Addendum: Y is for Yes

Last night on BBC4 there was a documentary on Prog Rock bands of the early 70’s.  One of the featured bands was YES.  I loved this band in the 70’s and this morning the album “Fragile” is playing on the stereo.  

When I was 16 and 17 this album was the standard played in the car, “The Buick”, that belonged to my boyfriend’s parents.  The car full of friends sang the lyrics while we drove to Yosemite.  It was the best time. I still know all the words.

So, Y is for YES, the band, and all their musical goodness.

Z is for (New) Zealand


whale watching off Kaikura
whale watching off Kaikura


New Zealand got it’s name from the Dutch, who named it after the Dutch province of Zeeland.  The first European to land on the Island’s shores was Abel Tasman, a Dutchman, who is also the namesake of the National Park at the northern most part of the South Island of New Zealand.  

DB and I went to NZ in February 2007 and spent 3.5 weeks only on the South Island.  It was DB’s second trip there, my first.  We flew via Singapore.  You can’t really get much farther away from NL than NZ!  It’s 24 hours of flying, no matter how you try to shorten it.  The only place farther away is Fiji.

Looking back, it seems like a long time ago that we were there, like a lovely dream that fades too quickly.  We definitely plan to go back, hopefully in the next 5 years.  It’s not a cheap vacation, because of the flight, and we need to save up not only the cash, but also the time away from work, in order to make it worth flying such a long way.  The actual cost of vacationing in NZ is quite low.  We stayed mostly in hostels which can be very affordable.  Food is cheap and excellent.  We couldn’t help but look at the property sales ads and were drooling over acres of property for sale at prices lower than our little apartment in Amsterdam.  We couldn’t help but dream about living there in Paradise.

When I first started to knit in earnest, many many years ago, I had read about New Zealand wool and saw photos of the countryside.  From that time on New Zealand became for me a dream destination that I never thought I’d be lucky enough to really visit.  While there I bought a lot of NZ wool, went to a NZ version of the County Fair where I bought hand spun, and visited a “factory” shop in Alexandra and bought yarn.  Most of it is still in my stash – somehow too precious to use, or just waiting for the perfect project.


sheep at county fair - Wanaka
sheep at "county fair" - Wanaka



If you want to visit paradise, where people are friendly and don’t bother to lock their doors, where beauty surrounds you where ever you go, where life is relaxed and easy, then go to New Zealand.  But go gently and with respect for what the residents have been able to hold onto.





Y is for YES!

This is a photo of my niece and her, now, fiance.  It was taken on 24 October of this year and one day later, while they were walking in a park in Turin, John popped the question and Mandy said YES!  They are such a cute couple and so obviously adore each other.  

At this time they are struggling to make ends meet and struggling to make their dreams come true.  Still, they believe in each other and I’m guessing they start their days with that YES in mind, keeping themselves going through the tough times.  

They haven’t set a date yet, but I’m sure that when the coming year starts to take shape out of the fog and haze of 2008, they’ll let us all know.  

YES is such an optimistic word and I’m generally an optimistic person.  It’s a good word to end 2008 with.  It’s also a very good word to start your life together with.  So, Mandy and John, YES to you and YES to your future!

(in case you want to know more….. Mandy’s blog here; John’s here; their joint business blog here)

X is for “Xander”…..

…. and all the other interesting first names I hear.

When I first came here to NL on a business trip I was introduced to a colleague name Jeroen.  “What”?  I asked.  “How do I pronounce that?” Another colleague thought there was something wrong with me that I didn’t immediately “get” the pronunciation and had never heard of this name before.  After all, it’s a very common name!  Yeah, right, in the Netherlands maybe.

Dutch names are really unique.  You won’t see a name like “Tsjerk” anywhere else!

How about the name “Joke”.  Male or female?  No, it’s no “joke”, it’s really a woman’s name, pronounced “yoke-uh”.

Or the “ieneke series”, as I call it:  Tieneke, Ieneke, Lieneke, and more I’m sure.  All women’s names.  The e at the end is always pronounced like an “uh” sound dropped at the end.

Then the Friesland names all come to mind:  Sjourd, Sjoukje, ……….. the Sj always sounds like sh.

I went through our email list here at work and wrote down the names that, to my ears, are typically Dutch and you won’t find anywhere else.  You guess, male or female or either/or?



























Xander begins to sound really common, doesn’t it?

Oh, and “Jeroen” is the Dutch version of Jerome, and is pronounced like Yer-oe-n. Yeah, right.

W is for WordPress


WordPress is blogging software.  There is the WordPress hosted version, which is much like  Then there’s the self hosted version, which is what I am using.  My blog is hosted somewhere in California at a company called A Small Orange.  (If you decide to get set up there, please mention that I sent you!)

Here is a photo of my blog, on a MacBook, in an Apple shop in Turin:

Why did I choose WordPress? 

It’s highly configurable.  There are a lot of templates out there that are free to use.  If you don’t like any of the free ones you can modify your template to make it something that works for you.  I haven’t done much template modifying mainly because I don’t have the time.  I don’t know css very well and WordPress uses css extensively.  If I wasn’t spending so much time knitting I’d probably be spending time learning css and getting better at html.  Choices choices!

WordPress is an online blogging tool, which is great if you want to blog from someone else’s computer, anywhere in the world.  Everything is on your remote server which you can reach from anywhere with your user name and password.  Very handy!

WordPress has a huge user community with lots of help and information online.  There are plugins and bits of code that are freely available to improve your site.  It’s kind of like making virtual model trains.  OK, maybe that’s a terrible analogy but it’s what popped into my head.

There’s also an iPhone version so that you can post where ever you are and whatever you are doing!

I’m thinking seriously about changing my current template.  It’s getting a little stale.  I have a couple of templates that I like a lot.  They are here and here.  What do you think?  Better than the current one?

Before I change templates I have to upgrade again.  DB upgraded to version 2.6.3 a few weeks ago and that went super smooth.  Maybe I will do that this weekend and then try out a new template.  Don’t be surprised if you see something completely different soon!

V is for Vespa

09 Vespa LX 50 4T, originally uploaded by vespaofficial.

No, I don’t own a Vespa, but I wish I did.  I look at them longingly when I see them around town.  They are all the rage these days and I see a lot of them around.  I would say that 90% of the ones I see are the small 50cc size (like the one above).  I think that has more to do with Dutch laws than anything about the Vespa itself.
In the Netherlands you can drive any motorized 2 wheel vehicle of 50cc motor size or less without a special license and without a helmet.  Anything larger than that and you have to abide by motorcycle laws, which means taking lessons and passing tests, all of which is pretty expensive.  A “brommer” (Dutch for scooter) has to share the bike lanes with normal bikes, although sometimes I see them driving on city streets.  It’s confusing as to when you can and when you can’t do that.  Typical for Dutch laws I think.  There’s always a grey area.  As a bike rider, I hate brommers on the bike lanes.  They are often aggressive and drive much faster than bikes of course.  If they CAN drive fast, they WILL drive fast.  
I would really like to have a Vespa that is big enough to ride on city streets, but I don’t have any desire to drive one on the highway.  Vespa makes all sizes of bikes and there’s one just right for me, I’m sure.  There are only two things that hold me back from buying one.  First, and biggest reason, is money.  They aren’t exactly cheap.  A small one like the 50cc above runs about 2,500 euros new.  They go up from there.  I don’t have 2,500 euros laying around that I have no other use for.  I like my toys and I have a list of toys that, at this point, have a higher priority than a Vespa, especially when you consider reason #2 for not getting one – it rains a lot here.  How often would I really ride it?  I love the idea of riding it to work and back, but how often is the weather nice enough to do so?  In the summer I’d ride it to the beach.  How often?  Maybe I should rent one and just see how I like it before I continue with my Vespa fantasy.  Maybe our next vacation should be somewhere nice and sunny and DB and I can both rent scooters to see how we like it.
For now I will just look at them parked on the street, or driving by, and think about being young and foolish and zipping along on my red Vespa, happy and carefree.


U is for Under Dutch Skies

I started blogging on July 23, 2006.  It started out as a Blogger blog, but I have graduated to WordPress self hosted set up.  I don’t remember how I came up with the name “Under Dutch Skies”, but it is my invention and I like it very much.

And frankly, the skies that I live under are very often jaw dropping beautiful.  These are only a couple of photos I could quickly find, and seeing skies in person is always better:

So, dear readers, I will continue to live and breath and BE UnderDutchSkies, on Ravelry, on Flickr, on LibraryThing, Ning…… you never know where I’ll show up.

T is for Train

Or “trein” if you prefer the Dutch version.  In both cases it qualifies for my T in the ABC-Along.  Since moving to Haarlem I take the train to work every day.  I try to get the earlier trains (7:30, 7:35, 7:45) but I don’t always manage it.  If you go later, say between 7:50 and 8:30, it’s REALLY packed and you run a good chance of not getting a seat at all.  Luckily the trains between Haarlem and Amsterdam run every 5 to 10 minutes during rush hour.  I’m thankful for that!

My first challenge in the morning is finding a place to park my bike.  Here’s how crowded the bike parking is:

They’ve recently built some double decker bike parking:

To put up or bring down the bikes on top, the rack they sit in comes down, like this:

I really don’t like the double decker parking.  You either have to be tall and strong to deal with the upper deck, or a contortionist or a midget to keep from bumping your head while coping with the lower deck.  I’m short so I can’t imagine how the tall Dutch deal with the lower level!  I just go to the single level parking and try for a spot.  I’m usually lucky.

The other day I had to wrestle 4 bikes away from mine before I could get mine free.  I was pretty pissed off about that!  That’s the last time I park on the end!

Anyway, after that you have to then get to your train and jostle for a place to sit.  I’ve tried several tactics and the one that seems to be working best is to wait for the very last train car.  Most people just instinctively start walking with the train when it comes, which leaves fewer people at the very end.  

Here’s the Haarlem train station on the inside.  This year was the station’s 100 year anniversary.  There’s really nice woodworking and stained glass here.

Here comes the train!

Me first!

This is a pretty quiet morning.  Normally it’s just packed around the doors.  At least people are pretty good about letting others OFF the train first before piling in.  Most of the time anyway.

I don’t have any photos of the inside of the train.  I haven’t had the nerve to pull out my camera in a train car full of sleepy grumpy commuters early in the morning.  You’ll just have to imagine them all, noses buried in the paper, or eyes closed and head back.  Drinking coffee.  Nearly everyone with ear buds in, listening to something.  No one talks.  No one makes eye contact.  I knit.  I’m the only knitter.  I don’t care.

Getting off the station in Amsterdam is another exercise in crowd swimming.  Everyone is in a hurry.  It’s packed.  I’m getting used to it.  I miss biking in the quiet morning Amsterdam streets!

S is for Slow Food

Last weekend we were in Turin.  The reason we went was to see M. & J. who were there to participate in the Slow Food event, Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto.  I had no idea what this event would be like or what this organization is about.  On their web site, they describe themselves:

Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

Delegates, like M. & J., took part in meetings and discussion with farmers, producers of every kind of food, chefs and just anyone in the food business who came from all over the world for this event.  The rest of us were only allowed into the tasting and selling areas of the event, and let me tell you, it was HUGE and CROWDED!  According to their site, they had 180,000 visitors and I believe it.  It was held in buildings that were built for the Olympics in Turin, so you can imagine how big that is.  Most of the booths were no bigger than 10 sq  yards/meters and there was everything from cheese to meats to herbs and oils and wine and honey and sweets and pastas and wheat products, etc etc etc.  Even gelato was for sale.  A lot of the food was available for tasting and of course then you could buy.  I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t think I could get anything that would capture the size of the place, it being so crowded and full.  I would have needed to be in the ceiling to get a good shot!

While M. & J. were in Turin they stayed with a couple who live in the city center.  We had dinner with them and had “real” Italian home cooking.  No pasta, no rice, just lots and lots of fresh vegies and meat and cheese and nuts.  It was delicious.  Here we are at the kitchen table eating dinner:

Being at this event does get you thinking:  just how much “fast food” do I eat and is that a good or bad thing?  Mostly we shop at the grocery store.  Some nights we eat “ping” food (pop it in the microwave and when you hear the “ping” out comes dinner).  Most of the time we try to cook.  I have to say though, now that the time has changed and it’s so dark when I get home from work, I just don’t want to bother.  But getting over the Northern Winter Blues is a subject for another post.

I went into Haarlem this morning to do some clothes shopping.  I happened to find a shop called Marqt, just a few doors down from the V&D, on the Gedempte Oude Gracht.  They also have a shop on the Overtoom in Amsterdam.  THIS is what Slow Food is all about!  They have fresh local food, plus food from other small producers making local fresh food.  I bought olive oil from Sicily in a glass bottle with a rubber stopper.  They had fish that looked so fresh you could swim with them.  They had lovely vegies and cheese and just everything you could ask for.  So, from now on, this will be my Saturday food shopping place.  Plus shopping on the open markets in the city.  I really am going to try to make an effort to shop less at the grocery stores and more locally.  It tastes better and feels better.

And then I started thinking about yarn.  I have yarn in my stash that has been flown all over the world.  I have yarn from South America.  I have yarn from New Zealand.  It’s fantastic to be able to have the best of the world to work with, but surely there’s high quality wools and yarns produced here in Europe?  I’m going to start looking and thinking twice before buying from a US shop that has bought Australian wool that they will now ship to Europe.  Is that really necessary?  Unfortunately the knitting community is not as thriving in Europe as it is in the US so it’s harder to find good stuff here, but I will make more of an effort to look.  And I will also buy local yarns when I’m on vacation somewhere and bring it back with me.  Now, when are we going back to New Zealand? 🙂

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!