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!


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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

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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!!!

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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!

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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?