The Canal Parade

The Canal Parade

Ever since we moved to Amsterdam, people have been telling us about the famous canal parade that happens every August in celebration of Pride week. This place loves an excuse for a party, and as city renowned for its tolerance and open-mindedness, it’s no surprise that Amsterdam celebrates Gay Pride with panache and gusto. There are all-night street parties and other events for days before and after, but the main attraction is the canal parade on Saturday afternoon.

Accordingly, we arrived a good hour and a half or so before the parade was to begin. The crowds were already packed along the parade route, but we managed to find a spot on a bridge (we’d been informed that bridges offered the best view), almost in the front. We settled the kids with their legs dangling off the bridge under one of the giant hanging flower baskets. Yes, I did give more than a passing thought to the idea that they might fall in the canal, but no, it didn’t prevent me from allowing it.


Apparently an even better way to watch the parade is from one of the many boats moored two deep along the edges of the canal. Note to self: make a friend with a boat before next year.

A lot of the people in the boats along the side were dressed as garishly as the people in the parade itself. There’s a drawing every year, and “only” eighty boats are allowed to participate, so I guess maybe if you didn’t get drawn you just park your boat alongside. In the photo below, only the boat in the foreground is actually in the parade. All the rest are moored along the canal and full of people drinking, dancing, and enjoying the parade. And occasionally falling into the canal and becoming part of the spectacle if they drink too much or dance to vigorously.


This boat was part of the entre act, which also included this cool guy riding a waterspout. Yes, that’s my thumb over the top half of the photo. I was excited.


It was an impressive parade; I guess the official color is pink, but of course there was an abundance of rainbows.


Most of the parade floats (I don’t know if they officially call them that, but it’s a more appropriate name here than in any other parade I’ve ever seen) were big barges that were either pulled or pushed by boats.


Because the canal is crossed by multiple low bridges like the one where we were sitting, the designers of the floats had to be creative in including decorations that could be pulled down to fit under the bridge and then quickly re-inflated after the bridge. Sometimes the people on the barge had to lie down too. Here’s that same float halfway re-inflated after passing under our bridge.

WP_20150801_14_44_53_ProAnd here you can see it off in the distance, finally fully inflated as a blue man with rainbow wings. You can also see all the people watching the parade from their boats, as well as the crowds behind them on the sides of the canal.


The crowds, as you can see in the photo above, were pretty crazy. There was a fair bit of jostling on our bridge. In fact, I was almost pushed into the canal by a sturdy Dutch granny. The family next to us had started out with two members on the front row, but were busily trying to expand their holding, and had sent granny out as a wrecking ball. The family on the other side were executing a similar maneuver, so I was taken by surprise from both directions. Eventually I sat down like the kids, below all the jostling, as Tony endeavored to stand firm and hold the bridge. There was general disapproval that I bowed out on all the elbowing, since apparently that was considered a female domain; the men were just sitting back and letting the women go at it.

There were some pretty dramatic costumes, including these 70’s inspired flower heads.

It was not possible to tell in all cases exactly what sort of story the floats were attempting to tell, but this must be a good one, since it involves castles and unicorns.


As might be expected, marriage was a popular theme, and several different floats included wedding cakes, brides and grooms (well, brides and brides and grooms and grooms), and other wedding accoutrements.


Quite a few local businesses were featured, as well as several large internationals with offices here in Amsterdam.


The Dutch military had its own float.

WP_20150801_15_23_26_ProAs did the Dutch postal service, although where they found the time to decorate it when they were so occupied with striking remains a mystery. Or maybe that’s what they did while they were busy not delivering the mail.


We only made it halfway through the parade (perhaps 2 1/2 hours) before we reluctantly decided to call it a day and take our tired children home, although I’m sure there were plenty more impressive boats to come.

We had a great time at Amsterdam Pride, despite the incredible masses of people. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to psyche up my introvert self to go again next year, but we’re definitely happy to have experienced this bit of Amsterdam color.

David Tennant – Elsewhere

The last time I had a celebrity crush this bad was when we lived in Ireland. I got really sick, and spent a week in bed watching Darren Hayes music videos. I still love me some Savage Garden, but I’m (mostly) over Darren Hayes, although I can never get tired of listening to “The Animal Song.”

Things are much worse this time. Even re-watching the three David Tennant seasons of Doctor Who with Tony (and then again with Axa) is not enough to give me my David Tennant fix these days. So I’ve had to branch out. I was initially worried that seeing him play anything other than a 945-year-old Time Lord would be somehow disillusioning. Fortunately, David Tennant is versatile enough to be brilliant no matter what he’s doing (or what he’s wearing). Here’s what I’ve been watching him in lately:

Spies of Warsaw


This is a two-part miniseries set in Poland just before the outbreak of WWII. Neither David Tennant nor any of his colleagues are particularly convincing as French officers/spies, but that doesn’t stop the story from being exciting and dramatic. David Tennant is a French nobleman working at the embassy in Warsaw. He’s also an intrepid spy with a big heart and a highly developed conscience, and all the contradictions that implies. Aside from being set in the late 1930’s, it kind of has the innocent, nostalgic feel I associate with movies actually made during that time period. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this film.

Also, I am not usually one for men in uniform, but David Tennant in epaulets? Yes, please.

The Decoy Bride


OK, this one was silly. Very, very silly. David Tennant plays a mediocre writer who is about to marry a famous actress and instead falls for another mediocre writer. The movie takes place on a little Scottish island, so I was really looking forward to hearing his natural Scottish accent. Unfortunately, he wasn’t actually Scottish in the movie, although he does do a scene where he plays bagpipes while a deaf couple dances, as well as spending a fair amount of the movie wearing the incomparable outfit pictured above. I’m not hugely in to romantic comedies in the first place, and this one was sillier than the average romantic comedy. Still, David Tennant, so.

The Politician’s Husband


I quite, quite enjoyed this one, another BBC miniseries that is more a commentary on balancing work, children, and marriage than a real political drama. Tennant’s Aiden Hoynes is an ambitious politician whose wife’s political career has always taken a backseat to his. When a leadership bid goes wrong, his wife’s political star begins to rise even as his is falling. Holding down the homefront proves a challenge for Hoynes, as he struggles to deal with more household responsibilities, his autism-spectrum son, and jealousy over his wife’s political alliance with a bitter rival. David Tennant’s acting is incredible, as always, and the story is riveting, if painful to watch. I’m really not a fan of what they did to his hair, though.



I’m about 2/3 of the way through this excellently done crime drama. I am not that in to murder mysteries, not least because I don’t like spending hours going over every gory detail of a horrific crime. Broadchurch, though, is more about how one tragic event sends out ripples through the little community where it happens, affecting the lives of every person who lives there. Even without David Tennant, I think I would be fascinated by this incredibly crafted exploration into human relationships and reactions to tragedy. I’ve yet to decide how I feel about antisocial, unpopular Alec Hardy, who’s always slightly rumpled, too formal, and surreptitiously limping away from his own emotional wounds. But I think Tennant’s performance is impeccable.

Bizarrely, Fox is premiering a remake called Gracepoint next month in the United States, in which the entire cast, except David Tennant, has been replaced. I can understand keeping David Tennant, of course. But why the remake? The only explanation I’ve heard is that Americans can’t understand the accents. It’s called subtitles, people. And how could you not love the accents? I’m sure I’ll end up watching it, though, because David Tennant.

P.S. If you’ve already watched Broadchurch, don’t tell me what happens. If you tell me who the killer is, I may well commit my very own murder.

As you can see, David Tennant is an absolute delight to watch under any circumstances. And these aren’t even his most well-known roles. I have yet to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, any of his Shakespeare roles, or even Casanova, which was kind of his first big role. Russell T. Davies initially got some flak for not casting a sexier actor as Casanova. I think he’s been amply vindicated since.

If you’re still (unimaginably) on the fence 0ver whether you need to see more of David Tennant, I’ll just leave you with this iconic clip from the Catherine Tate show:

Deep Breath (Spoilers, of Course)

When I found out that Deep Breath, the premier episode of Doctor Who, Season 8 would be showing in theaters, I was over the moon. The only bad thing was that for whatever reason (long-delayed British revenge for the Boston Tea Party?) it wasn’t screened until a full 48 hours after it had been shown in Britain. So I did my best to stay off social media in the meantime to avoid being hit by spoilers in one of the six different Doctor Who Facebook groups to which I belong.

However, the long-awaited day did dawn at last. I picked up our babysitter on my way home from work, and felt a little guilty that she was babysitting for our kids while we went to Doctor Who when I found out that she’s a fan too. Such are the vicissitudes of being a teenage babysitter, I guess. I remember thinking that most of the things the parents I babysat for as a teenager were doing sounded more fun than staying home with their kids too.

When I got home, I was delighted to find that Tony had bought us Doctor Who T-shirts for the occasion. Here’s a bad selfie taken at the theater:


And here’s one of Tony catching a cat-nap before the movie:


His, of course, is the Tenth Doctor. And mine’s the TARDIS, over a grunged-out Union Jack. I love it.

Doctor Who Shirt

As for the actual episode, I loved it too. Be warned, the following thoughts on it not only contain abundant spoilers, but will be completely unintelligible if you haven’t seen the episode.

First of all, I loved how alien the Doctor was. I really think he had more empathy for the dinosaur than for any of the humans, including Clara. I adore David Tennant, but he was a very human Doctor, and always intent on understanding everyone’s feelings and reassuring them. The way Capaldi seriously let Clara think he had abandoned her was so unnerving, but so empowering for her. It really reminded me of the Fourth Doctor–unpredictable and brilliant, but almost a little cold. It’s impossible to forget that Capaldi’s not human. And he’s SO funny! Plus, I love, love, love the Scottish accent. I’m so glad they let him keep it.

I also liked the way Clara had a hard time reconciling herself to the new Doctor. But even more, I liked that it showed how hard it was for him for her to look at him and not see him. And I didn’t mind the phone call with the 11th Doctor. It was a good way to establish emotional continuity, both for her and for him. I also found it fascinating how the Doctor wondered about where his new faces come from. I’ve heard it speculated that he was remembering his meeting with Caecilius at Pompeii. But I like to think that there’s some interesting explanation for  how he gets each particular new face, since it seems pretty random.

The balloon made out of human skin was a little much, I thought. And the half-faced man was terrifying and horrible. Those androids in The Girl in the Fireplace were never my favorite, so I wasn’t overly thrilled to see something similar. This is definitely an episode my kids would find terrifying, and I think lived up to the speculation that Moffat was planning to take the series in a “darker” direction.

I know that some people love them, but personally I am pretty tired of Madame Vastra and her entourage. Especially Strax, who has started to feel like predictable comic relief to me. The Doctor himself is funny enough on his own. So I hope they stop appearing, so we can see some new faces. I’m intrigued by Missy and all the theories around her. I’d love for her to be another incarnation of River Song, but I don’t really think she is. The names of the last two episodes make me think that the Promised Land/Paradise/Heaven must be a pretty central theme. I can’t wait to see how that plays out.

One really fun thing about Deep Breath was that the whole episode had a decidedly Steampunk feel. The costumes were delightful (especially Clara’s opulent green dress). And the Doctor up on a rooftop in his nightgown like Wee Willie Winkie was utterly endearing. Yes, the plot was convoluted, but people who don’t like convoluted plots likely stopped watching Doctor Who a long time ago. I am excited for the new season, and I think this first episode did a great job at raising many more questions than it answered, introducing some fascinating new themes and characters, and most of all, establishing that Peter Capaldi is subtle, unpredictable, brilliant, and born to play the Doctor.

My Imaginary Well-Dressed Dog

If you can’t wait to meet My Imaginary Well-Dressed Dog, I just gave you the link, so go ahead. But if you’d like the explanation, here it is:

I think most of us have had at least some exposure to that reservoir of superlative fantasy, home of improbable D.I.Y. projects, and well of inexhaustible mommy-guilt that is Pinterest. Usually, it’s not really my thing. As you know, my style for birthday parties fits better under the “lazy parent” category than the “Pinterest perfect” one. And I’m not one to seek out unsolicited reminders of how awesome I could be if I only dedicated myself to the full-time creation and beautification of cupcakes, party invitations, and other crafty delights.

In fact, I get a little (very little) stab of guilt every time I receive an email informing me that a friend has started following my (virtually non-existent) Pinterest self. But the other day I came across a Pinterest board that I actually liked. Probably because it pokes a bit of delicate, well-deserved fun at the excesses of Pinterest, while always remaining hilariously funny.

If you haven’t guessed already, I’m talking about My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter, created by Tiffany Beveridge, an Australian mom with sons but no (real) daughter, who initially started the page because she was interested in cute little girl fashions. Soon, she realized that she couldn’t resist coming up with ironically funny captions for the fashion photos she was pinning, which featured children in ridiculously adult poses with hugely unlikely blasé expressions on their perfectly made-up faces. And My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter (delightfully christened Quinoa) was born.

Quinoa's Gatsby-themed birthday party was a hit. Everybody loved the part when she ran over little Marimba with her tricycle. #MIWDTD
Quinoa’s Gatsby-themed birthday party was a hit. Everybody loved the part when she ran over little Marimba with her tricycle. #MIWDTD

I’m pretty much addicted by now, as in, I go back multiple times a day to find out what Quinoa is up to today. And eventually, because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I decided to make my own Pinterest page. My Imaginary Well-Dressed Dog chronicles the pet side of the phenomenon. With apologies if you are that friend who clutters up everyone’s Facebook wall with an endless stream of cute animal pictures.

She knew they looked like the perfect couple, but Scarlett felt that lately Rhett had been acting more distant.
She knew they looked like the perfect couple, but Scarlett felt that lately Rhett had been acting more distant.

In any event, if you, like me, have yet to find your place on Pinterest, maybe this can give you some twisted inspiration of a less Pinteresty persuasion.

A Word From Our Readers, Episode 3

What with the death of Hugo Chavez, the Syrian refugee count reaching 1 million, the coming drone apocalypse, and everything else depressing in the world, we all really need something to cheer us up. So here are my top picks from the last six months of search engine queries that have landed people at Casteluzzo. I notice that among other things, I seem to have become quite a versatile authority on some esoteric facets of pet ownership.

“coffee table repurposed to hold rabbit cage”
“homemade dog cage out of cardboard boxes”
“goat gyms”
“epic rat cages”

You overestimate my inventiveness, as well as my menagerie.

“brut cologne out of date”

No way! It’s still very much da mode. See also: “infatuated with his smell”

“$150,000 worth of jelly beans”

Thanks. You shouldn’t have.

“christmas turkey wrapped in bacon”

Yes, I did. It tasted like 14 pounds of bacon.

“bacon wrapped dove”

I think this might be taking the concept a little too far . . .

“how to draw a sugar glider”

Good luck! I can’t even get a non-blurry photo of one.

“what is the best way to create a roller coaster with at least three hills and one loop that can transport a marble at least 2 meters from start to finish”

Why do people keep asking me this question?

“artificial spanish fir x-mas tree with raindrops”

Raindrops? Really? That’s a whole new dimension of flocked.

“motorbike sidecar” or “motorcycle sidecar” erotic film italy dead mother”

Um. I’m not sure if this film is really my style. Anyone else?

“can sugar glider eat ice cream”
“can sugar glider eat pepperoni”
“can sugar gliders eat popcorn”

No, no, and no! Please feed your sugar glider responsibly.

“people steal my trash in deltona”

Guilty as charged.

“hot american kissing”

Well, we’re American. And we’re hot. And we kiss. So yes. I guess.

“baby rabbit mask glasses diapers”


“creating a government for a marooned island people”

Is this some kind of political reality show?

“is it possible to take my sugar glider to school in secret?”

Looks like yes: “kid has sugar glider in pocket at school”

“dining room is not” buddha

Neither is my dining room. I’m sure the feng shui is off too.

“mushroom growing in bathroom natural conditions”

I don’t even want to know.

“i sometimes cook i always clean the bathroom i almost never clean the kitchen”

Look, I think we’ve had enough housekeeping confessions.

“praying mantis for sale in philippines”

Any takers? I hear they make great pets, and keep the bug population down too.

“green banana fitted with a stand and decorated” and “i capricorn i dream of papaya what it means”

I think it might mean that you should lay off on the exotic fruit snacking before bed.

graphic courtesy of wordle

Goodbye to February

It should not be possible to get the February doldrums in Florida. But I am ready to say goodbye to last month, and feeling like I’m falling apart. I suppose part of it was having a house full of guests the week of Axa’s baptism, not to mention a trip to Disneyworld the day before. Somehow, I ended up on Saturday morning making several dozen mini-muffins whilst simultaneously ironing Axa’s baptism dress, practicing our special musical number, putting the finishing touches on my talk, and loading the car up with a million and one different things for the baptism. I’m surprised I forgot to do as few things as I did.

It was all great fun and a smashing success, but I ended the week feeling as if I’d been run over by a train. And that was two and a half weeks ago. Have I yet recovered? Probably not, judging by the fact that I have read the entire Twilight saga one and a half times during the past two weeks (not to mention catching up on all the corresponding films), and not even opened a single other book. On my informal personal scale of mental stability (measured in descending order by whether I’m reading cerebral nonfiction, classic literature, or fantasy novels), that gives me a score of something approaching survival mode.

So, I am very late to the Twilight party. But why do people hate these books? I mean, do they seriously not remember being seventeen? The incredible angst? The romance? The social awkwardness? The awakening sexual tension? The deep, cosmically charged relationships?

I originally avoided reading Twilight mostly because I read Interview With a Vampire as a teenager, and ended up pretty traumatized. I found it creepy, violent, twisted and nightmare inducing (maybe I would give it a kinder review now?). The genius of Twilight is that the whole down and dirty of being a vampire (and you know, actually sucking people’s blood) stays mostly in the background, lending a dark, exotic ambiance to a light but passionately felt teenage romantic fantasy. I am reading it on my Kindle, and the most hilarious thing is that the very cheesiest and most syrupy sentimental lines are the ones that people have highlighted five hundred times.

Anyway, tomorrow Tony and I are going to watch Breaking Dawn: Part 2. It was supposed to be shown at an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by woods, which I thought was a pretty perfect setting for a vampire movie. But this being Florida, when the weather forecast came in at “extremely cold” (i.e. less than 60 degrees for the evening),  they moved the showing indoors. Oh, well. It’s still a great way to say goodbye to the month of February.

A Word from Our Readers, Episode 2

Yes, it’s time again to let our readers weigh in on which topics are most important to them. Here are highlights of the last several months of internet searches landing people on this blog, along with my best attempts at response.

“danger of hubbly bubbly”

Sadly, yes, it’s at least as bad for you as cigarettes. And no, not kosher for Mormons.

“are fake plant cheesy in my livimvg room”

Yes, yes, and thrice yes.

“book called climbing purmesscus”

I’ve never climbed purmesscus, but it sounds kind of putrid, miasmic and viscous.

“can two people teach each other a new language”

Well . . . I guess maybe if you put them alone in a room together with no T.V.

“is donkey milk tasty”

Never tried it. Let me know when you find out.

“anguished memoir”

Well you know, I don’t think my blog makes it sound as bad as all that.

“atheist keychain”

No, it wasn’t an atheist, just a mad dictator.

“saturn mormon theology”

You’ve got me there. We haven’t gotten to Saturn yet in our Sunday School class.

“a world revolving around sex and food”

Ha. Don’t I wish.

“what should i learn from the ticktockman”

Well, all I really need to know I learned from Ticktockman. (gentle sentimental sigh)

“cockroach farm photo”

I don’t even want to know.

“does breast feeding ruin your breasts”


“homemade goat jungle gym”

Tutorial here. Just kidding. You’re on your own.

“information mural painted with glow in the dark paints”

Because information is just as important in the dark.

lyrics “i was sitting in the park” “watching the children”

Ooh, catchy catchy. I think you’ve got something there.

“healthy cinnamon scroll, snail, roll”

Even better. We are totally rockin’ it out here.

“homeschool nerds”

Now, that’s just a little confrontational, don’t you think?

“florida bugs what is making those messy webs in my screened porch” and “lately i have many palmetto bugs inside my air conditioned home in south fl”

I feel your pain. Florida is, well, Florida.

“want to beat spider phobia?”


“pics of fungi that live in the sahara desert”

I don’t think it’s the most fertile mushroom hunting ground.

“how many people have been sucked out of their home through a skylight”

Not us, at least.

“what if darth vader’s injuries healed”

Then maybe he and Luke could have another go at ruling the galaxy together as father and son.

“gravestones brochures”


“i dream that i go to a house where i’ve never lived”

Hey, I have that dream too! It recurrently comes true.

Scent of a Man

According to Wikipedia, “the role of pheromones in human behavior remains speculative and controversial.”

However, years ago I read this interesting article on a blog about the role our noses play in physical attraction. The author talks about a guy she dated in high school, who was a perfect match, except that he smelled wrong. It wasn’t that he had stinky socks, or had forgotten to take a shower. His personal smell just repelled her. It didn’t matter what cologne or deodorant he used. She couldn’t stand his smell, and eventually broke up with him.

My ears totally pricked up when I read that, because I’d had a similar experience as a teenager with a young man who will remain nameless. I never confessed to my male friend that I couldn’t abide the way he smelled. But it was true. I liked everything else about him, but I found his smell completely repellent. I always thought I was a little crazy, until I read the article above.

Conversely, I adore the way my husband smells. He thinks it’s weird, and would rather that I gushed over his hot physique, high power sales skills, or rapier wit, but sometimes when I’m sitting next to him I can’t help just leaning over, resting my nose on the back of his neck, and inhaling. I can smell his smell on his shirts, even after he washes them. And when he’s not here I like to sleep with his pillow, just because it smells so nice.

The author of the article went on to extrapolate that perhaps our olfactory cells are attracted to the smell of someone whose genes are compatible with ours. As far as that goes, here’s the proof that our genes are eminently compatible:

But Tony has a different explanation for my infatuation with his scent. On an international flight when he was in junior high, his airplane “care package” included a trial-size bottle of Brut cologne. From then on, he wore it on every first date. Fortunately, when he first asked me out ten years later, he hadn’t made it through the bottle yet. So he was wearing Brut cologne on our first date, and credits it (as well as his hot physique, high power sales skills, and rapier wit, of course) with the fact that we were married just six months later.

As we were leaving on our honeymoon, he gifted the little bottle of Brut to his best man. Sure enough, he too was engaged within six months, also to a woman named Sarah. No doubt the Brut has been passed on again, and has probably resulted in multiple other instances of marital bliss.

In any case, whether it’s due to his natural scent, or his bottle of Brut, the way to this woman’s heart is definitely through her nose. I’m curious to know about you, my readers. Are you attracted to the smell of your significant other? Or am I just weird?

photo credit: Brut


Yes, I’m in love. It’s hard to imagine a time when Merry and Pippin didn’t belong to our family. I carry them nearly everywhere with me, snuggled and sleeping in what looks to the uninitiated like an innocent little purse. In the evenings, Tony and I (and sometimes Axa) go out on the back porch and watch them climbing up and down the screens.

When we first got them, I would spend a couple of hours every night in a tent with them. They are so inquisitive and hyperactive that in the enclosed space they couldn’t help running all over me, and taking little flying leaps into my hair. Once they seemed fairly comfortable, I took them out to the screened in porch. They love it, and act like they’re in a jungle gym. They can even walk upside down, hanging by their claws from the ceiling. Every few minutes, they either leap or scurry down to check in with me, running up my leg and then over my shoulder to my back, and then back over the other shoulder and down the other leg.

And I’m slowly learning how to take photos of them. For example, here’s sweet Pippin, sitting on my knee.

I tried a lot of different camera settings, including the close-up, dusk, and museum options. The only one I really got to work was the “sport continuous” setting. Although without a flash, it has to make do with the available light in the room, it leaves the shutter open only briefly, and so sometimes manages to catch my little energy bursts. Although I still get a lot of photos that turn out as sugar ghosts.

And yes, Photoshop

is still my friend.

But I’ve also gotten some photos that are in focus enough to actually recognize. That’s progress.

My babies obviously take after me in the appreciation of fine music

and literature.

They still feel most comfortable on me or on their cage, both of which feel like safe places, as well as being convenient for climbing.

But they like exploring the rest of the house too, and especially hiding under the couch cushions, where they would happily curl up and sleep all day if I weren’t afraid someone would sit on them.

I can’t possibly get enough of them. Just call me the sugar mamma.