Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rock Climbing and Apple Pie

I'd say its about time for a quality blog update....the last few weeks have been non-stop busy, but I love it all!

Last night was a very interesting evening.... I was trying to make an apple pie, because today I'm going to a potluck where I'm going to meet all the other "Food Valley Ambassador" students (people who have the same scholarship that I do). We're supposed to bring food from our respective countries, so apple pie was really all I could think of! Of course, I don't have an oven in my kitchen. And you also can't buy those nice totoally pre-made pie crusts here. Or the typical pans that we Americans use for pies (they only have ones with vertical sides). So the evening began with me going to Cecile's place after class so that she could help me make a dough from scratch. While I was there, she also had to pick up a couch that she had bought second hand on the internet. It was only located about a fifteen minute walk away and of course we don't have a car, so we walked there to pick it up. Luckily, there were two wheels on it, since it rolled out to a bed, because we ended up dragging/rolling it all the way back to her house. Along the road. We got quite a few stares....but eventually we made it and she now has a nice sofabed!

So, I've got dough and also helped carry a couch across town and I have to go to my friend Anneke's place to make the rest of the pie (Cecile also doesn't have an oven). I hop on my bike with my 2ish kg of dough, 3 kg of apples and a kg of sugar and head to Anneke's where we spend about 3 hours cutting apples and rolling dough and cooking 2 pies! I made my first American apple pies from scratch in the Netherlands! Success! Anne, Cecile and I ate some of one of pies and the second I'll bring to the Food Valley students this afternoon! (I wrote "FV" on the top crust, hehe.)

In other news, I had my introweekend for the climbing club this past weekend! We traveled to Ith, Germany where we camped, climbed high rocks and peed in telephone booths. (The guy at the campsite converted old telephone booths from the 60's into port-o-potties). It was a blast, I met lots of great people and we had the best doner kebabs in the region on the way home! (the owner of the place only uses local lambs for the meat and butchers it himself!)

Classes are still going well (though I'm quite tired all the time because I have lab from 8:30 to 12:15 every morning and then either another lab or lectures in the afternoon). The lab in the morning is quite like the chemistry labs, but I don't mind too much since I have a nice group and I like the subject! (Our project has to do with carageenans and galactomannans - gelling agents in foods) My afternoon course, gastronomy, has a practical involving fancy cooking, so on Tuesday I made entrecote (kind of steak) using "souv-vide", hollandaise sauce and an estragon gel. It was delicious! Though in competition with the other groups, our dish came in 4th out of 5 groups when the head chef tasted them. Luckily I'm not going into cooking, but into food product development.

Tonight I'll be going to the Food Valley potluck with my pie, then the climbing gym in Arnhem! Then this weekend it's back to Germany for a food product conference in Cologne!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Where to start! I had a great last week of vacation getting to know my AID friends better, meeting more people and shopping with Pauline and Lisanne :) I've met a few other Americans now! One from Syracuse and 2 from the Chicago area. None have the same major as me, but they are still in the Food department. So now I have a few friends to help throw a Halloween party and to have Thanksgiving dinner with! 

Yesterday my courses began! Because there are 6 periods here instead of 2 semesters, I take only 2 classes at a time. Right now I am in Food Ingredient Functionality and Molecular Gastronomy. Both seem like courses that I will LOVE, which is very exciting to me! (after not enjoying roughly 90% of the courses from my chemistry degree...)

Ingredient Functionality will be a lot of food chemistry and physics, like the techno- and biofunctional aspects of foods. (basically what ingredients do at a molecular level inside and outside the body). My favorite fact from day one involved how Unilever got an idea from a fish for an ingredient to improve low fat ice cream. (the major problem with making low fat ice cream: less fat = more water = more ice = crunchy gross ice cream) There's a fish called the ocean pout that lives in water at sub-zero temperatures, so people were curious how the heck it survived without all of its tissues freezing. Turns out, there's a specific protein that it has in its cells that prevents ice crystals from growing, which keeps the fish from turning into a popsicle. Unilever figured out what the protein was, how to make it using fermentation and now can put it in low fat ice cream to keep large ice crystals from growing in it. Thus, smooth normal ice cream instead of having large crunchy ice crystals. ...I hope my explanation made at least some sense....I don't plan to go into teaching

Molecular Gastronomy - the science of cooking- will be pretty unique. Apparently I'll be learning the chemistry and physics behind cooking, involving a few labs in the kitchen! The final lab will actually be a cooking competition where your group has to come up with a completely new, novel recipe and make it for a judge. By new, they basically mean making something that looks like a food but tastes like something totally unexpected. For instance, an "egg" where the white is made up of a white gel with coconut flavoring and the yolk is a maize gel. So you have to make the dish and then explain the chemistry and physics behind why it works. Look for me on the Food Network some day.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

An Excellent Start

So, the remainder of the introduction days were amazing! I got along with my group very well, so we're still hanging out and having fun. During the introduction days, we had a "Crazy 88" city tour, where everyone got a list of 88 things that we could do around town to get points (like make a human pyramid, go in the fountain barefoot, sing to a grandma, give out 5 hugs to strangers, take pictures at certain places....). We also went to a street theatre festival that was going on in the city center, which was awesome. There was a hilarious Australian magician, people dancing with fire sticks and hula hoops, a puppet show, acrobats and all kinds of things. The next day was the sports day, where we got to play all kinds of sports (frisbee, soccer, field hockey....), check out the sports center, and talk to sports clubs that we might want to join. (I'm looking at joining either the running or climbing clubs!) That night we all watched a movie outdoors (Despicable Me :D) and then went to some fun parties.

We checked out the pool that is across from my apartment one day as well - it's AWESOME. There's a really good slide, a lazy river, diving boards and a sauna and steam bath!! Then that night there was a "Comedy Crawl" where we went around town to different theatres to see different comedians. Some were really good, but I got picked on a lot for being American. Whenever they asked if any Americans were present, I was ALWAYS the only one. Haven't met another one of my kind yet....luckily I seem to be fitting in well with the Greeks. Though, when I told one Greek girl that I was from Philadelphia, her response was "...That's near California, right?! I've always wanted to go there because I LOVE Baywatch!!" ....

On a day that it was super rainy, I had my "Alpine Adventure Race" workshop, where with 2 other people on my team I had to bike around the city and surrounding woods to different checkpoints where there were things like slacklining, monkey bars, rope climbing and shooting. I got very wet and muddy, but it was very very fun. The last day there was a Brunch and information market in the school's botanical gardens and a really good music festival at night. All the pictures from the week are up on facebook!

Overall, it was a ridiculously busy, but amazing week. A really great way to get to know people and learn about the town! Now I have a week off before classes start still!

So far, I'm loving it here and loving how international of a place this town is. I'm meeting people from all over the world and really getting to know about a lot of different cultures. Today I even ate chicken hearts (fed to me by my french friend) and learned that Greek people regularly call eachother "asshole" (Malaka!). Thats the only word I now understand when they talk to eachother in Greek. Better than nothing, I suppose...

Friday, August 19, 2011

First Day of AID

Yesterday was the first day of the introduction days! 6 days of learning about the town, the school and parties all put together by the school and organized by other students. We met our "family" (2 mentors and 10 other students) who we will basically be spending the week with. I mostly hung out with with 2 dutch people, 2 greeks and a french girl. Very exciting :) In the afternoon there was a whole field full of games and blow-up obstacle courses that we played, then we met in the city center for a drink before heading off to dinner together. After dinner, there was a huge outdoor party with all the first year students under a tent, where out school President and Vice Mayor of Wageningen came to speak and tell us to drink a lot this week because some of the profits go to charity, haha. Today we will have a picnic, do a scavenger hunt throughout the town, learn about some student clubs, and check out the Street Theatre Festival going on in town.

Before all of this excitement, I had a few frustrations with Holland...I've learned never to expect any office to get anything done in a timely manner. And also not to completely trust the answers they give you. No one seems to reeeally know whats going on...ever....but eventually I'll get everything worked out, haha. I also met with my advisor to pick my courses for the year! I'll be starting with Food Ingredient Functionality and Molecular Gastronomy (where the lab portion of the course is cooking !!).

Also, if anyone is curious what our main Hub/Library looks like :

Usually its a bit more quiet, though...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

All Set Up

Happy Birthday, Paul!!!

Pictures of my new room are on facebook now :) here's a sample:

I was very lucky to have my Aunt Marianne give me a few of my Oma's watercolor paintings! The picture of the sunflowers was the one I chose to display first :) A lot of extra furniture and decorations were from the Dijkkamps and Sanders families, too. Much appreciated!

I'm glad to be pretty much set up, and my room is feeling more and more like home. Yesterday Pauline and Lisanne visited me and we had a wonderful afternoon shopping in the city center and cooking my first dinner here. It's so amazing to already have so many good friends and relatives here that are willing to help me out! There won't even be an opportunity for me to be lonely in this country. On Friday my introduction days will begin and I'll then be able to meet new friends in Wageninen. Until then, I'll be setting up all the legal matters and spending time with Mom before she goes back to the US a week from today.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

First Look at the New Room

After a warm welcome to Holland from the Dijkkamps and a day of sorting things out on the internet at their wonderful home in Waalre on Tuesday, we decided to go get the key to my new room in Wageningen today. I have my own little kitchen and a fairly large room, complete with desk, bed, wardrobe and desk chair. I'm on the 10th floor, so the view is amazing and I can step out of my enormous window onto a small balcony that extends around the building. Pictures will come onto facebook of the room as soon as its better decorated and set up. We have a lot of shopping to do, to fill a whole kitchen and get some extra drawers and probably a couch. Having to bring my own TP and my keys with me every time I have to go to the bathroom will take some getting used to...along with sharing a shower with about 7 people in my corridor. Luckily (?) Europeans don't shower as often as Americans.

This first week of moving will be pretty stressful with all the registering and shopping and such, but once I'm settled in I think I'll love the adorable town of Wageningen. Today we stumbled upon the awesome market that happens in the city center every Wednesday and Saturday, and there are many nice shops and cafes. You can see campus from my window, and I can bike downtown to the city center in about 5 minutes.

Today I also bought my first dutch bike! A used, beat up bike for 65 Euros (originally 75, but my mom was able to haggle it down!) that I hope will blend in enough so as not to get stolen! I don't think I've met anyone here who HASN'T had a bike stolen, though, so we'll see how this goes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Traveling from Portugal to the Netherlands on Aug. 8, 2011

Portugal will forever remind me of dirty toilets without locks and short hairy men. But besides that and a few sad moments about leaving the states for such a long time, it was a very nice trip. We stayed in a big villa who's rooms felt like a historical castle. In the yard there were grape vines and cages with at least twenty rabbits. The owners of the house apparently have so many rabbits because...well...they eat them. When we left, there were only 11 rabbits. 

Our villa was in a cute town called Viana do Castelo, and had a huge hill with a cathedral at the top, 3.5 miles from the villa. We biked up the hill on the first day to see the church. I also ran to the top one morning with Jef, making it to the top faster than the others who biked ;)

Another day we visited the beautiful city of Porto, where we walked around to some major sites, did a tour and tasting at one of the many wineries and took a boat ride along the river. 

Braga was another nice city that we visited, where there was a pretty flower garden and some shopping. In Viana do Castelo, there happened to be a festival going on while we were there, so we saw some classic carnival rides, music and fireworks at night. The other days were filled with nice bike rides and some relaxing beach time.

After a pleasant week with the Lemmens family, I'm ready to start my move to holland. After being without internet in such an unfamiliar place as Portugal, I'm so far really appreciating how much more comfortable I am in holland. Though I'm sure more culture shock is to come, I'm still excited to start building my life here. I don't know that I've ever been so thankful to have internet, so that a can pretty easily stay in touch with the tons of people in the states that I miss.