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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.




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.


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

Beach days on the Opatija Riviera


Medveja beach

For the grand finale of this holiday, we ended with beach days on the Opatija Riviera. It was the best way to end this trip. No sights to see, no hikes or nature trails, just lying on the beach and swimming every day.


I really wanted to bring back as many Croatian memories from our honeymoon as possible. Things like this are always difficult now that we have two kids traveling with us. Our trip to Croatia seven years ago is still my favorite holiday and it’s when I fell in love with this region. That being said, I think we succeeded in recreating these memories that made me fall in love with Croatia. Lots of swimming, an apartment with a beautiful view of the Adriatic sea, and some relaxed time.


It was the perfect ending to our Slovenia & Croatian adventure. Til next time! The Balkans are amazing and we will be returning again and again to the this region to explore and fall in love with it all over again.




More Slovenian Fun


Public water fountain in Ljubljana

This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. We spent a few hours in Ljubljana and they needed to cool off somehow. How cute is this.


I also love this one of Jaap and Thibault during our afternoon stroll. We had this incredible lunch at a delicious pizzeria next to the river and did a short walk through the city to catch out the dragon bridge and the open air market. We ended with some good ice cream and some cute souvenirs for the kids. I’m so happy we limited ourselves to only a few hours in the city. Slovenia has so much more to offer out in nature and we could really feel the heat in the city on this day. Still, it was worth the stop in between the farm stay and our apartment near Lake Bled.

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Another great in between spot was our trip to the Postojna Caves en route to our house in Croatia. Who knew the largest cave system in Europe was in Slovenia?! I was blown away by this place. We took a 10 minute train ride into the caves, did a 45 minute walk with a tour guide who is also a biologist and does research in the caves, followed by another 10 minute train ride out again.


The kids loved the train ride. Us too. But Jaap and I really were fascinated by the caves. It was a unique experience and I’m happy we took the time (and money) to stop here.

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Just a few kilometers away was the Predjama Castle. We didn’t take an inside tour, but just having an iced coffee and some ice cream out here was worth the stop. It was not as busy as I thought it was going to be and the views were pretty great.



Life on the Farm: Slovenia Travel


I love this view from our balcony at Mali Raj. We stayed at a tourist farm in the far northeast corner of Slovenia in a tiny village, right next to the Hungarian border. The view from the balcony was amazing. Three of our four mornings here I was able to do a twenty minute yoga routine in this spot. It was a travel miracle and very therapeutic for me. Screen time helped!DSC09417

The owner was so friendly and took a real liking to Thibault. The place was picturesque and relaxing. There was not a lot of tourism in this area, so it was the perfect place for us to unwind without distractions.


The kids absolutely loved it. Cats everywhere, alpacas & goats, plus two ponds—one of which we would go to and look for frogs. I loved watching them be so happy interacting with the animals.


One day we visited a local open air museum of an old village just across the border in Hungary. It was surprisingly a great day out. They had this amazing indoor playhouse with an old medieval play kitchen, climbing area with a flying dragon, and old fashioned games. Jaap and I were pleasantly surprised. Plus a yummy lunch outdoors.




Breakfast at the farm

One day we drove into Ptuj for a day out, but it was very hot and there was not much for us to do in the city. We did get to see a Slovenian wedding with some traditional music come down the main square. That was a treat. An afternoon swim back at the farm was the perfect ending.


My favorite day in this region was our trip to Terme 3000. I don’t even have any pictures from the day because it was spent completely with our family enjoying the water and warm weather. Water slides, a water play area for small kids, various thermal baths, and a natural spring bath. Everyone absolutely loved it. Jaap was completely nuts and went down this extremely steep and fast water slide. His retelling of the story was great and I think Flora was very impressed with her father.

The thermal park was a great place for us to unwind. I thought it was the perfect combination of family and adult fun. I wish I had a recording of Thibault’s face when he slipped into the natural thermal bath with us. It was so warm and he loved it.


Schnapps, onion & lard on bread

Some of our evenings were spent at this Hungarian fish restaurant right across the border. My favorite was starting this Saturday night dinner with some schnapps! We skipped the onion bread. Thank God Jaap speaks German and I have a few words enough to read a menu. 🙂


I have nothing but warm and fuzzy feelings for our farm stay at Mali Raj. It was exactly what I was hoping for. Some peace, relaxation, and good quality family time without distractions.

Natural Swimming in Slovenia


The recurrent theme on this vacation was swimming. Swimming in pools, thermal baths, a waterpark, lakes, rivers, and the Adriatic sea. Now that I typed that out it’s hard to believe all the different locations we swam in and how each one had a different and fun experience. Jaap and I got into a pretty good routine of packing the swim gear before breakfast or the night before.


Our picturesque farm stay in Dolenci had a pool— it’s greatest selling point when I booked the place. It was so refreshing to take a dip after two hot days of activities. One day Thibault took a nap upstairs while the three of us were having fun at the pool and the owner brought us some drinks to enjoy poolside. That was a win!


On our first full day in Lake Bled we spent almost the entire day at the public lido swimming area. I was surprised at how touristy Lake Bled was. We heard from friends that this was the case, but the sure volume and traffic surprised me. But I must admit, the swimming area felt relaxing, calm, and not crowded through to the early afternoon. We got their at 9:30 and had many hours of beautiful swimming, the greatest moment being swimming out to the buoy with Flora and admiring the beauty of this lake together.


shallow swimming area at Lake Bled


The next day we took the cable car up to Vogel at Lake Bohinj and ended the day with a swim at the southern side of the lake. Crystal clear water, good swimming temperature (still a little too cold for Mr. T), and some SPECTACULAR views.

DSC09551I feel like our pictures don’t even do it justice. The view of the mountains of the lake was massive. Flora was swimming around like a little fish. Thibault was throwing rocks and collecting pieces on the side. There was a full hour of zen there for me interrupted by Thibault almost drowning. Yes—I was watching him 100% of the time not distracted and I was watching him wading into the water to pick up a floating stick and boom. He fell right under and I sprang up to save him. It was only a second of being submerged, but it scared the crap out of me and I could not stop thinking about it for 48 hours.


Lake Jasna

Our third full day in the Bled region was near Kranjska Gorja at Lake Jasna. The water was cold though, but it was hot out, so I’m sure to these fishies it was refreshing. I was so impressed by Flora. She jumped in and out, in and out, and finally took a leap and just went for it. The water was chilly and she was loving it. Jaap went for a full swim out into the lake! Thibault opted for stone and shoe throwing on the side.


Lake Jasna


Nadiža river

When we were in the Soča Valley was a trip quick trip to the Nadiža river. It’s warm enough to swim there and unfortunately we arrived just before a huge thunder and rainstorm, which actually made for a very fun run back (soaking wet) to the car. It was a beautiful little spot there.


Nadiža river



Medveja Beach


And even though this was not part of Slovenia, I will add swimming in Croatia. My favorite swimming spot was at Medjeva beach. We got there early (with some resistance from our kids who were getting tired from travel) and found a great spot with some shade.

DSC09837I love this picture of Flora. It pretty much sums up her mood the entire trip. She said repeatedly that she loved Slovenia. That was a relief to hear. There was a lot of planning that goes behind something like this. Making sure we have kid friendly swimming opportunities, a balance between parent and adult fun, and frankly— Jaap and I always are thinking with the children in mine, so I don’t need her seal of approval. But, I loved hearing her say how much she was enjoying this vacation. The sights, the sounds, and most of all, the swimming!

Travel Gratitude: Slovenia & Croatia


Our Slovenian holiday is one for the books! I am full of gratitude that I am living a life that enables me to travel with my loved ones to all these spectacular places. I have been wanting to go to Slovenia for several years now and this trip was built up a lot in my head. Our experience exploring Slovenia by far exceeded my expectations. I have nothing but incredible and amazing memories from this place.


Before I forget, I wanted to jot down some of the incredible highlights and experiences. I am going to write more in details posts with pictures this week. But for now, I wanted to type these out so I never forget them.


Swimming to the buoy in Lake Bled with Flora. Looking out at the clear emerald lake, resting on the buoy and looking up at the castle right above us. I will never forget sharing that with her.


Swimming in the shallow end at Lake Bohinj. Bohinj was picturesque. I could have spent a week there. Getting to swim there and sit in the shallow end watching Flora swim about and Thibault play with rocks was my zen moment of the trip.


Here are some other moments that have stood out:

  • Our incredible farm stay out in rural Slovenia near the Hungarian border. Mali Raj was fantastic!
  • Morning yoga on the balcony
  • The train ride into the caves at Postojna caves
  • Dinner at Lectar
  • Visiting the open air museum in Hungary
  • Jaap describing the thrill of one of the daring water slides at Terme 3000
  • Admiring the Julian Alps at Lake Jasna
  • Swimming in the Adriatic
  • The balcony views from our apartment out on the Opatija Riviera

These were some of the highlights and somehow we were able to create magical moments every single day by simply walking to a lake or hiking down a gorge. I’m incredibly grateful for this holiday of a lifetime.





The Antrim Coast


Every hour we spent in Northern Ireland was full of breathtaking sights. Views, outlooks, hikes, and adventures that literally took my breath away. It’s views that you see in movies and television right there up close and in person. Absolutely stunning.


I think this photo of my parents and Flora about to climb back over the Carrick a rede bridge is one of my favorites of the entire trip. The emerald green water, sea breeze, sunshine, death defying heights! Northern Ireland is so lush and fresh, thousands of grazing sheep walking the hillsides, splashes of bright blues and greens everywhere you look, and enormous cliff sides. The landscape is quite dramatic, which made for some very cautious and nerve wracking hikes with Mr. T.



The only time I have ever seen him nervous was walking over the rope bridge. There was a steady cautious walk happening while I held both his hands over the cross. I think the experience humbled him a little bit.


It was a once in a lifetime experience. Although, I thought the descent down onto the bridge was more scary than walking the bridge itself.


Our entire week in this northern region of Ireland was just nature hikes, coastal drives, and a few playgrounds here and there. I see now that it was not exactly the trip that Flora was hoping for. It was chilly and not a ton of activities that children find extremely interesting, but it was an experiment for us. Since I thought she loved Ireland so much the first time, I just assumed it would be the same this time around. Nonetheless, I loved the trip and I know that my parents found it to be very special.

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