"" Writer's Wanderings

Monday, December 05, 2016

Joyeux Noel!

Last year's visit to Disney on our way south took us, through the magic of Epcot, to several different countries to see their Christmas customs or traditions of the season. I'll start with France and Pere Noel.

The character came into the French pavilion area in a beautiful red and white coat and sported a soft white beard. He was very similar to Santa in his attire but much more conscious of his weight obviously. He told of how he would bring the good children gifts at Christmas time.

What wasn't mentioned (or at least I don't recall it) was that at times he can be seen with his traveling companion, Pere Fouettard, who is said to frighten the children who have been bad.

Just like for Santa, children set out either socks or shoes to be filled with goodies from Pere Noel. They also set out treats for Pere Noel and his reindeer or donkey that take him from house to house.

After Christmas mass the tradition is to have the reveillon, the feast that includes the traditional Yule Log Cake. Some families start their Yule Log burning and it burns from Christmas Eve until New Year's. Must be a big log.

You can usually find nativities in each home on display and as throughout much of the world, the season is celebrated as a time for festivities with family and friends.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Polar Express Time!

For the last five or six years, Bob and I have volunteered at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad as Trainman and Elf for the Polar Express runs. We have a great time doing it. I started out as a train elf but found that a little too much to handle and last year switched to the North Pole.

The North Pole is a little less hectic and still a lot of fun. North Pole elves arrive at the "Pole" around 7 PM and sign in. We're out ready to greet the first train by 7:15 as it pulls in from Akron. The train pulls through so all the cars can see the North Pole lights and the elves. Then it backs up and stops and Santa in a John Deere version of the Polar Express train drives down the parallel road and waves to all the kids.

On his way back Santa boards the train and then magically makes his way through all the cars by the time the train has returned to its starting point. Of course each child gets a Polar Express bell and as long as they believe, they can hear it ring.

Meanwhile the elves at the North Pole are welcoming the second train from the Independence station. It does the same procedure as we elves wave and greet the little faces at the windows. And magically, Santa is there for them too!

This year I chose to be a baker again but expanded my costume to a chef's jacket and new red hat. I kind of like the look and someone told me I look like the movie part. If you look closely at the picture, you can see that someone stole a bite of one of my cookies. I walk along the stopped train and try to find the culprit. There are a lot of suspects *smile*.

If you are in the area and would like to volunteer to have some seasonal fun, go to the CVSR website for volunteer information. The North Pole furnishes costumes if you don't want to make your own and you can even be a tree or Rudolph or Frosty if they are available. I'll be looking for you.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Christmas 2015 Remembered

Last year we left early for our snowbird escape to the south. Being the kids that we are, we planned a couple of days at Disney World in Orlando. Our first day was spent at Magic Kingdom. If you have never had the opportunity to do the Disney parks without kids, give it a try. It will bring out the kid in you.

We rode our favorite rides: Buzz Lightyear, Space Mountain and yes, It's A Small World (there, now it's stuck in our heads again). We flew with Peter Pan and stomped our feet with the Bear Jamboree. Hopefully we left the hitchhiking ghosts at the Haunted Mansion.

The light parade would not be held that night--at least not for us. If you bought an extra ticket you could have stayed later that night and watched it. We did however get to see the lighting of the Cinderella castle. It became the Frozen castle as the magic of Disney made it an icy glow. It was amazing and eased the disappointment of not seeing the light parade.

This year my resident illumination expert will turn our house into a bit of magic with his new led lights. While it won't look like Cinderella's castle it will be heartwarming and magical.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Books For The Road - The Muralist

One of the books I finished reading on our transatlantic crossing was The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro. I grabbed it from a list of suggested readings from the library and was pleasantly surprised to find an excellent read.

Danielle Abrams working at Christie's auction house in the art department discovers what she believes to be pieces of her great aunt's work from the late 1930s. The aunt, Alizee Benoit, mysteriously disappeared in 1940. The book goes back and forth between the present and the past creating the mystery by detailing the life of Benoit as she worked as a muralist for the government works project during the Great Depression. A Jew with family in France that she discovers have become victims of the Nazi invasion.

While the reader agonizes with Alizee over her struggle to get her relatives visas to come to the USA, you also see the struggle of Danielle to solve the mystery of what happened to her aunt and get her work recognized.

I loved the insight into the work of those making murals for government buildings as well as seeing the evolution of the modern art movement in the States. While there are real life characters in the novel such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackson Pollock the author, Shapiro, has done a great job of integrating the fictional characters into the historical background and weaving all the characters together.

Definitely consider this a great book for the road.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sea Daze

It takes six or seven days to cross the Atlantic on a cruise ship. Sometimes I wonder if it might be less if the revenue garnered aboard ship was not so good. People have more time to think about buying extras and on the new Koningsdam ship, the opportunities to spend money were readily available.

Atrium
Yes, the usual was there--the extra beverages, the casino, the shops, the spa, the specialty restaurants.And let's not forget bingo! But now there were other opportunities. Several of the specialty restaurants offered extra menu items that had an added cost to them over and above the extra cost to eat there. In the Pinnacle restaurant you could order a lobster tail for $20 extra. Of course if you waited, you could get one in the dining room on one of the gala evenings for no extra cost. I'm guessing those in the dining room were not as large.

Another restaurant, a new one, the Sel de Mer which is a seafood/grill venue is all ala carte. You don't pay extra to eat there but you pick your ala carte dishes and pay accordingly. The Dutch Cafe was a new venue as well and while the food was not an extra charge (they had a wonderful pea soup!) the coffee and drinks were.

The Culinary Arts venue while not new in concept on HAL is a new adventure in dining as well. For a fee you can eat in the arts center and watch your meal being prepared by the chef.

Add water. Finger towel!
Our transatlantic journey was the first for the Koningsdam. It had already spent time in the Mediterranean and was now on its way to its first season in the Caribbean. In some respects it was a maiden voyage, the symbolism of which was not lost on Titanic enthusiasts. It didn't bother me until one night while we were still in the Mediterranean the captain explained that we were late to port because of some unscheduled maintenance on one of the pods (they control thrust). Not without a sense of humor, the captain in a later announcement also called the aft of the ship the blunt end as opposed to the other end which was the pointy one.

The weather cooperated for the week of the crossing. We had a little rain now and then but we managed to avoid a couple of lows to the north of us and skirted the systems. After the first day, everything seems to settle into a routine. Two lectures a day, time in the gym for Bob, my two miles a day around the promenade deck, breakfast, lunch, dinner followed by the evening entertainment. Intersperse all that with a couple of movies, some reading, some writing and a little people watching (I'm so easily entertained).

In seven days we had to turn back the clocks five times to catch up with the time zone changes and then the Daylight Savings Time change. It's certainly easier to go east to west but it still plays with your sleep patterns. And it beats jet lag where you get all that time change in one big lump.

No it's not upside down. Sometimes there would be
flowers in the stems of the amaryllis. 
One of the things I enjoyed most about the ship was the artistry of the on board florist. The arrangements were unique and always beautiful as well as refreshed. Quite a job to keep up with all of it as there were large fresh arrangements almost everywhere you went in the public areas of the ship.

By the time we reached Fort Lauderdale, I was ready to go home. Thanksgiving and Christmas lay ahead and we would be with family for that and Bob had already booked our next cruise. It's a rule, you know. The wife doesn't get off the ship unless she knows the next cruise is planned. Life has to have some rules.






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