Monthly Archives: October 2014

Happy Anniversary

to us! One year ago today, we were arriving at Schiphol with 4 checked suitcases (one filled entirely with pet food and tortillas) and 4 kennels. I remember insisting that Customs inspect all my paperwork because at that point it had required 40 hours worth of work to put it together and I was not leaving for the outside world until someone had read it. On the other side of the glass doors, was Joanne, our own personal Welcome to the Netherlands ambassador.

It seems hard to believe that a year has passed. Two years ago on this date, I was busting Mom out of skilled care nursing and we were moving her into the big house. Yesterday was difficult and I ended up crawling into my purple Mom chair and had a big cry. I have been really busy over the past two weeks. Last night I realized I was trying to keep a wellspring of grief firmly behind the Door of the Occupied Mind. Once I realized the door was there, it stopped working and then I just had to get it out. I wanted to talk to my brothers, any one of them really. But then I felt guilty because I wanted to talk to them so I would feel better and know that I wasn’t the only one missing Mom. Of course, then responsible Big Sister mode kicked in and I decided that I would not call, I would make it through on my own. And that’s what I have to focus on, I just have to make it through to the next minute. I don’t have to have a plan for the next hour.

I am glad that we live here. It isn’t perfect but it is a good life. I like knowing that I can go to Marum or eat Indonesian food or hear someone say something that reminds me of my mom. I like the fact that I can take the boys pretty much wherever I want. We live in a great neighborhood and I have a lot to be thankful for. And that includes you.

Falling back finally!

Tonight we go back an hour. Yay! I know it seems strange to look forward to something like that. However, with the dark mornings at 815 still, I am more than ready to have a little more light in the morning. Plus, I always feel like that you are getting something extra with the fall back time change.

Yesterday, it was raining all day. Not a heavy downpour but a steady one which meant that the boys had to get their raincoats on to go to the vet. They weren’t that happy with the idea but since they have very little ground clearance, they had no choice. They checked out okay. While we were there, someone was having to put their companion to sleep in the room next door. I felt so badly for them. And after it was done, I could hear them wrapping up the companion. It wasn’t very comforting.

So, on one side Moortje is sitting in the boys’ blankets watching me type. He would prefer to be sitting on my collarbones but as we have discovered, when he sits there I can’t see anything but cat. Henry and George are on the other side, curled up and not yet snoring.

I have had a good week for movies! Last night, Marianne and I went to see “St. Vincent” which was so great! And on Wednesday night, I saw “Gone Girl” with Renee. What a disturbing film. I was still thinking about it yesterday morning when I woke up.

I may have found a new housesitter. She is coming later this week to meet the herd. And while I am done traveling for the year, it will be good to have the option. I might like to go back to the nuns before the year is out.

Okay, time to let Moortje sit on my collar bones!

Hello Autumn


You know it is chilly when a cat allows a dog to keep them warm. Here’s George, doing his best to keep an eye on things while Moortje (the black lump) is curled up right next to him. And that cat is willing to curl up in a pile of blankets that very distinctly belong to the dogs.

Last night we had some great storms with the full combination of wind, lightning and thunder. The temperature has also dropped to about 50 degrees. The sun is trying to come out right now, which is nice. I have a big mug of tea handy and I am refusing to turn the heat on just yet. I know, it is not like there will be a heat wave over the weekend! I think we have definitely moved into autumn.

Coming home yesterday on the bike, I did my impression of Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin. My bike rain cape is orange and when you wear it, you turn directly into a pumpkin but at least you are visible to everyone for kilometers! After getting home, I discovered that I had a letter from the States. More specifically, from R. You can’t beat a letter that starts out with “I can’t believe I am doing this” meaning writing a letter. It was a really nice surprise and I quickly wrote back and sent it back out with the last mail pickup of the evening.

We’re down to our last pack of tortillas so the boys are hoping we have a guest from the US soon that can bring them a refill. Otherwise, I think I am going to have learn to make them since the ones here are not tortillas. Not sure what they are but tortillas they are not. Their texture is all wrong.

Hope that you are warm and cosy today! Unless of course you are in a tropical location 🙂

Suitcase unpacked and stowed

I am done traveling for the year now. At least, I should say I don’t have any further travel plans for the year! Came home from Portugal very late Friday night/ early Saturday morning and was so glad to be home. I loved Lisbon, such a beautiful city and I would very much like to see more of Portugal. Of course, you know how nuts I am about Schiphol. All the same, it was good to know that I am home now for the forseeable future.

I know that I would like to visit Iceland and Portugal again. I have also realized that next year, I will make a big jump and take two weeks of vacation at a time. One week or less isn’t really long enough to escape and three weeks (the norm) might just be too much for me to handle without some more taking a vacation experience.

This morning, Lientje was bundled off to the vet for her shots, senior blood panel and they also did some heart monitoring. She’s got a murmur but they are not sure if it is accelerated because she gets so wound up leaving the house. They even put a little blood pressure cuff on her. She had good levels. In a couple of weeks, we’ll look at an EKG for her.

A week ago, Moortje went to the vet because he needed his shots and because I have been concerned that he suddenly seems to be very old. His blood tests came back okay, kidney values are in need of watching so he’s had to make the transition to kidney support food. And he is very firmly in the 16-20 year category. He’s lost a kilo of weight over the year, which is a lot of a cat. For now, I am giving him the attention he wants and all the canned food he wants to eat.

The boys go on Friday for their checkup. After this, I am wondering if I can just get my physical at the vet too! We have a great vet so I have no complaints. When I was sitting in the waiting room, while they were running Moortje’s tests, I just couldn’t stop crying – thinking about him dying. Totally did this to myself. To the point that the receptionist came out to tell me that the delay was due to the centrifuge warming up, not the results.

I’ve caught a small cold with all my travelling. Hope to shed it in the next few days because it is annoying.

Back on the couch

Sunday morning and I have already done the grocery shopping, walked the dogs and catered to the cats. And now I am sitting on the couch, with a cup of coffee nearby and two small snorers even closer. After I go to Portugal this week, I will be done travelling for the year.

Getting home yesterday really was an all day adventure. We left for the airport at 5AM Icelandic time and I finally walked in the door at 7PM. Important lesson learned on this journey: flying intra-Europe is very different than long haul flying. Especially when it comes to carry on allowances. However, I managed to sneak all the way through yesterday. On the way out, I had to pay excess baggage fees twice. Second lesson is that it is still so much better to go direct. I will remember next time that time is invaluable. Five plus hours is Gatwick yesterday was over-stimulating and not a valuable use of my time.

We did have a nice surprise on the flight out of Iceland. The two rows in front of us were empty so I became a seat shark and asked if we could move. I haven’t had a row to myself on an airplane in at least ten years so that was an incredible treat!

On Thursday, we left Isafjordur around 930 and had a nearly 450 kilometer drive through the West Fjords back over to the Reykjavik side since we needed to be near the Golden Circle for Friday’s snorkeling. I drove the whole way. Highlights from the drive were stopping off at the geothermal swimming pool that was technically closed but the man working on the building let us in, with the reminder to wash with soap. Icelanders are very serious about washing with soap before going in the water since no chemicals are used. And there are always groups of tourists that don’t do it, causing shock and scandal. It was incredible, it is a proper swimming pool with a deep end. I could have swim in it all day. Near the end, there were rainbows.I took that as a message from Mom, telling me to get out of the water now.

Superheated and back into the car. About three hours later, we stopped in a small town. And while the food selection was lacking, the double espresso was probably the best gas station coffee I have ever had! And that held me over until Laugarvatn, which was our destination for the night. The beauty of the West Fjords is incredible and so is the isolation. I noticed yesterday that after being in Iceland, the sheer amount of people at Gatwick made me nervous and was very suffocating.

At Laugarvatn, we stayed in a hostel that had been converted from the old school. And we had a very good dinner at Lindin after jumping into the geothermal springs and then wading into the lake. The next morning I watched the sunrise. And then we were off for our snorkeling at Silfra adventure.

More later, the boys are sticking their noses into the keyboard!


Here we are in the West Fjords. Isafjordur is the largest city with a population of 2475. It is also larger than all the other towns in the West Fjords combined. We got here last night and will stay through until tomorrow, when we will head back down towards Reykjavik, stopping near Tingvellir National Park for Friday’s snorkeling session.

Ironic really, I am a Taurus and also born in the Chinese year of the ox so really double earth bull, right? But I have such an affection for water. Iceland is known for it’s really lovely geothermal pools and springs. Which I have been enjoying and Friday I will be snorkeling in a dry suit at Silfra where the North American and European tectonic plates meet. Well, today, I had the chance to sample another kind of water experience on this island. Eliza made the choice of calm water sea kayaking so at 930 we made our way down to the tour guide’s office. Other people had cancelled so the guide hadn’t expected to go out. However, after checking the weather and suggesting we come back in 45 minutes, he would be happy to take us out.

In the basement, we put on several layers of gear and I hesitated over whether or not to bring my camera. I decided not to. Carrying our paddles, we walked out to the harbor. I’m chatting up a storm with our guide, probably because I was a little nervous about this experience. I have been kayaking before but that was off Alki in West Seattle. After getting down the kayaks and make repeated references about how we were not going to get wet today, we were off into the cold waters of Isafjordur Harbour. Wouldn’t you know it? I made it out to the corner of the dock and splash. Yep, I capsized. Recalling the safety drill, I pulled myself up onto my kayak and waited for the guide. Eliza was already off around the corner. Taking quick stock of the fact that I was completely soaked and how cold the water was, I decided that it would be best for me to skip the rest of the adventure. If you have never been rescued by a kayak, here’s how it goes. You move to the front of your rescue kayak and grab on to the nose. Then you pull your legs up out of the water and clutch around the bow and put your head back while you get paddled in. Conversation is optional. Eventually, the water gets shallow enough and you let go. And then you wait while the guide goes back out to corral your kayak, paddle and one neoprene boot.

You put your gear up and you walk from the harbor back through town squishing all the way. In theory, I should have walked all the way back to our lodging and not taken off my wet gear until there. But there was no way I was walking all the way uphill in all the layers. I stopped at the tour office and wrestled myself out of my not so waterproof gear and braced myself for the windy walk up the hill, leaving puddles of water in my wake. I am sure that I provided entertainment for the residents I passed. But politely, no one laughed out loud!

After hanging my wet clothing out to freeze dry, I got under a hot shower and drank a big mug of tea. I congratulated myself on not carrying anything on my person other than the Fitbit – which did just fine with the dunking. Two things I realized today – shit happens and hey, I gave it a try.

Once I was back to my normal temperature, I went back down into town to take pictures and meet them as they came back. Apparently, they saw seals and had a good paddle until the wind began to kick up. We had a good lunch in their little café and got to ask more questions about Iceland.

I have decided that the types of water experiences I prefer are the ones that you are supposed to be immersed in, instead of just trying to keep your balance so you don’t get immersed. 😉

Yesterday, before the ferry over here, we drove around the peninsula and I got to drive out over the lava fields and test the 4WD capabilities as we headed to the gold sands beach, the volcano crater and the bright orange lighthouse that seems to be at the end of the world. We also drove around the massive glacier that inspired Jules Verne. There are only 300K people in Iceland and 200K of them live in Reykjavik. You really feel that as you drive around.

Iceland is meticulous about documenting its history. At one particularly beautiful overlook, where I took photos galore, it was the site of the farm of Iceland’s first known serial killer. He apparently couldn’t resist the temp

tation to do away with travelers that came to his farm seeking shelter. He only admitted to 9 killings but 18 are suspected. He was executed in 1555. I find this amazing for a couple of reasons. In a land with so few people, it would seem that the documentation of history becomes even more important. For example, they have records of his trial and his victims. In case you are wondering, he was caught because one of his intended victims escaped. The second thing that makes it so interesting is that there is still a farm on the site today. Here in Iceland, it seems that once a farm is sited somewhere, it stays there. It may change building and type of farm over the centuries but it remains a farm. And this guy’s farm is still there, being farmed by someone more hospitable to travelers!

I saw this also in the Saga Settlement House. It covers the history of Iceland from 800 forward. This is something they have documentation over, which is fascinating. I am curious too now to read the sagas. Of course, I will not be reading them in Icelandic which is language that seems to use all the letters of the alphabet and a few extra.

When we came off the ferry yesterday, we took one of the mountain roads which was 120 kilometers through some amazing fjords, waterfalls and high peaks. It is gravel all the way and one lane. Oh, and there are no guard rails anywhere. Earlier on the peninsula I had seen one of these roads and congratulated myself on the fact that we were far too sensible to ever take one of those roads, even with a 4WD. HAH. Not 5 hours later, we were on one. I got some amazing pictures of the sun setting over the fjords. And we stopped to check the water temperature of the little ponds and lakes. Let’s say, I thought that was the coldest water I was going to experience in Iceland 😉

This has been fun even if not super relaxing! I am sort of in hybrid American travel mode because there really is so much to see. However, with my goal to soak twice more in two different hot springs, I feel that I am doing a good job trying to relax!

Hello from Stykkisholmur

Cosy here at the Harbour Hostel. This is the largest town on the Snaefellsness Peninsula, 1150 occupants. Our room looks right out on to the harbor, which is full of fishing boats. There’s a big hill across the way, where the lighthouse stands. And the wind is just whipping off the water and along side the town. The town is strangely silent because all you hear is the wind. I have had to put double barrettes in my hair and my new hat on firmly to keep from being blinded while trying to take pictures. Although this morning, when I woke up, my hair was standing up off my head in an inverted comma shape, courtesy of the silica from the Blue Lagoon. It was easily the most impressive bed-head I have ever had. It literally looked like I had help an inverted comma above my head and shellacked my hair into place.

Yesterday after landing, we headed directly to the Blue Lagoon. It was incredible. You can’t even see your feet when you look down. It is full of super rich algae and silica and you cake yourself with it and let it dry like a mask. Of course, with the whipping wind, you don’t really want to hang out above water and dry out. It definitely took care of the blisters I had managed to raise on the soles of my feet. It was so great to just soak in the really warm water and move only to find a hotter spot. I had put a lot of conditioner in my hair – they warn you ahead of time about getting the mud in your hair but it wasn’t quite enough. So while the rest of you is super soft, your hair gets crazy.

Afterwards we made our way into Reykjavik to check into our hotel. It used to be the Faroese Sailors Home and now is just a hotel that they run which benefits said sailors. Very simple and very clean. We walked from there down into the center of town in the quest for dinner. The search for dinner took us several hours because Eliza was certain that the perfect restaurant was just around the corner. The criteria were: had to serve Icelandic food, there had to be people in it, had to have vegetarian options and it couldn’t be ridiculously overpriced. And the last criteria we added was no nachos on the menu. In our quest for this, I earned my 20,000 steps for the day. And ultimately, we ate dinner at the Scandinavian Brasserie which we had passed on the quest and ended up looping back for. Their disqualifying factor was the Scandinavian in their name. The food was good and sufficiently unusual that I think it met the Icelandic criteria!

Today we decided that we would head out here to the Snaefellsness Peninsula and spend today and tomorrow exploring West Iceland and then head back east to go to the other side, with Friday being the day for snorkeling at Silfra. It was about a 170km drive here and on the way in we stopped at the famous Saga Settlement House museum which tells the story of Iceland settlement history. It was really well done and impressive to think that people have been coming here since the 800s. I learned a lot of Icelandic history.

To get to this side, we went into a tunnel that is about 6km long and descends so deep, you wonder when you will come out, if ever. I have never traveled through the intestine of a dragon but I thought that was a good description of what the tunnel looked and felt like. The walls weren’t smooth, instead they were the volcanic rock and it was narrow and dim and went on forever. It also saves you about 80km of driving.

There are geothermal pools here too. With the end of the summer, they might already be closed. I will have to check that out. With as cold as the weather is and the wind, those pools are definitely a treat.

Going to look for the Northern Lights tonight too. So much of this trip reminds me of going to the Yukon with Mom in 2012. Same parka, hot springs, looking for the Northern Lights I like to think I have her close by. And in proper Mom spirit, I have been taking pictures with her big camera of anything.

Let the vacation begin!

I am sitting here at London Gatwick waiting for Eliza to show. I have most likely another hour. My flight over arrived in very early this morning, like just after 7AM UK time. I find it ironic that I am once again transiting through airports that are managed by the BAA. In 2007, on my last trip through this airport, I swore that I would never, ever voluntarily connect in one of the London airports again. I was so annoyed by the their entire passenger flow, inefficiency and just plain passenger unfriendly ways of doing things. And let’s also not forget the concept of British customer service, which is generally low. I am not someone who expects the service level from “Are You Being Served?” but in the airports here in particular, it is just awful. Well, 7 years later and I find that it hasn’t improved at all. If possible, now the airport is even less passenger friendly. Which is doubly unfortunate because all their marketing campaigns are touting what an improvement they are! I think too that they suffer from a case of bigger means better. Rather than using space more conservatively and maximizing it, they have these long wandering hallways that are just empty and eventually you end up in yet another great hall with very little purpose or warmth.

Oh, and I got a lecture from Border Defense about technology and why Apple is superior in all ways. And I really just wanted him to stamp my passport and landing card and let me out so I could find some coffee. Like in the US, there are no services before immigration. I think that people might feel more welcome if they could stop for a cup of tea or coffee before they embark through another seemingly endless hallway. Just think, you could start a little coffee shop and post the sign outside “Last refreshments before the immigration hall” kind of like those “last gas for 100 miles” that you see. I think I would call it Outpost or something like that.

I am excited to be going on vacation. I picked up my Lonely Planet guide in English from the library yesterday and I have been reading it quite diligently so I can make the most of my time. Of course, at first I was busy plotting out driving around the whole country on the Ring Road and calculating how much time in each region and what to see. And then I realized I was in American Travel mode and I should knock that off. So, I haven’t adjusted my reading but rather adjusted my goals 😉

George was excited when I got up this morning at 4AM. And they were very excited to get breakfast so early. I could hear them thinking “We just had our bedtime tortilla three hours ago! This rocks!” I think something is unsettling Lientje because she wants to go outside all the time. I blockaded the space between the two sheds yesterday while I kept her in the guest room. I don’t want hanging out on the shed roof for the whole week. Neither of the cats will go in my room anymore which is really strange because it used to be their domain. I think I will never understand cats. There is a saying in Dutch that dogs have a boss and cats have personnel. Which is very true.

I have a hard time understanding all the English around me. That seems so strange. I couldn’t really follow the flight attendant nor the rowdy English tourists in the row behind me. And all of the people talking around me in the airport, it is difficult to follow. Good thing Eliza speaks basic Dutch 😉

I think after we land, we will go straight away to the Blue Lagoon since it is on the way to Reykjavik. Hello geo thermal mud baths! It is cold in Iceland.38 degrees right now but it says that it feels like 28! And that’s Fahrenheit.

I went to Schagen last night to bring Pieter his special birthday present. I assembled a collection of prank gifts for personnel emergencies so he keep them in his office. Things like instant underwear from Archie McPhee, Super Manly Peppermint, miniature grass growing kit. Things like that. I arrived in time to have some excellent vegan pumpkin soup and Mrs. Habibi’s Love Dip and to watch 10 adults try to get a record player to work. It was amusing! And their nephew was very keen to see me. To a four year old, I am an unusual creature. My neighbor’s 3 year old also finds me fascinating according to her parents. She talks about me quite a bit and of course, Henry and George too. Perhaps it is because my Dutch is on the same level as theirs 😉

I am off to find an espresso because my free WiFi time is about to give out. Another strike, time limited WiFi and you have to give up personal details (or make them up) to get it. Really, just make it free. It is an airport after all, people aren’t going to camp out and set up their portable offices from here. Well, not unless there is a strike or other lovely delay.