Personalized LED Lithophane Night Light – A Great Gift Idea!

So I just received a gift from my sister that she made herself – a LED lithophane night light that she made for me using a photo of mine featuring my kids! As she sells them on her Etsy shop – and they are so cute, I of course, need to share!

Lithowhat? Lithophane (lith-uh-feyn) you ask? Me too at first. It is an etched or molded artwork made of a thin translucent material that can only be seen clearly when back lit with a light source. These are printed with a 3D printer using your image to create the effect and paired with a night light to bring it to life. Basically she turns YOUR own photo into a stunning night light!

The cover plate slides onto night light which has a special 1-watt LED bulb, which means it will last a very long time while using a fraction of the electricity a standard incandescent night light bulb uses.  As the plate slides off, you can replace say a Christmas edition quickly once the season is over.

She made it as a surprise for me using a photo I had taken.  But now I’m looking through all my photos to have her custom-make one for my upstairs bathroom.   I like to keep a light on in there for the kids and the current light is just so bright.   If we had a pet, that would be an easy solution, but we don’t! 

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The 3-D lithophane printed night light

Here are some other examples of other lithophane night lights she has made for her happy customers.

So if you are looking for a unique one-of-a-kind gift for a special someone for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Anniversary, Teacher Appreciation, Birthday, or Baby Shower Gift, this might just be the perfect gift. 

Check out her Etsy shop today, HandMadeByHanaki but be sure you tell her I sent you if you make an order!   She might even give you a special discount – no promises! 🙂   

Review: FoodHallen Amsterdam

Planning a trip to Amsterdam soon?  Be sure you check out the Foodhallen – a cultural center with a focus on craftsmanship, media, fashion, and of course amazing food!    It’s like a daily food truck festival! 

LOCATION

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Credit: VeganAmsterdam.org

On Sunday we spent the day visiting Amsterdam and had our lunch at the FoodHallen.  I had been looking forward to going for a while and LOVED it!  Located on the edge of the city center, we took the tram and walked back to the city center, where we then did a self-guided tour of the Royal Palace – (Koninklijk Paleis).

Since its opening in 2015, this multi-functional cultural complex has become an extremely popular and trendy spot for locals to hang out.  Now even tourists, like us, are making their way to Oud West Amsterdam just to experience De Hallen.

It is housed within a former tram depot, a national monument built between 1902-1928. This is the place where the first electric trams in Amsterdam were maintained, and it has since been given a new lease of life.  It now houses a multicultural food hall,  The Maker Store,  a library, a bike workshop, a boutique hotel – Hotel De Hallen, and FilmHallen – the biggest independent cinema complex in the Netherlands.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT A LOT – BUT YOU COULD!!

The nice thing about eating at the Foodhallen is that you control how much you eat.  When you order, you can choose – small or large at my places.  So you not control just what you eat, but also how much.   You could easily eat a giant beef burger or 3 oysters –   so if you are not that hungry and meeting a friend between lunch and a late dinner, a snack at the Foodhallen is a great idea. 

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There are over 20 food stalls here, serving everything from dim sum to Indian street food.  It is pretty tough to choose between all the different options, as so many look so good, you can over-order if not careful.  It’s not the cheapest way to eat, but the main dishes at Foodhallen are under €10 which if you compare that to a restaurant is decent.  

WHAT WE ORDERED

It has a very international vibe with each stall selling street food dishes from around the world. But don’t worry, if you’re looking for Dutch food, you can get Bitterballen here too.  We decided to split everything we ordered and to order in stages – as having all things show up at once wouldn’t be ideal.   With COVID, the items were delivered to our tables so we didn’t have to go stand in line – I liked that part.

  • Tofu Bahn Mi sandwich from Viet View.
  • Tempura Veggies from Patron
  • Spicy Chicken Kabab Pita from Pita
  • Shrimp Dumplins from Dim Sum Thing

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Most food stalls only take debit cards so make sure you have one with you.   With COVID, like many cafes now do, there is a QR code on your table which opens to an app where you can see menus and order as you go.

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DRINKS AS WELL

Up to this point, I have only been talking about food, but what would a nice meal be without a drink or two? At Foodhallen, they have the drinks covered too.  In the back, there was a large bar set up.   And of course, being a very hip & happening place there is a dedicated Gin & Tonic bar.  But it was closed when we were there.  Not sure if that was part of the effects of Corona time or was it just that it was during the day and no one was drinking G&Ts with their lunches.  I did enjoy two nice beers on draft.  🙂

KANARIE CLUB

Also located in the Hallen but behind the FoodHallen is the hip Kanarie Club.

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This place is a space for creativity and inspiration during the day, and cocktails and fun by night. It has a bar, restaurant, and workplace which is designed for people to spend all day in one spot. With a wide range of flexible workspaces, sufficient electrical outlets, meeting facilities, and good coffee, this is the ideal place to flex a day.  Upstairs they even have a bar with a small pool – which was originally created by squatters to collect rainwater.

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But now with COVID, they opened this area up so when you are eating at the FoodHallen you can sit in that area as well and order off the menu on the QR code on the table.  This is the bar where our drinks were coming from during the day we were visiting.

I WISH WE HAD A FOODHALLEN IN DEN BOSCH

If we had such a place in Den Bosch, I’d be here all the time!   In fact, when Hudson Bay was going bust I suggested they open a large Foodhallen in that amazing building – instead, Shoeby, a giant local clothing retailer, came in and set up shop.   If Den Bosch was to get a Foodhallen in Den Bosch, I’m thinking it would be set up in the up-and-coming hip area of Kop van t’Zand.

I highly recommend this palace and will definitely be back!  If you’re in Amsterdam and looking for a good vibe and great food, do yourself a favor and find the FoodHallen Bellamyplein 51, 1053 AT Amsterdam in De Hallen, Amsterdam.

 

Restaurant Review: Day & Day Hot & Hot – Hot Pot Rotterdam

Hot Pot is a favorite among the Chinese. It’s so ubiquitous in China that it can be found just about everywhere – from the very north in Mongolia (where it’s believed to have originated) all the way to the south.  It’s also called “Chinese Fondue”.

After a bit of research, each in China region does it a little differently:  Beijing is known for lamb hotpot in a copper pot, Sichuan for their signature numbing-spicy broth, and the Cantonese region for fresh seafood.    I’ve only had Japanese “Shabu Shabu” – one of the different subsets about a half dozen times in Boston.  The phrase ”shabu-shabu” actually translates to “swish-swish.”  The motion you make when you move your meat from side to side in the hot broth to cook it.   

But for those who live here in the Netherlands don’t get confused with the restaurant chain Shabu Shabu – we made the mistake but it does NOT serve shabu shabu it’s a SUSHI restaurant.  Why they call themselves that is a mystery.

Seriously, whatever the version or edition you call it hot pot or shabu shabu essentially the cooking of raw ingredients into a pot of boiling broth at the table and enjoying it to the fullest is key!   I loved it before and I loved every minute of it this time. 

I once watched a program about a restaurant in Singapore that allows you to first catch your fresh, live seafood, put it in the cooler box, and then you drop them into your hot pot.  Yes, I know many will say that is so cruel – but is it any different than what we do with our lobsters and crab?  Maybe they are asleep in the cooler box like you do with lobsters in the freezer in Maine?  Not sure.  Anyway, here is their promotional video of the show – I still follow them on Insta.   One day if I ever make it to Singapore, I’ll definitely book a table.

Anyway, now you know a bit about hot pot, the rest of the post is going to be about our experience and our delicious food at a specific restaurant we just visited on Saturday night – Hot & Hot on the Goudsesingel in Rotterdam.   They have two more restaurants in Amsterdam too.

Day & Day Hot & Hot

A couple months ago we walked across the street from this place and from a distance, I was like what an odd name – Day & Day Hot & Hot = odd  Not even thinking what it was.  So then I find it extra funny now that here we are enjoying our meal in the oddly named restaurant.

Our table was booked a table at 8 pm, but when we arrived, the only tables available were in the back and it was very hot and steamy.  We’d be literally sitting so close to other couples, we requested a table towards the front.   The issue was that the two large tables were still dirty despite all the guests being long gone.  Maybe it is a cultural thing or lack of experience with the staff, but when I worked as a waitress, we’d never leave dirty tables especially the front.   Newly arriving guests shouldn’t arrive in your restaurant and the first thing they see is dirty tables.  Also, you’d always want to have guests in the window seats.  A restaurant that looks empty is never a good sign.    Their website says AUTHENTIC SICHUAN FLAVOR & ORIGINAL CHINESE DINING CULTURE but surely I’m reading into the second part too much! 🙂

FIRST YOU CHOOSE THE BROTH 

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Based on my experience, I know that with hot pot restaurants you can split the pot where you can choose two or even three different soup bases to cook the food in.  Most people choose a half spicy and half plain stock.  This is great because those who are intolerant to spice don’t have to miss out on the fun and those who like spice and cool down a bit by adding some of the non-spicy broth to theirs.  We chose little spicy and mushroom and it was perfect, but we did need a little bit of help with the menu.

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W On the other side, mushrooms and spring onions. This side is mild and intended to cook your vegetables, but we mixed them up which was so yummy!  Here they had other choices like Pickled Cabbage and a tomato base – but we safely chose “little spicy” and it was plenty spicy for us.    How awful it would be if it was mouth numbing and you couldn’t enjoy it.

SAUCE CONTAINERS

The most popular hotpot dipping sauce for the Chinese is sesame paste. It compliments spices and meat wonderfully. Some places will just give you a bowl of sesame paste, but some places like this place have a condiments buffet for you to create your own sauce!

In the middle of the restaurant are all trays where you can make your own sauce. For example, there is soy, sesame, and barbecue sauce that you can finish with pieces of peanut, peppers, or spring onions.   Unfortunately and not sure how exactly but all the garlic was used and there was no more in stock.   Guess all the previous guests were garlic aficionados.  There is a “recommended recipe” card that you can follow or make your own.  Linn our waitress helped us along with a recommended one which was very delicious.   I used up all my sauce and had to go back and make a slightly different version but my mouth waters thinking about the yummy taste.

FOOD INGREDIENTS

Now it’s time to select the food!  You want variety here to bring out the flavor and compliment your sauce and your broth.  Most people will get one meat, one seafood, one tofu, one veggie, and one noodle or one rice dish to design a complete meal.

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Here you can make it as adventurous here as you want. The menu contains very different things like organs and blood. While I consider myself adventurous, I draw the line too, so we stuck with recognizable dishes, such as freshly cut beef tenderloin, a veggie platter,  mushroom platter, and some udon noodles.  That was plenty of food for the two of us.  Maybe next time, we’ll add is some lamb or seafood but all in all, it was very delicious and we had just enough for two people.

We ordered a beer each but neither of us knew much about the choices so we ordered two different ones – both were good.

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COOKING TIME

The time varies from a few seconds to five minutes.   You are given a slotted spoon and a ladle that you essentially dip your food in and that is how you cook and fish out your food.   Dip it into your sauce and enjoy!  In Boston we always had a bit of corn on the cob which you had to leave in forever, but we never ended up eating it.

Oh yeah, they were offering something new – a grill option.  Here you see a cook grilling some food and the menu choices – but we didn’t get anything.

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So, in summary, we LOVED the food, the waitress Linn was very friendly and helpful in explaining how their restaurant works as it was our first time here.   We’ll definitely be back again – and I know for sure my 10 & 12-year-old would LOVE to eat here too and I will definitely bring him!

Overall we give it 8.5 out of 10.  Surely we’ll be back.

YuGuo is another Hot Pot restaurant in Rotterdam which I saw but due to location and reviews, I went with this one.   Perhaps one day we’ll try the other.  And I’ve been waiting to go to Yuan’s Hot Pot in Amsterdam for a while too.  But next Asian meal I hope will be Korean BBQ at Soul Sista on Witte de With. 

Know a great Hot Pot / Shabu Shabu place in the Netherlands – message me – I’d love to hear it.

 

 

 

Product Review: Hendy Amsterdam Phone Case with Cord

You probably can tell by now that I take a LOT of photos using my iPhone, so my phone is in my hand a LOT.  Okay so what’s the problem you think… well nothing when I’m walking around but when I’m on my bike it’s a pain.

So, for now, I keep stopping, taking my phone out, taking a photo, putting it back in my bag, and on and on.   Often times, I just skip taking a photo as it’s a bit of a pain.   So I’m thinking that by having my iPhone around my neck, taking photos and navigation will be much easier.

I did lots of searches for the perfect one and found a local Dutch company Hendy Amsterdam which was the first to bring this product to the Dutch market so while there are now competitors, I’d like to support her.  Of course, the “perfect one”  for me and the one I really really have wanted for a few years now is a leather Sarah Pebble case & a stud zip pouch by Bandolier, but my pocketbook cannot handle it at this time so I think the Hendy is a great alternative that will work perfectly.   I also didn’t want to get the cheapest Chinese imported ones for less than €10.  With those, you know it’s just a matter of time before my very expensive & just this month paid-off iPhone 8 plus would be laying on the floor broken.

TWO HENDY MODELS TO CHOOSE: 

  • “Classic Hendy”  Transparent silicone cover with a cord.   € 19.95 + Shipping
  • “Sophisticated Hendy” consists of a black nylon hard cover that offers space for cards (max 3) or cash and cord.

I choose the “Classic” Hendy as the “Sophisticated” one to me looked very masculine – but I do see how it would be handy to have a place for a bank card.  Maybe in person, I’d change my mind.   

But having to order online vs in the shop, I was only going off what I thought.   Not sure if they sell them locally in Den Bosch – I don’t think so. Maybe if I see the Sophisticated in a shop one time

In Amsterdam, I might consider getting it.

NINE CORD COLOR CHOICES TO CHOOSE:

The adjustable, water-repellent cords come in nine different colors with gold metal accents. While I did like the multicolor, I ended up going with black = safe for my wardrobe. 

TELEPHONE MODELS:

They have several different sizes to choose from, so be sure you select the correct phone model.

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IDEAL FOR FESTIVALS & CONCERTS & THE CASINO 😉 (AND BIKE RIDING)

The Hendy seems ideal for a festival or concert – having it around your neck allowing to you dance around freely with your arms up and not worry about if you have a pocket.    It is also great to have as little as possible with you at a concert.    Also at a food truck festival could be handy to have around your neck, allowing you to let it hang.   For me, it will be ideal for bike rides and being able to hear and a quick glance down to see where I need to go next on my map.  It’s no longer allowed to hold your telephone or any electronic device here in the Netherlands while riding your bike – you’ll get a €95 fine.

GREAT GIFT IDEA:

I think this would make a great gift and you are supporting a local Dutch start-up. So if you are looking for a nice gift, but you’re not sure which phone model or color Hendy you should buy? You could always give them a digital Hendy gift card.   Digital Gift Vouchers are delivered by email and contain instructions on how to redeem them at checkout. The gift vouchers have no extra processing costs.

START SUMMERSALE

 

Buy a Hendy and receive a 20% discount on your second Hendy. Choose a second color or give a Hendy gift!

Use discount code “SUMMERSALE”

* Promotion runs until July 19; not usable in combination with other promotions

Also, I learned that if you put a Hendy in your shopping cart and wait a few hours and not purchase it, you’ll get a reminder there is something in your box and a 10% discount code.   Surely I would have liked that before but a good tip for you my readers.

While their website is in Dutch but if you pull down the little flag, you can change it to English.

Update: After school today, when the kids saw me, they said laughing that I look like Juf Marcia – the head of the school. Ha ha Is that a good or bad thing!?

Disclosure:   I have purchased the Hendy Classic myself and was not given the item for free for my review.  This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.

Intratuin: More than just your average garden center.

I LOVE Intratuin Garden Centers.  YES, Intratuin is technically a garden center (largest in the Netherlands I think – so don’t quote me.  And if you know me at all you konw that …. I am NO green thumb.  I kill all plants, my “garden” is a mess – overgrown and embarrassing and I prefer to have a balcony or a roof deck with a few potted plants – but who am I kidding my few pots of rosemary were killed most recently! 

BUT back to this post INTRATUIN and why I love this place.  Well, 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.

 

KIDS WORKSHOP FOR NATIONAL TULIP DAY 

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!!

 

 

Review: Terrarium making working at Werk aan de Winkel – MixStore – s’Hertogenbosch

Yesterday I made my first ever Terrarium at Werk aan de Winkel  here in s’Hertogenbosch.   It was a lot of fun and while it sounds old fashioned and boring it wasn’t.

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The store is so cute and filled with so many lovely things.   If I need a gift, this is where I’ll go here next.  I already know that I’m going to buy M the neon heart light for Xmas!

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Many bars and restaurants in the area provide her with their jars and bottles for The Green Bar to use for her eco-systems and terrariums.  Love that!! So, instead of just recycling my glass blue Bombay Sapphire blue gin bottle, I’ll be brining them by for her to use as they actually use them for eco-systems, etc.

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I actually organised this event for a group of International women who live in town.  Five of us attended so it was cozy and each person received loads of one-on-one instruction for their terrarium.   She even did the event in ENGLISH for us as not everyone speaks Nederlands well enough (if at all).   We started off with a cup of tea and some freshly-made pieces of a cake.

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How it works. 

The first step in your plant-making adventure is learning about your materials and then prep your planter.   She showed us a number of examples (both dry & wet) and told us all about drainage, soil types & nutrition so that our mini garden survive.

First we had to choose a glass container from a large collection which were set out on a table.  I chose a recycled roasted pepper jar with a strip of leather on the top.  Even the leather was recycled.   I found it rustic and thought it would be perfect for low plants.   If I was doing a wet terrarium, I would have chosen a taller one as the plants are taller.

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With a wet terrarium you choose plants that like a humid climate, such as Ferns, Fittonias, Hypoestes, mosses, Tillandsias and Asperagus etc.  If you prefer cacti and succulents, like me, then go for a dry version.

She then explained to us step-by-step how to add different types of rocks to the planter, layer by later to be sure to get proper drainage before adding the soil – which you use different soil for wet & dry terrariums.

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Once your planter is prepped, you’ll move onto actually adding your plants.  This was a fun part as this is where your personal style comes in.   I choose a furry cacti and not thinking the handling part through too well – ha ha.   All in all it was fine, not too many pokeys to pull out. 

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The final step in your planting experience is decorating.   The dry ones are topped with tiny pebbles, and if you want you can add a few stones and a tiny creature.  I chose a Oeteldonk frog – after all we do live in s’Hertogenbosch 🙂

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Once satisfied with your terrarium,  take it home to enjoy for as long as your heart desires.   You need to water it every once in a while to make them last as long as your memories of the event.

I’m not a green thumb at all – in fact, I own ONE plant and I’m surprised it has lasted as long as it as.   I normally kill every plant – even killed cacti in the past – I’m determined to keep this alive.

If you are interested in making one, it costs €36 and you can book online.  They have other workshops too and we’re now looking at booking a hand lettering workshop.

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