Small, Smaller, Smallest

It’s surprising to me how many people think that Disney World in Florida was the FIRST Disney theme park that was built. Of course it wasn’t. Think about it. Disney, Disney films, Hollywood… of course the first one was in Southern California. Anaheim to be exact. Disneyland was opened in July, 1955. My parents took my sister and I there when I was 8 or 9, 1967 or so. I remember vividly getting into one of those little cars that ran on a rail, all by myself, and I never felt so grown up. Driving a car meant everything. I also remember the “It’s a Small World” ride very well. There were all the animatronic characters from all over the world, singing and dancing “It’s a small world after all, It’s a small world after all….”. The point being that if we only get to know each other, from all cultures and beliefs and worlds, we will happily get along and understand each other. That Walt. Such a dreamer.

So here we are in the middle of this pandemic and the words “it’s a small world” have taken on a completely different meaning. Our worlds are indeed small. At least mine is and it’s not small in the lovely happy multicultural way that Walt Disney had in mind. Here is how my year has gone:

  • house chores
  • dog chores
  • grocery/pet store shopping
  • knitting/spinning/sewing
  • visit in-laws
  • online shopping
  • Zoom once a week or so with friends
  • FaceTime with my mom every few days
  • Watch TV, cook, eat with DB and Scout the dog

I did spend 2 weeks working very part time at a yarn shop, back in December, before the latest lockdown. I worked a total of 4 days. Then I decided I didn’t feel safe and my world got even smaller when I said I didn’t want to come back until I’m vaccinated.

I walk the dog at least once a day, often twice a day. I go to the grocery store once a week and do the self checkout so I don’t even talk to a soul there.

After spending the last year knitting like a fiend, I have wrecked my shoulder and can’t move it without pain. I went to a physical therapist last week so he is an additional in-person contact I have had in a year. The shoulder is getting better and I’m trying to start a little knitting again. Above is a photo of the last section of lace I have to knit to complete the Shetland lace christening shawl I’m making for my nephew and his wife. My world has shrunk even smaller when I can’t even knit anymore! NOW what am I supposed to do with my time? Read? I can only read for so many hours in a day without going completely crazy.

Every day I try to remember how lucky I am to not have to worry about money or work (DB’s job is secure and he works every day at home). I realize how lucky I am to be relatively healthy. But still. Can this be over now?

Nikon v iPhone

I always dreamed of owning a Nikon camera and finally, 10 years ago, I bought one. A Nikon D5100 with an 18-105 zoom lens. Honestly I never learned everything that it can do, but I was super happy with it.

It’s not always convenient to walk around with a big heavy camera, so I also had a small compact digital camera. I think it was a Panasonic. It took pretty good photos too. On a trip to Norway in 2015 I had my iPhone and Panasonic camera. After taking lots of photos with both, and looking at them closely after the trip, I decided to ditch the small digital camera because my iPhone took photos just as good and as so many people experience, taking photos with your phone is so easy!

Every year Apple improves the camera on the iPhone and honestly the improvement in camera quality is the main reason I keep upgrading. Pretty soon my Nikon sat neglected in a closet.

Last year In 2019 (it FEELS like last year) DB and I went on a road trip, from Southern California to the Grand Canyon, through Four Corners, Durango, Telluride, Arches National Park, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. It was such an amazing trip! Oh I long to go back! I took my Nikon camera and my iPhone X. I look loads of photos with both and was really undecided about which gave me the best quality photos. Frankly, with everything going on with selling the house, and then packing up and moving across the world, I didn’t spend much time with the photos.

Now here we are in 2021 and what else am I supposed to do in lockdown? I’ve wrecked my shoulder by knitting too much so I got out my camera and started playing around with it. Now let’s see what the difference is between a 10 year old DSLR and a 3 year old iPhone. This is completely unscientific and I’m sure there are much better comparisons on more professional web sites. This is for my amusement and maybe yours too.

First I took some photos inside my house. I have not edited any of these photos except for cropping to get close ups. There are no filters used. The Nikon was set on the Auto mode. No flash used. Here are the results:

The first two photos are from the Nikon, the last two with the iPhone. Clearly the Nikon creates clearer and crisper images. No question.

Today when the sun was shining I took a couple of photos outside. Again, the Nikon photos are first.

So again the Nikon clearly wins this competition. Both cameras have about the same number of pixels. This is not difference. It’s purely the quality of lens optics which, not surprisingly, will win out over digital every time. At least for now!

I started to think about what holds me back from using this fantastic Nikon camera. Too heavy? Too complicated for every day use? I remember on the road trip, hiking and having that heavy think around my neck all day, bouncing on my body. Putting it in a comfortable carry case is not the answer because by the time you get it out of the case and take off the lens cap, that bird, or deer or sunlight is gone. And I have to look at the situation and think about the best setting to get the best photo. Is something moving quickly so that I should change from auto to “sport” setting? Would this low light situation be better with or without a flash? With iPhone you don’t have to think about anything. Just touch the button and you have a pretty good photo.

I think that I’m going to research strap options to see if I can find something more comfortable to use while hiking and biking, but also leaves the camera quickly available to use. And I’m really and truly going to practice with it, so that changing settings becomes more automatic for me. And I will READ THE MANUAL to find out everything it can do. Like automatically creating the fun photo above at the top of this post.

Anniversary

Exactly one year ago I arrived back in the Netherlands to live, again, for good, after 3.5 years living in California, again. What a coincidence with the one year anniversary of this pandemic. I promise that is only a coincidence.

I went back and read my blog post from March 23, 2020 where I listed the top 10 reasons I was happy to be back in NL. They are all still true, except for the one about political leaders. The crazy man is out of the White House, and at the same time our leaders here in NL are showing themselves to be less than open and honest and often not competent to handle this crisis. I’ve been thinking lately about what I miss most about living in the U.S., and it’s a pretty small list:

  1. Friends and family – obviously. Especially my mom. Especially my spinning group in Redlands who saved my sanity many times. I do miss a thriving fiber community. While the knitting community in Amsterdam, and NL in general, is pretty amazing, it just not the same as the welcoming and interesting entire fiber arts scene in the U.S., and surprisingly SoCal (being a hot climate).
  2. Space – this is always my issue living in a tightly packed country where it’s impossible to go a day without seeing people and no wilderness at all. Our house is large by Dutch standards, but very small by U.S. standards. But all our stuff fits and honestly what more “stuff” does a person need?
  3. Variety of food – I didn’t realize how much I would miss being able to choose from 50 different brands of yogurt. Here there are 2. Maybe 3 if you look hard. I order baking ingredients from a speciality web shop. We had to order Swiss cheese from a shop in another town because you can only find Dutch cheese in our town and a little commercial French cheese. And it’s a good thing I like broccoli. I suppose I should learn to like Brussels sprouts. I miss all the varieties of winter squash (here there is 1), good avocados (you’re lucky here when they are not black or hard), any kind of Mexican food and good sushi. I probably shouldn’t even mention good thick juicy steaks since we should all be eating less red meat.
  4. Sunshine – I just ordered a daylight SAD treatment light to help me deal with these grey days and lack of sunshine. By the time March comes around I’m really feeling it – like an itch I can’t scratch, an irritation that only a day of sunshine in the mountains can fix. Or hopefully a SAD lamp.

And that’s it. I do miss my big car, but I don’t miss the crowded highways and where can you go these days anyway?

So that’s my moan about what I miss after living one year in the Netherlands after 3.5 in the U.S. There are other things I’m missing like crazy right now but they are related to the pandemic and not where I live, like going out, concerts, restaurants, movie theaters, etc etc. Not to mention seeing friends IRL. Can we be hopeful that this will change within 6 months? I think so.

In craft news, the ceramics class I signed up for is postponed til the end of March due to the pandemic. I hope it can start then and not be postponed again. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos about pottery and ceramics and I can’t wait to get my hands dirty.

You haven’t seen much knitting news from me lately (here or on Instagram) because I’ve been either knitting gifts that I can’t show yet, or a new design that I’m not ready to share. However, I just gave one gift, and it’s been received, so I can share it online now. This is a baby blanket made for Ben and Asha, who are divers, so fish are a perfect design for their second baby.

The yarn is Life in the Long Grass DK and I used exactly 4 skeins for this blanket. Details on my Ravelry projects page.

I’ve also just finished the 3rd border section of a christening blanket, in fine Shetland lace that I spun myself. I only have 1 more section to knit and then I can block it and sew it all together. I will be very happy to have it finished and ready to deliver. No photos now because it is still a surprise. They know I’m making it, but have no idea what it looks like.

The photo above was taken during our walk today, just a few minutes from our house. There are more photos from the day on Insta. It’s another cold grey day, but people are out walking and biking anyway. Scout doesn’t care. She’s just happy to be outside, smelling everything, eating the occasional rabbit droppings found on the dike, watching birds.

Have a good week. Coming up next week – iPhone camera vs entry level Nikon camera. Ooooo spannend.

Another Year Older

A Neil Young lyric just popped into my head – “Here we are in the years…”

Just about a year ago, on March 6, 2020, I flew back to the Netherlands. Our California adventure was over and our lives in NL were starting again. Except that it hasn’t really started, has it? People ask me “what’s it like to live in Den Helder?” and I tell them that I don’t know. I’ve spent the year in our house (but the first 2 months in my in-laws house), knitting, sewing, cooking, raising a puppy, and that’s about it. We ate out at restaurants a total of 4 times in all of 2020, and that was all during the summer when the pandemic was at an ebb. We used to go to the movies a LOT in California. Now we watch Netflix and Disney+ and Apple TV+ and HBO. I can’t remember the last live concert I went to.

Blah blah blah. It’s the same story for you too, I know.

I’ve been especially down the past few days. Maybe because this anniversary has come up and things are not better. Festivals for 2021 are being canceled. Events I look forward to are postponed to 2022. The vaccine rollout in NL is incredibly slow and haphazard and unpredictable. I think the unpredictability of the world is what has me depressed.

I am a planner. I cruise the internet looking for camping vacations for September. I browse shops that have tents on sale and I’m tempted to buy one even if I won’t use it for a year just because the act of buying it will give me hope and allow me to plan ahead for something fun. My planning instincts have been slammed flat all year long and it makes me feel things I’ve never felt before. Like futureless. Rudderless. Adrift.

During all of my working years I dreamed of being able to stay at home, not work, and do whatever I want. I’m KIND OF in that situation now. I don’t HAVE to work. I can knit all day long if I want. Or sew. So why do I have no enthusiasm anymore for any of that? I thought I would write a book. Or learn a new skill. And here I sit, feeling sad and bad and listless. ”What a waste of a year!” I think. But no, of course not. I have a puppy (almost a dog) and a home and a husband. We have a life in progress. I know how lucky we are.

I think starting up this blog again will help me to focus and give me a place to put down what I feel – to get it out there into the world and out of my body. DB thinks I should start running again. Maybe. I think I’ll start with writing again. Stay tuned.

The photo above was taken last Sunday on the morning dog walk, at Willemsoord wharf, just minutes from our house. With full moon and fog. The fog horns were going. I can’t upload a video to the free WordPress site here, but if you follow me on Instagram you can see videos and hear birds and the foghorn. If that’s your thing.

Keep Moving

My only dedicated activities these days are walking and knitting. In the past 3 weeks I think I’ve walked less than 10,000 steps on only 3 days. DB and I try to walk at 6:30 every morning and since we’ve changed to daylight savings time, it’s still dark when we leave the house. Sometimes we get to see a nice sunrise. Sometimes it’s too cloudy. Every morning the birdsong is becoming louder and more varied. Since this is a coastal town we get city birds and sea birds. It’s so nice to hear them in the mornings!

 Above is the little video I took this morning on the dike.

I’m posting photos on Instagram every day so if you want to see more photos I’ve taken on walks, with birds, ducks, scenes from the dike and beaches, check out my Insta feed.

In knitting news, I’ve passed the armholes on my Foldlines sweater and am working on the front. I’m going to lower the neckline by 1”/2.5cm as I really don’t like sweaters touching my neck. I’m sweating running out of yarn! I was saving 2 skeins for the sleeves but I will definitely have to start using one of those skeins soon. This is a really boxy sweater so the sleeves will be more like T-Rex arms so I should be ok. I hope! I’ll post a new photo when I’ve finished the front.

I’m also knitting a second sweater, “Stern” pattern, using West Wool Bicycle. I’m still working on the patterning around the yoke. I work on this when I get sick of knitting on the Foldlines sweater. It will be really good TV knitting once I’m finished with the yoke and it’s only Stockinette on 3mm needles forever and ever. I’ll post a photo of this also this weekend.

Stay tuned, stay safe, stay home.

Rituals

Now that all of our habits are under scrutiny, I really notice how important these habits and rituals are to us humans. Maybe you habitually go to the grocery store on Saturday mornings and shop for the week. Maybe you habitually get up at a certain time during the week, do habitual things to get ready to go to work, and then do habitual things when you get home again. Rituals and habits give us the calm illusion that life is ok and there is nothing to worry about.

And now we can’t do most of those things, while we wait for the wave of virus sickness to pass over us, or to hit us.

I’m living with DB and his elderly parents in a small house. When you live this close with people you really learn their habits, or at least the habits they hold on to in a time of crisis.

This morning, Sunday, I came downstairs to find both parents-in-law dressed as if going to an afternoon party or possibly to church. Every other day they also shower and dress for going outside the house. Which they don’t do. But they are ready for it just in case it’s a possibility.

So far, during these 3 weeks of not going out, I have stayed in sweats all day only once. Only once! It seems that if others in the house make the effort to shower and dress then that is the least I can do to keep up the atmosphere of normality. So I do this.

My in-laws have other rituals that they stick to no matter what. Every day at noon we put a table cloth on the dining table and pull out all the bread and stuff to put on bread and make tea and fresh orange juice and have lunch. They bow their heads and do a silent prayer before and after lunch. DB and I silently stare at our plates. Maybe DB is also praying. I don’t know. After lunch we put everything away and fold up the table cloth and put it in a drawer. We repeat this exercise at dinner. Every single day.

Well, not every day any more because we have asked for Sundays off from the ritual. Can we please come downstairs whenever we want on Sundays and take care of our own breakfast and lunch on Sundays? Of course that is fine. A small concession to the daily rituals.

My new habit: from Monday through Friday in the mornings from 8-12 I spend time doing useful things for our household, or soon to be new household. I research washers and dryers to find what we want and where to buy them and who is still open and delivering. I do banking. I found us a guy to sand and oil our wood floor in the new house. And I do what chores I can around here like laundry or looking for something to cook for dinner that everyone in the house would like.

In the afternoons during the week I do what I want. Lately I’ve been going upstairs and watching something on Netflix and knit. Or listen to a podcast and knit. Or spend time on Ravelry. In any case, it is my time to do what I want to keep sane. Lately the sun has been shining bright upstairs in that little room and that also makes me feel better.

DB is working from home, so he stays downstairs and sets up his “office” on the dining table, between the meal rituals, setting up and tearing down his laptop, mouse, keyboard, notebooks, etc. Twice a day.

These are our new routines. Our new habits. And we count our blessings that we can hold fast to them while others are not so fortunate.

The above photo is my Foldlines sweater. I’m just a few rounds short of dividing for armholes. I’ve been working on this pretty exclusively the past few days because I really want to finish it before it gets too warm to wear it. It’s going to be a really warm sweater! Worsted weight yarn knit on size US5 (3.75mm) needles makes a pretty dense fabric. But it does show the stitch pattern really well.

Knitting every single day is a habit that I hold on to even harder in this time of crisis. As long as my hands and head are busy creating something beautiful, I can still have hope that everything will be alright in the end.

Social Insecurity

I decided to apply for Social Security retirement benefits. Yes, I’m that old. I could wait and get a bigger payout in a few years, but it seems like a good time now to do this.

It was kind of a shock when I realized about a month ago that I could apply. I had that Dutch “dubbel” feeling – on the one hand YAY I can get some money back from the government! (Even if it’s a tiny bit) – on the other hand WHAT? I’m that OLD? How did that happen?

This morning I tried to log in to my SSA account to press the button to apply. Above is the screen I was greeted with.

What?

I have a hard time finding the right words to tell you what I think about this screen. To me, this is, in a nutshell, a perfect view of the United States right now. Technology that is so old fashioned that it’s laughable. A mindset that is so old fashioned that you wonder who is running things. Even my 83 year old mother is more tech-savvy than the people running this site. A website that has opening hours? WHAT? Is this 1990? Is this a third-world country without the resources to service the public the way other countries do?

You mark my words – in 30 years the United States will be well and truly in the shit. I wonder what things will look like for the country after this pandemic is over. How many homeless people will there be? How many people will have lost their life savings and their ability to retire at all because every cent they ever had is gone with health care payments and lost jobs. The people in Washington D.C., no matter the political party, have NO IDEA the wave of terribleness that is heading their way.

And still the propaganda machine rolls on and Americans wave flags and think that their systems are basically fine. I can only hope that enough people realize after this pandemic that tying health insurance to your employer is a system that doesn’t work for most people. I hope more people start to believe that health care is a basic human right. I hope more people believe that insurance companies and drug manufactures do not have the right to make billions on the backs of individual sick people. I believe that is morally wrong. It’s not the Wild West anymore folks. Wake up.

Top 10

top of the dike this morning

A friend asked on Facebook “Why am I not knitting?”. She’s an avid knitter and a knitting designer. It was totally out of character for her to not be knitting. I ask myself, “Why am I not writing in the blog after a good start and lots to write about?”.

The answers are probably about the same – these are strange days that give us emotions we aren’t used to feeling and energy that moves in different directions than we are used to. Every day I think about what to write here but I don’t have the mental energy to actually do it. I think going forward even if I don’t write something I will at least post a photo a day. I do take at least 1 photo every day. That is a habit that hasn’t been broken by this virus situation.

Today marks 2 weeks and 1 day since I arrived in the Netherlands, living in my in-law’s small house, in a small bedroom, in a small town. It feels like a lot longer mostly because every day is a new reality. News from the government every day. A message from the King. Yesterday complaints from mayors because they have no power to enforce the “social distancing” without stronger rules from the government and stupid young people still gather in groups (MOSTLY young people – some older ones too).

In light of all the negative news, here are my top 10 reasons I am happy to be where I am:

  1. I can walk 30 minutes from the house and be in (albeit a small piece of) nature. The beach. The dunes. Some wild animals.
  2. I can walk 10 minutes from the house and watch boats on the North Sea come and go and hear and watch sea birds fly.
  3. The air is super clean which is good for my lungs.
  4. I don’t have to worry (so far) about being well taken care of medically if I get really sick and it won’t cost me any more than my 300euro deductible. No matter what.
  5. While there was a little hoarding going on here a week ago, that has settled down and we can buy whatever we need from the grocery stores in town. Which are walking distance away.
  6. Even though we are cramped in this small house, we are saving money until our own home purchase is final.
  7. DB has a good job and is not in danger of losing it due to this crisis. He can work from home easily. This was not our situation in California where my job could have been terminated at a moments notice.
  8. I can catch my breath from the past 3 years of stressful life. This virus crisis is stressful, but in a very different way. I have no control over how this will play out and so my stress about it is less. My stress level from commuting long hours on SoCal highways and working in a crappy job and being the main wage earner was far more stressful. I’m knitting 2 sweaters and a pair of socks – all at the same time!
  9. The political leaders in the Netherlands are much smarter and level headed than those in the U.S. They don’t make nonsense statements or make such outrageous lies that the population doesn’t trust them anymore. In fact Rutter’s ratings as a leader have never been higher.
  10. I never, ever, feel afraid that some idiot in Walmart is going to start shooting.

DB and I do go out every day for a walk. Yesterday, Sunday, we walked for 2 hours which I’m not used to and had sore muscles afterwards and still today feel it. We walked 50 minutes to the beach, then walked along the beach northwards to Huisduinen and then through housing areas to home. Here is a photo from the beach yesterday.

Row Your Boat

Well, we’re all in the same boat now aren’t we!

Since we don’t yet have a house of our own and are living in a small house with two elderly people, we are very housebound, even compared with other people who are laying low, staying at home. It does feel like a kind of war situation. Our fellow citizens are deciding what we ourselves must ration by their hoarding behavior. Luckily we haven’t run out of anything and have been able to find what we need in the grocery store. No panic in our house. DB is working from home and his parents don’t go out, so I have become the designated grocery shopper. I’m being very careful myself because of asthma. Cross fingers and wash hands.

DB and I are going out every morning, early, and walking for an hour. This allows me to get to know my new town better, we get some exercise, and my lungs become acclimated to this new clean sea air. I take photos.

The top photo was taken today at sunrise while we walked on top of the dike from Huisduinen back to the town center. That’s the Texel ferry in the distance. Texel is probably the safest place in the world to be right now but we’ve been told to stay away by the Texel authorities. I can’t blame them.

Here are some other photos of the area that is within a 30 minute walk from my in-law’s house. For the coming few weeks the only things I’m doing is knitting, reading, writing, walking and taking photos.

Every day there is new news about this Corona virus situation. Up until today I was sliding back and forth between nervous fear and relaxed vacation feeling. But today I feel annoyed and jumpy. Maybe I have to start walking twice a day.

Here’s a knitting update. I’m making good progress on my sweater. I should have it finished in 5 weeks or maybe less!

Double

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I started this project the day after I landed in the Netherlands. This is yarn that I bought at Stitches West a few weeks ago. My friends, the Yarniacs, took me by the hand and lead me to the Sincere Sheep booth, introduced me to the dyer/owner, and helped me to pick out this color. Such enablers! This is worsted weight yarn, from Cormo sheep in Wyoming. I wanted something special from the U.S. to make a new sweater and this yarn is indeed special. It feels wonderful in my hands.  It is not superwash so it is not slippery in my hands but has a really sturdy yet next to skin soft feel. The texture is just perfect for the sweater I’m making – Foldlines by Norah Gaughan. Here is the photo from the Ravelry page.

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As you can see, I’m knitting the body in the round even though the pattern says to knit it in pieces.  It’s an even 22 stitch repeat, so why not knit this in the round up to the underarms? There will still be shoulder and armhole seams for structural strength.

DB and I are now “camping” out at his parents house in NL while we organize a home of our own. Changing countries is not an easy process.  It’s stressful and takes a lot of time and effort.  When we moved to the US I was working full time and DB did a lot of the organizing while he wasn’t working.  Now it’s the reverse.  He is working full time and I’m organizing and sorting things out.  He did of course start the process here in NL while I was still in the US, but I think I will be taking that over now. Certainly a lot of the house stuff.

We’ve made an offer on a house, which was accepted, so now we are starting the search for financing and also making budgets for what we have to buy and what to do next. We sold nearly everything we had when we left the US and now we need to buy what will fit nicely into our new home. Exciting, yes! But a lot of work.

The Dutch have an expression “Het voelt dubbel”. “It feels double”.  You might think that the feeling the person is talking about is felt doubly strong, like feeling doubly upset or doubly sad.  But that is not what it means at all.  People keeping asking me how it feels to be back in the Netherlands.  I reply “het voelt dubbel” meaning I feel at both extremes – very happy and very sad. The expression means that you feel both sides of a situation. It’s an interesting view into Dutch culture because this expression is used a lot. Dutch people have the reputation of being open minded and I think this is an example of that. They see both sides of situations and feel both sides of situations all the time and express it in “feeling double”.

I’m really really sad that we left the US when we did and in the manner we did. My job was not only awful, but the company was busy downsizing and it was only a matter of time before my turn would come. We needed to make decisions about our future, not let some company make it for us.

Also, living in Southern California wasn’t easy. It was stressful. It was hard on body and soul. This was a surprise to us and not what we expected when we moved there. But that was the reality and it was clear that staying, even if I found another job (which wasn’t happening no matter how hard I looked), was probably not a good idea.

When DB got the job in Amsterdam I cheered! I was so happy because this meant that I could quit my terrible job and we could go back to a place where we would feel safe and secure and life could be relatively calm again.

But this also meant leaving my mom in California and that makes me very very deeply sad. I don’t really want to talk about it.

And so I feel double. In the past few days, being back here in NL, I’ve felt so completely at home. This is where I belong. I never felt so at home in SoCal, but I do here. I dropped right back in to speaking Dutch all the time. I’m excited about our new house and new life. But I’m sad to leave people in the US and I feel like our leaving so soon was a kind of failure. It was not the plan to leave so soon. Het voelt dubbel.

Yesterday I took the train to Haarlem to look at some house stuff.  While there I had a favorite Dutch snack – kibbeling – pieces of batter dipped and deep fried fish. Yum! 67E01011-87B0-4826-A220-4AC6873047D3