NL with Kids: Make a Wooden Shoe!

 

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Today was one of the most fun experiences we’ve had!! We returned to Clara Maria, the dairy farm and clog factory in Amstelveen. When we were there last year, we got to see a demonstration of someone making a wooden shoe. That was pretty cool.

But today, Hippo actually GOT TO MAKE HIS OWN SHOE!!! It was so exciting!

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First he hammered the ax into the block of wood to trim it down to the right size. Then they put the block of wood in place. The machine works automatically from a template to create the outside shape of the shoe. Then it gets moved to the next machine to hollow out the shoe. This machine also works from a template, but you have to do it manually. It left behind a lot of shavings, so those had to be cleaned out, too.

Now here’s the crazy part. We learned that the wood was still very damp once the outer layer had been carved away. So the wood has to dry. It can take weeks to air dry. So how about using a fan? Or maybe if you blow really hard into the shoe?? We thought it was a joke. But no, really! When the instructor blew really hard into the shoe, water bubbled out of it!!

The wood at the top of the shoe is left in place, so it can stand up. After that was trimmed down a bit, we took it in to be engraved. He chose to have his name and a windmill on it.

I have been to Clara Maria at least a half dozen times over the years. I’ve seen the shoes being made. But I’ve never seem them let a child make one! We didn’t even ask for it. We thought we were just going to get a demonstration.

And to top it all off, we got to keep the shoe for free! I was ready to pay for it, but no. They said we could have it.

Well, we ended up buying an awful lot of cheese to bring home 🙂  It’s seriously the best cheese I’ve ever had. All different kinds of Gouda cheese. And they make a mustard dill sauce to go with it that is deeeeelicious!

So if you happen to go through Amstelveen (not far from Amsterdam), definitely stop by Clara Maria. You never know what will happen!

NL with Kids: Flowers, Canals, and Stroopwafels

Today we went in to Amsterdam. I’ve been enough times now that it just feels normal to me 🙂  But we have our babysitter with us on this trip, and AP3 flew in from Switzerland to join us for the week. So we had to show them something of this beautiful place.

We drove in and parked at Leidseplein, just as we always do. There is an underground parking garage beneath the Albert Heijn grocery store. When you come up, you are right at the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and of course the big “I amsterdam” letters.

From there, we walked down to the flower market at the intersection of the Kalverstraat and Leidsestraat. It is a row of stalls that sells bulbs, wooden flowers, and other souvenirs.

But we also got a sweet surprise along the way. Have you ever had a fresh Stroopwafel?!  Well, if you ever get the chance, go for it! These were so delicious!

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He puts a lump of dough in the iron to cook. Once it’s ready, he takes it out and puts it on that red board, where he cuts it with a round cookie cutter. Then he takes a knife and actually slices it in half! I don’t know how he takes something so thin and splits it open like that! Then comes the stroop – they syrup – in the middle (that’s what he’s doing in this picture). Then put the pieces back together, and you’ve got a fresh-made stroopwafel! (Last year, we tried them with nutella, and we actually did not like the combination! Read more here.)

We enjoyed our treats as we walked back toward one of the boat tours. We took the same tour as last year. Only today, we went during the late afternoon, around 4pm. The day was unusually warm with a bright, clear blue sky. So the boat tour was actually quite warm! And here’s a tip: if you buy your tickets in advance, don’t wait until the last minute to board! We had to split up our group of 6 into pairs, and all of us were facing backward.

After the one-hour tour, we headed out to enjoy some pannenkoeken.

The top two on the left are both savory. The one at the bottom is rolled up with nutella for the boys. And as usual, I had strawberries and cream. Yum!

For more information about canal tours, see this post 🙂

NL with Kids: from Edam to Marken

After our short visit to the cheese market in Edam, we drove around to the village of Marken, about 20 minutes away.

Marken is another quaint little town. We walked through the village until we got to the water and then decided on a restaurant to have some lunch. We went to De Taanketel. Note that they do not offer a kids’ menu, but they do have options for kids if you ask 😉

Then we took a beautiful – but windy – walk along the dyke. You can actually keep going along a very narrow strip of land, but we decided to stop and turn back after about 20 minutes. (see the map below)

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The kids enjoyed their tostis (like a grilled cheese) and the walk. But their favorite part was the treat we got on the walk back: poffertjes! I think they were the best I’ve ever had. Perfectly crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. And of course, served with plenty of butter and powdered sugar!

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It was just a little stand, so they didn’t have one of the huge poffertjes pans.

Is it good for kids?

As I said, the boys enjoyed it. Although it was not their favorite day 🙂

What about the cost?

It’s a town, so it’s free! Depends on what you want to do there 🙂

Where is it?

NL with Kids: Cheese Market

There are still several cheese markets in the Netherlands that you can visit. Today we went to the one in Edam. It is no longer a working market, but more of a demonstration. We had never been to a cheese market before, so I was excited to check it out.

The market is only open on Wednesdays.

Parking was very clear an easy – in a field within walking distance – costing only €4.

Then it was a short walk through the old, quaint town of Edam.

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We arrived around 10:45, and already there was quite a crowd. Although there were benches to sit on, they were full, and it was standing-room only. But don’t despair! There actually isn’t a whole lot to see 🙂  So if you are a bit patient, eventually some space will open up, so you can get a closer look.

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You can watch the men throwing the cheese balls to each other as they set them up on the ground. And look at the bottom picture on the right: see them carrying the cheese on a kind of sleigh?

If you look carefully, you’ll notice that the cheese comes in two colors: yellow and red. The colors have nothing to do with the cheese itself. It used to be that the red balls were the ones marked for export, while the yellow balls remained to be sold in the Netherlands.

You might also notice that you can buy the smaller balls of cheese for €15. We did not, so I can’t tell you how it was 🙂

There are several nearby towns that you could check out while you’re in the area, such as Volendam and Marken. Volendam is quite close, but we chose to take a short drive to Marken.

Is it good for kids?

Alas, I have to admit that the kiddos (ages 8 & 5) were not very impressed. We only stayed about 15 minutes before there were complaints of boredom. Still, I say it was an interesting experience. Maybe we’ll try another one when they’re a few years older…

What about the cost?

The market itself is free. We paid €4 for parking.

Where is it?

Dutch Treats?

!Dutch Food collage

Sometimes I think my husband wants to return to the Netherlands just to eat the food 🙂  There are so many foods here that he just can’t get in the US. Even if there is something like it – even if we bring ingredients back with us – it is just not the same. There are plenty of things for the boys and me to enjoy as well! Here’s a rundown of all the things we’ve been eating this past month. Some are real treats. Others … maybe not so much. You decide!

BREAKFAST

It’s common enough to eat bread or toast with meat and/or cheese on it for breakfast. PER especially likes something called filet americain. It’s steak tartar mixed with spices that is eaten kind of like a spread on bread or crackers. Yup, raw beef. Available at every grocery store in the Netherlands! I have to say, the color alone kind of grosses me out! PER, on the other hand, will eat this for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night snack.

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filet americain

For the kids, there is hagelslag (sprinkles) or vlokken (flakes). Sprinkles are essentially jimmies, like you put on ice cream in the US. They come in different colors. The flakes are more like chocolate curls, and you can get dark, milk, white, or a combination. There are also muisjes, which are made from aniseeds and coated in colored sugar. The application is the same for all: you spread butter on bread or beschuit (zwieback) and then pour on the sprinkles or flakes (the butter is just so they stick). It is very common to have pink or blue beschuit met muisjes to celebrate the birth of a child! Hippo loves the vlokken, but Froggy prefers Nutella on his bread.

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chocoladevlokken

LUNCH & DINNER

Pancakes, of course! They’re not for breakfast around here! There are pancakes houses (pannenkoekenhuis) all over the Netherlands. And don’t get the wrong idea! They are NOT anything like IHOP! These restaurants usually have plenty of character. And they mostly – though not always exclusively – serve pancakes! Dutch pancakes (pannenkoeken) are much thinner than American pancakes, and are usually as big as your plate. They can be sweet (zoet) – with  Nutella or fruit – or savory (hartig) – with meats and cheese. The tables usually have powdered sugar and stroop (a thick syrup, much like molasses). Our boys like it best with Nutella. I’m a fan of strawberries and cream. Although apple with cinnamon and sugar is delicious, too. I’ve never gone for the savory. The pancakes themselves are a bit sweet, so that doesn’t sound like a mix I’d enjoy. We ate pannenkoeken at least once a week, I think! They had them at the Efteling and Zaanse Schans. And you can also search for pannenkoekenhuis, such as Hans & Grietje.

Here you see my pancake with strawberries & cream; Froggy’s kid-sized pancake with nutella; the boys like to roll them up and pick them up to eat them; then there is the stroop; finally, you can see one of the pancake ovens: it rotates to cook the pancakes from the top and the bottom! More info on this post.

A cousin of the pancake are the poffertjes – a small, round puffed pancake. To get these, you need to look for a poffertjeskraam (or hut). They have a huge cast iron griddle, specially designed to make 240 at one time! (Yes, we counted!) I have a pan at home, but it only makes 15 at a time! For more on the poffertjes, see this post. Below you see a poffertjeskraam, the griddle, and if you look closely, you’ll see the poffertjes buried under a blanket of powdered sugar and a slab of butter.

If you can’t get either of these breakfast-for-lunch/dinner options, another easy choice for the kiddos is a tosti. It is essentially a panini or grilled cheese. They often come with ham and cheese, but you can always get just cheese. Luckily, PER has raised our boys on Gouda cheese, so they are used to the taste. It’s generally pretty mild, though. See this post for another tosti in Amsterdam.

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Tosti – this one came with ketchup?!

I’m not sure, but PER’s favorite thing to eat in the Netherlands just might be shoarma (spellings vary, but this is how we see it in the NL). It’s similar to gyro – giant meat on a spit and slowly grilled, then shaved off. It’s usually lamb, but you can also get chicken (kip). It’s often eaten in a soft pita (seriously, I’ve never had a pita like this in the States!) with a sauce. I don’t even know what the other sauces are, because we always eat ours with garlic sauce. This year, even Froggy liked it!

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schotel shoarma – comes with pita, salad, and fries

PER complains that the pizza in the US is just not the same. He’s right. Pizza in Europe just tastes different. The crust is nice and thin – but not like thin-crust pizza you get in the States. I can’t explain it! It often comes on a plate, uncut. And you eat it with a fork and knife. But here’s a tip: if you want pepperoni on your pizza, DO NOT order peperoni – get salami instead! Just like in Germany, peperoni is a hot pepper, not a meat! Below, you see PER’s ham & mushroom, my caprese (mozzarella, tomato, basil), and Hippo’s margherita (plain cheese and sauce) pizzas.

I was surprised when we went to lunch in Muiden, and my dad ordered a sandwich with smoked eel (gerookte paling)! He enjoyed it – said it left a smell on his fingers like when he’s been fishing all day and cleaning the fish. Mmmmmm! PER also enjoys smoked eel. But it might not be for everyone. See for yourself:

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smoked eel

Before you even get to your main meal, you might want to try the brood met kruidenboter (bread with herb butter). The butter has garlic and other simple herbs. If you like bread, you’ll probably like this! (Sorry, no photo!)

SNACKS & SNACK BARS

The Dutch love their frietjes (French fries)! And they make delicious fries at that! You can even find a snack bar that just serves fries! Of course, the Dutch like to eat them with mayo. But I’m still a ketchup girl.

Other snack bar items include burgers, chicken (kip) nuggets, lumpias (egg rolls), shoarma, frikandel (PER calls this mystery meat – but it’s kind of like a minced meat hot dog), and other breaded & fried foods. PER’s favorite is the kroket. He usually gets broodje kroket – or kroket on a roll. They are made with meat ragu, breaded, and fried. And you eat them with mustard. I’m not a big fan of mustard, so once I ate one with ketchup. Big no-no! I thought our friends might throw me out of the country! 🙂  Snack bars can be open for lunch, but sometimes do not open until late afternoon and stay open into the night. They are often a place you go after you’ve been out dancing or to a bar.

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broodje kroket met frietjes

A variation of the kroket is bitterballen. They don’t have exactly the same filling, but something similar, I think. And they are small and round. (Sorry, no photo!)

DESSERT & OTHER TREATS

How about some apple pie? Here it’s called appeltaart. And it’s quite different from the pie you eat at Thanksgiving. The crust is denser, almost cake-like. It can have different dried fruits in it, too, like raisins or cranberries. If PER wants something small for lunch, sometimes he just has appeltaart!

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appeltaart met slagroom

In every town, you can find a shop that sells ice cream (ijs) – usually several. Snack bars also offer ice cream, too. And often you’ll find soft ice cream. Usually when I’m in the Netherlands, we get soft ice on a regular basis. Somehow on this trip, it didn’t happen. Maybe it was too cold 🙂  Don’t expect some mammoth scoops here – if you order one scoop, you get one small scoop. Here is Froggy’s almost- eaten cone of vanille:

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vanille ijshorn (vanilla ice cream cone)

Then there are stroopwafel – a kind of cookie made from two very thin waffles and a smear of stroop in the middle. We found a stand at the market in Delft where they were making them fresh. And they were enormous! Some were also dipped in nutella, but I have to say, I didn’t care for it. The two tastes seemed to be competing with one another. Froggy liked it, though!

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fresh stroopwafel

Finally, I will mention one of my favorite Dutch treats: oliebollen. Usually, they are only found around New Year’s. But we got lucky and found them being sold at the Efteling. They are balls of fried dough, covered in powdered sugar. Much like a doughnut – but different, of course! Heel lekker!! (very tasty)

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oliebol

I’m sure there are plenty of other foods I didn’t get to here. How about vla (custard, or pudding) and vlaai (tart, originally from Limburg)?

And what about the cheese?! See my post on Clara Maria for info on a small, local dairy farm. We still haven’t made it to a cheese market … next time??

There are drinks, too… That’s going to have to be another post!

Eet smakelijk!

2017 NL: Hansel, Gretel, and Pancakes

We’ve been trying to slow down, as we are in our final week in the Netherlands (before heading to Germany for a few days). But we had to fit in just one more adventure!

We had heard about a pannenkoekhuis that was fairy-tale themed and had a large playground. It’s called Hans & Grietje – or Hansel and Gretel. I’m sure you can imagine what it looked like! But I’ll show you some pictures anyway 🙂

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Outside there were all kinds of things to do for all different aged children. A sand pit to dig in and a small bouncy hill for the little ones. A huge bouncy hill for older children (who often needed a boost from parents to reach the top!), along with a spook house, swings, jungle gym, and “race track” with tricycles.

Inside, there was so much to see! An entryway with a covered book-way, an upside-down room with furniture on the ceiling, a cauldron for … well, you know what that’s for! There were  witches doing laundry, playing an organ, and flying a plane. In one dining room, the floor actually moved! It was hinged down the middle, so all of a sudden, it would lift up, and your table would be leaning one way. Then it would go back down, so your table was leaning down! Oh, and those tables – they had witches legs! There were also fantastic slides for the kids.

Oh yes, they have delicious pancakes, too!

Is it good for kids?

Of course!! They have something for children of all ages.

What about the cost?

There is no charge to get in. Just pay for your food and drinks!

Where is it?

For some reason, the google map is not working today. Here is the address: Hans & Grietje Pannenkoekhuis –

Dutch Food: Pancakes

Our boys always look forward to eating pancakes (pannenkoeken) when we’re in the Netherlands. They are not like American pancakes. For one thing, they are GIANT! As big as a plate! And they are much thinner.

Dutch pancakes can be sweet (soet) or savory (hartig). The boys always get nutella on their pancakes. And if it’s not on the menu, they go for plain (natuurlijk) with powdered sugar. I almost always have strawberries and cream, which is usually only available in season. Good thing we’re here in season! I’ve been trying out apple with cinnamon sugar, but it kind of depends on the place. I prefer it when the apples are in small pieces, as opposed to the big ring slices (see image below). I don’t choose the hearty pancakes, because the pancake itself has a touch of sweetness to it, so mixing it with cheese and/or meats doesn’t taste quite right to me.

Sometimes the pancakes are made in numerous individual pans on a large stove. But most often, they are individually baked in a special circulating oven (see image below). The batter goes in the pans as they slowly turn, like on a turntable. As they go through the oven, they are baked from above and below. So clever!

So where do you get these Dutch treats? Well, first of all, they are not for breakfast! You eat them for lunch or dinner. You can go to a pannenkoekenhuis – a pancake house, such as Hans & Grietje. And there are chains, like Dickens or De Pannekoekenbakker. We’ve only been to one of each, so I don’t know how they differ from place to place. Personally, I prefer Dickens. It just more like homemade. You can always do a quick Google search to find out what’s near you, too!

You can also find pannenkoeken at touristy places like Zaanse Schans or attractions for kids, such as the Efteling.

Wherever you go to get them, don’t miss out on this Dutch treat – whether you have kids or you’re just on your own!

Click on the pictures below to see larger images and individual descriptions:

I’d love to hear from you! Was this post useful to you? Did you take any of the advice? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!