Thursday, February 9, 2012

Trek over to Amsterdam

This morning I set out to meet the women from the AWCA (American Women's Club of Amsterdam) in Amsterdam!  I left the house at 0830hrs. First off, I got on the bus:

Where it stopped at Haarlem Centrale:

Then I bought a train ticket to Amsterdam, total: 7,60 Euro round trip.  There was an announcement and I gathered from the disappointed looks and everyone leaving the platform that the train wasn't going to show up!  So, I followed everyone to another platform and Lo and Behold-another train to Amsterdam!

After arriving in Amsterdam Centrale I got on the #16 Tram to the Stadhouderskade stop. At almost exactly 1015 hrs I arrived at the restaurant:  De Taarte Van M'n Tante at Ferdinand Bolstraat 10, Amsterdam.

 There were about 10 women there who are from all over the U.S. I was the newest person, and another woman had only been here a couple of weeks.  Everyone was very nice and had lots of good advice for getting around.  Here are a couple of pictures from the restaurant:

We finished having our cake and coffee and went around the corner to a cute little organic shop where I bought some quinoa and dates.  Afterwards I got back on Tram #16 to head back home. While I was riding along, I saw a bunch of people skating on the canal. Soooo, I stopped to take pictures!

When I reached Haarlem Centrale Station, I decided to just walk home the rest of the way. It's about a mile from there to the house.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Elfstedentocht 2012?!?

For the first time since 1997 the Dutch are preparing for the Elfstedentocht. This is a race that takes place on the icy canal going through 11 cities in north Holland.  Over 16,000 competitors are hoping to participate this year.  There are still some areas of the route that aren't quite frozen through, so there are people along the way constantly checking the thickness of the ice with poles and metal spikes.

To participate in the race you have to be a member of the Elfstedentocht association. There are currently about 30,000 members, but only around 16,000 will be allowed to skate. They start in Leeuwarden at around 0500hrs.  The record was set in 1985 by a farmer by the name of Evert van Benthem with a time of 6 hours and 47 minutes.  We should know in the next couple of days if this race is going to happen. Sure feels cold enough to me!!!

Today I found an organic store to buy groceries.  I found some butternut squash and some Heldere Kippenbouillon (chicken bouillon) so I could make soup! The stores apparently don't carry chicken stock in cans.  Since I couldn't read the instructions for the bouillon I did it by worked!  For dinner we had potato leek soup and chicken breasts.

The cold Andrew had has now spread to me........I took a nap again today, hoping to stave it off!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Time to stock up the kitchen!

Yesterday Andrew worked from home. He has a cold and didn't want to go in and get everyone else sick. I took the time during the day to straighten up some things around the house. I also went for a walk downtown Haarlem. Oh my, I had forgotten what it's like to live in the cold. Since I am walking everywhere, rather than jumping in a car, I have to get all bundled up just to walk out the door! I have to make sure I grab a bag or two in case I go shopping, so I don't have to purchase them.

In the early evening I made dinner and afterwards we made another trip over to IKEA. We bought a cute little cabinet for the bathroom (which we started putting together last night), a soup pot, a little butcher block rolling cabinet for the kitchen, and other household items.

This morning Andrew headed out to work and I started cleaning!  I cut up a few boxes and put them in bags in front of the house for the garbage collectors.  Then I vacuumed the house. The stairs are so steep I feel like a mountain goat as I climb up and down them.  Vacuuming them was quite a challenge!  Let me tell you, I seriously think about it when I have to go up or down those that trip reallllllly necessary?!?!   Today, I decided to take a nap and hopefully catch up from the jet lag that still seemed to have a grip on me. I slept for two hours, and now I feel so much better!

Picture of stairs from bottom looking up:

Picture of stairs from top looking down:

The washing machine in the house is very small. So, I have been doing 2-3 loads of laundry a day since I arrived.  After the 1st load today the screen on the machine was blinking"F7". The owner's manual (luckily it's in English) said a repair person has to be called out for that.  Andrew happened to be on-line later so we IM'ed via Skype. I told him what happened and he suggested turning it off and turning it on again. Oh yeah!  It reset the machine. Then I told him I couldn't open the door, he said "jiggle it"!  Oh yeah! That worked we're back in business!

The plan for dinner was that I was going to make potato leek or butternut squash soup.  Andrew bought me an immersible blender the other day that would be perfect. I walked over to the Albert Heijn store and bought all my supplies for potato leek (no butternut squash at that store), trekked it home and got ready to cook the soup in my new pot!  Guess what?!?!?!  No chicken stock!  I am so used to having the kitchen stocked full of the basics that I didn't even think about it. Now, it's dark and colder, so I don't feel like walking the several blocks to go get the chicken stock, so I'll have to make something else!

This is what I decided to make for dinner (chicken sausage and vegetables, along with an added squash):

Tomorrow is a new day, I can walk to the store (again) to get a few basics for the kitchen!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Arrived in the Netherlands!

Yesterday I left the house in California at 1000hrs. To get to the airport I had hired a ride from a local transportation company. On the way to the airport the driver told me a few stories about his family and life prior to coming to the U.S.A. from India. Oh my, I found myself sobbing in the backseat of the car....His family has endured so much pain over many generations......He told me his feelings about the differences between the Muslim and Hindu religions. He feels that most of the problems on both sides are caused by religious zealots, and that the problems in India have been caused by both sides.  He is very intellectual (he trained to be a doctor for 1.5 years in India, but had to quit and now supports his children's desire for higher education in the U.S.).  Prayers to him and his family...and I hope he'll put those stories in writing-people need to know what has and is still happening in India!

At 1430 hrs., Netherlands time, my plane landed at Schiphol Airport. Did you know that Schiphol literally means "ship hole" or  "ship grave"?!?  Many ships were lost at sea there and are buried below the Airport which opened in 1916.

We went straight "home" from the airport.  It's great to be back together with Andrew-I sure missed him!  The house looks great and feels very cozy!  We went for a walk downtown Haarlem......a few pictures of what I saw along the way:

The canal is frozen!

People pull their children around town on their sleds:

A local bakery with a Barbie Taart!

A tradition in Holland!  When a woman is to be married she and her friends go to the town and wrap each other up like a mummy with toilet paper and ask women passing by to kiss the t.p to put kiss marks on it! Oh yes, I gave her a kiss!

Another sled!

Dulcimer being played by a local:

Yep, that's right, people still bicycles here in the snow!

At around 1630hrs we headed across the street to our neighbors' house. They had invited us and several other neighbors over for pizza and wine. What a group of nice people!  I feel so blessed to have found such a wonderful place to live with a beautiful home and wonderful warm neighbors.

We went to bed at around 2100hrs (9:00 p.m.), I fell right to sleep and slept till 0700hrs!  I was so exhausted...I had been working hard the past couple of weeks getting the house ready to put on the market. It felt so good to sleep!  Today I've had quite a few caffeinated drinks to keep myself going!

This morning we headed to the woods!  The Haarlemmerhout (Haarlem Woods) is within walking distance!

We stopped to look at this monument, but because we don't know the language we had no idea what we were looking at. A kind Dutch gentleman stopped and explained it to us.  This memorial was erected in honor of the man the Dutch believe invented the printing of books Lourens Janszoon Koster who rivals Johannes Gutenberg as the alleged inventor of printing.

Another frozen canal, where they have a reserve for animals:

We continued walking through the woods and came upon this "pannenkoekenhuisje" (little pancake house). Isn't it sweet?!?!?  We had to go inside!!! We had some yummy apple pie and nice hot cup of coffee...

One of the city buildings:

This is a gazebo in the park next to the woods. People here packed the steps with snow so the small children could take their sleds down it!  Because the land is very very flat, they have learned to improvise!

Another hill made for sledding!!

A "coffeehouse" in town:

Later on in the day we went shopping for furniture. We still have the master bedroom to furnish and we need a few other items for the living room area. Here are a couple of the furniture stores we went into. Things are very convenient for shopping here. There are at least 10 furniture stores within walking distance of one another, so it made it easy to look!

At one time this was the entrance to the town of Haarlem:

We stopped for another cup of coffee...more fuel!  Andrew was able to smoke one of his cigars while we sat outside under the heaters!

Another bicyclist!

A couple of early evening pictures of Haarlem. When I rounded the corner and saw this I felt like I was in the middle of a fairytale!

The temperature today:  -5 degrees Celcius, which is equivalent to 23 degrees Fahrenheit!  It was tolerable, but chilly enough to need gloves and a hat!  Quite a change from the 65 plus degrees Fahrenheit I just left in California!!!