Monday, February 28, 2011

German celebrity sighting

I got back late last night from a great weekend in Cologne (minus the cold rain; I swear it follows me wherever I go). I haven't had the chance to go through my photos, so I'll just give you one story for now and you can check back for the rest of the goods.

Saturday night, I was at the apartment of a friend of a friend and we turned on German Idol (or Deutschland sucht den Superstar). The next day I was at a cafe (okay, it was Starbucks. Go ahead and judge me) and I saw a couple guys walking by. One of them had this deep forehead wrinkle and I was thinking he looked like this guy I had seen the night before on German Idol who also had a remarkably fat head. I was thinking maybe it was just a German thing and then I looked at the other guy. He was wearing a trucker hat like Ashton Kutcher circa 2005 and happened to have another distinct face, as it reminded me of a couple people I halfway know.

So even though there wasn't anyone with me to confirm the sighting, I'm 100% positive I saw Marvin Cybulski and Pietro Lombardi. Even more positive than the time I saw an otter in the Brazos, and I'm pretty sure about that.

Forehead wrinkle.

And trucker hat guy. He apparently forgets lines to songs almost every show.

I haven't felt this connected to an Idol since high school when we used to drive around Mansfield looking for Kelly Clarkson's house.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fifty-five matchboxes

In honor of my trip to Germany this weekend, here's some German you are almost guaranteed not to be able to say correctly. Sarah, the German intern, gets great pleasure hearing me try to say this. Mainly the second part; the first word's just fun.

fünfundfünfzig streichholzschachteln

If you think you've got it down, feel free to send me a recording of you saying it, and I'll send you back one of Sarah laughing. (She actually makes me say streichholzschachtelchen, which just adds the chen ending to matchbox, making it cutesy and feminine and harder to say, but Google Translate says that means match shaft moose. But you can try that one, too.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Some kind of medicine

I've been fighting a nasty cold for about a week and at the pleading of my poor chapped nose, I finally broke down and bought some cold medicine. At least, I bought some kind of medicine based on the few Dutch words I thought I might need to know. I knew koud means cold (though it actually means the temperature kind, which my sickly mind didn't think of), congestie means congestion and keel means throat.

I ended up with these.
Citrosan: Koorts en pijn bij griep en verkoudheid.
Strepsils: Sinaasappel & Vitamine C bij beginnende keelpijn.

Now I know verkoudheid is the word for cold, as in the sickness, but it has "koud" in it, so I figured that was good. Plus, I knew griep was probably flu because it's la grippe in French. 

Sinaasappel is orange and keelpijn looks like throat pain = sore throat?

So now that I've had the opportunity to translate them, Citrosan is a lemony drink that's supposed to get rid of fever and pain associated with colds and the flu, and Strepsils is an orangey sore throat drop. If I don't feel better tomorrow, I might have to go to an actual drug store to try to get rid of this congestion. I don't think my coworkers appreciate me becoming a mouth-breather. Does anyone know the Dutch word for Dayquil?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Springfield clothing

(This has nothing to do with The Simpsons. Sorry to disappoint.)

I haven't done much shopping since I've been here, besides the obligatory supermarket runs twice a week (I say supermarket because "grocery store" is a completely foreign term to the Europeans I know). So on Saturday,  I wandered through the center hoping to maybe find a bag, some boots and something cool to put in my apartment when I get home and become an adult. Two out of three's not bad.

I did go into some smaller stores, which I usually avoid because overeager cloggies working on commission intimidate me, but I ended up at a department store for my new boots and bag.  It was some combination of initials. There are a lot of those here, besides the obvious(ly awesome) H&M. P&C maybe? V&D? Doesn't matter.

The bag is from this cute brand called Springfield. It's called Cheeks, presumably because that's what it hits when you walk.

I might have to go back to get this sweater and this dress (a girl can dream of warm Texas weather, right?).

Sunday, February 20, 2011


There were a couple days while my parents were here that I didn't bring my big clumsy SLR camera because we were staying around Den Haag (and my mom was taking plenty of pictures for both of us). So here are just a couple I took with my phone on those days. My poor little iPhone was excited to just see some action now that it's been on airplane mode for 6 weeks.

This is in the Ridderzaal, or Knight's Hall, at the Binnenhof. We took a short tour, which the guide and other Dutch guests were nice enough to do in English. On Prinsjesdag (Prince's Day) each year, the queen comes and sits in that throne and says what the government policy will be like for the next parliamentary session. 

And apparently the Dutch are a little cheap, because when the next monarch (it'll be a king next) takes power, he won't even get a new throne. They'll just use the same one and change the B on it (for Beatrix) to W for Willem-Alexander (which will actually be a recycled W from a previous Willem). What a tough life.

On Monday, we went to Delft because it's too charming (and close) to miss. And my mom bought a genuine Royal Delft plate, double wrapped in bubble wrap for the plane ride home.

Ok, I think I am officially done with my parents' visit. Now back on to boring everyday Dutch life.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Stereotypical Holland

I know you all have been waiting anxiously for this entry since I got here, so here it is. Windmills and wooden shoes (also known as the only things you know about the Netherlands).

On Sunday, we took a train to Amsterdam Centraal (our 3rd Pierre Cuypers masterpiece in as many days) and then had a little trouble finding the right bus. We're just not good at buses. Of course, my mom, who spent her time looking at postcards instead of trying to figure out where we were supposed to go, was the one who ended up seeing Bus 91 and saving the day.

We took 91 to the complete opposite end of the line to a little village called Zaanse Schans where tourists' wildest dreams come true.

At the klompenmakerij. If anyone wants some wooden shoes (and wants to pay for the weight they'll add to my suitcase), I know where to get them now. Or I could make you some since I now know the secrets of the trade.

At the kaas farm. We got to try lots of different cheeses, cut by girls in funny lace hats. I tried to find a picture of the hat on the Internet, but to no avail. Next time I go, I'll just have to buy my own cheese-cutting hat. (Edit: A lovely friend found some photos and posted them in the comments) 

And then the windmills.

We went in one that still works called De Kat where dye is made.

This was one of those "at your own risk" kind of places, so we were free to stick our hands in any gears that we wanted. 

We also got to go out on the little deck by the blades. 

And climbed around on a bunch of ladders.

Except for my mom. She only went on a couple because she's afraid of heights and fun.

I hope you enjoyed these pictures because you can expect to see basically the same ones in a few weeks when I drag Will there. Don't forget to put in your wooden shoe order before then.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kasteel de Haar

If you had asked my parents why they were visiting the Netherlands, they probably would've lied and told you that it was to see me and make sure I'm doing alright. But we all know they used me as an excuse to make their first trip to Europe. My mom made a list of things she HAD to see while she was here, and a castle was somewhere at the top. 

She picked out 2 Dutch castles and told me to take her to one of them. I chose Kasteel de Haar, which I thought was the closest and easiest to reach, but now I'm not so sure. It was just this side of Utrecht and should've been a direct bus ride from the (empty) station where we hopped of the train. Should've been. But they must've changed the bus route or something because the bus we wanted no longer stops at that station. We had to take a different bus to the original bus' stop, wait in the cold for 25 minutes and then take the right bus to another stop and then walk 20 minutes to the castle. 

So here's where we started having an OK time. 

This was on our walk to the castle. They're not normally that cute; I made them hold hands.

The castle was actually pretty cool. It had a couple moats, took up a lot of room and overlooked a really great garden (or moderately-great-in-the-wintertime garden). My mom kept walking into my photos, though.

A family, the van Zuylens, lives here for a month every year (that's not them in this photo. I assume they're much more royal). I can't tell you too much more because the tour was in Dutch.

We weren't allowed to take photos inside (that was basically the only thing they said to us in English), so this was the last one I got before the tour started. The inside was pretty much what you would expect the inside of a castle to look like: extravagant. The tour lasted roughly an hour and this is what I got out of it: Roger Moore somethingsomething something bedroom something somethingsomething Mr. James Bond something something joke. My mom understood the joke part, too, so she laughed.

After the tour, we saw little girls dressed as Disney princesses on their way to the entrance. It was super cute. Snow White was dragging a little prince (or a dwarf) way ahead of the pack. I miss those days of pulling boys along by their ears.

The weather was crummy, so we took one last picture of the castle and then hurried back to The Hague. Or went slowly on two buses and a train.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bye, Mom and Dad

After four long days of sightseeing and getting lost in random Holland towns, my parents are gone. OK, they're not really gone, but I have to go to work tomorrow and they're going to Amsterdam, so I won't see them again until I come home.

I'm seriously just too lazy to resize photos now, so tomorrow or the next day (or the day after) I'll post about the castle and windmills and cheese and wooden shoes we saw. Though my mom left all the navigating (and getting frustrated) to me, she did pick out some pretty cool places to visit so I can't complain too much. Just kidding; I've already complained a lot. But I've gotten it out of my system so now I can just talk about how much fun we had.

Here's a preview. My mom in wooden shoes.

Oh, and happy Valentine's Day! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My parents are here...I think

As far as I can tell from airport websites and a lack of panicked e-mails from my dad, I think my parents have made it to The Hague. I'll find out for sure in about an hour when I leave work and go to their hotel. It's pretty dreary weather today (and for the next couple days), but hopefully they'll enjoy themselves anyway and the sun will come out on Sunday.

Our boss has been out basically all day, so I've been very productive. Well, at least in terms of personal matters. I've even planned my next weekend trip for a few weeks from now. Cologne, Germany.

Bill Bryson didn't give it very good reviews, but it's close, it's in another country and there's a chocolate museum. What else do I need to know about it?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Italian lesson #4

Today I have officially been in The Netherlands for one month. That means I'm 1/3 of the way done with my time here, which I think is kind of...

That means "cool." Just draw a diagonal line on your cheek with your thumb.

What's also cool is that I did laundry this weekend, which is why there is a shirt hanging from my mirror in the background of the photos. It could've been underwear, so count your blessings.

I ran into some technical difficulties with my pizza plans this past weekend, so I spent it mostly running errands and watching Netflix, and that was OK by me. Later this week, though, my parents are coming to visit. It'll be their first time in Europe, so I'm sure we're going to party it up and I'll have lots of photos to post next week that include people other than me. Or just even more photos of myself.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Italian lesson #3

Today was one of the Italian's (Giuliana's) birthday, so last night I went to Sarah's flat and together we made an Oreo cheesecake. She needed me because it was an American recipe, and she has no idea what cups or ounces are. So I pretended I could tell without a measuring cup.

So in honor of Giuliana, here's another Italian gesture. Who am I kidding? Here's another Italian gesture because I like taking pictures of myself.

This one means "nothing" or "none." It's a handgun twisted back and forth a couple times.

"Bethany, what are you doing this weekend?"
(Not entirely true. The Italians are supposed to cook us pizza tomorrow)

"How much of that giant cheesecake is left now?"

"How many more pictures of yourself are you going to make us look at?"

Lots. You were hoping for the gesture one more time, huh?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Italian lesson #2

Happy Groundhog Day! I felt sort of silly once I started trying to explain the holiday to my German and Italian coworkers. Not only is the whole concept ridiculous, but I couldn't even explain what a groundhog is (woodchuck didn't mean anything to them either). Marmot seems to do the trick, though, just so you know. Also, they've seen the movie, which I didn't figure out until I'd already done several groundhog impressions.

Now on to today's lesson: later. It can mean a lot of things depending on the context, but they all mean something about later or after. When you're leaving someone, you can do it to mean "See you later." If you're gossiping and someone walks in on it, you could do it to mean "I'll tell you later." If your boyfriend is nagging you to cook him dinner while The Bachelor is on, you could do it to mean "I'll do it after." Or you could just tell him that this isn't the '50s and to cook his own dadgum dinner, but I think we all know the gesture you could use for that.

Basically what "later" looks like is the American sign for crazy (the European one is different; you just tap your temple with one finger) moved down in front of your chest. So make a forward circle with your finger.

 Repeat once. Too much more than that and you look crazy (European or American gesture is acceptable here).

End it at the front of the circle.

Simple. Now, I know what you're all thinking. "Bethany, these lessons are awesome, but a little too clean for me. What I really need is to be able to give that schmuck at the pizzeria a piece of my mind." Well, those gestures are coming...sometime. But I'm not telling you when so that you have to keep coming back to find out.