This was one on the DEROS list…a visit to Haarlem, Netherlands to visit the home of Corrie ten Boom, author of the book The Hiding Place. That book was introduced to me by a college friend, and I highly recommend it. I certainly cannot adequately summarize the content in a blog post, but the short version is this: The ten Boom family were Christians, and during the Nazi occupation they believed it was their duty to hide Jewish people so that they would not be sent to concentration camps. Although they saved many, ultimately their house was raided and the family was imprisoned. Only Corrie survived and when the war was over she traveled the world to share her testimony of God’s love, providence, and grace.


The ten Booms were watchmakers and although the jewelry store next to their home is named Ten Boom Jewelers, it is no longer in the Ten Boom family.


Many of the furnishings in the house are authentic. This clock is still in the window, and it was once used to signal to other members of the Dutch Resistance whether there were Jewish people in hiding.


The tour was free and was led by a volunteer who enthusiastically shared the story of the ten Booms and the Christian faith. She described how the house had an alarm system to signal the occupants if a Nazi authority was visiting. They held drills in which they had to vacate the public spaces in the house, removing all evidence of their presence, and hide within 70 seconds. That meant not just getting the people into hiding, but removing extra dishes, clothes, personal items, and anything else that would indicate that there were more than the members of the ten Boom family at this house. After cleaning up they would rush to the entrance to the hiding place through this linen closet.


This hiding place was constructed by putting a false wall in Corrie’s bedroom; it was the size of a closet. It had been constructed with the help of a member of the Dutch Resistance. When the house was raided in February of 1944 there were six people hiding in this space. Though the hiding place and those therein were not found, a thorough search of the house uncovered extra ration cards so the ten Boom family was arrested and eventually sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp.


Corrie ten Boom was the sole survivor in her family – her sister Betsie and father Casper both died. Countless people were saved by her efforts – not just in hiding them in her home, but by sharing her message around the world. Though she passed away in 1983 (in California!) her story lives on through this house and through her writings.

Xploring Xanten

We have seen this guy all over Europe.

One great thing about Germany in the spring: the national holidays! It seems that every week someone (either the husband or the kids) has a day off. The holidays often do not coincide since Jeremy works in Germany and the kids go to school in the Netherlands. But on one day in June there was a holiday for everyone so we headed north to Xanten to visit the Archaeological Park.

Convention? Road rally? The car of choice for Roman re-enactors?

The parking lot was full when we arrived, and most curious was an entire row of VW Beetles in just two different colors. This has absolutely nothing to do with everything else we saw at Xanten, and by the time we left they were gone.

Columns. They fascinate me.

Xanten is on the site of a Roman town, Colonia Ulpia Traiana. (Those Romans really got around, didn’t they!?) However, very few of the buildings are actually original. Once the colony was abandoned most of the stone used to build the town was taken to build other things – like the church in town.

we did not enter through this gate. We had to pay admission.

Instead Xanten is a reconstruction. There were plenty of archaeological digs completed here but now the buildings are all new. This is one of the town gates.

Oh Happy Day! There is a playground!

Thankfully, it wasn’t all boring old/new buildings. There was a large playground designed to look like a Roman outpost.


There was also a small water playground – perfect since it was a bit warm out. The giant green thing behind the boys – we dubbed it ‘the watermelon’ – is an inflatable trampoline type thing. I’m no expert but I do not think that is an authentic reconstruction.


If there is one thing my kids should recognize after living in Europe is the Archimedes Screw. We’ve seen them at an amusement park and at Kinderdijk.


As luck would have it (or maybe these people are there all year round) there was a Roman Camp in place when we visited.

He must have been HOT.

Either these people are fiercely dedicated or they are well-paid…apparently they really do camp out here. They were dressed in Roman clothing and had all the necessary gear for Roman life – fires for cooking, beds for sleeping, and even weapons for defending themselves.

And the boys will take one sword and one shield

My boys were amazed at the shields and swords, but I had my eye on this chair. Clever design, isn’t it?


The museum at Xanten is quite impressive. Apparently it is pretty new – the website said that the museum is “Now Open!”

And even Roman NUMERALS

There were numerous artifacts that had been found at Xanten. The museum tried to give a picture of daily life for the Romans who lived here.

a whole class set of shields

There were also many items that had been reconstructed. The museum was very interactive – children were invited to lift up a sword and a soldier’s pack to feel how heavy they were, for example.


Right next to the museum is a complex of baths (every Roman city had public baths) which had been excavated.

Red and white I think. Or maybe navy and white.

Whenever I see tile designs I think of making them into a quilt. That black and white pattern was once the floor but I think it would look perfect made out of fabric.


The kids could choose from two projects: leatherwork (creating a mini Roman sandal) or bone carving (Andrew and Jeremy made a tiny sword.)

please notice that we were well hydrated while exploring.

We also played a few Roman games. Not gladiator games – some amusements that were much more tame and did not involve bloodshed or death.


Our last stop for the day was the amphitheater. The real gladiator games – called Bread and Circuses – were to take place a week after our visit. We were sorry to have missed it!


I would have especially liked to see this thing fired off. According to the description, this had some serious power!

We’ve got one more piece of Roman history to visit before we head to the New World. Stay tuned for a post on what the Romans constructed while they were in England!


We just love going to the local thrift shops – known as the Bis-Bis or the Rd4 – and on a recent visit I found two fantastic treasures.
HA! Now I can play with this all I want without making my Big Sister mad!! The first: A Spirograph, in perfect condition! I’ve been pining after one of these since my older sister got one for her birthday many years ago. I can’t remember if we enjoyed family fun with her Spirograph, as shown in the photograph on the right, but I know Sarah made some pretty sweet drawings with it and as the pesky little sister, I did not. I’ve not yet mastered all the potential of the Spirograph and its 21 plastic parts, but according to the instruction book, with a little practice I should soon be able to make drawings like this:

I'm not sure if that Indian headdress is offensive or if it is a homage to Native Americans.

According to the box I can make a million marvelous designs. That is a lot of drawing fun for just 2.50€!

Who is the copy writer on this thing?

I haven’t mastered the Spirograph because I was too busy creating pictures of breath-taking beauty with fantastic ease with this Swing-O-Graph. I wasn’t familiar with the Swing-O-Graph, but at a price of 1.50€ I thought I would give it a try. Another factor in my decision to buy: The bows in that sweet girl’s hair. That could have been me, right Mom?

Of course the instructions are in German.

It took me a little bit of time to figure out how to set up the Swing-O-Graph. I would have thought it was the pen that did the swinging, but it is actually the platform that the paper is on moves while the pen is stationary. This little device beautifully captures the physics and motion of a pendulum. I know I’m a science geek, but this is really cool.

and it WAS completed with fantastic ease!

I can’t say it took my breath away, but we did use a fair amount of paper making lots of different designs. I remember being equally enthralled when seeing the Foucalt Pendulum at the Smithsonian when I was about 10 – which was maybe about the same time that my sister got her Spirograph. Ah, it is all coming together…hairbows, crazy drawing toys, childhood trips to Washington DC…that is a lot of nostalgia and fun for just 4€ at the Bis-Bis.

Here’s another post in the “Mundane but Interesting” category.

This bakery used to have a store near us but it closed.

Home grocery delivery might be a modern novelty in the U.S., but it is a regular event in Germany. A truck will drive slowly down the street, often ringing a bell. There is probably a regular schedule, but since we don’t keep a regular schedule their visits seem random to us.

He just had a soccer game, can you tell?

Some stops are for regular customers who have standing orders. Others are on demand – like when my kids come running out of the house flagging them down. Once stopped the side of the truck opens up and reveals a wide assortment of fresh food. Sometimes the driver is also the vendor; other times there are two people in the truck – one to drive and one to sell.

Apricots were in season so lots of apricot desserts

The selection is somewhat limited, and what is available varies based on what has already been purchased. The bakery always has fresh bread and brotchen, and a few different desserts.

I think he picked out cherry pie.

My kids usually have no problem finding something they want though. And usually they get a free cookie.

Psychology 101: Bell=salivating

There are a few different bakery trucks that make the rounds. I’ve seen a truck that has fruits and vegetables, but we’ve never purchased anything from them. This is the meat truck. We’ve purchased a few things here, including sausage (naturally) and cheese. Whenever I hear their bell I think of Pavlov’s dogs.

And a free slice of bologna for the kids!

I think there are a few reasons that these trucks are popular here. Many of the regular customers are elderly, so I think it is great that they can get fresh food without venturing too far from their homes. Also, most refrigerators are small, so food must be purchased frequently. The trucks also allow people to save on gas. My neighbors have told me they think some of the stores that I shop at are too far away, so having a delivery truck is much more efficient. At nearly $8 for a gallon of gas, I can see why they’d rather stay home and let the food come to them!

None of these photos merit a blog post of their own, so I’m lumping them all together.

I love to run but have no desire to get that messy.

Thomas and Jeremy participated in a 5K color run in April. It was too messy for me and too long of a race for Andrew so we just waited at the finish line.

We'll be back for him in a few months.

We found this crab on one of the beaches in Normandy. Andrew wanted to bring him home.

Lost in translation?

This sign was posted on the public restrooms near Monet’s garden. Thankfully the closed restroom did not cause any embarrassment, but it did cause a bit of discomfort.


In April a workman came to our house to repair some curtain rods. While I was helping him I cut my finger (that goes to show what kind of a helper I am!) He told me I needed some pfeffer. I thought I misunderstood, but he really meant pfeffer: He packed my wound with fresh ground black pepper. I can’t say it worked any better than a bandaid but it sure was novel.

They are eating spinach.

Tadpoles dominated our lives this spring. A little creek (mudpit) near the chapel was their former home; they were relocated to a number of containers on our patio.

So cute!

Although a few of them reached maturity, we (thankfully) did not have a plague of frogs like I feared. It was fun while it lasted though.

I would have thought this was a rotten log.

After a soccer game this spring Jeremy and the boys took a ‘shortcut’ through the woods to the parking lot. They found this lying on the ground.

It was like a dissection.


It is (was?) a World War II era civilian gas mask! Obviously time was not kind to it – but what a find!

Alice the camel has  TWO humps.

In May the circus came to town. We didn’t actually attend the performance, but I sure got a kick out of seeing camels grazing in town.

Do you see the star?

It is strawberry season, and I think this is the prettiest strawberry top that I’ve ever seen.

They weren't babies - they could fly.

Another spring adventure: I was working in the basement and I heard a strange sound. I thought we had some mice among us, so naturally I did nothing until Jeremy got home. Thankfully there were no rodents - just three birds inhabiting our chimney. He carefully airlifted two of them to the outdoors and the third flew out him (her?) self. I’m not sure what brought them there, but apparently they liked their domicile because I’ve heard them a couple of times recently.

And it is not even Moustache March!

And finally – this hipster kid is sporting a new look. He’s got style!

Chevrons are very popular this season

I’ll begin with a definition: a sewist is one who sews. This term is much preferred on the sewing sites of the blogosphere, presumably because one who sews would rather not be called the same name as the conduit which carries off waste water and other refuse.

I wonder if the Route 66 fabric is popular

A local sewist and friend first told me about these travelling fabric markets which make stops in cities and towns in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and France from approximately January to June each year. (There are three companies that sponsor these – the websites can be found here, here and here.) I printed the schedules from all three companies, used google maps to determine which cities were reasonably close to me, consulted the calendar, and then made it my goal to go to one market from each this season. (After all, it’s now or never.)

The first market I went to was honestly a bit disappointing. It was in Sittard, NL and I didn’t even take any photos or buy any fabric. Sittard has a fabric market every Thursday, and the travelling market wasn’t any better than the weekly one.

I was the only weirdo with a camera.

The second market was the Stoffen Spektakel company, and it was spectacular! It was held in the town of Kerkrade, NL, and when I had to search for a parking spot I suspected this was going to be a great event. For starters, how amazing to go shopping in the shadow of a building like that! (I think it is the town hall.)

Too crowded for me - I didn't want to push or wait

Apparently there are lots of sewists in the area – there was quite a crowd! I’m sure the fact that it was a German holiday that day (May 1) brought extra shoppers.

lots of fabric - lots of people

It was a bit of a challenge to get a good look at fabric but there were so many vendors that when I saw a big crowd I just moved on.

Maybe these are fat quarters?

One thing all the shoppers had in common: Everyone was touching the fabric. I was doing it too! If I saw something I liked I’d reach out to feel it – mostly to assess the quality but also because fabric is just a tactile thing.

I'm glad it wasn't raining

Most of the fabric was for clothing or decor (like upholstery or drapery fabric.) There was some quilting weight fabric and some specialty fabric, like laminates.

I've got a notion...

There were plenty of notions for sale also. The selection of buttons at this vendor alone was pretty amazing!

If only my sewing room was this neat and organized

Ribbons, trims, zippers, thread…isn’t it beautiful? (I suppose only a sewist would think so.)

I think she is THRILLED that I am taking a photo

In the end I only bought three things: One yard of the gray knit fabric in the photo above; another yard of knit fabric; and a spool of thread. Though it was quite tempting to buy more – and I did have some non-buyer’s remorse, as usual – I realized that with an impending move I had to set some limits.

That thread has been used up, but the fabric is still waiting to be made into something great. I’m sure I’ll get to it someday soon…


I’ve been to Keukenhof Garden – the world famous garden in Holland – twice before. The first time we took a bus trip there (which was not so great) and it was super crowded (which was also not so great.) The second time we went so that we could cycle around the tulip fields and the weather was not so great which made cycling not so great. This, the third time, was motivated by having Jeremy’s family in town.

This time it was great! The weather was lovely, the crowds were minimal, and the flowers were gorgeous. It might have seemed like flower overkill since we’d just visited Monet’s Garden, but seeing technicolor acres of tulips in bloom is something that should not be missed, even if it meant spending the majority of the day in the car.

I could add lots of adjectives about how lovely, beautiful, pretty and stunning the flowers were – and I could even find a thesaurus and add a few more accolades. But I think I’ll just let the photos do the talking. Enjoy!






















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