Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Only 70%, good neighbours and cheap vitamin C

I am not yet as normal as I thought and bragged about. More like 70 % instead of 100.

Last week was very active. I returned to volunteering with my dear friend Rosie, Tuesday and Friday. We went to the Hot Springs on Monday, and to Nelson by bus on Thursday. Another friend came to deliver home-grown chickens on Saturday and stayed overnight. I love this woman and owe her big time. If I had known earlier that she would come this week instead of the next I would not have offered to take Rosie to the doctor on Friday, hoisting her wheelchair in and out of the car etc. I thought I could handle it all. Not.

The weekend also resulted in indulgence in cake. Trust my friend to bring goodies even when the whole idea was for me to cook for her and get a chance to spoil her! We all had double helpings of cake, berries and whipped cream for desert. I had the good sense to send the remainder back with her, but meanwhile I had also bought a banana bread at the local Christmas fair. It was sliced up for some unexpected but welcome visitors on Sunday morning. They don't eat gluten. Right, I'd forgotten. I'll have just one more slice. And one more. Repeat at intervals till plate is empty. This is why I do not buy or bake tempting carbs.

I had also not been drinking enough water lately. By noon Sunday I was exhausted, by Monday evening I was battling a cold. I so know better! I canceled all activities again and started swilling water with lemon peel powder. 

The cold is on its way out and I have more energy already.

I even started out on a walk. When I don't have to go out for provisions, like I did in Holland, I can get disgustingly sedentary in the cold season. I didn't get far since an old neighbour saw me go by and called me in for tea. It is so nice to visit folks. He even gifted me with a stewing hen. When I got home Old Dutch made the daily veg juice, a chore he has made his own. We needed a vegan dinner today and the net tossed up a recipe for broiled tofu with no cook peanut sauce that was quick and delicious. A new standby. Life is GOOD.

Since we are in the kitchen, let me tell you how to make lemon peel powder. It is rich in all kinds of wonderful stuff. Vitamin C with all the bioflavonoids is only the beginning. Thanks for this recipe goes to herbalist Ian Shillington.

Juice your organically grown lemon. Slice the remaining rind into strips, any old way. Spread the pieces out on a plate and let them sit around. The top of the fridge works for me. The pieces will dry in a few days. Grind them in the extra coffee grinder used for flax seeds and spices. The result is a fine yellow powder with a delicate zesty flavor. I keep it in a glass jar in the freezer part of the fridge. It works in recipes that call for lemon zest, and is also delicious just mixed with water. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What have I learned from last summer?

I feel fine, am resuming all normal activities, and the events of last summer are starting to fade into story. 

Yesterday a friend asked  permission to ask, in his terms, a loaded question. "What did I feel I had learned?" He was referring to the stuff of self-help lit where people warble on about cancer as a gift that changed their life and forced them to appreciate each day as a precious gift, yadayada.

Guess what: I have done that most of my life. Credit goes to a combination of temperament and upbringing. My parents instilled gratitude and appreciation* for small daily blessings into us kids, along with an awareness of how many people in the world have less.

I had already asked the question myself: "What am I supposed to learn from the whole cancer plus accident episode?"

Quite frankly I am not sure. Not gratitude, that was already present. As for facing death: I love life, but am not terribly afraid of its ending. I am not yet old, but no longer  young or even middle-aged either. The thought of living decades in misery and/or as a burden to others scares me more than leaving this dimension after three score and ten. I feel at peace spiritually. Other worlds, if they exist, will be faced in due time. Nothing has changed in that regard.

Perhaps the greatest lesson learned is accepting help instead of being the helper. It also brought home the importance of investing in social capital. Friendships and neighbourhood networks need to be cultivated as much as gardens.

Meanwhile we shall muddle on, doing such good and grasping such pleasure as comes across our path. I have become increasingly skeptical of the "you create your own reality" philosophy for many reasons, but that is a whole other blog, more fit for the Rants and Reflections section.

Prior to the accident/cancer I had already distilled my Big Question answers to these borrowed phrases:
Be here now. Cultivate the garden. Just be kind.

I see no reason to change that.

*astro note: both parents had Moon conjunct Jupiter.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Walks with Johan part 3: my day with Gerda

How is this for a total stereotype? This is the last photo of the day Gerda Kluitenberg and I spent together. We had such a good time. Hanging out in real meat space felt perfectly natural, as if we had known each other forever. 

Gerda and I met on Multiply, probably through Picture Perfect. I love her beautiful photos of the Dutch landscape. She lives not too far from  Hilversum. One Sunday morning Gerda  picked me up for a lovely day of sight-seeing by car. Any landscape looks so much better when seen from the small roads. My request was a route through the river landscape that so often features in Gerda's pictures. 

On the way she pointed out a large pond, and mentioned that she often walks all the way around it. Sounds good! Could we? Sure, but first we had to get her walking shoes from home. 
It was fun to see her place, especially the balcony that has so often featured in photographs. You won't believe how many petunias a flower-loving Dutch woman can squeeze into a tiny space! And I got to see her bookshelves, and received some valuable pointers on modern Dutch literature. Did I mention that librarians are among my favorite kind of people? But onward into the fresh air.
Surprise: the rough grassy shores of the pond were being grazed by Scottish Highland cattle on one side, and wild horses on the other side. The use of large herbivores has become a common tool of landscape management in the Netherlands and Belgium. Your typical Dutch cow is used to luxurious grass, not the rough forage on offer here. Hence the imports.
The animals just do their thing and seem unfazed by the large number of two-legged walkers and their dogs. We asked someone to take our picture.
The place was full of birds, both in the water and in the air. Holland is a big swamp and a true paradise for birds. In Amsterdam I saw a glass-topped tourist boat swerve around a family of swans, right in the downtown canal. And just to keep things in balance: on one side of the pond is a bridge over a busy highway. This is so typical of Holland. 
Below: tower and gate in Vianen, Gerda's home.
 The trip through the river region was wonderful. Yes, vistas like the one below exist, in spite of the insanely dense population.
Below a more cluttered view, less flattering but more realistic.
The sun had come out to show off the river Lek, a branch of the Rhine.

By this time our stomachs were growling. The map showed a restaurant in the historic town Nieuwpoort.
There was no room at this inn. The place was crammed full of sports enthousiasts watching soccer on the the big telly. Later that day I found out the match was between two arch rivals: Ajax (Amsterdam) vs Feyenoord, the club of Rotterdam. If Margreet had still been alive she might have had a heart attack watching it. The score was 2-1 for Ajax when Feyenoord scored a goal in the very last minute. Ouch. We continued along the river till we came to the ferry to Schoonhoven. It looked like there might be a restaurant
on the other side. 
Indeed, there was. We enjoyed a sumptuous leisurely lunch, and when we emerged we realized that we were running out of time to do the planned round trip. Dark was coming an hour earlier. From a long ago bike vacation I remembered how pretty it was along the small river Vlist, just North of Schoonhoven. We consulted the map and figured out a touristy route back to Hilversum, avoiding the main highways a bit longer. The prettiest route was reserved for cyclists only. I kind of like that. The scale of the place is so perfect for the bike. Anyway, we enjoyed another hour of rural beauty but there are no pictures. One can only stop so often, and the roads were narrow with no place to stop anyway. Just before we joined a main road this windmill was irresistible and there was room to park. 
 We hit the main road just when it got dark. I may never see Gerda again, unless she takes me up on the standing invitation to come to Nakusp....But I will never forget the gift of this perfect day.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Walks with Johan part 2: Noordwijk aan Zee.

I have been home since Friday afternoon. An uneventful trip with the help of the same good people who got me out, in reverse. It is starting to feel more normal. Funny, usually I feel as if I have barely been away the moment I get back. This time it took a few days. I would emerge from dreams disoriented and wondering in which house in Holland I was. 

I am starting to feel pretty normal, though disoriented in time. I am suffering from season lag, not jet lag. 

Normally I work my butt off in summer. By November I am happy to retreat indoors for a while, read and play internet. This year of course it was all different. This week is for resting up, but next week I look forward to taking up some volunteer work and to let reflexology clients know that I am back. 

Anyway, time to record some Dutch pictures. To start with; Noordwijk aan Zee.

In our childhood vacation time meant one thing: BEACH.  Starting in 1953 we rented a place in Noordwijk for the whole month of August. One of my mother's sisters lived there. Her daughter Anneke still does, as do her grown son and daughter. Anneke is six years my senior, and was a glamorous entity whose doings I followed from afar. But Margreet kept going to Noordwijk long after the rest of us, and developed a close relationship with our cousin in spite of the 14 year age difference. We always had planned to go visit together but never got around to it. This time I did. Anneke and her partner Leo were the kindest hosts. 

We yacked our heads off catching up on the doings of a lifetime, and Anneke  drove me around old haunts. The lighthouse is one of the few things that have not changed. 
The waterfront hotels used to be right above the beach. The sea was visible from the street in front, known as the Boulevard. Now a strip of dunes separates the walk from the view. It is all part of the ongoing  struggle to keep the North Sea from flooding the Low Countries. They actually built a dike in front of the narrow existing dune, then covered the dike with dune stuff.
The illustration below comes from here:

A viewing platform was built at the Southern end of the Boulevard.. 
There is also a path through the new dune with a view of the sea.
The day was sunny but very cold with a stiff breeze, perfect for a walk on the beach. At first the plan was to just walk the sea path, but once I saw the sea there was no way I was going to let a wonky knee keep me off the beach. It was glorious. 
We walked over the beach from the Southern end to the lighthouse. One of the beach pavillions was still up. We enjoyed a coffee in a sheltered sunny spot out of the freezing wind but still with a view of the sparkling waves. 
By the way, I never post pictures of other people unless I have their express permission, which is why my inspiring 75 year old cousin is not celebrated here. Both she and her 84 year  old partner are prime examples of aging well. They play tennis 3 times a week, bridge to sharpen the mind, and do lots of walking and cycling. Way to go Anneke and Leo, thanks for the good role model!
We walked back over the Boulevard and the sea path, then I insisted on a tour of the Hoofd Straat, below.
In our childhood, when the weather was too foul for even a trip to the dunes we would make a Boulevard/Hoofd Straat round.  We'd either get a treat of ice cream or French fries at the lighthouse end of the Boulevard, OR Jaap and I were given a quarter for a tiny toy at the general store in the middle of the street. It has been replaced by Blokker, a ubiquitous chain of household goods. Ah, the joy and agony of decision making!  The toys in question would reliably fall apart after half a day, but that did not matter. Most of the pleasure was in making a selection. Noordwijk will always bring fond memories.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Help, I am cut off!

Dea Volente and the creeks don't rise we will be flying home tomorrow. The last few days I have been computer-less, but equipped with my sister's smartphone. I was just starting to get the hang of  it when it froze in mid-FB session. It did not turn itself off either.

As we all know nothing refreshes an electronic life form like being unplugged  and plugged back in.  So I let it run dry, and recharged eventually. So far so good. Except now it wants a PIN number to get going again. Which I don't know.

In the old days, which include my last visit here in May 2009,  there were lots of Internet cafees. They seem to have died out in favour of WIFI. People just bring their own laptop or smartphone.  There also used to be such a thing as a telephone booth. They appear to have gone extinct as well. Tell me, where is Superman supposed to change these days?

Thanks to Gerda K. I knew that the Amsterdam Public Library had a bank of computers for public use. They used to be free, but I am happy to pay a Euro twoonie for an hour. It was more of an expedition to get here than I thought, especially since I went off in the wrong direction at first. The city is extending a metro line and the surroundings of Central Station are still a mess. My knee is whining and I am tired. Thank goodness overall energy is UP after a few days of naps and clean living, and I was fortified by a herring from Stubbe on the Torensluis.

The good part is that the necessity to let Bro Jaap know that the phone wouldn't work brought me here. It was on the list of things I would like to see, but I would most likely have lacked the determination. Alas, I did not bring the camera. The place is stunning.

I am going to hang in the magazine hall for a while. Libraries are wonderful!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Walks with Johan, part 1. Hilversum

Meet Johan*, my inseparable companion these days.  Johan and I have been getting around. I have a new camera, and left the instruction booklet at home. I have not quite figured out the settings and mainly leave it on Auto, instead of shifting to the landscape setting. It is trickier on this one than on my old camera and I am not always happy with the result. But, here goes anyway.

We started in the neighbourhood of Marg's house in Hilversum, where I lived for the first three weeks of my stay here. Above, the street.
At the end of the block is the start of a small but beautiful nature reserve, Hoorneboegse Heide. I am increasingly impressed with how well this tiny, overpopulated country manages to maintain places of beauty. It is not fair to compare Dutch nature to the wild grandeur we enjoy at home in Canada. One rarely has it to oneself, to start with.
The place is criss-crossed with paths and  trails. 

Dogs are allowed to run loose here. There are many of them.

I am a notorious kynophobe. At home the prospect of passing by certain driveways often keeps me from going on a walk. But all dogs I met here were well behaved and responded to their person.

The use of poop scoopers has also increased, about time.
The terrain is not entirely flat here, which gives the illusion of extra space. Thanks to the slight rise in the terrain one cannot see all the way across to the edge of the woods on the other side.
One can take a picture of just nature but when one turns around the view usually contains people, a busy road,  high rises or all of the above. 

The picture below could be taken for wilderness. 

But when one turns around, standing in the exact same spot, one sees this.

Anyway it was a pleasure to walk there. And in case we got tired there were many benches to rest on.

 Last week Friday I stayed with my cousin Anneke in Noordwijk, the place where we always went on vacation. We were lucky enough  to get a few hours of sunshine. Freezing cold and windy but sunny, perfect for a beach walk!

More Noordwijk later, but I have to get gussied up now. My hosts in Hoorn are taking me for dinner. I have the most excellent brother and SIL.

*The name is a Dutch thing. Gerda K., bless her well educated librarian heart, got it right away. I kept thinking of Het Stokske van Oldebarnevelt. Zodoende.