Everyday purchases

Random finds at Xenos (Or: The store known for its randomness)

Xenos is a store which sells random stuff (official website in Dutch). Housewares, posters, keychains, outdoor furniture, food, drinks, you name it. I’ve been blogged about them before – the word “Xenos” is Greek and means stranger or foreigner.

First up we have the cookie dough bites cereal:

When I was growing up, the most unhealthy cereal we had was Cocoa Puffs. At some point in my childhood I also saw Reese’s cereal in the store, but I never had any interest in trying that. Cookie Dough Bites originated as a movie theatre candy in the US. I can remember Marco and Roger buying those at the movie theatre (or at Target and sneaking them into the theatre!). And then suddenly they were sold in the Netherlands. These days they had a dozen flavors and now they are a cereal. Who knew.

And here is a key chain that Xenos sells:

Having been born in the 80’s and spending my childhood playing (or watching others play) Super Mario Brothers, I told Marco that is probably the only keychain I would consider buying. Not that I need a keychain; it would probably go on my backpack if I ever did buy it. But considering Xenos has offered it for sale the last 5 years I am in no rush to purchase it. And if they ever discontinue it, I will always have this picture to remember it by.

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The weather turns cold (Or: Cold for the Netherlands, at least)

This week the temperature has been around 0-5C (32-41F). Of course that isn’t that cold for my readers from the US, but after 10 years in the Netherlands, it is cold. Luckily one of my Christmas gifts this year was a decent set of gloves. They keep my fingers nice and toasty. Mostly.

My streak of never taking a sick day at work has ended after about 20 years, unfortunately. The last time I took one I was a student worker at my university’s library back in 2003 or 2004, to give you some idea. It isn’t that I am stubborn, I just don’t get that sick that often. Or there was the one time my body decided to get sick around 7pm on a Friday evening, I was confined to the bed for the entire weekend, but then somehow felt well enough to go back to work on Monday. That sort of craziness.

This time I think it was a light version of the flu as the Netherlands is in the middle of a flu epidemic at the moment. I did test negative for corona. I suspect I picked up the flu virus at the hairdressers on Saturday as I was there for a while. Either way, the worst is over, Marco was very loving and received many brownie points, and my sick day record has officially been broken.

In other news, check out the chocolate egg selection at Jumbo (a supermarket):

Because of course Easter eggs start getting sold as soon as the New Years Eve memorabilia is out the door. Some of the flavors include caramel sea salt, nougat, creme brûlée, brownie, tiramisu and peanut butter. At this point, those all sound pretty normal as Jumbo usually has a huge selection.

Random link that might interest you: 11 books based in the Netherlands to add to your reading list from dutchreview.com.

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A new Dutch reading board (Or: This one is a bit tastier)

At some point last month Marco and I were at a store and spotted a different type of reading board. Dutch reading boards have been used for over a century to teach kids how to read. It shows all of the commonly used consonants, vowels and diphthongs in the Dutch language, with words and pictures like aap, noot or mies (ape, nut, word for a woman or kat). See also the photos at this Dutch Wikipedia page. You can also read more about the history of Dutch reading boards (link in English).

Or you can just admire the reading board that Marco and I spotted that is crafted especially for men, apparently:

Leesplank voor kerels = reading board for men.

And here is a random link of the day: in 51 places in The Hague you can take an umbrella / leave an umbrella for free (article in Dutch at denhaag.nl).

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It must be after Sinterklaas (Or: Lots and lots of oliebollen mix)

I was recently at Albert Heijn doing some grocery shopping. I swear, you almost don’t need a calendar when you walk in there — you can easily tell it is after 5 December (Sinterklaas) because the first ingredients for making oliebollen (a donut-like treat frequently eaten on New Year’s Eve) have started to appear.

At the top of the display you have powdered sugar in the blue and white cans, oliebollen mix in the middle in the yellow and orange boxes, and whipped cream on the far right. Although they haven’t quite set up the tower of sugary goodness that they had last year. Yet.

I am also happy to report that my favorite Christmas cookies are back at Albert Heijn. I picked up a pack for home and a pack for my coworkers the first day they were stocked. It’s a nice large Christmas cookie (in the shape of a wreath) dipped in dark chocolate and covered in red and green sprinkles.

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Hema’s smoked sausage flavored beer (Or: Would you try it?)

One thing Hema is famous for is their smoked sausage (rookworst). When we eat stamppot (English Wikipedia) we always pair it with sausage from Hema. It is tasty! We eat stamppot once a year; Marco’s mom always makes us a batch around February or March when the weather outside is nice and cold.

But now Hema has come out with rookworst flavored beer (5.3% alcohol). Would you want to try it?

It’s definitely an interesting concept, and a bit easier to understand than their tompouce flavored beer last year. Tompouce is a Dutch pastry – see also this English Wikipedia page if you need a refresher.

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That is one sweet boat (Or: Sinterklaas display by Hema)

By the Hema in The Hague’s city centre there is a display for the upcoming Sinterklaas holiday (5 December):

The display is a boat, a reference to the boat Sinterklaas uses to travel from Spain to the Netherlands every year in November (English Wikipedia). The actual contents of this boat are kruidnoten, small cookies which are a staple for the Sinterklaas holiday.

In other news:

  • Megastores helemaal gesloopt voor nieuwe woontorens from omroepwest.nl (article in Dutch). Megastores is a shopping mall on the other side of The Hague’s Holland Spoor train station. However most of the stores sell furniture or home goods, so the number of shoppers has been dwindling over the years. The article talks about how the entire shopping mall will be demolished in phases starting in 2024, to be replaced by about 2,000 apartments in residential towers.
  • The Zeldzaam mooi markt will be at the Lange Voorhout in The Hague on Sunday, 27 November. The name translates to something like “Rare, beautiful market”. They will be selling retro, vintage and reuse items like jewelry, clothes, home goods, etc.
  • You can donate Sinterklaas presents for kids at The Hague’s Central Library from 14-18 November (indebuurt.nl, in Dutch). The toy drive is sponsored by Sintvoorieder1.
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Oliebollen time! (Or: It must be November)

You know it is (almost) November when you see the oliebollen (English Wikipedia) stand pop up in the last few days of October, a sign of yummy things to come. Oliebollen are a donut-like treat that is popular this time of year. They are eaten en masse on New Year’s Eve. Marco and I usually make oliebollen every year. These days the stands are allowed to open from 1 November until the end of January.

As you can see they still have their preferred spot at the end of the Grote Markt street. They used to be closer to city hall but moved to this spot when construction for the Amare cultural centre started some years ago. Speaking of Amare–apparently the building will be getting a Spar grocery store (indebuurt.nl, in Dutch).

In other news:

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Don’t forget to drink your Ovaltine… (Or: Ovomaltine?)

Ovaltine, I mean. Don’t forget to drink your Ovaltine is a line from A Christmas Story (1983), a film which was popularized by the the American TV channel TNT’s 24 hour marathons every Christmas Day. It was definitely always on tv every year at my house growing up.

Spotted at the local Asian store, and the inspiration for this blog post:

Apparently it is a “milk flavoring product” according to Wikipedia. Its original name was indeed ovomaltine, but it will always be Ovaltine to me. You can also get it at the local grocery store under the name ovomaltine (ah.nl in Dutch).

Speaking of A Christmas Story, there is a sequel coming out on HBO Max next month: A Christmas Story Christmas (tvline.com). Ralphie, the main character in the first movie, returns to his childhood home to give his kids a Christmas like he had growing up. We will need to wait and see how the film fares. Usually sequels like this don’t do well in the box office (Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure, anyone?) but one can hope.

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A long way from home (Or: Anyone looking for a shopping cart?)

In September I went to The Hague’s Albert Heijn XL grocery store. As you might guess from the “XL” in the name, it’s a bigger version of the normal Albert Heijns. It still sells 95% of the same items that a normal Albert Heijn would, just more variety. The XL stores are a lot larger, closer to the size of an American grocery store like Shoprite, Jewel-Osco or Kroger.

I knew I was almost in the neighborhood of this Albert Heijn when I saw shopping carts in the neighborhood:

You could say that people are being nice by putting the carts together and stacking the smaller hand baskets on top, so if an Albert Heijn employee wanted to come get them it would only be one trip. Although this wasn’t the only place I spotted them in the neighborhood.

In other news:

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Disappointment at the expat store (Or: Now and Later candy)

As a kid I was always eating Now and Later candy (English Wikipedia). Or Spree candy, the chewy version. The best part about Now and Later candy is that it is hard now and chewy later, hence the name.

I have thought about these candies now and then over the years, but it was never a big enough craving to buy a bag while I was in the States. I usually think about the candy whenever I see Marco put a peppermint in his mouth and bite it immediately. He can never wait, not even a few seconds. I told him before “well if you had a Now and Later candy you wouldn’t be able to do that!” because the candy starts off so hard it is impossible to safely bite through at the beginning.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the local expat store, Kelly’s, started selling the Now and later candies last month. I immediately planned a trip to the store and dragged Marco along. Later that night I unwrapped a candy, inspecting it. It looked hard like the original candy, but perhaps quite like I remembered. I took a bite, and felt the familiar disappointment of an expat set in. By which I mainly mean the disappointment of moving away and things change while you are gone. It was still tasty, mind you. Just not quite the same as it used to be. It isn’t as hard anymore–maybe people sued over their broken teeth–which was unfortunate considering the name.

It’s still fun to things drifting over from the States, though. I think two of the most important things are Frank’s original red hot sauce (for me) and Frank’s red hot buffalo wing sauce (for Marco). You can even get it at the local grocery store, Albert Heijn. No extra trip to the expat store needed. So it isn’t all disappointment!

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