Archive for June, 2007

memories of Grandma

Saturday, June 30th, 2007


When I was young I was always very excited when my parents dropped me off in Lakeview for a week with my grandparents. I was young and energetic (some would say very energetic) so Grandma had be very creative to find things that would keep me entertained, especially activities that kept me in one place and did not make much noise. One day she introduced me to a state-of-the-art mechanical adding machine that she probably considered to be an ordinary object that was part of her job. To me it was a mechanical mystery machine that I could never fool no matter how complicated the calculation I hammered into it. Trying to figure out how all the keys and linkages could always type out the correct answer on the roll of paper kept me entertained for hours on each visit to Grandma’s house. Grandma was probably just trying to get some well-deserved peace, but actually she sparked an interest in machines and mathematics that started me on the path to becoming an engineer.


You know how it’s usually difficult to figure out what to call your in-laws? It was a lot easier for me; the first time I met her, just before our wedding, she marched up to me, held out her hand and said firmly, “Hi, I’m Gramma.”

Problem solved.

When Ted and I were setting up our first house together, she gave us a whole handful of knitted squares. We thought they were potholders at first, but they were too thin to work well. When she told us they were actually meant to be dishcloths, my first thought was, “Knitted dishcloths?? Wow…. She has wayyyy too much time on her hands.” It wasn’t until later I found out that they were her mindless knitting, what she did on long drives to keep her hands busy. It wasn’t until much later, when I learned to knit myself, that I found out how much it bugs a knitter to have her hands idle. And in fact, my own first knitting project was a dishcloth. I had learned the basics from a book, but there were a few things I just couldn’t seem to figure out. Fortunately we had a trip to their town that summer, so I took my knitting (such as it was) along. She helped me figure it out – of course she’d had lots of experience as a knitting teacher for 4H so she was good at explaining things – and I got the feeling she really liked the idea that her grandson’s house would also have a knitter in it. That first dishcloth of mine wasn’t exactly square, and it wasn’t exactly pretty, but it did get the dishes clean. I got better at it with practice.

We still have a drawer full of Gramma’s dishcloths, and we still use them to wash our dishes with. Knitted dishcloths do wear out eventually, but it won’t matter when our stock runs out. Because now I can make my own, and every one I make comes from her and carries a memory of her, just as surely as if they’d come off her own needles.

hey, it’s good

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

I’m enjoying Connecticut. Partly that’s because everyone at this site has been very nice to me, but it’s also just a bit of a relief being back in the US. I can talk at my normal speed (OK, so that’s specifically being in the northeastern US). I can say anything I want without having to try to avoid idiom or slang. I know the traffic laws, and also the customs – how far over the speed limit is considered normal, for instance. I can get food I’m used to, and I get it served quickly – dinner doesn’t have to take two hours. I can get to-go cups – big cups, with lids. (Not that a disposable cup with lid is foolproof; I have already knocked over a cup of tea in someone’s office. Not a recommended way to impress people. Oops.) The nachos don’t have strange flavors in them and the salad bar in the cafeteria will not contain a salad consisting largely of french fries. When I went to the mall Monday and to an outdoor-sports store yesterday, I Knew what things should cost, what brands I like, and what sizes I wear.

It’s also nice specifically being in the northeast in an area with a noticeable Jewish population. I meet other people with Jewish names. The cafeteria had decent rye bread, pickles and ginger ale. If I break in to what someone is saying, it comes across as enthusiastic rather than rude.

I love the adventure of living in the Netherlands. But if there’s one thing you can say about adventures, it’s that they are tiring. It’s pleasantly restful being back on familiar territory, even when it’s in a place I’ve never been to before.

Back in the USA

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

It’s 8:45. I have no idea why I’m not asleep, given that it’s quarter to three in the time zone in which I woke up this morning. I’m not though.

Ted kindly drove me to Amsterdam to catch my flight, but I think he regretted his generosity when he realized there was a road closure and large detour on the other side of the freeway – that is, the side he needed to take getting home.

It felt kind of weird to get back in the US. On the one hand, I went shopping!!! On Sunday evening!!! And I bought pretzels and grapes and blueberries (no beer; appparently they have blue laws here). If anyone reading this was in the Norwalk Stop’n’Shop this evening, I was the one walking around the (humongous) supermarket with a huge grin on my face. Earlier in the airport, I was speakin to random strangers as we waited for bags just to be able to speak and get answered in idiomatic American. On the other hand, Homeland Security is contemplating new requirements including mandating IDs for the operators and passengers of small boats and planes, installing tracking transponders on boats, and subjecting passengers on private jets to terrorist watch list checks. “ Yeesh. Also, the “66 minute” drive from the airport to my hotel took nearly two hours. New York traffic sucks, and on the way to the next flight I’ll have to take the cross-Bronx Expressway, which is even yuckier.

This was only my second time seeing the NY skyline since 911.

I have tomorrow off to get over jetlag. Hopefully I’ll sleep well enough tonight for that not to be much of an issue anyway. Time to go work on that.

homeward (briefly)

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

It’s time for our first trip back to the USA! Though it’s not quite such a sitting-still sort of thing as the word “visit” implies, more of a mad dash to and fro. Let’s see…. first I fly into New York and drive to Connecticut for work. After a few days there, I fly to Seattle, snag Ted somewhere in the airport, then we hop down to Oregon, where we get to see his parents and to be there as his dad’s parents celebrate their 60th anniversary. (I married into a family that’s good at marriages 🙂 Then we drive down to see his other grandfather for a few days, then fly back across the country to visit my family, since Dad couldn’t come over with Mom last month. Then home.

However, there won’t be any racing or other physical challenges, we won’t have to spend any time outdoors if it’s ridculously hot, and we get to stay put a few days in each location, so I’m hopeful that we won’t have to deal with anything like the illness I acquired on last year’s long and complicated summer trip. We’re looking forward to seeing family and maybe some friends and to stocking up on all the American goods we can’t find over here. (Ted is looking forward most to a large juicy hamburger and a pint of good ale!)

Paris, with photos

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who wants it can have the job of navigator next time we go to Paris – unless the only alternative is for me to drive, in which case I’ll volunteer to navigate. However, Ted was convinced that it wold be quicker and easier to go by car, and he did the driving part. Driving in Paris was rather like what I’ve heard about Taiwan – basically no one follows any rules and you just fit in wherever you can find space, so I guess it was good practice for next year. We made it to our hotel without getting lost, anyway.

I can recommend the hotel, for anyone going to Paris – it’s the Grand Hotel de Champagne, housed in a 16th-centruy mansion, with each room decorated differently. The location could not have been improved; it was right across the river from Notre Dame and less than 10 minutes walk from the Louvre. The cost was reasonable (for Paris) and the rooms were very comfortable, though they did have some of the tiniest showers we’d ever seen. (We’ve stayed in lots of European hotels by now, so that’s saying something.)

We were going to go the the Eiffel Tower first, but decided to stop off at the Rodin Museum nearby first. Good museum, bad decision. We did enjoy walking around the museum gardens to see the large scupltures and through the Hotel Biron where Rodin lived and worked, but by the time we’d had somehing to eat at the cafe there and walked past the Hotel des Invalides with the beautiful Dome Church, the weather was changing. We stopped to take a picture of the Outlaws Abroad:

Just as we got to the Tower, the storm broke, with lightning and extremely heavy rain. Cold rain – it had been hot so we were all wearing light clothing. It wasn’t a good feeling to be standing under the Wrld’s Largest Lightning Rod (yes, yes, I’m sure it’s well grounded) and there wasn’t really anywhere to go for shelter. For some stupid reason the guards were chasing everyone out of the few small roofed areas. We finally caught a taxi back to our hotel, and peeled off our soaking-wet clothing, rested a bit and went to dinner.

That night it had cleared up a bit, so we walked back toward the Eiffel Tower, taking night photos of it and of the Louvre. After a while the three of us wmen went back to the hotel, while Ted continued all the way to the tower.

We spent most of the next day in the Louvre, then took an open-topped bus tour (where for once we didn’t get rained on (much)) to see a bit more of the city. We ate dinner each night at one of the many restaurants near our hotel – that night we were at a very busy one with a waitress who was overworked enough to be first abrupt (I think she scared Kathy a bit) and later a bit punchy. I learned a lesson about trying to speak French: it’s fairly difficult to tell the different between the words veloute (creamy soup) and feuilletée (pastry) when you’re not actually sure what the latter is supposed to sound like anyway.

The next day, Sunday, was devoted to the Eiffel Tower. We actually intended to devote only a bit of it to the Tower, but by the time we stood in line for an hour and a half (in the rain, but more of a drizzle this time), rode up the first elevator, waited another half hour (in rain and wind) for the second one, rode that up to the top (where it was actually warmer), and got back down again, it was about 3:30.

Laurie really wanted to see the Musee D’Orsay, but changed her mind when we realized that would have involved another hour-long wait in the rain, leaving us an hour or less in the museum. Instead, we stopped for some more good food on the Ile de la Cite. (I had onion soup, which came with lots of soaked bread and a thick gooey layer of cheese on top – so apparently the US version of French onion soup is much more like the actual French original than the Dutch version.) The weather had still not improved but at least the line to get into Notre Dame was very quick.

We enjoyed the cathedral despite the considerable crowds; my favorite part was a small perfect model of it, and another of its building showing all the medieval trades that would have been involved.

Unfortunately it was too late to go up in the cathedral tower that day, so it was fortunate Ted got his fill of heights in the Eiffel Tower.

Before leaving on Monday, we walked over to the Sainte Chappelle, and once again waited in line in the rain. I didn’t unsderstand the reason for this wait; the line was not long but it moved at a glacial pace while they ran everyone’s bags through an airport-style scanner. (Good thing the airports are quicker about it!) When I was in Paris ten years ago you could walk right up to the Sainte Chappelle, but now you have to go through the Palais du Justis to get to it (it’s in the middle of the Palais du Justis, which was once a royal palace, but you used to be able to walk right through a large open gate.) When we finally got to see it, it was very nearly worth the wait, however, with its spectacular stained glass.


I do have the perfect souvenir to remind me of our trip to Paris: the hotel let me keep one of their very large umbrellas. So at least I can stay dry on future trips.

catching up – Netherlands photos

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

Here are a bunch of photos from Mom’s visit to the Netherlands – most of these places aren’t as famous as London, but often how many photos we have depends more on weather, whether we’re outdoors rather than indoors, and who’s willing to carry the camera. (And on airline restrictions – I couldn’t have taken all our camera gear to England anyway!) There are a lot, so I will post most of these as tumbnails – click on a thumbnail to see the full-sized image.

Here is the royal palace Het Loo, built by William and Mary, and the resident peacock:

Hre are some photos from Madurodam, which has miniature versions of important scenes and buildings from all over the country: a miniature of the Dam Square in Amsterdam, a canal view, and Mom by a windmill that’s smaller than she is.

Also at Madurodam, there was an exhibit of ice sculptures. It’s hard to tell what any of them are, but I’m including the photos because they’re so pretty.
In order, I think the first thing is a crocodile’s mouth, then a train, a panda (with bamboo behind him), and a wall separating parts of the exhibit.

On the way home from Madurodam, we stopped at the Kinderdiijk to see full-sized windmills – there are nineteen of them there.

catching up – London photos

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007

On the way home from a few errands just now, we just saw a band on a bicycle. ONE bicycle, six people all pedaling, band instruments complete with tuba. Unfortunately we didn’t have a camera along.

I see I haven’t been quite as dilatory as I’d thought – I did post a writeup of Bruge, with pictures, and a little about my trip to London with Mom. I only took my little camera on that trip, because I thought we’d be inside mostly and I didn’t want to carry the SLR and all its accoutrements. So I don’t have a lot of great photos, but here are a few:

Changing of the guard:

…at Buckingham Palace:

Another guard, at the Tower of London (it was too rainy to take any good photos of the Tower itself):

And the view from the London Eye: