Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween.....BOO!

With lots of time on my hands I have time to do things I normally would not do this time of year.....like carve pumpkins. Woo hoo! Lucky for me, work will start again in a few weeks and I will be back in the classroom teaching again. But, for now I have extra time to walk around and explore Maastricht, study Dutch, cook yummy meals, and do other fun stuff... like carve pumpkins. 

I have to admit though. I am really missing this Halloween season because it's not really celebrated that much in the Netherlands. Jaap says that its becoming more and more popular though. I have some great memories of Halloweens past in NYC. Last year was the best. After seeing Julie and Julia, Shannon and I got inspired and decided to dress up as Paul and Julia Child (complete with rubber chicken and rolling pin). It was hilarious!

Here are some pics of the newly carved pumpkin. Mom- Please save me a bag of candy corn. Love you.
The before shot...
Boo!
Halloween 2009, NYC: Paul & Julia Child
Bon appétit!
The finished product

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dinner with the Jansens


From left to right: Jan, Willem, Annabelle, me, Mieke, Jaap, Trees & Frans

Last night we traveled with Jan and Trees to Gorinchem for dinner with the Jansen family. It was a treat to have everyone together in the same place. Frans and Annabelle live in Gorinchem (which is closer to Utrecht). It was an adult-only evening, but we were able to visit with the nephews before dinner. Jasper is taking drum lessons and gave us a special performance. From a music teacher's perspective and in my professional opinion, I thought he was very good, especially after only three lessons! Click on the video below to view our private jam session. The other video is Tijn and Mees playing musical chairs while Jasper DJs. They're too cute. Mees is too young to understand exactly how the game works, so it was hilarious to watch them play. 

Afterwards we went to dinner and enjoyed a great meal together. I love that dinners in the Netherlands (and I'm sure most of Europe) are longer, more drawn out affairs. (Although, I think New Yorkers are experts at dining out and enjoying one's company). I love that after dinner it is typical to order dessert, tea, and coffee, even if it is something simple like yogurt and fruit. And not just on special occasions, but all the time. I have to admit though, I have to start being more careful about not indulging too much in these tasty treats. And after that first round of dessert, tea, and coffee comes another round of tea and coffee. I love it! Dinner takes time, you enjoy each other's company and nobody is in a rush to leave. That extra cup of coffee is expected and enjoyed. At the the end of the night everyone hugs good-bye and says Het was gezellig! A saying that you just can't translate in English. 
Jasper & Tijn

video video
We stayed with Jaap's parents last night since we live quite far from Gorinchem. It was another sunny afternoon in Oirschot today. After brunch we took a stroll and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Here are some pictures from our walk. 

Today's weather and yesterday's talks of the upcoming Sinterklaas holiday remind me how much I love this time of year. I miss candy corn and Halloween decorations, but we will celebrate by going to Maastricht Jazz next weekend!

Jaap's now playing a Halloween video game and I'm enjoying my tea next to him on the couch. Mmmm....Het is gezellig.
Walking through Oirschot
Trees & Jan

Friday, October 22, 2010

A night with Young Blood Brass Band

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Maastricht. The temperature has dropped quite a bit and it definitely feels like fall around here. I love walking in my neighborhood. All of the leaves are falling off the trees and days like yesterday remind me how lucky I am to be here. Yesterday was gorgeous! Chilly, but it was a good day to go exploring. 

Since my bike was in the shop getting the front light fixed, I walked by foot to Fort Sint Pieter. I walked over the JFK bridge and was able to take some great pictures. Here's a view of the Bonnefantenmuseum. (We live about three blocks from the museum). I went there a few weeks ago with my new museum card. The building itself is interesting and the collections that I saw were a variety of art from medieval to contemporary. I love that the building is shaped like an egg. Here are some pictures from my walk over the bridge. (This is the southern most bridge in Maastricht).
Bonnefantenmuseum
A beautiful day in Maastricht!
The Maas river
View of our neighborhood from the JFK Bridge
Walking from our neighborhood (Céramique) over the JFK Bridge you end up in a neighborhood called St. Pieter, still in Maastricht though. The fort is on top of a hill that I heard a Dutch person describe as a mountain. (It's more like a slight incline). Here's a view from the walk up to the fort.
Walk up to Fort Sint Pieter
I found online that Fort Sint Pieter was built at the turn of the 18th century. Definitely not the oldest structure in Maastricht, but that's about as much as I know. Unfortunately, the fort was closed to visitors, I think due to construction. So this was the closest I was able to get. I'll have to go back with Jaap another time.
Fort Sint Pieter
On to the fun part of my day! A few weeks ago one of the horn players in our orchestra told Jaap about the Young Blood Brass Band coming to Maastricht. I had never heard of them, but Jaap has several of their CDs.  After my Dutch class, I met Jaap at Café de Belsj for some brass band music! Some other members of the orchestra we play in were there, as well as most of Maastricht. The place was packed. We could barely get in, but once inside it was great! I know that the structure of the group has changed, but there were three percussionists, two trumpets, two trombones, sax, and tuba. It was VERY loud! Probably one of the best performances I've seen in awhile. It really made me feel like I was in Brooklyn again and at some moments New Orleans. It felt like home. Despite the fact that I forgot earplugs and have probably done permanent damage to my hearing (Mom-don't read this) we had so much fun. You can't help but move to this music. I felt like I was somewhere in Williamsburg, minus the cloud of smoke. It was a great night in Maastricht!
Young Blood Brass Band

Monday, October 18, 2010

Werewolves in Ardennes

We just got home for our weekend in beautiful Ardennes. Jaap's sister, Mieke, and brother-in-law, Willem, organize a weekend getaway to the Ardennes region of Belgium each year. Jaap used to go before moving to New York and this year I got a chance to go!

It's only 45 minutes from Maastricht and yet the terrain is so different. I really felt like we were far from home. Ardennes is known for its beautiful forests, mountains, and rolling hills and encompasses an area of Belgium, Luxembourg, and I believe France. Ardennes is also well known because it's the area where the Battle of the Bulge occurred during World War II. 

Mieke and Willem's friends have kept this weekend getaway a tradition for several years now. It reminded me of our Catskill group traveling to Cape Cod every year for Memorial Day weekend, but a little more rustic and a lot of more organized. Haha. It made me think of all my friends and the crazy traditions we have. Much of the Ardennes weekend was similar to our trips to the Cape minus the choreographed dance numbers of Poker Face and singing outbursts of Since You've Been Gone. Hahaha! 

Unfortunately, we were not blessed with great weather. Although, today was a few degrees warmer and sunny. We still braved the elements and went out for some walks each day and returned to the fireplace, drank some hot chocolate, and played some games. Jaap won Kolonisten twice despite our efforts to defeat him. 

One of the best parts of the weekend was playing Weerwolven or werewolves in English. It's a game that's designed for a large group of people where everyone sits in a circle and is given a role by the 'game master'. In most cases there are four different roles in the game, three werewolves, one witch, one seer, and everybody else is a civilian. The object is for the civilians to unmask the werewolves and vote them out with the help of the witch and the seer. However, each 'night' the werewolves sacrifice a witch, seer, or a civilian, while they are 'asleep'. In the end, everybody is accusing each other of being werewolves, people lie to create confusion, and this atmosphere of hysteria is created. It's quite intense and lots of fun!


Beautiful Ardennes countryside
Trying to beat Jaap in Kolonisten
Cozy fireplace
Hiking in the rain
Willem cooking some delicious shrimp with avocado
Three course dinner with candlelight

Defending myself after being accused of being a werewolf!





The house

Castle in Harze

Monday, October 11, 2010

Our weekend

Jaap and I went to the Limburg Symphony Orchestra because the conductor of the orchestra we play is a member and was able to get some free group tickets. It was a beautiful day in Maastricht! We waked to the Vrijthof for dinner with some of Jaap's friends before the concert. The program was all winds and we got hear Mozart's Gran Partita, a brass piece by some Scandinavian composer I can't remember (sorry), and a Stravinsky piano concerto. Not exactly Carnegie Hall, but very nice! Look closely at the picture and you can see flowers on the podium. Very Dutch.

Friday night walk along the Maas
Limburg Symphony Orchestra
Saturday morning I went for a bike ride to Grunsveld, a neighboring town outside of Maastricht. The Limburg countryside makes me gasp it is so beautiful. Mom & Pop- It reminds me of Catskill minus the mountains. It’s stunning. On my trip I found the windmill Jaap told me about. I’m still fascinated by all the windmills everywhere.
Beautiful Limburg countryside
Look what I found on the morning ride!
Grunsveld
After brunch on Saturday (which was delicious by the way I made crepes), we walked around Maastricht’s ‘City Park’. It reminds me of a smaller version of Central Park. 
City Park, old fortifications



On Saturday evening we went to Oirschot because Jaap’s mom, Trees, was singing the Mozart Requiem and Vivaldi’s Gloria on Sunday. Brava Trees!
St. Peters in Oirschot

Day trip to Nijmegen

On Thursday I went to Nijmegen to visit Jaap’s sister Mieke. We had some lunch and Mieke gave me a nice historical walking tour of the city. It’s a very beautiful city and the weather has been warm and sunny this week, so it was perfect day to explore a new place outside. Nijmegen is considered one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands if not the oldest. (The city is over 2000 years old). Even Charlemagne lived there! There is a lot of debate between Nijmegen and Maastricht for who is the oldest city.

We walked around the Valkhof, which is a small park area with ruins and chapels from around the 11th century. It's so neat to see structures that are almost 1000 years old. Afterwards we had lunch downtown and walked around St. Stevenskerk. And just for fun we rode on a roller coaster at the 'traveling carnival'. Mieke was a great tour guide!

Ruins in the Valkhof

Where 'supposed' witches were weighed
St. Stevenskerk
Cheese shop. Yummy.
Valkhof Chapel (11th century)