Thursday, December 29, 2016

Going Gourmet

At Oom Anton and Tante Simone's on Christmas Eve.
At Christmas, the Dutch "go gourmet." I feel a little embarrassed posting this here, but we actually had two Christmas dinners; one with Oom Anton's family on Christmas Eve, and one with Oom Leo and family on 2nd Christmas Day (Boxing Day). What can I say? My family is good at feeding people. 
In the middle of the table, there is a grill, and everyone is able to choose and roast their own pieces of meat and vegetables from a great variety. There is french bread and herbed cheese. Everything is delicious. The best sort of slow food, and very interesting for the children.

Cousins. Baby L is the same age as KE; 6 months. I had always thought my baby was big for his age, but L was bigger, so I'm guessing they're both about normal. 
I was saying this to Oma one day, and she said, "Comparing babies. I used to do that. But by the time they're two, they're all at the same place - walking, talking, they have their teeth. We really shouldn't do it." 
Waste of time, I guess!


Oom Leo's dinner, held at my cousin Petra's, finished early, so we had lots of time to talk and play. The children played in the ball pit (I know! Who has a ball pit!?), while we set up an everlasting game of Parcheesi. It wouldn't have taken so long, but we refused to look up the rules. 
"When Kevin plays a game," I revealed, "he gets the rules, and when someone does something questionable - say, money when you land on free parking - he reads them to everyone!"
My cousins were appropriately horrified, and agreed that it would be best to hide them when he wanted to play. 

He didn't play, though; he was deep in discussion with Arjan, trying to figure out the difference between Reformatjie and Hervormde. I'm sure I didn't spell those right, by if you can figure it out, and you know the answer, please comment!
They sit down to play this. How civilized!

We asked about turkey. "You cannot buy a whole bird here," said Oom Leo. "In your grandmother's time, yes. She had a special pan - "
"A roasting pan?"
"Yes; really big; you could cook the whole bird."

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Remember when

The main trouble with these zones is that you go through them so fast that you barely have a chance to take a picture. But we finally got this on Saturday.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Last night

It's our last night in Holland. Tomorrow, we'll head to Brussels, Belgium, and from there, fly home.
People keep asking me if I'm looking forward to being home. I never know what to say. I think they want me to say yes, but I have felt at home all month, here in Holland.

The kids are wondering where all the whipped cream went. Someday, when they're older, they will read this and then there will be trouble. 
Here it is, kids.

North Sea

When we were in Scheveningen visiting Madurodam, we were so close to the North Sea that we took a detour on our way home to take a look.
It was shades of grey and palest blue, with a wide spread of clean sand. We saw people flying kites in the wind. You could see that in summer, this would be a busy spot. 

Three weeks ago, when Kevin was at the park with the children, he saw a fish truck. Normally, he doesn't go for food trucks, but this fish smelled so good that he decided to go back later and have lunch.  Unfortunately, when we went back, the truck was gone. And it wasn't there when we checked back in on several different occasions.
Another day, when we were doing laundry in GrootAmers, we were eating lunch while watching a ferry, and saw the truck again. By the time we were done, though; it was gone. 
Even in Scheveningen, amongst all the fish restaurants and takeout spots, we still weren't able to find a fish truck. 
 You can see where this is headed. 

We have one more day to find that truck! 


We visited a war memorial called Madurodam last week. It has small models of Holland's grandest buildings and very aggressive seagulls. 






It was okay. We had a good time, but that was more because we were together than because it was fabulous. 

Language barrier woes

Bacon is different here. Extra salty, thinly sliced, spiced(!), or sliced fatty pork disguised as bacon, we have accidentally bought and eaten it all.  I feel that if I could just find the right word for it I could get the good stuff, but the word eludes me. 
 This should probably not be a big enough deal to warrant a post, but there it is. Bacon woes. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016


When I was a little girl, every year my Tante Lina would send me a present for my birthday. When you are one of many children, it's quite something to get a big package in the mail that is only for you. I spent a lot of time thinking about Tante Lina, whom I was named for, but had never seen (except for as a newborn).
And so I was very happy to finally be able to visit her on Saturday.
 Her English is limited to one phrase, she told me, ("Shall I wash the dishes?") from her one visit to Canada as a teenager. However, her daughters were home (my cousins!), and they had excellent English.
 "From watching movies," they said, "and English audiobooks." (This is not the first time I had heard how useful movies are for learning English. I need to think about this for my children's french acquisition.)
Here we are with Anna. "The one who looks like you when you were younger." said Kevin.

They had toys all ready for the children; a duplo train with a battery-operated engine that made Oliver laugh with incredulous glee, and lots of little dollies with extra outfits to try on.

Here's KE, escaping from Wendy. Wendy was so similar in temperament and personality to my sister Wendy that Kevin and I couldn't help but mention it. I know you can't completely see what a person is like in a short visit, but wow. Wendy IS Wendy.
She made her dress herself, and was working on knitting a scarf while we talked. 


Kent got lots of attention; here he is with Weike. 

Tante Lina, who has been a widow since her girls were little, asked Kevin to help fix their garden gate. He did so, and told her that if she had any other jobs that needed doing she could save them up until the next time he comes. 
Whenever that will be. 
It made me feel wistful. I was so glad to meet this part of my family, but who knows if I will ever see them again.

Shades of Afternoon


Friday, December 23, 2016

Openlucht museum

As soon as I stepped into the bridge with O, he started to bounce the bridge. Just like his father, that one. 

Making sure KE had a good time too. Not a bad thing, to be just like this man.

When we got to the herb garden (patterned after a monastery garden from around 867AD, the children ran into it. "We were pretending it was Mr. MacGregor's garden." said K.

And here's how you go sledding when you have no snow!
I think the ice is frozen from beneath; at this temperature, everything should be slushy. 

We finished up at the town square, where E, K, and I played a carnival game, Kevin hit the bell with the strong man's hammer, and the children rode the carousel. If you look closely, you can see O driving the VW bus.

E knocked down a surprising lot of tins, and won a prize: a droppie candy! I probably shouldn't admit this, with her Dutch heritage, but she's never even tried one. 
She ate the head off (it was a cat), and I got the rest. She's always been good at sharing. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

OpenAir Museum

We started off with a tram ride to the second stop. We began to look into the historic buildings, and the children asked when we could go back on the tram. We tried a sample of apple pear stroop, with no added ingredients - delicious! The children asked when we could go back on the tram. We peeked into a worker's house from Tilburg, going back in time with each window we looked into.  The children asked about the tram...
So we hopped back on and went all the way around the village.  The children were not the only ones who really wanted to ride the tram! 


All the drivers and conductors had mustaches. I wondered if it was in the job description. "Must be able to grow a moustache if hired." 
Kevin need not apply. 

When we got off, 
we found a stable full of vintage children's games. I was happy to see shuffleboard, 
... sad to discover that I'd lost my touch. Of course, I was holding Kent on one arm; I could say he was cramping my style. But then again, this is who I am now; a lady with a baby attached. 

This was a favourite part; one farm wife let the children roast "broodjes" (bread dough spiralled around a stick). We sat around the fire together turning our sticks. "I could stay here all day," said Kevin. 



We did a shrubbery maze, patterned after one from Amsterdam that had been destroyed in WW2.

And then we found the playground. "Take a picture here;" said Kevin, "this is what they will remember."

To be continued...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


The church we have been attending only has one service on Sundays, so this week we were able to go to a carol sing/choir concert at St Mary's Anglican in Rotterdam on Sunday night.
  It was standing room only when we arrived (slightly late, I will admit). The churchwarden found us a few chairs and we crammed ourselves into the back; the children happily sitting on the floor where they could wiggle undetected. 

One of the first songs they sang:

Achingly beautiful. I'm not going to say that the choir was as good as the King's College Choir, but it was amazing to be sitting there, to  join the voices singing about Jesus' advent here, to think about the goodness of God, to be part of the music.
I looked over at Kevin, afraid he was just surviving this for my sake (too many female voices, don't you know), but even he was thoroughly enjoying himself. 

Do not ask me about the unicorn; I do not know why. 

My People

My first cousin L with my youngest son, KE. 

My Oom Anton has two boys with O's brown eyes and blond hair combination. We had never noticed it before we had O, and have been thinking it is rare. Apparently not in this family! 

I am really enjoying getting to know my relatives here in Holland. I haven't been able to see everyone, but those I have seen have all been so kind and welcoming. I find myself proud to be able to say to Kevin: " This is my family."