Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense

receive create combine

“It Feels like Cheating” – This is the title of the blogpost that I had intended to write to accompany this photo… it would be a post about my latest project, the one I wrote about previously here. The nature of this project indicated the necessity of another blog. Which is where I have been spending (or investing) my blogging time for the last two weeks. And, to be honest, it does feel a bit like cheating: spending time there instead of here…

I was getting ready to type a rather lengthy text explaining my project and then I saw this weeks photo challenge: “future tense”… It was as if the pieces of the puzzle fell in their place.

I quote small part of this post (you can read the whole post in: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/weekly-photo-challenge-future-tense/ )

“In today’s challenge we want you to grab an image from your world that holds the promise or portent of the future. It could be:

  • As everyday as the experience of waiting for a bus or train.
  • As abstract as something that symbolizes your ambitions or hopes for the future.
  • A note, prayer or promise jotted on a napkin or cross-stitched with exquisite tenderness.

For me, right now, there is no better image from my world that holds the promise of the future than a photo of my latest project which I named “receive create combine”.

receive create combine

The purpose of this project is to inspire and stay inspired; to have fun while making things together; to react to what you see in a creative way.

It is an experiment in collaborative visual association. It involves participation of a lot of people from many different countries. It is only the beginning, but right now there are already 13 participants from 3 countries.

My dream is that this creative postcard project will spread like a virus around the world. That inspiration and creativity will expand in a contagious way. A rather ambitious dream, I know… But even if this doesn’t happen, I will consider this project successful if it ignites a spark of inspiration in some people and urges them to allow creativity in their everyday life.

I’d love it if you have a look at it and I’d love it even more if you would join me in this experiment: http://receivecreatecombine.wordpress.com

Have a great weekend!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details part 2

puzzle 3000 pcs

I couldn’t resist the temptation to post a second time for this challenge. During rainy winter days we often start a puzzle. This one was the biggest we ever did, 3000 pieces. It is made by cartoonist Jan van Haasteren who makes incredibly busy and complicated illustrations. The scene on this puzzle is a circus with all the circus artists performing at the same time. We were literally lost in the details while making it.

To blog or not to blog…

If there were a Blogger’s Procrastination Award, I would certainly be one of the first people to get nominated. Life gets in the way often, sometimes more often than others… The truth is that I have made several beginnings for blog posts all this time, but I didn’t see why any of these would interest anyone else out there. This led me to think about blogging in general, and this blog in particular. What I want with it and how I want to get there. How it interacts with my work. And how it interacts with whoever sees it, my subscribers and the accidental visitors who google themselves to this place. It is time for a change, a change in layout and a change in content. It is time for an experiment, time to see what happens if I show more of how I work and where my inspiration comes from.

L1070897

I took this picture in December to mark the beginning of a new project. The idea behind it took some time to crystallize. I will be blogging about it soon.

Jan Rijnders, 1935-2013

Koorddanser, painted by Jan Rijnders in 1999

Koorddanser, painted by Jan Rijnders in 1999

This week I was working on a few posts to revive this blog, when the sad news of the passing of Jan Rijnders reached me. Since I heard the news I haven’t been able to finish the posts I was writing for this blog; they seem so superficial right now.

Jan Rijnders was a great man. One of Delft’s most important contemporary artists, an amazing teacher, an enlightened and modest man. He has been my teacher – many years ago – before I went to Art School. In fact, he was the one who encouraged me and helped me find the confidence and the guts to go through with it.
Later on – end of the ’90′s – I met his wife through an artist’s initiative where we were both participating. We saw each other regularly at the artist’s meetings and occasionally we would meet for a cup of coffee and an inspiring talk. It was a great honor when I was asked to exhibit my paintings together with their artwork.
We kept in touch all these years and I knew about his weakened health; still, the news hit me really hard. I suppose that when you look up to someone, when you have learned so much from someone, you can get some naive idea that this person can live forever…
I have learned very much from this great teacher. It is an honor to have known him.

R.I.P. Jan

 

 

Daily projects, PiBoIdMo, RSI and other old news…

It is this period of the year again when the days are hectic and time flies. I have been offline for a while; I couldn’t use my right hand because of rsi. I started training my left hand, hoping that I could get as far as being able to paint and draw with the ‘wrong’ hand… The only thing I achieved was a stack of clumsy drawings and the first signs of rsi also in my left hand. (I might show some of these clumsy sketches later on if I find the guts to post them…)

start PiBoIdMo

As far as ‘Picture Book Idea Month’ (PiBoIdMo) is concerned, I have to admit that I have failed! I don’t like failing. I had thought of posting often about PiBoIdMo during November, but my hands did not agree… Last year I had managed to finish the challenge, even though November is always a terribly busy month. This time I had decided to participate with illustrations for my stories instead of written ideas. Well, I didn’t get much further than rough sketches of my ideas for the first few days of November…

I have been working on several projects lately. If my hands ‘co-operate’, I will be showing them here the coming days. I am particularly excited about one of them, a variation of one of my Daily Projects, which I will be doing in the window of a temporary shop. I am not used to work when others are watching and this time I will be letting the audience interfere and even participate in the process. This is merely an experimental project; I’m very curious how it will go. (http://www.facebook.com/events/429852590402804/ )

Last but not least – It is this period of the year again: Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) is back in town making everyone go crazy and stressed-out! It is a wonderful tradition – giving presents anonymously – but it is a pity that it is not a real holiday: people are not free from their work; it is not always easy to find the right present and then make a complicated surprise wrapping for it and write a long -funny- poem to give together with the present… Having said that, I’m off now, I still have to start with my surprise-wrapping!

Until next time!

Old News

It has been a while… Again. They say, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”… so true!

It’s almost a month ago that the Atelier Route took place. (My news are quite old this time). This year, I could participate thanks to the generous offer of two friends – www.ateliers197.nl and www.aboutstek.nl - who allowed me to use an empty space in the building they are renting for their work.

I know; it is called Atelier Route and the point is that visitors can get the chance to see the real atelier/studio of the artist, to visit the place where the paintings are actually made, and to smell and feel the atmosphere of these creative places… But my atelier is very small; too small for the number of visitors I get each time. This became clear a few years ago when people were cramped like sardines in a tin: some would have to stand at the door waiting until other people would leave; others would walk away because it was too busy for them. So I was very happy with my friends’ generous offer! The space felt warm and welcoming. It was a pleasure to be there with my work and meet so many interesting people.

There was this empty metal cupboard in the space and it gave me the chance to do something I have never dared to do before: show unfinished work, work in progress… I had recently started working on a few new paintings in colors which I have never used for paintings before: pink and black. I didn’t have time to finish them before the Atelier Route – and to be honest I didn’t (and still don’t) know how to finish them… I have never shown paintings at such an early stage, I have never shown my sketches, my daily projects and my way of thinking and working so openly before. And it was scary; Scary and great at the same time… It seems that showing the process is just as important as showing the finished paintings, especially during the atelier route.

Have a nice weekend!

Back to blogging – Atelier Route 2012

There is no easy way to start blogging again after being away for so long… So I might just as well start with what’s keeping me busy the last couple of weeks: the Atelier Route, coming up this weekend. Most of you live too far away to visit, but I will try to give an impression of how it goes by blogging more regularly from now on.

Fragmented Time

When we work, a short break is essential for our productivity and our sense of well-being. But what is the best ratio between working-time and the duration of a break? How often should we take a break and how long should that break last so that our time is most efficiently spent? So that our concentration is enhanced instead of being distracted? I’m sure that there are many studies, surveys and guidelines about this subject, answering all these questions. In the past, I never really thought about these things: I just worked, and when I needed a break, I took a break… Simple. But since the beginning of this year a back hernia and diaphragmatic hernia have been dominating my life resulting in a totally new view of the relation between working time and time for a break.

During this time I have been visiting a physiotherapist practicing a very specific (and quite new?) physical therapy technique for the lower back. It is called ‘origene’. I was told that there are very few physiotherapists who are licensed to give this therapy here, less than ten in the whole country. I won’t go now into many details on how this technique works – or how it  should work… But I will say that it involves patience; a lot of patience; patience that I don’t have lately…

A quick (and bad!) sketch of the origine ‘chair’ – just to give a rough example of how it works.

About eight weeks ago my physiotherapist found out that I wasn’t actually following her advice (resting in bed mainly). She was very strict about it: you either walk or you lay in bed; it is as simple as that! Sitting? Standing still? No more than ten minutes… I decided I should better do what she said this time. Laying flat in bed and walking, walking and laying in bed… And what about dinner? Eating while walking, eating laying flat or eating very quickly? My mind went off, wondering ‘how on earth can I paint?’ This takes too much time and I’m getting very impatient! During my last session I was happy to hear that I was ready for the next step: thirty minutes work followed by at least thirty minutes walk outside. ‘Walking inside does not count!’ was her reaction to my protest that I did walk regularly: 42 steps to fill my coffee cup, and I drink a lot of coffee – I walk for a refill… So now, I have to be setting the timer every half hour, put my coat on and go out for a walk; a walk that fills me with new images, sounds, smells, ideas and inspirations; a walk that distracts me from what I was doing and makes me want to start new things when I’m back. My time is very fragmented and so are my thoughts and ideas – concentration levels dropping…

I wonder how anyone can concentrate when time is so fragmented? To be honest, I really miss painting. I mean the real thing, painting as activity that makes you forget time and place, that makes you transcend to that space where there is only you and it – whether you call it Inspiration, Creativity, God, Enlightment, Genius, Cosmic Energy, Flow, Grace, Spirit, … it’s all about the same Creative Force.

Time’s up, I’ve reset the timer more than twice to write this post, now it’s walking time again.

Until next time!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hands

I haven’t been here much lately, even though I have a whole list of things I want to post about. I like this week’s photo challenge; hands have always fascinated me (and frustrated me whenever I tried to draw or paint them!)

The first picture is related to my contribution for last week’s challenge: making paper. Here you see hands enjoying the silky texture of paper pulp just after mixing it to a smooth thick liquid. (I think Daughter liked this part of papermaking the most!)

These two pictures are from a series of photographs I made during a workshop with 9-10-year-old children. The degree of concentration was often very visible in their hands. (You can also have a look at my post ‘Busy hands’ about this subject: http://atelierzisiadou.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/busy-hands/ – sorry, just saw that the link doesn’t work… don’t know yet what I’m doing wrong)

This last picture was taken previous weekend. By coincidence this year Mother’s Day was the same day as my birthday so having a double celebration to look forward to, we booked a well-deserved three-day-holiday in the woods. I took this picture when we were leaving: walking towards the parking I was holding the key in my hand, afraid I would forget to deliver it (again). As I look at the picture now, it almost gets a symbolic meaning: the hand that holds the key to a fantastic weekend, to great times together, to rest, quiet, laughter, walks, good films, tasty meals, …

Now I wonder, does this always happen, I mean, does every object get a symbolic (or just different) meaning if a hand holds it?

Have a wonderful day!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unfocused

Unfocused: I had to laugh when I read this week’s theme. I don’t like unfocused photographs. The only exception is if their being out of focus serves a specific purpose. But right now, the theme ‘Unfocused’ seemed quite appropriate for me: I have been rather unfocused lately… What you see (actually what you don’t see ;) ) in this photograph is a close up of a pile of handmade paper. I took this picture especially for this week’s challenge. It was quite hard to prevent the camera from focusing – these automatic things tend to do that, they have a mind of their own… First I tried focusing at a far away spot and then move the camera quickly to my subject. This resulted in blurred pictures; but blurred because they were moved, not because they were unfocused. So I rejected them all because moved photo’s are not the same as unfocused photo’s (I’m quite precise with these things ;) ) In the end I did manage to find a way to ‘trick’ the camera to let me do what I wanted. I’m inserting also a second photograph so you can see what the first one was about. Here, the background is unfocused so I guess it is not totally out of place…

Until next time!

Random Prompts for Daily Practice – week 18

It has been quite busy here the last few days with the preparations for “Koninginnedag” and now with May-holiday. When schools are closed parents often have to get creative and inventive when it comes to making a program for the day, each day… Therefore I’m quite late with posting my Random Prompts as I had promised. But, better late than never… So, here they are, the prompts for this week:

Random Prompts for Daily Practice – week 18

  • Make a mind-map of your day. Combine words with symbols and images. Make something special out of small unimportant events. Give it the title: “Something special happened today….”
  • Paste a picture of a face (a photograph or from a magazine) on paper. Draw small doodles like henna tattoos around it.
  • Make a collage / Get inspired by the first sentence in an arbitrary page of an arbitrary book
  • Color combination: Yellows and Blues: Naples & Indian Yellow and Dark Blues: Indigo, Indanthrene, Prussian & French Ultramarine.
  • Use an image that inspires you to make something new.
  • Paste a picture on paper and paint around it completing the image.
  • Make stains and monotypes on very smooth/glossy paper. Use these prints to make something else.
  • Draw & paint figures with charcoal, conté & acrylics / inspired by somebody else
  • Use (a copy of) an old photograph. Play with letters around it in any technique you like.

I hope they inspire you to make something!

Have a nice week!

Crafting for a Cause

Every year on the 30th of April the Dutch celebrate ‘Koninginnedag‘, the queen’s birthday. It is a national holiday and everyone is out on the streets - if it does not rain, which is often the case, unfortunately. It is a day that people are allowed to sell their stuff on the street. You can imagine that this means a major spring clean up for some: it is the yearly chance to clear out the attic or the basement and earn some money by discarding things you no longer need or like… Until a few years ago, you could also sell homemade cookies, cupcakes, snacks or even meals. But this is now forbidden after some cases of food poisoning in the past.

What I enjoy most during this day is looking at the children: they arrange their little ‘shop’ on a plaid and they sell their old toys, books and collections of cards. With the money they earn they visit other children’s ‘shops’ and buy ‘new’ things for a very good price. Children grow up fast and they love growing up. But it takes a lot of courage to decide to part with beloved toys and books, and it takes even more guts to sell these things for a bargain price. My daughter(10y.) has been busy selecting things that she can sell, which means that the day after tomorrow -backache permitting- I will be out on the street accompanying her. Yesterday we had the idea of also earning some money for a good cause by selling handmade things. After brainstorming for a while we decided on decorating matchboxes and putting a wish or an inspiring prompt inside. People can buy them and give them to someone they love instead of a card, for example for a birthday, mothers day, wishing them good luck, get well, etc. Biggest part of the money will go to an organization which helps ill children (which one will be daughter’s decision). So yesterday evening I got out the stash of crafting materials I had long ago bought -and almost never used- and I am helping her with decorating the little boxes so that she has more to sell and more money to give to this organization. Too bad we are so late with thinking about it; now we really have to hurry!

Crafting for a cause: gathering the materials we can use

Just a start, not even one of them is finished yet...

Have a nice weekend!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sun

I’m quite late with this, but better late than never… The sun has been very shy here lately, hiding behind heavy watery clouds. The few times that it did come out, it was probably because I didn’t have my camera with me.

These pictures are from the beginning of February, an unforgettable Saturday when the sun proved that it can shine gloriously even in Holland…

and this is what the weather looked like that day…  

Ha! I just found out how to insert related articles! Call me stupid, but I had never scrolled so much down before….

Busy hands

Busy hands: Pictures I made during the workshop art journaling I gave in my daughter’s class. It was great seeing all these kids working hard and having fun! The workshop was more than a month ago, but some of the kids still come to me to say how much they liked it. It’s very nice to hear them and it’s very touching to see their enthusiastic faces.

Until next time…

Hello again

I haven’t written for quite some time here; somewhere between the daily routine of work, family life and health issues I suppose I missed the energy or lost the drive… or felt I didn’t really have much to say… You know how it goes: we make plans, program events, make appointments and then… life happens… Life happens with all its glorious – and often outrageous – unpredictability of issues and events that lead us to paths we had not chosen.

It was still winter when I wrote my previous post and now we’re halfway through spring. Spring always gives me a feeling of joyful anticipation: watching everything grow and blossom again makes me realize how powerful nature’s creative energy is. So now it’s a perfectly good moment for me to blow some new life into this blog. As an experiment I will be sharing with you my Random Prompts for Daily Practice. I have written about this project in my previous post. In the meantime I have enriched it with exercises and prompts from other disciplines, things I like doing and things I find challenging or difficult, things I often make and things I want to make but always postpone them because they seem silly, unnecessary or unimportant… You get the picture I guess: I’m talking about random prompts to get the creative juices flowing; to get started or get restarted or to keep on going… My prompts are mainly related to painting or drawing, but I suppose you can interpret them in another discipline if you choose to use any of them. I’m not sure yet what kind of form I will give them here in this blog; this whole idea of posting the prompts that inspire the work instead of posting a picture of the finished product is still quite new to me. As long as this experiment lasts, at the end of each week I will be posting next weeks’ prompts. If you decide to use (any of) them, it is totally up to you if you want to do one every day, one every week, or combine them with each other and make something whenever you like. Please note that these prompts are often no more than just one single word that I wrote on a small card. I am tempted to make explanatory sentences for them here, but I am afraid that by doing this I will limit or guide other people’s ideas and inspiration. As part of the experiment I will be posting them as they are for the time being. The intention behind these words is better understood if you add “inspired by…” or “make something with…” in front of them. (Take the word ‘portrait’ for example: as a prompt it can be any of the following: “make a portrait”, “get inspired by a portrait”, “make something inspired by a portrait”, “use a portrait to make something else”, “make a portrait of a portrait”, etc.) Please let me know if you find the prompts too abstract and incomprehensible when written like this; I will then write them in a full sentence. So, here they are, the prompts for next week:

Random Prompts for Daily Practice – week 17

  • write a page full and paint over it / form repetition / black & white.
  • 5 arbitrary objects / doodle without looking or doodle with the wrong hand
  • affirmation / graffiti or tattoo style / markers
  • inspired by somebody else’s weblog / portrait / charcoal
  • 20-minute study of light / pencil, pen, charcoal or conté
  • poem / collage
  • quote / 3 figures (or figure-like objects) / watercolor
  • stamps (post stamps and/or rubberstamps) / charcoal+conté & gesso+acrylics

If you make something inspired by these prompts and you show what you made in your blog, please leave a message here, so that I can also have a look at your blog. What inspires you? What gives you a creative boost? What are you making?

Have a nice weekend!

Random

These are pictures of random shapes of frozen water in the canal near my home. I am a few weeks late with this theme so I’m not going to call this post “Weekly Photo Challenge:Random” as I had initially intended. The different forms and colors of water surfaces has been an endless source of inspiration for me. And in these pictures it is the sense of ‘ordered randomness’ that fascinates me.

Randomness is something that I am increasingly allowing in my work. This is not always easy, because I tend to want to control the way my paint gets on the paper or canvas. I want to control the outcome, but somewhere on the way I miss – or discard – a lot of great accidents that my materials might produce. As a way of forcing myself to allow randomness more frequently in my work, I started with a new daily project: making things out of random prompts. There is quite a challenge in this for me: about half of the prompts I wrote are related to themes or materials that I almost always avoid… because I’m not good in them, because I don’t like them, because I find them too difficult – or just because I never thought of using them before.

Health issues can also come to us in a random manner. It was not my intention to neglect my blog so much. And it was not my intention to neglect a lot of other things… Obstacles that work against creativity can take many different and unexpected forms; this is what I have been finding out for the past five weeks. Sometimes, after a while – if you are lucky – the very same obstacles can function as chances, as possibilities, as new ideas for new projects. It’s a random thing… (And for the time being: I just have to be patient and trust the Dutch health system_)

Random stains of acrylic ink in one of my art journals. It is only a background, a first layer of paint on something that still has to be worked on again and again before it is finished. I like the randomness in the symmetry of it. At first sight you think it is totally symmetrical, but looking closely you start noticing the differences.

Until next time!

An Unexpected Start

Friday the 13th today… A lot of people consider the 13th to be an unlucky day, especially when it is on a Friday. Well, for me, 13 has often been a good number, at its worse a neutral number or date. Like today. Today is the first day in two weeks – the first day this year! – that the pain in my back allows me to sit in front of the computer for more than a few minutes. For two weeks I have been exchanging bed-rest with short walks in order to deal with this problem with my back. In Dutch it is called a ‘hernia’, I have no idea if this is the right word in English too. I am trying now to catch up with a lot of things that need to be done at work, at home and also here in WP-land… First of all, it is never too late to wish to everyone here a very good, happy, healthy and inspirational new year! I hope all the best for you and your families! I am very much behind with reacting to all the messages you left for me and I have a lot of reading to do in the blogs I’m following. I never thought I would miss my laptop so much! I didn’t manage to replace it after it crashed a couple of years ago, and now… well, now it would have made the last two weeks much easier!

fireworks

Not a sharp photo, but it gives me a warm happy feeling.

It is always easy to talk in retrospect, but being temporarily bound in bed has a strange quality and consequences beyond the fact of having too many things to catch up with now. At first I was ok with it, thinking it would be over in a day or so. Then I got increasingly frustrated when I realized that the way I had to lie (so that my back wouldn’t hurt) I couldn’t draw, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t even read: the book would get too heavy after a while… (The laptop would have also been too heavy!) When I finally surrendered to this situation, I got a major blast of creative energy in the form of numerous ideas, which demanded immediate realization. Well, I was really grateful for all the ideas, but I got even more frustrated with my physical inability to do something – anything – with them. A rather cynical stoicism overwhelmed me at this point… So I put everything on hold and decided to ‘sit it out’ – well, ‘lie it out’ in this case – hoping I wouldn’t forget all the ideas by the time I could get back to work. And now? Now half of them are gone, but the ones that I still remember are enough to keep me busy for the coming months: all kinds of ideas for new projects, new paintings, new programs for the courses and workshops I will be teaching, new hobbies, new plans…

Until next time!

fireworks

I love the colors of the lights within the night's blackness

Weekly Photo Challenge: Launch

launching new courses

Making preparations to launch several new courses and workshops. It has been a long time since I stopped teaching at the local Free Academy of Arts. Now I decided to do it on my own and I’m finding out that I had underestimated the amount of time and work that goes in public relations and the administrative part of giving lessons… Making the program for the courses and choosing the materials is a lot of fun; this part of the launching process is almost ready. The courses I will be giving are: painting and art-journaling for adults, art-journaling workshops for kids and painting for kids (this last one in collaboration with a friend). This photo is of some of the materials I will be needing for the art-journaling workshop for kids. I am making small booklets with ten pages each. In some of these booklets I am preparing several examples so that the kids can understand what the general idea is. I bought the rest of the stuff – brushes, pencils, crayons, fine liners – for a  quality/price check. I will be needing much more of everything, but better first know which is of good enough quality. In my own drawing and painting work I use artist’s quality materials, but for beginners, student quality should be ok. Otherwise the cost of materials gets unnecessarily high…

A Blessing in Disguise

In our lives, we often have the conviction that we can control and program everything; that everything we want to do fits neatly in our overbooked agenda. Life sometimes proves us wrong… I haven’t been here in WordPress for two weeks. I haven’t been home for one week. My plane back home landed yesterday, late in the evening.

Two weeks ago I had made my plans for Christmas and for the days around Christmas. The decision to stay in Holland (=once more celebrate Christmas without my parents and sister) was based on the ridiculously high prices of airplane tickets and the fact that my husband had to work during those days. I hadn’t celebrated Christmas with my family for seven years and the idea of not seeing them again this year made me rather sad. In all these years I have seen them during summer holidays and occasionally at Easter, but Christmas is different, there is a different kind of magic in the air.

So my plans were fixed and I started getting my home ready: getting down the decorations for our daughter’s birthday party and putting up the Christmas decorations. And then I received a very alarming telephone call regarding my father’s health. And then… And then life stands still…  This was the moment I dreaded ever since I moved from Greece to Holland: the moment I would hear that something happened to a loved one and I would not be able to be there immediately. I had to make a major change of plans quickly, and the three of us discussed it carefully before we took any decisions. Daughter and I would fly to Athens on Christmas Eve; my husband could not come. It would be difficult being separated during these days, but for our daughter, the prospect of spending the days with her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins was quite exciting. On arrival I was informed that after several visits to doctors and many medical tests, the incident that my father had, was not as severe as initially thought; it was a mere warning, but a very strong warning… We were all relieved, happy and grateful. Celebrating Christmas this year was different; not only because I was again with my family after seven years, but also – and mainly – because the good news after the bad news gave this Christmas more depth and meaning than I have ever felt.

This is the special Christmas bread from Zakynthos (Zante),  called “Christopsomo”. The eldest family member pours olive oil -and sometimes also red wine- over it before cutting it. At the same time all family members sing a special Christmas hymn. A coin is hidden in the bread and it is supposed to bring good luck throughout the coming year to the one who finds it . We have a similar custom at New Years Eve with the New Years cake, which also contains a hidden coin or good luck charm.

Until next time!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting – Part 2

After having waited for weeks, the long expected day arrived at last! The suspense is almost unbearable for children, even for children who know “the Secret” of St. Nicolas. It is not strange that sometimes 9-10 year old children still believe that St. Nicolas is really bringing the presents: national television goes to extremes, making whole programs and special news reports with good actors and complicated scripts to build up the suspense. When the news reports on tv follow the basic outlines of the real news reports, children do believe that what they see is really real! This celebration is a whole national conspiracy! The suspense of waiting builds up gradually during the three weeks that St. Nicolas is in the country; children can put their shoe in front of the fireplace or the window, they put a carrot or some hay in the shoe and a bowl with water next to it (for the saint’s horse!) and they have to sing several songs as best as they can, hoping to find a little present in their shoe in the morning… This is repeated every weekend, sometimes twice or three times a week! No wonder that the children can’t sleep from the anticipation.

When the day finally arrived, the one hour drive to our relatives’ house seemed like ages, the waiting there again seemed too long and at last somebody called out: ‘Oh come and look! He brought us presents!’ The few moments needed to bring the presents inside seemed like hours of waiting to the children. By the way, here, people don’t give presents to each other at Christmas; they do it at St. Nicolas day. But they do it anonymously: it is the Saint who brings the presents (and writes poems related to the presents most of the times!) I think it is a wonderful way of making the act of giving much more important than the person who gives!

It is now three days since St. Nicolas left from Holland again, but the magic of this fairy-tale-like period still lingers…

Until next time!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting

This week’s photo challenge is waiting. My first thoughts were of the negative aspects of waiting: when waiting is too stressful or annoying. But I am in a good mood; tomorrow we’re celebrating ‘pakjesavond’, Saint Nicolas day, with the whole family. The anticipation and suspense in the children’s eyes grows stronger and stronger as we are all waiting for the moment when someone knocks at the door and leaves a whole load of presents at the doorstep. During this time we sing many St. Nicolas songs to make the waiting bearable – and shorter. The idea is that we have to sing to get presents; so the more you sing the more presents you get! Waiting and singing, singing and waiting…

I didn’t grow up with this tradition; I came to Holland when I was 25 and I had to learn these songs from books and cd’s. During this period they express waiting.