It’s December, a time to be with the ones we love.  I would like to remember those who can’t be with us.  I just want to let everyone know that we still have troops deployed.  It is easy to forget, however I say let’s not!  There are ways to remember those who are fighting for our freedom; light a candle and put in the window to light their way home.  Write them letters!  Soldier’s Angels currently have 547 soldiers that need adopting, check them out, a letter goes a long way to them, it lets them know they are still in our thoughts.  If you want to send them a care package, click on “package” and will put with a website with links to send a special package to troops.  Let us not forget them, this quote says it best by George S. Patton, Jr:

The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The Soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country

Take time out of your day to send a little something to those far away.  I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, both near and far!

The most wonderful time of the year!

I am talking about the Christmas Markets here in Europe.  They depending on where you go most start before Thanksgiving and they are so fun to go to!  Mulled wine, great food, adorable items and an amazing atmosphere!  This is my favorite time over here, because each city, each country has it’s own twist on things.  I have been to some in Germany which are so fun and never a bad time even when it is snowy, wet and cold.

I was so excited to venture out and see a few here in Belgium and the neighboring countries!  Yesterday I ventured into Lille, France and went to the  Marche de Noel!  It is considered one of the best Christmas Markets and I am glad I got to go.  This city is located in the region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.  And hour outside of Mons, Belgium by train and car, this city is the perfect day trip.  The Christmas market was great, when you get out of the train station, you are a minute walk from the Grand Place where you see a festive carousel and winter scenes.  Go left and you will arrive at the Place de Charles de Gaulle and the huge ferris wheel is right there!  You will know it is by the gleeful scream of the kids of the having fun.  Keep going left and you will hit the market on the Place de Rihour, to the right you will see a rather large stone memorial for fallen soldiers.  Really cool!  Mind you I went during the day, Christmas Markets in all honestly deserve to be enjoyed once the sun sets.  The lights are more prominent and christmasy, the smell of mulled spice wine is prominent and the spirit of the season is shown through and through!  Even as an adult, I delight in the magic of Christmas.  The markets are so pretty at night!  Go to one and you will see why.

Prior to enjoying the Christmas market I went to Meert!  This sweet place (pun intended) gave me the fuel I needed to enjoy the sights!  Located a 5 minute walk from the train station, this place is a must!  It has a restaurant and a tea salon.  I enjoyed a cup of Jardin blue with a slice of a chocolate tart!  Rich and delicious, the two paired well. Once I finished, I then went to the sweet shop and bought well chocolate!  They have a bevy of confections to satisfy any sweet tooth!  I came back with treats for everyone and they were happy to eat them!  It is nice place to go to for a lovely cup of tea and chocolates!  It was fun but I wish I had brought the boys.  It is out thing to try new places to eat at and it felt odd not to have them with me.  I am definitely coming here again!

Lille was the start to exploring more Christmas markets!  One of the benefits of being back in Europe, to hit the places I didn’t get to last time!  Joyeux Fete everyone!2014-11-28 13.11.53 2014-11-28 13.15.22 2014-11-28 13.15.41 2014-11-28 13.15.57 2014-11-28 13.21.50 2014-11-28 13.29.18 2014-11-28 13.34.24 2014-11-28 13.34.27 2014-11-28 13.35.58 2014-11-28 13.40.28 2014-11-28 14.06.34 2014-11-28 14.06.51 2014-11-28 14.07.29 2014-11-28 14.32.31 2014-11-28 14.39.23 2014-11-28 14.39.24 2014-11-28 14.39.50

I Amsterdam!

So the kids were on half-term break so we needed to get out of Belgium for a bit so I planned a trip to Amsterdam for an overnight.  I have been wanting to go here for a long time!  I will say, one night did not do us justice!

Amsterdam, is beautiful city in The Netherlands, this place has captured my heart.  With their quaint houses and plethora of bikes, you can’t help but fall in love!  When researching this trip, on the Google maps, everything looked far away from each other.  They do have a tram system that is so convenient, it was nice being in a town that did not have cars beside delivery trucks moving about.  This is by far the most bike friendly town I have seen!  Europe is very bike friendly, but Amsterdam is the King (no pun considering that Holland has a new King.)

Amsterdam is the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and is name that because of the Amstel River.  Also called the Venice of the north because of all its beautiful canals.  This city is the perfect walking city, take the tram to Prinsegracht and you can walk along the canal that leads to Anne Franks House, when you are done, head over to the Pancake Bakery. While you are enjoying the HUGE pancake, have a Heineken or an Amstel.  After that go to the charming Tulip Museum, where you can see how Holland became famous for its tulips and buy some to take with you.  And next door is the is the Amsterdam Cheese Museum, which isn’t a museum, it is a cheese shop but a good one with a large variety of goudas from the traditional to the interesting, this is a cute souvenir shop!

The second and last day, we went to the NEMO Science center, this place was made for kids!  5 floors of hands on science experiments.  The exhibits are in both english and in dutch, the kids and adults can spend hours in here!  Entry fee is 15 euros with the I Amsterdam card, free!!

Walking around town alone is just as nice as visiting the popular sites!  It is a relaxing city!

When visiting, get the I Amsterdam card! It is worth the money, you can get it for 24, 48 or 72 hours.  This card gets you into participating museums (like the Rijkmuseum, Van Gogh and many more!) for free!!  FREE!  With an additional 10 euros, you can ride the trams.  With this card you can also discounts at restaurants!  It is worth the money and I highly recommend it!  The tram will be your best transportation friend!  This form of public transportation made seeing Amsterdam so relaxing and for more fun!  The bikes, you can rent bikes!  I wish we had done this well!  We had to watch for bikes rather than cars, which was cool and at times dangerous, go figure.  Our hotel was small but super comfortable!  The Apple Inn Hotel is right on the a tram line and within walking distance to some really great restaurants.  The beds were great and shower was relaxing, they have breakfast which was okay.  I found the hotel through Venere and for the price it wasn’t bad.  Amsterdam for hotels is expensive, next time, I would use Airbnb.  This city is worth the visit and one that I will go back to!  In the Fall, the color of the leaves highlight the canal row houses.  I can only imagine what it would be like in the Spring.  Amsterdam is beautiful!  Check it out!

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Shopping ala Europe.

If there is one thing I have to get use to here is that I cannot go to y favorite stores to shop. Popping over to Target to get some essentials and holiday decor and then over to Old Navy to get basics for the boys is not the norm anymore. So living overseas, they have shops but not as convenient but that is where online shopping comes in. Online shopping is fun, especially when I am already familiar with the items I want to order it can be a bit dangerous! But all the more reason to save money while doing it!

Living overseas, I try and order things early. Items take longer to get here and I know that. So I plan things accordingly, with birthdays and the holidays in a few months, I want to make sure I have all that we need without stressing. Because stores here are not open on Christmas Eve, Easter, New Years and of course on Sundays, last minute shopping is not an option. That is something I really wish for the military that move to Europe, they need to know what is open on what days. So many times newcomers (not all those that I have encountered, I am talking about those who are NOT open to living overseas) get upset or overwhelmed because nothing is open. Europe take their day of rest seriously! Nothing is open on Sundays, except for the commissary and the PX, obviously, they are American establishments. New Year’s Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas and the day after Christmas, Easter and the day after, those days are closed! In the states, if you forgot something or just never got around to buying anything, you could pop over to the stores. Here, it’s not going to happen! Yes, in the States Christmas Day and Easter, a lot of places are closed.

Here in Europe, you find stores that are not in the US. H&M and Zara are in the states so I do not gravitate to them that much, but you have stores like Mango which is a Spanish company. Massimo Dutti (sp?) which is super expensive but the clothing are gorgeous!  I will say H&M, their kids clothing is affordable and fits my kids well and if they get stained, I don’t feel bad because they do not cost that much.  Shopping the local places is so much fun and and I love the local grocery stores!  I mean yeah, I love going to buy groceries and the local Carrefour, Delhaize and Colruyt (Belgium’s version of Costco or BJ’s).  I can get bottle of Veuve Cliquot far cheaper than back in the states, I do the conversion and yeah, I get a better deal.  Carrefour has a special right now, 2 jars of Nutella for roughly $6  (converted) and get a free baguette!  One jar at the Commissary, the small jar is $5.50.  I can get two, of the medium size for the same price.  Shopping here is an adventure and one that should be had!  Just because I can’t go to Target, does not mean that I can’t do the same at Decathlon (like REI).  Farmer Markets every saturday and buying bread at the bakery on saturdays has become the norm.  I love the smell of the tomatoes and the whole grain rolls!  Everything tastes better and more flavorful, it all so yummy!

Now I have become a huge online shopper while overseas and I always order from my favorite places Old Navy, J.Crew, Lands End and Amazon Prime!  I trust them and since I use Ebates, I get cash back on my purchases, win-win.  I have been able to order baby gifts for spouses within the unit, a new dog leash, books for the boys and of course clothing!  The boys have been growing so I have had to order pants, lots and lots of pants!  I trust these companies and they ship to APOs and I do not have to wait so long.  Stella and Dot also ships to APOs, so I can get my sparkle whenever I need it.  When ordering, I make sure that they ship USPS, when they ship UPS or FEDEx, it takes longer.  It does not deter me from ordering!

Just because you live overseas, shopping can still be fun and necessary if you know where to go.  It can be a fun and great learning experience.  Seeing how people in other parts of the world shop and eat, is wonderful to see.  I always carry a bag with me whenever I go grocery shopping.  The mall here, is not that big, but good when you need a fix.  It is all a part of the adventure, come along for it, you may want more of it!

Enjoying Belgium

I was suppose to put this up last Tuesday but it never happened!  I have been busy and made two new discoveries.  One of which dealt with delicious fruit! We have been having perfect fall weather and of course what do you do when it is the perfect fall weather, you go and pick apples! Within the province of Hainaut here in Belgium, my friend and I found the bevy of apple trees that needed to be picked.  In the village of Braine-le-Comte, my friend and I found this great apple farm.  With rows and rows of apples I was so ready to fill my basket!! This particular place does not have a website and deals in cash only, but totally worth the half hour drive and they are very particular as to when you can pick which type of apples, which gives you more of a reason to go back!

Empty baskets!

Empty baskets!

These are the type Karmynji, crisp and perfect for a snack!

These are the type Karmynji, crisp and perfect for a snack!

So I knew I had to do something with these apples besides eat them, I baked!  I made an apple croustade that I found in my Martha Stewart cookbook.

It is a very easy recipe and one not only I enjoyed making but so did my kid.  I am sorry the picture of the recipe is not cooperating so I will post later it later or you can find it the croustade here.  I used a pate brissee pre-made from the Carrefour which is just as good as the Pillsbury premade pie dough is.  Both are just as fantastic and work well for this recipe if you do not have a food processor (like me!) and want a great dessert.

Mmm!  Perfect!

Mmm! Perfect!

I like this flour.  A bit pricey but worth it for a great recipe.

I like this flour. A bit pricey but worth it for a great recipe.

Before it goes into the oven.

Before it goes into the oven.

Voila!

Voila!

Yum!

Yum!

So yummy!  The apples were baked perfectly!

So yummy! The apples were baked perfectly!

Belgium isn’t just beer and chocolate (which I will post later about!)  It has beautiful Autumns and the beach!  Yes, Belgium is known for their beaches, bordering the North Sea, Northern Belgium is a place to visit.  And we did just that by going to Oostende (Ostend).  This beach town in the Flemish region boasts quite a few spectacular sights besides the sandy beaches.  They have a decent aquarium, the Atlantic Wall museum which we did not have time to visit and the St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral it is not your typical beach town.  The boardwalk is wonderful walk with a view of the North Sea, this is a great place to visit on a perfect fall day.  A 90 minute drive from Mons, this day trip was much needed!  SONY DSC

Fries at a Frituur dutch for Friterie!

Fries at a Frituur dutch for Friterie!

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The local fish market

The local fish market

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St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral

SONY DSC SONY DSCBelgium has good to us and we are thankful to be here.  We are off to Amsterdam soon so be on the lookout for a post about that trip, it will be the kid-friendly trip, I know what you were thinking!!

I am officially doing a health challenge!  I am doing the Whole Life Challenge!  This will be very interesting, it costs $49 to do the challenge and right now I need something to motivate me, with all the delicious waffles and gaufres not to mention chocolates, mussels with french fries and beer, I do not want to lose what I have been working on.  They have for different three different of plans to work one 1) Performance; this is very strict and requires a lot 2) Lifestyle; this is in the middle you don’t give up too much and finally 3) Kick Start; this is what I am doing it is a little lenient but not too lenient that you aren’t successful.  You are given points for everything you do and lose points if you eat certain things based on the plan you choose.  Why did I choose this one, well I liked that you didn’t have to go ultra strict.  I live in Belgium for pete sake, I have a bakery across the street!  I want to be healthy and happy not thin and miserable.  I wanted to give myself that boost I needed to continue working on my Crossfit and get to that level of fitness that will carry on throughout my life.

 

I am up for this challenge, something about a challenge like this one  just makes me want to go for it and win it.  Is it worth the $49?  Maybe, but at least I have a goal and will work to reach it!  Check it out and see for yourself!  They have a Twitter account @wholelifeww and Whole Life Facebook Page.  Sign up!  Challenges are not always bad, they can be good things to motivate us to make us better in ways we never thought of.  We face challenges head on and take them down, which I plan to do!  Join a team or grab those close to you!  I joined a team in my hometown of Portland, Oregon Crossfit Dragonfire (that is such a cool name for a box!)  Groups help motivate each other and Crossfit is all about motivating each other and building a community.  Challenge yourself!  Join me!  Let’s face this on head on and crush it and then we move on to the next one and crush that!  Whatever challenge you are facing or might come your way, know that you can conquer and that you are not alone.  If you are looking for something like this to do, join Whole Life!  If this is not what you are looking for, find something that is more for you, maybe you want to read more or learn a new skill, do something!  For me, the word challenge can sometimes be a bad word, but not today, it will be a good, strong and fearsome word to get myself motivated.  What are YOU facing head on?  Are you up for it?

Lost my guts

I love being a Stella and Dot stylist, it is the one company that not only one I believe but one my husband believes in! There is no gimmick, no having to buy tons and tons of product (even though the “product” is super amazing!), no high pressure sales and I have no qualms about talking to my director about anything. I can truly be successful and make this business my own! That is cool and very empowering.

While in Maryland I did okay, I made some money but not a lot.  But I liked how I was doing, but it was never enough partially because I never pushed it.  There is a part of me that fears rejection, I always have that do this day I can never shake.  Today, a friend is hosting a trunk show with another friend who just signed up.  I am upset, upset that I didn’t sign my friend up and set up the trunk show.  It was a missed opportunity and I am kicking myself!  I am happy for my friends, honestly they are both perfect for Stella and Dot.  I am kicking myself for not being the one that was a part of the whole thing.  I missed out because of my fear of failure and rejection.  Self sabotage at its best!  And the fear that I am not good enough as well rears its ugly head.

I need to get out of this mindset and create my path the way I want to!  Stella and Dot is all about that and I feel like I am wasting this opportunity to create my own happiness and business.  I would not have signed on be a stylist if I didn’t believe in myself!  I believe in my ability to be successful, but I have to get over this fear of failure and rejection.  I do that with my Crossfit, just when I am lifting heavy, I am about to PR on a lift and the fear of failure hits me.  I feel defeated when I see the kind of progress I am making and to hit this wall.  Whether with my business or my fitness, I need to break through that wall and defeat the fear.

I am a strong person, I am successful, my life right now is good!  I have two healthy and happy kids, I am an Army spouse living in Belgium!  I have great people in my life who I am proud to call friends.  Why is it in other areas, I falter and can’t seem to shake the fear?  My gut, my compass is gone.  “Sometimes, when we want something so badly, we fear failure more than we fear being without that thing.” ― Matthew J. Kirby, IcefallAnd that is what I am doing!  It stops today!  Failure will not take over my life, if I missed out on an opportunity, it is my own fault!  I do hope my friends trunk show is successful, no matter what!  Stella and Dot is a sisterhood as well, we build each other up! That is another reason why this company is so great, it is about supporting each other.

I also need to get over myself!  No one is out to get me and I need to stop this doom and gloom thinking that people do not like me and if that is true, oh well!  (Sorry if this sounds the same)  With Stella and Dot and Crossfit I am breaking through the wall and overcoming my fear of failure.  My gut will be in check and I am coming out guns blazing!  Fear, you need some of it but not all the time.  For success, fear cannot come first, your happiness does.