"The palest ink is better than the best memory" ~Chinese Proverb

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Brussels Christmas Market

We went somewhere awesome last weekend, but then our stuff came and there was all this stupid work to do. The movers unpacked everything, but basically there were just mounds of stuff everywhere. One of the few good things about moving every few years is that you are forced to pare down to the essentials. Before we left Brazil I dropped about 2,000 lbs worth of crap from our HHE (Household Effects for you non-foreign service people), and we are still shedding our belongings as we put everything away. I tell the kids if it's not beautiful or useful to donate it or toss it, and to be ruthless. Also, I have 46 tank tops. 

In other news, everyone is adapting to life in Brussels pretty well. I'm still in the oh-my-god-why-did-we-join-the-foreign-service phase, but I'm hoping that changes. They sell four brands of truffle mayonnaise here, so signs point to yes on that front. Mitch went out and bought a car, but I haven't seen it yet because paperwork and diplomatic license plates and blahblahblah. Maybe by the new year we will have wheels? Fortunately, we don't really need a vehicle yet. It's so easy to hop on public transit and not worry about parking or wine driving. 

We took the tram to a christmas market last Saturday, and it was the shit. It was packed with people and vendors but everyone was in a good mood because of vin chaud (hot mulled wine), which at least half of the vendors sold for just a few euros. I liked this very much.

Place Sainte-Catherine was the name of the square where the market took place. St. Catherine is an old Catholic church, and we were able to go inside where Mitch and I regaled the children with stories of growing up Catholic.








On the other side of the church is the Christmas Market. 



Yes, we went on that big-ass Ferris Wheel. It was a great place to view Brussels, and it was super cheap. I'm looking at you, Great Seattle Wheel, you big dumb jerk.



The view from the wheel. Those white squares are all the vendor stalls.




I love going through the pictures after an outing. All the photos of buildings are taken by my architect husband and all the food and booze pics are mine.




The Archangel Michael is the patron saint of Brussels. Here he is slaying the black devil. Merry Christmas!






We hadn't learned about the vin chaud yet. Whoops!  

I love that they have student prices on booze shots.



No comment.



We want to go again when my preshus angel college boy gets here next week, because I forgot to buy stuff after all the vin chaud. Also, there is an ice skating rink around there somewhere that the girls want to try out. I did buy a pretty cool chess set and the kids bought Christmas presents for each other. It was a good day and nobody cried.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tourists

One of my favorite things to do in a new place is go to art museums. You know, as long as there aren't any toddlers with me. Toddlers are assholes in museums. Anyway, my kids are rarely assholes anymore, so when the tram let us off in the wrong part of town (we were headed to The Grand Place, but more on that in a minute), and the Royal Museum of  Fine Arts was right in our face, we decided to go where the day took us. The kids were surprisingly really excited to see actual original famous paintings, They wanted to go to one of the other museums in the area after we had seen all of the Old Masters exhibit, but I have a knee situation and I was also was experiencing a lack-of-wine situation after seeing all those paintings of naked people with overflowing wine goblets.




At least they used coasters back in the 1600s! 
Big ones! Coasters, I mean.


We still didn't know where the tram was, so we hoofed it to the Grand Place. See that tall fancy building coming out of my head? That's where we were headed. The closer we got to the square, the thicker the streets got with tourists. I love how my kids continually remind me that a lot of people understand English here, and I'd better watch my mouth when I'm whining about my knee.


We finally got to the Grand Place, which is your basic town square surrounded by old-ass buildings. It's very touristy. Lots of chocolate shops and places to drink beer. You guys, the beer here is really good, but the extra-high alcohol content has a way of sneaking up on you. Anyway, I had beer instead of wine, as one does in Brussels. 


Well, that giant goblet of beer tasted delicious. Don't worry, we let the kids get hot chocolate, which also did not suck. Anyway, that beer tasted so good we decided to try another one. All the beer comes in different glasses here. I think that's so you remember that Brussels beer is the shit.


While we were drinking our beer and hot chocolate, we admired some buildings with fancy gold stuff (insert architectural term here-just because I'm married to an architect doesn't mean I know the terms, yo) on them. I would show you the photo I took of the kids with their hot chocolates, but it was all blurry and I wouldn't want to give the impression that I was drunk or anything.



Soon I thought it was time to sample all the some chocolates, because the beer had taken over my judgement. We sampled chocolate in every shop we went to. So, I'm sloshing around, woozily trying to not think about all the chocolate I had just consumed, when we happened upon one of the most famous chocolate shops IN THE WORLD. Mary is always on the top ten lists. The beer thought it would be a good idea to go in and try it.



I think that guy talking to my husband is a chocolate scientist or something, because he went into this long spiel about how amazing their chocolates are and how they are made using special blahblahblahbeer. The chocolatiers almost wrestled me to the ground when I snapped this photo. "One must not take pictures of the chocolates!" Don't look at these chocolates, you guys, because they are top secret and I don't want to wake up one morning with a chocolate mold of a horse's head in my bed.


I'm not gonna lie, they were fantastic. Also, the chocolatiers wore white gloves.

Since we were in full blown tourist mode, we decided to walk another few blocks to see Manneken Pis, which is one of Brussels' more famous landmarks. It's a statue of a little boy peeing. It's about 400 years old, and it was surprisingly tiny, considering how famous it is. Kind of like the Mona Lisa, but with pee.



For scale:


I mean, it's cute and all, and all the shops sell little replicas, but I'm probably good not seeing it again for the duration of this tour. We all agreed that the best part of our very long day was the museum.

Well, that is until we saw this:



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Barf with Whine

I haven't been updating because I like the idea of you, dear readers reader, imagining me happily munching away on Belgian chocolate and waffles with my lightning fast internet, wearing my cute leather boots and strolling around my adorable European neighborhood. Hell, I like to imagine myself in that scenario. But the truth is, even in a cherry post like Belgium, any PCS (Permanent Change of Station, or, Poop Crap Shit if you prefer, as I do) is just freaking hard. And I haven't wanted to be all whiny, because we are getting paid to live in Europe. Don't get me wrong, we love it here, but we just passed that gushy honeymoon phase and went right to the, "Belgium, why you gotta leave the toilet seat up and throw your dirty socks on the floor?" phase. The good news is that Jack's missing college UAB, which was packed out in July, finally showed up. Here in Brussels. With destination: Los Angeles clearly marked on the front.

Anyway, since I've started getting "are you alive?" emails, I figured I'd go ahead and just whine a little, because the contractor next door just saw my boobs. Here's how it happened. I was safely several floors up in my dressing room, looking for a bra, when I turned to see a guy on a one of those truck ladder thingies right outside my window. Now, normally I would run through the house, closing all the heavy draperies, screaming, and hiding out for a week, but right at that moment the school called to say one of the kids was vomiting. And since we don't have a car yet because we don't have our Belgian ID cards (what is this, Brazil?) and we can't get a car without a Belgian ID card and blahblahblah I had to call a taxi. All the workers happened to be out having a smoke when I went outside to wait for cab, natch. Ignoring the smoking looky-loos, I go to the school, grab my daughter after spending ten euros on cab fare just getting through all the security checkpoints at their international prison school, and hightail it back home, Another 30 euros later. Unfortunately, some other contractor working on the same house as the peeping Tom guy was blocking our driveway and the cab driver had to park about a block away because of the traffic. Let me just say that these guys block our driveway every single day and normally we don't care, but on this particular day, with my retching daughter, walking a block while holding a ziploc bag to catch her barf just sent me over the edge. I got her settled in the house and I marched right over there. Oh, yes I did. Boobs and all.

"GRRRR! BAD FRENCHENGLISHPORTUGUESE CAR IN MY DRIVEWAY SICK DAUGHTER MORE BAD FRENCHENGISHPORTUGUESE EVERYSINGLEDAY!" I said. Oh, yes I did. And this guy had the nerve to tell me that I should speak to him with respect, and can't I see that there is no where on the street to park? "GRRR. BAD FRENCHENGLISHPORTUGUESE HAD TO HOLD A BAG OF BARF BECAUSE YOU BLOCKED ME FROM GETTING IN MY HOUSE BAD FRENCHENGLISHPORTUGUESE".  And, oh my gah, is this a thing here? Because you taxpayers pay good money for my right to use my driveway. Let's just say it ended with a score of diplomacy=0.

So that was my morning, and that's enough complaining for one day, except one more thing. Okay, the European refrigerator? I mean, it would be perfect if I was in college and only had room for a pack of Chips Ahoy that my mom had Amazon deliver and a bunch of beer my roommate got with his fake ID (not naming names, here), but I've got a family to feed, yo. But it's workable. Worst case scenario, I go down to the basement where I'm certain bodies are buried from one of those Big Wars and did I mention Waterloo was right down the road from my house? And every time I go by I have to sing the ABBA Waterloo song? Where was I? Oh, yeah, so there's a refrigerator down in the scary basement that I can utilize to keep my sauvignon blanc properly chilled. No, it's the tiny European oven I'm having a hard time with. None of my beautiful pans fit in it. At least I won't have to worry about fitting a turkey in it next week because Mitch has to work. I think it's because he's so important? That, like, NATO will shut down or something if he spends Thanksgiving with his family after a year of missed holidays? Causing another Big War? Or something like that? So, back to my oven. How tiny is my oven? There's barely room for my head in it, you guys.

Everything else is pretty good. I still haven't started working because someone has to sign a piece of paper somewhere saying I'm still relatively secure, and I think that takes a really long time because who has a pen these days?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Brupdate (see what I did there?)

The kids are on holiday all week. I know. They've been on holiday since the end of September, so what's another week? They did all their placement testing during the two days of school they went to last week, and I'm happy to report that they did not flunk down a grade! Plus, all the math tutoring even brought the girls past the point where the new school is in math. And when I say tutoring, I mean I made them do online math apps while I played Candy Crush. Unless they needed help, in which case I sent them to their brother. They are a bit down today since it's Halloween and they're used to a lot of fanfare. Brussels apparently has Halloween and trick-or-treating, but we aren't sure if they do it in our neighborhood. I came up with the marvelous idea of  'trick-or-treating' to a few of the chocolate shops in our neighborhood and picking out any chocolate they would like, followed by pizza from the artisanal pizzeria two doors down (next to the wine shop, so.....two birds, yo) and scary movies. On Netflix. Because we now have internet and phones that the embassy set up for us. Which is all kinds of amazing, considering trying to deal with that stuff in Brazil caused me to lose my class one medical clearance.

The only hiccup so far is getting data on our cell phones. For some reason there is no internet, although we can call and text. This is a problem for me, because I like to Google things like, "how likely are you to get infected by disease on the metro?" while I'm actually ON the metro. I'm just saying there's a lot of bare-handed grabbing of handle bars and whatnot that goes on, and to prove my point, I'm sitting here surrounded by a mountain of snotty tissues while the kids are out at the waffle truck walking the dog. 

We are still enjoying our giant townhouse, although the hard water has wreaked havoc with my hair. Google told me to try a vinegar rinse once a week, so today I poured a vinegar/water solution in my hair and rinsed it out. It worked pretty well, I mean, I was finally able to brush through it and as an added bonus, now I smell like pickles. 

Oh, and apparently I have a job? I went to an interview (for a job I applied for a month ago) the day after we arrived. I'd had four hours of sleep in 48 hours, and I was pretty hopeful sure I'd bombed the interview. I know the job is in Human Resources at NATO, but I'm not entirely sure if it's full or part time or what my duties are going to be, because FOUR HOURS in 48 hours, you guys. Anyway, my plan of spending two months in bed in my yoga pants reading novels and watching Netflix has been foiled, because they hired me. The kids and I went out to NATO with Mitch this week to get our ID cards and the security was off the hizzyshabizzie. It took about half an hour just to get inside the building. And you can't even bring your phone or iPad in to Google "why is security at NATO so tight?". 

I walk all the time and have come to the conclusion that I'm going to have to buy some....sensible shoes. That was hard to even type. My feet hurt so bad the other day that I put my white cross-trainers on to go to the farmer's market down the street with Mitch. It felt like I was walking on pillows! However, people gave my feet looks of utter disgust, like they were covered in dog shit. Mitch said he would never go anywhere with me if I wore them again. Looking for sensible shoes is un-fun. 

I'll leave you with this phone pic of my little ladies on the germy metro, taken just before they made waves in the staid halls of NATO: 


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Brussels

We've been here almost a week, and while there are still deep scars to heal from the year of separation and saying goodbye to family, friends and our Jackie, I am pretty sure we are going to love it here. No internet or cable yet, but there is so much to see and do outside our door, who cares? I blew out my hairdryer and flat iron on the first day because of course I did, stupid 220V whatever. I now have a new dumb hairdryer that's dumb, but enough about my hair.

You guys, the second day after I got here I took a tram and a bus by myself. I did get lost a bit, but 40 euros later and a little bag of delicious chocolates and a 12 pack of French macarons for the kids and I was back on the right track. Belgian Kate is superior to Brazil Kate, is all I can say. My first week French is even better than my third year portuguese was.

The kids love their school. It's beautiful and set in the woods and they've all made friends. Dogs rule here (you can tell by the shit on the sidewalks), and they are welcome in stores and restaurants, so Seamus is kept busy by all the new butts to smell.

We are happy with our townhouse. Guess how many floors we have?

Four. Not counting the basement, which is old and creepy and filled with dead bodies, probably.

No, this is not an apartment stairwell. It's the inside of our house. I haven't seen Henry's little suite on the top floor yet, but I'm told it's quite lovely. The stairs are especially cool in that every one is a different size and they are all tilted in different directions. The first words out of one of the kids' mouth as they were tromping up them for the first time was, "Well, these stairs aren't up to code". Because Mitch is their dad.


The girls occupy the third floor.  They've shared a room every since they shared a womb, and this is the first time they have their own rooms. What's really cool is that they have sleepovers. Every. Single. Night. Grace even has a balcony (Olivia had no interest in having a door in her room for robbers to get in). 

Just up the street from our townhouse is a gorgeous park. The park has a waffle truck because we deserve it. Henry took one bite and said it was the closest he's ever been to a spiritual awakening. 



Sharing is caring.



You can rent a little rowboat or hop on a tiny ferry to get to that island restaurant. We did not try it yet because waffles.



My dog and my man and swans and shit.

Not a dump.

Things that are cheap here: wine, cheese, bread. Things that are expensive: everything else. We're all set. 


Well, I gotta go pack my backpack and fill my waterbottle for the trip up to Henry's room now.

 I'll leave you with a pic of our darling backyard:




Thursday, September 18, 2014

Little Things That Are Dumb After Packout

No straws for my iced coffee.

Horribly unAmerican-sized, borrowed coffee mugs:


Having no shoes but Havaianas to wear out in public (don't worry, I haven't lost my mind--packing no shoes was entirely deliberate wink-wink).

No laundry soap. After Googling "can you launder clothes with shampoo", I begged my reliable neighbor, who came through with the suds.

Blogging on an iPad.

Eating dumb food that I never wanted to eat in the first place, which is why it's still in the pantry. Stupid fad superfoods of gross dumbness.







Mint Chip

Breakfast when you are a bad mom and are trying to use up all the food before you fly out.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Moving Day(s)

The move was one of the smoothest we've ever had. I think having a year to prepare helped. I can say that we are traveling without junk for the first time...uh, ever? Of course, my version of junk versus two eleven year-old's versions of junk aren't entirely the same thing. We were WAY under our weight allowance this time. I got rid of about 1/3 of my shoes (I KNOW!) and carefully stuffed the toes with tissue paper and nestled them in their traveling boxes. Even with having gotten rid of so many, by the time the movers were done packing them up, they looked like this:


I love how they even took off their shoes. So civilized! 

Meanwhile, while the movers sleep like babies, I am suffering contusions and third degree burns from the Departure Kit sheets the embassy provided us. I feel certain they are woven from steel wool.

Anyway, at least I know where Henry's retainer is:


See you on the other side, and if you know of good orthodontist in Washington State, let me know, 'mkay?