Warm Spiced Wine or Gluhwein

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.

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This one is my favorite. I honestly don’t know why.

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!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of red wine. It doesn’t have to be great wine, just drinkable.
  • 1 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 10 cloves
  • pinch of nutmeg (preferably fresh)
  • Pinch of fresh ground pepper
  • juice of 1 orange
  • zest of 1/2 of an orange
  • heaping spoonful of brown sugar

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.

Enjoy!!

These are pictures of some of the mugs I have collected over the years. I love serving my homemade gluhwien in these mugs!

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Essential Rules for Surviving Christmas Decorating With Kids

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Christmas is a magical time of year. I love having the house decorated and really look forward to putting the tree up every year. My house was always perfect. I lovingly decorated every surface with beautiful twinkly things.

Until i had kids.

Then everything changed

It is delicate balance between letting them help, decorating properly, and everyone having a truly magical experience that they will remember all their lives and later attempt to replicate with their own children.  No pressure!

So here they are:

My 5 essential rules for surviving Christmas decorating with the kids:

  1. Start with a glass of wine and keep the bottle handy. If you live somewhere where you have access to gluhwein, I would highly recommend it. Gluhwein is a mulled or spiced wine served hot and you can only buy it in my neck of the woods during the holidays. Heat up a big batch and enjoy, the crock pot works perfectly for this.  If your OCD starts really acting up feel free to spike it with a bit of Amaretto, this a completely normal, festive and will by no means make you a lush.
  2. Just let the kids do the tree. All the ornaments on the bottom third? That’s OK! Not spread out properly? That’s fine! If it really bothers you fix it when they go to bed. Just keep asking if they need help to reach the high spots and hope for the best.
  3. Separate anything breakable and save it for next year (or a few years from now) before you open the box in front of the kids. Nothing is more stressful than chasing down a 2 year old because he is holding something very shiny and beautiful that has great sentimental value to you. Trust me, these are the very first things they will reach for.
  4. Make sure you have batteries for anything that may require them before you unpack things. Holding that amazing singing dog, Santa or Rudolf and not being able to make it work will likely result in a tantrum.
  5. Start early, like just after breakfast, and block off the entire day. What used to take you an hour or so will take forever and the kids will not stop till they feel the job has been finished to their satisfaction.  Unfortunatly you never really know what this means. For my kids it meant hours of unpacking ornaments and adjusting the tree and then telling me they were done and asking to watch Polar Express.
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This is my living room after my kids were done “helping”.

And remember to always smile!

Merry Christmas!

What I learned from my kids today

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Sinterkaas’s home away from home. Picturesque, right?

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.

 

Emergency DIY! Homemade Sugar Scrub

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.

Click here to see where I bought the jars

They arrived in a few days and I was able to make the sugar scrubs

Materials:

  • Oil – I used sunflower oil because its readily available and inexpensive. It is also very moisturizing and very few people are allergic to it.
  • Sugar
  • Vitamin E oil – this is optional but its very good for the skin and I just happened to have a bottle at home.
  • Essential oils – for smell mostly though they do offer some therapeutic benefits. I chose so make 4 different scrubs. Lavender, Citrus, Vanilla and Ylang Ylang.
  • Jars
  • Labels

I started by cleaning the jars

IMG_0002Aren’t these little guys cute?

Then I filled them just over halfway with sugar

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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.

IMG_0009I think they were 1 Euro for 10 labels

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.IMG_0013

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

Enjoy!

Christmas in The Netherlands – Part One: Sinterklaas is coming to town!!

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:

  • Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolaas) is a tall skinny old man who dresses like the pope.
  • He lives in Spain (I personally would prefer Spain to the North Pole).
  • His helpers are called Zwarte Piet (singular) or zwarte pieten (plural). They have black faces because they go up and down chimneys and get covered in soot (That’s their story, at least, and they are sticking to it). Every year there is a huge controversy about Piet. From what I understand the story said they were slaves that were freed by Sint and chose to stay and work for him. The story changes every year and every year Piet gets a little more politically correct. Honestly I think they could do with a bit of a face lift but the reality is that they are loved by children and that’s all that matters. Pieten are happy, silly, dancing men and women who spread joy. This is good enough for me (though I won’t be dressing my kids up in black face any time soon).  They are trained to do different jobs, one is in charge of inventing toys, gift wrapping, navigation, ect.
  • Sinterklaas and his Piet come to The Netherlands by steam boat (named Pakjesboot 12) mid November. This is called the Intocht (arrival).
  • They will live here until December 6. Sint uses this time to visit children and review his lists.
  • During this time Sint goes from house to house checking in on all the children making sure they are being good.
  • He travels by horse while in the Netherlands. The horse is named Amerigo.
  • It is customary for children to leave Amerigo a carrot, some hay or a sugar cube in their shoe before bed. The shoe is then placed by the fire place or the radiator. In return the children find a small present or some candy in their shoe the next morning.
  • Presents are delivered on December 5 in a burlap sack.
  • A few things can happen if the child has been naughty (I suppose it depends on how much the parents want to frighten their kids). They may get no presents, they may be abducted and taken to Spain where they are forced to work for the next year as punishment, or they may be placed in the burlap sack and beaten with sticks by Piet (all very good incentives to behave).
  • A chocolate letter is a customary gift from Sinterklass. The letter being the first letter of the person’s first name. Even adults get this one. Yummy!!

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.

Sinter Klaas
This is Sinterklaas

Zwarte Piet

IMG_9918 IMG_9938These are a few of the Zwarte Pieten. They hand out tiny spiced cookies called kruidnoten to the kids.

This is my son and his friends begging for kruidnoten
This is my son and his friends begging for kruidnoten
This is my 14 month old daughter begging for kruidnoten
This is my 14 month old daughter begging for kruidnoten

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.

Whats next?

Christmas in the Netherlands – Part 2: Celebrating Sinterklass like a Dutchie

Stay tuned!

About Me

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 wasn’t.

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.

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My journey

My husband and I decided to move half way across the world over the course of a 30 minute television program ( I think it was a rerun of Sienfeld). He no longer had a job in Dallas so we were going to have to move so he could stay with the company he was working for. The company is based out of Veldhoven and we decided that if we were going to have to move we should move somewhere completely different. The plan was to stay for 2 years and travel Europe for a while; this was 8 years ago.
We both fell in love with The Netherlands. The culture, the community, the atmosphere, everything about it was calm and serene. At that time I was heavily overweight and extremely unhealthy.  The biking culture forced me to be more active and the lack of take away’s forced me to cook so I immediately started to loose weight.

Several years later we decided to have our first child. At this point I became incredibly conscious about what I was putting into my body. I decided to get healthy so that I could provide the best for my son. 4 years later I’m fit, active, thin, and healthy without stress, gyms and dieting. I realized that food is fuel for a healthy body. This incredibly simple idea changed the way I shopped, ate and cooked.

Now that I have had my second child the stress and pressure to be super mom nearly killed me. I couldn’t seem to handle all of the art projects, crafting, cooking, baking and fun with the kids that I wanted to do and still do all the things that I had to do so that the house wouldn’t fall apart around me.

This is where Mommy on a Mission was born.

I am determined to take control of my life and find simple, sustainable ways to keep everything organized so I could focus my energy on having fun with my kids.

In this blog I hope to share some of the ways I have found to stay active, organized and healthy. I hope to share some of the tricks I have picked up along the way so we can bring fun back into our lives!