What a weekend!

We spent this last weekend in Italy.  Yes, lovely sunny Italy.  It was great.

It’s going to take me a little time to post everything I want to write about: Slow Food, Turin, M&J, yarn and yarn porn.  I’ll just tease you with a couple of photos and write later in the week when I have more energy.  We got home late last night and I’m just beat after working all day.

We flew Thursday night, EasyJet, which of course was VERY late into Milan.  We stayed just outside the airport that night, then drove to Turin Friday morning.  The rest of the story will come this week…..

Vespa at night in front of a church in Turin.  If I had 5,000 euros laying around I’d buy one in a second.

DB walking into the square.  The building across the square is the National Library.

Bridge over the Po.

And the rest I’ll save for later! Such a tease.

Why?

I have a friend, who was until recently my boss, who just can’t understand why anyone would want to have a blog.  She just doesn’t get it.  And she is a perfect candidate for blogging!

This friend just recently retired from work.  She’s leaving soon for a four month trip to South Africa with baggage loaded with at least a couple of mobile phones, umpteen cameras and a nice lightweight laptop.  This would be a blogger’s dream, right?  But she refuses to start a blog.  She will post her photos on a photo sharing web site, but she just doesn’t get the desire to write about personal things and share that with complete strangers that she’ll never meet.

Which leads me to wonder – just why do I do this blogging thing?

I started my blog just over two years ago to serve two main purposes.  One was to keep my family back home up to date on what life is like in far away Europe.  Secondly I had a lot of pent up observations about life over here and how some things struck me as so different and interesting.  I wanted to share those thoughts with the world.  I had to get it out of my system.

Over the years (years?! where has the time gone?), and after a period of blogging absence, this blog has changed focus.  It’s become more of a weekly diary and contains a lot more about knitting.  (Why knitting? Well that’s a blog post all of its own!)  Sometimes I wonder if this blog is at all interesting for my readers.  I know (via GoogleAnalytics) that I have on average 25 visitors to my blog per day.  I still find that astounding.  That many people are interested?  My life seems to me to be incredibly ordinary.  What’s the attraction?

In the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten some feedback that has really made me renew my enthusiasm for keeping up the blog, and it has come from a totally unexpected direction.  It has come from my running, of all things!

I first started TRYING to run/jog when I was working at Nike, about 5 years ago.  There seemed to be a conspiracy against me running because there was always something going wrong.  I had an operation that put me out of physical activity for about 6 months.  I hurt my knee.  I sprained an ankle.  I injured myself trying to start running too much too soon.  It just didn’t end!

But eventually, from shear stubbornness and also the realization that I actually LIKE to run, I have had some small success.  As I was telling C. last night at Stitch ‘n Bitch, this is the most athletic I’ve ever been in my life, and I just turned 50!

What I’ve heard from several people, from different areas of my life (work, blog, knitting, family, friends) is that my running story has inspired them to try to do the same, to become more physically fit, to give running a try and not to be discouraged.  Me.  I’ve inspired someone, and more than just one.  Wow.

That, dear readers, is all I need to hear to keep at it.  And that means keeping at the blogging and telling my normal stories of my normal life, and keeping up the running.  All I can say is, I am not so special.  You can reach your goals too.  And to quote the great philosopher NIKE, “just do it”.

Everyone out of the water!

You might get bit by the alligator!

I’ve started an alligator scarf for B. for Christmas.  His sister J. will get a hot pink one too.  I just love how this is turning out and it’s quite fun to knit.  These photos are a little old.  I have now 4 ridges of alligator body knit so far.  I’ll take this on the trip to Italy next weekend to work on on the plane.  It’s certainly smaller than my sweater and easier to pack around.  

I’m making the BABY alligator since these are for small kids (4 and 6 years old).  I might make more body repeats for the pink one.  More photos when finished.

R is for Running

One year ago today I ran my first official race.  It was the 5 km race as part of the Amsterdam Marathon day.  And today I ran the 7.5 km race, also part of the same Marathon event (the 7.5 km took the place of the 5 km this year).  My goal one year ago was to be able to run the Dam to Dam race in September.  The Dam to Dam is 16.1 km (10 miles) and is a really fun race with music and well wishers all along the route.  I’m happy to say, that I’ve done all of the above, successfully, and am now looking forward to a new goal:  the half marathon exactly one year from now in Amsterdam.

We had perfect weather today for this race.  It was sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy, chilly but not too cold and mercifully dry.  I decided that since I hadn’t run very much since the Dam to Dam, I was going to just run my best pace and see what happens.  I’d been having problems with my right knee lately and was not sure if I would even finish the race.  But, rest is a good thing, and I ran much faster than I expected and had no problems at all with knees or anything else!  I managed the 7.5 km in 44:30.  Yippee!  Now, I need to get back on schedule and start training regularly.

Here are some photos from today’s event:

Yes, that’s me in the bottom right grinning like an idiot for the camera.  DB was nice enough to play the mule today and pack our stuff around while G., I., and I ran.

And there is G.’s face turned back to the camera in the left of this photo.

This is the start of the marathon.  The Africans are always first and always fastest.  I couldn’t even photograph them!

The street was just FULL of marathon runners.  It’s impressive and makes you want to do it too.

DB did his best to get photos of us running in at the finish, but we were just too fast. 🙂  I’ll post the official race photos this week when they are available online.  It’s so nice that they photograph everyone in all these races.  The entrance fee helps to pay for that I guess.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  Here’s a RunKeeper map of our route and my time.  It measured just less than 7.5 km, which is kind of strange.  

Up next is the Egmond “1/4 marathon”.  Ha!  It’s just over 10 km.  That will be in January, in the cold and possibly wet, through the dunes and over the beach.  We’ll see if I’m still enthusiastic after THAT!

Q is for Quit

I Quit looking for a Q to add to the ABC-Along.  

As you can see in the right column of my blog, I am (sort of) participating in the 2008 ABC-Along where you must upload a photo of something meaningful in your life relating to the letter for that time period.  I’ve been stuck on Q since August 17.  So I quit.  It’s put me behind on all the other letters and I’m just fed up with it!

I’m not one to QUIT something that I’ve signed up for, so I will just QUIT this impossible Q task and continue catching up with the rest of the letters I’m behind on.  

I could have done QUEEN (which we have here)

but how predictable is that?  And besides, it’s not a very personal Q.  

I could have done QUIVET (the wool from a musk ox)

but I don’t actually own any so that’s not personal either.

So I give up and QUIT the Q and head on over to R and see what Real Relevance I can find!

1 Year Old

Last Tuesday night was the one year anniversary of Amsterdam North Stitch ‘n Bitch group.  The Amsterdam Central SnB group was invited to join them up north to celebrate.  Here we are, with a table FULL of fantastic food, interesting projects being worked on, and lots of talking going on.  It was a really fun evening!

W. organized a very fun game of knitting trivia which Carla won (easily!).  Did you know that the oldest knitted garment ever found was a sock?  No, it wasn’t a sweater.  The easiest question of the night was “What is the name of the mascot on Ravelry?”  Bob, you are so famous!  

I really enjoy these SnB evenings.  I’ve never been a joiner.  I lasted Camp Fire Girls just one year.  I don’t like team sports.  But this group is different.  Knitters are interesting and never boring.  It’s not just about the knitting – it’s something about us that makes us knitting fanatics and it’s that something we like to share around a table.  If you’re a knitter, go check out a SnB group, even if you are shy, or don’t like groups.  You might be surprised!

Steven Stills in Amsterdam

“Who is Steven Stills?” I hear you ask.  Several people asked me this question.  Where WERE you people in the late 60’s early 70’s?  You know, “Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young”?  

Oh THAT Stills.  

He’s old now, and the crowd was also old.  A whole lot of them were even older than ME!  The concert was at Paradiso, Amsterdam.  In the past 2 years we’ve seen Crosby and Nash together at the Paradiso and we saw Neil Young at the RAI theater.  Now we’ve bagged them all!

We sat in the second balcony, looking straight down on the stage.  Paradiso is small enough that there are really no bad places to be.  I only managed one sort-of sharp photo:

I really wondered how his voice would sound.  Even 20 years ago he sounded rough.  And how much hair would he have left?  I think that out of the 4, Stills has been the least heard from.  I had no idea what to expect.

Well….. the voice was not great, but he’s still belting it out.  The worst part was during the second half when the band joined him on stage and completely drowned out the vocals.  I don’t know why they didn’t just boost up the vocals microphone.

The first half of the concert Stills was alone on stage with his guitar.  He certainly knew how to make a big full sound with a guitar and played some stinging solos.  This was by far the best part of the night.  Half way, he took a 20 minute break and came back on stage with the band.  I wish he hadn’t.  The band didn’t add anything special frankly.

The really disappointing part was the final song.  Normally you end a concert with your strongest song, right?  Not in this case.  We heard a mediocre version of a very mediocre song that I didn’t like even when it first came out:  Dark Star.  What was he thinking?

I missed songs that I really like from Manasas and from Illegal Stills.  I did enjoy his solo version of Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.  

Over all, I give it a 5/10.  More disappointment than enjoyment, unfortunately.   The Crosby/Nash concert was better and no one beats Neil Young in concert.  After that one I was re-living it for days.  

I wonder if the 4 will get together and tour Europe like they’ve toured the US.  Of course I would go.  Who knows how long these dinosaurs will continue touring?

Sunrise Circle Jacket Update

I’ve been working diligently on the Sunrise Circle Jacket for about a month now.  Some days I don’t get to work on it at all, but when I DO it moves along quite quickly.  I’ve finished the back and I’m more than half finished with the sleeve/front piece.  This jacket is very interesting to knit as the construction is really different from a “normal” sweater.  The sleeve and front are worked together as one piece and the front is knit as a kind of half circle, increasing as you go.  I hope to be finished with it in another four weeks!

The top part of the photo is the sleeve, then you can see where the raglan sleeve decreases start and the front circle begins.

Above is a close up of the front with the increases scattered throughout, making an ever larger half circle.

I’m making this with Rowan Summer Tweed which is 50/50 cotton/silk.  It makes for a kind of stiff fabric, but it’s really pretty and the stiffness I think is perfect for this kind of shaped jacket.  I can’t wait to wear it!

I’m in the wrong business

Today while in Haarlem to get my hair cut, I walked by a shop that had some really beautiful knitted garments in the window.  I took some photos.

The sweater (there on the right) was only 149 euros, which for a lovely (hand?) knit sweater I thought was pretty cheap.  How many hours did that take?  

These sweater coats where also not so expensive, considering their size and how lovely they are.  This is some real stranded knitting going on, and were 229 for the one on the left and 190 for the one on the right.  Not cheap, by any means, but for something KNIT, it didn’t seem ridiculous to me. 

I also saw these really cute crocheted animals.

What really captured my mind with these images is not just that knitted and crocheted items are “in”.  Heck you can always find sweaters for sale.  But what is special about these is that they are really super quality and are really colorful and cheerful.  It’s like shouting out to the world that high quality knitwear with nice yarn and colorful intricate work is something to be proud of and you should spend a lot of money for it.  It made me happy to see it.

It also made me think that I’m really in the wrong business.  How did I end up here?  Why didn’t I pursue my life long passion for designing clothes and knitting?  Why do I spend all my energy in meetings and answering email and trying to make sense out of others people’s ideas?  I feel like I’m on a train now and won’t get off for a while because I like my nice house and want to be able to pay for it!  Ah such is life.  I count my blessings (I HAVE a good job and good house and good man) and continue to knit in my spare time and dream about when I will have more time to write up those sock instructions and finally design that Maori inspired sweater and figure out just how to make toe-up reversible Brioche stitch knee socks.

Photos from Groesbeek

I’m finally getting some time to post photos from last weekend in Groesbeek, near Nijmegen.  I thought that I would feel like doing this last night, but… what on earth was I thinking?  After a long week with two very late nights, I would feel like uploading photos and writing a blog post on a Friday night?  Not on your life!  I felt rather like eating Turkish take-out and drinking a beer and falling asleep on the couch.  Ahhhhhh.

Also, yesterday I had the worst hair day ever and decided to give up on the idea of growing my hair out long again and just cut it all off.  This morning I headed over to Kinkikappers in Haarlem only to find out that they have a different system than in Amsterdam.  In Amsterdam they don’t take appointment except for the very same day, so you could show up at 9:30am and get right in for a cut.  Here, they take appointments the day before for the following morning.  So, when I arrived at 9:30 I was told to come back at 1:15pm.  Damn.  Back home again, I painted a wall up in the attic where a bookcase needs to be set up against.  I really want to get some more boxes unpacked, and those boxes contain BOOKS.  

Now, much later in the day, the painting is done for the day and my hair is again short.  Oh it feels so GOOD!  

Now, for the promised photos.  Here they are, with short captions under each.

This is the route we ran on Saturday morning.  Straight ahead in the far distance is the German border.  Lovely day, wasn’t it?

There were a lot of corn fields in the area and they looked ready to pick.  There were also potatoes growing.

This is the pumpkin farm where we bought: 1 huge pumpkin that took 2 of us to carry which will go in the front of the house for decoration; 1 large pumpkin to carve a face into; 3 cooking pumpkins; 2 spaghetti squash which no one (outside me and this farmer) have ever heard of; 2 small pumpkins for decoration.  On Saturday afternoon DB and I walked to this place and carried 4 of the above back to the vacation house.  We went back Sunday with the car and bought the rest.  I was so happy to find this farm!  Tomorrow I will make pumpkin soup!

Just yards away from the pumpkin farm is this Canadian WWII memorial and cemetery.  It’s a big place with also a big parking lot.  It was very well kept and beautiful.  We walked around and I took a few photos.  There was one young man there with a little Canadian flag.  Maybe it was his great-grandfather he was looking for.  It was the Canadians and British who liberated this part of the Netherlands in 1945.  A mile or so away is a museum dedicated to the liberation from Nazi Germany.  Here are some more photos:

On our way back from the cemetery and farm we saw some curious sheep.

In the village of Groesbeek last weekend there was a wine festival going on.  There were tents set up and there was wine tasting and buying happening.  There were lots of things for kids to do too, like making key rings and bracelets (above).  

And kids got to stamp grapes.  I have no idea what they did with that muck – hopefully fed it to some local pigs.

And that’s the end of the photo show from last weekend.  It was a nice weekend and I hope next year we have equally nice weather.