Thursday, July 29, 2010

And now this...

Bleh! On top of it being too hot, now I have a lovely summer cold. It doesn't seem right, to be sick in the middle of summer. Sickness is something that happens when it is cold outside, and you need lots of blankets and hot chocolate or tea. Needing a large box of tissues and feeling crummy just doesn't go well with sun. I guess I am getting the day off I wanted last week, but this isn't really how I would have chosen to take it. Also, when I am sick, I just want my mommy!

 On the beach of Lake Ontario

Speaking of my mommy, since I have been feeling a bit off all week (even before I actually felt crummy), I have missed pointing out my mother's birthday. I did send her a birthday gift, so don't worry that I missed it entirely. Anyway, here is my public acknowledgment: Happy Birthday Mom!

 Massachusetts (I think), Fall 1979
What a cute little baby. Mom was just a year or two older than I am now.

1982, Christmas? Mom, me, and grandma.

 And, tomorrow is also her mother, Betty Jean Seifer Van Dyke's, 88th birthday! What a wonderful pair of ladies. I love you both so much, and thank you for helping me become the woman I am.

Monday, July 26, 2010


It has just been too darn hot lately. Even with air conditioning everywhere, it is just too hot. I mean, I go outside at 5:30 to head to the gym, and it is already 80. Or should I say, it still is? Since it never actually cools down during the summer here. And on top of the temperature, it is 85% humidity, which means I can break a sweat simply breathing. The long and the short of it is that the heat has sapped my will to live, or at least to blog or be creative in any way. This weekend, I really wanted to do some sort of creative project that didn't involve cooking (again with the too hot), but I just couldn't. I managed to spend a little time in the garden on Saturday morning, but most of that time was moving the sprinkler around so my plants don't turn into crispy little sticks (too late for some of them. Sigh). I went to the (air conditioned) gym. But no hiking, no painting of any rooms, nothing more strenuous or creative than vacuuming.

I'm tetchy and sleepy and bored up to my eyebrows with summer cabin fever, and it is all your fault, Mr. Sun! If the outcome of global warming is to increase the heat and length of our summers, I am going to be really pissed off.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some days you are the cat...

And some days you are the mouse. Yesterday was definitely a mouse day. The best part of the day was the trip to the DMV to renew the registration for my car. It was quick, and apart from having to pay the registration fee, painless. I didn't even have to wait in line or deal with the stereotypical surly DMV worker. The woman who helped me was polite and efficient. But you know it is a bad day when the DMV is the highlight.

By the time I got home, I had a headache, a bad case of the grumps, and a need to lie on the floor, moaning and whimpering. The dark chocolate mint ice cream that should have cured anything didn't even help because I was not able to scoop it out of the container without throwing a scoop onto the floor. Then, after I stepped aside to let Benjamin finish the scooping, the first attempt to spoon some of the ice cream into my mouth ended with another dollop ending on the table and floor. Wah!

Today will be a cat day, even if it kills me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One final glimpse of Amsterdam...for now

Since it is now July, and we went on our trip in May, I think it is time to wrap up my recap. Above, some of the wonderful roof lines of Amsterdam. I don't know how nice these houses are inside, but outside they were so much fun to look at.

The totally awesome Amsterdam Public Library - free internet for everyone! The library building is fairly new, and has great views, cool architecture, and as I said, free internet. Who needs an internet cafe when the library is available? And it wasn't being abused, like some libraries in the United States that I can think of... Anyway, we didn't really explore the library too much, but we did like what we saw.

I think this is the same view that is on the cover of our Rick Steves guidebook. A canal in the Jordaan neighborhood, complete with bikes, canal boats and a lovely sky. Ah...

That little building in the middle is reputedly the narrowest house in the Netherlands. It is full-sized farther back, but narrow at the front, because there used to be taxes based on how much canal frontage your house had. So, to avoid paying an exorbitant tax on a wide house, this builder just put most of the house off the canal. Sneaky.

The Anne Frank House Museum. The line was around the corner of the building, and we had already seen so many museums (including the Amsterdam History Museum, which is enormous), so we skipped it. I assume the house is somewhere behind that facade.

Enlarge this picture to see the lovely way the Vondelpark rules are spelled out. What I don't understand is why trumpets are allowed, but not drums. Must be anti-hippie or something, since the Vondelpark was overrun with hippies in the 70s...

And thus concludes my tour of Amsterdam, Delft, Brugge, Brussels and points in between. I hope you enjoyed it. We shall be returning to normal, somewhat boring, Arkansas in your next post.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Miikka on Monday

It has been a little while since I posted Miikka pictures, so here are some to brighten your Monday. No, that is not a giant toilet paper tube - if came from the giant printer we have at work. Miikka enjoyed destroying it.

Sometimes, Miikka takes a break from destroying paper tubes and chasing squirrels. Sometimes he even joins me for a relaxing afternoon siesta on the couch.

He and Creamsicle get along fairly well, as seen here. Some days he prefers to chase her though. She does not appreciate such rude behavior.

Me, rude? Never. This is his best cute, I'm-not-really-a-trouble-pup face. It works all the time.

I am about to go get some squirrels for you Mama! Watch me go. See the path he has forged between the bushes? He takes a flying leap and hits the ground running.

We had a cookout/potluck at our house on Saturday night.  Looks like someone had a good time at the party! He was too tired to even start to destroy this box.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday (Foreign) Food

It is Friday at last, and I don't know about you, but I could use some good food. How about a lovely Belgian waffle (which we actually ate in Amsterdam, I think)? A nice, dense, sweet, but not too sweet waffle, with real chocolate syrup (none of that corn syrupy Hersheys junk).

Not a waffle person? How about mini-pancakes?  These little beauties are from the cheese market in Alkmaar. Fresh and hot off the griddle. I am making myself drool.

And of course, we need something to drink.  This lovely libation is a cherry beer - tart and tasty. Benjamin imbibed this one at a restaurant on the covered shopping street in Brussels.

If you prefer a more traditional beer, here is one from our beer tour in Brugge. I even tried this one. I think I prefer fruity beers myself, but that is what is great about Belgium: there is a beer for everyone!

And, should you need some solid food after all the sweets and beers, try a rice table at an Indonesian restaurant.  You get all these little dishes, with enough for each of you to get a taste. So very good... Is it lunch time yet?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


On Fridays in the summer, the town of Alkmaar, a short train ride out of Amsterdam, holds a cheese market. Both Rick Steves and a co-worker recommended stopping by, so we made the trek out on a morning that was gray and almost dreary in Amsterdam.  By the time we reached Alkmaar, the sun had come out and we were ready for some cheese.

The market is where all the cheese-makers come to sell their cheese, in a delightfully medieval fashion, in the public market square.

On the walk to the market, we passed several booths where cheese was being sold by the slice to hungry passers-by. There were samples too. Yum.

This is the large weigh house, where the cheese is weighed, to make sure it isn't too heavy or too light, I guess. I think it is now a museum. We didn't go in, since the market was in full swing and more than interesting enough.

See, these guys, in their traditional white clothes and straw hats, load up a cheese sleigh (I have no idea if that is what they are really called, but that's what the look like to me) and carry it to the weigh house.  It is sort of a competition, and there are different guilds.

There is a lot of cheese to be moved. We didn't get there until the market had already been underway for over an hour, and there was still a ton (ha ha) of cheese to be weighed.

Close up of the cheese. You can get Beemster in some markets here in the USA. Just think, it may have gone through Alkmaar.

Here, you can tell the two carriers are from different guilds, because they have different colored hats.  The cheese girls are just there for the tourists, I am sure, since they didn't actually do anything.

Oh, and there was a man making traditional clogs, for wearing and for decoration. Pretty neat, but I can't imagine that they are comfortable for long-term wearing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

More Amsterdam

Here are some more pictures from our days in Amsterdam.  We saw a lot of herons around town. This one happened to be right outside the front door of our Bed & Breakfast one morning. Just strolling along. You can see the canal in the background, and all the trees. Not to mention that the Vondelpark is only a block or two away. Seems like a pretty sweet place for a bird.

Here he is, having crossed the road. Still just strolling, totally ignoring the paparazzi.

The canal our B&B was on is a busy one, with actual working barges on it.  This barge even had its own car, for those jaunts into town from the harbor, I presume.

This car is even smaller. Smaller than the Smart Cars that we have here too. Huh. I bet my bear-sized dad couldn't even get into this one, it is so small. And I certainly wouldn't want to be driving that around on the American-sized freeways...

Don't want junk mail? Tell the mail-carrier right on your mail slot. Some of these say nee ja, or ja nee, or ja ja ( I don't actually remember seeing any of those though. Junk mail isn't popular anywhere!), depending on if you will take all junk mail, or only certain kinds.

Yet another heron, even using the crosswalk! Those Europeans, so sophisticated!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Bloemenmarkt

I was going to move on to other parts of Amsterdam, but after looking through our photos again, I have to share more of the Bloemenmarkt with you. I love the colors in this photo - the blue of the tulips and the chartreuse of the hydrangea. Yum.

So many tulips! In as many colors as a box of crayons.

I love these not yet open ones, with the hint of green around the petals yet, waiting to bloom.

These too, on some of the really closed ones, you can't even tell what the final color will be.

But tulips aren't the only flower available at the market.  Here are birds of paradise, and behind them, seeds for morning glories (or a type of clematis, can't tell from this picture) and cactus, and off to the right, some white bloom peeks its edges out.

And should you want lilies, instead of tulips, there were plenty of bulbs to choose from as well. Not that you were supposed to touch them (in 5 languages)...

So many bulbs - I wished over and over again that I could have bought some to bring home, that I lived in a climate conducive to so many bulbs.

For the more adventurous gardener, there were also cannabis starter kits. I kind of wanted to bring one of those home as well, but I KNOW that wouldn't have made it through customs, and neither would I. So I had to be content with a picture.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Miikka goes hiking

 A view from Mt. Nebo
I have more pictures of Amsterdam to share, but since we just passed a national holiday, it seems like a good time to take a quick break and go for a hike. Not that we actually went hiking this past weekend - this trip was back over Memorial Day, while Benjamin's dad was visiting.  We wanted to show him some of the surrounding territory and go for a good hike that was a good length but not too long or too far away.  Mt. Nebo seemed to fit the bill, so away we went.

The day was hot and sunny, but otherwise not too bad for hiking. Benjamin and I last hiked Nebo in January of last year, when it was cold and ice hid in the shadows under the rocks. No such trouble this time.
Miikka, the Mighty Hiker
Once again, Miikka proved to be a great hiker. He had so much fun bounding over rocks and trotting down the trail.  In a few spots the rocks were too big for him and he had to be lifted up or down, but otherwise, he did the whole thing on his own.

The only hitch was the ticks. Lots and lots of ticks. We named the spot where we ate lunch Tick Hollow, because they were crawling all over us as we munched our sandwiches.  I picked more than 20 off of Miikka in the days following, and at least 10 off myself. *shudder* But, apart from the ticks, I heartily recommend Mt. Nebo. Just bring the super-duper bug spray...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Amsterdam, at last

Sorry for the lack of posts this past week - I was in Washington D.C. for the American Library Association Annual Conference, and am just now getting back into full working/blogging mode.  But pictures of that will have to wait, since I left you hanging with the promise of pictures of Amsterdam.  So, without further ado, here is the first set.

A slightly askew view (I think I was trying to be artistic) of one of the awesome electric trams that run throughout Amsterdam. Quiet, clean, quick, and safer than a bicycle ('cause you are less likely to be run over by a silent tram...), you can take them all over town.  We actually only used them a few times after we had been walking all day and just couldn't walk all the way back to our B & B from the other end of town. I sure wish we had something like them here in Little Rock.

The building behind the sign is the Rijksmuseum, which is currently undergoing a many year renovation project.  The sign itself you may recognize from a beer commercial that has been on TV recently.

Although most of the Rijksmuseum is closed during the renovation, they have helpfully moved some of the most interesting paintings and other objects into one small wing, so we were still able to see Vermeer (now one of our favorites) and Rembrandt. It took a couple of hours just to see that, so I can't imagine how much time it would take if the whole building were open; probably an entire day, like the British Museum.

The bloemenmarkt - flower market - was wonderful. So many tulips! 10 euros for 50 tulips! Here, it costs something like $15 for 6 or 7, and they don't last long, since they have had to travel all the way from Holland...  I couldn't buy any, but I did take plenty of pictures. They last longer anyway.

Ah, spring flowers. In Arkansas, we are entering the dead part of the year - it is just too darn hot for anything much to grow or bloom. Sigh.

And, to make you drool on your Friday: Waffles. Waffles...