The Great Summer Spectacular BBQ

Back in the beginning of July, my mom hosted a big party at the cottage. The party was to celebrate three things: my nephew Ashe’s 3rd birthday, Khloë’s 7 month milestone, and my brother Mark’s visit from Newfoundland.


Sailboat dream

Jordan, Khloë, and I spent a couple extra days before the party hanging out at the cottage. We slept in the guest cottage–the first time I’d slept in there in about five years!–and enjoyed the beautiful weather and laid-back atmosphere. The party came about three weeks after Khloë’s heart-wrenching diagnosis, so it was wonderful to get away for a mini-vacation.


Happy 3rd Birthday, Ashe!

Happy 3rd Birthday, Ashe!

Mommy loves her girl

Birthday photo shoot

All our friends and family came out on July 5th to celebrate with us! There was plenty of great food and of course lots of baked goodies courtesy of me. 😉 I even made Khloë a special chocolate pudding, which I think she enjoyed.


Party decor

Sweet treats

Sign your name!

Princess cupcakes

Princess cupcakes


Keesje and I used last year’s “Thomas the Tank Engine” decorations and added in some Disney Princess bits n’ pieces for a girly touch! There were lots of outdoor toys for the kids, including a water table. Plus swimming and paddle-boating!


Lukas & Crystal

Baseball boy

Food time

Water table

Sisters

Smiley summer girl

Chillin' in the pool

What a great party! I am so happy that everyone had a great time. Let’s do it again next summer!

A whole lot of playing “catch up”

After two weeks of living in our new house, Jordan was sent away on an exercise in the U.S. until the first week of March and I was left on my own. I don’t know anybody here, which made it kind of lonely. I ended up going back to Kingston for four days, staying at my mom’s house and visiting my family and old co-workers. I was really missing my nephew Ashe, so it was great to get to spend so much time with him. He’s such a happy child!


Playing iPhone games with my buddy!

Playing iPhone games with my buddy!


I’ve noticed that it seems to snow every day here, even if it only lasts a few minutes. The snow is also heavier and sticks to the ground much longer than I’ve seen in Kingston. I hate shoveling. Now that it’s April, the snow is finally melting.

When my darling husband returned, he used up the rest of his leave and ended up with the majority of March off work. We spent a weekend in Kingston staying with friends and I got to visit with Ashe again (in the above photo). Little monkey was 20 months old in that picture, and as of yesterday he’s now 21 months. He’ll be two this July, which is insane!


Ashe @ 20 months old

Ashe @ 20 months old


My mom came up for the second last weekend of March. We painted the master bedroom:


Before

Before

After

After


I am SO excited about moving our furniture into that room. I’ve always wanted a purple room and Jordan said he didn’t care what colour our bedroom was. 🙂 While my mom was here we did lots of cooking and baking. She showed me how to make mushroom risotto. OMG, delicious! I am not a fan of rice, and her risotto was like eating dessert. We also used my Kitchen Aid mixer for the first time (she wants to buy one) and made caramel sticky rolls from scratch and applesauce muffins.

We also spent Easter weekend in Ottawa at his sister and brother-in-law’s. Our niece, Zoë, is just over a year old now. She’s still shy and takes awhile to warm up to us. She’s pretty cute. We didn’t do anything fancy, just hung around the house or went shopping, and had Easter breakfast at their church on Sunday morning, which I think we did last year as well. On the drive home, we detoured through Fort-Coulonge because Jordan wanted to see the red covered bridge:


Standing with the covered bridge in Fort-Coulonge, Quebec.

Standing with the covered bridge in Fort-Coulonge, Quebec.

Snapshot while driving through the covered bridge (iPhone).

Snapshot while driving through the covered bridge (iPhone).


Received a chocolate package from the Attewell’s in Germany:


Chocolate stash from Germany (iPhone).

Chocolate stash from Germany (iPhone).


I’ve begun learning how to use my Canon 60D camera on Manual mode. With the help of this book:


Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson


It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m now taking the time to teach myself. Doesn’t seem as difficult as I expected, but I’ve still got lots to learn. My camera came with a Canon 18-200mm IS lens and I have been saving up to purchase the Sigma 17-70mm OS lens. One more week and I should be able to buy it. I’m really excited! Not only for a new lens, but for Walt Disney World!

That’s right, we are going to the World where dreams do come true! We are booked into POP Century, a value resort, for 8 nights/9 days in October. We are planning to drive and will also spend a night and full day in Washington, D.C. I’m a little obsessed with Disney World right now. I’ve done so much research and planning already. I even have an itinerary done up in Excel. Okay, I’m crazy. But anyway, I’m going to master Manual mode on my camera and take amazing photos on our vacation, I just know it! 😉

Germany – Part III

***Continued from previous post.

{November 9 – 12:00 pm – Berlin}
On the ICE direct train to Nuremberg. (Cost: €194) The trains are so expensive! It should take about five hours to reach our destination. This morning we were up at 8:30 am (why, on our last day in Berlin, were we able to get up?!) to start packing our things. By 10:30 am we had checked out and walked down to catch the M5 tram to the stop just after Alexanderplatz. Hopped on the S-bahn to Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Bought our tickets for the 11:52 am train to Nuremberg (Nürnberg). Grabbed some sandwiches to bring with us for lunch (discount with Welcome Cards).

{November 9 – 7:15 pm – Nuremberg}
Here we are in Nuremberg! The streets are cobbled and the architecture is beautiful. At the Nuremberg Hauptbahnhof, we waited in line at the DB kiosk so that we could ask directions to our hotel, the Sorat Agneshof, and purchased bus tickets. Before leaving the station we found a grocery store and bought a few snacks. We absolutely love these refrigerated Kinder snacks:


Kinder treats (iPhone)

From the train station we hopped onto a local U-bahn train. After going a couple stops, we realized that we were heading in the wrong direction! I find the underground railway so confusing to use. We quickly got off and went to the other side of the platform and caught the proper train to Rathenauplatz. Then we transferred to bus #36 and got off at the Rathaus stop. From there we proceeded to get lost in the dark! We didn’t have a map with us and kind of wandered around, going up and down the cobbled, hilly streets dragging our suitcases until we ended up sitting on a bench in what turned out to be Albrecht Dürer Square. I stayed put, munching on a chocolate pastry and guarding our suitcases, while Jordan went in search of our hotel. Less than 10 minutes later he reappeared and told me that we had walked by the street earlier. Figures! Checked into our hotel. The room is small but it was cheap so no complaints! There is a bed, a television, and a good-sized bathroom, which is all we need.


Jordan & I heading to Nuremberg

{November 9 – 10:20 pm – Nuremberg}
After checking into our room on the second floor, we freshened up and went in search of dinner. The gentleman at reception gave us a few restaurant suggestions. More wandering around in the dark took us back to the square and past the castle, until finally we ended up at “Albrecht-Dürer-Stube”. This restaurant is just around the corner from the hotel and came highly recommended. Everyone sits around communal tables and the atmosphere is very warm and friendly. I ordered the pork shoulder with dumpling and red cabbage, while Jordan had the venison stew. (Cost: €25) We are getting low on cash, better find an ATM soon.


Room (Sorat Agneshof) Bathroom (Sorat Agneshof) Pork shoulder with dumpling and red cabbage

{November 10 – 6:25 pm – Nuremberg}
After being out all day (what else is new?!), we are having dinner at “Karl’s Brückla”, a restaurant we found randomly.

This morning we ate breakfast at the hotel to save ourselves some time. (Cost: €14) We got a map from reception and pinpointed where the nearest Deutsche Bank ATM is. Walked over to the Hauptmarkt (main square) and found the tourist info kiosk. Purchased a special group day pass for €8 which we will more than make up for just by taking the bus to and from the Documentation Centre. Looked around the square for a little while; all sorts of tables were set up with fresh produce, cheeses, lebkuchen, etc.


Agnes Sorathof Nuremberg Hauptmarkt Nuremberg

Walked to the Deutsche Bank and withdrew €250. And then returned to the Hauptmarkt to catch bus #36 to the Doku-Zentrum stop. Our plan for the day is to spend some time at the Documentation Centre & Former Nazi Party Rally Grounds. Admission with audioguide to the Documentation Centre is €10 per person. We spent over an hour in there, touring through the exhibits. Although it was very interesting, we got so hot and bored with listening to the audioguide that we ended up hurrying through the last few sections. Most of the information we had already read about in other museums. At the end of the tour we stepped outside to view the inside of the Congress Hall. We handed in the audioguides then went outside for some fresh, but chilly, air and ended up walking around the Congress Hall to take some pictures. Jordan really wanted to see Zeppelin Field so we asked directions inside the Centre, then set out walking again in the drizzle. It is about a 10 minute walk from the Centre. I’m glad we went because it was neat to see. The steps are crumbling and it’s “climb at your own risk” and the immense field is now a stadium.


Strange sculpture On the bus Documentation Centre Congress Hall View of Congress Hall across the water Pausing in the rain for a photo

Caught bus #36 back to the Hauptmarkt. Looked around at a few shops. I bought a keychain for Lori. Walked around for what felt like eternity before finding a place to eat dinner. I ordered the pork cutlets stuffed with ham and cheese (also came with salad and fries) and a delicious hot chocolate; Jordan ordered pork topped with a fried egg (with potato wedges, salad, and 2 beers). (Cost: €27) I couldn’t finish my amazing meal because the cutlets were huge!


Press this button for Breakfast

{November 10 – 10:30 pm – Nuremberg}
After that filling meal we hopped on the U-bahn at Lorenzkirche and journeyed to the train station. Purchased our expensive tickets for tomorrow’s ride to Geilenkirchen. (Cost: €230) Also got a couple snacks then returned to the hotel for the night. Too bad we couldn’t stay here longer because we didn’t get to see very much!


Zeppelin Field Hitler's platform Pork cutlets stuffed with ham and cheese Amazing hot chocolate from "Karl's Bruekla" Warming my hands

{November 11 – 1:25 pm – Somewhere between Wurzberg and Frankfurt}
On the noon ICE train to Frankfurt. Once there we change to another ICE heading to Aachen. From Aachen we will end up in Geilenkirchen where Tammy & Tyler will pick us up. We ate breakfast at the hotel again, then took the bus and U-bahn to get to Nuremberg Hauptbahnhof. We should be in Geilenkirchen by 5:00 pm.

{November 11 – 3:00 pm – Montabaur}
We barely made our connection in Frankfurt. Once we boarded and found our seats there was announcement stating that the train would be delayed 6 minutes. I hope that doesn’t mess up our connection in Aachen. Ate our chocolate cookies for snack.

{November 11 – 6:00 pm – Tüddern}
Made our train in Aachen. Tammy & Tyler were waiting for us in Geilenkirchen, with their dog Doug. Now we are just settling in.

{November 12 – 6:45 pm – Tüddern}
Yesterday we had veggies & dip, various cheeses, herbed crackers, and sliced sausages for a snack at Tammy & Tyler’s home. Later, Tammy made chicken kebabs, rice, and white asparagus for dinner. We sat around eating and watching “Top Gear” on Netflix for the rest of the night.


Trier, Germany

Funky statue (Trier) Porta Nigra Trier's Church of Our Lady

Thermal bath ruins

Today we drove for 2 hours to Trier and walked around the town centre. We bought “cone fries” (aka fries in a cone of paper that we fell in love with in Austria two years ago) and “pizza in a pocket”. Bought a couple postcards to add to my collection. Took some photos of the Church of Our Lady, Porta Nigra (near the tourist information building), and the thermal bath ruins. Beautiful day to be out! I should note that I finally had to pay for use of a toilet today. When you gotta pee, you gotta pee!

{November 13 – 2:40 pm – Tüddern}
Tammy had to work today so Tyler, Jordan, and I drove out to Aachen. We wandered around the area near the cathedral. There are tons of bakeries selling printen (Aachen’s version of lebkuchen). I bought a bag of miniature printen pieces covered in chocolate. The christmas displays in the bakeries are beautiful to look at. Jordan bought a cherry danish for a snack. We found a Starbucks and I had to go in to try the lebkuchen latte; it tastes like a light gingerbread with a lot of cinnamon. Jordan ordered a caramel macchiato and we enjoyed our beverages sitting on a bench by the cathedral.


Enjoying a danish in Aachen Aachener printen Aachen Cathedral

Our main reason for coming to Aachen was to visit the Lindt chocolate factory. Jordan asked for directions in the Starbucks and the girl gave him a free map with the route drawn on. We walked over to the factory, when we probably should have drove. Luckily it wasn’t raining and we all seemed to have plenty of energy thanks to our coffees. When we got near the factory we noticed a huge sign saying “Lindt Chocolate Factory” but neither of us noticed the huge arrow pointing to the left. Instead we kept walking straight and ended up having to walk around the entire perimeter of the factory to find the entrance. Oops! No photos allowed inside the factory and it’s cash or debit only. I went a little crazy seeing all the beautiful chocolate for sale but knowing we could only pay cash, I tried to limit myself. I ended up spending €34 on chocolate! It could have been worse….


Drinking a lebkuchen latte Jordan's caramel macchiato Lindt chocolate factory

Posing in Aachen

We got back to the truck by 1:30 pm just as our parking was about to expire. On the way back to Tüddern we stopped at a gas station in The Netherlands and bought some sparkling Lipton iced tea! Reunited at last with my favourite iced tea. And then the realization kicks in: Oh no, tomorrow we leave!


Sparkling iced tea (iPhone)

{November 14 – 5:30 pm – In the Air}
We’ve been in the air since 2:00 pm. Time to play catch-up.

Didn’t do much yesterday after returning from Aachen. Watched the boys play Forza Horizons on Tyler’s XBox 360. Once Tammy came home from work she heated up some cheesy tortellini for dinner. And of course we snacked on more bread, crackers, and cheese. We talked the boys into turning off their game and instead watched more “Top Gear” episodes that cracked us up. By 10:30 pm we had our things packed and were in bed. I can’t believe how much cramming I had to do to get all that chocolate to fit in my suitcase.


Leaving Germany Plane food A fighter jet outside my window

Tyler came home from work early and drove us to the Köln-Bonn Flughafen. Took about 1.5 hours. He dropped us off at Crew Gate Alpha. After getting the attention of some military personnel on the other side of a glass door, we were let inside and passed through security quickly. We waited outside for what seemed like ages before a bus showed up to bring us to the plane. Sat on the bus with four other people, also for ages, before being allowed to board the plane.

***End of journal.


Welcome home!

The food served on these military flights is so much better than other flights I’ve been on. Each time the stewardess came by, she would give me cookies! The flight home was fine. Jordan and I sat at the front for the first leg of the journey, which gave us lots of leg room. Once we entered Canadian airspace, two fighter jets came up along side the plane and welcomed the soldiers returning from Afghanistan. That was pretty cool!

My chocolate stash and souvenirs:


Kinder and Milka Lindt chocolate bags Yummy Lindt treats

More Lindt chocolate bars

Postcards Magnets

Europe – Part IV

***Continued from previous post.

{October 14 – 12:00 pm – Munich Airport}
Got up extra early this morning to shower and we were down in the lobby to check out by 7 am. Jordan grabbed a croissant to go and we walked to the bus stop for the #2 heading toward the train station. Once there we boarded the train to Munich OST at 7:51 am. At Munich OST station (which we almost missed), we transferred to the S-Bahn #8 that goes directly to the airport. Checked in with Lufthansa and passed through security. At 11 am we sat down for lunch in the airport. For 21€ we had water, mango juice, cheese and ham on toast (for me), and eggs with ham and croissant (for Jordan). We have a half hour before we need to be at our gate to board the plane to Brussels, Belgium!



{October 14 – 3:25 pm – Brussels, Belgium}
Short flight from Munich to Brussels on a little plane. We were confused where to go for baggage claim; once we finally made it, our bags were just coming out so it was perfect timing. Bought our train tickets for 16.20€ each – this is a train to Brussels North station and then a transfer to another train heading to Bruges (Brugge). Once at the North station, we realized our ticket doesn’t state what platform the next train will be at so that was also confusing. I found a map that listed all the train destinations and the times and we finally figured out that we needed to be on the train with end destination of Knokke / Blankenburge. Now we’re on that train, on our way to Bruges.

{October 14 – 9:15 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
Jordan and I arrived to a drizzly, grey Bruges. It wasn’t cold, exactly, but the rain chilled our hands. We boarded a bus at the train station (a difficult feat with our small suitcases and other bags) and ended up getting off at the wrong stop. We really had no idea where we were going so we got off the bus and started back-tracking to Markt Square. Finally, after wandering around in circles, miserable, tired, and cold, an older gentleman told us how to get to our hotel. We are staying at the Hans Memling Hotel on Kuiperstraat and we kept coming really close to the street and then somehow getting off-track. What a nice man to help us tourists! During check-in we were told that our room was near the street on which some construction is taking place and that it would be noisy; however, the lady offered us the studio “triple” room for the same price since it would be much quieter. That made is quite happy! We dropped off our luggage and explored the little studio: on the bottom floor is a tiny room with toilet and sink, another room with tub/shower, a wardrobe, and a desk; and up the steep, winding staircase is the bedroom with one queen bed and one twin (like a loft).



Went out looking for dinner, armed with a map from the hotel. Once again, we walked quite a distance, sometimes seemingly in circles, before deciding on a restaurant. Ended up at “De Gouden Kroes”, which was not crowded at all and very warm inside. I ordered iced tea with a ham and cheese omelet; Jordan ordered the Flemish stew and a couple beers. The food was perfect and just what we needed after a long day of traveling. The iced tea I ordered ended up being carbonated, which surprized me at first, but then I decided that I really like it! For dessert we had a Belgian waffle with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Our bill came to 40€, our most expensive meal so far in Europe. After eating, we roamed the streets and found ‘t Zand Square (maybe a ten minute walk from our hotel). Right in the middle of the square is a giant floating inflatable naked man! Weird. Admired the fountains and took a few pictures with Jordan and the naked lady sculptures in the fountain. Getting very dark by now. More walking and we popped into a chocolate shop for some chocolates (what else?) and stroopwafels. We ended the evening with a scoop of ice cream before heading back to our studio room. There will be lots more to see tomorrow! I hope the weather improves because I’m already sick of rain.

{October 15 – 8:10 am – Bruges, Belgium}
Quick entry before we head out: A few weeks before leaving for this trip, I booked us on the full-day “Triple Treat” tour with Quasimodo Tours. Totally recommend this company, they are great! The tour cost 120€ for both of us. Unfortunately, Jordan has the beginnings of a cold but he says he’ll be fine for the day.



{October 15 – 6:05 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
What we learned today: It’s Brugge, not Bruges! The guide was very adamant about that, but I’m sticking with “Bruges” for this journal. Jordan and I walked to Park Hotel at ‘t Zand Square to meet the van for 9:15 am. Very small group, only 6 of us! Philippe, our guide, was very amiable and knew all sorts of historical facts. First we drove out to the moated Castle Tillegem. There are two black swans living in the moat. The castle is now used as offices. (So far it hasn’t started raining, but the sky is grey and it definitely feels like it will later.) We walked around to the back of the castle and took some photos. Next we clambered back into the warm van and headed out into the Flemish countryside to Chateau Loppem. After hearing some history about the building, our group explored inside the chateau. Around 12:45 pm we came to the town of Lissewege where we saw some Belgian Blue cows. Learned that these cows usually give birth through Caesarian section because the calves are too large. In Lissewege we had lunch at a restaurant (after viewing the tithe-barn in the backyard) at a farm. Inside, we were served ham, lettuce, and cheese sandwiches (yum!) and one free beverage; everyone had beer except me. I drank the most delicious hot chocolate I have ever had the privilege to sample! It was so creamy and tasted just like a chocolate bar, but not too sweet, either. The Belgians know their chocolate! For dessert we each had a crispy waffle with icing sugar and whipped cream – what a treat! I’m in love with waffles!



After lunch, Philippe drove us back to Bruges to “Roose’s Chocolate World” on Havenstraat. He gave us a demonstration on how the praline chocolates are made. Then we tasted some samples and were given some time to look around the shop. I bought a bar of milk chocolate, one of dark, and a package of thin wafer chocolates for 8.50€ to bring home. The next part of the tour brought us to the town of Damme (north-east of Bruges) around 3:15 pm. We parked by a canal with a beautiful old windmill in the background and walked to the town’s city hall. Philippe told us about the history of Damme and then we walked some more, admiring the houses and scenery, and finally stopping at the Church of Damme to inspect the cemetery. (At some point during the tour we also saw bunkers from WWII but I can’t remember where.) And to end the day, we went to a pub for beer-tasting and sampled four different kinds of beer. I tried them all but of course didn’t like any of them, not being a fan. The Kriek Max tasted like alcoholic cherry blasters.



{October 15 – 11:30 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
Walked around looking for a place to eat dinner around 8:30 pm after watching a movie back at the hotel. I ended up falling asleep and woke up starving. Of course, when we went outside it was pouring rain! Found a restaurant called “Brasserie Strijdershuis” and decided to give it a try. Food was expensive but tasty and the meal cost 40€. I had chicken breast with mushroom sauce, fries, salad, and iced tea (carbonated!); Jordan ordered rabbit in cranberry sauce, beer. Waiter was not helpful when we asked for explanations of some of the meals, nor was he friendly, and he seemed to avoid our table. I had to actually go up to the bar and ask for the bill after we finished our meal; we sat there for a good twenty minutes trying to catch his attention, but no luck. Good thing the food was delicious! Still pouring when we left…



{October 16 – 10:30 am – Bruges, Belgium}
Slept in this morning; we really were exhausted. Jordan’s still not feeling well. Don’t have any crazy plans for the day. Another rainy day; the weather really sucks right now, it’s hard to enjoy ourselves when we’re constantly wet and cold every time we leave the hotel.

{October 16 – 3:30 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
The streets were packed today, probably because it’s Saturday. Rained off and on throughout the day, good thing I have my purple umbrella. Ended up at ‘t Zand Square this morning and bought some danishes for later. Vendors are set up in the Square today. Jordan found a really warm, nice hoodie for 25€ (made in France, not China). I found some stroopwafels for 1€ a pack. Also bought ten Christmas cards for 3€. Did lots of browsing, but it was too cold to stay out for long. Walked some more and found HEMA department store – 2 sets of earbuds (8.50€ each), salty licorice (1.60€), spekulaas cookies (1.95€), warm gloves for Jordan (7.75€). On our way out the door I spotted a “Best of Krezip” CD, how could I resist for 8.95€? Popped into a couple souvenir shops and bought some postcards, magnets, and a little ceramic figurine of a boy and girl kissing (typical Belgian touristy stuff). Had lunch at a panini restaurant: two cheese, tomato, chicken, pesto, pineapple paninis, an iced tea, and Sprite for 15€. Oh my goodness, it was tasty! Took lots of photos during our trek around town. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at “Dumon” to get some chocolate wafers (7€) and truffles (2€ for four). Ahhh, I only have 15€ cash left, need to find an ATM!



{October 16 – 9:30 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
I fell asleep once we got back to our studio and Jordan ended up watching a movie while I napped. When I woke up at 5:30 (after sleeping two hours), we watched “The Score” on the Netbook. Then went on a search for dinner. Found an ATM on the way and took out 350€, the last of my travel money which needs to get us through Amsterdam as well. Food here has been ridiculously expensive. Finally we found a fast-food place serving double cheeseburgers with medium fries for 9.50€ (per meal). Going to bed soon. I’ll pack in the morning, I don’t have the energy to do it now. Check out is at 11 am tomorrow.

***Continued in next post.

What else does one need?

Work was very busy today. I spent most of my time at the cash register. Good start to the month, I think. Tomorrow I have off; going to IKEA in Ottawa with my mom.

I am not much of a fan of Hallowe’en. Worked until 3:30 pm, stopped off downtown to reload my bus pass for November; then went home and made tacos for dinner. After that I watched “Ella Enchanted” and ate Maltesers and then went to bed around 9 o’ clock. Lovely. 🙂