Monday, December 29, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
We like to use Rick Steves' Guide Books. His byline is "Experience the culture like a local - you'll spend less money and have more fun". The "less money" starts with the hotel. Kevin chose one of his cheap hotels. It was clean, functional, close to the metro and SMALL.
After checking in and freshening up a little we were off in search of food. My friend Andrea is from Milan and he gave me several recommendations, one of which was Luini's for panzerotti. It took a little effort to find but was well worth it! A panzerotti is a mini calzone that has been deep fried. I could eat 10 a day!
We then wandered past a statue of Leonardo de Vinci to the La Scalla opera house.
To get the opera tickets we had to put our name on a list at 3pm and then return at 5pm to find out if we were high enough on the list. I was hungry, again (this is an ongoing theme for the weekend) so we found a restaurant in the Galleria and had risotto and pasta. Followed by coffee (espresso and a cappucino) and dessert (tirimisu and gelati). The Galleria is a covered shopping mall with frescos on the walls and a mosaic tile floor.
After breakfast we toured the cathedral with Rick Steves. After touring the inside we took the elevator to the roof. Yes, you can also walk around on the roof. This cathedral is covered with statues and carvings. The roof is filled with them too.
Kevin in front of Sforza Castle.
Me outside the castle.
After seeing the castle we headed back to the hotel for a much needed nap. We had plans to meet Andrea and Francesca at 6:30 pm.
Andrea & Francesca picked us up at the hotel and we went for drinks before dinner. Dinner was at a traditional "Bolognese" restuarant. It was fantastic! Good food, good wine, good company and good conversation, what more can you ask for...
Sunday morning we had reservations to see the Last Supper at 9:30am. We grabbed a quick bite on the way there.
Church in which Leonardo's Last Supper is painted.
You are only allowed to spend 15 minutes in the room of the Last Supper, this is to control traffic and humidity, as it is deteroirating. It is painted on a wall of what used to be the dining room of the Convent.
Me outside the church.
After seeing the Last Supper we went in search of more food. After another quick bite we wandered back to the Duomo Piazza and wandered through the highend shopping streets. Along the way we stopped in the Peck Deli (very posh) to buy treats for Courtenay & Brian. We were shocked by the price of coffee beans in this place. 30 - 500 Euros for 1 kilo! The wine cellar was pretty spectacular too.
By this time we had seen most of what Rick Steves' recommended. I think a weekend is enough to see the city, maybe not eat all of its food but at least see the city. We tried to tour the Duomo Museum, however it looked to still be under construction. So we headed to the outskirts, via Metro, to see a replica of a bronze horse that Leonardo built.
Me in front of the "Horse". Leonardo's was used as target practice by French soliders. This one is a replica built by an American.
It was time to head back to the hotel to pick up our bags and head to the train station, to catch the bus to the airport.
We will definately be back to Italy!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
- Our joyous ABN Ambro experiences are not unique! Thank goodness it isn't just us.
- No one picks up their dog shit. It is everywhere and I think we all get looked at like we are weird for picking up ours
- You can be ticketed for not having your dog registered (and it is expensive to register them)!
- You can also be ticketed for not having a poo bag on you while walking your dog, if you use the one you had and see an "enforcer" (which is likely at either Beatrix or Vondelpark) and do not have a spare you can be ticketed.
- Dog food costs 67 euros for the same brand and size we would buy in the US for 28 dollars!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
I worked from home on Monday, as our second Dutch (Nederlands) lesson was at 4 and it would kill my day if I went back and forth to Hilversum. I am really going to have to study this week as we learned enough new words that I will forget all of them without it.
Before our lesson Kevin had hooked up the bike trailer (which has proven to be very handy pre-baby) and went out to by a fake tree. I am allergic to Douglas Fir trees and we didn't want to risk a live one here while I couldn't take any good drugs.
When we got home from our lesson and after we had eaten, we listened to christmas music, drank hot chocolate and decorated the tree.
Of the many conversation topics we covered on Sunday, one of then was cheap tickets and where to find them. I had Kristen refresh my memory today and then started shopping, just to see what was out there… Wouldn’t you know I came across 2 tickets to Prague for 200 Euros, round trip! I quickly sent Kevin a text to confirm the dates and then booked the flights. We are headed to Milan on Dec 19 – Dec 21st (I was supposed to go to Bologna for work and Kevin was going to fly in and out of Milan to meet me there. My trip got canceled so we moved his flights and added one for me). We then go to Prague Jan 3 – Jan 6th. I am very excited. Now we just need to find someone to take care of the dogs for those days!
I have felt like crap all day, the best way to describe it is that I feel pregnant. I know, I am 6 months along ….but most days I don’t feel pregnant, today I did. Big, bloated, achy and gassy…I was going to try to leave work a little early but missed my train so I got home around 6. Kevin was at the grocery store with the dogs so I surfed the internet for a while, waiting for him to get home. While I was waiting, TNT Post (the mail) delivered a package from our insurance company (they have yet to get us our cards but can send us box filled with something…). I waited for Kevin to get home to open it as I suspected what was in it. Home births are so common here that the insurance companies send you a box of most of the things that you need to have one. It was filled with all sorts of absorbent products that I think are meant for me… Now some of you already know, I am in denial about this whole thing. I am due on March 10th and I am denial about everything that will happen after March 9th, the labor, the delivery, not to mention the fact that we will have a new life for which we are responsible. The package from the insurance company made it a little more real. I think I will shove it all back in the box and hide it in the baby's room.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Win a Free Organic Embroidered Ergo Baby Carrier Hands Free System from Along for the Ride
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
The moving trucks... Yes it is all coming in the window.
Friday evening we decided to make another, rather major, trip to Ikea. This time for a closet/wardrobe set up for our bedroom and more baby room stuff. Kevin is building a changing table/drawer/closet setup and we can never get all of the pieces we need at the same time. We had 2 of the "flat pack" carts filled, thank goodness they deliver and carry all of the boxes up the stairs. I am not much help when it comes to carrying things.
Saturday was spent assembling Ikea furniture.
Monday Dec 1 was our first Dutch lesson with Berlitz. Kevin and I are in a semi-private lesson with just the two of us. Now most people know we are both pretty competitive, especially with each other...so this should be entertaining. It didn't take long before Kevin was showing off his advanced vocaulary and grammer while I was struggling with the basic introductions.
On Tuesday, Dec 2, I had to get up at 5:30...making a pregnant woman get up that early is just plain evil! I had to go to Laakdal for an all day meeting and I needed to catch the tram at 6:30 so I could be at Central Station to meet Tony at 7. Needless to say I slept for the first hour of the drive and went to bed as soon as I got home.
Today I came home to a quiet apartment. Kevin and the dogs were no where to be found, however there was suprise on the end table...a T-Mobile iPhone bag! It could mean only one thing...Kevin had gotten me an iPhone, bless his heart. He came home about 20 minutes later, with the dogs, later from the grocery store. He was in a pretty crappy mood as he had spent more time dealing with our favorite bank, ABN AMRO, and his sim card on his iPhone is locked...and he can't find the PIN. Which means he has to go back to the T-mobile store. It is actually a good thing he can't work yet as if we were both working we wouldn't be able to get any of this done.
Yes, 2 months later we still don't have internet banking. The latest dilemna is that you need this little nifty maching (called an e.dentifer) to log in to internet banking. We finally have one, however to use it you have to download the software. Here is the catch, to download the software you need to log in to the internet banking... Kevin has found one branch that actually provides some semblance of service, even with that it has taken weeks to make any progress. With all of the other branches you have to wait in line for an hour before they tell you to call the telephone bankning number, which charges you .10 a minute...even while on hold. ERRGH.
Kevin also met an American woman who is going to watch the dogs when we go away on the weekends (if we can ever get settled enough to get away). He met Denessa at Vondelpark with the dogs. He didn't want to walk (it is only 15 minutes) so he hooked the bike trailer up to his bike and then tied the dogs' leashes to the handle. I can only imagine the sight this was. Maggie lagging behind, not wanting to get too close to the wheels with her ears back (in her "I am not happy" posture), while Duke was trying to heel. Duke was heeling next to Kevin, while tied to the back of the trailer, which meant he was very happy yet choking himself. We have to figure out a better leash management system if Kevin is going to try this again! Once at the park a little boy came up to him and said something in dutch. Kevin told him he didn't speak dutch and asked if he spoke english (all in dutch). The boy answered in English "I speak dutch". He then asked if he could touch the dogs. Duke was pretty reserved at first, meaning he was only licking the boys arm...however Kevin saw what was about to happen next...yup, full tongue lick...from chin to forehead.
Saturday we are headed to Cologne with Kristen. We have been told Cologne has the Christmas market of all Christmas markets, and a cathedral that Kevin HAS to see.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Saturday it hailed and snowed most of the day. It was too warm to "stick", but fun to watch from the window.
It was freezing on Sunday and snowed all day, this time actually sticking.
I think we are now back to the normal gray skies with rain.
It is 8:48 and we are awaiting the arrival of our container. They were supposed to arrive between 8:00 and 8:30. At 10 the "temporary furniture" people are coming to get the temporary furniture. We have had to do a little shuffling so that they will be able to bring our stuff in, through the window, and then later be able to get the temp furniture out. I will take pictures as this should be entertaining.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Today it was a great little ride to the train in the morning. However on my way home it was POURING. I had to assume the "riding in the rain" stance, you know....leaning forward a little, head cocked sideways, forehead down and one eye closed....as the rain does not come straight down here...since it is so flat the wind can really get some speed...causing the rain to come sideways.
By the time I got home (keep in mind it was less then 5 minutes), my head was soaked, my forehead was freezing, my coat was drenched and I think I looked a little like a drowned rat.. or at least that is what I felt like. It must have been pretty bad as Kevin got me a towel out of the bathroom before I even had my coat off and was very insistent that I put on warm dry clothes (not that I had any other plans). To give you some idea of the wetness...my hair was as wet as if I had just climbed out of the shower.
Even with the rain (and the whether seems to change on a dime) I still like riding my bike to the train!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
This weekend started out pretty slow. We found one of the Retzlaff boys on Skype so we chatted with him for a while. He is currently in Australia, to be joined by Sara and the girls this summer. Expats talking to Expats via Skype...
Kevin and I picked up the apartment a little then he headed to the video store and liquor store while I took the dogs out for a walk. I was hungry as soon as I shut the door and it only got worse. The dogs' walk got cut short as I was soon nauseous and then cold and clammy not long after. Holy crap the hunger comes on fast! Once home I didn't stop to take the leashes off of the dogs as I quickly made a sandwich. Cannibalisim was avoided yet again.
Kevin was back by then and then headed out to meet his first dog walking client while I headed to the grocery store. Today was to be my first baking experience in Amsterdam. I planned to make apricot bars but needed a couple more things, a "9x9"-ish pan and a mixing bowl.
Once home, I realized i had forgotten the mixing bowl. My feet already hurt so there was no way I was going back..time to make due...with a stock pot! It worked, the sides weren't quite high enough but it was better then the alternative! My only challenge (the receipe was in US measurements and Kristin loaned me a set of measuring cups/spoons) was with the butter. I needed 1.5 sticks ~ 3/4 of a cup. The butter that I found here was marked with 50 mg increments...how in the hell was I to convert that? I winged it and so far the bars look like they turned out. We can verify the taste in about an hour :)
Kevin came home with a dog walking gig...he has had a lot more interest in his dog walking posts then in his math tutor posts...his master's degree has really come in handy :)
We are going to An & Steven's for dinner. They recently moved in to their house in Utrect. Tomorrow we are going to a MeetIn event to see Sinterklass' arrival in Amsterdam.
Sinterklass is a Spanish saint who comes to the Netherlands every year on Nov 14th (by steamboat) and then to Amsterdam on the 15th, with his Zwartepete in tow, on a white horse. You will need to read all of the details on Wikipedia as I won't do it justice and may start to make fun of it and its racial undertones...
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Ok, so the Amazon.co.uk baby wish list is not working. Evidently Amazon.co.uk will not ship baby product outside of the UK. Barry & Josh thank you for being so patient.
Next thought...I found a cool dutch website www.babydump.nl. It has a huge selection, the one downside is that it is in dutch. This is where trusty Google comes in, Google has a translator www.translate.google.com. You can either have it translate text or an entire website. There are a couple of downsides, as you go clicking through the site you will sometimes lose the translation, so if you "back" button until you get your translation again it usually works. It may take a couple of tries, be patient. When it comes time to check out you have to be in the actual site and will need to copy/paste text to translate.google.com to make it through checkout.
If this is all too much of a pain in the ass (which we would understand), I think books are cheap to ship from the US (use USPS rather then UPS, DHL or Fedex -- as USPS is much cheaper --- by about 100 to 200 bucks).
Or...we have a paypal account and you could send "gift certificates" and tell us what you want us to buy with it.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I used our GPS for the trip to Laakdal (the DC). When I got in the car, I plugged it in and dialed up the Zuid (ours) train station as I needed to pick my boss up at 7am. Now I know how to get there on foot and on bike, I figured by car it would be a little more difficult. I had learned from the night before that you couldn't trust our GPS blindly as it sent us down a one way street, the wrong way. The GPS had also sent us down little streets between apartments, rather then main roads. We just thought that it was the GPS. The story gets better (longer but better). I made it to the train station, got my boss and dialed in the address for Laakdal. Well the GPS wouldn't stop "drawing" and then said we were "walking on the A10" when we were actually under it. I decided to circle the block to see if it would figure it out and start giving us directions to the on ramp of the highway. No luck. Starting to get frustrated, and slightly embarssed, I pull out my blackberry and look up the directions on Google Maps. Gotta love google! It gave us directions (which were only a little challenging to follow while driving, I tried to get my boss to be navigator but he didn't take the hint very well :). It took another 15 minutes but we finally makde it on to the highway, headed to Utreect > Antwerp and then Laakdal! For the entire drive the GPS continued to try to get me off of the highway, tell me to make u-turns (on the freeway, with out using the on/exit ramps) and take immediate lefts when in the left lane of the highway/freeway. I finally turned the sound off so I wouldn't have to listen to it. I was getting kind of mad at "kevin's" gps and already plotting how to tell him I was buying a TomTom.
Once at Laakdal (3.5 hours later due to a delayed start and traffic) I emailed kevin and complained about "kevin's" gps. He said it was probably still in Pedestrian mode. Pedeistrian Mode! No wonder its "Arrival Time" was so drastically off (it said I would arrive around 8:30 pm, right up until I was in the parking lot).
When I got ready to leave for the day I took the GPS off of pedestrian mode and it worked perfectly! Traffic was terrible, immediately out of Laakdal. It took me an hour to go 6 km. I had smooth sailing, once I made it through the first 6 km.
All in all, a long day!
Since we had the car, we made a trip to Ikea on Tuesday night to pick up a couple of rugs (for living room, hall and baby's room) and a storage structure for the baby's room. Kevin should have fun assembling things for the next couple of days.
Our baby stroller arrived yesterday as well. Thank you Barry! I think I have it figured out how to run it (collapse, reconfigure, etc). I will have to practice a couple more times before the little guy actually arrives :)
It is 8:40pm and I am going to bed!
One more thing, very dana.
Last night as Kevin was shuttling Ikea items inside I took the dogs out for "final pee" and proceeded to leave our keys in our apartmetn door and then shut (and lock) the outside door. It was 9:30pm and neither Kevin or I had keys. (we have 3 sets).
I proceeded to buzz our 2 upstairs neighbors. "Petra" (who I haven't met yet) finally answered (it was almost 10) and let me in. Man do i feel stupid. Somehow I dont' think this will be the last time I do this. Time to figure out how to hide a couple of "hide a keys" and make Petra "thank you cookies". Maybe this weekend.
Kevin met Petra this morning, she was more forgiving today then she had sounded yesterday.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Saturday night I was able to talk to my aunt, dad, grandma and kevin's sister on Skype. I love technology! With Kevin's new computer we have a great camera (gotta love a mac), so everyone got to see live video of my belly and I was able to see Mary Ellen and Elaine. I think I have Grandma and Dad convinced to get cameras. While on the "phone" with my dad, Lorena "called" to say they were watching 100 elk in their front yard.
After staying up too late on Saturday we were late getting up on Sunday. Alexander met us at our apartment at 9 to take us on a bike tour of Amsterdam. We went early enough that most of the city was still asleep and we had the streets to ourselves. Which was a good thing as we spent a lot of time looking up at buildings (each is different and has its own personality). This city is deceivingly small, if you look at Amsterdam on a map you think it is much larger then it really is, however you get can from one end to the other in about 20 minutes (accounting for no straight routes). I recognized where we were most of the time but was disoriented in how we got there and which direction we were facing. It is a good thing we will have more time to explore the city as I think we have only just scratched the surface.
We got home around 1 and I took a much needed nap from 2:30 to 4:30.