30 Nov

7:34am – Wake up late due to alarm clock user error. Rush to get ready for work.

8:00am – Board train bound for Amsterdam and a day of work.

8:01am – Sudden realization that during morning rush phone was left on bed side table. Farther audio communication with girlfriend is rendered impossible. Problem for-seen since all unknown ‘when and where’ details of evening dinner plans are known by girlfriend.

9:20am – Arrive in Amsterdam. Disembark from train.

9:23am – Attempt to pump-up semi flat front tire on bike. Valve comes off in hand resulting in fully flat front tire on bike and long walk to the office with useless bike.

9:52am – Arrive in office and leave useless bike along with useless flat tire in the basement.

10:15am – Move all personal belongings and work equipment from old room into new room in the office.

11:22am – Attempts to plug computer into wall mounted electrical socket located with-in new room results in an electrical surge that cuts power over two floors of the office and renders half the company unable to proceed with daily work tasks.

11:35am – Take an early lunch.

12:54pm – Buy new valves and fix useless bike to make it useful again.

1:15pm – Return to desk to discover power restored and email from girlfriend containing the informative information that phone had been forgotten. More informative dinner location and time details are also discovered enclosed.

1:26pm – Try to do some work and not touch anything.

6:00pm – Leave office to meet girlfriend and friends for dinner in nice restaurant.

7:28pm – Arrive at agreed location outside train station at agreed time. Discover absence of girlfriend and friends. Wonder if email was read correctly.

7:32pm – Convince self that email was read incorrectly. Go up to station platform. Attempt to find wireless connection with laptop with the intention of rechecking email.

7:34pm – Fail to find wireless connection with laptop for the purpose of rechecking.

7:35pm – Walk back down to station entrance to discover presence of girlfriend and friends. Decide to say nothing of attempt to recheck email. Accused of being late.

7:45pm – Arrive at nice restaurant and order nice food.

8:34pm – Go to nice restaurant’s nice rest room to discover it has nice self cleaning toilets commonly seen in China.

8:36pm – Push button labeled ‘clean’ on the technologically enhanced toilet to start its self cleaning procedure. Quickly discover that the button labeled ‘clean’ is intended for the ‘cleaning’ of the user upon the seat as a high pressure stream of water suddenly and unexpectedly leaps from the back of the bole and intersects with my person.

8:45pm – Return to table with wet knee.

11:06pm – Say good night to friends and return home with dried up knee.

12:30am – Go to bed. Hope that level and frequency of accident prone-ness is confined to single day.

12:31am – Realize that it most likely is not.

25 Nov

Speculaas Addiction

Hello. My name is Stuart and I’m an addict…

For a while now I’ve been trying to keep my problem a secret from everyone I know and love. I guess the reality is that I was trying to avoid acknowledging that I even ‘had’ a problem. As if hiding my addiction from the outside world meant the addiction itself didn’t really exist.

However, things have gotten worse recently and I am unable to control my addiction any longer. I feel the uncontrollable cravings getting stronger all of the time. I need it. I can’t function without it any more. It is time to admit that I am hopelessly addicted to Speculaas sandwich spread.

Speculaas Withdrawal

I can’t help myself. I have only just discovered the stuff but it is so delicious. If it was not for Holland’s tolerance of certain addictive substances I’m sure Speculaas sandwich spread would already have been classified as a class A drug and made illegal. It’s the only way to explain my uncontrollable need to frantically lick the jar and my fingers clean whenever my supply has almost run out.

I’ve tried to get myself clean but there is no hope of me achieving this impossible goal. Every time I walk past the breakfast goods section in the Albert Heijn the Speculaas calls out to me. Before I know it I am rushing to the checkout with an arm load of jars which I take home and hide around the house in case there is a sudden intervention.


Speculaas sandwich spread actually comes from Speculaas cookies which are traditionally available during Sinterklaas (but are now available all year round). In Belgium it is known as Speculoos, which means the Dutch and Belgium enjoy a lot of time arguing over spelling. The cookies themselves are also very addictive but when they are crushed down in to their purist crumb form and (through a special process) turned into sandwich spread they become a hundred times more addictive. The cookies are just a gateway snack to the truly addictive sandwich spread. I honestly cannot convey to you how addicted I am to the stuff.

My addiction is so bad that I even tried to make Speculaas sandwiches between two Speculaas cookies instead of bread. I nearly ODed but it was worth it.

Speculaas Sandwich

I don’t usually endorse destructive or damaging behaviour but if you can find a Speculaas sandwich spread provider you should try some. It’s worth the uncontrollable addiction to its amazing taste.

20 Nov

Something suspicious had caught my eye, a shadow.

It was late at night as I made my way home through the deserted streets and alleyways of my new neighborhood. Darkness had long since descended upon Holland and the streets were lit dimly by the glow of flicking street lights. It was quiet. The streets were empty apart from me and the shadow.

The suspicious shadow was suspiciously human shaped and it was suspiciously standing with its suspicious back to me looking suspiciously through a hedge into someone’s non-suspicious garden. I would not have spotted them at all had it not been for the bright white jacket they had decided to wear; which seemed like a poor fashion choice for anyone acting suspiciously. However, beyond the white jacket I could not make out any details, it was hard for me to see anything but the jacket.

My route was going to take me straight past them. As I continued to approach they did not move, they stayed perfectly still, looking into the garden, watching, waiting.

Paranoia started to set in as I got closer. It had still not moved one suspicious muscle. I started to worry that the moment they realized their standing still ‘you can’t see me if I can’t see you’ tactic had not worked they would turn and confront me.

I crossed the road and continued to watch over my shoulder from my paranoid safe distance. From the moment I had turned onto the street and first spotted them to the last moment before I lost them from my view they had not moved one inch, not one bit. I returned home wondering if I should have done something.

What suspicious activity were they up to? Could I have stopped a horrible crime? Am I a bad citizen?

It turns out the answer to these questions in order are; nothing, not really and no, you are just an idiot. The next morning when I walked down the same street in daylight I discovery that what I had really seen was this:

Elvis. No really… Elvis.

I know sightings of Elvis are common but they are usually restricted to local supermarkets or fish & chip shops in remote villages. I don’t think there have been many sightings of The King on Crimewatch as police request to contact him in connection with a series of unsolved house burglaries.

My particular sighting turned out to be The king captured in statue form, sitting on a bar stool, holding a guitar, looking more suspiciously like he was going to sing ‘Tutti Frutti’ than suspiciously murder a sleeping family. During the event I had not been able to make out he was holding a guitar, it looked more like he had been supporting his weight on the hedge as he leaned forward and looked in. I know it was Elvis even though he had his back turned to me because I see him in Amsterdam every day as well.

It would have made for a very interesting police line-up had he actually been doing something suspicious. It would also prove that I am not the kind of eye witness you want to hinge the whole success of your case on since (at the time) I had not been able to recognize it was Elvis… or a statue. I’d most likely end up picking Buddy Holly or Frank Sinatra out of the line up by mistake instead.

Elvis has left the crime scene.

14 Nov

Sinterklaas has arrived in Holland again to give out gifts to all the little girls and boys who have been good this year. When talking about Sinterklaas it is very important to understand that he should not be mistaken with Santa Claus (or visa versa). As every Dutch person will inform you they might both be old men with white beards who dress in red and like to give out presents to good children in December but they are nothing alike… not in the slightest.

For example; Sinterklaas lives in the much warmer climate of Spain, arrives in Holland by steam boat during November, has helpers called Zwarte Pieten (Al Jolson look-a-likes), rides a white horse called Amerigo, and on December 5th he leaves presents in the shoes of good children but drags bad children back to Spain in a sack (you can find my more in depth guide here: Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet).

Over the years I have become very familiar with the Sinterklaas tradition. However, there are still a few things I do not quite understand about it. For example:

1) If Sinterklaas spends 11 months of the year in Spain why doesn’t he have more of a tan?

2) Did Sinterklaas set up his toy purchasing and exporting business in Spain because the Peseta to Guilder exchange rate allowed him to save money? If so; how has the switch to the Euro affected him financially (especially in this financial crisis)?

3) Where does he get the money to sustain a workforce of Zwarte Pieten and buy so many toys which he gives away for free? Is Sinterklaas an eccentric billionaire? How long will the money last?

4) If he is bringing pleasure to all the girls and boys by giving them gifts from Spain is his trip considered business or pleasure and does this mean he can or can’t reclaim any expenses incurred during his travels when doing his taxes?

5) Has Sinterklaas ever considered setting up a cultural exchange program with Santa Claus so that he could spend a year working with elves while all the Zwarte Pieten went to the North Pole? Would elves be able to cope with the hot Spanish sun with their extremely pale skin?

6) Who would win in a race; Sinterklaas with his horse Amerigo or Santa Claus with his twelve reindeer?

7) Why is it that the possible undertones of racism in regard to the Zwarte Pieten become a hot topic every year but no one ever complains about the obvious racism towards elves during Christmas? After all, we never see how Father Christmas treats them.

8) What happens to all the naughty children who are taken back to Spain? Are there just random Dutch children walking around the streets of Spain? Is this why Sinterklaas is not as stricked as he used to be in previous years? Did the Spanish government complain and tell him to knock it off?

9) Can Sinterklaas speak Spanish or does he have to get by with hand gestures and talking very loudly? Do the people of Spain find him odd?

These are the questions that keep me awake at night.


Looking for more? Find a full list of all humorous sinterklaas guides and posts right here:
All About Sinterklaas

10 Nov

I would like to take this moment to tell you a little bit about Alex de Leeuw and ask for your help with a difficult matter. Some of you may not know Alex yet so I will start at the beginning.

Alex is the lion who lives in the classroom where my girlfriend teaches. He is a very friendly lion; you don’t have to worry about him maiming any children. He is only small and he is very well behaved in class (he’s very good at mathematics but art is his favorite subject). He spends his evenings staying with the children so they can write about their adventures for class.

I first met Alex when my girlfriend brought him home from work one day to spend the evening with us. At first I thought it was strange that she was brining a young lion home but we quickly got to know each other and became very good friends. From time to time Alex likes to stay with us so he can have a bath in our washing machine (yeah, we thought that was slightly strange too but he seems to like it).

Alex has also appeared as a guest writer on this blog and it was my hope that he would again.

Sadly, we will soon have to say good bye to Alex. Do not be alarmed. Nothing foul has befallen the little lion. He is perfectly healthy. However, at the end of the year my girlfriend will be changing jobs and since we do not want to interrupt Alex’s education or take him away from the children who love him so much he will be staying at the school with them.

Alex has already written a few guest posts that will be posted at a later date but sadly he will not be able to write any more after that. This is very sad indeed since I was hoping for him to be a regular feature on this blog.

It is also why I have started my search for a new Alex. I know it may sound harsh to talk about replacing a lion as un-replaceable as Alex so soon but sometimes we have to be grown-up and face reality.

Alas, my search has not gone well so far.

I know that Alex used to live in the toy department of Vroom & Dreesmann but I have been unable to locate one of his kin. They have been sold out everywhere I have looked so far. I have checked the V&D in Amsterdam, Haarlem and Rotterdam but I have only found one of his tiger cousins (which is now living with us and still needs a name). Now I am asking for your help.

If you are able to help, please:
Check your local V&D
Inform me if you locate one of Alex’s kind
Spread the word about this search
Use the ‘Find Alex’ button (to the right) to link to this post
Join the ‘Find Alex’ facebook group
Come up with name suggestions for the tigger

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for any help you can give during this difficult time.