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 ūüôā – 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 Рno 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!

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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 Рbrightness, 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 Рobviously, 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)! ūüôā

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! ūüôā

Only 1 week…

Until we go to the USA for the holidays!!!  Woo hoo РI 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!¬†ūüôā

 

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!

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. ¬†ūüôā

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!

Our tree!

Like I mentioned before, we decided that we should decorate for the holidays since we will not be back in the USA until later in December!

So…how can you claim your house is decorated without a tree, seriosly?! ¬†It is not possible. ¬†Onto trimming the tree…

Of course, there is a story to our tree purchase in Belgium. ¬†Is there ever not? ūüôā ¬†We went to the DIY store, Brico, to pick out our tree (reminded me of a Lowe’s type store – only smaller and less clean). ¬†However, they had nice decorations set up right in the front! ¬†We were very $$$ conscience when picking out our little tree and chose the second to smallest tree with no lights (boom – only 24 euro)! ¬†Then, we picked up lights. ¬†NOTE – we did NOT look at the price of the lights…I mean, they were just normal 100 ct white lights. ¬†OHHHHHH BOY was I pissed when we got to the counter (at myself for not looking at the cost and at the ludicrous prices). ¬†Those lights were 12 euro a piece – that’s right, I spent 36 euro on lights. ¬†I’m so embarrassed.

*Yes, I could have returned to the light section and picked out cheaper ones.  But, by this time there was a long line of Belgians staring at us (ok, me, since I had a look of horror on my face).  We panicked and bought the lights.

Anyway,¬†it is taking me a long time to get to the picture of the tree, but I have to make one last comment. ¬†I’ve never had to put lights on a Christmas tree before. ¬†In fact, I’ve just reaped the benefits of a perfectly lit tree for the last 28 years. ¬†This is all thanks to my dad. ¬†Of course, it takes him about 8 hours to light our tree, but it always passes the squint test (ya know, squint to make sure there are no gaping holes of missing lights)? ¬†I will never make fun of him again for taking so long – it is seriously a task. ¬†Yea, and I only have about a 3 foot tree.

WOW – ok, a lot of dialogue above. ¬†But seriously, our tree turned out wonderfully. ¬†I absolutely love it. ¬†It is the first thing I turn on in the morning and the last thing I turn off at night. ¬†We have a couple ornaments on there that we’ve collected the last couple months (my goal is to collect an ornament from each country we visit)!

Our tree! ūüôā

 

Christmas in Belgie, Part 1

With the start of December, comes the start of the Holiday season in Belgie!  This weekend, we decided to see what Gent & Brussels had to offer!

Up first, Gent!  

I have to start out with the fact that Joe brought home dessert from work…

Yup, on his desk @ work!

We decided to make dinner (salsa chicken – recipe to come later) and then venture out for a walk to see the lights and the festival we had heard (and saw – HUGE ferris wheel) about.

We were sad to notice that most of the lights hanging down all the streets and the Christmas tree in the centrum were not yet lit. ¬†I’m assuming it is because the Christmas Market in Gent does not open until next Friday. ¬†However, I knew the Graslei would never let me down! ¬†As we turned the corner, here is what we saw!

Beautiful!

The Graslei still amazes me at how beautiful it is…even when I see it everyday!

We then made our way to the “Winters Dream” Festival at Sint-Pieters Square. ¬†I had rather high hopes of this considering the beautiful email I received from the Marriott promoting the fair. ¬†Well, lets just say we walked through it in about 10 minutes.

The entrance!

What is a Christmas festival without a ferris wheel?! ¬†There were many other rides (for those of you in Milwaukee, think ‘carni’ rides at State Fair). ¬†I’ve never felt that “carni” rides were trustworthy – so, we did not partake.

Next we came to the second part of the entrance and what most would say, the appeal of carnivals to adults.  Enter, the Gluhwein stand!

Gluhwein!

This (no surprise) was the busiest of areas at the festival. ¬†Gluhwein is like hot, spiced wine and is DELISH! ¬†It is the drink of choice at all the Christmas markets in Europe (at least what I’ve heard).

We then came to my favorite part: the ice skating rink. ¬†I just love them (no, I can’t skate), but I think they are so beautiful. ¬†It reminds me of the one in downtown milwaukee and of course, NY. ¬†I mean, nothing compares to Madison Garden, but still.

Does that say "Winter's Droom?"

We watched the skaters for awhile and particularly enjoyed the guy wearing women’s skates struggling. ¬†I know, we’re so mean.

Not a shabby start to the holiday season in Gent. ¬†Next week starts the Christmas market by the church, so we’ll be sure to go there.

My next post will be about the Christmas Market in Brussels…it was AMAZING. ¬†Coming soon…

Happy Dec 1st!

It’s officially December!!! Woo hoo – this is absolutely my most favorite time of the year!!

As some of you may have realized, I’m obsessed with the Holidays. ¬†Growing up, my parents have instilled MANY traditions that we do together during December…and we (the sisters) get VERY excited to do these things each year. ¬†Tradition is VERY important for my fam (um, hello Katie)! ¬† Here are some of our family traditions as well as some of my own that I’ve added over the years…

Christmas 2010 - sisters!!!

Christmas 2010 @ our condo!

My favorite traditions:

  • Listening to Christmas Music – ¬†I start this in November, but my family doesn’t really accept that early start date – neither does Joe! ¬†Thankfully, December is acceptable to blast it through the apartment!
  • Decorate the House – Growing up, we always dedicated one day over the Thanksgiving weekend to pull the decor out of the attic. ¬†My dad every year said: “Girls, it is not a race.” ¬†But really, it was (certain decor was more fun to put up than others and we would race to do it…)
  • Making Christmas Cookies – This was a tradition between my mom and my grandma that is now a tradition between my mom and the sisters. ¬†Sadly, this year I will be unable to partake…so, seriously there better be good cookies when I get home. ¬† ūüôā
  • Christmas Shopping! – The family always goes shopping the day after Christmas to reap the benefits of ‘Black Friday.’ ¬†Last year, my dad waited in line for 1.5 hours @ Banana Republic while we shopped and just piled clothes on top of him. ¬†It was awesome.
  • Christmas Play – Each Christmas Eve we go to a children’s play at the theater downtown. ¬†They can be a little “gaggish,” but, it’s tradition!
  • Don’t even get me started on the food served…

I could go on and on because there are SO many traditions, but those are my fave. ¬†Joe and I rotate Christmas celebrations with our families and this year it is a Milwaukee one! ¬†That means (mom are you reading?) I expect the Dickens houses to be out in full efffect. ¬†None of this…”we’re not doing that this year, it just takes too much time.” ¬†ūüôā

So, obviously, this year our December is a little different – the first Holiday season away from home (at least until right before Christmas). ¬†I’m not going to lie, it is definitely harder than I thought. ¬†But, we’re trying to make it special and take advantage of the Christmas spirit here. ¬†I did set up some decorations in our apartment!

The Santa is an advent calendar - filled with Belgian chocolate!

Some sparkly bulbs!

One of the things that I am most excited about is…hitting up the MANY Christmas Markets in both Belgium and Germany. ¬†First up, the Brussels Christmas market. ¬†Apparently there are over 150 booths, a skating rink, AND a light show. ¬†Awesome…

Lighting the tree in Brussels...only 1/2 way!

 

Welcome to winter!

Yesterday it was NEGATIVE degrees here in Belgium! ¬†Ok, negative C (like 27F), but still, I was NOT prepared for that…and of course, I did a lot of outside activities…so typical.

Anyway, to get warm, I stopped at…Starbucks! ¬†We typically only go on the weekends due to the extreme prices…my bad. ¬†Actually, I think karma was trying to tell me something because I got pooped on by a pigeon. ¬†Disgusting…thankfully it wasn’t in my hair or anything, but you can imagine my thoughts around that. ¬†(Yes, this is the 2nd time in 6 months that I’ve been pooped on by pigeons). ¬†Some people say…”oh, that means you are lucky.” ¬†Hm, I disagree.

Anyway, my friend Sarah and I had a full day of sewing planned. ¬†She is teaching me how to make a skirt (don’t laugh – I really can do it). ¬†We got pretty far along yesterday – only thing left is the stitching. ¬†It was my first time cutting and measuring fabric…I was veryyyy slow!¬† I can’t wait to finish it…then I’ll post pics!

She made us a delicious lunch break…

Love all the salad fixins...

I LOVE tomato/mozzarella salad

Don’t you just love the setting?! ¬†I also loved the 3 dish platter with little “snacks.” ūüôā

Last night, we went out to dinner with our friends from Denver (who we had not seen if forever!)! ¬†They invited us to a REALLY cute restaurant they found, De Avonden. ¬†We LOVED this place. ¬†It is only open on the week nights and is set in a house. ¬†It’s very, typical Belgian. ¬†By that I mean, plan on being there about 2-3 hours and having unique, hearty Belgian food. ¬†The menu changes every week and is on a chalkboard – so cute. ¬†The atmosphere is great too – cozy, candles, nice chandeliers, etc.

I opted for the vegetarian option last night.  A kohlrabi stuffed with fresh veggies and spinach (with cheese bubbling on top) on a bed of mashed potatoes.  Holy crap it was good.  Plus, all dinners came with freshly cooked carrots, roasted potatoes, and an amazing batch of warm cinnamon applesauce.

aMAZEing

Everyone else ordered meat – bunny, wild boar, and chicken hen. ¬†It’s “gaming season” so the menu was quite centered around that theme. ¬†Actually, we got to talking and apparently (during gaming season)¬†it is common to find “bb bullets” in your food. ¬†Um, seriously, what?! ¬†Obvii, I’m not much of a “game-eater.”

Such a nice dinner – we all agreed it reminded us of an American Thanksgiving feast (ok, not the menu items, but the mass quantity of hearty food)!