Donegal & Northern Ireland

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I’ve been thinking about writing these posts for about two months now. I can’t even remember what I was going to write. Only that we had a breathtaking trip in Donegal (Ireland) and Northern Ireland. I could return there a million times and still feel like we are discovering new beauties. To quote a good Irish friend, “It’s God’s country.” Truly an amazing place. Here are my favorite parts of our Donegal leg of the trip.

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Hiking Glenveagh National Park My parents are nature lovers and it’s probably the greatest love they instilled in us as children. They were so happy here exploring this park. Flora was wandering why we hiked 4 kilometers when we could have taken the bus. Smart girl. 🙂

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Dunfanaghy & Horn Head More breathtaking views driving the coast and some scary narrow roads up at Horn Head right outside Dunfanaghy. We walked the beach, had a delicious lunch, and finally a Guinness on day 2.

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A live session at Patsy Dan’s

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Rick Steves does it again! My father can make fun of me all he wants, but thanks to Rick Steves and his travel books we have had some memorable moments all over Europe. The live Monday night session in Dunfanaghy at Patsy Dan’s was thanks to his tip. We’re lucky we could catch a live session at 18:00. The kids loved it and I will never forget the accordion player. Top notch. We were able to enjoy a full hour of music and beer before the kids made us leave.

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An incredible find on Airbnb in Gortahork

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If you’re traveling to Donegal, stay in this place. A steal at about 100 euros per night! A beautiful new house, TONS of space, lots of comfort, and great views. I loved the communal atmosphere of the kitchen and cooking pancakes while the kids ate breakfast at the kitchen island. Little things like this make the trip great.

Donegal was a rugged and relaxed place to start our northern tour. More about Northern Ireland, Game of Thrones highlights, and exhilarating hikes on the next post.

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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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A Rondje in Stevensweert

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We had a fantastic day yesterday and discovered a new gem in Zuid Limburg. I LOVE exploring new nature walks. We went with my friend Laura and her family. These kids walked 5,8 kilometres! After the first 1.5 hours of consistent complaining, things went well!

I read about this Rondje Molenplas in our quarterly Natuurmonumenten magazine. Not far from Thorn around a little lake in Stevensweert. It looks like OERR and Natuurmonumenten sponsor the building of the “Speelnatuur” playground outside the brasserie.

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The hike was beautiful. Lots of horses and cows along the way, ducks and swans on the little pebble “beach” on the far side of the lake. Crossing the pond over big boulders and nice lookout points all along. The sun was shining (Thibault was very content and Flora was pretty happy). They both waked a long way and I was super proud of them. 5,8 kilometres is quite the stretch for young children, but we were rewarded nicely with a great play area complete with water pump and sand. I think we could have stayed there another 2 hours!

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A big low and some great highs

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The past four weeks have hit me hard. There have been some major highs and some big low points. Just before the Carnival break started I got the flu. It completely wiped me out for an entire week and if it wasn’t for the strength of my husband and the kindness of my in-laws, I can only imagine how worse it could have been. I will never go another year without the flu shot. I hate that helpless feeling and I just felt sorry for myself the whole week. It was my winter break. A time to relax, recharge, have a little Carnival fun, and do fun things with my family. None of that happened. The only thing I got to do was sleep through the night for 10+ hours a night and watch a lot of Netflix. So in retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t a total loss.

And then it was right back into work. In one week I had two performances with the community drummers and singers. It was a week full of female empowerment and great music. I feel so privileged to be working with these women. The singing group performed at a theatrical performance all about feminism. It was beautiful and we all felt grateful to be a part of it.

My friends and I dragged our kids out marching through Maastricht to have our voices heard as part of the Youth Climate March. Three moms, six cranky kids, lots of rain, complaining, and tears, but a lot of fun too. We did it for ourselves mostly, but deep down we want our kids to know we stand for something. It felt good to be a part of it.

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On Sunday my friends and I went to TEFAF to be a part of what puts Maastricht on the map. It’s always an enriching and beautiful experience. I’m really missing my friend Antoinette. I’ve had so many artful experiences with her over the years and there’s a whole in my heart now that she is living in Italy. I miss her artistic perspective.

And finally— a beautiful performance with my students on Tuesday after a very difficult Monday. Monday was such a low point for me. I had a schedule change and ended up teaching for 5 hours straight without as much as a coffee break. Then to pick up Flora, the exhausting swim lesson, and in the middle of all of that an uncomfortable phone conversation with a good friend of min. I came home and started crying because after dinner because of the stress of everything put together.

It felt so good to make a 180 the next day! I was so proud of my students. It was such a great process for me preparing them for this short 45 minute assembly. And the icing on the cake was a bouquet of lovely flowers and homemade card. “Thank you for making music class fun.” Amen. I feel so grateful to have a job that challenges and enriches my life. I live for performances like these. It is so fulfilling.

Sunshine at St. Gerlach

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We just got back from a refreshing morning outside at St. Gerlach. We spent our time walking the grounds, enjoying the scenery, and taking in the beautiful landscape and sculptures. What an aesthetically pleasing place to visit.

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It feels like spring here. Lots of the sunshine and warmer temps this week. This is climate change I suppose. I’m happy with cold weather in February, but I’ll take the sunshine!

My friend Laura suggested coming here this weekend. So we met up, walked around with the kids, got to see some horses and huge furry cows up close, sat outside in the sun for a couple of hours, and just enjoyed the peace and serenity of this place. We were talking about the joy of doing family activities that don’t involve large, screaming playgrounds. This is fun for the kids, but also nice for us.

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And of course— our little outing had to end with some coffee, vlaai, and some lavender madeleine cookies for myself. A lovely Sunday outing with good friends.

 

Our 10 Year Challenge 2009-2019

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I love seeing these ten year challenge posts all over social media. I can’t believe Jaap and I have known each other for ten years. The picture of us above was one of the first times we had the chance to sit, have a few drinks together, and chat outside of band rehearsals. A very late night at 2A in the Lower East side with our friends.  I love that we have a picture from that night.

What a fun adventure the last ten years have been full of happiness, love, and many challenges. Dating in NY, moving to Maastricht, getting settle in the Netherlands, two weddings, lots of European and North American travel adventures, and of course making a happy family.

Thanks for an amazing ten years, Babe! Here’s to many more decades to come. XOXO

 

Thibault’s Surgery

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Monday was a big day for our little man Thibault. He made it through a very challenging day. I’m happy to say that surgery went well. Thibault now has tubes in his years to release some fluid and his nose adenoids have been removed.

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The proud Papa

It was a day full of emotions for me. Luckily Jaap is always cool as a cucumber and it appears that my son is the same way under stressful situations. I was more worried about the surgery than anybody. Thibault seemed almost unphased by the whole thing within a couple of hours.

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It was quite sad to see a room full of children in the recovery room and at the same time quite comforting to see other parents experiencing the same emotions that we were. Every parent wants their child to be happy and healthy and it’s so difficult watching them go through something like this. At the same time, I did have this feeling of gratitude the entire day. Grateful that Thibault was receiving quality care and grateful that we were not at the hospital under more serious circumstances. These feelings of gratitude helped me put things in perspective. Fingers crossed his six week check up at the audiologist shows some changes in his hearing.

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