Friday Erwin came home from work early so I could off and skiddaddle with my friends. 4 ladies out on the town, friendships created from the common bond of needing English companionship, but hardened into true friendships. We took one of our girlfriends out for dinner for her birthday, and we ended up at a Greek place. YUM! It was heavenly, sitting in this newly remodeled, cozy restaurnat with these women I have come to love. The talk went from men to children to vacation plans to sex to depression to men to weather to money to sex and back again. We had many laughs and the atmosphere was what we here in BE/NL call gezellig. It's a kind of coziness, happiness, and complete feeling described in one word. We had planned to attend a mini- Christmas market after, but it was ice cold and with our chatter got to be a bit late, so we forewent the market and headed to watch some tv at AJ's house. We ended the evening fairly early due to our old-age tiredness, but it was really nice to get together and share hte spirit of friendship.
Saturday we all stumbled out of bed into the bitter cold of the day...with brilliant blue skies and sunshine, but still freezing. We layered ourselves in extra pants, shirts, hats, mittens, scarves as we headed off to Efteling for a day of fun. Tante Ilse Piet brought us tickets for Sinterklaas to this wonderful family amusement park, and we met up with oma, opa, Ilse, and Michel in the great hall where we all entered the park together. We immediately saw one of the Efteling characters and stopped to give her a hand before descending further into the park for some fun on the rides, stops for coffee and warming up, and walks through the magic of the Winter Efteling, complete with snow and bon fires and the feel of winter in the air. It was a really nice day, if only a bit too cold....but it definitely put me in that Winter Wonderland spirit, perfect for a start to the Christmas holiday season.
Sunday we awakened late, at which time I made pancakes for a leisurely breakfast before we got ready to go once again. I cancelled my attendance to a Christmas concert at a nursing home so that we could go off and find our perfect Christmas tree, and then decorate our home as a family. My very favorite activity during Christmas is heading off on a search for that perfect tree, and so we bundled up once again and made the trek to the tree stand which has become our steadfast tree haunt for the past years. We sang Christmas carols on the way there, and then the trees were all standing before us, as we excitedly went in search of holiday cheer. I found a beautiful tree, perfectly formed and full, but Jari found one even better, a bit bigger with more space for hanging ornaments. As we put the two side-by-sie to compare, and then walked through the stands again to make sure we had found OUR tree, that one that you grab and just know its THE one, we settled back to where Jari's tree stood. Mine had already been whisked away by another customer, which gave me all that much more faith that this was to be ours. Erwin liked Jari's choice, and when Kaeden gave his thumbs up as he held it proudly for me to examine all its angles, we knew we'd found our little piece of Christmas, and as we paid and loaded it into the car the smell of fresh evergreen was overwhelming and intoxicating. We dropped the tree off at home to come back to later and headed off again, to a little Christmas market I'd read about in the paper. It was situated at a castle, close to our home, with promises of a visit from Santa. We entered the castle grounds where Santa was awaiting us with a basket of goodies to choose from. We walked through the stands of homemade crafts and goods, 80% of which were food related...waffles, fish, soup, cake, hot chocolate, jams, chocolates, gluhwein...listening to the sounds of a band playing Christmas music. The boys got to pick a prize from a bag, and were excited as they opened their first Christmas package of the season.
We returned home to the duty of trying to get our tree to stand up, and managed to sort-of do so. We took an axe and chopped away at it's stem until it fir into our stand. We got it into the house, I got half the lights on before I started dinner, when Jari burst into the room telling us that the tree had fallen down. Erwin tied it with wire to the screw on teh ceiling, but it's still not the most stable tree we've ever had. I won't be surprised if it falls before the holidays are over, but what's new? Seems this is a certainty in our Christmas celebration.
Jari put out the nativity, making sure the donkey stood close to baby Jesus to give him the warmmth of his breath, while Kaeden collected all of his own ornaments from the years past and hung them on the tree. We all worked together to create this amazing feast for our eyes...balls of silver, homemade paper angels, and all the special yearly ornaments we've collected marked with our names and the year we received it. As we herded the boys into bed after a fulfilling, long weekend, I stood and looked at the glorious tree lighting our home and felt so comforted and peaceful. It really was a wonderful weekend.