Gluhwein or Glow Wine

Gluhwein or Glow Wine

I learned about Gluhwein from my daughters who traveled to Germany and surrounding countries over the holidays but this December was my first chance to sip the potion first-hand.

We visited the Christmas market in the museum district on our recent trip to Amsterdam.  Amsterdam’s Museumplein transforms into a charming little Christmas village, complete with an ice rink, market stalls and plenty of festive food and drink to keep us warm. The I Amsterdam letters, the city slogan, are located here too but for some reason we could never time a group picture in front of the letters either due to crowds, lack of organizational will or sore feet.

But we did sample the Gluhwein directly from the cast iron pot hanging over an open wood-burning fire in the middle of the very crowded holiday market.  Upon ordering, the attendant dipped in and filled a cup for me directly from the simmering pot. It had a glowing effect for sure.  This set-up would not pass code compliance in Fort Worth but for me it was so charming.  And alcohol burns off a multitude of sins including bacteria, right?

wine

So if you are hankering to make your own Gluhwein, combine the following in a pot and warm to just below boiling.  Serves 4-6.  You will glow!  And warm your toes on these chilly nights in Texas.

German Gluhwein

1/2 medium orange – juice and zest
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup turbinado or granulated sugar
20 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole star anise
1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine

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Red Dirt Girl Goes to Amsterdam

Red Dirt Girl Goes to Amsterdam

We arrived at the Schiphol Airport at two on a cold afternoon, Christmas Eve Day,  after traveling for at least twelve hours before arriving at our final destination –  a modern, light and festively appointed international hub for both air and train travel in the Netherlands. We were officially on holiday with our family including our three daughters, our new son-in-law, our daughter’s partner, and a long-standing family friend making us a party of eight.  We were a mixed bag but all comfortably over the age of twenty-one and ready for some debauchery in the Venice of the North.

all together

Having never been to Venice, I don’t know how Amsterdam compares but I found this city more akin to New Orleans than any other metropolis in the states.  Although, Amsterdam built its city on the water, New Orleans strives, unsuccessfully to keep the water out. Both cities embrace all comers and offer up the arts in all forms.

canal rides

First, the canal houses with gabled facades line the waterways providing you, through unshuttered windows, an intimate peek into the daily lives of the Dutch.  Amsterdamers evidently like living a curtain-less existence, thereby showing the world they have nothing to hide. Take a leisurely stroll down any street and you are sure to notice one startling similarity: a persistent lack of curtains, and hence personal privacy.

bikes

Second observation is that bike riders rule in Amsterdam.  Pedestrians are measly targets for sadistic riders either on scooter, bicycle or tram.  Watch the f— out for them, all the time. Seriously or better yet, rent a bike and join them at their own game.  They ride in the wind, the rain, the dark and the snow. We saw them do it with our own eyes as we dashed out of their way. There are nearly 900,000 bikes in the city, four times the number of cars.  This city even has a huge bike parking area in the center of the city.  I have no idea how the owners even find their solitary bike in the vast sea of spokes and fenders.

melina

Check out the city art scene.  Our pick was the Van Gogh Museum.  We felt like we knew Vincent and his family after spending several hours learning about his life, his short but prolific painting period of only ten years, and how the demands he made of his self, his  mental illness all become too much. Vincent felt he had failed as both an artist and a human being. It didn’t help that he sipped on turpentine and was known to eat paint.  Vincent shot himself in the chest, which I found an odd attempt, and he died of his wounds in 1890 at the age of only 37.  Sadly, his art work got better, the more he struggled with mental illness as you could see from the progression of his first great piece, “The Potato Eaters”, to the “Bedroom” and “Sunflowers”.

with jessica

We did take a peek at the infamous red light district one evening after dining at a nearby Indian restaurant, Ashoka. Highly recommend the restaurant for the friendly service, accommodating chef, and fine cuisine but based on my stance on feminism, should I applaud or be appalled by the legalization of prostitution? The women are running their own businesses, so they are entrepreneurs, of a sort. I think they have union. But, on the other hand, they are promoting a trade that is degrading to women and perpetuating a culture in which women are treated as objects.

We drank a fair amount of beer along with other types of spirits during our stay.  The local beer is found at Brouwerig’ Tij a brewery under a windmill to boot.  So crowded but the beer soothed sore feet and we loved their logo. Yes, we bought the souvenir shirt.

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We also bought Delft dishes (how can you resist the blue and white patterns?), some cool prints from Gallery Varekamp, featuring scenes from around Amsterdam to remind us of our journey, along with packages of stroopwaffles, two thin waffles stuck together with caramel, and salty Dutch liquorice.

Beyond what I have already shared, it was the simple moments that I will remember best.

  • Tram rides and getting lost and found again
  • The issue of no ice, at all, in our Air BnB — why?
  • Watching Dutch cooking shows on television – they seem to love to cook outside in the snow on an open fire
  • Skip-Bo, lots of Skip-Bo
  • Daily postings to social media
  • Sunrise at 8:30 a.m., sunset at 4:30 p.m.
  • Learning about Banksy, the street artist
  • Listening to the sing-song sounds of the Dutch language
  • Family meals together. Ok, just being together.
  • Our daily uniform of parka, hat, gloves and boots
  • Opening simple stocking stuffers on Christmas morning
  • Walking, lots of walking
  • Having Melina join us from Germany for a couple of days – miss you!
  • Christmas Markets — as many as we could find in a week!
  • Ferris Wheel rides
  • Grocery shopping
  • That time all of us in the our group went right, but one went straight…

 

 

 

Home Alone

Home Alone

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Home alone this Christmas.  Not exactly alone, but RM and I are spending Christmas eve and Christmas day alone together for the first time since C1 was born back in 1987.  That is nearly 30 years ago.  We didn’t plan this, it just worked out this way this year.  Where did the time go?  Seems like yesterday, that I was giggling along with my girls to the relatable scenes from the movie, Home Alone. Take a heap of a Christmas movie, add a dash of kid-appropriate fun, a sprinkle of family drama, and a pinch of caper action, and you’ve got Home Alone.

Over these years, we have celebrated these holiday times in many intriguing ways. Traveling to see family in Kansas, going skiing in Colorado, traveling to New Mexico, staying home as a family of five, hosting guests, visiting friends, hosted by our daughter in Mesquite, recovering from health concerns, or just hanging out but always with our children and many friends, exchange students and family over the years.  But this year, since our girls are traveling and visiting with friends, we both rather relish the idea of two consecutive days, just the two of us, reminding ourselves of why we first decided to spend a lifetime together as a married couple in our little cottage on Ashland.

When we first started dating back in the early 80’s, we played long and competitive games of Scrabble, we cooked together (still do), read out loud to one another, completed each others crossword puzzles when we got stuck, worked on home improvement projects, did crafts, listened to Beatles albums (the older ones),  watched MASH, and scoured flea markets and antique shops for items for our new home together.  Now, we do pretty much those same things since we have successfully raised our children. We both have full-time jobs that we enjoy that provide us with purpose and financial resources to make our lives meaningful and relatively stress free.  We do engage in social media, blogging and subscribe to Spotify and Netflix. I guess I need to get on Twitter so I can find out what our future President is tweeting next. We support our chosen personal passions, for me the interests of women and children, for RM, woodturning and working on his two small businesses on a part-time basis.

But we still just enjoy the simple things.  With the dip in the temperatures, our time together may just be two days in front of the fire, watching football and cooking shows, or perhaps starting a small project from our list of to-do’s, going for a walk if the weather warms up, or reading a book. Whatever, we do, we will appreciate the precious gift of time together, and home alone.

Happy Holidays to each of you and please wish for safe travels for our girls and their families and friends and to you and yours as well.