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.

1 comment:

daphne said...

Merry Christmas to you too!

Imagine, me sitting here at my desk, actually waiting for your blog to pop up ;) It was well worth the wait.

As for the skating: the icerinks are all very busy - so, if you are heading for the east of the country, you are sure to be able to skate. Also, some schools pour water over the schoolyard, so the kids can skate, unfortunately, not around here.

I remember my mother making a hedgehog for my birthday treats - i loved that hedgehog so much, i didn't want to give the treats to the other children in class...

Well - i'd better get on with my Eglantine Price and Emilius Brown fanfic.

Work? nah, work is for sissies ;)

love, daphne