Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Bike Trip to Zaanse Schans

So I finally did it. I quit my job ( well, only after accepting another amazing position here in Amsterdam). ūüôā

Luckily, I had enough unused vacation days that I am able to enjoy some much needed time off in the meantime. Amazingly enough, Amsterdam is in the midst of its 2 week-long summer period in which Amsterdamers dust off their seldom used shorts, summer dresses and flip-flops, call in “sick” for the week and head to the outdoors. With some free time and some new summer digs just begging to be worn I was determined to make the most of the wonderful weather.

An expat friend of mine and I decided a bike trip to a new town was the perfect way to soak up some sun, get some exercise and explore more outside the city. We grabbed our bikes, donned our sunglasses and off we were. We biked from her home in Wormerweer about 25 minutes to Zaanse Schans. The ride was absolutely breathtaking and filled with fields of wild flowers, quaint Dutch farm houses, canals and windmills. Once we arrived in Zaanse Schans it felt as if we had gone back in time as we biked into a tiny Dutch village that looks as though it hadn’t changed a bit over the past two hundred years (well, despite the throngs of ¬†socks and sandal wearing German tourists). ¬†We wandered throughout the town, checked out some of the windmills, saw the first Albert Heijn (Dutch grocery store chain), tasted some cheese and even tried on some clogs.

We left Zaanse Schans feeling pretty Dutch that afternoon and excited to plan our next outing!

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Rolling Kitchens

This weekend, in an attempt to live up to my goal to get out and do more in Amsterdam, I was determined to plan¬†a nice fun-filled Saturday for Sebastiaan, me and¬†two of our closest¬†friends.¬†After conducting a bit of research, I found the perfect activity to give us a chance to do something a little different and enjoy the far too¬†rare “warm” Amsterdam¬†weather.

Saturday the Rolling Kitchens food festival took place in Amsterdam’s Westerpark. The event featured mobile kitchens from chefs, caterers and restaurants around Holland. We spent nearly five hours roaming the event, enjoying the live music and tasting everything from freshly shucked raw oysters, BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, black bean and beef burritos and¬†spicy chicken¬†roti rolls. We ended the night completely stuffed¬† satisfied¬†stopping¬†for a drink in our favorite neighborhood bar on the way home.

Although¬†we were exhausted and had a bit of a lazy day yesterday, it really is amazing how getting out and doing something fun together really helped to get us energized for the week ahead. As I head¬†into my last week of graduate school classes (EVER!) and¬†the last day at my current job, I can’t help but feel uncharacteristically optimistic for the upcoming summer months.

I can’t wait to see what fun activities will be next ¬†on our agenda! ūüôā

Flowers, flowers and more beautiful flowers

The Netherlands, among many other things, is famous for its blossoming (no pun intended) flower industry. Each year the Dutch export millions of flowers around the world and have even become pioneers in creating innovative, sustainable and eco-friendly green house facilities.

If you are lucky enough to visit Holland in the spring, a must see destination is the beautiful Keukenhof. The Keukenhof is a park located about 30 minutes outside Amsterdam filled with over seven million kinds of flowers. The park is only open from mid March until Mid May so during this period on any given day it is likely to be filled with crowds and crowds of  flower lovers from around the globe.

Last¬†weekend Sebastiaan and I went to the Keukenhof¬†with¬†two friends. We took a long walk through the park, visited a few green houses and stopped to check out a local art exhibit. It was an absolutely¬†perfect way to welcome the long-awaited spring season. ūüôā

A nice little Saturday

This weekend Sebastiaan and I finally had a chance to spend some much-needed time together, put some finishing touches on our apartment and enjoy an evening out.

After yet another few hours navigating the interminable IKEA showrooms we returned home exhausted and with little energy left to cook. Because our schedules  have been so busy lately it felt like we were well overdue for a date night out. We decided to treat ourselves to our favorite neighborhood tapas restaurant, Pata Negra. It was just what we needed. The relaxed atmosphere, great music, friendly staff and excellent food make it well worth the price; lamb chops, grilled asparagus, green olives, bacon wrapped dates, and calamari were among the picks for the night.

We scored our favorite spot on the bar, sipped on Spanish beer, enjoyed a delicious selection of tapas and picked up some frozen yogurt on the way home.

A few years ago the idea of spending Saturday night on the couch eating frozen yogurt and watching Law & Order would have sounded pretty dull but I have to say, to me, it was the perfect Saturday night.

Pata¬†Negra in East Amsterdam ūüôā

It’s happening, I’m turning into my mother…

More and more often I find myself¬†stop in my tracks, put my hand over my mouth and say “dear lord, I sound like my mother.”

My mother is infamous for her positive attitude, organization and enthusiasm for life. She almost always sees the glass as half full and views every obstacle as an opportunity, all traits I truly admire now and, while lovely in theory, will without a doubt drive an angsty teenager crazy.

Mom doing as the Dutch do in Amsterdam ūüôā

My mother has little patience for laziness and negativity and has more energy than women half her age.

But most of all my mother is famous for her lists. The dreaded list. I remember waking up on Saturday mornings rolling out of bed only to open my door to find a typed “to do list” in my path that looked a little something like this:

Good morning Princess,

To Do:

1. Clean your room (do not just throw all the clothes on the floor in your closet or under the bed, please fold clean clothes and put dirty clothes in the laundry room)

2. Write thank you notes to your Aunts & Uncles and put them in the mailbox  TODAY.

3. Write down at least 2 dates this month that you can go to the dentist and leave it on a yellow post-it above my desk, it’s time¬†to get your teeth¬†cleaned!

4. Do at least 1 hour of SAT prep before you go anywhere this evening.

Call me if you need me. I’m going to swing by my office, go to the health club and then get a manicure. I’ll be home this afternoon.

Love,

Mom

While I haven’t quite adopted the bright and cheery disposition and eternal optimism¬†of my mother, I have, and it hurts to admit it, adopted the list. I make lists for everything and have even been known to leave lists lying around for Sebastiaan now and then (he responds without about as much… um¬†“gratitude” as I did as a teenager).

In Amsterdam over Christmas ūüôā

I’m actually starting to grow really fond of the list.

As I grow older and grow to appreciation all the hard work and love my mother invested in me over the years, not only do I feel indebted to my mother for putting up with¬†years of¬†eye rolling, daily and¬†exasperated¬†“Ugh, I know¬†Mom” ‘s and inexplicable mood swings, but I also¬†feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for having such an amazing example of love, compassion, responsibility and motherhood. Although I’ve doubted much over the years, my mother’s love for me and¬†our family was never one of them.

Now, as an adult, the¬†bond between my mother and¬†me is unbreakable.¬†Our relationship has ¬†(after surviving my less than pleasant teenage years) become more than just that between¬†mother and daughter, but a friendship of the purest¬†form.¬†I trust and confide in my mother more than anyone in the¬†world and we have¬†come to¬†lean on each other¬†in hard times, celebrate each others’ successes and encourage one another to make the most out of life.

So, it’s true, I’m becoming my mother more and more each day and as much as it scares me,¬†it’s one of¬†the most reassuring signs for the future. The truth is,¬†there isn’t anyone¬†in the world I’d rather become.

My beautiful mother in Miami in 1975.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I love you.

Quarter-life crisis

Touché

Today I woke up with the feeling that I have accomplished absolutely nothing in my 26 years on earth. OK, so I think I’m having a bit of¬†a quarter-life crisis…

I know this obviously isn’t true and in the whole¬†scheme of things I’m doing pretty well for myself, but I can’t help but think I’m somehow not where I should be.

While I hate to admit it, I think the fact that at least 5 of my childhood friends have gotten engaged and a few more pregnant in the past few months may have a little something to do with this.

I don’t know when I decided, or even where I got the notion, that marriage and motherhood somehow represent a¬†level of achievement¬†and adulthood¬†for women in their mid-late twenties. This is pretty backward thinking and I like to consider myself a fairly progressive modern gal. (This idea certainly didn’t come from my mother who waited until after 30 to have children, choosing to focus first on gaining financial independence and professional success). The strange thing is, nowadays women are generally getting married later, having children later and enjoy more¬†independence than ever. So how in the world did I miss the memo and look to decades old standards of women’s success for guidance?

Beats me.

I know that I’m not¬†ready to have children and¬†while marriage may be a bit closer on the horizon, I’m not ready to rush into that any time soon either.¬†¬†So why do I feel the sudden need hurry up, get hitched and¬†pop out¬†2.2 kids?

I’ve always felt pressure to “keep up” with those around me whether it be academically, professionally or¬†even socially. I’m competitive by nature and hate nothing more than feeling like I’m falling behind the pack. I also, like many people, have a real difficulty living in the present. I’m a planner.¬†I focus so much on the future, where I want to be¬†and¬†what I want to be doing, that I often fail to enjoy all the wonderful things happening in the present. Not only does it make it difficult to appreciate my life as it is now, but it also puts so much pressure on the future,¬†so much of which is out of my control.

So I’m going to try a little something new. I’m going to start regularly¬†setting a few¬†short-term¬†goals that will help me feel more satisfied,¬†happy and at peace with the present.¬†I want to get out and¬†do more in the city, plan some fun activities and day trips for Sebastiaan and me and take some time to enjoy the smaller things in life.¬†Of course things may not always work out how I’ve planned, and carefree days soaking up the sunshine may be¬†few and far between but that’s OK.

It’s all going to be OK… Right?

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The great blessings of mankind¬†are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” ~ Seneca

Queen’s Day

This past Monday we celebrated Queen’s Day in Amsterdam. It is the biggest event of the year in Holland and a national holiday for all Dutch residents.¬†Queen’s Day is a celebration that takes place throughout the country each year on April 30th. The Dutch take to the streets dressed in orange (the national color) and celebrate the Queen’s birthday. Oh wait, the Queen’s Mother’s birthday… (apparently this Queen’s birthday is in the winter so that just won’t do…)

In addition to concerts and events throughout the city and even on the canals, Queen’s Day also serves as the only day in the year in which people can sell personal items on the street without a permit. In turn, the streets turn into a yard sale/ block party filled with locals and about 1 million additional tourists.

Although this is my second Queen’s Day, I still hopped out of bed like a kid on Christmas, donned my orange gear and headed out to enjoy all the festivities. This year, Sebastiaan and I met up with some friends, walked throughout the city and ended the day with a BBQ in Oosterpark. We enjoyed a day filled with sunshine,¬†close friends,¬†good music, great drinks and all that Queen’s Day has to offer. I have to admit, I’m already excited for next year! ūüôā