Friday, October 24, 2014

The Cumming Country Fair, 2014

By now you know we fly every year to America in October because of the Cumming Country Fair.  Nicholas is now 14 years old, a high-school freshman, and still wants to go.  "It's a tradition," he says.  Since age two (in 2002) he has been 12 times, skipping only one year, 2012, when we weren't there in October because of nephew Peter's wedding in August.

This year was very different, however, because it was the first time Nicholas took a school buddy.

Buddy Sebastian is from Colombia, has lived in America only 7 years...and had never been to a fair.
So to start off, we all agreed the skylift was the first thing to do, to get the 12-minute overview.
We made sure they sat in front of us so we could "overview" them.

From that point on, till supper, we set the boys loose,
while Astrid and I went on our first-ever fair photo hunt.
Near the end of the skylift ride is the lineup of tractors and farm equipment, so we started there.

 Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, this pink tractor is always stage-center.

It's the wheels that grabbed my attention this year.

These are humongous, old-timey machines.
Put your hands together for all our farmers everywhere!

We always take time to run through the petting barn.
I remember when Nicholas was little and got to feel them.

This was our first time to walk through the old-timey school house...

...and the two churches attached on either side.
One was a Methodist Church and the other a Baptist Church.
How can you tell which is which?

At such-n-such a time, we rendezvoused with the boys for supper.
Each boy ate their own BIG turkey leg, while Astrid and I shared one...
with our prerequisite roasted corn, of course.

The guys were out of ride tickets at that point, ha, so g'ma did what she's good for.
And off we all were again.

By now we were getting a good ground-level overview of the fair, just as the sun started to set.

Talk about a Golden Hour as the sun treated us to its magic.

And then it was dark, with a different kind of magic.

The country store, the blacksmith shop, the quilting bee, the syrup and saw mills...
you get enough education to keep going back year after year, let alone for the rides.

But one thing new this year, winding its way throughout the fair the entire evening,
was the Puppetone Rockers.  They totally made the night for me.
We even talked with them for 15 minutes on one of their breaks.

Turn up the sound to get the gist,
totally upbeat and always with a message to the kids about "Doing Right."
What a thrill.  I hope they're back next year.

Last but not least, we always end the fair with homemade ice cream.
The boys had strawberry and the girls had chocolate-peanut-butter.
You'd be smiling, too!  :)

And yes, we already know the dates for next year's fair!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Our 2014 America Trip: Overview

Has it really come and gone so quickly?  We're packed and have a couple more hours before we leave for the Atlanta airport for our flight back home to the Netherlands.  So while we're waiting, here's a bit of an overview, from collages I put up on Facebook.

 As you surely know by now, we fly back in October because Nicholas still wants to go to the fair!
This was his first year to take a school buddy, which actually changed everything!
We all rode the skylift together, first off, with them in front of us, of course.

Then they AND we were off on our own till it was time for supper.
The menu is always turkey legs and roasted corn.  Hard to beat.

While the boys were going on all the crazy rides, Astrid and I had a photo op!
(Remember, this is just an overview!)

And just before going home, we had our prerequisite homemade ice cream.
It was the best fair ever!

 You know I can eat that boy up, now 14, a freshman in high school.

And what I love so much is how much he and Astrid are bonding.
You can't fake that!

This year she had her new iPad4 waiting for her.
And guess who taught her everything she needs to know!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Remember Bob and Peggy from just south of Atlanta?
We spent 5 days with them, while the kids worked and Nicholas was in school.
We love our little side trips with them around the backroads of south Georgia.
The Laurel and Hardy Museum is in Harlem, GA, which I didn't even know existed.
Oliver Hardy was born there in 1892.  Who knew?!

Nearby we visited Monticello, GA, where My Cousin Vinny was filmed.
The Two Yutes Tuna at the nearby Sac-O-Suds is their best seller.  HA!

We also spent a day, with picnic, at the nearby High Falls State Park in Jackson, GA.
(Those pics will come later, I assume.)

We were there to see the full, hunter's blood moon on Tuesday the 7th
with the lunar eclipse the next morning, Wednesday the 8th (bottom right).
Lucky us!  We'll never forget it.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

After Bob and Peggy's we went to the Blue Ridge mountains for our family's 5-day cabin retreat.
Talk about a room with a view!

 We even drove down the mountain to Blue Ridge, GA, to be tourists for an afternoon.
Pumpkins are my favorite time of the year!

And yes, this was another photo-op time for us as we walked around.

Amy took this on her iPhone one night while we made s'mores on the porch.  Memories.

And we always end the cabin time at a Waffle House for breakfast the day we drive back.  HA!

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 After the cabin, son Mark had us over for potato-sausage soup, a family favorite.
(thanks to Astrid for the images)

His cat, Piper, showed all her best sides to Astrid, the photographer.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

We even had time to spend 4 days with Bob and Marc at their lovely home on Lake Lanier.
Their Cresswind 55+ retirement community is ranked among the top ten most affordable communities 
for retirees by AARP Magazine.  Astrid says she could move there...and that's saying a lot.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Last but not least, we captured between us these 4 weathervanes.
"We're not in Kansas anymore!"  But at least there was a Hart.

Like I overview, before I get home and work on the rest of the images.
Man alive.  We really packed in a lot, didn't we!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Open Monument Day: Hoeven Abbey/Bovendonk

Remember how I mentioned (last post) that every September there is an Open Monument Day in the Netherlands when over 4,000 historic buildings and sites are open to the public free of charge?  Actually, that day, Saturday, has now become the weekend.  And because of that, we got to go somewhere on Sunday.

The village of Hoeven (pop. 6,500) is only 60 km from where we live here in Gorinchem, so even when we drive the backroads, you're talking about less than an hour's drive.  And you know us, we like to stop to see whatever is of interest along the way.

Like this city hall in Klundert, built in 1621, for instance.
Astrid LOVES doing the research to find these gems for our cameras!

It doesn't take long to walk around such a specimen and ooh and aah.
And since Dutch weddings are done at city hall, can you imagine getting married there?

While I'm at it, we saw other stuff, coming and going,
including that colossal basilica in the middle of nowhere in Oudenbosch (remember?),
just 15 km from Klundert.

But the weathervanes still take the cake for me.  I c a n n o t  resist them.
(To be honest, I don't think Astrid can either!)

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

But now, the Hoeven Abbey, which was our goal for the day!  Here's an overhead view which I found on the internet:

You enter at the bottom.

 The ground was purchased in 1282 by the abbey of Cistercienser of St. Bernard.
From then till now, it lost its Roman Catholic church function, became Protestant,
and now is the Bovendonk conference, hotel, exhibition and event center.  

 Because it's used as a conference center, it's not open to the general public,
which is why we jumped at visiting it on Open Monument Day.

Step inside and be amazed.

It was hard to know where to start, even at the very entrance.

We knew we wanted to see the chapel, of course, and eat lunch,
but the chapel wasn't open yet (recent service) and we weren't ready for lunch, so we walked around.

When we entered the courtyard, it all took my breath away.
Smack dab in front of us was the chapel...and the lunch tables...
and the chapel weathervanes....

And the cloisters clock, by architect Pierre Cuypers!
Gebruik den Tijd eer hij Ontvlied (old Dutch): 
"Use the time before it flies away."


The cloisters.  The cloisters.
Okay, so they're modern now but couldn't you be a nun/monk there?
You'd at least want to go to a seminar, right?!

By then it was time for LUNCH.
As you know, many abbeys make their own beer, but because this is no longer an abbey per se,
this Magister beer is made for it by the Scheldebrouwerij in Belgium.
We are loving trying out new beers, can you tell?

On that wonderful note, totally satisfied, the chapel was ready for viewing!

Have you noticed how ornate the floors are throughout the entire abbey,
including the chapel!

I could imagine sitting at a service here.

As we left the complex, the same way we entered, the statue out front had new meaning for me.
I made up my own story for it:  Praise and Hallelujah.

A few yards further, near the gate, Mother Nature, too, was singing her praise.
It was that kind of day.

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

As an FYI, Astrid and I fly to Atlanta on Wednesday for our annual 3-week trip to see my family and friends.  We're down to counting hours....!  :)