30 April 2013

Koninginnedag - Queen's Day

30 April is Queen's Day in the Netherlands.  It celebrates the birthday of the Queen except that it doesn't, exactly.  The current Queen (for a few more hours anyway), Beatrix was born on 31 January.  Being a practical woman she said no one wanted another day off in January when the weather is usually pretty crappy so she left Queen's Day on the birthday of her predecessor and mother, Queen Juliana.

Today is a particularly special Queen's Day as Queen Beatrix is abdicating to her son, Willem-Alexander, current Prince of Orange.  Essentially she, as her mother and grandmother did before her, decided she's too old (she's 75) and wants to turn things over to a younger generation.  Willem-Alexander will be the first king in 123 years.  So next year, we will celebrate King's Day (Koningsdag) which will be on 27 April, Willem-Alexander's birthday...except next year it will be celebrated on 26 April because 27 April is a Sunday.  Like I said, pratical people here in the Netherlands!

The Dutch royal family does things a bit differently.  There is no "crowning" and the King won't wear a crown.  The Queen will literally sign a piece of paper giving up her power and turning it over to her son.  It's called an investiture (the act of establishing in office or ratifying ).  Unlike the United Kingdom (okay, honestly I know next to nothing about royal monarchs so I might get some of this not-quite-right), the Dutch royal does have a role in actual governance.  The Queen or King, much like the US President, signs into law what is passed by the legislature.  If the Queen or King doesn't sign then it doesn't go into law; like a Presidential veto.  Willem-Alexander has said that, as a Democrat, he will sign everything that is passed by the legislature.  He was asked if the legislature passed a law abolishing the monarchy (this is not something that is acutally likely to happen), would he sign that.  He said he would.  His mother was said to read, in detail, every piece of legislation that came to her.  The new King reportedly wants to get away from that and spend more time promoting the Netherlands on the world stage.

As King, Willem-Alexander will be the monarch over more than just this little piece of Northern Europe.

I'm going to try to get into town today to see what's going on here (which will be absolutely nothing compared to what's going on in Amsterdam).  I'm one of the only people who actually has to work today and even before 0700 they were already setting up and blocking streets this morning.  Since it's my last Queen/King's Day here I'd like to check it out.

28 April 2013

Pas Op...Fiets!! - Sundays in My City

Watch out...Bike!!  

Fiets (singular) in Dutch, pronounced feats, and fietsen (plural) are as ubiquitous in the Netherlands as windmills and tulips.  Bicycles generally have the right of way and especially in Amsterdam, they WILL run you over. I've never looked up any statistics but it wouldn't surprise me if bicycle-hitting-pedestrian accidents were far higher than auto-v-pedestrians!  When you hear the "brriinng brriinng" of a bike bell you'd better make sure you're not in their path!

There are lots of colorful and interesting and just plain odd bikes to be seen. Here are some of my favorites.

Instead of placing advertisement flyers under your windshield wiper you get it attached to your bike handlebars.
There's a kid seat on the back and on the front. Plus the box for carrying things.
There's a car seat with a baby and a huge pile of groceries on the front and there was a kid in the seat on the back.
Is that Toto?
Why yes, they do!

I was thinking I wanted an orange basket for the front of my bike but now I want this!!

This is a bike parking garage next to the Amsterdam Central Station. I can't even imagine being able to remember where you parked!

They're everywhere!

As usual, linking up with Unknown Mami this Sunday. Click on the button and check out lots of other interesting, colorful and just plain odd places.

Unknown Mami

25 April 2013

Book Chat 25.4.2013 {The Strangest Book You've Read}

This one was easy!

In Watermelon Sugar

It's easily the oddest book I've ever read. It's also very intriguing and it has a complex simplicity...or perhaps a simple complexity.  I've read it several times; each time experiencing something I hadn't noticed, or hadn't noticed very much before.I think you have to read it at least twice because the you can't possibly wrap your brain around the whole story the first time! It seems to be a book (and author) that people either love or hate.  From what I've read of Brautigan's other works, odd is his M.O. 

It's a very difficult book to summarize so here's the first chapter (don't worry, it's short):

IN WATERMELON SUGAR the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar. I'll, tell you about it because I am here and you are distant.
       Wherever you are, we must do the best we can. It is so far to travel, and we have nothing here to travel, except watermelon sugar. I hope this works out.
       I live in a shack near iDEATH. I can see iDEATH out the window. It is beautiful. I can also see it with my eyes closed and touch it. Right now it is cold and turns like something in the hand of a child. I do not know what that thing could be.
       There is a delicate balance in iDEATH. It suits us.
       The shack is small but pleasing and comfortable as my life and made from pine, watermelon sugar and stones as just about everything here is.
Our lives' we have carefully constructed from watermelon sugar and then travelled to the length of our dreams, along roads lined with pines and stones.
       I have a bed, a chair, a table and a large chest that I keep my things in. I have a lantern that burns watermelontrout oil at night.
       That is something else. I'll tell you about it later. I have a gentle life.
       I go to the window and look out again. The sun is shining at the long edge of a cloud. It is Tuesday and the sun is golden.
       I can see piney woods and the rivers that flow from those piney woods. The rivers are cold and clear and there are trout in the rivers.
       Some of the rivers are only a few inches wide.
       I know a river that is half-an-inch wide. I know because I measured it and sat beside it for a whole day. It started raining in the middle of the afternoon. We call everything a river here. We're that kind of people.
       I can see fields of watermelons and the rivers that flow through them. There are many bridges in the piney woods and in the fields of watermelons. There is a bridge in front of this shack.
       Some of the bridges' are made of wood, old and stained silver like rain, and some of the bridges are made of stone gathered from a great distance and built in the order of that distance, and some of the bridges are made of watermelon sugar. I like those bridges best.
       We make a great many things out of watermelon sugar here—I'll tell you about it—including this book being written near iDEATH.
       All this will be gone into, travelled in watermelon sugar.
You can actually read the entire book via this link (like the first chapter, the book isn't very long).

Give it a shot. Give it two shots.  Maybe you'll love it and maybe you'll hate it. It won't take you long either way and even if you hate it you can still tell people about strangest book you've ever read!

For more {strangest book} posts visit Jessica at Sweet Green Tangerine

21 April 2013

I amsterdam

Amsterdam is my city. I wasn't born there and I've never lived there but if I had to pick a city to call mine it would be Amsterdam. I love it there.  The history and the culture and the architecture. Amsterdam just has a great feel to it (and I'm not talking about the contact high you get in certain neighborhoods!). I could do a month of Sunday posts about the city (maybe I will!).

I took the train up there yesterday. I try to get there every few months and I'm thinking I need to get there  a few more times before I move.  It was a beautiful, sunny day. A little chilly, especially closer to the water, and windy but otherwise gorgeous!  It rains about 90% of the time when I go to Amsterdam so it was nice to have a dry day.

I visited the The Resistance Museum; something I've wanted to check out for a while but none of my visitors has been interested so I had to wait for a solo trip. I'm really glad I finally made it.  I walked to several parts of the city I haven't seen before (and that's one of the reasons I love the city...you can see something new every time you go).   Here's a very small taste of yesterday's visit.

See the little skinny house between the much bigger ones?

The Anne Frank house is not on Anne Frankstraat (Anne Frank Street). It's not even in the same part of town. I didn't know there was an Anne Frank Street until I was looking at the map to walk from the Resistance Museum to the Science Center.

The beginning of the Resistance Museum
One of my favorite places in the city (kaashuis = cheese house)!  There are so many samples and they don't look at you funny when you're taking you're 5th piece of the smoked goat cheese (all three varieties!). You can sample yourself full in there (and I do...every time!).

I amsterdam (the title of this post) is a tourism campaign put on by the city.  There are "I amsterdam" signs and sculptures all over the city.  Here's the family at the one in front of the Rijks Museum when they visited last May.

For tours of other cities, towns and back yards, wander on over to Unknown Mami and check out the other SIMC posts.

Unknown Mami

16 April 2013

It's Still Light Out

Come the Winter Solstice I lament the fact that we have just under 8 hours of daylight. Now it's only the middle of April and we have about 14 hours of daylight. By the Summer Solstice we'll have over 18 hours of daylight. As much as I hate the the very long hours of darkness in the winter I find the long summer hours difficult in a different way. Right now I need to start getting myself ready for bed (getting out work and gym clothes for tomorrow, brushing my teeth, brushing the dogs' teeth, brushing the dog...) but if I didn't look at the clock I wouldn't realize it's that time. I'm not feeling sleepy like I should because it's still light out.

I put extra curtains on my bedroom windows because I couldn't fall asleep and because in a month or so the sun will be coming up before I do and I don't particularly like being woken up any earlier than I already have to drag my arse out of bed!  But here downstairs, I can still see the light. It confuses my poor, tiny brain and reminds me of one of my favorite poems from childhood. I memorized it sometime in elementary school for a recital and I still remember it (although I might have a word wrong here or there) although I don't remember the title.  It was one of my favorites because, as a kid, I really hated having to go to bed when it was still light out. It just seemed to be one of the biggest injustices one could suffer (and if that was the biggest injustice of my childhood then I am very fortunate!).

In winter I get up at night 
And dress by yellow candlelight.
In summer it's quite the other way;
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still chirping in the tree.
And hear the grown-up peoples' feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
When I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

14 April 2013

More Stairs and Trails *Now with Extra Stretching! - Sundays in My City

The dogs and I went for another training run at the Snow World steps this morning.  Training? Yes, for Tough Mudder...again.

This time we ran up the path and down via some mountain bike trails.  Up 1/3 using the path, up 1/3 via frog jumping up the steps, down the trails. Up 2/3 via the steps and down via the trails.  This time I made sure to stretch before, after and between rounds. Last week I could barely walk for a few days; I literally hobbled because I didn't stretch enough!  Again, a good workout and the dogs love it there.


The dogs seemed to think my frog-jumping was silly and decided to just stand in my way.
Thirsty, I guess!
Tired pups!
The sun that was supposed to be out today didn't show up but it was warmer than last week. I'm sure we'll do it several more times between now and 24 August.

Steps, paths, trails...take whatever path interests you over to Unknown Mami for more SIMC posts.

Unknown Mami

Tough Mudder Round 2

Yes, I'm doing it again!  This time with my Sister...on her birthday!  Let the training begin!

07 April 2013

Signs of Spring - Sundays in My City

Spring is not here...Yet.

If you use the Dog Hair Metric, then spring has been on the way for at least a month.  I comb this much hair out every couple days despite the fact that it's still below freezing outside.

 And it can be seen on every surface in the house.


Some flowers sprang up in my yard last week.

Since the sun came out today the dogs and I headed to our old home (the hotel where we spent our first 7 weeks in country) and ran the hills and steps. It's a popular place to get in some exercise and by the time we left it was getting busy.

What you see in the middle is the handrail of the steps that go up to the top of the hill. At the top on the right is the top of indoor ski slope.
The view from the top (and a dog shadow).
We jogged up to the top by way of the winding but very steep path.  Then we ran down a section, up a section, down two sections, up a section...until we made it to the bottom and had run up each section.  We did that a 2nd time but only after doing 10 rounds of squat jumps, two steps at a time (The dogs took a break in the water while I did that).  I was surprised that the dogs kept up with me the entire time although I think they thought I was a little silly going up and down and up and down.  Even at 8 and 13 those dogs still have a lot of life in them (lucky for me because they're great companions)!  An hour later, after driving home, eating and showering, my legs were still shaking!! It was a great workout and a great way to start the day.

The sun woke up the tulips and it finally felt a little warm today.

It's supposed to stay above freezing this week but there's rain on the way.  SIGH.  We were lucky to have such a beautiful day to enjoy today!

For more spring adventures, check out the other SIMC posts over at Unknown Mami.

Unknown Mami

04 April 2013

the.book.chat. {Children's books}

Today's book chat topic from Sweet Green Tangerine is Children's Books. 


One of my all-time favorite children's books is The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles.

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles

"The Whangdoodle was once the wisest, the kindest, and the most extraordinary creature in the world."

I don't know how to give a brief description without giving too much away. It's such a fantastical story about the power of imagination and I've never met anyone else who has heard of it which is really a shame. I've given copies as gifts and every kid (plus their parents) has loved it.  I can only recommend reading it for yourself because it really is wonderful!