Counting my blessings

Recently I’ve not been in the best of places and to counteract that I’ve decided that today is for counting my blessings of this past week.

First off, it’s been a short working week as we had a holiday yesterday (Ascension Day) and at my work place the day after that (today) is also free. So, yay, very long weekend for me! It feels like a Saturday for me today but it’s only Friday and what a pleasant thing it is to have this extra free time.

The best news this past week has been that Mr Esther got his first Covid vaccination! He has asthma and is in a higher (though not highest) risk group, so was able to get it yesterday (in a town 20 minutes from here). Mini me and I waited in the car (Junior had decided on a lazy day at home) and afterwards we drove on and just made a nice day of it. It’s so nice that terraces outside restaurants are open again during the day.

Last Tuesday was my final Stephen Macht masterclass on dramatic movie analysis. I couldn’t make the final class but was sent a recording which I will watch this weekend. Those classes have been giving me joy these past 5 weeks and have set me thinking, which I love. In fact, I have requested and have been sent recordings of all 5 of the classes so I can re-watch it all if I feel the need to.

These past few weeks, on Wednesday afternoons, I’ve been doing some volunteer work for the Council of Refugees. Socially distanced with screens and masks and very few people present and by appointment only but I am really enjoying it. It also puts into perspective yet again how very privileged I am that I have not had to flee my country, leave family and other loved ones behind and start life over in a totally different country with a weird language and a huge amount of confusing bureaucracy. On Wednesday I was trying to comfort a woman my age from Eritrea, who doesn’t speak any Dutch or English or German, with a cup of tea. It’s so tough to be a refugee and I am just happy that I can try to make a little bit of a difference.

Another blessing is that I came across these pictures taken of my small family during our holiday to Israel eight years ago last February. All four of us in a picture is quite rare and these were taken by two close friends of ours who came with us on that trip. I really should frame some of these. (Pictures were taken at the Jordan river, Old City of Jerusalem, Ein Kerem overlooking the valley, at the Dead Sea and in the desert near Eilat).

Back to the present day and it’s still on the chilly side here in The Netherlands. It is getting a bit warmer, though, and in the sun it is possible to sit in our garden for a bit again and look adoringly at my two favourite garden statues.

While enjoying the sun in our back garden I decided to listen to some David Bowie again (despite me repeatedly mentioning him on blog I don’t listen to him that often). As my David Bowie song of the day I would pick this one, a duet with Queen…

Insanity laughs under pressure we’re cracking –
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love one more chance
Why can’t we give love?
Cause love’s such an old fashioned word,
And love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves.
This is our last dance, this is our last dance.
This is ourselves, under pressure

Funniest movie moment of this week was from the animated movie Zootopia. I had never seen it before but mini me watched it and we watched along. The scene with the sloth just made me laugh so much, it was a much needed relief.

I recall seeing this gif often online, now I know where it’s from and I love it…

This evening we had a cosy dinner with just Junior, eating cheese fondue. Yumm!

Despite continued lockdown and getting sad seeing images from India and the Covid tragedy happening there and worrying about Israel & Palestine and worrying about work and not really feeling like myself of late, there are still blessings to be found and that is a good thing.

Blogging memories January 8th

Herba is looking back at her posts on January 8th over the past years and that’s fun! So, I decided to join in as well with my own trip down memory lane on this blog, starting six years ago.

2015: On January 8th I briefly wrote about the terrorist attack on a satirical French newspaper called Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the feared retaliation on all Muslims after that.

2016: No post on January 8th, but I did post on the 7th, trying to convince Richard Armitage that cats aren’t so bad. The tweet he had tweeted then is gone and I don’t remember what it said anymore and the video I had shared then is apparently also gone. I still stand by the love for cats, though!

Three days after that post, David Bowie died just two days after his 69th birthday. I went into full on mourning and writing Bowie tributes on blog. Today, January 8th 2021, would have been David Bowie’s 74th birthday, so I’m adding a little tribute here now as well, as shared by Ricky Gervais today. Totally worth a watch for a great David Bowie laugh!

Happy Birthday, David!

2017: I didn’t post on January 8th but did post on the 7th and on the 9th. The post on January 7th was about winning something in Guylty’s Christmas raffle, receiving an Armitage puzzle, and speculation about a new Richard project.
The post on January 9th had me dreading the Donald Trump inauguration and mourning the loss of the Obamas. Sadly, all my fears and worse were confirmed by the Trump presidency of the past four years.

2018: No post on January 8th, but closest date I posted on was January 7th when I was very ill with the flu and my cat comforted me.

2019: Again, no post on January 8th, but I did do one on January 7th, writing about the trip we had taken over New Year’s to Hamburg.

2020: January 8th had me discussing Richard Armitage goodies, i.e. interviews because Uncle Vanya was premiering in the theatre and something on the small role he did in the South Korean film Space Sweepers (coming out soon now on February 5th 2021 on Netflix, by the way!)

Thanks for the inspiration to do this, Herba. It also makes me realize how quickly time is flying by. I pretty much remember writing all those posts and some don’t feel like that long ago…

Winding down online school & work for 2020

Since yesterday (Wednesday) schools in The Netherlands are closed again due to stricter Corona restrictions and my kids now solely have online classes. My son already had partial online classes next to his partial in school classes but now all his classes have gone online and he does those up in his room in the attic. My daughter up until Tuesday was at school but all classes have now gone online for her as well. She decided to do her online classes at the dining table opposite me today with beside her our black cat.

It’s lovely but quite distracting too, as the way mini me is reacting to other students in her online breakout room has me cracking up opposite her. Luckily it’s only for today as mini me has no more classes tomorrow. In effect this means her Christmas holiday starts after her last class ends at 2.45 pm. Mr Esther too has his last working day of 2020 today.

Mr Esther jr just came downstairs triumphantly to celebrate his last online class of today (only got a quick shot as he shimmied in our kitchen). He only has tomorrow morning to go before his holiday starts.

For me, it’s quiet at work now, not much left to do, which is why I can make extra time to be distracted and blog today. We have online Christmas drinks this afternoon with our department head (they sent us champagne glasses and snacks and sparkling apple cider in a package). Tomorrow morning, like Mr Esther jr, I will be working online one last time in 2020 and then we’ll all have two weeks off! It’ll be a weird, lockdown Christmas and we’ll be pretty much stuck around the house for most of it, but I’m looking forward to a two week break with no schedules, no online work and no online classes for the kids. The lockdown will still be in effect after the Christmas holidays (till January 19th), but we’ll deal with any distractions that will bring when the time comes.

Holiday during Corona, part 2

The last overdose of pictures of our holiday is coming up right now. First, some relaxation shots…

… and then last Saturday afternoon we drove just across the border to Belgium, to the little town of Remouchamps which houses caves. You can walk through the caves and actually ride a boat inside. We had done that once before with the kids back in 2005 when they were 4 and 19 months young respectively.

Of course they don’t remember but why not do it again and have at least our daughter remember it this time, we thought? So, we returned again now, 15 years later, with the difference being that this time we had to walk through the caves wearing masks. The boat ride at the end to get back to the entrance was still a lot of fun to do.

We then drove on to Germany, to Aachen again, to have dinner there.

Yesterday, on Sunday, we went into Maastricht again, this time for the sole purpose of visiting the inside of the St. Servaas church and see the treasury there.

I always love when there’s a crypt to visit and there was one in this church where Servaas from the 4th century (him after whom the church is named) is buried.

We then went into the treasury which housed St. Servaas’s bowl and key…

There were many other beautiful and very old and sometimes also weird treasures, like a severed head plaque of a saint…

There were relics with the bones of saints in them…

… and very old silks from the 10th/11th centuries…

… and some really old crosses! The cross here below on the left is from the 5th/6th century, the one on the right is even older from the 2nd/3rd century (Syrian or North-African).

The inner couryard was filled with wonderfully flagrant lavender…

It was really hot, so we went back to the coolness of our holiday cottage before heading into Maastricht again in the evening for a sushi dinner in a Japanese restaurant that housed a huge Buddha statue…

We ate so much, we needed a little walk around the city before heading back again.

This morning we packed up our things and left the holiday cottage at 10.30 am. We drove to the nearby US military cemetery in Margraten where over 8000 US soldiers are buried who fought to help free The Netherlands and Europe from Nazi terror in World War II. Such places are always very sobering to visit.

We then took a scenic route to Roermond and had lunch there. As from today you need to leave your name and phone number at all restaurants in The Netherlands so that you can be traced should a Corona outbreak happen again in the area. This already happens in Germany, now with Corona cases on the rise again here in The Netherlands, it is also done here. After lunch we walked around a little bit before we headed to our own home again.

It was lovely to see Mr Esther junior again when we got home (we really missed having him around on holiday – first time in 19 years that he had not come with us). He was extremely happy with the NBA basketball jersey we got him (from his fave player Giannis Antetokounmpo from the Milwaukee Bucks, bought at an NBA store in Aachen) and he admired his father’s ever growing Corona beard…

And now it’s back to quarantine at home again. Mr Esther and I still have one more week off work left to enjoy.

Holiday in times of Corona

I never only take one picture when I’m out and about, I take tons and Mr Esther takes even more. We’ve been quite busy on holiday, seeing a lot. Today is a day for doing nothing so I thought I’d post pics of what we’ve been up to. If reading people’s holiday stories and looking at endless slide shows are a chore, feel free to skip this post!

Our holiday cottage in the southern tip of The Netherlands near Maastricht is nice.

On our first real day trip we went to the Three Countries Point where the borders of The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany meet. It’s also the location of the highest point in The Netherlands. My country is very flat, so being here in the southern tip of The Netherlands almost feels foreign in itself as the scenery is so different from the rest of the country (OK, technically the following first picture is just across the border in Belgium).

There’s a marker right near the Three Countries Point that shows the highest point of The Netherlands in Vaals (322.5 meters above sea level). Peanuts in a lot of countries but a small matter of pride here.

A few meters on at the Three Countries Point we were told in German and Dutch that wearing a mask was desired but in Belgium that wearing a mask was mandatory.

So we donned our masks for the first time this holiday (not everyone did, but better safe than sorry, we figured)…

… and admired the pie-points that signified where The Netherlands is (smallest part of the pie), followed by Belgium, and half the pie belonged to Germany.

From there we drove on to Verviers in Belgium which turned out to not be the most amazing place but we did sit down there for drinks. In the center of town masks were mandatory, so we donned ours again.

We drove through the Belgian village of Limbourg, which is the source of the name of the Dutch province Limburg (our holiday cottage is in Limburg).

We ended the day with a little stop in the woods. Mini-me chased butterflies and we even saw deer.

The next day we went into Maastricht for the day, to get to know it a bit and walk around.

Except for in public transport, masks aren’t mandatory anywhere in The Netherlands. It was quite busy, though! We did our best to keep a distance but it felt like many people didn’t pay that much attention to how much distance they were keeping. There were signs up reminding people to avoid crowds, keep a distance, stay right, adhere to one way traffic…

Mini-me needed a shirt to sleep in, so she and I went into two or three stores until we found something while Mr Esther went to a bookstore inside an old church building. We were going to join him there but by the time we got there it felt too crowded for me, so mini-me and I sat down for some drinks instead on the square in front of the store and awaited Mr. Esther. It had been doable inside, he said, but it was good to be out again.

We soon left the busy shopping streets, visited the Basilica of Our Lady Maastricht and explored the somewhat quieter other streets of Maastricht.

We still plan on returning to Maastricht to actually visit the St. Servatius church, hopefully sometime this weekend. It’s hot here now and will be for the next few days, so it will be good to do something inside.

The day after Maastricht we went to the German city of Aachen.

The cathedral is in an octagon form and is a thing of beauty, especially the ceilings. It was constructed by order of Charlemagne and he was buried there at the beginning of the 9th century. Now his bones are held in a 13th century golden chest. The church was used for coronations of German kings and queens until the 14th century.

In the gift shop they sold “Corona angels” (i.e. tiny angels with masks on)! Couldn’t resist and bought my mother one (she loves angels).

Aachen is a lovely city, with old features and modern shopping and mini-me was happy to finally eat a German bratwurst again! It was busy but a little less busy than Maastricht, which was good.

The next day we went to Heerlen. Not a special city (although there were some nice murals on houses) but we especially went to visit the museum housing the remains of an excavated Roman bath house…

We drove on to the German town of Jülich which isn’t so special either but it has a huge old fort there. I liked the little street library there in an old phone booth and as we were back in Germany, where masks are mandatory inside public spaces such as shops, we were back to carrying our masks openly on us so we could quickly put them on as needed.

After some busy days sightseeing we got lazy and spent a day at our cottage. That evening we did go out for dinner in a neighbouring village, with a nice view over the countryside that does not feel like The Netherlands.

Yesterday we drove to Luxemburg for a day. We stopped at Clervaux in the north of Luxemburg (about an hour away)…

… and then drove on to Luxemburg city (another hour on). It’s a nice city which has huge gorges, pretty cool to see. I had been there many years ago during my first holiday with Mr Esther but didn’t remember much about it, except for the gorges. Luxemburg too was busy but not too busy.

On our way back, we stopped in the Belgian city of Liege for dinner, donning face masks in the city center yet again…

So, that’s it, our summer holiday away up till now! Mr Esther and mini-me went away with the car this afternoon. Mr Esther wants to try and follow some old Roman roads and they’ll get some groceries on the way back while I sit here with my laptop at the cottage in the shade and blog.

It’s hot today, so it’s good we’re not marching through some hot, busy city right now. The battery on my laptop is running low and even in the shade I’m hot, so I’m heading inside our air-conditioned cottage soon to read. Even with restrictions, this holiday during Corona times is still fun. I just love to be travelling again, even if it isn’t that far away.