Bremen & the Brothers Grimm

The city of Bremen is in Northern Germany, just a 1.5 hour drive from Friesland, the North-Eastern area of the Netherlands. From the Randstad region, it’s about a four hour drive or train journey to reach Bremen.

Bremen was made famous by the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, “The Town Musicians of Bremen”.  I read this story out loud to the kids in the car on our way to Bremen, which was fun. In the story, a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster, were all getting older and feeling useless on their farms. So one by one, they left their homes and set out on an adventure together to go to Bremen, known for its freedom, to live without owners and become musicians. They ended up saving the town from thieves and lived happily ever after of course.

But why, in the story, did the animals choose to go to Bremen? The Brothers Grimm were said to be good friends with the Mayor of Bremen at the time, Johann Smidt (1827-1857). So it is thought to be possible that the animals’ desire to get to Bremen was a gesture of appreciation for him.

We chose to go to Bremen simply because a photo on Instagram had caught my eye, and I instantly felt the need to visit this historic city. The photo showed a narrow cobble-stoned street, lined with traditional Bremen houses and a little, cosy-looking restaurant. I was determined to find the location where the photo had been taken, which, I had discovered before our visit, was to be found within the Schnoor district in the Old Town of Bremen.

Most of the historical sights in Bremen are found in the Old Town (Altstadt). The oldest part of the Old Town is the southeast half, starting with the town square (Marktplatz) and ending at the Schnoor quarter. We knew we wanted to find accommodation as close as possible to the old town so we booked a room (which could accommodate a family of four) at a hotel in the city centre, just outside the old town area. I’m glad we did this, as driving into the city we couldn’t help but notice that the outskirts of the city did not give a great first impression. We were keen to get to the old centre and our hotel was very close by. After checking in, we set off on foot to explore Bremen.

The blue dot was our hotel and everything inside the red circle is what you want to see when you go to Bremen. You can even see the old town moat that still exists. We really enjoyed walking along the inside of this moat, which is a lovely park area with pretty gardens and a windmill.

From here, it’s a short five minute walk to the old town square which is just stunning. Surrounded by buildings all mostly constructed in the 13th century, you can’t help but just stare at them in awe of the details; the town hall, the Bremen St Peter Cathedral, the old weigh house and even the private residences. The buildings surrounding the town square were the first in Bremen to be restored after World War II by the citizens of Bremen themselves. We climbed the 265 steps up to the top of the cathedral for a great view over the town square and surrounds.

The Town Hall of Bremen (1405), on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, nowadays hosts a beautiful restaurant, ‘The Ratskeller’ in the cellar (no rats so don’t worry LOL) with gigantic wine barrels, and is also home to the twelve oldest wines in the world, stored in their original barrels.

Right beside Bremen’s beautiful gothic styled town hall, a bronze sculpture can be found of Die Stadtmusikanten (the Town Musicians), showing the donkey, dog, cat and rooster.

In front of the town square is the 10m high statue of Roland. Roland was a knight who protected the city in his day and still ‘stands watch’, protecting the city and its people today.

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The Böttcherstraße runs from the town square down to the river and is lined with stunning buildings containing shops, museums and theatres. It’s a great little street! Directly across from the Glockenspiel (bells clock) was our favourite place to get a drink and/or meal, the Standige Vertretung. Such a great building, full of character and great meals at a great price! The grilled pork knuckle, schnitzel and curry sausage were are amazeballs! Look for the little yellow owl.

The river Weser runs right through Bremen and the promenade, Schlachte, is lined with beers gardens and river boats. However, we were there on a public holiday and just seemed to be filled with young drunk people (at 3pm). It certainly was the place to be if you are looking for a big night out (but as we were with the kids, we much preferred walking along the old moat/river).

Our favourite part of Bremen was the old Schnoor district, which could actually easily be overlooked if you are not specifically looking for it as, although it is close to the town square, you have to cross a main street to get to it. The unique and crooked buildings, small family run businesses (boutique shops and restaurants), cobblestones streets and narrow alleyways made it picture perfect! Just what we came to Bremen to see.

Bremen is also home to the Universum Science Centre, which, although we did not get to, I have heard that this mussel shaped, interactive science museum is well worth a visit.

Bremen holds a traditional German Christmas Market every year, where the old town square is transformed into a winter wonderland from the end of November to the end of December. More information on this annual event can be found here

We really enjoyed our stay in Bremen, it is a great German city to visit during any season of the year, either with or without kids. Spend your time in Bremen within the red circle shown above, as outside of this area, it is not the prettiest city to look at. You need to get to the heart of Bremen to be able to appreciate all it has to offer and it is definitely doable in 1 or 2 days.

If you plan to visit Bremen with your children, I’d suggest you read them the story of the Bremen Town Musicians before you go 🙂

Kristen

Fun Fact:

“City air makes you free”

In the Middle Ages (approx. 500-1500 AD), from the second half of the 12th century, European cities held the promise of a new life for serfs, giving rise to the saying “city air makes you free”. Much like the Bremen Town Musicians, a great many peasants attempted to escape their feudal lords by heading for the city walls in the hope of leading an independent life. Those who were not found and retrieved after a year and a day were free for good.

Source:
“Der Alltag im Mittelalter” by Maike Voigt-Lüerssen, published by Books on Demand, 2006, ISBN 978-3833443541

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The Spring Gardens of Keukenhof

On the first Friday of April, I visited Keukenhof together with my two kids and mother in law. All the Dutch schools were in session and we were lucky enough to have the day off, so it was not overly busy like is can be. The sun shone for us all day, the crocuses, hyacinths and daffodils were in bloom and the tulips were beginning to open, it was the perfect day for it!

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We were a little hesitant to go so early in the season, as we had heard that many of the flowers were not out yet, but we decided to take our chances anyway and we don’t regret it. Although we could see that many flowers hadn’t opened yet, and I know the park can be a lot more colourful, there was still loads of colour throughout the park. The indoor exhibitions made our visit even better; they were fabulous! There was a tulip exhibition in the main Willem-Aleksander pavilion, which was literally a colour explosion! The kids really enjoyed reading all of the different and interesting tulip names, choosing their favourites and smelling them. The indoor orchid and gerbera exhibitions were also impressive and a must see!

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The history of Keukenhof dates back to the 15th century. Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria (1401-1436) used to gather fruit and vegetables here for the kitchen of the Keukenhof Castle, which was built in 1641. Over time, the estate grew to over 200 hectares, now known as the Keukenhof gardens. The castle is not accessible from within the gardens (you will need to travel via the outside around to the other side of the park to view the castle) and is not always open to the public.

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The same landscape architects who designed Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, redesigned the castle gardens in 1857. That original royal garden, in the English landscape style, can still be visited inside Keukenhof. In 1949 a group of 20 leading flower bulb growers and exporters came up with the plan to use the estate to exhibit spring-flowering bulbs. The Spring gardens of Keukenhof opened its gates to the public for the first time in 1950 and was an instant success from then onwards.

Each year, the gardens are planted inline with a new theme. In 2018 the theme is Romance, so you will see that both the indoor exhibitions and the flower gardens are all designed around this theme: hearts, weddings, love etc. With each year being a different theme, you can visit over and over again, and there will always be something new to see.

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Our day was perfect, right up until the moment we decided to leave. It took us about 30-45 minutes to get out of the parking lot (many cars all being funneled out through just one exit). But aside from this, is was a wonderful day and I look forward to returning again next year.  Keukenhof is open until mid-May, so don’t miss it.

Tip: Pre-purchase your tickets online via the official Keukenhof website to avoid the long lines at the entrance.

Kristen

 

Friendship

Friendship. It is impossible for me to describe just how valuable it truly is. To have a network of true friends around you, particularly when living abroad, is so, so important.

I have to say, that I am the type of person who really loves (and needs) an active social life, and enjoy continuously surrounding myself with people I respect and can relate to. Of course, I love and value time alone with my husband and kids, and on the odd occasion, I even enjoy a little time to myself. However, as often as possible, I enjoy hanging out with my friends. It is a form of relaxation; de-stressing after a busy work work. Laughing until you cry, talking, sharing each others stories and feelings, comforting, understanding, reassuring, or cheering each other when needed.  Being able to openly share your feelings with a true friend and in turn, simply lending a listening ear when needed is so invaluable. We crave honesty and acceptance. Enjoying someones company and authentic communication is healthy and healing.

Moving abroad, pulling up deep roots and saying goodbye to our own little corners of the world, to our families and everything familiar, can be as disorienting as it is exciting. When I left Australia, I also left behind a large group of the most wonderful friends you could ever imagine. Friends who I had made through school. Friends that can make you laugh until you cry. Moving to the Netherlands and having to rebuild a group of friends from scratch was tough, but I was lucky enough to meet some wonderful people over the past six years; a good combination of both Dutch locals and fellow internationals who have also chosen Holland to be their home. I have met some truly kind and genuine souls, who are exactly the kind of people I want to spend my time with.

When living in a foreign country, friends become a kind of family. I felt it when I worked on cruise ships away from home for months at a time and I feel it again now. It is natural to grieve the loss of the family that we leave behind when we move, even if married with families of our own. It can feel as though you have lost an immediate support, acceptance and presence of your parents and siblings in your daily life. As time passes and we settle into life in our new country, and friends help to fill that gap. I am not saying we miss our families any less or that they become less important, only that we adjust and adapt to our new lives. Supportive, genuine friendships provide us with so much.

As I grow oder, I am also realising that it is less important to have more friends and more important to have real ones. I am becoming pickier which whom I choose to spend my time with. Friendship, real friendship, can be hard to find. So once you do find it, be sure to value and appreciate it.

How fortunate I am to have met such wonderful people on both sides of the world and to be able to call them friends. Whenever I return to visit Australia, and meet up with my friends there, it’s as though we have not been apart at all. We do not see each other often and the distance makes it difficult to be able to be an active part in each other’s daily lives. However, I still value these friendships back home just as much as the newer friends who play an active role in my life right now here in the Netherlands.

My conclusion: No matter where in the world we are, we need friendship like sunny afternoons full of laughter and chocolate. They are such an important part of our lives and I for one, do not know what I would do without them.

Kristen

Nederlands, Nederlands, Nederlands

Dit is mijn eerste blog post helemaal in het Nederlands geschreven.  Wij wonen nu zes jaar in Nederland, en ik vind de taal nog steeds moeilijk, maar langzaam (heeeel langzaam) woord het makkelijker.  Dus, ik dacht dat het een leuke uitdaging was, om een blog post in Nederlands te schijven — zonder Google translator of bewerking van mijn man! God help me, what was I thinking?!

Het is heel belangrijk voor mij en mijn man, dat onze twee kinderen (7 en 8 jaar) goed Nederlands kunnen praten. Ok, niet alleen ‘goed’, maar net zo goed als een Nederlander. Ze waren allebei in Australië geboren maar, na zes jaar hier in Nederland, kunnen ze allebei redelijk goed Nederlands praten, schrijven en lezen — maar nog niet tot hetzelfde niveau als anderen Nederlandse kinderen hen leeftijd vind ik. Aan de anderen kant, onze kinderen zijn beiden tweetalig: ze kunnen allebei heel goed engels praten, schrijven en lezen. Dit maakt me heel erg blij, want engels is een van de meeste gebruiken talen in het wereld (en mijn moedertaal natuurlijk). Onze kinderen zitten op een internationale school waar ik werk, en logisch is dit heel handig, maar voor onze Nederlands, niet super.  Wij praten de hele dag engels met een beetje Nederlands tussendoor. Wij moeten meer Nederlands praten om beter te worden.

Allebei kinderen gaat wel naar buiten school activiteiten met Nederlandse kinderen in onze stadje, bijvoorbeeld: scouting, voetbal, turnen. Dit is heel belangrijk voor ons. Dat ze locale kinderen kunnen leren kennen en de taal oefenen. Ze speelde ook heel veel buiten met al die kinderen van onze buurt. Dit is heel fijn om te zien, dat ze allebei kunnen communiceren met de anderen kinderen van de buurt, maar soms vind ik dat ze een beetje onzeker voelt. Ik voel precies het zelfde toen ik Nederlands probeer om te praten met een buurvrouw, vrienden of collega.  Mijn droom voor mijn kinderen is dat ze kunnen Nederlands heel makkelijk praten en dat ze klinkt als Nederlanders. Vraag ik dan te veel?

Mijn man is wel Nederlands, en vanaf het begin van onze relatie zeventeen jaar geleden, hebben wij altijd engels met elkaar gesproken. Dat is heel moeilijk om te veranderen. En omdat mijn man en ik altijd engels thuis praten, is het dan heel moeilijk voor mijn man met de kinderen Nederlands te praten als we allemaal samen zijn. Wij moeten meer Nederlands met elkaar praten.

Wij weten wat we moeten doen, maar het zal een enorme uitdaging zijn. Wij gaan proberen om thuis alleen maar Nederlands te praten (s’avonds en in het weekend wanneer mijn man thuis is). Het is goed voor onze kinderen en ik. Ik heb wel een keer ergens gelezen dat als je een relatie in een taal begint, is het bijna onmogelijk om naar een anderen taal te veranderen. We hebben eerder een paar keer geprobeerd, maar elke keer automatisch in het Engels terugvallen. Hopelijk deze keer lukt het! Wij kunnen alleen maar nog een keer proberen en wij zullen het zien.

Heb jij wat ervaring met dit soort situatie? Heb jij wat handige tips die ons kunnen helpen om dit plan te houden?

Groetjes,

Kristen

 

Parenting Dutch Style

There are some varied and strong opinions out there in regards to parenting, and the specific topic I am about to broach. In this post I would like talk about what I find to be the most striking difference between parenting in the Netherlands versus parenting elsewhere: Parental Supervision. 

A touchy subject I know. We all have questions such as, Should all children be supervised at all times? How old should your child be before you consider allowing them to walk or bike to the playground/shop/school etc. alone? Is it ever ok to leave your child at home alone, and if so, from what age? I’m not going to sit here and give you the answers to these questions, as they would only be my opinions. All of these questions have multiple answers, as every parent makes a decision that they believe is best for their own child(ren).

Young children are generally incapable of looking after themselves and are incompetent in making informed decisions for their own well-being. We all know this, there is no argument there.  However, older children should be given a certain amount of freedom and trust. Of course, every child is different and parents should be able to see if their child is at the point of being responsible enough to take the trash out, pop down to the store for some milk,.. or stay at home on their own while you do it.

I recently read an interesting article called “How Young is Too Young to be Left at Home Alone?”.  In Australia, you would never leave any child below the teenaged years unsupervised at home. However, in the Netherlands it is actually encouraged to give your children more independence from an early age.

Dutch parents begin by giving their children small responsibilities or house hold chores, see how they handle it, then move on to other more significant tasks. For example, from about the age of four, children are expected to be able to make their own sandwiches. The bread, butter and all toppings are placed on the table, and the children assemble their own lunch.

Dutch parents let their children begin biking to school or football practice etc. on their own typically from the age of 7-10 years old, depending on the child and the route; Taking into consideration that the distance from home to anywhere here in the Netherlands is quite short and that the typical Dutch child has biked daily from the age of 4. Usually school is located within an easy 5-10 minute bike ride from home. Dutch parents will purposely choose a school close to their home for this very reason; so that they can eventually give their children the freedom to travel on their own as soon as they are ready to take on that responsibility.

Many Dutch parents also let their children play outside in local playgrounds with friends from the neighbourhood without supervision (usually from around the age of 6-8). It took me a good 5 years of living in the Netherlands, whilst observing others and noticing the benefits, before I even felt comfortable with the idea of ever letting my kids go to the playground on their own. Recently, I too began letting my children go down to the playground on our street together, without me (they are almost 7 and 9). The first time, I wanted to go spy on them through the bushes, but resisted. They came home at the time I has asked them to, with giant smiles on their faces. They are good kids and I am confident that they will be careful and make smart choices. I also live in a safe neighbourhood where we all know each other and look out for each other’s children, which helps.

Coming from a society where this is never done, where you are frowned upon if you would even consider doing it, it has taken me some time to adjust my way of thinking and get past the motherly pangs of guilt. On multiple occasions over the years I have been heard saying, “It’s not the kids I don’t trust, it’s everyone else”. There are so many bad people out there. Its good to be cautious, but you can’t live in constant fear of something bad happening. You also can’t watch your children for every second until the day they move out of home. There comes a time when you just have to let go a little and give them some independence when you believe they can handle it.

There is a fine line between the right amount of supervision and poor parental supervision. I am aware of this line and am careful not to cross it. Still, those I know back in Australia would still not approve. But after living here for several years, I have done a complete 180 in my way of thinking in regards to parental supervision and completely understand and respect the attitude that the Dutch have towards it. Giving your children some freedom to do things on their own shows them that you trust them to do the right thing, obey the rules, and put everything you have taught them into practise. It teaches children responsibility and gives them much needed independence, shaping them into well-rounded independent adults.

There are many things the Dutch got right with parenting. This post entitled “16 Surprising Things About Parenting in the Netherlands” is well worth the read! From being down to earth, to food, to gender equality.

In 2013, a Unicef report rated Dutch children as the happiest in the world. So the parents must be doing something right. The Dutch have a reputation for being liberal, yet they are actually fairly conservative people. At the heart of Dutch culture is a society of home-loving people who have a healthy attitude towards their kids, seeing them as individuals. The Dutch have managed to minimize the anxiety, stress and expectations of modern-day parenting, redefining the meaning of success and wellbeing. For them, success starts with happiness – that of their children and themselves. But it is still important to remember that our kids still need guidance, rules and routine!

Finally, I would like to stress that us mums need to stick together and support one another. Try not to judge those with different parenting styles to yourself. I almost didn’t publish this post, in fear of being judged. I hope that by reading this post that you will be more open to pushing your comfort boundaries just a little, and try different parenting techniques that positively impact your child(ren) whilst you battle one of the toughest jobs on earth, being a parent.

Groetjes,

Kristen

Friends Come and Go

Although I no longer think of myself as an expat, I am surrounded by them; surrounded by them on a daily basis, both at work and in my social life. You see, I work at an International school and this week is our final week of the school year. It is a crazy, busy and emotional week, full of goodbyes. As another school year comes to an end, it once again means having to say goodbye to students, parents, and staff; many of whom have become good friends.

In international schools, you are surrounded by ‘stayers’ and ‘goers’. My kids and I are stayers at our school. I married a Dutch man and we moved to the Nethelands long term. Sometimes it is tough being at a school with such a high student/teacher turnover. I am grateful for all of the other stayers, as they are a welcomed consistency in both my life and more importantly, the lives of my children. But, as with all international schools, there are many families who must move on after just a year, or maybe three if we are lucky. That’s the painful part of expat life, both for expats themselves and for those around them. We build up such wonderful friendships and then enivitable have to part ways. However, I must admit, that I feel honoured and awfully lucky to have had the opportunity to meet these wonderful people from all over the world! They have enriched our lives, by showing us their cultures and traditions, and for well, just letting us get to know them.

I read an interesting article on this topic last year, called “The transition that never ends: The ongoing cycle of expat Stayers, Goers and Newbies”, which explains each type of person and why it is so important that we all continue to interact with and help each other. We each have something unique to give. Are you a Stayer, a Goer or a Newby?

So as I walk into work tomorrow, for the final day of classes, I will remind myself not to get bitter about all of the goodbyes, but to be grateful for those that have come in (and out of) our lives. The world is smaller thanks to technology and we will stay in touch; they have all left their footprints on our hearts. After all, as they say, ‘friends come and go like the waves of the ocean, but the true ones stick like an octopus on your face’.

So I am thankful for all the friendships, and thankful for all the smiles, and thankful that they came into our lives, if only for a while. Stay in touch my friends! Xx

Kristen

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Finding My Style

​This is a personal post about how I finally found my style. A style that I love and a style that suits me. It took a long time to get there, but I found it and here is my story.

As a kid, my parents were farmers and, as all farmers do, they did it real tough. We typically received just one new outfit each year at Christmas and I grew up mostly in second hand clothes. But I didn’t mind at all. Actually, when the neighbours brought over a big bag of clothes (from their kids who were a few years older than us) it was exciting! I pretty much lived in shorts and tshirts and wore whatever I was given. I really wasn’t fussed about what I wore at all.

When I reached Secondary School, everything changed. My close friends from Elementary School went of to a different school than me, pubity hit, and the kids at school got meaner. I was teased for wearing second hand, non-brand named clothing and for wearing braces on my teeth; I really struggled to just fit in overall. These years of school were hard. There was so much pressure to be cool and fashionable. Everything had to be either Billabong, Ripcurl, or Quicksilver and for us, these items was overpriced and unaffordable. I was ever so thankful that we could wear the school uniform to school each day and I almost had an anxiety attack each time a casual day (no uniform required) was announced at school. I had no style. Outside of school, I mostly wore either jeans or sporty clothes (shorts, t-shirt, runners) as I played netball and tennis on a weekly basis.

At the age of 19, I left Australia and flew to London to begin my training to work on cruise ships. At this point, I had never really experimented with fashion or makeup. It was in London that I was taught about applying makeup, styling my hair, and how to dress nicely. My English room mate was a complete fashionista and arrived with a huge suitcase full of amazing outfits; this was a real eye-opener for me. During my first ship contract, my wonderful spa colleagues highlighted my hair for the first time and gave me my first beauty treatments. I went shopping throughout North and Central America and began to realise that the rest of the world wasn’t completely surf-wear-obsessed like Australia seemed to be during my teenage years. My confidence was growing and my sense of style began to develop. I began wearing brighter colours and some basic makeup on a daily basis.

In my mid-twenties, I became a student again, studying a business administration course. After graduating, I obtained my first administration position at a high profile private school in Sydney. At this point my style changed again and I began to dress more corporate-like on a daily basis. Making this extra effort made me feel more professional and presentable at work. My style was mostly skirts or suit trousers with a nice top and heels. Always heels. My makeup and hair was always done, with accessories to match.

By my 30th birthday, I was suddenly the mother of a one year old daughter and a two week old son. I had put on about 15kgs and my whole body shape had changed. Suddenly, I had this belly, my hips were wider, and due to the overall weight gain, I no longer felt comfortable in my cute little work outfits (plus as I was on maternity leave, I had no where to wear them to!). It hurt to wear high heels, so flats it was. I also breastfed both of our children for 12 months each, so this also meant my boobs were constantly changing. As my pre-baby clothes no longer fit, I wore maternity clothes and ugly nursing bras for three years straight. My whole image changed and although I was eternally grateful to be a mother of two beautiful babies, I was no longer happy with how I looked. The self-confidence that I had managed to build up during my 20s had vanished.

With a little exercise, I was able to loose some of the baby weight, but ultimately I had to accept the fact that my body shape had changed permanently. It was also around this time that we moved to the Netherlands. Due to both the fact that I owned no non-maternity clothes that fit, plus the extreme weather and style differences in Europe, I needed a new wardrobe and my style needed to change. I went out and bought a few pairs of new jeans and a couple of new tops. I remember that the shift from maternity pants to new jeans that fit was a big step for me at that time, but I still wasn’t all that happy with how they looked on me. I had somehow lost my sense of self and didn’t know which direction to go next.

After taking two years off and wearing jeans daily (an easy option when you are a busy mum of two kids under two!), I then began working again. Once again my style needed to shift from casual to business. I bought a few pairs of neat trousers and some nice tops. However, soon I began to realise that I felt and looked better in dresses, rather than trousers/jeans. In the Summer on weekends, I began wearing structured summer dresses and maxi dresses. These dresses hid the areas I was self-conscious about and accentuated the areas I was still happy with. I loved wearing dresses and began investing in dresses that were more professional looking so that I could also wear them to work. Wrap dresses were a fave of mine as they were so comfortable and easy. Then i realised that I could continue to wear some of my dresses throughout the Winter if I added thermal leggings, warm boots and a cardigan or blazer. By my mid-thirties, I was pretty much wearing dresses all year round.

I then discovered vintage inspired dresses! In 2015, I fell completely in love with one particular blue swing dress that I had spotted on TopVintage.nl. I ordered it for a wedding that I was about to attend and this was the beginning of my love for this style. The dress was so comfortable and fitted me in all the right places (this is the dress I am wearing in my ‘Kristen in Clogland’ profile photo taken by the talented Katinka Tromp in Rotterdam!). I was completely hooked. This first order from TopVintage and all the subsequent ones (not to mention the photo shoot!) were what helped me take the final step to find both a style I love and most importantly, my confidence from within.

Over the past two years, I have invested in more 1940s-50s vintage-inspired dresses and I wear them daily; to work and on the weekends. When my friends or colleagues tell me that I have inspired them to wear dresses more often, it makes my heart sing! I am finally at a place where I can say that I have found my style.

Now I know that what you wear shouldn’t matter all that much and I am certainly not one to judge (after being teased myself as a kid for what I wore), But I must say that if you wear things that you adore, you will look and feel better overall! The positive and approachable energy you give off when you smile and feel comfortable with the image you are presenting is so valuable. There is a dress out there for every occasion, shape and size ladies, so go for it! Take the plunge, find a dress you love, and buy it for yourself. You will instantly feel better the moment you put it on.

Kristen xx

Our Journey to de Kaag

Today was Heemelvaartsdag (the Ascension public holiday) and it also just so happened to be a lovely 25+ degrees Celsius; the sun was shining and not a single cloud was to be seen. Rather than head to the beach, we decided to head to our boat.

Today we pushed the boundaries as far as distance is concerned. We travelled further than we have ever travelled in the boat, in one day, with the kids. Our goal was to reach de Kaag, a large lake area about 30 minutes North of Leiden. We left our marina at 10am and didn’t return back until 10pm!! 12 hours on the water!

Our big day out took us to Schipluiden, Delft, through the Leidschendam lock, Voorschoten, Leiden, Leiderdorp and finally, we arrived at the beautiful Kaag lakes (Kagerplassen). The Kaag Lakes are a popular area for boating, watersports, fishing, camping and walking. Windmills, waterfront pasture land with grazing animals, beaches, boats and flower fields are all part of the charm of boating in this area. Once we arrived, the kids had a swim, we all had an ice cream, and then we cruised around the lakes for an hour or so, just taking it all in. We then began the five hour picturesque journey back home again.

What a day it was! We enjoyed every minute of it. In this case, I think pictures may say more than words, so here are a few photos from our journey to de Kaag and back!

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Airport Anxiety

Every time I approach an airport, my stomach flips and then fills with butterflies. Big ones. It’s that kind of feeling you get when you are sitting on a roller coaster that’s about to begin. It doesn’t matter which airport, if I am coming or going, or if I am dropping someone off or picking them up. I always have the same feeling deep down in the pit of my stomach as soon as an airport comes into sight.

I’m not afraid of flying, actually I love it, and surprisingly over the past 20+ years of frequent flying, I have never missed a flight. So I cannot say that this is the cause for my airport anxiety. There is something else that is sparking this automatic response every time I am in the vicinity of an airport.

I began to notice this feeling about fifteen years ago when I took my husband (then boyfriend) to the Melbourne International airport. He was about to begin a contract onboard a cruise ship and, for the first time, I would not be going with him. I had recently begun a business administration course and fully intended to complete it. Which in turn, also meant that we would be apart for almost six months. Six months! That feeling of pure dread as we approached the airport was so strong. I had felt nerves when heading to the airport before, but nothing like this. My stomach was flipping, I felt sick to my stomach, my heart was pounding and the tears were overflowing at the thought of saying goodbye. We parked the car in the short term parking and went inside the terminal with him to check in his luggage. We knew that we needed to head to the departure gate and security, but that also meant having to say goodbye, so we delayed and avoided heading in that general direction for as long as possible. This hour or so was torturous. From this point onwards, I would always have a feeling of dread when driving into an airport.

I began to associate airports with saying goodbye to someone I loved. Being Australian and having a Dutch partner meant that we have often had to say goodbye to each other at one airport or another over the years. Not to mention the countless times I have had to say goodbye to my family when flying out of Australia. This now means that even when flying together with my husband and children for a family holiday, or picking someone up that I am excited to see, I still have that same feeling in my stomach! So it seems that this response has been imprinted and no matter the reason for being at the airport, my stomach always flips and the nerves set in as soon as I see the signs for Arrivals and Departures.

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The Emotional Turmoil of Terminals

Airports are simply oozing with emotions. Whether it be couples waiting for each other at the arrival gates, or families separating at departures. Wherever you are in any airport, you will always see both happy and sad tears all around you. I am convinced that this is the cause of my airport anxiety. It’s the anticipation of the emotions that come with being there, at the airport, in the first place. Over the years, I have found a couple of simple tricks that seem to help with my airport anxiety.

Drops Offs – Make them Quick

We have since realised that a quick drop and go works much better for us. We don’t even park the car in the airport parking garage anymore. If we ever need to drop each other off at the airport, we simply drive up to departures, stop the car where we can (keeping the ignition on), unload the luggage, give a quick kiss and cuddle goodbye, then leave. Short and sweet is the key to an easier goodbye.

Just Breathe

Taking a few deep breaths can make all the difference. I know, it sounds so simple, but it’s often the simplest things that are the most effective. As soon as I begin to feel anxious, a few deep breaths really do wonders. Once you’ve arrived at the airport on time, have gone through security and found your gate, take the time to find a seat, put your phone away, close your eyes and breathe. Breathing deeply can slow down your heart rate, relax your body, and ease you out of anxiety mode.

Recognise Your Trigger

So I have figured out the root to my airport anxiety. However, there are many other reasons why people suffer from airport anxiety – which is an actual thing by the way. A few examples of other triggers can be getting there on time, the crowds, security, the queues, finding your gate, taking off and landing, and finding your bags at the other end.  Once you recognise what your trigger is, you may be able to discover a way to minimise the anxiety associated with it; arriving early with plenty of time to spare, or traveling with hand luggage only when possible for example.

Do you suffer form airport anxiety and, if so, what do you think the main trigger is for you?

Kristen

Ships in the Port of Rotterdam

Did you know that the Rotterdam harbour is actually the largest port in Europe, stretching over a distance of 40 kilometres? From 1962 until 2004 it was also the world’s busiest port, now overtaken by Singapore and then Shanghai.

Not only is it one of the busiest and biggest container ports, but the port of Rotterdam is also a very popular cruising destination, with several ships visiting on a regular basis throughout the cruising season.

Between April and October 2017, you will regularly see ships such as the Aida Prima (the one with the giant red lips), the MS Rotterdam from Holland American Line, and the Queen Elizabeth from Cunard cruising in and out of Rotterdam, plus many more!

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Love to travel, but hate to fly? Cruising could be the perfect solution and here are a few examples of the possibilities from Rotterdam in 2017!

-This Summer, the city of Rotterdam can look forward to the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth from Cunard. The Queen Elizabeth will make several 14 day cruises from Rotterdam to the British Isles, then back to Rotterdam.

-HAL offer various 7, 14 and 21 day cruises on the MS Rotterdam, that include ports of call in Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Scotland. Most of the itineraries for the MS Rotterdam this spring and summer begin and end in Rotterdam.

-The AIDA prima runs 7 day cruises from and two Rotterdam, visiting Hamburg, Brussels, Paris and Southampton.

Temping hey?!

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However, you do not necessarily need to go on a cruise to enjoy the ships coming in and out of Rotterdam. Just as we love to do, find a nice spot along side the nieuwe waterweg and simply enjoy the view. You can check out the anticipated arrival and departure dates and times here on Rotterdam’s Cruise Calendar:

http://www.cruisekalender.eu/Rotterdam/

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Enjoy the upcoming 2017 cruising season!

Kristen