Sunday, November 17, 2013

Markets and Mushrooms in Amsterdam (no not that kind!)

 Saturday mornings in Amsterdam there's an organic farmers market at the Noordermarkt on the west side of town. I've found quite a decent selection of organic and free range in the local food shops and supermarkets but it's not the same as a farmers market and we hadn't hit an organic market till this weekend.
Of course one must bike to the market.
Saturday mornings are nice and quiet.

Till you hit the market. You know your there because you can hear the music as you arrive.

There's meat, cheese and bread but also chocolates, teas and legumes.
 And a whole stall full of mushrooms, not the kind you get further in town, the kind you can feed to your kids.
Oh yes,  a nirvana of culinary mushrooms. It took me a while to take in the varieties and the huge quantities! The delicious smell of frying mushrooms and garlic from the stall's hotplate was amazing.

I settled on some miniature Japanese mushrooms and a hunk from the huge wild Dutch Eikhaas (that's just one and a few bits in that basket). Admittedly my family isn't quite as curious as I am when it comes to mushrooms but they are good sports, my last adventures with mushrooms had me trying a suspected morel from my backyard. This was it- a stunning mother of a morel;

I did a lot of surfing and looking and brought it to the local mushroom vendor at my old nearby market before I tried it.  I survived. I didn't feed it to my family of course. But I didn't see dancing  purple elephants or end up sick either. 

The mushrooms from the vendor at the market are quite safe I figure and a joy to find. My family is going to have to deal with future fungi experiments showing up at the dinner table - I will be trying a great many more of these babies in the months to come.

So what did I do with the mushrooms? I sauteed them with garlic, Spanish paprika and a splash of wine and serves with Irish grass fed bifstuk, mashed potatoes and fresh organic green beans also from the market. Not everyone loved the mushrooms but that's ok. Maybe next time!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sint Maarten in the park

At the end of dinner tonight I hear my daughter humming. The tune is a Dutch children's song. I smile. She learned it back in Toronto but it's in her head because we'd been to the Sint Maarten parade in Vondelpark last night.

The parade is a casual procession of children carrying lanterns behind a band around the park. The lanterns are as varied as the people. We saw ones made of leaves, ones that looked like gnome house mushrooms, ones made from recycled milk jugs and even the older traditional jack-o-lanterns carried by a rope handle or in a arms.

The band played children's songs like the one my daughter was later humming, Het Matroosje, and jazzy (sometimes even a little raggy) tunes guided by two tall lanterns. The music was great, the mood serene as a huge mass of people walked in the lantern light with their kids, and sometimes their bikes too.

Later in an Italian restaurant we laughed as a bunch of kids came joyously through the door singing loudly, lanterns swinging expecting candy for their tune. Although the candy collecting is not part of the walk it is part of the door to door singing part of the evening's traditions. (Although usually done at the doors of peoples homes) The waiter, a non-dutch speaking Italian with a smattering of English, was quite ruffled by it and clearly did not have a clue why they were doing what they were doing. A group of American parents and their little kids who seemed to also have been at the parade and were sitting near where he was standing explained the custom in English and the need to give them candy for their efforts. He hastily grabbed the mints by the cash and doled them out as quick as he could, so very funny the whole restaurant enjoyed the spectacle.

Our ride home was a leisurely  bike ride down quite main streets with the kids perched on our back racks tired and full, holding their lanterns. My son looks forward to next year when he will know enough of the songs that he too can go door to door for candy.

I can't wait to hear him sing for it.

Grootjes from Amsterdam,

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

If... (a little story about fate)

If I hadn't called city hall *again* yesterday to ask if there was any way to speed up my kids getting their BSN #'s*

If they hadn't changed their tune and said come on in, don't wait for your appointment weeks from now we can do kids documentations on the spot.

If we hadn't decided to take our bikes downtown while it was sunny.

If it hadn't started to pour rain 5 minutes after we headed off.

If my tire hadn't gone completely flat half way there after passing a bike shop that I didn't want to double back to in the aforementioned rain.
...did I mention I had my 9 year old riding on the backrack? 

If that hadn't been the last bike shop we would see before hitting the Gemeente** downtown.

If my husband hasn't check his smartphone for a nearby bikeshop which turned out to be a rental place across the street.

We wouldn't have noticed they had for sale the most perfect second hand bike for my daughter sitting for sale right by the air pump.

And I wouldn't have this....

....The most perfect picture of my most happy little big girl on her new bike!

Hope your day was a great as ours!

*BSN = the Dutch equivalent of a SIN number (this gets your kids in school and cheap transit passes)
**Gemeente = City Hall (where you get every bureaucratic document you could need if you ask in just the right way)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Four one way tickets, please.

We've been coming to Amsterdam as a family for years now. I first brought my husband here in the early years of our dating - he loved it immediately. Over the years we have stayed in hotels and later with family. While born Canadian I'm part Dutch although until recently not a citizen. It wasn't until two year ago when the Dutch government opened nationality to children born to Dutch mothers outside of Holland that I was allowed to be Dutch.  My mother moved around a bit with me and while I never lived in Holland I came here frequently as a kid, Amsterdam was a convenient connecting city for flights between my mother's and my father's over summer holidays (one of the bonuses of coming from divorced parents I guess).

Anyway, arriving at Schiphol airport, walking outside I would always take a deep breath and feel at home.

A few years ago hubs and I started taking in earnest about leaving Toronto. We discussed many cities in  Ontario, for many reasons Holland was a nice to do but a can't do. But still we kept talking about it and shared our desire with my family in Amsterdam who graciously offered us a place to stay while we got settled if we ever moved.

Fast forward a couple of years and it's the World Cup 2010 and Holland just placed second. For a lark I check the internet to see where us "latent Netherlanders" stand and lo and behold the legislation giving children of Dutch mother's outside Holland status has been approved and is just waiting for the Queen's official stamp. (children of Dutch father's born outside Netherlands were always given status) I begin the paperwork and it takes a year to get it all sorted and become a Dutch national. A year later my kids have their Dutch nationality too. We are all, save my dear hubby, dual citizens. A dream come true.

Fast forward another year, we've decided to move. A few things fell into place making the time time right. In two and a half months we sold the house, sold or gave away most of our stuff, put my business on hiatus and my husband quit his job to go back to consulting full time.

Today I'm writing this from Amsterdam. We aren't residents yet - there's of course paperwork that needs to be sorted for that to be official - but we are here, living at my families place and getting settled.

I've been asked by many if this is "forever". I don't know if anything really is but I know this is for keeps for as long as it feels right for us all. I know we are happy and as of yet there are no regrets.

Our new adventure is just beginning. We really can't wait to see whats in store.

So for now

Groetjes uit Nederland, tot de volgende keer!


Monday, June 17, 2013

Filling up with Joy

This is our Joy Jar.

We started it back in the new year. There was a lot of sadness in our extended family last year and we decided it would be good this year to mark all our joys down to remind us of all the wonderful things that happen.

We colored it with markers and I cut different sized strips of origami paper to have ready to jot our joys down.

OK so it is really a Joy Vase but that doesn't sound as nice.

We all added our own touches.

I thought that the kids would help decorate but maybe not think about marking memorable moments without reminders. I thought that I would be the one filling the jar, finding our happy and recording it for us all to look at the end of the year.

I was wrong. The jar is filling up and we are all recording our joys it seems. Even the odd trinket reminder has found it's way into the jar. I can see my kids writing but if I can't read it thru the glass I'm making myself wait to the end of the year to see what they thought worthy of recording. That way I know next year my first strip of paper will be about the joy of seeing their notes.

Have a great day, thanks for stopping by,