Day 56: Clogs and Cheese

Let’s Go – explore Westwijk, Aalsmeer, and Uithoorn

We did a driving tour around these three cities today. We saw a Japanese restaurant, fish shop, a gym, shopping centers, a waste location, thrift shops, water parks, glow in the dark miniature golf, a designer kitchen shop and other miscellaneous sites.  I found the assortment of locations, both functional and entertaining, a bit confusing, but did enjoy being with girlfriends and driving around new cities I wouldn’t necessarily explore on my own.

The highlight was Clara Maria’s Cheese and Clog Farm. I LOVED this Dutch place, and it’s right at the edge of Amstelveen near where I play tennis. It’s a great place to bring y’all when you come and visit!!  But for now, I’ll show you some pictures from our fun adventures making clogs and making cheese.

Me in Big Clogs!

Did you know that pointed toes were made for Catholics and rounded toes were made for Protestants? Interesting, huh?

Caroline helping make clogs in the “factory”

Cheese making lesson

Making the cheese

For lunch, Jen, Patty, Caroline and I had a nice lunch at Abina in Amstelveen, thanks to Birgitta’s recommendation of this being a nice restaurant.  Here’s a picture of my goat cheese with bacon panini sandwich! Aren’t you hungry now?? Mmm…. Love goat cheese on everything!

Who doesn’t like bacon and goat cheese? This was so tasty!!




Day 41: Yin and Yang and What I Love About the Dutch

So Ikea… what thoughts come to mind?  For us, it’s mixed – great, functional, inexpensive way to set up a house quickly, when all things go right. BuT — when things aren’t right, IKEA stinks!!  IKEA does not know what customer service means and they try to be helpful, but they are not and they create a nightmare that won’t go away. We’ve had a table wrapped in cardboard in our kitchen for 1 month now, waiting for them to come and pick it up so we can get our money back. We’ve called Customer Service multiple times and no luck. They keep saying they are too busy and they might try to call us another day and to wait and that it’s not possible, and blah blah blah. Well, today – we squished the bits and parts into our rental car by folding down the back seats, and brought it back ourselves.  We waited and waited and explained our story again and again and we’re glad to say we got our money back and got rid of the bad table.  This made me very happy and we learned to do things for ourselves and not wait and to not listen to their it’s not possible stories.


So after the nightmare ended, we went over to the Woon Mall – an indoor furniture and household goods shopping center near the Amsterdam Arena. We walked into a store to buy sheets for the beds and to inquire about what to do about the seam between the two mattresses that make up a king sized bed. You see, king sized beds don’t seem to exist here. Instead, you buy two twin size mattresses and put them together – sort of like in I Love Lucy where Ricky and Lucy have separate beds, but here you just smoosh ’em together to make one big one, throw a Molten (bed cover) over it and a sheet, and supposedly that works. But there’s a crack – and you fall in it. So today, the nice lady, Carla – at the Droom Domein showed us a wedge that you can put in the crack – I guess others have this problem too. And she helped us pick out sheets and was so kind and friendly and was the yang to our Ikea ying.


The Wedgie!

Not only was she helpful and kind, but after we made our purchase, she invited us to sit down for a (Nespresso) cup of coffee. She said we should sit and relax and take a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee and that she would serve us. And then she sat and talked with us and it felt so weird and so comfortable at the same time. It made me wonder if people in the States would take the time to have a drink and relax while shopping. We loved it and really enjoyed the customer service and the personal connection that she made. When we went out to do a bit more shopping, she invited us to leave our packages and to come back when we were done so that we wouldn’t have to carry them.

I love that the Dutch people slow down and drink coffee and just enjoy each other’s company in the middle of the day. My mom always has coffee on at her house, but I never really thought about it until today. It’s just something we do. When she comes to visit, I always have the coffee ready too. It’s our tradition and our little connection. I’m going to extend this tradition… Who wants to come over for coffee? Come on by, and I’ll brew you a cup or two and we can sit and chat and be Dutch together.  xo

Day 33: First Full Week of School

I like new beginnings. I like starting over and I like change. I like keeping things fresh and exciting. How about you? What do you think of change? Does it make you smile? Give you anxiety? A little of both? Hmm…

Today the kids started their first full week of school, and my new, long-legged super model friend, and I hit the gym! We decided we are going to check out all the local gyms, try out the free trials and then decide which one is best. It only took us 1.36285 hours to go through the formal process to register.  We had to schedule intake interviews, and evaluation interviews and have a hand scan and pay a deposit and sign our life away and photocopy our id and walk through the building and ponder the thought of co-ed mandatory naked saunas, all before we could jump on an elliptical machine for 38 minutes. Thank God, we had a nice glow and a little glistening action to make it worth our while. And you’d be surprised how much you can learn and share while working out side by side – laughing at the craziness of it all and trying to get our machines to function in Dutch. 


After working out, I went shopping and exploring at a new grocery center. It took my 8.5 minutes to figure out how to pay for parking and whether it was free or not.  Finally paid my 1 Euro and shopped at the Lidl and C1000, rushing to get back to the car before I received a ticket. I think the Lidl is a discount chain as the displays were in boxes/pallets and I didn’t recognize the brands. Hopefully the food I picked up is tasty!  I learned the hard way that I should have deposited 50 cents to get a shopping cart from outside the store before filling my arms full with stuff! They didn’t have carts or carriers inside the store. And of course, I didn’t pack enough reusable bags so had to buy more! You’d think I’d learn by now, but no! I was just going in for a couple things plus 37!

I had a few more chores to do, like calling for a family doctor, checking into soccer leagues for Char, and finding some tennis friends for me. I called the recommended doctor, listened to the message in Dutch and had no idea whether I should press 1,2 or 3 as all the prompts were in Dutch. A man answered, was probably the doctor, as I asked if he spoke English. Yes, sure, no problem. I introduced myself and explained we needed to register with a town doctor as required by residence, and he said, sure – call back tomorrow as I had called the emergency line!!! Oops! Oh well, at least he was kind and seemed to understand this stupid American!  

I had better luck with the soccer league and was able to have Char go over to the field after school to practice with the local team. I learned that the team only speaks Dutch, which I loved and he hated. I’m hoping that he warms up to the Dutch and makes a friend or two before giving up. We met Kelly from Atlanta and her kids and had a very nice conversation. It’s kinda fun to compare stories how we got here, how we picked our homes, what the move has been like, etc., etc. 

I’d say we’re getting somewhere and I see a structure starting to form. Just finished doing homework with the little one and trying to get the kids off to bed at a decent hour!  We’re still staying up way too late and morning comes way too soon.




Cloudscape out back at 8:45 pm

Hope you’re all enjoying your new routines too, whatever they may be – and hey, if you haven’t shaken it up in a bit – go ahead, shake it, shake it! You might like it!



Day 26: New School Orientation

Believe it or not, I didn’t take a single picture today. That’s a first!  I think I was too busy listening and being present at the kids’ (and parents’) orientation today.  The best part of the orientation was that our big kids disappeared with their groups and were seen around campus smiling and following after their new peers. After all the testing and information sharing, there was a BBQ lunch for everyone. Our kids ate with their new friends and Jeff and I enjoyed chatting with and getting to know some of the new families.

The second best part of this new school, is that it fosters community and wants parents to feel welcome and a part of the school – not only for the kids, but for the international community that we are. To feel like we have a place to be and to gather and to build friendships and community. I love this. It’s what I’m good at – I love people. I love hearing their stories and learning from one another. 

It felt a little bit like home too – a very diverse, multicultural community with several different languages spoken, and several different ethnicities from all around the world, gathered together. 

We’re all excited to begin this next phase of our lives.

We loved seeing so many pictures of the first day of school from so many of our friends on Facebook today. It did feel strange to not be there with you and to walk to school through the neighborhood together. Seeing the pictures of the first day is like a milestone – representing change and growth and newness. Loved it. And hope to see more as more friends continue new beginnings too, just like us.


Day 25: Heat Wave

It was 90 degrees here today and I think we melted. We went to try out a local church this morning and literally almost passed out from the heat. We made it through the intriguing sermon, but were a bit light headed before we left.

Afterwards, we ventured over to Sally’s house to pick up an extra transformer they had for us to borrow for our old tv and PS3 for the kids. We didn’t plan on staying long, but all of us were enjoying their company and playing with their dogs and cats. We took a walk over to the Amsterdamse Bos to check out the jousting festival that was taking place in the forest. It was too hot to walk around in the sun, and we just hung out in the shade and shared stories before walking back to their house. 

We had planned to take a drive up the coast this afternoon but were warned to watch out for the beach traffic.  We just wanted to go for a long drive in an air conditioned car and chose to see where my Uncle Adrian used to be stationed in Holland in Den Helder. By the time we got up to Den Helder and came to the roundabout to take us out to the sea, the traffic was lined up from two different spots on the circle with at least 100 cars each attempting to return from the beach. We decided to just continue to drive around the roundabout and continue back the way we came. There was no way I wanted to wait in that traffic circle for another hour.


Instead, we found ourselves at a random snack shop, hoping to find a bathroom and something to snack on. We actually had a great time enjoying snacks and playing pool together before heading home.





It’s still hot outside and is very hard for the kids to go to sleep. We’re trying to get them to bed earlier than usual since school is ready to begin and we’re on no type of schedule whatsover. But we didn’t even have dinner until after 8 pm.  Oh well – we’ll figure it out this week regardless, right?

We hope that all our friends back in Sunnyvale enjoy their new teachers and middle school and have a great first day back to school tomorrow. We’re kinda missing being there to walk to school together and to see each other again, after a busy summer!  Wishing you all the best.  We start orientation at our new school tomorrow.  New beginnings…  

Day 23: New Couch & New Experiences

How many days until school starts??  I’m ready and the kids are ready too. How about you?  We are ready for a routine and structure again, and to make new friends.  And I’m ready to not be the E-ticket ride!  😉

Today our IKEA couch arrived in four large boxes. I decided to surprise Jeff and assemble it myself!!  Image

I think the couch was much easier than the bookcase – less steps to follow. J helped me align the large pieces at the end. We then played around with it and the rug to see how to make it fit the best in the space.  We can’t sit on the cushions for 24 hours as they have to fluff up fully otherwise the stuffing with get squished and not fluff up again (I think that’s what they said in Dutch when explaining the warranty!)


Tomorrow I’ll post a picture with the slipcover and cushions on it. I think I’m going to like this cozy little nook.

Today is Friday and the Amstelveen marketplace had a farmer’s market/bazaar going until 4 pm. After the couch assembly, we were able to get over there for awhile. We learned that parking spots are very small and driving through a parking garage is very tight and challenging. I don’t know how my mini-van will do here!  I think I’ll be doing a lot more bike riding!!  We found some great frites, fresh produce and delicious cookies. We also met another family from our school, when they heard us speaking English. 



Char and Owen had fun playing with all the boxes from the last two days and turning them into boats and houses and RVs. Hopefully it doesn’t rain for a few days!



And finally this evening, Jeff and I went to the Makro – a big, warehouse like store similar to COSTCO, to do some shopping. It was nice to go there, but I found it a bit overwhelming – probably because I was overtired again. It would be really fun if I could read the labels and understand what is what. We spent more than 5 minutes trying to pick butter, just to give you an example. And then we were looking for something to clean the bathrooms, and we had no idea which one was the best. We picked something that had a picture on it – showing sinks, and showers. Hopefully it’ll work. Everything just takes a little longer when you don’t know the language.  

I did have fun though, perusing the different wines from different countries, and the cookies and candies.  I think it’ll get easier and easier as I understand more. 



Some of the different candy on the candy isle at Makro.




Day 14: What I Am… Is What I Am

Are you what you are – or what?

(Thank you Edie Brickell… I used to sing this song on top of my lungs – did you too?)


I found this pillow today on our all day furniture shopping palooza with Anita and Kelsi. We bought everything we needed to finish furnishing our house today!  All the beds and couches, tables and chairs, desks and dressers were ordered today. Can I hear a big shout out?!?!  This is a HUGE accomplishment if you can only imagine trying to furnish a home in a day or two or three!  Anita gave us another full day of Dutch translation and driving and organizing the details for our shopping trip while Kelsi tried to teach me a few dutch words here and there. We are so happy that our furniture will be delivered this weekend already, with the couch coming next week. When we ordered our couch in the states it took 6-8 weeks for delivery time. I was so excited when they said it would only take 9 days.  I AM so happy and exhausted!

Kris and Scott decided to spend the night with us last night and our kids all still wanted to play together after breakfast. We were so lucky that they decided to keep our kids with them while we were on our never-ending shopping trip.  They all went to the forest and explored Adventure Island again. I think they probably had more fun and were definitely less bored than they would have been shlepping around with us from shop to shop!  Thank you Scott and Kris for entertaining our family and I’m sorry we were gone longer than expected. We loved seeing you and can’t wait to see you all again this week.

Hope you all are enjoying the last few weeks of summer. xo

Day 11: Visiting Belgium and the City of Gent

Today we took our first international road trip to Belgium. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive and we went to meet up with Ilse and her kids who are visiting there for a couple more days. Ilse was my Dutch tutor back in the states and her husband grew up in the town of Gent. She invited us to come meet her there and to show us around. Of course, we agreed to the invitation and enjoyed a beautiful day exploring a new city. Thank you, Ilse!


In the car, all together, nice and cozy!


Cool bridge photo as we were crossing the Waal River in NL.


I love this image!


Lunch at the clock restaurant with the kinderen.


Boat ride through Gent.


View of the town through the castle walls.


Inside the castle courtyard.


C was so happy to spend the day with a friend!


We tried Belgian Wafels and small Italian ice cream cones. J was surprised by how small the scoops were and how they didn’t fill the cones.


One of the three famous towers in the city center. We walked through this church and the crypt. Coolest part was the modern art depicting Jesus hanging on the cross but all you saw was a piece of shattered glass with spikes where they would have pierced Jesus’ hands and feet. Very moving.


Me and Ilse outside the church. It was so nice of her to show us around.


Three little bears wanted a beer… One was too little, one was too medium and one was just right! Perfect way to end the day.

Day 8: Wheel Day!

Have a quick minute to post a quick update as we are back at the mall fixing phone plans and the timer on the parking is about to expire!!

We got a rental car today and it felt so liberating!! We drove to the bike shop and were able to buy 3 bikes – 2 for the big kids and one for Jeff. But they won’t be ready until next week! Customer service is so different here, but more about that later!

A short post, as I wanted to use my iPhone and share pics. Hope you’re having a good day!!