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.

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.

Rotterdam Girls Trip

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Flora and I had an amazing girls trip weekend to Rotterdam last week! What a modern and trendy place. I couldn’t believe how much there was to see and do. We had one night away from the boys (and Grandma) and two full days of good times!

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Flora posing at a Rotterdam icon

In no particular order, here are our highlights and memories.

Flora’s Faves:

The water taxi! By far the greatest part of this weekend was shooting around Rotterdam by water taxi. I will never forget the “taxi” driver and passenger laughing at how loud Flora and I were laughing. We were completely surprised by how fast the boat broke away from the harbor after crossing under the Erasmus bridge. It was hilarious.

 

Euromast. Checking out the views of the city on top of the Euromast and getting a better idea of how massive this port really is.

Sushi & dinner at Markhal with chopsticks for kids!

Lunch at the iconic Hotel New York another Rotterdam hot spot easily reached by water taxi, so we shot over there after our morning activity.

Maritime museum I must say. This place would have been heaven for Thibault. The top floor was all hands on for kids. Flora moved bags of rice with the crane for about 20 minutes. I saw other short toddlers moving “cargo boxes” the entire time. Thibault would have loved it and Flora did too.

Contemporary art on Witte de Withstraat I’m pretty sure Flora enjoyed this place more than I did. I was in love with her commentary and attention to detail while we walked through all of the exhibits.

Overall an incredible trip with my little lady. I love her curious mind, healthy appetite for Asian food :), and her traveling spirit. I can already see that she will be a traveler when she grows up. Walking through life now holding her hand as long as I can. XOXO.

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Acadia, Maine– Hunters Beach

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Hunters Beach

This was part of our first day exploring Acadia with the extended family. We went for a picnic lunch on one of the rockiest beaches in the park. Of course, this was my father’s idea. It was quite hilarious actually. The little cousins loved it though.

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My favorite part was catching Flora on top of this rock. I’m not sure how long she was sitting there alone before we noticed her. She was sitting there pretending to be Ariel from The Little Mermaid. hahahaha. Another beautiful moment in Acadia…

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First Girls Trip to Amsterdam

 

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People watching in Vondelpark

Flora and I had our first (of many!) girls trips to Amsterdam over the Easter weekend. We had a blast! This trip came at the perfect time for me. I just finished a music show at school and have been very busy leading up to its production. It was the perfect way to unwind and relax with my little lady.

The original idea came when Flora showed an interest in Vincent van Gogh. Earlier in the winter, their theme at school was “Art” and learning about van Gogh really had an impact on her. She would talk a lot about it at dinner and such. I told her that van Gogh had his own museum and she just couldn’t believe it. So I thought, girls trip! Jaap and Thibault could care less, so what a great opportunity!

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Enjoying the playgrounds at Vondelpark

We had such a great time. Lunch at my favorite lunchroom, De Bakkerswinkel complete with carrot cake, of course, followed by the entire afternoon at Vondelpark. Just enjoying the speeltuin, taking in the balmy breeze, and watching the people of Amsterdam walk on by.

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Flora also wanted a sushi dinner at some point during this trip. We ended up at a cozy little place near Museumplein for dinner. We’ll definitely go back there the next time we need lunch near the Museum Quarter. They brought us warm hand towels after the main course and we ordered some Japanese green tea and Flora loved it. It’s these small details that are special. Sometimes you don’t think about something or realize how interesting something is, until a little person points it out to you. Our sushi experience was the perfect ending to our long and busy day.

Flora loved the hotel. I knew she would find it fun. Breakfast was a highlight! Citizen M is still one of my favorites too. The mood lighting, toilet and shower in a glass dome, and the feel of modernity. She loved it. The next morning we were off to the van Gogh Museum, but Flora was feeling a little bit under the weather. Our time at the new Japanese exhibit was cut short because she was not feeling good. However, she still had a nice time. For me, it was a dream come true. Walking around an art museum in Amsterdam with my daughter who is correcting my Dutch pronunciation of “van Gogh”, talking to me about van Gogh’s favorite color, and what paintings she likes the most and why. It was definitely a parenting highlight! These are the moments that we live for and what makes life so amazing.

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Walks with Thibault

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Thibault and I enjoyed a beautiful walk together this morning. At the end of our street is a small trail touching some farmland. I haven’t walked it in some time and thought it was time to change up the normal route with Mr. T. Here is a view from our walk.

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I feel so grateful to have Mondays off now. This is the day where Thibault and I get some alone time. I can follow his schedule, enjoy long walks together, and some extra bonding time without worrying about entertaining Flora. It’s our special time together. Yet another reason why I am so grateful we live in the Netherlands and that I can have this flexible, part-time work schedule.

Enjoying my last day of maternity leave with this little man. XOXO

Our little sous chef

Flora has become quit the little helper in the kitchen lately. She’s always loved helping in the kitchen, particularly making smoothies in the morning with me for breakfast. Now that she’s three and getting older, I see that she is getting better at helping with the actual cooking aspects. As long as she has a spoon to lick or sugar to taste, she’s happy. I LOVE that she loves to cook with me because it’s something that I really enjoy doing. It’s so much fun to do it together.

Last Saturday we made some pancakes for breakfast. Delicious! I’ve tried a couple of pancake recipe, but this one was by far the best.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1893-everyday-pancakes

 

 

 

Snowy days

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The temperature has dropped a little bit and we’ve had some picturesque snow days. Watching Flora experience snow for the first time has been exciting. Sometimes I get sad that my children will not grow up with the childhood “snow” memories that I have, but this week—it happened! Much of my childhood was spent sleigh riding, building snowmen and snow forts. One of the many joys of growing up in upstate NY. But this week, Flora got a little taste of what it’s like. She was so proud of her snowman and so excited to get out and simply walk in the snow. I was also excited to breathe in this cold, wintery air. It was wonderful!

As for Thibault, he celebrated his 10 week birthday this week. Time is flying by. I’m trying to soak up all the tiny cuddles while they last. We’re so lucky to have him a part of our family. Here is what he has been up to:

Interacting with Flora, playing on his activity mat, smiling at his mobile, and long walks with fresh air