Archive for the ‘Birthday’ Category

A birthday shoutout to two awesome ladies

February 28, 2009
Diane's two favorite senior ladies

Birthday girls Kitty and Roxy

Happy birthday to my two favorite senior ladies! They would be Kitty and Roxy. While Roxy is a dog (the foxy doxy with moxy), Kitty is not a cat, but my Mom (short for Catherine).  And the truth is that today is neither one’s birthday. Mom doesn’t even get a birthday this year, because she’s a Leap Year baby. In LY age, she’s 22.25, but being born in 1920 makes her 89.

Roxy is best friends with Kitty especially when being served premium cat food

Roxy loves her grandma, especially when treats are involved

As for Roxy, when I adopted her, I didn’t have a birthdate, so I decided to match her with Mom’s. But then I figured she’d want one every year, if she had the choice, so Roxy’s unofficial birthday is Feb. 28. She is 14. Of course then there’s the whole dog age vs. human age debate. It’s not accurate to “multiple times seven,” because so much depends on the dog’s weight. (The smaller the dog, the longer their lifespan.) Based on what I’ve read, I’m figuring that Ms. Roxy is around 70.

Kitty with co-resident Callie

Kitty with her kitty, co-resident Callie

Roxy and Mom are great pals, especially when Mom has treats for her granddog. But, truly, the apple of Mom’s eye is Callie, her Maine coon cat. We named her Callie because we ignorantly thought she was a calico. Um, not even close. (Of course she’s not from Maine, either.) Mom adopted Callie in 1997, and they’ve been inseparable since. The wonderful Vineyard Inn, where Mom lives in Florida, allows her to keep Callie there. (The Vineyard is neither a vineyard nor an inn, but a terrific assisted living facility in Seminole.)

So while nothing in this little report has been straightforward, I can say, without disclaimers or explanation, that I love them both very much. Mom, I’ll see you soon! Happy Birthday from your daughter and son-in-law.


Van harte gefeliciteerd, Wessel!

January 9, 2009
Wessel blows candles of birthday cake in 2008

Wessel blows candles of birthday cake in 2008

As faithful readers know, the Dutch go crazy for their birthdays. They congratulate not only the birthday boy/girl, but parents, siblings, and spouses. Wessel’s parents made their birthday call this morning from the Netherlands, bright and early, as always. :O They congratulated me as well. And now I must say, gefeliciteerd to you, too, familie Kok! Being someone who has always sought birthday attention (OK, fine, all attention), I love this Dutch tradition.

So each time there’s a birthday in our immediate Dutch family, Wessel and I do a blog posting with photos. Now the sad thing is this: I wanted this post to surprise Wessel, but he’s the photo editor. So, my dear partner in life, you’re going to have to later add your favorite photos to this. Sorry!

Maroccan medley, the 2008 birthday dinner

Moroccan Medley, the 2008 birthday dinner

This year Wessel and I decided to gift ourselves folding bicycles for our birthdays (mine was last month.) So we are still in the process of shopping around. We’re mostly fixating on Bike Friday, arguably the best folding bike maker but of course also the most expensive. I’m looking forward to the end of the shopping process and the purchase of our bikes!

Diane prepares Fish in a bag, the 2007 birtday special

Diane prepares Fish in a Bag, the 2007 birthday special

As usual, I’ll be making birthday dinner for Wessel. It’s a major production, especially since I have to do a practice run each year. Here’s the lineup since we’ve lived together: Brunswick Stew, Chicken Pudding, Roast, Fish in a Bag (from “Seasoned in the South” ), Moroccan Medley (thanks to Barry Yeoman), and, this year, the sixth, he again requested vegetarian. I finally decided on Moosewood’s Risotto with Spinach and Artichokes (I’m throwing in mushrooms too), as well as some side dishes, natch, and a cake (not sure which one yet) with 45 candles.

Dear Wessel, here are 17 things I love about you:

Your genuine kindness and concern for all living creatures, including humans.
Your photo skills, from execution to organization.
Your sense of humor, including bad puns and jokes.
Your firm buttocks and shapely calves.
Your physical fitness.
Your ability to change bicycle tires much quicker than I can.
Your command of several languages.
Your healthy appetite.
Your intellectual and constant thirst for knowledge.
Your affection for your annoying cat and your care for my dogs that you could easily live without.
Your willingness to fairly divide chores.
Your total, unwavering support of me.
Your many sides.
Your adventurousness.
Your honesty.
Your willingness to be vulnerable.
Your undying love for me.


your adoring wife

Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Francis!

October 20, 2008
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!

200,000 miles and counting for my Honda

September 29, 2008

Diane's Honda turned 200,000 miles

Hooray for my wonderful 1994 Honda Civic DX! The little two-door hatchback turned 200,000 miles yesterday! The momentous event occurred around 6 p.m. on Route 4 in Virginia near the Kerr Dam and Reservoir. We were returning home from a visit to our four acres on a creek in Virginia, affectionately and also appropriately dubbed Chiggerville.

We were prepared, having brought a bottle of chilled champagne and four glasses. We pulled over in a little clearing and had a quickie party, even pouring a bit of champagne on the Honda.

Worries about missing the big turnover

Wessel and I had been worried we’d miss the big turnover because we are loaning the car to our Dutch/Friesian visitors, Wessel’s longtime friend Liekle and his brother Tjits, while they explore the NC mountains this week. From our calculations two weeks ago we were convinced the Honda would hit 200,000 with them, so we were doubly excited that we were present for the event.

Toast to Diane's Honda Civic

Toast to Diane`s Honda Civic

While hybrids are great, the Honda ranks up there in fuel efficiency. Plus I haven’t wasted energy on new materials to assemble a new car in 14 years, and the car still gets about 32 mpg in the city and 36 mph on the highway.

While I have named cars in the past, for some reason I never named this Honda, which I bought for $10,000 at Weymouth Honda, south of Boston. But it has served me well. My last Civic (“Hokie,” for its origins in Blacksburg, Va.) died at the early age of 120,000 miles. Most of this Honda’s miles have been for fun or errands, as I’ve always, on purpose, had a short commute to work. Wessel now takes the car to work, about 20 miles roundtrip. I’ll be putting a fair number of miles on the car during the next year, while crisscrossing the state to research my book, “Farm Fresh North Carolina.

Diane celebrates milestone with champagne

Diane celebrates milestone with champagne

I’ve had some great road trips in this car, especially when I load it to the gills (grills?) for car camping. The Honda and I have driven up and down the East Coast and halfway across the country, but not to the West Coast. I’ve had three bicycles on the back, and three dogs inside. I’ve also had some very romantic moments, with Wessel and a few who preceded him.

Diane and Wessel somewhat successfully attempt to "spell" 200 while holding Sabrina and Roxy and not breaking champagne glasses

Diane and Wessel somewhat successfully attempt to `spell` 200 while holding Sabrina and Roxy and not breaking champagne glasses

Honda and I have had our share of dramatic moments, too, from getting caught in a snowdrift in the White Mountains in New Hampshire to hydroplaning on Memorial Drive in Cambridge, Mass., and ended up sitting on the median – uninjured and facing the wrong direction. We’ve gotten only one speeding ticket (my only one ever, when returning from the NC coast four years ago.) We’ve lost a couple radios and wallets to thieves in Boston, and a suitcase (of a houseguest!) to vagrant neighbors in Durham. We’ve never run out of gas, but we have broken down on a few occasions. Of course I’ve locked myself out of the car several times (who hasn’t?) and left the lights on, running down the battery (again, don’t we all?).

I hope we still have many happy years together. When our time comes to say so long, I’m thinking Honda Fit; a maybe a hybrid, if the price drops; or even more exciting, a plug-in hybrid. But for now, I’m very happy with my little Honda Civic. Pass the champagne, please.

Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Thamar!

August 15, 2008

Thamar is my schoonzuster, or sister-in-law, and she hits the big 4-0 today! (Her name is pronounced TAM-ar.)

Thamar unpacks gifts

Thamar displays her talent for gift opening

While 40 is considered a “kroonjaar” (a sig-nificant year) because a new decade starts, there’s no hoopla surrounding it the way there is when Dutchies turn 50. But, heck, they have enough hoopla just celebrating their birthdays in the Netherlands. Not only do you always go out of your way to congratulate and even visit the birthday boy or girl, but also their family. So Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Thamar! Gefeliciteerd met de verjaardag van Thamar, familie Kok!

Ecuador is located on the equator

Ecuador is located on the equator

Thamar, who works for the Dutch government doing land design, has a wonderful 14-year-old son, Valentin. His Ecuadoran father, Luis, lives part time in a home nearby and part-time in Ecuador. The first time I met Thamar and the rest of the family was in Tabacundo, Ecuador, where she did a college study abroad project, working in irrigation. That was in the early 1990s. (We were all visiting there when I met her in 2003.)

Valentin and Thamar in Surinam restaurant in Wageningen (Click to ENLARGE)

Valentin and Thamar in Surinam restaurant Duniya in Wageningen (Click to ENLARGE)

Now Thamar lives in Wageningen, which is known for Wageningen University (focused on agriculture), where both Wessel and Thamar went to school. Wageningen is also known for a bit of history. It’s where the Germans surrendered to the Allied Forces ending World War II in the Netherlands. The lesser thing Wageningen is known for is that it’s one of the Dutch words I can never pronounce correctly. You try.

Thamar recently became a first-time homeowner (Click to ENLARGE)

Thamar left the world of renters to move into her first house this past October. Home ownership isn’t as common in the Netherlands as it is in the US. So that was a huge achievement and the best birthday gift she could have given herself. We’re very proud of her! I’m sure she’ll get many visitors there this weekend, when everyone stops by to wish her gefeliciteerd. (I can’t pronounce that word either.)

Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Guido!

April 9, 2008

If you’re a regular reader, you know that the Dutchies go bonkers for their birthdays. You have to congratulate not only the birthday recepient but his or her family, extended family, and pets. OK, not pets. They don’t care so much about the pets.

Guido and his son OliverGuido is my zwager, or brother-in-law, and today is his 41st birthday. He’s the baby of the three children of the Family Kok. Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Guido! Gefeliciteerd met de verjaardag van Guido, familie Kok!

I can just hear you Americans chortling to yourself while saying “Yo, Guido!” Well, NL ain’t NJ, and they don’t say GWEE-do, so drop that “W” and make it GEE-do, with a hard G.

I know that Guido loves me because he allowed me to drag him around to all the cool design stores in De Negen Straatjes (the Nine Streets) district of Amsterdam a couple years ago. He enjoyed himself until about the sixth shop, then I could tell it was time to wrap things up.

Guido's artwork; CLICK TO OPEN WEBSITE AvondwandelaarGuido’s talents include writing, drawing, sculpture, and, recently, video making, which he does from his home in Arnhem. Check out some of his work here. Wessel will get to give in-person birthday greetings this weekend, when he visits his homeland for a week of work and a day of play.

Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Karel

March 14, 2008

Here’s a shout-out to my schoonvader (father-in-law), Karel Kok. (You non-Dutchies can just say “Karl.”) Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Karel!  If you’ll recall, those Dutch folks are really into their birthdays. So now I must congratulate the whole family. Congratulations Family Kok!

Not only is Karel a loyal blog reader, all the way from Nieuw Amsterdam, the Netherlands, he’s a wonderful man and the best father-in-law I could imagine having. My father died in 1997 and it’s nice to have another father figure back in my life. I am sure that Dad and Karel would have enjoyed each other’s company, and I can just imagine the happy sounds in the room if their booming laughs commingled.

Karel and my lovely mother-in-law, Francis, will be visiting us at our cute little beach condo in Florida next month! Can’t wait!

Happy 22nd birthday, Mom!

February 29, 2008

I’m 50, and my mother turns 22 today. Hey, is this some kind of joke? Here’s a hint: her last big birthday bash was Feb. 29, 2004, when she turned 21. Finally, Mom could order a margarita at the bar, although she still can’t rent a car on her own until 2020.

Mom, aka Kitty Daniel, is a Leap Year baby. Most of us think Leap Year comes every four years, but is anything ever that simple? Here’s the formula: A leap year is any year that is divisible by 4, but not divisible by 100, except when the year is divisible by 400. (My non-mathematical brain is spinning.) So 1600 and 2000 are leap years, but 1700, 1800, 1900 and 2100 are not.

Mom faux-blowing out her birthday candles; CLICK TO ENLARGEOf course we celebrate Mom’s birthday every year, on Feb. 28, but her “real” birthday has always been a bit more festive. In 2004, we threw her a grand 21st birthday bash. Here you can see her faux-blowing out her birthday candles. She’s on oxygen, so we didn’t think it was a great idea to light the candles or it would have been a true birthday blast.

Mom with her roommate Callie, her Maine Coon cat; CLICK TO ENLARGEUnfortunately, I’m with her only in spirit this year, but I’ll be down to see her in Seminole, Florida, in a few weeks. She lives at The Vineyard Inn, which sounds like a swank B&B, but is actually a wonderful (non-corporate!) assisted-living facility. Her roommate is Callie, her Maine Coon cat, and sometimes she’s treated to visits by her granddog, Roxy the Doxy.

Unfortunately, Mom won’t be able to join the hundreds (thousands?) of Leapers who will gather this weekend in Anthony, Texas/New Mexico, the self-proclaimed Leap Year Capital of the World. Since 1988, the town has grabbed its 15 minutes of fame by sponsoring the Worldwide Leap Year Festival and Worldwide Leap Year Birthday Club, a clever act initiated by the Chamber of Commerce. Partiers celebrate with a parade, hot-air-balloon rides, a carnival, and a gathering of people born on Feb. 29.

Today, Google has gotten in on the act with one of its always-creative special graphics on its homepage. The Internet in general has given Leaplings a place to gather online. So party on, youngsters!

And Happy 22nd/88th birthday, Mom! Or, as Wessel would say, Van Harte Gefeliciteerd!

Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag!

January 9, 2008

This is a Dutch shout-out to my husband, Wessel. It’s his 44th birthday. I don’t think he minds me giving his age, but maybe I should have asked first. One of the things I love about living with a Dutch person is they love their birthdays. I’m a big birthday gal, too. For my 50th last month, Wessel decorated my office with all sorts of “Sarah” things. She’s the wise woman who leads the Dutch women into their 50s. (The men are led by Abraham.) The other great thing about Dutch birthday celebrations is that folks congratulate not just the birthday boy or girl, but the entire family. This cracks me up, but I think it’s a great tradition. So, gefeliciteerd to me and the Family Kok, too! One of my favorite sites is the Dutch Word of the Day, to which one can subscribe and be emailed a word a day. I love learning a new Dutch word every day. Now if only I could remember them! Kusjes, Wessel!