Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's beginning to look (a little) like Christmas!

Today I went shopping downtown and there were Christmas lights up on the trees! And, there were the usual lights hanging over the shopping streets.

People were buying gifts in the stores and having them wrapped in time for SinterClaus to arrive. (He is makes his appearance on December 5.)

One of the squares had little wooden huts set up, which probably means that the Christmas market will open soon! And, if it gets cold enough the ice skating rink should also be coming to town.

I love this time of the year! Now, if only I had a fireplace to cozy up next to....

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! (A little late...)

To all my fellow Americans reading this post... Happy Thanksgiving!

To celebrate Thanksgiving we had John's American teammates over for a huge feast on Wednesday night. (The guys had the evening off practice, so we celebrated a day early to give us more time to enjoy the food!)

While we weren't able to track down a turkey, we had the normal stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie! I am drooling at the mouth just thinking of it all! Mashed potatoes, homemade mac and cheese, rice & gravy, cornbread, apple pie, the list continues!

For a few days in advance, I had all my "American" products needed to make different dishes laying out on our cupboard... just sitting there for me to admire and to get me in the "Thanksgiving" mood.

Thankfully I wasn't the only one cooking. A new American and his wife arrived about a month ago, so we were able to team up and cook different dishes.

Our actual Thanksgiving day was spent lounging around, eating leftovers, and talking to family. (And I, of course, was scouting out all the Black Friday ad specials wishing I could fly back for the day to shop!)

Although we made the most of the holiday, I will admit it is one of the only times of the year that I get a bit homesick. I miss being with family, watching football, and looking through all the ads figuring out which shops to hit first. But... if nothing else it will make us truly appreciate our time at home for Christmas!

Friday, November 16, 2007

A taste of home.

It is funny how shops can make you feel at home. I remember the first time I entered a Gap in European territory. It was in Paris, Fall 2005.

Today I went shopping for a small gift as we are going over to our friends' house for dinner this evening. As I walked into Simon Levelt... I felt at home!

You see, Simon Levelt was one of my favorite shops in the Netherlands. It is a cozy little tea and coffee shop filled with great gifts, candies, mugs, tea pots and coffee makers. I have decided there is certainly something for everyone. And, for those who enjoy tea and coffee, it may be their little slice of heaven here on earth. (Which, by the way, nearly every European I have met loves their tea and coffee!)

So, I am content. It feels nice to have a taste of "home", and to be able to share the shop with others. They even wrapped the gift in the same manner in which they wrapped all the gifts I purchased in the Netherlands. The only difference was the counter of pralines and truffles which was very tempting indeed. I must admit, I am quite fond of Belgium's love affair with chocolate!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Little prince."

Our friends had a baby a week ago and we were able to go to the hospital to visit! It is always interesting to observe the cultural differences and norms. This is how they do things to Belgium...

First, people here don't throw showers before the baby is born. Most people find out what they are having, but keep it a secret from the rest of the world. So, while they do have baby registries, they don't register for anything that might give the gender away!

Second, as soon as the baby is born they call up their graphic designer with the weight, height, time of birth, etc. The graphic designer inputs into the design the couple has already approved and it is sent off to the press and mailed immediately to an extensive list of family and friends who are waiting to hear the good news!

For those the parents are close to, they call or send text messages so that family and friends can come to the hospital to see the baby.

We were happy to receive a text message letting us know that a "little prince" was born and that mom was doing well. Fortunately, we were able to visit a couple of days later. (They stay in the hospital for five or six days here!)

Upon our arrival to the hospital we were greeted with a celebratory glass of champagne. We gave them their gift and spent the next couple of hours holding the little one and chatting with others who came to visit. Then, upon leaving we were given little gifts with the baby's name printed on ribbon with additional ribbon coordinating with the colors of the birth announcement.

It was truly a creative, welcoming, and thoughtful way to share in one of life's most important moments. It is special to witness first hand how other cultures celebrate a new birth!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Rain, rain.... go away!

As I am sitting here looking out the window, I wonder when it will stop raining in this odd little country. It brings me back to the day when I nannied in Amsterdam and would sing to my little British buddy, "Rain rain, go away, come again another day.... little Tom Tom wants to play. Rain rain go away!"

John looked up the weather this morning and it basically said it would rain for the next week! It is at times like this that I wish that I could hop on a jet plane and head south. (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco... I'm not too picky!)

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Dentist.

Well, living abroad has many opportunities for "firsts." Today, we had our first encounter with a dentist here in Belgium.

Luckily for us, the dentist is literally less than a block away. John discovered him while we were walking to the car. He happened to see dental utensils through the top of the window. One more time that his height was put to good use!

The dentist is much like the doctor in the sense that it is basically a one man operation. He does his own scheduling and payments and in this case also cleans your teeth. In fact, dental hygienists don't exist in Belgium and assistants, though rare, are more like secretaries. Until now. Our dentist explained that just this year the government created a schooling program for dental hygienists.

But, we kind of liked this little system. He took his time with us and spent more than five minutes looking at our teeth! We didn't have to wait in that akward chair waiting for the dentist to come see us, because he was responsible for it all. Plus, the office was beautiful with floor-length windows overlooking the garden. In fact, our visit was quite serene and peaceful with the classical music playing in the background.

It is comforting to have found a nice doctor and a friendly dentist in our neighborhood.... just one more step to making a "foreign" place feel more like home!