Monday, June 17, 2019

April and May 2019 Reads

I've decided to combine my April and May posts together this time.  My reasoning is vague... things got busy with school and with life, I guess.  Reading (and other things) kind of fell to the wayside in April.  But May was much better!

So, over April and May, I read these books:

  • I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina
  • To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki
  • Swing by Kwame Alexander
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll
As wonderful as these reads were, these were some of my favorites:

Image result for laura dean keeps breaking up with me coverLaura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki

This book came to my attention because my best friend from second grade is the illustrator for this graphic novel.  So I was alright super psyched for this book for that reason, but once I actually cracked it open and read the story that Mariko Tamaki wrote, I fell in love.  Mariko Tamaki is one of those authors that I've just figured out that I will either not like what they make or be really enthusiastic about what they make.  Not that I've felt passionate hate for her work, I just haven't been as enthralled with some of her works.  But I liked this one because it draws attention to unhealthy relationships and a character that is trying to separate herself from one.  I love that the characters are quite intersectional as well-- many characters are people of color and are part of the LGBT+ community.  I think there's a powerful message about aligning yourself with the people who will bring you up and help you be your best self.  I think this is something that young people need to read.  I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with students who were struggling with unhealthy relationships (not dangerous, just not the greatest) this past year.  There was so much guilt about wanting to separate themselves from someone because they had a history with that person.  People of any age need to know that if someone isn't treating you with respect or is being kind to you when it's convenient for them, it's time to move on.  I think there need to be more voices spreading this message.  I'm happy this book can be one of those voices.

Image result for the bullet journal method bookThe Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

I've posted about the fact that I bullet journal a few times on this blog.  It's a system that has honestly changed my life for the better.  It helps me stay organized for everything that life throws at me and it helps me be reflective.  When I heard from bullet journals who influenced me that the creator of the system had written a book about how to bullet journal, I was a little skeptical.  Especially since he has a website.  But I was assured that this book was worth the read whether you are just getting started with bullet journaling or you've been doing it for a while already.  

If you go on YouTube and search for bullet journal videos, you're likely to find hundreds of very fancy spreads-- beautiful spreads!  If you're not a particularly artistic person, you may feel simultaneously in awe and intimidated because there's the impression that your bullet journal HAS to be beautiful.  But it doesn't.  It just has to help you be productive.  So this book is a nice way to remind everyone of the basics and to help you think about why you include the things you decide to include in your bullet journal.  I love that there are tons of examples about how to plan for and break down your goals to get them accomplished and also completed examples from people who come from a variety of backgrounds that have found success using the bullet journal method.  It's a wonderful book and well worth a read if you're even remotely curious about this system!

We'll keep it short and simple this time around.  See you again at the end of June!  There are already many great reads brewing that I can't wait to tell you about!


Sunday, April 28, 2019

I Traveled to England/The Netherlands! (Part 3: Leiden, The Hague, Haarlem, Amsterdam)

This is the final installment of this honeymoon blog post series.  If you haven't already, read Part 1 and Part 2 before reading this part!

The day after Warner Bros Studios, we basically had an airport day.  We flew into London Heathrow from Minneapolis/Reykjavik, but when we flew into Amsterdam, we needed to get to London Luton in a different part of the city.  Luton is a pretty cute airport.  When you're flying within the UK/Europe general part of the world, no need to go to the enormous airports and have your heart broken from stress trying to get where you need to go.  Luton is slightly out of the way and it's smaller and pretty easy to get through.  The bummer was we basically blew the day in the airport because we didn't want to miss our flight and we weren't sure how long it would take to get there in the first place, so we made sure we were extra early.  But having the down day was actually kind of nice after almost constantly moving for an entire week.

We finally landed in Amsterdam and I was so freaking excited.  My heart felt like it was beating out of my chest in a good way and I didn't feel like I could sit still.  This was the first time I had been back to the Netherlands since I studied abroad (and since we got engaged).  It felt like coming home again.  I loved that things were familiar and I knew how to do basic things.  I had to have a little bit of a refresher in Dutch, but even then, I was doing okay.


We got to Leiden and it took us a little bit to find our AirBnB, but we did it.  We kept the night simple by going to get food and eating in.  We got a good night's sleep.  It was weird walking in this place I called home even for a short time.  Our thought was since we had both been to the Netherlands before, we would take this part of our trip slow.  We wouldn't worry about getting up ridiculously early and we were okay with visiting places that we knew we liked as well as things that we hadn't tried yet.

It felt different being there, yet not a lot had changed.  I walked by my school and that was different, but I knew it would be.  When I ended my semester with Central College Abroad, I knew they would operate for one more semester and then the Leiden location would be closed down.  So that building was the office for something different now.

It was nice revisiting some of my old haunts, like the Museum van Oudeheden, Bagels & Beans, Hortus Botanicus...  In hindsight, I wish we had rented a bike so we could cruise around like I used to.  That'll be something to do next time we find ourselves here.  It was also nice to go back and see things that I had only seen once or twice, like De Burcht, which is perched at the top of the hill overlooking Leiden.  I had visited before a couple of times and then couldn't figure out without a map how to get back there, but I had never taken Jack.  It was fun to climb the wall and show them as much of the city we could view from the top of the fortress wall.

The Hague

We ended up going to The Hague a couple of times because the first time we went, there were some places we intended to visit that we didn't realize were closed until we got there.  But we made the most of our couple of days in The Hague.  The first day, we went to Madurodam, which I had never even heard of before, as well as the beach in the off chance that we would see a Strandbeest (no luck on the Strandbeest).  But it was nice to be back at the North Sea, dipping my toes in the water, even for only a brief time.

Madurodam is the Netherlands in miniature.  Lots of cities shrunk down and laid out for us "enormous" people to walk through and speed travel.  I thought it was hilarious when they put koi in the pond or when I duck landed and completely dwarfed the people and small cars that circled the park.  It was kind of a goofy thing to do, but also really neat.  It's one of those things that you have to experience for yourself to have a real appreciation for, I think.

The second time we were in the Hague, we came for lunch and the M.C. Escher museum.  I really wanted to show Jack this place because M.C. Escher is one of their favorite artists.  I knew it would mean a lot to them.  It's a really trippy museum to be in.  Some of what they include in the museum is interactive and it tricks your eye fairly easily.

 My other favorite part of this museum is it used to be one of the palaces used by the Dutch royal family.  Clearly it's no longer used that way now, but the history of the space itself is preserved and there are many cards you can read to learn about the royal family and what each of the rooms were used for.  What I love about Dutch palaces is they seem quite practical and frugal compared to other palaces that I've seen around Europe.  They're quite small by comparison, which is a little strange to say about a palace!


I had visited Haarlem once before for a project for school where we had to pick a Dutch city, do some research, and go visit it.  I picked Haarlem because I had read a book that took place there.  But Haarlem is honestly one of my favorite places in the Netherlands.  This time when we came back, I had read Corrie ten Boom's book The Hiding Place and I was determined to see it for myself.  Before we saw the hiding place though, we went to visit the Teylor's Museum.

The Teylor's Museum was an interesting place.  It's part natural history museum and part art museum.  The collections of both specimens and paintings were impressive and the building itself is incredible.

I have decided that when I go to museums, I need to create a purpose for myself.  I learned that from a different art museum that I visited previously in Haarlem where they challenged visitors to pay attention to emotions in the paintings they presented.  In this case, I did what I typically do and looked for cute animals and kittens.  Yes, there are definitely cute ancient and extinct animals.  You just have to look closely!  What was different from other natural history museums that we've visited (mostly from this trip) is that there were a lot of specimens displayed and organized in glass cases.  Other museums we've seen have seemed a bit more interactive where they had skeletons "walking among the crowd," so to speak.  This one made you feel like a scientist where you were asked to look as carefully as you desired, but not touch.  It had a much more official feeling to it.

We went and found lunch at a restaurant that recently opened and I tried a mushroom burger (so good!).  The people who worked at the restaurant were really nice and accommodating of us since we don't speak a lot of Dutch.  They had menus in English and Dutch and when they noticed we were trying to translate our Dutch menu, they grabbed a different one for us which was really sweet of them.  We just didn't want to be a bother!

From there, I was determined to visit the Corrie ten Boom house.  What I wasn't aware of was that it was better to reserve a time slot online before visiting.  We showed up and you can just show up, but it's not a guarantee that you'll get to see inside, because they only allow a certain number of people inside at once.  At certain times, they have tours entirely in Dutch and others in English.  I feel like they had a German tour too, but I can't quite remember... Because Jack and I didn't reserve a place and I really wanted to see inside, we waited in line.  It was kind of nice to stop for a while.  I think we waited for about an hour in the alleyway where people who came to the ten Boom family for help would come to knock on the door.  Once we got inside, we saw how people were hidden throughout the house during the day and where they would go in the event of an emergency.  People would sleep all around the house (which was tall, but quite small) and then if they heard a buzzer sound triggered by a button in the lower levels, they knew they had to quickly and silently get to Corrie's room and crawl into a hidden room through a door in the bookshelf and wait until the all clear signal.  I still don't understand how all of those people fit inside that wall.  They must have been so cramped while they were there hiding in the event of an emergency.  But it sounds like they made the most of it.  And most everyone who passed through the ten Boom house survived the war.  I'm really glad that I waited to see this place.


We spent two days in Amsterdam since we wanted to see so much here.  The first day, the main thing that we did was go and visit Artis, which is the zoo.  This was something that I hadn't seen during the entire time I lived in the Netherlands, so I was excited. 

One thing that makes this zoo unique is that there is also a building in Artis that educates about microbes.  It's appropriately called Micropia.  It showed you all about the microbes that keep us healthy and those that can make us sick even though we can't see them.  They had several animals that I'm not sure I've seen before, so that was neat.  They also had some really interesting-looking enclosures for the animals that met needs I didn't know they had.  Some of the enclosures did look a little small though... but I guess I have to defer to the experts and trust that everything they're doing is in the best interest of the animals they care for.  I hope...

I think my favorite of the animals we saw was the red panda.  I've seen one before, but it was always asleep.  This one was awake and ready to go! 

This first day in Amsterdam, we went to the Red Light District and visited a niche museum called The Secrets of the Red Light District.  I've visited once before, but Jack had never seen.  It's really a cool place to visit and gives you a behind the scenes peek of what goes on in the Red Light District.  I did not take pictures, but it's well worth a visit should you find yourself in Amsterdam. 

The second day in Amsterdam was full of museum hopping-- all museums that we had never seen before.  But we also visited the Vondelpark as well as the Poozenboot.  The Poozenboot came first, which good because the longer we waited, the longer the line got.

The Poozenboot is a houseboat that is home to the stray cats of Amsterdam.  You can come and adopt the cats here or come and visit in small groups. 

Some of the cats were sweet and ready for cuddles and others were pretty fearful and went to hide above or under some of their sleeping places.  Most of the cats were free-roaming of the houseboat and were just looking for nice places to sleep in the sun.  It was fun to come and pet the cats for a while and hear about the work that's being done on the Poozenboot.

Our next stop was the Van Gogh museum.  I never went to this museum while I lived in the Netherlands (even though I had a museum pass that let me skip lines and enter museums for free), so we wanted to make sure that we go to go here this time around.  They changed up how you gain entrance to the museum.  I think they digitized it so you could get tickets online or at the kiosk outside if you waited in the long line.  We got really lucky again.  Jack decided to get data on his phone, so we were able to do that without standing in line at all.  I think we only had to wait for our time slot for 10 or 15 minutes and we didn't have to stand in line.  It was great!  I recommend getting your tickets online.  Then you can just pull them up on your phone and get them scanned.  Very convenient. 

You can't take pictures in the museum, so it was easy to just stand in front of these paintings and take them in and appreciate what was right in front of you.  If you did try to take pictures though and were caught, in one room there was a really tall Dutch guard with a big booming voice that would thunder, "NOOOOO PHOTOOOOOOS," drawing out the vowels like that.  Since I wasn't the one trying to take pictures despite the policy being posted practically everywhere, I found it amusing :)  On top of that, I really enjoyed learning more about Van Gogh's life as well as being able to appreciate the art that he created in his lifetime (even if it wasn't appreciated until after his death).

Our next stop was the Moco Museum just down the road, which is a museum that displays Banksy's art as well as the work of other street artists.  This would not have been on my radar if Jack hadn't figured out that this museum existed.  I was semi-familiar with Banksy, but I found another artist(s) that I really liked.  Icy and Sot were another duo whose art was displayed in the basement.  For all of this art that we saw, I really appreciated that it was meant to make you double-take.  It's taking this thought of what art is and making you think again.

The last thing we did was go to the Vondelpark.  In 2014, Jack and I got engaged here and when we figured out that we wanted to go back to the Netherlands for our honeymoon, we planned to return to the park and put a lock on the place where we got engaged.  Just like love locks on bridges in major cities around Europe.  There was just one problem: we weren't entirely sure where it was in the park that we got engaged.  So we decided to wander and try to figure it out.  We got lucky.

We did find the place where we got engaged.  But there wasn't a bridge, really, like we thought.  There was a bench though.  We decided to put our lock on the bench instead.  I figure it would be less likely to be removed than if it were on a bridge.  On bridges, periodically they have to take the locks off because the bridge gets too heavy and they don't want it to break.  Not many people want to remove locks from benches, really.  So I'm hoping that our lock will be around for a while to come.  But we won't know until we get back to the Netherlands.  What was extra special was that we were here really close to our second wedding anniversary.  I married my best friend August 2016 and I was so happy to be back there with my favorite person.

This brings us to the end of our trip.  We did a little bit of venturing out (to the Escher museum), but the rest of our trip was spent packing and stocking up on Dutch goodies we love and that we wanted to take home.  This was an amazing trip for us and we're so happy that we waited and took the trip that we really wanted.

Thank you so much for reading!  Until next time (which will likely be this summer)!