Day of Celebration

There’s so much to celebrate today! It’s International Women’s Day! It’s Mardi Gras/Carnaval! It’s my parents’ wedding anniversary! It’s my birthday! Cake for everyone!

Saturday afternoon, we heard marching bands nearby, and when I peered out the window, I saw that there was a parade going through the main street through the city! Although the biggest celebrations of Carnival/Mardi Gras take place down in the southern part of the country around Maastricht, other cities still put on some sort of celebration. Utrecht had a parade. It took me back to my university days in New Orleans.

Today is the final day of celebrations before the beginning of Lent (if you follow all that), but I’ll be celebrating a bit of excess this evening with another feast of small round foods and a decadent chocolate birthday cake — which needs to be made, so I’d better get a move on! In the meantime, enjoy a few more photos of the floats in the parade.
Tree Stump
King Float
End of the Parade

Happy Birthday, Nijntje!

Birthday Girl
On this day in 1955, Nijntje made her debut. Drawn by Utrecht native, Dick Bruna, she’s gone on to feature in numerous books and cartoons and has become well-known around the world. She’s better known as Miffy to most of the world, since Nijntje is a bit of a puzzle for those not familiar with Dutch. For what it’s worth, Nijntje is a shortened, diminutive form of the word konijn, which means rabbit.
Nijntje Pleintje
She’s got quite the presence here in Utrecht. She has her own square (Nijntje Pleintje as seen in the above photo). She’s also the symbol used for some of the walk/don’t walk lights here in town. She’s being used on some directional signs here in Utrecht, and of course, she plays a huge part in the Dick Bruna Huis, which is a part of the Utrecht Centraal Museum.
Dick Bruna Huis
MuseumWeekend [Day 102/365]
She’s a charming little bunny and a nice thing to have associated with Utrecht. Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Nijntje!

Gefeliciteerd, Utrecht!

Dutch circle party is optional, but gefeliciteerds are in order, because Utrecht is celebrating its 888th birthday today! On June 2, 1122, Emperor Henrik V officially recognized Utrecht as a city. (Don’t forget that Utrecht as an inhabited location has been around since at least 50 CE with the Roman fortifications, although there are possible inhabitants dating back to the Stone Age (2200 BCE.)

There are various events going on around town today and this week to celebrate the birthday, including special discounts and such for people whose name derives from Henrik (Henrietta, Harry, etc.). If you’re in town and curious, there’s information in Dutch here.

The sun is shining and the weather is gorgeous today; perfect weather for a birthday!

There’s lots of interesting history about Utrecht in its Wikipedia page. Check it out. For the record, the diagonal red and white shield seen above is the symbol of Utrecht. Here are a few more random photos of this lovely city.
Light and Lights
Oude Gracht
Flora and Fountain
Toren Arch
Period Piece

Small Round Foods

Birthday Smorgasbord
Usually for my birthday, I like to go out for sushi. This year, I didn’t really feel like going out, but I still wanted to have a variety of small foods from which to choose. So I pulled out the various recipes for appetizers and sides that I’d bookmarked on Foodgawker and put together a menu of small round foods. I’ve often wanted to do a meal with a few of these, but figured it was a bit odd. As birthday girl, though, I could get away with odd! I enjoy cooking, so this was also something fun for me to do. I spent all Monday afternoon and into early evening cooking each of these small food items. Garlic balls and eggplant balls, zucchini and olive pancakes, shrimp cakes, broccoli tikkis, chicken pieces wrapped in bacon and coated with honey mustard, Asian-flavored meatballs coated in rice, corn, goat cheese and leek fritters, and shrimp salad in phyllo cups. Sparkling wine to accompany it all, of course.

It was a fun way to celebrate a birthday I wasn’t particularly excited about. There was birthday cake, too, of course. A big round food! Last year I had thought about making a German chocolate cake — my favorite — but ended up going the chocolate and raspberry route instead. This year I was determined to make my favorite. It’s not quite the same appearance, but it tastes close enough to keep me happy! So despite the snow that started my day, rather than the bright sunshine I’d been hoping for, the day ended up quite cheerful and fun and delicious. The sun even came out later in the day!
Birthday [Day 66/365]

Saints Almighty!

Who Dat [Day 39/365]
I pulled out some of my old Mardi Gras beads — the gold ones, of course — to wear during the game.

As some of you may know, I went to Tulane University in New Orleans, and I fell in love with the city. I also became a Saints fan as I embraced everything New Orleans-related. Of course, I’ve also been a long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, so I was used to supporting a non-winning team. It’s now been 20 years since I first became a Saints fan. In all that time, I never really expected us to do that well; certainly not to make it to the Super Bowl! I mean, I’ve had my hopes raised in the past; I was there in the early ’90s when Coach Jim Mora had some success with the team, success that lead to the whole Cha-Ching chants and bumper stickers calling for Mora for Governor (which might not have been a bad idea considering David Duke and Edwin Edwards were the actual candidates).

So this season, as the Saints began their 13-game winning streak, I was thrilled, but still very cautious. It was the Saints, after all. Something would invariably go wrong. When they lost the last three games of the season, I thought it was the Saints as usual. Don’t forget, they used to be called the Ain’ts. I knew we were going to playoffs, but still thought that would be the end of it. Oh, I was thrilled we’d done as well as we had, but I didn’t want to get too excited. History was certainly not in the team’s favor. But they kept winning. They even beat the mighty Brett Favre and the Vikings to finally, FINALLY go to the Super Bowl for the very first time in the team’s 43-year history.

I still couldn’t bring myself to be too cocky about the Saints actually managing to win the Super Bowl. I figured I’d be happy just that we’d finally made it that far. The first half of the Super Bowl made me think that line of thinking was appropriate. But then the second half of the Super Bowl started and things turned around. Boy did they turn around! Touchdowns, interceptions, more field goals! I still couldn’t believe it and it wasn’t until the Colts’ last play, with only 40 seconds left that I finally allowed myself to believe that the Saints really were going to win the Super Bowl! They did it! They won! The New Orleans Saints are NFL Champions!

Did I mention that the game didn’t start here until 12:30 a.m. and that the end of the game wasn’t until almost 4 a.m.? Oh yeah. We watched. I wasn’t the only displaced Southerner/New Orleans Saints fan who stayed up and watched. This morning when I got up a few measly hours later, I was afraid it was just a dream. But no; it was all real! So if you’ll excuse me, I have some gloating to do.

Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?