Sunday, December 14, 2008

Birthday weekend

Friday we started the birthday weekend with a sleepover for Axelle. She was invited at her best friend's Lore. They rented movies and had a lot of fun.
While she was there, Alain and myself went to a pop concert from a Flemish group "Clouseau". We're not big Clouseau fans, but man, the show was GOOD! They know how to entertain, that's for sure! We did not go by ourselves, we went with Mira and Eddie and together we had a lot of fun.
Saturday we organised a little party for Axelle's birthday although it's officially today that she turns 11. Axelle was so excited because she would get to see her godmother again... and that feeling was mutual. She did not see her godmother for over a year, so yes... they had a lot of catching up to do. Kris, Nadine and Arno were also there of course, since Kris is Axelle's godfather. My parents and my grandmother were the other visitors.
Axelle received a lot of gifts and was happy with every single one of them.
Today we had our neighbors Monty and Rosette over for some birthday cake.
At 4.55 pm we wished Axelle a happy birthday... since 11 years ago she was born at 4.55pm on December 14.
Our neighbor, Françoise, and her kids also came by to wish Axelle a happy birthday and to give her a present.
Our little (big) girl was for sure not forgotten today.
Here are some pictures:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Busy busy busy

Yes... we've been busy lately... Not only at home, but also at work, where our team needs to finish the new training offer for 2009 by the deadline next Tuesday (December 16). December 16 our online (on the intranet) catalogue will be presented to the company... so no, we are not having long coffee breaks, we are not without anything to do right now!
So no... I did not have a lot of courage to get behind my computer screen in the evening and start writing... till now... because I suddenly realize that I did not write anything in two weeks...

Let's start with the Friday after Thanksgiving. That Friday we were invited in Ghent, where our interior architect (and good friend) Grietje lives. Grietje threw a party for her good friends and we were invited as such. It was a fun party and we got to see our architect, Marylin, again. We had not seen her for a few years, so we had a lot of catching up to do. So much that we decided we need to meet again.
On Saturday, November 29, I invited another friend of mine, Karina, because we had not seen eachother for over more than 2 years and we also needed to do a lot of talking. Alain stayed at home with Axelle and we went out for a few drinks.
On Sunday, November 30, we had a big family gathering in church and afterwards at my aunt's because once a year we meet to remember her beloved husband, my uncle Dirk.
So indeed one can say that I had a rather busy weekend.
A busy work week followed and was nicely ended on Friday evening (December 5) with Tiny and Jurgen who we invited over for dinner. Probably the last dinner we will have with them anytime soon, because end of this month they move for one year to Canada. HAVE FUN GUYS!
Next day, December 6, was a big day for all the kids here, since Sinterklaas (kind of Santa) came over during the night and offered lots of toys to all the kids. Axelle received some board games and stuff for her computer. Saturday was a busy day because we needed to run errands, get some skigear for Alain and Axelle (because they're on a short ski in two weeks) and so on...
Sunday was another busy day.

This week is, what else: BUSY, and like last week, I'm not able to take a full day on Wednesday, I have to go in the office in the morning.
Tomorrow afternoon I'll be Axelle's driver, because they have to go to a retirement home and help out elderly people (with the kids of her school).
On Friday evening we're going out, while Axelle will have a sleepover at her friend Lore (they are going to the movies)... and we're going to a pop concert (to see Clouseau, a local flemish band) together with Mira and Eddie.
Next day we'll celebrate Axelle's birthday (one day too early) with her godfather, godmother and our family.
Sunday, her birthday, we'll be celebrating just the 3 of us.

And I forgot... on Wednesday, December 3 I could not resist anymore and put up the Christmas tree... and cat Niki is very very nice... she did not even look at it. I was scared she might jump into the tree...

And that's it for now!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Here in Belgium we do not celebrate Thanksgiving, but that does not mean that we forgot about it.
I think it's not such a bad idea to have a day, once a year, a day on which you actually say "thanks" to people you like to have around you.

So here I go:

First of all, a special THANK YOU to my husband and daughter... without whom my life would not be complete and as wonderful as it is right now.

A sincere THANK YOU to my parents for all the things they do for me and my family, without ever expecting anything in return. I love you!
Also "THANK YOU" to my family. It's nice to know that, no matter what, I can always count on them.

THANK YOU to all our Belgian friends for supporting us the way they do... helping us to get over our LA blues. THANK YOU for your friendship we are so happy to have for so many years already. We love you too and hope we can remain friends forever.

Another sincere THANK YOU to all our American friends. THANK YOU that we got to know you so well in the US, THANK YOU for making us feel at home (so many miles from "home"), THANK YOU for celebrating Thanksgiving with us and inviting us into your homes, THANK YOU for being our friends and last but not least THANK YOU for not forgetting us now that we are many miles from our "American home". We hope you celebrate Thanksgiving and remember us when you say "Thank you" before starting dinner. We will for sure think about you at dinner this evening, although that's not going to be a stuffed turkey, beans and mashed potatoes...

And also a little word in Dutch for our Belgian friends in America:

Beste Belgische Amerikavrienden... wij zijn blij dat we jullie hebben leren kennen dankzij dit expatavontuur. We hopen dat onze wegen zich geregeld nog eens mogen kruisen... hetzij bij een bezoek aan Californië, hetzij bij een bezoek aan België. Daarom dat wij jullie langs deze weg nog eens "Dankjewel" willen zeggen voor alle fijne momenten die we samen hebben mogen beleven.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Winter fun!

Axelle had a lot of fun in the garden... She did not only make the standard snowman, but also a very cute little bear... Just have a look at it and let me know what you think.
Honestly I think it becomes very obvious that she has a lot of imagination. Probably she will start ice sculpting when she's somewhat older. In Bruges, in Belgium, they are having an ice sculpture exposition right now... in a few years Axelle can go and give them a hand!

And this is what our garden looks like under a white blanket of snow:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Busy weekend - First snowfall

Friday evening we started the weekend with a trip to the movies. We went to see “Madagascar 2”, a fun movie for young and old. We went with Emma, John and their kids and after the movie had a drink together.
It sure was a nice way to end a busy week.
On Saturday, we started the day with a nice breakfast, after which I had to run some errands with Axelle. Alain went to Antwerp because the house over there needed some minor repairs.
On Saturday evening we were invited for the “goodbye party” of Tiny and Jurgen. Tiny and Jurgen leave Belgium end of December because they are going to Canada for one year. It sure was a nice party and because it was such fun we only came home around 3am.
Sunday morning we woke up with a little layer of snow in our garden. In the afternoon I had to go to a jewelry presentation (a few streets away from where we live) while Alain went with Axelle to the tennis club around the corner.
In the tennis club they were celebrating “Sinterklaas”… which is kind of the same as Santa Clause, but he brings candy and toys on December 6. Axelle got a nice book with tips for young teenage girls and some candy. It’s nice that this club offers gifts to the kids of their members.
As I said earlier on, I went to a jewelry demonstration. In July I received a nice bracelet from Nadine and Kris for my birthday. That’s also the one that caught my eye yesterday… and the nice thing was the fact they also had the matching necklace. I simply couldn’t resist… I had to have this necklace and so I spend some money.
By the time we were going back home, we had like 10cm of snow on the streets… so it became more “sliding back home” on high heels. Nice! But Rosette, my neighbor, and I made it without breaking a leg.
And that’s how the busy, but nice, weekend ended.
Today is another “grey” day… and although there was no extra snow this morning, I fear for this afternoon. It seems like we’re going to get more of the white stuff!
But let’s look at it the positive way: It’s so romantic walking in a winter wonderland!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fire in California starts tears in Belgium

Got curious?
Nothing special you know, but this morning I was driving to work and listening to Q-music, the radio channel I always have on in my car and suddenly I was back in sunny California.
How come?
Well, they got on the phone with a Belgian living in Ventura, Ann Ongena.
We know Ann, because her blog was the blog that inspired us when we knew we had to move to the States.
We also visited Ann and her family in April 2006, just a few months before moving, when we were househunting in LA.
So hearing her on the radio, talking about all the fires in California... well... it did something to me, it took me back in time and it brought tears to my eyes.
It made me think about the good life we had over there, about the nice and wonderful people we met over there... about our friends for life.
So, while Ann was telling about the fire and the St Anna winds... I was driving and feeling very sorry for myself.
When I arrived at work, I had to put these thoughts away, because a very important training started today with many people coming from our affiliates all over the world (Brasil, Poland, Czech Republic, India, Italy and so on...) and so I had a lot to do and there was no time for feeling sorry or whatsoever.
Just wanted to share these feelings with you...

Love you all and miss you so very much!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Weekend in Germany

We went on a weekend trip to Leiwen in Germany with our good friends Nadine, Kris and son Arno. Leiwen is a very small village next to the river "Mosel". This region is known for its nice wineries.
We rented a small house in Landal Parcs Sonnenberg. We had a big swimming pool where the kids had a lot of fun and we went for some wine tasting of course too.
It was a fun and relaxing weekend for all of us. We did some walking, wine tasting, swimming, playing boardgames, dancing... and forgot our camera! Stupid me... I took spare batteries and forgot the camera.
Nadine and Kris had their camera and took pictures, but I did not get them yet.

We ended the weekend in Trier, a very old city closeby with nice architecture and had dinner in a Greek Restaurant close to where we live.
In the meantime Niki was already back home, she stayed with my parents the entire weekend.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

First Halloween in Belgium

Indeed, this was the first time we celebrated Halloween in Belgium and I think that the neighbors now it.

We took the time to decorate the house, inside as well as outside...
Friday we were busy the entire day: protecting the wooden floor in the living room, hanging up decoration outside and inside, putting up lights in the trees outside, preparing snacks.... Thursday afternoon was an entire afternoon of shopping for drinks, snacks, and so on...
So yes, it took some time, but man it was worth every second!

Around 6.40 pm our first visitor arrived: a fireworker (our friend Mark)...
Good news because this meant we would be at least safe an taken care off in case of a fire! (lol)
Others followed, mainly evil characters: witches, devils and mean looking people.
Spiderella (me) was not on top of things and got a little bit scared, even Lord Dracula (Alain) had serious competition.

Of course we started with some drinks (the American self-service way) and soon after with a game to get everybody going: a broom had to be passed from one to another and as soon as the music stopped, the one having the broom had to run around the group making sounds appropriate to his/her costume.

Everybody participated, although the games were mostly intended for the kids.
We had other games organised: catching bats (paper ones hanging on a cord), finding ghosts... especially the ones with high numbers on it, making a mummy, poison tasting (kids had to be blindfolded and were tasting 8 different kinds of food: ketchup, curry sauce, mustard, salt, jam, cocktail sauce (mayo with ketchup), brown sugar, nutella (chocolate paste). We had a kid that simply gave the right answer to all 8! Amazing...

We also had, of course, a Mr and Mrs Halloween election. The kids had to decide, while the adults were dancing, who had to leave the competition.
Our winners were Tiny (a witch) and Mark (our fireworker)... Good job guys.

I think I can honestly say that everybody had a good time and we danced the night away (till 2.30 am).
Useless to say that Saturday morning we were a bit tired, but duty called: take down all the decoration outside, some already inside and most of all.... clean the house!

To all those who were there.... next Halloween RENDEZ-VOUS October 31, 2009...
For those who were not there but think they might like to be there... let us know, "the more the merrier".

Here are some pictures... some look a bit foggy, but that's because we had some "fog" in the house with a special machine we rented for the night.

The entrance of the party house

The man of the house "Dracula" with our guest Nadine
Friends of Jurgen and Tiny... they joined us for the evening with their kids
and as they were good company, they can come back next year.

Scary visitor who had enough and ended his life in our living room (lol)

Nice couple... Nadine and Kris

The man with the mask, Monty, had developed a special language. Lucky for us he decided to speak our language later in the evening. And also Amber Jade (little girl) and Emma, one of our devils.

No, they are not a couple... but it sure looked like it the way they matched their costumes.
Koen came with two of his kids and his lovely wife Veerle.

Another little devil, Axelle with Amber Jade and Lore.

From left to right: Veerle, me, Rosette, Eddie and Monty

The kids are playing the "Catch the bat" game.


Blondes have all the fun (lol)

Me and Tiny. Remember Tiny from last year's Halloween in Marina del Rey?

View of the kitchen...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Winter saving time

Hi guys

Just want to let you know that this night we change to winter saving time!
3 am becomes 2 am
I know that you'll follow, but later...
In the meantime, enjoy your "summer" (which is not a problem in sunny California of course).

Love you

Friday, October 24, 2008

Flanders hugs

On my drive to work this morning, I was listening to the radio and heard that today is "Hug day" in Flanders. "Hugs are free" today!
So, my dearest friends, all around the world:



Monday, October 20, 2008

Elewijt - Village with a future

This is what I read in the newspaper today: Elewijt - Village with a future
Village with a future was a competition which 93 villages entered to try and become the "Village with a future".

Elewijt entered the project "Een stoel voor jou" (a chair for you). Click on the link to see some pictures of the decorated chairs that were on display everywhere in our small village.
Ger De Broeck invented the concept, the idea behind it was to bring people from our village closer together by putting a chair outside your house (nicely decorated) and thus inviting your neighbors or other people passing by to sit down, have a talk, relax.

Beginning of this year the workgroup "De stoelmadammen" (the chair ladies) started the project. A few actions were organized to visualize the project and chairs could be seen everywhere in the streets. On April 26, children from the local school and youth movement painted chairs. But also other locals did their best to create a nice chair.
All chairs were on display during the weekend of May 11. That weekend we have a half marathon in our village and also the local procession.
The action ended by the end of August.
And the winner is: ELEWIJT...
a reward of 10.000 EURO will be invested in a big party for the village of Elewijt.

Isn't it great to know that you live in a "Village with a future"?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A new member of the family

"Finally" Axelle would say! And indeed, she was already asking for a pet in Marina del Rey, but we always told her she would have to wait till we were back in Belgium. I think she did her best waiting, considering we are back in Belgium since mid-July! Yesterday she got her cat... she's (it's a female) named Niki.
The story behind this adoption is the following one.
On Wednesday we went to the shelter to pick out a cat we would go and get this Saturday. We wanted a little tiger and saw a little male we wanted to give a new home. He had had a vaccination earlier that week and was not feeling well, had a bad reaction. Anyway, they told us they would give us a call in case the cat would not be able to go home with us on Saturday. Since I did not get any calls, we assumed that on Saturday Spiky (that's how we wanted to call him) would be our new pet. We were told at the shelter that Spiky was not doing well at all and that they had to put him into quarantine because his health condition even got worse.
And so Axelle started playing with this cute little black cat and little misses black came home with us. She was eager to step into the transport box, did not complain at all on the way home and quickly adjusted to her new home. In the evening we had visitors and she was not shy at all but wanted to be cuddled by them all. Crazy isn't it... Most of the time cats will hide in a new environment, well, that's not our Niki!
So here she is, are new little darling.... we're all so happy to have her in our lives and hope she'll live long and happy for many years !

Monday, October 13, 2008

A very unusual weekend

This has been a very unusual weekend... filled with happiness and also with sadness.
Let's start first with the sadness, so we can end this post on a happy note!
Friday evening we got the news from our neighbors Rosette and Monty that their grandson had had an accident. He was biking and a car drove him off the bikepath. He was seriously injured and is still in the hospital. It has been a very emotional weekend for our neighbors, since Saturday was also the day we would celebrate Monty's 60th birthday. The party went on as scheduled, but of course our thoughts were with their grandson.
Also this weekend, my mom told me that my uncle was hospitalized... Actually, considering what could have happened, this was a good thing, since he escaped a heart attack by going into the hospital with some health complaints. Normally he will be back home tomorrow...

And now the nice things about the weekend...
The weather! Yes, the weather! We have had a very nice and rather warm weekend, temperature about 70°F... nice for an autumn weekend! It was even warmer in our garden, since we face South and are well protected on our patio.
Saturday was a rather busy day. Axelle went with me to the place where we would celebrate Monty's birthday to help me and Mira (Monty's daughter) decorate. We finished in a bit more than one hour and went back home. Axelle wanted to stay with her friend Dieter and so I ended up by myself. In the meantime Alain had gone to do some shopping and to check on my parent's computer. I took time to go and shop for a nice dress for the party and to get a big birthday balloon. Except for some ironing, I did not do a lot on Saturday... it was party time after all!
At 5pm we were expected at the venue for Monty's birthday and a lot of guests were already there when we arrived. The party started with some drinks and little snacks and dinner started soon after. We had a Flemish style buffet... for those who were at our Welcome Back party (some of the dishes were the same). While we were eating a magician was demonstrating his tricks at the tables. Amazing what that guy could do... This was fun for everybody, not just for the kids!
After dinner, a first suprize for Monty... He did not know that weeks up front his wife had contacted the guys from his former rock band and that they agreed to play music at this party. But that was not all the surprise, his daughter sang the song he sang years ago while entering a competition. She changed the lyrics and made it a song about him and how he met his wife. Very nice and the whole audience enjoyed it!
Last year Monty and Rosette did not celebrate their wedding anniversary because we were not home yet, so this birthday party was also a celebration of their wedding anniversary... only thing was that Monty did not know about it. Rosette arranged to have a fake minister in the room and so they exchanged vowes again (but believe me, funny text... nothing serious about it). Everybody in the room had a good laugh and that was the whole purpose about it.
After the exchanging of the vowes the dance evening could start. And so we danced the night away! Exhausted (especially our feet) we arrived home around 2 am with a very awake Axelle in the backseat of the car... amazing how she stayed up till that early hour.
Because we had "enough", or should I say "more than enough" to drink on Saturday evening, Sunday started with a headache. Good thing Advil exists and that I bought tons of it in LA... (lol).
Once the medication started kicking in, I felt up to doing some usefull work outside. So I treated the patio to a major cleanup action. In the meantime Alain was building a cathouse with Axelle. Axelle has been very persisting... she wants her cat soon, very soon...
The cathouse is now installed and nothing stands in the way to go and get a young cat at the cat shelter next weekend. Axelle is all excited of course... and if I'm honest... I'm too!
We were most of the time outside yesterday and even had a bbq... probably the last one of 2008. But, I've said this before, so I'm still hoping we can do this again soon...
Today is another beautiful day... same temperature, but I'm at work (this is my break at noon) and so I'm only enjoying the sun through the windows.
I wish all my friends a good week and sunshine in their hearts!
To those who are sick or hospitalized: I wish you a quick recovery...
Love you all...

Pictures will follow later...

Monday, October 06, 2008

A busy breweryweekend

Indeed, a busy weekend it was ! On Friday evening Laurie, Jon, Laura and Alan arrived. Laurie was the photographer that made such a nice photo shoot of our little family in Marina del Rey. Jon, her husband, is about to start up a small brewery with tavern and his intention was to visit as much breweries as possible during their stay here in Belgium. Laura and Alan are Laurie's parents and they were together with them on the trip.

They already arrived in Holland a few days before, but we had the honor to have them at our place during the entire weekend. On Friday evening we had dinner at home. I made pork filet with a sauce with geuze beer and mustard. They seemed to appreciate it. It's easier to drink and eat geuze, then to pronounce it (isn't it Laurie?)...

On Saturday morning we had a good breakfast, Axelle went to oma and opa and we started our brewery tour. We drove to Beersel (close to Brussels) where we visited Drie Fonteinen. Although the brewer did not have a lot of time to explain everything, he really made a big effort so we did not have to leave empty handed. We also tasted the real geuze and the real kriek… which means without added sugars. The taste was totally different (read less sugary) from what you find in stores. But of course that’s what made it so interesting.
Our next stop was a café “De Kring” which is very close to Brewery Boon. Brewery Boon was not open during the weekend, so the only way to taste their beers was to go to the nearby café. The owner, used to having visitors from abroad, immediately gave us his visitor book so our American friends could sign it.
Next stop was Geuzestekerij De Cam. They have a nice and cosy restaurant. We tried delicious dishes like: kriekjes met ballekes (meatballs with cherry in cherry sauce), pens met appelcompote (white sausage with appel sauce), and so on… Everybody was very happy to get some food after all the beer we already tasted, and before it would start over again. At 5pm we had a guided tour at De Cam. You could immediately see that this guide was extremely happy with his job. We learned a lot about fermenting, blending and so on and left De Cam to go home and change for dinner.

Dinner we had in Mechelen, a town at 15 minutes from where we live, in the restaurant “Het Anker”. This is the restaurant that goes with the brewery where Gouden Carolus is being brewed. Unfortunately the brewery was not open for visitors, because they were renovating. Lucky we were in good company because they were having a problem in their kitchen and so it took more than one hour to get our plates on the table. Also lucky that it was SO good that it had been worth waiting for. Most of their dishes are prepared with their beers… yummy.

Everybody was tired, so we went to bed after dinner. The next day would be a busy one again. Alain went with Laurie and Jon to a café close to Brussels, which is called “Verzekering tegen de grote dorst” (or translated: Insurance against being large thurst).
They came home and we immediately left for Beerzel, a village close to Lier and Putte. In Beerzel, ‘t Hofbrouwerijke brews very delicious beers.
We even bought a full crate, because I liked it so much!
Also the owner was so full of energy talking about his brewery… we learned a lot and Jon probably did not miss a word.
The brewer mentioned that we could go and see another brewery in Itegem, close to Beerzel. Here we went to Brewery Serafijn, where we first of all had a snack (our insurance against being drunk!). A tour of the brewery followed for those who were still in the mood. I stayed with Axelle in the tavern.
Back at home I prepared dinner: Belgian endives with ham and cheese sauce and sausage with Brussels sprouts… two typical Belgian dishes.

I had to say goodbye on Sunday evening, because Monday morning was back to work for me and they were all still in bed when I left the house at 7am.
Hope they had such a great time as we did!
Looking forward to seeing you them again in California or in Florida…. Who knows!
Hereunder: Laurie and Jon - Laura and Alan - us ...

Monday, September 29, 2008

A cute little visitor

This weekend was a beautiful weekend… nice weather, sunny and not too warm.
Nice enough to do some work in the garden outside and to sit outside and enjoy a nice autumn sun.
Saturday morning we started the weekend with some shopping. Time had come to start organizing the room in which Alain has his office. So we went to Ikea in Zaventem to buy some filing cupboards. Of course we found other nice things to buy and came out of the shop with a very light wallet! (lol)
From Ikea we went back home for a quick lunch, after which Alain took off with Axelle again because she wanted Alain to buy the wood for a cathouse they are going to build together. Indeed, we can not talk ourselves out of it any longer, Axelle wants a kitten so desperately that we will have to give in!
By the time they came back, our visitors had arrived. Inge and Peter live in The Netherlands. They are a very nice couple we met in Turkey years ago (no kids at that time).
In February this year, Inge gave birth to their son Lars. Lars was very excited to see the world and was born 9 weeks too soon. When you have a look at the pictures we took of this cute baby you will have to agree that you can not see it anymore! What a nice little boy he is! Of course we had to take a picture with me holding that little darling… My neighbor Rosette told me it looks good and that I should consider having another baby of my own…. Well… keep on dreaming! It was very very nice to hold this baby in my arms, but I think I’m very used to having a girl age (almost) 11, who is becoming more and more a teenager.
Because of the nice weather I wanted to have a bbq, but nowhere I could find bbq meat, you know the kind of prepared meat with special herbs on it. So the plan changed and I cooked pasta with salmon in white wine with broccoli and mascarpone. The evening ended rather late, but being in such good company, we did not realize it. Hope to see them again soon! And before I forget: Inge and Peter, thanks for the nice gifts you brought us!
Sunday was another beautiful day! I decided to work a bit in the garden. Alain joined me, but not for too long because he was not feeling well. In fact he started to cough more and more and today he was really sick and had to cancel meetings. Poor thing! To come back to Sunday… I trimmed the lavender, Alain helped me with trimming of a tree and he had to do some repairs to Axelle’s bike. Weather was extremely nice and so we could eat outside at noon. Nadine also came by because I had some plants I wanted to get rid of and she was a willing victim to put them in her garden. The plant I wanted to get rid of was “leeuwebekje”, translated this is snapdragon. It’s not that I did not like the plant, but it was taking up too much space and was totally covering other plants we did plant (I did not plant this snapdragon you see!).
This is how the weekend went by too quickly and next weekend will be a busy one because we will have visitors from Marina del Rey. Laurie and Jon will be visiting us. Laurie is the photographer that did the photo shoot we won at school in 2007 at the silent auction! Her husband Jon is planning to open a small brewery in LA
Have a nice week!

From left to right: Peter with Lars, Inge and Alain.
We toasted with a glass of champagne of course!

What a cute baby...

Monday, September 22, 2008

News about the previous week

As I told you in my previous post, Axelle had a week trip with school. They went to Durbuy and had a blast! Friday evening she came home with a lot of stories and we were allowed to listen, not to talk too much!
Anyway, she had a great time, she loved the place were they stayed, she loved the food (amazing!), she loved the activities they did (like nature hikes, adventure hike with walking over unstable bridges and going for the death ride...). Thanks to all the teachers who accompanied our kids and gave them such a nice and unforgettable week!

We had a quiet week at home in the meantime. I organized an evening with my girlfriends at home on Wednesday evening. I hadn’t seen them in more than a year, so we had a lot of catching up to do. Before we knew it, it was midnight and the next day we had to get out of bed to go to work.
On Thursday evening, Alain and I decided to go out for dinner. We picked a Thai restaurant in Vilvoorde. The food was quiet good, service could have been a bit better, but I think that we got spoiled in the States and that we simply have too high expectations.

On Friday evening our little miss came home and we were glad to be able to hold her in our arms again.

Saturday we had to get up early, since we had planned to go for a test drive with a VW SUV. The drive was rather disappointing, so that car is now excluded from the list we are choosing from. Alain still needs to order his company car!
The rest of the weekend we were test driving a Mercedes. That sure was a very nice car, even nicer because it was an automatic gearbox!

On Saturday evening Emma, John and the kids joined us for a drink and on Sunday we had to go to my parents. In their village they had a huge garage sale. Axelle took the opportunity to buy strip albums from “Jommeke” and “Suske and Wiske”. Both are Belgian comic strips.

Unfortunately I already started to feel sick yesterday (Sunday) and today I woke up with a bad cold. Now I’m sniffing and coughing the whole day long. Hopefully I’ll feel better the coming days.

I’m also glad to be able to post some pictures. On Saturday we did a lot of work in our garden in the late afternoon. I was trimming the tree while Alain took care of the bad weeds in the lawn.

Also our shower is now fully finished, the bathroom being repainted in a nice purple color…
I also post some pictures about the other paint jobs I did during my extra holiday month (August). Just to show that I was “working” and not just sitting on my behind!

Nele, our Belgian friend in Pasadena, gave us a surprise call today! That was a lot of fun! Promise Nele, next time we’ll call you guys!
Our shower. The color looks "flashy" on this picture,
but it is less flashy when you see it in our bathroom!
In Axelle's room I had to paint blue and green... she did the rest with wall stickers.

In our bedroom I used the same green color as in our living room.

I'm in action, trimming the tree

Alain taking care of the bad weeds... hopefully this works. We'll have the results in like 3 weeks!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Busy weekend and Axelle's school trip

Hi all,
Sorry it took some time to write a bit on the blog, but nothing much happened and so I did not know what to write about.
This weekend was a rather busy one. Started on Friday evening with a birthday party Axelle had to go to. Her best friend Lore celebrated her 11th birthday and so they organized a party with sleepover. Axelle had a great time!
Alain was invited for a dinner with ex colleagues and afterwards we were supposed to go to the movies together. As you can read: supposed to, you can already imagine that we did not get there. At 9.30pm I received a call from the restaurant to come over and join them, since he just got his plate on the table and it would be a close call to get to the movie theater.
We had a few glasses of wine and decided we would see the movie some other day.
On Saturday I went shopping with some friends and on Saturday evening we went to a new restaurant that recently opened in Elewijt: "Les Jumeaux" (or translated The twins).
Why this restaurant is called that way, I do not get it yet... The food we got served was delicious. We tried the whole tapa menu and got a nice selection of fried calamari, shrimp, fish, potatoes with spicy sauce, and a lot of other very tastefull preparations.
We ended the evening in Mechelen in a lounge bar and were very happy to get in bed by 2 am.
On Sunday Alain had a tennis match to play and I prepared Axelle's luggage for her school trip.
In the afternoon the sun came out and we could even have a bbq outside with my parents.

Today Axelle left for a full week to Durbuy (remember I wrote about this smallest village in the world a few weeks ago). 5th and 6th grade left this morning in 2 coaches. They are going to have a wonderful week! They'll do a lot of outdoor activities and also trying to get to know the students is one of the goals of this week trip. Friday afternoon they'll be back, so the house will be kind of quiet this week.
More about Axelle's week next weekend...

In the meantime I wish you all a nice week!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

First days at school - First days at work - Administration problems

Yes, this is a title with 3 parts.
Let's start first with Axelle and her first days at school.
Today, September 3, when all your kids in Marina del Rey go to school for the first day, she is already at school for day 3! Axelle was very excited about going back to her old school (De Regenboog) here in Belgium. When we went to enroll her, the principal told us she would be back with her old class. This was indeed very good news to all of us. Axelle would be in class again with all the kids she left in 2006. First day, September 1, went very smoothly. She came home by herself on her bike and was very enthusiastic about her teacher and the new school year. Day 2, yesterday, she came home with homework, but seemed to manage it. She already had French too and her friend told her mom that she did well (Axelle did not tell me anything at all!). Of course we know that she will need some time to adjust to the Belgian school system, so we are not pushing it too hard.
September 1 and Kristine
September 1 was also a big step for me, since I started work again. Yes, yes... gone are all the nice days of taking care of my little family without having to worry about a lot of things. September 1 I started later because I drove Axelle to school with Alain and not a lot of people were there in time anyway. After some coffee and a lot of talking with friends and colleagues I had not seen for quite some time (some 2 years!), the day was soon over. Yesterday we had a first meeting with our team to decide what tasks would be handed over to me and what exactly would be my work for the time to come. Today I have a free day, because I never work on Wednesday. I feel that this week will not be a week of doing a lot of work at the job but more of trying to find my way again and trying to locate colleagues.
Administration problems
That was this morning at the town hall and I post this message for all our Belgian friends who are still in LA. They might have to take action!? What happened a few weeks ago? We went to the town hall with the letter from the Belgian Consulate in LA stating we had been living for 2 years in Marina del Rey. They took notes that we would live again in Elewijt. Later the local police came by the house to confirm that we live here and the next day I could go to the townhall to fill out paperwork to get a new Belgian identity card. Late last week, we received a letter stating that our identity cards had arrived and that we should go and pick them up and that we should bring our "old identity cards". And this is where the problem starts! When we arrived at the consulate in LA, we were asked to return our identity cards to the consulate and we did NOT receive another identity card to replace that one. So here we were this morning explaining that in LA they took our cards but gave us nothing in return (normally you receive a blue identity card when you are a Belgian citizen in a foreign country). At the town hall they told us that this was standard procedure and that we should return these blue identity cards now. We said that this was not possible because we never ever received a blue card. The waiting started and they were looking up stuff in their computer to try and find out what to do. Could they give us our new identity cards without receiving the "for us non existing" blue ones? Finally all ended well and they believed us and we received our precious little cards. I just want to warn our Belgian friends to contact the Belgian consulate in LA because it is not fun to have such problems when you arrive back in Belgium. It is of course possible that administration personnel here did not know of some procedures maybe valid in the States? I don't know... Anyway, our advice: Play it safe and ask before you decide to move back!
But so now we are Belgian citizens again and we sincerely hope this is the end of the administration we had to go through. Hereafter a picture from my office in Brussels and a picture from our garden (taken this weekend when the sun was still out, today it is a grey day!).

Hereunder, my desk... on the 7th floor (top floor). Still need to put some pictures up, but did not take the time to do that yet.
Hereunder, the garden and house....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

We love electricity... but, how do you get it!?

Yes we do, but how to get the provider, that was another story...
Before we left to the States, we were with a provider called ESSENT.
So we checked their prices online and decided to sign another contract with them. Well, at least that is what we intended to do!
When our tenants left, we provided ESSENT with all the paperwork to end the contract with them and to start a new contract with us.
Actually, it was not that easy, because we had to restart the procedure like 2 or 3 times!
We were glad to have it all done and did not think about it anymore till we received a letter in our mailbox this Monday saying that we had to choose (urgently) a provider or the electricity and gas would be cut off. NICE!!!!
So, they got the information that the tenant moved out, but never got the information that we also started a contract with ESSENT. Very efficient administration, no?
Alain tried to get to customer service and got different scenarios:
1) we do not have the meter readings anymore, could you provide them again?
2) sorry, I hardly speak any Dutch so I do not get what you are trying to ask me (well, actually she did not say it, but that is what my hubbie experienced)
3) oh, but sir we have a 0800 line (you call for free on these), so why do you not call our customer service at that extension (was she already suspecting that it would take like forever?)
4) the 0800 line was crap! Alain got cut off I do not know how many times but finally gave up
5) tried again the next day and had to start over again giving all the numbers and name, address and so on...
this unefficient customer service story kind of made us decide to not go on with them...
Can you imagine all the bad things that can happen once you have signed your 1year contract?

So we wisely decided to check other electricity providers and YES WE DID IT... we have a contract with another provider and will not have to spend entire evenings at our neighbors because we do not have light in our house (joke)!

So we can only warn other Belgian customers: "STAY AWAY FROM ESSENT".... we never ever experienced such difficulties trying to sign a contract!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Birthday

Today is a special day, since it is the birthday of a very dear friend: Marleen.
We have almost 45 years of history together. Both born in 1963, she in August, I in July... we kind of grew up together. Marleen is the youngest of a very big family, actually the funny thing is that my mom and her sisters were friends with her older sisters!
We went to kindergarten together, afterwards to elementary school and later to junior high and high school. As little kids we played together and I spend a lot of time on the farm where she lived. Later on, we started going out together, sharing secrets about boyfriends and today we still have that deep friendship going after all these years.
Even though we do not see eachother a lot, we feel "at home" when we come together and we feel as if we've just talked the other day. We know that we will always be there for eachother and that our friendship is real.
Since this good friend of mine is having some health problems right now, I wanted to share with the world how I feel about her, how great I think she is and how much I want her to get better soon so that we can celebrate her birthday together.

Love you Leen and wish you a good recovery but most of all for today "Happy Birthday"!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

SIS cards and "LA Blues"

Yep... they arrived: our SIS cards.
These little cards (sized like debit cards) are very valuable in Belgium, since they are needed when you are hospitalized, when you go to the pharmacy to get prescription drugs and so on...
It was a big deal to get them, since we do not have our Belgian identity card and sometimes the health insurance gives you a hard time... Sometimes they refuse to hand you the SIS cards if you have no identity card. Since we are waiting for our identity cards, we did not think that our health insurance would hand us the SIS cards, but (lucky for us) they did!
Now prescription drugs will be cheaper again and we do not have to worry about having to go to the emergency room... Hopefully never, but you never know!

Other than this, nothing special happened this week, with the exception that both Alain and myself are having the "LA BLUES"... BIG TIME!
It's not only the beautiful weather and the nice location: IT'S ALL OF YOU GUYS... You can not even start to imagine how much we miss you all, how much we miss our gatherings at the poolside (with of course some wine or Nancy's margaritas and home made guacamole and tacos!). Yes, we seriously have had a rough day today! Since we could not say what was going on, we decided to call it the "LA BLUES"...

OK, better stop writing now… soon my keyboard will be covered in tears…
Love you all and can’t wait to hear from you… we’ll try to call this weekend.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Trip to Durbuy

Yesterday Alain took a day off and we went shopping for a new shower cabin. We found a nice one and soon our shower troubles will be over (we had a few leaks, which he fixed, but it is a better idea to replace the whole thing).
Also today Alain did not have to work, since August 15 is an official holiday in Belgium (Assumption of Mary into heaven). We planned to go and visit Gaby in Germany, but something came up and so we had to change our plans.
Rosette proposed to go for a hike in the South of Belgium (the Ardennes). Destination was Durbuy.
We stopped in Barvaux in a nice little hotel for lunch and from there we walked 7 kilometers to Durbuy.
It was a nice relaxing walk, since we were walking along the river “The Ourthe”.
If you want to read more about this smallest city in the world, click on this link.

The sun was shining, the company was good, the kids were not complaining… could we wish for something else?

Yes… a nice cold beer upon arrival in Durbuy… and we managed to get that.

On the way back home, we stopped in a restaurant along the way and were disappointed with the service we got. They could never get away with such lousy service in the States! The waiter had to bring some cheese for the pasta, but decided to first chat for at least 5 full minutes with his colleague, the order did not come correctly out of the kitchen (wrong snacks)… and we had to wait like forever before we finally got some food on the table. Unfortunately we do not have a “tip” system here, he would definitely not have gotten a tip in the US!

Here are some pictures of the trip… next time we’ll make reservations to rent boats… that seems like a lot of fun for the kids!

And so we end a very nice and warm day… tomorrow we go out with Jurgen and Tiny (remember them from Halloween last year?).

This little bridge over the "Ourthe" river was the start of our 7 kilometers long walk.
The whole gang (except for Axelle and me, we are taking the pictures)...
Enjoy the beautiful nature
One of the many small streets in Durbuy

Monday, August 11, 2008


What did we do this weekend?
On Saturday we did some more painting, Alain went to the hairdresser and afterwards we went to have our pictures taken for our new identity cards.
Since the weather was so beautiful, we decided to go and have a drink on the old marketplace of Mechelen. Mechelen is the city closest to the village where we live. Also a lot of nice historical buildings to see.
At the spur of the moment we decided to have a bbq at our house. So we called Veerle and Koen (the parents of Axelle's friend Loren) and since they had nothing to do, they came a few hours later to eat with us. We also invited Rosette and Monty (our neighbors), since they also know Veerle and Koen.
We were very "lucky" with the weather because it kind of stayed dry till after dinner. How fast the weather can change!
Saturday evening was also our phone chat with Puska and Snjezana...
Hope you feel better soon Antonia! (they told us their daughter had a little accident)
On Sunday we went shopping... only a few shops are open on Sundays here in Belgium. Good thing for us is that some of them are very close to where we live. Axelle did not want to come with us and she went for a 7km walk with her friend Dieter and his parents.
When we came back from our shopping trip, the weather was nice again (it had been raining all morning) and so we decided to go for a bike ride with Rosette, Monty, Mira and Eddie. All that biking made us very thirsty and so we stopped in " 't Volle buikje" (translated "the full belly"), a new place in our village where you can have snacks and drinks.
Rosette told me the sangria (with a lot of fresh fruit in it) was very good and so I decided to have one too. This was serious stuff! I think if I would have had two, I would have been drunk! And so we ended our weekend a little bit “lightheaded”…

Today another week starts. Axelle has a playdate this afternoon and I’m going shopping with my mom in Mechelen. Tomorrow I’ll try to finish the painting in Axelle’s bedroom. Only one more wall to finish. The house is finally getting organized.
Next time I’ll try to take pictures when we do things… I forgot the camera this time!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Pictures weekend with our European-American visitors

Finally took the time to post some pictures from the weekend Gaby, Snjezana and Puska were here with the kids.
Saturday July 19 we went to Antwerp.
Hereunder a picture of a statue next to the Cathedral. One of the people in it is not part of it. He surprised our kids by changing position.
My tradition, lighting a candle for my uncle Dirk...

A view of the Market Place in Antwerp... look at those beautiful old houses. This is something I missed in America.

Hereunder "the 3 girls" at Het Steen, and old fortress next to the river "De Schelde".

Hereunder some pictures of the party our friends Kris and Nadine had for our coming back to Belgium. They did everything in "old Flemish style". We had a choice of very old and forgotten games. Especially our European-American friends loved those. For food we had: witte/zwarte pens (white and black sausages), kriekjes met ballekes (cherries in sauce with meatballs), plattekaasboterham met radijs (bread with sour cream and radishes) and for desert rice cream and a very big cake.

Kris was our man on the bbq.

Our friends also surprised us with a powerpoint presentation about our stay in US and our coming back to Europe. Later I translated for our American friends, because it was all in Dutch of course. We got big towels around our neck, because my Belgian friends know how sensitive I am. Lucky it was not something that made me cry... but laugh.

Grietje was serving us the cocktails they made us... all the way through the presentation. And best of all, we got to keep the bottles. YES...

They all pitched in for a gift certificate for a day at the sauna. Rosette and Monty, our neighbours, had a special surprise: a big box stuffed with things you need on a daily basis (like soap, coffee, toilet paper... and so on.

Time for cake...

And when everybody was gone, we started the afterparty after the cleaning up.

It even got Sabrina and Gaby dancing...

Since it was not a day with a warm evening, the Big Bear sweater came in very handy Tamzen and Jeff.

One last pictures of the girls before we said goodbye to Gaby and kids

Goodbye Gaby, see you in Germany.

In the afternoon we went to the Atomium in Brussels with Snjezana and Puska. This is what it looks like outside and inside.

The two ladies could not resist a Brussels Waffle (nothing like the fake ones you find in the States)... Yummie...
This visit made it possible to have a look at Brussels. The weather was so bad that day that we did not feel like going for a walk there.
Tuesday it was very hard to say goodbye to our Croatian friends... but we'll see eachother again (no doubt about that).