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?

Wir fahren mit dem Zug!

I can’t believe the summer is almost upon us! We’ll be heading back to the Netherlands and Germany for a few weeks. I will certainly be posting about our travels!

This year, we’re doing something completely new! Well, at least new to the kids! We will be taking the train from the Netherlands to Germany! I am SO excited! I just love the train 🙂  We’ll leave from Amsterdam, change in Utrecht, and arrive in Frankfurt. I just can’t wait for the boys to experience train travel in Europe!

Of course, I have to come up with some activities to keep them occupied on the long train ride. As much as I love to look out the window, I don’t think they will be doing that for the entire trip!

I started looking around for some train ride scavenger hunts. There are tons of them out there for car rides, so I figured it should be easy, right? Wrong. I could only find one so far! And it was for a trip in the US going up to Maine (click here to check it out). So while it was inspiring, it won’t exactly work for us.

So I went back to my travel scavenger hunt that I made for the car and updated it with new images for the train ride!

 

As you can see, there are two sets of things to search for. And for each set, there are three versions:

  • one with words and images
  • one with just images
  • one with just words

Some of the new vocabulary include:

  • die Baustelle
  • die Kirche
  • die Fabrik
  • der Bahnhof
  • der Fluss
  • der Wolkenkratzer
  • der Kran
  • das Schloss
  • der Tunnel

Obviously, a lot of these things can also be seen from a car! So feel free to refresh your old version of this travel game, even if you are going on a road trip!

I am going to print out the copy with words and images, one for each of the boys, and put them in their travel binders to play a game of I Spy. They can mark off what they see with a square sticky note or a pencil or crayon. I’m trying to travel extra light this year! So I won’t bother to laminate them. If I want to use them again next year, I can either print out a fresh copy or laminate it then 🙂

I actually will print out a whole set to laminate, so we can start practicing vocabulary now. I’ll cut up the squares, so we can play games like Go Fish and Memory.

Download the PDF for FREE here: Travel Games on the Train GitA

Gute Reise!

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!

A Month in the Netherlands … with Kids

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Last summer when I wistfully declared, “Wouldn’t it be nice to spend a whole month in the Netherlands???” – well, I never imagined it would actually happen! But within a few weeks of returning from our 2-week trip to Europe, my darling husband started showing me houses we could rent for this summer!

It’s not exactly what I was picturing…. I thought we’d get a house close to a town, so we could walk to the shops and really live in Europe for a month. Maybe take a Dutch class or get a tutor to help the kiddos and me learn some of the language….

Instead, we rented a big, beautiful home out in the forest. And we’ve been on-the-go tourists. Part of that had to do with my parents visiting for 2 weeks. And that was fantastic!

Now that Froggy and Hippo are older (7 and 4), we can do so much more with them, too! So here is a recap of all the fun places we’ve been to in the Netherlands, with links to the blog posts about each one.

Places to Play and Learn for Kids
Cultural Attractions
  • Canal Tour in Amsterdam
  • Clara Maria: cheese farm and wooden clog factory
  • Madurodam: the Netherlands in miniature
  • Muiderslot*: castle
  • Zaanse Schans: a step back in time – visit working old-fashioned windmills, the first Albert Heijn, a cheese shop, a pewter foundry, plus a museum of the area’s history and tour a chocolate factory (and don’t forget to stop for pannenkoeken for lunch!)
Museums
*Tip!

If you’re planning to go to a number of museums, you might want to invest in the Museumkaart. It can get you into over 400 museums around the Netherlands! If we had known our boys were going to be so interested in museums, we definitely would have gotten one this summer! The pass lasts for one year. Adult passes cost €59.90. For children 18 and under, passes cost €32.45.

I’m going back to update the posts with a final review of whether or not it was good for kids. I’ll also try to make sure I have info on the locations. I’d love to give some information about the cost, but once again, my darling husband has been doing all the planning! If I have anything to offer, I’ll put it in the posts 🙂

I’m also collecting a list of all the yummy and interesting foods we’ve eaten here in the Netherlands! Here is the link to that post!