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

the new hood

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Let me introduce you – this is Utrecht, my soon-to-be neighborhood as of December 2014. Now that I’m a bit accustomed to the Dutch way of life, I’m more than excited to venture into the big city, where daily explorations (& shopping) are obviously a must.

I hope you enjoy my little sneak peek, compliments of Instagram (be sure to follow me @whitneynixon17!) – I guarantee you’ll be seeing lots more of these jaw dropping sights in the upcoming months.

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

bye bye, breda

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The past month has been a complete whirlwind and by the look of things, they are unlikely to slow down. On the bright side, whirlwinds bring excitement, new adventures and everlasting memories; while on the flipside, time flies.

The craze started the moment I heard my apartment sold. In a quick three weeks, I was packed, moved (or should I say stored), on the hunt for a new place and ready for my travel back to the states. My last few days in Breda were certainly bittersweet, as this cozy city introduced and broke me in to all things Dutch. It was truly the perfect place to begin my living abroad journey (not too big, not too small), and thanks to Breda, I am ready for the ‘too big’ city.

Stay tuned for a few more very exciting details… But until then, I hope you enjoy a few of my favorite Breda snapshots taken over the past six months.

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Until next time – 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

differences v. 1.0

“What’s it like over there?” “What kind of food do you eat?” “What are the people like?” “What sports do they play?” As you can imagine, when chatting with friends and family back home (love and miss you guys!), I get a lot of questions. So, every now and then, I thought it would be fun to share differences – minor and major… and some just plain alien. First up – the grocery store!

Grocery shopping is a little different in the Netherlands… Ok, a lot different and definitely took some getting used to. Anytime I went to Whole Foods, Super Target, or Super Wal-Mart (I miss you all) in the US, I would pack my truck full of goodies (at least two week’s worth), as I loathe the grocery store and tried making visits as infrequent as possible. Well, not the case here. My every-two-week visit is now every two days (sometimes everyday), since my baby Expo was traded in for my own two legs, amongst other soon-to-be discussed reasons.

Well guys, let’s go grocery shopping – Dutch style!

1. Never leave home without your already-paid-for shopping bag – or else be prepared to buy a new one (or stuff your buys in your purse – I might have done this a few times).

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2. Well, at least I don’t have to worry about getting the “broken wheel buggie” (you guys know what I’m talking about!), because your buggie is now a basket. So, make every item you place in your basket count, as things tend to get a little heavy.

*The larger stores do have buggies.

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3. Come mentally prepared and focused, as everything is in Dutch – thankfully, there’s a convenient ‘Translate’ app available for download on all smart phones.

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4. Work those muscles! Things getting heavy yet?

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5. Tell yourself to just walk away…

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6. The Coca-Cola selection consists of Coca-Cola, Cola Light (aka Diet Coke), Coke Zero and Dr. Pepper… Consider yourself  lucky if you find a Mt. Dew or Vanilla Coke. Speaking of, will someone please mail me a Diet Dr. Pepper (in a can)? I will love you forever.

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6a. I wonder if I’m the only person who browses through the Coke bottles for names I know… Super excited I finally get to, “Share a Coke Zero with Joost!”

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7. Time to check-out! While the cashier is swiping your buys, you must also get to work and bag, bag, bag (during my first trip, I might have waited for someone to pack my things… and yeah, they never came). Also, you must be quick, because as soon as you pay, the next person’s things begin coming your way – who knew the grocery store could be so intense.

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8. Time to walk (or bike) home!

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9. Invite your “Cola friend” over for dinner and, “eet smakelijk!”

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

swan attack

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This weekend was a happy one, as I was beyond excited to welcome Joost back from a two-week training course – which felt like the longest 14 days ever (funny to think how quickly we’ve become spoiled with seeing each other every weekend, where it once was every 8-12 weeks). Along with the “Welcome Home” celebration, we also had Aspergedag 2013 on our agenda (family code name for the annual Asparagus Party – bet you can’t guess what we ate!). On our way to the party, I spotted the cutest little swan family and of course, a photo opp was totally necessary. Everyone seemed to be in for the photo shoot, minus the father swan – see ruffled feathers below. It would have been nice to know swans are a protective and aggressive breed beforehand.

Therefore, from this experience as well as the stork one, it can be concluded Dutch birds do not favor brightly colored Americans named Whitney.

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Joost and I were surprised with beautiful (and healthy) blooms at the Asparagus Party – hoping I can keep this mini garden alive! Any tips?

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney