Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The American Women's Club of Amsterdam has a hiking group that hikes in a nearby park (6.5 kilometers away). Andrew and I rode our bikes over there last evening so that I could get a feel for how far it is and how to get there on my own. Some of the pathways are shared by people riding the other direction, which took me off guard. I ended up having to walk because it was kind of freaking me out sharing "the road". People in the Netherlands ride their bikes like they were born on them! When there were bicycles coming towards me on the path they were riding side by side leaving very little room for me, so it made me very uncomfortable. Most of the ride was fine, it was just that last mile or so that was a shared pathway.

Here are a few pictures of what we saw on our way to the park....some beautiful thatch roof houses:

I looked up thatch roofing on wikipedia and here's what it says:
Thatching is the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation such as strawwater reedsedge (Cladium mariscus), rushes, or heather, layering the vegetation so as to shed water away from the inner roof. It is a very old roofing method and has been used in both tropical and temperate climates. Thatch is still employed by builders in developing countries, usually with low-cost, local vegetation. By contrast in some developed countries it is now the choice of affluent people who desire a rustic look for their home, would like a more ecologically friendly roof, or who have purchased an originally thatched abode.

Although thatch is popular in Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Ireland, there are more thatched roofs in the United Kingdom than in any other European country. Good quality straw thatch can last for more than 45–50 years when applied by a skilled thatcher. Traditionally, a new layer of straw was simply applied over the weathered surface, and this ‘spar coating’ tradition has created accumulations of thatch over 7’ (2.1 m) thick on very old buildings. Over 250 roofs in Southern England have base coats of thatch that were applied over 500 years ago, providing direct evidence of the types of materials that were used for thatching in the medieval period.[7] Almost all of these roofs are thatched with wheat, rye, or a 'maslin' mixture of both. Medieval wheat grew to almost 6 feet (1.8 m) tall in very poor soils and produced durable straw for the roof and grain for baking bread.

Thatch is not as flammable as many people believe and burns slowly 'like a closed book'. The vast majority of fires are linked to the use of wood burners and faulty chimneys with degraded or poorly inserted or maintained flues. Sparks from paper or burned rubbish can ignite dry thatch on the surface around a chimney. Fires can also begin when sparks or flames work their way through a degraded chimney and ignite the surrounding semi-charred thatch. This can be avoided by ensuring that the chimney is in good condition, which may involve stripping thatch immediately surrounding the chimney to the full depth of the stack. This can easily be done without stripping thatch over the entire roof. Insurance premiums on thatched houses are higher than average in part because of the perception that thatched roofs are a fire hazard, but also because a thatch fire can cause extensive smoke damage and a thatched roof is more expensive to replace than a standard tiled/slate roof. Workmen should never be allowed to use an open flame near thatch, and nothing should be burnt that could fly up the chimney and ignite the surface of the thatch. Spark arrestors usually cause more damage than good as they are easily blocked and reduce air flow. All thatched roofs should have smoke detectors in the roof space. A spray-on fire retardant or pressure impregnated fire retardant is available that can reduce the spread of flame, but retardants can reduce the longevity of thatch and are not a substitute for common sense and fire prevention planning.

The woods in Vogelenzang are beautiful!  There are pathways all over, canals and lakes galore!

After our bike ride we went to our favorite gelato place "Garrone's"!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Learning a new language....

This morning I went to my 3rd Dutch lesson with my neighbor. Half way through the class I was looking at a page and trying to read and found my brain was "switching off" again. Sometimes when I haven't had enough sleep, when I'm trying to learn something new (and open up new pathways to my brain as one of my therapists phrased it) or under a lot of stress my brain starts doing strange things. It feels like I'm looking at a jerky when some clips of a film are missing. It's almost like I'm looking away from something....but not closing my eyes or moving my brain just "skips".
If I look away from what I'm trying to concentrate on and keep going back to it sometimes that helps.
I also still quite often feel like I've just gotten off a boat after being on the water for a while......that feeling of being in motion. It can be very disconcerting....

After almost 2 years you'd think my brain would be back to normal.......A few months ago I did a little research on-line about the problems I'm still having and apparently it's pretty common to have problems for years after a brain injury. Of course, the doctors don't tell you that!  I wish they would so that when the problems persist it wouldn't be so disappointing to not be "normal" again after so long. This is what I've heard people call their "new normal".

When I got home after class I made myself some lunch, had a cup of tea and tried to go back to doing part of my homework. I couldn't concentrate at all, sooooooo I decided to lie down and ended up taking a two hour "nap"!

Yesterday, Andrew and I decided to go to church. There is an Anglican church here in town....the only church with an English service available close by.  It is part of the NW Europe Archdeaconry within the Diocese in Europe. It's called the Anglican Church of St. Anna and St. Mary. We had gone there for Easter service at which time they had an interim Minister. There is now a permanent Minister. The service takes place at 1430 hrs. on Sundays. We walked to church from the takes about 20 minutes to get there on foot.

The congregation was verrrrry small....There were only about 10 people in attendance. I don't think many people attend church here. The service was pretty similar to the Episcopalian's. After the service, tea was served. The people there were very very friendly.

On the way home we noticed a lot of these flowers growing everywhere...they are sooo beautiful! I believe they are hollyhocks......

Someone posted this on Facebook today.....I need to remember this!!!!! I don't have to learn how to speak Dutch, everyone here speaks English. Sooooo, if I don't learn the language I'll just make sure I smile a lot! LOL!