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Year Video - show your adventures to your family on new year's eve!

Personalized video compilation of the year – step-by-step instructions

Can you believe it’s Christmas this weekend? Again. Right?

All the Christmas preparations are coming together in our house, and that reminds me: we’ve a digital goodie that became a new tradition. A couple of years back the New Year’s Eve was a bit different from ‘just’ dressing up, decorating the house, eating the ‘usual’ salty Hungarian cookies, playing board games and drinking champagne.

What set it apart was that we would also watch a “year video”, to see what happened to us that year (nota bene: only that made it to be filmed). Now it’s a tradition, no way out of it. 😉

The year video was a huge success. We were all remembering stories, little details, fun adventures. Some things didn’t make into a small video during the year,  so they came to light now. Suddenly we had long conversations bloom with parents, children, siblings alike.

Living far away from one’s family has the effect that your lives develop in (unexpectedly) different directions. The little things in our daily lives go unmentioned, however strong our connections are through Skype and such. The video really helped to spark that connection again.

I got another surprise: grandparents wanted to watch the video again, although for me it felt long. And they wanted to do so right away! Wow, talk about a great audience! 🙂

I say long, because we are not used to watching anything longer than three minutes on the web (actually, most people spend 1:30 minutes, and click away) – unless it’s super-interesting or hilarious. I compare that kind of watching with watching home videos, because of their long history being generally torture to watch. That is: too much zooming, panning, too little action and too much waiting for that aforementioned little action.

The point is, the year video was more than 15 minutes, and it was a success nevertheless. I was a bit nervous about it, but I got shushed, when I tried to apologize for the length of it.

No one minded the 15 minutes length, because it was personal for everyone in the room.

And for those who were not in the room, for the other side of the family far-far away it was also a delight. They were too very happy to see how the kids were growing and what happened to the house in the time they could not see it for themselves.

Although I could scare you off with an (otherwise wonderful and super thorough) article at Videomaker… just have yourself a two-three hour window in the next couple of nights (I know I’m asking a lot from you!), ie. let someone else cook/shop/bake for a change.

Follow these tips to create a “year video”

  1. Sit down in peace and quiet. Choose – even randomly if you have too much – video files from your mobile or camera to use.
  2. Put them next to each other chronologically in an editing software (like PowerDirector by Cyberlink).
  3. Trim away the “waiting for action” parts, and be ruthless about it: the finished video will be longer than you think!
  4. You can always get fancy with titles, but generally a simple “January”, “February”, etc. will be enough to mark the months, no need to spend too much time on that
  5. Make sure you have a fade-in and fade-out for your clips (audio too), so it’s not too jarring to watch, on the other hand, if you…
  6. …put FUN songs “under” the video, you can get away with it. It’ll glue the clips together, and the peppy sounds will make everyone happy. Make sure you are not sharing socially if it’s copyrighted material. There is a whole hell loose because of that, but it’s a rant for another day, really.
  7. Don’t sweat it. It’s far better to be READY than be PERFECT – a decade late. Use the 20-80 rule: 20% of your action will give you 80% of the results you seek. You can always spend weeks on polishing something, but let’s face it: who has the time?! Yes, professionals, they do – they also have a price tag (just go ahead and ask me already 😉 !)
  8. Use the “fun” parts the most, and make sure close your video with that – like a bloopers reel, that can really leave your audience “high”, wanting more.
  9. The best is if you choose clips you really loved filming, and you want to remember. However, the little gems that are one-offs and don’t fit anywhere: they shine in a good video compilation.

This list is of course not going into details, you know I can’t hold your hands through the process. For that, check that Videomaker article, it is great. Still, give it a shot, it’s really not that hard. And if you feel like it’s overwhelming, just start early next year – you can’t go wrong with it. You’ll always wish you would have done it, so give it a go. Let me know in the comments how is the process going, and in the end how did the audience cheer!

 

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Living in an ex-pat bubble

Tis the season to be jolly…and for those that celebrate Christmas it is also the season of over-abundance, over-indulgence and  rosy-cheeked children whining to the merry tune of ‘it’s not fair, all my friends have got one.’

I love Christmas. I may even go as far as to say it was the main reason why I had children – that and having the perfect excuse to watch Disney films at the ripe old age of thirty-eight. Yet unlike my friends who at this time of year are tasked with the never ending battle of trying to manage their children’s’ expectations, when I asked my seven and five year old girls what they wanted from Santa  they answered – “ We don’t know, what is there?”

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To understand how I got so lucky you need to know where I live. I live in a bubble, a shiny happy ex-pat bubble of my own making.

Originally from London, I have been living an international lifestyle for eight years. I met my husband in Australia, we had our first child in the UK, our second daughter was born two years later in the south of Spain then just four months ago (following a job offer) our happy little family moved to Delft . We’ve gone from the big smoke to margaritas on the beach to cutesy canals and bicycles – and we love it. We enjoy our nomadic lifestyle, and never more so than at Christmas.

“How are you all adapting?” my overly concerned family and friends ask. “Is it hard settling in to a new country with the children?” To which I answer, “No, contrary to popular belief it’s actually easier to be a parent when you don’t know what’s going on all the time. We’re free to be who we want to be.”

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As mothers I’m sure you understand when I talk about expectations. Anxiety, fear of judgement, societal pressures and guilt are never far away. Doing what is expected of you as parents is something that never occurred to me as I picked out newborn clothes and pondered on baby names eight years ago. I didn’t once worry about whether my parenting methods would be questioned, or that I wouldn’t have control over what influenced my children…then they were born and the world of motherhood was cracked open in all its ugly technicolor glory. Without realising it, we parents are bombarded daily with what we should and must and need to do. Each country has a list of unwritten rules when it comes to children and how to raise them. Magazines, websites, mothering groups and family all influence our own parenting methods – until you move abroad. Then you are untouchable. Your rules from back home don’t apply and you are not worried about/able to understand/told about the rules in your new country of residence.

You know what that is called? Freedom. And never more so than at this time of year.

When it comes to Christmas I love living in a country that is not my own, and this year I’m especially excited about experiencing a cold Dutch Christmas for the first time. While others in their own home towns are feeling the festive season pressure of spending, attending and being in twenty million places at once – us expats are happily gawping in wonder around us, without any idea as to what is going on, completely oblivious to anyone’s expectations of us, simply floating about in our magical la la bubble. There are so many reasons why this time of year is especially magical (and easier) for my family.

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No expectations, no dissapointment
We have our own family traditions when we go back to the UK, but being new in The Netherlands we are still busy learning about what the locals do; the tiny round cinnamon biscuits, chocolate initials, Sinterklass instead of Santa and learning about when to put shoes out to be filled with presents. My children don’t know ‘the Christmas rules’ and neither do I…they have no expectations, so whatever happens is going to be magical and exciting because it’s all new.

No media influence
We don’t watch Dutch TV, so my girls don’t watch adverts (Netflix all the way). I don’t have magazines lying around the house full of glossy Must-Have Christmas Buys or Argos catalogues landing with a thump through the letterbox. My kids don’t know what is out there, except for the odd glance through the toy shop window, so when they ask for presents they simply ask for more of what they have. When you don’t have an abundance of choice, you don’t have stress.

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No peer pressure
Like many ex-pat families, my kids go to an International school. They play with children of many races, from various countries that practice a mix of religions and customs. Every child looks different, sounds different and dresses differently. These kids don’t care about ‘in’ toys or who has more or who’s wearing what. There are no fads, no designer gadget talk or one-upmanship when it comes to what presents they are going to receive this year. Half of them don’t even celebrate Christmas! So my girls are not whipped up into a ‘I want what she has’ frenzy.

Well-meaning relatives don’t get involved
We live far away from the ones we love. Sometimes that’s difficult, but sometimes that’s nice. I am not under any pressure to buy my mum’s neighbour a present because she has bought me bath salts every year since I was ten. I don’t have to attend the carol concerts of my friend’s children or my niece’s nativity play or send ten thousand Christmas cards. I’m out the loop. I have Facebook, I can say ‘hi’ and the rest of the time I can…

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…concentrate on my own family
Because that is what Christmas is truly about. Living in our ex-pat bubble forces my children, husband and I to stick together. We may be a little closed off from life around us, a little more selfish and a little bit insular – but it also makes us widen our horizons and pick and choose what is important to us. Our children are protected from Christmas expectations because they are living in a land that is not their own. Because the traditions of ‘back home’ no longer apply to them, instead they are getting the freedom to explore, respect and soak up new experiences.

We are not adhering to the kind of Christmas that advertisers on TV want us to have, that John Lewis ads are selling or what our parents before us are saying we must do.

We are all (even us grown-ups) getting to see Christmas in a new and wondrous light again and appreciating the importance of being part of someone else’s celebrations while still adhering to our own. We are choosing our own traditions and making our own memories, but most importantly we are doing this together as a family.

We’re in our own little Christmas bubble of happiness… you can’t get more magical that that!

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Sparkle

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December lights at the Blue Heart (picture by Tarja van Veldhoven)

“What time is it?”, she asks impatientely running through the front door. She glances at the clock and with a sigh she sits on the sofa. Just in time for Sinterklaasjournaal. The presents are still empty, the cake is still not baked properly. I could really get annoyed with these plots, they are every year the same (big spoiler ahead, yes, it all ends well, pakjesavond will be a succes). But I am not. I am nostalgically enjoying the last remains of a childhood mirage. Her eyes sparkle in front of the TV, her remarcs are fun.

Sinterklaas intocht Delft
Sinterklaas intocht in Delft (picture by Tarja van Veldhoven)

I am sure the term Sinterklaas is something most of you hear all the time these days. Even if you are new in The Netherlands you simply cannot miss the Sint Nicholaas celebrations. Even though Saint Nicholas is celebrated in quite a few other Europeans countries, the way it is done in the Nederlands is unique. Your kids might be glued to the TV ever since Sinterklaas arrived by steam boat to the Netherlands and follow the exciting Sinterklaasjournaal like my 12-year-old daughter still does. You probably went and waved the arrival of the Sint in Delft and saw the Piets on their jetskis. Your child might be begging you to put his or her shoe at the fireplace every night and hopes really hard it will be filled next morning.

Just a few more days and December will start. With first Sinterklaas pakjesavond of course. Let’s be honest, it can be overwhelming a bit, there are so many things happening. So many lights and meals and celebrations, Christmas, Santa Lucia, Hannukkah, New Year’s and even Three Kings in January. But besides all the fuss, presents, family outings and travelling, there are so many nice and cosy and fun things to do in Delft. These can bring some amazing sparkle to your December days and nights.

It all starts with the now famous Lichtjesavond, this year on the 13th of December. I remember the first time I went, my daughter was only two years old. I remember her big eyes, her excitement, the red nose and cheeks and the fun we had that freezing night. She looked amazed at the podium performaces and she was extatic when the big Christmas tree got its lights on. A sparkling evening treat.

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The Christmas tree in the Markt, the city’s eye catcher (picture by Tarja van Veldhoven)

What I am most looking forward to is the ice skaing ring that is returnig to Delft this year. Other than the years before, it will be located at the TU Delft, so a bit further away form the old center. But I already know we will have loads of fun, skating, laughing and inhaling fresh, crispy air in our longs. And occasionally enjoying a glühwein or a hot chocolate.

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The Ice skating ring at the Beestenmarkt in 2014 (picture by Oriana van der Sande)

Have a look at all the activities, you will be surprised. See a Christmas concert or a show, visit the new Christmas market, or shop till 23.00 and have some drinks afterwards, on your child free night. Add some sparkle in your December month. We all need that during these long, cold and dark days. Find this sparkle at De Donkere Dagen van Delft

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