OM all day…

Ah, Tuesdays…where I have class from 2:30-10:30.  Yes, so long!!!  Unfortunately today it is the same class the whole 8 hours.  Usually it is split up, but not today…that means Operations Management all day…wowza.

I had the pleasure of making this again!  I realized I had another can o’ pumpkin in the cupboard.  This time I added some raisin’s and cereal to the mix.  I’m really liking the crunchy-ness of cereal with the creamy-ness of oatmeal.

Of course, my red cup is close by...

After breakfast, I ran a couple errands.  I rarely take things to the dry cleaners here, but had to take some sweaters.  Guess how much they will cost…6.35 euro/sweater.  OMG – do you realize what that is in USD?!  Like $8 something!  I also went to update my “awesome” pay as you go phone.  I can now call out and send texts – welcome to the 21st century Sarah.

Today I had the pleasure of having a work-out buddy!  My friend from the US met me at the gym and we did some elliptical and some treadmill workouts.  Time flies at the gym with other people!  I still think that people at the gym stare at us when we are talking in English…it might just be in my head, but I really don’t think so!

Anyway, I wanted to share this recipe from the other night – it was delish.

Salsa Chicken: (adapted from Allrecipes)

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 cup salsa
  • shredded cheese (any kind you fancy)
This is super easy.  Preheat your oven to 190C (375F).  Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish (spray with PAM).  Then, sprinkle/coat the chicken with the taco seasoning (I only used 1/4 of the bag).  Pour the salsa over both chickens.  Heat in the oven for about 30 minutes (depending on how big your chickens are)!  Then, remove from the oven and sprinkle with the shredded cheese.  Heat again for about 5 minutes (until cheese is melted)!
*I served alongside some sauteed veggie’s and tortilla chips!
We both LOVED the flavor/spicy-ness…of course, we miss Mexican like no other!

YUM!

We both only ate 1/2 as these were HUGE.  I had the rest for leftovers today!
***Yes, I’ve put up some of the Holiday decor!  Don’t judge me…they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here so I feel like decor before Thanksgiving is widely acceptable.
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Like having a red cup EVERY day!

Good Morning!

Fresh off our mini-holiday and back to schoolwork!  I just did the last revision of my statistics paper and could not be happier to have that done!  I’m NOT a statistics guru and it was quite challenging.  However, now I know how to do a box plot, histogram, and relate coefficients and correlations between variables.  Are you jealous?  🙂

On to more exciting things…my morning meal (it’s especially good today)!  Remember my pics from London? Well, while we were visiting, I bought 2 things you can see in the pic below.

What's that red cup?!

A close-up!

1.  Starbucks red cup!!!  Yes, my coffee tasted better this morning.  And, NOW I can have a red cup every morning without paying 3 euros (yes, that’s like $4 for a Grande regular coffee).

***I should probably throw a shout-out to Joe for letting me get this.  The line was approximately 20 minutes and he was NOT a happy camper.  Lots of “under-the-breath” words/phrases were muttered (yes, babe, I heard those).  🙂

2.  If you look closely at the oatmeal, you’ll see that I crumbled a flaxseed bar (cinnamon/cranberry flavored – delish) on top.  I bought 5 flaxseed bars at the Borough’s market in London-town.  I always hear that flaxseed is good for you.  I didn’t know why, but thought I’d try it out anyway.  I looked it up when I got home:

Straight off webmd: Flaxseed is a good source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, lignan, and fiber.  It may also reduce the risk of cancers, cardiovascular disease, and lung disease.  Score!

Anyway, I also bought some other things in London.  Check them out!  Do you sense a theme…um, Christmas anyone?  As we walked through Harrod’s, Fortnum & Mason’s tearoom, etc. I couldn’t help but snag a few items for our celebrations in Gent.

Ornaments!

At first we were not going to decorate our apartment for the holidays.  We figured we’d be back home soon enough to see the wonderful decorations at our families’ homes.  But, since we now have our official flights home and they are very close to Christmas Day, we decided to decorate!  I’m hoping to find a little tree and lights somewhere (Gentenaars – any suggestions?).

I bought a couple of ornaments…how cute are those?!  (Side note – I’ve been picking up ornaments as we travel for souvenirs – figured they are more usable than those other cheesy touristy items)!  We also have a gingerbread making kit (can’t wait) and special hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows!  The tin contains caramels, but…I think those are almost gone!

It’s getting late and I still have to read a Toyota case for class today…but, before I go, I was especially pumped for this lunch (modeled after my sandwiches from Banbury)!

Hummus & veggies!

 

Must focus…

So, instead of writing my paper (like I HAVE to be doing), I figured I’d toss out a quick blog post.  Such a procrastinator…

Last night we had an AMAZING meal at one of the cute restaurants in Banbury, The Old Auctioneer.  Joe had been here before and really liked it – it did NOT disappoint!

Down a cute brick road!

We ordered the Grilled Mediterranean flatbread as an appy.  OMG, it was so delicious – the dough was thick, soft, etc.  Plus, the toppings were perfectly well done!

Hands crossed patiently waiting for a slice! 🙂

I then opted for the “Sante Fe” salad.  I was SO excited about this because it was just normal grilled chicken, little corns on the cobs (LOVE), black beans (near impossible to get in Belgium), and tortilla chips.  Yes, I was in heaven.  Plus, they brought out more bread for me (whole grain – yummy).

Loved the wood that the meals came on!

We were way too stuffed for dessert…or “puds” as they were called on the menu.  Hahah – I love British English and the accent.

We headed back to the hotel and decided to watch a movie…Crazy, Stupid, Love.  We both LOVED the movie and highly recommend it.  There were both funny and sad parts – a good mix.  The cast was outstanding (in particular Steve Carrel, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone).  Itunes got a little more of our money last night…man, we are a gold mine to them.

OK…now, back to today.  The hotel we are at offers a VERY nice breakfast (included)!  Joe was happy to see a smorgasbord of hot meal items – like eggs, baguettes, ham, sausages, and mushrooms.  And then, there were tons of cereals, fruit, and toast for me.  I opted for some muesli but added Rice Krispies (exciting) and pumpkin seeds (even MORE exciting)!

Here is my setup for the day…now I HAVE to get to work.

Yea, FB is in the background...so addicted.

Enjoy your day!

The Chunnel!

As I mentioned this morning…we’re headed on a mini-holiday to…the UK!  I could NOT be more excited.  First, they speak English & second, I’ve never been to London!!!  The first couple days we’ll be outside of London in a small town called Banbury.  I’ll be writing a paper for school and plan to be fully finished and ready to take London-town by the weekend!

There are a LOT of things I want to do and see in London-town (shop, afternoon tea, ride The Eye, etc).  Of course, what I really want to do is see:

Hi there!

HA – one can dream.  🙂

Anyway, onto our little roadtrip!

Prepared - it's Starbucks if you can't tell! 🙂

My pilot!

In order to get to the UK from mainland Europe- we had to take the Chunnel.  I do NOT like the Chunnel.  For those of you who don’t know, it is a train that goes under the English Channel – like a tunnel (hence “chunnel”).  You literally drive your car onto a train and just sit there (about 25 min) as you fly under the water.  It’s defies all rules of nature in my opinion.  Of course, we did it anyway.  Check it out!

Cars boarding the train!

Euro tunnel!

Chillin'

Byeee mainland!!

As promised…a glance into my first Belgian school getaway

We had our “Opening Session” for the part-time MBA program this Monday and Tuesday.  It was a full 2-day event that included the ‘Communication and Interaction Styles’ course and a nice dinner party.  The hotel, Het Godshuis, was about 45 minutes away in Sint-Laureins and was very nice!  Apparently it is also a nice getaway for the weekend – has a spa, very nice restaurants, etc.

So, I should start off by saying, I really had no idea what to expect.  Obviously, I’ve been to various conferences through my other jobs in the USA, but never one in Belgium.  I won’t bore you with the similarities (i.e. – same conference rooms, break snacks, small talk, ice breaker games, etc).  I think the most interesting are the differences:

#1: We had to share rooms – that in and of itself is not too different.  However, the beds in the rooms were 2 single beds pushed together.  Yup, together.  So, I was shocked by this and was going to propose separating, but then she didn’t so I was afraid to be rude.  So, yeah.  (Note – the sheets and bed spreads were separate).

#2: Lunch on both days included wine.  Enough said.

#3: A wake-up call was previously arranged for every room (see dancing party below…).

#3: The dinner party – oh so many things here!  The dinner came and went with no surprises – a very nice cocktail hour followed by a delicious 3 course meal of salmon, white fish, noodles, and an amazing chocolate pudding with berries.  (Sorry, no pictures of the food – wasn’t about to bust out my camera in front of everyone)!  The real differences started with after-dinner festivities…listed below.

Trivia Game:

  • You were picked to be on a team old-school style.  In other words, I felt as thought I was standing on the field at TW in Tosa hoping to not be picked last.  Thankfully I was not – but per my previous post, there are only 5 girls in the group of 50, so we were picked fairly quickly.
  • The questions included “name that tune.”  Well – they were all foreign…sorry team, not scoring any points for you there.
  • One of the tasks included head-banging.  Yes, who could head-bang the best.
  • Pictionary – You’d think this would be the original, but no!  I still don’t get it, but it went something like you drew an animal for the other teams and then they gave you points????
Dance Party:
  • DJ booth was setup with disco lights – hahaha.
  • Techno played long into the night (free alcohol until way past my bedtime).
  • Almost everyone danced!  I did not expect this…but it was great.  (Another side note – the dancing formation is the same in every culture – people all dancing in a huge circle with those brave enough or those who’ve indulged in a few cocktails going into the middle to show off his/her ‘moves’).
I know there were other things worth mentioning, but I’m drawing a blank.  Seriously, it was a REALLY great time and it was so nice to get to know each other outside of the classroom.  Obviously, I had quite a few laughs!  Honestly, the Belgians do know how to have a great time!

M.I.A.

I have been MIA for the last couple days.  I’m at a retreat for school so stay tuned for LOTS of updates soon…including some FUNNY stories. 🙂  Just a teaser…it includes karaoke, techno, and headbanging….

8 Months Today!

I cannot believe it.  As of today, I’ve been an “expat” for 8 months (9 months for Joe)!  Yes, I celebrate each month as I see each as a big milestone.  Some may think that’s crazy and a bit excessive, but then, those people probably haven’t been expats.

1st weekend in Europe!

I thought I’d take just a little time to reflect on those 8 months since a LOT has happened…

The most important thing I want to talk about is how our feelings/thoughts have changed (mine in particular).  The last 2-3 months I’ve noticed a significant change in my feelings towards Belgium and our move here – aka, I am a LOT happier.  Now, I didn’t really think I was unhappy the first 6 months, but as I look back at where I was and where I am now, its like happiness x5.

In the first 6 months I was feeling all kinds of pro’s/con’s:

  • + Excited for the new experience & travel (um, Paris only 2.5 hours away? yes, please)!
  • + New food, drinks, etc.
  • + Learn a new language
  • + A castle in our city?!
  • + Visitors! (This was both a pro and con – so happy to share our new place with friends and family, but once they left the alone-feeling was very hard to bare)
  • – Home sick for family/friends
  • – Loss of identity (did not have my job anymore or my friends/family – what am I going to do ALL day?)
  • – Unsure of how to get groceries, doctors, pharmacy, no Target, etc.  (everyday life was so unfamiliar & time-consuming)
  • – Dislike for our new apartment – spiders in the stairwell…the size of my palm? OMG
Obviously, there are a lot more things I can list, but I don’t want this post to be 10 pages.  I’ve read some other expat blogs and want to share this link from a fellow Belgian expat.  She sums up the 6 month feelings quite nicely and I can relate to a lot of her emotions!  It’s so nice knowing that I’m not crazy and there are others out there who feel the same! 🙂
Now, in months 7 and 8, I can honestly say that I am very happy here.  Of course, there are still up and down days, but the down days are definitely not as often (Joe hasn’t come home to my crying in quite awhile – whew for him)!!  I’m absolutely loving MBA school (definitely helping with the identity issue) and I also feel like I can finally do “everyday” activities in a normal amount of time (less google maps and/or calling our relocation agent every 5 minutes)!  I LOVE our new apartment (see here) and I’ve also developed a nice group of friends!  I’ve even caught myself calling it “home” – WHOA, never thought that would happen!

Month 8 (& Joe's fave place in Belgium)!

So now…I’m looking forward to what months 8 through ??? will bring…

Fall is here!

Mmmm, baked goods by mom…does it get much better than that?

Top is best (kind of like a muffin-top)!

We walked outside the apartment today and immediately “smelled” Fall.  Since it is both of our favorite season – we were VERY happy!

Of course, the smell got me thinking of all the things I love about Fall!

  • The decor!

Thanks to the fam!

  • Pumpkins/Gourds/Apples, etc. (Not our pumpkins, courtesy of Google Images)!
  • Leaves changing colors!

WI cottage shout-out! 🙂

  • Halloween!!  – Perk of Halloween this year is that Belgians get about 319481343 holidays a year.  November 1st just so happens to be one of those holidays.  Therefore, we can go out for Halloween and have the full next day to recover from such festivities!  NOW – the question is…what should we dress up as?!

Back in the day...can you guess what former celeb couple we were?!

~We relaxed much of the day (or at least Joe did since I had a 3.5 hour group meeting at school).  The afternoon flew by with our workout (finally got to go together) and a stop at the ‘Phone House.’
~Ah, the ‘Phone House.’  I’ve been to this store about 10-15 times since we’ve moved.  I have a pre-paid phone that seriously has the capabilities of Zack Morris’s phone (you know what I’m talking about).  SO, I brought my Blackberry from the USA here to see if it would work.  I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that I was there 1.5 hours and ended up worse off than when I arrived.  Yes – not only does my BB not work, but my prepaid phone is also not working.  The kicker?  My prepaid phone’s service provider is “not one of the major ones” so they only have help desk hours from M-F (9-5).  Um, yea it’s Saturday.
~ANYWAY, onto another home-cooked meal (can you tell we were burned out from restaurants)?  This one was inspired by Allrecipes.com, but I made too many changes:
Halibut filets with Tomato/Onion Salsa & Roasted Brussel Sprouts:
  • 2 halibut filets
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • brussels sprouts, chopped in 1/2 (as many as you want)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • feta cheese (optional – but highly recommended)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
~Preheat the oven to 425F or about 220c.  Place the brussel sprouts on foil-lined cookie sheet (easy clean-up)!  Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and salt.  Let roast for about 40 minutes turning occasionally.  They should be crispy and charred…YUM.  (For some reason, ours cooked in like 30 – could be they were smaller)??
~Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat the 1 tbsp olive oil and the garlic (for about 1 minute).  Add the onion for about 5 minutes (or until translucent).  Remove from heat and add to a bowl with the diced tomatoes and basil.  In the same skillet, add the halibut filets and season with salt and pepper.  Depending on the size, these should cook for about 7-10 minutes (until flaky)!  About 2 minutes before the fish are done, add the onion/tomato mixture atop the fish to heat.  Serve with feta cheese if desired (obviously)!  DONE!

LOVE brussel sprout season.

Some interesting facts…

So, last night was the opening session for school and there were quite a few things that were interesting to me (here are only a couple as it would take forever to list them all)!  I can already tell this will be a very interesting and eye-opening experience!

  • I am 1 of 5 girls
  • I am the only American (“token”)
  • Very clean, nice campus (love the red brick – I’ll have to take a photo soon)
  • All VERY nice and friendly people
  • Unlimited drinks after class in the lounge (mmm, white wine)
  • Unlimited snacks in the lounge (AWESOME – chips, nachos, olives, cheese)!
More to come, but thought I’d leave you with this funny story.  So, we had to introduce the person we were sitting next to.  You know, talk to them for a few minutes and then introduce them to the class giving 1 unique fact and 2 background facts.  Well, the first question my neighbor asked me was my age.  It is NORMAL to ask people’s ages here…which I still am not used to.  Also, it is apparently normal to ask the marital status, if you have kids, etc.  Again, I’m not bothered by these questions, I’m just not used to it…obviously a cultural difference!  OH, and last but not least, the “unique” fact that my neighbor said about me was that my last name is not my own, it’s my husbands.  HA!  It’s very uncommon for Belgian women to take their husband’s name.  Interesting…Joe, are you reading this?! 🙂
Ok, off to class…check out my exciting (slight sarcasm) stats book!
We get served a hot meal in between classes today in the campus restaurant.  I’m curious as to what it will be…I had the opportunity to mark vegetarian, but did not.  I hope I don’t regret that decision…there are certain meats here that I do not like (aka – raw prepare and horse).  TBD.
We have a visitor arriving tomorrow – SO excited!  So, I should have some more non-MBA related posts coming this weekend.  I’m going to test out some new recipes on her! 🙂

First day of MBA school…

Today is the first day of school for me!  (There is no Labor Day in Belgium 🙂 fyi – for those of you in America having a nice little cook-out right about now)!

I am VERY excited and of course, slightly (an understatement) nervous!  I will be starting the part-time MBA program at Vlerick Gent Management School.  Here is the link to the part-time program, if you are interested.

Naturally, I started the day off right…honestly, the one thing you learn in pre-school, always have a good breakfast your first day! 🙂

Mmm, oatmeal + Cheerios

Tonight is the first meeting/class (yes, it is in English).  Thankfully, tonight is strictly orientation – picking up your books, introduction to the program, introductions to each other, and cocktails in the lounge.  Whew, way to start us off easy…I mean, I haven’t done school work in 5.5 years!  Of course…tomorrow is 7 hours of class, but let’s wait til my next post for that…

So, here I am off to my first day…Joe took a picture of me and walked me to school (yes, I’m 28 years old).  🙂

I’ll be honest…I already had a melt-down yesterday (Sunday)…yes, tears were involved.  I started working in Excel on my macbook.  Ok, has anyone tried converting from a PC to a MAC AND from Excel 2004 to Excel 2011 at the SAME time?  It’s like my world has been flipped upside down.  Joe immediately tried to help me (sweet), but then…I hear this laughter from behind me.  He thought I was over-reacting and was laughing…NOT the best reaction in my opinion! 🙂  In hindsight, yea, it’s funny, and he did help me, but I was NOT a happy camper.  Anyway, we figured out my ‘vlookup’ and I was happy.

Off to bed…7 hours of class tomorrow (bring it on European Law and Statistics)!