Tuesday, October 30, 2012


This weekend Dan and I decided to take a drive to Brussels.  We didn’t really have any plans for our day.  It is so close  (a little under an hour), so we just figured we would have lunch and check out the Grand Place and walk around a bit. 

We arrived around lunch time and we were both starving, almost hangry.  We stumbled upon Rue des Brouchers (butcher’s street).  We wanted somewhere we could sit, order a beer, and enjoy a good burger and what better place for that than butcher’s street?  During the middle ages this street was used as a meat market, hence the name. 

decent pub, really nice service and owner. 

We liked the look of the Six Nation’s Pub (a “rugby pub”), so we decided to give it a try.  I am so glad we came here.  Not only were the burgers awesome, but the service was phenomenal and everyone spoke English (it was an English pub after all).  The owner was British and we met him and his wife and new baby.  We spent a good deal of time talking baby talk, as is what happens when traveling with a baby. 

With full and happy bellies, we headed for the Grand Place or the central square of Brussels.  The Grand Place started as an open-air market in the 11th century and continued to be a market until 1959.  The Grand Place is pretty remarkable and it was actually voted as the most beautiful square in Europe in 2010. 

Maison du Roi (The king’s house), although no king ever lived here. The Dutch refer to this as Broodhuis, or bread house for the market that used to exist here.

grand place october 2012 

grand place brussels october 2012 (3)

Guildhalls- After the French obliterated the original merchant guilds’ buildings, the guilds rallied and rebuilt the ones that stand here today. Now they are all pretty much restaurants and cafes. There is quite a bit of bling on these buildings.

Grand Place Brussels Octo

Grand Place Brussels October 2012 (5)

Grand Place Brussels October 2012 (8)

The Brussels City Hall was built between 1401and 1455. It stands 315 feet high.

grand place Brussels October 2012 

As you would expect in Belgium, the skies opened up and it began to rain and hale.  In perfect timing, we spotted this familiar figure.

outside the MOOF.  Good to get out of the rain and that was about all.

We had read about this museum, the MOOF (the Museum of Original Figures) and we figured it would be a great way to get out of the rain.  And, that is pretty much all this museum was good for (that is unless you are a huge fan of Tin Tin and Belgian comics).  We were pretty disappointed in the Smurf exhibit, which is pretty much the only reason we were interested in this museum.

Smurf Village at the Moof 

At least we got to take our picture with some pretty cool guys.

Moof Goof October 2012 (2) Moof Goof October 2012

“Wow Batman, you look pretty annoyed.  Do you not like your picture taken?”

Ava was mezmorized by this guy

I am not sure who this is supposed to be, but Ava was mesmerized.

The MOOF served its purpose, we stayed dry and got out just as the rain was ended.  We finished our afternoon with a little shopping where we scored some of this.  I died and went to chocolate heaven.

Chocopolis (2) 

By the way, the chocolates made it all the way to Monday.

Dan added to his beer collection by buying Leff and Troll beer glasses and I was psyched to find one of my favorite stores.


Even though we didn’t do much, it was a great way to spend an afternoon.  We are so excited to be so close to so many great cities.  The best outings are the ones that your don’t plan for and you just go where the wind takes you.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Getting Settled In (Part 3)

This is it, the last post of house pictures (click here for part 1 or part 2).  In this post we will take a look at the upstairs.  I didn’t take any “before” shots, so this is just how it looks now. 

The Stairs

The stairs here are pretty scary, but what was really scary was the railing at the top of the stairs.  Dan fixed this by screwing in some plastic material he found.  It is much safer now and I think it looks pretty cool, too. 

stairs (3)

Notice the window next to the stairs.  That is actually French doors to nowhere.    The movers had to use that door to bring all of our furniture upstairs.  They pulled a ramp right up to the door. 


Nothing special here, but those of you who know me well know how I need a good workout space.  This room works really well.  There is plenty of room for me to workout and for my elliptical.  I love the window in here; I get a ton of light, but still have privacy.

gym (4)

Shower Room

That’s right…notice how I did not say bathroom.  That is because in Belgium it is very rare to find a house in which the toilet is in the same room as the shower or bathtub.  So, we have a huge room with a shower, tub and sink.  Then, as you can see from the picture, across the hall you will find the toilet in a room all by itself. 

shower room

Here’s the tub.  It is a decent size.  I love how it has a sprayer; it is perfect for Ava’s baths.  I HATE the red tiles BTW.  In Belgium most houses don’t have bathroom fans, so you have to open the window (which is a crazy contraption in itself) when taking a shower or the room will start to smell.


Master Bedroom

This room is HUGE; it is the entire width of the house.  It was so big that we broke it up into 3 separate areas: a sitting room, the bedroom, and a “closet”. 

Here is the sitting area.  There is a great view of the farm from those windows, so this is a great place to sit and read.  Of course I haven’t actually done that, because who actually has time to sit in a sitting area and read anyway? 

bedroom sitting area (2)

Then you have the bedroom.  Notice the “wall” behind the tall dresser.  The Army issued us a wardrobe for each family member and an additional one for the house.  We used the wardrobes to separate our bedroom from the “closet” area.  bedroom after


And here is our “closet”.  The wardrobes we were given did not provide even close to the amount of clothes storage that we needed, so we bought a few wardrobe racks and shoe racks and used those in addition to our wardrobes.  I LOVE this closet. 

closet (3)   closet (2)

Ava’s Bedroom

Ava’s bedroom needed a little TLC.  It had the most horrific light fixture and it was super dark.  We replaced the light fixture with this super fabulous light from IKEA.

ava light (2)

Since it is so hard to hang things on these walls, wall decals were a major lifesaver.  I actually ordered one more to hang above her crib, but it hasn’t arrived yet.  I also painted a cheap unfinished 3 legged table we had green.  Finally we hung some curtains and called it a day.  I am pretty happy with how her room came out.

Ava bedroom (7)

Ava bedroom (3)

 Ava bedroom (5)

 Ava bedroom (6)

I think Ava likes her room, too. 

 Avain bedroom Ava in bedroom

Guest Bedroom

Finally, here is room that you will stay in when you come to visit (that’s right, I am talking to you).  The bed is super comfy, you are right across the hall from the bathrooms, and you have a great view of the farm.  We can’t wait to have you:)

guest bedroom

I plan to use this blog to document our travels and experiences while living overseas.  I would love it if you would follow us by email. To do this, enter your email address where it says, “Follow By Email” (scroll to the top of this page).  Then, you will get an email when I update the blog. 

Getting Settled in Part Deux

In the last post (part 1) I left off showing the after photos of Ava’s playroom and the entry way.  Here are the rest of the before and afters for downstairs. 

Kitchen Before

kitchen before kitchen 2 before

Remember, we had no counter space and hardly any storage options.  We took a trip to IKEA, bought an island and a microwave cart for storage and counter space.  We also utilized our oddly placed dishwasher to increase counter space.  We also hung some blinds and put some herbs in the windows. 


kitchen after (2) kitchen after

Living Room Before

LR Before

I am not at all a fan of the stove in this room.  It would be awesome if we didn’t have a 10 month old who is ALL over the place.  But, it is also takes up a TON of space because it sticks out so far from the wall.  We didn’t really do much in this room except hang a few things on the wall and buy some plants. 


living room after (2) 

Anyone have suggestions on how I can baby proof the stove?  I don’t even want Ava touching it.  Help!  Please.

The Bathroom

This is not a before or after picture as we did nothing with this room but throw a rug on the floor.  But, I do have an interesting fact: Any house you go in in Belgium will have a bathroom right next to the front door and this is because it is custom for strangers to knock on doors to use the bathroom.  It is next to the door so the person doesn’t have to go all the way into your house.  Interesting…not so sure I am going to let a stranger use my bathroom.  Also, check out the super duper tiny sink.  I am pretty sure this is the smallest sink I have ever seen in a house and it only has cold water; pretty awesome.  Another oddity, no mirror above the sink.  Perhaps Belgians aren’t as vain as us Americans?

bathroom before

Check out part 3 of this post for upstairs pictures.  Also, leave some comments.  I would love to hear what you all think plus some tips for baby proofing this house. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Getting Settled In (part 1)

So, as most of you know, Ava and I finally joined Dan in Belgium.  We actually came over a month earlier than expected, because our stuff arrived MUCH earlier than we had anticipated.  We have been very busy unpacking, trying to decorate (more on that later), hitting up IKEA (much to Dan’s dismay) and learning our way around. 

We found a great house very close to SHAPE.  Dan is actually not working at SHAPE, but at the AFB which is still only about 15 minutes away from our house.  We live in a semi-attached house with great American neighbors right next door.  They have a daughter a few months older than Ava, so Ava has a new friend already (and so does Mommy). 

Here are a few pictures of the house from when we arrived…

The before…

DSC_1341  DSC_1337

Those stairs are a little frightening, but you should have seen the top railing.  Basically, Ava could have crawled to a very bad fall from the top landing.  Dan fixed that and I will post a picture of that in a later post.  The kitchen did not have much to offer.  The cabinets that you see are all there were.  There was about 1 square foot of useable counter space, and that is not an exaggeration. 

DSC_1336   DSC_1335

Here is the living room, Ava’s play area, and the dining area. l I wish we brought our dining room set, because it would have looked really nice in that space.  The wood stove would be awesome if we did not have a 10 month old that gets into everything!  I am trying to figure out a way to baby proof it a little more, any suggestions?


Here is Dan’s office.  We also have futon in here for overflow guests (we also have a guest bedroom:)  The only thing we really did to this room was buy a new desk and hang some blinds.  This room will still need some TLC.

For some reason, I didn’t take any “before” photos of the upstairs, but in part 2 of this post, I will show the “after” pictures for upstairs.

Here are some downstairs “after” shots. 


Here is the front entrance.  Nothing special, just a place to walk in the door:) We did find a cute coat tree from IKEA.  The lack of closets makes storage very interesting.  You definitely have to find ways to be creative.  Wait until you see what we did in our bedroom. 


Here are Bob and Manny hanging out in Ava’s play area / dining area.   Check out the incredible view we have in the backyard. 

Dan and I really wanted to paint this room (and the living room- it is all one big room) until we saw the price of paint in Belgium.  That’s right, the equivalent of about a gallon of paint costs about 55 Euro (which is about 75 US dollars).  This room is HUGE, so it would have cost us a fortune to paint someone else’s house…never mind, white will do.  Also, we had to be pretty selective about what to hang on the walls.  Many of my favorite things are boxed up in the attic.  The walls here are made up of a super thin layer of plaster with brick behind the plaster.  If you try and nail a nail thicker than a pin (literally a sewing pin) into the wall, the walls will crumble.  So, you hang light items with a pin that you nail in almost parallel to the wall.  For heavier items you have to drill through the brick.  As you can imagine, Dan was thrilled every time I asked him to hang something else up.

I mentioned the beautiful view from our back window.  Here are some shots from our backyard:


The wire you see is our back fence.  About twice a day the cows come right up to the fence.  Bob and Manny go crazy running back and forth and barking.  The cows just stare them down.  I like to take Ava out here so she can get a good look at them.  Here are a few more cow shots.

cows in the backyard (2)   cows in the backyard

In the next post, I will show some more after pictures of the rest of the house.  I will also so some pictures from our journeys so far, which is not much yet:(

Here are a few pictures that everyone REALLY wants to see…(I couldn’t blame you either). 

DSC_1463 sporty vest baby stroller time crawling DSC_1441 DSC_1442