Tuesday, November 30

Go away, damn it!

I've been sick now for 18 days. I finally went to the doctor yesterday and though Dutch doctors are notorious for not prescribing antibiotics (something that I am really happy about actually, I think those things mess with your system in bad ways), the doctor brought it up before I did. Her guess was sinus infection and based on the way the sinuses in my forehead feel (like they're pushing out from the inside), I'll agree. Today was day 2 of the meds and I can't say I'm feeling on the mend. Hopefully going to bed now, at 8:30, I'll wake up feeling like I have the energy to take a shower. Just couldn't manage it today.

But I did start in on a new show... Nathan Fillion (Mal from my favorite show Firefly) is in a new series called Castle. Apparently it's on its (notice the correct use of it's and its) 3rd season already. And it's Law and Order minus the boring court parts plus funny. I'm really enjoying it.

Oh, and in the meantime, I've also been down to Munich for the German christmas markets. When my energy returns, I'll post photos. It was lovely. Even if I did feel like doodoo the whole time.

Saturday, November 20

Dutch Christmas

Yesterday Sinterklaas (also known as Sint Nicolaas or just Sint) and his helpers, the Zwarte Piet (black Pete), arrived into Ouderkerk via boat. Why did they come by boat? Well, because he's coming up from Spain (duh). And why are his helpers black? Well, some would say it's the soot from coming down the chimney (but then why isn't Sint black as well), some will say it's because they were originally Moors, I wonder if it has anything to do with the Dutch history of colonization... Whatever the reason, this is happening all over Holland.

And what exactly is happening, you may be thinking? Well, Sint and his helpers are arriving all over the Netherlands on different days of course because they have to go from location to location. And they are met with parades, families singing songs and children dressed as Sint and Piets - these completely in black face (I'm not kidding) (ever see the book Little Black Sambo) (I find it offensive, the Dutch find it offensive that I find it offensive).

I've digressed, they've arrived so that they can check to see who's been naughty (in which case you might get stuffed into a sack where Sint or Piet will pretend to kick you) or nice until present delivery day - December 5th. All this checking time, roughly 3 weeks, you leave your shoes by the fire (radiator) in the hopes of finding treats in the morning. Mmm, candy in my shoe, yummy.

David Sedaris does a great job of describing this bizarre holiday in his reading "6 to 8 Black Men." You can read the essay here on Esquire or listen to it via YouTube - this is video 1 of 3 and you don't really need to look at the video. He starts talking about Christmas at 3:38 and then Netherlands specifically around 4:30:

First visitor!

One of my cooking friends who I first met through the CookLight (magazine) bulletin board back in 2000 and then met in real life in 2001 just came out from Portland for a visit.

For those of you who've been to Portland, she brought with her Stumptown coffee and VooDoo doughnuts. They make a bar doughnut with maple glaze topped with bacon. Yeah, it is as decadent as it sounds. Go look at their menu, it'll make you want to go to Portland.

She also discovered Koan Float (careful, the website has really annoying music). Remember those sensory deprivation chambers of the 1970s? Being barely born, I, of course, don't, but sure I've heard of them. Well, that's what Koan offers you. A chance to float around in your own little pod of very, very salty water. Amanda landed (11 hour flight), dropped off her luggage and then headed straight into the city to go float. She says it was an awesome way to start her trip. I returned with her a few days later to try it myself. And yep, it's hippy, err, cool and it is relaxing. We determined 45 minutes is the optimal float time. We tried for an hour and got bored at the end.

We had grandiose plans of heading off to Mastricht or Delft, but there is so much to do and see in Amsterdam, that we stayed. Of course, this is for the best because this is also when I started to really feel bad. But Amanda was a trouper, coming home early with me and twice (TWICE!) she cooked dinner for us.

So here are her tips:
1. No need to bring cycling gear. No one wears it, you'll look like a dork.
2. When Em tells you to get off the train at Spui don't panic because you feel like you've been on the train too long and get off 5 stops too early, it'll make you late for your float.
3. There are many good (unhealthy) Dutch snack foods, but it's hard to define a Dutch meal.
4. Bring a pair of low/no heeled boots. You'll want them for the weather, cobble stones and fashion.
5. Bring a warmer jacket than you'll think you'll need and some sweaters.
6. Bring some Emergen-C (that's just for me though)
7. Bring plenty of room in your suitcase because there is a lot of cute stuff here.

Thursday, November 18

What I've been up to

Man, it's been a while since I posted. In the meantime, I've gone to Moscow and back for October break. Here's my Amsterdam friend (yes, just a friend) Ian at the Kremlin


Here he is reflected in some really creepy record covers at Garage - a pretty cool modern art museum in an old bus depot:


They've removed the scaffolding from the facade of the Bolshoi Theater.
Bolshoi Theater
It's still not open, but we did go see the Bolshoi ballet perform, something I never did while living there. It was amazing, but as always, a bit too long with the excessive number of pas de deux. We saw Sleeping Beauty and some how there were 4 extra couples who danced - Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, Puss in Boots and um, someone, Cinderella and her Prince and another couple that I can't remember. Bizarre and completely unnecessary.

I also got the chance to go inside a Dutch green house:
Inside a Dutch Green House

So many plants, and all machine operated. You would not believe.

I've been home sick the past two days and have been knitting like crazy - love it when these spurts happen. Hoping to finish a birthday set for my mom and get it shipped off next week. Oh and grades are due next week. I hate this time of year.

Tuesday, November 2

Sumo Background

I've switched the background of my gmail account to be sumo and this image popped up today. I ~love~ it. Whoever designed this background makes me laugh on a daily basis.