Thursday, November 29, 2012


Because Cameron had thursday and friday off last week for Thanksgiving, we decided we wanted to head somewhere within the Netherlands for a night.  Pretty much everyone we asked said Maastricht was definitely the place to go.  It didn't disappoint.  What a beautiful little city.  It's right on the southern tip of the Netherlands before you get to Belgium.  It's the oldest city in the Netherlands.  We couldn't get over what a beautiful little place it is.

We left friday morning and got back saturday night.  It's a 2.5 hour train ride away.  ('s supposed to be.  I'll get into that later.)  Andy was great on the train.  We've discovered this special little part of the train that's technically for bikes, but it has a great amount of room for us and no one else is really around so Andy can be as loud as he wants.  It makes train rides so easy and enjoyable! We got to our airbnb place, and it was absolutely beautiful.  Way better than the pictures and it was in a perfect location.  What a treat!  After that, we headed out to explore.  We got to the Basilica of Sint Servaas, so we explored that for a bit.  Beautiful.  It's a church that's built on the tomb of St. Servaas, who died in 384 BC.   Andy fell asleep in his stroller, so we took advantage of that and got some delicious hot chocolate.  The rest of the night, we wandered the streets, went to the other side of the city across the river, and had a surprisingly good dinner.  (So far, we haven't been impressed with Dutch food.)

The trip was great, but had a few hiccups.  First, both Andy and I were sick.  I felt it coming on Thanksgiving night.  Isn't that the worst feeling ever, when you know you're getting sick?  Ugh.  Anyway, I managed okay, but poor Andy really didn't feel his best.  Especially since he's teething, too. That takes me to friday night, when Andy decided he didn't want to sleep from about midnight to 3AM.  He's been a perfect sleeper for months now, so we're not used to this kind of sleep interruption.  I can't even complain too much, because Cameron was really the one who helped him.  Andy eventually ended up in bed with us, but none of us really slept well even once he fell asleep.   Despite being pretty tired, we had a great morning.  We walked along the river passing the different bridges in Maastricht and finished up at the beautiful park.  Our plan was to jump on the train about 1:30 and have Andy take his nap on the train ride home.  Perfect plan, right?  We thought so too.  Imagine our surprise after we'd gone just two stops on the train (and we were about to nod off and Andy was asleep, too) when someone came and told us we had to get off the train.  There was an interruption that day that meant we had to take a bus to a different train station where the train would take us to Amsterdam.  Of course Andy woke up, never went back to sleep, and was furious.  The bus ride ended up being 45 minutes, most of which Andy screamed.  We got to the train station and just missed the train and had to wait another 30 minutes.  Anyway, we eventually got home, but the whole journey took about 5 hours.  With a very cranky Andy.  And a cranky Cameron and Stephanie, too.  One of those adventures we'll look back fondly on someday, I'm sure.  Really though, despite its unpleasant end, it was a wonderful little trip!  Maastricht is so charming.  It was so nice to visit somewhere more low-key, where we didn't have a giant list of must-sees.  We had a great time!
Reading is Andy's favorite these days!

Sint Servaas
Sint Servaas' tomb

This is Cameron's favorite picture of me. Russian mafia, I know.

The kitchen in the adorable apartment we stayed in. 
Excuse my reflection.  The back garden of the apartment.  Beautiful, right?! 

Don't you just want to move here?  I do.

The main square in Maastricht.  The Christmas Market opens next weekend, so it was being put together while we were there.
The main shopping street in Maastricht.
Us hanging out in Weert (a completely random, small city) waiting for our train to Amsterdam.  Cameron was thrilled to be there.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


We had a wonderful Thanksgiving here.  Obviously it's not a holiday here, but Cameron's boss was nice enough to give him both thursday and friday off.  We started the day off with a trip to the Rijks Museum.  The line is super long on saturdays, so it was the perfect time for us to go.  We loved it.  They have a lot of Rembrandt, which we both loved.

I've always loved this Vermeer. 
This is Remrandt's "Nightwatch," his most famous and largest painting.
The weather was beautiful (cold, but sunny), so we headed to the Vondelpark to walk around for a few minutes before Andy needed to nap.  Andy's favorite thing these days is holding our hand and walking around.  He always has this look on his face like, "Look at me!  I'm walking around just like a big person!  No stoller for me!"
Andy is super excited because he spotted the dog you can see on the bottom left corner

We had two of the elders in the ward over for dinner as well as our friend Claire.  It ended up being a really fun group.  Making a big dinner like that here was stressful and really stretched me because our oven hasn't been working quite right, I had to improvise a bit in recipes, hunt for ingredients, etc.  I had a few conversations with my mom to try to figure out how to do stuff here, and I think she said about ten times, "What?! They really don't have that there?"  Anyway, I think I learned a lot about cooking here, and I found some ingredients I didn't know they had (cocoa powder, cornstarch).  I ended up really enjoying the process.  Cameron's an excellent cook and helped everything turn out great.  We had chicken breasts (turkey is too hard here), mashed potatoes, gravy, crockpot stuffing, and homemade crescent rolls.  For dessert we had a chocolate cream pie and an incredible pumpkin chocolate cheesecake Claire brought.  I think it mostly turned out well.  We loved the stuffing, especially.  My rolls didn't rise as much as I would have liked, and the pie crust wasn't quite right. But, for the most part, it was a success!  We have so much to be grateful for, and it was wonderful to spend a day thinking about our many blessings.

I couldn't find a normal pie pan here, so I had to use this springform pan.   

Monday, November 26, 2012

Utrecht, Arrival of Sinterklaas, & Anne Frank Huis (finally!)

I have some catching up to do!  We've done a lot of fun things lately.  Last weekend we kept true to our pact to explore more of the Netherlands and took the train to Utrecht.  It's a 30 minute train ride away.  It was a cool city to see!  Unfortunately, it was pretty cold that day, so we were a little anxious to be "done."  Still, it was a pretty place.  We mostly wandered around, walked through the market, and walked through the Dom Church.  The canals there are really pretty; I don't know the technical term, but they're a level below the street where you walk.  Wikipedia says, "It is lined with unique wharf-basement structures that create a two-level street along the canals."  I'll show a picture.

The tower by the Dom Church. No, it's not crooked, we're just bad photographers.

You can see the unique canal system here.

Sunday the 18th, Sinterklaas came to town! He's the Dutch version of Santa.  This is a huge deal here.  He comes in town mid-November all leading up to the actual Sinterklaas Day on December 5.  He comes in on a boat in the morning and then parades through the city during the day.  He comes in with his helper called Black Pete, which is a person painted black because he's a slave.  (Horrible, huh?!)  There are hundreds of Black Petes around helping him.  It's pretty funny, because all the kids are also dressed up as Black Pete.  We knew Sinterklaas would be in Dam Square about 2 PM, so our plan was to go to church then rush home to see him.  We left to go to church in the morning only to realize our tram was shut down because of the Sinterklaas parade.  We ended up riding our bikes to church, which was actually fun because we passed all the kids going to watch Sinterklaas come in on the boat.  When we got to Dam Square that afternoon, it was packed!  We barely caught a view of him over the crowd, but it was still fun.  We're excited to exchange our chocolate monograms on December 5, which is Sinterklaas Tradition.   Here are a couple pictures of Sinterklaas with Black Pete(s) I found online and then a picture we took of the crowd in Dam Square:
He looks like a mixture between the pope and santa, right?
Creepy Black Petes.
The crowd in Dam Square.  It was crazy!
Tuesday, we finally made it to the Anne Frank Huis.  If anyone's counting, it was our fourth attempt.  The first two times the line was way too long; the last time, it was closed.  Anyway, this ended up being the perfect time to go.  Because we went on a tuesday evening, it was basically empty, which made it a really special experience.  I re-read the diary this past summer and fell in love with it.  It touched me so much, so I've been really excited to visit the house.  I'm a baby; I was near tears the whole time in the house while we were there.  It was really well done.  They even have some of the original journals.  It was incredible to wander around rooms where Anne spent so much time.  I already want to go back. They don't let you take pictures inside, but I already regret not sneaking one as we climbed the stairs to the "secret annex."  Oh well.  We only have this lame, blurry picture outside the house in the dark. At least we have our memories!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Haarlem & Other Stuff

On a whim (and after some good advice from our new friend Claire), we headed to Haarlem for a little day trip on Saturday.  It's only a 30 minute train ride away, after all.  We loved it!  We're wondering why we haven't been before?  We've now vowed to explore more of the Netherlands outside of Amsterdam.  It's such a beautiful place.

Haarlem felt like Amsterdam, but smaller and with basically no tourists.  It was the perfect place to go for a few hours. Since we were there on a saturday, we got to see their market.  We both liked it even more than Amsterdam markets!  We also checked out St. Bavo's church, where both Handel and Mozart played their famous organ.  They were having a book sale inside which was...interesting.  Reminded us of a certain bible story. :)  After that, we headed to De Adriaan Windmill, where we got our very own tour and climbed some treacherous stairs.  We rushed to the Corrie Ten Boom house afterwards, where I enjoyed an hour long tour.  Cameron was there for the first ten minutes, and then kindly let me enjoy the rest while he took Andy outside.  It was amazing to see THE hiding place!  I can't believe 6 people had to stay in that tight of a space for two days and two nights.  I was inspired as I learned more about Corrie and the network(s) she oversaw.  What an incredible woman. I want to read the book again now.  A highlight of the tour was when I got to play a hymn on the piano called, "You Are My Hiding Place," while everyone else in the tour sang along.  We rushed back home after that to get Andy down for a very belated nap.

The end of the day wasn't as great as the first part--we went all the way to our church for the ward party with a giant salad in tow.  We get there: empty church building.  Apparently the party was the day before. Someone told us it was Saturday.  Language barrier mixup! :)  Anyway, some Haarlem pictures:
On the train.

At the market. 
Cam with his homemade stroopwafel at the market.

St. Bavo's Church 

The windmill! No making fun of my hat.
Ten Boom living room.  There's the piano I played!
Where they crawled in and out of the hiding place, which was behind the wall. 
Ten Boom House: this was her dad's watch shop, the living room is above it.
And now for some random other things...

Things that aren't my favorite right now: 
-Our sink is super backed up.  And the cleaners came to clean the other day and thought they'd fix it themselves, so the pipe is now leaking.  And the landlords say it's not their responsibility.  Fantastic.
-Everything I put in the oven, I burn.  The oven must be super strong or something?  I made some brownies for the elders yesterday that I undercooked by ten minutes and they were severely burned.
-Andy's going through some phases that aren't my favorite.  First, he likes to throw everything.  All day long.  Blocks, toys, whatever.  He thinks it's funny to throw things at me, too.  I swear I get some injury from him every day.  The other day he threw this big, heavy wood toy at the back of my head; it hurt so bad.  I have a goose egg now.  It seems like he doesn't understand us telling him, "No!"  So we don't know how to get him to stop?  Also, his new favorite places to hide things are in the toilet and the garbage can.  Who knows how many things he's thrown away?  I found my keys in the garbage yesterday.  It's also his new place to put his sippy.  When he wants a drink, he opens the garbage, takes out the sippy, takes a drink, and puts it back.  Seriously! Our sound system/DVD player remote is currently MIA, so that's good.
-There are these weird street organs that you occasionally find in the touristy areas of Amsterdam.  Tourists must like them?  I have absolutely no idea why.  They play incredibly loud, cheesy circus-like music while the operator shakes a can of coins to try to get you to donate.  There's a new guy that's started playing right beneath my living room window in the afternoons.  Precisely at 2:40 he shows up. Every. Single. Day.  Conveniently, it's always right as I'm deciding I might close my eyes for 20 minutes before Andy wakes up from his nap.  It's so loud I can't even hear TV while he's here, so the idea of a nap is a joke.  He stays for an hour!  I'm ready to open my window and start throwing things at him.
What they look like.
The organ below my window.  
-I've about had it with neighbor that lives below us, Kees.  I think last time I wrote about him, I was still trying to be a good person, so I only said nice things about him.  I am now past that point.  He came up to talk to me this morning about a few issues he's having.  Let's just say he needs to take a chill pill.  He's taken it upon himself to correct everything we do wrong--little things, people. He's particularly obsessed with how we (allegedly) forget to turn the light off in the hallway we share.  He leaves us a note every day to remind us (not kidding) and has now talked to us about it three times.  I'm telling you--we turn this light off 99% of the time, so he needs to get over that 1%.  He also can't handle that we park our stroller in front of the fire exit.  He's talked to me about it a few times, and each time I tell him I'll move it when the management asks me to.  I don't know why he takes it upon himself to be the enforcer around here?  I am trying to love him, really, I am.

Some other fun things we've been doing and some good parts of life right now:
-The weather has been so beautiful here lately.  It hasn't been horribly cold and there hasn't been much rain.  Wonderful!
-I feel like I'm getting the hang of cooking here more.  I've started to pull out the crock pot.  I've figured out how to modify some of my favorite recipes.  We even found green chilies at the market last week, so I could make my favorite white bean chili. Cameron still complains that all I make is soup, but I did make Shepherd's Pie the other day, so there's progress!
-Cam is growing a beard for Movember.  Or whatever it's called.  I actually like it!
-Andy's doing some pretty cute things lately.  My favorite milestone is that he's starting to enjoy being read to.  His favorite book is "Pat-a-cake."  It's incredibly boring to read 20x a day, but I'm not complaining.  Progress, people! He also loves cars now and says his own version of "Vroooom" while he pushes them along.  He's getting really good at building towers with his blocks.  Much to Cameron's delight, he loves to sit on our laps and watch youtube videos.  I like watching "Ellen" clips with him in the morning while we cuddle I try to make him cuddle with me.
-Andy and I found a couple weekly story times we've been going to.  He doesn't exactly listen, but it's nice to have some new things to fill up our time.  We've even met a couple friends, which is great!
-Andy and I have been to a few museums: we went to the Allard Pierson Museum (an archeological museum), the Bible Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum (a contemporary art museum).  All were fantastic.  We especially loved the Stedelijk because we went with a friend: Amandine, who Cameron replaced at work while she's on maternity leave.  I have a museum card, which means I paid 50 euro to get into the 30 main Amsterdam museums for the year.  It's nice to be able to pop in and out of all the great museums here.  We've attempted two more museums with Cameron but didn't quite make it: the Rijks Museum (the line was too long) and we tried for the third time to get into the Anne Frank House, which was closed.
-We've been having lots of people over!  Dutch people aren't exactly the friendliest, so it's nice for me to have some people over so I get some positive human interaction. :) We've made some good friends at church.  There's a pretty good amount of americans in the ward, which is nice; it's been fun having them over and getting to know them.  We had two girls in the ward over last week, Claire (who I mentioned before) and Mary Kate.  I somehow mixed up the Cayenne Pepper for the Chili Powder in the chili I was making, so the food was so spicy it was barely edible.  I felt so bad!  They were sweet and kept saying it warmed them up. :) Ha!  We also had Amandine and her husband Olivier over for dessert.  We have three sets of missionaries in the ward, so we've been rotating having them over.  Our friends Dave and Abby invited us over for dinner last week, which was delicious.  It's always fun to see them! There's also an american guy named Allen in the ward who lives here.  He's super nice--he gave me a bike to use while I'm here. We had him for dinner a while back, which was fun.  We're going out to an italian place with him tonight, which we're excited about.
-I went to a really fun relief society activity at Abby's house, where about ten of us got together and made dinner.  We each were in charge of a different part of the meal, and we showed the other sisters how to make it.
-We're obsessed with an asian take-away place here called Wok to Walk.  It's incredible.  We get it at least once a week. The best part is that Andy will eat it.  He only has about 5 foods he'll eat recently, so this is an achievement and makes it an even more appealing dinner choice.  Random, isn't it? What toddler's favorite food is spicy coconut curry?
-Cam works at home on tuesdays, so I've been trying to go out by myself while Andy takes his afternoon nap.  I love it.  I usually go to this particular cafe that has a great view of Amsterdam and get a hot chocolate.
-Incredibly exciting news: Cam and I just booked tickets to go to LONDON! We're going for the weekend in a couple weeks.  Claire is ridiculously kind and offered to watch Andy for us.  She's even nice enough to act excited about it.  We're staying right next to where I lived on my study abroad, so I'm beyond excited.
-I found a way to watch all my favorite shows from home here!  Claire (have I mentioned her enough?) showed me a website where I can find all of them for free.  Even Downton Season 3! I'm especially loving Parenthood lately.  I'm all caught up now.  I'm such a baby; I cry every single episode.
-We found a fun park to play in last week, Oosterpark.  We had the playground all to ourselves:
I don't understand how to use my camera.

And to finish off, some adorable pictures of Andy from sunday:
I just love his parted hair.