January 2012

It Snowed Here Last Night!

Last night, I couldn't sleep. Which is pretty damn usual for me with annoying frequency. Anyways, I got out of bed, made myself a decedent breakfast at 3am and watched True Blood. When I was done, lo and behold, there was snow stuck to our front step. I haven't gone exploring in the City Center yet because Loek is home sick. But, it is supposed to snow some more tonight and not be above freezing this week. I am hoping to get to the Center tomorrow. 


The Hunt for Worcestershire Sauce

So, here is a rundown of what finding things I need here in Holland normally looks like: I’ll look around for a few weeks, can’t find it, and finally break down and tell my mom that I need it in my next care package. I wait a few more weeks, the item arrives, suddenly I see it all over Utrecht. This has happened more than enough times for there to be a distinctive pattern. I in turn, feel guilty that I made my mom send me something that is apparently readily available here.

I am determined not to let this pattern continue. Which is why, when I began craving Shepard’s Pie two weeks ago, after my Future Mother in Law made one of those one pot meals the Dutch are famous for. Dutch Ovens, anyone? I went on the hunt for one of the important ingredients to my Shepard’s Pie... Worcestershire Sauce. I looked high and low at both of my local supermarkets and found none. I even rode the bus to a Plus Supermarket in De Meern, just so I might be able to find it! And, because as of this week, the supermarket that is closest to me, a 30 minute round-trip walk vs. an hour is closed for remodeling.

I even went so far as to ask my expat buddies on twitter. Who seemed to think I was insane, because it is readily available to them. To make matters worse, every recipe I have looked at this week has called for it! So today, exasperated, I decided to get my butt on the bus and ride to the city center so I could look at the grocers there. Or at least, go to the expat store, and probably pay about 6.00 euros for it.

My first stop was the Albert Heijn attached to the Centraal Station. I figured this was a good bet because it is bigger than the stores in my neck of the woods. After searching and searching, I finally spotted the words: Lea & Perrins, glaring at me in an unfamiliar bottle on the top shelf. Upon further inspection, it did indeed say Worcestershire Sauce. I was temped to grab several bottles, but I just bought one. (Can’t justify the space in our barely there kitchen.) Now that I see it, I wonder if maybe my eyes were looking for the familiar label all along, instead of actually looking for the product itself. Maybe there isn’t a Leidsche Rijn conspiracy against me. Perhaps, I was just too blind to see what was staring at me for the last two weeks.

I guess the moral to this story is, even in a strange land you can find something if you want it bad enough, you just have to really open your eyes and look! Except, maybe skittles. Now, to use my new found treasure to make Hachee(Dutch Beef Stew) tonight. If it turns out well, I might just post the recipe up here. Now, if only I can learn to properly say Worcestershire Sauce, we will be in business!

11 Things I Love about My New Home After 3 Months.

I have been feeling a little down in the dumps ever since my mom left. It is not that I necessarily miss the States, it is just that I do miss my family and friends. To get over this, I decided to make one of my world famous lists. So, after a little over 3 months of living in The Netherlands, here is a small list of things I love about my new country.

1. I love public transportation. Sure, when we go to ikea, and buy something that is too small to justify the expense of having it delivered, I miss my car. But I like that I can get anywhere by bus or by train and maybe even a walk. Plus, trains haven’t lost their romance for me yet. I am not sure that they ever will. I blame Funny Face and Before Sunrise for this. Although, people with strollers on trains, but especially buses, still shock me. So,maybe a car before baby. And babies not for years.
Me and Mom on the train. 

2. Potatoes. If you are not a potato fan, I am not sure this is the country for you. Seriously, anyway you can think of to cook a potato, they do. Lately, I have been a huge fan of Hutspot- potatoes, carrots, and onions all smashed together. Think of when you were little and would mix your corn and potatoes together. It is like that but they do it with a ton of veggies. So yummy! And we won’t even mention the frites!  

3. No one looks at me like I am a freak when I drown things in Mayo. Seriously, in the States, I made a mayo hating friend puke once. I don’t remember this, but she assures me it happened. Sorry! But well,  I love it and so do the Dutch.

4. Pureed salads. This has to do with the whole mayo thing, but the Dutch tend to puree their meat to add to salads. So instead of chucks in Chicken Salad, you get something much more like a spread. I have been eating a ton of salmon salad with bacon sandwiches. Don’t knock it until you try it.

5. The merging. Growing up in Atlanta, we don’t know how to merge on the street let alone when we are walking. You would assume that the Dutch would stand in an orderly line when it is time to get on the train or bus. They don’t. They stand in a bug blob and merge to get on the bus. At first, I was all like “ hey, they are going to get on before me! and I’ve been standing here longer” but now, it is just something that is done and that works pretty well.

6. My museumkaart: Less than 50 euros a year and I can get in for free or almost free to over 100 museums around Holland. This is my card of Heaven! If you are planning on spending sometime in The Netherlands, you might want to pick one up as well.

7. The sky. You know when you look at one of the landscapes for The Dutch Golden Age and the sky just looks, so beautiful and the golden sunbeams are barely going through the clouds painting the building and landscape in a surreal light. Yeah, you probably don’t. I know, I know, art freak! Anyway, because it is so far North here, the sun is lower in the sky and the light is unique and I love it!


8. The Censorship or lack there of. I have been a rule stickler all my life. I wouldn’t even Jaywalk before I moved here. But something about censorship has always bugged the crap out of me. Something being banned for content has always pissed me off. Which is why if you slap an NC17 rating on something, I want to watch it. Or ban a book I instantly want to read it. Hey, we all have our small rebellions. Which is why here, where the F* bomb flows free on tv and the preview for Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which is playing later on tv has Jason Segal’s towel dropping in all it’s hilarious glory, makes me insanely happy. No offense to Mr, Segal, who I love, but strange penises are always funny. Not that it is strange in that way, just that it is foreign as I have never seen it in real life. Anyway, it is just nudity, and I make the choice as to whether or not I want to see it. Movies are better not edited for TV. Also, it takes the responsibility for parenting kids off the tv channel and onto parents.

9. I love the city architecture. Loek and I live on the outskirts of Utrecht. But, I love the old city centers with their quaint little squares. I love that I never really feel helplessly lost even in Amsterdam ( Den Haag, yes) Amsterdam, no. I love the tall, skinny townhomes, and the narrow cobblestone streets. The hiden gardens and the open windows.

10. I love all the birds. When Loek came to visit the States, he made me come outside to look at the squirrels. He was so excited, you never see them here. Maybe they are in the woods, but not running around. Instead you get birds and bunnies. Although, seagulls are on my shit list, ever since one well...Shit on me!

11. Loek and Atti, of course, they make my life gezellig. Gezellig is my favorite Nederlands word. There is no English translation that does it justice. It is coming home to your family and having dinner be ready. Or spending the evening drinking beers in a cafe with friends. Or for me, curling up with a warm cup of Chocomel with Whipped Cream and a good book.

Loek and Atti. Don't mind the walls.

As strange as it is to be a stranger in a strange land, I feel at home here. Now if only I could master Nederlands enough to communicate at Loek’s parent’s parties!

Our First House Guest Arrives in 4 Hours!

It is roughly 4:20 in the morning here in beautiful Holland. I couldn't sleep a wink because, well let's face it I don't sleep like a normal human, and...My mom lands in 4 hours! Which means I would have to get up in 2 hours anyway. My mom will be mine and Loek's first visitor since I moved here 3 months ago. Wow, 3 months! This will be my mom's first time to The Netherlands and I of course, want her to love it. 

We have so much planned in the week that she is here. I will even be venturing to some cities I have not yet visited and then there is the "meeting of the parent's". 

I promise to keep you all updated! 

Peanuts, Get Your Peanuts Here!

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have some pretty strange dietary habits. I have a lot of food rules: I hate blank but not if it is prepared like blank. For example, I hate coconut, but love Thai coconut chicken soup. I know, I am an anomaly. But really, I have got much more adventurous in the past few years. My favorite foods, however have been my favoritea, since I could eat solid food. A true G.R.I.T( hey get it?) or girl raised in the south, I love macaroni and cheese and boiled peanuts. 

One of these is fairly easy to make here in The Netherlands. You can get almost all the ingredients for my go to recipe in the local grocery stores here. I will post the recipe later. But boiled peanuts, that was what I was concerned was going to be a toughy. I mean come on, you can't even get them North of the Mason-Dixon line! So, I was ecstatic that in my latest care package from my mom contained three cans of Peanut Patch Boiled Peanuts . While these are not as good as pulling off the road and buying bags of the stuff from a man with no shirt, no shoes, and no teeth. I would buy them in the states during the off season and they are a fine substitute when you can't get the real thing.I tried to ration myself, I really did. But I have very little impulse control, so soon I was down to one can left. 

But then yesterday, something amazing happened! I went to the Center to do some shopping with my friend Alison. ( You can check out here blog- A Flamingo in Utrecht, she has lived here a lot longer than me. It is interesting the difference in writing between a newbie like me and someone who has been here 3 years. ) After I dragged her to several stores on the lookout for baskets, I need to organize some stuff before my mom comes next Thursday, she wanted to go into TOKO. I've walked past this Asian Food Store every time I go to the Center, but since I am always on a mission when I go there, I hadn't popped in. What I found was part restaurant supply store, part Asian grocer and part expat shop. Alison had needed to buy baking soda. Yes, you have to go to a special store to find it. And I wondered around amazed at all the sauces and spices. I looked on a shelf and there was the most surprising thing I think I could have found, about 12 cans of Peanut Patch Boiled Peanuts! I think it was the only time I have been in deep shock since I have been here. I now know where to come to get my fix! 

It was a great way to celebrate my 3 month Hollandversairy. The moral to this story is that what you need can be found in unexpected places, so never be afraid to look, and TOKO will have a frequent visitor from this Georgia Girl.  

flickr image by: cotye 


New Year's in the Netherlands!


Last night, I was lucky enough to spend my first New Year in the same country as my love, and I got to spend it in my new country! I can honestly say, it was the best New Year's ever. The Dutch really know how to have fun on Old Year's Eve!

Back home in Georgia, folks eat black eyed peas and collard greens for luck. Here in the Netherlands, the New Year's food of choice is Oliebollen. Think funnel cake batter but rolled into a ball, complete with powdered sugar. Unfortunately, when Loek went to the store yesterday, they were out. But I can say from previous experience this month that Oliebollen are awesome. You can get them with or without raisons. I get mine without. 

While it is popular to go out on New Year's, Loek and I decided to stay in. We are still on a single income and have some very important guests coming in later this month. So, we drank some beer and watched movies waiting for the magic hour. Our movie watching was disrupted by the occasional firework, but more on that later. Finally, it was Midnight so we kissed and headed up to the roof. *and now for a little background info* on New Year's eve the people of the Netherlands spend 50,000,000 Euros on fireworks, and not the puny one's the big ones! 

Because Holland is so flat, being at a higher elevation you can see for miles around. Which means that you can see fireworks from all the surrounding towns. All at once, in every direction you want to look in. Imagine it like if you were in Downtown Atlanta and could see all the fireworks there on the 4th, with Lawrenceville's, Stone Mountain's, Decatur's, Alpharetta's and every other small town in the surrounding area going off all at once. And instead of lasting half an hour, it lasts for at least 2. It was amazing! I never want to spend New Year's anywhere else! Check out Loek's video below. Happy New Year Lovelies!