Archive for April, 2007

local championship!

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Yeah, I know, I still need to write about Brugge and Antwerp. But meanwhile, we just walked home from dinner through a dancing crowd. Our town centrum is full of very happy and slightly drunk people right now because PSV, the local football (=soccer) team has just won the Dutch league title. This puts them into the European championship league.

This picture is from the Stratumseind, the street around the corner from us. All those speakers and lights are not because of this win, but because tomorrow is Queen’s Day and there are concerts to celebrate. We’ll take a walk back into the centrum in another hour or two to see how things look – and I will be wearing closed shoes and leaving my purse at home.
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It’s going to be a noisy night!

Dos and Don’ts

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

I will write a proper post about Brugge and Antwerp with pictures, maybe this weekend. But meanwhile here are two things we’ve learned: DO stay in Ter Duinen if you are ever in Brugge – quiet, charming, convenient and comfortable. DO NOT visit Rotterdam on a Monday – everything is closed including a boat tour for which we were sold tickets. (We were able to go on another one and to get our money back.

Meanwhile, while this visit is still in swing, we’re planning for the next one. Specifically, while I’m in London with my mom in a few weeks, Ted will be doing the classic deserted-husband activities: hanging out with his bad-influence buddies, drinking and carousing. Of course, specifics vary with the husband in question: in this case, the buddy is his rowing partner, they’ll be drinking Gatorade, and carousing over 100 km of canals from Amsterdam to Delft. (Yes, 100 km, as in 2.5 full marathons. And the bad influence is Erik-Jan’s decision to do this and talk Ted into it (it didn’t take much arm-twisting) about two weeks ahead of time. Insane, yes.

Company!

Friday, April 20th, 2007

As of Tuesday, I have a blood relative on the same continent for the first time in six months. Our first visitor, my Uncle Larry, will arrive here this afternoon (he spent a few days in Paris first. Retirement is soooo rough on him.) We’ll be off to Brugge this weekend, then no sure where else – Brussels, Antwerp, maybe some of the Netherlands citieis like Utrecht. I’m taking off Monday and Tuesday to hang out with him. Should be fun!

a day out on the canal

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

After ten years in Arizona, we’re ort of used to having summer while much of the US is still in the middle of winter. We just weren’t expecting that to continue when we moved to the Netherlands. As I type this, it’s 17:30, so a little past the hottest part of the day already and our convenient weather-thingummy says it’s 85 degrees F. I hope it doesn’t get much warmer – fortunately that old saying about “if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes” is truer here than in any of the other places I’d heard it said.

Today we did something totally different and very characteristically Dutch. Apparently a lot of the novices in our rowing club don’t get all that far from the boathouse; they row to a wider point a bit under 3km away and turn around there, and if they need more distance they do more than one lap. So someone (I don’t quite understand how things work here, still, but they do, and very well) set up a “kanaal toer”, open to everyone who is qualified to both cox and scull. Well, they said it was a tour and we’re tourists, so we signed up. We were told that the tour would run from about 10:00 – 16:00, to bring lunch and that coffee would be provided. (Dutch rowers drink coffee before racing and apparently also on rowing tours. We brought Gatorade instead.) There were four of us in each of three boats. Instead of our usual racing shells we rowed wherries, which are more like what you opicture when you think of a rowboat, though they do still have normal oars and sliding seats. There are two rowers in each of these and a bench for two other people, one to steer and one to read the maps (not needed on this trip straight down a canal and back).

We’d been a little disappointed on being told Friday that we’d only row to the 4.5 km mark, because we’d been that far on our own (the boathouse is at 12.2 km – there are markers every 100 meters) but the weather continues to be warm and sunny and it seemed like a pleasant way to spend a day anyway. More than half of the rowers who turned up were in their 60s or 70s, but we ended up in a boat with another couple about our own age. One other boat was half younger and half older, the third all older people. The second boat had a little trouble keeping up; the third one had none at all. (However, it also included the tour organizers, and it was a slightly different style of boat. We think they gave themselves the lightest boat!) We rowed about 6km, and stopped for a coffee break in a nice wooded spot. It was a very odd feeling for us to bump up to the canal’s side, fold in the riggers on that side, and just get out – you simply don’t do that sort of thing in a racing shell. At least not if you want to stay dry side up.

We must all have been faster than expected, because after another hour of rowing, we reached the end of the canal, where it has a T-intersection with the Helmond canal. Our boat was far in the lead at that point, so we rowed out into the other canal just to say we’d been there, then turned around and went back to meet the others After lunch, we rowed all the way back to the boat club, and got in around 3:30. They do a similar trip in two weeks for Queen’s Day. That time they row all the way out into the other canal then stop for lunch at a canoe club nearby, but we don’t know if we’ll be going somewhere else that weekend, maybe to Amsterdam with my uncle.

It was a nice way to spend a day on the water, and definietly a big change for people who are used to thinking about speed and power whenever we’re out there. Unfortunately, we did forget the camera.

skiffhead weekend

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

We had a great weekend – I’d have posted sooner but it took some time to upload all the photos. The Head of the River is such a huge race that they split it into four parts: the eights and fours raced two weeks ago, and the doubles and singles raced this past weekend. The weather couldn’t have been better. The race results were not quite as good as we’d hoped, but not bad considering the level of competition. This is the biggest race in this country. Granted, it’s a small country, but rowing is more popular here, people are taller and generally more athletic than Americans, and there were some competitors from England as well. The level of competition felt about equal to the US Masters’ Nationals. The women raced only 4 km for some reason, except the senior As (the elite level), while the men raced 7.5 km. I raced only in the Tweehead (doubles) on Saturday, while Ted raced in both the Tweehead and the SKiffhead (singles) on Sunday. In all of these races, all the Veterans (~Masters) age categories are all mixed up together.

Results:

  • Paula & Lieke: 16 of 23 in the W2X Veteran
  • Ted & Erik-Jan: 8 of 28 in the M2X Veteran
  • Ted alone: 25of 34 in the M1X Veteran

Unfortunately, we were racing in the doubles at about the same time, so we couldn’t take any pictures of each other. There are some pictures online from the pro photographers: here are some of Paula and Lieke, and here are several more of Ted and his Erik-Jan, plus one of Ted alone. On Sunday, I rode my bike the length of the race and was able to take several pictures of Ted. He didn’t make it easy to keep up!

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On Monday, we went to see the Keukenhof, which lies between Amsterdam and den Haag. We expect to go back again in a few weeks when my uncle visits, but there’s enough to see to make a second visit worthwhile. We ended up with over 200 photos from the weekend, so here is a sampling. These are for Ted’s mother, the Master Gardener. If you click on a thumbnail, it will bring up a larger photo.

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Also, now we can really prove we’ve been in the Netherlands:
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And, just for lagniappe, here’s a castle from the neighboring town of Helmond. We visited this one a couple of weeks ago but hadn’t uploaded the photo:
Helmond Castle

spring: the time for boatraces and blossoms

Friday, April 6th, 2007

The daffodils are fading now, in the reverse order of their bloom; the yellow ones went first and now the pale cream ones are going. There don’t seem to be any tulips in our area, I think they’re in the areas with sandier soil. To compensate, there are trees and bushes in blossom everywhere: forsythia and cherry (we think), dogwood, something that looks a lot like magnolia (which we didn’t think grew this far north) and others we don’t recognize at all.

Tonight we’ll do some packing and then tomorrow we head to Amsterdam for the Tweehead (doubles, both of us though in different boats) and Skiffhear (singles, Ted only) races. This means all the usual decisions about what clothes to layer, what food to take to get us through the races, whether to do more still or video photography and in Paula’s case which knitting to take along (hey, it’s a complex decision!). Races here begin a lot later than we’re used to, which is nice because we can just drive out there in the morning, but which makes keeping ourselves properly fed but not overfed before the race more difficult. The weather is promising to be warm but not too warm and not too windy. They may be some morning showers but with luck they’ll clear out before we race. The hardest part will be figuring where everything is: our hotel, the boathouse we launch from, the completely different boathouse where we get our race numbers, the start of the race, the proper bridge arches to go through, the other boats (so we can avoid them) and so on. Fortunately we each have someone familiar with the language and the race course in our boat. Ted will have to go it alone on Sunday but by then he’ll be more familiar with the course. Wish us luck!

experimental soup

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

Well, this should be interesting. Passover begins tomorrow night, so as part of my usual, er, unOrthodox observance of the holiday (“observance” usually translates to “Oh, I see it’s Passover time. I should cook something.”) I’m making chicken soup. Making chicken soup in a new city is always interesting. My cooking equipment is what was furnished with the flat plus a few utensils I brought along. What’s sold for the ingredients varies even across the US, let alone here. When I learned to make chicken soup in Philadelphia, the way my mother and grandmother make it, I could go buy a soup chicken (already cut up or cut by the butcher) and “soup greens” – a bundle of dill and parsley complete with the parsley root. In Texas and Arizona I did my meat shopping at the supermarket; sometimes I could get a whole cut-up chicken, other times I had to buy a small fryer and either cut it up myself (not fun) or if the store had a butcher, explain to him or her what I needed. Parsley was plentiful, but in Texas I had trouble buying dill at first and had to resort to dried herbs a few times. Then it became more common for supermarkets to sell baby dill, which works well enough though I think it’s less flavorful than the grown-up kind.

Here, the only whole chickens were tiny little things, but they did actually have something packaged as “soup chicken”. It seems to be two breasts per package, which is a little odd; I’d prefer parts with more bones and fat. (The chicken is tasteless and nearly inedible after making soup from it, anyway. No, Mom, I don’t make chicken salad from it. I don’t like chicken salad.) Packaged with the chicken were packets of unidentified greens with bits of carrots. I think the greens are probably leeks, which are common in soup here. I bought two packages. It’s nearly a kilo all told, which is probably a bit light on the chicken. On the other hand, my biggest stock pot here is a little smaller than the one I used at home. I put all the greens in, just to see how that comes out, along with the carrots, whole onion, dill and parsley I usually use.

I’ve just skimmed the fat off; it’s a little less than an average batch, but I’ve had less-fatty soups than this, so I don’t think this will be too flavorless. The leeks should help; I expect it to be a very greenish soup. No matzah balls unfortunately, because I couldn’t find matzah meal. (For anyone who hasn’t had them, Ted’s description is “kind of like a meatball, but bread instead of meat, that absorbs the flavor of the soup.” They’re lighter and spongier than meatballs – at least, they are when I make them – and of course they’re not made of bread or they wouldn’t be a traditional Passover food. They’re based on matzah meal, which is matzah crumbled to the texture of fine breadcrumbs, mixed with egg and oil and water and seasoning in the batter, shaped into balls, and boiled.) They did have matzah in the store, one brand available in either full-size or “matzah crackers”. I bought the latter, because they’ll be good with the soup. Good thing I’m not observant, because I notice it doesn’t say “Kosher for Passover” anywhere on the package. (Very not observant. We’ll have the soup tonight, which is a day early anyway, with noodles in it.)

One of the things I like about soups is that they are so forgiving to the experimental cook!