Thursday, 31 December 2009

Oil-balls, apple-flaps and bombs


Oliebollen at the top, Appelflappen at the bottom!

It's New Year's Eve! Or as we call it in the Netherlands: Old Year! And 'Old and New' is celebrated in the Netherlands with the items mentioned in the title of this post! And you can see two of the three in the photo accompanying this post.

The Dutch name for Oil-balls is Oliebollen and basically they are some sort of dough nut. The original dough nut to be precise: before some silly person thought it would be better with a hole in the middle! It's like a pancake batter (quite often with raisins and/or apple and sometimes even containing beer) and it's thrown in hot hot hot oil using two spoons or an icecream scoop. Halfway through you turn the ball around and when both sides are golden brown, you take them out, put them on some kitchen towel, add some icing sugar and eat. Preferably while they are still warm!

The Dutch name for Apple Flaps is Appelflappen and they are made using the same batter (without raisins or apple). Peel the apple, take out the core and slice the apple so the hole is in the middle. Then dunk them in the batter and put the battered apple in the hot oil. When both sides are golden brown, take them out, put them on some kitchen towel, add some icing sugar and eat. Lovely!

And the bombs? Well, the Netherlands are mad for their fireworks. And the only time you're allowed to light them is on New Year's Eve! Between 8pm and 2am to be precise. You can only buy fireworks legally from December 29th or 30th and people spend lots of money on them. What do you mean: recession?! The people who buy them are mostly male teens, young adults and dads. They do not want the sparkly stuff, they want the deafening stuff. Even the dads, but they get talked into sparkles by their wives! All through New Year's Eve people are lighting those fireworks. Not the sparkly stuff, because that's only fun in the dark, but the deafening stuff.

Now, the 'best fireworks' are the carbide churns. They use milkchurns, put some carbide in, add a bit of water, put the lid back on, put a piece of firework in the hole and light it. Can you imagine the noise? Nowadays, the community where I live has banned them from town and assigned a few fields surrounding the community where carbide churns are allowed to be lit!

Of course I am not too fond of all those fireworks. It's loud, it's messy, it's dangerous and most of all: it upsets my monsters, since cats have a more delicate (and better) hearing than us simple humans! Ah well, I've finished the Oliebollen and the Appelflappen (they were good, even if they were already cold) and the fireworks is only for about three days a year!

Anyway, I want to wish all of you in blogland a very happy, healthy and financially secure 2010! May all your resolutions be kept. I will talk to you again in the new year!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

X is for...


Xenophile

I think of myself as a xenophile, a person who is attracted to that which is foreign, especially people, cultures and manners.

Now, the first thing to start with if you want to be a proper xenophile who will meet a lot of foreign people and experience the different cultures and manners is to learn a different language. The first language I learned was Dutch, which enables me to communicate with people from the Netherlands, Belgium, Northern France (yes, there are a few people still speaking Flemish there), South Africa, Surinam, Aruba, Curaçao, St Eustatius, Saba, Bonaire, St Maarten and even some older people in Indonesia. Later on I learned to speak German, English, French and a bit of Italian.

Speaking a different language doesn't mean a thing of course if you then don't use it. When I am in a country of which I do speak the language, I will use it. They know I am not from that country by my accent (Great Britain perhaps excluded) and will then help me if I get stuck, because I make the effort. I get to spend time with people I would otherwise never even have met and they show me where to go, how to do it. They give me little tips and tricks to do my job better, or just ideas for great days out for myself.

I've spent a week at an Italian friend's place, spending time with her family, eating the fantastic food her Mum prepared and even helping to make tortellini! I met her Nonna and Nonno (grandparents) and was invited to her wedding several years later. I have English friends where I have stayed. I've eaten their food and they have even asked me to become godmother to their lovely daughter A!

I lived in Yougoslavia (when it still was), Italy, France, Belgium and England and I want to move to Canada. I've met people through my work and through my blog and they all have a different story to tell. But in the end everyone's story is the same: everybody wants to be happy and healthy, no matter where they live. And whether they eat pickled cold cooked cauliflower or bangers and mash, whether they drink Palinka or Schnapps, whether they live in Paris or in Denver, they have stories which can be incredibly interesting!

For more X words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

PS: If you missed coming back to my blog for Christmas, here's the link for a variation on the well-known song: The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Of eggnog, hotshot, dropshot and beerenburg. Oh, and a snowman...

I had heard about eggnog for years, every time I watched a Christmas film as a matter of fact. But even while living in England, I had never had it. So, I thought I would make some. While living in England I got myself a book which describes nearly all foods made in the British Isles. And some others as well. Elephant for example will not be a meat I will use anytime soon! But eggnog was in there as well.

The simple eggnog called for egg-yolks, sugar, milk and rum or brandy. So, I got myself the ingredients and set to work. First I had to beat one egg-yolk with one table spoon of sugar. I had to heat up one cup of milk (I used a mug) and add to the mixture. And as a finishing touch I added a nice dash of rum. I waited for it to cool down a smidge (I didn't want to burn my mouth) and enjoyed my new-found drink! Mmmmmm.... I made some more the next day, since my parents and my sister were due to arrive. And they liked it as well, so this might be a drink for keeps!

After my parents left, my sister and I got to the hotshot. A cinnamon liqueur which doesn't really do much to you, especially with the tiny shot glasses I use. But then you get up and (try to) walk around! Hm, it did more than we thought. Dropshot is a similar drink, but has a very distinct liquorice flavour (we call liquorice 'drop' in the Netherlands). We only drank them at night though, no point in getting wasted at noon! Beerenburg (a Dutch Schnaps, made with a lot of different herbs and spices) however is a different matter, because it tastes great in a good hot chocolate. We didn't go overboard though, stuck to only one!

Oh, and the snowman? It's made of Belleek (Northern Irish china manufacturer and one of my favourites) and was a gift from my sister (who lives in Northern Ireland). My sister has returned home again, but not before rigging my computer to the region 1 setting for dvd's. The first Christmas films from across the pond are on their way and hopefully they will play properly! I loved having you stay and so did the monsters, even Sophie didn't mind you one little bit.

See you in Paris!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Twelve days of Christmas
A variation on a theme

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
A partridge in a pear tree.
Well, here’s what I thought of that gift,
My true love’s mind must have been adrift.
The pear tree wasn’t even so bad,
It certainly didn’t drive me mad.
The culprit was indeed the bird,
My love for them was immediately cured.

I was amazed by its attitude,
Caviar was its only chosen food!
Now, if my true love had only thought,
The tree and bird wouldn’t have been bought.
Instead he could have gotten me a negligee,
Which I happily would have worn all Christmas Day!
Promising a lot of fun and afternoon delight,
Lasting well into the night!


When my true love arrived on day two,
He gave me a basket: “That’s for you!”
He said, pointing at two turtle doves.
“Those two are a sign of real true love”.
Now, what thoughts had entered his head?
My love for birds was already dead!
Turtle doves did not change a single thing,
Especially if they behaved like queen and king!

All day long I heard roocoos,
And then they found my Jimmy Choos!
They must have thought it was a winter’s fest,
A great place for them to build their nest!
With all of their royal zeal,
They picked and pecked at the poor high heels.
I cried, but then my dear,
Promised a better gift: “Don’t fear!”


However, day three did not get any better.
Three French hens and not even on a platter!
That I wouldn’t have minded much,
My true love was definitely out of touch.
All day long the hens went ooh-la-la.
All I could think of was foie gras!
Perhaps some drumsticks, nice and hot!
But live hens? Definitely not…

A partridge, the doves and now the hens.
My true love didn’t have any common sense!
Birds in any form or shape?
I just wanted to escape.
Roasted hens with onions, my mouth did water,
But that would have meant I had to slaughter!
I wasn’t really up for that.
Perhaps I needed to get a cat…


On the next day came four calling birds.
They made a racket like you’ve never heard.
What was he thinking when he thought,
More fowl is what I sought?
The house was filling to the brim,
The living room started looking grim
Poo everywhere and it stank!
And I had my own true love to thank.

I don’t know who they called all day,
Rosalind? Jennifer? Maggie May?
My true love thought it was a hoot,
I just wanted to give them the boot.
Unfortunately the boots were filled with grubs,
And the heels of my Choos were now just stubs.
All I wanted to do was holler and wail,
And end this sorry sorry tale!


And then finally some gold rings!
That sure was a fantastic thing...
But again he made me look like a tool.
The five were made for a certified fool.
Not really gold, oh no!
Cheap imitation, the jeweler told me so!
However, it’s the thought that counts,
Or so my true love found.

The rings turned my fingers fluorescent green
Even in the dark they could be seen!
I wanted it off, it was quite urgent,
But it couldn’t be done, not even with strong detergent!
Finally after over an hour,
I found the answer: use something sour!
So, now my fingers smell like limes.
I was hoping for better times!


More fowl arrived on day six,
Throwing more mayhem into the mix.
When the geese arrived at my frontdoor,
I nearly fell to the floor!
The only thing stopping me was the poo,
The place looked like an unclean zoo.
The geese were nasty: they hissed,
They tried to bite me and barely missed.

I managed to lock them in the bathroom,
Using a very heavy witch’s broom.
Eggs soon started to fill the place,
It seemed as if they had a race.
The tub, the sink, the windowsill,
They didn’t even use any skill!
The floor was covered with debris
I would need more than pot pourri!


On day seven came the swans
They pecked right through my long johns
The curtains had already gone
Eaten by a stupid swan
The water they left all through the house
Drowned even my poor pet mouse!
Everywhere they went it was wet,
I just wanted to go to bed!

But my bed now looked like a huge big nest
It looked like they were on a quest
To completely wreck my lovely home
I wanted to move to Rome!
But I really really had to stay
If only for a few more days.
So said my dear true love
But I had had enough!


Then finally on day eight
No birds arrived and it was great
Instead eight maids walked in with stools
Those were their proper milking tools
Milking stools for huge big cows
Eight of them, roaming around my house!
Everywhere I looked was hay and straw
My true love had a massive flaw!

The house resembled a zoo by now
All those birds and now the cows
But even worse was yet to come
It mightn’t be a surprise to some…
My true love started flirting with a maid
He acted like he was in twelfth grade
A little pubescent boy in heat
I nearly kicked him out in the street


I should have done, oh yes, I know
Because next day came another blow
More ladies arrived with dancing shoes
And I rapidly turned to the booze
They jumped and jeteed and they tapped
They swirled and twirled and I nearly snapped
I was ready to scream and shoo them all out
But apparently it’s not ladylike to shout

My manners were however disappearing fast
I don’t know how I had to last
Another three days of this mayhem
I wanted rid of all of them.
Poison, drowning, slaughterhouse
Kill every single awful louse.
Then send all those women packing
They drove me mad with all their yacking!


And then finally on day ten,
There arrived some gorgeous men.
But alas, they leaped those lords,
Nearly cracking the floor boards.
One of them actually fell through to the cellar
At least something I found stellar
Another one jumped too high and hit the ceiling
It must have been a nasty feeling!

By now it was my true love who was jealous
Of all those jumping and leaping fellas
Because hey let’s face it, now I was flirting
Even to me it was disconcerting.
But they looked good in their leotards
Then my love gave them his regards,
Shoving them into the garden shed,
Where they got stuck between the bike and the sled.


Day eleven saw the pipers
And they were über hyper!
While pushing the maids out of their way,
They just continued to play.
Eggs got broken, milk was spilt,
Even my flowers started to wilt,
Due to the noise the pipers made.
It looked as if they were ready to invade!

The house by now was a warzone
With my true love on its throne.
Pipers, dancers and all those critters
Doing away with all the Christmas glitter!
My poor nerves were slowly being shot,
Happy with my true love I was not.
He then promised me I could choose myself,
What I wanted on day twelve!


But did he listen, did he ever!?
He was on this great endeavour.
Twelve drummers arrived in all their glory,
Definitely making this a horror story.
The drummers were all very large,
The largest one was actually called sarge.
The sounds and the overbearing stench,
Was turning me into a mumbling wench.

The pear tree was rooting in the hall,
Where the dancers were organizing a masked ball.
The birds were not happy with each other,
Picking and pecking away, oh brother!
Feathers were flying everywhere,
And I can tell you, I’d had my share,
Of all those gifts my true love gave.
Just a few more hours to be brave!


Well, guess what! On day thirteen,
My true love was nowhere to be seen.
Because by the end of day twelve,
I, yes, I myself,
Threw a fit as never seen before,
And I kicked my true love and his gifts straight out the door!
Out they went, onto the street,
That feeling felt so incredibly sweet!

Of course there still was the mess to clean,
And I can tell you, it was an awful scene!
But it was fine, it really was,
Even if my true love was the cause.
He never listened, he didn’t care
He acted as if I wasn’t even there
So what did I want for Christmas? What did I miss?
Only an “I love you” and a little kiss!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Nearly!

We're nearly there. Christmas is (at the time of me writing this) just over 10 hours away. I've got this afternoon to get my home completely ready for my sister and my parents who will visit me on Boxing Day (December 26th for all you people who don't celebrate Second Christmas Day as we call it in the Netherlands). My sister actually phoned me the other day to ask whether she was welcome to come and stay, after my father had already said she was coming.

The reason she asked was that I celebrate Christmas in a funny way according to some. Every two to three years I go visit my parents and celebrate with them and any siblings (I've got two and one in-law) present. But I tend to prefer staying at home. I watch Christmas shows, Christmas films, eat food I like at a time I like it, dressed in whatever I like. And I like that. I am not sad, after all, if I wanted to I could celebrate it with my friends or family. I just don't want to.

Anyway, my sister will be dropped off by my parents on Boxing Day. She will stay two nights before heading home (Northern Ireland) again. I'm looking forward to it, because I haven't seen her for a while. So, a bit of last minute cleaning is in order and then I will sit down and watch yet another 'new' Christmas film!

If you want to know what I've been up to in 2009, please check out this link which will take you back to a post I did last Tuesday. And I urge everyone to come back tomorrow for a very special adaptation of a very well-known Christmas Carol. Otherwise: Happy Christmas everyone and I hope you get to celebrate it the way you want to!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

W is for...

Wuppie in a Winter Wonderland

I did have another post planned, but seeing how the weather has brought us so much snow lately added to the fact that I haven't posted any feline photos lately, I thought it might be a good time to combine the two.

Of the four monsters calling mi casa loro casa, Wuppie is the only one who doesn't really mind all that wintery stuff. I threw several snowballs at him today and even that didn't bother him too much. He is a dummy really, but a sweet one...

For more W-words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

PS: Please do come back on Christmas Day, I've got a Christmas poem waiting for you. It will only take a minute!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Looking back

When Christmas is nearing and the New Year is looming right behind it, people tend to look back on the year that has just gone by. For me, the year has been pretty good. No more debt, a job, a home (albeit rented), friends and family, good health. But I still wanted to have a little look back on the year myself, after all, there might be things I have forgotten! Clicking on the months will take you back to the post I wrote then...

January: A crashed computer; a dental scare and ice! I wrote in January's post about not remembering having a proper snowy winter since 1979! Well, the year isn't over yet and guess what: snow... We've had it for five days now and they are expecting a bit more to come yet. It's just funny how the snow started falling right at the time the Copenhagen summit started on global warming! As if to prove them wrong...

February: Snow; London in spring; a fishy dinner with my parents and a weighty matter! February saw me change the quite boring name of my blog (the life of Mara) to Weighty Matters. The name was referring to Wuppie, but since then he is a bit less weighty. I've put all the monsters on a bit of a diet: I only feed them once a day now. In the morning I put the food in their bowls and by evening the food is all gone. And they then have to wait until the next morning!

March: Sophie has cancer; a funeral; pre-posting and feeling down in the dumps. In March I had a spell of feeling very sorry for myself. Missing a significant other in my life was massive! I still haven't found one, would still like one, but I am not too bothered about it right now. Rather alone and content than with someone and unhappy! And the remote is still very firmly in my hand only...

April: Football (or soccer); London; more London and stupidity with a bike. I wrote about my bike in April. A typical Dutch mode of transport (and yes, I do know there are a lot of bikes in China as well) and my only way of transport apart from the coach I drive for a living. Whenever I tell people I don't own a car I just get an incredulous look from them? You're a driver and you don't own a car???? No, I don't! And most of the time I don't miss it either.

May: London with my family; laundry; the Provence; thunderstorms; excuse my French and gypsies. I went to the Provence in France in May and I encountered an old gypsy woman. I got cheated out of my money and got a palm reading about my future! So, what has come true about her predictions? I haven't met the love of my life and the numbers 3, 4 and 12 go by every month unnoticed. Good thing I didn't put much trust in it to start with...

June: Tube strike in London; Airforce Days; Army Days; no inspiration; starting to look old and conversations with my boss.  My boss is the man who hired me. He's a sweet man and very funny. He will show the walks from the 'Ministry of Funny Walks', he will bring the comics from the paper or he will put on a funny Scottish wig! He's the one I turn to if I have a problem (but personal and work) and I would be sad to see him leave the company.

July: Ireland; holiday; day out with my parents; sauna and the vet. Every July sees me going to the vet with four cats. Three baskets laden with feline furries and trying to find a mode of conveyance to get there! The results of the visit were that Wuppie was overweight, Mathilda had an eye-infection, Linette was in good health and even Sophie was doing fine! Well, it may not be a lot, but Wuppie has lost weight. And Mathilda's eye-infection cleared up as well. Linette is still in good health and Sophie hasn't shown any signs of the cancer returning either.

August: Heatwave in Italy; playing the tourist and great reads. I can read nearly everywhere and if a book is funny I will laugh out loud and when a book is sad I will cry. And it doesn't matter where I am at the time, be it home, bus or busy trainstation. Some people will look at me when I am reading and wonder about what is happening, some people can even get annoyed because they want to know what's so funny! I've tried to stop reading the sadder books in public though: it gives me puffy eyes!

September: Potatoes; autumn; awards and emigration. People who have been reading my blog for a while know I want to emigrate to Canada. It means gathering information about where and when to go and saving up money. It also means deciding when to tell the people around you and dealing with any questions. Like: are you still here? When are you going? Where are you going? Are you sure? Why? Why? Why?

October: Mara; eggs; bad mood; food; zombies and dreams. 'I'm dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the one I've never known...' But that dream doesn't look like it's going to happen this year: the snow is melting again! There's still about 8 centimeters left, but at the rate it's melting, I might be better off to keep dreaming of French firemen...

November: Give-away; rain; photos and smiles. A smile of encouragement, a smile of joy or a smile for a little joke. Smile people! It doesn't cost anyting, but the return is fantastic!

December: Pigs; snow; not quite London; reviews and presents. I love presents. And not having celebrated my birthday and not celebrating Christmas with presents means I don't get presents. But for some reason this year, presents (both expected and unexpected) were plentiful! Films, ornaments, cd's, cards and a chocolate letter. I've been spoiled!

This was my year. Hopefully next year will be as good. Trips abroad, new friends (both in blogland and in real life, perhaps even crossing over!), old friends. I'll keep you posted...

Sunday, 20 December 2009

London

Nearly there, only three kilometers (two miles) to go...

Saturday, two in the morning: my alarm clock goes off and I have to get up to go to work. Just over an hour later I leave for the first pick-up. The temperature is well below zero and when I'm driving, the snow is coming down again. Fortunately I manage to keep ahead of the snow. The people at the second pick-up are late, so at the third pick-up the people are freezing, since they have been waiting for over twenty minutes by then!

The fourth pick-up is fine again and at the fifth pick-up (and my first big rest) nobody shows up. At the end of my rest they still aren't there and with permission from the company we leave. Belgium is fine. The streets are clear and clean and the traffic is light. The news however has some problems in store. Since five o'clock we've been hearing about the Channel Tunnel. Apparently four High Speed passenger trains got stuck in the tunnel below the Channel (ie the sea) for hours and hours with between 1300 and 2000 (numbers varied during the hours) passengers on board. Because of the difference between the outside and the inside temperature, the trains got technical problems.

The view of snow-covered Calais which we enjoyed for nearly three hours...

Now, the company was notified by one of my colleagues at a quarter past five. They then called the train company who said the trains would keep running. So, we kept on driving. We got through Belgium and we hit France. The roads weren't as clean as in Belgium, but still managable. And then, about ten kilometers before the Tunnel, traffic slowed down. And it slowed down even more until it stopped completely. The only thing moving were the French cars who knew they had to get out of that traffic asap. I stuck it out, hoping against the odds that somehow we would make it.

Lorries and cars as far as the eye could see

Then, a phonecall from a colleague. Traffic wasn't budging one inch at the terminal and the ferries weren't going either due to the port of Dover being closed. Besides that, the police in England were advising people not to come to England due to the awful wintery weather. My colleague said that the company would decide by two in the afternoon whether to return or not (this was at 12.30pm). Just before two I had moved another kilometer and got another phonecall: turn around, we're going home! It took some effort to get off the motorway, but in the end (thanks to a Portugese lorry driver) I managed to get off and turn around.

Now, remember I started driving at just past three in the morning. And according to European driving rules, this means my working day cannot be longer than twelve hours. By the time I had turned around two o'clock had been and gone, so I was nearly at my limit. However, I was a lucky bunny: I had a colleague on board. And he was willing to drive back. So, we switched places and he drove home. I finally got home at a quarter past nine and got into bed only fifteen minutes later.

Hello London!

Friday, 18 December 2009

A few of my favourite films

Cry asked all her readers about what Christmas film is their favourite. And it got me thinking: do I have a favourite? And which one would it be? But I quickly realised, picking one out of so many was going to be way too difficult. So, I decided to give you a list of 'must see' (in my opinion that is) Christmas films. I will make a top three and the rest will all be on number four.

1. A Muppet Family Christmas. Fozzie takes the whole gang home to his mother for Christmas. All the Muppets, including the ones from Sesame Street show up, Doc and his dog are there and even the Fraggles are present! The coming together of the whole 'family', the songs and the fantastic Muppets make this film a certain must-have and must-see for Christmas Eve I think. It might only be about thirty minutes, but it just radiates love.

2. White Christmas. If it hadn't been for the Muppets, this would have been the number one of course, because it's such a fantastic story. I especially love the line 'When what's left of you gets around to what's left to be gotten, what's left to be gotten won't be worth getting, whatever it is you've got left'. Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby are hilarious in the number 'Sisters', originally sung by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. The train ride is great and of course the classic White Christmas at the end finishes the film to a T!

3. Bad Santa. A bit of an anti-Christmas film which certainly isn't for the faint-hearted, since a lot of swearing goes on. But I think it's really funny and in the end, Billy-Bob Thornton does the right thing for the little boy. I realised yesterday that two of the stars (John Ritter and Bernie Mac) have passed away in recent years, but here they have fantastic roles!

4. Elf; The Polar Express; If you Believe; Eight Crazy Days (not really a Christmas, but a Hannukah film); Prancer Returns (I love John Corbett); The Muppet Christmas Carol; I'll be seeing you (with Ginger Rogers); The Ref; I want a Dog for Christmas Charlie Brown; How the Grinch stole Christmas (the cartoon one from the sixties); Mixed Nuts; Love Actually; The Holiday; All I want for Christmas; Grounded.
There's several I've forgotten right now, but it's hard to pick the best ones.

Of course there are also some that are just too awful to watch. The worst one I ever watched (and I actually own it as well) has to be: Santa Claus conquers the Martians. The story is ridiculous, the acting is bad, the sets are awful, the clothes and make-up are terrible and overall it's a gruel to watch. That said, it does make it really funny somehow.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

White

I woke up this morning to a white world. It looked absolutely lovely, but it made cycling to work a bit harder. The salters (or gritters) and sweepers hadn't passed yet and if they had, they had done their job before the first snowflake had come down. So I had to be careful not to fall off my bike. I managed though and when I arrived at work, I found that some sweet colleague had put my coach indoors.

When we arrived at our starting point (after needing nearly an hour for a half hour trip), the big question coming from the teachers was: "Should we go to Cologne?" Four coaches were waiting for nearly two hundred pupils to go to a Yule-tide market in Cologne, Germany. The reason the teachers asked us was the weather and the traffic conditions. All that snow meant there was over 650 km (400 miles) of traffic jams. The longest one being 60 km (40 miles)! We didn't have to take that route, but all the routes were choc-a-bloc full! By the time we would be able to get to Cologne, the children would have about three hours to do their assignments, before we would try to return to the Netherlands. In the end we didn't go!

Right now there's about 20 cm (8 inches) of snow. I guess. It could be more. Fortunately the road back home was a bit easier because of the gritters and/or the sweepers. Getting home early also meant I finally was able to decorate my tree. I had put the tree up two days ago, but it was a bit wobbly. Then, last night I steadied and put the lights in. Which didn't work! So, I had to get new lights today as well and decorate.

The only thing left to do now is writing and sending my Christmas cards...

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

V is for...


Victualler

There are a few words I love. Actually, serendipity, quicquidlibet and victualler. I first heard the word victuals in one of the great movies of the fifties, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The first wife to arrive is expected to make good 'vittles' (food). But the word seemed to be extinct. I never heard or saw it. And then...

I saw it. In Birr in Ireland. A real honest working victualler! Of course I took a photo, but I still didn't really know what a victualler was. I figured it would be like a grocer, but when I looked it up, no mention was made of a grocer, only of a sutler. I'd never heard of a sutler, so I had to look that up! That turned out to be a person who followed an army and sold provisions. So again, you could say a grocer, but still no mention of that word.

Anyway, victuals are food supplies or provisions, so someone who is a victualler is the person who supplies the food or provisions. Anyone any other thoughts about the word?

For more V words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

Monday, 14 December 2009

How Santa came to be

I absolutely love Christmasfilms and at the last count I had nearly 130 with another 100 or so on my wish list. I also love to read Christmas books, but for some reason I never seem to find nice ones. Until a few years ago.

My sister and I were on holiday in Ireland in 2005 and we both love books. If we see a bookstore, however small, we will enter. And in this small bookshop in Clifden (Connemara, Co. Galway) we found a book. Nickolai of the North by Lucy Daniel Raby. It was a children's book, but it looked great and we both wanted it. There was just one slight problem though: they only had one copy! My sister came away with the book and I had to wait until after I had returned home and could order it online.

Now, I bet you have been wondering where Santa comes from. The flying reindeer, the elves, the delivery of the presents in one night? This book explains all. Where he grew up, how he lived his life and what happened to make him Santa. It's also a story of good and evil, a story of what will happen if our greed gets out of control, but most of all it's a story of love.

There are 25 chapters in the book, which would make it a perfect book to read to children: a chapter a day! It would be appropiate for children about 8 years and over (in my opinion), because of some scarier moments (or cliffhangers if you do read a chapter a day). But it's also perfect for adults, although I wonder if you will have more restraint than me in only reading one chapter a day. I've never been able to...

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Oink

Oink oink oink oink sow. Oink piglet oink oink oink. Oink oink boar oink. Oink oink oink oink swine. Oink oink oink piggery. Oink oink hogs oink oink oink oink oink. Oink sow oink oink oink. Piglet oink oink oink.

Do you get the drift of the conversation over the last three days yet? If not, let me enlighten you: I had eleven pigfarmers, two pig medication people and one pig vet on board. Conversation ranged from swine to sows to boars to piglets to medication. It was over five hundred kilometers on day one. We got stuck in traffic for four hours on our way there, so the day got even longer!

Now don't get me wrong! They were nice men and even though the topic got a bit boring after three days, it was not too bad. They did make a mess though! Only fourteen of them and still... It was like I had a coach load of 15-year olds.

Just to stay on the subject of pigs:
A lion, a tiger and a pig are talking about who is the scariest of the three. The lion says: if I roar, the whole of the savannah is cowering. Ah, says the tiger: if I roar, the whole of the jungle is cowering. Ah, says the pig: if I sneeze, the whole world is cowering!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Danish


Well, when this post posts (I've preposted it), I will be somewhere in Denmark trying to understand the signs. The picture signs are fine, it's the written ones that are the problem. But no point in getting all grrrr about it in advance (as I'm writing this on Tuesday and I may not have any problem with written signs at all).

I will be back on Friday. At first I was supposed to get back sometime after midnight (which would mean I would be back on Saturday really), but I've seen they already want to leave at midday! No argument from me, even though traffic will be a lot heavier then... Ah well, I will tell all about it asap and hopefully show some photos too! Probably of one of the companies we're visiting today...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

U is for...


USS John F Kennedy

No, I didn't take this photo: I wish! It's a postcard I received on visiting the ship though, so I thought it passed the mark.

The USS JFK was one of the biggest (if not the biggest) all purpose carriers in the world and I got the chance to see her and set foot on her, while she was still in commission (she has been out since 2007).

While me and three friends were on holiday in Malta in 1999, one of my friends hit it off with an American sailor who at the end of the evening gave us VIP tickets to go and visit this ship. Now, this was a sun-holiday for all of us, but then again, when do you ever get the chance to see the biggest navy ship in the world? So, we caught a bus and went to the capital of Malta where she was berthed. Long lines of schoolchildren were already waiting to get to see her, but we just walked past everyone and got on for a great tour.

The ship was absolutely huge! Over five thousand people working on her and some of those people wouldn't once get upstairs during the whole trip! Of course we didn't get to see everything. I never saw the sailors' quarters, the kitchens, the hospital, the shop, but we did get to the bridge and several other areas. It was a great day out and thanks to my flirty friend, a free one as well!

For more U words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

Goodies

Well, apart from being quiet work-wise, the last couple of weeks have been very busy present-wise. During the birthday weekend my friend gave me a shirt and two denim jackets. When I arrived home last night I realised Goldilocks had been in. Not eating, but leaving food: my mum had made 'snert' (thick pea soup) and left a couple of portions in my freezer. She had also left a chocolate letter (yum) because of Sinterklaas. Then last night I also was able to finally collect the package that had arrived from Germany, containing yet more Christmas films I have bought.

From this week until Christmas, work should be quite busy. I was in Germany during the weekend and will leave (very very early; yikes) tomorrow morning for Denmark for three days. With a total of fourteen (14) men on board. I don't know what's on during the weekend, but next week should again be busy with Christmas markets in Germany and getting all the soldiers back we delivered on Sunday! Well, it's better than sitting at home!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Saturday Archive (on Sunday)

My sister and I have been going on holiday together quite a few times. We went to Belgium and Luxembourg, we went to Ireland, we went to Wales, we went cycling in the Netherlands (never again). And for some reason people always want to take photos of us. 'Are you twins?' was a question that we were asked on more than one occasion and it p'd me off big time. Until I figured out they thought I was younger and from then on it was okay.

This photo was taken in a youth hostel in either Belgium or Luxembourg (I'm guessing the latter) and we both were in a funny mood. It's not taken by someone else: my sister had a self timer on her camera! We did have a great holiday though. I had ants in my pants (the result anyway: I got bitten on my behind while listening to the call of nature), we saw several movies which were doubly subtitled (Dutch and French), we got stuck in traffic in Luxembourg and we saw cartoon walls in Brussels. Good times...

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Christmas ornaments Sent

Well, I received some ornaments from the USofA, but I also sent some. One was a tree ornament made of glass with a little glass bird on the inside (I liked it) and the other is what you can see in the photo. A little robin on a snow-covered log with some pinecones and a bit of holly. Like the other bits and bobs I've shown recently, I knitted it myself (following a pattern I hasten to add, I would never be able to figure all of that out myself!).

Christmas ornaments Received

Somewhere in late October/early November (according to some too early), I entered an ornament swap. Basically, I had to buy/make a Christmas ornament and send it to someone somewhere. That person would send me Christmas ornament as well. Well, this week a box from the USofA arrived!

I managed to only look at the box for about half an hour, before I finally gave in and opened it. In the package was a box and in the box were two Christmas ornaments. A beautiful home-made ball in my favourite colours and a special edition Harley ball. The only thing I have to do now is get a tree so I can put them in. Thank you Michelle!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Hard work

I am getting really tired with work now. Last week I only worked two days and this week... wait for it... three! Three whole days of work! I must admit, both yesterday and today were really easy: driving an hour and a half to my starting point. Loading up the coach, dropping them off one kilometer further! Picking up another group nearly two hours later and so it continued the whole day. Me and a colleague stayed in a hotel, which was okay. We had finished nice and early and in time for biathlon (my most favouritestest sport in the whole world. Apart from hurling. And curling is addictive. And I do get stuck watching tennis on occasion as well. But biathlon is the best) and I was able to watch the race, saw an American (Go Tim Burke) get the silver medal and a Canadian (Jean-Philippe Le Guellec) get to tenth place. And that is brilliant, because it's usually the Germans, Russians and Norwegians doing really well. So, I was cheering.

Tomorrow however, I can recover from all that hard work of the last two days and then on Sunday I have another day of work and again staying in a hotel. Next week I will have a three-day trip to somewhere in Denmark. A country which I don't like very much, because I don't understand any of the written signs. They might as well have written them in Chinese or hieroglyphics for all the sense they make to me. But more about that on my return. Anyhow, that's the reason I will be posting a bit erratically during the next couple of weeks (because it's not likely to ease off until after Christmas). But, I will try and post whenever I can!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

T is for...


Telephone

I remember the telephone my paternal grandparents had in their kitchen: a big black bakelite phone. I even remember their phonenumber: 412! My maternal grandparents had to use the telephone box (or cell as we call them in the Netherlands) in the village and it wasn't until I was about ten or so that they finally got hooked up.

This photo was taken somewhere in Luxemburg (country) while on holiday there in 1997. Mobile (or cell) phones weren't in use yet and if they were, you held a proper brick in your hand: heavy and huge! So, if you wanted to phone home, you had to use a phone box. I couldn't even insert a card, it had to be money! We've come a long way...

For more T words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

How Jane Austen dealt with tentacles

A few months ago I was sent a book by Quirk Classics. 'And could I please read and review it?' Well, it's taken a bit of time, but I've finally finished it. So, here's the review!

The ultimate film/television series of Pride and Prejudice is the BBC-adaption with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. And when I read that book, I could easily visualise Elizabeth Bennet kicking behinds and wielding a big knife. The ultimate film/television series of Sense and Sensibility is the Ang Lee film with Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman. And for some reason I couldn't quite picture Alan Rickman with tentacles hanging from his face!

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters has a great title, but I felt it had just a tad too many sea monsters injected into the story. Some of it was quite funny, other bits were just weird or even plain stupid. Yes, PPZ had bits added that weren't in the original, but it was an enhancement to the story; SSSM had bits added and not all of them fit. PPZ stayed true to its era; SSSM veered away from it on occasion, especially the rubber suits!

However, most of my issues were with Elinor Dashwood. Elinor is a likable woman, she has the most sense of the whole family and keeps her feelings close to her chest. But here she's also portrayed as quite dim and even a bit cold. Not really noticing that there's a crack in the underwater dome, even when everything is happening to Marianne, is not something I would expect from her. And her turning away from a servant in distress while he is being devoured by fish right in front of the house, makes her quite selfish and very unlikable.
The others are more or less portrayed in a similar way to the original, although two characters are given a bit more of a story: Mr Palmer and Lady Middleton, both stories adding to the general feel of the book.

Now, the question of course is: would I recommend this book to anyone? Well, yes! I would. In the Netherlands books by Jane Austen are on the reading list for English classes in high school and this would fit perfectly and perhaps even get some boys reading these great books.
For anybody who already loves Jane Austen's books, it will be a fun addition as well. Yes, you will always compare the book to the original and to the films and television series that have been made, but that in itself is not such a bad thing. Comparing the two will only make your love for the original grow and perhaps open your mind to other adaptations of other classics.

If you don't mind orang-utans, octopusses, pirates and a lot of water intruding the world of Jane Austen that is...

Monday, 30 November 2009

Getting around in the Netherlands without owning a car


Not owning a car has its drawbacks. Whenever I want to visit family and/or friends, I have to rely on public transport and the goodness of said family and/or friends. Like last Saturday...

On Saturday morning I woke up bright and early (not by choice I have to add) and after having a shower and my breakfast I made my way to the busstop for the first part of my journey. It was 8am. On arriving at the busstop with my suitcase, handbag, knitting bag and presents bag I realised the first bus wasn't to leave until 9.21am!!! So, home I went again, got online, played a few games and an hour later I made my way again to the busstop.

After arriving at my parents' place just before 11am, my mother decided to come with me to my niece's birthday party and off we went in their car. We got to my brother's house at 1pm and were met by a great number of children aged between 1 and 8. The birthday girl was still in bed, as was her big sister (who is three), but all the other children ( I'm guessing there were about 12, but I could be way off) were making enough noise as it was!

A few hours later we had to leave again, since I had another birthday party to go to. So, we got in the car again and drove back to my parents' home. From there I would be picked up by my friend. I had to wait a bit because he had lost his way a bit, but in the end I arrived at my friends' place and was able to celebrate with the birthday boy who had turned 2.

Aren't my family and friends just the best?

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Saturday Archive 4

At the beginning of my driving career, I wasn't much good. Yes, I had my driver's licence, but that didn't mean I could drive. For the first three months I felt the coach was lording it over me. But slowly, as time passed, I got used to driving such a large vehicle. And one day I realised I was in charge of the bus.

Being a busdriver is however completely different to being a coachdriver. The first is just driving people from A to B, the second is driving them from A to B, but A might be Amsterdam and B might be Rome (since that's where all roads lead to).

The first couple of months I worked for the company I was usually doing the public transport runs and the school runs. Then I got the chance to do a schooltrip. Not on my own yet, but still, it was a start. Then it was a schooltrip on my own. Then I was allowed to go a bit further afield. Still nothing abroad though and that was something I really wanted to do.

In January 2003 (nearly four years after I started), I got the chance to go on a study trip through Europe. On that trip we would learn how to deal with people, how to get to know your way and what paperwork to use. Our first stop was Paris (France), our second Trier (Germany), then on to Prague (Czech Republic) and finally Berlin/Potsdam (Germany). All this in only six days, so you can imagine it was a lot to take in. Every night after dinner we would have an evaluation of the day.

This photo shows me together with our then highest boss (on the right) and a colleague. He had a soft spot for the tours part of the company and I was sad to see him go several years later, as were many of my colleagues.

The result of this week of training (fun mostly) was that I should start off easy: short trips in the local area or as third driver on a long distance trip. That last option was unfeasible, but the first was a bit easier. Ever since the summer of 2003 I have been driving my way through Europe. The trips are longer and further now, but the fun is still there (mostly anyway). All thanks to that very first study trip!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Thanksgiving

Apparently it's Thanksgiving Day today. It was in the papers over here, it was in the news on the radio. And whenever I open another American blog I read about it!

Now, since we are a first world country, we never had to deal with Injuns (First Nation Peoples or Native Americans) and were never given a turkey to help us get through the winter. As a matter of fact, whenever we were invaded by those Spanish blokes, we would escape on skates (in winter) or just flood the place! We were able to look after ourselves, as long as we kept the dykes high enough!

This post however is not to make other people look silly because they couldn't look after themselves (they have proven themselves in the mean time), it's just to explain that we don't know much about it.

The award at the top is because Cry is thankful I am her friend! I am thankful for all of you who read, comment to and come back to my blog every (or nearly every) day. Happy Thanksgiving to all who do celebrate!!

Things that make me smile!


Sparrows taking a sandbath in the summer.
A little girl taking a bowl of water to her rabbit who is in his cage in the field.
A huge rabbit pushing a push-chair.
Little children giggling over some silly joke.
Teenagers on the coach have the silliest conversations about nothing.
A horse chasing a dog around a field.
Looking at old photos and remembering.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

S is for...


Search and Rescue

In May I had to drive a special group of people: plane spotters, but that day it wasn't the planes but the other flyers: helicopters that were the main attraction. Plane spotters from all over the country had come to see, photograph and enjoy the Search and Rescue helicopters from several European countries. Since they all had huge lenses and state of the art cameras, I thought they wouldn't mind me taking a few photos as well.

The Search and Rescue helicopters in the Netherlands celebrated their 50th anniversary and had invited several other teams to come and do an obstacle course. There was quite a strong wind, but most of the teams didn't have any problems to get through the course. I now know that if I ever get lost at sea and need to be rescued by a helicopter, the teams on board are more likely than not able to get me off my little pink dinghy and airlift me to safety! The chances of me actually getting on a little pink dinghy and being way out at sea are of course pretty slim, but you have to be prepared...

For more S words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Bearded lady

The things you do while working for Club Med are many! This was during a boy-girl night and every single woman was supposed to be showing up as a man and vice versa. The smoke in my hand is only for display purposes!

I'm still against most toplipgrowth though!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Who are you calling Mara?


While reading my bloglist I read Fat, frumpy & fifty and found this word game. And however you want to pronounce it, I loved this one. So of course, being the ripper-offer that I am, I decided to throw in my cent's worth! And because it's fun of course!!

1.Your rock star name (pet, current car)
Cat Bova - Chorus Girl
2.Your gangsta name (favourite ice cream flavour, favourite type of shoe)
Cinnamon Boot - Fearsome (not!)
3.Your Native American name (favourite colour, favorite animal)
Blue Cat - Eeehhh...
4.Your soap opera name (middle name, place where you were born)
Maria Boalsert - Acting suds
5.Your Star Wars name (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 of your first name)
Jelja -Pronounced Yelya please
6.Superhero name (2nd favorite color, favorite drink)
Pink T - Pink Lady meets T-bird: Grease is the word
7.NASCAR name (the first names of your grandfathers)
Cornelis John - Look out Michael Schumacher
8.Dancer name (the name of your favourite perfume/cologne/scent, favourite candy)
Miss Dior Chocolate - Dancing stripper
9.TV weather anchor name (your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter)
Orchard Orlando - Liquid sunshine and rainbows
10.Spy name (your favourite season/holiday, flower)
Autumn Carnation - License to ehm.... weed?
11.Cartoon name (favourite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now)
Melon Socks - a little green kitty set out to discover Mars
12.Hippie name (what you ate for breakfast, your favourite tree)
Toast Oak - Peace and peanutbutter
13.Movie star name (pet, street where you lived)
Sophie Saturn - Glitz and glamour

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Saturday Archive 3


I haven't been on many sun-holidays where I've just lounged all day by the sea or swimming pool. Not because I don't like them (I quite do actually), but because for the last few years I've spent my money elsewhere. But about ten years ago I went to Malta with three friends.

We spent most days by the swimming pool on the roof, but we wanted to do one excursion. We decided to go to Gozo, a small island just off the coast of Malta. I don't really recall what we did in the morning but during the afternoon we had a jeep drive and we went snorkeling.

I am not the best swimmer and when I first put the snorkel equipment on I thought I was going to drown! However, after first testing it in the dry (ie above water) and finding out I wasn't going to drown just yet if I went below the water, I went down and looked at amazing colourful fish. It was brilliant! I spent about half an hour just below the surface just enjoying all the life in the water, before we had to come out again and we continued our trip. Definitely not long enough!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Just wrong!


I am not too fussy (I think) when it comes to the looks of a man. But if there's one thing that turns me off, it's moustaches! Granted, there are a few men who look better with one, but most men should step a little bit closer to the razorblades! To illustrate: check out this site. The only one who looks decent with a fuzzy upper lip admits to only having it a limited amount of time due to divorce threats! The others look as if they have just stuck them on (numbers 1, 4, 5 and 9) and creepy or if they've grown them themselves and creepy.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Laundry


I've had black socks in white laundry and I've found coins in my laundry. And as of this morning I have smelly laundry. Now, don't get me wrong: the laundry is clean, but it smells.

I usually do my laundry with a generic washing powder. It does its job and cleans my dirty linen and that's all I ask. But then, several weeks ago, I bought some things at the drugstore and received a bottle of laundry detergent (Ariel) for free. I finally used it yesterday.

Well, today I noticed I used it yesterday. I wore freshly laundered trousers and all day long I smelled them. And hated it. And know I still have a big bottle of detergent left.

*Sigh*

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Give-away


I could hold the pieces of paper in one hand. After shuffling them about, I picked one of them and the name on the piece of paper was: Cry!

Congratulations, I will get Holly/Ivy to you as soon as possible.