Knitting and Stuff

Friday a friend of mine said “there hasn’t been much knitting on your blog lately”. Well, that doesn’t mean there’s no knitting happening chez moi!

Mostly I’ve been working on something I can’t show you.  Sorry.  And I’ve been practicing my spinning! Check this out.

I don’t know what kind of fiber this is.  I’m guessing BFL.  The staple is pretty long and it’s really soft. I bought quite a while ago with the idea of spindle spinning, which I never got the hang of or enthusiasm for.  This wheel spinning is going better and better every day that I sit down to practice.  However, I can’t wait to go to my day long lesson in September.  I wish it was sooner, but it’s still a month away.  I’ll just have to keep bumbling along til then.

And I’ve cast on my black hoodie.

This is the center back, with decreases to make waist shaping.  The pattern is Piscataqua and I’m making it with Imperial Ranch Erin worsted weight yarn, 100% wool. This is the same yarn/ranch that provided the yarn for the last Olympic sweaters for the U.S. team.  It’s really nice to work with! It could have a little more twist for my liking, but still, it’s soft and holds its shape enough for some cables.  I meant to cast this on and have it finished by now – you know, work on a black sweater in the summer when there’s more light – but I’ve been working on the sweater-that-can’t-be-shown and only started now, in August.  August is still summer, I hear you say.  Oh yeah?  Not in these parts…

Summer So Far

This has been the best summer weather we’ve had since I moved here 10 years ago.  At least in my opinion it’s the best.  Some people are complaining about the heat, but for me it’s wonderful to be able to actually wear summer clothes!  Normally I get my shorts out of the closet about 5 days per year.  Since the first of July we’ve had mostly sun and heat.

I’ve been biking to the beach a lot these days.  It’s helps that I’m unemployed.  OK, it helps to have the time for fun things, but there’s a definite down side (moola).  (And that is all coming to an end… more news later.)

Here are some sights from my trips around, on the bike and on foot, to the beach and back.

This little frog was seen on a street in Bloemendaal, during an early morning walk/run.

A typical sight here – Mom with a couple of kids, on bikes, going as fast as the kid’s little legs will go.

Parnassia, early Thursday morning.  Pretty quiet.  But it’s early still.

Wild horses hanging out in the noonday sun.  Seems like a hot place to be if you ask me.

Parnassia Friday morning 11:00am.  People streaming down to the beach.  The parking lot is sure to be full by now.

The horses and cattle have moved to the “lake”, now a watering hole for animals in the dunes.  Seems like a good place to be in this heat.

My last free days of summer will see more trips into the dunes, that’s for sure.  It’s been too warm for me to do any running.  These trips on the bike are all early in the morning.  We’re all trying to beat the heat.  And will remember these lovely summer days long into the cold dark winter to come.

Beat the Heat

We’ve been having a heat wave! Our weather has certainly gone from one extreme to the other.  Everyone has been heading to the beach this past week or so.  And so have we.  We try to beat the heat and beat the crowds by going early.  For example, this morning we biked to the beach and got there around 9am.  Here’s what it looked like:

DB went for a run.  I sat at the cafe at Parnassia and had coffee and a croissant and did some knitting….

When DB finished his run we went down to the beach and hung out for a while.  We dunked ourselves in the sea.  When we left at 11:30 the same part of the beach looked like this….

And people were pouring down to the beach.  We were salmon swimming against the tide as we walked up the hill to leave.  While biking home we passed this handsome swan family.  I thought I should take their picture.

Tomorrow should be cooler.  I’m planning to do some yarn dyeing so it had better be cooler!  I’m hoping for rain tonight so I don’t have to water the garden tomorrow.  Stay tuned….

Of Windmills and Color

Yesterday G. and I rode our bikes to the Zaanse Schans to buy dyes for dyeing yarn and fabric.  It was a glorious day!

I suggested going to the windmill De Kat to buy these dyes because I knew the weather would be nice.  G. suggested going by bike, which made me gulp and exclaim “bike!?”.  I’d never biked that far in my life and was a little nervous about it.  Silly me.  It was great.

We met part way there because she lives in Amsterdam and me in Haarlem.  We met at bike route point #11, which is where one of the many ferries takes cars and bikes across the North Sea Canal.  She had mapped the whole thing out using “Fiets!” app, which also has a web site where you can see your routes and upload and download them.  Luckily, here in NL, the country is crisscrossed by numbered and marked bike routes.  My route yesterday was this:

We biked through small towns and past fields of sheep and ponds with ducks and geese.  We got a little bit lost in Zaandam because there wasn’t a sign where we should have made a left turn.  It’s times like that that I’m happy to have GPS on my phone!  We were soon back on course.  We biked past not one, but TWO chocolate factories which smelled so strong it was almost (but not quite) sickening.  We can smell the chocolate in Amsterdam and Haarlem when the wind is right.

G. couldn’t believe I’d never been to Zaanse Schans before.  I live with a Dutchman.  Why would he want to relive his school trips with me?  I feel bad that I didn’t go there with my mom when she was here.  I just didn’t know how nice it was.  And how close to home.

We only went to the one windmill, De Kat, because we were on a mission to buy dyeing stuff, and because we didn’t want to get home too late in the afternoon.  There were tourists, but it wasn’t super crowded.  We climbed up the stairs to the middle layer of the mill, where the works are inside and the walkway is outside.

There’s a small gift shop and we asked where we would buy the dyes.  The woman said “oh you have to get Piet to take you to the back room”.  Piet was dressed in traditional clothes, including wooden shoes, and carried his bone pipe with him.   He took us through the door marked “Private”, into a fantastic room filled with magic powders.

Nearly all of the products they sell are for making your own paints.  Only a very small part of it, just one “bookcase” was for fabric and wool dyes.  That’s ok.  It’s enough for us to play with!  Isn’t this a fantastic place?

G. wanted a photo with Piet to send to her mom.  Here it is.  Very sweet.

I bought more stuff than I was planning on buying.  I couldn’t resist.  I bought cochineal which is very expensive.  I’ve never dyed with it before so I’m looking forward to playing with that.  Logwood, which I have used before.  Fustic and woad, which are new to me.  I also bought some chemicals for mordants and modifiers – alum and iron and potash.  I was looking for copper for a modifier, but they didn’t have it and I suspect you can’t buy it anymore because it is dangerous to use.  Just as well I couldn’t get it.  I also bought a sweet little book of recipes which included bits of yarn as samples.

We had a quick sandwich in the area and hopped back on our bikes to head home.  G. left me at Zaandam to head to Amsterdam and I pedaled back the way I had come.  I have to say, by the time I reached the ferry I was pooped!  Still 8km to go.  When I was on the ferry you could see in the distance a big cruise ship coming up the canal heading for Amsterdam.  I stopped on the other side and took a few photos of it.  I wanted to include the boat watchers.  I found it really funny that people would drive to this point, get out their chairs and picnic stuff and hang out watching boats come and go on the canal.  Plane spotters and train spotters and now boat spotters.  Takes all kinds.

I biked 40km (24 miles) in total yesterday.  When I got home at around 3pm I put my head under the kitchen faucet and ran cold water.  The farthest I’d ever biked before was 20km to the beach and back.  This was twice as far.  I felt really tired but really good.  Today my legs feel tired, but not sore and not nearly as bad as I was expecting.  I even went to knit night last night in Amsterdam and BIKED to the train station!

I complain a lot lately about getting older and how my body is changing.  I don’t like it.  Not at all.  Getting old sucks.  Pains popping up where there weren’t any last week.  Swollen fingers and sleepless nights.  And then I go for a bike ride like this and I count my blessing over and over again.  I’m so happy I can do this.  Getting old sucks, but getting old in style is pretty ok.

p.s. If you want to know how to change the direction that a windmill is facing, you can find out HERE.

Winter Wonderland

This morning DB wanted to go running on soft ground, and given that the ground everywhere was covered in ice and sleety snow, he asked if I would drive him to the beach so he could run there.  My first thought was that I would sit in the warm cafe at Parnassia and drink hot chocolate and knit while he ran (I’m still injured and not running).  After driving through the dunes to Parnassia and seeing how beautiful everything looked covered in a fine dusting of white, I decided instead to go for a walk and take photos.  Of course I hadn’t thought to bring my big camera, but my iPhone takes pretty darned good photos if you ask me.

I didn’t walk very far – about 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back, plus some photography time.  DB and I got back to Parnassia at about the same time.  We got in the car and drove back home.  Once again I’m so happy and grateful that I live only 10 minutes by car from the beach.  How lucky am I?

Here are some more photos from the morning.  The sun is still shining bright and it’s cold and crisp outside.  These are winter days that I love.

Snow Day

Today I spent a lot of time waiting for trains, looking for trains, riding on trains.  I had to go to Rotterdam in the morning, and then Amsterdam in the afternoon, then back to Haarlem.  Unfortunately, when we get the slightest bit of snow here, the trains just break down.  On my route, at least 50% of the trains were cancelled.  It’s just ridiculous.

I took this photo from the window of a stopped train.  We had just left Den Haag, heading to Amsterdam.  I shouldn’t have had to go to Den Haag Centraal at all, but I had no choice.

Why is it that in Germany and Poland and Sweden and Russia and Switzerland, all places where there is MUCH colder weather than here and much more snow than here, the trains run.  I lived in Switzerland for 11 years and NEVER experienced or heard of train problems like we have here in the Netherlands.

I think they just don’t want to spend the money to upgrade systems to be weather proof.  I think it’s a scandal.  How many people couldn’t get to work yesterday?  Only half of my students managed to get to class.  For a country that is so far ahead of the rest when it comes to technology (fast internet, banking, flood preparations, etc), the train system is an embarrassment.

Also, the roads don’t get cleared of snow either.  In Switzerland there are road crews working round the clock to clear snow from roads so people can get to work.  Yesterday morning there were pile-ups everywhere due to people trying to drive on roads that had not been cleared or gritted or salted.

Given these conscious decisions by the government and train company not to cope with snow and ice, they should just admit their apathy and call it a snow day.  Officially tell everyone to stay home.  It would be cheaper and better for everyone.  I’m going to write to my congress person….