Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chestnuts roasting under the heat of a thousand interrogation lamps

So I know I told you there would be a fantabulous interview with the one and only Maan Leo coming up soon on The Wooden Shoe Diaries, but Maan is a Totally Famous and Therefore Busy Person, so as you can imagine, I'm still waiting for her to get back to me (Maan, if you’re reading this, no pressure). So this post is a bit like elevator music. It’s here purely to fill up what would otherwise be an awkward silence between us. Because I never want awkward silences between us, folks. I rather like you all.

But I suppose I do actually have to say something instead of just continuing to blather on in this prefatory kind of way, so let me say how disappointed I am with Middelburg’s take on Christmas decorations. Because what Middelburg sees as “decorations” I see as thousands of gazillion-watt incandescent light bulbs making my local neighbourhood look less like a charmingly-preserved heritage area and more like a large open-air interrogation room.

And Middelburg is not the only town to have gotten it wrong[1]. The bloggers over at 24 Oranges alerted me to the fact that Rotterdam put a design firm called M.E.S.T. in charge of their Christmas light display. “Mest” in Dutch means “manure.”

As if this wasn't bad enough, M.E.S.T. then settled on a display they called “It’s a Jerry, Jerry Christmas,” which features strings of multi-coloured jerrycans.  It’s Christmas, only with connotations of poop, Nazi Germany and Vietnam thrown in.

I love the smell of frankincense and myrrh in the morning. Photo from

Here’s what someone behind the project said (on the website of the Rotterdam kerstverlichting initiative): “The unconventional, out of the ordinary lighting in the streets puts the public space in a different light.”

Yes, that is most certainly true.

The quote continued: “[The display] enables a public space for discussion and demonstrates the commitment of the Dutchman with his or her city.”

Wow. I usually just plug in a string of lights and think “Christmas lights. How pretty.” All these years I've been missing out on an opportunity for an extended meditation on national identity.

Come on Holland. Get your festive act together.
[1] Don't email me to tell me "have gotten" is "incorrect," because (a) I already know that some people get upset about this North American conjugation. These people need a HOBBY; and (b) I'm using it anyway.

Monday, November 26, 2012

And that was my day

Some exciting stuff that happened in Clog World today:

I was granted a super-deluxe exclusive interview with the one and only Maan Leo, Young Dutch Thing and author of the sensational novel Ik Ben Maan, published in May 2012 and already in its second printing. Now THAT is how you do it, kids. Look out for my interview with her coming up soon on The WSD.

I bought a new computer. Maybe. I definitely ordered a new computer. The company has no record of my order but PayPal still wants my money.

I practiced for my upcoming staatsexamen by doing another of the sample exams available online. One of the writing assignments asked me to think up an activity that children could do together at a pretend summer cultural fair that I was (pretend-)helping to organize. Which is clearly and blatantly discriminating against childless agoraphobics. I mentioned this to my husband but he says the staatsexamen people probably won’t give me a “special” exam on these grounds because I am not agoraphobic. But then I said I felt it was my responsibility to stand up for agoraphobes everywhere. I mean, we can’t expect them to stand up for themselves. They’re afraid to go outside. How are they going to fight the power while they're cowering under their beds hiding from the postman? My husband clearly has no sense of social responsibility which is why it’s good he teamed up with me.

My interview with the nice people over at ExpatsBlog went live! You can read it here.

And that was my day.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What I meant to say #8

What I meant to say:

What I actually said:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

In English it's "pea" but in Dutch it's "erwtprwerptrwty"

It’s winter in the Netherlands. Food-wise this means green soup[1] with cut-up wieners (from a jar) floating in it, doughnuts heavily veiled in icing sugar, and . . . pears. Yes, the winter kitchen here in the Netherlands will either kill you immediately or bore you to tears. 

Dutch erwtensoep. Photo from

Not wanting to kill anyone, but needing a dessert, I settled on poached pears.

Then, because I had not wasted enough time on the internet already today, I did some research on coring pears. I found the video below featuring a lady called Nina Pucillo who knows all about coring pears and who informed me that coring pears is in fact “one of the basics of cooking.” 

She also noted that while coring pears “sounds difficult,” it’s actually very easy. Making me wonder who she has been trying to explain it to.  

Then she said it was perfectly okay if I didn’t own a corer, because I could core my pears using a grapefruit knife and grapefruit spoon.

Literal quote from the video: “[A grapefruit knife] is what I started with when I started coring pears.” When you started coring pears? Like, as a hobby?

Plus, who owns a grapefruit knife? And a grapefruit spoon? Or is this another “basic” of cooking that I’ve been missing all my grown-up (sort of) life? I mean, I own things called “knives” and things called “spoons.” I even have one specialist knife. It’s called “bread knife.” Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think anyone would ever even invent anything called “grapefruit knife,” let alone suggest that it was somehow a more normal thing to own than a corer.

By the way, I also did a Google search for “grapefruit knife” and came up with this image of what must be the deadliest kitchen knife there is. If you look carefully you’ll see it’s serrated on both sides for maximum rippage.

And this is why we'll be having cereal. From Wikipedia.

And then I decided to find out more about Nina Pucillo's company "Nina Cucina" and look what Google found:

Google search result for "Nina Cucina"

I could get another whole post just out of the bizarro grammar of "where you learn't for cook healthy recipes" alone, but my favourite is the "Meet Our Medical Advisor" link, which I reckon just goes to show that you shouldn't be fooling around with a doubly-serrated grapefruit knife.

For this evening at least, we'll be eating around the cores.

[1] Pea soup, in Dutch spelled “erwtensoep.” Just try to pronounce that sucker. This must be one of the most dreaded words a foreigner in the Netherlands will ever have to say.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Call me?

OH MY GOD, me and The Shoes are on

What? You don’t know The Bloggess? Have you been living in a gorge? She’s so famous she even got to be interviewed by Katie Couric. And now I’m on her blog. So I’m practically friends with Katie Couric.

Okay, it's small, I know Just lean in for God's sake. There we are, just under the word "demented" and just to the right of the f-word. Excellent. Screen shot from the website of

I bet The Bloggess is reading this right now. Hi Jenny! Are you reading this?

How about now?

Call me, okay?

Me and The Shoes

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Shoes’ List of Some More Stuff that Happened Recently When I Was Not at Work

I got an email from a company that wanted to advertise on my blog. They wanted me to plug their product by casually mentioning it in one of my posts. Now, this would be fine if the product in question was something like potato chips or internet shopping or ham. But the product this company wanted me to help them sell was: offshore banking. I don’t know how much attention you’ve been paying to this blog, but you may have noticed that (a) I’ve never written about offshore banking; (b) the closest I ever got to writing about banking of any kind was when someone stole my credit card to buy TV in England; and (c) “offshore banking” is probably not the first thought that pops into anyone’s head when they read this blog (sadly). Anyway, I told the nice lady that I was more than happy to make a joke about offshore banking, but it seems this wasn’t the approach they were going for.

I became super best friends with Mary, personal assistant to Jenny Lawson of and Let’s-Pretend-This-Never-Happened fame. Mary liked me instantly and now me and The Shoes are going to be on Jenny’s blog, which is the most exciting thing that has happened to me since I got my braces off. MORE TO COME!  

Some of you may remember that I take singing lessons. Now my singing teacher has decided to organize a concert featuring her students, and I have agreed to participate, as in sing on a stage in front of a bunch of strangers[1]. Luckily this concert will be happening in a bar, which will make for a nice change from the last concert I was in when I was twelve and singing about Santa in my school auditorium. I’ve decided I’m going to drop by the venue the day before the concert and pre-order my gin and tonics.  

I did a wicked interview for the people over at ExpatsBlog. It’s all about how glamorous my life is here in the Netherlands. It’ll go live on 26 November so please check back, and if you didn’t already do so, leave a kind word for me in the comments section of my ExpatsBlog listing so I can win a great prize and become rich and famous and won’t need to humiliate myself by singing in front of strangers in some seedy bar.   

I received a chain cake. I didn’t know they existed. It’s like a chain letter only it’s cake. You get it from a friend, let it grow in your kitchen for a few days, cook part of it, and pass the rest on. Right now my chain cake looks like this: 

My fermenting friendship chain cake. Yum.

There was some other stuff that happened while I was not at work but I’m not allowed to tell you about that because my husband says it’s more important to have friends than to be funny.

[1] And maybe also my new best friend Mary. And maybe also Jenny. Dear Mary and Jenny, will you please come to my concert? Thanks. Hugs, Me & The Shoes.