Truth be told, I’m missing my family desperately. I totally wish I was there with them right this very second, but understand why we are apart and the value it holds. We are here in Belgium (only) three-ish years. Three big years to do big crazy things we could never do or see living in central Indiana. But yes, three big years away from so much family and friends that are as good as family.
So to compensate, I’m listing 10 things I’m thankful for right this very second. Random little bits, just off the top of my head, with as little thought involved per usual:
1. I have dedicated speakers in my kitchen (I got for my birthday) where I can plug in my computer, tune into NPR (English speaking!), and listen to American talk radio while I prep food. Since we’re somehow roundaboutly connected through a server computer thingy in Indy, my Pandora ads include Fox59 highlights, and I totally know Ray Cortopassi is still on my side.
2. Extra freezer and fridge space in the garage to supplement my bitty baby dorm-room sized European appliances in the kitchen. It’s a big deal, you guys.
3. Michael is always a willing participant to my weekend travel plans. Even though he works extremely hard all week and probably just wants to veg out on Saturday and Sunday, he’s still always (mostly) up for any adventures that get me out of the house. Last week I had him drive the family into France for a warehouse cookware sale, and this week I plan on him driving us into Germany for a Christmas market. Frohe Weihnachten!
4. My kids are not picky eater. Meaning, they’ll try anything once, and sometimes not like it at all. But they will always try it. And almost always like it. Also – food here is different, but in a mostly good way. But still, salsa and peanut butter be gone.
5. We have a working fireplace, something i haven’t had since a child and it’s a total dream to fire it up every chance we get.
6. I found the one store (gas station!) in town that sells Kraft mac n’ cheese. It’s only $4 a box (complete eyeroll). But at least we can obtain it in the event of an emergency or 5th birthday.
7. Our netflix is hooked up and in good working order (which is actually a really big deal here, it’s not common). We’re (I’m) currently binging on Gilmore Girls, House MD, Hotel Impossible and Sons of Anarchy. Whatcha else got for me, hobos? It might be a long winter and I need to be prepared….
8. Today I took Paul to the doctor. It was our first time for this sort of thing and I’m glad to finally have it under our belt. It went much more smoothly than expected, and ho-boy health care in Belgium is wildly and beautifully different compared to the approach and protocol in the US. Also, I’m not complaining. I could (and probably should) write a whole post dedicated to this experience.
9. I feel like I’ve crossed a very *small* social hurdle. Slowly but surely, I’m finding my way and getting involved in activities that don’t directly revolve around my children. Think book club, signing up for running races this Spring, Mums night out, ect. It’s nothing major, but it does add up.
10. I wake up every morning and don’t feel complete loneliness. This is not me being dramatic, this is me being real. Moving away and across the globe from everything I have ever known has been difficult. I am by no means completely assimilated, I’ve just started to feel a shift in the tide.
So I’m doing ok. Things are looking up, possibly borderline awesome.]]>
You see, I’m 100% Dutch. My husband Michael is *mostly* Dutch (percentages unknown, I’ve decided I still love him, despite my non-Dutch inherited last name, le sigh).
And a freakish amount of our friends are Dutch. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Tall as the day is loooooong. My people you know who you are.
Because if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much. Am I right?
So when my mother-in-law planned her first visit to Belgium over the kid’s fall break, I knew we needed to take the family to see the montherland for a long weekend.
We left Belgium late morning, en-route to a small dutch town called Huizen, which is only about two and a half hours from Brussels by car. I rented an old farmhouse for our group of seven through Airbnb, and it did not disappoint.
For our large family, staying in homes and apartments through Airbnb has been the only way I’ve found to travel cost-effectively through Europe. A house (and kitchen) to ourselves with a place for the kids to run? Well that beats two one-room hotel rooms (both economically and spatially) any day of the week.
You guys, this view is what used to be the stables, where they kept the horses. I think it cleaned up well, don’t you?
After we settled into our home away from home, we drove into the quaint little town of Laren and did some window shopping.
A domestic flock of deer in the middle of town? Why the heck not! (and where is my stale loaf of bread?!)
Eventually we wore ourselves hungry and exhausted, and found a great little pizza place that didn’t necessitate a reservation. It was also open at 5:30pm, which if you’ve ever been to Europe you know is like the holy grail of family dining with little kids. After dinner we drove back “home” and enjoyed an early to bed kind of night, because we had an early to rise kinda morning ahead of us.
Trial and error has taught me that the best way for my family to travel is to have one structured activity planed in the city we’re exploring, and then a few other “if we get to it, we get to it” spots to hit up depending on everybody’s mood and attention span. And since my mother-in-law loves to bikes, I booked us for a three hour tour with We Bike Amsterdam. Because when in Amsterdam…
So bright and early in the morning, we left Huizen and picked up a quick 30 minute commuter train ride into the city.
While I’ll never do it justice in this post, our short time spent with our guide Thijs (co-owner of We Bike Amsterdam) was by far the highlight of the weekend. What I loved best about his tour was that he skipped many of the major tourist attractions, but instead took us though the many backstreets of the city.
He was beyond patient with our crew (we were a group of 7, four of which were little kids, one very spry 70 year old, and oh and I hadn’t been on a bike in like 10 years), which means we became a traveling sideshow. Thijs was amazing, making many intentional stops to tell us about the history of the city, and pointing out interesting architectural features for the endless warehouses we encountered.
I honestly cannot say enough good about We Bike Amsterdam, and I cannot recommend them enough. Who wants to visit Amsterdam? I know a bike tour….
After biking, we had a picnic lunch on the back lawns of the Rijksmuseum, where there is a fantastic free playground for kids. Because after you bike for three hours, you need to blow off steam, right?
Dinner was at yet another (yes we love it, and it’s a cheap way to feed a crowd) pizza place. We dined at La Perla, and I would highly recommend it for families with kids when visiting Amsterdam. But please, take the time to call ahead to make a reservation so you’re not disappointed – it’s a small space.
The third day of our trip we only had one goal: tour the Anne Frank House. Because I knew it was somewhat of a tourist “hot spot”, I admittedly purchased tickets the minute I knew we were planning a trip to Amsterdam, about 2 months in advance.
Protip: buying tickets in advance is an absolute must, especially if you have children. The exhibit is somewhat small and contained, and you weave from room to room in a single-file line at times. If you know you want to visit the house (which I highly recommend), book tickets in advance and you’ll save yourself a few hours standing in line outside.
And it wouldn’t be an accurate review if I failed to mention that I took my 4 kids (ages 10, 7, 5 and 2) through the house. In hindsight, I wish I wouldn’t have taken the younger two through. Maybe it was because I wanted to believe that they could be well-behaved to handle it, or I didn’t really know what I was walking into. But regardless, my advice is that it’s a somber and somewhat religious experience, so gauge your children’s maturity. I personally spent a lot of time begging the boys to be quite, as to not disturb other guests.
Additionally, I would also highly recommend reading the book, as having Anne’s story and journey very fresh in my mind made it all that more real. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos to share from the house or museum, as they kindly request no photos and I obliged.
After the Anne Frank house, our crew headed to the The Pancake Bakery, a place absolutely perfect for both large parties and young kids.
What we loved here was that they totally catered to children, had attentive service, and really tasty comfort food. I would recommend calling in for a reservation, as I know the house gets packed on the weekends.
After a filling up on a traditional Dutch pancake lunch, we rolled on out onto the city streets for a few last minute souvenir shopping moments (cheese slicers and tulip bulbs!) and a bit of sight seeing as we headed back to the train station.
(Yes, he totally leaned in and fell asleep on that old lady’s arm. And yes, she loved every minute of it.)
It was a action packed, super fun weekend, and I absolutely cannot wait to come back now that I’ve gotten a better lay of the motherland.
So who’s next? Which of my Dutch friends can I show off my new pride and joy?]]>
The short answer? Really well. So well. They are thriving, making tons of friends, and getting involved in after-school activities.
But there’s always a longer answer.
So for those interested, I’ll break it down in more detail per child. Given we just moved from your average Midwest public system to a private international school in Europe, there might be some difference. Just maybe.
Our day starts around 8:10am when we walk down our long driveway en route to school. We’re extremely fortunate to live within walking distance to campus, which incidentally was the top selling point to the house (other than the windmill view from the kitchen sink).
We can be on school grounds in just a few hops skips and jumps, and I get a mile or two worth of exercise every morning thanks to the commute. Because if you’ve ever lived in Europe, you know the croissant struggle is real. And yes we have to walk passed a patisserie (aka fresh bread shop!) to get to school every morning.
Piper: Piper is a fourth grader this year, in an English speaking classroom. In Indy, she attended a school for high ability students, so she is used to the bar being set exceptionally set. As far as I can tell, she’s doing really well at the new school and loving everything. Truth: I’m not surprised at all. Our main struggle is finding her enough English written books to read, as she doesn’t love her kindle, something I can sympathies with. After school she’s learning how to play soccer and will finally start violin lessons next week, something she’s really enjoyed back home thanks to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Youth Orchestra.
Nola: Nola is in the 2nd grade, and enrolled in a dual-language classroom. This means that every Monday, Wednesday and 1/2 of Friday her day is spoken exclusively in French. Even if she goes to a “special” like PE or art, it’s all in French. Also, half her homework is in French. Needless to say, we’ve had some challenging moments at home with getting through homework and then anxiety for the coming day. I’m so very proud of her and her continued French comprehension. Nola has also been loving after school art club and has join an international chapter of Girl Scouts Brownies. She’s adorable and I can’t wait for her to start selling Thin Mints.
Gage: Gage is in a dual language pre-k program. He goes 5 days a week, from 8:30am – 3:30pm. And for someone who’s never been in school, he’s surviving. One thing I regret about our previous year in Indiana was not sending him to preschool. He basically went from being home with me full time to going to school full time. I’ll be honest here, group settings for him have been a learning experience. You can’t kick friends. Personal space is a real thing. But for someone who’s never gone to school and then the first experience the teacher is speaking a foreign language, I’m proud of him.
Me & Paul: With the big kids in school, Paul and I are hanging out just the two of us for one more year. Come next September, baby Paul will be enrolled in school just like his siblings (Europeans start em’ early), so the time right now is super sweet. We fill our days with figuring out the lay of the land, and sometimes just trying to run a few simple errands can take all day. I’ve recently started French lessons which is basically the hardest thing I’ve ever tried, but am committed to sticking with it. Soon I hope to join an American women’s club so the two of us can make friends and get involved.
Overall, we’re doing good. We are being stretched and challenged every single day in ways I would have never dreamed, and becoming incredibly flexible in the process. There are extreme highs, and there are moments of low low low.
And really, isn’t that the bones to any good adventure?
And last week, Michael and the kids had off from both school and work, which was super convenient timing because HELLO BIRTHDAY WEEKEND for Piper and me. No school, no work, another year in the books to be celebrated – yes a road trip was in order. This time, to Cologne Germany (just two and a half hours away from home).
The really cool thing about living in Belgium is that it’s so incredibly centrally located to a ton of awesome places. Paris is only three hours away, Amsterdam is three hours away in the other direction, you can get to the North Sea in under two hours, and you can drive into Germany in less than one.
We left mid-morning on Saturday, stopped for lunch on the road at Burger King, (I know, but Michael had to get it out of his system) and headed into the heart of Cologne to do some sightseeing and window shopping.
One of my favorite things to try is street food that is specific to the region we’re visiting. I immediately spied people lining up at this cart to buy little paper cones filled with some sort of snack. I needed to know what was in the cone, and at only 2 euros a piece, I sent Piper shopping.
Maronen. Also know as Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Our little cone came with about eight or so chestnuts, perfect for everyone to have a taste.
This little snack of chestnuts taught us a very valuable lesson:
1. know what you’re eating.
2. know how to eat it.
You guys, chestnuts do not taste very good if you just pop them in your mouth as-is. They need to be shelled like a proper nut (I know, whodathunk?). The first go-around, Piper and I did not shell ours – instead just popping the roasted little sucker right in our mouth. Also: gross. Also: any German watching us and our reaction probably got a pretty good laugh at our expense.
At this point the snack was lost on us, even after we figured out how to shell them properly. At least we tried and gave it a go, I guess.
Next up we walked around the beautiful Cologne Cathedral in all it’s Gothic glory. Having an interior design degree and given the amount of art history classes I took in college, it’s absolutely fascinating to finally be able to see what I had previously only read about in textbooks.
After touring the cathedral, we walked across the famous Rhine river via a beautiful footbridge (no photos here folks, I was admittedly afraid of heights and fearful for my children’s well-being, even though they were perfectly safe) and did some shopping.
The girls each picked out a small bottle of iconic 1411 cologne (because when in Cologne that’s what you do) and then we headed out to dinner. Dinner was at a super fun (and super huge, loud, inexpensive) beer hall called Frueh am Dom which serves their own house brew, Fruh Kolsch. Again, me being always up for an adventure ordered something off the “chef specialty” list called Schlachtplatte.
I’ll spare you the plate photo (I’m no food blogger) but let me just mention that my dish was a combination platter of liver dumplings, pickled pork, boiled bacon and black pudding served on a bed of sour kraut and mashed potatoes. Basically a big ole’ pile of German. Also make note: I’m now adding “learn to read German” to my ever-growing assimilation to-do list.
After dinner we found the car and headed out of the city to our rental apartment (through Airbnb, which I highly recommend, it’s the only way our family of 6 travels affordability) where we tucked the kids in and got ready for day two.
Sunday we woke up (my 36th birthday, yes I had to do the math, secretly hoping I was turning only 35) and headed to an indoor water park called Aqualand. (exactly how a 36 year old female would want to spend her special day, right?).
Watersides, whirlpools and lazy rivers. I didn’t take any interior shots, and that’s ok. We spent eight hours tiring out the kids before heading back to the apartment for a quick pizza dinner and OMG bed.
On Monday (Piper’s 10th birthday), the plan was to pack up and head to Bonn, about 25 minutes south-ish to the Haribo Factory Store.
Yes, THE GUMMY BEAR STORE.
We knew going in that they didn’t do tours of the actual factory given that it’s a food facility, but our research said the destination wasn’t to be missed regardless. Guys, I don’t even really like candy, but I have a soft (or shall I say sticky) spot for Haribo gummies.
I love them. Open a bag, finished it within the afternoon. Not sharing, hands of momma’s chewies.
We spent around 45 minutes and 30 euros at the store, walking out with an epic assortment. And yes, there’s a nice sized kids area which includes some gummy bear history and memorabilia to look at and kill a few some time (aka where I sent the family while I finished up shopping).
Clutching our bags of sweets, we headed back to Belgium by way of the autobahn (holy speed, batman!) to conclude the celebration weekend. Piper decided to forgo a traditional birthday cake and instead chose German “berliners” for her evening celebration.
Kid, it’s been a good 10 years. We had a great weekend, and I hope you always remember your 10th birthday spent in beautiful Germany. Cheers to many more crazy adventures…]]>
I just needed a break I guess. Time to process and reflect the move on my own terms.
But well, here we are in Belgium, which is really far away from Indiana I’m realizing. And I know you’re dying to find out how the past three months have been for our family, right?
Well, they’ve been great in a “this will make us stronger, we’ll look back at this and laugh someday, mama said there’d be days like this” sort of way.
We’re together, we’re healthy (although Gage is home from school sick with a mild fever today), and we’re doing our best each and every day to create a new normal – which is finally starting to happen slowly and surely. We’re finding our way doing normal everyday stuff like dentist appointments, soccer practices, pet sitting the neighbor’s dog and spending an inordinate amount of time translating food labels from French (or Dutch, or German) to English.
I want to share a thousand beautiful moments we’ve spent here already, and maybe tell of a few hard and challenging times as well. Good thing I have a blog and know (finally, again) how to use it.
Hopefully someday soon these stories will start to trickle out onto the blog, but for now here’s a few moments from the highlight reel (also known as my Instagram feed):
1. Taking the kids downtown Brussels to see the bi-annual Flower Carpet installed in the Grand Place. It’s a beautiful sight to behold, and I’m glad we caught it in all it’s botanical glory.
2. Finally starting school, which proved to be the first step to creating a much needed routine! Piper, Nola and even Gage started school at the end of August, and it was just what we all needed after the most hectic summer of our lives. One of the main selling points of the house we found was it’s proximity to campus. We’re walkers, which makes me very happy (except when it’s raining, which happens far too much) not to have to get in the car twice a day for pick-up and drop-off.
3. Our first visitor arrives! In somewhat of an awesome whim, my youngest sister Betsy decided to visit towards the end of August. We packed in a ton of sightseeing, beer drinking and chocolate eating into her stay, including weekend trips to Amsterdam and Paris.
1. Paris, oh Paris. Michael and I both said before we even moved here that our first stop would be to show the kids Paris and of course the Eiffel Tower. Needless to say when we finally made it, Paris did not disappoint.
2. Our second visitor arrives, Nana! Over the kids fall break, Michael’s mom braved her first ever transcontinental (and alone too!) flight to spend a few weeks hanging out with us. We stayed extremely busy, with quick trips to Ghent, Bruge, Knokke (all in Belgium), Paris and Amsterdam.
3. Finding that perfect breakfast coffee shop in town. Europeans LOVE their coffee and pastries, and while Nana was here we shopped around, trying out a few cafes.
1. The Sunday morning routine. Many friends and family have asked if we’ve found a church to attend here in Brussels. The short and uncomplicated answer? Nope, not yet. So while we sort through that situation, we’re enjoying a Sunday routine that includes visiting our town’s weekly farmers market and flea market.
2. Celebrating. A hard parts of moving here is knowing not all the holidays we celebrate back in the USA are celebrated here in Europe. Thankfully, even though Halloween isn’t a Belgian holiday, our neighborhood hosted a trick-or-treat night on October 23rd, the night before fall break started.
3. Opening up our home. It’s no secret that while I’m not the best in the kitchen, I absolutely love cooking for others and having a full table of friends and family brings me great joy. Admittedly, meeting people and making friends has been very slow going (speaking for my introverted self, the kids are doing great and very social). But last week we had our first ever guests over for dinner.
Ok, so now that I’ve given a small update as to what we’ve been doing and got that awkward “oh hey I haven’t blogged in three months but made a major life change” post out of the way, I’m opening it up to you guys. Anything you’re dying to know about our life here?
Don’t make me follow this post up with an embarrassing story about me learning how to drive around here – I have too many (with varying degrees of public and private humiliation) to pick from.]]>
We’re starting small with a few day very manageable day-trips. Fortunately for us, living in Brussels means that there is SO VERY MUCH to see and do within an hour or two car drive. So saturday morning, we headed to Ghent, Belgium – just an hour and a half from home.
A few things worth noting. This was our very first “adventure”, and I learned a lot about family travel in Europe in just one attempt.
1. Just because it’s sunny at home when you leave does not mean it will be sunny and warm at your destination. We worn shorts, t-shirts, ect. heck, I packed sunscreen. The reality was that it was cold and rainy the whole day, even though we were just 90 minutes up the road. Next time we all leave the home with sweatshirts and rain jackets, at least packed away in the car. Oh, and an umbrella or two would have been nice.
2. Have a plan that includes where to park. Sure, I planned what we were going to do, and where we were going to eat, but knowing where to park trumps everything else on the agenda. Learned that one the hard way.
3. Take enough cash. Unlike the US, where you can plop down your credit card for almost everything, that’s not the case here in Europe. More than a few times we’ve tried to pay with our card, only to be told they take cash only. Michael learned this the hard (and embarrassing way) a few weeks back…
Ok, on with the day.
Like I mentioned above, we dressed ourselves and our four children totally inappropriately for the day. Michael and I had hoodies (which we rotated through the kids), but everyone else was dressed as if they still lived in hot and sweaty Indiana. The plan was to visit Gravensteen, a medieval castle located right in the center of the city – but with the tourist crowds and the cruddy weather, we decided to skip it and just seek shelter instead. Moving on was probably a good choice, although I know Gage would have really gotten a kick out of the tour, given his current fascination with swords and anything medieval (emphases on the “evil”).
Seeking lunch felt like the perfect next step. And since eating in Europe with six people is almost always a budget-bender, we headed to a place called Pizza Gulhan, known for not only their affordability but quality as well. You guys, best idea ever. Perfect for kids, amazing food, and our family of six walked out of the place completely full for only 25 euros. And yes, we even had a couple drinks.
Soft eggs on your pie? Go for it, you won’t be sad. At the end of the meal, the kids were treated to Turkish Delight (with mixed reviews, Paul scarfed it up), and Michael and I enjoyed complimentary after-dinner drinks of some unidentifiable orange dessert liqueur. Whatever it was, gimme moar.
(holding it up like it’s the freakin’ Lion King or something)
Since it was (still!) raining, after lunch, we decided to call it a short day and head back to the car by way of Ghent’s famous graffiti alley, Werregarenstraat. The kids were impressed, and maybe a little bit inspired too.
Overall, it was a bummer that it rained on our fist attempt at European travel, but we still had a blast. We will be back, probably sooner than later, and hopefully the sun (or at least dry weather) will be on our side.]]>
But who am I kidding – like a reoccurring itch you just can’t scratch, I’m back. First things first – WE MADE IT TO BELGIUM about a week and a half ago.
The kids (and cats) did amazing on their first ever flight which just happened to be transatlantic. I had a lot of anxiety over the logistics – to say we had a lot of spinning plates in the air would have been a gross understatement. Because when 2 adults are responsible for getting 4 kids, 2 cats, 11 pieces of checked luggage, 6 backpacks, 4 car seats from one end of the globe to the other, what could go wrong?
Nothing. Nothing went wrong and I’m not even kidding – the almost 24 hours of travel went as well as could be expected. The next week or so we spent staying in a small hotel apartment in the heart of our new town, getting ready to move in and set up shop and making good on our promise of waffles and chocolate.
Our sea shipment (think semi-truck) filled with our very important personal crap (which I packed 1000% too much of) arrived this past Tuesday, and after all this time living like nomads, it was time to move in.
Welcome home, baby Paul. May this be the first house you will probably remember.
It took a crew of six men 4 days to move us out of our home in Indianapolis, and a crew of 4 Polish student-manboys a full working day to unpack us into our new place. And by move in, I mean they brought everything into the house, took the bubble wrap off the big stuff and ran a box cutter over the boxes, for us to unload at our leisure.
But we’re getting set up and trying to make this new place feel like us. Today, I did my first couple loads of laundry (which was challenging, considering I don’t understand French and am apparently not as intuitive as I thought) and even drove for the first time ever here in Europe to get groceries for the week and it only took me two hours in the store. You guys, I meal planned – which is a huge step in the right domestic direction. And last night we pilgrimaged to the Holy Grail of shopping, to IKEA, because our feelings felt like occasional lighting fixtures and Swedish Meatballs.
That being said, even though we have literal piles and piles of chores to do, I’m not in a hurry. I figure the kids go to school in a few weeks, and then it will just be baby Paul and I every day, so organizational details can wait. First up is working on culture shock with things like chocolate croissants and glasses of cheap French wine.
Lazy morning and warm afternoons are taking priority.
(front yard view from second story window)
(dining/living area, one day post-bubble wrap)
I hope everyone had an absolutely awesome summer, I really can’t believe how it’s basically over already. When we were kids, didn’t it last forever?
While we waited for our things to arrive here in Belgium, we spent a few weeks doing crazy things like white water rafting – horseback riding – mountain peak summiting in Colorado with our cousins, cottaging on the lake in West Michigan, and long days hanging out at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Maybe someday I’ll blog about those pre-Belgium days. Because they were blog-worthy in their own right.
Guys, thanks for checking in and following along as our family transitions. Hopefully in these next few weeks and months we can find a rhythm that makes sense. I’m excited to share the good, the bad, the embarrassing and hopefully the downright ridiculous side of expat living.
Tomorrow we’re headed as a family to Ghent, Belgium on our first ever daytrip. Wish us luck and follow along for some real-time micro-blogging over on Instagram. Cheers!]]>
Potential pros: A vacation home with a view, that *anyone* in the family is free to use. An aunt that’s a really good criminal defense lawyer, because boo-boos happen. A cousin that’s a well-renowned chef, who also loves to invite family over to test out new recipes. Or maybe sisters who’s a fantastic hair stylist, and offers free highlights over her kitchen sink on the weekends.
My new brother-in-law Matt? He brought his mama’s chip dip. And if you think that’s insignificant – well you’ve never tried this dip.
Mama C to the left, soon-to-be new mama-in-law (my mama!) to the right.
You guys, it’s the stuff you want to bath yourself in. The snack you want to make a triple batch of, not to share with friends or anything, but more like so you can sit on your sofa and eat it alone when nobody is looking.
Over the past year, I’ve made an embarrassing amount of this crave-worthy concoction. Parties, get-togethers, ding-dong ditching on pregnant friends doorsteps, you name it. And since Mama C doesn’t have a blog, I’ve been given permission to do the world a favor and share the magic (with a few personal culinary tweaks).
I present to you:
*I grate my onion on this microplane. It gives the onion the perfect “pulp” texture.
* If onion flavor is too strong, add a bit more salt.
Serve with your favorite potato chip or just shove it in your face with a spoon. This is a safe place, no judging.]]>
Last weekend, my baby sister Betsy got married at my parents house on possibly the most gorgeous day West Michigan could have offered up. In fact, I think Tim Allen is voicing himself into a wedding version of a Pure Michigan ad right now, featuring Betsy and Matt’s day.
They got married on my parents property, specifically in front of the neighbor’s amazing old barn. A place I remember playing in and around my entire childhood. Never in a million years could I imagine it could clean up as well as it did.
All four of the kids were involve-ish.
At the last minute baby Paul refused to walk down the isle, flopping on the grass like a angry drunk.
Gage the “rain barrel” ring-bearer also refused to walk, until 30 seconds before his turn (as in, most bridesmaids were already on the move towards the barn) when he got the bright idea to blackmail me hardcore like the criminal he’s turning into.
Him: Mommy I’ll only do it if I can have a Sprite.
Me (panicking): sure buddy, you can have a Sprite. Just smile real big and hold the little pillow in front of you with both hands.
Him: Mommy I want two Sprites, one for each hand. I’ll only walk for two Sprites.
Me: YOU CAN HAVE TWO SPRITES, LET’S JUST DO THIS NOW WITHOUT INCIDENT.
Him: Mommy I want alllllllllll the Sprites. Every single one of them.
Me: (starting to get really pissed at this point): FINE YOU LITTLE TURD! YOU GET ALL THE SPRITES. JUST GOOOOOO.
Later that night, my sister-in-law Susan, who bless her heart for helping with the kids that evening, mentioned she found countless half empty Sprite bottles throughout her minivan.
Piper and Nola were involved too, reading a short little poem. Listening to Nola’s little high voice speak these simple and true words *might* have made water come out of my eyes, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys
They’re just beside you.
But it’s you I like
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself
It’s you I like.
~Written by Fred Rogers, 1971
The day wrapped up with a cocktail reception in the barn – complete with a 3-piece folk band, a trolly ride to the bride and grooms (and my) favorite brewery, a few more toasts that made me cry again (thanks Jenna), dinner and dancing over looking the beautiful city of Grand Rapids, and an unexpected selfie with my favorite Spartan.
You know it’s going to be a good night of dancing, when the party kicks of with the MSU fight song…
Betsy, I gotta come clean here. The first time I met Matt, I was guarded and unsure about him. He smiled so much. He was beyond sweet to you, and even helped mom get dinner on the table. He played with my kids like he actually wanted to spend time with them.
Who was this guy? Was he for real? Did he really want to spend his rare Saturday nights off work eating takeout pizza with our family?
I found out quickly he was for real. He really was that nice, that kind, that loving and considerate. Matt is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, and you really did hit the jackpot – not that I’m surprised.
You guys deserve each other, poor fashion sense and all. I mean, look at his sunglasses.
Congrats hobos, I’m beyond excited for the two of you!]]>
Personally, an existence without the internet is not existence I want to lead, so figuring out how to get mama connected back up with the people that live in her fun box better be top priority.
Also, I love blogging. So yes, in time this place will again become alive.
This month marks the last month our family will be spending in Indianapolis for a very long time, as the movers have officially been scheduled to arrive in just over two week. After we tape up that final box, we’ll be spending some family time road-tripping out to Colorado for a much needed extended family adventure (think horseback riding, rock climbing, white water rafting), then the kids and I will drive up to Michigan for a few weeks of sandy lake side fun, before we fly out for good-good.
It’s all happening so fast. Way too fast. I swear just yesterday this international relocation was ages away. But here we are…
My friend Angie Six is one of my favorite people both in real life and online, and she does this thing where she rounds-up her favorite instagram snapshots from the previous month into a compilation post. Today, I’m shamelessly stealing her idea, since she’s on a plane to Spain anyway, she can’t stop me.
So until I have more time to tell you how I feel and what’s going on, enjoy the insta-update.
1. My youngest sister Betsy got married last weekend. It was an absolute stunning day, and I’m not at all done talking about this one. Post of it’s own to follow later this week, promise-maybe.
2. Ok, just one thing about the wedding. It was at my parents house. You guys, THIS BARN.
3. DIY, FTW. A funny thing happens when you clean out the attic. You find things you totally forgot you had, because you have a *tiny* problem with hoarding. From trash to treasure, Michael and him mom worked hard all Labor Day weekend restoring this 1952 mid-century folding table to it’s former glory. Next stop? The Belgian Breakfast Nook.
4. Orange is the new, um, Black. That’s right folks. I’m almost as obsessed with this huge file cabinet as I am with that show. This tank with awesome original orange and yellow fold-up drawers will house many of the kids toys at the new place. If you’re local to Indy and love awesome old-ish junk, I suggest you check out my friend The Inventorialist. He finds (and sells at the best prices) all the good stuff…
5. The Dog. No, the dog is not moving to Belgium with us. And no, I’m still not talking about it. He hit a *wee* bump in the road health-wise last month, but I think we’ve gotten it under control and he’s prepped to be on his best behavior for his new family.
6. No, YOU need a Knot Genie for that head of hair. Admittedly, I don’t love the zoo. I mean, I’ll go because my kids love it, but seeing animals living behind plates of bullet-proof glass really isn’t my jam. But (BUT!) the Indianapolis zoo recently opened a new exhibit, and it’s possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I give you permission to skip every thing else (especially the reptile house) and go straight to the Orangutan Center and camp out with a lounge chair and some drinks. Orangutans are my new favorite. In fact, I just might trade baby Paul for a hairy baby, if that hairy baby comes potty trained (also another post for another day).
7. Twelve years. This past month marked the 12th year Michael and I have been married. We spent it hanging out in the backyard, working on projects (see #3), drinking cheap beer while lounging in the backyard kiddie pool. It’s honestly everything I dreamed it would be. No, it actually is.
8. A new path. This spring a new and much needed running/bike trail opened up in our little urban neighborhood. I would love to say I’m taking advantage of it everyday, but alas finding a time to run since the half marathon (also something I want to blog about soon, YOU GUYS I RAN THE WHOLE THING) has been hard lately.
9. The Grand Finale. We’re at that place where we’re experiencing a lot of “lasts”. Last weekly community dinner, last day of school, last day of orchestra, last book club, LAST LAST LAST OF EVERYTHING. Piper finished out her orchestra experience with her dad on stage with her (look back row, he’s the first adult to the left standing up playing his bass) jamming out to Duke Ellington. Dang, I’m going to miss these little musical kids.
So yeah, that’s us in an instant. Go ahead and follow me on Instagram (I’m “designhermomma”), because this blog is totally shoddy at best lately.