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- Part 2

Moving out, moving around, and finally moving in.

So much has happened since I last blogged that I don’t even know where to start. And quite honestly, I’ve very much considered not starting back up. Just, you know, moving on and chugging forward with life undocumented. It could happen.

But who am I kidding – like a reoccurring itch you just can’t scratch, I’m back. First things first – WE MADE IT TO BELGIUM about a week and a half ago.

The kids (and cats) did amazing on their first ever flight which just happened to be transatlantic. I had a lot of anxiety over the logistics – to say we had a lot of spinning plates in the air would have been a gross understatement. Because when 2 adults are responsible for getting 4 kids, 2 cats, 11 pieces of checked luggage, 6 backpacks, 4 car seats from one end of the globe to the other, what could go wrong?

 waiting

Nothing. Nothing went wrong and I’m not even kidding – the almost 24 hours of travel went as well as could be expected. The next week or so we spent staying in a small hotel apartment in the heart of our new town, getting ready to move in and set up shop and making good on our promise of waffles and chocolate.

 waffles

Our sea shipment (think semi-truck) filled with our very important personal crap (which I packed 1000% too much of) arrived this past Tuesday, and after all this time living like nomads, it was time to move in.

Welcome home, baby Paul. May this be the first house you will probably remember.

paul door

It took a crew of six men 4 days to move us out of our home in Indianapolis, and a crew of 4 Polish student-manboys a full working day to unpack us into our new place. And by move in, I mean they brought everything into the house, took the bubble wrap off the big stuff and ran a box cutter over the boxes, for us to unload at our leisure.

sea furniture

But we’re getting set up and trying to make this new place feel like us. Today, I did my first couple loads of laundry (which was challenging, considering I don’t understand French and am apparently not as intuitive as I thought) and even drove for the first time ever here in Europe to get groceries for the week and it only took me two hours in the store. You guys, I meal planned – which is a huge step in the right domestic direction. And last night we pilgrimaged to the Holy Grail of shopping, to IKEA, because our feelings felt like occasional lighting fixtures and Swedish Meatballs.

That being said, even though we have literal piles and piles of chores to do, I’m not in a hurry. I figure the kids go to school in a few weeks, and then it will just be baby Paul and I every day, so organizational details can wait. First up is working on culture shock with things like chocolate croissants and glasses of cheap French wine.

Lazy morning and warm afternoons are taking priority.

 tramp

(front yard view from second story window)

 
Almost all boxes have been unpacked and the entire house is a cluttered disaster, but we have better things to do. Guys, it's play-doh time. (A peek into the dining space. Need to hang things. Need to organize allllll the things. But need a moment to chil

(dining/living area, one day post-bubble wrap)

I hope everyone had an absolutely awesome summer, I really can’t believe how it’s basically over already. When we were kids, didn’t it last forever?

While we waited for our things to arrive here in Belgium, we spent a few weeks doing crazy things like white water rafting – horseback riding – mountain peak summiting in Colorado with our cousins, cottaging on the lake in West Michigan, and long days hanging out at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Maybe someday I’ll blog about those pre-Belgium days. Because they were blog-worthy in their own right.

Guys, thanks for checking in and following along as our family transitions. Hopefully in these next few weeks and months we can find a rhythm that makes sense. I’m excited to share the good, the bad, the embarrassing and hopefully the downright ridiculous side of expat living.

Tomorrow we’re headed as a family to Ghent, Belgium on our first ever daytrip. Wish us luck and follow along for some real-time micro-blogging over on Instagram. Cheers!

Mama C’s Onion Chip Dip

When two people get married, each person brings with them the complexities and idiosyncrasies of their friends and family. The good, the bad, the OMGEEE what have I signed myself up for.

Potential pros: A vacation home with a view, that *anyone* in the family is free to use. An aunt that’s a really good criminal defense lawyer, because boo-boos happen. A cousin that’s a well-renowned chef, who also loves to invite family over to test out new recipes. Or maybe sisters who’s a fantastic hair stylist, and offers free highlights over her kitchen sink on the weekends.

My new brother-in-law Matt? He brought his mama’s chip dip. And if you think that’s insignificant – well you’ve never tried this dip.

 mamasresized

Mama C to the left, soon-to-be new mama-in-law (my mama!) to the right.

You guys, it’s the stuff you want to bath yourself in. The snack you want to make a triple batch of, not to share with friends or anything, but more like so you can sit on your sofa and eat it alone when nobody is looking. 

Over the past year, I’ve made an embarrassing amount of this crave-worthy concoction. Parties, get-togethers, ding-dong ditching on pregnant friends doorsteps, you name it. And since Mama C doesn’t have a blog, I’ve been given permission to do the world a favor and share the magic (with a few personal culinary tweaks).

I present to you:

 onion chip dip

 

Mama C's Onion Chip Dip
Serves 4
The best darn homemade chip dip you'll ever eat.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/8 tsp. Ground black pepper
  2. 1 tsp. Salt
  3. 1/4 cup Evaporated Milk
  4. 1/3 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing
  5. 8 oz. Cream cheese (at room temperature)
  6. 1 tsp. Grated onion pulp
Instructions
  1. Mix together all ingredients on high with an electric blender until smooth.
  2. Consume immediately or refrigerate.
designhermomma.com http://designhermomma.com/

Notes:
*I grate my onion on this microplane. It gives the onion the perfect “pulp” texture.
* If onion flavor is too strong, add a bit more salt.

Serve with your favorite potato chip or just shove it in your face with a spoon. This is a safe place, no judging.

But it’s you I like.

I’m the oldest for four girls. It’s goes me, Jayme, Jenna and Betsy. There’s like eight years (or something) between us.

Last weekend, my baby sister Betsy got married at my parents house on possibly the most gorgeous day West Michigan could have offered up. In fact, I think Tim Allen is voicing himself into a wedding version of a Pure Michigan ad right now, featuring Betsy and Matt’s day.

They got married on my parents property, specifically in front of the neighbor’s amazing old barn. A place I remember playing in and around my entire childhood. Never in a million years could I imagine it could clean up as well as it did.

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All four of the kids were involve-ish.

At the last minute baby Paul refused to walk down the isle, flopping on the grass like a angry drunk.

Gage the “rain barrel” ring-bearer also refused to walk, until 30 seconds before his turn (as in, most bridesmaids were already on the move towards the barn) when he got the bright idea to blackmail me hardcore like the criminal he’s turning into.

Him: Mommy I’ll only do it if I can have a Sprite.

Me (panicking): sure buddy, you can have a Sprite. Just smile real big and hold the little pillow in front of you with both hands.

Him: Mommy I want two Sprites, one for each hand. I’ll only walk for two Sprites.

Me: YOU CAN HAVE TWO SPRITES, LET’S JUST DO THIS NOW WITHOUT INCIDENT.

Him: Mommy I want alllllllllll the Sprites. Every single one of them.

Me: (starting to get really pissed at this point):  FINE YOU LITTLE TURD! YOU GET ALL THE SPRITES. JUST GOOOOOO.

Later that night, my sister-in-law Susan, who bless her heart for helping with the kids that evening, mentioned she found countless half empty Sprite bottles throughout her minivan.

Piper and Nola were involved too, reading a short little poem. Listening to Nola’s little high voice speak these simple and true words *might* have made water come out of my eyes, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

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It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys
They’re just beside you.

But it’s you I like
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself
It’s you.
It’s you I like.

~Written by Fred Rogers, 1971

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 2.03.35 PM

The day wrapped up with a cocktail reception in the barn – complete with a 3-piece folk band, a trolly ride to the bride and grooms (and my) favorite brewery, a few more toasts that made me cry again (thanks Jenna), dinner and dancing over looking the beautiful city of Grand Rapids, and an unexpected selfie with my favorite Spartan.

You know it’s going to be a good night of dancing, when the party kicks of with the MSU fight song…

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 10.03.06 AM

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Betsy, I gotta come clean here. The first time I met Matt, I was guarded and unsure about him. He smiled so much. He was beyond sweet to you, and even helped mom get dinner on the table. He played with my kids like he actually wanted to spend time with them.

Who was this guy? Was he for real? Did he really want to spend his rare Saturday nights off work eating takeout pizza with our family?

I found out quickly he was for real. He really was that nice, that kind, that loving and considerate. Matt is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, and you really did hit the jackpot – not that I’m surprised.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 10.02.53 AM

You guys deserve each other, poor fashion sense and all. I mean, look at his sunglasses.

Congrats hobos, I’m beyond excited for the two of you!

when you only have an instant

Friends and family have been asking me if I plan to keep up with the blog when we move to Belgium. The short answer is YES. The longer answer involves how I can’t find the time to write, how I’m suffering from writers block from being overwhelmed, and whether or not we will even have an internet connection when we get there.

Personally, an existence without the internet is not existence I want to lead, so figuring out how to get mama connected back up with the people that live in her fun box better be top priority.

Also, I love blogging. So yes, in time this place will again become alive.

This month marks the last month our family will be spending in Indianapolis for a very long time, as the movers have officially been scheduled to arrive in just over two week. After we tape up that final box, we’ll be spending some family time road-tripping out to Colorado for a much needed extended family adventure (think horseback riding, rock climbing, white water rafting), then the kids and I will drive up to Michigan for a few weeks of sandy lake side fun, before we fly out for good-good.

It’s all happening so fast. Way too fast. I swear just yesterday this international relocation was ages away. But here we are…

My friend Angie Six is one of my favorite people both in real life and online, and she does this thing where she rounds-up her favorite instagram snapshots from the previous month into a compilation post. Today, I’m shamelessly stealing her idea, since she’s on a plane to Spain anyway, she can’t stop me.

So until I have more time to tell you how I feel and what’s going on, enjoy the insta-update.

INANINSTANT

1. My youngest sister Betsy got married last weekend. It was an absolute stunning day, and I’m not at all done talking about this one. Post of it’s own to follow later this week, promise-maybe.

2. Ok, just one thing about the wedding. It was at my parents house. You guys, THIS BARN.

3. DIY, FTW. A funny thing happens when you clean out the attic. You find things you totally forgot you had, because you have a *tiny* problem with hoarding. From trash to treasure, Michael and him mom worked hard all Labor Day weekend restoring this 1952 mid-century folding table to it’s former glory. Next stop? The Belgian Breakfast Nook.

4. Orange is the new, um, Black. That’s right folks. I’m almost as obsessed with this huge file cabinet as I am with that show. This tank with awesome original orange and yellow fold-up drawers will house many of the kids toys at the new place. If you’re local to Indy and love awesome old-ish junk, I suggest you check out my friend The Inventorialist. He finds (and sells at the best prices) all the good stuff…

5. The Dog. No, the dog is not moving to Belgium with us. And no, I’m still not talking about it. He hit a *wee* bump in the road health-wise last month, but I think we’ve gotten it under control and he’s prepped to be on his best behavior for his new family.

6. No, YOU need a Knot Genie for that head of hair. Admittedly, I don’t love the zoo. I mean, I’ll go because my kids love it, but seeing animals living behind plates of bullet-proof glass really isn’t my jam. But (BUT!) the Indianapolis zoo recently opened a new exhibit, and it’s possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I give you permission to skip every thing else (especially the reptile house) and go straight to the Orangutan Center and camp out with a lounge chair and some drinks. Orangutans are my new favorite. In fact, I just might trade baby Paul for a hairy baby,  if that hairy baby comes potty trained (also another post for another day).

7. Twelve years. This past month marked the 12th year Michael and I have been married. We spent it hanging out in the backyard, working on projects (see #3), drinking cheap beer while lounging in the backyard kiddie pool. It’s honestly everything I dreamed it would be. No, it actually is.

8. A new path. This spring a new and much needed running/bike trail opened up in our little urban neighborhood. I would love to say I’m taking advantage of it everyday, but alas finding a time to run since the half marathon (also something I want to blog about soon, YOU GUYS I RAN THE WHOLE THING) has been hard lately.

9. The Grand Finale. We’re at that place where we’re experiencing a lot of “lasts”. Last weekly community dinner, last day of school, last day of orchestra, last book club, LAST LAST LAST OF EVERYTHING. Piper finished out her orchestra experience with her dad on stage with her (look back row, he’s the first adult to the left standing up playing his bass) jamming out to Duke Ellington. Dang, I’m going to miss these little musical kids.

So yeah, that’s us in an instant. Go ahead and follow me on Instagram (I’m “designhermomma”), because this blog is totally shoddy at best lately.

 

a home with a view

Last week Michael and I played International House Hunters (nope, not on that TLC show, I’m way too camera shy for that funny business), searching for the perfect (or at the very least) acceptable house for our 3 year Belgian adventure. I went into the search with very few requirements or expectations, I just wanted it to “feel” right.

Yup, I’m an Interior Designer waiting for a feeling, and I would basically hate me, if I was my own client.

Our only requirements were 4 bedrooms (girls share, boys share, parents share, and a guest room/playroom), a yard bigger than the one we have now (which is currently the size of a postage stamp), and an open-ish “modern” kitchen.

Day 1 we saw around 9 houses. Approximately 8 were unacceptable, only 1 I could possibly, maybe, see our family living in. I went to bed that night with an “oh what the hell did I just get myself into” feeling about moving internationally, glad dinner included a few stiff Belgian beers to curb the anxiety. The gravity of just how different life was about to become for all of us hit me like an ugly ton of bricks.

Day 2 I woke up feeling physically sick, not from the last evening’s dinner beer and steak tartar, but from the whole “this isn’t going to end well” feeling. We saw another 3 houses, two non-options and one which was really nice but on the wrong side of the tracks (or specifically, “ring road”) when it comes to traffic. The home’s location would put the kids and I at a 30-45 minute one-way school commute everyday morning and afternoon, and it wouldn’t do Michael’s commute any favors either.

But it was the very last house (it always is), on the very last day, that we nailed it. A home with a view at the end of a subdivision, within walking distance of the kids school. Big yard and lovely stone terrace, four (very small) bedrooms and a playroom, a modern-ish kitchen with an overall peaceful “Belgian countryside” vibe. The house is 100% different from what we’re living in here in Indiana, and I mean that in the very best way possible.

The house was listed at 200 euros over our housing allowance, so while we were touring it I knew my budget conscious husband would probably put the big NOPE on the deal. I did my best to prep my heart to be letdown, which resulted in very few photos and not a single room dimension taken.

After the tour we got back in the car and our relocator asked us if the house was a contender. The house was far and away the best thing we had seen in almost 15 houses, and I wanted to scream SOLD!, but instead tried my best poker face, waiting for Michael to chime in with a “well wouldn’t that be a nice house if it was in our budget” sort of response. Instead, he responded with a classic “let’s contact the owner and see if that price is negotiable”. Always a deal maker, that one.

Long story short, the owner came down 100 euros – the house will be ours come August 1st, and we’re very excited. Since the house is smaller than what we have now, I’m now busy evaluating each and every piece of furniture, deciding if it will physically fit in the new place, or if we will be parting with it for good. It’s like I’m finally putting to good use my college degree, and remembering why I hung that profession up a few years back.

Quirky things worth mentioning about the house:

Each bedroom comes with it’s own personal shower and sink. No toilet, just shower and sink. This will not end well in the kids bedrooms, trust me.

The entire house has tile floor – absolutely no carpet or hardwood floors. Also, we will be spending a small fortune on area rugs.

There is a city-wide “quiet” ordinance on Sunday reguarding doing loud things like mowing the lawn and whatnot to “keep the peace”. I’m totally on board with this.

Our refrigerator is comically small, and our freezer can store approximately one frozen pizza and a pack of peas.

And while we live just steps away from our school and in a housing community, we have this uninterrupted view from the kitchen:

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 2.13.37 PM

The feeling I felt when I saw this view will stick with me a lifetime.

I’d love to show you more photos of the interior, and while a have just a few, the images are filled with another family’s belongings. When we get a chance to make the place our own, I promise I’ll give you a quick little tour. Quirky shower stalls and all.

What I really think about the Smooth Fitness 9.65TV Treadmill (sponsored)

I’m currently blogging about my fitness journey thanks to my ambassadorship with Smooth Fitness. While these posts are sponsored and I received a super sweet treadmill in exchange for my story, I’m taking this opportunity to get in shape extremely seriously. OK, mostly seriously anyway…

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I’ve made it. Almost. Only 4 sleeps and 9 training miles stand between myself and the big 13.1 race this coming Saturday morning. I know the anticipation is killing you, and you’re on the edge of your seat wondering how it’s all going to go down.

Will she chose the Gatorade or water? How will her Lady bits fair? Will they chafe? I wonder if she’ll trip and fall during mile #1. She always falls…

While the conclusion of the race is still TBD, one thing I’m sure of is that I’ve finally logged enough miles (almost 200 since January) to give a comprehensive review of the Smooth Fitness 9.65TV treadmill. You know, feature I just love, and even a few features they could improve upon because nobody’s perfect.

TREADMILL REVIEW

A few loves:

1. It was a piece of cake to assemble. Sure, it was heavy + bulky and we had to bribe our neighbor and her dad with ice cream to help up get the beast in our basement, but once it was down there, it took Michael all of about 40 minutes to have it up and running (pun intended).

2. Long and strong. When shopping for a treadmill, one thing I wasn’t going to compromise on was the length of the track. Michael is over 6 feet tall, which means his stride is longer than average and I wanted him also to be able comfortable use the machine too. The 9.65TV has a generous 64″ running deck, which allows more than enough room for both of us to run together at the same time. Kidding. Don’t do that, you’ll get hurt. But seriously, we could if we were coordinated enough, the track is that long. He’s been running on it a couple times a week, to rave reviews.

3. It has a turd box attached. At our home, we call the TV the “turd box”. Why? Because if you sit on the sofa long enough watching crime show marathons on repeat, you’ll start feeling like a turd from all the lazy. But having a turd box attached to a piece of exercise equipments? LOOPHOLE, BABY! I’ve watched more episodes than I can count of Toddlers and Tiaras while running on the treadmill and I have no regrets. NONE. In the name of cardio fitness, yes I guess I’ll see what Honey Boo Boo is up too. A treadmill with a built-in TV is the only treadmill I ever want to be on.

4. Built-in heart rate monitor. A few posts ago I mentioned how my favorite work-out watch/monitor is the Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor. Little did I know that the 9.65TV has a built-in wireless heart rate control when using a Polar chest strap (which is included with the purchase of the machine). This feature keeps me in the “zone” and has really had a hand helping me get the most out of my runs.

5. Sound quality. While in use, the treadmill really isn’t that loud, and I’m surprised given it’s powerful 4.0 continuous horsepower motor. I was prepared for Michael to sound like a charging herd of elephants coming up the stairs, and I was pleasantly surprise that it’s relatively quiet. Even with his tall boy floppy flapjack feet. What I do hear is his MP3 player bumping (Phish! I mean really, who purposely listens to Phish to exercise?) that’s plugged into the treadmill’s dashboard.

A couple improvements that could be made (because this is a honest review, folks):

1. Weird shaped water bottle holders. While the 9.65TV treadmill has plenty of places to hold a drink or iphone (I think like 4 holders), they are a wee bit weird shaped. Maybe I’m just being incredibly fussy, but my bottle always rattles while running because the bottom of the holder is angled.

2. Heart rate monitor display options. As mentioned above, I LOVE that the machine has a built-in heart rate monitor. The thing that bums me out a bit is that if you are using the chest strap (which I like to do), you cannot opt-out of the treadmill displaying your heart rate. And to the best of my knowledge, if your heart rate display is showing, you then cannot see the mileage racking up because they share the same little window and it’s impossible to switch between the two. Clean as mud? Thought so.

3. Sometimes I like to read. Yes I’ve mentioned the TV is simply amazing, but sometimes a gal likes to check in on her celebrity gossip via trashy mag, am I right? A fab addition to the machine would be a little ledge to hold magazines, books, e-readers or what have ya.

Ok, enough talk. I got a half-marathon to prep for. Very important details include finding the most perfect race shirt, planning my spaghetti pre-party, and editing my sweaty girl race day play list. Because if I get to mile 12 and Christina Aguilera’s “Candyman” comes on, I will kill things.

Wish me luck!