Monthly Archives: May 2016

Okay, seriously irritating…

The terrace furniture has been a little bit of a lesson in never do this again via Groupon. Or at least not if it is the same merchant on Groupon. First, there was the excitement of the fact that they forgot to send one entire box, which contained all of the parts that you sit on. Then when they finally sent the second box, DPD apparently couldn’t deliver it because my house doesn’t really exist. I guess I should have remembered to lift the cloaking spell 😉

So, today, on my way back from Rotterdam, I took a side trip to the Amsterdam port where DPD has their depot. I was finally able to collect the missing box, which they didn’t understand why it hadn’t been delivered either. I got home and parked in front of the house and promptly crashed into the stone pillars that protect the garbage containers from people backing into them. It was a terrible sound, I thought for sure I was going to find an enormous dent in Astrid. Luckily, it was only the bumper. Okay, sporting now an enormous scratch that looks like a rabid grizzly bear tried to hang on to the car but other than that, my grrl was okay. Unpacked the box and dragged the pieces into the house.

Sounds good, right? I went out a few minutes ago with the intention of putting this thing together, damnit. Guess what? There’s no method to attach the pieces together. Yes, there are holes that line up with each other but there’s not a single thing to fasten them with. Somewhere along the way, those were forgotten as well. So, now I have all the pieces but no way to fasten them together and I don’t think cable ties are going to do the trick. Can I tell you how much I want to bang my own head against a wall? Followed shortly by the merchant’s ?

Echt Super Irritant – which means Really Very Irritating but sounds harsher in Dutch than in English. Mostly because you put a lot of emphasis on Echt and drag it out to Irr-III-Taaant. Yeah, just like that.

It sounds like I will not be sitting on my terrace furniture this weekend *scowl*. This is almost as bad as them killing off Charles Vane in Black Sails… I think it might be time for me to go and find my lavender oil again.

In other outdoor news, I need to go and get some vinegar to spray all the weeds so I can put in the grass seed. It hasn’t really been that warm or sunny so it wouldn’t be very effective. You really need some good sun to make the vinegar effective. Guess what the forecast is for tomorrow? Cloudy.

I also added some basil seed today to the herb gardens I am making out of champagne bottle cases. I forgot that one person I know only wanted basil…well, now he gets basil plus a few other things 😉

Going to do some housework so I feel like I accomplished something domestic today 😉



Wisdom from the Windy City

I came home early this evening after my mini tour of the Netherlands to see a bright yellow envelope on the counter. I have a thing for paper mail and cards and so I was determined to delay my gratification as much as possible. Which is not hard to do around this joint, especially when all four pets want attention at once and all I want to do is get out of my grownup clothes and run for the bathroom because it was a long drive with one too many bottles of water!

After the inmates had been cared for, I then had a bunch of things to follow up on from today and get in order for tomorrow. I am back in Rotterdam tomorrow, different customer. Today I barely managed to avoid the milieu zone. They have one in Rotterdam and now they are enforcing it. Cars older than 1992 are not allowed in the zone and it is a 90 euro fine per incident. At one point today, I deliberately took a wrong turn because if I hadn’t, I would have ended up in the zone. Oh, and it is all electronically monitored, complete with license plate registration and shocks. 😉 Okay, not sure about the shocks but they are controlling it electronically.

The building I went to today is on the UNESCO list. It is the Van Nelle Fabriek In it’s long and varied history, it has produced coffee, tea, cigarettes, Chiclets chewing gum and lots of other things. When you walk into the building, it smells exactly like an old factory. Due to the heritage status, there’s so much intact, including fixtures and floors. I wanted to take some of it with me. I know that’s not possible but if I ever do any remodeling, I might be looking for some vintage things like that.

From Rotterdam on out to the countryside, in the direction of Eindhoven. It was a good 90 minute drive where I was hoping it would rain enough to wash off the enormous piles of bird poop that the local Angry Birds flock had dumped on Astrid overnight. We’re not just talking a splatter here or there, we are talking so much that it didn’t even come off in the high pressure car wash all the way. Mental note: don’t park under that tree again, even if only overnight!

Back to my original point, the birthday card – from Rupert and Meredith! So fun! Full of useful wisdom like remembering the phrase “Hold my beer, watch this ___” which might be part of the Great Snack Swindle. And a wish for a list of things I love this year from Meredith… clever how well she knows me with some of the entries on the list 😉

Okay, I really have to stop staring at the computer now since my eyeballs are turning square, even behind my glasses. Did anyone else’s parents tell them that? That they would get square eyeballs from watching too much TV? I assume that wisdom applies to computer screens now too, since we didn’t even have electricity until I was 13  😉

Where to begin?

So, 43 is off to a hectic start. The very good news is that my age finally matches my European shoe size. However, that doesn’t mean that it makes it any easier to find shoes in my size here 😉

The birthday itself was a big mix of emotions. The workshops that I gave took a lot out of me, partially because so much of the feeling in the room was rather fatalistic. Little Caroline and I had our work cut out for us. More than once, we crossed the line into tough love messaging 😉 Ironically enough, the feedback that we have received is that our sessions were very inspiring – which makes me think that maybe we should take this show on the road… or maybe our audience had lower standards than we expected!

Friday night, it was dinner out at Merkelbach .This was so lovely. I had asked for vegan ahead of time and they did an amazing job. Unfortunately, the gardens were not open to dine in. However, we made the most of the evening and stayed til close.

Saturday was much warmer weather and time to take the dogs to the Albert Cuyp market and wander a bit. We then sat on a terrace for a couple of hours in this hidden little square about four blocks from the house. It was a good thing that we made the most of Saturday because it rained ALL DAY Sunday.

Then last night, it was Mumford & Sons at the Ziggo Dome. It was a great show – even better musically than last year when I saw them in Chicago with the siblings. It was the first time GG had seen them and I like to think that another fan was made 😉

Over the weekend, I got some very sad news about a friend of mine. Her mother has passed. I was shocked when I read it because it seemed so fast, like such a short time ago we were talking about her sickness for the first time. The only comfort I can give is that the love doesn’t end, ever.

Work is CRAZY. Tomorrow I am in Rotterdam and then Eindehoven. Thursday again in Rotterdam and I have a ton of stuff to do to prepare for those days. I will be really glad when it is 1 July 😉

Oh, and I am still tracking down the most important part of the terrace furniture, the box that contains the sit part. Supposedly now we are going to try to have it delivered on Thursday instead…

Have you ever seen this?

The day before yesterday, there was a letter that the city would be blocking off our street for the next 24-48 hours because there were 5 trees found to be infected by a very nasty tree disease that is terribly contagious. I have a feeling that it was Dutch Elm disease. Normally this is something that you send in an arborist for and they take care of it. Well, there’s a slightly different angle here. All of the houses on a block are connected to each other. And in the middle is an open space – the inner garden or binnentuin. There’s no access to this place from the street.

So, if you have to cut down five fairly large trees, in an enclosed garden, how exactly are you going to get everything out? Like this…

It was super cool to watch. They were very efficient and were done by yesterday afternoon so today the street was back to normal with the smell of sawdust still in the air.

In the mail today came a birthday card from my dad. It is one of those musical cards that when you open them, it plays a tune. It features a dancing chihuahua and the boys were very, very interested in what was happening.

Tomorrow I am standing before the class again, this time for people who have been looking for work for a while. It promises to be fun. I am a little nervous because there will be a lot of people there and I don’t know much of their backgrounds. It will be fine, I have recruited some of my coworkers to come down and give a few minutes of their time to talk about exciting development topics.

I have a few things to finish before tomorrow, so off I go 🙂

Here we go again, Rupert…

It is hard to believe, but once again it is the 17th of May. The youngest brother is now officially (let me do the math) 38. A few more years and his European shoe size will match his age 😉

Here’s what I associate with our youngest brother: brains bordering on the frightening, crack bowling skills, the ability to locate by using types of restaurants as coordinates, the guy that can get a group of strangers to not only tell him about their lives but also invite him to eat their bar snacks (watching this in action is amazing – the Great Snack Swindle), the one who talks things out and of course, the bait that landed us Meredith as a family member.

Rupert is my brother that I can spend the most time with in conversation and silence. Although, there’s not much of that when he is around. He’s the brother that is really useful to have around for when fun is on the agenda, his inner clown makes that readily apparent. He’s the brother that you can walk for hours with and if you give him a beer or two, he handles the cycling in Amsterdam pretty well. In our family, he is also the one that isn’t shy about saying when one of us is being an asshat or when we need to calm down. I think this expertise is developed out of the fact that he used to be the one winding us up as kids. We were convinced that no one had a younger brother like Rupert. I think we were probably right!

My mom used to tell us not to give him an audience, that we would only make it worse. Yeah, and she was right. But how could we resist paying attention to the kid that was always acting up – in the sense that he didn’t think he needed anyone to tell him what to do. I know from conversations years later, she would have to walk away because she had just as much trouble not laughing. The gift of laughter that Rupert gave my mom is one of the reasons he will always be in (mostly) good graces with me.

Since we won’t be seeing each other next month, I miss you even more this time of year, Rupert. And I am glad that growing up, you had the good sense to like cheesecake for those years we shared birthday cakes. I know I wanted you to be a sister and have the name Rose and you didn’t turn out that way. And I know I screamed at Mom when I got the news over the phone to take you back and exchange you for a sister. I have to say, I have a pretty big spot in my heart for you, Rupinder. I can’t wait to see you again and share stories, pizza, beer and all the resulting digestive sounds that go with those kind of nights with you.

Happy Birthday, Rupert 🙂

If I am lucky

DPD might have something to deliver to me today! Terrace furniture! I have been checking their tracking site this morning and my stuff is at the Amsterdam Parcel sorting center so will it escape there today and make it to my house? I hope so!!! Otherwise it won’t be until Tuesday since Monday is a holiday.

That would be really nice to have it for the weekend, even if the weather isn’t super deluxe. I don’t have any doubts that the pets won’t be trying it out right away especially as a place to bake in the sun.

I’ve got a meeting this afternoon that I can’t do from home so hopefully, DPD is here before then *fingers crossed*.

I didn’t have banjo this week because Paul has been touring with the headlining act of the bluegrass festival and he needed a day off. Not a big deal but it made me realize how long my fingernails have gotten this week. Definitely in need of a banjo manicure. Maybe over the weekend. First the rest of the yardening 🙂

Wednesday night, on our terrace dinner date, we took the boys. Dogs are allowed here in restaurants. The boys were very good, eventually sitting in their chair and accepting attention from everyone that walked past our table. It was a fun evening with friends. 🙂 And despite all the smells that surrounded them, the boys did not beg and they only barked a few times when there was a passing dog. I think we might do that again one night, since they can be trusted. That’s also when I took a moment to be so very thankful that we are getting to have these sorts of experiences in our collective life!

I won tickets to the movies on Sunday so if the weather isn’t great, that’s a good way to get over it! Other than that, there’s a food truck festival, a long weekend and potluck picnic and who knows what else? Oh yes, and time with GG 🙂

Okay, it is 930, which means I have had my coffee break and back into the work world I go… Have a good weekend!


I have been thinking about writing since last night so I know that if I am going to be productive today, I will need to get this out of my head and onto the virtual page. This is one of those moments where it is good to know how your inner madness works 😉

I finished reading Oorlogswinter last night. Which is no doubt directly responsible for the dreams I had. Oorlogswinter is significant in that it is a book over the occupation in WWII from the perspective of a 16 year old boy. It is also mandatory reading for every high school student. I came across the book because one of the clerks at my Bruna knows I am working on my Dutch and when she comes across a book that she thinks would be interesting for me, she puts it aside.

Aside from the view into the Dutch history and the exposure to a great deal of wartime Dutch, the significance for me is that it is the first book I have finished cover to cover in Dutch that wasn’t geared to the reading interests of 10 year olds! I am now up to the level of 15 year olds! 😉

It takes extra concentration for me to read Dutch. I have to try to shut out the rest of the world and I stop reading much earlier. In English, I will read until I fall asleep or the book is done, whichever comes first. In Dutch, it’s a chapter or two max.

The weather has been great the past few days, overcast and in the 70s. Bonus! Today it is sunny, which is good because I have been making little steps of progress on the terrace. I still have a long way to go but we’re getting there. It will be awesome when the furniture comes so I can sit out there. Of course, for the weekend it is headed back down to the 50s. At some point, I really want to be able to put away my jackets for the season 😉

Oh, just found out I have a dinner on a terrace tonight date with GG so I’ve got to scoot and get things done 🙂 Have a good day!

Coming down

It is Monday morning and the phone started ringing at 905AM. Umm, hello, it will be much better if I get through a cup of coffee first, trust me 😉 Always surprising that people don’t believe me when I say that. Like I mentioned a week ago, this is the time of year that everyone at work turns into a highly stressed automaton with slightly non-working gears. Of course, with the long weekend behind us, I think people are moving forward on overdrive to catch up.

Listening to Red Herring, which is mostly murder ballads and bluegrass by a Dutch band. Really great stuff! They were playing at EWOB and I enjoyed their set a great deal! EWOB was fun, very low key. I did have some serious banjo lust but I knew in advance to leave my debit card at home.

Yesterday was a rough one. My young friend who lost her mother also on 16 Jan but this year called me in the morning and we talked for a bit. This is her year of firsts. I’m glad she called me. It wore me out though and I took a nap, even though I hadn’t been awake for longer than a few hours. After the first nap of the day, I decided to tackle the terrace. My mom was always big on yardening and I figured maybe this would bring me a little peace. I started on it but my heart wasn’t in it. I transplanted the most vulnerable of the plants and did some major weeding but I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I had planned. Of course, it didn’t help with motivation to look at the pets that were all lying in the sun, baking on the tiles! It was 77 degrees yesterday with a breeze.

With my disappointment in my yardening progress, I went back inside and took another nap on the couch. I hadn’t slept well over the past couple of days with all the emotional stuff in my head and sometimes, those things just wear me out. After the second nap, the boys and I went to the park. Everyone was in the park with their picnics, which is too tempting for small dogs who have a tendency to run right up to dozing picnickers and swipe them with a wet nose. So, they stayed on the leash until we got to the “wild” area of the park where it is mostly dog people.

I talked to Cedric last night for a long time. Partly because we hadn’t spoken in awhile and partly because my brother lives in the South and he just talks slow. Although he is says he is right on pace for where he lives and that it is the rest of the world that talks too fast 😉 Since we’re not meeting in Chicago next month, we’re trying to find a time to reschedule.

Okay, I suppose it is time to dive back into my inbox… big sigh…

Hanging out with Roxanne

This afternoon, I spent a couple of hours in the company of Roxanne, the daughter of one of my friends. There was a bit of a child care shortage so she asked if Roxanne could come and hang out with me. Hello, of course! So my favorite seven year old in motorcycle boots and sequins (I really admire her fashion sense) and I headed off to explore the wilds of Beatrix Park.

I know my park pretty well. This was a completely different experience. Following the lead of my very curious young friend, we attempted to find evidence of mussels living in fresh water, found the eggshells of the herons and bravely explored under all kinds of trees and off the path. We also did our environmental duty by fishing shopping bags out of the water and disposing of them properly.

Of course, then we had to have an ice cream before we headed back. Disappointment there for Roxanne because her chocolate ice cream tasted like coffee she said. I sincerely doubt her parents let her have coffee so I think I am going to assume it wasn’t sweet enough 😉

While waiting for her dad to pick her up, we spent some time coloring and drawing a communal picture.

Which means I am still working right now to get everything finished for Monday’s presentation WAY up in the north. I will go by Marum on the way back and talk to Mom. I’ve got quite a bit of stuff to tell her and it is time to put in new plants by her and the greats.

Today is the equivalent of Memorial Day.  It is still heavily oriented towards WWII and the people who lost their lives. It has also branched out a bit to victims of more current wars. Tomorrow is Liberation Day, which is marked by lots of celebrations. There are lots of exhibitions and tours today. In my neighborhood, which was formerly very much the Jewish Quarter, there are many open houses where the Resistance worked from and where people hid. Today and tomorrow, there are different houses open. It is pretty fascinating, especially since there are still people living who can tell their stories.

I had my banjo lesson this morning and afterwards walking home, I had all this emotion clinging to me. Then I realized why, I had walked past several groups of people that were walking in tours about the war. Of course, banjo was a little emotional because we talked about the funeral and such. However, eventually Paul told me that it was time to learn something new. He’s playing this weekend at the European World of Bluegrass (EWOB) with his regular band and then with the main event on Saturday night. I will, of course, be there. A couple of months ago, when I was just a friendly budding musician, I invited GG (before she became GG) to come with me to the festival. We’ve both ended up volunteering there on Saturday and I expect that we’ll do our best not to reorganize their entire process… 😉

Speaking of, I will see her again tomorrow – a day earlier than I expected…Happy Dance.

I am not going to Chicago next month. Due to stuff with work and stuff in Cedric’s life, our schedules do not match. So, now we have to try again. Grrr. Disappointing. I want to see them though so it doesn’t make sense if we can’t all be there at the same time.

Okay, the boys are looking at me like “When’s dinner, lady??” so off I go.

Things unsaid

Last night, I was sitting on my favorite terrace enjoying the warmer weather when I heard that a friend of mine’s father suffered some sort of stroke. I figured I would send her a message today, checking in with her and offering up my wheels. It turns out I didn’t need to since suddenly a bike pulled up in front of the terrace and there she was, fresh from the hospital in Den Haag.

We sat for a long time together. This was the first time she had seen her parents and siblings in 20 years. It was a big deal. Rightfully so. I spent a lot of time rubbing her back, kind of like you try to soothe a child, while she talked about the whole experience. This kind of experience is exactly why I wanted to say certain things to my father the last time I saw him. I wanted to be sure that in the case of a call like my friend got, I wouldn’t have anything left unsaid that was important. And I won’t have, I’ve let a great deal go and simply said the three most important things that I needed to.

For my friend, who had been dreading this call one day, it has served to show her that at least the most important things are still there, despite the years of distance. That is the love and the connection between them all. That was my advice to her, during this time, stay right in the moment, don’t think too much about the past or the future, just right now.

I’ll wait to hear from her today, I offered to drive her to Den Haag since sometimes Astrid and I are faster than the NS (train). If she is already anxious, then the train is not going to soothe that. With us, she can be safely buckled in with a cup of coffee and the sunroof open and me not talking 🙂

Rocking out to Within Temptation this morning. I know it is a short week so I have a lot to do today so I need a jumpstart this morning. Actually, it is beyond a jumpstart and maybe a good old ass kicking! 🙂