Come Visit!

As I mentioned before, I was busy a couple of weeks ago, preparing the guest room by giving it a fresh coat of paint. As you can see from the before picture, the walls/ceiling were a light yellow, with the door, beams and built-in bench all a light shade of purple. A cheerful room, but a bit dingy after all these years.
Guest Room

Still loving the orange that we used in the living room, I decided to paint the room white and replace the purple with orange. It’s bright, sunny and gezellig! Plus, I figure the dark denim blue of the sofa bed works fairly well with the colors. I had bought the fabric for the curtain with this color scheme in mind, although now I’m thinking of possibly making different curtains, since we need to be able to do something with the side window. But for now, this is how it looks. Don’t you want to come for a visit?
Cheerful

Bits and Pieces



Straight and Round
Originally uploaded by indigo_jones

I’ve been meaning to blog bits and pieces of the past week or so, but keep getting distracted. None of this is particularly exciting, rather just little observations and amusements.

The thing of most interest for us has been the fact that we FINALLY bought a light for the living room. Now that it’s getting darker earlier, we’re realizing a need for more light. My end of the dining table is getting pretty dark. With the new light, we’ll be able to direct more light onto the dining table now.

The lamp we bought is the one pictured here. We had seen it hanging int the window of a vintage shop on Voorstraat and it had caught our eye. We had originally been leaning toward buying a lamp from Nisha, a great little shop, but when we finally went in and saw this one, we just had to get it. Somehow it just seems right with the yellow sofa and orange wall and the salontafel (coffee table) we’re planning on buying. The fact that it’s considered vintage when it’s roughly the same age as I am is something I prefer not to think about too much. The lamp isn’t actually hanging yet. We need to get some little hook to help hold it in place and we also need a bulb, but that should be easy enough to take care of, we think. *fingers crossed* The lack of the necessary hook helped get €10 taken off the price, so we’re not really complaining. We still like the light at Nisha and we may yet end up getting that for the dining room.

Now for the bits and pieces:

  • Christmas is coming. We’ve seen the first Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet items in the shops. Blokker had various toys and candies related to them, as well as Zwarte Piet’s sack and Sinterklaas’ bishop’s hook. Pepernoten are in the stores, as well, and were out at Café de Potdeksel the other night. Kris has a bag of them that was being shared with his friends and he gave us a healthy handful as well. They were better than the ones I tried to make last year. 😉
  • In terms of completely random observations, we’ve been amused at the difficulty so many people seem to have with parallel parking here on our street, even when there’s plenty of space. Many people end up on the sidewalk, others seem to just give up all together, despite enough space for two cars to park.
  • We don’t go down the alleyway next to the house that often, so we sometimes forget that the vines grow a bit quickly. The other night, we got a little note through the mail slot, asking that we trim the vines growing down into the alleyway. At least, that’s what we think it said. We were able to read enough to guess that that was being suggested. As it turns out, I think the woman who wrote the note saw us the next day — after we’d already trimmed the vines. She seemed happy enough and friendly enough from the brief (Dutch) exchange. Well, she spoke Dutch, we nodded, smiled, said a few “ja“s and all went on our way. Sometimes we manage to figure out what’s being said, even if we don’t understand the convo word for word.
  • Speaking of Dutch, we’re getting our first lesson on Wednesday afternoon. It’s a relief to finally have lessons lined up. Even nicer that it’s through a friend and one-on-one (two-on-one?).

Functional and Fun

Tea or Coffee?

Today we stopped by Pete & Pien so I could check out their silver boxes. They didn’t have the style I wanted in the size I wanted, but they did have these cute tea canisters. I’ve been wanting something pretty to keep the coffee ground in, and this is doing the job nicely! We were worried it might not fit the slot, but as you can see, it fits perfectly!

I really do like Pete & Pien; it’s a great shop with an international focus. Plus, there are lots of little things to catch your interest, all in beautiful colors.

Chiaroscuro

I woke up this morning and thought it must be 4 or 5 a.m., because it was still so dark. My bedside clock is useless in the dark, so I had no idea. After lying awake for a while, I eventually gave up and got up. Luna was determined that I should get up anyway.

When I got downstairs, it was still a bit too dark to see the clock at first. Then I moved closer. 7 a.m. I guess winter is coming. After the long hours of daylight we enjoyed during the summer, the encroaching darkness makes me a bit sad.

It’s really time to buy that light for the living room!

Arts and Crafts

Big Bare Tree
I’ve been busy this week working on a few finishing touches for some of the rooms. I finally got up the nerve to start work on the canvases I bought a few weeks ago. The end result is seen above. I’m quite happy with it, actually, and it felt good to be painting again. Maybe I’ll have to do more of it. I’m also happy with how the image turned out split into two canvases. It helps fill the space and adds a bit of extra interest to the fairly stark, simple image. The basic inspiration came from a photo canvas I saw in a local art print shop. Then I started looking for my own tree photo to use for the image, but didn’t ultimately find the right one, so I went with a photo of a tree I found on Flickr, although as usual, I focused in on just one small part of the tree.
Pillow #1
I have also been busy working on one of the throw pillows for the sofa. One down, one to go. I would have finished the first one sooner, except I broke the needle on my sewing machine while trying to square off a corner. Oops. The fabric was such a great find. It’s perfect with the orange wall and the big yellow sofa. I’m hoping to get the second pillow finished tomorrow, particularly as we’re having company next week. A business friend of G’s is coming into town for the week, so the pressure is on to get the house presentable. The language issue should be interesting. He only speaks Italian and my Italian is pretty rusty; even more so since trying to learn Dutch. I get so mixed up that I end up speaking a gibberish mixture of Dutch, French, Italian and English. Horosho!

It’s been a fairly quiet week otherwise. Mainly because I’ve barely left the house because it’s been quite warm and humid. It got up into the high 80s a few days this week. When you have absolutely no AC and not even a small electric fan, it can be quite uncomfortable. It’s warmish today, but at least there’s been a decent breeze, so it’s not too bad.

Oh! One last thing. I continue to love our local fish shop. So friendly! Today we stopped in for some tuna. There was a new (to us, at least) guy working there who was helping us, but the guy we usually talk to was there as well. He threw in a free handful of clams for us to try; probably because of the conversation we had last week about clams. I think we’re fitting in.

40 Shades of Green

After
The bedroom is starting to come together. The painting is finally complete, other than a few touchups. I had originally gone for a sage-ish green, but the one I got was a bit too grey and just wasn’t working. While at the immigration office in Amsterdam, I saw a lovely shade of funky green that made me think I should go back to my tried and true favorite and give up on the sage. This is the third house where I’ve done some variation on this particular shade of green. First it was the kitchen in Sloatsburg, then the half bath in Greensboro, and now the bedroom in Utrecht.

When we met up with Merian and René last Friday, we were all discussing decorating and were looking at some pictures of their new place. They had a wall painted in the kind of green we were looking for, which turned out to be called Dill and was to be found at a nearby paint shop. The next day, we headed out to the shop and found the paint chip. While looking for the Dill color, though, we stumbled across the Hops color and that’s the one we eventually went with. Once again, we had a very friendly encounter with the person helping us in the shop.  Cheerful and fun, we were all joking about  the beer connotations of the name.

So, now the walls are painted and the wardrobes are put together and most of the clothing is put away. We still haven’t tackled the last big box of clothes, because we were out of hangars. We bought some last night, though, so I’m sure that will get taken care of soon enough.

Inspired by a painting I saw in a gallery nearby, I’ve decided to do my own painting to hang over the bed. Today, I finally made it to Swaak, a fantastic art supply shop here in town on the Oude Gracht. It’s magnificent! All sorts of supplies, including linoleum for carving (my next project), clay, wax and a variety of other things. I found some canvases for my project, along with some acrylic paint and hopefully I’ll manage to get the thing painted soon. It depends on just how rusty I am. It’s certainly been a while since I did any proper painting. Maybe tomorrow will be another rainy day, encouraging me to stay inside and paint.

I used to buy Liquitex brand of acrylic paint, and they had that there, but the prices were considerably higher! I ended up with the Amsterdam brand of acrylic paint, which seemed reasonably priced. We’ll see how it works. It was slightly amusing to be buying Amsterdam-brand paint when I’ve been used to the Utrecht-brand paint and the Utrecht Art supply stores in the US. It took me a while to find an art supply store in Utrecht, for the simple reason that when I Googled, I kept getting Utrecht Art! Fortunately, thanks to the help of the woman at Pipoos (the craft shop in town), I finally found Swaak.

Random Bits

  • Found in a Dutch News newsletter I receive:
    The police were in 21 shooting
    incidents last year, compared
    with 14 in 2006, according to
    the state police force’s annual
    report …
    Despite the increase, those are mind-bogglingly small numbers when you think about it in US terms.
  • The weather is beautiful today — maybe around 70F with almost no humidity and the sun is shining. We’re feeling social, so we’re going to go out for dinner and then head over to Café Potdeksel to meet up with friends. We can’t decide if we want to go to the Irish pub for fish and chips or to Luden, which has outside seating and bitterballen.
  • We put together the second wardrobe today, but because there’s nothing straight or level in our bedroom, including the floor, we’re having difficulties getting the two cabinets to align properly. We have to choose between gaps or noticeably uneven doors. We decided to wait until tomorrow to make the final decision.
  • Pippo confirmed that he’s spoiled rotten. We took him out and ended up meeting two other dogs and their owners. All was going well, with much sniffing and tail wagging, until one of the dogs decided to come lick my hand and get some head rubs from me. Pippo seemed to get jealous that I was giving attention to another dog and he proceeded to stick his head under the other dog and nearly flip him. Then he started barking. *sigh* I’m both flattered and embarrassed. Fortunately, the other dog’s owner didn’t get upset about it. Handy, since she lives nearby and I see them both passing our house daily. The other dog owner wasn’t perturbed by Pippo’s bad behavior and continued to fuss and gush over how mooi (pretty) and soft he is and how cute his cheeks are. The ladies love Pippo.
  • You can buy individual packets of Wassa crackers with cream cheese already spread between the crackers. They’re surprisingly tasty.
  • Prepackaged fresh vegetable mixes are quite common here and come in a variety of combinations. My current favorite is the Indiase (Indian) mix, which is a mix of leeks, yellow bell peppers, string beans, bean sprouts and red onion. It’s tasty on its own, but is also fantastic when mixed with the shoarma-seasoned meat and a few boiled potatoes. Leeks seem to be a common element of a lot of the vegetable mixes — or maybe just the ones I keep buying!
  • There’s a sign hanging in Café Potdeksel that comes from Kirkcolm. It turns out a Rangers fan (from Kirkcolm) was visiting Utrecht and felt so welcome at the bar that he ended up sending them the sign when he returned home.

Exploration

De Ramen

Pippo and I took a walk today down Nobelstraat, past Janskerkhof, and then back home via Voorstraat. Despite the constant pulling on his part, he was actually quite the good boy and put up with me stopping constantly to take photos. He even let me have a bit of fun with him. I didn’t mean to end up on Voorstraat, since it’s a street I already know quite well (one of the Albert Heijn groceries we go to is there), but it did give me the chance to photograph the building you see here. It’s one of my favorites (more of the building can be seen in my Flickr photostream). These red and white shutters are fairly common around town and just seem so very Utrecht to me for some reason. Café Tilt, at the end of our street, also has some which I’d like to photograph. Maybe that will be our destination tomorrow.

While we were walking on Voorstraat, we also went past Stein, an interior decorating sort of store. They have some lamps vaguely similar to the one we saw in Nisha, so I might have to go in and give their lamps a closer look. They’re a bit cheaper than the Nisha lamp, although ultimately, they’re probably a bit heavier and not as nice as the Nisha one.

I also did a bit of online exploring today, looking for expat groups. I’m feeling social and wouldn’t mind meeting some more people.  One I’m definitely interested in is the International Women’s Contact Utrecht, which seems to be quite active and involved in a variety of activities. Also of interest is SENSE (Society of Native-English-Speaking Editors), which could prove to be a valuable resource professionally.

Walk on the Pretty Side

Hidden Garden

A week later, I’m finally starting to feel a bit more human after that awful cold. Still not completely better, but I finally felt well enough to get out and wander around a bit. Plus, I was getting a bit stir crazy.

Today, I decided to go check out Pipoos, which is an arts and crafts store nearby. They didn’t have what I was looking for (linoleum for carving and making prints), but they did have quite a lot of other stuff, so it’s good to know where it is. Since that little visit didn’t take that long and I didn’t feel like going home yet, I decided to go wandering. I ended up over at the Oudegracht again and decided to see what was around. I know there are some art supply stores there, I just don’t know where. I didn’t find them today, either.

I did find a nice kitchen store called Dille en Kamille. It’s sort of like Williams-Sonoma. A fun shop to wander around in, and I ended up buying a wine stopper for sparkling wine, since the one we currently have is a bit cheap and flimsy. I also got to go into a store that G and I had window-shopped a couple of weeks ago (it had been closed at the time). It’s basically a Marimekko shop — lots of the fabrics and various tablewear items in some of the famous Unikko floral prints, among others. I saw some kitchen tins in the yellow/green print that would be handy and pretty for our own kitchen. I might go back and get them.

The photo at the top is some sort of garden patio area of what looks to be quite a nice restaurant. The hidden nature of it, along with the simple purple color accents and the bamboo, really piqued my interest. I don’t even know what street I was on, although I could probably find it again — hopefully! I’d like to go there some evening.

Success!

I just took Pippo out for a walk and as we were coming back and reached the area where all the cafés/bars are, a woman across the street from me was obviously looking at me and speaking to me. The usual moment of panic set in, but then it clicked as to what she was asking. She was asking if all of the cafés there were closed. (There are three all in one little area, including our local.) “Ja,” I answered — and quickly walked on. They open in about an hour and a half, I think, but I don’t know how to say that in Dutch yet. Why ruin a good moment!

I was thinking of going to the bar tonight to watch the next Netherlands football match, since Giovanni is in Germany and René and Merian will probably be there, but I think I’m just not over this cold enough to do it. My head is still congested to the point where I can’t hear well, and I’ve got a nasty cough. I suspect a warm, packed bar probably isn’t the best place for me tonight. Oh well. The way they’ve been playing, they should make it through this match and I’ll have another chance to see them in a celebratory setting in the semi-finals.

The wall behind the sofa has been painted orange today. I’ll post pictures soon. It looks mooi!

ETA: I spoke too soon. I just ran out to the grocery store to pick up a few things and on my way back — weighed down with a heavy grocery bag in one hand and a bag of dog food in the other — a man stopped me and started speaking. Trying to juggle the heavy bags and explain that I don’t speak Dutch, he then asked me in English where the train station is. At least that I could basically help with that, although I was feeling a bit flustered — and a bit ill, to be honest — and wasn’t as specific as I could have been. Oh well, I pointed him in the right direction. I’m sure someone else will help if need be.

That little walk to the store really took it out of me, though. I guess I’m still much weaker than I thought. Stupid cold.