Monday, July 29, 2013

Introductions, Dining and Franeker

Well, Amsterdam didn't happen.  Once we started mapping out the day, it would have taken us 3 hours to get there, to spend 6, to travel 3 more home, to get in at a good time (he works today).  We were sad about it, but it just wasn't realistic.  Amsterdam is a place that when you travel, you need to spend it overnight.  At least for us.  Or, have a car, drive part way to a city centre then take the train the rest of the way in.  Having no car, we'll have to go with option #1.

So, we made different plans.  Having events change in the morning, we spent part of the day with his kids & ex.  I got to meet everyone all at once for the first time.  Yaaaaaaay.  *cough*  Well, with 3 kids it can be very tiring, but it was a good visit.  They took to me very well; especially his oldest.  That was nice.

After that visit, we went to Franeker where there is the Eise Eisinga Planetarium museum (linked in English).  Quick history: this planeterium is the oldest working planeterium in the world.  Very small as it's based out of the man's house (or what would have been his house at the time).  He understood how the stars and planets worked, and when people were in fear of the world ending (as was thought at the time), he actually built a working solar system in his living room to show people that it wasn't - and why/how.  He cared about calming the masses and we thought that was a pretty special trait to have.  All the little cogs in the working solar system were made by hand, all hand-forged nails (10,000 to be exact).  Wiki shows you a couple pictures, but I went to the museum's website and it showed on more of the inner workings of the cog/weight system (if you view it in Dutch it shows even more pictures, not sure why. P. S - Google Chrome is your friend).

After getting some rich history, I started to feel ill and needed to eat.  W. asked the woman if she could advise any places in the area.  We ended up going to an inn just down the street.  I really enjoyed this place and would like to go back.

This view was was side of the footbridge we crossed to get to the inn.  Note the steep banks on the left, which would have been defence mechanisms for the town from the canals. 

This is the inn, the view on the other side of the footbridge.  Their seating area goes right down to the water (to the right) - and that's where we got to sit!  

This dining experience was absolutely lovely.  Dining in Europe is way different than back home.  Back home it's.... come in, get addressed within 30 seconds (on a good day), order, eat, leave so the next people can come in.  It's all about turnover.  Here.. it's sit, relax for a few minutes.  A minute or two later your server comes to ask if you'd like anything to drink, if you're there to eat (if you want a menu).  Menu is brought, we look it over and eventually order. They really leave you to relax and enjoy the entire meal.  If you're not expecting this, to a North American, it could seem as very slow service.   First we were brought tapas (if we'd known they were bringing this, we wouldn't have ordered appetizers).

Sorry, I took the picture after we started eating it :/  Note my glass of lemon water (holy lemons, batman. That's what I call service) to the right.  It comes with a stick, which apparently quite common.  At the end of the stick is a flat peice TO GET MORE JUICE OUT OF YOUR LEMON WITHOUT HAVING TO TOUCH IT.  Also, to keep it at the bottom when you drink, if you so choose.  Y'all in North American need to get on that.  If they exist, I haven't once seen where.  And I order a lot of water. 

Apps and dinner were perfectly times apart (we got the house steak) and were very good. Then came dessert.  Sweet holy Jesus.  They didn't have anything on the menu I could have (dairy-free) so I got a coffee.  He got strawberry tiramisu.  

This was our dessert spread.  My coffee came with various sugars and bon-bons.  There's another tiramisu above my coffee that we didn't order but weren't sure if it was part of the whole "comes with bon-bons" thing.  We ate it anyways :P

Check out the layering of that coffee.  Impressive.  

W.'s tiramisu, strawberries, (real) whipped cream and a strawberry liqeur.  Yum.

The sun was out that afternoon and it was hot, though there was a cool breeze (it was perfect).  While the sun was very hot, the UV index was only... 1.  I'm not even lying.  We were there for almost 2.5 hours and I didn't even turn pink.  If we'd done that back home, I would have been walking home with 2nd degree burns.  

More than pleasantly sated (we were stuffed), we headed home after a very long day.  Let's just say we slept very well last night. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I haven't baked anything this week yet and I was starting to go through withdrawal.  Thing is, I wanted something simple to keep movement, etc low with the heat.  Enter kruid ("krowd") cake.

Kruid cake is a staple in Dutch homes.  I'm not sure how do describe the taste; sort of.. cinnamony.  I got this mix out of a Homecoming gift basket I got from a friend when I arrived....

I was pretty blown away.  She knows I love to bake and got me started in my new kitchen and it's helping me get familiar with some of their products.  

Anyways.. I'm making the kruid cake, but I'm going to touch it up a notch with maybe some whipped cream or vla.  Oh.. I haven't talked about vla yet.  

I have a new love.  And it is called vla ("fla").  

Vla is like a custard-type pudding.  I eat the non-dairy soy kind and it is FAB0U-LOUS.  W. has some "slagroom vla" (whipped cream vla) in the fridge, but I like mine better.  Oooh... maybe I'll put some of that with my kruid cake. 

The Dutch, btw, believe in having dessert after dinner.  Every.  Single.  Day.  While my tastebuds delight, my waistline does not.  This is going to be a challenge. Be forewarned if you ever visit; you WILL be stuffed with some sort of sugary-goodness post-feast :P

It won't let me upload pic of finished kruid cake, so it'll have to wait.  Sorry :)

I gotta get outta the heat.  



So we seem to be taken to travelling on weekends.  I've already talked about Groningen, and last weekend we went to Leeuwarden.  It's a very interesting city.  Very old!  I was taken aback by it's architecture; we were walking amidst streets and beside buildings you only read about in history books.  It's breathtaking.. and humbling.  It's weird to feel so... insignificant... beside a large building (inanimate object) but it's entirely possible.  It was there before you were even thought of, or before your great-great-grandparents were thought of!  I was blown away and speechless.

We walked almost 10km that day, but you don't notice it being surrounded by such atmosphere.  When we walked from the train station (side tangent: some public pay-for toilets...are scary.  I think I got traumatized after that. It was clean, don't get me wrong, but it was like a fucking vault.  I've never been in such an intrusive...washroom facilities. But more on this later..) for about 5 minutes and we quickly entered the picturesque parts of the city; it was like walking in the middle of a postcard.  The tall, thin buildings by the canals.. just like in pictures.  Regrettably, I forgot my phone at home so couldn't take any pictures.

The highlight of the trip was coming across St. Boniface cathedral.  Take a look at that picture.  We took a tour and went to the top of the tower!!  I forget how many, but something crazy like under 200 steps (it puts the walk to COOL from street-level to church to shame).  At the top, we even got to stand outside and look over the city.  Absolutely amazing.  You could almost see straight to the islands.  Their choir loft is much higher than ours by home (I hope you're not afraid of heights!), but they had pews/kneelers which was nice.  Small-ish organ.  Not sure of how many pipes (the man didn't know). When we walked up the tower, it was very steep (circular stairs) and entirely in brick.  The fascinating thing about this church was that it was built in 2 years.  Two years!  And unless I'm mistaken, the same age as COOL.  Amazing how they can look so different (esp on the inside).  They still use the same baptismal as they did when they opened in 1884 (in pictures/link).  We liked the church in Groningen better (not as dark), but it was still very beautiful.

We're thinking of going to Amsterdam this weekend, so I'll try and see if we can hit a church or two there.  I'm already scouting places to eat ;)  It's almost a city that's far enough (and large enough) that you should stay the night, but we're really trying to conserve money, so I'm not sure it's an option.  We'll see!

Hope y'all are enjoying the nicer weather.  This is our hot week and I can't wait for it to be over (Sunday).    

Friday, July 19, 2013

Discouraged, Pt. II

It gets worse.

After talking to a couple people yesterday about said events, it turns out it's true about the age thing.  Apparently there are different pay scales per age, and since I'm not, say, 19, they can't get away with paying me minimum wage; there are different pay scales for someone who's 19, 30 or even 40.

Okay.. let's just try to wrap our heads around that for a minute.

They technically aren't allowed to ask me for my age, but they have to in order to know what to pay me?


W. told me it's original intention when it came out (why it was changed to this), but I forget what it is.  When he got home last night, I got the sweet, "Honeeeey, I'm hooome." and he walks in the kitchen where I've got a scowl on my face and I said a brief, "Hello." "What happened?" he instantly asks.  "Oh, fine country you live in!" and I start yelling.  Poor chap.  He let me vent and then he made me put the dishes down (that I was subsiquently throwing around with my anger) and took me in his arms for a hug... and I cried.  It was all too much to process.  So... now I have to prove myself harder in a country that doesn't know me nor is familiar with the places I've worked?  No pressure. AND they want me to just be okay with this process, put aside my principles and bend over and take it up the ass because that's what everyone else does?  Oh hell no.

It's a good thing I work better under pressure, cause right now I'm just pissed.  For a country that touts equality, this is very unequal of them.  I'm sure there's a positive in here somewhere, I'm just not sure where it is yet.  So this is how it's going to go:  I'll apply for jobs and if I get asked again for my age I'll bite my tongue from saying, "What the f*** business is it of yours?" and politely ask them if they're interested in my skills or not.  If they evade the question, I move on.  I'm not compromising.

In reality, they're not allowed to ask me that; it's still age discrimination (and I could have reported them), but because it's been changed, they're using that to their advantage... and trying to get away with it.  They're supposed to hire you on your abilities, and the formalities (pay scale per age) come later, with the paperwork.  The sad thing is, it was a measly dishwashing position, but I would have put a lot of hard work and experience into their kithen, hoping to slowly move up the ranks.  Instead, they're sacrificing experience for cheap labour, choosing to hire inexperienced young'uns in their kitchen.  A foolish business mistake, if you ask me, when you're trying to open a new restaurant.  I have a right mind to call her back and tell her what a fool she's being.  But what do I know.

That's enough for today.  I'm going to try to keep myself occupied until W. comes home, which won't be a moment too soon.  I'm feeling a little down-trodden.  I will however, enclose a picture of our balcony :)  It's still not exactly how I want it, but still it's cosy and a welcoming place to sit when the sun isn't high.

It's Friday!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


So.. there was an advertisement for jobs (dishwashing and waitressing) at this Italian fine-dining restaurant in Groningen (close to church, actually).  My eyes lit up as I peered through the windows onto the tables set with crisp white and beige linens, glass decanters for oil and shiny salt and pepper shakers (grind your own!).  I wanted that job.  I took a picture of the sign/contact information posted and .. did nothing with it.  I'm already having language barriers, how can I possibly jump into a job not yet being fluent in Dutch?

We were in Groningen last week and passed by it again on the way to Mass.  Again, I stuck my face to their window.  Again, not ready to make that call.

Today, almost 2 weeks later, I made the call.  It went something like this....

"Hoi, /name/?" (Hello, /name of contact/)
They said "Ja".  I said, "Do you speak English?" (which I could have easily asked in Dutch, but didn't).
"Nee, Nederlands." (no, Dutch) - which already tells you they understand English, btw.
I asked for the other contact that was posted.  She spoke English.  I told her I was interested in the dishwashing job.
"How old are you?"
Slightly taken aback (okay, a lot. I was in shock, actually, lets not lie. You'd get shit if you asked that of anyone in Canada), but told her.
"Oh, well, we already have enough dishwashers.  The day we put the sign up, we got like.. 10 people calling".
"Right. Well, I'll try and call back later. Thanks!"

Am I calling again?  HELLS no.  Why?  Age discrimination and.. I have a funny feeling language discrimination.  Which is crap, because everyone in Groningen speaks English to some degree.  They don't know my story.  They don't know my language abilities.  Did they ask either of those?  No.

So on one hand I think their insensitive jerks and if they're like that, I don't want to work for them anyways.  On the other, I'm heartbroken and getting a reality check on what it's going to be like looking for work.  Something so small and "insignificant" has made me so upset.  Do I need to start working right away?  No.  Will it help with things?  Most definitely.

So.. I take some time for myself, then I press on.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


So today I'm going to bake a Normandy Apple Tea Cake.  I've taken a picture to show you what I have to work with.  It's an adjustment to get used to all their products (language aside).  For instance: they don't use baking soda.  Like, at all.  Baking powder yes, baking soda no.  They are favourable on self-rising flour (which I think I could get used to, so long as the price is ideal).  Packages are smaller.  Like.. I have not seen one bulk bag of flour.  At all.  How does anyone do mass amounts of baking around here?  Sugar is the same package.  I might need to look around online to see what I can find for flour.  Also?  Chocolate chips aren't common.  CHOCOLATE CHIPS.  What is this anarchy?!  Who doesn't regularly stock chocolate chips?!?!?!?  Had to go on a hunt for them and a friend here found them for me!  They're about a half-hour bike ride away.  Whenever I get a bike *sigh*  I wonder if I can order online..................

Anyhoo... I've included a picture for you today. Click to englarge.

From left to right: self-rising flour (€0,68, light brown sugar, eggs (-/+ €1 for 10), powdered sugar, castor sugar and butter (€0,99).  I'm leaving the butter and eggs out to get to room temperature and I later took out the powdered sugar; it's not needed in this recipe and I think I just got.. sugar happy.  


Monday, July 15, 2013


Today I'm going to write about bicycles.  I thought maybe writing subject-specific posts would be easier and more time efficient.

I've test-driven a couple bikes now; one with a local guy in town and one at a bike shop in Groningen.  The store in Groningen is bigger and you'd think with bikes en masse, they would be cheaper than the independent local guy.  Not so.  Out of the hundreds of bikes they held, only a couple were in our price range with what I'm looking for.  We found one used one that was affordable, but I did NOT like the handlebars on it.

Now, I'm going to go into a small tangent.  North Americans... are doing bikes all wrong.  We really should take from the experts who have been doing it for as long as bikes have been around.  When I rode one from the local guy, the handlebars were spacious and wide apart, if that makes any sense and it actually makes the bike easier to control.  It was a very smooth ride.  I was able to sit up properly on the seat with good posture and the seat itself was very comfortable, too.

Now, they have gears on bikes, but maybe 3 at most (I had to laugh a little, when ours can go up to 10 or 15) and this particular one had pedal brakes, not hand brakes (which I prefer).  The bike I rode in the store in Groningen, the handlebars were closer together (less control, I was all over the place) and the seat had to be changed, which was minor.  For the changes I wanted on the second-hand bike, it would be just as logical to get the new one.  I don't feel like I need a new bike, though, because bicycle theft is so common here (which I find ironic, since everyone has one).  I'd hate to spend all that money on something new only for it to get stolen one day.  So we'll see.

The search continues.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lazy Sundays

Hoi!  Goeimiddag.  Het is zondag.  (Hi! Good day. It is Sunday.)

The extent of my Dutch doesn't go beyond that; I'm trying to learn Dutch in a Frisian-speaking town so it hinders my learning a bit.  I'm getting more anxious to learn, so perhaps we'll put the push on more.  Anyways.. that's that.

We spent a wonderful day in Groningen yesterday.  The weather was perfect, though it seems to be almost every day; cool in the morning, warm and sunny in the afternoon, then cooling back down around dinner time.  He took me to a French cafe (he knows me so well) where we each had an open-faced sandwich, fresh-squeezed orange juice and we shared pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant).  We sat outside and it couldn't have been more "European".  I'm definitely going back for more.

We went to Mass which is in English on a Saturday.  The church is beautiful, if you've seen my pictures on Facebook.  I have to say, though, I felt happier in the Dutch/Sunday Mass than I did Saturday.  Saturday is more low-key of course, so no big choir (just a couple people) and it's hard to get into things when they sing songs/hymns differently than you're used to, right down to the Allelujiah.  Now, in the Dutch Mass, they sang most Mass parts in Latin.  That was surprising, but nice.  All I could say at the time was, "Thank goodness COOL taught me how to sing Latin," but even those were sung to a different tune.  Anyways, they were all nice experiences.  I'm having a hard time finding a Dutch Missal, though.  I asked the priest last night but he seemed in a hurry to get somewhere and not too concerned to help me.  *shrug*

We passed a restaurant not yet open, on the way to Mass.  It's an Italian restaurant.  Fine dining.  I'm so tempted to apply.  I really should take some time to still integrate and get used to life here, but, I'm getting antsy :)  I'd really like to start working again, even if it's one day a week, I don't care.  I'm not sure they'll hire me, speaking mostly only English, so my chances are poor.  Anyways, we'll see, eh?

 It's a slower pace here, in the Netherlands.  On Sunday's, everything is closed (IMO how it should be) and it's a day to sun-bathe, do yard work, rest inside, whatever you like.  We were going to go to Leeuwarden today and hit up the city (or a museum or something), but with everything closed, we decided to stay home and save money (I want to see the city when everything's open).  Today, for us, is taking it easy, minor things around the house, create a grocery list for the coming week and maybe kick back with a movie or two.  Oh!  And go for a walk.  I'm making a (whole) chicken for dinner tonight.  Okay, chicken, btw, is WAY cheaper than back home.  We bought I think, 5 pieces of boneless/skinless chicken breast yesterday for just over 6 euros.  Back home, that nearly would have cost almost $20.  The whole chicken, free-range btw, was close to 7 euros.  Seven.  wtf?  And wine is cheaper, so I don't know if we're over-pricing or they're under-quality.  I've tasted the wine and it's quite nice, so.. I don't know.  

To show you how liberal the country is, we took a picture of a poster/advertisement of an exhibition at the Groningen Museum (contains language, sorry if this offends anyone).  For the fact I have to apologize that it contains language, shows how different our cultures are.  They're not apologetic and see it as every-day language, but don't mis-understand that it gets used often.  It doesn't.  Right, well, W. took it with his phone (I didn't have mine on me at the time) and hasn't shared it with me, so I'll just have to tell you.  Sorry :/  It's called "Fuck Off 2".  It's this HUGE poster, like, building-size.  It's crazy.  

Okay.. best I move on to other things.  Will try to write more through the week with the differences I've noticed.  I really should write things down.  Hope y'all are having a great week!  Tot ziens!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Getting Settled

I started a blog post a couple days ago, but a) got tired (still, jet lag, even today) and b) overwhelmed.  How do I mention everything?  It's almost impossible.  I'm sitting in a zombie-like trance right now in the chair, but I need to keep occupied because I'm waiting for the delivery of our oven, so I thought I would try blogging again.

I've been here 5 days now.  I don't know if I've ever felt more at home somewhere.  The minute I saw Dutch soil out the plane window, I started to relax and ease; comfortable; at home.  (The flight was smooth, btw and the staff were fantastic.)  Jet lag sucks and I don't know how long it's supposed to last.  Every day I need to have a nap (from 20min-1hr).  The people here are very nice; most you pass by on the street will say hi to you.  There have been language barriers, but it all depends who you come across.  Today at the bakery, the girl (about my age?) didn't know any English, but spoke Frisian and Dutch.  It's times like that it's nice to have W. around (and he was), though I've gone out on my own and had to try to communicate.  Some know English, some don't (it's not often spoken around these parts).  We looked at bikes today (for me) and the guy spoke decent English, with some help, though him and W. conversed mostly in Frisian.

There have been a lot of differences, probably more than I can even think of to mention right now, but I'll try, in point form, to save time.....

- the cashiers sit at the cash, not stand.  All of them.
- there are no screens on the windows or doors.
- I haven't yet seen one mosquito *touch wood*
- it's a more relaxed pace of life here.
- the roads and traffic are crazy.  I don't know how they do it, but they have different rules than we do and smaller roads (in town), yet no one's been hit; they all seem to know how to maneover around each other (bikes, cars, pedestrians).  If there's one thing in this country that gives me anxiety, it's that.
- everyone bikes here.  Everyone.  Regardless of age (5 to 75) or even attire (business clothes, skirts, jeans, etc).
- the weather has been beautiful.  We've been getting a lot of sun (uncharacteristic, I'm told); it's cool at night, warm during the day, then cools down again.  Perfect.
- the Dutch have a reason for everything they do, in any context, and are usually quite efficient (though I found this out early when I was doing my paperwork).
- we walked on a path yesterday that was covered in shells.  Yes, beach shells.  It's easier for the bikes to cycle on, apparently, than say.. stones or gravel.  It was so neat.
- the countryside is beautiful. It is flat and you can see for miles.

Well, I have to cut this short because the delivery guys called ahead and they'll be here momentarily.  And they speak English! :)  Wish me luck.  I'm going to bat my eyes at them and ask them if they'll also install it (it's gas).


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