Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Top 5 Blog Posts

As we get ready to start a new year, I thought it would be fun to go back and see which blog posts had the most visits this year.  We had a lot of changes in 2015, so what did people find the most interesting?  (I didn't include the final 'before & afters' that are in the tabs at the top of this screen.  Instead, I focused on the specific blog posts that people read the most.)  And I was a bit surprised at the outcome!

Coming in at the number 5 slot was was our kid's purchase - The Really, Really Bad Flip, aka the Little Farm of Horrors.  The house continues to provide surprises (not the good kind), but they've gotten a lot of the issues sorted out and are quickly making it a real family farm (6 goats, 2 donkeys, 2 mini horses, an assortment of chickens and a new baby!).

People can't seem to get enough Before & After photos of kitchens, so maybe it wasn't a surprise that this post was the 4th most read post of the year!

One of the very first blog posts I ever wrote was How to Choose Paint Colors - and it's still popular, coming in at number 3.
Sherwin Williams Nonchalant White, Crisp Linen and Ancient Marble

The Number 2 most read post was from earlier this year - The Foyer (aka Mudroom) on our duplex.  With its built ins made from IKEA PAX wardrobes, it was featured on IKEA Hackers and has had a lot of interest from readers all over the world.  

At the number 1 slot, the transformation of the Dining Room and Foyer from our second project got the most views by a landslide.  Farewell pickwick pine, hello light, bright wood walls!  

What will be the most popular posts of 2016?  Hard to say in advance, but with a new project starting in a few weeks, we'll have lots of updates to share!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Time to Go Home, After 500 Days in Europe

Farewell Europe.  We're going home.  We have LOVED living here, but it's time to go back to our familiar lifestyle.

Through the magic of the blogosphere, I haven't been completely candid about how long we've been here.  We've actually been in Amsterdam for quite awhile.  When I looked at the calendar, I suddenly realized we've been here about 500 days.  And that's a long time to see and do lots of new things (although maybe not long enough to learn a new language - my dutch lessons didn't go well!).  It feels like we've packed a lifetime of experiences into those 500 days.

So you won't hear as much from me in the next couple of weeks, as we pack up and head back to Maine.

And of course, we'll get SoPo Cottage started up quickly.  We've got a couple of projects on the docket.  The first one is ready to go and we'll be getting started in January.  It's going to be an exciting one, with an unfinished second floor that is just begging to be living space.  Hope you'll follow along on our next adventure.

But in the meantime, here are a few of our favorite memories from our ex-pat life.

Sail Amsterdam - once every 5 years, Amsterdam hosts the biggest nautical event in the world with hundreds of ships from all over the world.  We were luck enough to be there.  Thinking about visiting Amsterdam?  August of 2020 would be a good time, when the tall ships return!

Source:  Sail Amsterdam

You can't have a fear of heights for this job!
 Lake Como - it's cheap to travel in Europe and we tried to make the most of it.  Lake Como exceeded our expectations.  What an amazingly beautiful place (I guess that's why George Clooney lives there!)

James Bond fan?  This is where the original Casino Royale was filmed.

Changing of the Guard
Copenhagen - while similar to Amsterdam with its bicycle culture, Copenhagen has its own charm.  We loved the bright coloured buildings and city vibe.
Nyhavn Harbor

German Christmas Markets - while Christmas isn't a big deal in Holland, the Germans take it very seriously and we couldn't get enough of the charming small towns with their amazing handicrafts.
Trier, Germany

And best of all, we loved Living Like Locals - whether we just wandered around the canals or walked a few steps from our apartment to world famous museums, concert halls and fantastic restaurants, we loved the European life.  We really enjoyed our city adventure and all that Amsterdam has to offer.

Will it be hard to leave?  Yes!  But despite all its wonders, it will be good to get back to the good old USA!

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dutch Architecture - A House Like a Tree?

So when you hear Dutch architecture, I'm sure the first thought you have is iconic golden age buildings from the 1600's.

Yes, those beautiful narrow buildings with the Bell,
Built in 1627!!!

and Bottle Neck gable shapes


But what about houses built to look like trees?  Or a giant apartment building that looks like a quonset hut, with a food hall in the middle?

Well our first trip to Rotterdam gave us a glimpse of architecture unlike any we'd ever seen before.  And Lonely Planet just rated the city as #5 best city for travel in 2016!

Because it was such a major port city, Rotterdam was heavily bombed during World War II.  In fact, only 10 buildings remained after the war.  So there has been extensive rebuilding over the last 70 years - with some far sighted architects.
See if you can find some of the buildings from the photos below.  Source:  Unknown
In the 1980's, they wanted to create a group of homes and a bridge over a major road.  Architect Piet Blom came up with a concept that looked pretty amazing in the 80's and still does today!

He wanted houses to resemble trees.  And of course a whole group of these trees would make a forest.  The 'forest' goes up over the road, creating a pedestrian bridge.

Does it look like a tree?
The trunk is the stairwell to get into the living space - which creates the 'foliage' space above.

One enterprising Dutchman realized lots of us wanted to see the inside of these houses, so he opened up his house as a museum.  Judging from the crowds going through it when we were there - he's got quite a money maker (3 euros cash to tour).
Living Room
The inside is unique to say the least.  Those cube spaces create lots of interior room, but with some funky angles - that frankly didn't seem all that functional.  Some spaces seemed quite cramped. See how Richard had to crouch a bit going up the staircase?

The bedrooms had custom furniture.
The kitchen was nice and had a view to the ground below. But I would want a dishwasher!

But the cube houses aren't the only unusual housing style in Rotterdam.  The new Markthal just opened a year ago.  It's an enormous, quonset hut shaped building.  

The outside is lined with apartments.  And the inside?  An amazing, colourful food hall, with lots of stalls offering a myriad of food

(including this crazy square watermelon!).  And the ceiling inside the Markthal?  It's a fantastic mixture of bright flowers, from floor to the very top of the arched ceiling.  What a sight!

The apartments seem intriguing.  They have windows on the Markthal side, that peer down into the hall.  No one had opened up their apartment as a museum - but I found these photos online.
  You can see the arched silhouette of the building reflected on the outside wall.
Source:  booking.com
So I would take Lonely Planet's advice.  If you get a chance, spend a day in Rotterdam.  It's a fascinating city, filled with amazing architecture.  And you can even find the occasional old building, flanked with modern icons.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Houseboat Life

One of the things that has really intrigued me since moving here - houseboats.  There are a lot of them, scattered all over Amsterdam.

How cool would that be?  Just imagine living on a canal in a beautiful city.  With all the conveniences you're used to (they even have gas lines coming into them for heating and cooking)  
What a view from this one!

They come in all shapes and sizes.  

Boxy or svelte.  New and old.  

There are even apartments in houseboats.  I think I'd want the front unit, in the bow.
 And you can even have a chicken coop to go with your houseboat.

And this one, which really fascinates me, is built of brick!!!  Doesn't that seem odd?

So imagine how excited I was when our friends Beth and Michael invited us to a party at their houseboat.  They live in Amsterdam North, on a quiet canal.
It has its own little front yard

And the houseboat is fantastic!   Like most boats, it has a name, Hexenketel.  It has a dual meaning in Dutch - both Witches Cauldron and Pandemonium.  Which Beth says is a fitting name for their lifestyle  :-)
Don't you love the view through the windows?

And while it's not big (how could it be?), it has a great living space and amazing views.  What a peaceful environment to live in.

Design print out - taped to refrigerator
When we visited, they had just planned their kitchen renovation.  This was the picture they had taped to the refrigerator.  She just sent me this 'after' photo - doesn't it look great?

Kitchen After

The bedrooms are on the lower level, which explains why the windows are up so high.  This is on the renovation list for someday in the future.  But I thought it was very nice!

And the cats clearly love houseboat life!  Do you think you could live on a houseboat?

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