Who’s That With Old St. Nick?

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Krampus in Austria

“Up on the rooftop reindeer pause, out jumps good old Santa Claus”, but who is that crazy character that came with him? In many parts of the world children have a very different vision in their head, when Santa Claus comes to town.

Santa Claus is a tradition celebrated here in the United States, while many other countries observe St. Nicholas, a Christian bishop, whose generosity of giving worked its way into the traditions that are celebrated today.  There has definitely been a blending of Santa Claus and St. Nicholas but they are very different, indeed.  In Western Europe, St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th.   Often, St. Nicholas has a counterpart, who is the bad to his good, the yin to his yang.  You better watch out when St. Nick and his associate visit, especially if you were less than nice this year. Many of these traditions date back to the middle ages where there were strong themes of good versus evil.

Krampus
Krampus

These not so friendly acquaintances can be quite creepy. In Austria, for instance, there is a horned, hairy creature called Krampus, who takes the kids on the naughty list to its hellish liar. If you made the good list, which hopefully you did, then St. Nick will leave you fruits, nuts and sweets.

In the Netherlands, there is Sinterklaas (said to be part of where our version of Santa Claus came from) and his counterpart Zwarte Piet (translates into Black Peter, and political correctness is a definite issue with this, although the black is soot from going down chimneys, not the color of his skin) who will drag you off in a bag and teach you to be good, if you didn’t make the nice list.

In parts of France, there is the very scary Père Fouettard, a horrible child killer who is making up for his sins by eternally being St. Nicholas’s helper, not sure he will ever make that up for that though! Those that have been naughty should expect a whipping from this boogieman instead of any treats.

The Czech Republic has a tradition where Saint Nicholas comes with an angel to protect the children from the devil, who also comes, but is chained up; showing once again that good does overcome evil. Here the naughty ones get a lump of coal or a sack of potatoes and the real naughty ones get put into the devils sack and taken to hell, if that doesn’t make you want to be on the nice list, I am not sure what else will.

In parts of Germany, St. Nick travels with Knecht Ruprecht.  There are various traditions throughout Germany but they usually go something like this- Knecht Ruprecht carries a bag of ashes and a basket containing switches (branches used for whipping). He will ask children if they know how to pray, if yes, St. Nicholas gives them treats, often fruit, nuts, chocolates or gingerbread. If not, then Knecht Ruprecht beats the children with his bag of ashes. They are given coal and a switch is left for the parents to discipline them with.

So if you decide to be naughty, take caution, you are dealing with the forces of St. Nicholas, and his acquaintances don’t mess around. My advice, be good and have a wonderful holiday season whatever your beliefs are!

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Suffering from Wanderlust?

wan·der·lust:

a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about.

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I frequently suffer from wanderlust. When it first appears the symptoms settle in my bones and then it begins to drive me just a little nutty. My first affliction with wanderlust appeared at an early age. My parents took me on many adventures throughout the United States and Europe. I was very lucky and realized that I couldn’t get enough of wandering about.
Many of us are troubled with wanderlust ever so often.  When you get a strong case of wanderlust and cannot get away to satiate that desire to explore, here are a few suggestions that might help get you through it.
change it up
1. Step away from your routine. Mix it up a bit. Head down to a new cafe in the morning for your coffee and pay attention to what is around you. Keep electronic devices out of reach.
2. Try something new. I keep looking at the painting classes from my local Groupon and think, I might have to give it a try. Maybe a cooking class too…
3. Take a tour in your own city. I live in a big enough city where there are still new things to explore, if this is not the case with you, it maybe as simple as taking a different route just to see a new street or a new view.
4. Find a new restaurant, a new store or even a grocery store that may have just a little bit of a different “flavor”. There is a great Mediterranean grocery store near me that I must visit again.
sunset
5. Connect to the moment, watch the sunset or sunrise and just sit still and breathe.
6. Check into a hotel in your city for an easy getaway or you can even rent a home through one of the many vacation rental websites like, http://www.homeaway.com or http://www.vrbo.com. It doesn’t have to be pricey, there are lots of deals these days.
There is so much to do and see right under our toes but we get complacent and stuck. I am very guilty of this. Time to cure my wanderlust!  I am heading out now, see you soon!

Getting Back Up Again

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Returning from our European adventure was quite an emotional experience for me. Traveling throughout Europe for 7 months was a dream come true. We had planned and saved for years and I really wasn’t sure what we were going to do once we got back. We moved back into our old house (literally, it is 106 years old) without much of a plan.  Now back to the drawing board to get it going again.

First things first, we needed to get the girls back in school and figure out how we were going to make money again. Our finances had dwindled down from our travels, so we sold a piece of real estate to help get us going again.  My husband set out with a new job and I struggled to get my grounding, feeling uninspired and lost.  I had dreamed of traveling for so long and now I knew that had come to an end, for now. We promised our kids to stay in one place until they were out of high school, so we were here to stay and had to settle in.

 

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The shift from being constantly on the go and experiencing new things everyday to going back to old routines and familiar places was quite huge.  We were excited to see family and friends again and have some downtime. We were also very happy to get back to being with our family pets that we had to leave behind, the girls were happy to play soccer again, and just gearing down with the ease of familiar foods and no language barriers made things simple. My husband was completely burnt out on loading and unloading the car (we only had to pack and unpack 48 times, not sure why he was complaining, ha!) and I was getting tired of always feeling a little lost, so our customary ways are not so bad.

Now, after being back for just a little more than a year, we have jumped back into our always changing, yet everyday life. The girls got right back into school, friends and soccer. They have done great and have had a better understanding and appreciation from having seen so much from traveling.  My husband has now started his own business which is getting off to a good start, but of course, has its stresses.  I though, am still struggling to get a foothold, but think I have finally found a way. I really enjoyed writing this blog about our travels and have not felt able to write since we have been back. I guess it is just that I haven’t had much to say. It has been really hard to switch back into my old way of living, I have been struggling and stuck, instead of appreciating the fact that I even had this opportunity to travel in the first place and am so lucky in my life. I feel like traveling is such a big part of what makes me happy and now that our incredible journey is over, I just haven’t been able to figure out what to do next. I have a plan now though, and it starts with getting back to what I really enjoy doing; blogging, taking pictures and I have started writing a travel guide for kids. I figure if I cannot travel at the moment, at least I can dream about it. Oh, and I do need to fix up our old house too. So now I am ready to get going again! Okay, here we go. I am really going now. Let’s go. For real this time. That is it, committing now! 1-2-3! Go!!!

A Good Day

There is a lovely place in Malibu called Solstice Canyon where one can take a leisurely 3 mile hike.  Last week I went on this hike with a dear friend and our very happy dogs. The canyon was all a bloom, as this warm winter has tricked Mother Nature into an eternal spring. Many wild flowers were showing off their charm.  A few miles into the canyon we came across a skeleton of a once lovely house.  All that is left is beautiful stonework from the foundation and fireplace. You can see the framework of several pools outlined in stone.  Unfortunately, which happens all too often in this area, a wildfire destroyed this once incredible home in 1982. I have been here before with my husband and daughters and we wondered what it must have been like to live here.  To the side of the house is a waterfall and then the small creek wraps around in front of the house.  The house is tucked back in the canyon in a truly magical spot.  It must have been exceptionally private and incredibly peaceful to live here.  I wonder how this home was built so far back in the canyon and who would have built this incredible place.

When we returned back near the parking lot we stopped and spoke with a distinguished older man who was also walking his dog.  He told us that this whole area had belonged to his family before it was sold to the state.  I asked him about the house and he said he had grown up there.  Although they lived in Santa Monica, his father insisted that they come out to the home every weekend.  His family had cattle and they kept horses on their ranch.  He had what looked like tears in his eyes as he spoke about his memories on living in the house with his family.  I guess his mother was fearful of the Japanese attacking the coast of California (during WWII) which is why they had built a bomb shelter on the property, it doubled as a place to store food.  He still lives in the Los Angeles area and happened to be visiting his daughter and grandchild who live close by.  I felt so lucky to have run into him and it was obvious how much this place meant to him.  It is so important to be connected to the land and one’s past.  I enjoy nothing more than being in nature.  We are so fortunate to have this beautiful canyon open to the public due to this man and his family.

Once I returned home, I looked into the history of Solstice Canyon and found that his parents, Fred and Florence Roberts hired noted African-American architect Paul Williams to design the home in 1952.  Before that time the family had a small cabin on the property.  The home designed by Paul Williams was featured in Architectural Digest. They had cattle and various exotic animals on the land, including reportedly, camels, buffalos and giraffes, a miniature Hearst Castle.

If you ever find yourself in this area, I would highly recommend a hike through this beautiful canyon.  It is good for your heart and your head!

For more information here is a link to the Malibu Surfside News:

http://malibusurfsidenews-blog.blogspot.com/2010/11/nps-rangers-and-former-residents-share.html