Camping in Overijssel & Hoge Veluwe

 

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de Lemeler Esch campground in Lemele

Since the pandemic has cancelled our summer plans for traveling in the U.S. (camping in Maine, going to Canada, and seeing family and friends) we decided to explore the Netherlands instead. Staying safe, traveling responsibly, and keeping in line with the recommendations from the Dutch government was important to us. After looking at tons of different vacations in NL we decided to take two separate breaks. We just came back from our first “vacay” with eight nights camping in a tent. It reminded me of my childhood summers with my family.

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We spent the first four nights in de Lemeler Esch at a beautiful “natuur camping” in Overijssel. We had some sun, some rain, fun in the pool, local ice cream from a dairy farm, hikes in the woods, many hours at the multiple playgrounds, and tons of fun! We all took on some nicknames during this trip. The Jaap (the Kampeer Meneer) held everything together taking care of us along the way, Thibault (the Camp Champ), Flora (the Early Girl), and for lack of creativity myself (the Kampeer Mevrouw).

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I will fondly remember this beautiful hike to the thee huisje in de Lemelerberg where we came upon this incredible speelbos. Huge pine trees, hammocks, tree houses, ropes, etc. It was a beautiful playground in nature. Since it took the kids almost two hours to walk there, we decided one of use should go and pick up the car. I had a 30 minute walk in the woods by myself. It was heavenly!

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We swam in the “heated” pool, ate ice cream every day, got dirty, survived the rain, and had a blast. My absolute favorite quote of the entire trip was when Thibault woke up on the second day (after a long night’s sleep), unzipped the tent, poked his head out and said, “I love this place.” Thibault was the Camp Champ. He was born to spend the majority of his life outdoors, picking flowers, and sleeping in nature. Sitting in sand, picking leaves off branches in the campsite, picking flowers and making stunning bouquets. This is his life and he was in his element.

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At the Landal Park in the Hoge Veluwe life got a little bit easier. We met up with friends, everyone had a playmate, the campground had a lot of built in activities, a good market to shop at, and it felt a little bit more luxurious. Our site was a lot bigger and we were pleasantly surprised with the campground. We had lots of trees and more space. I can’t say that the whole campground was the same, but I thought our section was again, the best in the campground.

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I kept hearing the words of my father throughout the entire week. I can remember these things he would say while we were camping and his spirit was everywhere. Memories of my sister and I fetching the water, making sure we are all properly dressed, applying bug spray, tips for the rain, how to keep things dry in the tent, breakfast at the campground, etc. It makes me a little sad writing this because I miss him so much and it’s hard to think about when the next time I will see my parents. At the same time, I kept thinking how grateful I am that my parents took us camping. All children should be so lucky. There’s something so satisfying about being outdoors for an entire week. Sleeping outside made me physically feel so good. I also felt like Jaap and I were fulfilling a family tradition that’s important to me, so it was just a feel good trip.

DSC00197The thrill of roasting marshmallows (even if it has to be on a gas stove) is ageless. Who doesn’t love roasting marshmallows? Well, the tradition lives. Camping is a part of our family now for a few summers. I hope we can keep it going. My kids are nature lovers and I hope we can celebrate that every summer.

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More fun at the Openlucht Museum in Arnhem. What a great museum. I think we need two days to explore this place. We were only able to see half of it. The highlight for me was the live music session with traditional instruments from NL, Syria, and Europe. Thibault sat attentively the entire time. It was a great moment.

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Barefoot walk in Brunssum

On Father’s Day we went to the Barefoot Walk in Brunssum as a nice outing. It was a warm day, but not too hot. Perfect for walking barefoot through a little forest. It was a great little nature adventure for our little ones. I was so impressed. Everyone walked 4 kilometers without complaining. This was a big win.

Thibault is a naturalistic person. I think he thrives in nature and feels very connected there. When the walk was finished he wanted to do it again. He has a very adventurous spirit. Plus, he had no fear on this walk. At one point we had to cross a pond stepping on tall wooden poles while holding on to a rope. It was quite challenging,especially for him because his legs are so short and I don’t think this portion of the walk was made for toddlers. At the end, I needed Jaap to help me on the last few steps because I really felt like I was going to lose balance and fall into the pond. Thibault was there on the other side cheering me on. It was a humbling experience. It was a beautiful way to spend Father’s Day together.

Happy birthday, Jaap

Happy birthday to my amazing husband and the best life partner I could have imagined. Jaap and I celebrated his birthday at de Pastory. It was a beautiful evening with delicious, food, wine, and conversation with my love. I’m so grateful for this time together without our children and also for our amazing babysitter.

Yesterday we celebrated Jaap’s birthday at Oma and Opa’s house in Oirschot. Here we are celebrating seeing each other again for the first time after this lockdown and the opening of the new bridge connecting their neighborhood to the other side of town. 

And…we got a pool! A nice small round one that sits in the sun and will keep us cool this summer. I’m so grateful that we were able to purchase this before they were all sold out and that Jaap was able to put it together. Now my holiday can officially begin. I have one more email to write before I can completely unload. It feels so good to be done with this school year.

Baking with Flora

It’s been a beautifully sunny weekend. Flora and I tested out my new baking cookbook. The perfect gift from my husband for Mother’s Day. It’s probably a good idea to start testing out more natural and healthy baking options considering we are making ice cream and baking 1-2X per week! These are things that bring us joy!

What a beautiful cookbook. Homemade blueberry galette and vanilla custard ice cream on the side. It was a treat. Plus my in-laws came for a visit. The first time we have seen them since early March. Flora cried when she wasn’t sure she would be able to hug Opa and Oma. I love how in touch she is with her emotions. I love that she just puts it out there and isn’t afraid to let go and release those feelings. I hope she stays like that forever.

BBQ, sunshine, playing in the backyard, bike rides in the countryside and ice cream at our local restaurant. These are moments that are bringing me joy…clouded by what is happening in America. To see people dying at the hands of police officers, cities ablaze with people cooping with anger and feelings of helplessness and injustice. It’s a horrible state. I feel for my homeland and it makes me very sad. I hope these crazy years are a turning point for America. I think every day how grateful I am to live this life with my kids and Jaap. I wish the same for everyone. 

Lauwersmeer Corona getaway

We have returned from a completely restorative weekend away. What was originally supposed to be a long holiday weekend with my mother at a bungalow near at Lauwersmeer National Park, turned out to be the same— just missing one of our favorite travel partners. 

I feel completely reset. I’m pretty good at keeping low expectations when we travel, but this time I felt like I started this 4 night mini-vacation with zero expectations and it turned out even better than I could have expected!

Coronavirus Times

These past nine weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. There have been so many highs and lows throughout this time. I wanted to list all of our joys, so that I can remember what has happened and how our family has coped with living through a pandemic. There were so many negatives surrounding this experience. Fear, worrying about my parents, anxiety, social distancing, working from home without childcare! These were all major challenges. 

I started a gratitude journal when this whole thing began. There was some dark moments in the beginning and writing down these simple and sometimes silly things that I was grateful for really helped me. It’s something that I have to continue. Ultimately, it has reminded me that I am alive, my family is alive, my extended family is healthy, I live in a country that has the infrastructure to protect it’s people, and I do not have coronavirus. Every day I am grateful that I do not have this virus.

So in no particular order, here things that have brought joy throughout this entire experience that I hope to look back fondly on.

  • F & T becoming “best friends”. Playing with each other, learning to get along better, and learning to entertain themselves more
  • Nature! Spending hours and hours outdoors, good sunny weather, living close to beautiful nature spots
  • Flora taking us on the hike she discovered at the BSO
  • Picnics!
  • Lots of time in the evening connecting with Jaap. Finding more time for each other. Not having rehearsals, book club dates, and other social gatherings to run out the house for
  • Time for (almost) weekly Zoom dates with my Catskill girlfriends
  • Reading! Reading more books than I normally do.
  • BBQ! Watching Jaap grill brings me joy!
  • Endless arts and craft projects
  • Baking & ice cream making! We have been exploring so many new recipes. It’s been super fun.
  • Exercising more with my trainer
  • Not gaining weight!
  • Most importantly— having this time with my family. Thibault has loved not going to the creche and even though he is happy to return, having all of this time with F & T at this time has been a true gift

Girls Weekend Amsterdam

Three weeks shy of social distancing I was able have a girls weekend with an amazing friend in Amsterdam. Talk about good timing. 

While the first case of coronavirus was appearing in Tilburg, Erika and I spent the weekend weakening our immune system in Amsterdam. Salsa dancing one night at Roses and spending half a day at an open food market on Saturday. We had such a fun time. Eating amazing dim sum, shopping, finally visiting the English bookstore Waterstones, salsa dancing one night, Food Hall the next day, and a relaxed evening the following. I cherish this friendship. I’m so happy we got to do this before all of our lives drastically changed. Continue reading

Beekse Bergen Safari Resort Stay

I’m writing this at the beginning of our coronavirus social distancing period. It’s still too raw for me right now to write about that. The last few days have been very emotional. For now, I am trying to think about things that I’m grateful for. This trip to the Beekse Bergen Safari Resort and Park was definitely one of them

Carnival season puts me on edge a little bit. I used to love it, but after having kids the whole experience really changed for me. Jaap and I agreed that we will do something really fun as a family together that week. It was only a two night stay, but it was fantastic. We went to Safari Resort Park at the Beekse Bergen near Tilburg. The kids didn’t want to leave. I loved it, Jaap loved it, the weather was absolutely horrible, but we had a great time.

This is how happy they get when we see we have a place with bunk beds. The accommodations were excellent. Super clean, comfortable, and the greatest part….we had a sauna in the bathroom. This place totally knows what parents needs when traveling with kids. Jaap and I would have a two round sauna circuit going in the evening after the kids went to sleep. 15 minutes in the sauna, some beer, and cold fresh air. It was incredible and a great way for us to connect. No phones, no T.V., just some old fashioned talk in the sauna.

We were able to see the lions being fed one of the mornings. I love this action shop that Jaap captured. The accommodations were so unique. This lion area was surrounded by Savannah lodges. We walked here in five minutes and at night you could hear the lions roaring and communicating with each other. I loved the African safari theme and our Savannah house was quite large.Some other things we did to occupy our time: We took a safari Game Drive in the pouring rain. Thibault fell asleep, but we got to see some great rhino action.

img_5730img_5717The auto safari was actually my favorite part. We saw a ton of animals up close. Some leopards, zebras, and camels walking right past our car.

They had an indoor swimming pool area, a small indoor playground, and a bowling alley. We took advantage of all three. Overall, it was a great experience. Flora was already asking when we could go back when we were leaving. I love making these memories with them.

The Holidays 2019

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As 2019 is coming to an end, I’m taking some time to reflect on our 2019 Christmas season. It was a time of ups and downs for me, but in general a happy holiday this year. Even while I was in the thick of things, I thought to myself— why am I doing this?! Because doing more “Christmassy” activities throughout December make me happier? Because I’m trying to make special holiday memories with my children? Perhaps I planned too much. I realized that less is more. Even though I made a deliberate effort to schedule less, plan fewer things with friends, plan fewer family activities, it still felt like a little too much at time. At the same time, December is always one of the busiest times of year at work for me, so that doesn’t help either. In the end, it was a joyful time for us. There are some holiday traditions that I just can’t let go of. Even if it feels like too much at certain moments, I need these things to make me feel like I’m home. Especially at this magical age for my children.

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In random order some of the things we did this Christmas season:

Decorating gingerbread cookies from Ikea, family day trip to the Aachen Christmas market, ice skating (!?) & rides at the Maastricht Christmas market, Christmas brunch with the Jansens in Gorinchem, lots of cookie (and brownie) baking, Flora’s Christmas market at school, movies with Flora & friends for Frozen II, Thanksgiving at Ann’s, lots of naps on the couch for Thibault, reading Christmas books at bedtime, singing the 12 days of Christmas and Thibault’s 5 golden rings solo, decorating the Christmas tree, baking cookies with Ann, hosting Christmas Eve with friends & colleagues, watching Elf and Home Alone as a family, Flora losing two more  teeth, holiday caroling & Talent Show at work, getting the flu (again!?)…the list goes on a little bit more, but I realize how insane this looks now.

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Despite the busyness, there were many magical moments. Flora has the Christmas spirit. She loves everything about the holidays and is not obsessed with gifts. I’m so grateful for that. She asks Sinterklaas for 3 toys and wants the rest as a surprise. I just love that.

Some other moments to remember: Flora telling us how much she loves Sint and Santa, Thibault knowing who Santa is and that he brings present, reading the Christmas story with them at bedtime, watching Flora play with her Lego gifts for hours on end, Thibault wanting to learn how to ride his new bike that’s too big for him..I really feel like this is a magical age for us. With all of this, I also want the story of giving and kindness that surrounds the Christmas story to also be a part of our family. I have memories of my father sharing with us what the real meaning of Christmas is. Even though he is not a religious man, he made sure the true spirit of Christmas was central. I hope that these two grow up with that same feeling.

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Hikes in Slovenia

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Vintgar Gorge

There was a lot of physical activity on this trip. I knew the kids were tired, but I was so impressed by our little hikers, especially Flora. Thibault was mostly carried by Jaap up and down mountains and in and out of gorges. I was also impressed by Jaap’s strength carrying this little man in such hot weather.

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A friend had told me you have to get to Vintgar gorge early or it’s too crowded to even get in. Good tip! We were able to secure a decent parking spot and were already on the trail before the crowds started coming. Even so, there was a decent number of people on the trail with us. The turquoise colors, spraying mist against the warm air, and incredible rock formations made for a beautiful hike. I remember Flora saying how much she loved the hike. This was a huge win for us. She really did a decent hike for her age. We rewarded ourselves with some ice cream and a good cappuccino for myself back at the top.

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Slap Kozjak

When we got to the Soča valley, our hosts mentioned Slap Kozjak as a good hike to do with the kids. This was our view at the end of the trail.

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Life is back to normal….and I’m still dreaming of Slovenia…