I am not sure if anyone here knows, but there is a tiny mystery book club that meets most months in Wayzata, Minnesota that I am a part of. We meet for dinner at our favorite restaurant, talk books and catch up on our lives since the last time we met. If you are reading this blog, love mysteries and are interested in joining with us please let me know. New friends are so welcome! (Purchasing dinner is not required, but a glass or tea or soda along with a nice tip for the hard-working staff is appreciated).
For January 2023 our book will be “Murder Wears Mittens” by Sally Goldenbaum. This is the 12th book in the Seaside Knitters Society series. The reviews are good and my thought was that a nice cozy mystery was perfect for winter. Plus one of our members loves to knit, so this seemed appropriate!
Just a quick posting on what Forever has available for Christmas gifts. They have recently come out with a number of new products that I can help you with! These are above and beyond the traditional photo books and photo cards that you can typically purchase from a company such as Forever.
How about designing and printing the following with your favorite family photo(s): – Puzzles – Blankets – Mouse pads – Coasters – Table top panels – Ornaments – Magnets – Frosted glasses – Insulated water bottles – Photo Mugs – Metal or Canvas wall panels
Christmas cards are also popular right now, and they have some great deals on printing your cards. You can use a standard design or work with me on a custom design. They have upgraded their paper quality and yo have the option for matte or glossy. Also, you can upload addresses and they will print your envelopes for you!
My dream trip of a lifetime, did it meet my expectations? Yes and no.
So, what was it? Where did we go?
The trip started out as a river cruise in Europe with my daughter. We chose the Rhine Castles & Swiss Alps cruise on Ama Waterways. Tanya chose September as working the best with her work schedule. We started in Amsterdam and ended in Basel, Switzerland with a 3-day add-on in Como, Italy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love cruising! But river cruises are definitely different. Not a lot of on-board activities and what they do have doesn’t always have a lot of room available if the weather isn’t great and you can’t use the top deck. But, you are here for the food and tours more than activities, so not a big deal! Food was good and they always had some good options if you didn’t want the main entrees. Tours were generally great, except for Sundays and holidays when you head into town and most everything is closed! I did the “slow motion” groups once to see how that worked for tours and it was more personal as the groups were smaller and you saw most everything the main group saw. Also, being a small boat if someone brings on a cold (and laughed over how it wasn’t Covid so no big deal) it leaves over half the boat sick by the time of disembarkation.
So, my favorite stop in Amsterdam was the Rijksmuseum. I love visiting museums, but don’t always take the time to go (I am not exactly sure I know why). But I spent almost 7 hours wandering around looking at all the exhibits. I had a wonderful experience and I definitely got my steps in!
I recommend eating at the museum café, I had a very tasty chicken sandwich. The only weird thing was the way they served meals. You order like normal, sandwich and a drink. But the sandwich is made over on one half of the kitchen and drinks in the other half. My sandwich came out a good 15 minutes before my drink! I was able to flag down a waitress and ask what happened and she got me a glass of water to tide me over until my tea came. Ended up being a longer lunch than I expected because of this, but it was a good rest for my sore feet. I also met a very nice woman from Germany over lunch too.
I would say my favorite exhibit hall was actually the special collections section. This is the revolving area, they have so much in their archives they need an area where they can bring items in and out to showcase. And they were all so interesting, all their stories and history. Seeing the Blue Delft, the crystal work, and so on.
Next the floors on floors, through time. Each section a separate century. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to come back to visit I had to see them all, thus almost 7 hours later! 😊
One highlight of course, is the Night Watch by Rembrandt. This was a very popular spot!
I also loved the doll houses, wish mine when I was younger had been so intricate!
Here are a few pictures. I am not touching the mantel, just trying to look like I am, but I just look weird as my shoulder was too sore to raise it further. LOL
And the library, you really wish you could peruse what is there. But I am sure very little is in English.
The only thought I had was regarding the tour groups. Twice they blocked off some pictures and it was difficult to get around them to see what they were looking at! Once I even walked around the hall for a good 20 minutes and they didn’t move! They were packed in too tight into a corner it would have been terribly rude to walk around them, so I moved on. If they want to spend so much time talking about a picture, please move away! You can look and then step back to talk about it. Does that sound picky? I just was so curious as to what took so long to talk about it. I never did get a good look at the one. Oh well.
So, my post for when I was on my way home and trying hard to not cry. DO NOT CRY!! I am coming home one month earlier than I hoped, but later than I thought I might at the start. I was so nervous when I left home, what was I thinking? To head out and jaunt around Europe on my own? No clear idea of where I was going once I hit France or how to get there? What about my tendency for crippling anxiety (not very easy to manage, I have a habit of stepping back, distancing myself from the world around me all to calm my mind)? Or the fact that I don’t speak French much and only recognize about 1 word out of every couple dozen words? And I am hard of hearing? All reasons to not go, but I made it out of the house, and I WENT PLACES I never dreamt I would actually get to.
Maybe someday I will go back and take another look, I did love Amsterdam. The French fries were awesome. And a burger joint on every other block, definitely not all bad! September was a good time to visit. Not as many tourists and the weather was still nice. Although the Mediterranean Sea was so beautiful and warm!
And I did cry a little bit on the plane, I am sure my seatmate was wondering what was going on. I watched the Minions on the monitor to try and cheer me up.
Yesterday afternoon my daughter and I boarded the Ama Mora in preparation for our river cruise south into Germany. Ama Mora is a beautiful ship, the dinner was very good, and the crew is so friendly. My cabin is gorgeous and a comfortable spot. Since they had a few open cabins, we were able to get a separate one for Tanya, so I have one all to myself! Which is good since lately I have started to snore a bit, unfortunately one that is a new development and I keep thinking if I lose some of this extra weight it will help? Thankfully I am single. LOL
Central Amsterdam was a warren of narrow sidewalks, narrow one-way streets ringed with little shops, cafes, businesses, lawyers, and residential homes all mixed together on street after street. I walked more steps in the past 9 days than I can ever remember doing. Unfortunately, the food was so good my weight didn’t budge at all. I blame it on the burger bars all over, a great stop for quick takeout. I hit two of them!
For the end of week I walked, a lot. I love the canals and looking at all the houseboats. The tippy looking buildings and the bridges. If I had more time….
I did choose one day tour, out to Giethoorn Village. I chose this one as they picked you up at your hotel, rather than having to figure out how to get up to the north end for the windmill tour pickup. I am glad I did; it was a relaxing day, and the tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. He was originally from Tibet but has been living in Amsterdam for over 20 years now. The tour company is his own business so was eager to make sure we relaxed and had an enjoyable day. I have my raincoat on, but it only drizzled a little bit in the late afternoon. I found the tour on Viator.
On Thursday night I did an evening canal tour. I was not impressed; I didn’t read the description close enough. No tour guide (just prerecorded radio messages!) to help out. And it would just randomly switch to Dutch now and then. Also sketchy in that it was hard to hear, ear bud only (I have hearing aids). Often, I missed the place I was supposed to look at as there were no directions, just “out there” in the dark somewhere. The captain never said a word, perhaps he did not speak any English? Also, no way to purchase snacks or drinks on a two-hour cruise! Definitely didn’t understand what I was getting.
My last day was meeting up with my daughter, Tanya, as she arrived in Amsterdam to prepare for our cruise down the Rhine River. We walked, a lot, and had some good food during her short visit. She did get me into may small shops that I typically would just walk on by. We also went to the Albert Cuyp Street Market. A tourist trap in some ways, but we found a couple nice deals. I found a cute ring as a souvenir too. Plus, the stroopwaffel was awesome! Although I still think Tanya should have gotten the chocolate sauce on half.
I will save my favorite stop, the Rijksmuseum, for later. Then onto the river cruise! I am finishing this post up as I sit here on my balcony enjoying the evening on the river!
Here I am, relaxing in Amsterdam. This is definitely a curious city with all the canals and narrow streets. And the traffic! Pedestrians have to fend for themselves, they definitely don’t have the right of way here. So you are constantly on the watch whenever you walk. In fact, if there is a traffic blockage they even skip up onto the sidewalk and don’t like it when you don’t move out of the way. This free for all is the first thing my taxi driver warned me about when he picked me up at the airport even. The previous week he saw a bicyclist hit a pedestrian, pick himself up and ride off! So the driver stopped and gave her a ride to the hospital, where she found out she had a broken ankle. Unfortunately, it meant she had to miss her river cruise, so sad! I don’t want to do the same, so I trying to be careful.
Day one saw some serious exhaustion as I slept very little on the airplane, big surprise. I liken it to being in a hospital as the stewards roam the aisles to see if you would like a drink, or maybe a snack, periodically. Plus, the calls for assistance from fellow passengers, or those trying to find the bathroom. Fun times!
Above are some pictures of my hotel room, really more of a small apartment. Once I unpacked I did some walking around to stay awake. The sun was shining, and I put in quite a few steps around the inner canal rings. I had a nice pasta with chicken for dinner before heading back to my hotel room to try and sleep.
On Monday I slowed down, my legs developed quite a “rash” after all the walking the State Fair last week and the airplane ride and walking yesterday. The “rash” is really a bunch of burst small capillaries according to my dermatologist. I get it almost every year for the last 10 years or so during the fair unfortunately. It can be sore but is usually just tingly and hot feeling. Not comfortable at all, so I slept in and didn’t go out except for lunch and then dinner.
Lunch was at Cafe George, I had the Croque Monsieur. It was very good and I had a nice view of a canal. Dinner was at Red, which is just a few doors down, a great steak with the wonderful Dutch french fries (frites) out along the canal. It was great, until a bee decided to try and fly up my skirt which made me jump and spill half a glass of a wonderful rose on myself. Of course!
I love the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. I have had a membership for years, but mostly I would only go for conferences or seminars for work. One of the many things I loved while working was joining committees to plan conferences, workshops and seminars. I was a member of a number of committees for these during my career in water resources. For a while, every fall we would hold a stormwater or shallow lakes summit here at the Arboretum and I would renew my membership at that time. I would intend to come out to visit or explore afterwards, but rarely did. Until COVID that is. During COVID this became my go-to spot for exercise! And I truly fell in love.
This month I have gone for an art class (drawing a stem of lilacs), Art in the Park, membership day and just a nice long walk on a sunny day. This whole experience has left me feeling like even though my job entailed going out and visiting with residents, teaching workshops or reviewing wetland delineations, that I have gotten out of touch with just being outside. I love it (other than the mosquitoes) and hope to visit many parks during my trip to Europe!
Here are some photos to enjoy and maybe entice you to stop by.
Now I am going back to plan my trip to Europe with all the changes I have made!
I am deep into planning a trip to Europe for an extended amount of time (posts will be forthcoming as I get there). My housesitter is lined up, my neighbors all know what is happening and almost everything is paid for and scheduled. Whew. But….. Unfortunately I made a last minute change in schedule, opting for Toulon instead of central Marseille as a base of operations. I panicked to be honest. I had one person too many tell me how unsafe Marseille is for a woman on her own who doesn’t really speak French hardly at all. So, cancelled there and reserved a spot in Toulon in an apartment building that has a staffed lobby, yet is still within walking distance of a train station and the port. I feel so bad for the place I cancelled as I am sure she will have a tough time renting the unit so last minute, but they had free cancellation until September 1st. So here I am feeling guilty, but at the same time relieved at the decision. Does that make sense?
I have a teeny tiny professional website for Forever, a memory preservation site. Recently they did a major upgrade of their main website to try and make it easier for potential clients to find the services you need. You can purchase permanent storage; create and print albums or keepsakes (such as wall art, puzzles up to 1,000 pieces in size, mugs, glassware, cards (Christmas is coming!), photo gifts, and others); digitize photos, albums, or videos; or get assistance with filling out your family tree! I have had a lot of good luck with this company, so much so that I signed on as a Ambassador. To be honest, mostly to get the discount (I have a total of two customers, so I am NOT in it to make money). But I highly recommend their services, and they are always growing and adding on to the types of products they offer. Here is my website: https://www.forever.com/ambassador/leslie-stovring
Life does happen in the blink of an eye, as they say. But as time goes on it can get fuzzier and fuzzier and you want to remember it all! Through Forever you can also purchase permanent storage, you don’t have to rely on Amazon or other photo storage service to remain in business in the future. In fact, your heirs can even inherit your account after you are gone! Always remember to label your photos or albums for the future. To learn more, go to: https://www.forever.com/guarantee
However, you don’t need to purchase storage to use their services! You can use their free storage (2 mb) to upload photos to create pictures, albums, or other products. A new product, great for the family, are puzzles!
If you need help with a gift or project, please drop me a note and I can help point you in the right direction. If you have a lot of projects, that might even mean becoming your own Ambassador! Otherwise, I can sign you up to get notifications on upcoming events and specials. They also have a program where you can put away a small amount each month until you have enough saved up for a bigger project. I am starting to post some examples here: https://www.forever.com/app/users/leslie-stovring–2