Belgium

A few weeks ago Jason and I visited the lovely city of Brussels, Belgium for their biennial Flower Carpet Festival. Here are a couple of pictures from the trip!

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The Hotel de Ville, also known as the Town Hall. It has been in Belgium since the early 1400’s, and it’s tall spire can be seen from all around the city.

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The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official palace of the king and queen. It is still a young building having been opened in 1934. It is quite large – as you can see I couldn’t even get the entire palace in one photo!

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This is just a lamp post… sorry, no crazy story to tell you here!

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Snapping a selfie in front of the palace!

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This is a statue of Godfried of Bouillon before he headed off on a crusade. Supposedly he shouted, “God wills it!” as he lept into the sunset, which I think is quite ironic considering that I doubt God’s blessing was on any of the crusade ventures.

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In front of the Church of St. Jacques there is appropriately a statue of, well, St. Jacques. I really enjoyed the shadows on the folds of his clothes at this time of day.

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A view at night of the flower carpet! It was lovely. Also very hard to get a picture of because of all the people, so unfortunately this is all I have!

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I told you that you could see the Hotel de Ville from all over the city! Voilla!

And there you are! A quick snapshot of our trip to Brussels. More ventures will follow!

Are All Religions Essentially the Same?

A few weeks ago, I was confronted in a conversation with the idea that all religions are essentially the same. The person who shared this with me believed that all religions pointed to basically the same goal: try to be a good person and treat everyone with respect. This person also shared the thought that, “Religion goes wrong when someone tries to say that their religion is better than someone else’s.” I understand where this person was coming from, but I have to say that I disagree. I have been thinking a lot about this conversation over the past few weeks and I’d like to share my thoughts.

First of all, I use the term religion here to help people who are unfamiliar with Christianity to understand where I am going and to keep from having to explain myself constantly. I do not believe in having a religion from the standpoint of adhering to a specific set of rules and traditions, rather I believe in having a relationship with a holy God. With that being said, I will use the term “my religion” in this blog to refer to my beliefs and my standards.

Second, while I do respect all other human beings and their desire for a religion that differs from my own, I do not respect all other religions. The term respect means to hold something in high regard, and to see it as having importance or high value. I do understand a lot about other religions. I understand the desire and the need for a human being to have a religion, and I understand that it might be different from my own. I will not devalue another person based on their religion. But I cannot, and I will not hold differing beliefs in the same regard as my own.

Third, I do not believe that all religions are essentially the same. Consider this: I believe my actions do not determine whether or not I go to heaven or hell. I base this belief off of Ephesians 2:8-9 which says,”For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” The term works in this verse simply means an act or a thing being done. In contrast to this idea, Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds. This is from the 9 basic beliefs of Hinduism. These two beliefs are in opposition with one another. One says that there is nothing that I can do change my eternity, another belief says that it is entirely up to me and my decisions. In other words… both beliefs are not the same, in fact they are in exact opposition with one another.

Fourth, I would like to address the idea that it is wrong for a person to say that their religion is better than someone else’s. My religion states that believing in Jesus is the only way to attain eternal life. If I choose not to believe this, I choose not to believe in Jesus. If I say that you can get to God by believing in yourself, or that you can get to God by worshiping nature, or even that you can get to God by being a good person, I can no longer call myself a follower of Christ.

Essentially, by saying that all religions and paths to God are the same I disown my own religious beliefs.

I do not write this because I believe that I am better than someone else. On the contrary, I am no different from any other person on this planet. The only thing that sets me apart is the grace of God. This grace is his gift to me, and I did nothing to deserve it.

I encourage you to comment or email me if you have questions/disagreements/comments about what I have written or about my beliefs.

Fest, Fest, and more Fest!

A fest is simply a festival, and the Germans know how to do ’em right! They have festivals for EVERYTHING…all the time. Jason and I have been to three festivals in the past month, and I am pretty sure we missed several. 

The weekend we got back from Belgium we went to the Pig Fest in a town called Wittlich, about 20 minutes from our house. Pig Fest is exactly what it sounds like: pork everything. Not the festival for the animal lover or vegetarian. They have giant pigs roasting on a spit, any and every kind of Brautwurst, and pig themed souvenirs. There were also two live bands, an entire section of the city devoted to a carnival (complete with a Farris wheel and small roller coasters), loads of shopping booths, and of course plenty of drinks to be had for all. Jason and I both had a Brautwurst filled with cheese… and wrapped in bacon. Oh dear sweetness. These things are like an invention from the heavens.

(Don’t forget that you can click on any picture in order to see it larger!)

IMG_2562This is a picture from the Farris Wheel looking out over the carnival portion of the Festival. 

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Just a goofy picture from the Farris Wheel! Who am I kidding… we look like this all the time. 

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This is one of the roller coasters, we didn’t ride it but we enjoyed watching it! It is amazing how they can have such build huge rides like this so quickly and then tear them down within a few days. 

Last weekend Jason and I went to the Medieval Fest in Mandersheid, a town also about 20 minutes away. This town has a castle (or Burg) and so it was perfect for a festival dedicated to all things old-timey. This festival included jugglers (with fire!), dancers, live bands with strange instruments, jousting, and a fireworks show to finish everything off. And as always there was plenty of Medieval themed shops selling everything you can imagine: swords, leather bags, wooden plaques, glass welding, metal works, belts, flower wreaths… the list goes on! 

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View of the main portion of the castle from one of it’s towers. Most of the castle’s here are not in great shape because of course they are all hundreds of years old. There are very few that don’t have crumbling pieces. Also, I apologize for the weird vintage looking coloring on this photo, as well as the one bellow. I tried to fix them but whenever I import them they keep reverting back to this washed out look… who knows why. 

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This is a view of some of the shops closer to the castle. It was set up like to be as if you were walking through a Medieval open air market. 

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This was the main section of the festival, looking down at it from Burg Mandersheid. 

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One small piece of the fireworks show! Be sure to keep an eye on Jason’s facebook page in case he posts more. He took some really gorgeous shots! 

Yesterday Jason and I visited Wine Fest in Bernkastel, about 30 minutes from our house. I am sure you can guess what the theme of this festival was! Being near to the Mosel river, we are surrounded by vineyards everywhere we go. The wine here is delicious, and there is something for everyone. I am a total wimp and I love my süß Weißwein (sweet white wine)… my favorite flavors basically taste like fruit juice! Jason is a little bit more “cultured” than me, and he likes to branch out to heartier flavors. Wine Fest is set up so that you pay a 2 euro deposit for a wine glass, and then you can walk around the festival and sample as many wines as you like for usually about 2 euro a glass. Which is cheaper than in a restaurant where you will pay about 3.50 euro for a glass. At the end of the festival you can turn in your glass and get your 2 euro back (or if you have had a bit too much like we discovered many people had, you may find your glass floating in the Mosel or lying broken on the pavement… we were fortunate not to be in this category!). There was a beautiful fireworks show at the end of the festival which Jason and I watched from a bridge that crosses over the river. 

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This is a panoramic shot of the Mosel River with the castle off to the upper left side of the picture. Lovely view, and an absolutely gorgeous day! 

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Looking up at the castle from the bridge. 

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Everyone waiting for the fireworks to start! This is nothing, by the time the show finished, the place was so crowded it took us 30 minutes just to walk back to the car through the crowd. Crazy! 

I also have a video of the fireworks that I can’t post on WordPress. Check out my facebook page for the video 🙂

That is all the Fest action I have for now! Enjoy! 

 

I Will… because I LOVE my body.

So many of the reasons that I fail in my own fitness and health journey are because I focus on what I can’t do instead of focussing on what I can. The view we have of our bodies is extremely important, and most of us look in the mirror thinking about what we wish we looked like instead of focusing on the things we like about ourselves. Think of your body as a permeant home, one that you can never leave no matter how far away you go. Yes, someone else might have a bigger home or a smaller home than you. Someone else might have more expensive things, or less expensive things. But comparing your home to some one else’s doesn’t change anything about your home – all it does is make you miserable. What changes your home is your desire to be a happy home owner. When you say, “I love my home, and I want it to be the best that it can be,” then it truly begins to flourish. If you love your body, it doesn’t matter what anyone else’s body looks like. 

Now with all that being said, I do want to emphasize that part of a healthy view of your body is taking care of it. Yes, I am a firm believe that you are absolutely perfectly beautiful the way that you are, and don’t let anyone try to tell you you’re not. BUT that doesn’t mean that if you have a great self esteem you can never exercise and eat poorly. On the contrary, if you love your body you should treasure it. Give it only the best, and push yourself to your limits. 

Not so that you won’t have any jiggly parts. That’s not enough. Do it because you are worth it. Because you deserve to have a body that functions at 100%, full of energy, and able to do all the things you want. Because God created our bodies to do incredible things, and you are missing out on some great opportunities because don’t have enough energy. Because keeping our bodies healthy is an act of worship to God

This might seem like all talk and no action to you. So how do you begin to love your body? Some of my first steps are making a contract with my body that is filled with “I will…” statements to remind myself that a healthy lifestyle should be empowering, not discouraging. 

 1. I will strive to meet my own personal goals that are matched to my body and my abilities. 

2. I will say one positive thing about my body every time I look into the mirror.  

3. I will continue to work towards improvement, even when I feel discouraged.

4. I will eat when I am hungry, and stop when I am full.

5. I will eat dessert every now and then… because life is too short. 

6. I will encourage others in their fitness journey.

7. I will put foods into my body that are real foods, pure and chemical-free as much as I possibly can. 

8. I will love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength! My body is a temple and I will worship him by treating it with love. 

 My fitness instructor has been taking this challenge, and I thought some of you might be interested as a way to start treating your body with the care it deserves. It is called the 28 Day Love Your Body Challenge.

http://mollygalbraith.com/2014/03/cellulite-stretch-marks-and-a-love-your-body-challenge/

 

 I do agree with most of the things in this challenge, but for myself I also wanted to keep a spiritual mindset during this challenge. Some of the quotes here seem sort of new-age to me, and I want to remember during this challenge that my ultimate goal should be glorifying God, not myself. 

Saarburg

A few weeks ago Jason and I visited a small town called Saarburg, a little hideaway town with a river running through the city center. We found some ice cream, some beautiful views, and some peace.

As you can see from the pictures, the town made use of the river by creating a water mill system. In Saarburg there is a “mill museum” you can visit to learn more about it, but Jason and I skipped that for this trip.

If you are interested in visiting, there are plenty of little shops and restaurants. I splurged and bought a teeeeeeeeny tiny hedgehog souvenir for 3 euro. Gasp. I know. Broke the bank.

Enjoy!

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Guilt Free Desserts??? Do tell…

SO this past week I have been trying to stay away from sugar and dairy products. That means as a result that many of my most beloved desserts are out of the question. I have been getting reaaaaally creative trying to find substitutes for things I would normally make, and many of them have turned out surprisingly well! I thought I would share a few desserts that really fixed my cravings in a flash. 

All of these desserts are clean eating, daniel fast friendly, and gluten free*.

*Use gluten free oats

1. Banana and Oatmeal Cookies 

Clean Eating, Daniel Fast Friendly, Gluten Free

Makes about 10-12 cookies, depending on how big you make them. 

These babies are made of exactly what they say – banana and oatmeal. That is all you really need, but adding a few extra things makes them pop. Here is what I used in mine:

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup of oats (use gluten free if you need a gluten free recipe)

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Handful (so accurate, I know…) of dried cranberries

Mix all of your ingredients together and then scoop them out in cookie sized lumps onto a baking sheet. 

Bake for about 15 minutes at 350 and these guys are done-zo! 

2. Two Ingredient “Ice Cream”

Clean Eating, Daniel Fast Friendly, Gluten Free, Paleo Friendly

Makes 2 servings (or sometimes only one…)

Many of you have probably heard of banana ice cream, it is a big fad on pinterest right now. I tried it a year or so ago and it turned out terribly. Well, I did some more research this time and figured out that the key to making it turn out well is frozen bananas. Duh. I know, I should have realized. I tried to use room temperature bananas and then freeze it afterwards and it was pretty gross. 

You need:

2 ripe bananas cut into about 1/4 inch slices. 

1/2-3/4 cup of frozen fruit (I like peaches, strawberries, blueberries… whatever works!) 

A note about the frozen fruit – I am always tempted to add more fruit after the half cup. You can add a tiny bit more, but too much more and the texture of your ice cream changes, and surprisingly it doesn’t taste as sweet. So try and stick to 1/2 – 3/4 cup if you still want the creamy texture. 

The first step is to freeze the bananas until they are totally frozen. I put wax paper on a plate so they would be easier to get off later. 

When the bananas are totally frozen, put them in a food processor with your frozen fruit and blend, blend, blend!! At first it looks like it is not going to work, but keep going! Patience gets you deliciousness. Also, I have tried this with a blender and a food processor. Both work, but a blender takes much longer. With both ways it is a good idea to stop and scrape the sides every so often. 

Nom Nom!!! This looks and tastes extremely similar to real ice cream. 

3. Apple Crisp

Clean Eating, Daniel Fast Friendly, Gluten Free

Makes 2 servings

Apple crisp is at the top of my list of favorite desserts!!! But most apple crisp recipes have tons of butter and brown sugar… what to do!

2 apples cut into cubes (I used one granny smith and one pink lady)

1/2 cup of dried cranberries

1/2-3/4 cup of oats (I just eye balled it to make sure that the apples weren’t suffocating in oats.)

1-2 teaspoons cinnamon (just make sure the apples are coated nicely)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ginger

dash of allspice

First mix apples in a bowl with lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and all spice. Then add in oats and dried cranberries. Then throw everything into a baking dish and toss these babies in the ole’ oven.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. 

Devour unashamedly. I may or may not have eaten this for breakfast… 

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Okay! I will try to get some more pictures up later of these delicious and healthy treats! For now, you’ll just have to use your super active imaginations and take my word that you definitely need to try them. 

Traveling Along the Romantic Road

I was so tempted to call this post “The Road Less Traveled.” However, due to the popularity of the city we visited, this would be entirely untrue. You are quite lucky that I spared you such a cheesy title and opted for something more classy. *cough, cough.* 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Red Fortress above the Tauber) is a city along the Romantic Road that is a popular tourist destination because of its beauty and history. It is one of the only cities left in Germany with walls still around the city, having escaped most of the damage from WWII.

Jason and I had the privilege to visit this city this past weekend and we were not disappointed!

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 Here is an etching of the city that gives you a pretty good idea of what it looks like. Being the artist that I am, I am totally in love with how much detail is in this! This was etched into a copper plate, mind you. So much time had to have gone into this piece. 

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 As it started to get dark, we headed out to the wall to look out at the city where it curves back around. It was so beautiful, something that this photo doesn’t quite do justice! 

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 This clock tower is from the 1300’s!! It totally blows my mind to be in a city that is literally older than my country… We are talking Canterbury Tales, the Divine Comedy, the bubonic plague, the first translation of a Bible into English – all in the 1300’s. And this tower is still here. BAM. And we think Washington D.C. is old… 

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This is St. Jacobs church, also from the 1300’s. It took 170 years to build and is built in the Gothic style. 

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This tower is one of the oldest buildings in the city, built in (drumroll…) 1172! What was going on in the 1100’s you ask? Well. I shall tell you. The crusades, Oxford was founded, AND Richard the Lionhearted becomes King… which means ROBIN stinkin’ HOOD. It does cross my mind that maybe Robin Hood once crossed under this arch. I know he lived in England, but maybe he traveled. You never know! 

Okay, surely you’ve had enough history for tonight. But lets end on a yummy note with these famous Rothenburg treats, Schneeballs. Yes, they should be in a Dr. Seuss book. 

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Schneeball means snowball in English, and they are basically shortbread covered in powdered sugar, chocolate, nuts, caramel, or any other random sugary delight. 

For family members and friends who want to see better quality pictures of the city, be sure to keep an eye on Jason’s Facebook. I know he fared much better than I did with my phone! My philosophy of late has been taking pictures mostly for composition in order to sketch or paint later. 

Monschau

A couple of weekends ago, Jason and I drove down to a small town called Monschau for the day. Monschau is a great place to walk around, take pictures, and relax with a little light shopping and an ice cream cone. Here are a couple of pictures from the town.

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What I learned about Castles

Well, I will be totally honest. The inside of the castle of Landshut was underwhelming. But according to Jason, going to see castles is more about the landscape around the castles than the castle itself. Sure it is cool to look up from the street and see this: 

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Super cool! But the inside of the castle was more like a large balcony… made of stone. So been there, done that. However, the view outside the castle was what made the trip worth while! It was such a peaceful place. Jason and I loved sitting at a small cafe inside the castle and looking out over the scene for quite some time. 

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So it turns out castle trips are totally worth it! If you are willing to breathe in some gorgeous scenery and just take a break. The truth about castles is that you don’t always have to be moving and going somewhere to have a good time! Sometimes you can just enjoy what is right in front of you. 

Visit to Trier

Today Jason and I visited Trier, which was my first real sight seeing trip in Germany! It has some really beautiful, very old sections in the city. 

We visited The Porta Nigra, which is a large Roman city gate. It is the oldest defensive structure in Germany (1700 years old!). 

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Kind of hard to miss.

We also couldn’t help but pass through the town square which was filled with all sorts of goodies!

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And finally, we visited The Church of our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche). This is the oldest gothic church in Germany built in the 13th century. 

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It was such a beautiful day outside after so many days of clouds and rain! I can’t wait to see where we visit next.