Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Paris Trip, Part One (the sketches) - - - - Reisje naar Parijs, Deel Een ( de schetsen)

Our human "parents" (ouders) returned safe & sound, although they are missing Paris a lot.
We're going to do this Paris trip report in seperate posts... too much info otherwise.

The Sketches - De Schetsen!

Our "mom" did get some sketching time in while in Paris ... so much to see, so much to do, so much to consider & be inspired by, and never enough time!

All sketches were done in her large regular Moleskine sketchbook that she has dedicated to her trips to France. It's almost half full now!

She used Derwent Graphitints colored pencils, van Gogh watercolor pencils, a few of her favorite colors of Winsor & Newton half-pan Artists watercolors, her Kuretake waterbrush, her da Vinci travel brush and her favorite ink pens: Sakura Microns. She's learned to not take so much with her on these city trips, as she's discovered she rarely uses it all. Sometimes it is comforting to have everything available especially on the long summer trips, 'tis true, but, uhmm, it makes a travel bag rather heavy to lug on Paris metros and mom is a self-declared lazy artist!! *heh heh*

Derwent Graphitints are not the most lightfast of colored pencils, but they afford the twin luxury of being part graphite pencil (easy to erase if you have to - we hope she doesn't have to do that too often ... LOL) and part watercolor pencil for a bit of color when desired. Besides, these sketches are in a book that probably will not see much of the light of day, so lightfastness is not a big issue here. Mom says for sure she can not do without her collection of different sizes of the Micron pens... absolutely loves them, those she will lug around! *wink*

We've ganged up some of her sketches here for you.
(click image to enlarge - easier to see the sketches)

All work copyright Judith Nijholt-Strong, 2007

We'll be back with more on the Paris trip, uhmm, sometime in Feb. - some photos of Paris, a few tales (tails?) the humans told us and some photos of a "certain frog" that gets to go on these trips with them. You know, we like frogs too ... preferably on a bed of lettuce! *growl*
We might show you a souvenir the human's brought back for us ... Oh yeah, we did get some French salmon paté as a giftee! Lekker!!!

Tot ziens,

Finn & Sacha

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Off to Paris! - Naar Parijs!

"Last Year's Souvenir" © 2006. Judith Nijholt-Strong
Graphite & Colored pencils, 5"x5" (I like square formats.)
Moleskine sketchbook (large)

Yep! "Our humans" are off to Paris (again) this week for fun & "mom's" birthday. They're leaving us behind, as always. *cats sighing & being generally despondent* "Mom" decided long ago that, when she could, she'd spend her birthdays in Paris! "C'est magnifique", according to her and "Dad" wholeheartedly agrees! ( Papa is het met haar eens! ) .

They have a very full list of things to see & do while in Paris ( grrrrowl!), including yet another visit to the Louvre (we think "mom" would live there if she could *eye roll*) and the newly reopened Musée de l'Orangerie which was closed last year (she wants to see Monet's "Le Nymphéas") .

I still can't figure out why I, as an always posing, gorgeous, black cat, still have to stay home!! Oh well, "Vive Paris" en wij wensen ze een geweldige reis! ("Long live Paris" and we wish them a wonderful trip!) Sacha & I bet they will have lots of salmon paté ( zalm paté ) while in Paris ... they always do! And yes, I obsess over salmon paté *growl* We're jealous of these trips that they take! ( Wij zijn jaloers op de reizen die ze maken! ) .

We'll just have to think of what we can get "mom" as a "little belated birthday gift" ( een verlaat verjaardagskadootje ) when she returns. Hmmm, she might be happily surprised ( blij verrast ) or she might shriek in terror ( gillen van angst ) ! Maybe "mom" should think about bringing us home baskets full of, uhmmmmm, lekkere paté ... no?! Heh heh ... sometimes, we can be very naughty kitties! ( Soms, zijn wij erg stoute poesjes ) .

So it's, "tot ziens" for now. We'll be back at the keyboard when "the humans" return ... sometime beginning of February. ( Wij zijn terug als de mensen terug zijn ... begin Februari, of zo. ) .

Au revoir! ( Tot ziens!)
Musée de l'Orangerie

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Saturday, January 6, 2007

Three Kings – Driekoningen

Federico Fiori Barroci (b.1526-d.1612, Urbino, Italy)
"The Adoration of the Magi"1561-63
Black chalk, pen and brush on blue paper
Collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Today is the feast of the Three Kings, or Epiphany.
In Holland and the Flemmish parts of Belgium, it is known as Driekoningen. In France (and other French heritage parts of the world) it is known as "Fête des Rois". Spanish countries/cultures call this day "Los Reyes Magos" and in English cultures (US, Canada, UK, etc.), it is known as "Twelfth Night/Epiphany". This day, January 6th, marks the end of the Christmas season in the Christian calendar and is believed to be the day the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem to give their gifts to the baby Jesus. Many Christian cultures, throughout the world, still reserve this day as the day for giving gifts to each other.

Our human "mom", who is of half Armenian heritage, remembers always getting small gifts as a child on this day that her Armenian mother referred to as “Little Christmas”. The earliest accounts of the introduction of Christianity into Armenia date from the 1st century. The Armenian Apostolic Church ( also known as the Armenian Orthodox Church or The Gregorian Church) has been in existence since the days of the apostles and lays a rightful claim as the oldest Christian church. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion, in 301, when St. Gregory the Illuminator converted Tiridates III (the King of Armenia) to Christianity.

We are sure other Christian cultures (i.e. Italy, Portugal, etc.) around the world also celebrate this day.... but we’re cats and we don’t know everything! *smile*

Ok, back to the Netherlands and Driekoningen:
In earlier times, when the Netherlands was mostly a Catholic nation (before the Protestant Reformation), this day was marked by a childrens’ celebration similar to the feast of St. Maarten and very similar to Halloween. On the eve of Driekoningen ( that would be Jan. 5th), children dressed in costume (usually as one of the Three Kings) carrying lanterns often in the shape of the Christmas star, would visit neighborhood houses in hopes of receiving sweet treats.

There is also the tradition of the “3 King’s Cake” that is eaten on January 6th. The cake can be a dark fruitcake (as in the UK), or a buttery almond cake with almond paste filling (as in France). The cake also has a bean, almond or more tradtionally, a small trinket ( such as a tiny baby figure) hidden/baked inside the cake. The person who gets the slice with the “surprise inside” are declared the King (or Queen) of the day! Some traditions also hold that the recipient of the 'surprise' will have good fortune in the new year.

Jacob Jordeans (b.1593-d.1678 Antwerp, Belgium)
"The Bean King", c. 1655
Oil on Canvas - Collection of Kunsthistorisches Museum. Vienna, Austria
(Note: Jordeans painted several versions of "The Bean King" over a span of some 20 years, each one differing in expanse of compostion. They can be found in the collections of The Hermitage (St. Pertersburg, Russia) , Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts (Brussels, Belgium), Staatliche Museen (Kassel, Germany))

Today, “mom” is going to make the French almond cake, "Galette des Rois" (Cake of Kings), ... hmmm, we wonder if we’ll get a taste? Sacha has a particular fondness for almond paste... although she can’t have too much, says “mom”!! Sacha has very strange tastes for a cat. We'll let you know if the cake is really tasty, or not, and who got to be King or Queen for the day! Finn is hoping he finds the almond or bean!!

Driekoningen celebrations do still take place today in the Netherlands, but are mostly held in the southern, and predominantly Catholic, provinces/towns/villages - it is very rare to find these celebrations anymore in the Utrecht province.

However, if you live in (or are visiting) the Netherlands, and are interested in the Christian history of the Netherlands, you might like to visit the Museum Catherijneconvent in Utrecht (Catherine Convent Museum) . The adress is: Lange Nieuwstraat 38, 3512 PH, Utrecht

Housed in a beautiful 16th century building in the center of the city of Utrecht, Museum Catharijneconvent, named after St. Catharine of Alexandria, was originally a Catholic monastary for members of the Order of the Knights of St. John. The monastary's former infirmary eventually became Utrecht's first teaching hospital. Over the centuries, the convent has been used for a wide variety of purposes, such as: housing for the military, student fencing and acrobatics clubs, a school gymnasium and has housed a number of museums' collections. After a complete refurbishment, the current Museum Catharijneconvent was officially opened on June 9, 1979, by the former Queen (Koningin) of the Netherlands, Koningin Juliana (now deceased, she was the mother of the current Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands).

The museum has recently undergone another refurbishment to update the collection and restoration of the museum’s many treasures, as well as extensive restoration to the building.

Museum Catharijneconvent - Utrecht, Netherlands

About the permanent collection (english translation from the museum's website, with corrections by our 'mom' of the english used *eye roll* ) : “The permanent collection of the Museum Catharijneconvent comprises unique historical and art-historical exhibits ranging from the early medieval period to the 21st century. The permanent collection offers an insight into the Christian art and cultural history of the Netherlands and its influence on Dutch society. It includes richly illuminated manuscripts, jewelled book bindings, richly decorated images, unique paintings, altar pieces, ecclesiastical vestments and artifacts of gold and silver. Dutch art from the Golden Age (16th and 17th centuries) is represented by Jan van Scorel, Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Pieter Saenredam. Of more recent vintage are works by Jan Toorop, Shinkichi Tajiri and Frans Franciscus. The Museum Catherijneconvent collection contains both Protestant and Catholic artifacts, making it unique in the world.”

Doei! (bye!)
Finn & Sacha


Monday, January 1, 2007

The Obligatory New Year’s post ............... Het Verplichte Nieuwjaarsbericht

©2007. Judith Nijholt-Strong
“Champagne for New Year, 2007”, 7"h x 5"w
Pentel inkbrush, Micron pens, Winsor&Newton watercolors
Raffiné Art- all media sketchbook

Ja! Ja! Yes! Yes!
We did celebrate last night, even though it was raining so hard at the turning of the year. As cats, we don’t know if pouring rain on New Year’s Eve is some sort of sign or what (??) – but we know that humans have all sorts of traditions or beliefs that they sure do stick to. Who knows why!? *cats in wonder*

Fireworks (vuurwerk) seem to be one of the important traditions on New Year’s Eve (Oudejaarsavond) . Last night, the pelting rain didn’t stop the firework lovers(vuurwerkliefhebbers) in our neighborhood ... much to Sacha’s chagrin. Sacha spent almost the entire evening underneath a cabinet in the kitchen. She was tucked up into the tiniest of spaces. On the otherhand, Finn was entranced by the fireworks and spent the evening perched on the back window-sill watching all the colors in the night sky. We have a feeling there will be more tonight if the weather is clear, because we think it’s a good bet that not all of the fireworks were shot off last night ... *sigh* then it will be back under the kitchen cabinet for poor Sacha (arme Sacha)!

Another tradition: Oliebollen
Yes, we had Oliebollen ... lots of them! (literally translated = oil balls. Not terribly appitizing when translated, eh? hahaha).
Finn & Sacha enjoying their plate of special “cat-sized” Oliebollen.
(click image to enlarge)

For our readers who are not Dutch, Oliebollen are a traditional Dutch treat at New Years, although (nowadays), you can get them almost all year ‘round from bakers that sell them ... or you can make them at home, if you have a craving for them. Oliebollen are deep-fried, yeast dough balls that can be filled with currants (krenten), raisins (rozijnen), apples (appels), candied citron (sukade), or even a sweet cream filling (zoete romige vulling). After frying, the oliebollen are dusted with loads of confectioner's sugar/powder sugar (poedersuiker). Or, if you are like our human “step-brother”, you might prefer them without the powder sugar (zonder poedersuiker) ... sort of bland though without the sugar all over them. “Mom” always makes her own Oliebollen each year, from scratch. This year, she added only currants that had been soaked in cognac....mmmm, tasty (lekker) !

Here is a photo of “Mom” deep frying the oliebollen (singular form of the word is oliebol) and the results - half of them with powder sugar and half plain.
(click image to enlarge)

They never come out completely round (“mom” complains about this every year as she’s a bit of a perfectionist), but ‘these are homemade oliebollen and not supposed to be perfect’, we tell her. Some of them looked like funny (yet tasty) mice to us ... heh heh heh

Een beetje "spirit" voor de avond!
A little “spirit” for the evening!
Coebergh ... mmmm, yumm.

Coebergh is Dutch liquer made from a base of gin with a mild taste of cranberries. “Mom” thought this was very tasty indeed (erg lekker)! She kept saying she knew this liquer and had seen it for years in the US, but like a lot of things, she had no idea it was Dutch. The things you learn when you move to another country!!! Long live the Netherlands (lang leve Nederland) !

Well, that’s our New Year’s story. If we’re lucky, (and Sacha doesn’t disappear under the kitchen cabinet again) , tonight we’re having Dutch split-pea soup (Nederlandse Erwtensoep). It’s “our family’s” new tradition. You see, like we said, “humans” just have to have their traditions (tradities) ... cats just want to eat and sleep (preferably without fireworks, says Sacha) !!!

Happy New Year everyone!

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar iedereen!

Finn & Sacha
P.S. Oh nooooo!!! I just heard some fireworks going off... it's 3:45pm here on New Year's day as I "paw this out" on our "kat keyboard" . I think I had better go downstairs and make that space under the cabinet a little more comfy for my lil sis Sacha! She's going to be there for quite some time, I think.

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