Photo of the day: MORNING REQUIREMENTS: STALE TOAST AND TWO PEANUTS – This is Oscar my ‘pet’ squirrel who comes by every morning to have his breakfast served by me. Every morning he has 2 unsalted peanuts and 1 pecan waiting for him on my third floor windowsill, but nothing gets him going more than a good old fashioned piece of stale toast! (But no coffee, it’ gets him too wired.)
Photo of the day: 15,000 HITS ON MY WEB SITE – THANK YOU ! – This weekend I reached another milestone.
My http://hansvonrittern.com/ photography web site reached 15,000 views and climbing! I am updating it daily in preparation of a really big announcement coming soon!
STAY TUNED ! !
Photo of the day: NO SMOKE MARIJUANA HERE – Since this sign went up in the staircase of mom’s apartment building, she’s just going to have to find another place to light up . . .
Photo of the day: HAPPY 88th BIRTHDAY URSULA VON RITTERN – This is almost a scene from “The Sound of Music”, the photo was taken about the same time the famous von Trapp family was roaming in those hills as well singing their hearts out. This photo was taken approximately in 1938, mom is about 12 or 13 years old here wearing her traditional German dirndl dress. With not a care in the world picnicking in the mountains not knowing what horrors she was about to experience in Germany. Her teen years were spent in World War II, the stories are gruesome yet fascinating. We are in the process of writing our family history and her life story now. Ursula finally immigrated to the United States in 1952, I arrived three years later in 1955, and so the story continues. Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag and Happy Birthday mom!
Photo of the day: EVERYBODY WAS HOME SATURDAY NIGHT – Living in New York City many of us have an Alfred Hitchcock-like “Rear Window” view. Mine happens to be out the front of the building onto 46th Street, one of the nicer streets in Sunnyside and Sunnyside Gardens.
A few weeks ago New York City was visited by a chilling Arctic Vortex, but lately it had warmed back up to 50F (10C) degrees and I was keeping my window open a bit nights. But last night the cold temperatures came back and I went to my window at 8:00pm to close it for the night. As I looked out my window, I noticed a warmer glow than usual coming from my street. There was more than just the warm glow of the street light, but also the entire building across the street seemed to glow like a miniature toy model. It was then that I noticed that something very unusual was occurring in the apartment building across the street – every single apartment, on all six floors, every window had lights on, everybody was home! That rarely ever occurs! This is New York, someone is usually out on an all night job, at a party, with a date, shopping, vacationing or what not. But on January 18th at 8:00pm, on one of those cold January nights…all these diverse neighbors at 41-29 46th Street had all decided to be snug as a bug and snuggle up to their big flat screen TVs, computers, cat, dog or loved one. As diverse as they are, for this night they were “one”.
(And no, I didn’t get out my Jimmy Stewart binoculars to look in the windows, I just enjoyed the warm glow of the city life.)
“Where’s the eau de dogue?”
Photo of the day: “SERIOUSLY? YOU EXPECT ME TO PEE IN THIS COLD?” – “Besides, I can’t smell a thing!” Noel my sheepdog/terrier mix dog has been none to happy about our walkies for the last few days. First the blizzard and the bitter cold, then the burning salt on her paws and she’s still frustrated that she can’t quite get her eau de dougue scents as she usually does. ‘The sun’ll come out tomorrow’, the temps are going up to 40°F (4.45°C) – let’s hope for Noel’s sake, because there’s nothing like sniffing a good fire hydrant! 🙂
#7 train, 46th Street, Sunnyside
Photo of the day: BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE – It is 15°F (-9.5°C) here in New York City and last night winds were howling as we received 10″ inches (.25 meters) of snow for our first blizzard of 2014. But the commuters aboard the local #7 train at the 46th Street station in Queens were oblivious to the frigid conditions outside as they concentrated on their books and iPhones on their way home.
Von Rittern traditional German candle lit Christmas tree
MY OLD FASHIONED GERMAN CHRISTMAS TREE 2013: Yes – those are real candles. We celebrate with no flashing lights or loud music, our ‘church’ is the tree. The tree is decorated with ornaments dating back several generations, about ninety years. Modern ones are included of course, that way the tree is a living story of the family’s history. The favorite ornaments are hung so that they will catch the candlelight and the whole tree tells a story of the family’s history. Mementos from trips abroad, favorite childhood ornaments, all that tell our likes, hobbies and loves. Tin foil wrapped chocolates and marzipan fill the tree as well. We usually get the biggest tree that will fit in the apartment (we once had a 14 foot tall tree) but now that mom is downsizing, we get a smaller tree and it is placed on a turn of the century old wooden steamer trunk that was used when my great aunt came to visit us in the New York and it is used as a table base to place the tree upon.
Depending on the size of the tree, anywhere from two to four dozen candles are placed in strategic spots in the tree. Each candle illuminates the special ornaments nearby. The candleholders are metal clip-ons in the shape of a pine cone. You can still buy the candles and holders at Schaller and Weber’s, a surviving German delicatessen just off 86th Street on Second Avenue in what was once an entire German neighborhood.
December 24 Christmas eve, we have our traditional Christmas goose dinner with roasted apples (this year we had duck), home made dumplings, white asparagus, red cabbage, string beans with topping and lots of gravy.
After dinner, the elder of the family lights the candles in the room and on the Christmas tree and puts the ‘Christmas record’ on the phonograph. The record is of German church bells and church choirs singing. When all is ready, a golden bell is rung and the rest of the family comes into the glow of the room. We stand quietly side by side, arm in am or holding hands and quietly listen to the beautiful music we have listened to for decades before. That is ‘church’ to us. As the first side of the record ends, we play the other side, sit down and just quietly gaze into the serene candlelight, watching the ornaments glisten. No electric lights are on in the room, just the glow of candlelight, just as it is in Germany, France, and all of Scandinavia. Let your imagination go back to the late 1800′s enjoying a room just simply lit by candlelight.
The second side of the record ends with a jolly children’s song “Der Weihnachtsman ist da!/Santa Claus is here!”, signifying it is time to open presents by the amber glow. We grab some of the marzipan, gingerbread and chocolates that are on the dining table for all to enjoy as we open our treasures. At midnight a bottle of champagne is opened to ring in Christmas day and we all have a helping of mom’s strong rum pot preserves!
Rum pot preserves with vanilla ice cream
At one time it was my whole family enjoying this tradition, now it is just my mother and me left to carry on, and one day it will just be me, but I will always do it, perhaps with a heavy heart. But this is Christmas, a German Christmas, my heritage. My great grandmother’s, grandparent’s, mother’s and my heritage. Fröhliche Weihnachten!