Thursday, February 24, 2011

❇ Snow Day ❇

I haven’t trusted a single weatherman for years. Not Nick Allard. Not Matt Zaffino. Not even Al Roker.

Why? Because they lie. They tell us we’re in for “the most significant February storm in 10 years,” and we wake up to blue skies. What’s worse? On air, they sometimes laugh about their forecasts from the previous day because they’re so utterly and completely wrong. It’s like they’re laughing at us for believing them in the first place! Sure, Nick Allard wins us over with his blond hair and boyish charm, and Al finds his way to our hearts with his sense of humor, but that doesn’t make up for the torture I endure after layering on sweater after sweater, jacket after jacket—preparing for chilly conditions—and then sweating uncontrollably when it turns out to be 72 and sunny.

❇ ❇ ❇

I’m glad to say today is different. We woke up this morning to—that’s right—snow! The sticky kind, not the slushy, sloppy kind. Freddie sat by window, pawing at the flakes against the glass as they fell from the sky, while I snapped photos on my iPhone and read emails from coworkers (“sorry, I’ll be in late today”) and reveled in the excitement of a few inches of snow.

It’s not a storm, no, and it’s not enough to close the office or even stay home from work, but it’s enough to make me giddy.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Confession: Life in the Netherlands

You know how Portland is called Rose City? If it were up to me, I’d name Amsterdam Bike City. Here, there are probably more bicycles than cars, which sounds pleasant but actually is terrifying. Bicyclers have their own street—partitioned with a curb and everything—and don’t stop for anyone. (It’s a miracle I made it out alive. Especially because I led the group into traffic on numerous occasions.)

On Friday, I weave in and out of bike congestion for the better part of the day. It’s a frigid 40 degrees outside, so my coworkers and I bundle up and kick off the morning with warm, foamy cappuccinos. (After mimosas at the hotel, yes.) I’m also trying to break in my pretty leather boots that I bought on Thursday: the one day each week when stores stay open late and shoppers saturate the streets until 8 p.m.

After the coffee has penetrated my bloodstream and I’m feeling extra bouncy, we hop on a long, narrow boat and tour the city from the water, absorbing the details about Amsterdam’s oldest buildings and the canals that wind past them.

Next is more shopping at lunch at Dam Square, and then cocktails with our European coworkers at the Park Plaza hotel. We wrap up the evening at Little Buddha, a large, loud and dimly lit sushi bar that sits alongside the Pathé Cinema and Jack’s Casino, inside Amsterdam’s emblematic and fully renovated City Theatre.

My confession? I could get used to life in Europe.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

♠ Dutch Pancakes ♠

Today isn’t just another Wednesday. The sun shines bright for the first time this week, embracing the city with warmth, saturating the cobblestone sidewalks with a golden glow. This, along with receiving a surprise from Jeff last night—a beautiful flower bouquet and an assortment of chocolates—puts me in an especially great mood.

Ah, Wednesday.

The commute is getting old for my coworkers, who say they’re just suburban girls unaccustomed to public transportation. For me? The train provides time to think, relax, read, and get pumped for the day. It’s a great change of pace, I remind them. I say the ride doesn't bother me, that in fact I really enjoy it, but I think my stable positivity is starting to irritate them.

Everyone is happier after coffee. We work for a few hours and then round up the entire office, pile into three taxis, and head to lunch. The restaurant we choose serves pancakes and pizza, and although pancakes seem appropriate only for breakfast, our friends say they’re to die for. So I order a ham, cheese and pineapple pancake with thick, sweet syrup. Others opt for banana and sugar, or apple and cinnamon.

Words can’t describe the deliciousness of this pancake! I’ve never tasted anything like it. Sweet and savory flavors combine so beautifully I never want to stop eating. After lunch, we wander the sidewalks and pop into clothing shops while waiting for our taxis back to the office.

Tomorrow is our last day of work—and our first day of another amazing (short) weekend in the city!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunset and Saddle Shoes

My feet are laced inside a pair new, super-cute European saddle shoes, and a slouchy shoulder sack drapes in front of my red coat, next to my Kate Spade computer bag. I’m ready for my first day of work in the Netherlands. The commute reminds me of the one I used to endure in San Francisco: two train rides and a short walk.

When we arrive at the office, we meet our coworkers on the first floor for a sugary cup of American coffee before setting up camp at our temporary desks. The day is usual, but different. And by 6 p.m., a beer sounds magnificent. Four of us stop at the pub next to the train station while waiting for our ride back to the hotel.

The evening ends with dinner and drinks by the fire in our hotel’s bar, accompanied by a perfectly pink sunset. Perfect because, I almost forget, today is Valentine’s Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Recap: My First 30 Hours in Holland

I’ve been in Amsterdam for 30 hours, although it feels like it’s been two weeks. I’ve done so much already! On Saturday afternoon, my coworkers and I checked into the Park Plaza hotel and strolled through the city in the rain, experiencing the neighborhood’s charm like the locals do: wet. That evening we enjoyed drinks at the hotel before meeting three more colleagues for dinner at a chic restaurant in the city. I had an intense craving for a cheeseburger and pinched myself in annoyance. What horrible timing! An American ordering a cheeseburger. But I'm glad I did. It was the cutest, most petit little thing ever.

One bottle of champagne, three bottles of wine and two hours later, we walked the half-hour back to the hotel for one more glass of celebratory bubbly. (Because hey, why not?)

Despite our eventful night out, we woke up early this morning to tour the Anne Frank house. It was heartbreaking to see the young girl’s original journal entries and hiding area: a small, secret annex in the heart of Amsterdam. Until today, I didn’t realize how beautifully she wrote. Her words are printed on the walls, as are original pencil scribbles that mark each child’s growth during the two years the family was in hiding. Authentic posters and photos also hang on the walls, secured with glue and thumbtacks behind protective glass cases.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the city by foot, stopping in shops and cafes for cappuccinos and heavenly whiffs of brightly colored tulips. (Who knew Holland was famous for tulips?)

Tomorrow’s agenda: work.

I’m off to bed!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

♥ An Early Valentine's Day Gift ♥

Now that I’m finally starting to prep for my European adventure, I realize I’ll be away from my valentine on Valentine’s Day. (When did February get here?) This means I’ll also miss out on frou-frou things like roses, chocolates, a fancy dinner at a crowded restaurant, and candy hearts with messages on them. So I’m celebrating early, by myself, with a festive pink, red and white bouquet. It sits on my desk, next to my computer, and even though it’s comprised of cheap carnations, it puts me in such a sweet mood that cartoon hearts are practically spewing from my ears and flying in circles around my head as I work.

♥ Happy Valentine’s Day! ♥

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ready for Europe

Lately? I’ve been trying to get rid of residual symptoms of a sinus infection from November. In other words, I’ve been frequenting the ear, nose and throat doctor only to find out that nothing is seriously wrong with me, going home with different kinds of nasal spray each week.

I’ve also been trying to find a way to keep Freddie and Jeff living happily under one roof. They don’t get along at nighttime, when Jeff is trying to sleep and Freddie is meowing from 3 to 6 a.m. outside our door, or purring at full volume in our ears. He literally puts his nose inside my ear and runs his motor until it goes hoarse. If we don’t let him in the bedroom, he cries, simultaneously jumping upwards toward the door handle in hopes of latching onto it. He eventually grabs the handle, and the door swings open and he runs inside our room. (That’s right. Freddie can open doors.)

But lastly, and most importantly, I’ve been trying to get ready for my trip to—drum roll, please—Amsterdam! I’m leaving this Friday for The Netherlands, where I’ll be working for one week at Nike’s European headquarters. I’m guessing when I’m there, I’ll have plenty of time to blog about the trip, what with the bad TV and all. I’m just hoping I don’t fry my bangs to a crisp with my American hair appliances. (I learned about this the hard way, on my last trip.) Crossing my fingers for successful voltage conversion!