Monday, December 13, 2010

My Heart, My Castle, My Home

Remember my post a month ago on when we drove to Münster and Münsterland in Germany? This was one of the castles we saw, Burg Hülshoff.

Today is my turn again at Vision and Verb where I talk about how our homes need to be our castles at this hectic time of the year, protecting us from the outside forces that would love to do us in.

In the meantime, once we saw Sinterklaas day come and go on the 5th (and my one-year anniversary of arriving here in Holland)...last post...I got busy on decorating the apartment for the season. Astrid says traditionally 'they' do NOT want to see holiday decorations or hear Christmas music until after the 5th. Some American commercialism has seeped into Holland, of course, in that storefronts have been decorated for several weeks now, but the Christmas music started in force on the 6th, this past Monday...the day I started trimming the tree. What a lovely serenade.

But first, just last evening Astrid looked and found these images (below) of that first 'real' Christmas tree from last year. Before my truckpacks (and Christmas decorations!) had arrived from Atlanta, we opted for a cut tree from the market square down the street. You might remember that post. O Christmas Tree, O Dennenboom! All €30 of it dragged up to the apartment, thanks to Astrid. We'll never forget that tree, our first!

Then 2 days before Christmas last year, one of the local stores had their artificial trees on sale and after asking Astrid about going that route for next year, we both agreed to buy this one below...for €10. It seemed like a no-brainer, even for someone (Astrid) who wouldn't be caught dead with an artificial tree. Just store it in the basement and bring it up each year. Easy as pie.

The tree. That tree. Once again Astrid got out her camera, knowing this is what I love to do. For some reason, she is perfectly happy leaving the tree decorating to me...and even doesn't mind that this one is very 'American' compared to last year's. Actually, every day she makes a comment about how beautiful it is.
Even without icicles!

The tree goes on when we get up in the morning and stays on all day till we go to bed at night.
While the "Let it Snow" ornament is one of my favorites, Woody and Buzz Lightyear still remain my favorites, especially after seeing Toy Story 3 a few weeks back.

Christmas trees are so quiet. They do not intrude or bother or disrupt the day.
They just BE. They ARE.


Since I'm talking about the homefront in this post, Astrid now has a week and a half under her belt at SystemFarma, where she now works. Lucky for her, it's six of one half a dozen of the other as to whether she drives the 20km or takes the train. Both take almost the exact amount of time, and with her €6/day travel allowance (do companies do that anymore in the States???), she's actually making money to use on car upkeep. Thus far, however, she's only taken the train because the weather and roads have been so iffy this winter.

Now, check this out!
Astrid will learn several different jobs in time but for right now, she's learning all the ins and outs of this incredible machine...mainly how to keep it running all day long.

What amazes me most about this job is that back in my assisted-living work years, our residents received their meds packaged exactly like this. In fact, after I received my Med-Tech certification for dispensing meds, I was in one emergency situation where I had to be the Med-Tech for a day when the scheduled lady couldn't come in. I still remember these packages and how even back then I was astonished by this kind of automation.
Now Astrid can tell me how it's done!

Talk about responsibility! To think many lives depend on technicians like Astrid getting it right.
I am so very proud of her.

It's at this time of year, especially in the context of Astrid's new job and schedule, that I'm reminded how much our home really does need to be our quiet, peaceful castle, protecting us from the "tyranny of the urgent" and the outside forces that seek to suck the life out of us. But more on that at Vision and Verb....


  1. Your tree in your living room looks so beautiful. Bravo to Astrid on the gorgeous photos, and to you on the gorgeous tree. To pull Christmas out, with all your memories in those ornaments, makes your new home real and yours more than ever.

    It's cool to see what Astrid does now! As for a travel allowance . . . huh? We get it for going to a conference or something, but not for just going to work! Has that ever happened in the U.S.? Well, I guess not at a state-funded university like mine. :)

    I see we were reading each others blogs at the same time ...

  2. I am sitting here with a big smile, looking at you on top of the couch, you are a little dare davil, when it comes to 'being on a mission'
    I already know, DON'T try to stop Ginnie, when she is on the go and full speed ahead.
    My first artificial tree, een nepper.... :) but a wonderful one, with beautiful ornaments, I keep looking at it and telling you that I like it, yes even without the icecles.
    My new work, I do like, today I was with the car and yes it makes no diffenrence at all.
    The machine and I, are becomming good friends, if you know what I mean........
    Thank you for making our castle, so cozy with this wonderful tree.

  3. Ruth: Christmas trees have always worked their magic on me, sister, and perhaps here in Holland more than ever, giving me a taste of home away from home. It tickles me to no end that Astrid genuinely LIKES the way I decorate the tree, so that's an added plus. :)

    Apparently most companies here give a travel allowance for jobs that are 20 km or more away from home. Astrid's son also gets an stipend. No complaining from us!

    Astrid: You sure know how to make me a happy camper in our castle! I love our tree and that you genuinely like it, in spite of no icicles. Thank you, Mijn Vrouw. Thank you for filling me up to overflowing, over and over again.

  4. Wow - that Christmas tree is unbelievable! We have to work on getting space before we can get a tree in our place.

    I love the colors on your tree! So beautiful.

    For working, I wish the government would pay for our parking or for us to take the bus. Unfortunately, since tax payers do pay that bill, I don't think that will ever happen.

    But the one perk I do get is working 9 out of 10 days, obviously seen in a pay cut however, which I'd take for the day off!

    Your castle does look happy! We are still working on finding a better, bigger castle! :)

  5. Okay Ginnie, this might be a hopelessly inappropriate comment: I love your socks (or are they like Hüttenschuhe?)!!!
    Your tree is beautiful, although I have to agree that it is very American. But beautiful and American don't have to be contrasts, right? (which means that I find so much beauty here).

  6. ET: Our apartment has very little space, Jen, but the tree does fit there, so we're glad. I'm not sure we could put it anywhere else. It's funny how cozy our castle has become for us. It helps to keep things simple. But then, with your wee one coming soon, I can imagine the room you'll need. I hope you'll find what you're looking for!

    Carola: LOL. Astrid has told me that, yes, indeed, my slippers are Hüttenschuhe, made by Haflinger. In fact, they are hers, purchased on Texel (island NW of Holland). With my wool socks, her wool slippers are a bit bigger and keep my feet warmer.
    Thanks for liking my Christmas tree, even though it's clearly American. :)

  7. Ginnie- I agree about the memories of putting up orniments you brought from home to here in Holland, I too am from Michigan and brought mine along when I moved here a few years ago. Its just what is needed at this time of year. "A taste of home" thats what I got when I stumbled across Ruth's blog a couple weeks back. Just what was needed this time of year.I love all your photos you post and stories that go along with them. "Happy Holidays" to you and Astrid.

  8. Julie: Oh, please tell me more about you and where you are now? There was no link to you or e-mail or post. Don't you love how we stumble on to each other in the blogosphere! It's such a small, small world. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I'd love to know more about you.

  9. Your Christmas tree is really beautiful. We have many ornaments but this year we’ll go to our daughter in Nashville so we did not put up a tree. I miss it. I have been reading about the origins of Christmas and it is fascinating. For example the custom for the Christmas tree had a start in Pagan Rome and Pagan Egypt (a fir tree in Rome and a palm tree in Egypt.) It was decorated with nuts and balls symbolizing the sun in the festivities of the winter solstice. The evergreen symbolized fertility in Saturnalia and a “new birth” of nature. I am pleased that the Christians borrowed the custom and made it so popular as a decorated tree is a real joy, don’t you think? One of my worse Christmases was when we bought our first house, in Decatur. We brought to the new house, in our car, two large boxes of our slides and all our Christmas ornaments, so they would not get hurt in the moving truck the next day. The next day when we arrived at the house, someone had broken into it and taken our slides (so many photos) and all our ornaments – some I had brought from France. We were very sad.

  10. What a beautiful tree... you have inspired me to get my little artificial tree down out of the attic and set it up... a tabletop tree that came strung with lights. I tied bows onto it and have a few special ornaments that I add each year to personalize it.

    My other half is a scrooge when it comes to decorating (making it hard for me to get into the spirit) so an artificial tree works best for me... very little work to set it up each year!

    I LOVE that you have Buzz Lightyear and Woody on your tree and the overall look of the tree is beautiful... great photos to show us the beauty!

    I don't know about all over the country... but here in the DC metropolitan area, Federal workers as well as many employed by the private sector get stipends to encourage use of public transportation. And my brother and his partner (living in Manhattan) both get subsidized to ride the subway to work with full payment for a monthly pass.

  11. What's American about those decorations?
    I love your tree (as probably many others, as I simply love this tradition:-), forgive me for this weakness:)
    I will have to buy and decorate ours this weekend

  12. Vagabonde: Once in a blue moon I do not put up a Christmas tree, but usually it's something I need to do, emotionally, every year. If we'd be gone most of the month, it didn't make sense, so I understand. I love hearing about the origins of traditions and how they change over time. So interesting. I hate it for you that your Christmas ornaments, especially those from France, were stolen. What's wrong with 'those' people???

    Victoria: No matter how big or small, I LOVE the look of the Christmas-tree lights, especially at night. Just today I saw a freighter boat go through one of our city canals and it had a lit Christmas tree standing at the bow. I wished I had had my camera!

    One of the good things about an artificial tree is that you don't have to water it...or worry it will catch fire.

    I'm glad there are places in the States that do compensate employees for the hassle of travel/public transportation. Good for them!

    Ola: It's not that the decorations/ornaments are American, but the tree itself. The mini-lights I also think were first American, though I could be wrong. Also, the round, single-colored bulbs. Very American to me. Maybe you can take a picture of your tree and show us after this weekend? I'd like that.

  13. Ginnie, I just read your comment on Dutchbaby's blog about the Nobel prize winner of this year, so I had to visit you!
    A few years ago I was on vacation in China, so her post meant a lot to me.

    And now I discover you live in Holland! (I am Dutch, but have lived in Los Angeles for 20+ years).

    Your Christmas tree is beautiful!!
    Visit me sometime:)

  14. I love the "tyranny of the urgent". And your comments on Vision and Verb about what our homes should be.

    I saw Toy Story with all six kids 2 - 18 and my oldest son (18) and I cried our eyes out more than the others. Sigh...

    Your tree looks very cozy and I too leave the lights on all day. :) And the Medication Packing machine is really something - a mini miracle!

    Merry Christmas!

  15. Your Christmas tree looks wonderful! It's always fun to read your posts.

  16. Jeanette: This reply is loooong over-due, for which I am truly sorry because I really was thrilled to receive your comment! It just amazes me how we find each other from blogs around the world criss-crossing. I LOVE your country of origin and feel like I surely lived here in a past life. It's funny how that happens!

    Margaret: I think we're on the same page about many things, believe it or not. That's always fun to souls meeting across the blogosphere! Thank you always for your input.

    Tim: You're a sweetheart. Thank you!