It’s been ages since I’ve shared a blog post! I’m on Instagram everyday, though. Check out my grid on makingmanymemories. I’m so excited to be in our new house and celebrating the holidays. I love this time of year! I’m extra excited to add to my Christmas decor this year! I’m adding an extra tree and I want to do it in a theme. I’m thinking either plaid or buffalo check. I’m very traditional with my Christmas decor. My main tree is the family tree which is always decorated with the kids’ ornaments and ornaments we’ve collected during our travels. I especially love all my German and European ornaments.
I was excited to find a whole collection of Polish pottery ornaments at the HomeGoods in Grand Rapids when I was visiting MI a couple of weeks ago. I found these fantastic German wooden decorations at my local Marshalls here in Tampa. I can’t wait to show you how I used them!
Since the 4th of July afforded us a long weekend, we took advantage of it and headed to Jupiter and Miami Beach. It’s fun to have a change of scenery and check out the east coast of Florida. The kids had never been to Miami and it’s been 30+ years since hubby moved away from his childhood home in North Miami Beach, so we were excited to check out all the places he remembered from growing up.
We drove past his old house and it was crazy to see how the neighborhood compared to his memories of it as a kid. Of course, it’s changed a great deal and not completely for the better, but it was fun to see it and reminisce. We then headed over to his favorite park, Greynolds Park. It’s a beautiful piece of Miami Beach history that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930’s. It has a beautiful walkway by the Oleta River, a golf-course, a boathouse and picnic pavilions, as well as a couple of newly updated playgrounds. The land is covered with plenty of live oaks and provides a great place for picnics even on hot summer days. We visited on the 5th of July and were quite comfortable despite walking around at midday.
We grabbed a great lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant and devoured the fantastic meals. We were pleasantly surprised by the meal and were so full that we didn’t even feel the need to have a full dinner that evening. We headed to our hotel and relaxed at two of the different pools the hotel offered. My favorite was the roof-top pool. It was uncrowded and quiet and had a great view looking out towards the city or the water. The next morning we got up and drove the length of Miami Beach all the way through South Beach. I had never been to South Beach before and I LOVED all the Art Deco architecture. I spotted a little French bakery and made hubby stop so we could grab some pastries. When we got inside, I felt like I’d been transported to back to Europe, and we decided to have breakfast there instead. We noticed that the bakery also offered a selection of Belgian chocolates and beers, along with the large stock of French wine. We laughed and said that maybe the owners were from Wallonia, the French part of Belgium, where we had lived. Later, we struck up a conversation with the waiter and found out that YES, we were right! The owners were Belgian. No wonder it felt so familiar!
Again, we devoured our delicious meals, and we bought some macarons to enjoy on the way home. It was a perfect start to the day!
For the drive home, we decided to stay off the main interstate home and take the Tamiami Trail (US 41) through the Everglades and Big Cypress National Parks. We stopped at the Visitor Center at Shark Valley, which is the northernmost part of Everglades National park and walked part of the trails. It was looking like storms were coming, so we didn’t stay very long, but we got to see a ton of wildlife in just the short time we were there. From huge grasshoppers to baby alligators, to gar and peacock bass, there were all kinds of animals to see! We are definitely going to make a return trip and do an airboat tour and bring our bikes to ride the trails more. We also want to check out the Seminole communities that are along the way. Several of them offer tours, airboat rides and Native American arts and crafts. A trip back in the fall/winter is a must for us!
We already have a list of activities to do and places we want to come back and explore more, so we can keep making memories!
Just a few days into summer break, we left the humidity of a Florida summer and headed north for the cool, fresh temps of Michigan. I do love summer in MI! We went a little earlier than we normally do this year and unfortunately, that meant I missed out on one of my favorite parts of MI; the fresh strawberries at the farmer’s market. They weren’t ready yet. MI had such a cool spring, that all the crops are a couple of weeks behind.
My sister’s in-laws live on about 10 acres south of Holland and have created what we call Miller’s Adventureland for the kids. They have a 4-wheeler track, a zipline, pool, and trampoline for the kids to enjoy. Not to mention all the acres of land to explore. We were able to spend an afternoon enjoying all the fun activities.
Sadly, we did have a few days of rainy weather and a sick kiddo, so we didn’t get to head up to Northern Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The kids still had a great time hanging with their cousins and getting to spend plenty of time outdoors playing tennis, going to the park, walking to the corner grocery store, exploring the nature center, visiting grandparents, and just being kids.
We love the fun we get to have in MI. Next time, we hope to get up north though! There is just something about northern Michigan that immediately calms you and all you can do is enjoy your time there.
Summer break just officially started, but we’ve been enjoying the sun and beach for close to two months now!
We’ve got a couple of fun trips planned for the summer, plenty of pool and beach time, and a few decorating projects. Hubby just started his new job and it’s a remote position working from home. This meant some rearranging of spaces to give him a dedicated office and so far, we are loving the “commute”. It’s amazing to think that now I will have the commute, which is only about 15 minutes from our house to the school where I teach. After so many years of deployments and hours that are set in stone and often longer than expected, it feels surreal that he just has to go in his office and close the door to start working.
We are so excited for this new chapter and I can’t wait to share it!
We spent this 4th of July without the fanfare and fireworks we usually enjoy. This year, we took a step back in history and explored the oldest preserved medieval castle in Belgium, Castle Bouillon, home of one of the first Crusaders, Godefroid. Continue reading “European 4th of July “→
About a month ago hubs and I ended up having some time to spend on our own and we decided to take the opportunity to go visit Groot-Bijgaarden. It is a short drive outside of Brussels and not far from our little town as well. They have an annual spring flower show, which is the largest in Belgium and the gardens are open for tours. Because the palace is still lived in by the Bigard family, the gardens are only open for about a month every year when the flowers are at their peak, but it is available for rentals year-round. I could just imagine a fairy-tale wedding and reception here at the centuries old castle.
The moat around the castle still exists and you enter the castle grounds by crossing a drawbridge. Once you arrive inside you can explore the grounds including the chapel.
Chapel decorated for the flower show
The grounds were planted with beautiful displays of tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and crocus. We went one of the first days the grounds were open for tours, so we did not see them in their full spring glory, but they were beautiful and promised a grand show at their peak.
The festival also offered a food and beverage tent and a playground for kids to enjoy. There are various other activities available throughout the festival and indoor display area where Belgian floral designers and landscapers show-off their skills in themed presentations. You can also purchase various bulbs and potted plants that were on display in the gardens and the indoor area.
Prices are listed on the website and they offer a season pass for just 18 EUR/adult. We chose to just get the one-day ticket as we weren’t sure if we’d make it back for another visit.
It was a perfect little outing for just hubs and me and the rain held off just long enough for us to walk the majority of the grounds.