joyeux anniversaire | two years

Today is the two year anniversary of our arrival in Brussels.

It’s been silent on the blog front lately.  I’d like to say it is because I’ve been so incredibly busy that I’d fall in bed at the end of the day unable to keep my eyes open a minute longer – forget blogging, this girl needed sleep. And that wouldn’t be totally untrue. Life has been real busy.

It’s always a struggle to balance work and life and the last six months have been heavily weighted towards work. What time hasn’t been spent working has been spent doing what we love most – traveling. Work and travel, travel and work. Pretty much everything else has fallen by the wayside, including this blog. So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s return to our semi-regular blogging ways with a recap of what we’ve been up to this past year.

We (or me in some cases) visited 8 new countries this year. We:

  • tasted Guinness from the source in Ireland (tastes just the same to me),
  • ate pho for breakfast in Vietnam,
  • visited the night zoo in Singapore,
  • discovered the magic that is pasteis de nata in Portugal,
  • sipped black balsam in Latvia,
  • hiked in Switzerland (and battled some serious altitude sickness),
  • drank Mikkheller in Denmark and then drank some more, and
  • devoured the most delicious food in Czech Republic.

We celebrated our first Christmas in Brussels and first Christmas away from family. We decided to overcompensate by buying twice as many presents.

We rang in New Year’s with our friend Ben, a lot of Berliners, and David Hasselhoff (and we remember most of it). Those Germans love them some Hoff.

We spent a long weekend meandering along the Mosel Valley touring old castles and sipping wine.

We revisited some of our favorite spots (Paris is always a good idea).

We spent almost three weeks back in California this fall catching up with friends and family, eating two years’ worth of tacos, and watching some of our best friends tie the knot. It was amazing being back home and made us very excited about all the wonderful things that await us when we return.

Plus so much more.

We are now into Year Three. Our last and final year in Brussels. Cue panic.

One more year to travel (well, at least while living in Europe). So many places we still want to visit and not enough time to see them all. And so we’ve been working on narrowing our list down and prioritizing. Places we know we’ll come back and do in the future have been pushed farther down the list (i.e. Greece, Israel).  Places which we know we are unlikely to visit  once we leave have been pushed up the list (i.e. Romania, Slovakia). I’m trying to not stress.

One more Christmas season. Christmas is by far our favorite time of year and we love hitting up the Christmas markets. Drinking glühwein from tiny boot mugs. Eating sausages, pretzels, and all sorts of tasty treats. We’ll revisit some of our favorites and seek out some new ones (London, Dresden).

One more summer enjoying long days. I love that at the height of summer it stays light out until almost midnight – no matter how late we’ve had to work there is still “day” available to play.  It more than compensates for the short, dark days of winter.

One Oktoberfest. We’ve been trying to get some of our friends over to Europe for two years now, and (knock on wood) it looks like it’ll finally be happening. Oktoberfest will be our final hurrah before we head back to the states and an epic friends gathering.

The last two years have been nothing short of amazing. I have no doubt this last year will be the best yet.

Glühkriekwein | Glühwein with a Belgian Twist

Ah, glühwein. If you pass through a market without enjoying at least one mug of Glühwein, then you have not fully embraced the market experience – it is the drinkable essence of a German Christmas market. I don’t know what exactly it is about this magic nectar, but this spiced, warm beverage always brightens my spirits even on the worst of days.

The Belgians have taken the traditional glühwein and given it a Belgian makeover by replacing the traditional wein (wine) with kriek (cherry beer). We recently enjoyed glühkriek at the Christmas Beer Festival, and while the glühkriek on its own was a bit too sweet for us, we decided kriek could be a great addition to the traditional glühwein. And so, we will call this glühkriekwein.


1 bottle of wine (750 ml)
2 bottles of kriek beer (750 ml total) – we used Lindemans
1/4 cup sugar (50g) – or more if you like it sweeter
2 clementines
4 sticks of cinnamon
15 whole cloves

Grab a heavy bottomed pot and pour in the wine, kriek, sugar, and cinnamon sticks. Cut the clementines in half and push the whole cloves into the flesh (makes it easier to find them later). Put the heat on medium-low and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the fruit and cinnamon sticks, strain if needed. Dish into some mugs and enjoy.

Bonus points if you can find a boot-shaped mug to drink it out of.IMG_1874

joyeux anniversaire | one year

Today marks the one year anniversary of our arrival in Brussels.

We arrived here with big hopes, and even bigger plans. Brussels would be a chance to re-calibrate. It was a promise to tip the work/life balance a little bit – work a little less, live a little more. While we have haven’t perfected that balance yet, we’ve definitely enjoying discovering our weekends again.

Looking back it feels as though this year has passed in a blur. A wonderful, fantastic blur.

Over the past year, whether by plane, train, or automobile, we have had quite the adventure. In all, we visited 14 countries this year. We discovered some new favorites (hey Croatia and Iceland!) and returned to some old. Each new place has been a tick on the travel bucket list, which seems to grow exponentially faster than we can cross off. A few places found themselves in the one-and-done category, but many we have decided deserve a second or third visit.

I know it’s hard to believe based on the content of this blog so far, but we did do some other things this year aside from travel. Although, the backlog of travel to blog is intimidating.

In our unending quest to find the best Belgian beer (if that’s even possible), we have drunk liters upon liters of beer. From the sourest of sour – oh Cantillon, how we love you – to the rarest of the abbey beers, this is a quest we are in no hurry to complete.

We ate pounds of chocolate, frites, waffles, and speculoos. We now have “our favorite” places for these lovely treats. The scales can attest.

With three classes under our belts, we are officially on our way to learning French. Although a far cry from where we hoped to be at this point, we have mastered at least one important thing: how to order a beer. And really, what else do we really need to know?

After almost a year of living with an embarrassing amount of blank white walls, we finally put some paint up. One step towards making it feel less temporary and more like home.

Looking forward, Year Two will…

…find us sticking around a little closer to home. And honestly? We’re pretty excited. We are looking forward to discovering all that Brussels has to offer.  Visiting the museums and special exhibits. Spending lazy mornings in little cafés. Finally eating at all these restaurants we keep reading about.

…find us making new friends, and reconnecting with old (yo friends – please come visit us, we promise you’ll love it!).

…be the year of family. With Jared’s parents in town next week and mine making the visit in May, we are excited to introduce them to “our” Brussels.

…see us continuing to work on that travel bucket list. On the docket? In a week we’re heading to Ireland – Dublin, Belfast, and the northeast coast. I’ve got a trip planned to Vietnam and Singapore in December. Other plans have us sipping scotch in Scotland, traversing through the blue city in Morocco, seeing the beauty that is Prague, exploring the walls of Carcassonne, and following the sun down to the coast of Spain and Portugal. Oh, the places we will go.

…have us revisiting some of the places we have fallen in love with during the past year. The pull of these places is one we don’t want to resist.

Year One has been one hell of a year. Year Two – let’s do this.

Learning French

Or rather (more appropriately) NOT learning French.

We arrived in Belgium at the end of October in 2013, geared up and ready to dominate this French language thing. Much to our dismay, the school year was already a couple of months in, so our preferred French language class was closed to us until the following school year. Not ideal, but okay. We’ll use duolingo and speak with the locals to try to learn until we can start the class.

So fast forward to now. Remember the plan to duolingo? Yeah, a few false starts, but it never happened (for me at least). And talking to the locals? Ha! This is the problem with working in an English-speaking office – no one speaks French to you. And really, as if I expected to osmosis that language in…

Now that registration is open for the new school year, I went to register myself for Level 1 and guess what? IT’S COMPLETELY FULL! So I am on a list, waiting with fingers crossed, that someone will either level up because they are much more proficient than they thought or someone decides they actually hate the French language and were crazy to sign up for the class.

Wish me luck!