Thursday, December 13, 2012
For the last few weeks, our Dutch teachers have been teasing us with the prospect of a "special" last lesson of the term. This morning saw 14 middle aged ladies board a bus on our first school trip for many a year.
When we pulled up outside a building marked buikdanceschool, we weren't quite sure that our translations were correct.....belly dance school!
We tied shimmering shawls of jingling coins around our waists and entered into the spirit. What a hoot! We shimmied and strutted for an hour and a half of unusual but enjoyable exercise.
After, we were treated to a lunch in a local Moroccan restaurant to round off our oriental experience.
Not a typical Dutch lesson and we wouldn't have guessed what we would be doing in a month of Sundays, but a great way to end the term! Another experience ticked off the list.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
In an effort to stay accountable over the holiday period (traditionally a "bad choice" time of year for me), I have signed up for the BLC and been assigned to the Golden Phoenix team!
The challenge officially starts on 16th (I think) but the 1st week's challenge has been announced so I thought I may as well get on with it, prompted by seeing one or two other BLC blogs being posted. We have been asked to come up with a list of 3 ways we plan to reduce stress over the holiday period - and indeed, the rest of the year.
My Stress Busting Plan:
1. Make a list of Jobs To Do. I sometimes feel completely overwhelmed by how much I have to do - I realise that this is due, at least in part, to my being slightly disorganised and not making the most of my spare time. I'm of an age where I seem more forgetful than I used to be....!!! Some days I spend far too long on my laptop when I could be working my way through my "To Do" List. I think there's something a bit cathartic about crossing jobs off a list, so I shall be jotting things down from now on!
2. Practice saying "No". Related in part to above. I do quite a lot of voluntary work and have come to realise that "the more you do, the more you are expected to do". I find it difficult to say no, especially when it's for a good cause, but sometimes I overstretch myself. Downsizing my commitments should help to ease the pressure - although I'd hate to have nothing to do and end up bored! It's a balancing act and I need to find a happy medium.
3. Go for a walk or run every day. This is my best stress buster - I always feel so much better afterwards. It's my "me" time. I do my best thinking when I'm out in the fresh air on my own. All sorts of thinking - planning for the future, deciding what we'll have for dinner, practicing my Dutch verbs....you name it, I think about it.
So there we have it! I shall report back in a week and decide how effective my stressbusters have been!
Saturday, December 08, 2012
Last weekend, hubby and I went into Antwerp city (we live in the 'burbs) to visit the Christmas Market. Unfortunately, unlike every other Christmas Market I know, it didn't start the first weekend in December but on the 8th....
So today, we bundled up warm and tried again. It was absolutely freezing - literally. The snow has melted but the temperature didn't go above 2*C/35*F. It was a beautiful sunny day with gorgeous azure blue skies - just blimmin cold.
We walked up the main high street , the "Meir". I've learnt to look up when walking along old city streets. At eye level the shops look very modern, but glance up and the architecture is stunning.
Antwerp Central Station....
The Meir stretches for about a mile. Central Station is at one end, the old city and cathedral are at the other.
Belgium is famous for beer!
Jenever and Gluhwein stall
Ice skating area - too cold for us today!
By the time we had walked back to the car we'd covered just over 3 miles, so not a bad walk!
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!
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