Impressions from November & December 2020 : a personal project

Jan 21, 2021

Look what’s back!! Impressions has returned, and I’m thrilled to be documenting our lives this way again!

‘Impressions’ is a creative project by an eclectic group of female photographers from around the globe. Every other month, we share a selection of images that tell the story of what inspired us in the previous weeks. We are free to explore the meaning of ‘impressions’, and it is likely to change month to month.

Here’s a glimpse of November and December..

An Autumn Walk in Clingendael Park

In November, I enjoyed a beautiful autumnal morning in Clingendael Park with a friend and fellow photographer, Erika Brouwer. With our cameras to hand, we passed through wooded areas, crossed bridges over water, and paused by a pond where we watched geese splash and wander. We sat together on the white bench you see above, feeling the warmth of the sun rays, and contemplating all the wonder and beauty that exists around us in every moment.

It was a time to be creative, and I made many double exposures that day, also showing Erika how to do the same. These kind of mornings, I would definitely like to experience more of!

Sinterklaas Pakjesavond

Sinterklaas (St Nicholas) arrived in the Netherlands at the end of November. It was a different experience this time. With no spectators allowed due to Covid-19 measures, the parade was cancelled. Sinterklaas arrived by boat at a secret location as we watched on TV at home.

Lea had drawn a picture of ballerina slippers with ribbons, they were her biggest wish. She carefully rolled the paper up and left it in her red and white spotty welly boot by the fireplace for the Pieten (helpers) to find and give to Sinterklaas. She was absolutely thrilled to receive her wish on Pakjesavond (Presents’ evening)!

She eagerly waited as we laced up the ribbons then off she went, dancing around the living room. Her grace and musicality is always mesmerising to watch. She even posed up on the tips of her toes briefly – how she managed to do that without ever having a ballet lesson is unfathomable – she was so proud of herself, she was beaming! Perhaps there will be ballet lessons in her future..

Our Christmas Traditions

The start of December was filled with uncertainty. It was hard to plan for Christmas, and we found ourselves in a void of unknown. We had a ferry booked to travel to the UK to spend Christmas with my family, a trip that had already been postponed from the summer. As the days crept on, it was looking more and more likely that we wouldn’t be able to travel, however, I was still holding onto a glimmer of hope that we would. Recognising how energy-draining it was, we made the decision that we’d stay home. Letting go of our travel plans brought such a relief, now we could make new plans – and buy a turkey (essential for a traditional English Christmas dinner)! Buying the turkey sealed the deal for me, we were definitely staying home for Christmas.

Rebekka and I went to De Bosrand together to choose our Christmas tree. I also bought some miniature artificial trees so the girls could each have one in their bedrooms this year. I bought a new Christmas ornament too (I’ve found myself buying a new one each year). This year I chose a traditional Dutch house in Delft blue colours. It was a fitting choice for the year we’d stay at home in the Netherlands!

I set my camera up on a tripod and made use of the self timer whilst we decorated the tree so I’m also in our photos! Being our family’s photographer means I’ve often been absent from photos of events and holidays, I’ve been trying to change that in the last year or so. The photos I make become our children’s memories, it’s so important that i’m in them too!

It’s become a tradition that the girls make/paint baubles for the tree every year and our collection of special ornaments is growing steadily! One thing I love about Christmas decorations is the delight of rediscovery when getting them out of the boxes each year and reminiscing over memories of all the meaningful decorations.

Rebekka painted a reindeer on her bauble this year, and Lea painted a snowman. They were pre-drawn but maybe next year I’ll look for plain ones so they can draw their own pictures.

As I was packing them away, I wrote the year on them to help jog our memories 20 or so years from now ;-)

We have a big selection of Christmas story books which make an appearance after Sinterklaas. I found Rebekka reading them to Lea. It’s lovely to see them enjoy them.

I bought a festive paper tablecloth to colour-in again this year, but I think it might be the last year I buy one. After the initial excitement, it was very much neglected. I’ve saved it for next year, so we’ll see if there’s more interest then!

Missing teeth!

Three teeth lost in quick succession! My Dad asked Lea if she was ‘Toothless’ (from ‘How to Train Your Dragon’)! She has another couple of wobbly ones at the moment too, including the other middle front tooth! We had been wondering if she’d end up with no front teeth for Christmas – cue the song “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” – but that tooth is hanging on in there, it’s been wobbly for weeks now!

Christmas Breakfast

The annual Kerstdiner (Christmas dinner) at school had been reimagined and adapted to a Christmas breakfast in line with the Covid-19 measures, but then additional measures came into effect which meant the school closed abruptly before it could take place. With their boxes already decorated, we filled them up with breakfast goodies and chocolates so the girls could enjoy the experience at home!

Christmas Eve

We’ve been decorating gingerbread houses every Christmas Eve for a few years now. It’s a favourite tradition of ours! It was getting closer and closer to Christmas and I was afraid to miss out on getting one so off I went to Ikea (where I usually buy them). It felt strange going there. I hadn’t driven the car on the motorway for what seemed like a long time. And it was the first time I’d needed to queue in a long line to enter a shop, whilst also wearing a mask the entire time. In fact it was the first time I’d seen so many people together in one space all wearing masks. In many ways it felt quite surreal.

I quickly found everything on my list, except for one very important item – the gingerbread house! They were sold out!!!! Luckily, I’d noticed a gingerbread kit in our local Hema the week before. I’d kept it in mind as a backup option. Failing that, I’d have to bake one from scratch! Yikes! As soon as I got home I went straight to Hema and was relieved to find they still had them in stock! Opening the box on Christmas Eve, we discovered such a cute house and the kit included some decorations (naturally, we added our own favourites to those!) and the perfect ‘glue’ to join the walls and the roof (I’m normally making icing and it’s MESSY!!) The tube of baking glue was perfect, so easy! Apparently Ikea sells baking glue too – I never knew!

It turned out I was very lucky with timing – that evening after my shopping spree new Covid-19 measures were implemented with immediate effect which meant all non-essential shops had to close.

You can’t tell from the last photo because the house was obscuring my view, but here’s something fun to remember.. unbeknownst to me, Rebekka was secretly decorating her hand, hence the big smiles! She was icing a giant red heart on her palm and couldn’t wait to eat it!

Christmas Day

The girls both received a small gift in their bedrooms and then surprisingly, they both got dressed before going downstairs to see what was waiting for them under the tree! No pyjamas in sight, which is quite unusual for Christmas morning (I can’t say the same for us parents though, we were still cosy in our pyjamas!).

We were looking forward to our Christmas dinner and I made plenty (we also had enough leftovers to make Bubble and Squeak the next day!) We enjoyed a turkey crown wrapped in bacon, served with roast potatoes, sprouts, carrots, broccoli (for Rebekka), honey glazed roast parsnips, red cabbage (Lea ate a shocking amount of red cabbage!!! It’s a favourite of hers!), cranberry sauce, apple sauce, stuffing, gravy, and Yorkshire puddings too! Our friend, Margaret, came over to join us for dinner and brought with her an exceptionally delicious chocolate cake. We had a feast!

Having breezily photographed Christmas at my Dad’s the year before, I found it was far from easy to be both a photographer and a cook! I was so busy in the kitchen! In mere minutes of dinner being ready I somehow managed to get out my tripod and set my camera up so we’d have at least one photo as a memory!

We played Bingo after dinner. Lea was calling the numbers and soon three of us were all waiting for the same number. Lea knew we needed a 36 to finish. The little monkey stretched across the table to show Margaret the number on the last ball drawn instead of calling it. It was 36! And with that, Margaret called BINGO!! We played a few more games after that, with Rebekka and Lea taking turns to call out the numbers. It was so much fun and sure to be a new tradition for us!

A walk in Meijendel Nature Reserve

November and December saw me take plenty of walks in the Meijendel Dunes and by the sea. The morning light was beautiful and I enjoyed heading out for a walk after dropping the girls off at school. It unexpectedly became a daily ritual. It was so necessary too; a way of processing my grief and anger that cancer had cruelly taken another life. I witnessed autumn change to winter. I listened to the wind rustle through the nearly-bare tree branches and witnessed the last of the leaves falling to the ground. Large trunks of trees squeaked and creaked in the wind too, I don’t think I had paid enough attention to hear that before. At the beach, the soothing sound of waves lightly rippling over shells by the shore was in complete contrast to the moments when the wind blew strong and huge waves crashed down, turbulent and hard. From one day to the next, it was always a different experience at the waters edge.

As a family, we walked together on Sundays too. I looked forward to our walks every week. Sometimes, we took binoculars with us and looked for birds of prey, foxes, rabbits and deer in the dunes. We often saw the resident Peregrine falcons nearby the Watertoren (watertower). We got caught in a complete downpour a couple of times. On one occasion there were no trees for shelter which made us run back home. We’d barely left our house and still we were completely soaked through and needed to change clothes! It made for a fun memory though!

New Years Eve

2021.. we are ready for you!!!

Say hello in the comments below or share something about your Christmas traditions and holiday festivities, I would love to hear from you! Then hop on over to see what Kim Rogers of Brink Street Photography in Denver Colorado is sharing this month :-)

Continue clicking through the circle till you make it back here. I hope you enjoy all our posts!

With love,
Natalie xx

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NATALIE CARSTENS, Owner: Natalie Carstens (Registered business address: Netherlands), would like to process personal data with external services. This is not necessary for using the website, but allows me to interact even more closely with them. If desired, please make a choice: