Snippets From Amsterdam

IMG_0066No one who knows me well would describe me as an adventurous traveller.  But, once I get “on the road”, I truly enjoy seeing new things in new places.  I am probably more of a voyeur than a tourist.

Kate and I just got back from a week in Amsterdam.  In spite of all my worries about how we would find each other in the airport (arriving at different times, different airlines, getting through customs, no international data on my phone…how in the world did people do this?) she met me at the arrivals gate (both of us on overnight flights: she, from San Francisco; me, from Philadelphia) with a cup of coffee in hand!  It had been made just the way I like it (some cream, a bit of chocolate, and hot)…a little charm goes a long way in Amsterdam, apparently!

A week in Amsterdam.  Free from all that we had left behind.  A guidebook, but no plans, no “must sees”.  But, be forewarned:  one needs to know that Kate and I once spent more than a week in Paris…and didn’t go to a SINGLE museum…not one, except, the Pompidou, and I am not sure for most, that that really counts…

In no particular order, here are a few highlights of our trip (with commentary)…

IMG_5375 IMG_5376 IMG_5371In a leap of “whatever”, we both packed watercolors and brushes, thinking that we would paint atmospheric masterpieces…that didn’t quite work out.  The weather was a bit chilly, sometimes rainy.  We never found a bench to sit on…and, truth be told, neither of us really wanted to sit in a cafe and paint.  It truly seemed a bit rude to do so.  Most of the cafes and bakeries we stopped in were small, obviously run by the owners who were right there, on site…busy, busy places (not sure anyone in Amsterdam actually eats dinner “at home”).  In the end, I did pull out my “stuff” in the hotel room and played around a bit with it (or whatever I had acquired in our daily forays out)…am thinking that now that I am home, I will do more.  Does that count?

IMG_0063IMG_0065

For someone who loves wonderfully old, somewhat quirky architecture, Amsterdam was a real treat.  Add to that, lovely Art Nouveau tiles in doorways, intriguing ironwork gracing windows, doors, and gates, curvy Baroque trim, beautiful old windows and charming old doors…cobblestone streets, flowers everywhere (it IS October, right?) …total eye candy…loved it.  Couldn’t get enough.

IMG_0086

Saw this cauliflower on the street  (bet Dutch kids play with their food)…We did get out of the city.  Took the train…wonderfully convenient, efficient, and quiet…passed through broad expanses of green, green fields, many of which are certainly full of flowers in the spring.  Each, connected to one another, by waterways and bike paths.  Think one could go do grocery shopping “in town” by boat or bike…

IMG_0088

One of our forays out of Amsterdam was to Den Hague…in search of the”world famous” street market…and the Escher museum.  Think we found the “wrong” street market (though I did buy a few plastic doilies that will make great stencils), but the Escher museum, which we did find, was a total treat.  He did wonderfully detailed woodcuts and lithographs of Italian hill towns early in his career…exquisite, precise, with black blacks and crisp lines and intriguing perspectives.  One could see how he got from there to his later work, but Kate and I both loved his “old” stuff.  The museum was very small, in a “house” lived in at one time by one of the Dutch royal family…art, plus…

IMG_0093

By chance, we wandered into the highlight of our trip…gasp! a museum: the Tropenmuseum.  If you get to Amsterdam, don’t miss it.  For some reason, neither of our guidebooks singled it out as “THE place to see” in Amsterdam, and yet, only by seeing it could a visitor get a real sense of the expansive impact that the Dutch traders had on the rest of the world at the time, and beyond.  It holds a remarkable collection of artifacts from all of the Dutch colonies…beautifully curated, originally presented…totally engaging.  If we had had another day, we would have gone back, and probably, back again…

IMG_0058

Early in the week, as we were still contemplating visiting museums versus just wandering the streets to see what we might happen upon, and, with the Rijks museum just across the street, what caught our attention was this shop window display.  The shop was closed…but a few days later, we went back.  Kate tried on almost everything on the mannikin…and bought the coat! and the shawl!…decided the tulle skirt was a bit over the top…but lovely.

We had fun.  I think we “saw” Amsterdam…

IMG_0084

Travel is like this bit of light that shines on what you think you “know”.  It gives you a new point of view…see, there it is…a fresh look…

Not a “Gee’s Bend” Bone in My Body…

_MG_5257I am still sorting through stuff in the studio.  Some days, I find treasures; others, not so much.  About a week ago, I unpacked a basket of totally mis-matched threads…odd colors, some American (Knit-Cro-Sheen), some French…all over forty years old.   (I can date them because I bought the French ones during our sabbatical in Grenoble…and did crochet a great bag…another time, another story.)  I have probably packed and unpacked that exact basket, full of the exact same balls of thread, five or six times over the years…too many times, for way too long.  I decided to just use them up…there’s a challenge: odd colors, random weights, lots of some, just bits of others.

The initial idea was to make dishcloths…really?

Why?  Well, because, I hate mine, and thought some colorful ones might make me love(?) cleaning up…and besides, how intense can one get over making a dishcloth?

Truly?  Well, my plan was to pick up a ball of thread and just crochet (granny square-style) until that one was used up…and, then attach the next.  Hmmm.  It should have been simple; I couldn’t do it!  Tried.  Really?

Really.  Hence the title of this blog.  Even as simple of a thing as a dishcloth, apparently, has to have a plan, for heavens sake.  “Random/design by chance” was beyond me.  For a dishcloth?    The absurdity of THAT did make me laugh!

IMG_5270

I just couldn’t do it.  Those incomplete rounds bothered me.  Should I rip it out?  for a dishcloth???   And, here is the catch to the story:  I guess for me, even the pattern in my dishcloth matters.  The challenge then became to choose the color/thread for any given row based on if I thought what I had of it could make it all the way around the block…AND, it still had to look “good”.   That was when the fun (and suspense) really began.

True confession:  As the colors began to “run out” (keeping in mind that dishcloths can get pretty gross, and a darker color range with light colors just for accents really was most practical), I did break down and buy a big ball of Aunt Lydia’s purple just so I could get around those last few rows…

Now I just have to weave in all those ends…do the math:  each color change has two ends…

IMG_5272

Now or Never…

If there is one thing I have figured out this past year, it is that there is NEVER going to be a better time to “fix” something.  As I unpack and try to put “all my pieces back together again”, I have begun to just “do it”: “fix it”…in spite of all the mess that STILL surrounds daily life around here (huge painting project underway…wandering around in the dark is not advised).

Case in point:  My armoire.  Previously in my studio, now in my kitchen, it has been re-purposed.  (Don’t ask, I don’t have a clue where I am going to put everything that used to be in it!)   It is now going to hold those awkward things that take up too much space in the kitchen cabinets (that I don’t have).  Sigh.  I once lived in a house in Texas that had so much cabinet space in the kitchen that I stored my Christmas ornaments there!!!  Always thought that when the Texan men finally got women to come, they wanted to be sure they stayed…hence, truly lovely bathtubs, and LOTS of kitchen cabinets.

Back to my story.  We managed to put the armoire back together.  (A challenge in itself.) Armoires were designed to be “portable”, so they come apart into (many) flat pieces with assorted hardware and keys… did I mention that it is French? and that we originally bought it in pieces?   When it was in my studio, the purple shelves (not original) seemed “arty”…in my kitchen, not so much.  After years of use, all were looking a bit ragged, as well.  New shelves were not an option.

IMG_5180

I guess I could have put them in place, hoping to get back to them at some point…but, I didn’t.

IMG_5184

IMG_5194

Minor victories over the chaos feel SO good.

IMG_5186

Unexpected, Crazy Fun

IMG_0025We had so much fun being just a little crazy last night.  On her way out the door yesterday, Kate mentioned that there was a field trip planned for today (trip on a boat, sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge), and by the way, if she decided to go (instead of staying behind in her office to catch up on work) she might need a hat for the “Crazy Hat Contest”.  It has been SO long since I got to help with a “school project”!  Thought I would see what might “inspire”…  I cruised the local JoAnn’s and had a lot of fun spending about ten bucks: grabbed the birdhouse on the way in the door and sort of went with that.   Added a bit of paint, some great red wire, a little orange polka-dotted pinwheel (25 cents!!), and a package of laser cut wooden buttons…every single thing was “on sale”!  (Also, bought a great little purple flower pot (99 cents), thinking it might make a cool base for the “hat”…but it got traded out pretty quickly for the black and white one in the photo  (It is actually a hat, imagine that…)   When she got home from work, I must have looked like I was having way too much fun, because it wasn’t long before we were both playing with the idea of a birdhouse hat…a bit of raiding in her closet and from her desk, and voila!

Given that she works with a bunch of engineers, the hat we came up with is decidedly low-tech…but, bet it makes you smile!

ps:  Update…Our hat won!  Prize to be announced…hmmmm