11 May 2015

Mother's Day

I had a really nice Mother's Day weekend and I hope all you Moms out there did too.

Mine started with this beautiful bouquet from Ross with a sweet card that made me cry because that's what I do :)  

Then Ross arrived in Hasselt for the weekend and had the idea of visiting the Paul Smith exhibit at the museum here.  This fashion museum is one of the "attractions" in Hasselt and we've never even visited it before!

As you may know, Paul Smith is a designer from London.  He's pretty famous over here.  I'd actually never heard of him before moving to Europe.  You can probably guess that he's known for his signature stripes.  By the way, that is an actual Mini Cooper.

This wall of art is from his personal collection.

Paul's office!

Us in front of the button wall.

The button wall.  I love this.  I don't know that little boy - he is just in my picture.

On Sunday, we headed to Brussels for this event.

It was a nice day - a little chilly, but only partly cloudy!  We didn't find anything we really wanted to eat at the food truck event.  

And by "we", I mean Jim and Ross.  I actually wanted a bagel because they aren't very common here . . . but we moved on and decided to find a restaurant.

As we were walking, I spotted an empty table on a sunny terrace.  Those two things happen once in a million - empty table/sunny terrace so I grabbed it having no idea what sort of restaurant it was.

Turned out, they served bagels :)

They were delicious!

Then on to Ross's apartment for a chat with Randi and Mae Mae!  There we are down in the right hand corner.

It was a very, very nice weekend :)

06 May 2015

Top of the List

I just couldn't help myself when I saw the graph below.  It illustrates the change in tax burden between 2007 and 2014 for the world's developed countries.  

Belgium.  Unchanged and maintaining that top spot.  Over 55% of income goes to taxes.  The highest average income tax burden.  Anywhere.  And we ought to know.

It's really only fair to also mention that the sales tax is 21%.  

I've probably mentioned before that taxes are high in Belgium :)

04 May 2015

In Full Bloom

Last weekend we went for a walk around our neighborhood and took these photos of all the trees in bloom.

First, this is our own little apple tree.  It is completely loaded with blooms.  I fear there is no way these tiny branches could possibly hold this many apples!

This photo really doesn't do this white tulip tree justice.  As you can see, this house has a really tall hedge :-/

I have no idea what the rest of these are, but they are definitely all beautiful.

The orchards in and around Hasselt are also beautiful right now.  Cherries, apples and pears are big business here.

Last, but not least, this is rhubarb.  Although I've eaten desserts with rhubarb, I've never eaten it raw.  Here in Belgium, they dip the raw stalks in sugar.  I'm going to buy some and try that today.  

I also "googled" things to do with rhubarb and learned it's good for cleaning pots and pans.  It's also good for coloring hair.  What?!  How have I not heard of this?!  I swear I am NOT going to try that today :)

28 April 2015

I Spy Something Gray

Ah, a weekend to remember . . . remember never to repeat, that is!

I'm just kidding.  It actually got better and better.

This past weekend we (me, Jim, Ross and his friend Valentine - pronounced Val un teen) went to the Belgian coast. The main reason for going was to add to my sand collection, but also for a little sun.  Of all the sand I've collected, I had not collected any from our very own coast.  I can check that off my list now.

So, I'll go ahead and get the unfavorable part out of the way . . .

After spending quite some time on the internet seeking the perfect hotel right on the beach (not so easy to find in Belgium), I found one.

 Right here on this boardwalk that was under construction with the beach access completely blocked off.  The hotel website failed to mention this important aspect of their "right on the beach" advertisement.

The view from our balcony which was at least facing the beach.  This area will be really nice . . . one day . . . when we are not there.

Once you got past the "boardwalk to come", it was nice.  We definitely had the place to ourselves because we were apparently the only people who didn't know about the boardwalk construction zone.

There was this nice lookout tower . . .

so we could get a better view of the construction zone :)

As is typical in Belgium, gray skies are the norm.  If you look really close, center right, you can see sailboats in that gray mist.

Not to be deterred, we set out the next morning away from our "hotel right on the beach" in search of some sun . 

Along the way, we stopped for lunch in Vlissingen, Netherlands.

It is a quaint little harbor town where we ate kibbling.  A common dish in the Netherlands - small pieces of fried fish - and it was delicious.  Why anyone would choose herring over this is beyond comprehension. 

Then . . . finally!  We found some SUN!  In the Netherlands!

We all took a long walk,

soaking in the sun.

In the background you can see the Delta Works - a system of dams, locks, and levees built after a great flood in 1953.  It took over 50 years to complete and it now keeps a large area of the Netherlands from flooding again.

Even Winslow had a good time!

We soaked up the sun, had a drink on a terrace, until mid-afternoon and it only costs us 60 Euros for parking. We didn't see the machine to pay for parking until we saw the ticket on our windshield and THEN we saw the parking permit machine way back in the corner of the lot.  So far, I think we've paid a speeding fine or a parking fine every time we visit the Netherlands. 

Just another addition to our "live and learn; sometimes you just live" motto of living in a foreign country :) Then we headed back toward our "hotel right on the beach".

We also stopped at a couple of places along the coast  . . .

These little "villages" full of trailers and campers are fairly common in the Netherlands.  They aren't visible from any main roads, but are always off a "country" road and packed in like sardines (or herring).

One of our stops was Knokke, Belgium where we saw these tulips blooming.

Our next stop was Blankenberge, Belgium where we stayed for dinner and to watch the sun set.  I took this photo from our dinner table.  These little huts (often 3 or 4 rows deep) dot nearly every beach in Belgium and are quite common on European beaches.  Most are actually owned by individuals and they keep their beach gear stored there for use in the summer.  I think they're an eyesore and an obstruction to the view of the sand and waves, but Belgians think it's perfectly normal.

It turned out to be a very nice weekend. 

Gray skies and all :)

17 April 2015

Never Again!

This past weekend the weather was nice so we swung by Brussels and picked Ross up, then headed to the Sunday flea market in Waterloo.  While some vendors have pretty good stuff, they also like it too much. Meaning there are no bargains.  It was nice to get out in the good weather and we had lunch on a sunny terrace, but we may seek out another flea market for future bargain-hunting.  

This is not my "never again" story though.

When Randi and family are here, I am always on patrol over the staircase.  I worry (and worry some more) that the kids will tumble down them.  With the bedrooms and bathroom upstairs there is no way to avoid going up and down them at least once a day - usually more.  Our house has a lot of stairs, they are wooden, they are steep, they end on granite flooring, they are encased with hard plaster walls.  You see where I'm going with this.  

When we move back to the States, we will have to buy a house because we don't have one anymore.  I used to have a list of criteria for my dream house.  Now I realize the only really important thing is "no stairs". One level living is my new dream house.

That also wasn't my "never again" story though.

Winslow goes with us nearly everywhere we go.  When we are home, I take him for a walk nearly every day.  He loves it.  We don't always walk the same path, but we always walk in and around our neighborhood.  Sometimes I let him off his leash because he's very good about listening to me and obeying my commands and following whatever path I take.  If he lags behind, he runs as fast as he can to catch up and that's part of the fun for him.  

Well, this week, I learned a lesson I shall never forget. Winslow was off his leash and I turned a corner.  A minute or two later, I turn around and he's not there.  I look and look and he's not there.  I begin to call his name in all directions.  Nothing.  He simply vanished.  Panic sets in and I begin to run in the direction I think he may have gone - toward the busy, busy, busy street we live on.  

In the distance - approximately 3 football fields away - ACROSS that busy street, I think I can see him. Now, I worry he will see me and cross that busy, busy street AGAIN!  He doesn't seem to see me, but he does start running back toward the street! Mercifully, there was an opening in the traffic and I was able to get across that busy, busy street before he saw me and without either of us getting hit by a car.  A few people had stopped to look when they saw a loose dog because loose dogs are a rarity here.  I've actually never seen one - before today, that is.  

The stars were definitely aligned and I learned a difficult lesson.  Never again.  

I also didn't know I could still run that fast :)