Day 314: Biking Around Amsterdam Without a Map

I had a list of plans for today, but the sun was shining so I had to go outside all day.  Patti Beth and I went for a long bike ride without a direction or plan, but to be outside just biking.  We left around 9:30 am and came back in time for my physio appointment at 1 pm.  


A view of the Amstel River in Amsterdam on a gorgeous day.

Holland is so beautiful and the bike paths make it very easy to cycle around and through all the towns.  We started from my house and rode into Ouderkerk and followed the Amstel River into Amsterdam. 

Seeing the water always makes me happy and add the sunshine, warm weather and a great friend… life doesn’t get much better than this.

Once we got to Amsterdam, neither of us really knew which direction to go. We had a hunch, and luckily this time we both were right and headed in the right direction, not that we really knew where we were headed, but just towards the center.  It’s kind of fun not knowing where you’re going and just enjoying the journey. I mean, we had a general idea of what to expect, but we weren’t quite sure which road or which turn to take, but we were happy just enjoying the new sites around Amsterdam and kept moving forward. Kinda like this whole expat journey, now that I think about it.

We ended up on the back side of Albert Cuypstraat and were pleasantly surprised. We walked our bikes up and down the uncrowded market streets, stopping to buy a sweater for me, and fresh artichokes for dinner.   Patti Beth knew of a Surinamese restaurant and we stopped in there for a quick, tasty shared lunch before figuring out our way back home.

We both surprised ourselves how we navigated the city, because we weren’t so good the first time we tried to find a fun shop in the Jordaan… kind of like the blind leading the blind. But I guess we’re getting used to navigating Amsterdam… not that it’s that big, but maybe we’ve just become local enough to feel like we belong here.  Hmm…

A perfect day.  

What did you discover today?  Did you do something that challenged you?  

Day 241: Really Cold Weather & SUP Dreams

It’s cold and windy in Holland and I’m over it. Even with my long down coat, wool socks, jeans and accessories, I am still freezing and uncomfortable. I know they say there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad dressers, but that statement doesn’t work for me. I don’t know why it feels colder now than it did with snow on the ground. Is it because of the humidity and the wind? Why is it so cold? Please warm up… I like it a bit warmer, thank you!

I spent the day mostly indoors, up at the crack of dawn, for no real reason except that I keep waking up early! What is this insomnia business as I get older?

I have been working all day on trying to organize my digital photos and clean up some old emails with attachments. My iPhoto library is full and I’m out of disk space on my computer so I’m trying to figure it all out and it isn’t easy!! Wish me (Jeff) luck! The best part was seeing old pictures of friends from home and the first few weeks of living in Holland. We’ve experienced so much and are so thankful!

The kids had birthday parties this afternoon. Charlie went to a bowling party


Juliana went on a scavenger hunt with a team of friends at the Amstelveen mall, after taking a tram ride together. She had so much fun and is growing up so fast. The highlight from her scavenger hunt was finding pre-colored Easter eggs at Hema (kind of like Target!). She had never seen anything like it before.

Jeff and I went to run errands and on the way back he drove me through more parts of Ouderkerk, my favorite city in Holland. I wished we would have chosen to live there, but we didn’t really know about it when we were looking for housing. We did look at houses on the Amstel, but none were quite right for us. The house we chose is perfect for us. We picked a house with lots of natural light, a huge open kitchen with an American sized refrigerator and oven, and a great room with a view into a small back yard and a beautiful open view of a canal out front. It is perfect for our lifestyle with a place to park right outside our front door. I love that the Ouderkerk is nearby. What I love about this city includes the wide river, prominent church steeples, bakeries, ice cream shop, store fronts and restaurants with outdoor seating right on the water. It has a small town feel which I love.

Today I searched for places where I could park my car, lift my board off the racks and walk a short distance to launch. I found it! Now I just have to wait for the weather to warm up. Any day now… I hope.




Day 24: I Am (Almost) Home

I feel like I’m almost at home now. My comfy couch created a comfy nook in our great room and I love it.  We were busy cleaning the house, I was in my pjs with makeup under my eyes and my hair in a messy ponytail, when the previous tenants of our house came by to pick up their mail and stayed and chatted for awhile, giving us so many tips and shared stories and I didn’t want them to leave!  Sally has been an expat since she was a kid and has lived in 9 different countries!  Her insights and attitude were inspiring and I wanted to hear more of her stories. We exchanged contact info and are planning to meet for coffee next week! Yippee!  

Gerard and Anita and Kelsi came over to spend the day with us.  They brought dutch treats for the kids and a beautiful houseplant for us.  Thank you guys! We had coffee and cake when they arrived, and then took the tram up to the city for a few hours.



Wooden Shoe Boat on the Amstel

It was so hot today, that we thought we’d go up to the Albert Cuypmakrt and walk around in the outdoor market place. It was over 30 degrees here (80+ Fahrenheit) and we were all a little uncomfortable with the heat. However we joked about enjoying the sunshine now because winters are long here.  We searched forever for a normal ice cream cone and couldn’t find one. We ended up at a McDonald’s for McFlurry’s and Sundaes and a nice, tall coke filled with lots of ice.  They typically don’t serve ice here or water for free.Image


Afterwards, we walked back home from the tram and made tacos for dinner.  We sat outside on the patio in the bit of shade we had.  Even though it was hot out, coffee is always served after dinner.  We had a drink together and then said goodbye to our guests.





(Too bad the ice cream truck drove up after we already had dessert!)

I’m glad to be sitting with the fan on and the windows open on my new comfy couch.  And check out what’s on TV – Jeff found a way to get NFL game day casts on the computer and hooked it up to the TV. He’s happy. Life is good.


Day 19: Vondelpark * Rijksmuseum * Houseboat * Tram

We’re getting better at preparing for the day. Each kid carries a backpack and today I gave them each a checklist:

1. Backpack

2. Water Bottle

3. Light Rain Coat

4. Umbrella

5. Something to Read

All of these things are to help them take care of themselves. They can carry their own pack and their own jacket and always have something to drink. If they want to add more, they can, but they still have to carry it all day. Teaching them to take care of themselves while also being responsible for their own stuff!

We were happy to venture out to meet the Petersons again today. We met in the Museumplein and walked over to Vondelpark together. We got a later start than usual, and everyone was already hungry soon after we gathered. I had read about a cooking cafe for kids and both my youngest, and Kris’ youngest like to cook so I thought this would give us a destination to seek out in Vondelpark. I’m good at coming up with ideas, but not always so good with following up with the details! For example, I knew the name of the restaurant in VP (generally), but didn’t jot down the address, hoping to explore the park and venture upon it by chance. Not such a good idea when you have 8 hungry people! Eventually we found it after stopping to ask at least 3 strangers. But I think the kids had a good time making their own pizzas and ham and cheese croissants. It was a fun experience at the Kinderkookkafe.


After the kids refueled, they wandered over to a playground and enjoyed running around together in a new park. They found some fun swings where 3 people could swing at once. I loved seeing their smiles. The boys then disappeared for a while and we could see their shadowy figures through the trees. They found some tall pieces of wood and were building a teepee. I think they could have stayed for hours.



Weather reports showed that afternoon thunderstorms were quite possible so we had planned to check out the Rijksmuseum. The good news was that the rain never came. We still were able to walk around and enjoy the art at the museum. Luckily, only a part of the museum was open as the rest is under renovation. This proved well for the kids as their attention span for art is not that high. I actually enjoyed hearing their perspective about what they saw and what stood out. J and I kept trying to determine from what angle the light source was used to paint the layers of light and shadow. We never did agree, but I think that will help us to discover some new art research. Our family favorite exhibit was one from 2008, which was a rather unique and unusual Grandfather Clock, that was in the shape of a tall, grandfather clock, with a frosted glass face with dry erase numbers written on the face from the inside. Behind the glass, it appeared a man was inside the clock and counting the minutes passing by erasing the arms of the clock and re-writing them again. It was to show the passing of time and we all got a kick out of it. Of course we all loved Rembrandt’s Night Watch painting and discussed how the sword looked three-D, how we liked the shadow of the hand on the other man’s jacket, and the element of surprise with people’s faces hiding and peeking through the crowd.


After our brief tour of the museum, we played in the Museumplein again as the kids love the big, flat swing and wanted to share it with the Peterson kids.


If the kids are happy, I’m happy and so we stayed for awhile. We then walked to the tram and took it to visit the P’s houseboat, which was very cozy and nicely decorated in a Dutch theme with blue and white and red colors. I think it would be fun to stay on a vacation houseboat. However, I felt a bit sad for them, as the owner’s houseboat was parked directly in front of their vacation boat which completely obstructed the view of the water. They did have a small window portal from the bedroom to look off and see a bit of water, but if they wanted to see more, they had to wander over to the owner’s floating backyard or walk to the top and sit on top of the houseboat. They of course, were gracious and the owner was very kind to them, so no worries… The kids all had fun exploring and being in a new environment with their California friends.


I had fun sitting with Kris and just relaxing as I felt tired by the end of the day… staying up until 1 am watching the Olympic Closing Ceremonies was probably not such a good idea! Did you watch them too?

The kids and I soon said goodbye and found our way to a new tram stop and journeyed home on the Metro. On the tram, J asked me if I missed California yet. She said she did a little bit but knew that we weren’t going back any time soon, so she really didn’t think about it much. I told her we would feel home sick at times but that we’ll adapt and that we have to live in the moment, which she is doing. She is very smart and realizes that she must manage her expectations, even though she doesn’t know that is what she is doing. I believe that happiness comes from when your expectations are in alignment with your reality. She expects to live here and doesn’t expect to move back home, so she’s happy. Pretty simple. I shared with her the expression that the grass isn’t always greener, and she started to sing a Justin Bieber song about the same topic. It’s amazing, but I think she gets it. We are here now and our job is to enjoy BEING just where we are. As a family, we chose to come on this journey and so we are enjoying our green grass, so to speak, right here, right now. And we’re enjoying keeping in touch with our family and friends back home too. Little C especially loved talking to one of his BFFs this afternoon, as you can see by his smile.Image

All is well and today was another good day. I hope you had a good day right where you are too. xoxo

Day 16: SUPed the Amstel and Amsterdam Canals!


I’m sitting on a kitchen bench in our living room with tired arms. The rental furniture was picked up today and our new furniture arrives tomorrow. We bought a few mattresses and blankets and sheets last week so we are able to actually sleep in beds, so that’s good! We went shopping today to buy a few more linens to cover the mattresses too. We also had fun walking around the Friday market place. On Friday’s, vendors fill the city center selling all sorts of things from cheese, to produce, to household goods, toys, linens, candy and other things. We are slowly (or quickly) getting familiar with our surroundings and making our house more homey.

As the movers were moving stuff out, the kids were exploring the canal in front of our house on our neighbor’s inflatable canoe. They had so much fun splashing around, and making new friends. One of the girls only speaks Dutch and the other little girl speaks English and Dutch. So between the three they found a way to communicate and play. It was fun watching them bond through play.

After “working” today, I got to go for a Friday evening paddle with 50 of my newest “friends!”. I found Morene on Facebook and have been following her since before we moved. She posted that she had rentals available for a Friday night paddle through Amsterdam and tonight I was able to join her. I was so excited!! It was awesome and peaceful and a workout! The weather was gorgeous and the water was warm. It was fun navigating the narrow canals and paddling with a “team” of other SUP-ers, under bridges and around boats and over wakes. Can you see my perm-a-grin???

Jeff and the kids drove me to the drop off location and then I paddled for two hours down the Amstel river and through several canals including the Herengracht. I love being on the water and seeing things from a different perspective. It was fun to watch the tourists taking our pictures and watching us as we paddled by.

I can’t wait to go again!