7 Amazing Things To Eat In Brussels

Brussels has a bamboozling mix of restaurants, food markets and fine dining haunts that are dotted around this amazing city. With so many choices, I asked locals like my friend Pierre Pevée, whom I meet through European Creative Hubs Network and Jean-Alexis Spitz, a fellow blogger from Spark.Me, and found some favorite things that are worthy of eating while you are in Brussels, Belgium.

#1. Belgian Frites from Maison Antoine. I had heard a lot about Belgium fries, but are they really different from French fries? YES! Belgium frites are made with Bintje potatoes that are double fried. This makes them  crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Why we love Maison Antoine is that they offer many sauces to dip your fries in AND the pubs around this friterie allow the fries to be eaten on their premises.

#2. Stoverij from Le Clan des BelgesAt first glance, you may mistake this hearty beef casserole for French staple boeuf bourguignon, but it’s beer, rather than wine, that the Belgians use—giving it an earthier taste. Stoverij usually comes with frites for dipping.

#3. Belgian Chocolate from Pierre MarcoliniPierre Marcolini costs a little more than other chocolaterie because he buys unprocessed cocoa beans directly from the local producers and transforms it into chocolate in his own workshop. This chocolate is worth every bite!

#4. Sirop de Liège from Chez Franz. A sweet, sticky brown jelly made from evaporated fruit juices—dates, apples, and pears are stock ingredients—Sirop de Liège trumps even European’s favorite Nutella when it comes to spreads. Smear it on a baguette for breakfast, or pair it with cheeses at lunch. Chez Franz has an amazing brunch menu, so we highly recommend that you try Sirop de Liège here.

#5. Belgian Waffles + Speculoos from Maison Dandoy
Did you know that there are two types of waffles available in Belgium? Brussels waffles are made from batter leavened with beaten eggs. It is served with powdered sugar, and Liège waffles are made from yeast-leavened dough with pearl sugar. How best to eat a waffle in Belgium is hotly contested. Locals swear waffles should be topping-free. I, however, enjoyed mine with fruit and ice cream. Belgium has an (unofficial) national cookie. These flat, spiced shortbreads are so beloved you can even get speculoos-flavored spread (what America’s call “cookie butter”)—as well as ice cream or gelato. Originally baked to celebrate St. Nicholas Day (December 6), you’ll now find them year-round, and Maison Dandoy offers the best.

#6. Paling in’t Groen from Belga Queen. Luckily, “eel in green sauce” is more appetizing than it sounds. Chunks of white, meaty eel (which has the consistency of chicken, only with a slight gamey taste) are stewed in a thick, herby sauce of sorrel and chervil—hence its bright green color. Belga Queen is a former bank, and it is the perfect backdrop while you enjoy eating this delicious green dish.

#7. Stoemp from Royal Brasserie. A staple of Brussels cuisine, stoemp blends mashed potatoes and vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, carrots, onion and kale. YUMMY! It’s usually served either as a side dish or as main dish with sausage or another type of meat or seafood.

Have we missed any dish from Brussels that everyone should try? Please comment below!

It’s Island Time – Galveston Island!!

galveston-starlogo

Looking for a great place for that next girl’s trip?!  Go to Galveston, Texas!!  It’s just a short drive or  plane ride away from all major cities in Texas and you will love it!! It’s not just a beach destination or a port to catch a cruise – it’s much more.  We discovered how much more recently when my sisters and I decided to take my mother there for her birthday weekend!

Let’s start with shopping.  Okay, my family (2 sisters and mother) love to shop.  That’s our entertainment and that’s how we bond.  Galveston has a treasure trove of cute boutique shops. I have been to the Historic Strand area of town many times before but on this trip we discovered the quaint downtown shops in the Historic 2100 block of Postoffice Street.  The Naked Mermaid (love the name!) carries very unique and chic home décor and gift items.  It’s worth a visit just to meet the adorable “shop” cats (see photo).   We also shopped at The Style Co. next door which has very cute clothes and jewelry (I bought both).    Just Add Sparkle is just across the street and carries fun Halloween/witch themed gift items.  Down the street in this area are several restaurants such as The Gumbo Bar and Rudy & Paco Restaurant and Bar.  Love this group of unique shops and restaurants!

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We took some time out of our shopping spree on Postoffice Street and and walked down to The Shrimp Fest in Downtown Galveston.  What a fun happening that was!  Over 200 booths served samples of some of the most awesome gumbo I’ve ever had. The Festival also included  activities such as a Shrimp Gumbo Cookoff,  an official 5k, Lil’ Shrimps Parade, live music, a kid’s area, and  a Strand Merchant Walk­About.  This is just one example of some of the fun and community type happenings that Downtown Galveston hosts every year.    After thoroughly enjoying the scene we checked out some of the chic shops on The Strand such as:  Head to Footsies and The Admiralty.  Both have unique boutique clothing and sea inspired home decor, jewelry and art.

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We wrapped up our afternoon shopping spree by treating ourselves with ice cream at  La King’s Confectionery on The Strand.  La King’s features a working 1920’s soda fountain serving malts, shakes, ice cream sodas, sundaes, splits, floats and fountain treats.   Don’t miss visiting this old fashioned soda fountain and confectionery – it’s a family tradition when we visit Galveston!

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Saturday night we had the opportunity to visit Galveston’s historic The Grand 1894 Opera House which is also on Postoffice Street.  What a jewel The Opera House is and a wonderful example of the long history Galveston has of being a major cultural center over 100 years ago. The Grand is one of the few remaining opera houses in Texas and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  The Grand hosts several musical performers and musical theater performances throughout the year.   We were very fortunate to see the incredibly talented Ben Vereen sing and dance for two hours!  To see what is coming up at The Grand go to: http://www.thegrand.com

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Our second favorite thing to do when we’re together is eat.  There are some incredible restaurants in Galveston and we had the opportunity to sample several.  Here are just a few that you should not miss!

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The Sunflower Bakery and Café.  This is a must.   It’s located in Galveston’s Historic East End and 99% of their food is homemade and made with fresh local ingredients and their bakery is heavenly!   This place is a double win – after you finish eating you have the opportunity to shop at the adjoining retail store called The Bacon Farm.  They have a beautiful selection of antiques, art and jewelry.   www.thesunflowerbakeryandcafe.

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galveston-bacon-farmMiller’s Seawall Grill.  If you want some great fresh seafood go to Miller’s Seawall Grill.  It’s home cooked food and serves huge portions!  Don’t miss the homemade Italian Cream Cheese Cake – one slice will feed a family of four for sure!

Nonno Tony’s Grill.  It’s at Pier 21 and offers Italian, Asian, Creole and traditional fare and features an open style kitchen.  After dinner  you can stroll around the Pier and check out the ships and water. http://www.nonnotonys.com/

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Also worth checking out:

Tremont Hotel has a lovely rooftop bar for watching the sunset. www.thetremonthouse.com

The Olympia Grill at Pier 21 has a fantastic patio dining on the water.  The menu includes greek influenced fresh seafood.  It’s next  to the 1877 tall ship Elissa, Harbor House Hotel, and Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museumhttp://www.olympiagrill.com

We had the best time in Galveston doing what we do – shopping, eating, checking out the historical flavor of the city and visiting the beach.   It was a great girl’s weekend!  A big thank you to Galveston’s Visitor Bureau for helping make our weekend a huge success!

Check out the official website of Galveston Island  to find out the many things to do during your visit: http://galveston.com

Downtown Galveston also has a website and will keep you updated on all things downtown:  www.downtowngalveston.org

Coming up in October!

  • Ghosts of Galveston
  • ARToberfest
  • Oktoberfest

Did you Know?

  • Galveston is steeped in history in the downtown area, the seaport and it’s historical homes.  Galveston was once called  the “Wall Street of the Southwest” and has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark for its outstanding collection of 19th century architecture.  You can explore on foot, ride in a horse drawn carriage and visit the many museums has to offer.  You can also tour the 1877 tall ship Elissa or the 1892 Victorian residence “Bishop’s Palace”.  Want to know more go to: http://www.galvestonhistory.org
  • Galveston has several wonderful museums!  Allow time to visit a few your next trip there:  Go to:  www.galveston.com/attractions-museums
  • Galveston has a temperate year round climate which makes it a very popular destination.  The temperatures range from winter highs in the 60’s and lows in the mid 40’s.
  • Galveston Island has over 25 miles of beaches – lots of room to find a spot for your beach umbrella and chairs!

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No visit to Galveston is complete without visiting Moody Gardens!  I have taken my kids there several times and it is definitely a great place for families.  It has a golf course and hotel but it also includes an Aquarium, Rainforest Exhibit, theaters, museum, amusement park, ropes course and zip lines and seasonal exhibits.   Want to know more?  Go to:  www.moodygardens.com

The latest addition and great family attraction is Pleasure Pier!  It features waterfront fun and entertainment with family-oriented attractions including rides, midway games, a wide selection of food venues and retail shops. http://www.pleasurepier.com/

Shops:

https://www.facebook.com/theundressedmermaid.

https://www.facebook.com/The-Style-co

https://www.facebook.com/justaddsparkle

http://www.headtofootsies.com

https://www.facebook.com/theadmiralty

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4 Things to Consider When Moving Overseas

moving_overseasMy journey overseas began exactly two years ago for me and my family. Living overseas in a brand new country is one of the few life experiences that changes you completely. You are never going to be the same person you were back at home. So much of what we do is taken for granted, and living overseas changes your perspective on life and how you live it – mainly because you start paying close attention to what would normally seem like mundane moments and strangers. Here are four things to consider if you and your family are considering moving overseas.

#1. FOMO. Suffering from fear of missing out.
As depressed as it sounds, FOMO is a real thing, especially with Facebook and Instagram. I mean, you are reminded how you are missing out on your family and friends lives and vice versa. You will want to be there for important moments like weddings, anniversaries, baby showers, and even funerals, but you can’t. Some of your friends will get annoyed with your absence, but it’s beyond your control because you’re on the other side of the world. The distance makes you appreciate your friends and family sooo much more. I’ve learned that if there’s anything in the world that brings family and friends closer, it’s distance – that’s also the true test of relationships.

#2. You become more aware.
Being transplanted to unknown places definitely heighten your senses in every way. As a result, you just become more aware of your surroundings – the people, the places and what is happening in your area. This starts to play out in your everyday life and in work. Awareness and attention to detail is never a bad thing. 😉 It is also true that you gain a better understanding on how the world looks at America. It is crazy how eye-opening some of U.S. weaknesses or challenges seem amplified when you live overseas. Maybe it is because the local people ask you a lot about why things happen in America, or they may ask you if you have the same view, as let’s say the president or people on the international news.

#3. You start to find yourself.
As cheesy as it sounds, it’s so true. You are never going to spend as much time alone as you do when living overseas. I am thankful that I can say with Romans 8:28 that God uses all things for the good of those who love him, even my times alone, actually because of these times alone, it has reminded me of my deepest spiritual need, who is Jesus Christ. You have to get over the stigma of doing things alone, like navigating an unknown territory with people not understanding you. You are going to face the most difficult times of your life, but you also come out stronger and develop an incredible sense of self identity and renewed purpose in life.

#4. I always knew I wanted to live overseas.
Whether it was through study abroad or employment, I just wanted to live overseas. I mean, I found my husband overseas, so I was bound to live here with family, right?! I don’t regret it a single day. I can’t imagine living anywhere else right now. If you’re even thinking about living overseas, I’d encourage you to GO. Run. Don’t walk.

Did I miss anything? Have you lived overseas? Please share you advice and experiences below!

Eight Road Trip Tips

Road-Trip-TipsThis weekend, my daughter and I are getting ready to take a road trip through a few countries. That’s the great thing about living in Europe, how small and close countries are to each other. What do you define as a “road trip”? For me, anything longer than 8 hours constitutes a road trip. 🙂 I LOVE road trips. Throughout my childhood, my family took TONS of them, and I looked forward to them every time. Of course not all of our road trips went smoothly. I mean, my brother got carsick, we would get lost, tire would blowout, etc., but let’s not focus on the negative. 😉 As we prepare for our trip, here are some things that I have learned on my many road trips and tips on how you can get the most out of your next one.

#1. Plan your route thoroughly first. Look at various routes and take into account tolls, construction and traffic.

#2. Have cash on hand. Stop by the ATM and make sure to have money handy. I usually have enough to fill up my car just in case the gas station doesn’t take credit card or I encounter an unexpected toll or parking spot.

#3. Pack a pillow! Don’t know about you, but long car journeys make me want to nap! Sleeping against the window is NOT comfy, so packing a pillow or blanket will make your journey more comfy.

#4. No matter what type of road trip you’re on, pack comfy shoes! For example, flip flops or walking boots will come in incredibly handy if you have to hike a little away from the road for a bathroom stop.

#5. Pack a mobile phone charger! Mobile phone batteries die so quickly nowadays.

#6. Bring bottle waters and other favorite drinks before you hit the road. Not all gas stations sell beverages, and then there is that problem about finding a place to buy something to drink when you are thirsty. 😉

#7. Pack healthy snacks! There are always plenty of places to stop for fast food, but you’ll soon discover yourself craving something a little more nutritious like granola bars, fruit, sandwiches, nuts, etc.

#8. Do most of the driving in the early morning and afternoon, so you don’t get too tired, it’s just not worth the risk! I try to begin driving before 8AM when most people are still drinking their first cup of coffee.

Am I missing any tips? Where have you taken a road trip?

Marriott Rewards Summer Travelers

DFWDT ExteriorSummer is quickly slipping away, but you still have time to be rewarded for a last-minute trip deep in the heart of Texas. Marriott Rewards® members can pack their bags and take a road trip driving to several destinations while racking up points to use at future destinations. Read more why a Marriott Rewards credit card is worth! From San Antonio’s Alamo Mission to Fort Worth’s Stockyards and renowned art museums, you can enjoy more points with more stays.

Enjoy finger-licking BBQ at Woodshed, seafood at Waters – Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine, homegrown fresh fruit pies and hand-churned ice cream, to name a few of our summer favorite foods. Texas’ major cities offer magnificent museums such as Dallas’ Nasher Sculpture Center in the middle of the largest urban art district in the United States and Fort Worth’s incomparable Arts District, which includes the Kimbell, Amon Carter, Modern Art Museum, as well as, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.20130317_123941kimbellartamoncarter

Now through September 5, 2016, stay at a participating Marriott listed below, and Marriott Rewards® members can earn 2,000 Marriott Reward® points. It’s free to join the program and points are earned right away. Members also enjoy free standard in-room Wi-Fi and other exclusive offers and promotions just by registering for the program.

Participating Summer Splash Down properties:
Renaissance Austin Hotel
Renaissance Dallas Hotel
Dallas Marriott City Center
Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center
Dallas/Addison Marriott Quorum by the Galleria
Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Marriott
The Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel *** OUR FAVORITE!!!
JW Marriott Houston
Houston Marriott Medical Center
Houston Airport Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental
San Antonio Marriott Riverwalk
San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter

What’s Included:
· 2% discount during midweek stays, 5% discount for weekends
· Rewards Members may earn 2,000 bonus points for every stay between May 26, 2016 and September 5, 2016, starting on the second stay
· Rewards Members may qualify for 100 prizes of 100,000 points each; a 10 million bonus point giveaway during the summer to Rewards Members

Happy Trails to You!