Monthly Archives: April 2012

Queen’s Day (Or: The Hague looks… crowded)

Obviously I am on the wrong side of the ocean to be showing you pictures of Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), but Marco took some pictures to show me what it is like. I won’t go into detail, except to say that it is the celebration of Queen Beatrix. And it’s a day where everyone loves to wear orange (well, moreso the tourists). You can read an offiical publication for the Hague’s celebrations at the website, When Marco sent me that link, he spent a bit of time muttering about why they were mentioning Chinatown, since it is only a street and a half, of which only half of the shops are actually Chinese!

One of the more interesting things for me is the vrijmarkt, or free market, where anyone can sell their wares. Here are some of the pictures Marco took:

Oranje! Go books! (ik wil het oranje boek)

Marco was also kind enough to give a short description of his thoughts about the holiday:

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Categories: Culture, Holidays, The Hague | 6 Comments

Kroepoek (Or: It’s made from what…?!)

Kroepoek is one of the random snacks that I had while I was over in the Netherlands. I even brought a bag back on the last trip. Like most snacks, it boasts that it is made with zonnebloemolie (sunflower oil).

But its main ingredients are tapioca flour and… ground shrimp. But it is delicious (especially in the various flavors… this one being a more spicy flavor.)

Kroepoek, originally an Asian snack

It’s traditionally an Asian snack from Indonesia and other countries. Since the Netherlands had a foothold in this country for a long time, they took some of the Indonesian culture back to their home country.

I first had kroepoek at Marco’s mother’s house. I then asked Marco what the heck it was, and he graciously got me more at Albert Heijn. It’s definitely one of the snacks I look forward to having again.

Categories: Culture, Food | 8 Comments

Eye exam (Or: I bring you peace!)

I was talking to Marco in emails about my eye exam which I finished up today (the majority was last Saturday, but they had to check that my contacts were working correctly). He said that when I was telling him about getting my eyes dilated, he couldn’t help but think of the Simpsons episode where Mr Burns is mistaken for being an alien after he gets a vocal cord scraping, an eye dilation, and turns green due to all of the nuclear waste in Springfield.

(Thanks to various birthday and Christmas gifts over the years, I now have an up-to-date Simpsons collection. Season 1 – 14 and season 20. It’s the only real DVD series I collect. And thanks to Roger for sorting them into proper order a few weeks ago because he couldn’t take it anymore. Ha.)

As mentioned, last Saturday I went to the Palisades mall for an eye exam, new eyeglasses and a new contact lens prescription. Marco mentioned how over in Europe you usually visit an optician (who gives you your eyeglasses or contact lens prescription), but they are not trained like an optometrist (who also diagnoses and treats various eye diseases). Yet over here it is common to see an optometrist who does a pretty thorough check of your eyes every few years while they measure you for your new prescription.

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Categories: Culture, News | 3 Comments

Flybys (Or: Opps…missed the space shuttle!)

I was not able to get outside to see it, but the space shuttle Enterprise flew past our college today (and also apparently circled around the campus) before continuing back to Manhattan. The flight path of the jet was from Virginia, past Manhattan up the Hudson river to Tappan Zee bridge, and back south to the Statue of Liberty. It then did a large circle over northeast New Jersey, flew over New York City for an hour, and then headed to JFK airport.

You can see more pictures at this link (highly recommended – large, beautiful photographs and some background history for the space shuttle).

A picture of the flyby over the campus. Circled - one of the T-38 airplanes which accompanied the jet and space shuttle on its journey

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Dutch tea (Or: A touch of orange)

When Marco’s mother was planning to visit my place last summer, I quickly found that I needed to buy a coffee maker. I usually only drink coffee about twice a year (at the biannual work conferences in January and August), so I definitely didn’t have a coffee maker on hand. But apparently she is the type that cannot function without it…

So a coffee maker was soon purchased.

For a while after she left, I never used it. And then we had a freak snowstorm around Halloween last year, in which I lost power and heat for four days. It was surprisingly cold for not-quite-November. Even after the power returned, I was chilled for weeks after. I found that I started drinking coffee after that. When I drink coffee it’s always black. (Koffie after dinner seems to be a Dutch tradition. Marco had the task of preparing coffee for everyone who visited his place for his birthday in 2010. I was quite amused.)

Dutch tea from Pickwick

Eventually in January or so I came down with my annual (or biannual) cold — I don’t get sick much. So I switched from coffee to tea and started digging deeper into the tea collection that a friend had sent me from Stash Tea. I quickly found that my favorite hot tea was orange. And then earlier this month when I visited Chinatown in NYC, we stopped at Ten Ren for Chinese tea. I haven’t tried those flavors yet. I just remember ginger tea and oolong tea.

And finally, for my birthday, Roger and Marco got me the Dutch blend shown above from Pickwick tea. I didn’t realize that way back when, the Dutch were the first to bring tea into Europe through the East India Company. The above tea from Pickwick is what that company considers a “good representation of the country” – the orange is a nod to the house of Orange-Nassau. Apparently it was developed partially with opinions of Hyves users (Hyvers being the Dutch equivalent of Facebook).

I think I will make another cup tonight…

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Unexpected things (Or: Maybe Letterman likes them)

While running to catch the train home a few weeks ago, Marco spotted an unexpected sight: a Steak’n’Shake restaurant. I grew up with those in the midwest, but I didn’t realize there were any on the east coast. And right next to the Late Show with David Letterman, of all things!

But we couldn’t stay and take an extended peek since we were trying to catch the train. Thankfully we did manage to make it in time. Marco even had time to run into the Toys’ R Us to take a few pictures of their Avengers display (which I believe came out today in the Netherlands).

Steak-n-shake restaurant next to David Letterman's studio

Of course since it is on some prized ground, it has to be called ‘Signature’ and have lots of neon lights. I don’t think I ever had a steak burger while at one of their restaurants — just the chicken fingers and fries meal. And the french fries are the very thin type. Dessert was always a chocolate malt for me. Usually the wait for those is pretty long, because everyone orders them!

Yum. A little bit of home, there.


Categories: Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Connections (Or: Pretzels and home)

[Edited to add: My dad sent me an email saying that I should mention that today is the birthday of William the Silent (April 24, 1533 – July 10, 1584). My parents are definitely brushing up on their Dutch history!]

WARNING: Today’s post is going to be random. The theme is pretzels.

Today when I was on MSN, Marco said he had emailed me a picture. Here is the picture that he sent me:

a bag of pretzels in the Netherlands

The reason that he sent me this picture was because I was always disappointed to not find pretzels at the Albert Heijn we usually frequent – though I probably just missed them. He got these recently from the Hoogvliet supermarket. This got me thinking of my last trip to the Netherlands last summer.

During that summer we planned two trips. One in June for about 10 days, where he and his mom would come visit (her first time in New York City since the ’70s). We also planned for me to come to the Netherlands the last week of July and the first week of August. I was able to get all three weeks off successfully, but his employer asked him to work that week in July and only take the first week of August off.

One of days that he was at work, his mom and I went to the town he worked at by tram and hung out for the afternoon waiting for him to get out of work. We did some clothes and shoes shopping, and had lunch at Hema. One of the last things we did was visit Hoogvliet for some sliced turkey to bring home.

Thus, the Hoogvliet connection reminded me of that same week Marco had off from work. Because that is when I truly fell in love with the Hague – when I suddenly had time to do some exploring on my own and I realized it would be possible to live there. Of course I was quite reluctant to go anywhere without Marco’s phone, since it had Google Maps. Harder to get lost that way! (He used his work Blackberry that week.)

So I guess one could say I am not sure if it would have unfolded the same way if we hadn’t planned both trips. Otherwise he might have been able to to take both weeks off while I was there in the Netherlands and I wouldn’t have explored part of the Hague myself. So in a long winded way, the bag of pretzels reminds me of my future home.

See what I did there? Now the blog title makes sense!

Categories: Food, Marco&Niki | Leave a comment

Waiting patiently (Or: A memorable New York bench)

July 2009 was a great time for many reasons. Marco had a trip scheduled to come see me, planned at least 3-4 months in advance. It was a bit of an odd trip to plan, since by July I had graduated from my Masters program and was trying to find work. The cutoff for going back home would have been the end of August – I was very close to running out of money. So he had to make sure that he came before that point.

Just before he arrived, I was granted a job interview with the current library that I work at. He arrived a few days ahead of this interview (scheduled for Thursday, July 2). Of course I couldn’t really relax until the interview was to take place, so the first few days were a bit tense. I knew I just had to get past it, since we were planning on going into New York City for the July 4 fireworks – that was a blast, by the way!

There was a lot of little obstacles to overcome the day of the interview. First off, I should have brought my tennis shoes, since the dress shoes painfully dug into my skin. I of course realized this halfway to the train station, so Marco raced back to get my tennis shoes… we missed that train, though we deliberately chose an early train anyway. For his troubles he got my admiration and a huge blister on his foot.

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Categories: Marco&Niki | 3 Comments

Unexpected surprises (Or: Welcome to Holland)

In an earlier post, I detailed the day I arrived in the Netherlands for the first time. But there was one surprise waiting for me that I have not mentioned yet – in fact, it was even a surprise to Marco.

Sign within Marco’s apartment (from his Mom)

It’s about a ten minute walk from the train station to Marco’s place. When we opened his front door, we were greeted with the image shown above on one of the internal doors in Marco’s place. Unbeknownst to Marco, his mom had used her key to get into his place — not that rare of an occurrence when she needs to drop off stuff, though. She had left some stuff taped up on the door as well as a teddy bear on the bed in his bedroom.

As you can see, she hits on a lot of main points. You have the typical Delftware Dutch shoes, the typical Delftware Dutch couple kissing, a red-white-and-blue lei to represent the country’s colors, and even an orange lei to represent the color Dutch are typically known for, especially within sports.

And the blue roses, well… she knows I like blue roses. That is a reference to Tennessee Williams’ play “The Glass Menagerie“, where the main character’s nickname is “Blue Roses”.

All and all, a very sweet and unexpected thing on my first trip.

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Popocatepetl restaurant (Or: Finger lickin’ good)

Something I have found interesting about my three trips to the Netherlands is how many non-Dutch restaurants there are out there. Which makes sense, since there are so many immigrants in the country.

One of the restaurants we visited (two or three times?) was Popocatepetl in the Hague, a Mexican restaurant. I have no idea how to pronounce that, so I just call it Popo (it’s their nickname; even the website is You can even take a peek at the menu.

A small card from the Popocatepetl restaurant

The last time I was there I had the ribs. This is definitely an out of character choice for me since I hate getting messy. But it was really, really good. Of course I knew Marco was probably thinking I wasn’t tearing enough meat off the bone, but hey.

Let me tell you – I used every square millimeter of the napkin they gave me, flipping over, inside out, and more. You also get a small dish of water to clean your fingers with.

I think dessert was just a cup of coffee (not sure if I got any of the special flavors they offer), but that was also good. That is one thing I like about the Dutch – the tendency to drink coffee after dinner. Lately I’ve been on a tea kick – even buying tea in a Chinatown shop a few weeks ago. I still need to sample those!

Categories: Food | Tags: | 1 Comment

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