14.08.15 – Life Lately and the “Before” House Tour

We are officially installed in our new house! It is still very exciting to be here and extremely weird all at the same time. But even though the house is chaotic, I feel a sense of peace and calm every evening when I come home from work. Although, that being said, I prefer to spend my time mainly in the kitchen as it is the only completely unpacked room!

We have quite a bit of work to do around the house, which we will complete slowly. But I wanted to fully document the transformation process, so before we moved in last Saturday, I took some photos to remember how it was like before we entered. There is still some of the old owner’s possessions in the pictures – but luckily that was gone when we arrived with our own things!

01 TWL House Before Entry Way

Welcome to our home… (behind that door is a closet/potential to turn into a guest toilet)

02 TWL House Before Living Room

The living room/dining room combo

03 TWL House Before Kitchen

The kitchen – I am in love with all the storage compared to our old apartment!

04 TWL House Before Bathroom

The downstairs bathroom – complete with the oil heating system. That huge monster will be the first thing to go when we switch to gas soon!

05 TWL House Before Courtyard

06 TWL House Before Courtyard

Outside in our enclosed courtyard

07 TWL House Before Backyard

08 TWL House Before Backyard

09 TWL House Before Cows

The backyard and meeting our neighbours

10 TWL House Before Stables

There are two stables and a hayloft out back – not sure what we will do, that’s a project for a few years from now

11 TWL House Before Upstairs Bathroom

The upstairs bathroom, where only the toilet is functioning; lots of work to be done here

12 TWL House Before Bedroom

One of four identical bedrooms, all unfinished with partially built closests

13 TWL House Before NIghthall

The upstairs hallway and staircase to the attic

14 TWL House Before Attic  15 TWL House Before Attic

The unfinished attic – there is so much potential here!

Moving in Europe can be quite an ordeal – and ours definitely was! It is extremely difficult to get your belongings out of these apartments that are several floors up, and our building doesn’t even have an elevator! What is commonly seen, is to hire a moving company with an elevator service; they move everything up/down to your apartment via the window. It is so interesting to see, although I did have visions of our boxes plunging to their demise off of the elevator.

Moving in Brussels Elevator and Van

Everything went pretty smoothly, though. The company we used were great, and luckily the elevator was needed just the one way, to move us out of Brussels. We only lost two champagne glasses and a glass cake stand to the move, so I think we got off quite easily.

Sunset in Vlierzele

Now we are just taking advantage of the last long summer evenings and enjoying our new place in the countryside!

Travel and Fitness: Running in Brussels

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So often when we travel, we allow ourselves to slide a bit on our fitness; I’m definitely guilty of this! I justify it away by telling myself that all the walking we are doing each day is exercise enough, and then use the same excuse to stuff myself with treats throughout the trip.

But you can easily combine exercise and sightseeing – just get out and go for a run! You will get to explore new areas of a city, and if you fit it in early in the day, you might even see them still empty of other tourists.

I’m not the best at doing this myself, but I every time I have pushed myself to get out in the morning I’ve been really grateful. I’ve run along the harbour in Cannes, France (and thought about stealing myself a yacht!), around the old walls of Nuremberg, Germany, and along the river in Washington, DC.

I never felt like getting this exercise in left me with less energy during the day – I maybe had even more! Your day tends to start later when on holiday, so why not get up at the same time you are use to when working, and use those extra hours for keeping fit and exploring!

If you ever get to visit my corner of the world, I’ve prepared a few of my favourite running routes in Brussels to help give you that extra push to get out the door.

All distances are approximate, to make sure you’re getting your kilometres in, I recommend you use a running app; I use Nike+.

Mont des Arts Brussels Belgium

My City-Centre Go-To Route:

Starting from the centre of Brussels (for me that means the St. Catherine’s neighbourhood), below you will see I used the Bourse as a starting point.

Run along Boulevard Ansbach to Rue Lombard, turn left up Rue Lombard.

When you reach the small square, Place Saint-Jean, take a slight left onto Rue Saint-Jean.

At the top of that street you will be at the Mont des Arts. In front of you, across the major road (Rue de la Chapelle) is a park with a large statue of Albert I (pictured above, from opposite side). Run through the park, and up the stairs, continuing up the hill past the Musical Instrument Museum.

Then you will be at Place Royal, go left out of the square, and from there you will see the beginning of the Royal Park.

Distance so far: a bit less than 2km

Run the periphery of the park as many loops and in whatever direction you feel like – the circumference of the park is about 1.5km per loop.

Then just retrace your steps back to the centre!

Royal Park Brussels Belgium

Photo Ops: The Royal Palace, view from the top of Mont des Arts with the spires of the Grand Place peaking out

Alternatively, you can take the metro line 1 or 5 to stop Park, and run the 1.5km loops around the park. However, I would still recommend a quick detour to see the view from Mont des Arts!

Chateau Robinson Bois de la Cambre Brussels

The City Centre/Forest Route

Close to the centre of Brussels is the beginning of the larger Zonienwoud/Foret de Soigné. This part is called Ter Kamerenbos or Bois de la Cambre, and gets a lot more foot traffic. It’s great for a run, walk, bike ride, or just hanging out with a picnic. There are also often cool event taking place there!

Depending on how many kilometres you want to get in, and where you are coming from, you can either start at the beginning of Avenue Louise, or else take the tram up to stop Legrand, which is at the entrance to the forest.

I would only recommend that you run from the start of Avenue Louise if you are out first thing in the morning – any other time and you will spend a lot of energy dodging tourists and shoppers!

From Avenue Louise to the entrance of the forest, it is roughly 2 kilometres, straight up the avenue.

In the park, there are then two roads that create a sort of figure eight through the forest. You can use these to create different lengths for your run, but if you run the outline of the eight, each full loop comes to just short of 5 kilometres. Then you can decide to either run back down Avenue Louise, or grab the tram! Tip: right at the Legrand tram stop is a great coffee shop, Cafe de la Presse, which has good post-run snacks and juices or smoothies in addition to coffee!

Foret de Soignes Brussels Belgium  Trois Fontaines Forest de Soignes Brussels

The Zonienwoud/Foret de Soigné Route

This one is a bit more difficult to get to, by car is the easiest, but you can either take the metro line 5 to Hermann-debroux, or the tram 44 to Auderghem-Foret. From there it’s a short walk to the route starting point. The routes have already been laid out and numbered, you just need to pick your distance: either 5, 10, or 20 kilometres!

The route is really running through the thick of the forest. It’s beautiful and peaceful, just make sure you are comfortable with trail running as you need to watch your footing!

I’ve run the 10km route before, and found the markers quite easy to follow and didn’t wind up lost!

Check out this website for more information.

Travel and Money: Creating a Travel Budget

Palais el Bahia Marrakesh Morocco

To round off my posts on budgeting, I wanted to dive deeper into creating a travel budget. Now, this isn’t to say you need to account for every penny before travelling, or even take your spreadsheets with you, but the handy thing about starting to really budget for your travel is that it can go hand in hand with your trip planning. It allows you to “get real” with how much you might need to save to make the trip a reality!

My travel aspirations for the rest of the year have been thrown for a loop since we bought a house, but at the beginning of the year I started budgeting for a trip to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It’s unlikely we will get to take the trip this year, but at least I have some ground work in place for when we do feel like these kind of trips are an option again.

Doors at Palais el Bahia Marrakesh Morocco

Planning the itinerary:

You don’t need to be setting in stone the itinerary you will take, but you should have a general idea of where you want to go, especially if it isn’t a city trip you are taking.

Our Amalfi Coast Simplified Itinerary:

Trip length: 14 days (Friday/Saturday to Saturday/Sunday depending on accommodation costs versus flight costs)

Days 1 – 7: Salerno for Italian language school

Days 7 – 14: Travel from Salerno to Naples visiting Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento, Capri

Note: I’ve left the details for the language school out of the budget for now; we aren’t sure if we would both do it, or which school/formula we would take.

Berber on camel Morocco

Transport:

Depending on where you are going, this could be the biggest ticket item of your trip. For us, travelling from Belgium to Italy is pretty low-cost thanks to all the cheaper airlines available.

However, you also need to think about things like airport transfers, parking, and how you will get around once you are there. Perhaps you will be taking the train from one place to the next, or renting a car. Maybe on a city trip you can get a pass for the local transit system. You can find most of this information online, it just takes a bit of planning on your part for what will make the most sense! And depending on the country you visit, make sure to account for possibly getting a visa or potential vaccinations before visiting.

Our transportation budget:

Taxi/Uber to the airport: 25 euro each way, 50 euro total

Airfare (Brussels to Naples with Easyjet): 200 euro total (2 people) plus one checked bag for an additional 22 euro

Train from Naples to Salerno: 16 euro for two, one-way

Various buses between towns: 50 euro for two, estimated total

Ferry to Capri: 60 euro for two round-trip

Total transportation: 398 euro total or 199 euro per person

Riad in Marrakesh Morocco

Accommodations:

Here is where you need to start diving deeper into your research! Maybe you already have a good idea of the type of accommodation you want to do, so this is quite easy. It’s probably one of the most important sections of the plan as it is one of the biggest portions of the budget.

Be realistic with what you want and expect for your accommodations. Can you sleep anywhere and hostel-living is no-sweat for you? Or do you need a quiet place to relax in the evening with little noise? Make sure to take this into account, as if you can’t stand noise, being in a hostel for two weeks could mean sleepless nights and two week of exhaustion!

For us, we knew if we did the language school in Salerno, we would likely take an Airbnb private apartment for the week. For the rest, I compared prices on Airbnb and booking.com to see what was the best. Perhaps hostels are more your thing, so add in research there as well! For us, we tend to stick with jumping from one Airbnb to the next, although this does require more up-front planning and less flexibility on where you sleep each night.

Make sure when using Airbnb or similar to look at the listings to see the added cleaning fees or service charges on top of the “per night” rate.

Our accommodation budget:

Salerno: around 75 euro per night

Rest: around 110 euro per night on average (this is a mix of private rooms, full apartments, or B&Bs depending on the city)

Total for 14 days: 1,295 euro total or 647.50 euro per person

Entry way to Qarawiyyin Mosque Fez Morocco

Sightseeing:

This section of course takes some forethought from you on sights you will want to visit while you are travelling. I would recommend doing some research and having of list of “must-see” locations to get you going, and then bump up the budget a bit beyond that to take into account any additional things you may want to do. Include here museums and historic sights, but also any tours you would want to do or activities and excursions.

We didn’t plan a lot of structured sights, and this is probably one area of the budget that needs more work and research.

Our sightseeing budget:

Pompeii: 40 euro for two, access to all five sights valid for three days, plus 10 euro for two audio guides

Hiking Mt. Vesuvius: 20 euro for access for two

Additionals: 150 for two people, various sights and excusions

Total sights: 220 euro total or 110 euro per person

Orange Juice Stand in Marrakesh Morocco

Food:

Pretty much what any holiday revolves around, especially when one is planning to go to Italy! This part of your budget could vary so much, depending on the importance you attribute to it, where you are going, and whether you stay at places that offer included meals.

Our budget is a bit on the low side, mainly because we like to stay in places with kitchen facilities and plan to cook most of our breakfasts and a few dinners ourselves. Depending on what we are doing, we might also prepare packed lunches, so a good chunk of the food budget goes to grocery shopping.

I don’t tend to work this one out a lot, because it is going to fluctuate throughout the days depending where you eat and what you do. A good way to get a general idea is to google where you are going and cost of food, there are a lot of other people looking for the same information and helpful tips already given!

We budgeted 60 euros each per day for food.

Copper wares shop in Fez Morocco

Shopping:

Of course you need to do some shopping while travelling; those souvenirs will always remind you of your trip! I like to take this into account in my monthly budget, and assume around 80-90% of that “shopping” budget will be spent on my trip.

My travel shopping budget is 120 euro, but I’m pretty flexible. I have no idea what my boyfriend’s would be!

 

That rounds out the big areas of a travel budget. Or course you should always take into account a bit of a buffer on top for unforeseen costs. You also don’t want to feel so bound to your budget that you can’t be spontaneous when you hear about a great excursion or see a beautiful souvenir that just doesn’t quite fit in the limits you set. Be flexible, and realize that it won’t ever be exactly how you planned it!

So my total for the proposed trip to Italy: 1146.50 euro 

Let’s just say, after writing this all up and looking at the budget again, I am seriously having some travel jealousy and wondering if there is a way to still make this trip work this year!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Have you been to the Amalfi coast, and am I being unreasonable somewhere in my budget assumptions? I’m curious to know!

All photos from our trip to Morocco in 2011

Exploring the Lake District: Hiking Around Keswick

Narrow Road Keswick Lake District UK

Despite living just a quick hop away from Great Britain, I have to say I haven’t taken many opportunities to explore the country beyond London since I arrived in Belgium. But I got a real flavour for the English countryside a few weeks ago when I flew over for a long weekend to visit my friend in Manchester. We quickly escaped the city on my first day and headed off into the Lake District for a couple days spent in nature.

Footpath Keswick Lake District UK

Shut this gate Keswick Lake District UK

View from Castlerigg Hall campground Keswick Lake District UK

The view from Castlerigg Hall campground

We drove up to the town of Keswick, passing through a few other picturesque towns perched on lakes along the way. If I had the time, I would spend days hopping from one to the other, exploring everything the district has to offer. As Keswick hosts a convention for three weeks every July, we couldn’t find a place to stay still available in the town, so instead we ended up camping! It was my first time camping in about three year, since my France road trip in 2012, and I was just hoping the night wouldn’t get as miserably cold.

The campground was lush and green, situated on a hill overlooking Lake Derwent. Of course it was lush and green thanks to all the rain the region gets – and naturally we also got to experience that as well! It was off and on our entire time in Keswick, but luckily never so bad that it ruined our plans.

Sheep Keswick Lake District UK

Goat grazing Keswick Lake District UK

Baby calf feeding Keswick Lake District UK

I have so many lovely photos from our weekend – it’s really a picture perfect region, so I thought I would start with focusing on the country-side. The Lake District is known for its walking and hiking trails, and you can easily spend a week up there exploring different routes and seeing so many different sides of the region. We didn’t have enough time to get out for a really long hike, but we did walk from our campsite (Castlerigg Hall) up to the Castlerigg Stone Circle. It was about a 45 minute walk, and the official footpaths take you through farmer’s fields where you get to hang out up close with the sheep, cows, and sometimes overly aggressive horses looking for a treat! Since the region is known for rain, make sure you have appropriate footwear, or at least a couple shoes to switch out with, as you will definitely need to dodge some mud puddles on the way.

Castlerigg Stone Circle Keswick Lake District UK

The Castlerigg Stone Circle was constructed around 4500 years ago by prehistoric farming communities. It’s one of Britain’s oldest stone circles and definitely one of the most picturesque. It’s believed these stone circles were very important to these communities as they were the location of gatherings, rituals, and ceremonies. 

There are also quite a few viewpoints you can walk to around Keswick. We were short on time, so we drove up to them, but passing loads of hikers out enjoying the woods as well.

Stone Wall near Ashiness Bridge Keswick Lake District UK

River near Ashiness Bridge Keswick Lake District UK

Ashiness Bridge Keswick Lake District UK

The first stop is at the Ashiness Bridge, a beautiful stone construction. Here a river comes rushing down the hill to meet the bridge, and with the hills and forests surrounding it, it’s a great atmosphere to take in. There is a small parking lot nearby, so you don’t need to worry about finding a place for your car on the narrow English roads!

Surprise View Keswick Lake District UK

Just a bit further along and you will come upon the Surprise View; you just turn a corner and there it is, the trees part and you have a magnificent viewpoint over the valley of the Derwentwater and Keswick.

So, are you tempted to visit the Lake District now? I’m already trying to plan when I can go back!

07.08.15 – Life Lately and August Resolution Check-in

This week was full moving-mode, and so there’s not much else to report. Tomorrow is the big day, complete with a moving company (my first time hiring one!) and an elevator to take all our furniture out the window and down to the street. I’ll take lots of photos – because this is just something we don’t get to see back in Canada!

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On Monday we had our friends over for a “last dinner” at our apartment in Brussels. Moving means we have basically no food in the house anymore, so we of course went to our favourite restaurant for some take away meatballs. They were a big hit, although it’s not easy coordinating an order over six people!

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This is our new town hall; so much cuter than the one in Brussels Centre. We were in and out within 10 minutes and are now on our way to becoming residents of a new town!

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These lovely ladies are our new neighbours – we went last night with a load of things to the house already, and did a walk around to strategize our move. When we walked down to the end of our yard, we saw this cow pasture just borders the very tip of our property. The girls seemed pretty happy to meet us.


Resolution Check-in

Since we are a few days into the month now, I wanted to also touch upon my resolutions for the year.

July was a pretty busy month for me on the personal side. With buying a house, getting ready to move, and making a lot of personal development decisions, it has been full speed for a few weeks. I’m so grateful that from a work perspective everything is very calm through the summer months, so that I can have the energy to dedicate to these other topics.

I mentioned I have signed up for the Amsterdam Half Marathon, and while I haven’t been really training, next week kicks off my 10-week training plan so I am going to have to push myself harder than ever to get going! I’ve never been particularly good with training consistently for a race, so I am setting this as a personal challenge to myself to finally do so. Since we move tomorrow, I have already ended my gym membership in Brussels, so getting out and running to explore our new home is the perfect solution!

Which such a busy month behind me, now is a good time to look back and see how well I stuck to my key intentions:

Practice Self-Love: I really spent some time goal-setting this month, and putting those thoughts on paper have been very helpful and motivating! And with the high amount of stress that went on with the house buying process, I think I managed it as well as I could at the time. Moving has been pretty emotional, and when we started packing it got very overwhelming really fast. For me, it was mainly the sudden wave of realizing how much we had to get through! But now I have gotten addicted to the cleansing feeling of packing and organizing and we really got rolling with it. But at the beginning I definitely needed some time to step back and mentally recover from such strong emotions.

Create More: i think the more regular content on the blog can speak for itself! I’ve really gotten into it and am enjoying the process so much more now. Having the goal planning really helps with this as well. I also posted in a previous Life Lately post that my friend and I spent an afternoon in Manchester at a pottery cafe, painting ceramics. This afternoon was so therapeutic and really brought home the message that I need to plan more time in my schedule to engage in art therapy at home as well.

Be Mindful: I think here the biggest area for improvement this month is not necessarily being mindful of my own needs and emotions, but actually my boyfriends. He has taken on so much stress and responsibility with our move, mainly due to the language barrier I face. I’ve not always been the best at recognizing and understanding this and I definitely need to help out more. So if he is reading this, he can take this as a commitment to helping him more to balance it all out again! 

Alright, it’s time to get back to work on finalizing our move. There is still so much to do, and we know the work won’t be stopping anytime soon. But look for more updates coming soon, as I definitely want to capture the “before” state of the house as well as updates as we move along with the renovating and decorating process.

My Top 10 Must-Sees in Boston

Having more or less four days in Boston seemed like the perfect length of time for us to see the city. We felt like we were able to do everything we wanted, but also not feel rushed or exhausted from packing in too many sights. We didn’t go to too many special sights or museums, preferring to spend most of our time wandering the different neighbourhoods to get a feeling for the city. My top picks are a mix of these two types of activities.

01  Old Town Trolley Tour

Image via Old Town Trolley

1/ Take the Old Town Trolley Tour

The passes may seem a bit expensive, but this hop-on hop-off trolley tour is one of the best sightseeing tours I’ve been on; the drivers tell great stories about the history of the area, and depending on the driver you can get completely different tales. You see all the major sights, and can easily get transportation between them all. Plus, with a two-day pass, you don’t need to rush to see something in order to complete the tour. The only negative we had was sometimes it was difficult to hear the driver’s commentary over the sound of traffic, or understanding it through their Boston accents!

02  Beacon Hill Boston Architecture

2/ Wander the narrow streets of Beacon Hill

I think I’ve already covered the merits of this one.

03  Swans in Boston Public Garden

3/ Hang out with the swans in the Boston Public Gardens

When we were there the swans were nesting. And you can even take a boat trip in a swan boat!

04  Back Bay Houses Boston

4/ Check out the shops and architecture in Back Bay

Just a short walk from Beacon Hill, Back Bay also has some beautiful houses and architecture. Plus there is a lot of great shopping and restaurants in this neighbourhood.

05  Kayaking Charles River Boston

5/ Sunbath or rent kayaks along the Charles River

We just took leisurely stroll here on our first day, but it would also be the perfect spot for a picnic, or else some down time if you have longer in the city!

06  Boston Cream Pie from Omni Parker Hotel Boston

6/ Try the real Boston Cream Pie from the Omni Parker House Hotel

This is suppose to be the spot that started it all. Get a small version from the gift shop downstairs, or else you can order 24 hours in advance a full size version.

07  MIT Museum Boston

7/ Visit the MIT Museum

We had so much fun here! Learn all about the robotics program, experience science and art combined, and have a lot of fun learning!

08  Harvard Yard Harvard University

8/ Get in touch with your academic side while wandering the Harvard campus

Check out my highlights here.

09  Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Boston

9/ Visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

This art gallery is housed in a renovated home, and Isabella Stewart Gardner took such care to curate and present an amazing collection of pieces. The inner courtyard is one of the highlights, and you could easily spend all day wandering around and enjoying the museum.

10  Fenway Park

Image via the Boston Calendar

10/ Visit Fenway Park

The reason this is my last must-see is because we didn’t do it! We saw the park while on the Old Town Trolley tour, but never went and had a tour of it. I do regret it now, as the outside of the stadium itself has such a great retro vibe, and I would have loved to have seen more even though neither of us enjoy baseball. Well, always a reason to go back!

Travel and Money: My Top 8 Budgeting Tips

Rullingen Limburg Belgium

Get your finances in order and who knows, maybe one day you can live here! (Rullingen, Limburg, Belgium)

Last week I shared with you my method of general budgeting so that I can hopefully keep my finances in line and spend more intentionally. While the overall management is still a big work in progress for me (and becoming more complicated with buying a house and starting joint savings accounts!), the day-to-day financial decisions I feel pretty comfortable with.

I’ve made a lot of progress since the beginning of the year in maximizing the use of my salary each month and becoming more effective in some categories of my budget. So today i’m going to share with you some of my most important learnings and tips!

1/ Shop your pantry first

This is probably my most improved area; I was so shocked in January when I realized how much I was actually spending each month. My big tip – shop your pantry first, and invest time in meal planning. I’m pretty sure this is the most touted tip out there and maybe one of the biggest pains to actually implement. But I went from spending 300 euros + per month on food down to around 250 euros per month, depending on what pantry items needed restocking.

My secret weapon? I started using Prep Dish – a personal chef’s meal planning service. She gives you 4 dinners, snacks, a breakfast and a dessert every week, complete with a shopping list and a prep guide so you can prepare everything Sunday evening and have your evening meal preparation considerably cut down! Plus, since the plans are for a 4 person family, and we are only 2, when I stuck with the quantities I had my lunches covered via the leftovers. It’s 14 dollars (USD) per month, and personally I think I will only use it for a few more months and then try out applying the principles on my own. But for the price, I think it is a great investment. And bonus: the meal plans are paleo and/or gluten free! (Disclaimer: I am not getting anything out of sharing this info, I just really love this resource!)

2/ Don’t try and immediately limit your spending

Take some time when you first set your budget categories (at least a month) to see how your spending is going in real time. You’ll get a great view on where you are either over or under estimating and can then rework the budget and start trying to truly stay within those guidelines. Although, if you are routinely going over budget and having to makeup the shortfall via debt, then definitely take more extreme measures as soon as you can.

3/ Be flexible with the budget

Some months your spending priorities are going to be different. Take this into account at the beginning of each month and potentially re-work the values per category. Always keep your “baseline” figures saved, but make the amendments for that month so you can be realistic. For example, maybe you have budgeted 30 dollars/euros a month for gifts, but it’s December – you will definitely need to bump this up and perhaps even make a gift-budget on its own (i.e. a budget per person you plan to buy for).

4/ Be meticulous and stay on top of it

Account for everything you are spending! One or two dollars/euros here and there can really add up. If you take 5-10 minutes every night to quickly jot down your spending, even if it isn’t directly in the spreadsheet, it will make sure you catch everything and make the actual input later much easier.

5/ Work with your debit card

I sometimes feel like I can go through cash so quickly! I prefer to work with my debit card so that no matter what you can always check your statement and see your spending.

6/ Always ask for a receipt

If you use your debit card most of the time, then at least you have a back up or a way to cross-check. But a lot of times purchases on debit cards can come through with strange company names and it can be hard to work out. Ask for receipts and then you can clearly see per item what you need to account for. Also, create a dedicated space on your desk to put these and clean your wallet out every night to stay organized – but I do throw out my receipts once they are inserted in my spending log (but check first in case you need them for returns or warranties).

7/ Create a travel budget

When you start planning a trip, or are even just toying with the idea, start a travel budget! It is the best way to get real with yourself about how much it will cost. Take into account airfare and/or ground transportation, accommodations, sights you will want to see and if they have entrance fees, food, and shopping budgets. Next week I’ll show you one of my budgets and give some more insight here!

8/ Create a wish list

Start a list with all the need and want items. This could include two sections of the real necessities and the true wish list. Then price them out! It will help you keep your shopping more intentional and hopefully cut down on emotional purchasing. Plus, when your birthday or Christmas comes around, you already have a great resource for family and friends who might need some gift ideas!

That’s it so far! I’m still learning and evolving in my money management skills myself, but I hope these ideas will help you with your own finances. We are only just embarking on the house buying/family planning side of things, so I know I will likely have a lot of money lessons to learn still as we figure out how to tackle these new challenges.

Back to School: Touring Harvard University Campus

One of the non-negotiables when we visited Boston was that we were going to do a tour of the Harvard campus. We both love the feeling and atmosphere given by old university campuses, and of course it makes us nostalgic for our student days (when we met!). Since the academic semester had already finished, it looked like there were no more guided tours running when we visited. Instead, we downloaded their mobile app and followed along as we walked around campus. It wasn’t always the easiest to follow; however, it looks like the app that we used is not available anymore, and in its place is an app that looks a lot more dynamic. Perhaps we downloaded the wrong version, or just missed out on a new launch!

At least we got quite lucky with the weather, it had been pouring down earlier that day, but the sun started to peek out around late afternoon when we reached campus. Perhaps part weather and part timing, but the campus was fairly calm, which meant we were really able to enjoy it. Not as many students were in town anymore, and the few people who were on the grounds were mainly tourists like us. Most of the building of interest are scattered around what is called the Harvard Yard, a large green space with zigzagging paths connecting the buildings. 

01  Matthew s Hall Harvard University

Matthew’s Hall was built in 1872 and is thought be located on the site of the Indian College which was built in 1654. The dormitory was a gift of Nathan Matthews who made the condition that half the income coming from the building should be used to aid deserving students in need.

02  Massachusetts Hall Harvard University

As you turn the corner of Matthew’s Hall (on the left), you come to Massachusetts Hall, which is Harvard’s oldest surviving building and was completed in 1720. The building has served many different people and purposes in the past, but currently the hall hosts the offices of the president of the university and others, with one floor also housing freshmen dorms.  

03  Harvard Hall Harvard University

Harvard Hall is home to classrooms and library, and was built in 1764 after a fire destroyed its predecessor and 90% of the university’s books at the time. It is next to one of the gate into the yard, Johnston Gate. Current students won’t pass directly under the gate – superstitiously that is only allowed once you have completed your degree successfully.

04  Statue John Harvard Harvard University

The statue of John Harvard sits outside the University Hall built in 1815, which houses administrative offices and meeting rooms. There were no historical documents to indicate what he looked like when the sculpture was designed, so the artist used the likeness of a student descended from the family. Apparently it is common for tourists to rub the left foot of the statue (you can see the difference in colour in the picture), but this is mistaken as a student tradition.

05  Harvard Yard Harvard University

A shot across the Harvard Yard from University Hall back towards Matthew’s Hall and Massachusetts Hall.

06  Harvard Yard Harvard University

You can see University Hall in the distance.

07  Memorial Hall Harvard University

Memorial Hall was built to honour the Harvard men who lost their lives in the American civil war.

08  Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library Harvard University

The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library was built in 1915 after money was donated by the former’s mother after his death on the Titanic in 1912. Holding around 3.5 million books, it is the main library at Harvard.

09  Emerson Hall Harvard University

Emerson Hall, built in 1905 is home to the philosophy department (as if you couldn’t tell by the inscription!).

10  Sever Hall Harvard University

Sever Hall was built in 1880 and is holds mainly classroom and lecture theatres for the Humanities.

Love old campuses as much as us? You should also check out Trinity College Dublin!

Life Lately – 31.07.15

Guys, it is full packing mode over here this week. Our rooms are full of boxes, the cupboards are swung open so we don’t miss anything, and the cat is running around like crazy chasing paper and jumping in and out of the boxes. I went on a packing kick the other night and somehow managed to pack up almost an entire room before my boyfriend made it home with dinner! The exfoliation of stuff is also starting to feel addicting, seeing the amount that we are getting rid of pile up is a cathartic, cleansing feeling.

Beguinage St Katelijne Brussels

The Beguinage in the neighbourhood of St. Katelijne

However, we made some time over the weekend, to get out and keep seeing Brussels as best we can! We’re trying to get outside in the evenings and walk around our neighbourhood and on Sunday we spent half a day doing part of the Brussels comic strip walk. It is such a great thing to do, and I have so many photos, that I will save those highlights for its own post. But I highly recommend trying to follow part or all of the route! Part of our walk took us through the Marolles (my favourite Brussels neighbourhood after my own, St. Katelijne), so we got to explore the many antique and vintage stores as well as peruse the offerings at the flea market, Marche aux Puces.

Antique signs at Passage 125 Marolles Brussels

Antique signs at Passage 125 in the Marolles

Cameras at Marche aux Puces Marolles Brussels

Marche aux Puces Marolles Brussels

A spread of cameras and the general scene at the Marche aux Puces

Street Art Brussels Vines on House

Grafitti vines growing on this building near Boulevard Anspach in Brussels

On Saturday, despite the drizzle and wind, I went out finally, after three years of living in this neighbourhood, to have lunch with a friend at Mer du Nord / Noordzee in St. Catherine’s. If you haven’t been to Brussels, it is a seafood tapas type place, all super fresh and delivered daily from the coast, where you order at their outdoor counter and stand to eat at one of the tables dotting the square. The food is best enjoyed with their generous glass of wine; just make sure you remember to listen for them shouting your name as your dishes come up!

Mer du Nord  Noordzee

The Mer du Nord on a better day then we had – image via de Standaard

I can’t believe it took me so long to go, and now I’m really sad to be leaving as it was such a great experience. It was nice the the weather was a bit discouraging, as for a first time visit it was good that it wasn’t too busy. But if you come to Brussels during Christmas market season, just trust me and brave the crowd to try some of their seafood.

Mer du Nord Noordzee Spread

Check out that spread! Tuna steak, croquettes, and deep fried kibbling, the only thing you can’t see is our scampi a la plancha

After lunch, we headed to the Bozar museum – a side note, you have in Brussels the Musee des Beaux Arts (Beaux Arts = pronounced +/- like Bozar), which is your traditional art gallery, and then you have its sort of sister-museum, the Bozar, a more contemporary gallery that hosts temporary exhibitions in art, design, film, theatre, etc. It’s a really cool space, so if you’re in town you should check out what they have on and see if any are of interest!

The main attraction for us at the Bozar was their new exhibition called The Belgians, focusing Belgian fashion designers and their rise through the last decades. There has been a lot of hype around the exhibit with many guests (think Diane von Furstenburg) and I’m still sad I missed the screening of the documentary, Dior et Moi. So after seeing the Dries van Noten exhibit in Antwerp, it has really been a Belgian fashion month for me!

Bozar the Belgians 1

Bozar the Belgians 2

Bozar the Belgians 3

The exhibit was really interesting, especially to see a distinctly Belgian take on fashion history. That being said, I was a bit disappointed because I don’t feel like I came away with anything. I saw a lot of great designs (although all mainly by a small number of designers as the same names kept repeating through the rooms), but I missed the wider impact these people had on the industry as a whole. Such as, what was going on in the world during these periods that influenced their designs, where were they drawing inspiration, and how did their collection shape or change the overall industry?

I’m not sure if we will have a lot of time to get out an explore more this weekend or not, it’s the final packing push. But the weather is suppose to finally pick up, so hopefully we are inspired to be extremely efficient and can make the most of what is possibly our final weekend in the city!

Travel Inspiration: Cottage Country

As a Canadian living overseas, I get asked two main questions all the time. The first is why on earth would I trade Canada for Belgium (but that is a topic for another day!), and the second is do I ever miss my home country? Of course I do! And I think anyone living abroad can empathize, but there are definitely a few key moments in the year where no matter how happy you are with your decision to move away, you are still dogged by that home sick feeling.

When does it hit me the most? Generally the months of August – October, which are prime cottaging times in Ontario. I spent the months of July and August at our family cottage every single summer growing up, and while I hated it at times (as angsty teenagers do), it is my single most important memory now as an adult. Sure, there are some similar opportunities in Belgium, but nothing quite the same as the tranquil cottages by the lake in cottage country, Ontario. Where you get up in the morning to still waters, mist rising from the lake, and you can sit on the dock and watch the world come alive with your morning coffee. I loved taking early morning kayak rides, alone on the lake (maybe with our Westie dog snuggled in with me!), the only sound is the dipping of your paddle in the water and perhaps the chatter of a few other early risers out fishing or paddling.

Rustic Lodge on Water  1  Coffee for two  1

Lake view  Kayak on the beach

Muskoka chair on dock  Rustic Luxe Cottage

Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 – 5 : Mine / 6

Honestly, I could go on forever about my love of the cottage! You definitely appreciate it more once you are working and cannot spend 8 weeks straight there, and, well, live an ocean away! Cottaging is the ultimate local travelling for me – a few hours drive and you can be in a relaxing oasis. Whether your family has their own place, or you rent somewhere for a short stay or a few weeks, heading out to the cottage is definitely my travel inspiration this time of year.