Archive for Winter

Do you donate to your local food bank?

Last year all the provincial broadcasters got together to coordinate a giant food donation drive for the food banks in the Netherlands.

This year they are doing this food drive again.

voedselbankactie

Last year I donated lots of food. This year I intent to do it again. But what is best to donate? Mum in the Madhouse made a lovely list, that I could borrow for this post!

  1. Tuna – It’s packed full of protein and can be cooked as part of a meal or eaten straight from the can
  2. Things with ring pulls – Yep, This is probably one of the biggest tips I can give you! Homeless people often don’t carry tin openers due to the amount of stuff they have to carry around so if the tin of food you give doesn’t have a ring pull on it then they might not be able to eat it. Such a little thing that can make a difference!
  3. Baby formula. As anyone who has formula fed a baby knows, formula is a big drain on your finances. This is a great way that you can support familieson a low income with young kids.
  4. Nappies. Yep, same thing. No one should be worrying about how often they can afford to change their child’s nappy or if buying a new pack means less food that week.
  5. Chopped pork or corned beef. These both used to be cheap sources of protein but the price of them has really risen. They’re super versatile as like tuna, they can be used as part of a meal or can be eaten cold.
  6. Baked beans. And yes, apparently the value ones are more than ok to give!
  7. Tinned curry. A great way to help people have a nice meal with some flavour in it. They also often contain some vegetables in them which is helpful.
  8. Irish Stew. This is also something that gets requested a lot.
  9. Kids snacks. As all parents know, kids can eat a lot and need topping up with food regularly!
  10. Pot noodles. A good source of protein and carbohydrates.
  11. Big Soups. Tinned hearty soups need to be better nutritionally than others.
  12. Rice Pudding. Stodgy, filling and very popular.
  13. Coffee and tea.
  14. UHT Milk for people who don’t have access to a fridge.
  15. Financial aid rather than sleeping bags. If you want to give a sleeping bag for a homeless person then it’s very much appreciated, but food banks and homeless centres don’t always have a lot of additional room for storage though and can also often get deals when buying sleeping bags in bulk, meaning that your money can go further.
  16. Help throughout the year. Your help and support at Harvest and Christmas is really, truly appreciated, however please don’t forget food banks throughout the rest of winter. January, February and even March can be exceptionally cold and people living on the street or in poverty need your help just as much then.
  17. Feminine hygiene products. You really don’t want to choose between buying food or tampons. And, lets face it, tampons are expensive enough when you do have money.
  18. Animal food. Animals can’t help their owner have hit a rough patch in life. They need help too.
  19. Laundry detergent.
  20. Sugar.

The last four are added by me, as I know these things will often get overseen and most people on a very low income don’t have the money to buy these more expensive things. If you have to choose between food and tampons pr laundry detergent, I know what I’d choose…

 

thank you, mum in the madhouse, for letting me use your post! Make sure you check out her blog!

Christmas Wreath

Ever since I got my own place I’ve had a Christmas wreath on the front door. It’s been the same one for well over ten years and it’s become very tatty in those years. Ornaments kept falling off and the whole whing changed colour. So last year I decided it was time for a new one.
But apparently it’s hard to find a nice Christmas wreath which can go outside. I haven’t been able to find a nice one at a reasonable price.

A few days ago I was scouring the internet again and found a nice one made from ornaments, mainly balls. I thought I could make something like that myself.
Today, I had a go at it. And I think it looks really good.

Lights on

What you need:

  • Straw wreath (mine was 30 cm diameter)
  • Ribbon
  • lots of ornaments, both mini and midi (I used about 140)
  • String of beads (about 6 meters)
  • Battery powered LED lights (20 a string)
  • Glue gun
  • Glue sticks

Begin with placing the ribbon around the wreath and glue it in place.  Place some ornaments on the outside, spaced at regular intervals. Then, begin filling it up. Place the lights in where you want as you are placing the ornaments. I kept turning the lights on to see if I liked the placing of them. Try to fill most of the holes with balls or other ornaments you like. Don’t worry about the smaller holes. The can be filled with beads.
Glue the beads to the ornaments to prevent them from dropping off when you hang your wreath. The last thing you do is glue the batteries to the back of the wreath.

It’s really that simple. I love how my wreath has turned out and I’m amazed that I can make such a lovely thing as I’ve never been this creative before…

lights off

You can also use this as a table decoration. You can make it as big as you want, simply by using a bigger wreath. But make sure you’ve bought enough ornaments. I’ve ended up driving back to the shop a second time, as I didn’t even buy enough for half of the wreath…

The end of Sinterklaas?

Open letter to Chairperson of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, Verene Shepherd

 

Dear Ms Shepherd,

I’m writing this in concern to your statements about Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). Although I’m sure you will never read it. As you seen way too busy to try to ban things that you know nothing about. For someone who says she’s a researcher you’ve sure seem to have done very little research into this matter. So let me tell you a bit about the history of Sinterklaas (or Sint Nicolaas).

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet:
Sinterklaas or Sint Nicolaas is based on the Bishop of Myra, who was a historic 4th-century saint. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. He’s the patron saint for children, amongst others.
Originally, the Sinterklaas feast celebrates the name day, 6 December, of Sint Nicolaas. Half of his bones are buried in Bari, a town in southwestern Italy. In the middle ages this part of Italy was part of the Kingdom of Aragon and later of Spain.
Sinterklaas is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces and colourful Moorish dresses. During the Middle-ages Zwarte Piet was a name for evil. Nowadays, the tasks of the Zwarte Pieten are mostly to amuse children, and to scatter pepernoten, kruidnoten and strooigoed (special sinterklaas candy) for those who come to meet the saint as he visits stores, schools, and other places. Sinterklaas arrives on a (steam) boat from Madrid with Zwarte Piet and his horse Amerigo.

Children and Sinterklaas:
Traditionally, in the weeks between his arrival and 5 December, before going to bed, children put their shoes, traditionally next to the fireplace chimney or the radiator, near a window.
The next day they will find some candy or a small present in their shoes.
On the evening of December 5th, the children will get toys, chocolate (can be dark, might be white, do you have any problems with dark chocolate Ms Shepherd?) and marzipan. In the olden days, if you were naughty you would get a lump of coal (which is also black) or a bit of salt.
Adults and older kids give each other presents, accompanied with poems.

History of Santa Claus:
I’ve read on more than one occasion you, Ms Shepherd, have said:

What’s wrong with one Santa Claus, why have two Santa’s?

Really Ms Shepherd? Really? Have you done any research at all into the history of your Santa Claus? Because I don’t think you have. You are just being narrow-minded and you must think you are always right. Let me tell you what came first.
Your Santa is derived from Sint Nicolaas (the name is a dead giveaway). The Dutch, who set up a colonial town, on the banks of the Hudson River, called New Amsterdam (it’s now called New York) took their traditions to their new homeland. But to have Sinterklaas arrive from Spain was a bit much, so over the years the traditional Sinterklaas feast was transformed to Santa Claus.

This would mean that we should ban Santa Claus, as he’s clearly an impersonator of Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas is the “real” one, Santa is not. Just because you get your gifts from Santa, doesn’t mean we Dutch should go along with that. You are not always right, Ms Shepherd!

Is Zwarte Piet racism? 

As a black person, if I were living in the Netherlands I would object to it. As a member of the working group, I am obliged to do further investigation.

Why am I not surprised Ms Shepherd? You have always plaid the racism card, why is that? Because you’re black? Do you feel you have to protect your people from all evil? I’ve worked in many stores and from what I’ve seen the black population plays the racism card ten times more than other minority groups. I’m sorry I have to say this, but it’s true. So I’m not at all surprised you’ve plaid the racism card.

I don’t think Zwarte Piet is racism. Do you really think Zwarte Piet depicts black people? Do you wear a large afro, big earhoops and do you wear very bright red lipstick that covers almost half your face? If the answer to all these questions is yes, I’d say it’s racism. But I’ve seen pictures of you, Ms Shepherd, and I don’t think you look even close to Zwarte Piet.
I wear glasses, but does that make me look like Dame Edna? No, it doesn’t. Same goes for black people and Zwarte Piet. Zwarte Pieten are mostly white people who wear huge amounts of make up to look black. Which makes it look ridiculous. Black people are much nicer to look at (well, most of them, but that goes for white people as well).

Santa Claus:
Santa has helpers too, Ms Shepherd. Little helpers. They are called elves, but are plaid by dwarves in many occasion. Wouldn’t that be more racist than putting make up on white people?
For pictures of these “elves” you might want to go here. Tell me what’s more disturbing Ms Shepherd? I’d say the “elves” are…

Sinterklaas/Santa Claus:

So, let me get this straight Ms Shepherd.

Sinterklaas has jolly helpers called Zwarte Pieten, white people who put on make up to look black. Santa Claus has little helpers called elves, but they’re really dwarves.

Sinterklaas has one horse, a domesticated animal. Santa has a bunch of reindeer, wild animals which he keeps locked up.

Sinterklaas Sinterklaas lives in Spain, a nice and warm place for such an old man. Santa lives somewhere on the North pole, but nobody knows exactly where.
Trading standards can visit Sinterklaas to see if he takes good care of his workers, but they can’t visit Santa, as nobody knows where he’s at.

Sinterklaas has a normal posture. Santa is extremely obese.

Tell me which one is better!?

All in all:
I think you’re claim to Zwarte Piet being racism is clearly ridiculous. I can understand you are hurt by your ancestors suffering under slavery. I can understand you feel the need to protect your heritage. But can you please leave an innocent celebration, one that makes so many children happy, alone? You are not always right Ms Shepherd, even if you think you are!

Regards,

Me

Every Season Is Different

Today’s Daily Prompt:

For many of us, winter is blooming into spring, or fall hardening into winter. Which season do you most look forward to?

Every season is different. And beautiful.

Winter is a dead season. Nothing is growing, nothing seems to be able to survive. And yet it’s so full of life. When the temperature hit -15 C only a few weeks ago our garden was bursting with life. Sparrows sat on the fence, fighting over who could get a bit of food. Blue tits, great tits and robins flew off and on for peanuts. A great spotted woodpecker tried to make a hole in the fence. A Eurasian Jay came to visit for bread.
Winter makes me feel down. The darkness, the lack of sunshine makes me long for the summer. But when the sun is shining, the temperatures are quite low and ice is covering the canals I couldn’t be more happy. I love skating.

CobwebBridge

Spring is the time where everything starts to get green again. The days are getting longer, the temperatures should be/is rising and things start to grow again. This is when my blood starts to rush a bit more. I’m planting all kinds of seeds, hoping for them to produce some crops in the summer. I’m making plans for the garden in hopes that this year I’m really going to do it.

Tulips

Summer is what I love. The warmth of the sun on my skin. Heading out without a jacket. The shorts, the shirts, the skirts.
But at the same time I dislike the sun. Due to my illness I’m having a hard time driving in the sun. I can only drive with sunglasses on. This means I have to be carefull when I leave the house. Do I have them in the car? In my purse? Or did I leave them on the table? I can’t leave without my sunglasses, ever.
The extreme heat we sometimes get makes me sleep bad. I lie awake for hours, tossing and turning, longing for the winter cold. The mosquitos that somehow manage to get into the bedroom are driving me crazy and I get up many times to zap them with the electric fly swatter.
But the same heat that makes me lie awake for so long is bringing thunder and rain. Cool, soothing rain. Lovely thunderclouds that seem to be traveling in the wrong direction. Majestic black skies.

Thunder sky

Autumn is when I have to prepare the garden for winter again. Leaves start to fall. And not like the picture we think of when we hear the word autumn. No. They simply turn brown and fall off. No gorgeous reds and yellows. Browns and blacks is what they turn to. I have to harvest the last crops just before the frost hits. Most of the years it means it’s 25/30 C one week and -5 C the next. No smooth transition, just BAM! Winter. So much rain, so much wind.

Each of the seasons has its charms. Each of the seasons has its disadvantages. What do you like most?

The unfortunate naming of a snow storm

When the name Nemo first crept into my Twitter timeline 2 days ago I immediately thought of the Disney’s clownfish. I couldn’t relate that movie to any of those tweets and wondered what it was all about (working night shifts probably had something to do with that too).

This morning I saw the news and it showed this video:

And I realised that naming this storm Nemo probably wasn’t the best idea ever… When I hear Nemo I think of clownfish, bright colours, even a dentist. But I don’t think about snow. Not at all. Maybe this name would have been better for a tropical storm…

Photo’s courtesy of Chrissam42 as we don’t have that much snow. And I’m not even close to the US.

Through the Window

As I look through the window I see the damp and dreary place that is my garden.

The chrysanthemum that has been flowering for months has lost its flowers and leaves and the storm that was raging last night has made it topple over. As did the Christmas tree that I want to try to keep for next Christmas.
The orange dish I used for the birds is filled with water and a bit of bread crumbs. The back looks like a wasteland of dirt and some pretty persistent weeds.

Next summer that part will hopefully be a veggie patch with berry bushes, strawberry, lettuce, potatoes, onions, bell-peppers, tomatoes and whatever you want.

The place is looking nothing like the bird haven that it was just a couple of days ago. The ground was covered in a light, white dust of snow that just about covered the grass. There were so many birds, fighting for the food I put out. When the bread dish was empty, a brave blackbird knocked on the window. Making it pretty clear he was hungry and wanted food. The magpies were stealing sunflower seeds from the great tits and the blue tits. The starlings were fighting each other trying to get hold of the suet balls. Why I have no idea, because there were more than enough for all of them. We had bush tits, great tits, house sparrows, robins, blue tits, a great spotted woodpecker, thrushes, blackbirds, starlings, doves, magpies, herons, Eurasian jays and even a nightingale.

I loved seeing all the birds in the garden. And while I’m looking out into that dreary place that is now my garden I push myself a little closer to the central heating. For just a moment I let the thing warm me. And just as I want to turn around to go and write this post a robin flies up to the window bird feeder. He looks right at me, his little head tilted a bit as if he wants to tell me he’s still here and he still needs the food I put out…

For more posts on this Daily Prompt, please go here.

Elfstedentocht

As some of you know, I live in Fryslân. This is one of the most northerly provinces in the Netherlands.
Fryslân has 11 cities and many, many more villages.
All cities are linked through canals and waterways and you can get from one town to another quite quickly on skates.

Elfstedentocht-Plaatsnamen

Picture courtesy of wikipedia.

Ever since the 1700s people have been doing a skating tour through all 11 cities (200 km). In 1909 the first organised tour was held. After that race an association was established.
Ever since then, when there’s enough ice (20 cm over the whole length of the track) the race and tour have been held for members of the Vereniging De Friese Elfsteden (Association of the Eleven Frisian Cities).
Since then there have been 15 races.
Last year at the last possible moment the race did not happen. The whole province was ready, the whole country was ready. But the ice wasn’t. So they didn’t think it was safe to go ahead with the race.

But last week it starting freezing again. And while the water was fairly warm, and the ice didn’t form as quickly as we all would have liked, weathermen and women say the frost is most likely going to stay and the chances of the Elfstedentocht happening have not been so good since 1997, when the last race was organized.

I know the weather is unpredictable and I know it s still a long way away. But the excitement within me is growing. And I can’t help but think back to 1997, when we had a wonderful time.
So I got my skates from the attic and brought them to a shop to get them sharpened, Not that I’m planning on doing a 200 km skating tour, but I’d like to do a portion of it again. like last year.

This is a video of the town where I lived back in 1997. I hope you enjoy it.

More on last years skating can be found here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

When I think of a surprise the first thing that pops into my mind is one morning in March 2005. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I opened the curtains that morning…

The weather forecast didn’t say there was snow coming. So when I closed the curtains the night before I didn’t think they world would’ve changed so much the next morning.
I woke up around 7 AM. It was awfully quiet outside and the light was a bit diffuse. Like it always is when there’s been a nice layer of fresh snow…
I slipped out of bed and went to the livingroom. I peaked through the curtains and looked out. It was snowing quite bad. I closed the curtains again and then realised I had seen something odd. I peaked again. My eyes registered what I mind just couldn’t cope with. Our garden had disappeared. Completely!

Everything was covered in a lot of snow. I ran to the bedroom and told Jay to come and look. He looked out and couldn’t believe it either. We grabbed a tape measure and went outside, in our PJ’s. The outcome of the measuring was astonishing. 52 Cm of snow…

I turned on the radio and listened to the local news. Schools closed, roads closed, people who couldn’t get to work as their car was snowed in. People calling in with the own measurements. 25, 30, 40, even 70 Cm of snow. All over the province.
Later, the local weatherman called in to explain. The previous night a band of clouds crept up from the east and covered our province entirely. And instead of moving along it decided it liked where it was and stayed there. Releasing it’s snow steadily. Slowly but surely the ground got covered in snow, more and more snow.

So when the world woke up the following day, it woke up to a world filled with snow. A world where, suddenly, everyone greeted each other, talked to each other. Even though they had never met before. I wish the world could always be covered in snow.

For more entries for this weeks’ photo challenge, click here.

 

Christmas tree

Despite not liking Christmas trees or rather, not liking to decorate a Christmas tree due to my OCD, we bought a tree yesterday.

CHristmas 2012

I put the lights in, rearranged them over a dozen times, got the balls, rearranged those several times. Forgot to add the guirlandes, found them again and put those in as well.

I’m sure I’ll rearrange everything several times over the coming week, and when I’m finally done with it, I’ll be sick of the tree and throw it out on boxing day…

Birds in our garden

A few weeks ago I decided to put up some bird feed. I’ve made a bird feeder from an old bottle and I’ve made a few Jumping Jack bird feeders. I bought some suet balls, and got a special holder for bread. And my most precious item is a small window feeder. It’s tiny, but such joy to look at.

Ever since we’ve put up all the food, our garden has been very popular with the food, despite the cats going out in the garden a gazillion times a day.

Great Tit

We’ve seen  bush tits, great tits, house sparrows, robins, blue tits, a great spotted woodpecker, thrushes, blackbirds, starlings, doves and magpies.

Have you been putting up bird feeders? What type of birds are visiting your garden?