Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Back home again.

It's always a challenge to have much to say when we're back home in Canada. Mostly because even though we're "on vacation", there seems to be enough work around the house to keep me busy.
I probably should have done a small update on Sunday already, but we were still in recovery mode. Plus, we already had a party to go to that afternoon.

The flight was reasonably uneventful. Arriving at one's destination in most any condition is always a good thing when compared to say, ending up in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.

I was supposed to be in the window seat, which I didn't really care to do for an eight hour flight. Turns out some old guy who apparently didn't understand how the seats were numbered took the window seat.

We just left him there.

I must say though, his bladder was certainly in good shape for his age, since he never budged from his spot.
And that my friends, is the reason I'd prefer not to be in the window seat for eight hours.
My initial impression of the plane was that it didn't have the same confidence inspiring look of a 747, which is the plane of choice used by KLM.
After all, we were flying Continental in order to use up some points, but the downside to that is that we needed to then fly in to Newark. I don't mind Newark, but a direct overseas flight is always a better option.

Somehow this rather blurry pic is a good summation of most any overseas flight. It does convey one's condition when cooped up for eight hours. Don't you think?

This time around, my darling significant other looked after the car rental arrangement, with some interesting results.
I'm trying to be nice here, but let's just say that there are certain vehicles that you know you'd never be interested in taking for a test drive, and then your suspicions are confirmed. Somehow I don't think we'll need to be doing any off roading in our rented Jeep Wrangler.
I actually said out loud at one point, "Gee, I think our motorhome handles better than this thing".

We just laughed.

Since the flight that was supposed to bring us from Newark to Toronto was already over an hour behind due to some nasty weather, there was no chance I was going to even consider not taking the vehicle. We just wanted to go home.

By the way, this:...is pretty much the only chance we'll ever have of remembering where we parked the Audi at Schiphol. We did the long term parking thing. Pretty sure we'll think carefully before doing that again. Or at least it won't be such a completely new experience if we do. What a sea of cars! Holy cr*p! I'm thinking it was a good ten minute walk to get to the shuttle bus, and there are no signs to even tell you if you're heading in the right direction. To make matters just slightly worse, we kept spotting open parking spots that were closer.

So today it's off to the dentist, and I hate to say it, but I'm almost looking forward to getting my teeth cleaned.


Then I have to see if I can finish getting our sprinkler system sorted out. I've had to replace a couple valves, and then discovered that my 24 volt transformer is pooched.

So I'll need to nip over to Home Despot to see if I can come up with a 24 volt transformer.
Not sure if that component is sold by itself.

Of course, back in the spring when I was doing a purge, I'm pretty sure I threw out a perfectly servicable 24 volt transformer.

But why would anyone keep such a thing?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Counting the hours.

It's kind of like waiting for Santa to arrive actually. But I doubt very much if the morning will get here any quicker if I go to bed now.

Just got back from chatting briefly with our neighbours, since I asked them if they wouldn't mind putting out our two green garbage totes on Wednesday night. Of course, "would you like to see the puppies", is the first order of business. Who could say no? They've now been moved into the kitchen and have their eyes open.

So cute!

There's not much left to do. I've sorted through all the bits and pieces that need to go along. Done all the laundry I can find, charged up cameras etc.
Managed to find some Canadian money, (along with Swiss Francs and Danish Kroners) although I don't think we'll need too much when we get to Toronto, since we'll simply pick up a car and drive home. It's a slightly different story if taking an airport limo is on the agenda. Then you need to have at least eighty bucks.

We decided that we'd eat in tonight, since doing up some salmon on the BBQ isn't going to leave me with any extra fridge items. Besides, even though the food last night was really great, once a week eating out is just enough thanks.
I am however looking forward to some pizza from Burlington Pizza. Used to have that one on speed dial. Could just call when leaving the pub on a Friday night....

Ah...good times.

Now, speaking of Friday nights. It would seem that there will be many eyes glued to TV sets all over North America (well, pretty much north of the Mason-Dixon line anyway) watching game seven of the play-offs.

Hm...ya, well. We don't don't get that kind of thing here in Yurp.

Oh well.

I just happened to think of it though, as I took a sip from my Frank Mahovlich beer glass. Kind of a coincidence, don't ya think?
On the other hand, but bugging out of here tomorrow, I will be missing the 24 hrs at Le Mans.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Was that summer?

We're pretty much down to counting the hours at this point when it comes to the going home plan.
Of course, when leaving for a couple weeks, it's not too clever to leave all that much in the fridge, so we'll be dining out tonight and tomorrow night.
Mind you, in the time that we've been at this location, we've never yet had a power outage, which was a far cry from the situation we had in Cabo Rojo. Aparently a brand new fridge there would typically only last a few years, since not only did the voltage go up and down like a toilet seat, but the power would also tend to go out completely about once a week.
There's this one restaurant that is right around the corner from the rather lack luster hotel where we stayed a year ago, and we figure we'll revisit that one tonight, and then maybe go to Het Witte Paard tomorrow.

We'll see.

I mean, I could always make pasta, but we've been shying away from too much pasta lately, since it's not the healthiest choice for anyone with blood sugar issues.
In desperation I can make it on the Sunday when we get back, since all stores are closed, and even the bakery is shut up for the day by the time we get here.

What has this to do with the weather you ask?

Well, the one thing I indeed have to do before we head off to bed for our last sleep tomorrow night, is to cut the lawn. I can't in good concience leave it for the two weeks, and the chances of finding someone to do it at this point are pretty slim. It's been my intention to get it sorted out over the next day or so, but we've suddenly been beset with some wet weather.
I've managed to dodge the squalls that we've been getting over the last few days and have done my usual running around on the bike, but there have been a couple times when it was coming down in buckets.
I just need a couple hours of sunlight for things to dry out a bit.
Then it's a matter of cleaning off the machine and leaving it out more or less in the middle of the garage so that our landlord can come by and pick it up at some point.

Remember him?

Anyway, the last time I saw the guy, I was in their store ordering a mattress, and he mentioned that he wanted to take the machine away to do a tune up and have a little repair done to the handle. It's a heavy machine, and I discovered last summer, that the handle was somewhat under engineered, and was developing some metal fatigue.
By this I mean, I have to lift up on the handle to turn the thing, otherwise it starts to bend.

Not fun.

Whether he actually comes and gets the POS is the subject of some speculation, since he's said he would do this before, and never showed up. Frankly I'll be quite surprised if he keeps his word. (seems he's a bit of a "talker")

In the grand scheme of things, I really don't give a rat's tiny behind.

But that is an entirely different story, and one that is not yet blog worthy.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sometimes it's OK

...to be "the Caretaker".

Well, sometimes.

Here's the thing. Got a notice in the mail the other day.
Seems Vitens want a meter reading. If you happen to go to that link and see "meterstand doorgeven", that's the place I need to be to send in a meter reading.

Pretty handy, considering I first thought I'd have to make a phone call. At least it would have been a free call. They even have to put "gratis" (free) next to the number. The reason for that is, most help lines here in La-La land charge you for the privilege. Sometimes upwards of €.40 a minute!
How is that "helpful"?

Who knows why anyone would put up with that, but hey... not my country.

The thing is, once upon a time way, way back when I was a young whipper-snapper of a Caretaker, a very wise Supervisor once told me, "Whenever you go to a new site, always know the location of these three things: The water meter, gas meter and hydro meter. And know how to shut off all three of them".

Words to live by.

Oh, and it's also helpful to know how to shut off the domestic supply to your hydronic heating system in case it springs a leak, but that's another story.

So, it didn't take me more than 5 seconds to realise our water meter is right at the front door, under the mat.
Lo and behold, there it is....

Now that I think of it, maybe the next time the Jehovah's come to the door, I'll say something like, "Why yes, I'd love a copy of the Watchtower. Why don't you just step right this way?"


Wonder of wonders.

I'm sure you've been dying to know this, but I have an announcement.

The washing machine actually made it through an entire cycle without coming to a dead stop.
I know! Isn't that fabulous?
I was just sitting here minding my own business before heading over to the driving range, figuring I'd need to go out and poke a couple buttons to get the thing to finish, when I heard it spinning!

Glad I was sitting down.

OK, maybe I do need to get out of here for a couple weeks? Strange as it may seem, I'm actually looking forward to doing laundry in a proper washing machine.

Not some piece of junk that got lost on it's way to the metal recyclers. Not that I would want to let you know how I really feel or anything.

Fortunately, I haven't had to resort to any washing machine accessories.
(needed a segue to get that pic in there)

No, I didn't perloin that one off the internet. We saw it yesterday in Delden.
Along with a few other things.
This guy was making klompen
I really wanted to get a better pic, and probably should have just muscled my way in there, but I have to live here.
There was some sort of a medievel theme going on, and this guy was pounding away at a foot operated forge.

Oh, and I have to throw in a random pic of a neat old cargo bike....

Now, I should say that, the reason for being out and about in Delden on a Sunday, was because we were about to embark on a little voyage around town for charity. I guess that's the best way to describe it.
We happened to be over at the neighbour's on Saturday, since their dog had a litter of puppies about a week and a half ago, and it's pretty hard to resist going to see puppies.I didn't get too carried away taking puppy pictures, since I didn't want to be too invasive.
As it happened, they were going to host one of the dozen or so venues for the event. So for a few farthings, you could go from event to event and watch what ever type of entertainment that struck your fancy.
The thing to keep in mind of course, it was for a charitable cause. ( I don't recall, so don't ask)
Here we are listening to the group that played next door. The lady in the pic next to Gabe is the proud puppy person.

This group did 60s and 70s music.They were "trying hard" is all I'll venture to say. I'm no music critic, but the guitar girl on the far right had nary a clue if she was playing in tune or not. Even my somewhat tone deaf wife made a comment.
Think I would have sooner had a hemorrhoid flare-up.

'Nuff said.

So the deal is, they play a mercifully short 20 minute set, then you go inside for coffee. A deal at €1,00 per cup (again, goes to the charity)
If you wish, you can simply stay there and hear another set, (really??!)
or chose another venue.
We rode our bikes to another house not far from here to hear a couple lads on trumpet do a few duets.
The house itself was very cool. I was amazed at just how thick a thatched roof really is. Not sure of the vintage of the place, but it alone was worth the visit.

These lads were also "trying hard", if you know what I mean. Well, their tuning was OK, but that's about all I'll venture to comment on.

(Dude! Go back to the coda!)

Once again mercifully, the set was only 20 minutes. I could have done with about 10.
So after that visit, we weren't sure if it was going to go anywhere but down hill from there, so decided to just head for home.
The group next door were loud enough that we still got to hear music from the 60s and 70s for the last two sets, so it wasn't like we were missing out or anything.
I guess my acting skills must be up to snuff, since everyone thought I was just having a wonderful time.

Now, if you think you are desperate enough to actually want to hear a sample, then by all means.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Eight more sleeps!

Either that or it's seven more sleeps and a "wakie", depending on how you count it. Never having been in the Air Force, I'll just go with the eight sleeps program.

In case I haven't mentioned it, we'll be heading for the airport a week from tomorrow to catch a flight out of Schiphol at around 9:15 a.m. Pretty sure of the time, since it's at this point indelibly etched into my brain.

Funny how that works.

It's that time of the year when the company (that cannot be named) is willing to pony up the dough to send us on home for some R&R. So happens that we decided to use some of our air miles we have been collecting over the years with Continental (they do fly to Puerto Rico) which means we will be once again flying into Newark, and then on to Toronto. I don't actually mind Newark. It's Toronto that I'm never too thrilled about.
As a matter of fact, we've been known to fly into Buffalo and cab it home, just to avoid being at an airport where their motto is, "We're not happy, 'til you're not happy!"
(credit goes to my dear sister-in-law Ljuba for that one. Thanks Ljuba!)

If we didn't have to rent a car when we got there, Buffalo might have actually been a consideration.

Upon further reflection, I realise it really should be "seven sleeps and a wakie", since we'll need to haul ourselves out of bed a tad on the early side on the Saturday morning. We were originally going to take a leisurely train ride to the airport on the Friday night, since this time we figured we'd stick the car in the garage here at the house, like we did at Christmas, and trundle our luggage up the street to the station here in Delden. (hey, I figured out how to use the ticket dispensing machine, OK?)
Well, that was the "cunning plan" until we went to book a room at the Sheridan at the airport.
The rate for the hotel at the airport has gone a little nuts lately. Like, well over €400! Just so we can sleep a few hours and stagger down to the gate?

Don't think so.

I know I said the company is willing to pay, but let's get real.

So in the grand scheme of things it's actually a better deal to just drive to the airport and keep the car in long term parking for the two weeks. Works out to something like €120.

The train trip there and back alone is pretty close to €100, plus we can simply pay for the parking with a credit card.
I've driven back to Delden at least once before after coming off an overnight flight, so that shouldn't be a hardship.

Plus, the car doesn't mind carrying my luggage one bit.

Now I realise that if the Bush administration hadn't allowed the financial institutions to lend non-existent money to people with muscle shirts and non-existent credit ratings, we might have actually considered the hotel routine. But still, I think they'd need to carry me to my room for €400.

Meanwhile, we took up one of our regular Thursday night activities last night. It turns out this will be our second last Dutch lesson for June, due to being away for the two weeks. We'll see Nico again in July, but then he's away to Tershelling for three week on his vacation.
Should mention.....google maps is a little off on that one....you need to go a tad north.

Between that, and the expectation of more visitors in mid-July, the Dutch lessons are getting a little sketchy.
Really, I only ever go shopping, so I'm not too worried about learning the plus-perfect tense. Well I'm exaggerating slightly, but you know what I mean.

Besides, I'm not sure any amount of lessons is going to help me understand our landlord, since I still tend to find myself transfixed by his one wandering eye.

Gabe still seems pretty determined though, and even took her list of irregular verbs with her to work.
*snort!* Like she has time to look at verbs at work!

I don't have the savvy to put in a speech balloon in the photo below, but I'm pretty sure you can see her asking, "what does this mean?"

Normally when it's her turn after I've had my hour (she's always late getting home) I run and hide upstairs, 'cause I know poor Nico is going to get raked over the coals, and I can't bear to witness the carnage.
I've grumbled about the text books we're using on more than one occasion, since they don't make a whole lot of sense to me, but I don't want to slip off into a rant here.
You need vocabulary at the beginning of every chapter.
That's all I'm gonna say.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A riddle for you

here's a hint

Throw it out!

See, here's the thing. There are those of you who may already know, but my darling wife can be a bit of a well, perhaps "germaphobe" is a good word?

Not sure.

There are certain creatures on the planet that she's just not too keen on.
Bugs, mice, that kind of thing.
Btw, that made for some interesting times when we lived in Puerto Rico, now let me tell ya.

Now silly me, I do tend to forget these little snippets from time to time, so I never thought much about it when I mentioned that I had discovered the dried up, shrivelled up carcass of a mouse in one of the planters where we are attempting to grow some basil.

I think the underlying problem was, I had not at that point in my day actually consumed an entire cup of coffee.
Mental note: no talking before coffee.

Where was I?


Don't know how he/she/it got there, but maybe fell into the watering can and drowned? That's the only possibility I can think of.

So now I have the job of turfing out every last vestige of plant life that you see in the photo, since heaven forbid, there might be some trace of mouse cootie that has managed to work its way up into our "prize" basil.
I kid you not! There was even the mention of the word "plague" in this morning's diatribe.


I figure the poor bastards aren't going to survive the next three weeks anyway, but that's another story.

Too early for the countdown.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Sheep Field, Part Deux.

...and there you go.

Now once again it looks to me like that picture is overexposed.
I can't seem to find anything in the camera menu that would tell me otherwise, but I haven't given up just yet.

This baling of the hay must have happened earlier this morning, but I heard nothing.

Of course, just as I'm really starting to delve into the whole functioning of the camera situation, I got tersely reminded that I needed to charge the battery.


Originally I was going to comment on an activity that I once again noticed going on across the street yesterday afternoon, but my attention was drawn to the bales of hay in the sheep field instead.


We're pretty much surrounded by widows in this neighbourhood, and the lady across the road is no exception. She lives by herself. Looks to be into her eighties, (just guessing) has a cleaning lady come in once a week, and a guy who cuts her grass. In addition to these visits, there's a gentleman who looks to be perhaps in his fifties (a son?) who comes by to see her just about every single day. He doesn't have a key, but maybe that's just a Dutch thing, where you don't get to keep a key after you've moved out. Don't know, but that concept seems like a good idea.
He either takes her shopping, to the Doctor's or just stops by to sort out little issues in the garden.
Oh, and now that I think on it, he did come by on Mother's Day with flowers. So she must be somebody's mother.

This was going to come under the heading of "It could be worse", since she has this charming way of lording over him as he's down on all fours digging in the dirt.

And yes, I wish I had a telephoto. So you'll just have to squint.

OK, maybe "lording" is a bit of a strong term, but I've seen her on at least one occasion pointing at shit with her cane. Not sure that would work for me.

Neither Gabe nor I have aging parents, and when I see this type of activity or hear of getting those phone calls at work from the nursing home, I do stop and think that it could always be worse. Both our mothers were considered to be real sweathearts, and died way too soon, so we can only speculate as to how life would have been in their later years.
If anything, I know my mother would be out there in the garden and you'd be hard pressed to get her to come in and sit down. She was just like that, but ....she certainly didn't live into her eighties.

So I guess we'll never really know.

much later....
I made an adjustment to the EV, but it still seems a tad overexposed.

...and....even later...

I think I like this one better. I had to step the ISO down by -2 (whatever the heck that means) and can only do this with the dial set at "p". Pretty sure that stands for "pain-in-the-you know what".
Although that one may look just a tad dark, at least now I have a clue as to how to get different results.
Besides it's Europe, it should look kind of dark and forboding. The clouds overhead do add a nice effect, don't they?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The sheep field

One of the things that I've noticed over the last month or so, has been the absence of sheep in the small pasture just a block or so away from the house.
We've discovered from one of our neighbours that, we're actually considered "outside" of Delden, since we're not within the confines of what used to be a walled town. So I guess that means I shouldn't be surprised to see sheep grazing in what seems like the middle of town.

It's not.

I'm a stranger in a strange land.

Well, I also couldn't help but notice that the farmers around these parts have already taken in their first crop of hay. This was three or four weeks ago, (beginning of May!!) which is a good month and a half before Southern Ontario and just about the same for most of Nova Scotia. I'm only going by what I know, OK? Somewhere back in my dark past there's some sort of "farmer gene" that has me notice these kinds of things.

Whatever you do, don't get my wife started on this topic, unless you are ready for much rolling of eyes and sighing, since I think she still finds it hard to believe that I was actually born on a farm.

Oh, and we had cold running water and an outhouse.

Seriously folks, I ain't kiddin'.

But that's another story.

Last week sometime I guess it was, I couldn't help but notice that the normally sheep grazing but now hayfield had been cut, but nothing was going on in terms of dealing with the hay.

Until this morning:

He's giving it the once over and putting it into windrows, where it will probably sit for another day or two, and then I'll be curious to see what he will do in terms of baling or some other sort of collection.

Stay tuned.

Now, the reason I happened to be right there at that moment was because I was running the roads this morning on New and Shiny (well, version 2) since I had a little mental list of things to sort out. No making jokes by putting together the words, "little" and "mental".....

Tooled back over to the golf club to further check out the driving range situation, and bought a "pass" to use in their ball dispensing machine. I could have bought tokens, but figured I'd just pony up the €25 for ten goes. Still haven't a clue just how many balls you get for your €2,50, but we'll find out.
Not all that many I'm thinking.
We we're going to find out later this afternoon, but I just got the call. Seems the numbers aren't quite behaving themselves, so the finance person will be letting me know when she gets to come home.

Um, it's "the second work day", which is to say, the second day after month end....
For those of you who have ever counted an inventory and/or done a P&L, you know what I mean. For those of you who don't know, here's a brief primer on something I used to do each and every week, back in my dark distant past*.

You get the idea.

*note: That wouldn't be back in the pre-history "living on a farm" period, but rather in the "after finishing school and trying to get a job" period.

The huge difference is, I used to deal with thousands, and well, that's not the case when you're looking after a whole division.

So fine, it's not quite "billions and billions", but I couldn't help myself.

Where was I?


Went up Langestraat to the "Kapsalon" for a hair cut, since I was just about getting to the point where I was going to start pulling the stuff out....
If only it would stop growing on the back of my neck and in my ears instead of the top of my head, life would be just dandy.


Interestingly enough, as I was sitting there, a lady came in and made arrangements for the barber to make a house call.


Do we have such a thing? Apparently he doesn't really advertise it, but will go to the seniors home down the street and trim up what ever needs it. No extra charge. (hey, I can understand that much Dutch, OK?)


Then it was off to stop by the Dr's office to enquire about a couple prescriptions that were about to run out.
Here's where they've really got it together over here:
Went in, spoke to the receptionist, she quickly had a look on the computer, send an email over to the pharmacy, and I'll slide by there tomorrow afternoon to pick up the prescription.

Just.....like .....that.

I realise that I sometimes give the impression that if I have anything to say, it's in the order of some sort of complaint. (thanks Anja)
But let me tell you this. Right up there with the way the Dutch manage their water (the folks from Louisiana might like to come for a look-see)..and their bike paths, they have the whole pharmacy/prescription/whatever program figured out.

Not only that, but the prescriptions don't cost an arm and a leg like they do back home. Hm. Go figure.

Hey, and the Americans go up to Canada to get the "cheap drugs", so I can just imagine how much everyone is getting gouged south of the 49th.
Plus, I will bet you any amount of money you'd like, that I can go into the pharmacy tomorrow afternoon and be out of there within FIVE minutes with precription in hand.
Try that at any place in North American that fills prescriptions. I defy you!

Why does it take a half hour to count out fifty flippin' pills?

Not only that, but in spite of this country by no means being officially bilingual, the people at the Pharmacy can not just speak perfect Dutch, but do a pretty good job in English as well.
Without the slightlest hint of an East Indian accent.

What a concept!

Monday, June 1, 2009

It's a holiday!

So what that basically means is that most everything in Delden, and the rest of the country for that matter, is closed. If you don't have it, you ain't gettin' it.

Took a little jaunt up through Delden this morning, but never thought to take the camera along, so I had to make a second trip this afternoon. By then of course, there were the tourists, which consisted mostly of people on bikes.
The pubs are doing OK it seems, and any place you can get ice-cream.

I realise it looks like there are a lot of cars, but you really only need about four to make it seem crowded.

At the time I had the good sense to wear long trousers, but peeled them off as soon as I got in the door since it's about 27°C

Maybe I need to add some whitener to my legs? Pretty sure they're not nearly white enough.

There wasn't such a big Holy Head wind today, so at least that's one thing. You did get the whole pun with pentecost, right?