Thursday, August 31, 2006

Heather, sand dunes and van Gogh

The Hoge Veluwe national park is a rare piece of largely undistrubed nature in the Nethlerlands which otherwise makes use of virtually every millimeter of land available. It was land purchased by the Kroller-Mueller family and later opened to the public.

While most visitors opt to cycle through the winding bike paths and roads, we toured by car. This sometimes got us some odd glances. We also had to share the roadways with the groups of bicyclists who have as much right it as we did.

It was a lovely and peaceful park. Fields of purple heather were edged by dense forests. The Hoge Veluwe is also home to the peculiar inland sand dunes of the region.

In the middle of the park is the Kroller-Mueller art museum. Again, a private collection by the K-M family which included virtually every major artist you could name - van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Serat and on and on. It was an amazing tour. Peanut quietly sat in her stroller while mama and papa took in some art. We unfortunately did not get to spend as much time as we wanted touring the outdoor sculpture gardens which contained as many treasures as the indoors.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Windmills, green houses and clogs made of foam

On a rare day when the sunshine filtered through the trees, we visited the Open Air Museum (Openluchsmuseum) in Arnhem.

Gathered into the museum from around the country were cottages, farm houses, city homes, windmills, trams and a collection of other buildings. The brochure warned us to reserve at least three hours to make the whole tour.

What made the Museum such a treat was that many of the buildings were still "occupied".

The first home we entered was a combination of the stables and living quarter - just a small space at the end of the barn. Tending a boiling cauldron over a fire was the lady of the house. She was preparing a stew which we could sample.

Next door, a gentleman was making old fashioned waffle cookies with an iron over his kitchen fire. The kitchen table was set for tea and the catch of the day (rabbits) was hanging in the corner.

Outside we could hear a consistent click, click, BAM! click, click, BAM! A mill was turning the hefty wooden mechanism that pounded grapeseeds to produce a steady trickle of oil.

Naturally there were windmills - a whole collection of them. Each showing was the power of the wind could do. One windmill functioned as a sawmill trimming planks of wood down to size. Another had been used to pump water with a huge screw pump.

A collection of green houses from the Zaan area were filled with upper middle class decor, a candy shop and a bakery.

It was such fun and gave all of your senses a way to imagine the past!

On the way out, Peanut's dad picked up a size 12 pair of the classically styled Dutch clogs in bright yellow. They are actually a pair of slippers :-)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The bungalow life

We wisely chose (I can say this with great confidence now in retrospect) to stay at a Landal bungalow park the first week of our vacation in the Netherlands. It wasn't fancy, it isn't going to make any Top 100 destinations lists, and it was not glamorous vacation in quaint Olde Europe. It was just perfect for a busy toddler and her two laid-back parents.

The fact we had our own kitchen, living room, separate bedrooms and a spacious yard was wonderful. Peanut got her meals on her own schedule and in her own space. She llloooved playing outside, watching the birds, carrying pinecones and rocks around and wandering off the path into the woods. We would stroll through the woods to the park shop or playground enjoying the crisp, cool air. Best of all, Peanut loved the puddles from the rain - her first rain puddles.

Our neighbors were close by and all the bungalows could been seen from the roads. The Dutch like to keep their curtains open so everyone can see that nothing unacceptable is happening inside. This practice carries over to holiday time as well. Our living room and kitchen were virtually all glass walls so our fellow-vacationeers riding by on bikes or walking around could glimpse what was (not) happening.

All the conveniences of home, but still we were on holiday.

Nearby was the "largest waterfall in the Netherlands". The Netherlands is an extraordinarily flat country. In many places as you drive beside a canal or lake, you often are at or even slightly below waterlevel. So, a waterfall is something. This one was man-made to help drain the water from the canals of nearby Appeldorn. We had a good laugh though, it looked like a bit like a water cascade at a shopping mall.

Monday, August 28, 2006


We've just returned from an action-packed two week holiday to the Netherlands where we had some family vacation time and caught up with Peanut's Dutch side of the family. I certainly should have given myself more credit in the weather forecasting department as it rained for the entire time! What a welcome relief from Texas - we missed out on the 17-day stretch of 100F days.

We chose to fly Continental airlines as they have a direct flight from Houston to Amsterdam which Peanut's papa & I had flown once before. It seems I don't hear as much about Continental as the other major carriers; they are a best-kept secret.

Service has been very good and delivered by happy flight attendents which can be in short supply nowadays. They keep the cabins VERY chilly during the flights, but I think it keeps the air feeling fresh and crisp. Somehow they even manage to keep the cabin and lavatories clean during the whole flight. All seats have private monitors with access to lots of inflight programming. And, they stress, free headseats and meals!

We'd requested bulkhead seats, but they are not confirmed until you check-in. In both directions we got our wish. Peanut was traveling with her carseat so she looked as comfy and cushy as anyone in First Class. Her carseat fit neatly into our Maclaren stroller so it was no problem getting it and her in it around the airports.

I also requested a child's meal for Peanut. What a bonanza! She was served chicken nuggets, green beans and potato croquettes -- with plenty of packets of ketchup! There were also several extra packages of crackers and cheese, a Twix bar, a granola bar, a yoghurt drink and a small salad. Continental provided the milk and I brought straws as otherwise Peanut would be sucking milk through tiny cocktail straws.

There is a mondo-sized lavatory onboard where you can barely reach the toilet paper from a sitting position. If we had wanted to, we could have fit our entire family in there. And, this was back in economy even....imagine what they have up in Business Class.....

The only thing Continental didn't have was goodies for the little ones. On earlier flights Peanut had gotten bibs, bear hand puppets (from Finnair), and rattles (from Lufthansa).

The heightened security alerts and ban on liquids was more of a hassle than anything for us. I would have liked to bring some drinks for Peanut, but those were quickly given by the flight attendents.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

And now, the weather report...

with cheif meterologist Peanut's Mama bringing over 300 days of experience....

Good evening everyone! I hope you've got your sunscreen ready. I do and here is your 10-day, aw, heck, let's just call it your August forecast for the Dallas region.

Sunny all day. No clouds, anywhere. HOT, HOT, HOT. 100F. And, HOT.

Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.....

Just so you don't think I'm just one-trick pony. I could do the same for Helsinki, Finland for the month of January.

Evening. As the weather map behind me shows, it will be bitterly cold tomorrow with a thick blanket of clouds continuing to blot out any natural light until say, April. The temperatures will continue to shock you and be around minus 15C. Cold, cold, cold.
Or even, the Netherlands for most parts of the year - like when we have vacation scheduled there.

Goeden avond! . Hang on to that umbrella. Rain continues to drizzle the country all through the next two weeks. Rain, rain, rain, rain....

One place though where I'd be no good is Denver, CO, where Peanut's Auntie M and Uncle PR just moved to. That place has some crazy stuff going on -- anything can happen there!

Just pick the right place and this weather gig is easy!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Wanted: Toddler-sized apt, 2BR/1B, feeding chair, sandbox+splash-pool

I'm nearly 16 mos old now - time to assert my independence!

I've already started out by refusing to eat most of the foods mama and papa give me. This way they can better understand that I'm developing my own sense of self. Sure, I used to looovvee chicken and veggies. No longer! Of course I used to eat a big bowl of porridge for breakfast. Forget that! Along with cheese, carrot sticks, melon bites -- all history! Now, I just nibble a bit here and there. Though I will still eat Cheerios - can never give up my first love.

Next, I decided to make a stand a bath time. Literally. I find that standing in the tub gets me out pretty quick, especially if I'm crying through it all. The shower was fun for a short while, but now I gotta draw a line in the sand there, too.

Don't get me wrong, I love my mama and papa. I really do - they're good parents. Its just that I have these urges to do things by myself. I gotta try everything out.

And, I suspect I inherited this independent streak from them anyway so they'll find a way to cope with it.

Today, I almost snuck out of papa's home office with a check book. Not sure exactly how it works, but I think it'll be important once I get my own apartment set up.

Now, if only I could reach the front door knob....
-- Peanut