Tuesday, October 31, 2006

. . . And Later That Night

Ooooooh, the scary porch!

The kid and the hub always carve two pumpkins each year (one for each boy). There's nothing like waiting 'til the last minute! hehe. The carvings were finished just at sundown and just as the first trick-or-treater arrived. Hooray!

Then it was time to get the kid ready to go out after a hastily-eaten dinner. Don't even ask what he is. Yet, another last-minute moment.

Now some porch details . . . .

It has turned into a perfect Halloween night . . . very foggy . . . and oh-so-scary.

Hope everyone is safe at home and full of good candy.

Happy Halloween!!

Boo! Off to scare the chillins'!

And then later to bed . . .

Happy Halloween!!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Anne Frank Haus

It just boggles the mind when you walk around beautiful Amsterdam and then step back and think about the atrocities that took place here not that long ago. When I looked at this reminder of Anne's life and death, I couldn't help but notice that my mom was five years old when Anne was born. All of this took place in her lifetime. Astonishing.

When it comes to matters such as these, I can hardly hold back the tears when I think of us, as humans, having the ability to hurt other people in ways so horrific. How can one human being treat another as if their life is meaningless? I can not grasp that and I find it extremely hard thinking about the holocaust. When the Holocaust Museum opened in Washington, DC, I was unable to visit. I cannot bring myself to witness these visions. (I do, however, talk openly with my kids about such things. They need to know and learn from these horrible acts.) And so, when it came to visiting the Anne Frank House, I have to admit, I had my reluctance. If it had been in the United States, I would have pushed it off and said, "next time." Since I never know when and if I will return to a city, I try and take in as much as I can. The Anne Frank House was a must even thought it tore me up inside. Even now, as I write this, tears flow down my cheeks; and perhaps this is why I have put it off so long in writing.

Amsterdam is an absolute lovely place to visit. All of the canals are so beautiful, intwined throughout the city. Some of these pics are the kid's. I think he has a really good eye, don't you? All of the canals in these pictures are located around the "Secret Annex," one directly in front of the warehouse. It's these beautiful sights that help make Anne's years in the "Annex" so poignant. Here was a child, a teenager, with a world just outside her windows unable to enjoy the sights, the smells, the feelings. Two years cooped up. Simply remarkable.

The warehouse is unassuming. You wouldn't even know what it was if it weren't for the line to get in for the tour. We were told to come after 4 to avoid a long line. We only had to wait 30 minutes or so before entering. This statue of Anne is located just before the row of buildings the warehouse is located within. Just on the other side of this alley is a beautiful old, huge, church. This carving was located on one of the eves. I thought it was quite appropriate.

Anne could look out a window, head turned, and see the steeple of the church. Even though it was obviously a Christian church, I can't help but wonder if she looked out the window and prayed to God with this visual.

To give you an idea of the warehouse and annex, I copied this from one of the many books and postcards we purchased there. It took this diagram for me to understand just where I was in the building. The floors in green are the "Secret Annex."

263 Prinsengracht
This is the front of the building where the warehouse was located. The "Annex" was located in the back, on the right here--I borrowed this pic. As you walk through, as a self-guided tour, I actually didn't realize I was walking from the front of the building to the back. It was later that I figured out the annex was located in the back. The stairs are tiny. (I

noticed this all over Amsterdam. The staircases are extremely narrow and steep because the buildings are the same. (There were some restrooms in cafe's I refused to visit because of this. I could see myself falling down them and making a complete fool of myself!) There were no pictures allowed, so, again, I am borrowing some. You can see by this picture of the staircase how steep it is. Amazing. It is here that the staircase hidden by the bookcase is.

The rooms were surprisingly large with big windows. I'm sure they had to keep them covered, though. Anne's bedroom was one of the smallest. She later shared this with Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist. (Peter's room was the smallest out of all of them because it had a ladder going up to the attic right in the middle of it. I ran my hand over the well-worn wooden slats and said a prayer for all their souls.) The old clippings were still on the wall that she had decorated with. I couldn't help but run my hand over areas I knew she had touched to feel her. There was a game board that Peter had received as a birthday present while in hiding still hanging on the wall. Life went on here, despite the fact they feared for their lives each moment of their existence here.

Once you finished in Peter's room, you walked across a glass floor passage back towards the front of the warehouse where they displayed different items about the concentration camps. The room was floored and walled in stainless steel which made it very cold. It was quite emotional to go from an area of life into what was sure to be cold facts of their deaths after being turned in.

After this room, you went back downstairs to a room that housed the diaries and other displays. I didn't' know that her diary was the same as many I had growing up, complete with lock and key. When she filled this one up, she began writing in tablets of paper. The diary, in itself, brought Anne into my heart. This could have been any child during that time. But, it was Anne who brought this story into our lives, so vividly, in her writings. I wish she would have survived. Although, if she had lived, millions of people wouldn't have been able to feel the true inhumanities of the times. We have to feel she was given to us by God for a short amount of time for this reason. I am humbled by her life and death.
"It'’s a wonder I haven'’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.

It's utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more" - July 15, 1944
Here are two links you may be interested in looking at:

The Anne Frank Museum Amsterdam

The Anne Frank Center

We must always remember.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Goodies from All Over

Yesterday was a good day for great mail! I received a padded envelope and a box from overseas! Wooohoo!

The box was from my kind fairy in London (Society of Secret Fairies). Lorna is a most excellent artist and illustrator. Wow. I tell you, I ripped that thing open in a matter of seconds! hehe. Fairy Lorna sent me the most wonderful of items. She must know me. The first item I saw, was a box of chocolate cookies. (The hub found them when he came home and ate the whole box!! As if!!) I
then, gently unfolded this gorgeous map Lorna had illustrated of the Royal Kew Gardens. She must know I love all things British; so this is quite a treat for me. Thank you Lorna! I absolutely love her style. She also added some of her postcards with various illustration son them. They are already tacked up on my wall beside my computer. Love them! She snuck in several bottles of little English shampoos and conditioners and origami paper! This paper is so pretty and I can't wait to get my hands on it and use it. I've never "origamied" before, but I now must try! Even with my carpal tunnel, I will succeed!! Then there was a sweet little book. I can't wait to read it. Too funny. This is definitely "my" kind of read.

My favorite though was her strand of origami peace cranes. They are so small and amazing! I hung them over our kitchen table, which I would show you, but it is disasterized! All my supplies are all over! Here is a close up of them though. Lorna, thank you so very much. I adore EVERYTHING!!

My second parcel was an Halloween ATC swap. Check out what else Beth put in the package! She always adds goodies to enjoy. Thank you Bethy! I'm jammin' with my new pinkie ring! I love these!! Think I'll put the spider in the teenager's bed tonight! Mwaaaaaaahaaaaaaahaaaaaaaa!

Now, take a look at these ATCs from different folks! How fun are they!
Am I spoiled or what? Yes, I am.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Amsterdam's Van Gogh

Our last day in Amsterdam was spent walking and tramming all day. We were getting pretty good at jumping on and off and even had people asking me where certain things were, as if! So wonderful getting around large cities so easily. We spent the morning in the outdoor markets with a few stops for coffee or tea and a little snack. I believe this building was a hotel and I'm sure once the green awnings were open, it was absolutely breathtaking. The Dutch keep their windows very clean, I noticed! And a little more architecture to wet your appetite. Sigh. This little guy was guarding the railing one of the many bridges over a canal.
We finally made our way to the museums. We didn't stop to see any of the Rembrandts, boooo, but of course made it to see the Van Gogh's. Next time, Rembrandt is at the top of our list. We just didn't have enough time to get it all in, unfortunately. But, you can see his mug all over town. I loved the etchy sketch one of the wirey hair! My Hair! I was surprised to see the Van Gogh museum building to be so modern. Right before getting to the museum sat this unbelievable house. Yep, I'll take it, please. Just move right in, leave everything! This is the back. The front was even more beautiful!

Once inside, I snapped this pic before going back to make sure I was indeed allowed to take pictures. I wasn't. Ooops. I'm not even sure if this is a Van Gogh. There were several other artists entwined with Van Gogh's in the museum. You could definitely see the stages that Van Gogh went through. Wow. I never knew he was quite so dark in the beginning and I never knew he had a Japanese period. Hmmm. Awwww, the things we learn. The museum held some of his most famous work; being his self portraits and my favorite, the Sunflowers. To sit in a room with that piece is remarkable. But, I was taken by many more of his pieces. The art he produced while he was in the asylum is astonishing. You can almost feel his anguish in his strokes. Van Gogh's last paintings of trees are just beautiful. These were some of my new favs. Just mesmerising.

I so enjoyed seeing his work again; especially in Amsterdam.

Note: These last pics are taken from the Museum's website not by me sneaking in some shots!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Amsterdam II

Since the airline lost our bags and couldn't seem to find them, they "gave" us each $100 to spend for clothing. So, unfortunately, the first real expedition in Amsterdam was to the local department store. It was HUGE! Thank goodness they were having a sale, because between the exchange rate and just down-right expensive, we couldn't have bought a pair of underwear (exaggeration, of course); but you get my drift. De Bijenkorf was the big one and in a wonderful old square with lots of little cafes to people watch. I bought a sweater and a t shirt (to sleep in). Made the mistake to send the hub and kid wondering around shopping alone. They came back with Ralph Lauren shirts and pants and Calvin Klein underwear! Lord have mercy. I just wanted to get the necessities (something warm) and get out of there and look at the real Amsterdam! I made a smart purchase, because I am now wearing the sweater here at home! Yea! It was probably $200 American, which just about killed me. I'm not a clothes horse; I would much rather spend money on household stuff--go figure! By the time we finished, it was time for a beer, of course. I think it was either Friday or Saturday but the square was full! Wow. I have never seen so many bicycles in my life. At first, I thought it was fantastic. After a day, I was overwhelmed by them. They would almost run you over every step you made! But hey, so much better than an SUV, wouldn't you say? I'll take the hassle, thank you very much. We also ordered a little snack, an arrangement of kroketten (croquettes) filled with miscellaneous things. The little sauce that came with it was whoo-hooo spicey, and I wasn't expecting that! They were delish, as was the beer! We sat back and took in all the people. I sure wish the States would adopt the squares and cafe lifestyle. It is just so civilized sitting back and just relaxing for a bit and watching somebody else's life as they pass you by. I don't think we do enough of that here. Always in a hurry to get somewhere and do something. Bah humbug.

Some of the hub's colleagues met us at the cafe; so the kid and I wondered off for a bit. I get quite bored with textile talk and cotton commodities; and I know the kid was ready to explore more. Again, the architecture was amazing. I could just walk around with my eyes up to the buildings all day long. So lovely. A lot of my pics came out kinda dark, sorry. I don't know why. We found this wonderful Russian shop that I pried myself away from. I knew after hitting the department store, everything here was going to be expensive. So, the blinders were put on, and we just walked, trying as best we could to avoid the bikers. Good job Rose! hehe. I also love the train systems in most European cities. It's so easy to just jump on and get anywhere. I think it's a rough existence between the bikes and the trams. The bikes are always cutting the trains off and taking their life in their hands when they do. We were told, one biker didn't make it just a week before in this square. Ew. Glad we missed that.

I loved this random poster. I can't help but wonder what the story is behind it. Here's some pics of the old train station. It was a real gem (as they say in New York). Wow. The pics of the inside didn't' come out; but the ceiling was magnificent! Entire rooms were done in mosaic tiles with golds and reds. Somewhere along the way, we saw this statue of Rembrandt. We never did get to see any of his work or his neighborhood,

only had a day and a half to fit everything in. Next time. I'll look forward to it next trip there.

Here's one of the infamous "coffee" shops. Coffee my eye! hehe. This is where you're able to go and purchase and smoke pot. I wanted to go into one but never got the guts enough to do so. Plus with the kid, just wasn't appropriate. (Oh, and I don't smoke it, was just curious! Really!) We also didn't hit the red light district. Although, a lot of quite raunchy items are for sale in all the "souvenir" shops. That along with pot seeds! You can buy those just about anywhere!

Take a look at the flowers and bulbs though. Thousands upon thousands of bulbs. I never did purchase any. They had some sets (none that could be transported back to the states though) of wooden shoes that you plant bulbs in to force indoors. What a great idea. Oh well, next time!
Take a look at the amarylis bulbs! Not too bad of a price! I cant' believe it's almost time to start forcing them for Christmas blooms! Geesh.

I'm going to end this day with this old Goth movie theatre. Isn't it fab!

Tomorrow I'll tell you about our last day with Van Gogh and Anne Frank.



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