Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Francis!

Van harte gefeliciteerd Francis!

Van harte gefeliciteerd Francis!

Today is a very special birthday for Francis Kok-van Ingen, my schoonmoeder, or mother-in-law. She’s celebrating a “kroonjaar”  (kroon = ) meaning a milestone year, and that’s all I can reveal. As faithful readers know, the Dutchies make a big deal out of their birthdays, so I must now congratulate the entire family Kok. Gefeliciteerd, familie Kok!

Francis during visit to Durham in 2004

Francis puts to use her quickly-created newspaper hat during a visit to Durham

Francis is a very creative woman. Not only does she make a mean newspaper hat, she’s a wonderful artist. I covet many of her paintings, especially one in particular that I keep asking for but no one seems to pay attention to my pleas. She also is a genius with “handwerken,” conveniently translating to “handwork.” For Francis this means not only knitting and crocheting, but even spinning yarn and weaving.

Francis and Karel have a beautiful garden with flowers throughout the year

Francis and Karel have a beautiful garden with flowers throughout the year

Her artistry extends to the amazing garden she and Wessel’s dad, Karel, have created in their long, narrow yard in Nieuw-Amsterdam, a village outside of the small city of Emmen in northeast Netherlands. Although the Dutch are known for their beautiful gardens, theirs is truly a show-stopper, with a huge variety of plants blooming at different times all year. Every time I travel with her I’ll see her reaching down to collect seeds here and there. She even planted a pecan tree from a seedling in our yard. Of course I think the best work of art Francis ever created was her son and my spouse, Wessel, but then I’m biased.

Francis (right) and Karel cycle on Pinellas trail in 2004

Karel and Francis cycle (= fietsen) on the Pinellas Trail in Florida

Although Francis enjoys exploring cities, she’s more of a country girl, and remains involved in a group called “plattelandsvrouwen,” or “country women.” I love that name. In that she has two older brothers and a younger one, I can understand why she seeks out the company of other women. (Then again, don’t we all?)

Francis’s favorite activities of late are nordic walking with friends, where she admits she’s more focused on the talking than the walking, and riding around the area on her new electric bicycle. Here’s to another decade of fietsen and fun, Francis!

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