Sunday, December 14, 2008

Finally some pictures of Maastricht

You wouldn't know it from our postings, but we live in Maastricht. So here goes- first some pictures of an amazing bookstore called Selexy's that is built inside an old cathedral. And of course has a Coffeelovers inside. It's truly amazing.



And here is another picture of a knifeblock that is just hilarious.


And finally Winterland, which is Maastricht's market. There is a big ferris wheel, lots of food, and those big slides that you ride down on a grain sack.


The gluhwein is German (I think)- it's basically cheap red wine that has been heated with mulling spices. Delicious!


Crazy to think that in a week we'll be back in the US. Did you miss us?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Conversation Pieces with the Dutch

*It was snowing at work the other day, and I hadn't yet walked by a window to know that fact.
It was "short-break" time, and I was heading to get a coffee. I rounded the corner, and got my first
glimpse of it outside. It was dumping snow, and remembering what I was told, it rarely snows in The Netherlands. The words that came out of my mouth were, "Holy Cow!". Little did I know, that I had just said this in front of 10 dutch DC employees. They burst out laughing at me, and asked where I was from.
I told them from Minnesota, and that I was used to the snow, but didn't expect it to snow in my time here. I got my coffee, as they walked away, but could still here them talking as they walked down the hallway away from me.

"HOLY COW!" a man screamed. Another answered with, "I didn't see any cows out there!"

I guess that whatever Bart Simpson says in Dutch, does not translate to "Holy Cow!"
Hopefully they use it from now on.

*My manager has recently had his first child. My group has decided to go and pay our respects and visit the child as one group. I received an email today asking me this...

"Here are the options for us to go admire Roy's new baby, Indy"

At first, I thought she was just trying to use a cute word, because new babies are supposed to be cute.

Then when I didn't respond right away, I got an IM asking me when I would be available to go and admire Indy.

Im not sure which word the Dutch would use in that scenario, but I thought it was really cute to use admire in place of visit.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Birthday Extravaganza!

As another of Erica's birthdays winds up, I thought I would post a little about what we did this year.
After all, this is the 10th birthday I have spent with her, although not all of them we have been together.

An idea was proposed to me when I was on the Amsterdam Mike's Bike tour with Carrie and Sara. As I was riding near the tour guide, he was asking all about me, and what I was doing living in The Netherlands. We chatted it up a bit, and he gave me a must see place. "You should totally take your wife here!" I think is the way he put it (with his sweet flock of seagulls haircut). So I kept the idea in mind, and actually decided to go through with it.

It was actually a lot easier than I expected. We were to take a short trip to the Belgian border city of Spa. It is here that the original "spa" concept was developed, and offered a weekend away from markets, bikes, and the pets!

I booked us a junior suite at the Radisson Hotel attached to Thermes De Spa (our point of interest).
This included dinner for the night and entrance for one of our days at the spa.

We arrived around 14:30, and just in time for Erica's Shiatsu massage. I was waiting for my foot reflexology massage followed by my Shiatsu massage. Both of us had never had a shiatsu before, and when the little woman started walking on my feet and placing a foot in my armpit and pulling I was in for quite the surprise, but we both really enjoyed them. The rest of the time was spent in the natural spring water pools, both indoors and out. So even though the temperature was 0, we were in 31 degree water, and enjoying it! We headed back to the room and enjoyed our nice 3 hour dinner. You have to get used to that over here!

We slept in Sunday morning, before heading back to the Thermes for a second day of pampering. We each had a facial scheduled for 13:30. I thought it kind of girlish until she began working on me. I have to admit, the woman actually brought tears to my eyes, and I wondered how I was to relax through this. I survived and came out with a beautiful, smooth, and moisturized face. Erica looked beautiful as always, and still had her lympthatic drainage massage to come. Before though, we headed back out to the outdoor spring and it was seriously snowing as we were swimming. It was quite a mindblower to swim as it was snowing and not be a bit cold. I enjoyed it some more as Erica went to her final massage.

Once finished we headed back to Maastricht, and back to real life... work on Monday.

Happy Birthday Erica!

Happy Birthday to me!

Today I turn 27. I will explain a little about my Dutch celebration. First, we order vlaai (Dutch pie/cake) for our coworkers. But, there is a catch- you have to buy the vlaai yourself and then serve it to people- CRAZY! Then, people say "congratulations" when it's your birthday, and then shake your hand and kiss you three times on the cheek. When I first went to a Dutch birthday, I said an enthusiastic "Happy Birthday!" and then grabbed some cake. I was later scolded for being so rude- "you didn't even shake hands!" Now I know that Dutch people really look forward to their coworkers touching them in lieu of a free birthday vlaai. Here is the vlaai that I got (20 EUR total)- pudding vlaai and choco-peren (pear) vlaai.



Tonight I'm going for dinner with coworkers, and we're exchanging a gift and a poem. I left work a little early to enjoy my birthday and work on my poem. Nick and I often go to a coffeeshop (not *that* kind of coffeeshop) that is very popular around here... and I figured out why I'm gaining weight here, even though I eat less. I asked what type of milk they use- skim, low fat, whole? (Sound familiar if you have read earlier entries?!) The guy says, "I dunno, it's just milk, we only have one kind of milk." He showed me the milk carton, with a dirty word. VOLLE. WHOLE f-ing milk?! I have been drinking 1-2 tall coffees a week with full fat milk! 600 calories, before you add in the sugar or syrup! So before my birthday dinner, I've had one tall whole milk coffee, and 3 pieces of vlaai. I will write my poem here, I'm quite proud that it is partly in Dutch, even though I had help from Kent and babelfish.

I'll get the Dutch part out of the way
By means of introduction, please allow me to say
Ilona heeft twee honden
wie houdt eten de bonen

Ze ga met mij te lunchen
maar niet naar Oktoberfest in Munchen
(Although sometimes life brings tears,
she's too strong to turn to the beers.)

If you're in the office early, at her desk she'll be,
driven by adoration for V-A-T

But by the time she eats her sandwich, the tide has turned.
And she counts down to the weekend she has earned.

Her free days are spent with Mitchell and Brenden
Mondag, het verhaal terug beginnen!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody. We worked a normal day, and picked up a few take out things. Our dinner: beef burgundy (not as good as the homemade stuff we made when we had an oven!), bami, chicken with peanut sauce, noodle salad with bacon and mushroom, meatballs, tiramisu, chocolate pie.

Thanksgiving dinner

Family photo-Thanksgiving

And one new picture of me as a blonde. It's a few weeks old... I went to Paris about a month ago to get my hair done. For whatever reason, French women insist that I should be a blonde. I'm not sure I wholeheartedly agree, but they feel more strongly about the subject than I do, so I let them win.

Me as a blonde

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Whew, finally caught up with pictures from the last couple of months! And now for a bit about our normal life. When Nick works late in the distribution center, I often head over to Aachen, Germany (10 min away from work) to visit the nearest Starbucks for a taste of Americana. I'm slowly learning important German words: eingang, ausfahrt, magermilch. Entrance, exit, skim milk. I order my Starbucks drink in English, and usually, I'm kindly accommodated. But since I know certain words like "skim" are a little tricky for non-native speakers, I usually accompany my request for skim milk with some hand gestures, and say I want "magermilch." Today worked up the courage to confirm that I was pronouncing "magermilch" correctly. I was informed that "yes, but nobody uses those words. We just say low fat (fettarm) or no fat (magermilch.)" I've learned about 3 German words, and I managed to pick one that nobody uses! We just got back from the Christmas market which opened there. I will remember my camera next time, there were a lot of fun things. Mulled wine, and reibekuchen, and brats, and cotton candy, and apple licorice ropes. Reibekuchen- huge vat of grease, add mashed up potato mix, deep fry, flip over, add bacon. Then it gets unhealthy- the guy takes a freaking ladle, and pours more grease on top of the greasy bacon potato stuff.


I just needed an excuse to post this picture, it cracks me up. Sleeping puppy.



Better late than never, part 2. Nick and I drove to Munich for Oktoberfest the first weekend in October. It was the final weekend of the festival, since it actually begins in September. I will not go into the explanation of why it's not called Septemberfest since wikipedia has already done a fine job. Munich is about a 6 hour drive, and I am a little disappointed we went the fast route instead of traveling along the "romantic road" which is apparently a famous route. We concluded that a 6 hour drive for an overpriced beer was about all we could handle. We arrived on Saturday evening and went walking about the Theresienweise.

subway oktfest



Since it was just the two of us, we couldn't get a reservation, and there was no room for us. No beer. Can you believe it's possible to go beerless?! I nibbled on a pretzel while we unsuccessfully waited in line for a tent. (We did end up with a beer after wandering away from the fest to a local restaurant.)


We walked around a bit and saw some photoworthy things: Tmobile's German branding, Oktoberfest costumes on sale, and a musical performance for a baby.




We headed over to the BMW museum, which was supposed to be open late. No museum. Can you believe our guidebook lied to us?! The next morning, which happened to be the last day, we struck gold in the Hippodrome tent. I was also stoked to ride the swings above the fest.




We were early enough to snag a table, and ended up seated next to a local guy named Fernando. Fernando was all alone, so we decided to be his friend. We had a nice time chatting with him, sharing pretzels, and drinking beer.


We were a little sad to leave after only two hours, but needed to go meet up for a bike tour. The bike tour was just ok. We saw a little place in the park that is famous for.... surfing!


The tourguide spent quite a bit of time hitting on the college age ladies in the group and it got a little annoying. His general MO was the following: I'm so worldly and interesting because I live in Munich. Man, it's tough holding down a relationship, nobody will follow me around the world to do interesting things like hit on girls who join the bike tour. Wanna try and tame me? I wonder if he has a dryer. Wanna know a secret, ladies? One of the most exotic things about living in Europe? Line drying in a country that gets rain 300 days a year.


Once upon a time,

Nick and I visited Paris and Amsterdam with 4 nice ladies. Carrie, Sara, Jessica, and Jaime were kind enough to fly over a weeklong visit at the end of September. Better late than never with regard to the blogging... We had a nice time showing them around, letting them loose upon the shops, and showing them the fries and waffles. Here's us, obvious location


Us in the Tuileries Gardens, near our hotel

paris jardin

Carrie and Sara near Montmartre, with a talented gentleman

paris guy

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Why it's good to live in Minneapolis!

What I miss most- by Erica Caligiuri

Surprisingly, I miss a lot of things that are Minneapolis specific vs. US specific.
- Hell's Kitchen, Pittsburgh Blue, D'Brian's, Origami, Potbelly (ok, one chain), Punch, Hardee's (ok, two chains), Caribou (strike three)

Free refills- vote #2

Dryer- vote #2

Q-Tips- vote #2 ... Instead they have "Baby Tips" that are all fat. I suppose they do this so you don't stick them in your ear. Naughty, naughty, everybody knows you're not supposed to do that! But, does anybody use q-tips for any other reason, let's be honest. I'm not allowed to stick a q-tip in my ear, but I'm allowed to smoke a joint outside of city hall (or outside of the sex shop which is located 5 feet from city hall.)

Cheap cosmetics- all of my normal brands are overpriced here

The ability to watch clips from Bravo TV (I get this nasty message that I'm not allowed because I'm outside the US. I still pay US taxes, aren't Bravo viewing privileges included in that hot mess? Obama, McCain, are you hearing me?!)

Williams-Sonoma- Nick missed the oven because he operates under the illusion that we used to cook often. I miss Williams-Sonoma and the related fantasies that I would start cooking as soon as I purchased a $50 turkey baster and $100 copper bowl.

Banking- I don't have any banking beefs, other than the stupid plastic thing (size of a small calculator) that you need to carry around to access your account online. But I do have a funny banking story:

It's not common for Dutch women to change their last names when they get married. So when Nick and I were opening bank accounts, they first assumed we were brother and sister because we look young and share a last name. Once we said we were married, the client service rep said, "Wait, you're both Caligiuri." He got a really odd look on his face, and I could tell that he was trying to suppress his judgment about our incestuous relationship. (I cleared this issue up immediately, so Nick would not be dishonored and have to forfeit my dowry.)

Why its good to live in the United States!

We have now lived in The Netherlands for nearly four months, and I think that I have sufficient experience of adapting to a different culture. With that being said, I would like to remind everyone living in the U.S. how good they actually have it.

What I Miss Most
by Nick Caligiuri

I think it best to start off with the simple luxuries in life, that even I took for granted:

Ice: Yeah, a very simple concept, you freeze water in a little tray and it makes your drinks cold.
Nope, not here. You are lucky if you get maybe three cubes, in your soda pop, and even luckier
that they didn't charge you for it!

Refills: Speaking of that nice warm soda you are drinking, what if you wanted some more. "Oh, Im sorry
you have to buy another bottle!" Because they don't have soda fountains here, and the bottle
you did buy was only 20 cL (which is like two drinks).

Pop choice: All you Pepsi brand pop lovers, stay the heck away from Europe. Forget about trying to
find a Mountain Dew or Wild Cherry Pepsi, because if you are lucky enough to even find
Pepsi... Hooray! You're in a Kentucky Fried Chicken :-(

Free Water: Suprisingly France is nicer about making you not pay for water than The Netherlands!

Fast Food: I often miss a quick Hardees breakfast sandwich, or a midnight Monster burger. You have two options here: McDonalds or Burger King. And forget about getting anything with beef, you are best to get chicken options. Also, Erica has it figured out, you need to ask for your sandwich "without" something, like onions. Otherwise you can be pretty sure your sandwich has been sitting there waiting for you since lunch time!

Q-tips: It is so hard to find these useful things. The ones I did find are too big to even fit into the small hole of my ear, making them utterly useless. I guess ill keep using my keys!

How about some household things you can be sure that I am missing:

Dryer: Oh god, do I miss the small stackable dryer I had back at home. It may have only held five things, but it beats carrying soaking wet clothes across the house to your clothing line. I got an idea, lets not have any dryers so that people have to hang their clothes dry, in a country that it rains 300 days a year. Hang on to your dryers!

Oven: Solution, never cook anything. Eat lots of pasta. Go out to dinner 4 nights a week.

A/C: Or just something that keeps the air in the house moving. I love coming home from work into a place that the air is just dead.

I guess, ill throw in a couple every day chores or experiences I miss as well:

Banking: This is quite the fun one! Lets open our banks the hours of 9-4:30. This way we can totally minimize the amount of bankers we have. Also, lets only put three ATMs in the entire city so that getting money that you cant get at the bank is even more difficult. And to top all else, you cant just log in to your account. Nope, you have to have an e.dentifier to slide your card into and read some pass code thing, just to see if you have money that you cant get to.

Shopping: I love that there aren't malls. And the people selling you stuff, generally know what they are talking about, but again, things are only open from 10 - 6. Unless its Thursday, then they are open until 9. Or if its the first Sunday of the month, then they are open from 13:00 - 18:00, but never any other Sundays of the month Oh yeah, and Mondays is also only 13:00 - 18:00. So good luck remembering all those hours, and actually buying something.

Hair cuts: Dont know, havent gotten one yet.

Now dont get me wrong, there is plenty of good here as well:

Driving: Once you stomach the $10/gallon prices of gas, I feel that driving is quite fun. In Germany,
I was going 160 kmh, which is like 100 mph, and I was still getting passed. And that guy that flew passed me was getting passed by an even faster guy. So that is quite an experience. Even the elevation changes are nice. And the funny town names. Titz, Germany; Bitche, France; and others.

Traveling: I find it really fun to drive 20 minutes, order something, and have to remember which language you should say "Thank you" in. Here it could easily be four different choices. We are 20 minutes from Germany. 10 from Belgium, 2 hours from France, and hour from Luxemburg. So it makes for some fun weekends.

Vacation days: It was nice to get 31 days, plus holiday, plus flex hours, which makes it close to 50 days a year that you would normally have to work, that you dont have to.

There are other positives and negatives, but I think this post is already getting complainty enough.
I am enjoying myself here, but I miss all my family and friends. I look forward to seeing everyone over the Christmas holiday. Here is a fun picture of us!

We put the TERD in Amsterdam!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Write in Tina Fey!

Living in The Netherlands, we've been able to isolate ourselves a bit from US politics. And for that, I'm grateful. Nick was watching the debates on youtube, and I've come to the conclusion that watching the debates would probably make a person dumber (I will keep an eye on Nick.) Both candidates just blah, blah, blah, pandering to the lowest common denominator and talking about how great "folks" are. I could never be a politician (yea, no surprise) because the word "folks" infuriates me. Both candidates manage to offend me- 1) by using the word "folks" like I am chilling in overalls on a bale of hay and 2) taking a pansy, safe approach to the discussion about the financial crisis. Yea, just blame Wall Street greed and predatory lending; let's not talk about how "folks" need to wise up and apply basic concepts of personal finance or which policies compelled lenders to loan money to people who won't pay it back. Oh well, it doesn't matter, voting is pretty simple: only two choices, pick one.

I've heard just as much ruckus about SNL's version of Sarah Palin as I have about the candidate. I actually saw Tina Fey's version of the Katie Couric interview before I saw the real thing. I was pretty shocked to find that Tina Fey mocking Sarah Palin is brighter and more articulate than Sarah Palin herself. McCain is displaying his extraordinary judgment already.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Right after we got back from our trip, we finally got our air shipment from the US. After three months, it was difficult to remember what we'd packed. The usual suspects: bikes, winter coats, golf clubs, scrapbooking materials. My personal favorites: scuba gear and little packages of Kleenex. A: what the hell am I going to do with my scuba mask? Even if somebody were to push me into the Maas, is it likely I would have my scuba gear on my person? B: I shipped Kleenex across the world? Did I think that Dutch people wouldn't have access to facial tissue? More likely- I was too cheap, and couldn't bear to throw away perfectly good Kleenex. Just think of all the children in Africa without Kleenex! On a positive note, the Dutch are famous for being cheap, so I fit in just fine.


Our last three days were spent in Venice. Venice was a little like Disneyland- very crowded with visitors and expensive food. The streets are very narrow, and maps are nearly useless. Each time we found our hotel instead of a dead end canal, it was a happy accident. Walking around Venice, I did not feel romantic. I felt a little claustrophobic and always lost (hence, pissy and impatient), half expecting to see David Bowie as the Goblin King. But, Venice of course does have a unique beauty, so we're glad to have seen it.

Venice street


Smiley Doorbell:

smiley bell

On top of the Duomo:

Duomo Venice

We also went to the island of Murano, which is famous for its glass:


Murano boat

...and that's all folks! Nick and I are back in Maastricht now. Our car liked Italy so much it couldn't leave!


After Florence, we headed to a bed and breakfast near the town of Cortona for two days. (This is in the wine region of Tuscany.)

We had a great time doing very little.


We took an Italian cooking class- we learned to make bread, ragu, tiramisu, and gnocchi!


The owner had a few dogs and a kitten who would play with us when we ate dinner outside. The dog's name is Dante, he's still a puppy- the mischievous look on his face cracks me up.

Dante and Patricia

There were so many highlights on this leg of the trip, but here is the big one: a hot air balloon ride! We had to get up so early to watch the balloon fill up (and help, sort of) and lifted off about 7am. We took off from the lawn of the B&B, and it was very loud- we woke up the other guests. Here they are taking pictures of us...


Our own version of "Under the Tuscan Sun"... take that, Diane Lane!




We also went to one vineyard and winery called Avignonesi and had a tour. It was amazing, especially considering our limited basis for comparison (ahem, great wines of Minnesota). We learned about things like planting vines in a hexagonal pattern like the Romans did, and a few of the DOC regulations for the region.


Everybody who visits a Tuscan winery expects to try the Vin Santo, a traditional sweet wine of the region. Well, here's the rub: Avignonesi has (apparently) an amazing Vin Santo. If you're lucky enough to preorder it, you can expect to pay about 200 euro ($300) for a small 375cl bottle. The Vin Santo is produced using some special one of a kind yeast called "the mother" that was a wedding gift to the Avignonesi family during the Renaissance times. It's kept in barrels for 10 years, during which time the mother is quite picky about temperature, light, etc. So needless, to say, we didn't get to try the Avignonese Vin Santo. God willing, this red Vin Santo will be opened in 2017 at some party with the top wine critics in the world and sold in exchange for a small country.

Vin Santo

And we picked fresh figs from the tree!


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Milan and Firenze

We took off from Maastricht on Friday, Aug. 29 and drove to Milan. The following Sunday, September 7, we flew from Milan to Eindhoven and then took a cab to Maastricht. Where did the car go?! It's actually still in Milan. We stayed in Milan one night and intended to drive to Florence. The car wouldn't start, so there was a bunch of drama, which included me standing in front of a tow truck in the middle of a Milanese street so the Romanian driver (who didn't speak English or Italian) would wait for a damned minute. The car drama and ensuing phone calls with the Dutch lease company put a little undercurrent of stress on the whole trip, but at least we made it home! The big lesson is that we ought to learn how to drive a manual. Milan itself wasn't particularly notable. We saw the Duomo and la Rinascente (fancy department store) and the train station..... where we bought tickets to Firenze after learning that there were zero automatic cars in Milan. Florence was beautiful, and we had a fine time walking around, shopping, eating gelato, etc. K, now for the pictures:

What Nick discovered while I popped into yet another shop:


Child's truck?


We also went to Pisa and climbed to the top. The climb was quite exhausting, you can really feel the lean, so it's funny to see how the steps are worn on either the extreme inside or outside of the step.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Cooking Rice

Tonight I am going to give you a lesson on how to cook rice (with dutch cooking instructions). You will first see the Dutch and then the English translation. Both are confusing, neither were delicious :-(

1. Verhit wat boter in een pan (Dutch)
1. hot what butter in a pan (English)

1st I had to find some "hot what" butter, but what do i do when its in the pan?

2. roer de risottorijst erdoor (Dutch)
2. rudder the risottorijst by it (English)

2nd I had to rudder the risottorijst by it. Thanks for using pronouns, and where do I get a rudder from?

3. voeg per 100 g rijst 180 ml warme bouillon toe en breng het geheel aan de kook (Dutch)
3. joint by 100 g rises 180 to ml warm soup and deals whole to cooks (English)

At least the numbers translated correctly. neither of them useful since I have no idea what a gram or a milliliter is!!!

4. met gesloten deksel 12 min zachtjes laten doorkoken (Dutch)
4. with closed lid 12 to minus softly let cook through (English)

Finally one I think I can handle, only if I make it this far...

5. haal de pan van de warmtebron en roer de rijst even door. afgieten is niet nodig
5. the rijst deletes the pan of the warmth source and rudder just as. is not pour off necessary

Apparently the rice is supposed to do all the work. All that mine did was stick to the bottom of the pan, leaving a mess for whoever does the dishes..... ME!!!!

6. laat de rijst nog 5 min nagaren (Dutch)
6. the rijst leaves still 5 minus nagaren (English)

I didnt even care anymore at this point. I poured tons of teriyaki sauce on it and added my chicken and peppers.

Tune in next time for recycling and gardening tips!!!



Nick and I went to Amsterdam for the weekend. Here's the summary: tried the Jamie Oliver restaurant, Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank huis, shopping on PC Hooftstraat, Indonesian rijsttafel at Kantjil and de Tijger, Boom Chicago comedy show, lots of walking.

When I visited Amsterdam 5 years ago, I started a rubber duck collection, inspired by a camo rubber duck (made in New York incidentally.) Alas, the collection was not carted over to The Netherlands, so imagine my joy at the continued rubber duck supply! We picked up the angel in Maastricht a few weeks ago, and picked up the devil at a store in the gay area called Dom that specialized in rubber and mirrored objects (you do the math on that one folks, and don't ask why we were there because that's a lazy joke on your part):

Breakdancers on the Leidseplein:

Yea, ok, fuck the police. I'm not sure if the bathtub is a happy accident or is some artsy emphasis to the graffiti:

I get the impression that the Dutch are cat people more than dog people. A famous cheese shop had a cat sitting right in the front window on a huge wheel of cheese, the glare of the window made for a bad picture. We had lunch outside at a little sandwich place, and cat had this great tendency to lie on the table on the other side of the window and put his paws on the window- we got a photo while he was taking a break from reflective surfaces:

Car by a house boat, I think these people didn't drive often, but isn't it cute?!:
little car