2016 in Meme

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Ran a marathon; spent 3 weeks in Belgium; took a vacation with the entire family; launched an intranet; took a bootcamp class; found Divvy Red (twice in one day!); used a hospital-grade pump; facilitated a strategic planning discussion; ran 1,000 miles.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
For the most part, and yes.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Several friends had babies, particularly in the first half of the year, and several more are expecting in the new year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
I lost friends, but my year was nothing compared to the losses experienced by many people close to me.

5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
No new places, but plenty of travel: 3 weeks in Belgium, 2 trips to DC/Virginia (conference + friend visit + wedding), and trips to Ann Arbor (wedding), Orlando (conference), Michigan City (family beach rental), Long Beach (friend support), Iowa City (family weekend), and Carlsbad (vacation).

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Let’s just carry my 2016 list forward for another year: more dates with my partner, more time with friends, and more sleep. And more dancing.

7. What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
My marathon, and the day after the election.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
My marathon, obvs.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Same as last year: I’m sure there are aspects of early parenting that we’ll regret. I wish I were more patient, and that I did a better job of communicating at times.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
A couple of random bugs, but nothing serious.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I’m slavishly devoted to my Get To Work Book. I also bought a new bike, but I haven’t had a chance to ride it yet.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
A lot of people complained about their social media and friend circles becoming toxic during the election. I feel incredibly fortunate that this wasn’t the case for me – and that many of my friends have continued to engage, to push buttons, to keep those of us inclined to armchair activism moving forward in this post-election season.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The President-Elect and all around him.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and drink and rent.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I wouldn’t say that I loved marathon training, but I did love many hours of podcast listening, especially Criminal, More Perfect, and Revisionist History.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
We sing a silly song from one of the Winnie the Pooh movies a lot. Otherwise, I didn’t actually listen to all that much music.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Sadder

ii. thinner or fatter?
Fitter

iii. richer or poorer?
More debt, but also more money.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
The same things every year: spending time with the toddler and his papa. Sleeping. Watching movies. Reading books. Dancing. Drinking. Spending time with friends and family.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Driving. Trying to convince someone that he really, actually does need to sleep.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We drove out to Rockford Christmas Eve, made a quick trip to the Nicholas Conservatory, and had Indian food for Christmas Eve dinner. The toddler got to have a snowy Christmas morning adventure with Pop, and I got in a quick run before Jenn and her family came over for packages and snacks. The toddler absolutely refused to nap and was in complete meltdown by dinner, so he had to miss the delicious food. We headed home on the 26th after a quick trip to the Discovery Center.

21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
With podcasts and early morning long runs

22. How many one-night stands?
Zero

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Game of Thrones, Man in the High Castle, Westworld

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year
Some elected officials

25. What was the best book you read?
Bring Up the Bodies was so good. Fates and Furies was way better than expected.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I really didn’t listen to much music this year.

27. What did you want and get?
Different responsibilities; a good training cycle; new friends

28. What did you want and not get?
More responsibility; a PR

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
I watched maybe 4 movies this year. It wouldn’t be fair to try to pick a favorite.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 36. I took the toddler to our parent/child class at the Waldorf School down the street, then N treated us to brunch at the Cherry Circle Room. We took a walk and had cupcakes at Molly’s. We had literally just come back from vacation, so a low-key day was just fine.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Different election results. More sleep.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Workout clothes + comfortable layers

33. What kept you sane?
My sister

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
So many people lost their heroes this year – I’m afraid to name mine.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
The entire election was a shitshow.

36. Who did you miss?
My people.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
This was the year that some of my work/professional friendships got real, and I’m so, so grateful for that.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016:
Listen more than you talk.

In Bruges

While in Belgium, we took an overnight trip to Bruges. N had been a few years earlier, but all I knew of the city was from watching In Bruges. I was prepared for a tall bell tower, canals, and not much else.

But first, a stop for waffles before boarding the train in the exquisite Station Antwerpen-Centraal:

Wafel!

Antwerpen Centraal

Two hours of knitting and map-consultation later, we were in Bruges. We checked into our remarkably compact and functional (though lacking in privacy: the bathroom was essentially a closet) hotel, and made our way into the city.

Bruges was much smaller than I imagined, with only 20,000 people living in the historic city center – and something like 200+ bed and breakfasts, so as our map informed us, on busy days, there are often more tourists than locals around. But what it lacked in size, it made up for in crazy beautiful scenery, including a few hours of some of the best weather of our entire trip.

Picturesque Brugge

First stop: lunch at Herberg Vlissinghe, the oldest pub in Bruges, functioning since 1515. We snuck scraps to the tiny dog and then felt bad for doing so when we saw signs expressly forbidding it.

Herberg Vlissinghe

And then a long walk to see WINDMILLS.

Windmolen!

Windmolen!

Can I tell you how much I love windmills?

Windmolen!

Happy

Windmolen selfie

We spent the rest of the first day wandering around as I developed an increasingly intense headache, which is evident on my face in some of N’s otherwise lovely photos.

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We had dinner at Gran Kaffee De Passage, where we enjoyed authentic and very delicious Belgian food, and where I had one of the first strong food aversions of my pregnancy – to my first taste of Advocaat. It’s noteworthy that the only other strong food aversion was also in Bruges – to the smell of mussels, which I normally love.

Gran Kaffee De Passage

We took a short walk through the beautiful grounds adjacent to the Begijnhof De Wijngaard, then it was back to our hotel for the night.

Begijnhof De Wijngaard

After a frustrating experience with hotel reception, we decided to skip the included breakfast and instead had a surprisingly good meal at a coffee shop adjacent to the train station: coffee (with cookies AND Speculaas), croissants with jam and Nutella, pistolets with ham and cheese, and tiny crocks of yogurt.

Breakfast in Brugge

The brilliant weather from our first day didn’t hold, alas, so our second day of exploring was in more characteristic Belgium weather – overcast and drizzling rain, not unlike Seattle most of the year. We headed back to the Begijnhof De Wijngaard, a 13th century monastery that is now home to Benedictine sisters. The grounds were peaceful and beautiful in the light rain.

Begijnhof De Wijngaard

Begijnhof De Wijngaard

Swans

The rest of the day was spent dodging the rain, walking too far for an overpriced lunch, and hunting down souvenirs, and kissing a frog:

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In Bruges

Kissing the frog

Our last stop on our way out of town was for €10 worth of marzipan. I’m not even joking.

Bruges sweets

Bruges sweets

Bolleke en Pintje

We booked our tickets to Belgium on December 11. A little over a month later, I found out I was pregnant. Let’s all observe a moment of silence for all of the amazing beers I didn’t get to drink while in the home of the best beers in the world – and of the best beer bar in the world!

There is absolutely nothing uncontroversial about alcohol and pregnancy, but after a lot of reading and discussion, we agreed that we both felt safe with me having ::a:: drink here and there on our trip. I tried whatever sips of whatever N was drinking, but limited myself to a few local specialties enjoyed after a solid meal over the weeks of our visit. I also developed a taste for good tonic water, and discovered a few places with wonderful mocktails.

De Muze

Sampling a bolleke of De Koninck at De Muze, one of N’s favorite jazz bars. We left before the jazz started, but made a second visit for drinks and music during our second week.

De Muze

De Muze

De Vagant

Trying genever at De Vagant. Not pictured: the GIANT MOUNTAIN of cheese cubes that we ordered thinking we’d have a little snack.

Nine Cocktailbar

Nine Cocktailbar

Nine Cocktailbar

A virgin shrub for me, and an amazing ginger something for N

Nine Cocktailbar

Kulminator

Kulminator

Kulminator

Kulminator Beer List

Now THIS is a beer list – a giant binder organized by style and by brewery, hand annotated in places. Some of the beers on the list weren’t available anywhere else, period.

La Trappe Quercus 2011 Batch 7

La Trappe Quercus 2011 Batch 7

La Trappe Quercus 2011 Batch 7, literally only available at Kulminator

Kulminator

Oh this? Just several cases of Westy empties.

Onder de Schelde

Riverside, golden hour

There are no bridges passing over the Scheldt in downtown Antwerp – instead, pedestrians, cyclists, and (presumably) vehicles pass through tunnels under the river. We took a particularly terrifying old wooden escalator down to this pedestrian tunnel just to say that we did.

Under the Scheldt

Under the Scheldt

Under the Scheldt

Under the Scheldt

Fietsers Afstappen!!!

Belgium, part 1 of many

It’s been three months since we got home from Belgium, and I’m just now starting to get through the hundreds of photos we took in our two weeks there. It’s strange to page through my Flickr and see day-to-day Instagram shots of the beginning of summer interspersed with photos from oh-so-cold weather and the early days of my pregnancy. Oh well – better late than never!

My first impressions of Belgium were colored by severe lack of sleep and motion sickness from our flight from Istanbul. Can I tell you how stressful it is to meet one’s partner’s family on 2 hours of sleep, having thrown up in the airport? You’ll excuse the exhaustion in my face in most of these photos.

On our first day, we didn’t manage much other than the train from Brussels to Antwerp, the tram from Antwerp to Deurne, a long nap, and a walk around Rivierenhof, a beautiful park minutes from where N** grew up. The park includes a lagoon, a terrace full of afternoon beer-drinkers, a fairy tale house (pictured below), a rose garden, and lots of wandering paths for strolling and walking.

Fairy tale house at Rivierenhof

After the first extremely tired day, our visit fell into a comfortable routine. Most mornings we would sleep until 9 or 10, and would wake to N’s mom returning from the bakery with fresh pistolets or other pastries (or bread from a vending machine!!). We would share a breakfast of pistolets, cheeses and meats, kefir with fruit and nuts, coffee, and juice before getting ready to head into the city. I only had the energy for one or two adventures per day, but then most places close by 6pm, so we would take in a few sites with a late afternoon stop for a second coffee, Speculaas, and pastries. In the evening, we would either have dinner in the city or head back out to Deurne for a quiet evening in.

Cathedral of Our Lady
The Cathedral of Our Lady, the dramatic and beautiful centerpiece of Antwerp

Vlaeykensgang
Vlaeykensgang, an alley dating to the 1590s

Via Brabantica
Imagine my surprise as we kept coming across wayfinding devices for the Camino! Apparently Antwerp (and also Bruges) sit on the Via Brabantica. Perhaps we’ll walk it one day.

Riverside, golden hour

Antwerp
Sunset over the Scheldt

**You may have noticed that there aren’t many photos of N on this site. It is his preference to keep much of his life offline, and I’ve tried to respect that here. I hope to include a few photos of him in this series of posts, but will for the most part be sharing photos of the city, our adventures, or photos he took of me.