Saturday, August 11, 2018

My Daily Life in the Netherlands #008

Welcome again to my life =)

Well, at least the life you see here on the blog. It's time to once again update what I did in June and July this year. Quite a lot I think, although it felt like ages ago already and to think that we've just started the month of August.

Life moves on so fast, it's hard to keep up even when looking back. Am I glad I have this blog!

The lake beach near our new house in Utrecht. Can you imagine this is just around the corner from our new house? I mean, seriously, its just about 100 meters away?! Of course it is not always busy like this because the weather in the Netherlands is another story.

Moi during the Gay Pride Canal Parade in Utrecht.

The main highlight of June and July was the yearly summer holiday in the Greek Isles. This time we went to Karpathos, a new island for us in our growing list of visited Greek Islands. We went for 2 full weeks.

Another thing to highlight is my work, although I can't and won't go into detail. It's somewhat taken over my sanity but luckily I am managing well, haha. There is just so much going on right now, it's mindboggling. I cannot lie that I am sometimes anxious about what will happen. #stayingpositive

My car got broken into for the THIRD time! This time they took my tail lights. Strange. Sometimes I wish I have a simpler and cheaper car, which I do have privately though. The Audi is a lease car from work and I have no choice, although I have to admit that I love the comfort it offers and the style.

My mother in law's cat Lucy got lost during the time we were holidaying in Greece. She missed having a cat in the house so she adopted a new one. Her name is Puka. But after 4 weeks, someone spotted Lucy somewhere and the family quickly acted and went to check on the address in the middle of the night. After 45 minutes of searching the family found Lucy! What a miracle. So now, the mother in law has 2 cats =)

What else? We have been busy with the house.... we have finally decided on the floor. We are taking a ceramic floor in wood finish. We have floor heating so we can't have real wood or laminates. I have begun making sketches for the garden as well. I am excited, the garden will be an extension of the house, a hangout, like a patio. A second living and dining room.

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click the READ MORE link below]

So we started the month of June with the Gay Pride Canal Parade in Utrecht. Unlike Amsterdam that falls on an August, Utrecht does its thing in June. So we watched for a few hours until we had enough of the craziness. Haha.

Then we went shopping. Well, it was the Dutchman who went shopping nevertheless... which is a rare phenomenon.

I had a very nice lunch with a good friend from the IT industry at the Ubuntu Beach Club in Zandvoort. We talked about so many things, from work to hobbies and life in general. I loved the lunch we ordered, we had the same actually, the Poke Bowl with dices of fresh salmon. This was very delicious and healthy. A must try.

The beach pavilion of Ubuntu is quite neat, it is laid back and very welcoming, I might come back here again and bring the Dutchman with me.

I managed to accumulate a lot of AirMiles points so I exchanged the points with two tickets to the AutoSafari at the Beekse Bergen Safari Park. It's a whole day entry to the Safari Park where you can sightsee free roaming animals inside the comforts of your own car (following the auto safari trail of course).

It's our first time here so we were quite excited to experience it. I will be posting a separate entry about our visit here soon.

Here are some of the dinners and a lunch I made at home.

As you can see I cook a lot at home, and during weekdays, I always cook our own dinners. Dutchman and I prefer cooking our own meals than eating at restaurants. It is healthier, a lot cheaper of course and convenient. Home cooking is the way to go.

More food love here... oh, I cannot wait to move to the new house because I have a brand spanking new kitchen there... a grand kitchen island. Lots of food and get togethers will be coming out of that kitchen island.

I met up with Bru in Zwolle. We had a really nice time together, walking around in the city and just chatting about life in general over tea. Zwolle is a very pretty medieval city, and the biggest as well in the eastern part of the Netherlands. I will be posting a separate entry about this visit to Zwolle as well.

We are meeting again soon after the summer holidays are over.

The Dutchman and I went to the Greek Islands, to Karpathos in the Dodecanese group of islands (near the Turkish border) for our yearly summer holiday. Karpathos is a new island for us so we were very much looking forward to this vacation. And oh wow, did we enjoyed the 2-week holiday! More posts coming up soon about this trip.

Karpathos is very traditional and not very touristy so we liked those aspects a lot. Dutchman and I cringe when we see the mass tourism on the Costa del Sol in Spain for example.

We just love the Greek Islands, although Dutchman and I were wondering when the day will come that we will say, "Um, we have had enough." We shall see. So far, we are enjoying going back every year, but to a different island every time.

We also managed to do a day trip with a boat to the nearby island called Kasos.

Kasos is a very low key island which is mostly run by locals, meaning we didn't see any tourists here except the few ones (3 other couples) in the boat journey. We did saw a returning Greek family who probably have emigrated to Australia and is spending the summer with family here. We spent a whole day here on Kasos.

One of my food souvenirs from Karpathos, the Greek Islands. Makarounes is a local homemade pasta speciality in the island.

Another set of food I made for dinner and breakfast.

You might have noticed that we eat a lot of vegetables. I love vegetables and fruits. If you open our fridge, you'd be surprised to see an edible garden with lots of variety in there, haha. Dutchman and I are like rabbits =)

The eldest Dutch sister in law celebrated her birthday so we went to attend her party. I managed to eat my favourite tart she made, the Monchou tart.

They have also sold their house and are moving into a cosier one near a dike somewhere in Utrecht. The kids have grown up so they don't need a lot of bedrooms. Looking very much forward to seeing the new one. Since the house they have bought is an existing house, they will be moving in ahead of us.

Some of the party food of the sister in law's birthday:

I went to Brussels, Belgium for work. I had a meeting with one of my customers.

Unfortunately, it was on the same day as the NATO summit, so all important world leaders were in the city, including the Twitter trigger happy Trump. You can just imagine the tight security. I had to drive around the Brussels ring via Zaventem because police closed it. Everywhere I go there is a sign saying "omleiding" (detour).

Luckily, I arrived in Belgium early in the day and in fact, worked from our office there in Mechelen before proceeding to Brussels. So I was rather early as well to my destination, and after a few minutes of having just parked the car, I noticed police barricading the street of my destination. It was only then that I realised there were protesters in front of the building where I was going to have my meeting!

I managed to be on time for my meeting though, but what a day in Brussels.

I checked in at Utrecht centrum one weekend. I think I did some errands but cannot remember what it were about.

While walking around, I saw this group of guys fishing at the Oudegracht canal. It is the first time I have seen something like this here. Must be a new sport or hobby? A new trend in Utrecht perhaps?

The mother in law's new cat. Hello there Puka =)

Puka is a bit of a shy and scaredy type of cat. She hid mostly under the cabinets, tables, and chairs in the first week, and only coming out to poo and eat. I can understand her anxiety as she is new to the house and everyone is foreign to her. She did ease up a bit after a week or two though. I love her tiger-style coat.

I met up with the niece for lunch in Utrecht and this is her lovely retro Volvo car. Isn't this just so cool?

We had lunch at the Water Toren in Utrecht. The views here were amazing! You can see Utrecht from all angles, far and wide, here and there. The food was also delicious, aka Michelin star style preparation and quality but the surroundings here were a bit casual, so that was indeed a very nice combination.

Highly recommended! I will post a separate entry about our lunch soon.

My car is a hybrid. We are tanking her with electricity here:

It has been quite hot in July in the Netherlands. What better way to enjoy the weekend afternoons with a chilled drink such as an Aperol spritz with some strawberries and blueberries.

Dinners I made in July. Lots of veggies huh.

I don't normally plan for our meals, I just randomly shop in the grocery store and randomly look in the fridge and cabinets before I cook. It's all improvisation for me. It helps that I have this spontaneous attitude and improvisation cooking skills because I am really busy at work and on the weekends I just want to relax (and blog).

But I look forward to the day when I have retired from corporate life and can focus on cooking and baking. Of course, there's travelling, blogging, and my other creative pursuits as well that I will continue doing. I am giving myself until 55, which means I have 7 more years to work my @ss off and save like crazy.

You know what helps in being able to retire early? Getting yourself a high-income job/business. Having zero debts, no children (no joke), maintaining very low monthly costs (living below your means, people!) and spending the value of your every hard-earned euro to something you only really need. I am serious here. You can enjoy life without having to spend a lot. But you have to be street-smart, selective in your lifestyle pursuits and highly disciplined, and you definitely need money.

This is the lake beach near the new house. Just 100 meters from our front door! It is not always as busy as this in the picture. This was taken during a 30C+ day so people flock here to freshen up from the heat. On normal days there are very few people here. It's just the water, the trees, and nature.

There are great plans for this area. An ala carte restaurant will soon be built here. There will be water sports activity as well, some recreation for the children and I guess they will make the beach nicer. Well, I hope.

The thieves have broken into my car AGAIN. This is the third time now and I am starting to feel so very desensitised. As you can see they took my tail lights which is something new, said the towing company and the garage. Someone probably ordered them in the black market. Order on demand. I cannot wait to move out of our current house because the thieves obviously know my address.

Filed a report (again) online at the police. They are not doing anything because they are understaffed. This will just go into the statistics file before they do something, perhaps on a much bigger scale. *sigh*

During the weekends, Dutchman and I have been visiting home and lifestyle outlets, hardware stores, garden centers, design showrooms and what have you for the house. We are looking for inspiration. We will only get busier in the months to come.

It's summer so I have an excuse to eat my ice cream.

I would like to have an electric fireplace in the living room. A bit similar to the one on the picture, except that I want it much lower and it will be much wider as well and with thinner edges. I want it to look very sleek and modern.

I have also been toying with the idea of having a stone mural on one of the living room walls. It will not be cheap. Together with the fireplace, I could have bought a Hermes Birkin perhaps? And a Kelly with this money. But why do I need these bags...  I see a lot of women on the internet going gaga over these bags. I am quite okay to buy one for less than a thousand euros. Or way, way, way cheaper if you ask the Dutchman. Do not spend on unnecessary things Jo! Um, maybe the stone mural counts as unnecessary? Hmmm.

On one weekend, Dutchman and I went to Down Under, a restaurant and bar in Nieuwegein with water sports activity and a beach beside it. It's a nice place, we were here for drinks. We also learned that the same owners have won the bid for the ala carte restaurant on the lake beach near our new house.

I have actually been here before for a job interview. Well, seriously, I had an interview and a lunch with a director of an IT company at this restaurant several years back. He really liked me and we had somehow the click, I guess, but sadly, I do not have the technical background he needs for this role. The product and service they offer is very niche in the market and almost bordering scientific, so I just hope he has found what he has been looking for by now =)

Dear old Lucy was found! The first cat of the mother in law that got away for 4 weeks was found by the family after a tip. Thank you so much! The crew didn't waste time and searched for her even if it was midnight. She was found after a 45-minute thorough search of the address, 2 kilometers away from the mother in law's house.

She lost a lot of weight and the first thing she did when she arrived home was to eat. Poor Lucy, she has been very hungry after weeks of living on the streets. Perhaps, shaken too.

Here are the two cats at my mother in law's place. Lucy and Puka, they are not really friends yet...

This is Lucy, so tired from living on the streets for 4 weeks. She slept like a log and ate like a horse for the first 3 days. Poor old girl. You are home now.

We had tea here with the mother in law in her garden. She gave us some sweet treats and a cup of soup. I cannot remember what soup it was, perhaps celery soup with Danish blue cheese on top. She is always feeding us when we visit her.

Some more food cooking from my kitchen. Well, I baked that pastry with the bacon twist.

We were driving around in the new neighbourhoods of Utrecht looking for some "tree" inspiration for our garden/patio at the back of the new house. We might get the same tree in front of this house, although I am still entertaining other ideas and inspiration.

We are eyeing these rocks for our garden walls as well. Not this colour though and not this low. We will mix the wall design with something else. It will come out contemporary and the garden will actually be like a patio, and an extension of our living quarters. The ideas and plans are coming to fruition!

Here is Puka, the new cat of the mother in law. She is a bit of an aloof cat with very little need to interact. Cats, too, have their own unique personalities.

And here is Lucy, back home and curled up in her bed. Lucy is friendlier though than Puka. She likes being touched and she would jump over and sit on your lap and purr forever.

Greek yogurt with honey is really nice when it's very hot outside. More dinners here and a yogurt - melon - honey dessert. So what do you think of our dinners?

This is a typical sign you will see on the doors of many establishments in the towns and villages of the Netherlands during the summer season, especially in the second half of July to August. Local mum and pop businesses close their shops for a few weeks to go on holiday.

One must enjoy the fruits of their own labour eh? I fully agree.

I was also in Nijmegen for work, visiting a customer. The city is located in the eastern part of the Netherlands near the German border.

Now I have been here before and in fact, I have a very old blog post about Nijmegen that I have never finished because I took so many pictures and didn't have time to work on them. It's been a few years old gathering dust in the pipeline of my "blog post to finish and post", Oh well, one of these days perhaps.

At the end of the month, the Dutchman, mother in law and moi went to Breukelen in Utrecht (not too far away from where we live, perhaps 20 minutes with the car) for a little village sightseeing walk and dinner at Loetje. Breukelen is a pretty and typical Dutch village. The city of Brooklyn in NYC, USA was named after this small village.

Trivia: Did you know that New York was called New Amsterdam before and the city was built by Dutch traders and immigrants? Many places and streets in the city were of Dutch origin.

Loetje, on the other hand, has one of the best beef steaks in the country. Many people swear on this. I have eaten at Loetje before together with Blondine (I miss her) at one of their Amsterdam branches. It is the mother in law's first at this place so she is looking forward. The Dutchman is treating.

That's my June and July folks!

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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