Sunday, 30 November 2008

Christmas kick-off

As I wrote in a previous post, I have already started Christmas at my house, with my favourite Christmas CD - but, normally, the official kick-off for Christmas for a Swede would be today. Not today as in the 30th in November, but today as in Sunday the 1st of Advent.

Every house in Sweden, and I mean EVERY house, and nearly every window, will have been decorated with advent lights, stars and other decorations for this day. It is really, really beautiful and an impressive sight for any foreigner that comes to visit. One of my favourite times of the year actually! At the moment it gets dark around 4 pm back home, so you can understand the need to lit up our homes at this time of the year.

The 1st of Advent, is the first of the four Sundays before Christmas and in Sweden it's tradition to decorate an Advent candle holder, put four candles in, and then light one each Sunday.

Although Advent is celebrated as a season of the Christian church (the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus) and the beginning of the Western Christian year; for most Swedes it equals the kick-off for Christmas shopping, Christmas baking, Christmas parties, Christmas decorating, Christmas gluttony, Christmas celebrations etc...

Therefor, I am now going to have myself a glass of glögg and some pepparkakor in the light of my Christmas tree!

Superb Sunday

What a weekend it has been! Full on! I'm all exhausted but finished it all off with a superb Sunday.

Friday the kids had the Christmas party and yesterday the birthday party at the Yacht Club. Last night Nathan and I went next door to watch the NZ-UK game in the rugby (Go All Blacks!) and enjoy a Japanese dinner. It was a very nice evening albeit a bit wet and late...
Today I took the kids to McDonald's for lunch, as a treat. They like to play in their little playground, and enjoy the toys in the Happy Meal - easy to please!

Later we were invited around to another neighbour together with some other people, to hang out by their pool. It turned out to be one of the nicest Sundays we have had in a while, we ended up spending the entire afternoon there! There was a bunch of kids who played on their trampoline, with the toys, enjoyed games on the TV and a big swim in the pool. They had a fantastic time!
The mums and the dads were having dangerously yummy piña coladas and were chatting away by the pool, and later we ordered pizza and everybody dug in.

Such a nice day - thank you Amanda!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Birthday festivities

This morning we went to a birthday party at the Yacht Club (felt like we had never left from the night before and the Christmas party...).
It had been a while since our last Yacht Club birthday party, so it was really nice to come along to this one and just spend the morning up by the pool. It was a nice mix of people and both us and the kids had a lovely time - the Yacht Club really is one of our favourite places here, it's very relaxed and easy there.

The birthday girl, Jemima, was very lucky and got celebrated with this fantastic Fairy Castle cake (that her mummy had made!):

Lucas found friends, and played superheroes - Linnea was only happy after the pinata bashing had taken place, and she had got some goodies. It's all about the goodies.


As you might remember, Nathan got a juicer for his birthday in September. This is the kind of machine you would probably use once... or if you are lucky twice, if you were living back home, because it is a pain to clean with lots of little parts, and in the end you would think it's just not worth the hassle.
We use ours every day!

We buy oranges by the hundreds (a whole box at a time) at a local supermarket, Nathan buys mangoes whenever he goes to Surabaya - and we have fresh orange & mango juice every morning! There is nothing better! It's fantastic! (And the best thing is, we don't have to clean the machine ourselves...)

Friday, 28 November 2008

Christmas Party at the Yacht Club

The Yacht Club arrange a Christmas Party for the kids every year around this time, before every one starts shooting off for the holidays.
Last year we missed it because we were in NZ, so today was a first for us. We had heard it's usually chaos, and yes, this year was no exception, haha... Over 100 kids and their parents had gathered, there was a big bouncy castle and the usual things up at the Yacht Club. I managed to convince the kids not to swim (I was on my own with them) because there was dinner coming, and - Santa, of course!

Santa came sailing in on his boat (we have very strange Santas in this country, last week on a bike, this week on a boat...), together with his elf - and went to sit in the YC library.
The kids were then allowed in to see him in groups, first the 1 & 2-year olds, then the 3 & 4 year olds etc. Lucky for us, we didn't have to wait too long!

All the parents had brought presents themselves, for their own kids, and named them clearly. Santa read out the names and the kids could get up and receive their gift. Linnea was far too shy (scared?) to get it herself, but Lucas happily got his and even posed with Santa for a photo.

They also had an orchestra and a choir who sang Christmas Carols, there was ice cream for the kids and Mince Pies for the adults - and yes, we managed to get some Christmas feeling, just a little bit, but it was there!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Festival du Film Francais

Tonight I have been taking part in the big opening of the French Film Festival at the fancy Empire hotel. My friend (who's husband works for the French company Total) had been invited, and since her husband couldn't go - she asked me along instead. Not really having a big connection to France at the moment, but at least, I do speak French!

It's quite funny to be living in Brunei, because in any other place, you would just not be hanging in those circles and be invited to these kind of things. But since Brunei is so small, there I was tonight - talking to the head of Alliance Francaise, the CEO of Total and the French Ambassador, amongst others.
We were treated to a lovely buffet, and then we saw the movie "Serko", which was quite nice. More Russian than French (...) but with a lovely story and fantastic scenery.

The festival is showing French movies for free all weekend, so I will try and see if I can catch another one.

10 000 visitors

Today I passed 10 000 visitors here on the blog! I know, I know, not big numbers compared to some of the professional bloggers who have half a million readers every week - but hey, it's not bad, for a hobby-blogger like myself!

I still remember when I had my first 100 visitors, that was a big thing too!

I really enjoy writing this blog, even more when I get nice feedback and comments - I'm happy that you read it, so see you soon again!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The official start

Sixteen years ago when I was an Au Pair in Paris, I got the holidays off and came home for Christmas. I had wished for only one thing for Christmas: a CD with Christmas music by Lars Vegas Trio. This group was a Swedish music- and comedy group that played covers of well known hits, in a very high tempo. I had been to a concert with them that previous summer, and when they had a Christmas CD coming out - I know I wanted it!

Ever since then, Christmas starts officially for me the first time I put on that CD. That's my favourite Christmas CD by far, even though it is a bit quirky. It is a big part of my Christmas traditions! I listen to it over and over again every year in the weeks up to Christmas - and today, was this year's official start!

Erika - this one is for you!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008


Believe it or not, but I am actually sitting here being a bit cold tonight.
Have just come back from the hash, and it was not only a very muddy one (the non stop squelsh-squelsh kind) but a very wet one - it was pouring down, so we were all soaked already before we started; and it was deep water to go through in more than one place, thanks to the heavy rain. At one stage we were actually kind of walking up-stream, as the rain was coming down so heavy it started running along the path...

Although I had a change of clothes with me, I was wet all the way through and never really got the temperature back, so now I'm feeling cold.
I had brought my poor neighbour for her first hash, she got quite an experience! I wonder if she will come again next week...?

I am going to make myself a nice cup of tea now!

Fire Station Visit

Today the Reception classes went on another excursion. This time to the Fire Station in the Berakas Camp. As I was busy, Nathan went along together with Will and Fredrik and some other parents.
The kids had a blast, they got to go inside the ambulance and the fire trucks, have a look around and try a fireman outfit and helmet. Great fun of course!

Here they have arrived - lining up nicely, listening to the firemen:

Playing firemen:

Trying out the outfit, a bit big:

Having a "ride" in the firetruck:

Group photo, that's Lucas in the back with his arms up:

Monday, 24 November 2008

A festive evening

There is always a lot going on here in Brunei. In fact, you can be as busy as you have time to be - there is parties, coffee mornings, exercise groups to join and other happenings all the time.

Tonight some ladies had arranged a "Festive Evening" at my friend Anna's house. They had invited for glögg (Swedish mulled wine), Santa punch, mince pies and other Christmas delicacies and while you were enjoying the nibbles you could peruse the "stalls".

There are many talented ladies here, that use their spare time on making small business of their handicraft. Tonight f.e you could buy homemade pate, Christmas puddings and other goodies, handmade jewellery, hand-sewn tunics, clothes, bags and shoes; framed photographs and paintings, furniture and many other things.

It was a really nice evening, nice to have a browse and a chat, and get in to the Christmas spirit a bit!

A great Sunday afternoon

Yesterday we took the boat out, and took our friends the Scotts along, for a bit of swimming and bisquiting.
It was super nice! The sea was gorgeous yesterday, the kids behaved well and had a fantastic time - even Linnea was jumping off the back of the boat like she had done that a million times before!

Both kids went bisquiting and kept saying "faster, faster!" when we drove along. We were out for most of the afternoon, having brought supplies in our cool bags, so the parents were happy too! Then we finished off with a yummy dinner at the Yacht Club before going home and putting some very worn out kids to bed...

Here is Adrian, Lucas and Amelia just before they went "submarine"... They forgot to hold the front up, so the bisquit submerged and gave poor Lucas a fright because he of course was holding on for dear life and went under for a bit... Bless.

We got him back on again though, with Daddy.

Linnea jumping off the back:

Adrian, Linnea and Nathan on the bisquit:

The Scotts kids on the boat:

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Whanau Day

We have had a FANTASTIC afternoon today, in every way. So super!
It was the New Zealand Association's 'Whanau Day' (Family Day), and it was organized down at Tungku Beach.
About 100 kids were there with their parents, and there was lots of different games and challenges, face painting, colouring competitions, free battered hot dogs and even a visit from Santa - who came on his bike!

Lucas and Linnea had an absolute blast! They played in the waves, on the surf boards and on the beach with all their little friends; they got to say hello to Santa who had brought gifts, it was great!
What a way to spend an afternoon... aaahhh!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Founders Day Hash

On Tuesday, we had a very special hash. It was Founders Day - the day we say goodbye to the old committee and wrap up the hash year, and say hello to a new committee and start a new hash year.

We had a run up at the Yacht Club, and then we all got changed and there was a big buffet dinner, a DJ playing music, and a big party.
Since it was also hash nr 2100 - the theme was "Hashing in the future", and most people came dressed according to the theme, futuristic and spacey. There was space themed cocktails and a space quiz and all the decorations were space themed as well. As usual, I was amazed at what lengths some people had gone to with their outfits! There were some absolutely incredible creations, very impressive!

At the down-down, there was awards for different happenings over the year, the committee did a little sketch and sang a song, we had some new members and a birthday - and then we danced the night away!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Teddy Bears Picnic

This morning I stayed on at school and took part in this years Teddy Bears Picnic with the kids. All the children were dressed in their house colours, and had brought along each a teddy - also supposed to be dressed in the same colours!

Lucas' teddy was dressed in his Swedish kit, and Linnea's teddy got dressed in one of the dolly's dresses:

Linnea's class getting ready to go, with all their teddies:

They then gathered in their colour groups, all the kids from different year groups co-operated in finding clues that were spread out all over the school, to eventually find the secret location for the picnic.

Off they went:

Once arrived at the secret location, they had some sweets and their snack - it was good fun!

Monday, 17 November 2008

More guests!

One of my best friends, Erika, have booked her trip here now - jubii! It's not until in February, but we all know how fast time flies, she will be here before we know it! Yay!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

A morning at the Yacht Club

This morning when the kids and I rocked up to the Yacht Club, there was no one! Just us, and the two pools, just for us! Lovely!

The kids played with the water guns we got them in Singapore, I practised some of my newly acquired photography skills and we had yummy lunch.
Mmm... lovely!

Ah yeah, Lucas lost his 2nd tooth too! So time for another visit by the Tooth Fairy tonight I guess!

Now we are off to the cinema to see "Madagascar 2"! Just another weekend for you!

My biggest vice

One thing I have learned to drink while we have been in Brunei (apart from endless diversities of cocktails) is fresh lime juice. In the beginning it was a bit too sour for me, but now I love it - and everywhere we go, that's what I order, every time. It's really good especially if you eat hot and spicy food, takes the edge of a bit.
It's a bit of an addiction, I must admit - but it's sooo good!

The perfect gift

While my parents were here, we took over 1000 pictures all together. That's a lot. Personally I delete a lot of photos already when I transfer them from my card to the computer, then another lot after going through them carefully. I only keep the really good ones, worth showing or printing.
I know my parents have a hard time deleting any photos, so they always have far too many when it's time to show someone...

So, when they had left, I made a photo book for them and had it sent straight to Sweden.
Lots of companies do these over the internet, it's really easy. I have found a favourite in Snapfish, I have used them before and they are really good quality and has quick service. (They have pages in lots of countries).
I made a book with all the favourite photos from their visit here, it took about 175 photos and 74 pages to showcase everything they had been up to. It's great because you can choose your own layouts and backgrounds and really influence the finished look of your book.

I'm proud to say it turned out really great, I was very pleased! Now they can bring that along to their family and friends, and it's easy to show off the photos!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Lazy week

After having had visitors and being going full on for a while, I have had a lazy week this week, doing absolutely nothing other than just hang out and relax while the kids have been at school.
I have watched some of my TV-series that had been piling up, caught up on my blog rolls, been for nice lunches and coffees with the girls, played around with my photo course; I've had my nails done, been lying on the sofa reading magazines - purely recharging my batteries.

Now I'm ready to hit the gym again and get stuck into my never-ending to-do list of things to sort out. The end of the school year is near, so is our upcoming trip to NZ and let's not forget CHRISTMAS, less than six weeks away! And before all this there is still a lot going on so we are busy all right, as usual.
No more time for laziness!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Forfilling a goal

For a long, long time (ever since I got my first analog SLR camera back in 1995) I have been wanting to do a photography course, to learn more about all the different settings on the camera.
Until now, I have used the "idiot proof" green square, the fully automatic setting almost every time.

That is all going to change now! I have got the best Christmas present (in advance) from my parents, a place on an internet based photography course, that I will be following for the next couple of months.

It's held by one of my scrapbooking icons WoopsieDaisy, who is not only a superb scrapper but also photographer by trade, and she knows her way around Photoshop like no one else!
I'm really looking forward to this course and I hope it will get me to know my camera inside and out and make me a better photographer.

I have started a blog, just for all the photos I will be practicing on. If you are curious check it out here (I have also added it as a link in my link list).

Sunday, 9 November 2008

A Sunday on the boat

THIS is why we bought a boat, check out the kids' happy faces (oh, and Nathan's):

(Thanks to the Turners for the photos!)

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Ahlgrens Bilar

As I told you I had bought Ahlgrens Bilar at IKEA, for the kids "traveling around" on International Day. These cars are classic Swedish candy that have existed since 1953.
They proved really, really popular and lots of the kids came back over and over again to have more of these little marshmallow-like green, white and pink cars.

I got two bags left over, but they wont last long - both the kids and I are crazy about them, especially when they are fresh and chewy like these, mmm!
Definitely one of Sweden's best exports!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Clumsy queen hits again

On the bad side, I put a water bottle in my bag today, apparently without screwing the top on properly - so I flooded the bag, with everything in it... Fortunately, both my SLR and Nathans camera survived. Unfortunately, my phone didn't.
(Nathan got support for his argument he had during a recent discussion we had about getting a waterproof or non-waterproof camera next though...)

On the good side, it means that I will now need (need!) a new phone. Pronto. Bring it on.

Photos from Singapore

Here's a little slide show from our trip to Singapore this time:

International Day 2008

Today we celebrated International Day at school. It's the favourite day of the school year for many, as it's a such a nice morning and it really shows exactly how international school JIS is.
First all the classes in Junior school gathered in the common ground for a parade - showing off their different costumes. Some came dressed in national dress, some dressed as known characters from their countries. Lucas was a viking with helmet, sword and shield; and Linnea came as Pippi Långstrump (=Pippi Longstocking).

Class by class the kids went up on stage, and they then told us which countries were represented in each class. One class had 13 different nationalities, Lucas' class 10! It's quite amazing!
Everybody, even the teachers and some parents, were dressed up and it was great to see all the cool costumes!

After the parade, the kids got to "travel around the world" in the playground, where some of the parents had been preparing tables with things from their different countries.
Anne and I were sharing a table, showing things and photos from Denmark and Sweden; the kids could also "go to" England, Wales, Ireland, France, China, Brunei, USA, Germany, Cyprus, New Zealand, Australia and Tunisia.
They had little passports, where we glued in "stamps" from each country, and they got small presents from some, and taste some local food from others. I had made meatballs (halal though... so not 100% "Swedish" ones...) and had brought "Ahlgrens bilar" (=candy) from IKEA - very popular!

Like last year, this was really popular, the kids seemed to enjoy it a lot, and so did the parents - it was a super nice morning. Here are some snapshots:

Sightseeing + shopping = Singapore

We are now back from three great days in Singapore, and while we came back last night, have had some sleep, been celebrating International Day at school (more about that later) and are about to have lunch - Mum and Dad are still on a plane on their way home... It sure is a long trip for them...

We have been doing a little bit of something for everyone in Singapore this time: Morfar got taken to Sim Lim Square (six floors of technical gadgets) and got left there to browse around in his own pace, Nathan got to do some gadget-shopping, Mormor (well and Morfar) visited Raffles Hotel and the Japanese & Chinese Gardens, I went to IKEA (of course!) and we did a Ducktours City Tour with an amphibian boat/bus-thing; we also did Orchard Road, Plaza Singapore, Parkway Mall and some other shopping spots of course.

The kids got to play with their friend Wataru, and the Holmes twins, so they were pretty happy too!

I will post some photos a little bit later. Still have a bit of unpacking to do.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Mixed feelings

Today is my parents last day with us (this time), and we were talking today about how time has flown by while they have been here. Well, at least, that's how it feels on one hand, on the other we have really done so much these last few weeks, and it feels like forever since they arrived!

At least they say that they are very happy with their stay, and feel that they have covered so much and really experienced a lot. So that's good, I must have done a good job! Once a tour guide always a tour guide, haha!
There are still a few things we will do next time they come - but of course, the main reason they are here is also just to hang with us, see our life, and play and spend lots of time with the kids.

It's really been great finally having some guests in our home; and also to see Brunei with some fresh eyes again. My parents had never been this far away, never been to Asia before they came - so they have really been on an adventure! And it's been nice for them to see where we live, and how our normal everyday looks like - now it will be easier for them to understand when we skype together etc, what we are up to.

Three weeks is a long time though, together with anyone, and it's also going to be nice to get back into normal routines again and have some time, just for me..!
Of course it's going to be really sad to say goodbye too, especially since I haven't planned my next trip home yet, and for different reasons that might not be until summertime - which is really a long time away...

We are off tomorrow to finish our time together with a few days in Singapore. We are flying out early in the morning and I wont be blogging for a few days - so see you later!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Relaxed weekend

We have had a lovely relaxed weekend, after our ordeal on Friday...
Yesterday we went down to the Empire (Hotel & Country Club) in the afternoon for a swim and a walk around the hotel grounds:

Today we had yummy cake with our friends Claudia & Linn, they wanted to celebrate Linnea a little bit since they had been away over her birthday. Linn had made the cake, and they had lovely gifts for both her - and Lucas!

Then we spent the afternoon at the Yacht Club, swimming, playing - and eating ice cream:

On the way home, we stopped by Muara Beach. It was the perfect time of the day, late afternoon, to go for a stroll on the beach, collect some sea shells and play a bit on the playground.
Muara Beach has been cleaned up and renovated lately and really looks good now, with a fantastic play area for the kids, picnic spots, benches and bbqs etc for people to use. We were far from the only people there on this Sunday afternoon of course.
Lucas found a pretty sea shell, "-Hello?":