Thursday, June 28, 2007

Load Management


Tell me if you've seen this or even have it where you live.





Back on May 7th, we received an e-mail from our electricity company telling us that if we signed up by June 1, we'd get a $10 bonus for letting them install this contraption onto our HVAC unit which is radio-controlled by their Center:

On summer afternoons when the demand for electricity is critically high, we will transmit a radio signal to temporarily (7 minutes) cycle your compressor off. The fan inside the home will continue to run in order to maintain comfort in the home; you should not even notice that the compressor is off. The combined effect of thousands of switches on our system allows for a significant reduction in peak demand. The switches are only utilized at peak periods from June 1st through September 10th, Monday through Friday, between 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 pm. (not on July 4th or Labor Day).


The switch is installed and maintained free of charge. AND, besides the $10 early bonus, they will give an annual bonus of $10 to those using it.

Is that a no-brainer or what! It didn't take us long to say YES. And when we came home from Amsterdam the week of June 15th, there it was. Have we noticed it inside? Not one whit!

You know me. I'm for anything that conserves our precious resources!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Weekend with Nicholas


I can't believe it came and went! It was so chockfull of so many things and we did them all in the short span when Donica was home, before flying off to Barcelona on Sunday evening.

Besides the birthday and Father's Day late celebrations, we had Nicholas for an overnight! We miss that little twerp when we're not home, so we just totally spoil him when we have him.

It's way too hot in Atlanta to play outdoors these days, so we took Nicholas bowling...a year after the last time (when split happened, remember?). What a riot!






It tickles the heck outta me to see him bowl and love it. A year ago, it was all he could do to get in two games. This year, after 2 games I asked him if he wanted to play a third? YES! What a difference a year can make. He's a bigger, stronger boy!

And just for the record, this "old lady" still knows how to bowl! My average was 144 after those 3 games. Well, that might not seem much to you but I was tickled pink. When Donica and I bowled on the same team almost 10 years ago, she says my average was 139. So there. I guess we do get better with age. HA!




After the bowling, Nicholas knew we'd hit the arcade games, just like last year. He and Donica go at it, sometimes side by side. G'ma watches and takes the pics. :)

That was Saturday morning...all 3 hours of it! Later in the afternoon we went back to Amy's for the gourmet snapper dinner she cooked for my birthday celebration. That's when she showed me the SEVEN pages (count them) of Nicholas' birthday wish-list! His first ever.


A couple weeks ago Amy told me that Nicholas started telling her what he wanted for his 7th birthday (July 12). As he rattled different things off, she told him that he needed to write a birthday wish-list. THEN when she saw how long it was, she had to tell him that just because he wished for all those things didn't mean he would get them all. She wanted to prepare him. And I piped in to tell him that Donica and I had already bought him his birthday gift before we had seen the list. So don't be disappointed, in other words!

What would we ever do without our kids and grandkids! You tell me!

So now we wait expectantly for almost a week of togetherness as a larger family in Michigan next week!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Emily


Years and years ago (1988?), I met a little girl in Dublin who said, when she found out I was from America, "I have a friend named Emily who lives in America. Do you know her?"

No, I didn't know THAT Emily. But the other one...


...well, first the context. We're both now in Atlanta, so I don't want to confuse you. But within walking distance of our Amsterdam apartment is this building with that light-blue, painted panel running across it's mid-section (click to enlarge).
This is what it says:









Not too long ago, my sister, Ruth, had a post about the shortage of honey bees because of global warming. It's almost as if Emily knew.

She is one Emily I really wish I could say I knew! Don't you?!

**********

Now switch gears. I arrived home on Wednesday and Donica arrived home yesterday afternoon. Withing a few short hours, we were at Atlanta's Chastain Ampitheater for a Cyndi Lauper concert last night! Can you believe that Donica! Neither one of us knows that we're too old for this yet. HA!

Today I'm writing this at the Honda dealership while my car is getting it's 60K-mile maintenance. From here I go to pick up Nicholas for an overnight. WE MISS HIM! Tomorrow we celebrate my birthday at Amy's, with Mark included. Sunday we celebrate Father's Day at Donica's mom's (step-dad) just before I take Donica to the airport for a week of business in Barcelona. Yup. This is her 3rd trip in a row where she has come home only for the weekend. Man!

I'll stay home this time...getting ready for our annual trip to Michigan for the 4th. But more on that later.

In the meantime, have a great weekend with Emily-style revery! I have lots of blogrolling to do and will find you soon, I hope.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Permission to Speak Freely...AGAIN!


Remember all those months ago when I was finally able to tell you that Amy and Dennis had found each other!

Once again, I can finally tell you that Dennis popped the question on May 25th while visiting Amy in Atlanta! One week before their one-year anniversary of meeting each other, June 1, 2006! Donica and I were in bed asleep here in Amsterdam when Amy called with the exciting news (that was the understanding--call as soon as you find out!). We flew home, saw the gorgeous ring, celebrated Donica's mom's birthday and flew right back. Remember that crazy weekend? See, there was a reason!


This past weekend Amy flew out to LA to celebrate the 45th wedding anniversary of Dennis' parents. It was also Judy and Dave's time to congratulate Amy and Dennis in person, which made it all the more real, of course.


It was also the time when Amy and Dennis shared the news with his two daughters, Brooke (9) and Noelle (13). Nicholas (almost 7 ) was told back in May when Dennis was present, so they wanted to do the same for the girls with Amy present.
ALL THREE KIDS ARE SUPER THRILLED!
And all 3 kids will finally meet each other in late July when Amy and Nicholas will fly out for a week on the beach as a family.



Dennis plans to move to Atlanta at some point this year, going back-n-forth to see his girls who live with their mom. Sometime the girls will come to Atlanta, we hope, when we'll get to meet them...before the wedding in Hawaii sometime next year!

Is this exciting news or what! You who are parents of grown kids know how thrilling it is to see them happy, especially the second time around. We couldn't be more thrilled and can only wish them the utmost happiness as they continue this saga of their life together.

Put your hands together for
AMY and DENNIS!

Donica and I will fly back home to Atlanta on Wednesday and Thursday this week (me first), getting a bit settled before we make the long drive to the Hart Family Cottage in Michigan for the July 4th weekend. Dennis will drive with us!

But first, I just had to share The News!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Donica's Birthay Gift to Me


A weekend in Brugge/Bruges, Belgium! Leave it to her!

Donica was in Brussels from Wednesday through Friday this past week and surprised my by having me train down from Amsterdam to meet her in Brussels by 4:30 yesterday afternoon. "Stay on the platform," she said. "Don't leave till I find you."

In less than a NY minute, there she was, and within another minute, we crossed the platform together and got on another train to Brugge, where we had been charmed to death 9 years ago and said we'd have to go back some day.

Some day was now. That was her birthday gift to me....


...a room with this view from our hotel!


Just two blocks from the marquet square!



And we're still here! I couldn't stand not telling you till after we get back to Amsterdam later tomorrow afternoon.

This morning we took a city tour by bus and then by boat (30 minutes each). And this afternoon we rode bikes for 5 hours, sometimes in light rain. A couple of times we've had thunderstorms (when we were inside), giving way almost immediately to sunshine. What a gift! I LOVE thunderstorms!


And windmills! OMG!

I'm sure I'll tell you more later but for now, I had to tell you this much!

AND to wish y'all a Happy Father's Day! My tribute to Dad is on my photoblog tomorrow. I love you, Dad!

And I love you, Donica. Thanks for an incredible birthday!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My Birthday Gift to Me


Since I've already done this on my photoblog, I want you to see it here in more detail. More pics, that is.

Actually, they're gevelstenen...carved and/or painted stones that were used to identify houses before street numbering was introduced in the 16th century. Many reflect the owner's occupation. Our tourist books call them wall plaques or tablets. Wiki calls them gable stones and supposedly there are 850 of them in Amsterdam!

Today is my 62nd birthday and this is my gift to me! It may be my most soulful collection of all that we have. For one thing, I have had to go off walking in all directions each day to find the 346 I have found thus far (photo ablum). It's like finding money! I'm like a little kid in the candy store.

Here's a sampling:


You know I have to show you an organ grinder!


I haven't a clue, but someone has a sense of humor!


Many of them are from the 1600-1700s.


Some are self-explanatory.


Some remind me of my upbringing!


I especially like that they're still making them, no matter how new!


And that the creative juices are still there, no matter how recent in time!


Some can get pretty complicated.


And some are simply my favorites because of what they depict.



Amazingly, I received a comment on my photoblog today with a link to this man in nearby Zutphen who carves these stones. If you go into his collection link, you can find several of his that are also in my album. The second and last stones posted here are his. I am in total Hog Heaven and hope that some day I'll be able to meet him. Wouldn't THAT be something.

So, Happy Birthday to me. I think I'm the luckiest 62-year-old woman in the whole wide world!

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Sunday Joy Ride


Yesterday afternoon, Donica and I had the time of our lives with James and Matthias...and little Jack...on their "new" boat of one week! Aren't we the lucky stiffs!

After a delightful hour of hors d'oeuvres in their apartment, within walking distance from ours, Matt went off to get their orange boat (a good Holland color :).


James is coaxing Jack to get into the boat, while Donica holds the leash. Today was Matt's turn to drive.


I was behind James all the way! HA! At this point we were on the Amstel River, which is Amsterdam's big flow-through waterway and very wide in relation to the canals.


For much of the ride, little "Jackie" found a friend for life, I think, in the arms of Donica. So cute.


It was a Sunday, mind you. So Matt had to navigate us behind many a boat, out having the same joy ride we were having, of course. In many cases, we simply had to take our turn in going under the bridges. He was a master navigator!


You see Amsterdam from a slightly different perspective, of course, when you're ON the canals. We've been on the much-larger tourist boats (for me, that was 9 years ago!) but the small boat is cozier and under OUR direction or whim.


Whether on the smaller canals or the larger Amstel (with the famous Magere Brug drawbridge in the background, originally built in 1670 and then renovated in 1969), it was a perfect day for a joy ride.

At the end of it, as we walked back to our apartment, Donica said, "When they get their new boat [something they're considering as an upgrade], maybe we can buy this one!" HA! I can see it coming. :)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The G8 Summit


Because I'm getting only limited news on the G8 Summit here in Amsterdam, on CNN International, I'm wondering how it's going this time around. I heard about the protests in Germany yesterday.


I was taking a walk in the early evening last Thursday (before flying home on Friday for the whirlwind trip) and came upon this building.


And I was thinking, what is this all about?! So I opened up their website, as seen on this banner. And here are some of the points I lifted out:

The participants in the Summit Conference represent the world’s eight mightiest governments, which help create the problems -- for which they then decide upon the so-called solutions.

1. The globalisation policies of the G8 make life unbearable for many people and provoke resistance. Ultimately globalisation is enforced by repression and military might. G8 means war. Globalisation forces people to flee their homes, to seek asylum.We intend to show the connection between the G8 and war and make our resistance visible. In an action of civil disobedience, it is our aim to clearly show our rejection of war and training for war.

2. The ‘Group of 8’ (G8) is an institution without legitimacy. Nevertheless, as a self-appointed informal world government, they make decisions which affect the whole of humanity. The policies of the G8 stand for a neoliberal globalisation and deregulation, economic policies oriented towards the capital returns of international financial investors and companies.

3. The world shaped by the dominance of the G8 is a world of war, hunger, social divisions, environmental destruction and barriers against migrants and refugees.

4. Globalisation in the interests of the majority of people requires a fair relationship between industrialised and developing countries, and means freedom, justice, social security, democracy and the conservation of the planet’s natural resources for the next generation.

If you go to this page, you can see what they promote as the solution/alternative to the G8.

In a nutshell, they are for the global freedom of movement and equal rights for all. They are against war, torture and militarism and the global state of exception. They are against the neo-nazis who try to present themselves as the “only real anticapitalists.” They are for the small farmers of the world who are being undermined by multinational corporations. They are against 40 years of Israeli occupation of Palestine. They are for climate justice.

Hmmm. If I were in Germany right now, makes me wonder if I would join them! What about you?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Ugly Ducklings


Yes, after a whirlwind weekend, we are back in Amsterdam, safe-n-sound. Well, at least I am, because Donica flew off to Belgium this morning, where she will be these next 3 days, arriving back on Friday. Thanks for all your travel wishes!

A week ago I took one of my daily walks here in Amsterdam and headed off to nearby Vondelpark and the Museum district. First things first, this was just the cutest thing I'd seen in a long time. (Ironically, the very next day, I saw something similar when we were in Leiden, but that's another post!)


Here's the overall context of Mommy and Daddy duck with their clump of 5 children there in the middle (click image to enlarge), that close to the edge of one of the ponds in the park. Mommy and Daddy were like sentries, guarding their kin midst the comings and goings of myriad park lovers.


Mind you, I have no clue what kind of ducks these are (can anyone help me?) but I do think this one is Mommy. Don't ask me why. Instinct, I guess.


And this one is Daddy (or the other way around). Back-n-forth, back-n-forth, the 5 ducklings waddled between Mommy and Daddy.


Sometimes they stuck together.


Sometimes they didn't.


This one was in its own world, I think.


I'm guessing they explored this area for half an hour while I crouched patiently nearby, mesmerized by the entire scene.


Then, as if on cue, all 5 ducklings started waddling to the bank of the pond, with Mommy (I'm still guessing) closely watching...


...and nudging.


The next thing I knew, they were all in the (full of flower-blossom fuzz) water, swimming off. Daddy (I'm still guessing) took a minute to join them before they sailed off into the wild blue yonder. Actually, they paddled over to the other side where humans started feeding them bread crumbs. Hmmm. Don't know how I feel about that but I guess ducks aren't dumb.

Anyway, I had my show for the day. Not something I get to see that often, mind you. So, yes, I was tickled pink. Welcome to a day in the life of Ginnie in Amsterdam. :)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Got Bikes?


If you didn't know this already, Amsterdam is a city of bikes! The canal-ring in city center actually has more registered bikes than cars! But that's because you can navigate and park your bike much easier than a car on the narrow streets!

Here are some random impressions:


Sometimes it's the color that grabs my attention!


Sometimes it's where you find it!


Or the size of it.


Or its silhouette against the picturesque canals.


One reason to NOT have a bike is all the flat tires you will invariably get. Or the fact you have as good a chance as the next guy to have it stolen! It's still a better "problem" than having a car!
For the time being, because we're there only half the year, we've decided it's not worth the hassle to get our own bikes, in case anyone is asking.


Ooops! See what I mean! Don't know if the tire was stolen or if the rider took it with him so the bike wouldn't be stolen??


Down but never out!


Flower power is very much alive and well in Amsterdam!


And there's always more than one way to skin the cat!


If you come back from a trip via train (that's the train station in the background that takes us to and from the airport!), and you want to park your car bike "safely," you can use the parking deck, of course. With thousands of bikes there, however, make sure you remember what tier, column and row!

In my last post I mentioned that Donica and I were flying back to Atlanta today for just the weekend. It's true. She flew on Delta and I flew on KLM, arriving at Passport Control at exactly the same time!. Donica's mom's 67th birthday was yesterday and we'll be home to celebrate it on Sunday, before Donica flies back to A'dam and before I fly back on Monday!

Talk about a whirlwind. But it's better than riding bikes back-n-forth! :)

ADDENDUM (Sunday 6/3/07): Donica was able to change my frequent-flyer flight back to Amsterdam for today instead of tomorrow. So we leave the house by 10a to go celebrate Mom's birthday and then both leave on separate planes around 5p for over the pond. At least we're both going back at the same time!