Happy Queen’s Day (for some)

Today is Queen’s Day in the Netherlands.  It started out as a lovely sunny day of celebration with events planned all over the country.  Sadly, just before noon, as the Royal Family was traveling through Apeldoorn, some crazy man drove his car at full gas through the crowd and then rammed himself against a monument.  That put an end to the festivities in Apeldoorn.  So far 5 people are dead and many are wounded.  Today was supposed to be extra special because it is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the mother of Queen Beatrix (Queen Juliana).  We watched a lot of the news on tv this afternoon.

What were we doing at home on such a sunny festival day?  We were having our own kind of celebration I guess – the opening of the finished bathroom!  We cleaned house all day and we’re still not done.  I spent 4 hours scrubbing the new bathroom of the construction crud.  We put film on the window.  We moved our stuff in.  Starting tonight I can brush my teeth in the bathroom rather than in the kitchen.  Here are a few photos of the finished product:

Mooi (pretty) isn’t it?!  I’m really happy with it.  There are still a few teeny tiny things to get right, but 99% is done and fine.

We started cleaning at 10:00 this morning and at 4:00pm this afternoon I stepped out of the new shower, all done.  I’ve got very sore muscles.  The photo above was taken while I was waiting for DB to finish making dinner.  He made nasi *, which he makes really really well!  I love his nasi.  I was starting my Primrose Path sweater with the orange spaghetti cotton yarn.  It seemed appropriate on Queen’s Day to wear orange and start knitting an orange sweater.  

I hope that Queen’s Day is a bit cheerier next year, that no one who is celebrating dies in a horrible way, and that people act normal, which on this day means wearing big orange funny hats, orange shirts, drinking lots and lots of beer and walking around looking at everyone else doing the same.  Happy Koninginnedag allemaal.

* The nasi in this wikipedia link looks nothing like the nasi served here in the Netherlands.  Nasi is so common here that it’s almost the national dish.  It’s served with peanut sauce and with chunks of meat that has been marinated in spices for a while.  The Dutch brought it here from the time that Indonesia was a Dutch colony.

Better Than Expected

Last night before I went to bed I had a look at my spaghetti mess and pulled the skeins apart a little more to help them dry.  The dryer they got, the easier it was to work with them.  Here’s what they looked like when I went to bed last night.

This afternoon I took the one that was really dry and went to work winding it into a ball.  From this….

To this….

I guess I had cut it yesterday to get it loose from it’s siblings because it came out as two balls instead of one.  Ah well.  Could be worse.  This work took me about an hour.  One down, 11 to go.  Sigh.  I think I will start knitting the sweater (Primrose Path) and wind the balls as I need them.

Also coming out better than expected is my Spina di Pesce sock.  It fits like a sock should – snug but not tight.  Unfortunately I had knit 2″ (5 cm) up the leg but that part was too tight.  I couldn’t get my foot into it anymore.  This is the beauty of knitting socks toe up – you can really test the fit as you go along.  I unraveled those 2″ and started again with 2.5mm needles.  This should be better.  Here they are after just a couple of rows on the bigger needles:

There are other things these days that are better than expected.  For example, last Thursday I went to my first team meeting with the department I am joining on 1 May.  The meeting was a pleasant surprise – organized, focused, with smart people who care about what they are doing.  I’m really happy I’m joining this group!

Our bathroom project is also a pleasant surprise, in some ways.  I mean, it looks really nice and there were no major problems at all.  No nightmare stories to tell you about it.  BUT IT’S STILL NOT DONE!  The painter came Thursday for a little while, and all day Friday and he’s still not done! He will be back tomorrow morning to finish up.  Therefore, we have not yet done the big CLEAN after construction and there’s still dust and cardboard covering the floors and stairs.  We are now hoping that the weather is really bad on Queen’s Day so we can spend the day cleaning house.  Sad, I know.  But that’s the way it is.

Hard Lessons

I said I was going to dye some cotton yarn this weekend, and boy did I do it!

Yesterday it was another lovely sunny day so I took a chair into the back garden and wound the yarn around and around the chair to make skeins for dyeing.  Here are photos of the balls of yarn (with cat helper) and the winding process.  I did this for TWELVE balls of yarn.

When I had all these wound up I tied them in 4 places with wool to hopefully keep them from becoming a tangled mess.  Operative word here being HOPEFULLY.

This afternoon I first ran them all through the washing machine on gentle cycle to get them good and wet.  That went just fine.  No tangled mess, just wet cotton ready to go.

Next, I got out my Dylon dye and 500 grams of salt and following the instructions, dumped the dye first, then the salt, then the yarn, all into the machine.  I set it for a normal 40 C degree cycle and hit the start button.  Wow!  This was exciting!  Everything became orange pretty quickly and I watched my skeins turn and tumble in the orange water.

I went downstairs to do other things.

An hour later I went up to see the results.  Oooo such excitement!  And I wasn’t disappointed.  It was exciting all right.  I got great orange color, a deep rich color, and….. a tangled wad of spaghetti.  

It was actually worse than it looks.  I had to get out my pointy scissors and cut it in places.  Many places.  Eventually I ended up with 12 more or less individual wads of cotton.  I squeezed out the last of the water and they are now hanging up to dry.  What a mess.  I’m sure I’ll still be able to salvage it all and knit with it, but it will take HOURS of work to untangle them.

Lesson learned:  dyeing in a washing machine would be better done to a finished garment.  I should have knit the sweater first, then dyed it.  The reason I didn’t do this is that I didn’t want to spend all the time to knit something only to have it ruined by a bad dye job.  I had never dyed anything like this before and had no idea if it would come out nice or not.  I like the result of the color.  Next time, if there is a next time with cotton, I’ll knit first, dye second.  Would be dyers out there, take note!

Knitting Update

I’ve been knitting of course.  Here is a photo update.

First, the 4 squares I knit for the CodePink event on Mother’s Day in Washington, D.C.  G. is mailing our contribution next week.  I figured since I’m making 4″ squares (10 cm) I might as well make some interesting stitch patterns.  All of these patterns are from Barbara G. Walker’s first book of stitch patterns.  I think I like the green one best.

I’ve also been working on my Spina di Pesce sock.  Tonight I turned the heel.  I tried it on over the top of tights.  They aren’t great photos, but it’s HARD to photograph your own foot well!  If you are also making these socks as part of the KAL, you’ll notice I’ve knit more rows than required in the pattern.  This is because my row gauge is all wrong.  I decided to continue with the small 2 mm needles and the wrong gauge because a: they fit perfect (snug) around my foot; and b) the fabric is turning out really nice.  I just have to knit more rows.  That includes the gusset.  I increased the required stitches and knit 4 more gusset rows straight.  I knit more on the foot section before even starting the gusset.  They fit PERFECT!!!  That’s the exciting part.  I just hope I’m not so tired of twisted stitches when I finish this sock that I have enough enthusiasm to knit the second one.  I was going to knit these two at a time, but I wasn’t sure about the gauge and how it would come out so thought it would be best to be sure of the fit before I knit TWO wrong socks.  Decisions decisions!

What else is happening in knitting world?  Well, I just bought some bright orange dye that is good for cotton or linen.  This weekend I’m going to dye some light beige cotton yarn that I have.  Oh boy!  That’s exciting!  I’ll be sure to take before and after photos.  The yarn comes in balls, so I have to unwind 12 balls of yarn into skeins so they can be dyed.  I don’t have a swift so I’m doing them all by hand, by wrapping the yarn around the back of a chair.  Sigh.  Kind of a pain, but it can also be a meditation.  Sometimes after work I need some mindless activity to unwind (pun intended).

How’s your knitting coming along?

Fresh Face

Notice anything different?

The blog has had an upgrade (to WordPress 2.7.1) and a face lift.  The bandages are not yet off, so there might be some more changes made in the next week or two.  It was just time for a change.  

I found this theme here.  I’ve been searching for a new theme for a very long time and have been threatening to change the look and feel of this blog for months.  I finally made a firm decision – I will not start another knitting project until I change the blog.  Period. 

I’m making steady progress on the Spina di Pesce sock, but frankly doing all my knitting on size 0 (2mm) needles and all twisted stitches is a) hard on my hands; and b) getting a little boring.  I want to start a second project with bigger needles and no twists.  Thus, today was the day to upgrade the blog.

The header images that are currently shown are not my own.  That I want to change by adding some NL specific images.  Since the header is wide and thin, it will take some time in Photoshop to create the images I want.  Stay tuned for that.

I’d love to hear any comments you might have about what you find nice on blogs.  What features do you like on other people’s blogs?  Any suggestions to make this one better?  OK, besides better writing and photos. 🙂

A Good Run

It’s another glorious day here in paradise.  The sun is shining, the sky is a clear blue that you don’t often see here, and there’s just a slight breeze.  All in all, this makes for perfect running weather.  I ran a new route today, which was kind of unsuccessful since I ended up at the 10 km mark about 5 km from home and there was no way I was going to run another 5 km.  I ended up taking the bus the last bit.  Thank goodness for public transportation.

I ran with extra gear today – a camera, a phone AND a small bottle of sport drink.  The extra weight doesn’t help my knees any, but it helps my peace of mind and keeps me interested and going.  I stopped and took photos at several places.  

First, there are lambs out and about!  Here are the cutest ones I saw:

It’s hard to see in this photo, but these white sheep have black all around their eyes and noses.  It makes them look interesting compared to average white sheep.

There was some kind of Spitfire event going on.  While I was out in the polder, somewhere outside Haarlemmerleide, about 20 of these cars, tops down, passed me by.  I managed to grab a picture of this little group, at the end of the parade, obviously lost.  It made me lust after a small sports car, which of course is totally impractical in NL unless you have a garage (which is not common) and unless you don’t mind keeping your car in the garage except for a few fine days a year.

I also managed to film a working windmill that I passed.  This is just to prove to my mom that the windmills really do turn.  This one you can visit, so next time you’re here mom, we’ll go.

With all this photography going on, you’d think I wasn’t running at all.  But I was!  I managed 10 km and I’m really tired now and my legs are sore.  The BEST thing was getting home and being able to take a shower in my OWN HOME!!!  A guy came by yesterday to do the “kitting”, which had to dry for 24 hours, and now we can use the shower!  YIPPEE!  The bathroom isn’t quite finished yet however.  The door frame isn’t finished and there’s no door hanging yet.  There’s painting that still needs to be done and it needs to be cleaned of all the construction dirt and tile dust.  But we can shower and the rest will be done this coming week.  What a relief it will be to get all the mess cleaned up and have workmen out of our house!

Now, go out and enjoy the nice weather while it lasts!

Around the House

It’s week 4 of the bathroom rebuild and I think it’s looking good to be finished on Friday or maybe Saturday.  Yesterday they put the shower base in and today the tile guy finished by grouting all the tiling.  Here’s a quick photo summary of what has changed:  from old to new (so far)

I’m really sick of going to the gym to shower and I’m really sick of the house being a serious mess from this construction.  I’m ready for this to be finished.  Cross your fingers that Sunday I can go for a run from home and take a shower at home too.

As for other things changing around here….. remember cold bare Stella?  Well, now she has leaves!  Look:

When those leaves were just buds I was hoping they would turn into cherry blossoms, but alas, no.  Stella is too young yet to bear fruit.  I hope she will grow a lot this year and have fruit next year.

We also have this lovely plant in the front yard:

It looks like some kind of magnolia relative, but I’m not sure.  I just love the magnolias around here.  A lot of people have them and I’m envious.  Maybe we’ll have one in the back yard.  I took the following photo in Bloemendaal, on our way to the beach last Friday.  Notice the thatched roof on the house behind the magnolia tree.  You know we’re going through a rich neighborhood when you see a thatched roof.  

I guess that’s all my news for today.  Oh yeah, except to say that I start my new job on 1 May.  My new boss and old boss finally came to an agreement on a date.  It’s nice to be wanted, but it’s not nice when other people are deciding things like that on your behalf and are arguing about who gets your time.  Between now and 1 May I’m going to end up working extra hours, which already happened today.  I have to start spending time with my replacement to show him what I’m doing, and also spend time with the guy I’m replacing so he can start showing me things.  I feel pulled in two and my head is exploding!  Well, that’s an exaggeration of course, but I’ll be glad when 1 May comes around.  I’m excited to start the new job.  And I’m excited to have the bathroom done.  And I’m excited that it’s nice weather and my running is going well.  What more could you ask for?

FO Alert

I’ve finally finished my Sunrise Circle Jacket!  Yippee!  I started it last September and it sat sleeping while I made Christmas presents and then socks.  I decided I had to finish it this weekend, and by god, I did.  I only cheated a little – I am using a child’s sized red chopstick as a closure instead of making crocheted loops and sewing on buttons.  There was already enough sewing on this thing!  Here it is:

I made this with Rowan “Summer Tweed” and I just LOVE the result.  I steamed it to block it and suddenly became this flat, soft lovely fabric with the perfect drape for this project.  I would definitely use this yarn again.  It is 70% silk and 30% cotton.  Unfortunately, I’m not heading to Amsterdam tonight for Stitch ‘n Bitch, but you can bet that NEXT Monday I’ll be wearing it to show everyone.  I’m so happy it’s done!

I’ve also been working a bit on the Spina socks.  These twisted stitches are hard on my hands.  I also had to frog the first foot section because I realized too late that I was supposed to knit the twisted stitches also through the back loop.  I ripped and started again.  Sigh.  I am a victim of my own perfectionism.

Now, I have to tell you something interesting.  I will be the person who says “The Emperor has no clothes!”

I do not like Wollmeise sock yarn.  There, I’ve said it.

I love the colors.  The colors are stunning and I still can’t capture that well with a camera.  But the base yarn itself is not nice at all.  It is overspun and twists up all the time.  I’m constantly untwisting it.  Secondly, it splits so easily it’s just ridiculous.  And when you are knitting constant twisted stitches on size 2mm needles (lace needles even), it’s easy to drop a stitch or start to lose a stitch.  But with this yarn it’s TERRIBLE to pick up again.  It splits into 9 little threads that look and feel more like cotton than wool.  There’s no crimp to hold it together.  I don’t know what all the fuss is about with this yarn.  Why are people paying crazy prices for it on eBay?  OK, color is great, but if you have to fight with the yarn the whole time, it’s just not fun anymore.  I have 1 other skein to make a pair of La Digitessa socks, which I will do, but then I think my love affair with Wollmeise is over.

So, dear readers, what is YOUR favorite sock yarn?  And what won’t you knit with ever again?

To the Beach

Yesterday was the warmest day of the year so far.  It was 23 degrees C in Haarlem (73 F).  We ran around all morning doing chores but in the afternoon we headed to the beach.  We started kind of late, almost 3:00, but I couldn’t see sitting at home wasting the weather!

Since moving to Haarlem I’ve been looking forward to being able to bike to the beach.  What a luxury!  Biking to the beach!  We headed first to Bloemendaal, then directly West through the dunes to the beach.  The best thing about NL is that there are bike lanes everywhere.  You can safely ride a bike anywhere you want to go.  Here is our route.  It took us 45 minutes to bike it.

When we got to Bloemendaal aan Zee we turned right and biked into Zuid-Kennemerland National Park.  Bikes get in for free but cars have to pay.  We biked to Parnassia, a beach cafe at the end of the road where you can park your car, and your bike.  There were lots of bikes in the bike parking yesterday.

We walked down to the beach and hung out for a while.  In the distance of this photo, at the horizon, is IJmuiden, which is where the Noordzee Canal begins (or ends).  

In this photo, at the far horizon, you can see Zandvoort, where I was last Friday and where we ran 12 km the Sunday before that.  So, Parnassia sits kind of half way between IJmuiden and Zandvoort.

We didn’t stay there long.  DB can’t sit still for more than 10 minutes you know.  And soon the clouds came over.  This was the final photo of the day.

It was really terrific being able to bike to the beach and back.  The wind was a little stiff and the hills a little high on the way home (we had already gone to the gym in the morning and I had already run 5 km!) and my legs were BEAT.  You can be sure I’ll be biking to the beach again and again this summer – just because I CAN!

Spring Has Sprung

I love Spring.  It’s my favorite season.  When the days get longer I sigh a big sigh of relief.  When the plants come alive again, I come alive.  Spring in NL means really changeable weather.  Yesterday morning biking to work it was foggy and misty and cold again.  After work yesterday I walked through Amsterdam city center with my coat off.  Biking home last night the SMELL of Spring hits me and (when I stop sneezing) I just love that earthy damp flower blooming smell.  If I were a dog I’d lay down and roll in it.

As it’s Easter weekend, Amsterdam is PACKED with tourists.  This weekend always seems to be the opening of the tourist season, as if gates were opened somewhere.  I walked down Warmoesstraat and Kalverstraat and could hardly make my way through the crowds of Americans and French and Spanish.  On the Warmoesstraat they are slowly walking out of Coffee Shops, not really knowing where they are and not watching out for bikes.  On the Kalverstraat they are walking slowly, looking in the shop windows, the Americans gawking at the high prices.  Here are a couple of photos:

DB and I both have Friday and Monday off work.  We don’t have any big plans.  Mostly just recovering from the week and enjoying our new heater. 🙂  The tile guy, who was sick for 3 days, is working here both Friday AND Saturday to catch up.  I think he must have another job to go to next week.  We might have a finished bathroom by the middle of next week!

Since we have 4 glorious days off, I plan to do some running and also some knitting.  I WILL finish my Sunrise Circle Jacket this weekend so stayed tuned for photos of that.  Work continues on the Spina socks, although slowly.  We might even get to the beach this weekend.  The weather is supposed to be great.  Get out there and enjoy it!