Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Maastricht Christmas Market and St. Servatius Basilica


Now that we're back from our Christmas Market venture last weekend, you know we are full of Christmas cheer.  We got our "fix."

Let's start with Maastricht, which was our Friday afternoon arrival point.  And since I took only 3 photos before we sat down to eat (it was time!), I'll start with this "fix," which was a must for the trip:  brats! 

Gotta always have a brat at the Christmas market.  It's what you do.

THEN we were ready to start the day.

HO HO HO!
No Bah Humbugs from us.

Because most European Christmas markets are situated at city center,
the biggest church of the city is usually right there in plain sight.

And because the European churches are more important to us than even Christmas markets,
we pretty quickly veered off from the Christmassy "fix" to make sure we didn't miss this Basilica.

Actually, there are two churches next to each other, separated by a street.
The red spire is the Dutch Reformed St. John's Church from the 14th c. and wasn't open.
The humongous church next door is the Basilica of St. Servatius from the 11th-12th centuries.

It's easy to tell this is a Roman Catholic church.
And yes, I lit a candle and prayed for special people that day!

Opposite the altar view in the former collage is the organ/back of the church.
What a treat to hear it while we were there.

It was the crypt, however, that grabbed me the most.
Soulful.  Cozy.  Meditative.
St. Servatius, the Bishop of Tongeren, died in 384 and is buried there.

That's the reliquary bust of St. Servatius, 15/16c., bottom-left.

From inside the church, we looked out to the Christmas market Ferris wheel....

which, of course, totally got our attention.
We've never seen a Christmas market with a Ferris wheel, so we had to ride it.

The contraption itself always fascinates me...and this time more so because of the colors.

How can you NOT love  it!
And yes, that's how big the basilica is (bottom-right).

I had fun making this collage on my iPad for Facebook.

It so happens the toilets were next to the skating rink,
so we watched for awhile.
I loved this wee family, with mommy showing how and then older sister doing it.

As the afternoon wound down, we sat long enough for stir-fried mushrooms with garlic sauce
and the prerequisite glühwein.  

We were totally satisfied.  We didn't need more.  It was time to leave.  

As we left the market and wandered to our car, past the city hall (top-left and center),
we were reminded that Masstricht is André Rieu's city, for those of you who know him.


In case you don't know him, here's my favorite of all the videos I've seen.
He's Maastricht's favorite son!
To be honest, he's all of Holland's favorite son!

On that note, we crossed the St. Servatius Bridge across the Meuse/Maas River to our car.

Enough "fixes" to last the weekend...but it was only our first day of three....


Thursday, December 07, 2017

In the Christmas Spirit


Because I want this in my In Soul archives (and not just on Facebook), here's a story to make your heart melt in these chaotic, messy times around the world.

It's about the second cat, Oscar, who found a home with daughter Amy back in Atlanta:

Here's the story in Amy's own words after finding him dirty at their patio door in 2012 (top-middle):

"We knew we couldn't take him in, but I wanted him to be safe. I brought him into the garage with a blanket, food and water, and left the door slightly ajar, deciding that if he was still there in the morning, we would take him to the vet to get checked out before taking him to the same shelter where we got C.C. [their female cat]. He was not in the garage, but instead roaming around out back in the morning.

When we took him to the vet, he was diagnosed with FIV, the feline version of HIV. We had already decided we didn't want another cat, but that was confirmed by the vet who expressed concern about C.C. being infected. I believe there are meds that have a possibility of reversing the diagnosis, but if I recall correctly, it wasn't a strong possibility. And because he didn't have any symptoms, there were no other meds needed. Just a diagnosis he would have for life, and similar to HIV for humans, weakens the immune system, making him more susceptible to infections or other illnesses.

When we left the vet, we took him to the shelter and were informed that they literally did not have a single spot available for Oscar. They also were adamant that C.C. would be fine. They said there is a lot of fear and misinformation around FIV (similar to HIV) and that the only way for Oscar to infect C.C. is via a vampire-like bite, enough to pierce the skin. Given Oscar's sweet temperament, we didn't think that would be a concern. But what made the decision for us was when she said: "No one will adopt a cat with FIV. He'll live here for the rest of his life." Ugh, I couldn't bear the thought! I called Dennis (he was out of town) and he simply said, "That's our cat. He found us, he showed up on our doorstep. That's our cat."

So, we decided to keep Oscar, but given how dirty he was and the fact that he needed to be neutered, we paid the usual adoption fee to the shelter to take him in (they found a cage in the surgery ward), clean and neuter him [bottom center image], before bringing him home. After only a few months of good food and being indoors, he quickly shed the straw-like fur for rabbit-soft hair. And now he is the whitest of whites, fluffy love-bug!

I can't remember when exactly, but I believe it was earlier this year (or maybe last year just after the move), when the vet ran the FIV test (twice) and both times it came back negative. He's never showed any symptoms and doesn't take any medication.

Can you imagine him sitting in a shelter just because of a label?"

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And now a couple of add-ons to the Christmas spirit:

A Canadian friend of mine makes mugs as a business venture,
so, to support her, I bought one that says "bow-chi-chihuahua."
Just the other day we gave it to friend, Coby, who has two of her own chihuahuas.

Merry Christmas!

Here's a better pic of the live Christmas tree that Astrid decorated for us.
We had it up by December 1st, believe it or not, because of Christmas dinner guests on the 2nd.
Traditionally the Dutch do NOT put up their Christmas tree until after Sinterklaas on December 5th.

Speaking of which, Sinterklaas marked my 8th anniversary of moving here to the Netherlands!
And because of our dinner guests, Astrid was the one who suggested putting up the tree early.

Merry Christmas!

And then, just yesterday, when we went to get our biennial mammograms, 
(government freebie for women aged 55-75),
we found these workers putting up their plaza tree (the day after Sinterklass!).

Normally such a big tree is purchased from Norway and shipped for a gazillion euros.
To get around that cost, look at the ingenious Dutch way of doing it:
they build a tiered stand on which they mount, in this case, 43 smaller trees,
to make it look like one HUGE tree.
As I often say, leave it to the Dutch.

Merry Christmas!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And to celebrate the season, Astrid and I drive to the south of the Netherlands tomorrow
to visit the Christmas markets in both Maastricht, NL, and Aachen, Germany,
right across the border from each other.

This map gives you a feel for our trip:
Gorinchem (middle red dot is where we live) to Maastricht = 168 km (104 mi.).
Maastricht to Aachen = 39 km (24 mi.).
We'll be staying at a hotel in between the two till Monday.

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Watercolor Sunday and Saturday's Color: November 2017


Nope, it's not December yet but on this last day of  November, and with no more weekends, here's another month sliding off the calendar!

My Watercolor Sunday posts on Facebook for November 2017 are:

November 5 (photo manipulation):
"America's present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrums but normalcy;
not revolution but restoration." --Warren G. Harding
(29th President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1921, until his death in 1923)


November 12 (photo manipulation):
"She stands
In tattered gold
Tossing bits of amber
And jade, jewels of a year grown old:
November."
--Zephyr Ware Tarver (1886-1974)


November 19 (photo manipulation):
"Don't wait until the fourth Thursday in November to sit with family and friends to give thanks.
Make every day a day of Thanksgiving!" --Charmaine J. Forde


November 26 (photo manipulation):
"In November, the smell of food is different.  It is an orange smell.  A squash and pumpkin smell.
It tastes like cinnamon and can fill up a house in the morning, can pull everyone from bed in a fog.
Food is better in November than any other time of the year." --Cynthia Rylant

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

My Saturday's Color posts on Facebook for November 2017:

(finished on 3 July 2009, posted on FB 4 November 2017)
Even though some of these Celtic Designs make me wonder (it's a dog-eat-dog world, for instance),
I first trace them with my finger and then color them with happy colors anyway.


(finished on 5 June 2017, posted on FB 11 November 2017)
During the month of November, it's "the proper thing to do" to add the color ORANGE.
(from my Kaleido Color book on black background paper)


(finished on 8 October 2017, posted on FB 18 November 2017)
These are the fun ones I can usually finish in one day.  :)
(from my 6 x 6 mini-mandala book)


(finished on 7 November 2017, posted on FB 25 November 2017)
As the days get shorter and shorter before the winter solstice (Dec. 21),
we need the light wherever we can find it.
(from my Stained Glass book)


And now we face December.
How did it come around so quickly again?!


Thursday, November 23, 2017

AMERICA 2017: With My Family


It wasn't planned this way but look how the sequence of my posts on our October trip to America made it such that today, THANKSGIVING DAY, is the day I'm sharing our time with my kids.  How wonderfully and therapeutically serendipitous.

Our first week in America was spent with Ted and Jane in Connecticut.  Then we were with the kids a few days before Bob and Peggy, and then afterwards at the cabin in the North Georgia Mountains before flying back home.

Astrid and I both posted most of these on Facebook but here they are in sequence, more or less:

While taking MARTA from the Atlanta airport to North Springs for pickup by SIL Dennis and Nicholas,
Astrid took these pics of some of Atlanta's landmarks as we passed by.
That was Wednesday, 18 October.
[an Astrid FB post]

Once at Amy's, one of the first things I always do is take pics of Astrid and Nicholas together.
This is from 2014 when he was 14....

and from last year, when he was 16....

and now this year, at age 17.
I LOVE comparing the years, don't you!

Because Nicholas is now a working man, when not at school, we made sure to visit him at work.
They even allowed him to take his supper break with us, which was fun.
[Amy was absent because of traveling for work.]

Astrid and I both love walking the neighborhood where Amy and Dennis live.
The walking options seem almost endless.

We always found things to do, while the others worked or went to school.
[an Astrid FB post]

Saturday evening was a block party on their cul-de-sac, with Dennis as the grill man.
Lucky for us to be there to enjoy it.

By Sunday it was time to meet up with Bob and Peggy, but first...Mark treated 
Astrid, Nicholas and moi to an Atlanta United soccer game at the new Mercedes-Benz stadium.
It so happens his company has their own suite there for which Mark got free tickets.

Mark even bought AU t-shirts for Astrid and me to look the part!
[a Mark FB post]

And lucky Astrid captured one of the goals from UA.
The game ended up being a 2-2 tie with Toronto, who was already #1 in the league.
In my book, a tie is better than a loss, so it was a good game.

From the game we met up with Bob and Peggy and stayed with them south of Atlanta till Thursday.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


Thursday is the day each year we drive up to the North GA Mountains, to the same cabin.
After getting settled in, the first thing Dennis did was make a fire on the screened porch.
This was important because last year fires weren't allowed because of a severe, prolonged dry spell.

One of the reasons why that fireplace is so important is because of...s'mores.  YUP!
[an Astrid FB post]

Besides the evening meal each night, breakfast each morning is also one of the highlights.
[an Astrid FB post]

Having a jigsaw puzzle to work on is good quiet-time for each of us participating.
This is one of the 2 puzzles Amy surprised me with last year...with images from Malta.
[an Astrid FB post]

We were at the cabin the last week of October when it was colder than usual.
But we enjoyed every minute of it.

In fact, one morning we even has a dusting of snow!

That may have been the one day when the 4 of us played Spades indoors,
instead of on the screened porch with the fireplace.
It was that cold.  HA!

These are impressions from Astrid, including pics from the ride up.
[an Astrid FB post]

Because I was still fighting a cold from our time with Ted and Jane, I didn't go out walking,
but Astrid did, every day, even in the rain.  She's such a trooper.
[an Astrid FB post]

She also went with Dennis and Amy and walked around Blue Ridge while they grocery shopped.
[an Astrid FB post]

 When we leave the cabin on Monday each year, our tradition is to stop at Waffle House for breakfast.
The cabin experience wouldn't be the same without it.  We never get tired of it.
[an Astrid FB post]

Each trip thus far Astrid and I then fly home the next day, Tuesday night.
Life goes on for the working people and those still in school.

THIS is what we look forward to each year.  All of it!
See why there's so much for which I'm thankful?

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!