zondag 20 april 2008

Geocaching Dutch Style

My sister in law blogged enthusiastically about geocaching: It took me a while to figure out that a global positioning system was, well, global, and it may be possible to do this in the Netherlands, too. She sent me the link http://www.geocaching.com/ and I signed up (its free) to find that here are thousands of caches stashed in the Netherlands.
It took a bit of persuading to get my daughter interested, until she found out

  • its internet based
  • you can’t get lost ‘cos you use the sat. nav. in the car
  • you don’t have to walk too far – just drive to the correct coordinates and get out and stroll around a bit until you find the cache.

Well today was our first geocaching expedition. I had read the instructions on the website on how to prepare for your first hunt but I did disregard some of the more extreme measures, like looking out for bears, and taking a water filtration system. I picked out three sites, and printed out the coordinates, then packed a bag with drinks and mars bars, programmed the navigation system with the first set of coordinates, added two children to the rest of the stuff in the car, and set off into the unknown.
We drove about 10 minutes away into the countryside around our village, and reached our first destination without mishap, now we had to find the cach. My sister in law told me they find caches in Tupperware boxes under trees, so when the kids asked what they were looking for that’s what I told them, but twenty fruitless minutes later I reassessed the situation, and we started looking for something smaller. They finally found a strange plastic tube, filled with concrete, marked with GC, hidden behind a fence post. Underneath this was a Kodak film pot, and inside this was a rolled up log book. I might have known the Dutch would do it differently!

We were so excited; it was our first find. We jumped around bit and shrieked, before we filled in the log book, then realised there was a campervan full of people waiting for us to finish so they could put their names in the log book, too. I had a chat with the mother while their daughter was going towards the cache we had just put back.
I told her it was our first find, and she laughed! They had been addicted to it for a year! They had driven up from Central Holland the day before, geocaching all the way, and had stayed overnight in Hoorn. I’ll be looking out for the “Boompjes” on the dutch geocaching site!
Full of enthusiasm now, we plugged in the coordinates of the next site, and set off again in the car. We came to the next destination, and, now we knew what we were looking for, found the cache within a few minutes.

But pride comes before a fall, and we arrived at the last search area much too confident. This was going to be the best area to search, as I knew we had to park the car in Broek in Waterland and walk to the site. I carried the TomTom, but its not as effective when you are walking, and although I got to the destination, we could not find the cache anywhere. We finally gave up, as I began to suspect that I was reading the instructions wrongly and was missing the most important set of coordinates.

The day was most definitely voted a success, however, and easy to repeat. The final bit of excitement came as we logged onto the internet at home and entered our first finds. When you have a successful hunt the cache on the map changes to a yellow smiley face! Now, I’m determined my map is going to be full of smiley faces by this time next year. Obsessive? Not me!

zaterdag 19 april 2008

Photo frustration

As you can see I've been playing around with my blog header this week - I'm slightly envious of my sister in laws blog http://bevs97.wordpress.com/ which not only has a catchy title, but also a customized banner - so I thought perhaps I could have a go at that.
The photo I chose was taken by my daughter (she takes much better photos than I do) last year in the new buttefly house in Artis. At first I just loaded it to the blog, but it was enormous, so now, days later, I've taken the time to trim it into a banner sort of shape and reload it.
Now the butterfly is too close to the text - and I cannot seem to move the text - I'm going to have to play around with it a bit more, but not today.
The colours on the photo are rather nice, though, and I've always liked butterflies. I love visiting butterfly houses, the warm, lazy atmosphere brings on a feeling of serenity in me.
If you enjoy them too, I can recommend the new one at Artis, but if you don't want to go to the zoo, try popping into the one at Hortus Botanicus - its small, but there are plenty of butterflies, and it smells like a tropical hot house should.

zondag 13 april 2008

Aunty Alices Doll

I’m having the urge to talk about family memories, which I store in many different ways. As I turn out cupboards I find family items, and they deserve an airing every so often, to give them a purpose, and reason for continuing to take up space.

This doll is from around 1890, has china head and hands and a cloth body. It still has the original lace cap, cotton shirt and chain with cross. I redressed it in about 1990. I used a Laura Ashley print for the dress and shawl. The hand crocheted lace trims were from my grandmother, so they are getting a mention and an airing too here. The petticoat and apron are soft linen. I still have her original clothes; a stiff starched white petticoat, a striped purple and white over-petticoat, and a pink silk over-skirt and shawl with blue ribbon trim.
She was was given to me by my Great Aunt Alice. When I knew Aunty Alice she was an intimidating spinster aunt with increasingly strange ways, but this doll reminds me she was once a little girl, part of a large and happy family, with time for imaginative play.

maandag 7 april 2008


He seemed a huge man; tweed jacket smelling of pipe tobacco, flat cap stained by rain and sweat, boots with a generous covering of soil from the garden; his voice boomed when he spoke.

He drove a Singer Gazelle; hardly pristine; in those days before MOT tests the front passenger door was nailed shut with a plank of wood on the inside, but the knobs and levers on the dashboard fascinated, the bench seat allowed both my sister and I to sit side by side with him as he drove.

And he took us everywhere! Mum was pregnant with our little brother so almost every Saturday night we slept at their house. Every Sunday morning, as grandma was getting Sunday lunch ready (dinner as it was known) he “looked after” us.

But not for him a trip to the swing park, or building sandcastles on the beach. He took us wippet racing once; on a grey and damp Sunday we found men in a misty field surrounded by trees, the lure dragged before the dogs, who shot off too fast to read the numbers on their jackets. Betting was surreptitious - before the race groups of men, my granddad amongst them, passed cash over in exchange for slips of paper. After the race the men regrouped and swapped slips of paper for cash.

He taught me to make snares to catch rabbits; together we followed muddy paths along wooded hillside to set the snares, me in tartan trews and anorak; he careful to show me the rabbit runs, and how to place the wire without leaving a scent. He never took me to check the snares, but the evidence of their success hung head down in the garage, glaze eyed and cold.

We visited the gamekeeper, to see the new crop of baby pheasants being nurtured carefully towards the shooting season, then on to Bella’s farm, to buy eggs from hundreds of free range chickens. Brown and speckled hens flocked round our knees, scarily, pecking at the ground round our start rite shoes.

And after each trip, we went to the Kings Arms at Seaton Sluice. We to sit in the car and watch the fishing cobles in the harbour, while Granddad disappeared into the pub. A few minutes later he would bring us a bag of crisps each, the type with a blue twist of salt included so you could season to taste. My sister would bite through the blue bag to suck on the salt, but I carefully opened the packet and shook the contents into the bag of crisps - I was often disappointed by the uneven spread of the seasoning.

The crisps would be long finished when he came out – and we drove home to grandma, roast beef and a welcome orange squash.

zaterdag 5 april 2008

Design Disaster!

Jolanda asked for a new bedroom for her birthday - literally a new bedroom, as she wanted to move from the front of the house to the back! The front room has a sloping roof, in the manner of cute cottages throughout Europe, and is an awkward shape in that a piece of it was taken to enlarge the bathroom years ago. The back rooms, on the other hand have four stright walls and flat ceilings (normal rooms, Jolanda calls them).
John was not happy, but with a little persuasion Jolanda and I bulldozed him into the idea. He never likes change, especially change which involves him decorating, as he hates it.
The crux of the change for Jolanda was a trip to Ikea to chose new furniture, Always a difficult session for me, as I steer her to the affordable items, and dissuade her from extras. After Ikea there was another trip to the carpet store to order a new carpet. That done she left it up to me to bring the room together!
A week of sleeping all together in the floor of one bedroom later, I had sucessfully sold the cumbersome old wardrobe from the back room on Marktplaats; Stored a mountain of toys and sundry items from the wardrobe in the attic; painted the room, with the help of John who does not object to doing the edges and ceilings as I am too messy for those tasks; arranged the carpetlayer to put the carpet down; and the room was ready to "dress".
By Saturday evening we had moved all the existing furniture in, put up the mirror, built the new slim and elegant wardrobe and assembled the white fur chair. Jolanda was thrilled, and I must say it all came together beautifully. The minimalistic look which Jolanda desired was achived, and I just had to find places for all the items rejected by her at the last minute so that her bookcases did not look too cluttered!
One thing was missing - the bed needed a new mattrass. It had been on my mind, but its one of those purchases that does not thrill me so I put it off. Weeks later I was coldcalled by a well know catalogue company letting me know of a special deal they had - free delivery on items ordered this week. Too tempting to resist, I ordered not only a new mattrass, but also a new "lattenbodem" for the bed, confident that it would be much more comfortable for my growing child than the existing slats and foam mattrass.

I wanted it to be a suprise, the icing on the cake, so to speak, so I did not say anything, but the delivery came at lunchtime, so Jolanda was home from school. She was really surprised, but even more so when we made up the bed. I had not reckoned on the extra thickness of the matrass, combined with the full lattenbodem, which was much higher than the slats! The bed is now "hospital height" and I as a vertically challenged individual need to jump up to sit on it!
Judge for yourselves if its a design disaster!