Thursday, September 24, 2009

My passion!

I thought I would just let you in on what I do to really make my time here fulfilling.  Yes living here alone is fulfilling and my children and husband are the air I breath, but once they leave the house every day for work and school I am left here to twiddle my thumbs.  Another passion in my life are animals, especially dogs.  In Canada I grew up in a dog grooming salon and started working there when I was 11 years old.  5 years ago I decided to start up my own business to do what I do best and now I have my own dog grooming salon in my house.  Of course I did not do this right away, I had to learn the language first (I think it took about 3.5 years for me to feel confident enough to start my own business).
Right away I noticed a difference.  People did not get their dog groomed every month like back home in Canada. Because I was new, I was getting all the dogs that were only getting groomed once or twice a year. Emotionally, this was very difficult for me.  After 5 years, I have more regular clients but still do not see as many clients as I would like to see coming on a monthly or even bi-monthly basis.  Clients prefer Fifi to be shaved off as short as possible so the grooming lasts as long as possible, unfortunately. The majority of my clients come to me every 3 months. But still, to play with dogs all day long, I can barely call that work, so I shall not complain!



Wednesday, September 23, 2009

LET THE PARTY BEGIN!!! (can you hear my sarcasm?)

I am in the middle of two birthday parties. Just finished torturing our selves with my 12 year olds sleep over birthday party and about to celebrate my youngest daughters first little girl party (or "princess party" as her majesty would like to call it) at 4 years old.  Kids are kids and not much changes there.  They are all still going to sing (at the top of their lunges), dance, fight and engulf their lips with red lipstick (if you are dealing with 12 year old girls).

Adult birthday parties are not exactly like the Canadian parties I was used to, unless we are talking about a birthday party being held at a retirement home (please don't flame me lol).

step 1.  enter the home and be greeted with three awkward kisses on the cheeks.
step 2.  congratulate everybody individually for the birthday persons birthday (even if they had nothing to do with the birthday what so ever) - this is once again usually done with the awkward three kisses.
step 3. find a seat.  chairs will usually be lined up nicely in a circle in the living room (including the couch set).
step 4.  the birthday person will offer you coffee or tea.  This is served with a single cookie or the birthday cake, vlaii or tompoece.
step 5. conversation tends to emerge in the circle of doom birthday circle.
step 6. birthday person will serve drinks ie. cola, juice and if you are ever so lucky a beer or wine.
step7. birthday person will put snacks out on the table - this may or may not include cheese blocks, pretzels, ham rolled around pickles, vegetable platter, chips, crackers with egg or crab salad.
step 8. birthday person will attentively make sure that nobodies drink goes empty and no plate or platter gets down to the last few pieces of food.
NOTE: the birthday person will barely ever sit down.
step 9.  somebody will finally build up the nerve to say that they must leave early and everybody will follow.
step 10.  the birthday person is left to clean up the mess.

As you can see the circle of doom begins even at the young birthdays.

The kiddie parties are pretty much the same as I remember as a child except you don't put a card on the gift - it is pretty much assumed who the gift is for and there is no child who can go with out saying "that one is from me".  Houses are usually decorated with a garland of flags, balloons and sometimes a banner (not much difference there).  Kiddies wear a pointed birthday hat and go home with a goodie bag just like I remember having as a child.

flag garland "vlaggetjes"

One thing that is very different is "trakteren".  This would be a treat the children would bring everybody in their class at school - whether it be a cupcake, cookies or sometimes even a small cheap toy.  What I have done when my daughter left pre-school to go to public school (and I will use this idea again for her upcoming birthday) is turning a tube of smarties into a butterfly. 
Adults will also bring something to share with their colleagues at work, usually cake or tompuce.

The butterflies "vlinders" I made for my daughters class.

There is a song the kids sing in Dutch to the Happy Birthday tune - I will translate it:

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you,
In the field there is a cow,
the cow says I love you,
Happy Birthday to you.

It rhythms a little better in Dutch but you get the idea lol.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More commercials

I must admit that I have an advertising education, so I can especially appreciate a good commercial when I see one.  You don't need an advertising degree to know that these are some funny commercials.

Now this campaign was just brilliant.  I know it is in Dutch but I don't think it even needs to be translated.  She is just showing the ladies (probably her friends) her new apartment.

Which Bavaria cam back with this commercial...

Well of course Heineken was not going to be one uped so here was their response...

Please stay tuned for this commercial break

One thing I have to admit is that the Dutch have some FUNNY commercials!!!  I think I look more forward to the commercial breaks than the actual t.v. shows. 

Here are some that are from an insurance company Centraal Beheer Achmea from Apeldoorn.  There catch line is "Just call Apeldoorn" or "Even Apeldoorn bellen"   The ads are just brilliant. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Biking around

Biking (with a bicycle) is the most popular mode of transportation in Holland.  Cities are so over populated and roads are so small that it is just easier and usually faster to get from point A to point B by bicycle.  The one thing the average North American may notice first is that almost nobody has a helmet on... no adult, no child not even the babies in the baby seats.  It took me some time to wrap my head around this one but later realized that this is a different world.  Drivers here are VERY bicycle cautious and most streets have a designated fietspad (bicycle path). 

It is rather fun to see some of the mommies (and daddies) bringing there kiddies to school in the morning with sometimes 3-4 kids on one bicycle.  They have bike seats for on the handle bars and double and triple seats for on the back.  I am not that brave to balance two kids on my bike.  One is more than enough and teach her how to ride her own bike with out training wheels is my goal. 

Some parents are smart enough to get one of these... the SUV's of bicycles... the Bakfiets!  This is a safe one where two kids can safely be fastened in with seat belts but I have seen them packed full of children, animals and groceries.  Apparently they are not as easy to handle as a normal bicycle.   

Alot of Hollands roads are still cobblestone - I thought I would just show it.  It is not the easiest to bike on but still necessary and usually faster than a car on busy days. Most downtown areas have closed off many roads from cars making it only possible to walk or bike through those sections of town.  Side note:  watch when wearing high heals on these cobblestones - it can be very tricky!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The pee pee dance

Going to the bathroom is a whole other story in Holland.  This is not the most pleasant experience especially if you are claustrophobic like my self.  Most bathrooms are no bigger than a closet, which are very cleverly called a "w.c." or water closet.  The toilets are not like the typical north American toilets.  They have a ledge where the water does not pool.  I am still not sure of the reasoning for this?  maybe for better inspection of your number 2.  All I know is because of the ledge the bathroom MUST be equipped with a very powerful air freshener and the toilet has to be cleaned a few times a day (especially if you have more than one person living in the house).  Many of the older toilets are flushed by pulling a draw string.. 
 Make sure you do use the toilet before leaving the house or hotel when visiting Holland.  Many stores do not have a public toilet  - apparently for insurance reasons.  When there is a public toilet, you must pay for it!  The price is usually any where from .20 to .50 euro cents.
 For those late night party goers that find them self out self with no public bathroom in sight... there is no reason to go pee in the closest alley way These portable urinals are strategically located where ever there is night life in Holland.  Often the portable urinals will lower them selves underground under a big man hole during the day and be raised back up at night time.  Now this is great for them men but what about the women???  Don't you worry darling, just as long as you carry around your own little contraption (available at most drug stores) you can also stand up to pee.  Isn't that just lovely?!?!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

adult content at WHAT AGE???

At first one of the things that shocked me was the openness to the naked body.  I mean I am all for it.  God gave me this body!  I just was not used to seeing topless women in day time advertisements.  Ok these were done very tastefully but it was still shocking.
Late night t.v. is just another story.  It is basically just porn and ads for sex lines. 

The age suggestions for shows seem to be a lot lower than in North America.  For instance... My oldest daughter started to bug us to watch  BrĂ¼no with Sacha Baron Cohen.  Right away I said absolutely NOT going to happen!  She ran to papa .... "but the age on it is 12 years old and I turn 12 in a few weeks PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE papa."  He almost allowed her to watch it until I saw that it was rated 18A in Canada.  My husband and I decided to go and watch the movie just to make sure the Canadians weren't just being "prude".  I COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EYES!!! There is sex (both homo and heterosexual), a lot of nudity (especially below the mans waist),  and a lot of adult content in general.  This movie is not meant for a 12 year old.  I don't even know if an 18 year old should be watching it (especially if it was my child).

Just goes to show that sometimes I have to just be the parent and ignore what is advised.  I will continue to preview any movie or show she wishes to watch until she is 18.  I feel I need to keep some sort of innocents in her even if the movies or tv tries to take it out of her.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Food has always been one of my lusts for life so I guess it would be fair to say it was one of the bigger differences I noticed first.

Breakfast is usually a slice of bread or beschuit - which is nothing more than an over sized crouton (see picture below). Toppings for the bread or beschuit usually includes jams, peanut butter (but apparently NOT together), chocolate paste, chocolate sprinkles (what a way to start your kids off with a sugar high), a simple cheese slice makes a nice alternative for those who don't wish sweets on their bread.
Beschuit - not only used for breakfast or lunch but also traditionally after a baby is born they would top it with muisjes (licorice flavoured balls in either pink or blue).
chocolate sprinkles aka hagelslag

Chocolate sprinkles on bread

Another gewoon (normal) meal or snack is their ontbijt koek 'breakfast cake'. Ontbijt koek is a fairly dry spice cake - most people would cut off a slice and smear on some margerine and/or jam.

Lunches are very similar to breakfast except it is served with a cold glass of milk. This took me some time to adjust to. I quite often made warm lunches as did my mother and my mothers mother and my grandmothers mother did. My Dutch mother-in-law thought I was CRAZY to be making a warm meal in the middle of the day. She let herself in my house, smelled the air, "Mmmmm, are you starting supper all ready?" "ummm no... it's just the mac and cheese for lunch" "Oh we don't eat that heavily in the middle of the day. Will you eat supper then?" She really did think I was nuts and looking back, I must have been nuts to be eating mac and cheese. The foods you will eat when you are young. These days I just stick to my sandwich or tosti - which is basically a grilled cheese done on a panini grill.

The Dutch LOVE their snacks. In most cities, there is always a snackbar with in walking distance or at least a Febo. A febo is a wall yes a WALL with small heated compartments containing food, such as hamburgers, chicken burgers, chicken sticks and some of Hollands favourite fried treats.


The oh so popular Febo.
The frikandel (see above) is a fried, mildly spiced meat stick. In general they are rather tasty but I have had a few that ended up in the garbage.

The kroket is crunchy on the outside and soft and HOT in the inside. The inside is filled with a meat ragout or stew. This is usually served with mustard and sometimes in a bun.

Bitterballen are pretty much the same as the kroket but obviously smaller.

Fries or Patat are another favorite snack, usually served in a cone bag and almost always served with a thick mayonnaise sauce.

Raw haring is a tradition and the Dutch are very proud of it. The haring is even to be eaten as shown in the picture. This is NOT something you will be seeing me do any time soon.

A traditional Dutch supper is potato, vegetable and meat. Often the vegetable and potato are mashed together before adding the meat. Since Holland is a very multinational country, a lot of different dishes from all over the word has been introduced to the Dutch kitchen. A particular favourite is Indonesian foods (since Indonesia was a colony of Holland). Ordering Chinese food here is not the same as the Chinese food you will get in North America, it has a lot more Indonesian influences.
Hutspot - a mixture of carrots, potato and onion.

Andijvie Stampot - a mashed mixture of endive and potato. Often served with a sausage. Very similar looking to the Boerenkool which is curly kale mashed with potato also served with sausage.

Desserts - I don't know if it is a MUST have in every family but it was in my husbands family. My in-laws insist on a toetje (dessert) after every meal. It took me many years to break my husband from that habit. My husbands toetje of choice was usually vla - which is a thick pudding - usually comes in a milk carton, like most of their dairy products including yoghurt.

Chocolate vla

poffertjes - this can also go under snacks. It is basically mini pancakes with sugar powder sprinkled on top.

vlaai - a pie with a thick cake like bottom and creamy inside topped with fruit. YUMMY. Too yummy to eat too often!

One of my favourites and my families. Stroopwafels - syrup wafers. Even better served with hot coffee - balance the cookie on top of the cup to let slightly soften, then eat Mmmmm. I often spoil my Canadian family with these cookies. Who could resist them?

Tompouce - A typical Dutch pink icing pastry. They particularly enjoy giving to foreigners to watch them eat it "differently"then they would eat it, then they laugh at the foreigners vreemd (weird) ways.... thanks guys I will never forget!

Drop - or black licorice - be warned - this is nothing like the black licorice from North America. This stuff can be saltier than the red sea! Zoet (sweet) drop is usually pretty safe.
Anywhere where you can dish out your own candy (like in a bulk bin type manner), you always get a cone shaped bag. Usually all the candy are the same price so you can mix and match. Just don't rot your teeth!

How could I forget the cheese?  Dutch LOVE their cheese (and so do I)!  I used to think cheddar cheese was the best cheese ever... that was until I moved here and was introduced to REAL cheese!  I am still not fond of strong tasting cheese but there still is a large selection of mild cheeses that is just right for my taste pallet. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Typical Holland

I know before I moved here I had a certain image in my head of what Holland was all about. I was rather certain I had seen it all from all the pretty pictures of windmills and tulips. HA was I so wrong! Almost 9 years later and I am still finding vreemd (strange) things here.
Here are some of the typical Dutch things - my pictures don't do the pictures from other books and travel sites justice... you can blame my lack of photography skills mixed with the fact that I don't have a $500 camera that produces miracles for me.

The typical tulips

The Typical windmill

The Typical (or maybe not so typical) wooden shoes.

The typical Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas)

The typical small car (ok this one is REALLY small but the smart car isn't much bigger).

Typical cows (I wasn't going to get any closer than that).

And many many canals

This is "typical Holland" the way the Dutch want their country to look.... gewoon (normal). The Dutch are very adamant about appearing very gewoon... but things are not always as they appear to be ;o)