Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Winter in Europe is for…

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This was the view at the next stop on our little holiday.
Welcome to the French Alps.
Alpe d’Huez, to be exact.
We traveled up the side of the mountain to 5,843 feet above sea level.
(For reference, our hometown in the US is about 1,200 feet above sea level and we are at about 1,000 feet here in Luxembourg.)

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I’m not usually an outdoorsy-winter-activities-kind-of-girl.
Last year at this time I even retired to the car while my family played in the snow.

But not this time.  No, sir.
There was just something about this place that made me not ever want to go back indoors.
So we got ready to hit the slopes…

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We got fitted for ski boots…

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And Hannah went to her first class. 
These Europeans sure start their kids early.
That little boy in front of her was about half her age and had just come down the slope with a pacifier in his mouth.

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I haven’t skied since high school and I really didn’t enjoy it much back then.
But, how things have changed.
This time?  I loved it.  Loved it.
I was worried that I’d look all out of place and American, but then I saw a woman skiing in a full length fur coat and a man in a sombrero and I knew I’d be just fine. 

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I told Shawn, “I get it now.  I totally get why people go on ski vacations.”
It was beautiful and quiet and refreshing up there in the mountains.
And it was so warm.  We even took our jackets off and zoomed down the mountain in long sleeve t-shirts.
And the skiing part?  Not difficult or awkward or clumsy like I remembered.  
Shawn’s a good skier and pretty agile on the slopes.
Especially for a guy who’s had six knee surgeries.
(Don’t tell his doc about this, mmkay?)

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We picked Hannah up from her class but girlfriend wasn’t ready to take off her skis yet.

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So Shawn pulled her over to the beginner hill and we spent the next few hours there.
She rode up the tow line with him and the three of us skied back down together.

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He showed her how to snowplow…
(If you’re reading this via email, you may need to click HERE to see the video.)

Who is this girl?
Sometimes I surprise myself.

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We spent two days and two nights on the mountain, although we all wished we could have stayed longer.  But it was time to return our equipment and head to the last stop on our trip.

To be continued…

Monday, February 27, 2012

In Which We Go On Holiday

We’re back from our first European holiday.
That’s what they call vacation over here.
What a time we had!

Up first: Luxembourg to Lyon, France.
We arrived with plenty of time for Hannah’s favorite hotel activity.

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The next morning we checked out the beautiful city…

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and visited some ancient Roman ruins.

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My husband loves to visit old castles, historical sites and ancient ruins. 

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I knew that the Roman Empire was quite expansive back in ye olden days, but I didn’t realize that there were still remnants of it in France. 
(It’s not at all what comes to mind when I think of this country.) 
I guess I thought that Roman ruins were just in, you know, Rome.

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From the top of the Théâtres Romains de Fourvière, I could hear Shawn and Hannah while they talked at normal volume.  Those Romans sure knew something about physics and acoustics, didn’t they?

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Shawn explained the science part of it to me, while I snapped away with my camera.
It was a great spot for a little photo shoot.
And a physics lesson.
Sorry, Hannah.  Your parents are nerds. 

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Next we headed to the Notre Dame de Fourvière Basilica.

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But we only stayed for about fifteen minutes.
Mostly because of this sign:

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And because we were hungry.  We had a quick lunch, checked out a view of the city and stopped at one of the many outdoor flower shops on the way back to the car.

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Fortunately our car wasn’t ticketed.  We had some question as to if it would be or not because we may have parked illegally. 
But we weren’t really sure because the signs – THEY MADE NO SENSE. 
We parked there anyways because we are living on the edge, people.  On the edge.
Which, incidentally, is how a lot of Europeans park their cars. 

From there, we drove two hours Southeast to the next stop on our trip tik.


To be continued…

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Little Break

It’s half term here in Europe, which means that kids have a week long break from school.

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Shawn is taking a few days off work.
And we’re both taking a little break from laptops and cell phones.
We’ve got some fun stuff planned.
Can’t wait to tell you about it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Wasn’t Prepared for This One

Today Hannah and I had a bunch of errands to run and we found ourselves in the City Center of Luxembourg around lunch time.

It was cold but sunny and all of the cafes had heat lamps on their outdoor patios.
We got a couple of sandwiches, a chamomile tea for me, a chocolate milk for her and settled into a table under one of the toasty lamps.

Across the square I saw a man with a cardboard sign.  He was sitting outside of one of those touristy shops that sells postcards with a picture of the Duke of Luxembourg – 3 for €1.

I don’t know about you, but when I see someone doing this my heart breaks. 
Absolutely breaks.
I wonder how they got there?
Are they addicted or mentally ill?
Don’t they have family to rescue them from this?

Hannah jolted me back from my thoughts.
“Mommy, do you know what darn it means?”

“Well, yea.  Sometimes people say darn it when they drop something or maybe if they spill something.”

“Oh.  Do you think that French people say darn it in French?”

”Probably.  I’m sure there’s a French word that means darn it, but I don’t know what it is.”

“Mommy, what were you looking at?”

“Well, do you see that man over there?  I’m very sad for him because he doesn’t have money or food or even a house.  He’s hungry and asking people for money to buy food.”

“Oooooh. But where does he sleep?  Does he camp? Maybe he can stay at our house.  We could share our food.”

And with that, we finished our lunch and went back into the café.

Hannah held my hand as we walked over to the man.
We handed him a bag containing a chicken sandwich, frites and a coffee. 
He looked at us, surprised and said, “Merci.  Merci.  Merci.  Beaucoup.”

“De rein,” I said, the standard reply to merci.
It’s nothing.
As we walked away, I sort of laughed at the irony of what I said to him.  It’s nothing.
A chicken sandwich and a coffee is nothing to me, but it was quite a bit of something to him.

”Mommy, that man said thank you three times.  He was using his good manners.”

“I know, honey.  That’s because it made him happy that we gave him something to eat.”

”Did it make Jesus happy?”

”It sure did.”

We passed him one more time on our way out of the city center and he smiled and nodded our way.  I don’t have a picture to go with this post, out of respect, of course.
But I don’t need one.
The picture in my mind is enough – my little girl, just four years old, seeing a side of the world she’s never seen. 
And that tender little heart of hers…

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Patinage Sur Glace

Another Saturday, another family outing in Luxembourg.

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The woman at the desk lined our skates up for us.
Shawn and I exchanged smiles and knowing glances when she called them “shoes.”
She was trying as hard to communicate with us in English as we were with her in French.

It was Hannah’s first time on the ice and the first time I’ve been in about twelve years.

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They give kids little pingouins so that they have something to hold on to.
I was a little wobbly.  I probably could have used a pingouin of my own.
Shawn is actually pretty good at ice skating.

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“It sure is slippery out here,” Hannah said. 
And bumpy, I’ll add.
I don’t think that ice had seen a Zamboni in months.

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But a few times around the rink and she started to get the hang of it.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Insta-Friday

Hey, friends.
Not a whole lot going on here this week. 
As I mentioned earlier, Hannah and I were invited to tea at the home of one of the little girls from her class at school.  As it turns out, the British refer to dinner as tea.
It was a full blown meal – salad, bread, quiche, couscous, and pasta.  Who knew?
Our “American cupcakes” were a big hit and Hannah had a great time with the kids and I talked to the other moms.  Or, mums, I should say.

Shawn was traveling again and he just got home last night.
So after three straight nights of not cooking, I made some fancy tomato soup and grilled cheese.

I know.

It doesn’t sound like much, but when you must select a cheese from ONE MILLION varieties and have to go to a specialty shop to get just the right kind of tomato soup because the European brands just. don’t. taste. right…well, before you know it, it feels like a pretty fancy meal.

Anyways, here’s a little peek into what’s been going on via pictures captured on my celly.

Before Shawn left, we grilled out. 
Okay, grilled out is misleading. 
We actually grilled in our garage.
Shawn and his little assistant went all Boston Market with the rotisserie chicken.

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Look who’s in Subway in Luxembourg!  Lady Liberty! 

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And look what I found this week. 
(At the specialty shop where I got the tomato soup.)
That’s a cold can of A&W root beer.
Oh, yes sir, it is.
I bought one for me and one for Shawn, but I opened mine as soon as I got in the car.
Even though I love sweet iced tea, it has been ages since I’ve had a drink that sugary.
About fifteen minutes later I felt awful.
I had flashbacks to the three hour glucose test and to every Easter morning as a kid when I ate a ton of candy and then felt miserable at church.

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This is one of those things that I’m going to tuck away and bring out at Hannah’s high school graduation party. 
Which will be in, like, 2025. 
I think. 
Anyways, I hope that HAMMAH will think it’s as cute as I do.

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This week was “Book Week” at Hannah’s school. 
For the big finale, all the kids dressed up like their favorite book character.
When we were planning her outfit, we had two options: Pinkalicious and a cowgirl.
The cowgirl won.  Was there any question?  I mean really, it was hardly even a contest.
We recycled her Halloween costume from two years ago.

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Shawn’s grandma made the fringed vest for him when he was about Hannah’s age.
I have a feeling it would make her day to know that this little cowgirl is wearing it now.

I’m linking up with Life Rearranged.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hi, Valentine

Valentine’s Day isn’t such a big deal here in Luxembourg.
But it is at our house.

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Hannah and I were invited to tea this afternoon at the home of one of the little girls in her class at school.  We’ll be the only Americans there.
So we whipped up some Valentine’s Day cupcakes to share with our new international friends.

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“Hey, Mom.  I’m not gonna really eat this cupcake. 
Will you take a picture of me just pretending to eat it?”

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(I have no idea where she gets it, this silliness in front of the camera.)

Sending love across the ocean to our family and friends in the US!

 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”  I Corinthians 13: 4-8

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On Saturday

 

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One of the best things about Luxembourg is that it’s central to so many things in Europe.
We started out this weekend with plans to take Hannah skiing for her first time…but Shawn had had a busy travel week and decided that maybe tobogganing at a park a little closer to home would be more fun. 

When we got there, the park was closed.
So we regrouped and decided to scrap the winter adventure activities and find a little town to explore.

Because if nothing else, we are flexible.

So we headed to the medieval town of Rodemack, France. 
Known to the locals as les plus beaux villages de France, the most beautiful village in France.

And beaux it is.

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Shawn loves visiting old castles.

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It doesn’t take much convincing for us girls to go along.
I know I’ll return with lots of cool photos.
And Hannah?  Well, she’s just hoping to see a princess.

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This picture cracks me up.
Doesn’t Shawn look so serious about this little village? 
Or like he’s doing an undercover security gig?

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We found a narrow little alley that wasn’t even as wide as my arm span.

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Shawn: I dare you to climb it.
Me: You’re on.

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That’s what we did on Saturday.
What’d you do?