A Trip to the Farmers Market

Farmers Market
My dad and I made a visit to the farmers market this morning to get a few things, including some okra! I was tempted by the apple butter, but worry that it won’t fit in my suitcase. As for the pimento cheese, I’m not sure how well that would travel. Oh well, at least I can get molasses in Utrecht.
Farmers Market
The market is actually a large area with multiple open-sided “barns” like the one pictured above. Some sell just food, while others focus more on flowers and fruits. There are also areas for buying meat and such. Most items sold are local (and certified) although there are some areas where the items don’t have to be completely local.
Farmers Market
Halloween is fast approaching, so there are plenty of pumpkins from which to choose. There are small ones for autumn decorating, medium ones for cooking, and large ones for all of your Halloween jack-o-lanterns and other decorations.
Farmers MarketFarmers Market

Some areas were heavy on the flowers and reminded me a bit of the bloemenmarkt at Janskerkhof. I think the prices were relatively similar, although the selection wasn’t as extensive. Most flowers were for planting, rather than the loose flower stalk bunches (like the tulips, gerbera daisies, roses, etc.) that are such a common site throughout Utrecht.
Farmers Market
There was a nice mix of fresh fruit and vegetables, though, with varieties of apples, pears, watermelon, tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash, and much more.
Farmers Market
Farmers Market
Farmers Market

Dogs weren’t allowed inside the market area, but a few hovered on the fringes. (No idea what happened to my camera on this shot.)
Farmers Market
There’s plenty to see at the markets, whether it’s the fresh produce, amusing signs that bring to mind Josephine Baker, or just the people watching. Best of all, there’s plenty of tasty stuff to take home at the end of it all.
Farmers Market
Farmers Market
Farmers Market
Farmers Market

ETA: Right after I posted this, I realized my dad had used the half-peck of apples we bought to make one of his delicious apple pies. Fresh from the oven!
Dad's apple pie

Hopping Over Obstacles

It’s Expat Blog Hop time again! I missed the last one or two, but thought I’d give it a go again this week.

This week’s topic is:

What was the hardest thing for you to adjust to when you moved to your new country? What tips would you give for new people arriving?

I’ve yet to have any major breakdowns over moving here, but despite being generally even keeled, there are the occasional moments of frustration for me. I mean, what’s a Southern girl going to do when she thinks she’s not going to be able to have okra again!
Yeah, fortunately I found a couple of sources. It’s not as convenient as it was in the US, but it is available. Then there was the search for baking soda. Who would have thought that finding good ol’ Arm & Hammer Baking Soda would be so difficult! Fortunately, I found it at the same toko where I can usually get my okra. For the record I go to Toko Centraal over by Vredenburg/Hoog Catharijne. It’s a good source for harder to find items at reasonable prices.

In other words, it’s those little items that you took for granted at home that suddenly become a major issue when you realize you have no idea where to find them or if they’re even available. When you move to a new country, suddenly everything is that little bit harder. Where do you buy an iron? Where do you buy drain declogger? Where do you buy cold medicine? What do you mean they don’t sell antihistamines in Europe!!!

You soon learn that stores like Blokker are good for cheap household items, and that Kruidvat is a good Walgreens alternative (including a place to get drain declogger), but that Etos is nicer if you just need personal care items. As for antihistamines, get your family and friends back home to put some in every package they send you or pack extra any time they visit you. Otherwise, learn to love the nose sprays and paracetamol that will be your only option here.

Honestly, though, you soon learn and if you ask, someone’s bound to point you in the right direction. Plus, it’s half the fun of exploring and discovering new things!

Now that I’ve been here a while, the thing I find most difficult to adjust to is not being able to speak easily and almost dreading having anyone speak to me. The reality, living here in a city center, is that usually the person speaks enough English if I get stuck, but I miss being able to chat easily, even with strangers, or just make small-talk with shop workers or fellow dog owners. That’s the obstacle I’m trying to overcome now and I think once I’m more comfortable with the language, the worst of the adjustment period will be over.

Living the Fairy Tale

Swans in the Oudegracht
Look! Those big white birds in the canal are swans. Honest-to-goodness swans! And yes, that’s a 13th century castle, Stadskasteel Oudaen, in the background on the left. (Sorry it’s not the best of photos, but it was done with the camera phone rather than my real camera.) It’s all a bit like a fairy tale setting, and yet this is what I passed by on my way to one of the tokos (Asian market) to pick up some black beans and okra for tonight’s dinner.

The morning had started dark and rainy, with the threat of snow in the forecast. By 9:30 this morning, it was still quite dark out and I was wondering if my plans for dinner might have to change, since I didn’t feel like heading to the other side of town in the rain just for two items. Fortunately, the weather cleared and I had a nice little walk to do my shopping. I like to cut through Neude and across the Oudegracht, and down Zakkendagerssteeg to get to Vredenburg, where the toko is. It’s a scenic walk and on a Wednesday morning, it wasn’t crowded at all. That’s when I saw the swans. We see swans occasionally in the various canals, but it’s just rare enough that it’s still fun to stop and admire them when they do make an appearance.

I still had to visit the regular grocery store after picking up my harder-to-find ingredients at the toko, so I headed back the way I came and this time, I finally stopped at the oliebollen kraam (oliebollen are a sort of sweet fried dough that’s sold mainly during the holidays from special stalls). I’ve been wanting some for ages, but kept resisting when I’d pass the stall at Neude. I had hoped to get some at the Christmas market we went to this weekend, but they were sold out when I finally decided to get some. So today, I decided it was time. No more resisting. I would give in to their fried siren song!
The first winter we were here, I didn’t really know much about oliebollen, so I never tried them. The second year, I’d heard about them, but just bought the ones from the grocery store. This year, I finally bought some from an actual stall, and I managed the entire transaction in Dutch. Simple though it was, there were a few unexpected moments, but I understood! I think that was almost as pleasurable as the warm oliebollen themselves. I’ve still got a long way to go with the language, but positive moments like that are an encouragement.

By the time I eventually made it home, not only was it not raining or snowing, but it was actually sunny! Almost blindingly so at times. I couldn’t resist this quick shot of that glorious Dutch light glinting off the wet brick pavement, while casting shadows from the bushes. All in all, it was a surprisingly nice outing.
Dutch Light

Makeup and Okra

After putting off a trip to The Body Shop for weeks, I decided to finally go today to pick up some makeup I’m nearly out of at this point. Sadly, the sunshine of yesterday is but a distant memory today, but I headed out regardless of today’s cold, grey weather. Unfortunately, I didn’t look more closely at the time that I headed out. As I got closer and closer, I realized that none of the shops were open, even in the slightly more touristy sections. It was, after all, a Monday morning.

Most shops are closed here on Sundays, with a few minor exceptions. Monday aren’t much better, with some stores not opening at all, while the rest don’t usually open until noon at the earliest. Unfortunately for me, it was 11 a.m. I briefly had thoughts of wandering for an hour and headed over to one of the tokos (usually an Asian market), hoping that they might just be open. Sure enough, they were! Even better, they had okra today! I picked some up, since G and I were talking last night about possibly making one of our favorite beef and okra stews for his birthday this week. I also picked up some garam masala, since Albert Heijn seems to have stopped carrying it, despite having it regularly up until recently.

When I walked out of the toko, purchases in hand, I checked the time. It was only 10 minutes later. The problem with killing time in Utrecht when nothing is open is that the city itself is only about a 10 minute walk from one side of town to the other. I hadn’t even brought my camera with me! In the end, I decided to give up on killing time for another fifty minutes and just head over to the grocery store, since I was planning on picking up ingredients for tonight’s dinner anyway. Even that didn’t take long. I was home by 11:35.

Maybe I’ll head back tomorrow. Or maybe Wednesday. Eventually.