one more holland post: herring

I get asked a lot of questions through this blog (what's it like being married to a medical student, whether or not I know Minnesota gets cold...) but by far the question I am asked the most is what do you look like while eating raw herring?

Well, I finally have an answer for you.

Obviously I wasn't impressed. I did, however, have several delicious meals while in Amsterdam. If you need recommendations, hit up Liz. She is consistent. Our favorites from her list:

And here's a video...set to a breakup song. But at least it's an upbeat breakup song that mentions Amsterdam!

[vimeo w=522&h=281]


In Amsterdam, we took a self-guided walking tour of the Red Light District. Maybe because I have an idealized view of Europe--and everything is just so much older over there-- I was kind of expecting the prostitutes to look like they stepped out of Moulin Rouge, wearing corsets and bright red lipstick.

Instead, the girls looked plucked directly out of Tigerland (a collection of slightly trashy bars off of LSU's campus) and looked bored. They sat on stools, staring off into space and eating sandwiches or distractedly texting on their smartphones. Needless to say, It wasn't quite as glamorous as I expected.

But that 30 minute walk was the only disappointing part of Amsterdam ( and to be honest, it wasn't that disappointing... I had an amazing waffle with nutella and banana).  


Holland 2: biking

In Holland I, the four year old, was our official family translator. Apparently, playing with Dutch children at preschool all day is a really great way to learn Dutch quickly. (I don't know if I would recommend this if you're over the age of, say, 6.)  By the time we left Holland, I was fluent. But when we got back to the States, I think it took me approximately one Texas summer to ditch dank je vel  for thanks, y'all. Suddenly, I was no longer bilingual. 

I was hoping that when we landed in Amsterdam, all of my forgotten Dutch would come rushing back to me. But it turns out I remembered only four phrases:

dank je vell (thank you)
alst u blieft (please/you're welcome)
bent u klaar (are you ready)
zet 'm op slak (hurry up, snails*)

Let's rewind to four years ago, when Y and I visited New York for the first time. We were there for about four days, and were so frustrated with our inability to understand the Subway system that we gave up and walked for our entire trip. Subway maps, need I remind you, are in English.

It took us about 5 minutes to understand the public transportation in The Hague and Amsterdam, written entirely in Dutch. It was slightly trickier to figure out the country-wide biking maps, but we did it with only 1 wrong turn that deposited us in front of castle ruins. 

 And "hurry up snails" was not part of the directions. 

I don't really know what my point is here. Maybe my pride was bruised in New York when I, a self proclaimed whiz with directions, couldn't navigate the public transportation. Maybe I just needed to prove to anyone who might have seen me angry in a Subway station that I've still got it, okay?

Now that that's out of the way...

A bike rack at the Leiden train station. (The one in Amsterdam was three stories and about 10 times as big as this one.) 

From Leiden we rode through some picturesque countryside villages, complete with windmills and what was left of the tulips.  

*My favorite game as a kid:

Holland 1: The Hague

When I was three, my family moved to The Hague, which is the capital of The Netherlands. We lived there for three years, and for about 12 glorious years after we moved back to the States, I had some really great material for the "fun fact" every person should carry around in their back pocket: I lived in Holland and have been to almost every country in Western Europe. 

Eventually I got lapped. My friends started doing foreign exchange programs. Month long backpacking trips across Europe. Biking tours of South America. Teaching English in China. Basically, I had to get a new fact. Good thing I'm left handed and Jewish.

The first leg of our Holland trip was spent in The Hague. We explored the city by bike and visited my former house, which is on the same street as my preschool and across the street from gorgeous dunes that border the beach and the North Sea. 

{1: the beach, 2: the dunes, 3: my street}

I remember a lot of things about my neighborhood: leaving empty wooden shoes out on Christmas Eve for Sinter Klaas to fill with presents (apparently he doesn't discriminate), getting stung by a bee in our back alley, the fact that you turned right to get from my house to preschool. But I cannot for the life of me remember there being a beach. I don't particularly love the beach now... apparently it's never impressed me. 

Some other pictures from the Hague:

a carol convention recap

A few years ago, I ripped an article out of a magazine and it made things happen. The kind of things that you normally agree might be fun and then you just talk about for years and years.

I'm always ripping things out of magazines: from posters of male celebrities in middle school to wedding dress inspiration and recipes. I take great care to make sure each item is organized the way I want it, then I put it in a corresponding binder: recipes, home decor, entertaining inspiration... teen idols.

It's a huge waste of time. I've never looked at those things.

Until Real Simple's executive editor wrote about her and her friends' Great Escape-- their yearly vacation planned by one and kept a secret until the very last minute. My friends and I had just returned from a weekend full of marathon sessions of laughing until we couldn't breathe. I felt like we needed to do that yearly.

Although I e-mailed my friends pretty regularly, I made actual paper copies of the Real Simple article and snail-mailed them with a sticky note. Let's do this.

Who knows, maybe the actual paper made it feel more like something real and less like just another article.

A few weeks ago, I returned from the second episode of our very own Great Escape: a summer weekend in central Texas.

Where I experienced a short and sweet taste of Austin and its live music for the first time. (I'm excited to go back in September!)

Where we had to forgo fashion to avoid foot fungus at a water park.

Where we floated a river; a giant party on tubes. My favorite part was when we floated underneath the water park and the entire river cheered as the next victim was lifted to the top of a sky coaster. My least favorite part was cramming two giant tubes the size of my Prius into... my Prius.

One night we visited a teeny town called Gruene which, while undeniably charming, is running the risk of turning into the next great city turned tourist trap, a la Gatlinburg. The first sign: a ye olde timey photo studio. I predict a tacky t-shirt store and a few pancake houses within 5 years. I'm glad we visited while it was still charming.

We were in Gruene to visit the oldest dance hall in Texas.

One of us wore cowboy boots. One of us had really sweaty ankles.

(It was me.)


After a night of Texas beer and dancing (mainly with each other), we found a real live cowboy to draw the name of next year's planner.

While in Gruene, we found air conditioning in an antique store where one of us bought a phrenology head. Looking back, I'm not sure why we didn't return from our night out and read the bumps on each others' heads.

Probably because we were too busy laughing until we couldn't breathe.

Other Carol Convention posts: 1, 2, 3

carol convention 2011

Today is a very important day: the start of the annual Carol Convention.

I've explained Carol Convention before, but let me just sum it up by saying that at my old age of 27 and 4 days, it is the one weekend a year where I might have the opportunity to make a Facebook album with a line from a song as its title. Just like the olden days.

This year our planner, Leila, went all high tech on us with her clues for the weekend. We were sent this CD and told to listen to the songs, go to a website and answer questions about the songs, and only then would we receive our clue.

The clue:

Here is your packing list:
Cowboy boots
A Swim suit
Dancing Shoes
Water shoes
Water camera
Lots of room for Texas beer, chips, and salsa!

If you haven't figured it out, I'm headed to Texas today, authentic Target cowboy boots in tow!

For those of you who enjoyed the guest posts the past few days, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter! If you write a post, send me the link -- and I'll share my thoughts sometime next week, when the traveling craziness dies down.

For those of you who think my blog has turned into The View (aka Y's friends): a) dibs on being Whoopi and b) don't fear, the guest posts are over and I'll be back to making fun of your friend shortly. As in, tomorrow.

(PS: A recap of last year's Carol Convention. I'll do better this year.)

the post in which i tell you what i'm thankful for

On the first day of every month I wake up inspired and think to myself, "Wake up, wake up, wake up it's the first of da month." Then I think, "This is going to be it. This will be the month I blog every. single. day."

November was not that month. Neither was October. Or September. You get the picture.

Going out of town for Thanksgiving didn't help matters this month. But, I might as well be a good blogger and end the month on a high note by telling you why I'm giving thanks:

Fall in our front yard - it lasted all of 48 hours:

Someone who enjoys taking road trips and listening to dystopian young adult novels with me (that would be Y):

Family (even when they bring an airhorn to Thanksgiving!) and the fact that some of them live in pretty, pretty Birmingham:

the view from our hotel

One of my favorite drinks at Starbucks:

Scarf weather:

my vicarious med school training is paying off/Chicago

As the wife of a med student, I am totally qualified to diagnose people.

So I'm diagnosing myself with Seasonal Affective Disorder -- the summer version.

I wouldn't say I get clinically depressed or anything, but this quote -- from someone who actually claims to have the disorder -- describes me perfectly. Not to be dramatic or anything...

''I actually feel kind of attacked by the sun. I feel like it's piercing into me, and I start to feel more and more desperate to escape it. I have a hard time organizing and managing daily life. By August, I'm barely able to function and don't really recover until autumn. October is reliably a good month. I feel like I'm being released from my summer, what I would call, jail cell.''

I used to think I hated summer because I was always The Pale Girl in a sea of tans or because my frizzy hair just did not cooperate. Now that pale is in and I have my hands on some frizz products that actually work I'm not in high school and don't care as much about fitting in, I'm positive it has something to do with the heat.

This picture just looks cold and it makes me happy.

All this to say that my trip to Chicago -- a plunge into fall, rather than Louisiana's gradual, 1 degree at a time version -- was the perfect medicine.

Wearing a scarf in September in Louisiana is almost unheard of

Red velvet pancakes from The Bongo Room and spending quality time with friends who don't mind laying on the ground for a photo op didn't hurt either. And the trip ended the way any good trip (or any day, really) should, with some very successful internet stalking detective work.

And I'm happy to say I wore the skirt that was subject to a drive by fashion critique with no negative comments. Success!

But a girl can only be away from home and live on donuts and pancakes for so long -- it was good to get home to these guys, just in time for blissful October.

a midwestern adventure

I like adventures.

Whether they are as epic as meeting Kobe Bryant in Las Vegas....

We had a very stimulating conversation. I said, "Can I take a picture with you?" and he said, "No."

as bizarre as accepting a ride from a combo bus driver/cowbell player in Florida...

as irritating as herding sheep out of our way during a scenic drive in Ireland...

as ridiculous sounding as driving to Canada...

as stupid as walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with a paralyzing fear of heights...

or as confusing as trying to find Lance Armstrong at the finish line of the Tour de France.

That's not him in yellow, contrary to our popular belief at the time.

I've been spoiled in that I've traveled to so many interesting places, as early as a wee three year old. Did I mention I lived in Holland? the 1600s, apparently.

Now, thanks to being dragged from country to country, museum to museum for as long as I can remember, I hate sitting still. In my spare time I plan hypothetical vacations and browse And when I find $100 plane tickets to Chicago from my local regional [usually expensive] airport, I don't pass that up.

So, I recruited two friends and we're off to Chicago tomorrow morning before the sun comes up. I think I'm most excited to step outside without sweating and drink my first pumpkin spice latte of the season - they aren't quite as exciting when it's 90 degrees and the closest Starbucks advertises them like this:

It's the PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE, people! Show it some respect!

I've actually been to Chicago once before, just for a day, and made the unfortunate mistake of wearing boxers under a dress in order to ride a bike without flashing anyone.

Which leads me to the real reason I'm going to Chicago -- I need pictures of myself in the Windy City where it doesn't look like I'm wearing a diaper.

Mr. McGee

Since a year ago today we were on our honeymoon in Ireland, I feel like I should do a reminiscent post. I could go on and on about the views, the food, and the nonstop Michael Jackson tributes; but I would rather tell you about our "Frank and Beans".

Just like Pam and Jim made some friends on their honeymoon, so did we. Our friend was in the audience at a pub where the band put us on the spot for being on our honeymoon.

Okay... that's not quite true. We never actually met our friend. We also don't remember seeing him in person. But once we looked through our pictures, oh, he was there. And he was really, really, really happy to see us.

Luckily we were able to figure out his name named him: Smiley McGee. Smiley McGee is an often discussed subject in our house, and has even appeared in a birthday card. He also has a voice -- which, now that I think about it, sounds suspiciously like Ike's inner monologue - that we use to say his catch phrase. Which, appropriately if not creatively, is "I'M SMILEY MCGEE!"