Monthly Archives: June 2013

Lessons from an Amsterdam houseboat

photo 1This summer, on our annual trek to visit family and friends in the Netherlands, we decided to stay in the heart of Amsterdam, in one of the many houseboats that line the canals. It’s tiny and it’s cramped and it’s noisy, but honestly, our little boat couldn’t be more perfect. The grocery store is around the corner, the bikes are at the front door, and the entire city is at our feet.

Here are a few things we’ve learned in the past week or so ::

  1. Geese are bullies. They will swim right up to your open window, stretch their beak wide, and honk, loudly and often. None of them will give me any indication of what they want. A bit of conversation? A giant hunk of bread? For us to get out of their canal? I don’t know. All I do know is that as water fowl go, they’re the ones most deserving of their place, stuffed and roasted, on a Christmas platter.
  2. A plaque on the living room wall kindly requests we not feed the canal birds — not even the adorable (and quiet) little mother ducks who swim by, a row of fuzzy babies trailing behind — in order to keep the canals free of rats. Um, say what? There are rats in our canal? That makes me almost feel sorry for the geese.
  3. When the sun is out, as it has been most of our time here so far, the people of Amsterdam take to the terraces, the streets, the canals. Some of the boats that putter by our houseboat are so old and rusty, so loaded down with passengers and crates of Heineken, it’s a minor miracle they’re still afloat. None of the riders seem to mind that it’s 50 degrees and windy or that their feet are standing in a few inches of water — though they probably wouldn’t look so happy if they knew about the rats.
  4. Fphotoolks in Amsterdam ride their bikes faster than me. Faster than the rest of the citizens of the Netherlands. Like, way faster. I’ll be pedaling and puffing down the Prinsengracht, working up a light sweat and zoom! A woman flies by, her bike loaded down with a couple of kids, giant grocery bags dangling from each handlebar, a folded-up stroller tucked under one arm, leaving me coughing in her dust. Seriously? I work out. I bust my butt at spinning. Still, I see a lot more FlyWheel in my future.
  5. Sound carries, and I mean carries, over water. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I know a lot more about our neighbors than their taste in music… and likely they about us.

Check out http://www.iamsterdam.com for more on this fabulous city.

Gone Surfin’

freepressjournal.in

photo from freepressjournal.in

Today’s post is, in an effort to keep it simple, a share of my favorite websites. Have a click around, hope you find something you like!

For inspiration on DIY and homey things (though I just like to drool, and particularly love the Before & After posts): Apartment Therapy

When I want to disconnect with mindless celebrity stuff or, conversely, read about real, everyday people who inspire: People Magazine

To poke around philosophical questions of existence and the universe: SoulPancake

To all at once love each thing my eyes take in and feel a kick in the pants for not creating more: Kelly Rae Roberts

For heart-warming (and often eye-opening) takes on of-the-moment news: Upworthy

To “stand up” for something: SU2C

And then those I’m on daily: Facebook, Yahoo, Dictionary.com (because words are important, and so are their meanings).

What sites would you add to my list?

When Your Child Becomes Your Tenant…

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Opinions abound on this subject and I’d like to hear your views. Many of you are mothers and perhaps have children who have graduated high school. I have a 19-year-old son Dylan. Believe me, I’ve gotten all kinds of advice but I find it intriguing how varied the views are on this topic.

Of course as a parent I want Dylan to learn how to be responsible which is why my husband and I told him after he graduated high school he had to do two things: go to college and get a job. He’s done both. Now he’s saving for a car and his father has said he’ll help him buy one, perhaps matching dollar-for-dollar what Dylan saves.

People have told me we should at least charge him a hundred dollars or so for room and board and perhaps make him do his own wash and cooking and take the bus wherever he wants to go, i.e. no more dependence on me.

I have a hard time suddenly classifying my son as a “tenant”, i.e. that I should charge him rent to live in his own home just because he no longer attends high school.

What do you all think about this?

The Ducklings Are Coming

Duck TalesFor the last few weeks, we’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of our ducklings. You see, ever since we moved onto our acreage and built a big pond at the back of the property, we’ve had a pair of mallard ducks stop to nest. We’ve even had a few broods hatch and within weeks, the mama duck is parading them through the yard or teaching them to swim. The photo to the left is of the female duck as she walked past the basement window.

Sometimes, though, the local predators get the eggs before they hatch. If that happens, the ducks search for a new nesting spot.

This year, while my DH was using the grass trimmer along the edge of the front yard, the mama duck came flapping out of a spreading juniper we have in the front flower bed. Later, when he used the small tractor to mow in that area, she came flapping out of the juniper again.

That’s when we realized our mama duck was nesting in the front yard next to the driveway.

IMG_0399She’s been sitting on her eggs for at least two weeks and the incubation period is roughly 28 days. So we’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the new brood. She’s even gotten used to the roar of the trimmer and tractor as my DH takes care of his grass duties.

Sometimes while I’m working in the flowerbed, I’ll peek between the branches of the juniper and see her sitting there, keeping her eggs warm. She flies out only to feed and go for a quick swim in the pond, and then she heads back to her nest to sit some more.

While I finish up the last of the edits on my upcoming book, Always Remember, our family is eagerly anticipating the arrival of our new guests. They’re camera shy, but I’m hoping this year I’m quick enough to get some pictures.

Here’s a few facts about mallard ducks:

1) They mate for life.

2) If predators destroy their nest and eggs, the ducks will lay another batch of eggs anywhere between two to four additional times that year. In other words, they don’t give up!

3) If a mama duck is attacked while in her nest, she will fly away, and only when the danger has passed will she return.

4) While the mama ducks are sitting dutifully on their nest of eggs, the papa ducks are off galavanting with their buddies. I’ve read that they stay near the female duck and nest, in order to protect them, but this year, I haven’t seen the male duck anywhere near the main yard.

Do you have any ducks or other wild animals making their home in your area or any duck/wild animal tales to tell?

In Defense of Marriage

My mom, sister, and I recently went on a girl’s trip to Charleston, South Carolina for a long weekend. Over our three-day adventure, our routine became this: we’d get up, eat breakfast, and head out on foot to explore. We hit all the stores, the outdoor market, and the beautiful mansions along the water. I bought fun gifts for my family, myself, and even a few birthday gifts for friends. We had a wonderful time together.

Me and my sister, Kim. (I'm on the right)

My Sister, Kim, and Me in Charleston

Most afternoons we’d poop out around three and head back to the hotel to rest before venturing out for dinner. During those few vegging hours, we usually had the TV on my mom and sister’s favorite channel, HGTV. I have to admit I don’t watch much TV, however they were very well versed in the shows that aired.

During some sort of marathon of shows that involved couples looking for a new home in their price range, I noticed a trend I found very disturbing. Every couple—every one—was not married. Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m a traditional and conservative person, but that doesn’t mean I’m naïve to the fact that many people live together. Heck, my husband and I (then boyfriend) practically lived together in college.

What I found so astounding was that these couples were willing to share finances, children, pets, furniture, and mortgages with one another, but not marriage. And it begs the question, why?

It seems to me if you’re going to tangle your lives so completely with someone that you’re buying a home together, then why not get married? If the person you’re going to sign mortgage papers with isn’t someone you want to sign a marriage license with, then what’s the point?

As a mother, I’d be very disappointed with my children if they told me they were buying a home with their boyfriend/girlfriend and yet they had no plans to marry. Am I being too old fashioned? I’m a romance writer and my stories end with couples getting married. For them, marriage is the golden pot at the end of the rainbow.

Maybe, in light of this trend, I should have my characters walk into a bank to sign mortgage papers instead of walking down the aisle.

Somehow that doesn’t sound as romantic…

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