Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Summer time officially ended

It’s been fall here for weeks now, and it has definitely felt like it. Yet, summer time officially ended over the weekend. Summer time is what the Dutch and others in Europe call the time shift that the U.S. calls daylight savings time. So for a week, or however long the U.S. remains on daylight savings time now, we are one hour closer to you.

Last week I rode my bike to my Dutch conversation class. It was my first time using it for real transportation, and I have to admit that it was a little scary. The Dutch all ride so fast and there are so many people on bikes! So even though I was on a bike path most of the way, there was lots of traffic. I’m not sure the class is all that helpful. There’s usually only one native speaker to work with the various small groups, and since I used to be fluent in Dutch, my Dutch is stronger than that of most of the other participants. Still, it’s fun to get out, so I’m going to keep it up.

I’m making an effort, too, to speak Dutch with Dutch people. Most are patient. Some even seem a little relieved not to have to speak English. The Moroccan corner butcher is an example. When I went in to get some lamb shanks the other day, I asked him for recommendations on preparation. He quickly said his English wasn’t very good and asked about speaking French. We wisely continued in Dutch. The lamb shanks turned out great, and we had a lamb ragout with penne pasta for dinner last night. Yum.

The photo above is one I borrowed off of the Internet. It shows the store where we do our normal shopping on the left. The initials "AH" stand for Albert Heijn. The gray weather in the photo looks like what we're having lately, but it must be really early in the morning because the street and sidewalks are so empty. Normally they're jammed.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A bike and a haircut

After checking at several bike shops in the neighborhood, we finally found a good deal on a used bike for me to replace my stolen one. My new bike is a Batavus, a Dutch brand. It has a little rust and a few dings, but I hope that will just make it less attractive to thieves. It’s a three-speed, which is nice for getting up those big hills (dikes and bridges) and for speeding down the street. I haven’t been far on it yet, but the forecast is for a nice day tomorrow, and I hope John will join me for a bike ride. We’ve already had a neighbor ask for first chance at buying it when we leave in the spring.

In other news, John just got his annual haircut for 18€ at a place down the street. He looks like a new man. Andrew walked right past him without recognizing him. John’s last haircut was in San Diego before the start of the Baja Ha-Ha. We sure have been a lot of places since then.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The hunt for everyday food

We’ve been trying Dutch food regularly. Cheese is a staple, and we’ve sampled various kinds from the grocery stores, cheese stores, and cheese booths at different markets. Lately we’re favoring one of the cheese booths at the nearest market, which is only held on Wednesdays. The woman who runs it is very nice (she always gives us a taste before we buy), and she understands my Dutch. We’ve been experimenting with the various degrees of aging that is offered for Gouda-style boerenkaas to find our favorite. If you want to know more about boerenkaas, you can check out this brochure in English.

I’ve been introducing John to typically Dutch things to put the cheese (and other sandwich fillers) on. So far, he isn’t crazy about the Friesian roggebrood (a kind of pumpernickel), but he does like the cracker bread, especially when we can find it with sesame seeds. We’ve also been trying various kinds of bread, but we aren’t finding the bread from the stores as good as I remembered.

Of course, there’s also Dutch licorice in myriad varieties. I like the typical salty licorice. (It’s an acquired taste.) When I could find it in the States, I always bought the double-salted kind. Saturday at the market I bought my first DZ here (DZ stands for dubbel zout, which means double salt). Wow! When it’s this fresh, I think single salt will be enough for me. John has been trying varieties of sweet licorice, and Sjoerd has contributed a couple of standard types to John’s experience.

Some things that we haven’t found here, which were staples at home, are ham hocks, regular mozzarella (fresh is available), canned stock, and plain pizza crusts. John makes pizza dough, but not often since we haven’t found the right pizza cheese. He’s also been making homemade stock, but that's time consuming and adds a lot of humidity to the boat, something we really don't need here. For a long time we couldn’t find popcorn, but I spotted it in the market yesterday when we were looking for something else, so we have plenty of that now.

There are so many good things to eat here. It really isn’t a problem if we can’t find what we’re looking for. We just eat something else.

The photo is from somewhere on the Internet. It's of a cheese stand at the organic farmers' market that's held near here on Saturdays. John didn't have a photo of a kaasboer (cheese vendor).

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cruiser reunion

Yesterday David and Gunilla from Ventura stopped by to see us. David, single-handing on Ventura, was the informal coordinator of our mini-rally from Fort Lauderdale to the Azores and on to England/France. Gunilla flew to Horta to see David, and we met her there. They’ve put Ventura on the hard in Falmouth, England, and were driving home to Sweden. Next summer they’ll be sailing Ventura to Sweden. It was so much fun to see them and talk about places we’ve been and places we should visit while we’re still in northern Europe. We’ll be taking a serious look at going to Germany, Denmark, and Sweden before we stop in Norway and continue on to Scotland next summer. It sounds like a nice voyage.

In other news, Carrie and baby Zelma from Dandelion are visiting family in the States, so we took Andrew with us to the Democrats Abroad gathering on Saturday. It was fun to take him to a part of the city where he hadn’t been before (in the center near the main shopping and tourist area). There was a good turnout, so we couldn’t talk with everyone, but we did happen to meet a young woman who is a CIA-trained chef from Portland. She still has a house in Southeast and knows the Noble Rot people. So standing around chatting in the heart of Amsterdam were four Oregonians.

My Dutch is improving. I’ve started attending a weekly conversation class (free), and that’s pretty fun. I’ve also translated a recipe that John wanted from a Dutch cooking magazine that Marike brought us. And I finished the book (in Dutch) that I picked up in Costa Rica. Now on to the big bag of Dutch books that Anouk brought me.

The photo is from our 2004 trip. It's Museum Square. When we were there with David and Gunilla yesterday to visit the Van Gogh Museum, it was pouring down rain.