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!

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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! 🙂

 

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.   🙂
  • 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.”  🙂

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!

 

COLD

So, yesterday I realized I had come down with my first official cold of the season.  Typical!

I decided to stay in and relax (slept forever) and had some much needed warm comfort meals.  For breakfast, I had my usual oatmeal (always delicious).

Always a go-to.

When I finally got out of bed, I decided I’d work on my Christmas List.  What, do you think it’s too soon?!  🙂  We bought our tickets home for the holidays last week.  And of course, it got me excited about the holidays.  I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS !  Everything about them – decor, shopping, Starbucks red cups, cookies, etc.  Anyway, I digress – my mom has asked me 2x for our list already (yes – obviously we are 2 peas in a pod).  So…it got me thinking…what do I want?

This?

or perhaps something in this?!

Hahaha – yea, in my dreams! 🙂  Those didn’t make the list, but these did:

and anything Lululemon!

Less than 2 months til Christmas! Ha! 🙂

So, by the time night came, I was craving some more warm food and opted to try out a new Campbell’s soup box (yes, it comes in boxes here – not cans) I saw at the store.  It was a delicious mixed veggie + tomato soup  – Joe’s new favorite.  And of course, it was accompanied by bread, oyster crackers (thanks to one of our visitors), and a feta/tomato salad.

See the "Fall" napkins?!

Warm & cozy

And…some quick catch up!

As you can tell, I’m WAY behind on my blog (about a week)!  So…we’re going to do a week in pictures (like last time) in order to catch up!  Man all this traveling and visiting is really eating into my blog time! 🙂

Wednesday:

My grandparents arrived in Tosa from Arkansas!  I was SO excited.  I have not seen them in 1.5 years!  So…what did we do?  We had the traditional “fall” dinner at home…Mom’s chili.  And, omg was it good!  Mom makes chili with noodles…anyone else do that?  Yea…and I ate it so fast…sorry no pics!

Thursday:

We moved to a downtown hotel for the weekend.  Hello, Hotel Metro!  (We LOVE this hotel – it is where we stayed the night of our wedding)!

We lucked out because the ‘Zen Den’ bar at the top of the hotel was actually open to the public (always closed for private events).  So…we stopped up for a drink and to “relax” in the “zen” area!  Awesome.

A hidden little gem!

Aw, brothhhhhers!

We then ate at my all-time FAVE sushi restaurant…SAKETUMI.  You KNOW I had the spicy tuna roll, Godzilla roll, AND a new scallop roll.  YUM!  Oh, and we ordered 2 helpings of edamame (I ate one myself while the brothers shared…yikes)!  Last but certainly not least…we stopped at Catch 22 for a drink with my BFF Julia and her fiance, Andy.  Again, no pics…so slacking!

Friday:

Friday definitely deserves it’s own post.  And, it will get one very shortly.  Why you ask?  Because, it is in honor my parents 25th Wedding Anniversary!  Here is a sneak-peak at the surprise party we threw!

Aren't they cute?!

Yes, that’s all you get for now! 🙂

Saturday:

A BUSY day! 🙂  The morning was spent hosting a Bridal Shower for my BFF, Julia!  (Am I a party-planner or what…ha)!  We had the party in the common room at our condo building.  Here are some pics of the event and the beautiful bride-to-be!

The spread...

Some may say...the best part of the party (ahem, me)!

The bride's seat!

The bride!!!

And...her gifts! Does she like chicken - I can't remember...

Right after the shower…we hopped on over to Trinity (bar) on Water Street to meet up with the boys…AND…a surprise guest.  My friend, Karen, from DC flew in to hang for the day/night!  Yes, I cried.

Together again!!! Seriously, best day.

And, last but certainly not least: dinner and drinks at our “old stomping ground.”  Aka – La Fuenta…aka…best place for margarita’s (even if you were of a questionable age).  Just kidding, mom….

The marg's...and...only a couple chips left! Thankfully, they are bottom-less!

The gals!

The fam came!

Seesters! They are always picking me up for some reason.

Fave.

After our fabulous dinner and marg’s, we headed to our favorite Marquette bar, Caffrey’s.  Oddly enough, I can’t find a “suitable” picture to post…:-)

SUCH a great trip home.  It went by so fast (as I’m sure it always will), but we are so blessed/lucky/thankful to have such wonderful family and friends.  We miss you and love you all!

 

 

 

 

Tosa Trivia!

Started my Tuesday off right…with a little Jillian Michaels!  Was pretty intense today considering I haven’t done her video in a week or 2!

My mom and I were going to have a full fledge Mother-Daughter day of shopping…at my favorite local shopping mall…Mayfair!!  Ahhh, how I love it! 🙂  We started off bright and early (we were literally there before it opened) and of course, made a stop at the Starbuck’s drive through for a morning pick-me-up.

*I’m going to digress for a minute – this is the first DRIVE-THRU I’ve been to in 8 months.  I can’t think of 1 drive-thru in Belgium…not 1 (and I’m really trying)!  Weird, right?!

Anyway, we spent a great deal of time at our fave stores (Ann Taylor, Loft, Limited, etc)!  I might have missed my calling as a personal shopper.  I must say that I REALLY enjoy helping others buy clothing!  My mom got some GREAT key items…including a brand new pair of AWESOME jeans.  I (of course) got some great new stuff too – cute earrings, scarf, etc.

My sister joined us for lunch…at Panera (again – why stop a good thing)!  This time I had my other favorite soup – Chicken Noodle with the multi-grain baguette.  Still delish!  We followed up lunch with dessert at…yes, Starbucks (again)!  My mom and I split a PUMPKING SPICE LATTE!  I’m sensing a pattern…

I WAS SO excited for this evening.  My BFF is getting married in January and she invited me and Maggie (remember her visit?) to join her for a dress fitting!  Here are just pics from previous celebrations – soon to add pics from Julia’s festivities! 🙂

At my wedding...

At Maggie's Bachelorette party!

Of course, the dress fitting was wonderful and she looked absolutely beautiful.  That’s all the detail you get…since the fiance is a subscriber! 🙂

For dinner, we had plans to meet a group of friends at the Mo’s Irish Pub in Wauwatosa for Trivia Night.  I’ve never played trivia before at a bar and really did not know what to expect.  Let me tell you…it is NOT easy!  Here are a couple sample questions:

  • What state produces 90% of the USA’s garlic crop?
  • What country did Churchill call “the sleeping giant?”
  • Name the 2 heisman (sp?) trophy winners who were drafted as quarterbacks in the same year (BONUS que).
  • How many ‘community chests’ are there on a monopoly board?  I still don’t believe the answer to this…
  • Which country whose name starts with a ‘P’ is the largest in size (sq ft)?
Tough right?!  Well, we were close…but ended up coming in 4th.  Oh well it was fun and so great to catch up with old friends! 🙂

the boys...

the girls...

Oh, I almost forgot…I had the BEST tomato soup last night (with OYSTER crackers – another thing I can’t find in Belgium)!

Note the design on top...nice touch!

Happy Monday!

First full day in Tosa!

And, we’re starting it off with:

Homemade Banana Bread!

As I said before, my mother is the best.  She made us a mini-loaf of homemade banana bread for our hotel.  YUM!

I am so excited for today.  Why you ask?  Because I get to see Gma Sue!  She is coming into town so that we can have lunch together.  When I was working in Racine, we’d have lunch at least 1x per month (either at her house, Panera Bread, or Out of the Pan).  Today, I’m opting for good ole’ Panera (definitely one of my most missed restaurants)!

She picked me up at lunch time and of course, there were tears involved! 🙂  Happy tears, that is.  As usual, she was so cute and put together (no red,white, and blue – just leopard this time)!  She’s so stylin.

We headed over to Panera and I ordered my all-time fave:  You Pick 2 (Greek Salad + Garden Veggie Soup + french baguette).  As always, it was delicious.  I will note, however, that I might be a bread snob now.  The French baguette was good…but, it is NO French baquette.  Oh no…Europe, what have you done to me?!?!

After spending a great time with my Grandma, I was picked up by my mom and was off to spend the rest of the day/evening at the house for another home cooked-meal!  But first, it was time to clean out my mom’s closet.  We’re shopping tomorrow and she NEEDS some new key items.  I wish I would have taken a picture of the heaping pile of clothes on the bed we are getting rid of…one sweater was from over 25 years ago!!!  Side Note:  My mom dresses very cute…don’t get the wrong idea.  We just had to do some “fall” cleaning.

Dinner was another delicious meal: Asian Marinated Chicken + Couscous + Baked Brussel Sprouts + Steamed Carrots

Oh so good!

And, as promised yesterday, here is a pic of the fabulous graham cracker dessert.

She's weird.

I opted for a nice helping of the remaining choco frosting + my fave animal crackers!!

Yes, I'm weird.

Another great night was almost complete…but I still had one very important thing left to do.  Make a TARGET run!!!  OMG was it so fun.  I think I almost walked down every aisle.  And of course, the saying that you “can’t get out of Target without spending $100” is totally true!  Here are a few of my prized purchases!

See the red Target circles...so happy.

When I look at this pic, I expect some grand finale song to be playing.

 

 

Hellooooo Tosa!

Before we hit Tosa…some parting shots of my fave city…chi-town!

Why is the Starbucks line so long...oh that's right...it's amazing.

Dutifully carrying my S'bucks.

Ahhh, chicago.

Michigan Ave...enough said.

Statue on Mich. Ave...???

Yesterday (Sunday) we arrived in my hometown of Wauwatosa (aka…Tosa)!  I could NOT have been more excited to see my family.

First, we stopped at our condo to pick up my fab car.  I have not driven since February and will be perfectly honest – I was borderline terrified to get behind the wheel.  Will I remember how to drive?  Which pedal is gas versus brake?  OMG, how do I move from reverse to forward?  Seriously.  🙂  Thankfully, the saying is true…it’s like riding a bike – it all comes back to you.  AND…it was GLORIOUS.  All my radio stations were still programmed and it just felt right.  It was like all my independence came rushing back.  (Of course, a special thanks to Jeffy for having the car looking spotless…I would have expected no less from Mr. Clean)!

We drove from the condo to my parent’s house for an afternoon/evening of my pre-selected home-made meals.  Before we got there I must say that I started tearing-up while driving past Miller Park.  Everyone was tail-gating and the smell was just like home (mmm Milwaukee).  I’m def not a baseball fan, but there is something about a Milwaukee tail-gate party.

ANYWAY, I’m digressing a lot.  We made it to Tosa and we burst into my home.  It was GREAT.  It was so exciting to catch up with my parents and sisters (‘tsis’ as we call eachother) after a long 7 months.  We sat out on the porch and enjoyed the sunny weather.  Of course, the first thing I ate when I walked in was….

Pumpkin Choco Chip Muffins!!! (Still warm)!

Yes, my mother is the best in the world.  They were literally right out of the oven and the fresh aroma was still filling our house.  OMG.

Next on the food list, was Grandpa’s olive dip.  This is also to die for.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture…probably because as soon as it was set on the patio table we all started eating as if we’ve never eaten before.  No time for a pic…it was every man for himself!

We let our stomachs settle before dinner.  My parents cooked in the kitchen while my sisters and I browsed through old pics (so fun…and we were/are SO cute)!  Ha.  Joe and my sister’s bf discovered the new flat screen tv and were glued to it.  (ESPN has been in FULL force while we are home…Joe’s SO happy)!

Onto dinner (in the dining room…YES!)!  By request (ours of course):  Grilled pork tenderloin with steamed broccoli, cajun potato wedges, and pretzel rolls.  OMG is pretty much all I have to say.

You know we had 2nd's.

Posin...

Side note – I just LOVE eating in our dining room.  It’s such a different vibe from the kitchen…more special.  We have all our holiday meals in here and it’s a tradition my sisters and I are VERY strict about.

After dinner we had the MOST delicious dessert EVER.  I totally forgot a picture and I’m so mad.  I know we’ll have more on Monday so I’ll take a pic.  It was a layered cake of sorts – graham crackers + french vanilla pudding + chocolate frosting!

All in all, it was a wonderful homecoming and I’m so looking forward to our week here!!  Thank you mom and Jeffy for a great Sunday! 🙂

OH, last but definitely not least…I made a stop at my favorite house in Brookfield: Julia’s home!  I had not seen my bff in 7 LONG months.  A lot has happened…aka, her engagement!  I saw her beautiful ring and picked up my bridesmaid dress!

If you can’t tell…I LOVE BEING HOME!  Absence does make the heart grow fonder (yes, that’s gaggish)!

Pita Pizza’s

I love pizza.  In particular, I love delivery pizza from Loiuse’s in Milwaukee and/or frozen pizza (like CPK or Tombstone).  Of course, being in Belgium, there are some problems with having good pizza in my apartment:

1.  No Loiuse’s

2.  No CPK or Tombstone

3.  Freezer is so small it does not fit 1 frozen pizza, so if I buy one, I literally have to eat it ASAP.

Thus, I’ve looked for DIY pizza recipes.  I’ve steered clear of pre-made pizza dough and/or Boboli’s because, well, I have to…it’s not available.  I’m not about to make dough from scratch as it is too much effort AND I still haven’t figured out all the different kinds of flour here.  SO, here is the next best thing – it’s DELISH and actually probably healthier.

PITA PIZZA’S (adapted from allrecipes):

  • 2-3 pitas (WISH I could find whole wheat, but of course, not here in Belgium)
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 2 balls mozzarella cheese (we like tearing the big mozzarella balls, but shredded cheese is just fine)
  • fresh basil
  • Any toppings you want (we like green/red/yellow peppers, mushrooms, and onions)

Preheat the oven to 200C (or 400F).  Place the pita’s on a baking sheet and heat in the oven for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat your veggies on the stove pot in a non-stick pan for about 5 minutes (or until crispy).  Then, take the pita’s out of the oven and top with tomato sauce, cheese, basil, and toppings.  Return the pizzas to the oven to cook for another 8-12 minutes depending on how crispy or doughy you’d like.

Enjoy!