Day 283: Touring Amsterdam

I’ve gotten a little bit better about planning ahead now that we have limited time left in Holland. Last month I tried to coordinate with our family here in Holland and today day they came to visit us and we explored Amsterdam together. Jeff is a really good tour guide. He knows his way around the city and which trams to take to get us where we need to go. I love this about him! I don’t have a sense of direction at all and my visuo-spatial skills are horrible. Anyway, the weather was perfect and wandering around outside felt great. Pictures are better than words…

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Museumplein facing the Rijksmuseum.

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Enjoying the sites from the canal cruise boat.

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Albert Cuyp Market

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Making poffertjes – Charlie’s favorite.

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Loved this Buddha in one of the shops at Albert Cuyp. Namaste.

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The Amstel Hotel. So pretty in the sunshine.

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Dam Square with video monitors, heavy police presence, and roads blocked. Preparing for Remembrance and Liberation Day ceremonies.

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Lots of walking and the little ones feet were tired…CJ is such a great big brother.

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Our favorite – Indonesian Rijstafel at Sampurna on the Singel. Other pictures didn’t turn out, so here’s just a sample.

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Best buddies!

Thank you Gerard, Anita, Kelsi, Raomi, and Rob for spending the day with us. It was perfect.

The highlight for me today was the two minutes of silence at 8pm in remembrance of all the Dutch citizens and members of the armed forces who lost their lives in World War Two and in remembrance of all Dutch citizens who have lost their lives since that time in other wars and peacekeeping missions. The entire nation comes to a complete and silent halt for those two minutes. We were on the bus heading home from Amsterdam and the bus driver pulled over and parked for two minutes of silence. It was quite moving.

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Peace and love my friends. Namaste.

Day 52: If it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much!

I’m enjoying exploring Holland, meeting up with friend’s and hanging out with family. I’m appreciating the differences and enjoying slowing down and living it up at the same time.

This morning I met up with Beth, from PEO, for coffee in Amsterdam at her house. I loved her company and having a place to go and meet up. It got me out of the house, off the computer and out the door before 10am.

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After our brief coffee chat, I headed home with a smile on my face and got ready to pick up Juliana from her Challenge trip. She had a good time with her new friends and we were happy to have her home again.

This afternoon, we headed to Den Bosche to explore the 900 year old Saturday Market tradition!! Isn’t that crazy? The streets were bustling with people (except Dorine and Nadja, whom I believe were out of town this weekend) and filled with fresh flowers and fruit, ice cream and stroopwaffels! I love this town and it’s unique feel. It’s a large place but it doesn’t feel touristy.

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We explored a street that had open front patios with outdoor seating and most the tables were full but we found one that was a tapas place, which was good enough. We were trying to fill the time before heading over to Gerard’s house to celebrate his birthday.

The Dutch celebrate birthdays by inviting people over after dinner. This invitation was for 8- 8:30pm and typically late parties like this go until 2 or 3 in the morning. Coffee and cake is served first, when you arrive. Then beer and wine are shared – and crackers with cheeses and meats and salads and bread. Everyone sits around the kitchen table and hangs out. Later the deep fryer gets going and the company enjoys bitter ballen and frickadels! We made it until after 11:30 pm! Not a bad way to celebrate life. Happy birthday, Gerard!! Thanks for a great evening!

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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.

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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

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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.

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(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.

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Day 18: Family Day in Schijndel

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We just finished spending nearly 12 hours with family and we’re all talking about when we can get together again. That should summarize how much fun we all had today.

I love how the Dutch entertain. It’s very laid back and there is no sense of hurry or rush. People sit together and really just enjoy one another’s company and that’s entertainment. The young and the old together, drinking coffee, working together, eating together and playing together. I’m not used to sitting still for so long at any given time, so this is new for me and I am beginning to become more comfortable with it.

Today we enjoyed coffee and homemade delicious chocolate torte cake with homemade whipped cream soon after we arrived at Gerard and Anita’s house. Afterwards, Anita set out a lunch buffet for us which included some new foods to taste like filet americanse, and kruiten boter (which I hope I’m spelling correctly!). Several types of Hagel slag were also available and we all made our own sandwiches or broetjes as they call them. Oh and sandwiches are made with butter, which I remember my mom making but I forgot about it. We typically make sandwiches with mustard and/or mayo. I love doing things differently and lunch was delicious.
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After lunch, the kids all went to play the Wii, and Risk and Twister. They played outside with balls and a hula hoop, and everyone played together, including the high school girls. This was impressive as the girls are beautiful and sweet and interested in family and being together. I loved that they weren’t too busy or too “cool” to want to hang out. I’m impressed and thankful and J Is making plans with K to get together again next week. Love it.
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After lunch, Opa Tijn came for a visit. We all sat out on the patio and enjoyed another cup of coffee. Opa Tijn doesn’t speak any English and just talked to us in Dutch like we understood. One day we will understand better but for now it was just fine. Anita and Gerard did a great job bridging the language barrier and we all enjoyed just being together.
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When Opa Tijn left to go to a party, we left to go to Rio and Helma’s house to visit and check out the dairy farm. We all had so much fun.
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The kids rode on a tractor and learned how the harvester machine worked. They got to pet and feed the cows and learn how
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Stella & Dot on the farm!!
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The cows are milked twice daily, once in the morning at 7 am and again at 6 pm. It was a very cool experience. Little C was having fun riding a pedal go cart around… Just good old fashioned fun. And then they all went swimming and moved the trampoline close to the pool so they could jump off and into the pool. I think they had a great day! I know I did.
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And the day wasn’t even over yet. There was still time for a BBQ! Lil’ C loved helping Gerard with the grill and CJ was happy using the deep fryer to make fresh frites. The girls all helped with setting the table and bringing food out. We had a large variety of mixed meats and sampled our first frickadel (spelling?) sausages topped with frites sauce, onions and curry sauce. Yum! Dinner was amazing and BBQing felt like home.
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The days are long here in the summer and we didn’t leave until past dusk at 9:40 pm! I hope we didn’t overstay our welcome. We were just having too much fun to leave! Thank you G&A&R&K for sharing your day with us and for all the delicious meals. Thank you Rio and Helma for having us over for drinks and snacks and sharing farm life with us. We had a wonderful day with y’all and look forward to seeing you again at our house.

Life is good!!

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The cute and loving farm dog!

Day 9: Wired

Can I just tell you how happy I am to be sitting on my couch with the TV on, my connected computer on my lap, kids in bed and my husband by my side? This is comfort to me.  I AM Content.

I don’t know about you, but having internet connectivity is like having electricity. Sure, you could live without it, but WHY?  I love having access to information and I love connecting with loved ones, and now that I am over seas and across time zones, the internet provides a way of connecting and being in touch with the world. I actually got to watch some of the Olympics. That’s HUGE to me!  So glad the Ziggo guy showed up on time today and provided internet and cable connectivity. Happy. hApPy. happy.

Ok enough about my obsession with connectivity – I want to share my gratitude again. You see Anita and Gerard came over today and spent the entire day with us. Gerard took the day off from work so that he could bring his trailer and help us shop and pack and deliver our loot. He also brought tools and a drill to help with the assembly!  We took two cars and a small trailer and the kids and ventured to IKEA for a 5 1/2 hour shopping extravaganza! Now we typically don’t like IKEA, but here it provides a one stop shop. However, not speaking the language makes it especially hard to translate and connect with the local workers. Having Anita to write down all the codes and prices and locations was so helpful. I just let go and let her take care of me. That’s not comfortable for me. I like to be in control. I like to be doing the giving and don’t particularly like asking for or receiving help. I want to be the giver. Yet today, it was her turn and I was so happy she was there by my side. She knew what mattress sizes I needed and what size sheets would fit, and what type of comforters we would need for summer and winter weather, and had suggestions to offer around every corner.  We all meandered through the maze that is IKEA, writing orders and filling our bags and baskets until we stopped to refuel in the food court. 5 1/2 hours later we were done for the day because we had to hurry back to meet the Ziggo guy. Missing our appointment was not an option!

We made it back home by 5 pm, and Anita and Gerard got to work assembling stools and benches and dressers and bookcases. Jeff started assembling the bed frame for C’S bed, while I made coffee for everyone and picked up the empty boxes and plastic wrap and providing assistance as I could.  Little C proved to be quite handy and helpful with a screwdriver and was a fast learner. He loves to be helpful and to work with us. I love that!Image

While we were assembling furniture, we were also getting hungry!  I stepped out of my comfort zone again and drove for the first time in a foreign country to the local Indonesian restaurant to pick up some Rendang, Nasi Goreng, Bami, Soya Chicken, Marinated eggs, Sayer Lodeh, Kru Pruk, Green Beans, and pickled veggies. Mmmm… sayer Lodeh is a dish that my Opa used to make when I was a little girl. I used to eat that until I was stuffed and couldn’t eat any more but would still go back for one more serving, it was that good. Having it again makes me so happy. This is the restaurant we visited the first night in town and the guy remembered me and at the end of placing my order, he gave me a side of the sayer lodeh just for me, without me even asking. How sweet is that? Not only because I love it so much but because he remembered me. He saw me and knew who I was… that’s huge!  I’m a local! And I drove to our local Indonesian restaurant?? I’m excited by the little things in life like good food and good people.

Well dinner didn’t disappoint. It was so nice to have family with us again and to share a family meal.  After dinner, they finished building a book shelf and moving the mattresses in from the porch before the rain came. They stayed longer than I thought they would as they had a birthday party to attend.( I still can’t believe they gave up their whole day for us – thank you! )

Another learning — parties here start between 8 and 9 pm usually, after dinner and usually go until 1 or 2 in the morning and this is normal! Who knew?  I better start practicing staying up late and not falling asleep at the table! Haha — ya, that’s happened before, just ask Stacey!  

Today was a very good day, thanks to Gerard and Anita!  Thank you!  Our house is starting to feel like a home.