You win some…

… and some wins you have to give away.

Notice I didn’t say “you lose some” because, when it comes to home design, I count a lose as an ‘it wasn’t meant to be’.

Rolan and I enjoyed an afternoon bike ride through our new city yesterday and were pleasantly surprised to find out that the shops were open. (They are usually closed on Sundays here.)

I noticed that one of the home design shops, LifeStyle, was moving its store across the street and selling everything off at incredible discounts.

We are on a major spending freeze given my current lack of employment, but I tugged Rolan’s arm in that direction anyway. I’m a glutton for punishment.

Really awful, terrible super bad punishment.

We fell in love with these globes, but couldn’t justify the purchase since we don’t have anywhere to display it.

We watched the store disintegrate before our very eyes. People were snapping up deals left and right. I started thinking maybe our spending freeze wasn’t the only reason we would go home empty handed. Pretty soon there wouldn’t be anything left to buy.

But then I looked above the cashier station and gasped. The most beautiful basket pendant lights were just hanging there with a 70% off sticker and nobody was grabbing them.

It’s actually the same light as seen in one of my favorite office inspiration pins:

But even with 70% off, that beautiful baby was still way out of our price range. So I closed my eyes, grabbed Rolan’s arm and politely asked him to escort me out of the shop.

Just as we were heading out I saw another young couple examining the light. I just hope whoever got it loves it as much as I do.

If you love it too (and your budget is bigger than mine), I found it on their web site — still on sale!

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Give me a break

These days, with money being so tight, it gets easy to beat myself up about what we can’t yet afford to do around the apartment.

But today when I woke up I heard my brain telling me to relax.

So I listened. And I realized…

It’s okay that the couch is a little dirty in spots. It was free and it is holding up well to Ludovico’s talon claws.

It’s also his favorite place for daily cat naps, which are a much-appreciated break from the norm of “No! Stop! Ouch! That’s my leg!”

It’s also okay that the hand-me-down bench we received from Rolan’s uncle is upholstered in a dark red and black damask.

Because, as it happens, the Ikea Ofelia throw that Rolan’s mother gifted me makes a pretty nice little slipcover for the time being.

Not perfect, but it’s fine for now!

Also not perfect is our clothes storage situation in the bedroom. But that’s okay because we have beautiful dark blue curtains we found on clearance that were lovingly sewn together by Rolan’s mother and hemmed to the right height by yours truly.

And even though I will probably kill them soon, I am enjoying the fresh herbs we have growing in our kitchen.

There is so much possibility in this apartment. I simultaneously can and can’t wait to see what comes of it.


Friday Favorites

Been doing some browser window shopping this week and I kept finding things for the entryway.

Like how cute would a row of these Canal House hooks look in the entryway? Adorable.

In the same vein, this prettymaps art of Amsterdam from 20×200 is gorgeous:

I never was a big wallpaper person, but I adore this Whitby Wallpaper in Lido from Mini Moderns. The beautiful teal color is almost a neutral.

And I kinda have my heart set on this hippo mat greeting us when we walk in the door.

Happy weekend, folks!


Thriftin’ for the kitchen

With my recent employment snafu, we’ve had to put some of our big ticket purchase plans on the backburner. That’s okay — I’d rather research a big decision to death before pulling the trigger anyway. And it will give us some time to live in this space, figure out what we really need and what will actually work for us.

It’s also forced us to be more choosey about what we bring into the apartment and how much we pay for it. We only buy something if we really love it. And if we know we will use something a lot, it doesn’t hurt so much to shell out the Euros for it. And it doesn’t hurt when everything we buy is only a couple Euros total.

On our last thrift store run, we found a bunch of items that help make our kitchen and cooking sessions more enjoyable.

I don’t know what this was originally intended for, but we have adopted it as our new spoon rest.

I like how it looks like a fish from the side since Rolan and I love all things fish.

I had been on the lookout for a cake stand to use as a nice landing spot for things next to the sink. Rolan wasn’t sure about this idea at first, but…

… for €1, it had to come home with me.

Also thrifted the oil bottle where we keep our dishwashing liquid.

I had gotten tired of my fruit going bad so quickly because it was piled into a regular bowl with no way for the fruit on the bottom to breathe.

Problem solved.

Never thought I’d find such useful tools at a thrift store!

Salad tongs, egg slicer and pasta measurer — little things we would’ve happily paid full price for. Don’t mind getting them for cheaper.

And, of course, I can’t forget our newest addition.

While Ludovico is technically a “thrifted” kitty, I was talking about his little food and water dishes. We also thrifted a white tray to put under them so his spills don’t end up on the laminate floors. Turns out it was a smart buy. How can such a tiny animal make such a mess?

Hopefully our little spending hiatus will be over soon so we can make this place feel a little less empty. Until then, I’m perfectly happy to keep adopting other people’s unwanted stuff.


Pax of lies

It started out innocently enough.

I found a tall, 2-door white Pax cabinet in the Ikea clearance section. It was €39.99, a 50% discount, and there was literally nothing wrong with it.

So I texted Rolan that picture and told him the deal.

“Found this perfect Pax cabinet for half off. Should I nab it? Would be hard to carry on my bike, though.”

“It does look perfect. Ask them if we can reserve it and pick it up later.”

No problem, right? Wrong. They don’t hold or reserve things at the Ikea Clearance section.

I should’ve given up right then and there. Should’ve known that the cabinet was cursed. Should’ve reminded myself of a bunch of cliches like ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.’ and ‘You get what you pay for!’

We decided to leave it up to chance. We would return to Ikea when Rolan got home from work and if it was still there, we’d figure out what to do then.

So we did. And it was. But how would we get it home?

We’d have to take it apart, of course.

By ourselves. In the store.

By the end of the disassembly I’m sure Rolan would’ve preferred to just buy the darn thing new, all nicely put together in a big cardboard box.

But the next roadblock was waiting for us.

And it was even more fun than the last — like a game of Tetris when the game board is super full and every piece is a long, straight one.

It didn’t exactly fit, but luckily we had one nylon rope to hold the backdoor down and some fabric to put between the boards and the windshield. Rolan’s view on the right side was compromised a bit, so we drove slow and avoided speed bumps.

After all of that, you’d expect to see a nice picture of our beautiful new 50% off Ikea Pax wardrobe standing proudly in the bedroom holding hangars of clothes, right?

Wrong again.

While I was recovering from my tonsillectomy, Rolan got bored and tried to put together the doomed Pax wardrobe by himself. The picture you see above is what happened after he attempted to stand the wardrobe up. Now all the little places where the screws go in look like this or worse.

So I guess the moral of the story is ‘Let sleeping clearance Pax wardrobes lie.’

Maybe ‘A Pax in a box is worth two already put together in the store‘?

Ooh! Or ‘Idle hands make the devil ruin your Pax.’

But it’s probably just closer to ‘Four hands are better than two.’


Forest pool

Since we didn’t technically go away anywhere for vacation, we wanted Rolan’s last day of summer holiday from work to feel a little special. So we packed a lunch (egg salad sammies, chips and tea!), strapped it to our bikes and set out to discover something near our apartment.

Thanks to Google Maps, we knew there was a swimming source somewhere near the local zoo. So we packed our swimming suits just in case we stumbled onto it. Turns out we couldn’t have missed it.

The Bosbad (forest pool) is exactly what it sounds like. A giant 3-pool oasis smack dab in the middle of a lush forest. And it’s all just a bike ride away from us.

It’s got fun stuff for kids and adults to do, like water slides, water guns and diving points. There’s even a rainbow-colored shallow pool just for the really little guys. The pools are surrounded by fields of grass, which stays cool and dry and — best of all — out of your every crevice, unlike sand.

There’s bathrooms there for changing (bring your own TP though!) and a little café that sells food and drinks and, most importantly, ice cream!

It opens every day this week at 10am and closes around 6pm. You can find out more info at their website.

Rolan and I really enjoyed our day of lounging in the sun by the pool, reading our Kindles and cloud watching.

Top panorama photo taken with the 360 Panorama app. Bottom photo taken with Instagram.

Prepare for the worst

There’s been a lot of stuff on my mind lately. Money and employment stuff. Visa and immigration stuff. Family and travel stuff.

I know it’ll all blow over and work itself out. But sometimes when a bunch of stuff gangs up on us like it has recently, I start to lose sight of the horizon and I just sort of shut down. I give up. I metaphorically throw my hands in the air and consider all the struggle I’ve gone through up to this point to be in vain. Why struggle when you can’t win the fight?

I haven’t talked about this struggle here yet. But I suppose if I’m going to really call this an expat blog I should mention some of the harder parts of my new life.

It’s not just the new language and the new culture and the having to relearn basic things like telling time (19:00?!) and how much you weigh (kilograms?!).

I guess I was prepared for those things. What’s getting to me is all the extra stuff I never expected.

Like finding out that I still have to file taxes in the U.S. even after I’ve got a residence permit here in the Netherlands. I don’t mind paying the ungodly high Dutch tax rate (42% if you make enough to be a highly skilled migrant), but paying taxes on my income twice? For a country I don’t live in? Now that I mind.

Also, like being expected to earn €13,664 more next year just because I turned 30. What company is going to hire a 29-year-old highly skilled migrant (ahem: me) when they know they have to give a more than €10,000 raise in less than a year just to keep you on board? If you know the answer to that question, I’m all ears.

And like finding out after you moved to Europe and jumped through all those expat work and residence permit hoops, when you finally think you can exhale because you signed an employment contract that lasted until October, that the rug can still be pulled out from under you. You can still be called into work one day (while on your vacation no less) and find out that your American owner is closing down your office because he found cheaper employees in Romania and that your employment contract was a ridiculous joke that apparently only you were expected to uphold. I don’t know how much I’m legally allowed to write about it just yet, but… that’s exactly what happened to me.

I’m not trying to deter anyone from thinking about moving to the Netherlands. Just doing my part to prepare the future expats for the inevitable realization that there is more to immigration than foreign language and culture shock.

Like I said, I know this will all blow over someday and (hopefully soon) Rolan and I will be able to breathe easy and play the “remember when” game about this whole immigration nightmare. Maybe then I will hang this immigration stamp calendar in our home to remind me to never ever take my status as “resident” for granted:

Top image from here. Bottom image from here.