Archive for April, 2012

why buy American?

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Someone asked me why I buy and bring back so much stuff from the US. Isn’t Dutch stuff good enough? The answer is, lots of reasons, depending on the kind of stuff.

  • Clothing: It’s a lot cheaper in the US, and also, I’m just too small to fit into a lot of Dutch clothes. (Actually, Ted got his work trousers, shirts, and a couple of suits tailor-made for him when we lived in Taiwan, and he gets more now and then on trips back there. Can’t beat handmade!)
  • Electronics: The same stuff is available, but it’s much cheaper in the US.
  • Food: I bring back a bag of my favorite pretzels whenever we go, because here all they have is “zoutsticks”, little pretzel sticks. They’re too small to be satisfying and so I eat too many. I also get pretzels whenever we’re in Germany. There’s lots of candy and cookies available here but I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Also, we stock up on Clif Bars and protein bars and Luna bars because they don’t sell them here (except Powerbars at a few specialty stores). They give you a bit of nutrition without upsetting your stomach and we find them extremely useful when you need to eat something before sports, say on a regatta day. Dutch people tend to eat plain bread for this or ‘breakfast breads’ but since the bars have protein in them and are a little denser, I think they relieve hunger and stay with you better, without taking much volume.
  • Over-the-counter meds: Here’s where it gets complicated, because there are a bunch of reasons:
    1. Things they don’t have here. They don’t have Nyquil or an equivalent. It’s not that it relieves cold symptoms better than anything else, it’s that it puts you to sleep while doing so and lets you (me, anyway) wake up without being groggy. So helpful when you have a cold!
    2. Things that are cheaper here. They have multivitamins here, including our usual brand, but they cost a lot more.
    3. Things I don’t understand. It’s not you, Dutch products, it’s me – as far as I can tell, things like Claritin (for allergies) and Excedrin (for migraines) aren’t sold here but have close or exact equivalents, but I can’t read the box fluently enough to be sure. Especially when I’m sick!
    4. Things we just like better. We prefer the taste of Crest (not sold outside the US, for some reason) over Colgate or Aquafresh (sold in Europe and Asia). As far as I know, they’re all equally effective, this is just a subjective preference. (Actually, this is no longer true – these days we are getting old and we use a Dutch brand of toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. In fact, we have a tube of Sensadyne at the Oregon hose and I think the Dutch stuff works better. It tastes faintly of licorice, though.) On the other hand, I’ve been using Q-Tip brand (cotton swabs) since I began buying my own consumables; they have more cotton on the tips than any other brand I’ve used in the US or anywhere else. Other brands just feel like you’re inserting a sharp stick in your ear and don’t seem to have enough fluff thee to either clean or dry them.

So the short version is, I buy US stuff when either they don’t have it or I can’t fit it here, or when it’s much cheaper in the US, or when I just like a particular brand better. Or when I’m too stupid to figure out the equivalent Dutch product.

Rowing on our lake

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Well, it was a great trip overall; we really enjoyed finally getting to row from our house, as well as socializing with friends and family. Also, we bought a big sofa, which will be delivered next time we visit, so the house will be even more comfortable.

The trip was only marred at the very last minute, when I managed to leave my wallet in a store in the Portland airport and only realized when we got to Amsterdam. I’ve talked to the people in the store, and they have it and will be sending it to me, fortunately – it’s got credit cards, bank cards and drivers licenses from two countries, not so easy to replace. I just hope it gets here before my next trip to the US, which is only a couple weeks away. I am having my bank cards canceled and reissued, so at least the Dutch ones should get here in time.

And here are the pictures to prove it did happen! (Er, the rowing, not the wallet loss.)

we haven’t vanished from the face of the Internets

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

…. just hanging out in Oregon. So far we’ve spent time with our friend Kathy and the in-laws, and a random rower from Arizona who came up for the race and who we invited over for dinner. (I don’t think she was expecting a whole roast turkey as a post-race dinner! But it’s an easy way to feed lots of people.) We’ve made good use of the dock for practice and for the race; today I even went out in a double with Ted and we managed not to tick each other off. (Rowing with your spouse can be …. interesting.) And of course we’ve raced; Ted and Kathy won the Mixed Masters Double in their age category, and I at least wasn’t last (until the handicaps were added in – I was the youngest in my race). Results are here.

Other than rowing, we’ve gotten to sleep late, drink lots of Oregon wine and beer, and check out RVs and big trucks to pull them, in prep for next year. We’ve eaten all the foods we can’t get in the Netherlands – pretzels, of course, and all the foods we can’t get where we live: steaks, grilled salmon (well, they have it there, but this was Pacific Northwest salmon and we got to grill it ourselves), grilled green asparagus, roasted turkey, burritoes, other Mexican food. We got to cook in a big over and with a stove top that has actual flames coming out of it, and Kathy was highly amused when I started talking about how big our oven, washer, dryer and fridge are (all on the large side but still standard US sizes). And we got to sleep in our own bed, which is just so much nicer than the one in our Dutch flat. Now Kathy has elected herself our cruise director for when we throw a big weekend-long Party at the Lake, which apparently we are supposed to do on an annual basis after we return. (If we really ever do, we’ll let all you family and friend types know, of course.)

All this and getting to not be at work, too!

(Pics wil come later; I forgot to bring the card reader to upload them.)

a very very very fine dock

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Hey! We have the dock of the month!

You can see previous Accudock docks of the month here. Ours was not very complicated compared to some, but the permitting process was long and difficult, and the logistics of building it were tricky (e.g. no heavy equipment allowed on Army Corps land). Our architect (and now dock builder) Michael Soraci did great work getting it to reality.

a very Dutch weekend

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

I’m spending this weekend sniffling, and trying all I can think of to make my cold go away as soon as possible, since we are flying home to Oregon next week and we have a regatta the week after. Last weekend, however, was a lot more interesting, and very Dutch.

One of Ted’s coworkers is a volunteer miller (“vrijwiliger molenaar”), who spends his free time working a 300-year-old windmill in a town nearby. He’d invited us to visit, so we dropped by last Saturday. This region is well above sea level, so mills here are used for grinding grain, not so much for pumping water out of fields. They still mill grain for all the farmers in the area, as well as giving tours to groups of schoolchildren as well as tourists like us, and selling some local products like honey and sunflower seeds. Thanks to knowing the miller, we got to go all the way up the ladders to the top floor, to see how the windmill’s force is used to turn a big wooden wheel, that uses cogs to turn a horizontal wheel that drives the millstone. Despite the enormous force used, almost all of the mill’s workings are of wood, just as they were originally built. They’re lubricated with beeswax or animal tallow (for different parts). Even the giant brake and the bracing for the windvanes are wood, though the vanes do now have a metal leading edge, like an airplane wing.

My favorite part, though, may have been the goats and the tiny shaggy ponies no taller than my hip, feeding on the grass outside the mill.

In the evening, we wwent to a party given by my boss and his wife to celebrate their wedding anniversary. The reason this was also very Dutch is that this was their 12 1/2 anniversary – the big anniversaries of a marriage or employment here are not the 10th and 20th, but the 12 1/2 and 25th. It was in a private room in a bar in aanother small village, with a keyboard player who took requests. The other characteristically Dutch thing was that everybody not only sang “Lang Zal Ze Leven” (used like “Happy Birthday”, but for both birthdays and anniversaries) but also a group of their friends sang a song with lyrics of their own, all about my boss and his wife. (I have no idea what they said, other than that their name was cleverly rhymed in, but I could tell it was well done.)

Then on the way home we got thoroughly lost because the highway was closed for construction and for some reason the detour signs guided us in exactly the wrong direction, until we decided to give up on them and rely on the GPS instead. Usually local signs are more accurate than a GPS, but not this time!