29 April 2008

my cousin

Quieting the Demons and Giving Art a Voice
The New York Times
Published: April 29, 2008

Marya Hornbacher is a virtuoso writer: humorous, articulate and self-aware. She is also, as she has now documented in two books, incurably mentally ill.

Even on the best possible treatment, Ms. Hornbacher tiptoes along the same high wire as Plath, Lowell, Woolf and the rest of the unbalanced artistes. Off medication,
she reliably falls into a turmoil of confused self-destruction, which, as she would be the first to acknowledge, means heartbreak and worry for her friends and relatives, challenges for her doctors, and, in the age-old contradiction, new fodder for her muse.

For scientists trying to parse the mystery of brain and mind, she is one more case of the possible link between mental illness and artistic creativity. With all our scans and neurotransmitters, we are not much closer to figuring out that relationship than was Lord Byron, who announced that poets are “all crazy” and left it at that. But effective drugs make the question more urgent now: would Virginia Woolf, medicated, have survived to write her final masterpiece, or would she have spent her extra years happily shopping?

Ms. Hornbacher brings to the discussion more than the usual pairing of disturbed brain and talented mind. Her talent has created a third self, an appealing, rueful narrator who can look back on three decades of manic-depressive illness, much of it untreated, and spin a story that is almost impossible to put down. In the same way that the psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison experienced, recorded and then analyzed her own case in the 1995 classic “An Unquiet Mind,” Ms. Hornbacher provides the
perfect trifecta of perspectives.

Readers of her well-received book “Wasted,” published in 1998 when Ms. ornbacher was 24, left her in a state of tenuous recovery from a long struggle with anorexia. The first pages of “Madness” describe how illusory that recovery was. Prescribed an antidepressant, the common treatment for anorexia, she took a slow-motion swan dive into the full-blown anxiety, agitation and despair of bipolar disease made worse by exactly the wrong medication.

Her plunge went unrecognized by her attendant mental health professionals, including one who suggested a regimen of candles, baths and aromatherapy. Hot water did nothing to help; neither did alcohol, lots of it. Ms. Hornbacher finally picked a psychiatrist at random from the Minneapolis phone book and happened onto a good one. Her illness was accurately diagnosed and properly medicated in short order.

On television, that encounter would cue the credits, but the book has barely begun. What follows is an unsparing saga of severe refractory manic-depressive illness, with treatment often undermined by Ms. Hornbacher herself. “For years after I was diagnosed, I didn’t take it seriously. I just didn’t feel like thinking about it. I let it run rampant, and these are the results” — a jagged decade of health and productive work alternating with relapses, hospitalizations, electroshock treatments and slow climbs back to tenuous health.

The self-absorption of mental illness can be off-putting, or just plain dull. It is a testament to Ms. Hornbacher’s talent that her book is neither. She writes in a fluid staccato well suited to her stuttering reality, with a wicked ear for dialogue and a baseline common sense that contrasts with the immense senselessness of her worst manic episodes.

As for the central question of whether treating the illness impairs the creativity, Ms. Hornbacher weighs in firmly on the side of her meds, imperfect though they may be. “For me, the first sign of oncoming madness is that I’m unable to write.” Depression silences her; mania may flood her mind with glittering words, but they scatter before she can get them down. Only the prosaic morning meds (21 pills, at last count) will let her trap the words on the page.

More reflections on the same subject can be found in “Poets on Prozac,” a collection of essays solicited from published poets with psychiatric illness. Most of the 16 contributors are decades older than Ms. Hornbacher, but while they may lack her vivid prose style, they do supply a long-term perspective on the terrain. With problems ranging from mild unmedicated depression to schizophrenia treated with an unorthodox megavitamin technique, these writers also focus on trapping the words — and all agree that the sick brain often spells catastrophe for the creative mind. While mental illness may form a part of the creative cycle, if untreated its own cycles invariably take over. “Depression steals the voice,” writes Liza Porter. “Silence breeds depression. Depression breeds silence.”

Meanwhile, the actual hard work of editing a mass of thoughts into a finished product is purely linear. It requires detachment and perspective, what Andrew Hudgins calls the “chemical Zen” of Paxil. “I have no idea if the drug has changed my work at any fundamental level,” writes Mr. Hudgins, a professor at Ohio State University, “but I doubt that it did, which is a great comfort.”

Even the poet’s reliable liquid elixir of inspiration is given short shrift here. Dylan Thomas be damned: it is the first national poet of Wales, Gwyneth Lewis, who writes: “I used to keep notes of my altered states of mind under the influence of drink in the hope that they would offer startling new images for poems. They didn’t. It was impossible to decipher my handwriting, and I kept throwing up. Another poetic myth bites the dust.”

20 April 2008

anne frank

tonight we went to the anne frank huis. going to this museum was something that i wanted to prepare myself for before hand. for me, i felt it was important to actually re-read her diary, the diary of a young girl, before i went to see where she wrote it; i am so glad that i did.

i believe i read her diary when i was in about the 8th grade. whenever it was, i'm sure that it was required reading, followed by a standard book report. while it was excellent that it was required, i found that i remembered almost nothing; while reading it in the last few weeks i felt as if i was reading it for the very first time. making it even more meaningful was being able to read it in the very city that it was written. having the opportunity to sit on a bench in the jordaan, reading her words and knowing that they were written in the house less than 100 yards away was an experience almost beyond words.

visiting the museum is a very personal experience, so i won't go into detail about the house itself or the emotions i felt, i will only hope that someday you will experience it for yourself.

after leaving the museum we sat in silent reflection on the homomonument, which is a monument dedicated to the memory of the gay population who lost their lives during the holocaust. because we went in the evening, all the tourists had gone home and we were really able to soak it all in. it was beautiful.

19 April 2008

dinner for four ~ the aftermath

not suprising, dinner was just about perfect last night and we all had a great time. it was so great to have friends over again...it's been awhile!

dinner was great, with only one minor mis-hap. as i mentioned yesterday, the steaks here are very small. not only are the small in size, they are also thinner than the steaks at home. and as we learned this morning they have a much lower fat content. that is great, however, because of those differences they have to be cooked completely different so that they don't turn out grey and chewy. like i said, we found this out this morning. last night they were a little gray and a little chewy. luckily i bought worchestire sauce (for the brit and me), so everyone just poured that all over them and they were fine. next time they will be pink all the way through!

as is custom in amsterdam we didn't begin dinner until well after 9'oclock, which allowed pleanty of time for the wine to flow before hand. i like the idea of wine first and dinner second...it makes for a much more fun meal! ;-)

i look forward to many more dinners to come.

18 April 2008

dinner for four ~ the prepwork

today i got to do what i love the most. we are having a little dinner party tonight, and i've spent the day cleaning, shopping, cooking, and preparing the table. there is almost nothing i love more than the process that goes into people coming over! the night was originally supposed to just be scott, his colleuge (and my personal favorite) angus, and me. that woud have been fun but when i found out his other colleague, julia, was coming too i got really excited. this will be our first time having friends over to our flat, let alone for dinner! when i started to think about it, i freaked a little...what should i cook?! i know how to throw a party, even to cook a good meal, but i've never done it without the assistance of my mom on the phone telling me how long to cook the chicken or how to steam the broccoli. today i was on my own with all appliance instructions and food labels in dutch!

i actually did pretty well at the grocery store...i know a good product when i see it, regardless of what language it's in!
the menu:

hors d'oeuvres
spanish green olives with pimento
jonge belgian kaas (cheese) cut into cubes
salami bites
rondell cheese with garlic & herb

i will spread the cheese onto herb crackers and then top with alternating cucumber and tomato slices. it's very pretty.

side dish
roasted red peppers with olive oil, sea salt and crushed black pepper.

for these i had to buy a aluminum tray and then fold up the edges because our oven is so small i cannot find a baking sheet or a roasing pan that will fit! i figured out the temperature conversion and they are all ready to go, so we'll see if my make-shift pan works like its supposed to!

a pear sliced thin
blue berries
red onion
crumbled greek feta
almond slivers

for the salad i took a cue from susie bowman and desided to load it full of fruit, and then top it off with my signature dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh squeezed orange juice

main course
6 oz pepper steaks.

i bought four small (tiny by american standards) i will let scott worry about those when the time comes.

so, including bread and butter, and wine, i think i have enough food. ;-) the great thing is all the european products i've always loved, but cost a fortune in the states, are less exensive than american products are at home. another plus was that since i have limited options, i was forced to be creative with what i had as far as linens and table wares were concerned. it turned out to be a lot of fun, and thanks to the napkins and butter forks from andrea, my shells from cannon beach, and the other items i smuggled over, the table looks lovely. and of course i have a dinner party in holland without fresh tulips!

now all i need are my guests!

14 April 2008

natura artis magistra

today we went to one of our new favrite neighbourhoods, the plantage aan het water. because it is sits in the ne corner of amsterdam's city centre, we were actually able to take the train to the muiderportstation and then walk from there. muiderport is the station between diemen and centraal and is a multicultural area which hosts a huge market, dappermarkt, everyday except sunday. it is also home to de gooyer windmill, which with it's thatch roof and painted shutters is truly a joy to look at. it's just sums up everything you think of when you think of holland.

the walk into the plantage is absolutely gorgeous, and because it's outside of the city, it's quiet and peaceful. it sits on a large canal full of old house boats and colorful fishing boats and there are more trees and greenery than anywhere else i've seen in amsterdam. the plantage is also the jewish quarter of amsterdam. when it first went into development, middle class jews came there and build their homes and their community. so, when walking though it's impossible to look at the lovely brick buildings and the quiet streets and not think about the horror and insanity of when it went from being a peaceful middle class neighbouhood to a jewish ghetto during the german occupation in holland.

we came up to a canal-side cafe and decided it was a good spot to get a bite to eat. we sat down, and not five minutes after we ordered our coffees, the clouds started to come in. we tried to wait it out, but ended up inside anyway, which turned out to be fine because otherwise we would have missed out on the amazing charm of this little restaurant. i ordered a bowl of lentil soup, my favorite!, and scott ordered a pesto, tomato, and cheese panini. before i came to holland, i had read that the food was heavy and i most cases just plain bad, but this has not been my experience. we are both looking forward to another lunch there...maybe with family next time!

the other great thing about the walk into the neighbourhood is that you can see the backside of the artis zoo from across the canal, and today that was our destination. it was actually scott's idea and i was, of course, thrilled! as we stood in line for tickets, the clouds disappeared and the sun was out again. from the very beginning it was clear that this was not your average zoo. first of all, the second you walk in you see huge watusi and their massive horns fighting with each other. i couldn't believe it...they were so close! this was true for all of the animals. the jaguar and the cheetah were so close it was almost scary; so close that you could see that jaguars are not all black, that they have very light spots almost like a cheetah. the lioness' were awaiting their dinner and were pasing back and forth in front of the crowd. at one point the sole lion got on his hind legs and began scratching and growling on the metal gate to alert everyone that he was ready to eat! a favorite moment occurred when suddenly one of amsterdams notorious flash hail storms came in and we were forced to take shelter. we ran into the closest building , and just as we were noting the unmistakable elephant smell, a massive elephant and her baby came strolling in out of the hail. scott and i got to be one-on-one and face-to-face with the baby elephant who was eating apples that were lined up on the bars to its cage. it was precious!

the birds in the artis were incredible. i don't usually even stop for the birds, but these were the most colorful things i have ever seen; parrot lane was just incredible. there were also at least 100 pretty pink flamingos and our favorite, the great white pelican. they looked pink to me, but either way they were fabulous. at one point they were trying to get to their food by sticking their long neck and over-sized beak under the water and into a cage. once one got a fish inevitably there would be a fight and the lucky pelican, holding the whole fish in it's beak would swallow some water and then down it went. we actually saw the whole fish in one of their open mouths, which was awesome. what personalities!

aside from the animals, artis was just a joy to walk around...it's a huge garden. around every corner was either a meditation site with its huge buddah statue or a garden full of roses and benches to relax on. it was nice for us since we're not used to being around that many kids, to just sit on a bench to rest in peace for a moment. i can't wait to come back during the summer to take advantage of the lounging spots, fabulous restaurants, and oil colors and paper to sketch the birds.

11 April 2008

a presidential visit

yesterday i took some notes after witnessing a very cool event. they are as follows,

"i sit, now, with my coffee (too expensive here...) and my book (anne frank would have enjoyed this...) in the sun on the terrace of t'nieuwe kerk kafe, feeling compelled to write down what i just witnessed, since i forgot the camera. and, oh what a day to have forgotten the camera...

today, when i arrived in town, with the intent of going straight to herenstraat to pick up sela's "doggie lounge," i was stopped at the dam square by thousands of onlookers. 'how could there be an event in town that is didn't know about?!' of course i went right up to check it out, and i managed a "first row" spot behind the police barricade! what luck, and what a sight! the dam square, normally filled with tourists and street performers, was cleared, and replaced by police officers in their full formal attire who circled the barricade and over 100 (i counted...) members (all men) of the dutch royal guard, who were "at attention," and complete with rifles, while the officers held their swords at their sides. they were aligned in two rows from de niewe kerk to the dam monument, where there was a full military band playing. two soldiers stood at the base of the monument with a large wreath of yellow tulips, and speaking of tulips, there were large boxes of bright yellow tulips and daffodils lining the route on both sides. the entire dam square, which is very large, was also surrounded by alternating netherlands and brazilian flags...my first hint as to what the event was...all in all a magnificent sight.

at a quarter past three, two groups of very well dressed men and women emerged from de nieuwe kerk, and made their way to the base of the monument. the guards raised their rifles and the officer's their swords, as the procession passed. at that moment it hit me that i was watching the president of brazil and his wife pass before me. mr. and mrs. president were presented with the wreath as the band played. it was thrilling...my first presidential sighting!

the weather was warm and sunny, but the sight still gives me chills. such respect. such fabulous pomp and circumstance; i love it. and i can only imagine the lengths they go to for their own queen beatrix, whom they all seem to love and idolize. i would certainly like to see that!"

07 April 2008

oude zijde

this morning scott went to the diemen town hall, yet again, to get additional documentation required for a bank account and apparently for my resident's card. i have to admit that in semi-typical style, i got very frustrated at the clerk and blurted out "so what do you need, then!!!" scott gave me a look and i returned to the waiting area to get some coffee. government stuff is not easy in your own country, let alone in one that has seemingly endless red tape and speaks a different language. if only someone could just say "these are the things you need...so go get them." that i could do. it when we think we have everything we need, then the immigration attorney calls and says "just kidding you need this too." they are supposed to be the experts, so why didn't they know that in the first place?! anyway, then we went across the street to try and open a back account with a huge folder of documentation we had collected in olympia, salem, portland, den haag, and diemen. a "banker" took the file and made photo copies, but when he returned them he informed us that his colleague who could actually open an account for us was "busy." i'm not kidding. it was 9:15 am and he was too busy to take our money. poor scott held it together relatively well until we got outside. his works were, shall we say, colorful.

the morning did get better, however. much better. because i was up and wired from the coffee and the drama, i got on the train with scott and headed into amsterdam. on monday mornings there i remembered that there is a market held on monday mornings at (what i thought was...) nieuwmarkt. anyway, i said 'goodbye' to scott and was off. i didn't have a map so i went to one of the canal tour places to nab one, but they were all gone. there was a map of the city on the building so i figured out the general direction i needed to be going, which was through the red light district. i had promised scott that i would ot go through that area alone, but i figured he meant at night, and that a monday morning would be okay.

for the most part i was right. all of the red curtains were closed and the cobblestone streets were all but empty, save for a couple of middle aged men who really ought to know better! but all the pimps and sleaze-ies were still in bed, so at that time of the day it was as peaceful as it probably ever is. right around the corner ran into a church that appeared to be open...zuiderkerk. however, rather than a pulpit and pews inside the massive sactuary, there were huge models and displays of holland and amsterdam. there were two people working there, so i asked them, literally, what it was. well, it turned out that in 1988 the church was turned into a city planning information centre. he laughed and said that lots or tourists come in expecting the same thing i did! i looked around a bit more, bought a couple of postcards, used the bathroom (a huge find!), and was on my way.

i made it to where the market should have been, but was not. what i figured out later was that i was in completely the wrong area. the market i was looking for is near the jordaan, as is called nordermarkt, not nieumarkt. come on! but, i was pleased to find the waag, which is amsterdam's only remaining medieval gatehouse. apparently they used to do public hangings there! times have changed, though, as it is now a restraurant! it's probably for the best. ;-)

literally the next thing i new i was standing in front of the rembrandt huis. i went right in because one, it's not often that i find a museum so easily, and two, i had been wanting to see the current exhibit. it was pricey...10 euros, but it was literally two amazing exhibits in one massive old canal house. first, rembrandt eventually went bankrupt trying to pay for the house, which may give you an idea of how big it was. i lost count, but i believe it was at least 6 floors high. the place was really incredible, with it's narrow winding staircase that took you up each floor, to the 5 foot long bed chamber/closet that rembrandt slept in, to the massive collection of artworks hung in the entrance and his showroom. also, on one of the upper floors there was a etch-master demonstrating how rembrandt made his famous etchings. they had a large collection of them on display. i had not realized that they were created using metal and ink. the best room in the house, though, was the painter's studio. his easel was situated in the exact spot as it would have been in the 20 years that he lived there in the mid 1600s. the massive fireplaces on opposite sides of the room were all authentic as well.

besides just the rembrandt house, which was great in it self, there was a very prestigious exhibit of maria sibylla merian paintings, who lived the last part of her life, until her death in amsterdam. i have always loved botanicals, so i recognized her work from the posters i'd see around town. i have been a relatively large amount of art exhibits in the past, but this was like nothing i had seen before. as i found out, maria sibylla merian is who you think of when you think botanicals. she was a scientist and an artist and a success full businesswoman. she collected insects, butterflies, caterpillars, and more, and then illustrated them in prefect detail in thier various stages of development...every hair, every scale, every wing was so perfectly detailed they could have been photographs, not watercolours. she had two daughters, helen and johanna, whos works were also on display. incredible! the thing that was so amazing to me was that these works are over 300 years old and they were watercolour...they looked das if they could have been hot off the press!! another special fact was that many of the watercolours are owned by hm queen elizabeth ii, and have never been displayed in public before.

i spent well over two hours between touring rembrandt's house and gazing at maria sibylla merian's artwork. i'd say that's 10 euros well spent. actually 20, if you include the poster and postcards i bought...but who's counting!!! considering that when i got home i immediately started hunting online for reproductions of merian's work, and found that they started at around $1,000 each. maybe someday, but for today i'm thrilled with my poster and with the memory of actually seeing them in person.

05 April 2008

national museum weekend

this weekend, in amsterdam and the rest of the netherlands, is national museum weekend. amsterdam takes great pride in their museums and the fact that the city has more museums than any other city in the world. so, one weekend a year many of the museums offer free admission, or at very least prices are cut in half. i had been planning on taking advantage of this all week. i had my list and was ready to go. however, after last nights festivities (i.e. too many beers, and too little food...) we didn't quite make it out of the house as early as i would have liked...kind of a reoccurring theme these days. then, as we were about to head out, mohammad, who knew of our plans, called to see if he could join us. how could we turn that down?! he laughed at the idea of being anywhere by noon, and suggested 2(ish) instead. such are the french. ;-)

we arrived at the same bar from last night, the klondike, and waited...and waited. mohommed arrived shortly before 3. the weather was good, and the coffee was even better so i didn't really care. i was just happy to have a friend come along. anyway, he arrived, had a cup of coffee, and then we left. because of the time, i had to cut the three museums i was planning on visiting down to just one...so much for saving a buck!

after a long walk along keizersgracht, we arrived at the museum geelvinck hilopen huis, which turned out to be a very unique museum from the other i've been to so far. the first exhibit was not formal rooms, but instead works of art from holy russia; stunning works of religious art painted in golds and reds, some with impressive ornate metal embellishments. they were all painted on thick wood, but the colors were spectacular.

then, in order to reach the main part of the house we had to walk through the biggest and most beautiful formal gardens i've seen outside of france's loire valley chateaux. in addition to the greenery, trees, and flowers, there were statues, benches and a gorgeous fountain in the middle. surrounding the square garden on all sides are beautiful 17th and 18th century canal house. so pretty! in the house, the museum features four large rooms, each decorated in differently styles with authentic pieces from the era it was representing. there is a gorgeous library room, a formal dinning room, two formal sitting rooms.

after our tour we went down to the gallery area, where they often hold concerts and recitals. to my delight, coffee, tea, wine, ad vodka (!!!!) were being served and enjoyed right there. so, scott, mohammad, and I had afternoon coffee, tea, and biscuits in fabulous antique chairs is a room filled with russion tapestries for sale...only 100,000 euro. my favorite was only 50,000...!! also, the volunteer serving was a wealth of information about the museum as well as the netherlands as a whole. we chatted with him and a couple other museum-goers for at least 45 minutes. as we were getting readdy to leave, he told us that on our way out, to sneak upstairs to the second floor so that we could get a better view of the gardens from the terrace. what a great tip...the garden was a magnificent sight from up above. it made me want to go back to france!

a friday night with the boys

yesterday i ventured to scott's office for the first time. it's only one exit past centraal, which is easy enough, but then you are required to transfer to a tram to take you the rest of the way. i was impressed with my memory, because i forgot my directions and had to make the trip based on what i remembered from what i wrote down and i made it without a hitch! scott's office is like the un! there are flags denoting the countries they, webex, sells too, and then the sales people make up for any country that's been missed. scott made all the introductions for me...i was thrilled at how normal and fun everyone seemed!

we all made plans to meet at a bar near centraal fro drinks. here is a run-down of the crew...

koll: scott's boss' boss. he is from the u.s and has promised to show me where i can get sour cream. it's nice to find someone who understands the importance of this matter.

angus: how could you not like angus?! he looks and sounds like a brit, but his mother is scottish and his father is german, and was raised in south africa, among others. needless to say, he knows a million languages, and is hysterically funny. did i mention classically good looking...

paul: paul is english and beautiful...and gay. he's soft spoken, but very smart. it is refreshing to see someone being treated with such respect and consideration, regardless of their orientation.

mohammad: his religion is muslim, his blood is algerian and tunisian, but he is french through and through. he drank wine while we all drank beer, he told one girl she had beautiful hair and another that she was very beautiful, and he has lots of opinions and he lets them be known. he oozes french "charm" with his very thick accent, but he is also very knowledgeable and has a facinatinly different perspective on things than i've ever know. one topic was his 18 month tour in the un military..."lots of big guns, and no authoriy to use them other than for practice..."

tarig: tarig's parents are academics from egypt. however, grew up in the heart of new york city. he looks and sounds like a true new yorker, complete with his new york nets jersey! tarig is also incredibly cultured and is one of webex's top sales people. he lives in utrecht with his dutch wife and 13 month old daughter.

robertson: he's from the states and he reminds me, in a good way, of scott's friends at home. he seems to love to have a good time.

i cannot say when i have had a better time! we drank beers and laughed our asses off! it was incredible to talk to people who has such different backgrounds and experiences than i do; they are all so educated and worldy. it was hysterical to listen to them riping on each other's nationalites and accents. all in good fun, of course!

jokes and laughs aside, we also talked some about politics and what is going on with the war in iraq. one thing that has been a constant is that everyone, and i mean everyone, here thinks george bush is the biggest quack of all time. they think he is an idiot and they are, for lack of a better word, pissed at what he's done. everyone is looking forward to obama being the next president of the u.s., although, they are accutly aware of how long it's going to take to un-do and/or fix what has already been done. mohammad said something that made both scott and me sick to our stomachs. he said "america was always the dream...everyone's dream was to be an american...to be apart of that. that is no longer the dream."

no matter what happens, no matter where i live, i will always be a patriot. i have military in my blood from both sides, that is who i am. i am proud to be an pacific northwestener, an oregonian, an american. so it makes me sad, and angry, when decisions that were made on all of our behalfs could change so many opinions for the negative. while i understand, and agree in most cases, it is still a sore subject with me. since i've been in amsterdam, i have been reading and researching everyday on the events of WWII, and the role the u.s. played here in europe. maybe it's a little dramatic of me, but i feel like bush has, single-handidly, tarnished an image that was untouchable and so hard fought for by heroic men in that WWII. the turmoil he has cause has made the "everyday" person here forget, while maybe only momentarily, what the u.s did for the world then. there is not much to say, other than it is a shame.

moving on, i loved talking one-on-one with everyone...to hear their stories and to tell them mine. it was nice to feel that my stories were equally as well-received as theirs where to me. at one point i was sitting with angus and mohammad and one of them asked me "why did you do this, why did you pick up and move to another country?" my answer was simple...i was bored. i love my family, and my friends, and my home, but i wanted more; to be more of everything...more interesting, more experienced, more grown-up, more educated. i told them that, and then asked, "when, at home, would i ever have had the opportunity to be sitting outside at a bar, in the middle of a lively square, on a friday evening with a muslim frenchman and a scottish/german south african. they seemed to understand and appreciate this. maybe i'm not as un-interesting as i thought...i'm certaily working at it!

04 April 2008

a quiet week

i've stayed pretty close to home this week. i've been waiting for my own home for so long, that it feels nice to be in my own house, dinking around, writing, myspacing/facebooking, playing with sela, and moving furniture and accessories from one area to another. for a person whom my mom calls "the energizer bunny," it amazes me how content i am just being at home doing my thing.

i did get out and about some, though. i went for a long walk along the huge canal in diemen. it is a gorgeous and very long and flat road, full of bikers, runners, and mopeds. the canal is a busy thoroughfare of barges moving cargo (lots of cars) from here to there. it's fun to see all the different flags noting which country of origin they are from. my favorite part is that when they go by i can see into the pilots cabin and there are ALWAYS vases full of flowers in the window. everyone loves flowers here, even the tough guys. ;-)

the netherlands is a country built almost entirely from reclaimed land. most of the country sits below sea level (the airport is 14 meters below!), so much of the land in the less-developed areas is marsh land. it is so green. i ventured "off path" into some of the more solid area to take some picture and to get a better view, but i got a little too close and the result was very wet nikes. oh well, they'll dry.

i went into town yesterday with the specific purpose of going into kauppa to talk to the shop-woman about the marimekko fabric. it didn't work out as i planned, though, because i forgot my map and while i knew the general location of the store, i ran out of time trying to find it. three hours flies by when there are so many fabulous distractions! i found my new favorite store called niels interieur & accessoires. so much color, so little time. niels' is full of wonderful kitchen, bathroom, office, and housewares items. uptairs, among many others, they carry products from a german company called koziol, who makes the most amazing plastic housewares products that i've ever see...colorful and interesting and modern in design. one of my favorites was this etagere (3-tiered dessert tray) i LOVE a 3-tiered tray! especially in red and for only 23 euro!

downstairs i was excited to find the doggie bed for sela that i had seen in one of my dutch magazines. i had actually already done some research one them! they are by a company called fatboy, which has just fabulous and innovative lounging products...for people, too! sela is going to be a very happy girl! for the life of me, i cannot figure out why they don't offer all these products in the states. someone should do something about that...

it's pretty funny how turned around you (i) can get in amsterdam. all of the streets are either straats or grachts and they change without notice. the thing is, too, that if you go one block out of the way here, it would be like going 5 blocks out of the way at home. i was a little frustrated because i knew i was close to kauppa, but i took a wrong turn and before i knew it was out of the area completely. as i was trying to get my barrings i looked down a small street and was struck by a small sign in the distance. i almost peed my pants. i wasn't sure i was right, so i walked toward it and could not believe my eyes...it was cafe chris. i had seen a program on this particular brown cafe at home and had been diligently looking for it EVERY time i'd gone into town, without success.

it's doors opened in 1624, and have not been closed since that time. but the really special thing about this cafe is that there is a secret tunnel underneath it that was used by catholic priests and parishioners in order for them to be able to worship together in secret when the laws of the time forbade it. they don't advertise the tunnel, but will give tours to those who ask. since scott has been on the lookout with me, i thought it best to wait to go in so that we can discover it together. did i mention the "flusher" for the toilet is a pull OUTSIDE the bathroom?! or that it sits on the corner of bloemstraat & eerste bloem dwarssrtaat. that's amsterdam for you!!

i sat on the bench outside for a little bit, laughing to myself about "doors closing, and windows opening" or something cliche like that. but seriously, finding cafe chris at that ecxact moment reminded me that "i'm in amsterdam, for god's sake, so lighten up and enjoy it, because even when you're lost here, LIFE IS PRETTY DAMN GOOD!"

01 April 2008

an observation

something stuck me as funny this afternoon, as i watched a couple of boys outside the super de boer, across from our flat, get tickets for being rowdy. in amsterdam the taxi cabs are all big fancy black mercedes...new ones...yet, the police drive little volkswagens similar to the vw golf. don't you just love the dutch?!

29 March 2008

lots to see on a sunny saturday

i had had a plan, an itinerary if you will, of today's "must-see" sights. i couldn't believe my luck when it looked as if it were going to be sunny out. we had planned on going to the anne frank house and then wander through the eastern part of amsterdam on our way to the dutch resistance museum. we had yet to see any WWII sites or museums, so we thought we'd make a day of it in order to better reflect on what we were seeing.

i have seen, on many occasion, what the lines outside the anne frank house can be like, so i wanted to be there at 9 in order to avoid them. alas, i am my father's daughter and i slept in instead...i think we left the house around 10:30. needless to say, on a sunny saturday the lines were out the door, around the corner, and wrapped around the block. as we do so often these days, scott and i just looked at each other and laughed. we turned around and took a seat in the sun in front of westerkerk. we had made plans with a friend of a friend from seattle to meet up at the dutch resistance museum at 3:30, so my "itinerary" had to be thrown out the window and we went on to plan b.

because we were already on prinsengracht, i thought it would be fun to check out the pulitzer hotel. the hotel is actually 25 17th and 18th century canal houses "perfectly integrated" to create one amazing hotel. i had been dying to see inside the hotel for a number of reasons. first, i love, love, love hotels. second, it is the hotel featured in one of my "signature movies," ocean's 12, and third, it was picked as one of the 1,000 places to see before you die. the place was incredible, and i WILL stay there someday! we wandered through the art gallery and sat out in one of the courtyards. even scott was impressed! ;-)

right around the corner from the hotel is a shopping area called de 9 straatjes, (the 9 little streets), which is just what it sounds like...nine little streets of fabulous design shops, boutiques, art galleries, cafes, bakeries and cheese shops, antique stores, etc. it really is the best shopping area i've ever encountered. i'm learning that the antique shops here are actually full of REAL antiques, as opposed to just "old stuff" that most of them are full of at home. they are wonderful and VERY expensive!

this type of outing is a learning experience for both scott and me...he is getting better at letting me duck into each and every shop while he waits outside, although, even he enjoys looking in some of the really good ones. i too am learning that i can skip some of the shops and come back to look on my own. one thing will never change, though...he will always make fun of me for making him go into shops like sabon no matter how fabulous the french soaps are! ;-)

my favorite find was a interiors shop called kauppa. they carry a huge selection of marimekko products. i became obsessed with marimekko while i was working at crate & barrel. the crate has an exclusive relationship with the famous finnish company and carries products and styles not available anywhere else in the world (the woman i was talking to at kauppa was impressed at my knowledge of the product!) and they use the fabrics in all of their displays and as huge banners that hang from the ceilings. i think it's one of the major elements that makes crate & barrel such an interesting place to shop. anyway, i've been planning to use their idea of using fabric as wall decor for some of the huge walls in our place...the ones i would not be able to fill otherwise. i'm pleased that i have found a store that can help me with that project!

we still had a few hours to waner so we wandered in to a little cafe for a light lunch. we're still on a tight budget so a light lunch to us means we split a sandwich and each have a cup of coffee. it's amazing how little can fill you up! we went to van heart and had a deliciously fresh bacon, lettuce, tomato, and turkey sandwich. i figure as long as he can have bacon, scott will continue to humor me by letting me choose these chic little places, when i think secretly he'd rather be in a pub. he's a keeper! we make it to verztsmuseum, the dutch resistance museum, and it was very well done. it took you through life in amsterdam before the war, the events leading up to the war, and the efforts to sabotage the nazis during. i will not try to put into words what the read or saw, it's just too difficult. it's also difficult to explain what it feels like to walk down the street, look to your left and see a non descript plaque on the front of a building, begin to read it only to realize it is a plaque commemorating the hundreds of thousand people who were deported to concentration camps from that same spot. that happened to scott and me. it's chilling and very real. the plaque read:

"During part of the Second World War, in 1942 and 1943, the Hollandsche Schouwburg (the Dutch Theatre) was used as a deportation centre for Jews. The theatre, built in 1892 as a centre for relaxation and entertainment in the heart of the old Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, became a place of grief and anguish. Thousands of men, women and children were sent by train from here to Westerbork transit camp in Holland, and from there to death camps. Few of them lived to return. In the course of the Second World War 104,000 Dutch Jews were killed in Nazi extermination camps."

what it didn't mention, and what we later learned, was that there was a nursery across from the theatre was was used to house the jewish chirldren before they shipped them off...5,000 of them. this happened in my new city. i cannot even imagine what it must have been like, and must still be like, for those who lived here through the whole period. the museum captured the spirit and the determination of thousands of dutch men and women who chose to take action against evil. it is a must-see for all visitors.

do some homework before you come...the holland scheschouwburg and life in amsterdam during the war are good places to start.

after the museum we were spent in every way possible. my navigational expert, scott, figured out that we were actually closer to the muiderport train station than centraal, which was fun because muiderport is the stop between amsterdam and diemen. we got to see de gooyer, one of only six original windmills within the city of amsterdam, as well as a dappermarkt, which is very lively street market. we had seen both from the train, but never up close. it was recently in the dutch news that the market was rated #8 on national geographic's top shopping streets in the world and just won for best street market in amsterdam...pretty fun to have it so close to our flat! we walked down the center of the market just as all the stalls were beginning to close for the night. we were able to pick up some apricots and, of course, a bundle of tulips...the best price in town! we will be back!

28 March 2008

museum willet-holthuysen

me and my new hair got up early this morning to get ready for a day in the city. i was super excited because i had planned to go see the museum willet-holthuysen. this museum was formerly the home to mr. & mrs. willet-holthuysen, who willed it, along with all the the art and possessions in it, to the city of amsterdam on the condition that it be turned into a museum for the public. i was dying to see inside the houses on the canal, and herengracht where this museum is, hosts the grandest all of the houses in amsterdam. i have always loved touring grand houses! i just love them.

the weather. the weather in amsterdam sucks right now. it's cold and windy and it rains just about everyday. i left my umbrella on the bench at centraal the other day (super annoying...) so i didn't have one today and it was awful out. my new hair was now just wet hair. anyway, after getting incredibly turned around on the way there, i finally found it just as i was beginning to get discouraged and upset about being so lost and wet.

once in the house i was reassured that all the walking had been worth it. the house was magnificent (i found this fabulous slide-show of many of the rooms in the house) it was quite an experience to look around a house with the same possessions it held in 1895...it made is all the more authentic and iteresting.

the other reason i wanted to go to this particular museum today was that the temporary exhibit, dress to impress 1750-1914 is about to end. i've always loved all things french an i was excited to see mrs. willet-holthuysen's collection of french fashion prints. she had hundreds of them, in all different sizes, along with a selection of her very own dresses...oh the lace! oh the silk!! they were fantastic and i now have a new obsession!!

it was pretty amazing to see the scale of luxury the wealthy lived with back then. one thing that struck me, though, was that even though the house was big and grand, it still felt smaller and more intimate than a lot of "mac mansions" being build today. it seems like back then, the money went into the lasting details of the homes...the marble floors, and ornate woodwork, and grand wrought iron staircases, and art, and fine china. unlike today when (some) people only seem to interested in big, bigger, and biggest.

27 March 2008

new hair

this morning i had an appointment at this super stylish little place, called soop, which is in the market across the street from our flat. i chatted with a darling girl, 21 and already "over drinking", so funny! she put the color on and then another woman, who spoke almost no english, did the cut and style. luckily i brought a couple of pictures, but talk about being trusting!

i was just happy to be there, though, sipping on my two cappuccinos and eating my little cookies and "reading" my dutch home decor magazine. i'm pretty sure all the ladies got a kick out of "an american" getting her hair done there...lots of smiles and giggles. it didn't matter that i couldn't understand a word they said, the mood was very light and fun. i felt very european. ;-)

24 March 2008

easter at the van gogh

today is easter sunday. i talked to my mom and sister, kirstin, last night. i have to admit that when i hung up the phone, i cried for the fist time since i've been here. it was the first time i'd spoken to them on the phone since i left, as well as the first holiday i've missed. lots of firsts, these days. i love being with my family more than the average person, and i practically live for family get-togethers and holiday celebrations, so it will be hard to miss the smaller holidays and birthdays.

as well as it being easter, it also was a "snow day." another one! the weather here has been so crazy, i can hardly believe it. one moment it'll be sunny, cold, but sunny, and the next it'll be snowing and/or pouring down rain and windy! it's not great...pretty bad, in fact! ;-) luckily we're both pacific north-westerners and were used to a fair amount of bad weather, so we try not let it keep us indoors too much.

so, despite the wind and snow, today we set off to the van gogh museum...a good museum to start with in a city that boasts the most museums per capita of any city in the world. the van gogh was just...world class. the sheer number of the pieces was mind blowing, and even more impressive, were the brilliant colors in them! the yellows, the blues! because it was a holiday, the museum more more crowded than normal. scott and i smiled at each other when we saw how many people there were, knowing that we'll be back countless times, so it was okay! we were still able to see our favorites, and when we go back, i'm sure we'll find new favorites.

when we left the museum, it had (temporarily) stopped snowing, so we found a little cafe in the museumplein to have lunch. i had one of the best sandwiches i've ever had...grilled brie and tomato. as were were finishing, a girl and her boyfriend approached the cafe, and just when she walked under the canopy a gust of wind must have come through because all of the water and melting snow dumped right on her head. it truly happened in slow motion, and this poor girl got soaked. she was a trooper, though. scott and i decided that i would have cried first and laughed second. i felt so bad for her, it was so cold out and now she was wet! i hope they gave her a free lunch or at least a free hot coco to help her warm up!

i had one last place that i wanted to see before we called it a day. this place had eluded me on all of my excursions, and it was one of the things i wanted to see the most. i have accepted that i'm not a natural with a map, in fact, i'm terrible, and it gets frustrating. i think it's the same part of my brain that can't remember my keys or if i payed my cell phone bill. anyway, the place i had been looking for a place called the begijnhof. finally we found it, with some assistance from the darling people at my all-time favorite bookstore, the american book center. turns out, the reason i had overlooked it was because all you could see from busy spui centruum was a big wooden door.

the begijnhof is a sanctuary for women. it was originally built in the 1300's for catholic women who lived like nuns. they were able to live there, away from sin (men), to worship, and to educate and take care of the poor. what a surprisingly peaceful place in the middle of the city! the peacefulness of the place was almost overwhelming. there are rumors that the women who live there (it remains a sanctuary for single women) are trying to close it to the public, but i hope they don't because it was a wonderful sight to experience. one the the first houses you see, #34, is amsterdam's oldest house, and one of only two remaining wood houses in the city, and was build in 1420! 1420!!!!! surrounding the perfectly kept greens are circle of beautiful houses with a chapel in the middle.

after every trip into the city, i feel so lucky to live here. it's really a dream come true, and i plan on continuing to make the most of everyday i have here. and in the end, it was a wonderful easter, filled with art and a trip to a place where catholics came to worship in secret when their religious freedoms had been taken away. the begijnhof was a perfect place to end our day, and like i said, i am a very lucky girl.

22 March 2008

a night on the town

last night was our first big night out on the town. scott's boss, jason, is from lake oswego (small world, huh?!) and his wife, tiffany, is from california. i had not met them yet, so when they invited us over to their house to meet their daughter, ava, and then onto drinks and then to dinner, i was thrilled. i was excited to meet jason, but mostly i was looking forward to (hopefully) finding a friend in tiffany. i lucked out... they are both great!!

because scott had yesterday (and monday) off for easter we were able to lounge around the house all day before getting ready. i was hoping to wear heals and to do my hair, but it was (and still is) snowing outside, so flats and my hair pulled back had to do...i still made it work! ;-)

we got to their darling little place, and i immediately wanted to move into the city! ;-) not really, but their place was pretty cute. it was about half the size of ours, but it had a little (very, very, little) fireplace and a small back yard and tons of detail and charm. anyway, jason cracked open a bottle of good champagne and the four of us sat around and laughed about the "shit-show" of a process it was for us to get over here. i liked them both immediately!

their sitter came, ava is three, and off we went to our first destination. it turns out that they live right around the corner from the site of the 1928 olympic statium! very cool. the bar, vakzuid is actually underneath the stadium seats, probably in an area that was formally dressing rooms or a preparation area. either way, artitechturally, it was amazing.... modern with uber trendy people inside.

we were there early on in the evening, but i could tell that this mod, industrial, but warm bar was a major hot spot for locals. it was in zuid amsterdam (south amsterdam), so it was well away from the tourists of the world, which made it an authentically dutch hipster experience. the four of us had a ton of laughs and a few too many beers before we headed to our next spot for dinner.

dinner was at another very dutch spot called gent aan de schinkel. the place was packed...luckily we had reservations. it was nice to be with someone, tiffany, who could speak dutch well enough to order us drinks and appetizers. everyone in amsterdam speaks english, but i'm finding that at places like gent and other out-of-the-way local favorites, speaking only english is not super kosher. i think they like to have hidden spots for non-tourists only and when americans infiltrate them they get a little pissy. just an observation.

regardless, the food was amazing! we decided to go "family style," which i loved because it made jason and tiffany feel like old friends. when the dinners came...two veal dishes, a pheasant, and an ahi tuna dish, we ate for a couple of minutes and then passed to the left. i laugh now just thinking about four aduts sharing a pheasant dish! gent was my first real experience with fine dutch cuisine, and i was surprised at how delicious it was...not too heavy at all.

i can't wait until there is a little more money in the bank account so that we can have more evenings like last night. not that i'm complaining, i thoroughly enjoy preparing and cooking meals at home, setting the table with the linens i stashed in my suitcase, and sitting down at the table with scott (and sela). in the end, i think the thing that made last night so fun was not the stylish bars or the fancy food, but rather it was company that we were able to share it with!

15 March 2008

happy birthday, scott!

yesterday was scott's 30th birthday! and it was the second birthday he celebrated in amsterdam...pretty lucky. i think that he was okay with the fact that this year, he did not have the big blow-out party he would have have if we were in seattle. i think we both are, for a number of reasons...we're both enjoying just having each other for the first time in our relationship. it's pretty fun to know that we have a great time, even if it is just the two of us.

i met him at centraal at 5. well, actually i was there at 5 and he got there at 6:15. it's crazy that we're back to the days when you didn't have the luxury of calling to let someone know you're going to be late, and your unable to call and say "where the fuck are you, you're late, and i'm freezing!" it's a strange reality to just wait, and know that he'll be there when he can. turns out, he was late because he got his first deal in ,and had to stay at work late to finalize things...i can certainly forgive him for that!

it was nice out so we walked over to the jordaan, after hitting-up a coffee shop..., to have a couple of drinks at this brown cafe i'd been reading about. the cafe was called cafe 't smalle, and it was just perfect. they are called "brown" cafes because their walls are stained a brown color due to literally centuries of tobacco smoke. the people inside where almost all dutch...a good sign to a local favorite. we ordered a couple of heineken's (on tap!) and sat down at a little table next to two dutch women. the ladies were pretty funny, and they chatted with us for awhile. it took them a bit to understand that we actually lived in amsterdam, but once they did, they liked us even better. amsterdammers have a reputation for being a little "cocky," according to our landlord, danny, but we're in their city, so it doesn't bother me at all. i just think it makes them more interesting...and these two were certainly interesting!

after a couple of drinks, we set off to meet up with scott's life-long friend, jesse, who was in town with a bunch of his fraternity brothers. we met him at a little bar near the anne frank huis for a few more drinks and some laughs. i had only met jesse once, but it was great seeing him again...i think having someone here from home, no matter who it is, will always be a highpoint.

13 March 2008

jordaan tour

today scott and i had an appointment at the town hall in order to register with the city of diemen. the appointment was at 9;30 am, so we set off a little before 9 since it was a little over a mile walk from out flat and we weren't exactly sure where it was. the appointment itself was pretty painless...just one more in a long list bureaucratic hoops. the duch love red tape, i think they may have invented it, or at least perfected it.

after we registered i hopped on the train with scott to do some more city exploring. it was nice to be up and out early....i was excited that i had the whole day in front of me.

i set out into amsterdam with one thing on my mind...the jordaan. the jordaan is an area in amsterdam which was formally home to the poor artists and workers of the area. it is now, in my opinion, the quaintest district with the prettiest canal views, and the best shops and cafes.

because it was so early when i got to the city, nothing was open yet. i had forgotten that i was in amsterdam, and people like to sleep here! ;-) so...i headed down haarlemmerstraat from centraal on my way into the jordaan. it turned out that haarlemmerstraat was a fabulous street full of interesting and fun shops, cafes, and restaurants. none of the shops were going to be open for at least another 30 minutes, so i stopped into a cafe for a coffee and to read my new bible...rick steves amsterdam, brussels and bruge 2008. ;-) the place was called stout! and it was another one of amsterdams chic spots. btw, stout means "dirty" in dutch!

i love this place (amsterdam)! i loved sitting at stout!, having a couple cups of coffee (ALWAYS served in a cup with a saucer, a little creamer, a sugar packet, and a tiny cookie of some sort. perfect.), reading my book, maybe having a smoke, and watching out the window. as i sat there, i watched the two waiters put together the most enormous and most beautiful vase of tulips i have ever seen. they added branches to it somehow and it was spectacular...i wish i had had my camera! it's amazing that an entire city, an entire country, values flowers enough to put something like that together, at even the smallest of places.

one of my favorite shops from the morning was &k, who had these little lanterns (6.95!), as well as the most colorful kitchenware and gifts. i am inspired by the colors offered in this city...and to think, i used to only love white and cream!!

i also loved het grote avontuur, which was right across the street from &k, and was full of wonderful furniture, glassware, lamps, and paper products...look at that color! i have never seen a store with more unique items from all over the world.

i found amsterdam's smallest art gallery and bought a darling original piece of a yellow tulip with a purple background for only 10 euros! my first original artwork in amsterdam...hopefully the first of many to come! i also ventured into the amsterdam tulip museum. when you walk in, it just looks like a gift shop, but there is a museum downstairs. from the brochure...

the story of holland's most famous flower

"experience the history of the tulip, from its origin on the windswept mountains in central asia to the worldwide phenomenon it is today. greed, desire, anguish, and dedication all played their part in the development of the tulip. from a place of honour in the gardens of the sultans in istanbul the tulip because the object of unprecedented speculation in 17th century holland. it was the period known as tulipmania, when the tulip bulbs changed hands for the price of a house, leading eventually to a disastrous financial collapse. after this period the cultivation of tulips did not stop. on the contrary, stripped of all its excessiveness, the tulip trade now developed into a normal business."

i have to admitt, those, the gift shop was my favorite part...one of the best i've seen, full of gorgeous (reproductions of) prints for really reasonable prices, as well as beautiful bulbs for sale.

i was going to try to stay downtown all day and meet scott so that we could ride home together, but by 4 or so i was beat! so many things to see, and all of them so new! my cheeks hurt from smiling and my neck is sore from looking up!

12 March 2008

birthday present

today i was on a mission to find the prefect present, at the perfect price, for scott's birthday. after a long day of searching i still had nothing for him. i found about 6 million things for me, but i don't think he would have been that interested in french soaps or antique candle holders! weird...

i just about gave up after a long day, but on my way home i rounded the corner and saw a fabulous red tanktop with an outline of a bicycle printed in white on the front. i had to check it out, and thank god i did. when i walked into the store i realized it was a gallery, the mark raven gallery, and in front of me was the same outline on the tank in print form. that was it! and he loved it...

10 March 2008

and i'm off...

today i set off for amsterdam on my own for the first time, and it was like a dream! at one point i was walking down leidesplein (anything fabulous that you can ever imagine, plus more, is on this street, including hundreds and hundreds of fabulous shoes and bags!)

as listening to genesis sing "invisible touch" (thank you, anya!), i really felt like i was in a movie. it was pouring and windy and freezing, but it was still perfect! without an agenda or a clue as to where i was going, i really just wandered around a small pocket of the city with my notebook and a pen jotting down all the wonderful things i saw....so many things that i was left wondering, can it really be true that i live here?! i have more ideas than space or money, but that is nothing new and for now it is more than enough to satisfy ;-)

anyway, after three hours or so of taking it all in, i met scott at centraal station and we took

the train back to deimen and i made dinner with the groceries i picked up this morning--pizza and salad (the veggies here are not to be believed...they all taste and smell like i picked them right out of martha stewart's garden!) scott had a small glass of dutch gin, jenever, which we originally thought was ketel 1 vodka (definitely NOT vodka!!), and promptly fell asleep. he earned it, though,...he made his first sales call today. usually they wait three to four weeks...his first day was thursday!

tomorrow we are going back into town to meet with the immigration attorneys to finalize things in order to get resident cards which we need to get bank accounts. it will be nice to have scott off work an extra day this week, although i find myself right where i left off in portland...perfectly content with me, my ipod, a good notebook and pen, a cup of coffee, and my city. we still have yet to see the anne frank house or any of the museums...or any of the tourist attractions, actually, not even the red light district ;-) , which is crazy because i feel like i've seen so much, but there is still so, so much more...pretty cool!

also pretty cool is that on wednesday i'm going to take a solo trip (god help poor scott when i finally drag him along) to ikea for the first time. i love that my first time at ikea is here! i foresee that, to me, ikea may be a tourist attraction all on its own, and i can't wait to see it. the dutch seem to do everything right, everything but their beds. they are horrible...worse than a futon. so, sadly, even though getting to go to ikea in the netherlands is super cool, the only thing i get to buy is a super un-glamorous bed because with my bad neck/shoulder and scott's bad back, a bad mattress (no box springs...) just won't do. i would love to share this with you all!

p.s.i check my mail box EVERY DAY (hint, hint...)
botterweg 57
1113 HR
diemen, the netherlands