Before the start of the school year, I try to get the boys excited about the upcoming year and all the possibilities. Part of building that excitement includes throwing a back-to-school party. The party is typically a few days before school starts, so as to not make the night before the first day of school even more stressful. We make personal pizzas and have cupcakes around our festive dining table.
The party has become an annual tradition that the boys ask about and want to help set up. Here’s a list of the party decorations and supplies:
12×12 cork scrapbooking paper
5×7 black mini clipboards
Red disposable dinner plates
1 set of math flashcards
3 dozen pencils
Ceramic pencil jars and red ceramic apple (purchased on Target)
Table runner-canvas drop cloth cut to length; use black Sharpie and ruler to measure and draw length increments as well as stencil in numbers
Flashcards on a string
use flashcards from same deck as dining table and mini clothes pin to attach to colored twine. Colored twine and mini clothes pins can be found at craft stores.
use black square paper plate and a chalkboard marker to write on center of wreath
cut 2 wooden rulers into four pieces and hot glue to sides of plate
stagger and hot glue pencils to backside of wreath (about 16 pencils)
use piece of colored ribbon to make hanger
Pencil banner was another Target find, but you could easily find a pencil image and make your own banner
Stack composition notebooks and top with mini chalkboard easel (found at Michaels)
Make your families favorite flavor of cupcakes in a fun wrapper and top with cupcake toppers like these
I also like to start the school year by giving each of the boys a new book; you can find similar cute tags here. I’m not sure who enjoys this annual tradition more, me or the kids.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Chocolate, waffles, fries and beer are what first came to mind when I heard that a career professional development opportunity would be taking me to Hassalt, Belgium this summer. A quick glance at the globe led to tacking on a few side trips to Amsterdam, Bruges and Brussels.
For all our travels, I make extensive itineraries with confirmation numbers, addresses/phone numbers and details referencing page numbers in the guidebooks I have poured over for months leading up to the trip. I find the itinerary making and planning part of the trip really exciting! For this trip and really all our trips to Europe we have relied heavily on Rick Steve’s Guidebooks. Purchase one, you will not be sorry.
7:00PM flight with layover in Dublin via Aer Lingus
Arrive on Day 2 at about 1:00pm local time in Amsterdam
Purchase Metro ticket at baggage claim $5.30 euros pp for Centraal Station.
From Centraal Station go outside to find Tram #13 or #17 to Westermarkt.
Find how to ride tram on page 45 and tram map on page 48.
2 nights Hotel Mr. Jordaan-Bloemgracht 102
Drop bags and refresh before enjoying Dutch pancakes at Pancake Bakery-page 223
Do Amsterdam City Walk Tour-see page 95
Centraal Station to Flower Market with detour at Dam Square to see Red Light District
Approximately 3 hours
Dinner: Cafe van Zuylen-atop a canal bridge with good food and even better views
9:15am Ann Frank House Tour-tickets are pre-paid and in email
Lunch-Brown Cafe; Cafe Hoppe-page 233
Canal Boat Tour-page 53
4:00pm Van Gogh Museum-page 173 (1 hour)
tickets are pre-paid and in email
Drink and slice of pie at Winkel-page 222
Day 4- Bruges
Train to Bruges, Belgium-1 connection in Brussels Midi
9:15am departure train #9328
12:30pm arrive in Bruges
2 nights at Hotel Bla Bla-Dweerstraat 24
Food: Chez Vincent Fries-Best in Bruges
Afternoon: Bruges City Walk-page 41
Markt Square, Bell Tower, Burg Square, Basilica of the Holy Blood, City Hall, Postcard Canal and Bridge View, Church of Our Lady, Chocolate Row, St. John’s Hospital
Dinner: De Hobbit Beer Hall
Rent Bikes and ride canal to Damme-Markt to Moat Path-page 27
4 miles each direction; bike rental information page 17
Lunch ??-we didn’t have anything planned in advance but found a panini place in Damme.
Must eats; mussels in Brussels, Belgian style fries and beers as well as waffles and chocolate.
10:20am flight with layover in Dublin via AerLingus
Arrive home approximately 4:20pm local time
The above is what was planned, but what really happened is slightly different. Here’s a cheat sheet of a few tips for things that really worked for us as well as a few things that left us frustrated:
Tips and Tricks
The Jordaan Neighorhood is delightful and so was our hotel. Great location with easy access to trams. Picture perfect canals and dreamy strolls in the early evening. I took pictures of people’s personal property i.e. bikes/flowers/front step like it was a tourist attraction.
Dutch pancakes are delicious-EAT THEM.
Check out the Red Light District around 4pm/5pm when you can get the gist of the neighborhood without the “pressure.”
Amsterdam likes to sleep in. Most places don’t open until 9:00am.
Ann Frank House is a must. Read the book before you go. I actually teared up while doing the audio tour. I had just finished reading the book and it felt like I was visiting the memorial of a friend. Very moving.
Reserving tickets in advance is a must. You can make a reservation as early as 2 months in advance. Reservations WILL sell out.
Same for the Van Gogh Museum. Reserve in advance.
We did a Canal Boat tour on a smaller 10 passenger boat and it was amazing. Bring sunscreen. Our tour guide was very informative and funny.
We made plans to eat at a couple of specific restaurants, but ended up making a meal out of frites, pie and ice cream and street food on our last night in Amsterdam. The best frites are at Vleminckx. Though the Dutch like piles of mayo on their frites, we are “hold the sauce” sort of people.
Use your phone for walking directions from place to place and even what train platform to stand on.
We made a train reservation to Bruges and were glad we did, the train was full. We paid more, but were pleased we did.
Hotel Bla Bla was great. Stay there.
Bruges has the best frites and waffles. Chez Vincent and Chez Albert. We ate there ….daily.
De Halve Mann Brewery Tour was interesting. Make a reservation in advance.
RENT BIKES. I mean , see pictures above. So. Much. Fun. We chose to do this in Bruges, because the Amsterdam bike scene is intense. Bruges was easy an we didn’t have to worry about traffic and pedestrians as much.
Word to the wise: Bistro in den Wittenkop is closed Saturdays. We found this out the hard way. We ended up at Bistro Brugis. The croquettes did not disappoint.
Go to Ghent. We had not planned to, but when a train conductor and a Brown Cafe bartender said we should, we went. I guess Ghent was meant to be.
Mary is the official chocolatier of the Belgian Royal Family. We got excellent service from a staff member there who explained all the chocolates. We purchased about a dozen bite sized pieces to sample.
There’s not a country that I’ve visited that I haven’t fallen in love with, whether it was for 10 minutes or 10 years.