Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Year less Ordinary

This past year has been full of what I’d refer to as a ‘year less ordinary’. I finally met the man I’ve waited my whole life for and in that search—I found myself. I’ve changed being with him, and I look forward to our long future. Although we have many challenges ahead, we are committed to facing those challenges together.

Looking back on childhood and this past year, it has opened my eyes to my relationship with my siblings and my mother—who they are, and who I’ve become. I’ve never had a better relationship with my mother until now—she’s become a dear friend. We basically talk every day, and I have an appreciation for all she has sacrificed and all she still does for me. As for my siblings, at one time we stuck together, but as adults we’re in our own worlds, doing our own things. It saddens me that my siblings and I don’t communicate much, don’t appreciate each other, and that we left our ‘pretend’ days so many years ago. But we all have one life, and we must do what is right for ‘us’. Over the holiday season, we will see each other, and after that will follow almost another year of separation, if not more. Maybe in time we’ll find each other again—until then—I will continue to embrace my wonderful life.

I will be returning to the States this week, and will be without a computer for several weeks. It’s a time for me to spend with family and friends. I’ve been away for 9 weeks, but my year less ordinary started much sooner. The man I’m with was unable to find a job as a teacher in the United States, so after his summer break, he returned to Germany since he still had a job there as a teacher. Instead of us carrying on our relationship another year through computers, I decided to quit my job to be with him. In October, we flew back to Germany together, and since then, I had the pleasure of meeting his family and exploring parts of Europe. When 2009 rolled into 2010, I never imagined living a year less ordinary.

As this year comes to a close, I’m looking forward to another unexpected year. After the New Year, we will return to Germany where I’ll continue with my writing, he'll return to teaching and we'll continue to explore Europe. Since I won’t be around for several weeks, I want to wish you all a safe and wonderful Holiday Season. I hope Santa brings you everything you want, and that the New Year brings you good fortune. 

If you have time, please leave a comment regarding some things that happened to you through the course of the year.

Merry Christmas, my friends, and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Fine Art of Christmas

Last month of the year gathers hope and love,
True meaning of Christmas symbolized by a dove
With letters and prayers that St. Nicholas appears
Decorations---shopping to bring on good cheers

Thick snowflakes start floating a few days before
Adding to the spirit when making cookies—galore
Wrapping gifts late at night to hide the surprise
For Christmas day comes—eyes wide in great size

Tree is fashioned in a heartwarming display
Table arranged for the festive holiday buffet
House filled with warmth from God’s little gifts
In pajamas, they giggle and watch snow drifts

Church bells ring the morning our Lord was born
Who would’ve thought he’d die with a halo of thorn.
It arrives—celebrating the fine art of Christmas day,
Lingering memories of a jolly old man and his sleigh

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Walk through a Winter Wonderland

It’s been unseasonably snowy in Germany, and most days the clouds won’t let the sun come out and play. So you can imagine how everyone takes advantage of the outdoors when the sun does come out. Earlier this week, we drove a little bit up into the higher part of town and the snow really came down. I got some awesome pictures of the fog and snow.

We stopped the car, so I could take some pictures before getting to the trail and these are a few.

Then we arrived at this place that has a cabin that serves hot beverages and waffles topped with cherries and whipped cream. Mmmm…I forgot to take a picture of the waffles I ordered. I took these pictures when we first arrived.

When we got to the trail, we were greeted by these snowmen.

We started to walk the trail before the sun went to bed, and here are a few pictures of what I saw on the trail.


Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Inventor of the Modern Day Santa Claus!

Coca-Cola® Santa Pictures
Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas! Wait! Santa Claus was invented? Since the beginning of time, I always thought Santa Claus really existed. I mean, how could everyone know and believe in a jolly old man who rides in a sleigh driven by reindeer giving gifts to children?

That is because not everyone saw Santa Claus this way. Our modern day Santa Claus does not resemble his early years. He transformed into what we, Americans, now refer to as Santa Claus; the word derived from a combination of nationality versions, such as Christkindle and Sinterklass. Martin Luther attempted to abolish worshipping of saints, but the want to give presents held strong. Because of Luther's attempt, Germany's Christkindle - Christ Child replaced St. Nicholas, the saint of gifts forming the American word Kris Kringle. When the Dutch settled in the New World, they brought with them, Sinterklass, shortened for Sinter Nikolaas, which we then changed to Santa Claus.

In 1624, the Dutch settled in New Amsterdam in the New World continuing to observe Saint Nicholas Day on December 5. Then in 1644, the British took control of New Amsterdam renaming it New York and joining in with their gift giver, Father Christmas. After the American Revolution in 1783, both of these Christmas figures mixed forming the early American version of Santa Claus.

In the early 1800's, a man by the name of Washington Irving described the image he had of Santa Claus in a satire of New York. Legend has it that the Dutch had a figure of Saint Nicholas on the prow of their ship showing him with a pipe, and a wide brimmed hat. His image along with the Dutch ship description drew out Irving's idea of a chubby, jolly man led by reindeers. Inspired by Washington Irving, Dr. Clement Moore, whose famous poem Twas The Night Before Christmas gave Santa Claus eight named reindeers along with his entrance into homes through the chimney.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln asked Thomas Nast to draw pictures of Santa meeting Union soldiers to uplift them and discourage the Confederate soldiers. Some people believe Nast was responsible for creating the modern day Santa bringing the image from elf to a fat, jolly man. Still, Thomas Nast had not created a consistent Santa Claus.

Most claim it was not until the 19oo's when Santa Claus received an identifiable look that lasted until today. The 30's were a trying time for the country and that went for United States companies. Coca Cola experienced a slowdown in sales during the winter months, so they hired a commercial illustrator, Haddon Sundblom for their advertisements. His drawings were captivating. Since this came before color television and other color media, Coca Cola's Santa Claus holding a Coca Cola bottle on billboards and store displays gave Coca Cola the recognition in establishing our modern day Santa Claus.

Although Coca Cola played a huge role in creating the Americanized Santa Claus that we all know and love, actually Haddon Sundblom, they were not the inventors. Credit goes to all those who contributed way before Coca Cola in transforming the elf/bishop/girl into a jolly old man with eight reindeers. Nevertheless, no matter what traditions you follow, or how you picture Santa Claus, the story is mostly the same, a happy, old man delivering toys to children.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Haggis, Snow and Mistletoe

If you read the prior post, then you know that we went to Scotland this past weekend and were stranded for a few days because of the snow. Although our travels to get home overshadowed our trip, we still very much loved Scotland. It has its own flavor, and we are considering going there again…when winter is over. Scotland has many traditions and proud people.

When we arrived on Friday, we setup a Literary Pub Tour for the evening. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera and didn’t get any pictures of Edinburgh or the tour. But if anyone ever goes to Edinburgh, I would highly recommend this literary pub tour. The two actors who did it were great, and I learned about Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.  

To start things off, I thought I’d invite you for a nice Scottish breakfast of baked beans, sausage, bacon, tomato, mushrooms, eggs and Haggis. For those of you unfamiliar with Haggis, I thought I’d describe its ingredients and the nature of cooking it. It contains the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep or pig, minced with onions, oatmeal, suet (beef fat), spices, and stock and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach. Mmm...I bet you’re hungry now. No, I did not have this traditional Scottish breakfast…well, some of it, minus the beans, mushrooms and Haggis. My Love ordered it the first morning, and because I forgot to take a picture, he ordered it the second morning.  

The next picture is Edinburgh Castle from the park. In order to get the entire castle, I had to be at a distance. This castle was built on a dead volcano and is guesstimated to have the first human settlement around 900 BC. 

This picture was taken from the castle and it captures the Scott Memorial, museums and the Christmas festivities.  

Once we were inside the castle walls, I took this picture of the front of the castle, another volcano and a church in Edinburgh.
I had to post this because it is fascinating to me. This is a prisoners’ door, and as you can see, they scrawled words on it. Can you imagine knowing an ancestor was held captive in this fortress and then finding their name on a door?  

This is a picture taken from a street above a street. 

We went down where the Christmas festivities were held near Princes Street and they had an area setup for rides, workshops and ice skating. I would have ice skated if I had my long underwear on. BRRR!

And this is a picture of the Sir Walter Scott memorial from the back. It was built in 1844, in honor of Sir Walter Scott, and is the tallest monument in the world that is dedicated to a writer.

At night, we went walking around and came upon a procession of bagpipes. I was soo excited that I was able to videotape them.

I had to take a picture of Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. He lived a double-life; by day—a skilled cabinet-maker and Deacon of the Incorporation of Wrights and Masons, by night—a burglar. It is assumed that his double-life was an inspiration for the book, The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. In Scotland, Jeckyll is pronounced Jee-kle.

This is a picture of the Christmas celebrations at night. It was beautiful. Cold and beautiful, but we cuddled and kissed to keep warm. 

Those are just a few of the pictures I took in Scotland. Hope you enjoyed them.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Hello Everyone! We had another adventurous weekend, but a little more than we bargained for—after arriving home a few days late. This post will be in two parts: one for obstacles and the other for pictures. On Friday, we traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland to experience the Christmas celebrations even though we didn’t know it at the time of planning. We stayed in a—“colder than a well digger’s ass in Montana" Inn--because apparently they shut off their heat to save on energy. I guess they didn’t read about the dropping temperatures into the 20s, so by the time Sunday rolled around, we were ready to head home and thaw out.

Before leaving for the airport, we ate breakfast at the Inn and saw this outside (picture). The owner said this amount of snow was very unusual for Edinburgh as we looked out the window—mouths wide—hoping we’ll make it to the airport in one piece.
While we were driving to the airport, I decided to take a picture of some sheep’s grazing…or trying to keep above the snow, and the snow-filled trees. By this time, I hoped they had an “Oh Shit” handle on the passenger’s side, because the snow wouldn’t let up and traffic crawled.

We arrived with enough time to drop off the car, walk fifty miles (that’s what the European experience is at airports—walking down long hallways and going up and down stairs), and go through security. We made it, BUT the flight is now delayed four hours—more than enough time to find somewhere to sit and grow anxious while watching the falling snow. The delayed time creeps up and we find out the flights canceled. Ryanair so graciously stated if we want to rebook or cancel to please go to BLAH, BLAH! They left everyone stranded—no one could even get to the website to do anything.

My Love contacted his mother to see if she could get us a flight from anywhere to anywhere in Germany or Brussels while we talked to different car companies to rent a car. AHA! We had a flight booked at Gatwick Airport, and we got a great deal to rent a car. Our driving journey began Sunday night for a few hours before we decided to stop at a hotel to sleep. We had been dealing with travel since the morning, so we slept and woke very early to continue on. Below is a map of the U.K. and I circled our beginning point, Edinburgh to our destination, Gatwick Airport.

I must stress that I didn’t do any of the driving. My Love was stuck since I left my driver’s license at the flat, I’ve never driven a manual car, and everything is on the opposite side—drive on the right and the roads are on the right. He drove the entire way—AND STILL—after all this time—did not complain. He just went along with everything. Psstt…I think this is why I fell in love with him…anyone who knows me knows I’m high maintenance, compulsive and anal. He’s VERY good for me.

We did make a stop at a town called Windsor before getting to the airport. At first, we thought about Stratford-Upon-Avon, but I was already there. Here are a few pictures of Windsor.

We arrive at the gate 1-1/2 hours prior to take off to find out the flight is canceled due to snow in Dusseldorf. We just drove 356 miles! It’s Monday—another day lost! At that moment, I was about ready to cry and I dropped the F-bomb a few times. Now what? I pull my Love with me and we head up to the EasyJet desks to rebook for early tomorrow morning. The line behind us was extremely long, but we ran to get there before most. My Love had his mom try to rebook us online, but she couldn’t. When we got to the counter, the representative was about to book us on a 7:10 a.m. flight to Cologne, but because my Love’s mother was online, it locked the account. The representative said it takes about 15 minutes to unlock itself; meanwhile we waited as seat-by-seat started to fill on this flight. FINALLY, she was able to book us seats on this flight—the last two seats. I couldn’t believe it and I thanked God right there and then.

EasyJet set everyone up in a hotel room for the night and fed us. Thank you, EasyJet. You guys ROCK! This morning, we sat on the plane (delayed) while they de-iced the wings and arrived in Cologne later this morning. From there, we had to take two trains to get to the station in Hattingen, where we walked home with our heavy carry-ons.

We’re Home!

So, how was your weekend? Get any shopping done?


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. Even though I’m not there to celebrate with you, I will be thinking of all and the things I’m thankful for.  Hope you find yourself surrounded by loved ones this day and every day.

Special prayers go out to the homeless, and that they find a dinner to fill them up and a warm place to sleep.

Another special prayer and thanks to all the armed forces and their families who sacrifice daily for our safety. If you have time, stop by Honor the Fallen to honor those we lost in this war, and/or Soldier’s Angels to donate or volunteer.

Happy Thanksgiving!