Lunch at Luden’sMy mission if I chose to accept it was to spend one of my €25 gift certificates for a lunch at Luden’s restaurant & Brasserie in Utrecht. I was up for the challenge after getting a good report from my thyroid doctor earlier that same morning.

First of all there is no secret. No French Paradox. No convoluted reason French (or European for that matter) women don’t get fat. They simply eat non-retarded portions of real food. Myself, I ever despair of mastering moderation.

The special salad for the day was smoked salmon with a lemon crème fraiche. I ordered that with a glass of Bourgogne Pinot Noir.

I settled in with my generous glass of red wine and one of the complimentary magazines. This wine in a round full-bodies red. Rich and smooth. You could get delightfully lost in the complicated flavor of this wine like you could get lost in the stax at the library. (gonna send that one in to the Bulwer-Lytton competition).

My salad came and it was the usual high Luden quality. I was a bit puzzled by the cashew nuts. I’m thinking walnuts might have been better. But you’ve got to let a chef experiment sometimes, no? It seemed to be goat cheese day I noticed. Everyone else in the brasserie appeared to have ordered either a goat cheese salad or a sandwich.

I polished off most of the yummy dark bread with the real salted butter and then ordered a cognac with a cappuccino. Too late I realized I still had enough on my gift certificate to order the luxury cognac. Anyway the one I got was excellent. I love the way cognac coats your tongue with fire. Like a roaring aromatic wood fire. Turkish brandy is like a gas fire. French cognac is like the heat of passion, desire, eureka! and serendipity. (more Bulwer-Lytton fodder). I enjoyed it.

With the change from the meal I bought a berry smoothie to have on the train home.

Thanks for the gift certificate. The good news is that I still have another one!

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It was a dark and stormy afternoon…

for Andy’s last and 3rd and last 7th birthday party. The first had been on the day with mom & dad, the second on a weekend with the neighbors. This one was with seven of his friends from school.

The invitations were designed (by me with a line drawn castle on the front) & redesigned by Andy with a scary ghost on the front, signed sealed and delivered. Delivered by hand, by me, by bike on a very pretty day.

I quizzed some other mom’s about the castle tour Andy wanted for his party. Allan did some digging and found out the details.

One of the other moms’ took up a collection so they could buy a group gift. Toys are expensive here so that way he could get one nice big toy instead of lots of little not-so-nice toys.

Allan wanted me to buy a cake so that there wouldn’t be any last minute hassle.

True to my nature I procrastinated until the last minute. Somehow I managed to find the most expensive bakery around. There was no time to comparison shop so I just bit my lip and paid the bill. The cake would sport an obscene amount of marzipan, a castle and a ghost.

Thank god for hidden pictures at Highlights.com. I printed off ten for the boys to work on as they arrived.

Allan led the boys in a game of dodge ball while I got the cake and candles (actually sparklers) ready. Let’s back up here. Earlier that same morning Allan had taken Andy out to buy A dodge ball. I had struck out earlier at the local toy store. When I asked for a special dodge ball I got ‘that look’. The look I get a lot. The look I should be used to getting after being an expat for so many years. Someone described it as being looked at like live lizards are crawling out of your mouth. Or like you have two heads. So the boys set out to buy a (1, one) ball. A few hours later they returned with two balls, a swimming pool, ladder & cover for the pool and some candy to add to the goodie bags. (You don’t want to know how much this party cost!).

The timing was perfect. The first of the seven sparklers on the cake spluttered out as we finished singing. The boys downed their cake, went to the bathroom and then loaded up in the cars. After liberating one boy who had locked himself in the upstairs bathroom, Allan almost sped off without one boy who had lingered a little too long in the toilet.

Two boys asked to ride shotgun. Which is illegal by the way until you’re twelve, or 135 centimeters tall or weigh at least 35 kilos.

It was a short drive but I still got, “are we there yet?” I believe the finer points of football were debated in the back seat during the trip.

I made a wrong turn trying to find a parking spot. Which made us late. A half hour late for the tour. Which was one hour not a half hour. Which made us an hour late to the restaurant. Allan took the little boys on the tour while I went to warn the restaurant that we would be late.

I noticed the same blisters on one little boy’s legs that Andy had. They had played together on Monday. Hmm.

Note: the previous Friday I was in line behind a man at the local amusement park waiting to buy ice cream. The man had bought the large group of children their chosen frozen treat when a lady came up and reamed him a new one. It turns out (unbeknownst to the poor man) that the group was an official birthday party which includes (read: cheapest) ice cream. The lady would not let up. The children stood around expressionless eating their already opened popsicles. I don’t know about you but I just don’t think it’s worth going ballistic over €5.

Pancakes for 8, make that 10.

Only one boy spilled his drink.

For about five minutes it was very pleasant to sit there with 8 seven year olds. My son has nice friends. While we waited I doled out the not yet completes Hidden Pictures to finish. Left to their own devises little boys will pour a substantial amount of powdered sugar on a pancake.

One fell on the way out and scraped his knee. He collapsed on the cobblestones working the slight injury for all it was worth. Allan actually PICKED HIM UP and carried the fifty pound fakir to the ice cream shop. Great lesson there. Goldbricking will get you your chocolate ice cream first! Must remember that.

Allan had a look like a deer caught in the headlights when I told him that he would have to take half of the little boys home. My car was very quiet as the boys still worked on their Hidden Pictures.

Once home Andy set up his Hot Wheels V drop. Which I will admit is quite cool. Allan invited The Best Neighbors In The World over to finish the cake. Which was an agreeable way to end the day. With a little help from Google we decided that Andy’s blisters were very much poison ivy like. So I treated him with a baking soda bath and some anti-histamine cream.

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Swim Diploma “B”

Andy earned his “B” swim diploma. The pool where he takes his lessons is 38 years old and will be torn down this summer. For the last few years a new replacement pool has been being built next door. He will being lessons for his “C” diploma there next fall.

In order to earn a “B” diploma, he had to;

With clothes on:

Jump in the pool, tread water for 30 seconds, swim 25 meters crawl, swim underneath a float, turn then swim 25 meters back stroke and climb out of the pool.

In just his swim trunks:

Dive head first into the water, swim 6 meters underwater, swim through an underwater hole, swim 75 meters crawl, sink 3 times feet first to the bottom and then swim 75 meters back stroke.

Dead man’s float, float on his back, swim 10 meters breast stroke, and swim 10 meters on his back.

30 seconds treading water with arms & legs, 30 seconds treading water with just the legs