Sunday, December 21, 2014

For The Holidays…

A funny thing about Luxembourg:
When you’re an expat here, you spend a great deal of your vacation time traveling back to your home country.  And then when you’ve moved back to your home country, you spend a great deal of your vacation time traveling back to Luxembourg.

Last weekend, our good friends who recently moved back to the UK were in Luxembourg for a visit. 
We’ve missed them!

Sunday after church, we all went out for lunch.


I have no idea what these two were talking about, but clearly it was VERY SERIOUS.


The girls were so, so happy to be together again.


After lunch, we headed into the Christmas Market.  This is our fourth Christmas season in Luxembourg and there’s just something that’s so magical about it.  See?



The kids ice skated in the center of town and after, the moms warmed up with some vin chaud blanc, hot white wine.  You even get to keep the Christmas mugs.



We said goodbye for now and they headed back to the UK.  We’ll see them again soon as we have a ski holiday planned with them for February. 

In other Christmas news, Hannah played Mrs. Claus in her school’s Christmas show. 
She nailed her role!  Next stop: Broadway.


And yesterday, we drove to Brussels, flew across the ocean to Chicago and then took another short flight to Akron.  All in all, it was 18 hours of travel and layover time and Shawn and I were wiped out.  These long haul flights with a 21 month old are no joke. 


Hannah got an A+ for her behavior, and Finn got…not an A+.  Don’t let that upside-down Roman Gladiator reading fool you.  He pretty much wiggled and climbed like a monkey and caused a ruckus for six hours, slept for 2 and then was as charming and sweet as can be for the last hour. 
I know what he was thinking:  If I sit still and giggle and wave at other passengers, they’ll forget about how much of a handful I was at the beginning. 
It kind of worked.

So here we are in Ohio, recovering from the jet lag.  My sister is coming in from California tomorrow and I can’t wait for our shenanigans.  Hannah has spent all day today with her cousins and she’s as happy as can be.  Finn played all morning with the train around my mom’s Christmas tree and has been outside with Shawn in the freezing cold kicking around a ball.  He’s in heaven. 
I’m planted on my mom’s couch, watching cheesy Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel.

Here’s to the start of a wonderful two weeks with family and friends!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Turkey, A Santa and Hunting Season

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we had a quiet little dinner at home, just the four of us.  We’d been invited to have Thanksgiving with some of our American friends and had planned to go, but Shawn had been traveling and we had a stomach bug in our house earlier that week, so we decided to stay home.
I was going to get a ham, but at the last minute I found a turkey, which isn’t always easy to come by in Luxembourg unless it’s closer to Christmas. 

On Saturday morning I ran to the grocery store to pick up a few things while Shawn stayed home with the kids to get the turkey started. 

My husband is quite competent in the kitchen, but this was not a pre-brined, easy open Butterball turkey we were dealing with here, with the giblets and innards all packaged up neatly and a little button that pops up when done.
No sir, this was pretty much just a (mostly) de-feathered turkey with floppy legs wrapped up in some plastic.
We’ve never had a turkey like this.
But still, I had full confidence in Shawn.

When I returned, the bird was roasting away, rotisserie style on the grill in the garage.
I asked Shawn what he stuffed the turkey with.

“Six sausages, a pound of bacon and an onion,” he said.
It was a vegetarian’s dream, I tell ya.

The turkey came out to perfection and we had a nice little dinner with mashed potatoes, stuffing, candied yams and some other traditional fixins.


Last week, the kids and I went to a Christmas party hosted by the American Women’s Club of Luxembourg and we’d really been looking forward to it because The American Women had asked Hannah to dress as an elf and be a special Santa helper.


She was happy to oblige.

Our Santa picture turned out just as I had thought (and hoped) it would.

It sounds awful, but I really do love a crying Santa photo.  My parents have at least six Santa photos from the late 70’s/early 80’s in which either my sister or I (or both of us) were crying.  We love looking at those pictures and laughing about them every year.

But what he lacks in love for Santa, Finley certainly makes up for in cuteness.  I think he’s trying to stay off the naughty list.

So this here is a common sight this time of year in our little village.  Men in fluorescent orange camo (is that what it’s called?) stand at the edge of the woods with their guns.  They send their dogs in to sniff out and chase wild pigs.  As the pigs come charging out of the woods, the men in fluorescent orange camo shoot them dead.   I’ve never actually seen one of the wild pigs, but I’ve heard them make their grunt/squeal/oink sound and it’s terrifying.  Shawn’s seen one and he said they are just as ugly as they sound.  It’s all too gross and violent for me.

But I can’t cast too much judgment, I guess.
Because if someone didn’t shoot pigs, what would Shawn use to stuff our Thanksgiving turkey? 

Friday, November 28, 2014

24 Hours in Paris (And More Visitors!)

Two weeks ago, Hannah and I took the Train à Grande Vitesse, the high speed train from Luxembourg to Paris because Shawn’s aunt and uncle and two of their close friends were going to be there for the week and were then coming to Luxembourg to see us.

Hannah has been asking for ages to see the Mona Lisa, and when Shawn suggested we meet his family in Paris and then ride back with them, I thought, “Pourquoi pas?”

Okay, I didn’t really think porquoi pas, I thought, “Why not?”
But if my inner dialogue spoke French, I totally would have thought porquoi pas.

We left Friday morning on the 10:09 train and arrived in the City of Lights at lunchtime.  I was a little nervous because I’ve never been away from Finley for more than a few hours, but it turns out that he and Shawn had a great time together, just the boys.

I let Hannah skip school.
Her school does not approve of this type of thing.
But I do think that spending the day in Paris is quite educational, and she did do her math and spelling homework on the train, so there’s that.

We took a cab from the train station to the hotel, checked in, met up with our family that we hadn’t seen since August, had a leisurely lunch and headed to the Eiffel Tower, stopping to look at things along the way.



By the time we got our tickets and made our way to the top, it was dark.




After some pushing/shoving/crowding and general rudeness by some other tourists, we got on the elevator back to the bottom. 

Our next stop was Le Musee du Louvre.


We’d been reading about and discussing the Mona Lisa, or La Joconde, as she’s called in French.
Hannah loves all the stories about how the famous painting was stolen, had acid thrown on it, had a coffee mug thrown at it by a Russian woman who was denied French citizenship, and was once on display in America.  Her favorite story, however, is the first time I saw the Mona Lisa.  This was long before smart phones, at a time when taking photos of La Joconde was strictly prohibited.  The room was packed with people and a guard stood just to the right of the painting.  A man tried to be sneaky and took a picture and got caught by the guard.
”NO PHOTO MONA LISA!” the officer shouted, all militant-like.
Embarrassed, the man laughed and tucked his camera away.
”NO SMILING AT MONA LISA!” the guard yelled.

When you go to The Louvre on a Friday night, you practically have the place to yourself.
For a while, it was just us and Mona.


After all the hype and excitement, I thought she’d be disappointed by La Joconde’s small size, but she didn’t mind.



Since it was nearly closing time, we hurried to see Venus de Milo. 
“But where are her arms?” Hannah asked.
”Well, that’s part of her mystery,” I told her.
She was ready to move on pretty quickly but I insisted on a photo because YOU’LL APPRECIATE THIS SOMEDAY.


I din’t imagine that we’d close The Louvre, but we SHUT THE PLACE DOWN.  We stayed right until the last minute and were literally walked to the exit by the museum curators.  We hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so we went to a cozy little place called Chez Papa for a real, honest to goodness French meal. 

I’m a fan of neither canard (duck) nor foie gras, which is the greasy, fatty liver of the duck, so I played it safe with a tasty tuna steak served alongside some veggies.  I think we provided entertainment for our waitress and other customers as we fumbled our way through.  Hannah fell asleep right at the table, before our food even arrived.  I may or may not have also eaten her omelet. 
Now, listen.  I don’t claim to know a lot about French cuisine, but there’s one thing I do know and it’s this: Don’t order steak in France.  Just don’t.  Shawn’s been saying it since we moved here and our friend Michele can now personally confirm it.

The next morning we headed over to Notre Dame.
Poor Paul.  Bless him.  He carried Hannah all over Paris like this.



I remember reading a few months back about the lock bridge in Paris collapsing under the weight of all of the locks and thinking, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” 
Apparently that didn’t stop them.  And also, how perfect is it that Hannah stood on the lock love bridge wearing a shirt that says LOVE?


Our time in Paris was coming to an end, so we boarded our train and all headed back to Luxembourg.  Hannah was so excited to show everyone her school and our house.
We ran into what you might call a logistical problem at the Luxembourg train station and decided that it was a fine idea for some of our party, WHO’D NEVER BEEN TO OUR HOUSE to take the bus to our house. When all attempts to get help from the bus driver resulted in a shrug of the shoulders and a, “neh,” they got off the bus.  Luckily Shawn was able to track them down and found them like this, luggage and all.


And of course, no trip to visit our family in Luxembourg is complete without a trip to Vapiano’s…


…Or a trip to Vianden.


Thank you, Karen, Paul, John and Michele.  You were wonderful guests!  Thank you for playing with, feeding, bathing, and loving our kids.  Thank you for your company and laughter.  I love that so many of our family and friends have been here to visit us.  There’s a certain comfort in being able to talk about our lives in Luxembourg and having you know exactly what I mean because you’ve been here.  We love you all and can’t wait to see you at Christmas!

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Today’s just another Thursday in Luxembourg, and no matter how long I live here, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.  It’s business as usual and everyone is going about their day to work, school, the grocery store, and whatnot. 

Today when I was walking Hannah to school, I kind of felt like don’t you people know?  We should be at home watching the parade and putting the turkey in the oven!
Hannah’s teacher and many of our friends here wished us a Happy Thanksgiving, which was so, so kind.

We had originally planned on going to Fakesgiving, like we did last year, but Shawn traveled last week, this week and is leaving again on Monday morning.  Three of the four of us have also had a stomach bug this week, so we decided that we need a quiet day at home together on Saturday. 

As for today, Shawn is in Bled, Slovenia (returning home tonight) and I’m hanging with these two turkeys:


Oh, and I also worked out this morning.  I joined a gym about six weeks ago and I’ve been working out with a personal trainer.  I’ve never used a personal trainer before and I’m seeing results really fast because he sets up all the workouts and nutrition that are just right for me.  He’s far more fit than I (duh) and younger, and if I’m being honest here, I sometimes wonder if the other gym goers think I’m some kind of a cougar or something. 

So that’s pretty much how we spent the actual day of Thanksgiving this year.  Although I would’ve loved to be in the US with our families, I feel so thankful for where we are, who we have in our lives and what we’ve been blessed with. 

And with that, I guess it’s time to officially kick of the Christmas season, which will include some trips to the Christmas Markets here in Europe and our big trip home to the US in a few weeks.

Oh, and endless text messages and Facebook wall posts containing quotes from Clark W. Griswold.
(If you’re my sister or one of my best friends from college.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

I’ve mentioned before that Halloween isn’t a huge deal in Luxembourg, but the American Women’s Club hosts a Trick-or-Treat event for kids and we had so much fun last year, that we knew we had to go again this year.

I had thought it would be really fun for Hannah to be a bee keeper and Finn a bee, but Hannah wasn’t down with that idea.  There’s a new TKMaxx near us (that’s not a typo – it’s called TKMaxx and it’s just like TJMaxx, only smaller) and we happen to come across the perfect costume.


And then we found this one for Finn.



Finn didn’t really want to carry his trick-or-treat bag.  After the first house, he just wanted to carry the little package of candy around.


My favorite part of his costume:


We found a cute little pumpkin patch a few villages away from ours and picked up some pumpkins for the front porch.  After Finn had gone to bed one night, we let Hannah stay up late to carve hers.

This is how it turned out.


I did the template, Shawn did the carving, but the idea?  That was all Hannah’s.
Because BARBIE. 
It’s her love language.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

7: Celebrating Hannah

Today our sweet, imaginative, funny, all-American girl turns 7.


We celebrated last week by spending the afternoon at Jardin des Papillons, (The Butterfly Garden) per Hannah’s request.


It was nothing fancy, really.
Just some homemade cupcakes…


…a few friends and some sparkly antennae headbands.




The kids got a tour of the indoor garden with René, who taught them about the life cycle of a butterfly.


We saw some really beautiful things.




It was hot and humid in there, just like a tropical oasis.
But these kids didn’t seem to mind.


Finn was there, too, and he loved the butterflies.
(But not as much as the cupcakes.)



All the schools are on the half term holiday this week, so today we had lunch at Hannah’s favorite restaurant in Luxembourg: Vapiano’s.  She ordered her favorite: Caesar salad and a piece of chocolate cake.  Although I have no idea why she loves the cake so much.  It’s the kind that’s made with 85% cocoa and isn’t sweet at all.  But she loves it.


Happy Birthday to our sweet girl. 
She makes us laugh and she makes us so proud.


I should also mention that today officially marks three years that we’ve been living in Luxembourg.  And even after three years, my French is embarrassing and I still have moments in which I’m overwhelmed with homesickness.
But I love it here.
And I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.