Tour of Tournai

It’s a few days late, but I wanted to blog our last day in Belgium, which started with two of these beauties.  For the record, I ordered Belgium pearl sugar and am going to try a homemade recipe to make these today.

I mentioned a few times, but we rented a car while were were in Belgium.  It only cost $69 dollars for 9 days and was well worth it.  We had to fill it up twice and laughed because the gas cost more than the rental.  That being said it was an incredibly cheap and efficient way to travel around Belgium and we were really happy with it overall.

Our main destination for the day was to go and see the Pairs Roubaix, which is one of the  oldest cycling races.  We decided to watch a section of the race from the Forest of Arenberg.

Though cold, it was actually pretty fun to walk through the forest on our last day.

It was about a mile or so for us to get to our destination.

On my own, I’d probably never find myself in France at one of the most renown cycling races in the world.  But that is one of the best parts of being married to this guy.  His love for travel and his giftedness in things like confidently driving a manual in a foreign country have made for the most wonderful of adventures and it really is a great blessing.

So, this is what it looks like to spectate a cycling race.

Those are riders that my husband has followed for years.

In all honesty, most of them looked in pain because this was one of the many portions of the race that was ridden over the cobbles.

There are some of these in front of the restaurant where Christian works and I don’t even like the feeling of driving over them, so I can only imagine how it feels to race over them for big chunks of the 155 total miles that these riders race.

We had a great time cheering for the riders and I’m so glad we got to share in it together.

As we drove back to Belgium, we admired the vast beauty of this incredible country.  Outside of it’s many iconic cities were beautiful and green farmlands.  And lots of cows.  But they are picturesque and we enjoyed seeing them nonetheless.

We decided to take a quick stop in Tournai.  And not just so I could name this post tour of Tournai, though I did think it was a catchy title.

Sundays aren’t super busy and most of the cities shut down everything around 6 so there wasn’t a ton to see.  We did admire a few churches.

We did stop in for a quick look at Tournai’s Notre Dame Cathedral.  It was an incredibly beautiful and was built in the 12th century.  And on the note of cathedrals, I was shocked to hear of the fire in the Paris Notre Dame Cathedral when we arrived back in the States and saw it on the news while going through customs.  Jeremy and I got to see it a few years ago when we were in Paris and it was absolutely stunning.

After our walk around Tournai, we did stop for the first and only gelato I had on this trip.  Most of the days were pretty cold and waffles were a much more appetizing treat of choice.  That being said, for full disclosure, even though this picture is kind of cute, the gelato was actually really gross.  I had a friend point out that I mainly share the good things on my blog.   Which is true.  But of course on every trip and in life in general there are always going to be struggles and trust me, I have my share.  It’s never my intention to make others think I have it all together so I guess it’s just something to put out there because transparency at times is much more powerful than what seems like perfection.

We made it back to Ghent in time to pick up a few more chocolates.  The Creme Brûlée from this show was my absolute favorite of the entire trip.

There was even a place where you could look down and see them making their chocolates.  Go check out Van Hoorebeke if you’re ever in Belgium.

And that sums up the last day of our 2019 Belgium vacation.  The jet lag is slowly but surely fading away and we are so thankful to be back with our kids and to our normal and busy lives.  Thanks so much for sharing in our journeys!

Tour of Roubaix

Yesterday, we got up bright and early to drive out to Roubaix, France so that Jeremy could participate in the Paris-Roubaix Challenge.


My husband is amazing.  And he was incredibly excited to get to ride part of route of the Paris-Roubaix for the challenge.  The Paris-Roubaix which is known to be the biggest bike race outside of the Tour de France.  It’s also one of the hardest since many sections of it are ridden over cobbles (basically bumpy brick roads).


It took him about three hours to ride his race, so during that time, I took a little tour of Roubaix.  And I have to be honest, there wasn’t much to see really.  I started out at a nearby French outlet mall, which was probably cool, but I had no idea because everything was in French.  I did find a cute sweatshirt for Ellee.  After that, I wandered down some streets looking for something of interest.


I don’t think I’ve mentioned, but it’s actually been pretty cold the past four days.  Overall, it’s not so bad, but it has made being outdoors a little less appealing.  Especially when someone thought it was going to be much warmer and only brought a lighter jacket.  Oh well.  I did briskly walk a good mile and a half until I finally found this redeeming sign.


For only 1.4 euros, I was able to get a delicious chocolate eclair.  Which totally made the 3 miles roundtrip walk through random neighborhoods very worth while.


I was able to catch up with Jeremy at the very end of his ride and got to watch him make his final round in the Roubaix velodrome.


To be honest, I had to look up most of the general information that I’m sharing about Jeremy’s race, because I have no idea.


But I do love that my husband loves cycling and these things and I know it was a great honor for him to get to ride in this challenge race.


In almost 16 years of marriage, I’ve learned that you do your best to love and support your spouse.  Yes, there will be highs and lows.  But overall, it’s worth it.  Getting to live life with someone that you truly love and who truly loves you back is a blessing indeed.  It might sound strange to some, but we take these trips because it’s our time to really connect with each other and it always helps to strengthen our marriage.  Oh, and of course Jesus helps us tremendously.  Trips to Europe and Jesus would be my top recommendations for strengthening your relationships, haha.  It’s worked for us.


Post ride, we enjoyed a nice burger and fries.  For the record, Belgiums love mayo with their fries, instead of ketchup.  It’s weirdly tasty, but the super secret is actually the combination of the two.


Also, on a fun note, we were a little hungry after sharing our first burger so Jeremy went back to get more fries and when he did they gave him another burger for free as well.


It was really cool to be in the velodrome.  We hung out for a bit more and then headed back to Ghent.


I’ve said this before, but Belgium is an incredible place to visit (and we’ve really loved staying in Ghent as well).  The people of Belgium are incredibly friendly and many speak English as well.  There are so many beautiful cities and buildings to see and it is definitely a place that we would love to return to someday.


Also, I’m a huge fan of sparking water in cute glass bottles.  It’s my favorite thing to drink when we travel to Europe.  Sometimes I wish I was more fun, but water (usually sparking over still) is my preference and I go with it.


We finished our day at a restaurant called Fry Willy, and it was really, really delicious.  That being said we waited (quite hungry after the days adventures) a good 40 minutes for our food, but by the time it came, and after tasting it, it was well worth the wait.


Jeremy and I talked at dinner about how happy we were to be here, but how we are at the point in our trip where we are definitely looking forward to heading home.  We here one more day and then will be flying back Monday to see our kids and return to our normal, wonderful lives.

Tour of Brussels

Hey Friends.  I skipped yesterday and figured I’d combine it with today, today.  We’ve been having an amazing time.  But I think the walking and running and enjoying Belgium is catching up with me a bit.  So today was about resting a bit.  But, before that, yesterday was our tour of Brussels and it was amazing.

It started off with a two mile walk to the train station.  For the record, when you book your hotel, being by a train station is always a nice perk.  A lot of this trip we’ve been able to use our rental car, which has made us not need the train as much.


We took the train to Brussels because there weren’t good parking options (in Bruges, it only cost 3.50 in Euros to park for the whole day).  And it was a pretty quick and smooth ride.  We arrived hungry, so found a nice place called Super Bowls and had a big chicken salad and a nice slice of quiche.


And then we set out to take a nice tour of Brussels.


Our first stop was the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Belgium.  It was only 10 Euro to get in and the museum featured some great works by Bruegel, some modern art by Wim Delvoye and had many other beautiful paintings.  I told Jeremy that this one reminded me of myself, walking the kids over for Hangtime.


The museum was incredibly informative and I learned a lot about this painting “Portrait of the Van Campen Family” by Frans Hals.  He was basically a Dutch family portrait artist and the story behind the painting below is that it was cut up and separated for about 200 years before being reunited at this museum.  The museum also had other interactive displays where I learned a lot about Bruegel and overall it was a very beautiful museum and an enjoyable experience.


After the museum, we had a waffle, because, well, they are glorious.  Also I recognize that I will probably never eat waffles again anywhere else, so I may as well get my share in.


Later on, we also had more frites.  These were from a random street shop and they were also the most delicious.


After the treats, we walked to the Grand Place, which is the main city square of Brussels. It’s also by far the most beautiful city square I’ve seen, and thanks to our other travels, we’ve seen a lot.


Before we left, I had made a rock for Andrew Rocks (check it out on Facebook).  It’s a group that shares and hides rocks all over the world in honor of Andrew McMorris who is the Manorville boy scout who was tragically killed by a drunk driver last year.  We made rocks in our Moms Group and I decided to leave my rock in an amazing place in Brussels, which is exactly what I did.


We wandered the streets a bit after checking out the square.  Well, at least we tried to.  On an obvious note, cities are not places where you should go if you’re claustrophobic.


On our walk, we stumbled upon this fountain of a Boy relieving himself and it was quite popular to everyone else, so we figured it must be something of interest.


We walked down through the Passage du Nord, and it was basically a beautiful indoor mall filled with the most high end chocolatiers I’ve ever seen.  These stores were fancy like jewelry stores, but most of them were selling chocolates instead of jewels.


We stopped in one store, and I picked out a few special ones.  I do have to be honest though… we have bought chocolates from a variety of shops since we’ve been in Belgium and honestly I can’t really tell the difference between expensive chocolates or cheaper ones because they are all delicious.


When looking for dinner, we did something we’ve never done.  We let ourselves be talked into checking out a restaurant from a man who was in the street, talking people into checking out his restaurant.  Usually we are pretty good at avoiding eye contact with these kinds of people but this guy was super good, and turns out his restaurant’s food was super good as well.



After dinner, we stopped by a specialty shop for their homemade speculoos.  I tried the cheap store version of them after seeing them around a lot of stores and in a lot of chocolates.  They were tasty and they reminded me of the windmill cookies my Grandma always kept in a tin at her house.  After Googling around, I realized that windmill cookies are the American version of speculoos.  That being said, these handmade speculoos had windmills on them and so we got a small bag and enjoyed every bite.


Everything about our tour of Brussels was fantastic, till we tried heading home and ended up on a train headed towards France instead of Ghent.  We found out twenty minutes in when the train attendant who was taking our tickets realized our mistake.  She was incredibly helpful though, and gave us a super ticket and dropped us off at the nearest station to catch the next train back.  Besides it being a little scary (it was pretty late and dark) and cold, everything worked out fine and we made it back safe and sound.


This morning Jeremy headed out to bike the hills of Flanders again and I found a little local adventure of my own.  Yesterday I looked up Belgian thrift stores and was thrilled to learn that there was one only a third of a mile away and it had gotten great reviews.


I was a tiny bit nervous because it was away from all the touristy things, but I found my confidence and just acted like I knew what I was doing and everything was fine.


I have to admit, it was delightful!  Not only as it fun to treasure hunt, the prices were absolutely incredible.  Most clothing items (which were mainly all high end European brands) were 2-5 euros and everything else was quite reasonable as well.  I found a cycling jersey for Jeremy, a few vintage glasses and this cool reusable bag that I bought to carry everything in was only .25 cents.


My best find of the day though, was this cute leather crossbody purse.  After looking at the tag and doing a little research when I got back, I learned it retails for around 130 euros and I got it for 4.  It was in great condition (a little worn, but leather can do that well) and the perfect size for traveling.  Because I use smaller bags even when I’m home, I think I’ll get a lot of use out of it.


When Jeremy got back we send the rest of the day walking around Ghent.  We got food and another waffle, and checked out Graffiti Street where we saw this great reminder.


And that sums up our past two days in Belgium.  Tomorrow we head over to northern France for a few more days of adventures before we head home to our kids.


Tour of Bruges

This morning, while Jeremy rode his dream portion of legendary climbs of the Tour of Flanders (which will mean nothing to most, but something if you know anything about European cycling), I slept in and then read up on Bruges since that was our destination city of the day.  I focused on the important things, and namely Rick Steves’ recommendations on the best chocolate shops in town.


It took us about 30 minutes to get to Bruges from Ghent.  It was a beautiful drive and when we arrived an even more beautiful city.  We parked at the bus station (another Rick Steves tip) and only had to pay 3.50 in Euros for the entire day of parking.  We also got a free bus ride into the city center where we walked around for a bit and then looked for lunch.  It can be daunting to find good food when you have no idea where to look, but I said a quick prayer and a few minutes later, we ended up at a cute little restaurant where we ordered fish and chips and a big pot of steamed mussels.  The food was really tasty and fun to eat as well.


After our meal, we walked over to the Church of Our Lady which had a lot of beautiful artworks and an incredible altar piece to admire.


The reason we came though, was to admire Michelangelo’s marble sculpture, the Madonna and the Child.  I read somewhere that he worked on it in while he was also working on his famous sculpture of David.  Due to reconstruction in the church, we only had a limited view of the stature (because of this, we did save 5 Euros off our tickets).  But what we could see, was absolutely stunning.


After our church visit, I got another waffle.  Because I’m pretty sure this is the only time I will ever be able to get them.  I should probably note that every waffle I get, I do share with my husband, so it’s not so bad when I think of it that way, right?


But today was actually quite the food day and I’m not sure I can justify it all.  Because in addition to waffles we also at a lot of chocolate.  Bruges basically had multiple chocolate shops on every street.  You could almost smell it in the air.  I found the shop I had been reading about in our Rick Steves Belgium travel guide and it was a delightful experience. The shop owner was so sweet and patiently described the goodness in each hand created piece.  We left with some treasures, that is for sure.


And then we walked.


We took in as much of this beautiful city as we could.



This was our favorite square and these were our favorite buildings.


And this was my favorite waffle of the trip.  I finally broke down to get something more exciting and I’m very glad that I did.



I have to say that I love this man.  He really is the reason that we’ve taken so many fun trips.  I’m mostly along for the ride and the good food.  But it’s his sense of adventure that leads us to explore and it does make life quite exciting and beautiful in times like these.


After getting a little lost and accidentally driving our car through Bruges (which I don’t think your’e supposed to do) we arrived back in Ghent as the sun was setting.  I made myself run another 5K to balance out all the fun things we ate today.  I have to say it was a little (teensy-tiny) bit easier this time though it was also colder too.


But I think I’ve been inspired by the beauty of this city and running around it to see sites like this make it that much more enjoyable.


Also, the entire time I was running, I knew when I got back there would be hot bread, cheese and a few small pieces of very expensive jamon to enjoy.  We stopped at a fancy deli/restaurant called D’s in Bruges.  We saw the jamon and had learned about it watching Chef’s Table.  It was so expensive that those two small pieces that you see below cost about 5 euros.  Sometimes you feel like being fun though, and that is how we felt and it made for a nice treat this evening.


We finished up with a few of today’s chocolates which also did not disappoint.  And that sums up our Wednesday adventures in Bruges.


Rain Date

Amazingly, this was the only day that it was supposed to really rain while we’re here.  Which is kind of amazing for Belgium, which tends to be quite rainy.  After googling “What to do on a rainy day in Belgium,”  we took the advice on checking out a Museum.


We stopped a few times along the way, because that is what you can do when you really have no other agenda but to stroll leisurely and take it all in.  On one of our stops, we ended up here and got to listen to a pretty amazing opera singer who was practicing inside of the building.


Our other stop landed us at a cute shop where we both got sandwiches and a Coke to share.  Finding good food can be one of the trickier parts of traveling.  Especially when you can’t read the menus.  Somehow we figured out what we thought we might like and it turned out that we actually did.


After lunch, as we neared out museum, we took the scenic route through Citadel park, which had been recommended to us.  It was a really cool park, and it also had this thing which was quite spectacular.


It reminded me of Central Park, because it was located right in the city, yet still had such natural beauty within it.


We walked under that waterfall and we took a selfie.  For the record, one of us does not like selfies at all, and the other just wants a few nice pics of herself and her husband.  Since I’m not willing to bother strangers to take such pics, this is what I end up with.


Slightly dark and slightly blurry front camera pics that I absolutely love.


The Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent was one of those experiences that started out okay and slowly got better and better.  For the 8 Euros it cost to get it, I’d say it was well worth the time and money we spent.  Also, any guesses as to who the Bible character is below?  I thought it was pretty obvious and it made me smile because I taught my Hangtime kids about him earlier this year.


This was captured on Jeremy’s nicer iPhone camera.  The museum had a lot of great art to enjoy.


It should be noted that while this was a “fine art” museum, there was also some weird, excuse me, modern art scattered around as well.


Finally, I have no idea what this was, but at least it was big.  And God bless my awesome husband who let me take his picture in front of it.


After the museum, we wandered around in the sprinkling rain.


And on that note, my best general travel advice would be to always bring a pair of good walking shoes, a packable rain jacket and a bag that you don’t have to hold (mine is a crossbody that lets me walk around with my hands free).  I was incredibly thankful to have these three things today.


In case I haven’t said it before, Ghent is an incredibly beautiful city.


We found an easy dinner at a restaurant called Fitchen.  Apparently, to balance out the chocolates and waffles, we’ve opted for weirdly healthy meals in the evening.  This one included chicken, sweet potatoes and lots of veggies in a bowl with a delicious mustard dressing.  It was a really odd combination, but surprisingly tasty and we might go here again before our trip is over.


And then, to balance out our healthy dinner, we ended the night with these beauties.  I’m pleased to share that the chocolates in Belgium aren’t crazy expensive and are also quite delicious.


And that sums up our rainy day, rain date.  Jeremy’s taking a long ride tomorrow morning, and then we will be heading out to one of Belgium’s other beautiful cities.  Thanks so much for stopping by!

Tour of Ghent

Today we enjoyed sleeping in (there is a six hour time difference from here and home and I think it finally caught up to us) and then had a nice walking tour of the beautiful city we are staying in, Ghent.  One of our ways to save money when we travel is to find a local grocery store for breakfast.  They usually have a nice assortment of pastries and fruit and this one did not disappoint.  It’s also good to look for national brands instead of American ones because often times they are less expensive.  Today’s breakfast of a smoothie, fruit and two chocolate croissants only cost us 3.91 in Euros (which for the record are pretty close with the dollar these days).


Our first observations of Ghent in the daytime were quite favorable.


We walked down to the Korenmrkt, which is basically the Ghent City Center.


We stopped at a shop to finally try a Belgian waffle and it was everything I had hoped and dreamed it would be.  Chances are, I will be eating a lot more of these on our trip.


While in the city center, we walked through some pretty incredible churches.  We are big fans of checking out churches on our trips and the Ghent ones did not disappoint.


I stopped to light candles in one and say prayers for our kids whom we love and miss.


Our main destination for the day was St. Bavo’s cathedral and the church itself was quite glorious.


But we were most interested in checking out the Ghent Altar Piece, which was painted by Huber and Jan van Eyck.  It was quite stunning in person and our 4 Euro admission included a guided tour via radio set.  It was really interesting hearing all about the history and meaning of this beautiful work of art.  It was also fascinating because the Ghent altar piece is known by many as the most stolen work of art, and was hidden in a salt mine by the Nazis during World War II but thankfully rescued by the Monuments Men and eventually brought to Ghent.


After enjoying our Art History for the day, we spent the rest of our time walking the streets of this beautiful city.


We stopped by a chocolate shop to try our first pieces of Belgian chocolate.


As you can imagine, they were pretty delicious.


It was on the colder side today, so when we found a nice Belgian version of Dicks Sporting Goods we decided to rest for a bit.  It was a beautiful store and on the third floor, they had a free hot drink machine.  So Jeremy had a cappuccino and an espresso and I enjoyed a nice cup of hot chocolate.


For dinner, we used Trip Advisor and tried a restaurant called Greenway because it was ranked #3 out of 631 restaurants.  When we got there, we realized it was an all vegetarian restaurant that boasted the best meatless burger which Jeremy tried while I opened for the vegetable soup.  Everything was tasty and I was proud of us (especially my husband) for trying something new.


We got back to our hotel around dusk and I decided to go for another run.  Because I figured that the calories from our delicious day were not going to burn themselves off.


Running was a little easier today and I ended up doing a nice 3.1 which made for my first 5K in quite awhile.  It was pretty and peaceful and a great way to end the day.  Thanks for stopping by, heading to bed now!


Tour of Flanders

I slept in today while my amazing husband biked 31 miles around Ghent.  And then, inspired by him and because I felt I should try to balance the fun foods I’ll eat this week, I jogged a slow 2.5 miles.


I don’t love running.  But it is a cheap and easy way to work out.  Well, easy in the sense that you can do it mostly anywhere.  And today’s anywhere, was pretty scenic.


After freshening up after our morning workouts we got into our rental car and drove out to Oudenaarde.  We were super hungry (to the point of hangry) on the way, but for some reason, in Belgium, most restaurants were closed with today being Sunday.  So we had to settle for McDonalds, though I must say European McDonalds are more fun.  For instance, I got a Happy Meal, that came with carrots, an ice cream cone, fries and Vegan Nuggets.  The Vegan Nuggets were weirdly good, and I couldn’t tell a huge difference despite the fact that they were actually made with dairy, seaweed and fiber, instead of good old fashioned chicken.


After getting food, we were back on the road till we ended up at our final destination, The Tour of Flanders, or in Dutch, the Ronde van Vlaanderen.  If you didn’t know, my amazing husband loves to ride and is a huge cycling fan.  We realized that two of the biggest one day races coincided with our trip so we planned to check both out and this was the first.


There were a lot of people at this race, and the atmosphere was incredibly fun.


There were some cool food booths at the race and of course we checked those out as well.  These were our first Belgian Frites and they were delicious.


Pardon the selfie with an unsuspecting random man who was behind us.  Also we got free hats and flags so we fit right in.


We got to get up close and personal at the finish line with Alberto Bettiol, an Italian who captured his first tournament win at this race.


The podium celebration was pretty memorable and I’m so glad we got to come an experience such a fun race.


On our way out, I got my first Belgian waffle…  and it wasn’t great.  So the search is on and in the next few days I’m making it my goal to eat a great one.


Also, I’m making it my goal to never eat boulet again.  As I mentioned before, most restaurants were closed today so by the time we made it back to Ghent, our options were limited.  We decided to try what I can only describe as Belgium’s version of fast food.  We had passed a lot of these smaller food shops that all had similar foods that you could purchase and then have them fried.  The one we went to didn’t have anything in English, so we were adventurous and just ordered.  Big mistake.  What I thought was bread turned out to be some weird sort of fried meat and it’s still churning around in my stomach as I type.  For the record, deep fried bread would have also been weird so it’s probably on me.


Thankfully we had a nice walk back and in total did about nine miles total today.  The streets are so beautiful at night and the weather has been mild enough that it’s prety enjoyable to stroll around.


And that sums up our Sunday!  Thanks for reading and I’m looking forward to more adventures tomorrow and hopefully much better food.


When in Belgium

First off, a few disclaimers… for the next week or so, I’ll be sharing about our trip to Belgium. If you like my blog, but don’t want to hear about it, no worries and this is your heads up. Secondly, I write about our trips because if I didn’t, I’d never remember them myself. And finally, all of the pictures I’ll share were not taken on my big beautiful camera, but on my iPhone 6. So, the quality is what it is. Now that I’ve cleared all that up, here goes…

In case you were wondering, it takes about 16 hours to travel from New York to Belgium. Granted, we did have extra time at both airports, so you could probably technically do it quicker. But door to door, that is how long it took us to get here. We flew a red eye to London and then had a quick hour flight to Belgium. Also I should also clarify that the “we” here, is just Jeremy and I. Our amazing family friends offered to hang with our kids for the week and we totally took them up on it.

Once we reached Brussels, we got our rental car and Jeremy put his innately good manual driving skills into gear and safely drove us about an hour to Ghent. He had found us a great priced hotel online and when we walked in, we were delighted to see it was a little quirky but also incredibly beautiful.

Also, instead of your traditional one room, we somehow ended up with a four room suite, including a study room, bedroom, sitting room and an extra full bathroom.

I say “extra full” because it has two sinks, a bidet, a huge tub and a shower. And it just looks weirdly fun and fancy. If you ever need a place to stay in Ghent, I’d totally recommend this one.

After settling in at our hotel, we did go out and walk around a bit.

We ended up eating at a fun little Sushi place though neither of us got sushi. Inspired by watching “Crazy Rich Asians” on the plane ride here, I opted for the dumplings, and Jeremy chose the chicken teriyaki. Both were fantastic.

Our walk back was stunning. Well, except for the parts where the streets didn’t have lights, but don’t tell my mom because she’ll worry about that. We enjoyed the sights and arrived back at our hotel safe and sound. All in all, it was a great first day and I’m looking forward to sharing more adventures tomorrow.

East Coast Championship 2018

On Friday morning, we woke up at 4am to drive down to Virginia for Christian’s last volleyball tournament of the year.  Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of long road trips and have never been to Virginia, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  But sometimes in life, delightful experiences can come from the unexpected and this weekend was definitely one of those times.

First off, props to Virginia for being amazing.  Google maps took us down through Pennsylvania towards the Blue Ridge Mountains because Jeremy loves to ride his bike and had mapped out a climb on the Blue Ridge Parkway.   We made it down there relatively traffic free and after dropping him off, the kids and I drove over to Charlottesville to hang out and grab some food.


This crazy nut rode for three hours.  When we drove through the parkway to pick him up, I was a bit terrified.  The roads were steep and winding but the views mostly made it all worthwhile.  When we found my husband happy and in once piece, all was well and then we were off to Richmond for the tournament.


This trip not only served as a grand finale to Christian’s club volleyball year, but it was also a bit of a mini vacation for our family.  We stayed in a nice hotel with a pool and had some great quality time with this sweet girl.


All of our mornings started early with 8:00am work times for the team at the convention center.  They played three games after that were nicely spread out.


We loved watching the boys play and had fun cheering them on as they won their first two matches on both Friday and Saturday.


This is where I have to give a shoutout to Christian’s club, The Island Academy Volleyball, or most commonly known as Acad.  I’ve shared before that I did not plan for our son to play club volleyball so young.  We’d known families that had done club for years, but I could never wrap my mind around the time, travel or money investment.  We ended up doing club this year when our son came to us because he really wanted to play.  He committed to earning money to pay for a big portion of the year which was commendable since he’s only 13 and can’t technically work anywhere yet.  He ended up doing many, many jobs for people (mostly yard work) and not only met but exceeded his goals for the year.  This caused him to be incredibly committed to his team and to playing because he put his own money into it and overall, it was really great.

And as far as his team and club?  We could not have been more pleased.  He gained incredible instruction from his coaches and we were so happy with what he learned from playing for Acad.  As a bonus, he also got some great coaching from Acad’s head director Kevin DesLauriers who was named 2017 Coach of the Year for his outstanding work with Molloy.


Moving on.  This weekend included lots of fun volleyball matches.


Granted, it wasn’t as fun when they didn’t win.


Which happened when they played this team.  But it’s life lessons, right?  Sometimes you aren’t the best and there’s something to be said about acknowledging that and learning to deal with it.


Other times, you might be a little better and then that’s pretty fun too.


We had a lot of great players on our team this year.


And we really had great coaches as well.  This is Christian’s main coach, and he was fantastic with the boys.


Also, this is my favorite shot from the weekend.  For the record, as a photographer, I’m used to working with families outdoors in the nice, natural light.  I think I have a lot to learn when it comes to shooting action shots in weird convention center lighting.  But I have quite a few years ahead of me to learn.




Ellee took this shot for me.  Because someday, I’d like our kids to know they had a mom that wasn’t just behind the lens.  Also, I love that man right there, and I’m pretty sure he loves me too.  And finally, we don’t match often (ever) but when we do, it’s for a good reason.  We absolutely loved being volleyball parents this weekend and representing our son’s club.


Our last two matches of the tournament were tough ones.


On Saturday, we played the number 1 ranked team.


It was pretty intense.  And they were really good.


It was a hard loss.


And this kid was pretty disappointed.  But, you know, life.  And he got over it.  And went back to the hotel with his team and had a fun night and good food and got ready for the next day.


Because of their record on Friday and Saturday, our boys made it into the Gold bracket.  There were 36 teams total at the tournament and this was a great accomplishment for them.  However, their ranking put them against the second ranked team, an absolute powerhouse of young men from Puerto Rico.


Side note, this girl was great overall this weekend, at supporting her brother and his team.  It’s not easy to be the siblings of the kids who are doing all of the sports, so credit to those kids because it’s due.


Also side note, our team had some pretty awesome parents this year and we really enjoyed getting to know many of them.


And for how we did in our 8:00am match against that top rated team?  Pretty good in the first halves of both games.  We were point for point up to about 11.  And then it wasn’t as close.  But I really do give our boys so much credit for playing with heart and for doing their absolute best.  It wasn’t an easy match to watch, but really that’s okay.


Christian accepted some words of encouragement from his amazing dad right after their loss.  And later we learned that the last two teams that we lost to went on to play each other in the championship game.  The Puerto Rican team ended up winning the tournament which was so great for them.  Jeremy had talked to one of the moms from that team and she shared that this was a big tournament that their team had saved all year to get to so even though I was sad for our team, I was definitely happy for them.


And that sums up our 2018 East Coast Championship weekend.  We left around ten and had a mostly traffic free ride home which was pretty amazing for Memorial Day weekend.  We listened to “Country Roads” by John Denver again on the way home, in honor of Virginia (you should totally listen to it because it’s pretty catchy) and it made my heart most full to hear my family singing it knowing it will forever commemorate this awesome trip that we took to Virginia.  Since Christian has four more years and has already started working towards next season, I’m definitely hoping for four more years of this trip to come.


Florida Fun 2018

So I happen to be a bit of a sucker for those ads that pop up in between Facebook posts.  It’s how I ended up with a bit of a miniature DIY dollhouse addiction as well as the most comfortable travel neck pillow I’ve ever owned.  It’s also how I stumbled upon Frontier Airlines advertising for $29 one way flights.  Remembering that my parents now spend three months of each year in Florida, I decided to do a bit of research and found that Frontier flies to an airport that was only an hour away.  I actually thought it might be a scam because it was so cheap until I put in all of the info and realized that by skipping the frills (like carry-ons and guaranteed seats together) I could buy two round trip tickets with a checked bag for $162 total.

So that is just what I did.  This sweet girl joined me for a Monday through Friday adventure.  The only downfall was that she did miss four days of school, but clearly she didn’t mind.


And actually, we were able to fit in a little bit of education while we were visiting Florida.  My mom’s Florida friend Beth offered to give us a nature tour the first day we were there.


We learned about the Saw Palmetto and Sabal Palm (two of Florida’s native palms) and how to tell the differences.  We also learned about buzzards and berries and saw a recently dug tortoise hole.  It was overall very interesting and educational and a fun way to kick off our time in southern Florida.


I loved spending time with my parents.  They’ve been avoiding the snowy winters in Michigan and going down to Florida for three years now.  They have a beautiful fifth wheel that they drive down that has a garage for their motorcycle and they are thoroughly enjoying their retired life.  My Dad worked hard for as long as I can remember, and I’m so thankful to see that they are able to enjoy the fruits of that labor.


During our visit, we enjoyed a good amount of leisure time with some fun adventures sprinkled in.  We visited a wildlife sanctuary that had an abundance of lions, tigers and bears as well as other interesting animals.  They described themselves as a bit of a nursing home for animals that were abandoned, abused or retired and who were unable to return to the wild.  On the one hand it was sad to read the stories of what these animals had gone through, but on the other, it was good to think of this organization taking them in and caring for them since no one else could.


This picture just made me smile because Ellee has such a close bond with her Grandma.  It’s special because she really only gets to see my parents a few times a year but she really does love them so very much.


Another highlight was getting to see The Greatest Showman with my mom and Ellee (Grandpa opted to see Star Wars).  I am absolutely in love with that movie and it’s incredible soundtrack.  I’ve seen it twice now and it was really sweet getting to see it with these fun ladies.


Some more of my favorite moments from our trip included:

Grandpa making his famous French Toast.  It never disappoints.


Ellee getting a January swim on the day before southern Florida hit record lows.


Ellee and Grandma holding hands just because.


Grandpa teaching us how to play Shuffleboard.


My sweet Aunt Joyce making a delicious Key Lime pie for Ellee and my mom’s birthday.


And my final favorite memory was driving to Parkesdale Farm for their famous Strawberry Shortcake, pictured below.  It was absolutely outstanding and well worth the long drive it took to get there.


And that about sums up our trip.  Looking back, I’m so glad that we were able to take the time to go and visit my parents.  We enjoyed so many little adventures and made lots of sweet memories to cherish.  A huge thanks to Frontier Airlines for their ridiculously cheap flights (that overall were pretty fantastic) and to my awesome parents for a wonderful winter vacation to sunny southern Florida.