Thursday, December 22, 2011

DYI Christmas Cards

This year, I had the brilliant (yeah right!) idea of making my own Christmas cards.  I don't know why I got it into my head that I would have time to be crafty, but once I started, I was committed until the bitter end.  Since Adam and I could not send our Save the Dates this Fall, we agreed that a Christmas card that doubled as a Save the Date was the perfect solution.

For my Christmas cards, I used card stock, envelopes included, that I had purchased at Hobby Lobby for practically nothing.  I had a couple different patterns of Christmas scrapbook paper that I cut into small rectangles.  Add a little ribbon and a little sparkle, and you've got a Christmas card!  

For the inside of the card, I had a stamped message and a candy cane.  Super easy.

Adam and I found the perfect template this summer to make our own Save the Dates.  We held off printing them until we were sure we had the perfect picture.  Once our engagement photos were in, we added our favorite to the template, printed them on photo paper, and added adhesive magnetic sheets to the back.  

$9.99 at Hobby Lobby.  I was able to fit about 22 per sheet.

Now our family and friends will have a cute little magnet to put on their fridge : )

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap

Thanksgiving this year was such a wonderful experience,and I was so disappointed that I never made a post about it! So here it is, less than a week away from Christmas, and I'm still stuck on Thanksgiving.

This was mine and Adam's first Thanksgiving together. We flew out of Little Rock on Wednesday to spend the holiday with my great Aunt Kay and Uncle Greg.  Their holiday dinner is always so special. Kay has had me make a different cranberry sauce each year. Y'all, this year's cranberry sauce was unlike any other. I think she heard about this recipe on NPR and found an article in the local paper as well. The recipe called for grated cranberries and onion, sour cream, horseradish, and a bit of sugar.  No, you read that correctly.  Horseradish and cranberries.  Sounds strange, doesn't it? It was actually really good! And its color had a striking resemblance to Pepto Bismol.

On thanksgiving day, I had the honor of preparing the turkey. This was my first time, and I think it turned out rather well!  Instead of getting up super early, we cranked the oven up to a high temperature and roasted the turkey a little over an hour-and-a-half.  Yes, it was done all the way through, and it was soooo moist!

Adam was in charge of the greenbeans. Don't they look yummy?

The day after thanksgiving, while the rest of the world is doing their Black Friday shopping, we were packing the car with boxes of china and heading to the historic town of Rugby. Kay puts on this amazing tea every year as a fundraiser for the Rugby Historic Society. Adam and I got to help put on this grand event. We decorated a whole army of gingerbread men for the holiday tea!

I failed to take pictures of the actual tea event.....I guess I assumed I had enough pictures from previous years.  

This year, we had 40 people show up for High Tea.

I have just now discovered the Blogger App for iPhone, so maybe I will be posting less sporadically now : )

Happy Holidays!

When in Doubt, Pinkies Out!

Last year, my friend Sarah and I started a new tradition:  a Holiday tea party with our Little Sisters.  Sarah and I are in the Big Brother Big Sister program.  The party was such a success last year that we decided to do it again, complete with our finest china, over-the-top-hats, British accents, and almost-burnt scones.  This year we expanded our guest list.  The more the merrier!
This year, we even had the added bonus of accordion accompaniment. Have you ever sung Christmas carols with an accordion? It's quite the experience--you should never pass on it if you get the opportunity : )

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Peace and Quiet

We had a very laid back Halloween.  Sarah, Courtney, and I stayed in and passed out candy to the neighborhood kiddos.  We were not prepared for that many trick-or-treaters!  We finally had to give up and turn the porch light off--we were down to a pack of Ramen and some chili beans.  (This was after passing out packs of applesauce, hot chocolate, and popcorn!)

We had some fabulous costumes.  And since there was only the three of us, we had an almost-theme going.  Together, Sarah and I were Peace and Quiet.  Courtney added some R&R.
Peace and Quiet......Get it?
Peace and R&R
My costume was a little challenging.  I couldn't talk.
Quiet (yeah, right!)
And since I haven't posted in almost a are some pictures from our pumpkin-carving party : )
Okay....more like a pumpkin murder party.....
Mine and Adam's Jack o Lanterns.  We're slightly obsessed with Angry Birds at the moment.....

Mine's the spider. Sarah's is the cat.
I guess that about wraps it up for October.  Maybe I'll do a better job of posting regularly in November....Probably not, but I'll try : )

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Come Thou Fount

This recording is definitely not my best run-through.  I was missing my cameraman today : )  I just love this arrangement of "Come Thou Fount" by Joseph Martin.  I had planned on doing another piece for the prelude this morning, but I'm afraid that one is going to need another week of I went with an old favorite.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Jesus Loves Me

I did this for the offertory last Sunday.  It's "Jesus Loves Me" in the style of Debussy's "Claire de Lune."  

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Little Church Music

For the prelude last Sunday, I played Joseph Martin's "Variation on 'Plainfield.'"  I absolutely LOVE this piece!  It's so exciting to play!  My Aunt Kay bought Joseph Martin's American Tapestry book for me when I was in high school, and I am just now discovering some of his arrangements.  They're so dramatic....and we all know that fits me perfectly ; )  He is supposed to be coming to my aunt's church in September for a choir clinic.  I need to mail her my book so I can have it signed!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 12: Delft

Day 12:  Delft
After breakfast, Desiree dropped us off at Den Haag Central Station.  Destination:  Delft.  It’s only about a 15-minute train ride from Den Haag.  Our first stop was Oude Kerk (the Old Church).  You can’t miss it.  The tower of the church has a significant tilt….not quite as severe as the Tower of Pisa, but it’s definitely noticeable.  

Vermeer was born, lived, and died in Delft, and is buried here at the Old Church.  This church has 3 organs and some stunningly beautiful stained glass windows.  It’s worth a visit.

On our agenda, we had planned to tour one of the pottery factories.  Delft is known for its Delft Blue Porcelin.  We were following the street signs to the large factory (who needs a map, right?), but let me tell ya, those signs took us for a scenic tour…..there had to be a more direct way to get there.  In our search for the factory, we came across a cinema (Pathe) and bought tickets for the 2:30 showing of Harry Potter.  We still had an hour to walk to the factory, take a peek, and get back.  By the time we found the place, we only had 15 minutes to do a 30-minute tour, so we shopped in the factory gift shop.  

Did you know that a standard-sized kitchen tile will cost you about 12 euros?  This stuff was way pricey.  I bought a pair of earrings.  I was reminded of that scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, when they decide to go in and buy the cheapest thing they can find.  A telephone dialer, wasn’t it?  Anyway…..

We made it to the cinema on time.  And got sweet popcorn to snack on.  I have to say, I much prefer the kettle corn over the salty, buttery kind.  Harry Potter was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  You know that sad feeling you get when you finish a book/movie series?  I immediately wanted to watch it again.  I just don’t want it to be over! 

After the movie, we stopped and picked up a snack.  Their fries (frites) are so good here.  For about 2 euros, you can get an order of fries with your choice of dipping sauce.  I opted for mayo--that's the way they eat them over here--but they do have ketchup as well.  Their fries are so incredibly fresh.  I think they do a quick-fry at first and then fry them a second time when you place your order.  This makes them golden and crisp.  Oh, and they typically serve the fries in a paper cone, top it with your condiment of choice, and give you a little miniature fork.  This was one of my favorite snacks : )

Desiree picked us up at the train station and took us to the beach side to the Pofferjeshuis Kilkduin (Pancake house on the dunes).  We had traditional poffertjes (thick, mini-pancakes), served with butter and powdered sugar.  I’m spoiling myself on all this amazing Dutch food… will I ever return home?!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 11: Den Haag

Thursday, July 21 2011

After a simple breakfast of toast and cheese, Desiree dropped us off in downtown Den Haag.  We did some shopping (there’s apparently a dinnerware line called Blond Amersterdam that is totally cute….however, I don’t see Adam wanting to register for such  super-girly dinnerware.  Kat bought an egg stand….too cute!) , checked out the local book market (only on Thursdays), and visited the Maurithaus, where we saw Verneer’s famous painting The Girl with a Pearl Earring.  This was definitely the highlight of Den Haag for me.  

We also bought our Museum Pass here; the museum pass is good for one year and gives you access to all the major museums in the Netherlands, including the Anne Frank house, the Rijksmuseum, and the Van Gogh Museum.  I might talk Adam into spending part of our honeymoon next June in Holland, so I can use my Museum Pass again J

Desiree picked us up at our designated pick-up spot (on the steps across from the flags….can’t miss it!).

She was so great to drive us around; we did not have to take the bus or tram once.  I was brave and decided to play piano for her, which actually wasn’t too bad.  My self-esteem is mostly still intact.  She wanted to read through a duet together….so I obliged.  My sight-reading is awful!  We made it through part of Schubert’s Fantasie in F Minor before I threw in the towel.  I love hearing how excited she gets about music.  She’s 80-something and still takes piano lessons at the conservatory!  You have to admire that about her.  She’s very passionate about music.  So much so, that I feel a little ashamed about not knowing more repertoire.  For our entire stay with her, she had music going.  She’s a big fan of Brahms and Schubert.  I’ve since decided to learn some of the Schubert duets; if we ever meet again, I’ll be ready J
 She prepared a delicious (and vegetarian, of course) dinner for us.  Those were probably the tastiest stuffed bell peppers (which she calls paprika) I have ever had.  After dinner, we caught part of the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice.  No offense to Kiera Knightly, but this is undoubtedly the best version for people who adore the book.  Yes, it’s long, and Mrs. Bennet and the younger sisters will just about drive you nuts, but it’s true to the book.  And it has Colin Firth J

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 16-17: Amsterdam

I've been without wifi access for over a I definitely have some catching up to do.  I'm only able to access basic (a.k.a. SLOW) internet on my Kindle, hence all the typos in previous posts.

We left Katherine's Opa's house in Zuidwolde yesterday morning.  We took the train from Hoogeveen to Amsterdam, switching in Amersfoort....not that you wanted that much detail ; )

We arrived at Amsterdam Centraal and took the tram to our hotel, the Eden Amsterdam American Hotel.  I didn't realize when we booked this hotel that it was just across the canal from the hotel my family and I stayed last summer (for our one night in Amsterdam).  I should have known, since both are right next to Leidseplein.  This square is great for a cafe lunch and people watching.  And there's always some form of entertainment going on--anything from rope climbing to accordion players.

Anyway, it was nice staying in a hotel for once.  Unlike some of our hostels, we had a room with a toilet and shower!  You don't realize what a luxury that is until you have to climb a flight of stairs to get to one.
We decided to have dinner at the hotel's restaurant, Cafe American.  It was definitely memorable....Katherine and I were seated near the windows, also where the radiators are.  Note:  this is a very old building.  We had just placed an order when I noticed something scurrying by....just a few feet away.  I have never seen a mouse in a restaurant before!  Katherine immediately went to tell our server; however, there was a bit of a language barrier.  She was trying to tell him about the mouse, and he thought we were asking for milk.  Oh well.  They couldn't really do anything about the mouse, I suppose, so they moved us to a different table.  We had a great time watching other diners when they discovered the mouse.

We spent the afternoon museum-hopping.  I have been looking forward to seeing the Van Gogh Museum.  We saw some of his most famous paintings such as The Potato Heads, Wheatfield with Crows, Sunflowers, and (one of my favorites) The Almond Blossoms
Note:  a little pre-trip research would have revealed that his most well-known painting Starry Night is not kept in the Van Gogh Museum.  Looks like I'll be needing to take a trip to NYC for that one.  

We also visited the Rijksmuseum where we saw more displays of Rembrandt's and Vermeer's paintings (we also visited the Maurithuis in Den Haag last week).  We bought our Museum Passes at the Maurithuis for about 45 euros each.  This allowed us to get into all the major museums in the Netherlands, and we were even able to skip the ticket line at the Van Gogh Museum.  It's really worth your money if you plan on visiting 5-6 museums.  We were only able to visit 4, but the pass is good for one year, so there's a chance I could use it next June if Adam and I plan on venturing into the Netherlands : )

Thursday morning, we got up bright and early (which isn't difficult, seeing as how it gets bright here really early), grabbed our Starbucks, and took the tram to the Anne Frank House.

You can even do a virtual tour of the Secret Annex on the museum's website.  The story of Anne Frank is worth knowing, and I don't think a trip to Amsterdam is complete without visiting it.  It's incredible to walk through the tiny rooms of the secret annex and imagine 8 people living there.  The museum has done a wonderful job of preserving these rooms.  The pictures that Anne pasted to the wall are still there, reminding us that even though she was living during this dark time in history, she was still very much a little girl, cutting pictures out of celebrity magazines.  
Anne Frank Statue
Our guide books had told us the museum opened at 10, so we were in line hoping to get a good place in line.....
....we still had about a 35-minute wait, which isn't bad, seeing as how it's typically and hour wait to get inside to buy your ticket.  When we left, the line was much worse, almost wrapping around the church on the other side of the street.
Westerkerk (Western Church....I think is the translation) was right next door, so we decided to check it out. This is the church where coronations and other royal events take place.  It is also the church where Rembrandt is buried.  I feel sorry for the organist who had to practice with all the tourists listening in, though.....but I'm sure he's used to it.
We didn't realize that the train ride from Amsterdam to Brussels would take nearly 3 hours, so after a quick cafe lunch in Leidseplein, we gathered our luggage and took the tram to Centraal Station.
We are now in Brussels.  I have enjoyed this trip, but 3 weeks is a LONG time to be away from home.  I have this horrible feeling that there's somewhere I need to probably comes from these dreams where everyone else has returned to school, and I'm on the wrong side of the Atlantic.  I am ready for school to start, yet dreading it at the same time.  I think I am mostly just wanting a return to reality : )  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 10: Den Haag

We spent the morning with Frank. Ada had to work. We went to downtown Leiden and did some shopping in the market. Frank say he has an egg McMuffin every Wednesday morning...he skipped the we got to go to our first European McDonalds. Their McFlurries are made with fruit and waffle cone chips...why don't we have that? That would be much better than oreos!

We passed a dessert shop. Frank asked us if we wanted to pick some up for our lunch. Naturally we said yes...with the assumption that the pie would follow a sandwhich...Nope! We had pie for lunch. And it was delicious.

This afternoon, Frank drove us to Den Haag. We'll be staying here for the next 3 nights with Katherine's great aunt Desiree. She is a character, let me tell you! I think we're really going to enjoy staying with her. Almost as soon as we had arrived, she had pulled 2 old bikes from the shed, handed us maps, and pointed us in the direction of the beach. I have not ridden a bike in YEARS! I guess it's true what they never forget how to ride. However, for me, getting on was a bit feet were no where close to touching the ground...and the bikes were so old (er...vintage, I mean) that the seat couldn't be least the breaks sort of worked. We found our way to the beach, and after a 5-minute stroll, we realized that clothing was optional...we were on a nude beach. No pictures will be added to this post later.... : )

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 8-9: Leiden

Yesterday, Frank and Ada drove us to Den Haag. After showing us parliament, the American embassy, and the Queen's residence, we had lunch at a local brown cafe. I ordered my first meal in Dutch (after a quick lesson by Frank and Ada). We spent the afternoon at a museum, of which I'll have to look up the name, that had miniature displays of all the major landmarks and historical buildings in the Netherlands.Pictures will be added later :)

Before we left the house, Frank called us over for our morning tea break. Ada had picked up some tom pouce at he bakery. This is a traditional Dutch sweet, and we had been warned that there is a very specific way to eat it. Using a fork or spoon would be a disaster! The top layer is a hardened icing...not not too sweet...with a thin layer of flaky crust. You have to lift this layer and eat it first. The layer beneath is like a thick vanilla trying to using a spoon for both layers would be an absolute mess.

We went with Frank this morning to the local market, where we both bought our own packages of stroopwafel. I might need a second suitcase to fill with stroopwafels! They're so good. We went to the grocery store and picked up food for lunch and dinner....even the grocery stores here are way cool. They've taken te self-checkout to a whole new level.

This afternoon they took us to the town of Oudewater. During the Middle Ages, people would come here from all over the Netherlands, even other countries, to get a certificate to prove they were not a witch. From 1450-1650, over 100,000 people were accused of witchcraft. 50,000 of them were found guilty and burned at the stake, most of them women. The Weigh-house in this village was the best pace to go to get this certificate. Witches were though to be really light (that is why they could fly), so people who weighed less than the normal amount, could be tried as a witch...and usually forced to endure other tests and torture. Today you can still go and have yourself weighed on the original instrument and get your certificate. Katherine and I both passed the test, in case you were worried : )

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 5-6: Leiden, Netherlands

We arrived at the station in Leiden at 11:30 yesterday morning. Frank and Ada were there to pick us up. I believe Frank is Katherine's dad's first cousin. I really like them. They have been the best tour guides. They took us for a walk around the center of Leiden. It's like taking a step back in time. Most of these buildings hav been here for centuries and are still being used today. Leiden has some EXCELLENT shops, if shopping is what you're looking for. We were on top of the 900-year-old citadel, called de Burcht, when we heard the bells in the tower chime. It was so pretty! It was so nice to hear the bells play an actual song rather than just a single chime (no offense to Big Ben--that was cool too). Frank and Ada took us to a pancake house for lunch. Apparently, Dutch pancakes are much thinner and much larger than our pancakes. Oh, and you're not limited to butter and syrup. Oh no. And if you think chhese is a weird choice for a pancake topping...well, then you are just going to have to try it for yourself. My pancake had cheese, ham, and pineapple. I may never be able to eat at iHop again. I may also never be able to drink coffee from McDonald's again...or maybe even Starbucks. The coffee in Europe is AMAZING! It's much stronger than American coffee. I now understand why they make fun of American coffee.
Leiden is also known for its almhouses. It has 38, I believe. Almhouses are buildings with small apartments and a courtyard--usually reserved for widows or single women. These buildings have been around for centuries. Many of these buildings were left behind by people who had lost a daughter or family member, and wanted there to be a safe living space for those who needed it most.
Today, Frank and Ada took us to north Hollad to the town of Enkhuizen. This 17th century fishing village is now part of the Zuiderzeemuseum. We toured the different houses, which were set up much like they would have been hundreds of years ago. There are people here who continue to work in the shops. We saw one man making rope, and for €1, you cn help make you're own "skipping rope." We came across two mwn knitting a fishing net. (Yes, knitting. It's rare in the States to find a man who knits!) One tried to teach me how to knit, despite me warning him that I'm hopeless when it comes to knitting. I met the nicest postal worker. after we purchased our collector's stamps, he took us behind the door and showed us around. I purchased a small pair of wooden shoes and a Dutch-print handkerchief in the giftshop and a small wheel of cheese at the cheese warehouse.
And, I LOVE the food here. For our morning snack at a nearby "brown cafe," I had coffee with Gvulde koek--kinda a "cookie" with a type of alond filling. I do nt quite know quite how to describe this filling, but it was delish. For lunch I had a kroket. Katherine's dad told me I had to eat one of these. It's apparently a Dutch staple. It is deep fried, and the filling is a mixture of potato, finely chopped meat, and flour--it has almost a gravy-like texture. Ada told me to eat it first because they are not very good when cold. I highly recommend trying one.
I do have great pictures to go along with this post, but I'll be posting from my Kindle until I have wi-fi again. I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 5: Paris

I'm writing this post while riding on the train to Rotterdam.  I totally did not expect to have wi-fi on the Eurostar!

Yesterday was a busy day:
Our hostel was in the Montmartre district, so we weren't far from the Moulin Rouge.  Just 2 stops away via the Metro.
Next, we caught the RER train headed for Versailles.  A trip to Paris is not complete without seeing this palace.  It's absolutely gorgeous!  If I ever go again, I'd like to go during the low season....and especially not around Bastille Day!  This place was so crowded, we could barely move.  We did the palace tour, which also gets you access to the palace gardens.  However, the line to pick up our audio guide was almost as bad as the line to get into the we skipped that part.  We both (without knowing the other was doing it) downloaded biographies of Marie Antoinette to our Kindles--we'll read up on what we saw later : )
Note:  when taking the RER train to Versailles, you'll need to buy a different ticket (the tickets purchased as a caret do work for the RER trains, but only within the city limits.  When we got to the station at Versailles, our caret ticket would not work to get us through the turnstiles.)

We had lunch at a little cafe in the Gardens at Versailles.  I believe it was called La Girandole, Para du Chateau de Versailles.  

We then took the train back into the City of Paris, getting off at St. Michael's station.  We crossed the bridge and walked along the River Seine to our next destination.
Notre Dame
Visiting cathedrals is probably my favorite part about traveling in Europe.  It just amazes me that these monuments were built hundreds of years ago....I can't even fathom it!  All the detail--the statues, the stain glass, the ceilings--it's beautiful.  I can't imagine what it was like building this.  Or even more, designing it.  Once construction started, it took a couple of years.  How frustrating would that be to design something like this and never see the finished result?

We also visited the Concierge.  I was not familiar with this site, but it apparently was the palace back during the medieval/Renaissance age, before Versailles became the new royal residence.  When the royals left, it was turned into a prison.  This prison is now a popular tourist spot because of its significance during the French Revolution.  It is where Marie Antoinette was held prisoner.  We were able to visit her chapel, which is now located where her former cell was.

Our train is almost to Rotterdam.  I'll post more pictures later!
Overall, Paris was not my favorite destination.  It's so different from what you see in the movies.  My opinion:  it's dirty and mostly smells of urine.  I realize we were here on probably the worst possible day--hello, Bastille Day--along with the rest of the world.  The overly crowded sight-seeing took away from some of its charm.  And, Rick Steves says the Paris has the best subway system in Europe....I'm afraid I can't agree with him there.  Apart from it being smellier and dirtier, the Paris subway did not seem nearly as efficient as London's Underground, which had very clearly labeled signs and directions.
I'm not saying I won't give Paris a second chance.  I probably will someday.  I wish I had had more time to visit cafes and eat macaroons : )

So long for now!  Our Holland Adventure begins now : )