Winter has come

It doesn’t snow often here and the past few winters have only on occasion given us a dusting here and there, but yesterday evening and last night, we got some real snow (and yes, we still have twinkle lights up in our garden as the evenings come so early here in winter)…

And it’s still snowing today, which has made it all somewhat thicker…

Mr Esther and I took a little walk through the snow while Junior is away with his girlfriend for the weekend and mini-me had enough of the snow after she had a little fun with it around our house…

It was a bit of a test for my vertigo and I’m back to reclining on my couch again but it was a lot of fun nonetheless. The snow is too powdery for snowballs or snowmen but maybe that will change as the week progresses? The forecast is that it will remain this cold for at least the rest of this week. It’s different for my brother in the southern tip of Israel. While we were sharing snow pictures in our family chat, he shared this view from the kibbutz where he lives…

That feels like a different world and, although I am enjoying our snow world right now, it also makes me long to travel again.

Winter wonderland

It was snowing this afternoon, our first snow this winter. I love a winter wonderland, even if it is only a dusting of snow, as here in our back garden…

Had some chores to do but the afternoon became good when the mail came and finally, finally my winnings from the RA Christmas auctions arrived! It took close to 6 weeks to get here but that didn’t take away from the awesome Christmas decoration (thank you Rachel!), my lovely mini Pride & Prejudice brooch and earrings and a fun Christmas card (thank you, Guylty!) and some nice reading to look forward to on Jane Austen related subjects.

At the end of the afternoon, Mr Esther and I went for a nice little walk in the little bit of snow we had…

This evening, the house looked like this, still just enough snow there to make it look wintery…

Junior now has a friend over to play videogames with him in his room, while Mr Esther and I enjoy some wine and mini me has been enjoying some hot chocolate, with our cat trying to get to the whipped cream she still had in her cup.

We’ve just been watching Michael Palin on the BBC walking through the desert with a camel caravan in his travel programme Sahara from 2002 (very different from a winter wonderland!) and now some blogging before I put my nose into a either book or a movie. Some quarantine days are quite lovely.

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.

Nostalgia

My younger brother is at my mother’s now (he was gone for a few months but is back again) and has been sorting through all kinds of things in her flat. He came across more old family pictures (just like he had back in the spring), some of which I don’t think I’d ever seen before! Among other things, he found some pictures of what apparently was my christening when I was two months old. I think I have seen that first picture here below before, but I always assumed it was a picture of another baby a year older than me who my parents had fostered for three or so years (I vaguely remember her), but nope, apparently that little baby is me.

Three things about these pictures: everyone is so young, I’m so tiny, and oh my goodness, I adore my older sister’s outfit!

On a side note: I am the daughter of a Protestant theologian, baptized by an Anglican priest from Jerusalem’s St. George’s Cathedral, in the Catholic chapel of the convent which was neighbouring our house. A truly ecumenical event. We rented our house from nuns in a little village just outside Jerusalem and my mother chatting away with these nuns in the following picture tells you just about all you need to know about the warm, happy relationships we had with them.

Anyway, my parents weren’t photographers and took very few pictures, I’m not sure if they even had a working camera. They must have had something, as pictures do exist, but my mother always said that most pictures usually came to them via others who visited us (and we always had many visitors). So, there are virtually no newborn pictures of any of us. This means that, apart from the above baptism pictures where you can’t really see me, the earliest pictures of me that I know of are these two that my brother also came across (with on my cheek the remnants of a birthmark that faded away over time). I haven’t seen these in forever.

There are so many more discoveries my brother made while sorting through my mother’s apartment, such cute pictures of my siblings as well, but I can’t share all of those here. I’ve got to say I was especially pleased with those baptism pictures, they are so beautiful and it’s hard to imagine that that tiny baby in my mother’s arms is me.

Every year for Christmas I make a photo calendar with pictures of my family (my parents, siblings, aunt, my kids, nephews and nieces) for the following year. As we have all barely seen each other this past year due to Covid-19 and as there just aren’t too many new pictures available, I decided to make a “nostalgia calendar” for my family this year which features many of these cute treasures that my brother found.

It’ll be a surprise for them to receive a different sort of calendar this time around and I’m already looking forward to getting it to them. And hey, if you have now become a little nostalgic as well, feel free to share your baby pictures via blogs, Twitter or even e-mail. I admit, I’m curious. 🙂

And now, the end is near…

… and the summer will really start winding down here. We’ve been having a few nice, sunny and not too hot days here this past week. My favourite weather, really, which is 20-25 degrees Celsius (in the 70s Fahrenheit) with sunshine. On Sunday mini-me and I picked up my brother (who has just returned from a stint in Malta) and my mother and we headed to the beach. My mother isn’t that great of a walker anymore, so my brother and I took turns sitting with her in a cafe and walking with mini-me on the beach. It was lovely out there. Quite a lot of people there, but luckily it was easy to socially distance…

In the meantime, Mr. Esther went for a bike ride and Mr. Esther junior played handball outdoors in an away game and badly injured the middle finger of his left hand. The top of his finger is just hanging there loosely, looking very odd. I took him to the hospital yesterday for x-rays.

Luckily he has very little pain and it turns out that nothing was broken but he does have a torn tendon. Tomorrow his finger will be put into a splint for 6-8 weeks so that it can heal properly and doesn’t have to be taped to his ring finger anymore.

This afternoon, after some work meetings online, I took a few hours to work outside. Our old cat is curled up right near me, which is always lovely…

… and I am fully aware that this may be the last time this year that working outside like this will be possible. Chillier weather is predicted from tomorrow, so I guess that is when autumn will really start for us.

Corona cases are on the rise here in The Netherlands. Measures were tightened slightly last week but I suspect stricter restrictions may be coming. Add that to the weather getting cooler and we may be stuck inside for the foreseeable future more than ever these coming weeks/months. Mr. Esther and I will really have to make more of an effort to actually stick our noses outside our front door every day (mini-me and Mr Esther junior have school/internships and their sports activities to drag them out of the house… for now, in any case). Such strange times we live in and I’m not only talking disease; I almost fear reading the news, especially US news, every day. I so hope for some light at the end of the tunnel soon…