Feeling Good

It’s been a feel good time for me lately. I spent the second half of Carnival break (two nights) in Amsterdam. One with Erika and the first night alone. I feel like Amsterdam always rejuvenates me. We walked into this beautiful little courtyard Begijnhof in the center. It was an oasis right in the middle of the city. Drank pisco sours outside on a chilly terras and enjoyed the views of happy Amsterdam life on the canal. It was heavenly. I ventured to the Stedelijk museum the next day for a quick peak at one exhibit. Art imitating current life with war in Ukraine.

The kids had a studie dag last week and we went to the Efteling. It was perfect weather and hardly any crowds. My kids are so brave. Python and Baron roller coasters for this bunch. I didn’t have the guts at that age. They really impress me. I was mostly impressed by Fata Morgana. It just gives me that cozy Disney feeling.

Meanwhile, my exercise and eating has gotten better. Working out four days a week (for almost a month) and I’m down to 68,5 kilos again. It feels great to be in control of my health again. I want to keep it going. Good books, good hockey games, lots of sunshine, and happy family times this March.

Our good life on Lago di Garda & Pistoia

My favorite beach: Baia del Vento

They say Paris is always a good idea. Italy is always a good idea, 100%! I always struggle with— is it too touristy, too crowded, too hot? The answer: No! I love to do, see, and visit on vacations. I see that my family is less in that mode. So when it’s too hot to do anything, but swim at the pool, go to a beach, stop for a cool drink somewhere, well that’s just perfect.

I completely understand why Lago di Garda can be busy in the summer. The temperatures are hot, you’re near the mountains, the lake is warm enough to swim in. It’s a perfect storm. Moniga del Garda was a good fit for us. I think if we had gone any further south, it would have been too busy. Dining al fresco options, beautiful lake views from the apartment, pristine pool, and close to some beautiful beaches.

Some of the highlights for me were the physical activities. Flora absolutely loved the rope course and climbing. She wanted to go higher, higher, higher. It was only because of the height restrictions — she had to stop. One day at Baia del Vento, we rented a paddle boat complete with slide. It was fantastic! Amazing mountain views, Thibault having no fear swimming with his arm baandjes, and perfect temps. It was really magical for me.

I can’t forget Pistoia. We stayed at a very rustic B&B right outside of hot Pistoia. We went to Pisa one day, saw the tower. It was more beautiful than we imagined. Had some relaxing days by the pool and beautiful cool evenings exploring Lucca by night. We biked on top of the city walls one night, dined al fresco both nights, and enjoyed Luchese cuisine! I just love Italy. Forever grateful for this beautiful holiday.

Kings day 2021

We were blessed with sunny weather on King’s Day. We returned to this beautiful spot in Stevensweert with the windmill and walking trail. The kids played for a long time in the natuur speeltuin, while Jaap and I enjoyed our books. Afterwards we went to this incredible ice cream place in Ohe en Laak for a treat. Rijstepap ice cream! It was incredible. Perhaps our new summer goal: find and taste the most delicious ice cream places in Zuid Limburg. Flora said we could sell ice cream too. She’s right. Some of our flavors have been incredible. I’m so relieved and happy it’s vacation time. Amsterdam and Zeeland for some outdoor fun!

Moving through this with books

I’m currently reading Wintering: The power of rest and retreat in difficult times. Seems appropriate for a cold January lockdown. Thankfully, I have been finding myself lost in a great books lately. Group by Christie Tate was one of the best books I have read all year. I couldn’t put it down and it was the perfect holiday read. 2020 was a time for me to take my reading to a new level. I exceeded my good reads challenge and started creating better evening habits. More reading and meditating in the evenings. This remains my new goal in 2021. Jaap and I have not sat together to watch T.V. in the evening for the past several days. It feels good, but I also enjoy the evening snuggles of a good series or movie with him. I am trying to read more and more because it makes me happier and it feels better than scrolling social media. Another goal! Less social media. I have deleted Facebook from my phone and to be honest…I don’t miss it. I feel better. There was a point after New Year where I found myself on and off my phone the entire day. Come evening time it just feels awful. So, I’m really trying to commit to not doing this to myself. Who am I looking at on social media anyway? The news of course. That was one of the reasons why I liked picking up Facebook. I could just see a few headlines (non-stop) and pick an NPR article to read. But, it’s just not worth. I love staying in touch with the Catskill girls this way, but in reality, it’s possible to check Facebook 1X per week and still stay connected. So, that is my new goal. Checking in to Facebook 1X per week and to stop checking Instagram all the time.

I’m also committing to myself that I will only read books that I enjoy reading. Seems simple. Too often in the past two years I find myself trying to get through books that I don’t like and most of these reads are coming via book club. I’ve started to have feelings of annoyance from book club. Books that don’t interest me, books that are too depressing during depressing times, etc. Reese Witherspoon’s book club has put me in a good place. These are great reads that feel satisfying. And dare I say— Flora is turning into a little book worm. She was taken away by reading De Waanzinnige Boomhut van 26 verdiepingen this week. It was a dream come true. Toasting my glass of red wine right now. Cheers to good books in 2021!

Moments of joy through sadness

A photo collection of things that are bringing me joy this holiday season 2020. Monday evening’s press conference regarding the new coronavirus lockdown brought a huge mass of sadness and negativity to my thoughts. This lockdown is serious and in my opinion extreme. Gyms, schools, stores, every possible out of the house activity is canceled or closed. It’s hard not to drink off into dark thoughts, but today was a success. I meditated last night, did yoga this morning, and felt okay-ish the entire day. I wanted to post these Holiday Season 2020 moments to remind me of the beautiful things that are still happening in and around my home through these dark times.

On Saturday we went out for a chilly late morning walk to one of my favorite spots, Eijsden Castle. Afterwards my friends Billy and Cyrille came over to bake Christmas cookies. It’s become my one day of the year for entertaining. Despite living through a pandemic, this didn’t even happen last year because I got the flu. I’m happy that it was able to go ahead this year. More moments of joy— walking around Maastricht with Cyrille while sipping hot gluhwein, baking baking & baking, my winter drinks book I purchased from Book Depository’s “Beautiful Books” section, making homemade chocolate, and watching movies with Jaap on the couch. And I can’t forget to mention our beautiful Christmas tree. I love this tree. I think it’s one of the best we have ever had. Flora picked it out within two minutes and it’s way to big for our living room, but we moved it’s location into the corner by the dining room table. It fit’s perfectly there.

Lots of ME TIME this Autumn break

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Dessert at Tanta Roba

I’m not sure how I got this lucky for Autumn break, but I ended up with a lot of much needed alone and me time. Two nights away (KID FREE!) with Jaap in Den Haag and one night in Rotterdam with a good, old friend from New York. It was really the dream week.

I’m following a course for professional development at the Conservatorium in Den Haag. It’s been such an inspiring experience and I’m feeling very invigorated and challenged. Truly— a lovely experience. However, it forces me to be away from my family at least one full Saturday a month and in some cases a whole weekend. I can’t say I’m complaining though. Sitting on a train for three hours by myself with a good book is heavenly. Followed by choral singing, a Kodaly inspired music theory class, singing games, and discussions about music education. It’s simply fantastic.

We had the greatest weekend in Den Haag. I love that city. Dinner at 21:00, movies, and long interrupted conversations. I’m so grateful to have in-laws who allow us this free time, while they watch the kids.

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Our corner spot at the bar @ Walter Benedict

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Cube homes in Rotterdam

Fast forward to the end of the week— I had another night free from the kids. This time meeting up with my friend Erika in Rotterdam for a mini-girls night away. Dim sum, non-stop talking, reminiscing about our former New York City life, colleagues, and fun times, discussing motherhood and all it’s challenges. We had such a fabulous time. Not to mention— Rotterdam is pretty cool. I must go back with the family and explore some more. And a special thanks to Jaap to had lots of extra cuddles with the kids that weekend!

As if the day couldn’t get any better, we ended the night was some INCREDIBLE music and dancing at BIRD. I have never seen a DJ this good since living in NL. The party was electric. The entire room could not stop moving. It was such an inspiration. We were completely free and it felt so good to be alive. We heard five DJs that night and I’m pretty sure the entire place would agree the female DJ was the best. And I have never in my NL life seen such a diverse group of people, white, black, brown, gay, straight— it was all there. What a celebration for us. GIRL POWER!

Acadia, Maine– Sand Beach

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I want to write a series of short posts about our trip to Maine, New England, and N.Y. We did a lot in 3 week, perhaps too much. At some point Jaap said, “Maybe this trip was a bit too ambitious.” I agree and I blame myself completely. But, it’s done, we survived, and we have some great memories to think back upon.

One thing we learned on this trip, our kids love the beach. There was a lot of swimming these past three weeks. Flora is motivated now! I have to thank Grandma for this. Flora listens to her in the water and takes risks. On our last day in Acadia we went to Sand Beach. I thought we would do a quick stop and stay for 30 minutes, but we spent a good chuck of time there. The kids were having so much fun and the setting is incredible.

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They loved running in and out of the water with the tide and also just sitting and playing in the sand. The water is absolutely freezing and with the exception of a few, the only people in the water are kids and teenagers running in and out screaming. It’s a hilarious sight and such a joy to see all of these families having an exhilarating time.

This water was cold enough for even Thibault to take pause. But, given the chance— he would have run in by himself. It was the perfect way to end our stay in Acadia.

Family Travel: Cliffs of Moher & Tin Whistles in Doolin

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More “luck of the Irish” at the Cliffs of Moher! Blue skies and sunshine. It was an Irish miracle. Our day at the Cliffs of Moher was powerful. To quote my father, “I’m having a Grand Canyon experience.” My father was praising Jesus a lot that day and how can you not. Look at these views. Pop took a long hike along the cliffs and I’m happy he got to experience it alone. He said it was a spiritual experience and I think that statement makes this whole trip worth while.

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The stars aligned for us that day. The weather was perfect, the kids were happy, and we spent most of our day admiring the natural beauty of Ireland. I’m so happy we got there early in the morning because by mid-afternoon the place was very crowded.

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I love this photo. It appears that we’re hanging off this cliff, but we were safe behind the large barriers they have put up. And below are some shots of Thibault experiencing the Cliffs. He loved the hike and he walked quite far. We had a break near the tower and he just started rolling around on the steps giggling at himself with the sun beating down. It was so cute.

It seems that a trip to Doolin and a visit to the Cliffs go together. We stopped at Gus O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin for some beer and tin whistle playing. We bought some Irish tin whistles and it kept us entertained all day. Here’s Jaap entertaining us with some “Irish” tunes.

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How beautiful is this?

 

As if the day couldn’t get any better, the evening ended for Jaap and I (and Pop) with a traditional Irish music session at Linnanes Pub back in Kilfenora. The music festival was still going on and I can’t thank my mother enough for staying home to babysit while we ate apple pie, drank some Guinness, and listened to some traditional music. It was a memorable experience!

Family Fun at Landmarkt Mesch

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Yesterday was our fourth time visiting Limburgs Landmarkt Mesch and I think we have solidified it as a family tradition. We have gone the last two years with Flora and once the first year we lived in Maastricht (before children), but this was the first time that she will remember it. It was a day full of sunshine and joy.

Who knew sitting on a stationary tractor could be so much fun? Thibault loved it and I didn’t think Flora would be that into, but she was. A nice change of pace from our normal fun of playing dress up with princess dresses and Disney Princess Barbies.

Landmarkt Mesch brings back memories of visiting the Dutchess County Fair and it really reminds me that I am a country girl at heart. I loved seeing Flora fascinated by bulldozers and old farm equipment, petting the animals at the kinderboerderij, and watching the equestrian horse shows. It was super fun and at the end of the day she didn’t want to leave.

It also signals that summer is officially over. I was clinging to the warm weather and we officially had to break out the fall vests and jackets this week. Summer is over and we’re moving on. Sometimes I wish I could just freeze this moment in time. Flora is so in love with everything we do as a family and it’s even more fun with a four year old! And then I remember how much we miss sleep. 🙂

Our Week in France– Living my best life

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This summer has been quite the journey for me—and it’s not even finished! When we decided not to travel to the U.S. this summer, our original plan was to book a European beach vacation. Somewhere in Spain, Portugal, Italy or Greece. With the busyness of day to day life and my fear of not finding/booking the perfect family vacation, plus the idea of traveling some where super hot with a baby. I couldn’t decide what was best for us. I had set my summer vacation expectations too high. In the end we decided to stay in the Netherlands, plan a last minute trip somewhere and have some day trips around the area.

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First night at the gîte

When my in-laws found out we had no formal travel plans they invited us to France for the week. As a gift to us, they booked a gîte for the week. I was relieved that we had a summer holiday planned, but was still disappointed that we chose not to take advantage of a summer in Europe and have a beach vacation. As our trip approached, I was getting very excited, but being reasonable with my expectations of traveling with a baby and small child. 1.5 hour day trips everyday was not possible, wine tasting throughout the countryside will have to wait till next time!

When we arrived in France I thought—-we’re on summer holiday in France! How was I not more excited about this trip!!! Pinch me—I am living my best life. Exploring the Burdundy countryside, drinking French wine every night, exploring castles and abbeys, eating delicious food and French baguettes everyday, hearing French and listening to Flora trying to learn French, and spending time with our family. It truly was a fabulous week. I was so thankful to be on this trip and it made me think how fortunate I am to be living this life with my loved ones.

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Beautiful sunny day