Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Chaos


Oh, the weather outside is frightful . . . 

We've been suffering through freezing temperatures this last week.  Actually, it's just the Dutch who have been suffering.  I've been suffering only for a lack of snow and ice, but I'm hanging on to the hope that the chill will last just long enough to put a couple more inches of ice on the tops of the canals so we can go ice skating for Christmas or New Year.  Nobody here wants to hang on to that hope, even though they each count back how many years it's been since the last time they were able to have ice skating parties.  It's a big deal when the canals freeze over; they set up hot cocoa stands along the ice and rent out ice skates.  I couldn't really tell you in detail as I've only heard the stories.  You'd think by the Christmas card images you see of the Dutch canals frozen over and people skating on them with the windmills in the background that it is a regular occurrence, but in reality it has been somewhere between 10 and 13 since the last time the Dutch people have been able to ice skate.  That they can't seem to remember how many years it actually has been is testament to the fact that it has been too long.  I suppose global warming has reached even the lowlands.  Still, each time I see the ice on the water and the cluster of ducks hanging out in the little spot left open in the middle I get a little thrill that we might just have shipped our ice skates with us for a reason.

In the meantime I've been preparing for several celebrations.  Martha and I know each other on a first name basis now.  We've consulted each other on many a project over the last week and I think I've convinced her to change several recipes and even some of her templates.  As a result my projects have turned out a considerable higher quality from hers as I'm sure you're bound to agree when you see the provided photos (yes, I'm begging for compliments).

Last night was the children's winter gala.  Every age gets dressed as if heading out for an evening at the prom with sparkles and glitter and gems.  Even the gents put on coat tails and hair gel.  Unlike America there is no Christmas program.  Instead the children enjoy a candlelit dinner in their decorated classrooms and only at the end of their fun-filled evening do the parents "happen" to hear them singing carols when they show up about 10 minutes early to pick them up.  The parents provide the delicacies for the Christmas dinner and so this is what I contributed.Christmas Package of Cheese

The children wouldn't eat it either because there were Christmas cookies to be eaten instead, or because it had red spots, but the teachers claimed to love it.  It didn't hurt us to finish it off after the children were sound asleep in their beds either.

Seeing that it is Squirrel Monkey's birthday during the holidays we decided to celebrate it at school beforehand.  Again, a whole different set of traditions happen for school children here on their birthdays.  For one, the first half hour is dedicated to celebrating his/her birthday and we, the parents and non-school-aged siblings, were encouraged to sit in.  Songs are sung, games are played, and candles are blown out.  The child then takes one friend, a large card, and sweets from classroom to classroom for signatures and stickers and well wishes from each of the teachers.  And instead of bringing a box of Safeway cupcakes, the children bring something of the equivalent of party favors (bags full of candy and little toys) to pass out to each of their classmates at the end of the day.  My child picked a special little gift box off Martha's website and I was more than happy to oblige . . . until it came to putting the boxes together.  The cookies to fill them were fun to make, but then to find 3" square boxes to fit them into?  Impossible.  I spent days searching store to store for them, only to fail.  So, I chose to do something even more impossible: redesign Martha's print-out template to create a box, instead of the intended slip cover for the impossible to find 3" square box.  After several hours of fiddling on Paint.NET and finally printing them out on heavy weight paper came the hours of tedious cutting and gluing.  I have not used a glue stick since I was in grade school and I tell you now, don't go back to those days!!  It's a mess and a horrible frustration.  Did you know you have to hold those edges Birthday Boxes Full of Christmas Cookiestogether until they dry?  Each and every wall of those 20 little houses!?!  The outcome was beautiful and my daughter was enchanted with them, but I will NEVER do this again.  Well, maybe if I wasn't passing them out to 20 little kindergartners.  Perhaps when their parents help hang them on the Christmas tree I'll get a little deserved recognition, but that isn't why I did it, did I?  No, I did it to see my little girl jump up and down with giggles and twinkles in her eye when she saw the tray of canal houses waiting for her on the morn of her birthday celebration.

Now I just have to keep my mind off of the ball I'm throwing for my little 5-year-old the weekend after Christmas and concentrate on Christmas itself.  I've got very little time to prepare for the dinner itself, let alone the stocking stuffers and extra little items to stuff under the tree on Christmas morn.  I still haven't wrapped those presents their grandma shipped over almost a month ago now.  We'll be heading to Kalverstraat on Saturday for some of those last minute items and then I'll be ready to settle in for Christmas.  I've got lots of ideas from a Sinterklaas gift, a BBC cooking magazine, so I'll be cooking up Jamie and Gordon's best dishes.  Jungle Dad has requested there be 12 days of Christmas this year after he's seen all the recipes I've been pouring over so I'll do my best to accommodate his appetite.

This will likely be my last blog until after Christmas so "Merry Christmas" to all!  Spend it in good cheer and with lots of love and hugs for the family members you can hold close to you this year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

We Favor Rejects

As a child we've each had our favorite stuffed animal from time to time.  Not unlike the rest of us, our babies have each happened to fall in love with bunnies, but not just any bunnies.  Please let me explain my bewildered state of mind over their choice in childhood loves.

The first animal my daughter, Spider Monkey, fell in love with was a scrawny pink bunny my mother had sent as an extra little something in an Easter-themed gift box.  I loved everything in the box, but that ugly cheap bunny.  It wasn't your really soft and cuddly top of the line version of a stuffed animal and came attached with wires in its ears to keep them positioned straight up in the air.  She had so many other really lovely and expensive stuffed animals already that I admit I was very tempted to throw the scraggly thing out, but I never got the chance.  She grabbed onto those ears and didn't let got for years.  In almost every picture of her from that time until the age of 4 or 5 she's dragging that bunny around behind her.  The wires gave out and ended up in balls at the base of the ears closest to the head, the color is faded after many many a wash but is still recognizable as pink, though I can't say that for the ribbon around her neck except that it hasn't been lost, and the fur is just as scraggly as it was the first day we got it but hasn't sustained any rips or bare spots.  This bunny has lost it's "favorite" position in her long line of stuffed animals, but has a prime position on her bed every night none the less.

When Squirrel Monkey was just and infant we were invited over to a professors house who had two girls and a basement stacked to the ceiling with boxes of cloths.  She littered her living room floor with box after box of cloths and even though we left with bags of clothing I failed to make a noticeable dent in her collection.  In a last attempt to create some space in her home she pulled out a box of baby toys as we were opening the door to leave.  Already a house who had seen one baby and knowing there were more baby toys than I, myself, could store awaiting me at my own home I tried to pry the rest of my family away from the box.  If you think it's hard prying a 3-year-old away from a box of toys, try prying a grown man away from one.  He was set on bringing home a large connectivity set with marbles and things and last, but not least, a white and pink bunny with an elastic strap on its head that squeaked sweetly when bounced up and down.  I laugh at myself when I recall the fight I put up over this tiny addition to our family.  Again, my thought was the space in my tiny student-sized house and the many other possibilities of stuffed animals already existing at our house that in time she could fall in love with.  It is rare that my man will put his oar in with regards to anything baby, so I relented and stuffed the thing in one of the bags in exchange for leaving the clutter of maze pieces and marbles behind.  Once home he dug through those bags and pulled out the stuffed bunny enchanting her into a long relationship with the bunny.  This bunny remains her favorite stuffed animal and sleeps in her arms every night to this day.  It was once forgotten at her grandparents lake cabin in Montana and the adventure is etched in the annals of our family.  The elastic strap used to bounce her up and down still serves its purpose even though it has given up its elastic abilities, the squeaker still squeaks just as pleasantly as the first time we heard it, though the thin fabric encasing it and its sea of beads is threadbare and almost see-through and the soft face has been kissed so many times on its nose that all the softness has disappeared leaving a bare patch of fabric which is still kissed long and hard regardless.

With the knowledge that my babies each had an affinity for bunnies I was determined not to let my third choose her own undesirable version.  I was 9-months pregnant and on a mission to find a beautiful stuffed bunny for my baby to attach herself to.  I waddled the mall up and down with tot, Squirrel Monkey, in tow.  For hours I wandered from one store to the next in search of the perfect bunny for my baby until I found a snuggly soft white Ty bunny.  The bunny came to the hospital with us and snuggled her from birth, but as the months wore on she showed no particular interest in the softness or the sweetness of this hard sought after bunny.  Still, we brought the bunny with us to the Netherlands and I continued my efforts.  Our new friends here began donating bags of toys and clothing (accepted gratefully since we came with only a few suitcases of cloths for our whole family) and after I let the children sift through and play with everything I started pulling aside the toys they didn't seem to take an interest in.  One of the items I tucked away into a reject box was a small yellow bunny with an ugly plaid bow, but wouldn't you know that would be the one item all three of my children lamented over when it went missing.  The big sisters scavenged the house until they found my hidden reject box and pulled that bunny right back out and presented it to the littlest of our monkeys, who welcomed it back with open and eager arms.  They've been inseparable since.  And my beautiful and soft white bunny?  I have not given up complete hope.  She tends to sleep with both in her arms, but when she cries out in tears, "Bunny!!!", we all know she's calling for the little yellow one.  I foresee the short rough fur taking a beating in the washing machine for many years to come without affect and possibly the ugly plaid bow will eventually fade into something more becoming or happen to get lost somewhere between washing machine and baby arms . . .

Old-Time Fudge

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes


  • 2  cups sugar
  • 3/4  cup milk
  • 2  ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut up
  • 1  teaspoon light-colored corn syrup
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2  cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 2  tablespoons butter

1. Line a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter foil; set pan aside.

2. Butter the sides of a heavy 2-quart saucepan. In saucepan combine sugar, milk, chocolate, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Reduce heat to medium-low; continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, stirring frequently, until thermometer registers 234 degrees F, soft-ball stage (20 to 25 minutes).

3. Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter and vanilla, but do not stir. Cool, without stirring, to 110 degrees F (about 55 minutes).

4. Remove thermometer from saucepan. Beat mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon until fudge just begins to thicken. If desired, add nuts. Continue beating until the fudge becomes very thick and just starts to lose its gloss (about 10 minutes total).

5. Immediately spread fudge in the prepared pan. Score into squares while warm. When fudge is firm, use foil to lift it out of pan. Cut fudge into squares. Store tightly covered. Makes about 1-1/4 pounds (32 pieces).

Make-Ahead Tip: Up to 2 weeks ahead, prepare fudge. Store as directed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Decking the Halls + Best Puke Day Yet

Just call me Martha! I haven't been posting this last week because I've been up to my ears in creativity. I finished off a few final Christmas gifts which I'm leaving undisclosed for the moment due to certain readers. Suffice it to say it was the equivalent of writing, illustrating, and printing two books. The work that went into them can't be fully appreciated and I doubt I will ever take up the hobby full time because it was such a disappointment to have to do it all alone. There are several groups for this type of hobby back in the states and now I know why people get together to do this. Much like quilting, it's better with company. Otherwise it was just me with a mess spreading across the table and three rambunctious children screaming wildly through the house uninhibited.

My second project was to use up a bag full of beads which I had purchased last year for a project I never got around to. Homemade IcicleI had bought several varieties and brought them home to match up with the colors in our bedroom intending on returning the rejects. I was still learning and the lesson from this experience was that sale items were not returnable, even if you actually returned them within the one week deadline stated on the receipt. I was so disappointed at having to spent 70 euros for beads I'd only use a quarter of that the whole project became a sore in the back of my mind best left completely alone.) While looking through some original ideas for Christmas ornament projects I could do with the girls I ran across this one. I envisioned myself wrapping up tassels, stringing them to the end of wire, passing them one by one to my children and watching them create one beautiful icicle after another. Little did I know how impossible it would be to, one, figure out how to create a tiny tassel and, two, interpret Martha's 4-step tassel how-to with a tiny photo of the four steps not any bigger than the tassel I was attempting to make. Here I was, so proud of myself for having purchased the extra materials while the kids were in school and had all my supplies on hand by the time they were done with their after school snack to sit down together and create, but I failed to realize there was a flaw in my plan. It didn't take long for the kids to figure out they wouldn't be stringing beads onto provided wire in a jiffy after mom threw a temper tantrum or two and banished them to the attic while I tried to figure out the instructions within the comfortable confines of silence. I think it was too late, I'd already muddled my brain as to how I thought my fingers should proceed and it was an hour and a half later that I'd actually created a complete and beautiful tassel. Sigh . . . It didn't take too long after that to get four strings made, ready and waiting at the abandoned posts, and I was soon keeping up with their fast demand. I made as many strings out of as much rope I had bought to tassel with and we'd still only used a quarter of those beads. Still, I'm a happier person now that I've created a Christmas masterpiece (mind you, even with moments of peace) with my children.

Candy FaceMy next project was old-fashioned fudge which was meant to replace our "traditional" marshmallow mixture fudge. Not having access to the jars of marshmallow here in the Netherlands I took my new candy thermometer and ventured into the world of "real" fudge. I was intimidated. My mother scorned me in recent years saying her new fiance could make "real fudge, not that fake marshmallow kind" and I've since been dared to achieve it and, simultaneously, scared to fail. The chance presented itself this weekend and I pounced with determination. I succeeded and my husband has since begged me to trash all other recipes for this melt-in-your-mouth fudge. I set aside the best pieces for a dinner party we were invited to and saved the scruffy edges for our tree decorating evening.

My neuroscientist husband had a rat to take care of this weekend so we didn't see much of him. I was very disappointed that we did not have time to get a Christmas tree on Saturday and by Sunday I'd given up on the whole idea and figured all that fudge would be eaten throughout the rest of the week without the Christmas tree tradition. Then, around 5:30 Sunday evening, my man came tromping in through the back gate with a Christmas tree over his shoulders. He'd found the last one in a the next town over and walked with it the entire way home. I'd say he made up for missing the family outing last year. Hmmmmm . . . it seems I have left it out of the blog last year probably because of the heart breaking effect it had on me. I suppose you'll want a recap:

I'd learned of the places I could find a Christmas tree from a new friend, although she didn't realize we had only our bikes to get us to and from and the place she entioned was not easily found via bike. Still, I was willing to attempt the process with the reward being great activities and concessions to be found and the kids were guaranteed to love it. I'd planned the day out starting with traveling to pick up the tree, bringing it home, eating sweets, and decorating it with the few items we'd picked up here and there during our holiday shopping. The key to this day was actually having my husband come home from the office at a prearranged time. The girls and I waited hour upon hour for him to come home and we could wait no longer. The table was set with sweets, the floor was cleared for the tree, and yet there was no father to take us on the excursion. They were in tears and I gave them the option: wait for another day when dad can join us or head out on the bike right now to pick up a tree on our own. They have proven to be as impulsive as I and so I was not surprised at their immediate answer. We headed out into the cold and rainy night to find our tree. Because we only had an hour left before the stores closed I only visited the nursery down the road. We bagged the tree and went in search of a stand with no luck. I reached the conclusion that nowhere near had a stand for purchase and, determined to put the tree up that night, I stopped by said friends house and begged to use a spare stand in promise of eventually purchasing them a new one whenever I found a place that sold them. So off I went in tears through the rain with wet kids and tree piled in between them in the stroller behind my bike. We returned home to find the man of the house waiting for us. He'd chosen to spend 50 euros on a taxi to try and get home before the stores closed, but missed us anyway. It was one of the most miserable nights I remember of last winter. The tree was hacked into a pencil shape to fit into the borrowed stand and decorated in strange silence.

This year was just the opposite. Everyone was so thrilled to see a Christmas tree come through the door with Dad. Nobody was disappointed that it wasn't obtained in our traditional family adventure, but then you can hardly call picking up a pre-cut Christmas tree at a store the kind of outing we're used to. The table was quickly adorned with the home-made fudge, candy canes shipped from Grandma and Grandpa in America, hot chocolate with whipped cream on top and hot buttered rum for mom and dad. The tree was adorned with the newly made icicles and topped with the angel we brought with us from the states that my mother had made. The evening was perfect aside from the fact that Squirrel Monkey was ill.Illness

She had taken ill suddenly upon arriving at our friends place for dinner the night before and we ended up leaving early because she was hovering over the toilet expecting the worst. She slept through the night, but awoke with a fever and aches in the morning. Literally, just as Dad walked out the door for work she threw up. I have learned not to take her bought's with puke days lightly as they normally result in a hospital stay for rehydration so I stepped up my efforts to keep her hydrated. I thoroughly expected her to fill the bucket every 5 to 10 minutes as usual, but instead the times she threw up could be counted on one hand from the time her father walked out the door to the entrance of the Christmas tree. Still, she lay limp and listless through the evening only peaking out of the slit of an eye to watch the decorating process, though she did partake in a candy cane as we thought the sugar and peppermint may do her some good.

At the time I am writing this blog she is eating her first full meal of oatmeal and apple and only running a low grade fever of 100.8 F. You've no idea how happy I am not to have ended up in the hospital again. That right there is something to be thankful for this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"Fork, please."

Continued . . .

The latest in a series of Screech Monkey antics just so happened to make quite a scene in front of the entire Sinterklaas party. We all know that the jungle brings with it it's own amusement where ever it goes and Screech was determined that this party should be no exception.

Lately our little two-year-old has had a fascination with forks and requires the use of one whatever the meal in front of her consists of. If she finds her place setting void of one of these required elements she will let the household know of the mistake by yelling out, "Oh, f__k!" as that is her best attempt at forming her little mouth around the word. Usually the incident occurs within our earshot only and we giggle it off, even as she repeats the word in utter frustration if we take too long in fishing one out of the silverware drawer, "F . . . ck! Fu . . . k! F. . . ck!". It made several giggles during Thanksgiving with family and friends durning which she was so happy to have received an adult size fork resulting in, "Look! Big fu . . . k!" Or maybe you can imagine the times when she drops it on the floor and while longingly reaching out for it exclaims with an long, drawn out "F . . . . k!"

This continued to be pronunciation disaster even into yesterday. As mentioned, she's fascinated with the particular utensil and not only requires one for eating, but refuses to let it go even when she's done. Not restrained to her usual highchair at the party, she took to running off her sugar high in circles around the room with her favorite "f__k" between bites while I desperately chased her down and either stole the said item out of her grasp or returned her to her plate. In the process of reaching for the dangerous utensil during one of these attempts one of my flailing appendages strait-armed her in mid stride. My other hand thankfully acquired its target before the child was flung flat on her back onto the hardwood floor. The damage was more shock than pain and would have been forgotten if she hadn't realized her beloved "f__k" was MIA. Amongst her screeches of pain she began mourning the sudden loss by reproachfully calling out for her lost implement . . . over and over again in the midst of concerned onlookers, including Grandma. If you can imagine the sight my swearing child made at that moment than you've got an acute sense of humor and are worthy of reading the adventures and scrapes Our Blooming Jungle can get itself into. A mispronunciation for the baby book indeed.

For the record: we are working on correcting this obscene behavior, it's just taking a bit of time.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Weekend With Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas and his Piets arrived in the Netherlands several weeks ago and we were among the crowds to greet him when he dropped anchor in our own little port just the other side of the town center. Boat loads of Black Pete's (Zwarte Piets) pulled up first and flooded the banks showering the awaiting crowds with tiny treats. Sinterklaas surprised us this year by rounding the corner in a car instead of taking the boat. We figured he's had enough of sailing since he'd come all the way from Spain and wanted to get his land legs back. We may have heard his explanation if Squirrel Monkey hadn't decided she could no longer hold her potty in and began crying in fetal position on the wet lawn. We were forced to exit the crowded park and find the nearest toilet which was many blocks away. By this time the family was ready to call it a day and we left disappointed in not having had the pleasure to hear Sinterklaas speak. He's paid us regular visits anyway dropping off chocolate letters, little cookies, and various little toys in our shoes if we remember to line them up at night and sing a song for him to hear. Actually, he's taken it easy on us as we're still so new to this region and he'll drop things in our shoes if we forget to sing, which we seem to have a problem remembering to do. He's leaving the Netherlands in a day or two and is making his final rounds and saying goodbye to all the little children and their grown parents, so we've seen a lot of him lately.

He stopped by the local Albert Hein on Saturday afternoon to fill a few shoes with goodies so we met him there while we picked up the kids' shoes. This was something Spider Monkey had been hesitant to do from the beginning. The week before his expected visit we were riding over with a shoe in each basket we stopped along the way to drop off a bag of dirty diapers in the diaper recycling bin she called me to a halt. "Mom, do we really have to go to Albert Hein? I mean, where are we going to put our shoes there? I feel kind of funny about this . . . do the Dutch people leave their shoes at the grocery store for Sinterklaas?" I laughed and assured her that if we didn't leave our shoes at the grocery store for Sinterklaas they'd certainly guess we weren't Dutch. Still a bit wary and reluctant to walk into the store with an old shoe in hand, she walked in to find a large table front and center overflowing with children's shoes. Each one of these children showed up on Saturday to claim their shoes and a rightful position on Sinterklaas's lap for a photo op and a bag of Albert Hein goodies from Zwarte Piet.

After returning home the girls could not keep their hands out of these bags and began devouring bags of chips, chocolate letters, skittles, yogurt juice boxes, and oranges with their new Zwarte Piet hats on. We were just in time to welcome good friends, Daphne and Bob, to our home. They must have run into Sinterklaas on their way over because he'd given them a few presents to give to the girls which he hadn't had time to slip into their shoes the night before. The girls delighted over their new toys and things while the adults spread out a table of all the season's goodies: candy, cookies, chocolate, and more. The evening progressed appropriately with handfuls of sweets and a dinner of powdered sugar covered poffertjes until we got to the hot chocolate. Between what happened next and our guests dreadful fear of cats I doubt they'll ever spend another evening in the Jackson Jungle.

First, we dished out the warm chocolate milk topped with whipped cream something which we have each done at one time or another happened, but for Squirrel Monkey it was her first time. She couldn't resist the hot chocolate and took a big sip of the scalding hot liquid and promptly spewed it all out over her pj's which resulted in a blistering mouth and bright red and burning legs. The scream which resulted is still reverberating through the house. We were just getting our hearing back and our nerves settled when the second incident occurred. Everyone was finishing their final sips of the delicious Dutch chocolate milk and Screech Monkey sat at the end of the table licking her lips. I was relishing the peace of the moment, for there had been few this evening. A momentary look of concern crossed her face and we watched as she did the cute little baby thing of pulling up her shirt and looking at her tummy. Just as I was about to comment on that big round tummy full of yummies she looked up and emptied them all onto herself and the floor. As I said, it was a date set up to be wonderful and yet determined to be full of the regular ruckus.

Sunday we attempted another get together with our adopted family, the Brinkhuijsen's. It is customary for families to get together and celebrate Sinterklaas on the day of his departure from the Netherlands to his "retirement" home in Spain. It is difficult to explain the traditional gift giving ritual as it is very quirky and while trying to explain this among other traditions they just settled on inviting us into their family circle for the celebration. It was a memory never to be forgotten. Sinterklaas paid us a visit bringing along a few Zwarte Piets and even discussing each of our habits or bits of daily life he takes a particular interest in with us. Each child got a chance to sit on his lap and talk with him about the things he was most interested about in their life. The girls were still talking about their close encounter with the fatherly figure as they tucked under the covers for bed. He left behind a series of clues and games to help find several bags of wrapped presents for the family which the kids undertook with skill. Each family member took turns opening their gift and picking a present out for the next family member until the bag was empty, as well as our stomachs. As the day progressed we ate food and and followed clues and opened gifts at intervals until the grand finale: the adult presents. This is when it gets a little tricky to describe, so think quirky thoughts (No, Dad, not those kind of adult presents!). This family does as we sometimes do for Christmas and they draw names to pick who is going to give a gift to whom. The person who you pick will likely have something unique about them and that is what you have to work with. It can be something to make fun of or it can be their hobby or about some recent incident which happened with them. So, you pick your "surprise" (pronounced in the French way), gag or good, and "wrap it" in something fitting. I say "wrap" rather loosely because this is the word which threw me off. The gift themselves are actually wrapped in wrapping paper, but the wrapped gift is encased in some form of the present which represents the gift and/or the person whom it is meant for. Example: My gifts were related to my cake decorating and were inside two boxes created to look like a staked cake, even with the candles on top! Along with each gift the present giver must make a Dutch rhyme/poem (Sinterklaasgedicht) about the gift and it is usually quite funny. These little ditties have to be read aloud to the room, of course. I have a feeling I still did not portray this exchange of gifts properly, but imagine an even more creative white elephant party with assigned gifts to fit each personality. It really was fun and the gifts really did fit each person.

An event took place at this final farewell party which brings up a topic worthy of it's own blog.

To be continued . . .