Friday, August 15, 2008

Mommy and Me Trip

My mom arrived today to start our European adventure. This means I will be taking a three week sabbatical from blogging to immerse myself in the French, German, Swiss, Italian, Austrian, and Czech cultures. In other news, I lost the Powerball bet. My highest score was 9,046... to which Olof stated "that's an excellent score Claire, but you still owe me lunch." Oh well, there are worse things that could happen... like coming home from picking up my mom at the airport to find that my bike was stolen. Arg...!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's a Celebration

One thing I love about the Dutch is that they love to celebrate with food. When a baby is born you bring in cookies; when it's your birthday you bring in cake. At first I didn't think it was fair that the birthday person was responsible for bringing in cake for everyone else. It is his/her birthday after all, and with my American mentality I felt that they should be on the receiving end only. But after a few months, and many birthdays, I've come to realize that it's quite a good system. No one person is responsible for the many birthdays that occur monthly, as every person has their go round. I've definitely had my fair share of cake since I've arrived, so I was more than happy to bring some in for my big day on Saturday. Cake here is more like a torte which is what everyone's brought in for their birthday. To change things up a bit, I decided to make traditional American cupcakes and some brownies to boot. So, I spent my evening making brownies and red velvet cupcakes from scratch. ...Oh how I miss the convenience of boxed mixes and pre-made frosting.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Due to my big mouth.

Last Friday my co-workers introduced me to the NSD Powerball. It is a "tennis ball sized sphere containing a computer balanced flywheel which can revolve freely inside" that helps with wrist, arm and shoulder strength. (Quote was taken from its website, because... after sitting here for 5 minutes, I still couldn’t put into words how it works).
There is also a speedometer built into the contraption which allows one to see how fast the rpm is. My co-worker, Olof, came to my desk, set the powerball down, and challenged me to beat his score of 10, 688 rpm. Having never picked the thing up, my score was quite pitiful at first.
THEN… after playing with it for a few minutes I started getting better. I opened my big mouth and said that not only would I beat his score, but I have no doubt that I’ll get a score of 12,000 rpm before I leave for vacation. When he called it a bet, I quickly knocked the score down to 10,000 rpm. I may have a big mouth, but I do need to be realistic when it comes to who’s buying whom lunch.
So far my highest score has been 8,640. Not a far cry from my mark, but not good enough either. Thankfully I have until Thursday, and I’m able to practice at home because the top 100 female scores posted on the website is between 13,000 – 10,400. Whether or not I win the bet though, my arm muscles are getting much stronger, which is good for packing a mean punch… if the need arises.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Gay Pride Parade

My Saturday really was quite productive, as this is my 3rd post dedicated to that one day.

Even after all the conversations I heard about it, I forgot it was Gay Pride day until I was heading out on my bike ride (see previous post). People were starting to line the canals for the parade and home owners were decorating their homes with rainbow colored steamers and pink balloons. I could already sense the excitement in the air. I felt torn at that moment... as music was coming from a canal boat with people laughing and gearing up. Should I continue on with my bike ride and miss all the music, dancing, and intense energy?? It was a difficult moment, but I decided to continue on. You never know when the next time will be when there’s perfect weather on a Saturday to go bike riding... especially here. About two minutes later, when I second guessed my decision, I assured myself that I'd see it next year.
In the end all the second guessing wasn't necessary, because I came back to the city just in time to see the beginning of the parade. Music was blasting and people were dancing from one boat to the next. And there was absolutely no room to move on the streets due to the sea of people.

So I spent my time walking my bike down the road, trying not to run over feet, and trying to see above the many heads to watch the parade of boats from the canal down below.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Taking the scenic route

Friday night I checked the weather for Saturday, and found out it was going to be a beautiful day to go on a nice bike ride. So, Saturday morning I got up early, ran my errands, packed a lunch and set off for the countryside at 11:30am. I ended up going through Northern Amsterdam, which is separated from the city center by a body of water that can only be crossed by ferry for bikers/pedestrians or a bridge for buses and other autos. It's amazing what a little divider like that can do to completely change the ambiance of a city. North Amsterdam is nothing like the bustling and eclectic city center. It's as if you’ve entered a suburb of Middle America, where you'll see soccer mom's in their mini vans carting their children around from one activity to the next. It gave me a momentary feeling of nostalgia,... but that moment didn't last long. I am living in Europe after all.

I kept heading northeast through the green fields and along the flowing streams to the tiny village of Ransdorp. Needless to say it was quite a peaceful ride. The population of Ransdorp can't be more than 150. However, if you took the sheep into account, the population would be 500 --minimum. The village, like most tiny villages around here I've noticed, is built around the village’s single church. The church a beautiful building built in the early 1500's, with a 10 story high tower.

As I got closer to it, I saw a man sitting on the stairs leading to the tower and next to him was a sign telling passers by that you could climb to the top of the tower for 50 cents. I hesitated for a moment, because I told myself at the beginning of my trip that it was just going to be a bike ride. So I continued riding. But, when I reached the back of the church my bike took over and I found myself at front once more. I walked up the front steps, handed over 50 cents and made my accent up the spiral stairs that lead to the top of the tower. Funny thing was, I didn't know it was 10 stories high. A quarter of the way up the narrow staircase I felt like I had to be nearing the top, because it didn't look that high from the outside. The stairs just kept going and going. Then when I felt like the stairs would never end, a door appeared. But that was only to fool the unexpected stair climber, because that door only led you down a balcony of sorts and to yet another door that led to even more stairs to climb.
In the end it was well worth the climb. The view from the top was beautiful. You could see all the way to the center of Amsterdam in one direction and to a handful other small villages in another direction.

Once I made my way back down the 155 stairs, (yes, I counted) I hopped back on my bike and over to the village of Zunderdorp located a few miles away. I was warmly greeted by a duck and a sheep. This duck in particular caught my eye. Recently, my friend Amanda had an entire post dedicated to a similar type of duck. So, I wanted her to know that we have “ugly ducks” here too... but I actually find them pretty cute. I rode down the small streets of the village to a nice spot near a bridge that overlooks a stream lined with willow trees, and ate my lunch. Once I was done, I packed up my things and returned to Amsterdam just in time to see the beginnings of the annual Gay Pride parade. …but that is a post for another day.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Gotham City

What better way to watch the newest batman movie than in a theater that could have been a part of the movie itself.