At the start of the year, I made a list of 21 things I plan to do for 2021. I plan around holidays and seasons. I may not be able to squeeze in a lot of things (coz I sure do want to d a lot of things!), I am happy I am able to do new experiences despite this pandemic.
I would like to share the 21 things I did (it doesn’t have to be too big or exciting) last 2021:
1. Snow in Netherlands
It was our first time experiencing snow. We were too excited! In January, we had 2 days of light snow. It was a big deal for us because me and my husband grew up in a tropical country, and we have never been to a country with snow.
The first wave, we anticipated and planned around the snow forecast, which lasted for two days. Then, we had a week long of snow right when springtime came. It was bizarre and was very exciting as well. Since it was a week long snow, the lakes and canals froze which sent all the Dutch into a skating frenzy! It was a whole new experience of euphoria.
2. Dax moved up to Group 1
My son started Kindergarten as soon as he turned 4. This mommy have been in an emotional rollercoaster. It is true that days pass by fast that in a blink of an eye, your baby is now a school kid!
In the Netherlands, Education is important that the government subsidises primary education for every child in the country. Every child is required to attend school when they reach 5 years of age. Parents contribute a little, which is helpful even for low income families. One may opt to send their child to peuterspeelzal (play school) as early as 2. They start basisschool (primary school) at 4 years old (Group 1). This is one of the reasons we decided to uproot our lives from Asia to Europe.
3. Dax is fully potty trained
My son was potty trained just in time before starting Group 1. I observed that he can hold off his pee and recognises when he need to go to the toilet. I started him a few days wearing briefs instead of diapers to familiarise himself. There were a lot of accidents and trials, but we pushed through.
Now, he can pee and poop on his own in the toilet. He still wears diapers at night because I prefer him to get a good night sleep instead of waking him a few times to go to the toilet. There were nights that the diapers were dry, meaning he can hold it through the night, but still there were days that it was full. I am still weighing out when is the time to ditch the nighttime diapers.
4. Cherry Blossoms in Springtime
There are a lot of cherry blossoms spots in Almere, which was a pretty sight. It is also sign that Spring has finally arrived. Seeing the Cherry Blossoms have been in my bucket list since I was still in the Philippines.
Good thing that there is a nearby Cherry Blossom field that is just a train/bus ride away from our house. Every after school pickup, the whole family will drop by and visit for lunchtime just to bask under the trees.
5. Tulip Fields in the Netherlands
You can’t live in the Netherlands without seeing the infamous tulip fields. It is one of the yearly highlight for the Dutch people. Seeing the massive field of tulips, or even visiting Keukenhoff Gardens, is something of a must-see for everyone.
Since we were in lockdown, we just drove by the tulip fields along Lisse, Hillegom and Noordwijk. We also visited the tulip fields in Flevoland Noordpolder. Keukenhoff Garden was open, but only by appointment with a negative test due to the pandemic rules of limiting people gathering and virus spreading. We weren’t able to secure a spot for testing and visit. We were happy stopping by the side and taking a few photos. Some fields are open to the public, but most of them are on private land.
6. Koningsdag family photo
As a Netherlander, one holiday that the Dutch takes seriously is the King’s Day. Everyone wears orange in celebration. A lot of activities and parties are held, but due to the pandemic, it was all cancelled.
I planned to have family photos every season at a nice spot in the Netherlands. Koningsdag is right about springtime, so it is the perfect opportunity for our family photo wearing the famous Dutch orange theme. We wish we could experience the festivities around Koningsdag, unfortunately the pandemic has halted all these activities.
7. Scheveningen Beach / Dax Birthday celebration
We went to Scheveningen beach to celebrate my son’s birthday. It was nice, but the water is still a bit cold around that time so we did not splash in the beach. I have been wanting to explore Den Haag and the surrounding areas.
We opted to have a staycation in Scheveningen for my son’s birthday. Good thing his birthday coincided on a holiday. There were a lot of people, but we enjoyed exploring Den Haag.
8. Tax Return
One thing to note is that Netherlands is one of the countries with the highest income tax in Europe. You pay around 30-50% of income tax. Maybe that is one of the reasons the Dutch are known for being frugal.
The good thing about that is that there are a lot of things you can deduct/offset before taxes so you get taxed less. And if you pay a lot of tax as what was computed, minus the deductibles, one can get a tax return around April/May. We got a significant amount for the tax year 2019 because we moved last May, which was half of the year, yet the income tax deducted was for the whole year.
9. Tent Camping in Almere and Hemelrijk
Summer is a big deal in Europe. Almost everyone goes to vacation for weeks during the summertime. But due to the risk of being in the pandemic, we decided to stay within Netherlands and opted to do outdoor things.
I may not be the most outdoorsy type of person, but I enjoyed tent camping across Netherlands. I had my fair share of inconveniences, but the trade-off is the excitement from the faces of my son and husband, I think it was worth the experience. You can check my camping experience in Almere in this blogpost.
10. CoViD-19 Vaccine Complete
The pandemic surely knocked us down for almost two years, one thing we are looking forward to was getting our complete vaccination.
There are a whole lot of debacle around this vaccination that I will not discuss further. Our family has decided to get fully vaccinated and contribute our part in the society despite the fear around side effects long term. In life, you get to choose which risks you want to take, either way the end game is still death. You live with the consequences of those choices until your time of death comes.
11. Billy Bird Park Hemelrijk and Camping Hemels
I like amusement parks, so when I found a campsite beside an amusement park, I did not hesitate and booked it. It is one of the highlight in our camping experience that the whole family fully enjoyed.
@carolranas Exploring the #netherlands again this zomervakantie… @imsosh #voorjou #teamperez #becarol #foryou #zomervakantie #nederland ♬ swing lynn – lovdfilmz
It was a 4days-3nights camping experience which includes the visit at the park. I will do a separate blogpost about our experience in Billy Birdpark and Camping Hemels.
12. A visit in Geithoorn, Overijssel
Another highlight of our year is getting to visit Geithoorn during summer. We also opted to camp instead of booking hotel/accommodation due to ever changing pandemic rules. We wanted to enjoy the summer holiday despite the restrictions and risks of the pandemic, and being outdoor was our preferred way.
@carolranas Our last camping vacation this summer in Geithoorn. @imsosh and Dax had so much fun riding the boat! #voorjou #becarol #foryou #teamperez #zomervibes ♬ Love Tonight – David Guetta Remix – Shouse
Geithoorn lived up to its reputation. It was magical! You are transported back in time when it was simple and nice.
13. Buying our first home
One good thing that happened in the pandemic was we were able to buy our first house in the Netherlands. We never expected that we can, the pandemic restrictions brought nice things like waiving of transfer tax on real estate and saving more funds.
The process was gruesome with a lot of heartaches, but finally we were able to seal the deal. The housing market was so crazy. Everyone is buying yet the supply of houses was scarce. Everyone is overbidding left and right, and in a limited budget range, you get the leftover houses (need of big renovations and questionable clauses). We prayed and believed that if it is meant to be ours, it will come. It did! and in the most unexpected place!
14. Living in Zandvoort by the Beach
We are living our best lives in a small town along the beach, in Zandvoort! We are happy to get a house in here and build our life in this small town. There are pros and cons about living in a small tourist-driven town, yet we are still happy!
We are surrounded with an enormous amount of nature (which the city girl in me cannot believe settled for) and there are a lot of opportunities around. I am starting to love Zandvoort and considered growing old here, just like the other residents.
15. DIY Renovations for our house
The house we bought was build around 1929, which is almost a hundred year old house. It has poor insulation because the technologies on house building back then were outdated now. We did not have the budget to go on full renovation to make the house sustainable and energy efficient, also most of the contractors are fully booked for the whole year.
We sat down and talked about how we will go about on the renovations. We moved during wintertime, and the house was too cold. Slowly, my husband researched on ways how to keep ourselves warm and our house a bit modern. We started renovating the smallest room then proceeded with remodelling the kitchen ourselves.
16. Sint Maarten Experience
We moved in Zandvoort about wintertime, so we were able to experience the Sint Maarten celebration, Dutch-style. Sint Maarten is quite similar to Halloween, with kids going around houses armed with lanterns asking for candies.
It was nice because a lot of kids knocked on our door to ask for candies. I did came prepared! Daxton was excited as well. We did not go down and knock on other people’s doors because we were not quite familiar with the neighbourhood that time.
17. Kitchen and Room renovations done
As I stated above, we decided to tackle our old house renovation among ourselves. Despite the lockdowns and stores closing at 5PM, we were able to furnish the rooms and almost finish the kitchen.
We went to several IKEA stores to score the best deals, declutter our things, and moved a lot of things around. We were able to finish and paint the walls of the smallest room and also changed the flooring. we slept there for weeks while the other rooms are being refurnished.
The kitchen was our major renovation project. We pulled out the whole kitchen and plaster the walls, rewired and updated the electric outlets, and put up new cabinets and appliances. It was the project that we are most proud because it turned out amazing! Our kitchen was completely modernised.
18. Carol learning Dutch – A1
The first half of the year, while we are in lockdown, I kept myself busy by learning Dutch on my own. I bought some books and watched youtube videos to get familiar myself with the language. I am proud to say that I progressed to A1 in just a few months.
I kind of stopped eventually as my attention have been diverted to other things. But so far, I am restarting learning Dutch as we now live in a small town, where we need Dutch to form ties and mingle within the neighbourhood.
19. First time baking weed brownies
Our yearly tradition here in the Netherlands was to get high on New Years Eve. Since everything non-essential was closed during the holidays, we settled with leftover weed from last year. I tried making weed brownies from it. I used a box mix of brownies and baked the weed to activate the THC.
Taste-wise, it was bleh because it imparted a plant aftertaste. Effect-wise, it took 30 mins or more for the effect to kick in. My husband was plopped in the sofa riding the high, while I was playing with my kid and sweating like crazy. After the celebrations, the effects still wouldn’t wear down, so we decided to call it early and slept.
20. NY Traditions in small buurt
Since we live in a small town, New Year celebrations were quaint and nice. The surprising thing is that everyone went outside on New Years, with a drink on hand, cheering as the fireworks started. I was kind of taken back when our neighbour went her way to go to us, gave us a hug and had a proost despite my lack of drink. It was one nice memorable experience.
@carolranas 2021 have been a bit lonely for we are missing home.. Praying for the pandemic to end this 2022.. #teamperez #becarol #fyp #tiktoknl ♬ Happiest Year – Jaymes Young
21. FAMILY!!! Joel working from home the whole year
It’s been almost two years of my husband working at home and seeing his presence often. I kinda hated and liked it at the same time. I am happy that our family was safe the whole year, corona-free. I kind of focused on taking care of the family in this pandemic.
That’s the 21 Highlights of our 2021. Let me share a compilation of it through Tiktok/Reel.
And if you are also like me, pre-occupied by Tiktok and Instagram Reels all throughout this pandemic rollercoaster, let’s give each other a follow, shall we? You can check out my account at @carolranas.