Everyday purchases

New Uniqlo store in The Hague (Or: A mini Japanese garden)

A new store has opened up where Marks & Spencer used to be – Uniqlo, a clothing store originally founded in Japan. The inside looks completely different. Where the escalator used to be there is now a set of stairs. And a mini Japanese garden…

The sign on the wall reads: “Honoring The Hague, known for being one of the greenest cities of The Netherlands, a real garden has ben recreated at the heart of the UNIQLO Grote Markstraat store. Inspired by the traditional Japanese Garden at Park Clingendael, the garden incorporates true Japanese elements such as bonsai trees and green moss, perfect for a serene setting. At UNIQLO, we are committed to maintaining the planet and producing clothing in a way that is harmonious with nature, without excessive burden on the environment. To discover more about UNIQLO’s environmental initiatives, visit the sustainability area on the 1F.”

The reason I came to Uniqlo was to see if they were selling their reusable face masks in the store. After a few weeks of wearing single use face masks I decided it was time to move on to reusable ones. Hopefully ones that fit better than the one-size-fits-all face masks I have found until now. I’ve been crossing the bands before placing them around my ears to try and get them tighter, but it isn’t perfect.

Uniqlo’s face masks are sold in small, medium and large, in the colors white, grey and black. I’ve seen a few recommendations about how comfortable they are, so hopefully I can try them out in the next day or two.

(Side note: You can see the face mask display to the left of the stairs in my photo.)

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Store displays (Or: The many holidays of Xenos)

Over the weekend I went to Xenos, a local store, to purchase additional face masks. That particular mission was successful, luckily. I also spent a few minutes staring at all of the holiday displays in the store. Halloween, Sinterklaas (December 5) and Christmas all in one day. I’m sure if they celebrated Thanksgiving in this country you would have seen turkeys as well.

Halloween costumes and other attire
I wonder if any kid has tried to pull down some of those Halloween buckets yet…
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That’s useful (Or: Store map of Blokker in Rijswijk)

I saw something cool in Rijswijk’s In de Bogaard shopping centre: a Blokker store with a map by the entrance:

The map makes it easier to see where you need to go before you enter the store so that you don’t mindlessly wander up and down the aisles (and up and down again, seriously) trying to find what you are looking for. And the store map goes perfectly with one of their corona measures: Koop doelgericht or “Buy purposefully”. In other words, know what you want (when possible), get in, get out. Kudos. More stores should have maps at the entrance and/or provide them online.

So Blokker is pretty smart. For a less than smart company, try the Samen restaurant in The Hague. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. For the last few months the rule in the Netherlands has been that up to 100 people could gather inside or outside, including restaurants. But since it is going in the wrong direction (we’re up to 3,000 cases per day now, from nltimes.nl) a lot of places are only allowed to have 50 people inside or outside. Including The Hague. And then you get this…

Crowded Hague restaurant busted with 200 guests; Covid rules allow only 50 from nltimes.nl. (nos.nl reported that it was 200-300 guests.)

While most of the blame must lie with the restaurant, I think people must be mathematically challenged if they don’t turn around when they see the actual restaurant area and demand their money back. I’m trying to give some people the benefit of the doubt, since if you came early it probably wasn’t that busy… but really, people. Come on.

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Don’t eat those bagels! (Or: Safety warnings)

For the first time in my life (at least, that I can remember) it was useful to pay attention to the safety notice sent out by the local grocery store, Albert Heijn. In this case the notice was about the sesame bagels they sell. I first heard about the issue on Tuesday when they sent customers an email about it.

I’ll admit I had no idea what “gewasbeschermingsmiddelen” was, but Marco explained it was basically pesticides – during a routine safety check they noticed that the amount of pesticides left over on the sesame seeds was too high. After the email I didn’t think too much about it for two reason. First, because the original dates listed didn’t match the date on our package and second because we already ate two of the four bagels over a week ago and didn’t get sick. (These are bagels which you finish baking at home with expiration dates 6-8 weeks in the future. They are also packaged in two groups of two, which is always handy when there’s only two of you.)

So on the one hand I’m thinking “Okay, different batch, and we didn’t get sick from what we already ate… let’s keep it.” and on the other hand I’m thinking “Hmm. I’ve seen this happen before. Let’s keep the remaining bagels, but not eat them right away. Just in case they change their mind.” Which they did on the following day, as you might be able to read in my screenshot. Now it says that they are removing all sesame bagels from the store shelves as a precautionary measure. So into the trash our poor remaining bagels go. Thud. We never even got the chance to invite you over for breakfast…

Helaas. Or as Dutch kids like to say because it rhymes: Helaas, pindakaas. Which translates to “Unfortunately. Peanut butter.” Which isn’t as cool as it is in Dutch, I know.

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Halloween at Hema (Or: Bit by bit the popularity grows)

It’s almost time for Halloween! Here is one of the two display stands at Hema:

I have mentioned before that Halloween isn’t that big in the Netherlands. It’s slowly gaining in popularity but trick or treating for candy isn’t a huge thing. Of course there is some trick or treating (I know some international schools do promote it) but it’s not as big with Dutch children as far as I’m aware. SoLow has a great collection of costumes and decorations if you’re interested. Xenos usually has a small collection as well.

As most of my readers are aware, it’s not going that great with Europe in terms of the corona virus. The same is true here in the Netherlands as we’ve been breaking records left and right. Number of cases, hospital intakes, ICU intakes, deaths… It definitely seems like the “second wave” has started. Today we registered 2,552 cases. Various experts (but not the government, yet) are saying a lockdown will be coming if the number of cases can’t be slowed. For instance the chairman of the Dutch Union of the Intensive Care Diederik Gommers said this during an interview with Radio 538 (article in Dutch). You can also see the weekly numbers at RIVM.nl in English, updated two days ago.

But, anyway. For something completely different – if you’re interested in war monuments, check out this new war monuments digital archive over at haagsgemeentearchief.nl. The website is in Dutch but there’s also photographs to look at. You can also read an accompanying article in Dutch at omroepwest.nl: Haagse oorlogsmonumenten op een rij gezet: ‘Maar denken dat er nog meer zijn’.

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New use for the old PostNL location (Or: Another Amazing Oriental in The Hague)

Yesterday while waiting for Marco I spotted a new addition to the grocery store scene: another Amazing Oriental location would be popping up in The Hague. This one was going to take over the space left vacant by PostNL:

Amazing Oriental is an Asian supermarket with over 20 locations in The Netherlands. At this point I can’t imagine doing without it. For instance, tonight we had wokgroente (vegetables in the wok) and the sauce we chose was ponzu sauce. It is a thin citrus-based Japanese sauce with a tart aftertaste. In this varation we added a bit of lime juice, sesame oil and soy sauce to spice things up a bit more. Yummmm.

The interesting thing about PostNL (the Dutch postal service) is that this location was literally the last remaining post office in the Netherlands (article from ad.nl in Dutch). It closed in November 2018. Unfortunately these days all PostNL locations are mini locations found in other, existing stores. It does make it easier to pick up packages, though. Speaking of which, I do have to go pick up a package tomorrow…

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Aged cheese (Or: Jokes at a local Albert Heijn)

Here’s a silly joke about cheese for you, spotted at the local grocery store, Albert Heijn:

In English: “Age isn’t important, unless you’re cheese!” Haha. Such a silly joke. But a bit of personality at a chain grocery store as big as Albert Heijn is always nice to see.

Here is an interesting article spotted at The Guardian: Slowly does it: chord changes in John Cage’s 639-year-long organ piece. Or check out the article in Dutch over at at nos.nl.

The name of the work is As Slow As Possible (ORGAN/ASLSP) and it started playing in 2001. According to the Wikipedia article, there have been 14 chord changes to date, with the previous chord lasting 6 years and 11 months. Chords are changed by adding or removing organ pipes.

The performance is scheduled to end on September 5, 2640… It’s hard to imagine that.

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Brownies? Spinach? (Or: Commercials are weird)

Let me paint a picture for you. In the Netherlands you will see this pattern frequently:

  • commercial #1 (normal length)
  • commercial #2 (normal length)
  • commercial #3 is the first commercial, reprised; shorter, about 5-7 seconds

I will admit that I have gotten used to this oddity. But a few days ago I found myself in a confusing situation.

  • commercial #1: Iglo spinach commercial
  • commercial #2: Dr. Oetker brownies commercial
  • commercial #3: a few more seconds of spinach
  • commercial #4: a few more seconds of brownies… and now I’m just feeling confused and slightly put off by the thought of making brownies. Ew.

Side note #1: I don’t think I liked spinach as a kid. But as an adult I like spinach, and enjoy having it every month or two. My favorite is deep freeze cream spinach, since it’s hard to clean fresh spinach.

Sie note #2: I have been in the Netherlands too long. I can easily type spinazie, the Dutch translation, but need to Google the English and triple check it to make sure I am spelling “spinach” right. Hmm. It still looks wrong.

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Weird purchases by Xenos (Or: Licorice popcorn? Really?)

I think it is apt that ‘Xenos’ means strange in Greek. This store in The Hague manages to capture strange very well, although most of the purchases are of the more mundane variety. For example, here is licorice flavored popcorn:

And, slightly less strange, Danish cookies with the tin branded with an emoji theme. The cookies themselves look normal, though.

In other news: whew, it is warm. And that’s with three fans going at the moment. I can imagine this penguin also wanted to swim for colder waters: Escapee penguin recaptured after 11 kilometre swim to freedom (dutchnews.nl).

And in good news: Germany picks up costs for Dutch Covid-19 patients treated in German ICUs (nltimes.nl). The bill was about 20 million euros. As the German minister of health said back in April: “Europe stands together, even in times of crises”. I’m not sure that has always been true this year, but it is a nice sentiment. They are also paying the bills for Covid-19 patients from Belgium, France, Italy and Spain who were treated in Germany.

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Today’s special guest star (Or: The sun)

As you know the Netherlands is experiencing a bit of a heat wave this week. This is the first one of the year (the other two times it was warm it only lasted a day or two).

Here’s a look at all of the sunscreen and similar products by Etos, which is a drug store like Walgreens or Rite Aid in America. No food products or prescriptions, though.

That is a lot of sunscreen! But a lot of people are heading to the beach this week (nltimes.nl), so it is needed.

Marco made some lovely sour lemonade yesterday. Lots of lemon slices, lemon juice and water. Yum yum yum. Not to be confused with the Dutch “limonade” which is water with concentrated syrup. I actually had no idea until I read a post from another Dutch blog, Invading Holland, where the writer accidentally orders a limonade. And while I’m here, I’ll also link to his post from yesterday entitled What would it take to melt hagelslag? Hagelslag being the Dutch chocolate sprinkles that are usually put onto buttered bread.

Now I want some chocolate…

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