Monday, January 26, 2009

This guy is comfortable with himself.

Ya gotta love seeing people like this.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bagels in Belgium, Fire, New Job and New Rug

So I suppose the first thing to report is the existence of a bagel place here in Brussels. One within walking distance. One that makes them fresh. Not only that, but the place itself is comfortable and homey. They play great music, encourage hanging out with a shelf full of books (most of them in French, some in Dutch), and offer a full menu of lovely bagels. In other words... I am very happy.

Miguel and I went last weekend and during a long chat I've decided to add a new segment to this blog. "Weird Brussels." Look out for it.

So last Sunday night we were settling in after going to see Burn After Reading and we heard sirens. Normally, this is no big deal, but they were louder than usual, so we went to the window. Outside 3 fire trucks and an ambulance were stopping just outside our building! We immediately ran downstairs to see what was going on. After being joined by other neighbors we asked a fireman who said there was smoke in the building next to ours (they're connected) and the floor above ours (we're on the 3rd). We stand and watch as the cherry picker (no idea what that would be called here) went up to the window. They had to use force to open the window, and when they did the smoke started coming out. Miguel said "We're not ready for a fire!" I looked at him, trying to suppress a laugh and said "No one is ready for a fire!" After standing around a while longer to make sure things were safe we chatted with neighbors until it was definitely safe. So that was the big news for that night!

The other news of the week (other than having a new president) is this: I started my job! Granted it's very part time (9 hours a week), but it's something, and it's something I enjoy! I am babysitting/working with a 5 yo American boy who has special needs, most likely autism. (Interestingly enough, this is the same American family we got our cats from, so I hang out with our cats' mother while there.) Anyway, I spend 3 hours a day, 3 days a week playing with Faisal and getting him to communicate with me. We play with play dough, read, play tracks (build train tracks), color (I drew an awesome killer whale for him and he scribbled over most of it), and watch the killer whale part of Happy Feet. So far he responds really well to me, imitates what I do and say and seems to have a great time. So I hope that will continue to go well.

Oh, and starting a couple nights ago there was a smell of gasoline in the apartment, coming mostly from downstairs. Awesome. So we called our maintenance guy, who couldn't find any problem, but opened the stairwell windows. So we decide to check that we're not getting an pigeons inside and sure enough, not only was there a big fat pigeon on the stairs, but there was also pigeon poop/pee over 2 stairs! And of course, WE had to clean it up. Stupid bird. As if the noise they make outside the bathroom isn't enough.

In other news, we FINALLY bought a rug! No more hard, cold, wood floor for us. It's as much to keep us warm as it is to make the living room look nice. It's a great rug, and it was VERY much on sale. I really wanted a Persian-style rug, and am quite pleased. The cats are obsessed with it, and therefore it had to be vacuumed today, not even 24 hours after the purchase had been made.

Speaking of the cats, Cleo had a little accident today. She hasn't learned that fire is painful yet, though she has gotten too close to the heater or a candle in the past, because some of her eyebrow-whiskers were curly/singed about a month ago. This time, she got the rest of her eyebrow whiskers, and also her paw. One of the little tea lights was flickering, and Cleo thought to bat at it/teach it a lesson, resulting in a slightly burned paw. She tried to play it cool like she had known what she was doing all along, but some of her fur on that paw was blackened. Poor kitty. Too bad it was also really funny.

And to end on a fun/cute note, here are a few of the cats being, well, cats. Enjoy! Oh, and please note, anyone can comment on this, even if they don't have blogs. So, Mom? Dad? Jake? Anyone?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Back in Brussels

So as of Dec. 30, Miguel and I re-entered freezing mainland Europe, and made our way back to Brussels. We came home to a freezing, messy apartment with a few cat messes and no food, we do live a glamorous life. There was not much to be done that night, or really, in the next few days because of New Years, so we settled in.

The 31st I woke up with a chest cough, which made unpacking nearly impossible, so that was put off yet again. We did manage to have a great New Years night though. Our friend Fionnuala had us over to her apartment, which was great, because I finally got to meet her boyfriend, Matt, from Paris. He and I had quite a few things in common, including being constantly approached by strangers no matter what city or country he or I was in. (For me, whether it's a raving lunatic, a drunk dude on a bus, someone asking for directions in a place I don't know, or even just a tourist, they always approach me, and feel like they can talk. I rarely meet other people with a similar, um, disposition?) Anyway, the evening was grand, we had lots of wine and chili for dinner. We only stayed until about 1am, and then we decided to be civilized and leave.

After that night, we had a few days when Miguel didn't have to go back to work, so we had some time to clean up, stock the kitchen, get the cats readjusted and get ready for our house guests... And so begins a brief (yeah right) account of our visit with Christy, Alex and Niall (aka. Golly).
This is the best picture we could get of all of us. The visit was great despite the crowded apartment. For those of you thinking to come and visit us, be forewarned, we have a futon that 2 sleeping people can fit on, if you have a 3rd person in your party, bring a sleeping bag or something! Golly, the one lying across, had no such thing, but he managed to sleep ok with the help of wine.

Because Miguel had work, I took to showing them around. As many of you know, my sense of direction is, well, special, but I managed not to get lost, even without a map! We wandered around the Grand Place, saw the Parliament, the Manekin Pis (who was wearing an Elvis suit, for some reason), the palace (where Christy and Golly rang the doorbell where there was a sign in both French and Dutch that said NOT to do that), and the bodies exhibit. The exhibit was amazing, totally worth the 16 euros. The boys impressed every person they passed with their pure class. Their version of "merci beaucoup" (which they said wherever they went) was "merry buckets." They took pictures of the "Kunst-Wet" metro station (in french it's called Arts-Loi meaning art and writing). They took pictures in front of the gay bar, Homo Erectus, and just generally terrorized the town. It was hysterical, and really fun, not only did I get to play tour guide (which I love, even if I don't know where I'm going) but I got to cut loose a little bit.

We had a big party (well, big by our standards) that Thursday, for which I made Nana's chocolate cake! It was a lot harder than I anticipated, seeing as I didn't have a mixer, I ended up borrowing one from a neighbor for the frosting, otherwise it would have been near impossible. I also made some sugar cookies. We had 15 people over, the most we've ever had, and had a fantastic time! The cake was for the birthdays of several people, including myself. The cats wanted a piece too... Too bad chocolate is bad for cats. The evening was a great success, and I met some cool new people and expanded my social circle a tiny bit more.

Soon after that our guests left and things almost went back to normal. Another of Miguel's friends was visiting from Barcelona, Iverna. She wasn't staying with us, but we hung out with her a few times, which was great, she was really cool. And we now have an open invitation to Barcelona!

So I'm sure there is more to tell, but this is long enough. I'll be writing again soon!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Spain, the Highlights

So Miguel and I were in Spain for about 2 weeks. That is an awful lot of postponed blogging, so it's shortcut time! The highlights of Tenerife... (In no specific order).

1) Siestas. Siestas are awesome. Every day, after about 2pm, sometimes 3, everyone would adjourn to their rooms and stay the
re for a couple hours, meaning, nap time! It was awesome.

2) The drive around the island. Miguel, his dad, his brother, Andre and I took a day to take the full trip around Tenerife, via car.
-We annoyed the red car in front of us by tailgaiting
so much he had to pull over!
-We got a great view of the Island.
-We were told to "Shh!" every couple of seconds by Andre, who was trying to read "Twilight." (I told him it was for girls, hahaha)
-Miguel's brother, 13 yo Andre likes to yell suggestive things at women. We were passing a biker, and he started yelling "guapa!" He got as far as "guap..." before he realized the biker wa
s a man!
-We almost ate lunch at Hooters!
-We ended up eating lunch at "The Chinese," which was actually pretty good, but no Cheng Du.
-I napped, open-mouthed, all the way home.
-Also, getting to call Miguel SeƱor Cebollas (Mr. Onions) all day because he ate raw onions and smelled like them for HOURS.

3) We watched "Almost 300," a cheap rip-off of "300." It was actually hilarious. Family entertainment for all.

4) Miguel senior's jokes. All very difficult to translate, mostly involving gay people, whore houses and other sundry things. Miguel junior decided to stop
translating at one point I learned not to ask.

5) The grocery stores. Some of them were HUGE. The best part was the fish area where they had tons of whole fish, crabs, shrimp, octopuses /octopi, squid, etc. Dad, you would have loved it!

There was also a wall of serrano ham (like parma ham b
ut tastier), which is basically a cured pig leg. Not terribly appetizing, but neither were the shrimp with legs and antennae.

6)Our trip to Loro (parrot) Parque (park)!
There were parrots, penguins, fish of all kinds, tigers, gorrillas, and of course, parrots! We walked in through the "Thai Village," after a brief argument with the ticket lady, we proceeded to spend our day amidst the wildlife. We saw a parrot show, a dolphin show, an orca show and a sea lion show! All of this was followed by a ride on a long yellow train and then a hike up a mountain thing to get to the bus stop. DEFinitely needed a siesta after that day!

7)Our Noche Buena (the night before Christmas) feast! We had lots of different kinds of cheese. We also had a stuffed turkey and potatoes. The turkey was delicious, but I called it a Turken, because it was about the size of a chicken. That thing wouldn't have survived a US Thanksgiving dinner of 3 people!

8) Our Christmas Day dinner at an old
converted Monastery. Check this place out! There were several different kinds of restaurants in this place. We ate with Miguel's Dad, Anke, Andre and Anke's friend Antje and her family. It was a lot of fun, especially wandering around the monastary and looking at all the animals on the grounds. They had everything from goats to these animals I affectionately named: Turducks or Durkeys. See if you can guess why...

Yep. Durkeys. I got Tiramisu for dessert, and they put a candle in it, and sang happy birthday to me in Spanish, and I blew it out. It was the only time I've ever eaten in a restaurant on my birthday! Silly Christmas, everything being closed...

9) Meeting Maria Jesus
(nicknamed Bubi). She is Miguel's aunt, and completely hilarious, despite not knowing English. We first met when Miguel Sr. made his famous paella...

We saw her several times after that. My favorite time was at the Casino, which really isn't a casino, but a member's only club for the rich and/or well bred. She did a good job spreading the gossip. She then told us about her exorcism!! That's right. She had an exorcism done on herself. She said that when the priest (who does this free of charge for those suffering from black magic) touched her forehead, he jumped back! He told her it was a blond woman wishing her ill, and doing, well, god knows what. I was more fascinated than anything.

10) Getting Miguel's hair cut. Now for this one, I don't have a picture... yet. I have plenty on my camera, which is currently in the custody of a friend and has been as of New Years. Anyway, after everyone complained about Miguel's hair being too long, it started acting up. Miguel's hair did, that is. So, we were forced to go and get it cut, with Miguel Sr.'s friend Cristel. She was a total riot (we had met her before) and spoke perfect English, though she was German. We had a good laugh, drank some Vermouth, and were on our way.

So there you have it, 10 highlights of Spain. There could be more, but 10 is such a nice number to stop at. Plus, it's dinner time! Until next time!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Just a quick one...

So I know it's been a while, and you all are probably chomping at the bit for more of my adventures... And I will satisfy your curiosity... At a time when Cleo (one of the cats) is not intent on posting her own entry (mostly containing a lot of "q"s). She won't take her paw off the computer, so I'm assuming she's impatient for me to get off. Both she and her sister are very curious about the computer, as evident by the following picture...

So there you have the babies. They were very happy to see us when we got back from Spain. There is going to be a massive blog about that, whenever I can get to it. I'll say this, it took me a while to get over the jet lag, missing 2 nights of sleep, missing my usual Christmas with my family, etc. But all in all, it was a good trip, I enjoyed the warmer weather (though it was icky for quite a bit of the time) and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting that side of Miguel's family. I only wish my Spanish were a bit bettter. So for now, just a couple pictures of Tenerife...

So I hope everyone had a great Christmas/Hannukah, and Happy New Year to all!