Friday, November 7, 2014

Trip to the US

For Grant's fall break he flew to Iowa to duck hunt with Kevin (married to our niece, Amanda).  Our skeet shooting practice in The Netherlands must have paid off because he bagged one.  He and Kevin had a great time shooting ducks and targets.  Thanks, Kevin, for hosting him.

I decided to fly with Grant to the US.  But instead of shooting I went shopping.  Mom needed a new car so Tom & I took her around to try them all.  She decided on a Subaru Forester.  It's great; easy to get in and out of and lots of gadgets.  She may not get full use of all the gadgets but so far Mom really likes it.  It was fun to shop with someone else's money.

We had some beautiful fall weather and the leaves were just beginning to turn.  I planted this tree about 35 years ago.   Although it may be a little lopsided, it's doing pretty well.

We made our usual family trek to Gansons for dinner.  I had the Rock Island Rocket, a steak burger with all the normal stuff plus roasted poblano peppers, chipolte sauce and fritos on top. 

We always try a new restaurant when I'm home.  This time it was a Mexican restaurant in Cordova. Tom and Mom had tacos and I had a chili relleno.  Who knew that Cordova, a river town of 600 people and one nuclear power plant,  could have a good Mexican restaurant?

You knew it was a classy restaurant when you saw the Shell brand out front.  

The Quad Cities has a great path along both sides of the river for biking, running, walking, etc.  One morning I ran across the Government Bridge which connects Rock Island with Davenport, Iowa by way of Arsenal Island.  The pedestrian lane is made of expanded steel so that you can see the Mississippi River below you as you cross.

Let me indulge in a little bridge history.  The current bridge is the fourth at this location.  The first was built in 1856 and was the first railroad crossing of the Mississippi River.  The bridge was built in a section of difficult rapids so steamboats were afraid of hitting it -- which of course they did two weeks after the bridge opened.   They sued the railroads.  The lawyer for the railroads was Illinois homeboy, Abraham Lincoln.   Lincoln was reported to be very well prepared when the case was tried and very verbose.  His closing arguments lasted two days.  The jury debated for two hours, but could not reach a decision.  The bridge stayed.    And Abe went on to bigger things.  

One final stop in the Quad Cities was Stones Apple Barn.  

On Thursday I flew to see Kate in New Jersey.  My flight left at 5:00 am!  Surprisingly the plane was full.    

Kate, Doug and I had a great meal at Due Meri.  If I don't look quite as happy as Kate, it's because I strained my back earlier that day trying to do yoga with her.  

This is elephant trunk, the yoga pose I was doing when I hurt by back.  
This is the next stage of the pose.  Kate can do this.  I don't even try.  

This is how I feel when I do yoga.  Most of the time I do it at home where no one can see me.  

No trip to New Jersey is complete without visiting Delicious Orchards.  Apple cider donuts plus apple cider.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy Birthday Graber

Graber turned five years old this week.  Unlike the rest of us, he did not get to choose his own birthday cake.  He got the same kibble he's eaten every day for the past four years.  His big treat was the neighbor kids coming over and asking if they could play with him.   He had a great time.  

Just in case you're not familiar with Golden Retrievers, I've included some quotes from that encyclopedia of dog knowledge, Wikipedia.  "Golden Retrievers have an instinctive love of water, and are easy to train to basic or advanced obedience standards."  This statement provides more proof that the folks at Wiki need to do a little bit more research before they publish.  Graber has been in the water exactly twice and he hated it both times. And "easy to train" is not the phrase that comes to mind when I think of Graber.  

"Although they need substantial outdoor exercise, they should be housed in a fenced area because of their instinctual tendency to roam.[2] The dog sheds copiously, particularly at the change of seasons, and requires fairly regular grooming."  In this paragraph the Wiki folks seems to have done their homework.  This summer when the gate to our yard was not working properly I received several calls at work from strangers, "I have your dog".  Funny, they never asked for a ransom.  

"The breed's friendly, gentle temperament means it is unsuited to being a professional guard dog" -- a truer statement was never made except maybe for the following -- "Golden Retrievers are rarely choosy eaters."  Thanks Wikipedia!

I'm going to try and increase my blog readership by posting some puppy pictures.  Everybody loves puppy pictures.  Most of these were taken when he was 2-4 months old.  After that we put the camera away for a couple of months and then before we realized it he was all grown up.  

Man and his best friend sacked out together. 

Graber has a long history of being helpful  

This time he's helping Grant shoot his air rifle

Monday, October 13, 2014

de Haar Castle

Lori's sister, Carol, visited us last month for a weekend.  So we did what many people do when they have visitors...go someplace we'd probably never go to unless we had visitors, then enjoy it so much that we wondered why we hadn't gone there before.  In our case it was de Haar Castle, near Utrecht.

The castle dates back to the 14th and 15th century when it was probably built and rebuilt several times.  By the 18th and 19th centuries it had fallen into ruin.  At that time the owner had a vision of rebuilding the castle.  But like many visionaries, he lacked funds.  Soon after he married a Rothschild woman from France and as the introductory movie stated "his financial issues were solved".

Small chapel on the grounds

The couple hired Pierre Cuypers to design and decorate the castle.  Cuypers was already world-famous for designing the Rijksmuseum and Centraal Station in Amsterdam.  He installed several very modern features....a lift, steam heat, electricity.  He also decorated the castle in a very ornate...and non-Dutch style.  

The ornate entry hall. 

The tapestries on the left have "sisters" in the Louvre in Paris.  

From the chapel roof

The castle is partially moated.  No alligators though.  

A happy guy.

Only in Holland

Last week I looked out my window at work and saw the sight shown in the pictures.  It's essentially a "loader tractor boat".   First, the operator goes through the canal using the apparatus on the side as an underwater grass cutter.  It works like a hedge trimmer on the tall grass in the canal.

Then after he's mowed the grass, he uses the hydraulically operated rake on the front to scoop up the floating grass and deposit in along the bank.  I guess they don't want the canals to get clogged.  Only in Holland!

By the way, the pile of grass remains on the bank today.  I guess getting rid of the grass takes more time.   

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Delta Works

On January 31, 1953 a combination of wind, storm and tides created a devastating flood in the southern Netherlands.  The water rose to 4.5 m above sea level, dikes were breached and almost 2000 people lost their lives.  Knowing something about controlling water, the Dutch said "never again" and set out to do something about it.  

And so they did.  Over the next 30 years they built a series of dikes and water control structures to tame the impact of the North Sea.  The original plan was to use dams, but that would have ruined the fishing within Holland's waters.  So the Delta Works was born.  It's a series of gates that are normally open to allow water to flow freely.  However, if severe storms are predicted the gates can be closed to shut out the North Sea.  It sounds simple, but the challenge is to construct something stronger than the sea.  So far it has worked quite well. 

You can see three of the series of gates of the Delta Works.  The island in the center is man made.  

Here is one series of gates.  The rods on top are the pistons used to lower and raise the gates.  There is a road on top so you can drive across.  

Looking out to the North Sea from underneath the roadway. 

A closer look at the pistons and gate.  

The top red line marks the water level in the 1953 flood.  

The gates are in the raised position

After completing construction, one of the islands that was created for construction was converted to a visitor center & amusement park.  This guy was one of the attractions.  

On the way home from the Delta Works I stopped at Veere.  In the 1400's Scotland acquired special rights to trade here when the Lorde of Veere married Mary, the daughter of James I of Scotland.  The Scots set up warehouses and eventually all of their trade to Europe went through Veere.

Veere Town Hall
Another view of the town hall

The town no longer has access to the sea, so these boats are all for inland use.  

The Grote Kerk was built in the 1300's.  Napoleon used it as a hospital in 1811.  

As I walked through town, I discovered this cherry tree filled with fruit.  

This architecture looks more Scottish than Dutch. 

My final stop of the day was at Yerseke, the mussel and oyster capital of Holland.  The area is known for the flat Zeeland oyster and the Zeeland Creuse oyster.  The Creuse is a cross between a Portuguese and Japanese oyster that was brought here in the 60's when the local varieties were getting hit by disease.  Supposedly these oysters are in high demand in Belgium and Frnance.

Yersekee Harbor

Oyster pools

The bin was full of oyster shells.  I guess someone was inside shucking away.  

Another view of the oyster pools 

My appetizer -- three wild oysters on the left and three flat oysters on the right.  I preferred the flat ones.  

My main course -- a huge bucket of steamed mussels.  They were great.  

The town was heavily bombed in WWII so there was nothing special about the architecture, but their light poles were well decorated.