Dyeing Days

There has been an explosion of color chez UDS.  Above is 2kg of fiber dyed during one day.  The day before I dyed 2kg of rainbows.

I’m being very systematic about this – dyeing with only one method and one or two types of fiber in one day.  Before dyeing I’ve pulled off 105g pieces to dye and soaked them overnight in water.  I’ve also bought a small centrifuge machine to spin all the water out of the fiber before laying it to dry.  That makes a huge difference in drying time!

This might sound like work but I really love doing it.  I love seeing the colors emerge and how the fiber feels after dyeing (SOFT!).

I’ve also been busy spinning up 150g of Blend A to make a shawl.  I finished the spinning and plying last Wednesday, gave it a good soak and let it dry. It’s not perfect spinning, but pretty darn good for a beginner.

I’m going to make “Love on the Edge”, a shawl pattern by Monique Boonstra.  (Ravelry link) I don’t know if I will have it finished in time for MidWinterWol, but I will do my best to have it on display.  Here is Monique’s version.

Meanwhile, the dyeing continues.  More color will be posted in the coming weeks.

Also in the meanwhile, Fall has arrived and I’ve taken a few photos of local color.

Say Goodbye

I expect that today was the last day of warm beach weather this year.  Tomorrow will be cloudy, maybe rainy, definitely cooler.  And it’s probably downhill from there.  So right after work today I drove directly to the beach, to Zandvoort.  It’s only about 35 minutes from office parking lot to beach parking lot.

There were lots of cars and people still enjoying the last of the sun.

I walked for almost an hour, north and then south, and by the time I was back to where I started it was getting a little hazy. The sun was heading down like the final curtain on summer’s stage.

Goodbye summer. I’ll miss you.

In Other News

This morning DB and I left the house at 8am to bike to the beach.  It was cool and a little drizzly when we left but the drizzle didn’t last long.

We biked our usual route to Parnassia beach, 10k door to door, through the dunes.  This year, because of the very mild winter, we see so many bunnies in the dunes! We must have seen 16-18 of them, without even trying, which is 10x more than usual.

The plan was to have drinks and croissants at the beach restaurant, then head back home right away.  We had a busy day ahead.  But we got there at 8:40 and they weren’t open yet.  So we went down to the beach and kicked a ball around for a while.  We found the ball on the beach.

It was so quiet! There were only dog people there, and us.  And even then only about a dozen people in total and just as many dogs.  The clouds were dark and impressive.

When we left, our bikes were still the only bikes in the parking area.  I’ve never seen it so quiet, even in the winter!

This afternoon we started getting ready for the big kitchen rebuilding.  We took everything out of the cabinets and put it all in plastic tubs and on the dining table.  Tomorrow we’ll empty the fridge and cover everything in plastic.  Monday morning begins two weeks of camping upstairs.  It’s going to be annoying, but the final result will be so worth it.  I’ll be sure to take in process photos during the 2 weeks.

Good-bye red kitchen! I won’t miss you at all!

Parnassia in May

We were at the beach before the crowds today.  Actually we were surprised at how quiet it was.  I went for a 5k run and DB sat at a table at Parnassia strandtent as he was recovering from a night with friends in Haarlem.  And his long run will be tomorrow.  Anyway, it was a lovely sunny day in the dunes and at the beach.

I did the usual 5k loop and even in that small distance I saw bunnies (too fast to photograph), 3 groups of highland cattle, 2 groups of wild horses, a shetland pony, lots of furry caterpillars, lots of birds and waterfowl.

I’m sure that tomorrow, Sunday, there will be traffic jams getting to the beach and back.  It’s a lovely place to come hang out or walk around or just sit and read or knit and drink coffee.  But come early or come by bike or train.  But definitely come.

Typically Dutch

The weather is perfect this year for flower growing. This is especially good since last year’s weather was terrible for flowers and the farmers really suffered. The fields are full of color and the air is thick with the smell.  I wish I could share the smell with you!

DB has never been to the Keukenhof.  I’ve been twice before.  I had planned to take 2 colleagues from out of town there today but they had other plans so DB and I went there by ourselves.  I was really afraid that it would be super crowded so we went early.

Along the way I insisted we stop and play tourists and take photos of flowers “in the wild” with farmers and tractors.  There are fields like this all along the western part of the country right now.  Field after field of daffodils and tulips and hyacinths.  Later there will be gladiolas and other summer flowers.  But now is the best time to visit the Keukenhof.

The park was so beautiful.  It was a little bittersweet since I had still fresh memories of being there with my parents (although the weather was much better today than that day in 2001).  It made me miss them both but especially my dad.

We actually bought bulbs too! The bulbs that are now blooming need to be planted in October, so we ordered now and they will be shipped to us in September.  We also bought some Dahlia and Anemone tubers that I will plant tomorrow.

We got there around 9:30 and by 11:30 it was definitely time to leave.  The bus loads of tourists had arrived and it was impossible to take photos without them included, or even to walk around.

It’s really a lovely park and when the flowers are in bloom you not only get to see them in the most perfect condition in the park, but the surrounding area is covered in colors as well.  If you haven’t been, you really should go!

I actually wanted to ride my bike down there, but this was one occasion when DB wanted to go by car since his bike is not in the best condition.  After we got home we discovered that my bike also has 2 low tires and we couldn’t get them pumped up with the pump we have, so we would have gone by car in any case.  Tomorrow – off to Haarlem to get my tired looked at so I can bike to the dunes on Sunday.

If you can make it through the dark winter here, the rest of the year is well worth the wait!

Spring in Haarlem

This morning I went for a walk around our neighborhood.  In the middle of the night last night I had to get up and take a migraine pill, which meant that I really didn’t feel like running this morning.  But I did want to get out and walk.

The above photo was taken in a small park about 3 blocks from our house.  Daffodils are in bloom everywhere right now.  The crocuses have already come and gone.  It was a chilly but sunny morning and the only people out walking were people with dogs, or small kids, and me – the only single walker! People don’t walk on Sunday mornings it seems unless they have a dog or kid – or a camera.

I walked through the park, then along the canal next to the Jan Gijzekade.  I was looking for the black swans.  Every winter they disappear and I don’t know where they go, and then in Spring they are back along the canal.  This year there are 4! When we first moved here I only ever saw 2.  Then for a few years there were 3 – a pair and a singleton that I think is one of the pair’s offspring.  Now 4!  The pair are always swimming together.  The 3rd one hangs around with the pair but is not a partner with either of them.  The 4th one that I saw today was hanging out within site of the group of 3, but didn’t seem welcome or interested in swimming with them.

the pair

Last winter (2012-13) was so very cold and lasted well into June, and I don’t think any of the pair’s cygnets survived.  I didn’t see any anyway.  We’ve had a very mild winter this year and Spring has really started nicely, so maybe the pair will have young that will survive.  Maybe the 2 singles will soon have mates.  It’s just nice to see them back each year.


This morning I had such a need to go into the dunes and feel the trees around me. The sun was shining and the wind had died down from yesterday’s gales.

It’s been a stressful couple of days. I needed to get out and clear my head and get that peaceful feeling that only the trees and hills can give me.  I’m so thankful for the trees.

I found a new route to take, which turned out to be a fantastic loop, half in an area I’d never run before and half along the favorite well worn path.  Here’s the map of where I went, starting at the hockey fields near Santpoort Zuid, turning left off of the bike path, making my way to Volgelmeer (bird lake).  From the lake back to the hockey fields is the route we normally take.  The first half of the route, through the trees, is where I took the above photo.  As soon as I took the photo my stupid phone DIED, so I was lucky to get that one good shot!

Today I saw the highland cattle, rubbing their shaggy heads on trees.  It felt like Spring outside.  We haven’t really had a winter this year, but it’s still February and a little early to call it over.  The little birds have started to sing, and my rose bushes are starting to put out green shoots, so Spring can’t be far away.

Windy Day at the Beach

Windy Day
Windy Day

As we often do on Sundays, we went to the beach and dunes for a run/walk.  He ran, I walked.  And I took some photos.  It was sunny and cold and very windy.

The wind made interesting relief sculptures out of small stones and shells.

wind sculptures

I haven’t seen any animals here for quite a while.  I don’t know where they are hiding! I see lots of sheep and cattle poop, but not the animals themselves.  I did find a hole in the side of a hill where I think the fox lives.  Maybe I’ll have to do a stakeout and see if he comes out.

trees in dunes
winter lake


I started a new job in September.  The company I work for has offices and manufacturing facilities all over the world.  Since September I’ve been to Paris, Los Angeles and two cities in Thailand – Bangkok and Chiang Mai (the factory is actually in Lamphun, 30 minutes from Chiang Mai).  When I organized the trip to Thailand I made sure I had a weekend free so I could see a little bit of the country.  When you fly in on a Monday and work every day, you don’t see anything except highway, cars, hotel and work facilities.  I had never been to Thailand before.  Actually the only place in Asia I’d been was to Singapore and that was only for 2 days as layovers on the way to and from New Zealand.

Honestly, I was a little nervous traveling to Thailand on my own.  I was new and hadn’t met any of my colleagues there yet either.  All new and unknown.  By the end of the 9 days, I felt really comfortable and at ease and confident.  My Dutch colleague, HJ, calls Thailand “Asia-Lite” because it’s a very easy place for westerners to travel in.  Easy for him to say!  It was still a little scary for me.

My colleagues are incredibly nice and helpful and took great care of me.  I had lunch with them in local lunch spots and dinner at the best Japanese restaurant in Chiang Mai.  They made sure I had rides where and when I needed.  I hope next time I won’t be such a burden and can be more independent.  I loved touring the factories and seeing how people work.  I love factories in general anyway – stuff is really happening there!  Stuff is being MADE.  I’m a maker at heart – any kind of making I get excited and interested.

Anyway, the point of this blog post is to tell you about the elephants!  Before I left for Thailand, DB bought me a travel book.  I needed to find out what I could do on my free weekend.  I found a day trip to an elephant park.  Not just any park.  This is an Elephant Nature Reserve.  Elephants roam around free.  They form their own family groups.  They are not ridden or forced to perform stupid tricks for tourists.  Some are rescued from terrible circumstances and some were born on the park.  The center was started by an amazing woman named Lek Chailert.  They have a FB page of course.  Their web site is here.  You can book a trip in advance if you like.

On Saturday morning a van arrived at my hotel to pick me up.  I was the last on the route and there were already 8 others in the van.  We drove the 2 hours to the park and watched a short movie about the park while en route.  We got there around 10am which was feeding time.  All the tourists (there were probably 75 of us there on this day) were shy and hesitant.  The tour guides showed us what to do and how to feed them.  The elephants receive 60% of their food from humans and the rest they forage for themselves.


Here’s our guide, and just some of the food that is prepared for the elephants.


After feeding time we took a walk out into the meadow to a small group of females and a baby.  The baby was was about 9 months old.  One of the nannies is very old (60-70 years old) and the other nanny was injured in a logging accident and walks with a very bad limp.  Logging with elephants was only outlawed in the 1990’s in Thailand.  The practice continues in Cambodia and Myanmar.


We were able to walk right up to them and touch them and talk to them.  It was pretty amazing.  We also walked by the little hospital they have there where they treat elephants from the whole area.  This is an elephant tooth.

elephant tooth

And this is an 80 year old elephant.


After walking around a while it was time for lunch.  They set out long tables of hot food for all of us – very tasty.  I have to say, my tour group was not very social.  There were 4 couples and me and each couple really kept to themselves.  At other tables people were talking together and sharing travel stories.  Oh well.  I concentrated on the elephants.  I asked the tour guide lots of questions.


After lunch it was bath time.  We went down to the river and elephants joined us.  Not all of the elephants are allowed to come to the river with us.  One family group is super protective of their baby and get a little crazy in the water when strangers are around.  Another family group has a 3 month old baby and no one is allowed to get near enough to touch them as they are extremely protective and the baby is too young to interact safely with people.  All completely understandable.

We splashed around, throwing water on the elephants to clean old dirt off them.  Of course after the bath they head to the dirt and mud area and cover themselves again, which is what they are supposed to do.  The dirt keeps them free of bugs and sunburn.



After we washed some of the elephants, the family group that keeps to themselves came down to the river and we had to go up to the sky walk to be safe and keep them safe too.  After we watched them in the water, they all came walking towards the main building, where we were standing, and hung around like they were posing for photos.  In the end we were able to mingle with them and we all got used to each other.

The only elephant we really had to look out for was the Naughty Boy.  He’s just a teenager and like all teenage boys he likes to stir up trouble.  Everyone scatters when he comes around.  He’s not that big yet, however, even a small elephant running at full force can knock you down and cause you serious physical damage.


Here’s a photo of Lek with her elephants. There was also a guy with a big movie camera making a documentary for the Discovery Channel.  I’ll have to look out for that on tv!

It was soon time for feeding again.  And then late in the afternoon we went to see the 3 month old baby, his mother and 2 nannies.  The nannie on the left had half her right rear foot blown off when she stepped on a land mine while logging in Cambodia.  The baby is so adorable.


I made some short movies during the day.  It’s here on youtube.  If you watch to the end, you will see this family group with the 3 month old baby.  The nanny with the blown off foot is on the left of the screen.  You will see her thumping the ground with her trunk.  Only once do you hear it really well.  What an amazing sound!  And watch the baby try to imitate her!

You are welcome to look at all my photos here on flickr.

All in all, it was a great day.  It’s surprising to me how much of that day has stayed with me.  It had a big impact.  I want to go back.  I want to take DB there.  I encourage anyone who likes to travel or plans to travel to Thailand to go there and not go to the places where you can ride elephants.  We drove past one of those places and could see the elephants chained to cement pads waiting to be ridden around the roads.  This is not how an elephant should live.  And if you can’t get there but would like to help Lek save elephants (and water buffalo and other animals in Thailand and greater Asia), please donate to her organization.  She’s the real deal.