Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Retreat Preparations

If you're wondering what I've been up to, I've been buried in a mountain of sheet music, getting ready for a retreat I'm going on this Thursday afternoon. I'll be gone until Sunday night, leaving enough leftovers (I hope) for John to fend for himself until I return.

I'll be one of three people doing music at the retreat. Having the weakest voice will be alright, since I don't know the songs yet. I've been trying to learn them, which has kept me pretty busy. I've been going over the sheet music, printing it out and putting it in sleeves in a book to take with me. It's not the most fun way to spend a few days, but the retreat will be worth it.

The retreat is known as "The Walk to Emmaus," and it's a nationally organized type of retreat. I've been going on these walks for many years, and no two are exactly alike, but all have touched me deeply. Sometimes I'm a cook. Sometimes I get lucky enough to be a musician. I've filled a lot of jobs since my first walk, when I didn't have to fill a job, other than participant. I've always felt lucky I was invited to go that first one.

When I take a break from that, I'm 3/4 finished with a baby blanket for my young friend Kelley and her husband Marty, who had baby Max this week. I'm late. The photos of him are beautiful. He looks so sweet. I need to have three of me this week, since I'm also cooking and doing laundry. Bummer.

I know, I've also got blogs to write on our European trip still. I promised. I just didn't say when, though, did I? And just think how good the photos will look when they finally do appear here. And I'll be able to put a little video along with the photos, too. It just won't be this week.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Granddaughters Dance—Kind Of

Ruth is such a fun daughter-in-law, and even though she and the children are far away in The Netherlands with Ben, she brings them close to home with her blogs and photos. She and Ben both do such a great job with that, but this morning I went on FaceBook and got a big laugh. She had posted a movie card that she made. I'm posting it here with her permission. (Thank you, Ruth.)

I look at it, and it's hard to believe these girls are only 13 months and 33 months old.

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Maybe only a grandma could be this tickled by seeing those two faces pasted on disco dancers, but I think it's really cute and worth sharing. (I sure do wish my mom believed in the internet...)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Timberland Farm Museum Video

I finally got my video camera downloading problem sorted out, and it only took me about six hours to put together eight minutes of video from our two hours tour of the Timberland Farm Museum in Loveland, Colorado. I realize this is a long clip, but it's about a third of what it started out as, and remember: you don't have to watch it...

Anyone wondering if the place is worth visiting, though, will get a sense of how great the place is. These eight minutes barely scratch the surface of what we saw. I never got any good photos of the grand staircase, since it was so dark, in the brick homestead. I didn't get any photos of the outside of the yellow farmhouse. As I explained in the last blog, I hadn't charged my batteries. Bad Mama.

I did, however, export to the smallest format possible so that it would download more quickly for everyone on the page. Let me know how that works for you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Timberlane Farm Museum, Loveland, Colorado

It's been a strange week, but I'm back at the keyboard now, and want to start with the outside photos I took at Timberlane Farm Museum in Loveland, Colorado. We decided to drive out there while Ellen was visiting last week. Actually, it was her choice, and since John and I had never been there, it was a great decision.

I'll admit my stupidity up front. I failed to charge my camera batteries the night before, so I got still-shots outside, and video inside the farmhouses, which is the more interesting portion of the tour. Unfortunately, I'm still having problems downloading video. When I get it downloaded (hopefully soon, as I have been working on a solution) I'll put the videos where they should go, and then do a blog with links to guide you back. Fair enough?

The Timberlane Farm dates back to 1861, and is currently a museum that is being painstakingly reconstructed. We were given a personal tour, and although there was no charge, we left donations. It wasn't that we felt obligated. It was a feeling of wanting to join in the beautiful work being done on the site. Having just come from Europe, where there history is overwhelming, it seems important that we hang on to our own history. This property is some of Loveland's history at its best, and the work they are doing is remarkable.

These photos are from the farm part of the property, and don't include the two farm houses that we toured. The Timberlane Farm Museum has restored and furnished the two Timberlane Farm homes to period correct condition. I'll add those vodeos soon (God willing and the creek don't rise).

Ellen and John and I wandered around for awhile before the owner's assistant, Maureen, not shown in any of my photos, came out and gave us a wonderful tour. These pictures are all of the outside buildings and animals.

This old building is one that's scheduled to be rebuilt. So much work has already been done, but there's much still slated to do. We were happy to add our donations at the end of the tour.

John, of course, loved the old farm machinery and equipment, the tools and tractors. It was pretty close to a perfect day. If I'd charged my batteries the night before, it would indeed have been perfect.

I loved the chicken coop. They sell eggs, and the chickens seem clean and happy. One of the laying hens is called an Ameraucana, and lays bluish green eggs. I didn't know that was possible for regular eggs.

This is the Ameraucana chicken. She was sure running around happy and healthy looking, but seemed disappointed once she realized that Maureen wasn't bringing her food.

They have lots of animals at the farm, including pigs...


And beautiful horses. I think Ellen wanted to ride off into the sunset, but it was only noontime.

For some reason, I found their tack room particularly inviting. Maybe it was because I had been out in the sun too long. I'm not a sun worshipper, and loved the cool depths and wonderful smells of hay and leather in the tack room.

From here we went into the two beautifully restored farm houses where I had to switch to the video camera. I guess you can call this a cliff hanger...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Time With My Sister

No, I haven't been keeping my blog up this week. I'm behind, and just having too much fun with my sister to worry about it too much. Her husband was kind enough (and busy enough with work) to send her here for her birthday week while he spent the time in Reno at the office. (He commutes from California.)

We've had a marvelous week, and I've taken photos to share—once the fun stops. She flies out tomorrow, so you can expect to see more of our European trip and the fun we had this week appearing shortly. For today, however, we're heading up to the mountains to see how much of the fall foliage has already changed colors.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Living in Amstelveen (Temporarily)

After lazing for a day with Ruth and the grandchildren, which was more fun than anyone who is not a grandparent can imagine, John and I took off on the bus to find Amsterdam. The first day we tried it, we got hopelessly lost. We got the man who was probably the only mean bus driver in the city. All he would say to us when we asked for help was "On or off, on or off!"

Like idiots, we got on, but didn't stay on long enough, then decided to try walking home, since we thought the amount shown on our bus passes was the amount spent, not the amount left. We didn't think we could afford to get back on the bus to go home. We walked for hours. Luckily Ben called to check on us, got on his bicycle and rode from work to find us and got us on a bus home.

While we were lost, we found some buildings we didn't recognize...

And even one that had a big name on it, making it easy to recognize as The American Hotel. And wow! It had a bathroom they nicely let John use free.

And I loved the tower.

In case you're not aware, and I may not have mentioned this before, it's very difficult to find a restroom in Europe, and when you finally do, you must be prepared to shell out some cash to use it. There's nothing quite so amazing to the American mindset as to pay for a meal and then go to the restaurant's bathroom and be met with a 50 euro-cent charge to get in. I wasn't going to use that much paper!

By the next day, Ben and Ruth had written instructions for which bus to get on, which stop to get on, how to find our way to where we wanted to go, and a plan of action. I really don't think we would have braved it without them pushing us back out of the nest, and I'm so very grateful. We saw so much. We walked so far and had so much fun together. As we gained confidence, we started leaving the main paths that we had planned. John was much better at finding his way around than I was, but I depended on him and it was probably good for his ego.

We went to the Rijksmuseum, which I wrote about extensively at the time of our actual visit. I was so impressed.

It will probably be an annual event, although I've been told I need to see Van Gogh and others, as well. Also, I missed the M. C. Escher museum, which was top of my list for this trip. I just about got there, but a wrong-way street and a GPS giving us bad directions to a parking garage that didn't exist had John so mad we left Utrecht without seeing anything. I do mean anything.

Going back to the day we were lost and walking though, I want to show a couple of photos that show how much fun you can have while you're lost. I don't want you to get a mental image of a couple of sixty-something retired people trudging down the street wailing and moaning. Far from it. John posed with a little "Smart Car" that someone must love.

And then I finally took a photo of a bicycle grown into a fence. We saw many of these, and never figured out why they would get overgrown like this. Ben told us (with a straight face) that it happens in about three hours. Thanks, Ben.

Now, the following day, when we had directions to get places, we went and bought more time on our bus passes. That took us to Central Station, the Amsterdam train, bus, and metro station that is built on ramps and pontoons, I believe. It's pretty interesting. I was sure I wrote about it, but I can't find it anywhere.

Homes in The Netherlands, and I'll admit I'm most familiar with Amsterdam, are tall and thin. The stairs are narrow, and you don't want to be trying to get furniture up the steps. Nope. Can't be done. Here's a typical (gorgeous) row of homes.

And if you look really carefully, at the top of each home, or at least most of them, you will find a hook. (In my house, growing up, we'd refer to it as a sky hook.) They throw a cable or rope over the hook and winch up whatever needs to be hauled up a floor or three, taking it in through the windows. If it's going up there, that's the only way it's going to happen.

The sky hook doesn't look bad at all. We never got to see one in use, though.

I went to four different free online translation programs to figure out what this sign says. I just knew it would be profound. I think it probably is, and I have a fairly accurate translation, but maybe somebody can clean it up for me a bit? It seems to say something to the effect of, "Those who give in to tyranny will lose not only their life and property, but their light as well."

It took several days, but we finally did find the I amsterdam sign. I got John to pose at each end. There were people climbing all over it, and many of them were making rude gestures, so I used a little judicious cutting. If you only knew how hard it could be to get John to pose for a photo. You'll notice he isn't smiling in any of them, I don't think. He looks pleasant, but he's not thrilled. Just tolerant.

What a guy. What a city. What a trip!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Drooling Over Clogs

I wrote about Zaanse Schans in an earlier blog that combined photos of two days, but I skipped an essential element of the day:  the clogs. Before I head into that, I want to mention again that I was thoroughly enchanted by the windmills, the boats, and the blessing of being there with Ruth and the girls. Ben was working, as he was during the week days, but it was still a fine day. So after this one final photo of a windmill,  which I just couldn't seem to prevent myself from including, I'll head into the clogs. Since I couldn't get the ones I wanted, I didn't buy any. Imagine that. 

First, I'd like to say that I love what they call them. Klompen. It sounds like what it is. When you hear someone walk in them, they just clomp. It's a solid sound. There's a clog factory at Zaanse Schans. They display the different types of clogs, and there's even a demonstration where you can watch a man (wearing clogs, of course) make a pair. It's amazing to see him pour the water out of them when he finishes. I never realized how much water was in wood until I saw his demonstration. It was fascinating. He even made everyone laugh with his humorous apology for using a German machine for part of his work. There's a long-standing feud that I think is only partly serious between the Dutch and the Deutsch. 

Here come the clogs... First we have the Streekklompen, or regional street shoes. 

I love some of these, but none of them made me want to whip out the plastic. The ones for brides and grooms are really fancy. I wondered what Elisha would think if I brought her a pair. (She's marrying our middle son in December.) She'd probably nod her head and say, "Yep, that's your mama. You don't think she really expects me to wear them to the wedding, do you?"

The Sunday dress clogs, Zondagse Klompen, are about what I'd expect. I like the men's shoes better than the ladies shoes. Who designs these fussy things ladies wear these days, anyway? Do I have to pick out something uncomfortable for Jeremy's wedding? Crap. Maybe I should have gotten some wooden shoes after all. Here are the Sunday clogs...

Clogs around the world are interesting. I love the Japanese Geta. That's the first pair I would have bought. They weren't for sale—and I was only beginning to drool. Within the next few minutes, I mentally spent thousands of dollars. I bought clogs for me. I bought clogs for Sherrie and Schmath. And that pair would look fine on Dick and Carol's display shelf! I wonder if Ellen would like that cute little... you get the idea. Shoes for everyone. Can you figure out which ones I picked out for you? None of them were for sale, of course, and I could never have afforded them in any case.

These are the best of the best,
and there are several pair that I (almost)
broke the tenth commandment over myself.
Thou shalt not covet, you know.

The closeups follow, and I'd be interested to see how much they'd actually charge if a person could convince them to sell, instead of just displaying them for nuts like me to drool over.

Walk carefully in these (above). I'll have to buy two pair. I really wanted the skates below (both kinds).

Don't they make you feel like hitting the streets? I'll bet I'd kill myself, but what a way to go!

I won't be getting any of these, but as Robert Browning once so eloquently put it, "A man's reach must exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"
[Author's note:  You should be aware that blogger has a new and very difficult to manage (at least for me) editor. Perhaps I'll get used to it. It has some great features if I can ever make them work properly. Otherwise, I'll go back to the old way. This one doesn't seem worth the effort. It took me three hours to get this out, and it doesn't look great to me.]

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Arriving in Amsterdam on Kate's Birthday

The timing of our trip was perfect. We landed in Amsterdam the morning of our youngest granddaughter Kate's first birthday. Two of our suitcases carried gifts. Some were Christmas and birthday presents from us for their family, which sure saved us a bundle on postage costs. There were also things they can't get where they live, like Cheerios and Graham Crackers, clearly things children can't live without. Other things were ordered by Ben and Ruth from US stores to be delivered to our home and brought over by us.

I'll admit to worrying, since we had less than an hour to change planes in Houston. What if we missed the flight? Most of Kate's birthday presents were coming with us! Ben reassured me that we would have plenty of time, and that things would work out the way they should. If we were late, we'd deal with it, he told me. However, it wasn't a problem, as we made it with minutes to spare.

The photos tell the story: a little girl, too darling for a grandmother's words to explain, enjoying the thrill of realizing she can actually rip off the paper by herself.

The joy of finding a book inside that's not only bright and colorful, but strong enough to chew without destroying.

Proud daddy taking photos...

...while big sister lends a hand.

And there's a new sweater from Grandma (of course).

Mommy beams her approval and offers encouragement...

...and then cake.

The pleasure of watching Kate's first sugar rush was the best way to start a holiday abroad.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lightning Strike

There's an old Boy Scout saying. You don't have to be able to run faster than the bear. You just have to be able to run faster than the slowest Boy Scout. We made a new saying here this evening. You don't have to be the lowest house in the foothills to avoid the lightning strike. You just have to be lower than Doug.

Poor Doug. He lives on the ridge, just above our home. He's our nicest neighbor. A greater guy is hard to find. He came home from work to an electrical disaster. While John and I were sitting here enjoying the late afternoon thunderstorm, we heard something we'd not heard before. The flash and boom came at the same time, and the house shook. John happened to be looking out the back window toward the ridge and saw the big flash.

Afraid of fire in the pines, he kept a good watch. Not seeing any smoke, he started wondering where the bolt had landed, and kept looking at Doug's house, worrying about our friend's electronics equipment. He, like John, is a HAM operator with a lot of expensive computer and radio equipment. When Doug came home he found out that it had indeed hit his house. There was no structural damage, but the electrical circuits had been fried, taking with it a computer, all the phones, and a beautiful high definition television.

He was still accessing damage when he decided to wander down and have someone to commiserate with him. He and John shared a beer while they discussed the number of things that Doug had already determined had been ruined, and the number of things he still had to check. Cost so far was closing in on three thousand dollars.

The sad thing is that all Doug's equipment was turned off, although it was plugged in. I had my computer open and operational, and the television was running. Actually, I was also on the phone. We were certainly blessed, because I couldn't have replaced anything but the phones. I wonder if homeowners insurance covers this. I don't think so. Isn't it considered an act of God? Why not an act of the devil? That makes more sense to me.

My only complaint for myself this day is spending four hours trying to download my video files and not being able to figure out how to do it. Ben made it seem so simple, too...

Home Again

Jet lag didn't seem to bother us, going to Europe. Maybe we were too excited. John was a little effected, but I really didn't seem to notice. Perhaps getting up at 2:30 in the morning the night before we took off, and then sleeping off and on during the flight there helped. I'm just not sure.

Coming home was a different story. From Amsterdam to New Jersey, we had the privilege of being the two people seated in front of two unattended children, aged approximately seven and eight, whose father was about eight rows ahead of us. They kicked the seat backs for the entire flight. Talking to them helped—for about ten minutes. I don't really blame them so much as the dad. He didn't provide them with so much as a book or toy to entertain themselves with. What was he thinking?

About every two or three hours he'd wander back and say, "How's it going?" They'd say, "Fine, Daddy," and he'd return to his seat. They would resume kicking the seats and wrestling. Monkeys would have been easier, I think. Sleeping was not an option. I really wanted to talk to the father, but John gave me one of those looks when I mentioned it. I didn't want to be left at the next airport.

When we finally landed at Denver, there was a mixup in phone numbers. The mobile number I had for Dick and Carol was off by one digit. I called their home number and left a message, in case they checked there, or one had stayed home, but they had already left together and were waiting in free parking for us to call. They never checked home for messages. After we stood at the curb for an hour, occasionally calling the car phone (which only rings when the car is turned on) they finally came to the arrival area to check on our flight and found us at the curb. They wanted to know why we didn't answer our cell phone. We learned when we got home that they were calling our home number.

All was fine at that point, and we went to their home for a really fine tri-tip dinner with all the trimmings and went to bed too early, then woke up in the middle of the night. Jet lag is not for sissies.

I'm not sure we're on Colorado time yet. I'm thinking about it. I watched sunrise from my deck this morning, and felt the peace of home sink in. I was glad to be here. We'll pick up our mail shortly, and life will resume. A short while ago we spoke to Ruth and Ashley on the phone, and that felt good. I had to take my glasses off when Ashley's sweet little voice came over the phone. It amazes me how much a person can miss a couple of small children.

Last night I downloaded my still photos. I'll start putting up blogs, probably tonight or tomorrow, of our trip in the order of our experiences. First I have to download my video camera and get that clipped together, of course. It took two hours just to download my stills. I wonder how long the videos will take. It's all worth it, though. My heart can hold on to all the joy, but my brain still needs the photos for those crisply detailed memories.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Just One of Those Days in Amsterdam

It was just going to be a little rain. Knowing we had only a couple of precious days left for exploring Amsterdam, John and I decided to brave what turned out to be a downpour (a sideways downpour) and attempt to find three different places in this wonderful city.

Have you heard the expression 'two out of three ain't bad?' We felt it was downright wonderful. We were soaked to the skin, and laughing like idiots by the time we finally made it back to the metro, almost by accident.

We couldn't really use the GPS because it was raining too hard. We would have ruined it. Occasionally we would step under a doorway and pull it out and head in the direction it suggested, but I think the weather had effected it. On the other hand, it might have just been having a good time with us. You never can tell with technological objects. The Hermitage, which is what the Russian museum is called, is directly across the street from the Metro station. Nobody bothered to tell us that. It's not in the guide book or anything.

The GPS took us all the way across town, with the help of a few friendly people who would gladly point into the distance and say "four canals" or "three bridges" and tell us to turn left or right. We ended up on Dam Square, someplace we had wanted to see two weeks ago and couldn't find. We don't know how we got there, but did get some marvelous photos. Before we got there, however, we had an "experience."

The photo at the top commemorates the largest bird I have never seen. We were walking along a narrow street. Suddenly I got clobbered with something. Very luckily I was wearing my big sunhat. Otherwise, my jacket and hair would have been disgusting! I had it on to try to protect my glasses from the pouring rain. John looked over at my hat and started to wretch. I had been bombed on by either a flying dog, or the biggest bird known to mankind.

Since John had half a cup of Sprite left, I used that to try to wash it off while John made gagging noises in the background. Finally, I ended up walking into the middle of the street and using a puddle to scrub it in. Then the hat had to go back on my head. As we stood on the side of the little road, I looked up (to see if there were any more birds) and saw this amazing building. Well, maybe the bird served his purpose. With my head down, would I have seen it?

It actually was a great day. This blog is all about the bird, but I'll post about the two museums and Dam Square when we get home. By the way, I washed my wonderful hat out in hot soapy water when we got home and it was dry and perfect the next morning. God bless us, every one.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Experiences

Two things I don't remember ever doing before have been added to my list of personal experiences since I arrived here in Europe.

Number One: I have stood downtown in a city and said to myself, "I could actually live here." That was in Ghent, Belgium. I know you're shocked. I was as well, but don't worry. It will never happen.

Number Two: I have stood looking at a tree with irritation because it blocked my view of a building. Say what? That really sounds backwards to me, even as I write it, but it is true. History lover that I am, some of these fine old buildings are blocked by trees, and it frustrated me not to be able to see every crenelated rooftop, gabled arch, and gorgeous frieze. These aren't just buildings. They're masterpieces.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Music in Ghent, Belgium

In Ghent, Belgium, the second city of our European side trip, I had the experience of a lifetime. I'm putting this as a separate entry, not waiting to get home and start my city by city blog simply because it is such a special memory for me.

Music is a huge part of my life, and you couldn't pay to have an experience like we stumbled upon, it seems to me. I'll copy the following from my journal from that night:

"If I were to pick a most memorable moment, it would have to be while John and I were strolling along some narrow side streets. We were off the beaten path but knew where we were headed. Rounding a corner, I heard a tuba run a scale, then three or four voices talking and instruments tuning. I stopped John and got the video camera from his backpack.

"We stood in a little alcove recording the beautiful music the small group (I think it was a quartet) made until they finished the piece. I had just stopped recording when John said, "Look at their view!" I turned around and there was a giant cathedral rising skyward across the road down a side street. There was a choir rehearsing at the same time, but you could only hear them faintly as we stood taping and listening. It must have been some kind of music conservatory... A person could find inspiration there, and peace."