I loved Christmas, I can't deny! But I am also relieved it's over, as I'm shattered! Lots of burning the candle at both ends, cooking, visiting family, more cooking and a little over indulgence. Now I'm zapped! I guess most people are. Other years, I've been fine, but perhaps age is catching up with me. Anyway, I enjoyed it.
Christmas starts for me with going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. No, I'm not going to start bible bashing, but it's something that's important to me, and something I've always done. I'm Church of England faith, and obviously, there aren't many of those over here. Actually, perhaps none! But as my Father-in-law helps out at his local church (catholic), I went along there......they let anyone in these days, clearly!
After midnight mass, my Father-in-law came home with us to enjoy the traditional Dutch Christmas 'Breakfast'. That's the first year I've had it, despite being over here for 5 Christmas's. That was very nice actually. Of course, I tweeked it slightly. What it is, is sharing a special spiced bread, and drinking tea etc all together. Doesn't sound that exciting, but it was a nice thing to do after midnight mass. The Christmas bread is a sweet thing with currents, raisons etc, spices (cinnamon I think) and it has a soft almond centre. I don't like currants, and as a Brit, I must be one of the nations few non tea drinkers! So I ate biscuits and mandarines and drank hot chocolate! Prior to that, it dawned on me that I don't even own a teapot! What kind of self respecting Brit doesn't own a teapot even if they don't drink tea! Well, I didn't! So for several weeks, I hunted high and low in department stores, tea specialist shops. Somebody was coming round for tea and cake, and I, as a Brit, didn't own a teapot. I couldn't have that! My search was reaching crisis point too, as I couldn't find one that was wasn't either an awful flowery thing, or those silly things with a cup for one on top, (are they even any good? Why not just put the tea bag in the cup and be done with it?!) or ridiculously expensive. I did find what was labled as a 'coffee pot' in Hema, that looked perfect though! What can I say, I'm a rebel! It looks like a teapot to me! lol. No granny flowers, delicate porcelain, silly 'cup for one' contraptions, and it didn't break the bank. It will only get used once a year! So we Christened our new teapot (coffe pot lol) for our Christmas 'breakfast' after midnight mass!
We had a nice day with the in-laws for Christmas Day.....gotta be careful what I'm saying here, as they might read this! lol. Christmas Dinner was a traditional Dutch feast of 'Gourmet'. How to describe that....everyone sits around various grilling machines, and there will be all the types of meat and marinated things you can imagine. It's done in the evening usually. Each person cooks their own meat (and onions, peppers or whatever) on this grilling machine. It's a long, relaxed and intimate gathering, with only close family present (as far as I know!). It's very different from the big roast turkey and all the trimmings that I'm used to, and as I'm not a big meat eater (although I couldn't be a veggie!), I find it a bit heavy going. It's a nice atmosphere though, and although not my favourite choice of food, it is most definitely luxury. Anyway, I cooked a couple of vegetable dishes on Christmas Eve to take along. Partly for my own benefit, of course, but also to share. Previous years, I've CRAVED brussel sprouts and rich gravy! For sprout haters, that must be hard to believe, but I truly love a proper English Christmas Dinner! Normally board games will come out, and everyone will join in. It's very often Monopoly, actually, and it just so happens I'm a bit of a pro at that! Hence the reason it didn't happen this year, as everyone knows what the outcome will be! I'll be declared the winner, after many accusations being fired in all directions about 'cheating'. As if! I mean, everybody knows the unwritten 'rule' in Monopoly is to ignore the written rules, and improvise as you go along! Believe me, I've pulled some dirty tricks in previous years. Yes, the in-laws cheat too......they're just not as good as I am at it! Every year they all look puzzled as to how I've managed to win, despite their dubious tactics, and watching me like a hawk! I wasn't going to admit I'd used all my 'tricks' and had no new ideas for cheating (they might be reading this!)....but I was a little relieved as I may have actually been defeated if it had made an appearance this year! Phew! Imagine that, being beaten at Monopoly by the in-laws! Uh, no, that's not going to happen! Don't get me wrong, I have quite nice in-laws (they might be reading!), but the gloves are off in Monopoly!
Boxing Day, Theo and I just spent at home. I did my traditional Turkey then! And boy, did I enjoy it! Theo ate his two compulsory brussel sprouts without even a single moan, and I couldn't move for about 3 hours afterwards! Our cat and dog also enjoy a treat of turkey dindins too! That went down well. Of course, I had a few little tipples too! Which reminds me, I need to use up the rest of New Years Eve bubbles! I'll find out how well that Champagne stopper really works, I guess!
All Dutchies (so I'm told) go to buy a new sofa or to Ikea on Boxing Day. As I had other plans for Boxing Day, we delayed that until the following day. Only we didn't go to Ikea, nor did we need to shop for a new sofa. So we went to a garden centre to check out their Christmas Lights sale. Didn't get any lights, but did get a few big decorations! It was too good to be true, me not adding to our collection this year! As it was after Christmas, we put them away, ready for next year though. So, I can't disclose what they are as I have a sneaky feeling one of our neighbours is trying to compete with us! No chance, Johan, none at all! :P
New Years Eve is definitely something to remember in the Netherlands. To summarize - if you value your life, even just a tiny little bit......stay indoors! From about mid afternoon you'll hear the occasional banger being let off by youngsters. Some legal, but many are smuggled in accross borders - despite it being on the news that the police only sezied 25 tonnes this year! In a country this small, it beggars belief how that amount can even be consumed in total - that's only the illegal ones! As it gets to early evening, there will be some small but pretty displays. I guess from people who have young kids, who let their fireworks off before the kids go to bed. However, I don't fully understand the logic there, as believe me, once midnight strikes, it's like a warzone outside! No child could sleep through it! Within a few seconds, fireworks are being launched in every direction! The skies turn to mere flashes of red and green. By five minutes past midnight, the air is so filled with smoke, you can't see beyond your own back garden! They get thrown accross roads, even AT emergency vehicles (that, I think is so wrong) but the strange thing is, thankfully there aren't many house fires or serious injuries....unlike bonfire night in the UK. However, I must admit, I'm too scared to go out! We did go out of our front door briefly to wish neighbours a happy new year, but I dived straight back in. Our dog is fine with them, no problem at all. But our cat wasn't too pleased. She went and hid behind boxes in the attic and refused to come out. Even kitty treats wouldn't coax her out! She came out when it started to quieten down. Our budgies loved it - they like noise! We did leave the light on in their room so they didn't get scared from the flashes. They were still chirpring away at 4am!
Before Christmas I went to the various expat shops to pick up tins of Qualtiy Street, a turkey and all the bits and pieces I can't live without over the festive season. Whilst shopping, I found a very rare treat.....a joint of roasting beef. You can't buy proper joints of meat here, you have to get frozen ones as/when you can from an expat shop. Well, I'm not the best at cooking beef. I like it well done. If there's a hint of pink on my plate, I get nervous it might still get up and walk off! I just don't like it. Well, Theo likes it medium. As I'm not great at getting beef right, I didn't want to try to kill the outside but leave it pink in the middle......I just aimed to cook it so that at least one of us would enjoy it! lol. Well, after doubling the time I figured out for it's weight (it was only small), it finally appeared done when I cut it open to check. Problem was, it was tough as old boots! lol Tasted great, but it was definitely a fail! I don't know why, I just can't cook beef properly. I so enjoyed having roasties again though! And of course, more sprouts! All washed down with some rather nice vino, too!
Now, the effects from all that rushing around, cooking, over indulging, being nice to people (that was really tough!) has caught up with me. But, I am saving myself for yet another special event......it's our first wedding anniversary tomorrow. So, I'm off to get a few things done so I can relax later as we're off out to celebrate tomorrow!