zondag, februari 26, 2006

Warmth and a dog

We now have heat. And electricity. (The electrician was here for about 30 minutes and got everything going again. It was just a loose wire.)

Yesterday, I put in a doggy door. I guess it's really a cat door since we don't have a dog yet. We're going to look at one tonight, though. We're not in a hurry to get one, but we're looking.
We looked at one yesterday - a cute little mutt we found on the internet.
I'm starting to wonder if looking for dogs on the internet might be kinda like looking for dates on the internet. . . Anyway, as I said, a cute little dog.

To get to the dog, we took a couple of buses and ended up in what appeared to be a decent neighborhood. The dog lived on the fourth floor of an apartment building. We took the elevator up, and heard barking the minute we stepped out. We wondered if that could possibly be "our" dog. We got closer, and it became apparent it was.

We knocked and the door opened. We were greeted by overpowering and unmistakable smell of dog shit. And all the while, the dog is barking and running around with her tail between her legs as though she's about to be attacked.

Standing in the door was an man with a half-dressed child held in the crook of his arm, perched over his huge belly. The man tried to maintain eye contact with both of us, hoping, I think, that by doing this we would wonder what had happened to his missing teeth rather than notice that his dog was completely deranged and foaming at the mouth.

Stimulated as we were by the surroundings, we still managed to notice both. After inviting us in, we noticed that dried remnants of the dog's "mistakes" were present all over his laminate floor. After trying to convince us of what a good dog she was, he decided to leave us alone with the dog for a moment while he changed his kid. I, frankly, was somewhat surprised and thrilled that he didn't put the child on the floor and change him there. Meanwhile, the dog continued to run around and bark, completely freaked out and sounding like a banshee.

Ian and I said nothing. After our stunned eyes met, we jointly made our way to the door to give our regrets. The guy wasn't having any of it. In a last ditch effort to close the sale (75 Euros), he quickly picked up the dog with the arm that didn't have a child slung over it and pushed the dog in Ian's general direction. The dog immediately started snapping like a cornered shark, but luckily his teeth never connected with Ian's flesh.

The guy then said that, really, the only problem with the dog was that she didn't like to be left alone. Then he pointed to the hole she had chewed out of the wall; apparently as proof of his statement.

Ian and I looked at each other and said, "Huh," and again gave our regrets and made our way out into the daylight.

We're not deterred. Tonight, we have a date with another dog. This one is labeled and "a beginner's dog." We can't wait to see what that means...

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zondag, februari 19, 2006


We got our central heat working. Then we lost it. We'll have it again tomorrow. In the meantime, we DO have a working fireplace, so it ain't all bad.

A couple of days ago, workers came out and installed new gas pipes. Our central heat is by radiators. It was the gas pipes, though, not the water, that were shot. The builders confirmed we had bad gas leaks. Blow up the block bad. I still don't like the way the first builders tried to use information concerning our pipe leaks to their advantage, but they didn't lie about the gas pipes needing to be replaced.

The replacement wasn't as straightforward as you would think. For some reason, our furnace (ore kettle, as they call them here) is out in the shed. The gas line to it runs under our garden. So the gas men had to dig a hole through our backyard in order to replace the pipe.

Then they hooked up the fireplace (and our stove - until now, the kitchen had been all electric).

It was great to have heat again. And until yesterday, everything was good. The house seemed to get a little cold. I thought maybe it was all in my head. Ian didn't notice a thing.
This morning, I could see my breath again.
This time, it's something electric. All the lights outside and in the shed are also out. So tomorrow, an electrician will come.

In the meantime, I finished the fireplace.

It puts out quite a bit of heat - so at least it's warm downstairs. We're hoping the electrical problem won't require a complete rewire, but at least we'll have some heat if it does. And believe it or not, there's still some of Ian's wine left from his promotion - life's good.

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vrijdag, februari 17, 2006

An old injury revisited.

Back in the early 80's, I lived on a sailboat in the Monterey harbor for a couple of years. That's really not really the subject of the post, but here are a couple of pictures of me, my backyard, and the schooner I lived on.

Maybe eventually I'll write down some of the stories of how I ended up buying and living on a boat, and what the life of a boat bum was like but for this story, the important thing to know is that the boat was moored out in the bay, not in a slip. That means that in order to get out to the boat, I would row, row, row my (little) boat, gently down the . . . umm . . marina

and into the harbor to my big boat.

I usually did this at least a couple times a day because I shared the boat with the best dog in the whole, wide world, Blue, and Blue, being the best dog in the whole, wide world, never ever peed in the boat. Not even on the deck.

She did throw up once in a storm while we were sailing, but then, so did every human being on board, so I didn't begrudge her that. But Blue's not the reason for this post, either, although the life we shared deserves several.

Sometimes, if there was a storm, I wasn't able to row so gently. The reason for this post has to do, peripherally, with one of those times. When the sea was rough and I had to get to land, I would frequently take a shortcut. Instead of rowing all the way in (about 6 - 8 city blocks), I would just row to Fisherman's wharf (about 2 city blocks).

Once there, I would secure the oars, tie the dinghy up underneath the wharf, then, standing on the "seat" in the middle of the dinghy, I would reach up and grab the sides of big hole in the pier decking next to an old diving bell that would take tourists to the bottom of the harbor. Then I would haul myself up through the hole. I had to do this gently, because if I pushed off the dinghy too hard, it was likely to swamp. Once through the hole, it was easy to take the stairs up to the topside of the wharf.

It was a little dicey at times because the dinghy would sway up and down with the surf and side to side with the tide. Anyway, one time while I did this, just after I caught hold of the sides of the hole, the dinghy dropped several feet before I was ready for it. I held on, but by the time the dinghy rose to the level of my feet again and I could drop down into it, I had really screwed up my shoulder. In reality, I also injured my back.

From that time on, I've had trouble with my back and shoulder going out of alignment. I've gone to lots of chiropractors but have only had temporary relief. I've said several times to friends that I feel like someone just needs to take a hammer and pound my spine back into place.

Well. Imagine my surprise today as I'm lying on the table in my manual therapist's office and I see him pick up a mallet. He then gets one of those little rubber things that docs use on your knee to test your reflexes and he places that on one side of my spine. Then, and I swear I'm not making this up, he starts hammering. On. My. Spine. With a hammer.

And you know what? It kinda hurt.

The pounding, in truth only 6-8 blows total, got progressively harder. With the last one, which was very hard, I felt an electric shock and literally saw flashes of light. Then I started laughing because it was so incredibly absurd and perfect. "Ja", he said. "Is beter?"

Ja, beter.

I love this country.

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zaterdag, februari 11, 2006

IKEA, revisited

When I first moved here, Ian couldn't wait to get me on a tram and take me to IKEA. "You are going to LOVE it," said he.

He was wrong, wrong, wrong. I didn't love anything about it. It was too crowded, the merchandise looked cheap, and everything seemed to be lime green or some other color that I didn't like last time it was in style, either.

As I've said before, I've loved it here from the beginning. It was a good move and I don't regret it at all. Even so, over the last several years I've gone through a mysterious transformation; a kind of gradual "Europeanizing". When I first got here, I wasn't crazy about IKEA, 3 hour dinners, toilet paper that doubled as sandpaper and toilets that had cold-water-only sinks and no towels.

Now, I live for 3 hour dinners. And although I haven't entirely embraced the utilitarian spirit of the European toilet, I no longer cringe when I encounter one. (Heck, we have one ourselves, and although we try to keep it stocked with towels I frequently leave with my hands still wet.)
As for IKEA, it ranks somewhere between the the dinneers and the toilet. Sorry about that word picture. What I meant was that a lot of the merchandise in IKEA continues to look cheap to me and I'm still not crazy about lime green. But every once in awhile, I see something that is so wonderful and unexpected that it makes everything else in the store worth putting up with.

Now that we have no heat, this is one of those things:

I love these things. They were my stock Christmas present this year. I was talking to my brother about them after he opened his. He said his daughter put hers on and hopped down the stairs. It's a lawsuit waiting to happen. Still, we both agreed that although it's hard to walk in them, we liked everything about them. It got me thinking. Wouldn't it be great, I thought, to cut them in half so that you could walk in them? I was trying to think of what to call them. Then, it hit me - "slippers". They would be called slippers.

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vrijdag, februari 10, 2006

Fireplace update

So. We have no heat and won't until Tuesday. And it's cold. Freezing or below for the next several days. It's supposed to warm up on, you guessed it, Tuesday.

As it turns out, our builder forgot to tell us that in order to get the new pipes in, he would have to cut through our new wood floor. We weren't too crazy about that idea, so we said that we would have to wait for our floor people to cut the hole. He said that was fine, and that he was sorry, but he would have to cut off our gas. So, because we gave the job to someone else, he did. Then he left.

He did this, of course, for our safety. The lack of gas would protect us from the gas leak. Now, remember that for the past several days the builder has known about the alleged gas leak, but didn't think about turning off the gas for our own protection. It was only after we told him that we didn't want him to do any more work for awhile that the leak became important enough to prevent by actually capping off our gas meter and removing about a foot of our pipe - which, I discovered after he left, he took with him.

I was livid, but couldn't stop him. Apparently, says Ian, he has the power to do what he did. As a result, Ian and I are sitting in our living room bundled up. And drinking. I mean, really, what else can you do?

We've worked out our plan of action. The people who laid our floor - and were great - are going come out and give us access to the space under the floor on Tuesday afternoon. We also called a gas guy who has worked for us before - and was great - and he will come out on Tuesday evening to give us heat. He'll also test to see if there ever was a leak. I think the answer to that is a coin toss.

I haven't explained this very well. I'm not sure if that's because my breath is so solid that it's fogging up the laptop screen or that the red wine is doing its job.

Whatever. In the meantime, the fireplace is set. We'll need to plaster the surround, but at least we know now what it's going to look like. Overall we like it. Ian said he likes it well enough that he would do it all again. I said that I think maybe I would rather have taken a trip around the world -- which, given what we've paid for this dang thing at this point, one of us could have done. I would probably like it better if we could turn it on and get a little warmth from it, but oh well.

The really nice thing, though, is that I couldn't be happier. Not with the fireplace, although in reality I do like it. More with guy I share my life with. I can't imagine going through this process with anyone else. With Ian, although it was touch and go around 9:30 this morning, by 10:00 everything was good and we had talked it out and decided on what we were going to do.

Now all that's left to do is to . . . uh . . . drink to our happiness.

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donderdag, februari 09, 2006

Ian and Scott get a new fireplace

We finally got the fireplace that's been sitting for months in three boxes in front of the chimney out of the boxes! The fireplace is one of those things that we're not doing ourselves. We've waited for three months - all the builders have been busy. But finally they've started. Three days - that's how long it takes to put in a fireplace if there are no problems.
Day 1

The main thing that happened the first day was the insertion of a big tube down the chimney. Actually, it was pulled up through the chimney. The worst thing that could happen at this step is that the tube would get stuck. Then, the chimney somehow needs to be enlarged to get the tube all the way up to the top. Luckily, the weather outside on top of the roof was clear and the tube went up without a problem.

The next terrifying step was to cut the existing chimney out so the new fireplace could be inserted directly under the chimney. The fear here, of course, is that the chimney will fall down during this step - this was the main reason we hired this work done. Again, not a problem. The chimney stayed put.

Day two (yesterday), the fireplace was inserted. This happened while I was working the first day of a new job, fighting a bad cold after the three hour commute.
Everything went great. From here it's all downhill.
Or so we thought. I found out when I got home that our gas pipes are leaking. A lot. Ian let me in on the options.
So the today (third day) the job of laying new copper gas pipes began. Another ten days and we'll have new gas lines and our fireplace should be working.
I'll post pictures when there's anything you can see. I think most of the work will be done beneath the floors, and ... well, it's all about spiders down there, so until the work is above ground, you'll just have to use your imagination.
In the meantime, I think even half a fireplace is better than having those boxes in the living room.

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vrijdag, februari 03, 2006

Bike clean up

All the work on the house has taken its toll. My back is a mess. Luckily, I've found a really great manual therapist. He says my spine is torqued and is putting me through some excrutiating pain to get it straightened out. I think it's helping. He says the migraines I have been having for the past who knows how many years should go away, which would be wonderful. I've been twice now, and he thinks it'll be cleared up in another two visits.
Anyway, I went today for my second visit. I left a little early, so decided to bike down the Oudegracht and stop in at the library. As I came back, I saw a sight that probably isn't very common anywhere but here. As it turns out, an unreal number of bikes somehow end up in the canals. As a result, they're routinely sccoped out of the canals by canal boats.

I watched for awhile, then went to the doctor to be put through, well, more pain than Kisten ever put me through, for those of you who have experienced her. I have really missed her massages from hell. The nice thing about this guy, though, is that our health insurance covers him. So for a while now, I'll get a massage on Wednesday from a fysiotherapist, then get the real deal from this guy on Friday. And it's all covered.
I love this country.

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Wow. Another month since I've updated. Here's what our front yard/street/bike path looked like yesterday evening.
Ian says that in Utrecht (15 minutes east of here on bike), they didn't get any snow at all. There's still some on the ground here in De Meern as I write this. And there's a beautiful stork on the stone wall in our back garden. Hmmm. I wonder what that means. I was going to take a picture, but by the time I got set up, it flew away.

I wonder if I'll ever get the house construction pics up? As I wrote to a blogger buddy, when I have time to blog there's not much to write. When life takes me on a ride, there's not time to write.

Ian's mom is coming for the weekend. She's bringing curtains with her. Ian and I went shopping for the material in Utrecht some time ago. Did I mention that the biggest fabric market in The Netherlands is there? Several blocks of city streets are blocked off every Saturday and the vendors set up stalls and sell fabric. incredible fabric. I'm sure I have a picture somewhere...

Here we go. This is Natalie on her last visit. I'd ask her permission to post it, but she never reads this anyway. In her opinion, blogs are all about self-absorbed people and she has no time for that sort of thing. I suppose she's right...

And here's one of the street where the market is held.

And now that I've finally posted something again, I need to pick my self-absorbed self up off this sofa, get a cup of coffee and greet the day.

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