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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Anne Frank and the Anne Frank House

Back when I was doing my posts on our trip to Paris, the Netherlands and London, there were several people who asked why I didn't post about the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam -- especially since I mentioned it was on my "must do" list.
There are three reasons for that. First, those Europe posts, while fun for me, were getting awfully long. And, I wasn't quite sure how to make it fit with the others, since no photos were allowed in the Anne Frank House. It would take some prepping.
But most of all, I found it moving in a way that was difficult to process and I just wasn't sure how to go about it.
But time, of course, puts things into perspective, so back to Holland we go.
 
Rick and I were more fortunate than we knew to make reservations for the Anne Frank House so close to the time we would visit (Two days before--and there were precious few times from which to choose). This may be one of the biggest attractions in Amsterdam and because of the size and cramped quarters, only a certain number of people are admitted at a time. The lines can be quite long. (If your travel plans are quite certain, you can make reservations well in advance online.)
 
The house is located on one of Amsterdam's many canals. In the photo above, you can see it next to the house with the "step" roof. Below is a closer view.
It is an easy walk from the Centraal Station, about 20 minutes, and also near a tram stop.
After you enter, one is reminded that the "House" was actually the business establishment of Otto Frank and the first spots you see are the offices from the company. There are a couple of diaramas showing how things were laid out and some memorabilia.
The really emotional stuff begins when you go behind the bookcase that bloked the narrow stairway up to the rooms where the Frank and Van Pels families stayed, along with their dentist friend, Fritz Pfeffer (Mr. Dussel).
There is no furniture. If you see postcards otherwise (and there are some) they have been staged for the guide book. So, in a way, one doesn't get the sense of how cramped it would be -- except for the fact that in your group there are more than eight people walking around -- and there isn't a lot of room to walk.
The only room that is somewhat decorated is Anne's -- the movie star photos she collected are posted on the wall, much in the way one would thing she had done as a young girl.
To me, one of the most moving spots was the attic where Anne and Peter would sit and talk, fall in love, and look at a piece of sky. The house is very near the Westertoren church where they would listen to the bells.
It surprised me -- and it shouldn't have -- that the house is across the street from one of the many canals that snake through Amsterdam. I don't remember mention of this in the diary, but it has been a long time.

And, just down the block is the Westertoren. 
You can see how close it is to the gift shop (the glassed building attached to the house in the photo below)
After one leaves the living quarters, you visit a museum of sorts. There are video monitors with interviews of those who had known Anne, including Miep Gies, one of those who helped keep them safe for so long.. Some of these stories are very sad indeed.
The original diary is not present but other diaries are mocked up to look the same and one can see pages of writing by Anne and many photographs.
You can also see the SS Records after the group was arrested. There are also many photos from the Frank's personal collection and information on how each of those who died perished.
When one leaves the archival part of the house, there is yet another area -- one that brings the issues presented in the book and on the tour to real and contemporary life. Videos present questions and ask how you would handle. People can vote individually and sometimes the results are a bit disarming.
 
I think the museum does a disservice to itself in not recreating the space more authentically. A bunch of empty rooms don't do it for the uninitiated. But the displays are excellent and I'd put it at the top of the list for anyone, particularly one who knows and cares about Anne Frank's story, to visit.
 
I was extremely moved by the Anne Frank House. Maybe it was reading the book so often, or so many books about her family and their protectors over time. Maybe it was having worked on or in three productions of the play and seeing the movie any number of times. Rick was less so.

"Why Anne Frank?" he asked, when so many died. How did her hiding place become the big tourist attraction that it is?
 
It's a tough question -- and a good one. Clearly there were many who died or who were brave in their resistance to the Nazis.

But the way I see it is that here was one girl -- one of the innocents, like so many innocent children. She lived in the hardest of worlds, in conditions no one should experience, for reasons which are unspeakably deplorable. 
 
She wasn't the only one by any means. But she was the one with a voice, the one who despite everything still believed that people were really good at heart.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Because I Hate Winter...

It should come to no great shock to anyone who reads The Marmelade Gypsy that my relationship to winter -- despite the smile on my face here when I was too young to know better -- is less than friendly.
But since there's not much else to post about this week, I'll share with you a few of my favorite winter shots over the years.
 
I won't say the light isn't lovely.
 
Nor will I say our MSU campus isn't beautiful in the snow.
 
Winter is not totally without color.
 
Nor is it without beauty.
 
Long before we built our porch onto the front of the cottage, it was like looking at Siberia when looking out the front onto the lake.
Even Rick doesn't ride when the snow gets deep.
Even the sheep look cold -- and at least they have a wool coat.
Cows aren't so lucky.
And while the cardinals make a nice contrast, I can't help but think they'd prefer something a little warmer.
So, if you live somewhere warm, rejoice. Really.
This winter thing is beautiful -- but it's not what it's cracked up to be!

Monday, January 21, 2013

In the "Strata"sphere

When I did my Christmas wrap-up post HERE, some of you commented on the strata I made for breakfast and I even had a couple of emails about sharing the recipe!
The one I make is the combination of a printed recipe from "Inn Time for Breakfast Again," a cookbook from Michigan's bed and breakfast inns and one similar that my mom made (c. 1960s).
It is also a "flexible" recipe -- as long as you get the egg custard and bread components in the ballpark, you can have some fun changing around the meat to make it vegetarian. 

Christmas Strata

Brown 2 pounds bulk sausage (I've done this with as little as one and it's fine, but if you are a sausage fan, two is better. I suspect you could substitute turkey sausage)

If there is room in your pan add 8 oz. of sliced fresh mushrooms. (I've done this without cooking them first, and that's fine, too.)

If you are game for onion, add that here, too -- one small should do it, and you may want to leave it out if you are making it for breakfast.

Drain this and set aside.

Cut the crusts from 8 slices of bread (I usually leave them on) or the equivalent of your favorite semi-stale better bread. (Once it's all mixed up, I can't tell the difference between Sara Lee and high-class bread, so that's your call.)

Make the custard by whisking together:
8 eggs
2 - 2 1/2 c. milk
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 pound Cheddar cheese. (the other half goes on top)

A note on cheese -- if you are feeding Martha, go for the good stuff. If you are feeding Kevin, Greg and Rick, the sharpest shredded cheese you can get pre-shredded seems to work just fine. It comes to about 1 bag or 2 cups, divided)

Put the bread on the bottom of a pan -- 13x9 is great (spray it first) but we often use a smaller casserole dish and just put a baking pan under it or you will find that it overflows, which disrupts the holiday merriment).

Add the meat/mushroom mixture.

Cover with the custard and put the remaining cheese on top. (I'm not sure why you just don't mix it all in, because the cheese in the custard always lands on the top of the bread anyway.)

Refrigerate overnight (cover with plastic or foil)

Bake at 350 (uncovered) for about 45-50 minutes or till the middle of the strata is set. Then let it stand a few minutes before slicing.

If you're not a meat fan, you could probably easily do this with veggies -- mushrooms, broccoli, etc. 
This is excellent with coffee cake and fruit salad (mimosa on the side, please!)
Cheers!

(Check out Chopsticks and String for a look at two new books by an emerging writer.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Eat. Sleep. Pee. Play. A Cat's Life

The other day I came home from work -- fighting the flu or an infection, exhausted and knowing I can't take any time off of work for a few days. 
I am so done. All I want to do is cry. Then curl up with tea or cocoa and look at my Christmas tree (yes, it's still up), snug with Lizzie Cosette (always brief -- she isn't a lapper), read a book, watch something on telly that requires no mental participation and fall asleep as soon as possible.
So, I walked in the door and Lizzie is yowling as she always does when I come home, not for the joy of seeing me but for the promise of her measly bit of wet-food dinner.
"Bon soir, Lizzie," I say as I usually do. "Comment ca va?"
And she says, "Oy, whadda day I had today!"
"What did you do?" I note the rug in the hall is scrunched up.

"Well, I had breakfast. And then I took a nap. And then I went downstairs to pee and poop. And then I took a nap."
"Wow. What else?"
 "First, I looked for my mouse in the chair."
"Then I stretched -- and then I watched the birds and that rapscallion Bushy the Squirrel at the bird feeder."
"How was that?"
"Same ol', same ol'. Then I took a nap. 
"That's it?
"No. I tried kicking around some of the low ornaments on the tree..."
"And..."
"And then I started jumping in the pillows on your bed. They're fun. 
And as long as I was there, I took a nap."
"Then I came in, right?"
 "Oh, no! Then I got up, had a little bit of my crunchy food and I played with Mouse. 
 
And then I took a bath. 
 
"Then I took a nap. 
 
And then I pushed one of your Ricola off the night table and kicked it around. And then I took a nap. 
I'm SO glad you're home. I'm starving!"
I think I want  my cat's life.

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