Cold But Dry

I’ve been going through some of my older photos and came across this one taken last November. Last year, the weather was a fair bit colder, but also quite a bit drier, from what I remember. This year has been the opposite; relatively warm, but very very wet. We have the muddy shoe and paw prints across our floor today to prove it. I wouldn’t mind a few days of cold but dry right about now. Just long enough to dry out. My jeans this morning were still damp from yesterday’s soaking!


Rainy Day

I like rain. I like rainy days. But even I have my moments of wanting to rant and rail against the incessant rain. Today is one of those days, especially when I look at the five-day forecast and see only more rain ahead.

For some reason, when we left to go grocery shopping this afternoon, we didn’t take any umbrellas, despite the fact that it’s been raining throughout most of the day. The brief respite seemed to trigger some sort of devil-may-care attitude and we blithely set off with nary an umbrella. Stupid, stupid us.

It started to sprinkle just as we arrived at the store, but when we walked out, it wasn’t really raining at all. Sadly, that changed drastically and quickly. Big, heavy rain drops started to pour down on us. My freshly washed and dried hair was a wet mop in moments. Rain was pouring down my face and blinding me at times. On top of that, I was wearing my newly purchased jeans which seem to be that little bit too big. I’m going to need a belt for them, but in the meantime I was having to hitch them up every few steps. I kept trying to laugh it all off, but I was pretty damn grumpy by the time I got home.

Pajamas are on (comfort!), hair is dried (for the second time today), and I’ve got a warm cat on each side of me. I’m glad I don’t have to go out in that mess again today. Hopefully, I’ve learned my lesson and will take an umbrella with me in the future.

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.

Politics and Presidents

If you’re in the US, you may not know that the Lisbon Treaty was recently — finally — adopted here in Europe, or that we finally have an EU president. The US news may have been focusing too much on Sarah Palin’s media tour. The whole EU thing was probably little more than a quick note in between Tea Baggers and missing children. 😉

The EU president was chosen this week, surprisingly quickly. The Dutch prime minister, Balkenende, was a possibility for a while, but ultimately the position went to a Belgian by the name of Herman Van Rompuy. Debate continues over whether he can be strong enough to hold his own on a world stage or if he’s just going to bend to pressure — from within Europe, as well as outside. We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, if you’re curious as to the difference in power between the US and EU presidents, the BBC has drawn up a simple comparison. I’m still trying to understand all the various parties and systems both here in the Netherlands and in the EU, so even I found it kind of helpful.

Foto Vrijdag 1.5

I’ve inadvertently been focusing on various sculptures and statues around town for the past few weeks of Foto Vrijdag entries, so I figured this week I’d intentionally continue the theme with one of the most famous statues here in town. It’s Thinker on a Rock, by Welsh artist Barry Flanagan. There are other versions in cities in the US. We got our version in 2002. He sits facing Neude square, at the end/beginning of Voorstraat. Really, how can you not love this symbol of a free thinker!

Free Good Music

One of my favorite bands, The Phoenix Foundation, is releasing an EP on December 7, to tide us over while we wait for their next full-length album to come out sometime next year. To tide us over until December 7, they’ve released a free download of a song off the new EP. You can get it here:

You Provide the Q …

and I’ll provide the A. Inspired by another blogger — a couple of them, actually — if you’ve got any questions about Utrecht or about me, I’ll try to answer them. Or, if you’re one of the regular visitors here who never comments, simply drop me a comment and let me know what brings you back here or what you’d like to see more of in my blog. I’m curious about the visitors I get!

Why yes, this is my way of getting a post churned out without having any real content. I’m feeling a bit better today, but still coughing and generally wiped out. Tomorrow, you can look forward to another statue-themed Photo Friday. That is if I’m not killed between now and then by two cats currently chasing each other around me!

Cow Dung

As my sore throat and cough have now progressed to sinus misery, I figure now is a good time to discuss something that I probably wouldn’t be able to smell at the moment!

G and I have noticed that on certain days, when the wind blows from a certain direction, there’s a faint smell of manure in the air. It’s not that bad nor is it overwhelming; it’s just there in the background. M & R think we’re insane. I think they’re just too used to it to notice. Our buitenlander noses aren’t immune.

There are quite a lot of cows here in the Netherlands. In fact, the well-known black and white Holstein cows come from the Netherlands. With all those cows comes a lot of manure. Fortunately, it’s now being put to good use. It seems the manure is being turned into a bio-gas that will run a thermal plant’s gas turbines, providing heat for homes near the plant. A plant in Leeuwarden (birthplace of Mata Hari, by the way) is one of the plants to be using this new energy source, and will be providing heat to 1100 homes.

I could make jokes about going “brown” or references to heat sources, but I won’t.


Then and Now

I’m really feeling awful today, so this is a short one.

Last year for Christmas, I got my parents a calendar of scenes of Utrecht taken around the beginning of the 1900s. I then went around town trying to get shots of the same areas as they look today. Some areas hadn’t really changed much at all, while others are barely recognizable. One of the areas that has changed little is over by De Drift canal. The buildings remain basically the same, other than a few ground level changes. See for yourself:


Resurrecting Walls

Hadrian's Wall
We went to see Eddie Izzard perform his Stripped show in Amsterdam on Friday. Hilarious as always! His take on the Bayeux Tapestries was brilliant: front-line journalism! In one of his past shows, he did a joke (for a US audience) about being from Europe, “where all the history comes from.” Living here in Utrecht, I feel like I’m constantly reminded of that line and I appreciate it very much. I love living in a city with centuries of history to be explored.

For example, the earliest dates of Utrecht date back to around 40 AD, when the Romans built a fortress here, after finally gaining some inroads into this region. The site of their fortress is where the Dom tower and cathedral now stand. There are remains — now underground — of the walls that surrounded the fort. To signify those, iron plates, inscribed with various Roman walls and boundaries have been placed along the outlines of where the fortress walls stood. Special LED lights have also been placed (as you can see in the photo above) to add a bit of atmospherics, especially in low light. Occasional puffs of mist are also released at various times of day. Above is the one on Servetstraat just in front of the Domtoren. There’s another one on Domstraat. This link will perhaps give a better feel for how they’re laid out.

This is Servetstraat, the street where I took my picture. The display is so unintrusive that you really can’t see it unless you’re right up on it. It runs the width of the street, just behind the group of girls with their bicycles.