Monday, December 19, 2011

Snow time - Zermatt, Switzerland

I had been hoping that it would snow at home before we left for Switzerland but with no luck - thankfully, there was plenty of snow in Switzerland to make up for it!!!! Last Tuesday we went back to Zermatt, a ski village in the shadow of the Matterhorn that we visited back in 2007. It's a car free village so we drove as far as we could before taking a short train ride up the mountain into the town. It was Mr Oliver's first train ride and he LOVED it!!!

One of the reasons we came back is that we wanted to do the Gornergrat bahn - last time we were here we headed up the mountain to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise but also wanted to do the Gornergrat railway. When we went to buy tickets, the sales lady asked how old our son was and we discovered that you can't take babies under 1 year old past a certain altitude - and the Gornergrat observatory was too high (we were pretty thankful we went to a knowledgeable sales assistant and saved Ollie's ears, phew!!!). We could however visit a lower lookout at Riffelalp so we bought tickets and off we went on the cog railway. Once we reached our stop, we discovered that there was nothing there bar a 5* hotel & restaurant and snow... Lots of snow!!!

It was perfect for making snow angels in...

And just playing around...

And of course, some snowman building!!!

By this point, Oliver had fallen asleep from me rocking him on the swing and had a nice little nap with his Alpine babysitter...

And despite our sweet baby boy having a lovely nap, we figured we should take our first family photo in the snow!!!

Ahhhhh... I love snow holidays!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Déjà vu - Strasbourg, France

It was a strange feeling of deja vu earlier this week - almost one year to the date, we were back in Strasbourg again! Mitch had to be in Switzerland this week for work (and of course our Christmas holidays!) and seeing as it was Mr Oliver's first big road trip, we decided to break it up a little and spend the night in Strasbourg.

The trip down was exactly the same as last year, right down to where we took our rest breaks - just minus all the snow :-( It made for a smoother drive but I have to say, it just doesn't feel all that Christmas-y when it's freezing out but it's not snowing!!! Ollie slept most of the car trip (giggling and shrieking at the world flying by when he was awake) and was soooooo excited to be out of his car seat on rest breaks!!!

Once we arrived in Strasbourg, we took some time exploring the busy Christmas markets and enjoying some French treats - vin chaud and nutella crepes make my day :-)

Strasbourg was just as lovely as last year - but I have to say, it was nice to have our little boy here instead of just morning sickness... 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


This time last year, I was excitedly watching it snow outside... It was such a novelty - being a Qld girl, the idea that I can sit in my very own living room, listening to Christmas carols and watching it snow outside is pretty exciting!!!

The excitement was heightened when on the weekend before Sinterklaas, we were driving to go buy a Christmas tree (because we pleaded ignorance and put ours up 'early' ie before 5 December) and spotted a bunch of people ice skating on a local lake. Having taken figure skating lessons years ago and loving any excuse to get on the ice, this was the ultimate winter experience for me - ice skating on a natural lake in our own town!!!

The view from our place this year however - NOTHING!!!! The only thing even resembling snow was the bizarre 1 minute ice storm (I guess I should call it a hail storm) while a friend and I were on a walk yesterday.

I anxiously check the weather forecast every day but it's just been rain, rain and more rain. The temperatures just aren't low enough for it to turn into snow, let alone freeze the lakes for ice skating - for once I am actually wishing for colder temperatures! I love our life in the Netherlands but the biggest downside here for me is the weather. It's awful - the temperatures are still cold but we don't have any pretty snow outside to make the cold worthwhile!!!

We are leaving shortly for Christmas holidays in Switzerland, with a short stopover in France. I have given up all hope of it snowing at home before we leave :-( I haven't started packing yet except to dig out our ski jackets & pants, ski gloves & Ollie's little snowsuit - so all I can say is there better be snow in Switzerland or I'm gonna be buying us a can of fake snow to make snow angels in :P

Bring on the holidays!!!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Is it really that time of year again???

On Friday night we kicked off the festive season with a trip to some Christmas markets in nearby Kleve, Germany. I am really finding it hard to believe that we are almost in December again! I don't know why, but it just doesn't feel like Christmas is just around the corner!!! Although it's cold here right now, it's nowhere near snowing and it felt a little strange to be wandering around European Christmas markets without any snow. It was still a lovely little market though - full of yummy treats and some gluhwein, it was a nice night out. I still do find it a novelty that we can go 'overseas' at the drop of a hat, just for a Christmas market! Coming from Australia, I think it's a novelty that will never wear off :-)

Mr Oliver was having a nice time too at his very first Christmas markets and as usual, he wanted to be part of the action and didn't sleep the whole time we were out. He was a little grumpy once we started standing still for dinner, but before long he was cracking some of his cheesy grins under his dummy!

And once he noticed his Dadda standing behind the camera - well, our little charmer was working those gorgeous smiles that really do bring a tear to my eye! Oliver, you are just the cutest little man!!!!

Windmills, clogs & cheese - Zaanse Schans

When we first came to Holland for a holiday in 2008, we made the short trip from where we were staying in Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans - because of course,  a visit to the Netherlands wouldn't be complete without some windmill spotting.

Since moving here last year, I've been to Kinderdijk more times then I can remember with a few of our visitors. Although it's lovely there, we were keen to go somewhere different for some windmill spotting with our visiting friends from not-so-flatland and decided to go back to Zaanse Schans. It's about 1.5 hours from where we live (not far by Aussie standards but practically the other side of the country here!) so we made a day trip out of it.

A bit had changed in the 3.5 years since we had last visited - there were new museums and it was definitely a lot busier (the cheese tasting was just as good as last time though!!!). We'd also changed a lot as well - no longer just the 2 of us...

But now a family of 3 :-)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Couch potato

When Oliver was a whole lot smaller, he loved tummy time! He'd happily lay on his tummy and exercise his neck muscles for the 10 minutes a day the kraamzorg told us to do with him.

One day however, he suddenly decided that he no longer liked tummy time - the second I'd pop him face down he'd scream and scream and wouldn't stop until I cuddled him. I tried doing it in different places like on his change mat (placed on the floor with me), on our bed, even on the couch, where he showed his couch potato side and decided to just chill and watch Dr Phil instead... I reckon he'd watch tv all day long if he was allowed!

When I took him to the consulatiebureau for his 3 month vaccinations, I asked the paediatrician about his aversion to tummy time. Although he's holding his own head up with enough strength for his age, she was pretty adamant that I MUST give him tummy time 4-5 times a day even if he screams through it :-( Although I was a bit hesitant (Oliver tears = Mumma tears) I figured the benefits will be worth it and decided to persevere, now trying with a towel rolled up under his chest and distracting him constantly with toys and noise.

Well, much to my surprise....

It's been working!!!!

With distractions such as squeaky toys, reading him a story (thanks Aunty Tiff!!!), singing and his personal favourite - talking in a high pitched voice - tummy time isn't such an evil anymore. He's even managed a few smiles while grunting away!!!

He's getting better and better every day too, managing longer periods of time before the tears begin. Although sometimes, he just gives up and pops his head down on the side and just stares at me... He's such a little couch potato sometimes!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

All the colours...

Ok, so it might not have had all the colours of the rainbow, but our latest creation was still pretty colourful!!!

I'd been following the rainbow cake craze online for some time and like everything, decided to join the party a little late. After a few people at Mitch's work asking to see Mr Oliver again, my fellow baker and I decided to have a go at a rainbow cake with swiss buttercream icing (recipe from here) to take into the lab for morning tea. 

Because my cake tin was a little larger then suggested, we could only manage 5 layers but despite our fear that it was going to be a teeny cake (each layer was quite pancake like) it ended up being reasonably big. The recipe also suggested using gel colours because liquid wouldn't be vibrant enough, but with the cost of liquid food colouring here already being a mighty 4 euros per teeny bottle, we decided to make do with the colours I already had and see how it turned out - I think it was vibrant enough...

It went down a treat - despite being a massive sugar hit, it was pretty tasty!!! And of course (although it's a bit hard to tell with his serious face here!), Mr Oliver loved going in to work to see his Dadda :-)

Musician in the making???

Musician in the making - maybe, maybe not... But the important thing is - Mr Oliver was having fun!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's that time of year again - Sinterklaas!

Sinterklaas - this year, we finally got to see what all the fuss is about!!!

Last year we were in Switzerland when Sinterklaas & Zwarte Piet arrived 'from Spain' - although the feast day isn't until 5 December, he traditionally arrives on the 3rd weekend in November for a parade around town. All morning we saw people riding into town from our window - the kids were all dressed up as either Sinterklaas or Black Pete and carrying paintings & hessian sacks for collecting treats. We braved the crowds and arrived just in time to see the arrival by boat down on the Nijmegen waterfront. 

Escorted by 125 Zwarte Pieten (some of which were a marching band, others were handing out the yummy kruidnoten), he was paraded around for the afternoon.

While Mitch was standing on bike racks in the hope of getting some photos above all the tall locals, Tiff and I got Mr Oliver out of his pram - partly because he LOVES being part of the action and also in the hope that kid = extra kruidnoten for us (sadly, the latter wasn't true - I think the Black Petes realised our gummy little boy wasn't going to be able to chomp on any kruidnoten and we weren't given ANY until we came across a not so stingy kid Black Pete later that afternoon who gave us handfuls of the stuff with a smile). 

Along with some random kid, Ollie even got his photo taken with Black Pete!

Although the arrival seemed to be the main event, the festivities continued into the afternoon as per tradition with Sinterklaas riding around town on a white horse. We were having lunch at the time so only caught a glimpse out of the restaurant window!

Afterwards we followed the noise (coming from half of Nijmegen singing the Sinterklaasliedjes) towards the town square. 

All afternoon I had been thinking that Sinterklaas kinda resembled the Pope...Well seeing him high up on this old building looking down at the crowds below really confirmed my thoughts!!!! It was a great afternoon :-)


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