Sunday, January 29, 2012

Life as We Know It

MY LAPTOP IS BACK! That could be a post in and of itself but let's just say I am a happy camper, since Friday, getting reacquainted with my old friend.

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Now, follow me on this bit of meandering through Life as I know it.

The most soulful image I saw all last week was the one niece Lesley took of her mom,
G'ma Ruth (my little sister) reading from Beatrix Potter to Baby James.

Ruth says he sat like this, and in other positions, mesmerized for 15 minutes in chapter one. We will continue on the weekend . . . :-) Thank you. I think he loves British writing, and boats . . . this was The Tale of Little Pig Robinson. :D

Isn't that the most adorable picture of a baby ever, hanging onto every word.
(click to enlarge)

And so that evening, Astrid and I watched the Miss Potter DVD of how Beatrix Potter accomplished her dream of writing books for children about the animals who were her friends. It's a precious story and well worth seeing. I was glad we had the DVD already in our library!

As Wiki says, her books continue to sell throughout the world, in multiple languages. Her stories have been retold in song, film, ballet and animation.

It so happens that 2 days after Baby James was born, one of my high-school classmates died.
Do you realize how often that happens? One comes into the world while another goes out.

From my class of 172 students, 31 of us have died, 7 since 2011.
I know this because we're getting ready for our 50th class reunion in Michigan next year.
We even have our own Facebook site of our 1963 GLHS class and are getting reacquainted!
God willing and the creek don't rise, Astrid and I will be there.

But all I can think is, that's way too young! And who of us will be next?

Then I remember my own brother Bennett who was only 47 when he died in 1996.

My favorite photo of Bennett is from when he played in
the community theater production of Fiddler on the Roof.
You can't see it here but he had carrot-red hair!

And yes, we had just watched that movie a couple weeks ago.
It was my umteenth time and Astrid's first.
Life as they knew it in that day and age...and worth all the musicals in the world.
I'm so glad Bennett got to be a part of it in his own way.

It's still January, and with it has come brother Nelson's 70th birthday.

As the Eldest of our Tribe, the rest of us 8 kids will now follow suit.
My turn (#3) will be in 2015, Ruth's (#8) in 2026.
And Baby 2082.
It boggles the mind.

That precious little baby, my grand nephew, is Nelson's counter bookend right now in our family tree,
70 years removed from each other.

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Winter has finally come to the Netherlands, with temps to hang below freezing-point all week. If there's any possibility of canals freezing, the skaters will come out en masse.

And we will drive east over the weekend to meet up with Mart Martorell, the glass blower, to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary. More on that later, of course, but time marches on!

This is life as we know it!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Enough Excitement for a Week!

Before I get started (don't you love that we can start before we start!)...

CONGRATULATIONS are in order for my "little sister" Ruth
becoming a g'ma for the first time this past week:

James Lawrence Robinson was born on his due date, January 18.
Can you see G'ma Ruth's pride in how she took this image less than 24 hours later!
Hopefully Astrid and I will be able to meet him in May when we fly to Michigan.

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In my last post I mentioned that my laptop broke at the hinges and had to be taken to the shop. I had never heard of such a thing but it apparently happens a lot, according to the techie. Lucky for me, I had 4 more days on my 24-month warranty. Lucky also that they will do the annual maintenance gratis. I think they really felt sorry for me...or embarrassed.

So my new learning curve for 2-3 weeks ("I'll tell the Chinaman to rush the parts," the techie said) is to work the internet "like normal" from Astrid's laptop...including her Corel PaintShop for image manipulation. Almost all the images below, the ones in the collages, are from her program. I'm indebted to her, of course!

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Winter here in the Netherlands still has not arrived!
Temps for the most part hang around 40-45 F, with lots of rain.

See how full our Merwede river is!
On my daily walk around our citadel city, I say HI to our "sister city" Woudrichem.
I love seeing her main church and windmill waving back from across the river.

In spite of all the rain, once in awhile the sun does shine,
so I enjoy seeing where I live with new eyes.

With my 300mm lens I can zoom in on Sister Woudrichem
to see how she's really doing.

But it's usually my side of the river I want to see, like the Dalempoort.
Some of this you have seen before...but I never tire of it.
And see, there's our water tower in the background.

There's a bridge on the river side of the Dalempoort crossing a wee canal.
I love to see the dog-walkers out there...and the seagulls when someone brings bread.

Same bridge, and if you look up, you see De Hoop windmill.
Same place, same station...but different music.
I love it here!

It so happens it's in this area that our Poort 6 housing authority is building
a huge apartment complex overlooking the river....

See the Grote Kerk in the center image way in the background?
That's the church that's only 2 blocks from where we live,
so that gives you a feel for where this is.

Did I ever tell you how much I love cranes?

Construction cranes, that is!
They've been going at it non-stop for several months now.

When I posted the above collage at my Shutterchance blog,
a friend thought I'd like this YouTube.
OMG! It's hauntingly beautiful!

Over by the Linge Harbor around the corner, I smile every time I see this British canal boat.
I'm not sure what it's doing here but if I ever find out, I'll let you know:

I imagine it swam over from the UK, right?
It looks so different from the wider Dutch canal boats.
Did I ever believe I'd know the difference?

But not to be confused with the myriad barges that go back-n-forth every day....

...not only along the Merwede river, where I started above,
but along our bigger canals passing through our city
where all the drawbridges stand up and salute.

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And yes, we finished another Jan van Haasteren jigsaw puzzle yesterday!
This one is De Storm (The Storm), 1500 pieces (image from JvH's site).
The details, let alone humor, are amazing.
No wonder we're hooked.

Now, until next week, let's see what other excitements are in store....

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Year's Resolution: To Give Back

Last post I left you hanging about my New Year's resolution to give back to Wiki after all they have given to me:

There she is: my first (and so far only) submission to Wikimedia Commons.
Without going into the beginning, middle, and end of it again,
you can read all about it at my Vision and Verb post today.
(You can also click here to see the submission at Wiki Commons.)

My goal now, going forward, is to start submitting relevant images to pages where there is minimal info, even at Wikipedia. Wikimedia Commons is a repository of free images/videos for anyone to use (albeit with license restrictions). Wikipedia is another option for where to "put" the images, where none exist. Astrid and I often visit small villiages here in the Netherlands where there is no Wiki info or images. Maybe that's where I can also give back! So, wish me luck.

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Switch gears, now, back again to my last post when I told you about the famous Dutch jigsaw-puzzle artist, Jan van Haasteren. We are totally addicted!

This past Friday was the 13th, right, so how coincidental that we just happened to finish van Haasteren's Friday the 13th puzzle the same day:

This is very typical...and great fun as a 1500-pc. puzzle.
(image from van Haasteren's site)

Here's what part of the fun is: to find his "signatures" all over the place....
(Thanks to Astrid for all the following images which I processed and "collaged.")

...Like his actual signature and his every puzzle.

And always, no matter what the puzzle theme, there's a shark's tail, snail, Native American indian with arrows stuck here-n-there, cat, dog, snail, periscope, Sinterklaas and Black Peter, bikes, snake, crazy legs...

...umbrella, Wanted poster, white or black birds...
and stand-alone hands and popping-out eyes in every nook or cranny.

He's wonderfully crazy, with 97 puzzles in his repertoire.
You can understand why we're collecting as many of them as possible
(so far we have 14).

Now, look at this:

It so happens we borrowed the above puzzle from one of Astrid's co-workers.
Remember that I told you van Haasteren will replace a missing piece if he can?
Astrid has contacted him to see if he can replace this one.
If so, it's another way to give back!

Don't ask me why but these are the small pleasures of my life thus far in 2012. We're halfway through the month and I feel like dancing:

I have watched this YouTube over and over again, loving everything about it:
the smiles, passion, swinging hips, gum-chewing, yellow pumps.
Life is Good
(even when your laptop breaks, which mine just has at the lid's hinges,
so we're off to hopefully get it fixed today).

One last reminder to visit my Vision and Verb, if you can take the time....

Sunday, January 08, 2012

This, That and the Other

Is it really possible this much has happened in the first week of the New Year! It's a mish-mash but it all happened.

First, it was watching the clean-up of all the fireworks while out on my daily walk:

Every year the receptacles with openings have to be boarded up or locked
to keep firecrackers from being tossed in by the New Year's revelers.
This one apparently got missed by the lock-down!
Astrid had told me about it but this was the first time I saw it.

During the week, between Sunday to Saturday, we finished another of the Jan van Haasteren jigsaw puzzels we absolutely love:

This is the 1500-pc. puzzle called Neighbours (De Buren).
Actually, this one is a loaner from one of Astrid's co-workers who's also addicted.
The cool thing about Jan and his whole operation is that if you ever lose a piece,
you can get a replacement from him. How cool is that!

This is the time of the year when make-overs and clean-ups seem to be on everyone's mind. I love to see how the Dutch do it:

This particular farmer is cleaning the moss off his thatched roof.
How many ladders does it take to clean moss off your roof?

Good thing I have Astrid nearby to always explain what's happening, things that are old-hat for her!
The Dutch canals have to be dredged every year or so, depending on how big they are.
The silt from the bottom gets siphoned off and dumped on the farmland nearby.
It allows for cleaner water and better water flow, especially when there's lots of rain.

Here's a YouTube to show how it's done:

While they're at it, they also break up the roots of the water plants
to keep the canal cleaner and less impeded:

See the shell on the bottom-left? That's a fresh-water swan mussel the size of a grapefruit.
The muskrats dig them up in the canals and eat them.
Now you know why the canals need continual maintenance!
Too many rats, building their tunnels near the canals, would collapse the farmland.

Talk about getting my education...almost every day!

Besides all that, since our New Year's community party we've had another New Year's party (by the property association) and 2 birthday celebrations, all at our community center. We're feeling partied out!

One last thing, ruminating all week, relates to a New Year's resolution I plan to share next week about Giving Back. I want to "donate" images to Wiki and have begun the process of registration and uploading. It's been a complicated learning curve for me. Tomorrow, 4 days after registration, I'll find out if I'm up and running.

But more on that next week, also with exciting news that Mart Martorell, the glass blower from the Düsseldorf Christmas market, wants me to be the photographer for his new website. In return, he will teach Astrid how to blow glass! But like I said, more on that next week.

If this is how 2012 is starting, don't you wonder what the rest of the year will look like??!!

Now, something fun for those of you who enjoy Dr. Seuss!
This was worth every minute...looking ahead to the rest of this new year.

Happy New Year, again!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year

Is it possible?


Bear with me now as I connect some dots....

Remember the glass blower at the Düsseldorf Christmas market?

He happens to be a dutchman named Mart Martorell with a private shop in Laren (Gelderland), Netherlands. Since he was in Düsseldorf, Germany, on 10 Debember 2011, when we were there, he clearly gets around.

Here's a YouTube I made of my 30+ best images.
Lucky for me, I was able to stand about 6-8 feet away with an unobstructed view.
I just snapped away, from beginning to end, while a crowd watched him work magic.

The finished prize: an angel inside a glass ornament.

Now, connect my dots for you as I wish you all the happiest of new years with your own guardian angel watching over you and yours every step of the way.