Sunday, November 20, 2016

Eindhoven GLOW: A Beautiful Dutch Winter Lights Festival

Dress of Lights, Einhoven GLOW festival
Friday night I headed over to Eindhoven, about an hour's train ride away, to check out the GLOW festival.  It's an annual winter lights festival that happens in the city (and apparently they're building permanent light structure there, too).

This year there were two routes - the City (Blue) route and the University (Science) route. I chose the city one only because I had never been to Eindhoven. It's a pretty little city (all Dutch cities seem to be very little...) Although it's cold here now (really cold with the wind), it was a beautiful walk when everything was all lit up.

I had a chance to practice my night photography, but I must say it doesn't seem to improve that much each time I practice...

I did my best, though, so you could have a small peek at what it was like there. 

In addition to the lights, the atmosphere was delightful. You could walk around and warm up in small cafes, grab a calorific traditional waffel from stands that smelled way too much like sugar, and wander in and out of stores.  They even had an indoor art exhibition where you could sees artists who work with light. The model in the white light dress was my favourite!  

The 9:00pm light show at the church was one of the best parts of the evening. They had a light and laser show that depicted scenes from a story and opera music playing in the background. I'd definitely recommend this (free!) festival for anyone who's thinking of going next year. You can check out the slideshow at the end of this post for more pics!

Check out my slide show below to see my best shots from the lights festival!

If you're on a mobile device, please remember to click here instead and view my Flickr set. You can flip through the pictures that way!

Enjoy the slideshow!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sinterklaas: A Dutch Holiday Tradition with A Horse, Carrots & Shoes

Sinterklaas Parade - November 13, 2016 (Utrecht)
Ever heard of Sinterklaas?  Yes, I spelled that right! Here in Holland, it's not just St. Nick who visits kids for the holidays. In fact, Sinterklaas came to town last Sunday (November 13th) , made a speech about his trip from Spain (yup, Sinterklaas is Spanish!).  Dutch kids even watch a special news segment for an "update" on his journey and the obstacles he encounters on his way to their town.

(For example, maybe his horse gets stuck in the mud and there was a slight delay...but phew, the next day they are on track to arrive on time! ;)  . 

Yup, no reindeer here. He arrives from Spain on a horse.

So, last Sunday, my roommates and I headed to the city centre to check out the parade.

Oh, and Sinterklaas and his helpers, especially "Black Pete" hand out handfuls of candies to the children at the parade.

Here are a few fun facts about Sinterklaas:

K gets a peppernoten from a helper ;)
  • Sinterklaas shows up several times leading up to his birthday (December 5th), so you need to always be prepared and leave out a carrot (in your shoes) for his horse, Amerigo, to eat.    Don't horses eat apples?!
  • When you leave out a carrot, Sinterklaas and Amerigo give you a small gift (like a chocolate or small toy).
  • You have to sing a carol first, though! Otherwise Sinterklaas and Amerigo won't hear you ;)
  • Two weeks later, on Sinterklaas' birthday, you get bigger gifts!
  • Of course, you only get gifts if you're good!
  • Bad children get.... wait for it....
    • Sinterklaas chucks them in his bag and takes them to Spain.  I find this hilarious. Let's threaten them with amazing weather, good food and a beautiful coastline ;)
  • In the pic to the right, you can see a "helper" outfit. Sinterklaas' helpers (in real life) were dark-skinned, so people paint their faces black
  • This is SUPER controversial as a tradition at the moment, as some interpret it as a racist comment. So, officially, now the helpers paint their faces black because of the charcoal that gets on their faces when they slide down the chimney for Sinterklaas.
  • Kiara, my dog, gets a treat in the picture - one of the really yummy small cookies called peppernotten, which are kind of like mini gingerbread pieces.You can get them covered in dark, milk or white chocolate or even cappuccino or caramel flavour! Yum!
Here are a few pictures from the parade!

Reeling in the presents off the boat!

Open wide! Black Pete is giving you a cookie!

So, that was my experience with a Dutch holiday tradition!   What traditions do you have where you live that are a bit of a different take on the holidays? I'd love to hear your comments below. Stay tuned for my post on Friday night's GLOW festival in Eindhoven, Holland. Coming up soon!   

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Lovely Leiden: Sunday Afternoon in A Cute Dutch City & A Lost Kitten

Leiden Windmill, City Center
 So, today I took a break from everything to spend a few hours in Leiden, a small Dutch city. As you can imagine I've spent most of the last week launching my site, The Teaching Cove. My new blog is for English teachers and educators looking for expert resources, motivational and organizational tips, so I really haven't had time to do much else. Of course, that means this week will be major catch-up time on my PhD data analysis (post-preprocessing) plan, and a research proposal for a class I'm auditing. 

Leiden was my mini-break today. 

This morning started out with panic, though...

Abla peeking from behind the sofa arm
We awoke to find that one of the kittens was missing.  Abla, the beautiful grey European shorthaired pictured here, wandered off last night with the other cats (there are 5 that live here at the moment!) and wasn't waiting at the door this morning. They had just been vaccinated, but they are tiny and it was cold, wet, and rainy so we were really afraid Abla was scared and cold.

Now, cats are very different to dogs. Really, I never expected to love little kittens so much, but it would be sooo hard for me to have one. Cats do their own thing and wander off into other people's yards and come back; they attach themselves more to places and food than people. That's a problem for me, as I attach myself to the pet! It turns out, so does Kiara. She's Abla's "adopted mom". They cuddle together and K is always licking Abla as if she were a puppy. It's sooo funny, especially since she seems to only have adopted her a couple weeks ago. (Cat moms, and sometimes dog moms too, I've heard, often reject their kittens after a few months as they believe they should be "grown up"). Kiara has happily filled the role of adopted mom!  I've been trying to catch a video of them all week!

At the time I started writing this post (on the train back from Leiden) we had no idea where Abla was so we were worried and sad...)

Poster at one of the Leiden book binding booths
Leiden is a small, cute city lined with cobblestone streets, quaint stores and cafes. The Pieterskerk, the main church and square were holding an event today, so I only got a few shots of the inside after paying a few euros to attend the event.

What event?   you ask?

A book-binding event


Apparently, it exists. It was like an old-fashioned scrapbooking convention. There were rows and rows of exhibitors with different book cover materials (paper and leather), printed notebook paper and wrapping paper, threads to bind the books and different types of pens and accessories. 

There were vendors selling everything from notepads to Christmas cards to 20 euro notebooks made from really fragile paper. I went to the demonstration section, where you could bind your own mini paper book for free, but I just observed. I definitely don't have the sewing/fine motor skills for that ;) I'll stick to photography and painting!

This is definitely my favourite photo of the photoshoot today. How lucky was it that the plant and the bike matched?!

Orange bike, Leiden, Holland

Check out the slideshow below for more Leiden scenery! Remember, if you're on a mobile device, please click here to see my Leiden Flickr set and flip through instead.

After a short, but sweet trip I arrived home late evening and, as usual, took Kiara out for a bathroom break. Suddenly, I saw a cat jump into one of the neighbours' gardens. It looked like a black cat and I was thinking, you're just hoping it's AblaIt was black, not grey. K and I quietly walked past the garden and all of a sudden "meowww!" . Then I saw that she was grey!  K stuck her nose into the hole in the fence and "meowww!". 

Okay, there is only one cat that goes TOWARDS Kiara instead of running away. 

I ran inside to grab my roommate Yelit, and we managed to get the kitten back. Wow, Abla, you scared us you beautiful little kitten!  Turned out to be an okay Sunday after all.  Now off to a crazy work and workout week - just under 4 weeks left in Holland to intensely do PhD work...and 4 weeks until I'm back with the trainer at the gym, so I'd better get to work!!

Saturday, November 05, 2016

The Fashionable Side of Amsterdam: Walking the City with a Fashionista

Amsterdam Centraal, October 29, 2016
 How often do you get to explore a city with a personal shopper and fashion blogger? Well, last Saturday in Amsterdam, that's exactly what I did.

Now, as many of you know, I just launched my new blog, The Teaching Cove, a few days ago to help English teachers and educators find expert resources.  Well, a month ago, I attended Meet the Blogger Amsterdam, my first blogging conference.  The conference content overall was okay . It was more geared towards DIY and Home Decor bloggers and not nearly as business-like as I expected. However, the keynote speakers - Anne de Bruk from Your Little Black Book (a travel blog) and Holly from Decor8  were great. 

The best part, though, was meeting my friend N from the conference. She has a degree in fashion and is a personal shopper who loves sustainable, comfortable clothes. She's starting a blog I am so excited for! I'll keep you posted once it launches. I may even get to be her pilot/test case in Barcelona for her personal shopping business :)

So, N was in Amsterdam for a few days and we had a chance to meet up last Saturday While my usual trips to Amsterdam have been for sightseeing and photography, this trip was a little different.  We met for lunch at Omelegg.It's the same place I went when Robby came to visit, but this time we checked out the Ferdinand Bolstraat location since it was close to the majority of the shops on our list.  I had scrambled egg whites with sundried tomatoes, feta, spinach, rye bread and salad served with fresh carrot juice. You can choose your own toppings from a giant list. I'd definitely recommend Omelegg for brunch!

Then, we headed to a few beautiful boutique stores in the De Pijp area of Amsterdam. I can't remember the names of them all, but there were a few that stood out:

Oops - I made a purchase! I actually did really need black boots - flat ones that I can ride my bike in. Good quality was definitely high on the list, as I am sick of 40 euro boots breaking. So, enter Fabienne Chapot and Brick Lane. I love my starry Fabienne Chapot "army boots". They were soooo comfortable I just had to buy them. Personal shopper/fashion blogger approved, too!  Apparently you can dress them up or dress them down. They had better be versatile for the price! ;)  

Another trick I learned from N was the magic of plastic hair ties. I had no idea that they break your hair less. Most of the colours are too bright for me, but the transparent ones are great. I picked up a few from H&M. They come in a huge pack for a few euros.

Then, N headed off to her evening concert plans, and I headed to Spui Street to check out the bookstores and do some photography for my blog.

Oh, by the way, I discovered that hot chocolate in Holland (which really doesn't exist in Spain), looks like this:
MokaMore Cafe, Utrecht

 Well, that's all for my latest Amsterdam adventure. Stay tuned for an upcoming story on my half day trip to the cute little city of Leiden!