Friday, February 22

Window Peeping

flashback friday link

I am flashing back today and cheating maybe just a little to do it. This post that follows is one which sits in the archives of my blog. Initially this little bit of writing was shared via email with friends and family back in those long ago days which preceded the obsession opening of this blog. Originally dated 10 October 2005, these are the musings and observations of a newbie to the land of Holland. So much of it still holds true, though I do have to say I wish there was still that feeling of "newness" in everything. I like that feeling.
For more walks down memory lane, click on the button above to visit Cablegirl's blog and check out the links.

If the eyes are indeed a window to the soul, then it follows that the windows of a home are a direct line to the psyche and the personality of its residents.

To stroll down a street here in Leiden is to take part in my newly discovered preferable pastime, that is by name, window gazing.

Most homes here are built simply and for efficiency in design rather than style. In fact, from the structure of the outside it’s difficult to tell one home from another without the house number in front delineating that it belongs to you. So to make up for lack of design and form in the building structure, it seems that the Dutch take window design very seriously, using it as a means to give a home personality and distinction. From the window treatments to the decorated panes and ledges, each one seems to me a telling of the inhabitants within. I like to make up my own stories about the people inside based upon the window displays.

I suppose you could call it people-watching one-step-removed.

Topping the list of my favorite things is the lace curtains which grace many windows here. I remember when I was very small and I learned to draw a house, I would always add windows, and to the windows I would draw an exaggerated swoop of a curtain hanging down from the top and then cinched tightly in the center and pulled to the side where the bottom part of the drape would billow out toward the floor. (Pretty fancy digs for a simple line drawing, huh?) At any rate, these windows with white lace curtains are something out of my childhood fantasy. They are picture perfect. I absolutely adore them.

As a general rule, the Dutch keep their curtains open. My ex-pat books tell me that as a culture perhaps the Dutch feel they have nothing to hide, and therefore do not feel the need to close the drapes and/or blinds in their homes. Whatever the reason behind the tradition, you can generally count on window treatments, whether traditional lace curtains or modern mini blinds, to be cinched back or set in open position.

Window ledges are a terrific place to display collections, plants, decorative items, etc. and this is where the personality telling begins. Take for instance, the home just down the street from mine, where the kitchen window is lined with silver teapots of all shapes and sizes. At my cursory count there are 15 pots standing at attention on the windowsill. Or, there is the home crammed with plants of all varieties lined up on the ledge, pressing their leaves against the glass, vying for sunlight. Every day on the way to Emma’s school, I ride my bike past a home where the front window boasts a single row of sticky package bows in a rainbow of colors.

There are windows with candle arrangements, windows with flower arrangements, windows with candle and flower arrangements, and windows with candles, flowers and live cat arrangements. (It seems that a window ledge is an optimum spot for cat napping.) There are displays of Virgin Mary gracing windows and I have spied Buddha in multiple forms on others. There is the laughing Buddha, the praying Buddha, and Buddha in repose. Your choice.

My favorite Buddha themed window consists of an elegant statuette of a Buddha in prayer pose on one side and on the other a hand-built ship model constructed from Heineken beer cans. I shall let you jump to your own conclusions about the residents of that house.

Also on the route to Emma’s school is the rooster house, with a collection of ceramic roosters lined up on the ledge and then soon following, there is the swan house which boasts several elegant blown glass swans, their long necks reaching up nearly the full height of the window. Not to be outdone by anyone however is the gnome house, where a minimum of 50 clay gnomes decorate the front window and the front yard of a home I spotted only once while out on a bike ride. I have had more than one good giggle over that one! There must be a personality class for “gnome collectors” right? Something akin to “cat person” or “Trekkie” I would think.

In our own home, on the ground floor it is our kitchen which faces the street. The far wall of the kitchen holds five large windows. Running the length of the windows is a six inch ledge. At this moment, on that ledge sits a single desert plant, a watering can, a row of matchbox cars, and a partly eaten stroopwafel.

Now what, I wonder does that tell you about us?


And now, for some shameless self-promotion:

vote for me
My haiku about Andrew made the finalist list in the second edition Haiku Buckaroo contest at My Mommy's Place. You can go vote for my poem (or one you like better) by clicking on the button above. Or you can click here if it's easier for you. The voting is easy and guess what? You don't have to be a blogger to cast your vote. What this means, of course, is that even my beloved lurkers (you know who you are) can click here and go vote. It's a snap to do and it would build my esteem immensely if you'd take a minute to do it.

So, go. Do it. Okay?


  1. I would love to see a photo of that gnome home to post on my web site.
    QueenGnome, President
    World Wide Gnome Association

  2. How interesting! I love to surmise things about people based on the look of their homes. Dave and I love to do that.

    I used to draw my windows the same way when I was a child. Now that we live so close to the Amish, I've come to learn that the way they hang their curtains has meaning. I love that. When we drive by their homes, I feel like I know a secret about them.

  3. I remember this post! I remember you feeling that way! And I can almost remember feeling that way myself, though it has been a long time ago now. And yes, sometimes it can be kinda fun being a newbie!

  4. I noticed that when we went to Amsterdam last month. It blew me away how you can see right into people's homes. Hans says that it's because the Netherlands is Protestant and the theory is that, if the neighbors can see into your home it discourages sinning.

    But he's Belgian and they're a country full of anti-social, somewhat snarky atheists who scoff at the national religion of Catholicism.µ as well as pretty much any other organized religion.

    And I'm a Jewish American...we won't even go into my opinions on things...

  5. Ok, I voted. You are tied for first place so come on, other lurkers, it was easy!! :)

  6. I remember that post...and I voted for it already! Looks like you are leading so far... ;)

  7. Fantastic collection of windows. IN my neighborhood people keep their blinds snapped shut so tight you'd be hard pressed to see light, much less anything decorative.

    Can you please take a picture of the beer bottle model ship? I'm desperately curious. lol

  8. Reading your blog I almost get homesick. Even though I really dislike curtains and window peepers, I suddenly miss it! :-)

    Great blog, good insights, thanks.

    Tanja, Dutch woman in America

  9. oh yes, the Dutch "look inside and check out our furniture, bookshelves, wall colors and our clutter on the table" attitude. Priceless! My eyes are always drawn inside as well and yet I always feel ashamed and uncomfortable. I'd never be able to live like that. We belgians usually have some lace curtains first if the windows face the street side. yet also in Belgium you can learn a lot about the inhabitants as we also put stuff on the window ledges.
    (not in our home though!).

    I surely hope the half eaten stroopwafel didn't move from Leiden to Den Haag! ...if so that surely would say something about your family ...hahahaaaa

    I do love love looooove cats or dogs napping on a window ledge. they do love it there: sunny, warm and people to watch or to bluntly ignore (usually I am trying to make faces to get their attention).

  10. I voted! I voted! And you're currently winning. Woohooo!