Classical music on the canals

Every summer, Amsterdam holds the Grachtenfestival, a 10-day festival of free classical concerts around the historical center, particularly in the grachten, or canals. The biggest event in the lineup is the Prinsengrachtconcert, which took place last weekend on a floating stage in front of the Hotel Pulitzer on the Prinsengracht, as it’s been since 1997.

I didn’t intend on going this year, but after some errands in the center, Marlon and I found ourselves right around the corner from the Prinsengracht. So we decided to head there, and this is what we found. Crazy.

Prinsengracht Concert

An estimated 80,000 people turn up each year for this concert, and many of them show up in boats. On land, it was no less mobbed.

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Turkish brunch at Theatercafe Mozaïek

Finding a new brunch spot in Amsterdam is always a cause for celebration. Thanks to a resourceful friend, I discovered the Podium Mozaïek, a church-turned-arts space for multicultural artists who normally wouldn’t be accommodated in the city’s more mainstream, central venues.

Located in the Bos en Lommer, a diverse, up-and-coming neighborhood out west, this venue also houses the Theatercafe Mozaïek, a spacious cafe perfect for pre- or post-show drinks and discussions.

As it turns out, the Theatercafe Mozaiek is also perfect for brunch. Reflecting the neighborhood’s large Turkish population, the fare is a fantastic Turkish spread with more food than you could possibly eat, for a very reasonable €13.50.

I can hardly remember everything that was served, there was so much: Turkish pastries, cold cuts and sausages, creamy thick yogurt covered with honey, fruit preserves, at least three different kinds of cheese,and generous baskets of fluffy Turkish bread. All of it washed down with bottomless glasses of hot, sweet Turkish tea.

I loved the place, loved the food, and so did the girls from the Amsterdam girls’ Meetup group that I’m part of. Have you heard of Meetup? It’s a site where you can form, find or join a group that meets up near you, with people who share a common interest that could be anything from quiz nights to curly hair, or from ethnic identity to expat life.

Lots of expats use Meetup to meet people, which is something you really need to keep doing as the perpetual new kid in town. I really wish I had known about it back when I was living in Singapore; I could have used a good set of girlfriends back then. Fortunately, I met my current (and very awesome) circle of Amsterdam girlfriends through a Meetup lunch, and they’re just the kind of company I love to have over a good brunch. Especially a brunch as good as the one we had at Theatercafe Mozaeik!

Theatercafe Mozaïek
Bos en Lommerweg 191
1055 DT Amsterdam
T: +31 (0)20 5800383

P.S. Be sure to check back next Sunday for this month’s installment of Let’s Do Brunch. I’m really excited because next week’s guest blogger is featuring a city that’s long been on my travel wishlist!

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Notebooks from LikeStationery

Before things get lost in all the baby excitement, I wanted to show off a few goodies that I picked up from Kleine Fabriek. It was a trade event, so I couldn’t buy any of the adorable children’s clothes and things on display from the exhibitors. However, that doesn’t mean my wallet escaped scot-free!

Not when a funky pop-up shop from Dutch webstore LikeStationery was on site to tempt me with its irresistible wares. LikeStationery is the online store of Amsterdam-based graphic Sanne Dirkzwager, a.k.a. Strawberryblonde, who, as her shop name implies, has a passion for stationery. Something I’m sure lots of girls can relate to… like I do.

I love paper, but notebooks are my true weakness. My mom loves them too, and my growing collection of unused notebooks—which grows after every trip—is one of the things that makes me realize that perhaps we are all destined to turn into our mothers someday. (My penchant for red lipstick is another.)

So I just couldn’t resist picking up these adorable notebooks at LikeStationery’s pop-up store. I’ve been craving for color during this (mostly) drab gray summer. Since I couldn’t choose between something pastel or bright, I got both. The Swedish words on the pastel one pushed my wanderlust button.

I also couldn’t pass up this sunshiny yellow notebook with a library card slot in the front. This reminds me of a childhood pleasure: borrowing books from the school library! I was a voracious reader as a kid, a true librarian’s pet and nerd-in-the-making who always filled up several library cards each school year.

Aside from the notebooks, I also bought a smart little earphone winder. It’s just a simple strip of suede, but it keeps things tidy and (the most important thing) I have managed to somehow not lose it yet. Sometimes the simplest things work best.

LikeStationery offers worldwide shipping and has a fun, colorful blog chronicling the inspirations behind the shop’s wares, as well as Sanne’s own design work.

Do you find stationery irresistible too? What form of paper can you absolutely not resist?

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Nine weeks

When Marlon and I moved to Amsterdam, we knew that we wanted this to be the place where the next chapter in our lives would unfold. And now that it’s really happening, I can hardly believe it.

Say hello to our little mango, the nine week-old adventurer who has already traveled to Iceland (without us knowing it!), the baby who will come into the world in March 2013, and the reason why Marlon and I are so, so happy.

At this point, our baby is not really a mango… more like a grape, actually. But when we saw her for the first time during the first ultrasound last week, she (and I’m just going to use “he” and “she” interchangeably here, I don’t really like “it”) already had discernible legs, arms, a head, an umbilical cord, and a beating heart—a whole, entire person in less than an inch.

And when she moved… suddenly she wasn’t an idea, a plan, or a picture on a screen anymore, but a real living miracle inside my body. It’s simply amazing. I still have difficulty wrapping my head around it sometimes.

More to come soon, including how I’ve been feeling, what it’s like to be pregnant in the Netherlands, and a veritable buffet of yummy comfort food care of my amazing husband. There’s much to share, but don’t worry… this blog isn’t going to turn into a pregnancy diary overnight. Life goes on… but it just got a whole lot better.

This post is part of the August Post of the Month Club over at Life on Planet Baby

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Googoo&gaga at Kleine Fabriek

Right after getting back from Iceland, I dived straight into my job as a booth manager for googoo&gaga at Kleine Fabriek, a children’s trade fair at the Amsterdam RAI. I was completely exhausted, and I really don’t know how I found the energy to do all of this so soon after an active trip.

It’s a good thing the world of children’s fashion is colorful and whimsical. It made the surroundings so much more energizing and inspiring!

There were hundreds of exhibitors that weekend, divided into four sections: Object+ (home and gift items), Star (distinctive and high-end fashion brands), Industry (big, established fashion brands) and Blueprint (denim). It says a lot about how the Dutch dress their kids that there was an entire section dedicated to denim; kids’ style here is definitely very casual, rough-and-tumble and practical.

I didn’t get to browse much because I was busy working—trying to hook visitors into the booth with our 30-second “elevator pitch”, fielding questions from buyers, press, and fellow exhibitors—but you can just imagine how much color and creativity was buzzing in this huge hall that weekend. And this is only half of it!

Our booth was in the Star section was pretty simple, which I think was a good way to go about it. It allowed Googoo&gaga’s designs to really stand out… which they did! We had a lot of awesome feedback on the design aspect of the brand. We even had designers asking if they could buy adult versions of the shirts, which was pretty cool.

Still, sales isn’t an endless string of praise. Willem-Jan and I also had to listen to unsolicited opinions from buyers on everything from the pricing to the fabric (“Oh, we only stock 100% fair trade organic cotton”) to the finish of the special printing technique (“It looks like you washed it wrong”)… and deal with questions like “Was this made with child labor?” (Right, because all businesses in Southeast Asia work like that.)

It’s a good thing Angelique, Googoo&gaga’s partner in Europe, had prepared us for that. “Rejection is part and parcel of the selling game,” she wrote in her final brief before the show. “I never take ‘no’ personally and remember that doesn’t mean ‘no’ forever.” So true. In life and on the sales floor, you can’t please everyone… and I find the older I get, the less pleasing everyone matters to me.

Exhaustion aside, I had lots of fun and I would definitely do it again. If you want to see more of Kleine Fabriek, check out this video that they produced showing off the entire weekend. See if you can spot Team Googoo&gaga (my nails and Willem-Jan’s hair!) at 00:59.

kleine fabriek #15 from modefabriek on Vimeo.

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