25 November 2012

Beaujolais Nouveau -Sunday in My City

The contents of this post did not take place on a Sunday and the only connection to my city is that it was a NATO event and NATO is located in my city. But I haven't had a chance to post about it until now so it's what you get :) I know this is supposed to be mostly a picture post but...Sorry!

Disclaimer: I'm a wine idiot. Really, I know nothing except that it comes from grapes. Further proof of my complete lack of wine knowledge to follow.

I'm not a very social person. I don't enjoy large gatherings of people. Mingle?  I'd rather not!  Many people have trouble saying "No" to things. I have trouble saying "Yes."  That's one reason why my current job is so nice. I'm alone. I work by myself and that suits me just fine. However, there are cultural events that take place being in a NATO community and sometimes I force myself to attend because, however much I dislike social events I do like things cultural. 

Last week the French delegation hosted an event called Beaujolais Nouveau.  All I knew was that it was a wine tasting.  Someone gave me a free ticket.  I forced myself to go.  Upon arrival you're handed a glass (a real glass, not plastic or some other disposable item) and it is immediately filled with wine.  Members of the French delegation walked around with bottles in hand refilling any glass that was even partially empty. I was a little surprised that there was only one one being tasted but it was free and I wasn't about to complain.

This was the only picture of the event I could find online and I didn't have my camera to take any pictures of my own.
I didn't drink much as I didn't think drinking and biking was such a great idea!  However, there was also French bread and French cheese (mostly of the brie and Camembert type varieties) and I ate my fill of that. It was all just too good!

Anyway, the next day I saw the following news story title:

Beaujolais Nouveau French Wine Fans Take Red Wine Baths To Celebrate Its 2012 Launch

The story is here. That's when I learned that Beaujolais (a word that's impossible (at least for me) to type correctly the first time or ten) Nouveau is not just some French word for party (have I ever mentioned how terrible my French is?). It's a very specific wine.  I told you I know nothing. 

According to the story: 

"Gamay grapes in France’s Beaujolais region that are used to make the red are "harvested by hand, with no barrel aging, allowing the young wine to retain much of its light, fruity flavor making it a perfect pairing to popular holiday foods."

"As a result of the work of famed n├ęgociant Georges Duboeuf, the release of Nouveau has become a world-wide phenomenon with a race to get the first bottles to markets around the globe. More than 60 million bottles will be distributed worldwide,"

..the yearly launch of the Beaujolais Nouveau is celebrated around the world "with parties, special menus and festive cries of 'Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrive!'" Under French law, the third Thursday in November is the "earliest permissible release date" for the popular beverage."

Based on the fact that the Beaujolais Nouveau is already on clearance at the grocery store I'm guessing it's only considered a big deal for the day of release and then the novelty wears off?  I don't know but I picked up a bottle.  

If you want to read more interesting stories from more interesting places, head over to Unknown Mami and check out more Sundays in My City posts.

Unknown Mami

23 November 2012

Random BENL News

Age limit to buy tobacco in the Netherlands
Dutch tobacco companies have written to the health ministry
urging the new government to put up the age limit for buying
cigarettes and tobacco from 16 to 18. Ministers plan to
increase the legal age at which teenagers can buy alcohol
from 16 to 18. This could also be applied to tobacco products,
Dutch tobacco companies say.

Sheep on moped
Police in Tienen, Belgium, arrested three men who were transporting
a sheep on a moped. The police soon discovered
that the three men were staying here illegally and that the
sheep had been stolen.
[I swear I did not make this up!]

More U.S. students in Belgium
Figures from the Institute of International Education show
that 880 Belgian students registered to study at a school
of advanced learning in the United States in 2012-13. The
figure is up 8.4% in comparison with only five years ago.
The institute's report also shows that 1,374 U.S. nationals
registered for academic studies in Belgium in 2011-12. This
figure is up 10.5% on the year.

Belgian weapons
Saudi Arabia is the most important purchaser of Belgian
weapons. Saudi Arabia purchases approximately one third of
all Belgian weapons valued at 253 million Euros. All weapons
for Saudi Arabia are produced in Wallonia. Nils Duquet of the
Flemish Peace Institute states “because FN Herstal is a crucial
company for the Walloon economy, the Walloon government
delivers weapons permits without much argument, even if
it concerns sensitive clients. It seems economic interests
prevail in Wallonia.” Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has not made
it a secret that it supplies weapons to armed groups in Syria,
says Thomas Baum, the Director of the Peace Institute.
[Note: Wallonia is the French speaking region of Belgium]

Nearly every Dutch household has internet
Some 96% of Dutch households now have an internet connection,
while 42% of the population have access to mobile
internet via smart phones, according to a new research.
Around 56% say the internet has given them better access
to government and official information and two-thirds have
more contact with their family. One third say they have made
new friends online.

How I Spent Turkey Day

I've spent different Thanksgivings in 5 countries on 4 continents and in 5 US states. 

21 years ago I spent Turkey Day in the Netherlands when I was here as a foreign exchange student. Honestly, I have no recollection of that particular day.  It's possible the family I was living with did something special but I don't remember. 

Then there were all the years I was away at university.  I know I went home a couple times and there was one that involved beer-soaked pork chops and ice skating with a couple friends and the year I flew to LA and drove to Las Vegas with Terri and her friend Ty but the rest were apparently not remarkable enough to imprint themselves on my memory.

I spent 2 T-days in Ghana.  The first was a typical Ghanaian experience.  Rob and Hilary and I decided to go to Tim's. We sent word via tro-tro.  He never got the message.  Tim decided he wanted to go somewhere and showed up at Hilary's. He and Hilary they sent word to Rob and I via tro-tro (tro messages were the best and worst way to contact people).  We didn't get the messages.  I showed up at Tim's, talked to his Japanese roommate, found out he wasn't there and left. Rob showed up much later, spent the night and came to my house the next day. I ate the loaf of pumpkin bread Brenda had made for me as my T-day dinner (she made the most yummiest pumpkin bread I've ever had!).  There wasn't any left by the time Rob arrived.  It was weeks or longer before we saw Tim or Hilary to find out what had happened.

The next year a large group of us gathered at Jesse's site and made a huge meal. I invited one of the teachers from my school and I pounded mashed potatoes in a fufu pounder.  I remember Erica helping me.  Tim brought a live turkey. I have no idea who did the killing and plucking.  For most of the years since I returned from Ghana I've eaten groundnut soup on T-day.  It's a spicy peanut Ghanaian soup that's pretty much my favorite food on the planet.  Except for 2008 when I was in Afghanistan. I know the DFAC (dining facility) there had a big dinner but somehow we had a turkey (shipped in dry ice or something) and our compound a the time had a full kitchen (that has since changed and now folks only have the DFACs) so we put together a full meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and...other stuff that I can't recall.

Two years ago, a few weeks after I arrived back here in NL, while still living in a hotel room I attempted to go to the communal dinner offered by the base.  I didn't know the conference center where it was being held isn't on the base proper.  I tried to find it but wasn't successful.  Last year I went to Barcelona

Yesterday, I came to work for a couple hours. Since I wasn't required to work I wasn't required to show up at my normal time so I slept an extra hour. I brought the pumpkin pies someone was nice enough to pick up from the commissary for me since I was at work until 7pm on Wed (pies that had to be baked for 75min! so I was up rather late).  I had to look up the German word for pumpkin as one of the Germans asked me what was in the pie and he didn't understand the English or Dutch words for pumpkin.  Sometimes Dutch and German are pretty close. Other times, not.  Pumpkin in Dutch = ponpoen. In German = kurbis.  So I learned a new German word.  After getting done everything I had hoped to get done I went to the dentist (teeth are clean and there were no problems).  Next I went to the gym and met with my trainer. It was a beautiful day yesterday (sunny with temps in the upper 40s) so I took the dogs to the back fields to run and I jogged with them (yes, after working out with the trainer).  Then I got on my bike and went to the centrum to get a few things I needed for some goodie boxes I'm sending to a couple friends. Yes, I was quite tired after all that! Finally I tucked into a nice bowl of roasted curried sweet potato soup (I would have made groundnut soup but I had the pot of sweet potato soup I made this past weekend and it seemed appropriate) and talked to the family via Skype.  The dogs ate a bag of cute Dutch house-shaped chocolates I had bought for one of the goodie boxes so I figured they didn't need any additional treats for dinner.  It was a very productive day.

I'm thankful I have a body that puts up with shenanigans like trainer then jogging then biking all in one day.  I'm thankful I have the means and ability to prepare almost all my food from scratch using real, whole ingredients (it could be all my food but I occasionally indulge in a pizza or Thai take-out or ice cream and, of course, CHOCOLATE (which is a little more than an occasional indulgence!)).  I'm thankful for chocolate!! Oh, and good dental care :) I thankful I have a life that has afforded me the opportunity to be on 4 different continents so far!

I wonder where I'll be next year on Turkey Day. I think, one of these years, I'll have to go to Turkey just so I can say I spent Turkey day in Turkey :)

21 November 2012

Just Another Thursday

There's no Thanksgiving holiday in the Netherlands. As a US Gov't employee I get the day off although I plan to work part of the day.  I'll bring some pumpkin pies for the guys here on the construction site. Vlai (the Limburg (Limburg is the region in which I live) version of pie) is traditionally eaten/brought for any celebration. Pumpkin  is not a frequently-eaten item here. In fact, pumpkin (ponpoen) is the generic word for squash.  Squashes are mostly just a decoration here although you can sometimes find little pie pumpkins at the grocery store.  So I'm pretty certain these guys have never had pompoen vlai.

I also have a dentist appointment scheduled.  Oh yeah! I know how to live it up on a holiday!!  Really, it was easier to schedule it on a day I have off. 

Several people have expressed sadness at the idea of spending Thanksgiving "alone," working and going to the dentist. Really, it's just another Thursday here.  Besides, I don't need a huge meal to remember the things for which I'm thankful. 

Monday was World Toilet Day. I have a toilet and it flushes. For that I'm truly blessed (even if we've reached a Level 5 toilet paper crisis here on site).  I've lived without a toilet and with a toilet but no running water. I know how lucky I am!  I also have the two sweetest creatures who are gracious enough to share their love with me even if I work long hours and am sometimes too tired to take them for a nice long walk.  And I have the greast parents! Perfect...well, nobody's perfect. But I definitely lucked out in the parental department.  None of that will change if I go to the dentist instead of stuffing my face with turkey and mashed potatoes (not that I don't love me some mashed taters!!).

18 November 2012

Dogs Around Town - Sundays in My City

Dutch people walk their dogs. Most of them multiple times/day.  Regardless of the weather. I walk my dogs once/day as long as it's not pouring rain.  Dogs are even allowed in some stores and restaurants.  Restaurants will bring a water bowl for them.  

My dogs waiting outside the grocery store (where they are not allowed).
 Some places about town have what I call "fixture dogs" because they're just part of the place.
This friendly one hangs out outside a clothing store. I believe s/he belongs to someone who works there. S/he's never on a leash but I've never seen her cause any trouble.  
She always comes to say hello to my dogs.

This dog seems to live in the store-front of this art...I'm not sure exactly what this place is. I've never seen it open but there's art in there.  When I ride past on my way to work in the morning the dog is always asleep right there in the window.

This morning we walked to the grocery store and it rained on our way back. Tex was born and spent his first 1.5 years on Phoenix, AZ where he never got wet. He still hates getting wet. Cheyenne very sweetly dried him off when we got back.

Normally it's Tex taking care of Cheyenne but he really hates being wet!
  Feel free to head over to Unknown Mami and check out all the other Sundays in My City posts. Next week, I promise, no dogs :)

Unknown Mami

Book Swap Update

My book arrived!!  I'm surprised it made it so quickly as there are things I'm waiting for that were ordered up to 2 months ago.  Anyway, I'm super excited!

The book my swap partner Angie chose for me is Over the Edge of the World by Laurence Bergreen.  It came with a note saying she read this book while hiking at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  I love that this book has an attachment for her.  I have a lot of book-place associations.  Many of my memories of certain places have to do with what I was reading there and many of my memories of certain books have to do with where I was when I was reading them. 

Angie said she looked at my goodreads list for ideas.  I'll admit, goodreads is something I started years ago and very quickly abandoned (unlike Angie who has hundreds of books listed in hers).  But she said from that very meager list she deduced that I like non-fiction. Which is true. And this is a book I've never even heard of so that makes it more exciting. There's a very real chance that none of what I need to get done today will get done as it's a dreary day (shocking for here, I know) and I have a brand new book that I can't wait to start reading.  Thanks so much, Angie!!  And thanks again to Jessica for organizing the whole swap.  I can't wait for the next one (did I say that already?  Well, it's still true!).

15 November 2012

Blogger Book Swap

Jessica over at Sweet Green Tangerine hosted a fabulous blogger book swap.


She paired up her readers and, after gathering as much info as you could about your partner from their blog/FB/goodreads/twitter you were supposed to pick a book and send it to them.  I was paired up with Angie who doesn't have a blog but is phenomenal about keeping her goodreads updated.  We've read a lot of the same books...A LOT. That left me fairly confident that I could pick a book she'd like.  I just hoped it wasn't a book she had either read and I missed on her list or that my pick wasn't something she hadn't already read because she didn't want to read it.

I sent her one of my most favorite books: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.  Because mail has been even slower than usual here lately (and that was before hurricane Sandy stranded all our mail service) I had the book sent to her from the US.  I would have liked to have sent her a Dutch goodie package with the book (Shhh, don't tell her I'm working on that now!) but there was a short timeline for the swap and I wanted her to get the book in time. Happily, she hasn't read it but wanted to (in fact, she thought she ordered the book and didn't realize it was from me).

I don't know what she sent me yet (that whole stranded mail situation) but I'll be sure to post about it when it finally arrives.  I'm excited to see what she picked!

Thanks to Jessica for hosting the swap.  I'm already looking forward to the next one!

11 November 2012

The Garden is Gone - Sundays in My City

This is another installment of Sunday in My Backyard but I promise to do better with this in future posts.  I finished taking out the garden today. It was sunny and not cold...a very nice day for us this time of year.  I wanted to leave the last box together since it was so well made (I was afraid that it wouldn't go back together so well if I take it apart.  Of course, there's a good chance the next group of movers won't move it unless I take it apart but I'll have to wait till spring to find that out).  So, I had to shovel out all the dirt and carry it away since my wheel barrow is in storage somewhere...wherever the US Army put my stuff.  It wasn't easy but I managed to empty the box, move the box and get that part of the yard semi-leveled.  Now I just have to see if I can get some grass to regrow.

The bare patch that's left...now, how to grow grass in mid-November in Northern Europe...???

Tex supervised, as usual.

I'm hoping it stays dry enough for the mud to dry so that I can clean it up. I can't put it in the garage if I want to be able to fit my car in there (it's a rather small garage) so it will have to stay out back.   
I also took down the hammock, the clothes line and I consolidated the patio furniture to the corner so that I can cover it all with a tarp for the winter.  Normally I just leave all this stuff out but since I'll be moving sometime in the March-April time frame I figured I might as well get it taken down now while the weather is nice rather than trying to do it in the late-winter/early-spring when there's a high probability of cold and or rain. 

So that's it...I hope I get into my next house in time to get the garden set up and growing next spring but there's a lot to do and figure out between now and then. For now, I just hope I can regrow grass and keep the dogs from digging it all up!

Click on the button and head over to Unknown Mami to check out lots of other interesting Sundays in My City posts.
Unknown Mami

04 November 2012

Three Per Year is a Good Number

Last year Lynette and Phoebe came to visit in August. Then Gran came in September. Mike and Amie came in November. Read about those visits here.

This year Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister and Friend came in May (those visits are here and here). Noreen visited in July (which reminds me, I haven't posted about Scotland yet!).  Now Mom, Dad and Gran are coming in December.  I'm so excited!!

So, three sets of visitors per year. Seems to be working so far. Who wants to visit next year??

My Backyard Garden (Sundays in My City)

This is what my yard looked like the day I moved in (before the dogs started digging holes!).

Then, come spring, I assembled the garden boxes and planted veggies.

This year the strawberries came back with a vengeance and I got lots of tomatoes (The rest of this year's garden was either eaten by ?something? or dug up by dogs.).  So I was sad when I had to start tearing out the plants and dismantling the boxes. I'll be moving sometime before summer next year and I need to somehow reestablish grass in the yard (which should pose no problem now that it's November in northern Europe!).

One of the mini-harvests

When I started taking apart the first box I unleashed the wrath of the spiders that were happily residing there. I found giant spiders in my shoe, in my shirt (both after I put them on) and throughout the house.

This is the one that fell out of my shirt!!

A couple weekends ago I got all but the last box out (the last box was still producing tomatoes) and filled in all the dog-dug spots. 

Tex supervised.  That look on his face translates to:

"You know I'm just waiting until you're done and turn your back for a few minutes so that I can dig all that back up.  We both know you're going to be pissed at me and we both know I'm going to give you that sad sorry look you can't resist and we both know you're going to forgive me so can we just skip to the forgiveness part?"
Last weekend it rained a lot and I didn't get out there to finish taking out the remainder of the garden. I was being lazy today and after putting on the ripped/dirty garden clothes decided to take a nap. When I woke up it was raining again. I decided rain was my punishment for being lazy and went out to take out the tomato plants.  I picked the final few maters (they are now in my lunch for tomorrow) first.

Now all the plants are out and I just have to get rid of the dirt so that I can move the box.  It would be much easier if it would dry out but I can't count on that happening! And I really have no idea how I'm going to restore the yard in the winter.

This is my 2nd try at the Sundays in My City thing. If you click on this button

Unknown Mami

it will take you to Unknown Mami. Scroll to the bottom of her SIMC post and you'll find links to lots of other interesting blogs with a SIMC post as well. 

01 November 2012

Random Recent Dutch News

Dutch invention
Dutch doctors have successfully tested a pill that can be
controlled electronically to deliver medicine directly to the
stomach and intestines. The pill is 2.5 cm by 1 cm and
is one-third filled with medicine. The rest of the capsule
houses a transmitter that communicates with the outside
world and a tiny motor. The capsule uses a pH sensor to
determine where it is located. Once it is thought to be in
position, the motor sprays out the medicine. The technology
has been tested on ten healthy volunteers who took the
capsule filled with radio isotopes which could be followed
on a scan. In nine out of ten cases, there was successful
communication between the capsule and doctors.

Heated cycle lanes to be tested
Tests are about to start with heated cycle lanes in two parts
of the Netherlands in an effort to reduce winter accidents.
By stopping snow settling and ice forming, cycle lanes will
become safer and there will be thousands fewer accidents.
The tests, an initiative led by civil engineering group Tauw,
will start in the town of Zutphen and in parts of Utrecht.
The system will work by using 'asphalt collectors' to collect
the summer heat which will then be stored underground
and used to warm cycle lanes in winter.

Oldest Dutch person
The Netherlands' oldest resident, Egbertje Leutscher-De
Vries, celebrated her 110th birthday October 22, with a
day of events at the nursing home where she lives in the
Drenthe village of Havelte. Her daughter, Mina Smit, told
news agency ANP her mother is delighted with all the attention
and thinks it is great she is the oldest person in
the country.