30 December 2012

Ferris Wheel - Sundays in My City

Gran on the Ferris wheel in Antwerp. She found it hilarious that I hated being up on that thing (I had to take one for the team because no one wanted to go but her).

Windy up here!

It's only swinging a LITTLE bit!
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23 December 2012


Sinterklaas is not Santa!  There are a couple similarities but the story and tradition is very different. Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands sometime in November (I forget the exact date) on a boat from Spain (aparently he prefers to spend the off-season in a warm climate). He rides a white horse and is accompanied by his Moorish helpers; all named Zwarte Piet (black Pete).  [There is some controversy recently over the history of Zwarte Piet and his slave roots.  There have been attempts to paint Piet in different colors but mostly the story has simply been altered to say that his face is black from chimney soot.]  He tours the country, attending parades and making appearances at parties and shopping centers for a couple weeks before making his deliveries on 5 December. Children leave their shoes out and Sint leaves cookies, chocolate coins, fruit...maybe a tiny present but Sinterklaas is not the big gift-giving holiday Santa produces. Children who misbehave aren't threatened with coal but rather with the idea that Pete will stuff them in a sack and Sint will take them away back to Spain.

Last year I happend upon a Sinterklaas parade.  Kids love to dress up as Zwarte Piets.

Sint came to the house this year and left some goodies for Mom, Dad and Gran. I had to put them up out of reach of the dogs but will put it all back out tomorrow before I leave to get them from the airport.

It's a good thing there just happened to be shoes/slippers for them here.
Apples, oranges, pretty painted eggs, chocolate euro, papernoten (little spice cookies)...

I guess I fell somewhere between good and bad because there were no treats in my shoes but I didn't end up in Zwarte Piet's sack either. Pitty, perhaps...the weather is probably nicer in Spain right now :)

"Happy Holidays" - Sundays in My City


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22 December 2012

Makeup Workshop...Really

When I received an email saying I'd won a makeup workshop I quite literally laughed out loud (as I'm sure some of you who know me are doing at the thought of me in makeup). 

This is me most of the time...no makeup.

The woman doing the workshop was a little unsure what to do with me since I told her I don't wear makeup (although I'm not sure why someone who does would need a workshop). I laughed when she said, "Your eyebrows I would...correct."  She's not the first person to want to "do something" with my eyebrows. She tried a couple times to convince me but really, I'm not into anything that has to be maintained.  She settled for "painting" them and said blonds really need to have well-shaped eyebrows because our complexion is so fair. Um, okay. That's not going to happen.

She also told me that, as a blond, I should either get my eye lashes permanently colored (I have no idea what that involves and can't even imagine it but I'm fairly certain it's not something I would ever want to do) or wear a lot of mascara.  She put the mascara on and my eye wouldn't stop watering. This made the mascara run and she had to keep cleaning it off. I can tell you I will not be wearing mascara! 

The one thing I do like is that the puffiness under my eyes is not nearly as visible.  Other than that, I can't wait to wash this junk off!  My eyes are not happy and I feel like my lashes weigh a ton.  Really, it's just not my thing.

Updated Tree

I found some 220V lights that someone must have given me when they moved (I think it was Delaine). So I added them to the tree along with a couple more ornaments I found. So here it is lit up and close-ups of a couple ornaments.

The Christmas Crapper

One from the year I was in Afghanistan and from my grad school.

The most appropriate tree topper I can think of for this year!

One from Mama :)

21 December 2012

My Solstice Tree - I Don't Do Christmas

If we're speaking scientifically...



I've been writing and rewriting this post in my head for a couple weeks now. I don't get socio-political on this blog. That's not what it's about. But it's hard to explain my version of things without delving into politics and religion a little.

I don't like Christmas; for several reasons:

1. Any holiday that causes people to trample each other to death in order to get a cheap TV or...whatever...is not something I want anything to do with.

2. If you believe the big book of fairy tales called the Bible (I do not), Jesus wasn't born in December.  Christmas is a holiday Christians made up in order to redefine the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice (something I'm highly in favor of celebrating since it signals the beginning of the lengthening of days and in a place where we have less than 8 hours of daylight right now I'm all for longer days!).

My construction site at 0800 (8:00 a.m.)
Despite this, Christians (not all, I'm not saying that, but a very vocal contingent) act as if they are the only people entitled to a celebration at the end of December and the whole ridiculous War on Christmas claim from the most privileged group of people in America makes me want to scream.

[Please note, I'm not looking for a discussion or argument about my views. If you want to present an alternate opinion please do so on your own blog. I will not entertain any such comments here. My blog; my rules.]

3. I'm just not into stuff.  The over-commercialism has far exceeded absurd.  I don't like the feeling that I have to give people stuff nor do I ever want anyone to feel like they're required to give me something. I love giving gifts and if I see something I think someone would like then I get it for them. I don't need a reason or special holiday.  What I don't like is buying things for the sake of buying things.  And I don't like receiving something that is clearly given out of a sense of obligation and the thought of someone spending money they really don't have to buy me something I really don't need horrifies and saddens me. I will never convince my mother or brother that there's no need to buy me things. Never. I know this. Thankfully, at least my father is on board with this concept.  Plus, there's all the wastefulness of wrapping paper and ribbon and bows and gift bags and, and, and... 

However, there are several family traditions surrounding the Christmas holiday that I cherish and I'm trying to find ways to incorporate them into a celebration that I'm comfortable with.  One of those traditions has to do with tree ornaments. We never had generic ornaments on our tree. Each year we would each receive an ornament that had significance from the year. Perhaps you went abroad to study or started playing an instrument.  Your ornament might be the flag of the country where you studied or the instrument you play. I have ornaments from 2 universities, favorite sports teams, things made in elementary school, a Christmas Crapper from Barcelona, etc..  (although I'm hoping most of my ornaments are in a storage unit courtesy of the US Army and not in a box that got packed to come here but never made it because I only found a small box with a few ornaments.) The evergreen tree was part of the pagan solstice celebration and I've had trees in past years (always real...I just can't do a fake tree). But, my eco-hippy-self is no longer cool with cutting down a tree just to have it in the house for a week.

Two years ago when I moved into this house I made a tree out of moving boxes that hadn't been unpacked yet, hung a few ornaments and the stockings and called it good.

Last year I was in Prague so I didn't do anything at all.  This year, Mom, Dad and Gran are coming. I want to do a combination of the traditions I love, the Dutch Sinterklaas (which is done on 5 December but it will have to come a little late here) and a celebration of the solstice all while abiding my mother's need to have me unwrap a bunch of presents.

So, in order to have something eco-friendly on which to hang my ornaments I gathered up scraps from the construction site (wood, drywall, ceiling tile, ceramic tile) and decided to make my own tree.  I didn't really plan it out much I just sort of dove in (obviously not the best approach to a project).  I started sawing wood pieces in my dining room.

Cutting ceiling tiles on the kitchen counter?!?
I took them outside to spray paint (a task which should be simple but the can of paint I bought didn't have a push button. I took the button from the only other spray can I had but it didn't quite fit so much of the paint ended up on my hand) but as soon as I did it started to drizzle so I moved them to the kitchen.

A couple pieces needed additional paint. I thought I could control it pretty well but...

Thank goodness for the bottle of nail polish remover Aime left in my bathroom! There is no evidence of green paint on my kitchen floor!
My fingers, however, look like a holiday manicure gone wrong!
After everything dried the assembly started.  As a construction engineer I know better than to jump into a project without planning it out first. Then again, I supposedly know better than to spray paint in the kitchen so... 

The first draft didn't hold together once I started nailing so that there would be things from which to hang the ornaments. The pieces of ceiling tile didn't hold up at all. So I had to get more scraps from the site which meant more sawing and more spray painting. I ended up having to go to the store and buy another can of paint because the first can ceased functioning all together.  I was smart enough to do the 2nd round of spray painting in the garage! It didn't quite turn out the way I had pictured it but it will suffice.

Putting it together the 2nd go-round.
VOILA!  The finished product.
 And with that, I wish you all a very happy solstice. Bring on the light!!


16 December 2012

Windows - Sundays in My City

Many (most) Dutch houses have big front windows. They are rarely "empty."  I've been thinking of photographing them for a while now. I discovered photographing windows is really difficult. Reflection and glare are pretty impossible to eliminate. Plus, it's really difficult to take a picture of a window without looking like you're trying to take a picture through the window. So, these aren't the greatest pictures. If I figure out how to take window pictures without all the glare and reflection I'll do another post about them.  You can click on the pictures to view them a little bigger.

Large decorations like this are pretty normal.

A rather random assortment of things.
Sinterklaas (NOT the same as Santa) decorations are common this time of year. These people didn't bother to take down their regular decorations so there's a combo.
The people inside saw me taking this picture and gave me quite a surprised look.

Someone is having a birthday
Cute puppy

Now, as usual, head over to Unknown Mami and check out what other people are posting from their cities. Always a good time!

Unknown Mami

09 December 2012

Walking to Germany - Sundays In My City

The Tri-Border walking club took a walk across the border into the nearby town of Gangelt to take in their Christmas market.

Crossing the border. No trolls or German border guards asking for ID.

Potato pancakes. YUM!

Eating roasted chestnuts.

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