Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas in Bermuda 2014 - Embracing this Island.

When I think back to our first Christmas spent in Bermuda, in 2010, I marvel at how much has changed. I remember feeling shipwrecked that first year, unsure about moving to the island, missing favorite traditions, friends and family back home. I missed waking up in my own home on Christmas morning, the frenzy of baking and cookie swaps, the fun of seeing the kids open presents with family nearby.  I missed cooking big dinners and exchanging gifts with dear friends.  The kids' school in BDA was drastically different than what I was used to.  I didn't understand the way things were done.  I constantly fell short at meeting self imposed parental goals at school, and no matter what I did, I felt like I was speaking another language.  I was still suffering from sticker shock at the prices of things in BDA, and baffled at how to make Christmas a festive occasion for the kids when the price tags on everything were so astronomical.

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I know, it's not about the gifts, of course.  But as an ex-pat, I have to admit, life is simpler in the US when it comes to a budget.  When we first moved to Bermuda, I didn't fully appreciate how much I would miss the ease of shopping at stores like Target or Costco.  I didn't realize to what extent shipping from abroad would become a necessary. I didn't understand how to budget the time involved for those things.  And I didn't understand that once something ran out of stock in the local store, you wouldn't see it again the next day.  We live on an island.  When something runs out, it takes some time to get it shipped over here ... assuming "it" is something generally stocked to begin with.

I didn't realize how jam packed the first two weeks of December would be, and how the island became strangely quiet after ... especially if you were a newcomer.  It was a wee bit lonely that first year.

Naturally, the kids wound up sick on Christmas day, thus concluding a less than auspicious start to our new life on the island.

But...

Fast forward five years and I must say, the month of December in Bermuda is one of my favorite times to be on island. I always tell people, I prefer the holiday season in Bermuda to anywhere in the US.  It's decidedly quieter, and more low key.  It's hard to describe exactly.. but it's less flashy.  While the stores may be decked out for the holiday, and the "Black Friday" tradition has made its way to this shore recently, it doesn't feel as crazy as it is in the US.  There are no massive shopping malls with people scrambling to find parking spaces.  People aren't stampeding over others to load up on flat screen tvs.  You don't feel inundated with commercials on tv telling you to buy, buy, buy...

I also love the fact that it is generally warm and sunny.  I love how small this place is and how you can't go far before seeing a friendly face. When you do, be prepared for more than the typical "Good Morning!"  Something special happens in December here. 

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The hectic frenzy of a US Christmas pales in comparison to the "quiet" little life here on the island.  December on the island is a time to turn in, embrace the warmth of your loved ones, and as an ex-pat - the warmth of the new family you have created around you. 

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Ultimately, of course, these guys are home. 

This is the shot I used for this year's Christmas card.  I finally got one out after a hiatus of a few years.  Having a third child inspired me.

Boston bound

Apart from the usual gluttony of school activities (holiday parties, school Christmas assemblies and school concerts) we also had Jordan's first overseas gymnastics meet.  Here he is heading off to Boston.  No medals, but he did fantastic competing at level 5 for the first time. 

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Upon returning home, both he and Mina had music recitals.  Both kids play piano.  Mina also takes voice lessons and Jordan plays guitar.  Between the two of them, they had several bits to perform at their recital.   

I always tell them they are a team.. that a family is a team, and that we work together.  When I saw them rehearsing Silent Night, I wasn't sure it was going to happen.  Each of them could only focus on themselves.  Jordan played the keys as loud as he could, ignoring Mina's singing and tempo.  Mina compensated by singing louder and louder and losing the feeling of the song in a bid to be heard over Jordan's keyboard pounding.

Oddly enough, something happened the day of the recital.  There in the church, in front of all the parents, the kids pulled through and performed like a team.

Jordan played the piano beautifully, and accompanied Mina.. allowing her to showcase her sweet voice and sing the song gently.  She's never sang in a setting like this or used a microphone to amplify her voice. She was also the only child in the whole program who sang.

So, I thought she did very well for her first time.

 
This is the video.

I know they have a ways to go before trying out for the Voice, but believe me, I just about died from maternal pride. There is no way in "hey ya" that I would have stood up before a whole audience at 8 years old and sang a song.  No hallelujah way. 

Go Bean.

Initials.

One of the things I love best about our family is that we embrace a lot of different holiday traditions. Celebrating Hanukkah is one of them. We are so lucky to be friends with another family on the island who host an annual Hanukkah party.  Last year I brought a cookie tray.

  All the imperfections covered by chocolate ... how apropos.

This year I changed it up a bit and did monogram initials for the kids.

  Hanukkah cookie tray.

The finished product.

. Sufganiyot.

I also took a stab at making jelly filled fried donuts (Sufganiyot ) for the adults.  Not too bad for a first attempt.  I know they say you should never try something for the first time when you are making for a party, but I can't help myself.  I love using my friends as guinea pigs for testing new recipes.

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Naturally, we did our annual cookie trays for our neighbor friends as well.  The kids helped. 

Guess which ones they made?

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Another one of the highlights of recent holiday traditions has been watching Mina perform with her school choir.  This is her cozying up by the fireplace at the Coral Beach Club, where she and her school choir performed an evening of Christmas carols.

I really love this beach club.  It is situated on the South shore on a beautiful piece of property.  The club is decorated in what I would call Old School Bermuda charm.  Understated, but so traditional and lovely ... a cozy fire in the main room, cedar beams, shuttered doors open to allow the ocean breeze to come in, and the bar tucked into a nearby corner discretely serving the evening cocktail. Mina and the choir sang, then we enjoyed a gorgeous buffet dinner after.  The choir sat together and ate, while the "mums" had a lovely meal to ourselves, almost kid free!  Gasp! Of course we pretty much talked about our kids non stop, but what that's what moms/ mums do.

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The Christmas tree was up, the first full weekend after Thanksgiving. Per custom, it's decorated with all the arts and crafty ornaments the kids have made over the years. I also add a new one each year that I pick out. Mina has taken to buying one each year as well at her school Christmas sale, which I love. My favorite are framed picture ornaments.  This year, tucked among the branches, is one of Theo.  This is his first Christmas at 3 months old.

 ps.. I hate those black curtains and blinds.  They came with this rental and I keep putting off buying new ones.  I am slightly mortified showing them, but this is my best shot of the tree. 

. It's that time of the year.

There he is!  Theo's first Christmas.

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  Christmas morning, the big kids helped Theo raid the stockings.  If you look closely, you might notice it is still black outside the windows.  That's because the big kids decided to wake up at 5:30 in the morning.

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We somehow managed to make it to our annual Christmas brunch at the Lido restaurant on Elbow Beach.  I love a brunch with a view. Ignore the bags under parental eyes.

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Beach views.

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After our meal, we enjoyed mingling with the crowds who gather each year. 
Beach days in December... who would have thought.

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  Theo handled it with ease.

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He has some big kid helpers to guide him through the process.


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Lucky kid.

Lucky us.  I haven't even described the flurry of holiday parties that we were lucky to be a part of.  This kid has been dragged along to more festivities than I can remember at this point:  open houses, holiday fetes, etc..  And I have loved every minute of it!  We are so incredibly lucky to be part of such a great group of friends - both ex pats and locals. 

Maybe it's because I know there is an end date to our lives here on the island - suddenly everything is starting to be tinged with nostalgia.  Despite a rough start, this place has become such an oasis... especially during the hectic holiday season.

Hoping your holiday season has been fabulous. 

Happy New Year!!  (Our crew will be snoring away at home.. except for Theo.. he is a midnight riser.)
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