Sinterklaas, Birthday, Christmas, Birthday, Christmas, New Years…. I’m waiting for a vacation!

28 12 2008

First this man shows up on a horse, he comes from Spain and has his “helper” … let me introduce, Sinterklaas and his “helper” Zwarte Piet.  Now Zwarte Piet is a topic that gets argued by expats every year, and every year it’s the same argument.  I’m not here to argue the ethics of Black Pete, I’m here to just show you a little of the Dutch Christmas culture.   So back to the Sinterklaas thing…sinterklaas

He showed up here in November by boat with his buddy from his vacation spot in Spain and then rode around on a white horse.  I’m a little lost what he does from November to December 5thwhen he goes house to house to give candy and toys in the kids shoes, but he and his little buddies (there’s usually a gaggle of them) give candy to the good ones and branches to spank the naughty children, you know… with these kids this day and age maybe they should bring that tradition back!  But anyhow the dude goes around on December 5th to do all of this and once he’s done he’s gone for another year.   The kids in the area get as excited for him and his helpers and the kids in North America do for the big fat dude and his little helpers.   So that is what happened in the house on December 5th.  We had a small present exchange with the kids and us, nothing big or fancy and mainly it was for the kids.  Usually they include a little poem about why they are giving you this present and they wrap it so that it is nearly impossible to get out.  All three kids had to bring something to school to do gift exchange (nothing expensive a 3 euro limit) and they all received something in return.  I think Brianna did the best job, she had a little girl that like to sing and dance so she wrapped it up like a microphone, decorated it with the wire and everything.  She did a great job and it was too bad that it was going to be ripped open!  There are little cookies too that are eaten this time of year also,  kruidnoten/pepernoten which is very close to the taste of a ginger snap.  I’m not sure how many where eaten in this house but I can guess maybe a few thousand ;).  I’m not a huge fan of them since I don’t care for ginger snaps to begin with, but to have one or two is a nice treat.  Actually to crumble one on top of ice cream is really good.

After the Sinterklaas thing we had Frank’s 41st birthday to celebrate.   We just had  the kids here to celebrate and one of his friends stopped by later that night to watch a movie, nothing big since it was only his 41st ;).  Last year was the big party, he has to wait until he turns 50 for the next one.

Now here is where things got a little hectic,  Christmas and Brianna’s birthday are the same day so what we did was open presents on the 24th, have her party on the 25th, then Christmas dinner on the 26th.   Why not have Christmas dinner on the 24th you ask?  WELL Frank had to work on the 24th and unlike some Canadian companies, they kept him there until 6pm.  Mainly because this is the Netherlands and not Canada or the US.  I didn’t want him to come home from work and rush to have a dinner, granted I did make an nice pork roll for Christmas eve.  Afterwards we unwrapped gifts, and since my mom also sent us a box we went on webcam with her and my brother so they could watch us open them.   Not quite what I’m use too… it will take some adjusting. 

stonegrillThen on the 25th, we had Brianna’s 11th birthday with cake and presents and family.   We bought her inline skates since she was always borrowing Ashley’s last summer.  Also since we don’t get the snow here like back in Canada she can pretty much use them year round.   On their birthday the kids get to choose what they want for dinner, Ashley wanted Mexican on her birthday back in November so I did nachos and burritos.  Brianna wanted steingrill or in English… stonegrill.  That’s where you get little cuts of meat and you cook it yourself on a hot stone in the middle of the table.  Plus they have these little trays so you can put veggies and such underneath the element and roast things there.  food It saves you from cooking the main meal but you still need to either buy the meat (pre-sliced and small fortune) or do it yourself.  I was lazy and bought the stuff presliced and marinated.  We also had homemade (yes mine – no comments from the peanut gallery) potato salad, mushrooms to cook, onions and broccoli.  Plus bread and coleslaw.  So in the end it is quite filling.

Afterwards we just chilled until the next day when the kids went to their grandparents for a visit and then I started to make Christmas dinner for us.  No we didn’t have turkey, since again I didn’t ask for it in advance and I  wasn’t selling a kidney to get one.  So instead we had chicken parmigiana, rice, sprouts,  and green beans.  Needless to say we had a lot of left overs after the holidays. 

Now it’s time to prepare for New Years here,  I should have taken Stoney to the vet for some puppy valium since he is terrified of the fireworks,  but I didn’t.  I’m going to just have to deal with a dog hiding under the bed for the night when they start going off.    According to Tammy, it can get a bit crazy in this country with the pyrotechnic display.   I’m hoping that Stoney will get use to it after a while but I highly doubt it since even now any loud noise sends him scurrying under the bed.  Unfortunately the fireworks aren’t done by professionals, so there really isn’t any rhyme or reason for when they go off.  But I’m sure it will be interesting to see, as long as the neighbour kids don’t blow a finger off. 

Well I know this is a bit late but I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all the best from the Netherlands and have  Happy New Year!!

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I’ve been a baaaaaaaaaaaaaad blogger!

17 12 2008

*hangs head in shame* I know, I know …. I’ve been horrible at this blogging thing lately! 

Amazing how things that shouldn’t take up your entire day… do.  We are still in fight mode with the kids’ schools, I’m not sure how they determine a person is suitable to be a teacher in this country, but obviously it only requires a cracker jack IQ and the ability to say, “That’s not possible” with out getting bored.   One teacher was suppose to make an appointment for us to meet back in October, I guess his calender is a bit different then ours since it is now December and we have to book it for January.  So much for keeping on top of your students.  

As for the other kid’s teacher, they gave her this “test” that determines what she should do later in life….oh you know what I’m talking about, you have to find what picture goes next in the sequence, or if a is to b then c is to type questions.  OH no no no this isn’t an “IQ” test (which are b.s in my opinion) according to them, this is a capacity test…. hmmmmmmmm questions are the same…..standard for all students……..given a score at the end so that they can put her in one of 10 categories they have already pre- determined………….yup sounds IQ-y to me!  But again… it’s not. So after they give her this test and basically draw a map out to what she should do for the rest of her life, I now have to convince her that this test was crap and that she can’t let a computer tell her that she should be working in a museum if she wants to actually get into hospitality.  So that was battle number 2 continued.

The youngest one, we’ve just given up on her teachers and I now give her extra work at home to do and hopefully that will help her advance.  She’s going to end up at the same school as her older siblings and unfortunately we can’t do anything about that… but hopefully at the next school they’ll get so sick of me arguing with them with the last two they’ll just listen the 3rd time around. 

The youngest one is also a Christmas baby, so that means that I have to do her birthday treat for her class  on Friday instead of her actual birthday since no one will be there.  I’m going to make Rice Krispie squares for them.  Easy, quick and if they drop off the back of her bike there won’t be any icing to smoosh.  Then I was told by Frank that I had to get packages of stroopwaffels or cookies or something to give to the REST of the teachers…. what??  Ya I get that birthdays are a big thing here, but I’m not here to supply the rest of the staff with cookies to celebrate an 11 year old’s birthday.  You work.. if you want cookies bad enough… go buy them yourself.   Or if you have to, have  everyone donate €0.10 and you can get a package. 

Frank also had his birthday recently, the big 4-1 this year.  But he had to take Monday and Tuesday off for some personal things with me and that means that he’s actually going back to work today for the first time since Friday.  Last night he told me that he had to get a cake to bring to work… why?  It’s your birthday, they should buy you a cake!  I know that at Saxco we lived for birthdays.. it gave us a chance to get out of our offices and eat cake, but not once did my boss Maria say “Ok.. well it’s your birthday so can you go buy the office a chocolate cake please?  Thanks”  I just find that a bit odd.  So now he has to rush to the store to get a cake for the office before he’s ostracized.  I told him that he should just bring it in on Thursday and if people want cake or cookies bad enough they can go to C1000 and get it themselves.. but what do I know ;)?

Stoney finally has a groomer’s appointment next week.  He’s starting to look homeless again.  I want him shaved down and nails clipped. He’s adorable with his long hair, but man he gets stinky right quick.  I’m not worried about him getting cold since he has enough sweaters and jackets to keep him toasty in the frigid arctic Netherlands weather (insert sarcasm here).  But he’s getting hair in his eyes and I’m sure it’s driving him nuts.  We found a place in Kattenbroek but she’ll be gone until after December, so I opted for the one in Hoogland.  It’s a bit further but she offers a deal where after 5 clippings you get the next one 1/2 off.  So as long as she doesn’t freak out the dog, I’ll continue to go to her. 

Now with Christmas on the horizon, I have to finish shopping get them wrapped and then figure out our christmas dinner and Bri’s birthday dinner.   Fortunately we are almost done the Christmas thing and we just need to get Bri’s birthday present which we are going to do this Saturday while her and two friends are at the movies for her birthday in the city.  We’ll drop them off and go shopping while they watch High School Musical 3.  Then they are coming back here to spend the night.

So there… I hope I made up for some lost time!  lol I promise to be a little better when it comes to the blog.  Things have slowed down a bit over the last few weeks so I should be good to go until January, when I start my inburgeringcurses –  ya me – again…sarcasm.