Monday, April 30, 2007

The Girls in NYC

Let's start at the very beginning!

It's a long story that involved the original possiblility of 5 adults with luggage and how do you fit all that in a taxi! So Donica had reserved a limo beforehand to surprise my sister, Ruth, and her daughter, Lesley, at the airport when we all arrived that Saturday (the 21st) around noon.

Ginnie, Ruth, Lesley and Donica
It was Ruth and Lesley's first limo ride. And with it Donica ordered a bottle of champagne, which we easily finished off in the 30 minutes from the airport to our hotel! (DUH!)

In front of our hotel, on 34th and Lexington, where Donica and I spent the week, was this fabulous photo op. Were we ever ready to hit NYC and paint it red!

As you see, there were photo ops all over the place. Donica and I are both taking pics of Ruth and Lesley giving scale to this very important concept. I don't know when this "statue" was erected but I think NYC has become a city of LOVE since 9/11. We talked to tour guides who said the city has a different feel today than pre-Twin Towers. I totally believe it.

Ruth (from our home state of Michigan) was with us for only Saturday and Sunday, so we made sure we saw what SHE wanted to see. Since Sunday was Earth Day, the 22nd, it was appropriate that we spent most of the day in Central Park. And yes, we were as touristy as we could possibly be.

Lesley is holding her mom's hand on the horse-and-buggy ride. I have never seen such a loving Mother-Daughter relationship. Now that Lesley lives in NYC, she and Ruth are separated most of the year. So this was a joy for Donica and me to observe how demonstrative they are with each other. Maybe they got specially "zapped" on that LOVE statue!

If you haven't been to Central Park, you wouldn't believe it. SEEING is believing! Even though we didn't see all 843 acres of it, we saw enough to amaze us. I know it has had its reputation of crime in the past but not today. With 25 million visitors per year, with only 100 crimes now per year (as compared to 1000 in the early '80s), it is one of the safest parks in the world. We were there on a warm, spring day when it felt like the world was celebrating Earth Day!

Of course, we tired ourselves out! We knew Ruth would be leaving too soon! Earlier in the day we had been to the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center, 70 stories up, where we had views of the whole city, including Central Park. So we really did tire ourselves out before we went to dinner and said Good-Bye to Ruth.

Lesley, Nathan and Nancy
After Ruth left (some people have to work, of course!), we still had Lesley the rest of the week (even though she had to work as well). On Tuesday evening we had a fabulous dinner at my nephew, Nathan, and his lovely wife, Nancy's apartment near Central Park. Nathan is ordained and is working in a ministry to high school prep students. He said he would gladly be called "one of the girls" for this post. What a guy!

On Wednesday night, Donica and I took Lesley out to dinner before seeing "Wicked" on Broadway for her 26th birthday (which happens to be today!). Lesley took this pic of the 3 of us with her cell phone before the play started.


These are just tidbits of one aspect of our week in NYC, related to all us girls! We actually spent time with Lesley on 5 of our 7 days, visiting her and her boyfriend at her apartment in Queens on Thursday. We don't normally go on a vacation week and have family nearby (unless we're going to the family cottage in Michigan, of course). So this was was an extra special vacation!

More impressions of the Cig Bity (as my mom called it) to come! But I definitely had to start at the very beginning. :)

Friday, April 20, 2007

To P or Not to P

I can't resist this!

It also happened in Hannover--needing to watch where you stepped on the sidewalks because of, well, dog poop (P). But in Amsterdam, these signs are everywhere on the sidewalks, reminding you (in case you forget).

In case you can read Dutch, I guess this version is for you! My Babel translator says "dog to the line." HA! I'm guessing one of you (CS or O-X?) can give the less literal translation.

For the rest of us, this is as clear as you'll ever need.

Then, to bring the big LOL, Donica and I saw this sign on the side of a building near private steps going down to a basement apartment.
Do you think the dogs can "read" it?!

Anyway, you know I love this kind of thing. It doesn't take much to amuse me. :)

Donica returns home from India this afternoon. The lawn is mowed and errands are done. I'll do one last-minute load of wash after she comes home and we'll both basically repack for our flight to NYC tomorrow morning. VACATION! Music to Donica's ears in particular (because I'm always on vacation, right?!). She is so ready for this week.

Did I tell you that my dear sister, Ruth, will arrive in NYC from Michigan within half an hour of us! She will stay with us and her daughter, Lesley (who lives there and whose 26th birthday is on the 30th!), until she flies back home on Monday morning. So it's not just NYC we're excited about. RUTH and Lesley! Yaaaaay!

This will be my last post here on Blogger till we get back on the 28th. But if you want to see a photo-a-day of more A'dam pics, please go to my photoblog.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

IKEA Mania

What do YOU do on a Saturday after you move into a new apartment? Go to IKEA, of course.

Amsterdam's IKEA.

We have heard about this phenomenon for a long time and from many people but it has never been an up-close-and-personal experience for us. We even saw the IKEA headquarters when we were in Sweden last summer and heard about what the letters stand for (the first 2 initials are for the founder's name, Ingvar Kamprad, and the last 2 intials are for his home village, Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd). I have since heard that he's the richest person in the world.

Our first visit to IKEA was in Hannover on Good Friday, the day before we moved our European apartment to Amsterdam. We needed an office chair for the computer desk and a big soup/stew pot. Donica figured prices would be cheaper in Hannover's IKEA than in Amsterdam's (which we have since found out is not true--they're the same). Besides, we had a rental car for transport.

Guess what! After living in Amsterdam for a week, we discovered some more things we could use. Like another computer desk and chair and a filing cabinet for the printer! (Actually, truth be known, Donica liked IKEA so much she needed an excuse to go back!)

So, we rented a car here in Amsterdam and drove out to A'dam's IKEA on Saturday morning. You know what those shopping carts are called? Winkelwagens! Remember to pronounce the 'w' like a 'v' cute is THAT!

Once home, Donica was spit-spot on getting the chair, desk and then the filing cabinet assembled. Those of you who know IKEA know that almost all furniture has to be assembled! Par for the course.
Look. She's even smiling! One happy camper.

Voila! Next to my blue desk is Donica's new black desk and filing cabinet with printer. I'm sure you're wondering why we needed to go to all that trouble and expense. Well, let's just say that Donica didn't want to keep messing up the dining table every time she came home from work at night (she takes her laptop to work with her, of course), or to have me move all my paraphenalia every time she was home. And look how nicely everything fits together!

Truthfully, we know that we will have visitors here in A'dam! So we want to keep the living space tidied up. Just for when YOU will come, of course. :)

Switch gears now because today I fly back to Atlanta. It's a non-stop flight with no transfers. I won't know what hit me!

While I'm flying to Atlanta, Donica will be flying to India. YES, INDIA! She'll be in Bangalore for a day and then Chennai (formerly Madras) for a day, flying back to Atlanta on Friday. Talk about a whirlwind!

THEN on Saturday, we both will fly to New York City (NYC) for a week's vacation! But I'll get to that later in the week. After I mow the lawn!!!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Bookends

You've now seen our apartment and our 2-block street (Elandsgracht) here in Amsterdam. Here now are the two canals that run perpendicular to our street!

On the busiest end of our street, where the Johnny Jordaan plaza is (last post) and from where you would head into the center of the city, is the Prinsengracht canal. I have actually gone a street down to look back at the bridge that takes you across the canal on the left to our street (so our apartment is off to the left). There in the distance is the Westerkerk, which is on the corner near the Anne Frank House. It's the church she could see out of her top-floor window while she was in hiding during WWII.

Now walk the two blocks down our street to the other end where you see the Lijnbaangracht canal. I've done the same thing again--walked to the next bridge and looked back at the bridge that takes us to our street. It's the only white wooden bridge in A'dam thus far that I've seen. Our apartment is 10 storefronts down on the right, on the other side of the street. Our grocery store, BTW, is across the bridge on the left about a block away.

So there you have it! I'm quite sure I'll be showing you more canals and bridges over time but THESE are ours. They really are the bookends to our wee street!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Lay of the Land

Now then. Where are we when we're in Amsterdam! And where are YOU in relation to us here?

I have already told/shown you that our apartment is on Elandsgracht ("Moose Canal") street which just happens to be only two blocks long, in between 2 canals.

On the sidewalk of our side of Elandsgracht street is this "map" of distances between us and you. Well, not you in the States but just about everywhere else (click to enlarge). Remember the one similar to this in Hannover? That one was approximtely 12 feet in diameter. This one is about 2 feet.

Now if you want, look at this map of the Jordaan area of Amsterdam (where Elandsgracht street is) and scroll down till you find Elandsgracht with a #26 on the right end of the street. See the marker that says "Johnny Jordaan Plein?" That's this pic above, which is the back side of that square-looking stall. If you continue down the one-way street on its right, you'll come to our apartment, just before the Lijnbaangracht canal on the other end.

So, if I haven't totally confused you (c'mon, stay with me!), in the pic above, the Prinsengracht canal is behind me. In the pic below, I'm facing the canal while standing in the wee plaza. (That's one of the 2 canals bookending our street. You can't see it but, trust me, it's there)

This tiny little plaza is named after Johnny Jordaan, a pseudonym for Johannes Hendricus van Musscher (1924-1989). His is the bust on the right (above) and below.

So, I came home and looked him up in Wiki: he was a Dutch folk singer "well known for his songs about the city of Amsterdam, especially the Jordaan district." I'm guessing it's safe to say he was well-loved if an entire district of A'dam (ours) is named after him! And if there's a little plaza with his bust that just happens to be on our street!

So now we know! I'm just passing on what I'm learning about where we will now spend half our time each year. Inquiring minds and all!

Guess what! Everything above I wrote and took pics of yesterday. Today when I was out-n-about, there was this crazy man (below) and a TV crew doing something at the Johnny Jordaan plaza. The 3 men statues had these HUGE red wigs (and a couple cardboard busts). The lady had none. What was THAT about??? If I find out, I'll let you know.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Saying Good-Bye Before Hello

[First of all, I'm on my laptop before our Internet is connected here in Amsterdam (A'dam) because I'm connected to someone's wireless here in the neighborhood. YAY!]

Now go back to Saturday when we drove the exactly 4 hours from Hannover to our A'dam apartment.

Landlords Uschi and Wolfgang, on the floor below our apartment, had invited us to breakfast so that we wouldn't have to fuss about anything before leaving. What total sweethearts! It was the quintessential European breakfast to die for in a relaxed setting, from 8-9:30a. OMG! It was the perfect send-off.

Then we did our last-minute take-downs from the 4th floor, 65 steps up and down...for the last time. This is the courtyard and the entrance to the apartment units. See the narrow alley between the 2 buildings on the right? That takes you to the front of the building on the street and was what Donica had to navigate the VW mini-van through, very carefully!

Okay. All set to go. Two last pics by Uschi. And at exactly 10:15a, we were set to rock-n-roll.

We would have all been in tears if it wasn't for the fact that we all know we'll see each other again...and again, both here and there. Uschi and Wolfgang have already promised to drive to see us in A'dam. And we have promised to see them back in Hannover. Donica will be back-n-forth for work, but I'll probably join her once or twice a year. (Remember, there's also Christina to see!)

So Good-Bye, dear Uschi and Wolfgang! We'll see you again soon!

BTW, Donica rented a van that had a GPS navigation systrem. I couldn't believe it. We crossed the border from Germany into the Netherlands about halfway there. Once we got into A'dam, it was a charm. Since we were already familiar with our neighborhood, we could verify everything. So cool.

Monday is still Easter weekend here in Europe. For the rest of you, welcome to a new week. Next post will be of A'dam up close and personal. :)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Moose Canal

First of all, a happy Easter weekend to all! In whatever way you celebrate this holiday, I trust you'll be full of resurrection joy!

This morning Donica and I will be driving a rental mini-van from Hannover to Amsterdam (AMS) with all our accumulated stuff from the last 2 years! The short story is that Donica was asked to move her European apartment to give more of a company presence in AMS, in conjunction with some global changes to her position.

Fine by us!

Where we will be living is on Elandsgracht street in the southern Jordaan area of AMS (within walking distance from the Anne Frank house and from where James and Matt live!).

This is a store front window on our street.
De Eland = Moose
Gracht = Canal
Elandsgracht = Moose Canal
(this street used to be a canal that was later filled in)

If you stand out in the median (where cars and bikes park), our apartment is on the first floor (in Europe the floor above ground floor!) above the white awning with the 3 windows. The 2 windows on the left are the office and dining area; the window on the right is the kitchen.

The following inside pics are from the website that was listing the apartment when we found it last trip:

Standing inside from the living room, looking out those same 3 windows. The blue secretary is where my laptop will be stationed! And yes, there are hardwood floors throughout!

The 3 windows are now on the right and you see how the kitchen is right out in the open! The fridge is on the left of the microwave, at least 3x bigger than our Hannover one!

Now the 3 windows are behind you as you look across the living room to the bedroom in the back (with 2 windows facing a courtyard for a nice cross-draft in the summer, I'm sure). The bed is to the left of that doorway and the bathroom to the right.

The bedroom, with huge floor-to-ceiling built-in closets and storage shelves on the left.

A HUGE bathroom, not only with the bathtub on the left but a standing shower out of the picture on the right. This was one of the features that sold us on this apartment. :)

So now you can picture where we are! I did the same thing with our Hannover apartment 2 years ago, believe it or not. Just call it my sense for posterity!

Be forewarned that even though we jump-started our Internet connection last trip, it may still take some finagling to get it connected. Monday is part of the Easter holiday in Europe, so we can't even pick up our moden at the P.O. till Tuesday. Let's hope it will be like magic when Donica connects all the wires. I do remember that it was at least 3 weeks before we got connected in Germany 2 years ago. Cross your fingers with me that it will happen much sooner than that!

Journeying mercies now to all who are traveling this weekend! Death and resurrection. A tear and a smile!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bright Morning Stars Are Rising

As of 7p this evening, we are back from Amsterdam here in Hannover until Saturday when we make our 4-hour drive, moving our accumulated Hannover stuff to Amsterdam. But I'll talk about that on Saturday before we leave.

For right now, I want to talk about Easter and its memories for me.

The Wednesday before Easter in 1995 was April 12, the day Dad died. The day before Easter in 1997 was March 29, the day Mom died. On February 24th of 1996, in between those two years, my brother Bennett died. (Most of you already know this from when I memorialized them last year.)

Hold that thought.

The other day on the treadmill, I was listening to Walela sing Bright Morning Stars are Rising:

Bright morning stars are rising,
Bright morning stars are rising,
Bright morning stars are rising,
And Day is breaking in my soul.

Now listen to the (only!) 3 stanzas they sing:

Oh where are our dear fathers,
Oh where are our dear fathers,
They're on the mountain praying,
And day is breaking in my soul.

Carl Clarence Hart
January 2, 1917 - April 12, 1995

Oh where are our dear brothers,
Oh where are our dear brothers,
They're off to war a-fighting,
And day is breaking in my soul.

Bennett Williams Hart
June 28, 1948 - February 24, 1996

Oh where are our dear mothers,
Oh where are our dear mothers,
They're off to Heaven shouting,
And day is breaking in my soul.

Barbara Nelson Bennett Hart
June 26, 1916 - March 29, 1997

As I'm sure you can imagine, Easter now always has a deeper death/resurrection meaning for me and my sibs. But this year, even more so....

Bright morning stars are rising,
And day is breaking in my soul.

Monday, April 02, 2007

March Madness

HA! April Fools. Sort of, that is. It's no longer March, of course, and it's not April 1, but it IS still March Madness, when it comes to basketball. Tonight is the Men's Final here in Atlanta between Ohio State and Florida; tomorrow night in Cleveland is the Women's Final between Rutgers and Tennessee.

Last year at this time, I showed this same basketball hoop in a cul-de-sac near our house. This pic today is one I took a week ago. Can you believe it? They are almost exactly the same, except for the sky. That tells me it's glory days have long gone by!

While all this madness carries on (and Donica is in the thick of it, because she used to be a guard in high school, remember?), we both fly to Amsterdam today and then to Hannover on Wednesday evening. I'll tell you more about this trip later but this week we'll be packing up our odds-n-ends at the Hannover apartment for a home-away-from-home move to Amsterdam on Saturday before Easter. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, we'll miss tonight's men's final while on the airplane. The women's game tomorrow night--maybe we'll both get up early to watch it (4:21a Amsterdam time)! It'll be hard to know who to root for!