Sunday, December 29, 2013

French Alps

This year we didn't go home for Christmas, which was my first time away! Ry planned a trip to the Alps for a week. He found a great deal for an all inclusive package, that we couldn't miss out on. Before we left we had Christmas Eve on the 20th and the next morning we opened up gifts. We then took a bus to Les Menuires (the 3 Valleys) and spent the week skiing (or learning to!). The place we stayed was 'ski in ski out' and had a fabulous view. We met another couple and spent most of the week eating, drinking, and skiing with them! I signed up for a ski class for 6 days, 3 hours a day.... and it was totally worth it. By the end of the week something 'clicked', I was confident and skiing parallel. "Parallel Bruce Lee, Parallel" is something I heard all week from my instructor. 

 The view from our room! 

 Stopped in Val Thorens for a high altitude beer and 
hot chocolate.

 My ski class! 

Skiing with the other couple. 

It was a great week, but truthfully it didn't feel like Christmas. Christmas time is all about family, not the presents or the sales. I am glad I got to be with someone I love, but I wasn't with everyone I love. We can't wait to be back next year to spend time with family. I really do think that going skiing is a great way to celebrate Christmas time though. If all our family could get together and spend a week with out the internet or TV, it would be wonderful! One can dream.... 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Christmas Crazies

This was my first year teaching during Christmas time. It was nice that my school allows us to celebrate Christmas, they even host a Christmas Market. Although, the week before break was absolutely crazy. Our school had a performance on Wednesday night, so Monday through Wednesday mornings were spent at a theater nearby for rehearsals. Then, our class would return to school to 'learn'. On top of that, Saint Nicholas came to our classroom bringing massive chocolates for each child.... at 9:30 in the morning. St. Nick obviously isn't a teacher. Here's a peek at the days leading up to Christmas break... 
 Watercolor painting of The Nutcracker (themed with the school play) 

 St. Nicholas and his Zwarte Piet (or Black Pete Elf) very controversial 
right now in Belgium. 

 Ornaments for the tree 
 The parents in my class had a surprise party for me when we returned from the Theater. 
It was so thoughtful, gifts, lunch, and Christmas songs. 
 Pretty flowers and a special cake! 

Love when the Mom's take over for story time! 

But we all survived! And now we have a nice break to regroup. 
Enjoy your holidays x

Thursday, December 5, 2013

On the Table

Here's a glimpse of some things we ate this past week (unfortunately no Thanksgiving recipes!) 

This isn't the actual recipe we use, Ry is the sweet potato 
guy and seasons these bad boys with a ton of spices... make
sure to use some flour or corn starch so the spices stick! 

First time making this and it was delicious! 
Great for Meatless Mondays :)

This is my go to salad when I am craving pesto - super easy! 

I had to use the last pumpkin jar and we were in the mood
for a bit of oatmeal, these did the trick. 

Last Saturday the Brugge International Club had a Christmas Market to raise 
money for a local cause and I thought it would be fun to to 'donate' some bread 
for them to sell. Although, we didn't get to try the lemon or chocolate swirl bread - they 
were simple and smelled great. I then packaged them with the Baked with Love tags (free download) and wrapped them with some red twine and green wrapping paper.
After making this bread I started following Sally's blog. Great baking 

Baked with Love tags
Free tags to download and print. 

Not pictured: Take out Indian for Thanksgiving :) 


News Update

Although I am thousands of miles from the States, I still believe it is important to be informed locally and nationally. Here are some of my favorite ways  I stay connected to the world daily: 

The Skimm - This site sends you a morning email with quick news updates. 

NPR - Growing up listening to NPR on the radio, it is now my homepage. I skim through articles every day to get a general understanding of what is happening. 
     Side note: NPR's Car Talk podcast is one of my favorites. Listen to two brother's talk 
     about car repairs, car troubles, and other callers problems. 

Today Show Podcast  - This is part of my morning routine, during my 2 hour commute to Brussels. You can watch the Today shows first hour with out commercials, daily! On of my favorites. Who doesn't love Matt, Al and Savannah? 

60 Minutes Podcast - After the Today show this podcast is up next, a classic. 

You all might be seeing a trend here, I love podcast. Maybe I will write a blog about my favorites (I could make a top 10). 

How do you stay informed? 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Travel Links

Booking a holiday or weekend getaway can sometime feel overwhelming and stressful. I have found some useful sites that help me plan more effectively!

Starting from the top left to right: 

AirBnB - We use this ALL the time to book apartments for reasonable prices. Stay in an assortment of homes, from caves (we stayed in one in Granada) to 'glamping', to apartments with a view of Buckingham Palace. - Great link for hotels with reliable reviews.

Trip Advisor - A well known website to find restaurants, hotels, flights, and things to do. Also check out the different forums with travelers questions and responses. - A new site for me, but a way to book vacation rentals all over the world! 

Always on Vacation - Another new sight that I haven't used yet, but seems to be very user friendly and a good way to book a holiday rental. 

Rick Steve's - Who doesn't love this guy? And how do I work for him? I use his sight, books, and tours... go ahead and get lost in his website with new travel destinations. - I have just switched from using EDreams to Kayak. EDreams is a SCAM. But that's another post. Anyways this is a great website for finding the best flights. 

Spotted by Locals  - I LOVE this website. It's great to experience a city by a local's point of view. They also now have an app which I will have to download. 

How do you plan for your next trip? 

Monday, November 25, 2013

On the Table

I really enjoy trying new recipes each week and would love to share with you all some of my favorites. Maybe this can turn into a weekly event, we will see!

This was the best pick me up between breakfast and lunch, so dense and rich. I only used 1 cup of sugar and could have used less (it calls for 3). I also had extra batter, which made about 4 muffins. We will be making this one again! 

I started day dreaming about these bad boys the day after we made them. The pancetta really adds a smokey and salty flavor. The best part is they are super easy to make and perfect for the winter time. 

Quinoa is usually a dish we make at least once a week. This fall version, from Iowa Girl Eats, was delicious! The parmesan cheese on top really added to it. 


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Christmas Came Early

I can't believe it, I am that person that decorates before Thanksgiving. But I feel like I should be given a free pass, they don't celebrate Thanksgiving here! And, I was just too excited. Last Monday I went to Ikea to purchase some decorations and a tree. I found a great deal on a fake tree. Side note - I also can't believe our first tree together is an artificial one, my Mom (Martha Stewart) will be upset reading this but here are our reasons ... 

1. As a teacher I already waste enough paper. 
2. It's a sturdy, good quality and size tree for us. 
3. It's cheaper. 
4. It will last a while! 

Brugge is a beautiful place to visit or live during the holidays. All of the streets are decorated and in the center they set up an ice skating rink. Surrounding the rink are little wooden shops with hot chocolate, warm sweet wine, and other Christmas goodies. This December our goal is to try to ice skate. I will make sure to capture this moment via iPhone :) 

 Kitchen table change up, it's nice to have a 
candlelight dinner just because!

The tree! And some classic stockings.

Some greenery, wish we had more but it's hard to find here!

My 'DIY berry decor'.

I guess I'll end this post with a Merry, Merry? 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Midweek thoughts

Yesterday I had 13 parent-teacher-conferences! Need I say more? ... On Wednesday's we have half days. We teach until 10:30 and then go to Mass from 11:00-12:30. Guess who is responsible for keeping all of the 1st and 2nd grade boys (3 classes) quiet during the French and mostly Latin Mass? You guessed it, this girl. Depending on the Wednesday they are relatively good but of course yesterday before my meetings, they were a bit 'busy' in their seats. 

Anyways back to some thoughts ... 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Travel To-Do's

I make to-do lists for everything, but this to-do list isn't stressful or the least bit boring. We have about 7 more months left and we decided it's time to make a list of the places we definitely want to travel to before we depart. I started my list before our move to Belgium in a fun decomposition book from my grandparents in Florida. I keep track of hotels, restaurants, travel ideas and itineraries in this book. I have a tendency to also keep every ticket, restaurant business card and map from each place we go to. Right now it's in a box but maybe one day I will get creative and make something out of it! I also really like this New York Times "36 Hours 125 Weekends in Europe" book, it's a fun book for the coffee table and I love to peruse through to dream up a weekend.

Of all of the places on my list that we haven't been to yet I have narrowed it down to four places. In no particular order they are... 

1. Visit where Ry studied abroad: Copenhagen, Denmark 
 2. Hike through the Cinque Terra or the "Five lands" 
 3. Edinburgh, Scotland 
4. The island of Capri off of Italy

What's on your travel to do list? 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Good Reads

A friend of mine from Brugge just recommended the site goods reads and now I have become addicted!  It's a great way to catalog books you have read, books you want to read, and rate books to get recommendations. It also allows you to link up with your Google or Facebook page to see what your friends are reading.

Here's a glimpse of what the site looks like:

I love reading and have started to read more and more nonfiction books. I just finished a classic book, Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. The book is a memoir about the authors survival of the Nazi concentration camps and its spiritual lessons that helped him survive. Some things I took away from the book: 

  • “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” 
  • “Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.” 
  • “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 
  • “For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth - that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”