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!!!