Holidays

Almost time to start the countdown (Or: Sinterklaas)

Sinterklaas arrives in The Netherlands this Saturday from Spain, as is tradition (read more at English Wikipedia). After his arrival Dutch children start counting down to December 5, as that evening they can open their presents. Minor gifts are given (usually left in shoes) between the arrival of Sinterklaas and December 5.

Albert Heijn is getting into the party with their own version of an advent calendar with mini chocolates:

Every day from November 13 through December 5 has a little window to open (in random order, which as an adult I find a bit annoying). Aftellen tot pakjesavond = countdown to gifts evening (a literal translation).

We’ll see if things proceed as planned. The nationally televised arrival of Sinterklaas can go ahead because almost all of it is taped in advance and the city he arrives in doesn’t actually exist, due to the pandemic. Normally he arrives to much fanfare and thousands of young kids cheering him on in person or watching from home.

Regional arrivals have started to be cancelled, with Utrecht being the first big city to cancel theirs (official website in Dutch). A decision for The Hague hasn’t been made yet, but the signs informing travelers of bus and tram re-routing on Saturday are still in place, and inside the trams an automated message plays saying there will be re-routing on Saturday. It will probably go ahead as the arrival of Sinterklaas at the harbor in Scheveningen now requires tickets and they are restricting the number of tickets offered. At the moment the parade through The Hague is also still on. We’ll see.

For fun, here’s a look at the first (and only) Sinterklaas parade I went to back in 2013. Psssst: Americans, please don’t be shocked at the use of blackface. It is slowly being phased out in most cities.

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We have given in (Or: Time for oliebollen)

Earlier this month I had mentioned that oliebollen stands started appearing on 1 October, the first day they were allowed to do so. Marco finally gave in today (16 October) and purchased an oliebol for me and a krentenbol for himself, aka an oliebol with raisins. It still annoys Marco that the names changed over the years. It used to be that if you ordered an oliebol you would get a doughnut-like thing with raisins. If you wanted the version without raisins you had to say “oliebol without raisins”. Oh well…

Of course I had already taken a few bites when I remembered that I wanted to take a photo for a blog post, so I had to strategically position it so that you couldn’t really tell that about 15% was missing…

Marco and I either make our oliebollen ourselves or we order it from Vermolen in the city centre. I found this article about the 2021 situation (in Dutch from ad.nl): Oliebollen van Vermolen toch op Grote Marktstraat, gemeente verandert van gedachte. Quick summary: this oliebollen stand was always found at the Spui. However, for the last three years the stand was moved to the end of Grote Markt, about 100-150 meters away but much closer to the crowds of shoppers. It was moved due to the ongoing construction at the Spui for the Amare building. Officially the construction is complete and the Amare building is open, but things are still in a bit of flux in the area. The owner of the oliebollen stand first heard last week that he had to move back to his old location this year, but after a bit of campaigning at city hall (a lot of the politicians stop by for his oliebollen) he heard that he was indeed able to open at the Grote Marktstraat this year. Next year is still up for debate – he might need to move back to the Spui then.

Happy Friday, everyone!

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Oliebollen (Or: It must be October)

Last year it was a huge decision to let the oliebollen stands open a month earlier, on 1 October, due to missed income (no festivals were being held, etc.). This year they also opened a month earlier, from yesterday. But this was more of a surprise as it wasn’t splashed everywhere on the news. The stands are usually allowed to be open between 1 November and mid-to-late January as oliebollen is a treat for Christmas and New Years.

But it is good news to see that the stand is back in the city centre, at the end of the Grote Markt shopping street (across from the public library). And perhaps they will be allowed to stay here; they moved to this spot some years back due to the construction around the Amare building. But construction of the Amare building is complete (previous blog post) so that is a good sign for the oliebollen stand.

In case you have no clue what oliebollen are, here is the page on English Wikipedia. Just try and read that without drooling.

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August (Or: Did you know it is already time for Sinterklaas?)

Marco and I visited Action today. Action (English Wikipedia) is a cheap store, kind of like Dollar General in the US without saying everything is a dollar.

Imagine my surprise (okay, not really) when we saw that Action was selling kruidnoten (English Wikipedia) already. Although I know Roger already saw some at the beginning of this month. Kruidnoten is a hard cookie-like confectionery sold in the time leading up to the Sinterklaas holiday on 5 December. These days it starts appearing in August, and 2021 was no exception.

They also had other Sinterklaas items for sale:

Continue reading
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Orange, orange, orange (Or: Cheese and nuts for King’s Day)

Over the weekend the intercom unexpectedly buzzed. It turned out to be a surprise package from work. Inside were gifts to celebrate King’s Day with.

Think of things like a toxically orange lei (you can just see it hidden behind the orange ballons), nuts, cheese blocks, Valencian orange tonic water, and a game of tic tac toe with wooden blocks. Oh, and an elderberry syrup mixture to stir into your water.

The two drinks were Aperol Spritz, an Italian drink (aperol, sparkling water and prosecco). They actually weren’t part of the package. I still had leftover aperol spritz from last year when I celebrated King’s Day with my coworkers! Virtually, of course. Luckily the bottle is now empty. It’s an okay drink… once a year?

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King’s Day 2021 (Or: A sea of orange)

When Marco and I took a walk this afternoon we spotted these flowers by the Hofvijver (English Wikipedia):

Fitting, since today is King’s Day (also Wikipedia), a Dutch national holiday.

Who else remembers that Koningsdag (=King’s Day) was called Woningsdag last year? Woning = home, so it was a play on King’s Day reminding people to celebrate from home due to the pandemic.

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Orange sugar (Or: King’s Day in the Netherlands)

King’s Day is next Tuesday which means a lovely day off. That’s about the only advantage these days, since the usual King’s Night parties (the evening before) and the King’s Day market can’t take place this year due to the pandemic. But who am I kidding? I probably haven’t gone to a King’s Night party in the last 5 years (back when it used to be Queen’s Night, before she abdicated and gave the throne to her son).

It also means you see a lot of toxic orange baked goods at the grocery stores.

On the left in the back you have soesjes (profiterole according to the English Wikipedia). Those are pastries filled with cream. In the middle you have tompouce, which is just called tompouce over at the English Wikipedia because it is a Dutch/Belgium pastry. My sweet tooth doesn’t usually show itself so I don’t eat this kind of stuff that often anymore. The best tompouce I ever had was from Hema with a lime flavor, putting it a bit more on the sour spectrum than the sweet spectrum. But tompouces are tricky to eat, more like overstuffed hamburgers. If you bite wrong the cream in the middle squirts out in the back.

On the right you have a schnitte. I had no idea what this was. I told Marco and Roger this and they looked at me a bit incredulously. Apparently its a two or three layer cake with whipped cream between the layers, or sometimes jam. Marco said that Viennetta ice cream (English Wikipedia) could also be an example of an ice cream schnitte.

Viennetta was actually a possibility last week for celebrating my birthday, but we went for cheesecake instead. I will always consider Viennetta a luxury, since that is how I viewed it as a kid. With the commercial where the group would enjoy the ice cream in clear, tall glasses (obligatory YouTube link)…

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FOAM Easter brunch (Or: A mix of savory and sweet)

This year’s Easter brunch by FOAM was delicious, not that we expect anything different by now. Both photos were taken by Marco, who has a better eye for food photos it seems.

Let’s see. Some of the savory items include: a scone with salted butter and chia jam, an avocado sandwich, a mini spinach quiche and a scrambled tofu sandwich. (Note: that seems to be the only way I like tofu. So tiny it tastes and looks like scrambled eggs. Although oddly I also only eat eggs every 2-3 years, so who knows.)

Some of the sweet items included a coffee hazelnut milkshake, a huge chocolate chip cookie, banana bread, and a fresh fruit salad. My favorite was the chocolate chip cookie (of course) but the banana bread was a close second.

See also the 2020 edition for FOAM’s Easter brunch. That was one of the first FOAM meals we had in corona – pre-FOAM@home on Fridays. I can’t believe it’s been a year already!

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Happy Easter (Or: A drawing from Marco)

Happy Easter everyone!

In the Netherlands Easter Monday is also an official holiday. Unfortunately it is back to work for us tomorrow…

On that note, check out this Easter bunny that Marco drew:

This was for an Easter card that we sent to Marco’s dad. It also included a rhyming poem (not pictured). Not bad considering he wrote the poem and drew the rabbit during a (very) short 7 minute tram ride!

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Valentine’s Day box from FOAM (Or: Two roses)

Marco ordered the Valentine’s Day box from FOAM for the two of us. How cute!

The two extra roses were a nice touch. The box contained fruit salad, an avocado and smoked almond sandwich and a beetroot wrap with black pepper cream cheese, tempeh bacon and cress. On the sweet side we had French toast, banana bread and a chocolate/coffee cupcake. Oh, and juice made of beet/apple/ginger/blueberry. Yum yum. The only thing that I personally didn’t like as much was the black pepper cream cheese, perhaps because I didn’t know the cream cheese had black pepper in it to begin with. It was an interesting flavor either way! The unexpected star of the dish was definitely the fresh toast.

Marco likes to take the artistic photos. I benefit from getting to post them on my blog!

After half a day of rain, the snow and ice has begun to melt. Tomorrow we’re looking at highs of 10C/50F and the weekend might (if we are lucky) get up to 16C/60F. Oh course I read my parents back in the US are facing another snowstorm today… brrr.

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