Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Wow. I can't believe that I am finally home. This past week has been a blur. On Thursday night I said goodbye to Brussels and headed by train to London with all of my belongings. Suzie and Stephen picked me up and I stayed at their house for the night. The next morning we all had a delicious breakfast together and by the afternoon I was ready to go to Heathrow airport. I took the long tube ride and made it to Heathrow in plenty of time to check my baggage and take a deep breath.

I will take a moment here to explain how my anxiety had been growing day by day for the past week. Apparently an enormous snow storm was in full swing at home in Seattle and my worst fear was that my plane wouldn't be able to land due to weather conditions. Even if I could land at Seatac, the likelihood that I might not have anyone to greet me was yet another worry twirling around in my mind.

With many prayers and incredible timing I successfully landed in Seattle... we were even 20 minutes ahead of schedule! I went through customs in a blur of exhaustion after a 10 hour flight and I searched with anticipation for a familiar face. It was amazing to see my mom scanning the crowds for me and I knew that I could finally relax after a week filled with anxiety and worry. Thankfully, my mom, dad, and I arrived safely at home late Friday night.

I wasn't at home for long. Saturday afternoon the snow came flying down so I went over to Seattle so that I would not miss the Nutcracker with Hailey, Tatum, Sarah, and Derek. It was amazing to see the girls after being away for so long. We played in the snow, drank hot tea, laughed, and had a wonderful time the entire weekend. It was so much fun to be snowed in for a couple nights with people I love so dearly!

I came home before Christmas and I cannot even explain how amazing it was to see my family all together after being gone for four months. Christmas day was such a gift. Little Torsten's head of curly hair thickened considerably while his vocabulary had far surpassed what it was when I left in August. Sweet little Aadie is who has really changed! She has grown so big and her face is too precious to even describe.

Being away made me appreciate what I have even more than before. I am so grateful for the joy, love, and sacrifice that my family and friends bring to me life. What an incredible gift to have people waiting with anticipation for you no matter how far away you are!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

European Parliament

Today I was able to tour the European Parliament. A friend of mine works there and offered to give me a tour before I left, so I just couldn't pass the opportunity up!

My friend met me there and he filled out some paperwork so that I could get into the building. It was quite the process just to get past security. They checked my passport, took a picture of me, and I went through a metal detector. Once inside I was able to see some of the offices and tour around the massive buildings that are all connected and make up the Parliament.

The coolest part was the huge room where they discuss and pass bills. There are 23 official languages within the parliament. High above all of the seats are little box offices where the translating is done for every language. On the outside the language is written on the window so everyone can see which language is being translated. Languages include Bulgarian, Maltese, German, Swedish, and Romanian.
The European Parliament has two meeting places: Strasbourg, France and Brussels, Belgium. The complex in Brussels houses committee meetings, political groups, and plenary sessions (conferences where all parties are in attendence). It was incredible to go into such a massive establishment that houses one of the most powerful legislatures in the world .

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gennie's Birthday Party!

This past weekend we celebrated Gennie's 18th birthday. The party had been in the works for months. So, needless to say, Gennie was ecstatic.

Suzie, Stephen, Max, and his girlfriend Charlotte all came over for the big birthday bash. All day Saturday we prepared. The most important errand on our agenda was to find costumes. Theme: Cowboys and Indians. After perusing the big Party Store in Brussels for some time, we found the perfect warrior costume for Stephen; big Chief headdress included. We bought a matching and slightly more dainty version of Stephen's outfit for Suzie to wear. Max bought a cowboy hat and gun for his costume and Charlotte was ready to go with her costume from London. I got a cowboy hat to accesorize my cowgirl attire.

Saturday night we all got ready together. After Stephen, Suzie, Charlotte, and Gennie applied their warrior face paint we were ready to go! Our next move was slightly controversial. We entered a nice Italian restaurant clad in ridiculous costumes (shopping for the perfect outfit does create quite the appetite). We received a plethara of strange glances, several laughs, and one small child looked at us with wide eyes and called out to his mom.

After dinner we headed over to the large bar that they had rented out for Gennie's party. Gennie and four of her friends decided to throw a big birthday party together to share the costs of an open bar. Before long, a slew of about 150 highschoolers came in ready for the night.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Yesterday, my friend Megan and I spent the day in Germany. We left in the morning to go to Aachen, a German town near the border of Belgium. I heard a few weeks ago that Germany is known for their amazing Christmas markets so I knew that this was not something to miss!

The train ride was an hour and a half and when we got to Aachen we were ready to see the infamous market. It wasn't long before we heard music and saw the bustle of people. Literally we turned a corner and the sight was incredible. Lights lined the streets and thousands of people were enjoying the shops and Christmas festivities.

It was funny because my stereotype of Germans and their love for beer and bratwurst was pretty accurate! The crowds of people did not deter anyone from holding their gigantic sausage dogs in one hand and a hefty beverage in the other. The smells were spectacular. Crêpes with nutella, fresh gingerbread, and other goodies were being sold by the hundreds. Little stores were filled with fresh chocolates and cookies that were packaged beautifully for the Holidays.

The Christmas Spirit in Germany was alive and well and I would highly recommend it!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


On Saturday morning Lisa and I were off to Oslo on a train. I figured that when in Norway it is essential to visit the capital city! We had great timing because as soon as we got to Oslo we caught the changing of the guards at the Palace. We walked around the city exploring the shops and watching the people.

We got to visit an old fortress overlooking the harbor. The view was beautiful! Lisa climbed up to pose with F.D.R. while I insisted on a picture with a statue named Jorgen (that one's for you Jorgen!). As we walked along the boardwalk we watched a magnificent sunset.

Oslo is one of the most beautiful cities that I have visited so far. First of all, the company was great, but I also loved the frigid cold, clean air, and pretty landscape. The cold did get the better of us and we were pretty excited when Lisa's friend Ibbe picked us up and we hung out the rest of the night in a nice warm home.

I ended up getting almost no sleep because I was up at 4:15am to catch the train to the airport the next morning. Another fun adventure come to an end!

Friday, November 21, 2008


On Wednesday afternoon I flew out to visit my cousin, Lisa, who is living in Norway. I landed in Oslo and then took an hour train ride north to a town called Hamar. Lars, Lisa's boyfriend, picked me up at the train station and then we met Lisa at work. When I got off the train I was so surprised because a fresh layer of snow had fallen earlier that day! The air was so cold and fresh there.

It was wonderful to see my cousin and I ended up working with her the whole night at the little cafe in which she works. It wasn't very busy so we just hung out, made some food, chatted, and enjoyed catching up. When we got home at 11:30 Wednesday night we fell into bed exhausted.

Thursday was a busy day. We decided before I got to Norway that it was essential to celebrate Thanksgiving together since we wouldn't be with family this year. We took a little walk around town and went shopping for our feast. It was difficult to find the right ingredients for all of the traditional foods that we are used to, but we did our best with what we found. We mashed potatoes by hand, slaved away making bean casserole, turkey, and my Auntie Jill's infamous fruit salad. We topped it off with a homemade apple pie for dessert. Lisa and I were pretty impressed with ourselves that we pulled off a delicious meal all by ourselves. We are pretty sure that Lars and his friend Martin thoroughly enjoyed the wonderfully authentic Thanksgiving dinner due to their sizable second-helpings and content faces.

Friday morning we had a slow start and enjoyed a long walk around Hamar. There's a huge lake near Lisa's apartment and the ice was already starting to build up on the rocks where the water splashed up. We bundled up and I had fun seeing Lisa's town.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


This weekend I went to Granada, a town in southern Spain that lies right next to the Sierra Nevada mountains and an hour from the Mediterranean Sea. It was beautiful! I stayed with a friend and her husband in their apartment right in the center of Granada.

I flew in on Friday afternoon from Brussels and was greeted by my friend at the airport. We dropped my bag off at the apartment and then went out to see the town. The streets and architecture have a completely different feel than other parts of Europe that I have visited. Southern Spain has a lot of Islamic influence so the artwork and colors used for decorations are very unique. The old cathedral in the center of town used to be a mosque that the Muslims built but it was taken by the Spanish and converted into a cathedral.

On Saturday we visited the Alhambra (it was considered for the list of the Seven Wonders of the World). It was a Muslim palace and fortress that overlooks Granada and was completed in the 14th century. The Islamic architecture is incredibly intricate and I was amazed by the details that went into each room. A beautiful stream runs through the gardens and past the palace and mosque that lie within the fortress walls. There are 13 stone towers that come up from the fortress. The Alhambra has a red glow to it because of the redish colored clay that they used when building it. Alhambra literally means "the red one."

Saturday evening we went to a flamenco concert. Granada has a large gypsy population and people come from all over the world to study flamenco music, dancing, and gypsy culture. It was really cool to see this unusual dancing that was accompanied by music on the stage.

Sunday morning we woke up and went to the main square to have authentic Spanish churros. Everyone goes out on Sunday mornings for churros dipped in chocolate... not the most healthy breakfast but it was definitely something I needed to experience! It was very delicious. We then went to the gypsy flee market and wandered around the shops. After that we went back to the apartment for some tea and fruit which we finished off with a Spanish siesta.

We went back out again Sunday night to explore the Albaicin district of Granada. It is one of the oldest parts of the city and it is in the Arab district. We took a small bus that winded up the narrow streets to the top of a huge hill. I think that this was one of the most beautiful parts of the city. Each house had a colorful piece of tile mounted on the stone wall that displayed the name of the house. There were hidden courtyards with colorful flowers and fruit trees around every corner. Apparently it is very expensive to live in some parts of the Albaicin. We then went back down to the center of the city and enjoyed tapas at a restaurant. Tapas are unique to Granada and it is when you go out to a restaurant and order a drink that comes with complimentary food. It was a wonderful way to finish off the weekend!

Monday morning I flew back to Brussels. It felt so good to crawl into my bed and enjoy the comforts of home!