30 December 2012

[Bier]: Tripel Karmeliet

Ok, for some of these beers there was a significant  lag between when we tried them and when I sat down to write about them. This is one of those cases. I can say that when we bought this beer we bought it with the expectation that it would be good. I don't remember it failing to live up to expectations. The people at ratebeer.com and Beer Advocate seem to agree. It is a Belgium beer made in the Brouwerij Bosteels.

Also, I remember saying to Ace that "for a tripel this beer doesn't have the alcohol content to kill a bear."

28 December 2012

IKEA Vrijdag: Vilmar Stoel/Chair

When we moved into an empty house, one of the first items that we bought were kitchen-related. While we may have been watching shows off a laptop on the floor, at least we could still eat like civilized individuals... or at least as civilized as you can manage with a small child. And so, the kitchen table and chairs were the very first IKEA purchase.

Our chairs were put together first. At the time I decided that in case the table turned into a bigger project than I anticipated, it would be better to eat off a paper plate in a chair than on the floor. Ergo, do the chairs first. We purchased four Vilmar chairs in white with black stripes and chrome legs. The seats are made of birch plywood, "laminate," and acrylic lacquer, and the legs are made of a chrome steel.

The chairs seemed like they would go together easily. It was "just" a matter of attaching the legs to each other and then to the chair, and attaching these stupid little plastic bumper things that are meant to make it easier to stack the chairs on top of one another. The legs and the plastic bumpers never felt like they were tightening all the way in - and lead me to my first encounter with the "wobble" problem. As it turned out, over time and lots of sitting, the wobble problems seem to have diminished, but you can still detect a wobble.

The underside of the Vilmar chair - Zappa is suspicious of the chair lying down on the job.
The chairs are easy to clean. So far we've had to problem just wiping with a damp cloth, which is good considering the ability Little Man and I share for dropping every manner of things on everything. We've also had no issues with cleaning the legs since they're chrome.

We give the Vilmar stoel/chair 3 Swedish meatballs on our 5 meatball scale. My annoyance by the wobble and the difficulty that we had getting the bottoms to tighten.

Life in Dutch rating for Vilmar stoel/chair:

23 December 2012

[Bier]: Gulpener Herfst Bock

This is a relatively nice Bock beer from the Gulpener brewery located in the Limburg region of the Netherlands. The brewery uses all local ingredients, which is kind of neat.

21 December 2012

IKEA Vrijdag: Ekorre Loopwagon/Toddle wagon

Since Christmas is just around the corner, we thought that today's IKEA Vrijdag would review a toy sold by IKEA, just in case you have a little last minute shopping for a small child.

The Ekorre Loopwagon/Toddle wagon was something we purchased for Little Man during our "big" IKEA trip in which we purchased most of our furniture. Whenever we visited an IKEA in the States or in Holland, the Little Man would find this cart in the store and drag it all around. When we made our big trip to IKEA, we still did not yet have our things from the States, and since the Little Man obviously loved this thing we decided to surprise him with it.

The only thing to attach on the cart is the handle, and you can choose to attach it at two different heights to make it easier for the child to walk with it. Just two screws and you're done and the fun can begin! It's made of birch plywood and steel and is sturdy enough for a child to put it through any number of tests. This works outside or in and has been well worth the little bit of money for any child 4 years old or younger. We give this toy a solid 5 Swedish meatballs on our 5 meatball scale.

The cart was helpful when gathering acorns outside.

The Life in Dutch Rating for the Ekorre Loopwagon/Toddle wagon:

19 December 2012

Let the Grand Tour Begin!

Well, we're on our way back to the US to make a grand tour of the Midwest and New England. We'll still be making entries - especially look for IKEA Vrijdag and [Bier] postings, and a post about our day trip to Amsterdam that we took a couple weekends ago - but we'll be posting less frequently than we have been due to all our travel.

So until our next post, we leave you with this fun mental image: Before we depart, we are taking our cats to the kattenpension (or as Little Man calls it, the Kitty Hotel). And how would you transport your animals in the Netherlands? By bicycle, of course. Our "boys" get to take their first bike ride to the kattenpension, and I'm sure they'll be thrilled beyond expression.

16 December 2012

[Bier]: Heineken in a can

Unfortunately, this might be the Netherlands most well known contribution to the world.*

*Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates was actually written by an American author who never went to the Netherlands until after the book was published.

14 December 2012

IKEA Vrijdag: Kritter Kinderstoel/Children's Chair

Last week I reviewed the Kritter Kindertafel/Children's Table for our weekly review. To make a matching set, this week we'll take a look at the Kritter Kinderstoel/Children's Chair.

Kritter Kinderstoelen/Children's chairs, in blue and white.

We purchased two chairs to go with the Little Man's table - one in blue and one in white. Like the the Kritter Kindertafel/Children's Table, the chair is made of solid poplar and acrylic paint, and the back piece is made of thick plastic for easy molding of the cute little cat and dog shapes. Like the table, the chairs have held up well considering the abuse they have already taken. And the chairs have experienced more terror than the table - they've been knocked over, used as a jumping off point, as small tables, etc. Even the white chair has been cleaned of marker and other gook easily. However, partly because of moving the chairs around, we have noticed a few chips in the acrylic paint - and issue that we've noticed before.

The chairs came in five pieces plus hardware and the ubiquitous IKEA allen wrench. They were easy to put together even if you didn't look at the directions, Little Man was just about able to figure it out by himself while he was "helping" me put the chairs together. What I appreciated most about the construction of the chairs is that the legs come in two pieces - one front leg and one back leg together - so when you put the chair together, there is no figuring out how to avoid the "wobble" issue. Using the allen wrench, we managed to put both chairs together in 20 minutes (this time includes the child helping time).

Since the chairs are so durable and were so easy to put together, our Life in Dutch rating is 4.5 Swedish meatballs on a 5 meatball scale. The chairs lose a half meatball because of the acrylic paint chipping issues.

Life in Dutch Rating for Kritter Kinderstoel/Children's Chair:

12 December 2012

A Little Taste of America with all European Flair

I don't usually post much about food - mostly because as soon as my plate is put down in front of me I inhale everything before I can think to take a picture or even look to make sure I received what I ordered. However, today I managed to restrain myself like an adult and take photos and think about what I was eating.

Little Man and I were out doing a bit of Christmas shopping this morning, though before we could even begin, the hungry horrors hit the Little Man. Since our cabinets are getting a little bear as we only buy essentials before our trip back to the States for Christmas, I had no snack food on me like I usually do. Since a cup of milk wasn't going to cut it for my little friend, I decided that we would have a special treat and get a snack out. I took a different route to the main shopping strip in the city center and right as I turned the corner I saw something beautiful... a small cafe with indoor seating, enough room to get a stroller inside AND a name that suggested it would unnecessary to convince the Little Man to eat.

The cafe is called "Bagels & Beans," a very American-sounding cafe name with the promise of a very familiar menu.

We took a chance and it was worth it!

Because it's a European cafe, you walk in, pick your table, and a staff member comes up to take your order. We ordered a very simple "Bagel Breakfast" which comes with a bagel, cream cheese, jelly, fresh squeezed orange juice, and a choice of coffee or tea (I went for the tea). It was simple and delicious, and Little Man was happy, too. Even he who professes to dislike a cup of OJ thought fresh squeezed was the way to go.

Mmmm... bagel.

As it turned out, today was the opening day for the cafe. Since they were celebrating their opening, they were handing out samples of Anise Milk - little cups of warm, frothy milk flavored with a star anise seed. It was delicious and definitely not something I would have thought of on my own.

Anise milk - frothy and delicious

So, not bad for taking a chance on something that I thought might be quick and easy (it was!) and child-friendly too. I think we'll be making some more visits in the future.

09 December 2012

[Bier]: La Trappe Bockbier

La Trappe is yet another Trappist beer. There are seven official Trappist breweries in the world and six of them are in Belgium. The seventh is Brewery de Koningshoeven, the only Trappist brewery outside of Belgium and in our town of Tilburg, Netherlands (map).

The Bockbier is the fall-styled beer produced by many breweries during the autumn season. According to the website, this is the only Trappist bockbier and that is continues to ferment in the bottle. The beer has a full flavor and is perfect for the damp cold weather of the Netherlands in the fall.

07 December 2012

IKEA Vrijdag: Kritter Kindertafel/Children's Table

IKEA Vrijdag is back! After a brief hiatus from Thanksgiving and a Little Man with a touch of bronchitis, we're back with another installment of our IKEA reviews.

The Little Man's bedroom is much bigger than we anticipated it would be - and significantly bigger than his room in Chicago. To fill some of the void in his room we wanted to pick up a small table and chair set for playtime, and since we bought everything else from IKEA, why not a kid's table as well?

The Kritter Series is one of IKEA's children's series that's relatively stable and bright and colorful, with products available in red, blue, yellow, white, or black, though not all products are available in all colors. We purchased the Kritter Kindertafel/Children's Table in red and two Kinderstoel/Children's chairs in blue and white (though this review focuses on the table).

The Kritter Kindertafel/Children's Table was generally easy to put together. As with all IKEA products, it came with allen wrench and screwdriver needed to put the product together. However, this is one of the IKEA items that while it is possible to use the tools provided, you will find much less frustration using a power drill. The effort needed to keep holding everything in place while fiddling with the IKEA tools is enough to drive you crazy - but holding everything in place for a few seconds while the drill does all the work is much easier. We didn't even attempt to use the IKEA tools to put this table together with the provided tools - after starting to arrange the pieces it was evident that the tools were not going to cut it.

The table is made of poplar wood and coated with acrylic paint. Despite the ease with which acrylic paint will chip, this table is surprisingly still in tact, and it's already been abused as only a 3 year old can abuse a table. Either IKEA was better about a protective coating (see my comments on acrylic paint on the Trollsta), or this table has been lucky. One of my continuing issues with legged items from IKEA is the wobble when you don't have everything tightened "just so." The Kritter table was one of the few items that did not have this problem - the legs went on and stood firm, even after having a 3 year old dance on top of the table (again, abuse as only a 3 year old can manage). Though the dirt damage has been minimal at this point (mostly washable markers and a little bit of food), the table has been easy to clean with just a damp washcloth. I did manage to leave a ring on the table from a mug, but I can't tell if that is just the staining ability of tea or if there was damage from the heat of the mug.

Kritter Kindertafel/Children's Table in red

As a parent, I'm happy with the table. Little Man's been enjoying having a little table of his own, and likes the view of the garden that he gets by sitting at the table. For the way it's already held up to the element that is Little Man, I rate it highly, but because of the difficulty we would have had putting it together with the provided tools, it earns a solid 4 Swedish meatballs on our 5 meatball scale.

Life In Dutch Rating for Kritter Kindertafel/Children's Table:

06 December 2012

Sinterklaas 2012

Following the hype all around Holland, Sinterklaas made his way to our house during the night. We've been gearing up for the arrival of Sinterklaas, and not just for the arrival of some shiny new gifts. We've been using Sinterklaas as a good reason to finalize the removal of the Little Man's last surviving "nuk" (pacifier). Upon suggestion from someone else who used the same method with their child, the nuk was placed in the Little Man's shoe for Sinterklaas to take back to Spain and give to another baby who needs a nuk, and Sinterklaas left a special gift in exchange for the nuk. We've been preparing for a few weeks in order to prepare the Little Man for the final separation.

So last night the nuk went into the shoe and the shoe was left in front of our fireplace. While the first official night without the nuk wasn't the most peaceful we've ever experienced, the Little Man was very happy to find Sinterklaas had been to his house.

Poppa woke the Little Man up this morning to say that he thought he heard paard (horse) hooves on the roof last night, and the Little Man very firmly told Poppa that he had seen several paarden (horses) in the garden last night and that they all belong to Sinterklaas. Upon coming down the stairs, Little Man was very happy to find a brand new loopfiets (balance bike - a two wheeler without peddles), a Little People Sinterklaas play set with the paard van Sinterklaas (Sinterklaas's horse), a chocolate letter for Little Man's name (a very common sweet given from Sinterklaas), and lots of kruidnooten (small spice cookies).

The paard van Sinterklaas was quickly introduced to the donkey from the Little People nativity set, and the two "paarden" were made into fast friends; and the loopfiets is a work in coordination, but we think it will be mastered soon. And chocolate and kruidnooten were consumed for breakfast. All in all, Little Man was pretty happy with the gifts Sinterklaas, and the rest of us hope the transition to nights without the nuk will go more smoothly - starting tonight.

03 December 2012

It's Beginning to Something Like Christmas

First, a quick note: No, it's not just you... You may have noticed that we have changed the name of the blog from "Living Dutch" to "Life in Dutch." This is just one of the changes we have in store to revamp the blog. To be honest, I was never fully satisfied with "Living Dutch" as the blog title, and after some thought, Life in Dutch felt more natural. Look for more to come - I have big, big plans! (Insert Disney villain laugh.) But seriously, I think that the changes to come will be worthwhile improvements, and we'll appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

Now for your regularly, semi-scheduled blog post.......

It snowed this morning. This is our first "Dutch" snow, and it's pretty impressive (at least to us) because like England, snow isn't necessarily expected this early in the season. It was snowing pretty heavily this morning, and it looked like we were close to having enough snow to make the snowman that Little Man was insisting we needed to go build... like, right now... who cares if we're still in pajamas? By the time Poppa came home from work only a few patches of snow remained, but we were able to get out and make a few snowballs before it got too slushy.

Little Man and his snowball.

Over the weekend we got our Christmas decorations out and set up and we (Mama) started playing the Chieftan's Christmas CD. Little Man was more than happy to help, and decorated our little 0.5 meter tree all by himself, though Mama dictated which ornaments were approved.

We're certainly preparing for Christmas, but with all the hype about Sinterklaas coming we're also getting ready for Sinterklaas to leave a cadeautje (little gift) in the Little Man's shoe. Since we don't have a real wood stove or chimney for Sinterklaas to pop down, we made a "temporary" version and taped it to the wall. Little Man was generally happy with the result and even added his own paper stockings to the mantle in the American tradition. It really is beginning to look a bit like Christmas.

02 December 2012

[Bier]: Trappistes Rochefort 10

 You may remember the Rochefort 6 from a few weeks back. This is the 6's older more experienced sibling. It has all the flavor of a good dark Belgian quadruple beer with an extra kick in the alcohol department.

I know that this is a good beer that I am doing a disservice by merely describing it as "good". Go read some reviews here for the impression of people with taste buds beyond a natural development. More importantly, this brewery does seem to have some degree of distribution, so find some and drink it yourself.

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