This was a beautiful day. Today is not that day. I’m feeling permanently damp from the dog outings of the past few days, where it doesn’t fully rain, but 20 minutes is enough to leave you feeling pretty saturated.

Musings on Minor Dutch Differences

Pretty Clouds [Day 109/365]
After living here for four years, I’ve gotten fairly used to life here and don’t really notice some of the little differences any more. But every once in a while something catches my attention and makes me smile.

For example, the molen (windmill) in the photo is here in town in an urban area. It’s also where we went to buy some special cuts of meat, because the base of it is now a butchery. How many people get to go to a butcher housed in a windmill?

On the other hand, while visiting the kerstmarkt (Christmas market) the other week, we got to try a BBQ pulled pork wrap. The guy making the food had a large BBQ grill/smoker like the ones you see in the US at BBQ competitions, etc. Pulled pork isn’t common here, so as he was serving it up to us, he asked if we’d ever eaten something like this before. I had to laugh. Actually, I thought I had misunderstood what he’d said, since we had been ordering in Dutch. It turns out I did understand him, but the question threw me for a loop. Growing up in the South, there’s no shortage of pulled pork. In fact, there are whole regional differences in how you cook and dress your pulled pork. For example, vinegar sauce vs tomato-based sauce.

The funny thing is, it’s not the first time someone has asked me that about a food I take for granted. While visiting a local baking supply shop that also sells some treats, they were giving away cheesecake samples and they asked if I’d ever tried it before. That one surprised me even more, but I guess it was new to enough people to warrant the question! I know my friends at American Baking Company have had fun introducing some American desserts to a Dutch audience, but they seem to be winning them over!

To finish off this look at small differences, I’m going to move away from food. This one isn’t particularly Dutch, but the constant wet weather makes it somewhat typically Dutch. We’ve had rain (more drizzles than heavy rain) for more than a week now. Every time I look out the window, if it’s not actually raining, the streets are still obviously wet. Every time I went out in the past two weeks, I’ve gotten rained on, except for the past two days. That just means I’ve gotten lucky.

The part that makes this somewhat amusing is the fact that our house, which dates to the late 1800s, gets temperamental with this much moisture. More specifically, our front door gets temperamental. It getting a bit sodden, I suppose, and doesn’t want to close properly. Once it is closed, it doesn’t want to open, at least not from the inside. Our front door also is a bit curious in that it doesn’t have a typical handle on the inside. There’s a latch on the lock that we usually use to pull the door open. However, when the door decides to stick, it’s hard to get a good grip on the latch.

For the past two days, when someone has come to the door (mainly delivering/picking up packages for neighbours), I’ve been physically incapable of getting the door open! I’ve been pulling on the latch with one hand and using the other hand to get an awkward grip on the mail slot in the door in an attempt to get enough leverage to open the door. In the meantime I was also calling to G for his help and was tempted to yell through the door to have the other person push!

If the rain isn’t going to stop, I’m going to need some rope to fashion a handle so I can pull more easily. At least we have a back door that works, although even the garden door is starting to get a bit sticky now!

Thoughts for Thursday

Daily Scenery

  • I entered a photo contest through Expatica the other week with this photo and I found out today that I won! Many thanks to my friends for voting, especially considering how difficult/unclear the whole process was. My prize is a T-shirt and having my photo entered into a drawing to be included in the I Am Not A Tourist expat fair in October. The latter is the reason I entered.
  • It turns out we have color codes for bad weather here. A Code Geel (Code Yellow) was announced today for the region of Utrecht, meaning that there’s a chance of dangerous weather with high winds and heavy rain. The wind hasn’t seemed too bad, but we’ve had pretty much non-stop rain today. It looks like we’ve got more to look forward to through the weekend. It’s particularly frustrating, as I was hoping to visit the Maliebaanfestival this weekend. At least it runs through the 20th, so hopefully we’ll get a nice day in there somewhere.
  • I’ve done a few Tweets in Dutch the past couple of days. Extremely slow Progress! Whether they were right is another matter, but I did get responses to them without any corrections. (That may have had more to do with the 140-character limit.) One of the tweets had to do with a search for food coloring. From what Google translate would have me believe, the word for food coloring is levensmiddelenkleurstof. It’s times like this I really miss McCormick!
  • Is there any topic you’d like me to write about? Any questions y’all might have, about me, being an expat, or just life general life in the Netherlands?

Random Sunday Observations

Shady Oasis
Why is ok for street sweeper machines to be out working at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, but god forbid a normal store be open?

Pippo and I took a little walk before breakfast this morning and wandered through Janskerkhof. Despite the torrential downpours we’ve had in the past 24 hours, the scent of yesterday’s flower market still hung heavy in the air.

The rain looks like it’s on its way back any minute now. We got the walk in just in time. Today is Culturele Zondag (Ga Groen!), but I’m not sure the weather will encourage me to leave the house again. Baking, on the other hand, seems like the perfect rainy-day activity. I think I’ll make a small batch of muffins with a little bit of chocolate and the handful of strawberries I have left.

Wishful Thinking

Rare Sunshine 39.365
Look at that pure blue sky and that beautiful sunshine! Wonderful, isn’t it!

Too bad that was last week. This week is heavy on the rain and darkness again. In fact, I went out for a while on Saturday, and this was the extent of the brightness.
Oudegracht 43.365
Not really the same, is it. Supposedly, we’re supposed to have some sunshine later this week. I’m not going to hold my breath, but I’m not going to give up hope completely, either. After all, the flowers are starting to pop up in Zocher Park. Surely a bit of sunshine can’t be too far off!

Bikes and Rain

Bicycle Rain Coat 33.365
We had a couple of days of real sunshine this week! Amazing!

Unfortunately, we’re now back to rain and more rain. And rain again.

So, since I’m a bit distracted with other tasks, I figured I’d post this simple photo, which is a regular sight in the Netherlands. Bike seats covered with plastic bags. Some people use the bags to hide the fact that they have a nice (expensive!) bicycle seat. Others use the bags to try to protect their rear end from the unsightly, uncomfortable and embarrassing wet tush effect that comes from riding a bicycle seat that has had time to soak up all of the rain. Usually the bags are plain white ones, as you can see, but I was particularly taken with this bike pairing because of the more stylish/graphic art element to the bag in the front. It’s a nice little pop of color and design on a rainy day.

Foto Vrijdag 2.44 Sunlight Remembered

Light and Water
This was taken a month ago. Back when we still had sunshine. Wasn’t it glorious? I like to look at this photo to remember what it was like. Hopefully, it will return before too long! I hope everyone has a cheerful, and dry, weekend.

Sunday in Utrecht

Green Canopy
There’s a “Sundays in My City” blog theme that one of my fellow expats participates in each week. I thought I’d do one too this week. We had originally planned on going to a special autumn market taking place this weekend, but when Pippo realized we were going out, he thought he was going with us, as he has the past few weeks. In the end, we felt guilty, so we scrapped the market plan and took Pippo for a long walk instead. Well, it wasn’t as long as we originally planned. Although we started out the walk in bright, glorious sunshine (I even had my sunglasses with me), we ended the walk getting rained on most of the way home. Typical autumn weather, really.

We walked down Breedstraat toward the Oudegracht, and along the way, I saw a window with this street sign that caught my eye:
Broadway on Breedstraat
Please note that the photo is so washed out, because the sun was shining so blindingly through the trees at that point. Things soon changed once we got to Zwartewater, the area we decided to head to today. As you can see, the clouds were moving in quickly.
Cloud Cover
I managed to get a few photos of the spot I wanted to revisit.
Zwartewater Revisited
Then, as I tried to get a few photos on the other side of the bridge, the rain drops started to fall.
Reflections in Blue
We headed back home along the Zwartewater canal and saw a few more lovely spots along the way.
Two Paths

Rise and Fall
By then, the rain was really starting to come down. Perfect timing, since my batteries were also dead at that point. Typically, though, by the time we returned home, the sun was coming back out and it ended up being a lovely, sunny afternoon. I hope you’ve been enjoying your own Sunday, wherever you may be!

Ship Recovered

Image by Sarolta Ban

It seems that all the rain we’ve had recently has been of some benefit after all. The rain washed away the encasing dirt from a long wooden freight ship in the neighborhood of the Leidsche Rijn Park here in Utrecht. According to the archaeologists on hand, the ship seems to be in relatively good shape, all things considered, and even has some of the traces of the shipbuilding process.

It’s all low-key right now, but the full presentation to the press should be made tomorrow (Wednesday 1 September). Included in the press conference will be information as to how old the ship and its cargo are, as well as the full location of where it was found. According to the municipality, there’s a good story behind it all. I’ll try to keep up on it all and post more info when it’s released.

I found out about it all via RTV Utrecht‘s Twitter feed, and it was on Twitter that I also found a photo taken by a resident at the ship’s site.

The beautiful (and appropriate) surrealistic image at the top is by Sarolta Ban. Go to the Bored Panda site to see much more of her fantastic work.