Friends&Family

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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Hiroshima style okonomiyaki (Or: Do I mean onomatopoeia?)

Yesterday, Marco, Roger and I made okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake. The recipe came from a cookbook called “Tokyo stories” which I gave to Marco for Christmas this year. It was a nice find at the local American Book Center, or ABC for short. The joke in the blog title was that Marco couldn’t pronounce it right away after visiting Japan (oh-co-nome-e-ah-key) so he took to calling it onomatopoeia, which is ironically just as difficult to say. But these days we all just call it by its true name.

This variant was the Hiroshima style, which differs from the Osaka style Marco and Roger ate in Tokyo last year. 1) It uses 3 to 4 times the amount of cabbage as the Osaka style variant, with the cook (in this case Roger) pushing it down to flatten it as it cooks. 2) It is built in layers, including one careful flip halfway through. Roger was a flipping master last night.

For the most part, you can add whatever toppings you want. The original recipe called for squid but we were not adventurous enough for that, so we used pork instead. There is bacon in the recipe – you add it to the top of the pile and then you immediately flip the pancake so that the bacon is on the bottom and crisps up. It also usually has noodles (we used yakisoba noodles, which are stir-fried). There’s also a special okonomiyaki sauce, and we used a wasabi mayo as well on top.

We also used Roger’s gourmetten set, which has a dual use plate depending on how it was flipped: a grill for gourmetten or a flat grill for occasions like this. For the most part we cooked everything on the stove in pans and then transferred the mixture to the grill plate at the end to keep everything warm (traditionally you should cut off a piece and put it on your plate and get more later).

As a drink, Marco and Roger had calpis, which is a Japanese uncarbonated soft drink. But personally I like carbonation so I don’t drink that often. I had an Asahi “super dry” beer. Ironically enough it does taste pretty dry. It is also my beer of choice if we go to Wagamama in Amsterdam.

As usual, Marco cooks awesome stuff!

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A lovely day for the beach (Or: For herring?)

This photo was taken last weekend while Marco and I were visiting Scheveningen with a few friends. It shows the outdoor portion of Museum Beelden aan Zee, with an oversized statue eating herring. That is a well-known tradition in these parts called “Hollandse Nieuwe” where people look forward to the traditional start date of the herring season.

Of course, if you look really closely you can see that his feet are stomping on much smaller statues, but okay… we’ll ignore that.

After the usual visit to the statues part we headed down to the beach, even getting our feet wet (and in my case gingerly stepping over seashells). The sea water was a bit cold, but we got used to it after a while. Most interesting were the little ponds that were left behind further inland from the tides – a lot of kids were playing in those as they were only an inch or two deep. I don’t have any pictures of those, since I figured with my luck I’d try to take a picture and just end up dropping my telephone into the water… haha.

In the other Scheveningen new, the annual fireworks festival won’t be coming back this year. Why is that you ask? It’s actually too popular! No, seriously – the event was attracting around 400,000 people for four days total (across two weekends) and the beach just wasn’t large enough to support that. Most of the problems came after the event ended, since everyone wanted to go home at the same time.

This DHC article from last year has a great overhead photo showing you just how crowded it was trying to get home with public transportation after the event ended. Although HTM (the public transportation company) did say the buses were not riding at that moment and were being used as a buffer to prevent people from climbing over the fences leading to the stop. You can see the road is clear where the buses would actually be driving. There’s a security guy in yellow standing in the road to keep everyone off it. Additionally, HTM had 71 tram rides that night instead of the normal 31, and 54 bus rides as opposed to the normal 15. Still, the wait for some folks was over 90 minutes even with that extra capacity.

I do hope they can figure something out for next year though. The fireworks festival was a lot of fun, if too crowded for me in the end.

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