Sunday, April 25, 2010

Celebrating end of Tax Season with a weekend trip to The Netherlands: Keukenhof Flower Garden (Day 1)

I was counting down the days until the big April 15th tax deadline, so Reagan and I could spend more time with Shannon (aka Daddy)! We had planned a little get away in The Netherlands to celebrate this occasion. First we went to Keukenhof Gardens which is located near Lisse and only open from mid March – mid May every year. It’s an amazing garden displaying beautiful Spring flowers. We’ve actually been there once before, but thought it would be a fantastic place to take Reagan and of course get some incredible photos! Even though the weather and timing of our visit wasn’t during the peak of the garden, we still enjoyed seeing some of the earlier blooming flowers, mostly the hyacinths, daffodils, blue bells, and a few tulips. There were several indoor exhibits along with spectacular floral displays around the park and even fascinating sculptures placed sporadically throughout the grounds. The theme for the park this year happened to be “From Russia with Love”, which was displayed through several special exhibits, such as St Basil’s (“onion domed”) Cathedral portrayed by flowers.

Now, if only I could smuggle some of those amazing tulip bulb varieties back to the States, I would have a mini Keukenhof of my own! I’ll have to research our contract to see what is and isn’t allowed on our shipment home next year since I would love to bring some back. I have a new found love for tulips and usually end up buying some at the markets during the Spring in Brussels. They look so lovely on our dining room table and are actually quite affordable, 10 tulips for 4 Euro or 20 tulips for 7 Euro. Overall flowers are quite cheap here compared to the US. You would think I would get them more often from someone! Oh well, I have no problem buying them for myself every once in awhile!

One of several cool sculptures

The daffodils were so vibrant!

One example of the parks landscaping skills

There are ponds throughout the park along with a few fountains
Reagan loves her new backpack carrier which we found through the classifieds. Shannon's back seems to be holding up so far!

Since we had Reagan we didn't actually go on these wooden lilly pads, but thought they were pretty cool!
Reagan was such a trooper and got tons of attention in her carrier which I'm sure she was thrilled about!
Mommy and Reagan enjoying the beautiful flowers!
Thankfully Reagan was full of smiles this day!

Several pathways were lined with flowers
Another cute little waterway surrounded by beautiful flowers

River of bluebells

I thought this was pretty with the mix of tulips
Since the theme of the park this year was "From Russia with Love" they created a display of flowers portraying St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow (you'll see the real thing in another blog soon, I promise!)
Russian lady painting the famous Matryoshka dolls (aka nesting dolls). Don't worry plenty of these photos in an upcoming blog as well!
An interesting indoor exhibit with ballerinas
Mommy and Reagan as Matryoshka dolls!
There are lots of areas for kids.
There's a traditional Holland windmill in the park which you can climb up.
Reagan had fun in this cute traditional Holland wooden shoe
A bit larger wooden shoe!
Just outside the park, you can see fields of hyacinths, tulips and other flowers. It's quite an amazing site since I'm only use to seeing cornfields back in Nebraska and they're not quite this colorful!
Logs made into benches with shovels as there backrests
The following pictures are from the indoor exhibit. There are several unique varieties of tulips along with many that look like they're on steroids!

Back outside again

Thankfully, we were able to get one decent family photo!Another cool work of art

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reagan's 1st Easter

Our Easter was pretty low key. We got up fairly late, well as late as Reagan would let us, and went to the St Andrews Church of Scotland. It's only a 10-15 min walk from our apartment and one of the few English speaking churches in Brussels. Reagan wore a cute flowery Tommy Hilfiger dress that one of my neighbors sold me from her little girl when her family moved back to Italy this past November. It was a nice service and thankfully Reagan half-way behaved. Lucky the people around us gave her some attention (as much as you can in a church)! We didn't have to exit during the service, so that's always a good thing! Besides crumpling up all of our bulletins, she went through 3 biscuits or something like that to keep her from gabbing so much! She's a talker and loves getting reactions from strangers. She has a tendency to stare people down until they look at her and then she smiles and starts blabbing, giggling, ect... Boy, do I have my hands full when she gets older! After church, we enjoyed a brunch (compliments of Chef Moi!) at our apartment, consisting of quiche, fruit salad and french toast. Of course Reagan indulged in something more baby friendly, chicken and carrots puree. Later on I gave her a mini Easter basket with some cute painted eggs that were basically little rattles. She loved banging them together along with grabbing her little Easter Bunny out of the bucket.

Look at me and my new cool shaker Easter eggs!

Clapping her hands which she often does these days

Mesmerized by her Easter basket

She was full of smiles on Easter!

Moving on to her serious side

Deep concentration as she examines the contents of her Easter basket/bucket

We attempted to do a family photo in our apartment, but didn't have much to work with since our walls are boring old white!

Reagan has a shoe fettish already, but not with dainty girly shoes, but Daddy's huge manly shoes!

On our way back from Easter service at the Church of Scotland

Sampling some Easter eggs before her Easter lunch

Mommy feeding Reagan as we're about to sit down for our Easter brunch

Daddy taking over for a bit. Notice our nice Easter brunch: Bacon and veggie quiche, fruit salad and French was delicious!

Our "Joyeuses Paques" gateau (translated: "Happy Easter" cake)

A few days before Easter, Reagan and I took a stroler ride to scope out the perfect Easter cake...okay, maybe I was more into it than her!

Some cute Easter baskets at a Godiva Chocolatier

We picked out our Easter cake at a Patisserie / Boulangerie near out apartment. I think Reagan was pleased with our choice from her reaction below!

Some cute Easter gift packages at a Chocolatier

Several Chocolatiers have these massive decorative chocolate eggs filled with more eggs / chocolates inside. They are pretty neat! Shannon's boss brings a huge one into their office every year besides providing them with their own small package of Wittamer chocolates. Thankfully, Shannon shares them with me!

I bought some mini chocolate eggs at a Neuhaus Chocolatier for Reagan's Easter basket...hmm, I wonder who those were really for :-)

Some Easter bunnies at Neuhaus

I gave our neighbors a plate of chocolate chip cookies and chocolate eggs for Easter

Reagan sampled a few of the extra eggs which I hid for her and had her practice looking for before the big day!

She found her first egg...granted it wasn't hidden very well!

Examining her new "shaker" Easter eggs which I gave her to play with the day before. They're perfect to hold on to and bang together...what more can a child ask for!

Practicing her clapping again