Local Heart, Global Soul

June 20, 2018

Bridging The Christmas Lights…

Filed under: NEW ZEALAND,PHOTOGRAPHY,Wellington & Region — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

One thing I like to see is technology being used for decorative uses. Spotted during our Christmas 2017 trip to New Zealand when we went north to visit friends in Wainuiomata, travelling back from the center of Wellington. This area in Petone where you branch off the motorway leading to the Hutt valley, these bridge lights have a central panel in them that can be turned into red, blue and green Christmas lights. It certainly brightened up the night.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 11, 2018

A Speedy Drive By Changi Christmas Spirit…

Filed under: Changi Airport,PHOTOGRAPHY,SINGAPORE — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Singapore’s Changi airport is massive. We’ve arrived with our friend “Velvetine” and got though check-in quickly because Singapore airlines have a special check-in desk for disabled travellers.

My chair gets it’s own boarding stickers and ticket and I can stay in it until we get into the plane.

Having my own wheels is an advantage because when you get one from the airline, they often have someone assigned to take you to the gate.

That is all well and good if that’s what you want but it doesn’t allow for a browse in a bookshop, a stop to buy my duty free perfume or some time out for a meal.

The only downside is that when Himself wheels me, he walks fast because he’s still in “get to the gate mode” and he doesn’t stop very much. Therefore almost all photographs are taken when moving at more than optimum speed.

We always check in very early because we always prefer to be killing time in the airport until the last minute, rather than at the hotel.

Himself gets into his familiar “travelling mood” It’s a sort of itchy and antsy mood, wanting everyone to be ready to walk to the taxi three hours before pick-up, or preferably twenty-four hours before pickup, it’s a worry of missing connections, forgetting things, unexpected delays. He gets grumpy and flustered, but that’s also coupled with a methodical organisation in packing, all the paperwork has been checked, rechecked and then checked again. It’s a mood the whole family is familiar with and I’m sure he’s not the only one to have these “travel moods”. We let him do this thing, he’s like a shepherd herding sheep, even if the sheep do already know what to do and where to go.

Most of the orders and constant reminders are superfluous, but on occasion he’s reminded me of something I really needed so it’s an “ok, here goes his travel mood again, let him do his stuff and it will pass” time. We all have our quirks, this one belongs wholeheartly to Himself. He is right of course, getting to the airport does mean no frantic panics if the taxi doesn’t turn up, there is a traffic jam, or any other unexpected delay. It was a week before Christmas so the decorations were out in all their glory and had attracted small crowds of people who were admiring the display.
I joined them (in a fashion) as Himself in “hurry mode” whisked me past…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

December 25, 2014

‘Tis The Day To Count Your Blessings…

Today is Christmas Day. And this comes to you via the WordPress schedule because No, I’m not sitting at my computer typing.

Depending on when you read this: I’m sitting on a chair in the kitchen peeling vegetables ready for the Christmas roast lunch,  or sitting at the dining table “top and tailing” beans, or getting my limited standing exercise by clearing shredded wrapping paper from the Christmas gifts off the living room floor or half entangled in the Christmas tree baubles.

Or I might be sitting on the sofa as guests (in this case wonderful friends: two families who are very much at home in my kitchen) and Himself buzz around asking where I want what, how, and where.

If you log on later in my day I might have gone off to have an hour’s nap, or be back, sitting on the sofa watching the children play with their gifts, walking around the room trying to avoid the obstacle course of  toys on the floor, or intervening as they squabble after too many Christmas chocolate treats, too much excitement and not enough good weather for them to go outside and burn off their excess energy.

I will have to listen to them moan incessantly about not being allowed on the iPad or computer “because Christmas Day is about actually being with, and talk to, the people you love and not having your nose in the electronics all day“.

I will repeat the phrase “Just because you moan about not getting to use the iPad or computer a hundred times, the answer you get the other 99 times will not be any different to the first “No” you got, so please stop moaning”. I will then repeat the same phrase over and over whilst seriously wondering if my children actually have ears… (and at some of the more tense moments….. brains).

I will  have to console the child who is losing when we get around the table to play the card game “Uno”, as neither of my offspring have yet mastered the art of losing gracefully.

We will probably not stretch family relations to breaking point by playing “mens erger je niet”  (translates literally as “man / people don’t get annoyed / upset) which is the name of the traditional but ruthless Dutch board game that I recognise from New Zealand as “Ludo” because constant loosing at that one usually ends in loud tears (if child) and disgruntled sniffs (if adults).

If one of my children is  on a winning streak I will be giving gentle reminders that constantly rubbing it in gleefully is not the best way to gain popularity, and neither is it good manners. Both pieces of advice will be in all likelihood be ignored (refer to “too much excitement / chocolate/ Christmas treats and not enough good weather for them to go outside and burn off their excess energy” plus the now added excitement / disappointment,  of winning / losing, said board game.)

Children will be less than enthusiastic at being asked to help  later in the day with Christmas Day washing up or putting away (I have an original 1930’s stone kitchen bench and a dishwasher doesn’t physically fit ), or at making the living area look like less of a bomb site / obstacle course. (That at least is no different than the other 364 days of the year).

At least one adult will accidentally stand on a piece of Lego that Little Mr will forget to move from the living room to his bedroom (btw I can guarantee that that adult won’t be me, I’ve gotten paranoid about walking carefully).

Everyone will want to be on the telephone at once when we phone family and a few friends in New Zealand and there is a rather decent chance that at least one of these calls will accidentally get disconnected by an eager child’s fingers in their excitement and haste. The resulting tears will disappear once the phone call is reconnected and that kid who didn’t do it (this year) will be reprimanded for rubbing it in (see tears of earlier reference).

The entire day will otherwise be interspersed with squeals of excitement, hugs, kisses, much joy, many Thank You’s and laughter. We will eat far more than we intended and laugh about the diets we will need to go on to disperse the Christmas kilos.  Adults will try the “Hey, Look out the window at …!” (whatever distraction they think kid will fall for) in order to swipe said child’s desert plate out from under their noses …I will strike another day off the calendar as I get closer to my New Year’s surgery.

Outside in the street local teenagers and some (predominantly male) adults who never grew up will play cat and mouse with the authorities by setting off illegal fireworks in the streets and then scapering before the police patrols arrive (the fireworks are illegal until 18:00 on New Years Eve, but they like to let off the loudest ones they can get their hands on, some are so loud they make your windows rattle).

The weather is unusually mild this year, so snow is unlikely to be falling here by the time you read this, but there is every possibility of rain and leaden grey skies… it is a Dutch winter after all.

Inside our home though, the temperature will be warm, guests will be welcome and since our Christmas Day is a gathering of Foodies there will be enough food to feed us all four times over and enough leftovers that the three families all have easy meals for a good few days afterwards.

Whilst I have faith,  we are not real church goers , we prefer to celebrate the spirit of Christmas by opening our home and sharing the love with friends who have no family close by. That works visa versa too became I have no close family here myself and sharing Himself’s family isn’t always the same.

The Dutch call “Boxing Day”, “Second Christmas Day” and this is the day when we go visit my mother in law etc. (She was invited to join us today but at 92 is no longer in a physically fit enough to get up the two flights of steps to our apartment). To accommodate her we have held all other celebrations elsewhere for years but this year I finally wanted to do something at home, our place, for once.

It will also mean that half way though dinner she will not announce that she’s very tired and now wants to go home  please and Himself’s dinner will stand cold on the table whilst he drives her back across the city. We will see her tomorrow and enjoy that visit even more for it then.

Our children will predictably put in a request for a pet somewhere during the day, even though we live in an apartment, have no garden space, travel regularly abroad,  two of us are allergic to pet hair and feathers, and the fish in the tank got rescued from neglect a short time after they were entrusted to the children’s care and will be getting re-homed in the New Year. Needless to say the answer will yet again be “No, sorry, we can’t”.

That’s a basic run-down of our Christmas Day, we are messy, nay chaotic, noisy and sometimes disagreeable bunch. We have our moods and our moments, woe betide Himself if he decides to rearrange my Christmas table (after 19 years of marriage you’d think he’d had gotten the message that the Christmas arrangement of my menu and table are mine, all mine!) but  in the end there is also much love, lots of laughter and many happy memories.

If you are of a faith that celebrates Christmas or even if you don’t, I can only wish you a wonderful 25th of December from the bottom of my heart. I hope that you spend it with someone you love, in a way that is meaningful and special for you.  If you are busy celebrating Christmas I hope that you have also had a wonderful , warm, Blessed day.  Merry Christmas!

January 11, 2014

You Too Can Have Christmas In August!

Filed under: Funny,GERMANY,Monschau,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

This retrospective blog post finds us in the German town of Monschau, and whilst I learned that it was one of many German towns famous for it’s annual December Christmas Markets, I had no idea that some of the “Christmas” shops are open all year around. I didn’t go inside, firstly becuase I didn’t want the kids to start begging me for a ton of stuff that we either didn’t want, didn’t need or have any space to take home and secondly because it was so crowded inside I descided not to try and go for a peek there on cruches.  From the doorway it looked like the place was packed rather tight with merchandise and what ever space was over was taken up by browsing (or maybe buying) tourists.  So… here’s something totally unexpected:  Complete with Santa on a chair outside: all things “Christmas” in the heat of August!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

December 25, 2012

Wishing You a Smile, this Merry Christmas…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’m going to be really honest and admit that I have no clue why many North American’s use the phrase “ Happy Holidays”.

I know that not everybody in the world celebrates Christmas, or indeed may even have faith in any particular religion. For me that matters less because I believe that each person has the right to their own view and as long as they respect the views of others.

At the moment I am unable to drive because of my foot injury and so work pays for a taxi to and from work, I have a regular driver, who just happens to be Muslim. He observes Ramadan and Eid and we use the opportunity to learn more about the customs we each hold dear.

I know he doesn’t celebrate Christmas but he has no problem to wish me a Merry Christmas just as I wished him a happy Eid celebration earlier in the year.

Neither of us observes the other’s celebration but we like to extend our support to the other knowing that it’s important to the other’s family and friends. Harmony is different notes arranged together not a collective of the same note played all at the same time.

So just as I would wish someone a Happy Hanukkah , Rosh Hashanah, Eid Al-Fitr, Easter, Diwali, or Ramadan celebration, I now extend very Happy Christmas Celebrations to all who observe it, in whatever capacity.

Recently, world events involving children have left us with tears and breaking hearts, but ultimately one child was born (symbolically) on this day to relieve the heartbroken and to dry the tears.

Therefore for this post I’d like to leave you with a smile as I present a compilation of some of the smiles my children have given me.

I always try to jot down the incident as soon as possible after they happen, but surprisingly it’s been so long since I posted some of these that some of them took place quite a while ago… never mind, the smile is still the same. Enjoy!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

***

Kiwi Daughter: I have an idea, when our little TV breaks down and you buy a new big one for the living room can I have the old one for my room?

(two second pause as she computes the logic of that, then giggles) “… err,  that isn’t right is it? ‘cos the old one would be broken!”

(Our answer is simple: Yes, you may have the little broken TV in your room (if that floats your boat LOL) but ” No working one , or  computers)

***

Himself went into the kids bedroom to wake them both up for school. Little Mr. usually chirpy first thing in the morning woke up on this day bleary eyed, sat up in his bed, looked around and asked “Papa, what did we do with the two people we saved?”

Clearly his fascination with anything ambulance, police  or fireman and had carried over to his dreams and he had been busy dreaming of rescue missions… Himself told him “I don’t know my boy but you are very brave to have been rescuing people”.

***

Little Mr aged 6 has come home with his first homework assignment: he has to write about his favourite fairy tale and then write one himself, with pictures.

I was busy helping Kiwi Daughter with a maths homework game she has to play, reading and a spelling test/revision so Himself took Little Mr to the heaving kid bookcase to look for a favourite out of the many many favourites.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Later Himself comes back to me laughing and tells me “Little Mr has chosen the book  “Jack and the Beanstalk”, but  announced that he hasn’t gotten around to starting writing about it yet, because he still doesn’t know that the beans are talking about

An unwittingly beautiful play on words Little Mr.,    Bravo…

***

Little Mr. wanted a toy plane in the shop but it cost Euro 20 and he only had Euro 3,– from his piggy bank to spend. I explained that he didn’t have nearly enough money and advised he to look at some of the small Lego figures instead.

The shop was quiet and one of the assistants (a very young woman) was pricing stock on an shelf a little further along.

Little Mr. was silent for a few minutes and then said “Mama, do you think I have enough money to just buy the wheels of the plane then?”  Trying had not to burst out laughing I explained that the shop doesn’t let children buy just  “parts” of toys… because then some other child would not be very happy if they bought the plane later and discovered that it had no wheels.

Little Mr. “got” that, but meanwhile the young lady shop assistant was wiping away tears of laughter and was trying (and mostly failing) to keep control of her mirth, which made it really hard for me to keep a straight face too.

Suddenly I was forced to pretend I had a sniffle so that I could  blow my nose, wipe away tears and use the moment to compose myself.   Luckily Little Mr. was so seriously concentrated on his decision making process that he was oblivious to both of us,  but clearly this comment made this young shop assistant’s day.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

***

Little Mr. suddenly started a conversation asking me why in the last weeks everyone likes puppies so much.

I replied: “lots of people like puppies but sadly not everyone can have one“( thinking that this is leading to another plea for the pets that he knows we can’t have since Kiwi Daughter and I are both allergic to animal hair and I also to feathers).

Little Mr. gives me a quizzical look and says “No, no, everyone who wants one can have one I think… lots and lots of people on the TV have puppies, the people on the sports have puppies, the people on the News have a puppy, even the people on the Dancing all have a puppy (we have been watching Strictly Come Dancing on the BBC)  and lots of other people have a puppy too…  ”

Now I’m getting  rather confused, I certainly haven’t spotted any dog invasions on Strictly Come Dancing and nor have dogs been on the News much of late.  “Do you mean that everyone has a dog, Little Mr.? I haven’t seen any dogs?!”

Little Mr. shoots me a funny look that shows that he finds my stupidity very frustrating and sighs… “Noooo,  Mama,  not “dogs”.. I don’t know the real word, it’s a bit hard to say so I call them puppies, you know, puppies, puppies,  the red things we  wear when we have to be quiet when all the people died”  Ah Ha! the penny drops, he doesn’t mean puppies, he means  “Poppies!”

Of course,  as a bilingual family we watch both Dutch TV and the BBC from the UK… and the UK celebrated  their Remembrance Day on 11th November and Little Mr. Knows poppies from the New Zealand and Australian commemoration of ANZAC Day.

***

Little Mr. at dinner table… “Papa, did you go to school?”

Himself looks rather surprised at the question, whilst Kiwi Daughter almost choked on her food laughing.

***

I hope that no matter where you are and what you do today, that your day is an especially Happy one. Merry Christmas!

August 19, 2012

Pōhutukawa… a Very Special Christmas Tree…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One reoccurring memory of my childhood is that during the hot southern hemisphere Summer we could be found celebrating Christmas Day on a sheep station… or in small township close to it.

Even after we moved to the city we still de-camped each Christmas to a friends sheep station and so we never had a Christmas Tree decorated in the traditional sense until I moved here to The Netherlands.

That’s not to say we didn’t have a Christmas Tree at all though, the difference is simply that since the South Island’s High country is mostly tussock grass, thorny Matagouri,  (also a.k.a.”wild Irishman“)  which is a devilish bush full of thorns (some of them easily several centimetres in length) that can turn tramping (hiking) over steep high country mountains into an art form of unintended detours as you try and find a route to evade the stuff rather than to be scratched to death painfully wading though it.

Against best advice from elders, as a teenager I attempted wading though a Matagouri stand of  only  knee high bushes once and only once… it was more than enough to convince me that even stupidly long detours were well worth the effort.

However the Matagouri has several redeeming features:  On a botanical level, it is able to “fix nitrogen” from the air and enrich the poor soils it grows in. In fact they “give back” so much nutrition into the soil that they allow other less hardy plants  to live and thrive around them.

The Matagouri is very slow growing  too and can easily live long past 100 years of age.  They flower  around November but for some reason the ones near us flowered, or were still in flower  in December so we would carefully pluck off a few of the best floral branches (yes, I know that in the North Island Matagouri  is a protected species because it’s so rare, but in the South Island it grows like a weed, and anyway when I was a kid we didn’t know anything about “protected species” ).

The next “decoration” for our Christmas tree was either some lovely red Rata  or  Manuka flowers, (also see post: https://kiwidutch.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/new-post-96/  ) or even better if the weather was kind,  a  few  Pōhutukawa tree flowers.  Some tiny pockets of the High Country have micro climates and whilst  Pōhutukawa are generally found in the North Island there some in secluded parts of the South Island too.

Usually the Fates were less than kind and the  Pōhutukawa wouldn’t be in flower for long enough, so we would make do with Rata which was around in great profusion but the rare sightings of  Pōhutukawa meant that it remained special to me and I was surprised when later in life I saw large groups of them in the North Island.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

As a terrible gardener, I have usually not too much interest in non-food plants, but these New Zealand flowering Natives have always had a special place in my heart.

Once our “decorations” had been gathered the next step was to find a suitable pine tree in the plantation.

The Radiata Pines are wind-blown self-seeded pines for the most part, their height and fast growing properties making them excellent shelter-belts against the notorious hot dry Nor’west winds, but they are also an interloper that choke out New Zealand Natives without shame or guilt so felling  them for winter  firewood was never done with any remorse.

But no chain-saw or axe for our Christmas Tree,  instead, after picking out the smallest one on the edge of the plantation , it stayed happily growing in the ground as we added our floral decorations to it and then stood back and admired our handiwork. If there were wild flowers around they got woven into daisy-chains and added too. Sometimes we would find a larger branch that a Nor’ West storm had  ripped from a bigger tree and we would cart that back to the house, and decorate in the the same manner on the front lawn. (well, less “front lawn”and more “front paddock”).

The interesting thing was that the branch and it’s decorations always stayed outside. I  didn’t find out about the “inside” tree tradition with baubles etc until much much later.

So here we are in the North Island with  Pōhutukawa sightings at regular intervals, so I’m happy to take photos of a flower that I love but was a rarity in my South Island youth.

It brings back memories from my childhood and it’s even more significant that since the Pōhutukawa flowers in mid-December (more or less depending on weather and the trees geographical location) that it’s earned itself the nickname of  being  the “New Zealand Christmas tree”.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 5, 2012

Season’s ….Greetings

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

When New Zealand’s Pākehā (pronounced ‘par key har” = New Zealanders of European descent) settled in New Zealand they bought with them and adhered to the traditions they had been familiar with “back home”.

These were not just things like the fashion of the day, religious traditions, methods of farming, ways of speaking and social structure, but also their traditions concerning food.

Many things were “transferable” and in fact improved because New Zealand had better weather than northern Europe, thus longer growing seasons and a variety in the climate that allowed for many different crops in various parts of the country.

That’s why still today, Otago in the south of the South Island is as famous for it’s apricots (and other stone fruits), Blenheim for grapes and wine, as Te Puke is for Kiwifruit, Kerikeri for oranges/grapefruit, Dargaville for kumara and Katikati for avocados are in the North.

Local Maori introduced  Pākehā to vegetables like kumara (a very specific tasting variery sweet potato)  and thus began the fusion of cooking style that’s popular in New Zealand today and which is still evolving.

Back in my Grandparent’s day it was totally unthinkable for anything else to be on your Christmas Day menu than a full roast with all the trimmings. It was just what everyone “did”.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The big problem was that the New Zealand Christmas falls not at the start of winter per the Northeren Hemisphere, but at the start of a Southern Hemisphere summer.

December in New Zealand can be roughly compared to May in northern europe…

…weatherwise it’s an unpredicable month and there’s a fairly equal chance that it’s a temporate 17 C where a jersey (pull-over) is needed or a sweltering 28 C were everyone is happiest in tee-shirts and shorts and kids are running around with home-made water pistols made out of old, cleaned detergent bottles on the front lawn.

If it was the latter, then Kiwi families up and down the country literally sweated over a hot stove to get the roast onto the Christmas table and then found themselves sitting in front of a heavy meal of  roast meat, or turkey, potatoes, parsnip, carrots, pumpkin, onions, peas and gravy, and often followed by a dessert of trifle, custard etc.

Such fare is of course true winter food and delicious as such, but it’s rather heavy going if the temperature you are eating it in is closer to 30 degrees.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

During my lifetime I have seen a noticable shift in the New Zealand Christmas menu…

…mostly gone are the roast parsnips, carrots and pumpkin, there may or may not be a leg of lamb or a turkey etc but more often (at least in our circle of accquaintences) it’s being replaced by ham, regular or smoked chicken served cold, salads of many various sorts and lighter desserts like the famous New Zealand Pavlova.

New potatoes are boiled with sprigs of mint and not roasted, our freshly shelled peas picked just two days ago have been boiled and are on the table and there’s not a tankard of mulled wine in sight.

For many families, enjoying the long summer break at Christmas also means that they may or may not be at home.

They might possibly be camping, or at a “batch” (holiday home) (a.k.a. A “crib” if you hail from Otago) where stove facilites could be limited.

Wither that was the origin of the Christmas Day BBQ or not will probably never really be substantiated but more and more Kiwi’s are enjoying a Christmas Day BBQ even if they are at home to celebrate these days.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Christmas in New Zealand has definitely bcome a less formal affair. Of course there are still some people who still do the roast bird and all the trimmings but as far as I know from my own experience, most people will do something that’s a meeting in the middle, like roast meat (served hot or cold) and roast potatoes with salad.

Kiwi’s like to relax and enjoy the friends and family that have joined them and make the most of the weather.

Family Kiwidutch have been lucky enough to receive two invitations for Christmas 2011.

The first is from Rae and Pete at the B&B to join them for lunch and the second is with my Aunt and Uncle around the road for dinner as they already have a lunch engagement to attend.

We contribute to desserts and drinks and are treated to a wonderful time full of good company and food.

It’s a very different style Christmas Day than those we have in The Netherlands, but long hours of daylight and summer weather have quite rightly meant that Kiwi’s have adapted to celebrating the season according to the season…

One Christmas problem however appears to be the same no matter if you are in the northern or southern hemisphere, …the food was so delicious that despite our best intentions we all still ate too much. Look at this stuff…do you blame us? It was Christmas after all !

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 1, 2012

Christmas Lights… Southern Hemisphere Style!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The good thing about writing about this trip a short while after  the event, is that we get to have Christmas twice over!

… On one hand it might have been nice to have posted this in “real time” but reality is that there’s only so much you can get done in a day and after any activities  I really needed my afternoon naps more than I needed to be logging on and making blog posts.

My foot is healing well, and slowly but surely gaining back significant strength and flexability but since I’m still without mobility in the area directly below my toes, the crutches are still a frustrating but necessary evil. We tailor our days so that I can have time to elevate my foot, take pain relief and sleep after exercise and so far that’s working well.

My aunt and uncle tell us that there is a house a short drive away that has an amazing display of Christmas lights and decorations and that if we can keep the kids up long enough (it’s summer so darkness falls sometime around 10:30 p.m.) that we should go and enjoy the light show.

Actually they also mentioned that there’s an even bigger one around here somewhere but didn’t know the specific address.

We tried to follow their instructions involving various reference points, rights, lefts and straight-a-heads but since we have a well known penchant for getting lost, it’s hardly a surprise that in the end we gave up driving around in circles and were content with a visit to just one really well decorated house.

The night is warm, it’s now well dark and the festively dressed gentleman owner is outside to welcome people who are loitering on the footpath  wanting to look but a little unsure if they should proceed further onto the property.

He assures us that we are all welcome to come up the side path and up to the front window to see it all.

Amazingly many parts of the display are mobile, the little group of deer at the back of the property gently sway their heads, the santa and snowman see-saw actually moves like one, and the myriad of little houses etc that are displayed in the front windows have combinations of winking or changing colour lights, skating, walking or turning figures, and even one with four tiers with trains of decreasing sizes going around on each level.

Around the roof of the house, along the fences and in the trees there are lights, lights and more lights.

I took photographs but they really can’t communicate the amazing atmosphere that was generated around this garden, Christmas music poured softly out of the door of the house and it was lovely.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

To be honest, Christmas decorating of this type is only just starting to catch on in the Netherlands, in recent years a few people go all out, often using the limited space that their balconies provide and but mostly people decorate simply or not at all.

We have a set of little lights that we can tape to our front window, and yes you can set them to flash annoyingly, disco style, but we prefer the slow colour change setting.

I’m in two minds… I like the fact that our lights and others like them bring a little cheer into a dark and cold winter street…

…some of the decorations inject a little brightness and  humour and as a parent the game of  “spotting” these lights in house windows or balconies is brilliant for distracting grumpy, fighting children who are sitting in the car, tired out at the end of long days of whirlwind of pre-Christmas events …but sometimes when the various bits are thrown together they can look a bit disjointed and tacky.

I like “tat”and “kitch” sometimes but in severe moderation… and I can never quite put my finger on why I might like one decoration and say  “ooh, that’s sweet” and then go “um, maaaybe not” or “over my dead body” to the next.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Like most things in life, personal preference is everything.

Most of these bits and pieces are cute…but maybe the piled up soft toys (I didn’t take a photo) or the parachuting Santa were a step too far?

One item tried to be cute but looked a bit strange to me… a blow-up Santa inside a plastic blow-up ball, it as supposed to be a snow-globe, was plugged in and there were zillions of tiny polystyrene balls being blown around inside it …

…but I thought it looked like Santa was trapped inside a plastic bubble since you could hardly see the tiny balls and they certainly didn’t show up in my photos.

All in all though this was an amazing display and I loved it, the atmosphere was really magical and people were stopping and coming for a look from far and wide.

I talked to the owner of the house and he said that it took weeks and weeks of preperation, but that when he saw the smiles on people’s faces it was all worth it.

I certainly appreciated his hard work… the photos don’t really do it justice… it’s magical!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This Santa is huge! (it’s tied to a fence that about 1.8 m / 6 feet tall)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Parachute Santa…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I think these are kitch… but cute. What do you think?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 13, 2012

A Little Light Show on the way Home…

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY,SINGAPORE,Travel — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,

We have completed our Night Safari Tour and are heading back into the city of Singapore where we will need to transfer busses and then be dropped off back at our hotel on Sentosa Island. As we travel into the central business district we are delighted by the massive display of Christmas Lights… everywhere you turn, streets and building are lit up…

…like Christmas trees!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(next photo is included because it’s a double deck bus next to a single deck bus, Little Mr. thinks this is ultimate coolness)…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

December 25, 2011

Christmas is All About a Very Special Birth… The Miracle of Life (and the Distorted Facts)

Filed under: Funny,Kids and Family,LIFE,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Today is Christmas Day and millions of people around the world will be celebrating it whatever way suits their style and traditions best.  Of course not all people observe Christmas, but for people of  the Christian faith it is one of the most  important dates in the calendar year.

I’m sure that not just the birth of Jesus, but all impending births and the the miracle of Life have inspired many misconceptions and mirth because of misunderstandings of the events in progress by children.

I remember the story told by my New Zealand Grandmother:  in generations past it was not uncommon for young children to be farmed out to live with other relatives when a new pregancy became really obvious and the children were only brought back once the new arrival had been “delivered” by the “stork”.

Naturally at this time the Facts of Life were a taboo subject and little or no information was given in explaination as to where babies actually came from at any  time in many families.

My Grandma once recounted how one of my uncles asked where his new baby brother had come from and when he was told that they had got him  “from under the cabbages”  he horrified my Grandfather (a very serious veggie gardener) by cutting off a whole row of cabbage heads  because he was “looking for another brother”.

Even sadder was that he got punished for doing so, even when the error had been on the part of the parents and what he had done,  he had done in innocence and childish ignorance.

Luckily these days we are far more enlightened and I have been having “the talk”  with Kiwi Daughter on the “Facts of Life”.

To be honest I had been dreading it, thinking it would be an embarrassing topic to explain, and Yes, when she was four, it was, but mostly that was because it’s so hard to know how to phrase things in a very simple way and four year olds have a habit of asking questions at the most inopportune moment and in a manner that throw you completely off guard.

Now that Kiwi Daughter is ten, and trying to ask intelligent questions, I’ve been surprised about how easy it’s been to just sit and have “little chats”  with her.

A very good  friend of ours is pregnant and this impending event has been the inspiration for some very interesting conversations with our children as they see her tummy grow bigger.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Little Mr’s. reaction: “Does that mean you are having a little kid?” (well we don’t think he means the baby goat variety, but baby human-being sort) so,  “Yes“…

The conversation thereafter flowed simultaneously on two completely different levels, Little Mr having a rather edited version of the facts about babies than Kiwi Daughter who is almost 4 years older.

Kiwi Daughter asks about her own birth (natural) and Little Mr. his, (emergency caesarian section for medical reasons) so he knows that he quite literally came out of Mama’s tummy. He did however think a bit and all of a sudden he asked ” What do they do with the left over  bit of tummy“?

(yep…  you got me there, would have suited me fine if they had taken it away and not just sewed it up).

Kiwi Daughter on the other hand has in recent months had sex education at school and she and I have been having some in-depth discussions at home about all the upcoming changes that puberty will bring.

Most of these little chats stem from questions that she has, where obviously the exact and precise deails were not made clear, or if they were she didn’t  get it.

All of a sudden she started to giggle, and then she confessed that she had been quite shocked when it became apparent in the lesson that whan a lady has a baby, that her big stomach doesn’t instantamously just deflate the second the baby exits.

(After two kids, sigh, I wish)

… the look on her face and the question “Is that really how it is Mama?”  I said Yes, that’s how it really is, the Mama’s tummy slowly stretches and grows as the baby gets bigger, and then after the baby is born it takes time for all the muscles and skin (and a lot of exercise) to get back to the way they were before.

It transpired that Kiwidaughter had visions of the process being as simple as blowing up a balloon and just then letting the air rush out afterwards…

hmmm…  … jet prepolsion birth anyone?

The wonder of a new soul arriving into the world should be a happy event every time and for me each and every new baby is a Mircale of Life… complex, amazing, beautiful, full of promise, potential and hope…

Be it the Christ Child or any child, I hope that we keep true to the values of trust, honesty and faithfulness in all things and that we also learn to look at life though the innocent, delightful, wondrous eyes of a child… and giggle a bit and have fun too.

Whatever you believe (or maybe not, since that is a very personal choice) I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and whatever your day brings, I hope that your day today is spent with someone you love.

Merry Christmas!

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.