The Roof! The Roof! The Roof Is on Fire!

Getting Higher
Sleep and I don’t seem to get along at the best of times, so when I’m awoken by external sources, it’s even more frustrating to have my sleep interrupted. Last night, around midnight or a little later, I think I was just starting to fall asleep when I was awoken by the doorbell. My first instinct was to ignore it, since it wouldn’t be the first time a random idiot decided to ring the bell in passing. But when the bell rang again somewhat insistently, we figured we should check it out. G looked out the bedroom window and realized it was the police at our door!

I still didn’t expect too much of it — I suspect I was groggier than I realized — when I realized that they were saying that there had been a report of smoke coming from our roof! A neighbor had called and reported it. G and the police went upstairs and still saw no signs of fire, but after a bit of experimentation, there was the thought that it might somehow be related to the water heater. As a result, the fire department was called and they soon showed up.

By this point, I’d managed to get dressed into something not completely embarrassing and was trying to figure out where both cats were and to keep them from running out the open front door. They, like me, were a little freaked out and didn’t move very far. G was with the police/fire. Meanwhile, I’m starting to think about the fact that neither of the cat carriers are put together and I was trying to think of any documents I might need other than my passport. Where would we go? Holy sh*t are they going to end up tearing our roof off? Gah!!!!!!

A very short time later, everyone left and it turned out there was no fire and actually no smoke. Although there had been the scent of wood fire in the air outside, it turns out it wasn’t coming from us. The puff of smoke our neighbor had seen was steam/vapor from our water heater roof vent and perfectly normal, from what I understand. G said the fire department had taken special scanning tools and looked all over, testing temperatures, and even the “smoke” and everything came out just fine.

It was all rather anticlimactic, which for this kind of event, is the best kind of ending! My heart continued to pound for a while afterward, though. You see, house fires are one of my biggest fears. It’s the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night. It may have taken a few hours for me to get back to sleep, but at least I was sleeping in my intact house. Thanks to the Utrecht Politie and Brandweer for being so nice and not being cavalier about any potential water our roof may have needed!

(FYI, the photo is from new year celebrations 2009/2010 in the middle of a street.)

Woordenboek Woensdag: schoonmaken

Mijn ouders (my parents) arrive on Sunday, so this week ik ben een schoonmaker (I’m a cleaner). Fortunately, the gemeente (city council) seems to be joining me in cleaning things up a bit for their arrival. City workers were out today with weed-whackers to clean up the dandelions and other weeds that have sprouted up all over the place.

So yes, I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning. De grote schoonmaak (the big clean, aka, spring cleaning). It’s that time of year, and having visiting parents is an excellent reason for giving the whole house a thorough cleaning. Schoonmaken, the infinitive form of the verb to clean, is one of those Dutch verbs that splits up and rearranges itself. The first person, singular conjugation of the verb is: Ik maak schoon. On the surface, it seems a bit confusing, but really, when you break it down, it makes more sense. Basically, it translates literally to “I make clean”. Maken is the verb for to make and schoon means clean (in this case).

My question for all of you who know Dutch better than I do is this: If I want to identify what I’m cleaning, does schoon then come after the object or before? In other words, would it be “Ik maak het huis schoon” or “Ik maak schoon het huis”?

In doing my bits of research for this, it reminded me that schoon is also the word for beauty. Cleanliness is beauty, I guess! Also of interest and vaguely appropriate, since all of this cleaning is because of my parents’ arrival: the Dutch word for in-laws is de schoonouders. Depending on the length of the visit, I suppose that schoonouders are either a beautiful thing or something that you need to clean the house of. 😉

Op De Tafel

One of my favorite color combinations is blue and green, particularly light blues with apple greens. In decorating the house, I’ve been using those basic color combinations quite a bit, as well. Our bedroom is decorating in shades of blue and green, as is our bathroom, and I’ve brought it into the dining room, as well.

I’ve been looking for just the right fabric in those colors to either recover or embellish our currently white dining room chairs. No luck yet, but I found a way to bring a bit more of that color combination into our dining room by making a table runner with some fabrics I’ve had on hand for a while. I bought the floral print a few years ago in North Carolina, simply because I liked it, without any real plan for what to do with it. The blue is a cotton canvas I bought at the lapjesmarkt here in Utrecht. The bottom of all the circles is a light purple fleece-type fabric that I bought ages ago in New York City to make cat toys. Quite the cosmopolitan table runner, I guess!

Not How I Wanted to Spend the Day

Our lousy ceiling/leak karma continues. We discovered this morning that we’ve got a leak in one of the pipes from the bathroom, causing water to drip through the ceiling and down into the living room. So now the plumber is here and working on the problem — after putting a few holes into the wall/ceiling in order to find out what the problem was — and my day’s plans have gone down the clogged drain. Just when we finally got a bit of sunshine today, too! Figures! We’re going to have to get a few more holes in walls before it’s all fixed, which will be sometime hopefully on Monday. (To avoid extra weekend charges.)

Oh yeah, the Dutch government has collapsed dissolved, too. I think I need a cupcake.


It snowed today! I knew that it was forecast, but I honestly didn’t expect to get much if any. Last year we had a few days of snow, but it was always light and quickly melted away. Today, however, it was not only an inch or so thick (I know, I know, that’s not much for some areas, but it is here!), but it has actually stuck around for most of the day.

Our terrace had a nice covering of snow this morning, but the back garden didn’t seem to hold on to any at all. The bike was probably the only thing with any real snow coverage back there!

Tomorrow is just supposed to be cold, but they’re saying we might get some more snow on Saturday. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, tomorrow night I think we’re going to go to the Spoorweg (Railway) Museum for their grand opening of the Winter Station, complete with (indoor) ice skating.

On Guard

When we adopted Lola, the youngest of our pet menagerie, we were living in North Carolina on close to an acre of land on a corner lot surrounded by tree. As a result, there was little more than squirrels to see when looking out the window. Now, though, living in the city center of Utrecht, in the typical Dutch home that sits right on the sidewalk, there’s plenty for Lola to see as she hangs out in our front window. (The fact that one of the radiators is located under the front window ledge also tends to entice both of our cats to the window.) As a result of this new living environment, we’ve discovered that Lola is quite the guard cat — or guard dog in cat clothing.

She’s quite firm in her discussions with the local cats who try to trespass on her windowsill. In fact, any neighborhood cat who even dares to walk within her eyesight gets a stern — and at times, hysterical — talking to. This morning was one of those occasions. One of the neighboring cats dared to hop onto the sill on the outside of the front window. Even worse, he just hung around, even after she told him to go! Lola didn’t waver, though, and kept up her diatribe, eventually convincing the other cat to get off her property! I couldn’t help but imagine her as a little gun-toting, North Carolina redneck yelling at a trespasser to “git”. “We shoot trespassers where I’m from,” she almost seems to say. 😉

Huis Vrouw

I’ve been thinking for a while about painting the laundry room and the stairwell leading up to the top floor. It’s all a light yellow right now, and while I like the color, it could use with a fresh coat of paint. Today I started painting. For now, I’m doing a simple white base coat, but I would like to do some fun color(s) in there, as well. I’d also like to get the room organized as well as possible to make up for the limited space and angled walls.

I saw a nice room in one of the design magazines here, but have to figure out how to work some of the color combinations in without making the small room seem more oppressive. I might also just have some fun and paint some designs directly onto some of the walls, along the lines of what I did in our bedroom with the bird on a branch.

For now, though, I’ll settle for a nice, even coat of white. Next up, a trip to Gamma or Hema to pick up some more white paint and a retractable-arm paint roller to reach those hard to reach spots in the stairwell.

Xtreme Laundry

I need to remember to finish doing the laundry before it gets dark. I forgot today and had to climb up the Stairs-of-Death (TM) this afternoon in the dark. Our laundry room is on the top floor, up these very steep and narrow stairs. There’s no light to illuminate them, unless I turn on the bathroom light or the office light for a bit of indirect light. I decided to not bother with the lights today, and instead turned to my spidey senses.

It’s a bit nerve-wracking to climb up these — or any — stairs in the dark. I pull myself up with the handrail and feel very carefully for the step underneath my foot. Thank goodness there’s carpeting at the top of both sets of stairs, so it’s easier to tell when you’ve reached solid ground.

There is some sort of wiring for a light up those stairs, although it’s only somewhat useful if you’re going up, not if you’re going down, although going down, you could always use the light from the rooms upstairs. I think I might look into getting a simple light for that area, just to make it more appealing for any visitors, and safer for me when I’ve left laundry until later in the day.

Ed. Note — I’m trying to take part in the National Blog Posting Month, where you try to blog every day for a month. Prepare yourself for more inane posts such as this.

Areas of My Expertise

Honden Toilet
my waiting area

I’m starting to worry. It seems like any time G goes out of town, something unpleasant happens to me. Last time, my knee got badly banged up as I tried to stop Lola from going over the wall. This time — today — I managed to lock myself out of the house.

I had gone to the grocery store this morning, a little after 11 a.m., trying to get the shopping done before it got even warmer. Unfortunately, rather than take my bag, I decided to just make use of my pockets. Silly me. In making sure I had the Pin card, the AH bonus card, my iPod (thank goodness!) and the grocery bag, I forgot to grab the keys. I didn’t realize until I was almost home. Then the realization hit me hard, with a hot, humid, sweaty fist! I tried not to panic, since I knew Fred and Family had a spare set of keys. However, when I tried ringing their doorbell, I got no answer and assumed they were either not home or still sleeping. I went home anyway and tried to see if there was any way I could get in, and even found a stick to try and use through the mail slot, but with no success. (Actually, that’s a relief in terms of long-term security. ) I did end up scratching up my hand and wrist, though. No luck with the back garden door, either. Throughout it all, the cats mocked me, sitting lying there in the window without a care in the world.

I ended up sitting in the alleyway for a while, trying to cool off and see if there was anything else I could do. Sadly, I came to no good conclusions, other than waiting it out. Either the Potdeksel would open first or G would come home first. Either way, I faced a wait of three to four hours. After cooling off in the alley, I then headed over to the canal area and found the bench free finally (it had been occupied when I had checked earlier). I spent about two hours there, before eventually heading over to the Potdeksel and sitting on the benches there. A little before 3 p.m., Fred came out and I was able to get the spare keys and make my way home.

Fortunately, although I hadn’t remembered to take the keys with me, I had remembered my iPod, so to pass the time, I ended up listening to the audiobook of John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise. It was a decent way to pass the time and gave me a few chuckles along the way. I particularly liked the bit about the actuaries. Perhaps I can write a book someday covering my own area of expertise: ways to make your life hell while your boyfriend is out of town.

Bird Watching

Yes, I’m still here, and no I didn’t finish the one-year anniversary posts. Let’s just say life intervened and leave it at that.

So, the picture. No, it’s not — at least not intentionally — a picture of Pippo’s dining bowl and the mess he makes each day with the kibble that goes flying or gets spit out. It’s actually a photo of the blackbird I’ve been watching for the past week or so. If you look closely through the dirty window (dirty thanks to all the rain we’ve had this week) you’ll see the little blackbird with its bright orange beak.

He’s been visiting our achtertuin (back yard) quite regularly, finding snails and various other bits and pieces, most likely to take home for a meal. I’ve been trying to get a decent photo of him, but every time I step into the kitchen to get a picture, he flies off.  He doesn’t seem to mind Lola chattering at him, but he doesn’t want his picture taken. Perhaps he’s on the lam or has another bird family somewhere and he doesn’t want to be recognized.