…And…We’re Back

After being away from home for 3 weeks (except for a short day in between trips), it’s taking me a while to get everything organized at home and back in some kind of normal order. I’m still doing piles of laundry and sorting through piles of photos. Today I’m fighting with the “new” Flickr and still haven’t managed to upload my 400+ photos from my travels.

The photo above was taken in my mom’s garden. She has lots of beautiful flowers with birds and bees and butterflies zooming around through the plants. We had fantastic weather the 2 weeks we were there. It was so nice to get warmed up from the never ending winter in the Netherlands.

While in sunny CA we went to Chico to see my niece and her husband, to Yosemite National Park for Sunday Brunch at the Awahnee Hotel, and to Santa Cruz to meet some knitting friends and put my toes in the cold Pacific waters. Of course all during this time I was busy knitting away on my “Twice Born” shawl that is part of Mad May on Ravelry.  I have photos of all these events, but you’ll have to be patient. I’m trying to be patient with flickr.

I also spent 5 glorious days in Estonia for a conference on Traditional Knitted Sweaters Around the Baltic Sea. This was a fantastic experience that was over far too quickly. The weather was perfect, the people so friendly, the knitting and handwork beautiful and inspiring. Add good music and food and you have a little bit of perfection in 5 days. I would love to go back to Estonia to see more and learn more. Of course I have hundreds of photos of this event, but you’ll have to hold on and be satisfied with just this one, that I’ve taken from J.’s FB page.

I’m heading back to flickr now to see how things are progressing with my photo uploads.  More exciting stories and photos will be posted here in a day or so.

Hurry Up and Wait

(backdated to 21 January 2013; written 26 January 2013)

Monday morning, still cold in Berlin and now lightly snowing.  We’ve checked the flight schedules and the only flights canceled are heading to Paris.  It’s still early.  Anything could happen.

After cramming everything into our meager carry on luggage and stowing it at the hotel reception, we head back into the center of Berlin for one last look around.  DB had never seen the Reichstag or the Brandenburg Gate so that’s where we went, via the UBahn.  I had to take this photo, just for the U2 sign.

I had been here 12 years ago with my parents.  That was pre-9/11 and security was light and not noticeable.  Now if you want to visit the inside of this building you have to sign up in advance and go through a separate security building first.  We didn’t know that and so didn’t go inside.  I’m glad we did those 12 years ago.  I have a really nice photo I took inside the glass dome on top – I’ll have to go find it on a CD somewhere.

You can see how cold and windy it was.  No time to hang around.  We then walked to the Brandenburg gate, just a block away.  Yes, it is tall.

It’s very impressive.  As DB said, when you see buildings and monuments in Berlin, you realize how small and cozy the Netherlands is.  We are a speck in comparison.  Oh, that will lead to a whole other blog post I’m sure.

We still had a lot of time to kill before heading to the airport so I suggested we walk down Unter den Linden towards the Berlin Dom. I was feeling nostalgic.  This is where I went with my parents those many years ago.  It was green and sunny then.  At that time, just like now, there was building construction going on everywhere.  I sometimes complain that Amsterdam seems to be continually under construction and it is annoying and makes for a stressful environment in a city.  It’s nothing compared to Berlin.  They have so many years of destruction to make up for.

Finally we made it to the Dom and went inside.  We walked around and I took photos.  It was pretty quiet – not so many tourists this time of year.  We followed the tour route to the upper levels, finally walking around the base of the dome itself, looking out the little windows at the top.  Here are some photos.

The little museum that explains the history of the Dom is very interesting.  I also found the crypt interesting, with caskets from the 16th century and caskets of German kings and queens.

And then it was time to leave.  We walked a bit further to Alexander Platz and took S and U Bahns to get back to the hotel, collect our belongings and then back on the S Bahn to the airport.  We discovered that our flight was still planned on time and all systems were go.

That is, until an hour before the flight was to leave.  Then we were delayed by 30 minutes.  Then we were told to go to a gate where we stood around for nearly an hour waiting for the inbound plane to arrive!  Why we were packed into a small room before the inbound flight had even gotten to Berlin is a mystery.  They obviously know when the plane will arrive – it’s not out there circling around for the fun of torturing passengers.

Our flight was supposed to leave at 6pm and finally at 7pm we boarded the plane.  And THEN we were told that there was a problem with the navigation display and an engineer was working on fixing it.  There we sat for another 30 minutes.  And after that was fixed we were told that the plane was iced up and had to wait in a queue to be de-iced.  Well, I’m all in favor of de-icing so didn’t complain about that.  In the end, we took off from Berlin just before 9pm.  You know what that means, right?  Right!  More knitting time!  I got a lot done on my sock during this delay.  Photos to come.

Just to add insult to injury (a handy phrase given to use by Shakespeare), when we got to Schiphol, we faced train delays.  We were lucky to get the trains we got and finally got home at 11pm.  Phew!  What a day!  From the Reichstag in the snow and cold, to my warm and cozy bed.  Very tired and happy to be home.

I have more Berlin photos in a Set on Flickr if you are interested.  You can find them here.


On a Mission

(backdated to 19 January, 2013; written 25 January 2013)

As so often happens when we spend a short time in a new place, we run around with a mission in our heads.  We HAVE to do this and that and the other.  It’s easy to miss the most interesting things to see when you are on a mission.

Saturday in Berlin, we decided, would be shopping day.  We got up at a reasonable hour and went out for breakfast.  I was actually surprised at what we had for breakfast every day.  Here’s an average Berlin breakfast in a restaurant:

Look at all that fruit!  This was the healthiest breakfast I’ve had in years.  My stomach just didn’t know what to do with all those vitamins and minerals and became a bit upset.

First we went hunting for record stores.  DB was told by friends that we could find a lot of them around the East Train Station.  But first we walked along the river and a long piece of the Berlin Wall that has been turned into an outdoor art gallery.  Here are some photos of that area:

We walked around in the freezing cold, mostly completely alone on the streets, looking for record stores we never found in this neighborhood.  But I did see this crazy pink pipe everywhere.  Everywhere!  They raised it up so cars could drive past it.  They ran it over fences.  I just don’t get it.

Anyway, we finally decided to head to another neighborhood to find more interesting shopping.  Off we went on the U Bahn to Rosenthaler Platz, stepped out of the station and there was a record store.  Bingo!  But first we had to find a cafe to sit and eat/drink something because we were frozen.  We found the friendly and hip and fully wifi’d St. Oberholtz.

The food and coffee was great and honestly I’ve never seen so many laptops in a cafe before.  I don’t think people talked to each other, just sat next to each other sending messages.  DB went back to check out the record store and I stayed behind to stay warm and work on my sock.

He didn’t find what he was looking for but found out there were other record shops further up the street, so off we went, walking up Weinbergsweg.  We found a super cute shop that sold vinyl and clothes.  DB bought a record and I bought this t-shirt.  It’s hand printed with a knitted lace design.  How could I NOT buy this shirt?

The name of the shop is Rotation Boutique Berlin.  Well worth a visit. If I had a larger budget I would have bought more clothes there.

But we were still on a mission and finally found another record shop in the basement of this building.

I walked around taking photos and DB decided not to buy anything.  The woman working there sent us to another street to find another record store, and even though we tried, we couldn’t find it.

Finally it was time for my mission – a yarn shop.  Yesterday I asked Stephen West what shops he would recommend since I knew he had been here recently.  He said that he went to one shop (can’t remember the name now) but also heard that Hand Made Berlin was nice.  After checking both of their web shops I decided on Hand Made Berlin just because they seemed to have more unusual yarns.  I was right!

After wandering around far too long in the cold, being lost, we found it.

This is exactly the kind of shop I wish I owed.  Lots of yarn, the “normal” stuff you find in Europe, plus lots of interesting yarns from Japan and Scandinavia and Scotland and the U.S. AND there’s a coffee bar and tables and chairs to sit and drink coffee and knit!  What could be better?  I took a couple of photos of the back of the shop.  There’s a lot more besides this and I highly recommend the shop if you are in Berlin.  I bought 3 colors of Shetland 3ply yarn – but you’ll read more about that in a later post.

By this time we were very tired from all the walking and wandering around.  One last push, walking down another street looking for somewhere to eat, we walked past the New Berlin Synagogue.  What a beautiful building.  It’s amazing that it was not completely destroyed during WWII.

We found a cafe on a corner, got something to eat and headed back to the hotel to crash and burn.  Tomorrow another day and another agenda.

Easy Jetting to Berlin

(Backdated to 18 Jan 2013, written 24 Jan 2013)

Today we got up early and flew from Amsterdam to Berlin.  Why on earth would one fly from one cold place to an even colder place, just for fun?  It’s cheap this time of year, that’s why!  How can you beat 75 euros round trip for a flight?  We flew on EasyJet and I have to say it was one of the most painless flights I’ve ever been on, which is saying a lot for EasyJet.

We are staying in the NH Heinrich-Hein in the east side of Berlin.  The Wall used stand just a block away from our hotel.  Again, dead cheap this time of year.  We’re staying in a brand new super apartment with a kitchen and everything for 70 euros a night.  THIS is why we do city trips in the winter.  It remains to be seen how wise that is this time around.

Here’s a photo of a place a few blocks from the hotel.  The Wall used to run down this open area.  It now looks like a park.

We took public transport from the airport to the hotel, which takes time, but gives you more of a flavor of a place.  We took the S9 and then transferred to one of the U-bahn lines.  I thought it was so sweet how this S-bahn car was made to look cozy, like your grandma’s living room.  Fake wood paneling on the walls.  Fake upholstery on the seats.  Prints of the Brandenburg Gate on the windows that if you look quickly look like white lace curtains.  It’s not just this car – lots of trains look like this.

We haven’t done much on this first day in Berlin besides get to our hotel, have some lunch, get some Chinese take out down the street.  And SLEEP.  I think the past week of having our house torn up and full of paint smells really tired us out.  We hadn’t been sleeping well.  We’ll make up for it in this lovely hotel room.  ZZZzzzzzz and out to explore Berlin tomorrow……



Today I booked a trip to Estonia.  I’m so excited to be able to go to this place that, by all accounts, is a knitting paradise.  My friend Nancy told our knitting group about it and it’s just too interesting and exciting to pass up.  Jacki is coming too so it will be a real party!

I almost feel like a traitor posting about it here.  Shouldn’t we keep this event a secret?  But now that we’ve registered and have booked flights, I don’t mind if the conference sells out.  We’re in!

It’s a 2 1/2 day conference about Estonian knitting, but also other Scandinavian knitting, in mid-May, about a 2 hour drive from Tallinn.  Here’s the web site about it if you are interested.  Jacki and I are flying in on Wednesday and out again on Sunday so we have a day either side to see a bit of Tallinn.  I really can’t wait.

In 2008, 2009 and 2010 I traveled to knitting events outside of the Netherlands.  It just wasn’t possible to do that in 2011 although I did manage to get to a talk by Brenda Dayne at A Verb For Keeping Warm in Oakland while visiting family in California.  It will be great in 2013 to make it to an international knitting event again.  This event looks especially interesting because there are NO knitting classes (I’ve taken enough of those, some good, some terrible) and instead are talks and demonstrations.  I want to hear about the history of knitting in countries with a knitting tradition that we try to copy faithfully these days.  I want to see the real thing, not a watered down “easy” version in a how-to class.  I want to hear about what inspires modern fiber artists.  Why do they do what they do?  Where do they draw their energy from?

The photo above is not a new one.  It’s a photo of a shawl I made my mom earlier this year.  It uses traditional Estonian stitches and I think it’s one of the more beautiful things I’ve made.  It’s worth showing again on the blog.  I’m thinking now that I should make myself an Estonian shawl before May.  In bright orange so people know where I’m from.  That’s a little more subtle than flags on a backpack, and a lot more stylish.

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.

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!

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.

Holiday Videos

I haven’t wished you a Happy New Year yet.  Happy New Year!  The days are already flying past.

I took a couple of little videos during the holidays.  One was taken at the Christmas market in Cologne.  It’s the Old Town market, which was the best in our opinion.  The second video is from New Year’s Eve in Haarlem.  We were at a friend’s house and the neighbors were busy lighting fireworks.  If you can imagine this kind of fireworks being set off at the same time, at about every 5th house on every street, you get the idea of what it’s like here at midnight on 31 December.  It’s goes on non-stop for an hour.  Really.