Things to do with (or without) a baby in Belgium: Sample the world’s best beer – West Vleteren

Holy grail
Holy grail

According to my calendar it is March. Yes! And with our adopted adult family member, Uncle Johan, in tow, we made like adventurers and headed (finally!) to the beer holy grail, West Vleteren. You may not necessarily consider this to be a family destination per say but I would dispute that as long as you have a begrudging sober driver in tow and a willingness to head to the middle of nowhere to take part in a one of a kind Belgian experience.

I leave it to the fabulous Alison of Cheeseweb to explain the background here. Suffice to say, this is a very exclusive trappist beer than is scarcer than hen’s teeth outside of Belgium. A friend in Sweden recently reported seeing it on a menu for almost 60 EUR a bottle. Ouch.

So after a 90 minute drive, we arrived in said middle of nowhere. We wondered if it would be crowded on a Sunday but we were one of maybe 20 people in the whole of the In de Vrede cafe. Following Alison’s suggestions we tried the sandwich and ice cream a la maison. There were indeed fabulous!  We also sampled the three beers on offer. 🙂 The cafe was bigger than expected and beautiful. They did have a terrace and small playground. I can imagine it is a very nice place on long summer days or even crisp fall evenings. On our early spring morning the terrace was closed. :p

After lunch we walked around a bit and stepped in to the Pilgrimage Room at the Sint Sixtus Abbey. Truly an austere space and gave you a small slice of the monastic simplicity that rules the house.

If your littles can survive a bit of a drive, I think it is a great destination to get out of town. Out-of-town visitors are sure to enjoy the experience. Without a doubt West Vleteren is a must for any Brussels experience bucket list. Happy Drinking!

As close as you get to the brewery
As close as you get to the brewery
In peace
In peace
Gold
Gold
Three please!
Three please!
Hearty and delicious
Hearty and delicious
Heavenly
Heavenly
Off to play
Off to play
Darling buds of March
Darling buds of March
Saveur
Saveur
Path
Path
We are all pilgrims here
We are all pilgrims here
Mother
Mother
Darkest light
Darkest light
Time to go home
Time to go home

First look: Vanessa’s almost newborn session

Curve
Curve

I think it is clear by now that I really like babies, no? In many a newborn session, I get to roll them into cuddly little balls and put them in sweet baskets, blankets, momma or pappa’s arms. In the first 10 days, it is truly amazing what a baby will very happy do and sleep through as we work to get that perfect picture for an birth announcement or official debut to the world.

Lately I have been noticing an interesting trend of waiting until the 8 – 10 week mark when the little ones are a little more expressive and aware of the world. A chance to capture a slice of their growing personalities. Such was the case with little Vanessa who I first met during a planning session in the studio and then just one week later, in her idyllic home outside of Wavre. It was so lovely to capture this beautiful family in their home setting and to have nearly three hours with little Vanessa and her cheeks. Those cheeks!

Here to share with you today some of the highlights. Enjoy!

Where we belong
Where we belong
These cheeks!
These cheeks!
Hanging out
Hanging out
Family
Family
Image
The butterfly
Protector
Protector

Things to do with a toddler or kid in Brussels: Choo Choo on the steam engine at Parc du Bempt

All aboard!
All aboard!

Holy blazes, spring is back on! One of our favorite things about Brussels is how many fun things are going on all the time. There are always a number of festivals, kid events, races, etc. This weekend we hit the Festival du Pain (bread) in the Schuman roundabout. It was delicious!

Now we turn to a summer activity that is more of a perennial than a flash in the pan. Thanks to the tip from Brussels Life, we decided to check out the little steam engines in Parc du Bempt. It is a bit of a long haul to Forest but fairly convenient if you take Tram 82 almost straight there. It is just past the Abbaye de Forest, which is also worth a visit. Parc du Bempt is a lovely green space with some ponds, area to play and some play structures but the real highlight is definitely the steam engines.

Three choo choos run along a super cute track for about a five minute ride. If your little one is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, this is for you, big time. Buy a ticket for 2 EUR and jump on. Tickets are technically for 3 year olds and up but Bababoo is on the tall side and her parents have a flexible sense of truth so away we went.

Zoe had a blast and we took the edge off with some ice cream from the garage. Beer and wine also on offer if you are so inclined. 🙂

Hope you check it out!

Where:  Parc du Bempt. If you need a GPS try Chaussée de Neerstalle 323B, 1190 Forest

When: Every weekend from 26 April to 5 October 2014 from 2pm until 6pm (only Sundays during July, August and September)

How much: From 1€

Ready to roll
Ready to roll
Sidelined...for now
Sidelined…for now
That was a blast!
Running!

In celebration of momma

At play
At play

Is it almost Mother’s Day in your country? In the US and many others, this Sunday is a day to celebrate the wonderfulness that is the momma or mommas in your life. Usually this means sleeping in, breakfast in bed, special cards or a present and maybe even something sweet.

One thing I hear from almost all my momma clients is “I am always behind the camera. There are almost no pictures of me and my kids!”. I hear you momma, it is the same here. What could be a better way to capture this moment than a photo session with your little ones. I know I am going to be putting the big camera in the hands of the Bear and hoping for the best. If you are a hint dropper, its not too late. Hope to see you in the studio, great outdoors or your home soon. For some inspiration, I present some sweet, hardworking ladies of the mom persuasion. 🙂

Momma's  momma
Momma’s momma
From a safe place
From a safe place
The girls
The girls
Imagination
Imagination
The sweet moments
The sweet moments
Momma love
Momma love

Things to do with a toddler or kid in Brussels: Check out the Natural History Museum

Teeth
Teeth

Let’s face it, the gorgeous weather couldn’t last forever! This week is forecasted to be rainy, grey and dreary. That rules out parks so we turned our gaze inside to see what kinds of adventures we could find.

I have walked by the Brussels Natural History Museum aka The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences many a time on the way to Place Boniface. While the big dinosaur mural was appealing, I was not sure if bababoo was quite ready to enjoy it. Now that she is a couple of months past two and a firm animal lover, the time seemed right to check it out. Also somehow the word dinosaur made it into her vocabulary recently. Helloo Peppa Pig…anyhow!

Very accessible by bus, driving (there are two parking lots) or walking of course, the museum is immediately welcoming. Truly it is gorgeous, bright, well laid out and clearly the product of a lot of imaginative science-minded people. Pressed for time, we went straight for the baby animals exhibition. Who can resist baby animals? Once you get past the fact that they are stuffed, you can really appreciate the care that went into the displays and interactive sections. There are videos, games, and activities. You can try to crawl through a maze with a turtle shell balancing little eggs, build a nest out of Styrofoam noodles and try to locate you spirit animal mother by following her scent. So cool! We could have spent much longer but lunch and nap time beckoned.

Walking out we past the halls for dinosaurs (one of the best collections in Europe), mammals, biodiversity and more. I want to go back!   Definitely a recommend for the 2ish+ set.

WhereRue Vautier 29 – 1000 Brussels

When:

Tuesday – Friday 9.30 – 17.00
Saturday and Sunday 10.00 – 18.00
School holidays (Tuesday – Sunday)
10.00 – 18.00
Closed on Mondays, 1 Jan, 1 May and 25 Dec

How much: The cost for adults is 7.50 EUR and for kids under five it is free.

Interact
Interact
A maze
A maze
Wings
Wings

This is Easter

This is Easter
This is Easter

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. We did! After a long week alone with the kiddos while the Bear traveled, I was thrilled to have everyone back in place for a long weekend. We had a fun time splitting Swedish and American Easter traditions. For the Swedish side we had a Sandwich Cake and spent the afternoon at an IKEA. For the American side we colored eggs, baked a Banana Cream Pie and ate too much. No dressing up here. Most time was spent in pajamas. Babatwo took his first bites (pumpkin). You get the idea.

This is Easter. Last week while driving (driving!) along, I heard from the back seat, “This is Momma. This is babatwo. This is Bababoo”. What?! Bababoo’s first sentences. While she has lots of nouns and verbs, it was somehow so striking to hear a full sentence. So in honor of that sentiment, this is Easter. Enjoy.

My garden
My garden
First bites
First bites
OK, as long as he doesn't eat MY food
OK, as long as he doesn’t eat MY food
Pie in process
Pie in process
Chocolate lover #1
Chocolate lover #1
Cooking assistant #1
Cooking assistant #1
Ahh sweet bed
Ahh sweet bed
The Bear family
The Bear family

Things to do with a family in Brussels: Blue bells are ringing!

Everything's coming up bluebells (thank you iPhone)
Everything’s coming up bluebells (thank you iPhone)

We got a car. Woot! That means even more fun things to do with little ones and families in and around Brussels. After four years of carlessness, we have a full roster of unseen awesome things and today we checked one off the list, taking in the bluebells at Hallerbos. After doing some reading, I was not holding my breathe on catching them this late in April. With the early spring, I assumed we missed them. I was very happily wrong!

Located about 15 minutes outside of Brussels, Hallerbos is a beautiful forest tucked between small, typical Belgian villages. When you are there, it is impossible to guess you are just minutes from a thriving metropolis. Lots of parking along a country road and several route options depending on the length of your little person’s legs also would be suitable for prams. We had such a fabulous time looking at the blue bells that carpet the forest floor. You can’t help feeling that there is some magic in the air. We played with sticks, looked at bugs and generally took in the outdoorsy-ness of it all. It made me realize that no matter how much time we spend in parks, it is no replacement for the real thing and I have sworn to get my citified kids out in the wilderness much more.

I would say the flowers have no more than a week left in them so get thee to Hallerbos and enjoy the magic show.

 

First look: Where the heart is

Image
Where the heart is

Spring, spring, spring! Here we come. There are flowers, new leaves, good smells and smiling faces. Between the early thaw and some time away in Australia, it almost feels like winter just breezed by. Spring brings many new things and in the Bear & Dragon studio, it means lots of gorgeous new babies.

I had the pleasure of stepping out of the studio for a wonderful session with three week old Charlotte and her parents. Don’t get me wrong, I love the studio and the space I work in but it was also fun to work in a new space on a nice sunny day to captures some special moments. Being photographed in your home brings a different quality to the images. They feel more like memories. A slice of a time that whizzes by and almost seems surreal when looking back. I am grateful to have been asked to photograph this beautiful and growing family.

Image
Suddenly
Image
Rest
Image
The grin
Image
In the rainbow

I am big toddler now!

Image
Sweetest bloom

The funny thing about being a baby and child photographer is that somehow I have started taking many less pictures of my dear bababoo! I have no idea why. I love photography but maybe it feels more like work? Anyhow, she is so sticking cute that I had to break out the big camera the other day and snap a few candid shots. I am amazed at how much she is starting to look like a toddler instead of a baby. Whhaaaaa!

happy weekend folks. Supposed to be 17 degrees and not raining (angels sing!) on Saturday so you can find me in Parc de Woluwe doing my first outdoor spring shoot of the season…just in time for June. 🙂

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Here comes trouble
Image
Le artiste
Image
What dreams may come