on the questionable nutrition side of the cafeteria so I had one of each of the deep fried vega offerings and a crazy salad of red beets, pears, chick peas, pickles, cocktail onions and apple.
I don’t know if it was the gorgeous weather or the giddiness from picking up my residence card from Immigration or going to the office and getting all kinds of stuff done or if it was the after effects of yesterday’s 13 hour adventure to Boxmeer. I guess I don’t really need to have a reason why I fell into some kind of deep fried zombie land. It is funny because a lot of food here is fried and most of the time, I virtuously walk right on by it because I know it is definitely not healthy. Perhaps it is because I have been so careful about avoiding it that today it just happened. I am only commenting on it because I was astounded by the fact that I just kept going today with the fried madness. You know, you are in a country that takes fried food seriously when the person making your falafel and fries tells you “everything here is healthy” and encourages you to add more color to your condiments because you have only chosen green items like cabbage, cucumber and pickles.
I realized something tonight on our late night walk. My mom used to think that parking strips were a complete waste of space and so annoying. One of the debates we would have is that she would always suggest tearing out all the grass and putting down paving stones or some other hard surface. I was definitely not in agreement. I could never understand why someone who was so plant oriented had a deep disdain for the green parking strip. Walking tonight, I suddenly got it. There are no parking strips here. From either your front stoop or the end of your front yard (if you have one) it is a neat and precise paving block surface all the way to the street. Relatively even and smooth and definitely low maintenance. And useful, you can drive your car right up to it if you need to unload something. Entire teams of skilled workers maintain these surfaces. They are replacing several streets around us. And the stones are laid out uniformly and so closely packed, they do not need concrete. I thought maybe this was just an Amsterdam thing. But so far, I haven’t seen a single parking strip in the Netherlands.
There was a full circle moment today. Since my mom has been gone, I have carried around her passport and US alien card with mine. At first, it was because I needed it for documentation purposes as I was trying to take care of things and then just because when we used to travel together, I always carried the documents to avoid the last minute search of everything wondering which pocket they were in. Today I have my own alien card so to speak. And while I was sitting outside of Immigration and Naturalization, I wondered what my mom would have thought about the fact that she could now call me an “alien”. Like mother, like daughter. I would like to think that this would have made her laugh. I really miss her today, there are so many things about our new life here that I wish I could share with her. Shit, now I am crying.
Last night, it was cold and rainy. There’s a surprise. Jo and I met Marianne for dinner. We went to this small Italian place down the street. And we were the only people in the restaurant so you can imagine that a good time was had by all. Of the three of us, I am the quietest. We only drank one bottle of wine but it was a good one. It was a great evening because of the company first and the food second. The fact that we had the whole place to ourselves was even better. And throughout dinner, a CD of Tina Turner’s duets played nonstop. The music here is interesting. There’s a side that is completely cutting edge in terms of electronica, dance, etc. And then there’s this strange time warp where the music is in this late 80s-90s period. And then of course, there’s a million different types of music here all at once. There are 178 nationalities represented in Amsterdam, it is the most diverse city in the world. You never know what you might hear. Anyway, none of us got up to do a Tina Turner impression, mostly due to the fact that we didn’t have the hair or the fabulous legs.
Tomorrow I am going to go to the big organic Saturday market so I can browse and take pictures. And then there is a book signing in the afternoon from the author of the blog “Stuff Dutch People Like” which is a hilarious read. But before all that, I think I’ll take the boys to Vondel Park to tire them out a bit. Again, a tired dog is a happy dog. And damnit, I am going to get some gloves.

Fixed the Pictures Link

At least, I think I did. If you are still getting a wonky error, please let me know. Wouldn’t you know it, I set up a link to it, thinking I was being smart but apparently it is clever enough to figure out that the link didn’t come from the email it was registered to. Not sure what the magic is on the back end that makes that happen. It should be fixed now. To be on the safe side, here it is again.
Rain today, cold. It finally cleared up around 7pm and we went on another recycling marathon – plastic, glass and paper. We explored more of De Pijp this time and came back around the small canals that border our neighborhood. I was tempted to go all the way into De Pijp to Sonny’s to get myself an order of French fries (patat frite) with my choice of one of 24 sauces. I think I will save that for the weekend.
Earlier today, on another walk, a very handsome and distinguished older gentleman stopped to ask me for directions. Happily, he was going to my street so it was easy to get him there. He would have been a nice friend for my mom, someone she could have big conversations with and obviously not too dependent. Of course, I am speculating since really we didn’t have a lengthy conversation. I saw him later, he was going into the homeopathic doctor. Which would have been something else he would have had in common with my mom…
Going into the office tomorrow. I like going into the office. It is a good way to stay connected and also because I like going to Schiphol but I covered that already.
Joanne comes down on Thursday as I head off to the wilds of North Brabant for work. It is two hours by train – which in the Netherlands is kind of the equivalent of going 2/3 of the way across the country. Metaphorically speaking, it would be like going from Seattle to Chicago. Let’s just hope the weather holds! It will be a couple of more train stations to cross off my list. Exciting!


The 11th of November is Sint-Maarten here in the Netherlands. Okay, also in France and parts of Germany and Belgium. Everyone celebrates it a little differently. Here in Amsterdam, the school children make lanterns and learn songs. In the evening, they go door to door and show their lanterns and sing a song. In return they get some candy, an orange, what have you. I don’t remember celebrating this as a child so it would have completely skipped my awareness had Joanne not advised me of this very Dutch holiday. I had offered her the dogs and she insisted that they should remain here until after Sint Maarten. I have some experience in how the dogs are when people come to the door so I took them for a walk, fed them an early dinner and then closed them into the bedroom/office/mission control. Earlier today, before going to the office, I stopped by AH and bought five bags of candy. Now these were Dutch bags of candy so they had 14 pieces in them each instead of the giant Halloween bags. I thought I would be okay and I purposefully bought candy that I would have zero interest in eating. With my highly elegant IKEA dish box, err candy bowl, I sat on my front stoop and waited for the kids to come by. They did. The deal is no candy before the song. I ran out of candy so I went tearing through the cupboards looking for anything at all. Well, I can’t really pass out packets of Starbucks VIA to little children or Nespresso capsules. I had a package of speculaas and a mandarin. It was completely okay for the kids to each take a cookie from an open pack and eat it right then and there. None of their parents freaked and no one was worried about what might be in them except one little boy who had a nut allergy – he was thrilled with the mandarin. It was such a nice experience, that you could give something out of your cupboards without anyone being worried that there was something dangerous underneath. I really enjoyed it and the songs were great. I know for next year to have even more on hand. And the boys did pretty well, they only barked a few times.

After I ran out of speculaas, we went for a long walk because the theory is that a tired dog is a happy dog. I am not really sure Henry agrees with that and I think George could just keep walking forever. Every time a tram passes us by, George stops and looks at it as if to say “Shouldn’t we be getting on that one?” I bet that one day I will find George with an OV chipkaart of his own, so he can travel wherever he pleases.

The weather has really taken a turn for the chilly. I am already regretting the fact that I sent all my winter coats in the shipping container. Today when I was going to the office, the wind was really sharp at Schiphol and it ripped right through my fleece. When Mom and I used to fly into Amsterdam, I always wanted to work on the ramp for KLM. They had these bomb turquoise jumpsuits and foul weather gear and they had every kind of airplane, including the 747s that went around the world. I used to think that if I could be KLM ramp rat, I would have it made. And I loved Schiphol. There were trips to the Netherlands that Mom and I lived almost entirely in Schiphol – it is a city unto itself. We would take day trips out of Schiphol but that’s where we would keep coming back to at night. And here I am now. If I go into the office, the building is on Schiphol grounds and I can watch the planes take off and land from anywhere in the building. Different industry and very different skills but still at Schiphol. I walked past a KLM ramp rat today and wondered if I could get one of those parkas secondhand? They strike me as incredibly useful for on the bike and when the rain comes down here, like the day I got so soaked, my laptop shorted.

The cats got more of the tuna and shrimp tonight. Which they then promptly threw up. And George got into the cat food bag yesterday, including the bag itself so he’s had some violent digestive fury. And I am not sure what Henry ate but he’s pretty questionable at the moment as well. So, all the way around, I should probably dose them with Petpo-Bismal. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better otherwise I might open a side business as a biohazard specialist.


I promised to get organized and post some pictures. I started to do that today and I will keep adding as we go along. You can find them here and that is where I will keep adding them.

When she was last here, Jo had the good sense to put two of the garden chairs in the shed to dry out. I decided that today they were dry enough and I have moved them indoors. So, tonight, I actually ate dinner at a table, instead of standing up at the kitchen counter. The table is a green plastic folding table that Jo and Pieter brought me. It really reminds me of my mother. My mom seemed to have this magical attraction for tables. She was always finding them next to someone’s garbage, in Ikea’s dents and dings department and in antique stores. For the longest time, she had this round outdoor plastic table in the same shade of green as her kitchen table. With a table cloth over it, it worked just fine as long as you didn’t put anything in the middle where the hole for the umbrella pole was.

The camping out doesn’t really bother me. As you can see, I obviously come from a line of practical people who make things work. The only reason I wish I had furniture at the moment is so that if people come to visit me, they can be seated comfortably. And I would like to have the dog beds so they have a place to call their own. There is a perfect sunny corner for it in the living room and at the moment, we are using towels and blankets but they have let me know it is not quite up to their standards. Today I had fun vacuuming the wooden floors. George was convinced that the vacuum is some new kind of game that he has to dance around and avoid. Henry and the cats ran towards the Belgian border.

We took a long walk this morning, to the Albert Cuyp market in the neighborhood called De Pijp. It is a great neighborhood, we stayed there in April when we were here for Mom’s service in Marum. It is a very busy neighborhood. It is one I like to visit but I am glad I don’t live in. The Albert Cuyp market is open everyday, except Sunday so it was unusual to actually be able to walk down the street freely. On the way home, I stopped for an olieball from the outdoor baker. You can only get them from fall to New Year and they are delicious. I prefer the old fashioned kind with raisins and currants. Some of the “new” olieballen stands make them with banana and pineapple and all kinds of modern flavors but I like them best old school.

Something I find fun about living here is that I can take my trash and recycling out everyday. There are containers on the street and they are labelled according to what they accept. Not having to wait for once a week service is something I really enjoy. I took pictures of how they empty them. A great big truck comes on Fridays and pulls the whole canister out of the ground and then dumps it in the trash truck. It is super cool to watch. I can recycle paper and glass but not plastic. In the paper this week, Amsterdam is finally moving to collecting plastics for recycling. And today, I found one of the big bins! It’s about four blocks away, going towards De Pijp. You have no idea how happy this made me!!! Now if I could get something for food waste, my garbage needs would be complete!

We took another walk this afternoon along the canal that runs behind the street behind us. Having learned my lesson from yesterday, George stayed firmly on leash. Despite his best efforts to go in, I managed to keep him dry. In the summer it won’t be such a big deal but it is in the mid 40s right now and that’s a bit cold for wet dogs. Probably in an hour or so, we’ll take another walk. I am doing laundry right now and I don’t want to leave while the dryer is running. Can I just tell you how fortunate I feel that our apartment has all of the major appliances? As helpful as George tries to be, I can’t really see him helping me carry a basket to the Laundromat.

I was thinking about why I am writing this blog. The most important reason is that it helps me not to miss you all quite so much because I have the idea that I am still talking to you, regardless of distance. So, thank you for being part of my life and for reading.