Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Where We Live

Now that we've been here for almost five months (and because I'm running short on other material) I thought it might be interesting to explain a little bit about where we live. 

We're renting a four bedroom home that has several unique features.  First, it is a modern architectural design.  White painted brick outside, lots of odd angles to the walls, large windows, etc.  It doesn't exactly fit into the neighborhood, but there are one or two others like it.  Second, it is on a large lot...probably 1/3 of an acre which is huge for Holland.  This feature has been very popular with the four-legged member of our family.  We're extremely fortunate to have a "stand-alone" house.  Most Dutch homes are "twee onder een kap" or "two under one roof" because space is at such a premium. 

View from the front yard.  It's hard to remember when everything was this green.  The area to the right used to be a pond.  The landlord had to "fix" the pond prior to us moving in.  His fix was to fill it in and sod over it.  That's a much better solution for us.   

The front yard.  The dirt is the area where the trucks drove when they filled in the pond. 

The long driveway is nice except when you have to fetch Graber to bring him in.  He loves to hang out at the gate by the road and watch the neighborhood. 
One common feature of Dutch, and most European, homes is their lack of closets.  None of our bedrooms have any closets.  None.  Our solution was for Lori to brave a trip to IKEA on a Sunday to choose and order 13 closets.  These were then delivered to our home before our goods arrived from the States, so Grant and I spent a week carrying IKEA closets upstairs and assembling them.  We got very efficient.  When I was young, the bedroom that my brother and I shared didn't have a closet.  My parents bought a cardboard model from JC Penny.  It lasted about a year before rough-housing and other abuse did it in.  Then my dad built a plywood model that is still in use today.  The IKEA closets are fairly robust, but I don't think they'll last 40 years. 

This is what 13 unassembled IKEA closets look like.  Note they are on the ground floor and need to go up the stairs on the right. 
The Dutch do not typically do a lot of baking.  If they want that type of food they go to any number of the great bakeries.  Therefore, ovens in Dutch homes are quite small.  We have a combination oven -- it is a microwave and a regular oven.  As you can see in the photo, it's not even as big as a large US microwave.  None of our cookie sheets fit.  To make cupcakes you bake 12, take them out of the pan, then refill and bake the next 12.  Expats affectionately call these small ovens "Easy Bake Ovens" or "Barbie Ovens".  The apparatus above the oven in the picture is not a nuclear reactor. It is a steam oven.  Supposedly you can cook all sorts of things in this oven, but to date we've only used it to steam vegetables.  Our refrigerator is a little bigger than a large dorm fridge so we go to the grocery store every 2-3 days. 

The kitchen is huge for Holland.  Note the single light bulb....that's it for light.

Easy Bake Oven on the bottom; Steam Oven on the top. 
Another trait of Dutch rental homes is their darkness.  Each room, no matter the size, use or number of windows has one light fixture on the ceiling with one 10 watt light bulb.  Okay, maybe it's a 25 watt, but no matter, it doesn't put out much light.  This at a latitude where it gets dark at 4:30 in the winter and doesn't get light again until 8:00 the next morning.  It's like living in a cave.  Needless to say, we have installed new lights in our kitchen and dining room.  The living room is probably next. 

This house sat empty for 18 months before we rented it, so the yard was in horrible shape.  I undertook several landscaping projects to try and spruce things up a bit.  Boy did I miss my Suburban when I bought plants.  As most of you know, the main reason that men take on projects is the excuse it provides for buying some new tool or gadget.  In this case, I bought is a pair of Dutch work pants.  They are great.  They have pockets everywhere.  And if you need more pockets, you can zip some onto the front of the pants.  The knees are double reinforced with a material that resembles asbestos.  You can work in the garden all day and the knees never rip out.  Of course these pants should be good; they cost about as much as a pair of Armani slacks. 

Grant and I rearranged the landscaping bed to create another parking area.  The rocks were delivered in a super sack, but I had to spread them. 

Me with my number one helper.  We transplanted the large plants behind us and put in the smaller ones.  And to make sure we didn't get deported for not being Dutch enough, I planted 200 tulip bulbs along the edge.  Whenever any digging was required (and sometimes when it wasn't) Graber was right there to help me. 

Another new bed with more tulip bulbs in the bare area.  Note the Dutch work pants -- no holes in the knees.  

Our home backs up to a small canal.  Our Canadian reader(s) will be glad to know that the Ambassador's residence and grounds are across the canal.   The story is that the Queen's children spent WWII in Canada where they were well taken care of.  In gratitude, Canada was given a large piece of prime real estate for their ambassador.  Grant has taken the boat out several times, but the range is fairly limited.  Graber loves to stand in the front of the boat and look regal.  There are a number of birds around, especially ducks.  It's fun to watch them dive under water in search of food.

The Canadians are across the water.  Grant has taken the boat out several times.  The canals don't go very far though. 
One of our diving ducks

A large hawk that landed across the canal

A heron on the neighbor's deck. 

Before our US furniture arrived, hiding places for the cats were tough to come by.  Here Goldie hunkers down in an air mattress bag. 

We have a two story foyer with a balcony around.  Goldie is in the look-out position. 
As bad as the garden was, it still had one beautiful rose bush. 

A "twee onder een kap" or duplex in our neighborhood.

Probably 30-40% of the homes in our neighborhood have thatched roofs.  They continue to put them on new homes as well. 

Another neighborhood home

The picture isn't great, but in the center of the roof is a cupelo.

A view of the sidewalk on our street.

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