Seeing Abraham or Sarah! A fun Dutch Tradition When You Turn 50!

In the Netherlands turning 50 is considered an extremely special occasion and one that’s typically marked with the installation of a large life-size doll (of an elderly man or woman) in your front garden for the day (or a few hours), often with a corresponding sign that reads “Abraham 50 jaar” (Abraham 50 years old) or “Sarah 50 jaar” (Sarah 50 years old). It is a tradition that honours a person gaining wisdom through experience.

How timely this post is – our Queen, “Koningin Máxima” becomes 50 tomorrow!

Of course with COVID, parties are not able to happen but doesn’t stop this fantastic tradition. Your house, office or even both will be decorated by your friends and family with posters, banners, balloons and, mannequins and as mentioned above, a life-sized doll of YOU. I absolutely love it and while I’m not looking forward to becoming 50 (a few short years) my kids are both well-aware that I EXPECT a Sarah outside 🙂

Depending on what the person looks like or interests are, there are various companies here which you can hire the inflatables.

Here is photo of my neighbour’s Sarah. As she has red hair, it’s very appropriate.

And on Friday, this was put up for my other neighbour – he’s bald so also fitting!

THE ORIGIN

The phrase “Abraham gezien hebben” is actually rather appropriate, as it’s based on a passage in the Bible, John 8: 56-58. In this particular passage, Jesus is engaged in discussion with the Jews, who ask him: “You are not yet fifty but you have seen Abraham?” Jesus replies “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”. The Jews are clearly surprised at this answer, because Abraham had in fact died before Jesus was born. Back in those days, it was very rare for people to turn 50, therefore, it was a very special occasion! People would look up to you and you would be seen as wise. As Sarah was Abraham’s wife, hence that is used for females turning 50. It is also common to bake a cake, bread or cookies in the shape of a male or female figure.

BEYOND 50?

You can also carry on the tradition for each decade of a person’s life after 50, although these are not as nearly as popular is Abraham and Sarah. Also sometimes when couples are married for 50 years, they also get a big overly decorated house too!

  • 60th Birthday – “Isaac” or “Elisabeth” birthday
  • 70th Birthday – “Jacob” or “Anna or Lea” birthday
  • 80th Birthday – “Joseph” or “Deborah” birthday
  • 90th Birthday – “Anthony” or “Ruth” birthday
  • 100th Birthday – “Methuselah” or “Judith” birthday

What do you think of this tradition? Would you love it or hate it if you had a big doll outside your home? I know some cultures wouldn’t like this but I LOVE it. I often stop and take a photo of the houses I see decorated. The one above is around the corner from my house – so brilliant stopped my bike just to take the photo and congratulate the person decorating outside. You must always congratulate! 🙂

Seasoning A New Wok Pan

As one of my Mother’s Day presents this year, I was given a wok! I LOVE IT! In fact, I had been looking at buying a wok for a while now as I cook so many Asian dishes. Actually, I receive an electric wok as wedding present 19 years ago, but sold it when we moved abroad. I have a tiny one from Ikea, but nothing quite like an authentic one over a gas stove!

Here is a photo my 11 year old took of me comparing two different ones at Amazing Oriental my favorite shop here in the Netherlands.

If you know anything about woks or even perhaps nothing – before you use it, you have to first season it! This way the food does’t stick to it and cleans away the chemicals on it. The wok came with instructions in Dutch of how to season it, but I of course, I wanted to watch actual videos too so I knew I was doing it correctly. The directions from the paper are not the same at all as the directions I found on the web. There are different ways of doing it.

Here are the directions from the paper: (translated)
Iron wok instructions. Before using a new wok, you must burn off the protective layer of the wok.  Put the wok on a low heat and let the wok burn black for about 15 minutes.  (Or on high heat in about 5 minutes).  Then you should wash the wok.  Return the wok to the heat to dry.  After drying, lubricate the inside completely with oil.  Before stir-frying, heat the wok before adding the oil.  The wok should be hotter than the oil so that the food doesn’t stick.  Avoid using detergent for cleaning.  Clean the wok with hot water and a washing-up brush.  Stuck food residues soak off first.  After cleaning, put the wok away dry (place it on the fire for a while) and if necessary rub with a little oil on a dry wok.  After a few months of use, the wok will become dirty from soot deposits.  You can remove the soot deposits by heating the wok around the edges and sprinkling some salt on the inside.  Scrub clean, rinse, dry on fire and grease with oil.

Here is the video which I thought was the best and with over 1 million views – so others did too! As mentioned above, there are other methods like using salt, putting into the oven and even using food – but those were not the methods I chose to try.

WHY SEASON A WOK?

Many cooks prefer using carbon steel because of its nonstick surface. However, it is important to note that carbon steel woks are NOT naturally non-stick. You need to season the wok first. Every time you use your wok, the patina will become more developed so the pan’s performance will improve. The non-stick properties will increase and food will release quicker and easier from the pan. Cleaning will become easier too, as food particles are less likely to stick. With the proper care, your wok will last you for many years to come.

What You’ll Need for Seasoning a Wok

  • hot water
  • dish soap
  • metal scrubber or scouring pad
  • paper towels
  • peanut oil or any other high-heat oil – I used grape seed oil. Avoid unrefined oils with low smoking points like olive oil & sesame oil.

Scrub Off the Factory Oil

Carbon steel woks are coated with a layer of factory oil to keep them from rusting before they are sold / used. It is crucial that you scrub off this layer of factory oil (front BOTH sides) before you use the wok for cooking. You don’t want the factory oil in your food!

For the initial scrubbing, you’ll need dish soap and a metal scrubber or scouring pad. You only use soap and abrasive scrubbers when you are prepping the wok for seasoning. Once it is done, you DO NOT use them for regular cleaning and maintenance. Otherwise, you will scrub off the patina and ruin the non-stick surface of the wok!

Spend a good 10-15 minutes on the scrubbing. Add some dish soap to your wok and use a scrubber to scrub the inside and outside of the wok thoroughly. Rinse the wok with water. Add dish soap to the wok again and repeat the scrubbing and rinsing two more times. As you rinse the wok, if you notice that your fingers are picking up black stains from touching the wok, it means you haven’t quite gotten rid of the factory oil yet.

After several rounds of scrubbing and rinsing, rub the inside and outside of the wok with paper towels. The paper towels are very good at picking up any leftover factory oil residue from the wok. If the paper towel looks black after rubbing the wok, scrub the wok with soap, rinse, and wipe with paper towels again. Eventually, you’ll get a clean wipe with the paper towel, and that’s when you know you’ve scrubbed off the factory oil sufficiently.

DRY THE WOK

Now it’s time to dry the wok. You don’t have to waste paper towels – as the water will evaporate quickly when you set the wok onto the heat. You’ll notice it starts to darken a bit. You don’t have to do this for too long only to dry it. Then let it cool a bit before you start to add the oil.

SEASON THE WOK

In this step, the goal is to use heat to open up the pores of the wok so that they can absorb oil to prevent rusting and start developing a nonstick surface. You will be heating oil for quite some time, so turn on your exhaust fan to the highest setting. Open your windows if your kitchen needs more ventilation.

Using a paper towel rub the oil evenly on the inside and outside of the pan. Put the pan on medium heat. You’ll see it start to change color rather quickly. Depending on the type of wok you have , it may even turn blue. You’ll have to turn it a bit to ensure that the sides change too. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat. Let the wok cool for a few minutes. When a bit cooler it is time to wash again.. but remember NO SOAP!

CLEAN THE WOK – A SECOND TIME

After the wok is cooled, wash again in hot water. Return to heat again for a few minutes and your wok is ready to use. There will be grease and a dark layer of patina. Use a bristled brush or soft sponge to gently clean the wok. Do not use dish soap here. Rinse the wok and place it on the stove to dry. This is when I used it for our dinner but if you don’t want to use it now, proceed to the final step before putting it away.

Dry Wok and Seal with Layer of Oil

Heat the wok over high heat again. Once all the water evaporates, turn off the heat. Carefully rub a thin layer of oil onto the wok. Pour about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil into the wok and rub the oil throughout the wok with several layers of paper towels. Be careful because the wok is still very hot at this point. You can use a spatula to help move the paper towel around too.

You don’t want to reintroduce moisture back into the wok. Otherwise, the wok can rust while it’s stored.

GENERAL CARE FOR YOUR WOK

After each time you use the wok, gently clean it with a brush or soft sponge.

If there are stubborn bits of food stuck to the bottom of your wok, fill your wok with about 4 to 5 cups of water. Bring the water to boil and then drain it. The hot water should help loosen the food and will be much easier to release with a brush or sponge. After you clean the wok, dry it over high heat and rub a bit of oil on the inside.

If your wok ever rusts, scrub the rust off with a scouring pad. Rinse and re-season the wok as if it were brand new.

Truthfully, I know it doesn’t look correct but it is… again, over time a layer of patina will build up and will be more nonstick. Will update this blog post after some months to show the wok…

So I’m super psyched to have a wok now and even made two recipes tonight. I’ll be on the hunt for more great recipes! Just need to get some wok tools like a long spatula and I’m sorted!

Do you have a wok? Did you season it this way or a different way all together?

Keukenhof Gardens – After Over 20 Years Waiting – I finally visited!

TWENTY ONE YEARS AGO – August 1999 an American girl who never left the country (well except for many trips to Montreal, Canada) left for a two-week trip to Europe with her Dutch boyfriend. As I only had 14 vacation days, we planned to spend a a week in the Netherlands and and then a week on Ibiza. When we arrived in the Netherlands, I was so excited to visit the Keukenhof Gardens and see the tulip fields but I was quickly informed that that was a seasonal thing and that I would have to wait and return another time. Disappointed we headed to the Zaanse Schans instead to be tourists – check out this photo! It’s been now 21 years that I’ve waited to visit – and now I finally visited and it was AMAZING! I’m convinced my experience now was better than it would have been had I been in the past – I’ll elaborate why below.

HOW WE VISITED THE GARDENS AS A TEST EVENT

Typically this time of year the Keukenhof would be open for eight weeks late March to early May and millions of tourists from around the world would be jamming the roads and walking around admiring the 7 millions flowers meticulously planted and maintained at the world-famous gardens. But with the corona pandemic it was forced to remain closed for the second year in a row.

FACT: Keukenhof is not the world’s largest garden – that is actually Dubai’s Miracle Garden which looks spectacular too.

However, the gardens have been allowed by the Dutch government to participate in a trial to test how locations could be safely opened during the corona pandemic. They are also doing trials at museums, theatres, parks and zoos. They are allowing 5,000 visitors a day to enjoy the flower park on a two weekends in April and how lucky was I that I was able to enjoy it this way!?  Of course, all applicable corona measures such as the 1.5 metre distance rule apply in the park. The restaurants were closed but takeaway food & drink options were available.

When you see my photos, you’ll won’t see that many people which is one thing I LOVED about this experience. Friends even made comments about this how they had visited in the past and not a photo didn’t have tons of people in them. They limited the number of visitors to 5,000 in one day between 8 am and 7:30 pm. Previously, on normal days they can receive 50,000 in one day!

Also the main difference with normal opening days is that anyone who wants to visit Keukenhof during the trial days must have a negative corona test that is not older than 40 hours upon entering the park. The corona test is free of charge and must be taken at one of the 100 special corona test facilities. There is also a test site close to the entrance of Keukenhof. The one location which is in Noord Brabant, closest to my house, is is the middle of nowhere so without a car, it would require a long bike ride on Friday evening and that wasn’t in my ideal plans. I don’t mind the bike ride as that is my main method of transport but I chose to get mine done in Rotterdam’s Ahoy – which is the home of this year’s Eurovision Song Festival so it was set up perfectly.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH MY FIRST COVID TEST

I personally have not yet had to take a test. My kids both took one and I was there with them so witnessed first-hand that long swap and dreaded the thought of having it done to myself. But going to the Keukenhof was well-worth the test so I knew it was time for me to “put on my big girl pants” and just do it. Yet it wasn’t without some anxiety the days before. Looking back it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Would I like to do it again no, would I do it again just to visit the movies… no unless the new Top Gun was playing on the big screen. The worker was wonderful – the instructions were 100% in Dutch but easy to follow. And as it was a “sneltest” we had our results emailed to us before we even got back to my friends’ apartment. Both our results NEGATIVE – as expected! You then put your code into a special Corona Check app on your smartphone which you would be required to show before entry into the Keukenhoff. We were not allowed to take photos inside but I took a few photos of the waiting area, etc.

When you arrive at the park you have your QR code scanned proving your are negative and then you can scan your tickets, enter and enjoy!! We arrived for our slot which was between 10 am and 11 am. When we booked, the earlier slots were already sold out. So at 9:50 am, we parked right in front of the entrance and had to queue for about 1 minute. We wore out face masks in line but apart from that one time and then when you are in the toilets or inside the one open indoor exhibition area, you are free to remove them in the park. Tip: For furture visitor, if you want to beat the crowds you should know that Keukenhof is less busy before 10:30 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m. When we left just before 1 pm, the parking lot was very full and there was a line to get in.

Here is my first photo – I was finally inside, we set off to explore.

FUN FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY

Keukenhof is a great outing for the entire family. While didn’t take my two kids this year, there were tons of kids there. The garden has a petting zoo, has scavenger hunts, a maze, playgrounds for both small and big kids. There is a prominent presence of Nientje, the beloved bunny, created by the late Dick Bruna, is on display throughout Keukenhof. I think the kids would love walking over the stones and even taking their shoes off and walking in the water on the stepping stones and eating poffertjes!

VISIT THE NEARBY BULB FIELDS & AREA BEACHES

As you have read, I was a HUGE fan of the Keukenhof, but I’m also a huge fan of the nearby tulip fields. In the past years you could buy a ticket for a whisper boat tour through the fields

The entire region is called the Bollenstreek and you can read all about it on the following website – see maps, info on our & bike rentals, etc. Many people were out on rented bikes and electric scooters taking in the sites, standing in the fields and taking photos. Of course, we had to join one time for some photos. A bit windy but had to do it once. While I live in the Netherlands, going to the flower fields is not a common thing for me so why not do it.

Afterwards we drove over to the seaside specifically Langevelderslag in Noordwijk where one could spend hours walking in the dunes or playing on Longfield Beach. The area with the beach cafes and Natuurspeeltuin NederzandT, was only open for takeaway but was packed with people, like us, out enjoying the sunshine. We had brought some 0.0% beers which we fully enjoyed in the sunshine on a bench mostly out of the wind. Then a short drive by Noordwijk Beach to see what it was like. It is far more built up than Katwijk but a lovely area nonetheless. As I love the sea, I know I’d enjoy a holiday there. Again as it was VERY windy, we didn’t walk the beach. It’s also worth noting that the city of Leidin is also nearby, so you could combine a visit there the same day. I’d say you would stay at max of 4 hours at the Keukenhof and feel you’e had seen enough.

BRING HOME SOME FRESH FLOWERS

You can take home fresh flowers from one of the many local stands in the area. We stopped to adjust our navigation and coincidentally we saw a farmer selling freshly cut bunches of tulips out the back of his farm and at €1 a bunch, I bought 5 bunches! I always love having fresh flowers around my home especially tulips this time of year!

VISIT VIRTUALLY

Last year 22 million people visited the garden virtually. So while I know most of you reading this would have liked to go see the 7 million flowers too, it’s worth mentioning they do a great job on their socials. So for those of you who want to see what Keukenhof looks like at the moment can see this via @keukenhof on Facebook and Instagram, and take virtual tours on YouTube or visit www.keukenhof.nl

WOULD I GO BACK?

Absolutely, but… ONLY if I had an out of town friend or family in visiting (during the right time of year) but I would not find myself returning each year. I was TOTALLY spoiled this year with the opportunity to attend this test day – limited people, amazing weather, an extremely patient companion who didn’t mind me stopping for over 300 photos of flowers from all different angles and was so kind enough to join me on this adventure! He even took some photos of me as I’m always the one behind the camera so photo credit is due to him. 🙂

Oh and of course, I bought a magnet!

A day out in Arnhem, Netherlands

Last Saturday a girlfriend and I explored the city of Arnhem.  Well, when I say “explored” we essentially picked a Dutch city neither of us has visited before and walked around.  This was the first of many cities we plan to do. There are some others who want to join us on our city trips here & there so I’ll update when I do them.

Here in the Netherlands, we are still up to our necks with COVID restrictions, all the terraces & restaurants (except some which offer takeaway), museums and interesting tourist attractions like zoos are still closed for the public – with some exceptions of test trials – and I’m doing one this coming weekend – but more about that later! What we an do is book an appointment to shop at some stores – but there are also rules around that.  Need to book at least four hours in advance, wear face masks, social distance, etc  So when walking down the street you see a nice shop, you cannot go in.  We even asked at the door, but were turned away.  [I so look forward to the day when we can look back and read these restrictions and all this be in the past]. We had an appointment at TK Maxx (Europe’s version of TJ Maxx!) and a Kringloopwinkel located on the outskirts of the city. So our plan was to wonder around, take in the city, admire the Dutch architecture, I would take some photos, find what, if anything, makes Arnhem special and chat – which is what we did.   We had a LOT of laughs along the way.    I downloaded a walking city tour in Dutch on WalkMyCity before we visited, but we didn’t end up following it. 

BRIEF HISTORY OF ARNHEM

Situated on the banks of the Nederrijn and Sint-Jansbeek rivers in the eastern Netherlands, the city of Arnhem – capital of the Gelderland province – is a home to a number of notable sights – some listed below. In the current area of the town of Arnhem, there were signs found of human habitation that dates back to 70.000 years ago!! Which seems that Neanderthals had populated the area. The oldest remains of the modern human in the area of Arnhem dates back to 5000 years before Christ. In the towns of Warnsborn and Schaarsbergen near Arnhem traces were found from farmers, which means that they had a permanent residence there, that date back to 2400 before Christ. Of course it’s famous in WW2 with the Battle of Arnhem – for more info you can visit this wiki site here. It’s also surrounded by nature reserves, such as the Hoge Veluwe National Park. That is worth it’s own trip in a future.

GETTING TO ARNHEM FROM DEN BOSCH

Originally, we had planned on taking the train which would take just about an hour to get between Den Bosch & Arnhem Centraal Stations but in the end, she decided to drive as I don’t own a car so it worked out perfectly.  That was handy for our shopping and for the “avondklok” – the evening curfew which is still in place.  Essentially everyone has to be off the streets at 10 pm (it was 9 pm but recently moved to 10 pm).  We parked the car in the lot of Centraal Station – an easy drive and parking cost €15 all day.   

When we arrived, we stopped by the VVV (Tourist info desk at the station) but there you also needed to pre-book an appointment 4 hours in advance to talk to them.  How dumb is that? A tourist office not to be open representing their city – so the two employees stood there chatting the entire day.  So we left on our own to explore the city without anything from the VVV.   Having already read a few great blog posts about the city, I had a bit of an idea of what to expect and just went with the flow.  

SHOPPING IN ARNHEM

As with all large Dutch cities, they have main shopping streets which criss cross have every store possible – here was no different.  One after another you see all the big shops including some big ones we don’t have here in Den Bosch – such as Primark and TK Maxx. But what Arnhem does have is a reputation for unique shopping and fashion aka “MODE”. It’s home to the top design school in the Netherlands. So many of the man had a very trendy look – which of course, I liked 🙂

Seven Streets – Unique!

While Amsterdam has the ‘Negen Straatjes, Nine Little Streets’ the fashion & vintage heaven for fashionistas, Arnhem has its own version, called the Zeven Straatjes, Seven Little Streets, where interior lovers can shop to their heart’s content. The Arke Noachstraat, Bentinckstraat, Eiland,Kerkstraat, Pastoorstraat, Wielakkerstraat and the Zwanenstraat offer a different shopping experience to the main high street stores on and around the Ketelstraat, Bakkerstraat and Koningstraat. You enter this area under two bronze gates – super cute!

We wandered through here a few times – super cute shops – again couldn’t simply go in any of them – you needed an appointment which again needed to be booked 4 hours in advance – unless it was an essential store with food – then you can go in.    

While we wandering that is when we discovered the store Medikamente Die Grenze Parfumerie!   It was crazy – it was a German discount store which offered a bit of EVERYTHING for cheap.  Some things had a short shelf lives though not all. I think we were in here for at least an hour.    I bought Thai shrimp soup starter mix which has been discontinued at the AH. I love this soup and used to get it all the time. At AH was over €2 but here is was 3 packages or €1 so bought 6. In hindsight, I should have bought more! I grabbed a box of Starbucks coffee (which turned out to be the WRONG pods again – how did that happen again?! – thankfully I put them on a Gratis Facebook site & a local lady came and picked up them yesterday so not wasted. I bought Knorr bullion, a variety of make up from Douglas, etc.   Cognizant of the fact we’d have to carry our purchases until we got back to the car hours later, I didn’t go overboard. Not that I would ever buy them but look at those giant cans of beans!   But I will certainly look up this store again on future trips to the East of the country as it was brilliant and worth visiting.    

TK MAXX

Us two were just like most American’s living here in Europe, when we see a TK Maxx we are like YES, we need to go in there – we just love the store. But this one wasn’t the best.   We had an hour-long appointment booked.  Of course, I went straight to the shoes – but nothing – not a single pair that I’d buy.  I had my eye on a a travel Triominos game, and one pair of city sneakers but they were too bling bling.  I think I’d be sick of them after a few wears.   So I ended up with some night face cream , a kitchen thong gadget, and some nie olive oil which yes was heavy in the backpack. I did like the o Bags there too but even with the discount out of my price range and not the colors I’d choose. Oh and by the way, the Dirty Vegan – Matt Pritchard is quite unique – check out his insta page as currently rowing in the Atlantic ocean!

Kringloopwinkel 2 Switch

After our hour-long shop at TK MAXX, we had to get across town walking to the next appointment which was at a kringloopwinkel – it was HUGE!  But we didn’t factor in travel time so it cut down on our shopping time there, but that was fine.  I ended up getting a little mustard jar which reminded me of the time we lived in in North Norfolk UK (north of Norwich – home of Coleman’s mustard) and a small jacket for working out. 

I saw this really nice large glass jar (probably used for pickles or something years ago) and if I had a car outside in the parking lot, I would have bought it). But that I was not walking 20 minutes back into the city with that and my bags, etc. I soo wished I bought it. But I’ll be on the lookout for something similar next time we go closer to home!

DINNER AT SONSBEEK PARK

We ended up meeting up with another girl from the US who lives in Arnhem for dinner.   We ordered takeaway Poke Bowls at Poke House Arnhem, grabbed a couple of nice Brouwerij Ijwit beers from the SPAR (which I continue to pronounce incorrectly as “Spaaaa” with my Boston accent) and headed up to Sonsbeek Park – overlooking the city.   What a beautiful park and upmarket neighbourhood. The houses are pretty lux (many 30’s style – my type of house but updated a bit inside with a mix of old and new. I know this because, as with most Dutch homes, myself included, we leave our curtains wide open all day long ha ha) and just on the edge of the city. Of course, here we didn’t a have beer bottle opener here either, so had to ask a man here too if he could open for us hilarious! Once again grown giggling women looking for a person to assist in opening our beers.

Speaking of beer – if the terraces were open we saw some from which looked great including the ‘t Taphuys.  They have over 80 different wines and 100 beers – I’d be I heaven.  It’s one of those places where you get a card and pour your own beer. I’ve NEVER done that before – on my list!!  Just look at this photo from their site – HEAVEN for me! The building is amazing too – the old post office – the details! 

foto credit: Taphuys Arnhem

A couple others we saw were Cafe Meijers and Cafe ‘t MoorgatAnd this little place Oranje Koffiehuis is a cosy brown cafe which you know I’d have to visit if open. 

And here I am with one of my Brouwerij Ijwit beers outside on our self-made terrace in the sun! I also suggested we order takeaway and have the bike driver bring it to us at this picnic table but was overruled by the other two ladies – I found it a good idea but it was pretty windy – looking at my hair 🙂

LOCAL ITEMS TO BUY WHEN IN ARNHEM

Arnhemse Meisjes – local cookies at Bakker Hilvers

At Bakker Hilvers in Arnhem, you can buy Arnhemse Meisjes, which are traditional cookies only made in Arnhem. And in fact, this bakery makes the only original ones.  We did NOT try these but I do regret not bringing some back for the kids.

foto credit: Bakker Hilvers

Grofjes at Arnhemse Bakkertje

At the Arnhemse Bakkertje, you will find something that is called ‘grofje’. This is bread that you can tear apart and is filled with raisins & currants. It was already made before the Second World War and they luckily brought this delicious bread back. When we were walking we walked by the shop so we went in and bought 4 each – and of course, I took a few photo outside.  So cute, right!   I popped them in my freezer and gave to the kids to try.  They thought they were okay – too many calories for me so sad to say not a huge hit in our house but they do look amazing.

The walk back to Centraal Station was really nice – Sonsbeek is a great neighbourhood!  I was also was told that Klarendal is the most fashionable and hipster neighbourhood in Arnhem but we didn’t make it there but I would have liked to see it.   We did a lot of walking that day 26,000 steps per my Fitbit but I know it was more as my arm was holding two bags for our 20 minute walk back to the city so that part wasn’t registered.

WHERE TO EAT?

I LOVE Food Hallens (viisited Rotterdam, Amsterdam & Eindhoven) so we decided to go there.  As their website was not updated, we were not 100% sure if it was open or closed.  We thought perhaps it would be just takeaway from one of the 13 vendors, so we walked up to see.  Clearly it was VERY much closed!  Located on the river Rijnkade, this place is where we would have certainly had our dinner but yep – COVID!   A future trip back to Arnhem, I’m going here for sure.   Read about my visit to the Amsterdam Foodhallen. Never made one for the other two.

During the day when we were walking around, we were both a little hungry and we saw an Indian & Pakistani Street food vendor, so we had to stop and get a portion of something he was selling.  I choose the Vegan Pakora and my friend chose the samosas.   So yummy!  

Again all the terraces were closed but we had a takeaway Verse Munt thee and sat on a bench outside what would be a bustling terrace, but there were so many cool looking places from Vegan restaurants to Café Dudok like the one in Rotterdam.   Like all large Dutch cities, when open you have so many choices. As I am far from local, I cannot recommend a place unfortunately. During the walk, I did see three super cute benches which I had to take photos.

WALKING TOURS OF ARNHEM

There are various origanized tours offeredin Arnhem. LIke all big Dutch cities, they tend to be advertised as FREE a contribution at the end is grately appreciated. Petra Dielman from Arnhemlife.nl offers various tours from walking, bus, bike, street art, Battle Field, etc – the list goes on… but you can also use your smart phone and do it yourself walk. Two major players in this spare are GPSMyCity and WalkMyCity. The later only offers Arnhem in Dutch. Just a simple google and you’ll find options if walking tours are your thing.

SOME TOURIST THINGS TO DO IN ARNHEM – Outside of COVID LOCKDOWN

Cellars of Arnhem – Experience the city from below!

As it sounds, you can enjoy the city from below. There is a part of the city of Arnhem, under the shopping streets, which you can visit. The 30+ Historische Kelders or historic cellars in Arnhem were restored in 2001 and the Stichting Gilde Stadswandeling organises guided tours of these cellars throughout the year for a small fee.  Unfortunately, almost entirely not accessible for wheelchair users and yes closed now with Covid! But I would have loved this tour!

Oude Oeverstraat 4a
6811 JX Arnhem
https://historischekelders.nl

St. Eusebius Church (SINT-EUSEBIUSKERK)

St. Eusebius Church also known as the Eusebiuskerk or the Grote Kerk, at 93 metres is the largest church, and the largest building in Arnhem. It is named after the 4th-century saint Eusebius, Bishop of Vercelli. Notably the building contains an elevator that was added to the church in 1994, which allows visitors to travel to the top of the spire and view the city of Arnhem from its highest point. The glass balconies – completely made of glass! – are on the east and west sides of the tower. Constructed at a height of 60 meters, they offer a phenomenal and unobstructed view of Arnhem and the surrounding area. It is the selfie place par excellence. Each balcony weighs around 2,500 kilograms and is attached to the tower by a variety of methods including steel cables. The glass plate that forms the bottom can easily carry up to six people at a time

Visitors to the church are also able to enter the crypt below the building. This part of the building has only very dim light in a central part. By carefully exploring a number of darkened cavernous areas, most of which are either barred as if being a part of old gaol cells, or in some cases as clearly exhumed shallow graves, the visitor can find ancient human bones which have been left in the state of their burial or death

View their website for booking details corona restrictions and see photos of the glass balcony – not sure I’d stand on it. Part of me says yes – live a little and be adventurous, but the sensible side says NO WAY!!

Sabre Gate (Sabelspoort)

Sabre Gate (also known as Eusebius Gate). The gate was first mentioned in 1357 and that is considered to be the period when it was built. The main function of this gate was initially to defend the city. Later it was also used to guard the prisoners and the insane people. Before the WW2, the gate was surrounded by houses, but during the war years these houses were so badly damaged that after the liberation they were demolished. The tower itself was damaged but restored. The gate was restored 2 times, once in 1642 and then in 1952. After the restoration the second gate part of the Province House became the province of Gelderland.

Devil’s House (DUIVELSHUIS)

This is a city castle from the 16th century. The house was owned by Duke Charles of Gelre and was sold to Martin of Rossum after his death. Then it came into the hands of the municipality and got the name: Maarten van Rossum Huis. Yet the name Duivelshuis is still used, which is derived from the satyrs (beings where the lower body is a goat and the upper body is a human). There are several folk tales about the Duivelshuis. The house is still part of the town hall where many marriages are closed.

MUSEUMS OF COURSE

Located in Sonsbeek Park, this museum has been on my to visit list with the kids for a long time.  So when things open up again we’ll have to return and visit it.  Then I have an exuse to stop in that crazy shop and eat the FoodHallen.

Airborne Museums Arnhem

Two museums belong to the Airborne Museum. The first one ‘Airborne at the Bridge’ can be found inside the city of Arnhem near the John Frost Bridge. This museum in Arnhem will mostly give you information about the battle on the John Frost Bridge and in this area of Arnhem.

There are other museums in the area – including the very popular Netherlands Open Air Museum (Nederlands Openluchtmuseum), which you can find on the Museumkaart website.

Burgers’ Zoo & Safari Park

Also on my list to visit is this one Burgers’ Zoo – I hear it’s huge and would be a great day out for both adults & kids.

Rent a bike and explore the surroundings of Arnhem

The area of Arnhem is lovely for cycling. You can cycle to the Hoge Veluwe National Park or The Netherlands Open Air Museum, for example. But cycling along the Nederrijn river is also a perfect idea. Renting standard city bikes in Arnhem can be made at City Bike Experience (note there is also always a deposit which must be paid in cash, and you need to bring an id/passport).

Walk the bridge to bridge route in Arnhem

Every September there’s a running event in Arnhem that is called the ‘bridge to bridge’. You can participate in this running event that exists out of several routes, but if you’re not there during that time, or don’t want to run you can just walk the bridge route.

To walk the bridge to bridge route in Arnhem you have to walk from the John Frost Brug to the Nelson Mandela Brug. You could walk a full route and walk on the side of the centre of Arnhem one way and along the park on the other side the way back.

Go for a ride on the trolley bus

Trolleybuses in the Netherlands are very rare! Arnhem is the only city in the Netherlands and the Benelux that still has a trolley bus network and it is one of the biggest networks of trolleybuses in Western Europe. If you want to know more about the trolley bus, then you can visit the Trolley Bus Museum in Arnhem. This is one of the free things to do in Arnhem. You can see what they look like in the photo behind me and my friend – nothing special to look at truthfully. I think the old trams in Den Haag are much nicer!

Of course, as stated above as most things were not open, so we didn’t go inside the famous tourist things mentioned above so this post is not the most insightful but rather a place to capture my memory of our trip to Arnhem. 

Do you have a tip or suggestion of a great place to see, restaurant to try, or something off the beaten path to do in Arnhem for a future visit?  I KNOW there are tons of things to do in the city that I have not touched upon here.  Send me a message and let me know any hidden gems or off-the-beaten track things worth seeing. I know for sure that I will go back and visit again when things open. Plus as my Taalmaatje is originally from there she offered to show me around a bit too.


Happy 11th Birthday My Girl!

My Dear Maebh,

Like I always say at the start of every birthday “it’s so hard to believe that x number of years ago I held you in my arms for the first time and looked deeply into your big, beautiful eyes.”  Well, this year it’s #11 baby!   You have officially become a “tween” on this birthday, in between childhood & teenage years.  Not a day goes by that I don’t look into those same huge eyes with a love that has only grown since the day I first saw you.  “My girl” as I said at Mass General Hospital when they handed me to you.  Totally in shock as I was CONVINCED you were a boy!   

What does  “TWEEN” actually mean for you? In these ways you struggling in between as a “TWEEN”

In between women and girl clothes.

Still finding your style – and looking forward to fitting my clothes – especially all my SHOES!

In between kids meals & adult entrees.

In between cuddling stuffed animals and texting on your phone.

Liking a boy one day & not the next.

Wanted to stay up late but exhausted!

Some days you are struggling in between, I see the changes. I see how your little face still lights up and I see the way you feel when I don’t understand you or when you are annoyed with me. I was once here too my girl… a tween wondering why don’t they get me. In fact, today at 46 I sometimes think the same thing – why don’t they get me! 🙂

I’m not going to write a huge letter this year highlighting what is going on in your/our lives.   You can also read last year’s letter here. There has been, no doubt, challenges but what also has been is GROWTH.  You have developed more this year and will continue to grow.  Both physically my little peanut but emotionally, intellectually and socially!   Continue taking those “small steps” is all I ask that you take and you’ll see how far you can overcome any obstacles blocking your way. 

There is not a day that goes my which we do not have music & dancing, laughter & creativity in our home. And you know why?  It’s because YOU are so creative and warm that you bring that out in all of us.  Whether you are teaching me a new Tik Tok dance or making a fidget toy in your room and proudly showing us, your creative brain is always buzzing. Look at these plain white garden shoes you decorated on a whim! I’d never think to add little daisies to them – but that is your creativeness. I know you’ll never lose that sparkle and shine! 

I’ve not often said this to you because we have not yet really hit the “puber” hole which we are about to dive into together [along with your 13 year old brother – help me 🙂 ] but know that I’m your mother first and your friend second. My job is to guide you through the tough waters ahead, keep you safe and help you grow into the woman you’re destined to become. My decisions won’t always be popular with you, I’m sure you’re realising that by now when I say no to some things.  But, no matter what, I love you unconditionally and nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever change that my girl.

With Covid still keeping kids birthday parties from happening, I know as an 11 year old you are disappointed in the fact that now two years in a row you have missed out on a party. You were, however, able to celebrate nicely surrounded by family and loved ones and that is what matters most. A decorated house, a Christoffel tart, presents and well-wishes from so many near & abroad – and a new Oodle – you were one happy girl this birthday.

We are all so proud of the person you are Maebh! Continue to be yourself – don’t conform stay true to you. One way is we’re putting in that pink or purple hair dye this weekend because that is what you want, not mama 🙂

Love Mom! xxx

Flammkuchen – Quick & Easy Rustic German Fare!

Not sure why on my 46 years on this planet have I never made, let alone ate Flammkuchen until today!! There was a bar which specialized in them and speciality beers in Den Bosch but sadly closed down with Covid. If you are a fan of thin crust pizza (which I am) this is a must try. I was inspired when I saw Hugo Kennis making a “Duits hapjes platter on the 5 Uur Live show – recipes are here. In the same episode, he also made curryworst but I’ll totally pass on that but I know the kids would love it.

My plan was to make two types of Flammkuchen. Salmon & Leeks and Spek & Red Onion and both were so good! After the first two, the kids were still hungry so I used the 3rd & 4th sheet – one for a combo of the aforementioned as I still had leftovers. And then for a treat, I made one with apples and cinnamon. Clearly a success as there was not a single piece left!! I look forward to being creative and making new combinations in the the future.

A Flam What?

Flammkuchen pronounced flam-KOOK-en) also known by its French name “Tarte Flambée” comes from South Germany and the Alsace region of France (along the southwestern French-German border).  According to the wikipedia entry, it was made as a way to test the heat of the oven the farmers used to make bread. Then they added some ingredients as topping, and voila – a whole new kind of “pizza” was created.

What is the difference between Flammkuchen and Pizza?

Unlike traditional pizza, Flammkuchen or Tarte Flambée does not have an underlying layer of tomato sauce under cheese (normally mozzarella) and toppings. While you can use any toppings that you like for you flammkuchen, the most traditional combination includes bacon and caramelized onions. And instead of cheese, Flammkuchen uses crème fraîche or cottage cheese (fromage blanc or weißer Käse) seasoned with a sprinkle of nutmeg and black pepper. Your options are endless – just google Flammkuchen or Tarte Flambee recipes and you’ll see soooo many options. Here is one in English from The Guardian. I’ve seen some which look so good including this Green Asparagus, Feta & Red Onion from Jumbo’s recipe guide in Dutch – that is one that I’d make next for sure!

Dough – make or buy?

Like with pizza, you can buy or make our own dough. For me, I never make my own. But this dough is quite simple – a mixture of flour, salt, water, and oil that mixes together well and kneads nice and smooth. But I figure why bother, when you can get a four pack of pre-rolled out, perfectly formed rectangle sheets at Sligo for less than €2. I need to mention that Sligro is my second favorite shop in the Netherlands. And maybe from past posts, you probably know that Amazing Oriental is first. Maybe one day I’ll do a blog post on those two shops. I already did one on Intratuin – being more than your average garden center – it’s another great shop – even for non-green thumbs like myself. Anyway back to the dough and the main difference from your typical pizza is that there is no yeast or other leavening agent. It’s just a pretty simple dough. So it doesn’t rise – just try and get it as thin as you can. Or be like me and buy the base.

Tips when making.

1.) Less is really is more in this dish. Like when you make a pizza, if you add too many toppings, it won’t crisp up and you end up with a soggy base – yuck! So, same concept -keep the toppings light! You are better off with a few an one big mushy one.

2.) If you are using spek (bacon pieces) do first pan from they so they are crispy. If using onions, I recommend you pan fry them too – or alternatively let them soak in water for a bit before putting on, otherwise, they can burn too quickly as your oven is really hot!

3.) If you are in the US or a place you cannot find creme fraiche, you can mix of sour cream and Greek yogurt.

4.) It can be tricky to slide the Flammkuchen onto a baking tray, so just make it already on the baking tray – but be sure you put down parchment paper – so they don’t stick!

So that was my experience with Flammkuchen. One day I’ll finally get to Italy and enjoy their pizza. For now I’ll fondly remember the escargot pizza in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, France which sounds awful to some but really SO GOOOOOD! Of course, I know Italian and Turkish pizza – what’s next to try? Polish Pizza?

Have a suggestion other than better quality food photos 🙂 – do let me know!