Bicycles in the Netherlands

To answer a few questions about the actual cycling

Melissa asked about our boat, the Liza Marlen. Melissa, I have failed you. I didn’t take many photos of the actual boat. But, there were several bike and barge tours during the same time as ours.


I should have taken a photo of my bedroom. It was so *teeny* that I walked in and was puzzled trying to figure out where the rest of the room was. Luckily Trena and I didn’t have to share as originally planned because the room could not have held both of our suitcases. But, you were hardly in the room so it barely mattered.

Thanks to Darci and Marie-Christine, I rewashed my clothes a few times with vinegar and borax and am odor free! I’m also tracking down Biz on another commenter’s suggestion.

Toby asked how windy was it. Well, it’s windy! It’s true Holland is relatively flat. But, the wind can make cycling hard.

I managed not to ride on the super windy day (I rode the boat into Amsterdam so I would have time to go to the Dutch Resistance Museum and the Rijksmuseum). But, I got a feel for it biking and I was glad I didn’t have my cape. I could just see myself blowing across the road in to a canal like a sailboat!

Weather: I was cold at night and by the end of the trip wished I had brought an actual coat with a scarf. Brrrr.

Riding: Well, I rode five out of the seven days and did fine. I was only sore on one day. I was in the middle of the pack of riders. And, oddly enough was more comfortable the times I had to ride in the street with cars than I was on the bike path. I guess that’s what I’m used to! I did ride to and from work on Friday and it was the first time I wasn’t wiped out and breathless on my all uphill ride home. So, I guess I did actually get some conditioning in while I was gone.

Now, on to the meat of this post!

I cannot express to you how many bicycles there are in Holland. And, how everyone, and I mean everyone rides one. In fact, there are 16 million bikes in the Netherlands and 16.5 million people. So seriously, everyone has a bike. I asked Sigrid when do children start learning to ride and she said, ‘As soon as they can walk!”

There are barges to carry bicycles and cars across the canals


Here is the bicycle parking lot


What makes the Netherlands an ideal biking country is the intricate bicycle network and infrastructure. Here’s an example

Above, you can see seperate signage pointing bicycles in the right direction and telling you how far something is

There are certain elements to Dutch (Oma) bike that I wanted in my new bike (the Trek Allant). These included fenders, stepthrough frame and an upright position. My actual Gazelle bike in the Netherlands was so heavy I actually could not lift it. But, because of the non hilly terrain you wouldn’t event know.

Prior to my trip I ordered several panniers (one set not pictured) that Sigrid kindly agreed to accept delivery of for me. They were on sale there and with the free shipping ended up being almost half the price as they are here in the US.

These has enclosed clips that allow me to easily attach them to my back rack.

This summer I’ll make some skirt gaurds too.

These prevent your skirt or coat from getting caught in the back wheel

And now, I have got to start working on a dress for the Seersucker Social in DC. Just two weeks away!

Please, treat the artwork with respect

Because of usually high temps (which were a boon for us) the field of tulips I remembered never materialized. Because of the warmth, the tulips bloomed early. But, happily there were still some in the fields.

This also made me realize it was 23 years to the same Mother’s Day weekend I had been in the Netherlands the first time! I remember because I bought my mom roses and a black corduroy  skirt from a flea market. I think she still has the skirt actually.

I think the memory of the tulips all those years ago cemented them as my favorite flowers.

Luckily we stopped at Keukenhof where the curators were keeping the flowers alive out of doors and inside a massive greenhouse / display.

They had displays up in a pagent manner for different dresses.

*cough*  I may have stood in line to pose with  in the wedding dress.

There were many tulips to see at the gardens which were beautifully curated

My favorite memory of the garden though is this sculpture and sign.

Click to enlarge

“Please. Treat the artwork with respect.”

You know, don’t tease the artwork because it’s not Michaelangelo’s David! It’s not the scultpure’s fault he wasn’t made into the Thinker. Not everyone can be Lady Justice! Show some respect! Heh. I know. I’m juvenile.

In Which I Eat My Way Through Holland

How can you travel without eating any and everything? Plus, I convinced myself that biking each day would cancel out all the foods I planned to inhale.

My first foray into Dutch food was a big fat serving of  frites with mayonaise. Possibly this was something I ate almost daily. I’m not sold on the mayo, but ketchup wasn’t hard to come by.

On board the boat, we were also treated to amazing Indonesian food and a special breakfast of crepes and poffertjes. The poffertjes were so good that when I got together with sewing friends on Saturday, we sought them out at the open air market.

Poffertjes, little puffy pancakes served with powder sugar or syrup.

Trena and I both caved for stroopwafels. Now,  I’ve had them pre-packed from Trader Joe’s so I had a sense of what they would be like.

But, let me tell you that popping hot fresh ones made to order are the things dreams are made from.

Our last night’s dinner was at Bolhoed (the Dutch word for a bowler hat) in Amsterdam.

I had the Bolhead special with fresh white Dutch asparagus. Can I just tell you I bought strawberries at the market that actually tasted sweet and like strawberries?!?

A dining companion went with the quiche.

Trena, had chocolate.

I’m also happy to report that beer costs as much as bottled water in the restaurants. I don’t actually like beer so I thought I’d try a lambic. Trena thinks it tasted like cough syrup.

How Do We Know Each Other? Oh, You Know. The Internet.

Our fellow travelers asked Lynn, Trena and I how we knew each other. It was great fun explaining and how we had friends in the Netherlands. We gathered together in a little town called Nieuwport. How cute is this City Hall? The canal flows right underneath.

It really warms your heart to know how generous our community is. Really. These days, isn’t the most precious gift time?  I was looking forward to this ALL week. And not in that, ‘What will we talk about? What will we do? I hope they like me!” kind of looking forward. But, the ‘Woot! Woot! I’m going to see long lost friends!!” looking forward.

I was rather sad about missing PR Weekend in Chicago last weekend. It looks like it was the biggest turnout ever. But, honestly? This was just as good!
I had the pleasure of first meeting up with Sigrid, JoanaMarta, Hilde in a little town called Nieuwport. And truly, when you start talking, you feel like you’ve known them forever. I also learned that in the Netherlands, you greet with three kisses on the cheek. You can believe I’m going to be whipping that one out  at my next greeting.

Lynn, Trena and I joined them for some espressos, tea and wine.

Joana wanted our opinion on some handbags she crafted. I tried to buy the velvet bag Sigrid is holding below but Joana wasn’t selling them yet.

The time flew! The next thing I knew it was minutes to 10:00 p.m.! We’d kept them out all night.

I have to go on the record here to say that there is nothing better than traveling overseas and meeting people you ‘know’ that you never thought you would actually meet. It shows you how small the world is and how far reaching the internet has become. This is officially my thing. Wither I goest, you will be called / e-mailed / stalked until you agree to meet with me. I really cannot express how much I enjoyed my evening.

Plus, we left with magazines!

I’ll post about our second rendezvous seperately which was a visit to Kantje Boord. Be still my heart.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I’m back from a week in Holland! The weather cooperated and it was gorgeous just about every single day. The one day it rained in the morning, I decided to stay on the boat while others cycled. It was perfect, I took pictures along the canals and caught up on some reading.

I have to say after seven days on a boat I swore the ground was moving underneath me at Amsterdam Airport!

Here’s a quick rundown of what I wore during the week. While there for seven days, I just have a few photos because I was washing every night in my sink.

RTW top purchased in Panama. Patrones skirt from issue #252.

New black Burda bubble skirt from August 2007 mag. Top so old I don’t remember making it. I think it’s a Vogue. And it’s clearly before I knew how to do an FBA. Or that I needed one. Dude.

Blue version of Burda bubble skirt and anonymous Vogue top. This top is at least seven years old. Even in my sports bra this top screams FBA ME!!

Burda tunic from August 2008 magazine. I wore this a bit more than planned. It was great on the cooler days and it was the only top I brought with sleeves.

I also worked in about three RTW Under Armour sleeveless tops with two different zip up hoodies for layering.

Now, truth be told. I put the knits in the washer last night with Tide Sport and a healthy dose of ammonia. I don’t know that these tops (and dress) are going to make it. They smelled a little funky after a serious washing. That being said, two of the tops are so old I can’t remember making them and the new top and dress won’t kill me to remake my dress.

Per my routine, I have half a dozen travel posts mentally planned and will just throw them up as I complete them. I can’t wait to tell you about the sewing friends meet up(s)!

Final photo: I try and get pictures of mail boxes in different countries. There were two styles in the Netherlands and I seem to have just captured one. Pooh.

I take mailbox photos because they are something that exist everywhere, but each country has their own spin. I am sad to report that due to my clumsiness, my backup hard drive that stored my mailbox photos died :( So, I’m starting my collage / collection all over again.

Peace Out

After blathering about it incessantly, Trena and I are finally leaving today for our bicycle trip to the Netherlands.  There isn’t internet on board the barge so I’m not bringing my netbook. So, no blogging while I’m gone. You’ll just have to suffer a barage of posts  of my nattering on about the daily minutiae of biking through the Netherlands when I get back.

I sold my pink and black Trek and bought this one last month

I’m packing two skirts, four tops and traveling in jeans. Between that, my rain gear, my beauty products and other technology — I’ve got a packed suitcase. In addition, there are some things I’ve ordered online that I’m picking up in the Netherlands. This does not compare favorably with my disciplined bestie. LOL. I’m hearing reports of beautiful weather and just three days of scattered showers.

I do plan to meet up with some Euroean bloggers and am plotting to clean out Kantje Boord while in Amsterdam. Oh, and track down some new-to-me notions recommended by Els.

Hopefully, my consumption of cheese and Belgian frites will be balanced by pedaling 30 miles a day.

See you when I get back!

Of *course* there’s room for one more

I say you can never have too many sewing machines.


Meet my new Singer 301, the mocha colored big sister to my  black Featherweight.  I had already spied this 301 on Craigslist before getting down here. I emailed her before leaving and she still had it available. We picked it up on Wednesday morning. I’m in love. Hopefully I can show what I’ve been working on before leaving Florida on Sunday. For now I’m going to keep it at my parent’s place.

The case smelled like the Playboy club in the mid 60s. REEKED of smoke. It was so bad we drove it home with the windows open. It’s currently full of kitty litter and sitting outside full time.  After two days it smells much better! We’re now working on the mildew smell.

I bought this one while visiting my parents in Florida. The woman I purchased it from has well over a dozen machines of her own, mostly treadles. She tried to leave the case outside to air out and it didn’t help. Here she is at the County Fair giving a demonstration on one of her treadles.

This  Minnesota machine was made for the Sears Roebuck company. You can see the company’s name on the base. Beautiful.

I also got my first chance to try a hand crank machine. This is one I would definitely buy if I had the chance.

I’d like to tell you I’m all done buying sewing machines. But, I’m not. LOL. That, a grasshopper by Elna, a white Featherweight, Singer Genie and  a pink Necchi are all on my list to accquire some day.

Click to enlarge some photos of her other machines from the Fair:

So far, Florida has been great. My dad and I hit the County Fair and Youth Livestock Show.

I may have also sucked down a big plate of fried green tomatoes. I’ve tried to make them at home once. But, these were fantastic.

I’d go back to the fair for more if I didn’t have to pay parking and the admission fee. Oh, who am I kidding. I still may go back for more.

(Fur) Collar and Earmuffs

When I was in Shanghai I stumbled across a fur vendor in the cloth market. A Ukrainian friend brought me a hat two years ago from silver fox. Last year she came back with a matching muff. The hat is a little impractical because it’s not quite cold enough here. And it got a little gross from my hair products. It cost more to clean it last winter than it did to make

In Shanghai, I purchased a fur collar ($15) to dress up my crappy coat.

The best detail is that there are little elastic button loops. So, it’s removable. I’ve already sewn little buttons on to my coat collar.

The earmuffs ($15) I will get a lot of wear from. I rarely need a hat. But, my ears are always cold.

I think the collar is a little poofier than I thought it would be. But, it’s totally inspired me to look for good coating. It’s time to definitely make a coat.


** I realize some people have an issue with fur. To each thier own. I personally don’t. Well, I do have an issue with floor length coats. A little too Superfly for me.

Magical Thinking and Big in China

Well. Not *really* big. There were plenty of women taller than me or the same height. But, buildwise? I am HUGE. I went from a medium here at home to an Extra Large in China.

As mentioned, I only took one pair of shoes with me to China. Good, comfortable walking shoes purchased days before I left.

They started coming apart at the Baltimore aiport. By Day Four, I was seriously worried about them lasting me until the end especially because we had a trip planned to the Great Wall (never made it). I managed to get a quick repair on the street for 8 RMB (a little over a $1 US). Please don’t think I found this guy on my own! I showed my shoes to the concierge and he walked me outside and up the street to this man.

He operated out of a cart and hand stitched the sole back to the upper leather shoe.

I loved his sewing machine complete with a stool for customers to sit on.

And, since I had a new traditional Chinese dress, I thought newer shoes were mandated. Especially because our college-age interpreters made a face when I told them I was going to wear my red shoes.

I bought these in a European size 40 (about an 8.5 to 9 in US sizes). I had to visit two stores before I found one that even carried my size! And even then, the sales clerk looked really doubtful. These shoes are beautiful. But, cotton. I’m almost afraid to wear them! They were $10 US on sale.

Elizabeth accidetnally left her suit behind in Shanghai and needed a new dress in Xiamen. They had her size. In an Extra Large. Some dresses we looked at and before we could ask for our size, the poor sales clerk would just shake her head ‘no’.

I also indulged after falling in love with this shift dress. Also, an Extra Large. An XL with unmatched plaid. I have got to pay more attention in the store.

Cute, no?

Part of our tour in Beijing included a stop at a traditional Chinese medicine doctor.

For 20 RMB (about $3 US) you can get a 10 minute massage.

This doctor’s specialty is reading pulses. They say they can diagnose anything through your pulse.

He felt my pulse and told me through the interpreter that I had bad circulation which was impacting my sleep and aggravating my tendinitis. I asked for a little something to help with weight loss. I mean, if we’re engaging in magical thinking, I’ll take a pill that helps me lose 10 pounds. He told me I didn’t need to lose any weight but I needed to take a two $90 a month supplements of 20 pills at each meal to help my blood circulate better.

$180 a month for some ground up roots and seeds. I passed.

Well, this post generally concludes my travel blogging for China. Overall, it was a pretty amazing trip. And, it truly came at the right time for me. I welcomed the distraction. I left home in the middle of summer and now it’s cooling off and feels like fall. Time to start thinking and blogging about sewing again, eh? Thanks for following along this series and all of your comments of support. I’m always a little conscious of blogging ‘off topic’ and I’m glad you let me turn this blog into my travel journal.

Other Random China Bits

Helen and Queenie

** Unless I have some crazy revelations, this should be my next to last travel post about China. I tended to write outlines up each night while I was gone (have to do something with all the jetlag and no access to sewing blogs!) and revised and organized on my 14 hour flight back into the US. I probably should have strung my posts out through the week. But, I’m an instant bloggerfacation kind of girl.

One of my surprises about Xiamen is that they too have a fabric ‘mall’. Unfortunately, I know neither the name nor the address. When we got to Xiamen we were assigned interpreters from the local college. They were the cutest things. Sweet and helpful. My first day there I let them know I needed to have my qipao altered, Liz needed a dress made and I needed some garments copied for my boss. We found this mall on the second go round. They were shocked that I made my own clothes. Not that they had stuff made. They just shopped at the mall. Typical teenagers, right?

Again, similar set up as in Shanghai. But, the fabric choices were limited. More suitings and shirtings than fine silks and fun prints. There were also several dressmakers and tailors who operated seperately from thier fabric.

On the basement level I was in search of the quipa pattern book I spotted in one of the shops. Unfortunately I couldn’t find one.

But, I saw this woman making strings of beads and beading fabric in another room. Watching her made my eyes hurt.

This woman was sewing all of the little jewelry bags that we get pieces in.

I did find someone sewing uniforms and was puzzled. I kept thinking, ‘why don’t they just order uniforms?’ But, then I realized that this *i*s where our uniforms come from! It was eye opening.

But, I did stumble upon several supply stores and stocked up.

Zippers were half a yuan each (don’t hate me) about 8 cents each. Yes. 8 cents. I bought two dozen in black and took their assorted package. Oh. Definitely wishing I had bought more of the assorted zipper packs. These are all 22 inches long.

Buttons were also 10 cents each in Xiamen. I exercised great  control I think and bought these plus a gross of plain white shirt buttons. The gross was about $5 US.

And, the things I got which made my heart soar took true trans Pacific cooperation. While shopping in the supply store I saw they had industrial serger feet. Now, we all know that Gigi has been sewing it up in Florida binding any and everything. I  know I want to buy an industrial machine within the next year or two. So, I asked how much the feet were. $4 each. Say *what*?

Apparently, ‘Great Knives’ are made in Taiwan — visible from Xiamen’s shore.

I emailed Gigi that night (her morning) asking her what feet I would want to buy so I could stock up there. To the rescue, she sent me a list of feet to look for and for the binders, she even saved me the mental (well cell phone) calculations and listed the widths in metric! In *metric*

Since I bought so many feet, they sold the binders to me at $2 a each. $2. And the regular sewing feet for the industrial? 50 cents each.

I also bought sewing machine needles for $1.50 for a pack of 10. And, they say ‘Shanghai Shaggong Sewing Machine Company’. I would have bought them for that alone. Not pictured, two of the biggest rolls of elastic you’ve ever seen for little and nothing.

It was also on this trip that I experienced my first squat toilet. My mom warned me. Katharine in Brussels warned me (omg K. Thank you for telling me about the spitting before I got there). But, it’s something to behold the first time. If you think you won’t use one. Then, you just just don’t have to go badly enough. To be honest, in a skirt, it’s far more sanitary that a sit down toilet. But, I was not coordinated enough to work it out with pants.

BTW, it was hotter than hell in Xiamen

The only makeup I wore for ten days was Neutorgena sunblock. Which, sadly, dried white in my eyebrows and no one told me. I only realized it when I started uploading my photos, LOL.