Friday, December 23, 2022

This was the scene driving through the north-eastern provinces of Friesland and Groningen when we went for a visit to my youngest niece Babet and her boyfriend Joes, whom had recently moved there.
Due to several nights of a hard freeze people in the north of the country were skating on 'natural' ice everywhere!

It was nice and sunny enough but a hard wind and very cold temperatures made for a blustery day!
After admiring the new apartment and catching up over coffee we braved the outdoors for a visit into Groningen (the capital of the province of Groningen):

Our motley crew

Typical dutch: a 'draai-orgel' or barrel organ and racks full of parked bikes!

After a leisurely stroll through the main shopping street we visited 'the Forum', a new, ultra-modern cultural center that houses a library, cinema, and parts of the Groninger Museum.

From the rooftop/garden on the 10th floor you have a panoramic view over the city ...

And since all that shopping makes hungry we tried a typical Groninger delicacy the 'eierbal', or egg-ball, from one of the dutch 'food-walls', rows of shiny metal boxes containing different types of hot fried food. You put a coin in a slot and open a box.

They were delicious!

It being a Saturday there were several food-markets going on and we grabbed some olives and off-course some cheese for our future happy-hours ..



We were treated to a colorful, wintry sunset on the way home:

It stayed very cold for a couple more days and I enjoyed the pretty views on my invigorating early morning walks to the dike.
I love it that it takes me only 3-5 minutes to see the ocean!

That lighthouse by the way is called the 'Lange Jaap' (Tall Jaap) and at a height of 63.5 metres (208.2 ft) it is one of the tallest "traditional lighthouses" in the world and the tallest still working iron lighthouse in Europe.
It is iconic for the small village of Huisduinen and for me it has signaled 'home' for all my life I lived in the area.
It's pretty much impossible to take a picture around here without it in it!


Maybe this one .. this is looking into the
Grafelijkheidsduinen, the most northern dune area of the mainland in the Netherlands:

Or this one .. looking into the village of Huisduinen as seen from standing on top of the dike:

We have fond memories of that little church there in the center since it is where we got married in 2000!
Decked out in Christmas lights it looks very idyllic doesn't it?

That Sunday we also revisited 'De Nollen', the unique art project of Rudi van de Wint, who happened to be the husband of my cousin Riet who's cabin we we're staying at.
We've visited before but since his sons, my nephews, are continuing to complete the project he started (and for which he left numerous blueprints behind when he unexpectedly died of a heart attack), there's always something new to see and experience.

It was, again, a blistery cold and windy day, but we braved the outdoors during one of the guided tours that are offered, which takes you through the beautifully restored little dune-landscape and along (and sometimes inside) the many large sculptures and structures ..

The project is closed in the winter but for every last Sunday of the month when they have a special event going on.
This time around the theme was Celtic and we enjoyed a couple of hours of Celtic folk music while warming up next to the fire with some hot spicy wine!

Outside the flame of one of the art sculptures could be seen clearly now in the darkening sky.
Only 3 days to go to the Winter solstice when nature's light will return!


Friday, December 16, 2022

Huisduinen, the town we're staying

After a (mostly) uneventful flight, we've arrived save and sound in the Netherlands!
Only hiccup was a 65 minute delay before take-off in Portland, but fortunately we were not on the plane yet and during the flight we made up 20 minutes due to a brisk tail-wind.

Waiting for the plane to be cleaned, fueled and stocked up

It was freezing when we arrived and from the air the farmland around Amsterdam looked beautiful and frosty (sorry, bad picture, dirty window and dirty lens):

I'd already printed out train tickets on-line (the things you can do these days) and after grabbing a cup of coffee we were on our way to Den Helder, where my mom and sister live, about 1.5 hours north of Amsterdam.
The scenery going north was one of an old-fashioned dutch winter with frosted meadows, and frozen canals:

We were welcomed by my mom, sister and a niece and after coffee and pastries (the first of many) we drove to Huisduinen, a tiny little town just outside the city, where we will stay for the duration of our trip.
The adorable little cabin we'll live in sits next to the house of my niece in her lovely cottage garden ...

Here you can see the 'big house' on the left and us on the right:


And this is a peek of the inside, we even have a Christmas tree!

I think we'll be totally happy and cozy here. It's really very nice to have a space of our own where James can study and we can take some R&R when needed .. for everybody's sake.

We celebrated my Mom's 82nd birthday the next day, with more nieces and family attending. It was great to see everybody again, it had been a while. I was there 1.5 years ago but James hadn't been back for 6.5!
We all got together in the evening for pizza:

And just because I made all these pictures and didn't have time to post them before we left, here's a few from the 'Christmas Light Route' we drove around Newberg last weekend:

Most houses and decorations were a repeat of last year but it was a great tour once again ..

Inflatables are the thing these days. These reindeer (?) were gi-normous!

This last house on the list send everybody home with the season's standard greeting:
Merry Christmas!



Thursday, December 8, 2022

These are the dark days before Christmas and the weather is gray and wet, which rather adds to the gloominess.
Not too cold at the moment though (around 42F), and no wind, which makes for nice brisk walks, just the way I like it ..

The vineyards are all barren now and most of the trees as well ..

One of my walks brings me by the chickens that provide our eggs:

Well, those are the boys, and a duck, above, but these are (some of) the galls:

They are quite tame and when I stop to have a little chat they gather around my legs hoping, I presume, for a little treat. One or two even let me pet them for a bit ..
They are young hens and the eggs they're laying are still a little small but the yokes are a deep orange and they taste great!

Last weekend the temperatures dropped that much that it snowed heavily in the mountains.
Mt Hood opened it's ski-lifts for the season and we even had a little sprinkle on the valley-floor!


                                               Hard to see but that's snow, not rain

It sure got us in the spirit to visit the little Holiday Market at the cultural center. Last year we went to the fall-market so this year we thought we try this one, just to be different ..


As expected the booths leaned heavily towards Christmas and lots of people took the opportunity to cross off some items on their shopping list with the unique and often hand-made presents ..



Staying true to my dutch heritage, we once again celebrated Saint Nicolas Day a couple of days later:



Of course I'd baked speculaas, although I had to make my own spices since I'd run out of the dutch spice-mix I always use. Traditionally made in the shape of a doll, I was lazy and went for a circle. Tastes the same!
I think I came pretty close to the 'real' thing but I'll make sure to pick up a jar of the mix while we're there!

OK, back to Christmas, next up was another visit to our favorite Gallery Theater in McMinnville.
This time for a performance of Dicken's 'A Christmas Carol':


Again, it was a wonderful performance!
But than, what's not to like about the delightful story of Ebenezer Scrooge, haunted by his 3 ghosts ..



... and adorable tiny Tim with his well known statement, "God bless us, every one!" which he offers as a blessing at Christmas dinner.
The story was told by a narrator who entered the scenes 'un-seen' by the characters but of course visible to us telling us the story in, I must say, quite a faithful rendition of the play.

The whole cast was exceptionally good!

After that much Christmas cheer it was impossible not to bring out at least some of my Christmas decorations, despite the fact that we're leaving for Holland this coming Tuesday and won't be back until the holidays are long done and over with.


Although I didn't put up the 'big' tree inside, I grabbed the small one to light op the front steps and hung my wreath as usual.
Inside, a candle is always good for ambiance, although we're very careful .. RV's burn easily!

A garland or two, complete with tiny twinkling lights, and a spray of (fake) poinsettias in the wall sconce completed this year's seasonal decorations .. good enough!

And if that wasn't enough 'Christmas' yet (you can't accuse us of nor trying!) we got in the car on Wednesday night and drove to office of the Kelly Realty Group in town, who'd set up a 'cozy Christmas drive-through' in front of their building:

Beautifully decorated, complete with carol-singing elves, swirling 'snow', gifts and candy for the kids (including us 'kids at heart'), it was a real winter wonderland!

Of course we had our picture taken with Mr and Mrs Santa Claus, for which we didn't even had to leave our car:

To top it off, and since we figured we wouldn't get much of it in Holland (I don't even think there's such a restaurant where were going), we decided to go for Sushi afterwards ..

Not very Christmassy of course, but always soooooo good!

By the way, this was our 'haul' at the drive-through, we were handed a large flannel bag (Santa's bag) which contained several cookies and candy and a whole bunch of wrapped presents that turned out to be toys, crayons, a book and a stuffed animal.


Obviously this was mend to be more of a children's event but we 'didn't get that memo'!
The next day when I went grocery shopping I donated everything to the Toys for Tots toy box ...