woensdag 24 december 2008

T'was the night before Christmas

There's nothing like a real tree!
Here's our effort for this year, and despite the bare patch half way up the trunk, where the branches are missing, and the fact that the truck is not straight (compensated neatly by our unique sloping floor as discussed in the previous post) it looks lovely. The presents are stacked under it and the room is lit by candlelight.
We wish everyone a very happy Christmas, and we will be thinking of you as we open the presents you have all sent tomorrow morning

zondag 21 december 2008

Of Sint, suprises and chocolate fountains!

In Holland it is, of course, known that Sint comes on 5th December, but I do not apologise for this lateness of the post - there are reasons!
We had our first family sint party this year, After 20 odd years here I felt we could finally do the occasion justice, and invited my mother and father as well as my sister, husband and new daughter Sascha to celebrate with us. I wanted them to experience a true Sint festival, and there were two extra reasons for the family gathering. Mam's birthday is on December 4, and its a special event to be able to celebrate it properly, also Mam and Dad would have the opportunity to meet their new granddaughter, as Sascha's passport has still not come through and she cannot travel to the UK.
So how did it all go?
We had a lovely time!

Mam and Dad were delayed 10 hours by snow at Newcastle Airport and did not really arrive in time for Mam's birthday meal, but their taxi drew up as we finished eating, which meant we were all able to kiss and cundle and introduce Sascha, before they were fed and then we all had a lovely piece of birthday cake (with candles of course) and Mam got all her presents.
We took them round to their appartment, and they were able to recover from the journey overnight.

Next morning Jolanda went off early to school, because Sint was coming! Its always a big event at this school, and I watch it from my house with amazement are he arrives each year in a different form of transport.

Over the years he's arrived in boats, vintage cars, coach and horses, Harley Davidson motor bike - you name it he's done it, so I could not think how he would get there this year. We got a clue when I saw some balloons rising above the garden wall further along the street, and yes, this year he came in a "hoog werker"! (what is the name of one of thise things in English?)
Once he came over the wall, and walked into the school, that was our excitment done until our party in the evening, so we had a restful sort of day, finishing off the shopping and sorting out the house.
When Jolanda was home, the real business of the day started! We had our presents ready and hidden in their suprise parcels, and we made an extra parcel for Sascha of an enormous pesent with a bow and balloons, which had a smaller and still smaller present inside (russian doll style!).
We set up the present table, and put each present under a black bin liner so no one could guess before we started who had what.
It was round about this time that Man and Dad realised that they had not grasped the concept of Sint, and started to feel very embarrassed!
No matter, we carried on, and had a lovely night! there are no real food rules for Sint, which always throws me, so I decided to do a dutch style buffet, and brought out the new chocolate fountain as a suprise! I am getting the hang of getting the chocolate flowing, however, in our unique sloping floored living room (our 200 year old house built on bogland has settled comfortably over time!) the chocolate fountain resembles a chocolate waterfall.

The strategy is to stand downhill of the chocolate, and make sure there are no small children under your arm, as you reach out with a marchmallow or strawberry, as there is a tendency for the chocolate to drop onto their hair!
After that, we got down to the present part of the night, and everyone was really happy with their suprises, poems, and presents! All in all a prefect evening, with loads of love and laughter.

And the reason for the lateness of the post? most of the photos were on Penny's camera, and she mislaid her handbag on the way home to Berlin. She has it back now, but I still have very few photos, and I may add more later!

zondag 14 december 2008

Jolanda rides again!

My sister-in-law has beaten me to it again by publishing videos of both Molly and Katie skating this weekend! I am totally ashamed that I have not reported Jolanda's triumph two weeks ago at the dressage competition!

She was entered at the L level for the first time, and we were really relaxed about it until the friday lesson, when we found out she would be the only entrant not wearing official concourse clothing!

After a family conference and a review of which presents she had on her Sint list (more about Sint soon) we decided to go out on Saturday morning and get the white jodphurs and white gloves, and she would wear her black body warmer. I rang the local shop (Evenboer ruitersports in Broek in waterland) and they confirmed they had the things we wanted, so we dashed over.

Once there we were captive as the two ladies of the shop produced not only the things we asked for but also a gorgeous jacket (washable) and the white stock and even a hairnet!

Of course once Jolanda put everything on, she looked a million dollars, so we parents (suckers) bought the lot!

Jolanda was thrilled and spent the afternoon polishing her boots and chaps, and getting everything ready.

We got to the stables in good time, but realised we had forgotten the white saddle blanket, so dad went back for that whilst Jolanda and two other girls got Sjakie ready. The only problem was that everyone had different ideas over how to plait his mane, and I could see it turning into a big problem when another mother descended and acted as a sort of horse hairdresser, and turned him out with a fetching "hengsten vlecht", just as John arrived back with the saddle blanket.

Within a few minutes it was Jolandas turn to ride, and she went in happy and confident and produced a beautiful proef. The L is very advanced for an 11 year old, as there is a lot of tempo changes, as well as two "wijk" moments where the horse moves forwards and sideways, crossing the front legs over. (I think this is called a half pass in English).

There are no videos from us (camera not working) but also no photos of the proef itself as I thought the flash could spook the pony; he is a bit flighty.

We had to wait for all the others to ride before the results were out, so we parents settled into the cantine with tea and cake, whilst the kids rushed around in the mud, sleet and snow outside! Within minutes every pair of white jodphurs was spattered with mud and horse whatever.

At the end they announced the winners, and to our surprise and, naturally pride, Jolanda was 2nd, above some much older girls, and only a few points away from the winner!
Go Girl!