In the States we refer to those bustling couple of weeks at the end of August as “back to school”. It means the return of aisles and aisles of notebooks, gel pens and Elmers glue. A plethora of cheap plastic furniture, mini-fridges, and box fans make their way to front of Target, ready to furnish the dorm rooms and apartments of college kids everywhere. While “la rentrée” can refer to the return to school for kids here in Belgium its also used as a general way to say “welcome back to real life” at the end of the summer holidays. Brussels is all but a ghost town (other than the tourists) during summer, as the much of the population says “au revoir” to the grey skies and rain of Brussels and “bonjour” to the warmer climes of Italy, southern France, Greece or Spain. On top of this mass exodus, or perhaps because of it, many of the local businesses are shut down as well. As the city slowly wakes up in those last days of August you’re apt to hear and see tidings of “la rentree” in more places than school hallways. Continue reading
I was strolling down Avenue de la Toison d’Or a couple of days ago, window shopping and daydreaming on my way to E’s play group, when I realized that we’ve officially been expats for 6 months. Half a year. On one hand, our life in Milwaukee feels like it happened a million years ago. The pain of leaving our house has slowly faded, and I can barely even remember what an Egg McMuffin tastes like. But yet it feels like we just got here. I’m not sure how those two feelings coexist, yet somehow they do. Much has changed in those 6 months though, that is certain. And yesterday, as I was walking along that busy shopping street in the heart of the city I felt an overwhelming sense of joy. This is my life and its pretty fucking amazing. Continue reading
As I sat at the table today watching my sweet, funny, smart little beam of sunshine “eat” her lunch, I couldn’t help but reminisce about a simpler time…a time when making a mess with food was cute. The first time she ate yogurt she smeared it in her hair and in her ears and I probably giggled and took a video. Many a bath was had after spaghetti dinners and I laughed uncontrollably when she got frustrated with picking up tiny strawberry chunks and ate them off the table like a puppy instead. It was all fun games…when she was ONE. Now we can’t get through a meal without one of us having a meltdown (its about 50/50) and the use of all-purpose cleaner is at an all time high. I secretly believe that someone, somewhere, holds an age-old secret to getting a toddler to eat and behave like a semi-civilized human being but finding it would play out something like the plot of The Da Vinci Code.Continue reading
We try to use every weekend to our best advantage, as our time here is limited and we don’t want to waste a moment of it. However…we’re still leading normal busy lives during the week. My husband as a financial auditor of things I don’t understand, and me as the busy mom of a little whirlwind of a two year old. So sometimes our planning is a little lacking. Or non-existent. So it came to be that one evening we realized we had no plans for the following weekend and needed to figure something out asap. On a whim we opted for a weekend in Champagne country. Continue reading
Ghent, home of the famous (to Belgians) Cuberdon. If I did indeed judge the city by it’s candy I’d tell everyone I know to stay far, far, far away from Ghent. I took one bite of that little cone of goopy, purple, sickly-sweet nastiness and threw the rest out the window. Gross. Just gross. And in defense of my Cuberdon hate, the other 3 adults in the car shared my convictions. The only fan was my two year old daughter…because sugar. Cuberdons aside, Ghent is honestly a great city. We’ve visited twice now and I think its a bit of “hidden” gem. So here are a few of my favorites from Ghent! Continue reading
My husband and I woke up this morning hopeful. A quick glance at social media confirmed what we had hoped could never happen. All I can say is that I’m grateful our daughter is too young to understand what our country has chosen to stand for. One day she will, but for now she lives in blissful ignorance of the worlds problems- and when the time comes hopefully I’ll have found the words to explain it to her. I hope, for her sake and ours, thats its nothing more to her than a brief chapter in her history book and a lesson learned. Continue reading
At least once and sometimes many times a day I stop and wonder if this is all real. There was so much paperwork and planning and stress before we got here that there was no time to contemplate what was coming. As the plane touched down in Brussels after a long and extremely exhausting flight with a screaming child I had a moment of pure panic. What the hell have we done? My nerves settled quickly but that doesn’t mean those first couple of weeks weren’t stressful. Things that were effortless back home sometimes seemed like insurmountable tasks here. Finding milk that actually tasted like milk (aka “Ellia approved”). Using the oven. Using the washing machine. Finding an apartment. Making a package of noodles. Buying chicken at the meat counter. Continue reading
Animals have an amazing way of weaving themselves into our lives and our hearts. I’m sure most people don’t even realize how deeply they love their animals until they are forced to part ways with them one way or another. Whether it’s a loyal dog, a squawking bird, or in my case – a gorgeous but sometimes wretched little diva of a cat…they all find a way to turn us into a blubbering mess when it comes time to say goodbye.
Since we’ve arrived in Belgium I’ve found myself in a stunningly beautiful city with an overwhelming number of pictures on hand – but not a lot to say. I could point out some attractions and tell you about the delightful food for days on end. But it wouldn’t be anything Rick Steves couldn’t tell you just as easily (and probably more eloquently). It wasn’t until last night as I was sitting on our couch literally sobbing over having to choose an apartment here in Brussels that I realized I had something that would be good for me to put into words. My obsession with all things “old” and the crazy it can apparently bring out in me. Get ready kids…I mean some real crazy.
Lately I’ve thought a lot about what home means. Growing up we never owned a home. We didn’t have much money and my mom and I moved from rental to rental. They weren’t ours but I recall them fondly…the house in the country that I remember so well, despite being all of three years old, the daybed in my grandmas basement, the upstairs room of the brick farmhouse where I listened to coyotes at night, the tiny downstairs apartment just outside of town. While none of them were permanent my mom always made them feel like home for me. Continue reading