Morgan Smiles

Just got new photos of my little niece Morgan who was born in May. She has just started to smile and I can’t resist sharing her photos with you…

Look at that face!
Little Girl Feet (Hallie & Morgan’s)
If Morgan were a piece of chocolate, I would eat her all up because she is just too cute!
Sisters

Sunday! It’s the new Saturday!

OK, normally Mondays definitely do NOT rock. But in August they DO! Why? I have taken a month of Mondays off from work. 4 weeks of 4-day weeks! Sweet! Sunday…it’s the new Saturday!

What do I plan to do:

sleep
hang with my sister
hang with superette (when they get back)
go to the beach
ride my bike
visit Steph in NY (Hi Steph, you don’t know this yet, but I am coming for a visit in August!)
Hit the MFA
Go to a matinee
Pedicures!
read by the river
Stay up late on Sunday nights

What I will not be doing:

Calling the office
checking my email
blogging (well….maybe)
watching Oprah
cleaning the house (it’s my vacation for goodness sake!)
laundry
keeping an eye on Mus

only about 2 more weeks of vacation that I have to spend before Dec 31 (I get a whopping 37 days this year). Any suggestions?

Shocking Statistics!

You won’t believe these statistics! I mean… who would ever even THINK about engaging in these kinds of activities???

From http://www.computer-monitoring.com/

• Non-work related Internet surfing results in up to a 40% loss in productivity each year at American businesses.- Gartner Group (Umm, compared to what? Compared to productivity pre-internet? Come on, no way).

• 85.6% of employees use office email for personal reasons.- NFO Worldwide (who are the the other 14.4%? I feel sorry for them. They must be orphans)

• 70% of all web traffic to Internet pornography sites occurs during the work hours of 9am-5pm.- Sex Tracker (well, it’s always “work hours” in at least one time zone at any given moment)

• 92% of online stock trading occurs from the workplace during work hours. (that sounds like work to me)

• 64% of employees have received politically incorrect or offensive emails at work.- Business Week (I meant to talk to you about that Ashbloem. Please stop it.)

• 30% of American workers watch sports online while at work. (Is it MY fault that Wimbledon takes place during the day?? Those tennis players should play at more convenient times)

• 24% of American workers admit to shopping online while at work. (I swear I only buy shoes at Zappos.com during my lunch break!)

• 30 to 40% of Internet use in the workplace is not related to business.- IDC Research (Define “business”. Having pretty shoes definitely is related to business in my book)

• 37% of workers say they surf the Web constantly at work.- Vault.com (Really? Are you sure it isn’t more than that? Go check again)

• 77.7% of major U.S. companies keep tabs on employees by checking their e-mail, Internet, phone calls, computer files, or by videotaping them at work.- American Management Association (uh-oh.)

• 63% of companies monitor workers’ Internet connections and 47% store and review employee e-mail.- American Management Association (The AMA clearly can’t make up their mind. See previous statistic)

Dear Mus Musculus

Dear Mus Musculus,

I can see how my kitchen might be such an inviting place. It’s warm and cozy and I admit to not being as careful as I should about crumbs that fall into corners and under appliances. Surely you smelled the fallen sesame seed from that bagel I had the other day and just could not deny yourself the pleasure of a good meal. I cannot blame you for this. But now that you have had your fill, it’s time to go. You have over-stayed your welcome.

Certainly there are other kitchens in my building that pose more attractive buffets for you to gnaw on? Can you not go pay them a visit? I think it is only fair to grace them with your presence. You might find a veritable smorgasbord of delights waiting for you. Go on now, go and see what else is out there. You owe it to yourself. Your life is oh so short, you cannot waste this opportunity.

Maybe my kind neighbors would even think you’re cute and loveable and make you their pet. They would make you a little cage with a spinning wheel and feed you every day. Imagine that! Food served to you, not foraged, every single day! Go on now, go ask and see if they will adopt you. They just might. But I will not.

I don’t mean to offend, dear Mus, but I must tell you that I find your presence is odious and impolite. I have been clear now about my true feelings; I will not make you my pet and feed you every day so you should pack your thinks immediately and take flight. O yes, I know you will look fondly back at those few moments we had together when I chased you around my kitchen. I am sure it was great fun for you. But the fun has come to an end and you should pack your things.

Goodbye Mus. Happy trails.

Terra

Posted in WTF

And so it is…just like you said it would be…

So, this will likely be my final posting about the recent jaunt to Amsterdam.

On our last night, Tom, Karen, Ashbloem and I (and later Anita) gathered at and old favorite restaurant in the Jordaan called Burger Patio (which has neither burgers nor a patio as far as I can recall). But the atmosphere is lively and the food is delicious. I even had herring AGAIN, which is simply incredible considering it was something I avoided like the plague when I lived there.

Tom’s dessert was taking too long, so Ashbloem left to meet our friends gathering at a local pub called Cafe Thijssen which is named after famous Dutch scholar/teacher Theo Thijssen (1879-1943). [Side note: the pub’s website has a chat room on it. How bizarre!] Since the bill was taking even longer to arrive, I followed shortly after Ashbloem. Stupid me, I thought I would take a quick ride past my old apartment which was just around the corner from the pub. BIG MISTAKE.

I rode past it twice, noticing the belongings of the current inhabitants in my big gorgeous windows. And suddenly I was so MAD. That is my house! Those strangers should be thrown out into the streets and I should walk up that pokey little stairwell and into my old home with the horrible brown carpet and silly kitchenette. I almost rang the bell to see if they would give me a tour, but thankfully had enough clarity of mind to know that this would probably be received as a strange request. I can see now how that conversation would have gone:

Crazy American Girl: Goed Avond. (sniff sniff)
Normal lovely Dutch Couple: Ja?
CAG: Umm, (wiping eyes with sleeve) spreken jullie engels?*
NLDC: Naturlijke
CAG: IusedtolivehereandwantedtoseeifIcouldcomeupandsayhellotomyoldapartment.
NLDC: Vat?

CAG: It will just take a moment. I promise. (sobbing now) Please?
NLDC: Nee. Het is niet mogelijk. You are a crazy American girl. (Slam door)

* Apologies to all my Dutch friends for butchering your lovely language.

I looked for the cats that used to roam and chase things on the deck of the houseboat opposite the flat. I looked to see if the other houseboat was still empty (it is). I was astounded by the renovations that are now complete (that had just been started when I left) in the row houses across the other side of the canal. They look amazing. Each now has a small little deck overlooking the Lijnbaansgracht.

I got back on my bicycle, wiping tears from my eyes. These were stubborn tears that just would not stop throughout the rest of the night, even as I sat happily surrounded by so many good people, my old friends.

It was just a surprise. I have been back to Amsterdam before since leaving, and even stayed in my old neighborhood. I didn’t expect this time to still feel such a loss. But there it was.

I left early the next morning in a taxi for Schiphol (thankfully having discovered at the last moment that my flight was actually departing 3 hours before I thought it was!). The rain came down hard, and the clouds were dark.

Here are some photos from the last parts of the trip. To see complete photos visit Ashbloem’s flickr site or my online photo album.

First, a few photos from Tuesday night’s gathering at Weber:

Karen and Ashlee

Rene and Me

Ashlee, Tom, Petter

Me and GJ

(who is incapable of making a normal face when a camera is pointed in his general direction)

Our last night:

At Cafe Thijssen:


Andreas, Ashlee, Sara

Who knew the Dutch were so fond of Italianesque gesticulation?

Karen and Pam

Rene and Pam

Anita and Rene

Ashlee, Karen, Anita

Pam, Ashlee and Tom

The final shot of me and Ashbloem. Can you tell we’ve shed a few tears?

Polders

Well, Ashbloem and I are back. I am trying to be happy about it. But before we get to the present, I have a few things to update from the trip, starting with the day trip Matthijs and I took down to De Hoge Veluwe National Park and the Kruller-Moller Museum.

According to the park’s website:

National Park De Hoge Veluwe is one of the Netherlands’ oldest and largest national parks. It consists of no less than 5,500 hectares of woodland, heathland, lakes and driftsand. Together with the Kroller-Muller Museum and the sculpture garden it offers a unique combination of nature, art and architecture.

The highlight was definitely the museum, even though part of it was closed for renovations. The museum houses Helene Kruller-Moller’s extensive personal art collection which she cultivated over a number of years. There is an exhibition of her favorites, and it was very interesting to see how her appreciation of art changed as she grew older became more involved in art collecting. It seems as though she started with classics like Van Gogh and Renoir, but then later moved into very modern pieces by Picasso, Mondriaan, and many others (some pretty wacky stuff, but then again, I am not a huge modern art fan).

The museum also has an extensive sculpture garden, and from my previous trip to Europe in May you all know how much I love sculpture gardens. The museum website says:

These were the first sculpture gardens in Europe, designed in the 1950s to showcase the museum’s collection. With shrubbery as walls and the sky as ceiling, the visitor mingles with the works of Rodin, Bourdelle, Lipchitz, Maillol and Wotruba, where each human figure in the collection expresses an emotion.

Here are some shots of the park:

The park also has this crazy “white enamel garden” that was rather surreal:

After having our fill of art, Matthijs had a great idea to take a drive up through Hardewijk across the polders to Lelystad and over the man-made dike that crosses the IJsselmeer to the picturesque town of Enkhuizen. For those of you not familiar with Dutch geography, here is a little map of our journey:

In my four years living in Holland, I had never taken this journey and thought it was fantastic driving on this little mound of land across this lake-like shallow body of water. The clouds were hanging particularly low, as typical in Holland, and there was even a rainbow from the recent rain showers. I had also never visited Enkhuizen. It was so lovely and small that I just wanted to eat it all up. There was this incredible park/garden, the Snouck van Loosen Park, with these amazing houses built in the park in the early 1900s. It looked like a miniature Eden with ponds and ducks and even little green houses for the ducks. Alas, none of the homes appeared to be for sale. Not that I could even fathom what it would be like to live amidst such peaceful perfection. Proving that there is a blog for just about EVERYTHING, I found one that specializes on the Snouck van Loosen Park! http://snouckvanloosen.blogspot.com

Here we are driving through the polders:

Driving across the IJsselmeer, notice the dramatic clouds:

Perfect little Enkhuizen. Even the sun came out as we arrived:

I couldn’t help but furtively snap this shot of Matthijs who never lets me take his picture.

The entrance to the garden of Eden:


The sun shone again brilliantly as we drove back to Amsterdam:

Tomorrow I will bring out more fun bar pictures and stories from our last nights in Amsterdam… that’s certainly enough for today.

Dark and Dreary

The weather has turned dark and dreary, similar to my mood…. tomorrow we fly back to Boston and I am sad to leave. Predictably, this week has flown by in a whirwind of vlaamse friets, biertjes, and biking along the canals.

Two days ag0 (Tuesday?) I got to visit with Ulrika and her two adorable kids, Samuel and Tilda. We went to the sand box in the Vondelpark and had ourselves a good ole time, except for Tilda who is suffering from the chicken pox. Oh and also except for the crazy Oma (grandmother) who kept yelling at her grandson at every turn. Well, when he hit Samuel over the head with a shovel for no apparent reason maybe he did deserve it. But I felt bad for the little boy anyway.

It is amazing to see Ulrika as a mommy… she was often my drinking buddy (and her husband as well) while I lived here and when I left was only just pregnant with her first… and now she has TWO! Here are a few photos from playing in the sand…




Afterwards Ashbloem and I met up wtih Tom for some lunch and a few beers. It was great just to sit in the sun and take it easy. Later that day Tom was hit on his bike by a guy on a scooter who wasn’t paying attention. Thankfully he was just bumped and bruised… still well enough to meet up later for drinks.


I will have to post other photos, including my day trip yesterday with Matthijs to the Kruller-Moller museum and Enkhuizen later. I don’t want to spend the entire last day here sitting in front of the computer blogging away…..

Canal Adventures Continue

Asbloem and I met up in the Center today to do a little shopping and relax by the canals with a beer. Since all our friends apparently have to actually WORK (bah! can you believe that??) we made do with just each other as company. And I definitely can’t complain when I have Ashbloem for company. She’s a laugh-riot, as many of you well know.

I got to make my annual pilgrimage to jewelry boutique Biche de Bere (sorry, the designer doesn’t appear to have a website to link to) and bought a fantastic silver necklace. Those of you who know me know that I am crazy for artistic silver necklaces and try to stop by and make a purchase whenever I am in town. I am crazy, JUST CRAZY, for their jewelry.

We went to de Jaren and had a perfect table in the perfect sun alongside a perfect canal. We shopped some more and just wandered about more or less aimlessly enjoying the day and the familiar sights. Ash seems a little down, but she just may be tired. I tried to cheer her up by snapping silly photos in the ladies room at de Jaren.

Did I mention that I tried herring for the first time ever the other day? I lived here for FOUR years and refused repeatedly to try raw pickled herring from any of the million stands that line the streets of Amsterdam. But on Thursday, I don’t know, I just gave in. And guess what… It was horrible and I was right not to try it all along!!! Just kidding. It actually wasn’t bad. Kind of salty but buttery all at the same time. I’d try it again.

Here is evidence that today took place:

Me by the perfect canal looking vaguely smug because I am on vacation after all. I should point out that I am wearing an older Biche de Bere necklace bought on my last trip to Amsterdam.

Ashbloem makes a cuter smug face than I do for sure

Gettin’ silly in the Ladies room. Hey, we had to pay to be in there so why not make the most of it?

More ladies room hysterics. Aren’t you hysterical just seeing these pictures? No? What’s wrong with you? That is pure comedy.

Finally, here is the shot of my new Biche de Bere. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it and if you don’t, too bad. Can you see how tired I look? I am exhausted. I am going to need a vacation from my vacation!!

I have no pictures of me trying the herring. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it actually happened.

A few pics

We’re having lots of fun!! So far the trend seems to be: sleep until noon (or later), eat, drink, stay out till 4am, sleep until noon. Rock stars! haha. Last night we had dinner at Het Heland (or something like that) and then met up with a ton of friends at “Werck”(translation: Work). This bar used to be a crappy Caribbean restaurant which has been transformed into a restaurant/club that is actually pretty cool. The DJ was spinning lots of 80’s classics, even I was convinced to do a little dancing (shocking, I know).

Here above we have Sara and Ulrika– our favorite Swedish Mammas.

Ashlee at “Work” (that was the name of the club)

Tom
Ladies in Blue: Ashlee and Mirelle
Johan and Ashlee at Duvel in de Pijp

Quick Update

Last night was the U2 concert and it rocked! Ashlee and I had a blast, even though we had to stand on our tippy-toes trying to see over the 10,000 or so Dutch giants standing in front of us.

The opening acts were the Killers and Snow Patrol. What is strange about the Amsterdam Arena is that is has a glass retractable roof. Since the sun doesn’t go down until very late this far north, when U2 started up after 9pm it was still light inside the stadium. The other strange thing is that I forgot that you can still smoke everywhere in Holland– including at concerts. It was tremendously smokey… so much so that it looked like there was a fog machine perpetually running on stage!

I stupidly followed the rules printed on my ticket which said I should not bring my camera. Of course I see when I get there that everyone and their mother has either a digital camera or camera phone. Dammit!! Oh well, the images in this post are borrowed from U2.com.

They played many of my favorites and of course the popular classics but also a few lesser-known oldies. I wish they had played more from their last album, like Walk On or In a Little While. I guess I have so many favorite songs that it would be impossible for them to play all of them in a 2 hour set. Bono and The Edge did a fantastic acoustic rendtition of Desire the last time I saw them, I wish they had done something similar this time around.

Here is the playlist as reported by U2.com:

15.07.2005
Out of Control Again in Holland

Vertigo
Out of Control
Electric Co.
Elevation
New Year’s Day
Beautiful Day
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
City of Blinding Lights
Miracle Drug
Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
Love and Peace
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bullet The Blue Sky
Running to Standstill
Pride In the Name of Love
Where the Streets Have No Name
One
Zoo Station
The Fly
With or Without You
All Because of You
Yahweh
Vertigo

I think my favorites were Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own and of course Sunday Bloody Sunday (sorry to be so predicatable).

In other news, the trip is going so well. I rented a bike yesterday so I feel like a native again tooling around town on my 1-geared, back-pedal bike with a dodgy headlight. Tonight most of the gang is getting together for a semi-reunion. I can’t wait! There will be people there I haven’t connected with in several years, so that is really exciting.

It is bittersweet being here…. as much as I try not to, I have romanticized what it was like living here and visiting just for a few days reinforces all those positive memories.

Well, Matthijs and I are off to go to the center to do a little window shopping (that is, if I can tear him away from Tour de France coverage). I’ll try to send another update while I am here and hopefully upload some of my own photos.