Time for a Friday list! What were the things I most enjoyed, what am I thankful for? My highpoint of the week was hugging a cow! Let me tell you how that went...
- We went on the very first company weekend last week. We could not have wished for better weather, it was amazingly warm and sunny. The destination was top secret until the very last day and turned out to be the tiny village Elahuizen in the province of Friesland. Day one included sailing, with a perfect picnic basket and perfect weather. It was followed by a barbeque with lots of booze and dress-up fun (the theme of the weekend was "Farmer wants a wife", after the popular Dutch tv show "Boer zoekt vrouw") and a party that was to last into the wee hours of the night.
Day two was my favourite though. Some of us very hung over and most of very tired, we got to choose between fierljeppen (jumping across creeks with a pole) and hugging cows. I opted for the latter and I found it surprisingly fun. They're big beasts, to be sure (a mature bull weighed in at 700 kilos!), but the cow I bonded with was a young one and she was so pretty and soft. Afterwards I felt completely zen. The whole experience has completely changed my outlook on cows. If you ever get the chance: I highly recommend hugging a cow!
- I had the chance to have dinner at Restaurant As a little while ago. The interior is quite unusual, as it's a round building and the design of the space is centered on the bar in the middle (the axis, so to speak, which is what "As" means). Nearly separate spaces have been created around the outer perimeter, with spokewise placed walls. The staff is extremely friendly. The food was quite good. A little unusual maybe, but very hearty. And the great thing is, the kitchen works with seasonal and regional and mostly organic ingredients. (As is located near Amsterdam Station Zuid, on the Prinses Irenelaan 19)
- But having dinner in with friends is also very nice, especially if my girlfriend Di brings me presents! Back from holiday, she presented me with a lovely set of bracelets. She could not have known that my silver bracelet had broken during our holiday in Italy, but it was a happy coincidence that she gave me these.
- The schoolyear has started. I'm up for what is hopefully my last year of studies. I didn't relish the thought of losing the freedom and all the free time I was so enjoying, but hey, it's started. The minor "magazine making" is great so far and I love the team that I'm in. Go team!
Oh my, how fast August has sped by! And there were so many highlights in between the relaxing, what to share first?
- Let's start with love. On a sunny Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, Levi invited me to the Vondelpark for a picnic. He'd picked an odd place to sit though, because we usually sit somewhere else. I said to him when he explained where he was on the phone: "That's where you and I met, nearly six years ago!" And he replied with an ever so innocent: "Oh really?"
Turns out this was no coincidence. While enjoying luxurious bites from Opera Prima (Kinkerstraat, Amsterdam) in the sunshine, he suddenly produced a tiny box and proposed. Complete the picture with our song, champagne, dinner reservations and tears and you're there. I am now wearing a lovely silver ring with two lovebirds that he went to great trouble to find and just thinking about that perfect afternoon (well, the entire weekend, actually) makes me happy all over again.
Yes, I'll happily spend the rest of my life with you!
- The Parade in the Martin Luther King Park is one of our favourite things each year. It seems to get busier each year, but we love the romantic atmosphere, the merry-go-round, the lights, the food and the joyous creativity.
We always try our luck with the shows and this year opted for Keet! (a hilarious trip down memory lane) and 3: The Garden. The latter was at times brilliant: a caleidoscope of movement, a well-oiled machine of six human bodies, and at times it was completely incomprehensible (the spoken words? The body paint?). Intriguing to say the least!
- And then last weekend there was the Voltt Loves Summer festival at the NDSM wharf in Amsterdam Noord. Gods, the weather was terrible. Slivers of sunshine wedged in between bouts of pouring rain. I made good use of my wellies and rainponcho (Halfords, E2,50). We enjoyed Robag Wruhme in the tent and thought Gaiser Live at the main stage was the absolute shit!
- Of course something as abominable as the weather cannot ruin a festival if you have friends who make the day worthwhile. We had a great time!
- Just yesterday I had dinner and went to a movie with my friend Robbie, who I hadn't seen in a while. I had such a lovely time, I'm immensely thankful that once in a while I get to connect with people I care about. Thank you.
The funniest thing happened in our local Dirk just now. As I was walking around, gathering my supplies for dinner (salmon, new potatoes and haricots verts), a white man walked up to a Dirk employee, obviously on a mission of some kind. I neared the end of the aisle and saw a boy, around five years old, completely unattended, with something in his hand. It took me a second to realise what he was doing, while I heard snippets of the man's report to the Dirk employee: "...boy" and "...bar..."
The boy was holding a big chocolate bar in its silver wrapper in his hands, having already ripped off the outer wrapping. It was white chocolate, I could see, and he was intending to have all of it. I looked back at the man and saw him coming towards me, his mission completed. The Dirk employee was following in his wake. I couldn't help but laugh at the audacity of the boy.
Rounding the corner, I heard a sharp cry of protest (as the bar was being removed from his grasp), and then a cry of outrage (as he realised he was not getting it back, and was probably being told off). It was funny, and outrageous, but also bewildering: where was the boy's mother?!
It's Friday! Time for a list!
Things I am thankful for:
- What I also love is the place I work. On the Keizersgracht, near the 9 Little Streets. If I forget to do groceries and have no breakfast, I simply stop by the baker on my way to work. If I feel like starting the day with a latte, I simply stop by the Coffee Company around the corner. And just look at the view from our window on the top floor!
- pasta with roasted veggies (drizzle with a few spoons of balsamic and good olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, roast in the oven. Cook pasta, ladle on veggies, followed by a good dollop of crème fraîche and some crumbled feta cheese. Finish off with a spoon of good olive oil and serve)
- finishing examweek at school. Ok, so we still have to finish projects, presentations and a few other loose ends, but the exams are over and done with this year!
- that I was NOT outside when the heavens burst just now, raining cats and dogs. And for raingear, because it keeps me dry.
- Levi, because he makes me laugh
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