Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Incognito

It's been a LONG while since I updated anybody one what's shaking in the Netherlands, but that's because I don't know anymore! Andy and I got home safe and sound after a long flight to Philly and a longer (it felt that way) flight to DFW on a HOT, uncomfortable, drinkless US Airways flight. I was actually sweating when we landed, so I will probably avoid flying on any of their domestic flights in the future, and probably the international ones as well. Any company that's too cheap to serve me a free soda and too cheap to turn on the AIR CONDITIONING is too cheap to deserve my patronage. Southwest has cheaper flights and still serves a free beverage and uses air conditioning (last I checked, I don't fly much).

So what have I been doing since arriving in the Lone Star State (also known as the greatest state in the Union)? I've gone Christmas shopping, started making plans for a gingerbread house for my mom (gingerbread is so nasty), bought a graduation gift for my brother, thought about buying a wedding gift for my other brother who got married last summer and otherwise made a nuisance of myself. I did also come up with some new designs for a friend's website, but I have yet to remember to ask her permission for me to blog about it, so I can't tell you much. =)

I'll update you on my culinary experiences and post photos from Germany, Belgium and Paris next week if I can convince my lazy booty to do so. That reminds me - I became fairly convinced while in Europe that I had lost a good bit of weight - most of my pants, especially my slacks, which had been a bit snug - were practically falling off. It turns out I lost 10 pounds while there. I've gained 2 of them back in 12 short days. =)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Things I'm Not Going to Miss... Much Longer

I've been MIA for a few weeks now and thought I'd put one more post up before heading back to the States.

It's been fun, it's been real, but man, I am ready to go home.

In no particular order here are the foods I can't wait to eat:
  • brownies
  • Andrew's [In]Famous chocolate chip cookies*
  • ranger crispies
  • my family's chicken fried steak
  • my dad's augratten potatoes
  • lasagna
  • fried okra
  • fried catfish
  • cake (just give me real, honest to goodness cake!)
  • vanilla/chocolate Blue Bell ice cream
  • tamales
  • ribs
  • chili cheese dogs
  • turkey sandwiches (who would ever have thought there aren't turkeys in Europe**!)
  • Andy's breakfast burritos
  • my family's hamburgers
  • my dad's gumbo
  • sausage (the Dutch don't know sausage)
  • twice baked potatoes
  • Andy's chicken alfredo pizza
  • my mom's pepperoni/sausage pizza
  • Andy's spinach calzones
  • Andy's mushroom white sauce stuff***
  • quesadillas
  • pb&j sandwiches
  • tuna fish crackers (with Saltines!)
  • 45 Minute Cream Cheese Cake
Maybe I'll have enough time to drop a few more things I can't wait to do (like drive a car for the first time in 5 and a half months) or places I can't wait to eat or just things I can't wait for in general.

*These were once a Calvert House specialty. Alas the baker took a job working for some fancy shmancy NYC law firm, and now the only thing I have recourse to are my own unworthy version of his recipe.

**Yes, yes, I know [knew] there aren't turkeys in Europe, but I never thought about it meaning no more turkey sandwiches. I actually gave up eating sandwiches, because I couldn't take it anymore.

***It's amazingly good and the original recipe (now modified by Andy) was from Wolfgang Puck.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Process II

It's been a while since I last posted on said topic, but we finally got our BSS numbers, and the bank account. The first time we went in, Andy accidentally mentioned that the UChicago department address wasn't our home address. They didn't like that and informed us we would need to provide them with a utility bill (A UTILITY BILL!) with our home address on it. Fortunately, since the California mail fiasco*, I have one of the utility companies send me an email with our bill as a pdf (not so tech savvy), and Andy could print this out at work. When we next went into the bank, Andy avoided mentioning the information regarding said address, and we got the account setup without further difficulties.

As for the envelope my mom sent us, we don't know where it went, but it took FOUR weeks to get to us. Priority mail my bootay. In the meantime we probably received a half dozen letters from Andy's mom, each within about 3 days of the postmark. Priority mail must get routed through Chicago... Fortunately, we didn't need that to get the BSS numbers, just to register as citizens and get our special I-live-in-Europe cards, which we didn't really care about anyways, though maybe if they knew we didn't have them after 90 days they'd kick us out. Who knows.

Once we got the original documents we went back to the Gementee office (I guess that means government or that other word I'm thinking of, but I can't remember what it is and it starts with a c**) and registrated*** our marriage. A couple weeks later, Andy received a letter stating that he need to present himself in Rijskwijk to pick up his citizenship card thingy. We walk into a long room with little offices along each wall. You had to be buzzed into the offices, which, if I remember correctly, had windows facing into the bigger room. It was very strange and somewhat creepy. So Andy walked in, showed them his passport, received the card and we went home. Why why why?

I still don't have my card. I was somewhat hoping it would be important, I would be caught without it, and then I would get to go home early courtesy the Dutch government. No such luck. ;)

So that's it for the process. I've since learned that it's a bit ridiculous in every country, but I still don't understand why we had to go to THREE different offices to accomplish this task. I can sort of understand Den Haag and the local office, but Rijkswijk??? Did they just elect the right guy who pulled the right strings to get them the important office of temporary-citizenship-card-thingy issuers? And why weren't the photocopied documents that were acceptable to the national government acceptable to the local government? These are questions of lasting importance to the well being of the world, and they must be answered!

*The California mail fiasco was initiated when Andy and I spent a summer in California. We had our mail temporarily forwarded there, and now a good chunk of our mail still goes to California. I haven't seen certain utility bills since we left California, while we were still in Chicago, I had my insurance company mail me at work, and I don't even want to know what I don't know didn't arrive at our Chicago address.

**Actually, the word does NOT start with a c. It in fact starts with an m and is municipal. ;)

***What in blue blazes is registrated anyways? Is this a word the British use instead of registered and the poor, unfortunate Dutch picked it up from them thinking it was proper English? ;) Or is it a Dutchified version of registered? The world may never know...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rotterdam Zoo 10-04-08

Andy and I went to Rotterdam a couple weeks ago to visit the zoo and had a pretty good time even though it was pretty cold for visiting the zoo. I was surprised at how many animals were still outside, but even if they'd been inside, many of the exhibits had indoor visitors areas. I was disappointed by the size of the exhibits, most notably the rhinoceros exhibit which seemed pretty small for such a large animal. For a small zoo, however, it had quite a variety of animals. I made a movie of the photos since there were so many, but as always, you can check them out individually below. Have fun!

video


*Red vs Blue is a super funny web series based in Halo, the exceedingly popular first person shooter. As a warning, they have potty mouths.

**Prairie dogs have long been the bane of cattle and horse ranchers, as they are suspected of both eating all the grass and digging holes into which unsuspecting animals (particularly horses) step, breaking their legs (possibly throwing a rider, who then may also injure himself). Said animals are usually killed as the expense and unlikelihood of properly repairing the injury outweigh the animal's value.*** Some wildlife experts believe this long held belief to be highly suspect.

***It's somewhat ironic to note that we've begun doing this to humans...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Following

For the sake of learning who our one and only reader is (I hope there's one of you anyways), I've added the Followers Gadget to my sidebar. Once you've added my blog to your list, Blogger will update my list and stick your profile photo in my sidebar. It's pretty nifty and gives people an opportunity to learn about your blog while perusing mine. It's also a nice colorful addition when there are many faces there, so it's aesthetically pleasing to boot! The only drawback as far as I'm concerned is if you're using Google Reader already (which I am), then it adds another folder for the Blogger blogs that you follow. Those blogs are, of course, already in Google Reader (which is grrrrrrrrrrrreat!), so I now have them twice, in folders that I want them in. Not a big deal, just a little annoying. Maybe they'll eventually make that an option. Even with the annoyance, I clicked to follow blogs to let folks know I think their blogs rock enough to let them put my face on it.* =) All that being said, if you'd like to follow this blog, just go to Regular Readers** on my sidebar and follow the instructions! *Followers just makes me feel like I've got some sort of crazy messiah complex... **You don't have to think my blog rocks, I just want you to stick your face on my blog. 0=)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oslo Vigeland Park 08-31-08

**WARNING: Naked statues ahead!!!**

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Vigeland Park is one of if not the most popular tourist attractions in Oslo. I had looked it up online before we left and had decided against going. I've never been into sculpture work and wasn't expecting a giant park full of nudes to be particularly interesting. When Andy and Peter insisted we go, I drug my feet, but was very pleasantly surprised to discover that they didn't just put a bunch of random statues in a park. Instead, the entire thing is a whole, with the statues sitting within a context rather than as individual, uninteresting studies of the human form.

The third photo contains a shot of the grand finale - a monolith of bodies. Unfortunately, the darn thing was wrapped up in plastic, so there's no picture. Surrounding it, however, were lots of other statues that I did get to see. =)

There's a bridge shortly after entering the park with statues all along the sides, which is very cool. I don't know why Andy refused to strip down to do a proper imitation of the statue, but this is the best he would do...

Later on you come to a fountain surrounded by trees with people in them. This is sort of a play on the tree of life idea but not. As you go from one tree to another, you see that there is a beginning and and end - babies to children to adults to old people. I liked it.

Despite it being cold and dark outside, Norway has some beautiful flowers and Vigeland Park had several little gardens where I cajoled Andy into take more flower pictures. =)

If you look at the second photo more closely, you can see one of the more bizarre (and frightening) statues in the park.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Oslo Architecture 08-30-08

One thing Oslo is probably not famous for is it's architecture. Nevertheless, we found one or two very cool buildings, a couple of very ugly buildings, a gigantic iceberg and the usual run of the mill Roman/Greek municipal building knockoffs.

As you can see, our first two items fall in the latter category while the third item is simply sort of interesting and reminiscent of some English style or other that Andy termed Victorian and with which I disagreed though I offered no justification and no alternative. I try at all times to be as informative and reasonable as possible...

No idea what this building is besides exceedingly ugly. It's next to/near the art museum (quick tour: the Norwegians came to painting late and painted some lovely scenes, few of which have become famous as masterpieces). This building is also near/on the University of Oslo campus, so perhaps if you are desperate to know what it is, you can find information there.

The last building of this series was cool, so I hope you enjoy that one. =)

As you can probably imagine this is some sort of government building. No, I'm afraid I don't recall which one, but it sits fairly near the piers where we took the boat tour and the boat to get to the Viking ship museum. It has a nice little garden beside it and some naked* statues (Norwegians prefer their statues naked, thank you).

Finally, we have the iceberg/glacier opera house. From a distance, I think it looks more like an iceberg, but since I've never seen a glacier** I suppose I really wouldn't know. You're invited and encouraged to climb all over the opera house with the safety of knowing there are no giant crevices waiting to swallow you whole and hold you in their bowels until you freeze to death. Somehow the exhilaration was simply not up to expectations... Nonetheless, once you were on the opera house, it did kind of seem like a glacier - they used some sort of sparkly stuff, which caused a lovely blinding effect, just like walking on new, slightly icy snow in the sun. It was kind of neat, but I don't know what glaciers have to do with opera...

*Sorry, that's supposed to be nude isn't it?

**Actually, I've never seen an iceberg in person either.