Book Reviews: Girl on the Train, Exit West, Slade House, The Miniaturist, and Hard-Boiled Wonderland

Book Reviews: Girl on the Train, Exit West, Slade House, The Miniaturist, and Hard-Boiled Wonderland

Apparently it has been three years since I published a book review on this blog. Have I read any books in the meantime? Yes, yes, I have. Although I don’t think I did crack a book for my entire first year in Amsterdam. That’s how immersive and all-encompassing of an experience this city is. Besides the fact that I was working full-time in a different time zone. I hope I never have to do that again.

At any rate, then I started reading again but didn’t post reviews, I think because I joined a fabulous book club, which filled some of the need to tell the world what I thought of the books. I kinda missed writing these posts, though. So here you go.

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Nudist Librarian 

Nudist Librarian 

So there’s this book that you’ve probably read, or someone you know has certainly read. Pretty much everyone I know seems to have read it and touted its genius and capacity for transforming one’s existence.

Which is nothing less than the premise and the promise of the book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This was a book that I vowed I would not read. Probably at least 85% of the fights I had with my mother when I was a teenager revolved around the state of my messy bedroom, and the stuff she wanted me to throw away to remedy it. Every time I moved to a different place at university, I would be up late in the night, battling with all my junk. During one of those moves I remember going out to the dumpster at midnight with my roommate to throw out six giant pickle jars (empty of pickles, but full of pickle juice, which I reused to pickle baby carrots, apparently in truly monumental quantities).

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A Little Update on Italian Citizenship

A Little Update on Italian Citizenship

Well, the road to true love never did run smooth. Which is the ongoing refrain of this decade-long quest for Italian citizenship. As I mentioned several weeks ago, I did submit all my documents using the Italian Ministry of the Interior’s online application process. Not having heard from them in a while, and being concerned about the six month document expiration rule I mentioned before, I emailed the extremely helpful Adrianus at the consulate, and politely asked how things were going. 

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Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

A couple of weeks ago when all my Facebook friends were posting about seeing Wonder Woman, I went to book tickets on the spur of the moment for myself and Axa and discovered that, unaccountably, it opened weeks later here in the Netherlands than practically anywhere else in the world. Undaunted, I used the intervening time to get as many friends as possible to join me with their kids after the film finally opened. We ended up with 29 of us and a pre-movie dinner at Wagamama. Some of the kids were even persuaded to pose for a photo doing Wonder Woman arms. 

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Amsterdam Birthday

Amsterdam Birthday

Having a party in the city carries with it some challenges. Most of them have to do with transportation. Neither we nor many of our friends have cars, which can make transporting eight rambunctious boys a bit of an adventure. That’s why as far as I’m concerned, the perfect summer party is what Raj chose last year: pizza in the park a few blocks from our house, with the Minecraft ghast piñata his mother cleverly made out of toilet paper. 


But the kid is growing up, and wanted something a bit more exciting this year. To wit: laser tag! The closest place that offers laser tag is under a bridge in the centre of the city. Which meant that I had to set out from school walking with all the boys. 

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Amsterdam House Tour: The Kitchen

Amsterdam House Tour: The Kitchen

Sad, but true: this is the final post in the Amsterdam House Tour. I’ve run out of house to show you. The final room is perhaps the most important, seeing as how it revolves around food. So here you go: my kitchen!

Is that a fun, bright room, or what? I am a little in love with it. As you can see, turquoise is the name of the game. I still feel a bit assaulted by the brightness of it, but I’m pretty sure I like it. 

For reference, here’s what it looked like when we moved in. So you can see that for better or for worse, we’ve definitely brought it into technicolor.

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Avondvierdaagse: the Redemption

Avondvierdaagse: the Redemption

On Wednesday it was Tony’s turn to walk the Avondvierdaagse with the kids while I went to a writers’ meet up in the city. And of course the weather was perfect for him: sunny until after nine o’clock, as it is here when it isn’t pouring rain. 

Last night I had a second chance myself. I thought about holing up in a café while the kids walked, but in the end I decided to give  it another try. And I’m glad I did. This time the weather was much better; it was even a little too warm at first, which I didn’t mind at all. I rolled up the sleeves of my cotton shirt and set off at a run after the kids, since I’d been left behind because of a last minute bathroom break. 

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The March of Death (aka Avondvierdaagse)

The March of Death (aka Avondvierdaagse)

There are quite a few Dutch customs that would seem, frankly, crazy in the U.S. Some of them involve the impressively wide range of stuff Dutch kids are permitted, nay, encouraged to do (cycle several kilometres to school by themselves, take public transport all over the city, etc.) Others involve acts of defiance against the weather (the impossibly long ice skating race, Elfstedentocht, which happens only when the ice is thick enough on waterways between eleven northern cities, or the wildly popular leap into the frigid North Sea on New Year’s Day). 

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Renewing Our Vows

Renewing Our Vows

Tony and I have been wanting to renew our wedding vows for a while. Partly because we’re just kind of romantics that way. Partly because we’ve been married for quite a while now, and been through a lot, and accomplished amazing things together. And partly because we were really uber Mormon when we got married, and now we’re, well, not.

When I found out last year that it’s a Dutch tradition to celebrate anniversary #12.5 (half of 25), I thought that would be perfect. We had it all planned out: we’d send the kids to the US to visit their grandparents, and meanwhile Tony and I would hike the West Highland Way in Scotland, and do a romantic vow renewal in some picturesque corner of the Scottish Highlands. The fact that in Victorian novels Scotland is the place you run away to when you want to elope made it all the more romantic. 

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Things I Have Worried About While Applying for Italian Citizenship

Things I Have Worried About While Applying for Italian Citizenship

Almost ten years ago we moved to Italy specifically for the purpose of claiming Italian citizenship for Tony via a process called jure sanguinis (by right of blood). In fact, that was the impetus for starting this blog in the first place: recording all the wacky and frustrating and occasionally miraculous things that happened along the way.

Several months, dozens of official stamps and seals, and many scoops of stress gelato later, Tony and the kids officially had their Italian citizenship recognised. And I was immediately eligible to apply for Italian citizenship myself as the wife of a bona fide Italian. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards our business failed, and we went through several rough years of financial instability, as well as some health issues, punctuated by various moves domestically and abroad.

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