5.31.2009

with sprinkles on top.

I love reading about food. According to my book on Dutch food---and our experience---it is all about bread for breakfast and lunch. Their hot meal is dinner. 

You would be hard-pressed to find options beyond Dutch pancakes, toasties, pastries or croissants for breakfast. Sure, throw in some yogurt, hard boiled eggs or bacon for sides--- but merely as a compliment to rolls, brown or white bread, plain or chocolate croissants, raisin bread, muffins, grain bread, etc.

And yet it isn't just about the requisit bread, but bread with an impressive variety of sweet toppings. Usual topping choices (and this goes for cafes/bed & breakfasts/homes where we rent rooms with 'breakfast included’) include multiple jams (berry, apricot, raspberry, blueberry, etc.), honey, peanut butter, chocolate spread, hazelnut spread, butter & cheese, ham, chocolate flakes, chocolate sprinkles and pastel sprinkles... to name a few.

This morning we finally splurged---sprinkles and all. Caleb and I took warm rolls, cracked them open, spread them with butter and enthusiastically poured on the sprinkles. Delish. And makes you feel sheepish and guilty. But then again, if you are about to hop a cycle and ride for numerous miles… bring it on!

And lunches? Broot: more bread. Paninis, toasties, sandwiches, burgers, croissants, crostinis. Meat and cheese placed in a baguette, between slabs of bread. Starch central. 

But we love the emphasis on bread, as it often makes for a great vehicle to try different sauces, accompaniments and generally speaking: fills up our adolescent boys quite proficiently on a budget. Carbs and proteins are readily available, so we find that we scoot often to grocers---to pick up supplementary fruits and vegetables. Which works just fine; because when you deviate from life’s path for an adventurous excursion like this one… why not have sprinkles on top?

5.30.2009

weighted panniers.

We are still sorting through our panniers, and with all the packing and repacking we will be doing, it is easy to ask each item: are you necessary? And quite often the answer is yes. But if it is no, you can shed yourself anything seemingly extra, and effectively lighten your load. Sometimes, it is a matter of priority: if I buy a new shirt, am I willing to leave one behind? And so it goes…

Amsterdam: James and I both left behind our inflatable pillows. You may think it odd, but in our fanatical enthusiasm in packing for this trip, we figured we would be stranded occasionally, and in need of a pillow and a blanket. Good ole fashioned camping under the stars---which still may happen. Now our mentality is: pillows can be made by piling whatever else is in one’s pannier. So we left the blow-up variety. 

We also left an extra pen or two, a soccer ball (Caleb bought a new, quite cool one in Amsterdam) and a pair of shoes. They were nice, and new, but they had to be replaced. The shoes were Anthony’s and as is turns out, they weren’t ideal for cycling---or for juggling the soccer ball in between times. So they had to be replaced. Good-bye to an extra hand sanitizer (back to good old fashioned hand-washing and ‘don’t touch your face'). Oh, and we left James' elbow brace. His elbow seems to be healing quite nicely.

Edam: Good-bye to James’ flip-flops; he has walking sandals that are more than enough. Minus extra zip-ties (he kept an equal amount), and good-bye another round of hand-sanitizer. Also, I left a few boxes of matches. I carry matches with me for two reasons: 1. for the little candles I sometimes buy for wherever we rest our heads and 2. to mask fumes coming from the vacinity of the toilet. My family is trained on the road as they were at home: when fumigating the restroom, inculcate the air with replacement smoke from matches. At home I always had fancy matches in the bathroom. Besides, who doesn't like lighting matches and playing with them? I am creating pyros, no doubt...

it makes me think of you.

Keith: this picture is for you. James thought you would like the use of pipes for table and benches. And in front of a fine restaurant, no less.

Lily Kate: I paid big bucks for a haircut, then cut it again myself. Like Auntie like niece. I miss you.

Dad: the doves. Everywhere I hear doves. In cities all over, topping churches and houses, perched wherever we seem to pause. It causes me to smile. We grew up with their cooing; what made you choose doves for our home?

Grandma Velt: I have so much more to say to you… you always had a beautiful collection of handkerchiefs. I started my collection---today---with a red [Dutch] handkerchief, spotted with blue flowers.

Kurt & Maluhia: the colors! A guy walked by with bright orange pants, and another in green. I always think of Europeans as being dressed to the hilt in subdued blacks, grays, whites and the like. But the Dutch wear spots and dots, colors and flowers and carry bright umbrellas. Just today I saw a rough looking gentleman ride by on a bike… with white-dotted pink panniers. Love it. Bright are you!

Maggie: You would love all the shoes and boots, the smartly worn scarves and the well-suited jackets. Dressing up a notch just looks better. I love that about you. Even if you are in a rush, lacking sleep or otherwise preoccupied, you still manage to look put-together.

Grandma Van: this trip makes me appreciate your love for flowers, your penchant for peppermints (the Dutch have such a sweet tooth!) and your infamous sweet rice with a dollop of butter and brown sugar. I read a book on Dutch food and it actually mentioned the combination.

Mom: your cupboards? I see them everywhere. Those tiles with Dutch boys and girls, Delft inspired motifs and playful blue-and-white lace, are alive and well in the Netherlands. I know I grew up looking at them, but seeing them cluttering the shops in the form of towels, magnets, napkins, etc., makes me appreciate the synergy that much more.

5.29.2009

happy birthday James, in Alkmaar

Today was James’ birthday. What do you want to do today? Tour Alkmaar? Go to a cheese market? Spend holiday with your family in Holland? Go out for Greek food?

We went to the Alkmaar cheese festival, an impressive and nearly timeless ritual of cheese makers and cheese buyers who come together to negotiate, buy and sell cheese. They put up barriers so the event can proceed uninterrupted by the enthralled bystanders, and put on traditional garb to proceed with ‘business as usual.’

It was great to see, and a notch in our culinary and traveling, belts. One thing we hope to gain from this adventure is exposure to---and developing taste buds for---cheese. And chocolate (hello Belgium is famous for chocolate and beer), and wine (especially whites in the southern parts of Holland and Germany), oh and pastries (we really must compare and contrast pasty specialties from one country to another).

The cheese market was quite official, with gouda cheese all lined up by age, official tasters, cheese-makers, scales, racks for carrying and wagons for, well, carting these large rounds of cheese from market to market.

Other vendors were at the market as well, selling their wares. We heard street organs, sat in front of a cafe drinking coffee, were tempted by the poffrijtes (mini Dutch pancakes), I bought my first handkerchief (I plan to buy a few along the way) and Anthony bought James a birthday gift: a wooden Dutch shoe can opener with his name engraved. It was sunny and beautiful and we are falling in love with Alkmaar.

A side note on cheese: we tasted the Mei cheese (May cheese), which is the young spring cheese, a result of cows being let out after winter to eat the spring grasses… and cheese made and turned around accordingly. You can taste the grass, they say, and it is so creamy. And we did taste some, both in Alkmaar and in Edam: and it was so soft and creamy and young. We also learned from a cheese shop in Amsterdam: Edam and Gouda are not specific cheese but are actually shapes of cheeses. Edam cheese is spherical and Gouda cheese round but flat (disks).

Cheese aside, James birthday was today and beyond the cheese market we also had a pastry break, bought kick-stands for our bikes, found a grassy spot for juggling the soccer ball, ate sandwiches on sun-lit benches, James searched for wi-fi solutions and we ate dinner at a fabulous Greek restaurant (Greek 2 nights in a row, we were glad for the fresh vegetables)---where they served us shots of ouzo just for showing up. Our kind of restaurant.

And now, as I write this, we are wrapping up his big day. All four of us lounging in our hotel, listening to tunes on our i-pods-with-speakers and reading, journaling, mapping tomorrow’s ride and quite plainly: relaxing. Nice to know, we remember how.

5.28.2009

cycling from Edam to Alkmaar

25 mile bike ride today. What is so great, is that in the end when you finally arrive at your destination it feels so good. It is euphoric, the tired but good feeling of cycling and all the things you saw and experienced along the way. Let me say this: we are sleeping really, really well.

We took our time, shoved off from Edam with a basket full of croissants and lunch baguettes. The sky was clear and the temperature pleasant.

We passed cows, sheep, swans and goats. And I notice after passing quite a few fields, that late spring shows itself in all the little newborns. We see baby sheep, baby ducks, baby swans, baby cows and on future rides added baby rabbits, baby chickens, baby horses. Spring is in the air; and we are happy.

We stopped for a picnic break along one of the canals, and spent over an hour in a perfectly quaint little town, De Rijp. Caleb and Anthony juggled in a tiny square, James read his book and I took a brisk walk to case the place. A few photos and a present-for-mom later, we were back in our saddles, ready to roll.
We arrived in Alkmaar, and landed in our little hotel (no wi-fi again; it has been about 5 days of no wi-fi and Internet cafes only allow you to use their public computers. James is researching options). We walked into town, walked a few streets, enjoyed a nice Greek dinner and then back to the hotel where we all slid into sleep quite readily.

5.26.2009

so glad we brought that.

This may seem funny, but when you only have two panniers to your name for 90 days, it is easy to become attached to (and as easily detached from) items in your possession. When we left Amsterdam a few days back, it was a proud thrill to leave a few things behind. We extracted a few items, lightening our load, dawning only what we consider the bare essentials.

Between you and I? I have been pruning my pannier pile since April.

But now that we are on the road, we are finding a certain satisfaction in removing items, using up your tiny toothpaste, and hiding an extra few Ziploc bags in the slimmest pannier pocket. While having a second pair of sunglasses is nearly ludicrous (we will see how long mine last), a pile of Tums I consider a necessary use of space. We divide and conquer when it comes to technology: Caleb carries one computer, Anthony carries the wi-fi access contraption and James carries a second computer and an impressive pile of cords, connectors and adaptors. I get to go light on technology and instead have the appointed catch-all basket for sweatshirts, jackets, extra beverages/daily snacks and take-along lunch.

All of that to say, when packing panniers you really do ‘weigh’ each item. In both senses of the word: is it light or heavy and is it really worth carrying on the back of my bike for all those miles? While we find ourselves leaving things purposefully behind (I am sure the last sweet old lady we stayed with was wondering what to do with James’ size 12 flip-flops), we do have a few things that are worth their weight and more.

I can think of three that are easily on that list:

1. Ipod speakers. Seemed overkill at the time, but Anthony had these speakers and offered to carry them in his panniers. Sure, pal, go for it. Now we are so grateful. In our Amsterdam apartment, our tiny hotel in Alkmaar or whenever we take a couple hour break, these speakers stream whatever music fits our mood. More often than not, some tranquil music offers ample background for writing, journaling, reading and resting. We have already replaced the batteries---twice.

2. Reusable compact storable bag. This item seems like the perfect marketing ploy: just because it is environmentally friendly. But I have to say, it has been a brilliant addendum to our packing in and out, grabbing lunch on the go, and stocking up on water and fruit at the grocers. I think I bought it at Office Depot for a couple of bucks; it is tiny in size, nearly weightless and ever so useful.

3. My rear pannier basket (on back of bike, see pic). It is a brilliant catch-all and saves us time and headache. We can easily throw in lunches and extras, so nobody has to unpack and repack panniers mid route. We are most happy when its contents are a mid-morning snack of chocolate croissants and apple turnovers. We find it quite easy to indulge in sweet treats when we have ridden 6 miles with another 8 to go. Caleb unabashedly adores chocolate; Anthony loves the gamut.

5.25.2009

Amsterdam

It is familiar: the flavors and feel, the bright colors and sentiment, the delft and tulips, and everything dairy. I am Dutch, after all, and throwing myself headlong into my country of origin feels like taking a deep, sentimental breath.

I love that being here adds dimensions to my understanding of what it means to be Dutch. (And although I don't speak Dutch, I took years of German in high school, so at least pronunciations come easily and a little crossover applies---whew). I even got kudos this morning while at a neighborhood cafe, for my efforts in pronouncing biologisch spek, which is Dutch for organic bacon. Even funnier? On my other blog, talk of tomatoes, I actually made an appetizer using spek just a few months ago... not even knowing its origins. What a hoot!).

I am only just beginning to wrap my mind around this lovely culture and experience, but highlights most certainly include the intimacy of the city, canals everywhere, the sea of cycles and the regular bustle. We adore adore adore the well groomed sense of transportation. It made an immediate impression, and when we hit not-so-bike-forward parts of Europe, we will no doubt long for it.

The bar is set high for efficiency and smart integration: there is a lane for pedestrians, a lane for bikes and scooters, a lane for cars and street cars, and a lane (canal) for boats. And it works seamlessly. Everyone knows the drill: bikes have the right of way, pedestrians belong on the walking path (bollards sometimes separate the two), and along canals bikes, scooters and cars share the brick roads. Smallish van-like buses and boats alike, provide accessible transport. We have been spoiled---giddy perhaps---about the fact that bikes function with equal clout to cars and scooters yet when push comes to shove: cycles have the right away.

Like James, I read Lust for Life---a story about Van Gogh's life---and loved it. It brought the visit to Van Gogh's museum to life, and I loved every minute of it. I understood, then, why people can stand before a painting mesmerized and moved to tears. So many paintings made an impression (yep, a pun), above all the Potato Eaters and his infamous Sunflower painting. Both I think, were from his soul, perhaps more 'him' unleashed, than many of his other studies. And they were riveting.

We spent time at the Rijk's museum, rented a tiny motor boat and ate broot and kaas (bread and cheese) while touring along the canals. We drank beer at canal-side cafes, enjoyed neighborhood shops and cafes, walked endlessly, and played soccer in Vondel Park.

Here is a picture of Maxe Euweplein---a square that gives tribute to the Dutch world chess champion (in the 30's)---where we relaxed for some time to watch, well, chess.

Souvenirs? Stickers and postcards, beer coasters, a deck of Van Gogh playing cards and I succumbed to taking up a wee-bit of pannier space: a smallish book on Dutch Food. I am already half way through it and love the quick summaries on Dutch food culture. Consumption includes lots of vegetables (which they use to boil to death, but now cook only lightly via saute, steam etc.), with piles of fish---especially a quick herring snack, bread galore, tons of dairy and dairy products---the boys tried and loved vanilla pudding (they said: like creme brulee without the crust)---and every kind of topping imaginable for bread (most notably the chocolate sprinkles). And mom: the book includes a recipe for ollie bollen!

We are looking forward to much, much more. Today we push off from Amsterdam, and ride for about 20 miles north for a quick visit to Monnickdam (cheese makers) with a final landing in Edam. Perfectly, it stormed last night with tons of lightening laced with booming thunder, and intermittent pouring rain. We laughed and know that without a doubt, we will get caught in some showers today. But without complaint, as the skies delivered bright blue all week in Amsterdam---as blue as the new Dutch soccer jersey we bought Anthony (see pic).


No Doubt: Go See Van Gogh!

In prudent preparation for our trip, I perused numerous volumes of travel literature – books (Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Rick Steve’s, Rough Guides), magazines (Budget Travel, Travel & Leisure), and a multitude of travel websites. With respect to Amsterdam, all resources recommended the Van Gogh museum as a “must see.” I had visited the museum once years ago as a college student (in 1991?), and I recalled some of the exhibits fondly.

In lieu of this travel research, I wanted to add more depth to my Dutch experience and elected to read a book beforehand about Van Gogh. I selected Irving Stone’s Lust for Life (a biographical novel). This is a fantastic novel that chronicles Van Gogh’s pursuit to find himself, true love, and a “calling” for his life. Ultimately it is a tragic story that portrays Van Gogh’s inner struggles to develop his talents (to commit his whole heart, mind and soul to his passion - art), while becoming increasingly disenfranchised with his family and society.

More importantly, the book brought to life works from different periods in Van Gogh’s life: the Potato Eaters, Self-Portrait as an Artist, The Bedroom, Sunflowers, and the Wheatfield with Crows. Unlike the Dutch masters at the Rijks Museum (which are also impressive), Van Gogh’s interplay of color, textures, styles and willingness to experiment are more ‘alive’ (IMO). In many ways, I can relate to Van Gogh’s personal pursuit to find himself - we are all searching for meaning in our lives. The evolution of his artwork evidences his own personal journey to distinguish himself as an artist, and the book helped make the Van Gogh museum more meaningful.

I would concur that the Van Gogh museum is a ‘must see’ in Amsterdam, but I would also add that Lust for Life is a ‘must read’ to enliven your experience.

TIP: There is a HUGE queue when the museum opens, even with tickets pre-purchased online (we did: certainly worthwhile). I would suggest waiting 2-3 hours after the museum opens, and enter the museum around 1p. We made the mistake of going first thing in the morning. When we left at 1p, there wasn’t a soul in line!

5.24.2009

from airport to Amsterdam

Though we are a few days into our trip, I didn't want our first moments in Holland to get lost in the mix.

After James assembled the bikes, we rode a short 2 miles to a nearby hotel. We were floored/impressed/thrilled to find bike lanes everywhere. Like yellow brick roads guiding us wherever we want to go (but with red bricks, or grey). This is a picture of us in front of the first hotel, and all geared up to ride into Amsterdam.

On a side note, we were a bit alarmed by the weight of our two little panniers (whose turn is it to carry the computer?!!), and learned quite quickly that lifting a pannier-laden bike was not an option... you must always roll that bike into place.

Actually, once you have forward momentum the bikes sail right along; it is the starting, stopping and slowing that makes you uber-aware of your panniers (love those curbs: like riding in a bowling lane with the rails up, except... bowling balls don't tip over). Which simply means, we will take quite seriously anything we add to them, and will readily consider 'losing' things that might be weighty. Souvenirs? Try stickers, postcards or maybe a necklace. Nothing heavy or with volume. A fun challenge that will add interest to our travels.


In fact, here is a picture of things we unloaded at our first hotel. We were determined to leave behind a few items---though not of great weight or volume---it was more about the psychological benefit of knowing we lightened our load (placebo effect). So goodbye deck of cards, razors, extra lock, tool and some chocolates. I am pretty sure this is just our first pile of 'leave-behind' items. In the very least it creates room for tiny little purchases along the way.


This windmill is a picture of the first one we saw in Holland. Note the sign to Amsterdam. We were on our first 12 mile ride into the city, and thought it prudent to capture our first windmill. Many more to come.

5.23.2009

Germaholic

FYI, my parents carry around hand sanitizer, and wipes, etc., any time, any day, any week, any second, any minute, any hour, any month, any year. I’m being abducted by my germaholic parents! 

Number 1 (#1 rule to learn on the 'problems list') is to not put your hands above your neck (at the same time, that means you can still touch other people’s faces---such as a stranger---and sneeze/cough on them). We’re not supposed to put our hands above our necks because of germs and the swine flu. 

To me, when my parents say not to put our hands above our necks, I can just see that glint of pulverization in their eyes that they’re going to try to destroy us. There might be an invisible laser field around our necks, so if you put that hand above the neck, hohoho….you’re in trouble. The hand goes above the neck…pfft, now the hand=gone. Hand=cut off. Goodbye hand. Might as well be heading off to the electronics store (scary place…they might cut off your other hand). Nothing you can do about it. 

*  * 

(propaganda above should not be available to kids under the
age of seven. Sorry I forgot to mention it earlier)

Later I will mention the ruler in between my brother’s forehead and his IPod Touch. My brother has been continuously cutting the ruler into thirds--- that’s one cool four inch ruler (may I also mention that this “ruler” is 2nd rule to learn on the 'problems list'). Don’t worry, I have a ruler also, and every once and a while I cut it into fourths.

Sorry I haven’t posted yet. We as a family have been limited with our time on the computer, and the rest of the family has been hogging it (either that or I haven’t even bothered).



If you like Jim Gaffigan (the comedian in the video above, here's two more small clips of his that I love:
click here and here.

5.22.2009

hurling across the globe

We have made it… but not without incident.

It was like drinking from a fire hose, those last few weeks before we left. Packing up the house and our lives, closing all accounts, wrapping up details with teachers, getting passports, visas, and scheduling places to stay upon arrival. We sold stuff on Craig’s list (an air hockey table, 2 televisions, a lawnmower, a car and a van---to name a few). 

We signed up for Skype and a mail service, shut off our cable/internet/cell phones and tied off our lives at school, work and home. The movers came and went, and we scrambled to clean our place while traipsing around town to deliver our boys to their next musical practice/sequential shows. We landed in a nearby hotel and kept our heads above water. The excitement, the reality of us leaving for a year and embarking on this big adventure was decidedly pushed out of my mind---there was too much to do and important good byes to fit in.

And then we got on the plane.

And I had a gin and tonic.

And soon thereafter, the perfect storm ensued. Stress decompression settled in from the weeks---months---of hurling ourselves (yes, pun intended) toward this event. And it all came to a screeching halt when we landed on the plane with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and the goodbyes behind us. Our only task was to adjust to a new time zone---and sleep I did not. Stress release, no sleep, gin, forgotten stomach acid medicine and a very, very large dose of motions sickness: like I said, the perfect storm. Thank god I only hurled once.

It was running between flights that nearly did me in. We whipped [ehem, waited impatiently would be a better description] out of the very last row of seats (#52), through international security, dumping water bottles and running with our laces flailing behind us. We barely made our hopper flight from London to Amsterdam. After all the rush and an overdue migrane, it was in our seats for lots of taxiing on the runway---a short flight---and a lot of taxiing before we were allowed off the plane.  

Fortunately, the boys slept and James kept his cool… which is a mighty good thing since in front of us was a 3 hour stint in a nondescript corner of the airport. Tired as all get out, we grabbed four carts and filled them: 2 with huge bike boxes, a 3rd with boxes we had filled with 4 panniers and extras (helmets, liquids, locks, etc.), and the last with the panniers we had carried on the plane. We found a corner, and James assembled the bikes. (For the record, it would have taken no time at all, save for the fact we had REI box them for us and they disassembled them down to the nuts and bolts. God forbid they just remove the wheel and make sure they fit in the box…).

Three hours later (and I would say a few beers later, but that would have been quite awful on a very sketchy stomach), we were laden with panniers, had recycled reams of cardboard, and were ready to ride.  We found a nearby trail, and Carmen led us to our hotel 2 miles away. We were hungry enough not to delay sleep, and inhaled dinner en route to our pillows.

The next day we woke up late, repacked our panniers, ate breakfast and took off for our first ride—approximately 12 miles---into Amsterdam. We took in the coutnryside, marveled at the neat rows planted in fields, learned to follow bike paths (friendly honking helped!) and saw our first windmill. Hurling ourselves across the globe is easily worth the queeziness it takes to get here. 

My friend left me a really great quote, as we left for our trip:

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore." -Andre Gide

I suspect a bout of sea sickness en route to discovery, is normal...

5.21.2009

Don’t pass up on the GPS when cycling across Europe

I have used GPS systems for years in rental cars, coming to heavily rely upon the trusty Hertz NeverLost to get me safely from one business meeting to the next with minimal effort.  Only on a few occasions was I led astray with NeverLost (e.g. downtown Boston, where it routinely fails to ‘acquire satellites’), in which case I have been left feeling AlwaysLost.

As we prepared to embark on this 90-day bicycling journey across Europe – from Holland, to Germany, to Belgium and France – I read several guidebooks cover to cover.  All the guidebooks mention the virtues of their own maps and in some cases recommend specific Michelin maps.  Now I am not na├»ve enough to think that a guide book map was sufficient, so I did proceed to purchase several Michelin maps.  However, after buying 4 of these maps (at $20/each), I quickly began to realize that I was going to dig a deep hole.  To get the degree of accuracy needed for cycling (1:50,000), I would need to buy at least 20+ maps to cover the extent of our entire trip (a 1,000+ kilometers).  And, I would still be lost locally when arriving in villages, town and cities with its own circuitous network of streets.

So, I took the plunge and bought a personal GPS device – a Garmin Nuvi 500.  It is still too early to extol all the virtues of this device, but it has already made our journey a 100x easier and stress-free.  Instead of unfolding, folding and re-folding maps every 20-30 minutes (as we go off a map’s edge in the map case on top of the front pannier), I can now just follow my trusty Garmin. My oldest son, Anthony, affectionately calls the GPS – Carmen – due to the attractive female voice which provides directions with a British accent (I’m thinking Carmen Electra in an Austin Power movie – but with a better British accent).

As we weaved across the lovely Holland countryside yesterday from Schipol airport into downtown Amsterdam’s Jordaan neighborhood (where we rented an apartment through VRBO.com), we soaked up the sights, sounds, culture and craziness that the city has to offer.  Most importantly, I was able to keep my attention focused on the immediate street activity (100’s of other bikes, scooters, streetcars and road impediments), which we circumnavigated safely and deftly.  Instead of looking down at a map case to discern directions, our trusty Garmin guided us safely to our destination across a myriad of canals, and bridges (notwithstanding a few brushes by scooters and cars that livened up the trip). ;)

For those interested, I elected to buy a Garmin Nuvi 500 because it has a large touch screen, offers tons of maps and is WATERPROOF (which is ideal for cycling out in the elements).  It came with maps for all of the United States, so I purchased an additional City Navigator NT series of maps for Europe.  Together with a bicycle mount, it set me back about $475 ($300 for the GPS, $150 for the European maps, and $25 for the cycle mount).  In contrast to roughly $400 of Michelin maps that I estimated would be necessary (let alone difficult to find ahead of time, since many were not available in the US or on Michelin’s own website), the money for a fully outfitted, cycle-ready Garmin Nuvi 500 was a no-brainer.   Stress-free and we get the added company of Carmen on the trip. ;)   

5.10.2009

this family frolics

Our family likes to frolic: to carve out opportunities to soak up life, each other, travel as much as possible, and in general: go out on a limb. Or a bike. Or skis. Boogie boards... they work too.

We are a family of four, each with a different personality, opinion and perspective. There will be four authors on this blog: Caleb (12), Anthony (13), Janelle (eh, you really thought I would state an age?) and James ('dad').

There is something about us that makes us keep reaching. A constant stretch to make life count, to add to our already growing pile of memories. And since we have yet to figure out how to freeze time, we figure we better make the most of the time we have been given.

Somehow, we figure these are the years---this decade or two---that we will talk about until we have lost our teeth.

Which is why we are determined to frolic.

We have talked often about starting this site, to document our frolicking. Anthony came up with the name, Caleb drew the logo. Mom popped it on blogger and dad? He works his arse off to save money for our frolicking.

We love the small weekends with big plans, or a coveted week of sun in the middle of our chilly winter---all precious memories we wedge into our busy lives. But it makes us crave more, and we find ourselves determined to increase the frequency of our frolicking. We have a SCREAMING DESIRE to slow time down, put the breaks on, grab our children by the shoulders and soak them up. Because it goes by too fast. And they grow up way too quickly.

SO we are going for the mother load: we are packing up, moving out, exiting our USA-based lives and jetting overseas. On bikes, via soccer turf, in cafes, through museums, next to canals and over cobblestone.

For better or for worse: we are off to frolic for a year... and we leave in a week. Which is why we [finally] started this family blog. It will document our frolics; we will share our favorite finds and faux pas and all the fan-fare in between. We will post photos and video clips, travel tips and family quips. We will talk about places to go, things to see and of course, all they great food and folks along the way.

Ultimately this blog is a means to capture moments we want to remember never to forget---while at the same time sharing them with you.

5.07.2009

quotes to live by

As a young adult, I always loved finding quotes. I would write them in my journal, tape them on my calendar, and include them in affectionate notes. Ehem, YES this was before email or facebook or blogs in which case I would have 'posted' them online, on my wall, or 'in the cloud.'

And perhaps that is where quotes should rest: in the clouds. Ideas and thoughts that are best left unattached, floating meandering and otherwise roaming unobstructed in your mind.

With all that hubbub, no promise if these quotes will take the cake, so to speak. But I figure this is just the start of many quotes to come. We like to think about life---and making each day count.


"We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry." ~EB White


“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves as well. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen accidents, meetings and material assistance that no one could have dreamed would come their way. Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
~Goethe, by attribution

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