Fun with Color

Last night we went with our neighbors to a local pub/restaurant in our neighborhood.  The weather was warm and sunny and it was so wonderful to be able to sit outside and enjoy the weather.  On the way back we walked again through Mercatorplein where there’s a kermis going on.  J. has the same phone as I do, a Sony Ericsson K800i, but he’s read the book whereas I just start using using it without reading about all the things it can do.  He showed me how to change the camera settings for the type of photo you are taking.  If you change it to night photography, you get deep rich colors.  I took these photos with my phone, and I have to say, they look pretty good!

This is the corner of the square, with the pink cheery trees in bloom:

Then I changed the camera settings and started taking photos of the ride.  I like this one because of the contrast of the bright lights and wild ride, and the traditional muslim woman walking by:

Then the colors get fun when the ride starts turning:

I really love the camera on this phone.  The phone itself is pretty ok too.  I’ve been saying for a long time that when the next generation iPhone comes out I will get one, but if the camera isn’t as good as this one I’m going to be a little bit sorry.  This K800i will sync with my computers (XP and OSX both) which is nice.  And it will do email and web browsing, although very painfully.  The screen is too small for real web use and the number pad is just not nice for anything other than a quick sms.  I want an iPhone for the connectivity, but I want this phone for the camera.  Damn, I just don’t want to carry more than 1 device!

I love green

It’s so nice to see green again!  When I was jogging in the Vondelpark Sunday I took a couple of photos.  The park was full of joggers, bikers, dog walkers and child walkers.  The terraces were full.  People were out enjoying the sunny weather.

Today a few colleagues and I had lunch on the 7th floor of the public library.  The sun is still shining.  We sat on the terrace.  I took this photo from there.  On the left is Nemo.  The water is the Oosterdok.

I wish it was mine

Last night was SnB at de Jaren.  W. showed up with this most beautiful of finished objects:

She has other photos here.  She took this photo, which shows it off beautifully, but what you don’t get in a photo is how soft and luscious it feels.  If you knit a blanket of it you’d want to curl up in it and never come out.  It’s just a lovely piece of knitting and gives me more inspiration to continue with my lace project.

I spent a lot of time last night talking with N. about brioche knitting.  I was busy on a brioche swatch, two colors, in the round.  She gave me a lot of tips and encouragement.   She’s such a nice person and generous in sharing her knowledge and experience.   Plus she’s just plain fun.  It’s really a fun group, these SnB’ers, and I’m so glad I finally joined!

In other news….

Yes, I’m still jogging and working up to the Dam to Dam in September.  I’m up to 6km, but not all of it running.  I’m running 4 and walking 2 in between.  And I’m down to 2 days a week.  This is due to my tendency to get shin splints.  Two days a week seems to work best for me at this point and allows my legs time to rest between runs.  I’m hoping to get up to 3 times a week in another month.  I’m sticking to a running schema that will get me up to running 5km consistently in another 3 weeks, then I pick up the 10km schema which should get me there in 10 weeks.  I think if I can run 10km consistently, 3 times a week, I will the proudest person I know.  To some who run all the time it doesn’t sound like much, but to me it will be a major achievement.  If nothing else this jogging crusade is teaching me patience and perseverance.

Lace is Work

I’m finding it’s hard to take good photos of lace.  The light is either too strong or too weak and the background makes all the difference.  Plus, lace knitting looks so different before and after it’s blocked.  Right now my lace project looks like a rumpled mess.  Once finished and blocked it will be a perfect web.  At least I hope so!  As I’ve said before, lace is new for me and quite a challenge.  I’m getting the hang of it though.  This triangular part was knit with only 1/2 a row frogged.  I count that as a huge improvement.

I haven’t been able to knit much this last week.  Last Monday night I had to miss SnB night to go to a work event (bowling!).  Tuesday-Thursday were 11 hour days at work.  Bah.  I can’t take much more of that!  I managed to knit almost this entire triangle on Friday night.  At this rate I won’t get this shawl finished by my birthday (which is my goal) in mid-June.

I’m also making swatches for a sock I’m designing and will submit to Knitty.com.  So, it remains TOP SECRET!

H is for Haarlem

At the end of August we will move from Amsterdam to Haarlem. Why? Mainly because housing prices are so insane in Amsterdam that we would never be able to afford a house/apartment on the ground floor with a small garden and no one living on top of us. We found just that in Haarlem at a price we could afford. We don’t plan to move again until we are too old to walk up stairs anymore and have to move to an old folks home.

That explains why we are leaving Amsterdam, but why Haarlem, as apposed to, say, Alkmaar or Hilversum or Utrecht?

Haarlem is only 15 minutes by train to Amsterdam. Haarlem is only 15 minutes by train to the beach, or 30 minutes by bike. Haarlem has a lovely city center with markets and shops and lots of restaurants to choose from. Haarlem is smaller than Amsterdam and feels a lot more friendly to me. We already have friends who live in Haarlem and we visit there more than any other city outside Amsterdam. There’s a lot to see and do in Haarlem that I haven’t seen or done yet, but when Mom comes to visit in September I will take advantage of that time and do some exploring in my new town.

There’s a very nice Wikipedia entry about Haarlem. The photos you see of paintings made in the 16th and 17th centuries of the Grote Markt look exactly the same as it does today. On the City’s web site there are photos, a movie and a live webcam looking down on the Grote markt. I just looked at it and they are having a Kermis (a kind of fair with rides and games) this weekend.

I don’t have many photos of Haarlem (yet) so I was going to look on Flickr and link to a few on this posting. But there are SO MANY nice photos on Flickr that I just couldn’t choose. So, go to Flickr.com and type “Haarlem” into the search box and see for yourself what a lovely city we are moving to!

Your Tax Euros at Work

When you get to be a certain age in this country, the government sends you a letter and requests that you go for a test. I got my letter a few weeks ago. So off I went today for my first Dutch required medical exam – a mammogram.

Actually I was really excited to get this letter. With breast cancer in the family, and me not getting any younger, I was planning to make an appointment with my huisarts (family doctor) and ask for a mammogram appointment. Little did I know, the government was looking out for me! This is very cool.

And look where you have to go! They set up mobile x-ray trailers and park them around the city for a period of time. You get an invite to the trailer when it’s in your neighborhood. Pretty efficient I think. I’ll get the results in the mail (along with a copy to my huisarts) in a week or so.

Lots of people complain about the health care here. They especially complain that having a huisarts as your gatekeeper to further health care gives them way too much power and they are very overworked and don’t really care about you at all. But hey, after living in the U.S. without any health insurance at all, I’m THRILLED to be sent letters to come visit a trailer, and to be able to go see a physical therapist whenever I want to, and to never, NEVER be told anything at all by my insurance company.

If I Won the Lotto

In my web browsing I’ve come across a lot of yarn spinners.  It makes me want to learn how!  Check out Velma’s latest posting.  Maybe it’s the sunshine I’m missing, but sitting out in the park spinning wool into yarn just looks so zen.  I could use more zen in my life.  What I can’t use is more hobbies.  I don’t have any more time for more hobbies.

I’d have a lot more time if I won the lotto.

I’d open the coolest yarn shop / coffee bar in all of the Netherlands.  I’d have comfy couches and tables and chairs for people to hang out and knit and talk.  I’d have free coffee and tea.  I’d have cool music in the background and knitting mags on view.  I’d have a corner with a Mac or 2 set up for people to search knitting stuff (and stuff in general).  Oh yeah!  And yarn!  Walls of yarn and tools and interesting bits and pieces.  It would be a great place to hang out.  I’d be open 6 days a week, 10 hours a day.

And I wouldn’t have any extra time at all. 🙂

Scary Projects

Now that my socks are done, I’m on to the next project:  LACE!  Ooooo scary!  I’ve never knit lace and I have to tell you, it’s intimidating.  All that tiny yarn like spider’s webs and big needles leaving lots of holes.  It’s not normal to leave holes on purpose!  I’m now knitting the center strip of what will one day be this.

Everything about knitting lace feels wrong.  The yarn slides around on the needles.  My fingers find it wrong to hold wispy yarn and at the same time normal sized needles.  It doesn’t help that I don’t have the perfect needles for doing this either.  I would be using my Harmony wood needles, but this happens to use the size that was defective in my set and Mom has to send me the replacement from the U.S.  So I started this on a pair of Addi Turbos which were not pointy enough for “knit 3 together”.  I changed to a no-name pair of aluminum needles and they are too slippery.  I struggle on.

And look at these charts!  There are about 10 charts in this pattern.  I’ve purposely blurred this image for copyright sensibilities, but you get the idea.

This is NOT something I can take with me to SnB nights!  I’d have a mess in no time.  I have to admit I’ve already frogged and tinked half of this little piece I’ve done so far.  Lace is not to be taken lightly.  It demands your full attention at every stitch.  Wish me luck.

Rants and Raves on a Saturday in Amsterdam

OK, first the Raves cuz it’s always nice to start with a positive note. Pomatomus is done! What are 2 Pomatomuseseses? Pomatomi? Anyway, they are done and I’ve been wearing them around the house for the last 24 hours. I took this photo this morning just before I headed into the city to buy shoes specifically to show off hand knit socks.

I stopped first at the Wolky shop on the Kinkerstraat. I love Wolky shoes. I’ve been buying them since I moved here.

They are always so comfy. And look what I found!!! They are perfect for keeping your toes warm in the not-sandal-friendly Dutch weather and great for showing off your socks.

After that success I headed through the Negenstraatjes to ‘t Spui where I parked my bike. I went to the Sketchers shop on the Kalverstraat. I also love Sketchers and this shop has a really huge selection – well, it is a dedicated Sketchers shop after all. And another success! For only 30 euros I got these clear plastic babies:

I was on a roll! I then went to 3 book stores: Waterstone’s, American Book Center, and de Slegte which is a second hand book shop. No joy in my search for knitting books. The largest selection was at ABC. Both Waterstone’s and de Slegte weren’t worth going into. Here’s my opinion about Waterstone’s – if you are looking for English English fiction, it’s the best place to go. For anything else, go to ABC. They’re only 200 meters apart. I was disappointed not finding any knitting books with techniques or big pattern dictionaries, but I wasn’t too surprised and am happy to find what I’m looking for on Amazon.

So, then we were off to the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival. I met DB and we went to the Tuschinski to see “The Man from Earth”. All the movies at this festival are small films in the genres of horror, sci-fi, anime, or fantasy. This movie came under the fantasy category. It was about a man who claimed to be 40,000 years old and “came out” to his friends about his life. It all took place in a living room. I really liked it and highly recommend going to see it. It was certainly thought provoking. I won’t tell more so as not to spoil it for you. We’ll be going to the festival again next Saturday. Going to see a movie in the middle of the day is special!

Now, on to the Rant portion or our program….
I had to find some buttons for the Daisy sweater that I made for the neighbor’s as yet unborn baby. I went to the button shop on the Herengracht, just around the corner from Scheltema (a very nice Dutch book store). This shop is only open when the owner gets the feeling to open it apparently. You just never know when you stop by if it will be open or not. It’s a huge shop full of buttons and other do-dads. It’s beautiful! She must pay a fortune in rent. I figure she is independently wealthy and just likes running the shop as a hobby or somewhere for her friends to hang out. Anyway, I found my little bunny buttons and started to look for some bone or horn buttons to use for a sweater I want to make. In the center of the shop is a long table with lots of bones, horns, buttons, and other stuff made from bone and horn. I was picking up stuff and checking it out before I saw the sign “Do Not Touch”. I went up to the counter and waited for the woman to notice that she had a customer and should maybe stop socializing with her friend and see what the heck I wanted. I asked (in Dutch) if the things on the table were for sale. She said “Yes (in English of course) but you have to wait for help. What do you want to buy?” I pointed to the 3 polished horn buttons with holes in them and said “die drie zwarte” (the 3 black ones). She said (again in English) “Oh, those aren’t for sale, they are part of the display. You can’t buy them.” And she proceeded to head back to the cash register, rang up my 3 rabbit buttons and that was that. She went back to chatting with her friend in that lovely flat South Amsterdam’s accent that makes you just want to hit people. I left there with the feeling that she doesn’t give a shit about her customers and therefore I will never go back there again. Period. I will desecrate the ozone layer by ordering buttons online from a U.S. shop and having them flown over in a plane instead of buying anything from that woman again.

Rant over.

Now back to your lovely sunny Saturday…..

G is for Gezellig

In Dutch there’s a word that I can’t find any good translation for.  G is for gezellig.  Most dictionaries translate it as “cozy”, as in, “we sat in a cozy pub until the wee hours”.  But cozy doesn’t begin to cover it.  You could never call this photo “cozy” but it is certainly gezellig:

The photo was taken at LowLands, in the rain.  These guys were laughing and having a great time together and really enjoying the event.  That’s certainly gezellig.

Gezellig is a feeling, a state of mind, a state of the atmosphere and something in the air.  It’s the indefinable thing that makes one party a great time that people remember for years, and another party one where people go home early.  It’s feeling like you belong where you are and everyone else belongs there too.

Some people find Dutch birthday parties gezellig:

Some people can’t stand Dutch birthday parties (and believe me, there are a lot of birthday parties you are required to go to here).  Some are gezellig and some are not.  Tante Mies obviously thought this was a good one!

Gezelligheid can be found in big crowds at special events (Rugby world cup):

Or with a small group of friends just hanging out:

I don’t know of any other country where gezelligheid is so important and is part of everyday language.  If someone says “Let’s all meet for a coffee later.” the usual reply is “Gezellig!” in anticipation of a good time.   My best advice to find gezelligheid is to come to the Netherlands.  Why else do you think I live here? 🙂