Monday, December 29, 2008

Having Oma over during the Xmas break.

Dirk is off for 2 weeks and my mom is here for the holiday season, so after the big Xmas dinners and delicious breakfast all in the lapa (a lapa is a thatched outdoor entertainment area, of African origin and all the sides are usually open) since it is very warm these days. We needed to give my mom some African culture.

So we went to Lesedi a cultural village about a half hour drive from our house. They call it a place of light which is build around a Ndebele village. The community still lives and practice their traditional way of life, i.e traditional ceremonies, Ndebele paintings, beadwork and Ndebele culture in general. However in Lesedi you can visit the villages of the Zulu, Bashoto, Xhosa and Pedi tribes. Very interesting to see the 5 tribes with their different languages, cultures, foods, clothing and way of living. All still very common here in South Africa. The country still has a very strong sense of their backgrounds and are really proud of their heritage. It is great to be welcomed by these wonderful, proud and vibrant people!

Dirk and the girls with some Zulu men.

A Pedi girl while performing a traditional dance, trying to get her feet as high as possible.

Oma and the girls with some Pedi men.

Juliet and Jasmine with Ndebele women.

Yesterday we went to Moyo Zoo Lake in Joburg, an African restaurant where African dancers perform while you eat in the magnificent gardens of the restaurant in a beautiful area of Joburg. Guests are welcomed with a traditional face painting which the girls LOVE! We had a scrumptious lunch and had a wonderful time watching all the African performers. Playing their drums and dancing, moving and shaking their booties like only African girls can do ;-)

And tomorrow we are going to Soweto, the biggest township in South Africa where we will visit the Nelson Mandela Bridge, the Hector Pieterson Museum, the Regina Mundi Church, Freedom Square, the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital , the largest hospital in the world and the Mandela House Museum. But we also will visit the Apartheid Museum and the Oppenheimer Tower.

A lot of things to see and learn in one day! More pictures and stories later!
Have a great Xmas break if you have one ;-)


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas everyone!!

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday Season! May all your dreams come true in 2009! And hopefully it will be a happy, prosperous, joyfull, succesful and healthy New Year!

And may my blogging friendships even deeper and be more frequent, I am looking forward to see and read more of you!

PS: Happy Birthday to my friend Lara in Singapore, I wish you a very happy Birthday!
PPS: Hartelijk Gefeliciteerd lieve Pap! Een heel fijne verjaardag, konden we maar even overwippen en met je vieren! (Happy Bday, dear Daddy. We wish you a very happy Day!)

Peace and Joy to you all!
Mireille xoxo

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas in sunny South Africa

To give you an idea how the spirits are here in South Africa during Xmas, then this picture of Santa on the beach is a very good impression.
Since it is mid summer here, people either spend their days at the pool in the backyard or they go to the beach for their summer break. So it is very easy going and relaxed.

We will have our big Xmas dinner outside next to the pool, while we enjoy and braai (BBQ) our kingklip and prawn kebabs in chermoula sauce, green mealie (corn) bread, roast beetroot and carrot salad, msamba (pumpkin leaves), irio (kenyas mashed potatoes) and spinach in peanut coconut sauce, the girls will dipp into the pool while nibbling on their food. And for dessert a Tanzanian pineapple salad with a Don Pedro to finish it off. I hope it taste all as good as it sounds ;-)
This is a complete African Xmas dinner, with only recipes from the African continent, like countries as Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Very different than most people would celebrate here, but since this Xmas is not a traditinal one anyway for us, I decided to do everything in a different manner.

Contemporary tree, contemporary dinner....and on Boxing day we will be in the fields celebrating with friends who have a lot of horses and other small petting animals. The kids can wander around the big fields and play with the animals and we will enjoy the company from our friends.

It is funny that the weather has such a big impact on the way you'll celebrate a festival! But I must say it is harder to get into the spirit without the cold and the snow. It is different, not bad in a way, but just not the way we are used to it!

Enjoy the spirit of the season!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Xmas break...yeah!!

Today the first day of Xmas or Summer break for the American International School here in Joburg. And we planned to go to a play. With 6 moms and 15 kids, between the ages of 4-10 we went to Joburg to the National Children's theatre and saw Charlotte's Web.

Wilbur (Megan Reeks) jumps for joy while Templeton the Rat (Thorsten Wedekind), the old Sheep (Jai Sewram), Wilbur the Pig (Megan Reeks), the President (Alex Radnitz) and Goose (Rene Mabotha) look on with amazement.

It's a small theatre where the children can sit on the floor at the front while the parents can sit just behind them. Very small and intimate, but very fun! Well-loved stories, fantastic characters, beautiful sets and costumes come together to bring the magic of theatre to thousands of children from all socio-economic backgrounds. In 2004 the NCT reached over 3 million viewers during live performances and television appearances. The NCT is rooted in the belief that earlier experiences with the arts will have profoundly positive effects on the development of children and ultimately, their participation in the life of their communities.

Afterwards we went with the whole bunch for lunch and then when we came home the girls were ready for a swim. Since it is so hot here in Joburg!

Having these long breaks from school isn't always the easiest on the parents. The children get bored easily so you have to entertain these kids these days. It was a whole different ball game when we were kids. We just were sent outside and you weren't expected home till dinner. What a difference in upbringing it is these days!

Enjoy your Xmas break, winter or summer season!
Ciao, Mireille

Thursday, December 18, 2008

White Christmas...

That's the only thing we can't have here in South Africa, but hey...there are always other options!

He he....just an easy post today, I am too busy to get the house in order for when my mom comes next week! (thanks for the joke Lynne!)

Are you busy preparing as well?
Ciao, Mireille

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Xmas parties everywhere...also at school

I think we have and will be attending more Xmas parties here in SA, than everywhere else we lived. It is funny because the atmosphere is not so Xmassy here, no snow, no Xmas music 24-7 on the radio, the shopping malls are a bit decorated but not so much in your face....but the parties and get togethers for Xmas are big. Everywhere and everybody is having a party and now since everybody is going home or away for Xmas.
So busy busy busy!

And of course the girls had at school a party as well, each class (they are not in the same class, which makes life a lot easier for the teachers. People still have a hard time figuring out who is who. Although Jezz has bangs/fringes and JJ not, their voices are different: JJ has a low husky voice, while Jezz has a high sweet voice. JJ is more dominant and outgoing, while Jezz is more shy and quite...and the differences go on and on, but people don't see that. Or if they see it, they can't remember who had these traits again.

But coming back to the Xmas party at school, Jezz had a huge cake which looked amazing! Little snowmans on top and fluffy snowpeaks...really well made!
And they did that dance with the do you call that in English?..chair dance?? Where every time the music stops, one chair is taken away. And then the children colored some Xmas themed pages and ate cake...yummy cake. Kids happy!

JJ and her classmates made stars out of shimmering paper, very cute craft! Easy and looked great. They had fresh fruit and home made cookies. They gave the teacher a gift card and a small Xmas tree with ornaments glued and their names on it. Very cute and this class had a lot of fun as well.

All these activities are organised by the room moms, like in most countries each class has a bit of help from a class/room mom. And there are always women who are dedicated to do these things.

Another party marked down....many more to go! 2 more days till school is over and then the girls have 3 weeks vacation! YEAH, and grandma is coming soon from the Netherlands. We will be having a great summer break!.........sounds funny huh..summer break, I still have a hard time adjusting to the reverse seasons.

8 more days to go till Xmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dijkstras elfed themselves...

Ever wondered how you'd look in an elf hat, green tunic, and striped pants doing a crazy dance? No?? For some extreme holiday silliness, I recommend Elf Yourself. It's not a game, but it's festive and has great potential for amusement (and embarrassment).

So I elfed my whole family and this is the result. Happy Holidays everyone!!

Release your inner elf! and have fun with it ;-)
ciao, Mireille

Monday, December 15, 2008

Xmas cards over the years

Before I show you the newest addition to my Xmas card series, I like to share the ones we started in 2002, the year the girls were born.

2002. The girls are 8 months old and we're living in Thailand. JJ is eating an orchid ;-)

2003. I can only find the sepia version, but the original was in color. Now we have moved to Connecticut, USA. Jezz left.
2004. With their Jip & Janneke umbrella's. JJ left.
2005. Fake fur, this photo I got quite some comments on....a little controversial for the American public. JJ left.
2006. Sweet tutu girls. Jezz left.
2007. A cute ornament. JJ left.

And below some pictures at Santa's or Sinterklaas' lap.

2004, the girls are 2 years old. And seemingly quite OK to sit on Santa's lap.

2005. Although it is a different story at Sinterklaas' lap, they don't know what to feel about this black guy with the red lips, and the old geezer with the funky beard!

2007. By now they are 5 years old and still a bit unsure, but know they will get candy after this photo has been taken, so they do it to get things over...quick!

The girls look so little in all these pictures. When I see the Xmas card version..(and you have to be a bit more patient for that) I find they are already so grown up. It goes so fast!!

I am sending out the cards for this year TODAY!
So I am hoping you will get them on time.

ciao, Mireille

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Xmas cards finally printed!

(by the way, this is not the card that made the cut, the original is even better!!)

I worked hard to get my cards done, being just a few months here in SA I didn't know where to go for cards. It is not so ready available as in the US having many outlets and online studios who design and deliver, so a lot more work and dedication went into this card than the previous years. Much more effort to get the same result. But I made it, it is done with the help of a beautiful team at Pixel Pro in Pretoria. Albert and Stella helped me with the photographs and design of the cards. A young team that has a lot of talent who work together and use both their strengths and capabilites to make the most of it. I am glad I found them! The cards came out just wonderful! If you live in Joburg or Pretoria, go and check out their website and book an appointment you won't be dissapointed!

So if you are on my address list you will get one very soon. And I am hoping you will like it as much as I do ;-) If you are not on my mailing list yet, but we connected this year through our blogging or Facebook connection, please send me yours and I will add you to my list....isn't that nice of me ;-)

Monday I will go to the post office and mail them and I am hoping they will arrive on time or at least at all! Because I don't hear good stories about the mail system here...unfortunately. We will give it one more shot, if most of them don't arrive this year, than I will switch completey over to digital next year. Since I am mailing out 150 cards, we are not talking about a small issue here!!

And I am hoping that we are on your mailing list to get a Xmas card this year from you, I LOVE to receive a card...hint hint!! But please don't use our home address, the mailsystem doesn't deliver to home addresses, so please send it to this address on the right hand side of my blog. And here it is as well:

Dijkstra family
PO Box 5588
Halfway House, 1685
RSA (Replubic of South Africa)

I am looking forward to receiving many new ones ;-)
Love, Mireille

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hide products quite the hype here in SA

You can buy a lot of products here made from hides and not the cheesy kinds, no these days they are unique, eco-friendly, socially responsible and inspiring!

I already bought 2 hides as carpets. One small springbok hide (a small African antelope) for in the hallway and a bigger cowhide that is on the floor of my kitchen and then actually another one really cute.

Its a wool rug cut out with circles in all sizes and underneath small circles of Nguni cowhide patches. South Africa's indigenous Nguni cattle, long the mainstay of traditional Zulu culture, are possibly the most beautiful cattle in the world, with their variously patterned and multicoloured hides everywhere in demand.

So now I got the feeling for these hides, they feel so soft, are easy to maintain and now I am looking into bags...really nice bags of zebra, nguni cow or springbok are my favorites.

See here some examples:
This is the bag I have my eye on, nice or not?? It is made from springbok, the same hide I have in my hallway. Nice brown and neutral colors, mix and match with almost everything I have in my closet ;-)

These are pictures from a local company here in SA, Flaming Red Lilies, who makes really nice bags

All these bags are one-of-a-kind created by local African designers, using materials sourced through South African wildlife conservation programs. Sourced from suppliers who give back to African communities, creating opportunities and a better qualitiy of life for all. So I do a good thing to support and buy these hides? Why do I still have a feeling that it is not really acceptable to have these skins hanging around my shoulder or having a cow in my kitchen??

How do you feel about these hides? Acceptable or not?? I guess here it is the normal thing to do, but when you go to the US, would people have them there as well....and I am not talking about the deer hunters, they probably would, but I am not that kind. So I am more talking about the regular folks who live on the coastal areas, like I used to do.

Give me your 2 cents...
Ciao, Mireille

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Xmas tree ~ Traditional vs Contemporary

I am in a dilemma, since it is hard to buy a GOOD real Xmas tree here, most of the people have a fake one. But if you are used to the North East of the USA where they have the most beautiful trees where you go to a farm and cut your own... you get spoiled and want that every year...also when you live in South Africa. But the thing is, they don't sell these beautiful trees here.... So instead of the fake one I was thinking about another option. Since we can't have the real deal... I rather go for something completely different!

Like this tree; a very modern plywood, easy to store, easy to take out again next year! What do you think?

Or fake green, but not your usual green, no ELECTRIC green. Fancy or not?? Remember I want something COMPLETELY different!

Or lighted branches, no needles to vacuum, just some empty branches, spray paint the whole thing white or silver, hang some ornaments and done... what do you think?

Or instead of the fake green, a fake white with silver ornaments. Gives this peaceful vibe....yes or no??

If everything else fails...I can always go for the Charlie Brown option, find a pathetic little tree and treat it with is not ABOUT the tree, but the thought behind it! Shall I do this??

Or the last option, very desperate, buy the d@%n fake tree, but hang it upside down. I wanted something different, at least not all my neighbors will have this...they may have the tree, but not hanging upside down!! So what do you think?

And please give it fast...I really feel I need to start decorating the house for Xmas this week, in Africa everything takes longer and I already spotted some difficulites in this electrical outlets in the places I need them. Many in the dining area...I don't know why we need so many in the dining area, and none in the family room!!! Aaarrghh...this will not be an easy decorating week for me! So please give me some advice, and think about the practicality...the easier it is, the more I will go for that option ;-)

PS: I know that many of you have an artificial tree, and that is great, but I just feel for me this is not the option this year. I feel like something I hope not that I have offended you, that is not my intention!! All that counts is that you are happy with YOUR tree ;-)

Enjoy your decking the halls, hope it will go smoother than mine!
Love, M

Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth.

When we moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut we bought our lovely house from a woman named Liz, later we became good friends, and we are still in contact (although too little....hint hint Liz ;-) so she sent me this link to this wonderful video that I like to share with you.

It will make you smile, as it did to me, and we all can use a smile at the beginning of a week. So click on this link and it will direct you to this short movie that is so nice!! Don't miss it!

Explanation: What are these humans doing? Dancing. Many humans on Earth exhibit periods of happiness, and one method of displaying happiness is dancing. Happiness and dancing transcend political boundaries and occur in practically every human society. Above, Matt Harding traveled through many nations on Earth, started dancing, and filmed the result. The video is perhaps a dramatic example that humans from all over planet Earth feel a common bond as part of a single species. Happiness is frequently contagious -- few people are able to watch the above video without smiling.

PS: If you can't watch it at the link above it is also here on youtube. Or Matt Harding has his own website, you can find this here.

He also writes a blog and you can follow his travels, he has been to 65 countries so far and I don't think he is finished traveling. A good site to keep in your favorites if you are planning to travel to one of these get a teeny bit of insight information ;-)

Thanks Liz, for sending me this link, it indeed made me smile ;-)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jasmine and Juliet meet Sinterklaas

So finally the girls see the 'Goed Heiligman' Sinterklaas for real at the Dutch school this morning. All the anticipation is finally over....

But first we celebrated 'pakjesavond' last night. We came home quite late since we had a photo shoot in Pretoria (results you will see later) and traffic is hurrendous between Pretoria and Johannesburg, but the girls had a great shooting and I think we will have a great result! So around 8pm, we were just finished with dinner and we're singing the Sinterklaas songs and suddenly....a loud bonking on the front door.
The girls rushed to the door, but the Black Pete's and Sinterklaas were gone... however, we found gifts laying all over the front step. Excitement galore and although we peeked on the street, nobody was seen. Too fast gone, but the girls didn't mind too much, they wanted to see what Sinterklaas had brought them. A letter from Sinterklaas for each JJ and Jezz. Which Dirk had to read for them, but in it said that Sinterklaas had heard they were both good girls, not naughty and he had brought them some nice gifts. A chocolate letter for each of us, a dinosaur egg that hatches after you keep it in water for a while, a pez candy disney figure and a bratz book with dress your own bratz girl. And of course a lot of typical Sinterklaas candy like pepernoten and such, I explained before.... The loud singing into the chimney had paid off!

Then this morning off to school, Sinterklaas arrived with a horse and carriage, everybody was waiting in anticipation. Smaller kids were crying... too much excitement. But finally the kids sang a lot of songs for Sinterklaas and the black Pete's were throwing pepernoten all over the place. And each kid had to come up on stage to receive his/her gift personally from Sinterklaas. How much fun!!

Jezz on Sinterklaas' lap.
JJ on Sinterklaas' lap.

They each got a mermaid Barbie from Sinterklaas, and Jezz commented on the wrapping paper: 'Hey, it is the same paper as last night?!' Of course sweetie, because it is from the same person' I replied ;-)

Sinterklaas is going back to Holland and then off to Spain again with his steamboat and all his Black Pete's and we're starting to decorate our house for Xmas ;-)

Funny and busy season with all these celebrations....

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Birthday สุขสันต์วันเกิด King Bhumibol Adulyadey!


The World’s Longest Reigning Monarch, Celebrates his 81st Birthday today!
"It has often been said that, apart from the normal economic and security requirements, the independence and integrity of Thailand are assured by three unifying factors: its people's freedom-loving spirit, the Buddhist Religion and the Thai Throne. Indeed, the three factors were already there together at the first founding of the first integrated Thai nation with its capital at Sukhothai more than seven centuries ago and have successfully survived the test of time just as Thailand itself has also survived as a united and independent country throughout its long history up to the present days, while countries all around in Southeast Asia at certain periods fell disintegrated or victims of colonialist powers. For that reason, no Thai would now deny that as these unique and sacred institutions survive and flourish, so the Thai nation will also survive and flourish. Without either one of them, no one could foresee what Thailand would be like.

"The present Thai Monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A., on Monday the 5th of December 1927, being the third and youngest child of Their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Mahidol of Songkhla and grandson in direct line of the celebrated King Chulalongkorn or Rama V of the present Royal House of Chakri of Bangkok. After a period of primary schooling in Bangkok, he went with his Family to Switzerland where he received his secondary as well as university education. While already King, he married the 18 year-old Mom Rajawongse Sirikit, daughter of His Highness Prince Chandaburi Suranath (Mom Chao Nakkhatra Mangala Kitiyakara) and Mom Luang Bua Kitiyakara, on the 28th of April 1950. Their Majesties now have four children, namely: 1. Her Royal Highness Princess Ubol Ratana, born 5th April 1951, in Lausanne, Switzerland. 2. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, born 28th July 1952, in Bangkok, Thailand. 3. Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn. born 2nd April 1955, in Bangkok, Thailand. 4. Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn, born 4th July 1957, in Bangkok, Thailand.

"His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej acceded to the Throne as Rama the IX of Thailand on the 9th of June 1946, when he was only 18 years of age. Thailand had become a Constitutional Monarchy since 1932 then King Prajadhipok reigned only for a few more years and King Ananda Mahidol, the present King's Elder Brother, who succeeded to the Throne at a very tender age, spent his Life mostly at study abroad before he met his unfortunate demise at the age of 20. The task, therefore, fell upon King Bhumibol Adulyadej to be the first really reigning Monarch under the Constitutional System and thus to give a new and contemporary meaning to the Thai Throne. With a perceptive as well as imaginative mind and an inborn sense of intense dedication, His Majesty has set himself with relish from the beginning of his Reign to analyze and find the true circumstances of the task at hand in order to devise the best approach and then try to accomplish the task in the best possible manner. His sense of involvement, be it in small or significant duties, is always so total that he would never feel relieved until each duty is carried out to his complete satisfaction.

"His Majesty has devoted sixty years of service for the benefits and happiness of his people. The success of His Majesty's reign is clear for all to see. People in all spheres of life from the highest officials to the peasants in the border areas seek and value the advice of His Majesty in their daily conducts as well as when they are faced with difficult problems. They all know, besides that His Majesty's advices will always be given with true willingness after careful study of the circumstances and out of a dedicated sense of devotion to their secure and happy existence. The relationship between King and people is thus firmly built upon the bases of mutual trust, interest and affection. The words in the Constitution that the King is the Repository of the Sacred Trust of the Thai People and the Supreme Symbol of the Nation's Unity are thus given their true and material meaning. To most people the task which His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has set himself to accomplish to give a new significance to the Thai Throne under a Constitutional system must seem to be nearing a very successful end, he, however in his total dedication and involvement in the task, can never see an end. Every day instead brings new challenges and becomes but another step in the ever widening and ever lengthening path of his dutiful life.

We have this picture of the King and his young family hanging in our hallway upstairs. The girls love this, it looks so romantic and Thai people are just so beautiful and gracious!

Have a great and healthy year ahead King Bhumibol, we hope you will be for many more years the King of Thailand!

Chayoo, King Bhumibol!


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