License Plate Photo Game

If you have taken a road trip in the United States you probably have heard of and played the license plate game.   Every car in the US has a license plate with the name of the state where the car is licensed and a unique combination of numbers/letters and a motto.  Some are prettier than others according to the kids.

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Now in the digital age there are apps for tracking, but back int he day, most people just printed out a list of the states and you made a check mark on the ones you find.  But as we spent a month in New England last summer, our 8 & 10 year olds were keen on taking photos of all the different plates to see if they could get all 50.   And being a typical 10 year old boy, about 5 days into our trip, he deleted ALL the photos on his sisters camera wiping out all photos.  GRRR!!!  Anyway, we of course, we knew it would be a huge challenge, but it was a fun thing to do as we went around the various states and did our touristy things.   As we were visiting Cape Cod and Maine – both huge vacation areas in the summer, I was sure we’d see some cool ones.  And we did – Wyoming, Washington State, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado to name some.

Not bad that we got 34 plus some bonus ones.

The 50 States and the District of Columbia (HAVE THE ONES IN GREEN)

Alabama                        Hawaii                 Michigan              North Carolina      Utah
Alaska                            Idaho                    Minnesota            North Dakota        Vermont
Arizona                          Illinois                  Mississippi           Ohio                        Virginia
Arkansas                       Indiana                 Missouri               Oklahoma              Washington
California                      Iowa                      Montana               Oregon                   West Virginia
Colorado                        Kansas                  Nebraska              Pennsylvania        Wisconsin
Connecticut                   Kentucky             Nevada                  Rhode Island         Wyoming
Delaware                       Louisiana             New Hampshire  South Carolina
District of Columbia    Maine                   New Jersey            South Dakota
Georgia                           Maryland            New Mexico          Tennessee
Florida                            Massachusetts    New York              Texas

Alaska and Hawaii are the most difficult and we didn’t find them.  But my sister sent me a photo of Alaska on her recent move from Maine to South Carolina – so we can’t take credit for that super unique find!


We consider these two, a US Government & Consul, to be bonus ones.

ConsulUS Government

But the most super cool one which we’d never expect to get was MEXICO!


What I like most about the license plate game is that not only is it fun for the kids and easy to play.  It is also educational, because as the person plays, they learn the names of all the states that make up the United States of America.   And while our kids are half American, they spent more of their lives living abroad, so this helps with their knowledge and geography of the USA.

I mentioned we were in Maine for some of our trip, so of course, we’d get some Canadian plates too including New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
NewBruinswick CanadaNovaScotiaCanadaOntarioCanadaPEI Canada
Not sure when our next trip back to the US will be but we’ll certainly be on the look out for the remaining plates.
Alabama                    Hawaii                  New York
Arkansas                   Indiana                 North Dakota
Connecticut              Iowa                      Ohio
Delaware                  Louisiana             Oregon
Georgia                      Montana              South Dakota

Florida                      Nebraska

If we’re in Orlando, I bet we’d find the rest of the plates super fast.

After I look at the list another time, how is it possible that after spending a month in New England, how didn’t we get a photo of a NEW YORK or CONNECTICUT plate??   Probably on the photos my 10 year old friend “accidentally” deleted after pushing tons of buttons when he shouldn’t have 🙂

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….


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! 🙂

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!

Birthday Bike riding at National Park de Loonse en Drunense Duinen

For Maebh’s 7th birthday, our family spent a few hours at the National Park de Loonse en Drunense Duinen which is essentially is a giant desert of sand surrounded by a forest.  It’s nicknamed the Sahara of Europe or Brabantse Sahara

We really stuck with the trails and bike riding but you could easily walk in the dunes all day.

Maebh doesn’t like sand in her shoes so asked for a piggyback ride.  Lol the entire place is sand, so hard to avoid even with piggy back rides.

We came across an Irish horse called Sally. The rider said the horse is Irish so she can understand you jokingly. I am not sure if is that we spoke English, or is it the Irish accents we’ve definitely developed after living in Ireland for 2.5 years!?

We rented bikes at De Rustende Jager (The Resting Hunter #36 on the map.

At first I suggested a tandem for Maebh but she really wanted to do it herself.
Don’t we look like Nils and his three kids?!

As Maebh only learned to ride a bike in the past week and has only been on her bike about four times, we were thinking we’d have to turn around in 10 minutes BUT surprisingly after a few stops and complaining, she got on with it and she rode for over TWO HOURS!

We had a little map with the route around the park and it was recommended that we visit Het Genieten #22 – a recreational place with a great playground inside and out and a water park play area.  So with that as our destination we set off and each time we stopped we kept saying  I just a bit further.

When we arrived, The kids had to visit the indoor one so we paid €3.50 each but truthfully it was a waste for the whopping 10 minutes spent inside!  Outside was way better and as it was not raining or very cold, we should have said no to the indoor option.
Overall, the kids loved it and so did we… I think we’ll visit again during this trip!  It’s supposed to be warmer on Sunday, so perhaps we go then.

It was a lvely way to spend the day with the family and it was our first time that we went on a biking adventure.  Surprisingly my legs were not in pain the next day as I suspected they would be.   When back in Dublin, we’ll rent bikes in Malahide Castle or Phoenix Park.

Crabbing on the Cromer Pier

Every since we came to the UK, we’ve been wanting to try crabbing and today we did just that.  With the temperature near 20 (70 F) we took advantage of the great, sunny weather and headed for the place most famous for crabbing near us – the Cromer Pier!




First, we stopped off at a local shop and picked up two nets and some bait.  We used our own buckets but next time, we’ll get the bigger ones.  We picked up a pouch of each – tiny squid and some smoked mackerel.  We were told the other day to pick up a mackerel head so I thought the smoked bait was just as good.



Before we got on the pier, Soren & Nils headed down to the water fill up their buckets for the crabs to sit in and some rocks to weigh down the nets.


Once we got on the pier, we picked our spot to sit and took out the nets.  Immediately I noticed there was not a tiny mesh pouch like we have seen in some other kits.  Turns out that with this type of  basket net, you don’t have a mesh bag.  So Nils walked down the pier to ask in the shop and was told that you are supposed to tie your bait to the bottom of your net.  (But you are not given a string other than the one you use to tie on the net.) The bags work better at Wells-Next-The-Ssea & Blakeney Quays as you only have 4 feet from water to your arm but – you have to hope the crab held on from the water to the top.  Finally, we managed to hang the fish – one basket was better than the other, a few large stones and then Nils set them off over the edge but not before tasting the delicious chum.  Then we were off – our first go at crabbing.



After some waiting, creative pulling in due to the wind and getting caught on the beams below, we headed over to the other side of the pier where it was less windy.  Same deal, Nils set them up correctly for us and we waited…. and waited… and waited.  Nils said that  we had a crab on the OUTSIDE of our net once and I didn’t even see it.  A family came over next to us and shared some tips.  They actually gave me one of their many squid pieces which they brought.  Immediately he started catching crabs – three in 5 minutes.  Lots of waiting and adjusting and pulling up the EMPTY net, we were some what discouraged as many of the other people on the pier were catching little buggers.  Soren had a great time pulling up the line, as if he was an old pro at this.











A little frustrated we needed a break and left the pots.  Time for an ice cream break!

We got ice cream at the end of the pier – but we’ll never get a ice cream at that place again – it was like soup.  Before we paid, it was completely melting and had to get cups to dump in our cones.  The kids wore half of it, but it was fun, nonetheless.


You can start to see some freckles on Soren’s cheeks!

Back to the pier to check on our, once again, EMPTY nets.  Maebh was then a little bored, so Nils took her over to see the RNLI Lifeboat– which is so cool being located on the END of the pier.   When he was on that side of the pier, he noticed several people catching a lot of crabs, so we moved again.

Third time the charm, right? Ah, NOPE!  Sadly, even over there, we got nothing, but we did get to watch a guy to our left catch quite a few and a spider crab.  The Japanese tourists to our right was catching dozens of them… loads of laughs, camera shots, Facebook updates.  I asked what they were using for bait and they used BACON but I did see some squid and what I think was chicken in little bags off to the side.







So despite Soren’s best efforts and great attitude – “we can’t give up, until we catch a crab”, we left crab-less but the kids had a lot of fun & memories and we’ll be back.

At dinner, we all agreed it was fun and that next time, we’ll try bacon!