Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Decorating for the holidays

Here are some photos of the pencil pine tree we have up at our cottage in the north of Holland. Since the cottage's garden borders on the edge of the national forest, I wanted a tree there that looked very natural like its surroundings. I used birds, walnuts and cranberries. My mother gave me the cardinals to remember my home state of Ohio and the birdhouse for a tree top. I made a tree skirt by simply making a single quilt block and cutting it open and cutting out a center hole. Unfortunately, these photos does not do the tree justice. I need to research taking photos of Christmas trees but I hope you enjoy seeing this tree.

I am working on our decorations here at the house now too and will be posting photos of the tree here very soon.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The reason for the season

'For unto us a child is born...'
The fair had many booths with amazing items for sale for home and garden. There were some booths dedicated to Christmas items. There were also booths with outdoor clothing or kitchen items. But in the midst of all this shopping, there was a large outdoor nativity which many stopped by to see for a few minutes. In Holland, nativities are popular and they do remind us of what this season is about.

The chapel in the castle grounds

The chapel was open and contained a number of beautifully decorated dining tables to inspire you for the coming holiday. Here are a few photos of the chapel including one of the wonderful huge arrangments sitting just at the entrance and a photo of one of the family tombs which are so beautifully carved.

Dickens carolers

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

These carolers were walking around the Christmas fair. They kindly posed for me and later I also photographed them singing.

Christmas season has begun.....

This week, I went to a Christmas Fair (market) at a castle here in Holland. I wanted to share some of the photos. I normally don't like these fairs as they are very expensive to get in and there is not enough there to make it worth while or the booths are so expensive.This fair is the first one I have attended that I would go back to again next year.
The castle was, of course, the perfect setting. It is called Kasteel de Haar and is located in the tiny village Haarzuiles which is named for it. This castle is still used once a year by the Van Zuylen/de Haar family who close it to the public once a year while they are in residence. It is in a bad state of repair and there are desperate attempts to support the walls. I was able to take a few photos where restoration work is not taking place.

If you would be interested to read more about this amazing castle and its history, look at http://www.kasteeldehaar.nl/ which has pages in both Dutch or English.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Celebrate a day of thanksgiving

Over the river and through the wood
To Grandfather's house we go.
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood,
Trot fast, my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground
Like a hunting hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go
Extremely slow
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood
Now Grandmother's cap I spy!
Hurrah for fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurray for the pumpkin pie!

Today as many of my friends in the States are busy preparing a festive meal to sit and enjoy with their familes, I want to take a moment to wish everyone who shares my writings with me through my blogs a very blessed day! Whether you celebrate this day officially or not, may you stop today and think about all the good bounty life brings to you. May that reflection give you pause to remember that there is much good and happiness in your life today. Happy Thanksgiving at all!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sinterklaas arrives in Holland

This weekend, SinterKlaas arrived in Holland. For those not familiar with this tradition, he is the 'brother' of Santa Claus. For the Dutch, presents are given on 'pakjesavond' or gift evening on December 5th. The 'Sint' arrives on a steamboat from Spain.

He does not have elves like Santa Claus but 'Zwarte Piet' or Black Peter who helps him. He keeps the names of all the children is a book along with a note if they have been good or bad. If they are bad, they get the 'roe' (beaten with sticks). If they are very bad, they are taken back to Spain in Piet's burlap sack. (DH likes this prospect! LOL!)

SinterKlaas rides on a white horse. He will deliver presents to the children's houses on the evening of December 5th but until then children will set their shoe by the chimney on Saturday evenings with a carrot and sugar cube for the horse. The next day they will find a small gift and/or candy in their shoe.

These photos are taken in the village of Oosterwolde in the north of Holland where we saw SinterKlaas arrive on Saturday afternoon. As you see, Holland is in the middle of its peak of autumn color along the canal. It is very odd to have this peak around the same time as SinterKlaas celebrations.

Friday, November 17, 2006

As summer into autumn slips
And yet we sooner say
“The summer” than “the autumn,” lest
We turn the sun away,

And almost count it an affront
The presence to concede
Of one however lovely, not
The one that we have loved

So we evade the charge of years
On one attempting shy
The circumvention of the shaft
Of life’s declivity.
~~ Emily Dickinson ~~
This photo was taken last weekend while we were walking in the Drents-Fries National Forest. I like to take photos of the same area at various times of the year. There is beauty in each season all its own. Peace lies in ourselves when we take moments in each day to appreciate the beauty of that day; that season's moment. I hope you will take some time today to look around you wherever you are to see that beauty. Real sadness in life is when we walk past things in life failing to really see it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Harvest recipe

Amish Pumpkin Bread

This recipe is for a light pumpkin bread.

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup shortening
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup mashed pumpkin
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Grease a regular loaf pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices. Cream the shortening, sugar and vanilla before adding the eggs, ont at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Sitr in the pumpkin. Then add the dry ingredients alternately with the water, beating just until the mixture is smooth. Be careful not to overbeat. Fold in nuts. Turn the batter into a prepared pan and bake at 350F for about 45 to 55 minutes or until done. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack and allow to cool. Slice and serve this bread with butter.

Photo is of a pumpkin display I made for my patio in 2003.

Taking moments to enjoy each season

This will be a blog simply to reflect on the seasons and holidays. It will be a chance for me to put into words how I love the changing of the seasons as the year passes. It will be full of moments and memories of the various holidays as they come and go.

I hope you will join me throughout the seasons' journey.....