Saturday, December 16, 2017

Fields and Soup

KA ripped this out of a grocery store flyer this week. She plans to keep it forever, I think. Because real Dutch pea soup is so delicious. Even the stuff in cans!

Kevin: “It’s amazing, that in a country with so many people in it that you have all these big fields everywhere.”

Friday, December 15, 2017

Watching the Excavations

Kevin loves to hit the road every morning right after breakfast... KE, on the other hand, could sit in this window all day, watching the digging machines and dump trucks strengthening the dike.

Look at all that mud!

Direct Dutch Lunching

We were happy to finally meet another one of my dad’s brothers this week. Oom Adri and his wife, and one of my cousins treated us to a very gezellig Dutch lunch.

I feel as if I’ve gained another aunt here; Tante Ida plans to FaceTime me when I’m back home again; which will be really nice. 

Kevin is still bemused by how direct the Dutch people are. My cousin was telling us about someone, and said, “She’s not a 10 -you know- but she is a very nice girl.” I could feel Kevin shaking with laughter on the couch next to me. I find this sort of talk to the point and easy to understand. He finds it surprisingly blunt. 

I will admit to teaching our children to talk like Maritimers, but I like this better.


Finding the directions.
Decorating almond cookies. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


I came up just in time to hear Kevin saying, “...and people would go inside this box and use that phone in there to call people...”
I posted a picture just like this last year; ‘zact same coats and everything, and I remember my sister saying how young we looked. I’m hoping she’ll make some similar comment this year; it will balance out Mama’s frank comment that we looked so tired in our official family picture this year. 

And once again, KE doesn’t want to be rushed. “You go ahead, Mom. I’ll just stay here and watch the tram.”

Look at those wires.

OpenAir Museum II

KE found a leaf pile. 

And we found a forge. The blacksmith was making a tool for cutting shingles, I think. It was a slightly curved blade with a wooden handle at each end. 
The blacksmith seemed so comfortable with his role. Usually you don’t see this kind of competent contentment in someone so young. 

When it was time to go, KE decided to stay and watch. 
“There’s fire in here, Mom.”

Look at those flames.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Openlucht Museum

On the tram. We rode all the way around the village first, to get it out of our system, and then started through the village backwards; farm first. Sometimes the be-moustached conductor acts as a tour guide and gives you some village history. Today he told us that way back in 1912, when this museum opened, a photographer accidentally set fire to one of the barns while taking a photograph. “By the end of opening day,” he continued, “instead of five farms, we had four.”
How awkward for the photographer!

Enormous pigs. Like many good parents, Kevin always tries to make sure the children get all possible educational benefits available in each place we visit, so we went over what pigs are good for, namely, bacon. 

“Why work when the wind will do it for you?” Said the man in the windmill, switching to English so the children could understand. 

The bakery fairly pulled us in, with a fire blazing a welcome in the big open oven. We had a fresh apple turnover and bokkepotjes; not as good as Papa’s  potjes of course. It was hard to leave that building! 

A few more pictures from Het Loo

On the way.

Colouring in the stables.

Would you trust this little man with your palace furniture? 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Looking Ahead

On our way home from the Palace, we stopped to pray in Utrecht. There, we were surprised and happy to find someone who knew the minister from our church at home. If I was Cornelia from the Anne books, I would say he is of the race that knows Joseph. 
The children are smiling so well because they are proud to have found purple in the church, and they know its meaning - the colour of royalty; to remind us of the coming of our King.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Outside Het Loo

We walked almost to the end of the formal gardens. KE lowered himself into a fountain (dry for the winter, happily), and walked along it to the end.
When Napoleon made his brother king of this place, many years ago, he ripped out the formal gardens, preferring a more natural woodland look.  Today the formal look has been restored, and it is certainly impressive. I’m conflicted in my thoughts about this. I don’t want to identify with the french revolutionaries, but I do like my gardens with a little more mystery and privacy; with curving pathways that lead to unexpected meadows, and wild tangles of roses bordered by orderly shrubbery.
A sign near the 84-horse stables said that, in order to maintain their status, royalty must always observe protocol. I think that this has never been more true than today, as many people now have the opportunity to be as wealthy and powerful as kings and queens, and class and caste have been discarded in favour of democracy. Maybe the only difference between Mr Jones and His Royal Highness would be the liveried guards, the crown, and the protocols.

 We didn’t get to see the boathouse, but I read that there were two pools in the stream; an upper and a lower. The royalty swam in the upper pool. 

Palais Het Loo

We found Juliana’s room, so we took a picture for Aunt Juli. The girls’ enthusiasm waned when they found out we wouldn’t be seeing any real live princesses. Holland does have three, but they don’t live here. 
O liked this bear rug.
A cake shaped like a swan.

Inside the palace, it was dimly lit and opulent. There were a lot of things that really shouldn’t be touched, and guides everywhere to watch your children almost touch things. 
It was better outside.


Whenever we visit Oma, I talk to her in my very best Dutch, which isn’t actually very best at all, and Kevin occupies the children, interjecting the occasional question about family history.  Between the Kevin and Oma, I am learning quite a bit about our past. 
From today: Oma was engaged to Opa at 16, married at 24; the same age her mother married. 
I also asked how she felt when my father decided to go to Canada at age 20. “He was only going for a year,” she said. She paused. “But when the year was up, he was already married.”

Oma offered to hold KE for the photo Oom Adri was taking, but he wouldn’t sit still. I like to tell him he’s a barrel of monkeys these days. It’s hard to keep the lid on, and I don’t know that I really want to. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

SintJanskerk Gouda

This church was huge. It’s the longest church in the Netherlands, they say; 123 metres long. We were there during the week, and as we walked around, listening to the organist’s music, I tried to imagine all the benches filled with people worshipping. The sound and sight would have been amazing. 
The grandeur, the richness, the intricate work of the stained glass windows... I can’t put it into words very well, but it felt like the Christians who built this over 100s of years lived a greater devotion to God than I see in my time. 
Which was a bit of a lonely thought. 

As we left, we saw photographs from 1939 of the stained glass windows being taken down and stored in wooden cases in a sort of underground shed at a farm. There they made it safely through the war.

“Take a picture for cousin Peter,” said Kevin. “Wouldn’t he love to hammer on that organ.”

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Market Square in Gouda


I imagine that the book “The Cow Who Fell in the Canal” was set here in this market square. We saw no cheese, nor straw hats with ribbons, but we did find delicious fries, piping hot, with mayo, and croquettes. 

I told Kevin, “This is how to make Mama happy, right here. Give her a croquette.”
So good. 

We were there at two minutes after 2, the perfect time to see the carillon. The bells above played a tune, and Count Floris V (1272) came out to grant the people of Gouda a city charter. You can watch it here: 

Walking Gouda

The weather is beautifully mild, and so we have hit the ground running, planning day excursions for the first three days of our first week in the Netherlands. Here we are in Gouda, getting ready to walk to SintJanskerk.
In our first meeting with Oom Adri, he said he thought Esther was “ondeugend;” (mischievous). Maybe she was making this face then.

This is a church we walked by; it was too beautiful to forget. “Everyone Welcome,” said the sign on the front.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Family ties and camo trees

Today we went to visit Oma. She remembered us from last year, and said how much bigger KE was.
Oom Adri was there, too. This may have been the first time I have ever met him, but I felt right at home with him, too. The power of family ties amazes me.

As we sat there talking together, I noticed a heron standing tall on the neighbour’s roof. “Look, it has only one leg,” said Oma.  Sometimes the language is a barrier to understanding, but I am pretty sure she was trying to trick the children.

Posting this tree for my brother Peter. Before I saw these (maple?) trees, I had no idea that camouflage fabrics were made to look like actual trees.