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Pleased as Punch

21 Sep

Jade is going to be a little Harlequin doll in this year’s Northern Lights School of Dance production of The Nutcracker. She is pleased as punch about it!

Speaking of “pleased as punch”, I decided to read up a little bit on the history of the Harlequin character and learned a number if interesting things, including that commedia dell’arte is the ancestor of the British “Punch and Judy” shows.

I’ve only ever heard of Punch and Judy in books and songs, but have never actually seen one. I didn’t realize that many of the glove-puppet characters I’ve encountered in my life are actually typical Punch and Judy characters.

On top of all that, reading about Punch and Judy suddenly reminded me of a song I learned a long, long time ago, probably in the very first year I was taking piano lessons, so perhaps just after I turned 4. I haven’t thought of the song in years and at first just the first line popped into my head. After about an hour, I think I have recalled the rest of the lyrics, as well as the melody.

“Punch and Judy are in town,
Oh, what fun to see them clown.
Hurry, hurry, sister Sue,
Show begins at half-past two!”

Strange how music can stick so firmly in our brains and be recalled three decades later.

I’m betting Jade will long remember the thrill of being a little Harlequin doll in The Nutcracker. I know that I’m delighted for her.

And it’s not just because I feel a little smarter now that I know whence comes the expression “pleased as (an apparently often self-satisfied) Punch”.


Treasures from the greenhouse

31 Jul

Thanks to Michael’s hard work planting the greenhouse and garden this year, plus our friend Robert’s diligent watering while we were away in Europe, we now have some multi-coloured treasures to harvest.

I can’t wait to turn the tomatoes and oregano into a salad. I think I’ll sprinkle on a few precious grains of the “Fleur de sel de Carmague” salt my Oma gave me years ago; I use it sparingly on my best dishes where the salt will shine and really boost the flavour of the dish. We drove through this region last week and I smiled in recognition.


There was a little girl who had a little curl

26 Jul

We are on our last half a day in Europe and in this one moment of stillness, I thought I would relate a trivial — but curious — discovery we made.

Jade has a ringlet of curly hair growing at the nape of her neck.

This may seem unremarkable, but the rest of her hair is straight. She was actually born with curly hair and had soft curls until after her second birthday. After her seizures started, with her hair getting longer, I noticed the hair growing in was flat. Thinking her hair was getting too long and weighing down the curls, I had it cut… and that was the end of her curls.

I supposed that this was just a case of baby hair being different from bigger-girl hair and she has had straight hair ever since. Until now, that is.

So I am left wondering if her seizures or her diet affected the curl of her hair, whether she is going to get curls all over her head, if it’s the humidity in the European air, or just one of those random, strange things hair sometimes does…

On Sant Pol beach in Spain

20 Jul

Here’s where we are today. No commentary needed.







A few more pics of the European whirlwind tour

18 Jul

It was a long day of driving today, marred by wrong exits (adding 40 minutes to our itinerary!) and bad traffic around cities, but we ended up in the Pyranees and the last hour of driving was absolutely spectacular. It also started off with a delightful visit to Michael’s ancestral home of Lusignan, also home of the legend of Mélusine… but before I get into that, I’m going to take you further backwards on our trip…

Our last night in my Oma’s home was also the final World Cup game. I’m generally not a watcher of sports, but it was very exciting to be in Germany, watching the Germany team win the gold. I was impressed that my Oma knew such a lot about the individual players and about the rules of soccer — pardon me, I mean football. I guess because I grew up with my dad being so indifferent to team sports, I assumed that was the attitude of the whole Fritzen clan.20140718-073105-27065938.jpg

Oma’s cupboard of mugs is a cupboard of childhood memories. Each of her grandchildren was allowed to pick his or her own mug from the local store called Hettig, and that was forever his or her cup to be used at Oma’s house. We often had hot chocolate from them in the mornings. I still remember that Heidi’s was the blue one with the sun and birds (or did that one belong to Johannes?), Victor had the rhinoceros, my sister had colourful balloons… Mine is the one with the multicoloured umbrellas.20140718-073106-27066779.jpg

Our first stop on our first day of driving was Bremen. It was fun telling the girls the tale of the Bremen Town Musicians as we drew close to the city. We impulsively stopped in the town centre since it was close to lunchtime and sought out this carillon concert (“Haus des Glockenspiels”), which Michael remembered from our visit here in 2001.20140718-073108-27068555.jpg

As you can see, the girls were captivated.20140718-073107-27067670.jpg

After lunch, the girls were delighted to see how many times they could spot the Bremen Town Musicians as we walked around town. (They are everywhere!!!!)


The Schnoorviertel is a touristy area full of shops and the girls were nearly in fits with all the things they wanted to take home. Despite that, it really is a delightful and charming place to wander, with some impossibly narrow streets (still with shops in them!) that make you feel as though you’ve discovered a secret passageway. This wasn’t even the smallest street here…


Our final destination on our first day was “Sneek” (pronounced “snake”) in the Netherlands. Beautiful architecture and canals abound, along with the singular sight of sailboats making their way across a farmer’s field (although, of course, in reality there’s a canal there, just where you can’t see it). It felt strange to me to be in a land where I couldn’t read the street signs, although Dutch is often just close enough to German (and at other times to English!) that I can figure stuff out. This jug at the restaurant De Lachende Koe (where all things are decorated with a laughing cow) made me laugh. I’ve always teased Michael that his Saskatchewan accent makes him pronounce certain words oddly. For example, he says “melk”, not “milk”. Perhaps he actually has Dutch roots?20140718-073240-27160499.jpg

The highlight of our brief stay in Sneek was visiting the sand-sculpting competition. This is an annual event and Michael and I both wondered how the sculptures could stay so well-preserved against the elements of wind and rain, as they evidently are viewable for a couple of months. This year’s theme was Hollywood. Halia’s favourite sculpture was this depiction of “Toy Story”.20140718-073241-27161371.jpg

And then the girls got to make their own sculpture!20140718-073352-27232193.jpg

There, now I think we are mostly caught up…

Except I haven’t shown you a thing from today, of course, and we saw some amazing sights. But now it is closing in on midnight. I am sitting on a comfortable bed in a perfectly charming bed and breakfast perched on the mountainside, with a five-year-old softly sleeping and waiting for me to join her. Outside, a rainstorm broke out minutes after we arrived, so we are soothed by the sound of raindrops on cobblestone, the rumble of thunder, and the soft, cool breeze that is a balm after two days of sweltering weather. I believe I shall sleep well tonight!


Through Europe, backwards

17 Jul

Here’s a wee taste of our trip since leaving the Fritzen family reunion. I added the photos using the WordPress app on my iPhone and they ended up all out of order, but whatev. It’s either lazy posting or no posting at all.

Here’s a shot from lunchtime today. We were on the beach in Normandy, enjoying the perfect beach weather. We had just finished a visit to the very excellent Juno Beach Centre, which explains the events leading up to D-Day. It was enlightening to understand something of the economic, political, and cultural climate of the years leading up to WWII, and there was information specifically geared toward kids, too.



As a former student of marketing, I was drawn to some of the wartime posters. I thought this one was pretty fantastic from a graphic design point of view.

20140717-221600-80160815.jpgHere’s Michael outside the observation bunker built by the German army. In 1944, it was at the edge of the beach, but wind and waves have changed the landscape significantly.20140717-221640-80200148.jpg


Random beach shot because it was perfect out.20140717-221639-80199354.jpg

Near the entrance of the centre, rows and rows of posts represent the over 300 men who fell on the first day of the D-Day mission. They came from all across Canada, although this one caught my eye because the fellow was from Minneapolis. There’s a QR code on the back of each post so you can read up on the life of each man. I don’t have a QR app, but I hope to look him up.20140717-221802-80282920.jpg

This fire hydrant was just down the street from the fantastic B&B where we stayed the night in Creully, about 20 minutes drive from the Juno Beach Centre. I just wanted to capture it because it looks decidedly feminine to me.20140717-221803-80283750.jpg

A monument to the fallen sons of Creully was evidently yarn-bombed last month.20140717-221951-80391581.jpg

Enjoying a glass of local “cidre demi-sec” at dinner. (And Jade is clearly enjoying her apple juice.)20140717-221952-80392392.jpg

This might be the girls’ only chance ever to be inside a telephone booth…20140717-221950-80390768.jpg

Creully has a château that we didn’t get to explore. And there are many other sights around that could easily turn this part of France into a weeks-long holiday.20140717-222243-80563205.jpg

We spent Wednesday at Vimy Ridge. We had a tour of the underground tunnels used to capture the ridge, and the above-ground trenches. The monument itself is beautiful, imposing, and very moving. Halia was enthusiastic about learning more about the end of WWI, Remembrance Day, and how it connects to her birthday (November 11th) and her name, which is Hawaiian for remembrance.20140717-222244-80564610.jpg

Someone had left these at the base of the monument. It appears to be rocks in water in one container. The other might contain ashes (?) but the 613 area code tells me these folks were from Ottawa.


The Grange trench used by Canadians at Vimy.


Our previous day was spent in The Netherlands. An impromptu stop in this charming town was full of delights for the girls, including an affectionate cat, a close encounter with a duck, some amazing fresh strawberries, and Jade finding a boat with her name on it.20140717-222512-80712885.jpg

Dutch is often so close to German… But even if you speak neither Dutch or German, I’m betting you can figure out what this idiom is.20140717-222513-80713831.jpg

Even the girls loved the architecture.20140717-222514-80714915.jpg


Aforementioned close encounter of the duck kind.20140717-222516-80716106.jpg

Entering Belgium. We just drove through. Except Antwerp took 2 hours longer to “drive through” than planned…20140717-222512-80712018.jpgThat’s it for today. Tomorrow we’ll get further south in France and prepare to drive through the Pyranees into Spain. Pray for cooler weather for us, please. We northerners are melting in 35 Celsius!


Hide and Sneek

14 Jul

Hello from Sneek, Nederland!

My family and I are on a European holiday. We’ve left our pets, house, and garden in good hands and taken just a little bit of work with us.

This past weekend was spent at the once-every-5-years (is there a word for that?) Fritzen family reunion (so amazing to see how people have changed — or not! — over the past 5 years!) and then this morning we started on a whirlwind tour that will take us through Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, and Switzerland.

We made it into Bremen very late in the morning and decided to check out the city for a short while. We found the town centre, parked, and just managed to arrive at the “Glockenspiel House” at noon. There is a carillon at the top of the building that plays a concert hourly. The girls found it enchanting.

After lunch, we walked around the old city, through some impossibly narrow streets and charming shops, and the girls delighted in spotting the Bremen Town Musicians in all the windows and street displays. (Of course, we told them the story of the Bremen Town Musicians as we neared the city.)

On our way again, the girls got to hear about the boy who saved Holland with his finger in the dyke. we made it to our intended destination of Sneek, Netherlands at around suppertime. It felt very strange not being able to read the signs. Sneek is a charming city (currently holding a sand sculpture contest!) and we hope to rent a boat tomorrow and do half a day of sailing before driving off again.

(Tomorrow we are heading for Belgium and, sadly, I don’t think I have any Belgian stories…)



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