House hunt: Westerpark

(Go west!) Life is peaceful there
(Go west!) In the open air
(Go west!) Where the skies are blue
(Go west!) This is what we’re gonna do
Go West, Pet Shop Boys

Is it possible to fall in love with a neighborhood? It seems that’s exactly what happened when Westerpark and I met for the first time.

It was a sunny Sunday morning when Marlon and I cycled to Westerpark for a look-see. We’d seen a few promising, budget-friendly apartments in the area on Funda but didn’t know much about the neighborhood, so we decided to go and check it out ourselves.

Living in the rather posh Oud Zuid has spoiled us, so we were a little tentative about the surroundings at first. It wasn’t seedy or creepy or anything like that, but you just kind of get used to being surrounded by cravat-wearing, Lexus-driving people in this area. I know, it’s not normal.

But low-key Westerpark had a few tricks up its sleeve. The first arrow into my heart came as Marlon and I were peeking into a ground floor apartment that we were thinking of viewing.

De Wittenkade apartment for sale

The place was nicely done up for sure, but that wasn’t what got me. It was the sweet little old lady that tottered up to us in her housecoat and walker as we had our noses pressed up against the window.

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Venice in watercolor

It’s been a while since my last watercolor project. The class went on break for the summer, and I decided not to join any of the outdoor painting sessions my teacher held in place of the regular class. When I went back to Haarlem in September, I decided to continue my travel series with a painting of a Venetian gondola. With the change of seasons, it was my way of saying, “Take me back to Venice in the springtime!”

Here, my biggest struggle was with the interior of the boat, because there was so much crap detail in it. My teacher Penny is a real master at knowing when to be a stickler for detail and when to let go and just splash around, so I had lots of help from her here. She also introduced me to a rather colorful Dutch euphemism for nitpicking: mierenneuken, which literally means, to fuck an ant. Hilarious.

Overall, I’m really happy with it… but I think I’ll go easy on the details when choosing my next subject!

Do you like this month’s watercolor piece? Does it feel like spring in Venice to you?

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So, tell me what you want (what you really, really want)

Before we set out to view apartments for sale in Amsterdam, I thought Marlon and I knew what we wanted. Our wish list included:

  • A minimum of 80 square meters—smaller than our current place, but not too small
  • Something special—period details such as original moldings or exposed beams
  • Ground floor or first floor, max
  • Two bedrooms—one for us, one for the baby (plus a possible future kid)
  • A bathtub and a back yard would be nice, at least a balcony will do
  • An open kitchen

It turned out that we had only the vaguest idea. Our broker (who specializes in expat rentals, but gamely took us on) easily stumped us by asking questions like: “If you were to rank your criteria, what would be your top three considerations and why?” Cue long and puzzled silence.

That’s why our first “housing tour”, as they call it here, was so important. Each of the six apartments we saw was like a date, or a mini-relationship. Each clued us into a little piece of what we wanted and didn’t want—which, like love and many other things in life, are tedious but necessary steps that eventually lead to The One.

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Maternity style: Month 4

September—weeks 12 through 16 of my pregnancy—has been exciting because I’ve started to see more “proof” that I’m actually pregnant. I know that sounds weird (the pregnancy test and two ultrasound scans weren’t enough?) but I’ve had such a smooth pregnancy, I do sometimes forget that I’m pregnant. Well, the fog of unreality has cleared, thanks to two thrilling developments.

One: I’ve started to feel the baby move! The first time was at week 14, while sitting at the dining table talking to Marlon late one evening. I suddenly felt this subtle, unusual fluttering at the very bottom of my belly. It went on for about 10 minutes and was so unlike everything I’d ever felt… and I cried. The movements—which also felt like soft little taps on the inside of my belly, or like speeding downhill in a fast car—started to get more regular through the next week, but I could only really feel them if I sat or lay down quietly.

Now I can feel the baby move a little bit every day, sometimes even while I’m out and about. It’s a wonderful feeling, and when it happens, everything else just goes quiet for me. I can’t wait for the movements to get stronger so Marlon can feel them too.

Second: I now have a little bump! I find it so thrilling because I want to be showing already… I want to have a good excuse to have a big tummy! It’s not huge (heck, heavy meals have given me a bigger belly many times in the past), but it’s exciting because now I get to start dressing the bump.

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Let’s do brunch in… London

Oh, London… so near, yet so far. London is one of those major destinations that I wonder if I’ll ever get to visit while living in Europe. Though it’s just 45 minutes from Amsterdam by plane, getting a UK visa entails a trip to Dusseldorf (yes, in Germany!)… which is an even bigger hassle than applying for a visa to the US.

So, until the visa process gets easier (which, for a Philippine passport holder, will be… never) or I have a compelling reason to go, I satisfy my wanderlust for London through the sharp, discerning eyes of one Tina Bernstein, who blogs at Colourliving. A property curator living in London, Tina’s passion for the city, for creativity and for cosmopolitan living (and of course, for color!) shines through loud and clear in her blog.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tina at The Hive Berlin last May; since then, I turn to Colourliving when I want a break from the precious, pretty, pastel and perfectly styled imagery that sometimes floods the blogosphere. This week, she takes us to London for brunch—and in true Tina style, chooses a spot that’s refreshingly real and full of urban character.

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