Monday, December 28, 2009


Merry Christmas.  I hope every one had a festive holiday!
Despite the multiculturalism of Holland, Christmas is celebrated but not always as a big celebration within the home as others.  A turkey dinner is not unheard of but is rather uncommon although it is becoming more associated with Christmas.  Turkeys sold here are usually baby turkeys (2kg), a larger turkey can of course be ordered at a butcher.  The Dutch do not have a specific Christmas meal.  They may have duck, spaghetti or Chinese food and to them that would be totally normal.  I can't even tell you that candy canes is typical Christmas because for the first 5 years living here I had to have them imported here if I wanted them. 
Christmas eve is not celebrated but Boxing day is. Boxing day is called tweede Kerst or "Second Christmas".  Some families may use this as another day to visit and have a special meal like many North American's would on Christmas eve. Christmas gifts may or may not be exchanged.  Most children have already been visited by Sinterklaas and there fore a visit from Santa would just be a little over the top.  Okay, I can just see my husband just saying "That's what I have been saying over the years but NOO you insist on spoilling them...." No dear I am just incorporating both of our traditions :-)

I can say that this year was the first year in about 20 years that all of Holland has had a white Christmas. 


Sunday, November 15, 2009


Hij komt, hij komt,
de lieve goede Sint,
mijn beste vriend, jouw beste vriend,
de vriend van ieder kind. 

He's coming He's coming
the sweet good Saint
my best friend, your best friend
the friend of all the kids

All the Dutch kids are singing this right now with much joy on their face as Sinterklaas enters the land.  Sinterklaas is such a hype here. As he arrived yesterday by boat, thousand of children and parents welcomed him and his Piets, there was a huge parade and it always makes big media attention.  During his stay in the country (which lasts until December 6th) there will be a Sinterklaas series on tv, Sinterklaas journal (news broad casted daily), there is even a Sinterklaas movie.

Why Sinterklaas and not Santa Claus like the rest of the Westerners?
The Dutch immigrants actually brought Sinterklaas tradition to North America with them.  Saint Nicholas was a Bishop in Turkey that was well known for his good deeds towards poor children in Europe.  He also became known as the patron saint of Amsterdam.  He had a sidekick named Zwarte Piet (black Pete) some believe this to be his slave and other say this was a Turkish orphan child that travelled as Saint Nicholas' helper.  He also has a white horse called "Amerigo".

St. Nicholas was pictured as a tall dignified man in a red cloak and a long Bishops crook.  Zwarte Piet in Turkish garb red lips and golden loop earrings.  The legend depicts St. Nicholas and Zwarte Piet travelling from their home in Spain across Europe to help the poor and feed the children.   Through out the ages as the story grew into a tradition, St. Nicholas and Zwarte Piet would travel to Holland by steam boat in November and leave early December 6th.  The children would set their shoes by the fire place and Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet would fill their shoe with small gifts and treats like pepernoten, chocolate initials, marzipan figures and fruit.  If the children are naughty they get a lump of coal or worse get whipped with a birch switch that Sinterklaas would carry with him.  Today he is seen as much gentler figure.  Zwarte Piet is portrayed as a jokester.

Not sure how it works in EVERY house but this is how it works in our house.  Sinterklaas may have arrived in Holland THIS weekend but he has not arrived in OUR city and will not until next weekend (also by boat).  That is when we allow our children to set their shoes (or boots) out by the heater (if we had a fire place they would set it by the fire place). They must sing a song when they set their shoe's and preferably place a carrot or apple for "Amerigo" in the shoe.

In the morning they will find some goodies and MAYBE a small gift waiting for them.  This does not happen EVERY often in our house but maybe 2-3 times a week. The evening of December 5th we will usually invite Oma and Opa over for some treats and for the "fun".  ALL OF A SUDDEN... we will here a bang on the door.  The kids will run to the door and there will be a bag full of gifts left from Sinterklaas and the Piets.

With in seconds the room is cluttered with wrapping paper and the kids are happy with their new toys (usually). 

Some of the traditional Sinterklaas Lekkers (treats).

Pepernoten - little cookies that taste like speculaas - to me taste like pumpkin pie spices.

Chocolate covered pepernoten - one of my favorite!

Chocolate letters - doesn't get much better than this!  Traditionally kids get a chocolate letter - either with the letter for their name or a "S" for Sinterklaas or "P" for Piet.

I think most people are familiar with windmill cookies!?

Amandel staafjes or letters - Pastry with an almond paste centre.  
Marzipan figures  


Taaitaai - a chewy cookie with a hint of licorice flavouring.

Now trying to stay on my diet this time of the year is the only trick! 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remembering our soldiers.

I am very proud to say I live in a city where Canadian soldiers fought and liberated early April 1945.  Those brave soldiers were the 3rd infantry devision Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders (aka the Glens) to be exact.  We now have a bridge here in town respectively called the "Canadian" bridge.  This bridge was bombed by the Germans and the Canadians were there to help rebuild it.
In 2005, Zutphen honoured fallen soldiers by naming eleven streets in a new subdivision after the eleven fallen soldiers who helped liberate our city. That was a very proud day for me.  Here is a link to the story.

Last week we had a visitor come to one our schools in the Leesten area (mentioned in the above link).  85 year old "Glen" Harry Towes, he was one of our brave "Glens" from the 3rd infantry devision Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders.  I wish I could have been there I think I would have picked his mind with a million questions.  I am just glad the children at the school were able to witness some real history.  Some advise he had for the children was, "listen to your parents and don't smoke". I only have a Dutch link to this story unfortunately. But I do have a picture I can share thanks to the Stentor newspaper.

The eleven fallen soldiers:

Sergeant Ernest (Ernie) Wilfred Baker - born  January 17, 1922 in Brockville, Ontario, son to Wilfred & Mabel Baker.He enrolled at a very young age at the The Brockville Riffles Reservists under the military registration number C-2954.  He married his childhood sweet heart Dorothy Irene Doran in 1943. He was killed in action at 23 years of age on April 4th 1945.

Private Douglas Angus Beaton - was born on January 5th 1923 on West Bay Road in Nova Scotia to parents Angus and Sara Beaton.  He was one of 7 brothers where of 4 others were also Canadian soldiers fighting in WWII. Douglas was enrolled on 2 September 1942 with the registration number F-32224.  He was killed in action at 22 years old on April 4th 1945.

Private Harry Louis Gervais - was born November 21st, 1925 to parents Moise en Hattie-Mae Beaton from La Passe in Ontario.  He was one of 12 of his siblings enrolled in the Canadian military taking after his father.  He enrolled april 8th,1943 with the registration number C-103294. He was killed in action at 19 years old on April 4th 1945.

Private Norman Harold Hannan - was born as an only child on November 24th, 1921 to parents James and Muriel Kathleen Hannan in Belleville, Ontario. Norman was originally a butcher but then married Marjorie in November 1942  and enlisted with the Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders  in Kingston, Ontario with the registration number C-118693. He was killed in action at 25 years old on April 4th 1945

Sergeant Alfred Walter Hawkins - born april 26,1921 in Peterborough,  Ontario son of Alfred and Annie Hawkins.  He enrolled on 21 mei 1942 to become a soldier at the Connaught Range and Primary Training Centre under the militair registratie nummer C-79318.  His wife Audrey was pregnant when he left for Normandy. He never met his son Peter who was born February 1945. He was killed in action on April 4th 1945.

Corporal William Leslie (Les) Hemming - born on July 12, 1910, son to Harold Esmond & Emily Francis Hemming in Westboro, Ontario. He had two brothers. Les enlisted 24 September 1940 as one of the Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders under registration number C-9210.  He was married to Violet Lilian and they had two sons together.He was killed in action at 34 years old on April 4th 1945.

Private Charles (Chick) Edward William Joseph House - born  April 16, 1918 in Hamilton, Ontario to parents  James and Ellen House.  Charles was actually a truck driver but on  September 5, 1939 he enlisted as Royal Hamilton Light Infantry with the registration number B-36649. In April 1940he married Dulcie Cynthia also from Hamilton.He was killed in action on April 4th 1945.

Private Marshall Noah Lawes - born  January 27,1914 to parents Albert en Bessie Lawes in Frankford, Ontario. He enrolled on 21 October 1943 in Kingston, Ontario. Marshall was married to Norma Edith and together they had two sons. He was killed in action at 30 years old on April 4th 1945.  Tragically for the Lawes family, Marshall's older brother (who was also a Glen) was also killed in action on 28 April 1945. Marshall not only has a street named after him but also a small bridge that connects two streets over a creek. 

Private Hazen Henry Paget - born on  Juli 2, 1922 in Coldstream, New Brunswick to parents Henry Ward & Stella Paget. he enlisted on November 4th, 1942 in Frederickton, New Brunswick. He was killed in action at 23 years old on April 4th 1945. 

Corporal Aime Pascal Periard - born on April 20th, 1919 in Alexandrië, Ontario to parents Herminine & Yvonne Periard.  He enlisted as one of the first volunteers on July 5th, 1940 as a Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders with the registration number C-54294. 

Private John (Jack) Elvin Potts - Born February 24th 1918 in Campbellford, Ontario to parents Walter & Maude Pott. He had two brothers and a sister. His older brother William was killed in action in Hong Kong, 1941.Jack enlisted with the Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders on  October 1, 1939 in Lindsay, Ontario with the registration number C-40620. jack was married to Norma Edith and they had two sons.He was killed in action on April 4th 1945.





Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Parking in Germany

Not quite Dutch related but thought this was interesting...

Underground parking garage in Germany.  This is one of the closest parking spots to the doors.  The sign on the post literally translates to  "Woman Parking Spot".  According to my husband the parking spots are wider but I could not see the difference.  I think this is just a courtesy spot just like the pregnancy/baby toddler parking spots found in North America, it is also probably a safety feature so that ladies do not have to walk through a garage especially at the end of a shopping day.  Back to this FrauenParkplätze - I waited at the entrance of the parking garage doors for a good 5 minutes while my husband did a bathroom run with our daughters.  In that time I saw three vehicles come and go in the FrauenParkplätze All MEN WERE DRIVING!!! Maybe they were having a gender identity crisis?  Reminds me of all those times I wanted to park in the pregnancy/baby spots in Canada but some MAN with out a child or even baby seat jumps in that spot ahead of me and I am stuck with an infant parking on the other side of the parking lot. 

Monday, November 2, 2009


When I moved here 8.5 years ago there was no sign of Halloween.  I was under the impression that the average Dutch didn't even know what Halloween was.

Like any kid I LOVED HALLOWEEN!!  Dress up plus FREE candy - doesn't get better than that!!

About 5-6 years ago I started to see different Halloween articles appear in stores - no bags of candies, just decoration pieces.  This brought HOPE to my eyes.  Right away I started spamming my neighbourhood with flyers organizing a trick or treat evening "for the kids" of course.  I was really worried that this wouldn't be a success - the Dutch are familiar and some do celebrate St. Martins day on November 11th.  In short, kids go door to door singing with a lantern to receive candy (dress up not necessary).  Unfortunately, I have never had any kids come singing at my door.  Back to the organizing Halloween... The first year turned out to be a HUGE success and every year since has been hit or miss but still we have pulled through.  This year was also a really good year (I even found a real bag of "Halloween candy" in the stores).  This year the media have made it known that Halloween is now becoming a big celebration in Holland and expected to only grow bigger in years to come - I am so excited!!!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

My passion!

I thought I would just let you in on what I do to really make my time here fulfilling.  Yes living here alone is fulfilling and my children and husband are the air I breath, but once they leave the house every day for work and school I am left here to twiddle my thumbs.  Another passion in my life are animals, especially dogs.  In Canada I grew up in a dog grooming salon and started working there when I was 11 years old.  5 years ago I decided to start up my own business to do what I do best and now I have my own dog grooming salon in my house.  Of course I did not do this right away, I had to learn the language first (I think it took about 3.5 years for me to feel confident enough to start my own business).
Right away I noticed a difference.  People did not get their dog groomed every month like back home in Canada. Because I was new, I was getting all the dogs that were only getting groomed once or twice a year. Emotionally, this was very difficult for me.  After 5 years, I have more regular clients but still do not see as many clients as I would like to see coming on a monthly or even bi-monthly basis.  Clients prefer Fifi to be shaved off as short as possible so the grooming lasts as long as possible, unfortunately. The majority of my clients come to me every 3 months. But still, to play with dogs all day long, I can barely call that work, so I shall not complain!



Wednesday, September 23, 2009

LET THE PARTY BEGIN!!! (can you hear my sarcasm?)

I am in the middle of two birthday parties. Just finished torturing our selves with my 12 year olds sleep over birthday party and about to celebrate my youngest daughters first little girl party (or "princess party" as her majesty would like to call it) at 4 years old.  Kids are kids and not much changes there.  They are all still going to sing (at the top of their lunges), dance, fight and engulf their lips with red lipstick (if you are dealing with 12 year old girls).

Adult birthday parties are not exactly like the Canadian parties I was used to, unless we are talking about a birthday party being held at a retirement home (please don't flame me lol).

step 1.  enter the home and be greeted with three awkward kisses on the cheeks.
step 2.  congratulate everybody individually for the birthday persons birthday (even if they had nothing to do with the birthday what so ever) - this is once again usually done with the awkward three kisses.
step 3. find a seat.  chairs will usually be lined up nicely in a circle in the living room (including the couch set).
step 4.  the birthday person will offer you coffee or tea.  This is served with a single cookie or the birthday cake, vlaii or tompoece.
step 5. conversation tends to emerge in the circle of doom birthday circle.
step 6. birthday person will serve drinks ie. cola, juice and if you are ever so lucky a beer or wine.
step7. birthday person will put snacks out on the table - this may or may not include cheese blocks, pretzels, ham rolled around pickles, vegetable platter, chips, crackers with egg or crab salad.
step 8. birthday person will attentively make sure that nobodies drink goes empty and no plate or platter gets down to the last few pieces of food.
NOTE: the birthday person will barely ever sit down.
step 9.  somebody will finally build up the nerve to say that they must leave early and everybody will follow.
step 10.  the birthday person is left to clean up the mess.

As you can see the circle of doom begins even at the young birthdays.

The kiddie parties are pretty much the same as I remember as a child except you don't put a card on the gift - it is pretty much assumed who the gift is for and there is no child who can go with out saying "that one is from me".  Houses are usually decorated with a garland of flags, balloons and sometimes a banner (not much difference there).  Kiddies wear a pointed birthday hat and go home with a goodie bag just like I remember having as a child.

flag garland "vlaggetjes"

One thing that is very different is "trakteren".  This would be a treat the children would bring everybody in their class at school - whether it be a cupcake, cookies or sometimes even a small cheap toy.  What I have done when my daughter left pre-school to go to public school (and I will use this idea again for her upcoming birthday) is turning a tube of smarties into a butterfly. 
Adults will also bring something to share with their colleagues at work, usually cake or tompuce.

The butterflies "vlinders" I made for my daughters class.

There is a song the kids sing in Dutch to the Happy Birthday tune - I will translate it:

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you,
In the field there is a cow,
the cow says I love you,
Happy Birthday to you.

It rhythms a little better in Dutch but you get the idea lol.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More commercials

I must admit that I have an advertising education, so I can especially appreciate a good commercial when I see one.  You don't need an advertising degree to know that these are some funny commercials.

Now this campaign was just brilliant.  I know it is in Dutch but I don't think it even needs to be translated.  She is just showing the ladies (probably her friends) her new apartment.

Which Bavaria cam back with this commercial...

Well of course Heineken was not going to be one uped so here was their response...

Please stay tuned for this commercial break

One thing I have to admit is that the Dutch have some FUNNY commercials!!!  I think I look more forward to the commercial breaks than the actual t.v. shows. 

Here are some that are from an insurance company Centraal Beheer Achmea from Apeldoorn.  There catch line is "Just call Apeldoorn" or "Even Apeldoorn bellen"   The ads are just brilliant. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Biking around

Biking (with a bicycle) is the most popular mode of transportation in Holland.  Cities are so over populated and roads are so small that it is just easier and usually faster to get from point A to point B by bicycle.  The one thing the average North American may notice first is that almost nobody has a helmet on... no adult, no child not even the babies in the baby seats.  It took me some time to wrap my head around this one but later realized that this is a different world.  Drivers here are VERY bicycle cautious and most streets have a designated fietspad (bicycle path). 

It is rather fun to see some of the mommies (and daddies) bringing there kiddies to school in the morning with sometimes 3-4 kids on one bicycle.  They have bike seats for on the handle bars and double and triple seats for on the back.  I am not that brave to balance two kids on my bike.  One is more than enough and teach her how to ride her own bike with out training wheels is my goal. 

Some parents are smart enough to get one of these... the SUV's of bicycles... the Bakfiets!  This is a safe one where two kids can safely be fastened in with seat belts but I have seen them packed full of children, animals and groceries.  Apparently they are not as easy to handle as a normal bicycle.   

Alot of Hollands roads are still cobblestone - I thought I would just show it.  It is not the easiest to bike on but still necessary and usually faster than a car on busy days. Most downtown areas have closed off many roads from cars making it only possible to walk or bike through those sections of town.  Side note:  watch when wearing high heals on these cobblestones - it can be very tricky!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The pee pee dance

Going to the bathroom is a whole other story in Holland.  This is not the most pleasant experience especially if you are claustrophobic like my self.  Most bathrooms are no bigger than a closet, which are very cleverly called a "w.c." or water closet.  The toilets are not like the typical north American toilets.  They have a ledge where the water does not pool.  I am still not sure of the reasoning for this?  maybe for better inspection of your number 2.  All I know is because of the ledge the bathroom MUST be equipped with a very powerful air freshener and the toilet has to be cleaned a few times a day (especially if you have more than one person living in the house).  Many of the older toilets are flushed by pulling a draw string.. 
 Make sure you do use the toilet before leaving the house or hotel when visiting Holland.  Many stores do not have a public toilet  - apparently for insurance reasons.  When there is a public toilet, you must pay for it!  The price is usually any where from .20 to .50 euro cents.
 For those late night party goers that find them self out self with no public bathroom in sight... there is no reason to go pee in the closest alley way These portable urinals are strategically located where ever there is night life in Holland.  Often the portable urinals will lower them selves underground under a big man hole during the day and be raised back up at night time.  Now this is great for them men but what about the women???  Don't you worry darling, just as long as you carry around your own little contraption (available at most drug stores) you can also stand up to pee.  Isn't that just lovely?!?!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

adult content at WHAT AGE???

At first one of the things that shocked me was the openness to the naked body.  I mean I am all for it.  God gave me this body!  I just was not used to seeing topless women in day time advertisements.  Ok these were done very tastefully but it was still shocking.
Late night t.v. is just another story.  It is basically just porn and ads for sex lines. 

The age suggestions for shows seem to be a lot lower than in North America.  For instance... My oldest daughter started to bug us to watch  Brüno with Sacha Baron Cohen.  Right away I said absolutely NOT going to happen!  She ran to papa .... "but the age on it is 12 years old and I turn 12 in a few weeks PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE papa."  He almost allowed her to watch it until I saw that it was rated 18A in Canada.  My husband and I decided to go and watch the movie just to make sure the Canadians weren't just being "prude".  I COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EYES!!! There is sex (both homo and heterosexual), a lot of nudity (especially below the mans waist),  and a lot of adult content in general.  This movie is not meant for a 12 year old.  I don't even know if an 18 year old should be watching it (especially if it was my child).

Just goes to show that sometimes I have to just be the parent and ignore what is advised.  I will continue to preview any movie or show she wishes to watch until she is 18.  I feel I need to keep some sort of innocents in her even if the movies or tv tries to take it out of her.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Food has always been one of my lusts for life so I guess it would be fair to say it was one of the bigger differences I noticed first.

Breakfast is usually a slice of bread or beschuit - which is nothing more than an over sized crouton (see picture below). Toppings for the bread or beschuit usually includes jams, peanut butter (but apparently NOT together), chocolate paste, chocolate sprinkles (what a way to start your kids off with a sugar high), a simple cheese slice makes a nice alternative for those who don't wish sweets on their bread.
Beschuit - not only used for breakfast or lunch but also traditionally after a baby is born they would top it with muisjes (licorice flavoured balls in either pink or blue).
chocolate sprinkles aka hagelslag

Chocolate sprinkles on bread

Another gewoon (normal) meal or snack is their ontbijt koek 'breakfast cake'. Ontbijt koek is a fairly dry spice cake - most people would cut off a slice and smear on some margerine and/or jam.

Lunches are very similar to breakfast except it is served with a cold glass of milk. This took me some time to adjust to. I quite often made warm lunches as did my mother and my mothers mother and my grandmothers mother did. My Dutch mother-in-law thought I was CRAZY to be making a warm meal in the middle of the day. She let herself in my house, smelled the air, "Mmmmm, are you starting supper all ready?" "ummm no... it's just the mac and cheese for lunch" "Oh we don't eat that heavily in the middle of the day. Will you eat supper then?" She really did think I was nuts and looking back, I must have been nuts to be eating mac and cheese. The foods you will eat when you are young. These days I just stick to my sandwich or tosti - which is basically a grilled cheese done on a panini grill.

The Dutch LOVE their snacks. In most cities, there is always a snackbar with in walking distance or at least a Febo. A febo is a wall yes a WALL with small heated compartments containing food, such as hamburgers, chicken burgers, chicken sticks and some of Hollands favourite fried treats.


The oh so popular Febo.
The frikandel (see above) is a fried, mildly spiced meat stick. In general they are rather tasty but I have had a few that ended up in the garbage.

The kroket is crunchy on the outside and soft and HOT in the inside. The inside is filled with a meat ragout or stew. This is usually served with mustard and sometimes in a bun.

Bitterballen are pretty much the same as the kroket but obviously smaller.

Fries or Patat are another favorite snack, usually served in a cone bag and almost always served with a thick mayonnaise sauce.

Raw haring is a tradition and the Dutch are very proud of it. The haring is even to be eaten as shown in the picture. This is NOT something you will be seeing me do any time soon.

A traditional Dutch supper is potato, vegetable and meat. Often the vegetable and potato are mashed together before adding the meat. Since Holland is a very multinational country, a lot of different dishes from all over the word has been introduced to the Dutch kitchen. A particular favourite is Indonesian foods (since Indonesia was a colony of Holland). Ordering Chinese food here is not the same as the Chinese food you will get in North America, it has a lot more Indonesian influences.
Hutspot - a mixture of carrots, potato and onion.

Andijvie Stampot - a mashed mixture of endive and potato. Often served with a sausage. Very similar looking to the Boerenkool which is curly kale mashed with potato also served with sausage.

Desserts - I don't know if it is a MUST have in every family but it was in my husbands family. My in-laws insist on a toetje (dessert) after every meal. It took me many years to break my husband from that habit. My husbands toetje of choice was usually vla - which is a thick pudding - usually comes in a milk carton, like most of their dairy products including yoghurt.

Chocolate vla

poffertjes - this can also go under snacks. It is basically mini pancakes with sugar powder sprinkled on top.

vlaai - a pie with a thick cake like bottom and creamy inside topped with fruit. YUMMY. Too yummy to eat too often!

One of my favourites and my families. Stroopwafels - syrup wafers. Even better served with hot coffee - balance the cookie on top of the cup to let slightly soften, then eat Mmmmm. I often spoil my Canadian family with these cookies. Who could resist them?

Tompouce - A typical Dutch pink icing pastry. They particularly enjoy giving to foreigners to watch them eat it "differently"then they would eat it, then they laugh at the foreigners vreemd (weird) ways.... thanks guys I will never forget!

Drop - or black licorice - be warned - this is nothing like the black licorice from North America. This stuff can be saltier than the red sea! Zoet (sweet) drop is usually pretty safe.
Anywhere where you can dish out your own candy (like in a bulk bin type manner), you always get a cone shaped bag. Usually all the candy are the same price so you can mix and match. Just don't rot your teeth!

How could I forget the cheese?  Dutch LOVE their cheese (and so do I)!  I used to think cheddar cheese was the best cheese ever... that was until I moved here and was introduced to REAL cheese!  I am still not fond of strong tasting cheese but there still is a large selection of mild cheeses that is just right for my taste pallet.