The Yearly Christmas Market in Cologne or Koln is our favorite, we go every year. There are actually many different markets in the city and they are all connected by a cute little “train”. I would have loved to ride around on it but there was no room for the stroller. Maybe next year.
We generally only go to the largest 2 of the markets. I don’t know why we never went to the others before we had kids, I suppose we spent so much time at these 2 that we never got around to the others. Now we only go to the 2 because we have kids.
My kids have about a 3 hour window where they are happy. After 3 hours everyone is tired and grumpy and wants to go home.We left the house a little later than I had planned, it’s hard getting out the door first thing but we made it to Cologne just before lunch time.
The parking garage we normally parked at moved the entrance because of construction so we had to find somewhere else to park. The garage we found was actually in a much better location because instead of being directly under one of the markets it was more centered between the 2. Unfortunately although it gained in location it also gained in scary. It was a spiral that went directly up so it a series of left turns that people were taking a little to fast. There was no elevator so my husband and I had to carry our giant stroller down the stairs with my 1 1/2 year old in it. The place also reeked of urine. At one point my 3 year old said “eeuuuww Mommy, someone peed in here” . Oh well. It was a good location!
First we went to the Market directly outside the Dom ( German for Cathedral). This market is small but really lovely. Stalls full of great food and lovely objects set against an amazing backdrop of the church. Here we started out food adventure.The food is absolutely the best part!
We started with deep fried potato pancakes served with apple sauce, these are my favorite
then we moved on to French Fries, special request from my son. Honestly, they were the best fries I have ever had! Covered in mayo, of course.
Then we had pork on a stick. Because everything is better on a stick!
There is also a cut little carousel that we had to ride!
Of course I got my Gluhwein and my souvenir cup!
We went inside the cathedral because the kids were cold and I’m really glad we did. The kids really enjoyed exploring and I really enjoyed the warm. Plus it is a really beautiful church and I haven’t been inside in years.
Then we took a short walk to the next market. This one is my favorite. Its bigger and everything is carved in wood. It has a very rustic, old world feel and I love it. It’s at the Stadthaus, In case anyone goes looking for it.
In this market we drank gluhwein and ate the wonderful open faced cheese sandwiches. We ate and wondered. So many lovely things!
And there was a Ferris Wheel and another carousel! Great fun!
And then everyone was really tired and ready to go home. We were in Cologne a little longer than I thought we would be, it was pushing 4 hours when we left. The kids were exhausted and very ready for a break.
Luckily we brought our carrier so my son didn’t have to walk. He was able to ride in the carrier while my daughter was in the stroller. Or being carried.
It was a really good day. I really love the market here and look forward to going every year.
My tips for next year:
Bring more drinks for the kids. I brought 1 juice box (these are only given out on special occasions) for each kid and their water bottle and they still ran out. I was able to buy water for them in the market but it was served in a real glass. Not very good for kids
More snacks. My son is going through a picky eating phase. All he would eat all day were those french fries. He was a tired puddle of exhausted low blood sugar on the way back to the car.
Investigate parking before you go. If your anything like me, lack of planning will end up in a fight a fight with the hubby.
Get there early. This is always the plan but it rarely ever works out.
This was the only Christmas market we were able to visit this year and we almost didn’t go. I’m so glad we did!
My husband is a homebody. Sure, he likes going out with friends but has trouble planning and, in general, will enjoy sitting around the house just as much. I have always been fine with him going out but have never really pushed it, until recently. Lately I have really encourage him to spend time with his friends. I am not his social director, I refuse to set up “husband night out” or anything, but when he mentions a movie he wants to see I am the first to say “you should go see it! I’m sure one of your friends would love to go with you.”. He told me that a group of coworkers he likes go rock climbing every week, “social time and exercise? Absolutely! Maybe not every week, but how about every other week?” (I need an occasional Friday night as well!)
Good or bad, my reasons are utterly and completely selfish.
I know its good for him. I’m not encouraging him to do something he doesn’t want to do, he just never would. He needs to be around friends. He needs to be able to take a mental break. He needs to be around people who will talk to him about Star Wars and other geeky things that I could care less about about.
But that’s not it. Not really. Those things are just a bonus.
There is also the fact that he is happy after he has spent some time away. He is more relaxed and nicer to have around. I also don’t feel as guilty about my “away time” if he takes some of his own.
But that’s not it either. It’s even more selfish than that.
I am NEVER ALONE! Being a stay at home moms is a crazy mix of wanting adult interaction and just wanting to be alone. I LOVE the nights I can just sit on the couch and not talk. Not interact. Not pay attention. Not think. Not ask anyone’s opinion about the movie.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the nights when my husband is around. He travels for work and is gone for weeks at a time. These times are very difficult. These nights are different. He is around to help get the kids to bed and ask me about my day and I know he will be around in the morning to help get the kids ready for the day. So these nights I can just relax!
Like tonight. The kids are in bed. My husband is at the movie and I am sitting on the couch drinking wine and watching a movie. I will probably go to bed early.
Maybe not the thrill a minute life I used to lead but it’s great. You should try it. Encourage your husband to go out and see a movie with friends and curl up on the couch. Just make sure that you go out sometime as well!!
These 2 weeks are Christmas break. My husband, for the last 2 years has taken these 2 weeks off of work and we spend some time as a family. This year I am also able to spend some much needed time with friends. I am no longer breastfeeding my youngest so I am able to be away for longer periods of time. Yesterday (December 28, 2015) was a “moms day out”. I spent the day with a friend of mine, it was very nice and calm and I enjoyed it very much.
I arrived home just about 6:00. When I came in my husband and the kids were sitting on the couch reading books. They had been fed and were already in their pj’s, ready for their 7:00 bedtime. I was very relieved to be home. Its always nice to be away but coming home to that wonderful scene filled my heart with joy. I wanted to get comfortable and join them.
Then all hell broke loose.
My daughter started screaming and reaching for me. In response to this, my son got very territorial and ran to me demanding attention. They ended up fighting and, I hate to say, my daughter won the battle. I ended up holding her while talking to and hugging my son. Then he decided that we should play and began bringing me his games. My husband and I calmly told him over and over that it was approaching bedtime and we should read some more books but it was not time to get out the domino’s. He got upset and started throwing game pieces.Then, of course, my daughter thought this was a game and started throwing things. They were very quickly giggling together while destroying the room. I asked if they had been like this all day and he said that they were perfectly calm until I walked into the house. My first response wasn’t my finest moment “so this is my fault?” Eeek.
My husband and I calmed everyone down and he took one and I took the other into their separate rooms for bed.
A bit later I had a moment to really consider what had happened. Why had I gotten so frazzeled? Of course they just wanted to spend time with me. They were excited to see me. I was “new”.
Then my husband came into the room and the entire situation became clear.
“Is this what you feel like every day when you come home?”
I realized that I came home at almost the exact time of day that he normally gets home. I have the kids fed and bathed, ready for bed and calm and snuggly. It is the end of our day. Then he walks in and everything goes crazy.
It took him a moment to consider what I had said. I know he wasn’t expecting anything like that. After a very long moment he said:
“yes. But add in the fact that you are tired and then get frustrated about something and end up upset with me”.
Well , shit. Ouch.
Then he really surprised me:
“Is that how you feel every day when I get home? You have worked hard all day and now everything is calm and and quiet and then I get home and everything goes crazy?”
We just looked at each other for a moment. Then I got up and started picking up toys and he went into the kitchen and started loading the dishwasher. We didn’t talk about it again.
I like to think we will end this Christmas break with a deeper understanding of each other. I like to think that we will be able to stop and consider each others point of view a bit better before we react.
We will see.
The Dutch carnival is difficult to describe. It’s a crazy blend of costumes, alcohol and really loud music that, honestly, takes some getting used to. I moved to The Netherlands in 2008 only 1 week before Carnival. My husband took me out (he had been here for 3 months while I was back in the US finalizing the sale of our house) in Eindhoven and in our local village during Carnival. It was a culture shock that I would never wish on anyone! I kept thinking “what have we done! Dear God, these people are crazy! We have made a huge mistake!” Thankfully, it only lasted a few days and I had an entire year before I had to face Carnival again.
Before we had kids I really enjoyed carnival. I made a few mistakes but everyone is so intoxicated that no one seemed to notice. Since having kids,though, I have mostly hidden. Loud noises, crowds, and huge amounts of cheap beer were all very unappealing things when experiencing them with a 1 year old (although it’s perfectly acceptable to have kids around during the day). Luckily I was able to blame my hibernation on the kids nap schedule and I didnt have to admit to my Dutch friends that the whole thing felt like work after I had kids. I mean, I cant really drink so the music is loud and horrible. The kids are running around and I’m running after them attempting to keep them from putting cigarette butts in their mouths and wandering off.
I can’t be alone in this. I think you have to be Dutch. Or young. Or child free. Well, young child free. I can totally see my 3 1/2 year old having a blast dressing up and dancing in the street. Going to a parade and having necklaces and candy thrown at him. My 1 1/2 year old would love it as well, honestly, but she is a bit of a handful and I would have trouble keeping her close.
So maybe its just me. I find the whole thing a bit overwhelming.
This year, though, things will be different! I think my kids are capable of handling themselves and I have learned enough to help us all get though it, I mean have a great time!!
First a bit of background:
Carnival is a 3-5 day period. It is a Catholic celebration that takes place around the 6th Sunday before Easter and ends the Tuesday before Ash Wed. At this point, Catholics begin Lent which is a time of fasting and repentance that lasts until Easter. It is basically the same as Mardi Gras, without the boobs (frankly it is generally very cold here during this time). Another main difference is Fat Tuesday. In the US this is a “thing”, it isn’t here. I made this mistake my first year. In the Netherlands Carnival is only celebrated South of the Rhine and Meuse Rivers in the Catholic areas of North Brabant and Limburg, the Northern parts of the country are mostly Protestant. Don’t go to Amsterdam looking to “experience Carnival”, you will be very sad.
So what do you need to know if you find yourself in the Catholic South during this time?
And remember: this is all very religious and therefore a very good thing.
2012 is the last year that we celebrated carnival in any way. Maybe this year will be different.
Nothing says the holidays for me more than a hot cup of Gluhwein. This warm spiced wine generally makes its first appearance at the end of November. My first glass of the season is traditionally enjoyed while at the Eindhoven Glow festival (a yearly festival of light that takes place at the end of November. For me this is the “official” beginning of the holiday season).
I particularly look forward to drinking this holiday classic at Christmas Markets, in fact I collect the souvenir mugs it is served in.
In the past I always either enjoyed my Gluhwein out or bought a premade bottle from the store, but making it at home is really easy and tastes so much better!
This is an original recipe published at eetweetjes.nl and translated by me. I highly recommend checking out the site. Its full of very yummy recipes!
Put everything in a pot and warm it on low heat until the sugar dissolves, then put it on the lowest heat and let it sit until it gets to a nice warm temperature. The longer the spices are warming in the pan the better the wine will taste.
I love using my slow cooker for this. I put in all the ingredients in and turn it on high until the sugar is dissolved then turn it to low or medium (depending on your slow cooker). Everything will stay nice and warm and it will only get better tasting with time.
This should make about 7 glasses.
These are pictures of some of the mugs I have collected over the years. I love serving my homemade gluhwien in these mugs!
It was supposed to be a magical morning. I had it all worked out in my mind. Nothing went according to plan, though, and I was reminded that sometimes that’s OK.
We have been to Weverkeshof Dorpsborderij many times (in fact my son’s 3rd birthday party was held here) but these few weeks in December are special. Sinterklaas stays here while he is in town. There are rooms set up, Sinterklaas and his horse Amerigo are around in the afternoons and Zwarte Pieten are around all the time. There is singing, dancing and a general festive holiday atmosphere. Last week the Mums and Toddlers Eindhoven group went one afternoon. Unfortunately I couldn’t join them because my daughter was sick. After the event, there were glowing reviews and amazing pictures on Facebook. I was so disappointed we missed it. I decided to take the kids on our one free morning in two weeks. I knew Sinterklaas wouldn’t be there himself but Piet would be enough. I wanted to see my kids dance and sing and get excited about the holidays.
We got there in the morning and everything went wrong. My son didn’t want to go inside, he wanted to play on the playground. The kids inside looked to be having such fun I pushed it and finally he trudged inside. I soon found out that the day had been completely booked by school groups, which was not on the website. We were asked to sit in the corner while a group of kids had fun and then when they left all was quiet while the staff cleaned and then another group was brought in. They had even put away all the toys that are normally there. We sat at a table, had a snack and watched other kids have fun, then went back outside.
I was crushed. We were left out! Not allowed to join the fun! Disappointment! Rejection! My magical morning was ruined and destroyed!
But it wasn’t. The kids weren’t upset at all. It was all in my mind.
They were given juice and two cookies each! The staff was very friendly and gave them tons of attention. There were animals to see and a playground to enjoy. They were happy with the outing. They had a good time!
My kids constantly amaze me. I love that they keep reminding me not to put too much pressure on myself. Perfect outings are great but sometimes all you really need is a pretty day and the opportunity to play with the kids.
The Mums and Toddler Winter Craft fair was quickly approaching and very few people had signed up to sell their homemade goodies. A friend of mine was organizing the event and asked me if I would want to set up a table with homemade lotions or something. Honestly, the idea didn’t sound appealing at all but I agreed after some gentle prodding.
So here was my challenge:
I needed something super easy,cheap to make, and it had to have universal appeal. Most importantly I would need to be able to find a home for anything I didn’t sell.
Sugar Scrubs to the rescue!!
It all started with the jars. They had to be really inexpensive or I would have to charge to much per item. My friend was nice enough to find me this website (really I couldn’t say no to her!) and I decided on these cute little jam pots.
They arrived in a few days and I was able to make the sugar scrubs
I started by cleaning the jars
Then I filled them just over halfway with sugar
Then I poured oil on top and gave it a stir. Honestly, I used to follow a specific recipe but I found it was always just easier to put in enough oil and sugar to make it a nice thick paste. As a rule about 2X the amount of sugar than oil (this will make a pretty thin scrub and I really like mine a little thicker). Its not something that can be messed up so go with the consistency you like!
I then put 2 drops of vitamin E oil into each jar (trust me a little of this stuff goes a very long way!) Then I added about 5 drops of oil into a jar (I decided to make it easy and only use 1 oil per jar and make 4 different kinds).
I randomly came across the labels at Ikea. I was so glad because I really couldn’t figure out a way to label these jars that wouldn’t take a ton of time.
The most time consuming part was writing out the labels and tying them to the jars.
I am really happy with how these little guys turned out. I figured my cost is about 1 Euro per sugar scrub so I decided to sell them for 2 Euros each. They took about 1 1/2 hours to make not including picking out the jars and waiting on delivery.
I think its a nice addition to the craft fair. Any unsold scrubs will get a Christmas makeover and will be given away as Christmas presents!
So there you go.
Emergency DIY Sugar Scrubs
Christmas is a magical time of year all over the world. As an American I kinda took for granted that everyone celebrated Christmas in much the same way. You know, big fat guy, the 25th of december, dead tree in the living room…. The look of said fat guy and what your family typically eats on the day changes but everything else remains basically the same. Right?
Wrong. And it was a shock to my system to say the least! The Dutch spice it up in a BIG way! Pretty much it’s completely different, COMPLETELY different from the traditions I grew up with. This is certainly not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. Once you understand what going on it’s really great.
Here is a brief overview:
This year Intocht was on Saturday, November 14. My family and I went to our local city center to see Sinterklass arrive and help celebrate. The children dress up as either Sint or Piet and there is singing and dancing and a general festive atmosphere.
My daughter is dressed up like Piet and my son is wearing a cape like Sint. This is the best I could manage with my two strong willed children.
I have come to really love the Sinterklaas season. There are so many activities for the kids during this time. For the kids of the Netherlands, Sint and Piet are real tangible people who they can meet and touch and interact with all season as opposed to a mystical being that sits around at the malls. I love it.
Christmas in the Netherlands – Part 2: Celebrating Sinterklass like a Dutchie
My name is Melissa and I’m a mother of 2 living in The Netherlands. I moved here from Texas 10 years ago and I love the life I am building here.
A lot changed when I had my fist child (a son who will be 6 very soon). I had the opportunity to decide how I wanted to parent. That probably seems like an odd thing to say. You are probably reading this thinking “well, duh. Every parent does.” But I don’t think that many actually do. I think many people do roughly the same thing their parents did. Of course there are updates with every generation (spanking was perfectly acceptable when I was growing up) but by and large I think we carry the same traditions and cultural norms. When I moved halfway across the world I didn’t have kids, I got to travel and sleep till 12:00 and knit all day if I wanted. I led a pretty charmed life actually. And then I decided to try and get pregnant and everything changed. I had the very unique opportunity to get to decide who I wanted to be as a mom. I got to decide to show my future child (fingers crossed) what my priorities in life are. Then I got to really sit down and think about them.
What do I want for my kids? What type of person do I want them to grow in to. I asked myself if I was showing them those behaviors so emulate.
I led a sedentary lifestyle. I ate horribly and I didn’t exercise. I didn’t cook. I wasn’t active in the community. That’s totally cool, but not what I wanted. So I started running. I started cooking. And surprise, I really loved it. 5 years on and I work out, I cook, I knit, I’m full on healthy mom. Things changed a bit with my second. I’m a bit more calm. A bit more boozy. A bit more “bugger off and play so I can have some grown up talk” but I love it. I try to be accepting of the fact that I am imperfect and that makes me a good mom. I embrace the fact that although my kids are the light of my life I need some time away as well. I embrace the fact that sometimes we need to order pizza and watch a movie on a Sunday afternoon. I embrace real life.
So that’s my life now. I’m a bit of a gym rat, I love to cook healthy mostly vegan food, I’m full on Pinterest crazy. But I also drink martinis and red wine.
Life is awesome.