the 5th of december

Even though decorations have been taken down (sadness) and the new year is here, why not spread a little Christmas cheer in January? Besides, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! So, hold onto your seats people, you’re about to get the skinny on the 5th of December.

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In my kiddie years, I always believed Santa Claus and his reindeer visited every single house in the world during the wee hours of December 25th (well, as long as you were on the Nice List). But, apparently he visits every house in the world, except those in the Netherlands, because they do their own thing – imagine that!

The Dutch story begins with Sinterklaas, Zwarte Piet (who is blackened by soot in the chimneys), a white horse and a boat. Every mid-November, Sinterklaas and his crew cruise to the Netherlands from Spain. From the time they arrive until December 5th, Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet can be found visiting schools, hospitals and shopping centers (unfortunately, Sint called it a day before 4p when I went to see him at the mall – bah humbug). On the eve of December 5th, children leave their shoes (or wooden clogs) filled with hay or carrots (for Sint’s horse) by the fire-place. It is said that Sint rides his horse, rooftop to rooftop, delivering a present and candy to all of the good children. On the other hand, those who have been naughty during the year, are at risk of being taken by Piet and have to go back to Spain to Sint’s house (which, depending how you look at it, is either really scary/weird… or pretty awesome). After December 5th, Sint, Piet and all of the naughty kids go back to Spain until the next year… and there you have it!

To keep things fun and festive for adults, the Dutch typically celebrate the 5th of December by giving a funny poem (which slightly makes fun of the person for something they’ve done in the past year) and a corresponding, handmade gift to whoever’s name they picked out of a hat.

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This being my first Sinterklaas celebration, I was a bit nervous – writing a poem, constructing a gift, remembering the “rules”, impressing these Dutch people – oh, and to make things even worse, I drew my future mother-in-law’s name! What is a girl to do? How in the world am I supposed to “make fun” of the MIL and score brownie points all at the same time?!

After much thought and careful consideration, I (or should I say Sint and Piet) chose to congratulate her on her new position and label her, “Queen of the Navy” – while also mentioning that due to her rank, I thought she was going to be extremely mean and scary (before I got to know her of course). Whitney for the W-I-N!

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For the aviator driving the same car as his mom –

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For the bridezilla (my gift was accidentally trashed before I had the chance to photograph, but I loved the poem!) –

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For the Coca-Cola obsessed Sjoerd – his very own vending machine!

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Until next time – Joost and Sjoerd will be cruising around in the mini car!

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XX – Whitney

new year’s day ((dutch)) tradition

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**HAPPY TWENTY-FOURTEEN**

If I could be anywhere in the world on New Year’s Day… it would probably be The Netherlands. Why? One word: oliebollen – followed by four words: most delicious treat ever.

This scrumptious dutch sweet makes its debut every year in December and can easily be found at all Kerstmarkten (Christmas Markets) and grocery stores. However, after the New Year, the oliebollen goes back into hibernation until the next Christmas. So, lucky me, during my December NL visit, arrived during prime time oliebollen season and was able to indulge in my first ever OB. I’m a bit thankful they’re only available for a month out of the year, or else I would soon resemble one of these doughy round balls.

I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again – I have no idea how the Dutch are so skinny… but really.

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Want to add a little sweetness to your American New Year’s Day black-eyed pea tradition? Whip up your own OBs via http://dutchfood.about.com/od/breadspastriescookies/r/Oliebollen.htm – you’re welcome in advance.

WARNING – if you’re actually trying to stick to your New Year’s Resolution of losing weight, I’ll let you in on a little secret – the literal translation of oliebollen is oil balls. If you can somehow justify oil balls into being healthy, then eet smakelijk!

On a completely non-OB-related side note, I plan on keeping my blogging resolution and getting back into the grove! I guess you could say things have been somewhat of a whirlwind being back in The States, wedding planning, helping mom at the boutique, etc, etc, etc. But such is life and lets face it, whirlwinds are best documented (you know, for the memories). I do have to admit, I’m pretty excited to share the latest news, memories and picturesque moments with you, so stay tuned!

Until next time – I wish all of my S&B readers a happy, healthy and blessed 2014!

XX – Whitney

florida fall’n

While most of us Floridians are continuing to hit the beach in our bikinis (who can blame us with sunny skies and day time highs in the 80s), we still make it a point to welcome fall – the right way. Summer brights are stored until next year, while burnt oranges and warm tones take their place, scented candles fill the air (currently burning at my house – sweet potato pie – oh my), favorite summer-time fraps are forgotten thanks to the ever-so-delicious Pumpkin Spice latte, boots are worn with shorts, scarves with tees, and harvest-style festivals are in full effect.

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One of my favorite fall time to-dos is visiting the local pumpkin patch. While I’ve seen my share in FL, TX and VA, Holland Farms in Allentown is, hands down, my top pick and a must-visit for local families (funny how I can’t quite get away from Holland/NL/Dutch-ness even though I’m 4,000+ miles away). From picking the perfect pumpkin, to snapping pics in a never-ending sunflower field, to finding your way through the corn maze – there’s something for everyone and the details are none-the-less, precious. Hope you enjoy just a few of my favorite details from the patch.

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

differences v. 3.0

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Well, you guessed it – today is Joost’s birthday, woo! And as you probably also guessed, I thoroughly enjoyed filling the weekend full of surprises, because it’s not just a birthday, but birthweek around here. In preparation of a few friends coming over tonight, I setup a fun and festive little table we’ll use for gifts and snacks (will be sure to share the final setup and other surprises next week). But nonetheless, I made sure Joost had a plentiful stash of his favorite Dutch candies for his three months in The States, Vanilla Coke (finding this in the NL is like finding a needle in a haystack), yummy – or so I hope – cupcakes (icing and all made by me!) and a few gifts to open. Cheers to 24, Yoshi baby!

Now, on to the Dutch birthday celebration traditions – some you’ll find the same, most you’ll find different.

1. Scratch happy birthday – it’s gefeliciteerd, which translates to congratulations. So when you see the birthday boy/girl, you say, “GEFELICITEERD!”

2. Let’s say today is Babette’s birthday and Babette has a boyfriend/husband – people would also congratulate her boyfriend by saying, “gefelicteerd met de verjaardag van Babette” (congratulations with the birthday of Babette). Interesting, huh? I would also like to think along with the congratulations comes presents for the significant other, but pretty sure I can keep on dreaming.

3. When at a birthday party, upon arriving you greet *everyone* with a, “gefeliciteerd.” Side note – at any type of party, you always greet everyone there with a handshake or three kisses and name introduction. Yes, everyone!

4. Next up – The Dutch Circle. Thankfully I’ve never experienced this custom, but it is alive and well in Dutch culture. The just of it – while at a birthday party, everyone sits in a circle and talks to each other… the entire time. So you might have the person next to you yelling to talk to the person on the opposite side and the other person next to you talking to a few people on the other side of you, all while you’re trying to talk to the person 5 people to the right of you. Sounds… awkward if you ask me (funny enough, I’ve also heard it called The Dutch Circle of Hell by those who aren’t dutchies – seriously).

5. It is also quite common to schedule different groups of people to come over at certain times of the birthday party (i.e. – family, early afternoon; friends, evening).

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Hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about Dutch birthdays!

Until next time – happy birthday, Joost and tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

farmer’s feet

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Can you believe 3 million of these wooden babies (babies as in clogs) are made each and every year? While a large part of the market is in thanks to tourists and their need for Dutch souvenirs, there are still people who continue to wear klompen (Dutch for wooden clogs) on a daily basis. These people are typically farmers and gardeners – who have legit reasons for wearing. Traditional all-wooden Dutch clogs are accredited as safety shoes and can withstand almost any sort of impact and penetration (including sharp objects). Interestingly enough, they are also more protective than most steel-toed boots, as the wood cracks rather than dents in extreme accidents (which allows for the clog to be easily removed without the continued pressure you’d feel in a boot).

Ever since I moved to the Netherlands, I’ve had a slight obsession with the clogs and have dreamed about adding a pair to my shoe collection. Who wouldn’t want a pair, right? Well, my dream became a reality as I received these lovely klompers (Whitney language) as a birthday gift from Joost’s dad and Margreet! I guess they took note as I always marveled over theirs. While you won’t find city folk wearing these around town, when visiting the countryside, they’re a common site, as children play on the playground and adults tend to their lawn and crops – all while wearing the clogs. Just goes to show you, you can take the girl out of the country, but can never take the country out of the girl – no matter where life may take her.

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…& I don’t know about you… or any of the Dutch farmers, but these shoes make me wanna do a little folk dancing.

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

party details

You can always count on holidays being my favorite days of the year as it brings family and friends together for a little R&R, hearty laughs, delicious treats and good company – and this 4th of July was no different. Well, slightly, as the 4th was celebrated on the 6th… and across the pond in Holland. However, the R&R, hearty laughs, delicious treats and good company was still very much there. Words can’t express how much fun I had planning, shopping (or should I say hunting – sometimes I felt like I was on a wild goose chase for the things on my list), decorating, sharing American traditions and being a part of such a fun and wonderful group of people.

The Outfit –

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to find Americana wear! I’m talking one store, second outfit tried on easy. If you think I was the best dressed of the party – think again! There were American flag swimming trunks and shirts and stars + stripes everywhere! Absolutely loved.

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The Decor –

I found shopping for party supplies a bit on the difficult side as there’s no “Party City” or places of the like – plus, the actual decor is totally different – BUT, that just allowed for more creativity and craft time. I also learned mason jars do not exist in the Netherlands and ice, along with red plastic cups, are rare finds. Who knew?

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Treats and Spirits –

There’s nothing better than festive treats and spirits at a party – our menu included red, white and blue sangria with pineapple stars, a fruit flag, juicy watermelon, coozies to compliment the beer (apparently very American), buttery nips (also very American) and the star of the night… an American flag cake! We also had delicious BBQ, cucumber bites, potato salad, pasta salad and toasted bread.

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The Entertainment –

After dinner, we enjoyed beer pong tournaments (many played for the first time!) and posing in the photo booth. If you want fun and hysterically comical snap shots from your party – definitely opt for a PB. The next day, with temps soaring in the 80s, we enjoyed a wet and wild water balloon fight.

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Until next time – Joost and I will be on our way to vaca in the U-S-A!

XX – Whitney

‘merica

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Happy birthday, America! Oh how I wish I was there to celebrate, but lucky me will have a 4th of July party on the 6th of July with my favorite Dutchies – wonder if they’re ready for all of the very American shenanigans I have planned… Anywho, I hope each and every one of you have a wonderful day filled with family, friends and delicious BBQ! As you might have guessed, I will be representing from across the pond in my Americana apparel (while trying to ignore the fact I have to wear a long sleeve button-up and jacket over my flag bikini… in July).

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the holiday, July 4th is in fact, America’s birthday. During the American Revolution, on July 2, 1776, the original 13 colonies separated and declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. It is then believed, the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776 by America’s founding fathers (John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington). Fast forward to 2013 and America continues to enjoy their freedom due to the sacrifice and commitment of the US Military (home of the free, because of the brave). Obviously, that’s the meaning in a small nutshell, but the significance and importance of this day is far beyond words. Independence Day is commonly celebrated with family/friend parties, parades, barbeques, festive décor and apparel, beating the heat at the beach, river or pool, and of course, once nightfall hits, FIREWORKS! One of my fondest childhood memories is, year after year, going to watch the fireworks by boat.

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Like my DIY Jacket? So simple, yet so special – all you need is a camo jacket (mine is J.Crew from a while back) and SOS’s patches. Sew them on and wah-lah! I actually have a few more to add and look forward to showcasing until there’s, literally, no more room. Out of every single thing in my closet, I receive the most compliments and questions when I wear this jacket – truly a conversation piece.

Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney