Saturday, 8 September 2012

Memories are made of this

Back in July when I was in Amsterdam, we visited a photography museum/gallery called Foam [link].

The exhibition I found most interesting there was a massive collection of peoples' old photo albums. It lamented the digital photo galleries of today on Facebook and Instagram and Flickr, and wished for the nostalgic days of when we used to go to the chemist and get our camera film developed, then carefully arrange them into albums of memories.

You can still do this today, either with your old skool camera film, or by getting your digital photos printed (websites like Snapfish and Jessops have special offers where you can get free prints sometimes).

Looking back through photo albums always puts a smile on my face. It's easy to make an album and invokes memories of times past, making you think how much you've developed, how things have changed and how things have stayed the same.

It's a great activity for a lazy weekend afternoon when there's not much on the telly and the weather is a bit naff.

It's treasured memories of years spent together.

It's remembering funny times spent with good friends.

It's that 21st birthday where everyone got all dolled up and then it rained on the way to the club. 
It's the canal holiday with the strange little icing figures on the giant, delicious carrot cake.

It's an adventure through the woods and it's a fabulous work Christmas do.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Ik houd van Amsterdam!

Photos are on Facebook, or HERE on Flickr :)

***If you're observing Ramadan, you might want to look at this entry after sundown, you have been warned!! :) xoxo ***

We're now back from Amsterdam and back to reality, hehe. Getting up for work this morning was eeeebil! (<<<This bit written on Monday last week heh)

We had an absolutely great time, it was much needed :)

We arrived into Manchester about 2pm on Sunday afternoon and checked into our hotel and then had a wander around the shops - I managed to get a smaller camera bag from Jessops as the one I have already is massiiiive and I didn't want to lug it round Amsterdam all week. We wandered around Selfridges and peeked at the tennis on the big screens at the Triangle (which is now called something else???!) before having dinner at Pizza Express. It was nice to be back in Manc after spending a bit of time there in the autumn last year.

We had an early night as we had to get up at 3.45 to get to the train station to go to the airport. Amazingly I was only a little bit grouchy haha!

Because we travelled on SleazyJet, there's no allocated seating on the plane, so Brits being Brits FUCKING-LEG-IT to the plane *eyeroll* - Benj and I waited til we were nearly last in the queue to get on and I purposely sat next to someone I'd seen in the "Speedy Boarding" queue (that you pay £18 extra for). Silly peoples, it's not as if you're not gonna get a seat at all, and it's only an hour's flight!

We got the train from the airport to Centraal station and then a cab to our hotel in the museum quarter (we were just around the corner from the Rijksmuseum) which was nice :) I think we got there about 11am and unfortunately the little time we'd spent walking around, I managed to get bitten three times by bugs before I managed to get my tropical DEET out of my luggage (yes, I bought tropical DEET for Amsterdam, what of it?) - so almost immediately the bites on my legs swelled up and I had to take antihistamine tablets and go in search of bite cream, boooo!

For posterity's sake (and because we were starving) we went to Reynders bar on Leidseplein for a giant full Irish breakfast (as they call it) - bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, hash browns, toast and jam. Yes. We practically lived in there last time we were in Amsterdam, hah!

We just went on a massively long walk for most of the rest of the day (before having a sneaky little nap late afternoon), just to suss out our surroundings again and get our bearings on our map. It felt so familiar, it was nice :) For dinner we decided we would eat in Rancho's VII, an Argentinian steakhouse (why are most of my entries about food?!) - it was pretty epic. Although the couple next to us kept staring at my food while they decided what they wanted. I felt like picking up my tenderloin in my fist and waving it in their faces saying "look! Order it! It's amazing! Happy now?!". We called them Chloe and Deez after our dogs cos they looked like they were scrounging for scraps. Heh. I also had a jug of Sangria which was amazeballs. I tried to order my steak "pink" as different places seem to have different definitions of what "medium rare" is. Our waitress would only let us have "medium" or "rare" which was annoying cos I like it in between, so I went rare. It was blue. But delicious, with a garlic oil dressing. Om nom. Ben had a rare ribeye if I remember correctly.

After dinner we spotted a little cocktail bar and ended up having the most delicious cocktails evarrr. *tries to find their website* HERE IT IS!  - I had "The Painted Rose" and Benj had a Blackberry Julep - now I hate bourbon but I tried it and could see that blackberries go perfectly with bourbon. The "menu" was divided into different personalities, since they seemed to think that different personalities would choose different cocktails, or something... I thought it was poppycock until I noticed I'd picked a drink from the "The Dreamer" section, haha. Mine was gin with flavours of rose and also had some cheeky chilli seeds at the bottom for a little kick. In a martini glass served with a garnish of a crystallised rose petal. The waitress brought us round lots of mineral water flavoured with cucumber, and was singing and dancing to the lounge music playlist and we were having a bit of banter with the barman too. It was a nice atmosphere in there, I wish there were places like that here rather than it being a contest of who can drink the most, the fastest. *sigh*

On the Tuesday, we decided to museum-it-up, hehe. We headed for breakfast outside the Rijksmuseum (Benj had a mozzarella, tomato and basil baguette and I was really healthy and had a giant crispy waffle with cherry compote and ice cream and a hot chocolate, haha!)

We were a bit disappointed with the Rijks, to be honest - it was going through extensive renovations when we were there so many exhibitions were closed but it was still the full EUR 14,00 to get in. We're glad we went, just to say we'd been there but the stuff in there wasn't really our style. I can see how it'd be amazing if you were into art (there were a few portraits by Rembrandt in there and some of the original Delft ceramic works) but it was packed full of people all bumping into each other trying to see the different exhibits and we just weren't really feeling it. There was a really creepy statue at the top of the stairs of some sort of cherubim-type thing but it had a really creepy face like the "If you know what I mean" meme, haha! The Andy Warhol print of Queen Beatrix was pretty cool I suppose. There was also a giant painting done in Delft-style, composed entirely of dots, it was amazing the detail that it went into. The gift shop was outrageously expensive. As in, you'd have to have a lot more money than sense to buy any of the overpriced tat in there. Shame.

After that, we had a bit of a wander (actually, most of our holiday was spent walking - we reckon that the 5 days/4 nights we spent there, we walked about 40 miles, and I still managed to put on 3 pounds haha, shows how well we ate!)... and ended up at the Photography museum, "Foam". Being called a photography museum, we thought it would be a fairly extensive exhibit, going through the history of photography, maybe detailing modern photography too, and some great galleries of photographs. We were pretty disappointed with this, too. One gallery was discussing how we don't print our photos any more and it was lamenting the fact we don't really have real photo albums any more as they're all online. Which was a fair point. But it somehow seemed a bit cheap that the "artist" had basically got loads of peoples' old albums and plonked them in the museum without giving it much further thought. Or maybe we just "didn't get it". *shrugs* One of the exhibitions actually angered me - it followed the career of a paparazzo who was basically famous for stalking celebrities and scaring the life out of them for "the perfect picture". It was quite irritating hearing him try to justify himself. Again, we're glad we went, to see what it was about, but we ended up EUR 20,00 lighter and that was bad times ("slechte tijden")!!

Last time we were in Amsterdam, we looked at a giant Chinese restaurant  ( )but never went in - we decided to give it a try this time, and we're so glad we did! Om nom indeeed!  There were odd people waiting for a table by the window (the restaurant is on 3 storeys so there are some pretty good views of the city) but we managed to get a table straight away that was a row from the window so we still got to spy on the bustling of the city from the window... We ordered mixed dim sum for 2 and it was amazing - particularly a pork and mushroom one - so savoury but delicately made, taaasty! We also shared special fried rice and Singapore noodles.

Wednesday brought more museums and it was ace! Before we visited, we checked out some places we'd like to visit, specifically the Tattoo Museum in the Plantage. ( It was quite a long walk from our hotel but so worth it - it took you through the history of tattooing, body art and body modifications through loads of different countries on the first storey, then the second storey showed you all about modern tattooing, famous tattoo artists and the various stigmas of tattooing (prison tattoos, Auschwitz, etc) and then how tattoos are becoming more and more socially acceptable today. Plus, there was a parrot in the cafe. Yes, a parrot. He said hi to me.

The "Het Scheepvaartmuseum", the Ship Museum, was interesting in parts, but I think Benj was more into it than me - it took you through all the history of the Dutch nautical adventures like the wars with the Spanish and English, the race to colonise the Caribbean, etc. There was also an explanation of how the Dutch made loads of land reclamation to give Holland a bigger land mass - and that this had been going on since 1500, which is pretty cool. Again, there was a ridiculously extortionate gift shop.

After this we walked around the city and saw two guys with the most "soul" I have seen in a long time - they had an accordian and an alto sax and were playing the most melancholy Jewish music I have ever heard, it was beautiful! Not the most technically sound ever but they were really into it. They were fab. Then we wandered around the shops and I ended up buying an awesome 50's style dress with a big black lace petticoat in the skirt - it's red and has black "flash tattoo" outline design on it.

We ate dinner at the Teppanyaki that evening ( ) - we shared tuna rolls which were delicious and were careful with the rather vicious wasabi! Benj had salmon teriyaki and I went for the lobster - it was in a bean curd paste which you'd have thought it would've totally overpowered the lobster but it didn't - clever cooking :) Goodness knows how I managed to eat lobster in its shell with chopsticks in a vaguely ladylike way, though, haha!

For some reason, after dinner I was craving a big piece of chocolate cake so we (for some reason!) headed to the Starbucks at Leidseplein and I had a massive piece of Rocky Road chocolate cake. Yes. We then decided to go back to NJOY for another cocktail - I had the "Cherry Me Up" champagne cocktail which was not quite as delicious as the rose and gin one I'd had previously but it was still pretty good.

On Thursday we spent a lot of time wandering around the different shops, the most interesting of which was the English Waterstones - complete with Bookshop Cat - we were wandering around the bookshelves and in the window seat, there sat a black cat, sleeping. Also, there was an English food section (in Waterstones, wtf?!) selling Bisto, Marmite, Cadbury Roses and Walkers shortbread. Strange.

Dinner was spent at Rembrandtsplein eating Wiener Schnitzel and drinking Kriek beer and watching the world go by. Followed by some apple cake, espresso and amaretto, we chatted when it got a bit too breezy and cold outside.

Friday was mostly spent walking around the city, eating goats cheese and honey on a bagel, hazelnut lattes. It rained nearly all day so we mostly tried to hide in cafes and bars and ended up spending most of our time in the rather stupidly named "Le Pub" on Leidseplein, a strange American-Dutch style cafe that was trying to vaguely hint at being French - my "croque monsieur" was Dutch smoked ham on toast with burnt corners and some Edam melted on top. But the hot chocolate "met slagroom" (the Dutch are obsessed with slagroom, squirty cream, lol) was comforting on such a wet and miserable day. We then waited in the hotel lobby and read books until it was time to go to the airport - we managed to get a taxi for EUR 30,00 to the airport, which is pretty cheap as it was about 18 to the Centraal station and then about 8 for train tickets to the airport.

I was filthy-dirty at the airport and had McDonalds - remembering that they have an awesome sauce for fries "fritessauce" which is basically dill-y Hollandaise sauce but it is somehow luminous yellow but somehow the tastiest thing in the world. Okay, maybe not *the* tastiest, but somehow it is addictive and tasty.

We also found a toy shop at the airport with lots of Miffy (or "Nijntje" if you're Dutch) toys and souvenirs, hurrah! I love Miffy :)

All in all, it was a great holiday, and I will always love Amsterdam, it's like five different cities in one, there's always something new to explore. It doesn't have to be the stereotypical "wahey lads on tour", let's visit the Red Light District and get stoned, type holiday, there's loads of stuff to do, and equally, there's loads of places to just sit and relax and take in the atmosphere of a fun, diverse, quirky and cosmopolitan city.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

#100happy today - When the Olympic torch came to Town

My boss agreed to let us all leave early to watch the Olympic torch go past, hurrah! 
(He is a good boss, he makes everyone at work a cup of tea every morning without fail. Good lad.)

It was quite busy!

There was such a lovely atmosphere

The lady in the bottom right corner was brilliant, she was dancing and waving her flag...


Hyperactive Green Superheroes

We waited a long while for the torch and I managed to get a quick snap of it running past!

Shame I didn't bring my "proper" camera but glad I got these taken on my phone :)

Find out where the torch is off to next HERE

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

#100Happy today - Today's Happies!

What's one of the little things that made you happy today?

Zoe: Booking my fliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiights! =D

Katie: Doing silly walking

Chiara: Getting to swim in a 32 degree heated outdoor pool

Deb: The prospect of tapas!

Chris: The above lady!

Mark: Brilliant answer! ---^ 
My Rosie, as per usual, and the fact that my wisdom tooth isn't aching as much :D

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

#100happy today - Yawning is good for you!

Is there anything more satisfying than doing a big old yawn with a massive stretch?

I think not.

Now, someone has Done A Science to show that yawning is good for you (we've been saying it for years!):

Yawning supposedly makes us more self-aware, regulates our consciousness and helps you stay focused, according to Andrew Newburg's essay (which you can read [here]).

Meanwhile, here: have some pictures of cute animals yawning...

All of the above images are from [here] and you can see yet more cute animals yawning there!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

#100happy - Best of the Web: Weird Yet Beautiful Stadiums

In honour of the Olympics and Euro football championships, here are some pictures of awesome stadiums from around the world, found [here]

Aalesund Arena, Norway

Scoreboard in the mountainside! Find out where in the world it is [here]

NK Imotski football club (see more about it [here])