Saturday, 31 December 2016

What happened with the plan?

At the beginning of this year, I made a plan. Not resolutions, a plan. A plan for four major areas: a healthy body, a healthy mind, a healthy house and a healthy relationship. Quite a bit of it was interlocking, so get one area right and it would affect another area. Question now of course is: what became of this grand plan of mine? 

Well, let's start with the healthy body. The food intake stayed more or less the same. I try to drink enough fluid during the day and I try and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. But the cakes and such are always beckoning. 

I had to start moving again and I think I did that. Not only did I climb some (low) mountains, I actually participated in a triathlon as well. Came last of course, but I got across the finish line. Running! 

And yes, I did finally found out where the headaches come from. Not that it does me much good to know it: the job is a big problem and so is cycling. Mind you, the fact that it had nothing to do with chocolate meant my food intake became a bit worse this year...

The healthy mind was next. Well, I started off great by going to the cinema in January, but after that it was a bit of nothing. Until the holidays of course when we went to see a concert and we saw an opera. In the street! Plus in London I saw 'the Snowman', which was great. Overall though: could have done better. 

Let's not even begin about dancing lessons, because, well, I didn't take them. End of. I had a small plan to do them while on holiday with my sister, but for some reason I forgot them. Silly. Lessons in the Viennese Waltz in Vienna would have been extra special. Perhaps next time. The holiday itself however was fantastic and just what I needed. 

Oh my, the healthy house. Now, that was a story in itself. But I can say that even though I am not living in my dream home (yet), I have moved to a much healthier house. I can actually drink the water here. The walls aren't moving during a gust of wind. And my landlord is great. Miss Oswin might not be quite as enamoured with the place, but I quite like it. 

And last but not least, the healthy relationship. Well, due to all the training I did this past year for the triathlon, I went out walking/hiking/swimming/cycling with several people which was great. And having them support me during the actual race was so fantastic and it gave me a real boost.

I spent time with my family this year as well. Easter was spent in the Netherlands with my parents and my sister and I spent three weeks together travelling through Central Europe. 

All in all, I think I did quite well. Of course there is always room for improvement, but that is what 2017 is for!

Friday, 30 December 2016

Miss Oswin gets a Christmas present


Today I got a Christmas present. A few days late, but my catsitter had been waiting for it for months until it finally arrived. Well, what can I say...

Mara says I have to be nice and thank our landlord for the present, so here it goes: thanks. I let the photos speak for themselves...

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Back on the trail

The father of my great-aunt
also known as my great grandfather Gerrit
After a short foray in English, Irish and Canadian genealogy (not finished just yet), I felt it would be nice to get back to my own family again as well. Using a different host to my tree (Ancestry instead of MyHeritage) might give me some new insights.

Well, so far, so good. I knew a great-aunt of mine had married her former employer. The age difference was quite big: 18 years. But the thing I hadn't found before was the fact that he had been married before. In that day and age, marriage nearly always ended by the death of one of the partners, so it came as quite a shock to see that his first wife outlived him by several years! Which led me to try and find their divorce records. 

I found them and found that he had filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery: she was practicing carnal relations with somebody other than himself. I especially loved that word practicing. As if she was just trying out something to be used later with her own husband. But that may just be me. Anyway...

The mother of my great-aunt
also known as my great grandmother Fetje
Not only was he married before, he also had two children with her. A boy, born in 1916 and a girl, born in 1922. When I put the boy's name in, all of a sudden, there was a link to his date of death and the place of his death. Indonesia in the middle of the war. 

More research was required and when I had done that, I found that he actually died somewhere in Birma in 1943. At the height of the Japanese occupation and in the middle of that madness they call building a train line! You may have heard of all the British, Australian and American soldiers stuck in Asia, but the Dutch had a presence there as well. Indonesia had been one of our colonies for years and quite a few Dutch had made their home there or had been sent there as part of the Royal Dutch Indonesian Army (KNIL). 

Of course I need to verify a few facts now. Plus I want to know what my family knows about their step-cousin(?), if anything. Most of my immediate relatives were born during or after the war, but were there stories? 

Another mystery to be solved....

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

All you ever wanted to know (or not)

This is a list I saw about a year ago and I loved it. Although there were a few other questions in it as well I thought. But whatever they were, I have forgotten them and this is the list I found again now. 

💉Tattoos: only the one. Of a tulip. On my shoulder.
🚼Children: none. I have a goddaughter though. All grown up.
😷Surgeries: just the one. Hysterectomy. Probably saved my life.

🔫Shot a gun: yes. An airgun. During a contest. I won.
✌Quit a job: a few times. No regrets.
✈Flown on a plane: a few times. Love it.

🚙💨100+miles in a car: oh yes. Easy. Love driving.
😨Gone zip lining: yes. This too. Great and scary at the same time.
😢Cried over someone: yes. Over Wuppie. The worst ever!

😍Fell in love: twice. Willem and Stéphane.
🏃 Skipped school: never. I was a good girl!
👀👶Watched someone give birth: no. Not even an animal.

💀Watched someone die: yes. Sophie and Mathilda. In my arms.
🍁Been to Canada: yes. Two weeks. No job, no life there.
🚑Ridden in an ambulance: no. Never. Huh

🐫Been to Europe: yes. I live here. So...
🏦Been to United States: twice. Airport of Chicago and of Houston.
🎤Sang karaoke: yes. Not good. Fun though.

🐶Had a pet: yes. Am on cat number 6 now.
🏂Been sledding on a big hill: yes. France. BRILLIANT!
🎿Been downhill skiing: yes. France. Scary-ish.

🚲💨Rode a motorcycle: yes. Well, I was on the back. Wooden bum.
🐴Rode a horse: ehm. I sat on one. Big one as well.
🏥Stayed in a hospital: yes. After the operation.

💉Donated blood: yes. Stopped. Afraid of needles.
🚗Driven a stick shift: yes. Even on the bus. It's Europe.
🚓Rode in the back of a police car: yes. After accident in France. No cuffs though.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Let it snow!

That's what I asked Saint Nick for. Snow. A white Christmas. It didn't have to be a lot. A centimeter would have done, just so everything would look pretty. Instead...

Saint Nick went with another line in the song. A not so nice line. A line that says: don't go outside, stay indoors, fasten your seat belts, in fact, fasten everything that is loose in the garden as well. Which one you want to know?

The weather outside is frightful. I mean, as a Christmas present it's not the best now is it. And we didn't even have a fire to be delightful. Well, apart from on the television, but that is just boring!

Ah well, we didn't have to be anywhere and even though there was a full-blown storm (called 'Urd') raging around the house, the television did not conk out at any time, the walls did NOT move and I didn't have to put the heating up to stay warm. 

Next time though: let it snow!!!

Monday, 26 December 2016

Photo on Sunday on Monday 2016-46

We were spoiled rotten this year. Mara got a beautiful pillow case and dvd's and a cookbook (she has to write it herself), a cup and bowl from Moomin and a little fake ivory frog.

But that was not all: she also got a pair of Christmas pj's, a Simon's Cat cycle jersey and two plaques.

Miss Oswin got her mice. And lots of them as well. Mice with feathers (have those cloning people been playing around again?), mice with cat nip (the small glass tube) and 'normal' mice. No live mice though. Saint Nick was clever...

And Brom? Well, I think it's safe to say he was happy too! With his very own Passport of Blogville to fill with stamps and stickers from wherever he goes.

We hope you had an equally great Christmas!

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Day 25: Merry Christmas

We just want to wish everyone a very merry Christmas. May Saint Nick bring you everything you asked for and be kind to each other. 

Mara, Brom and Miss Oswin

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Day 24: Opening the presents

Having lived in the Netherlands for most of my life (yes, still), Christmas as I mentioned before was celebrated for its religious reason only in our home. Yes, we did have a tree, but there were no gifts underneath. And all I knew about Christmas came from the very few Christmas films I had seen by then. Which all mention that Father Christmas or Santa Claus comes at night and delivers his presents in time for Christmas Day.

We of course got them three weeks early, thanks to Saint Nicholas, but other nations also have other customs. The German speaking nations of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein (look it up) unwrap their presents on Christmas Eve. They too used to do so on Saint Nicholas, but the protestants didn't like saints, they moved it to after Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve, but that was found to be too late for the children and they now do it at an earlier time on Christmas Eve. 

In Norway Christmas Eve again is the most important day for gifts. The Norwegian Santa is a blend of Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus and the old 'farm man'*. He makes an appearance in a lot of households on Christmas Eve asking whether there are any nice children around, after which presents are given.

And us? When do we open our presents? Well, that depends on when Santa comes to us...

*The old farm man (closest I got to translating/explaining) is a figure in Norwegian folklore. He is different in different parts of the country, but basically he was the one who looked after the farm. Not literally though. At Christmas he wanted a bowl of porridge and there are still quite a few people who will put out a bowl of porridge on Christmas Eve for him (and his family). 

Friday, 23 December 2016

Day 23: Dear Saint Nick,

It's us! Brom and Miss Oswin. We didn't know whether we could write to you or not and then Mara said we could and then it was already today and Mara said the Norwegian postal service is not that fast and it would probably not arrive in time so why not post it online!

We think we have been really good this year. Miss Oswin has gotten used to the new house and did not do a naughty anywhere. She is missing her mice to chase though, so she would like some mice. Or birds she can catch. She can see them out of the window and they are always too far away to catch!

I think I have been really good this year as well. I behaved on our holidays and I think I was good when I stayed with Gera all on my own! So, please Saint Nick, I would love to go on more trips next year. 

Plus, we think that Mara has been good this year. She swam/ran/cycled a race and even though she came in last, we think she did amazingly well to finish. She made a new home for us that is really nice and cosy. Could you find her an Ed? Please??

That's it for us! Have a merry Christmas Saint Nick and please, say hi to Blitzen for us!
Brom and Miss Oswin💕

PS: we would all love some snow for Christmas...

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Day 22: Nativity

Years ago, when I had just returned from England after two and a half years, I brought with me a lot of knitting yarn and several pattern books. In one of them was a nativity scene. So, I knitted Mary and Joseph. A shepherd and some sheep. Three kings bearing gifts. And of course baby Jesus. 

I moved, got two monsters and one of them had a particular fondness for anything home knitted. Socks. Scarfs. Baby Jesus! I couldn't put the nativity up, unless I wanted to go hunting for all its members every single day. So, it stayed boxed up for years. 

Then I moved again, this time to Norway and poor old Wuppie couldn't come. But I did get a new monster: Miss Oswin. But his love for knitwear is not matched by her love for it. In fact, she couldn't care less. As long as there are hair scrunchies...

I put my nativity up this year. It's nice to see them again. 

PS: if you recognise the sheep: they went on the trip to Northern Ireland with Brom. Very well traveled sheep!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Day 21: The other way

The sun in July 2013
This morning at 11.44 local time the sun 'turned' as they say around here. It was at its furthest from where I live and now it will return slowly to the Northern Hemisphere.

Even though nowadays there is light everywhere, it must have been very special to our ancestors to have the sun turn around and come back. Special enough to celebrate it. In time and with Christianity coming into the lives of kings/queens, the midwinter festivals would coincide with the celebration of the birth of Christ. And eventually Christmas was known more for the latter than for the former. 

Of course nowadays Christmas is known more for gifts, presents, too much food and drink and soppy Christmas films. Although here in Norway, the turning of the sun is still very special and was remarked upon several times today at work!

If you want to know more about the Yuletide and indeed the Norwegian word jul, there is a great Wikipedia page with lots of information. Click here.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Day 20: Will it be white?

A White Christmas in 2014
Christmas that is. A white Christmas like in the songs. Charlie from Down Under thought that it would be. Since it was Norway and all and isn't Norway a cold place to be? Well...

Yes. Norway is a cold country. Part of it is above the polar circle, which means it is very cold. But, when I moved to Norway, I moved to a part of the country where snow is rare. Rain is much more common. Don't get me wrong, there has been snow each winter I have been here (4 so far), but more often the temperatures are in the plus and we get rain. 

It was a White Christmas last year. In between the browns and such...
So, what about a white Christmas then? The first Christmas I spent in Norway (with my sister, who came over to support me and/or be nosy about the new place), it actually snowed on Christmas Eve. I kid you not! But by the time my sister arrived, the snow started melting. That night temperatures dropped and all that melting snow turned into ice. We were careful, otherwise we would have had a very different white Christmas (although I would have picked an orange or pink cast if possible). 

My second year was probably brown/grey/green and wet. But the last two Christmases were actually white. I had to look it up, but I wrote that there had been snow and even had some photos to prove it! This year? Not very likely. The forecast is for rain and temperatures close to double figures (in Celsius). 

So, Charlie was partly right. Unfortunately though, this year is not going to be white. 

Monday, 19 December 2016

Day 19: Scrooge

Plenty of candles, but no Scrooge!
Last week I posted something about my favourite Christmas films and Anvilcloud replied that he thought it was a shame I had not included Scrooge in my list. In his opinion it was the best! So, when I saw it would be on television yesterday, I was all set. It was in my recording list and I would watch it at the same time.

That was, until the electricity went off. And when it came back on, it went back off again. After half an hour it came back on and yes, you guessed it: it went back off. Finally, after we turned most of the stuff we had on off, my landlord turned it on again and it stayed on. 

By then however, I had missed part of the film. There is only solution now: buy it on dvd!

We still don't know what caused the black-out. The cooker? The dish washer? The lights on my tree? The electricity troll? Whatever it was, we hope it is sorted now.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Day 18: Photo on Sunday 2016-45

We're not quite ready just yet. But we're getting there. Hopefully before Christmas!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Day 16: Not trimming just yet!

The not yet turned into a cushion thingy works a treat under the tree
The plan had been to wait with setting up the tree until next week. Cats, trees and baubles don't really mix after all. Besides, in order to get the tree in, I would need to do a bit of relocating of furniture.

I love swans in my tree. Unfortunately so does Miss Oswin, so better hang them high
On the left one of my own knitted hearts
Which meant that this morning after the first part of my shift, I moved a bookcase to where the cat toilet was, the cat toilet to where the (unused) scratch pole was and the scratch pole to hopelessly in the way. 

Several made their way into the tree this year. I couldn't say no to Brom
Then I found the tree, put it up and proceeded to put the lights in. That was all I was going to do! Honest!! I was going to sort the ornaments and hang them next week. And then all of a sudden they were in the tree.

A little memento from the Netherlands
Well, it does look good and after all, it is only a week until Christmas. 

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Day 15: Hi, I'm Al

I didn't have any inspiration today, so thought I would post some funnies for a change. Well, for once really. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Day 14: Christmas cards

This year we took part in the Blogville Christmas Card exchange. Since we love getting mail, we thought that might be the perfect way to receive some cards, especially in this day and age of emails and such.

Of course there is also the Card Count. Who gets more? Mara or Brom and Miss Oswin. So far...

It may only be one, but it is a cute one!
Mara: 1. Brom and Miss Oswin (and yes, a bit Mara as well): 9 paper cards and 10 virtual cards. We have cards with dirty paws, kittens, snow freaks (also known as snowmen), dogs, Santa and lots and lots and lots more.

One thing we do know: next year we are going to make our own PRE-PRINTED card! And we are going to buy self licking envelopes. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Day 13: Don't open before Christmas!

How could I resist?
Over the past few weeks I have been buying food for Christmas. I bought some single serving Christmas puddings (yes, and brandy as well), a lovely tin with shortbread (both in London), ice-cream, herring and more. All for Christmas.

Yesterday I received a package from my parents. The lollipop was irresistible and was devoured. It only took me half an hour. The speculaas and chocolate curls however... ended up with the rest of the Christmas food. In the cupboard in the kitchen. Waiting for the good times. 

I will have to make a list for everything I still need to get. I am planning on making my first gingerbread (well speculaas) house ever, in the shape of the TARDIS. I know what I want for dinner on Christmas. I am going to make whiskey fudge next week. 

I am not sure yet whether it will be one big shop or several smaller ones. And I will probably end up with too much food as well. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

Day 12: Photo on Sunday on Monday 44

The beautiful decoration inside Covent Garden. I wanted to take some of the mistletoe home, but I don't think it would have fit in my overhead allowance on the plane!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Day 11: Christmas in our house

Today we join Blogville's 25 days of Christmas and will tell you all about our Christmas. Which is going to be great this year, because Mara doesn't have to work! And that means that we can watch Christmas films and we have a lot of those!!

Here's a little list of our *****-films. The ones that we will definitely be watching this Christmas!

The Christmas Card (2006). Not a big story, but a sweet one. And Mara says it makes her tummy go funny every time they kiss!
Miracle on 34th Street (1947). The original is still the best, but its remake is right up there as well. We gave that one 4,5 stars.
The Polar Express (2004). People may say it wasn't that good, but we love it. 

Bad Santa (2003). There is a lot of swearing and things like that, but at the heart is a feel-good story. 
Love Actually (2003). Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Martin Freeman, Liam Neeson. What's not to love?
The Santa Clause (1994). The original. The best. Although its follow-ups were pretty good as well.

Christmas in Connecticut (1945). Heads and shoulders above its later remake. Funny and very feel-good. 
Lost Christmas (2011). A British made-for-tv film starring Eddie Izzard. A bit darker than most Christmas films, but the story really stuck.
The Ref (1994). More swearing and crime, but again it has heart.

Arthur Christmas (2011). So funny and sweet. We love grandpa and Bryony the packing elf and of course Arthur!
Remember the Night (1940). Romantic and sweet. What more do you need for Christmas?
Elf (2003). So many sweets! We love the sweets! And how can anyone not believe in Santa??

Make the Yuletide Gay (2009). Boyfriend shows up unexpectedly for Christmas. It makes us smile every time. 
The Snowman (1982). Boy makes snowman who comes alive at night. We will keep making snowmen ourselves!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). Boris Karloff telling the story and no Jim Carrey in sight. Nuff said!

A Dog named Christmas (2009). A dog just for Christmas. Or is it?
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). The best Christmas Carol. EVER!!! It has singing penguins and it has an acting bear!
We're no Angels (1955). Three escaped convicts make Christmas a good time. 

But our two favouritest of all our favourites:
White Christmas (1954). Mara tries to say that line Danny Kaye says to Bing Crosby every time, but she has never gotten it right so far: "My dear partner, when what's left of you gets around to what's left to be gotten, what's left to be gotten won't be worth getting, whatever it is you've got left."

A Muppet Family Christmas (1987). Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggles. Small talk (that begins with s you know), bears, chickens, rats. And songs. Lots of songs. The perfect start to Christmas.