Friday, February 21, 2014

Brown paper packages tied up with string, this is one of my favorite things!

This story begins a long time ago, well sort of a long time ago. It was January 6th and I was looking over all of the clothes Maddie and I were planning to take to Belgium. I panicked, thinking there was no way it would all fit in three 50lb suitcases. (Thank you ailine luggage restrictions for the limited amount of stuff I was able to bring). So, I packed a box full of Maddie's precious clothes that she could not fit into yet and our tennis racquets (ya know the important things in life) and headed to the post office. Who knew that a 17lb box would cost $75 to ship to Belgium. With an assurance that it would arrive in 7-10 business days, I sent it off it with the trusty US Postal system.

2 weeks later... no box. 3 weeks... no box. Panic set in and our research began. Our tracking number said it arrived in Belgium on January 13th and had cleared customs. Well it was the beginning of February and there was no sign of our box. My heart hurt as I thought of all of Maddie's darling clothes lost in some Belgian post office. So we did more research and discovered that when a package comes to Belgium the receiver (which is us) has to contact the customs authorities and give the ok for it to come into the country before it is delivered. This news gave us a small glimmer of hope, maybe the box would find it's home. 

February 20th we recieved a message that the box would be delivered the next day, but since the contents of the box were new items there was a customs charge of 147 euros! Bummer... if I knew that I would have just paid the airline charge for an extra suitcase, but at least we knew Maddie would finally get her clothes. 

Finally, 1 month and 15 days after it shipped, our package arrived. It felt like Christmas in February. And just like after Christmas our wallet felt a little bit lighter as the cost us about $275- but having Maddie's clothes (many of them being gifts from you) seemed well worth it!
The moral of this story is all of you who were planning on sending us nice and expensive gifts this year, think twice! Save your time and money!! 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chateau de Vianden- a castle on a hill

A castle on a hill? Yes, there could be a lot of those this year. Luxembourg is famous for all of the castles that were built there. Today we got to visit and tour the Chateau de Vianden. 
It sits high on a hill (as many castles do) in the small town of Vianden. Vianden is located in northern Luxembourgh on the boarder of Germany. This castle was constructed between the 11th and 14th century. In 1820, the castle was destroyed and sold piece by piece, and fell into a state of ruin. In 1977 the Duchy of Luxembourg purchased it and it was rebuilt to its former glory. 
The cute guy in pink is Maddie's knight in shining amour! 
We need one of these for when she's a teenager! 
Here is one of the estate rooms. The bed is just slightly bigger than a twin but it was meant to sleep 2 people. Fun fact- people during the midieval times slept sitting up. Only dead bodies were laid down- hence the term laid to rest. 
Someone found a sign with his name on it...
...well almost. This is the castle cellar where they would store all of their food and drinks until they were ready to serve them. Our last stop was a charming cafe for crepes, hot chocolate and ice cream.  It happened to be right next to a house where Victor Hugo spent a short time living (now it's a hotel).
It's been a very fun weekend and a great chance to explore some of the cool sites that are close by, yet off the beaten path. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Six Years and Going Strong

Happy Valentines Day everyone! The night before Valentines day we "heart attacked" our neighbors' doors. We tried to be sneaky and not let them know who did it, but I think the English gave us away! 
I'm sure they think we are crazy Americans! And here is our Valentine who makes us so happy everyday! She is the sweetest little girl!
Today is our 6 year Anniversary!! Wow I can't believe I have been married to this hunk for 6 years!
(This picture is in Dallas, not Belgium!) 

We decided for Valentine's Day and our Anniversary we would take a trip to...
LUXEMBOURG. It is a tiny country southeast of Belgium. It's just a 2 hr drive from Brussels to Luxembourg City. 
It's a 1000 year old city situated on a high promontory overlooking deep valleys created by two merging rivers. In other words... It's a beautiful old city sitting on a cliff! First stop: Place d'Armes aka "The Parlour of the City."
It is a pedestrian only area with amazing buildings. 
I just love the architecture here.
They happened to have a charming market with great sausage, cheese, and, of course, pastries. Which brings us to lunchtime...
...simple yet delicious (as you can see, tour books are our great friends here in Europe. Without them, everything just seems like old buildings- I know, we are nerds)!
This is the Chemin de la Corniche or "The Balcony of Europe". Next stop on our walking tour of the city...
...Cathedral de Notre Dame. One thing I loved about this particular cathedral was the brightly colored stain glass windows which depicted the Nativity along one wall and the Crucifixion along the other.
This is one of about 15 windows. 
The detail was incredible, and so was  the huge organ. (Sorry the iPhone camera does not do it justice.) This city had so much more to offer than I anticipated!

Finally, we had a romantic dinner at a little Thai resturant. We love Thai food and you  never seem to go wrong with it. 
You have to love Kellens green drink! It was like a green Shirley Temple, so much sugar! We finished the night eating red velvet cake, just like at our wedding, except this time it was not smashed all over my face and wedding dress.
 We also reminisced about some great times from the past 6 years. So many of those great times included the family and friends we so love and miss while we are here in Europe. We have been very blessed and it just feels like things are always getting better! This year we are especially smitten with our number one blessing- this adorable little girl! Nothing we have accomplished or have done measures up to being Maddie's mom and dad!!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Oh the Cheese

Welcome to my first Foodie Friday! As you know I love food, so on Fridays I am going to highlight some of the interesting and amazing foods that I come across each week. This week I will highlight cheese and brownies. I know, so random. Saying cheese is a big deal here is an understatement; it's a really big deal! 
This is part of the cheese selection at the market. 
I picked out this large wheel of what I thought was brie, excited to use it. But a day later I was suprised to find my fridge smelling like a stockyard. It was not brie. Lesson learned: don't select the wrong cheese.
My next time at the market I found the real Brie, and it was only 1 Euro. 
Here is our dinner from last night using our cheese selections.
(Salad- spinach, brie, apples, pears, honey chicken, pine nuts, and raspberry vinaigrette. Side dish- tomatoes, mozzarella, and balsamic... Mmmm)

Tonight we are going to some friends' house for dinner and I offered to bring a dessert. Bad idea because the ingredients here are so different I feel like I don't know how to make anything. So I went with brownies from a box! I figured box brownies were pretty hard to screw up. I got home and realized I don't own a casserole dish to cook brownies in. I opened the box and to my suprise...
... a paper pan comes with the brownie mix... Genius! Why don't they do this in the US?

Today we went  to have lunch with Kellen. 
This is the Grand Place right by Kellen's office. We stopped by there after lunch for a Belgian Waffle!!
Maddie's all bundled up to see daddy!! That's all for today. I am currently watching the Olympic Opening Cerimony. We only are able to get British channels. So I am learning all about team GB. (Great Britian). And did you know Norway is the most successful winter Olympic country.  Go team Belgium- all 7 of them!
And of course team USA!!! Wow over 200 hundred athletes. Good luck! 
I love the Olympics they are always so inspiring! #teamUSA

Monday, February 3, 2014

Saturday walk in the park

We spent all Saturday exploring our amazing neighborhood. Well, I have explored it a lot but Kellen has been so busy with work it was his first time walking around our neighborhood. Our first activity was a morning workout and it was so convient because there is a crossfit gym next door to our house! It is one of the nicer crossfit gyms I have ever seen and it was fun to try to figure out what the instructors wanted us to do as they spoke in French. Then we walked down to the park to feed the birds (actually ducks, swans, and Canadian geese... But they are most likely not Canadian so maybe they call them Belgian geese, who knows?)
The swans are HUGE and will come try to eat your fingers off as you feed them bread. 
Here we are all bundeled up at the park. Then we took the long way home to check out our street. 
Check out some of their driveways- so narrow and steep. We stoped by a store to buy European phone chargers, which I am so happy to have. We only brought over 3 converters so imagine having only 3 plugs in your house that work. Here is what our plugs look like.
I know, such an exciting picture! Then to our favorite local frites (fries) place for dinner
Fries here are served with mayonnaise or spicey mayo. We both prefer the spicy mayo! After 2 months of chaos and traveling it was so nice to have a relaxing and normal-feeling Saturday.