Corporate Housing

We’ve been in corporate housing for a week and a half. Well, I have. Jaro was lucky enough to settle in when he was out here the few weeks before the holidays.

It’s funny for me to look back on our corporate housing situation a little over a year ago when we moved to Amsterdam. It was exciting and overwhelming at the time, as you can clearly tell from my post. I was so… hyper. So in awe of crazy street names and our mysterious new environment. This time it’s different. The novelty is gone. Perhaps that is because we’re in the U.S. so it doesn’t seem so strange or unfamiliar. Or perhaps it’s because it’s not as fun the second time through. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.

We’re in a high rise on the edge of the Pearl district. It’s a nice enough place, but this time around, I am much more aware of everything that’s missing. Along with any decent kitchen tools (which is torturous), it lacks personality. It feels cold. The constant rain, fog and grey-ness doesn’t help. I have no pictures for you, sorry.

Another cause for this feeling of apathy is that fact that we’ve been in transition since, well I guess July. Yep. Almost half a year. You see, after the tournament, we didn’t know where we would go next. A lot of cities were in the running, and Portland wasn’t even one of them. As you all know, this move was a last minute surprise. So here we are, in the United States, and not able to see or use our stuff. We haven’t had it since October when everything was packed up. That is a long time. I just want my stuff. I want my blankets. I want my bed. I want my… raincoats. And that’s just stuff from the Netherlands. Before moving to Europe, we had left most of our belongings in Chicago, so it will feel great to also be reunited with that stuff after 18 months. Stuff. It’s amazing how much it helps you feel “home”. Jaro and I have become pretty good at making all these temporary accommodations “homey”, but now we’re just anxious. And tired of living out of suitcases.

Apartment

It’s making us super-charged to find a house. We’re ready to, dare I say it, settle down.

xxx

{image of me in our Amsterdam apartment just before the move}

Portland: 8 First Impressions

We moved to Portland just over a week ago. I have some initial takeaways that really aren’t based off much; the majority of my time has been spent on a massive house hunt and I spend most waking hours researching, viewing, discussing and generally worrying being excited about buying a home. It may have only been a week, but it has been a whole week. I’ve been out and about learning about this little city that we now call home. It will be fun to look back at this list someday and think, wow, I didn’t know anything. (I did something similar for Stockholm here… for nothing, but oh well).

Here are my first impressions:

  1. It rains. Like, all the time. And it doesn’t help that everyone insists this is the worst time of the year. I mean, please. I was about to move to Stockholm. This is nothing. It’s just a bit depressing. Amsterdam was similar when we moved there too, and I felt trapped in our corporate housing there. At least here we have a car. But, with our current housing in the Pearl (one of the most trendy, sought-after areas), I want to walk around. And I can’t bring myself to do it. You want to know why? Well, since I was planning on a move to the frozen tundra of Stockholm and expecting to be reunited with my stuff before spring, I did not bring a single rain jacket with me. They are all in our shipping container somewhere. But you know what I do have? Four down coats. That’s right, FOUR. Five if you count my down vest. And not a single rain jacket.
  2. Everyone drives everywhere. I guess this is a west coast city planning thing, but you can’t survive here without a car. Things are spaced out and public transit is limited. It’s a big change from our Euro life; not owning a car in Amsterdam and relying completely on public transportation was so easy. Now I have to rely on myself, which isn’t as fun. And have car payments. And pay for gas.
  3. Speaking of gas, the stations here are full service. It is SO weird. I feel terrible sitting in my car while some poor sap fills my tank. I guess it’s a job, though?
  4. I’m loving the landscape; it’s totally different from the flat Midwest and the lowlands of the Netherlands. From the wide river it sit on, to the mountains and pine forests surrounding it, Portland is beautiful. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Hood in the distance. It is quite majestic!  I’m so looking forward to hiking (in my plaid flannel and snacking on my homemade granola) once the weather warms up.
  5. There is a uniform here. Try to go more than a few blocks without seeing someone in a Patagonia down sweater, a beanie, and boots. Try.
  6. We are trying to cook most of our meals at home, but we did go out over the weekend to see what weekend culture here is all about. Something I think I’m going to love is that the dining and bar scene is so relaxed. If you noticed my twitter feed to the right, we have checked out Brix for beers, Saburo for sushi, Corkscrew for wine, and Vault for martinis. Two thumbs up! Looking forward to more foodie exploration.
  7.  Keep Portland weird is a real thing. No really, there are signs that say it everywhere. And it makes perfect, weird sense as you drive down a street with bright purple, orange and lime green houses.
  8. I really need to start watching Portlandia.

xxx

Slight Change of Plans…

Hi everyone. I know there has been a lot of speculation about our circumstances as I haven’t written a blog post since our moving day. You know, the day we were leaving Amsterdam and heading to Stockholm. Well, it was great! Better than we could have imagined, actually. Here is all our stuff awaiting delivery to Sweden:

Moving Day

Here we are in our huge, empty apartment:

Moving DayHere are our very symbolic, key(less)chains, waiting for keys to a new home:

Moving Day

And here we are, just like last year, at the airport (please excuse my crazy hair):

Moving Day

Except we weren’t boarding a flight to Stockholm. We, in fact, had one-way tickets to CHICAGO.

That’s right, folks. There was literally a last minute change in plans.

The morning of our move, with our stuff already packed and the movers already loading the truck, Jaro received a call from his manager in Sweden. She told him to sit down. He couldn’t as our chairs and couch were already being loaded. Her call was to inform him that there was a fantastic opportunity in Portland, Oregon and she didn’t want to stand in the way of him accepting it.

After another call, a quick lunch and a short list of the pros and cons, we decided what was right for Jaro’s career and, more significantly, our life and future. That Wednesday evening, we canceled our flight to Stockholm.

On Thursday night, we froze our shipment and booked a flight to the U.S. By Friday afternoon, we were in Chicago. Only my brother knew we were coming. You know where I’m going with this… Since we arrived nine days ago, we have orchestrated several surprise appearances, including randomly showing up at both our parents’ houses. How could we not? It’s truly the chance of a lifetime since everyone expected us to be settling in Sweden. And yes, we caught some on camera.

Like my sister at her college, Marquette University:

Surprise

And our cousin Roman, on his birthday, no less. Also, please note the awesome effect of Roman being in Jaro’s reflection on the glass door (that was unintentional, but perfect):

Surprise

I even got my girlfriends on their way to our other girlfriend’s wedding shower after a high-speed car chase through the city:

Surprise

And tagged along with them on the road trip to Michigan to get Stacy, the bride, as well:

SurpriseThese surprises were hilarious and we had SO MUCH FUN doing it. Seriously, the reactions, the screams, the tears, the swears… were all worth it. Thank you to all our unwitting victims. We’ll never forget the love we felt by sharing this excitement with you.

The secret’s out now. We’re back. We’ve only know ourselves for a week and a half, what a whirlwind! Because of the timing, and the fact that we were homeless in Amsterdam, we thought it would be best to be home with family and friends until we figure out the next steps. Incredibly, we will be here for the holidays. Yay! It looks like we’ll be heading to Portland in January where Jaro will be working from Nike’s world headquarters. I’m infinitely proud of him. And so excited for this unexpected twist in our extraordinary journey through life. While we may be stateside, we’ll always be Those Dam Americans. Can’t wait to continue sharing our story with you.

Not to be a big cheeseball about this, but this much I know is true: Sometimes life does throw you curve balls. And sometimes, you get to knock them out of the park.

Thrilled to be back, America. Can’t wait for this new adventure.

Julie

It’s moving day.

Happy Halloween, peeps! I hope everyone is celebrating safely and happily. We are having an unusual Halloween this year. We’re moving to Sweden today. Which means it’s our last day as residents of the Netherlands. As such, I’ve written up a little goodbye.

Amsterdam, it’s been real. You have been an incredible home to us for the past 14 months. You have opened our eyes to new experiences that we never could have imagined. Thank you. And thanks for all the amazing memories that we will cherish forever. It has truly been a pleasure. You will always have a special place in our hearts as our first home away from home.

Here is a little recap of the fun we had this year:

Yours truly,

J+J

Stockholm: 5 Second Impressions

You can see my first impressions here.

The movers are here! This time they have a permit to be parked in the street; we’re off to a good start. (When we first moved in, they didn’t, and had to park at the end of the street and carry all our stuff down the street by hand.) As they begin to pack up our things, I figured I should stay glued to the computer as long as possible share some impressions from our second visit to Stockholm, just two weeks ago. While our house hunt was a bust (and still is), we otherwise had a really great visit getting to know our new home.

  1. The dining scene is fantastic, as we expected from our initial culinary adventures. This second visit cemented it. The Swedes really care about food (like me) so this will be a good bonding point for us. With dinners at trendy AG and swanky Riche, we were impressed. We tried some local dishes and loved them! Skagen is basically a cold shellfish salad on toast, so good. We also had Isterband, which is a pork sausage with potatoes and beets. Reminded me of corned beef, also delicious. And Biff Rydberg, fried tenderloin chunks that comes with a raw egg yolk to mix up with potatoes and horseradish creme. Yum! We have heard that it’s more common to host dinner parties at home than eat at a restaurant, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be doing our fair share of both.
  2. The city as a whole feels huge. It’s roughly eight times bigger than Amsterdam, geographically. We’ll be getting to know that public transportation system real quick. Walking from our hotel, Nordic Sea, to Södermalm took me over 30 minutes. I can walk across the entire city of Amsterdam in that time.
  3. Despite this leap in size, each island/neighborhood feels small and cozy. After several more days of wandering around, we still love Södermalm the most. It feels the most “us”, as the Pijp did here in Amsterdam.
  4. It’s cold. I was not surprised by this as I do not live under a rock, but I was surprised by my body’s very averse reaction. …And it was just October. I have really got to develop a thicker skin for winter (either that or invest in some thermal tights). I’m from Chicago for goodness sake. You would think I can handle it. To make it worse, everyone has warned us that we are moving there at the darkest, coldest, wettest, ugliest time. Yay. Can’t wait. Really though, we’re okay with that. Because it will only get better… right?
  5. We found out about cool celebrations that are totally unique to Sweden. Midsummer in June with dancing under the midnight sun and crayfish parties in August where you better take gulps of schnapps are just the beginning. The Swedes live the good life.

Enough chatter. It was a quick trip and much of it was spent on the house hunt, so we didn’t have a lot of free time. Here are a few pics. Both visits, we noticed we haven’t taken the best pictures, so I apologize for that. These don’t really do Stockholm justice. It is a really beautiful city.

xxx

Amsterdam: 10 (more) Things I’ll Miss

You can see installment one here

This list will probably make more sense if you visited us this year, or have been faithfully been reading this blog for awhile (love you). I could go on and on…

  1. The hot meat man: 
  2. The hot meat: 
  3. My bike basket looking like this every weekend: 
  4. Lazy mornings with our favorite house guests: 
  5. This apple tart (definitively the best in the world): 
  6. Dutch frites (arguably the best in the world): 
  7. These oysters (sometimes accompanied by champagne, because we’re fancy like that):
  8. This window: 
  9. This hilariously tiny oven that still got the job done: 
  10. Our street: 

xxx

Stockholm House Hunt, part ett

Hey friends. We got back from our Stockholm house hunting trip last night. I’ll spare you the suspense: It was a big BUST. We did not find a home that was suitable for us. After examining seven apartments in total, we just could not commit.

Prior to this house hunting trip, we had visited in July to understand the city a bit, done lots of research on the neighborhoods, scoured Swedish online resources about apartments both for sale and for rent. All to get a feel for the market and what to expect. Let’s just say that in an expensive city like Stockholm, we set our expectations at an all-time low. For comparable rent to our Amsterdam pad, we needed to sacrifice both size and amenities. Now that makes me laugh. Those of you that have visited or seen our Dam apartment know that we’re spoiled. It’s huge. Probably close to 150 square meters. We have a dishwasher, in-unit laundry, gas stove, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and pretty much a dance floor/bowling alley. It has been the perfect place to entertain; hosting visitors, throwing parties and nice dinners was our favorite. We also have fantastic neighbors, our street is lovely and we are near everything. It’s actually the best.

We were very open-minded as we started this new house hunt, knowing we couldn’t have the same luck as we did in Amsterdam (which I wrote about here and here). So let’s find the humor in our failure! Here are my takeaways:

  1. First of all, I cannot believe how some people live. I’ll try not to make this a generalization about all Stockholmers, but we saw several apartments that were absolutely disgusting. Don’t they know strangers are going to be inside their place hoping to rent it? It was almost impossible to see past all the trash and clutter. Case in point, kitchen #1:It’s a good thing you can’t see my face. 
  2. Not all Scandinavian design is beautiful. Case in point, bathroom #3:There is no way I would shower in there. It looks like a shower you get murdered in.
  3. Some bedrooms are actually not. Case in point, spare bedroom at #4:Where the naughty kids are sent to bed.
  4. You don’t have to set it up the same way as the current tenants. Case in point, living room of #5:What on earth is going on here.

We only saw one nice apartment we could see ourselves living in. Meatloaf may have said two out of three ain’t bad, but one out of seven is really bad. Terrible. The deal breaker was that it sat on the northern edge of town, in a quiet area full of families with small kids. We aren’t there yet (and won’t be for several years, thankyouverymuch). While we know we have to sacrifice size and location, we won’t budge on location. We want to be in a lively ‘hood.

So what now? Time to face reality. We have to increase our budget by about 5,000Kr. We have to be flexible about “nice” amenities like dishwashers, in-unit laundry, balconies and, most sadly, spare bedrooms. We have to keep looking.

Come November when we head over for good (oh God, two weeks from now!), we’ll be in temporary housing until we find it. It will be worth it. It’s all just taking a little longer than we hoped.

At least we know autumn in Stockholm is beautiful:

xxx

Amsterdam: 5 Things I’ve Learned

After living in Holland for over a year, I’ve learned a lot. These things in particular:

  1. Patience. Customer service? Forget it. Whether it’s inexplicably waiting 6 months for a residency permit or 45 minutes for a prescription pick up at the pharmacy, you better not be in a hurry. Both (and many other similar scenarios) happened to me. The Dutch certainly are not going to speed up their pace to accomodate you, impatient American. Slow your roll. However, Ikea will deliver to your door within 2 hours. Guess that’s a Swedish thing. 
  2. Perseverance. The market doesn’t have all the ingredients for dinner tonight? Head to the grocery store. They don’t have it all either? Go to the other grocery store. Still? Try the more expensive international food store. That process can often be a half day affair. Stick it out. The fantastic black bean burgers that result? Worth it.
  3. Trust. Do not trust the weatherman. Whenever they say it’s not going to rain, it will. Layered dressing and preferably something waterproof is the way to go. Always be prepared. On the other hand, always trust the cheese man. Somehow he always knows exactly what you want (i.e. any of them). 
  4. Bikers have the right of way. Always.
  5. Have fun. Every day. Despite waiting, despite running around for food, despite almost getting run over, despite the weather. Remind yourself that you are fortunate to be living in Holland. Because you are.

xxx

Amsterdam: 5 Things I Won’t Miss

Gasp! There is actually something Julie won’t miss about living in Amsterdam? She’s always singing its praises. 

Guys, let’s keep it real. Life in Amsterdam isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. In fact, depending how you read that, it mostly isn’t. Here are some things that I definitely won’t miss about our brief Dutch life:

  1. The bike culture. But wait, I thought you said it was something you would miss? Well, there are two sides to that story. This other, evil side is the one that whizzes past you, pedaling the wrong direction in the bike lane (or not), but somehow you, pedestrian/motorist/innocent soul, are the moron and you are in the wrong for not seeing them first. I have been clipped by many a biker. And when you aren’t prepared, that bell is startling. Consider this a warning: Bicyclists always have the right of way. That includes when I’m riding, thankyouverymuch.
  2. The ignorant comments from people that never have visited Amsterdam and claim they know it’s all about prostitution and pot. Guess what? It’s not. While the Red Light District and coffeeshops do exist and are a legal boost to our economy, they have nothing to do with my life and it’s easy to forget they are even here.
  3. Actually, I take that back. The tourists that visit such places and then create scenes in otherwise peaceful places (like when I’ve been harassed by junkies in the park… at 11am). We’re just trying to live our life, so keep your dalliances to yourself. I don’t care what you do, just do it somewhere that is not in front of my face.
  4. The weather. I’ve gotten used to it, and I suppose I can make this positive by saying that now I really truly appreciate a nice, sunny day. Most of the time, it’s like this: 
  5. It’s dirty. Coming from Chicago, which I guess is very clean, this is the other end of the spectrum. Trash is left in the streets, the canal water is polluted, and no one ever picks up after their dogs. Unbelievably, it doesn’t smell! Must be all the flowers…

These lists are fun.

xxx

Amsterdam: 10 Things I’ll Miss

As we wrap up our time in Amsterdam, I’ve been reflecting like whoa on everything that I’m going to miss about our Dutch life. While there are countless things that I’ll miss, here is a short list of some more “general” things:

  1. Market shopping. Obviously. This is basically my main pastime. I love strolling through the many markets that are squeezed into tiny Amsterdam. It’s where I get most of our produce, and a lot of our poultry and cheeses. And it’s always fun to check out some of the interesting trinkets being sold. 
  2. There’s no panhandling. I’m told that Amsterdam has a lot of programs and shelters to limit this activity. I have never once been asked for money in the 14 months we have lived here. In a way, that has contributed to the safe environment this city maintains. There is low crime and little to fear as I come home alone at night, which I’ve done often.
  3. The architecture. Charming, quaint, and cute are the first three adjectives that come to mind. Amsterdam is a small city, and the building style, which is highly regulated, helps to keep the small town charm intact. There are rules on what you can do to the facade and how tall you can build.
  4. The bike culture. I occasionally moan and groan about riding my bike, but that is mostly out of laziness. I really love riding it. And with all the bike lanes and signals, not to mention how fast we can get places, it’s a wonderful convenience. 
  5. The parks, specifically Sarphatipark and Vondelpark. For its size, Amsterdam has a healthy amount of green space. We had many picnics, long walks and good ole fashion fun in ’em. 
  6. Those canals. I know we’re moving to a place with lots o’ water, but it’s different. It’s not as intimate. There is something incredibly romantic about a stroll along the Dam canals. 
  7. The abundance of flowers. Hello, we’re in the the tulip capital of the world, despite the fact that they did not originate here. Fun Fact: Tulips are really from Turkey and were imported here in 16th century. We always had fresh flowers in the house this year, which became a daily luxury rather than a once-in-awhile treat. 
  8. The street style here has really changed the way I look at everyday dressing. While the 90’s grunge look is definitely seeing a resurgence, people also just embrace their own unique style, whatever that is. While Dam Style is an homage to the younger, quirkier set, its a glimpse at some of the more eclectic fashion. Many people dress more subtly.
  9. I have definitely taken this for granted, but the centrality of Amsterdam in Europe; its magical ability to be a 1 to 2 hour flight from seemingly everywhere, is something I know I’m going to miss. Stockholm, while a major city, is at least one connection away from a lot of places we may want to visit and often will be a much longer flight.
  10. Raw herring. I don’t care what you say, I like it. Especially on a crunchy bun with onions and pickles. 

Of course, this is not a full list. These were on the very top of my head. 😀

xxx