We’re baaaackkkkkk…to Belgium!

OH MAN!  I AM EXHAUSTED.  We had such a great trip to the USA, but, I’ll be honest, it was very nice to sleep in our own bed last night!  It’s weird to say, but, we got off the plane and got to our apartment and we’re like: “Whew, we are home.”  Home.  Definitely did not know when we would start saying that…I guess 7 months did the trick.

Back to life…work for Joe, class for me.

Last night we went grocery shopping (for the first time in about 1 month)!  September was CRAZY with visitors and trips, so, we were legit excited about going back to normal!  On the menu for dinner last night?  Some comfort food: Tomato soup and Grilled Cheese!

Can you tell whose bowl is whose?

Joe or SARAH?

JOE or Sarah?

Um, would you like some soup to go with those crackers?

Also, if you are thinking – “hm, I didn’t know Belgium had fishy crackers” – you are correct that they do NOT.  A perk of having lots of visitors and a trip to the USA…mmm, American snacky snacks!

Off to bed EARLY to watch to catch up on our Itunes shows! 🙂

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)!

I love…Friday’s

Another Friday…I used to love Friday’s because it meant I had the weekend off of work.  Of course I technically have all days “off” so…now I love it because Joe has the weekend off from work.

And because of this…

Friday Appy's!

I decided to try a new recipe tonight.  I’ve found that I’ve not been cooking as much since school started (school provides my meal on Monday and Tuesday nights).  Anyway, today grabbed this recipe from my daily “Allrecipes” email that I get…

Baked Chicken and Zucchini: (Allrecipes – I modified it for 2 people)

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • shredded mozzarella
  • basil (fresh if you got it, I didn’t…so, hello spice cabinet)
Preheat your oven to 400F or 200C (in my case, I pre-heated my combo micro, oven, grill…seriously still in awe of this machine)!
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, water, 1/2 tsp salt and the pepper.  Then, dip the chicken in the mixture and place in a re-sealable bag (Ziploc brand prefered of course…ah, the SCJ days)!  Add the bread crumbs (reserving 1 tbsp) and shake it up!
Spray your skillet with PAM and cook the chicken over medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes per side.  Set aside.  Toss in the sliced zucchini and cook for about 1-2 minutes.  Next, add the zucchini slices to the bottom of a greased (PAM) 9×13 baking dish.  Sprinkle the reserved 1bsp bread crumbs over the zucchini and top with the tomato slices.  Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the veggies (I didn’t measure this but can tell you that I was VERY generous with the cheese)!  Lastly, add the chicken on top and cover with foil.  Cook in the oven for 25 minutes.  Remove cover and sprinkle MORE cheese on top and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  DING…it’s done!

Mmm, cheese.

SO GOOD! 🙂  After dinner, we decided to go check out a new bar that Joe’s boss recommended.  We were really skeptical because it is a movie theater…but he did NOT lead us astray.  AWESOME, definitely a new fave!  We can’t wait to show our friends:  Studio Skoop  Check out the link!  The decor is great.  If you can see in the pic, the chairs against the wall are old movie theater seats.  Plus, the menu has movie trivia!  Score!

Check the chairs!

Obvii...trivia was in English.

 

A taste of FALL!

We decided to make a nice hearty breakfast this morning.  It may not technically be Fall yet, but its felt like Fall for about 2 months in Belgium…so, I figure I’ve waited long enough!  One of my favorite Fall things is pumpkin (pumpkin picking, carving, gourds, pumpkin bread, pumpkin choco chip muffins, etc).  So, when I saw a post on one of my favorite blogs for “Pumpkin Banana Oatmeal,”  I HAD to try it!

(If you recall, I picked up some Libby’s 100% Pumpkin at the American grocery store last week)!

Here is the recipe from her Blog (check it out…it’s great)!

Pumpkin Banana Oatmeal:

  • 1 cup oats (we used Quaker Oats – quick cooking since that’s all I can find here)
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar (from the American Grocery store)
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin (from the American Grocery store)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (from the American Grocery store)
  • Nutmeg (sprinkled on top) (from the American Grocery store)
Bring the water to a boil on the stovetop.  Add the oats and cook for about a minute (again, this is a shorter time period since I used quick-oats).  Once cooked, stir in 1/2 banana, brown sugar, pumpkin, and cinnamon.  Cook for another minute or so to let the ingredients warm and combine.  Transfer to bowls (this was a big serving for both Maggie and I) and top with remaining banana and sprinkle on nutmeg, if desired.
Some notes:
  • Maggie said the American Heart Association classifies 1/2 cup oats as a serving size.  Thanks for the tip! 🙂
  • I classified what ingredients I got from the American Grocery store to make a point (yet again) how hard it is to find “common” ingredients here!  Are you feeling my pain yet?!
  • I would DEFINITELY add a little more pumpkin.  I like the pumpkin taste to be extremely prevalent.  I think that the cinnamon (which I love) over took the bowl a little.  Personal preference…but just a tip if you LOVE pumpkin!

YUM - see the nutmeg sprinkles?!

This oatmeal has got me thinking a lot about Fall and I just have to comment on some of my favorite fall things…(even if they are gaggish)!
  • The smell of Fall – the leaves, cool air, etc.
  • How the cottage and lake looks up north + Shack in Sterling
  • Sweatshirts
  • Back to School fashion (um, hello boots and scarves)
  • Pumpkin (obvii)
  • Chili (I feel like chili is a colder weather meal) + Oyster crackers (OMG, I miss those)
  • Decor – at our condo we have a HUGE box of “fall-like” decor (candles, table runner, fake leaves, halloween garland)!  Sad that we cannot use it this year!
  • Last but not least…the anticipation of returning to the USA VERY soon!  Ahhhh
Ok, moving on, Maggie and I decided that we indulged quite a bit the last couple days (with our meals, drinks, and of course, Julie’s House yesterday), so we wanted to do a little exercise.  Out came the Jillian DVD!  We opted for Level 3 of “Ripped in 30.”  And yes, side by side we finished it (both sweating like crazy) and both cursing Jillian during the infamous “duck walk.”  *I really hope the person living below us was not home…I can’t imagine what they thought we were doing!
Finally (this post is getting rather long), I will conclude with what we did this afternoon.  After our strenuous work-out, we rewarded ourselves by sitting outside St. Bavo’s Cathedral listening to a street musician and…indulging in…a Belgian wafel!  And, here it is…

A lil mid-day snack!

 

 

 

 

 

A little behind…

With my friend Maggie in town, I’ve been a little behind on the posts!  Sadly, today is her last day in Ghent…but that means that I will have time to fill you in on our weekend together.  A few things to look forward to:

  • Salmon + relish
  • Julie’s House! OMG
  • Chicken enchiladas…a la Maggie!
  • Pumpkin Oatmeal
  • Belgian Wafels (spelled the Belgian way – so you don’t think I’m a bad speller)
  • In Bocco Lupo
  • Lunch in Antwerp
To be continued…

The American Grocery Store!!!

I’ve been slacking on my picture taking this past weekend.  I don’t know why, but I failed to take a picture of Saturday night’s dinner AND Sunday morning’s eggs.  But, if you refer to this and this, you know what we had (and it was delish, as they always are).

However, I did nab a picture of us enjoying the BEAUTIFUL weather on Saturday.  It was about 28C (80’sF) and sunny all day long (which it hasn’t been in MONTHS).  Joe and I had a great time walking around, getting ice cream, and enjoying a cocktail by the river.

*I had cava (Spanish champagne) and Joe had a Chimay Blauw (one of his new faves).  Did anyone know that you can’t actually call a drink ‘Champagne’ unless it comes from the small region in France – I didn’t…seems a bit ‘hoity-toity’ to me?!  I know I didn’t spell that right…

Note the bb in the pic - texting his BBM group, of course.

Yes, there is Red Bull here...

I almost forgot to mention the MOST exciting thing that happened as we were walking home on Saturday.  A group of young people (probs 23ish…ah, remember those days) asked us for directions.  We LOVE when people pass us off as Belgians since it means we aren’t standing out like sore thumbs.  Anyway, one of the girls in the group was American (we could tell right away).  We asked where she was from…MILWAUKEE!  I about died, I was so excited.  What a small world!  Joe joked that I was going to ask to give her a hug…which would have been great actually.  I didn’t, but anyway…it was exciting (sorry, I’m sure many of you may think, wow, they get excited over weird things, but trust me, when you are this far away and you meet someone from “home” – instant connection)!

On to the second most exciting thing this weekend…along the lines of “home”…a trip to the AMERICAN GROCERY STORE!  As I mentioned while making “Funfetti,” there is an American grocery store in Antwerp (about 40 minutes away driving) called Grare.  We decided to head over there on Sunday to pick up some “essentials.”  And…here is what we got!

You KNOW I only put 1 bag of Goldfish in the pic...but there are DEF more! 🙂

Again, you may not know this, but these items are VIRTUALLY impossible to find unless you are at an American store.  I was VERY excited to find canned pumpkin as my mom always makes these AMAZING pumpkin choco chip muffins.  Thought I’d give it a go…but that’ll be another post.  I was also really excited about the ‘Shake n Bake’ as it’s one of my all-time faves for an easy week night meal.  So, we grabbed our purchases, got in the car, and proceeded to eat on the way home (granola bars for me and PB bars for Joe).  Success.

Last Friday of “Freedom” —> means night out!

Today is the last Friday before I start MBA school…so, my summer (ahem, I mean 7 months) of doing nothing in Belgium is about to be over!  Some people in my position might be sad about this, but I could not be more delighted.  I am really looking forward to challenging my brain again, meeting new people, and seeing what school is like in Europe!  Of course, I am VERY nervous too.

Anyway, I had a lot of errands to run today so I got up early and headed to the gym.  By early, I mean that I was at the gym at 9am on the dot (which is when it opens…seriously).  Side note – the busiest time at the gym is between 10-11 (I have no idea why people aren’t working).  I opted for an interval workout on the treadmill + 10 minutes on the elliptical.  My treadmill interval was essentially this:

  • Warm up – 1 mile (about 6.5 miles per hour speed)
  • Sprint/jog – 1.5 miles (alternate between sprint and a steady jog every minute)

Not too shabby…I was enjoying my workout even more because the US open was on (albeit dubbed in French).  I watched Djokovic essentially destroy his competition in 3 straight sets – the match was less than 1.5 hours!

When I got home I was STARVING!  So I whipped up this nice little lunch (hummus sandwich)!

Now, for the best part of the day…whipping up dinner and our Friday night appy’s!

Appy’s: I tried a new bakery in the “mall” in Ghent and bought a fabulous nut bread and multi-grain bread (seriously amazing, but no surprise there)!  We had hummus and the remaining raw veggies that were not used for the skewers.  Of course, the obligatory wine and Belgian beer.  YUM!

*See the little duck napkin holders?  So funny…our table was set like this when we moved in…another reason I love it here!

Main: Grilled marinated shrimp skewers + marinated vegetable skewers (I will devote an entire post to this as I have a LOT to say about it + a LOT of pics)!  Here is one to get your taste buds going…

Joe had a long week and I was ready to celebrate my last night of “freedom” so we decided to go to the ‘Trappistenhuis’ bar.  This bar is VERY well-known in Ghent and happens to be one of Joe’s favorites.  Actually, after last night, he made the very bold statement that it has the BEST beer menu in Ghent (not an easy honor to win in Belgium).  Of course, that was exclaimed after a couple beers…so we’ll see if it still holds true today! 🙂

The interior and bathrooms are very nice and clean.  Take a look at all the glasses hanging by the bar (again, each beer has its own glass).  You can see by our beer pictures as well…my Orval beer bottle + my Orval branded glass.  Bonus – free peanuts! Joe opted for his favorite Sint Bernardus 12 and tried a Watou beer.  I opted for Orval as it has a lower alcohol content (6.2% still isn’t that low, but whatevs it’s Friday)!

Here are some pics!  Prost (cheers)!!

New patisserie!

The first day in our new apartment was mainly spent unpacking, cleaning, etc.  But, it was ACTUALLY sunny and warm, so I made it a point to get outside.

This morning I decided to go to the gym to determine how long it takes to get there from the new place.  ONLY 5 minutes (walking) and when I ran back it was ONLY 2 minutes (not even enough time for Adele to finish singing)!  AWESOME…now there really is no excuse not to go when it’s raining!  I did my interval workout I mentioned the other day and got on with my day!

OH, I almost forgot to mention what I found at the grocery store yesterday…microwave POPCORN.  I ran out of popcorn about 1 month ago (since our last visitor brought it to me).  I WAS SO EXCITED…you KNOW I had a huge side of popcorn with my dinner last night!  It was just as tasty as I remembered it to be.

Tonight two of my friends stopped over to see the new place and have some wine/dessert, yes, delish.  Earlier in the afternoon, I decided to buy some treats from a new patisserie in Gent, ‘Joostarijs’.  Here are the treats I bought:

  • Chocolate, Moka log (sorry, not the best description)
  • Vanilla eclair
  • Raspberry tart w/pistachios on top
  • White Chocolate mousse with red berry cream inside
And, of course, here are the pictures.  Do I really need to tell you that these were good?  I mean, come on!  Belgian patisseries and treats are really the best!  Great night!

A nice night together

After my happy hour with the Vlerick grad (which was fun and interesting), Joe and I decided to venture out for a drink (the weather had turned sunny)!

Earlier in the day, I was feeling pret-ty “blue.”  Every once in awhile I get these bouts of homesickness (Joe does too, but WAY more often it is me-I’m emotional, shocker).  I think it was mostly due to the gloomy weather we’ve been having.  Anyway, when one of us is feeling sad, we always make a point to get out of the apartment and head out to walk/chat.

This evening Joe let me pick the destination (the sad person always chooses).  I picked the Vrijdagmarkt and specifically the cafe, ‘t Helse Stoofke.’ (This place is great – modern feel, clean, great service, and a delicious fish menu).  My evening was instantly better as we walked into the market and saw a group of people dancing to a boom box…line dancing?  square dancing?  No idea…but really, only in Belgium would this happen!

We ordered our drinks (Joe had a Duvel and I was indecisive between a red/white glass of wine, so got a rose) and eagerly dove into the snack bowl (which was replenished often-score!)!

While there, we got to talking about how we feel our lives have changed over the last 6 moths.  We both agree that our life seems to have done a complete 180.  We focused on the positives (of course, we commented on how we miss our family and friends terribly, but that’s a given).  Here are a couple (won’t list them all as that could go on for-eva):

  • Meeting new people (reaching out via phone, FB, email, etc) has become second nature.  I no longer get really nervous about what to say/where to go, etc.
  • Cooking (seriously NEVER did that)
  • More for me – eating healthier (kind of goes with the cooking)
  • Most important – We spend so much more quality time together from sit-down dinners, to walks, to Sundays (since nothing is open), travel, etc.  It has really helped us connect (sure, that sounds gagg-ish, but whatevs).  We’re very thankful for this part of the experience.

By the time we left, I was definitely out of my funk – a perfect night…but oh, wait, another surprise in the Vrijdagmarkt!  Christmas decor…yes, that’s right, it’s August.  Take that Macy’s, you’ve been beat!