‘Tis the season!

This past weekend Mr Esther and I and two friends of ours, whom we had gone to college with, went on our yearly Christmas market trip to Germany. This time we travelled to Trier and stayed overnight in a hotel in a village about 20 minutes away from the city center. We haven’t been feeling very Christmassy yet but that changed as we got closer to Trier and there was a dusting of snow all around! Of course, ‘doing’ the Christmas market helped get us into a festive spirit as well!

We spent the second half of Saturday afternoon and the evening going around the market. It really was crowded but still fun nonetheless!

The next morning, after breakfast, we walked through Trier again, this time in daylight and in the snow which was coming down much harder on Sunday.

We also noticed extra security measures on different streets that lead to the Christmas market: these huge candles are concrete blocks with a police van in the middle to prevent anyone from doing harm with a rented van or stolen truck… the times we live in…

20171210_111703_resized

After some Käsekuchen and hot drinks we headed back for home again at around 1 pm on Sunday, on roads that were passable but also snowy…

Today (this gets posted after midnight, so on Tuesday, but I mean Monday) was an even more snowy day, we got lots where we live! Mr Esther and I worked from home today (as we had planned to do anyhow even before we knew this much snow was coming). The kids went to school but were sent home early. So, we took the time to decorate the Christmas tree. That is, Mr Esther and my daughter did (in her new Cookie Monster onesie she got from my mother that she absolutely adores!).

Our 3 year old black cat was fascinated by the snow, it’s the first time she’s experienced this…

20171211_135302_resized

Our 12 year old red cat was more interested in finding a warm spot to sleep…

20171211_135326_resized

My son admired the newly decorated tree but was soon more interested in his NBA basketball game on the Playstation…

20171211_184000_resized

And meanwhile, outside it snowed and snowed! Our backyard looked magical…

20171211_183855_resized

… as did the view from our front dining room window with newly placed Christmas lights…

20171211_184037_resized

Yep, I’m feeling it… ’tis truly the season now!

Advertisements

Sinterklaas & sleeping on Mr Darcy!

Today is the feast of Saint Nicholas, as I was reminded of on my Twitter timeline…British Museum Saint Nicholas

But I didn’t need to be reminded because the Sinterklaas festival is a huge thing here in The Netherlands and is celebrated on the eve before December 6th, so on December 5th! It’s mainly a festival for children and now that my kids are 16 and almost 14, the celebration has become very low key. They don’t put out their shoes near the fireplace anymore for the 3 weeks leading up to Sinterklaas, there are no more huge gifts and they don’t sing any of the dozens of Sinterklaas songs anymore. They do, however, like to eat the traditional food that goes with the season, like gingerbread ‘nuts’ and chocolate initials, and heck, why pass up a good opportunity to receive at least a few small gifts, right?

So, yesterday evening at dinner, I organized a little family Sinterklaas celebration. A few Sinterklaas songs were mandatory (they have to earn their gifts, after all), we had a nice little fire going in the fireplace…

IMG_7776

… a few small gifts were exchanged, including a few items of clothing…

… we had the mandatory chocolate initials (they didn’t have the letter E available for me or S for my daughter, so I just got replacement letters M – for mama-  and Z instead)…

IMG_7773

… and yeah, if you look closely you can spot the bottle of vodka (mama and papa need something too!) and the empty cups still on the table were for the hot chocolate with whipped cream we had for dessert…

IMG_7796

There was also a special little gift for me: a pillow case! And not just any pillow case… it’s a pillow case with Mr Darcy (as portrayed by my lovely Colin Firth) on it…

So yeah, I get to sleep on top of (and drool on) Mr Darcy now, if I like! It was a lovely, cosy family dinner and I got some fangirling in there as well. Not bad… not bad at all. 🙂

My latest brush with fame!

I’ve had a few brushes of contact with famous people in my life. Not many, but some!

My first brush with fame was when I was a 4 year old girl living in Jerusalem and the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Max van der Stoel, came to visit. They wanted a small Dutch kid to present him with flowers and my parents were approached for this, I think through the mayor’s office. My dad and the mayor knew each other through the work my dad did. I actually remember this occasion! I was very excited beforehand, I remember wearing a light blue dress, but when the time came, I got too shy and my dad had to help me hand over the flowers. That’s Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek grinning in the far left of the picture, Van der Stoel with the flowers and dark-rimmed glasses, shy me with hands in my mouth and on the right my dad, grinning wildly after he helped me hand over the flowers.

Max van der Stoel

When I was 15, I briefly met German president Richard von Weizsäcker once when he visited my dad’s office in Germany in support of the work my dad did in Jewish-Christian dialogue (you can see the back of my dad on the left in this picture)…

1985 Von Weizsäcker in Buber House

Another famous man my dad worked with a lot and whom we saw on occasion was the former Archbishop of Canterbury from 1974-1980, Lord Donald Coggan. Donald Cogggan was a very special and warm man, modest, smart and funny. He used to call my younger brother and sister and me his ‘scallywags’ and there is one picture of us that I treasure…

Scallywags_ed

Another brief moment of contact with a famous person is with Gregory Peck, although I never met him personally. I had once written him a fan letter (the one and only one I have ever written) and requested an autograph from him. I never heard back, gave up on it, until two or so years later I finally received a response! I got an autographed picture, along with a note of apology. Apparently a bag of fan mail had been misplaced, which is why it had taken so long for me to get a response! That autographed picture has gotten lost in this house somewhere and I am still determined to find it, along with the note and the envelope it came in. The picture that was signed looked like this one (found this image on Ebay):Gregory Peck autographWhen I was 22, I went to a book signing in a bookstore here in The Netherlands and briefly met Peter Ustinov! He signed his book for me, which I was getting for my birthday on that day. Esje is my family’s nickname for me and I can’t remeber why I would have told Mr Ustinov that. I do remember him being very personable, maybe he asked if I had a nickname? It’s too long ago, I can’t remember…

I have of course met Richard Armitage briefly at the stage door in London in 2014 and have autographed items and a picture to help me remember that…

I have caught a glimpse of Pierce Brosnan up close and personal and he signed a picture my friend, a huge Brosnan fan, had…

I have spent an evening in the company of Michael Palin, listening to him talk about Ernest Hemingway and, a few months later, received a personally autographed book from him that my husband had gotten for me for my birthday!

And this past summer, I even briefly met and chatted with Lord Charles Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother. He also signed a book for us (but it’s also made out to my husband, so I won’t post a picture of that here, Mr Esther’s real name is not for this blog).

My greatest brush with someone famous on the internet was when actress Sara Wiseman, who plays Carolyn on A Place To Call Home, liked my retweet of her tweet on Valentine’s Day 2016 and I was stoked about that…

Sara Wiseman tweet like 14-02-2016

And now today, two and a half hours ago, I discovered my latest brush with fame: Marta Dusseldorp, lead actress playing Sarah on A Place to Call Home, actually RETWEETED my tweet of yesterday in which I gush about APTCH season 5! Holy crap, I swear my heart stopped for a moment when I saw that! I never aim to have likes, replies or god forbid, retweets of any kind, but this one certainly has me stoked! Here, a screenshot from my phone when I discovered it!

Marta Dusseldorp retweet

So, thank you Marta Dusseldorp for making my day! And may we enjoy your talents for a long, long time to come!

The Mystery Blogger Award

Herba, on her Unkraut vergeht nicht… oder doch? blog, has nominated me for The Mystery Blogger Award. Thank you for thinking of me, Herba! You can read her contribution to the award (in German) here.

So, what is The Mystery Blogger Award? I didn’t know how it works either, but here are the rules and here is the logo that goes with it:mystery-blogger-award-logo

About The Mystery Blogger Award:

This is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates, it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging and they do it with so much love and passion.

Okoto Enigma is the creator of the award. To motivate the Blogger please do visit her blog.

The Rules of the Award:

– Put the award logo/image on your blog.
– List the rules.
– Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
– Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
– Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
– You have to nominate 10 – 20 people.
– Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.
– Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
– Share a link to your best post(s).

My responses to 3 things about myself:

Hmmm, 3 things about myself… I could say many things, but I have said a lot of things about myself on blog before so I had to think a bit about what I maybe haven’t said before. Not quite sure if these things are totally new, but hopefully these 3 things about me are somewhat newish…

1.  I never drink coffee, I just do not like it, not even when it’s a tiny bit of coffee with a lot of milk! For years when I went to my parents’ house my dad would always offer, “Esther, do you want a cup of coffee?” It was this little joke between us because I would always say, “Nope, I still hate it!” I do love tea, though, especially herbal teas.

2.  I come from a large family, I am number 6 of 8 children. Half of my brothers and sisters are adopted (two of Palestinian and two of Ethiopian descent). Kids just sort of happened to appear on our doorstep, due to social projects my mother was involved in when we lived in Israel in my youth, and my parents just kept the kids who were alone in the world and adopted them later. 🙂 I have always loved our large, colourful family, warts and all. When I was a pre-teen I read a book called The Family Nobody Wanted about a couple that ends up adopting 12 children of different ethnic backgrounds and I really identified with that, as it was close to my own family experience as well! I still have that book.

All of this made me want to have 8-12 children myself and I wanted to adopt most of them! That idea quickly changed, however, when I got children of my own. I love them, I love having them in my life, but I couldn’t imagine juggling 8 or, God forbid, 12 children on a daily basis! And adoption in The Netherlands? So much more complicated, so many rules, such a long waiting period (up to 5 years!) and more expensive than the way my parents were able to do it in the 1970s… So yeah, I’m just very happy with my 2 kids now and enjoy having a lot of siblings, some of whom look nothing like me.

3.  I am NOT a morning person, I prefer to not go to bed before 1 am. It’s a real struggle getting to bed at around 11 pm on work nights.

Responses to the 5 questions Herba posed:

1. Do you have a phobia?

Yep, spiders!!! I can tolerate mice and snakes and scorpions but I can not do spiders!

2. Are you working in your dream job?

There’s a huge problem with this question: I don’t know what my dream job is! What I want to do changes all the time. Sometimes I want to be a kick ass social worker or children’s psychologist, sometimes I want to be a writer, or a web designer, or I want to go back to librarianship which is what I trained for (after trying psychology and English as fields of study first). I’ve wanted to be a teacher and a translator, I have wanted to be a journalist or a stills photographer on a TV or film set, I have wanted to be an aid worker in a developing country. What I can say is that I always look for jobs in a social field and so far, to my great satisfaction, I have worked for government, education and development aid organizations. Right now I have an IT-related job for an organization that provides healthcare and educational advice for children and youngsters and I very much enjoy it. That doesn’t stop me from still envisioning other career paths, though.

3. As a child, did you have a favourite book, a favourite movie or tv series, and a favourite singer or music group? What are your current 3 favourites?

  • Favourite book, that I read when I was about 9 or so, was a simplified children’s version of Jane Eyre and the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  • Favourite TV series was Little House on the Prairie and I loved the first movie I remember seeing in the cinema, a Cinderella movie called The Slipper and the Rose.
  • I’m not sure I had a favourite singer or group as a kid. I do remember loving ABBA songs and I liked Boney M. My absolute favourite song was Ma Baker by Boney M:

Current favourites:

  • Favourite book: Jane Eyre is still up there, along with Jane Austen’s books Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice, but I think I’d have to go with To Kill a Mockingbird as my favourite. I still remember reading it for the first time, it was almost like a religious experience, it spoke to my very being.
  • Favourite movie – I love so so many but I think my all time favourite still is Roman Holiday. Favourite TV series: I love so many, I couldn’t just pick one. Latest obsession is Suits.
  • I already once blogged about all my musical favourites throughout my life. My current fave for the last few years has been English band Muse. Just for fun, here’s a song I haven’t linked to before in other posts; it’s one of my faves and is called Hysteria. I have blogged about 2Cellos covering Hysteria but here is Muse’s original:

4. If you could walk in someone else’s shoes for 24 hours, who would it be and why would it be that person specifically? 

I had no idea what to answer here so I asked Mr Esther who he thought I’d like to be for a day. He immediately shot out a reply: Colin Firth’s wife! And, oh my goodness, he is right! The man knows me well. 🙂 Livia Firth is smart and socially very conscious, she’s an Eco warrior with her own consulting firm through which she tries to make the fashion world a more fair place and, extremely importantly, she’s married to Colin Firth! So, yes, I wouldn’t mind being Livia Firth for a day and I know exactly on which day as well: I want to be Livia with Colin Firth on Oscar night! They had a great Oscar night in 2011 when Colin won the Oscar for The King’s Speech. They got all dressed up together (click on images to enlarge)…

… and looked quite lovey-dovey and had fun on the red carpet together…

… Colin kissed Livia when his Oscar win was announced. Ah, to be on the receiving end of Colin’s kiss..

… and Livia and Colin had fun together after the win…

So, I’d like to be either Livia on Oscar night, or I wouldn’t mind being Richard Armitage’s make up artist Tami Lane on The Hobbit for a day, specifically this day when these pictures were taken…

5. McDonald’s or Burger King?

I’m not really a fan of either. I think there are more McDonald’s than Burger Kings here in The Netherlands. I never go to Burger King, I think I can count on one hand the amount of times in my life that I’ve entered a Burger King. I do go to McDonald’s and the reason for that is not the food (I rarely eat anything there) but I do love the milkshakes! So, I choose McDonald’s for the milkshakes. Mr. Esther likes the coffee there.

Mystery Blogger nominations and my 5 questions

Nominating others is always a tough one. I’ll just throw a few names out there, but feel free to ignore or jump in, whichever! And if your name isn’t here but you’re inspired to answer, please feel free to!

So, the nominations first (trying to not nominate anyone already nominated by Herba):

Violet | SueBC | Lady Butterfly | Sarah | Gratiana | Linnetmoss | Heather | Obscura | BerLinda | Richard

And my 5 questions:

  1. Your favourite genre of book or movie? Name 3 examples of each.
  2. Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life and who should play your partner? (If you don’t have a partner, you can make up a mystery one! Even if you do have a partner, you can make up a mystery one. 🙂 )
  3. Are you sunrise, daylight, twilight, or night? Please explain why.
  4. If you won the lottery what would you do?
  5. Tacos for life or sushi for life?

Tag, you’re it if you want to be!

The Conspiracy of Silence #MeToo

This whole Harvey Weinstein scandal makes me sick, just like the Bill Cosby one has made me sick and Donald Trump’s way with women makes me sick. Why do Cosby’s and Weinstein’s careers go down the drain over this but is Trump still president? Anyway, I don’t want to write about them specifically but I do want to do my part in addressing this so that it can be stopped.

I saw the interview Emma Thompson gave, addressing how normal sexual harassment really is for all women from a young age onwards (she mentions this at around 3:10 into the video) and she calls this Weinstein scandal a ‘conspiracy of silence’ for not being exposed sooner (around 5:20)…

I found that an interesting phrase, ‘the conspiracy of silence’, and find myself trying to come to terms with the fact why we don’t speak up about this more when we encounter it. I find it’s not a malicious conspiracy, it’s more a conspiracy of shame and fear, but the fact is that it’s not normal to speak up about this. I, too, am not one to call out others when for example a comment with sexual innuendo is made that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. I will speak up against gross misconduct but there are so many comments that are just borderline where I wonder ‘should I say something or am I just being overly sensitive?’ and then I shut up. I was in such a borderline situation not too long ago when I thought ‘ah, but it’s just a joke, I’ll let it go and change the subject quickly.’ I struggle with that and it’s something that this scandal has brought more to the foreground for me.

Yesterday the hashtag #MeToo started trending and I added my name to that…

me too tweet

… and today, on my way to work, I read Guylty’s blog post about the issue and that really struck me too. I am not pretty or an actor either and yet I too have experienced instances of sexual harassment. What I have experienced is by far not as bad as many other women’s experiences but it’s symptomatic nonetheless! I wasn’t planning on going into detail about what has happened to me, but Guylty’s post and that “conspiracy of silence” phrase made me think that maybe I should just come out and speak of my experiences.

The funny thing is that when I thought about this, one incident that really shook me came to mind and I thought, ‘well, it’s not been bad for me, I only experienced that one thing’. But then, once that memory was unlocked, other memories started coming in and I realized that apparently I had pushed them away before. I also realized that, from an early age on, I had always been warned by my mother that most men basically only want one thing so that I always had to be careful with how I act and what I wear so as not to attract any unwanted attention. I hate that. I hate that women are told to be careful and that for men it’s a “ah, boys will be boys” attitude.

The incident that really shook me most of all  happened when I was 19. My dad was general secretary of an international organization and organized a big 4 day conference every summer, with people coming in from countries all over the world. To make a little money, we brothers and sisters often helped with organizing. That summer the conference was in Southampton and one evening I went out with a group of other conference participants to a local pub. Incidentally, it’s also the first time I ever tried Guinness beer (and hated it). Anyway, I was with a group of 9 or 10 people and at one point I said I’d pick up some drinks at the bar. There was a man sitting on a bar stool next to where I stood to order my drinks. While I was waiting for my turn to order he tried to chat me up. I was 19 and really not so used to flirting, so I tried to stay friendly and smile, but said no to whatever he suggested (he wanted me to come sit with him, he wanted to buy me a drink and he said some other things I can’t recall). Then, out of the blue, he grabbed me, pulled me towards him and what I remember most were his very wet lips, smelling of beer, planted on my lips, kissing me! I struggled to get away, luckily the bartender caught this happening as well. He cried out “oy!” and a hullabaloo started where others came to my rescue, literally prying the man off me because he really was holding on fast and didn’t want to let go!  People from my group came as well to help me. Local people from the pub grabbed the man, I think one guy punched him, and literally threw him out of the pub onto the street. I was very shaken up, everyone was very concerned for me, we were offered free drinks. The bartender said the man was a known drunk and wouldn’t be allowed in the pub anymore. I quickly went back to my accommodation after that, accompanied by my older brother who had been part of the group I had been with.

Remembering that, and my brother being there, reminded me of an incident a year later when my whole family and I were in Cairo, visiting the Pyramids. Esther 20We were allowed into one of the pyramids. There was a narrow hallway leading upwards with a rope you could use to hold on to. You couldn’t stand up straight in some sections and there were these guides along the way to help anyone with trouble getting on. One of these guides actually followed behind me for a while and literally felt me up, touching my hips and my bottom to ‘help me along’. I shrugged him off, said I didn’t need help. My brother saw and took the man’s place behind me so he would leave me alone. The rest of that holiday (we were there for 3 or 4 days), I felt unsafe and tended to keep close to one of my older brothers, just so I wouldn’t get into a situation like that again.

I then for some reason also remembered an incident from when I was 15 or 16. I was already in love with old movies at that time and at some point I had gotten this hand-me-dpencil dressown 1960s turquoise pencil dress, which looked something like this picture on the right. It was a little looser than this dress but it really fit me very well. I was not one to wear dresses at all at that time but when I put that dress on, I thought I looked really good in it. I felt like Doris Day! I was wearing it one hot day and was asked to do a small errand in town for my mother, which I went to do on my bike. I figured it looked nice enough and for the first time I dared wear it out in public. And boy, did I regret that! I felt uncomfortable with the attention I got walking down the street and when at one point some workers started calling out to me, asking me to come over to them, laughing at me when I said no, and continuing their whistling after that, I felt so very unsafe! I went home and never wore that dress again.

In my early twenties I also once encountered a flasher in a trench coat while I was walking through a park close by our house. He walked by, called out to me and when I looked over at him, he opened his coat and was stark naked underneath. He didn’t linger, though, and walked on, I think he even ran away. For some reason, I never felt threatened by that, though.

So, that’s it, my #MeToo experiences. When I look back I feel that I have always been conscious of never wanting to be ‘too sexy’, due to warnings to be careful because I’m a girl and I think especially after that blue dress incident, which I had really buried away deep somewhere. It’s sad that just because ‘boys will be boys’ many women feel unsafe or feel like they have to suppress themselves. Women speaking up about how threatened they feel is just the beginning, we also need to look at this ‘boys will be boys’ culture and teach our sons to treat women with respect! I feel my brothers are respectful of women, just like my husband is and I hope my son is too (he does seem like it from what I can see). I have luckily never felt threatened by men I work with or by male aquaintances/friends I have. So, I do realize that many men are respectful! But there are also many who aren’t and it’s not only up to the women to raise boys who are respectful; men are important role models and need to take responsibility too, maybe even more so than women!