Friends&Family

Back from the US (Or: Just a bit sleep deprived)

Marco and I recently returned from the United States, visiting my parents (whom I hadn’t seen in three years – stupid pandemic!). It was a great trip, just like old times. We were definitely limited in what we could do thanks to the pandemic, but there were face masks and hand sanitizer everywhere. I was presently surprised to see how many people were wearing face masks compared to the Netherlands. It was definitely night and day. My poor hands are in need of some TLC and location after using all of that hand sanitizer (which we also have at all Dutch stores, but since my main outingias just going to the grocery store and back I don’t need to use it as much).

It definitely wasn’t easy to get into the US; there were a lot of hoops to jump through and many forms to fill out. I could get in as a US citizen however Marco only got in because we were married. Thanks to a warning from a colleague we did bring out marriage certificate, and it did get asked for. We got tested to enter the US and tested to get back into the Netherlands. It is debatable whether we needed that second test as the rules changed while we were there, but since the airline asked for it to be uploaded it was definitely a case of ‘better safe than sorry’. There were health forms and test result printouts and quarantine declarations for the Netherlands and more. You don’t have to quarantine if you are vaccinated, but you still need to fill out the form saying you are not quarantining because you are vaccinated. I had a whole folder full of papers to show…

I didn’t sleep much on the way there or the way back, but that was to be expected. Ironically we booked premium plus tickets on United Airlines to make sure we didn’t have anyone directly next to us, but most of Economy Plus and Economy were empty so it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. When I went to the bathroom I saw a lot of people in Economy stretched out on 3 or 4 seats trying to sleep. We didn’t have too much jetlag after landing in the US – the flight arriving at 18:00 probably helped as we only had to stay awake a few hours. I also have to give some credit to the shower at the hotel as the water pressure was wonderful.

Here are a few photos. I didn’t take many as it just wasn’t that kind of trip.

Iron Man statue outside of a Gamestop store
Amenities at our airplane seats (the Saks Fifth Avenue pillow was indeed soft)
Statue at the food court in O’Hare airport on the way back
Almost back to Schiphol… with light rain clouds above the North Sea

Unfortunately it was quite a bumpy flight back to the Netherlands, at least in the first half while we were still over land. It was raining all day where we were, with a bit of lightning at O’Hare on top of that. It was fine in the end, but there were times the flight attendants had to buckle in (including them pausing the meal service for a while). But we got back in one piece. We slept in a bit this morning but I think we are all good to go now!

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Dining in (Or: Corona measure relaxations)

Okay, technically this rule was relaxed last Saturday, but we did not take “advantage” of it until now. We are now allowed to dine in at a restaurant with mixed households (still a maximum of 4 not including kids). On today’s list was visiting FOAM with Roger for a late breakfast. Part of me was selfishly glad that the weather wasn’t spectacular, because I went with “inside” when booking the reservation, just to be safe. (Side note: did you know there are a few days of 31C/88F coming next week? The Netherlands is going to bake! ☀️)

Here was Marco’s pancakes. You have to love the color.

And my grilled sandwich (commonly referred to as a “toasty” over here). It is with harissa hummus, grilled bell peppers, eggplant, parsley, dukkah and an Israeli salad on the side.

And my chai latte. What can I say? I had to take a photo – I loved the stencil on top.

Marco and I have a few restaurants we are eyeing for later this month or next month. Back to Himalayan restaurant for Indian/Nepalese food at some point soon, and also SET restaurant (Japanese) for a romantic dinner. SET has been completely closed for half a year, not even doing takeout, so I am looking forward to it.

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I’m two in corona years (Or: Birthday time)

I’m now officially two years old.

(in corona years, of course)

Today’s my birthday. At least this year and last year I have a good excuse for not knowing what I want, since official birthday parties are out and non-essential stores are closed. Let’s ignore online shopping for this excuse. I have definitely reached the age where I am okay with not knowing what I want. Especially since my birthday falls on a Tuesday and that is not an ideal time to take off work or having a big celebration. But I received some nice cards and a few small presents from friends and family which I enjoyed going through.

To give you an idea of how today went: last week I told Marco that I was excited to choose something a bit less healthy for my birthday meal (think something American like a deluxe hamburger and fries, nachos, chili cooked in a slow cooker, or similar). And then yesterday and today I promptly forgot about it. I was in meetings most of the afternoon so I suggested something easy (but still tasty): tomato soup and a tosti, a ham and cheese sandwich with a fancy name. Still tasty, but not extragent birthday material.

Marco was however on top of his game, surprising me a small apple crumble pie from Albert Heijn, my favorite:

It’s my favorite because you get a bit of powdered sugar on top but it’s not too thick or messy, so not too filling. And that’s whipped cream on the side, slightly deflated since I didn’t take a picture right away. (I had to make the required cup of coffee first. It’s required.)

Check out this homemade card from Marco’s dad and his wife (best described as “beautiful” and “clever”!):

This is a birthday card on steroids. And what’s best is you can open it up:

The card stays in that position since you can rest it against the white rose. I also like the 3D element with the butterfly wings. I’m always amazed by the creations I get from them.

Here’s hoping I don’t turn 3 in corona years!

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Japanese ramen (Or: Photo from two years ago)

Check out this photo of Japanese ramen:

This photo is from March 2019 and it was taken in Tokyo. Not by me, though. Roger and Marco visited Japan for a week and a half. I stayed in the Netherlands because I wasn’t sure what my work situation would be like, and let’s face it – I wanted the boys to have some “guy time”.

I have heard the story many times by now. Marco and Roger were actually looking for a different restaurant which was highly rated by another friend, but they didn’t find it so they went to this one instead. When they entered they needed to use a machine to order their food, which meant they needed help on how to use the machine. It was their first day in Tokyo and all. It was kind of funny considering they were the only two customers at that time of night. Once the worker helped them figure out the machine they ordered and he took the ticket it spit out. Although learning how to use the machine probably proved to be valuable knowledge for other restaurants.

While ordering they were asked how many noodles they wanted. I believe the choices were 300 grams, 400 grams or 500 grams. They ordered 500 grams without realizing just how much that is, which you can see in the photo. But I am told it was worth it! The dish above is Tsukeman (English Wikipedia) or “dipping ramen”. You dip the noodles into the broth and then eat them. Marco tells me the broth was quite spicy and stronger in taste because it is meant for dipping. At the end you ask for water to add to the broth and then eat the leftover broth.

Here is hoping they can return to Japan next year!

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Satay rempah (Or: Indonesian cooking with Marco and Roger)

On Saturday Marco, Roger and I made satay rempah with jalapeño atjar. As mentioned last week, Marco received the recipe book “Indostok” from Roger for Christmas. Satay rempah is a satay made from minced meat. In this case “rempah” translates loosely to “spices”, with minced meat used for the satay. We made the spices first (including but not limited to star anise, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ginger and lime zest because we couldn’t find lime leaves, etc…). Oh, and also candlenuts (English Wikipedia) which are mildly toxic when raw but perfectly fine if cooked. Who knew.

You then mix the spice with the minced meat and add some breadcrumbs and corn starch on the outside to give it a nice crunchy coating when fried.

The cool thing about this recipe is that the sticks that normally hold the satay were sticks of lemongrass.

You then fry them in a wok in a thin layer of oil. This was the only annoying part, since we ended up cutting the lemongrass in half to handle them better. Some of them also had a tendency to fall apart.

The finished meal: satay rempah, jalapeño atjar (sour/spicy vegetable pickle) and basmati rice. Yum yum yum!

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The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian (Or: Enjoying the Christmas gifts)

Marco received an awesome book for Christmas this year—The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian—from Roger.

Marco being Marco, he had to get the perfect photo. And what better way to do that than to use the reindeer and teddy bear he bought from Xenos as the “readers”?

If you look closely you’ll see some chocolate in the lower right. That is dark chocolate marzipan from Albert Heijn, a joke of sorts between Marco, Roger and I. A few years ago Roger “stole” some dark chocolate marzipan we had in our Christmas candy dish, so Marco bought some and wrapped it up as a Christmas gift that year for Roger so he wouldn’t have to “steal” ours. But Roger also bought some and wrapped it up as a gift for Marco, so there was lots of marzipan going around.

This year we each gifted one to another (three packs in total). The tradition lives on…

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A game of Sequence (Or: I always choose blue)

It does not matter what game it is – if there is an option to play blue, I play blue. Here is look at a game of Sequence (Wikipedia) we played at Roger’s recently:

The objective is to get five in a row. There are two copies of each card on the board (except jokers, which allow you to remove an opponent’s chip or add your own, depending on if it is a one-eyed jack or a two-eyed jack). The interesting thing is the cards on the board run in a haphazard fashion, so the queen of clubs might be next to a hearts card in one place on the board but next to club cards in the other place.

In other news – as if fireworks aren’t enough, car owners also have to worry about their car being set on fire this time of year. There were three car fires in the region last night alone:

Although admittedly people tend to set fire to cars year round, it just happens more often around New Year’s.

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Good start to the New Year (Or: Homemade oliebollen)

Happy New Year! Yesterday morning Marco and I made oliebollen (Wikipedia) to bring Roger’s. Plain oliebollen for me and oliebollen with raisins for Marco and Roger. Yummy!

Thanks to the fireworks ban in the Netherlands, New Year’s Eve was a bit quieter than normal, although there were still a a lot of fireworks right before midnight and for a half hour or so afterwards. Most likely people had an old stash lying around that they hadn’t used last year – or they bought fireworks illegally.

There were still some issues, of course. In nearby Rijswijk, someone set a camper on fire. The only problem? There were gas tanks inside. Several people catch fire after blowing up a caravan from nltimes.nl. (On the one hand, warning: you will see people on fire. On the other hand, no one turned up in the hospital and the victims were long gone by the time the police arrived, so it seems their injuries were minor. If you can call being on fire minor.)

Firework ban widely ignored, but police report fewer incidents during New Year festivities from dutchnews.nl.

However, the Dutch Health ministry did report two thirds less dust or particles in the air last night compared with last year so most people obeyed the ban on fireworks. See also this article from nos.nl in Dutch. Local hospitals were also thankful that the evening was relatively calm: Ziekenhuizen dankbaar voor rustige jaarwisseling: ‘Hele andere nacht’ (from omroepwest.nl in Dutch).

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Merry Christmas (Or: Stocking stuffers)

Merry Christmas, everyone! After a few videochats with family we are currently baking a pumpkin pie. The house smells really nice right now, as you might expect…

Here is my first Christmas gift from Marco – a stocking stuffer! Cute little Christmas themed socks, perfect for keeping my feet warm during the day. This has become more important since we started working from home.

And here is a look at the back of the stocks (the glitter part says Merry Christmas):

I wonder if I will start leaving glitter footprints with every step?

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Early Christmas present from Roger (Or: Baby Yoda cuteness!)

Roger surprised Marco and I with an early present: a Christmas ornament featuring “The Child” from the Star Wars Mandalorian TV show. Otherwise known by most as “Baby Yoda”.

And the view from the side:

In other news – unfortunately it was busy again today in The Hague city centre. In the tweet below you first have four photos from Regio15.nl showing the city centre (including the last photo, of the ever-present line by Primark) and then at the bottom of the tweet you have a message from The Hague’s mayor reminding people to pay more attention to the corona rules (spread out your Christmas purchases, shop online, keep 1.5 meters distance from others and wear a face mask where needed):

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