Monday, February 3, 2014


The moving madness, the reason I started this whole blog a year ago, has begun! I really took for granted how much Tonico did for us during the last move! Naturally, since I am not working, he asked me if I could take charge of the move back to the states, and I happily accepted the challenge...and challenge it is! 

We started with a 14 page, front and back, packet detailing our relocation allowances from the company. From there, we have been in contact with the moving companies who will be handling our moves from both Brussels as well as MN (where my wonderful in-laws have been storing all of our major home furnishings). There is an overall moving company we are working with who organizes other companies to do the physical moving of the items. Confused? I had to draw a map...

and since I took this picture, I have added more people with more functions...

Today we had a nice Belgian man come to survey our home goods to make sure we are within our weight allotment - and it seems we have some major organizing to do! We are a little scattered at the moment as I am trying to sell all of the items we have accumulated while we were here. **I apologize profusely for the inundation of FB updates about all the things I am selling - how obnoxious! I promise, I have tried EVERYTHING to hide it from y'all but it seems it's will be over shortly, I swear!** 

On top of this crazy moving madness, my Dad is coming to visit!!!! He'll be here late on Friday night and I'm just praying I haven't sold the couch/bed he'll be sleeping on! He will be here for 10 days and I am so excited to show him our home and our little country! We will be doing some WWII sights as his uncle was/is a veteran and spent a lot of time in this area. Who knows what other fun excursions we will find ourselves on while he's here. My Dad just loves this area of the world - takes him back to his younger years when he was in the National Guard and spent time over here. He gets so giddy when he talks about all the good times he had back then and I am excited to spend some time with him in his element! :o)

This blog post should give you an indication of what is going on in my brain as of yet...I'm working hard to stay organized and on top of things but it's a bit nutty here!

Are we in NC yet!?!?!?!?

*Side note* My dear, talented friend Jenna has launched an Etsy page full of awesome travel related goodies! Check her shop out - Lakeside Daydreams - you won't regret it!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Time Flies!

It seems so cliché to say but this past year sure has flown by! This time last year, Tonico was in Belgium interviewing for the job he currently holds. Now, a year later, we are preparing to leave Belgium behind and head back to CHARLOTTE! Ingersoll Rand has gone through some major restructuring and with that, a position in Davidson, NC opened up that we could not pass up. 

Now we are back to the lists upon lists of To-Do's before we make the move back (tentatively scheduled for March). Thankfully this move will be much easier as we know the culture we are coming back to! There will be no need for FBI background checks, residency requirements, apostilized documents, etc, etc. Instead it's car shopping, apartment/house hunting, job searching for me and making plans to bring our puppy back home to us!

While this time in Belgium has been tough, it has been a great year for Tonico and I to learn about a whole new culture first hand! As we begin the countdown to Charlotte, it seems only fitting that we think and reflect on the things we are going to miss once we are gone. 

If I had to make a list right now, it would be:
1. The beer - sure you can buy most in the US but it's just not the same!
2. The architecture
3. The ease of travel to so many beautiful and historic locations

..ok so I am struggling to make this list - I know there are many more things - I just cannot stop thinking about all of the things I am looking forward to back in the US. Here are just a few:

1. Seeing Tonico and Chucho reunite for the first time in a year
2. Eating Mexican food
3. Celebrating being home with our dear friends in Charlotte!
4. Getting to know my sweet Aliyah (my friend Jen's baby girl)
6. Speaking English
7. Customer service
8. Friendly strangers who say please, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry, etc
10. Being only an hour ahead of my family instead of 7
11. Jessica & Matt's wedding
12. Brian & Andrea's wedding
13. Ryan & Katie's wedding
14. Mexican, everything from Chipotle to Cantina 1511
15. Being with family and friends for so many of the above items!

Just wanted to keep everyone updated! We have so appreciated all the thoughts, well wishes, mail and Skype dates we have had with everyone while we have been gone. We certainly did not think this move would be happening so quickly but we are so excited!

Hope everyone is doing well and sticking to their New Years Resolutions! 2014 is going to be an amazing year!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas in Florence!

I forgot to post this before, but Tonico and I are FINALLY residents of Belgium! Tonico finished his process in September and I finished mine the day after I arrived back in Belgium. After 3+ hours I received my "orange card" or temporary residence card. Unfortunately, upon receipt of this document, I am not aloud to leave the Schengen Area (the countries in Europe that have gotten rid of passport control). 

Because of this, and the fact that we had just spent almost three months apart - including our second anniversary - Tonico and I decided to take a nice long vacation for the Christmas holiday. We settled on Florence, Italy and it was the best decision we could have made! We spent a whole week enjoying the sights, sounds, shopping and food of this amazing city!

This is by far, the most beautiful church I have seen in all of our European explorations. This is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore -  also known as Il Duomo. The colors to me are so stunning and timeless. I could have sat outside this building all day and just stared/took pictures of it!

We attended (partially) a mid-night Christmas Eve mass there - we had read we needed to arrive by 10:30 if we wanted a seat, so we did just that. At 11 they began a pre-mass that we stayed for, but after a long day of walking, eating and a good bit of wine, we realized making it until mid-night or later was not going to happen! It was beautiful none the less!

The church itself is one of the most empty I have ever seen. There were some beautiful artwork but that's about it. To me - that is what made it even more beautiful. This picture is what is painted inside the "duomo" or dome. 

My best friend Jessica studied abroad in Rome, Italy so before we left, we asked here if there were any "must eat/drink" suggestions. Cappuccino was #1 on her list. Jessica knows I am NOT a lover of coffee in any form, but she said I HAD to get it, so I did! And then I got it again, every morning we were there! Maybe it's just because we were in Italy but I really enjoyed it!

Tonico and I did a lot of walking while we were in Florence. I was surprised at how hilly the city actually is. One day we went to visit the Riccardi Medici Palace. The grounds were quite extensive with some of there best views atop some of the steepest hills I've climbed in a while! This picture of Tonico is actually only about halfway up the hill. 

This is the Palace from inside the grounds. The palace also housed several different museums - we visited the costume museum which showcased several influential women in the fashion world. While their style was definitely eclectic, the pieces were beautifully made. It was very surreal to see so many original Gucci, Chanel, Prada, etc. pieces.

This was by far our favorite things while we were in Italy. Panna cotta and Limoncello :o)

Another view of the Duomo just because it is THAT beautiful!

Just like this picture :o)

This was our Christmas morning/afternoon feast! We had mimosas too which is a Marin family Christmas tradition. 

This is the bell tower for the Duomo. We walked up all 414 very steep, very narrow steps. The views were breathtaking and no amount of pictures could do it justice...

...but here's one anyway!

Did I mention we did a lot of walking in Florence? On our last day in Florence we walked to Piazzale Michelangelo, which again was up a very steep hill but boasted some of the best views of the city. And they were not lying! The weather was a bit overcast and it actually started raining while we were up there, but it didn't stop us from snapping some pictures and taking in all the views.  

We did go to see the real David statue, but you are not allowed to take pictures of it, so this is a replica that is in the Piazzale Michelangelo. 

Did I mention we enjoyed limoncello? This was at a restaurant Tonico found on TripAdvisor. We ordered pizza from them the first night we were there but took it to go. We decided to go back later that week for a sit down meal and it was awesome! The waiter was so nice, read the whole menu to us in English and then treated us to these after dinner drinks! We went back again the next night and they treated us like they'd known us for years! (they even gave us one of the glasses to keep!)

Tonico and I flew to Italy via our first RyanAir flight. RyanAir is a no-frills airline that has some awesome travel deals due to the 'no frills' concept. It's a free-for-all at the airport, but you can't beat the prices. Also, the flights generally do not fly out of main airports. We flew from an airport just south of Brussels, in to Pisa - then took a train to Florence. This gave us a great opportunity to see the infamous leaning tower! 

Obligatory tourist trying to hold up the tower...

...trying to be unique with my tourist picture...didn't really work! We really wish we would have just sat back and took pictures of the ALL the tourists doing this pictures! It was hilarious!

So that was our Christmas vacation in a nutshell! It did not feel like Christmas though, as this was our first time spending the holiday away from family. Nothing can replace family...but Florence was a good attempt!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Made Especially for You by Gramma Schroeder

My dear sweet Gramma passed away on Monday. It was a blessing in disguise. She is no longer hurting and finally reunited with my Grandpa. I got to spend so much time with her while I was home. I was able to accept the inevitable and soak up her love. But no matter how prepared you are for something like this, it's still a difficult feeling. Adding in the thousands of miles between home and where I am, and the pain is a little worse. So naturally, I've spent the last few days looking at pictures, reflecting on good memories of her with Tonico, and wrapping myself in her handiwork.

One year for Christmas, many many years ago, all the Schroeder Grandchildren gathered around the Christmas tree at "Big Schroeder Christmas" in the Wilton Legion Hall. Grandpa played Santa and passed out to each one of us a box. In side that box was a blanket, each one just a little bit different, but that blanket was "made especially for me by Gramma Schroeder". I certainly cannot speak for everyone, but my 'Gramma blanket' as it soon became referred to, was carried around like another piece of clothing. (Though never as much as my sweet cousin Hanna - her 'snuggie' was GLUED to her!) Sometime in high school, I had the sad realization that my Gramma blanket was not going to last forever. Holes were beginning to form simply from natural wear and the pattern was almost completely faded out. Sadly, one day, I folded it up, placed it in a bag and put it in the trunk below my window seat. Having to be without that blanket was tough, but somehow I moved on :o) College graduation day arrived, along with another special moment. Gramma had made me another blanket! I could not have been more surprised or thankful for such a thoughtful gift! I have tried to be much more careful with this blanket, but it's almost impossible not to wrap myself in it every time Tonico and I sit down to watch a movie or read a book. This week was absolutely no exception. This blanket means more to me than almost any other possession - now more than ever. 

To all of you who have sent love, support, kind words, prayers and thoughts my way - I cannot thank you enough! You are the reason I have been able to move past the sadness and in to acceptance. May you find peace and comfort this holiday season as you spend time with your loved ones!

Tonico and I wish you all the best this holiday season! We are jetting to Florence, Italy next week to spend our first Christmas, just the two of us! After this emotional year, it is sure to be just what we need to recharge our batteries for 2014! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

So, it's been a while!

For those few of you that have been waiting patiently for my next blog...I apologize for the 3+ month delay! It's been an absolutely crazy last three months, and while I will spare you a ten page blog, I will try to be brief!

First and foremost, I have to make sure to acknowledge the visit Tonico and I got from my very best friend Jessica and her fiance Matt! They visited at the end of August and it was a blast! J&M (that's what I'm going to call you!) started their vacation in London and then made their way across the ocean to Bruges where I met them. We toured around the city and I took them to Tonico & my favorite bar spot. 

Unfortunately this is the best and only picture I got while in Bruges. Props to the photo bomb in the back ground...

After a nice long day in Bruges, we all hopped on the train back to Brussels to meet up with Tonico. The night was spent toasting J&M's engagement and catching up on life. And if I'm being honest...that's about ALL we did!  :o) We spent most mornings sleeping in, due to staying up too late drinking too much wine the night before. Then we would venture out into the city to take in some sights. And if I'm being honest again, the below pictures pretty much sum up how we spent our days!

(At the Georgette, one of our favorite Friteries/Restaurants)
Frites and Beer...

(At the Delirium bar - more than 2004 beers available from all over the world.)
and more beer!

We had so much fun trying out new foods, beers, walking around the city and hanging out on our deck talking about any and everything. We were in great company that week! On one of our last nights together, Tonico and I took J&M to the European Union area - just a short walk from our place - to enjoy what the Belgians call a "party". Every Thursday night during the summer, all of the bars and restaurants in the area (Place Lux), have drink  specials. Because most people who work at the EU are from around Europe, they usually work M-TH and travel home on Friday, making Thursday night is the night to celebrate the end of the week. 

And after this trip, we all came to a very valuable yet sad realization....we are not 18 anymore! But we would not do anything different with our visit! We absolutely LOVED seeing them and showing them around our home :o) And now, on to their big day! June cannot get here soon enough! 

After J&M left, it was difficult for me to get back to 'normal'. Tonico was back to work and I was back to the relentless job search and my housewife duties. There were things going on at home too that were making me long to be there. My absolutely wonderful and supportive husband encouraged me to make a visit home - and for that, I will be eternally grateful. While home I got to do all this:

Meet Aliyah Louise - Jen why didn't we get pictures together!?

Celebrate this beautiful woman's wedding to Reed, the perfect match for sure! It was a beautiful day and I was so glad to be able to share it with you two!

Reconnect with these blonde beauties,

Witness the absolutely personal & unique wedding of my dear friend Maida to David, 

Cuddle with my boo boo, 

Travel across the country with my Dad, in a pickup truck, to bring my brother home from San Francisco,

Drink Tea Garden with my Hermana-in-law,

Goof around with my littles,

(A journal my sweet friend Jenna sent me upon my arrival to the US and the blanket I wrapped myself with while sitting next to Gramma's bed made out of Grampa Schroeder's old corduroy shirts)

But most importantly, I got to spend days, hours and many minutes with my Gramma Schroeder. Her battle with cancer took a turn for the worst just days after I arrived in the US. While it may appear in the above pictures that I was just home for fun, know that every minute in between these pictures was spent with her - holding her hand, talking about Grampa, listening to stories from when she lived on the ridge, and enjoying the company of family who has been surrounding her these last few months. While I absolutely hate that she has to go through this, I am forever grateful for that time with her. She and I shared so many beautiful moments that could never be written about and are memories I will hold for a lifetime. She's a strong woman and will fight this as long as she can. If you believe in prayer, this is one woman who could use an extra prayer or two for peace and comfort. 

Happy Holiday's!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In Dublin's Fair City

Wow! It's been a whole month since I have written a blog post! I guess we have been quite busy with travels and visitors :o) I cannot complain. 

In reference to the previous blog post...we are still waiting for the next move...again, it's been a month!

Just two weeks ago Tonico and I made the maiden voyage to Ireland for a little work and vacation! Tonico has one person that directly reports to him, and she is located in their Dublin office. In an effort to be a good boss, and get to know more of the people he works with on a daily basis, he was able to plan a quick trip to their office, and I got to tag along :o) Hang on...I really loved this city so I have LOTS to share!

Wednesday morning we arrived in Malahide - just north of Dublin, right on the water. Tonico went straight to work and I went straight to the pub :o) Fish and chips with some of the most amazing cider I have ever had! They had free wi-fi too so I jumped on to let the family know I had arrived safe and sound and of course, share some pictures!

I've never been a big cider fan, but when the Irish bartender suggested it, I couldn't say no. It is like drinking a Jolly Rancher, but ten times better! Later, when I told Tonico's co-worker that I had tried it, I believe she said "Oh, that stuff will make your head explode!" Good thing I only had one!

Of course, my brother's comment to this picture was "looks the same as the KC fish fries"...but to me, there's something magical about eating 'fish n' chips' in Ireland 

Wednesday night we had dinner with Caroline, Tonico's direct report, and Mary another of this coworkers. They were so nice and SO much fun to talk with! Caroline was born and raised in Dublin. I just loved listening to her accent and hearing all the funny Irish sayings! Tonico and I, I am sure, missed a lot of the punch lines!

Thursday I took a DART into the city. Once I got there, I was a little bit overwhelmed! So, since there is SO much to do and I had not done any of it, I decided to make like a tourist and jump on the "Dublin City Tour" bus. It started out as a beautiful day so I went to the top level and got my camera ready. It is so nice to have someone drive you around and point out all of the important points of interest and share different cultural stories. Dublin has such a unique character, both the city and the people, so it was very interesting and entertaining. You can jump off the bus at several different points along the tour and then once you have finished visiting the sites, within minutes another one will come along that you can jump back on to. I chose to just stay on all the way through, which ended up being about a 2 hour tour of the city! 

Just a shot of the famous "Dublin Doors"

A little Irish humor

One of the most photographed "Dublin Doors"

St. Patrick's Church

Just one shot of the many Guinness buildings...they own 64 hectares (158 acres) of land

The building with the green at the top...that's Bono's (U2) penthouse!

The Ha'Penny bridge - The first bridge built to cross the River Liffey which of course cost you a half penny to cross back in the day. Another note of the Irish humor, they have nicknames the River Liffey the "Floozy in the Jacuzzi" or the "Bride in the Tide"...who the heck knows why!?

Friday I spent the day at the beach...because this was the view from outside our hotel window!

It wasn't a particularly nice day to be able to lay out, but I have really missed being around the ocean!

And this just brought a smile to my face :o)

Tonico and I went in to Dublin Friday night to see a play called "Major Barbara" by Bernard Shaw. It was shown at the Abbey Theater which is quite historic in Dublin. It has been a while since we had gone to the theater so it was a nice treat. While I did enjoy it, I had a hard time understanding some of the British politics and humor, but Tonico really loved it. He's still talking about it!

Saturday morning Caroline took us to see the Newgrange Passage Tomb just north of the city. This site was built more than 5000 years ago! That's before the pyramids in Egypt! I call it a 'site' because no one really knows what it is. When it was excavated, they found human bones which would leave them to believe it was a tomb of some kind. It is also very interested because the way it is situated, during the summer and winter solstices, the sun aligns directly inside of the opening passage. It is very clear that this was done on purpose. We were able to go inside, though it is quite a small and narrow passage. There is a beauty about this place and not knowing what exactly it is, because you get to make up your own story. Definitely worth while and something we probably wouldn't have know about if she would not have suggested it!

That afternoon we had the fortunate luck of meeting up with a good family friend that Tonico has not seen in years. Miles and his girlfriend Aoife (Pronounced Eefa, the Irish version of Eva) are both PhD students at Trinity College, the major university in Dublin. They gave us an insiders look at the campus and got us in to see the Book of Kells in the main library. Apparently as students we could have jumped the line, but decided it was a nice day and we had lots of catching up to do! The building itself was so gorgeous! We couldn't take pictures of the Book of Kells but the upstairs library was almost more impressive!

Then of course we had Miles and Aoife take us around to some of their favorite pubs to do some much needed tasting :o) And before we left, of course we needed a group shot!

Sunday was our last day in Dublin so we headed out early the next morning and straight for the Guinness factory! Let me tell you, if you are ever in Dublin, it is 100% worth your while and your money! We were there all morning and even ended up having lunch there because there was so much to see and do! 

I like how he blends in :o)

This might have been one of the most interesting parts. They have video's showing how they used to make the old oak barrels. They only employed the most skilled at making the casks. It was so competitive that once you were hired, you went through an of them being they would put you in a barrel and roll you around town!

I did not realize how cool the marketing for Guinness was. They had a whole floor dedicated to it!

And I tried my best to get this just right! Uhg, I have a ways to go!

In the tasting room, where you learn the proper way to taste a Guinness. I have only had one other Guinness in my life, when we were in Chicago for St. Patty's, and I remember I hated it. This, I'm happy to say, was not so bad!

Tonico went through the Guinness Academy to learn how to pour the perfect pint!

And passed!

And here we are enjoying our Guinness from the 360 degree gravity bar at the top! The views were amazing and the day was so clear!

After lunch we headed back into the city to the Gaiety Theater for a Riverdance performance. I definitely enjoyed the performance but was a bit bummed that it was such a small scale performance. When you see it on TV there are so many dancers and the stage is huge! This was only about 20 dancers and sometimes it looked almost like they all did not fit on the stage at the same time! It was so cool though and the music was fabulous! Tonico struggled to stay awake after his Guinness and some of mine, so I don't think he cared for it as much as I did!

All in all, it was a great trip! We have already said though, there is so much more we want to see and do, so another trip will definitely need to be planned! Until then, I leave you with an Irish folk song that I just cannot get out of my head!

Tonico and the infamous Molly Malone

In Dublin's fair city, 
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone.
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow, 
Through streets broad and narrow, 
Crying, "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!"