Tag Archives: Amsterdam

Getting Ready for Queen’s Day!

28 Apr

Queen’s Day is the biggest holiday in the Netherlands. It happens on 30 April every year and Amsterdam gets an influx of more than a million visitors in just that one day. The city centre shuts down, and residents across the city chalk out turf on the sidewalk to reserve the space for their mini yard-sale, bar, cookery stand, or whatever else their heart fancies.

Grant and I are doing our stand for the third year in a row. Last year it was cocktails, the year before it was cupcakes and cocktails, and this year, it’ll be the same.

Because I’ve got my cupcake company to promote now, we’re going all pro. I’ve been making signage:

Nomzilla's getting ready for her big day

And we’ve got our booze purchased for our delicious “Queen B” cocktails:

Tonight, I’m baking 24 royal wedding themed cupcakes for an order, then on Friday after work, I’m baking 160 chocolate, vanilla, and lemon cupcakes.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP – that’s a lot of work to do.

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The Expat Curse – Friends that Leave

4 Oct

There are many great benefits of being expatriated from your native country. Since leaving Canada six years ago, I have grown to love the laid-back lifestyle of European living. Better pay, a bigger social safety net, a healthier work-life balance, and the ease and relative cheapness of travel are just a few of the many reasons why I love living in Amsterdam.

On the downside – the weather, the Dutch language conundrum of Amsterdam expats, and the EXPAT CURSE.

Your friends leave and never come back.

One of the hardest parts of moving to a new country is making new friends again. When we first moved here, we both worked in places with a high expat-to-Dutch ratio. If you spoke English and were within a certain age bracket and liked to have a drink, chances are you’d start hanging out eventually. This was fine for the first few months, but then after awhile, I grew tired of the bar scene and the limited conversation topics. I just couldn’t see myself forming a bond with any of these people, and so I didn’t bother going out just for the sake of it.

When I changed jobs, I met another expat named Kate, and shortly afterwards, her boyfriend, Pauley. We quickly became good friends, hell, they were pretty much our only friends. But then, a year later, they went travelling, moved to London, and then back to New Zealand. I sat at a friendless ‘square one’ for a few months before another Kiwi joined the company (and the Netherlands) with her soon-to-be Dutch husband. Because we worked so closely together, Erica and I found that we got along quite well and became friends.

Then our very good friend named Adam (who is sporting a rather dashing moustache currently) moved over to the land of clogs, cheese and tulips. Later that summer, Liz & Colin (Liz’s older sister is Erica’s best friend) moved to Amsterdam and, holy shit, we suddenly had a CIRCLE OF AWESOME FRIENDS!!

Then, it got even better, ’cause Nikki & Aidan came into the fold…also Kiwis, what gives?! We now had a big enough circle of friends to have house parties, FUN house parties.

I always knew in the back of my mind that Liz & Colin and Erica & Aris would call Amsterdam home only temporarily, but a part of me hoped they would just love it so much that they would never leave.

Well, you know, it’s Amsterdam, not the Maldives. Or Portland.

And guess what?

They left.

Liz & Colin left on a 4-month European roadtrip in a old VW van called Bumblee (see: Bumblebee takes Europe). I’m a cryer, and Liz is a cryer, and so I had a pretty babyish cry when they left in August.

We said goodbye to Erica & Aris last night, and also to Damian, their beautiful 8-month-old, blue-eyed prince. Luckily, Erica’s not a cryer, so I was able to hold it together. I will miss them a lot.

Erica and a particularly cheerful Little D.

And now that quirky Welshman, Ben, is taking off at the end of the year.

So, look: Rochelle & Maarten, Nikki & Aidan, Adam & Karl – YOU CAN”T GO ANYWHERE (at least for a couple years).

Us White Trash Like Cigarette Butts in our Cupcakes

3 Aug

Since my last post, I had a birthday. I turned 29 on 1 August, which both my boyfriend and my uncle pointed out to me was actually my THIRTIETH year.

Thanks guys.

So, we had a White Trash/Hillybilly party to celebrate. Costume, mandatory. The cooks amongst us also brought food, though I dare say it was a bit posh for the theme (no one could bare to eat hotdogs and Kraft Dinner).

We had roast pork belly, quesadillas, guac, fully-loaded nachos, fried chicken, and some salad and carrot sticks just to make us feel less guilty. My contribution was the dessert: Cigarette Butt Cupcakes, behold –

mmmm, chocolate carcinagy goodness...

I came up with the idea on my own, and I’m quite pleased with how they turned out! I used my favourite chocolate cupcake recipe from Chockylit with a cream cheese vanilla frosting. The ‘ash’ is made of crushed up Oreos mixed with icing sugar, and the ‘butt’ is dyed shortbread, which I rolled into butt-size pieces and coated in sesame seeds before baking. Once they came out of the oven and cooled, I dipped them in melted white chocolate and then into the ash.

Voila!

cough, drool, cough

These were taken on my iPhone, hence the blur, but you get the point.

I also wanted to have Twister at the party, but balked at the EUR 30 price tag at the toy store, so decided to make one myself using felt and some spare muslin I had in my fabric stash. It worked a treat!

That's how we do it in the South, ya'll

For my costume, I went with jean shorts, a white ribbed tank, knee-high sports socks, old grungy runners with the laces + tongue pulled out, a fake ‘tramp stamp’ tribal tattoo (on my lower back of course), a gold-cap on my front tooth, and horrendous make-up.

Call me Brenda Lee:

Brenda Lee shows off her tramp stamp

So we partied hard to the tunes of G’n’R, Billy Rae Cyrus, Scorpion, Twister Sister, Bon Jovi and other hits from the deep south (and the 80s).

we know how to party

Aren’t we PERDY?

A whole lotta brother-cousins and sister-mothers

And here’s me with my man, Delray:

we's gunna have some perdy chirruns

It was a fantastic party. A HUGE thanks to co-birthday girl Sookie/Nikki and Earl/Aidan for letting us throw down at her sweet pad. And also thanks to all my really sweet friends that accompanied me in my 8-hour vodka birthday odyssey.

I got some awesome gifts too. My man Delray got me a 60-minute massage voucher, a gift certificate for a cake decorating course, a cake decorating book, and a cupcake recipe book. I also got a great kitsch tray and a magnetic dress-up Michelle Obama set and a gift certificate for a cool cake decorating shop from my lovely colleagues.

Is this how I’ll sleep in my 30s?
So, I track my sleeping patterns using an iPhone app called Sleep Cycle. Here’s a typical night’s sleep:

How I slept at 28

And here’s how I slept my first night as 29:

practically dead

A sign of things to come? When I”m 40, will I have to sleep with a heart rate monitor just to make sure I’m still breathing? IS THIS MY FUTURE?

(gulp)