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

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

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

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

sun, sand and saltwater

Spontaneous road trip to the beach? You can always count me in – even with a breezy high of 60 degrees. Tossing my bikini aside (tear), Rockanje essentials included: a light sweater, waterproof jacket, fleece-lined leggings and rain boots. Yes, rain boots (Florida people – please cease your laughter).

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We’re here! Wait… Are we at the beach? Or in the forest? Well, the answer is both! Never seeing anything like this before, I was in love with the little pre-beach walk – most certainly did a great job building my anticipation for the sun, sand and saltwater that lies ahead.

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Finally! After the longest walk ever (ok, it was only 4 minutes), I had the salty air upon my face, the ocean in my sight and the sand in between my toes… I mean, under my rain boots. To say the least, I was like a kid in a candy store. The calm waters, fresh breeze, dunes (quite possibly the biggest hills in Holland – really, this country is like a pancake) and instant tide changes were all noteworthy Rockanje attributes that quickly had me head over heels. I also loved how the beach is not only forever long, but also forever wide (which works in everyone’s favor – apparently once temps are considered beach weather appropriate, the entire country flocks to the coast – and when that time comes, I hope Joost is ready for a 5am departure). Even though the temps were cooler than your typical beach day, Joost and I had a wonderful time walking the beach, drawing in the sand, looking for shells, watching families build sand castles, laughing at dogs chase after sticks (apparently the water wasn’t too cold for them, brr) and ending our day with a beautiful beach sunset.

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I thought this was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen (which is apparently common)… and they call us rednecks?

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Until next time – tot ziens!

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