23 December 2009

Ode To Mickey

When we were little, my sister and I each had an ornament of our own that adorned our family's Christmas tree. My sister had a beautiful pink cat. My ornament was a mouse and I called it Mickey. It was not really Mickey Mouse. It looks nothing like Mickey Mouse, in fact. Or a mouse for that matter. As I am writing this, I am starting to wonder if it even is a mouse. I think so.

The ornaments came from my grandfather's store. He normally sold household appliances but every year, after celebrating Saint Nicholas' Eve, he would cover up his storefront windows with paper and spend all night building the most elaborate display of Christmas ornaments, to be reveiled on December 6. He was famous for it, well beyond the neighborhood my mom and her family lived in. I do not know if I ever saw his window displays. If I did, I was too young to remember. My mother has a few pictures but the colors are faded and they do not do my grandfather's creations justice.

I treasure my ornament. Because of its age, and because of its heritage. It always gets a special spot in the tree. And while I would love to have a themed tree from time to time, because of Mickey I never have.

For the second year in a row Mickey is missing from the tree, however. Last year we had just moved into the barn and there really wasn't any room for a tree. Instead I temporarily brought one of our Alberta Spruces inside, pot and all. We decorated it with a homemade cranberries and popcorn garland.

This year I do not have a tree of my own. That's okay. My parents-in-law's tree is beautiful and decorated exclusively with handmade ornaments. Some are very old ornaments made by my father-in-law's sisters. Some were made by my husband and his siblings when they were children. And one was made by Lola and me. Last weekend we created a reindeer from twigs found in the yard (inspired by Jane from Fine Frugal Living). Maybe we can name him Mickey, instead of the obvious Rudolph.


Next year the real Mickey will be back, prominently gracing my tree. I promise!

11 December 2009

Adventures Of A Dutch Girl

Born and raised in The Netherlands, I left windmills, wooden shoes, and tulips behind in 2006 to follow my heart to the United States. It led me to Olympia, located at the tip of Puget Sound in the beautiful state of Washington, and the 24th wettest city in the nation. My Olympic Adventure has been my greatest adventure yet. I moved halfway across the globe after a two-week courtship, married the love of my life and became the mother of Lola, the most enchanting girl I have ever met.

It hasn’t been all moonlight and roses. My pursuit of the American Dream didn’t quite work out the way I had imagined. Surprisingly, potential American employers were not all that impressed by my Dutch employers and experience, and it did not rain as many job offers as I had hoped. Not one, to be exact. And when Ryan ended up without a job, and the economy went to pieces, stress levels in our household went up a bit.

This did not keep us from stubbornly proceeding with our plans to build a home. We built a small but very charming barn in our backyard. Unfortunately we ran out of money before it was done. That did not stop us either. We simply rented out the house, and moved into the barn, finished or not. We had no windows, no stairs, no bathroom, and no running water. We didn’t mind roughing it, because we were convinced our persistence would pay off and one of us, if not both, would find a proper job and all would be well. And in the meantime, we were building character.

Interesting decisions and not very wise ones, in hindsight. We were not rewarded for our perseverance. Although we did find work locally, it was not enough to turn my Olympic Adventure into a success story. Because both of us have family there, we expanded our job search to include Wisconsin. Within two months I found a job as a marketing manager, and things are looking good for Ryan as well. In the Northwoods no less, where marketing and sales jobs are few and far between. I think the universe is telling us something.

Having been a city girl all my life, I cherished the rural feel of Olympia’s Westside. I loved pretending to live the country life, with city benefits. It was just us on forty acres of land. One acre was ours, the rest was a nature reserve. The nearest supermarket was a mere five minutes away, and good lattes were readily available. In the Northwoods I have to pretend no more, it really is the country. No yoga classes, no bead stores, no fancy bakeries. My Northwoods Adventure might just surpass all my other adventures.

All this drama does have an upside; it makes for good blog copy. (It would have been great copy if I hadn’t edited myself. Not everything needs to be on the world wide web for all eternity, after all. I have to save something for the book.) Because let’s face it, Happily Ever After is just plain boring.

I want to be boring now. At least for a little while.

Back to The Dutch Girl's Adventures

10 December 2009

In Other News

Crandon newcomer Lola N. (2) has made the front page of the Forest Republican, Forest County's local newspaper, within eight days of her arrival. She was photographed last Saturday admiring Dr. Perry's annual Christmas lights display in the company of her mother and grandparents.

Miss N. declined to comment when asked for a response to her front page appearance. She was, however, prepared to admit she really liked the pretty lights.

09 December 2009

Snow! And Lots Of It!


We woke up this morning to a foot of snow. Winter has arrived, full-fledged. Tomorrow the low temperatures will drop even further. (They already have in Washington, everyone - including Ryan - is dealing with frozen pipes or hoses, it seems.)

Getting to work was a bit of a challenge, me being a Wisconsin newbie and a wimp about driving in the snow. But I made it, and in one piece. I felt really bad about being late on my third day, but when I realized hardly anyone (guests included) had come in, I felt much better. So good in fact, that I left again three hours later. I prefer a little daylight with my icy roads.

I came home to a nice and clean driveway. Clearly some serious snow shoveling had taken place in my absence.

08 December 2009

Wisconsin Winter Wonderland

It was a lovely drive to work yesterday. The frost on the bare branches made the trees look eerie and fragile. The thin layer of snow on the frozen lakes glistened in the sun. The Northwoods of Wisconsin are so very different from the evergreen forests of Washington but beautiful in their own right. I hummed Winter Wonderland all the way to work.

We're expecting snow over the next two days. And lots of it!

Tis The Season

Nothing cheers me up like Christmas music. When Ryan and I started packing up the barn, he asked me what music I wanted to listen to. I answered: "Happy music." He gave me the Partridge Family. He could not have made a better choice.

I should state I am not a fan of the Partridge Family, in fact I do not remember ever watching the show. I do, however, own their Christmas album. I have had it since 1972. It is my all time favorite Christmas album and the first one I play when my self imposed rules allow me to indulge in the sounds of the season, early December.

I am aware how this might make me look but I don't care. Think of me what you will. A Partridge Family Christmas Card makes me smile. Every time. Nobody says it like David Cassidy...


(Thank you Marja, for uploading this video to YouTube.)

Happy Holidays everyone, especially my blogging SITSta's! May 2010 bring good tidings to us all.

07 December 2009

Gainfully Employed

It was sunny and crisp this morning, when I got in my father-in-law's car to go to work. It took two tries to actually make it into the car, as pencil skirts and pick-up trucks do not match very well. A quick stop at the Tribal Offices to pick up the coveted gaming license, and I was off. I took the long way round today. I probably will quite often this winter because it is the busier and therefore better plowed road to work.

Today was my first day as Marketing Manager of the Potawatomi Carter Casino and Hotel, PCCH for short. It was only half a day and consisted of the grand tour, shaking many hands, a crash course in spotting money launderers, and filling out an enormous stack of paperwork. My colleagues were friendly and welcoming, and I really enjoyed myself. Tomorrow I'll sit down with the Marketing Director, meet my staff, and fill out more paperwork.

The best part? [Big Fat Grin] The preferential parking for managers!

05 December 2009

Home Alone

Lola and I are home alone, watching Home Alone. It is never too early to instill a love of all things Christmas, I say. But perhaps two and a half is a tad young for a full appreciation of the adventures of Kevin McCallister. I don't think Lola completely understands the story.

Until Kevin asked Santa to please bring back his mommy for Christmas. When I asked Lola if she too wants her mommy for Christmas, she answered: "Yes", and then changed her mind.

"No. I want my papa for Christmas."

04 December 2009

Small Town Charm

Every Christmas movie set in a small town I have ever seen, and that's quite a few, features the ceremonial lighting of the town's Christmas Tree. The town folk gather in the town square, they drink hot chocolate, and sing Christmas carols. It always made me feel warm and fuzzy inside and wanting to live in a small town myself.

And now I do.

Sure enough, Crandon has a tree lighting ceremony of its own. It was tonight, and it was freezing cold. The main event was preceded by a flashlight parade to Dr. Perry's house, caroling along the way. Lola, bundled up to withstand minus fifty degrees, marched cheerfully along, swinging her flashlight and singing Jingle Bells at the top of her lungs. And I, still emotionally wrecked, followed her smiling and blubbering while mouthing the words, too choked up to actually sing. Happy tears.

Dr. Perry's house is something you must see for yourself. Every holiday season she turns her house and her property into an enchanted forest filled with Christmas Joy. There is nothing tacky about it, it is unbelievably beautiful. People come from near and far to see it. Lola was mesmerized.



Afterwards we town folk gathered together for hot chocolate, cookies and a little heart to heart with Jolly Old Saint Nicolas. Miss Lola was delighted with the candy cane from Mrs. Claus, and ever so softly told Santa she would like Elmo for Christmas. She's a believer, just like her mom.


Lola is asleep now, nestled all snug in her bed. I have no doubt visions of sugar plums dance in her head.

And it is snowing outside.

02 December 2009

Fresh Start

Hello and welcome to Northwoods Adventures! Your primary source for all things N. & Van H. Visit often and read all about how Hanneke fares with the high rollers, how Lola develops a Wisconsin accent, how Ryan teaches his wife and child to ride a snow mobile (yes mom, I will be careful!).

Because Olympic Adventures has its own web address of the same name, I purchased a new web address with the more generic name www.thedutchgirlsadventures.net to publish our new adventures. 'Cuz you never know, we might end up in Texas some day. (I copied the content of Olympic Adventures into this blog for the sake of continuity and convenience.)

So just this once, change those bookmarks, renew your email subscriptions, and hit the 'Follow This Blog' button one more time.

Thank you!

30 November 2009

Tough Girl

We're here. Here is Crandon WI, population 1961. Make that 1964. Lola, Sandman, and I flew into Wisconsin last Friday. Ryan will follow in a little bit with a U Haul truck full of furniture and clothes. Lots of clothes. After a busy week of packing boxes and suitcases, visits from friends, and selling more antiques, I kissed my husband good bye, and left Washington for good. My Olympic Adventure has come to an end.

I have mixed feelings about Washington. When Ryan and I were driving back to Olympia after celebrating Thanksgiving with friends in Seattle, we were telling each other our happy Washington memories. There are so many. It is the place where I fell in love, became a wife and a mother, where I watched a bald eagle fishing not thirty feet away, where I camped in the rainforest, where I built a home.

Washington is also the place where I learned first hand about the harsher side of America. Where not one employer would give an experienced communications expert a chance. Where most companies cannot be bothered to reply to an application, or have the decency to tell you they hired someone else after interviewing you. Where no work means no health insurance. Where it is every woman for herself.

But that is not all I learned. I found out I am as tough as they come. I am resilient. I can rough it. I can start a fire from scratch. I can operate an excavator. I can go a year, or longer even, without buying clothes. I can give birth without pain medication. (As I write this, I remember how giving birth the old fashioned way empowered me. If I can handle that kind of pain, I told myself at the time, I can handle anything. And I have.)

I know from experience that over time the bad memories will fade and the good ones will remain. So will the life lessons of my Olympic Adventure. I will apply them to my new adventure. Whatever it is, I can handle it. Bring it on! Forged titanium indeed.

26 November 2009

Stellar Solace

Today's horoscope for Scorpios:

The links in your chain are straining under the weight of their load, but they will hold. You are forged titanium. You are built solid, from the ground up. No shortcuts, no alloys.

It may be a generic horoscope in today's paper, but I'll take it.

19 November 2009

Clearance Sale

There is a big empty spot in our kitchen where our beautiful antique cooking stove used to be. It was picked up last night by its new owners. For the remainder of our Olympic Adventure we will have to make do with a microwave, a pizza oven, a rice cooker, and one measly hot plate if we wish to eat.

The big Clearance Sale has begun. The weather does not allow for a yard sale, we do not have a garage, and there is not enough room in the barn for a barn sale. We are making do with Craig's List instead. So far we have been quite successful. In addition to the stove, we have sold our jetted claw foot bathtub and our riding lawn mower.


It saddens us to see everything go. Selling our stuff off makes leaving Washington and suspending this dream very real. The stove especially since it was the first item we stored inside our home and used on a daily basis. It fit the barn perfectly and literally leaves a void. But we tell ourselves everything is replaceable and there will be other cool stoves and bathtubs. And we can take our dream with us to Wisconsin and wherever else we will go.

We find solace in the fact that our things are going to good homes. The tub is on a barge right now, sailing to Alaska, to warm a lovely couple that knows all about roughing it. The lawnmower has been purchased by a church and is doing God's work. And the stove now lives in a converted granary to be cooked on by another European immigrant. Very cool. I know it is silly but it really matters to us. Ryan and I are such dorks.

17 November 2009

Tough Love

My child is a thumb sucker. A passionate thumb sucker. She does not discriminate between the left and right thumb, they both taste equally delicious. In an attempt to prevent future orthodontist bills, I tried introducing her to a pacifier when she was a baby, but when she discovered her thumbs on her own, I abandoned my efforts. She loves it, it soothes her, and frankly speaking, it looks very cute.

Her thumb sucking is impeding her dental development, though. Her front teeth have not completely come down, and she cannot properly pronounce the 'L' and the 'Th'. The time has come to take her thumbs away from her. For a while now, we have been pulling her thumb out of her mouth whenever we catch her. It works for a few minutes, and then one thumb or the other goes right back in.

Harsher measures are in order. Cutting her thumbs off is obviously not an option. Instead, we have resorted to a nasty tasting nail polish-like solution. Tonight was the first night she could not suck her thumb to help her fall sleep. She did not like it, to put it mildly. She cried and screamed my name for what seemed like a very long time. My poor baby.

I remember so clearly how awful it was when I had to stop sucking my thumb. My sister and I quit together, cold turkey. Of course we were much older than Lola. I was ten years old, and had an impressive overbite. The first night was horrible. To help us fall asleep, my mother laid down between the two of us, holding my right thumb and my sister's left thumb in her hands. Not one of us slept very well that night, least of all my mom.

Lola fell asleep after about half an hour. That's not so bad. I think this is much harder on me than it is on her. It is a good thing she has two parents because I am not very good at tough love. I have some growing up to do, too.

12 November 2009

Virtual Friends & Idols

Did you catch the new slide show of favorite posts over on the left side of Olympic Adventures? I would love to be able to say I made that, but no, I do not possess the necessary skills. Yet. Someday I want to learn all about programming HTML, Flash, etcetera. I think it would be a valuable addition to my resume and I know I would highly enjoy doing it.

No, I won the slide show! My new virtual BFF Cheri hosted a give-a-way on her blog Its So Very Cheri. She had quite a few gifts to hand out and I won the slide show made by Jane of Frugal Fine Living. Jane makes a mean autumn pork roast, too, by the way! Thank you both very much, ladies.

It's a funny thing, the business of blogging. I really enjoy blog hopping when I have the time, and finding inspiration for crafts, decorations, and recipes. Or life in general. You leave a comment here and there, and before you know it, you've made a new friend.

I highly admire the women that have turned their blogs into businesses. Not by simply adding Google Ads to their blog, but by being creative. Like The Crock Pot Lady for instance, who decided to use her slow cooker every day for a year and blog about it. Hers was the first blog I started following. She has just published a cookbook! Or Tip Junkie, who wants us all to buy from 'Mom-preneurs' this holiday season. (I am going to ask Santa for the slow cooker cook book I think, doing just that.)



Someday I hope to do something similar. I have no idea how or what at the moment, but there's something brewing in the back of my mind. With life becoming a little less stressful soon, it will be fun to play around with and develop ideas. I'll keep you posted!
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