Banksy exhibit in Amsterdam

I didn’t have many things on my tourist todo list for Amsterdam, but seeing the Banksy exhibit was probably my first, second and third priority.

Banksy is a modern day artist who rose to fame for his politically charged street art. More than just the art, Banksy was notable for their anonymity and the incredible locations of the artwork, which appeared in banks, war zones and even an elephants cage at a city zoo. Between the desire to remain anonymous, and the difficulty associated with moving the “canvas”, there have been relatively few exhibitions for someone as famous as Banksy. All the more reason I was excited to find that the Moco art museum in Amsterdam was playing host to an exhibit of collected works.

The Moco is an old house – probably a mansion by Amsterdam standards – that was vacated in 1939 and later donated for public use. The exhibit made great use of the space, using the natural light from the windows to accent some of the pieces, and placing art in slightly out of the way spaces – above the door, or a hard to see wall – so you still had the feeling of having to look to find everything (and that, perhaps, you wandered right past a piece without seeing it). It was very light on explanation though, which is also fairly true to the artists work. Consequently, I now present a few pieces with minimal explanation as well. Enjoy!

Eating my way through Europe: Herring and Heineken in Amsterdam

My flight made great time and we arrived half an hour early. With no bags and no sleep I was quick off the plane in hopes of getting in a quick nap before sightseeing. No luck though. After a short train ride to the city center I stopped in at the hotel and was told to come back at three. So, time for breakfast!

Amsterdam is small, pretty and very walkable. I had a short list of places I wanted to visit today, and all were in the southern “Museumplein” district at the south end of the city. Departing the hotel I made a beeline for a canal and had a lovely (and very quiet) morning stroll to my first stop: the Albert Cuypstraat Saturday market.

Markets were a huge part of our life when we lived in Paris. I miss shopping like this. The food is always so nicely laid out, and the vendors range from hawkers – who always have a deal on something – to afficiandos – who insist on knowing what you are cooking so they can find just the right piece. (Once, after telling a French butcher what I intended to do with a piece of meat, he outright refused to sell it to me.)


My first acquisition of the day was a giant Stroopwaffle – two thin waffles stuck together with syrup. This was a perfect snack to tide me over while I went searching for the real treasure, raw herring.


The “raw” part of raw herring is a bit of a misnomer. After being plucked from the North Sea, the herring is flash frozen (to prevent parasites) and then gutted, deboned, skinned and laid on salt for a bit. So less raw than sushi but more raw than ceviche. Traditionally it’s served with onions, sweet pickles and a tiny Dutch flag. I gather the idea is to use the toothpick to pick up the herring pieces, roll them in onion, and have a pickle chaser. 
I lucked out and stepped just outside of the market in search of coffee and found a small shop that seemed to be to fish what a deli is to pigs. I’ll make a note here so I can come back next time I’m in town. 

Mission accomplished, I left the market with a belly full of herring and wandered my way up and down the side streets of de pjip neighborhood until I found Museumplein.


Museumplein is home to several of the city’s art museums. I’d been here on my last trip to see Van Gough and taste genevar at the House of Bols. This time, I wanted to check out the Banksy exhibit at the Moco modern art museum. More on that later. 
Following the museum adventure I grabbed a crummy cup of coffee from a locale cafe and got horribly lost en route to my final destination, and only repeat visit, the Heineken Experience.



Heineken is a local brewery that grew up on the outskirts of Amsterdam. The museum has a typical brewery tour experience to it, but with a few extras that come with being a global brand. I appreciate the sections dedicated to post-prohibition growth, and the bits explaining that the founder was a chemical engineer and one of the pioneers of beer science. Previously, brewing was thought of as more similar to baking or cooking. The best part though is the view from the roof top bar at the end of the tour. 


After the tour I took the scenic route back home, passing locals relaxing in the sun all up and down the canals. I stopped in for a few snacks along the way, to keep my strength up. Amsterdam has no shortage of snacks, I suspect in part because of the local cannabis tourism. What came first, the munchies or the chorizo-manchego macarone?



On the way home I passed a Maoz Vegetarian, a falafel stop that we used to frequent when we lived in Paris. I figured I could go for some falafel, and so that made dinner for me. For dessert, Dutch apple pie. 🙂 followed by a very early bedtime and a glorious 11 hour slumber. 

Eating my way through Europe: Calgary Layover

I’m heading to a week long meeting in Zurich, and it’s totally for work!! Really!

But with all of the work comes a bit of free time, and with that free time I will be eating my way through the best the Netherlands and Switzerland have to offer. What better way to see a city than with my stomach? 😉

My first stop wasn’t in Europe though. I have a short layover in Calgary where I’m enjoying exotic Canadian food.


That’s right. A teen burger, poutine and A&W Root Beer with sugar. None of which is available south of the border.

So good! But also, two days worth of calories in under ten minutes. Let the food coma commence in 3…2…zzzz….

Cooked Tuna Sushi


When we lived in Sydney, one of Xavier’s favorite snacks was sushi. Specifically, cooked tuna hand rolls. 

The hand roll part may be unfamiliar to folks; this is when the chef rolls a full maki style roll, and then cuts it in half instead of 6-10 pieces. It’s something I haven’t seen done often, but it’s a really convenient way to eat on the go. 

The cooked tuna thing should be familiar, but maybe not in Sushi. By cooked tuna, I mean tinned tuna, usually mixed with a bit of mayo. For whatever reason this turns out to be something you can get only in Australia. I don’t know why – it’s delicious. You all are missing out. 

Since emigrating, X keeps asking for sushi but all we can offer is kappa maki rolls instead. He’s let us know that America is letting him down, and I can’t say I blame him. 

After some long and hard searching we have finally found a place that will fill the gap. There is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, Blue C Sushi, in Kirkland that is a fun place to visit AND will custom roll cooked tuna hand rolls for X. They also have tasty cupcakes on the conveyor belt. 🍰

I’m hoping that if we take him once a fortnight that he’ll take “one way ticket to Sydney Harbour” off of his Christmas list.

Lambykins

A side effect of living in the burbs is that there’s very little to go and do writhing walking distance. In fact, the only things within a mile of my front door are a convenience store, a forest and a butcher. 

I’ve been making friends over meat. 

For the first year or so we were here the local butcher was a stereotypically friendly Turkish fella, who always threw in a little extra something when you chatted him up. He did the butchering and his wife cooked halal friendly side dishes… Typical dips and salads. 

Something changed recently and my Turkish buddy was traded in for three bearded hipsters. I’m sad my buddy is gone. But the hipsters spit roast lamb once a week. Yummy, yummy lamb. 

They stick a sign up on lamb day letting you know when to come and collect the carvings. If you’re smart, you call ahead. Our first night trying it out we waited an extra forty minutes for our cut, but it was worth it. When we told Xavier we were eating lamb, he asked if it was dead. 

“Yes Xavier. The lamb is dead before it was cooked.”

“Aww… poor lamb.” He said while chewing on some shoulder. 

The next week we took the above photo. Again to the tune of “aww, poor lamb” followed by “can we eat it for dinner?”

Still here!

We’ve been slack with blogging for, like, a year now.

Just wanted to let folks know that we’re still here.

I certainly won’t make any promises that we’ll start posting more quality content anytime soon, but I think as a digital journal, this is still a pretty good place to dump photos. That’s likely how we’ll get back into this space.

When the wife’s away

Sarah and X are four days into a week long trip up to Banff to visit with our good friends from Sydney – Dani, Gregor and Leland. They relocated back to Canada shortly before we left. It’s Leland’s birthday this weekend and the kids are going to have a pizza party at a bowling alley. X is beside himself. Birthday! Pizza! Bowling! Friends!!!

Friends have been hard to come by since arriving here. At first we thought people were a bit standoffish, but it turned out to be slightly different playground etiquette. The kids here won’t talk to you unless they know your name. That’s easily worked around though: “Hi, will you be my friend” turned into “I’m X, will you be my friend?”

This is one of the few social differences that’s caused issues since arriving in America. The other big one being that people seem to socialize only around events. A dinner party, themed outing, football game, etc. I gather that the idea of just dropping by for a coffee is something that’s not a part of north-western American culture. When I did some research on this it seemed the concept was missing, but so much so that it needed a lot of qualifying when discussing. In terms of dropping by, I mean, having a friend call up and say “Hey, we’ve got some free time this afternoon, why don’t we get together and let the kids play in the backyard. Your place or mine? I’ll bring cookies.”

This sort of thing happened a lot growing up. And it continued while we lived in France and Australia. But, not so much here. We hadn’t realized it until part way through the year, but this small difference left us pretty socially isolated. Anytime we’d call up for folks to come over they had other plans. Plans… weird. Who has plans? I’ve certainly only heard about them in books, but it seems that in these parts planning is really a thing.

Anyhow, between stranger-phobia, the need to actually plan for social time, and new video games, it’s left us a little out of the social loop. Now, that wouldn’t be all bad, I’m introverted and quite enjoy my time alone. However, when two extroverts are left home alone long enough, bad things happen. And there’s no such thing as time alone.

And so, this is how my family ended up in Banff. It’s a great vacation where everyone gets to play in the snow, hang out with friends, and recharge everyone’s battery. I’m unable to make it for work reasons, but I’m not sad. It’s been a glorious four days of an empty house. I’d started off the weekend with glorious plans of being productive, but that hasn’t yet materialized. I think what I really needed was a weekend to recharge the batteries. So, instead, all plans went out the window. My actual weekend looked a lot more like:

Wake up, fry some bacon, have coffee, take a nap. Repeat until Sunday. With small breaks to play video games or binge on the Great British Bakeoff on Netflix.

Glorious.

Back to school

All the kids are back to school, which means that poor X has far fewer people to play with during the day. He’s an outgoing and extroverted child who thrives on the company of others (weird, right?) and so the back to school season hit pretty hard. Especially for his mom, who shares a personality profile with the Brown Recluse. Consequently he’s now been signed up to classes where he can burn off energy and interact with loads of other kids.

The first choice for class was definitely swimming. If Sarah’s spirit animal is a reclusive spider, then Xavier’s is most definitely the community loving, water dwelling otter. He lives for swimming and has been taking lessons in Sydney for years. Lessons here and there are very different though. When Sarah showed up to his first lesson in Seattle the instructor looked at him and said “oh no, he’s much to young to learn how to swim.” A nudge, a splash, and a lap across the pool changed that opinion quickly.

Since then we’ve changed pools to one with more intensive coaching. I don’t want to give the impression that we are trying to push him in any way, it’s just that he’s really good at this stuff, and gets bored easily in larger group lessons. Since starting early September he’s already advanced two grade levels (measure in colours of the rainbow) in classes.

It’s such a joy to watch someone doing something that they love, and have a talent for.
As for the other classes… We have Xavier enrolled in a half day wilderness camp twice a week, in which he basically learns how to play outside. The program is offered by our next door neighbour, who is the founder of the program and Mom to Xavier’s best bud. They spend most of their time roaming around the state park near our house, playing with dirt and sticks and singing songs or playing games. 

His final class is Gymnastics which he asked  to attend after finding a parkour video on YouTube. I did check into it and he can start actual parkour classes in a year or two, but for now this is close enough. 

The Fountain

On Tuesday i made the trek from Prince George back down to Seattle. I’d been telling mom how nice the greyhound connection is and figured I’d better give it a go before I bought her a ticket. The trip was largely uneventful, and really quite pleasant, except for an extra hour layover at the border crossing. When our driver turned the bus off, it decided to not turn on again. An hour later, it did. I guess it just needed a nap. 

So, an hour later than expected, I pull into my station and send Sarah a text letting her know I’ve arrived. I’m an hour late, and a little apologetic. She writes back: “I’m going to be late.”

I think: “Really? You e had an extra hour already.”

Then she sends me a picture. 

 

Houses aren’t meant to projectile vomit, afaik. At least her mom instincts were strong and she found a bucket in time. 

The way she tells the story, it just sort of shot off when she tried to turn off the sprinkler. Not knowing what to do, she stuck a finger in the hole and called for Xavier. “Xavier! Go next door and get help!”

“Ok mom!!” he shouted, and ran next door with his urgent mission. A few minutes later he came back, accompanied by the neighbours four year old son. This is the point of regret – we almost got a collie two weeks back. Lassie would have found a plumber. 

Always the opportunist, Xavier runs into the backyard and shouts, “ok mom! I brought help. Open he water!”

Mom was not happy. 

“Mom! Mom! Silas is here to play in the fountain!”

“Silas, can you get your dad?”

“Daddy’s not here.”

I suspect Sarah took that moment to offer the boys a vocabulary lesson. With her finger still blocking the flow of water, Sarah sent both boys back on a second mission. Armed with yet another new word, “emergency”, this time they came back with not one, but two neighbours. No plumber. 

This is when the bucket came out, and the three neighbours scoured our place for a water shut off valve. It’s on the street. However, that’s not common knowledge, so instead the turned on and off and on every dial and switch in the house, jumped into the crawl space and started hunting around underneath the house while simultaneously trying to prevent an underground swimming pool from forming. 

Around this point Sarah hears the pounding of heavy footsteps upstairs, and silence coming from the pipes. “Ok! I’m here!! Where is the emergency? And why are you in the crawl space?”

This is Scott. He’s the daddy next door’s kid had said was missing. He is also the hero of this story.

Scott helped get things back in order, replaced the tap, and turned on all the things that should be on. 

Anyhow, long story short, greyhound has free wifi on this side of the border. I’d travel with them again.