Picturesque Ameland

This photo sums up our families feelings about our week in Ameland. We all fell in love with this place. After we returned Flora would say, “I miss Ameland.” Yes. Me too. Just last week Thibault said he also missed Ameland. The island is picturesque, calm, relaxing, and full of a beautiful natural terrain.

I’m so happy that Jaap really wanted to go to one of the islands. It was a smart decision. There was a moment there where I was personally debating whether we should go to Germany or Belgium, but when would be the perfect time to explore more of the Netherlands, if it wasn’t during this pandemic. Jaap was excited to check out Ameland and I must say, it is now one of my favorite family holidays of all time.

We could not have chosen a better week to go, if we tried. There was an extreme heat wave in NL with temperatures of 35+ for the entire week. Yes, it was very warm up there in Ameland, but it never got higher than 29 degrees. We dodged a bullet and was able to make the best of the island.

Flora turned seven! I can’t believe it. I still see her as my tiny peanut. Time is going too fast. We booked a horseback riding lesson for her as a birthday present. She loved it. We experienced less success with Thibault and his horse “Macho”. He was not very cooperative. Still, a lovely experience.

The week was full of trips to the beach. Discovering what the ocean leaves behind at low tide—lots of jellyfish, tiny crabs, and a very lucky find by Jaap of a baby starfish. Poor Thibault got bit by a jellyfish and when I saw how big these things were I couldn’t believe that we were swimming in that water two days earlier with no incident.

The beach was fantastic. It felt incredible to be standing there looking out at the sea. I felt like I was finally released from this pandemic prison. It just felt so good! Fresh air, blue skies, sunshine, waves crashing. I could feel that it was a big release for the whole family and not just us. You could feel that energy from all the beach goers. Everyone’s mood was lifted. We were so lucky that the entire island seemed to be pretty relaxed. Lots of German tourists everywhere, but I never felt that any place was crowded.

There were so many memorable moments on this trip. Climbing to the top of the lighthouse in Hollum, Flora’s first time swimming in waves at the beach (exhilarating!), mussels for dinner, dinner at the Qurios brasserie below the lighthouse, Jaap and I enjoying drinks while the kids played, and the nature center in Nes. Something as simple as swimming at a local community pool was so much fun. Thibault discovered that jumping into water is fun. Once he figured that out it was non-stop jumping in the pool. Since he can’t swim without his swimmies on it kept me on edge. And then they opened the diving board… He loved it. He was so cute jumping off the board with all the loud teens at the pool. That pool was great!

What a great week in Ameland. I would love to come back here when they are older and can bike further distances. What a lovely little island in NL.

Hoge Veluwe Explorations

I just passed my ten year anniversary of living in the Netherlands and visiting the Hoge Veluwe has been on my list of places to see in NL for almost that long. It was wonderful to finally explore this region as a family.

We stayed in Otterlo for three nights and we were blessed with great weather! We arrived at the house and ran straight to the pool in the neighborhood of the vacation park. It was perfect. It was so hot that day and ending it with an early evening swim really lifted everyones spirits. It was just perfect for us. We saw a lot of families with teenagers who at first were quite annoying at the pool, but I must admit. Seeing families traveling with their teenage kids made me happy. Hopefully vacations like these will still be enjoyable when my kids are teens.

We went to the Apenheul and spent the day checking out all the monkeys and apes. It was a unique zoo. I thought it was pretty cool to sit down at a cafe for an ice cream and have monkeys jumping off the trees right next to you. The place was great.

Before heading to Ameland we spent one whole day exploring a part of the Hoge Veluwe. We rented bikes, visited the Kröller-Müller Museum, and even saw some wildlife. It was an amazing place and the kids were happy the whole day.

Sculpture garden at the Kröller-Müller Museum

Flora and I shared a tandem bike, which was super fun. The whole bike system at the Hoge Veluwe is incredibly smart and so Dutch. I was so impressed with all the bike options they offered for people with families and disabilities.

Thibault lasted about two minutes inside the Kröller-Müller Museum, thank god for the sculpture garden and Jaap. Flora is such an art lover and I must say, she has such a good eye for beauty. I loved talking with her about the paintings and van Gogh, Monet, and the art work. It was just lovely. We could have spent another hour there, but we wanted to catch up with Jaap and T. The sculpture garden is peaceful, calm, and beautiful. It’s the perfect place to explore art with an active toddler.

After our museum tour, it was time for some biking in nature. Well, this portion of the Hoge Veluwe was a lot less vast than I imagined. It was not crowded and we were very safe in regards to corona regulations, but I imagined this part of NL being much more vast. Still, it was beautiful and we got super close to wildlife. This deer was injured, which might explained why he didn’t run away with all the spectators.

We had a great time biking around this park. We stopped to watch their deer for about 30 minutes, biked up to the old Hunting Lodge, and sat by the lake to have an ice cream. The entire time the kids and I were belting out Hamilton tunes. We made a large loop and ended back at the visitors center for some time on their large playground. The whole day was perfect.

This stupid virus has brought a lot of suffering to the world. Everyday I am grateful that I live in the Netherlands and this summer made me appreciate all that we have. This country is a beautiful place and I’m so thankful we were able to explore it in a safe way.

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.