Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Netherlands vs. Holland and Winter Solstice

Pretty cool little video...take a look!  I learned a lot about The Netherlands in just a few minutes!

Winter Solstice yesterday!

Sunrise:  0850hrs.
Sunset:   1631 hrs.


Big news over the internet was that the according to the Mayan calendar the world was going to end December 21, 2012. Welllllllll..good new...we're still here!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Du Chateau Roc de Boisseaux, St. Emilion Grand Cru gets its own page!

This wine is thaaaat good!

Unfortunately, I can't find the wine on-line for a review. We served this and a few other wines at our party the other night....this is the one everyone was asking about. It's smooth and leaves a hint of flavor on your tongue after swallowing. I love the way it adheres to the glass when you swish it around....Delicious with chocolates!

Saint-Emilion Wine

Saint-Emilion is a key wine town in the Libournais district of Bordeaux, important in terms of both quality and quantity. It is one of Bordeaux's most prolific appellations, and produces some of the most long-lived (and expensive) wines in the world. The town itself is located at the very heart of the Saint-Emilion viticultural area, just a few miles north of the Dordogne river. It is renowned as much for its wine as for its beautiful buildings and scenery.
The wines of Saint-Emilion are predominantly made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc, which means that they are more approachable at an early age and have a smoother profile than the more tannicCabernet Sauvignon-based wines of the Medoc. These are key factors in the modern appeal of Saint-Emilion's wines around the world. Carmenere and Malbec are also included in the list of permitted varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon does not grow as successfully in the cooler climate and heavier soils of Saint-Emilion as it does in the free-draining soils of the Medoc, and has only a small representation.
Saint-Emilion's distinctive Tour du Roy tower
Saint-Emilion's classification system, introduced in 1955, is more efficient and more frequently updated than the older system used in the Medoc. Its two superior classifications are 'Grand Cru Classé' and 'Premier Grand Cru Classé'. The 2006 Saint-Emilion classification awarded the first status to 53 chateaux and the second to just 13. Two chateaux (Ausone and Cheval Blanc) currently sit in a class of their own: Premier Grand Cru Classé A. According to the strict appellation laws, classifications are valid for ten years.
All wines conforming to the basic Saint-Emilion appellation laws may be labeled simply 'Grand Cru'; there are more than 200 producers in this category.
Geographically speaking, Saint-Emilion can be divided into three main areas. The first is the alluvial plain to the south, which produces few wines of note. The second is centered around the steep limestone slopes near the town itself, where most of the Grand Cru chateaux are located. The third is the plateau to the west, which borders the Pomerol appellation. It benefits from the excellent drainage qualities of its gravels and sandy soils.
At the western edge of the plateau, the soils are more free-draining and better suited to growing the Cabernet grape varieties. Chateaux Figeac and Cheval Blanc have their vineyards here and are unusual in that they favor the Cabernet grapes over Merlot. This area is known as the 'Graves de Saint-Emilion' – not to be confused with the Graves appellation across the river to the south.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut

On December 14th a 20 year old man named Adam Lanza went into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and started shooting. By that time he had already killed his Mother at her nearby home.

In the end, twenty children and six adults were killed by the shooter. He also ended up taking his own life.

It breaks my heart......

There has been a lot of controversy over the years about the current gun laws in the U.S. The ownership and use of guns in the U.S. is so entrenched into the culture, it would be impossible to remove them....especially from the criminals. It is my belief that if the U.S. government tried to outlaw ownership of guns only the criminals would have and use guns, and crime rates against innocent citizens would go up. I don't know what the answers are for avoiding this kind of horrible travesty.  Better screening of people before selling them guns? Mental health issues that aren't diagnosed...or are ignored? Gun safety education? Changes definitely do need to be made......

After "googling" the attack at Sandy Hook, I got this return from wikipedia:

Very sad to say that over the centuries horrible acts upon children have occurred, with and without guns. There are horrible, crazy people everywhere.

After spending 33 years speaking with the public over the phone I know that there are a lot of people walking amongst us who should be in a supervised and controlled environment...and aren't for one reason or another. It seems to have gotten worse over the years...probably due to budgetary cuts to programs that used to help the mentally ill. Could that be one of the problems?!?  Sorry to say I don't know the answer to that.

Does any of this have to do with taking "God" out of our schools?!? The moral decay of our society?

This article in

On Friday, Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, attributed the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School to restrictions on religion in the classroom.
"We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools," Huckabee said on Fox News on Friday. "Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?"

He later tried to clarify his comments.
Huckabee said he never meant to claim prayer in school would have prevented the  tragedy in Newtown.
According to the Inquisitr:
"It’s far more than taking prayer or bible reading out of the school … we’re asked where was God [in this tragedy] … we’ve escorted [God] right out of our culture and marched him off the public square … and then we express our surprise that a culture without him actually reflects what it has become.”


December 15th the U.S. sent 400 troops along with Patriot missiles to the Turkey-Syria border. When is the "War on Terror" ever going to end?!?!?  The Netherlands is also sending troops to Turkey to protect against Syria. When I read about this it made me cry......

It seems there is so much going on in our world that is out of our control. Maybe I should stop watching the news. Most of what happens in the world is out of my control.

Right now I feel all I can do is pray.......


Tuesday, December 18th

Last night I couldn't get the horror of the shootings and all the violence in our world out of my mind. I kept thinking about how much the media has contributed to the terror and fear of all of the violence in our society. They keep playing it over and over. With the school shooting they shoved cameras in the faces of the parents as they got word that their children had been killed, they interviewed children, they interviewed friends and family.....WHAT?!?!  After dealing with the media for decades during my career I can tell you that most of them are tyrannical in their pursuit of fame and notoriety. They never let down and will publish anything they can get their hands matter who it hurts. I have chosen to TURN IT OFF and STOP WATCHING IT!


Another quote by Mike Huckabee found on Facebook (today, December 18th):

My Fox show monologue:

I’ve said some controversial things from time to time, but none which prompted such a backlash as when I stated that the horrific shooting in CT of school children and teachers couldn’t be blamed on God because we’ve systematically marginalized God out of our culture by removing Him from all asp
ects of the public square. The vicious attacks that have resulted, most of all of which are based on total ignorance of what I actually said have actually validated my point, but I’m quite certain that was not the intent of both the professional and amateur critics who have demanded everything from my being banned from ever speaking in public again, or wished me a slow and painful death. On that alone, I wish to acknowledge that the left has again shown that it defines tolerance and diversity as being tolerant only of that with which it agrees, and diverse only to include slight shades of the orthodoxy of liberalism to which they adhere. They abhor censorship of their own profanity, obscenities, or graphic violence, but are the first to demand that a voice that invokes the name of God to be silenced. A specific act of violence is rarely the result of a specific single act of a culture that prompts it. In other words, I would never say that simply taking prayer and Bible reading from our institutions or silencing Christmas carols is the direct cause of a mass murder. That would be ludicrous and simplistic. But the cause and effect we see in the dramatic changes of what our children are capable of is a part of a cultural shift from a God-centered culture to a self-centered culture. We have glorified uninhibited self-expression and individualism and are shocked that we have a generation of loners. We have insisted on a society where everyone gets a trophy and no one loses and act surprised that so many kids lack self-esteem and feel like losers. We dismiss the notion of natural law and the notion that there are moral absolutes and seemed amazed when some kids make it their own morality to kill innocent children. We diminish and even hold in contempt the natural family of a father and mother creating and then responsibly raising the next generation and then express dismay that kids feel no real connection to their families or even the concept of a family. We scoff at the need for mothers and fathers to make it their priority to train their children to be strong in spirit and soul and responsible for right and wrong and exalt instead the virtue of having things and providing expensive toys, games, and electronics that substitute for parenting and then don’t understand why our kids would rather have ear buds dangling from their ears, fingers attaching to a smart phone, and face attached to a computer screen than to have an extended conversation with their family at dinner. And we don’t teach them there is a Creator God who sets immutable rules, a God who is knowable, and to whom we are ultimately responsible. Instead we teach that God was not involved in our origins, that our very lives are biological happenstances and in fact are disposable should they be inconvenient to us, and that any outrageous behaviors are not sin, but disorders for which we should be excused and accommodated. I realize my viewpoint sounds out-dated and archaic, but when that world view was the foundation of our nation’s social contract, we got in trouble at school for talking in class, chewing gum, pulling a girl’s pigtails, or slouching in our school desks. We took guns to school, to be sure, but they were in the gun racks of our trucks and we used them to hunt before and after school. It never occurred to us to use them to murder our teachers and fellow students. So yes, I can stand the contempt and criticism of the left. I’ll gladly accept their scorn as they substitute creative language with a steady stream of profanity-laced tirades that I’m an idiot, a throwback to the past, and a person who should be forever silenced. But when we as a nation feared God, we didn’t fear that a 20 year old with a high powered rifle would gun down our children in their schoolrooms.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Gezellig!  The literal translation for this word is "cozy". However, as in most languages, you can't literally translate this word with just one word!  It means cozy yes, but so much more. It mean festive, comfortable, warm, relaxing, restful, peaceful, intimate, welcoming......

Over the past couple of weeks we have been to and seen many "gezellig" places. Most recently Andrew and I were complimented by our neighbors who described our home as "Gezellig"!!!

This past Saturday night we had a neighborhood party at our house. We had decided a few weeks ago to ask people over for wine and dessert thinking it would be a nice way to get to know our neighbors and push out the empty feeling we've been having lately with the holidays around the corner and being away from the children and grandchildren.

We put the invitations in our neighbor's mail slots the day before I left for Vienna and asked for RSVP's via my cellphone, text or email. Over the next couple of weeks we received many more "yes" RSVP's than we really expected!  Sooooo exciting!

Last week I went shopping and got the supplies I needed to make several batches of cookies for the party. I couldn't find semi-sweet chocolate chips, but I did find dark chocolate fondue chips, which ended up working out just fine!  I found peanut butter (Skippy!), but I never did find vanilla extract. After scouring the stores in town I did find vanilla "aroma" at the Mabrouk Toko...and that actually worked out fine!
There are a few different kinds of flour available at the grocery store, this wheat flour ended up working out great! Baking powder is not available here, and I didn't see baking soda either...luckily I had brought those from the U.S.! I discovered that the regular sugar you buy in the grocery store is much more coarse than what I usually use, so I used this fine crystal sugar I found at Mabrouk.

Friday I baked and baked!  I had never made cookies in the oven here, so I ended up ruining a few batches experimenting with different racks, conventional vs. convection oven, etc. I ended up baking one tray of cookies at a time, with conventional heat at around 325 degrees Farenheit. I made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies, double batch of peanut butter cookies (some with chocolate drops placed in the middle of them), and a batch of a new recipe of maple cookies.

Saturday morning Andrew and I went downtown and bought several more bottles of wine, scotch, water (still and sparkling) and snacks. Then we cleaned the house. Afterwards Andrew and I set up the house for the party.

The party started at 2030hrs. When people walked in they all said our home was very Gezellig! Hans, Angela, Gary, Louise, Bruce, Linda, Roel, Mildred, Joep, Astrid, Guido, Kim, Ian, Sieta, Floor, Helma, and Maryke and Elleke were here!  We had a wonderful evening!

Thanks to my friend Pat Jezo, I had recently learned about Gluhwein!  Sooooo, we decided to serve that at the party. It was a hit! I had it simmering on the stove and I had found a little funnel with a strainer built into it so I could pour and not worry about getting cloves in the cups. The first batch I made I put in slices of oranges with 4-5 cloves stuck into each, about 1/4 cup of orange juice, one bottle of "Gluhwein" wine, 3 bottles of a red merlot, a little bit of sugar, and 6 sticks of cinnamon. When the pot was down to about 1/3 left, I started adding more wine and other ingredients and just kept it simmering. I ended up using about 7 bottles of wine for the gluhwein....and we drank all but about 1 cup!
During the party we had decided to have a couple of contests...just to keep it interesting!  We have a glass container that we recently started filling with corks.
One of the contests we did was to have everyone guess how many corks are in the container...without going over the amount. The one who got the closest would get a small prize (two small bottles of chocolate liqueur I had bought in Vienna.). Bruce and Linda had guessed the same number....38.....There were 39 corks in the container. They won!  Guido also guessed 38, so he got two bottles of the chocolate liqueur also! Later on we had a "guess the name of the Christmas song" contest for two more small bottles of liqueur and some party poppers. Bruce had guessed it right, but said he would forgo his prize since he had already won. So, Helma ended up winning the poppers.

During the party I was really having a lot of trouble focusing on every now and then I would go into the kitchen where it was quieter to take a little break. I also had to sit down a few times because I was getting dizzy. When there's a lot of activity and noise it really starts to get to me sometimes.

People ended up staying till after 0100hrs....we got to bed around 0200hrs. What a fun evening!


The next day we cleaned up a bit...put most things back in their places and then headed out to Hans and Angela's house in Heemstede (which is just south of Haarlem). Their daughter, Carmen, had her birthday in July but she was gone at that time in Spain. So, they decided to celebrate Sunday. We went over there around 1300hrs. It was nice to have a little time to sit and chat with them. Carmen opened the gifts we had gotten her and seemed to love them!  She's such a sweet young lady.

After leaving there we went home for a bite to eat, then headed downtown to go to a concert that our neighbors Elleke and Maryke had invited us to at the Groenmarktkerk.

Maryke sings with the Vrouwenkoor Malle Babbe (which is a group of women).  We got there a little after 1500hrs, and the doors were closed because it was full. Some people were waiting outside told us that some people may be leaving in about a half hour, and we could wait to see if we could get in.

While walking through town I took a few pictures on the way....

Since we couldn't get in to see the concert right away we decided to try to get in for a cup of tea at Ma Brown's Restaurant across the street. We peeked in, it looked like a special event, so we started to walk out the door. A woman approached us and said they had one table for two left, so we were able to sit down for a cup of tea and some scones! While we were there a group of men and women were singing Christmas carols!  What a wonderful thing to see!

After enjoying our tea we found the doors to the church still closed....sooooo we walked around town for a bit...

It was getting pretty chilly outside so we headed home. It's getting dark around 1630hrs now.

Andrew and I were talking about what plans we have for Christmas (none!)! We decided to try to get reservations for dinner at a restaurant either in town or in Amsterdam. The place we really wanted to go to (Duin and Kruitberg) has no openings for lunch or dinner. Soooo, Andrew thought of the Sheraton Hotel Pulitzer for dinner. It's a world famous hotel and restaurant. He was able to get reservations for Christmas Eve lunch!!!  We will be trying to Skype with the kids, parents, siblings, etc. Christmas eve and Christmas day anyway, so lunch works out great!  This is the first time we've not had our children around during the holidays......We wanted to have something to look forward to!!!

We had a "fijn weekend"!!!