Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp, Belgium. Rob and I have both travelled through this beautiful station numbers of times but have never had time to venture out of the station doors. When new colleagues invited us to join them for a day trip, we were ready to go. 

Antwerp Train Station. I'm currently working my way through the  "Congo" by  David Van Reybrouck. Recently while reading I learned that Antwerp Central Station, one my favorite train stations in Europe, was built by Belgian King Leopold 11 between 1895-1905 with money made off of rubber harvested in Congo.  Historians estimate between 2-5 million Congolese died during this period. 

Handsome Rob eating fries in the land where they were invented and perfected! 

Love these 3

In the Grote Markt-Click here to read the legend behind Antwerp's name (thus the statue of the man throwing the monster's hand!)

Tired Twins. No wonder. A 2 1/2 hr. direct train ride turned into 3 trains and a 4 1/2hr. trip.

The city is known for its many statues. Someday without kids, maybe we'll make it back for a tour to learn the symbolism behind all the artwork.

 Emily & Ryan enjoying the shade of the castle.

Mmmmm...waffles with chocolate and real whipped cream. 

Me and my little man. He ate the strawberries, I ate the waffle.

Jesiah gazing at the chocolate fountain...a dream come true.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Oh man this is cold...

After an unusually mild winter with no snow, the cold has arrived at last! For almost two weeks now our highs have stayed below freezing and did I ever mention that we live directly across from the waterfront? That just makes it plain cold. For the first time here, our kids were both old enough and the cold was cold long enough for us to enjoy skating on the frozen canals. All in all, the last two weekends have been just super fun! I hope these are some of the memories that my kids cherish from their childhood in Holland. I know that these are the memories that I'll cherish from raising them here! In the picture above is the IJburg harbor where we started our route. The harbor has a lock to control water levels into Amsterdam. Below is a dad skating, pulling his kids on a sleigh. You can see the lock behind him.
Skating on the harbor
It was admittedly quite scary at first to just let the kids go out on frozen canals-eek! I never thought about it before but all the snow has to be shoveled off in order to make the ice skate-worthy.
This picture just makes me want to sing "It's two thousand miles I roamed, just to make this dock my home. Now I'm just gonna sit at the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away"
I was pretty proud of the kids...they just kept going and going!
Where we ended up, it was a challenge finding a way to get out of the canal and back out onto the street (and not into someone's backyard).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gooi wat in mijn laarsje!

Every year Sinterklaas (Saint Klaas) comes from Spain to Holland on his steamboat. Kids go crazy! For three weeks, they set out their shoes at night in hopes that the Zwarte Piet will leave behind a small present or something sweet like Pepernoten (tiny gingerbread cookies). It's a big deal every year to get all dressed up and await the arrival of the Sint. It's a really fun time and this year we returned to Weesp where we formerly lived. We didn't put presents in the kids shoes every night but we surprised them here and there with a chocolate and we went along with the custom of giving them presents on the evening of Dec. 5th (instead of at Christmas.) Enjoy the pictures and the movies at the bottom of the page. In the first movie is a clip from the zwarte piet band/parade (listen for the kids calling "piet!") and secondly is the twins singing a popular sinterklaas liedje.
Our kids & their friends waiting patiently for all the sweets, I mean, to see Sinterklaas.
This is why we will always go back to Weesp to see the Sint come in his Steamboat, gezellig!
Eva "pietje" with her cheeks filled with pepernoten, a tiny gingerbread-like cookie. When these kiddos grow up, I'll miss the cheeks and kisses that smell like pepernoten.
I wonder what in the world these boys are thinking!
A Zwarte Piet
The Sint gets off the boat and rides through the town on his white horse, Amerigo.
I don't think this girl was thrilled about her photo-op.
"Pakjes Avond". This year, we went along with "packages night" on Dec. 5th instead of giving them their presents at Christmas. SO. GLAD. Now Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Piets have returned to Spain and we can completely focus on Christmas! YAY!!!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Every year when Thanksgiving comes around, it brings with it such mixed emotions. Being an american holiday, it comes and goes without any major family gatherings, turkey, sweet potato souffles, football games, Macy's day parade or early bird sales the next morning. Kids will go to school tomorrow, stores will be opened as usual, I have a few appointments will catch up on emails. After J's swim practice we'll have rotisserie chicken for dinner and kids will go to bed. After the kids are asleep, we'll try to catch our families on the phone before they sit down to eat (and before it's time for us to go to bed as well). No friends on the street will wish us 'Happy Thanksgiving'. Our kids have a hard time remembering what the name of the holiday even is. They won't hear the stories or the reason for Thanksgiving at school so we talk about it around the dinner table.
That may sound really depressing and it is a little sad. Here's where the mixed emotions enter. Two weeks ago, we invited a number of neighbors we are acquainted with to join us for a traditional style American meal. On Saturday two of these families plus other friends of ours will come over and we will pull out all the stops. We will eat Turkey that Rob had to special order from the butcher, sweet potato souffle that will make our guests wonder why it does not belong in the dessert category and some strange thing called "stuffing" and green bean casserole. For dessert we'll have melt in your mouth pumpkin pie that I've been dreaming of since last thanksgiving. We'll play games, kids will make indian headdresses and we will have to figure out where everyone will sit in our traditional dutch style house: where the kitchen, eating area and family room are all one. In the future, I look forward to taking our kids to a city about an hour away called Leiden. Leiden was home to the Pilgrims for 12 years before they departed in 1620 to begin to making their journey to the new land. I can't wait to take them to see the museum, experience the history and visit the very church where they worshipped. At some point, they'll learn and understand the story of the pilgrims.
I love all of this, I love remembering what it was like as a kid eating Thanksgiving meals in Aunt Becky's spotless garage (You always find room for Thanksgiving guests, right?!). I love that I get to share this holiday with people who have never celebrated it before. I love making my mom's recipes, I love sharing them with others. I will painfully miss our families from the heart of the south. I will thoroughly enjoy having people in my home from Brazil, Poland, Holland Suriname, Russia and yes, two from North Carolina.
With all the mixed feelings, there are few things that never change. I LOVE this holiday, I love this time that's set aside to remind us to be thankful. I love just being thankful for my family and all that God has given me! That never changes. So, it's with a heartfelt wish that you and your family will also have a wonderful and blessed time tomorrow. With love from Amsterdam, Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sint Maarten's day videos

Every November 11th, the children in many parts of The Netherlands pull their coats and mittens on, secure precious homemade lanterns to cheap 50 cent light sticks and head out ready to sing. As the children go door to door, they sing songs for those who open their doors and in response, they receive "snoep" or candy. Our kids were SO excited (understandably!) and having practiced different songs at school, were ready to go! The first video is Jesiah telling us the "real" story of Saint Maarten and the second is of the kids singing with their friends for some candy. You can't see them very well, but it will give you a taste!

"Plucking" Apples!

Last year we took the kids for the first time to an apples/pear orchard and they've asked all winter, spring and summer if we could go back and pick more apples! It was quite cold but we had a blast and the apples were the best I've tasted in a really long time. Kind of wishing that we could just keep going back in the winter, spring and summer, mmmm... Ah yes, what's not to love about buying a couple of kilos of sweet crisp apples at .80/kilo?