Everyday purchases

Anyone want some shredded cheese? (Or: Cheese hack deliveries)

On Monday I wrote about a cheese hack that was disrupting deliveries of cheese to the Albert Heijn grocery stores. The hack was resolved and deliveries could resume again. Most of the cheeses had been replaced, although there are still some gaps here and there. But I had to laugh when I saw this pile of shredded cheese:

Note: this was actually the overflow area for the extra shredded cheese they had in stock. They put it in the “weekly sale area”. The normal place for shredded cheese was also overflowing with bags and bags… and bags. It looks like two or three deliveries worth.

In other news… did you hear about the world’s first fish doorbell in Utrecht? It has been pressed 32,000 times so far in the first two weeks (nltimes.nl in English). Utrecht had a problem. At this time of year there is less boat traffic in the canals so fish would frequently find themselves stuck at a locked gate without any way to get to the other side. To solve this, viewers can watch a special webcam at visdeurbel.nl to see if they see fish in view. If you do spot one, you press the red doorbell on the right. If enough people press the doorbell, a human will manually check and if needed open the gate. Note that when you first access the page you might need to refresh it see the webcam properly.

The camera also takes a screenshot and shares the photo with you. Since there are limited moments when you might see fish (the best time of day is in the early evening or evening), the website also has a page with the best photos taken by viewers. Note that the webcam is temporary as it is only needed during the fish migration season.

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Time to hack some cheese (Or: Ransomware)

Earlier this morning I was walking through the Albert Heijn when I noticed a sign near the cheese section, apologizing for the less than spectacular stock. Indeed, there were a lot of gaps and not much cheese to speak of. I didn’t think much of it since cheese wasn’t on my grocery list today.

A few hours later I read an article on NOS in Dutch: ‘Kaas-hack’ opgelost, ging om gijzelsoftware. I found an article in English at dutchnews.nl: Supermarkets cheesed off after dairy supplier is hacked. The hack occurred in the night between 4 and 5 April, about a week ago. Since then the company has mostly been working with pen and paper to get all of the orders fulfilled. The supplier refused to say whether they paid to have the ransomware lifted (but my guess is yes).

In public transportation news: Amsterdam’s metro lines 50, 51, 52, 53 and 54 have been stopped since about 17:30 today due to a technical failure in one of their new systems (nos.nl in Dutch). The issue is in the new traffic control system that they only started using yesterday.

In corona news: Ministers ‘consider coronavirus vaccine rethink’ after AstraZeneca chaos from dutchnews.nl. There is a lot of controversy around AstraZeneca right now in the Netherlands (and Europe in general). First it was not allowed to be given to 65+, then there were rare cases of rare blood clots mostly see in women under the age of 60 across Europe, and now the vaccine can’t be given to anyone under 60 but can be given to anyone older than that. The same national health council who said “don’t give it to people under 60” last week is now considering advising the government that people under 60 should be allowed to choose whether they want AstraZeneca or not.

Oh, and just to show you how weird the weather has been lately: we had more snow and hail this morning. It started coming down right just as I ducked inside Albert Heijn, but unfortunately I was not met with blue skies and white clouds when I left 15 minutes later. Boo. Who expects weather like this in mid-April?

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Clutter in the chips aisle (Or: Great place to leave your bread)

I took this photo for a certain someone I know who works at a grocery store (we were just talking last week about things being dumped in the wrong grocery store aisle):

While looking for some potato chips I spotted a sad looking bag of bread rolls and a chocolate bar. The bread can’t be resold (it’s a bag a customer puts together themselves) so it will need to be thrown out. The bread section is also near the beginning of the store, and this is at the end. Of course.

Oh, and I went for the bag of Albert Heijn black pepper and sea salt chips, by the way. That’s the gray bag to the left.

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Spring has been spotted (Or: Sunscreen options at Albert Heijn)

You know it is Spring when the sunscreen is on display at the local Albert Heijn. In this case it was on display at the self-service registers, which might make you think that the coming temperatures will be blazing hot, like 36C/100F. Nope. We are looking at around 22C/72 F for today and tomorrow before the temperature drops again. Don’t get me wrong – sunscreen is still needed at those temperatures if you spend enough time outside. I just always find it funny when I see sunscreen on display in the Netherlands.

I also wanted to complain about how expensive sun screen was here in comparison to America, but after quickly checking Walgreens I realized that it is pretty much expensive in both places. Who knew. I don’t go through sunscreen that quickly, that’s for sure!

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The Dutch really like pancakes (Or: Options at Albert Heijn)

While shopping at the local Albert Heijn (grocery store) I decided to take a photo of the pancake options. There are a lot after all…

Let’s see… the second row is pancake options from Koopmans. Original, complete, whole wheat, custard (? Opps. Someone put that back in the wrong place – should be 6 grain whole wheat pancakes), “Grandma’s pancakes” with cinnamon, multigrain pancake and biological multigrain pancakes. The second row is mostly the store brand options – original, complete, multigrain pancakes, spelt pancakes, biological pancakes, and pancakes with extra egg whites. The last three options are the liquid pancake options – natural, original and complete pancakes.

That is a lot of pancakes, but where are the boxes of waffle mix? Those are much harder to find, unfortunately!

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Waiting in line at HEMA (Or: Pickup is allowed)

In the afternoon you will usually see a handful of people waiting to pick up a package at HEMA (official website, or check out the English Wikipedia page). It sells housewares and clothes, mostly made under their own label.

Under the current corona measures you are allowed to pick up packages at non-essential stores, although later in the week you will also be able to make an appointment to shop at a non-essential store. The rules are pretty strict, though; only two customers at a time per floor which is not helpful for large stores.

As you can see a few people are waiting for a package in this photo. Technically the pickup point needs to be outside, but it is actually just inside the first of two sets of automatic doors. If you look closely you can just barely see the white cart with three shelves and a blue bag – there is a customer inside picking up her order. And at least this way you don’t get rained on while you are paying for your order!

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Butter flavored…? (Or: Curious possibilities at the Asian store)

Sometimes I like to go to a local toko, which I usually just call “the Asian store”, to see what odd things they have on the shelves. Next to the awesome things Marco and I can’t live without, of course. I’m back on my faja lobi peanut butter kick (orientalwebshop.nl), which is Surinamese peanut butter mixed with Madam Jeanette peppers. So awesomely spicy.

Anyway, today I spotted these crackers:

The yellow Magic creams product is apparently “butter flavored cream cracker sandwiches”. Who wants cream that tastes like butter? Probably a lot of people, but I can’t wrap my mind around it. The chocolate version on the right looks pretty decent, though.

And sticking with the subject of crackers, check out these Fita crackers:

Does the logo and packaging remind you of anything? They are definitely going for the same branding as Ritz crackers (English Wikipedia), down to the color scheme and the amount of holes on the crackers. I haven’t tried the Fita crackers but they will probably disappoint. Marco and I purchased similar crackers at Xenos (xenos.nl) last year but they weren’t that good. So we still get our Ritz crackers at Kelly’s expat store (kellys-expat-shopping.nl). And since I am on a spicy peanut butter kick, as mentioned above, we usually get two boxes at a time…

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In the meantime, at Albert Heijn (Or: Different batches, I guess?)

Earlier this week I was at Albert Heijn and idly looking at the focaccia breads on sale. My eye was immediately drawn to a focaccia that looked almost burnt, next to a pale one that looked okay.

I suspect I’d probably buy the lighter version if I really wanted it, but I can’t say that the darker version didn’t look tasty as well. Just… slightly burnt. (You can also see some dark exemplars in the back, so it seems like there was just a difference in the batches.)

Today is kind of a weird day, probably a day when I should stay away from checking the news. A few days ago we were at 2,700 infections, then yesterday 3,600, and now today 4,600. Last week’s winter weather could be a culprit, since a lot of testing areas were closed. There were also closures this past Monday when rain came while temperatures were still around freezing. Still, I think it is a sign I should read less news, to avoid feeling frustrated.

For a crazy-but-very-interesting story, check out: People are rescuing thousands of ‘cold-stunned’ sea turtles in Texas from theguardian.com. The cold-blooded sea turtles became paralyzed due to the temperature of the water. At this point over 3,500 sea turtles have been brought in. They will be released once the water warms up, but that will take some time as another cold front is expected in the coming days.

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Code red (Or: Brrr, cold and windy!)

Later this evening and tomorrow the Netherlands will be under a “code red” warning for Storm Darcy. Apparently the last time the entire country was under code red was February 2012, before I arrived in the Netherlands.

Dutch issue Code Red weather alert for snowdrifts, blizzard conditions from nltimes.nl. The expected snowfall itself varies anywhere from 2 to 6 inches; it really depends on who you are listening to. The wind is the real problem for traffic, since it will cause snow drifts and limited visibility. Some days it will feel like -15c to -18c (closer to 0F) next week, which is rare in this country. Some news sites are calling this a “once in ten years” event.

And of course, what you would expect to see in this situation…

Empty shelves, of course. That’s the bread area by an Albert Heijn (grocery store).

Dutch health services announce closure of all test and vaccination sites due to weather alert from nltimes.nl. Makes sense. Even the Dutch government is getting in on the action, posting a page about having “fun in the snow” in a responsible, corona proof way: Schaatsen, schaatsbanen, sneeuw en winterweer from rijksoverheid.nl in Dutch. Mainly rules about skating, snow ball fights, etc. Oh, and don’t forget to be inside by 21:00 for the curfew…

In other news: Legendary rock band Golden Earring stops after 60 years on ALS diagnosis from nltimes.nl. Golden Earring (English Wikipedia) is a Dutch rock band from The Hague, internationally known for their hit “Radar Love”, among others. Here is a YouTube link of Radar Love.

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Five Guys (Or: Time for a bit of fast food)

Marco graciously allowed me to change our plans; we picked up Five Guys for dinner tonight. We haven’t been in there a year and a half, probably… definitely not since the corona crisis started. Which is a bit strange, since it is much quieter there these days. Unfortunately for them.

That’s technically where the line would be, if there was a line. And of course there are no free shelled peanuts at the moment.

But ignoring that – woo, Five Guys! Hamburger with jalapeños, grilled onions and mustard for me, with cajun fries. This time we were smart and ordered “cajun on the side”, so we could add the spices ourselves. That meant the spice was a bit more uneven, but at least they were not completely coated in cajun spices this time.

One of the two message boards at Five Guys, a staple by all of their locations I think.

350 snow plows ready to keep Dutch roads clear over snowy weekend from nltimes.nl. Snoooowww! And cold. With lots of wind. So we’ll just stay inside all week? (Of course some Dutchies will strap on their ice skates and rush outside.)

As frost and snow looms, the Dutch draw up rules for Covid-proof skating from dutchnews.nl. See what I mean?

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