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!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Out-n-About Again. YAY!

You have no idea how good it is, 3 months after knee replacement, to be out-n-about again, like old times.  Seriously.  The timing, to coincide with spring, has been P E R F E C T.

My surgery was January 8th.  Winter.  On February 22, at 6+ weeks, and still winter, I took my first mini walk out on the citadel wall and did a post about it here

Now that it's SPRING, I'm still going strong...stronger, that is, with every consecutive walk.

This was on March 22nd, with an almost-complete citadel walk.
To include both of our windmills was a goal that day.

Then, on Easter Sunday, April 5, on a gorgeous day, I did the entire walk:  4.5 km/2.8 mi.
Stopping for just a few pics, I did the walk in one hour.

The following Sunday, April 12 (last Sunday), I did it again!  In one hour.
Old Sannie was sitting back on his wee island at the Paardenwater (removed during the winter).

(In fact, we were in the right place at the right time on March 26,
when we saw the men putting Old Sannie back where he belongs.)

Even if I see the same things over and over again while on my citadel walks,
it's like seeing them for the first time.  I never get tired of them.
I hope you don't either!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Then, of course, we went out-n-about with the car.

There's a canal right next to our parking garage where we saw Mama Duck and her 12 babies.
Cheaper by the dozen.  HA!
Too bad there's trash, but it gives scale to these vivacious ducklings.
(that's the sound of Astrid snapping pics in the beginning)

 Driving along the dijk near the Mervede river, where you can catch the ferry to Brakel,
is this grouping of 3 statues called "Where's the Water" by Hans van Eerd.
It was commissioned for a dijk renovation project of 32 km along the Merwede,
and sits totally out in the middle of nowhere.  Who sees it???

It was the 2nd Easter Day, April 6, driving out into the boonies in the direction of Hellouw,
15 km east of Gorinchem.

It's the time when the storks are delivering their own babies.

Don't you love the stork weathervane here!
It so happens this is at the Herwijnen stork village that we try to visit every year.

And look at all the weathervanes we found that day!

Five days later, this past Saturday, we drove out again, this time to see Fort Vuren (a next post),
directly across the Merwede river from the Loevestein castle.

As we prepared to stop, a cargo ship laden with coal passed by,
followed by two other freighters, heading east towards Germany.
This is commonplace any time we're at the Merwede!

 That day we found more weathervanes.
Gotta keep our eyes open, you know!

With all this energy, I'm totally invigorated and feel I've reached a new level in my rehab.
I even moved the saddle of my exercise bike down a notch, increasing my knee flexion.
For me, that says it all.  So YAY YAY YAY!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Knee-Replacement Rehabilitation

This is for the record (so easily I forget!) and, in case you're curious, for your entertainment.  HA!

I'm at 13 weeks post-surgery today.  Let's just call it 3 months, since my knee replacement was on January 8th and today is April 9th.

Physiotherapist, Eline, says I can now do anything I want to do!  WHOHOOWOOHOO.  That includes driving (check)....and sports.  But I'm ahead of myself....

I wake up every morning with my new knee "defaulting" to a less than 100% extension.  More like 85-90%.  So, before I get out of bed, I do 4 exercises that more or less fix the problem.  The most important is what I call "the other" planking exercise.  It's like having to retrain the brain. 

 Astrid made the 6 planks which I depress 10x each.
By the time I'm done, my leg is back to 100% extension.  WHOHOO.

At some point in the morning, after breakfast and time at the laptop, I ride my exercise bike.

This bike is at the Parafit practice I attend in nearby Arkel and is still hard for me to ride.
However, mine at home is perfect for 10 minutes every day at 20 kmp/12.5 mph.  WOOHOO.
(Eline is the one in the video who goes to get her apple.)

I also do squats and lunges.  Don't forget those.
And climbing up and down stairs.
And walking here-n-there. 

Back at Parafit (for 3 months at twice a week but now at only once), Eline keeps me hopping.

 One exercise (right column) strengthens the glutes (with attachments to the knees, you know).
The one in the middle works on extension and flexion, nauseam.

At 3 months, my flexion is supposed to be at the maximum of 130-degrees.
But as you can see, it's not.  I'm lucky if I get to 115-120.  That's the part I'm still working on!

Up to this point, everything is just bite-the-bullet stuff.  I know I have to do it.
And no one else can do it for me.


When Eline realized how sportive I've been my entire life, she figured something out.

Ginnie LOVES LOVES LOVES to play ball.  WOOHOO.
So, first, I do a weaving in-and-out exercise for stability and brain-to-muscle coordination.

And THEN I play ball.
Without having to think about what or why I'm doing it, I really have a ball.
Astrid says Eline really gets a kick out of it...since I'm 2 months shy of turning 70.  HA!

But isn't that what it's all about...even when it's have a blast,
no matter how old/young you are!

Speaking of Astrid, special thanks to her for being my Partner in Crime,
taking me to PT every week and being my Fan Club.
Thanks to her for all these telling-it-like-it-is proofs that I am still alive and well.


Thursday, April 02, 2015

Kinderdijk at the End of March, 2015

It so happened that Astrid made an appointment to have koffie break with a previous co-worker last Thursday, a week ago, just to catch up.  And when I realized she lived in Alblasserdam, the back side of Kinderdijk, I invited myself to tag along so that I could take a walk while the ladies hobnobbed.

You know, of course, that Kinderdijk is one of my favorite spots in the whole wide world!  It's where we like to go on Christmas Day as a gift to ourselves, remember?!

But this was my first time to enter the area of the 19 windmills from the backside.  You know how they say you should always turn around when you're looking at something?  Right.

First of all, a rain storm was coming, so I really tried to hoof it with my new knee.
I wove my way around the corners of a subdivision, trying to find the bike path to the mills...

...all the while snatching pics across the fields between the houses.
There they were, far away...but how could I get to them with all the canals crisscrossing the fields!

When all else fails, ask for directions!  Which I did...
and soon I saw the bridge that would cross me over to the promised land.

Standing on that bridge I looked to the left and saw the Kinderdijk mills.
Looking to the right I saw one of Alblasserdam's 2 mills, the home of the co-worker's friend.
It's the Kortlandse Molen from 1890, dressed in white.

The date was March 26, and though cold and windy, spring had sprung.
There were even groups of tourists taking rides up and down the canals.

You know me, I had to take another '360' video of what I saw.
For one thing, the wind was ferocious and 3 of the mills were working hard.
With the rain forecast, it was important to keep the mills pumping out the water.

Each mill has a name, of course, or a number, actually.
I should probably care, but I don' least not yet.
For now, I just bask in the whole, which is more than the sum of its parts.

And guess what!  I found 3 new weathervanes on this venture.

The 2 on the left are the same vane from different directions, showing the 3D design.
The 2 on the right are the same 2D vane with a charmed visitor.
(Most of the Dutch vanes I've seen, btw, have been two-dimensional.)

By the time I was done, I had walked non-stop for 1-3/4 hours, nearly killing myself.
But was it worth it?  Oh, yeah, Baby.  Oh yeah!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

BIG NEWS:  We found out this week that my "for life" resident permit has been granted, 
effective the day I applied for it, 17 February 2015.  YAAAY!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And, today I celebrate my 12th week post-knee-replacement, progressing as best as can be expected.  The good news is that the Dutch government encourages an entire year of therapy after hip and knee replacements, requiring insurance companies to pay from the 21st session on.  Today is my 23rd session and, starting next week, I'll visit Eline only once a week, continuing throughout the rest of this year.  As Astrid says, it's a small price to pay for "getting it right."

Blessed Easter Weekend ahead, however you celebrate it.
Surely we all rejoice over Spring 'resurrecting' itself once again!