The heide is finally in bloom. Apparently the flowers don’t last very long before turning brown . The photos really don’t do justice to the view.

Heide 1

heide 2

Close up of the heather.
Close up of the heather.
There is a designated grazing area between Lage Vuursche and Hilversum.
There is a designated grazing area between Lage Vuursche and Hilversum.

Nationale Rouwdag

Today is the official mourning day in the Netherlands for those lost on the MH17 flight. At 4PM there was a moment of silence (stores had up signs letting customers know). Even the church bells in town were still.

Four in the afternoon was the designated time because that is the arrival time for the first flight bringing  home those who were lost. This evening at 8PM there will be a vigil march in Dam Square.

My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones.

Photo by Mike Crassweller
Photo by Mike Crassweller

Zaanse Schans

Last Friday, I visited the Zaanse Schans which is a typisch Nederlands place. It has windmills, cheese, wooden shoes, boats, and of course water.

Zaans Schans

Originally, during the 18th and 19th century, the Zaanse Schans was an industrial area with around 600 windmills. Windmills were used more than for just milling grain. The Dutch also ground pigments for paint, oil (or extracted it rather), spices, cocoa, and even sawed wood.

Oliemolen or Oil Mill
Oliemolen or Oil Mill
De Kat is a mill that made pigments for paints.
De Kat is a mill that made pigments for paints.

De Kat

Later, old houses were moved to the Zaanse Schans to be preserved.

Oud huis
Oud huis met brug
Tuin met oude huizen

Now there are museums too. I visited the Klompenmakerij and a kaasboerderij.

Kaasboerderij or dairy
Klompenmakerij: where they make wooden clogs or klompen
Klompenmaker making wooden clogs.
Klompenmaker making wooden clogs.

I took lots more pictures which you can check out here if you are interested.

Outdoor Living

Outside. The outdoors or in Dutch buiten or het buitenleven. Buitenleven literally means outside living. The Dutch love the outdoors. No matter what the weather you will see the Dutch spending time outside (granted in cooler weather that means slightly less people outside). So “buitenleven” is an accurate descriptor for the Dutch. In warmer weather sidewalks and streets are crammed with people: walking, biking, and sitting in cafes. Actually if the weather is nice no one* sits indoors at cafes. This is one of my favorite things about the Dutch.

Through the Dutch ardor for the outdoors I have rediscovered my own enjoyment of being outside. Feeling the breeze on my face, stopping to admire the hue of flowers, or just enjoying the smell of the outdoors. This summer I have enjoyed het buitenleven: walking, gardening (ok so I enjoy the end result), boating, or otherwise relaxing. And I intend to enjoy a lot more.

gracht Kortenhof

*Slight exaggeration but not too far from the truth.


A Few of My Favorite Words

My posts often have a Dutch word (maybe two) related the topic of the blog entry. However, I thought I would share some of my favorite Dutch words and expressions.

Knuffel – This word means hug. I love the way this word sounds as well as the meaning. (Yes, you pronounce the k too.) Who doesn’t love hugs or knuffels?

Knoflook – Knoflook is one of the first Dutch words I learned. If you know Mike and me well it should not surprise you that this word means garlic. Knoflook isn’t just lekker or tasty, it is also fun to say.

Vogel or Vogeltje – Vogel is a bird and vogeltje is a baby bird. I love the way the Dutch pronounce v’s – part f part v. Follow the Dutch v with the Dutch g (which is very visceral since it sounds like you are getting ready to spit) and you have a word that is fascinating to hear.

Gefeliciteerd met je/uw verjaardag – If we translate this loosely you are wishing someone a “Happy Birthday” but the literal translation is “congratulations on your birthday.” You say this to the birthday person and say “gefeliciteerd” or “congratulations” to their friends and family. Why congratulations? I am not sure but it does feel good to be congratulated every so often. So why not your birthday?

Het was gezellig – This phrase, and gezellig in particular, doesn’t have a precise translation into English. It is used to describe spending time in great company and/or doing something enjoyable. Google translates gezellig as cozy. Bab.la Woordenboek translates it as cozy, close, intimate, homy, and sociable. Wikipedia says it is cosy or quaint. All of these definitions talk around the meaning but never hit it straight on. The best way to describe it is this: Imagine you just had an amazing experience that you are describing to a friend. You can’t quite express all the positive feelings you have about the experience so you finish your story with a lame “well you just had to be there.” You-just-had-to-be-there is “het was gezellig.”

Town Market

Farmers’ markets are one of my favorite food related things. In the US, most farmers’ markets last from May/June to about September/October. For Mike and I visiting the local farmers’ market was always an event. We would plan to eat a meal there, try a new food, and bring back some goodies for at least one more meal. Often we would pick out interesting or unfamiliar foods. To this day one of my favorite finds was a middle eastern bakery. After moving to the Netherlands, I was very excited to find out that our town has a market twice a week.

From what I can tell after living here almost seven months, pretty much every town in the Netherlands has a town market once or twice a week. The town market is very similar to the American farmers’ market but the town market is often bigger and for some people their main source of food shopping. You can find produce, herbs, breads, eggs, cheese, fish, worst, nuts, seeds, tea, coffee, even potted plants, linens, and clothing not to mention an array of things for your bike. Our market also has a fry stand where you can order a cone of fries with your favorite sauce and perhaps a kroket if you are really hungry.

At first, I didn’t do a lot of shopping at the town market. For a couple reasons:

1. I was convinced that it was going to be overpriced or higher priced than the supermarket. This is generally not true, the prices are about the same if not a little less at the market depending on the item and the seller. In my experience the town market produce is often better quality and more varied than the supermarket.

2. It was winter, a balmy winter with no snow, but still colder than Texas where I had spent the last two to two and a half years. Yes, I was a wimp.

3. I didn’t speak any Dutch and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to understand people. Most sellers speak at least enough English to conduct their business but I didn’t know that at the time. Now I know enough Dutch to make my purchases without resorting to English.

The present
I have noticed that some things are way easier to find at the market than at the supermarket. A couple times the supermarket was out of a veggie I needed but at the town market the same veggie could be found in several stalls. I usually plan my shopping around going to the town market and what is available seasonally. One of my recent town market hauls included raspberries, cucumber, and salad greens.

Hup Holland Hup!

In honor of the World Cup, you guys get a bonus blog post. Yay! So football (soccer to American readers) is a BIG BIG deal here and I would be remiss not to mention it. Homes and businesses are decorated in orange (unless perhaps you are rooting for another country then you have their flag up) for the World Cup. Orange paraphernalia and food are on sale everywhere so there is no excuse not to own something orange. Some stores are even giving away World Cup/Holland related swag.

Here is a World Cup Hamster bauble that I got from shopping at Albert Heijn.
Here is a World Cup hamster bauble that I got from shopping at Albert Heijn.

Tonight at 9PM The Netherlands and Spain are playing the World Cup so lots of people are camped out in pubs or holding parties to watch the game. The US doesn’t play until June 17th so in the meantime – Hup Holland Hup!

De Huisarts

De huisarts or huisdokter is similar to a primary care physician or family doctor. In the Netherlands, you go to the huisarts nearest to your home. This means mine is literally up the street and around the corner; I can walk there in 5 minutes. In the States, I would have to drive up to half an hour (depending on traffic) to go from home to my doctor.

The huisarts is very efficient for several reasons:

1. Caters to a small and specific area (there are several huisarts/huisdokter in my town each in a different neighborhood). This means they are close to their patients and have less patients to see which means more time is available for each patient.

2. When you make an appointment they see you pretty much at that time (give or take a few minutes)

3. The doctor can send your prescription directly to the pharmacy or apotheek in Dutch

4. The pharmacy is often next door to the huisarts

Here is a brief recounting of my first experience.

Two days before my appointment:

Me: Hello, I would like to make an appointment to see the doctor.

Huisarts: We have an opening available at 8:30 on Friday.

Me: Sounds good. I will take it.*

Huisarts: You now have an appointment at 8:30 on Friday. See you then.

Day of my appointment:
I arrive early for my appointment and take a seat in the already full waiting room. Within 5-10 minutes the waiting room is empty because all patients have been called. At my appointment time, I am called back by the doctor. We enter her office which has desk, a computer, and an exam table. She asks about any medical concerns, performs the exam, and boom done. Total time: 20 minutes.

If only everything in my life could be so efficient.

*I probably could have gotten a different time but I am used to the US where if you don’t that the first time they offer you can be waiting for weeks or longer.

Garden Makeover

When Mike and I moved in to our house it had been empty for three-quarters of a year and the garden had gone to seed a bit. I could tell the garden had potential but it needed a little work to make it lovely.

I mentioned to my friend, Belen, that I wanted to do something with my garden and was a bit at a loss for exactly how to get it to look like the garden in my head. She generously offered to help me out.  We went over the plan for the garden and she suggested plants to help me get the right look. After a few texts back and forth, we settled on a day to make the plans a reality.

Before the big day, I had picked up a few tools,  some weedkiller, and found some empty planters in the shed. The day of the garden overhaul Belen arrived with trimmers (in every size imaginable), extra potting soil, brushes, miscellaneous tools, and flowers. So between the two of us we had everything we needed.

First we got rid of the weeds in the flower beds and between the tiles. While I finished weeding, Belen also re-potted the flowers she brought with her and a bunch that were being squished by some bushes.

Repotted flowers

After the weeds were gone, we trimmed the trees and bushes. We decided to dig out the big bush in the back corner to make room for the Hortensia. After a trip to the tuincentrum (to pick up more soil, citroenmelisse, and a Clematis), we planted the Hortensia and the Clematis. Belen made sure that the Clematis would grow in all directions to cover the lattice.


New garden


Here is the final result:

Thank you so much, Belen, for your generosity and hard work.