Escape!

This morning we were up early to go for a run in the Kennemerland dunes.  We left especially early so that we would be home early to  watch the Australian Open Final.  Here it is 4 hours later and they are still playing tennis.  We could have slept in!

It was COLD this morning.  When we started out it was -1C/30F and sunny.  Despite the weather there were a lot of runners out.  I wore double layers on my legs, triple layers on top, a hat and running gloves.

At the half way point I came up on a small group of sheep with long shaggy wool, looking quite content in the weather.  Most of them were on the left side of the trail, behind a small electric fence (which wasn’t on), but a few were outside the fence, on the other side of the trail.  I ran a little farther and then turned around to get some photos of them.  Right when I turned around I saw how they got out of the fence!

First the black one….

Then the white one followed him….

Who would have thought it was so easy for them to jump the fence!  Here they are, on the “free” side.

My caption: “Don’t turn me in! I’ll trade you wool for your silence!”

At the end of the run, back at the parking lot at the football fields, there’s a small cemetery with flowers planted here and there.  Look what’s blooming already.

It’s been such a mild winter that the Spring flowers are already coming out.  This can’t be good news for farmers.  The timing is all wrong.  I am looking forward to April though since April is the new June here in NL.

Cardigan WIP

I’m working away on my smocked cable cardigan.  Above are the two sleeves done, and part of the back piece done.  I got up to the part of the back where I should start making the cables and realized I was in trouble.  I won’t have enough yarn to finish this sweater.

I have 8 100 gram skeins of yarn and you’d think that would be plenty.  The first problem is that ONE of the skeins is a really different color than the rest.  Now, if 2 or 3 were different, I could alternate skeins and work them in and all would be fine.  But ONE skein being different just makes it unusable in my opinion.  Secondly, I think I will really need 9, not 8 anyway.  The back piece takes up huge amounts of yarn because it is long, flared and wide at the bottom, and is full of cables at the top.  Here’s a photo of what the back will look like:

smockedcablecoatback

What am I going to do with this thing?  I realized on Thursday night I’d be short of yarn.  Friday morning I woke up and got right on this problem.  I went to Ravelry to see who stocks Madelinetosh yarn and then I went stocking those sites, looking for Vintage in color Mourning Dove.  I only had to look to 2 shops before finding some at the Loopy Ewe, out of Colorado.  YAY!  Do you know how hard it is to find this yarn?  Hard.  I am so lucky.

Anyway, I ordered 4 skeins.  FOUR? you ask.  Yes, four.  I’m guessing I’ll need 2 and maybe 3 and what if I’m completely wrong?  I ordered 4.  I can always destash the leftovers or make something to go with this sweater, like mittens or a hat.  You can never have too much Madelinetosh, that’s what I always say (and have the stash to prove).

But I still have the problem of skeins that are not the same color as the knitting I’ve already done.  I’m going to try something I hope will be ok.  I’m going to knit the backs and fronts up to the start of the cable pattern with the yarn that I have.  Then at that point, when the pattern and fit of the sweater changes, I’ll alternate in the new skeins.  At least a slight change in color will be at a changing point in the pattern and should seem like it makes sense.  Working with hand dyed yarn is beautiful and lovely, but sometimes a pain.  No 2 skeins are perfectly matched and you always have to take that into account.

My yarn shipped yesterday and I should have it in a couple of weeks.  Meanwhile I’ll continue knitting the fronts and will also continue knitting a secret project that I can’t show you yet.  But soon!

Segway Tour of Amsterdam

Segway Tour at Museumplein

I am so lucky!  I have a friend who invited me on a Segway tour!  Andy is writing a travel piece on BestDam Segway Tours and invited Jacki and I to come along.  Yesterday afternoon we met at Bilderdijkpark in Amsterdam to start our adventure.

We were met there by Daniel, our tour guide and Segway trainer.

We spent 15 minutes getting ready to roll.  Daniel told us all about the Segway and before we stepped a foot on it we knew all the theory about how the machines work and how to stop and go and turn.  He then put them in training mode (VERY slow) and we got to try it out, one at a time.

Here’s Andy on his training session.

I was kind of nervous to ride a Segway.  I had no idea how easy or hard this would be.  I’m here to tell you – it’s a PIECE OF CAKE!  And super super fun.  You only have to shift your weight to move the thing how you want it to move.  Move the bar in the middle left or right and that’s where you go.  Stopping is a breeze (my biggest concern).  After practicing a few minutes on a side street Daniel changed our Segways to normal mode and we were off touring the entire city.

We rode in the bike lanes, which makes Amsterdam the perfect city to try a Segway because of all the bike lanes.  We were told that the top speed was 20kph (about 12mph) and we all managed to ride quite a lot at top speed.  We made a large circle through the city, from Bilderdijkpark, to the Vondelpark, P.C. Hoofstraat, Museumplein, Spiegelgracht, Rembrandtplein, Stopera, Damstraat, the Dam, Rozengracht and back to Bilderdijkpark.  Wow!  We didn’t take our feet off these things for 90 minutes!

All along the way Daniel pointed out things in the city that even us longtime Amsterdam dwellers didn’t know.  I can imagine that if you were a real tourist you would find it even more interesting.

Riding a Segway is so fun!  Really.  I’d do it again for sure.  It’s so easy, easier than you think, and very intuitive to ride.  Zipping along in the city is cool, and everyone looks and stares at you like you’re a rock star.  A Segway makes you feel special too. 🙂

The only thing about yesterday…. the cold.  I was So Cold even though I thought I dressed for it.  Especially my feet.  I didn’t realize how cold my feet were until we got off at the end and I could hardly walk.  My feet were numb and frozen.  When I finally got home (all the way to Haarlem, via public transport, so an hour later) I took a hot shower to warm up again.  It’s not like skiing or biking or running when your movement keeps you warm in the cold. This is like standing and waiting for a bus in the cold for 90 minutes.  OK, the time flies by because you are are having so much fun, but your cold feet don’t know that.

My advice?  Book a Segway tour.  It’s the most fun you’ll ever have standing still.

Scheepvaartmuseum

Tuesday last week I had to take my car to Amsterdam and leave it for a day, so I figured we might as well make it a fun day in Amsterdam, right?  I convinced DB to come with me.  We spent most of the day in the Scheepvaartmuseum.  The museum was closed for renovation for a long time and reopened in October 2011.  This was the first time we had been there.

I had heard mixed reviews from others who had been there and was curious myself about the building and it’s contents.  The focus of the museum is ships and everything to do with the seafaring Dutch, from exploration to whaling to the slave trade.  Since the Golden Age was so important to the Netherlands and Dutch culture, much of the museum focuses on that period of time.

First of all, the building is really beautiful in a minimalistic way.  Here are some photos.

Inner Courtyard
Inner Courtyard
View Through the Walls
View Through the Walls
Stairways of Glass and Steel

Basement
Basement

I didn’t take photos of the displays, mainly because the light was so low in most places.  There were a lot of activities and displays for kids, which surprised me.  I guess they need to cater to the schools too.  When we were there we must have been some of the youngest people there, but I understand that especially on weekends and school holidays it’s packed with kids (so try to avoid those days if you want to peacefully look around).  On a Tuesday morning in the middle of winter it was really quiet.  Nice.

I really liked the globes (very old and very inaccurate as you can imagine) and the old navigation instruments.  It was also interesting to see exactly where the Dutch have added land to their country.  There’s a running video in the background repeating over and over again repeating the saying “God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.”

There were some strange things about the museum that detracted from the experience.  For example, there’s a large room full of model boats, from old to new, all displayed in a large glass case.  The lighting was terrible!  The spotlights would slowly flicker on and off certain boats.  If you were busy looking at a boat suddenly the light would go out.  What’s the point of that?  Really annoying.

Then there was the lighting on the paintings.  Again, terrible.  Lights shone on the glossy paintings so that there was never an escape from spotlight glare.  Surely they know better!

And even though there was a room full of at least 30 old globes to look at, not a single one could be viewed all the way around.  Why not put one or two in the middle of the room, under glass, so you could see the whole thing?  They were all lined up along the walls with the backs impossible to see.

Outside the building is a replica of a 17th century VOC ship which you can walk all around.  We went inside and checked out all the decks.  It actually felt bigger inside than I expected, until we came back outside and read the plaque that said 300 people lived on board!  I was thinking that 100 would fit just nicely!  Ugh, imagine the smell!

VOC replica ship
VOC replica ship
On the VOC ship, NEMO in the background
On the VOC ship, NEMO in the background
Cannons!
Cannons!

We spent a good 3 hours walking around this museum, and it really is worth a visit, if only to see the building itself, which is the highlight if you ask me.  I’m glad we went.  If you’ve got a day to kill in Amsterdam you could spent the whole day between the Public Library, NEMO and Scheepvaartmeseum, all in the same neighborhood and within walking distance from the Central Station.

Weekend Photos!

Here are some guys swimming in the sea at Bloemendaal.  A summer photo?

Nope.  These crazy guys were swimming this last Saturday when temps were hovering just above freezing.  You can see that by the way the horse riders are bundled up.

And here am I bundled up, in my lovely blue knitwear. 🙂

We didn’t spend very long at the beach.  We walked from Bloemendaal north nearly to Parnasia, and back.  Probably 3 or 4km is all.  Afterwards we had lunch in the year round beach cafe at Bloemendaal.  In the afternoon I made some raisin date bars to take as snacks to the Vondelpark run for the next day, Sunday.

Sunday we were up bright and early, packed up and drove to Amsterdam to join friends for the Vondelpark run.  You have your choice of 1, 2 or 3 laps around the park.  Each lap is 3km.  K. and I did 2 laps.  DB did 3.

It was pretty informal and relaxed.  Here’s the start for the 1 and 2 lap run:

Here’s a photo of some random people, coming around through the park.  This is the 3 lap group:

See how lovely and sunny it was!  Of course that means it was cold.  P. sat under the outdoor heat lamp at the Blauwe Teehuis all morning, since he’s not a runner (no matter how much we encourage him), but he had to wait for us to run.  Here’s a photo of DB making his way around.  He’s fast!  He did the 10k in 48 minutes.

We went home tired but satisfied.  My run was 6.7km and K. and I ran it in 44:50.  I’m happy with that.  I didn’t kill myself for it.  Just treated it like another training day.  It’s the most training I’ve done for about a two months!  I’m glad to be getting back on track.  Ha!

After dinner we just hung out on the couch.  Bas the cat was happy that we were tired and wanted to hang out with him.

On My Way

This is the road to….. a better future?  I think so!

This photo was taken Sunday at the half way point in my little 6km run in the dunes.  As you can see, it looks more like Spring than Winter.  We haven’t had any Winter so far this year.  The important point about this photo is that I was RUNNING again.  I seem to always need/have a running break in December.  I can’t seem to get out of the hibernation feeling to keep my legs moving.   I already feel the days getting longer and the stress and uncertainty of the last few months is finally leaving me.  I’m feeling more energetic by the day.

Today I also passed an important milestone.  I went to the BLTC in Amsterdam and had my interview to get into their CELTA training school.  I had to take a 1 hour test on grammar and writing and then give a 5 minute lesson on a language topic.  You won’t believe this – heck I still don’t believe it – but I got ALL the answers right on the test!  I was sweating that thing!  I guessed on some of the grammar.  I mean, I can write a decent sentence and I know when something is “wrong”, but do you know what the “present perfect continuous” tense is?  I had studied up (good thing) but still have a hard time keeping all the various verb tenses straight.  My 5 minutes of teaching didn’t go as well, but hey, that’s what they are going to teach me to do, right?  Right.

So, after chatting with me, and reviewing my test, I was told that I’m IN and I have the very last place available in the course that starts 30 January.  It’s a 13 week course and is very intensive.  I expect to be very busy with the course, and knitting designing.  I’m very excited to start!  This is a whole new direction for me and I’m really excited about it.

I had another success today too.  A friend asked me to update her web site for her and I said I could do it.  It’s not a blog, it’s a real content site.  It’s made in Joomla, a content management system (CMS).  I’ve never seen Joomla before (this blog is made with WordPress).  But what the heck, it can’t be that different, right?  AND she had lost the user name and password so I had to go into the SQL database and run a query that would create a new user.  Eek!  At least I had access to that via the web host site.  Anyway, to make a long technical story short, I managed to remove a page, change a menu, remove some links and images and not crash anything at all!

All in all, it’s been a pretty damned good day!

Sleeve

I’ve finished one sleeve of my Smocked Cable Coat.  Yea!  It’s actually a very easy knit and with worsted weight yarn works up quickly.  The yarn is Madelinetosh Vintage, color Mourning Dove.

I’ve already soaked it and laid it out to dry.  It really grew in length when fully wet.  I think that once it dries it will be fine and I can always throw it into the dryer for a few minutes to fluff it up.  Yup.  It’s super wash.  I can do that and it won’t shrink or felt.  Cool.

I’m also working on a stealth project of my own design.  Lots of knitting time when you’re unemployed.

Holiday Videos

I haven’t wished you a Happy New Year yet.  Happy New Year!  The days are already flying past.

I took a couple of little videos during the holidays.  One was taken at the Christmas market in Cologne.  It’s the Old Town market, which was the best in our opinion.  The second video is from New Year’s Eve in Haarlem.  We were at a friend’s house and the neighbors were busy lighting fireworks.  If you can imagine this kind of fireworks being set off at the same time, at about every 5th house on every street, you get the idea of what it’s like here at midnight on 31 December.  It’s goes on non-stop for an hour.  Really.