Happy 10th Birthday Maebh

Copy of Maebh turnsxxxx

My Dearest Maebh,

I’ve been talking a lot lately about how grown-up you have become.  And it’s true.  Each time I look at you I’m amazed with the young person that you have become.  Now you’re ten years old and part of the double digits club too!  Remember back when Soren turned 10 – you sooo looked forward to also becoming 10.

Gone are the baby and toddler days.  At 10, you are now a full-fledged individual with your own thoughts and actions and ideas and interests.  As we enter into this new stage of life, I want to tell you some things:

YOU ARE SMART!   Like really wicked smaaat – insert a thick Boston accent!  You’re amazing at geography and trivia!   And can’t begin to say how impressed at how you’ve learned the Dutch language so quickly.  What about Math!?  Sometimes I have to do out the problems on paper and you’ve already calculated it in your head!   Can’t wait for you to learn more about science and biology – you’ll be fascinated!  It’s cool to be smart – never think otherwise!

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!  You have an infectious smile that lights up a room.  Your eyes are the most beautiful gray/green color and your silky hair, you know how much I love the color of it. But even more importantly, you are just as beautiful on the inside as you are out.

STAY MUSICAL!  Keep on playing the piano, singing and dancing!  Let music continue to fill your days!

IT IS OKAY TO CRY!  Some days you are just going to want to CRY!  Go ahead, let those tears flow.  A good cry is sometimes what is needed and I’m always be there to wipe your tears away.

EMOTIONS ARE NORMAL!  I wear my heart on my sleeve and so do you.  So your emotions will get the best of you sometimes.  Hormones are going to start to rear their ugly faces soon.  Embrace your emotions – feel all of them.  Talk about them.  You’ll learn to control them one day – well, some of them.  I’m still trying to figure this out and I’m nearly 46! J

YOU ARE A LOYAL, KIND & CARING FRIEND!  Your friends should never forget how much of an inclusive, wonderful and caring friend and sister you are.  How you welcome new children into your world without a care and make them feel secure.  Being a new kid to the group and having to start over a few times in life and school has, I’m sure, taught you this very important characteristic.

GIRLS CAN BE MEAN!  The next few years, you’ll understand this more and more.  You’ll make so many friends – many will come and go.  A few true friends will be there forever.  When girls are mean, remember to be kind and talk with me.  Don’t hold it in and try to deal with it alone.  Chances are I’ve been there before.  If not, we can be there TOGETHER!

YOU CAN TRUST ME AND TELL ME EVERYTHING!   Anytime. Anyplace. Anything. Always!  I’m here for you…. No judgement!

I LOVE YOU!    No explanation needed – I LOVE YOU!

You are MY GIRL. You turned my life upside down from the moment you were placed in my arms.  Being YOUR mom is one of the greatest joys I will have in my life. I have always said that you were created for something BIG and I cannot wait to see all that in store for you.

You entered this word very quickly – only 3 hours from the start of my first contraction to holding you in my arms.   And as with Soren, your gender was a surprise.  Deep down inside, I really wanted a girl and was prepared for a another amazing boy… BUT it was SOOO extra special when Papa said, “your wish came true, it’s a girl”.   My eyes and heart beamed – I have my girl.  Ever since then, you and I have been attached – our special “mother/daughter” bond – is one that can never be broken no matter what.

This birthday was going to be a very special one with a trip to the Efteling.  Sadly,  a party with friends will have to wait due to the CV-19 crisis, but I promise you, you’ll have another special day in the future surrounded by friends and family to celebrate YOU!

I really want you to “HAVE IT ALL” and this is my song to you.  You know the one I sing really loudly to you when it comes on my Spotify.  Read the words my darling.

May you have auspiciousness and causes of success
May you have the confidence to always do your best
May it take no effort in you being generous
Sharing what you can, nothing more, nothing less

May you know the meaning of the word “happiness”
May you always lead from the beating in your chest
May you be treated like an esteemed guest
May you get to rest, may you catch your breath

And may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows, whoa-oh
And may the road less paved be the road that you follow, whoa-oh

Well, here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you
I want you to have it

Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
You don’t need money, you’ve got free pass
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all

All (all)
I want you to have it all (have it all)
I want you to have it (have it all)
I want you to have it all (have it all)

May you be as fascinating as a slap bracelet
May you keep the chaos and the clutter off your desk
May you have unquestionable health and less stress
Having no possessions though immeasurable wealth

May you get a gold star on your next test
May your educated guesses always be correct
And may you win prizes, shining like diamonds
May you really own it each moment to the next

And may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows, whoa-oh
And may the road less paved be the road that you follow, whoa-oh

Well, here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you
I want you to have it

Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
You don’t need money, you’ve got free pass
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all

All (all)
I want you to have it all (have it all)
I want you to have it (have it all)
I want you to have it all (have it all)

Oh, I want you to have it all
All you can imagine, oh
No matter what your path is
If you believe it then anything can happen

Go go go, raise your glasses
Go go go, you can have it all

I toast you!

Here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you
I want you to have it

Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
You don’t need money, you’ve got free pass
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all

All (all)
I want you to have it all (have it all)
I want you to have it (have it all)
I want you to have it all (have it all)
I want you to have it

(All)
Here’s to the good times we gonna have
(I want you to have it all)
Here’s to you always making me laugh
(I want you to have it all)
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
(I want you to have it all)
I want you to have it all

Wishing you the happiest 10th birthday my darling!

Love your biggest fan!

Your mom!

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She had a great birthday considering the CV-19 issue.  Skyped with cousins, received loads of well-wishes on Facebook and Whatsapp.  Received both acrylic and water color paints and a voucher to go buy rollerblades soon – was very happy.   Made a cake with her brother and decorated it herself.  Both kids will continue to enjoy it over the next couple days.     I’ve also included photos from the chocolate chip cookies from a couple days ago – which they loved too.  Both kids felt like they were on NailedIt using my KitchenAid – only I’m not anywhere near funny as Nicole Byers and no one wins $10,000.

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Kool-Aid Dyed Hair For Kids

Kool-Aid Dyed Hair For Kids

So thanks to real-life and to Pinterest, Tic Tok and the entire social media influences, my nearly 10 year old decided she wanted to dip the ends of her hair a color and for her 10th birthday.  She wasn’t sure which color – pink, blue, purple….  but decided on pinkish.     I thought it would a fun thing for her to express herself – why not?  SO I agreed!  Plus it’s not permanent!!

BEFORE PHOTO

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I asked my hairdresser here if they dyed kids hair, but she didn’t.  So we did some searches and decided to try the Kool-Aid method.  It is simple, cheap, not permanent, and won’t damage her hair like typical hair dyes might!  All it takes is 15 minutes, a little water, and some Kool-Aid packets!

Sounds simple right… well, as we live in the Netherlands, Kool-Aid is not a thing here – thankfully as it’s disgusting to drink – just my opinion.  Perhaps we could have tried to find it at Kelly’s Expat Shop but we didn’t go looking.   Worst case we’d have to find some sort of child-friendly chalk but my sister volunteered to send me an assortment of colors from which she could choose.   Very nice of her considering the package costs €15  – outrageous for postage!

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SUPPLIES

  • Kool-Aid packages (use 2-3 packages to get a more vibrant color)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Heat-proof bowl/glass which hair will be put into
  • Old t-shirt & dark old towel [which will get ruined]  Note:  I used a few sheets of paper towels to wrap up the hair at the end as I don’t own any old dark towels only nice white ones.)
  • Plastic gloves – optional but I highly recommend

THE PROCESS WE FOLLOWED

This process is best done on newly washed hair that has been completely dried and combed through.    If you only want to have the underneath part of the hair colored, separate it and put the rest of the hair up in a clip.  We chose to do the entire bottom part so we did a low ponytail.

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As mentioned above, be sure you have  your child dress in an old t-shirt that you don’t care about getting colored.  The hair will most likely drip and could possibly dye the shirt they are wearing.   Or you could also put a towel over the shoulders.  I don’t have an old dark towel, so I used paper towels instead in the end to wrap up the pony.  Also, I would recommend gloves if you don’t want your fingers to also be the color of the hair!

MIXING THE KOOL AID DYE

Combine your Kool-Aid packages (we used only one = Tropical Punch) and a cup of water in a pot and heat on medium-high heat until boiling.   Boil for one minute, then remove from the heat.  Pour your mixture into a heat resistant cup or bowl – I used a pyrex measuring cup.   Be very careful – as your child will need to sit with this boiling hot liquid behind him/her.    Depending on how much hair you want colored will determine how much liquid you want.   I read later that adding a few drop of condition to this process helps the color go on more evenly – ???

CAREFULLY DIP HAIR IN HEAT RESISTANT BOWL

Dip hair or (ponytail) into Kool-Aid mixture.  I used a plastic spoon/fork to move the hair around every few minutes to ensure we got it all and as she has really thick hair.  As you’ll see in the final photo, the color didn’t evenly cover all the hair the first time we tried this.  Second time, I might skip the pony and just put the hair in freely.  [will update post with photos if we do it a second time]

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HOW LONG DO I LEAVE IN THE HAIR?

Well, I did her hair in one section and let it soak for about 10 minutes total.  If you have darker hair may need 20-25.  Once the hair is done, ring it out with an old towel to avoid drips (again I  used thick paper towels and it was fine).   You can do strands if you want the same way vs just one big pony if you want to do different colors.   Repeat and move on to the next section until all is complete.

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FINAL STEPS

Once it was colored as you want, it’s time to blow-dry the hair using a comb to brush out any tangles.  It could be stuff and a bit sticky – hers was.   Then style as you wish.

Here is was evident that it was a bit more orange.   She doesn’t mind it at all but I think one of these days soon, we’ll give it another try with “Cherry” so that it will be more pink color as originally hoped.   Will update with new photos – if & when we do it.

 

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HOW TO REMOVE KOOL AID HAIR DYE

Depending on how often you wash your hair the Kool-Aid will naturally fade in about two to three weeks time.  But if you really want to remove the dye for your hair sooner you can try this.  Boil a pot of water on the stove. Pour the boiling water into a heat safe container. To the water add 2 tablespoons of baking soda and stir to dissolve. Dip your hair into the water for about 30 seconds. You should instantly see the dye coming off. Hair may be dipped a few times if needed. This is extremely drying for the hair so be sure make to deep conditioner.

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Update: April 11th

Essential Buttercream Piping Techniques Workshop

Essential Buttercream Piping Techniques Workshop

On Saturday, I attended a wonderful 3-hour Essential Buttercream Piping Techniques workshop in Waalre, a suburb of Eindhoven.   It might sound far but it was about 1/2 hour from Den Bosch – so no biggie.   Lucky for me it was given in English.  Last year I took a Royal Icing course in Dutch, which was fine and I followed along perfectly, but when it’s given in your mother tongue, it’s just that much easier.

I found the course being advertised on an Expat Facebook group I belong to a few months back and after reading the description and seeing it was on a Saturday morning, I knew it would be perfect for what I wanted.  The course was €65 for 3 hours.

In this class you will learn to decorate cupcakes beautifully using buttercream and a variety of piping nozzles. You will create a classic swirl, rosettes, dots and frills.  This class is the perfect start to cake decorating.

During the class you will learn:

  • About the different types of buttercream
  • How to pipe using various piping nozzles
  • Techniques using essential Wilton 1M and 2D nozzles
  • How to pipe a rosette
  • How to pipe a classic swirl
  • How to achieve a 2-tone effect.

You will take away a set of 6 decorated buttercream cupcakes, 2 wilton piping nozzles and piping bags. You will leave with the confidence to decorate your own cupcakes at home.

I already new about the traditional American style buttercream as that is what we grew up eating and making.   But Italian Buttercream and Swiss Meringue Buttercream were new to me – in that I’ve never made them but I watch Preppy Kitchen making them so I knew how they were made.   He is a very talented baker by the way is funny so if you are looking for a new one to watch, John is your man.  We didn’t actually MAKE the icing but worked with it and got to enjoy it during our coffee break.

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There were six of us in total and we each had practice trays and our own supplies where we learned how to use the different tips.  We were given step-by–step instructions on how to do a classic swirl, rosette & how to create a 2-tone effect and so much more.   She even gave tips to each of us on how we could improve though out the course.  After each newly learned technique, we self practiced a bit until we were confident to do our real cupcakes.

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We all had individual work areas set up where we had space to practice the techniques we were learning … then when we were confident enough, we were able to do the real deal on our cupcakes.

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foto cedit: KMCakes

The six cupcakes which we decorated and took home were made using Swiss Meringue.  My kids were not the biggest fans of the taste but I’m sure it was only that they are not used it it and never had it.  They only ever had American Buttercream.   It’s the same with fondant – not fans.  It might grow on them – we’ll see… as I’ll make Swiss Meringue buttercream next time.  They tasted yummy to me.  But I normally don’t eat my own treats so I shared one with my SIL and will share the rest too….  They are just too pretty to eat.

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We even left  with a goody bag containing some piping bags, two tips, a recipe card and a yummy home-made cookie.

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Co-incidentally it is my son’s 12th birthday Monday and I’m making cupcakes for his traktatie at school.  Originally I was going to do Royal Icing cookies as that is my passion but as I did them for Sint and Kert Dinner, he wanted something different so we are doing cupcakes.

 

So perfect timing to use some of my new piping skills.   Here are the final cupcakes I whipped up last night quickly after hosting a family birthday party for my son at our house yesterday later afternoon with 6 kids & 6 adults.   Today during lunch when my kids came home for lunch, my daughter told me that a girl in S’s class said to her “tell your mom, she makes the best desserts”.

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I’ve already recommend the workshops to my friends on Facebook, but the host, Kate, from KM Cakes  is so personable and professional.  The whole experience was just so lovely – it was really a great time.  I’ll definitely keep and eye out for future workshops.  She really knows what she is doing, is very clear at explaining – HIGLY recommend!  Her work is amazing  – just have a look at her site.  If you need a cake for an event like a birthday, party or even a wedding cake or just love treats – she has a cake club too – check out her site  and see her gallery for yourself.   Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

Let me know if you’ve tried Swiss or Italian buttercream varieties before? Any tips? I know they are tricky to make and have a lot of steps, but I’m up for the challenge.  What about another interesting cooking/baking course in the Netherlands? I took a sushi making course and Korean kimchi making course, so I’m always up for learning how to make new dishes.

*NOTE:  This is not a sponsored post – all opinions are my own and I received no compensation.  It is simply me, sharing my experiences about this workshop. 

A visit to the Nationaal Carnavals Museum: s’-Hertogenbosch

A visit to the Nationaal Carnavals Museum:  s’-Hertogenbosch

It is tradition that our kids school takes a field trip to the Nationaal Carnavals Museum just before the start of Carnival.  Oeteldonk runs in the blood of many people here in Brabant so naturally it’s a tradition celebrated in the schools here in s’-Hertogenbosch.   In fact, each year there is an school emblem competition [a patch worn on boerenkiels or jackets]..  While neither of my kids won, they both received an honorable mention for their badges.  I thought I took photos of their final drawings but I cannot seem to find them. Anyway I did find this one on my photo so you can get an idea of M’s.

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When the class mother asked if anyone could help chaperone the kids, I immediately volunteered.  It’s good for my oefenen and I somewhat enjoy the Carnival celebrations of my “adopted city” and have not yet been to this museum so I signed up!  Our kids do not have boerenkiels or jackets (yet – we do hope to have them soon) but I wrapped Maebh in the traditional red white and yellow Oeteldonk colors scarf complete with a frog on her shoulder (Soren’s scarf from last year) and sent her off to school.

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The Oeteldonks Gemintemuzejum is located in an idyllic spot in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, on the site of the former gatehouse of the medieval Sisters of Orthenklooster and located on the Binnendieze.

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Foto credit: Indebuurt.nl

Essentially off the Hinthamstraat and down an alley way.  I was totally immersed in the rich history of the national, international and Oeteldonk carnival.  The “muzejum” has a permanent collection with all kinds of masks, clothing, promotional material, weapons, shields and other valuable and important objects from the history of carnival and Oeteldonk. Thematic exhibitions are also organized in the summer months.  We had a tour with a very informative & passionate woman who told us EVERYTHING about the history and details of the carnival in her own unique way geared towards children.    And truthfully she was a lot more patient than I could be with children – especially 10 year old boys who cannot stand still and focus 🙂    I learned so much about carnival in, but also outside of Oeteldonk – far beyond the borders.  I highly recommend a visit to this museum if you are ever in Den Bosch and curious about Carnival.

If you are not 100% sure what the fus is about Oeteldonk or why Carival is so big here in Den Bosch.    First the name Oeteldonk stems from Den Bosch’ geological condition and history (donk = sandy hill; oetel is agreed to allude to frog): a sandy place found in a swampy area outside the town. The vernacular language of Den Bosch is spoken, best understood if it’s not written, but spoken out loud.  Cities change their names for the period:  Den Bosch becomes Oeteldonk; Bergen op Zoom Krabbegat and Tilburg Kruikenstad.

Secondly, check out this blog post “How to make sense of Carnival” done by Cora of Free Den Bosch Tours – she touches on the FAQs quiet well.  Forget the cow and bunny suits filling up with cans of beer in the AH on Vughterstraat – do that elsewhere – preferably far away say in Maastricht but not Den Bosch… you won’t fit in here.  🙂  And it if you haven’t done one of Cora’s Free Den Bosch Tours – do it!

Beyond the name there is the Prince and the Jr. Price (and his court), and parades with amazing floats, a kids parade, the clothing, brass bands and carnival songs.  It’s just something you need to experience.   I will add that some people absolutely HATE it and leave town for the period.    Being from abroad, I neither love it or hate it but I am in the middle – I certainly don’t buy a one way ticket out of town nor do I go out each until 4 am.

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foto credit: indebuurt
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foto credit: indebuurt
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foto credit: indebuurt

Many store fronts decorate inside and of course.  In fact, last year the kids did artwork at school and they are put in the store windows around the city and there is a competition between schools.   We are then given a map and the kids and I walked around and found their specific pieces on display.   Oh and each day I get to see hundreds of people come by my house going into the city on the bikes dressed in the decorated jackets.

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In case you are inspired to visit, all the details for 2020 Carnival here in Den Bosch including the parade route, etc can be found by clicking that link.

UPDATE:  Me and M have jasje’s which we are pimping out now – working on getting on that fits S and then working on his last.   Exciting 🙂

I have so many photos from Carnaval which I will add in the future… for now here are a few from Friday.

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12th Birthday Party @ Hezemans Indoor Karting

12th Birthday Party @  Hezemans Indoor Karting

Not that long after we moved to the Netherlands, I took the kids to Speelland at Berkse Bergen and it was there where Soren got bit by the karting bug.  While it’s a small track, for €2. you can drive around the outdoor kartbaan a few laps. So he did that a few times the two times we visited and he LOVED it.  He also visited American Road House in Zaltbommel and did karting with his dad.

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So it was no surprise when we asked him if he wanted a karting birthday party this year for a small group of friends, he agreed.  As he didn’t have a kids’ party last year, we really wanted to be sure to do something extra fun this year.  So after looking at our options we chose to drive down and check out Hezemans in Eindhoven.  It’s not that far of a drive and looked like the nicest and most professionally-run place.   During our short 15 minute visit, we were sold and he was so excited.    Here is he is with his favorite driver Max.  

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However we were not 100% sure that the parents of his friends would allow their kids to go karting as most boys around 11 wouldn’t have ever been karting before…  thankfully they all agreed!   

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For kids,  they offer two sizes karts.   Mini karts: for kids who are between 1.20 – 1.45 m and Junior karts:  for kids taller than 1.45 m but younger than 16 years old.  Thankfully all the boys who came along were taller, so they were all able to go into the Junior karts.  Our 9 year old daughter who came along yet didn’t race.  In fact, she couldn’t race with them even if she wanted to join as she’s not yet 1.45 m and they are pretty strict so something to keep in mind when booking this type of party.   We also kept the party quite small – which makes it much more manageable plus we had limited seats in the two cars.

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Kids Party Packages

Hezemans offers different party packages for groups of 4 kids or more;  which include track time, pancakes or fries and a snack.  You can add extra heats and even bowling or cooking your own food on a stone grill in the middle of the table.   All of the info is outlined on their website so you can customize how you want for your needs.   It can take kids a few laps to get the hang of it so they gave them some time for a practice ride and then another 8 or 10 minutes to really start racing.   You could see the confidence build and the lap times getting faster and faster.  They boys were really was impressive.   Our five guys were on the track with another party of four lads – who were celebrating a birthday too.  The one boy who faster than Soren attends their Sunday sessions so has a lot of experience.  I told Soren it might be something could try out more… but for now he had a LOT of fun doing this.    All in all we were there for about 3 hours.    They also have the kids parties on certain days & times  – we did a Friday from 3-6 pm as there is a lot of demand for adult parties here.  For obvious safety reasons, they cannot have the kid and adults on the track at the same time.

We did add 55 minutes of bowling into our party package for €12.50  which was fun and helped make the party a bit longer.  We were afraid of traffic heading out of Eindhoven on Friday night at 5:00 pm so it was great to wait just that big longer.  When we left after eating, there was no traffic – perfecr!!

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Safety first!

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At first we could see all the boys were a bit nervous about what to expect when they were out on the track.  What if they crashed.. how fast do they go, etc.   Their experts first show kids an instructional video and then gear them up in helmets and neck guards. Each child is fitted into a kids’ cart to ensure they can reach the pedals. Drivers aren’t let on to the track until they know how to brake, accelerate and back up, etc.  So the staff questions the kids to ensure they know what they are going.    It was 100% in Dutch so I didn’t get it all but my son did so that is good 🙂  The staff stays on the track to help young drivers who bump into the rails and to keep them in check if any issues.  Which at the end there was a few issues – apparently on the last heat one of the older boys in the other group did some banging into the back of two of our kids and a few tears were shed – which I think came about more in frustration than pain.   After a few minutes – tears were gone and all seemed fine.

Party Planning

The staff at were extremely helpful in figuring out the details of our go karting birthday party and during the party itself.  When you arrive, you are assigned a large table so you can come in and your have a place to leave your coats and keep as your sort of “base”.  As we live about 1/2 hour away, we had the kids first come to our house from school to hang out.  Cleary it’s a new world for me between the conversations and things which come out of the mouths of some of these boys and the fact that they were ALL (well one wasn’t as he doesn’t have a phone yet) playing on their PHONES together… I just had to take a photo.

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As they get out of school at 12:30 pm and we didn’t have to be there until 3, I first had the boys come back to ours.   They first had lunch – requested  Brabants worstenbroodjes, chips & soda = healthy & yummy – NOT 🙂  But I did make two delicious home-made cakes that morning, which they have been eating each day since.

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What I am not sure is if you are allowed to bring your own cake to the place – I assume not as there was a sign on the door that said no outside food allowed – but birthday cakes might be an exception.

Medals on the Podium

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To finish off the celebration, each child received a print-out of their race standings and the all the drivers received the same medal.  Everyone went up on the podium for a photo at once.   I do wish they separated the groups for the photo, but they were all set up at once so with the birthday boys in the 1st position (coincidentally) they were the fastest racers).  So, I have no idea who the kids in the photo to the left and the tall one in the back, other than they were the other group who raced at the same time our kids did.  It happened so fast and then before you knew it half were gone and a new group was there, so I couldn’t retake the photos of group.  I could just barely get them all looking at my phone at the same time 🙂

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Overall, Soren’s 12th birthday party was a definite hit.  All but one of his friends had never experienced karting before and they were beyond pumped after their first round of laps.  I suspect he’ll have this party here again next year and perhaps he’ll inspire some friends to also have karting parties.

I have some videos here is one.

https://youtu.be/0lNMVKQR_B4

And of course, I created a photo collage of his favorite things – some old some new.

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Dear Son,

Today as you turn 12, I wish I could go back in time.   I wish I could go back and hold you as a baby. I wish I could go back to the delivery room to when Papa announced you were a boy and I insisted I see your peepee to be sure.  I’d love to see your little turtle face one more time.   Even with your colic and your need to sleep in the swing for the first four months of your life.  I hated to return to work after 12 weeks home with you and bringing you daily to Turtle Funs daycare – so when I had to chance to take redundancy and stay home, I jumped on it.  Being as stay at home mom for years has been rewarding as ever. It has also had challenging times when I felt lost and struggled and questioned if it was the right decision for me as a person.  But I honestly believe you turned out the way you are today because of the time I was able to spend with you each and every day.  I wish I could go back, sit still and be in that same moment just one more time.

When I look at pictures of you in your toddler years with your round cheeks and long fingers, I smile.  Wondering if you’d be a lefty based on the way you held your markers and paint brush or the way you threw a ball.   Inside my heart breaks a little bit because I wish I could squeeze you as you ask me a billion questions in your tiny voice, just one more time.

Now you lay on the couch next to me with your giant feet protruding under a fleece blanket and a telephone in your hands watching the Voice, Wie is de Mol and Hoogvliegers.  How and where has this time gone?  And here you are, this tall boy that will be a man when I blink just a few more times.

You’ve become gifted in the art of rolling your eyes when you disagree, and saying “Mom, just listen to me for a second…”. I’m not always good at listening; we both know that. We don’t always agree and sometimes I don’t handle our disagreements very well; I’m working on that.

But no matter what, you’re still my little boy. Even though your hands are nearly bigger than mine and your feet are now just that much bigger.  I still love your innocence and my help with doing your hair … and the fact that you only wear deodorant after gym les, and you take the LONGEST showers in the world.  You’re still my little boy.  You’ll be my little boy forever.

When I look back at those days when you were just a dream in my heart or a seven pound baby in my arms…I had no idea. I had no idea the incredible young man you would become. I had no idea how my heart would stretch and grow with every day of being your mom..I had no idea how proud or in love I would be.

I wish I could go back, but I wouldn’t want to miss a second of watching you right now. Raising you has been so fun and I’m looking forward to seeing you continue to grow… what will 12 bring … or 13 or 14.

Focus & do well in school – try your hardest and doors will open for you.  Without giving it your all, life will only be harder.   The choice is yours…

Stay curious my boy!!

Love Mom!

Intratuin: More than just your average garden center.

Intratuin:  More than just your average garden center.

I LOVE Intratuin Garden Centers. YES, Intratuin is technically a garden center (largest in the Netherlands) and NO I am no green thumb.  Anyone knows me, knows that I kill all plants.  BUT…. this place is more than a garden center.   They have beautiful home items for sale too and they offer workshops!  It sort of reminds me of IKEA, yet better.   It’s really a nice shop for all ages.  If you are mobile you can walk and walk following the route.  Kids can play a bit, older folks can sit down for a long time if they want in the cafe – I witnessed it first hand… many being rolled around in their wheelchairs – perhaps an afternoon out from the nursing home?

Intratuin is a great place to visit any time a year and they update their site and store based on seasons.   At Christmas time they really have the place decorated and there is a walk you can do through the store with lights, music, decor – a real must-see.   We were there during the Herfstvakantie for the Kid’s Workshop: Pompoen Snijden.  During the summer they offer a lot in terms out outdoor living & bbqs.

Today I took Maebh and her friend from school to Intratuin in Veghel for an afternoon craft event based on a tulip theme considering today was National Tulip Day.  At  €2.50 per child, they are always well worth the small fee and at 9 she LOVES to do them herself.  There is a helper there to start them off or give tips if needed.   Many times, you can buy the kit and do it at home too.

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In fact,  today was Nationale Tulpendag – the Dutch Tulip Growers created a massive temporary garden on Dam Square in Amsterdam featuring around 200,000 tulips.  Visitors then could pick some flowers to take home after walking around the displays.  I originally wanted to go here but plans changed.  Instead I took advantage of the self-pick area at Intratuin and took home 10 beautiful tulips which I picked myself.   At home I cut off the bulb myself… contrary to what you’d think you cannot just use the bulb again… it’s just waste. They are really my favorite flower and love having fresh ones at home.  I’m  looking forward to Tulip season this year and a visit to the Keukenhof and seeing the fields in full bloom.  While still early, for the past few weeks, I’ve had several bunches already… pink, yellow, white and now red.

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Anyway – back to Intratuin.  All Intratuins offer kids workshops (always €2.50) but the one closest to us only does it on Wednesday afternoons –  so unfortunately that is our busy day with early release,  piano and gymnastics, so it’s not possible.   They also have some pretty cool workshops for adults but I’ve yet to do any of them.  I’ve love to take a BBQ masterclass workshop in the summer like this blogger, AnniePannie.nl, did.  Her experience looked very cool and the photos made my mouth water!

In addition, they have a scavenger hunt thing called a “kinderspeurtocht”.

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During this month’s children’s treasure hunt, you’ll discover everything about indoor plants.  Kids explore in the store and find the answers to questions.  Pick up the treasure hunt at the service counter, investigate in our store.  Then return the answers to the service desk, where they’ll will receive a nice present.  We didn’t do this, but next time I’ll have the kids do this.

There  even has a small play area which at 9 our youngest is a bit big for but as she is gentle and small, she and her friend had fun.  Today after their craft they played with some smaller kids (safely of course).  I assume they all have the same set up  – a cafe that serves nice coffee and fresh mint tea, yummy lunch options.  I had a tomato soup and the kids had a kids meal (including a drink and poffertjes.

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While they were inside doing the craft, I enjoyed my fresh mint tea, then I walked around the shop a bit.  So many lovely things I’d love to buy.

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Thankfully I had some self-control but I love all the decorations like the cushions & throws, scented candles, beautiful plants.  I’m also trying to find a new throw for the sofa – a fully, warm one that doesn’t leave fluff.   Here are some photos I took but they do not do justice on how beautiful the items really are – the store is so lovely.

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They have a small area for pets.  Along with food and grooming products, they sell hampsters, rats and a couple bunnies.  But Maebh really loves stopping by and looking at the fish section – so that takes about 20 minutes.  She picks out which exact fish, which tank, which decorative items she’d like inside.  Hummm – I have no desire about having an aquarium at home.  I don’t mind going to see them in their tanks at the shop, but I think keeping a fish tank clean and ph balanced is a lot of work.  I told her a single fish in a bowl of water is an option  – but not today!  I hope she forgets!

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I’ll keep an eye out on both the upcoming kids & adult workshops at the Intratuin and look forward to our next visit.   Of course a workshop to improve my lack of a green thumb would be very handy as I now have a whopping two plants in the house that I’ve managed to keep alive now for a while!!

 

A Quick One Night Away In Groningen

A Quick One Night Away In Groningen

In September over a family anniversary dinner, my son and his dad made plans to see their favorite football team take on FC Groningen with a cousin.  So my daughter and I decided to tag along and make a night away out of it!  So the four of us headed up towards Groningen on Saturday.  We arrived around 3:30 pm, so not the most ideal time to arrive to spend the entire day exploring [as I had hoped to arrive by noon] but my son had to first play his soccer game – that was important – and happy he did as he scored – TWO goals!

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How to get to Groningen from s’-Hertogenbosch

We could have certainly driven our car but as we live here in the Netherlands, we have personalized OV-chip cards, so we have the subscription which allows us to get 40% off during off-peak hours which includes weekends. If you live in the Netherlands, I highly recommend doing this as well – as it makes travel so much cheaper!  Kids are FREE until 12 so that is great –  we took the train.

While there is not a non-stop train from Den Bosch to Groningen (nor should there be – not a demand for it), it is VERY simple to take a train from here to Utrecht, switch to a different train (with a short wait)  and then it’s direct to Groningen.

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Our Hotel – City Hotel Groningen

There are more than a dozen choices of great hotels in the city centre of Groningen and we were looking at the Best Western, NH Hotel Groningen and Hotel de Doelen but we ended up choosing the City Hotel Groningen.  It was a great location – less than a 10 minute walk from the station.  Because there were four of us, we had to get two rooms but that was fine – boys in one and girls in the other but they were next door to each other.  They were comfortable rooms and the beds were super comfortable and the showers were awesome!  The pillows were very thick – one might say even TOO THICK – if that is even possible.  After my issue with the pillows at the hotel in Germany, I will never complain if pillow are too thick. ha ha  As you can see here in the photo of M and her new teddy, Grapes – they were super thick!  Have you ever seen a thicker pillow on a bed before?

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We left the window open enough for air and was wondering if I’d be bothered with noise from the city, but I only heard the church bells on Sunday morning around 9 but I was already awake.  Thankfully they did not ring all night long!

Breakfast was not included but we did choose to have breakfast there Sunday morning – it was buffet style and it was perfect for us.    We kept our bags at the hotel desk and picked up just before 5:00 pm after spending the day in the city.

I HIGHLY recommend this hotel and would absolutely stay here again during future visits to Groningen!

Museums to Visit

Groninger Museum

Founded in 1874, the Groninger Museum remains one of the most technologically advanced art galleries in the Netherlands. In a splendid post-modern building on the banks of the Verbindingskanaal, its three main pavilions host impressive exhibits of modern and contemporary art from both local and international artists, as well as works from the museum’s standing collections.

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Maebh and I did this on Sunday when the boys were at the game.   Tickets are normally €15 for adults and free for kids but we used our Museumkaarts so entrance was free.      You don’t need to pre-book tickets if you are using your cards.

Highlights of its permanent collections focus on the history and culture of Groningen and include archaeological finds, portraits, regional arts, and crafts, as well as applied arts. The collection also includes examples of Chinese and Japanese porcelain and paintings, works by the Groningen-born painters Jozef Israëls and Hendrik Willem Message, and the famous Groningen silver.

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The highlight of our visit (apart from the gift shop) was Daan Roosegaarde large-scale phosphorescent exhibition PRESENCE.  I admit my photos suck and do his exhibition no justice whatsoever.   Click on his name above to see his twitter feed where you’ll find much better photos to get the idea – it was cool and Maebh loved it.  In fact, we were certain Soren would have loved to be there with us too!

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Other Museums To Visit

Noordelijk Scheepsvaartmuseum

GRID Graphic Museum Groningen

Dutch Comic Museum

Universiteitsmuseum

I really wanted to visit the Universiteitmuseum, but we didn’t have time – next trip.  I joked that when S goes to school here, I’ll come visit and he can show me around.    He agreed – he was serious.  Of course, you never know where he’ll going to school, but it’s a GREAT student city and they offer a Marine Biology Masters here.  🙂

A FEW OTHER THINGS TO SEE/DO

Martinikerk and the Martini Tower

Martin’s Church (Martinikerk), a lovely brick built Romanesque-Gothic basilica constructed in the 13th century, is one of Groningen’s most important landmarks. Rebuilt in the 15th century, the old choir was replaced by one with tall Gothic vaulting and an ambulatory, while a chapel and sacristy were added to the north side.

Interior highlights include 16th-century wall paintings in the choir, as well as the old organ, parts of which date back to 1480. For a truly memorable experience, try to visit during one of the church’s regular services or, better still, at Christmas, when this magnificent organ is put through its paces, accompanied by a choir.

Its most notable feature, however, is undoubtedly its tower, the Martinitoren (or Martini Tower to locals). Originally built in 1482 (and several times rebuilt), this 96-meter-tall structure is one of the highest in the Netherlands and offers great views over the city’s Main Market Square (Grote Markt).

Address: Martinikerkhof 3, 9712 JG Groningen

Climbing the Martini tower cost €3 for adults & children from 4 to 12 years are €2. Group rate from 10 people €2.50  per person.   Tours are possible – info can be obtained at the Tourist Office.

Groningen Old Town

With its numerous bike and people friendly pathways and old squares, Old Town Groningen is a delightful place to explore. Highlights of a walking or cycling tour of the city’s historic core include the magnificent early 19th-century Neoclassical Town Hall (Stadhuis) in the Grote Markt, and the superb Renaissance Gold Office (Goudkantoor) built in 1635. Also of interest is the Neo-Renaissance Provinciehuis, the seat of the provincial government. Notable interior features are the Hall of the States (Statenzaal), with its fine portraits from the 17th century, and the wood paneling and timber vaulting from 1697.

Other highlights include Huis Cardinaal with its superb Renaissance façade from 1559 (it’s also known as the House of the Three Kings for its medallions of Alexander the Great, King David, and Charlemagne on the gable) and Prinsenhof, a former 15th-century monastery with its lovely 17th-century rose and herb gardens.

Also worth a visit, is the covered Fish Market (Vismarkt) has been in existence since 1821 and is open Wednesday through Saturday.   We were in LOVE with this market.  Soren loved the fish mongers – he could watch them for hours.  I loved the spices and an hour before closing the merchants want their stuff gone.  For example we heard the produce stand vendor shouting out – “all this xyz for only €1”.  You can grab huge bargains!

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OTHER COOL THINGS TO DO IN THE CITY

While doing some searching of things for me to do with the family and with just my daughter on Sunday when they boys are the football match, I came across a few additional things which I found cool.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Now we certainly can’t do this in November, but how fun would it be to SUP through the canal in Groningen?

Canal Tour

A very popular tourist thing to do in most of the big cities is to take a canal tour – so it’s only fitting they offer it here.   Also like most cities, they have different boats and tours available so you have options and all outlined on their website in English too – handy for non-Dutch speakers.    On Sunday when Maebh and I were free looking for things to do, I thought we could do this but she said, na, I’d rather not 🙂 . Okay – so we didn’t.

Rent your own boat

There are also many options of renting a boat and setting out on your own at your own pace.  Now this is something I’d love to do in warmer weather with family and/or with friends.  We’ve not yet done this during our time her in NL.  So I cannot personally speak to any first-hand experience, but hopefully during the Easter spring break, we will rent one and I’ll report back.

Let’s Talk Food

Apart from the hotel breakfast, some beers here & there, we only had one dinner out. I wish I could come here & brag about a fantastic meal I had but sadly it was just okay.   

4 Roses Mexican Restaurant

Also anyone who knows me knows how much I love Mexican food & margaritas.  But we know that is hard to come by in Europe.  Yes we still try different places knowing we’re not going to get what we are used to back home.  Anyway, we did it, we visited a Mexican place.  We walked by two other Mexican places, but I was overuled for whatever the reason.  Anyway, this places was  okay (good in that it was around the corner from our hotel).  It was super busy so clearly a big hit in this area… but nothing out of this world but not the worst either.   We called ahead and asked for a table to be reserved – this is a huge thing in NL – I have no idea why but even if you call in two hours before you are better of calling in than walking in.  So I always call in and reserve a table if I know we are going out to eat – it’s just a way of live here.  Anyway, we eat everything but something new for us was crickets and meal worms on the menu in a Mexican restaurant so we thought why not… but honestly the crickets were too greasy and mealworms were too dry and boring…

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Pannekoekschip

Our kids love an authentic pannekoekschip.   Even the old dumpy one in Wells was a hit.  So look out for the old sailing ship at the Schuitendiep.  Originally a rigged two-mast clipper ship from 1908 now serves as a pancake ship.    They offer loads of pancake choices but no poffertjes.  We did end up having our last meal here – well the kids did.   But have a look at Soren’s shawarma pancake – horrible right!?  The fries were really yummy!!  Nils and Soren had ordered Tapas including escargot and other yummy bits earlier so we were no longer hungry but as we still had a 3 hour train ride ahead of us we wanted the kids to eat before heading home.    

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OLD DUTCH BUILDINGS – ALWAYS BEAUTIFUL

In this same area, along the canal are some really nice homes.   Then again, through the Netherlands, you find so many amazing buildings.  Unlike US, UK, and Ireland – I love love love the house styles here.

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A few other photos I took around the city this weekend.

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One more highlight for the kids was the ice skating rink was set up.  So while we didn’t skate, we did spend a bit of time at the claw machines trying to win a sloth for Maebh and a couple other stuffed teddys.

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€20 later – NOTHING but and arm an arm dangling over.    I’ll add two things.  1) the minute the machine clamps onto your teddy, it immediately releases it.  2) the second you walk away, the man comes over and resets the cheap, China made toys, firmly into the styrofoam, so it is extra hard to pick them up.  So the odds are stacked even higher against you.

Thankfully “Sint” brought here a giant sloth for her present!

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Maebh and I had a drink in De Drie Gezusters on the Markt.   I just had to take a photo of the glass ceiling – cool right?!

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Overall, we had a lovely short visit to Groningen.  The boys’ team tied and Maebh and I got to have some fun bonding time together.   While we didn’t leave with a stuffy from the fun fair, we did leave with a magnet for our fridge, some Groningen mustard and some yummy cheese from a lovely little shop which could be here in Den Bosch called De Bourgondier.    The worker (perhaps owner) was super friendly and informative and welcoming.   Highly recommend!!

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It was a fun time and a great city to explore.   In the summer there is even more to do outdoors.   I look forward to returning but have other cities I want to see next including:  Delft, Gouda and Haarlem – even the big cities like Rotterdam and Amsterdam require more exploring.