December 31, 2008

War zone

So much for sleeping in as much as I had hoped to this morning. Bit hard when people are setting off firecrackers up and down the street.

I made some last minute plans to join an expat party in Den Haag. I had been just planning to hang around Leiden, but this should be much better. It's hard not to think back to a year ago though, spending the afternoon in the sun in Sydney and then the amazing fireworks show to ring in 2008. *sigh*

I hope everyone has a wonderful (and safe) New Year's Eve, and all the best for 2009!

December 21, 2008

Cooking fiend

E, your husfru-ness is contagious. Or something. Friday afternoon I was consumed by this unbelievable desire to cook and bake and roast. I couldn't stop looking at recipes online (and no, it wasn't due to a grumbling stomach). Maybe it was thinking ahead to this weekend, and the longness of next weekend, and thinking of how best to utilize the time. Or how best to utilize my oven. Plus I bought a cookbook in Portland that has so many things I want to make, so I was thinking I could start on some of those, and I need to make more things involving sweet potatoes, and I could do something sort of special for Christmas, and... all I could do was plan possible menus in my head.

I've chilled out a bit now, but perhaps that is due to deciding on what to make this week. So, to share:

- Last night I made this recipe of curried lentils and sweet potatoes. I halved everything and I still had enough for a filling dinner and two containers I can take for lunch. Things I did different from the recipe was use one of those red peppers you can get here so much easier than jalepenos; I completely skipped adding the chard, or any other green; and I skipped the garnishes. Next time I will reduce the amount of curry powder I use because it came out much spicier than I expected. Still very good though.

- Tonight I'm grilling salmon with teriyaki sauce and having it with sweet potato fries.

- For Christmas, I got a chicken rollade (roulade in French-looking English?) from the Albert Heijn. It's filled with a fruit chutney and has a plum sauce to serve with it. I'll also make mashed potatoes (normal ones this time). That should last me for days.

December 19, 2008

An old poem

One Morning

I wake up thinking of two-person beds
Mysterious laughter during fantasy pillow fights
Hard versus soft
And people dancing in classrooms

I get up
Brush my teeth
As the waltz of a kiss and a hug plays
And I actually sing along
Even with toothpaste foam
Sputtering from my mouth
Next would be the song about the drunk
Who had nothing better to do
But I have to leave

I go out
In my striped sneakers
Watching the squares of sidewalk
Pass beneath my feet
A great blank comic strip
Where Nothing is funny
Especially when leaves and bugs
And my footsteps are added to it

Those panels--
Such neat, perfect containers--
I could spread my dreams
Into them
So they would stay in their places
Stop mixing with the real dreams I've lived
But it's hard when
In them both
Everyone keeps telling me the same things

December 18, 2008

Mostly music-related news

I seem to have been quiet lately. So some recent bits and pieces...

I brought back a pair of vintage glasses frames from the US but I haven't had the lenses put in yet. I went around to shops in Leiden getting price estimates, but then I was looking into sending off the frames to an online shop in the US. The shipping was cheap and the lenses would cost a fraction of what they would here. But after reading some reviews, I decided it's too large of a risk to send off the frames. I'm really nervous about them getting broken, even by an optician here, and when I read about people receiving warped modern metal frames from online places, I don't think I can really trust them with fragile plastic. I'll probably wear my glasses a good 4-5 years anyway, so I may as well make the investment.

Damien Jurado's latest album, Caught in the Trees, has replaced Iron & Wine's The Shepherd's Dog as the CD that I can't seem to keep out of my CD player. There is hardly a song on it I don't like, and there are many beautiful melodies and lyrics that I keep going back to hear.

Last night I went to see The Thermals in Utrecht, likely my last concert of the year. It was very good, very energetic. We managed to get spots right at the front, just to Hutch Harris's left, it was awesome. I regretted not taking my camera, though E took some photos. The band, including the new drummer, was joking around a lot and the audience was definitely into it. There was some lower energy when they played songs from their upcoming album, but the enthusiasm during the songs we knew more than made up for it.

The Decemberists will have a new album in March and I think they will be taking themselves again to epic heights. I've heard a live, Colin-only version of the main song that runs through the album and it is brilliant. It reminds me quite a bit of The Tain or The Island, so it may not be the most groundbreaking, but it's still impressive to hear. I also finally bought my first Decemberists shirt (though it hasn't arrived yet), which seems rather overdue. And the band is "strongly rumoured" to be in the lineup for Glastonbury 2009. If it is true, it is not too much of a leap to assume that they might also be at other European summer fests. Like Rock Werchter. Which I've been pondering going to again next year. If the D's are playing, I'm there.

I've been more involved lately on the forum for the Decemberists, and for Christmas someone organized a secret Santa exchange. I received my gift last weekend from a girl in the UK. She sent me some American candy (Reese's Pieces, Nerds, Hershey's Miniatures) and then a kit to sew a cushion in the shape of a Spanish-looking chicken. It sounds a bit weird, but it's funky, and, as I told her in my thank-you note, I like to sew in theory but I don't really know how to, so this is something at my level. Maybe some afternoon during the holidays I'll put it together.

December 6, 2008

Next part of New Zealand

In this installment of my drive through New Zealand, I get to Wellington, cross over to the South Island, and start heading down the Pacific coast. Photos start here.

So much for my hope to have all of my trip photos up by the end of this year. At this rate, I'll be happy to have the New Zealand part done by then.