The alternative title to this post could have been bicycle built for two (or easily 3). We are working on making more room in the garage for the important stuff like BIKES, fancy new dutch bikes that is. The current count was 8 bikes for 4 people! I have a country bike and a city or “oma” bike (that is the traditional dutch bike where you sit up tall and oma means grandma in dutch) and now Ben has a mountain bike and a road bike. Oh and the kids each got a new bike when we arrived. Big hulking heavy Dutch bikes that have baskets and are pretty much indestructible. So to make room, we donated the kids old bikes to a recycle shop called a Kringloopwinkel in Wassenaar (reducing said bike count to a mere 6), but we came away with “new” in-line skates for the kids. Oh and we did try out a handmade bike built for 2!  So hard to ride but actually fun to imagine owning this bike – one seat for an adult and one seat for a kid – both with pedals!

I had to swallow big and walk away a lot with this new form of transportation. The kids found the smoothest track at the park down the street (asphalt as compared with the cobblestone street that we live on) and it felt good to let them go the park on their own to check things out. The only rule I made was if someone gets bloody the un-bloody kid was to take off their skates and run home barefoot. Fortunately that call never came. They loved that they were able to donate something they no longer needed and were able to get something that brought them joy. I think you can see some of the joy that trying something new in these portraits of my little Expats below.
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KristineNoel

I have said many times congratulations to the sweet mom of this new baby.   I have said congratulations to the dad and to the newly minted big brother… But I think it is more appropriate to say “CONGRATULATIONS WORLD”!  This baby is perfection and the world and everyone creature in it is so lucky to have her.

Being able to witness the love of a mother for her new baby is so special and I can find nothing more beautiful than this connection.  I was so moved looking through some of these images and I could see how this love transferred to some of the images we made that day. World welcome to this new baby’s story!

Welcome new little one and you are loved by many already.newborn wassenaar 5

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newborn wassenaar 2

newborn wassenaar 6a

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KristineNoel

This one child of mine can play with legos for hours on end. I wish I had that same dedication to craft and determination. He is working on mastery of all things transportation. He can make camper vans, long haul tractor trailers, speed boats, cruise liners, and in this situation a PanaMex or maybe even a New PanaMex sized shipping vessel complete with containers and escape pods, a la Captain Phillips.

It is creative work or play and it makes me happy to see him engaged and allowing his mind to wonder and create.

lego play 2lego play 5lego play 4lego Play

KristineNoel

As an expat the idea of home takes on a new meaning.  Where is home?  Is it a physical place? An emotional place?  Is it a place that I can return to?  Have I outgrown the home that I once knew?  You can ask me that question and depending on the day and maybe even with whom I am speaking I might say something different.  But often times the answer is a bit fuzzy, clouded with memory and sometimes rounded at the edges and blurred in a way that isn’t recognizable.  When I think of “home”, I think of sun kissed moments, smells, feelings, calmness, freedom and people that I care deeply about.

In the same line of thought, I asked a friend here would she bring something back with her when she moved home.  She kind of tilted her head and looked a bit quizzical and said “What does that even mean?”  Was her home here, in this temporary community and place?  Was it where she came from most recently?  Or was it more like my temporal feeling of place?  I imagine that just as my answers are different, depending on how I am feeling, I am sure that they are different for other expats and people that are living outside of their childhood home or their nation that brought them up.

But, an interesting note on this concept is when I asked my kids where home was for them, it took them less than a millisecond to say “here”.  I asked them what they thought home meant, and they responded shelter and being with the people they love.  Their home is small,  it is closely held and it is a function of their deepest feelings. It didn’t matter to them that they were born in a another country, or that their friends were from all over the world, or even that their very favorite ice cream was thousands of miles away.  For them their instant answer was clear, enshrouded and deeply rooted in their sense of comfort, love and belonging.

So the images below were taken in our “home.”  They are fuzzy and have soft edges, but if you take away this barrier of time and experience, they would be as clear and vibrant as the people that we surround ourselves with.

kids

 

KristineNoel

It was a typical start to a typical Dutch February day.  A bit of ice on the roads, some slipping and sliding going on with the folks on bicycles, and some quick navigation around the roundabout to avoid the kind of traffic you get in a 3 stoplight town. But as the sun rose it covered the world with a gorgeous golden glow that only happens first in the morning or late in the afternoon with a sun just above the horizon.  That coupled with the perfection of the Dutch cerulean and the puffs of clouds were really breathtaking.

I try not to say no to anything related to eating and especially eating combined with learning about Dutch food and Dutch culture.  So despite the traffic, the tricky bit of driving my tiny Fiat 500 over  arguably icy roads… I made my way to a Carol’s, our Dutch culinary leader, home to enjoy an afternoon of cooking, eating and laughing. We made traditional Dutch apple pie, a one pot meal called “hutspot” and a really “lekker” (Dutch for Yummy) cheese and Nederland’s shrimp soup.  All so tasty and made simply enough to be part of a regular lineup for dinner.

The class was taught in a way that was pragmatic, but fun without a lot of overly “foodie” stuff.  Which to be honest that isn’t at all what traditional Dutch cooking is about anyway.  They serve a lot of vegetables, often the potatoes are mashed together with other vegetables like kale, or carrots, or beets to create a really comforting combination that warms and sticks to your ribs so to speak.  The “hutspot” was a mashed vegetable concoction, combined with a piece of roast beef style beef.  I did learn quite a bit about how the Dutch butcher and grade their beef.  The cuts are entirely different than American cuts (not that I know what is what there anyway) and the beef is graded on the leanness as opposed to the fat content.  The Dutch like lean beef so the longer it is cooked the better I guess.

The soup, was made with Belegen (Matured – aged 8-16 weeks), which is a local style cheese and is very typical here. We used the broth of cooking veggies and a dash or red wine an creme fresh to liven it up a bit.  Then as a garnish we added a trio of Nederlands shrimp (tiny little things that are about a half an inch long, fresh red tomatoes and chopped dill.  Again simple but oh so good.

Of course, if you know me, I was paying to most attention to the dessert.  The Dutch love apples almost as much as potatoes and they sever apple pie everywhere.  It is a lot easier to make than American style apple pie.  The crust is a bit more forgiving and they use a spring form pan that brims with tart and tangy chopped apples.  Added to the apples are of course, sugar, cinnamon and some lemon zest.  We added white raisons plumped in tea and some chopped walnuts.  The lattice crust came out just perfectly as well.

All in all a fun way to stay warm and enjoy a bit of Dutch culture with friends.

Apple Pie LessonApple Pie Lesson2

 

KristineNoel