Star Wars crazed!

X-Wing Fighter

I found out yesterday that our three flights of stairs are in actuality a polar trench of a Death Star. LittleE’s radiator up on the third floor (the 2nd floor by the Dutch) is the thermal exhaust port that needs defending. The kids have only seen the first of the Star Wars movies or as my son corrects me, the fourth. Now LittleE does not have any Star Wars Legos but he has a lot of other kinds though. He went into his sister’s room and built, with her help and her Duplo blocks, a Star Destroyer. Out of his regular bricks he built a couple of Tie-Fighters. These should be enough to keep the house safe by protecting his room from any X-Wing Fighters that might come up the trench. If any got through and sent a proton torpedo down his radiator then the whole house would blow up! He also told me that if any got through then he would use one of his plastic swords to smash them. All of the boys in his class are Star Wars fanatics. For the longest time, LittleE was the only boy in his class who had not seen any of the movies. (Yes I felt a little peer-pressure on behalf of my son so he could play better with the other boys- I saw the first movie when I was seven and he is getting close to that.) “The Girls” in his class, however, are not interested. No to General Grievous, Bad Anakin, or anything/body else. All this time I never knew that we’re renting a fully operational battle station.

Little Brown Bird

Little Brown BirdThis little guy was pretty curious when I brought back my wounded bike to the house. I should chase these little guys away when I see them (I can’t because I don’t want to leave our backyard to only the Jackdaws and Pigeons) because they are the messiest birds. They use their beaks to turn over leaves, dirt, mulch to find food. They are pretty effective at making a mess all over the paving – especially just after when I sweep up after one.

A Moment of Inertia or (Das Flächenträgheitsmoment [!])

A local example of an area moment of inertiaI had an engineering moment while picking up Number One Son from school today. There has been some good weather here for the past couple of days and I have been using the bike a lot more to run some errands around town. So, it being a nice sunny day, I picked up LittleN from her Peuterspeelzaal on my bike and headed on over to my son’s school. There is a small gate to the school just off of the bike path where the bicyclers can enter and leave. Just past that and inside the school grounds there is a sharp turn bounded with small fence alongside the path. I made the turn with my bike but caught the back wheel of my kiddie-kart on the bend of this fence. The bike and cart stopped, I didn’t. And inertia, being a property of matter, openly revealed itself. I had to walk the bike and kids home. Alas, I’ve been eyeing a new Batavus bike for a while now to replace my current bike but didn’t want to spend the money yet. And I don’t want to spend the money to get a new rim when I am going to get a new bike. Dutch bikes are nothing like American ones. They are much nicer for one, but they are also more expensive. The Dutch expect quite a bit from their bikes because they are not seen as toys and are ridden everywhere. I’ve seen a construction worker riding one to a work site with one hand holding on to a 20 gallon tree which rested on a side peg. It is extremely common to see children sitting front and back of a parent (in their own seat – kiddie karts like mine almost signal you as non-Dutch; not quite, but almost) with groceries in saddle bags. When we lived in Den Haag I saw quite a few ride in rain with one hand holding an umbrella in front – mostly older people though. When it is time for the Dutch to leave en masse on their summer holidays bikes are always brought along. Little Dutch kids are on bikes at like age two. At LittleN’s preschool the little bike with training wheels is the most fought over object when the kids are outside playing.

Queso Mess-o

I tried my hand at making some queso blanco today. It is a pretty simple cheese to make. Just a gallon of whole milk, a 1/4th cup of vinegar and some cheesecloth – that’s it. You heat the milk to 180 degrees add the vinegar and stir for about ten minutes. After that you pour the milk into a strainer lined with cheesecloth and let it drain for several hours. Well, I didn’t have the cheesecloth – I tried looking for some kaasdoeks but no place around here had any. I thought, coffee filters should do the job and gave it a go. Now let me just say right now that the cheesecloths are just as important as the milk in this recipe. Trying to strain a gallon of hot milk and whey though coffee filter after coffee filter was quite an unpleasant job. The recipe worked out just fine and it was quite interesting to see the milk fats separating from the milk but I’m not too sure about trying again for a while. You need a reliable way and place to hang the cheese to drain and, most definitely, some cheesecloth to hold the formed cheese, and I didn’t have either. One chalked up for experience.

Beard, Whiskers, Scruff

My son came home from school today with a puppet he had been working on for three weeks in his art class. He calls it “Mister Mustache”. It is a black mustachioed stick puppet with yellow hair, red lips, brown eyes and is wearing a red cape-like thing for clothes. (As an aside, the other boys in his class all made Star Wars puppets – Good Anakin, Bad Anakin, Luke Skywalker, et al. All of the girls made princess puppets. My son, however, made “Mister Mustache”???) After we get home from school, LittleE asks me, “Dad, where is my backpack, I have something to show you.” As soon as I get it out of the truck of my car he pulls out his take-home folder and inside is our new little friend. He pulls the thing out and starts bouncing it up and down saying (in a different and somewhat silly voice), “Hi. I’m Mister Mustache and I (pause) am (pause) silly. If you don’t watch out I’m going to bump you on head, on your arm and on your bum.” Bum is a word that he has picked up at school. In his class there are a few other Americans. For the rest there is a Spaniard, a Chilean, Danes, Swedes, a Swiss, Greeks, and so on. So when LittleE comes home with a new Briticism it makes me chuckle. British English is the lingua franca of the international community here. If I am talking to someone who I know is not a North American (US and Canada) I will use as many British words as seems natural. While I can (or will) never call an apartment a “flat” to another American, it doesn’t feel affected to me at all to use “flat” to a Dutch or an Italian that I’m speaking to in English. I can use “wellies” and feel no shame, but I cannot for the life of me use the word “jumper” for a sweater. I have no problem using “courgette” or “aubergine” in regular conversation but “brilliant” being used as an adjective meaning “very good” or “excellent” will never be heard from me. “Hob” and “cooker” are both good words that I would have no problem using back in the States and probably will, but “Give me a tinkle,” well now…

Le Vélo Bleu (the blue bike)

La bicyclette bleueWhen I was picking up LittleN from her peuterspeelzaal (a Dutch pre-school) I saw her riding her tricycle up to another little girl. LittleN wanted to ride the blue and white bicycle with training wheels that this other little girl was on. MissN, the teacher, walked up to facilitate the exchange. LittleN was talking to the little girl in English, saying that she, LittleN, wanted to “share” her tricycle for the blue bike. MissN, who is Dutch, was speaking to the other little girl in French, the language of the second girl. The switch was made peaceably and LittleN was happy riding around for a few minutes before we walked home. When we had to put the bicycle up LittleN did not want to get off of it and wanted to ride it into the hallway where all of the tricycles are stored. Everybody was happy on the way home until LittleN picked up a stick that was covered with dog poop.

Bam!

Guest Author: Mrs.S

Mr.K was sick this morning, so I took the kids to school. After dropping LittleN off, I pulled up to an intersection. It was a misty morning and visibility was poor, plus there were lots of cars parked along the intersecting street, so I pulled out slowly – saw a car coming and stopped again. A moment later, there was a loud bump behind me, and despite my brakes being engaged my car moved into the intersection. I’d been hit from behind. Thankfully, the car approaching from the side didn’t hit me when I was pushed into the intersection. The other driver was another mom dropping her older child off – she had a 2-month old baby in the back sleeping through it all. She was extraordinarily nice about it and said right from the start that it was her responsibility. She even came over this evening to help me fill out my part of the insurance forms correctly. She asked me about my Dutch. I told her I try to practice, but it’s so easy to speak English in this country that the person you get in an accident with comes over to help translate for you! I’m almost a bit sad – I quite liked her, but how do you invite someone over who’s just recently rear-ended you?