Monday, December 26, 2011

The 2nd Christmas Day

Today is the 2nd Christmas Day here in the Netherlands.
NOT the 2nd day of Christmas and NOT Boxing Day. Just the 2nd Christmas Day
...the 26th, following the 1st Christmas Day yesterday, the 25th.
It's an official holiday...more of which you can read about at my Vision & Verb today.

And because it's still Christmas here where we live, I need not apologize for showing the Düsseldorf Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) from when we visited a couple weeks ago.

Where to start!

Since we went to see the Christmas market, let's start there.
Make that markets, plural, since there were several near each other.

The huge Christmas tree from Lillehammer, Norway, stood on the main square
in the old town/Altstadt, near the historic town hall.

Just when I wondered if they'd have a huge pyramid
(similar to my days in Hannover)...there she stood.
I was not disappointed.

And yes, I got my chestnuts roasting on the open fire!

And since I'm on the subject...there was food everywhere.... well as the ubiquitous glühwein.
Every stand had its own mug you could buy with your drink
(which we did, of course).

Yes, Santa, too, was there.... new and old versions, with all his toys.
(click on any image/collage to enlarge)

This is the eye-candy of the Weihnachtsmarkt!
When Astrid saw my image of the wooden tops, she said "Ohhhhh!"
Had she seen them, she would have bought one...memories from her childhood.

At one point we walked away from the markets to the nearby Rhine River, on which Düsseldorf sits:

This is one of the most famous promenades of Germany.
If ever you've been on a European river cruise, maybe you've seen it!

We actually saw the promenade from the other side of the Rhine
when we crossed over the bridge.
The Rheinturm steeple is the telecommunications tower.
When you see the tower from a distance, you know you're almost there.

You know me and architecture!

And weathervanes, too.

About this time we were ready to eat!
We already had our latte macchiato and bread-with-chocolate earlier.
And we would have had bratwurst with sauerkraut at a stand...
except that we wanted to sit down somewhere inside.
So we ate wonderful Indonesian food while overlooking a German market!

Then we were off to see one of the things we had come to see for Astrid: the Königsallee shopping street with all its posh stores decorated to the nines this festive season.

Königsalle, on a picturesque canal, is known for its fashion showrooms and luxury retail stores.
Astrid had last seen the window dressings 30 years ago.

It tells you everything you need to know
when you see furs selling for €15.900 - 48.900 ($20,760 - 63,849).
Or even that FURS are being sold in the first place!

It was the menswear window displays Astrid most wanted to see.
(Remember, this is what she trained for all those years ago.)

But we sure enjoyed seeing everything else, too....

...some things more affordable than others,
even though we didn't buy a thing!

It was a day for the eyes...and being "short of them," as the Dutch say.
Christmas was everywhere, whether commercial or not.
We got what we wanted...and parked two blocks away from all the activity!
(Remember that clean-car sticker we got for this Clean City!)

You might recall we also got a surprise.... Remember the glassblower? Maybe I'll show you more about him next week. He totally made the day worthwhile and deserves his own post

Till then...what will YOU be doing this day after Christmas, the 2nd Christmas Day? Check out my Vision & Verb to see what we'll be doing....

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Wonder Week

From wonder into wonder existence opens. (La0 Tzu)

My intention today was to post about the Christmas market in Düsseldorf, Germany (where we saw this little boy), but I've decided to leave that for our "2nd Christmas Day" a week from now.

Today needs simplicity. It needs wonder. May you have it in abundance all week long. And for those of you who celebrate it....

(from Web Images)

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Clean City and Rummikub

Do they have anything in common? Nothing more than that they're here in this same post....

First, Rummikub. After our two-hour play on Friday, we had our year-end party to celebrate a year of battling against each other. HA! Well, sometimes that's what it felt like. Old geezers, you know (yes, I'm one of them).

Jouke, our leader, reported the afrekening (= accounting) for the year (left side).
There were 10 of us paying €,50/week, bringing in €226.
A drink each week (koffie, tea, chocomel, or sparkling water) plus year-end prizes...etc.
Money in, money out. He had it all down pat.

Then he explained how the scoring worked.
We played 44 weeks but counted only 31 because of vacations.

The one with the minste punten (least points), took home the trophy.
Not bad for someone who had never heard of the game before coming to the Netherlands!
I felt very honored. Lucky me.

Then we got nice gifts...Dove shower gel and a €10 gift-card....

...and a hand-stitched Christmas card by Jouke's now-deceased wife.
When he saw how intrigued I was by her handiwork,
he ripped off another card to show me the back. It's the kind of minute detail I love.
(click on any image to enlarge)

Next week we'll see each other at our community's annual Christmas dinner.
It's been a good place to live!

Now, a clean city.

A week ago Saturday, Plan A was to drive the 116 miles to Düsseldorf, Germany, to see their Weihnachtsmarkt (= Christmas market). It had been 30 years since Astrid had last visited it to see the window displays for the rich and famous (remember the post on her window-dressing career?). Even though the forecast was for rainy weather, we still wanted to go.

However, the night before, when Astrid was plugging in the address info for Tom-Tom, she discovered Düsseldorf is a clean city. You can't even drive into it, let alone park, without a sticker on your car showing you have a clean car. You can get the sticker through the mail after you've sent in all your car's paperwork, showing what color (red, yellow or the traffic light!) your car is worth.

In other words, clean city means a clean, GREEN car.

So Plan B was to send in for the sticker and get it in time for this past weekend...which was a gloriously clear and sunny day. See, there's always rhyme and reason!

The sticker arrived on Tuesday in pleaty of time for Saturday's drive.
I promised Astrid I'd mark out all the important info, especially our license plate number,
protecting the innocent, of course. But look how proud Granny Towanda is!

That green sticker means we can park anywhere in all of Germany!
A clean GREEN car means a clean city.
(A yellow sticker means you can drive/park in some places throughout the city,
but red means, sorry, your car is not allowed.)

Don't you wonder why this hasn't yet caught on in America?????

As you'd guess, I'm now working on my Düsseldorf images. I'll give you one bite for now, because we had the unexpected surprise of watching a Dutch glass blower making tree ornaments at one of the stands:

Next week I hope to give you the whole enchilada! Till then, stay safe and warm.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Life's Serendipities

ser·en·dip·i·ty (srn-dp-t) n. pl. ser·en·dip·i·ties

1.The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
2. The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.
3. An instance of making such a discovery.

Today in the Netherlands it is Sinterklaasdag, 5 December. It's the traditional day for the Dutch to do their gift-giving for the Christmas season (in spite of American influences seeping in to augment gifts on Christmas day). Think Santa Claus and presents. Today.

Two years ago today (though it was a Saturday then), I moved to the Netherlands from America to begin a new life with the Dutch woman I married two months later. It was totally coincidental that the day I arrived was Sinterklaasdag. We didn't plan it that way. But every year since then, Astrid and I will celebrate this day as our biggest and best gift to each other.

That's serendipity. And, YES, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

I have always loved serendipitous moments. They may be more rare than "normal," but maybe that's what makes them so "fortunate" and "by accident."

This past September, when we spent a few days in England....

(continued at my Vision and Verb today)

Monday, November 28, 2011

'A' is for Astrid of All Trades

Did I ever mention that in my past life (the week before Christmas in 1993, to be exact) the condo building in which I lived burned to the ground. I lost almost everything, which is probably why it wasn't hard to part with much when I packed up and moved to the Netherlands 2 years ago.

However, it's precisely because of that fire that I have been determined to preserve as much of Astrid's artwork online as possible. It's only taken me two years to do it but here it is...the best representation of what her mind and hands have accomplished in her adult years.

To begin with, the school system in Europe is not like in America. Kids start specializing much earlier and, at age 16, Astrid was ready to start. She had wanted to be a carpenter since age 10, but no school in Holland at that time allowed girls into their program. An employment agency recommended Window Dressing as her next best option because it required carpentry in its coursework.

So at age 16 Astrid started her economic and technical training at NIMETO in nearby Utrecht for the next 4 years of her life. This was where she did most of the following artwork, during 1971-75, preparing to be a window dresser. (She graduated in June, 1975, and then flew to America in August, where she spent the next year of her life, at age 21. But more on that later.)

Remember poster paint? We're talking about the early 70s, before the internet, when Astrid had to mix all her colors by hand and figure out how light interacts with them.

All 4 of these color palettes are made by hand and took hours of mixing paint.
Dry paint looks different than wet paint, she says, and had to be taken into consideration.

Assignment: Use only two colors, purple and white,
and make a drawing with all the color variations in between.

A simple assignment tells you amazing things about color!
Again, only two colors (blue and yellow) but look how together they make the new color green.

What thrills me about this drawing is that Astrid was on the Dutch national youth softball team when she was 16-17 years old. Later,when she was 23 she was the catcher on a ladies softball team that had an exchange program with the Grand Rapids, MI, team. So Astrid actually played softball in my home state (Grand Rapids, Holland, and Petoskey) long before I knew she existed!
(Astrid did this as extra credit, using the colors white and green.)

It's a small world after all!
Assignment: Design a game. Astrid decided to make wood puzzles of national flags.
She was always interested in America and lived there for a year after she finished school.

Assignment: Come up with a theme and make variations of it.
Astrid loved downhill skiing at that time in her life and chose that theme.

This is a line drawing the teacher gave them.
Assignment: Make it into a block/cube and design anything you want.

So Astrid made up her own horoscope signs!
Not all 12 signs are represented; some are variations of the same symbol.
(click to enlarge and see if you can guess the signs)

Assignment: Pick an object and design something from it.

Pen & ink creations were varied.
Assignment: The shoe drawing was an ad for a magazine.
The bottom-left design was all one line, without lifting the pen from the paper.

Architectural perspective is always a part of drawing, of course.

In perspective, the horizon line is always important.
How you see something from above or below is different.

Remember, this is the 70s. No AutoCAD!
Astrid says it was the tools she loved using for this project more than anything else.
(Sorry for the poor quality, all from photos I took.)

Assignment: Add something to your perspective.
How about colored pencils (they never used felt pens)!

Assignment: Take an Old Masters painting and simplify it.
Include the artist's name in your design.

Assignment: Pick a berry and do something with it.
Astrid first did the pen & ink design from which she created a needlepoint pattern.
She says she was just an "average" student and needed extra credit.
So she also stitched the pattern she created.

Assignment: Try watercolor painting for fun.
Astrid said it was very difficult for her, which is why she didn't finish it.
She didn't have the time then to master it. Maybe when she retires, she says!

Assignment: Make a linoleum cut.
Since it was Christmas time, she even used it for her Christmas cards.

Assignment: Design one animal and use the same characteristics on 3 others,
for a child's room. Aren't they cute! :)

Then came the 1975 final exam, in both designing and drawing:

Assignment: Design the logo and everything needed for a new imaginary shop in town,
Uilenborg = Owl Village.
Wrapping paper, logo, truck signs, even shopping bags!

Assignment: Take a picture from a magazine and use 3 techniques for drawing it.
Then incorporate it into your own design (top design against the flag)
Because Astrid was going to the U.S. 2 months later, she chose the Marlboro Man.

How's that for an education! And all of it to prepare her for Window Dressing, which she did for 14 years, from 1977-1991. Nine of those years she had her own business and worked for herself:

She did it. Her schooling paid off!
Notice that her specialty was men's clothing,
in Amsterdam, Hilversum, Den Haag, Rotterdam, Arnhem, Leidschendam, and Nijmegen.

As if all of that was not enough, hold your horses....there's the rest of her life, of course....

In 1971 (before technical school) she took a Van Gogh postcard and did her first (and only) oil painting.
Try anything once! But for her, it took too long to patience for it.

She took a silkscreening course while in America from 1975-76.
She was with the Mennonite Church in their exchange program, working as an au pair,
and wanted to do something creative in the evenings.

The family crest on her mother's side intrigued her at age 12, so she drew it.
(In that regard, this belongs up at the top of the page, doesn't it!)
Do you see the 'hart?' We've been connected since the beginning of time!

In spare time, there was always freelance graphic-design advertising to do.
Again, this was long before internet tools. All by hand.

Sometimes she made the props for freelance window displays.

She made logo designs for friends, cards for wedding and baby announcements,
as well as her own year-end greeting cards.

See the two pen and ink designs on the right (above)?
They are part of this book below, printed by a local book dealer in 1984.

Add book illustrator to her repertoire.
(Her married name was Frieling for 27 years.)

Did I mention calligraphy?

I did calligraphy in my day but nothing ever like this!

Who takes a box-making workshop like this just for fun?! (1988)

And just to say she did it, she first knitted slippers
and then a fisherman sweater (1991-2).

All of that was before I met her!

In the 4+ years since we discovered each other on our Shutterchance blogs (August 31, 2007), I have watched her do other accomplished things.... tennis, with her son Jeroen and best friend Ingeborg.
And oh, she has her own machine to string rackets for friends. Pocket money!

I watched her make this Pirates of the Caribbean float for their city's 1025th anniversary in 2008.
Her ladies soccer team helped her but basically she built it.
Guess who got to be Cap't Jack Sparrow!
And guess which float won First Place among the 30 that entered!

This was the model she built for the women to reference as they started!

Full circle, back to what she always wanted to do, you've already seen her carpentry skills.
Our apartment is full of her craftiness and creativity.
She can even sew curtains and well as grow orchids!

She can also play the clarinet in an orchestra...and sing in a choir!

But what binds us more than anything is her photography, which was our first bridge at Hart & Soul (mine) and Picturit (hers). After Astrid found me in 2007, she then read every post I wrote from here at In Soul since 2005...just to get to know me. And that was with English as her second language!

They say you should continue doing in your marriage what first attracted you to each other.
As long as we can, we will, loving our photo hunts wherever we go, near or far.

Did you ever wonder why I married her? Well...she's just so darn cute! :)

Coincidentally, Astrid is our guest blogger at Vision & Verb today, bragging on her son Jeroen! (Add teacher to the list.) Remember when I wrote about her mom's talents? There's a real apple orchard here!