Fallen Down the Rabbit Hole

Some people stalk knitting patterns (“what should I cast on next?”).  Some people stalk yarn (“oooo pretty”).  I’m stalking spinning wheels.  It’s become my new obsession.

I’ve narrowed down my latest favorites to a Kromski Sonata, Kromski Minstrel, Ashford Traveler and Louet Julia.  I hope to make a final decision and buy one by Christmas. I have time.  Suggestions are definitely welcome!  My criteria are – double treadle, castle style, lots of ratio options and accessories so I won’t outgrow it soon, no more than 550 euros, and preferably possible to set up for both double drive and scotch tension (although I know the Sonata and Julia are only scotch tension).  Oh and it should appeal visually too.  If looks were the highest criteria I’d go with the Traveler.  I don’t know why, but I just like it’s looks the best.

Anyway, I did sit down today and spin up an entire 100g of BFL combed top in one sitting.  And now it’s all gone! I’ll have to get more asap.  I am in training for the 1 day spinning bootcamp coming up in 3 weeks.

This is my 3 bobbin EVER.  I’m pretty proud of it.  Now I’ll have to ply it with the other full bobbin I have of this wool.  Oooo I’m nervous about this.  I’ve never plied anything before.  Time to go stalk youtube for how-to videos….

And, at the same time, this has grown in the back garden.  It’s a dahlia, but I don’t know anymore which type.

Despite the Weather

Despite the terrible weather we’ve had this year, some beautiful things are emerging from the garden.  The Snow White tree rose in the front of the house is looking better than it has in a couple of years.  I really was worried about it after this past winter.  I had to cut a lot of it off, but maybe that’s what it needed to come out and bloom like this now.

I also have a 3 David Austin roses in the front garden, but they just struggle to stay alive.  Two of them are currently blooming – just one flower each – but they are holding on.  They are such fragile things.  Each year I expect to have to dig them up and replace them with something hardier, but each year they manage to grow a few inches and only half of that dies back.  The flowers though are so beautiful.

And in the back of the house I have some little succulents growing in a place that doesn’t get much sun.  This year they are blooming!

I don’t have a photo, but we have about 5 meters x 2 meters of blackberries growing along a side fence, just bursting with flowers and green berries.  We’re going to have kilos of berries in August.

So, even though we’ve had far too much cold weather this year, all is not lost.  It’s not all bad news.  I’ll just keep looking out the windows at these signs of life and I’ll feel a little better about wearing my winter jacket.

California – Part II

Most of the time we were in California we were at my mom’s house in Atwater.  My mom loves to garden.  She is well known in her circle for her flowers and fruit trees.  Above is just one of her many irises in bloom.  Irises are lovely but so short lived!  The flowers are gone before you know it.  She spends a lot of time taking care of them for those fleeting moments of beauty.

Just a day after we left California my mom was outside watering her plants when she tripped over the garden hose and fell down, breaking her wrist.  Luckily it’s not a bad break and she has a removable cast and can still drive and do light weight things around the house.  This does NOT include picking up the cat who is just too heavy for that!

Speaking of gardening, the King of Gardening in her local area has to be John E.  We went to see his garden for the first time last year, and went again this year with a different group of relatives.  It was earlier in the growing season than last year, but there were still ripe cherries and oranges and lemons and peaches.  Yum! (My mom took these photos, except for the one of her, which I took.)

John, funny enough, also has a bicycle collection.  He also rides a unicycle, which he only started learning after he retired.

Besides hanging out at Mom’s, and going to John’s, and visiting with relatives (thanks K & J for dinner!), we didn’t do much in Atwater.  There isn’t much to do in Atwater.  But you can sure grow things!



Grey and Blue

This is a photo with some blue in the sky.  It was taken only minutes after this other photo….

…. where the sky and the water were nothing but grey.  Our days have been very grey lately.  But, this being the Netherlands, people still get out in the grey and get on with their lives, like those sailing in the above photo.  DB went out running this morning in the rain.  He couldn’t be bothered to wait until the rain stopped.  We knew it would stop because we are keen users of www.buienradar.com.

I waited until the rain stopped, around 11:45, then I headed out to the nearby polder for a little run.  My intention was to run.  It turned into a walk.  I thought that the big muscle in my left butt cheek had healed (from being pulled back in June) but yesterday in yoga class I got a big cramp in that muscle and now it’s really painful again.  Sheesh.  It feels like my body is conspiring against me and running.  And I was doing so well earlier this year!

Anyway, it was nice to be outside and get some fresh air.  I timed it just right and missed the rain completely.

When I got home I took a photo of the last of the roses for this year.  My poor roses really struggle to bloom and not die from mould.  Maybe I don’t pay enough attention to them.  Maybe I need to put more chemicals on them to keep the mould at bay.  I’ll try to be a better gardener next year.  Until then, bye bye roses and flowers and leaves on the trees.  Winter is coming!

Where Things Grow

The thing about California that defines it as something special is that things grow here. That’s why people came in the beginning and that’s why they stay. The weather is perfect for growing things. Just add some water if you need to and watch nature do what it does best – grow.

We rented bikes to use while we are here in Chico. Yesterday we rode for 2 hours through Bidwell Park, east to the golf course and then took a little trail in foothills country. It was our first experience with any kind of mountain biking, in the upper section of our ride. That part of the ride only lasted about 15 minutes but considering our complete lack of preparation (no helmet, no experience) we had a good time. No one got hurt and I learned not to brake on gravel (or you just slide).

Here are some photos taken in the early part of the ride, in Bidwell Park along Big Chico Creek.  Bidwell Park is long and narrow and runs through Chico, west-east.

And a little further along…

It was right after taking this photos that my camera fell.  I had put it back in its case but hadn’t zipped it closed yet.  Then my bike started to fall so I bent down to grab it, the camera came tumbling out of the case (I think the strap caught on the handle bars) and hit the dirt.  The big lens broke off the camera body.  Stupid plastic lens mounts!  Two tiny pieces of plastic broke off and now the lens won’t stay on the camera.  When we got home I tested the camera body with my other small 50mm lens and it works fine ( more photos below with that lens) but the big lens will have to go in for repair.  After some research online later in the day I found out that there’s a Nikon authorized repair center in Beverwijk, which is just down the highway from Haarlem, and I can walk in with it and get it fixed.  Stupid me. Happy to be able to get it looked at easily when we are back home.

Anyway…. this morning I got up (still early waking hours – the sun wakes me up at 6am) to find this beautiful cactus in full bloom.  M. says it only blooms a few days and then it’s done.  I don’t know how long it took to develop the flowers – a year? several years? But I’m happy to be here at the right time to see it and capture it in pictures.  Actually, this is what I wanted the 50mm 1.8 lens for, flowers and knitting projects.

And finally, a photo of Jake the cat.  I first met Jake when he was a tiny kitten.  He would run and jump on you with all baby sharp claws out, no matter how many times you picked him up and threw him off you.  He’s now 10 and mellow and cuddly and sweet.

Super Garden

After 25 hours of travel we finally arrived at Mom’s.  It was a long and exhausting trip.  The jet lag is in full force – I was up at 3:30 this morning, wide awake.  We went for a short run at 7:30am which felt like late in the morning to me!

Today we went with my mom and her sisters to the home/garden/farm of a childhood friend of theirs.  This man and his family have either a huge garden or a small farm, perfectly kept and beautiful.  They have just built a gazebo area where he invites senior citizens to come and enjoy his garden and pick fruit in season.  We got to go there today and have lunch and get the tour.

Farmer John and my aunt

Here is John, who kept appearing with different kinds of fruit for us to try.  Here’s his cart that he drives around in and gives tours of the place:

We had lunch, even in this blustery weather, outside under the new roof.

DB made friends.

Can we take him home?

In this garden/farm are several varieties of cherries, peaches, oranges, grapefruit, apricots, plums, nuts, tomatoes and vegetables. After lunch and the tour we picked some fruit to bring home.

Aunt C. and Mom
What am I picking?

We also tried, for the first time, mulberry fruit.  This looks, well, strange.  But these long dark purple stocks of fruit are super sweet and delicious!

Just as we were finished picking, the weather really took a turn for the worse.  The very dark clouds you see in the distance here, were on top of us and the wind started to really blow.

We packed up and made it home just in time before the skies opened up and it rained hard for over an hour.  I don’t know how we manage it, but the last two times we’ve come to California (and last year in Spain) we’ve brought Dutch weather with us.  This was not the plan!  Thankfully in a couple of days it will be 35C again and we can heat up our old tired bones. 🙂

EDIT:  My mom has also posted a blog entry about this day, with different photos.  Check it out here.

Gardening – Not for Wimps

I’ve been spending a few hours every day working in the garden.  I’ve been digging and hacking and pulling and then planting.  My back aches.  I’m stiff and sore.  Gardening is not for wimps!

Here was the ‘before’ photo of part of the back garden:

And here’s ‘after’:

And that’s only part of the work we’ve done.  Here are some more photos of the new and improved garden:

I think we’re going to have a lot of blackberries this year.

And the faithful Christmas tree, bought 3.5 years ago as a small spindly thing (a real Charlie Brown Christmas tree).  He keeps growing every year and looks better and better all the time.  We haul him into the house each year and throw some lights and balls on him and put him back outside when the season is over.  I hope he keeps doing this well for years to come.

I haven’t even taken photos of the work we did in the front garden.  Both our front and back gardens are postage stamp size, but we get the most out of every square inch.  It’s frustrating going to the garden center, or the flower market, and seeing so many nice plants I’d like to buy, but I have nowhere to put them.  Oh well.  If this small space makes my back hurt so much after a few days of upkeep, maybe I’d better just be happy for the small space I have!

p.s. I haven’t listed the names of the new plants, or roses.  I imagine the only person really interested is my mom, and she can ask me about that. 🙂

All Night Flower Market

From 4pm Friday to 11am Saturday is the Haarlem Luilak Bloemenmarkt.  Yes, this is an all-night flower market.  It’s been going on in Haarlem since 1890, every year, the Friday night before Pinksteren (Pentacost).  I had no idea this market existed until my in-laws said they wanted to go.  How did I miss the best flower and live plant market in the country?

The Singel is closed off on both sides of the canal and is filled with tables and stalls selling all kinds of flowering plants, shrubs and small trees.  My father-in-law was in search of some particular plants, but didn’t find what he was looking for.  He wanted to replace a small tree that was killed in the Big Freeze of February 2012.  I think the plant farmers are having a good Spring this year because so many plants were killed in the very cold weather this last winter.

We lost our faithful fig tree.

I bought this tree about 7 years ago.  He lived in a pot on the roof terrace in Amsterdam.  When we moved to Haarlem we planted him in the ground and he lived happily, giving us loads of figs, for years.  This last winter the cold got him and he’s slowly dying.  I haven’t entirely given up on him.  I’ll give him until the end of the summer to show any signs of life.

At the market we came upon one seller who had small fig trees.  They were all beautiful and healthy.  My in-laws insisted they buy one for us.  So sweet.  Here it is.

My in-laws ended up buying 7 shopping bags full of flowering plants.  We hauled everything to the car, then sat outside in our back garden for a while.  That was at 10:30pm.  Still warm enough to sit outside and just dark.  When the weather is good, it’s an even better place to live.

Oh yes.  The other day this cloud was passing overhead.  I immediately thought to myself what it looked like to me.  What does it look like to you?

New Photo Opportunities

Over the last few months I’ve been selling yarn stash, looking under every rock, plotting and scheming all in order to buy a new camera.  My old Canon Rebel was 9 years old and in technology years that makes it older than Methuselah.  I hadn’t used it in a very long time.  Over the last few years I’ve gone through a series of small point and shoot cameras and while I’m completely happy with my Panasonic P&S, I still miss a “proper” camera of a certain quality.  Outside of the bigger and better lens issue, I think my Panasonic takes better photos than my Canon DSLR.  A sad state of affairs.

Besides scraping the money together, I had to decide WHICH camera to buy.  Now that’s the fun part!  I researched everything within the price range I thought I could manage.  My first choice was the Nikon D5100.  It has everything I want.  Then I looked at the new 4/3 size cameras which were very tempting.  The Sony NEX 5N is especially nice and gets rave reviews.  Then Nikon announced the D3200 which is just shipping in the U.S. and will soon be shipping in Europe.  Oh oh oh.  What to choose?

Yesterday I went into the new Saturn in Amsterdam, east of the Central Station, just west of the city library in the Oosterdoks area.  This shop just opened yesterday and was quite crowded.  It was also crowded because 50 Cent, the man himself, showed up for a promo event.  Needless to say, I didn’t stick around for that.  But what I did do was hold cameras and I talked to the Nikon reps there.  They were very enthusiastic about the new One series.  But I just couldn’t shake the D5100 out of my mind and they had a super sale on those DSLRs.  I walked away still confused and undecided.

Last night I started surfing the web-0-sphere again and discovered that Cameraland in Alkmaar (a meer 30 minutes from home) had a super price for the D5100 with a 18-105 lens.  That was it.  I decided.

This morning DB and I packed up my old Canon and my long lens plus a video camera I was hoping they would also take.  Oh, I forgot to mention that I had already emailed a couple of camera stores near my mom in California to see if I would be better off taking everything there this summer and trade and buy in the U.S.  NO ONE wanted my old camera.

Cameraland is a very big well stocked shop.  This is serious stuff!  They have loads of profi equipment as well as the usual consumer stuff.  They gave me 100 euros for my old Canon and lens but didn’t want the video camera.  I’ll have to put that on eBay and see what happens.  I bought the D5100 and 18-105 lens as planned (without the 18-55 kit lens).  I was very tempted by a 50mm 1.8 lens especially for concerts and portraits, but I think I can get that much cheaper in the U.S.  The man who helped us was very friendly and knowledgeable and could talk about cameras all day long if we let him.  I really do recommend this shop.

Here are a couple of photos from my back garden.  It’s a grey day outside and has been misty and damp all day.  I caught a break in the weather and quickly took these.  My first real photos with my new camera.  I’m so happy and excited I could pop!

Now you’ll have to put up with even more photos of my cat, and garden and the beach.  I’ll probably take this thing everywhere with me for a while so hopefully I’ll find more interesting subjects to share with you. 🙂

p.s. my favorite camera review site is www.dpreview.com.  I’ve been looking at this site for years.  Another good one is Steve’s Digicams.  Do you have a favorite camera site?