Second Covid Christmas

Another Christmas while the Covid pandemic continues on. This year has been better than last year because this year we have vaccines! Yes, the pandemic is still around and the new Omicron variant is doing its rounds, but because of the vaccine I am more hopeful than I was last year. This year a bit more of a celebration was possible.

Everyone we were meeting over Christmas this year (my in-laws on Christmas Day and my family today on what we call Second Christmas Day here) has been vaccinated. Some have even already had their booster shots. We also had Covid testing that we could do before meeting family members, which everyone made sure to do….

So yes, we celebrated Christmas not only alone this year but also with family (even though due to the pandemic not everyone could be there as planned) and with lots of food and love to go around.

Today we may have gathered with a few more people from my family than strictly allowed. OK, so we were not a funeral (where slightly larger numbers are permitted) but we did gather as safely as possible in that we kept to protocols of self-testing before heading out, ventillating, and no kisses and very limited hugs. After last year’s quieter Christmas, where none of this was possible, this year felt so much better. For next year we hope that everyone can be there again.

Now it’s back to quaranting again and avoiding as many outsiders as possible. As lovely as it all was, I do admit I’m looking forward to cocooning again in my own house for the next week and a half of free time, no work and no social obligations.

Merry Christmas

…. for me to all of you readers out there!

Another Christmas during the Covid 19 pandemic, another Christmas faced with lockdowns but, unlike last year, this year we have vaccines that can help protect us (and I just made my booster appointment for January 4th!) and antigen self-tests we can do in addition before we see someone. It’s all still far more low key than pre-pandemic but (despite Omicron) it all feels a tad more hopeful to me than last year. So, let’s hope that this will be the last such Christmas!

To those who are alone or missing someone or just feeling bah-humbug about the holidays (I’ve been feeling a lot of that too this year), you are in my thoughts. To those of you who can celebrate with loved ones, count your blessings. In each and every case I’m sending out my Christmas hugs to you all!

Multitasking and tug of war

The holiday season is definitely upon us, another weird year where we are half in quarantine yet again during the holidays. We’re working from home again, office Christmas parties are online again, and all restaurants, theatres, museums and non-essential shops are closed after 5 pm, at least until mid January. This Omicron Covid variant is looking grim as we still await our booster shots (my mother and aunt have had theirs, though, so that’s good).

So, office Christmas parties. There was an online work Christmas get together yesterday with a pub quiz but as there is much left to do before my daughter’s 18th and my aunt’s 85th birthday this weekend (on the same date!) and also for Christmas, I used the time to multitask. The Christmas shopping I have been ordering online is coming in now and things need to be wrapped, so while I was answering online pub quiz questions, I was also wrapping gifts…

Earlier in the week there was an online Christmas do for the volunteers at the Refugee Center where I work and, in between a full day of online meetings, I was able to use my lunch break to participate in that. Glad I did, it was fun. More fun than my regular work Christmas thing as it was more personal.

I spent yesterday evening working on a birthday video for my beloved aunt but when I watched it again this morning before work, the first half felt more like a funeral than a party. So, while working, I listened to all sorts of music on YouTube to figure out another first track for the video. I found a funny one and changed the music in my video during my lunch break. I used the first 3 and a half minutes of this…

As it’s getting quiet at work, I also pinched some time to finish the birthday poster for my daughter (with a small portrait picture for each year of her 18 years), as I do every year. I think I am now finally on top of things (except for party shopping which will happen tomorrow).

I’m really glad the Christmas holiday is coming up! I only have today, Monday and Tuesday to work and then I’ll have two weeks off. Bliss. My current boss and my new boss are caught up in a tug of war over me. My new boss wants me mid February, my old boss wants to hold on to me for a month longer (officially I have a 3 month notice period) and I’m just sitting back, watching it unfold as I simultaneously keep telling my current boss I’d also rather leave sooner than later. She’s so weird. Before I got the job she was encouraging me and saying how I should do all I can to follow my work-heart and now that I am, she’s holding me back. Anyway, it’ll work itself out. I’m starting to get into a Christmas zen mode, no use to to get worked up over things I can’t change.

Richard is getting his Christmas mood on as well, with his traditional call to give to a good cause…

I wonder if the message on the Just Giving page that he links to is also his Christmas message this year…

I hope he’ll still write a message more like he has done in previous years where he reflects on the past year. No pressure and time will tell, but it would be nice.

Anyway, it’s been really busy this week. On Wednesday I even had an insane amount of volunteer work to do at the Refugee Center that didn’t fit into the one afternoon I usually do and it took me all day. As my regular work is now starting to dry up, I’m quitting early today and I’m more than ready for the weekend to arrive. Back to single tasking and getting out of the way of tug of wars.

Christmas spirit?

As soon as Sinterklaas leaves our country, everything bursts into Christmas here. We have not celebrated Sinterklaas at all this year. It’s usually a children’s festival and our children are now grown and have little interest in it. There are also grown up parties sometimes, but this year there was none to attend and I didn’t have interest in making Sinterklaas special either. I did buy the traditional chocolate letters for the family…

… and when I handed out the letters to Mr Esther and the kids, I sang a very short Sinterklaas song for them (same one as sung 48 seconds into this video)…

… and that was pretty much it.

Now it’s time for Christmas. Mr E. didn’t initially want to put up any decorations. “Didn’t we only just pack them away?” he asked and yes, it does feel that way. More than a year and a half working from home and everything seems to be blending together. Suddenly we seem to virtually be in winter again and I hate that it now gets dark early and those short winter days. The only things that can cheer me up when there’s so little daylight are twinkly lights and candles, so I did want to put something festive up. We now have a smallish Christmas tree, which I decorated on Sunday (blasphemy to be doing that on the day of Sinterklaas itself!), and I put out some little Christmas village houses we have that we can burn candles in. The twinkly lights at the window of our dining area have already been up for a little bit.

You’d think that would be enough to get me into the Christmas spirit but I am just not feeling it. I did put together and order the family photos calendar I make every year for my mother, aunt and siblings but I have absolutely no other Christmas shopping done yet. I don’t even have a clue what to get everyone. Mr E left the house earlier this afternoon, saying a package would arrive and I am not allowed to open it. Meanwhile, I have nothing, niets, nichts, nada, niente, le rien, zilch planned or bought. I so need to start getting on top of this. I also need to figure out what to get our daughter for her 18th birthday in 12 days time. She has no clue what she wants either! I just can’t seem to figure it all out. How did December creep up on me like this and find me wholly unprepared? I thought I was doing OK but now it really feels like the winter blues I feel every year may have arrived.

Something just needs to boost my mood. I watched (half watched, really) a few Hallmark movies but most of those seem to be getting me more annoyed than cheering me up. I did enjoy skipping through Parenthood episodes with Peter Krause and Lauren Graham but many episodes are such tearjerkers, I can’t go into depth with those either. I do love the marriage Peter Krause and Monica Potter portray as Adam and Kristina…

… and I also love the season 4 – 6 storyline with Lauren Graham and Ray Romano as Sarah and Hank …

Parenthood really is a great series and when I feel a little lighter, I’ll definitely go in again and also pay closer attention to other storylines, but now is not a good time.

I’ve also enjoyed the look of Richard in the Stay Close images I have seen…

… and I like the trailer…

… but even that has me apprehensive. I fear too many red herrings going nowhere, like in The Stranger, that other Harlan Coben series Richard did last year (or was it early this year that that came out?).

Maybe, to boost my mood and get more into the festive month spirit, it’s time to start taking those Vitamin D pills I bought a month or so ago or maybe I should finally invest in that light therapy lamp I’ve been meaning to get myself? I hope twinkly lights and candles can help.

A quieter Christmas

Christmas this year was quite lovely albeit a little more low key than usual due to Covid 19 restrictions. Thankfully everyone I know is in good health, so we actually could still have a nice Christmas and see a few people.

This year we didn’t get to go to a Christmas market in Germany with two good friends of ours from college, like we do every year. At the Christmas markets we sometimes keep the commemorative mug from the Glühwein (mulled wine) that we usually drink then. This year there would be no Glühwein in mugs at markets like we’d been having for more than 20 years. So, I had our own commemorative mugs made with selfies from Christmas markets past, for Mr Esther, myself and for our two friends.

The text translates to “Due to Covid 19, a mug instead of a Christmas market. Merry Christmas 2020!”

We were going to try a socially distanced get together instead of a market at one of our friends’ houses about a week before Christmas but then the other friend canceled because she had some cold symptoms. Good thing she did too as she tested positive for Covid 19 a day later! She and her husband both had it, although luckily only mildly. I still wanted to get my mugs to our friends, so last Monday mini me and I drove to the healthy friend, handed her her mug and spent half an hour drinking tea with her at a distance. On Christmas Eve Mr Esther, mini me and I drove over an hour north and dropped off the other mug. We set it down infront of our other friend’s door and then, keeping a good distance outside despite her not having any symptoms anymore, we chatted across her front garden with her for about 15 minutes. It was good to bring a little Christmas cheer that way.

We had a nice drive back home coming through some typical Dutch landscapes and the picturesque town of Volendam, which was quite deserted due to the lockdown we’re now having…

Back at home again, we had a quiet Christmas Eve dinner with Junior’s girlfriend also present and we unwrapped a few small gifts with her as he wouldn’t be seeing her for the rest of Christmas. Afterwards I dedicated myself to finally reading the rest of my Michelle Obama “Becoming” book that I had bought second hand a while back and had started reading the first 3 or 4 chapters of but still needed to finish. The cats seized that opportunity to lie on and next to me.

One of my favourite things that day was my brother sending us a video of my mother reading the Christmas story from our old family bible. On Second Christmas Day (or Boxing Day, December 26th) we usually have a big family get together where she does that but, as the whole family get together wasn’t happening this year, I loved that my brother (who’s temporarily living with her) made that little video and sent it out. It’s one to cherish for the ages.

On Christmas morning, Mr Esther made us a nice brunch, we then unwrapped our gifts. I got lovely cat socks that I adore and chocolates from mini me, Junior got me Barack Obama’s “Promised Land” that I had wanted and Mr Esther got me a Audrey Hepburn calendar and a portable record player, so that I could play my old Bowie records. My fave thing that I got for Mr Esther was a “Blessed are the cheesemakers” t-shirt (a line from the brilliant Monty Python’s The Life of Brian). As Mr Esther is a cheese nerd, it felt like a very fitting gift for him.

Mr Esther has no siblings so we could adhere the ‘no more than 3 guests’ rule easily by inviting our in laws (whom we hadn’t seen in months) over for dinner. We table grilled. On Second Christmas Day in the afternoon we went to my mother and my brother and had a low key delicious turkey buffet dinner at her house.

In between these social activities we played a game or two and I read and read and read, really enjoying the Michelle Obama book. Today is a lazing around day, I finished the book a few hours ago but, even though I love the Obamas (even made a video once as they left office in January 2017), I need a little Obama break before I start Barack’s book.

Anyway, I hope all of you who celebrate in one way or another had a nice Christmas too. Now it’s back to the real world again, I guess. For me that means that from tomorrow I should become productive again (we have some storage clearing out to do). For now I’m loving the down time, though, so we’ll see if that happens.