Dyeing Days

There has been an explosion of color chez UDS.  Above is 2kg of fiber dyed during one day.  The day before I dyed 2kg of rainbows.

I’m being very systematic about this – dyeing with only one method and one or two types of fiber in one day.  Before dyeing I’ve pulled off 105g pieces to dye and soaked them overnight in water.  I’ve also bought a small centrifuge machine to spin all the water out of the fiber before laying it to dry.  That makes a huge difference in drying time!

This might sound like work but I really love doing it.  I love seeing the colors emerge and how the fiber feels after dyeing (SOFT!).

I’ve also been busy spinning up 150g of Blend A to make a shawl.  I finished the spinning and plying last Wednesday, gave it a good soak and let it dry. It’s not perfect spinning, but pretty darn good for a beginner.

I’m going to make “Love on the Edge”, a shawl pattern by Monique Boonstra.  (Ravelry link) I don’t know if I will have it finished in time for MidWinterWol, but I will do my best to have it on display.  Here is Monique’s version.

Meanwhile, the dyeing continues.  More color will be posted in the coming weeks.

Also in the meanwhile, Fall has arrived and I’ve taken a few photos of local color.


I had my sporty bike tuned up this past week and have biked to the beach and back twice since then.  The first time I went was this past Wednesday and as I came to the small lake in the middle of our dunes running area I saw that the wild horses had had foals!  In the 5 years that we’ve lived here and I’ve been going into the dunes, I’ve never seen foals or calves.  They were laying down most of the time so it was hard to get a good photo, and I only had my iPhone with me.

Yes, I know, it’s hard to see them in this photo, but trust me, there are 3 foals laying there.  I also took photos of the ever present cattle.

The area around the lake on this day was crowded with animals.  Cattle, horses, bunnies, and all sorts of water fowl.  It was a busy and noisy spot that day!

Today when I biked past there, the cattle and birds were all still there.  There were more geese than ever, fattening up their young for the eventual trip south.  With the weather we’ve been having they are probably wishing they’d stayed in the south and not bothered to come up here!

The horses had moved to a much quieter spot much farther away from the bike route.  I saw them further up the trail, off in the distance.  I hope to see them again before the foals are all full grown.  I have also seen a fawn here in the dunes, which was also very special and hasn’t been repeated since.

By the way, after my fall down the stairs I’m a bit paranoid about falling, in any way.  Yesterday we bought me a bike helmet.  I will probably never need it (god I hope I don’t ever need it), but I feel safer and calmer wearing it.  I really like biking to the beach and through the dunes.  It’s the other crazy people out there that worry me – walking in front of me without warning or those crazy bike racers who think they own the road taking a corner too fast and taking me out with them.  I shudder when I think about it, but I get back on the bike and head out.  We live in a city on a busy street so this is my own chance for quiet and a little bit of nature.  I’ll take it.


Good Intentions

I’m always so full of good intentions.  Super plans.  My mind is a constant whirlwind of things I’d like to do/accomplish/make happen.  And therefore, me being me, I’m often disappointed.  I should learn to stop doing this to myself but after 54 years on this planet I haven’t, so I will probably be disappointed in myself for continuing for the next 54 years in the same manner.

I intended to write a blog post every day in November but clearly that hasn’t happened.  It hasn’t been my highest priority.  Or I was lacking enough commitment.  In any case, I’ll just carry on and move forward and tell you what’s been happening these days.

These photos were taken a couple of weeks ago but I’ve just now taken them off the memory card.  The black swans you’ve seen on this blog before, but never so close up.  In the first photo you can see that they were adventuring nearer to people and a busy intersection in North Haarlem.  I was able to walk up very close to them before they both started hissing at me.  I’ve heard that swans are very powerful and can hurt you so when they raised their heads like this and started to hiss, I backed off.  I was only about a yard (1 meter) away.

I also took a photo of Egyptian geese.  They are very common in this area.

I wanted to also give you an idea of the building going on around here.  There might be an economic crisis going on, but affordable housing is still is short supply in the Randstad and housing is still being built.  The rows of houses in this photo in Spaarndam were finished a couple of years ago.  I think they are so cute!  I want to live in the first one on the left with the white front, looking out onto the water.  In the second photo you can see that, along with the new tall white wind turbines, there are still the old windmills here and there, and they still work.

What else have I been doing so far this month?  I made a commitment to start running again, and was doing pretty well at it.  And I went to yoga and the next day every muscle in my body was sore.  I was feeling pretty good about getting back into the exercise routine but unfortunately I have to take the next 2 weeks off.  I had a strange mole thing cut out of my left hip and have 2 stitches holding the gap together. My doctor said no sporting for 2 weeks to ensure I don’t tear it open.  I get the stitches out in 2 weeks and then I have to find my rhythm once again.

I’ve also been knitting quite a bit.  More about that tomorrow in the next post.  I promise.  It will be tomorrow.

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!


These days I feel like I’m living in a whirlwind.  As you may know, I left corporate life at the end of 2011 and decided to become an English teacher.  I went through training.  I went through long periods of unemployment.  Then a short stint at a “training” job that had nothing to do with training.  And now, in early October, I am, by golly, an English teacher!  And suddenly I’m in big demand and keep getting asked to teach more classes.  I started out with 1 class at a travel school and 1 class at a language school.  Then they both started asking me to teach more classes.  Nice, but crazy and chaotic right now.

Here are some observations about this life change.

First of all, I’m having a hard time getting used to this un-schedule.  I spend 2 hours here, 2 hours there, 3 hours somewhere else.  I have a worse schedule than I used to have as a split shift waitress (lunch – break – dinner).  And I have to find time to prepare for classes.  This isn’t like teaching in a high school where you have lesson plans and books all ready for you and you just have to come in an hour early and your day is sorted out.  Oh no.  Maybe there is a book.  Maybe it’s a reasonable book.  Maybe it isn’t.  Thank GOD for the internet and all the teaching resources I can pull from there.  I’d be totally lost otherwise.

And I guess that’s my second issue – I’m very slow at preparing for classes because I’M NEW AT THIS!  And of course I want to be good at it.  I have good ideas I think.  I just have to keep coming up with ideas and finding resources to get those ideas across.  Everything takes more time than it would a more experienced teacher.

I really like actually teaching the classes.  Once I’m organized and have my lesson plan ready, I really enjoy the teaching.  The students are interesting and interested.  This is the fun part.  This is what I trained to do.

So, I have to get the hang of this life and decide, after one year, if this is the direction I want to continue going.

The photo above was taken at a farm we stayed at last weekend, Huis ter Lucht.  They have turned part of the farm into vacation houses.  It was the yearly Family Weekend.  I think, kids and all, there were 26 of us.  We watched the milking, petted cows and chased cats.  I went for a long walk Saturday and ended up in a boat.  It was good to get away (not very far away, but still) and not think about anything.  Here are some more photos from the weekend.  I didn’t take my camera with me, so all photos were taken with my iPhone 4S.

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.

Hiking Yosemite

Yesterday we drove up to Yosemite for the day.  It’s a 2 hour drive from Mom’s to Yosemite Valley.  We left at 7am, and after stopping at Starbucks for fuel we were on schedule for an early hike.  My goal was to walk to the top of Vernal Falls, then see how we felt.  We ended up going twice that far!

We parked at Curry Village.  The logistics of the park has changed over the years.  I remember when there was plenty of parking for everyone, mainly because there weren’t as many visitors.  Then it became so crowded and busy that there was air pollution from all the cars.  Then came the big floods of 1996 and ’97 (nice video here) and a lot of accommodation was moved outside the park and more visitors were bused in instead of driving in.  Yesterday, at the beginning of high season, it felt busy, but not overwhelmingly crowded.  The parking lot wasn’t full.  We got seats on the bus.  And thanks to some recent rain and wind, the air was crystal clear.

The weather could not have been better for our hike.  The sky was clear blue, temps in the low 80’sF (~25C) and just a slight breeze.

We left the car at Curry Village and walked to Happy Isles.  From there you cross a bridge over the Merced River and trail starts heading up to Vernal Falls.  It was only 9:30am when we got to the bridge but already we got busy with sun glasses and shorts.

On the way up to the base of Vernal Falls we saw plenty of grey squirrels.  Even though all the signs say not to feed the animals, people still do, and the squirrels aren’t afraid of people at all.

From Happy Isles all the way to the top of Nevada Falls it’s uphill all the way.  You are climbing up and out of Yosemite Valley up the side of granite cliffs.  The trails were made by blasting the sides of mountains with dynamite and making steps from the blasted pieces of stone.

Here we are at the bridge at the base of Vernal Falls.  Our day had just begun.  No sore muscles yet.

This section of the walk is called the Mist Trail.  As you get closer to the falls you can see why.  We got wet in the mist of the falls but the weather was so nice, and we were working hard, so were dry in no time.

I tried to get some clever photos of the falls.  I love my new camera (Nikon D5100, 18-105 lens) but I need to learn more about how to get the photos I want.  I tried to get photos with a slow shutter speed making the water look like a flowing cloud.  All those photos were terribly over exposed.  Ah well.  I learned something anyway.  I should have either checked the results in the screen (I shoot everything through the viewfinder) and adjusted, or set up a special setting for this beforehand.  I think if I lower the ISO to the minimum next time it will work.  I need another week in the Valley to hike this trail again and again so I get the photography better!

Here’s my best “arty” shot of the falls.

There were quite a few people already at the top when we got there.  They must have started very early!

After Vernal Falls we decided to continue walking to the top of Nevada Falls.  From the Valley floor, the top of Vernal Falls is 1000 ft (300m) higher.  The top of Nevada Falls is another 900 ft (250m) higher still.  You have a choice of route to get to the top of Nevada Falls.  We chose to take the shorter, steeper route going up.  It was definitely steep!  At some points it was a little scary even.  Don’t make a wrong step or you’ll tumble down very far on sharp granite rock.

Part way up DB spotted a couple of little lizards.  We figured this one was a male.  He was busy doing his pushups to impress the other lizard (who simply ran away, clearly unimpressed).

Here are some photos of Nevada Falls.  The big dome is called Liberty Cap.

We walked back to the base of Vernal Falls, downhill all the way, via the longer and less steep trail.  This was part of the John Muir Trail.  Just after starting downhill my left knee started to really hurt.  By the time we got to the base of the falls I could hardly walk on it!  I walked slowly with as little knee bending as possible.  Once we got down to the Valley and on level ground it was fine!  I have to go to my physical therapist when I get back and see what the problem is and how to make it better.  How am I ever going to walk to the top of Half Dome with a knee like this?  My right knee, the one that was operated on 2 years ago, was perfect.  At least the operation was a big success!

When we got back to the valley floor we took the shutter bus to the Visitor’s Center.  I wanted to get some more info on hiking to the top of Half Dome.  I found a book there that gave us the bad news:  it’s a lottery to get a permit to do the hike.  Wow.  Not only will the training for such a trip be difficult, but after training to be physically ready, we might not even get a permit to do it!  I should have made that trip years ago when 1) I was younger and better able to make it and 2) lived in the same country.  Ah well.  We’ll see if this “bucket list” item gets checked off or not.

We went back to Curry Village, got some burgers and fries at the burger joint, and then drove home.  We got to Mom’s about 12 hours after we had left that morning.  Later that evening I had the feeling that the whole day was just a dream.  It’s strange to have been in such a beautiful place, for a short time, and then not any more.  We should plan a longer stay there.

If you want to see more of my photos from the day, I have a set on Flickr here.

Green & Blue

Look at these colors!  This morning in the dunes we had glorious color.  The sky was so blue and the trees and grasses were that just sprouted Spring green.  Lovely.

It wasn’t warm though.  The air was crisp and cool, which is just fine for running.  I only managed 6km running and about 1.25km walking.  I’m having a hard time building back up to a reasonable distance again after the 12k at Zandvoort in April.  I don’t know why.  It’s just tough going.  What’s a ‘reasonable distance’? For me, 10k.  Once I can run 10k without feeling like it’s a death march at the end, then I feel like I’m well on my way to being a runner again.

And being able to run through the dunes to the beach, and back.  That makes me feel like a real runner too.

I know I’ll get there – slow but sure.  It’s just that none of it is easy.  Yet.

Oh! By the way! Tonight is the first episode of a new “Boer Zoekt Vrouw“!!  Yea! I love this show.  Tonight we will meet the new crop of farmers (haha, get the pun?) and then we’ll have to wait until the Fall to find out who got enough letters to participate in the show and who the women are and who falls for who and who is disappointed and who ends up getting married and living happily ever after.  Hope springs eternal; even more so for farmers?

Spring in the Polder

Today I went for a “run”.  I put it in quotes because it was more walking than running.  My stomach just wasn’t feeling good and bouncing up and down wasn’t helping.  I think I just ate too much and didn’t wait long enough to run.

Anyway, while walking it’s possible to take photos.  The geese and ducks and swans are hatching babies and they are beginning to be visible out in the fields.  I took a few photos with my iPhone.

These black swans live in the canal near our house.  They don’t seem to have any babies this year.  I think there is another pair out further in the polder that are the parents of these 3 and possibly they have some offspring this year, not seen yet.

Canadian geese and their goslings.

I don’t know what kind of geese these are.  Do you?

I should go for a walk out there with my new camera and get some decent close ups of all the birds.  If we get some nice weather in the next few days I will do just that.

Bird Song

This is my favorite part of our running route in the dunes.  Yesterday we went for a run even though it was cold and grey.  The birds, however, seemed to be loving the weather.  Here’s a 1 minute video I took with my iPhone just so you could hear the birds.