Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fletcher of the day: Turkey

Photos and more:Fletcheroftheday.blogspot.comLoris-headspace.blogspot.comFlickr.com/maarten

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Dispatches from New York: Week 8, Last Week

On Monday, after having spent a lovely sunny, but chilly weekend in New York with Riley, Maarten went back to work and Riley moved on to visit with friends. I was a bit tired from the weekend, so we were slow getting out. We went to the key park for a little while, but it was too cold to be out for long.
Nap of note: Fletcher fell asleep with his hand in the (empty) popcorn bowl

In the Netherlands, December 5th is 'Sinterklaas', a day when children receive presents from Sinterklaas. He usually arrives in the Netherlands by boat from Spain, where he lives, with his white horse and his helpers, called 'Zwarte Pieters' Black Peters. His arrival is a big day in ports all over the country and usually televised. Children wait for him at the harbor and there is a large parade as he marches through town. His helpers hand out Peppernoten (Small spiced ginger cookies) and chocolate coins to the kids, as well as threaten to take the bad kids back to spain in a sack. This event usually happens in the middle of November in the Netherlands. After he arrives, children put their shoes out before they go to sleep and sing a Sinterklaas Song. They also leave a carrot in their shoe for Sint's horse. If they have been good, Sint might have come by in the night and left a small present for them. If not, then, nothing.

Oddly enough, when I was in 3rd grade, about 8 years old, I had a teacher named Mrs Rivera. She was originally from the Netherlands, so she taught us about Sinterklaas in class as well as some Dutch songs. We put carrots out for Sint's horse, and in the morning we had peppernoten in the paper shoes we had made the day before. I still remember the song.

We will be arriving back in Amsterdam on December 5th, the day before Sinterklaas. Since we missed Sint's arrival in Amsterdam this year, I thought I would see if we could find a place in New York that celebrates Sinterklaas. Surely in a city of 8.2 million people, someone must celebrate! After some research (Thanks google) I found a town 2 hours outside of NYC that was settled by Dutch colonists in the 1650s and continues to celebrate the Sint tradition with a parade and events every year. They were celebrating Sint's arrival this weekend, which fit well into our schedule! Hotel and rental car booked (not an easy feat on Thanksgiving weekend!) and we were set for a weekend away!.

To prepare for our meeting with Sint, we started to talk to Fletcher about Sint. We watched videos of Sint arriving in Amsterdam, and talked about leaving our shoes out. We bought a carrot for the horse and talked about how Sint brings small gifts to good boys and girls, but nothing for children that misbehave. It's fun to start these traditions and I'm really enjoying the fact that Fletcher is starting to understand these rituals and enjoy them too. I can't wait for Christmas morning! (Though I'm not sure how I will be able to stop him from opening the presents under the tree before the big day!)

Wednesday morning we went back to the Soho Children's museum of the Arts for the Wee Arts drop in session where we painted a bit, played with clay and blocks.

My little Picasso and his car art

Kate and Scout were there for the earlier session, so we crossed paths and agreed to meet at the playground. After they left, Fletcher started to get a bit antsy and ask 'Where Scouty?' So we left the class early and went to the playground. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and Fletcher and Scout had a ball playing on the swings and running around.

Fun with Scout

Thursday was Thanksgiving, a big American holiday, and the official start to the Holiday season. It's a public holiday on Thursday and Friday and a time most people try to spend with their families. In the Netherlands it's not an official holiday, but for about 10 years I've had a dinner on the Saturday following Thanksgiving Thursday to celebrate with my friends. It takes days of preparation, but I enjoy it. In Manhattan, Thanksgiving is associated with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade is mostly know for the giant ballons that float down Central park west and 6th avenue. We thought it was something Fletcher might like, so we got up at 6:30am on a beautiful Thursday morning ...

And headed uptown to get a good viewing spot with hundreds of thousands of other people on the parade route.

If you look closely (and with a magnifying glass) you can see a Marching Band in the Parade

We weren't too badly situated considered we arrived around 7:45. People started scouting places at 6:00am!

The parade started at 9:00am at 77th, and we were at 64th (or thereabouts). At about 8:45, Fletcher started getting antsy and kept saying 'Lopen! Lopen! (let's walk! Let's walk!). We managed to corral him until abou 9:15 when the first balloon came by, Hello Kitty on an airplane

We occasionally saw floats and heard marching bands, but the balloons were the easiest to see 
Hello, It's Kermit thee Frog here...
Kung Fu Panda making his way down Central Park West

At about 10:00am, Fletcher started to get antsy again, so we decided to leave. We couldn't see much anyway, but were glad we experienced a taste of it. As we struggled our way through the crowd behind us, we realized that we had a pretty good spot! We went home and watched the parade on TV- much better viewing...though all of the commercialism and lip synching got to be a bit much for me.

We chilled a bit, Maarten made steak quesadillas for lunch and then went to a restaurant called Landmarc for dinner. I booked it based on some reviews that mentioned how family friendly it was. It didn't matter much in the end, since Fletcher fell asleep literally seconds after we walked into the restaurant. Made for a quiet Thanksgiving dinner :)
Contents of Fletcher's pockets on Thanksgiving

The dinner was ok. Instead of a 'Thanksgiving Menu' they had a 'Thanksgiving special', which wasn't traditional enough for me. I will probably make my own turkey dinner this week (on a small scale) to make up for it. The food was good, it just didn't hit the traditional notes I was looking for. Oh well. There's always next year!

Friday morning we got up, packed and, after picking up the rental car, headed up the Hudson river to Kingston for a date with Sinterklaas! It was another beautiful day and we spent the first half of the journey driving along the Hudson River from small town to small town

Hudson River
We even drove through Sleepy Hollow! That meant nothing to Maarten, so I told him about the short story by Washington Irving called The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

We arrived at about 4pm in Kingston and checked out the downtown area near the river, then checked into our hotel. They had a pool, so Fletcher and I went swimming and played around for a while, before going back up to get Maarten and heading out for dinner.  A little shopping after dinner (lots of Christmas prezzies purchased!) and then back to the hotel for an early night.

On Saturday, the festivities started around 11:00.  We got into downtown Kingston around 12:00 and headed to the Maritime Museum where Crowns and branches could be decorated for use in the Procession that leads Sinterklaas to the boat in which he departs for Rhinecliff.

After decoration, Fletcher started to have a meltdown because he was hungry, so we grabbed lunch on the Broadway (The main road in that part of town, where the festivites were taking place) and listened to live music while we ate. Then we checked out the other activities. We rode the tram with the Grumpuses (the American, politically correct version of the Zwarte Pieten), who handed out chocolate coins, and had a meet and greet with Sint 

Sint and Grumpuses

And decorated cookies in the antique shop

The decorated cookie

The artist consuming his artwork

It was very local and very lovely. The shops had lots of activities and there was a nice spirit in the tradition. The parade started and we watched the procession head down the street, led by a bagpiper playing Christmas Carols

Birds in flight

Sint at the waterfront

We walked with Sint down to the boat and waved him and his procession off

Sint waving to the Children

Sint's procession

Dag Sint! Tot Volgende Keer (Bye Sint, See you next time!)
We enjoyed the festivities and were glad we made the trip to participate. 

Later that evening we went to Barnes and Noble Books to get some magazines. I was looking at some books when Fletcher ran up to me with a firetruck in his hands and said 'Look Mama! Firetruck! He kept walking past me and said 'Come on, Come on! Lets go to the car.' He was deadly serious. It's hard not to smile in situations like that. 

While we were in Kingston on Saturday, I noticed that there was a firefighters museum about an hour north, which looked pretty kid friendly.  On Sunday we packed up, checked out and drove North to Hudon New York to the FASNY Museum of Firefighting. It was a great museum! Lots of trucks, several of which Fletcher could climb into (Heaven!) 


Outfits to try on, though we had our own on already :), games and activities and videos.
Fletcher in the Driver's seat

There was even an exhibit about the Dutch settlement of the Hudson valley and how the Dutch settlers used 'Bucket Brigades' to put out fires. We spent the weekend honoring Dutchies in America. Like us! (well, 2 of us, anyway!)

Back to New York and back to business. This week, our last, my sister and brother and law are coming to visit, we have continuing adventures with Riley and Tim's birthday dinner!

Until next week!

Fletcher of the day: Sint prezzie

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The contents of Fletcher's pockets

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Thanksgiving with my Grandmother Elsie

Thanksgiving to me will forever be associated with my grandmother Elsie. As children we would get into the car (and argue over who had to sit on the hump in the backseat of my mom's camero) or sometimes Steve's van (and argue over who got to sit next to the window on the bed in the back) and make the Loooooong drive from Huntington Beach (and later, Fountain Valley) to Vista, California. It was about an hour, but to an antsy 8 year old, it took forever to get there!

My grandparents lived in a mobile home community for seniors near San Diego. Their 2 bedroom home was on top of a hill surrounded by a lawn of white rocks (very low-maintenance). I remember walking in the front door, which lead you into the kitchen, to the right or straight ahead into the living room. The first thing you could always smell Turkey roasting in the oven. On the right, in the hallway that lead into the living room, sitting on top of the Avocado green washer and dryer, were the pies; Homemade Pumpkin and Pecan Pie. My grandmother, all of 4 feet, 41/2 inches, was always hustling around in the kitchen while my grandfather was sitting in his recliner in the living room watching TV. I have the idea that he was watching baseball (he was a huge baseball fan, having played semi-pro ball before he met my grandmother), but it wasn't the baseball season, so that couldn't be correct.

My grandmother would always do two things during our visit: Take a polaroid photo of us (we would fight over who got to take the photo every year, but she always wrote down who took the last one), and pull out her family photo albums. I sat with her year after year as she went through and told me stories about her brother, Bill, who was killed in Action in World War I (and who's grave we visited in France this summer), her brother Wilfred who married and stayed in Canada when her family emigrated from Toronto to Los Angeles in the 1920s. She showed me photos of her English relatives- her father Edward was born in Liverpool and her mother Emily was born in Melbourne, Australia. She corresponded with many of her English relatives until she died. There was an article in one of the photo albums about the daughter of my grandmother's cousin, who was able to wear a lace veil at her wedding in Scotland in 1943, because Elsie had sent lace from California.

Thanksgiving dinner a la Elsie Lee started with deviled eggs, and continued with Roasted  Turkey stuffed with Bread Stuffing (and a separate dish of non stuffed stuffing), corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, candied yams, cranberry sauce and rolls with butter (regular and low sodium butter for my grandfather). For dessert there were the aforementioned pies, plus cherry jello, which she made for me because I didn't like the pies.

I was 17 years old when we celebrated my grandmother's last Thanksgiving and sadly I don't remember much about it. I have a vague recollection of us bringing most of the food and preparing it at my grandmothers house, as well as doing the cleanup.  That was November 1989. She passed away unexpectedly on February 25, 1990.

I moved to Amsterdam when I was 23 and started celebrating Thanksgiving there a few year later, on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. I spend a few days making preparing and cooking, but I always enjoy it. I look at it as an hommage to my grandmother. I think about her, and her spirit and reflect on her influence on my life. I still miss her.

Anyway..Happy Thanksgiving!

Kung fu panda

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Giant grog

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fletcher of the day: Papa and the firefighter

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Dispatches from Amsterdam Week 7: Already?

I can't believe the following things:

  • Thanksgiving is next week
  • As of today, there are 36 shopping days until Christmas
  • I managed to send out approximately 83 Christmas cards last year (not including the Christmas card exchange I was in, I believe that added another 50 to the total!)
  • Chocolate is bad for you
  • We've been here for 7 weeks. 7 Weeks!

When I left off last week we were in the middle of a visit from my parents, who came for a long weekend from California. It was their first trip to New York, so we squeezed as much in as possible: The Empire state building, the Shake Shack, 5th Avenue, Union Square, Joe's Shanghai, The Financial District, 9/11 Memorial, Juniors Cheesecake, Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center. We covered quite a bit in the 3 days we had. There was also time spent at the playground and shopping, plus a meet and Greet with Babar the Elephant. What a trip!
Fletcher with Opa Steve and Oma Mary

We said goodbye to my parents on Monday morning and spent the rest of the day recovering a bit from the busy weekend. Post Guest cleanup, laundry and grocery shopping and playground visits were the priorities of the day.

Tuesday was a big day for Maarten, as he was launching the first white label Layar app for a magazine! Dwell , along with Aha Life put out a special issue that was enhanced with Layar, to merge online retail and print! Win! The launch party was Tuesday night at a night club in the Meatpacking district. I went with Maarten and Fletcher stayed home with Alexandra, a neighbor and babysitter. Something he wasn't happy with in the beginning (as always!) but worked out fine in the end (as always! :). The launch and the party went well, with happy customers all around. That's why we're here!

Wednesday I spent most of the day trying to figure out Thanksgiving. If we were in Amsterdam I would be hosting a dinner at my house and probably be cutting up a pumpkin as we speak. Thanksgiving for me has always been a homage to my grandmother, Elsie Lee, who we spent our Thanksgivings with as children. Her dinners were simple and home cooked; Roast Turkey with bread Stuffing, Candied yams, mashed potatoes with butter, green beans, cranberry sauce, corn, rolls, pumpkin and Pecan pies and cherry jello (for me, who didn't really like pumpkin pie as a child). I have made a version of that dinner every year for anywhere from 10-20 people. 2 years ago was a very special dinner, as a total of 5 babies were born that year! We went from 1 child (Jeanine and Luca's son, Alessandro) who was 3 that year, to 5 babies! 2010 was the year of the babies!

I considered cooking, but since the kitchen where we are living lacks certain essentials, like a meat thermometer and more than 3 plates, I decided that reservations would probably be a better idea. As there are approximately 30,000 restaurants in Manhattan, the chances of a good dinner are high. We will try to make it to the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade, then come back downtown to tribeca for dinner.

The tree across the street
It's fall now in New York. The weather seems to have taken a turn towards winter, with a chill in the air. The leaves are changing, but we have been blessed with sunny weather and blue skies. 

Blue skies in SoHo
Fletcher still loves to wear his fireman jacket, but it means we have to go inside and use other methods of keeping warm, like Hot Chocolate at our local bakery

Fletcher and his warm drink
Fletcher gets A LOT of positive attention when he wears his firefighter uniform. We were walking down our street in SoHo when we were stopped by a photographer who asked if he could take a portrait of Fletcher. He runs a blog called Humans of New York (HONY) and Fletcher was featured on Thursday! You can also see his Facebook page (7k likes for Fletcher's photo so far)

On Friday evening, one of my closest friends from University, Riley, arrived. Riley lives in San Francisco and came to New York for a few months to be near us and to work on his art.

Happy to see Uncle Riley again!
Riley visited us in Amsterdam in January. It is fantastic to see him again!

On Saturday morning, the sun was shining and we decided to head towards the Highline. Fletcher, of course, was in his standard uniform
Once more, with attitude

Finally ready to enjoy the beautiful weather, We took the subway to 14th street to begin our day.
Keeping the subway safe
As we were walking from the subway towards the Highline, we came across 2 firetrucks. Since Fletcher was in uniform and ready for duty, we thought we would offer his services.

Posing with colleagues

Can't quite reach the pedals...

Of course, once they saw the uniform, they had to put him in the truck. They even put him in front to drive! He loved it, and so did the tourists who walked by to take photos of the fire engine and the miniature fireman.

We walked a few blocks to the Standard Hotel  and had lunch at the Standard Grill  (yummy). 

After lunch we walked off the calories on the Highline, which is an elevated train track that has been beautifully converted into an elevated pedestrian path. It was a lovely walk. Many photos were taken.

Riley capturing and being captured
We were all tired after our active afternoon, so we went back to the apartment and napped. Leftover chinese from a Friday night trip to Joe's Shanghai and we were set for the night.

On Sunday, it was another beautiful day. We deiced to head to the Union Square Christmas Market. We stopped for Frozen Yogurt and lunch, walked the market, then spent some time at Washington Square Park Playground. Of course we saw a firetruck while we were there...
Fireman and firetruck

That was our week! Next week is Thanksgiving, and a possible short visit to see Sinterklaas, then comes the influx of visitors; my sister, my friend Sam, and Quentin from Layar. Busy times! The week after that we go back to Amsterdam! Time is just flying by!

Until next week...