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!

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

…And…We’re Back

After being away from home for 3 weeks (except for a short day in between trips), it’s taking me a while to get everything organized at home and back in some kind of normal order. I’m still doing piles of laundry and sorting through piles of photos. Today I’m fighting with the “new” Flickr and still haven’t managed to upload my 400+ photos from my travels.

The photo above was taken in my mom’s garden. She has lots of beautiful flowers with birds and bees and butterflies zooming around through the plants. We had fantastic weather the 2 weeks we were there. It was so nice to get warmed up from the never ending winter in the Netherlands.

While in sunny CA we went to Chico to see my niece and her husband, to Yosemite National Park for Sunday Brunch at the Awahnee Hotel, and to Santa Cruz to meet some knitting friends and put my toes in the cold Pacific waters. Of course all during this time I was busy knitting away on my “Twice Born” shawl that is part of Mad May on Ravelry.  I have photos of all these events, but you’ll have to be patient. I’m trying to be patient with flickr.

I also spent 5 glorious days in Estonia for a conference on Traditional Knitted Sweaters Around the Baltic Sea. This was a fantastic experience that was over far too quickly. The weather was perfect, the people so friendly, the knitting and handwork beautiful and inspiring. Add good music and food and you have a little bit of perfection in 5 days. I would love to go back to Estonia to see more and learn more. Of course I have hundreds of photos of this event, but you’ll have to hold on and be satisfied with just this one, that I’ve taken from J.’s FB page.

I’m heading back to flickr now to see how things are progressing with my photo uploads.  More exciting stories and photos will be posted here in a day or so.

Photo Shoot

This afternoon DB and I headed into the dunes from Parnassia to take photos of me and my 2 new sweaters.  We had sun but it was very cold.  Unfortunately, few of the photos are any good.  I’m no model and DB is new to photography.  We do our best.  We did learn a lot and will head back out there to try again with the information gathered from this first try.  It would also be good if I could lose 15 pounds (6kg) in the next couple of weeks, but that’s not likely.

After the photo shoot, while walking back to the car, I took the above photo.  I don’t know what possessed me to change it to B&W since I don’t normally do B&W, but I’m glad I gave it a try.  I think it’s much nicer this way.  Here’s the original:

Over the next week I’ll see what I can salvage from the sweater photos and see what magic I can do in Photoshop.  Hey, if magazines can make models look “perfect”, I should be able to do the same, right?

Here’s my best photo from the day:

Indulgence on Friday

I had been meaning to get to the FOAM for months now to see the Diane Arbus exhibit there.  Today we finally made it.  We got there early before it got busy, which is good.  The FOAM is small with lots of hallways taking you from one small room to the next and I imagine if it’s crowded it wouldn’t be much fun.  I hate having to negotiate space with people in order to see things on walls.

If you want to see this exhibit, hurry, it ends 14 January.  There are not only photos taken by Dian Arbus, but what I found really interesting was the section about her life, how she became a photographer, what cameras she used, who hired her and what media she was involved with.

What DB and I both found curious about the photos chosen for the exhibit is that they were all so somber.  Looking at the books in the shop later, and looking at her original proof sheets on display, she had a lot of photos of happy looking people.  For some reason, whoever chose these particular photos to hang on the walls, didn’t use them.  No happy people allowed.  Curious.

Like all highly acclaimed artists, she makes her art look easy.  If you didn’t know better you’d come away thinking “well, I could have taken those photos”.  Well, no you couldn’t.  Look at how she used light.  Look how she used contrast.  What has she chosen to include, and more importantly exclude, in the picture frame.  That takes an eye that nearly everyone else doesn’t have.  When you look at the cameras she used it is even more amazing that she got those shots.  Even with all our fancy camera equipment available these days, that is fairly affordable, we take snapshots that no one will look twice at.  And I won’t even start about Instagram, something I really hate….

Looking at her first Nikon on display I had a momentary longing for my first 35mm camera, a Pentax with a 50mm lens.  Totally manual.  I took B&W film and developed the negatives and made prints in the darkroom at school.  It would take me days, even weeks, to come up with something I liked and would show anyone else.  A far cry from our instant everything digital world.

Going to this exhibit was inspiring for me.  If nothing else, it made me realize again that I need to carry my camera with me at all times.  Using my iPhone camera is just plain laziness.

Oh, btw, after the FOAM, we had lunch at an Irish pub.  We pretended to be tourists and had the full Irish breakfast.

Then we went to Soap and had hour long massages.  It was indeed a self indulgent day.

TodaysArt Festival

This past weekend we went to the TodaysArt festival in den Haag.  It’s a festival full of music, sculpture, video, film, dance and more I’m sure.  We only saw a small fraction of it.

Friday late afternoon we showed up and wandered into the City Hall Atrium.  We watched a team of people put finishing touches on the Landscape:

And watched Wolfgang prepare for his show later that evening as Mohn.

 

Unfortunately Mohn would be playing very late Friday night, past our bedtime, so I was really happy to get to hear a little of their music while they set up.

After we had some dinner we headed to the Lucent Danstheater and listened to “Music for Solaris”.

The music was played by the two composers, Ben Frost and Daniel Bjarnason and a small orchestra from Poland.  In the background a video played, using film from a movie adaptation and other manipulations.  It was often beautiful and surprising, very moody and captivating music.  My only criticism is that it went on just a little too long and in the end didn’t seem to have a connection between video and music.  The video ran out of steam and showed colored screens until the end of the music.  The actual end of the piece was lovely the way they dropped away to silence, but they should have done it 10 minutes earlier.

After that we went back to the City Hall Atrium to see that the lights had been set and everything looked very different.  Also, on the stage  was “Inneract”, another music/video concert, this time with a harp player and two keyboard/electronics players.  Here are some photos of the scene there.

Outside, in the Spuiplein, “The Vortex” was alive with music and lights.  It’s made of garbage that had been gathered from people in den Haag (The Hague in English).

Saturday we went back and watched the film “Outliers Vol. 1: Iceland”.  It was basically part documentary and part art film about 7 artists who went to Iceland to take photos and film and sound and create something from that.  It was so beautiful!  The country is beautiful and the images and sounds and music they made is also beautiful.  I really do have to go there.  Especially when the seasons are changing and there’s a chance of seeing lights in the sky.

We didn’t do much else Saturday at the festival because I was coming down with the flu.  By the time the movie was over I was already feverish.  We ate, then came home on the train.  I felt bad because there was still so much to see.  Oh well.  Next year.

The train home:

(All photos taken with Nikon D5100 and 50mm 1.8 manual focus lens (thanks Mom!), no photoshop done anywhere.)

End of Summer

You’d never know that last weekend we had summer-like weather and had to smear on sunscreen all weekend.  Gone.  All gone.  This morning I went to the beach to walk and take photos.  I took my big camera for a change.

I parked at Bloemendaal, where I took the above photo.  You can see that they are starting to tear down the summer restaurants.  Here too, a little further up the beach:

You can see how grey the morning was.  It was windy, but it wasn’t cold.  I walked up the beach to Parnassia.  It was a lot more lively than Bloemendaal, for one reason only….. DOGS!

There were little bitty dogs

Funny dogs:

and really really BIG dogs:

Herds of dogs, such as

6 Golden Labs owned by one family

3 Bernese Mountain dogs owned by one man and his son

2 very large poodle looking dogs owned by one couple

There was the very proud dog owner.  This man was smiling ear to ear with his little dog.  He was busy making movies of the dog fetching a stick.  Ahhhhh.

Eventually I ran out of dog beach and doubled back to head up into the dunes from Parnassia.  I figured, I wasn’t running, I needed the exercise, I already had my camera with me, so go into the dunes and walk to the little lake and see what you find.

The first thing I found was a herd of horses.  These wild horses roam around the dunes, north to south.  I don’t know if they are ever moved around by people or if they belong to anyone besides the National Park (this being Kennemer National Park).  I hadn’t seen them for nearly the whole summer.

And then there were the trees and flowers and grasses of the dunes:

As you can see in the last 2 photos, the sun finally did come out by the end of my walk.  And by the end of my walk I was TIRED!  I had not intended to walk for nearly 2 hours, but once you are that far from your car you have no choice but to walk back.  I often have this problem.  I want to walk farther and farther and I deny to myself that getting back will be long and tiring.  I always make it back though.

When I left the house I was feeling kind of bad because I wasn’t running or biking.  I felt like a lazy slug, taking the car and a camera.  But by the time I had walked all that way through sand and hills, I realized how good it was for me and how well it cleared my head.  And I have the photos as a bonus!

Into The Great Wide Open

We spent the last weekend, actually a 4 day weekend, on Vlieland, the second of the chain of islands at the top end of the Netherlands.  This last weekend was the Into The Great Wide Open festival.

We drove to Harlingen, over the Afsluitdijk.

We took a boat across the Waddenzee to Vlieland.

We set up our tent at Lange Paal campground.

Luckily there are small trucks that carry all your stuff from Harlingen to the campground.  You are not allowed to take a car onto the island and everyone rents bikes to get around the island.  Here’s what camping looks like on Vlieland.

After we got our tent set up we hopped on our bikes and headed to the festival grounds.  Just like everyone else!

The festival officially started Friday afternoon, which is when we got there, but we heard that there were some unofficial, impromptu, gatherings and performances on Thursday night when people started to arrive.

There are 3 main areas where bands/musicians are playing, plus other areas where you can find art and activities (especially for kids).  The sports field is where the main stage was located, along with loads of food stands and a tiny ferris wheel and merchandise sales (very minimal).  A short walk from there was the Buiten (outside) stage which was set in the woods and was cozy and small.  Then, a bike ride away, up the hill near the lighthouse, was another small stage, the Vuurbuitsduin.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the weekend:

Whole pigs being roasted on a spit:

Kids running around collecting glasses.  They got 1 munt (2.50 euros) for every 20 glasses they returned.  The glasses were washed and reused all weekend.  These kids were tenacious!

It’s definitely a kid-friendly festival.  There were lots of things for them to do (besides collect glasses), such as “make your own poffertjes” (little pancakes).  There was also a place for them to make their own pizza.

Friday night we walked down to the beach.

And watched the sun set.

There was an art event on the beach earlier, but we missed it.  I did get a really nice photo of the piano though.

I love that photo!  It reminds me of Neil Young’s “On The Beach”.

We also went to the Vuurboetsduin stage late Friday night.  We didn’t like the music, but the stage and the setting was super.

Saturday afternoon was also spent on the hill, now in brilliant sunshine.

By the time Adrian Young took the stage, the place was packed.  Adrian and his band were great, and the band stay around after their set and mingled with the crowd, signing records and chatting.  It’s that kind of festival.

Back at the sport field and the main stage, things were heating up (or “hotting up” as the English say), with Alt-J:

And Balthazar (we are big fans of Balthazar):

And sake tasting (3 glasses per tasting with a nice explanation from the seller about each type of sake):

This photo was taken Sunday morning, at the Buiten stage, around 11:00 in the morning.  It was beautiful, sunny, in the trees, sitting on the forest floor drinking coffee and listening to interviews and music.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning!

Anne Soldaat being interviewed.  He sang for us afterwards.

Back to the main stage late in the afternoon and Dio was whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

Now there were turkeys on the spit:

And the sun was still shining.  How lucky were we!

Oh! I forgot to mention that we also spent some time hanging out in the sun on the dike that runs along the south side of the island.

You could see tall ships off in the distance.

And walking down from the lighthouse you could see the boats stuck in the mud of low tide.

The festival ended Sunday early evening and we made it an early evening ourselves.  I think we were laying in our sleeping bags before 10:00pm!  We were beat.  Monday morning we broke camp and loaded our stuff into the truck at the campground (after a last minute panicked search for bike lock keys stuffed into a backpack already loaded onto the truck! ok- my fault) and biked back to the harbor.  We returned the bikes and waited in the drizzling weather for our boat.  Somehow the weather had been beautiful all weekend and then started to rain the minute we left.  Talk about timing.

I haven’t talked much about music in this blog post, and music is the whole point of this festival.  Clearly from  my photos I think it’s about a whole lot more than the music!

My highlights of the weekend:  the weather, Vlieland itself – GORGEOUS, Sunday morning music and forest setting, and the great company (DB, K & P) and the festival organization in general – oh and real flush toilets!  Food highlights: Vietnamese, apple tarts, roasted pig and sake tasting. Music highlights: Janne Schra, Balthazar, Alt-J, Dirty Beaches (a little story about THAT coming up).  The negatives? Hmmm, hard to find negatives.  The food we had Sunday (old chicken and corn that wasn’t edible). That’s about it.

The festival is limited to 5,000 tickets and they plan to keep it that way.  We were lucky to get tickets.  You can only buy them online, starting at a certain date and time and they sold out within minutes.  Having a festival on Vlieland forces them to keep it small.  The island can only accommodate 8,000 people in total, including people who live there year round (about 1,100).  I really hope we can score tickets again next year.  I wouldn’t miss it!

OK, the story about Dirty Beaches.  They (a 3 person band) were playing at the small (tiny) stage across the field from the main stage.  They are from Toronto.  They play loud grating music that isn’t to everyone’s taste.  The singer looked like an Eskimo and seemed just a little crazy.  At the end of the short set he jumped off the stage and ran around hugging people in a manic fashion.  He wrapped one arm around DB and another arm around someone else and dragged them back and forth through the crowd.  Someone shouted “til hem op!” (lift him up) and they crowd surfed him around.  Finally he came to the ground and ended the set on stage.  It was during that meelee that DB’s sunglasses went flying, never to be seen again.  His good sunglasses that he bought in Chico.  Oh well.  It was funny and fun and we are now fans.

Here is a flickr set of my photos from the weekend.  I could really write up a story about each photo, but it would be too long and become boring.  You had to be there.

Critters

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.