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.