More fun with meat!

It is a lovely Saturday afternoon where I am equally jazzed about the perfect heating system in the apartment (10ft. radiators on either side of the 18ft. windows, as well as radiators almost everywhere else you can think of, including directly below the towel bar in the bathroom, AND heating elements under the floors), Richard Swift's double album "The Novelist" and "Walking Without Effort," and my serendipitous lunch/dinner.

After wandering around town on my bike, really enjoying the late autumn feel of things (the bitter smell of fallen leaves, cold wind, and the anticipation of wearing tights and gloves and big coats), I went to Dirk (pronounced dairck) and bought the ingredients for the quintessential autumn meal: sauerkraut, sausage and brussel sprouts. The sauerkraut and sprouts were no problem to find, but the sausage posed a problem. When one is dealing with tube meats, it is difficult to decide what to buy under the best of circumstances, but when the meats contained within those tubes is labeled in a language that bares no resemblance to Hillshire Farms, it becomes nothing but blind guesswork. Apparently I learned nothing from my unfortunate sausage experience in Spain, where I thought I was buying a salami-type thing to go with the (e)cheese, olives, and bread we were having for a snack, but instead bought raw sausage. (LeeAnne nicely reminded me that only buying sausage found outside the refrigerated meat case might prevent this from happening again.) Instead of remembering that advice, I went ahead and bought something in a tube that I thought resembled American-style-German sausage. Actually, that is a lie. I saw some sausage that looked EXACTLY like the sausage I remember. It was in the "wurst" section of the supermarket and would have been just the same as anything available at Fred Meyer. Did I put down the three links I had bought in the meat section? No. I did not.

Long story short...I cut it up (it was indeed raw and also very soft) and put it in the pan, where it promptly turned brown. It wasn't until I started singing, "Have it your way," that I realized I had bought ground beef and not sausage at all. So instead of throwing in the sauerkraut, I threw in some canned mushrooms, tomato sauce, zucchini and potato slices. It is delicious, and now I can look forward to my German dinner later in the week, especially since I now know that not all tube meats are created equal.


corner turning and other such things

Ever since LeeAnne left, I have felt much more comfortable here. I found a running route and have enjoyed the autumn from the paths in Vondelpark and surrounding areas, which has helped tremendously. They roll out Christmas out very early here and have strung lights up over the streets, as well as put out holiday chocolate (featuring Sinterklaas and Black Peter - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinterklaas) and decorations. There was a festival called "Rocket Cinema" where djs from all over the world were asked to score old movies and spin the music live at venues throughout the city. I went to the festival closing where the movie "Tampopo" was shown and a Japanese dinner was served simultaneously. It was a great event - perfectly executed and very cool. It seems that there is something very unique happening every weekend and all it takes is a bit of effort to get out. Dutch class is going well. I really like our teacher and leave class grinning like a fool every week. It makes a difference to learn a bit of the language, as it helps me feel like I am becoming part of things. I go to New York next week for four days, which will be great. Being back in the US, even for a bit, will be interesting.

And that is all. There isn't anything too dramatic to tell. I am knitting like a crazy person, as usual for this time of year. And my dinner tonight was fabulous: green pepper pate, great bread, fresh green beans and delicious wine. Love being in Europe!


Donde esta the week?

Just like that, we are back in Amsterdam. We are we for only a few hours more, as LeeAnne has to go home this morning. It has been such a fun ten days with her, and I feel as if I have been on holiday for about a month. To have a sister as a best friend is perhaps the greatest thing ever.

Also great: Sevilla. Tapas. Walking back from dinner at midnight, in October, in short sleeves and not being cold. Palm trees. The Alcazar Palace and gardens. Gothic, gothic, gothic! Unexpected bull rings. Signs with chefs on them. Signs with three-dimensional shoes on them. Charming alleyways. Jasmine and other mysterious nighttime flower smells. A man almost falling down because he tripped while admiring you. Gelato. Salmorejo. Olivos. Cute, but raw, sausage. Jamon con hoofs on handy slicing stands. Dusty splendor. Spanish women swarming the gypsy fan seller and buying up the stock. Ladies who dress. Ladies who reminded us of our aunties. Small boys in short pants. Buying caramel-based snacks in the park on Sunday. Fried fish. Fried mushrooms. Fried squid with the eyeballs. Patatas bravas. Cute old men smoking wee cigars (with random facial hairs) who talk you up. Frightening cherubs. Close ups on the tile. Siesta. Relics with real bones. Catholic overabundance. Learning to use our camera features. Dusty feet. Vast hand gestures.

Perhaps the best vacation I have ever had. More photos to come...


Sissies in Spain

The day began with a 4:45am cab pick up with a driver in too much makeup switching the station the minute she saw that I was enjoying, “Pass the Dutchie” on the radio. Adios grumpy Holland. Hello cheerful Spain.

Beautiful, warm sun and palm trees outside the airport made me wonder if I had landed in a mid-March trip to LA from 10 years back, but the Spanish on the radio quickly reminded me that I was is Catalonia, not East County. I managed to piece together the general theme of the talk-radio show that the cab driver was listening to (suffice it to say, los Estados Unidos are not popular), which was cool. It seems like my two weeks of Dutch class has actually caused me to remember more French and Spanish, though LeeAnne noticed that I now say “good” with a long oo, like “cool.”

We passed two Startbucks on the way to the hostel. I nearly clawed my way out of the cab. Four months without a Chai Tea Latte!

Once we dropped our bags off, we started wandering around Barrio Gotic. The photos will say it better than I could. Amazingly cool old apartment buildings with iron railings and peeling paint on the shutters. There are little shops or bars/cafes with old men hanging out inside on the ground floors and a general feeling that there could be treasure around every corner. So it’s like the world’s best estate sale, only without the smell of pee and the general creepiness of digging through a dead person’s belongings.

We went to the Contemporary Art Museum, which was quite amazing. The building was kick ass and the collections were, from what we understand, great. Neither LeeAnne nor myself are connoisseurs of the contemporary art, so we wouldn’t necessarily know what was what. But it definitely had it’s moments and made me appreciate living in a world where so much randomness not only exists, but is put on walls in places that charge admission. I felt a wee bit of kinship with some of the artists – living out on the skinny branches or seeing humor in things that no one finds funny – it made me happy.

And speaking of funny. When we went walking through the Barrio Gotic on Wednesday night, we came across the remains of the Roman battlements shining in the moonlight (shut it. They were shining.), both LeeAnne and I cracked up when I said, “This doth represent a wall.” Does anyone else find that funny? Did anyone else’s family have a collective joke based on a line from “Midsummer Night’s Dream?” No? See. We are freaks. Freaks!!

Gaudi. Amazing. We went to the Casa Mila around 7 and were shuttled onto the roof quite quickly because that is what closes first. We arrived in time to see the sun go down and a storm roll in. Incredible light on incredible structures. We kept saying, “This is so cool. This is so cool.” Over and over. Except LeeAnne thought I was saying, “This is so good,” because of my new Dutch accent.


Total sissy domination. Part one.

My sister arrived yesterday to great fanfare and a very large sign. Our reuniting caused many smiles among the others at the airport. Yes. I finally made Dutch people smile. Miracles never cease. We hit the ground walking as soon as she got to the apartment, showered off the gross airplane air and changed clothes. LeeAnne, what was your first impression of my apartment? "Tall windows and very peaceful," she says. Thanks for that.

We went on a canal boat cruise in the late afternoon, which is something I hadn't done yet, and it was so worth it! We sat outside and took in the different views of the city. I hadn't appreciated how different the canal houses are and how interesting the architecture is until I saw it from that low angle. We saw a private boat with a wedding reception on board, with the bride and groom dancing to the trumpet played by an old guy in his own small row boat sailing alongside the big one. It was charming and weird -- just like the crazy city I call home.

After the cruise we walked around the center and over to the red light district. Eew. That is all I can say about that. Just icky. We wound up walking all the way back to de Pijp and getting take-away Idonesian food from a place around the corner from my house. We were looking at the menu and (great) review in the window when a man who was just leaving started talking to us about how great the food is and where we are from and happiness and joy, blah, blah, blah. It was incredible. My sister gets the Dutch to talk within five hours of arrival. She says, "I have a smiley face." So unfair... The food was amazing and I was proud that we ordered off of photos of food on the wall without not really knowing what it was we were eating.

We got up early this morning at took the ferry to the monthly flea market in North Amsterdam. We actually took two ferries, but the first one was wrong, so it doesn't count. The market was great -- huge and a little dingy. I think it must of been what Expo was like before it got all fancy. I brought home a few more vases (naturally) and some other ceramics of the mid-century persuasion. LeeAnne bought a bowl covered with Dutch ration stamps from the Nazi occupation of 1940 - 1945. The back has a inscription that says something like, "There was no bread. The Germans starved us." It is so cool and will be a good history lesson for JJ and Annie. What other kids get to learn about WWII through a bowl their mom bought in Amsterdam? And there were some small pancakes involved as well.

After the market, we went back to town and went to lunch at Mel's house with Peter, Guy and Martin. As usual, it was amazing. The conversation was interesting a challenging and the company was sterling. We got home about 8:30 and LeeAnne planned her route for tomorrow. She is now asleep on her cot while a thunder and lightning storm rages outside. I don't ever want her to leave. It is so easy having her here in my life. We laugh and talk and joke around just like the best friends that we are.