Thursday, October 29, 2009

American Women's Club Halloween Party (Oct 18)

About two weeks before Halloween we attended the American Women's Club of Brussels Halloween party organized by the Mothers of Young Children group. Even though Reagan was too young too participate in the activities, we thought it would still be fun to acknowledge her first Halloween. Reagan was a little pumpkin thanks to one of my friends in the States (Charity) who mailed me a cute jack-o-lantern onesie for her. We didn't know many of the families there and were grateful when some of our friends Reid, Kirk, and Connor showed up (check out Reid's blog on the event as well). We did meet another nice couple who have a 2 year old and are expecting and live in Liege (east of Brussels).

They had several activities for the kids to do, such as gluing pumpkin faces on orange goody bags and decorating little cups along with Halloween bingo. They also had trick-or-treating within the clubhouse with several volunteers handing out candy. I decided Reagan didn't have to join in because I would have indulged in all of her goodies and we all know that's not how to get your pre-pregnancy body back! Even though I really could have gone for some Reese's peanut butter cups and candy corn since you can't find those here (I noticed lots of the candy was imported from the US). However, Shannon and I did partake in some of the amazing snacks such as decorated frosted sugar cookies, cupcakes, mini pizzas with jack-o-lantern faces, brownies, miniature pigs in the blanket and much more.

Our little pumpkin
Had to coordinate colors!
Just a sample of some of the delicious treats that were on hand
Reagan and her Daddy eating some treats
Reid, Connor, Reagan and me...Connor was an adorable little ballerina.
I think all the action was a bit too much for our little pumpkin as she crashed hard half-way through the event.
We took some more photos when we got home as well
Her chubby cheeks fit her costume well! The following are a series of shots with her cute little expressions!

The following are a few shots of Reagan and Mommy

She does like her two fingers quite a bit and sometimes that thumb!

Traveling Textile Market in Hasselt, Belgium (Oct 14)

I've always wanted to check out one of these traveling textile markets, so one of my friends, Leah, and I, along with Reagan, headed to Hasselt, Belgium, to see what they were all about. I think we were probably some of the youngest people there, but it was still a lot of fun. I'm not sure Leah was too thrilled but am fortunate she came along as she was a big help with Reagan and even hauled her around in the baby bjorn carrier while I rummaged through the endless aisles of fabric. I was amazed with the variety of fabrics, everything from wool, knit, cotton, silk, corduroy, vinyl, linen, fleece, velour, patchwork and much more!

By the way, these fabric markets are organized by the Stoffen Spektakel organization and occur throughout Holland and northern Belgium in the Spring and Autumn. There are over 50 participating merchants each with their own style and interesting products.

I'm actually not an avid sewer, but am hoping to get into it more. My sister-in-law, Kathy, is actually an amazing sewer; thus, I tried to keep an eye out for creative fabrics and bias tape for her as she is always looking for unique ones for her business, 'Emma Girl Designs'. She makes really fun and trendy baby / kid clothes and more. She has an Etsy website and does numerous craft shows around Nebraska and in addition sells her items at a few baby stores in Lincoln and Omaha. Here is her Etsy website if anyone wants to check it out:

Excuse my descriptions of fabric below since I didn't pay attention to any of the names of the 'lines of fabric'. Maybe the next trip I make to one of these markets I'll make a note to find them out. Another friend, Dallas, who's quite fabric savvy, and I might try to hit one before they end for the year; if not, I'm sure we'll make a point to check one of them out in the Spring when they're held outdoors.

Even though I really liked the Autumn floral fabric, I ended up buying a meter of the other two fabrics in this photo since I thought they had more of a Spring and Summer feel.
Leah sporting the baby bjorn carrier with Reagan
Some cute purple fabrics
I also bought some of the turquoise fabric (2nd from the left) since I thought it was fun and reminded me of the Russian dolls.
This fabric, which I'm assuming was meant for curtains or something on a large scale, reminded me of my nephew who's really into the movie CARS.
More of a bold feel
Cute corduroy fabrics
Bias tape and trimmings...I bought one of these as well for my sister-in-law (not sure if you can see it in this box, but it's pink and has little aqua owls on it with little trees; anyway, I thought it looked interesting; hopefully she can find some use for it!)
Some more corduroy fabrics

More examples of bias tape
Some more bold fabrics
They had a huge selection of buttons and other accessories.
Example of one of the booths, though this one was a little bit chaotic. About the best deals you could find were for 3 - 5 euros per meter ($4.40 - $7.35)
Here's a few silk fabrics with crazy designs

US Ambassador Gala Dinner (Oct 5)

Earlier in October Shannon and I had the opportunity to attend the US Ambassador Gala Dinner organized by The American Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and the The American Club of Brussels. This event was to welcome the newly appointed US Ambassador, Howard W. Gutman, to Belgium. Deloitte, being the good employer they are, sponsored a table, and luckily one of Shannon's clients couldn't come so I was invited! We enjoyed a nice cocktail hour with Champagne and appetizers. Next we indulged in a nice dinner consisting of 'terrine de pintadeau au foie gras de canard et ecrevisses' (pate of fowl and fatty liver of duck along with crayfish) with salad and for the main course 'cotes d'agneau a la tapenade d'olives, tarte fine au chevre, gratin dauphinois et jus au thym' (lamb ribs topped with an olive tapenade, delicate goat cheese tart, potatoes topped with bread crumbs and thyme) and for dessert 'entremets aux deux chocolats, creme a la Mandarine Napoleon' (dessert with two chocolates, Mandarin Napoleon cream). I interpreted them the best I could, so they might not be exact! I'm not a big fan of 'foie gras' as it reminds me of a jelly mold and tastes like I'm eating a block of butter, but Europeans tend to really like it. Otherwise, I enjoyed the rest of the meal. We were also served glasses of white and red wine with our meal which luckily I could drink since I was 'off tap' for the night. One of our friends, Leah, took the liberty to watch Reagan for the evening while we enjoyed a nice evening out.

After our meal we listened to a nice speech given by the new Ambassador Howard W. Gutman. He focused on his desire to strengthen US and Belgium's relationship along with getting to know the 'real' Belgians and their culture. He is a very dynamic speaker who knows how to captivate an audience.

Here's a little background on him: Howard Gutman was nominated by President Barack Obama to be U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 24, 2009. Before being named Ambassador, Mr. Gutman was a partner with the Washington D.C. law firm of Williams & Connolly LLP. In his over twenty-six years with the firm, Mr. Gutman handled the full gamut of litigation, investigation, and counseling matters. Furthermore, he is a 1980 graduate of Harvard Law School and a 1977 graduate of Columbia University. He assisted the 2008 Obama campaign on constituency work, media and fundraising and was a Trustee on the Obama Presidential Inauguration Committee. He has been a contributor to numerous television and radio programs, including frequent appearances on the Fox News Network during the 2008 Presidential campaign. Mr. Gutman appeared in several episodes of the HBO series "K Street," playing a Washington attorney and has made other movie appearances, including playing a high school parent in the 2009 release of "Fame."

Entrance to 'Le Plaza Hotel' where the event was located
This is inside the fancy hotel, though I didn't get any good pictures since Shannon was embarrassed I brought my camera, so it didn't come out much during the evening!
Instead of orange juice, I was able to actually indulge in some tasty Champagne
Shannon enjoying himself during cocktail hour

Europe's Heaviest Pumpkin Contest (Oct 3)

Thanks to one of my friends, Marcie, I heard about this interesting event in Belgium: Europe's Heaviest Pumpkin Contest. Another friend of mine, Dallas, and I, along with Reagan, decided to head to Pachthof Stroykens in Duisburg (about 20-30 minutes from Brussels) to check it out one lazy Sunday afternoon. I miss going to pumpkin patches and other Autumn outings back in the US; and I thought it would be fun to get some pictures of Reagan with some pumpkins. It proved to be quite unique with pumpkins larger than I've ever seen! Plus, they weren't just orange, some were picked quite early and still green or yellow since they wanted to be contenders in the 'Heaviest Pumpkin Contest'. After snapping some photos, we checked out some of the booths where they were giving samples of pumpkin liquor, bread and jam. We both ended up buying some pumpkin butter (jam) which was quite tasty and didn't last long in our household. Several people were enjoying the festivities over a glass of beer eagerly watching the weigh-in board as the pumpkins were weighed. When we left the heaviest pumpkin was at 322 kilograms (708 lbs), but later found out on their website that the winner was a whopping 617 kilograms (1,357 lbs)!

Thanks to Dallas for a few of the photos as she is known for her wonderful photography skills!

Waiting to get weighed
Reagan's first encounter with pumpkins, not too thrilled you can see!
Mother and daughter sharing a moment
Dallas with some of the contenders brought in by a trailer. They had to be hauled around on crates by forklifts
Man, these could make some killer pumpkin pies! Too bad they don't celebrate Thanksgiving here!
One booth was selling fresh garlic
Several smaller pumpkins and gourds were for sale
Huge pumpkin scarecrow was on the stage along with several other pumpkins
Dallas, Reagan and I checking out the pumpkins; however our photographer didn't seem to get too many in the background!
Reagan, a little happier this time amongst the pumpkins

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Golf Tournament hosted by the American Club of Brussels & Reagan's day at the Babysitter's (Sept 27)

When Shannon asked me if I wanted to play in the annual American Club of Brussels golf tournament at the prestigious course, Golf Château de la Tournette, I was ecstatic! Only a few questions ran across my mind...would it be possible to find a babysitter for Reagan and would I be able to handle leaving her for the first time; oh and would I actually be able to swing a club?!? Luckily we found a sitter who ended up being our friends from our prenatal group who also have a baby girl. We hang out with them every once in awhile and decided we should exchange babysitting services. This was a much better option than the first lady I called who was recommended by the American Women's Club and was going to charge me 10 euro an hour! I was going to throw in the towel if I had to pay that much to play golf! Thank goodness for good friends!

Shannon and I were definitely a bit rusty out on the course, but it was to be expected since we hadn't played the whole year. The day before the tournament, we hit wiffle balls in the park by our apartment. Some people looked at us like we were crazy. I don't think they realized that we were just hitting WIFFLE balls, not really ones! Reagan watched us from her stroller, being a good little girl, for the most part.

The tournament was played in the stableford system of scoring, so technically we could pick up our ball after so many strokes, but I actually played mine out. I wanted to get the most for my money; well, I mean Deloitte's money since they sponsored Shannon and me. Besides, I wasn't sure on the rules for this format except that it consists of points and allows players with different handicaps to compete against each other fairly. We played the 'English' course this time around since last year we played the 'American' course. Both are extremely nice 18 hole courses, basically next to each other, sharing a beautiful clubhouse. I played with two nice ladies while Shannon played with some men. I had a few really good shots, but then some really bad ones where I went out of bounds or hit into the water. Though, by the end of the day I somehow managed five pars which I was quite excited about. I had a great time, but was definitely tired after walking 18 holes hauling my bag around. They basically don't believe in using golf carts unless you are physically unable to walk; I'm not sure my family or friends would be able to handle playing golf here! Oh and there's no bathrooms or beer carts on the golf course either. I feel like golf is very old school here and only traditional methods are followed. I also believe that golf is still considered a sport for the more elite status in Europe and thus is still quite expensive.

When we were all done, everyone met at the clubhouse for drinks as they tallied up the scores. I was amazed to hear that not only did I win the flag prize for the longest women's drive, but I also ended up with the best women's score, granted there were only 6 of us, so there wasn't too much competition! I ended up with a bottle of champagne and a gift certificate for a 3 course meal for two at the Sheraton Hotel (all prizes were donated). Shannon ended up with a box of golf balls since he had one of the worst scores unfortunately. Though, I think he was happy to replace some or should I say 'most' of the balls he lost! All in all we had a fantastic day and couldn't have asked for better weather as we walked 18 holes on a beautiful Autumn day.

And from the photos we received from our friends, Nina and Antoine (Reagan's babysitters), it looked like Reagan had a fun day as well! Even though it was hard for us to leave her, we knew she was in good hands since their baby, Nilou, is only a few weeks older than Reagan. We feel lucky to have met them and look forward to watching Nilou in the future! Reagan loves playdates!

Entrance to Golf Château de la Tournette

I love how all the bushes are groomed so nicely
Another angle of the elaborate clubhouse
There were a ton of bunkers...I tried to avoid them as much as possible!
Short par 3
Nearing the clubhouse, I believe this was the last hole
Another shot of the last hole
Heading home after a fun day of golf
Shannon sporting the bottle of Champagne I had won for the longest drive and his box of golf balls he had received in hopes for improving next year!
While we played golf, Nilou and Reagan were becoming good friends. Nina (Nilou's mom) interrupted this photo as Reagan telling Nilou - hey they are taking our picture, smile and stop eating your hands!
I believe this was taken on their stroller ride to the Sunday Market. Reagan is full of smiles these days!
I think they're going to be good buds!