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.

IMG_6599

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) 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.

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_NationalCarnivalMuseum1

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.

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_NationalCarnivalMuseum14
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.

dsc_0121-min-800x500
foto credit: indebuurt
dsc_0685
foto credit: indebuurt
anp-17778111-e1516098340995
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.

IMG_6783-1IMG_8380IMG_8408

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.

 

 

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

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.

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop27.jpg

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop1.jpg

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!

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop5.jpg

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop38

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop37

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop36

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop35

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop34

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop33

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop32

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.

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop3.jpg

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.

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop30.jpg

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.

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop15.jpg

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.

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop11.jpg

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. 

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop22

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop21

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop20

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop19

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 🙂

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop42.jpg

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.

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TerrariumMakingWorkshop31.jpg

REVIEW: TumTum IJs Den Bosch

REVIEW: TumTum IJs Den Bosch

While Nils and Soren are at the season opener of their football club – Maebh and I had some alone time and decided that after picking up a few pairs of pants for back to school, we’d pop in and check out TumTum IJs Den Bosch on Minderbroederstraat 23.

IMG_3489.JPG

The concept is the same as Pinkberry, which the kids visited when they were living in Boston but were way too young to remember.   We only just saw this place a few days ago and decided to pop in.  There are quite a few ice cream options around Den Bosch and we have our favorites, but figure we’d give this place a try!

How it works – very simple!

IMG_3468

1.) Take a cup – several different sizes
2.) Fill it with ice cream (choose from 8 different flavors  – which were Vanilla, Strawberry, Banana, Chocolate, Hanzelnut, Mango Yogurt & Vegan and of course, mixing is an option!)
3.) Choose from more than 200 toppings
4.) Go the scale where you pay €1.95 per 100 grams.   In my 9 year old’s case – mama “aka her banker” will pay for her delicious, unique ice cream covered with various toppings.  Seriously it was not that expensive –  I paid just over €5.75 for the both of us.   I’ve paid far more at places but what I love is that here you are supporting a local business!!
5.) Sit inside or out and enjoy!  The terraces belong to the restaurants opposite and next door but there is a big bench which is public so you can sit there without an issue!

IMG_3466

My 9 year old LOVED every minute of this experience and cannot wait to come back with her 11 year old brother soon!  While she does love an ice cold slush at times, she’ll skip a McFlurry and do this instead!

StrsStripesAndMayonnaise_TumTumIjsDenBosch14.jpg

WHAT DID WE GET?

I got a small cup, with chocolate ice cream and some chocolate sprinkles and a twist of white and dark chocolate.    Personally, I’m not a huge fan of colored candy.

IMG_3478.jpg

My 9 year old choose a larger bucket (of course kids always naturally want a bigger portion), with vanilla ice cream and tons of stuff on top — I couldn’t keep up with all the items she put on to list them.   She loved it and was thrilled to dig in, but in the end, she couldn’t finish it – was too much and had to toss it out!  She agreed next time – smaller portion!  You know the saying – Mama knows best !

StrsStripesAndMayonnaise_TumTumIjsDenBosch7

StrsStripesAndMayonnaise_TumTumIjsDenBosch4

StrsStripesAndMayonnaise_TumTumIjsDenBosch2

StrsStripesAndMayonnaise_TumTumIjsDenBosch6

I also love the recycling efforts at the end… plastic spoons in one bin and cups and tubs in the other.

I DO HAVE ONE SUGGESTION

I know not everyone smiles all time time nor is happy all the time, but it’s an ice cream store with tons of kids coming in & out and it really is a happy place.  I think a greeting coming and going would be great but I’d take just one direction too! A smile from the staff, however, to me is a requirement – don’t know about you? Happy to report our second time in, two young guys, Max & Noud, were working and they were SUPER friendly, greeted us, asked if we were there before – offered an explanation to those who have not as to how it worked – EXACTLY what I would expect in an ice cream shop – LOVED IT!! 

I would like to add that we have been back a few times since our first visit and the staff have been WONDERFUL!  

WILL WE BACK?

Absolutely 100%! With my 11 year old and with some friends for sure!!  In fact when my nieces and nephews visit us, I’ll be sure to bring them here for a special treat!  It’s a special place that I know all kids would LOVE!   They even have Vegan 100% plantaardig ijs so that is a plus for our Vegan friends & family!! 

StrsStripesAndMayonnaise_TumTumIjsDenBosch8.jpg

There are quite a few ice cream shops in the area to choose from but I think this is one you must try.  Have you been here yet?   What do you think?

UPDATE:  Came back with my 11 year old and his friend – they both LOVED IT!

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TumTumIjsDenBoschTakeII5

Of the three kid portions – can you tell which ones belong to two 11 year old boys ?  They didn’t leave much room for items to go inside.  This time I tried the vegan – plant based ijs – very yummy with a few twix cut up and some chocolate sprinkles, shaved coconut and some chopped nuts – so good!    Total for 4 of us €13.  The cost of a McFlurry is €2.75 and this is MUCH better! 

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TumTumIjsDenBoschTakeII4

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_TumTumIjsDenBoschTakeII2

UPDATE:  We visited again today – and this time they have schommels (swings) installed which adds to the “fun-ness” of this place!

StarsStripesAndMayonnaise_Swings2.jpg

Avond4Daagse – Our First Time!

Another Dutch tradition for me and the kids to experience is the Avond4Daagse. This is the FIRST year for our kids to participate.  Not sure why we didn’t do it last year when they were their newcomers class but we never heard about it.

IY6So65CSnm3zN9X2NEZjg

KEY POINTS

  • Kids  walk 5KM, 10KM, 15KM or 25KM each night for 4 consecutive nights.
  • Whole point is to promote outdoor, healthy exercise.
  • It is an offspring of the Nijmegen Vierdaagse.
  • It seem that kids start to join in from age 5, but I did see some younger kids too.
  • Most walk together with their school groups with coordinating shirts.
  • One person holds a flag or teddy with same shirt up high so you can find your group and stick together (if you want).
  • Warning: Cover your ears when you enter tunnels as kids scream as loudly!
  • Not sure if it’s true but I was told you want to be the first in your school to get back to the start. We did NOT try for this at all.
  • Kids bring snoepjes to eat and share with friends.
  • Each school sets up a table with drinks and treats someone where along the walk.
  • Kids pay €5 each and get a small treat each day (apples were provided 2x, water and kit kat bar).
  • Strangely enough, you are NOT required to walk all four nights (it used to be but not any more!  There are no check points or stamping system, so you can walk only one night (closest to your house and take home a metal – but you must pay the €5.
  • Final night, each child receives a medal – with a number representing the number of times you’ve participated so in our case #1 – EXCITING!

WHERE DO YOU WALK?

Each night the location changes where it starts… but it’s all within Den Bosch so you really get to see a lot of the city.  Still maintain our area is the BEST!  Depending on where you live, you’ll have to trek across the gemeente to the starting point.  This is best done on your bike as there will be traffic and parking issues.

Day 1:  De Donken
Day 2:  Hintham
Day 3:  Schutskamp
Day 4:  City Centre

Rsr9g1EcRcmmzWy9VI1nzw

Our friends in Den Haag do it every year and knowing them they are walking the 15 or 25 KM 🙂   There are walks that take place all over the country, co-ordinated on this website.  Anyway, our eldest at 11 chose to walk the 10K with some classmates and our second at 9 did the 5K with me.  That was plenty for her… even next year, I think 5KM is plenty!

NIGHT ONE

We first started off at their friends house where we’d cycle with them and their dad – he’s from the area so us being able to tag along with them was very handy!

ylm%fe3YSYuhUqZ8n6ljYQ.jpg

We had to first cycle 5.5 KM, then walk 5KM, then cycle 5KM home.   Our non-native Dutch legs were fine. Earlier in the day, I was dreading it.  Ha ha    All in all it wasn’t so bad, but my 9 year old was mad at me because I was over protective of her cycling.  She kept going out to the left on the bike path so I was concerned other that she be hit by the fast cyclist going by and the scooters, etc.   She has never had a bad fall on her bike as we do in the Netherlands – no one wears helmets, I’m concerned for her.  But after three days of cycling like this – she was so great, I’m very comfortable with her cycling skills.

They were very particular about looking at the kaartjes this year before they gave out the water, but they didn’t stamp the cards.   So unlike years before where you had to do each and every night, you do NOT have to do all four nights.

Screenshot 2019-05-24 at 11.20.10.png

After the first night, Soren came home excited and told me that I have to make him this “lemon and peppermint thing” which he can suck on like some of his friends.  Oh okay – so immediately I search it up and discover to what he is referring.

You cut an orange or lemon in half, put a few peppermints on top and then wrap in a cheesecloth or tea towel.  Kids suck on it when they walk.  Dentists hate them and encourage parents and kids to not use them.  Some kids love them.  After the one time – Soren didn’t need it again – great! 

NIGHT TWO

First we need to get from the city centre to the starting point in Hintham (edge of Rosmalen) near Den Bosch Football stadium where co-incidentally they were playing so you could hear chants, drums and yelling from time to time.   So first cycle 4 KM then walk 5KM then cycle 4 KM home.   

lkTkM6SGTRmjydYLdvHY0g.jpg

First we walked through some estates and over the Ah river.

Gn8gaaQgQZmTBNGgQKGshg
SJvFRmVyRCeEcc8ZU6j+Cw
suz9yhpMQdme7Bn+aTYRmw

Then it took us around the Oosterplaas which was nice as I’ve never been there. 

6v3DTTjzQjuDWDrbWSpLNw
hm+8UJTCR3qrVt7zqB3Tzg
ei9cVbr8QxmYNXVFkpWUhA
TFJSMMakRlOLdJWeVM7evg
qNZ3f9g5SVa%gG5m6+SV6g
fullsizeoutput_1f9b
uXnmUYNfRr+n0IkBNfLk0g

NIGHT THREE

While not as far as night 1 & 2, Maebh & I cycled over to CHC Voetball club where this walk began.  It was a fine walk – through neighborhoods of their newcomersclass school, by the Paleiskwartier over behind the Jeroen Bosch Ziekenhuis and then back through the same neighborhoods and returned to the CHC to grab our bikes and head home.

The 10K loop did the De Moerputten and Soren came home COVERED in bug bites – need to remember for next year, we must cover him in insect repellant!

tIHCZ9KTSneRioX3WGlYjQ.jpg
z4r84qVRSrigUcT45j0tAA
a23EZVhYR0iCF%DtcWEjcQ
04Glgx7FTLSY4GyKFsxi9Q
2N3i0IprQgu6caOlzmvYxw
Screenshot 2019-05-25 at 07.12.21.png

NIGHT FOUR

I love this location – it starts & ends at the Parade, so we’ll just walk from home!  When we got there we didn’t see any of M’s friends nor the school flag but we did see a girl in Soren’s class which Maebh is friends with so we walked with them … perfect!

f+Ee4c%CROij%u7WdDhoHw.jpg
VmbidKCSQ62HuZxIT9qz7w.jpg
YcJn5MeBSAqiDqfr9ArSzQ.jpg
GzgjdtWXTMe42rdh8JY+fQ
yvIGOaIYSrKBMW9y8RXVwA
RKdjawIMRp6jWOlUSlePyA.jpg
y7UMIzd7R5qvBfkJRltYPg

During the walk, kids from our school detour and stop by the Zuid school where the kids pick up their medals and can stay and have a drink and a bit of party.  Many families go home from there, but some continue on to the Parade where there is loads of music and entertainment where the final event comes together!  Some families buy chocolates, flowers and other treats to congratulate the kids for walking – now I find that a bit silly and a waste of money but I guess it’s part of the tradition.  We didn’t make it to the Parade this year, we finished up at the school.  But next year, we’ll grab the medal from the school yard and go straight on…   I’d like to see what’s happening there.

hzV8QtzCR6CKlRChAX8K4g.jpg
Screenshot 2019-05-25 at 07.34.37.png
27R5qQKYT+Wjbm%vQxnIRQ
WtYF0vJAS0O0nY7bfWpPeg

At first Maebh was angry that we didn’t go to the Parade, but Soren and Nils are off to the UK early this am to watch a football match and I didn’t want to make it any later.   She got over it rather quickly, thankfully!  It was already nearly 9 pm when we walked home – look how beautiful – and the hot air balloon started to take off as we walked home.

VBpERoP2T8Oy1uLSue0J8w
p2729SAKSsi6C13StSBd9A
MD3AlGq4QIqzYj5bP%bgrg
NiUTuLWMTPuZGLELBzad3Q
xLB5DdIzRJym%Rqo36hPHw
Z4KIRyj%SjmiynRtq84rRg
pb9yTbqGQ7eg5LGBEsVFOQ

I’m also pleased that our kids walked ALL FOUR NIGHTS and happy the weather cooperated all four nights!  I suppose to me this was the best night – probably because we are all happy our lives are going to return to ‘normal’ and I walked with both kids together.  Now no more super fast dinners and out the door, riding our bikes across town then walking 5KM or 10 KM.  Figuring out who Soren can go to and from while I walked with Maebh.   Kids can go to be earlier and be less grumpy in the morning when I’m getting them out of bed.

Glad I got to experience our first Avond4Daagse – great for my Inburgering 🙂  So will we do it again next year – ABSOLUTELY!

Moerputten Nature Reserve Den Bosch

Yesterday was the first official day of spring in the Netherlands and was the warmest 16th of February ever with temps as high as 18 c in some parts of the South.  So we head out for a walk to enjoy the nice weather.   An alternative nature area to the Bossche Broek Nature Reserve near Den Bosch is Moerputten which is a 120 hectare nature reserve which lies to the west of Den Bosch. It is managed by Staatsbosbeheer (check out their site for activities and other routes in the Netherlands)   

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 09.12.06

Moerputtenbrug is a bridge which is 585 meters long and was built between 1881 and 1887 as a railway bridge.  Until 1972 it was part of the Langstraat railway line and there were trains running between ‘s-Hertogenbosch (via Waalwijk) and Geertruidenberg / Lage Zwaluwe. This track was built for the shoe industry, hence the iconic name ‘Half Soles Line’. After a few years’ restoration, the bridge was opened in 2011 to hikers and cyclists, with a beautiful view over the marsh and the nature reserve.  And again it was recently renovated and open for walkers and cyclists to enjoy!

saUSouDTQXytxRPBMhBbiw.jpg

aChNhsWGQrCBYmqkhmAtnQ

We decided to take the yellow walking trail as it was only about 5 km and would include both the bridge, a walk by the butterfly area (which clearly is not the right season) and the wooden planks over the marshes.

The wooden planks over the swampy marsh and mossy trees was the favorite part for all of us.   The kids were using their imagination and talking about alligators coming out from the water, etc.

And nothing to do with us, but this guy did a video using his drone of the area – which you get a great view of the bridge.

 

Bossche Broek Nature Reserve Den Bosch

We are so lucky to have the Bossche Broek Nature Reserve on our doorstep.  Of course, many urban cities have large man-made parks but this nature reserve just south of Den Bosch, across the Dommel river laced with hiking and cycling is truly special though in the historical days it was just a swamp yet valuable for the defence of the city.   You can take historical boat tours in the canals under the city and part of the tour comes out the city walls and down the Dommel.  We took the tour twice and it was great and highly recommend the tour to anyone visiting Den Bosch.

Screen Shot 2019-02-04 at 11.27.14.png

A bit of history:  s-Hertogenbosch owes a lot to the Bossche Broek. Enemy medieval armies could not get close to the city because the Dutch let this swamp run fill up with water. Hence the legendary nickname Swamp Dragon. The city lies on a sand hill surrounded by grasslands. These ‘pants’ remained wet due to the seepage water from the rivers Dommel and the Aa. And every year the Dommel also flooded again. Nevertheless, in 1629 Frederik Hendrik succeeded – after six attempts – to take ‘s-Hertogenbosch. He built a dike around the city and thus also dried the Bossche Broek.

On nice days like today, it’s full of people out for a walk.  In fact, in all weather you’ll find people walking their dogs, out for a jog, riding their bikes and one day, I saw a man on horseback.

Today the kids were on their bikes and N & I were on foot.   The bike bath which runs near our house to the entrance of the Bossche Broek runs along the street and as we were not on bikes, we had the kids ride on the sidewalk.  You risk a fine when you cycle on the footpath or on any pavements designated for pedestrians but it was a risk we were willing to take – after all it was the kids riding not us.   As N doesn’t yet own a bike, I felt like I couldn’t join the kids and leave him to walk.  I know he’d prefer an e-bike due to his knee (don’t we all) but for short trips like this, a regular bike is fine and required!

They could go far ahead and then stop for a bit and wait.  They are still learning the paths and M is still getting familiar with riding her bike with other people on the path like dog walkers, cyclists, etc.  She fell once but didn’t make a big deal out of it.

We set off to see what the Zuiderplas Swimming beach area was like, how long it took to get there, etc.  Clearly we are thinking when is this cold weather going to be gone – we are ready for Spring & Summer!    Well, we found the beach area and the Zuiderplas Beach Bar – while closed, I’m sure it will be great when it’s warm.   You can park near the shell gas station off the Pettelarseweg, but going by bike is extra fun for the kids and good exercise.

To get an idea of what it’s like in the summer, here is a photo from their facebook page, compared to today:

The beach area was large.   Near the bar is a volleyball area, swings, play structures.  In the water is a a slide and I suspect a dive plank in the summer – but not 100% sure.  Anyway, it looks perfect for after school and warm days.   It would be really amazing if they built a few pools to be like Staalbergven in Oisterwijk, one of our favorite places to go in the summer.

xFLFNzTwQf2la2AE7rrpYQ.jpg

There are some deer and rabbits which live in the park, but we didn’t see them today.  Due to the special grasslands there a lot of special birds which reside in the reserve.  We did see a lot of ducks, a bird of pray (falcon?) and a few egrets but I’ve seen photos of kingfishers – if we were only so lucky.  I’ve never seen one in person in the wild. 

25HjrNT5TE6qbGBgUKUctQ.jpg

Here are a some photos of a walk we did in the Bossche Broek with some friends  – this time we took the little passenger only bridge back.


And a few more photos from the past few months.

I’ll  update this post as we go back into the Bossche Broek and take more photos – especially when the flowers are in bloom!

 

 

Sinterklaas & the traditions in our house!

Sinterklaas & the traditions in our house!

This is our first year living in The Netherlands for Sinterklaas and Christmas…. so what do we do?  We certainly cannot stop celebrating Christmas – suddenly have the kids forget about Santas Claus and now believe in Sinterklaas and all story behind that.   Our youngest (age 8.5) “believes” in both Sinterklaas and the Kerstman, The Tooth Fairy, her Irish Fairy Fiona, and every other imaginary thing you tell her! Well – she knows the Easter Bunny is you know f@#e… but only because we never did that big basket of junk for the kids.  But they did attend a few egg hunts (which were staged and set up mainly from the grandparents) or a guy in a funny bunny suit. However, our oldest (nearly 11) told us this year in tears that “he knows”. Of course he does – it was only a matter of time. He was the one who told us (in front of his sister) that Fionas, the elves and my handwriting were all the SAME!  Which I had to offer a valid explanation to not crush her – clever guy…. but still keep it to yourself, don’t tell your sister.  Oh and for about two weeks this dragged on and on about how he now is ruined Christmas for life….I think a bit too much drama and it was used a crutch to avoid getting into trouble with things.   Sort of the white milk and cookie scenario when he was a kid but will give him a break 🙂 So how to do it??

Well, we’d maintain with our Christmas traditions (Elves (for now!), Santa, if possible cut down our Christmas tree, ice skating, Christmas Market) but we’d do a little bit for Sinterklaas too. Kids would receive three small gifts along with a letter from Sinterklaas telling them that this year they are new to the Netherlands and that he’d only be brining them a few things as they’d get more gifts at Christmas while other Dutch kids wouldn’t. They were TOTALLY fine with this!!  They loved that in his letter he gave some money with instructions to the movies and watch a holiday movie – which we did – we went out and watched the Grinch on Pakjesavond.

So our first annual Sintaklaas tradition is to go to the movies on his birthday!! 🙂 Also, we went to Vlieland for three nights and will hopefully continue to do that as a tradition of heading to one of the Wadden Islands with friends.

So …starting on Dec 17 and every few nights during the period when Sint was in The Netherlands the kids put their shoes out in front of the fireplace – sang a few songs and magically the next morning, they received a few treats and every now and then a tiny present which were all bought at the Wibra! The day after Thanksgiving (see another twist) Asteroid and Pixie, their mischievous elves showed up and got into their candy!

I won’t even discuss those elves – they took a break last year and visited another family who needed help as our kids were very good. This year the kids really hoped they’d return so they did… oh do I regret that. Each day I go to bed early, I forget to move them… so now they often just sit in the same place for two days in a row – or if I remember, they join the kids in bed – ohhh how adventurous. You’ll see – a few years ago, I was very good with them…. I had a whole 30 days on my facebook dedicated to them…. this might be their last year with our family…. might be time for them to ‘retire permanently’.

Oh yeah I nearly forgot – one of the best parts of the evening was that the next door neighbour banged on the door at 5:30 pm so during dinner, suddenly the widows and doors were being banged on and it was so loud it scared the crap out of me and M. Then  the kids ran to the door to find the presents laying there … typical how did Sinterklaas get those gifts inside questions begin….

SINTERKLAAS SURPRISE

Then there was a big surprise for me which was the “SINTERKLAAS SURPRISE” which happens at school. In case you are not familiar … it is a common Dutch practice for the older kids starting at upper primary school level (I think group 5 & above) to celebrate Sinterklaas in the classroom by opening a “SURPRISE”. Pronounced as “sur-pree-zuh”. It essentially mirrors a Secret Santa gift exchange yet with exaggeration and you must be super creative and put your present inside an over-the-top crafted gift which goes along with the receivers hobbies or interests.   Now from what I understand the KIDS are to MAKE the gift and write the poem, but after watching an episode of De Luizenmoeders and seeing first-hand – sorry but many of those sur-pree-zuhs were created by the PARENTS and not the kids. I helped my kids a bit but no way did I want to show up with a super duper crafted item which clearly I did.  For some parents, it is clearly a competition and it is the parents who do the work on these things.   Maybe next year, I’ll help a bit lot more than this! 🙂

Here are the photos which were taken from a class parent at drop off – note BOTH my kids surprises were STILL IN THE BAGS which they brought them to school in – so you don’t seem them here, but I did take a photo before they left home. They both assured me they were taken out of the bag promptly and both receivers enjoyed their surprises, poems and gifts. Great!

A television with four boxes inside along with instructions a remote.  The poem guides you though all the boxes but the final present, an OSAKA headband was in the REMOTE! 
A basketball – filled with a package of slime.
This was M’s surprise since she was taking ice skating lessons. Cute, right!

I think the whole Surprise is so great and so original. I love it and not sure why it never made it’s way to to the US, UK or Ireland. Sure we have grabs, Kris Kringle and the poems, but never the creative aspect of putting your gift inside something made about the hobby or interest of the receiver.  I love it and look forward to next year! 🙂 

On the same day, Sint came to the kids’ school along with his Piets which delivered peppernoten to the classrooms. Each group sang songs, etc. The kids had a great time!

As with all these holidays, it’s about being together as a family and we’re spending a few days together the the family here in The Netherlands. The family and kids from NYC will come in the summer, so we’re all be together then and will make up for this missed time then.   Last year my family came over so maybe next year we head back to the US?  

2018 was interesting to the say the least and I’m looking forward to 2019!