Small, Smaller, Smallest

It’s surprising to me how many people think that Disney World in Florida was the FIRST Disney theme park that was built. Of course it wasn’t. Think about it. Disney, Disney films, Hollywood… of course the first one was in Southern California. Anaheim to be exact. Disneyland was opened in July, 1955. My parents took my sister and I there when I was 8 or 9, 1967 or so. I remember vividly getting into one of those little cars that ran on a rail, all by myself, and I never felt so grown up. Driving a car meant everything. I also remember the “It’s a Small World” ride very well. There were all the animatronic characters from all over the world, singing and dancing “It’s a small world after all, It’s a small world after all….”. The point being that if we only get to know each other, from all cultures and beliefs and worlds, we will happily get along and understand each other. That Walt. Such a dreamer.

So here we are in the middle of this pandemic and the words “it’s a small world” have taken on a completely different meaning. Our worlds are indeed small. At least mine is and it’s not small in the lovely happy multicultural way that Walt Disney had in mind. Here is how my year has gone:

  • house chores
  • dog chores
  • grocery/pet store shopping
  • knitting/spinning/sewing
  • visit in-laws
  • online shopping
  • Zoom once a week or so with friends
  • FaceTime with my mom every few days
  • Watch TV, cook, eat with DB and Scout the dog

I did spend 2 weeks working very part time at a yarn shop, back in December, before the latest lockdown. I worked a total of 4 days. Then I decided I didn’t feel safe and my world got even smaller when I said I didn’t want to come back until I’m vaccinated.

I walk the dog at least once a day, often twice a day. I go to the grocery store once a week and do the self checkout so I don’t even talk to a soul there.

After spending the last year knitting like a fiend, I have wrecked my shoulder and can’t move it without pain. I went to a physical therapist last week so he is an additional in-person contact I have had in a year. The shoulder is getting better and I’m trying to start a little knitting again. Above is a photo of the last section of lace I have to knit to complete the Shetland lace christening shawl I’m making for my nephew and his wife. My world has shrunk even smaller when I can’t even knit anymore! NOW what am I supposed to do with my time? Read? I can only read for so many hours in a day without going completely crazy.

Every day I try to remember how lucky I am to not have to worry about money or work (DB’s job is secure and he works every day at home). I realize how lucky I am to be relatively healthy. But still. Can this be over now?

Anniversary

Exactly one year ago I arrived back in the Netherlands to live, again, for good, after 3.5 years living in California, again. What a coincidence with the one year anniversary of this pandemic. I promise that is only a coincidence.

I went back and read my blog post from March 23, 2020 where I listed the top 10 reasons I was happy to be back in NL. They are all still true, except for the one about political leaders. The crazy man is out of the White House, and at the same time our leaders here in NL are showing themselves to be less than open and honest and often not competent to handle this crisis. I’ve been thinking lately about what I miss most about living in the U.S., and it’s a pretty small list:

  1. Friends and family – obviously. Especially my mom. Especially my spinning group in Redlands who saved my sanity many times. I do miss a thriving fiber community. While the knitting community in Amsterdam, and NL in general, is pretty amazing, it just not the same as the welcoming and interesting entire fiber arts scene in the U.S., and surprisingly SoCal (being a hot climate).
  2. Space – this is always my issue living in a tightly packed country where it’s impossible to go a day without seeing people and no wilderness at all. Our house is large by Dutch standards, but very small by U.S. standards. But all our stuff fits and honestly what more “stuff” does a person need?
  3. Variety of food – I didn’t realize how much I would miss being able to choose from 50 different brands of yogurt. Here there are 2. Maybe 3 if you look hard. I order baking ingredients from a speciality web shop. We had to order Swiss cheese from a shop in another town because you can only find Dutch cheese in our town and a little commercial French cheese. And it’s a good thing I like broccoli. I suppose I should learn to like Brussels sprouts. I miss all the varieties of winter squash (here there is 1), good avocados (you’re lucky here when they are not black or hard), any kind of Mexican food and good sushi. I probably shouldn’t even mention good thick juicy steaks since we should all be eating less red meat.
  4. Sunshine – I just ordered a daylight SAD treatment light to help me deal with these grey days and lack of sunshine. By the time March comes around I’m really feeling it – like an itch I can’t scratch, an irritation that only a day of sunshine in the mountains can fix. Or hopefully a SAD lamp.

And that’s it. I do miss my big car, but I don’t miss the crowded highways and where can you go these days anyway?

So that’s my moan about what I miss after living one year in the Netherlands after 3.5 in the U.S. There are other things I’m missing like crazy right now but they are related to the pandemic and not where I live, like going out, concerts, restaurants, movie theaters, etc etc. Not to mention seeing friends IRL. Can we be hopeful that this will change within 6 months? I think so.

In craft news, the ceramics class I signed up for is postponed til the end of March due to the pandemic. I hope it can start then and not be postponed again. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos about pottery and ceramics and I can’t wait to get my hands dirty.

You haven’t seen much knitting news from me lately (here or on Instagram) because I’ve been either knitting gifts that I can’t show yet, or a new design that I’m not ready to share. However, I just gave one gift, and it’s been received, so I can share it online now. This is a baby blanket made for Ben and Asha, who are divers, so fish are a perfect design for their second baby.

The yarn is Life in the Long Grass DK and I used exactly 4 skeins for this blanket. Details on my Ravelry projects page.

I’ve also just finished the 3rd border section of a christening blanket, in fine Shetland lace that I spun myself. I only have 1 more section to knit and then I can block it and sew it all together. I will be very happy to have it finished and ready to deliver. No photos now because it is still a surprise. They know I’m making it, but have no idea what it looks like.

The photo above was taken during our walk today, just a few minutes from our house. There are more photos from the day on Insta. It’s another cold grey day, but people are out walking and biking anyway. Scout doesn’t care. She’s just happy to be outside, smelling everything, eating the occasional rabbit droppings found on the dike, watching birds.

Have a good week. Coming up next week – iPhone camera vs entry level Nikon camera. Ooooo spannend.

Keep Moving

My only dedicated activities these days are walking and knitting. In the past 3 weeks I think I’ve walked less than 10,000 steps on only 3 days. DB and I try to walk at 6:30 every morning and since we’ve changed to daylight savings time, it’s still dark when we leave the house. Sometimes we get to see a nice sunrise. Sometimes it’s too cloudy. Every morning the birdsong is becoming louder and more varied. Since this is a coastal town we get city birds and sea birds. It’s so nice to hear them in the mornings!

 Above is the little video I took this morning on the dike.

I’m posting photos on Instagram every day so if you want to see more photos I’ve taken on walks, with birds, ducks, scenes from the dike and beaches, check out my Insta feed.

In knitting news, I’ve passed the armholes on my Foldlines sweater and am working on the front. I’m going to lower the neckline by 1”/2.5cm as I really don’t like sweaters touching my neck. I’m sweating running out of yarn! I was saving 2 skeins for the sleeves but I will definitely have to start using one of those skeins soon. This is a really boxy sweater so the sleeves will be more like T-Rex arms so I should be ok. I hope! I’ll post a new photo when I’ve finished the front.

I’m also knitting a second sweater, “Stern” pattern, using West Wool Bicycle. I’m still working on the patterning around the yoke. I work on this when I get sick of knitting on the Foldlines sweater. It will be really good TV knitting once I’m finished with the yoke and it’s only Stockinette on 3mm needles forever and ever. I’ll post a photo of this also this weekend.

Stay tuned, stay safe, stay home.

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.

Row Your Boat

Well, we’re all in the same boat now aren’t we!

Since we don’t yet have a house of our own and are living in a small house with two elderly people, we are very housebound, even compared with other people who are laying low, staying at home. It does feel like a kind of war situation. Our fellow citizens are deciding what we ourselves must ration by their hoarding behavior. Luckily we haven’t run out of anything and have been able to find what we need in the grocery store. No panic in our house. DB is working from home and his parents don’t go out, so I have become the designated grocery shopper. I’m being very careful myself because of asthma. Cross fingers and wash hands.

DB and I are going out every morning, early, and walking for an hour. This allows me to get to know my new town better, we get some exercise, and my lungs become acclimated to this new clean sea air. I take photos.

The top photo was taken today at sunrise while we walked on top of the dike from Huisduinen back to the town center. That’s the Texel ferry in the distance. Texel is probably the safest place in the world to be right now but we’ve been told to stay away by the Texel authorities. I can’t blame them.

Here are some other photos of the area that is within a 30 minute walk from my in-law’s house. For the coming few weeks the only things I’m doing is knitting, reading, writing, walking and taking photos.

Every day there is new news about this Corona virus situation. Up until today I was sliding back and forth between nervous fear and relaxed vacation feeling. But today I feel annoyed and jumpy. Maybe I have to start walking twice a day.

Here’s a knitting update. I’m making good progress on my sweater. I should have it finished in 5 weeks or maybe less!

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

Unencumbered

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This is a photo of a pair of socks I started knitting the other day. I’m just knitting them from my head – no pattern needed. I needed a travel pattern and I have this great sock yarn that I finally splurged on. It’s Lorna’s Laces Solemate yarn in color Amish. I told my mom the color name and she was bemused. Then I told her to picture an Amish woman holding a bouquet of flowers. That works.

I needed the travel socks today because after driving to Sacramento and selling my car, I got a ride with Uber to the train station, got on a BUS to Stockton, and THEN got on a train, down to Merced. The photo was taken on the train.

I sold my car to Carvana which was a fantastic experience! I did most of the transaction online and then made an appointment to drop off my car. A real person called me to offer help to find the drop off point. A guy drove my car around a parking lot and then handed me a check. What could be better? I only had to drive so far to drop it off because they are only located in major metropolitan areas. Merced County doesn’t meet that criteria by a long shot. But it was so worth the effort to drive up there! A few days earlier I drove to Modesto (and had my mom FOLLOW me to Modesto in the expectation of selling my car and needing a ride back to her house) to Carmax.  Carmax offered me such a low amount for my car that I actually laughed at them and asked for my keys back. I walked away fast.  And sold to Carvana for $2k more.

So now I’m homeless, jobless and car-less! What a relief! I was so worried about having that albatross of a car around my neck when I’m flying out of here on SATURDAY.

At the same time, I LOVED THAT CAR! I am sure that that was the BEST car I will ever own. In the Netherlands cars cost 50%-100% more than they do in the U.S.  I will never be able to afford a car like that again and it was really your basic SUV. Say goodbye to a ride with leather seats (heated) and so many ways to set your power/braking/battery charging that my techie brain was blown. And 4WD. And enough room to take an entire market set up and wool inventory for a weekend fiber event. Sigh.

I am completely unencumbered. Meaning no obligations and really here I mean monetarily.  I have no debt. I owe no one any money. How many Americans can say THAT?

I will enjoy it while I can because on Monday I will most likely be encumbered again with the promise to create a new mortgage for a new house in the Netherlands. More about THAT next week!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

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I made this lap blanket for my mom as a Christmas/birthday/going away present. I’m the one going away.

The pattern is “A New Angle” and you can find it on Ravelry to buy and make one yourself. The yarn is Cascade 220 superwash worsted. Each square is 7” on a side and I added 2 rows of double crochet as a border.  It took me 2 1/2 months to make, working on it pretty steadily.  I had a deadline!

Just to bring you up to date, we sold our house in SoCal, I quit my job, selling my car to Carvana tomorrow, and on Saturday I’m flying back to the Netherlands. DB has been back there since January 1, working at his new job, and we already have a new house picked out and an offer accepted. We’re BACK baby!

There will be another blog post regarding “why we are moving back” and all kinds of discussion about being an American in the Netherlands. One step at a time. 🙂

It feels like the past 3 years have been a kind of dream and now we are going back to reality. Living and working in SoCal was not a nightmare, but was definitely not the dream we had imagined when we moved there. Life is hard there. Dutch people have no idea how good they have it. They complain a lot about life in NL, but honestly they have no idea what hard is.

All of the above is why I feel like resurrecting the blog. I have a lot to say, having come out of the dark tunnel of a terrible job and terrible traffic and not so great health. I am on a better path and want to talk.

Hat Heads

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Here they are, the 8 hats I knit in December that tomorrow (the 31st of December) will be mailed off to Heartstrings yarn store in Chico, CA.  There are 2 kid sized hats, 3 medium sized, 2 large and 1 XL-ish sized hat.  I enjoyed knitting every single one.

If you’d like to see individual modeled photos, go to my Ravelry projects and see the lovely DB wearing each one except the bright pink, which is too small to get on his head (or mine).

Four of the hats are made with yarn that has 20% wool in the yarn, but they are all machine washable and dry-able, which is typically a requirement for hats to give away.  I tried to pick the most wool-like acrylic I could find at Jo-Ann’s.  At least none of them have that acrylic “crunchy” feeling, which is truly awful.  Remember when that was the only yarn you could get?  It’s a wonder anyone knit anything in those days. Ugh that was truly terrible yarn.  Acrylic has come a long way.

In the process of knocking out these things, and finishing a sweater, all in December, I have injured my shoulder.  I was trying to knit Continental as much as possible, but these hats are mostly cables and ribbing which is not conducive to practicing a new way of knitting.  So I was “throwing” most of the time and my right shoulder is a mess.  I went for a massage 2 weeks ago, and again today, which is helping, but now I just need to rest. How long can I go without picking up needles?  And spinning isn’t any better – almost the same motions for a shoulder.

In a day or so (because I’m sure I won’t wait longer) I will cast on a new project. It will be this – Ninilchik Swoncho by Caitlin Hunter.

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Part sweater, part poncho, I think it will be perfect for a SoCal winter. I’m going to use yarn I bought in New Zealand 11 years ago! You know the story – the yarn that is too precious to use and so it sits in your stash, taunting you to use it.  So this is the year, 2019, when I will put it to good use.  I have white as the main color, with shades of grey and brown to add to it.  If I have enough white I think I’ll dye 1 skein red just to have some color, and work it in somewhere as a pop of color interest. The yarn is Naturally Harmony 8-ply (DK weight).

More about my 2019 knitting, spinning and dyeing goals in the next blog post.  I hope everyone is having a nice holiday time!

Monday Through Friday

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I have been wanting to make this sweater for a very long time.  You know how it is. So many sweaters to knit, so little time. This is a free pattern from Knitty.com called Girl Friday. Seems to me it is the perfect work sweater.

I knit this with the perfect yarn, Quince & Co. Lark.  I LOVE this yarn. It’s 4 plies of wool making it a bouncy worsted weight. It’s not superwash which means it is also lighter weight than, say, Madelinetosh Worsted.  Comparing my MadTosh Worsted sweaters with this one – wow! what a difference! This yarn is just soft enough to wear next to skin without any problem. I’m wearing this sweater right now, with that collar on my neck, and it’s just fine.

The pattern called for knitting the pieces separately and sewing it together, but I’m getting lazy in my old age so I did some math and figured out how many repeats I needed to knit the body all in one piece, separating the fronts and back at the armholes.  I also knit the sleeves in the round from cuff to armhole and then back and forth up to the top of the sleeve.  The only sewing was setting in the sleeves, which I actually enjoyed. Just enough sewing to be enjoyable but not a slog.

I made 4 buttonholes instead of the 3 in the instructions. I hate gaping sweater bands.

It fits me really well (the lonnngggg sleeves are intentional) and I’m very happy with this sweater. I knit it in one month and 2 days, so a very quick knit. I’m sure I will wear it a lot!