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Recent workshops and confirmations

September 27, 2012

Last weekend, I attended a workshop hosted by the Urban Herbology group and City Plot. The Urban Herbology group is an informal group on meetup that is run by two women who are trained herbologists and focus on the benefits of harvesting and using wild plants. My first experience with them was on an herb walk through one of the parks in Amsterdam and I was amazed at how much in the parks have medicinal properties. The also go into the safety and ethics of it and suggest not picking plants near toxic areas, etc.

This weekend, they and City Plot hosted a seed collection workshop from edible plants (basic and non-basic foods in your home) combined with making a tincture of burrdock seeds. It was a lot of fun learning about how to harvest seeds from your garden, dry them and save them for next year. The benefits of using seeds in this way are many: it promotes biodiversity, saves money, among others. The tincture we made of burdock seed also has many uses. It helps keep you warm, cleans out the liver, and also promotes energy, and more. In addition to the tincture we also learning how to look for public areas in which to grow wild plants that you can harvest at at later time (we also learned what to be careful about).
I could talk about what we learned all day. It was good for me to be in contact with another organization in the urban gardening space. City Plot exists to help people living in cities plant food, gardens, balcony gardens, compost, etc. They are having a workshop soon on worm bins. It is exciting to see so much activity in this space. It also proves that there is a demand from the community for these types of projects.
Next steps: set up a meeting with City Plot to learn what I can from their experience.


Creative ventures in urban sustainability

September 11, 2012

I thought I’d start using this space for a more targeted purpose. First, I’ll be posting what I learn throughout the feasibility study phase of starting a business. Ideally, at the end of this phase I’ll have a clear idea of what I need to do and be confident that the business will survive and will fill a gap or need. If, at the end of the study I realize that, in fact, it is not possible or feasible to viably start this business successfully, I hope this space will be useful for others in the area who are asking similar questions or share this common interest.

A few of the businesses I hope to get in contact with to find out more about their work are two in the US that I have been following for sometime.

The first, is EcoMovement Consulting and Hauling, which provide recycling and composting services for businesses, residences, events, etc. I really admire their view that composting and waste in general can be a service provided and marketed as such. I think this helps in building community.

The second company is Back to the Roots (BTTR) which turns used coffee grounds into mushroom growing kits. These are sold in stores like Whole Foods and are provided to schools for education. I think their combination of education + business savvy is both thoughtful and innovative.

The third organization and I excited to learn more about and get more involved in is Mediamatic. They started as an organization looking at media, technology, innovation. Now they do that and more. I am really interested in their work around food, urban agriculture, etc. I plan on checking out one of their Secret Art of Growing Mushrooms workshops, too.

From time to time I’ll be highlighting interesting organizations and ventures that are working in this area.

Cheers ~Chloe

Feasibility study: Amsterdam Harvest City Farmers Market

September 10, 2012

On Sunday, two days after B and I arrived back from our honeymoon, we took the boat over the Amsterdam Noord to the Tolhuis Tuin. There a friend was having a birthday get together at the new city farmers market. It was a perfect day with sun and blue skies. More and more of these types of markets are popping up in the area, this was the first market of this kind put on by Farming the City. I had heard about Farming the City before and am pretty excited about their work. So I was happy to see them at this market as well.

During the celebration festivities I took a moment to go and speak with Anke from Farming the City to find out more about their work and discuss the idea of composting.

From our discussion I learned a few new things. First, they are starting a project around growing mushrooms from coffee, which sounds very cool and is something I would like to get involved in, especially if I can help turn it into a viable business / financially sustainable model. I hope to help out on that project.

Second, Anke made a great point about where the focus of urban sustainability is at the moment when it comes to food and also on what is missing. She made the point that many of the interesting and new projects right now are related to production, namely in urban agriculture. There is a lot happening around urban farming and producing food in urban areas. Anke pointed out there is much less developed and being developed around the distribution of said food and the removal of it. She gave the example that if you are a farmer, when asked how you get your produce to a market in the city the answer is that you probably truck it in yourself. So you have many small producers bringing their produce into cities in a very fragmented and non-sustainable way. The same goes for distribution to restaurants. Does a restaurant have the time or resources to source from multiple different producers who will distribute different things at different times? Especially when the other option is ordering everything and anything you need from one supplier, it poses a difficult challenge both for the restaurants who may want to find and source more local products and for the suppliers who need to figure out a way to tap those markets.

The overall point being that urban sustainability is a large issue and many pieces of the circle need to be addressed in order to make real and lasting progress. I happen to think that waste removal and waste as a resource is another major element of this circular puzzle.

That’s all for now. ~Chloe

The small things

April 11, 2012

My mom is in Europe for a few weeks for work. She stopped over in Amsterdam this past weekend and I am going to visit her in London this upcoming weekend. It was great seeing her and we had a great Easter!

A few small things she brought me from the states: these measuring cups. The ‘progressive international measuring spoon set’. I love them. Why? A) there are many of them and B) they have both American and everywhere else measurements them! So that means on each cup I am told how many ‘cups’ or portions of a cup there are as well as the mililiter measurement. It’s a small thing, but super helpful. There were a few key cookbooks I shipped from the US – NL and let me tell you, when you are trying to get things in the oven or prevent something from burning, the last thing you want to do is open a web browser to convert baking measurements. Problem solved!

Mom also brought me over a box of Arm & Hammer baking soda. Random, eh? It turns out you can’t get it here in NL. I’ve even asked one of the women that may make our wedding cake. She says she either buys it super expensive from a big store (that I think you’d need a car to go to) or brings back baking soda boxes when we travels from the US. I’ve been needing it for baking and also to make some natural home cleaners, etc.

Mom also brought a suitcase full of art I used to have up in my apartment in DC. I think Bram said it best when he said (after we put everything up this week), “its amazing how visuals have such a great effect on people”. We have a wall covered with the pieces and immediately our home feels more cozy, more lived in, more us. Love it!

Fall updates

October 11, 2011

On my to-do list is to seek out a camera battery charger that I can use here. My adapter is on the fritz and my camera is out of batteries…so here is another photo-less post.

Last weekend I was able to spend a bunch of time with Bram’s sister, Marieke, who is awesome! We had dinner together, went out with friends, and she and I put together the dining room table in the house. It was really a lot of fun and also much needed! I also went to dinner last Thursday with a friend Laura, had a great meal and also practiced speaking Dutch for about 10 minutes, she was impressed and I very much enjoyed feeling the energy of Amsterdam during dinner.

I’ve decided my training plan for the upcoming Amsterdam half-marathon will remain the same, and that is not training. I know, I know. I should train, but my exercise routine has been completely thrown off over the past few months…and it is going to stay that way for a bit longer. Oh well!

Bram surprised me and came back from his training on Sunday night, which was great!

The work is almost complete on the house, which just means more painting on our end, and then we’ll be done with the hard-ish part and can start decorating. I did buy two plants this weekend (amazing how plants can add so much to a home). Actually, the shop I went to gave me one of the plants for free.

Next week, I am co-hosting the first ICT4Drinks event in Amsterdam. ICT = information and communication technologies and 4D = for development. I’ll be meeting many people for the first time and talking shop, which I am very much looking forward to!

In less than two weeks I’ll be stateside…ahhh! I am so excited to hug the crap out of all my friends and family. Hugs all around.

And finally, it seems like going away for a weekend is a popular thing to do in NL.Bram and I have decided to go away the weekend before I go back to the US, to take a break and relax for a weekend. The first 3 places we inquired at were all booked, and they are kind of in the middle of nowhere, so I was a bit surprised. I ended up finding a little B&B that is way cheaper than any of the original places we were looking and also seems beautiful, quaint, and near nature. The guy that runs it even used exclamation points in his email to me…amazing!

I’ll take some fun photos soon and will post more. Until then, tot ziens!

I’m a Dutch resident!

October 3, 2011

A quick comparison of Dutch vs. American government bureaucracy….the Dutch win hands down. Not only was my ability to file for residency fairly painless (it helps to have a partner sponsoring you who is Dutch) (it also helps that I am an American), although not cheap, all of the appointments and meetings I had to set up happened right on time. No waiting forever at the DMV here. Also, it turns out, the Dutch like to give themselves a big window so that they always over deliver. This has happened with internet and with my residency. The internet company told us it could take between 3-5 weeks to get internet installed. Are you f*&%ing kidding me? Yes, they are! A week after we ordered a box had arrived with modem, etc. so we could install the internet. I don’t know if that is part of their strategy (make you really angry so that you can only become happier with their service), but if it is, it worked.

Also, my Dutch residency could have taken between 3-6 months to arrive. On Friday, when Bram and I were at our old apartment getting the final items and doing a walk through with the owner and other roommates, a letter was waiting for me stating my residency had been approved and I just needed to go pick up the card. Hooray! This took less than 3 months, which seems to be pretty fast. So far I have not met another expat/immigrant who has had to apply like I have. Most other people I know are here for work or for school, so it has been a learning experience.

Now, when I travel back to the US later this month, I’ll be telling customs that I reside in the Netherlands. It’s official!

Yoga – A great Dutch Language Anatomy Lesson

October 3, 2011

A while back I saw a Living Social Amsterdam deal for 10 yoga sessions for 35 euros. As it goes in most big cities, you get the ‘free week trial’ package at a yoga studio or the ‘first timer pass’ or deals like the Living Social deal and then you hop around studios until you find the one you really like. So far, I really like the classes at Zo-Zen which is located in the Inner Energy Shop. I have only been to two classes, but so far so good.

I really enjoy yoga for the physicial and spiritual aspects of the practice. I had been going regularly in DC for sometime, but when my lungs got screwed up, yoga became really tough. Then I started triathlons, so that took over and there wasn’t much time for yoga. In Amsterdam, I am going to make it a more regular thing.

So far in my two classes I’ve experience a class with 15 people in Dutch (where I basically looked to my neighbor to see what we had to do) and last week I was in a class with 2 other people! That class was great, as the teacher was very attentive and made some adjustments to my form. She also did the class half in English and half in Dutch so that when I was bent or twisted some weird way I wouldn’t have to turn my head to look at her every 5 seconds. It is also a great way for me to hear Dutch and pic up on vocabulary. Although I couldn’t pick up the word for ‘downward’, I know the word for dog = hond, so whenever I heard “sjkhskj-hond” I knew what I needed to be doing. Also, a simple ‘hand palm’ is the palm of your hand.

I’m sure if I sought out yoga classes in English the yogic experience might be better, but for the time being I am enjoying the combo lesson 🙂