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

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

i said yes! well, kinda

It’s official! I’m a future M-R-S and couldn’t be more excited (but don’t underestimate the possibility of bridezilla making an appearance).

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Joost proposed on Thursday, September 5th and it couldn’t have been more dreamy. While I always envisioned an over-the-top, elaborate and public proposal (I know I’m not the only one), ours was intimate, personal… and perfect. I would share pictures of the moments following, but my face was streaked with mascara, makeup, tears and to be honest, it’s not a good look (so below you’ll find a next day photo opp). The moment I saw Joost get down on one knee and open “the box”, I lost it. Really. Lost it. In fact, I never said yes… but I guess the continuous sobbing, and once I regained control of myself, near tackling hug made Joost assume I, in fact, accepted.

Joost and I went ring shopping in both the US and Netherlands and decided on a jeweler in the states due to selection. Since he proposed in the NL, I was given a ‘temp’ ring that I now wear around my neck with his dog tags.

Butterflies fill my stomach every time I look at my left hand ring finger… I truly can not wait for the day that we say, “I do” and become one.

Cheers to forever and a day with my one true love!

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Until next time – I’ll be a busy bee planning a wedding!

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

my first dutch birthday

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As of this past Monday, I am 27 years wise. Besides my boyfriend continuously reminding me from 7.29 until 8.23 I am four years older (yes, I am a cougar and proud of it), this ‘birthweek’ has been a happy one. Of course I was a bit bummed I couldn’t spend it in The States with my family and besties (thankful I was able to celebrate early with my fam last week), but I have to admit, my boyfriend, his family and our friends, totally made my day from sunrise to sunset super special.

I kicked off the morning waking up to a precious message on my chalkboard and serious jet lag (really, it felt like I had been run over by a train), but I couldn’t let a little time zone difference get me down – so it was off to lunch with Joost’s sisters, Babette and Charlotte. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t make a Kodak moment of the lunch date, but I can reassure you it was filled with good convo, lots of laughs and heerlijk (delicious) food.

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After lunch I was surprised with all of the above and the rest is history. Joost, Niels and Sjoerd were great sports in making this old lady, a happy old lady – everything from the party hats, to the sushi cake (hilarious) to the game playing was so fun, so creative and so special.

A big thank you (and hug and kiss) to everyone who played a part in making my birthday one to remember. From the cards, to the calls, to the FB shout outs, they all were greatly appreciated and forever cherished.

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Until next time – tot ziens and fijne weekend!

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

snapshots along the way

Who’s that girl with the camera plastered to her face? If she lives in Breda, why yes, that could quite possibly be yours truly. I’ve gotten in the habit of never leaving home without my camera (and umbrella – don’t let the blue and cloudless sky fool you), because you never know when something might catch your eye and let’s face it, the perfect photo opp is never planned.

This week has been quite busy thanks to family, friends, holidays (there have been three in the past week and another tomorrow), festivals and of course, my Dutch language lessons, but I wouldn’t have it any other way (ok, maybe I would wish that I could learn Dutch in a blink of an eye, as the very common Dutch sounds are not agreeing with my southern drawl). Because of everything that’s been happening around me, I decided to share some of my favorite sights, tastes and fashions from the past few days.

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Saturday, May 4th marked Dodenherdenking or ‘Remembrance of the Dead” (same as America’s Memorial Day), as the Netherlands paid tribute to the fallen soldiers of WWII and wars since. At 8p, the entire country stopped to show their gratitude through two minutes of silence. A beautiful ceremony was held in De Dam in Amsterdam in which the King, Queen, WWII soldiers and civilian survivors were among those in attendance. The following day, May 5th, was Liberation Day, in which the country celebrated being free of Nazi Germany control during WWII.

Memorial in Breda for the fallen soldiers

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Delicious dinner party appetizer – beef carpaccio

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Enjoying our new gourmet set

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Potted plant from Joost’s mom – perfect addition to the balcony

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Park Valkenberg

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Tasty treat on the terraces

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Festive Queen’s Day decor still colors the city

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Enjoying maxi dress and ballet flat weather

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Super cute cafe I found while pondering through the city – Coffee & Cream will be seeing me again soon

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Loving the mobile gelato shop in front of Nassau Monument Valkenberg

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney