the last day

It was eerily quiet on my morning bike commute to work this morning. The only things moving on the streets were garbage trucks and street cleaners. I guess they were getting ready for the extra load of trash coming after tonight’s fireworks festivities. In the Netherlands 31 December is THE night for fireworks and man do they let it off!

But back to the morning….. The only other people I saw were early morning shopkeepers getting ready to open. The kaasboer (literally “cheese farmer” but means a cheese shop/seller) at the Ten Katenmart was already open and ready for business. Also the fruit and veg stall was open. Grocery stores were open. Bakeries were already full of fresh bread. But not another creature was stirring….. except….

Johannes van Dam. (English translation) Lately when I bike to work I’ve seen him sitting in the front windowed section at Café Luxembourg around 8:00, having his breakfast I presume. This morning he looked especially ruffled and unkempt. I hope he is well and will continue writing for a long time. I’ll have to pick up his latest Amsterdam restaurant review book. Maybe Mom and I will meet him in September when we sit in the same spot in the morning. Maybe he’ll sign the book for me. (Photo by Stuck in Customs)

Tonight we are staying home to watch the fireworks from our roof terrace. We have a view over the entire city, west looking east. Of course after the first 5 minutes the sky is simply a red haze that you can’t see through, but for 5 minutes anyway the view is amazing and fireworks from all over the city can be seen. This year I’ll try to film the event. Even though the best view is obscured pretty quickly, the display continues for at least 45 minutes! It amazes me how much money people will spend on fireworks, and how big and powerful the available fireworks are. Every year people are injured and killed. This year there were crack downs on who can sell what, and how much you can buy. But still it’s a thriving business and a big event.

We’ll be eating our oliebollen at midnight and drinking whiskey. What will you be doing?

New Year, New Start

It’s the day after Christmas, known in some parts as Boxing Day, although I still don’t know why. Lucky for us, the gym is open today! Shops are closed. You can’t buy milk. But you can go to the gym and start working off your holiday cheer. And it was crowded! I was very surprised how many people had nothing better to do than go to the gym.

It’s not quite the end of the year, but it sure feels that way. And in that spirit we started back to the gym, back to the treadmill, to start again to see if we (DB and I) can become runners. We ran the 5km in October during the Amsterdam marathon day and it was GREAT! We loved it. We ran like runners. We felt great. Until the day after when we both had shin splints and leg pains that took more than a month to go away.

This time around we are sticking to a real training schedule. We are both so impatient that we jumped ahead in the previous scheme and did more running, farther running and faster running than we should have. Our legs paid the price. But we are older and wiser now and we both promise, cross our hearts, to stick to the schedule and not jump ahead. Promise.

DB’s sister and cousin have been following a slow and gentle scheme that you can find here. Sorry it’s only in Dutch, but I know there are lots of English sites out there too. I’ve posted this first week’s instructions on the Training page. I can check off the first training day as DONE. Big smiley face here.

Season’s Greetings from under dutch skies !

It’s Christmas Day and we’ve already watched The Wizard of Oz and had Kerstbrood.  I’m still in my Christmas jammies and am busy knitting Mom’s socks.  It’s going to be a lovely day.  Even Bas the cat is enjoying it…

But he can only take the cold for a few minutes….

Here’s a photo of Mom’s socks from last night.  I had just finished the heel turn.  Socks are kind of magic at this point.  They really begin to look like socks and you know you are on the home stretch at this point.  With the few days off work that I have, I hope to have them finished soon.  Thanks Andy for the nice compliment on them!

Happy Holidays everyone!

Party People

Last night we were at Ray’s for his annual Christmas party.  The food was great, the company gezellig.  And best of all, the music!

We heard Johnny Cash, Irish classics, and others I didn’t know.  I hope I can convince them to play at my birthday party next year. 🙂  Hear that guys?

Winter Whites

Last week I was in the Boston area on business.  It was cold!  There was snow everywhere.  I snapped this photo outside our office:

The sun was shining while we were there which made everything look magical and lovely.  Of course we were only visitors and didn’t have to dig out driveways or worry about dead car batteries.  I understand that it’s snowing again in that area and people are still digging out…  Looks like a White Christmas on the east coast!

In Amsterdam we had our little fling with whiteness:

I took this photo with my phone yesterday morning on my way to work.  If it looks blurry, it’s because 1) it was COLD and my hand was shaking; and 2) it was darker than this photo leads you to believe and therefore the shutter speed was really slow.  It was about 8:15am and pretty dark.  Our little dusting of snow is mostly gone now, except for dark places like parts of our roof terrace where it’s still white.  Unfortunately it will warm up and we won’t have a White Christmas.  Ah well.

This morning I had to be brave and go out and shop for special items for Christmas and Boxing Day.  When I left the house I was pretty grumpy about it – it was COLD and my ears hurt while biking in this cold, even with a hat on.  I was wishing I had put my warmer ski hat on.  I was wishing I had gone by tram.  But then….

After stopping in the negenstraatjes and picking up cheese, wine and fresh delish smelling bread, I stopped on a bridge over the Prinsengracht, in the bright sun, and thought, “well, there are certainly worse places to be and worse weather to be in than this!”  I called DB and told him I was coming home loaded with goodies.  Being out and about in the city in the sun had put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

cheese trees

cheese trees

Every day I pass the Kaaskamer on my way to and from work. It it is a cheese shop that sits on one of the negenstraatjes (nine little streets) in Amsterdam. The last few nights I’ve passed by and noticed that they’ve stacked up cheese rounds in the window and decorated them like Christmas trees. Tonight I stopped and took this photo. The bike parked in front just makes it truly an Amsterdam photo.

One good sock

Well, the first GOOD sock is finished!  Based on the last time Mom tried it on, partly finished, and based on new measurements, it should fit PERFECTLY.  🙂  I’ve started the second one.  I don’t think they will be finished in time for Christmas, but she knows they are coming, so that’s ok.  Enjoy the photo Mom!

Oh yeah, what did I do differently this time, besides get the size right?  I cast on the cuff with 2 needles together to make a very stretchy top cuff.  This fits much better.  Also, while knitting the heel turn in solid green I carried the contrast color along the back, twisting every other stitch.  This made the heel turn section stronger and more the same weight of fabric as the rest of the sock.  The first time I knit this sock I didn’t carry the other yarn in the back and the heel turn felt just too thin and weak.  It’s better now.   I’m very happy with it in the end.

Docks for everyone

My friend Ellen writes about the cool things in Leopard that she finds. Not to be outdone, I’ve found, and used, something cool myself. Here’s the proof….

Leopard comes with a new-look dock. Some like it. Some don’t. And of course there are hundreds of hackers creative people out there who create new docks and share them with the world. You can find over 100 here, along with instructions to install them. The original dock looks like this:

Pretty boring really.

There’s cheese, perfect for Mandy:

There’s the piano, perfect for Mom (and anyone else in our family):

The piano version has a finger as the dock separator. Cute.

I’ve gone for the 3d border version, which makes it a lot clearer which programs are running.

I love my Mac. 🙂

You might notice that all these images have a watermark across them. That’s because I’m trying out the free demo version of Pixelmator. It looks, so far, like a MUCH cheaper version of Photoshop, with a much nicer interface. So far, I like. If I still like it after a few weeks I will certainly plunk down my $60.


Last Sunday was the Sinterklaas party for DB’s family. Here are some photos from the actual visit by Sinterklaas and two Piets. I have to find an English explanation somewhere as to the history behind Sint and Piet. Just who ARE these people anyway and why do they show up in the Netherlands every year and hand out presents? Why do kids put there shoes out with a carrot for the Sint’s horse Amerigo? I’ll let you know….

OK, here’s a Wikipedia link about Sinterklaas in NL.  Also, here’s a little video of the Sint and Zwarte Pieten in their travels through the country, thanks to someone called michellzappa.

iMac G5 for sale!

Well, the trusty iMac now sits on eBay waiting for it’s new owner to bid.  It’s kind of sad.  It’s been a really good computer.  Reliable.  Always there when I needed it.  Pretty.  Sigh.  I get so attached to my toys.  It’s hard to let them go.

But if you have a good home for a trusty piece of hardware, check out the page.