Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mommy Meltdown at Ikea

Today we decided to head to Barendrechet to an indoor playground for the boys only to discover it was closed (I know, it's only Tuesday!). So we went next door to Ikea. I was curious to see if Ikea in Europe was any different than our beloved Ikea in Atlanta.
We checked the boys in at SmallLand for an hour and started browsing. Eric and I were making our kitchen wish list when our "alone time" ran out. So I tell Eric to get the boys while I wandered through the kids bedroom department (my favorite) with instructions to meet me back with the boys and we will eat lunch.
Ten minutes passed and he walks back by empty handed. What? "where are the boys?" "I cannot get downstairs because it is blocked for construction!" he says. So start to follow the regular route downstairs only to be at the very beginning of the Marketplace with NO available short cut with out walking through the entire store to the entrance. Those of you familiar with the layout of an Ikea knows that there is a maze of short cuts but it is NOT a short walk to get back to where you started. After asking no less than 6 "employees" no one could offer us a direct route to our children.
This is where my meltdown began. I turned into "Insta-Bitch" and started very loudly expressing how ridiculous this set up was. Showing my true American ass right there in "Lighting and Textiles". So as I raced to the exit through the warehouse, I was stopped by some cashiers who were not too happy with my speed, thinking I maybe stealing. I abandoned my little cart and with them as I walked toward the exit. My eyes welling up with tears and overcome with a feeling of helplessness.
I finally made it to the boys, 20 minutes late, head to the cafeteria and was able to semi-calmly eat my Swedish meatballs. Then I looked at my calendar and realized my hormones were raging.
My apologies to the Ikea employees today, mommy meltdowns can come on at any given moment.

FYI, except for the cafeteria (where they charged .20€ for butter and ketchup) there was absolutely, positively NO difference in our American Ikea's and European. Same stuff, different country.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fast food

Today Eric and I ventured out to shop with the boys in Spijkenisse. It is considered a pretty large city for Dutch standards with 74,000 residents who live mostly in flats. They are much younger college kids and young professionals who live here which means lots of shopping and jobs. There were 2 large shopping malls but I really wanted to hit up H&M so we stopped there. After a couple of hours shopping it was lunch time. This is where the Dutch and Americans are very different.
We looked around to find nowhere to eat whatsoever! I think there was a Subway but there was no way I was gonna travel 6,000+ miles to eat at a Subway. In the US we have food courts plus other restaurants at the mall. Then the malls are surrounded by chain fast food restaurants. You cannot drive 1/4 mile without crossing paths with some sort of restaurant. Not in Holland.
This started a conversation while we drove around for 15 minutes looking for a place to eat, ANY place. So I asked Eric "where the hell do you eat during the day?" he responded "At home or we bring our lunch to work. Every day. It is just too expensive here." So here I am in a place that is as busy as the south side of Savannah or Buckhead in Atlanta we cannot find anywhere to eat. We stopped at a cool pancake house and they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. On the outside of the city we found a McDonalds but there is also no way I will eat there (ask me again in a week). We drove another 20 minutes to a smaller town, Brielle, and finally found a great little restaurant in the centrum. They were also having their Market Day and we enjoyed the small tents with fish, cheeses, nuts, flowers and other stuff.
Here are a few pictures of our day of shopping:

Pancake house: Closed

Finally lunch time!

Ham, egg, cheese on bread.

Fish stand. That is eel in the front.


Cheese cart

Nothing but nuts

Flowers for Oma

Thijs is a little cold!

Brielle Centrum

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snack Bars

If you ever wondered what would give McDonalds a run for their money it would be the dutch Snack Bars. As common in the landscape as a Starbucks or McDonalds, snack bars are a MUST when visiting Holland. Every time we visit it is usually the first place we visit and always go back at least 3-4 times during our stay. This is day 4 of our vacation and we have already been twice! It is THAT good! (3 times if you count the first night when Oma made it for us when we arrived in Holland)
Located in the most random places (in the middle of the beach, woods, shopping areas, or nowhere) and on every street corner they are usually within a 5 minute walk from any where.
One of our favorites is Potat Speciale: Fries, mayo, curry sauce, and raw onions. I know it sounds insane but in reality it is DELICIOUS! Served in a paper cone with a tiny midget fork.
Another sure thing is Frikendel Speciale: Fried pork hot dog also with curry sauce, mayo, and raw onions. This is traditionally served with a fife or knork (fork/knife combo) This is almost always found on every kids menu in every restaurant.
We also love the Mexicano with pinda saus. Kind of like the Dutch equivalent to the McRib (without the bun) served with a peanut butter sauce.
There are several different items on the menu but these are my personal favorite. Because of the curry and onion Eric and I always get in trouble from Oma when we walk in for dinner reeking of Snack Bar and have ruined our dinner! :) It is almost impossible to resist the Snack Bar and it's rainbow display case filled with delectable meats and fries.

By the way, on my list of foods to eat during our stay: Shwarma (turkish lamb served in pita bread with garlic butter), the Fish Stand (the number 2 fast food staple in Holland), Panekoeken (Pancake) House and the Holiday Olie Ballen Stand. So stay tuned for future posts. :)

Dinner Party Disaster!

Some friends of Eric (ok, actually his ex-girlfriend and her husband, but whatever, I'm cool) invited us over for pannenkoeken (crepe-like pancakes) and drinks. Another couple Patrick and Esther and their newborn daughter, Emee (M-may), were also there. Charlotte and Bob (the hosts) have 2 daughters, Jasmijn (Yaz-mine) and Josephijn (Yo-se-fine).
Not long after we arrived, Thijs managed to knock over and break a wine glass. Embarrassing moment #1. Ugggh, As the evening progressed the boys got louder and louder and more obnoxious. I couldn't even drink a full glass of wine because I spent the entire evening chasing and refereeing the kids. At one point Gerrit came to me and whispered "Mom, I peed my pants!" (Embarrassing moment #2) Apparently he couldn't find the bathroom and was offered some pink girl's pants to wear. The kids ate their pannekoeken and the adults attempted to sit for our dinner. That is when the sugar set in and they decided to raise the roof Yelling, screaming, fighting (embarrassing moment #3)! I am sure these people were thinking "Look at these wild American boys!" Dutch children are very quiet and well behaved in public, at least what I have witnessed.
As our dinner was winding down, Thijs announced that he had a stomach ache and proceeded to explode in his pants (#4)!!! I am sure parents out there who are reading this know all about these explosions. Where you look at the clothes and ask your self "Should I just throw them away or rinse and keep?...Toss!" So we quickly rinsed his off and politely said our "Goodbyes" and our "I'm Sorry's" and sped out of the driveway! Very stressful and awkward (did I mention they were together for 10+ years)
Here are a few pics that I managed to take of the happier moments of the evening:

Gerrit, Thijs and Jasmijn dancing
Gerrit and Span
Gerrit and Jasmijn
Eric and Patrick trying to get Josephijn to drink a beer

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sinterklaas in Oostvoorne

This morning we bundled up (it was actually snowing!!!) and headed to the center of Oostvoorne to see Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piete (Black Peter) arrive from Spain. Everyone in town was there! The story goes like this (according to wikipedia because I couldn't really get the whole official story from the family!):

Sinterklaas traditionally arrives in the Netherlands each year in mid-November (usually on a Saturday) by steamboat from Spain. Some suggest that gifts associated with the holy man, such as mandarin oranges, led to the misconception that he must have been from Spain. He parades through the streets on his gray horse Amerigo, welcomed by cheering and singing children.[5] This event is broadcast live on national television in the Netherlands and Belgium. His Zwarte Piet assistants throw candy and small, round, gingerbread-like cookies, either "kruidnoten" or "pepernoten," into the crowd. The children welcome him by singing traditional Sinterklaas songs. Sinterklaas visits schools, hospitals and shopping centers. After this arrival, all towns with a dock usually celebrate their own "intocht van Sinterklaas" (arrival of Sinterklaas). Local arrivals usually take place later on the same Saturday of the national arrival, the next Sunday (the day after he arrives in the Netherlands or Belgium), or one weekend after the national arrival. In places a boat cannot reach, Sinterklaas arrives by train, horse, or even carriage or fire truck.
Traditionally, in the weeks between his arrival and 5 December, before going to bed, children put their shoes next to the fireplace chimney of the coal-fired stove or fireplace. In modern times, they may put them next to the central heating unit. They leave the shoe with a carrot or some hay in it and a bowl of water nearby "for Sinterklaas' horse," and the children sing a Sinterklaas song. The next day they will find some candy or a small present in their shoes.
Typical Sinterklaas treats traditionally include: hot chocolate, mandarin oranges, pepernoten, letter-shaped pastry filled with almond paste or chocolate letter (the first letter of the child's name made out of chocolate), speculaas (sometimes filled with almond paste), chocolate coins and marzipan figures. Newer treats include kruidnoten (a type of shortcrust biscuit or gingerbread biscuits) and a figurine of Sinterklaas made of chocolate and wrapped in colored aluminum foil.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Grocery Store Dutch style

Eric and I took the boys to the local supermarket today. It's Called "Jumbo" and it is entirely underground. Apparently, it was rush hour. The dutch are not very friendly when outside the home. The entire time we were shopping I didn't get an "Excuse me, Pardon Me, Thank You" I am pretty sure I got a F- You once or twice. I guess I was moving too slow trying to figure out what to purchase. Funny how going to the grocery store at home is such a chore that I have to do every singe day but here is it an excursion! Here are a few photos I took at the store of funny and yummy items:

Wiener flavored coffee
Eggs at room temperature!
Black Pieters (equivalent to our Chocolate Easter Bunnies)
You gotta pay to play!
Underground JUMBO
Sponge Bob Juice!
My favorite chips
What is a grocery store without a giant Cheese section? The dutch love their cheese!

We made it!

We finally made it to Oma and opa mol's house yesterday about 3:00. The boys got almost a full night's sleep on the plane but Eric and I did not sleep at all! We could hardly carry on a conversation!
Later that afternoon we packed up and headed to our vacation cottage in Ouddorp (Old Town). It is owned by a friend of Eric and it is a quaint little place over looking a beautiful lake.
It is more than enough room for us for 2 weeks. Plus we do not stress out Erics family.
We fell asleep about 8pm (2:00 Savannah time) and quickly decided to slip the boys some benedryl to help them sleep ;) I managed to sleep on and off until 6am but Eric woke up at 1:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. The boys slept until 7! Uggh it's like being hungover but without the alcohol.
We found out there is a cellular hot spot near our house so we will be connected at night when we are home. Thank god! There Is nothing to do at that house except a few puzzles and some magazines.
Here are a few pics I have taken so far:

Sunrise at 30,000 feet. Check out the star:

Goede Morgen, thijs!

Welcome to Amsterdam

Our view:

Funny looking trees

Goederede church

WWII bunker

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ahhh Space Bags! Where have you been all of my life?

Anyone who has ever traveled with more than one small child can appreciate how precious suitcase space is. For us it is even more so. Most cars in Holland are no bigger than a Prius so it leaves us limited on rides to and from the airport. Not to mention trying to navigate the airport with 3 suitcases, 2 carry on's, a couple of abandoned kids backpacks (seemed like a good idea at the time), 2 kids and a purse.
This year I thought I would try using Space Bags for the kids. Maybe, just maybe, we can get us down to 2 suitcases, albeit very heavy suitcases. My husband has Platinum status as a frequent flyer which has its perks including unlimited baggage and no weight limit so weight isn't a worry.
Using 1 extra large Space Bag, I filled the suitcase up with their clothes:

Add to this 2 winter jackets, 2 pair of boots, a few more assorted items and their special blankets and pillows. Oh yeah, I have a giant bag of gifts that need to go somewhere!

I attached my vacuum to the special hole and began sucking the air out. OMG! These clothes now take up about 1/2 of the entire suitcase instead of the whole thing! With some careful planning, I am confident that we can fit my husband's clothes in this suitcase also! Check it out:

Of course the only reason I am doing this is knowing there is a vacuum at my mother in law's house for the return trip. I am just hoping the TSA doesn't open it up to inspect. I did ask @DeltaAssist if this was allowed and was assured it was. Thankfully!

It may take 2 strong men to lift if but I do not care. God, I hope this works! Wish me luck!