Christmas in The Netherlands – Part 3: Celebrate Like an Adult

So, you’ve been invited to a grown up party for Sinterklaas. What now?

Every culture has it’s own way of celebrating Christmas. But this isn’t really Christmas, is it? I have gotten a bit of grief for calling these posts “Christmas in the Netherlands” but I stand by the title. It’s the Christmas season. I thought about changing it so “Holidays in the Netherlands” but that is far to vague, there are a lot of holidays. So I’ll keep it Christmas for now, but I do want to clarify one thing. It’s the Sinterklaas celebration. If you have read my earlier posts about this time of year you know that the Dutch like to shake things up a bit. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security because it’s an adult party during the Christmas holidays and you think you know what’s coming. I have made that mistake and there were a lot of very confused Dutch people around me. 

So what are the basics?

Surprise

I take no credit for this Surprise. Thank you internet.  

Just like the kids do. If you give a gift the wrapping needs to be special and look like something else. Some examples from parties I have been to include: A giant box of packing peanuts with several very small gifts inside. A wrapped box inside a wrapped box inside a wrapped box that contained a present. I went to one of these Sinterklaas celebrations with my knit group and a present given to a woman (who was a rower) it was a hand made paper rowing machine with knit related presents in all the tube bits. It was amazing. But you get the idea.

The Poem:

You read that right. The Poem. You write a poem about the person you are giving a gift to. If you are giving multiple gifts then you better set aside some time because you are going to have to get really creative. Here is the kick, they are a bit mean. It’s like the closer you are to someone the meaner they get. For heavens sake don’t call Karen at the office fat, but it’s perfectly acceptable to make a little rhyme about how your brother didn’t do a very good job staying away from the sweets this year. Maybe it’s the Dutch bluntness coming through. Who knows. But it’s a thing.

The Games

I can’t really give you to many specifics because they are all different. If you are invited to a party and not specifically told that you are bringing a gift for a specific person, there is gonna be a party game. At least you off the hook about the poem and the surpise wrapping at this point, so that’s good. The games can get extraordinarily complicated and will differ from family to family or from group to group but they all amount to the same basic theme. Fighting over the best 3 presents. My family played a version of this on Christmas Eve every year so I’m used to the general concept but the Dutch tend to add in a lot of extra rules. And it will probably be in mostly Dutch so you are a at a disadvantage there as well. The easiest version is: everyone brings a gift. Then they pick a number written on a tiny piece of paper from a box. The person who picked the number 1 opens a present. The person who has picked the number 2 can either open an unwrapped present or take the present that the previous person has opened. If person number 2 takes the present from person number 1 then person number 1 opens a new present. It tends to get a bit dicey when person number 8 takes a present from person number 3, then person number 3 takes a present from person number 5……  WAITER, OH WAITER, YES PLEASE. ANOTHER MERLOT PLEASE! There is generally some kind of cap on it like a present can only be shifted 5 times until it is out of play. At my knit group parties we all brought 3 small gifts (under like 5 Euros each) but one had to be hand made.

Let the mayhem begin! 

The most complicated one I have experienced involved dice. One really, so die (although this word always feels wrong to me for some reason). There was a chart. Roll a one and you open a present. Roll a 2 and everyone moves one seat to the left (but the present stays behind and you inherit the person to the lefts present). Roll a 3 and you take someones present….. This sort of thing. It was fun and all but mostly I ended up with a headache trying to keep up with it all. It doesn’t help that it was in one of my Dutch classes so it was first thing in the morning and there was no booze.

Seriously, the point is to have fun so just go with it. I promise you will not be the only person confused. And there is great satisfaction in bringing the gift that is getting fought over. 

The Food

This will also vary from party to party. Most of the celebrations I have attended have been is a cafe so you were free to order snacks. If it’s a large private gathering there will be snacks and soup. Soups. Whats with the soup? At every Dutch party I have ever been to I have been handed a bowl of tomato soup. (I asked about this and a Dutch friend literally said “tomato soup is a staple of Dutch cuisine” with, like the most serious look on her face. Like questioning the soup was the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard.  Uuummmm. Hilarious) There will be bread and some bowls of vegetables. If things are really getting fancy there will be food on sticks. Everything tastes better on a stick, right? Some possibilities are bits of chicken with a peanut sauce or a tomato, basil and mozzarella combination.  It varies a bit but generally it sticks to this theme. There is also a gourmet option. This is only for small (mainly family) gatherings. Basically it’s a hot plate in the middle of the table and everyone cooks their own food. I’ll get more descriptive about this in my next post about what happens after Sinterklaas leaves and we can get into a proper Christmas.

Me modeling the favorite gift a knit group party years ago. Sadly, this beauty did not come home with me. 

So there you go. Don’t forget the drinking. There will always be drinking. Don’t feel intimidated. If you are lucky enough to get invited to one of these then you will be with friends who will help you through. Just smile and remember that everything is meant to be fun, even if you have to read a poem about yourself that mentions your inability to tell jokes properly or the fact that you are never on time.


Have you read my other posts about Christmas in the Netherlands? NO?! GASP! It’s OK, I’ll link them here: Part one: Sinterklaas is coming to town

What’s next? You didn’t think we were done, did you? There is so much more! Next we get to talk about what happens after Sinterklaas gets on his boat and heads back to Spain with sacks and sacks full of naughty children he will enslave for the next year. I always try to end things on a positive note.

Wait… There is also New Years to talk about!


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Rainy Days and Cross Word Puzzles

It’s official, the weather has turned nasty. Remember those bright sunny days when all you wanted to do is go outside? I know, I barley do as well, it feels like ages ago (when in fact it was like, what, last month?). This time of year I start looking for things to keep my kids entertained and off of screens as much as possible. Not that I worry about screens to much, after all every one needs some down time, but if I offer my kids something fun to do instead they will gladly turn of the TV so I try to have a few easy activities on hand. 

My usual “go to” activities for cold and dreary afternoons are crafting but now that my son is learning to read in school I can branch out a little. He brings his work books home and shows me all the fun word puzzles and stories and (of course) they are all in Dutch.

I used to love cross word puzzles as a child and it looks like my son will be the same. Now to find a good English resource so I can join in the fun, as well as reinforce his English language skills. 

So Stinking Cute! 

Education.com is an amazing resource. It has pages and pages of free printables. Work sheets, coloring pages, cross word puzzles, math sheets, you name it and they have it. I’m fantasizing printing out some and making a “busy book” for each of my kids. I can put the sheets in page protectors and they can use a dry erase marker!! We could take it with us when we go out to eat and my kids would sit like such angels, busily learning while I actually get to have an adult chat. Other parents would look with envy at my amazing parenting skills!

Wow. That fantasy got away away from me there. Sorry about that.

But it is a fun idea.

They also have resources for teachers, like lesson plans and such. I actually got a bit excited about this. My son want’s to practice his reading at home but all of our books are, of course, in English. He gets really frustrated. I think it may be a good idea to start helping him along with his English reading skills at home a bit and Ehttps://www.education.com/resources/ela/reading/ would be a nice resource for that as well.

Here is a sample crossword puzzle. Cute, right?

The site is really easy to navigate. You fan filter your searches by grade, theme, or activity.

Check it out Education.com and you will be just as excited about it as I am!


Museum T’Oude Slot: Sinterklaas House

I volunteered today to help take the kids in my daughters class to Museum T’Oude Slot today. A magical outing for the kids to do something special during school and I helped make that possible, what a good mom, right? Seriously, super mom. How do I find the time? The patience? I take such an active role in parenting that I even amaze myself. At least, that is how I feel when I sign up for these things. Then the day comes and I’m left thinking “What the hell was I thinking? When will I learn?” Because what will end up happening is that I stand awkwardly alone in the corner as none of the other parents talk to me. Maybe it’s the mohawk, maybe it’s because I’m foreign, who knows. But I keep signing up. I’m not that bright sometimes.

On this day though, I’m glad I did. I was still standing awkwardly in the corner not talking to anyone for most of the morning but it was nice to see my daughter have fun. Also, I’m glad I got to visit the Sinterklaas House in Veldhoven.

Damn this thing was organized. I was amazed. You see, every class in probably every school in Veldhoven is going to hit this spot in the next few weeks. Each class gets an hour. It was like: BAM! Lets sing some songs. BAM! You have 15 minutes to color a picture. BAM! lets spend a few minutes talking about the big book (like our naughty and nice list). BAM! This is where Sinterklaas sleeps………. It goes on like that. All with 2 super  friendly Pieten interacting with the kids and making sure everyone is still smiling. I’m not gonna lie, it was overwhelming for me. Plus, all of the other parents there know all the kids names. How do the do that? When I want to scream at one of my kids at home I often have to run though the names of everyone living in the house before I finally get to the one that I am actually upset with. I sometimes get the dogs name mixed up with the kids!  Anyways. It was really scheduled.

This is where the Pieten sleep and work

But it’s not always like that. Apparently this is just for the school groups. I got a chance to talk to a really lovely woman who works there while the kids were getting bundled up to go back to school and got the lowdown on what happens during normal visiting hours.  When they aren’t herding school children around with military precision, it sounds like a pretty chill place.

Sinterklaashuis Veldhoven is open to the public, kids can wander and explore on their own. If you haven’t read any of my other blogs about this time of year (don’t feel sad, I’ll link them below), Sinterklaas comes to the Netherlands for a few weeks every year and has to sleep somewhere, right? It’s like a super special hotel full of magic and joy. I’m pretty sure there is one in just about every city, but don’t quote me on that.

T’Oude Slot is really nice. There is lots to see and do. There is a coloring and crafting room, and different rooms and buildings where Sint and his Pieten work while they are in town. Kids can explore his office and look at “the book”, his bedroom, the room where the Pieten sleep and do the wrapping and such.

There is also a small cafe where you can have a drink (adults actually get a free coffee or tea with their admission). They also have beer and wine! I love this country! Of course I was drinking tea. After all, I was driving. Other peoples kids. And it was like 10:30 in the morning. But you bet I noticed the beer and wine!

Opening times: This reads a bit funny (to me but I’ll bet it makes perfect sense to Dutch people) so I’ll break it down for you:

  • Wednesday – Saturday: 1:00 – 5:00
  • Sundays: 1:30 – 4:30
  • On December 1st there is also a late opening time: 5:00 – 7:00
  • The Pieten are there on Wednesday and all weekend
  • Sinterklass is only there weekends from 1:30 -3:30

Despite the fact that I will be going twice with school trips (yes, I also signed up to take kids in my sons class. Once again… what the hell was I thinking) I think I will take the kids over the weekend. They have chocolate letter decorating!

It’s a cool place.

Some Helpful Info:

  • This is their website (Sorry, it’s in Dutch)
  • Entry is 4 Euros for over the age of 17 and 2 Euros for anyone under that.
  • Museum card holders get in free! If you don’t know about the magic of the museum card you can read about it here.
  • There is free onsite parking
  • Of course this is only during the period that Sinterklass is in town.


I wish this was wine!!!

More Dutch Christmas excitement

And another Sinterklaas house:


Christmas in the Netherlands – Part 2: Celebrate Like a Dutch kid

So the Intocht has come and gone, what next? This is when things get interesting.

There are 2 things going on during this time of year:  one is for the kids and one is for adults. I’ll start with the kids, this is a long enough to require two different posts ( trust me, they both require a lot of explaining).

The shoe thing:

Children will put their shoes by the fire place / radiator / back door (depending on your house) with a gift for the horse. This can be sugar cubes, a bit of hay or a carrot. I generally just chuck a carrot in there because who has hay, right? The idea is that when Sinterklaas checks in the horse gets a treat and Sinterklaas leaves a small present in return. The present, and how often this happens depends on the family. I honestly don’t know any one who does this every night, once or twice a week tends to be the standard. I do it when I remember, honestly. As far as the little present goes, I keep is simple. Chuck a few pepernoten in there and you are good, especially for younger kids. Fun pencils, play-doe, a bit of chocolate, keep it small. The big bit is yet to come. It’s important to keep it round about shoe sized so that it can go in the shoe. There are some special songs apparently, that kids can sing as they are putting out the shoes, my son was never interested in such things but my daughter is learning Dutch Sinterklaas songs like a mofo so I have that to look forward to.

Special Events:

My kids begging for pepernoten

In most villages there will be some form of Piet House and / or a Sinterklaas house. A Piet House is just Piets. There are usually activities for kids on certain days. It’s a fun thing to check out. Last year at the Piet House in Veldhoven, they ushered us into a makeshift movie theater and we watched a short movie staring Sinterklaas and the Pieten. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty miserable but my kids really enjoyed it. The previous year is was more activity based and I hope they go back to that. I’ll be sure to let you know. 

The bigger deal is the Sinterklaas House. This is where Sinterklaas and his troupe sleep while they are in town. I’m pretty sure there is one in every village, but don’t hold me to that. If your kids are in school they generally go as a group though the school, so you’re off the hook. If not, I have only experienced the one in Nuenen but I’m going to try to check out at least one more this year. You can read about my experience in Nuenen here


Piet biked Sinterklaas to my sons former school

You really don’t need to go too far out of your way, honestly. You generally can’t throw a rock without hitting a Piet this time of year. Grocery stores, department stores, even my gym will have some kind of celebration. I can’t tell you how shocking it was to walk into my local shop and seeing all the check out people dressed up in full black face. Generally Sinterklaas will also visit the schools as well. For me it all gets a bit overwhelming honestly. I really tried to do everything one year and it was so exhausting that I didn’t enjoy it.  I’ve simplified things and I like it much more.

Lets talk candy:

Pepernoten

Pepernoten rules the holiday, but it’s a bit more complicated than it seems. What you are eating from the shop is technically kruidnoten. These are the crunchy little balls of goodness. Pepernoten are soft. Like tinny little cakes. The confusion exists because even Dutch people will call everything pepernoten. Even the packaging at the shop is often inaccurate. Dutch people don’t seen to mind, though. Don’t ask me why.

What happens on the 5th?

That is when Sinterklaas delivers the presents. Kids go to school as normal and at some point in the evening Pieten deliver the presents in a burlap sack. Of course the amount of presents depends on the family but considering it’s the main present holiday, Dutch people go big. I saw a neighbor bring in 3 huge burlap sacks full of boxes. I have always tried to keep small since Santa also comes to my house but I’m not sure how long that will last. I am afraid the when all the kids comparing their presents my kids may start to feel disappointing. If this happens I will have to put more emphasis on Dutch tradition and ease up on my American ones. After all, I don’t want them to have to much stuff!! Getting the presents inside can be a bit tricky. Generally I reach out and ring the doorbell then shut the door and let the kids answer it. There doesn’t have to be anyone there. Just tell them that it’s a super busy night and the Pieten can’t say hi to all the kids.  You can hire people to dress up like Piet and deliver the presents personally if you would like, also.

Pieten came to my house last year to deliver presents

Older Kids:

Around group 5 schools switch up up a bit (8 or 9 year olds). The dreaded Surprise gets thrown into the mix. It’s pronounced more like “surpeez”, by the way. This completely depends on the school, though. Most commonly the kids will draw names and get a small gift for another kid. Here is the trick: the packaging has to be special and the aim is to conceal even the shape of the present. Luckily I am not at this level yet because it feels like a lot of work that is going to end up being done by me.  Luckily at this age children are generally old enough to understand whats going on so they can (hopefully) explain things to you. I was told by a Dutch friend that the easiest and most common thing thing to do is to get crafty with a shoe box, turn it into a boat looking thing and hide the present inside. Good luck!

There are only three more things that you need to know..

  • The chocolate letter. This is an absolute requirement. Buy the first letter of everyone’s first name. Including adults. Buy them early because the more popular letters may sell out.
  • DON’T PUT UP YOUR CHRISTMAS TILL SINTERKLAAS IS SAILING BACK TO SPAIN. Well, you will seem very weird and your neighbors will gossip about you if you put it up too soon. I’m not going to lie I put mine up super early. The way I look at it is that I’m already a bit odd so why not just do what I want? It’s your damn house and your pretty sparkly tree!!!! But you will get looks if you tell a Dutchy.
  • It’s best not to voice to many opinions about Zwart Piet unless you want to get into a heated argument with a Dutch person. No matter how many times they try to get people to stop using black face and how the entire world is watching the Netherlands in horror this time of year they are clinging to the tradition.

My advise: don’t complicate things. If your child is in school you’re pretty covered and if they aren’t than they don’t know whats going on anyways.  Grab yourself an adult beverage and enjoy!

Christmas in the Netherlands – Part one: Sinterklaas is Comming to Town

Logan drew this for Sinterklass last year and delivered it to him in Nuenen!


Pompoenerie Best

Yesterday my kids and I went to a pumpkin patch in Best. I didn’t know what to expect, honestly. I have never been to a pumpkin patch in the Netherlands. In the US, Texas at least, visiting a pumpkin patch is a must do in the Fall. No Facebook timeline is complete without adorable pictures of your kids sitting on, leaning against or standing among pumpkins. To forgo this yearly tradition will probably get you kicked out of some club, I think.

But they are great. I have fond memories of hay rides pulled by tractors. Bouncy castles. I have an amazing picture of my son when he was around 1 year old sitting inside a sculpture of a pumpkin with the words “my first pumpkin patch ” written on it.

img_20181017_121517This was nothing like that.

It was a yard full of pumpkins.

I was really afraid my kids would be upset and bored but they actually had a great time.  I’m constantly surprised by my kids. They can find fun in just about anything. As long as I stay positive, that is. I learned that a long time ago. The will follow my lead. It helped that there were some crazy looking pumpkins. I have never seen all these shapes! My kids ran around picking them up and giggling at all the shapes. It was great. I realized that it was a bit to early to carve pumpkins for Halloween but I do love some crafting! I told the kids that the could each pick out a pumpkin and we ended up with 11.

You read that right. But they are small ones. I’m not completely crazy!

I also got 2 for eating. One regular pumpkin for soups and such and one spaghetti squash.Yummy.

Pompoenerie Best does have a little cafe that sells drinks as well as homemade pumpkin soup and pie. We didn’t hang out though, so I can’t report back.

When we got home I busted out the paint and we went to work. It was great fun.

So, it wasn’t the pumpkin patch experience of my childhood but the people were super nice and helpful and it was a really fun outing. And the little pumpkins were super img_20181017_142455cheap! Al in all I spent something like 11 Euros.

What’s not to love? The kids got excited about a vegetable. They spent the afternoon being creative.  I get to indulge in cooking so many delicious pumpkin recipes. And, I have adorable painted pumpkins on my table.

Everyone wins!

Some helpful information:

  • This is their website: Pompoeneriebest
  • This is the physical address:  Broekstraat 13, 5684 LW  BEST
  • Bring cash. I didn’t ask if they accept pin but I doubt it. I just kinda assumed.
  • I just parked on the street out front. If that was wrong, they didn’t say anything.
  • Opening times are a bit tricky. They just say “depending on our availability on the website. Go midday and you should be safe.
  • This is only during the fall break

Herfstvakantie: 2018

The fall break starts in 2 days for most kids in North Brabant. That means a whole week entertaining the kids. Luckily there is no shortage of activities and places to let them run off their energy.

 

Within the center of Eindhoven the Library is going to be your best bet. There is

IMG_20180413_151013.jpg
There is nothing like fall in Holland!

something for the kids to do every day. We are particularly excited about Thursdays event. A meet and greet with Elsa and Anna but there are fun things to do throughout the week for all age groups.

A little further out in Wiltelre you can take the kids on a kabouter hunt! Kabouters are little gnome people that live in the forest. Bosschuur de Meren sets up a magical path through the woods with little houses and other evidence of their fun.

In Best you can take the kids to Pumpkin Days. I havent’t been yet but it’s on my list for the fall break. Apparently you can pick out pumpkins for decorating and cooking. There are crafts and workshops for the kids. Should be fun.

  • Here is their website (sorry it’s in Dutch) I’ll try to check it out early in the week and report back. Pompoenerie Best

If you are looking to go a bit further out for a grand adventure the zoo in Amersfort is hosting special Dino Days during the break. I haven’t been but my son is slightly obsessed with dinosaurs so it caught my eye. We have year passes to Dierenrijk: Nuenen so it is really hard to justify spending money to go to another zoo but I may make an exception for this.

 

If I come across other special activities that look interesting I’ll add it in. Honestly there are probably loads. I saw that the Maritime Museum in Rotterdam had some special events on for the week and I assume that most of the “Kid Proof” museums will be doing something special.

There are also plenty of local options that aren’t specific for the break.

In Veldhoven there is our go-to indoor playplace Ballorig. Always a safe bet and easy to reach by public transport. Warning, though: I would always try to avoid Ballorig during holidays when my kids were super little because it would get so busy and I had trouble keeping up with them.  Once they were able to really run on their own it got easier.

 

This is also a perfect time of the year to visit Zoo Veldhoven. The indoor play area gets really hot during the summer but right now will be perfect.

 

If you are looking to beyond the area there are LOADS of options. I’ll link a few of my favorites but my blog is full of them. And every break I try to go somewhere new, I’m thinking a water park. Now that my son is in swim lessons he is constantly asking to go swimming. Normally I take them to our sports club or the local pool Zwembad Den Ekkerman: Veldhoven but I’m thinking I would go a little fancy.  Geesh, my kids are spoiled!!!

Billy Bird: Hemelrijk

Monkey Town: Valkenswaard

Kinderboerderij De Hazewinkel

Enjoy the break. If you find any other fun things please share!!!

imag0205
Bosschuur de Meren

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato, Carrot and Red Lentil Soup

This particular morning was a bit of a shit show. Not a “scream at the kids because they won’t put shoes on, end up late for school and realize I’ve forgotten the backpacks” level shit show thankfully, though those mornings happen. Mostly the kids just required my full attention this morning. We were at school on time with no screaming from mommy, but Iimg_20180927_085945 wasn’t able to do anything else I normally do. I came home from drop off to a disaster of a kitchen, night clothes scattering the floor and the contents of yesterdays backpack on the table.

I also had the very annoying realization that I had nothing ready for dinner and I would have no time to prepare anything. I had agreed to represent Eindhoven News at the Eindhoven Library on Thursdays so my day was full.  I had a parent teacher conference after school and I spoke at a Braincandies event later. I had about an hour in between to get the kids settled and fed and make myself look presentable. So that left me with about an hour this morning to get things sorted.

I’m not going lie, I kinda panicked. My first thought was premade poffertjes. Fortunately, I realized that I had everything I needed to make my sons favorite soup. He calls it the “orange soup”, and for good reason. It’s sweet potato, carrot, red lentil. and some spices. I also put in onion, garlic and the juice of half a lemon.

I don’t usually measure soups out but this morning I made a bit more of an effort because I was planning on writing this.

I used:

  • one large sweet potato
  • 6 big carrots
  • 3 small onions
  • 2 (ish) cups of red lentils

 

Really, don’t overthink it. It’s going to be delicious.

I cut everything up and toss it in. Cover it with water. The amount of water takes some getting used to because if you don’t put in enough the vegetables will absorb it all and nothing will cook properly but if you add to much then it will be really thin and runny. My general rule is to add enough water to cover everything and then about an inch on top. If you have the opportunity to check in on it during the day you can always add more water if needed.

As for seasoning I like to use a curry powder. For some reason when I think red lentils curry powder goes with it naturally. No clue why, but it works. I also add cumin and coriander. Lots of salt. I don’t add to much of each because my son doesn’t like foods that taste of much. He generally likes things pretty bland. I always have extra salt and hot sauce on hand. I would say about 2 tablespoons of each to start.

So what does your delicious soup look like when you come home?

img_20180927_143119
raw…

Well, if you are like me on this particularly hectic day it looks raw. I, apparently, forgot to turn it on.

Shit.

Luckily it’s not meat so nothing in it will get gross sitting at room temperature all day. Also luckily, kinda, the kids had parties at school and were full of cupcake so they didn’t really want dinner anyways. Fruit for dinner!!!

Don’t judge.

So I turned on the crock pot before I left for my event. Double check, yes it’s on..

I came home and the house was starting to smell amazing. I let it cook on low though the night. My crock pot will automatically switch to a “warm” mode after the preset time is up and that’s super handy.

img_20180928_074152
I woke up to a pot full of happy!

I woke up to some amazing soup.

I used my stick blender to make sure everything was nice and smooth.

My kids have a half day Friday so we had the soup for lunch. As expected, I needed to add some salt and hot sauce. You can also add extra seasoning at the end but put it in a little at a time and give it a moment and then put more in. As my chef mentor always said, you can always add but you can never subtract.

This soup is a staple at my house. My son doesn’t like soup “with bits in” so no chunky vegetable soup for us although sometimes he will eat chili. Plus these are ingredients that I have on hand and you don’t have to be worried about amounts of anything really. More carrots, more sweet potato, regular potatos that need to get used, whatever, toss it in.  This literally takes me about 10 minutes to get ready. It’s going to cook all day and get blended later so you can leave everything in big chunks so it is super quick with little clean up. Week night dinner for the win!

Enjoy!

img_20180928_124055_01

Hoeve de Nachtegaal: Wintelre

As anyone who follows me on FB or Instagram knows, we spend a ton of time at Bosschuur De Meren. It’s a great nature reserve in Wintelre with a water pump, sand pile and lots of nature. We love it there and go generally once a week when the weather gets nice. But, good or bad, Boschuur comes with an added ritual: ice cream on the way home at Hoeve de Nachtegaal: Wintelre. The kids call it “the cow place” and its not hard img_20180718_144028to understand why. It’s a little dairy. I think. It’s a bit unclear, honestly. But they have lots and lots of cows…..

It’s actually a really cute little cafe with an indoor and outdoor play area so it’s good in any weather. My kids love it there and it has become our post Boschuur ritual. There is a really cool playground outside with play equipment, a trampoline and a wooden play house. Slides are set into the little hill and there are plastic trucks and such. Lately there has been a bouncy castle outside on pretty days.  It’s awesome, but the play ground is plenty even when it isn’t up. There is lots of outside seating so on pretty days I sit outside and have a glass of wine or a beer and the kids play and have an ice cream.

On really pretty days I generally tell the kids that they are to dirty to play inside. This probably isn’t true but on pretty days they should play outside, damn it! This is the Netherlands! It’s pretty for like 3 weeks!

I have brought the kids here for a play on not so pretty days as well. On these days we play in the indoor play area. It is upstairs from the main cafe seating. There is only one large table so if there is more than one family there it can get a little cozy, but it has img_20180718_142020always been fine. I have never been there with more than one family. There is a little ball pit, cars, a play store, bins of toys, that sort of thing. You can sit up there and eat but tell the waitress that that is the plan because they won’t just come up and check on you. Also upstairs is a little room with a big window overlooking the cows. The kids think its great. I think it smells like cow and I’m glad there is a heavy door protecting me from the smell.img_20180718_141336

The menu: So it’s pretty basic and totally Dutch. I think most of their business is from old people and selling kids ice cream so it’s not much of a surprise. They have a brie, honey and walnut sandwich that I really enjoy, it’s an open faced number best eaten with a fork. I am also fond of the cheese and pesto sandwich, sounds weird but it’s really good. I love the fact that they don’t have chicken nuggets and fries on the menu, it kinda forces my kids to eat something new. They have sausage rolls (worstenbroodje) and grilled cheese/grilled ham and cheese (tosti) for the kids. Pro tip: on the menu there is a “maxi tosti”, this is three halves of a grilled cheese sandwich. that’s perfect for my 2 kids because neither will rarely eat a whole one. We don’t often eat here, honestly. Only  when we have spent a super long day at Boschuur and I either don’t have the time or motivation to cook a dinner. Or if my kids eat all the food I packed and are still hungry. Generally we go for the ice cream. It’s really good ice cream!

The staff is always super friendly. They have always been very tolerant of my crazy dirty and often shoe less kids running through the place to get to the indoor play area. The ice cream is in a cooler by the door so that’s super easy as well.

It’s a very pretty area. It’s really popular to do a cycle tour of the area and this is a great stop. I would go without the kids for a quite cup of coffee. Who am I kidding, I don’t cycle for fun and I’m far more likely to have a glass of wine than a coffee but go for it. It is a nice place.

 

Some Helpful Information:

  • This is the website (sorry, it’s in Dutch): Hoeve de Nachtegaal
  • This is their address: Merenweg 1A, 5513 NZ Wintelre
  • There is free parking on site. The parking lot is kida confusing the first time. There is a little building at the road next to the car park. there is a sneaky exit just behind it. It’s hard to explain but you will get it when you get there. I’ve seen some interesting things from people trying to get out of that car park.
  • They aren’t open in the evenings but the hours can change depending on the season.

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Looking for some other places with both indoor and outdoor options?

Zwembad Den Ekkerman: Veldhoven

All of a sudden my kids LOVE to swim. They have always enjoyed swimming but before it was mostly playing in the water. Since my son began swim lessons swimming has gotten much more important. He has confidence now and loves practicing what he has learned img_20180721_151254in class. Zwembad Den Ekkerman is a great little pool in Veldhoven. It is our favorite place for a swim outing. My kids like it because there is a lot to do there, slides and fountains and such. I like it because it it relatively small and I can see the entire pool from any spot. And it’s close to where I live, this helps.

There are 3 pools in the complex. A small pool used for swim lessons, a large pool used more for sport (they do have a diving board if that’s something you are into), and the recreational pool. This is the one that I’m going to write about because it is the one to take the kids.

Can I take a moment to complain about swimming? It’s not that I hate swimming, I just don’t enjoy swimming. We spent a lot of time in lakes when I was a child but never in a pool. I think I went to the local swimming pool twice in my life and it was with a friends family both times. It’s just not something we did. And the fact that I never learned to swim doesn’t help. Que all the Dutchies gasping in horror (to all my non Dutch friends, I’ll explain later.), my school took us for a few hours of swim lessons one afternoon but I learned how to float and tread water. I can doggie paddle like a pro but I never learned to swim. We have a much more “well, she probably wont die” stance when it comes to swimming than Dutchies.  But, despite my dislike of all things swimming, I take them as regularly as I can stomach. I smile and play keep my thoughts on that beer that is waiting for me at the end. Hey, I totally earned it! Ans since Den Ekkerman is within walking distance from my house I can even have two!

img_20180721_151314Honestly, Den Ekkerman makes taking the kids swimming a bit easier. Like I have said, it’s not a very large pool so I can see everywhere. They manage to pack a lot of fun into that space, however. There are 2 fountains, a ledge that bubbles come out of, and a lazy river style bit, a whirl pool, and a bit with super big bubbles that come out of the wall. I feel like I’m not describing things very well. Am I making sense? Bit with bubbles? I’m sure it’s fine.   They are on a rotation so only one “special thing” is going at a time. It’s so fun to see the the kids realize that there is something new and they all  rush over. “THE BUBBLES ARE BACK!!” That sort of thing.

There is also a really fun tube slide. It’s actually pretty big and spirally, it even goes outside the building. It ends in a little pool dedicated to the slide. I said fun. If you are into this sort of thing it is fun. I, however, am not. Like I said, I’m not a huge fan of swimming in general and slides are the worst! My son loves them but isn’t old enough to go on his own so it’s a full day of “mommy, will you take me on the big slide?”. “Sure sweets, there is nothing I would rather do” gggrrrrrrrrr….. But it’s cool, anything for the kids, right?

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There is also a small baby pool with little water features. It’s really cute and perfect for little kids to play on their own.

Another nice thing about Den Ekkerman in the little indoor play area. I don’t know of another pool that has one. There are those giant Lego blocks and some other play things. It’s nice to let the kids take a break from swimming and they can still play with something.

The play area and the little pool are next to the seating area. There are plastic picnic tables and chairs. They are generally stacked up at the back wall and you can grab a table and as many chairs as you need.

Food: There is a small shop that sells some snack foods and drinks. I have always brought my own food and drinks when I take the kids swimming. It is permitted to bring in outside food unless its a birthday party.

Speaking of practical stuff: changing rooms. I seriously don’t know whats worse, getting the kids into their swim stuff or getting them out of them after a day of fun. Seriously, it’s like trying to put clothes on a hyperactive monkey. There are a few changing options. There are large family changing rooms. They are open to everyone and there is no lock so be prepared to share. There are different rooms for men and women, though. There are also small private rooms. When I say “small” I mean it. These are very typical in pools in The Netherlands. I can fit in with my two small kids no problem, though. There are lockers you can rent near the dressing rooms if you are so inclined but I’ve never bothered. There are baby changing tables in the family changing rooms and also by the pool.

So changing with the baby can be intimidating. Here is how I used to manage it. I would keep the little in the stroller while I changed then take the whole thing to a table next to the pool. Then I would change the baby at the changing table there. When we were done swimming I would change the baby back into their clothes and strap them back into the stroller and we would go into a dressing room and I would change into my dry clothes. It is so much easier this way. No one has ever minded me bringing the stroller poolside, just make sure that the wheels are mostly clean.

After taking the kids swimming I always feel like parent of the year. Seriously, I deserve a beer! Just next to the pool is a cafe called Brasserie Ludiek: Veldhoven that we go to for a beer for me and an ice cream for the kids. It’s a nice tradition.

There are a lot of pools in the area but this is my favorite. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Some Helpful Info:

  • This is the address: Wal 152, 5501 HP Veldhoven
  • This is the website, Dutch and English is available: Den Ekkerman
  • Their opening times are kinda weird. Wednesday is the only week day they are open in the morning. Generally they are open in the afternoon and close and reopen in the evening. Saturdays they are open in the afternoon and Sundays till 4:00. The hours change during school breaks. I really recommend checking the website before you go.
  • There is payed parking very close.
  • Kids in The Netherlands are required to wear floaties unless they have their  swim diploma so don’t forget to get your child a pair. You can also buy them at reception if you forget.
  • I haven’t ran into any member of the staff that didn’t speak English so if you have any problems or questions don’t hesitate to ask.

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Such tired Kids!

 

Looking for other places to take the kids swimming?

Inside:

Sterren Strand: Eersel

Outside:

Witven Lake and Beach: Veldhoven

Billy Bird: Hemelrijk

Speeltuin de Kievit: Nuenen

Klimbim: Waalre

Klimbim: Waalre is a great little park. It feels very mishmashed but I think that’s why my kids love it so much. It’s like they started with any and all playground equipment they could find and went from there. The stuff ranges from vintage play, to wooden and natural to shiny new. All in one space. It’s really something special.

The main center of the park consists of a sand pit and a tiny house. They have lots of plastic sand toys scattered about so there is no need to pack anything extra. Then there are all the random play equipment. Slides, see saws (whip whap in Dutch) climbing structures, you name it and they have got it. There are also some wooden play houses and climbing structures. These are my favorites. They look slightly old and so well loved. They are great for imagination based play, my kids had a sand ice cream shop there at one time. On the other side at the back there is a super huge climbing structure with tube slides. Like I said, anything and everything.

The best thing about this park is that it feels great to be there. It is a play sanctuary in the middle of the woods. It’s completely fenced in with only one exit so it is really safe and it is tucked away in the forest so you get the feel of nature. They have also kept a lot of trees inside the park so there is plenty of lovely shade. I just love the feeling and the atmosphere.

It is a pay park. It costs one Euro per person. Totally worth it, in my opinion. There are clean toilets, and a fence so I don’t have to worry about the kids wandering off. That’s not so much of a problem now but last summer it was. My kids were 2 1/2 and 5 so I didn’t have to follow them around but I did have to keep track of them. I have reached that amazing period where my kids love parks but are completely free to roam on their own and I know that if they need me they will find me. I can ***GASP*** read a book! Don’t worry, it will happen to you as well. Be patient. Your days of lounging around will come. You will have to continue being a full time snack bitch, that will never end….. but, anyways. We accept our fate as moms.

I will say that unless your super little kid likes playing in the sand, this is not the best img_20180502_171158place for kids who have just started to walk. There isn’t an awful lot for little kids to do. I found that this park was perfect when my kid was crawling because anything was awesome and then again when they were really sure footed and could walk well and maybe even climb a bit. Well, maybe a more fair thing to say is that you will have to follow your kid around all day and watch them get really frustrated. But the sand bit is really nice so maybe your little will love it. Give it a try.

Klimbim is a really nice park and I really recommend it. Even on the hottest of days it is really nice because of all the shade. Check it out, I think you will love it!

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Some helpful information:

  • This is their website (sorry it is in English); klimbim
  • This is the address: Eikenlaan 11, 5581 HA Waalre
  • There is some parking but on street free parking all around the park
  • The opening time changes depending on the season. generally spring and summer it is open most days in the afternoon and all day weekends, during summer break it is open all day most days. Make sure you check the website before you head out if you are unsure
  • It is one Euro per person to get in. In my experience there are a group of volunteers sitting at the building to the left and you pay them. Don’t worry, they are super chill old dudes. They may or may not speak much English but they are always nice and friendly. Best to pay them on the way in.

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There is totally not wine in the plastic cup 😉

 

Brasserie Ludiek: Veldhoven

I generally avoid going out to eat with the kids because it just isn’t fun. I spend the entire meal trying to keep them calm and entertained so they don’t annoy everyone. Luckily, though, in the Eindhoven area there is no shortage of nice places to eat that have a play space for the kids. Brasserie Ludiek: Veldhoven is a really nice option. Well, now it is. To be honest I always felt it was fine. It was convenient for me as I live very close. It had a small play area. The food was decent. Like I said it was fine. Nothing to complain about but not much to draw me there. I would have lunch there occasionally if I had the kids around. It is very close to the local swimming pool so we would often stop by and I would enjoy a beer while the kids had an ice cream. It’s wasn’t somewhere I would go without the kids and it was never my first choice even with them.

I’m so happy I ventured in last week with my daughter! It was her last day of preschool img_20180705_114842and I wanted to take her out for a girly lunch to celebrate but I didn’t really want to very far. It wasn’t going to be as nice as I would have like but, you know, fine. It has been remolded and now it looks great! Open and modern and cozy feeling. Gezzellig as the Dutch say. It’s a hard one to translate, like a warm and cozy feeling. Things can be gezellig, gatherings, or places can all be described in this way. If you go to a Dutch persons house for any reason, call it gezellig. Instant smile. Your welcome.

img_20180705_130955That got away from me there.

So, back to Ludiek.

New and open. They changed the play area and it’s now a little house with a TV inside. OK, so it’s not the grandest but it works. It’s just inside to the right. Generally the tables just around it are occupied by the parents of the small kids. This is really perfect because the kids aren’t generally having to run through the place.

If you sit to the back you should be able to enjoy your meal or a cup of coffee relatively kid free.  This little area was perfect for my nearly 4 year old but I’m not so sure about my 6 year old, although he does love his TV. Just out the back and across the bike path there is a playground. I could easily sit at the back or on the patio and the kids play outside in the park, no problem. It’s pretty perfect, actually.

The food: This is another great improvement. The menu is really great. There is something vegetarian on nearly every page. I would always get the goat cheese salad but they added a vegetable wrap that was so delicious! Riley had a pancake and they even have cucumber on the menu so, of course, my daughter had to have a side of cucumber. If you aren’t familiar with Dutch pancakes they are more like a crepe. The best way to eat one is to roll it on the plate and cut it into sections. Its like Dutch class today! Perhaps I should add a section on the blog: Culture Shock Dutch Style…. HHHMMMM..

Again, that got away from me there….

Their signature dish is a monster hamburger. I don’t eat meat but I asked the manager if I could take a picture of one for the blog and he agreed. I kinda felt a little weird doing it but it occurred to me that not everyone is a vegetarian (shocker, right!) and that maybe a pic of their signature dish was a good idea. The manager was a really good sport about it all. So was the waitress, I asked to speak to a manager and had to say “everything is great, I’m not going to complain”…. I have worked in horeca (Dutch for service industry) and I know how stressful it is for someone to ask for the manager. Everyone was super nice.

On this particular day we finished our meals and Riley went off to play some more. She was so happy that I drank a beer and read until it was time to walk home and pick up my son at school. It was great!

So check it out. It’s in City Passage, the little mall in the Veldhoven city center. There are img_20180705_114739also some cool shops so have a look around.  This is what it looks like from the outside. There is also plenty of seating here.

The staff is super friendly and everyone I spoke to spoke English with little or no problem. Honestly, I would go there for a lunch or dinner even without the kids. I just can’t get over the change. They did an amazing job!

Some helpful info:

  • This is their website: Brasserie Ludiek
  • This is the address: Meent 36 (city passage), 5501 JK Veldhoven. Like I said it is inside the little mall so park at one of the lots.
  • There is plenty of paid parking around the city center
  • Brarrerie Ludiek is a really great place for people with diet restrictions. The have loads of gluten free and lactose free options. If you have trouble just ask and they will be very willing to answer any questions.

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Gouden Woud: Liempde

Gouden Woud: Liempde is a cool place for indoor and outdoor fun. We spent a great afternoon there last week. At first glance it’s not all that exciting, honestly. There are bigger play places around. I knew my kids would have fun, but they always do. They are pretty easy like that. We got in and off they ran while I found a table.  I was really surprised by how much fun Guoden Woud actually is.

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The indoor play space is much bigger that it looks from the tables. The space is all sand with shallow water and play structures. The water isn’t deep at all but it is probably a good idea to bring a swim suit for the kids because they will end up completely wet. My kids were in their skivvies within about 15 minutes of walking in the door. What makes this place really cool is digging for gold. Scattered throughout the sand are these little bits of fake gold. The idea is that you gather them and when you have enough you can trade them in for an ice cream or candy. It’s a really nice combination of busy work and img_20180629_155827_01play time. Look for the carved wooden bear and just to the side you will find a table with a scale on it. Under it there is shelf with bowls. They are your basic IKEA plastic numbers but they have little holes drilled into the bottom so the kids can wash the sand out. Clever, right? When you think you have enough (10 ounces, if I remember correctly) you weigh it on the little scale and if you have enough a staff member gives you a coin and you can exchange that for a bag of sweets. I just realized I have typing “you” instead of “your child”. I was about to correct it but decided that the original is probably more accurate. You know you are going to be “helping” and by that I mean, be prepared to get a little sandy. The fact that I have to help would normally bug me but I didn’t mind here. It was oddly therapeutic so play in the sand. Plus I was there with a friend so we were still able to chat, that always helps.

 

The Food: The menu is small but really well done. The kids had a tosti on real bread that didn’t look like it began it’s day frozen. I had the salmon salad and it was DELICIOUS. I couldn’t even finish it and that’s saying something. My friend had the burger and told me that is was very good. They even have a fruit and veg platter on the menu! The dips contain milk, unfortunately but even without the dips  out kids devoured it.

There is a large playground outside as well as a patio with tables. It’s a nice playground. we went on a nice warm day and the kids spent nearly half the time outside.

I really recommend checking out Gouden Woud and plan to go back really soon. It’s a little gem!

Some Helpful Info:

  • This is their website: Gouden Woud
  • This is their address: Hamsestraat 18, 5298 NA Liempde gemeente Boxtel
  • They are open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. If you are unsure if they are open or not please check the website before you go.
  • The cost to get in is 5 Euros for kids from the age of 1 till the age of 13. Before and after those ages are free.
  • I’m really not sure how much English is spoken by the staff, honestly. I was relying on my basic Dutch abilities but you should be able to manage fine. There is plenty of parking on site

Enjoy!

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Looking for other places to take the kids? Check out some of my other top picks!

Sterren Strand: Eersel

Vossenberg Speelboerderij: Tilburg

Aardbeienhof: Gemert

Maritime Museum: Rotterdam