01 December 2014

Decorations and Dinner

The weather is getting colder, but we've enjoyed working on a few projects, decorating for the holidays, and having turkey and dressing!

I've been wanting to replicate a wreath I saw online a few years ago. I bought this plastic ornament wreath last year in the States as a starting point, so this was the year to make my wreath.

There were more than a few of these, but, in the end, I decided to go with all glass ornaments anyway.

I got it all put together with hot melt glue over the plastic ornaments and the original wreath form, but something just wasn't right.

I collected most of these ornaments at the local thrift store (kringwinkel) when they had their Christmas sale. Ross and I got there when the doors opened and couldn't believe we were 40th in line to go in!  It's a Goodwill equivalent!  

Anyway, I decided to take the whole thing apart (using alcohol to loosen the glue) and decided to wire each one on separately!


I'm so proud of how it turned out.  It may not make it through a year or two of storage, but I'm enjoying it this year for sure.

Next, we planned a little cozy Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings!  That's a pork roast, turkey breast, Jim's delicious gravy, Mae Mae's recipe for cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, and Ross's favorite - green bean casserole.

We even had pumpkin and pecan pies.  Okay, it wasn't quite like being at Mae Mae and Pop's, but it was pretty darn good!

Ross invited a few of his friends to join us and it was nice to share our tradition with some of the locals :)  

We always find it interesting that when we invite people to share traditional Southern foods with us, they nearly always go back for seconds.  It seems so different from Belgian food, but I guess it's just as delicious to them as it is to us.

That's me, Valentine (val-un-teen), Ross, Danielle (dan-yella), Laurel and Jim (thanks for taking the photo!).

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving too!

26 November 2014

Duplicate David

When asked how Michelangelo carved his statue of David, he is reported to have said, "It is easy.  You just chip away the stone that doesn't look like David."

Whether he said that or not, 

this work of art is amazing.  This is the photo I took when we visited this museum in Florence, Accademia Gallery.

This, however, is not that museum and this is not Michelangelo's David.

This is a replica of the original.

This gives you some idea of just how huge this thing is . . . and what a feat it must have been to chip away what didn't look like David.

In the event you are in London, not able to get to Florence, and can't see the real thing, beginning November 29, this duplicate of David will be on display at the V&A (Victoria and Albert) Museum.

No, it's not the de facto David, but it is a plaster cast of the original and no doubt also a work of art.

18 November 2014

Fiddling Around

You may remember a post back in September when I told you about Jim's latest project - a violin.  Here's a link if you didn't see that post . . .

Luthier post

He's progressing nicely despite, according to him, being challenged by the scrollwork on the neck.

The violin is the highest-pitched instrument of the violin family in an orchestra.  The other two are viola and cello.  I'm not sure if he's going to make a viola or cello next :)

The violin was first known in Italy in the 16th century, but similar instruments date even earlier.  You've certainly heard of a Stradivari, but both Amati and Guarneri violins are also prized.  

It's not known who made the first violin, but it likely originated in northern Italy, the area near Milan.  A painting called "Madonna of the Orange Trees" by Guadenzio Ferrari is the first record of a violin.

This is it.

We got to see a real Stradivari violin when we visited Florence almost exactly 3 years ago.

Here's the photo I took that day.  We were in the Accademia Gallery museum which is also home to Michelangelo's David.

I think these "f" holes (or sound holes) have also been a challenge.

They look perfect!  

On our first visit to Venice, we went to a fantastic concert of stringed instruments.  

Here is a video of the same musicians we saw - Interpreti Veneziani - playing part of Vivaldi's Four Seasons.  

Until next time . . .

05 November 2014

Door Open

For five years and counting, we've had the good fortune to call Belgium "home".  We've also traveled to places we'd only heard of or read about, learned to understand and speak a little of a foreign language, and grasped the diversity and culture of another continent.

Unless you're a seasoned world traveler, you'll likely never come to Belgium.  Like most, who are lucky enough to travel, you'll go to Paris or Venice or London or Rome . . . 

We have too.

It's a bit unfortunate.  It's a hidden gem.  Belgium.

Often called The Battlefield of Europe because of its central location, it's not an instigator of war, but has often been right in the middle of one.  It may be one of the grayest of places, but it's also one of the greenest. Despite it being sate with castles and cathedrals, breweries and museums, it's never been a tourist destination.  In fact, most who live here might call it boring.

The whole little country is just 1/3 the size of Louisiana, but with a LOT more people.  Belgium has 950 people per square mile to Louisiana's 100 people per square mile.  Dense.  Very dense.

Sooo . . . our door is always open, but if you never get to Belgium . . . you won't see the roads we take, the countryside we drive through, the castles, the rivers, the cities, or the sea in this tiny country.

I discovered a really good video online and if you have about a half hour of free time, I hope you'll watch.

Remember to make the screen big by clicking in the bottom right corner and turn the volume up so you can hear the narration in English (subtitles are in Dutch).

29 October 2014

Bigger than Texas

Ross and I played a game the other day to guess the 39 countries bigger than Texas.  I thought we did fairly well in the time allotment of 6 minutes naming about half the countries.

I attribute having any success at all in this game solely to living in Europe.  That's because prior to moving to Belgium, I didn't know where Belgium was.  Sad, but true.

You don't have to be a beauty pageant contestant or be from South Carolina or South Africa to be geographically challenged.  Thank you, American school system.

As I've probably mentioned before - because I mention it from time to time - I think every school gym and/or playground should have a map of the world painted on it.  How easy and fun would it be to learn geography while kicking a ball around, jumping rope or skipping?

Anyway, the world map as you know it is thanks to Gerardus Mercator.  He was born in 1512 in a little town in Belgium about an hour from us.  He was a cartographer and is most famous for the world map he produced in 1538.

The Mercator map was based on sailing routes way back then, but it's still in use today.  The problem is . . . it's a bit distorted from the actual world.  

Here's what I mean . . .

This is the Peters map produced by Dr. Arno Peters in 1973 and it's a much more accurate depiction of the world's land masses.  Dr. Peters was born in 1916 in a suburb of Berlin in Germany.

So you can see by comparison between the Mercator and the Peters maps that we only thought half the world would fit in Russia.

If you'd like to play the "name the countries bigger than Texas" game . . . there's a link at the bottom of this post.

But first, if you have never seen this video, you really should see it now.  It's 48 seconds that will truly amaze you.

Bless her heart.

Click on GAME to play.