And Then There Were Two

cars

There are now TWO cars, belonging to this household, parked in front of out house.  This is a normal situation for an American household with more than one adult in the house, but it is not normal here.  Some households don’t have a car at all.  In this household there is only one person with a driver’s license, so two cars is a bit excessive.

The one on the left is the Amazing C2.  I bought it new exactly 8 years ago and it has been a fantastic little car.  It still IS fantastic! We call it Amazing because it always amazes us how much stuff you can fit into that little car.  Go to IKEA, fill it up, it works.  With only two people, it’s been just big enough to do what we want to do.

The one on the right is the new, as of 3 days ago, member of the family.  A brand spanking new Prius.  Of course Toyota changes the model names for every country where they sell these, so it’s hard to tell you WHICH Prius it is.  Here in NL, it is the Prius Dynamic Business, with the built in a Solar Ventilation System and electric sun roof, backup camera, and all those other Prius bells and whistles.  It’s pretty amazing. I love it.

I’m still getting used to driving a bigger car though.  When I moved to NL I brought with me an Audi A4 station wagon, which was even longer than the Prius.  I was used to a big car then.  Of course in Switzerland there is more room for parking and driving and it’s easier to have a big car.  Here in NL, you have to be an excellent parallel parker and be used to competing on the roads with bikes everywhere, pedestrians, scooters, buses, trams….. I’m used all this traffic now, but when I first moved here I was sure I would kill a biker.

So now comes the big job of selling the C2.  It’s 8 years old but only has 38k km on it!  Can you believe it?  That’s less than lots of people drive in a single year!  If you know of anyone in NL looking for a great little city car, one owner, low km, please let me know!

Rembrandt in His Square

I went to Amsterdam this evening to have dinner with my friend J. and before I got to the restaurant I took this photo at Rembrandtplein. The statues are back!

These are life sized statues of the famous Night Watch painting figures. 4 1/2 years ago when my mom came to visit they were also here and I took a photo of my mom standing next to them. Then at some point a couple of years ago they were taken away. The Square was remodeled and now they are back. It’s good to have the statues there. I like them. I hope you can kind of see them with this dark photo taken with an iPhone.

Today Queen Beatrix announced that at the end of April she will step down and her son and daughter-in-law will become King and Queen. This is not a surprise but it is big news. The national holiday of Queen’s Day will, in 2014, become King’s Day and will move from 30 April to 27 April. This year, on Queen’s Day, there will be a ceremony and I’m guessing an even bigger party all over the country. If you’re planning to visit at that time, come with plenty of orange clothes.

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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!

Announcement

I have an announcement to make.
London will just have to do without us. We aren’t moving. We are staying in lovely Haarlem and that is just fine with us.

It’s a long story, and as this is a very public forum, I will not go into the details. Don’t bite the hand that feeds and right now that hand is still feeding me so no details for you faithful readers! Suffice it to say that the company I work for is going through some difficult and strange times which means it is not a good time to sell a house and uproot your family to a foreign country, no matter how friendly and nice that country is. I still have a job, for now, but the future is uncertain. The company is going to restructure, that has been announced, but no one knows yet who will be affected or how. We won’t know until mid-December. Merry Christmas.

For now I’m commuting to London quite often. In the last four weeks I’ve gone to London every week for a three day stretch, then worked in Amsterdam the rest of the days. It’s tiring. Even that schedule isn’t set in stone, though, and for the next two weeks I’m staying full time in the Netherlands. During those commuting weeks I’ve been flying to London and taking the train home. The train is wonderful. I highly recommend it.

So! We took our house off the market and are trying to fall in love again with the house and garden and neighborhood. It’s a funny thing. When you think you are leaving you find all the reasons to be glad about it – I didn’t want to fix that fence anyway – I’ll be glad to be rid of that small toilet in the hallway – we won’t have to finish painting after all. But now that we are staying all those things are ours again. We will eventually have to replace that rotting back fence. It will be really nice to finish the painting next Spring.

I always viewed NL as my (adopted) home and knew that we would move back here one day. And now I have to turn my thoughts and emotions around to being happy to not leave here at all. When I’m in London I see what an amazing city it is and how much it has to offer, and when I come home I see how small and provincial Haarlem is, but also how much I like it here. I like being so close to the sea. I like the small city center with all the great shops. I like that it’s quiet after midnight.

I will try to write here more often. It’s been a rough past four weeks. Hopefully I’ve found a level of “zen” where I’m taking things one week at a time. I hope to have more space going forward to write more often.

14 million, plus 2

What’s the big news?  We’re moving to London!

So.  It’s out now.  I had to wait until DB told his boss that he’s quitting his job and moving to London before I could write about it here.  He thinks at least one of his colleagues reads this blog.  Hmmmm, I only know 6 people who read it, but I can’t really know, can I?

Anyway, we are moving because I have a new job and it’s in London.  It’s a great job, otherwise I wouldn’t put us both through this turmoil.  We’ve decided to sell our house.  DB is quitting his job.  It’s a lot to ask.  It better be a damned AMAZING job.

Also as a consequence I’m closing down Yarns Apart.  I have a big sale going on now, so if you are looking for some special yarn, go check it out now before it’s all gone.  The prices listed are the sale prices and include 19% Dutch VAT.  If you live outside the EU, the 19% will be taken off your shopping cart amount when you enter your ship to address.

Also as a consequence I probably won’t be posting here so often.  We are super busy getting our house ready to put on the market and just getting everything ready for this big event.  I start my new job in October but will commute for 3 months.  In January we need to be living in London.

I do have a few photos for you.  I quickly knit up this baby cardigan and hat.  My new boss just had a baby.  Well, his wife did.  No, this is not brown nosing.

The above photo is the most accurate for color.  The yarn is Pigeonroof Studios Sport weight in 80% merino, 10% cashmere and 10% nylon.  The pattern is Sunnyside Baby Sweater (the cable version).  The pattern calls for fingering weight yarn, but I had sport weight, so I made the smallest size and ended up with the middle size when finished.  I improvised the hat to match the cable and garter pattern of the sweater.  I think it is just adorable!

And what’s on my needles now?  I’m still working on the first part of a lace shawl, which is taking forever.  I’m still working on a second sock (of my own design).  And I’ve just cast on a brioche vest, of my own design, that will be fabulous!  I hope.  I promise to at least keep up the blog with knitting photos.  And running news.  And moving news.  And that’s all that’s happening in my life anyway!

On the Home Front

We finally have heat!

That’s only a slight exaggeration.  Our living room has one small radiator. It’s just not enough to keep the winter cold at bay.  This was the SECOND winter without enough heat in this room and I was REALLY fed up with that!  Our fireplace didn’t work correctly.  First it leaked smoke upstairs, then we thought that was fixed, but it wasn’t.  It wouldn’t work at all and only filled the living room with smoke.  Not good.

Then we hired an expert to rebuild the fireplace into a built-in wood burner with a glass front and new pipe up the chimney.  He was doing a great job, until he fell off our roof and broke his hip.  He was lucky he didn’t break his head into little pieces.

I just happened to be home the day he was working on the final part of the job – putting the new pipe down the chimney.  He was up on the peak of the roof (4 stories up).  I was in the attic working on the computer.  I heard a big thump thump bang clang coming down the roof.  I thought he dropped a tool.  I thought I’d better go make sure everything was ok.  I got half way down the stairs when I heard him outside the front of the house moaning.  OMG.

Do you know the emergency number to call in the Netherlands?  I grew up knowing 911.  Luckily I remembered that here it is 112.  I sat with him and told him everything would be ok and made sure he didn’t move (he kept trying to move) until the ambulance got here.  It was the longest 4 minutes ever.

They strapped him onto a gurney and took him away.  He could just talk a little but was in a lot of pain.  Like I said, he was lucky to have only broken his hip.  We have only bricks in the front of our house, which is what he landed on.

Later that day his parents came by to tell us how he was and that he would be out of commission for a couple of months at least.  One week later his dad and another guy came to our house and finished the work.  We now have a working wood burner, a warm living room, and a memory of a traumatic day.

Bas, the old cat, has discovered the new fireplace.  He figured this out right away and proceeded to take over the warmest place in the house.  Everything for Bas.

Now that Spring is around the corner we have heat in the living room.  We’ll wait until the summer to buy a load of wood to take us through next winter.   I don’t think I will dread it so much now.

Politically Incorrect

While looking around at different kinds of web shops that people have set up, I came upon a web shop for head scarves (hoofddoek in Dutch).  Looking at the photos of the scarves for sale, I got to thinking…. head scarves should become a fashion statement.  We should all start wearing them.  There are some really beautiful scarves out there!  And you’d never have to worry about having a bad hair day.

I don’t know why left leaning women haven’t picked this up and started it already.  Just imagine the horror on Geert Wilders face when his daughter comes home wearing one.  If everyone is wearing a hoofddoek then there’s no discrimination possible anymore is there?  At least none based on what you wear on your head.

Of course this is probably terribly politically (or religiously) incorrect.  Wearing a head scarf for muslim women shows a respect for the religion.  It would be blaspheme to wear one without that religious belief.  Or would it?  It’s just a piece of cloth after all.  And frankly, if you saw all the teenage girls wearing head scarves, and how they act, you would wonder too just how much religion has to do with any of this.  And continuing along these lines, since when has the heart of any religion played any real role in politics?  I mean seriously – people have been killing each other forever in the name of religion.  How can you even take religion seriously anymore?

But I digress….

The other day I got a calendar in the mail from the Wollmeise, the goddess (keeping to the religious theme on this Sunday morning) of indie yarn dyers.  She produced the calendar to be sold, online, and the proceeds go to Terre des Hommes, a very worthy cause.  I was pretty happy to get this calendar in the mail and, as any good blogger would do, I took a photo of it and posted it here on the blog.  I also posted this small photo on a couple of forums on Ravelry, to show off my new purchase.

On the Wollmeise group on Ravelry, my post was quickly edited to remove the photo from the calendar and I was asked politely to remove all my photos from all places on the internet.  WTF?  She promised all the models that their photos would not end up on the internet.  Well, I took them all down because, well, you just don’t want to piss off the Wollmeise and ever hope to pay a normal price for her yarn again.  She has an ARMY of devotees (acolytes?) who will hunt you down and shun you from all Wollmeise commerce.  Seriously.

But I think she is very naive to believe those photos will remain only on the physical walls of those who purchased them.  She is not censoring who buys her calendars.  We didn’t sign any agreement regarding what we can or cannot do with the calendar.  It’s a web shop!  I’m sure there a lot of people out there who are not as polite as me who will just say “screw you and your silly agreements” and will post photos of the calendars where ever they want.  I may end up there myself.  The more I think about it the more I’m annoyed that some stranger (albeit a Wollmeise approved stranger) tells me to take down a photo and I just comply.  I might end up showing you that photo again anyway.  They are such great photos that I can’t imagine the models NOT wanting their photos all over the internet.  They should be proud.

Last week, again on Ravelry, I started a topic on the Sock Knitters Anonymous forums asking “When will we talk about December?”.  You see, every month there is a new KAL and challenge.  I wanted to start planning for December.  It’s only a week away!  My topic was quickly locked by a Mod (Moderator for those not in the know) and I was told that we will discuss December when the time is right and not before.  Harrumph!  Man, whatever happened to being able to say what you want without being shut down all the time.

I think I’m beginning to feel that everything I say is just inappropriate somehow.  I’m a little fed up with that!   Everyone in the world is just too tetchy these days.  “Live and let live” seems to be a quaint fantasy of the 60’s, even here in the Netherlands.  You think that this is an open minded place where anything goes?  Think again.  If that were true then people like Geert Wilders would never have an audience, and he definitely has one these days.

I begin to lose the plot lately.  I don’t know anymore who I’m going to offend and when.  I’m just going to go on, doing what I want, and if I offend you, I didn’t mean to, and if I sound naive, just blame it on old age.  I’ll be old eventually.

What We Watch

We are big fans of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.  You can watch them online.  We do.

Last night I worked late (just like tonight) and by the time I got home DB had just enough energy to watch THIS Colbert Report clip, which, if you live in the Netherlands, or know anyone who does, or you know anything about the Netherlands, or speed skating, or sports in general….. you’ll like this.  Check it out.

Amsterdam vs. Fox = no contest

Fox “News” is usually full of crap, and this stunt is no different than their usual nonsense trying to pass itself off as “news”.  They reported not long ago that “Amsterdam is a cesspool of corruption, crime, eveything is out of control. It’s anarchy.”  Wow.  I missed that day.

Here’s a little summary of what they reported.  And HERE is a Dutch person’s response, which has become a hit on YouTube.  Be sure to note the FACTS in the film, and also the CREDITS at the end. Thank you Robbert Nieuwenhuijs for making this movie.

Sorry to put the shouting ALL CAPS in this post, but this kind of crap on tv just infuriates me.  How many Americans believe this kind of nonsense?  Fox should be shut down on the grounds that it is propaganda against other countries, races and beliefs.  First Amendment or not, racism, xenophobia and just plain stupidity should be illegal.

Tonight on BBC 2 is a documentary by Louis Theroux about a city addicted to crystal meth. The city? Fresno, California, not 60 miles from where I grew up. You bet I’ll be watching it and I’ll let you know what I think about it. I’ll probably record it. Here’s a quote from the BBC:

Louis Theroux visits Central Valley, California – home to some of the most impoverished rural towns in America, where crystal-meth addiction is among the most prolific in the USA.

In Fresno, Louis finds a community ravaged by this cheap and highly addictive drug. It is hard to find anyone whose life hasn’t been touched by this drug in one way or another.

As he infiltrates the town, Louis comes face to face with meth abuse as addicts invite him into their homes. He becomes surrounded by the madness of daily addiction and the meth-addled confusion which is breaking this society apart.

Louis sees its impact through the eyes of the local police force and meets Diane and Karl, a couple who have sustained their marriage, despite 25 years of meth addiction and the loss of the custody of their five children.

At residential centre Westcare, Louis sees the work being done to combat the destruction caused by the drug. Run by ex-addicts, the centre offers a six-month rehab programme. Louis sees the extraordinary challenges faced by the centre which deals with a whole range of issues: from old timers, who repeatedly return to rehab programmes; to young meth-addicted families; and babies who are born, hooked, to mothers who are trying to care for them while trying to kick their own habit.

At Westcare, Louis meets Senteka, the mother of a teenaged daughter. Senteka is making a last-ditch attempt to kick meth in order to make up for missing her daughter’s childhood. As the majority of those attempting to kick their addiction eventually relapse, all Louis can do is hope that Senteka is telling the truth when she swears that she is “clean”.

Addiction is laid bare as Louis seeks out the stories and the people behind the drug.

I can’t imagine any story like this in the Netherlands.  OK, Volendam is the butt of many drug related jokes, but nothing to this extreme.  I was thinking today while riding a tram around Amsterdam – we are so lucky here.  This is the biggest city in the country and we feel safe and people are taken care of.  I dare those Fox talking heads to come here and tell the truth.

What’s in the Media?

 

Homeknitpastries on Etsy
Homeknitpastries on Etsy

 

 

I don’t often read Dutch newspapers.  It’s just so much work and I’m just too lazy to do it.  We do watch the evening news, about half the time, but it’s not very long or in depth.  I miss watching “60 Minutes”.  Sometimes I feel like I live in my own little bubble without knowing what’s going on in the world.  Every morning over breakfast I read Google News, but that’s just really quick headlines and always leaves me feeling like I’ve just eaten fast food – it takes up my time, but I don’t feel any more informed for having read it.

Lately I’ve started listening to more podcasts.  I really enjoy Planet Money and Fresh Air, both from NPR.  If anyone can make sense of this financial crisis and what governments and banks are up to, the people at Planet Money can and they can explain it so that you and I can understand it.  Fresh Air is a series of interviews of people from all areas of public life, past and present.  They aren’t necessarily “news”, but are always interesting and enlightening.

DB and I also watch The Daily Show, streamed from here.  Most of that is comedy, but he always does a serious interview as well.

If I’m feeling like I have money in my pocket and I happen to pass a newsstand, I’ll pick up The Economist.  It’s partly about economics, but mostly it’s a news magazine along the lines of Newsweek, but it’s much more in depth and much less slanted than the American news magazines.

As for fun media, I am once again a Brenda Dayne fan and her Cast-On podcast.  I like to knit while listening, but even better, I like to RUN while listening.  Brenda makes my run just fly by and I don’t even notice that I’ve done another kilometer.  Actually, after trying a few other knitting pod casts, Brenda is the only one I still listen to.  

There are the usual knitting mags that I routinely get, but the other day I actually bought a Vogue Patterns magazine.  It’s been years since I sewed anything for myself.  Honestly I can’t remember the last item of clothing I sewed.  I do know how.  My mom taught me to sew at a very young age and I made my own school clothes until I was no longer in school (including Grad School).  I’m feeling the itch to sew again.  I think that is mostly to do with the fact that I can’t find any clothes in the shops here that 1) fit; 2) I like; 3) I want to pay the high price for.  Maybe I’ll have to get out the sewing machine and buy some fabric Monday on the Noordermarkt.

While I’m talking about knitting and sewing, how about baking?  How about a love of pastries and knitting all rolled into one?  My new friend (who I bought the wild colored Lorna’s Laces sock yarn from a few weeks ago) has opened an Etsy shop to sell her home knit pastries.  The photo above is just one of her gorgeous products.   I saw one of them in person and they are just amazing.  Her work is perfect and she really takes the time to find just the right yarn to represent the food we love to eat.  Good luck with the new shop!

Wandering around my thoughts about media is the movie that we saw on Tuesday night – “The Reader“.  If you haven’t seen this movie, DO!  I can’t get it out of my head.  The acting is superb.  And the story….. what would YOU have done if you were Hannah?  What would YOU have done if you were Michael?  Would you have kept Hannah’s secret all those years?  Why did he do that?  DB sees this movie as mostly a love story with a bit of morality thrown in.  I see it as at least 50/50 morality play/love story.  I was more captivated by imagining Germany in the post-war years and trying to understand how people would live after such a defeat and trying to reconcile the parts they played during the war.  It was a love story, but one with more complications than you or I will ever deal with (let’s hope).

Well, that’s me for today.  More news tomorrow on another reclaimed Norwegian sweater that is currently being felted………..