Gaming in Poperinge!

As promised (although a few weeks late…sorry), here are the games we played while on our weekend getaway in Watou.  We traveled to the nearby city of Poperinge to a bar with a “witchy” theme!

We played “bar olympics” as Joe named it (reminiscent of our college bar olympic days :-) – a lot more beer drank then for me though)!  It was girls versus guys.  Here are some of the games:

Note: The games were almost all wooden and very old – no electronic mechanisms here.  Growing up I was an avid Nintendo and Gameboy player, but an old-fashioned game is just SO much better!

Game 1:  Throw the metal plate into the holes (as you can tell, I have NO idea what the names are)!

Frog gets the most points!

Frog gets the most points!

Here is Joe showing off the metal plates that you throw.  Obviously, you want the metal plates to go down the holes on top of the structure.  The first to 8,000 points wins!

See the "witch" decor in the background...haha.

Game 2: Fling your wooden pucks into your opponents area!  If you look closely, you can see that there is string on each side where you would fling the wood pucks off…

This was by far my favorite!  It was fast and you could not take your eyes off the game (no blinking…actually hurt after awhile)!

LOVE!

Game 3: Reminds of Hungry, Hungry, Hippo…basically you squeeze your air thingy to push the ball away from your area.  You do NOT want the ball to land in the whole by you!

Definitely harder than it looks to squeeze those things!

Game 4: Reminds me of bocce ball…except with HUGE heavy wooden cheese blocks as “balls.”  Sorry, not the best picture, but the cement block was where you wanted your cheese block to land after thrown (the closest team gets points – up to 11)!

Game 5: Swing a rope with a ball attached to knock down the witches (again, the theme of the bar)!  This game was very easy…

Joe setting up the witches after I dominated!

There were quite a few more games that we did play, that unfortunately, I do not have pictures of.  We will definitely be going back as I KNOW we’ll be back to Watou this coming fall!

Weekend in Watou: Getaway #2

Do you all remember this wonderful weekend?  Well, we decided to go back this past weekend with some friends and had another great weekend in Watou!

We drove into town on Saturday morning and we’re greeted by the wonderful hostess, Jackie, at the Watou Sint-Bernardus B&B!  She showed us to our rooms and we were SO excited to try out a new room in the main house.  We had the room on the top floor.  Each room in the main house is themed – the themes are the different types of Sint-Bernardus beer brewed next door.  Our room theme was the ‘Grottenbier.’

Yum!

Source

Fittingly, our room was blue to match the beer label.  Check it out.  It was adorable, big, and very clean!

Cute!

Loved this vanity!

View from the bed area leading to the bathroom/entrance way

After we checked in, we were off to visit the famous Westvleteren Abbey.  For those of you who do not know, this is supposed to be the BEST beer brewery in Belgium.  I believe I read that the beer has been brewed for centuries (check out the link above).

I did not really know what to expect, but was amazed at how BEAUTIFUL it was!  Unfortunately, they do not allow visitors to see the brewery, but there is a cafe where you can have some snacks and try the infamous beer.

Note: The beer is exclusively sold at the abbey and you must call to reserve a case when available.  When you purchase the case, you are forbidden to sell commercially…

The abbey!

Of course, we stopped by the cafe for a snack and a drink.  The guys got to try the infamous beer and the gals (prego) got to enjoy nice water/soda.  Yum…:-).  I did not take a picture of my meal (just a Croque Monseur – grilled cheese), but did snap a photo of the local specialty.  For the life of me, I can’t remember what it is called.  BUT, it was described as…chicken in a lemony-like jello…

The 'Local Specialty'

After lunch we proceeded to explore the small towns in the countryside by stopping at some local pubs to play “Bar Olympics.”  More on that next post as it is VERY interesting and I have quite a few pics!!!

 

The Ghent 2012 Light Festival!

A couple weeks back, Joe and I had the pleasure of going to the 2nd Annual Ghent Light Festival!

Ok, so I was skeptical, 2nd annual – hasn’t been running that long…but BOY was I wrong.  It was absolutely amazing!!!

Basically, it is a walking tour around the entire city at night where you can stop and see about 20 different light shows (created by amazing artists) projected onto the city’s buildings, waterways, etc.  We ended up going on a Friday night and it was CROWDED.  I heard some 100,000 people showed up that night.  Next year, we are definitely going to try and hit up Sunday night for crowd control.

Here are some of our favorite exhibits (photos courtesy of Joe):

Main attraction: Light Show in the Korenmarkt

Korenmarkt, again!

***The main attraction was the light show in the Korenmarkt.  It was a continuous “movie” on the building above.  It was absolutely amazing (had music to go with it).  I’m not sure how they did it, but the pictures were so crisp and clear (sorry, the photos don’t do it justice – we haven’t figured out the night option on our camera yet)!

Belfortstraat!

You could walk through it!

The Belfortstraat display above was BY FAR my favorite.  You rounded the corner and seriously could not help but gasp at the structure – brightness, size, # of lights, etc.  I LOVED walking through it.  You might not be able to tell, but there are huge chandeliers hanging down the center.

Sint Jakobs Cathedral

The church was pretty cool too.  If you stood in line, you could dance on some sort of projector and your moves were projected onto the church (the picture above is of a little kid dancing – obviously, they are multiplied to create 1000 little kids).

Gravensteen Castle

The castle also had a light show.  We stayed to see some lizards and hearts projected onto the tower!

Honestly, a really great night festival that was family friendly.  I think it brought a lot of tourism and good publicity to Gent.  Hopefully, 2013 will be the 3rd Annual!

Here are some of the professional links I found on the light festival:

http://www.lichtfestivalgent.be/en/lfg-2012/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/31/light-festival-ghent-2012_n_1245311.html

 

I’m officially…BACK, I promise!

So, I’ll just call myself out.  I’m embarrassed that it has been 2 whole months since my last blog post!  Unacceptable.  I really enjoy blogging and knew that mid-December to mid-January would be lacking in posts (traveling for the Holidays my focus was on family/friend time than computer time).  BUT, now it’s mid-February and I must start-up again.

My one defense for the lack of posting (if I still have any readers left – please come back!) is that this is a blog about our adventures in Belgium – travel, food, etc.  WELL, I have not wanted to do much travel or eating the last 6 or 7 weeks…why you ask!?  WE HAVE BIG NEWS:

BABY!!!

We are expecting our first baby on August 15, 2012!  Both Joe and I are beyond excited!  We both have no idea what to expect, but are very eager to start this new chapter in our lives.

Here are a couple pictures of when some of our family found out (unfortunately only caught a couple candids):

Surprise and disbelief...

...turns to SUPER excited to-be Aunties

Disbelief? Anger? Confusion?

...tears of joy (whew)! :-)

Now that I am officially out of the first trimester (14.5 weeks), I am finally turning the corner on the morning sickness (I think).  I won’t share any details, but will just let you know that it is NOT only in the morning and it is NOT fun.  Anyway, I am back to eating (semi-normal again) and making meals.  Plus, I don’t have the somewhat irrational fear of being far away from the house (in case the sickness feeling came – sorry, I just like my own bathroom when sick).  Therefore….more motivation for the blog – bring on the meals and travel!!

So, stay tuned…we have a couple fun dinners out this week and a little getaway this weekend! :-)

Holiday Survey!

Good Morning and Happy Friday!

I’m going to be busy studying all weekend for my Operations exam…exciting right?

DEFINITELY not as exciting as my family…who will be busy doing the annual Christmas cookie bake sesh.  UGH, so jeal.  (Side note to fam – HINT HINT – I’m really looking forward to frosted cut-outs, pb cup cookies, pretzel rings, and of course, the new tradition of biscotti)!

My adorable mom & gam!

Source: My sister’s pic!  HOW fun does that look, seriously!

Speaking of Holiday cookies, I found this really cute Holiday Survey on one of the blogs that I read and HAD to do it too!

25 Holiday Questions:

1.  Eggnog or Hot Chocolate?  

Def Hot Choco, yuck to Eggnog.

2.  Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?  

ALWAYS wrapped (and perfectly, thanks to someone in our fam…)

3.  Colored lights on tree/house or white? 

I prefer white lights outside and multi-colored on the tree.  We’ve never had lights outside, my family always did uplighting on the trees (which I LOVE and think is so classic).

4.  Do you hang mistletoe?

Nope, never have.  Although, at my first party in Belgium, someone gave out real mistletoe, which I had never seen before!

5.  When do you hang your decorations up?

The weekend after Thanksgiving!

6.  What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

Hm, this is tough.  It would have to be Christmas Eve dinner at my house – ham (non-slimy), twice-baked potatoes, veggie, etc.  Always a tradition (and always in the dining room)!

The ham!

Source: My sis!

7.  Favorite holiday memory as a child?

Always dressing up and going to the First Stage children’s play on Christmas Eve in downtown Milwaukee.

8.  What is on your Christmas wish list?

Ann Taylor Loft boots (which I just so happen to know I’m getting –  spoiled, I know)!

9.  Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve?

Nope, not when in Milwaukee.  However, when we are with Joe’s Dad, we open presents on Christmas Eve!  Crete always has a present for us to open as well – one year we got super cute Christmas pj’s! :-)

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

Beautifully.  Ha, seriously – I have a ton of ornaments.  My parents bought each of us girls an ornament every year – another great tradition.

My mom has created a new tradition now that we are all out of the house.  She LOVES snowmen and has an all snowmen tree this year.

SO adorbs!

11.  Snow? Love it or dread it?

Usually love it for Christmas.  This year I’m hoping it holds off until we arrive in the USA!

12.  Real tree or fake tree?

Real tree at my house, fake tree at our condo.

13.  Do you remember your favorite gift?

Yes, 6 years ago, Joe asked me to marry him.  That seemed to work out well :-)

Love this pic!

Source: My sister again, hm, she must be majoring in photography.

14.  What’s the most important thing about Christmas for you?

Being with all our family and our MANY traditions

15.  What is your favorite holiday dessert?

Cutout cookies – see above!

16.  What is your favorite tradition?

Holy crap, we have so many.  I think it must be that my sisters and I would wake up in the middle of the night on Christmas Morning (like 2 or 3am) and sneak down to see all the presents wrapped under the tree.

17.  What tops your tree?

An angel!

18.  Do you prefer giving or receiving?

I know everyone will say “giving” as to not sound greedy and I really do love giving! (I LOVE when you find the perfect present for someone and can’t wait to see their faces when they open it).  But, can anyone really say they don’t like receiving?!

19.  What is your favorite Christmas song?

Any Mariah Carey Christmas CD song

The Original CD!

Source

20.  Candy canes, yuck or yum?

I think they are good – but I prefer the rainbow, fruity ones.

21.  Favorite Christmas movie?

This is so hard.  It is a tie between A Christmas Story, Home Alone, White Christmas, and Christmas Vacation.

22.  What do you leave for Santa?

A note and a variety of cookies!

23.  Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?

See #16.  But, we also open presents 1 by 1 and take a break mid-morning for cinnamon rolls!

24.  Do you prefer to shop on-line or at the mall?

Usually the mall, but this year it’s been all online (thanks to my mom for being my shipping department).  I am DEF hitting up the mall as soon as I get to Milwaukee!

25.  Christmas letter or Christmas card?

Christmas card for sure!

Hope you enjoyed – it got me even MORE excited to go home.  Not sure how that is even possible!

Only 1 week…

Until we go to the USA for the holidays!!!  Woo hoo – I cannot wait to see all our family and friends!!

As I mentioned, this year its Christmas in Milwaukee!  Hope they are ready for us…there will be 2 more stockings hanging up!

Mom - my stocking hanger is the snowman...

My grandma hand knit these stockings – aren’t they awesome?  Then, when Joe and I got engaged, she made him one.  So sweet! (Oh, shoot, now that I think about this, I wonder if my mom has our stockings or if they are packed away at the condo)!?

I have quite a few things to get done here in Belgie before we leave.  The most important would be studying for my first exam this year.  Let me tell you, it is NOT going well.  I’m so distracted!  Plus, I have a little bit of shopping to get done in Gent at a certain linen store!

I’m also struggling to get over a cold and so I’ve been trying to eat healthy and get rest (I HATE flying on a plane with stuffed nose – my ears are so sensitive, seriously).  So in the interest of eating healthy, here is what I’ve had!

Eggs + almond butter toast!

Salad + hummus bread + apple

I’m tempted to make soup for the second night in a row, but I’m afraid of Joe’s thoughts on that…assuming it wouldn’t be welcomed.

Not the most exciting post to date, but hey, I can’t go London and Cologne every day! :-)

 

Cologne Christmas Market!

As you know, we explored the numerous Cologne Christmas Markets this past weekend!

We drove into town and found parking quite easily.  We thought that we might have “beat the crowds,” but wow were we wrong.  It was SO crowded.  So much so, that it was tough to enjoy all the stands and browse/make purchases.  However, we still had a good time and were amazed at the dedication the Germans have to decorating for the Holidays.  It is AMAZING – best I’ve ever seen!

Here are some of our pics!

Entrance to the main market!

The first bite: Melted cheese on bread, what's not to like?!

Rides for the kiddies!

Entrance to the "Altstadt" Market!

Gluhwein stand - LOVED the wood!

Awesome mugs you got!

HAD to get my Lebkuchen cookies!

Of course, no stop in Cologne is complete without taking a little break at the “bierhaus.”

Slightly annoyed with my picture taking...

As we were walking along the Rhein river, we came across a “floating” Christmas Market!  To bad it cost $$ to get on…

Ship Market!

We made one last walk through the main market set beside the beautiful Dom Cathedral.  Joe took over the camera and took some amazing shots with the sun going down!

Look at all those people!

My favorite pic of the day!

Overall a beautiful atmosphere and amazing stands – each market was like its own little village.  Next year I’d prefer to go earlier during the season or on a weekday to avoid the crowds!

A last note – I drove home that night.  My first experience driving on the autobahn and in Germany & the Netherlands.  Boom! :-)

Relaxing Friday in Gent

Since we knew we were going to travel to Koln early on Saturday, we decided to make Friday a nice, relaxing evening.

For starters, we enjoyed a nice home-cooked meal!  It’s been awhile since I’ve posted one of our meals (mostly because Joe’s had traveled a bit and I do have 2 meals a week at school).  However, I found a new recipe and was very excited to try it!

Balsamic Chicken & Mushrooms (from this blog).  I followed the recipe almost exactly (I didn’t have any fresh thyme so I subbed in some remaining chicken spice plust I added 1/2 an onion).  I then made roasted brussel sprouts as a side!  I still can’t figure out when brussel sprouts are in season here…seems like fall and spring?

Yum, I fo sho had 2nds!

After, we decided to check out Gent’s Christmas Market.  It didn’t open until Friday for some reason (perhaps because I heard most Belgian Christmas celebrations happen after Sinterklaas).  The setting was beautiful – right outside St. Baaf’s Cathedral.  It was significantly smaller than the Brussels Christmas Market, but very cozy and quaint.  There was even a band playing!  Here are some pics:

The Belfort tower nicely lit!

The inevitable "Gluhwein" stand!

And of course, AWESOME hot chocolate - can you see the HUGE marshmallows?

We then walked into the Korenmarkt to see the big Christmas tree.  Definitely did not pass the “squint test,” but still very pretty.  I don’t understand all these carnival rides…

Gent's Tree!

Quite a nice night!

Off to the Koln Christmas Market!!!

I can’t tell you HOW excited I am to be able to visit an actual Christmas Market in Deutschland!  It’s like the best present EVER.

Today we are heading to the Christmas Market in Cologne/Koln.  It’s a short 2.5 hour drive from Gent.  Here is the link if you want to check it out!

Angel's Christmas Market at Neumarkt Square

Koln Christmas!

Source

I can’t wait to eat tons of LEBKUCHEN!

Source

Of course, I’ll be back and post pics and let you know how it goes!

Happy Saturday! :-)

Sinterklaas

The kiddies here in Gent have been SO excited this week!  Why you ask?

Well, because here they celebrate “Sinterklaas” on December 6th.  Based on what I’ve been told via people at school, this is the BIG day for their children.  Before they go to sleep, they put their shoe out with either sugar or carrots for Sinterklaas and his helpers, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter).  *At school some mentioned beer…but, I think that’s for the parents.  :-)

In the morning, the good children awake to open their presents, while the bad children are stuffed into Zwarte Piet’s bag (seriously, how terrifying is that?!)!

Here is an article I read that really describes the holiday well.  You can make your own judgments about Zwarte Piet…and I’ll keep my comments to myself!

http://www.flanderstoday.eu/content/santa’s-ancestor

Sinterklaas & Zwarte Piets

Source

I was also curious if the children believed in Santa Claus as well.  Most people said that their children get presents on Dec 6th, 25th, and Jan 1st.  Um, seriously kids, ask your parents to move here…

***This Sunday we have the pleasure of going to a Sinterklaas party (for adults) hosted by some Dutch people.  I can’t wait to experience it firsthand!