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Monthly Archives: May 2010

Driving green

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Run for your life, she's gonna blow!

Gardening was not in our plans this weekend, but when my parents called to say they were digging out their landscaping IMMINENTLY to redo it, I had no choice but to make an impromptu trip to salvage some plants doomed to a slow death in the sun.  This is one of the many times I am initially saddened at my lack of pickup truck ownership status, and then quickly gladdened when I realize that a vehicle allowing me to transport MORE plants would not actually make my life any easier – it would strand me, sweating in the sun, for additional hours as I struggled to get even more things transplanted.

I tucked plants into every available space in the Civic except the glovebox.  I had a moment of panic when I saw a policecar  and realized that there was no way I could OPEN the glovebox if I were to be pulled over and asked to show my registration.  It was around that time that I also started to wonder about the legality of operating a vehicle with my head surrounded by a boxwood.  At one point during my trip, a car of laughing college kids stopped beside me to ask WHY I had my car packed with trees.  In my defense, they were not trees, but shrubbery.  (My dad wants me to make that point clear for all Monty Python fans.)

Kyle was a trooper and helped dig 42 holes in the yard for me to plop things into.  We still have half a garage packed with plants to get into the ground tomorrow.  Never mind that I’ve run out of empty garden space.  Never mind that the gardens I have are sorely neglected.  But the bushes were perfect for the front of the house, where I’ve dug up, or will dig up, nearly everything in hope of a fresh start.  The plants are tucking in well in the 2 beds I actually like.  The rest might end up in a holding bed, not very flashy but keeping the plants happy until I can sort out a few problem spots in our yard.  Thank goodness we made a big compost area yesterday on a whim!  Thanks Mom and Dad!


Goodbye, Belgium

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Bedankt voor de mooie herineringen.  We’ll miss you until we meet again.


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meanwhile, back in wisconsin…

Dear Robin,

Yes, this is what playgroup snacks look like in your absence.  A cream cheese frosted sugar cookie with fruit courtesy of Lib. We overindulged in that while sipping iced coffees and watching this….

… and listening to the accompanying squeals of delight. Summer is here and eagerly awaiting your arrival 🙂

Can’t wait to see you… soon!

Wednesday, travel edition

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Dear Courtney,

Well, it had to happen eventually, and today was probably the best day for it to happen – our beautiful warm sunshiny weather turned cold, rainy, and decidedly more Belgian.  I suppose that should make it easier to come home.

We had planned a day of bumming around Leuven today.  Rain I don’t mind.  Fifty degree weather I don’t mind.  But 50 degree rainy weather isn’t so fun to hang around outside in, so we changed our plans.

We spent the day at one of the rare malls in Belgium with Chris, Elke, and the girls.  We did some fun shopping (I know, fun and shopping aren’t usually in the same sentence for me, but I liked the European equivalent of Target, and got Tea a nice “American Football – what matters is the final score” t-shirt because it made us laugh for reasons we couldn’t quite explain.)

We were finally able to enjoy fresh warm sugar waffles that had heretofore eluded us on this trip.  Remind me to break out the recipe for these once we’re back home.  They are unlike any waffle you’ve eaten and bear zero resemblance to the gross stuff places like IHOP serve for breakfast under the guise of a Belgian waffle.  Honestly, whenever I see them listed on American menus I get riled up and feel I need to defend my Belgium’s honor.  Belgians would never eat such gross concoctions as cardboard-tasting waffles with fake whipped cream and canned strawberries.  (Although since recently learning of my sister’s devotion to Subway, I may need to rethink my impression of their sophisticated palate – sorry Elke!  😉 )

For dinner I died and went to heaven – asparagus op z’n vlams  (white Flemish asparagus with eggs), steak arabiata (which translates to angry meat? but it makes me  *sooooo* happy), and tiny potatoes roasted with rosemary from their garden.  We may or may not have polished off the bottle of limoncello tonight.  I’m not saying.  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so many delicious foods all in one week.

It was neat tonight to hear Hanna start to speak a bit of English.  If we stayed a month, I think both Elke and I would have bilingual kids.  I’m threatening to put up a tent in their backyard so we can stay longer without being a burden.  But Tea was fairly crabby and uncooperative today – I think that it’s probably good that we’re heading home tomorrow morning.  He needs his regular routine back.

Please think sleepy, happy, compliant thoughts in Tea’s direction tomorrow – it’s going to be a long day.  Kyle is wondering if we’ll make it through the weekend without seeing you.


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meanwhile, back in wisconsin…

As promised, today we gave new life to dozens of old cassette cases which used to house precious mix tapes and dubs of dubs of dubs of record albums. The tapes themselves have since been used to make plant markers in the school butterfly garden, leaving the cases feeling lonely and worthless. Enter the paintbrush filled hands of 80 kindergarten kids and we have an art project! How did we create this butterfly masterpiece, you ask? Let me explain.

Each kid got an unlined index card that had been folded in half. They were asked to paint half the card in a liberal amount of paint (or in kindergarten-friendly-speak, “gobs of paint”).

Then they were instructed to fold the card in half along the already creased line and smoosh the sides together with their hands.

When unfolded the paper revealed two symmetrical sides.

The kids then folded the card in half once again and cut out the shape of a butterfly wing (which had been drawn on the back of the card prior to the painting). Once unfolded the beautiful butterfly emerged. Okay, clearly this butterfly is not the same one as the previous pictures, but you get the idea.

A flutter of butterflies soon emerged from their creative cocoons:

All these butterflies have found homes in the aforementioned cassette cases and will soon be put together in a frame that will be the sign for the school’s butterfly garden. The frame is Jim’s project for the weekend. I will be sure to post pictures of the finished project.

Thank you to all the wonderful little artists and their fabulous teachers who took time out of their very busy end-of-the-year schedules to do this project with us!

Tuesday, travel edition

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Dear Courtney,

Hooray for the invasion of Thai ingredients in stores around the world! Can you imagine trying to find traditional Scandinavian ingredients in Kenya?  Traditional Peruvian ingredients in Hungary?  And yet, Thai ingredients were as easy to obtain here in Belgium as they are in Wisconsin.  Well, all except the kaffir lime leaves and Singha beer, but I cannot complain.

Elke was our savior today, as she shuttled us to several stores to stock up on supplies to make a Thai feast this evening.  We had planned on doing it ourselves with the bus, but 5 heavy bags of food later (including SEVEN! cans of coconut milk), we were grateful we had easier transportation.  Kyle and I cooked for nearly 7 hours, but we took our time and had a few breaks with Belgian refreshments.  I am ever so grateful for my gas stove at home – I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable cooking with an electric one, but at least nothing burned.

We made soup (coconut milk-red curry-mushroom-shrimp-lemongrass), green chicken curry, and a noodle dish with lots of veggies.  For dessert, we had mangoes with sticky rice and coconut milk sauce.  We made enough food for a small army and I fear my Belgian family will be eating frozen Thai leftovers for the next half century.

I’m amazed at how at ease Tea is here now.  When Chris got home from work today he followed her around the house, chatting and asking her questions.  He snuggled in her lap to listen to a CD of Belgian kid’s music and didn’t budge until it was over.  Today he thanked Kyle and I for bringing him to Belgium, and he asked Chris if he can come back again.  He’s picking up more and more Dutch words, and is now correcting me (accurately) on pronunciations – I never would have imagined it.  The adorableness is just oozing off of him.  It’s going to be hard to leave.

We will miss you at playgroup tomorrow.  Have fun and say hi to everyone for us.  We promise to be back next week, and Tea may try to smuggle in a little chocolate for the kids (before noon, L 😉 ).


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meanwhile, back in wisconsin…

Dear Robin,

It is 9:00 at night and 72 degrees out. I am wilting. But because I am currently obsessed with all things garden I spent the whole day playing in dirt, first at Lib’s house and then at mine. You should see the hostas I got from Lib. I am in love. (I understand that using the phrase “you should see” is a good indicator that I should include a photo of said thing that you should see, but by the time I showered off the 18 layers of mud and got Pia to sleep the sun had set.) Yes, the heat is a bear, but everywhere I look there are amazing things happening in the garden. Like the clematis (above) in bloom, the adorable inchworm we found, the frog hanging out on the watering can at Lib’s and the double intoxication of lilac and lily of the valley blooms. And our first ripe strawberries!

Tomorrow I have a date with 80 kindergarten kids and as many empty plastic cassette cases. I’m hoping the results are as cool as the image in my head. I’ve never led an art project of this scale before. Wish me buckets of luck!