Sinterklaas/Christmas

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Me with my surprise from Els

Sinterklaas is a Dutch/Belgian tradition normally celebrated at the beginning of December. Due to vacations, we made a change this year to celebrate both Sinterklaas and Christmas the same day.

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Sinterklaas 2013

My surprise for Dook!

My surprise for Dook!

In case you don’t remember from last year, the “surprises” are homemade gifts tailored to the likes and hobbies of the person whose name you’ve drawn. This year I drew Dook, Koen’s dad. Because Dook is the biggest wine lover I know, my surprise had to do with wine. I fingerpainted a map of the world, then created a pathway through the major wine countries. Starting in California, Dook had to answer questions about wine to move forward. After successfully completing the game Dook was able to open his gift!

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Oma’s 85th Birthday Party!

Oma's 85!

Oma’s 85!

For Koen’s Oma’s 85th Birthday Party, the family hosted a get together catered by the children and grandchildren! As my blog can attest, we all love to cook and eat well! Koen and I made savory dishes, chicken legs and chicken salads while the rest of the family made sweets and other delicious treats!

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Roosendaal and Gouda, Netherlands

Koen and me in Gouda

Koen and me in Gouda on the steps of the Old City Hall

At the end of my parents’ visit in May, we had to visit Arie and Petra! After eating a delicious lunch, we were surprised with a trip to Gouda! I think most Americans know Gouda because of the cheese with the same name, but Gouda is also famous for its stroopwafels, a particular favorite of my dad’s and mine. While in Gouda, we made our own stroopwafels! What a wonderful, wonderful day full of surprises and treats!

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Christmas Eve in Roosendaal

Last year’s Christmas Eve at the De Feijter’s was so well-received, we decided to do it again this year! The evening was filled with lots of laughter and enjoying delicious food and drinks surrounded by family!

Koen and I brought a Belgian hapje – tomate aux crevettes. I mentioned it before in a previous post. This is a Belgian dish created by carving out tomatoes and filling them with a mixture of North Sea shrimp, mayonnaise, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. We used cherry tomatoes this time because they’re the perfect finger food size and we substituted the lemon juice with finely chopped fresh grapefruit!

Mini Tomate aux Crevettes

Mini Tomate aux Crevettes with Grapefruit

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Sinterklaas!

Sinterklaas in the Netherlands is celebrated the 5th of December (and the 6th in Belgium) but because my sister-in-law Nikki was in Pakistan, we celebrated a bit later.  There are a few differences between the Dutch Sinterklaas and the American Santa Clause. Although the Sint brings gifts to the “braaf” or good children, he is much more strict than my dear Santa. If you are bad, not only do you receive a “roe”, or a cane to be whipped with, but also you will be taken from your parents and home in Sinterklaas’ bag and brought back to Spain, where the Sint lives!

Also, Sinterklaas does not have elves to help him with the days up to Christmas, instead he has Zwarte Pieten, black companions that arrive with him on his steamboat from Spain to help distribute treats. Although originally black to represent the Moorish people who once occupied the Netherlands, they are now black because they are covered in soot from the chimneys!  But as an American here, I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing so many people in black face with huge red lips, afros, and golden hoop earrings!

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

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Weekend in Roosendaal

The 21st of July is the Nationale Feestdag van België. The south of the Netherlands proclaimed independence to form the Kingdom of Belgium (the official name) on the 25th of August 1830. This was the start of the Belgian Revolution, which ended on the 14th of July 1831. Leopold I became the first king of Belgium the 21st of July 1831, and every year on this day everyone celebrates in Belgium.

But because the 21st was on a Saturday this year, I went to the Netherlands to spend the weekend (it’s rare that I have 2 days off in a row!). Koen and I had a relaxing time in Roosendaal, enjoying good wine (from Grand Vin, of course), food, and weather.

Friday the 20th

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2011 Minuty Rosé, AOC Côtes de Provence

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