Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Homesick at Home

Yeah, I've got a lot of catching up to do. We're back in the US! I'm running like mad with photography work! Megan isn't speaking Dutch to us anymore, and she's grown 4 inches in the last 16 months! I haven't left Houston to see anyone, I've been so busy. It's weird- I'm home, basically back in the swing of things, but I'm getting homesick for Holland.

Maybe it's the weather- this morning the temperature was flirting with the mid-40s, and you could almost see your breath. I busted out some scarves and hats that I made while in the Netherlands. I'm craving a giant Chai tea and a meandering conversation with Kaat. I want to hear the playground at the end of Soendastraat giggling and squealing with busy children.

Most of all, I want to walk in my woods. I want to see the mist hanging in the trees, hear a thousand unseen birds, smell the sweet decomposition of the fallen leaves. If I close my eyes just right, I can almost experience it, but it's fading more every day. I need a recharge, renewal, inspiration- that is what the woods did for me. I only wish I could have returned the favor somehow.

Oh, sure, there are woods here in Houston, but it's just not the same. The biggest difference is the mosquito population- I don't feel like being ex-sanguinated first and foremost. I am almost sure that there are 1,000 mosquitoes per human in Houston, and they tend to hang out in un-breezy places with loads of trees. No thanks. I'll pass, until I get really desperate, or until the first freeze (if that ever happens).

I'm confused and a little winded by this reverse-homesickness. It's not nearly as powerful as what crippled me my first 3 months in Holland, but it's presence is noticeable.

I think I'll go eat a half-bar of chocolate to see if that helps. Belgian chocolate, of course.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu And Other Excuses For Not Blogging

Hello to the two people who still read my blog! (Ok, one if you don't count me proof-reading after I post.) I just wanted to let you know I'm still alive, and I have not been in the hospital with an unconfirmed case of Swine Flu or anything. I'm just trying to cope with the disappointment I know you are all feeling when I post something lame like this, and not a cool and funny run-down of what we did in DECEMBER, because as far as you know we all fell in the ice and have been in suspended animation since then, not doing anything interesting at all.

Well, we haven't. For example, my parents are here currenly, and we celebrated all three of our birthdays this month. I had TWO- count them, TWO!!!! - paid photo gigs, and may have more in May since the weather is becoming much more not-freezing-and-unbearable. I met my Dutch Twin, and started a project where I take a picture of myself every day (which is just as exciting as it sounds), and my sister is doing the same, and we're gonna put them together in a book, we think. So, see? I've been doing stuff, just not blogging. Which is like a downward spiral of procrastination and guilt and stress.

So, this is basically a non-post, a nicety to let you know I am not dead from kissing pigs, and that I promise I will post at least one more time. But not this month. I mean, I'd only have about 2 hours, and lord knows this kind of comedy gold takes at least 2 and a half hours.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lunch Conversation

Megan: "Tell me, what CAN'T Santa do?"

Me: "I know, right?"

Megan: *silence, staring at me*

Me: "Oh, you really want me to tell you what Santa can't do."

Megan: "Well, yeah."

Me: "Ok. Ummm, this may be a pretty short list, 'cause he's a pretty impressive person."

Megan: "It's ok. Tell me."

Me: "Well, Santa can't make every day Christmas."

Megan: "Yeah, I know that."

Me: "Ok. Ummm... Santa can't bring presents to kids on the naughty list. It's one of his rules."

Megan: "Yeah, I know that."

Me: "Ok... umm.... Santa can't bring things like puppies or babies as Christmas presents."

Megan: "Yeah, 'cause puppies come from mommy dog tummies and babies come from mommies' tummies."

Me: "Right. Ummm... Santa.... uh.... Santa can't bring anyone back from the dead."

Megan: *totally unphased* "Right."

Me: *almost a minute of silence*

Megan: "That's it?"

Me: "No, uh, oh! Santa can't ride a bike. Well, maybe he can- I forget he's got that huge workshop."

Megan: "That and he's pretty fat."

Me: "Yeah, but we don't talk about that- I hear he's sensitive about it."

Megan: "Oh, and he can hear us, can't he?" *louder* "He's not fat, he's just... he's handsome!"

Me: "Well, he's what we call pleasantly plump."

Megan: "Right!" *then does the 'whew' wipe of her forehead*

Me: "Oh, it's a little known fact that Santa can vaccuum like nobody's business. He's a wizard with a vaccuum cleaner."

Megan: *finally impressed* "REALLY?"

Me: "Yep, it's true. I can't think of anything else he really can't do, he's quite an accomplished guy. I mean, he can take presents to all the good boys and girls all on one night. If you can do that, most other things must seem really easy."

Megan: "Yeah, I bet you're right."

Monday, March 9, 2009

In Limbo, AGAIN

Kip may kill me, but I just wanted to broadcast that a few weeks back we got word from his office that we may be moving back to the US this summer. MAYBE. It's been a few weeks of meetings and discussions and fact-gathering and case-making as to why they should bring us back early, and it appears that they are going to try and get this in the budget for this year, but I am just not holding my breath.

Why? Go back to the first 10 entries of this blog. That's why.

So, I'm diving back into my old bad habits because of the stress- eating tons of chocolate, not exercising, stress-sleeping (weird, I know, it's an avoidance tactic), generally being in a grumpy state... so, needless to say I'm a lot of fun to be around!

I'm trying to keep my mind off things with projects, and I've started a photo project that I have been on the fence about for a couple of years now: 365 self-portraits. That's one a day, no cheating. I have a pretty bad track-record with completing things like this, but I am channeling my stress energy into this project, and I really, really want to finish it- my sister started her own 365, which inspired me to go ahead and start, and I want to put our photos in a book together when we're finished. I just love the idea of having an entire year of our lives, side-by-side even though we're miles apart, something I can pick up and look through for the rest of my life. And if we do get sent back home, what a year of pictures it's going to be!

[ 3/365 ] Fear Of Being Wrong

[2/365] Midnight fairy tails

So, I hope this helps explain why I have been quite remiss in getting the last few stories from Kathryn's visit completed- I'm such a stress-scatterbrain, but I will get them done and up as quickly as possible. As soon as I finish alphabetizing the spices and windexing the DVDs. (That's windex, not index- it's glass cleaner, for those of you not in the know.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More Of The Rest Of The Story

Delft, Or How To Freeze Your Child

Monday the 29th we headed to the train station and went south to Delft, home of the famous Delft blue pottery. Monday is not the best day to go and do much in small villages here, businesses that are open on weekends are sometimes closed half the day or all day on Mondays, so we only saw a few things while we were there. It really was beautiful, though- the churches filled with Dutch royals and history, the wide open market square... I see quite a few more trips to Delft in my future.

New Church and Market Square

I love the bell tower of the New Church.

UNNNN-fortunately, Megan was not completely wowed with Delft at first. Sulky McGrumpypants had to be warmed and fed, and documented. In multiple mediums.


Fortunately, with food, she perked up. Poor kid.

After we ate, we trekked over to the Prinsenhof - Megan got all excited when we thought we were going to see where William of Orange was shot- complete with BULLET HOLES in the walls! But it was closed. We finally managed to get her to smile after telling her we'd see some cool windows and stuff in the Old and New Church.


In the garden of the Prinsenhof


Inside the New Church, William of Orange is entombed under an amazing monument, members of the Dutch Royal family are buried here as well.




It was soooo cold that day- I think it warmed UP to -1 (almost 30 for you Fahrenheit fans) and the cold really wore us out quickly. She was such a trooper- she kept up with us as we walked in wide zig-zags, reading the tombs on the floors of the churches. She covered her eyes at some of the skulls and other gothic representations of death in a few of the monuments. So many things were closed, so we saw what we could, then ran back to the train to get back home and warm our frozen toes and fingers.



I hardly did our trip justice- we saw some beautiful sites, so take a look here to see more!

Ok, The Rest Of The Story

With the Yoburns in Paris, Kathryn had us all to herself finally! In the day or two before Christmas we hung around town, seeing the farm and the woods again, and grabbed some last-minute gifts, and did a lot of wrapping.



Oh, yeah, and ate more oliebollen and pancakes. I mean, we had to- it was cold.




First Christmas In Holland

After some tree decorating...




... we were ready for Santa! It was really helpful to have Kathryn here for the holidays- I think we would have been very homesick had we been on our own. Plus, who can bring this kind of fun around except Kat?


On Christmas Eve evening we went down to the park/football field at the end of our street for a wonderful nativity a local group organized. There was something so peaceful and quaint about the production, from the candle-lit trail through the woods to the kids with cotton-ball sheep outfits... it was nothing like I'd ever seen before.







Christmas morning Megan awoke to some cute surprises from Santa, and a bounty from America- we can't thank our family and friends enough for sending gifts, and for Kathryn transporting it all!



After opening all our loot, we made a breakfast fit for royalty, and spent the rest of the morning in a food coma, soaking in the joy of Christmas and family.



I did a repeat of our Thanksgiving meal for Christmas dinner that night, with a few tweaks (I made the cranberry sauce a day in advance in hopes that it would mellow a little). Megan was in charge of setting the table, and she marked our places with charming name cards.



In my lack of blogging, the details of the day after Christmas and the weekend are blurry at best. There was some sleeping in, a few movies watched, and leftovers eaten. Pretty much everything was closed through Monday, so we hung around the house and plotted our next touristy move.


Next.... our touristy moves. Oh, we've got moves.

Friday, February 13, 2009

English Is Her FIRST Language

Megan: "I think we're going to have a lousy day today."

Me: *surprised* "What? Why?"

Megan: *points to her leg and mouths something totally indecipherable, raising her eyebrows several times for emphasis*

Me: "Huh?"

Megan: "You know, those days where you say, 'Oh, I'm just soooo LOUSY, I'm gonna stay in my pajamas and watch TV all day long!"

Me: "Ohhhh, you mean LAZY."

Megan: "Right. Isn't that what I said?"

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It's Not You, It's Me

Good grief! Has it really been 3 weeks since that last big post? (I'm being facetious- I've gotten more guilt trip emails and reminders than I know what to do with, I'm finally caving here, people.) Let me see if I can pick-up where I left off...

The Barfing Flu

This family has a love-hate relationship with the barfing flu. We've all had it, once all of us in the same week, and it's just a gross part of the winter, like fruitcake and frozen dog poop. I left off the first Friday of our visit with the Yoburns and Kathryn- it was a short school day for Meg, and at noon we were all going to get Meg from school, hop on a train and head into Amsterdam for the afternoon/evening. Kip and Jesse were going to the New Model Army concert that night, so we planned on doing a little sight-seeing, grabbing dinner together and then going our separate ways for the night.

Well, I'm sure you can all guess what happened next- Megan hopped on the couch, said, "I don't feel great" and then went Barf-zilla on us. Not LITERALLY on us, but you know what I mean. Poor kid- they had eaten leftover goodies from the Kerst dinner at school that morning for snack, and she barfed all kinds of Christmas treats. We felt a total Deja-vu from the trip to Paris, and tried the "wait and see" approach, but she couldn't even keep down water, so I volunteered to stay with Meg while everyone else went into Amsterdam. With no kids. And lots of free time. And no kids. And no real agenda except a concert at night. Oh, and no kids.

Poor Meg was, at one point of the evening, sitting up on the couch with a tupperware bowl under her chin, watching Pippi Longstockings and throwing up water, not breaking eye contact with the television. I had to admire her commitment to the film. I also managed to have a total client drama that I had to address that evening, which just made things worse, and had to borrow the neighbor's car to try and get some prints made, poor green-faced Megan in tow with a to-go barf receptacle in her lap. After our failed attempt at solving client drama madness, Meg was finally able to hold down a little oatmeal and water, and I put her to bed, and the vomit part of this story is totally over now, sorry to those with weak stomachs.

Sister-Loser, The Sequel

At some point later that evening, perhaps around 11-ish, an email exchange began with Kip and myself in regards to the key to the house and whether Kathryn and Tewlyn had one. Kip and Jesse had left them around 8 PM, and since public transportation from Amsterdam to our house basically ends shortly after midnight, the guys started to worry and left the concert (and a chance to hang out with the band) to "find the women."

Now, I make no excuses for either party- it was hilarious to see how totally bothered the guys were that the girls had not contacted anyone as to their whereabouts that evening. My opinion was that they are grown women, they can find their way home whenever they want, I hope they had fun and have lots of stories to tell when they arrive. Now, sure, they guys almost got me on their worry-train of gloom and doom, and I did have pangs of "I hope they're not in a ditch somewhere, or went the wrong way on a train or something!" The guys got home around 1, Kip hopped in the borrowed car to see if he could get to Hoofddorp just in case they were stranded at the train station with no cab (last bus to our neck of the woods ran around midnight) and Jesse started walking to the bus stop to see if he could catch them on their way home.

Ah, worry warts.

The gals showed up about 20 minutes later in a cab, not a ditch, and with many tales about their evening in the city. After they parted ways with the guys they decided to make the most of their visit to the city and did what tourists do- they toured! They saw! They experienced! And, since they had no cell phone, they didn't call! So there! But, oh- those stories. They are much more than PG-13, and since I cannot change the names to protect the innocent I shall not tell all here, but oh, the stories. I was so jealous of their adventures.

Oliebollen, Oliebollen, You're An Oliebollen Baby

Saturday we dragged everyone out of bed at the crack of noon and eventually headed into Haarlem for some sandwiches, oliebollen, shopping and scenery. (I think I ate more oliebollen in the months of November and December than should be allowed by the American Heart Association.)


We strolled around the Haarlem Grote Markt where their old church was dolled-up for the holidays, grabbed some crazy kebabs from a street vendor.




Since we had such a late night the night before, and had a recovering kid, we took it easy and enjoyed a lazy Saturday evening at home.

NO Kids Even!

Sunday was another sleep-in day, since relaxing deteriorated into an evening of drinking and playing board games, and staying up way too late again. I love company!


Meg and Kathryn were going to have an Auntie day so that Kip and I could hit the 'Dam with the Yoburns, and FINALLY I got my day in Amsterdam with no kids! No kids even! Jess, Tew and I headed into town first to go to the Ann Frank museum, and we met-up with Kip afterwards for a quick bite at a pancake house - almost as good as ours here in Heemstede. ALMOST.



With about 2 hours to burn before our dinner reservation, we wandered the city and I photo-nerded around the entire time with my new 50mm lens. It really is fast, and it was made for the 5D- with the sunsets, busy store fronts and finally night shooting I was in heaven.






Seeing Red
Dinner was with a co-worker of Kip's, Tom, who is re-locating to Houston in early 2009. We met at Red, an upscale surf-and-turf restaurant with decor I would kill for. I ate dinner sitting on a smoke-grey velvet sofa, at the table. There was velvet everywhere, and a giant boudoir photo on the ceiling. I wanted to move in- or at least do a shoot there at sunset.


KBN5D_9995-98_Pano copy

We had a great time talking with Tom and his girlfriend Kay, and found out that he has a very strange addiction to bad American movies. He cut the evening short, declining a night wandering Amsterdam with us, because he had "Short Circuit II" waiting at home. So, with no one to judge us, we marched STRAIGHT into the Red Light District to see what on earth it was like.

We Saw Things
Oh, dear, did we see things. Strange things. Terrifying things. Hilarious things. Stupefying things. Confusing things. It was an education just to look at the shop windows at the "accessories" and films. You never feel more normal and sheltered than when you are peering into an S&M shop window.


We even decided to take in a show, but did not heed advice of others and went to the club Moulin Rouge. I will not go into detail, but it was NOT great. It really was weird, and I just won't recommend going to see a show at that establishment. Now, the content of the show aside, the venue itself was off-putting: it was set up like a church, with pews, but then had a tiny stage, and then a bar. It was like if Charlie Sheen set up a church. And to top it off, after each "segment," the performer wrapped in a sheet and mingled with the audience. You had just seen this person and all their glory up on stage, but to converse, they put on a sheet. It all seemed so very odd to me.

Ok, so I'm gonna tell on Tew and Kat here- the night they disappeared they went into the Red Light District and saw a show, the BEST show according to everyone they asked in the area, and that was partially our inspiration for heading into the RLD for the night. Tewlyn kept reassuring us that the show THEY saw was a thousand times better, and when we got home later she made Kathryn swear she'd take me into Amsterdam to the "good" show so that my opinion of the RLD would be redeemed.

Sending the Yoburns Packing
Monday we took another trip into Haarlem for more shopping and sight-seeing (and oliebollen, of course), and to wrap up our visit with the Yoburns- they headed to Paris on Tuesday for 5 days of awesomeness, and we were so sad to see them go.

With the departure of the Yoburns, Kathryn had us all to herself! Next post, the Nosers take on the Netherlands, with a vengance! (Or at least a healthy sense of adventure.)