Rituals

Now that all of our habits are under scrutiny, I really notice how important these habits and rituals are to us humans. Maybe you habitually go to the grocery store on Saturday mornings and shop for the week. Maybe you habitually get up at a certain time during the week, do habitual things to get ready to go to work, and then do habitual things when you get home again. Rituals and habits give us the calm illusion that life is ok and there is nothing to worry about.

And now we can’t do most of those things, while we wait for the wave of virus sickness to pass over us, or to hit us.

I’m living with DB and his elderly parents in a small house. When you live this close with people you really learn their habits, or at least the habits they hold on to in a time of crisis.

This morning, Sunday, I came downstairs to find both parents-in-law dressed as if going to an afternoon party or possibly to church. Every other day they also shower and dress for going outside the house. Which they don’t do. But they are ready for it just in case it’s a possibility.

So far, during these 3 weeks of not going out, I have stayed in sweats all day only once. Only once! It seems that if others in the house make the effort to shower and dress then that is the least I can do to keep up the atmosphere of normality. So I do this.

My in-laws have other rituals that they stick to no matter what. Every day at noon we put a table cloth on the dining table and pull out all the bread and stuff to put on bread and make tea and fresh orange juice and have lunch. They bow their heads and do a silent prayer before and after lunch. DB and I silently stare at our plates. Maybe DB is also praying. I don’t know. After lunch we put everything away and fold up the table cloth and put it in a drawer. We repeat this exercise at dinner. Every single day.

Well, not every day any more because we have asked for Sundays off from the ritual. Can we please come downstairs whenever we want on Sundays and take care of our own breakfast and lunch on Sundays? Of course that is fine. A small concession to the daily rituals.

My new habit: from Monday through Friday in the mornings from 8-12 I spend time doing useful things for our household, or soon to be new household. I research washers and dryers to find what we want and where to buy them and who is still open and delivering. I do banking. I found us a guy to sand and oil our wood floor in the new house. And I do what chores I can around here like laundry or looking for something to cook for dinner that everyone in the house would like.

In the afternoons during the week I do what I want. Lately I’ve been going upstairs and watching something on Netflix and knit. Or listen to a podcast and knit. Or spend time on Ravelry. In any case, it is my time to do what I want to keep sane. Lately the sun has been shining bright upstairs in that little room and that also makes me feel better.

DB is working from home, so he stays downstairs and sets up his “office” on the dining table, between the meal rituals, setting up and tearing down his laptop, mouse, keyboard, notebooks, etc. Twice a day.

These are our new routines. Our new habits. And we count our blessings that we can hold fast to them while others are not so fortunate.

The above photo is my Foldlines sweater. I’m just a few rounds short of dividing for armholes. I’ve been working on this pretty exclusively the past few days because I really want to finish it before it gets too warm to wear it. It’s going to be a really warm sweater! Worsted weight yarn knit on size US5 (3.75mm) needles makes a pretty dense fabric. But it does show the stitch pattern really well.

Knitting every single day is a habit that I hold on to even harder in this time of crisis. As long as my hands and head are busy creating something beautiful, I can still have hope that everything will be alright in the end.

Double

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I started this project the day after I landed in the Netherlands. This is yarn that I bought at Stitches West a few weeks ago. My friends, the Yarniacs, took me by the hand and lead me to the Sincere Sheep booth, introduced me to the dyer/owner, and helped me to pick out this color. Such enablers! This is worsted weight yarn, from Cormo sheep in Wyoming. I wanted something special from the U.S. to make a new sweater and this yarn is indeed special. It feels wonderful in my hands.  It is not superwash so it is not slippery in my hands but has a really sturdy yet next to skin soft feel. The texture is just perfect for the sweater I’m making – Foldlines by Norah Gaughan. Here is the photo from the Ravelry page.

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As you can see, I’m knitting the body in the round even though the pattern says to knit it in pieces.  It’s an even 22 stitch repeat, so why not knit this in the round up to the underarms? There will still be shoulder and armhole seams for structural strength.

DB and I are now “camping” out at his parents house in NL while we organize a home of our own. Changing countries is not an easy process.  It’s stressful and takes a lot of time and effort.  When we moved to the US I was working full time and DB did a lot of the organizing while he wasn’t working.  Now it’s the reverse.  He is working full time and I’m organizing and sorting things out.  He did of course start the process here in NL while I was still in the US, but I think I will be taking that over now. Certainly a lot of the house stuff.

We’ve made an offer on a house, which was accepted, so now we are starting the search for financing and also making budgets for what we have to buy and what to do next. We sold nearly everything we had when we left the US and now we need to buy what will fit nicely into our new home. Exciting, yes! But a lot of work.

The Dutch have an expression “Het voelt dubbel”. “It feels double”.  You might think that the feeling the person is talking about is felt doubly strong, like feeling doubly upset or doubly sad.  But that is not what it means at all.  People keeping asking me how it feels to be back in the Netherlands.  I reply “het voelt dubbel” meaning I feel at both extremes – very happy and very sad. The expression means that you feel both sides of a situation. It’s an interesting view into Dutch culture because this expression is used a lot. Dutch people have the reputation of being open minded and I think this is an example of that. They see both sides of situations and feel both sides of situations all the time and express it in “feeling double”.

I’m really really sad that we left the US when we did and in the manner we did. My job was not only awful, but the company was busy downsizing and it was only a matter of time before my turn would come. We needed to make decisions about our future, not let some company make it for us.

Also, living in Southern California wasn’t easy. It was stressful. It was hard on body and soul. This was a surprise to us and not what we expected when we moved there. But that was the reality and it was clear that staying, even if I found another job (which wasn’t happening no matter how hard I looked), was probably not a good idea.

When DB got the job in Amsterdam I cheered! I was so happy because this meant that I could quit my terrible job and we could go back to a place where we would feel safe and secure and life could be relatively calm again.

But this also meant leaving my mom in California and that makes me very very deeply sad. I don’t really want to talk about it.

And so I feel double. In the past few days, being back here in NL, I’ve felt so completely at home. This is where I belong. I never felt so at home in SoCal, but I do here. I dropped right back in to speaking Dutch all the time. I’m excited about our new house and new life. But I’m sad to leave people in the US and I feel like our leaving so soon was a kind of failure. It was not the plan to leave so soon. Het voelt dubbel.

Yesterday I took the train to Haarlem to look at some house stuff.  While there I had a favorite Dutch snack – kibbeling – pieces of batter dipped and deep fried fish. Yum! 67E01011-87B0-4826-A220-4AC6873047D3

Weversmarkt

Today was the yearly Weversmarkt in Hoorn (weavers market).  There were, at last count, 140 vendors selling everything from weaving looms and supplies, to knitting yarn, to felting stuff, buttons, spinning supplies and more.  We were 7 and stayed all day.  Luckily it was sunny and very warm all day!

I bought a few things.

Two skeins of Kauni in blues, purples and greens and a skein of grey to go with it.  I’m going to make a “swing knitting” shawl with that.  I bought 2 skeins of undyed sock yarn for, well, dying.  I bought a pair of felted baby shoes my hair dresser (her baby of course).  And buttons.  Just look at how fabulous these buttons are!

And I bought a hat.  I don’t wear hats, but this hat is just perfect.

Here are some photos from the day….

You can see all my photos from the day here.  I will definitely go again next year. This was the best market I’ve been to in the Netherlands, for what I’m interested in anyway.  I didn’t get to try any spinning on a wheel, but I did get to see a few, which was also pretty interesting.  I’m still thinking about getting a wheel.  Yes, I need a new hobby like a need a hole in my head, but that’s never stopped me before!

Of Windmills and Color

Yesterday G. and I rode our bikes to the Zaanse Schans to buy dyes for dyeing yarn and fabric.  It was a glorious day!

I suggested going to the windmill De Kat to buy these dyes because I knew the weather would be nice.  G. suggested going by bike, which made me gulp and exclaim “bike!?”.  I’d never biked that far in my life and was a little nervous about it.  Silly me.  It was great.

We met part way there because she lives in Amsterdam and me in Haarlem.  We met at bike route point #11, which is where one of the many ferries takes cars and bikes across the North Sea Canal.  She had mapped the whole thing out using “Fiets!” app, which also has a web site where you can see your routes and upload and download them.  Luckily, here in NL, the country is crisscrossed by numbered and marked bike routes.  My route yesterday was this:

We biked through small towns and past fields of sheep and ponds with ducks and geese.  We got a little bit lost in Zaandam because there wasn’t a sign where we should have made a left turn.  It’s times like that that I’m happy to have GPS on my phone!  We were soon back on course.  We biked past not one, but TWO chocolate factories which smelled so strong it was almost (but not quite) sickening.  We can smell the chocolate in Amsterdam and Haarlem when the wind is right.

G. couldn’t believe I’d never been to Zaanse Schans before.  I live with a Dutchman.  Why would he want to relive his school trips with me?  I feel bad that I didn’t go there with my mom when she was here.  I just didn’t know how nice it was.  And how close to home.

We only went to the one windmill, De Kat, because we were on a mission to buy dyeing stuff, and because we didn’t want to get home too late in the afternoon.  There were tourists, but it wasn’t super crowded.  We climbed up the stairs to the middle layer of the mill, where the works are inside and the walkway is outside.

There’s a small gift shop and we asked where we would buy the dyes.  The woman said “oh you have to get Piet to take you to the back room”.  Piet was dressed in traditional clothes, including wooden shoes, and carried his bone pipe with him.   He took us through the door marked “Private”, into a fantastic room filled with magic powders.

Nearly all of the products they sell are for making your own paints.  Only a very small part of it, just one “bookcase” was for fabric and wool dyes.  That’s ok.  It’s enough for us to play with!  Isn’t this a fantastic place?

G. wanted a photo with Piet to send to her mom.  Here it is.  Very sweet.

I bought more stuff than I was planning on buying.  I couldn’t resist.  I bought cochineal which is very expensive.  I’ve never dyed with it before so I’m looking forward to playing with that.  Logwood, which I have used before.  Fustic and woad, which are new to me.  I also bought some chemicals for mordants and modifiers – alum and iron and potash.  I was looking for copper for a modifier, but they didn’t have it and I suspect you can’t buy it anymore because it is dangerous to use.  Just as well I couldn’t get it.  I also bought a sweet little book of recipes which included bits of yarn as samples.

We had a quick sandwich in the area and hopped back on our bikes to head home.  G. left me at Zaandam to head to Amsterdam and I pedaled back the way I had come.  I have to say, by the time I reached the ferry I was pooped!  Still 8km to go.  When I was on the ferry you could see in the distance a big cruise ship coming up the canal heading for Amsterdam.  I stopped on the other side and took a few photos of it.  I wanted to include the boat watchers.  I found it really funny that people would drive to this point, get out their chairs and picnic stuff and hang out watching boats come and go on the canal.  Plane spotters and train spotters and now boat spotters.  Takes all kinds.

I biked 40km (24 miles) in total yesterday.  When I got home at around 3pm I put my head under the kitchen faucet and ran cold water.  The farthest I’d ever biked before was 20km to the beach and back.  This was twice as far.  I felt really tired but really good.  Today my legs feel tired, but not sore and not nearly as bad as I was expecting.  I even went to knit night last night in Amsterdam and BIKED to the train station!

I complain a lot lately about getting older and how my body is changing.  I don’t like it.  Not at all.  Getting old sucks.  Pains popping up where there weren’t any last week.  Swollen fingers and sleepless nights.  And then I go for a bike ride like this and I count my blessing over and over again.  I’m so happy I can do this.  Getting old sucks, but getting old in style is pretty ok.

p.s. If you want to know how to change the direction that a windmill is facing, you can find out HERE.

Estonia

It seems like ages ago that I was in Estonia, but it was actually just a month ago.  I don’t know where the time goes.  I do realize that I’m a terrible travel writer if a whole month has gone by and I still haven’t written about this trip.  I have uploaded 488 photos to flickr but haven’t put names or labels to them, nor have I edited any of them.  It is such a daunting task! Maybe you will enjoy them in their raw uploadedness.  I had a hard time deciding what the header image for this post should be, but finally decided that this one captures the trip for me – knitting, wool, outdoors, rustic and natural, friendly and fun.  This photo was taken at the yearly Heimtali Fair.

I went to Estonia to participate in the International Conference: Traditional Knitted Sweaters around the Baltic Sea.  When I say “participate” I really mean be there and watch and listen and learn.  It was not a big event.  I’m guessing only about 200 – 250 people attended.  Those who gave presentations were from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and the Shetland Islands.  There were people in the audience, like our little group, from the Netherlands, German, Denmark, and I think Latvia.  I felt privileged to be there among these dedicated, serious scholars and artists.  There were of course those who came who weren’t so serious, and just enjoyed being at the event.

I have so many photos of lovely Estonia, but I will leave you to look through them on flickr (see link above) and will just show you one or two photos of each part of the trip.  Keep it short and sweet.

J. and I traveled together and arrived in Tallinn Wednesday before the event.  The weather was cool but sunny and we walked around the Old Town.  It’s beautiful and extremely well maintained, in a sort of Disney-ish way, but still it is a working city center.  There are foreign consulates here, and museums, and offices in these old buildings.  They do cater to the tourist (huge cruise ships dock each day, spewing out tourists with cameras around their necks), but in the evenings when the tourists have gone back to their cruise ship, the locals come out to party in the pubs.

Dutch Embassy

On Thursday all the travelers who needed a ride from Tallinn to the event in Viljandi met up to get on the tour bus organized for us.  There were the other Dutchies, plus some others from Sweden, Norway and Finland.  We drove through the lovely countryside for two hours and then were dropped off at our accommodation.  Everything was so well organized!  Buses were always waiting for us at the right time to get us to the right place, all during the 3 day event.  It was flawless and took all the stress out of travel in a foreign country.

J & I stayed in the place farthest away from the town, in little houses in the woods.  It was charming and perfect.

We barely had time to drop our bags and grab a bite to eat (above photo) when we were hustled onto the bus, back to town, for the fashion show.  This was a show put on by the Viljandi Culture Academy students.  There were more than 50 students modeling their work, walking the runway to music that was also pretty amazing.  It was live streamed that evening too!  At this Academy students study textiles, woodworking or metalworking.  It was so impressive.

I took loads of photos, but from my angle sitting on the floor, they just don’t do the show justice.  HERE are some of the professional photos taken that night.  Since it was live streamed I was hoping to find a video of it somewhere so you could hear the music and see how they danced down the runway, but alas, I can’t find one anywhere.

After the show we walked to a small museum in the town and had dinner outside.  Just us and the mosquitos.

The next morning we were taken by bus to a building on the main street that had an auditorium – main stage with the room below filled with chairs.  The day was spent watching and listening to experts talk about the history of knitted sweaters in their country.  They were historians and artists, known for their research and writing.  It made me sad that I don’t come from a place with such deep traditions in fiber arts.  Even my adopted country has scant to show for knitting traditions.  We have a few fisherman’s sweaters and hats, which we most likely copied from our neighbors further north.  But the Scandinavians and Baltic cousins!  They are not only rich in history, but they also continue to value these skills and knowledge and support it so it will continue.  In the U.S., if it don’t turn a profit, it ain’t worth saving, and therefore much of value is lost and forgotten.

Friday night we had dinner in what was built as a German Baron’s summer house.  It is now a school building, in yet another school for traditional arts outside of Viljandi.  We were also entertained by traditional Estonian musicians.

The conference has been held in Estonia for the past 3 years.  It will now move to Finland for the next 3 years.  This was officially announced after dinner.  There was also a handing over of a very long knitted piece, the story behind which was kind of explained, but went a little past me.  I think you had to be in the In Crowd to know what that was about.

When we got back to our little cabin in the woods on Friday evening, our neighbors from Norway invited us to sit outside and drink some wine for a while.  What a nice night that was!  It was Norway’s National Day so they were ready to celebrate and sing songs and eat and drink.

The next morning we packed up and loaded up in the bus, heading to Heimtali Fair and Museum.  First we heard a short talk by Anu Raud and saw slides of her work, then there were talks by our presenters about where their inspiration comes from.  I wish I had been able to see Anu Raud’s work in person – her murals look amazing – but they are currently in a museum in another town.

After these talks we were free to wander around the small fair, spend some money, eat some lunch, and watch the walking knitting tag team competition!

There were lots of tables with things for sale made from wood, metal, and lots and lots of wool.  Later on there were dances by little girls in costumes.  As you can see, the sun was shining and it was so hot we searched for shade to sit in.  I did buy some yarn here.  I couldn’t resist.  It was such a bargain!  A sweater’s worth of yarn for less than 15 euros!

The afternoon came all too soon and we piled back onto the bus and headed back north to Tallinn.  J and I spent the night there and visited the Old Town again on Sunday – out last chance to shop and look around.  We visited a shop that we had heard about over the weekend.  We met the mother of the woman who designs all the clothing in this shop.  This photo isn’t the designer (she was sick) but this shop keeper was so friendly and helpful even when we didn’t buy anything.  They also had a bicycle covered in knitting in the big front window.  Who could resist going in?

And that was Estonia in a nutshell!  It was a wonderful trip and I’d really like to go back again.  The people are all very friendly, it’s beautiful, the food was excellent in the restaurants we went to, and the prices are much much cheaper than Amsterdam.  We were lucky with the weather too – while it was cold and awful in Amsterdam, it was warm and sunny here.  That and all the knitting – kind of a little paradise.

California – Part III

While we were in California we went to Santa Cruz for the day.  It was well planned out ahead of time.  Actually months in advance!  Santa Cruz is the home of the Yarniacs, whose podcast I’ve been listening to for some time.  Back in March I contacted them to see if we could possibly meet up in May.  I got a resounding “yes!” answer so we planned a date and time.

I actually can’t remember the last time I had been to Santa Cruz.  When I was a kid we used to make the 2 hour drive there once in a while, probably to escape the heat of the Valley for the cool ocean breezes on the coast.  When I was in high school, the marching band took part in a yearly competition there and we hung out on the beach waiting for the judging results to be announced.  Can you imagine the coastline above crowded with thousands of teenagers?  I can’t either anymore.  It was glorious at the time.

Mom, DB and I left the house at about 7:30 in the morning to get to the Swift Stitch shop in time for our meet up.  The shop actually doesn’t open til 11 but Sharlene opened early just for us.  Soon Gayle showed up, along with Ien and oops, two others whose  names I’ve forgotten.  It was a fantastic meet up!  We talked yarn and patterns and knitting and design.  We had some show and tell.  My mom went off to shop and DB went for a walk to the beach.  Even so, 2 hours just flew by and I thought I’d best leave before my traveling partners got too restless and bored.  Here are some photos from the meet up.

Notice the lovely brioche shawl hanging there?  I smiled to see one of Nancy’s designs on display.  Did I buy anything?  What a silly question.  Of course I bought something.  How could I not in such a shop?  I bought 6 skeins of Madelinetosh and 1 skein of Zitron which DB picked out himself for socks.  I think I was rather restrained to only get that much!  It’s a great shop and I really recommend it if you are anywhere near the area.  And of course go listen to the Yarniacs!

We left there and drove to the pier.  I didn’t remember being able to drive all the way out to the end of the pier, but you can and we did.  We had lunch and watched the sea lions sunning themselves at the base of the pier.

They make such a racket too!

Then we headed over to the Boardwalk.  Mom and I especially wanted to see the Merry-Go-Round or Carousel.  It was built in 1911 and is now a National Historical Landmark.  It’s still beautiful and kids still like to ride it and reach for the ring.  I did the same when I was a kid.

And then I ran down to the water to put my toes into the Pacific.  I had to.  No photos of that though.  Trust me.  It was cold.

That was our trip to Santa Cruz!  I like Santa Cruz.  DB likes it a lot.  He actually said he could live there, which he’s never said about any other American town or city.  All we need to do now is win the lottery and we’ll be there.