Mix and Match

This is a grab bag of a posting; random things that have crossed my mind but most aren’t enough for a whole post to themselves. So, in no particular order …
House Made of Boat
Kiwidutch has an interesting post up about house boats (woonboten) in Amsterdam, so I thought I’d post a photo of one of the house boats near us here in Utrecht. They’re not as common here as in Amsterdam, but there are a couple of them around.

Irish Pub
Today is St. Patrick’s Day. Not being Irish, it’s not a big deal to me, but I figured it was worth a posting on Trippist, since we’ve got two Irish pubs here in town. Hopefully, they don’t turn their beer green, though. That’s always seemed like an abomination to me. I knew I had taken a photo of Mick O’Connells in the past, but it turns out I hadn’t uploaded it to Flickr, so I spent a lot of time digging through my photo files to find it. I could have sworn I’d also taken a photo of O’Leary’s Pub at some point, but damned if I can find it. So, since I spent so much time finding this photo, I figured I’d share it here, too. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to any of you with Irish connections.

Finally, if you have any interest in the Netherlands, you really should read the blog Amy in NL. She always comes up with really fascinating topics. One of the most recent ones is on the Dutch connection with Japan, a surprisingly old connection. It turns out the Japanese word for coffee is derived from the Dutch word koffe as a result of this long-standing connection. She also includes some links to relief sites to help after the horrible disaster that continues to unfold.

I would also like to recommend that you stop by the Handmade Europe shop on Etsy right now, since they have a Europe for Charity shop set up with all proceeds going to Japan via Architecture for Humanity.

Return of the Utrecht Moat


The other day I saw this video thanks to the 24oranges blog. I know the areas being discussed, but didn’t realize that the area first mentioned had been at risk of being built up into a large motorway. As it is, it’s a beautiful, peaceful neighborhood, with trees lining the canal. It’s where I spent part of my first Koninginnedag here, and where I enjoy taking Pippo for a quiet walk.

I thought I’d post a few of my photos of the area to give you another view of some of the areas being discussed.
Life Is Good
Boulevard Canal
Mooie Brug

I might not have known that the one area in the north of the city had been at risk, but I did know about the “shortest motorway”. It’s over by the Vredenburg on the eastern edge of the city, near the station. The traffic is gone now and they’re definitely working to return the water to that spot. My first year here, I did a bit of a then-and-now project for my parents, based on a calendar of old photos I bought for them for Christmas. As you can see here, this is a photo of the main street through Utrecht. The bridge is crossing over what was then the canal.
junoud
When I took my photo of the same area in 2008, some parts looked surprisingly similar, but other parts were quite different. The road had widened, obviously, but it was no longer water running under the bridge; it was cars. The motorway was open until this year.
junnew

I’m certainly glad they never expanded the motorway. It would ruin some of the beauty of the city. I’m also quite happy to see that the water is returning to the motorway that was built. With all the renovation and construction going on in that part of town, hopefully the end result will be an improvement to the already beautiful city.

Crafty Shout-Out

Napkins
Not that long after moving here, I bought a second-hand sewing machine and whipped up a couple of napkins for us to use, since I had left behind all of my others in the US. (I really did leave behind an extraordinary amount of things.) Anyway, I hated to just leave them plain, so I sketched out a little Dutch couple and embroidered them on for a his-and-hers set.

Fast forward a few years later, and as I was trying to wrangle my Google Reader back under control today — I had 1000+ items to be read — I came across a post by one of the crafty/cute blogs I read, appropriately called she likes cute. The author of the blog is a Dutch woman living in Rotterdam and her latest post was titled Inspiration Tuesday: Dutch Handmade. Lo and behold, there were my napkins! It was a very pleasant surprise to see my humble little napkins included. It definitely made my day!

Awards and Nostalgia


The lovely Aledys Ver from the blog From Argentina to the Netherlands, For Love!, kindly mentioned me in a loyal followers posting. The award accompanies a few simple questions that I found interesting, since I’ve been meaning to check the answer to one of them anyway, so here goes:

1. Why did you start your blog? Did you expect it to become popular?
I started it mainly as a way to keep my family and friends up to date with my new life here in the Netherlands. Of course, I’m not sure how many of them actually read it that often. 😉 Fortunately, a number of other expats, as well as Dutch natives, and others as well, do seem to read my blog. I don’t know if it’s particularly popular, but I enjoy it and have been fortunate to have met some people through it. I was a bit shy about meeting people when I first started, but I’m getting much more comfortable with it now. I’m even meeting a few more people this upcoming weekend! I think blogging can help you adjust to a big move like this, because you find others going through similar things and you get a chance to track your own development and adjustment.

2. When exactly did you start your blog?

This is the question I’ve also been curious about recently. I knew my blog’s two-year anniversary must have been recently, since my two-year anniversary of living here has just passed. It turns out my first blog entry was June 1, 2008. Such a boring entry, but as I said, I really did start my blog as a way for family and friends to know what I was up to, and see photos of my new city. That Utrecht set of photos on Flickr has grown exponentially!

3. Who are three of your most loyal followers?
I’m sure there are plenty of loyal followers whose names I don’t know, since they read, but don’t leave comments. I notice certain repeat visits from various cities and countries in my Feedjit feed over on the right. I always get such a thrill to see some of the far-flung places from which people arrive! As for followers who comment, I’ve gotten a nice little group whose regular comments are always appreciated!

I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting Kerryanne from 3continentfamily and I’m so glad I can now count her among the expats I’ve gotten to know in person. She’s a joy to know and the conversations and comments are always interesting.

In about a month I get to finally meet Ken of My Dutch Fairytale. His writing has had me wiping away tears of laughter, while also making me want to bow down in reverence for some of the things he has experienced and accomplished. I always enjoy his comments, be they here, in e-mail or on Facebook.

This weekend, I get to meet Tammy from CanaDutch. I’m really looking forward to finally meeting her, since I love her blog and the sense of humor she brings to things. I love her photos, too, and may have camera envy. 😉

There are many others and I hate to leave anyone out, since I truly appreciate everyone who both comments or simply reads my blog. Thanks for sticking around! If you want to do this too, feel free! I figure if you read my blog regularly, you deserve this award!

Different Donderdag: Trivia

I was reading a blog post the other day that I’d found through someone’s link on Twitter. It was an interesting look at how living abroad, no matter how short a time, can change you, or at least make you aware of things in a new way. I got to this part and felt a particular recognition:

For me, the second noticeable change was the gradual realization that, as knowledgeable as I thought I was, I didn’t know anything about anything, relatively speaking. Politics, history, culture, personality types, food, relationships, language… I was a rank amateur in nearly every way.

We’ve participated in our fair share of quiz nights since being here. The ones we go to are all in Dutch, although we’re lucky to have translations provided when needed. I can generally hold my own in an American game of Trivial Pursuit and as the writer said, I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable person. However, once you start doing quizzes in another country, you start to learn just how specific to a location your knowledge probably is. I’d had a hint of this when playing G (a native of Italy) in a game of (American) Trivial Pursuit. He commented on how much of the trivia is related to things that are specifically American.

Playing trivia games here makes me realize that while I might know a fair bit about general European history, I’m sorely lacking in the finer details which make up general trivia here. Plus, I’m missing all of the general entertainment trivia: music, books, films, actors, etc. When you no longer have the same frame of reference, it can be harder to relate, be it to the person or to an experience. It’s easy to feel left out or simply stupid. After failing to know something seemingly simple or trivial, I often want to cry out in my own defense that “I’m not stupid in my home country! Promise!”

It may seem trivial to be concerned about a lack of trivia knowledge, but it’s often these small differences that can drive home the fact that you’re “not in Kansas anymore”. Try not to focus on how little you know anymore. You’re not stupid. You’ve just got different experiences and frames of reference. Instead, try to remember at least one little trivia bit that you didn’t know before. We do monthly quiz nights and I often miss tons of questions, simply because I’m not Dutch or even European and don’t have the background to know these things, but I try to remember the answer to at least one question and then go look up more info when I get home. After all, you weren’t born knowing the trivia you do know from your home country. It takes years to gather all that useless information. Don’t expect to know everything about your new country, either. Just take it in stride. Eventually, that random bit of knowledge that you’ve picked up will come in handy or seem impressive someday, maybe when you least expect it!

A Few of My Favorite Things

I’ve recently been the recipient of the Beautiful Blogger Award from both Isabella over at A Touch of Dutch and Dave at Random Walks in the Low Countries, both of which are regular reads for me. It’s always nice to realize others are reading and actually enjoying my pictorial ramblings.

There are a few vague rules associated with this award; rules which are quite open to interpretation. Here are the original rules and requirements:

Beautiful Blogger rules (change to fit your mood)

  • Recognize and link to the person who nominated you.
  • Paste the award on your blog.
  • Share 7 interesting things about yourself.
  • Nominate (or note) 7 bloggers who you like.
  • As many have done, I figured I’d change the “7 interesting things about me” to something a bit different. In this case, I’m going to go with seven interesting things about Utrecht.

    1. The Domtoren. An obvious choice, but it really is pretty fantastic. It’s the tallest church tower in the Netherlands, standing at 112.5 meters/368 feet. I love that almost anywhere I go in town, I can see it rising up over the rooftops. I find it impossible not to get at least one shot of it whenever I take my camera out on the town. I’ve got a whole set devoted to it over on Flickr.
    2. Binnenstad. I love that the city center of Utrecht is relatively small. It’s easy to walk from one side of town to the other. Every time I look up a location on Google Maps, I find myself thinking, “Oh, that looks kind of far.” Then I actually walk it and it’s incredibly close! I like a walkable city!
    3. Cultural Sunday. Every month, there’s a Cultural Sunday event here in the city center. The theme changes every month, so you’re bound to find a topic that will interest you throughout the year. Music is a frequent theme, but done in all sorts of styles and presentations. This Sunday the theme is jazz. Past events have included the musical boat parade, the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the annual Uitfeest, just to name a few.
    4. The Post Office. Really! It’s interesting from the outside, but it’s unbelievable on the inside! I keep forgetting to take my camera with me when I go, which isn’t all that often, so I need to plan to go specifically just to take photos. It’s a fantastic interior that anyone visiting the city should see.
    5. The History. This one’s a bit esoteric, but I truly do love living in a city that had its start around 47 CE (AD). That was when the Romans arrived and set up shop where the Domtoren and cathedral now stand. As I’ve mentioned before, there are markers in some of the roads, showing the outlines of that first Roman fortress. One of the other great things about so many of the historic buildings in town is that they are still used and not just turned into sterile museums. They’re living history, still a vital part of everyday life here.
    6. Maliebaan. A beautiful, tree-lined street, with statue-lined walkways. Even with traffic going past, it’s surprisingly calm and peaceful. I love strolling down the path with Pippo at my side, enjoying the combination of nature and art. Interestingly, it seems that Louis XIV, the Sun King himself, was quite taken with the Maliebaan when he was here in 1672.
    7. The Cathedral. It’s kind of hard not to love the only cathedral in the Netherlands closest to the French Gothic style. It’s even harder not to love it when you realize that more than half of the cathedral is no more. The nave of the cathedral collapsed during a hurricane in 1674, and it was never rebuilt. It’s still an impressive structure with its buttressed apse and the area where the nave once stood is now a charming square where all sorts of events and festivals take place throughout the year.
    8. I figured I’d throw in one last, extra tidbit. Utrecht is trying to start a new campaign promoting the city and province. The official campaign begins 1 March, I believe. In the lead-up to the campaign, there’s a song written by Utrecht’s own Colin Benders, more famously known as Kyteman of the Kyteman Hip Hop Orkest. Here’s a video of Kyteman conducting an orchestra performing his composition Ode aan Utrecht.

    And now for something completely different (from what I’ve been writing about) … Here are a few blogs I enjoy and recommend — and nominate if they’re so inclined. Since many of the ones I read have been nominated by others already, I thought I’d go with a cooking/food theme for my recommendations.

    • Kayotic Kitchen: I’ve mentioned her quite often, but I truly do love her recipes and have never been disappointed with any of them. She also takes beautiful photos.
    • The Misadventures of Mub: She tries out lots of different recipes each week and then posts her reactions to them and suggestions for making them better, if necessary. I love that kind of real-world approach.
    • Lizzy Goes Dutch: If you’re one of the people who think vegetarian food is nothing more than leaves and twigs, Lizzy will make you think twice. She makes all sorts of vegetarian recipes that are appealing, satisfying and downright tasty!
    • Home Cooking with Sonya: This is one of the newest blogs I’ve started reading. As an American expat, it’s handy to see what she comes up with for substitutions or variations on American recipes that require ingredients that aren’t so easy to find here in the Netherlands.