Monthly Archives: June 2014

Lessons learned

Today I learned a pretty important lesson about listening to my instincts. From the time I got up, I was going back and forth with how I was going to get to work today. Instead of making the down the hallway commute, I planned to go into the office. I kept looking outside and at my rain app on my phone. I made the choice to go by bike. But an inner voice kept saying “Drive”. Even after I left the house and was cycling through the park, I had another decision moment and turned off to keep cycling instead of turning off to the parking garage.

Not ten minutes later, as I was cycling past the university, it started coming down. And not gentle rain either but full on sideways rain. I pulled over under a tree and decided to wait 5 minutes or so because surely the weather would change. I was thinking to myself how smart I was to stop riding in the rain and just wait it out –  that this model of thinking represented how I was learning the European way. Five minutes turned to ten and I kept myself busy by moving the gift I had for a colleague out of the basket and into my bike bag so it wouldn’t get ruined.  This was kind of the whole point of going into the office today – someone we have had working with our team on a contract is going to a new job and I had a small gift for her of Tout macaroons and a copy (in Dutch) of “Lean In”. Always useful for a young woman at the start of her next career step.

After ten minutes, it seemed like the rain was only getting worse. So, back into the magic bike bag and out comes my great new orange rain cape, complete with reflective piping. I proceed to cover myself with this fashionable garment and figure it will keep me dry enough to cycle to the parking garage and I will just drive from there. Well, that was a good idea in theory. And it kept me dryer than I would have been but I still ended up with my jeans from the knee down being totally soaked. And halfway through, the hood stopped working due to the wind.

By the time I got to the parking garage, whatever attempt I had made this morning to look presentable was lost. I locked up my bike and climbed into Astrid, cringing at the thought of getting all that water in the car. And off I went to Schiphol. Well, approximately two miles from the exit I realized that I had left the gift for Azaliya in my bike bag. So, off at the next exit, turn around, back to the parking garage, back to the bike, get the gift, back to the car and then it was time to try going to work again. Third time was the charm, I finally made it into the office, still looking like I had just stepped out of the washing machine.  I wish we had those high tech hand dryers in the office. I would have loved to have put my jeans in there. Denim takes a long time to dry, so the whole day it was squish squish much to the amusement of my coworkers.

The office was pretty empty today. I think lots of people were still recovering from the game last night. 2-1 at the very last minute, Oranje will be going to the quarter finals. I watched the game at home. When I took the dogs for a walk after, I could still hear the fans on Museumplein – all 45,000 of them. Saturday is the next match for the Dutch so I have a week to make sure my orange paraphernalia is ready. Hup Holland Hup!

The Viva Las Vegas vegetarian festival yesterday was quite nice. Small but with some interesting stalls. And I had a fabulous vegan burger which had such a great Southwest flavor. I have been craving that flavor because it is hard to get here. I did not find anyone selling vegan fertilizer but supposedly there is a store in Amsterdam that is the equivalent of an organic style Home Depot. But no one can remember the name so I will keep looking. It seems that The Hague has a huge proportion of veg/vegan grocery stores and snackbars. I find this intriguing.

I made the decision today to take some time off in August. The Move Goddess and Rupert and Meredith are coming to stay at different times during the month. And rather than restricting myself to just going out on the weekends, I decided to take a whole whopping 9 days off over that three week period. That still leaves me with 11 vacation days to take for the rest of the year since I have used up approximately a week earlier in the year with day at a time. I tell you, having five weeks a year is a little overwhelming. I really don’t know what to do with myself. Every time someone asks me what my vacation plans are, I start stuttering.

I am still on the lookout for sparklers for Mom’s chosen birthday on Friday. I think I might have to go try some of the dodgy coffeshops/headshops. Surely someone has sparklers.

Bamboo, Hemp Twine and Hope

If you combine those three things like I did today, you end up with some very elementary but functional trellises. I am not entirely convinced that hemp twine is strong enough to support zucchini plants but I remember reading that one of the advantages of hemp is its strength. We’ll see how this works. The peas are already turning towards the lattice. I think it is so smart how they find something to climb,within 20 minutes of you putting something nearby. They turn toward it with their grabbers. I know grabbers is not the proper name for the part of the plant but it fits.

I took out two of the zucchini plants today to give to someone, I am not sure they are going to make it. They are looking kind of sad and droopy. I hope they recover. I hate having to thin out plants. But I am working with one square meter of space and even though I will be training as many plants to grow up instead of out, I still had too many zucchini plants. All ten seeds sprouted and grew. Technically, they are Courgette de Nice. And you are supposed to pick them when they are the size of a golf ball. They are a striped green. I am looking forward to seeing what happens.

The rocket or arugula is probably a couple of days away for being ready for the first salad. I love rocket. Sometimes when I run out of romaine for the boys’ dinner, I try to substitute arugula. However, they are particular about their greens and do not care for arugula. They do love avocado. Even Moortje likes it. I draw the line at coffee though. I am not about to start serving Henry and George morning cups of coffee.

We had a nice nap today and then went for a long walk in the park. They were on their best behavior today, not barking at any of the other dogs, not trying to get into the swan pond. George even brought me a spare rib bone that he found instead of trying to gulp it down secretly. I did have a momentary concern when Henry got a little too close to the edge of the canal to keep an eye on all the pleasure boats that were motoring by. However, he didn’t fall in. And if he had, I just would have gone in after him.

Yesterday, I was riding back from the parking garage and noticed a woman walking down the sidewalk. Her dress was made of some kind of synthetic flowery material. She was carrying a backpack and clearly leaving the office. Well, somewhere along her walk, the laws of static electricity came into play and the entire back of her dress was tucked up under backpack. Fortunately, she was wearing a bright white slip underneath. People passed her and no one said anything. At first it almost looked a style of dress. Then at the crosswalk, she dislodged her backpack and eventually her dress covered her bottom again. You can be certain that I will make sure to look at the fabric of dresses that I wear very carefully and I will remember not to mix synthetic with a backpack!

Tomorrow, it’s over to the Viva Las Vegas vegetarian expo. I am hoping to track down some vegan fertilizer for the veggies. I’d rather not sprinkle blood and feathers on my garden. Manure no problem, slaughterhouse by products not so much. Of course, tomorrow evening it is another match. So along with most of the rest of the country, from 6PM Dutch time, I’ll be glued to Nederland 1 on the TV.

And she’s gorgeous

beyond gorgeous really. But you can see that for yourself. Image

In English, her paint color is “Edwardian Grey”. In Dutch it is “Advocaat Grijs” or literally Lawyer Grey. I wanted to keep driving for hours but I had a one o’clock meeting with my manager and so I went to the office. I am ready to throw the dogs in the car, some clean clothes and head for vacation. 10 dollar a gallon gas be damned! But tomorrow I have a full day meeting with three of my coworkers so I carefully drove her back to the parking garage.

Robert took me out to lunch by the river in Haarlem before he gave me back the keys. I guess considering that he’s been working on my car for almost a month and we’ve had many conversations, lunch was a normal next step. We ate at what used to be an old ship building yard.

I went by Patisserie Tout today. I needed to get macaroons as a goodbye gift for someone in my group at work. And I am also giving her a copy of “Lean In”. She’s been helping us with a project and her contract is up since it is the end of our year. We have had a lot of good conversations.She’s taking a job in the Bahamas and everyone thinks she’s nuts. Except me. I think she will be great at it. Unfortunately, Ramadan starts Monday so I should give her the macaroons before then. Tout is a very, very delicious patisserie. I like to give gifts from there. It is kind of like buying cheese from the farmer’s market to give as a gift, I get a thrill from it.

I just heard one of my neighbors say to her child “Zeg ben je helemaal betoeterd?” It is from a children’s song apparently. I remember my mom saying it to us. It roughly translates to “Now have you gone completely out of your mind?” I catch myself saying this to the dogs sometimes. But it is not rude. If you really want to be rude to someone in Dutch, you use a disease as an adjective to describe them or you wish it on them.

We picked up our prescriptions today. I took the dogs with me since we use the same pharmacy. I don’t have to pay for mine. But George had to pay for his. However, he forget his debit card so I ended up paying for it as usual. It is pretty handy that we can use the same pharmacy. I wonder if we can also use the same dentist? That’s the next thing I need to experience. It works the same way as the doctor, you go to one in the neighborhood. Our vet was in the paper this week for his 40 years of work with animals. He still works one day a week at the zoo. I think I am probably sharing all these little random details with you so that I can feel like you are in my neighborhood.

I am bringing cake tomorrow to the offsite meeting. Because to face a whole day of planning, you should have strong coffee and good pastry. Also from Tout. And I chose four small things since everyone has different taste. One coworker is gluten free, one hates cheese, the other eats everything and then there’s me. Also so we can celebrate the year coming to a close.

Next week is the 4th of July already. Also known as Mom’s chosen birthday. I think I will be eating dinner outside on the terrace at Frankendael’s Merkelbach in her honor. I don’t think there will be fireworks so I will have to see about getting some sparklers to set off in her honor. They probably don’t want you doing that at the table but I will figure something out.


A first date with an old companion

Tomorrow, I will be going on a first date of sorts. Not a blind date because I know who she is. But a first one. I am picking up Astrid tomorrow. I got the call yesterday when I was on the train coming back from Groningen that she was headed to the detailer and she’d be ready to go soon. Robert told me I wouldn’t recognize her. I am excited to have my Astrid back. I can’t wait to see how she looks now, given the nearly month’s worth of work that has gone into her. After 18 years, I guess it was time for a little makeover. I do wish I hadn’t donated all my cassette tapes since her radio works again.

I took the day off work yesterday to go up to Groningen. I walked around a lot and went to the Groninger Museum – my museumkaart works there too! I think it is a really charming city. My Opa was born in Groningen but that’s not what draws me there. The School of Law is there. Well, one of them. I suppose it caught my eye because as I was wandering the cobblestoned streets, the richness of the architecture was giving me tourist-it is. You know, the condition where you are so busy looking up at everything, you wander into oncoming bicycles, you get a sunburn in the shape of your smartphone camera on your face, etc. I had lunch with a friend that I met when I went up to Bad Nieuwschans. The weather turned rainy and I needed to get home to feed the wild ones so I wasn’t able to enjoy any of the terraces.

When I was coming back from my banjo lesson today, I met a lady in the park. It was very interesting, she reminded me a lot of our family’s friend, Lynn Marie. But Lynn-Marie crossed with my mother. She was even wearing a long knit sweater jacket which looked like something my mom would have spent hours picking out the perfect yarn for. And she had hair like my mom’s. And then her eyes reminded me of Lynn-Marie’s. I had been thinking about my mom a lot today, since I had to go to the doctor and they want to know some history. My mom loved Lynn-Marie and she helped me care for Mom. Sometimes I see women that remind me of my mom and I have to work hard to control the urge to run up to them and try to give them a hug. Not ever being able to hug someone again is a pretty grim truth.

It seems that Sunday night will be the Netherlands vs. Mexico. I imagine it will be a good match. I haven’t decided if I watch it from home or if I will try to go somewhere. Probably from home since the Viva Las Vegas vegetarian festival is that day and that will have been quite enough social stimulation!

Going to the doctor was interesting. First of all, people only go when they have a complaint, there’s no concept of a yearly checkup. Instead, according to your age, you are registered for the appropriate screenings for mammograms, etc. But everyone gets one, it is all scheduled through the department of health (or equivalent) that does it. And you don’t pay for it with a copay nor does it matter what kind of insurance you have, etc. I like this idea. Everyone’s health is of value so everyone should get the same screenings, not whether or not you can afford to have a screening. My doctor is on the corner. You go to a neighborhood doctor. Also a plus. They already know me because I get George’s anti-seizure pills there. I still didn’t like being in the office though.

Speaking of George, it’s time to take the dynamic duo for their evening walk…

It’s not unusual…

to be loved by anyone… Ah, Tom Jones. How can you resist? You know you want to sing along. Go ahead, I won’t tell! After all, last night I was in the Ziggo Dome singing along with a crowd somewhere around 15,000. Yep, that’s a whole lot of swinging “What’s New, Pussycat?” fans. Tonight Miley Cyrus is playing there which I am relieved to be missing.

I had a pretty good seat on the floor, 22 rows back. Right next to me were two ladies of a certain age. They were carrying with them brand new hot pink underpants for throwing at the stage. I didn’t bring that, I just brought Mom’s little ash container. I think the song that impacted me the most was his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song”. Mom and I both being Leonard Cohen fans as well. It was such a great show. He has an amazing voice. And he’s just turned 74 which means he is really a contemporary of my mom’s. And he is so soulful. Hearing so many blues and roots songs, American music if you will, was great. I boogied in my allotted standing space in front of my chair, with Mom.

I was so hyper after the show, I completely cycled around the direction of Amsterdam I needed to go. I went all the way northeast to come back southwest. Ironically, just as I was about to give in and check for directions, I recognized the neighborhood I was in. It was one I got lost in when I was looking for Frankendael Park by feel a couple of months ago. So getting lost has it’s uses!

Friday night, I went to dinner with Eliza and her friend Richard. We went to a tiny little Dutch restaurant hidden between the busy streets and stayed on the terrace until closing time. Eliza lives over in the very historic part of Amsterdam and going to see her side of town is nice because it is really beautiful and charming – if crowded full of tourists, especially now. She also has found little out of the way places as requirement because she lives so in the hustle.

Today we went to Beatrix Park and sat in the sun, drinking Hungarian champagne and eating fruit while watching the antics of pirate themed birthday party. The kids were all dressed up as pirates but so were some of the adults. I am still actively practicing relaxing and being in the moment. Which means on the weekend, I don’t answer my work email and I don’t count the hours that I left before I have to go to work. I just practice being. I might be making some progress with this.

If you are wondering what the square picture is of, let me share. This is the raw, vegan chocolate mousse with peanut butter frosting and pretzel crust cake that Aster made me in exchange for the two packs of Daiya vegan cheese that I had in my freezer. She met me at the Utrecht train station on Thursday and I very carefully got it home. The crack is from the bouncing of being in the basket on the front of the bike. Let me just tell you, it is delicious. And I have way more than I can eat. I think I am going to end up needing to take it into work and giving it to the IT guys again. Image

The boys are snoring right next to me since they have full stomachs.

I fell for another one of those special emails from the Dutch Rail. This time it was 19 euros to Lille each way. So off I go at the end of August for the day. For 19 euros on the high speed trains, how could I possibly not go? I have discovered that I am particularly susceptible to their emails. I fall for them every time.

I was reading the Saturday paper today. It is more like a Sunday paper in terms that it has a travel section, etc. There were articles on Naples and this amazing bike track along the Belgian-German border that goes over the old train lines that used to haul coal. Given that I do 30 kilometers roundtrip to Schiphol, soon I should be able to get up to 50 km a day. And I realized I could go to Naples for a weekend. Why the hell not?

Astrid has her new paint for the roof. This week she gets the last of the mechanical stuff and then we will be reunited. We kind of have to be since the restorer goes on vacation after this week and he’s gone for a month. I still have four weeks of vacation to use this year.

Time to wash the sunscreen off my face and practice my banjo.

Another super match!

Watching the match today between the Netherlands and Australia from our big orange sofa reminded me of evenings spent with my Oma watching soccer. If my memory serves, Oma was a Feyenoord fan. I remember light blue uniforms and really bad mullets. And I think that was Feyenoord in the 80s. Oma would be completely engrossed in the match and Opa would be sitting in his chair, doing crosswords. Being able to spend those summers with them was a gift. Even now, so many years later, I can still remember sitting at their dining room table which was usually covered with my latest project involving either alternative music stars, obsessive journaling or naming pictures of horses. That same dining room table that I sat at with them, that my mother grew up with, sits here in the house in Amsterdam.

Tomorrow I am off to Utrecht for a meeting and to give two packs of Daiya vegan cheese to Aster. She mentioned wanting to try it on Friday when she was giving the raw foods workshop. I have three packs in the freezer from my last trip to Seattle so I figured the least I can do is pass them on. It is best melted and I don’t eat that many grilled cheeses anymore.

And in the evening, Jo and Pieter are coming down for Indonesian. I am not cooking! We’re going to Djajo on the corner.

Friday it is back to the office via the bike. That will be twice this week. On Saturday, I will be getting out my leisure suit and getting ready for Tom Jones at the Ziggo Dome. I always wanted to take my mom to see Tom Jones because she was a big fan too. I have a tiny memorial heart with a bit of her ash in it. I think I will take it with me like I did to Andre Rieu.

I said Yes to this…


Here’s what Astrid looks like right now. I got this picture on Friday along with the quote for the interior work. I was standing on the platform at Schiphol, waiting for the next train to Driebergen-Ziest since I just missed it the one I needed by two minutes. You can imagine that I nearly fell over. Because this is not what she looked like when I took her on Monday. I immediately called Robert, the force behind the pictures and I might even call it Saabotage. My understanding was I would first get a quote while she got her oil changed and the belts replaced. You know, the reasons I had brought there to begin with. And that was Robert’s understanding as well. His explanation was that without taking the car apart, he can’t give me an accurate quote because he doesn’t know what all she needs. She also doesn’t have the fancy onboard computers that most cars do now. He did ask me if I wanted to preserve the odometer – he would put it in an ornamental box and replace it with one for kilometers. I said No to that. The 272K miles and ticking are a point of pride and I will keep going with miles. He also found another of my Mom’s coffee stirsticks under the seat which he carefully put away for me to pick up. How can you go wrong with someone who pays attention to those kinds of details? At any rate, Astrid is getting her interior work done. The best part is all her parts will be secondhand so there is NO 21% tax on them. YAY! And I got a 10% discount for being new. Luckily her engine and her body are in sound shape so I think the next major project will be the paint for the roof and some minor technical stuff. She’s basically getting a refurbished interior. It was long overdue.

At first glance, it might seem silly that I keep spending money on Astrid. After all, wouldn’t it make sense to just get a new car? Not here, it wouldn’t. For new cars, you pay a corresponding ratio every month depending on their pollute factor. The lowest you can pay is 7%, the highest 28%. This is per month. Plus then there’s quarterly road tax, based on the value of your car and the above pollution factor. And then there’s the payment. A relatively modest car, nothing fancy but with four doors will easily set you back 4-500 euros per month before all of the other stuff. Service is not included. Nor is 21% tax. In consideration, I have no monthly payment, no pollute factor payment because of her age, no tax because she came in as a household move and my quarterly tax is about 150 euros because of her age. So, all things considered, I keep telling myself, I am coming out ahead 🙂 There’s a scandal in the paper about one of the former directors of a social housing corporation being driven around in his Maserati when he was on the job. How it didn’t exactly set the right tone. And that he was billing 8800 euros per month to the housing corporation to pay for his Maserati and driver. And most of that was going to the Maserati payment. See, the numbers could be worse!

It was 28 degrees today. That is approximately 82.5 degrees. That’s hot. We went to the park early this morning, around 9 so the boys could get their running in before things got overly warm. George got a lecture from a pair of hissing geese parents. They were protecting their goslings and he was, of course, standing right at the water’s edge looking at them. He completely failed to read the danger signs. They didn’t phase him in the least and they got very close. I knew geese would hiss when they got angry but I had never seen it. Wow, it’s not a pretty sight. And then Henry found his way into the bird pond area through a hole in the fence that was precisely his size. I had to get him out of there without George also running in. And without either of them bothering all of the swans and geese. It would be safe to say that Beatrix Park was happening this morning!

After the boys were extricated from the bird pond, they stopped to snack on the fresh cow manure that the parks service has put out along the paths. Sometimes you are just better off not knowing what your pets are doing!

After dropping the boys off at home, I cycled over to the Noordermarkt. The first tuinbonen – think fava beans- are in season so I bought a whole kilo of them. They were my mom’s favorite so when the weather cools a little, I will cook them. I also got cherries, which are grown outside of Utrecht. And a big piece of graskaas or grass cheese. It is the cheese that is made from the milk from the first grass of the year. When the cows go outside after the winter, the first grass gives the milk a distinct flavor. The cheese only available for a limited time each year. In August, I will have lots of visitors and I am hoping to give them a taste of the gras kaas. The nice part about the Noordermarkt is that everything is organic except for the flower vendor. This is an ongoing debate if the flower vendor should be allowed to stay. He’s been there 20 years already. I managed to get through the market in a reasonable time.

It is definitely tourist season! They are everywhere which means you have to be doubly on the lookout. Especially when you see the rental bikes. And there are the big buses full of tourists. Suddenly, I hear American voices everywhere. It is funny, it doesn’t make me want to reveal myself. I learned today to look at the back fender of a bike. If it has a number on it, it is a rental and probably a tourist. They are not all on the bright yellow or red bikes, unfortunately. It surprises me sometimes how much more comfortable I feel on my bike after those early days of wobbling around.

Let’s see, the fuse breaker kept going off today and I had no power on the left hand side of the house. That would be the kitchen side. Not ideal in this weather. So, I made a call to the North and relied on my technical cousin in law to talk me through the ins and outs of troubleshooting Dutch electrical systems. Thanks to Pieter, I was able to narrow it down to the boiler. Which is now off so I can have power to the other things. I am pretty sure I still have some hot water in the tank. However, this could be a problem in a few days when it comes to showering. It is a long weekend here so I won’t be able to reach someone until Tuesday which means they probably won’t be able to come until Thursday, etc. Luckily, there’s a swimming complex that was built in 1912 in the neighborhood and there are showers at work. If things get really bad, I will just douse myself in patchouli and wear tie dye.

We had another nice long walk this evening and I cleaned up the terrace a little more. My seeds are sprouting in my staircase planter!!! I am very excited. However, my copper tape has fallen down so I need to figure out how to get it on there permanently. I think maybe wood glue could be the answer.

I discovered a previously unnoticed cabinet in my kitchen this week. I never realized it was actually a cupboard. Then this week I had the bright idea to try and open it. What do you know? Storage space is always at a premium in the Netherlands so this was a big bonus! I haven’t put anything in it yet because obviously I have lived without for 7 months so I clearly don’t really need it. Saving it for something good.


I had a banjo lesson today. Wednesday seems to be the day that works best for that. Last week I was really frustrated because I couldn’t hear the rhythm or keep time to it. I noticed that yesterday while I was cycling through the woods to work and rocking out to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis that I wasn’t just singing along, I was actually paying attention to the rhythm! And I could hear it. This might sound like a no brainer to you if you have been musical for a long time. But for someone who is just starting out, this can be a huge challenge. It is also one of the things that has always kept me off the dance floor – the idea that I had no concept of rhythm. This is not to say that you can soon expect me to channeling my inner John Travolta and trying to perform Saturday Night Fever in Amsterdam!

It was a good lesson today. I couldn’t get my E minor chord just right. My nails were too long. Ironically, nail biting is a habit that stands you well as a banjo player. So once again, I had to use my teacher’s kitchen scissors to cut them down. I had already cut my nails before I went to my lesson but they were still too long. They really do have to be around nail biter length.

It is raining right now, which is helpful for my newly scattered seeds. I set them out last night. A full range of things from Brussels sprouts to marigolds. We’ll see what comes up. Speaking of channeling my inner farmer, I ride past Betsy and her piglets every time. Betsy is a refugee from the pork industry and she and her piglets are now forest pigs. They have a little trolley as a barn and can come to the street side if they wish. I like to watch them. I had no idea that pigs could be so large! Apparently, there are also about 12 cows also in the same woods, refugees from the food industry. The animals are allowed to live out their lives there.

Yesterday, I made the commute in 4th gear. That was a heavy ride. My goal is to get to be able to go the whole way in 8th so I have four more steps to go. That might take me a while to get to.

Yesterday was Raven’s 14th birthday. Hard to believe how quickly people grow up. I am so glad he had the chance to know my mom even if he wasn’t always so happy about “Miss Mary”. I remember sitting in Joanne’s Fabrics with the two of them for hours while she was going through the fabrics and decorations to make his first powwow regalia. She spent hours on it. And I remember their competitive Easter egg hunt. But most of all, I remember how much I love them both and what critical parts they played in shaping my life.

A trip to the mechanic

I might have mentioned that Astrid’s belts have been squealing something fierce lately and that she was overdue for an oil change. Or I might just have thought it. Anyway, an outstanding item on my move to the Netherlands list was to find a good SAAB mechanic. I had asked a few people that I saw parking SAABs and did some preliminary research. I realized that most of the mechanics were outside of Amsterdam, like in Groningen where there must be quite a lively SAAB culture. And then there was this black convertible parked on the sidewalk (literally) and I asked the owner who his mechanic was. He gave me the answer that they didn’t live here so he couldn’t say. I understand that. Imagine my surprise when I noticed the car parked here awfully regularly for someone who doesn’t live on the street. That’s when I read his license plate holder. Which had the name of where he bought the car. A few clicks later and I was looking at their website.

This morning I called up the folks at 900Classic in Haarlem and made arrangements to bring Astrid by after lunch for the above items. As soon as I turned onto their block, I knew I was in the right place. There had to be 20 900s lined up. Turns out they are more than mechanics, they are a restoration shop. I spent two hours talking away with the chief restorer. They were delighted to notice how Astrid was different than Dutch SAABs and before I knew it, we’re talking about giving my Astrid the overhaul she has needed for a long time. As a matter of fact, they kept her, which was kind of weird at first. Especially for an oil change and belts. But I felt confident that she is in good hands and I can probably pick her up tomorrow. Or not yet. Because as we were talking, the plan started coming together for her restoration. He thinks he would need her for a month. We’ll see how this comes out. But if the other cars that I saw are any indication of the work they do, I’m going to be driving the best SAAB for miles. When he dropped me off at the train station, I was already invited to his mother’s annual wine tasting festival at the end of June and to meet his sister and her partner, who live one street over from me. I really liked him. There are some exceptional people in the SAAB world. He is one of them.

I realized that I have had Astrid for 18 years now. I don’t know why I didn’t do the math before. She still drives so amazingly well that while I have driven other cars in those 18 years, she is still my number one. And of course, I have so many memories with my mom. Today I took her McDonald’s coffee stir stick of the dash. It has been there since the last time my mom drank McDonald’s coffee – which must have been more than 10 years ago! I didn’t want it to get lost so I am putting it away. My mom always had spare Sugar in the Raw packets and straws with her. I think she picked them up every time she would get a coffee.

So, it is a good thing that I got my heavy duty Intratuin shopping done on Friday. Although there is one within biking distance as I discovered yesterday when I needed more copper tape to keep the snails at bay. I misread the packaging and didn’t realize I was only getting 4 meters worth of tape. The staircase garden frame is all set up and filled with dirt. Seeds will go in tomorrow as soon as I can come to a final decision about what goes where. And the chimenea is set up as well. I transplanted all the hospital plants and now I have plants everywhere. Leaving behind my mom’s indoor plants was really hard for me so I have been trying to find them here. Of course, everything is with the latin name here and I think of plants much more visually like “the one in the brown pot that had variegated leaves and a bamboo looking trunk”. Helpful, right?

Going to the office tomorrow. By bike, of course! My rain cape arrived on Friday so this time I will be prepared if the weather changes violently just before my commute home. I had a choice of colors, but I went with orange. I suspect you knew that was coming.

I’ll keep you posted on what the outcome is with Astrid.