Our New Town

The moving in continues.  Today we hung curtains and finished up the guest room by making the beds and putting together the bedside table.  That room is DONE!  Yippee!  A finished room!

By 4pm we were fed up.  We cleaned up and headed into the city by bike.  As you can see from the photo above, it was gorgeous weather today (as it was also yesterday) and we were both fed up at wasting such nice weather stuck inside working in the house.

We parked our bikes exactly where this photo was taken, at the edge of the Grote Markt in the center of Haarlem.  We found a restaurant nearby and sat outside and had some food and drinks (no alcohol for me because of yet another migraine).  It was so nice to sit outside in nice weather!  We walked around the city center a bit before heading home and I have to say, I can’t wait to try all these restaurants!  Every where you turn there are restaurants with terraces.  Our last stop was an ice-cream parlor.  We got cups full of home made ice-cream and sat near the church you see above and ate it up.  Ahhhh. Lekker.

Only two more days til Mom and friends fly in.  I have to work during these two days.  So, my evenings will be spent getting the last things ready.  We’re working first on the common areas and the last things to be sorted out, sad to say, will be our own bedroom and the office.  I still don’t know where my socks are.  Nothing is hung on hangers yet.  That’s ok.  We’ll all sleep well at least!

I’m Still Here

Sorry, no photos tonight and not much posting lately. We’ve moved into our house in Haarlem and tomorrow we sign over the old house in Amsterdam. We’ve been working really hard, every day, on this move. DB has been doing most of the work in the house and I pick up my share on the days I have taken off from work plus the weekends.

The living room still has boxes in it, clothes are half unpacked but in all the wrong drawers, the attic is full of boxes still and the office is a tumble of tables and chairs waiting to be sorted out. The guest room is completely empty because today the floor was cleaned and oiled.
The big news is that today the washer and dryer were delivered. Now, THAT is a story. I wish I had photos of these two thin young men hauling the heaviest thing in the house up 2 flights of stairs.
Now, I must first explain that a normal sized washer and dryer in the US are considered gigantic here. I wanted a “normal” sized washer and dryer damn it. I’m tired of washing 3 pairs of jeans at a time and that’s a full load. I’m tired of my jeans coming out in a tightly wadded mess. I want as many options in the wash cycles as I have types of fabric in my clothes. So, we bought the biggest damn things we could find in this entire country.

When we picked them out we asked “can these be carried up 2 lights of stairs?”. The young salesman ran off to find out and came back and said “yes!”. Little did he know.

The delivery truck showed up at 2pm or so. Two guys who didn’t look big or strong enough to carry our moving boxes unpacked the dryer and humped it up the stairs, sweating and swearing. Then they started to complain about the washer and say that it just wasn’t going to be possible to carry it up. If they couldn’t carry it up, they would just leave it on the bottom floor. I said “what are going to do with a washing machine down HERE??” We went back and forth, he called his boss, I stood with my arms folded, and DB and his dad were quickly trying to remove the rail along the stairway to give them more room to get the thing upstairs. We finally agreed that we’d take off the railing completely and the guys would come back after their last delivery to try to carry the thing upstairs. Then he asked me to pay. I said “When you have it upstairs then I’ll pay.” Oh, that was NOT going to happen. If didn’t pay then, they would take everything away and not come back. Then the guy said, quietly, that if we get the railing off they will make sure it gets upstairs.

So, at around 6.30pm they showed up again and with help from DB they got the thing upstairs. They installed it. They made sure it was all working. DB gave them a tip for all their hard work. And I’m so relieved and happy. I feel like a ’50’s woman happy with her “white goods”.

And we’re never ever moving again!

Hurt So Good

Due to the moving and the migraine, I missed running during the last 2 weeks. Therefore, I HAD to run today. I was tired. My body ached from painting and packing. But still, if I don’t run often enough I’ll never make that 16km for the Dam to Dam in just about ONE MONTH. According to the plan, I should have run 12km today. I didn’t figure that would be possible so I was happy to settle for 10. I didn’t expect much. I actually expected to walk a portion of the 10km.

But again, as always, I learned something new about running and about physiology.

I went prepared not only with my Nike+ wrist band, but also my iPhone loaded up with an application called RunKeeper. It takes advantage of the GPS chip in the iPhone and tracks your route, speed, etc. via the satellite connection. Pretty cool, if it worked. The developers warn you not to run under heavy tree coverage so I was a little worried I would lose the connection. Everything worked even better than I expected, including my body.

I warmed up well, then started running the usual Sloterplas route, music from the iPhone in my ears, and wireless waves streaming through my body from various devices. And I ran, and ran and ran, without stopping for 10.8km! How about THAT! It felt good to be MOVING after days of STANDING and painting. It felt good to use different muscles. What I learned is that even if your body is tired and sore from a certain activity, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your RUNNING muscles are tired and sore. My running muscles were just fine, thanks very much. I didn’t even breath hard. I ran the last 1km faster than the rest because I decided I should be breathing a little harder. Now I can’t wait to go again and try for a better time.

And how did the iPhone and RunKeeper perform? Flawlessly. Here’s a screen shot of the results on the RunKeeper Dashboard:

I’m really impressed with how accurate this thing is.  You can see that at 2km I ran a slightly different path the second time around and it picked that up precisely.  Granted, this is not a full fledged training site or device.  It’s very basic and I’m sure there’s a lot more that can be done with this information.  There’s actually more visual information about my run on the iPhone itself and I don’t know why you can’t get to it on the web site.  I hope that the developers will expand the functionality soon.  In any case, for 7.99 what do you want?   If you want more you can always plunk down several hundreds of dollars/euros for something  much more sophisticated.  For me, this will do for now!

This is Journalism?

When I hear “Seattle Post Intelligencer” I think large newspaper with professional writers. Maybe I’m wrong.

I was reading Google News for the headlines, like I do every morning, and came upon this article about Starbucks opening a shop in the Amsterdam Central Station. Yippee! Finally a Starbucks outside of Schiphol Airport! Starbucks set up its European roasting and distribution center in NL, so why not shops?

This headline linked to the article in the SeattlePI. I went there are read the whole thing. It was written by someone named Andrea James, who, from the writing, I think must be about 17. The part that really annoyed me is this:

In Amsterdam, coffee shops are popular with tourists because people can gather in them to smoke marijuana, which appears alongside coffee on menus. Starbucks says it does not allow smoking at any of its locations worldwide.

This is obviously an article the writer didn’t bother to really research and she’s clearly never been to Amsterdam. AND I doubt she’s ever had experience with multiple languages using the same words to mean completely different things. No one in this country would ever call Starbucks, or the Coffee Company (the popular company that is Starbucks’ competition) a “coffee shop”. The Dutch have taken over an English term and turned it into something with its own meaning. Somewhere that you go to drink coffee and maybe have a croissant or a cup of tea or a sandwich would be a “coffee house” or “lunchroom”. Somewhere you would go to buy pot and possibly something to drink (not necessarily coffee) would be a “coffee shop”. That’s just the way the name evolved.

To make the comparison of a “coffee shop” and Starbucks, in the same paragraph, is just wrong, and silly, and misleading, and just bad journalism. Sorry Andrea, it just is.

Assuming that English words mean the same thing in every country can be a dangerous thing to do. Even between the English and Americans there are so many words that mean really different things. Don’t go to England and complain that your pants are too tight. You will be greeted with giggles. Pants in England are your underwear and the English always giggle when you mention underwear. You would do better to say that your trousers are too tight and you’d be directed to the nearest department store.

Speaking of languages, here’s a tip for tourists coming to NL. Always assume that everyone understands English. This will avoid the embarrassment of commenting in a normal tone of voice about someone’s clothes or hair or tattoos because you think they don’t understand you anyway and you can say what you like and not offend. Think again.

I’ll get off my soapbox now, before I really get going on Dutch and English comparisons.

Almost Finished

We spent yet another day working on the new house.  Today was more painting (does it ever end?) and cleaning and oiling floors.  We’re doing ok on time and tomorrow no one will be working in the new house.  Tomorrow we will be packing in the old house.  Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure:

1) R., our professional, painting in the bedroom; 2) A wood floor looks much better after a coat of oil; 3) Brunch; 4) The blue wall finished

I just love this color of blue.  In real life it’s a little tiny bit grayer.  It so reminds me of a beach house.  I don’t know why that is, but it makes it so fitting for this office space with the clapboard ceiling and wall.  The bedroom also has a wall this color.  

I took this photo from the office window.  Now, THOSE are clouds that make this blog live up to its namesake!


O + P = Patatje Oorlog

I’m combining the O and P for the ABC-Along 2008.  I have to.  What else does O and P stand for besides that quintessential Dutch food:  patatje oorlog ?

Literally it means “french fry war”.  Take some thick cut fries, put mayonnaise on the side, put some pindasaus (peanut sauce) on the side, and put chopped raw onions over the top of the 2 sauces.  Dip your fries in the sauces, scooping up the onions as you go, and enjoy!  Peanut sauce by the way was adopted by the Dutch from Indonesia and can be found everywhere.  It’s not sweet, is a little bit spicy hot, and is a little bit salty.  It’s really really good!

Here’s a photo of patatje oorlog.  I hardly even eat fries.  But when I do, this is the best way to do it.

By the way, the log thing in the roll at the top of the photo is another “only in Holland” delight:  a croquette.  This is gooey meat gravy stuff, rolled in crunchy coating and deep fried.  You can buy them in this log shape and eat them without the bread, dipping them in mustard, or you can buy them in ball shapes, about the size of golfballs.  The round shaped ones are called bitterballen (bitter balls).  Don’t ask me why.  They are weird to eat at first, but I’ve grown to like them a lot.  Watch out!  Don’t burn your tongue!

Progress on 2 Projects

I’m in the middle of 2 projects:  MOVING (a series of related smaller projects, like painting and packing) and Ravolympics.  Here are some photos to give you an update on each one:

First, photos and a complaint.  The photos are of my Traveling Roses scarf that I’m making for the Ravolympics.  It’s coming along nicely, but I have to tell you, tonight I’m too tired even to knit.  Why?  Well, that has to do with the OTHER project.  What’s wrong with these photos though?  The first one is what my iPhone thinks is reality.  The second one is after I altered it in Photoshop Elements to show the REAL colors of my couch and of the yarn.  This is my main complaint about the iPhone:  the camera sucks.  I don’t care that it only has 2mp.  I can live with that.  What I can’t live with is that so often the colors are completely off.  I have to edit nearly every photo to fix it.  Maybe it’s a bug that will be fixed with a software update.  One can only hope.

Today DB and both had the day off work (and tomorrow too) and we worked in the new house for more than 10 hours.  We painted the kitchen.  I painted a blue wall and a green wall.  DB painted hard places like the plinths.  RB was also there to help and worked on the woodwork and doors.  We’re beat.  My back is killing me.  I only have the energy to write this post and then I’m going to BED!

One wall in the guest room is green:

One wall in our bedroom is blue (sorry no photo yet).  I think I will paint a wall in the office blue also because it’s just a lovely shade of blue.  It reminds me of the ocean or a beach house.  I really like it.  DB is still getting used to it. 🙂  He wanted something darker.

It’s really going to be many days of hard work to get ready to move in one week.  There’s still so much to do and we’re both trying not to panic about getting it all done.  We’re already making a list of things that can wait til after we move (like the guest room floors and furniture, and the attic).

Someone came to look at the space that needs fixing up where the washer and dryer will go.  A new cement floor section needs to be laid and an old sink removed.  The good news is that it can be done before 3 September!  Good news Mom- you can do your laundry while you’re here!

Migraines Suck

I was home from work sick the last 2 days, suffering a migraine again. It started Sunday with that niggling feeling that something wasn’t right but not quite sure if it would become the dreaded migraine or not. I hate those moments when you don’t know whether to fear the worst, or plan to go on with your life for the next couple of days. Once the balance is tipped and I know for sure it’s a migraine, I go through the denial and anger and all the 7 stages in a very short condensed amount of time. I cancel appointments and rearrange my schedule because I know I won’t be able to do anything for the at least the next 48 hours. I wonder if there’s food in the house that I can eat. Migraines (or the migraine medicine, I don’t know which) make me really hungry and if I don’t eat I get even sicker. In other words, when the first beginnings of a migraine hit, I hunker down and prepare for war.

For the past 5 years I’ve been taking sumatriptan, first 50mg and now 100mg. I get the feeling over time that the medicine is actually making the migraines last longer. I’m up to a minimum of 2 full days, not counting the build up and cool down periods. And I get these things at least once a month. It feels like not only a terrible headache that makes you want to put an ice pick through your skull, but also I feel like I have the flu. I’m hot and feverish and just feel like hell. So, in essence, I have a bad flu every month. And then the day after the headache is over, like today, I just feel tired and slow and a little bit spacey.

Another lovely effect of migraine is that I’m really depressed during the headache phase. I have made peace with this depression. I know what it is, and why it is, so it doesn’t really bother me anymore. I just embrace it and go with it and know that it will be over. Actually, I don’t even realize sometimes how depressed I am until it’s over and I feel SO much better. Only then I realize how really BAD I felt emotionally. Intellectually I know it won’t last so it doesn’t worry me.

For some reason, most of my attacks happen over the weekend so I don’t miss much work. I guess on the weekend I let my guard down and relax and then my body reacts.

Unfortunately, this time, I should have been working during the day and packing boxes for the move during the evenings. I managed to do 2 loads of laundry and pack 2 boxes during my 2 days at home. That took every bit of energy I had. Now I feel like I have to make up for it tomorrow, and the rest of the time before we move, to catch up on “my part”.

I’ve just found an interesting web page that lists an 8 step program to rid yourself of migraines using food. I know for sure that alcohol is a big migraine trigger for me. I suspect that chocolate is also, but I prefer to ignore that possibility. J I would be really sad if dairy products are also a trigger for me. I think that after we move, and life settles down a bit, I’d be willing to give this process a chance and see if it helps. I think this kind of diet would help keep weight down and make me feel lighter during my running. I have also found that if I get more exercise, the migraines are lighter and easier to deal with. If I start this program I’ll keep track of my progress and let you know if it makes any difference. I’m curious enough to try it. What have I got to lose?

Well, DB chimes in that he finds this diet scary and he would rather I go to a migraine specialist here in Amsterdam. Apparently there is one somewhere near Museumplein. He makes you go drug free for 2 months before he will treat you! THAT sounds scarier to me than the diet! Again, once things settle down, I’ll check it out and report back.


Here’s proof that I’m participating in the Ravolympics: above you see part of the Traveling Roses scarf pattern, a bit of my knitting, my knees holding it up, and the tv and the Olympics gymnastics in the background. You can also see the end of the sofa bed on the left (the stripe fabric) which tells you that we are still in moving-mode. The only thing you don’t see are my hands with white paint on them. I hope the paint doesn’t come off on the knitting!

After the last post when it seemed like everything was going wrong, I am happy to report that things are going right again. The roof guys came and will be back on Monday to fix a few tiles and make the gutter work properly, which should take care of the leaking roof, all for the low low price of 80 euros (much lower than I was expecting). The doorbell is working again (but we don’t know why or how). DB’s uncle came by this afternoon and sawed off some really heavy bolts that the previous owners left in the living room wall. We painted 2 rooms, with the help of A. Tomorrow we paint the living room and dining room with help from A. again and from PW. also. Unfortunately, we need a lot more paint than we expected so that’s an added expense.

The really good news too is that my T-Mobile account is finally sorted out and I can use my iPhone as a phone again! YIPPEE! I haven’t blogged about that yet, but, what a NIGHTMARE! One week ago my iPhone stopped working as a phone. I could SMS. I could web surf. I just couldn’t phone anyone. Huh? I went to T-Mobile on Rokin in Amsterdam last Monday at lunchtime. After waiting in line 30 minutes I was told I needed to take my contract to the shop where I bought the phone because they had not completed my paperwork correctly. The next day I went there after work and was told some totally bizarre story that didn’t make any sense, the girl copied my contract and said she would call me the next day. Wednesday came and went with no phone call. Thursday morning I went to the shop again in person, with my contract, and a guy said that there had been a problem on the day I bought the phone (there was a massive black out of all T-Mobile computer systems) and my contract was never completed correctly. He said it could take a week to get working again. As you can imagine, I was furious. None of this was my fault and they would take a WEEK to sort it out?! I was so mad. I was cursing up a storm. Maybe that impressed the guy because today, 2 days later, my phone is working again! It pays to know enough Dutch to get mad at people in their own language. That feels good. 🙂

Anyway, back to the knitting, back to Ravolympics, and pack to the tv for a little RnR before hitting the bed, hard. DB and I are both beat from the work in the new house and the packing we do at night when we come home. Thank goodness we have friends and family helping us or we’d never be done in time.

When It Rains It Pours

You know we got the keys to our new house one week ago.  Since then we’ve been busy cleaning and hole filling and sanding and getting ready to paint the walls.  This house was built in the 30’s and has been renovated and changed over the years.   You think there won’t be surprises once the place is empty and you can see everything clearly, but how often are there really no surprises?

Wednesday DB discovered that we had no hot water anymore.  He had to call someone out to look at the boiler and 300 euros later it was working again.  Several parts had to be changed.  Shortly after that the front doorbell stopped working and we have to get someone to come look at the electrics.  Yesterday at the end of the day the weather turned very stormy with lots of lightening and thunder and torrential rains.  DB went up stairs to make sure there were no leaks and yelled down at me “Bring a bucket!”.  There was a big leak in the top floor “office” room and water was streaming down from the corner of the slanting roof section.  Good thing we had bought big buckets earlier that day!  DB then looked in the yellow pages to find someone to come look at the roof.  Someone is coming this morning first thing.  It’s supposed to keep raining for the next few days so we need to get it sorted out quickly.

We were doing really good with our moving budget.  We were about 1,000 euros UNDER budget.  Until this week.  Now I’m just hoping we don’t have to kick in a lot more money and I hope there won’t be any more surprises.

Painting starts in earnest on Saturday.  We have DB’s parents and 3 friends helping us so we should be able to get done in good time.  Then we have to oil the floors.  There will still be things to do after we move in, and to tackle in the next year (like painting the entryway which we aren’t doing now) but at least we need to get the main painting done and the floors done so we can move in on the 21st.  And pack everything up of course!