Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Errytime I come around your city.

Bling bling. That's how I'm walking around now, thanks to two new diamond rings. I'm still not sure how I managed that.

So Zach and I are engaged, as of about a month and a half ago. This is horribly overdue. I've been back in the states for a month now, worked multiple days of overtime each week at work, missed two posts in my regularly-schedule three-a-week, and still have more travels to log on here. Forgive me? None of it's relevant, though.

Amsterdam is where it happened. The story starts long before that, but I'll get to that in another post. 

Amsterdam was the last stop in the mini-backpacking trek during Zach's two weeks over in Europe. We had a really great trip, stopping in London, Paris, and finally Amsterdam, but to say that the trip was the best one ever would be a lie. We had a really rough start. To start, I am a stressful traveler. I've traveled Europe many times, and it's incredibly comforting sharing a similar language, but trains, planes, and time tables make me so tense. Tense to the point that I turn into a tourist robot. The complete opposite is the case in the states, where I've literally ran through an airport without shoes before because I'm so bad at planning time. I was also so incredibly concerned about Zach having an awesome trip, seeing as much as he could, and making his first trip out of the country memorable. It's ironic because I was literally a heartless machine leading him through cities with such precision to start this trip.

I wasn't like that in Derby. I was so chill. Over the few days in London, I could slowly feel my body parts being replaced by machines. Not literally, obviously. Though I think I just made a good movie premise. Don't steal it. In Paris, I knew I was irritable solely on our time table, and was mad at myself for it. Zach knew it was happening, and tried to reassure me that he was having an amazing time, but I took his "I'd like to see anything" as apathy and started to feel that he didn't care as much as I wanted him to care about all of these awesome, historic, and famous cities. I'm fully aware how crazy I sound as I type this. Certifiable. 

By the time we got to Amsterdam, I was exhausted purely on my own mental punishment. That, and the hellacious overnight bus from Paris. Again, never do that. Amsterdam totally revived me somehow. I think it was because the city was new to both of us, so I didn't have as strict of a schedule to follow. I couldn't make Zach fall in love with it the same way I had because we would be discovering it at the same time. 

Enough with my crazy, though. I'm working on it, and also trying to keep this real so not every girl imagines the music building, the animals gathering, and the stars smiling during her proposal. 

Please remember that I'm wearing two pairs of pants, three shirts, two coats, and a scarf in this picture. I couldn't feel you if you stabbed it, and I look like it.

On our only night in Amsterdam, we were exhausted. We blame the eight previous days of touring two cities at a very fast pace and a sleepless night on a bus with a pack of loud Spanish-speaking girls and drive through heavy snow that literally shut down Paris the next day. That's the truth, and we're lucky we got out of there just in time. My friend had encouraged me to explore the red light district at night, though, saying that it was fascinating. I was intrigued after seeing five prostitutes in windows a noon earlier, so I was willing to sacrifice sleep again that night. We toured the red light district until Zach was sufficiently uncomfortable and I was still walking past windows in awe. They looked so normal. I couldn't believe I was seeing guys go in the doors. I couldn't believe that locals were walking around like nothing unusual was happening. I was exactly as my friend had described it - fascinated. Zach wanted to walk around the canals on the other side of the red light district, with the intent of finding the widest bridge that we had seen previously on our walking tour.

We ambled about for some time, then I wrapped it up with some line about being over it and ready for the warmth of the hotel. I wore two pairs of pants, three shirts, two coats, a hat, and gloves the entire trip. Zach agreed and we headed back. Halfway there, he grabbed my arm and said, "Actually, there is one more thing I wanted to do." I rolled my eyes and followed as he spun on his heels and walked briskly in the other direction.

We were standing in the middle of the widest bridge over the canal. The Googles are telling me this is the Torensluis bridge. Zach was looking at the sky and running to and fro across the bridge. I was standing and watching. After probably ten seconds, because he looked like a lunatic and I wasn't going to give him more time for lunatic tendencies, I asked what he wanted. He said he forgot. So I let him continue with his strange pacing. I suggested that he measure himself against one of the skinniest houses in the row, which was something like six feet and a couple inches wide. He walked toward it, then got awkward about measuring himself against a residence. I reminded him that it wouldn't be helpful for me to lay down and measure myself because I was already under six feet. He continued pacing around and I shrugged it off. Finally he stopped on one side by the railing and called me over. I shuffled over and was asked if he'd remembered. I don't remember him answering.

He pulled me in for a hug. He kissed me, then my forehead. We stood there for a bit. I pulled away to look at the stars, spotted Orion's belt, and was about to point it out to him when he started backing into a lunge. I started flapping my arms about and screaming in a hushed tone, "What are you doing?!" I pulled him up by the elbows. He looked real confused, then started to lower again. I started flapping again, saying, "No, no, no - what are you doing?!" In all this flailing, I believe I kicked him in the shin and pulled him up again. This time, he looked a bit exasperated. "Sam," he said. "Will you let me do this?" I nodded and let him back into a lunge uninterrupted. On one knee, he told me he had all these nice things to say, but that I had since thrown him off. He said that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I nodded, still biting my lip in an effort to control myself. He got up, we kissed, hugged, and, true to my planning fashion, asked how we were going to do this. I ruin everything.

He didn't present a ring, but on instinct I started pulling my glove off. That's a weird instinct for this being my first proposal.  He picked up on that and then pulled out a box and said, "This isn't your ring." I was all sorts of confused, and started to put my glove back one, thinking that maybe I had just imagined that last minute and this was going to be real awkward in a second when I would realized that he was actually just tying his shoe. He then blabbered on about how he had made another ring, but that it wasn't ready, and he knew he wanted to propose over this trip, so he got a sort of promise ring until then. It's clear that he had no concept of what a promise ring was. He presented me with a raw, jagged diamond on a thin, hammered, silver band. I loved it. The reality was setting in at that point, so I wasn't processing language and was starting to cry as I stared at it. Zach starting bouncing around then and I followed in a haze, shaking a bit and staring at my hand. I could barely believe what just happened. I was in a state of complete shock.

Clearly I wasn't ready - my nails look fantastic.

Strangely, I knew it was coming. Earlier in the trip, I had thought there was a moment on the top of Montmartre when it might've happened. Amiright? After the moment passed, and nothing happened, I thought I was crazy for even thinking it. 

When Zach and I got back together the summer before, after a year-and-a-half split in which we didn't talk to each other, we talked casually about what it meant. Reuniting, in our mid-twenties, after years of dating and a solid split. It was happening for a reason. Zach was moving to Cleveland, though, and I was moving forward with my career in DC. We were both happy with that. A couple months later and the long-distance, it was clear that we'd matured from our previous relationship and it was clear that we weren't happy without each other. Zach had said that he didn't think anything would happen until we were in the same city (which would mean I would move to him) and I had said that I didn't think anything would happen until I had a ring (meaning he would have to propose). We're very stubborn people, and we were just talking casually, so neither of us thought much of it.

That changed for Zach when we spent the Christmas holiday apart (I was in England). The following January, I had a rough time at work, and told him that I would give DC one more year, then I'd be out. I was admitting defeat, and setting the clock for a move to Cleveland in the summer of 2014. Based on conversations we'd had before, I believed that meant we would be engaged in the summer of 2014, or later.

So I wasn't prepared for Amsterdam. It's clear I don't handle surprise very well.

Three weeks later, back in the states, Zach visited DC on my birthday and presented me with my "real" ring. It's a raw diamond with grey shading, surrounded by tiny brilliant diamonds, on a brushed palladium band. I'm obsessed with it. 

This time I was ready - I painted my nails and woke up to creepily demand my ring.

So now we're on to big life changes: a quicker move to Cleveland, house hunting, and wedding planning - all while trying to keep the emotions in check. Wine me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Picture This: Week 17.

I started a picture-a-day project this year. My intent is to try and appreciate every day, the good and the bad. That, and it's a fun way to see the year compiled into a bunch of snapshots. I'm posting weekly recaps of the past seven days. It's a fun way to recap the week and to keep me motivated to try new things and live it up every day. It's rarely ground-breaking, but I couldn't handle that anyway. Does anyone else do this? I'd love for you to share! You can start anytime, too - a new year doesn't have to start on January 1. I'd love to nose around your life and live vicariously. In the least creepy way possible. And PS - my sister does this as well, and is in the process of updating her blog. Check out my past weeks through the "picture-a-day" topic link on the right.

April 22, 2013

A stressful day at work + stressful future talks = no chance for the thin mints.

April 23, 2013

It had been so long since my roommate and I just hung out, but the fates aligned for a spontaneous movie night on Tuesday. We watched The Bachelorette and were cackling.

April 24, 2013

Wednesdays are kazaxe days, also known as an exhausting workout rave.

April 25, 2013

Matchbox has the coolest favors for the pyro-obsessed. I grabbed another on the way out.

April 26, 2013

I took a literal pitstop in Pittsburgh on my way to further house hunting in Cleveland. I was gathering items and doing some chores to help Mum when I found Copper's tail mysteriously twitching out of the top of the garbage/cat food cupboard. He didn't jump out when I called him; rather, he was trying to pull the catnip bag out of the back. The ring leader was at it again. 

April 27, 2013

Zach and I went to dinner with his college roommate in their college town of Kent Saturday. It was a beautiful day, so we walked around, taking in all of the changes and reminiscing about nights on the town. None of that really relates to this bike, though. It's covered in crochet. Wouldn't your hands get hot?

April 28, 2013

Sunday FaceTime with one of the furry nephews, who is confused with his species type as he continues to steal the cat's toys. So far he's absconded the scratching post (which he likes to drag around like an ox), a ball of yarn (that he chases like a cat), and this plastic tube with a ball stuck inside (that he bounces on and carries around, like above).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Treasures: England shopping edition.

It's been a while since I've done one of these, but the concept's simple: I shop like a creep, rationalize purchases as part of my legacy, and then I document my spoils. Considering the travel documentation that I've been catching up on, these are shopping posts in the name of souvenirs. That doesn't mean I scope the sale out any differently.

Catch up on last posts here and here, if you'd like. Otherwise, we're jumping right into the spoils of England.

We're starting with Liverpool, as that was the first new stop on my tour de home country that offered multiple money depositories. Not banks, stores. Stores that sucked me right in. Specifically, John Lewis. I'm a total convert with a purchase of starfish and a honeybee hive tealight holder. Sadly, I don't have either to show you because they somehow missed the pile of things for Zachles to capture. This is off to a great start. 

To distract you, I'll start with this mythical creature.

Part lamb, part banana, all super. You can learn more about him here, but it's basically a made-up creature based on Liverpool's exports. I think they should replace slides at playgrounds. Right now, he's a magnet, but I think I want to hot glue a ribbon on it an make him an ornament. I'm really into decorating the Christmas tree that I don't have. Then there's this because, well, Liverpool, duh. Or if you're my sister, #duh. I got him at the Beatles museum without paying admission because I'll soon be living in Cleveland and closer to the Rock and Roll Museum.

In London, my penchant for these strange stuffed historically and culturally significant objects was fulfilled by King Henry VIII and a crown for Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee. Gah, I'm hoping she beats Queen Victoria's record. Does anyone know her last name? I realized that her insignia of ER II are all over, but I she's at Prince status for me, so she only needed a first name. And a title.

 St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London both offered me stuffed memorabilia, but I envisioned my Christmas tree with a littler more variety, so I picked up a painted metal heart with the surrounding scenes of St. Paul's and a metal bookmark with a raven on the Tower of London.

Then there's the keychains that can easily be ornaments or framed in a little box for my non-existent house's frame wall. You may say I'm a dreamer. 

There's the tiny double decker bus that I got for 2 pounds, which was a total steal, a Strawberry Field street sign to combine Zach's love for the Beatles and my love for strawberries, a Denby pottery magnet because, as a family, we're obsessed with that place, or maybe it's just Dad, and a chocolate frog from the Harry Potter set tour that actually smells like chocolate. I believe in a wizarding world more every day.

I also picked up a Derby keychain, which was a feat in itself as touristy items are hard to come by in a non-touristy town, a Chatsworth thimble because they strangely didn't have the stuffed relics of history that I expected and Dad convinced me that I could do something with that, and then made me pay for it, and a tiny little Stonehenge that'll live up to his mysterious past when he floats on a tree. Was that last one a stretch? Does "that will" not contract into "that'll"? The world may never know.

Catch up on the trip stories in London here and Harry Potter here. Conversely, Chatsworth is here and Liverpool is there. And if I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't Any contrary-wise, what it is it wouldn't be, and what it wouldn't be, it would you see? Any Alice in Wonderland fans there? She's my favorite English story tale. 

Linking up on this travel Tuesday! 

Helene in Between

Monday, April 22, 2013

Picture This: Week 16.

I started a picture-a-day project this year. My intent is to try and appreciate every day, the good and the bad. That, and it's a fun way to see the year compiled into a bunch of snapshots. I'm posting weekly recaps of the past seven days. It's a fun way to recap the week and to keep me motivated to try new things and live it up every day. It's rarely ground-breaking, but I couldn't handle that anyway. Does anyone else do this? I'd love for you to share! You can start anytime, too - a new year doesn't have to start on January 1. I'd love to nose around your life and live vicariously. In the least creepy way possible. And PS - my sister does this as well, and is in the process of updating her blog. Check out my past weeks through the "picture-a-day" topic link on the right.

April 15, 2013

I can't remember why, but I was trying to screen share with Zach on Monday and stumbled across my old AIM away messages. Gems include "alright, meow" and "i went to get kool-aid." Yum

April 16, 2013

The jam had sat for 24 hours as of Tuesday, so I did my first in a series of taste tests to pick the better jam recipe. My wedding planning has no real direction.

April 17, 2013

I had heard the pollen was high, and my contacts were feeling it, but on the way to zumba on Wednesday, I could physically see it. My poor allergies.

April 18, 2013

I forget how close I am to the center of the country sometimes.  The buildings always surprise me when they pop us as I turn a corner. 

April 19, 2013

A thunderstorm prevented me from meeting friends on Friday. I love falling asleep to the rain that I wasn't even upset.

April 20, 2013

The curling iron tutorials are paying off - I curled my hair for a night out Saturday, and it actually stayed decent looking for the night. It's also been 25 years and I still don't know how to take a self portrait without looking like a fool.

April 21, 2013

This pile of fabric in my closet has been burning a hole in me. Alas, I spent the day lying on my bed and watching Dance Moms. Lazy Sunday. Even lazier than this.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Go and Knock on Their Door.

Though know that if you do knock on the door, you may or may not get an answer depending on if Mum's still in her pajamas. We have a rule that you can start the day and be productive and still be in your jams. And then, you'll be bombarded with cats and a great dane. This is all, still, if you can find the house first. It's really not an interesting challenge, but the house is a beacon.

I've seen house portraits around for a while, through Etsy, Pinterest, and even featured on a few blogs. Sidenote: my sister and I are working on launching an Etsy shop soon! We're very open to recommendations on stuff you'd like to see in there. I'm full of asides today. So I've seen house portraits. They've been in my back pocket for gift ideas. While watching TV in England one day, there was an advertisement for personalized gifts by Not on the High Street that showcased some house portraits. Mum was busy cross-stitching, but perked up and commented that she liked them. Green light. Have I told you how difficult she is to shop for? I may have mentioned it, and she is getting better, but there have been Christmas and birthday holidays when we've toiled over a present and her reaction would be, "Oh." It was devastating. Since then, we've stepped up our game and our goal is to make her cry. It sounds heartless, but it's just the opposite. Unfortunately, I don't know how we're going to outdo her 50th birthday.

A couple weekends ago was Mum and Dad's 29th wedding anniversary. !!!! Veronica, Stephanie, and I are so lucky to have them as parents, supporters, and friends, and we try to get something personal for them to reflect our gratitude each year. It was extra special because they were together this year. So we started where it all began: our house.

My parents moved in just before I was born. It was rough for both of them. I was a difficult little fetus, requiring bedrest out of Mum in a town where she knew no one. Subsequently, and not surprisingly, Mum hated it. Dad's never been crazy about not living in Michigan and with all of his brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We really have our next door neighbors to thank. If they weren't there, I don't think we would have grown up in Pittsburgh. And I loved growing up in Pittsburgh. It's fitting that you can see their house next to ours. Their family and home are as much a part of our family and home.

The process was simple, though a bit pricey. We searched through Etsy for a bit to see what our options were, but I really liked the concept over at Not on the High Street, so we went with that. On Etsy, I was finding a lot of people that would sketch our house from a picture. Their prints were awesome, but not many offered color. I was also finding a lot of places that would take your picture, drop it into a program, and make it look sketchy or amp up the color or add some other effect. That seemed like something I could do with the Picasa effects. Not on the High Street took your picture, drew a sketch from that, then layered in colors. Their sketches are incredibly detailed, so your house is still your house, and not an abstract rendition. I liked it.

When we actually got the print, it was neat to see that the color layered in had a bit of texture to it. Do you see that subtle pattern in the sky? That same pattern covers the bushes and tree, and there's a different layer for the grass. Don't mind my amateur blur job on the note we had printed in the corner.

The company really worked with me, too. Per usual, my sisters and I were late to the game in thinking up a present. That meant that we didn't have a house portrait with the garden in full bloom, ready to send. My sister took a picture while everything was in its winter best (read: brown), which was less than house-sketch worthy. We talked with the artist and described what it usually looks like in the other nine months of the year, and they layered that in. They took this picture -

and imagined the garden. Isn't that impressive? We really didn't give them much. Color me impressed. Har har har. The only flaw was a small chip in the frame. We didn't notice it until later though, and it wasn't worth our efforts to refund. That, and we could have totally avoided it because the framing was optional.

I hate to leave it on that note. The picture is what's worth the price, the personalization, and the almost-tears we had out of Mum. Our house, in the middle of the street. But really, why would your hours be in the middle of the street?

Note: I wasn't paid for this post - just happy with the product!  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sneaky Peak.

When I try to explain where my dad's living in England, I always reference London. "He's an hour and a half north of London." Most just hear London, so they think that he's hobnobbing with the Queen and could have seen Prince Harry when he was walking on that one sidewalk on that one street. In fact, he's in Derby, a city at the edge of the Peak District, one of the most beautiful places that sneaks up on you.

England has districts much like we have areas in the U.S. Where we have the Midwest, they have the Peak District.Where we have the Pacific Northeast, they have the Lake District. Rough approximations.

I hadn't paid much attention to these areas, rather focusing on what cities or castles to visit. After a night of darts at the pub with Dad and Greg, an English native, Zach and I realized that there must be something going on in the Peak District because the English native and assimilating American expat would not. stop. talking. about it.

Still, Zach and I weren't feeling up to cracking the bus code. I have an irrational fear of navigating buses. I don't know why. Then Greg called and offered to be our tour guide on his day off. The fates had aligned for some Peak District discovery.

Greg drove us to Matlock Bath, a small little town that was once a spa resort town, but is now more like the introduction-to-the-Peak-District town. There's a mining museum, a textile museum, cable cars that take you to the top of a peak, rafting, and ice cream. All of that sounds so exciting, I know you took this place right off your hypothetical travel list because you would just burst if you were to visit a mining AND textile museum in one day. That's sarcasm. That's how I felt about this place. Then I got out of the car. 

This town is beautiful. It's nestled around a skinny, windy road, as most of England is, with buildings and houses scaling the steep cliffs in illogical ways. It's covered with trees and bordered by a river lazily flowing toward the textile mill. The shops and attractions are touristy, but that's what this place lives on, so I'll allow it. Also, that just means there's more ice cream options.

So we picked up some ice cream and started wandering. There's a path on the side of the river that we strolled until it became too boring. Boys being boys, Greg and Zach started scaling the steep cliffs. I had recorded their efforts on Vine, but Vine has since pretended that I don't exist and won't let me in. After it was clear to them that I was not chancing the sacrifice of my ice cream in attempts to climb a hill, they tumbled down and we found a legitimate hiking path to the top. 

The view from the top, even on a foggy day, was incredible. I feel like this is a part of England that doesn't come to mind immediately, though it's referenced in a lot of literature and films (Jane Austen, for example). 

That, and it's worth the reference.

The following week, and my last week in Derby, Dad skipped out of work early to take me to Chatsworth House, which is also in the Peak District. This is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. It's also Pemberley, if you're familiar with Kiera Knightley's version of Pride and Prejudice. The house itself has a rich history with visits from Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens. I referenced Wikipedia there because I feel like you get real facts and fun facts all at once, but the official page is better for pictures.

I love visiting people's houses. I realize the estate of a Duke and Duchess is a little different than a house, but I am fascinated with how people live, and their extravagance did not disappoint. 

Queen Victoria slept in this room with the elephants. I was really tempted to borrow one of these perfect ceramic white elephants. Borrow and love forever. 

I can't remember the purpose of every room, but I'll just throw pictures at you so you can imagine yourself in a giant ballgown or dapper tux and top hat in this 2D virtual tour.

As I was doing my usual creeping in the library, trying to get as far over the barriers as possible without setting off alarms or calling too much attention to myself, the guide/security/butler/man in a suit standing in the room told me that the voices I was hearing were those of the Duke and Duchess.  

Then I creeped harder. He was impressed with my skills (seriously) and asked if I could play piano and perhaps entertain them (true life). Unfortunately, I still can't play anything other than Chopsticks, and all I know with that is to bang on the two keys at the same time, so I think it's a rough approximately of Chopsticks. I fully understand that my mother ruined my life by not recognizing the potential in my super long fingers and now I've missed my chance at royalty. Just kidding, Mum. Sorta. 

Sullen from my missed chance at fame, Dad and I walked the gardens. They were pretty, and probably even better in the summer. I can't really recover from my piano disgrace, however. 

 Linking up with Helene and a bunch of other awesome travel stories today!   

Helene in Between

Monday, April 15, 2013

Picture This: Week 15.

I started a picture-a-day project this year. My intent is to try and appreciate every day, the good and the bad. That, and it's a fun way to see the year compiled into a bunch of snapshots. I'm posting weekly recaps of the past seven days. It's a fun way to recap the week and to keep me motivated to try new things and live it up every day. It's rarely ground-breaking, but I couldn't handle that anyway. Does anyone else do this? I'd love for you to share! You can start anytime, too - a new year doesn't have to start on January 1. I'd love to nose around your life and live vicariously. In the least creepy way possible. And PS - my sister does this as well, and is in the process of updating her blog. You should really updated that, V, if only for my procrastination. Check out my past weeks through the "picture-a-day" topic link on the right.

April 8, 2013

I saw my first cherry blossoms Monday. Normally, the blossoms are early, but they showed up even later than their designated festival time this year.

April 9, 2013

Sitting in a cube farm means that I have to creep around for empty offices to make phone calls. I found a seemingly important conference room on our floor, and considered making the call from the podium. Alas, the speaker phone didn't reach that far.

April 10, 2013

I convinced my friend (from this post) to sleep over mid-week for some recovery time. We took a five-mile walk (endorphins make you happy), ate brownies and anything we could smother in icing, and drank wine while watching the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. It was the perfect mid-week break.

April 11, 2013

The partner in charge of my commercial audit hosted a wine tasting at her house on Thursday. Besides gorging myself and drinking too much wine, I made a friend with her cat, so much so that it wanted to be with me when I went to the bathroom. I also found myself loving their tile and wanting to take it with me.

April 13, 2013

A good sign that summer is coming: the pool is draining from it's winter hibernation!

April 14, 2013

On Saturday, Zach and I drove around the look at houses and neighborhoods around Cleveland. It was an intense day, but also very productive. My mid-day reward was a trip to JoAnn's where I hopped to start finding reasonably-priced fabric for table runners, and just general inspiration. Exhibit A.

April 14, 2013

After meeting with another realtor and seeing more houses on Sunday, we stumbled upon our first visit to Swenson's. Verdict: we'll be back. Often.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


This isn't the post I planned to write for today. I'm still trying to get through all of my travel posts, then there'll be the treasures, then I'll be back to my regularly scheduled ramblings.

Sometimes life happens, though. I need help.

My closest friend in DC found that her semi-long distance (they live two hours apart) boyfriend of two and a half years cheated on her.

She seemed to be taking it well and very rationally. She has been open about the situation to coworkers and friends, staying the facts that she kicked him to the curb. She said she felt an overwhelming sense of being free and that it was a long tome coming. It's much better than I would imagine to be.

Still, I watched her and tried to keep her busy. I invited her to sleep over on a weeknight. We took a long walk (endorphins make you happy), I didn't ask questions, and we talked about him and many other things. He texted her. She deleted it. We watched a movie, drank wine, and flipped through bridal magazines (at her suggestion). It was a good night.

The next night, we went to a workout class. We sweated through it, drove with the windows down and the music loud on our way home (DC's teasing us with simmer weather), and then she broke. She cried, wondering what she had done, how she could've been better, and why he wasn't apologizing for what he did, just for how he made her feel.

I've known people that have been cheated on before, and I hope I was there for them, and I hope I made it clear to them that the situation had nothing to do with them. The cheater cheated because they are awful excuses for people and there's nothing that could've been done to stop it. It wasn't an accident, it was a conscious decision to hurt, and that's immaturity in its basest form. Things will only get better from there.

I don't know if that's enough, though. I know words aren't resonating right now with her- she said she can't make herself believe that things will be better, that she'll find a better man, and that she will be happier.

I know she's not the only one to have experienced this. What can I do to help? How can I be a better friend? How can I distract her and not have us eat a jar of icing? How can I prove that she's not alone, that no one's alone, and that things will get better? I know they will, and I know people that have experienced this, and I need help.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

In Awe in Amsterdam.

The last stop on our mini-European backpacking adventure was Amsterdam. I was excited to visit as it was a new city for me (I had been to London a few times before and to Paris in high school), but it was the last stop after a string of cheap hotels and travel options. My excitement was waning.

I would not recommend taking an overnight bus from Paris to Amsterdam unless you know everyone on board and can threaten their life when they won't stop talking loudly at all hours of the night. We didn't have that option.

So we arrived in Amsterdam feeling groggy, that weird mix of sweaty and cold, and like grumpy cat. We then had to face the public transportation system and the Dutch language. We stumbled through those obstacles to our first Dutch pancakes and true to form, good food made everything better.

I'm considering making an entire post on this pancake place. We visited twice in two days and loved everything about the place, the least of which being the giant pancakes.

We had to leave at some point though, because we had another free walking tour and I don't think you're considered a groupie until you make it to three tours. By that definition, we're now at groupie status.

This tour was probably the most helpful of the three because we had no prior knowledge of the city or culture. At 11 am, we dipped down a few streets in the red light district and girls in bikinis were in the windows already. Bikinis might be a mild term for what some of them were wearing. Strings? We learned that the girls register with the city as their jobs are recognized as tourist services. It's also expensive- at least 50 euro for 15 minutes. What I found most interesting was how the church grew out of this culture. Throughout the red light district, there are churches in between the windows and coffee shops. That's houses of worship next to prostitution and weed. Seems odd. Our guide (again, I couldn't recommend these free tours full of factoids any more than if I was paid for it) explained that when sailors would stop in the port and inevitably sin with a prostitute, they would then go to the church to confess. At first, the priest would listen and then free the individual of their sins. Soon, they realized that they could charge people to free them of their sins. They made good money on that, built a few new wings of the church, and then decided that they could offer a service to free people of their future sins. So then the sailors would buy "sin insurance" before heading out into the red light district, sleeping soundly at night knowing that they had already paid for their sins. Genius

Jumping from one end of the spectrum to the other, we then stopped by the Anne Frank museum. The museum is in the building where the family hid while the city was under control of the Nazis. It's set up like it was when Anne lived there with her family, with interviews, notes, and videos dispersed between. It was incredibly powerful throughout and culminated with Anne's original journal. Much like Auschwitz, it's hard to put into words then emotions that I ran through when visiting. I was almost in a despondent state as I soaked up everything while trying not to let my emotions run me over.

The next day, we went to the Van Gogh museum, or the snippet of it that was available in the Hermitage museum while the Van Gogh museum is under construction, saw the Iamsterdam sign, swung by the Heineken brewery, walked through Vondelpark, and made it for another round of Dutch pancakes. Honestly.

I feel in love with this city. The buildings were so wonky and the landscape so unique that it could have been right out of a fairy tale. I'm not convinced this isn't the case. It's such an accepting culture and people that it's almost like this place is make-believe. Even the graffiti was pretty and fun.

Another fun fact - weed isn't legal in Amsterdam. However, there are three unspoken rules that override the law in the city: 1. be discreet; 2. don't hurt anyone; 3. help the economy. This is how weed is sold in "coffeeshops" and explains why the practice continues - it hasn't been found to hurt anyone and is helpful to the Dutch economy. It's definitely interesting when comparing that mindset to the American culture.

Oh yeah, and we got engaged. That's for another post, though :) 

I'm linking up with Helene today!

Helene in Between

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