Sunday, 31 May 2015

Knights for a Day at Dutch Slot Loevestein

Last Monday was 'Castle Day' in The Netherlands so we headed to Slot Loevestein. The boys revelled dressing up as knights - even the biggest boy of the family. I'm proud to present my husband.

I'll write more about Slot Loevestein I'm sure but for now - it's a lovely castle to visit and well worth putting on your Netherlands bucket list. My only tip would be to choose a quieter day than we did to go back in time and relive the days of knights and princesses - those narrow spiral staircases proved a little scary with small children when busy so any day except last Monday is good I am guessing..........


Wednesday, 27 May 2015

20 Signs You're Almost Ingeburgerd in the Netherlands

When you have lived long enough in the land of the Dutch some things become such a normal part of your life that you no longer give them a second thought. These are the things you do when you are an expat in the Netherlands but are well and truly on your way to an ingeburgerd (yes, of course that's a real word) state.
  1. You have orange clothes tucked away in your wardrobe especially for King's Day and those major international football tournaments. Oranjegekte is something you can really get behind.
  2. You own a pair of ice skates and there's a good chance you've used them on natuurijs and not just at a skating ring.
  3. You own a gourmet set and are hellbent on using it at Easter and Christmastime, and probably any other celebratory occasion you care to dream up.
  4. You don't even flinch when you see hoards of Zwarte Pieten descending on your home town in November. 

  5. You don't even blink when you see a child pour half a box of coloured sprinkles on their heavily buttered bread and have even been known to partake yourself in a little hagelslag fun.
  6. You contemplate whether you could actually spell arbeidsongeschiktheidsverzekering using the letters you have on your Scrabble rack.
  7. You don't gasp in shock when someone utters "Jij kunt" to you.
  8. Sausage floating in your thick dark green soup doesn't scare you.
  9. You and your bicycle have become one. It's like a Siamese twin with wheels.
  10. You search out three for two offers in the supermarket and cram your trolley full of said items in multiples of three even though you don't need even one of the product. you know, just like every other Dutchman around you, that gratis is gratis.
  11. HAVO, MAVO, MBO and VBO actually mean something to you.
  12. It feels like you have scored a bargain when a toilet visit is only 25 cents.
  13. You own both a kaasschaaf and a potato masher and you are not afraid to use them. 
  14. It's Calve pindakaas, or no pindakaas.
  15. You've started watching the Winter Olympics because for the first time in your life you actually have some kind of association with those winning the gold medals. (This may actually only be applicable to British expats.)
  16. You no longer fear the contents of UFOs (Unidentified Fried Objects) you see lying in the coolers of every snack bar you walk into.
  17. You leave your curtains undrawn (or don't bother putting any up at all) and actually wave at passers-by.
  18. You've accepted that oven gloves turned into oven glove and you just take everything out of your small oven with one hand now.
  19. The farmer wants a wife is more than a song to you, it's good TV.
  20. Your throat growls and regurgitates the 'g' sound so well that your non-Dutch relatives look somewhere between scared and concerned every time you say "Goed zo!" to a passing native.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

A British Sunday Pudding

Sometimes, just sometimes, I make a pudding on a Sunday that reminds me that I'm British. Today is one of those days. There's a rhubarb crumble I've just made sitting waiting to dive into the oven. We'll devour eat it later slathered with custard.

What's your favourite British pudding?


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Book Review: Pixie's New Home

Pixie's New Home, written by Emmanuelle Payot Karpathakis and published by Summertime Publishing, is aimed at children between the ages of three and five who are moving to a new home.

Pixie is a donkey who learns that she will leave behind her friend Lila to move to a garden where the grass is greener. At first Pixie is curious about the adventure that lies ahead of her but is then sad at what she will lose. However, she is quickly comfortable in her new environment and makes a new friend, but keeps her old friend in her heart.

The story is short and simple and allows children to follow the emotional stages of a relocation in language they understand. It also sends them the message that it is okay to be sad when they move to a new place.

Furthermore the book is beautifully illustrated in striking colours that is sure to captivate any little globetrotter. At the end of the story there is a colouring page and space for a child to draw their current home and how they imagine their new home will look.

The author has lived in five different countries and has four children of her own as well as being a relocation coach - all factors that qualify her to write this wonderful little story to help young children wrap their heads around the idea of moving.

Pixie's New Home is a great resource to get parents and children talking about relocation and to explain to small children that they will make new friends and adapt to their new home.

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Culture of Health and Safety: Ever Been Tempted to See What Happens if You Put Your Head in the Path of a Plane Propellor?

I recently returned to England for a couple of days and for the first time in many years I actually flew. The idea was to fly to Southampton from Amsterdam but some wise guy apparently thought parking our plane in the vicinity of Rotterdam was easier. Hence we were bussed from the Schiphol airport departure lounge to the plane. (For those not au fait with the British sense of humour, the plane was not actually parked in Rotterdam..... but it might as well have been given how long our bus ride was.)

We piled off the bus onto the Schiphol airport tarmac and formed a semi-orderly queue to go up the plane steps. (The reason I say semi-orderly is because there were Brits and many a Dutchman queueing. I think we all know which nationality was orderly and which nationality needs some serious queueing schooling and no one needs to be publicly shamed. Toch?) 

The plane was a little one. Not like a 'two seater' little one, but it certainly wasn't a jumbo jet. The little plane had little propellors, which were slowly turning while we queued to get onto the plane.

Surprisingly no one leapt from the queue to put their head in the way of the propellors, just to see what would happen. In fact, no one moved out of the semi-orderly line at all and instead continued to shuffle forward to get on the plane. No deaths, beheadings, or even slight mutilations. Common sense and self-preservation prevailed.

My return flight from Southampton a few days later involved us walking a few meters from the departure gate to the airplane steps. Same type of airplane. Little. Same little propellors except this time there was no movement from them at all. However, we were all mighty relieved to know despite their non-movement we were kept safe by British health and safety measures.

Thanks to a fluorescent green band placed strategically around the side of the plane no passenger could end up in a dangerous life threatening incident. No passenger could any closer to the plane than the steps leading up to its front door. No chance of a confused pensioner heading for the back of the plane, no possibility that a tall Dutchman should bang his noggin against the wing and certainly no room for a freak accident involving a propellor and a curious passenger.

And if we hadn't seen the fluorescent green tape lining the plane perimeter airport personnel donned in fluorescent green jackets were strategically placed to ensure no passenger straying. In short, the only way any passenger was getting anywhere near the plane was upwards via the steps.

I've heard lots of expats living in Britain talking about the craziness of health and safety policies there. I've also heard lots of things from family, particularly when they are over here in the Netherlands and pointing out situations that would NEVER be allowed in Britain. They comment that the British are no longer allowed to rely on common sense to keep themselves out of dangerous situations.

And my airport adventure showed me how justified those feelings are. The Dutch authorities trust that no one will be tempted to put their head into the path of a plane's propellors. The British authorities remove the temptation altogether with fluorescent tape and staff in fluorescent jackets. Because you just never know. 

Has British health and safety gone too far? What are health and safety measures like where you live?

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Belgian Beer for Children: My Sunday Photo

During the May school break we headed south to our neighbours in Belgium. Whilst there we visited a local beer brewery and tasted a little of the homemade fayre - both liquid and something a little more substantial.

Whilst browsing for something for our three children my husband and I had to do a little double take when we saw this:

For those non-Dutch speakers amongst you I am talking about the kinderbiertje on the menu - literally beer for children. It's a brown beer with caramel - with low alcohol of around 1%. Just in case anyone was worried about serving beer to their children.......... I'm guessing this is a Belgian thing?

Needless to say our children had chocomel.........


Monday, 11 May 2015

Life with Dutch TV Subtitles

These days, after nearly fifteen years in the Netherlands, I struggle when I have to watch television without Dutch subtitles. It doesn't matter whether it is a film or a programme but reading along whilst watching TV has become second nature and it feels like something is missing when there are no words at the bottom of my television screen.

Except if the programme is in Dutch. I don't need subtitles when the TV show or film is in Dutch (unless they are talking with a very heavy regional accent, or in Flemish then those rolling words are a blessing!)

There have been so many occasions when I am watching a British or American programme and something is said and the only reason I know vaguely what the word uttered was is because of the Dutch subtitles at the bottom of my screen. Then the conversation on our couch goes like this:

It's why my Dutch constantly improves but at least a word a day falls off my English vocabulary database.

You can also imagine what our television viewing evenings are like when there are no subtitles. And it's even worse if it's a BBC series with regional British accents. My poor Dutch husband sits dumfounded on the sofa clueless, shrugging his shoulders in exasperation, asking me every two minutes what someone said. Like me when a Dutchman from the very south or very north of the Netherlands reels off a speech.

And that's why Dutch subtitles rule.

They really do.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Bonbon Break & Buckets - Helping my Highly Sensitive Children Carry Their Emotion

In March, Bonbon Break asked for submissions relating to the theme of "Fill your Bucket"in association with Our Pact. Anyone that has been following the "highly sensitive" aspect of my blogging will know that I LOVE buckets so I happily obliged.

I was delighted when my piece 'Helping my Highly Sensitive Children Carry Their Emotions' was chosen to be published.

I am even more delighted that it has been shared 1.5k times to date - and if you feel the urge to contribute to that total then be my guest.

"I see his little head bobbing in a sea of infants; his teacher spots me and shakes his small hand, giving him unspoken permission to go to me. I watch my son’s face and can instantly tell he is fighting tears. I know by the look on his face that his morning in school has been too much for him." 
Go to Bonbon Break to read on.