Author Archives: Niki

About Niki

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

Wow, they have that again! (Or: Albert Heijn stock levels)

Marco came home today with a surprise: our Albert Heijn has their spicy pasta sauce base in stock again!

The last time I saw this item was before the big coronavirus scare. Let’s see – that means it has been almost a month.

Check out the photo I took of Albert Heijn’s pasta section on 17 March:

Marco would proceed to joke for the next month that only expensive items were left on the shelfs, since Dutchies are still Dutchies after all.

Interestingly enough I saw toilet paper for the first time a few weeks back already. The rice section is still fairly low, but they were able to start re-stocking that a few weeks ago as well.

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Weekend baking (Or: Lemon sugar cookies)

Over the weekend Marco and I baked lemon sugar cookies:

It has become a nice ritual in these corona times – last week we also made cookies from a ‘all in one’ baking kit. The box was for chocolate chunk cookies but we replaced the chocolate with Reese’s pieces (but a knockoff brand). We decided to divide the recipe in two as it said it would make 4 dozen cookies… yeah, we don’t have anyone to share them with, so no go!

We used our Joseph Joseph adjustable rolling pin for the first time during this bake as the recipe called for cookies of 1/4th inch thickness. The rolling pin comes with a set of ‘rings’ of 1/16, 1/6, 1/4 and 3/8ths inch so that you can always get the perfect thickness. It worked really well actually!

We didn’t have a proper cookie cutter so we simply used an empty container that was previously filled with ‘chocoladestukjes hagelsteentjes‘ (tiny pieces of dark, milk and white chocolate).

Now the question is what we will bake next week… any ideas?

Categories: Food | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Don’t hoard! (Or: Dutch sign language interpreter goes viral)

On 12 March the Dutch government held a press conference with a sign language interpreter present, Irma Sluis from The Hague. This was actually the first press conference in history which used their services, after much criticism from hard of hearing or deaf citizens. One citizen held up a sign behind a reporter during the evening news earlier in March. The sign read “Where are the sign language interpreters during a time of crisis?” (article in Dutch).

The government also received complaints after the tram attacks in Utrecht last year (article in Dutch) where there was no sign language interpreter present even though citizens were being told to shelter in place and not go outside. This was even more noticeable considering New Zealand had a sign language interpreter present during the press conferences after the attack at the mosque last year.

On 15 March, the stage was set for a the first sweeping set of coronoavirus restrictions for citizens: schools, daycares, sport clubs and similar were forced to close. Restaurants and cafes were only allowed to be open for take out or delivery. Everyone who could was told to work from home and/or avoid public transportation. Supermarkets were still open, however.

The sign language interpreter (Irma Sluis) said later that she was chosen because she lived in The Hague and was the closest sign language interpreter. Since Dutch sign language is not her mother tongue she was required to look up some of the words in advance to see how she could best interpret them (Dutch Wikipedia article). Irma went viral with her translation of niet hamsteren or “don’t hoard” (article from iamexpat.nl), digging with her hands like claws and her teeth sticking out. The minister of medical care had said “I would like urge everyone again not to hoard. It is not necessary, there is enough for everyone. Hoarding causes problems for supermarkets.”

Hamsterende gebarentolk Irma Sluis groeide uit tot een baken in de crisis (from nrc.nl, ‘Hoarding’ sign language interpreter Irma Sluis becomes a beacon in the crisis).

Oh, and in that article you can also read that she made one mistake, perhaps due to being from The Hague: she accidentally signed ‘Scheveningen’ when she should have signed ‘beach’. Opps!

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Spot the teddy bear (Or: Worldwide scavenger hunt)

Did you know there has been a massive scavenger hunt going on around the world?

It’s a great way to distract kids (and their parents). Some cities have even put the bears locations on Google Maps. Here is an example from Seattle: The Madison Park Bear Hunt. Here is a map for the Netherlands (note: it took a long time to load). The KnuffelBerenjacht NL, or “The Teddy Bear Hunt NL”.

He’s not in a window, but he’s still cute!
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
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Musical graffiti (Or: Spotted by the Spui)

A few weeks back I snapped some photos of musical graffiti by the Spui here in The Hague. Someone was definitely feeling creative:

This area is just outside the city hall. In the background (on the other side of the construction walls) you have what used to be the Dr. Anton Philipszaal (Dutch Wikipedia link) which was torn down in late 2015. The building housed both concert and theatre events.

A larger cultural building is currently being constructed in this spot and will hopefully be finished in 2021. Earlier it was announced that the name would be “Amare”, which is Italian for “to love” or “by the sea”. Even if I never step foot inside, I’ll still be glad to get the area in front of it back – the construction site takes up a huge chunk of the plaza (see also the photo I posted back in 2012 of the Spuiplein).

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How do I close these rings again? (Or: Apple Watches in a time of the coronavirus)

Earlier this year I bought an Apple Watch for myself after losing my trusty Fitbit One in a tragic accident. I’m not completely sure what happened, but there’s a small chance it got flushed. Opps. I lasted some months without any sort of fitness gear, but at some point you just miss being able to count your steps. I was doing pretty good with my new watch, except for weekends when I usually took a bit of a break.

But then the coronavirus hit…

I’m pretty sure it is apparent what my last working day in the office was before we were required to start working from home. And now there is (at least) four more weeks to go.

And I know – I really do – that we are allowed outside to get a “fresh nose” (frisse neus in Dutch!), and that most countries around us don’t have that luxury. However it’s admittedly pretty tiring at times to go outside and spend most of your time dodging everyone in sight.

In other news, Jamie Oliver is closing both of his restaurants in the Netherlands (link in Dutch) due to the loss of revenue during the restaurant closures. And with all restaurants now closed until the 28th, it didn’t look like it was going to get any easier for that company. There were already rumors last year that Jamie Oliver’s was going to close, so I can’t say it came as much of a surprise.

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Time to be patient (Or: All coronavirus measures extended)

The Dutch prime minister announced today in an evening press conference that all measures relating to stopping the coronavirus would be extended from 6 April to 28 April (at least). That includes working from home where possible, restaurants only allowed to be open for take out, the social distancing measures, and more. In addition, schools would be closed until the end of May vacation (3 May).

The prime minister was also quite clear that this could be extended further, and also said that measures would only be removed gradually once the country was ready for it. Considering we had our highest number of deaths today that is probably for the best. There were 175 deaths, although some of them were from previous days but only registered today.

For now there is no complete lockdown. Whether or not we get one is based on whether people follow the measures and make wise decisions. Only time will tell.

Information board in English near The Hague Centraal. The same information was also displayed in Arabic, which I find interesting.

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Closed, closed, closed (Or: Signs of corona in The Hague)

These pictures are from 20-21 March, after the first week of working from home. The first is from Lebkov, a local café:

Unfortunately I think they will need to update their sign… At the moment schools and restaurants are closed until 6 April 2020, however there will be a press conference tomorrow. The expectation is that both measures will be extended until the end of April or the beginning of May. The National Institute for Public Health and Environment is currently conducting research on 100 families with school-age children to see how how the disease develops and how it affects family members of a COVID-19 patient. However that research only began about a week ago and they expect it to last 6 weeks before results are official. And until that time the government will likely keep schools closed. And there’s a good chance restaurants will also be kept closed. Right now they can only be open for take away.

Unimportant side note: The Netherlands has a very cool term – “horeca” which is shorthand for hotels, restaurants and cafés.

A closed sign for TK Maxx. ‘We’re sorry, but unforunately our school is currently closed for business. We hope to be back soon. For current information, visit www.tkmaxx.nl.’

Unimportant side note: In case you’re wondering, TK Maxx is the same company as TJ Maxx in the United States.

Not quite a closed sign, but some information about how to order at the local Smoothie Company.

Unimportant side note: I just noticed that Google Maps now provides adjusted store hours in red (or it says ‘Temporarily closed’ in red), so it’s a bit easier to see if hours have been adjusted due to corona or not. If the font color is still in black, they probably haven’t been updated. See more at 9to5google.com and also the Google support page.

Stay safe, everyone.

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Wandering through The Hague (Or: Noticing the little things)

Here are more photos from the last time I went outside – you can see how deserted the Binnenhof is:

Although there was a small press conference going on further ahead, it wasn’t in this part of the area. The only people I saw outside of that were a few cyclists traveling through.

One of the other places that I visited was the Haagse Bluf, where I took a few pictures:

And a picture of a metal sculpture that looked odd enough that I just knew I had to photograph it:

Otherwise people seemed to be following the rules of staying home if possible, and not flocking to the beaches or parks like they did last week. Perhaps they realized doing so would probably mean yet more rules imposed next week…

Check out the webcam of the Scheveningen boulevard, which is as good as empty. Usually I only see one or two people walking past, with the occasional car.

Good news of the day: the Dutch company Philips delivered 100 respirators to the Dutch government yesterday (article in Dutch) to increase the overall amount of ICU beds in the country. One thing I hadn’t realized before this crisis was how few ICU beds The Netherlands had. Normally there are about 1150 beds in the entire country, with half designated for corona patients and half for non-corona patients. The minister of Health, Welfare and Sport expects there to be just over 1,000 beds on 1 April for corona patients – but keep in mind we are close to that capacity already. Currently the goal is to increase the number to 1,500.

Whether or not Philips could deliver anything on The Netherlands was in doubt – while they are a Dutch company, the factory is in the United States. Recently president Trump was considering invoking the Defense Production Act from 1950, which would jeopardize Phillips exporting to the Netherlands (or any country for that matter). Part of the issue is that a lot of the components for the ventilators are sourced globally, so it is not as if everything could be created in the U.S. alone. But it hasn’t come to that yet.

In similar news, I read this morning that Germany has 28,000 beds and 25,000 respirators… that is a crazy difference compared to the Netherlands, and not just because of the differences in populations (17 million versus 82 million). That explains why two Dutch ICU patients were moved to Münster, Germany today (article in Dutch). Germany has also been taking patients from Italy and France.

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Signs of stillness (Or: Wandering through The Hague)

I took the day off today. It almost – almost – felt pointless, but not quite. I have a bad habit of logging in early (07:30) due to not having a commute and then still working past 17:00. So the workdays feel a bit long right now. And having the day off means I can get out of the house for a bit longer. I’m getting “used” to staying inside some days as I have not been outside since Tuesday morning for a quick trip to the grocery store. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

Therefore, I walked and walked and walked today. Past the statue of Haagse Harry, past the Grote Kerk (Great Church / Sint-Jacobskerk), through the Palace Gardens, and through the Binnenhof. It was quiet and everyone was mindful of the social distancing rules. I even got to see a mini interview at the Binnenhof, although I have no idea who exactly they were interviewing. My politics knowledge is less than ideal.

Funny story about the Palace Gardens: while walking I noticed a small section with about 10 benches that would have added a few extra steps. I had no intention of stopping, I was just mindlessly wandering. I took a few steps in that direction and then noticed one of the benches was occupied. I did a quick calculation of the path size and deemed it a bit too narrow for me to comfortably walk past. I also wanted to be nice to the other person. So I changed my mind and did not go that way.

And then a few seconds later the person began coughing like crazy – a painful cough that was most likely nothing serious. But I’ll admit I was glad for my choice not to go that way! And I only felt a tiny bit guilty about it…

Mannequin wearing a face mask
Entrance to Florencia ice cream (http://www.florenciaijs.nl/home)

And just to show how Dutch this country is….

‘COVID-19 is coming out of my nose!’ Hmmm. Good artwork though.

Then I made my way to the local Albert Heijn for groceries. In most Albert Heijns you are now required to shop using a full-sized shopping cart. While this is the most ordinary thing in the world in America, not many people use them in The Netherlands as the stores are smaller and people generally shop more often than once a week. Therefore I was not looking forward to this new rule.

When I walked in there was a manager and a worker cleaning each of the shopping baskets and then handing it to each customer. (In some stores where a full shopping cart doesn’t make sense, this is the next best option.) So no shopping cart for me, yay.

Otherwise things were fairly quiet, with only a few occasions where I had to plan how I would best get by someone (or patiently wait). The self scan area looked more like a hospital word, with curtains hanging floor to ceiling between each self-scan machine.

These are strange times. Keep safe, everyone.

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