Wind and Sea

Yesterday at 5pm we headed to Zandvoort to have a celebration drink and dinner at the beach.  We celebrated DB getting a new job!  And me too, getting a new job.  We’ve both been unemployed since the first of the year and starting very soon we will both be employed! Yea!

Well, yea for the income, boo for having to go back to work.  I really enjoy being unemployed.  I will definitely enjoy retirement, whenever and if ever that comes.  I’ll enjoy it, that is, if we still have enough money to do the small things we like to do.  Ah, everything revolves around money doesn’t it?

ANYWAY, we had dinner at Bruxelles-aan-Zee.

You will always get good “eetcafe” food at Bruxelles, the service is great and people are very friendly.  What more can you ask for?

Earlier in the day it was cloudy but later the wind came up and cleared away the clouds.  When we got to the beach it was very windy, but sunny.  After we ate we walked along the beach and I took photos of the kite surfers.

When we were at Lake Almanor in California it was also windy, but there weren’t any sail boats and no kite/wind surfers at all!  We were so surprised and couldn’t understand why there were only motorized things on the lake.  What a waste of flat water and wind!

The kite surfing looked like so much fun last night that I’m kind of tempted to take a lesson and see if I could do it.  As long as they could teach me how to turn around and come back to shore, I’d be happy.  It looks exhausting though.  I hate to have that little voice in my head saying “but maybe you are too old now”.  I hate that.  Maybe I’m just not strong enough to do it.  Got to get back to the gym…. never too old for that.

Lace for Mom

My Mom’s birthday is in January and I’m usually kind of late getting her present to her.  This year was no exception.  I started knitting this shawl before her birthday, but I didn’t finish it until April and didn’t give it to her until we visited in June.  She doesn’t seem to mind. 🙂

This is Echo Flower Shawl, a free pattern from Jenny Johnen, available here on Ravelry.  I didn’t make any modifications at all – knit as the pattern was written.  This has been on my to-do list forever and I can’t think of a better reason to knit it than for my mom’s birthday.

The yarn is Madelinetosh (no surprise there), lace weight (100% merino wool) in color Posy.

The shawl is knit from the small square in the center top back, and increases into a triangle.  The main flower section is pretty quick to knit and looks more complicated than it really is.  I just love this pattern and the lovely flower design!

The lower section, with all the nupps (the little bumps or bobbles) was slow going.  I’m not a nupp expert.  I have to use a very small crochet hook on the purl side to work them off, which is a slow method but it works well for me.  It’s the only way I can keep from dropping loops.

I really enjoyed knitting this shawl and would definitely make it again.  I think next time I’ll make it a little bit bigger.  The pattern says to make 13 flower repeats before starting the border.  Next time I’ll do 16.  I used 66% of the skein of yarn for this shawl and I think I can still manage 16 repeats with 1 full skein.  Have some Tart color that is just waiting to become this shawl.

You can check out my project page here on Ravelry.


While at Lake Almanor I tried to take some photos of deer and chipmunks and birds.  My telephoto lens was broken so all I had was my 50mm lens.  Bummer.

The deer were so shy and ran way at the mere sniff of you.  I managed to get this photo of one hiding from us, but watching us closely.  See her in the background?

No? Well, blown up maybe?

There were also chipmunks running around near our little cabin (and don’t get the idea this was a little cabin in the middle of no where; there were other cabins and trailers parked in a little neighborhood all around us).  I tried to get photos of them, but they were so fast and I was so slow.

Here’s one in motion.  Super Chipmunk!

I don’t have any decent bird photos to show you, but we saw redheaded woodpeckers and a meadow bird with bright orange under his wings and several other kinds of jays and hawks and pelicans and egrets.  Maybe next trip I’ll get better photos.

Mt. Lassen National Park

During our last week in California we spent a few days in a small cabin at Lake Almanor.  Mt. Lassen National Park is right next door so we drove there and did some hiking two of those days.  The above photo is DB standing at a roadside “vista point” on the main road through the park.  This was near the summit at about 8,500 ft (2,600m).

Our first day hike was from the Visitor’s Center to Mill Creek Falls.  The falls happens where two creeks come together.  Here are some photos from that hike:

There is a bridge over the top of the falls, which DB wasn’t entirely comfortable with.

This was about a 3 hour hike, round trip, on mountain trails that were gently uphill and downhill.  It was a lovely way to spend a morning!  After that we got a bite to eat and then drove through the park.  It’s not a big area to drive through and getting from one end to the other took about an hour.  Up at the top elevation we stopped to take some photos of frozen Lake Helen.  Before I knew better, I thought we might be able to walk around the lake.  That was until we got there and saw that it was covered all around with ice and snow!  I had no idea it was this high and still this frozen.

We stopped at the top of the summit and took more photos.  The first photo of this blog post is from that point.  Here’s another one.

For the rest of the afternoon we drove back to Lake Almanor.  Yes, it took a long time to get back since we drove around the perimeter of the park, to the east, then back south.  By the time we got back to our little home I had had enough of driving for one day!

The next day we decided to drive a shorter distance, from Chester to Warner Valley Campground, and then hike to Devil’s Kitchen.  The drive was partly on dirt roads, which weren’t always marked well.  We had to turn around once when we realized we’d taken a wrong turn.  It wasn’t far though – only about a 40 minute drive.  Then we started walking.  This hike was flatter and shorter than the one the day before – a “walk in the park”. 🙂

We walked first through a meadow, then some wooded areas, then ended up at the volcanic pits, bubbling and steaming.

It was really interesting seeing, hearing and smelling this activity.  The sulphur smell was pretty strong, especially when the steam got thick and filled the air.  In some places you could hear the thick bubbling of mud deep in the ground, which made a bass drum kind of thumping.  I tried to capture that in a movie, but it was too windy and all you hear is the wind noise.

Here you can really see why it’s called Devil’s Kitchen.  You can imagine this as a cooking pot, making a nice soup…

As you can imagine, you were required to stay on the trail.  There were signs saying that the ground around the pools is fragile and crumbly and can give way under your feet.  It’s possible to get seriously burned.  We did as we were told.

It was a really nice day trip to this part of the park.  On the walk to Devil’s Kitchen we saw only another couple and they didn’t go farther than the meadow.  On the way back we ran into a small group, but those were the only people we saw.  We saw deer tracks and I swear there were bear tracks.  We finally saw a marmot, but he was pretty far away and I only had my 50mm lens.  Here’s the best I could do for a photo of him.

I had never been to this National Park before but I’d definitely go back again, maybe later in the year when more of the trails are open and more snow has melted.  I already miss the trees.

If you want to see more of my photos from our Mt. Lassen visit, I have a flicker set here.

And… We’re Back!

My blog had a meltdown and I’ve spent the last 3 hours working to get it back up and running.

What happened?  My web host (A Small Orange) upgraded their database software and my old version of WordPress and my Theme were not compatible with this upgrade.  First of all, I highly recommend A Small Orange as a web host.  I can send them help requests any time of day or night and I get a reply in a matter of minutes.  You can’t ask for more than that!

Second, I should have kept my software up to date.  If I had, this would not have happened.  My bad.

Now I have a new theme and upgraded software.  I’ll probably spend the next days tweaking the theme and writing some posts about our last week in California.  Change is good!  I like this new theme.  It looks fresh and clean and I’m ready for that.

Check back soon for new news!

Farmers Market

This morning at 8am we went to the Chico Farmers Market. It was already pretty warm outside!
I bought veggies I can’t get in Holland: 3 kinds of squash and purple carrots.
I bought organic blueberries and feta cheese.
I bought cheese from my sister and gave her a hug. I don’t know who was more surprised, her or me.


Where Things Grow

The thing about California that defines it as something special is that things grow here. That’s why people came in the beginning and that’s why they stay. The weather is perfect for growing things. Just add some water if you need to and watch nature do what it does best – grow.

We rented bikes to use while we are here in Chico. Yesterday we rode for 2 hours through Bidwell Park, east to the golf course and then took a little trail in foothills country. It was our first experience with any kind of mountain biking, in the upper section of our ride. That part of the ride only lasted about 15 minutes but considering our complete lack of preparation (no helmet, no experience) we had a good time. No one got hurt and I learned not to brake on gravel (or you just slide).

Here are some photos taken in the early part of the ride, in Bidwell Park along Big Chico Creek.  Bidwell Park is long and narrow and runs through Chico, west-east.

And a little further along…

It was right after taking this photos that my camera fell.  I had put it back in its case but hadn’t zipped it closed yet.  Then my bike started to fall so I bent down to grab it, the camera came tumbling out of the case (I think the strap caught on the handle bars) and hit the dirt.  The big lens broke off the camera body.  Stupid plastic lens mounts!  Two tiny pieces of plastic broke off and now the lens won’t stay on the camera.  When we got home I tested the camera body with my other small 50mm lens and it works fine ( more photos below with that lens) but the big lens will have to go in for repair.  After some research online later in the day I found out that there’s a Nikon authorized repair center in Beverwijk, which is just down the highway from Haarlem, and I can walk in with it and get it fixed.  Stupid me. Happy to be able to get it looked at easily when we are back home.

Anyway…. this morning I got up (still early waking hours – the sun wakes me up at 6am) to find this beautiful cactus in full bloom.  M. says it only blooms a few days and then it’s done.  I don’t know how long it took to develop the flowers – a year? several years? But I’m happy to be here at the right time to see it and capture it in pictures.  Actually, this is what I wanted the 50mm 1.8 lens for, flowers and knitting projects.

And finally, a photo of Jake the cat.  I first met Jake when he was a tiny kitten.  He would run and jump on you with all baby sharp claws out, no matter how many times you picked him up and threw him off you.  He’s now 10 and mellow and cuddly and sweet.

Chilled in Chico

We’ve headed north and are now staying with J. And M. in Chico.  They live in a house with a huge garden. The weather is hot and sunny. Today we rented bikes and biked for an hour in a park and around Chico. (at this moment we’re watching NL get badly beat by DE in Euro12; pathetic)
Huge garden
We brought J. a birthday present from home: 12 Dutch beers. I think he likes it.
J & M and beer
Tonight we’re going to Sierra Nevada brewery for a tour and dinner. Can’t wait! I also have photos from my birthday dinner Monday night, but they aren’t on Flickr yet. It’s not as easy to get all this organized with only an iPad, so I might show those later when we get home – a kind of food round up.

I plan to make it to the local yarn shop, Heartstrings Yarns, this week still. It’s a really big shop with a huge selection. Their web site is a bit sad, and is no reflection of the shop itself. I’ll let you know what I score!

A New Memory

This last Sunday I went to the shop “A Verb For Keeping Warm” in Oakland to listen to Brenda Dayne talk about memory, and knitting. I brought my memory pouch and story to give to Brenda, which she will use in her art project.

It was so nice to meet Brenda! I’ve been listening to her podcast for years. It’s a funny thing to put a face with a voice that I know so well. I said to her that it must be very weird for her to meet all these people who are strangers but who feel like they know her so well! She said that Tanya said its like she has hundreds of therapists all over the world. Brenda said it is weird that she can say ‘Zack called’ and we know who she’s talking about.

I’m not going to try to repeat her talk/essay. I wouldn’t do it justice. I will only say that she brought the science of memory together with the craft of knitting so that we were all interested and it all made perfect sense.

Keep at it Brenda. You have dedicated fans all over the world. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished memory project!


Hiking Yosemite

Yesterday we drove up to Yosemite for the day.  It’s a 2 hour drive from Mom’s to Yosemite Valley.  We left at 7am, and after stopping at Starbucks for fuel we were on schedule for an early hike.  My goal was to walk to the top of Vernal Falls, then see how we felt.  We ended up going twice that far!

We parked at Curry Village.  The logistics of the park has changed over the years.  I remember when there was plenty of parking for everyone, mainly because there weren’t as many visitors.  Then it became so crowded and busy that there was air pollution from all the cars.  Then came the big floods of 1996 and ’97 (nice video here) and a lot of accommodation was moved outside the park and more visitors were bused in instead of driving in.  Yesterday, at the beginning of high season, it felt busy, but not overwhelmingly crowded.  The parking lot wasn’t full.  We got seats on the bus.  And thanks to some recent rain and wind, the air was crystal clear.

The weather could not have been better for our hike.  The sky was clear blue, temps in the low 80’sF (~25C) and just a slight breeze.

We left the car at Curry Village and walked to Happy Isles.  From there you cross a bridge over the Merced River and trail starts heading up to Vernal Falls.  It was only 9:30am when we got to the bridge but already we got busy with sun glasses and shorts.

On the way up to the base of Vernal Falls we saw plenty of grey squirrels.  Even though all the signs say not to feed the animals, people still do, and the squirrels aren’t afraid of people at all.

From Happy Isles all the way to the top of Nevada Falls it’s uphill all the way.  You are climbing up and out of Yosemite Valley up the side of granite cliffs.  The trails were made by blasting the sides of mountains with dynamite and making steps from the blasted pieces of stone.

Here we are at the bridge at the base of Vernal Falls.  Our day had just begun.  No sore muscles yet.

This section of the walk is called the Mist Trail.  As you get closer to the falls you can see why.  We got wet in the mist of the falls but the weather was so nice, and we were working hard, so were dry in no time.

I tried to get some clever photos of the falls.  I love my new camera (Nikon D5100, 18-105 lens) but I need to learn more about how to get the photos I want.  I tried to get photos with a slow shutter speed making the water look like a flowing cloud.  All those photos were terribly over exposed.  Ah well.  I learned something anyway.  I should have either checked the results in the screen (I shoot everything through the viewfinder) and adjusted, or set up a special setting for this beforehand.  I think if I lower the ISO to the minimum next time it will work.  I need another week in the Valley to hike this trail again and again so I get the photography better!

Here’s my best “arty” shot of the falls.

There were quite a few people already at the top when we got there.  They must have started very early!

After Vernal Falls we decided to continue walking to the top of Nevada Falls.  From the Valley floor, the top of Vernal Falls is 1000 ft (300m) higher.  The top of Nevada Falls is another 900 ft (250m) higher still.  You have a choice of route to get to the top of Nevada Falls.  We chose to take the shorter, steeper route going up.  It was definitely steep!  At some points it was a little scary even.  Don’t make a wrong step or you’ll tumble down very far on sharp granite rock.

Part way up DB spotted a couple of little lizards.  We figured this one was a male.  He was busy doing his pushups to impress the other lizard (who simply ran away, clearly unimpressed).

Here are some photos of Nevada Falls.  The big dome is called Liberty Cap.

We walked back to the base of Vernal Falls, downhill all the way, via the longer and less steep trail.  This was part of the John Muir Trail.  Just after starting downhill my left knee started to really hurt.  By the time we got to the base of the falls I could hardly walk on it!  I walked slowly with as little knee bending as possible.  Once we got down to the Valley and on level ground it was fine!  I have to go to my physical therapist when I get back and see what the problem is and how to make it better.  How am I ever going to walk to the top of Half Dome with a knee like this?  My right knee, the one that was operated on 2 years ago, was perfect.  At least the operation was a big success!

When we got back to the valley floor we took the shutter bus to the Visitor’s Center.  I wanted to get some more info on hiking to the top of Half Dome.  I found a book there that gave us the bad news:  it’s a lottery to get a permit to do the hike.  Wow.  Not only will the training for such a trip be difficult, but after training to be physically ready, we might not even get a permit to do it!  I should have made that trip years ago when 1) I was younger and better able to make it and 2) lived in the same country.  Ah well.  We’ll see if this “bucket list” item gets checked off or not.

We went back to Curry Village, got some burgers and fries at the burger joint, and then drove home.  We got to Mom’s about 12 hours after we had left that morning.  Later that evening I had the feeling that the whole day was just a dream.  It’s strange to have been in such a beautiful place, for a short time, and then not any more.  We should plan a longer stay there.

If you want to see more of my photos from the day, I have a set on Flickr here.