Thursday, April 30, 2009

Queens Day (Koninginnedag) in Holland!

It's Queen’s Day today in the Netherlands!! Hip Hip Hooray for the Dutch Queen!!
Queen’s Day is the annual Dutch national holiday in honor of the late Queen Juliana’s birthday.

Queen Beatrix with her son Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife, Princes Maxima.

On Queen’s Day there are celebrations throughout the Netherlands. However, the most popular destination is Amsterdam where up to one million visitors join the 750.000 locals in the world’s largest street party.
Queen Beatrix, who succeeded her mother in 1980, decided to keep the holiday on April 30 as the weather on her own birthday, January 31, tends to prohibit outdoor festivities.

The Night before Queen’s DayQueen’s Day festivities start around midnight and last throughout the night (though official rules state that pubs must close for an hour or so before sunrise). Simply walk around in downtown Amsterdam (the Jordaan and Nieuwmarkt areas being among the most popular spots) and you’ll find plenty of partying going on.

Queen’s Day Proper
6:00 AM marks the start of the ‘free market’ - a street market where half the population sells their bric-a-brac, used clothes, and crafts for next to nothing. Where? Everywhere people live. What? Well, you’ll find anything from broken toys, last year’s Queen’s Day purchases, and used bras to fantastic bargains on musical instruments, electronics, software and everything else under the sun.

Throughout the city, professional street performers vie for attention. There are pick-up bands, aspiring opera singers, teenage rappers and street discos. Rio-style drum bands have been very popular the past few years.

Huge outdoor concerts are organized at various locations, such as Dam square and Museumplein.

The throngs lining the streets and canals wear orange, the national color (after all, the Queen hails from the House of Orange). Take ‘throngs’ literally - particularly in the city’s center where you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with other revelers.

For most of the day, there is no public transport in the center of town.

If the weather is good (which isn’t always the case) the canals offer little relief as thousands of boats, large and small, filled with party goers clog the city’s waterways.

The beer flows freely, though mostly in the form of reduced-alcohol ‘event beer,’ which is served in plastic containers that come with a deposit fee.

Today the girls wear orange to school, have Dutch class and all the other pupils will wear orange. And I am making cookies with orange icing for all the Dutch kids today. It's such a festive color, it makes you happy! I wish I could be in the Netherlands today, since everybody is off and people are on the streets; selling, buying, drinking beer and having fun!! It's the world biggest street party over there today! However, I have a Dutch coffee morning with only Dutch ladies living in SA, so that is fun as well ;-)

Have a great day!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Our Easter trip through South Africa #1

Finally I have time to blog about our trip we made with my dad through the South-West part of SA during Easter break. We drove one way and flew back the way home, while Dirk drove the car back. The poor guy all by himself more than 1500 kilometers, so boring. But he had to stop at 2 places for business...

When I look back to this trip I am still amazed by the nature of SA. You drive for a few hours and the total outlook changes... dramatically. From mountains to flat bushveld, to dessert, rocky coast lines and green pastures, just amazing! My words or pictures cannot do justice!

Since it was the first time for my dad to be in SA I wanted to give him as much as possible the diversity of this vast land. So the first day we drove about 700 km and stayed overnight at a horse stable; Kuilfontein Stables. An authentic farm where they still have cows and horses. However, the horses got new stables and the old ones are formed into bedrooms, a dining room, reception and bar. So cute! And the couple who runs it are the nicest people!

We had a great lamb dinner, since this is the Karoo we were in and they are famous for the good succulent lamb dishes. The girls got up early in the morning to see how the cows were milked. The guys offered JJ and Jezz some fresh milk, but they skipped this warm milk for now ;-) Not knowing that later in the morning this same milk was on the breakfast table! These days kids don't get much interaction with all the farm animals, so this was a nice start of the vacation!

Now up to Amakhala Game reserve to Hlosi game lodge, another 400 km we had to drive to reach our new destination. We are going to hear lions roar!

We are now in the Eastern Cape bush. And on this drive from Colesburg to the Amakhala Game reserve nature is so gorgeous, we feel we are in Texas or in Australia and I expect cowboys and Indians coming by on their horses! Hours of driving and just a few mountains but mostly flat bushveld with aloes all over the place. Different vegetation, I've never seen before. I can't get enough of watching the colors changing because the sun is getting higher and higher, from the morning dew to the dry yellows, the greens from the spiky grasses and the reds in the earth and rocks. Just like a perfect painted picture! The girls by the way don't notice anything, they are sitting on the 3rd row watching a movie on their DVD player....

When we arrive at Hlosi lodge we wait a warm welcome by all the staff. The lodge is situated on a wide open grassland where I see the ostriches roam around the rooms. Each room is a different little lodge with own jacuzzi, indoor and outdoor shower, fireplace, sitting area and bedroom. Very posh and safari like decoration! Super duper nice!! I can stay here for a while :-)

Our first game drive is already at 4pm, before we are treated to a high tea and then off to see the wild animals. Staying at a lodge for a safari in SA is very very nice. You HAVE to experience it once in your life time. It is so magical. To drive in these open jeeps and don't know what to expect. We are looking for the wild animals, while the animals are looking at you from sometimes just a metre away from you and we haven't even notice. They are so well hidden and camouflaged and of course they smell us miles before we have seen them. So you are sitting there and suddenly some of us sees the lions, elephants, cheetahs, zebra's, wildebeests or giraffes and we all take out our camera's and shoot some great shots. It's a very exhilarating and exciting time. You never know what is coming up next. The ranger you drives you around knows so much about nature, birds and the animals around us that we learn so much and appreciate the beauty of the bushveld. These game drives take as long as 3 hours, so by the time we are at the end it is getting dark and the animals are ready for hunting. More action can be seen now, although it is harder to see them, with our lights from the Jeep and a huge flash light we are shining into the bushes in hope to see some action. A different feeling it gives now, and suddenly we hear elephants trumpeting, that means a mother is warning us, we are too close and we better move out of there. Of course they knew we were there, but we hadn't even seen them, they are so big, but so quite. And they are NEXT to us, jeezz.. we got a bit of a scare here!! It is hard to take pictures in the dark, the animals are as grey as the air, so we are hoping we will meet this group of elephants during our next drive in the morning. Back at the lodge we await a delicious 3-course meal. The kids are all sitting on a kiddie table and we adults are together. This time we are sharing the Jeep and the dinner table with a family of 5 from Oxford, UK. The Colebrooks were such a nice family, we had great fun with them!

Being at a safari lodge is always a very intimate gathering. There are only 6 rooms, so you start to know the people and the staff pretty well during those 2 days. It's like a big family sharing a beautiful lodge together! Sharing dinners and breakfast, enjoying high teas, nipping some sherry at the fire places and sharing stories of other adventures and safari's or places to visit in SA. So relaxed, sitting inside while the wild animals like buffalo's are walking around your bedroom or drinking water from the pool where the girls just had swam a few hours before. That is the life at a safari lodge!

The girls are swimming here during the day and at night the buffalo's came to have a drink at this water, while we were sipping some vino at the fire place.

We also met Milo, the meerkat pet, the girls were just totally in love with it and played with him whenever he was around.

Here with their friend Olivia and Milo, the meerkat.

In total you go on 2 game drives, in the early morning and in the early evening, that is the time when the animals are most active. Sleeping animals is no fun to photograph! The hope is always to see the big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino). The phrase Big Five game was coined by big-game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Well, this time we saw them all but the leopard, we saw some cheetah's which is also hard to see on safari's. These animals don't look us up and stay hidden and are so well camouflaged. Of course we saw more than these 5. We saw zebra's, wildebeest, spring bucks and a lot of other bucks. Beautiful birds, giraffes, ostriches and so many more animals I can't even think of them all. But the experience is just magical, to see all these animals in their natural environment, not bothered by us, just doing their thing and ignoring us completely. That is, if you stay in your Jeep! You set 1 foot out on the ground and suddenly you see these relaxed animals getting alert, body tense, ears sharp and ready to attack! Our ranger showed it to us. We were near these lions, and they were laying there relaxed. We stopped the Jeep maybe 5 meters away from them, they were OK with it, but as soon as the ranger opened the door, put one foot on the ground and the lion stood up and watched us. His body ready and tense... scary!! As soon as the ranger put his foot back into the car, the lion went back to relax and snooze with his lady not paying any attention to us anymore.

Every day you do 2 game drives, one at dawn and the other one at dusk. Nature is at the most beautiful then and all the animals are the most active. You don't want to see sleeping animals during the day, no fun photographing!
In the morning we take a stop for a small breakfast, some tea, rusks and scones. And this is also the moment to use the bush toilet ;-) First the ranger is going to check out a safe bush for you, no snakes or other animals hiding in there. And during the night drive we have sundowners at sunset. Beatiful setting, enjoying some amarula, gin & tonic or some other drinks and snacks while soaking in the beautiful surroundings!

If you ever get a chance to come to South Africa make sure you go on a game drive! It is magical! And do come and visit us if we are still here!!

Thanks to Stephan our ranger, we had some great game viewing at Hlosi Lodge!

Have a lovely day y'all, tomorrow more of the trip.
Love, Mireille

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 27th: Happy Birthday to my sweet Princesses!

I wanted to post this yesterday, but my internet connection went bad after my haircut post, so I have to do it now....

My sweet little babies turned 7 yesterday on SA Freedom Day! 7 years ago I had no clue of their existing yet and now they are my sweet little big babies!! I only met them for the first time when they were 9 weeks old. My heart and thoughts went out to the Bmother yesterday, not knowing she was carrying twins on that day she went to the hospital to give birth.
When JJ came out and the afterbirth didn't come (the doctor had walked away already) suddenly the nurse called him back... another one is coming out! So 10 minutes later Jezz was born. They weighed respectively 2,1kg/4lb&6oz and 2kg/4lb&4oz. The lenght I am not sure about. Both healthy and happy ;-)

So yesterday, since it was a public holiday, we celebrated together with a super duper breakfast and opening their gifts. Happy campers they were when they saw all their wrapped packages on the breakfast table.

The day before we had set up a new trampoline already, it was hard to keep that as a surprise because it is so huge.

Then in the afternoon we had a Princess Tea Party at a venue here in town. The girls were all day excited to go and meet their friends, dress up as a Princess and have tea, games and Princess food. It was so much fun, and all the girls were excited to be a Princess for a day. The highlight of the party was to meet a 'real' princess that joined the party the whole time. JJ and Jezz had chosen a snow princess to be the guest of honor and so it was. The highlight of the party was when the cake came out, it was a Barbie doll with a big skirt that was the cake. As soon as the princess starting cutting the cake and the legs became visible all the girls yelled out.... she is naked underneath!! So much fun, what else did they thought she would be.. fully dressed?? Later the barbie with a set of clothes was the bonus of the day.

In the evening we went out for dinner and since the people in the restaurant know us all, they all came out and sang for the girls and they had vanilla ice cream with chocolate fudge. Spoiled rotten are these 2 little princesses, but we enjoyed watching them, glowing from joy, excited about all the special attention just for the 2 of them! And my mind wandered off again to this lady I don't know much about but feel a strong bond with. How did she spend the day today... miles away on the other side of the world? Wondering if the girls are OK, feeling happy and sad at the same time? My heart goes out to her, but I know that we will meet again....

Happy Birthday my sweet little angels!

We love you so much!
Mommy & Daddy

Monday, April 27, 2009

A haircut just like Emmy & Ella

The girls were ready for a new haircut and they knew exactly how they wanted it: Jasmine like her best friend Emmy and Juliet like Ella. Emmy and Ella are their best friends from Ridgefield and also twins. They really look like our twins so we always had a lot of attention when we were with our 2 families. With their older sister Mia the 5 girls looked so much alike.

So this weekend we went to Chop It here in Leaping Frog shopping centre and the hair was washed, cut and blowed just like their favorite friend. See here the results.

Before; the girls had long hair and it was starting to look a bit unkempt.

Then the washing part.

Jasmine on one side of the salon, instructions: shoulder lenght hair and in layers around the face.

Juliet on the other side, a bit longer and layers around the face as well.

Then end result, 2 cute faces ;-) Just like their friends Emmy & Ella!

And here the pictures of Emmy and Ella that inspired JJ and Jezz. And if you like to see more pictures of these beautiful girls from Ridgefield, click here.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Child Trafficking and Adoption: Not the Same Thing!

I've got this morning the weekly newsletter from Rainbow Kids and found this article. I've read this already in other newspapers and indeed it disturbed me a lot! So I wanted to share this with you. Because I feel that we as adoptive parents need to make sure that the right lingo is used between child trafficking and adoption!

There have been recent news reports concerning Rubiana Ali, the child-actress in the Oscar-winning movie, "Slumdog Millionaire", and her father's (Rafiq Qureshi) attempt to sell her to the highest bidder. It is important for adoptive families everywhere to speak-out against the use of the term "Adoption" in reference to this obvious case of child-trafficking. Too many major media outlets are reporting that Rubina's father was trying to "offer her for adoption for a price". We must never allow the very wide line between child-trafficking and adoption to narrow. Offering a child FOR SALE, to make a profit and without regard for the child's well-being, is child trafficking. Thoughtfully and legally placing a child into a loving home for the purpose of bettering that child's life, is adoption. There is a growing wave of anti-adoption sentiment sweeping the world today. As parents and advocates, let us stand ready to correct this misconception whenever it may occur.

(article adapted from Rainbow Kids)

How do you feel about this?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The girls new BFF

We are back from our trip, which I will tell you more about when my dad is back to Holland. Now I am still too busy entertaining. But I promise soon I am back in blogging land!!

Here just a picture of Jasmine and Juliet with their new BFF. We went to an ostrich farm; the Zeekoe in Oudsthoorn and stayed there for 1 night. JJ wanted to ride an ostrich. Well, these animals run like crazy... so we decided to let her just sit on it. Which was OK, since the ostrich had a cap on his face, and then they stay still. As soon as the cap goes off, the ostrich goes running.... like up to 60 km per hour!! Not a good idea for a 6 year old to ride on....

But they got a stuffed ostrich as a present from their Opa and this is now their new BFF! So cute, all the other kids we met in Capetown wanted one too, so this is a prized possession now!!

Soon more to come from my trip!

I've missed you all, and can't wait to get back into my normal blogging routine, which means: Posting regularly, but also visiting your sites on a daily basis :-)
Love, M

Friday, April 3, 2009

Going on vacation... see you later alligator!!

My dad has arrived and tomorrow we're off for a 10-day vacation. So I won't be able to blog as much as I am used to.

Our trip will be an interesting one. First we drive through the great Karoo, sleep at a Horse stable, go on a 2 day safari. Drive through the magnificent Garden Route, visit Plettenberg bay, stay on a Ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn and then head to Capetown where we will be staying at the Waterkant.

All these places are great spots to see at least once in your life time and I will tell you more about it when I am back.

For now I wish you all a great Easter break, hope you will find some nice chocolate eggs and have a great Easter brunch!!

Love from sunny South Africa!!

Cozy and snug together...

Jasmine and Juliet have each their own twin bed, but that is not close, cozy and snug enough for the girls. So each night, Jasmine takes her pillow and moves over to Juliet's bed and they sleep together.

We fostered the girls since they were 3 months old before we adopted them at 16 months old while we were living in Thailand. We didn't know for sure if we could keep them forever, so we never really bought a bed for them at the beginning. A friend of us gave us 1 crib and the girls stayed in there till the moment came they were a bit too big. Then we moved over to a Queen bed that I turned into a huge crib and the girls and me all 3 slept in there (Dirk was already living and working in the USA), till the day we officially adopted them and moved all to the US.

Again, we put 2 toddler beds together and they had again a big crib. Till the moment the girls were potty trained we kept it like a big crib, then we split the 2 beds and made it like a normal toddler bed, so they could easily get out and go to the bathroom.
Last year we moved to South Africa, the girls were 6 now, and we bought them each a twin bed, but I guess it is too big, not cozy enough and hard to snuggle up with each other.... so old habits are hard to get rid off and the girls are sleeping together again.

If that makes them happy, it makes me happy! There will come a day that they find they don't have enough space, for now even looking at this picture the bed seems huge for those 2 tiny bodies :-)

I guess it is a twin thing, they feel more comfortable being close to each other, for 9 months they were so close that even now it doesn't bother the other one if her sister is laying almost on top of her.

Have a good day!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Outer space presentations

Last week and this week the girls were working on a presentation they had to do in front of the class. They are talking at school about the galaxy, milky way, all the planets, the sun and moon cycles.

So each kid had to chose one of the subjects and make a presentation. A big project for such a little kids, and I was amazed by how well they did. A proud momma was taking pictures of her babies growing up!! And speaking in public, not easy in front of all your classmates and their parents.

Juliet made her presentation about the galaxy, she knew a lot about it and made the whole presentation herself. She wasn't shy talking in front of the class and after her presentation asked if anybody had a question.
Well done JJ!! I am proud of you ;-)

Jasmine is a bit shyer and she went through her presentation like a whirlwind, before I knew it it was over! Ha, she didn't even ask anybody if they had some questions, she was happy that it was over. Although fast, she made a great presentation about the Milky Way! Good job Jezzy, I am very proud!!

The timing of the presentation was at the same time and they are in different classes, so I had to switch from one to another. Luckily the teachers know this and made sure that the girls didn't have their presentation at the same time, so I could be with both of them.

My little babies are growing up, it is fun to see how they develop and become such a little persons with each their own personalities. Likes and dislikes, strong and weaker points. Very fun to observe!!

Have a good day!


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