Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Messy kitchen

while tim was working all day, i tried to make dinner, dessert and bread. the result you see above... an exploded kitchen... next to the yellow spoon the dough for the bread that i will bake tomorrow morning....  (after taking this picture i wonder how all those people writing cooking blogs do it. some post a picture of each step in the baking/cooking process. how do they manage to make everything look neat and orderly? and how do they not get annoyed by cleaning their hands to use their camera every step of the way?!). in the left corner our new breakfast plates, arent they cute? (from some outlet sale 2 weeks ago). above the sink a little reminder taken from the usa to wash your hands to prevent spreading germs. thats such a weird thing to see everywhere in public bathrooms for a dutch person... i had to take that back home. i certainly still miss our american kitchen.... (i do have to admit it was often as messy as above, there was just more space to make... well, even more mess!). anyways, i did clean up the kitchen after taking this picture...
so... the last hour of this year is ticking away. amsterdam sounds awful the entire day already; anyone can set off fireworks today since 10 this morning and i wonder how many people are going crazy with that!! some bangs are so very, very loud! i dont think there has been one minute of silence today (the news told me some 70 million euros, nearly 100 million dollars, were spent on fireworks this year!).
now, all the best for the coming year! and who knows, perhaps i will be able to post every day in 2014.... ;)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

One more...

ok, ok, i showed you this before, and then yesterday a close-up. but look what some calmer water, different light, and, most importantly, trees that were cut down can do to a view!! see, if you compare the above with this picture... it just looks completely different!
the trees were cut down because they were ill. but... they will be replaced, eventually....

Friday, December 27, 2013

Canal bank

i showed you a picture of this sculpture before. on the 25th we went to have a look at it again, and now i went up close. weird i never did that before!! it continues to be such a lovely sculpture to look at... biebkriebels informed me of the artist; its burney bavelaar, and the title of the artwork is "waterfront" (now that i went to look at it more closely i saw the plaque mentioning the title etc). the artist works and lives in weesp herself, and there are a few more sculptures in the city! i should go and find them sometime.....
and look how sunny it was!! yesterday and today especially were quite different. lots of rain and wind again.....

Thursday, December 26, 2013

By bike!!!

while we had yet another storm on the 24th with lots of rain and wind, christmas day was rather sunny and not too cold. as you might know, we dont have a car anymore. so.... yesterday we decided to bike to my parents instead of going there by public transport. the time it would take was probably the same anyways, only the effort would be different... :) and so we went, first through the rather empty city center of amsterdam (how lovely it is to bike through sunny amsterdam when its nearly empty, without annoying scooters, especially!), then through diemen, and then finally along the provincial higway with some headwind, to weesp (this is approximately how we biked, how nice of google to also provide biking routes!). it took us just a little over an hour, without arriving exhausted.
above our bikes, the most colorful one in the middle of course is mine! the third is my sisters, we did a tiny bit of sightseeing in weesp as well during the day.
we didnt really plan to also bike the entire way back in the evening, but instead bike to the nearest subway station and take the bike with us. but as we were going, we decided we could as well bike it again. there was just one scary part along the provincial highway that was literally pitch dark; not one street light! the lights on our bikes were not strong enough and so we could go only very slowly, afraid to ride into the ditch next to the bike path. when a car approached us from the opposite direction, we literally had to stop biking as his (big!! grrrr) lights were blinding us entirely, already while he was still i guess hundred metres away from us. luckily that was only once and the remainder of our journey there was enough light (especially in amsterdam street lights are plenty).....
if we still had had the car, we most likely wouldnt have done this, but it was fun!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!!

this is a "kerststol" that i made yesterday for christmas. it is a traditional dutch breadlike pastry (or pastry-like bread..., whatever you want to call it), with lots of filling! it contains dried fruit; usually at least raisins and currants but you can also add dried cranberries (like i did) and whatever else you prefer. i added some coarsely chopped almonds as well. in weight there is as much dough as filling, so it turned out to be quite difficult to get it all spread in the dough evenly. then in the middle is the big surprise; a log of almond paste (made tastier with some lemon zest) thats rolled into the dough. as a child this was the main reason i liked this bread. i would quickly eat around the piece of almond paste and keep that for last (here you can see what i mean). hmmmmmm... the outer part of the bread ofcourse has no almond paste, and in the very middle you get the biggest piece, so i would always try to get a middle piece.... as this morning we had to check the bread (i had never made one before), i of course had to slice it in the middle.... ;) there are many recipes out there to make a kerststol, here is one in english!
enjoy your christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

(Un)fortunately no....

....white christmas this year! unless the weather suddenly changes drastically. its been windy and today especially very rainy. beeeehhhhh.... 
3 years ago, december 2010, we were back in the netherlands after having moved to boston that april. while there wasnt any snow in boston yet (i was anxiously waiting to get to see some real snow, as i had never seen in my life), we did get snow when we were back in the netherlands during christmas! actually, the snow had fallen before we came, but it remained so cold for the 10 or so days that the fallen snow stayed on the ground... we saw it turn into ice (there were quite some problems removing it), creating dangerous, slippery roads. but look how pretty it is! outside the city, a white farm, of course the tree lined raod again.... frozen ditches....
today is the longest night!! meaning from tomorrow on the days get longer again. yaaaayyy!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Building detail

i thought this was quite a funny detail on a building in amsterdam! its "beurs van berlage" in the city center, a building originally designed as a commodity exchange by Berlage. it was constructed between 1896 and 1903. one of the (still existing newspapers) called it a square apple pie, others, even worse, a slaughterhouse. it was not well liked, but now it is!! nowadays its used for concerts, exhibitions and conferences, and its also the place where our current king married.
the outside of the buildings has many marvellous details, this is actually just a simple one, inspired by egyptian sculptures. click here to see more of its outside details. i really like all these details on many buildings, houses, bridges etc. in amsterdam, and i notice them even more nowadays, since you dont have that many on american buildings...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Grey Amsterdam

its so very grey out!! i think the netherlands would look a bit nicer if we had some sunshine, but its mostly grey these days. its well after 8 in the morning before its light out, and around 4.30 when its dark again. only a few hours of grey light each day!
above the center of amsterdam. the fancy building to the right used to be the post office (i dont know how long ago), but now it houses a shopping plaza. too bad all the shops are boring. somehow we go in there more often than not when we are around, but its really always boring. here you see the baking lane is separated from the cars only by a dotted line, but at most places the bike lanes are really separated from the main road. in the middle you see the trams and then the cars in the opposite direction. the car on the tram tracks is a cab. only cab drivers with a license can drive on the tracks (it will save them some time driving there), and for that you need to take a theory and driving test. a crane in the back; there is always some construction going on.....

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dumped portrait

after we had put our bikes among these here (always park your bike between others so that it doesnt stand out; especially if it looks nice. if it blends in with the others, at least i think, the chance of it getting stolen are a tiny bit slimmer. a tiny bit...), i saw this portrait! after we had walked around in the city center, had coffee and pie, visited a museum, the portrait was still standing there... i really wondered why!! did someone trash it? did someone else find it there and decided to put it out? questions questions! :)

Monday, December 16, 2013


BOLO is the neighborhood we currently live in. its short for "bos en lommer". wikipedia tells me the neighborhood was named bos en lommer after a farm that was demolished in 1940 (it must have looked something like this, with a thatched roof). at the place of the farm is now a little (and quite sad) shopping square where we get most of our groceries. its hard to imagine how this area must have looked so many years ago! the english wikipedia about our neighborhood is just a few sentences, and describes, sadly, what it kind of is. i will just copy it here: "Situated in the west of Amsterdam, the Bos en Lommer quarter offers easy access to both the exit way (A10 West) and public transport. Most of the buildings are four-storey high apartment blocks, with relatively low rents. Bos en Lommer is scheduled for urban renewal to increase high-income inhabitants in the hope that there will then be a decrease in crime, noise and litter."
above a street a little further from our apartment. just a few 100 metres further my bike got stolen back in august. wheneveer i pass this place, i am still looking for it, but of course... its not there.. :( i actually wanted to photograph the name of the street; its called "akbarstreet". akbar was an indian emperor in the 16th century who advocated tolerance for minorities. the street was named after akbar in the 60s. i wanted to know why, but all i could find was an old article from 2002, describing a reporter visiting some of the people living in this street (and in the BOLO quarter). many of them were (and still are) originally from morocco. he asks them why there is so much trash lying on the streets, even though trash is collected every day, mentioning that in morocco streets dont look like this. the answer is interesting; "well, over there they dont collect the trash so you have to clean it up yourselves!"
anyways.... can you see the bag of the lady?! its quite weird. it says: "i love [a] princess but she must die". eehmmmm?!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

White as...

...snow!!! but we dont have any snow.... buuhhhhh! its even pretty mild weather right now. so no snow anytime soon either. whereas in boston they had the first real snow i think!
this dog was watching the hat of his (her?) owner. she was taking a picture and then returned to retrieve her dog and hat. so cute! i tried to secretly take some pictures, but then some other guy noticed and started to take pictures of the dog as well, so then i stopped.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wheres that?!

well, yes, on a huge parking lot with no bike in sight, hahahaha! this we saw last march when we spent a morning in portland, oregon. we actually didnt see many bikes while we were there. and to be honest, we were not really enchanted by the city. but maybe we werent there at the right time or right location. and yes, we only spent a morning....
most certainly, if portland is the bicycle capital of the US, it still needs a whole lot more bikes to beat any given city in the netherlands... :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Scooter terrorists!

biking in amsterdam can be crazy at times. there are so many bikes! and they are all in such a hurry (or not, and then they slow you down...). then there are the cars, buses, pedestrians, trams, tourists. tourists on the bike lane. tourists on bikes on the bike lane.... but the absolutely worst are the stupid scooters you can see above! those things above are for lazy people!! people who dont want to bike... obviously, its not that warm in the netherlands anymore; this was taken back in august.. heres the problem; the blue license plate indicates that they are allowed on the bike lane, yet they go much faster than bikes! officially they may go 25 km/h (a helmet is not required, one of the reasons they are so popular!!), but often they go much faster. so biking is almost never peaceful, at least not in amsterdam; there is always a scooter wanting to pass you; if they cant, they usually will continue to honk until you move aside (and many get aggressive when you dont move, or not fast enough, i always refer to them as terrorists for that reason), or they just zip right past you at crazy speed, scaring you in the process (or nearly bumping into incoming traffic). worst of all; like i wrote before, scooters are also used to rob bicyclists of their possessions. when passing you, they just grab your bag right from your shoulder... seriously, these machines are one of the reasons i often do not enjoy biking in amsterdam.... since they are faster, they are also in front of you when waiting for a traffic light. really nice, inhaling all those exhaust fumes!
well, i saw on the news this week im not the only one!! most bikers really dislike them and, also not unimportant, in most traffic accidents a scooter is involved. so... many people say they should be banned from the bike lane, and move to the "normal road", together with the cars. tests are being conducted to see whether this is safer. i think for sure its safer for the bicyclists, but not for the scooters; now they will be the slower ones amongst the cars. perhaps then they will finally realize how it feels to be chased by a motorized vehicle.....

Monday, December 9, 2013

While driving

i like to take pictures while driving, although many of them fail. or are never taken because i am too slow... since we are back i realize many, many streets/roads in the netherlands are lined with trees, like you can see above. it looks often so neat and organized, or like a tunnel made of trees....
too bad we sold the car again! it was a bit expensive with the taxes and gas and upcoming repairs etc etc. buuuhhh. now of course i am thinking of all that we cannot do anymore without a car. luckily we have most of the big things for the apartment by now. but not everything. my clothes are still in boxes and its really frustrating... :((( having a car makes you a bit lazy too. ooh, its raining? lets take the car! and we didnt really, really need it. supermarkets are at walking distance, and you can bike around the city easily, as opposed to biking in/around boston. but for now, no more tree tunnels to drive through....

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Shop window

i thought this was quite a fancy dress! a shop window somewhere in the center of amsterdam. but we didnt go in, this shop looked too expensive!!
now that sinterklaas has left the country, its time to get ready for christmas. as a "rule", many dutch dont want to decorate, think or have anything to do with christmas until sinterklaas is over. i saw some nice christmas decorations a week or 2 ago, but tim didnt allow me to get it, since sinterklaas was still in the country.. :) and well, we didnt need it anyways.... now i would like to get a small christmas tree. we shipped the nicest christmas decorations we collected in the usa back home, so i do want to hang them here! 
ah, and i do need to share this with you; today i (and tim as well) ran about 6 miles in 1 hour! i never ran 6 miles, and i never ran an hour. somehow i am stuck in the 3 miles, approximately 30 minutes scheme and i didnt manage to get out of it (it was more like this; before every workout i would say to myself; now this time go beyond the 3 miles!! but whenever i would get to 3, i would stop out of tiredness and boredom). so i am really proud of myself!! my nike-ipod-gadget-thingy was proud too, at the end of the "workout" it said: "hi, this is lance armstrong. congratulations, this was your longest run ever!". i do feel it in my legs now... buuuhhh...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sinterklaas storm

yesterday we had another big storm in the netherlands! as most of the trees fell down during the previous one in october, that was at least a bit less of a worry. a tiny bit then... the wind was blowing again like crazy and hail was coming down with massive amounts. at some point i was afraid the large window we have in the living room would just be blown out, but luckily it didnt....
yesterday was also "sinterklaas avond". and above you see the clothes of sinterklaas! most certainly he could not have hung them out like that yesterday, they would have been blown away! santa claus is thought to at least have some origins in the dutch sinterklaas, brought to the other side of the ocean by dutch immigrants. but... sinterklaas has helpers, and perhaps because of that you might have read or heard something about this dutch tradition during the past weeks. even the united nations (or some working group consisting of volunteers) looked into it! you can read about that here, for example. but many, many articles have appeared. so... as it is late i will not get into it as well, so much has been said and written about it already! it certainly got many dutch very agitated... i will just say this; its a fest mostly for children and i loved it (especially getting all those presents!!), and thats what it should continue to be.....
sinterklaas (as well as the storm) has left the country now, back to spain. so now we can focus on santa claus and his little helpers.... ;)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Anatomy lesson

this was one of the sculptures in the gemeentemuseum in the hague that i really liked. its from damien hirst, named "wretched war-the dream is dead". its made of sterling silver. a little bit creepy perhaps, but at the same time quite beautiful. at least, thats what i thought. its more impressive when seeing it than here on this picture. its part of the exhibition "anatomy lesson" that now runs in the museum (on view until may 1 next year). it was a very interesting exhibition exploring science, art and human anatomy. human anatomy not only has been of tremendous interest in science, but also in art. we saw old paintings/drawings in anatomy books, but also the famous painting by rembrandt, the anatomy lesson. and then more modern works like the one above. it was really very interesting to see how people, both scientists and artists have been amazed by human anatomy from the early public dissections of hanged criminals to more abstract modern work. going through it, i learned quite a lot!
on the museum website i just read that the exhibition has been realised with the support of the pharmaceutical company roche in the netherlands. i guess there we see an important difference between science and art; this is fine for art, but would not be that ok in case of a scientific publication (for example about how well a newly released drug of the company works).

Monday, December 2, 2013

Parking fail!

i saw this last friday, and i just had to stop and take a picture. im just wondering whether it is a joke, or if someone really thought to securely lock his/her bike to something....? thats most definitely not in the book of how to properly attach your bike to something immovable to prevent it from getting stolen..... 
look at the mess of bikes behind it. it looks like that about anywhere in the netherlands. most of the bikes have been left there, are forgotten, not needed or not working anymore. problem is; which ones are those?! they take up valuable bike parking space and that can be quite frustrating. at some places they tag all bikes, and after a set period of time, all the bikes that still have the tag are removed. then the entire process starts over again... the above bike at least does not have to be cut loose :D

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Highway crossing

this is a bridge for pedestrians to cross the highway on the "aflsuitdijk", which i posted about before. tim had his birthday yesterday and we went to den haag (the hague) to visit 2 museums. that was very interesting! but i havent yet looked at the few pictures i took. today we tried to repair the washing machine (its not always working very well, buuuhhh). or rather, i gave orders and tim had to do the work ;) but it wasnt as easy as it initially looked and we didnt do many repairs... buuuuh again.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Canada & broccoli

im on tims computer and was looking for a photo to post... then i checked the 2012 folder and realized it was just a year ago that we visited niagara falls. a year! i was really surprised... somehow it feels like ages ago already. if im not mistaken, we were staying in one of those fancy glass buildings and paid way too much for our stay. but it was so amazing to get to see the falls! and to be able to drive there... now it all seems (and is, ofcourse) so far away!!
here, back home im still debating whether i like the overly used american "excuse me" and the americans that rather move aside more than necessary in order to avoid too close contact with strangers, or the dutch way of just bumping into someone if you dont move quickly enough. i have to admit; i never liked the "excuse me" while in the us and never have been able to utter it myself, but now back home i realize that dutch strangers sometimes get far too close to me and i then still wonder why they dont say "excuse me".
also, broccoli tastes different here. i really liked brocccoli in the usa, but here i like it less. while eating broccoli today, i mentioned this to tim and he agreed!! we couldnt really pinpoint what it was (the taste? or the florets are a little different, maybe smaller, here?), but i was glad not being the only one thinking broccoli is a bit of a disappointment in the netherlands... :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Same canal

here you see the same canal (oude gracht, i.e. "the old canal") as depicted in yesterdays picture, but now from the other side (yesterday i was standing near the tiny white bridge, which is called the green bridge. but its white, and i cannot find why its called the green bridge while being painted perfectly white). weesp earned cityrights in 1355. nowadays, all the buildings in the city center are protected. apparently that also meant that while the church could be remodeled into a dental practice, the church organ had to stay and remain fully functional!
but, i actually took this picture for the cute canal art you see to the right. i really like it, and took several photos of it already. every year there is some art in the canals, but i think this one is to stay.  i jut couldnt find any information on it...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My hometown

last week we were briefly in the city of weesp, a small city not too far from amsterdam. thats where i grew up. above you see the city center, the little houses, the canal, the bikes. all on a much smaller scale than amsterdam, but other than that its pretty similar. like many dutch cities, i would say..... the church to the right actually houses "my" dentist now, although he moved there while i was living in boston. we had a peek inside; such a fancy place! but i didnt make an appointment yet.... im thinking whether i should switch to one in amsterdam or stay with this practice where i have been all my life but for the 3 years i lived in the us. ah well... thats for another day to decide...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Biking restrictions

i had no clue what to post today, and then i saw this one... no! its not in the netherlands. i dont think such a restriction on bikes could be possible at all here. this one is for the boardwalk at coney island in new york.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fascinating clouds

another picture from the zaanse schans where we were 2 weeks ago. the clouds were absolutely stunning while we were there. the upper path is for pedestrians and the lower for bikes (and the occasional car, i guess only people who live around here are allowed to drive there). whenever a pedestrian dared to set foot on the bike path, bicyclists furiously rang their bells.... i guess they are tired of all those tourists constantly slowing them down by suddenly jumping in front of them...
it has gotten pretty cold this week. no biking without gloves anymore! however, especially when going for a longer bike ride (i would say longer than 5-10 minutes) you should really dress less than what you would want. yes, the first few minutes on your bike you will be cold, but each and every time there is this moment where you suddenly get hot, and then you will be glad not being overdressed (of course, you do need to wear a hat and gloves, but the jacket really should not be too warm). the other option of course is to bike slowly, but then be prepared to be overrun by impatient "real bicyclists". (tim already thinks i am biking too slow, although i think im going at a decent speed....)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Westerbork memorial

i want to show one more picture of westerbork. above you see where the actual camp used to be. nothing is left of it nowadays, except for the house of the camp commander at the opposite entrance. the railroad you see above is the national westerbork memorial, designed by ralph prins in 1970, who was a former prisoner and one of the few survivors. it is at the location where the train arriving in westerbork came to a standstill. none of the materials used for the memorial are derived from the actual railroad. it consists of 93 railway sleepers, representing the 93 outgoing cargo trains, transporting prisoners from this site to concentration camps in germany or poland. anne frank and her family were among those that were put in the first of the 3 final train transports in september 1944.
as you can see, the rails is curled up near the entrance to the camp. with this, the artist wanted to show the despair and bewilderment that what happened here is possible in our world.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A postcard

this is whats written on this postcard in dutch: "Dear Jo. Now that I am still here I am sending you my greetings. Since 2 days i am in Drenthe, and tomorrow the journey continues. I am in good spirits, and the hope to be able to soon be with my fiance, gives me strength. Jo, I hope that you, [the remainder is on the other side of the card] your fiance, and your dear parents will get through all this in good health. Once more my warm greetings, your loving friend Trude."
just an ordinary postcard a young woman sent to her friend, if you read it without knowing anything else (in dutch it does sound a little less pressing than how i managed to translate it into english). however, it was sent by a woman that the next day, together with some 1000 others, would be placed in a cargo train from detention camp Westerbork in the dutch province of drenthe to a concentration camp in either poland or germany.
we visited this place last week. nowadays, not much is left from it. from the parking lot, it is a 3 km (1.8 miles) walk to the camp. the paved path leads you through a beautiful forest on one side (thats where yesterdays picture was taken), and heath and marshland on the other. with every step i wondered how we could enjoy so much beauty around us, while we were going to such a horrible place. as it was a transit camp, rather than a work or death camp, it was organised very differently from other concentration camps: it was set up like a miniature city, with a café, offices, a registry, a canteen, kindergarten, and hospital; some people even got married there. this deceptive "normalness" explains the tone of the above postcard, but made me even more aware of the atrocities human beings are capable of; almost every tuesday, a cargo train left for concentration camps in germany or poland. of the 107,000 people who passed through this camp between 1942 and 1945, only 5,200 survived.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fall colors

during our little outing last week we had a walk in the woods. see, we do have some pretty fall colors in the netherlands!! even though the weather was so grey, here it was suddenly quite bright!
this week the weather will get even colder. it was indeed, today. it was really chilly during biking; i finally got my gloves out and was glad to be wearing them....

Sunday, November 17, 2013

De afsluitdijk

yes, yesterdays and todays post were taken at the "afsluitdijk", literally the "enclosure dam". it is a 32 kilometer (20 miles) long dike, between the dutch provinces north holland and friesland, and was built between 1927 and 1933. by building this dam, the zuiderzee ("southern sea"; a salt water inlet of the north sea) was transformed into a fresh water lake (ijsselmeer). this dam protects the dutch from floods, and allowed them to claim new land from the fresh water lake. this resulted in an entire new province in the netherlands, called "flevoland"!
so, above you see the sea to the right, and the sea-tunred-into-lake to the left as a result of this dam. we stopped at the memorial, here i am standing at the bridge they built to cross and have an outlook over the highway on the dam. it is at the location where the dam was eventually closed in 1932. this huge project resulted in a lot of jobs and relieved unemployment during the great depression. the american society of civil engineers declared it one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. to the right you see a statue staring out over the ijsselmeer. this is the dutch civil engineer cornelis lely. already in 1891 he formulated a plan that would become the basis for this dike and thus the damming of the zuiderzee.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Empty roads....

this is when we drove from amsterdam to groningen. anyone who knows where this might be...? :) i will tell you tomorrow...
if you take a picture at the right moment, dutch roads can appear as empty as many of the roads we took in the US during our road trips... ;) but you certainly shouldnt get out of your car on this road, or sit in the middle of it....

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Self portrait

we were away for a night! we explored the netherlands a bit again (and attended a PhD defence). we went to the far north part of the country; groningen. last time we went there by train, now we went by car. both is nice, but by car is defenitely more convenient and you can easily make many detours. unfortunately, when getting back today we got stuck in the evening traffic into amsterdam. beeeeehhh. 
we stayed in a nice and quiet hotel with a swimming pool, so we went for a little swim last night as well as this morning. breakfast would have been more expensive than the cost for the night. we had some special offer and stayed for only 25 euros; breakfast would have been 32 for the 2 of us. but guess what?! most supermarkets serve relatively good coffee for free, so all we had to do was buy their croissants; bringing the total cost of our breakfast to around 3 euros; we went all out and bought some fancy orange-mango juice as well.... hmmmmmm (thats how cheapos do it!)
yesterday it was really sunny, but today was grey and gloomy. and chilly! we went for quite a walk and i was glad to have something on my head...
more pictures of what we saw in the coming days!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pollard willows

see?! this is how grey and rainy the netherlands is right now. beeehhhh!! again a rainy day today. we drove on this narrow road, which is actually a 2-way road. every now and then there was some space so that cars could pass each other (but we didnt see any other). the trees you see above are so very dutch! they line many small roads and pastures. according to the digital dictionary, in english you call them pollard willow (we call them "knotwilg"). by heavily cutting back the branches of the tree close to its trunk, you get that bushy growth on top. this has been done by people for many centuries; its cut off branches were used to make all sorts of stuff; from houses (or more like building blocks of houses) to weaving baskets and other utensils made by braiding some branches... nowadays we dont use their branches for that anymore, and more and more trees disappear. but those trees are such a dutch thing, some people are trying to actively keep them in the dutch landscape. to keep the trees healthy; their branches need to be cut periodically. if not, their top becomes too heavy and they will die. nowadays this is mostly done by volunteers. birds (mostly owls) like to make their nests in these trees and lots of vegetation grows on them as well....
before posting this picture, i just knew the dutch name of these trees, and that they are very dutch...!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Twin girls..

this was a few weeks back, near the finish of the amsterdam marathon. those 2 little girls were so cute! i only took one photo, as i didnt really dare taking photos of them. but they were too cute!!
its been raining on and off the past few days. and its really getting colder. this evening we biked to the city center and i was glad to have my gloves!! surprisingly, nobody is wearing gloves or a hat yet, but i really missed a hat!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Too bad!

as you can see, they were just doing some work on that cute house, so its covered with this ugly white cloth... :( too bad!! up close the wooden house was indeed just painted to shiny green perfection. this is still at the zaanse schans, just like yesterdays picture. i wouldnt mind going back anytime soon just to take some more pictures (even though its one of those places that has been photographed by everyone already, apparently it gets almost 1 million visitors per year). too bad you of course do have to pay for parking... (7.50, some 10 dollars if you stay longer than 30 minutes, which you will most certainly do).

Friday, November 8, 2013

Too pretty!

yesterday we went to yet another very very dutch place. very touristy too. suddenly we were one of the few dutch people amongst mostly asian tourists. but we had big cameras too, and took as many pictures. unfortunately, looking at them today, i was mostly disappointed... :( we even had those great typical dutch clouds as you can see above! lots of them in crazy formations, some very dark, others more white, all perfect, but my photography not so much....  this is one of the few i actually liked. 
here we are at the zaanse schans, a neighborhood of the town zaandam (not too far from amsterdam). there are 8 windmills of which you see a few here, and they all have a name! those are sawmills, oilmills, a dyemill and a mustardmill. i was just disappointed there wasnt a flour mill so that i could buy some for my bread baking... (as opposed to the US, different types of flour arent that readily available in supermarkets). 
this is not only a tourist destination; actual people are living here too. they bike around and we experienced that they are VERY annoyed when you dare stepping on the bicycle path, even if you are not blocking their way (just the possibility that you might slow a dutch person down while they are biking is enough for most of them to make it very clear that you have to stay out of their way). dont you worry, i do that too.... sometimes... :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stupid thieves!!

this is part of our street, and as you can see, leaves are coming down!! when we got back home 2 or 3 weeks ago a handbag was lying next door, right in that corner under the 9, and all its contents were next to it. after staring at it for a bit, i decided to pick it all up. seeing there was no phone, wallet or anything else valuable, it seemed to have been dumped there, after all that had been taken. 
we did find a diary with a name and phone number, but the number wasnt answered (i guess because the thieves just had taken that phone). upon further inspection, i discovered the idiot thieves hadnt taken everything; a small pocket inside the bag still contained some 50 euros! tim then just dialed the first random number he found scribbled down on a piece of paper. although that person actually didnt know the owner of the bag, her boyfriend did and so a few days later she came to pick it up. this is what happened; she was biking, in broad dayligyht!! her bag was in the basket in front of her bike. while 2 guys on a scooter passed her, they took the bag. she then tried to pull it back from them, but they wouldnt let go of it and she fell off her bike, the guys speeding away with her bag. she lost her phone, wallet, etc etc...AND she didnt dare biking alone anymore....
unfortunately, this happens quite a lot in amsterdam (and elsewhere in the netherlands?). so, beware!! (the other day it was the scooter that crashed while they tried to rip a handbag off a bicyclist, and still they managed to get away with the handbag; those at least got caught by the police soon after..)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Interesting hairdo

after 2 days of absence finally a picture again. sometimes i think of just stopping the blog entirely, im a bit frustrated, and not taking as many pictures. and then i post again, and again, and then i dont what to post, and then im too lazy, and then i want to quit again.... grrrr. this weekend i didnt take any pictures, the weather has been awful. especially today it was crazy with heavy wind, rain and hail.
but the above chicken really made me laugh. their hair, i guess feathers are soo very odd!! i have never seen that before i think. not on a chicken at least, their hairdo very much reminded me of our former queens hair. you can see for yourself here if you agree with me... :D (apparently she more or less has had this hairdo since she was 18. some call it the hairdo made out of concrete)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dutch landscape

yesterday i posted a freaky photo of the museum we visited this sunday, so now one thats a bit nicer. this was the day before the crazy storm and at one moment it was cloudy, then it was raining, and here it was sunny... this cycle was on repeat that day.
we were again in an open air museum, this time a little further from home, in Arnhem. but actually, to see something like the above, you dont need to visit a museum, you can see it in the "real" netherlands as well! arent those houses cute? as well as the bridge, and even further away, the windmill? this museum is different from the one i showed you earlier. its more spacious, and has several farms, and houses from different time periods. i dont really know which one i like better, i guess they are both very nice. this one is also nice for just wandering around in the woods (in winter thats what you can do; you cannot go into the buildings, but you can still walk around in the park).
oh, did i mention already someone finally came to fix the roof? he thought it was most likely the pipe from the gas heater. it was a bit loose, and he fixed it a bit... im still a bit hesitant to put our stuff back in that spot.....

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Real doll!!

this past sunday we went to another open air museum in the netherlands. even though the weather forecast was not the best, we decided to go, as it was the last day before closing for winter (although we found out its still sort of open during the colder months, but anyways). although windy and rainy at times, there were very sunny moments too. as well as scary, when in one of the very dutch houses we discovered this very real doll! we saw it from a distance, and since she didnt move at all while we were staring at her, she probably was a doll. upon closer inspection she indeed turned out to be a doll, but i continued to wonder whether she would move, or even start to scream or something. so very scary!! i seriously wonder how many children have left the museum traumatized by this doll. this was in a sixties/seventies house, and it had the same bread and cake box as we do!! all the other items from that orange series were present as well (i didnt know there were so many, but i think we keep it at the 2 items we already have). some music was playing as well, and it was so very eerie. until we left the house i expected a sudden move....
perhaps tomorrow a more pretty picture of this museum! :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Crazy storm

on this picture it all looks quite calm, but it wasnt at all! do you see all those branches scattered around? the water wasnt calm either... this was yesterday, during the storm. we went to the gym, and decided to walk instead of bike, considering the crazy winds. we walked past the nearby school and the children were just having their break; they were all outside and i guess they liked running around in the crazy winds; they were even louder than they normally are. when we got back, we discovered something had blown off the balcony, even though it had been very well attached! luckily that was on the backside, with just neglected gardens from the people on the lowest floor and not on the street side with all the cars!
the news showed how bad the storm really has been for large parts of the netherlands (and europe!); in the center of amsterdam (as well as other cities), many large trees fell down. at least 1 fell on a houseboat that sunk within 15 minutes. even worse; a tree fell on a 21-year-old tourist, killing her. other people got hurt when trees fell on their cars. theres millions and millions of euros in material damage.... 
it calmed down, but today its still quite stormy and rainy at times...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Autumn storm

we have a real storm at the moment in the netherlands! the wind is howling like crazy and we saw some big tree branches broken off already... trains are not going (or less), and flights have been cancelled as well. ah, and the check of our leaking roof (which happend over 2 weeks ago now) was cancelled too; too dangerous to climb on the roof right now. they will come tomorrow. right.... 
i guess in boston such a storm would have happened with more preparation prior to it; shops would have been emptied of milk, eggs, bread and water. and candles of course... 
our roof is making all kinds of noises. i do hope it will stay attached to the house..... ;)
the above picture was yesterday, by the way. then it was a bit stormy already, with very dark clouds. but the next moment it was sunny again. only to be followed by very heavy rain... and sun again.... in the US, many highways dont have lights, like you can see here. and i always thought; oh, in the netherlands the highways are so perfect, and always very well lit!! now guess what; just recently the government decided to shut off the lights around 9 in the evening, to save electricity and repair costs etc... so our roads are very dark now too.... grrrrrr

Friday, October 25, 2013

On flip-flops..?

we watched the marathon for a bit at the edge of the vondelpark, a huge park in amsterdam. these are all half-marathoneers, and at this point they had less than a mile to go before the finish line. my previous post showed some runners in morhsuits, but there were lots of other interestingly dressed runners. there was an elvis, for example, someone with a green wig and at least 2 vikings. i really wonder why people dress like that when they are running. to get noticed? i can only imagine how uncomfortable it must be, while the running itself is already uncomfortable, haha.
the above must be the most uncomfortable i have seen, they are joined in 1 t shirt! and only now, when looking at the picture, do i see that the woman is running on flip-flops!! they seem to be tied to her with strings... flip-flops! that many miles on flip-flops..? i sometimes even have a hard time just walking on them...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A what..??!

those people are running in morphsuits.... i didnt know that until i saw it printed on the back of one of their suits. of course i had to look that up. apparently its a company in scotland, founded by 3 guys in 2009. and well, they make these skin-tight garments, covering literally the entire body. they started making those next to their day jobs, but became so successfull that they quit their jobs to focus entirely on the company. they sold some 50,000 suits between 2009-2010, and 250,000 between 2010-2011. most of their costumers are men....
so the above was at the amsterdam marathon this past sunday. here they are about to cross the finish line; just one more round in the olympic stadium of amsterdam. those people above are finishing their half marathon. i cannot imagine running a half marathon (not even a quarter, buuuh. i seem to be unable to run more than 5 to at most 7 kms...), and i certainly cannot imagine running in such a suit!! i have no idea why they did... (the morphsuit website claims its amazing to wear one; everyone can see you, but nobody knows WHO you are, and thats apparently addicting; "you will find yourself wearing your suit more and more!")
they are available in many colors, btw... :)
ah, i just found that the people running in these pink morphsuits were doing so to raise awareness for breast cancer.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Smoked herring

in the open air museum they smoked herring and eel. i remembered that smell and all those fishies from when i was visiting the museum years ago, and nothing has changed..... this is in the house on the left in yesterdays picture. when going home we bought one of each to bring with us for dinner with friends. i liked it less than anticipated (the fish that is), so many little fish bones and too much of a hassle to clean it all.... but it was so pretty, seeing all that fish lined up!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dutch landscape

this is so dutch! the windmill, the water, the grey sky.... although this is a typical dutch scene that you can see around the netherlands (with a more modern boat perhaps), this is actually in an open air museum, the Zuiderzeemuseum in the city of Enkhuizen. here they recreated a typical dutch village as it existed over 100 years ago. many of the houses are authentic and were "just" moved stone by stone from their original location to the museum. the museum opened in 1983.
we went there this weekend, and it was really nice to walk around. i had been there as a kid quite a few times (at least thats how i remember it) with my mom and sister, but this was the first time i think i was there as an adult; the boat ride to the museum was less impressive than it was in my memory (and of course we had to pay for parking, grrrr). next weekend is the last weekend its open; after that it closes for the winter. everything looked so perfect and old, but not fake old as often seems to happen in such recreations of the past.
other than that, still nobody has come to check our leaking roof. luckily it hasnt been raining as crazy as the past weekend when the leak occurred, but we certainly wont be putting stuff there until it has been fixed. and thus the living room is even more a mess than it already was and im getting quite frustrated....

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Crooked trees

i like this traffic sign for crooked trees! but i like the trees even more, its like you drive through a green tunnel, so pretty. and all trees are bending over at the same angle. there are tree tunnels for either direction of car traffic, and a tree tunnel for the bikes (which i have shown you before). it turned out to be difficult taking pictures, in real its so much prettier! we drive/bike here whenever we visit tims grandmother. im curious if fall colors are present by now.... (but perhaps i expect too much after experiencing fall in new england for the past 3 years)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dutch dining

on my birthday, it was actually only the second time we went out to dinner since i am back in the netherlands. as i mentioned before, going out to dinner here is just so much more expensive, much slower (which can be a good thing), and the service... well... it can be OK, but often it is less than that or even plain awful. however, at least the food is usually much tastier :)
in the usa, it took me quite a while to get used to the overly friendly (and to me a little fake) "Hi, my name is ... and i will be taking care of you today. please let me you if you need anything, ok?" but it was not difficult to get used to the endless possibilities when ordering. at first it was a bit intimidating, and i was always jealous of the real americans ordering exactly what they want, without the waitress having to sum up all the possibilities (types of dressing, bread, size, types of milk etc etc). it surely took me a while before i could order like that..., and i was real proud when i could!! :D
so... now back to dutch dining. i guess it will be shocking for americans. it might take ages before they notice you are there and want to order something. you will not get water automatically (more often than not there will be a note on the menu saying that they dont serve water. unless you pay for bottled water). you will not be able to order salad A with dressing from salad B, and you will not be allowed to take your leftovers home (but the portions arent crazy big like in the US so thats usually not an issue anyways). moreover, you will have to pay for everything. see that bill above? it lists a 0.75 cents (about a dollar) charge for the mayonnaise!! here in the netherlands we eat our fries with mayonnaise, but you will always have to pay for it. this is even the case at mc donalds!! i liked that in the USA there was always a ketchup bottle on the table, and it was never a problem when we asked for some mayo, they would just bring it (and not bill it!).
now when we sat down, the waitress asked what we liked to drink. tim wanted a beer, and he could choose between a normal or a large (0.5 ltr) size. then i said to him; lets take the large and we will just share it! (i also still have to get used to the fact that now everyone can understand again what i say, although in the US sharing has never been a problem). when the beer finally came, the guy bringing it put it in the middle of the table and said "i understood you want to share this beer??!!" and then put 2 straws in the beer. only when he left i understood this snark... i actually should have called him back to explain himself, but i didnt want to make a scene. but thinking about it still pisses me off!! we were there to enjoy ourselves and drink as much as WE want, even if that means sharing one beer. and as you see, 2 entrees, 1 beer and 2 coffees came down to 37 euros, which is 50 dollars (at least there is no 20% tip as waiters here get a normal salary. you can tip as you  like, or not tip at all, although they will not appreciate no tip at all)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sinking ship

when i took this photo a few weeks back i didnt want to post it, since its so grey. but currently the weather is like this.... or its raining. beeehhh!
the amsterdam canals are filled with little boats. somehow tim got the impression that you can put your boat anywhere for free (and he kept saying, i want a boat too!!), but thats not the case. just like for your car, you have to pay to park your boat. i read somewhere 30 euros per meter of boat (but im not sure). anyways, its not free, and if you do park your boat without paying, they can tow it, just like your car. they also periodically remove boats that look like the one above, so after heavy rain etc you should definitely check whether your boat still looks fine...
as for the leak in the apartment; someone was supposed to come today. and then didnt... they were swamped taking care of apartments with leaks much worse than ours. today it rained, but luckily not inside. its not sure yet when the will come, but i hope it wont take too long....

Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's time...

for my american red shoes...! unfortunately not to trudge through mountains of snow, but to avoid wet feet. it has been raining like crazy the entire weekend (as well as friday, and perhaps thursday, i dont even remember), and it will rain tomorrow as well.
while tim suddenly had to come into work for a few hours today, i was deciding whether i would just spend the entire afternoon on the couch or do something useful.. that was until i suddenly saw quite a puddle of water in front of the old-fashioned heater. water? is the thing now spewing water?? hmm, highly unlikely. is it perhaps condensation....but from what... the drying laundry? (i can be a little slow) then i finally looked up and saw it was coming from the ceiling.... buhuhuhuhuh. water was dripping down and quite a bit!! its coming down from that ugly plastic ceiling that tim cleaned back in july. for once it was a good thing we have been extremely slow with filling the cupboards we bought a little while ago. they all needed to be moved to not get wet. it has been dripping all afternoon and evening (worsening a bit). for once i was also happy we werent out all day, i think we would have come back to quite a mess! tomorrow someone will come and check. no, they couldnt come before dark today. and as he said on the phone "you know, its the rain. there is a lot of rain coming down right now, and lots of rain gives lots of leaks, but its just the heavy rain you know". hmppf. great...
(and no, i dont know whether the neighbors really have better stuff. i do hope for them its less wet than in our place..., i also hope the ugly ceiling wont come down or something... you never know...)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fall colors

i really liked fall in boston. so many colorful trees, the cold but sunny mornings that warned you it could very well get much colder... driving to new hampshire in the weekends to see even more colorful trees....
so... this is a picture of the cemetery behind our apartment. now we dont have a cemetery behind our apartment anymore... buuuhhh... there is one, but its a 5-10 minute bike ride away, so i most definitely miss going there for a short walk... the cemetery here is pretty too, but much smaller, and it specifically states at the entrance that photography is not allowed. ah well... perhaps someday i will take some pics there anyways.... but for now you have to make do with a picture taken one year ago at the american cemetery... :)

Friday, October 11, 2013

It's closing!!

of course i still follow the news from boston every now and then... but the news that the above restaurant is closing i first saw on facebook... when i saw it posted here as well, i knew it was true... this is on route 1, in saugus, not too far from our apartment, and so we drove by it quite often in weekends. the lawn is decorated with lifesize cows, and the place (just like the cactus) is gigantic. at first we were hesitant to visit the place (after the cows and the cactus we were afraid what would be inside), but once we finally did, we kept coming back every now and then. for me it was not so much about the food (the vegetables were absolutely awful, even the corn!! but tim loved the baked potato), but more the "experience". i think the decor has never changed since it was built (the 2 story restaurant opened in 1961), and i wouldnt be surprised if the waitresses were still the same as well (once our waitress asked tim when we got seated; "whats the matter son, you hungry or somethin?!" with that typical boston accent). there is crazy carpet on the floors, beautiful booths to sit in and weird cowboy-stuff on the walls. i think some of the guests had been coming there since its opening as well, so every time we were there i just couldnt get enough of watching around... if only i had been brave enough to take pictures from the inside, had asked people for portraits... but well, i didnt... (here is the last burger i had there).
according to this article, at its top days, the hilltop employed 50 cooks, 180 waiters and served 5000 meals a day. when we were there, it was usually not too busy (except the one time we took someone there and had to wait over an hour). this picture was during our last drive on route 1, we had just had to bring our couch to the dump and i was frantically photographing all that crazy american stuff on route 1 one more time... for us foreigners, this was really a typical american place, like we see in the movies, and if we were ever to visit boston again, it would be a place to go back to. but.... they are closing october 20th already!! i wonder what will happen to it. i hope at least the cactus will stay.... (and they should make a museum out of the place!!)
here you can see a video about the closing (they interview 2 guests inside the restaurant)