America The Beautiful

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It’s time to take a pause from Dutch scenery and reflect on the beauty that is the United States of America, as its citizens, near and far, celebrate the founding of the country. Regardless of politics, the scenery can be absolutely breathtaking. There are times when I’m watching a program that features some of the country’s beautiful settings and I get a bit homesick. At times, I even get a bit homesick when I see your average suburbs. Simply because they are so very American. I feel like I’ve settled in very well here, but it doesn’t change the fact that I spent 30+ years in the US. It will always be home, in one sense or another.

So today, in honor of Independence Day, I thought I’d share a few photos of some of the beautiful natural scenery that I grew up seeing around Signal Mountain/Chattanooga, Tennessee, when I’d go visit my great-grandmother. Quite a difference from the flat landscape I grew up with in Florida, and am used to here in the Lowlands.
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And two last shot of my beautiful white sandy beaches of Florida. I can practically smell the salt in the air …
Daytona Beach

Sand Dunes

America Where You Least Expect It

American Bear
Yes, more talk of the carnival from last week. It has served me well with fodder, especially considering the rain we’ve had this week that has kept us indoors. I was surprised to see the American flag popping up in spots I least expected it. There were a lot of very nice stuffed animal toys to be won at the games, and many were more typically Dutch, such as the cows and of course, Nijntje. But I also saw these teddy bears sporting an American flag on their shirt.
International
Later in the day, we saw this pink caravan flying both the Dutch and American flags. It was a candy van of sorts, although the only American treat seemed to be popcorn. Still, I did hear one little boy catch sight of the caravan and exclaim, “Popcorn!”, so I guess there’s some demand for it.

The US wasn’t the only foreign nation represented. We also saw a couple of stands offering verse Spaanse Churros (fresh Spanish churros). I was tempted by the churros, but in the end decided to make the most of the olibollenkraam to get a mid-year olibollen treat. They’re usually only available around the winter holidays, and they’ve become one of my favorite Dutch treats.
Spanish Churros ... in Utrecht
Keeping with the foreigners in the Netherlands theme, I headed out yesterday to meet up with a large group of expat ladies. In all, there were 12 or 13 of us, with some coming and going at different times. The US was represented by a few of us, but Canada, the UK, Australia and Peru were all represented, as well. It was a truly fun day spent indoors at the Muntkelder pannenkoek restaurant on the Oudegracht. The frequent rain and the friendly staff that didn’t seem to mind us taking up the back room meant we spent four hours talking and laughing and having a good time.

Independence Day

Last Remains
Happy Fourth of July to all of my fellow Americans, no matter where you’re living today! I may not be the most patriotic of people — I’ve grown up with mixed loyalties, and those have just gotten mixed up further over the years as more countries have their influence on me — but I do think the US has had some good ideas and managed to put a few of them into practice, even, so today I raise a glass to all of those people who have worked to make the country a better place. Just remember that all of those freedoms and liberties that you’re so proud of should be extended to every American, not just the ones you like. 😉

We’re celebrating this evening with ribs that we found at the organic butcher. They had precooked and premarinated ones, but I managed to ask (in Dutch) for some plain, uncooked ones. They turned out to be incredibly cheap (goed koop), so now I wish we’d bought more! I made some potato salad to go along with the ribs and we’ve got a dry rub about to go on them, and I used the last of my molasses to make some BBQ sauce. Molasses is one of those “exotic” foods here that I can buy in the expat food shop, for the price of an arm and a leg. Thank goodness the bottle I bought lasted for almost three years. It makes the cost a little more bearable! The Dutch do their fireworks on New Year’s Eve, so things will be quiet here. If you’re setting off your own fireworks, enjoy and be careful!

Happy Independence Day!

Round-Up

Far Traveled
Despite quiz night and dinner with friends, it’s been a fairly low-key week, so not a lot to say. I’ll just cover the highlights here.

  • Tuesday was another Murphy’s Quiz Night at the Potdeksel. Our goal is simply not to come in last, and once again, for the third month in a row, we’ve achieved that goal. This time we tied with another team for second-to-last place. One round had us putting names to the faces of child actors. I believe René said we came top in that round. We could have done even better if I hadn’t changed my guess of Natalie Wood to Judy Garland. G came through for us with Jodie Foster. Nice one!
  • Friday we had Willianne and Edmar over for dinner. It’s always a pleasure to see them and we always have fun. I’m looking forward to doing it all again sometime soon.
  • After dinner and dessert on Friday, we all headed over to the Potdeksel to finish off the evening. I met a woman who was very pro-Obama and sort of cheered me on for the US finally having a good president. I met a guy who was pro-America, and a third person who hates America and says that Americans are liars. I figure two out of three is good odds. It’s certainly nice to at least not have people hate me because of a president I didn’t vote for.
  • I put up our (fake) tree on Friday, with only the lights. Last year I wanted to get all blue lights, but only found one short string of blue lights, along with a longer string of multi-colored lights. Today, we headed out to Gamma (hardware store) to try to find some more blue lights, while also picking up some paint supplies. Unfortunately, their lights selection seemed to be limited mainly to outdoor Christmas lights, or fancy indoor lights only in white. I’ll keep looking, but for now, our tree is multicolored again this year, because I wanted to go ahead and get it decorated. It does look quite pretty, though. Maybe it will help get me in the holiday mood. So far, I’m just not feeling it this year.
  • Finally, the picture at the top is of a set of teddy bear ornaments that I’ve had for years. Andrea, my best friend at the time, gave them to me some time in the very early 1980s. I’ve held onto them, though, and they’ve moved with us from Florida, to North Carolina and now to the Netherlands. It’s nice having a fond memory of something that can be pulled out and pondered every year.