Week Seventy-Four

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Culinaria 2013! It’s basically a cafeteria full of Michelin Starred restaurants and chefs. We met up with some friends and devoured our way through this annual event. Each person is given 1 ticket for appetizers, 5 tickets for meals and 2 tickets for desserts (and of course plenty of drink tickets) and you get to peruse around deciding what you would like to eat for dinner. It is a hard decision because everything looks so tasty. We decided upon the fanciest hot dog we’ve ever had (trust me it was fancy and not a “hot dog”), raw wagyu beef filet with foie gras, a thai bowl (filled with all sorts of asian goodness) a salad with some kind of crazy cheese foam, and a crab/egg drop soup thingy. It was all delicious but there was one VERY annoying thing. A lot of chefs ran out of their dishes almost an hour before the event was supposed to be over. A couple that joined us arrived a little late and did not get a lot of the good stuff. To me, for the price that they sell these limited number of tickets at, there should be an over abundance of food for the event patrons. Not people standing around still with a half full ticket booklet.

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Anyway. In child-land their school hosted its annual Scavenger Hunt. The kids are given an envelope filled with clues about people who are hiding all over the school and the school grounds. They have to figure the clue out, find the person (teachers) and get their signature.

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Waffles were consumed but as the weather turned dark once again, we all headed home. The kids had a great time but mom was not feeling so great and truly toughed it out. I had been sick since Sunday. Four days of fever, a light rash and a headache that wouldn’t quit. I faked it for as long as I could, medicated up and got on with my days but ended up collapsed in bed by 6pm each night. Nothing is confirmed as to what it is but…..Something viral. Something not contagious. Something that slowly wanted me to feel what death is like.

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I spent almost all of Saturday and Sunday in the dark, in bed, and curled in the fetal position. After sleeping a ridiculous number of hours I made myself get out of bed to go with the kids to a street carnival down the street from us.

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The kids were having a great time. And I was making it through.

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They road this ride three times in a row…

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And Zane still didn’t understand why he couldn’t go faster and pass the other cars.

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Once Lily figured out that the cars steer themselves and she had to do nothing…she road the rest of the ride like this.

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Once Zane figured out that he wouldn’t get in trouble for hitting other people and that it was actually the point of bumper cars, the evil grin on his face could have lit up a whole city.

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After hooking some ducks, Lily waited until we weren’t looking and just grabbed them to pile them in her bucket. She IS efficient, got to give her that.

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That’s a whole bunch of nope.

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And finally, I can’t leave out the goings-on of my other child. Each evening we are having a visitor at our back window. Bailey is not a fan. She puffs up like a toilet brush, hisses, spits and tries to attack through the glass. She’s a tad anti-social.

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Week Seventy-Three

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Soooo, this was the last time I played hockey. See me kneeling on the ice for the picture? That’s because I could barely stand up. I was going for the puck during scrimmage and another player couldn’t stop her forward progress into my body. It resulted in my hand getting cut by her skate and my knee going in a direction it probably shouldn’t have.
The wound on my finger developed a nasty staph infection (thanks to the quite dirty gloves I was dumb enough to put my hand back into) and my knee was in a lot of pain. BUT, as it often does, time, antibiotics and a brace healed the wounds and I’m almost back to normal. Normal for me anyway.
This month of ice hockey in Leuven was a lot of fun but maybe I should stick to basket weaving.

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As many of you know we are shopping around for a new house here in Brussels. Our current house we are renting was sold and so we need to relocate since the new owners will be moving in. I’ve been looking and looking but still have not been able to find one that is a good fit for us. However, I have seen some pretty hilarious things. Take this for example. This was the 10 year old’s bed. yep.

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During the weekend Jason and I went on “The Tram Experience” here in Brussels. They have converted a transportation tram into a dining car. You pre-buy your ticket on the internet when seats open up and are served dinner while traveling around the city. We had a lot of fun and a lot of food. The funnest part for us was communicating with the people who would either drive up along side of the tram or were walking by. Jason and I can be quite silly (really?) so we were doing all sorts of things in our window to make the on-lookers laugh or play along.

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We had a lot of champagne and wine. I swear anytime you took a sip they came back by to replace the sip. Great news to have so much tasty wine! Bad news was the bathroom on the tram was broken. By the end of the evening you could see a lot of people uncomfortably shifting in their seats.

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After we got off our early dinner tram, we met up with some friends who were getting on the late dinner tram and filled them in on what they were about to experience. Including the warning about the broken facilities.

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This weekend was also the Brussels 20km. Last year we were in shorts and t-shirts and enjoyed sitting down at the end of our street to cheer on the runners. This year it was SO cold and damp that we only stayed down there for a short period of time.

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The kids still enjoyed the drum beats and holding their inspirational signs.

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Week Seventy-Two

May is the month of holidays so it is also a huge travel month for families. A lot of families I knew were packing up and taking long expensive crazy vacations to all parts of Europe but we decided to go a different route. We rented a house in the south of Belgium with another family who we are good friends with.
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The house was so cute but…the weather was terrible. Cold, rainy, windy, muggy, and yes, cold. When we planned on renting this house near the end of May we had no idea we’d need to make fires each night and keep the radiators on.
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We had a total of 6 kids and 5 adults in the house so it felt like we were buying out the grocery store just for a long weekend.  I was quite surprised at how little food was left when we left!

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But we made the most of it and braved the cold weather. We stopped at a few fun locations in the Meuse Valley. This one was the Castle Veves (aka Sleeping Beauty’s Castle). We brought clothes for the kids to dress up in but they also will supply kids with princess and knight gowns for free. A few of our other friends joined us at the castle and it was fun to watch all the kids try to kill each other with wooden swords.

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All the kids, plus Jason standing in for one boy who didn’t want his picture taken ūüôā

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These 3 girls couldn’t understand why the other 8 boys were so crazy.

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We made our way to Dinant to tour the citadel…

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Play on the playground…

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And enjoy our 10am beers.

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Moving around as much as we do, I have read up on transitions, assimilations and stages of change. I remember one chapter that talked about when you start running into people, you are in the final stage of settling in. It has been happening a lot to us lately. Seems like no matter where we go (grocery store, market, different town) we will run into friends. While in Dinant, we ran into our friends the Christie’s and their son Jack who is in Zane and Lily’s class. Small country = Small world.

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We spent what small time we had when the sun was out…in the sun.

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Getting our exercise…

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and making babies behave badly.

IMG_2464It was a nice way to spend a cold, rainy, Whit Monday holiday weekend and I felt even better about it when I heard the tales at school the next week of stressful, expensive far away vacations being ruined by this insane European weather.

 

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Week Seventy-One

This weekend Jason and I were able to travel to Vienna, Austria without the kids thanks to Pop & N√©eN√©e who watched them while we got out of town. Vienna is a city that neither Jason nor I had been to before which always works out well for us. No one feels like they are leading each other around and we get to discover it together. I had been told that Vienna is much larger than you think and the two days we were spending there wouldn’t even get a majority of Vienna “seen”. That was definitely true advice. We both had such a nice time there though it is on our short list of cities to return to again.

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We hoped into our cab after our early morning flight and met Helmut. He was a happy guy who liked to preach about positive attitudes and the power of anti-oxidant pills. He had two daughters from his first marriage that he didn’t see much anymore but had a dog who loves walks in the forest.

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At first blush Vienna looks like most European cities. Beautiful buildings, pedestrian closed streets, outdoor cafés serving spaghetti bolognese and ridiculous amounts of shopping.

Vienna1And lots of love of the word Wiener (You probably already know fact: ¬†the word “Wiener”means “Viennese”, since the actual German name for Vienna is Wien)

DSC02923But as you dig down and get to see more of the city open up you are struck by its beauty. ¬†The Viennese have a love for classical architecture and romantic style. ¬†As a city with so much history it makes you wonder why you didn’t learn more about it in school, other than the basic Austrian-Hungarian blurbs.
The building on your right above is the Opera house.  However during World War II an American pilot mistook it for a train station and unleashed a bombing raid.  He missed the Opera House but hit an apartment building to the left and it collapsed onto the 200 citizens who were hiding in the basement entombing them underneath.

DSC02800These statues are built upon that site to remind all of the horrific nature of war.

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I’m sure the four rivers fountain would have been prettier without this guy in it.

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Like our tour book said, if you look above all the mainstream stores (H&M, Zara, GAP, etc) you can imagine what central Vienna used to look like in its days of grandure.

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Another thing I liked about Vienna were its churches. I like my churches good and gothic, the more ornate and ridiculous the better. In Italy I found most of the Renaissance churches completely disappointing and dull (save the Sistine Chapel of course). But here in Vienna, they were gorgeous.

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After visiting central Vienna we walked to the Hofburg Palace.

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And see kids, this is why you have to learn all that “pointless” stuff in school. One day you will be presented with life in front of you and the ability to understand/recognize it leaves quite the feeling of satisfaction. The Hapsburg Royal Family loved Greek Mythology and had the 12 labors of Hercules presented as statues along the palace walls. I was only able to find 8 of them. Either there are only 8 or there are 4 hiding somewhere else that I couldn’t see.

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DSC02875The view from the side of the palace towards City hall.

DSC02872The famous balcony from which Hitler addressed the Viennese people after capturing Austria.

For the second half of the first day, we took a bike tour around Vienna and got a true picture of how large the city is. Three hours of near constant biking, my legs were so exhausted I almost didn’t make it to dinner but I’m glad I pushed through. We ate at the Palais Coburg where I ate almost enough to replace the calories burned that day.

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Random picture. ¬†The public bathrooms in Vienna are fantastic. ¬†Just an FYI here. ¬†They also aren’t annoyed with restrooms in general like most other cities. ¬†Almost every place you walk into the restrooms are clearly marked and it is no big deal if you have to use them. ¬†In Paris (and Brussels), you practically need a map to find one, then have to beg to use it and it is never a pleasant experience.

DSC02885The next morning we awoke to a drop in temperature (about 30 degrees worth!) and rain.

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DSC02893We planned to go back to some of the sights we saw on our bike tour (since I didn’t bring my camera on the tour) and take a few pictures and see things in more detail. ¬†However, the cold rain and chilly wind forced us to have a change of plans.

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Instead we spent the day in and out of several Viennese coffee houses and restaurants. A relaxing and much better plan. I finished a book cover to cover and dined on crisp apple strudels with cream, fried potatoes and lots of tea/coffee/wine/beer.

The city, much like every other city on the planet has its downfalls.  The rise of kitsch, commercialism, immigration tensions, and economic strife, but all in all I have to say I sort of fell in love with Vienna.  Laid back with class, happy people, and fantastic food.

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DSC02826If you wear six inch heels on streets with uneven surfaces, cobblestone and look like a wounded deer trying to maneuver in them, I’m going to take your picture.

DSC02856Also if you make amazing chocolate cakes right in front of me and ask me not to take a picture, I’m going to have to break that rule.

As you can tell by the quality of these pics, I chose not to bring my large camera on this trip.  Instead I opted for my pocket camera.  Sometimes you just need a break from seeing a city through a lens pressed up against your face the whole time.  It was rather freeing and my neck is also thankful.
I dumped all the pics I took into this slideshow, take a gander if you have the time.

We had a great trip and it was good to get away. ¬†It was also great to come home to my babies and celebrate Mother’s Day. ¬†Pop & N√©eN√©e hoped on a plane Sunday morning to Italy and I’ve spent the day doing a whole lot of nothing.
Happy Mother’s Day to my mommy and all the other moms out there. ¬†Hope your weekend was grand!

DSC_5005 DSC_5021*Zane and Lily pics thanks to NéeNée

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Week Seventy

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This week Pop & N√©eN√©e have come to visit from Texas. ¬†Once they arrived it was non-stop immersion into our lives here in Brussels. ¬†They visited the kids school, went with us for a picnic in the forest with friends, took a trip to the zoo and visited Central Brussels, Bruges and the Meuse Valley. ¬†Be warned, if you come to visit us, you won’t be doing much sitting. ¬†Except sitting in traffic, because as we are approaching summer traffic is getting worse by the day.

photo-2 photo-3Having fun at the zoo

photo-4Playing at Maredsous Abbey

photo-6Enjoying the actual heat wave we were experiencing!

photo-7Enjoying local specialties before noon at our Market

photo-8And at long last the Blue Bells Forest finally bloomed its Blue Bells, only about a month late.

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Week Sixty-Nine Part Two

I’m likin’ Laeken

Ok. I admit. I have stayed out of Laeken for the most part. It is an integral part of Brussels but I haven’t made my way over there. The crime rate is high. A dude was murdered there a few months ago. But, it is where the residence of the Royal family is located. I had a free morning so I headed over to Laeken with my doors locked. What I found sort of surprised me. It really wasn’t that bad, everyone had been warning me of a terrible place and really…nope.
Each year the Royal Family opens it’s grounds and greenhouses to the general public for a few weeks. You pay a small entry fee and get to tour around. But you are forbidden to walk on the grass. Which is a shame because it is beautiful and HUGE. I am also glad I did not bring the kids because they would have been bored to tears and really upset that they couldn’t run around on the sprawling lawns in front of them.
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The greenhouse structures themselves are beautiful. ¬†They were designed by Alphonse Balat, who was the teacher of¬†Victor Horta¬†(for those architecture nerds out there).¬†But what I was shocked to find was an underwhelming representation of plant life. Maybe it’s because I lived in Miami in a tropical climate and saw some of the most amazing flora you can imagine on a regular basis, but I found myself completely underwhelmed. The other visitors were walking around amazed and asking themselves, what is this! what is that! and I just sort of shrugged like…ya, I used to have those in my front yard. Yep, those grew next to my bathroom. I’ve lived here long enough that I know have the right to be critical of things and not simply amazed by them. I also found it completely annoying that they didn’t have any of the plants labeled. People want to know what they are. Where they come from. Some fun fact. But alas, there was nothing.
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The one impressive thing I found was the height of the Geraniums.  That takes a lot of careful planning and tending.

IMG_7121IMG_7110I also like the way they used Forsythia as hedging. This is a is a view from the back towards Brussels central.

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IMG_7087No idea.  Looks like a cross between an orchid and a begonia?  Anyone?

IMG_7105Various Bromeliads

IMG_7102Salmon Geraniums

IMG_7090 IMG_7134Fuchsia

IMG_7136Bougainvillea

IMG_7164Tulip Tree

IMG_7170Notre Dame of Laeken

After visiting I had more time so I went over to the Laeken cemetery. ¬†¬†It has been on my bucket list of things to do while in Brussels so I am glad to cross it off. ¬†The cemetery is most known for the art work adorning many of the grave sites. ¬†Pictures are not allowed in the cemetery so I snapped a few on my phone while no one was looking. ¬†Sorry Laeken ūüôāphoto 2 photo 5_3 photo 3 photo 2_2_2 photo 1_3Rodan’s first draft of The Thinker. ¬†Rodan’s teacher lived in Brussels and Rodan worked here for a few years before relocating. ¬†Not bad for his first try in bronze before casting the real one (and housed in Paris at the Rodin Museum).

Overall not a bad trip. ¬†I wanted to visit the crypts but they had them closed off for cleaning. ¬†I also meant to make it to the Basilica on my way home but ran out of time, I’ll be back over to the north part of Brussels soon.

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Week Sixty-Nine

Week Sixty-Nine-ish kinda. More like, what snapshots can I find on my iPhone? Let’s see!

photo 1Lately Lily is into drawing all her favorite stories.  Here is Rapunzel.

photo 3Zane is still into being naked and DESTROYING the living room/dining room at any chance he gets. ¬†Here, I was downstairs doing laundry, 20 minutes later…a mess.

photo 2And Bailey is still into sleeping.

photo 3We are taking a break from traveling for a bit this week to relax.  I do love to travel but it does get exhausting.  Above, a nice moment from Prague the other week.

DSC02778I am having a great time with the international community of ISB, the children’s school. ¬†Here was a pottery night where we drank wine. ¬†I mean, got crafty.

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photo 1Speaking of the kid’s school, I forgot to post these pictures from a while ago but their school hosted its annual International Festival. ¬†It kicks off with a parade of nations. ¬†It’s like being at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, except the athletes are tiny. ¬†I worked the morning shift at the American booth where we sold hot dogs, root beer floats and Bud Light.

At school in their classrooms, the kids are finishing up a unit of learning entitled “Out and About”. ¬†They walk and take city buses to different businesses in the neighborhood and learn about what goes into each business. ¬†Learning that different places are for different things. ¬†Remember, there are no Super-Walmarts here so we actually have to go different places for different things! ¬†We went to a laundromat, a bakery, a florist, and a grocery store.

While Nana was in town, she got to help chaperone one of these field trips to the Florist.

IMG_5681This construction is called “typical.”

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IMG_5743Oh, Zane.

photo 2Grocery store visit.

photo 1Speaking of Nana’s visit a few weeks ago, we went to the zoo and also technopolis. ¬†The kids were so excited to show Nana around some of their favorite places. ¬†BUT, as is typical tradition, we didn’t take any pictures of Nana with Zane and Lily. ¬†We are normally having so much fun it isn’t until after we get home that we say, did you take any pictures? No, did you?? ¬†ARRRRGGGG!

But, here is a video of the house that Nana and I built for Zane and Lily.  I wish I could buy these blocks but they are over 500 dollars for only 75 of them!


The video cuts out but yes the little house of bricks DID come tumbling down.

photo 4The other weekend we took a trip out to the Blue Bell forest to have a picnic with some friends.  However, it has been so cold here, that no Blue Bells were in sight!

photo 5Eating, drinking, making sure no one loses an eye over sharp pointy sticks.

photo 5Elmar, Lily and L√©a are all in the same class at school, Zane did not come on this trip with us. ¬†When asked he said he wanted to stay home. ¬†Then, later, he saw the pictures and was so sad he didn’t join in. ¬†Next time.

photo 4Little monkeys

photo 5LOOK, I lied.  I did find one Blue Bell.  Pathetic little thing.

The sun is out and spring MAY actually be here, highs have been in the low 50s all the way up to the 60s.  Fingers crossed.

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