Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Choosing HOPE

De Hoop (Hope) windmill about 15 minutes' walk from our apartment here in Holland.

The week in between Christmas and New Year's Day is one of those weird weeks of the year one hardly knows how to describe. If you have to go to work, you wonder why. If you get to stay at home, you hardly know what to do with yourself.

Since the camera never lies, you can see (above) that we did indeed have snow here in Holland, even on Christmas day, for the first time in 30 years, Astrid says. I think it snowed just for me! Now it's all gone, after several days of warmer temps...but Hope still stands tall.

This is the same De Hoop windmill from above, taken a week before the snow fell. It faces the setting sun of the Old Year.

While saying Good-Bye to a tumultuous 2009, I am reminded of a Christopher Reeve quote: "Once you choose hope, anything's possible." I'm living proof of his words! And so, once again, I choose Hope for the new year, 2010. It's possible. I wish it for us all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O Dennenboom Reprise

Hopefully you'll get as much of a kick outta this as I did today!

Yesterday I was out-n-about buying pillows for the couch. I only needed two but when I found €9.95 pillows on sale for €1 each, it was a no-brainer to buy 4, which I did.

In the process, I saw that one of the stores was selling their floor-model fake Christmas trees. One €44.99 ($64) model was on sale for €10. Mental note to myself: mention this to Astrid just for the halibut.

When I did mention it to Astrid at suppertime last evening, she immediately asked if I had bought it and why not! To which I immediately responded that I didn't think there was a snowball's chance in hell that she'd even agree to it! She's like some of you...a REAL tree is what Christmas trees are all about.

Maybe it was a no-brainer to her, I don't the pillows. Our real tree (see last post) was €30 and weighed the dickens for her every time she had to lift it while I positioned the table or stand. Suddenly a real tree wasn't that important anymore...and we both started talking about the benefit of keeping it up as long as we wanted each year and storing it downstairs in our cubicle, etc., etc.

So, yes, this Christmas we have 2 Christmas trees! I took the same hand cart from the last post and walked it to the store 15 minutes away to see if the tree I wanted was still there. It was. Do I care what people thought who saw me walking it home behind me? HA! Let's just say I like saving money too much. With a bit of primping, this one will look as good as new next year!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me...

While I'm at it, a treat was left at the back door to our apartment building after our snowstorm on Sunday. Since we all are 55 or older, I wonder if kids did this for us or if some of us are kids after all!

See the red bulb (eye) in the snow? Today it was back where it belonged.
How fun is that!

Yes, Virginia, there is a Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

O Christmas Tree, O Dennenboom

Merry Christmas week! And yes, perhaps you've heard that we, too, have had our first snowstorm of the season, with frigid temps I haven't experienced since I don't know when. Astrid says the cold and the snow are early even for Holland. We'd expect this in January.

But I digress because this is a post about buying our first Christmas tree together at the nearby outdoor market on Saturday, December 12. These are live trees in the photo and not huge...but remember that our apartment is small. It was easy to pick out a good one...not as easy to take it home when Astrid realized how heavy it was. So she went back to the apartment, 2 blocks away, to get the hand cart, which made all the difference in the world. Easy for me to say, while she does the hard work and I take the pictures!

We weren't ready to decorate the tree because my TruckPacks hadn't arrived yet (in which my Christmas box is!). However, early in the next week, last Wednesday, we found out said TPs are not yet ready to be released until a couple other hoops are jumped through. SO we went to Plan B, which was for Astrid to retrieve some of the lights and bulbs she had left with her ex-husband. By Friday night we were ready to decorate the tree!

What is it about Christmas trees! I always say they're so so quiet, which is true. They calm my heart and soul. They bring peace to my world, whether I need it or not!

A funny thing about this tree....did you notice the icicles (click to enlarge)? When was the last time I had them on one of my trees, if ever! So you can imagine my shock when Astrid pulled them out of her box and said we had to be careful with them, since you can't buy them here anymore. Actually, I think I started to protest and then stopped. Who gives a hoot if there are icicles on the tree! Apart from the lights, the tiny red and silver bulbs and only 12 larger silvery-white bulbs, the icicles were all that was left to sparkle up the tree. And it worked. Even I was able to admit it!

Behind those drapes, BTW, is the courtyard of our senior-living complex here. The day (Wednesday the 16th) we found out my TruckPacks probably won't get released till just after the new year, we had our first snow. Look at this image below and add another 6 or more inches that fell this past weekend.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Astrid says this is their first white Christmas (witte Kerst) in 30 years! O Christmas Tree, O Dennenboom!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Handy Vrouw

I can just see it now: suddenly there will be loads of things to post about and you won't be able to keep up with me. HA! But I want to document it all and will make sure I keep up with myself, I hope. In one week's time I have so much to tell you!

Let's start with the other woman of the house because IK BEN ZO TROTS OP HAAR (I'm so proud of her) and all the things she can do. And she loves doing it! That's the treat of it.

Astrid had told me she was planning to build a little cabinet/stand for all the contraptions with wires that sit in the corner of the living room: telephone, Internet modem, and emergency call box for this senior complex (a nurse will come to visit us if/when we press the button!). Saturday she did it.

And that was in the morning! Mind you, she works for a cabinet company and is able to get all her wood for free, which is such a wonderful perk. This is just ONE of the cabinets she has made for the apartment. But isn't it so cute! I love that she can do these things that benefit our space and add to the aesthetics!

After that, we took an afternoon train to nearby Dordrecht, half an hour away, to see the Christmas Market and city center. The train was free all day Saturday...something they do from time to time throughout the year to increase ridership. You don't have to ask us twice. Take advantage of it when you can. DUH! But Dordrecht is another post altogether. As is the buying of our first Christmas tree which we did before the cabinet was made...and now waits for my Christmas box in the TruckPacks that we plan to pick up at the end of this week.

Today I wanted to introduce you to the handy woman who adds a big spark to my life! When was the last time I said it doesn't take much to make me happy! :)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Small Pleasures

First of all, I'M HERE! I have made it safe-n-sound to the Netherlands. The landing on Saturday morning was so smooth, I didn't even know we had touched ground. It felt like a good omen...and I smiled knowingly.

Little by little I will tell you the important things, of course, but today I have to start with food items that have delighted me to no end! Since I'll be the chief cook and bottle washer, my biggest goal for yesterday, Monday, was to find the grocery store, check it out, and then compare it to Monday morning's outdoor market (once a week, just 2 blocks from the apartment!). I needed to get the lay of the land.

In the top photo, I was like a little kid who had died and gone to heaven: a 3-pak of Grote (BIG) Speculaas cookies left over from Saturday's Sinterklaas day and reduced half price. I have them next to one of Astrid's windowsill plants for scale. €.30 for the pak, or €.10/cookie (the equivalent of $.13 each). Guess how many paks I bought? N I N E of them. You need to understand...this is one of the best-tasting cookies I've ever had and even grew up on them in Michigan as a child. We called them windmill cookies because they're usually shaped like windmills. These will keep forever and will be what we'll use when people come over for coffee/tea (very European). One cookie is big enough for 4 people!

It doesn't take much to make me happy!

At the outdoor market I then found a kilo box of dates and once again was in heaven. I kid you not: these are things that take me back to my childhood as though they were in my genes. I can't remember when I last bought dates, can you?

It doesn't take much to make me happy!

If you have a spouse/children who like the same thing you do, you'll understand why I got so excited over finding Brussels sprouts in bags like I was able to buy in Hannover and Amsterdam (but had to eat alone). Does Astrid like Brussels sprouts? YES. So it will be a real treat for me to whip these up in olive oil and garlic. Talk about hog heaven!

It doesn't take much to make me happy!

On Saturday we bought a printer and a chopper/blender and today I bought a toaster. This is the time to buy the things we need before Christmas when things are on sale. It would have been nice to bring over some of my small appliances but with the different electric currents between America and Europe, it didn't make sense. That's why the estate sale was so important. Sell appliances, get money, buy new appliances.

It doesn't take much to make me happy!

Wait till you see the pictures of churches I took today...just minutes away from our apartment. Actually, wait till I tell you all about this charming city of Gorinchem (35K pop.) south of Amsterdam. I find I want to tell you everything right now! Am I excited or what!

It really doesn't take much to make me happy...which is, after all, why I find myself here right now. These are the things I ponder in my heart....