Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Our Sister City, Woudrichem, NL

While my American family and friends prepare for the big Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, and our European Christmas markets simultaneously get ready to open....

Here's what Astrid and I did last Saturday when Sinterklaas arrived in the Netherlands, letting all the Children know he'll see them on December 5!

For one thing, we needed more flour for Astrid's bread machine and cornmeal for my cornbread (from the windmill in Woudrichem).  So it was the perfect day to take the ferry across the river to see our Sister City.  We were there in August, remember?

It's only a hop, skip and a jump from our apartment to our Merwede riverfront where we catch the ferry.
 By now, most of this should look familiar to you, yes?

Because we got there in plenty of time, we had a chance to see Mr. Cormorant drying off his wings.
It made an easy photo op because he stayed out-stretched for what seemed like forever.

Once on the ferry, it was good to look back on our own city, Gorinchem, with her beautiful landmarks,
while across the river we saw our sister waving to us (middle center and bottom).

There she is, Woudrichem, as seen from the river entrance.

We've really grown to love this city.  After all, she's family!

Immediately we headed off to the windmill, for two reasons...
to get our flours and to have a nice koffie break in the bunker café below.

We were too early in August when we wanted to check it out...De Kruitkelder.
This time we intended to have lunch there but during the winter months, they only serve koffie...
and all kinds of goodies, like these Woudrichem slof rolls.

With that extra energy, we then slowly walked to a new place for lunch,
catching some of the sights along the way (this team was there before and after!).

Woudrichem is a harbor city, like Gorinchem, oozing with charm.
Can you tell which boat was my favorite?  HA!

You almost forget you're going for lunch when you walk in such places.

Guess where we ate lunch?  Who knew it was a restaurant!
After all these times of seeing this place near the salmon boats, we finally got to go there.

It's the De Stroming restaurant, sitting on two boats in the harbor.

OMG.  Talk about charm!

It's our new best place to take all our guests, whenever they come.  Seriously.
They even have Woudrichem's own beer, Woerkumer, an abbey beer made in Belgium for them.

It was getting late when we headed back to the ferry for our trip home.

This time, waiting on this side of the river, Mr. Heron entertained us.
How can he scrunch his long neck in like that?

And OH, don't forget Sinterklaas.  He had arrived in Gorinchem at 10 a.m.
and was getting ready to arrive in Woudrichem at 5 p.m.
In fact we passed him on the ferry.  See him?

And just like that, we caught the Golden Hour while on the ferry home.
(Astrid took the pic of the cannon!)

I guess you know I'm going to say it...but I feel like my whole life is the Golden Hour,
even if it does mean I miss being with my family over the Thanksgiving weekend!

On Friday we're off to Belgium for a long weekend, to see the Christmas markets in Ostend and Bruges.
But first, Happy Thanksgiving to you who celebrate it.

May your Horn of Plenty be full!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Holland's Warmest November 1st (2014)

Now that I've finished October's trip to America (!), it's time to come back to the Netherlands before it's already December.

It so happens we were antsy to go back to our favorite pannenkoeken restaurant in the Dutch polder, which we decided to do on Saturday, November 1.  It also so happens it ended up being Holland's warmest November 1st on record, since 1901.

It was November, however, and full of the changing colors.

And since we stopped for everything, here are some stills of the following videos:

The Jan van Arkel windmill (in nearby Arkel) was turning that day.
It's a smock mill from 1851.
You can't really get the full effect of the whirling sound here because of the traffic,
but it was hypnotic that day.

When we stopped to watch these cows, imagine our surprise when the farmer came on the scene.
They were grazing ever so peacefully and then...they started skipping like sheep to him (at the end).
This alone was enough to make my day (sorry about the jiggles).

Speaking of cows, here's one going off to Timbuktu.
VEEVERVOER = Livestock Transportation.
I hope he was just sold to another farmer and was off to greener pastures?

How can you not stop at this photo op by the side of the road!
If we didn't already have a pumpkin at home, I would have bought one.

And, yes, the weathervanes of the day!
The one top-center looks like a space ship.  Hmmm.
The one bottom-center looks like the talons of a big bird that flew away?

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Those of you who follow me on Facebook have already seen the following images, but for the rest of you,  there was a Black & White Challenge going around where we could be nominated to submit 5 B&W photos.  These are the ones I submitted:

#1:  "We do NOT have snow here yet but for all those of you who do, this windmill is only two blocks
from our back door here in Gorinchem, NL (from 2009)."

 #2:  "Many of you know I love architecture, but usually I mean the old European structures
that are from long before America became America. can you say NO to this modern structure from downtown Atlanta in 2012! It reminds me of a chorus-girl lineup."

 #3:  "This is a macro shot of some moss between two bricks on a ledge where we live,
taken a couple years ago when we had a dusting of snow. In macro mode it looked like a blizzard!"

 #4:  "This is for all of you experiencing winter way too early this year! This is from where
we live in Gorinchem, NL, from a couple winters ago. More Dutch you cannot get!"

 #5:  "Probably my most favorite place on earth, Kinderdijk, NL, is a village where 19 windmills
from 1740 drain the polder. It's the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands
and is only 20 miles from our home. This was taken on Christmas day, 2010!"

And because you may remember Astrid and I first met each other via our photography (!!!),
I nominated her to post her own 5 B&W images for the Challenge:

 Astrid's #1:  "Fog in the fields 2008"

Astrid's #2:  "Utrecht, 2008"
(with a bit of selective coloring added)

 Astrid's #3:  "Out in the polder/fields, 2008"

Astrid's #4

Astrid's #5:  "The sun makes an effort to shine...."

And with that, we are well on our way to before we know it!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

With Bob and Marc in Gainesville, GA: 2014

Guess what!  This is the last (but not least) post of our October annual trip to America, finishing it all up with the Tuesday-Friday weekdays we spent with Bob and Marc in Gainesville, GA, just 30 minutes north of daughter Amy's home.

It's a long story about why Bob moved his home from Mid-Atlanta to Lake Lanier a couple years ago.
Let's just leave it that there was flooding and mold in his old condo.  All kaput.
He had been so eager to show us his new place, so we finally got to see it (bottom right).

Our first evening we walked around the Cresswind complex and saw the clubhouse, the marina, etc.
I was so impressed I forgot to take pictures.  And Astrid?
It was the first time I ever heard her say, in America, "I could live here!"
(something I've stored away in the brain's hard drive)

It's a gated 55+ retirement community on AARP's top-10 list of affordable communities.

 We totally fell in love with Bob's split-bedroom plan.  Plus all the light.
(And I should mention that Astrid took all the above pics!)

We always take a box of Trader Joe's red wine wherever we go.  It's the best.
And with our Subway-sandwich spread that first evening, we settled right in.

The next day we shopped at the new Kroger Marketplace in Gainesville, a prototype 
of a supercenter one-stop shopping that combines groceries, clothing, pharmacy, gas, jewelry 
and sporting goods under one roof.
You should see Astrid at places like this...seriously!

 And from that shopping, we had the most delightful dinner prepared by both Bob and Marc.
Lucky, lucky Astrid and me!

Afterwards, Marc (light blue) taught us how to play Aggravation (aptly named, I might add).
We even had popcorn!

 Thanks to Bob for the above images.
How often do we get to see both of us together like this?!
Do we really kiss that often?  Yes, we do...still, after 5 years together.

 One day we took Bob and Marc to their favorite pizza place for lunch.
It so happens to be on the Gainesville square (city center in the South).
We NEVER have pizza, so this was a treat for us.

Again, from Bob (thank you) and still kissing, I see.
(It's quite hard for us to stay serious for long.)

Afterwards, we walked around the square (city center) to see the sights.

We loved the planet exhibition from one corner to the other.

And once again, Bob did his thing...a "new one" for us, to see us together like this.
(Thank you, Bob!)

During our time we met two different couples from the Cresswind community.
It made us realize how important communities are, like where we live here in the Netherlands.

Bob and I go back to the 1990s.  That's a long time.
And because Thanksgiving is soon approaching, how better to celebrate friendship than with PIE.

I'll eat to that...sealed with another kiss!

 Thank you, Bob and Marc!

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Family Time in America: 2014

The trip to America every year is, of course, MAINLY to see my kids!  We go in October because that's when the fair is, which g'son Nicholas still wants to visit with us.  "It's a tradition, G'ma!"

After our visit with Bob and Peggy, it was time to go to the North Georgia Mountains, where each year, now, since 2009, we've started a new tradition of renting a cabin...neutral territory in a space that fills us up to over-flowing.

It's a view to die for no matter what time of the day or night it is.
And we never tire of it!

Interestingly, I have very few pics to show for how much we relaxed there.
Amy wondered why I didn't take that many pics this year?  
And I decided it's because it's the one place I truly relax...and forget about the camera.
If you're a photographer, you know exactly what I mean.

Thankfully, Amy took her own iPhone pic of us eating s'mores one night on the covered porch.

We also ate good food (which Amy cooked and I cleaned up), played pool and ping-pong,
worked on a jigzaw puzzle, watched football and a couple movies, etc., etc.

And for the first time ever, we drove into Blue Ridge, down the mountain....

 ...not just to grocery shop but to actually see the touristy town.
It's a town of ca. 1300 people in an area that used to be "controlled" by the Cherokee.

You could say it's a place that depends on the tourists....

...which explains all the art and doo-dads to buy and/or explore.

But the real photo-ops were elsewhere for Astrid and me...not in the stores.

 I bet it's easy to pick out the pics I gravitate to, right, for photo manipulation?

How about $6,000 for a 1959 Rambler that "runs sweet?"

Or something a bit older and..."sweeter?"
(You know about rust and photographers, right?)

 Yup.  This is what we do.

Speaking of traditions, we always stop at Waffle House the morning we leave the cabin.
That's Nicholas, Amy and Dennis (top-left).
I always get the hashbrowns, smothered and scattered "all the way."
Imagine my surprise this time to find sausage gravy since the previous year.
I could have done without that part...but still, it was good enough to forget to take a pic!

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 Since Mark wasn't at the cabin with us this year,
he invited Astrid and me for potato-sausage soup...a long-time family tradition.

Astrid LOVES taking pics of Mark's cat, Piper.
What a poser...and what a delightful friend for Mark, day after day.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The rest of the time we just hung around at Amy's house.
Nicholas LOVES his pink socks in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness.
His other g'ma (also named Virginia!) has had both breast and colon cancer, still alive.
Nicholas says she's his "best friend."  This is important to him!

You know I could eat him up, of course.
He's 14 now, a freshman in high school...and growing UP.

He and Astrid have become big-time buddies, a delight for me to watch.

This year SHE got her new iPad (like I did last year).
In a matter of hours and days, she knew more than I did after a year.

But at least I learned a new game ("2048") to which I am totally addicted.
I kid you not.  I still play it every day, trying to best my highest score.

Until next year!  The cabin is already reserved and we're counting the months.
It really is what going home is all about for me.  This is my family...
and I feel very lucky to have a home away from home.