Good Food – the new luxury

I don’t buy clothes.  My yarn buying has really slowed to a crawl.  I don’t splurge on earrings or tech toys lately (ok since Christmas and the Wii).  What’s left to feel like you’ve treated yourself to something special?  Food!

Today we went to the Grote Markt in the center of Haarlem and bought nice food.  We went to an amazing Italian stand where they sell everything from fresh pasta and sauces, to salads and bread and little treats.  We bought pasta, 2 kinds of sauces, and 2 stuffed mushrooms.  The mushrooms we ate tonight as starters:

The stuffing was cheese and crab (the real kind) and shrimp.  They were really delicious.

At another market stall we bought sesame seared tuna and marinated salmon.  At the vegetable stall we bought fresh spinach that needed to be cleaned of the sand it was just pulled out of.  Tonight I sauteed the spinach with garlic and then added the salmon and soya sauce at the end.  The tuna was eaten cold as it was bought.  

What a luxury it is to have such nice food.  Shopping on the market isn’t cheap.  This isn’t a poor neighborhood market.  There are some basic things you can get here at a good price, but I think most people come to this market for specialty things.  There’s the guy who sells nothing but fresh pineapple, all year long.  There are the flower stalls that are really nice.  The Japanese and Italian specialities where we shopped.  

It was lovely outside today too, which made shopping a pleasure.  Since this is Holland, when I say “lovely” I mean it wasn’t raining.  It was sunny without a cloud in the sky, but I don’t think the temps ever got above freezing all day.  The canals are starting to freeze again.  I’d better get some skates before they sell out again!  Here’s a photo of the Italian stall.  There are always people waiting to be served.

Resolution for Life

I think that today I’ve decided on a Resolution.  This one will not be for 2009, but for life.  Here it is:

I will not drink alcohol on an empty stomach, nor will I drink alcohol without also eating food at the same time, ever, never, again.  It doesn’t matter if it’s only 1 beer.  Or even one glass of wine.  This is the new rule for my life.

Noooo, I didn’t go out last night on a binge and regret it today.  Nothing like that.  I have been keeping track of my eating and drinking and sleeping and working habits for the past couple of months in an attempt to figure out what triggers migraines.  Based on how I feel today, I’ve got at least one thing figured out for sure – alcohol, as imbibed as described above, will give me a migraine more often than not.

Yesterday at work we had an all department meeting, starting at 1pm and lasting until 6pm.  It was a very good afternoon with lots of good input and discussion about how we can not only survive 2009 with budget cuts and head count cuts, but how we can be better and happier as a department.  The proof is in the pudding, as the English say, so we’ll see if change really does come of this exercise, but I’m hopeful at least.

At 6pm we ended the work portion of the day and headed over to a local pub for a beer or two.  By then I was kind of hungry but what harm can 1 beer do, right?  After the 1 beer I had 1/2 of another beer (shared with a colleague) and then I headed home.  I felt great.  At home I ate dinner and chilled on the couch and went to bed around 10:30, still feeling fine – not even tipsy.  I woke up this morning with a headache, which morphed into a migraine by midday.  It’s 2:45pm now and I’m into the migraine meds.  This morning, early, I had to take my car to the garage in Amsterdam and I still have to go back there this afternoon and pick it up – UGH!  Today is my day off, luckily, so at least I can veg at home for most of the day.

So, how do I know it was the beer and not something else?  This is exactly what happened 3 weeks ago and also a time before that.  It’s a pattern that can’t be ignored.  

I’m fine with this new resolution for life.  I don’t drink a lot anyway and now I just have to do it more carefully.  No big deal.  *Sigh*


This evening after work I updated all the links on right bar of this blog.  Whew!  I really didn’t realize how many blogs I keep up with and read regularly.  I keep track of most of my internet reading using Google Reader.  Tonight I copied, one by one, all the links from my reader to the blog and then checked that they all worked.

The list includes blogs that I regularly keep up with and also some other non-blog sites that I visit now and then.  There’s a separate list for friends and family and a few of those can also be found in the Knitting section.

How do I find blogs to read?  Usually from other people’s blogs or from Ravelry.  My list has grown over the last year by quite a lot.  For example, Joli House not only makes beautiful knits, but takes great photos as well.  Of course Little Lou who has a great sense of humor.  Crafty Kim is a new one to me.  Look at the beautiful stuff she makes!  It’s not all about knitting (well almost).  I have added, finally, John’s blog and their Betterfit ranch’s blog.  

There are some shopping links too, like the new Penelope Craft and Wolhemel.

It’s really hard to pick out the best of these blogs.  I like them all.  If I find that I don’t really read one anymore, or if someone hasn’t posted in 6 months, I ruthlessly delete them from my reader and now from the blog.  

There’s been a forum post going around on Ravelry about using Readers and especially about those writers who allow only a few lines of their blog posts to show up in Readers.  A blog reader must click through to the blog itself to see the photos and read the rest of the post.  I’m one of those bloggers.  There seem to be some rabid haters of this kind of limited view in Readers.  I’m sorry.  I’m not gonna change.  I LIKE seeing people’s blog posts in their BLOGS.  I use a Reader to know when there’s something new to go read.  I don’t use the Reader to actually READ (usually).  I don’t mind having to click through to see the whole picture that someone has taken the time to put together.  Some people on the Rav forum sound even pissed off at those of us who post only a few lines to Readers!  Fine!  Be angry and don’t click through.  I know that I have some faithful readers out there and I appreciate their effort to come here.  You are who I write for.

Now, having said that, go check out some of the lovely sites that I’ve linked to here.  Maybe you’ll like them too.  Viral marketing works!

Back in the Saddle

I’ve been a bad blogger this week and also a bad runner for several weeks.  Today I make up for all.

Regarding the blogging, I think I’ve just been tired and not in the mood due to happenings at work.  It’s no secret now – the company has just laid off 7% of the workforce.  We got the word Thursday morning.  Ironically, just the day before I had written a very nice blog post entitled “The Top 10 Reasons Why I’m Happy I still Have a Job Here” but I never posted it.  It listed 10 things that had actually happened at work in the last couple of months.  How did I know that things like that were leading to layoffs?  It was the writing on the wall.  What else could be the result?  It made for some very weird days at work and left me feeling sad and out of sorts.  I didn’t feel like writing.  I didn’t have much nice to say.

I’m over that now.  There are a lot of good things going on and I can write about that.  I like writing here and I hope you like reading, so I will not let a little thing like world wide economic crises get in the way of a good blog post!

And speaking of being over things – I think I’m over my running slump.  I went running today – 6 km.  It felt good.  Well, it was HARD and it was WORK, but afterwards it felt good and I’m so glad I went.

In order to get myself motivated again I actually drove to Amsterdam, to Sloterplas, where I enjoyed running so much when living in Amsterdam.  The last time I ran there was last July.  At that time it was green and pretty and mostly sunny and I had to run early in the morning or else it would be too hot.  It was sunny today too, but windy and really cold.  It was just above freezing.  I also relived old times by listening to the latest Cast On podcast.  Good ol’ Brenda.  I’m enjoying listening to her again.  

It wasn’t green and pretty in the park this time of year.  It was rather bleak.  But still worth a couple of photos.  

There were also quite a few runners out and about. 

I really notice the difference between runners in Amsterdam and runners in Haarlem.  Haarlem runners are friendly.  They wave or nod and say Hello or Morgen to you.  All of them.  In Amsterdam it’s rare to find a friendly runner.  What are they all afraid of?  I’ll stop and ask for their phone number?  I’m going to pull a knife?  I really like running around Sloterplas.  It’s a perfect 6 km loop.  I just miss the gezelligheid of Haarlem.  I’ve only lived here 5 months and already I’m badmouthing Amsterdammers.  

Now that I’m back on the running schedule, I plan to get to the gym Wednesday morning before work.  And Friday too.  I’m back in the saddle!

Socks for Obama

American socks by
American socks knit by MelyssaF, designed by Helene Rush

The only news today on Dutch tv, in the newspapers, on the radio is Obama.  NL loves Obama.  I’m so happy he’s in and Bush is out (did you see that smug Bush mug during the speech?  that man gives me the creeps).  What a great speech he gave.  I won’t even mind seeing the repeat of it on tv over and over again.

I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.  I left work right at 5pm to get home in time to watch the speech.  I walked in the door just as the opening prayer was starting.  We had pizza and beer for dinner to celebrate.

First (Quarterly?) Knitting Swap Game

Today I hosted the first, but probably not the last, knitting swap party.  It was a great success I think.  At least everyone left with different stuff than they came with and seemed happy.  We laughed and laughed, and ate and drank and knitted and unwrapped packages and swapped them around based on the totally random throwing of a die.  What more do you need for a perfect Sunday afternoon?

The game:  Everyone brought at least 2 items to swap.  Most people brought more than 2. They had to be wrapped so no one knew what they were.  All the swap goodies sit in the middle of the room and we sit around it.  Throwing a 6 with the big die meant you got to pick out a package and open it for everyone to see.  When all the packages were gone and unwrapped we took a break.  End of round 1!

Round 2 is timed.  We have 45 minutes to throw the die some more and swap things around according to new rules.  A 6 meant you could take a package from anyone else.  A 3 meant you had to give away one of your packages to someone else.  After about 15 minutes some very creative people added new rules.  Rolling a 1 meant EVERYONE had to hand one of their packages to the person on their right.  Rolling a 5 meant you had to show a tattoo.  That was Andy’s rule addition and he was the first to roll a 5:

Nancy came with 4 packages (I think) and left with nothing.  That was her goal of course so she was really happy.  The girls who had very little stash at home to play with, went home the biggest winners of the game, which made them happy too.  I got rid of 3 packages of yarn that other people seemed very happy to have.  I gained 10 skeins of very dark green Lang wool (Swiss) which is just lovely and I’m thrilled to have.  I won it in the last 2 minutes on my last chance to roll a 6 and take it away from someone else!  It was quite exciting in the end!  Or maybe it was the wine.

I really really enjoyed this party and I hope we do it again sometime.  M. suggested once a quarter.  We’ll see if we can pull that off.  Maybe we’ll see the cupcake or toe sock kits come back again.



The Asparagus Effect

Yesterday I did grocery shopping for the next few days meals, but this morning DB asked if I wanted any other vegies over the weekend.  My mind immediately thought and tasted artichokes.  Yum.  Artichokes.

We live two blocks away from a groetenboer.  In practice, this means “green grocer” or “fruit and veg grocery”.  Boer actually means “farmer” but the Dutch add boer to lots of words to represent someone who sells a particular type of good.  For example a kaasboer is a cheese shop or someone who sells cheese.  But a bollenboer is actually a farmer who farms bulbs.  You just have to know the context to know if a real farmer or a shop keeper is referred to.  I find these kinds of language things really fun.

Anyway, back to the groetenboer…. I walked over looking for artichokes.  They didn’t have any but the closest in color and taste I could come up with was asparagus.  I bought a small bunch of green asparagus, just larger than would fit in my closed fist, for 3.95 euros.  3.95 EUROS!  I couldn’t believe I paid it.  I saw the sign.  I knew the cost and I bought it anyway.  I was seduced by the deep green fresh color.

Tonight I cooked the lovely green spears.  I took one bite and realized why the cost.  They were tender and sweet in that kind of acidic way and really delicious.  Worth every single penny.  Probably the best asparagus I’ve ever eaten.  Actually I hated asparagus when I was a kid and even now I have to be in the right mood to enjoy it.  Maybe these expensive versions will convert me permanently.

Now for the effect.  

What is it about asparagus that, after only 5 minutes from swallowing, you can smell it in your pee?  Haven’t you noticed?  How does that work?  Why don’t any other foods do that?  And you can smell it in your pee for another 12 hours.  I find that so interesting.  Any medical professionals or food experts out there who can tell me?

First FO for 2009!

Today is my day off (I have every other Friday off) and here’s part of what I have to show for it.  I finished the second fingerless mitt to match “Shadow Dance” capelette.  I STILL have yarn left over so I might make one of Nancy’s brioche berets also to match.  Or maybe that’s going too far.  I’ll start to look like an overgrown baby ensemble.

Anyway, it was also good that I was home today because we had to call someone out to look at the heating system.  For the last month or so every time we turned on the hot water there was a horrible pipe rattling in the bathroom.  If you turned the tap in the tub off really hard it would stop.  It USED to stop.  Starting this morning you couldn’t hardly get it to stop no matter what you did.  We decided to call out the heating guy partly because this only seemed to happen with hot water and partly because he’s WAY cheaper than calling a plumber.  He showed up right away and after a few minutes of trying this and that decided that it’s nothing to do with the heater, but that the pipes in the bathroom are old and the faucet leaks and that’s where the problem lies.  The only solution was to turn off the hot water feeding the taps but leave on the hot water feeding the radiators.  We stay warm, but if we want to shower we have to first go up to the attic and turn the handle so the hot water flows to faucets.  Luckily the washing machine and dishwasher make their own hot water.  It’s now six hours since he left and there hasn’t been any more rattling so I guess that’s what we do for the next 2 months!

All this will be solved when we renovate the bathroom.  We’ve signed the offer from the contractor and now we’re just waiting for him to order the stuff and set the start date.  I figure by the end of March we’ll have a brand new bathroom and hot running water again.  Man, I can’t wait!

Anyway, this is what I work 90% for – to be able to do stuff that can only be done during the week days.  For my NEXT day off I’m taking my car to the shop for a long overdue service.  There’s always something.

.5 FO (but for whom?)

Does one sock count as a Finished Object?  Or do I have to finish the second one in order for it to be a real FO?  I guess that depends on how many feet I have!  Ha ha ha.  I crack myself up.

But seriously, I finished one of my La Digitessa socks.  I washed and dried it.  I’m using KnitPicks washable wool (15% nylon, 85% wool) and man are they soft and nice to wear on your feet!  Can’t beat something hand knit, from wool, that you can throw in the washer and dryer, can you?  Here are some photos:

But, do you notice anything?  Sigh.  They are just too big.  

I have three choices.  1) wear them anyway and stuff the extra toe bit under my toes; 2) open up the top of the toe and rip backwards (these are toe-up) and re-knit the toe smaller (which doesn’t solve the looseness in the rest of the foot); 3) give them away and knit another pair smaller for myself.  I’ve been thinking about it since I realized (feared) they were too big.  I think my mom is going to be really happy with my mistake………..

I read on a Ravelry forum that a lot of people calculate the sock size to make and then subtract 10% so that they fit snug, like a sock should.  I wish I’d read that before starting these!  Makes perfect sense.  I’ve already knit up to the gusset on the second sock and will finish it to match this one.  I don’t know any one legged people after all.

Axe Murder

Remember back in October I wrote about spending the family weekend near Nijmegen and finding the pumpkin farmer with about 20 different varieties of pumpkin?  We brought home a huge one that has been sitting outside our front door as decoration since then.  Today he had to die.

He was doing really well outside, not rotting or smelling or anything.  He was solid.  That is, until the bitter cold hit and he froze.  Since it has warmed up the last 2 days he’s suddenly given up hope and began collapsing in on himself.

We decided it was time for Mr. Pumpkin to go.  DB was home today and took matters into his own hands.  

(Cue the scary axe murder soundtrack!)  Poor Mr. Pumpkin, with an axe in his head.  DB made quick work of him, scooped him up with a shovel and put him in his coffin (also called the green recycle bin).

Kind of an undignified end for such a grand vegetable that sat proudly in front of the house for so many months.  He even survived Halloween!  (Man, I really have to stop this habit of giving personalities to plants.  There will be NO mourning!)