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

All About the Food

Last week I was in Thailand on a business trip.  Before you get the idea that it’s fun to travel for work, let me tell you that, when you arrive, have to adjust to the time zone, are only there during working days without a weekend to go sight-seeing, it’s really just work.

I have incredibly nice colleagues in Thailand, and because I don’t drive there (NO WAY am I going to try driving in that chaos!), and there is no canteen at this facility, they take me (and any other foreign visitors) out to lunch every day.  What a treat!

We have everything from expensive (relatively) sushi, to the famous 1 euro lunch – both are delicious.  I tried to take photos at every meal, but sometimes just forgot.  Below are the food photos from last week.  Thai people like their food, and for very good reason. It’s the best cuisine I have ever tried.

My favorite lunch of the week was this fish and noodle soup.  It was not terribly hot spicy, but was full of amazing flavors that I can’t list here because I don’t know what they were. There were pieces of veg in the soup that I’d never eaten before.  Just delicious.

We went out together one night for dinner.  Along with all the good food, the last was the best.  Simple, fresh mango in slices, with sweet sticky rice on the side with coconut milk to pour over.  I have never in my life had mango that tasted this good.  So THIS is what a mango is supposed to taste like!  Ah!

And here are some other pics from the week.  I don’t know when I’ll be going back to Thailand.  Probably later this year.  DB has to come too next time.  I’ll save up my appetite!

California, Part I

Ah, to be enjoying the California sun again!  We spent 2 weeks in California and the weather was glorious.  These 2 California Sea Lions were hanging out in the Pacific, just off the Santa Cruz pier.  There was a large herd of them, lounging on the side of the pier on landings kept just for them.  They barked and yammered, jostling for the best positions.  More on Santa Cruz later in the story….

We stayed with my mom most of the time we were there, taking some side trips out and about.  We had only spent two nights at her house when we headed north to Chico, to spend 3 days with my niece and her husband.  He works at Sierra Nevada Brewery and we got a special family tour around the place.

in the hop room

We hung out at M&J’s house, went out to eat, and had our own version of “Bargain Hunt” at one of the many antique shops in Chico.

I really like Chico.  It’s a college town, big enough to be interesting and small enough to be cozy and charming.  It’s even easy to walk and bike around town, which is unusual in the U.S.  We left there already missing M&J.

Only a few days later, M drove down to meet us and we headed up to the Sierra Nevada, to Yosemite National Park, to have Sunday Brunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel.  What a treat!  It’s a big spread with fresh oysters and other shell fish, several kinds of salmon,  prime rib, egg dishes, chicken dishes, pancakes, cheese blintzes, and then there’s the dessert table.

DB took our photo at our table.

The Ahwahnee itself is an amazingly beautiful building, build in the 1920’s of stone and wood.  When I win the lottery I’m going to stay there for a couple of weeks.

We played tourists, rode around in the free shuttle bus, taking photos here and there.

Yosemite Falls
Selfy at Curry Village parking lot, Half Dome in the distance

We did a little walking around the Visitor’s Center and went into the Indian Museum where I saw some amazing woven baskets.  I wish I had taken photos of them but it was a bit dark for that.

It was a quick trip to Yosemite Valley and then back home to Atwater.  Last year, in June, we did a full day of hiking, which I really loved and I’m sure we’ll do again next year.  It had been at least 25 years since the first and only other time I had a meal at the Ahwahnee and I’m really glad we made the trip this year.

Well, I think that’s it for this blog post.  I’m only half way through the California trip, and still have lots to tell you about Estonia, but it’s clear that this story telling is going to take several days and several blog posts. Come back for more photos and travel tales!

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.

Neighbors

Yesterday afternoon I convinced DB to get up off the couch and go for a walk.  We’d been hanging out at home all day, sitting in the (suddenly Autumn) sun, sitting on the couch.  I had to get up and move!

I took my camera and we walked down the street to the sloot that takes off from the Spaarne.  I knew that the black swans are there most of the time.  I was lucky and there they were.

There are three of them that live in this area.  There is another pair that used to also hang around this part of Haarlem, but they’ve moved off to somewhere else – I think along the Spaarne itself.

Just to throw in another photo, here’s the little pumpkin I’ve been growing in the front of the house.

I can’t believe I spent 10 euros on this plant!  Of course it held the promise of many more pumpkins.  There were lots of flowers on it in early July.  But the flowers fell off and the only thing left was this one pumpkin.

Yesterday I picked him.  It hadn’t changed in size in a few weeks and the plant itself was starting to die off.  I was also afraid that someone would take it out of the garden in the middle of the night.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  Earlier this year someone took a strawberry plant, which was in a pot and had lots of fruit on it, out of the garden in the middle of the night.  A few years ago someone took a large flowering plant out of the ground!  And this is a good neighborhood.  It’s just a busy neighborhood  with lots of people biking past.

Anyway, he will become soup.

Summer is over.  The blackberries are finished and now the pumpkin is picked.  Almost time to get the winter sweaters out again!

Chilled in Chico

We’ve headed north and are now staying with J. And M. in Chico.  They live in a house with a huge garden. The weather is hot and sunny. Today we rented bikes and biked for an hour in a park and around Chico. (at this moment we’re watching NL get badly beat by DE in Euro12; pathetic)
Huge garden
We brought J. a birthday present from home: 12 Dutch beers. I think he likes it.
J & M and beer
Tonight we’re going to Sierra Nevada brewery for a tour and dinner. Can’t wait! I also have photos from my birthday dinner Monday night, but they aren’t on Flickr yet. It’s not as easy to get all this organized with only an iPad, so I might show those later when we get home – a kind of food round up.

I plan to make it to the local yarn shop, Heartstrings Yarns, this week still. It’s a really big shop with a huge selection. Their web site is a bit sad, and is no reflection of the shop itself. I’ll let you know what I score!