Sunday, December 17, 2017

Tweede kop vrij

I visited the Netherlands some years ago, when my parents were stationed there with the Air Force. This was during the Cold War. In the Netherlands, if you order a cup of coffee in any eatery, they bring you a cup—not a mug—of coffee, on a saucer, with a cookie on the saucer. The wait staff do not wander around, as they do in the States, with a pot of coffee to “top off” or refill anyone’s cup. If you order another cup of coffee, they will bring you a new cup, on a saucer, with a cookie, because you have place a second order. When the bill comes around, you will pay for each cup.

My parents kindly travelled with me by car from Soest, the Netherlands, to Chartres, France, on this particular visit, and, along the Dutch freeway, there was a restaurant, something akin to a truck stop in the States, and a sign on the freeway advertised that here you could have a “tweede kop vrij”—“second cup free.” We stopped there for lunch and when we wanted our “tweede kop” we got in line with a lot of Dutch people eager to enjoy this bargain.

Nowadays, when I get up Monday through Friday, I generally have a cup of coffee with my breakfast, but I am watching the clock, mindful that soon I have to hurry out the door and go to work. But on Saturdays I can leisurely have coffee with my breakfast, then have another cup comfortably seated in my living room, with my dog on my lap and a book or some knitting to occupy me. I love it. I remember that phrase and say to myself, “tweede kop vrij.”

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My home away from my home away from home

So a couple months ago I mentioned some plumbing issues, just an off-hand phrase. But it turned out the issues were serious—damaged floors and drywall. I started an insurance claim. A company came and packed up all my belongings, except my piano and the few things I took with me, and tore up most of my flooring and quite a bit of the drywall up to four feet high. This is a sample of what my home looks like now:

My insurance company found me a home away from home: Marriott Towneplace Suites in Bellingham, Washington. Ever since I got back from Ashland, I've been living there in a studio-type room that has a bed, desk, couch, and "kitchenette." My dog is with me:

Tonight, however, I am at the Salish Lodge, in Snoqualmie, Washington. (My dog is at the Hyline Hotel for Dogs, in Everson, Washington.) I am spending one night here prior to attending a work conference tomorrow. Our company got a deal because the Lodge either is or recently was renovating and had unbooked rooms. When the conference ends tomorrow evening, I'll drive back to my home away from home.

Right now, my home away from my home away from home is lovely. My co-worker and I got here around 5:00 p.m. and checked in. I have a room to myself that has a door to a little balcony outside, from which I can hear, though not see, the Snoqualmie River and Falls. The Salish Lodge is a spa, though I won't have a chance to do the spa-type stuff. But in my own room is a deep tub with jets:

That's practically like a spa already. When I joined the conference-goers for dinner, we were all expressing excited anticipation of going back to our rooms and taking baths. What's more is the rooms have wood-burning fireplaces, and you can open sliding screens to be able to see the fireplace from the tub.

I came back from dinner a few hours ago. The co-worker I came here with had advised me that she had asked if a hotel employee could light the fireplace for guests, and the answer was yes. I was glad to hear that. The instructions about opening the damper, lighting a rolled up newspaper, and holding it up the chimney to warm it up so it would draw were quite intimidating. So I called the front desk and shortly a friendly young fellow knocked at my door. He came in bearing a blow torch, and he used it to blow flames up the chimney and warm it up, then he used it to light the fire. I thanked him and he departed.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

That first cup of coffee

Just a brief note from Ashland, Oregon, where I am visiting the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Note: The B.C. smoke eventually blew away from Lynden, but here in Ashland, nearby wildfires are creating smoky air. Every evening at about 6:30 a "smoke committee" at the OSF has to determine if air quality permits the outdoor performance in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre. They have had to cancel several shows in the recent past. My sister-in-law and I have tickets for the performance there tonight of The Merry Wives of Windsor. If it gets cancelled I'll receive an email.

Anyway, today's episode is about my coffee dependency. When we checked in two days ago, there was a packet containing a coffee pod for use in the tiny automatic drip coffee maker in our room. I used it yesterday. This morning, I slept past the complimentary "Continental" breakfast offered by the hotel and, having no coffee in the room, decided to drive down the road to a Dutch Bros Coffee stand I noticed yesterday. My sister-in-law came along.

Walking to the car, I veered into a bush beside the sidewalk. Under the best of circumstances, I veer when I walk. It's a family trait. We don't walk a straight line. We zig-zag. My in-laws have all learned when walking with their spouses to expect him or her to bump into their arm every nine or ten paces before reeling off again to a distance of up to a yard away. For the most part, we avoid crashing into objects lining our path, but this morning, pre-coffee, I walked into a bush.

We got in the car and I backed out of the space, put the car in drive, and gently pressed the accelerator. No action. Eventually I realized I had the emergency brake on, loosed it, and we drove out of the parking lot onto Siskiyou Boulevard. I drove a little ways before my sister-in-law suggested I pull out of the bike lane into the lane of traffic. I did.

I made it through the process of pulling up to the coffee stand, ordering, paying for, and receiving coffee without undue mishap. I got a drip coffee with cream, my sister-in-law a white chocolate mocha. We drove back. Before getting out of the car, I fished in my wallet for the room key, which is a card, not a key. You wave it in front of the door handle and the lock clicks open, a green light flashes, and you can open the door.

We got up to the door and I waved my card around to no avail. I looked more closely at it to see if I was holding it in the right direction and saw that in fact I was waving my Kaiser Permanente insurance card at the door. My sister-in-law came to my rescue and opened the door. We came in and I was finally able to drink my coffee and return what passes for normalcy.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Dry days

What's there to say today? We continue with the smoky skies. It would be nice if it would rain, but I don't see any rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future, just hot, dry weather. July and August are the hottest, driest months in the Pacific Northwest. The rest of the year, it's pretty reliable to get either a mixture of clear and rainy days or mostly rainy days. It's only this time of year that we get dry weather, and we don't get that every year. It is tradition that during the Northwest Washington Fair, which is always the 2nd or 3rd week of August, we get at least one rain shower. This year the fair is August 14-19, so we'll see.

This afternoon I took a long, deep nap. My plumbing issues have disrupted my routine. I don't like disruptions, and I do like routine. Anyway, I think I sat down to give my dog some one-on-one time. Petting and cuddling with a dog relieves stress. In my case, my stress was so relieved I sank into a deep sleep for several hours. It was a good sleep.

Apply as needed for stress relief.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Twilight Zone

Yet another day of gray-white sky, no distant views, and yellow atmosphere. Last night I slept at my sister-in-law's house (plumbing problems at my home) and when I came outside in the morning, the sun was a red disk through the haze. It really was like that song line, "The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball." Maybe the person who wrote that lived in an area with a lot of pollution in the atmosphere. It was like this:

I did not take this picture. I downloaded it from Fox News. When I saw the morning sun shining like a red rubber ball, it was higher in the sky and looked smaller. But it was just as red.

This atmosphere gives a sense of weirdness to the day, hence the title of this post. The light is like twilight, and it's weird like the Twilight Zone.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Blowing smoke

Well, the smoky skies continue. Now there's a fire in the Chuckanut Mountains, about 30 miles south of where I live, in addition to the fires north of here in B.C.  Here is a map where I've circled my town, Lynden, and the part of Chuckanut that is in Skagit County (I live in Whatcom County):

I got the map by doing a screen shot of Google Maps' topographical image of the area, cropping it a bit, and using Paint to draw circles. Most of what's known as Chuckanut is in Whatcom County, but the news says the fire is in Skagit, so that leaves just that little triangle I've circled as the general location.

The air quality is bad, but I've spent the day indoors, breathing air-conditioned air. Nice.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Not a cloud in the sky

The other day, I saw a news item warning of excessive heat—telling people to stay hydrated (isn't it interesting we say that now, instead of "drink lots of water") and talking about the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Yuck, thought I.

So this morning, knowing we were in for hot weather, I was expecting glaring sunshine. But when I drove my car to work, my first thought on pulling out of our cul-de-sac and driving east was, "What a weird sky." It was overcast, but not in a way I had ever seen. I thought it must portend some bizarre weather. It was hazy, just hanging at a certain height, obscuring the hills.

On my lunch break, I saw on the internet that smoke from wildfires in British Columbia is blowing into western Washington. That's why the sky looked different from anything I'd ever seen in Washington before, because it wasn't cloud cover, it was smoke.

I downloaded this satellite image, so I could mark about where my town is, but the original is here, and the caption for the photo says, "Photo from NASA MODIS satellite taken on Aug. 1, 2017 showing wildfire smoke spreading south into Western Washington (Photo: NASA/MODIS)":