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International Potluck

6 May

In honor of our international student population, the Vesalius Student Government hosted an international potluck after everyone returned from break. They had foods from everywhere from China, Turkey, Italy, the US, Mexico, and many other places. For me, I couldn’t think of anything more American than apple pie, but I didn’t want to make pie because I didn’t want to make the crust. So instead I made an apple pie dip that I found a couple years ago on Pinterest. For your enjoyment, read the recipe below or click this link!


Apple Pie Dip & Cinnamon-Sugar Tortilla Chips from “The Peach Kitchen”


  • 2 cups peeled, cored and diced apples
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon/calamansi juice
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tsp water

For the chips

  • 6 (6-inch) wheat tortillas
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar


  1. You can either cook this on the stove-top or the microwave.
  2. Combine all the dip ingredients in a small pan/ microwavable bowl except the cornstarch-water mixture.
  3. Heat for a few minutes until it’s boiling and has extracted juice from the apple.
  4. Add cornstarch-water mixture to the “sauce”.
  5. Put back in the microwave/stove top until boiling and the sauce has thickened.
  6. Set aside. You can serve this warm or chilled. It doesn’t matter. It will taste delicious.
  7. Cut tortillas into desired size. {wedges}
  8. Put in a slightly greased baking pan.
  9. Brush the tortillas with butter.
  10. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and bake at 210 degrees C {410 degrees F} until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes.
  11. Let them cool before serving and serve with the Apple Pie Dip.

My personal tips:

  • One batch of this doesn’t really make a lot. When I normally make it I tend to double or triple the recipe.
  • I put a little more cornstarch in because I think it makes a thicker sauce, which I like.
  • It can be served with things other than the cinnamon sugar chips. I have also served it with stroopwafels and regular waffles.
  • I’ve also never made the dip in the microwave, so I can’t say how that will turn out.

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

26 Dec

Fröhliche Weihnachten (Merry Christmas in German) to all of the people who read my blog, so mostly friends and family. I first want to say how much I love and appreciate each and every one of you, and I cannot wait to see you when I get back to wherever you are living!

That being said, I was fortunate to experience a new kind of Christmas this year in my explorations of Germany. I was adopted by my German family (The Grothe Family) for the season and could not have been more thrilled! They really took me under their wings and helped me get the most out of the season. This post is dedicated to them and will show how I really got the chance to experience a traditional German Christmas.

Advent Calendar– Der Adventskalender

My Milka Advent Calendar

My Milka Advent Calendar

The advent wreath and calendar were actually invented by a German pastor, Johann Hinirch Wichern, in 1833 when he was working in an orphanage in Hamburg and the children kept asking when Christmas was going to arrive. He made the wreath as a way for the children to count down the days. I totally didn’t know that! I had always helped my Grandma Pipher light her advent wreaths, but I didn’t know where it came from. Now I do! Lucky for me, this was the first introduction I got to German Christmas traditions. When I visited my German family earlier this year, they sent me home with a Milka Chocolate advent calendar. Starting December 1 I got a piece of Milka chocolate every day for 25 days! It was a delicious countdown! 🙂

My chocolate piece from 1 December 2013

My chocolate piece from 1 December 2013

German Christmas Markets (Weihnachstmärkte)

I have a new love in life, and its name is “Christmas Market”. I had SO much fun going through the Koln (Cologne) Christmas markets with my friend Alex for a few days before I ended in Langenfeld. Though the city of Desden has the oldest Christmas market in Germany (dating back from 1434), Koln is one of the most popular ones. It had 9 markets spread out across the city, and there was a little train that you could pay to take that would go between all 9 of them (we decided to walk instead). They have everything ranging from food, drink, decorations, souvenirs, and presents. It was perfect!

German Mulled Wine (Glühwein)

1387881714226When coming to Christmastime, every person who has ever been to Germany says that you have to try Gluhwein. No matter what Christmas market you go to, you will see lots of these stands all around. For me, I finally got to try it our last day in Koln at the restaurant LyLy (which we went to twice because it was so good and the people were great!). Though Alex didn’t like it (she doesn’t drink alcohol, but I made her try it anyway), I thought it was delicious!

 The Christmas Tree (Der Tannenbaum) 

The first Christmas tree on record was in Freiburg, Germany in 1419. It was set up by the town bakers who put fruits, nuts, and baked goods on it as decoration that the children of the town could remove on New Years Day. Traditionally the tree is put up and decorated on Christmas Eve, but some German families put theirs up during Advent. Christmas trees have always been a favorite of mine, and up until I left for college we would always get a real, 8′ tree to put in our house. This year, I got to have a real tree again! Though the Grothe family does not put real candles on their tree like some German families do (Thank goodness in my opinion! Can you say fire hazard?!), it was still beautifully decorated!

Christmas Eve (Heiliger Abend or Heiligabend)


Presents from Christkind

In most European countries, including Germany, they celebrate St. Nicholas Day on 6 December. This day is based on the Catholic St. Nicholas who lived in the 4th century in present-day Turkey. He is known as the protector of children. Traditionally, this was the day that children received their gifts. However, the Middle Ages brought the Protestant Reformation against the Catholic Church, led by Martin Luther (a German). It was through the Reformation that the glorification of saints was replaced with the focus on Jesus himself. Therefore, Luther changed the traditional date of receiving present from St. Nicholas Day to closer to Christmas Day itself. He also replaced the image of gifts coming from St. Nicholas to gifts coming from Christkind (also seen spelled Christkindl), which translates to “Christ child”. Some say that Christkind is an interpretation of Jesus as an infant, but Melissa informed me that their version of Christkind is an angel. Rather than coming during the night like the American Santa Claus, Christkind comes while the children are away and sneaks the presents under the tree. After our Christmas Eve dinner, us children (Melissa, Norman, Migel, and I) were sent to our rooms and were not allowed to leave until we heard the bell announcing that Christkind had left. We returned to the living room to find the tree with presents under it!

Christmas Days (der erste und zweite Weihnachtstag)

Table set for Christmas dinner

Table set for Christmas dinner

In Germany there are two legal days of Christmas, December 25 and 26. They are known as the First and Second Days of Christmas. This is the time for the extended family to get together and visit. This is exactly what we did. On the 25th Melissa, her boyfriend Jonas, and I went to Jonas’s family’s house where we had dinner with his extended family on his mother’s side. There we had some traditional German Christmas food, including red cabbage and potato dumplings. Then we came back to Melissa’s house where we had dinner with Melissa’s father’s extended family. After dinner we went to Jonas’s fathers house for drinks with his father, step-mother, and sister. On the 26th we had Melissa’s mother’s parents over for cake and coffee.

All in all, I had a fantastic Christmas time with the Grothe family! I learned a lot about their language and customs and laughed the whole time! This is a Christmas I will never forget!


Grothe Family + Adopted Children (from the back, left: Klaus, Migel, Sabine, Norman, Me, Melissa)



Noël à Bruxelles et les Plaisirs d’Hiver

10 Dec

To start of the Christmas season in style, I spend the first weekend of December exploring the Plaisirs d’Hiver, or Winter Wonders, in central Brussels. This celebration of the holiday season in the history center of the city consists of a Christmas Market (2km of shops), attractions (including an ice skating rink and Ferris Wheel), and light show at Grand Place.

Below, you can see a video of part of the 15-minute light show at Grand Place. This year’s show is entitled “Magical History City” and uses light and music to depict the historic events that have taken place in Grand Place. This includes the medieval and baroque eras, 1695 bombing, reconstruction under the aegis of Charles Buls, and the entry into the twenty-first century.

For more information on this show, check out

Aller au cinéma! (Fall Break Day 2)

30 Oct

I don’t know about most high school introductory French courses, but one of the first phrases I learned how to say is, “go to the movies,” which is the title for today’s blog post about what to look out for when going to the movies in Belgium. 

For me, going to the movies is a relaxing enterprise. I do it when school or life is stressful and I just need a couple of hours to escape into another world. I know that many other study abroad students may feel the way, but not know what to navigate the system that is international movie theaters. Due to some research, I have made a step-by-step guide on how to do the movies in Brussels (which I’m guessing can translate relatively well to other cities and countries outside of the US). 

Step 1: Find your movie theater 

Remember everyone, Google is your friend, even in a foreign country. All you need to do is Google “Brussels movie theaters,” and they will help you with the rest. Personally, I enjoy the UCG De Brouckere. Not only can I easily get there with the 71 bus, but it is in a good location, has a good facility, and has a student discount price. 

Step 2: Decide on what movie you want to watch

This may be the biggest problem with going to the movies abroad, because not all of the movies are in English like we are used to. Luckily for us, different countries have established different ways to tell you what language the movie will be in. In France, if you see “V.O.” next to a movie, that means it is in the original language (without voice overs) and will have subtitles in French. This becomes a little difficult in a country like Belgium that has two different languages that are important (French and Dutch). Their identification system goes like this:

  • VOSTBIL: This means that the movie is in its original language and has subtitles in both French and Dutch. I believe a majority of the movies that I want to see are in this format. 
  • VF: This means that the movie is either in French or has been dubbed over so that French is the language heard. Pretty much any  childrens’ movie that you want to see will be in this format. 
  • VNL: This means that the movie is either in Dutch or has been dubbed over so that Dutch is the language heard.
  • VOFSTNL: This means that the movie is in French, but there are Dutch subtitles. 

Step 3: Make sure to have cash

I think this is something that all Americans (at least) need to remember when going through other countries, whether on vacation or study abroad: not everywhere takes debit/credit cards. Sometimes your bank card will not work in the stores. European bank cards are made different than American cards. They have a chip in the end of the cards that makes it so they don’t need to slide the cards. Get used to it! Sometimes bank cards from one European country won’t work in another European country. Therefore, be smart, and make sure to have cash on you when you go out of things like this. It sucks trying to find an ATM in the middle of nowhere. 

Step 4: Know your popcorn

I don’t know about other people, but I don’t think the movie experience is complete without a bag of popcorn (I’m a little obsessed). Well, just because you’re in Europe doesn’t mean you need to change that habit completely, just alter it a little. When you order popcorn at the movies they will ask you if you want it salted or sweet (“salé” or “sucré”). They do not load on the butter like us Americans. However, don’t let that discourage you. I am a big butter lover, but I still love the salé popcorn at the movies. Especially with some gummy candy. 🙂

Step 5: Enjoy the movie…

But not just the movie. Enjoy the experience! If you think about it, something as basic as going to the movies is culturally different just between us Western nations. By going to the movies in another country and getting used to their system, it is a way of slowly integrating yourself into that local custom. You don’t have to have a certain culture or custom to enjoy a nice relaxing afternoon at the movies. 🙂


Belgium Beer Festival 2013

18 Sep