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.

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