Monthly Archives: November 2014

Now seating pity party for one…

Up until yesterday I really thought that I wouldn’t be bothered by the fact that today is Thanksgiving in the US. Then I started getting antsy last night and today it was definitely worse. And that’s when I admitted to myself that I was feeling a little sorry for myself thinking that everyone is getting together today for big family dinners with occasional culinary misses. Of course, I could cynically say it is just fueling up for the Black Friday chaos but that’s copping out. So, I will freely admit that I am having a pity party.

Yes, I know I made the choice to move all the way over here. This time last year I was still camping on the floor waiting for the crate of household goods to come in via ship. So, I had more distractions, you could say. I also really miss my mom. Because we didn’t eat turkey and it was often just us two, we would go to the 4 o’clock movie while everyone was eating their holiday meal. This ensured us that we pretty much had the theatre to ourselves and she could talk as much as she wanted during the movie. Mom frequently asked questions in the move or added commentary. And she wasn’t doing it in a whisper either. After that, we would go home and eat. I was also thinking about our last Thanksgiving. She ate at the table, which I know was hard. We had an appointment with oncology the next day. I remember her telling the doctor that she ate so much and then running down the list of foods. What she didn’t tell the doctor is that they were all one small plate. And he asked her what the best thing about Thanksgiving was and she told him that all of her kids were under the same roof and they all got along. This was the first time we siblings had been together in years. He asked if that was unusual that we all got along. She told him that she didn’t care if we were faking it, it just proved we could do it and she had such a devilish light in her eye when she said that.

Make no mistake, my mom was a dangerously charming woman. She had a way of getting to you that she was completely unaware of. It always surprised her that people liked her. And if they did, that meant they were getting too close and she would have to find somewhere new to go. The cycle would repeat itself. I miss her.

I hear Eliza’s voice in my head saying “Pull yourself together” in her very English proper way. I think that is my all time favorite thing she says. But I think today that’s a little beyond me and I am just going to give in to the sadness.


Ironically. right now I am in the midst of all my devices being in a state of dysfunction. For all the years I spent working in tech support, both for a paycheck and to keep my loved ones from going nuts, I am down to one complete working laptop. I won’t bore you with all of the details. Instead I will summarize that between running a preview of a new operating system, having another laptop be returned from the factory repair center with a reformatted hard drive with the bonus addition of spyware and a tablet that suddenly doesn’t want to connect wirelessly, it has been an annoying week. My phone still works well but it doesn’t lend itself to long bursts of typing like a blog post.

Last night, I had a super dinner at my favorite Indonesian restaurant. I try to limit myself to going there only with other people so it remains exceptional. Jo and Pieter came into the city and Marianne and Joris made the lengthy trek (12 minutes by tram) from their postcode to mine. It was a great evening, complete with food that just hits you in the right spot of your soul and I spent a lot of time listening. Sometimes my brain gets overstimulated from Dutch and I go into listen only mode. Which is a great place to be when you are among friends.

Since my second living room was packed full of a private party of finance consultants (not somewhere I want to be in the middle of) we headed back here after dinner and Henry and George enjoyed being the center of attention. Even Lientje came out into the living room to scope out the situation which was very brave of her. Evenings like last night remind me why gezelligheid is so important and that it something that I couldn’t replicate in the US, even when I tried. I hope we will do it again before too long – since this evening took almost 8 months to happen between schedule juggling and whatnot!

We spent a long time in the park today with the mutilated Cuzzie balls that I brought back for the boys. They don’t like to play catch with the regular balls that come with the Chuck-it. Luckily, once they chew the feet off the Cuzzie, it fits very well in the Chuck-it. George carried the ball home in his mouth with Henry running along behind him in case he dropped it.

I am still hoping for a series of strong freezes this winter so I can skate on the canals. Apparently the water in the Amsterdam canals is fairly warm (not bathtub temperature) but well above 32 so it takes a very cold winter for them to freeze over.

I am cooking the sweet potatoes for the boys dinner while typing this post. They are snoring away since there is nothing interesting happening in the kitchen.

Our old man, Moortje, goes back to the vet on Tuesday. Hopefully, with all the food he has been eating, he won’t have lost any more weight.

Hard to believe that Thursday will be Thanksgiving in the US. They don’t do that here but the American Book Center is holding a Thanksgiving bluegrass performance with turkey. My banjo teacher’s band is performing there. I might go.

Anyway, aside from the technical difficulties which I hope to solve in the coming week, things are okay here.

New York

Sitting here in Terminal 4 at JFK waiting for my flight. I got to the airport a little after 1pm. In part because I couldn’t convince the hotel to let me check out any later than noon and because I needed some peace and quiet and the airport was a good option at that point. When I flew in on Tuesday and took the Air Train to the subway, I passed by Terminal 7 where I used to work. Taking the long train ride was very amusing. Amusing in a “what the hell was I thinking doing this every day?” sort of way. The trains haven’t changed, they are still old and rickety and have unusual smells in them. The people riding them are still avoiding eye contact or if they are making eye contact, it might not be the type you want. You still can barely understand the conductor’s announcement of which station is next. To further enhance the fantasy land experience, they have made the subway maps even smaller and there’s only one per car if you are lucky.

I used the subway to get around quite a bit over the past couple of days but this morning, I had had enough. I went by foot power instead to round up the tortillas, the pumpkin purée for Joanne, the Field Roast Hazelnut en Croute holiday roast and did I mention tortillas? If anyone else was hoping to score organic traditional tortillas today, they are out of luck. Sorry about that but Henry and George appreciate your understanding!

I saw my dad last night for dinner. Bravely, he tried a vegan restaurant. Blossom on Carmine which was very good. Well, it was for me. For him, I think it was a little unnerving to not see any recognizable protein. We had an interesting discussion. I have to say that learning to talk to R certainly gave me some skills for talking to my dad. And the exposure to Dutch directness over the past year has also helped. We continued our conversation in the hotel bar which sounds much wilder than it was. Considering we ate dinner at 530, by 830, we were leaving the bar.

Something I noticed was at the restaurant, you experience again the American phenomenon of needing to turn the tables over as fast as possible because it is a tip dependent industry. Whereas in Amsterdam, we could have sat for hours at the same table and it wouldn’t have been an issue because tipping to pay your employees’ salary is not the model for restaurant owners. It makes a big difference in hospitality.

We met again this morning at 6 for breakfast before he was off to another meeting and the train. The thing that I appreciate about my dad is that we can have conversations about big topics like politics and the economy, etc. He is sharp so it is a spirited conversation. This morning we were debating the corruption of the Constitution because of the religious influence in what is essentially a two party system. At 6 AM, this was awesome! The other people in the breakfast room were thinking that it was a bit much at such an early hour. They wanted to eat their sausage and eggs in peace. Well, sometimes you have to start the day with a little hot sauce. Euthanasia and death with dignity is a big issue right now and the usual idiots are declaring they will veto any measures, etc. It isn’t about you, Mr/Ms Politician. It is about a person’s sovereignty and dignity and their RIGHT to choose when they are done living.

Anyway, it is interesting to note that despite everything else, both of my parents were definitely nonconformist in their attitudes. I suppose there is no way I could have turned out any different. 😉

I will be glad to go home. I hear the pets have been reasonably well behaved. Of course, the real test will come when I get home and ask their sitter if she is ever willing to come back. Otherwise, we’ll have to look into someone like Nanny McPhee!

You know, there are a lot of people walking around in here talking like they are very important into their phones. I guess some of that must be in the tap water 😉

Not quite finished it seems

with travelling for the year. I’m off to New York next week. That is a city that I thought I had seen the last of as I was driving the rented black Chevy Surburban (that would end up going into Limp Home mode somewhere in South Dakota) filled with a small black cat, Lawyerella and moving boxes out of the city and back home to Seattle. I haven’t been back to New York since and I haven’t wanted to. For me, all the charm of the city disappeared once I actually lived there. To be fair to New York, there were also other factors in play that made it an incredibly stressful time.

The highlights of my New York living experience include: spotting the inspiration that would lead to the arrival of Denzel the wonder dachshund, the renaming of the street outside CBGB’s to Joey Ramone Place, the culinary experiments that allowed me to have my lunch made almost every day, seeing Boy George not playing himself on Broadway in the production of “Taboo” and escaping the city with Lawyerella every possible chance.

I have not even entertained the idea of going back as a tourist. I think after 10 years, I should be able to face it now without any second hand trauma. And after all, someone has to get the boys their next 3 month supply of tortillas.

Moortje has lost a little more weight which is troublesome. However, his red blood count is climbing and he is definitely running around like he used to. He has also gone back to biting you if you pet him too long. That wasn’t really a behavior I had missed truthfully. He doesn’t break the skin but he does dent it pretty well. We go back to the vet in two weeks to check his weight again and if that is up, he gets his vaccinations. He very much dislikes riding in his carrier in the bike basket. I can’t say I blame him because for an indoor cat that must suddenly be a massive amount of noise and over stimulation.

It has been a long week. Tomorrow will be a bit of a slog as well. I made a big pan of boerenkool tonight to eat this weekend. That translates to farmers cabbage. Which is really kale, with potatoes and Field Roast sausages, spelt milk and vegan margarine all mixed together. And then you let it sit for a day before you reheat it and eat it. It is definitely cold weather food. This time I experimented with adding a spice mix called Vadovan to it. Basically curry crossed with pepper crossed with herbs d’Provence. I think the label described it as the French interpretation of curry. I tried after I mixed it all together. It is unusual but good.

It is 6 degrees out. That’s about 42. When we go on our walk tonight, the boys will get their jackets. So not George’s favorite thing! But I can’t stand to watch them shiver while they are lifting their legs and writing their p-email!


No, I am not a day late. If you celebrate Halloween in the Netherlands, you are doing it tonight. I am not sure why but that’s how it is. It is mostly celebrated by people who are not Dutch or who are going to the big electronica dance events tonight. Which I am joyfully NOT partaking of.

I do miss pumpkin carving though. In case I come across a pumpkin, I have my carving kit in the garden shed.

Today was so beautiful with clear skies and about 65 degrees. I walked everywhere today instead of taking my bike because I wanted to enjoy the weather and move at my own speed instead of that of surrounding traffic. This afternoon, we took a long walk in the park. It was fun to watch them run and chase each other. When Henry moves into run mode he holds his tail like a handle of a pitcher. I have no idea how he does this, I think it is like some kind of propeller to keep him stable. Of course, George chases after him and tends to grab Henry by one of his ham hocks and pulls him around and down to the ground. This exhibition also comes complete with a soundtrack of ferocious barks and growls.

Over the past few months, I have been slowly collecting a group of people that I know. It is a good representation of ages and lifestyles. It allows me to be social and to dispense advice and feel useful without feeling the need to solve everyone’s problems or rescue anyone. It also allows me to improve my Dutch, learn all kinds of useful swear words in other languages and generally get exposed to more than my fair share of culture. Last night, as I was searching on the internet radio service for some music to play, someone said to me (in Dutch) “Please don’t put any more of your shitty American music on”. Without missing a breath, I replied “Not to worry, this is the Rolling Stones, they are English”. I nearly fell of my chair with laughter for two reasons. The first is that this person is one of the shyest people in this little group and if I want to have a conversation with him, I always have to do it by asking direct questions. So for him to let something like that fly, was really a big step out of his comfort zone. The second reason why it was so funny is that I have been gradually trying to introduce good music to them – think the classics like The Clash, The Ramones, Tom Jones, Billie Holiday, etc. And they listen to a whole lot of electronic music and classics like (translated from the Dutch) “I feel sexy when I dance”.

Next month, I have arranged for all of us to meet for dinner. It will a very unusual mix at the table. Luckily, we will be going for Indonesian so that is food that lends itself well to communal eating and conversation. It will also be interesting to see what it is like when no one is working while interacting, just socializing.

Going back to watching “The Haunted Mansion”. It was always my favorite ride at Disneyland! I think I probably haven’t outgrown that either 😉