Thursday, February 26, 2015

First Citadel Walk of 2015...With New Knee!

It's not the entire walk, mind you, but an hour's worth that got the inspirational juices flowing on a gorgeous, sunny Sunday this past weekend.  It's enough to get anyone outside and moving!

Because we can access the citadel path just a few steps from our senior-complex's back door,
we'd be stupid not to walk-the-walk as often as possible.
Our Nooit Volmaakt windmill is just a block away if you turn right on the path.
But we turned left.

It so happens that THAT's where Astrid filmed me climbing the steps,
at 6+ weeks post knee-replacement surgery.
It was a big deal for me.  Ta-Dah!

Within seconds on turning left at the top of the stairs, this is what we saw.
The winding paths (upper and lower levels) thrill my soul.

And the trees!  The trees.
The former war-bunker mounds give them life and form.

Then come the sycamore trees.
The greenish hue on the bark makes it look like spring has arrived.

That's where we also spotted a clump of snowdrops.
I had never seen snowdrops till I moved to Europe.

After the sycamore grove, it's time to cross the Westwagenstraat that takes you in and out
of the citadel across the Korte Brug.  Water surrouds the citadel, of course.
It's called the binnenstad = inner city, where we're lucky to live.

You may remember this map from before, with the red dot showing where we live.

On the other side of the Westwagenstraat, the path continues towards the Merwede river...

...and the bench that was our destination for the day, before turning back.

You could spend hours sitting there, watching the freighters pass by way off in the distance,
to and from Rotterdam, one of the main ports of Europe.
Closer in, the harbor is one of Gorinchem's two port entries.

Next walk, I'll try to go further, but that was enough for one day.
The fluid on the knee will build up for a year, they say, so I just pay attention.

Speaking of which, 2 days after my last post, when I couldn't yet cycle backwards, I could!
That means my new goal is to cycle forwards!  Eline says "It'll come, Ginnie!"

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gorinchem's 2015 Carnival Aftermath

I say "aftermath" because we didn't go out to see the parade and shenanigans this year.  We've done it once or twice since I've lived here know, when you've seen it once you've seen it all.  Did I say that?

Can you really expect it to get better than this (from 2010)?
See what I mean!

However, late afternoon (on Valentine's Day!) we did see after-the fact smatterings of the day.

 The boys and the girls...never the twain shall meet at that age.
I wonder if they were texting each other?

The remains of the day.

These fellas deserved their own notoriety, of course,
because of the Dutch Jansen and Janssen brothers in Kuifje (Tintin).
How clever!  See why Dutch Carnaval always reminds me of Halloween?

It was suppertime and we were ready to eat at our Greek restaurant across from the market square.

Before and after eating, we really got caught up in the confetti.
Not the same as beads flung far and wide in the States!
And within a couple of days, it was all cleaned up.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 

And now, how 'bout an update on the knee replacement!

Last Friday, at 5 weeks post-surgery, I had a set of x-rays done plus a check-up.
There you have it...all apparently in perfect order, looking like what it's supposed to.
Most of my pain is at night in bed; almost no pain during the day.
Just stiffness, which is normal, due to fluid on the knee (for at least a year!).
That's what the exercises are keep pumping away the fluid and stiffness.

Today, at 6 weeks post-surgery, I'm done with my anti-thrombosis injections.
Am I a happy camper or what!  That was not fun, even if necessary.
See the note Astrid wrapped around my final syringe last night:
"The last one!  You're my trooper.  Love, JLJA"

And now, laugh with/at me as I share a video of this past Tuesday's PT session:

Who knew I would have to re-learn how to walk!
Eline asked Astrid:  "Does she always walk like that???"
When it started or why, who knows, but my normal walk was "incorrect."
It took several attempts but I finally got the hang of it,
swinging my arms at the right time in the right direction.
Your hips are supposed to rotate (swagger) as you walk, like a model on a catwalk.
Will I ever get that image out of my head???  HA!  Probably not.

Zo simpel is het!

I'm now halfway through my PT sessions.  Still can't cycle full rotations.
BUT...Astrid and I can now do the English Waltz again.
Now, if Eline will video that for me, I'll be a happy camper!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Astrid's Sense of Bread-Making!

This is how it began:

One day last year, while she was kneading, waiting, kneading, waiting, etc. etc., Astrid all but said "I don't have time for this!"  You'd have to be there...but immediately I piped in and offered (albeit reluctantly, assuming she'd pooh-pooh the idea), that maybe it would make more sense to have a bread-making machine?????

Within a couple hours, that same day (!), we walked two blocks down the street to a store going out of business and bought a bread machine.  Ever since, Astrid has been fine-tuning a loaf of bread that we both absolutely love!  And at half the time/effort on her part!

While this post is mostly about making bread, yes, it's actually more about HOW Astrid does it.
I'm talking specifically about how she measures the flour.

And here's where there's a long history over our 5 years together about a basic Dutch vs. American
way of measuring.  The Dutch weigh their main ingredients (with a weighing scale) while the
Americans measure them (with cup and spoon sets).
And what's funny about it is that neither of us can comprehend why you'd do it that way. 
However, one is not right and the other wrong.  Just different.

 It helps to know that she's using her mother's scale from before WWII.
German-made.  Totally exact.  Perfectly calibrated.

And because she uses 4 different flours (all ground at/by the Woudrichem windmill),
she measures them carefully by grams (No preservatives!):
 wholewheat, refined
wholewheat, pure
spelt (dinkel wheat)

And notice that she measures out several loaves at a time in the white containers.

When it comes time to make the loaf of bread, all these ingredients are added:
water, sugar, salt, multi-flours (mixed with sunflower seeds), olive oil, yeast.
The yeast is always added last because it's not supposed to have contact with the salt.

The bread machine is placed in the warmest room of the house, 
which happens to be our storage closet, with the hot-water pipes sending off lots of heat.
It takes 3 hours from beginning to end.

One loaf lasts us two weekends of breakfasts:  2 Saturdays and 2 Sundays.
Astrid toasts the bread and adds all kinds of wonderful, healthy toppings.
It also works well for paninis, which we make with our panini press.

When you come to visit us, we will make sure you have some.  I promise!

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Knee Replacement: 3-Week Milestone

From the get-go, this is a post "for the record," which I'll get to in a minute.

Today is the 4-week milestone after my January 8th surgery.  It seems like forever ago, and yet, as my physical therapist, Eline, keeps saying, "Ginnie, it's only been X weeks!"  In other words, patience, M'lady.

This week Astrid and I started dancing an exercise Eline is really encouraging, once she found out our dancing history.  We first tried to do an English Waltz.  The look on my face was probably priceless.  I couldn't even begin to do it, which totally shocked me.  Just back and forth, back and forth...increasing the stabilization in my left leg.  I'm getting my education.

But, back to the 3-week milestone from last week.  And "for the record."  That was the day my 20 staples (count them) were removed.  If you are weak of stomach, I totally excuse you from this point on....

First of all, I woke up to this note from Astrid in the bathroom.
Because my staples were being removed that day, I could finally take a shower again.
ik hou van jou = I love you.
It was a very happy shower, indeed.

Before my PT that day, I had an appointment with the doctor's assistant to get my staples removed.
The top-right image is 6 days after my surgery when the bandage was removed.
The scar is 17cm (6-3/4 in) long...20 staples.
The nifty tool releases the staples almost magically, with almost no pain.
Okay, there were several times I said "OUCH," but the assistant was totally sympathetic,
and Astrid held my hand!

When she wasn't holding my hand, Astrid took this video.
The whole thing was so educational for us both.

Leave it to me, I wanted to keep the staples!
They're now in my Conquest Box, along with the cracked molar that was pulled a couple years back.
(That's another story altogether...about stress from my past life.)

So, there you have it.  For the record.
Someone has to do it!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Oh, and while we're at it, today is our 5-year wedding anniversary!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A January Outing into the Dutch Polder

Just 2+ weeks after my knee surgery, I was dying to get back out to the Dutch polder (and our favorite pannenkoeken restaurant, truth be told!).  Last Saturday was a gorgeous, cold but sunny day with a light dusting of snow greeting us when we awakened.

So off we went...crutches and all.

Just for the halibut, here's a snatch of what the polder ride looks like from the car.
The cows and sheep...and weathervanes...are left and right off the road.
It's a very typical backroad, btw, and one of the reasons why I love Holland.

I told Astrid that when we found a group of sheep, I wanted to stop.
I didn't even wander off from the car, as you see.
And btw, I haven't stood that straight, with left knee fully extended, in years!

What can I say.  I'm a glutton for sheep.

We have The Three Stooges on our Shutterchance photoblog,
so when I see a grouping of 3 sheep like this, I always think of Chris, Chad and Bill.

When we reached the pannenkoeken restaurant, I walked across the fresh snow with my crutches.

 We love eating there mid-afternoon when it's almost empty.
It's our best time talking to the owner, waitresses and cooks, catching up on each other.
"Here come the dames!" they love to say.

We normally drink red wine with our meal but since I'm alcohol-free these first 3 weeks after surgery,
we both ordered fresh mint tea, which was worth its weight in gold.
When we both ate all our leaves, the waitress looked at us in awe.
Yes, that's what you do with mint tea!

We always order the melon-ham-dried-tomato-alfalfa-sprouts starter while our pannenkoek is baking.
The pannenkoek of the month happened to be green asparagas with ham and egg.
A no-brainer for us!  We licked the platter clean.

Another btw:  see that fisherman sweater Astrid is wearing?
She made it 30 years ago!

We love everything about this experience.  Everything.
We love it so much, we take all our guests there.
Maybe you will be next?!

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Knee Replacement the Dutch Way

Exactly 2 weeks ago yesterday, yes, it happened!  And now that I'm on this side of it all, I do have my impressions...but sure would love to compare notes with someone in the US.

There are hundreds of images to show the knee prosthesis I now have.
I like this one because of the crucial "talking points."
Lucky for me, all my arthritic bits-n-bobs are now gone.

Starting 5 days before my January 8th surgery, I had to do all bathing and shampooing with a Betadine scrub
(iodine antispetic), including daubing both nostrils with Bactroban 3x/day.
This was to cut down on bacteria entering the hospital.
Astrid says the nose is one of the worst places for carrying bacteria!

Following the surgery, I must inject myself with Fraxiparine every day for 6 weeks
to prevent thrombosis.  It's not one of my favorite things to do, seriously.

It so happens our Beatrixziekenhuis here in Gorinchem is only a 10-minute bike ride from home.
They do 300 knee replacements there every year with a team of 4 excellent doctors.
My room for 5 days was up on the 6th floor, with a view of many Gorinchem landmarks
(which many of you will recognize by now).
My friend, Jannie, from our senior complex, had her surgery right after mine by the same doctor,
and we became roommates for the duration (with 2 other roomies).

To make a long story short, my surgery took only 45 minutes instead of the anticipated 1.5-2 hours.
They said it was because I had no fatty tissue to navigate.  Well, then.
However, I did have a low-blood-pressure "episode" that set me back my first 2 days.
Let's just say it scared the bejesus out of Astrid...but after I bounced back,
I was my old self again...except for the knee part.

The 5 days in the hospital were mainly for this CPM contraption:
Continous Passive Motion.
Every day my knee was stretched for 2 hours, first at 30-degrees, then, 50, 60 and 65.
I actually got into the swing of it and could even read or use my iPad.

What did they do in the days before this  miracle contraption?
(And yes, that's Dan Brown's Digital Fortress which I finished the day I got home.)

Did I ever mention that Astrid's DIL, Eva, is a security guard at this hospital?
When she visited me, she brought me this bear, bringing tears to my eyes.
How can something so "simple" be so soulful!

Now that I'm home, I have my main mode of transportation:  crutches.
It actually feels GOOD to walk, even outside, with them.  They help me stand tall and straight.
But when I need to transport items (like for breakfast and lunch when Astrid is at work),
the rollator comes to my rescue.  I use it for grocery shopping, too.

Then there's PT, of course, twice a week (4 sessions thus far, out of 24).
Right now I'm still doing half-moons on the exerciser, even at home, to increase ROM.
Talk about S.T.I.F.F.  Also, I still have one place that dang hurts,
which Eline, my PT, thinks is where the patella was stiched back on.  OUCH.

Exercise.  Exercise.  Exercise.
They told us to get a skateboard, which Astrid could have borrowed from her son.
Instead, she bought this home-improvement gismo (for moving furniture)
which is small enough to carry around with me, even to Rummikub.

And throughout everything, Astrid is always there wanting to help!  My Angel!
My foot really swelled up once after PT and she massaged it. 
You may remember that I was a licensed massage therapist for 8 years after my divorce,
but did I tell you Astrid was a sport's massage therapist in her day?  Yup.
I LOVE her hands.  Lucky me.

Speaking of Astrid, she went back to work this week, leaving me to my Ms. Independent self.  HA!
It's amazing how quickly the body bounces back to health and rehabiltation.

And to celebrate a milestone, yesterday at PT I was able to raise my foot 8" off the PT table,
the first time since my surgery.  I hope that means there's no stopping me now!

For all of you who stood in the background rooting me on, THANK YOU.
It's a long row to hoe and I have no illusions about the time it will take to get back into shape.
But I do like the idea that maybe Spring will "resurrect" the new me.  It's a good goal.

Saturday ADDENDUM:
Believe it or not, you can find an hour YouTube that shows a live knee-replacement surgery.
You would need a big stomach to...stomach it.  Trust me.
But dear Astrid found this very simple animated version which I find most educational.
It explains why I still have some sore spots.  HA!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Ostend, Belgium, End of November 2014

FINALLY, here's the last post of that wonderful trip to Belgium at the end of November over a month ago!  It was my goal to finish it all before I go into the hospital on Thursday for a left-knee replacement.  (But more on that later.)

It so happens that Astrid received an email while we were in Atlanta in October, giving us an offer too good to refuse:  4 days, 3 nights at a city-center hotel in Ostend, Belgium, full breakfast included, for €154 total.  Not per night.  Total.  After reading the fine print and seeing nothing askew with the offer, YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO ASK US TWICE.

Ostend is on the North Sea coast (remember the tram ride?).  It's a 15-minute train ride to Bruges, where we saw the Christmas market and the Snow & Ice Sculpture festival.  We arrived on Friday, December 28th, and left the following Monday, December 1st.

We loved being situated in the center of the city in a very cozy hotel and room.

Just a block away was the magical Winterijs wonderland, first day of its 2014 opening.

And since it was lunchtime, what better place to go native.
Brats with onions!

Then, we were on a mission to see as much of the city center as possible before nightfall.
We knew the rest of the weekend was "taken."

In hopes it would still be open, we first headed off to Ostend's main church,
with it's separate St. Peter's Tower across the street from 1478.

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is a Roman Catholic neo-gothic church from 1899.

 And, yes, it was open!

It was the perfect time of the day to be there, with the sun prisms dancing around the stained glass.

When we went back outside, the sun caught this one spot of the rose window.
It was magical.

 Across the harbor from the church, a short walk away, was the train station.
I LOVE European train stations and boat harbors.
When you can get both together in the same photos, it feels better than perfect.

The next day, Saturday, when we took the train to Bruges, I got some close-ups.

 As we walked inland along the harbor, we came to the Zeilschip Mercator,
once a training ship for the Belgian merchant fleet, now a floating museum.

  If we can't take a joke, right?!

With the sun setting by late afternoon, we headed to the Albert I Promenade to catch it.
Sitting on a bench from 5-5:30, this is what we saw.

A brave surfer nearby was also catching the sun...and waves.

You always see things a bit differently at night, of course.

Back where we started from, even the Winterijs pavilion had perked up.

Ostend is a delightful city at any time of the year, I'm sure.
But we loved being there at the holiday time.

 As we often say, we were "short of eyes."

After all, Belgium is our neighbor to the south of us, just a 30-minute drive to the border.
We should probably go there more often!!!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

About that knee replacement:  After a volleyball accident in 1971, I have finally cried "UNCLE!"  I can hardly wait to get a new knee, even though I know I have a long row to hoe once it's done.  They say it's the most complicated of orthopedic surgeries but also one of the most successful.  So I am highly optimistic and expect nothing but the best.

Wish us both (poor Astrid!) much success, please and thank you.
And of course, I'll catch you up as soon as possible (after my 5-day hospital stay).