Thursday, May 21, 2015

Some Fun In Geertruidenberg, NL

Our past Sunday started out when we went to see Astrid's son Jeroen play tennis in Raamsdonkveer, 22 km south of us.

The resident heron at the canal by our parking garage paid no attention to us as we left.

But Jeroen did once we arrived.  
He's been playing tennis since age 4 and is on a club team that plays national competitions.
I love the guy and always tell him I like his form (he turns 27 in August).

Because Geertruidenberg is just around the corner from Raamsdonkveer,
we had already decided to visit it after watching Jeroen play.

Geertruidenberg is the oldest city, in what used to be Holland county, to receive city rights, in 1213.
It's not the oldest city in Holland/the Netherlands, which is sometimes confusing.

Regardless, at 802 years, that's old.
You know how much I love the architecture and doo-dads of these old city centers.
You, too, could have your photo taken in the stocks claiming 802 jaar stadsrecht.

There's usually a big church in every Dutch city center.
This one is the Oude Sint Geertruidskerk, or Gertrude's Church.
The city itself is named after Gertrude of Nivelles (top-right above)

We were only there for half an hour or so, walking around city center.

Lucky for me, I found my gable-stone treasures.
Look how old some of them are.

We even found this make-shift stone that is a combination of 5 stones.
The mother (center) and her 4 kids (corners) made this for her husband's 50th birthday.
How fun is that!

Speaking of fun, if you can't take a joke, right?!
The owner was bringing stuff back from his weekend flea market.

And I got my fix of weathervanes, coming and going!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Now, switch gears to my last post about our Open Harbor Day and the goodies we bought.

What I didn't mention was that Astrid found an antique koffie grinder at our flea market.
Neither one of us had ever told each other that we'd love to have one in our home one day.

Well, she found a beauty and completely took it apart, cleaned years of kitchen grease off its internal parts, stripped the paint and then repainted it.  I hate that I wasn't fast enough on my feet to take a photo of what it looked like before.  But at least this is during the clean-up...

...and after, now hanging on our living room wall.  We love the Delft green...and the windmill!
She even put koffie beans in it to grind up, showing its authenticity.  :)
(And did you notice the handy "tool" she used to catch the drilling powder?!)

In case you need a finale, how's this from Tuesday when we had a rare thunderstorm here.
I stood at our front door, looking across the courtyard of our senior complex at 8:45 p.m.
You have no idea how much I miss good thunderstorms (growing up in Michigan)! 

And so it is, another week in the life of a Gemini (May 21-June 21).
I'm officially in celebration mode of my soon-to-come BIG 7-0.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Open Harbor Day, 2015, in Gorinchem, NL

Okay, Folks.  Fasten your seat belts because it was a full 3+ hours of being out-n-about this past Saturday, just blocks away from where we live here in Gorinchem, NL. 

Let's start with the Dragon Boat Races because that was the part nearest our apartment,
only 3 blocks away.
These races have been in Gorinchem for ten years and are now considered "official."

How can you not love the dragons!
This is serious stuff.

But when I saw this team of ladies, ooo-la-la.
Imagine sprites (elves, fairies and pixies) and dragons in another world.
(click on collage to enlarge)

The races were held throughout the day until the final in late afternoon.
The team that lost last year, the Alphas, won this year! BRAVO.

You know me.  I couldn't resist catching the first race of the day.
Not all the races we saw were this neck-n-neck, trust me.

But they were all watched over by the water scouts, making sure everything was tip-top.

What I love about Open Harbor Day is the variety of sights and experiences.
This lady from the Raalte region was explaining how to clean her bonnet whenever it gets dirty.

We think this was her husband weaving baskets next to her.
(I loved his seat-stand contraption.)

We passed him several times and were lucky to see him finishing up the handles.

Don't you love how he chops his hand down on the reeds at intervals to make them tight.

It was in this area of the Linge harbor that we spotted my new friend, Marielle (remember?).
Gotta love us photographers in action, right?  HA!

This is also where the salmon boats congregate every year for their demonstrations... mending their fishing nets,

and cooking up the red poon fish for us to eat (one of our biggest treats each year).

 (photo courtesy of Marielle de Valk)

This year we even heard the fishermen's choir.

Peering into their boats was like peeking into their homes away from home.

And they are very much "at home" in their wooden shoes!

 Speaking of the fishermen's choir, there were 20 choirs/bands around town that day.

Like this one, for instance, just two blocks from where we live.

It was a day for being "short of eyes," as I often say.

A little bit of this-n-that wherever we went.
And I was on my feet the entire time and had no knee problems!

 But my absolute joy of the day was finding this 51 x 63 in. tapestry for €5 at one of the stalls.
The images don't do it justice but the moss green color is closest to the bottom-right.

"This is a garbled version of Horace's Ars Poetica, a treatise on poetry. The passage should read:
Si uis me flere, dolendum est primum ipsi tibi; tum tua me infortunia laedent, Telephe uel Peleu; male si mandata loqueris, aut dormitabo aut ridebo.

It means:

If you wish me to cry, you must first feel grief yourself, then your misfortunes, O Telephus or Peleus, will injure me. If you speak ineptly assigned words, I shall either sleep or laugh."

This now hangs on our bedroom wall as a reminder of everything I love about where we live!

Thursday, May 07, 2015


Or, bits-n-bobs, as our English friends would say!  A little bit of this-n-that before they arrive on Friday (tomorrow evening) and spend a few days with us (another post).

Let's first start with Saturday's walk around Gorinchem's citadel.  I'm making a concerted effort to do it at least once a week.  It's good for my heart and soul...and my body.  That new knee says "thank you" every time, I'm sure.

 But this walk was something special because while I was minding my own business,
I noticed a lady photographing flowers just like I was.  In fact, we kept passing each other.
Finally, we introduced ourselves and continued walking together for the next hour.
When we got to the locks at the inside harbor, she showed me her photo hanging on the wall.
Yup.  Mariëlle de Valk.  There she is...a new friend who shares the love of photography.

And when we got to De Hoop (The Hope) windmill,
she showed me the lion's mouth flower in the brick wall nearby.
It's also called Common/Yellow Toadflax or Butter-and-Eggs, native to Europe and Northern Asia.

 Look what happens when you meet a new friend!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The next day, Sunday, we had an errand to run in nearby Utrecht at 11 a.m. and decided to drive on the back roads coming back, making it a fun day.

Most of the time I'm staring at the Dutch sheep.  But there are also plenty of Dutch cows!
I really am loving everything free-range about this country.

 How can you resist these lovelies!
It makes Mother's Day extra special at this time of the year, doesn't it.

See what I mean about bits-n-pieces-n-bobs!
Throw in some wabi-sabi (bottom-right) and I couldn't be happier.

And then, what should suddenly appear but....
It wasn't till it passed that I saw it was big enough for a group of tourists.
Out in the Dutch boonies!

I'm happy to "collect" one or two good weathervanes while we're out-n-about.
But E I G H T E E N (count them)?  It was weathervane heaven.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

When Monday came around, I had my own errands to run and made a good walk of it.
I never know what I might see so I always carry my camera, just in case.

Lucky for me, the Grote Brug was being raised for a barge just after I crossed over it.
This is a common occurrence for me by now but maybe not for you?
Everyone going to work/school always has to calculate in the time for these possibilities
(a real groaner for many, which is why I decided to show the whole thing!).

 And because I had my camera...and it's still spring...YES!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Now we're getting ready for Lisl and Chris from England to arrive tomorrow evening.
You'll remember them once I get to those posts.
Lisl is my Big Sis; Chris is Astrid's Big Brother.
That's all you need to know for now.

In the meantime,

Thursday, April 30, 2015

King's Day Celebration

On the heels of my own "Dutch celebration" last week, it's appropriate that this week we celebrated the King's 48th birthday.

It used to be the Queen's birthday, every April 30th!  But when Beatrix abdicated her throne in 2013, her eldest son, Willem-Alexander, became the King of the Netherlands, with his wife, Queen Maxima, at his side.  More on that later.  But the King's birthday is April 27th, so the big national holiday is now 3 days earlier than it used to be forever (Beatrix used her queen mother's birthday, thus 65 years between them).

Since the birthday was this past Monday, the Dutch used the entire weekend to celebrate.  Of course.  And one of the goodies that happened in Gorinchem, where we live, was...ta-da...the hand-turned organ grinders!

This is the collage I put up on Facebook, showing different organs with their owners.
(Any similarity to dogs and their owners???)

But what was fun to see was 2 or 3 grinders grouped together.
While one was playing, the other was getting ready for their next "grind."
Made lots of sense.  Saved the grinding arm, too.
(And, yes, we had on-n-off rain that day.)

You know the saying "Not my circus, not my monkeys," right?
Even organ grinders are being politically correct these days.

Are you fascinated by contraptions like this?
I think it would be quite fun to belong to an organ-grinder's society!

Speaking of which, look at Astrid go!
As soon as we approached this grinder, he immediately offered her the reins.
No one could have wiped that smile off her face, trust me.

And then he talked to her about his hobby...and gave her one of his CDs.
He said he was one of 6 German grinders who came to celebrate King's Day in our city.

A real catch for the kids of all ages!

And just for the halibut, here's one of the cutest organs of them all.
Look at those popping hats!  Who thought THAT one up, I wonder.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Actually, all the above happened on Saturday, April 25th, of the Big Birthday weekend.

Monday, April 27th, was the national holiday in honor of the King.  And that day, Astrid and I were glued to the TV for 3 hours, watching the Royal Family descend on nearby Dordrecht.  Every year this happens:  the Royal Family (including all the cousins!) picks a city to visit and that city puts on a show.

Here's a 5-minute synopsis of those 3 hours.

Did I mention that I am in love with the Dutch King and Queen!
What I should say is that I'm in love with Queen Maxima and their amazing love story!
She's Argentinian, so the Dutch Parliament said if Alexander married her, he couldn't be king.
To which he said he didn't care what happened because he would marry her no matter what. 
The entire country fell in love with her.  Even Parliament (who obviously changed their mind)!
She's the first Dutch queen consort since 1890.

That's what they looked like on Monday (above).

Look at them on Willem-Alexander's coronation day, April 30, 2013.
That's the former Queen Beatrix, his mother, left-center.
(all images above and below are from Google Images)

They could even pass for a "normal" family with their 3 girls, right?
The princesses are Amalia (11), Alexia (9) and Ariane (8).

See what I mean about King's Day celebration.
I can hardly wait to see and experience it next year.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Doing CELEBRATION the Dutch Way

Because this is the time for the tulip fields to be bursting with bloom, Astrid and I made the decision over a week ago that we would go looking this past Monday.  And since we were also waiting for the "invitation" to go pick up my "for life" staying permit at Immigration in Rijswijk, near the tulip fields, I said "It would be just like God" to have the invitation in time to hit both birds with the same stone.

Guess what!  My invitation came last week Wednesday, in plenty of time.

So we first drove the hour's drive to Rijswijk, a suburb of Den Haag (The Hague).

We walked into the Immigration building, picked up the number for my turn,
and, before sitting down to wait, were immediately directed to a booth where I picked up my card.
It took less than 5 minutes from beginning to end.

I am now officially a European Union Long-term Resident.
It means I can now live anywhere within the EU.
I need only to renew my permit every 5 years (like with a driver's license or passport).

PINCH ASTRID because this means she never has to worry about job security on my behalf again!

As we left to go back to our car, Mother Nature was celebrating with us!

From there it was to the tulip fields!

 As we drove along, Astrid had a great brain fart as she saw where we were,
16 km north of The Hague.
Let's first stop in Katwijk aan Zee by the North Sea for our koffie break!

And we did!
It would have been unforgivable to be that close and not SEE the sea.

Speaking of seeing, look at that darling church, built in 1461.
It's the St. Andrew's Dutch Reformed church, also called the Old Church or the White Church.

What is it about the sea!?!?!

And how can you resist this kind of art on the beach!?!?!

But...we were on a mission to see the tulips fields and did not linger in Katwijk.

It so happened that the first BIG field we saw was in Noordwijk, so that's where we stopped.
It's known for its bulb flower fields, just 11 km from the Keukenhof gardens.
(Remember when we were there back in April of 2010?!)

The colors were so bright my camera could hardly stand it.
Well, that's my story.  Actually, I had to mute them waaaaay down for Shutterchance.... you see here.  Maybe I was really too hyper that day and needed calming down?

So many varieties of roses tulips.  Did you know they have no smell?
I think the Netherlands would be asphyxiated by now if they did.

There was a section of newly formed blooms/buds... well as a section of hyacinths at the far edge of the field.
Hyacinths bloom before tulips, but they're obviously still in season...and smell BIG TIME,
making up for all the tulips all around the world that don't.

(remains of the day)

Because it was a Monday, there really wasn't a crowd. 
Lucky for us, I think we all were quite manageable in our celebration.

  As we left to go home, my excitement was heightened by seeing a heron at the side of the road.
  Herons are extremely skittish and can stand still for a photo if they allow you to get close enough.
Usually they fly away immediately (out of the image!) whenever we get close enough.

Sorry for how jerky this is's better than nothing, right?
We were in the car, which was not ideal.  Next time I hope to be standing outside.

And finally, of course, the weathervanes of the day.

That evening, once back home, Astrid treated me to a 3-course meal at a nearby restaurant.
How can you beat such a day of celebration!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Change gears now to closer to home, lest I forget my citadel walk from this past Sunday.

I borrowed Astrid's Garmin GPS watch to see if my walk would show what I expected.
It did!  You can almost see the ramparts.
The green drop is the Start and Finish point at our backdoor, walking counter-clockwise.
It was 4.38 km (2.72 mi.) in 1 hour, 4 minutes, stopping to take 15 pics and 6 short videos.
Not bad for a new knee! I'm ecstatic.

And to show what our citadel looks like right now, LOOK.
The yellow everywhere is rapeseed, believe it or not.

How can we NOT love where we live!

Even our windmills celebrate with us!