Author Archives: Niki

About Niki

I run the blog http://www.lifeinthehague.com

Waiting for your tram? (Or: Play the HTM piano)

Imagine my surprise when Marco and I went down to the Spui tram stop (which is underground) and saw a piano available for playing.

Holiday piano from HTM

The piano was offered through HTM, the public transportation service of The Hague. Pretty neat idea! Read more here (in Dutch).

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Debt free (Or: Student loans paid off)

Woohoo! It took nine and a half years but my student loans are now paid off.

Student loans paid off

As a present I am treating myself to an iPad Air 2. My first tablet ever. :)

We’re off to Chicago tomorrow, visiting family for the holidays.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Back again (Or: Christmas tree in The Hague)

Marco and I were walking through the Passage yesterday and noticed that the Christmas tree was back again this year. This is sort of a surprise because when Apple moved into the spot a few years ago, they stated in their contract that the Christmas tree (which had been there for years) was no longer allowed. The first and second years the Christmas tree did appear because the Apple store wasn’t open yet. However, the Apple store opened over the summer, so no more Christmas tree, right?

Wrong!

Christmas tree by the Apple store, The Hague

 

You can see the Apple store behind the tree.

Happy holidays!

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Party time (Or: Christmas trivia)

Today was a holiday party for work. It was held at Restaurant Pavlov in The Hague. That place is a lot bigger than it looks from the outside! The food included things such as cinnamon rolls (that one was new for me, but it was tasty), salmon wraps, wraps with goat’s cheese, pears soaked in cinnamon sauce, pumpkin soup and more.

We also held a round of trivia, including such questions as:

How many desserts are there during a traditional French Christmas dinner? 13 (it represents Jesus and the 12 apostles, according to Wikipedia).

Which country gives London the Trafalgar Square Christmas treeNorway.

In which country is the Poinsettia plant commonly found? Mexico.

In America there is a Christmas event called “Running of the Santas”. What type of event is this? A bar crawl (visiting many bars to drink).

How do you say “Merry Christmas” in Dutch? Prettige feestdagen (and other ways).

How many points/sides are in a snowflake? 6. (Read the scientific explanation.)

Whose story was used for A Nightmare before Christmas? Tim Burton’s.

Who wrote the score for The NutcrackerTchaikovsky.

All in all, a fun event.

Categories: Holidays, Working & Volunteering | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Tis the season (Or: Christmas tree by work)

Okay, so life has been busy lately. About 10 days to go before we leave for Chicago – and we have stuff to do every night. Hmmm… Though we might be able to sneak out to dinner on Thursday if we’re lucky.

Here is a lovely photo of the Christmas tree in my workplace’s lobby. It randomly appeared last week and actually got me to stop in my tracks since I wasn’t expecting it.

Christmas tree by work

It must be December in the Netherlands – it rains a lot these days, including pouring rain a few hours ago. Hmm. And that in comparison to Chicago next week – it’s been a good two years since I’ve seen snow. I think I miss it. Maybe…

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New purchase (Or: Slow cooker acquired)

Marco surprised me a few days ago with a box, stating that it was from Sinterklaas (the corner of it was even in my shoe, as Dutch tradition dictates!). It turned out to be a slow cooker, a device commonly used to cook food slowly while you’re at work or otherwise not around. It needs to cook for at least six hours, ideally 8 or more.

Here was our first meal using the cooker:

beef stew and bread

Beef stew with bread (grilled on a paini press). Not any bread – sweetened bread. That is the closest to Hawaiian rolls that I can find around here, with those being what I used to eat with my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The recipe we used can be found at allrecipes.com.

Oh – and it must be winter. My blog is snowing! (an effect that automatically happens during December each year).

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Opa Piet was here! (Or: Candy in my shoe)

As previously mentioned, the Sinterklaas holiday is fast approaching. Kids leave one of their shoes out, sometimes with a carrot in the shoe for Sinterklaas’ horse, and when they wake up in the morning there is candy (or sometimes a small, inexpensive gift) in the shoe.

This year in the Sinterklaas television program (which airs nightly at 6pm for 10 minutes), the character “Opa Piet” was introduced, or “grandpa Pete”. He is known for giving out wayyyy too much pepernoten (a type of candy), not just the strictly regulated 15 per shoe that most kids get. At least in this year’s storyline.

When we woke up we saw this…

Sinterklaas gifts in our shoes

In this case it is kruidnoten in my shoe – another type of Dutch candy. Of course, only Opa Piet would know that I am slightly against candy actually touching the floor. If you look carefully only a little bit of it is touching (the rest is on a blue plate) and there is even clear wrap done in my shoe so that the candy doesn’t touch. Yes, I am a bit picky…

Marco received a chocolate letter in his shoe. But traditionally kids receive the first letter of their first name – M for him. But since he received a different letter, that means it isn’t actually his – so he has to share it with me. Yay, dark chocolate!

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Exported root beer (Or: Random American brands)

A few days ago I was at the Albert Heijn looking at the rather small export section that they have (a few American or American-ish things, like yellow mustard and Skippy peanut butter, etc).  What always amuses me at Dutch stores is their tendency to use American-sounding brand names or packaging with American flags to label the product as AMERICAN PRODUCT BUY ME NOW.

This time I noticed the Stars and Stripes root beer, which does at least seem to be an American item, though I think they went with this brand versus the more popular and well-known root beer brands like A&W because the name was American sounding.

Stars & Stripes root beer at Albert Heijn

 

I’m actually not a big fan of root beer (maybe one can every 3 or 4 years?). Which is a shame, because a root beer float (root beer soda + vanilla ice cream) sounds delicious.

Categories: Everyday purchases, Food | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Random Dutch phrases (Or: B2-C1 course #6-#7)

Okay, so I missed the post for last week’s course! In actuality, it was just more fun to blog about Sinterklaas.

A few highlights from last week include the word hekkensluiter which literally means “gate closer” but translates more as the person who comes last (or brings up the rear, or lags behind). If you think about a group of people crossing through a gate, it is always the last person’s responsibility to close the gate behind them.

Another piece of grammar we learned last week was how adjectives which follow behind iets or niets (something or nothing) have an -s added to the word. But it has to come directly after iets or niets.

Er is niets leuks op televisie. There is nothing good on tv.
Ik wil iets bijzonders doen. I want to do something special.
Wil je iets lekkers bij de koffie? Misschien speculaastaart? Do you want something tasty with the coffee? Maybe speculaastaart?

Some fun phrases we learned in yesterday’s class include:

wachten tot Sint Juttemis = waiting forever. Another way to say waiting forever is wachten tot je een ons weegt, or waiting until you weigh an ounce. Impossible to do and still be alive.

Als je ergens mee zit = amusingly, Google translate says this is “if you sit on something”, but admittedly, it is not something to be translated literally. It means “if you have problems”. Type that phrase into Google and you will get a lot of self-help websites about depression and similar.

And here’s a random picture of Scheveningen to close off the blog post. Not the best quality in the world, but it will do.

Scheveningen November 2014

Notice the tree off to the left completely covered in white lights. On the right side you have the movie theatre, Pathé, with the yellow logo on the top of the building. The north sea is behind the tall buildings in the center.

And hey, I’ve now visited Scheveningen enough (and needed to look up tram schedules) that I can spell the city name without having to look it up… cool!

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Sinterklaas in Gouda (Or: Old and new)

Today is the arrival of Sinterklaas in Gouda, on national TV. The story began Tuesday with a nightly 10 minute news segment (Sinterklaasjournaal – Dutch link). The story this year was the following: the Pieten wanted to hang up a painting of the announcer, Dieuwertje Blok, in the steam boat that was bringing everyone to Gouda. They hung it up using nails and then water started to appear in the boat. In an effort to get to Gouda in time, all of the Pieten except for one left the boat, leaving Sinterklaas and the one Piet to do all of the preparations. (In the end it turns out the water was not from the nails but from an open faucet in the bathroom.)

Because all of the Pieten went missing, they asked the help of Opa Piet (Grandpa Piet – an older actor, Peter Faber, who apparently was a Piet some years ago) to train some new Pieten in time for the arrival today. This segment points to the rather heated discussions about racism since Pieten are usually called Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes) and use blackface, red lips, and golden earrings. Some of the newer Pieten that were trained were simply white or had soot on their face, since the modern story of how Pieten turned black was that they went down the chimneys.

Sinterklaasjournaal 2014 Opa Piet

Opa Piet in the middle (2014 Sinterklaasjournaal)

But anyway – the new Pieten were done with their training and Opa Piet was ready to go back to Spain to enjoy his retirement. Unfortunately he accidentally locked the Pieten in the factory and then forgot his suitcase when boarding the bus. Turns out he really didn’t want to go back to Spain and enjoy his retirement… But today, the mayor of Gouda was able to track down Opa Piet (who came back for his suitcase) to get the key for the factory to free the new Pieten. At the same time, there was a bit of issue with the steam boat – there was only one Piet left on the boat and he did not know the way to Gouda. Of course Sinterklaas was asleep. Today we found out that it was all planned, and Sinterklaas had put the boat on the right trajectory before going to bed. So Sinterklaas and the one Piet arrive (finally – there is a storyline delay every year) and meet up with the newly trained Pieten.

In the middle of the program, the older Pieten arrive with a row boat, including Paniek!!! Piet (emphasis mine – i.e. Panic Piet). Whenever he panics he shouts Paniek! Paniek! and spins around two or three times in distress. Opa Piet is also in Gouda, having successfully delayed his retirement to pass out Pepernoten to the kids. While parading through the city with the new Pieten, Sinterklaas meets the old Pieten who have returned and welcomes them back, but seems to think Opa Piet should retire and head back to Spain (he doesn’t know Opa Piet is still hanging around).

Paniek Piet Sinterklaasjournaal

Paniek Piet

The national show ends with Opa Piet hiding somewhere and the old Pieten leaving again with the steam boat (and more importantly to the kids, all of the gifts), because there was not enough room in the Piet house for the old and new Pieten. You’ll have to tune in tonight for more!

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