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Mince Pie Season and Sinterklaas Celebrations

Thursday, December 06, 2012

It's not been the best of weeks for Sparking for me. I've been mega-busy at school with end of term holiday activities. I've also enjoyed 2 Christmas lunches and have a party to look forward to on Saturday evening. It's turning into a bit of a "mince pie and sherry trifle" fest. Because of extra work commitments, I've done very little exercise. Consequently, the scales are telling me that I've (unsurprisingly) not lost any weight this week. But at least I've not put any on. Today, I gave myself a bit of a talking to and decided that the Christmas food fest is on hold now until Christmas Eve. Today I've stayed within my calorie range for the first time this week!

Last night was an occasion for much excitement amongst the local kids - the eve of Sinterklaas' birthday, when children look forward to a visit from the Sint. They leave a shoe by the chimney with a carrot and sugar cubes for Sinterklaas' horse, a bottle of beer for his helper Zwarte Piet and a cup of tea for the Sint. Then they sing a few Sinterklaas songs before going to bed and hope that the shoes will be full of presents and candy when they wake.

This morning, there were lots of happy faces amongst the Elementary and Early Years kids. They had an extra surprise - the Sint came for one final visit before he boarded his steamboat for the long trip back to Spain. A quick chorus of Happy Birthday and the Dutch equivalent Lang Zal Hij Leven and the Sint had gone for another year.

Sinterklaas arrived on his horse, Slecht Weer Vandaag....



His helpers, Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes)



Singing Happy Birthday to the Sint



I quite like the Sinterklaas tradition. It's the main gift giving time, leaving Christmas to be a religious event which is celebrated in the way it was meant, without the commercial influence. And it means I can do my Christmas shopping without having to battle the crowds, as the locals have finished theirs now!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LIS193 12/8/2012 10:04AM

    Sinterklaas is an exciting time for kids :) Love your pictures and thank for the memories.
Yum on the mince pies and sherry trifle - we used to have those every Christmas too.

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KALIOPPE 12/7/2012 3:34PM

    Great post and I love the pics. Don't be so hard on yourself re the weight. Scales can be finicky and all those mince pies are just confusing the matter. All will be back to normal soon, so just enjoy yourself and good luck with the shopping. emoticon

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ALIHIKES 12/7/2012 11:41AM

    What a great blog! I loved the photos, and loved the tradition. I like the thought of separating the gift giving from the religious origin of the holidays (which means the holy days are actually set aside for religion). Nice to think of Santa returning to Spain!

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DR1939 12/7/2012 9:36AM

    Lovely tradition.

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PUDLECRAZY 12/7/2012 5:55AM

    Oh that looks like fun!

This is such a busy time for teachers. We have been having a stained glass making residency for the past two weeks, are working on songs and instrumentals for the holiday party next week, getting ready for the cookie exchange, and making cards for our pen pals. My guitar teacher asked me if I was done with my Christmas shopping. Good grief! I don't have time for that until break.

Hang in there!

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JACKIE542 12/6/2012 11:35PM

    Very interesting. Always nice to know different traditions. loved the pictures, thank you for sharing this. emoticon

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WILSONWR 12/6/2012 9:40PM

    That is a great tradition. I like it! The Sint is from Spain in the tradition? Sounds strange that he leaves by steamboat - we're so used to the reindeer and the sleigh here!

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WILLOWBROOK5 12/6/2012 9:04PM

    Really neat. I like the shift of gift giving away from Christmas, too. Thanks for sharing this tradition!

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-WRKNG2ABTTRME- 12/6/2012 8:20PM

    emoticon

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UNSWEETMAMA 12/6/2012 4:31PM

    How exciting for the kids! emoticon

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1BEACHWALKER 12/6/2012 3:54PM

    Mince pie is one of my faves..but, don't see it too often. I don't bake too often or even like to cook-but I am trying to get back to it since joining SP. Very interesting-never heard of those traditions of Sinterklass. I don't celebrate the holidays, but appreciate your sharing the story and photos.
Stay strong with your goals! It is always so easy to overeat at big gatherings with lots of food-no matter what it is for! emoticon emoticon

Thanks for you very nice comment on my blog!!! Have a great day!! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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Surprise visitor

Sunday, December 02, 2012

It's barely above freezing, so I was surprised to hear a familiar squawking in the garden this morning. We enjoyed flocks of these when we lived in Qatar. It would seem one or two have followed me to Belgium!!!



(Not a brilliant picture, taken with my "point and click" camera, but it's a parakeet....)

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

1BEACHWALKER 12/6/2012 3:49PM

    That is too cool!!! I love seeing the unusual birds here in FL that we never saw when we lived in Ohio! Like the big wading birds-herons, egrets or the pelicans! emoticon

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BESSHAILE 12/5/2012 7:08AM

    Wow!

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DOLPHINSINGER72 12/2/2012 8:37PM

    ah, this parakeet picture made me happy. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Squak!

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ANDY_54 12/2/2012 2:40PM

    You know, I've never thought of parakeets being wild. He looks like a big one! Great catch and I really liked the bird feeder set-up, too.

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POOKASLUAGH 12/2/2012 2:19PM

    Cool!

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WILSONWR 12/2/2012 12:04PM

    I would never have thought that parakeets could survive there!

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DR1939 12/2/2012 11:57AM

    Lovely.

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LIS193 12/2/2012 11:27AM

    What a lovely surprise!

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CLAIREINPARIS 12/2/2012 10:31AM

    How fun!

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ROBBGIN 12/2/2012 10:06AM

    Amazing that since they are a tropical bird, they can tolerate the cold! Enjoy them!
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WILLOWBROOK5 12/2/2012 10:02AM

    How fun!

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JACKIE542 12/2/2012 9:42AM

    What a great surprise! If I were a bird I would be in your garden too! Looks like a great set-up you have for them. emoticon

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STONECOT 12/2/2012 9:23AM

    We gets lots of them in South London. I really like them, though lots of people complain about their noise.

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15lbs gone

Friday, November 30, 2012

It's been a good day. Apart from the beautiful (albeit it freezing) weather, family harmony even at breakfast time and a lovely comment from one of my English students this morning, I am delighted to say that the scales have been kind to me too, declaring another 2lbs of excess weight gone. This takes me to 15lbs loss in total. A bit of a milestone for us Brits, as it's the first stone (14lbs) lost.

One of my favourite Spark friends commented "whatever you're doing, it's working!" (you know who you are!). Well my reply is, I've tried this before but the difference this time is the friends I've made on SparkPeople and the constant encouragement and kind words I receive from them. Their comments have kept me focussed and given me the motivation to keep going even when I haven't really felt like it.

A huge thank you to you all, you lovely people. With your continued support, I know the next 15lbs are soon to be history too!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CLAIREINPARIS 12/2/2012 10:33AM

    emoticon Congratulations, that's awesome!

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FITGRL124 12/2/2012 10:24AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon

Just emoticon emoticon

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ROBBGIN 12/2/2012 10:08AM

    great job! emoticon

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LIS193 12/1/2012 9:50AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
You are doing great!
emoticon

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FANGFACEKITTY 12/1/2012 3:35AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon

Having the support and motivation (and accountability) from SP members is a wonderful thing!

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1BEACHWALKER 12/1/2012 1:21AM

    Good for you!!! I love the support here at SP! Glad you stuck with us-it has paid off!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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WILSONWR 11/30/2012 6:21PM

    Way to go, Dawn. You're doing great!

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ANDY_54 11/30/2012 6:06PM

    A serious emoticon and emoticon to you! Congrats on the loss and whoever said that quote was right...whatever you're doing, keep doing. Great work!

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LISBETHSALANDER 11/30/2012 4:20PM

    Congratulations on your weight loss! As much as I hate the scale, it is exciting to watch those numbers add up. 15 lbs is terrific. We appreciate your support, too.

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DR1939 11/30/2012 1:14PM

    emoticon

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UNSWEETMAMA 11/30/2012 11:39AM

    emoticon
Keep it up!
emoticon

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POOKASLUAGH 11/30/2012 11:38AM

    That's exactly why I love Spark - all the constant encouragement! :) Congrats!

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JACKIE542 11/30/2012 11:25AM

    Good work! emoticon

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SCRAPPINPOLLY 11/30/2012 10:55AM

    Woo hoo!! Congrats to you!

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Pillow Party for breast cancer sufferers

Wednesday, November 28, 2012



Today I have spent a few hours at a very special coffee morning. I was invited to join a group of ladies to help make heart pillows, which will now be delivered to the local hospital to be given as gifts to ladies who have recently had mastectomies.

It's such a simple idea, yet the feedback has been tremendous - so many very grateful ladies who have said that these pillows have given them much relief. The idea, I think, originated in the US, but we found it on a Danish webpage.
www.heartpillow.dk/

I thought I'd post in case any Sparkies fancied hosting a similar coffee - I'm sure your local cancer hospital would find many willing recipients.

emoticon emoticon

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LIS193 12/1/2012 9:48AM

    What a great idea! I've heard of groups knitting and crotcheting blankets for cancer patients. I love the pillows.
Thanks for sharing and good luck with the project!

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KALIOPPE 11/29/2012 3:05PM

    Great idea! They look fabulous. Thank you for sharing. :)

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ANDY_54 11/28/2012 6:58PM

    What a lovely idea, I wish I had known about this several years ago--my sister had a mastectomy for breast ca--I just know she would have found this a comforting thing to use! I hope you and the ladies are able to make a ton of them for the patients! emoticon

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PUDLECRAZY 11/28/2012 3:59PM

    Great idea!
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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BROOKLYN_BORN 11/28/2012 1:50PM

    What a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing this.

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JACKIE542 11/28/2012 10:05AM

    Great idea. emoticon

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1CRAZYDOG 11/28/2012 8:38AM

    thank you for sharing this!

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POOKASLUAGH 11/28/2012 8:17AM

    That's such a great idea!

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BECKYANNE1 11/28/2012 7:29AM

    We have something similar here, but it's just 1 woman that makes these pillows for Breast Cancer patients. Great cause!

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THE_SHAKESHAFT 11/28/2012 6:55AM

    What a great idea, and such a great cause.

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WILSONWR 11/28/2012 6:38AM

    What a great thing to do! And it's a very worthwhile cause.

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Stir Up Sunday

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Otherwise known as Christmas Pudding Day. Always the Sunday before Advent. It's the day us Brits traditionally make our Christmas puddings, giving them enough time to mature and the flavours to develop before Christmas Day.

A Christmas pudding is traditionally made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His Disciples. A proper Christmas pudding is always stirred from East to West in honour of the three Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus. Every member of the family must give the pudding a stir and make a secret wish.

A coin was traditionally added to the ingredients and cooked in the pudding. It was supposedly to bring wealth to whoever found it on their plate on Christmas Day. The traditional coin was an old silver sixpence or threepenny bit. We don't do this anymore (health and safety - cases of people choking on the hidden sixpence...) although I think you can get plastic replicas which some people wrap in baking paper and stir in.

Yesterday was miserable weatherwise. Belgium is on the fringe of the weather front that is bringing severe flooding to parts of the UK. It rained incessantly and was dark enough for us to need the lights on all day. We didn't go outside, consequently by evening we were all suffering from caged lion syndrome.

Today we got up to sunshine. It was blowing a hoolie out, but we got wrapped up and went for a good walk to blow the cobwebs away. I'm glad we went when we did - the torrential rain has now returned.

Delighted to announce my first NSV - I'm wearing a pair of jeans that 3 months ago were about 3" off being do-upable. emoticon

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

1BEACHWALKER 11/28/2012 1:11AM

    That's awesome about your jeans!!! emoticon emoticon

I hate rainy times like that! I hope that you don't get the bad flooding too! We love to take our walks, but when it is raining or really windy-not so much! emoticon



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WILSONWR 11/27/2012 6:43PM

    That's a great tradition you're keeping alive! Also, congratulations on the new NSV. I had the same surprise with jeans last week. It's nice when we get such positive feedback!

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BROOKLYN_BORN 11/27/2012 8:40AM

    What a nice explanation of the tradition! We were in London in July with our daughter and her family. We loved everything about it and the surrounding countryside. The people were so friendly and PATIENT will all the extra visitors. Congratulations on the jeans. It's great to see progress like that.

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UNSWEETMAMA 11/26/2012 12:59PM

    emoticon emoticon

Stay warm and dry!

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BESSHAILE 11/26/2012 8:00AM

    emoticon


just about my favorite NSV! Yippee for you.

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PUDLECRAZY 11/26/2012 5:36AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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LIS193 11/25/2012 10:37AM

    emoticon on the jeans fitting!
Ah... Christmas pudding... I used to make trays and trays of mince pies. I still have a jar of mincemeat from last year :)

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LABRATIAM 11/25/2012 8:36AM

    emoticon

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ANDY_54 11/25/2012 8:36AM

    Congrats on the jeans fitting! I love it when that happens. And thanks for the Christmas Pudding explanation--will you be making some? And I have a question--what is "NSV"? I'm thinking it relates to "goal", but am not familiar with the acronym. Hope you have some sunnier days coming after the rain!

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WILLOWBROOK5 11/25/2012 8:28AM

    Wow! Congrats on the NSV! Thanks for the explanation of Christmas pudding. I love hearing about holiday traditions in other countries. My mom usually makes her fruitcakes Thanksgiving weekend. And while so many people mock fruitcakes for being inedible, my mom's are light (not in the calorie way tho), delicious and extremely coveted by family and friends. Hope the weather clears up soon!

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