Bon Ducasse….

IMG_0065

It’s all quiet in Mons now —- well as quiet as this city can be.  It sure does love to throw a party.

Sooooo we experienced and survived our first Ducasse, aka the Doudou festival.  I took a gazillion photos and video, but my wifi here sucks — irritatingly so!  Uploading pics takes forever, and for some reason doing it on WordPress is even more of a pain.  So, you’ll only get a few snapshots of the big event.  It’s a weeklong series of surprises that lead up to the big celebration on Trinity Sunday.  It’s a celebration of the people of Mons from yesteryear and today, and they take great pride in it.

Long story short:  It includes relics from their patron saint Waudru (a woman thank you very much), her husband’s relics, religious relics from all over the area, a golden chariot, avoiding the plague, King George and the slaying of a dragon.  It’s ancient tradition melded with the city’s ever-evolving modern history.  There are sacred church ceremonies, bands, parades, rituals on top of rituals (with their own song!), and people chanting and practicing to push that golden chariot up a steep hill (because if it doesn’t make it up the hill in one try the plague might return).  Think Mardi Gras meets, well, macrame dragons.

It’s an 800 plus-year oral tradition that combines a people’s pride with their love of drinking.  It’s only been interrupted twice — once during one of the World Wars (the other war years they did a quick blessing and run with the chariot sans parades and parties) and once during the French Revolution.

It’s also insane.

Fri

The Friday night that kicked off the festivities had bands and porta bars everywhere.  There wasn’t an alleyway free of people.  Thousands of people choked the Grand Place — luckily all were in good spirits!

D41A6BF3-E506-44AD-83A4-6F9216DAC503

This crowd is for the kid’s dragon, which is slain (by children) exactly a week after King George slays his beast.  It’s a mini Doudou that trains the young for their part in the adult procession later on in life.

baby dragon

Kids parading a baby dragon.

King George preparing for battle of the big dragon.  Sorry but I couldn’t get my pic of big dragon to upload.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Just a taste of all that we saw.  Seriously, to my friends who would love to witness this first hand, book your airfare now.  Doudou 2019 happens in June.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  It’s loud, it’s sometimes dangerous (too many people), it’s chaos, and it’s beautiful church ceremonies, parade processions, costumes, music, etc. etc. — plus come on there’s dragons and beer too!

047E9CE5-A40C-4DA9-AFEC-D8E4E1ADDF46

If you’re brave — or are lucky enough to have a crazy neighbour brave enough to fight the crowds — you might even get a hair off the dragon to wear for good luck.

P.S. Badger was at Lorayne’s during the main weekend because of the crowds, but he took part in it during the week.  Here’s his take on it https://badgerdoesbelgium.wordpress.com

Nether, Nether lands…

wind1

I’m writing this post in a hurry because it’s Doudou time.  Omg it’s a weeklong fest that I will totally write about after I’ve recuperated.  Right now we’re living it.  Lots of party time with thousands and thousands of people.

But first I should blast you with the fun we’ve had in our neighbouring country.  A few weeks ago we did a day trip to Amsterdam and last weekend, for my birthday, Joe and I spent the weekend in The Hague, which included a stop at Kinderdijk.

We love, love, LOVE the Netherlands.  It’s beautiful, fun and friendly.  I want to tell you all about it, but I’ve got peach salsa and some other goodies to make before our friends arrive to begin the next party.  Soo, here’s the photo blast to show you that Amsterdam aint the only gem in what we call Holland.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Windmills, art and beaches!  Den Hague and Kinderdijk.  And yeah my roots are purple.  LOL my hair is rebelling against the blonde colouring apparently — who knew it had issues?

And of course there is always Amsterdam, which is always a good time.  Because we now live so close, we’ll focus more on discovering other parts of the country, but we still heart Amsterdam too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Badger is away at Lorayne’s this weekend since it’d be cruel to walk him amongst the crowds.  He spent last weekend with her too.  She and Zeke are pretty much his other family right now.  All is well, Lorayne reports he’s eating salmon and watching taped basketball games.  I’ll update his blog in a few weeks.  His traveling days aren’t over; he gets to go on a trip to Germany in a few weeks and whoop it up with Mini’s dog.  A few weeks after that he gets to spend a few weeks at a doggy haven.  OMG he loves the dog sitter’s home — we’ll be sure to post pics of that on his blog too.   He’s the luckiest mutt in the world.

Until next time …

952408AE-4A09-4411-981A-A2F469F5C1D5

Lord I need to lay of the beer and cheese, lol me face is rounding even more.

Twitterpated!

pink

After spending 16 years living in a desert, I am so so so so flipping ecstatic to be going through a real spring again! I loved Phoenix and the UAE, but I was born into 4 seasons (a late spring baby at that!), and it is my intention to die in a 4-season area (but not anytime soon).  Don’t get me wrong, the desert has its spring too, and it is lovely, but it’s just not as amazing when the temperatures were already warm to begin with — AND when it’s your reminder that in too short of a time it will be in the 100s again.

Today is a gray, rainy day, but it’s all good because we’ve had almost two weeks of sunshine and temps that went above 80.  Sooo, pretty much every free moment we have had has been spent outdoors.  I’ve also gone into overdrive buying flowers for our place.  So much color and fragrance!  Here’s just a few, but my place and balconies are full of them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

lily

I even have my birth flower.  I love Lilly of the Valley, which grew wild in the Catskills, so a great childhood memory is picking them for myself (when we’d get out of the city to our ‘country house’) because, you know, they were MY flower.  I haven’t seen these lil tinker bells in so long, I did a little dance when I saw them at the market.  And can I say I freaking love, love, love that A. we have a Sunday Market; B. there are so many flower shops everywhere; and C. I always have fresh flowers in the house now.  Ohhhh, and I also have a honeysuckle vine on my bedroom balcony, which makes my bedroom smell divine (why do I have to leave its bed?).  I don’t care if temps drop back to the 40s, lol that window is staying open.

I’ve also bought a whole slew of edible stuff for my kitchen window.

I’ve got thyme, basil and rosemary too.  Okay, I’ll stop with all the blooming pics.  Oh wait, there’s one more.  The backyard tree that mesmerizes me every day.

tree

This pic doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea.  So, yeah there’s a lot of balcony time sipping and staring.  Yum, yum.

There’s also been a lot of time on the Grand Place, doing the same, while running into friends.

And, we’ve done some touring too.  Last weekend we spent all Saturday at an abby

241697A4-34B7-4014-8B66-F3FF96BB604A

I wish I uploaded more to show you because it’s in a beautiful area, and we plan on going back again.  My wifi is sketchy, so this time around, I’m too lazy to fight it and upload more.  The beer is quite tasty too.

Last Sunday, we went to Dunkirk.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And next weekend, we’re headed to Amsterdam.  We haven’t gotten around to visiting the famous bluebell forest near Brussels or the tulip farms in the Netherlands, but we’re trying to fit that in the next two weekends (if it’s not too late).  There’s also been a lot more touring around our area and finding little gems along the way, so needless to say we’re really enjoying ourselves.  I cannot believe that in seven weeks the school year will be over (and oh my goodness do we have some fun summer plans).  How did it all fly by so quickly?

8B9776E2-56E2-4577-88CB-C7007297B634

Oh, and I bought my future grandchild his or her first bike bell.  I’m already planting the seed for another without-borders soul.  Cannot wait to meet him or her in November (although the lil one is expected to be born late August)!

And, of course, Badger has his take on the spring, so if you’re curious to see what he’s up to, go to  https://badgerdoesbelgium.wordpress.com

The Ardennes!

CD5DF428-F633-4B50-AC47-F6F64BD68506

We really lucked out in that Friday, Saturday and Sunday were sunny days in the 70s!  My face got sunburned — I’m no longer a vampire!  On the crappy side of things Joe got really sick, but he ploughed through and did the hikes.  We avoided the more difficult ones this time around, but we live a 1.5 hour drive from here, so we’ll be back.  I got sick toward the end of our trip, and it was wet and foggy the last two days, but it’s all good we love it here.  I’m so glad we decided to do road trips instead of flying somewhere.  We really needed a slow-paced vacation, and it totally would have sucked to abandon Joe in the hotel room while I toured Italy, Greece or Croatia (trips we’re planning down the road) without him.

If you ever get the chance the next time you visit Belgium, do try to spend a few days in Belgium’s countryside.  Maybe do Brussels and Brugge first, and then wind down a bit hiking in all that green.  There are campgrounds, kayaking, zip lining, and all sorts of outdoor adventures in the Ardennes.  Um, if you’re into suicidal motorcycle rides, there’s plenty of that too — can’t tell you how many times I screamed we’re gonna die during a crotch rocket’s crazy manoeuvre.

Dinant:  It’s an easy 1.5 hour drive from Mons and well worth it.  We easily found parking and enjoyed just walking around.  The Leffe brewery is also there, but we didn’t tour it this time around.  The highlight was that we were able to take Badger on the Telefrique, cable car, up to the Citadel, which dates back to 1040.

7C759C6B-250C-4F3E-88B4-9EDFEEFFDDE8

Awww look at us frying in the sun on the Meuse river! Badger is at our feet.  All of the Ardennes was incredibly dog friendly.  Then again, most of Belgium is.B74362A0-4E09-4508-8BA6-696EA2D3C386E1EC46DD-834A-49CA-8457-2FFFCE95528CE9C6E757-07A0-4428-A97C-1E881F9279D4

Houyet and our cottage (I keep calling it a cabin, but it’s more than that)

We spent four nights in a cottage we loved.  The downstairs is a tight fit for more than two people, but who cares?  The backyard is everything!

BAB1C333-E708-4741-9E04-C1C76F68D884

view from our bedroom window.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’re totally going back in the fall.  Click here if you’re interested in cottage (and noooo I don’t get paid for sharing their info; we just really liked it)

The tiny town of Houyet worked for us.  We enjoyed our hikes and day trips from there.

Just a few pics of the cool stuff we got to see putzing around in the area.

Dubury:  is the smallest city in the world, and it’s adorable.  I found a perfumery I loved, and, well, everything about the town worked for us.  Hello?  it even has a pirate bar, so we’ve gotta come back for that alone.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bastogne:  We spent a night here, but after a great day walking and touring (and sipping some amazing gin and tonics), Joe had a rough night coughing and fighting the cold from hell, so we went straight home after breakfast.  The town of Bastogne is more neon-lightish than other Belgium cities, but it has a lot of restaurants and shops — not to mention all the museums nearby.  We have friends and family who want to come here, so we’ll be back again to see more. The war museum and memorial park is well worth the trip.  It amazes me how we can war and maim in lands that are normally so quiet and serene.  I could write up a whole blog on my thoughts on this alone, but I’ll spare you my reflection/hurt/concerns on this.  Pray people, even if you’re an atheist (we need all the positive vibes we can get), that we manage to not go into WW3.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I have a few more days left of spring break, so we might take a day trip into the Netherlands, or just explore around here.  Best part is I’ve got time to do whatever, including sipping coffee on my couch.

DD98E623-8D61-4327-AE69-70F7DB4CB243

Here’s to whatever path we go on!

Of course you can also check out Badger’s view on all of this at Badger Does Belgium.  It’s supposed to be sunny and in the 70s next week, so he and Joe will go on their first blog mission to Waterloo.  LOL deadlines to keep man and dog busy — no such thing as true retirement here!

Catching up…

817794A5-E964-4E81-88DF-1693E856CBC088723139-104A-4183-B193-912530D34E28

Helloooooo it’s been awhile.  I’ve been busy having fun and readjusting to life with my man and dog, and now I’m on a two-week spring break.  And Spring is in the air.  Temps are rising, birds are singing and flowers are blooming.  It’s a beautiful time to be in Belgium.   Joe, Badger and I rented an adorable cabin in the Ardennes.

Joe is napping off a cold, while I take the time to blast you with some pics and updates.

First off my daughter is now in her 5th month of pregnancy, and my first grandchild is bouncing around in there, already letting us know he or she is going to grab life by the reins and ride it for all its worth.  So far the little bugger has a pierre hat and booties and a little dragon (Mons loves dragons) hoodie.  I’m having fun shopping for the little ball of energy.

Easter was great since we had 10 friends over for dinner and games.  We were too busy feasting and laughing to take pics, but I’ve got this one of a basket of goodies a friend brought over.

3FC51F94-5878-49F0-A421-6CFF9A5063B3

and lol this one our neighbour and friend took of a whole other Peter Cottontail bouncing down our street handing out condoms.

84AB4BF3-C15D-4CBC-BC53-9B5683137A90

Michelle visited for a few days, and as always we had a great time.  We ate at great restaurants, toured Mons, went to the Cantillon brewery in Brussels, ate, drank, laughed:  our usual.

Mons has so many gems.  I can’t wait to show them off to those of you planning to visit!

Badger has been having a blast since he gets to go just about everywhere with us.  Yesterday that dog was able to get on a cable car and ride up to the citadel in Dinant.  He’s having so much fun he started his own blog, which will tell you all about his Dinant day (when he gets time to paw the keyboard).

Click on happy Badger pic (in our backyard at cabin) to see his view of the world.  Lol on Badger Does Belgium.

3CAF604B-6F65-41D3-8E85-9AF6A659C454

Joe is coming back to life, so gotta get ready for our second day of hiking and exploring.

 

I’m sure I’ll tell you all about the magic we get to discover along the way, and I’ll post more about the cabin and Dinant later — both are well worth a visit!

A Nightmare with a happy ending

29027798_10216069440913822_1126679190003777536_n

If Badger had fingers, this might have been his gesture…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, which is a shame because Joe and I have done some cool stuff since he landed.  I’ve been overwhelmed with life, work and things that just go wrong.

I’ll get back to all of the good stuff — luckily my life overfloweth with good shit — but this post is going to be all about Badger’s wild ride.  United has been in the press for two doggie mishaps this week, so I’ll share what happened on our end.  Before I tell you all that went wrong it’s only fair I point out that United took full responsibility and reimbursed and refunded costs.  I truly, truly hope they take all this bad press and put it to good use.  Better training and communication would go a long way in improving pet travel.  For the folks who think we’re crazy to spend all this money flying our animals, when you adopt a dog you adopt it for life.  While it’s certainly not a human child, it is a living being that deserves to be loved and protected.  When you move long distances, you have to fly your dog.  I get that putting them in the passenger area isn’t a good idea (although we’d be totally willing to buy a seat for our dog!), but the cargo area reserved for them should be as safe and well regulated as the passenger cabins — and the people moving them should be as well trained.

Getting Badger ready for the big flight

Before flying your dog overseas there are all sorts of things that need to take place prior to takeoff — each country has its own set of rules/papers/etc.  United’s Petsafe program sent us links and attachments of what we needed to do.  As with anything else it’s also up to us to make sure we do our research, so I spent hours making sure I had everything we needed to get Badger on his first flight.  Joe spent hours combing through the links and paperwork and getting Badger to all of his appointments.  Badger is a medium-sized dog, but we bought the large traveling crate (somewhere between $100 and $200) months in advance to get him used to it.  We made sure he could stand without his ears or head touching the ceiling, could turn in circles without touching the sides, etc. etc.  It took Joe a few weeks to get the dog to go into the crate on his own — lol, um, he used a piece of laundry I accidentally left in hamper.   Imagine my son-in-law’s horror months later when he discovered an old pair of my panties in the kennel (my husband’s training methods are not recommended).

Joe even got Badger used to riding in the crate, so that he wouldn’t be afraid come flight day.

Long story longer:  Joe got Badger chipped with the right chip, inoculated, trained for travel, got all the paperwork to vet to be filled out and sent to FDA to certify (vet cost:  $270 plus another $200 for the paperwork visit; $35 for FDA certification; $90 for UPS overnight).

The paperwork part is stressful.  For Europe the dog has to fly within 5 days of owner, and the paperwork needs to be certified within 10 days of dog flight, and it needs to be faxed to airline 3 business days before flight.  No problem since Badger was supposed to be on same flight as Joe, but we were stressing out on whether or not we’d meet all the deadlines.  We did.

 Badger’s first flight attempt

Joe was so happy and proud of Badger.  His friend Mike brought them to cargo 4 a.m. and the dog acted like he’s been flying all his life.  The airport and cargo didn’t phase him.  He was calm, happy and ready to go.  Cargo check-in lady goes over paperwork; it’s perfect.  Checks Badger, he’s good to go, and then decides that because there wasn’t a 3 inch clearance between the tip of Badger’s ears (the mutt has big-ass ears) and the kennel ceiling it wasn’t good enough for him, so he couldn’t go.  Joe begged, pointed out that he met the qualifications on paperwork, etc. etc.  Bitch wouldn’t budge (and I know she was just trying to do her job, but hello? This is something we needed to know beforehand, and if it was in paperwork somewhere we missed it, so it needs to be emphasized), so Mike took Badger home with him.  Joe, my big old grumpy bear, cried on his flight.

Badger’s second flight attempt

While Joe is en route, Kaylene, Kelly and I bust butt to get Badger on another flight.  Kaylene and Kelly run around town to get him an extra-large crate (around $375), which is huge (but they tie it in and drive with back open to bring to Mike’s house for assembly), and the stickers needed, etc. etc.  Mike, Joe’s friend, keeps Badger (since he has a truck) and agrees to meet them 4 a.m. at Cargo two days later.  Our paperwork is still valid.  I call customer service and ask if the scanned paperwork they have is still ok.  The answer is yes.  What I didn’t know then and I do know now is that the original paperwork is actually attached to the dog crate.  Common sense would tell you the owner should have the original paperwork to pick up the dog, which my husband had, but no: Europe regulation states it needs to be on crate — no copies.  So Badger is rejected again.  Mind you my daughter is cranky on a good day, she’s now also pregnant, so  4 a.m. isn’t exactly prime time for her.  Apparently, she saw a pregnant goat get accepted on its flight to Hawaii, which she joked was probably being sent off for slaughter.  Yep, stress has caused my girl to get all petty over a goat.  Joe’s friend was also inconvenienced  by this, but he took Badger home again, and brought Badger back to Kaylene and Kelly’s house over the weekend.

Oh, and I need to point out that since he’s now in an extra-large crate it’s too big for most flights out of Phoenix, so we can only book him on certain flights.

Badger’s third flight, he gets accepted, but more hell to come…

Our paperwork is no longer valid, so we have to go by the new deadline:  dog must fly within 48 hours of certification; certification must be overnighted to New Mexico and back.  More vet, overnight and certification costs.  We are stressed AF at this point, but we’re all doing our part.    We had to work around work schedules and a holiday, so basically Badger didn’t get to fly until 3 weeks after Joe, so his stress level is also up.  He’s an old dog, but Bingo!  He gets accepted this time.  Honest to God other dog owners with larger dogs laugh at how huge Badger’s kennel is. Ironically enough their dogs are in his former-sized kennel and they all get approved.  My daughter pays the $1,200 (of course I sent her the money) ticket, which includes an extra fee to walk, clean if necessary, feed and water him during his layover in Newark.  Oh and $50 for a Uhaul trailer to lug the kennel since neither Kaylene nor Kelly’s car could fit the new kennel in their car.

We’re told to monitor the tracking system to check on our dog’s flight progress.

Badger makes it to Newark the day before the Nor’easter hits

We’re high fiving, cheering, so damned happy our dog is finally on his way.  Tracking system reflects he’s in Newark.  I wake up Friday morning (he was supposed to land 8 a.m.) check the tracking system to see nothing has been updated.  Not worrying about it but deciding it’s best to check I call Petsafe.  I’m told my dog wasn’t put on his connecting flight because there wasn’t enough room for him in cargo — apparently $1,200 doesn’t reserve a spot?  He would be spending the night in Newark’s kennel and arriving in Brussels Saturday morning.  At this point it’s too late to cancel the van driver we hired to bring Joe to pick up Badger (our car isn’t big enough to handle his kennel), so we tip him 40 euros just for showing up and promising to come back next morning.

I go to work freaking out over my dog.  By the way, none of this is including the HOURS I’ve spent on the phone going back and forth booking Badger’s flights, etc. etc.  Luckily I have an international phone plan.

Badger is in Brussels

I’m stressed over the Nor’easter and worried that Badger’s flight will be cancelled.  I call Friday night, my time, it’s still afternoon in Newark to make sure he will indeed be put on the flight.  I’m then told he’s in Brussels.  Imagine my reaction.  I end up being on the phone for almost three hours trying to find out where in Brussels my dog is.  He’s apparently been there all day long.  Around 9 p.m. I’m told we’re just going to have to call in the morning because no one can verify exactly where my dog is.  Cargo in Brussels is telling us they don’t have the dog.  So, yeah we’re beyond belief at this time.

Saturday morning

After calls and hold time, we’re told to go to airport and begin our search for the dog at SwissAir baggage claim.  Brussels airport is packed thanks to weather flight cancellations and delays, so it’s chaotic.  Baggage claim won’t let us in without boarding passes.  The driver acts as our translator as we frantically go from one person to the next before we find a wonderful United employee who went out of her way to find Badger.  It’s almost comical the series of phone calls she went through to find him.  “Yes,” she says to us, “Customs remembers seeing your dog last night.”  Pause, and then, “but oh they don’t know where he is.”

We eventually learn he’s at “the zoo,” an all-animal kennel.  You guys are getting tired reading about all of this, but know it doesn’t end there.  We get to cargo, go into several areas before getting to the right one, and then literally spend an entire day going back and forth like idiotic pinballs going from one place to the next to dole out euros and get papers stamped.  Our driver had to leave, but his company promised to send another one when we were finished.  We arrived 8 a.m., left 4 p.m.

You see because Joe was here more than 5 days and because Badger spent the night in Brussels, Customs went all out on us.  Vet check, data put into some tracking system, etc. etc. cost another 640 euros.  I do have to put in a nice word for the folks at the kennel because they were really kind to us and Badger, and a few of them teared up in the end when we finally got to hug our “little lion,” their nickname for him.

The cost for all the time the driver had to spend with us was also 210 euros.

Badger was so stressed with a scraped nose, but OMG he was happy; we were happy.  He’s doing well.  He totally loves the apartment and city life.  That dog prances the streets of Mons like he’s been doing it all his life.  Separation anxiety is an issue, but we’re hoping it’ll get better.   He no longer freaks out when one of us leaves the room to use the bathroom.  But, we’re looking for doggie sitters so we can do things without him – until we can leave him alone without his howling.

We’re lucky our dog is okay, and we’re getting back the money we spent, but so much of this could have been avoided had the people in baggage, cargo and customer service communicated to each other better.

My opinion is with all the cost cutting, technology mainstreaming companies/governments do they forget the simple act of making sure their different departments/vendors freaking connect with each other.  The reason Petsafe couldn’t verify where Badger was because baggage took him versus cargo, and then he got sent off to kennel, but no one logged it.  No one thought to call the Belgian number listed on the papers on his crate.  Why?  The reason Petsafe didn’t know Badger was put on his original connecting flight was because the plane returned for a technical issue and someone put him on that plane, but no one thought to log it.   Why?

So, maybe this whole pet transportation crisis is a symptom of something much bigger in our society.  In our rush to mainstream we’re forgetting some of the basics.  Or, maybe it’s all just plain effed up.  Who knows?  All I know is Badger is officially now a Belgium hound!

29025630_10216069375032175_1827854183286439936_n29025363_10216069401792844_3661039679412633600_n29027416_10216069385632440_9008266231991500800_n28958894_10216069390152553_318571923506200576_n

Our dog hitting the parks and pubs like a pro!

 

Joe is here; Badger not yet.

Woo hoo Joe made it on Monday.  I would’ve typed up something sooner, but it’s a mixed welcome.  I’ll write more about the downside of this all after Badger gets here, but long story short the airline refused to let him on the flight because there wasn’t a full three inch clearance from the tip of his ears to top of crate, despite the fact that he could easily stand, turn around, etc. in the crate like their website said needed to be the case.

Devastated, Joe rushed to catch his plane.  What he didn’t know is that while he was flying here, I (with Kaylene and Kelly’s help) already bought a bigger kennel and rebooked Badger to leave Wednesday morning.  What I didn’t know (nor did I know it was an issue) was that Joe had Badger’s original papers on him, which prevented Badger from being allowed onto second flight.  Now we need to redo paperwork because it’s no longer valid.  So inshallah the dog makes his big flight next week.  Trust me I have some venting to do, so more will be written in here and to the company.

27973098_10215854731786228_3680090148284156395_n

Joe waiting on his dog!

As for Joe being here it’s surreal.  He retired a week ago, and it still hasn’t sunk in that he’s not here on vacation, visiting his wife.  We’ve taken lots of walks, inhaled quite a bit of beer, visited Brussels, got him in-processed at base, and lol netflixed and chilled.  I’m very happy to have my man home.   Monday I go back to work, so the ‘normal’ life will begin.

28056607_10211915080178195_7728960454894962188_n

Badger at Joe’s friend Mike’s house waiting to join us.  Thank God for good friends and family!  Between Joe’s friend and Kaylene and Kelly running around all over Phoenix for us at ungodly hours, Badger will finally, eventually, hopefully make it here.

And here’s a few random Belgium shots (Brussels, Gent and Mons) to keep the vacation vibe going

Happy Whatevs…

IMG_0028

Just checking in to let the folks back home know everything is peachy over here.  I had started to write something on Sunday, but I was too busy sipping kir royals and dancing around my place while cooking up a stew (in my purple Le Creuset that I bought at the factory in France — hahaha other girls can have their Channel and Dior, I’m all about cookware you could pull a muscle lifting), catching up with friends and doing mundane Sunday-type things — and perfectly happy doing so!

I also made some new friends and had a last-minute happy hour at my place, which was a lot of fun.  I’ve been humiliating myself at Zumba, and I’ve been pushing my students with literary theory, WW1 research and, oh my goodness, even attempting a little literary analysis, with the lower level ESL kids, which is cruel of me, but we all seem to be enjoying (notice how I convince myself they’re liking it too) multi-level thinking and discussions.  I love this shit.  So all is right in my world.

I won’t be watching tonight’s State of the Union because, well, I’ll be sleeping when it takes place, and I want to stay on the ‘expanding our minds’ track, plus the odds are it’ll just pull me out of my happy place — but I could be wrong.  Here’s to hoping I am!

And onto even bigger news: Joe and Badger arrive in LESS than two weeks.  This living in Belgium thing is happening for them soon too!  Since it’s pre-work hours, I’ll have to raise my coffee (and save the champagne glass for much, much later) to celebrating whatever it is that makes us all happy.  Here’s to the normal-day things that make life peachy!

 

Oh Bachus and his magic with produce…

IMG_0008

Guess which lucky girl got to go to Epernay (self proclaimed Champagne capital), France this weekend?

IMG_0016

And guess who got to sample a few glasses?

I know there are all sorts of scary, bad things going on in our lil shithole world, but I am not going to let any of that dampen my time in the land of glorious food, wine, beer (another Bachus miracle) and champagne.  It is 2018, and I’m no longer moving in or settling in to my new school, I’m in the thick of it and finally getting the chance to breathe and appreciate all of it — including the rare moments of actual sunlight (she’s danced quite a bit with us this weekend).   In less than 30 days (can you believe?!!) Joe and Badger join me, and then a little after that spring kicks in, and, well, there’s just so much for us to enjoy.  Thank you to all the powers that be for the gift of now and where I get to live, work and play.

Epernay is less than a 3 hour drive from Mons.  It’s an easy route (especially when you’re not the one driving), and great to do in the winter because it’s not crowded.  Since I’m blessed to get to meet and befriend wonderful people, I had a great time with my bubbly-sipping crew.  We laughed, sipped, ate, shopped and learned a lot.  I appreciate champagne more now that I know more about its process.  Perhaps during the summer Joe and I can visit the actual orchards too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And look at all of those glorious bottles just sucking up dust and time waiting for their champagne to be born…

IMG_0010

As for other news my house is officially sold.  On January 4 a new family’s name went on its title.  I was surprised at how sad I was that day.  Had a good cry and mourned the passing of the place where I raised my children, but let’s be fair I raised my children in several places, that one was just where we lived the longest.  And our bond doesn’t end just because the house most of us haven’t lived in for a while is gone.  The next day I perked up when I saw the money in my account and realised, for now (you know it won’t last), I’m debt free.  The stresses in my life are no longer connected to bills, and I so hope to keep it that way!

Oh, and I also got my new spiffy iPhone for Christmas (Thanks Santa Joe), so enjoying having a phone that works quickly.  I’m learning to play with its camera too, but I still prefer an actual camera to the phone thing.  That said a phone is more convenient for tours and stuff.  When Joe gets here we’ll go on hiking trips where I can play with my Nikon and whatnot (sadly my Sony died), so life is transitioning back to normal again.

Of course there’s so much more going on — I’ve had some great meals, great times with friends, great experiences with students and the not-so great stuff like jet lag and wearing the wrong footwear on a cold rainy day.

Tried this tasty French appetiser Oeufs en Meurette.  It’s a poached egg in a red wine sauce (beans, meat and mushroom stew).  I’m on a mission to visit Le Creuset (yeah I know Staub was this restaurant’s choice) in France to buy my own dutch oven and little cute stew serving dishes, so that I can start making some of these dishes on my own.

To counter all my imbibing I’m also joining a Zumba class and attempting to use the gym on base.  God help me it’s all about the balance.

As for all of you who plan on visiting, Mama has goodies waiting for you…

champs

Happy 2018!

I brought in 2017 bundled up next to my man, getting fireworks ash in our eyes, in Reykjavik, Iceland; I ended it huddled up under my new soft blankie (thanks to Aaron’s girlfriend), alone on my couch in Mons, Belgium.  That sounds sad, but it’s exactly where I wanted to be.  Of course I’d have preferred celebrating New Years with family and friends, but work begins again tomorrow, and my best flight option meant being back in Belgium on the 31st.

After two weeks of rushing around to get things done in Arizona, and a return journey that included three flights, a hot bath, some wine, and lots of shut eye is all I wanted.  I slept until noon today!  And it felt great.  It’s been raining since I returned, so hibernating inside my warm, cozy apartment is what this weekend is all about.

My trip home went by way, way, way too quickly.  My only 2017 regret is that both my trips back home were too rushed because there was so much to do, BUT the doing is done.  My house is pretty much sold (signed all the papers; buyers sign on Jan 4), Badger and Joe are all set for their big move (the hound is chipped and immunised; the man is stressed and tackling his list of to-dos), and my kids are moving along in their versions of happy.

We spent Christmas at Kelly and Kaylene’s, where I finally got to meet Kelly’s mom (we had fun embarrassing our kids with our stories — hopefully something we’ll do many times more!).  We feasted, we drank, we laughed, we watched movies, we played Game of Thrones monopoly, we familied it up!  I sure do love my people.

I cherished my time with Joe and the kids, and I’m so glad we got to spend Christmas together.  Again, I’m proud of all of them and love being witness to the adults they’ve become.  I didn’t get to spend much time with friends, but the little bit of time some of us got together was awesome.  Summer 2019 I’ll be back for a much longer visit, so lots of whooping it up time is in our future.

Party time with friends included a pub bicycle crawl to celebrate a friend’s 50th.  LOL after all my years in Phoenix I can finally claim I hit the downtown Scottsdale bars.  I also got to fit some patio bar time in, something I can no longer do during the winter where I now live.  Sadly not pictured is my outing with Julie and Sushi with Tiffany and Joe.  There are so many others I didn’t get to see, but we’ll catch up some where some time and it’ll be great.

As for 2018 resolutions, I have none.  I’m a lucky, stable, healthy soul who is cool with her extra lumps and wrinkles.  No need to promise to lose weight or save or whatever (but you know I’ll try).  My only goal is to continue embracing all that comes my way.  Good or bad it usually works out toward something great, so Happy New Everything that comes our way — and good riddance to the bad that usually, eventually melts away.

All of my kids adopted puppies, so our holidays also included a lot of pooch love.  Not pictured are Kyle and Kendra’s two dogs, Piper and her puppy Penny.  Kaylene and Kelly’s two white lab puppies are also Piper’s babies, and Aaron and Stacy’s pups are rescues.  Dexter, the brown cutie (um, the dog who wanted to eat my unicorn slippers) won me over with his snores and snuggles.  Okay, the others did too.  Badger has learned to cope with all the whipper snappers.

And that’s all that I have for you right now.  My jet lagged self needs to figure out what she’s torturing her students with tomorrow.

Happy New Year Everyone!

%d bloggers like this: