29 May 2013

Northern European Weather Sucks

There's really no other way to put it.  It's the end of May and it's currently 49F (10C) and raining.  It should be in the 70s (20s).  Last week, the coldest 24 May was recorded (since record keeping began in 1833).  It was only 47.7F (8.7C).  The previous low was set in 1839. There are many wonderful things about living here but the weather is not one of them!

26 May 2013

Cheese for Breakfast - Sundays in My City

I was so happy that my favorite cheese shop was just opening when I arrived in Amsterdam last Sunday.

Waiting for the train early in the morning.
The streets of Amsterdam are very quiet on Sunday mornings.

The smoked goat cheese is my favorite!

Yes, I tried them all.  I've tried them all every time I've been there.  I try each of them more than once when I visit.  Hey, you have to if you want to make a breakfast out of little samples of cheese!  And yes, they're all good! As are the mustards.
Once full on cheese I started making my way along the canals to my next stop.

My 2nd breakfast. I had planned to go to a bakery mentioned by A Hippie in Holland but it wasn't open (closed on Sundays).  That's okay. I found another one. The icing on this carrot cake was far to sweet for me but it was still good.  And they were perfectly happy to put my coffee in my own cup.

After my 2nd breakfast I continued along the Keizersgracht.
I had 3 photography exhibits to see. The first at the Huis Marseille. I hadn't been to Huis Marseille yet so I was interested to check it out. Wish I had made it there sooner.

Next stop, FOAM.  I've been there a few times already and every time it is something completely and utterly different from before.
Last stop, World Press Photo. I've been there every year since I've been here plus the Czech Press version in Prague.  Every year it's an amazing collection of photographs although many of them are very difficult to look at.  Every year I've had to wait in line to get in but this year I finally got to wait in sunshine instead of rain!
There are no lines to wait in over at Unknown Mami and you can visit all kinds of places there!

Unknown Mami

24 May 2013

the. book. chat {War/Historical Novels}

As usual, I'm linking up with Jessica at Sweet Green Tangerine for this week's book chat.  This week's topic is War/Historical novels.  I read a lot of non-fiction but not so many novels.  I read The Book Thief and Les Miserables is one of my favorite books.  I've read a lot of books written by former child soldiers in different parts of Africa.  But there are two books about war that have influenced how I live my life.


The book that always comes to mind first whenever War or History are mentioned is The Diary of Anne Frank.  It is, of course, a classic that almost all of us read in school.  I've been to the Anne Frank house several times.  There are a couple quotes from the book (among many brilliant insights from such a young girl) that have always stayed with me. "... I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart."  This is the reason why I don't lock doors (Dutch doors are always locked so don't think you can come take my stuff!).  This is the reason why I'm not afraid to walk alone.  Because the vast majority of people are good at heart.  I refuse to live my life in fear of the few who are not.

 "Whoever is happy will make others happy, too." I've lived with the poorest of the poor in Ghana, visited women living in bombed out buildings with no running water in Afghanistan.  And in those people I've seen happiness and generosity far beyond what you'd expect in such circumstances.  They welcomed me with smiles and gave me gifts.  As if I was deserving of what they had. 

Another powerful female writer, Ama Adhe, wrote a book called The Voice that Remembers.  Ama is a Tibetan who was imprisoned and tortured for 27 years by the Chineese for resisting their occupation of her homeland.  
Her tenacious struggle to remain human in the face of inhuman torture and deprivation while imprisoned by the Chinese for 27 years inspires any reader fortunate enough to encounter this remarkable woman's story.- Goodreads

One of the things she said that stands out most to me is, “Although the world is a bigger place than I had dreamed, it is not so large that all its inhabitants are not somehow connected.”  We do not live in bubbles.  Everything we do or choose not to do, especially as a society, has an impact on the people and the world around us.  We'd be wise to remember that.

What about you? What are some of your favorite war/historical books?  Any that have had a lasting impact?

18 May 2013

If At First You Don't Succeed - Sundays in My City

Take a day off work and try again.  I've been called stubborn and hard-headed. I prefer to use words like determined or dedicated :)  As soon as it was clear that we were not going to make it to the flower fields last weekend I was figuring out how I could get back there before the blooms were cut.  The flowers grown here (the large majority) are not grown to be cut as flowers; they're grown for bulb production.  So the blooms are cut off and the bulbs are harvested.  I knew there were probably only a few days left since the Keukenhof closes this weekend.

So, the other day I took the almost-3-hr train ride back north, rented a very crappy bike (from a different place closer to the fields), tucked my camera bulkily into my coat and rode in the cold and the rain to see the fields. Many of them had been cut but there were a few left.

I imagined this

I got this
Notice the two very different sizes of blooms.

A few bulbs get missed by the cutting machine.
Or more than a few.

The cutting.
Although not as colorful as the tulips, the hyacinths smell amazing. Especially in the damp air. You can see the raindrops in the water.

Some of the most colorful fields couldn't be reached without climbing a fence and trespassing (not that I'm opposed to such actions but I did not engage on this particular outing).

I did not see any giant piles of cut blooms and I'm not sure why.  My Mom remembers seeing the fields full of blooms one day and then the giant piles of red and yellow and orange tulip heads the next.  Maybe they have new machines (hmmm, machinery advances in 20-something years?) that don't leave the big piles?  I was actually looking forward to it.  Anyway, it might not have been the outing I had envisioned but I can say I rode a bike through the tulip fields...how much more Dutch can you get?

Unknown Mami

the. book. chat {Book Shelves}

I. Love. Books.  

This week's book chat is about book shelves.  As usual, I'm linking up with Jessica at Sweet Green Tangerine for the book chat.


I put most of my books into storage when I moved here because I simply had no idea what kind of space I'd be moving to and I didn't want to end up with a bunch of stuff and nowhere to put it.  Plus, I don't keep every single book I've ever read like I used to anymore (they go up on paperbackswap.com now) so my current book shelf is a little sparse.

Hey Mom...I'm in need of a Flyers Potato Head!
I don't have (do...I don't know what the correct verb is) Pinterest so I don't have pictures of dream book shelves. I do know that when I build my little eco-house (with the gray-water system and the solar panels) on my little homestead there will be a room dedicated to books.  I can picture it in my head.  There will be comfy places to sit and lots of natural light (through reclaimed windows, of course) and the walls will be lined with books (on shelves made from reclaimed wood, of course). It doesn't have to be a very large room but it does have to exist.

12 May 2013

Keukenhof - Sundays In My City

In a previous post I wrote about how bicycles are as ubiquitous to the Netherlands as windmills and tulips.  Yesterday was all about tulips.  The plan was to take the train up north and bicycle around the tulip fields (passing a few windmills along the way...how much more Dutch can you get?!?!).

The friend who went with me was, let's just say, not exactly prepared.  The weather was a bit ominous with dark clouds and serious threats of rain.  My friend did not have rain gear. So when we arrived we first had to walk into town to get her some.  And a sweater because she didn't dress warmly enough.  When we finally got the bikes she informed me that she hadn't been on a bike in years.  Uh oh.

Most of the Netherlands is extremely flat so it is very easy to bike.  Well, easy for most of us.  Within minutes I was told to stop riding like speedy gonzalez.  I was barely pedaling.  In fact, at one point the wind was strong enough to push me without any pedaling and she still couldn't keep up.  I am by no means a fast rider!  About 20 minutes into the ride she was crying that her butt hurt.  She looked miserable. I felt bad for her but I was also annoyed (really, why say you want to go on a day-long biking excursion if you can't ride a bike?). We didn't make it to the fields. 

Instead, we went back and got a bus to the Keukenhof.  The Keukenhof is the world's largest flower garden.  There are approximately 7,000,000 (seven million!) bulbs planted there and it has over 15km of foot paths.  It's only open a couple months each spring when the flowers are in bloom.  It's impossible to really capture the grand scale of the place but here are a few (I literally took over 200 pictures and it was really hard to pick which ones to post but I assure you this is only a few!) pictures to try and give you an idea of the different flowers and colors. It is amazingly beautiful there!

Stroll on over to Unknown Mami to see what's going on in other parts of the world.

Unknown Mami