11 February 2015

brussels (mini guide)

Backtracking to last fall, which I can't believe was already so long ago, Rich and I spent a few days in Brussels, Belgium. Originally the whole trip was supposed to include a day in Utrecht and a day in Antwerp after leaving Amsterdam, but we were so in love with the city we just kept extending our time there. If we hadn't been catching our return flight to New York from Brussels we may never have left our little nest in de Pijp.
Another reason we weren't bouncing from city to city was that it was very shortly after my biking accident and I was having a hard time getting around. It was heartbreaking not to be able to bike at all, but walking was still somewhat difficult and slow at that point. Unfortunately by the time we got to Brussels I was completely shot. The city doesn't have the easiest street plan to follow and with lots of hills and winding streets taking a wrong turn caused me major anxiety. For that reason I ended up being a bit of a drag while we were there. That isn't to say it might not be a wonderful place for you to visit and maybe someday I'll get back there to give it another try. Here is a mini-guide to Brussels that mainly concerns the area around Bas de la Ville where we stayed. It was touristy, but there were a few places I really liked that weren't as crowded as everything else.
Nuet Nigenough
It translates in English to "one who never has enough." A lovely restaurant that focuses on high quality interpretations of Belgian dishes matched to a complimentary beer. We discovered it through a friend we made that day during a brewery tour at Cantillion. He'd been to Brussels several times and told us when he's in town he never misses a chance to eat here. I wouldn't skip it either if we were to go back. It's very popular but quite small and there wasn't a seat inside but it was super cozy with warm light and art nouveau and art deco details. We sat outside on the street and ate the most amazing beef stew and veal meatballs. The servers were beer experts that knew all about the pairings, if you're not sure what to drink they will help you out.
Nuet Nigenough
Moeder Lambic Fontainas
We went here on our very last night of the trip, I was limping like crazy and we were both exhausted but I'm so glad we didn't miss it. Instead of dinner we had the cheese and meat plate and a quiche to share which was the perfect compliment to the beers we were drinking. And we were drinking a lot, the menu was one of the most extensive I've ever seen. The bottle list was the size of a thick novel. I wouldn't miss the cheese and meats plate if you go, there was one cheese that was so bad we still joke about it, but the rest were incredible.
Delirium Cafe
To borrow a description from Rich: Do you know the scene in Star Wars (A New Hope) where they go to the bar in Mos Eisley? That is what this bar is like. Its smokey (even though you can't smoke inside) and dark and crowded but its fantastic. The bartenders are amazing, we made friends with the people we were pressed up against the bar with, we tried a whole bunch of new beers and it was just great. It was just the kind of dive bar down a tiny alley you always envision when you think of wild nights out in Europe. Not to be missed!
Elisabeth Chocolatier
I was looking for some nice chocolates to bring home to my family and we stumbled on this shop while looking for little souvenirs. I thought the sign was pretty and I could smell the chocolate wafting into the street from the door. Inside we got to try all kinds of chocolate dipped nuts and nougats. Everything inside was beautiful, there were the most intricate chocolates shaped like autumn leaves and berries. I'm not a huge chocolate eater though so I bought myself some berry gummy candies and saved all the chocolate treats for my family at home. Since it was the end of the day the proprietor even tucked a few extra chocolate covered waffles into our bag so they wouldn't go to waste.
Elisabeth Chocolatier
Bier Tempel
A bottle shop for the obscure beer lover in your life (in my case, I'm marrying one). He spent a solid hour carefully selecting beers that we wouldn't be able to find at home that he could share with our friends. Then another 20 or so minutes choosing glassware to go with it. A fantastic place to pick up beers to bring back home with you or to have with a picnic lunch while wandering the city.
Bier Tempel
Brasserie-Brouwerij Cantillion
Easily my favorite spot, and well off the beaten path. This is the exception to my places near Bas de la Ville. Founded 115 years ago in the same place it stands now, its location is an integral part of the spontaneous fermentation process by which it obtains its flavor and uniqueness by the bacteria and yeasts in the air in the region. Its a lot less gross than it sounds and I learned all about that while touring the working brewery which also serves as a museum. After an informational session with a brewer there's a self guided tour accompanied by an extensive pamphlet of information. You can take as much time as you like wandering the old rooms, looking at all the tools that look like artifacts but are still used today. At the end you get a tasting, and if you're us you stay until closing drinking rare beers from 2008 and making friends with an American brewer who was also visiting.Cantillion 2

06 January 2015

black. blue.

It's definitely winter. All I want to wear is Uniqlo's Heattech layers under sweaters with an extra pair of socks. For Lindsay's birthday brunch back in December I wore this easy black and blue outfit to stay warm on the city streets. Though not quite as cold then as it is now, it was good practice for frigid days. It was also one of the first times I was able to wear actual heels since my accident in August and the first time I got to wear my new Vagabond boots outside of the house. Now that I'm a bit of an expert, my advice is that if you ever have a hip or a leg injury make sure you get rubber soled shoes, even high heels. The heel on these is sturdy but cushions your step on the sidewalks. As an added bonus, being able to lace them makes them even more comfortable when you can tighten and loosen them as needed.
BDG corduroy skirt (similar here in red)
Vagabond Grace boots
A Wool Story hat
Topshop coat (similar here)
Uniqlo tights and turtleneck
Clare Vivier bag

01 January 2015

ringing in 2015

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a great night to ring in 2015. This year Rich and I went to Queens to have a fancy-dress slumber party with Remi and Sam. When we arrived there were multiple bottles of champagne to be drunk.
nye 2015
We had the most amazing take out tacos with champagne for dinner and a tostada for dessert.
nye 2015
Had on my vintage dress I bought with Sam about a hundred years ago at Loveday 31 and my new Vagabond boots. If you were curious, Rich had on Levi's from head to toe and a knit JCrew tie.
nye 2015
Breaking into the liquor cabinet
nye 2015
An intense talk about beers and whiskeys
nye 2015
Four years with this handsome guy at midnight
nye 2015
Just a few minutes until midnight, a group shot was in order
nye 2015
Counting down and waiting for the fireworks to start
nye 2015
nye 2015
Keeping the lights low and settling in for the slumber party portion of the evening. We started by watching the wedding documentary episode that featured Sam and Remi, and moved on to Grand Theft Auto
nye 2015
nye 2015

31 December 2014

into the future

be optimistic
2014 was hard and a lot of shit happened. 2013 was harder though. Since things are looking up, tonight its cocktails and champagne and good friends because that is what I want 2015 to be filled with.

Here's what I'm looking forward to:

Tomorrow is my 4 year anniversary with Rich and we're going to get married.
Long runs and bike rides with the wind at my back.
Reading and writing as often as I can.
Making moves in my career.
Getting better at math...seriously.

Be safe. Happy New Year.
Image from here.

28 December 2014

diamond snowflake

engagement ring
Rich really outdid himself with my engagement ring. Not only is it a one of a kind Edwardian antique, but its a part of his family's history. Its thought that it belonged to his grandfather's grandmother or mother but the details are fuzzy on this point. I found out that he'd gotten his grandmother's blessing to propose to me with this particular ring almost a year ago. After his grandmother passed away this past fall he told his aunt who was holding on to it that it was time. He did a lot of research on its history, how it was made and where and got it cleaned up and learned about its history. It was made before 1900 in Ireland and is made of white gold and diamonds. There is some beautiful filigree in need of repair, which I plan to have done and needs a slight resizing. The center diamond is an old transition cut with ten small old mine cut diamonds surrounding it in a bezel setting and they came from the British Isles.
At first I wasn't really sure how I felt about it, but I think it was just the shock and the anxiety surrounding what a huge step this is in our lives. It reminds me of the first snowflake of the first snow. Sparkling and perfect and filled with hope and anticipation. Can you tell how happy I am?

25 December 2014

by the christmas tree

We're engaged
Rich and I are getting married!
Last Friday night I came home after a happy hour with my work friends and was totally exhausted. The next day was our annual holiday party. Rich was cleaning and I was insisting we do it in the morning. He was behind the tree getting something out of the closet when I heard a crash. He told me an ornament fell and broke, and needed me to get the dustpan and broom. I went to the kitchen closet to get it and when I turned the corner there he was right by our Christmas tree, down on one knee.
I'm pretty sure after he asked I said, "Um, I guess."
I was stunned into complete silence and so nervous I couldn't stop shaking. A few days later it still doesn't even feel real yet. We talked until late into the night about how we wanted our married life together to be, and even if we're not always this perfectly happy it makes for a pretty good start. We're going to be a team for the rest of our lives and its the best Christmas gift I've ever received.

Note: Rich did really good by asking me while it was just us at home, the picture is from our party on Saturday night.

24 December 2014

surprise party

Tomorrow is LK's 30th birthday, and having your birthday on such a major holiday as Christmas can be hard. To celebrate the occasion properly her boyfriend and cousin threw her a surprise party a few weeks ago. The plan was for her and Dave to celebrate his birthday the day before and meet up with her cousin for brunch the next morning. Little did she know that all of her favorite people would be waiting for her with balloons and champagne ready to celebrate.
Lindsay's 30th
Ali and Rebecca
Lindsay's 30th
Lindsay's 30th
French toast, berries and champagne
Lindsay's 30th
The birthday girl...still totally surprised
Lindsay's 30th
Hey there handsome
Lindsay's 30th
Those balloons you could blow up with a straw we all had at parties as kids
Lindsay's 30th
Lindsay's 30th
Stepping back outside, I had almost forgotten it was the middle of the day
Lindsay's 30th

05 December 2014

by train

Quick flights from city to city are convenient, but trains let you watch the land roll by and your thoughts unwind. Sure it takes longer, but whats the fun in traveling if you're only going to get to see the city streets?
When we were planning our trip we meant to spend the whole week in Brussels but it worked out that flights to Amsterdam were less expensive. The plan was to fly in to the Netherlands for the weekend and take a train south after a day or two. Good thing we didn't book flights from city to city because Amsterdam is magical and we ended up staying almost the whole week. The beauty of the train was that we didn't have to book anything in advance, we just showed up to the station and hopped on.
Changed trains in Rotterdam Rotterdam Centraal Got a quick peek at the city's bike lockers Rotterdam Had a midday picnic picnic lunch Treats! kinder surprise And arrived in a golden skied Brussels in the early evening Brussels
happy, honey & lark. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.