Seth and Judy gifted us a Groupon dinner at Meneer Nilsson for our birthday. My very first Groupon experience was through Seth and Judy, so I smiled at the gift.
Last weekend however, we discovered that the voucher was not valid for the customary 6 months or so, but only two months! And it's expiring 31 May. So we figured we'd better make a reservation right quick. But when we call the place, the boy on the telephone tells us that we cannot. His boss has told him that he is not allowed to take any more Groupon reservations. Excuse me?
Too many people are making reservations and therefore, he's not allowed to take any anymore. "But how can that be?" I ask. And the boy says: "It's not my fault, you can send a complaint to my boss," and he proceeds to give me his boss' name and e-mail address.
So we do. And the boss replies: "It's not my fault that everyone decides to wait until the last moment before making a reservation." He replies via e-mail that he can only give us a week's extension. When I come home from school after ten pm, Levi tells me the news and we decide to call right away to try and make a reservation.
But again! The girl on the phone tells Levi they're all booked up and she is not allowed to take any Groupong reservations. None! We got that e-mail today. No effort is made to find a solution. It's like running into a brick wall.
You know what, we understand that it's a hassle if people try en masse to make a reservation at the last moment. But what bothers me, is that no honest effort seems to be made to find a solution. What bothers me, is that all Meneer Nilsson says is, "It's not my fault." But isn't it? How many vouchers were sold? How were the reservations handled? How are you handling this problem now?
What bothers me, is that someone paid good money for this voucher, but that Meneer Nilsson seems intent on closing their eyes and ears and going "Nananananananana," hoping we'll go away.
Taking a moment every once in a while to think about what you're thankful for can make a big difference in your outlook on life. So here's this week's edition:
* How can I not start with the weather? May's moods have been mercurial to say the least. A week and a half ago I was still wearing my winter jacket, it was only 11 degrees! The last week it's been a steady 25 degrees however. Time for sunglasses, short shorts and skimpy tops. Everything's just better when the sun shines.
* Talking about sunshine: yesterday we had a picnic at Rembrandtpark. I hadn't realised just how close it is to our home. Just look how glorious it was.
* We looked after our neighbours' cat while they were away for a weekend a few weeks ago. Yesterday, after we came home from work, we found a cute plant with lovely little purple flowers on our doorstep: "Thank you for looking after Bobo!" How thoughtful. That just makes me smile!
* That little plant brings me to another little thing that I am thankful for: our balcony, where we can enjoy the sunshine from around 2 in the afternoon until around 9 in the evening. I've never had my own 'outside' before. I'm hugely enjoying decorating the place with all the attentive green gifts we got for our housewarming and now from our neighbours. With a homemade cappuccino, or a plate of seafood pasta, life just doesn't get much better than this.
* I got a coupon for a place called Fior di Gelato for my birthday. Levi and I headed over to their tiny place on the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat to see what they had to offer. They are really nice, really Italian people, who make real Italian ice cream. And no skimping on filling up the cups, I got a good cup full of amarena and strawberry flavour!
The amarena was nice:creamy with tart, tangy bits of cherry in it. The strawberry was even better though. With strawberry icecream, you always need a little tang of lemon to pick up the flavour. And this ice cream had the balance between sweet, fruity and tart exactly right.
Levi really liked his chocolate milkshake, but found his stracciatella ice cream scoop a little too sweet for his taste. All in all, a very nice experience. If we are ever in the neighbourhood and craving an ice cream again, we'll definitely remember Fior di Gelato!
* While looking for a guide to start us off on our holiday in Italy in a few weeks, we ran into this place called A La Carte, on the Utrechtsestraat. Nice staff, good selection and hey presto! We found exactly what we were looking for!
Also, I saw that they sell something I am a great fan of: the Mighty Wallet. They're made by a company called Dynomighty and I think they're just absolutely brilliant. I have the one that looks like an airmail envelope. They sell that exact same one at A La Carte, plus assorted other travel-related designs (13,50 Euro I think they were, might have been 13,95 Euro).
And on that brilliant note I leave you. Have a great Pentecost weekend, enjoy the sunshine!
I discovered Instagram for Android only last week and I'm loving it. On 30 April, Queensday, Instagram and Amsterdam met in a friendly fashion, resulting in these great photos, that I'd like to share with you!
Levi and I rode our bicycles to the Rozengracht and parked near the iconic Westertoren. The weather in the Netherlands has been very bad of late, with lots of rain and low temperatures (considering it's Spring, after all), but today of all days the weather is gorgeous. It's a lovely day to be out and about!
The vrijmarkt (literally translated "free market") is something that you only see once a year. Normally, anyone who wants to trade wares in the Netherlands has to have a license. Except on Queensday, when all the citizens get a frew pass! So everyone and their granny gets everything they don't want anymore from their attic and claims a spot on the sidewalk to hawk his old crap.
It brings out the merchant in the Dutch. They sell their unwanted shoes, crockery, old books, cds, knicknacks and even old videos! It doesn't really matter how much it goes for, because it creates room in your own cupboards and you get money that you would otherwise not have had. As the Dutch say: "Wat de gek ervoor geeft" (loosely translated: whatever the crazy person thinks is worth it).
I love the vrijmarkt, as it feels like looking for hidden treasure among people's unwanted things.
At the Westerstraat we turned around and headed back towards our bikes. We had the best fried fish I've ever tasted, from a fish stall on the Rozengracht. It was hot, crispy, salty, moist on the inside and very, very tasty. We ate it while watching the boats on the canal, just like all these people here.
And just look at all these people on the water! It's swarming with all kinds of boats, big and small, old army issue and small rubber boats. There are queues at the bridges, where the canals narrow. Many of them play loud music and fire confetti. People are partying their hearts out on the water. It's Levi's dream to spend Queensday on a boat. Maybe next year!
So! Time to make myself feel better. Eventhough it's not Friday yet, I think it's time for my blog's first Friday list. Here's a list of things that make me thankful:
1. sunshine. Everything's just better when the sun shines (or 'less bad', depends on what kind of glass you have )
2. friends. They offer help when it's needed and even if they can't help, the fact that they want to warms my heart.
3. our flat. I love the light and the space. We have doors that can be closed, an actual bathroom, an actual kitchen. Ok, so after two months of living here it's all still not finished yet (in part due to the fact that new things keep breaking down), but hey, we'll get there.
4. Amsterdam. Look at the photo I picked for this post. Isn't it just gorgeous?
5. Leafde! I love this new find on the Prinsengracht. Will post about it soon. I bought a pair of amazing Amsterdam earrings from a lovely woman called Harumi.
6. and last but not least, let's end this list with liefde. Levi is always there for me. He warms my feet when they are cold at night, he cooks for me when I am stressed out, cramming for exams or trying to finish a project. He makes me take time off to sit in the sun with homemade cappuccino.
Yesterday my girlfriend Lana and my very pregnant colleague Fay came to our new house for lunch. And Fay came bearing gifts! I'd told her about our balcony and the potted garden I'm planning to grow there come Spring. She brought a small canvas bag laden with herbs, bulbs, a passionfruit plant and a jar of homemade jam.
Look! I can't believe how thoughtful this gift is and it makes me so happy to think of the dishes I'm going to cook with the fresh thyme and rosemary.
The passionfruit plant looks a little sorry at the moment, but I'm hoping our sunny balcony will do it good this Spring. The bag on the left contains iris bulbs. I'm planning to plant them in April or May. Will let you know how they turn out!
There's this store that we've passed by half a dozen times (must have been Sundays, because the store was always closed), that we've been dying to visit: Raw Materials on the Rozengracht in Amsterdam.
Last Saturday we were on a mission for all kinds of house-related things in Amsterdam. It was cold and slippery outside because of the snow, but off we went, on our bicycles to the Nine Little Streets, the Gamma behind Westerpark and more. As we were riding our bikes on the Rozengracht, we noticed that Raw Materials was open and went in for a look at last.
The first thing I noticed was how gorgeous all the materials are. Raw, unpolished, tactile, pure. I loved it! The second thing I noticed, was how enormous the store is. Much, much larger than I had ever expected, judging from the outside. Filled with furniture, leatherware, homeware, decorations and more.
Third thing of note: the prices. I know, it's a trendy store in the heart of Amsterdam, of course it is not going to be cheap, but some of the items were very pricey indeed. Or maybe it's just my fault, for wanting so many things that it became too much for my bank account to bear?
Levi and I walked out of the store with an old Belgian school chair in an lovely seagreeny-blue colour (sorry, best I could do colour-name wise).
1016 NA Amsterdam
Closed on Sundays
All photo's courtesy of www.rawmaterials.nl
So we've moved. It was a lot of last-minute-stress, with Levi having the insane notion that we needed no more than 20 boxes and that it would take no more than a day to pack! But we did it. Around 40 boxes and with the help of a whole lot of friends (I love friends who come help!) we were out of the old and into the new in only 4 hours on a Saturday morning.
We're halfway unpacked and everyday life has begun again. We're both back at work and eventhough our flat is liveable, it's far from finished. We still need a kitchentable, closets and cabinets.
But quite apart from everything that's not perfect yet, I am so very happy with our new home! I love the light, I love the space and the thing I love most these days, is the double glazing in every room. No more freezing our asses off! No more drafts that make our candles flicker. Central heating: what a luxury!
I know, it's been really quiet on here for the last few weeks. Well, we've been busy! The schedule at school has been murder for me this period. Then Levi and I both came down with stomach flu. Meanwhile we've been sorting out things for the house: bank stuff, mortgage, insurance and things like that.
We also had some work done by a contractor, which leaves us with a truckload less cash, but with a shiny new bathroom, a spacious kitchen and a new central heater. Everyone is always scared of being scammed by their contractor, but ours was a friend and he did a stellar job at breaking out the wall between the kitchen and what used to be a tiny third bedroom. The subcontractor who installed the heater was a little less stellar, but all in all, everything ended up ok. Eventhough it wasn't cheap, I'd recommend our friend Boris-the-contracter to anyone who needs work done on their house.
January is coming up and as we've terminated the lease of our current dwelling as per 1 February, things are coming to a head this coming month. The new place needs painting and a floor put in. The kitchen is being delivered on 3 January and my brother in law is going to help us install it. And then at the end of January we're going to move house. Somewhere in between I will have exams and - oh, that's right - we will need to pack up all our belongings and get ready for the move.
I have blogposts ready to be written, about places I've visited and things we've done, but as it is, there's enough to do. I'll be back though, you can count on it.
Happy holidays everyone!
Photographs like this make me happy. It also makes me glad to be living in a city like Amsterdam, with its lovely parks, like the Vondelpark.
Look at that light! Isn't it gorgeous?
On another sunny Sunday afternoon Levi and I went to Westerpark to play some tennis. Sandwiched between a crooked old tree and the railtracks are a pair of excellent free tennis courts with actual nets.
If there's no one else, you can play for as long as you like. But if there are other people waiting, you get to play for half an hour if you're with two, and 45 minutes if you're playing doubles.
New on the weekends is the kids' lessons between 1pm and... was it 4pm? If there are lessons, you have to vacate the court.