Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Small Pleasures

First of all, I'M HERE! I have made it safe-n-sound to the Netherlands. The landing on Saturday morning was so smooth, I didn't even know we had touched ground. It felt like a good omen...and I smiled knowingly.

Little by little I will tell you the important things, of course, but today I have to start with food items that have delighted me to no end! Since I'll be the chief cook and bottle washer, my biggest goal for yesterday, Monday, was to find the grocery store, check it out, and then compare it to Monday morning's outdoor market (once a week, just 2 blocks from the apartment!). I needed to get the lay of the land.

In the top photo, I was like a little kid who had died and gone to heaven: a 3-pak of Grote (BIG) Speculaas cookies left over from Saturday's Sinterklaas day and reduced half price. I have them next to one of Astrid's windowsill plants for scale. €.30 for the pak, or €.10/cookie (the equivalent of $.13 each). Guess how many paks I bought? N I N E of them. You need to understand...this is one of the best-tasting cookies I've ever had and even grew up on them in Michigan as a child. We called them windmill cookies because they're usually shaped like windmills. These will keep forever and will be what we'll use when people come over for coffee/tea (very European). One cookie is big enough for 4 people!

It doesn't take much to make me happy!

At the outdoor market I then found a kilo box of dates and once again was in heaven. I kid you not: these are things that take me back to my childhood as though they were in my genes. I can't remember when I last bought dates, can you?

It doesn't take much to make me happy!

If you have a spouse/children who like the same thing you do, you'll understand why I got so excited over finding Brussels sprouts in bags like I was able to buy in Hannover and Amsterdam (but had to eat alone). Does Astrid like Brussels sprouts? YES. So it will be a real treat for me to whip these up in olive oil and garlic. Talk about hog heaven!

It doesn't take much to make me happy!

On Saturday we bought a printer and a chopper/blender and today I bought a toaster. This is the time to buy the things we need before Christmas when things are on sale. It would have been nice to bring over some of my small appliances but with the different electric currents between America and Europe, it didn't make sense. That's why the estate sale was so important. Sell appliances, get money, buy new appliances.

It doesn't take much to make me happy!

Wait till you see the pictures of churches I took today...just minutes away from our apartment. Actually, wait till I tell you all about this charming city of Gorinchem (35K pop.) south of Amsterdam. I find I want to tell you everything right now! Am I excited or what!

It really doesn't take much to make me happy...which is, after all, why I find myself here right now. These are the things I ponder in my heart....


  1. I'm so glad you made it safely, my friend. I can hardly believe that we are now on the same time zone again. It makes me smile to know that you are enjoying every second of discovering the new terrain. And... Mmmmm... Spekulaas cookies! Aren't they just heavenly delicious??

    I'll be writing to you in the coming days as I'm stuck at home with a bad case of the flu. I can't sleep the WHOLE day, now can I!? ;-)

  2. I'm excited to read and see all about the move.

  3. It doesn't take much to make you happy!

    Love those cookies, so be sure to have some for us when we come.

    Last time I had dates was in Istanbul, and I made a fantastic date bar all the time. I'll try to find the recipe.

    Don LOVEs brussel sprouts and so I have learned to as well.

    Food, nothing more important.

  4. CS: The same time zone, indeed! It still hasn't hit me. I hate it for you that you have the flu. Please write me when you can. Do you have a webcam? Maybe we can start Skyping one of these days??!

    PC: Ohhhhh, thank you, Maria!

    Ruth: The good news is that if you don't make it here in 2010, I can always buy new cookies at this time next year! HA! Do you remember eating them at home while growing up? It amazes me that we had them. PLEASE send me the date bar recipe. I hadn't even thought about using them any other way than as a snack. You, sister, are partly responsible for teaching me how to really love food. Thank you.

  5. Alas! I have lost my American Cook in Turkey cookbook. :( I am pretty sure the date bar recipe is in there. It's a mystery, because I never put cookbooks anywhere besides one cupboard. How bizarre. I'll keep looking . . .

  6. Keep on telling me everything.... I really do want to hear all about it!

  7. Ruth: Well, at least you gave me the idea to do something else with the dates! I bet I can Google a good recipe.

    T1: You know me, Kim. As a Gemini, I won't be able to keep my mouth shut! :)

  8. As a matter of fact I just bought dates yesterday, specifically to make these. This recipe was long ago converted to cook in the microwave, but a similar stovetop recipe can be found here. Anyway, they are very good, and taste even better straight from the fridge. I have to stop myself from eating too many!

    Glad to hear you are settling in. I love Spekualaas cookies too. I'll bet yours (being "authentic") are better than the ones we get here. I also like Brussels sprouts, but only once a year at Christmas dinner. They really have a strong smell when they are cooking, so I like it when they are part of the overall smell of cooking that fills the house at Christmas.

  9. Yes, you ARE here! How wonderful. All of your food finds are really popular at our house. Well, the Brussel sprouts not so much with the young ones, but we go through bags and bags of Spekulatius at this time of year and I LOVE dates. Try wrapping each (pitted) date in a piece of bacon and frying them up in a pan. The sweet/salty combination is delicious. You can also put a blanched almond inside first to make them a little different. They're also very nice stuffed with cream cheese. Oh, I could go on and on.

    I KNOW this is going to be a wonderful Christmas season for you. Stay happy!

  10. Ginnie - that is such incredible news.. Yes the simple things do make us happy. It's so exciting for me to hear all about your new adventures. I so want to take a long vacation to see NL and CH soon!

    You know it doesn't take much to make me happy.. ;-) Wink wink.

  11. So happy to hear that you are happy and settling in to your new home and cherishing the small things. A happy heart leads to a happy life!

    Can't wait to see those church pics! Hope you share them here, too and not just on Shutterchance. Your blog makes me happy!

  12. I am so glad that you have arrived safely in the Netherlands, you have started housekeeping with Astrid, and you are checking out the grocery store and the local market. Starting a new life, how exciting! Perhaps I should do that too.
    I love Brussels sprouts, they are a traditional British Sunday dinner veg, but I usually just cook them in boiling water, what is your olive oil and garlic recipe? Or do I have to google it? Sounds like I might like it.
    Can you believe the word verification is oboodgio? Now, say it fast, ten times....

  13. Karen: OMG! That recipe looks scrumptious! But the funny thing is, we are both loving them apart from any recipe, so we probably won't do a thing other than eat them as is. HA! Don't we love the things that remind us of special times of the year!

    Christina: I'm trying to imagine the bacon-date taste. Wow. That would be an experience! As I just told Karen, we are so happy with the unadulterated dates that we probably won't do a thing other than eat them as is. :) And YES, this is already a wonderful Christmas season. The TruckPacks will get picked up this week, we hope, after which I can add my seasonal touches to the apartment.

    ET: The less we expect or want, Jen, the happier we are. I'm convinced of it!

    Mad: You know all these things, of course, about what makes us happy. And yes, I will share the church pics. I have so much to share already!! You sure know how to make my day. Thank you!

    Sham: LOL about my garlic and olive oil recipe for sprouts. Actually, I usually cook mine in the microwave but I had fun slow cooking them on top of the stove in olive oil and garlic...till they were nice and done with brown spots, like roastiing. I've never done it that way before. Anyway, they were good. And yes, sprouts do sound like a good British fare. :)

  14. Hi there! I love dates, too. I always keep them in my cupboard, because I know they are very nutritious. I add them to stir fries- the texture and flavor is so unique. They are also great in salads and cereal. Glad you're having fun!

  15. SH: We're both eating at least 3 dates every day, Rachel! :) How fun is that. They have been such a treat. I've never thought of them in stir-fries. Hmmm. I might have to try that one day.

  16. Well, "bubbly" is a word good for describing holiday champagne, it seems! Wonderful to get such delightful reports of your "settling in".

    We'll just let the brussels sprouts stay there with you. They're one of the few veggies I refuse to eat.

    But almond windmill cookies? They were a huge part of my childhood. We lived near Pella, Iowa, which is about as Dutch as you can get in the US - or was, at least. Beautiful tulips festivals, wooden shoes, windmills - and the best pastries. I still order Spekualaas and Dutch letters from them every Christmas - you can see photos here: http://www.jaarsmabakery.com/

    And dates! Also a part of our holiday traditions. I buy fresh Medjool - they're wonderful stuffed with a mixture of cream cheese and chopped walnuts or pecans. And my answer to fruitcake is a loaf made of only dates, apricots and pecans. It keeps forever and is relatively healthy compared to many holiday sweets. Happy to send the recipe if you like.

  17. Hmm... let me get another cup of coffee and revise that first sentence:

    ..."bubbly" is a word good for describing more than holiday champagne, it seems!.. ;-)

  18. SA: Astrid had Dutch letters for me when I arrived, in milk chocolate and hazelnut. AND she had huge cinnamon sticks that are of the "chalky" kind that melt in your mouth. I had never seen/tasted such a thing in my life. I also love the varieties of anise/licorice you can buy here. Man! I'm in heaven for sure. :)

    And yes, BUBBLY is a very good word for a lot of things this holiday! :)

  19. To see the radiant look on your face when you discovered all these goodies, I will never forget.
    THIS makes me so happy, to see you so full of life and happy with 'small things'..........
    dank je wel lieve schat voor jouw lieve glimlach.

  20. I pray to God it will never change, Liefste, being happy with the smallest of pleasures. Ontzettend bedankt for sharing the pleasures with me.