zaterdag 18 december 2010

Christmas rituals - christmas cards

My mum used to sit down at the folding green baize card table a few weeks before Christmas and line up the cards, stamp books and her address books, ready to send our christmas wishes across the globe.
With her good fountain pen in her hand she selected each card carefully, wrote a personal letter to each recipiant, and addressed the envelope in flowing copperplate. The pile of addressed envelopes grew, as she methodically worked her way through the Australian and New Zealand friends and relatives, then the european ones. even the UK addresses were tackled geographically, London, Lytham and Manchester first, and finally the local mail. There was a regular trip to the letter box to get the cards off before the post deadlines for 2nd class mail was missed, and a flurry of last minute activity as the local cards were hand delivered en route to christmas parties and carol concerts.
She had a ritual which was hard to beat, although over the years I have done my best, through changing times. Sometimes I think her way was the best way.
I begin with good intentions, I buy my cards early. I have my list of addresses on the computer and review it each year to add new, take off old, and generally trim it into manageable propotions. I've just checked the folder marked xmas on my hard drive, and the lists go back to 1999 - I was always a good administrator.
So why are my cards still sitting on the table waiting to be sent?
It starts with printing the labels. Its never been easy, we used to use Avery labels, and do a mail merge in word, and I remember being close to tears as I battled to get the merge to merge, and the printer to print. then John said, "use MS Outlook - it prints the labels automatically!"
But only if you have the addresses in the address list in outlook. for two years, I battled with the program, making sure that each address was complete and the postal code in England was in a different field to the zip code in America, or the post code in the netherlands. Bill Gates may run a global company, but the techies in the design department don't understand that different countries have different address requirements!
We still used to print out the labels, until last year when John got a dymo label writer for his stamps and we can now use that instead. Last year it made things a lot simpler, and it would have been the same this year, except that I forgot that bit of the system, and spent a fruitless afternoon trying to print to the wrong periferal!
I finally got my labels so on thursday I cleared the table and set out my cards. Before I began, I quickly made an apple crumble and put it in the oven to bake, so I had a nice homey smell going one in the room as I wrote my cards. There was a peaceful hush as I worked my way through the addresses, and added little notes to the cards, just like my mum used to do!
An aside here, I used to send a newsletter around because we lived aboard and it was fun to put together a summary of the year, since I have started blogging I don't do that any more, as I figure that people who are interested get to know a lot about what we are doing when they read the blog, and if they are not interested in the blog, they won't be interested in a news summary either!
Anyway to get back to thursday afternoon. By the time the crumble was baked, the cards were well on the way to being finished, and I was pleased as punch. I was late, but not too late, and these cards would not be arriving after new year!
I just needed the stamps from the computerised stamp system in John's office. I worked out how many I needed, and went to print them out, only to find the stamp program was not cooperating with the label printer since I printed the address labels. beaten by technology again, I waited for John the technical wizard to come home and sort things out.
Today the cards were ready and stamped, and then the snow started. Even if I get them into the post box, the postman is not going to pick up until Sunday night!

vrijdag 17 december 2010


Its been snowing all day, and I was really pleased with myself as I finished off a translation before 9.30, then had a SKYPE appointment with one of my clients at 10, spent the rest of the morning tidying the living room and preparing a lesson plan for a student who was coming at 3.00 p.m for a lesson.
There I was all warm and feeling pretty smug that I had been making money without having to join the rat race, when I got a call from Jolanda from the bus stop in Amsterdam saying the buses were not running and she could not get home from school!
So I wrapped up warmly and filled my handbag with mars bars, cleared the snow off my car, and slid slowly down the N247 towards Amsterdam.
The pretty snowflakes that had been falling in Monnickendam turned into a blizzard with white-out conditions as I got past Broek in Waterland, and as I crossed over the Amsterdam Ring I saw the traffic absolutely nose to tail on the motorway. I glided into the bus stop bay, and was greeted by Jolanda and two friends. "Can you give them a lift to Landsmeer, they cannot reach their parents?" said Jolanda.
- Landsmeer is along the Amsterdam Ring in the direction of the immobile traffic jam......
It took me two seconds to say no - but I could not leave the poor things there in the snow, so they piled in and my little car slipped and slid all the way to Monnickendam with three shivering blond teenagers giggling in the back.
Monnickendam looked lovely in the snow, and once the girls got in and warmed up with the Wii, crisps, sweets and drinks they were ready for snowball fights and a sleepover.
As I write the house is cosy, the girls are full of chicken and potatoes, the christmas tree lights are twinkling and they are just about to settle down to a film.
We will work out how to get them home tomorrow - there is a national weather alarm tonight and nothing is moving, not even the police and fire engines!

dinsdag 7 december 2010

Damstede skating day

The Jaap Eden Baan is Amsterdams big outdoor skating arena, It is open all winter. Serious skaters come every day to train in the hope that they will be fit enough to take part in the "elf steden tocht" a grueling race through eleven cities in Friesland which can only be held when natural ice has formed throughout the whole of the netherlands.

Last friday the peace of their training schedule was ruined by the kids of Damstede, who arrived for their annual skating day.

Jolanda and her friend Rosa were there too!

The teachers settled down to their own form of training!

zaterdag 20 november 2010

vrijdag 19 november 2010

Weekend in the woods

Since we got Ulo, we have had little opportunity to get out and about with her, apart from travelling to dressage competitions, or going for a quiet hack on the roads around the stables. Two weeks ago we were able to go with a group of riders and horses from our stable, and Evelien's (Stal Oostwal) to a great manege in Drenthe Recreatiecentrum
" Rijmaaran"
There were eight horses on the trip, and about twenty five people, not all of them riders. It was a long drive for us, but Ulo was fine in the trailer, and settled in well to the great facilities. We had an indoor school to exercise in on the friday night, and then saturday and sunday we went out into the woods, exploring the trails around the riding school. It was glorious weather, and the autumn colours were lovely, the trails were broad and for the most part dry.
Those without a horse of their own could hire fjords and haflingers, and those who did not like horses could get out and about and explore Drenthe.
Like a fool I forgot my camera, but there were photos taken, and I am in the process of getting them from those with cameras!
Here's one of Ulo in the woods. The rope round her nose is to stop her sprinting off, which she had just done.... it was all a bit too exciting at times.

woensdag 17 november 2010

School disco

I've not had the camera with me for a few weeks, and blogging has been pushed on the back burner due to other projects I've been working on - I may blog about that later!
Just before the half term holidays, Jolanda went to the school disco.
I found the photos on the school website, and liked the progression from wall flower to party animal!

maandag 20 september 2010

Not a 9/11 post

SEPTEMBER 11. My birthday. Since 1957. A good day. Some years I celebrate. Some years not. I choose.

This is what we did this year.
Open Day Drie Merrien 2010
For those you do not understand the dutch commentary. Jolanda is up front on Daisy the little palomino, Kiki is riding Shamrock, the little grey, Pallas is riding Sharda the bay, and Fre is riding Magnum the chestnut.
Cute, don't you think!

woensdag 8 september 2010

Back to work

August passed me by in a blur of sunny days and fresh air; we are back to the reality of work and school now, and appropriately leaden skies. in august we went up to Friesland for a few days and enjoyed the feeling of space there (not a usual feeling in the netherlands!) this picture is of Jolanda in the wind on the shores of the Waddenzee. the place was called Moddergaat (translation mudhole) but it was actually very pretty and green!

maandag 2 augustus 2010

Did we enjoy Disney?

Last week we took Jolanda and a friend to Disneyland Paris. It was a short and intense trip, driving down tuesday, staying two nights in a disney hotel (Sequoia Lodge - no complaints, there) and driving back up on thursday.

It was VERY hot the first day, and the park was packed so it took us a few hours to get organised and orientated to get the most out of the visit. After a great buffet dinner at the hotel however we went back into the park and managed to hit Thunder Mountain and the Indiana Jones ride, before collapsing into bed.
The next day was damp and drizzling, which made the experience much more pleasant (fewer crowds and short queues!) We got some shopping done and went to Disney Studios. The stunt drivers show was great, and the girls did the big roller coasters - I gave them a miss after the night before.

The last day; and we had been given breakfast tickets in the Park - I was not too happy with a half hour hike into Fantasyland before I was able to get so much as a cup of coffee, but it meant we were able to get on the rides we had missed on earlier days. Space Mountain was finally open (it had been closed the other two days), and Jolanda and I got fasttrack tickets. Of all the rides, this one was the only one I had never done, so I was slightly nervous, but the thing with Disney is that the more intense the ride, the shorter the experience, so I figured it would be over before I knew it.
Jolanda and I both voted it the best ride - especially the times you experienced weightlessness (something to do with the centrifugal forces as you corkscrewed?)

Then it was time to head home - totally exhausted. John vowed he would never go again, but I think I could pop back there another time!

zondag 11 juli 2010

just when do you call in the vet?

After losing Snuffie three weeks ago, I have become super sensitive to our other animals needs.
Last week Maxie the cat stopped eating, and began vomiting. After a sleepless night listening to the cat throwing up every few hours, I got her to the vets straight away.
It was the same vet who saw Snuffie, so I felt relief when he seemed very upbeat, and diagnosed her with a sensitive stomach lining, due too hair balls made worse by her shedding hair more in the hot weather. He gave her an injection, special diet food, and a paste which should work as a calming agent in her stomach and help her pass hair easily without it forming balls.
Within 24 hours she was up and hungry, and found no problem eating the diet food, which is designed to be easily digestible. She does not really like the paste, however, so we have to put it on her paws for her to lick off.
Today she had finished the diet food, and I had to give her the normal cat food. She ate some of it, but was sick later, so it looks like she will have to go back to the special diet food for a little while yet. She goes back to the vet wednesday, so we will see how she is by then.
We felt we had "fixed" Maxie, and what else could go wrong, but on thursday we went to get Ulo out of the field to find she was bleeding from a wound on her shoulder. She could hardly take a step forward, but we got her to the stall, and Jolanda put her under the shower to clean the cut and cool her off. There was no question that she was lame, so we put her in the stable with plenty of betadine on the cut, and left her overnight.
Next morning we repeated the treatment, and stepped her around; the stall owner felt that it was not so bad, and to give her a few hours more rest then try riding her. That evening we saddled up, and Jolanda began riding, but once in trot you could see she was still lame, so it was back to the shower, and the betadine, and we tucked her up in the stable again.
48 hours later, and we have had to cancel the competition Jolanda was due to ride in today. When I rang to explain the reason, they asked if a vet had seen her, as then we would not have to pay the entry fee.
It never occured to me to call a vet for a cut shoulder, especially with the experienced people we have around us at the stables, but maybe next time I will.

maandag 21 juni 2010

Snuffie 2002 - 2010

Snuffie was an elderly rabbit, and became less and less active. She eventually got an infection which was made worse by the hot weather in the last days. The vet was very good, but it was clear there was nothing he could do, and she had to be put to sleep.
There is a empty place in our garden where her hutch and rabbit run was, and I'm left with a feeling of guilt that I did not do enough for her.

dinsdag 15 juni 2010

the waiting is over!

There was a still expectancy in the air over the last weeks, as the Netherlands team prepared for the world cup - the supermarkets were giving away flags with every 10 euro of shopping, and you could buy orange trumpets on every street corner.
The first match was on a monday, in the afternoon. Schools rearranged their timetables so children were out early to get home and watch; big screens were set up in offices, bars stocked up with beer, people took the day off work! Around half an hour before kick off there was a mass movement of orange clad and painted people throughout the netherlands, all homing in on TV screens.
And then the hush descended.
If you were not interested in football, you enjoyed a serene and traffic free afternoon, if you were engrossed in the match, you were treated to two goals and a display of Dutch football skills which has put them at the top of their group.
Today there is a feeling of quiet confidence, and arrangements for the next match on the 19th against Japan are in full swing. I love how the Dutch embrace this competition!

donderdag 10 juni 2010

of trailers; tests and triumphs!

After last months post about loading Ulo into a trailer for the second time in her life, you would have thought we would steer clear of them for a while; but no - John and Jolanda went out shopping without me on Saturday and brought back a brand new trailer - to match the land rover, as Jolanda said! I should not have let them out alone, but I was back at the stables waiting for the farrier.... who is the sweetest man, and great with the horses, but is the worst time keeper in history, but thats a story for another time.

So there I was hanging around having one of those waiting sort of days, and receiving text messages every few minutes from not only Jolanda but also the farrier, which only gave me half the story every time. But it was a sunny day, and there were lots of people to talk to, so it was not really a hardship.

Eventually everyone arrived in the correct sequence, ie Jolanda and John with trailer, followed by Evelien who was there to give Jolanda a private lesson, followed by the farrier who was able to shoe three horses in less than two hours; then we all went home for tea!

The reason for the haste in buying a trailer was that Jolanda had another competition last Sunday, and we bravely decided to take the oppertunity for Ulo's first trailer training. John and I were looking opon the experience as you do a trip to the dentist! However, when we were ready to load, we got a amazing amount of help from another family at the manege, and Ulo was introduced to the trailer in a calm ordered way. Robin was an absolute star, and gave her plenty of time to sniff around and get used to the ramp then gently encouraged her to put her feet one by one on the ramp and eventually into the trailer! It was a treat to watch, and gave us confidence that she will be easy to load if we give her the time.

Once loaded we were off to the competition, with plenty of time to spare. Jolanda rode two good proofs, and was awarded two winst punten - which was what she needed to go upto the next level, so we were thrilled with that. Whilst she rewarded herself with a packet of chips, John and I (with the help of Robin's mother, again) decided to load Ulo up to go home. this time John took her in, and she calmly walked up the ramp with a look at him as if to say,
"nice trailer boss, pleased you realised I deserved something a bit classier than that wreck last month!"

The end to this trailer story is a little less upbeat however; I was scheduled to take my trailer driving test on monday, the day after the competition, and set of in good heart to start the training at 8 a.m. After driving for six hours, with an instructor who was very able to explain every fault I made after I had made it, I went into the exam completely demoralised and exhausted. Needless to say I failed spectacularly, as the trailer almost jack knifed as I reversed around a corner! I will take the test again, but I'm changing my instructor; never spend more time than is absolutely necessary with someone who generates negative feelings!

donderdag 3 juni 2010

L is for Legs, the long and the short of them!

We see them on advertising hoardings, on televison, in films, legs that go on for ever, and are smooth tanned and shapely. Legs to dream about ...... a perfect pair of legs.
Its a fact of life that my legs are short, they will never be longer than they are now, and I just have to live with it. I have lived with them all of my life in fact, coping with always having to have six inches cut off any new trousers, struggling to find a pair of knee high boots that will fit round my calves, not even contemplating buying skinny jeans, or skirts above the knee.
But long or short, they get me around, I cycled miles with jolanda when she was a toddler, getting her to and from creche, baby sitter, swimming lessons and gymnastics. In 2005 they took me on a 35km walk to Weesp as part of Monnickendams
mediaeval festival, although truth be told, no one saw them because I was wearing a frock!

I still manage to ride Ulo at least once a week, and those legs get me on and keep me on - even if she pulls one of her "Oh my god, thats really scary - I think I'll bolt" antics.
So I decided to treat my legs to a new pair of riding britches, and splashed out on a lovely navy blue pair, with a suede seat (it helps keep you in the saddle - something I may need!)
Put them on for the first time, got ready to mount - and found the suede did not stretch enough to get my foot in the stirrup!
Trying not to laugh, my second attempt was with a mounting block and managed to get half way up, only to find my short leg would not go over the saddle!
Finally landed, with Ulo patiently waiting for me to settle myself, and realised that the stirrup leathers were TWO holes longer than I normally ride!
The reason - my 13 year old daughter has legs longer than mine, and I need to shorten the stirrups every time I ride now.
Its a fact of life that my legs are short, they will never be longer than they are now, and I just have to live with it. Sigh.

maandag 17 mei 2010

Blisters and bandages!

Suprise - another blog about the pony! Its a bit delayed however, but for good reason. A week ago Jolanda had another competition, and we decided it was time to get more professional and use a trailer to get the venue. There were two ponies competing at the same time, so we hired a trailer from the manege and John volunteered (was persuaded) to drive.

The day of the competition came, and we were there nice and early to get the Ulo plaited up and groomed. It was a bit busy at the stables, and not very restful, so this took longer than usual, but finally she was ready and John got the trailer in position. (I won't go into what he said about the general condition of the trailer, but it has been well used, shall we say)

We wanted to load Ulo first, as the last time she was scared to go in next to the other horse. Ulo had other ideas, and although she walked into the trailer with Jolanda, she backed out again so quickly we could not get the bar shut to keep her in. The rope was pulled though Jolanda's hands and she had a very painful blister.

I took over and she walked in again, only to do the very same thing.... by then the crowd of spectators was growing, and it was getting ridiculous. I had another attempt, and was determined not to let go, but a determined 600 kilo horse is hard to hold, and again the rope ripped though my hands.

On my third attempt we got the bar across to hold her in and she calmed down. The other pony was a peice of cake to load, and we drove off to the venue after I picked up a packet of plasters to tidy up our hands.

Getting her out was easier than we had expected, and we saddled her up. Jolanda's hands were hurting really badly, but she carried on, and rode her two proofs. Whilst the other pony was still busy doing her competition we quietly started to load Ulo back into the trailer.

This time John thought he would have a go, and almost ripped a nail off as she backed away from him. I took over again, and we finally got her in with the help of a kind and calm passer by.

In need of a coffee, we set off for the cantine, and more bandages! When the results were anounced, Jolanda won an amazing first place, followed by a third, I am so proud that she could focus to do that!

It was a learning experience, and we know now we will be wearing gloves from now on, and there will be a trailer loading course in the near future for myself and John!

And the delay in posting? Its been really difficult to type with most of my fingers in bandages!

zaterdag 1 mei 2010

K is for Koninginnedag!

April 30th is the day the Dutch put the flags out and celebrate their love for all things orange. If you want to know how it should be celebrated got to Andy's blog to find out.
We got away from the crowds and celebrated with these folks -

woensdag 28 april 2010

enjoy life!

Ulo thinks the weather is great - we gave her a day off yesterday so she could enjoy the sunshine!

dinsdag 27 april 2010

april evening

It was a lovely evening yesterday, so I took some pictures as Jolanda rode in the sunshine!

first leaning to the left....

and now upright!

zondag 18 april 2010

do we make our own luck?

My body can't get enough of the warmth and sunshine and its been another great weekend of horses. today we went for a pleasant hack, four kids on ponies and mums like anxious clucking hens alongside went for ice cream at Debbies
Yesterday Jolanda rode in the owners competition at the manege in Broek in Waterland. Although she only came second we were really pleased with her result, as her scores were very high and she was riding in a higher class than her official place in the KNHS system.
Before we go into a competition everyone says "ik wens je sucess" (I wish you sucess). Jolanda said the other day how strange it was that in England people wish you luck, whereas in Holland they wish you sucess. She found is strange because wishing luck implies that the preparation and the work that you put in before a competition counts for nothing, luck is all you need to win. The Dutch are more realistic, if you work at each element of a competition, you will succeed, Luck has nothing to do with it!

woensdag 14 april 2010

more horse stuff!

I have promised myself I am going to build up my blog posts and become more social media savvy, but at the moment I only post when Jolanda does something to shout about!
Sunday was the monthly trip to the official dressage competition along the road at Stal Baco in Broek in Waterland - we had a really early start, as we had to be there for 9 a.m. and I had been worried as Janette was riding in an international event in Germany and I don't really like being at the manege on my own. I need not have worried, as within minutes of our arriving to get Ulo ready the place was buzzing with other people getting their horses ready for competition as well.
We got off on time, and only had one serious mishap on the way. I will never walk to a competition again; next month I am getting a trailer. We got there in good time, and Jolanda rode two really good proefs, with excellent scores. She came first in the second proef, and got two winst punten to add to her tally. John was able to come along this time, and filmed her, which was great, and its now on youtube for all to see. Ulo and Jolanda at Baco
(you might want to watch it with the sound down as it was very windy!)

dinsdag 16 maart 2010

On Cloud nine

Sunday was Jolanda and Ulo's second dressage competition. She did not have to start until lunchtime, which meant we could have a lie in, but we did not have the use of a trailer this time, so we had to walk down the road.

Ulo thought that was very scary, so we went sideways almost the whole way, (it must be two kilometers)

Once she got the the competition venue she settled down however, and Jolanda rode very well. It was cold, so after she had finished, I took a very tired Ulo home, whilst Jolanda waited for her results.

She rang me to say she had won two first prizes, with a score of 199, and 202 - four points towards the next level! Shes been on cloud nine ever since, and we have two cups and two rosettes!

vrijdag 5 maart 2010

Ice Yachts in monnickendam

There have been a lot of photos and films taken of the hard winter and the icey conditions over the last three months, heres a film from my neighbours, made on Valentines day in Monnickendam.

And here's a photstream from flikr with beautiful pictures of the world championships

zondag 21 februari 2010

What do you know, its snowing (again)!

The temperature went above freezing this week, and we were lulled into a false sense that the winter was moving into a new pre-spring phase - yesterday morning as we drove to Volendam Jolanda and I felt the air to be warmer, and there was a hint of sunshine peeping between the clouds.

Half an hour later a snow encrusted car passed us heading south, and we wondered where he had come from. Five minutes after that the blizzard hit, and we battled along the slippery roads towards the stables, knowing that the Land Rover would have been a more appropriate vehicle for the job.

heres a picture to remind me that snow is pretty - BUT I'M SICK TO DEATH OF IT!

zondag 14 februari 2010

First official dressage competition

No I was not hiberating; I guess the mid winter blues are one of the reasons I have not posted to the blog in the whole of 2010, but also because we have had a few setbacks this year, and its easier to post the "fun stuff" than trying to be cheerful about illness, car repairs that cost way too much money, or central heating that breaks down in the middle of the coldest winter for - how many years?

Today Jolanda took part in her first official dressage competition, at a venue close to our home stall. Ulo was great, really performed well at the strange place, Jolanda rode both proefjes well, and we came home with her 1st winstpunt!

To explain, Each rider rides two five minute excercises (proefs). There is a set format to each excercise and you are judged on each element of the excercise. The maximum you can score is 300 points, but if you score over 180 you get an official placing (winstpunt). for the first excercise Jolanda and Ulo scored 186, and for the second they score 176. Good for 1 official place and a great start to her competition career.

We had loads of help from our friends at our stable, getting a lift in someones trailer (Ulo did not score well on loading and unloading!) having someone else read the first proef for me, so I could video (and stay calm), then having another friend video the second proef whilst I read the instructions. We also had masses of help from the woman who gives Jolanda private lessons, especially Saturday evening, when she gave Jolanda such a boost in confidence.

As you can see from the photo, the only thing working against us was the weather, as it was snowing hard, and although the excercises took place indoors, Jolanda had to wait her turn in the snow!