Sallandse Heuvelrug & Deventer 2020

I just love this view. This is the Dutch landscape. Overijssel and the Sallandse Heuvelrug is my new favorite area. This national park has so many beautiful spots. Our Landal park was cute. We made the best of it. Rented some bikes, drank gluhwein on the playground while the kids played, the kids got to roast some marshmallows at the tipi, and hiked. I’m happy we decided to go ahead with the trip. Even though the pool was closed, it was good to have a change of scenery.

We took an evening walk in Deventer. It was actually my favorite day of the trip. A refreshing walk in nature in the national park (preceeded by a lot of complaining and crying–of course), cold fresh air, beautiful scenery, a cozy movie afternoon by the fire with coffee, followed by this evening stroll in Deventer, and a late dinner. It was such a fantastic day. I loved it. I have wanted to go to Deventer for some time now. Such a beautiful place. Lots of independent shops (two bookstores!), little eateries and tea rooms, tiny, quiet streets. It was beautiful. We will return sometime when life goes back to normal.

Some moments of our evening walk with all the Kerst lampjes.

Christmas 2020

Our first (and hopefully last) lockdown Christmas. My kids look so grown up when I see this photo. Thankfully we could visit Jaap’s family is small bits. I always love Christmas with the Jansens. No drama, just Christmas. We had a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner, just the four of us. I absolutely loved it. The children sat through a three course, homemade dinner with my holiday stuffed mushrooms, gulash from the slow cooker, and Spanish flan (Flora’s request). It was just a magical evening. Luckily, Santa paid us a visit. Nobody was too anxious or overly excited. Kids were thrilled with his gifts. My mom sent us a lot of presents and it really brightened the morning. I gave Jaap some tips for next Christmas. No more cookbooks. I will leave it at that.

I love these beautiful Christmases with Jaap’s parents. We missed the annual walk to the nativity scenes in Oirschot, but the Chirstmas sing along at the piano was a highlight for me. Meanwhile, I have been completely engrossed in Group by Christie Tate. What a fantastic memoir. I couldn’t put this book down. The second Christmas in a row where I had a book that completed captivated me. It felt warm and fuzzy. Merry Christmas.

Christmas Eve Eve

Look how cute Flora is here. We’ve had a hilarious time rehearsing our Kerst Voorstelling, just some songs we are putting together to sing at Opa and Oma’s house.

A new tradition was born

I have definitely lowered my Christmas time expectations this year. I wish I could tell my 35 year old self, “Just relax and enjoy yourself.” Keeping my Christmas expectations low has actually helped me enjoy everything. Watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with the kids the other day was magical for me. Luckily, Thibault was willing to sit through Charlie Brown Christmas too! These moments just warm my heart. Getting good use out of my winter drinks books! I’ve been focusing more on reading and picking books I enjoy.

Yesterday we built gingerbread houses from Ikea. Last year they were sold out and I was crushed. Jaap and I were in Ikea late October, they were there and I picked some up. My friend Cyrille came over to help us decorate, I made some great royal icing from Tasty and it was a huge family hit. Thibault and Flora loved it! Thibault couldn’t stop talking about his gingerbread house, his beautiful room, the curtains, the smoke out of the chimney. It was so freakn’ cute! Opa said he wants to join this tradition next year. I can’t believe how much sugar my kids are eating each day.

This will be my last post for 2020. I’m going to enjoy the quiet Christmas Eve festivities, be present, meditate, try not to eat to many sweets, continue to exercise, and think about some healthy New Year’s Resolutions. XOXO

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.

Autumn Walk Collection 2020

We’ve had some great walks in Zuid Limburg this Autumn. Plenty of time on our hands to explore hikes and places I have always wanted to visit in the area. Hikes with friends in Meerssen, a hilly hike in Gulpen, exploring the Brunssummerheide, a visit to Kasteel Hoensbroek, and our usual favorite— a bike ride to the American Cemetery in Margraten. I must admit. When musuems, theaters, and zoos are closed I am happy that we live so close to nature. At the same time, I miss the Hudson Valley so much this time of year. Nothing beats the colors of Autumn in NY. Of course.

Holiday Lights

A few weeks ago we went for an evening family walk with one of Flora’s friends. Maastricht has this beautiful light trail that winds through the city centre during the holidays and I have always wanted to walk it, but you know when you have little ones getting out of the house on a Saturday evening can be tricky. It seems that 2020 is the perfect year for us to do this.

It felt like a big night out for us. Simple things like walking around the city at night are super fun now during pandemic times. We did a decent route through the city and stopped near the Vrijthof, ordered some pizza & pasta takeout, and had an outdoor dinner at Amersplein. The kids had a great time. It was beautiful and the city felt quite empty. It was a fun time, but I really miss normal life. It seems I am in an okay place right now. Last month was difficult with Thibault starting school, but we made it through Thanksgiving and Sint (another post coming) and I am feeling okay. I just miss my parents, family, and friends more than I could have ever imagined. The hardest part is not knowing when this chapter will close. With that said, Sint has now returned to Spain, our tree is up, and we are gearing up for a relaxing Christmas.

Thibault, Us, Autumn 2020

Hiking in the Brunssummerheide

I love this photo that Jaap took of us walking through the Brunssummerheide. It was a beautiful day.

Lots of things have happened this past month. The biggest that Thibault has turned four and is not at primary school. It was an extremely emotional week for me. I was crying a lot. Multiple times a day. It was an emotionally draining time. The good news is that he’s doing really well at school. He enjoys going each day and so far, it seems that things are going well. Our little man likes to wear effeminate clothing. I was so scared to let him open himself up to a new world like this. I had some great chats with lovely colleagues, his teacher, and of course Jaap, always being there to lead us through these challenges. It seems to be going okay. He enjoys going to school, he loves his teacher, and he is settling in well.

We had a small Halloween celebration with some other families in Cadier and good friends of ours. Very short and sweet, but I’m positive next year Halloween trick or treating full on will be back.

We have had some great hikes, a trip to Hoensbroek castle before everything closed down again, a trip to Toverland (that resulted in a trip to the ER with a fractured arm for Mr. T), and his birthday celebration.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am nervous. It’s always a difficult week for me, but this year seems even worse. Our usual family Thanksgiving at Ann’s house in Belgium has to be canceled. We will have a quiet dinner at home and lots of good family time this week. Sint is in full force! And I’m just happy when this week will be over. Giving myself lots of self care moments this week.

Herfst

Pompoen Parade

Some traditions are surviving the pandemic. Autumn walks, outdoor dining (well not anymore), and the Pompoen Parade in Aalbeek.

When we’re able to continue the fun through this pandemic—it brings us joy. The pompoen parade is always a highlight. This year I chose a glass of wine instead of pumpkin taart. Good switch! And this little beer garden at the brewery in Gulpen is so gezellig. Delicious cheese! In fact I can’t stop thinking about it.

Local brews in Gulpen

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.