London Calling – Day 2

Well, here it is, just over a month later.

The morning started out with a homemade breakfast of bacon, eggs, cereal, and fruit. Can’t forget the orange juice and coffee. We left around 10 I think. Not too early, but since it was around 1am (for me more like 2) when we went to bed we were both pretty tired. We walked to the tube station and headed out for Camden. We were going to the market. Martha loves markets. Not that I don’t, it’s just for the most part a market is a market. I had a good time and saw some really neat things. I’m glad we went, but she was talking about other markets and would have stayed there a lot longer. I had a lot I wanted to see that day! Here’s a little tidbit for you; Amy Winehouse lived in Camden.

And here we are!


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A Day for Celebration!

Today was a special day. We went out to dinner toasted the last day of school for Bastien, me getting 81.5% in my French course, and I can’t remember what else. I got my ‘attestation’ of completion today. When they were calling out names a couple of times they said Monsieur instead of Madame and vice verse.  When they called my name they started to say Madame and changed it to Monsieur and back to Madame once I got up. To me Holly is definitely feminine, but if you’ve never seen it before it might be hard to tell. I had a chuckle over it. There was more than once course being represented. There were one or two other French courses, one Spanish, one English, and a computer course. I think there was another course, but I don’t know what it was. From one of the others there was a man named Freddy and when his name was called Bastien yelled out ‘hey, Holly, c’est comme toi!’ (because of my panda Freddy). Adeline and I had a giggle fit because of that.


hollyjb LIVE

This little interlude is neither about London or Belgium (sorry), but is just notifying all my followers out there who still wish to keep in touch that I’ve officially started my new blog; hollyjb LIVE. I appologize to deserting you all. I have a lot of catching up to do. And a lot to get used to seeing as how there seems to be quite a few changes to

I’m Back! I Think….

So it’s been a while. Going from blogging every day to not blogging for almost three weeks is a little odd. Then again, I’m at home so it’s just like it was before when I wasn’t blogging. I don’t have a desk (or room for one) in my room so I’m using the dining room table. I’ll eventually move down to the basement, but I’m kind of just in the middle of everything right now and I don’t think of blogging. I have a ton of pictures from when I got back, all the snow that started the day I got home and my room, but I can’t upload them (or charge my camera) because I can’t find my camera cord! That’s kind of bumming me out.

Once I get around to writing my remaining posts about London, and about the day I got back I won’t be writing on this blog anymore. But I have another started if anyone still wants to follow and check it out. I don’t know what I’ll be writing about, but lets hope it stays interesting!


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What Day Is It Again?

Oh my. I’m still so tired. Of course I’ve been going since I got home without getting much of a chance to rest. We’ve had stuff to take care of and lots of running around to do. You can check out a few pictures from yesterday on my Facebook page, but things – of course – weren’t working right and stopped loading. Tomorrow Mom and I are going to Anna Mae’s for breakfast and then on to Listowel to get our hair cut. Just in time for dinner out tomorrow night!

It’s taking me a little longer than I thought to get used to the time change. It may be because Tuesday I was basically up for 24 hours. I got to see all three grandparents today, that was really cool. Also some other family members that was totally random and by chance. Gotta love those moments! Things are basically going to be busy until Tuesday. Not exactly ideal, but what can you do. I’ll be able to ‘chill’ for about a week before starting work. Although there’s a lot of work to be done in my room. I have a lot of purging to do. I left it in a bit of a mess last year and it’s a little overwhelming when I think of how long it will take to get it organized. That’s what happens when you go away and forget about stuff!

Alright. I’m going to bed. I’m a little loopy. Night!


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The Snow Is Here…And So Am I

Yesterday as I was walking on one of those moving carpet thingys I noticed it was snowing. And is just kept right on snowing all day and all night. We got our winter wonderland! By the sounds of it though it will start leaving tomorrow so I took lots of pictures as proof. Unfortunately we were going all day and I’m exhausted. I think I’m finally getting sick too. You know, I have that achy feeling and all and my head is killing me. I planned on writing my post for yesterday and posting some pictures, but I literally got home, opened my diploma, changed into my pjs, and waiting for my computer to load this page.

I feel like crap. I really hope it’s just because I’m tired, but I don’t remember feeling this bad when I went. I guess it’s -11°c out…I took some pictures outside before coming in and my teeth were chattering like crazy. Not used to it ;). So this means that I’m going to bed before I pass out…and I’ll write about Tuesday hopefully tomorrow. Good night!


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Home Sweet Home

This will be short. I’m using my iPod tonight as it’s too late to get out the computer and all. Everything went smoothly except for the fact that we left an hour late, but it didn’t say we were late until after we were supposed to have landed. It’s good to home and my bed is looking so comfy right now. More in-depth post about today to follow. My mother has ordered me to bed ;).

Kind Of Like A Bitter Sweet Symphony

I should be landing in Toronto in about 18 hours. Oh my. It’s past midnight and I’m so tired and yet so energized. I want to go to bed, but I can’t. I was really worried at the beginning of the day, but things are looking up. That’s only because I’m leaving a box of stuff (summer clothes, some shoes, etc.) here for them to mail behind me. It’s costing a lot, but what can you do. At this point I should only have one suitcase that’s overweight, but still under the limit. I can get them both shut with a reasonable amount of effort and I’m still able to lift them myself. Things are looking up. As soon as this post is finished I can pack up my desk and go to bed.

This will be my last time posting in Belgium. I’m so excited to go home and see everyone and yet I’m so sad too. When I left Canada I knew I would be coming back and I knew that this year would hold many exciting things for me. Leaving now it’s different. Hopefully it works out to visit in June, but after that…. I won’t be coming back for a long time. At least we have Skype which helps. When we sat down to lunch today I didn’t have much of an appetite. I was stressing out so bad. When we were finished eating I just sat at the table and started crying. Silently and not very obviously, but crying non the less. It kind of hit me by surprise. I mean, the last couple of nights I’ve become pretty emotional and teary eyed while posting, but it just really hit me at lunch today that I’m leaving and how much I’m actually going to miss it here. Tomorrow is going to be quite the emotional morning. The boys are sleeping in track suits so that they don’t have to take the time to dress them in the morning. They’re even going to have their bottles in the car. Good planning!

Sylvain came into my room a few times and climbed on my one suitcase. I even sucked the air out of the vacuum seal bag while he was sitting on it. I wonder what he thought of that. I spent a little time on and off with the boys today. Mostly Sylvain because he was wandering all around the house and came into my room a lot. I did spend most of the day in my room organizing stuff. And some time just sitting on the floor thinking ‘what am I going to do with all this stuff?’. I did spend some time tweeting and on Facebook and replying to emails to distract myself from the stress. But now that it’s been decided they’ll mail a box for me and I’m able to actually close my suitcases I’m a lot less stressed.

Plans for the coming week keep changing, but they are as follows (for now ;)); tomorrow Mom, Dad, and Lisa will pick me up at the airport. We’ll go home to New Dundee, unload my stuff and then it’s off to London to Lisa and Will’s apartment. Lisa’s truck is at home, so we’ll be taking 2 vehicles. I’ll probably drive with her so she doesn’t have to go alone and because she’s my sis and I love her ^_^. We’ll go to her place, I’ll get to officially meet Will for the first time, and we’ll open Christmas presents. I actually don’t have any for my family :S. I have something for Lisa that I got this summer, but she already knows about it…or at least she did. I wonder if she remembers? Will doesn’t work tomorrow so that’s why we’re doing it then. The 28th is now just getting my Health Card stuff taken care of. After that it’s a welcome home dinner on the 30th, and Roth Christmas on the 1st. I have no idea what I’m doing for New Year’s.

Jean and Valerie came for supper tonight and Jean stayed over so he could come to the airport tomorrow. We watched 2 episodes of Chuck which is one reason I’m posting so late. But I didn’t mind because I don’t have to drive tomorrow and I can at least try to sleep on the plane. This time I’m totally getting up and stretching a few times throughout the flight! It’s 8 hours this way. Coming here it was only 7 and I sat the entire time…by the time we were in landing mode and couldn’t stand up, I was so uncomfortable and wanted to stand so badly…because I couldn’t :P. Hopefully everything will run smoothly and customs won’t hold me up too long. I even typed out my list of things I’m declaring so if they ask me any questions it’s all right there.

And I totally have a small burn mark on my forehead now >_<. The straightener Jean got me for Christmas is about twice the size of my old one and heavier so handling it is a little tricky for me until I get used to it. So I burned myself :P. Once I figure out how it handles and how the rotating barrel works best it will be awesome. I just have to get used to the different size. So right now it’s a little awkward.

I’m so excited to show my family my ‘picture book’! And I do actually have some stuff I’m bringing back that is a surprise for Mom…tee hee hee ^_^. So she’ll have something to ‘open’ after all! Dad wanted me to bring him some Jupiler beer back, but I forgot until a little while ago and I have no room for it regardless. Sorry Dad :(.

I’m debating on whether or not to wear make-up tomorrow because I know there will be tears, but I think I’ve decided I will. I want to at least attempt to look human for the pictures I’m sure will be taken at different point in the day. 😉 I guess this is it. I don’t have anything else to say at the moment so this is a good time to call it quits.

See you all on the other side!


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Christmas In Wasseiges & Evening In Liège

First of all – Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes to all no matter what you celebrate and believe in. May you be blessed with the love of family and friends all year round!

I slept in this morning. I didn’t realize I was so tired. I’m not really sure why either. Turns out I didn’t need to get up as early as I planned, but still. I attended mass today with Adeline and Bastien. Greg stayed home with Sylvain, you know, with him being sick and loving to wander around and all. Bastien played a shepherd! Too cute. And he had his little stuffed dog up there with him. It was my first time stepping foot inside the church I’ve lived next to this past year. It was at 10:30, so not too early. I was actually awakened by the sound of phone beeping telling me I had received a text. It was Greet saying Merry Christmas and sorry we couldn’t get together. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, Greet was an exchange student with a family we know in New Dundee before Jean came to live with us. She lives in Antwerp. My parents visited her this summer. That’s one place in Belgium they’ve been that I haven’t!

After mass we came home and opened the rest of the Christmas gifts. I got Bastien a collection of Grimm brother’s Fair Tales (illustrated). He was a little put out, said it was a book for big kids because there were no pictures (or something like that). Adeline showed him the pictures. It may in fact be a little old for him, but he can grow into it and it’s actually a really nice book, it has a ribbon bookmark and everything! Sylvain got a book as well. His is really short (only 5 or 6 pages) with only a couple of lines per page. It also has a teddy head that when you push its nose it lights up and plays ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Only thing is it plays the music quite loud. Greg made a valid point when he commented how all music in books and things designed to make kids go to sleep is always really loud with no way of changing the volume. For Greg and Adeline I got an egg separator (yolks from whites) and salt and pepper mills (their other ones broke…they still work, they just don’t look as nice anymore).

I also got a box of assorted Neuhaus chocolates from Sybille. She originally gave a box to me Friday night, but then accidentally took it and opened it for us. There was some confusion with the multiple chocolate boxes. She was a little upset that she gave me one and then took it away so today she dropped one off. I’m excited to dig in. Unfortunately for my family I won’t be bringing them home. There’s no room in the inn…er…suitcase! I’m being serious though, it’s a relatively heavy box and I don’t have any room to spare. So I’m going to share them with Greg, Adeline, Jean-Go, and Val Ou tomorrow.

I continued to organize my ‘life’. I folded all of my clothes and reorganized where I’m placing certain things. I won’t really know where I stand as far as space goes until I get my clothes all vacuum sealed and ready to go. Then I’ll be able to figure out the rest. My pjs will just go on top. I think I’ll do that first tomorrow and then go make sure the car is clean…on the inside at least. I had planned to go last week and wash it, but that was my Thursday or Friday trip and with the boys being sick it didn’t happen. I might still go tomorrow and check it out. As far as feeling like I have enough room and not, it goes back and forth a lot. Sometimes I’m ok, sometimes I’m freaking out. I guess I’ll just take care of things as they happen. I can’t believe it’s only 2 sleeps away!

I decided on a whim to call my family today to wish them a Merry Christmas. I managed to talk to both my parents and Lisa before my phone ran out of credit. I knew that would happen, but I don’t need it anymore so I feel it was a good phone call to make. Everyone had just woken up from not so good sleeps so they all sounded groggy and tired. I felt bad. It was around 9:15am in Canada when I called. Not too early, but still a little bit. And I guess we’re not having a Brenneman family get together on the 28th. Mom said she emailed me, but I didn’t see it….

After naps we went to Liège. This was originally planned for tomorrow as something for my last day in Belgium, but I’m glad we went tonight. I think I’m going to be a bit of a mess tomorrow. If my mental state the days before and on the day I left Canada are anything to go by I might go a little crazy with nerves. I’m just like that. I still have to make my declaration list! Actually, I don’t think I technically need one, but I want to make one so that if they decide to question me I have all that information right there and don’t need to try to remember of f the top of my head. Apparently if I would be leaving a day later I would be considered to have been gone an official year and could claim things differently. The tax-free amount stays the same, but anything that I’ve bought and used for at least 6 months would not need to be claimed….and there’s some other stuff about that too, like personal household items or something. But in order to qualify for the year thing I would need to come home the 28th. Dec. 28th-Dec. 28th. Oh well. Too late now. 😛

Anyway, Liège. It was dark by the time we got there, but that made enjoying all the Christmas lights even better. We walked around the Christmas market for a while, all the booths are made to look like little wooden huts all decorated up for Christmas, so magical. Just like the Christmas Market I walked through in London (pictures can be viewed on my FB page). We stopped to get some baked goods. Bastien got a waffle and I got another pastry with sugar clumps and raisins that in Liège is called a bonhomme, but Adeline knew it by a different name. Greg got a speculoos flavoured square. I also saw the Palace of the Prince-Bishops. We also went for a ride on the Ferris wheel which provided a really neat view with all the Christmas lights.

I finally tried Peket! It usually comes in a little shot glass, but where we got them they were a bit bigger than that. I got strawberry flavoured, Greg raspberry, and Adeline lemon. I think I actually preferred the lemon. Adeline said I could not come to Liège and not try some. I think this was my 3rd opportunity so I had to take it. 20% alcohol and I had to down my second half of it…I’m a slow drinker. I didn’t have to down it, but everyone else was finished. Bastien had even finished his juice box! We also had some hot wine which wasn’t bad. I prefer hot apple cider myself, but apart from the slight burn (from the alcohol, not the temperature) it felt good going down.

We also came across a Canada booth from Quebec! I was the first to spot it…and the last to walk by it :P. So we stopped and took pictures. We talked to the people running the booth, told them I was Canadian, you know, the usual stuff. The one women had a headband with Canadian flags sticking up out of them and she let me borrow it for a couple of pictures. We also bought cheese curds and gravy mix to make poutine!!! I don’t know if we’ll do that tomorrow or not. It’s not like I can get some when I get home :P. And they had real maple syrup there and other maple products and everything! For those who don’t know, the slogan on Ontario license plates is YOURS TO DISCOVER. What I didn’t know – but found out tonight – is that for Quebec it’s LA BELLE PROVINCE (or ‘the beautiful province’). I haven’t seen enough of Quebec to confirm or contradict that statement, but I can believe it. I just thought it was so funny to come across that tonight. Awesomeness!

Then we went for supper and of course I had the Liège meatballs. They came with your choice of potato (yeah, went with fries) and a tiny little salad. They weren’t bad I just found them to be sort of bland. Maybe that was my taste buds playing with my mind or maybe they just weren’t the best meatballs. You can’t have amazing food every time you go out :D. Sylvain was – as usual, especially these days – quite entertaining, but a bit on the hard to handle side. Grabbing everything, ripping up the paper place mat….and Bastien was his usual not-wanting-to-eat self. I sat beside him and he was actually (at least at first) happy about that. He did give me a big hug and told me he loved me. And as a way to distract/calm him down before the food arrived I read to him the story he had brought (Disney’s The Fox and the Hound or Rox et Rouky).

We ended up misplacing Sylvain’s soother somewhere so he didn’t have it in the car on the way home. I think he was tired of being stuck sitting down (he had been in a stroller most of the time, only getting out to ride the merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, and walk around a little), and just tired so he cried until we were a little over 10 minutes from home and then he fell asleep. He seemed to be in a good mood after waking up though. He cried at first, but by the time his shoes were off and his coat and stuff put away, he gave me a kiss* and a wave goodnight with a smile on his face. *His version of kisses are sometimes just resting his head or his cheek against you. New Sylvain update! He’s starting to get the head nodding and shaking down. It’s so cute to see him respond yes or no to a question. Because of course up until now I’m just used to talking to him and not expecting any kind of real answer. I know I talk about Sylvain a lot, more than Bastien, and it’s not because I like him more, it’s just that at his age he does a lot more growing in a shorter period of time. So things are always changing.

Back up to Christmas stuff – in his stocking Bastien got a collection of plastic pirates with a little treasure chest, pirate skeleton, and cannon. Sylvain got a bath toy, but also another gift – a castle complete with knights, a king/prince, a princess, and other figures. At one point today Bastien said he killed the prince and princess with his canon – I said that wasn’t nice and I don’t like mean pirates and I think he said (I forget, not because I didn’t understand) they’re not really dead, it’s just a joke. I am so going to miss the crazy antics of these boys. I’m also going to miss evening TV time with Greg and Adeline – our reactions to things that happen and such. And also the fact that Adeline – or I – will break out into random song – usually because the lyrics have something to do with something someone just said – and I’ll join in. Sometimes in unison, sometimes in parts, but either way it’s really fun and I’m going to miss that.

And oh my goodness it’s almost 2am!! Approximately 40 or so hours until I’m in Toronto! BAH!!!!


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Christmas Eve And A Little Taste Of Home

This morning we were all up and about shortly after 10. Well, the others were up a bit before that. I had to go to the Commune to get a sheet stating that I’m returning home. After that I came back and helped Greg clean up the kitchen before occupying (or trying to) Sylvain while Greg and Adeline vacuumed and mopped the main floor. It kind of needs it more often because the cat drags mud in everywhere!

Eventually they asked me to go the bakery to pick up the cake they had ordered while they finished up at the house. It was a pretty happening place! Pretty sure it was my last trip there. Finally I made my way home, cake in hand, and arrived at the same time as Greg’s family. Talk about timing! After saying all the hellos and such Jean-Phillip (Greg’s brother and Bastien’s godfather) gave Bastien his St. Nicolas gift he hadn’t had a chance to give to him yet. It was a fishing game. You set up 4 pieces of wood to make a square sort of well type thing and inside you toss the pieces (frogs, fish, and starfish). All are magnetized and so are the rods. Then you go fishing. Bastien had a lot of fun with it.

After starting the champagne and chips, veggies, and other appetizer items we had our hands full preventing Sylvain from taking a handful of chips and getting them all over the floor. Eventually he grabbed a mini cucumber and Adeline set him on the couch where he sat fairly quietly eating. Then we started with gifts. Bastien would go grab one and whoever got the gift would tell him who it was for.

My first big surprise was a gift from Adeline and Greg. I could tell it was some sort of book and made a guess of another recipe book. Not quite. It’s a book that they put together of my pictures from arrive until the end of November. Since I gave Adeline all my pictures there are two whole pages in the back of pictures of me when I was fooling around with hats and hair and self-taken picture camera angles. Not to mention silly faces. Embarrassing pictures, not intended for anyone to see :P. I happened to open to the back accidentally when I first opened it and saw those and made a sort of ‘oh no’ gasping sound. Adeline and Greg started laughing because they knew exactly what I had seen. It’s such an amazing gift. I actually cried a bit. I don’t think I’ve ever cried from receiving a gift before. So thoughtful and creative. It sure makes it easy to share my year with people! Of course there are no pictures from December, but she left a bit of blank space. I’ll have to print out and cut and paste a few in there. There’s even two pages of the boys with the tag line: kids grow up so fast (something like that) and the pictures start with Sylvain back when I got her and show the progression of the boys this year. It’s amazing to see the difference! And there are pages separated into the places I went, and even separate pages for food and drinks. I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

My year in pictures! What an amazing, thoughtful gift. ^_^

My next gift was just as surprising and no less meaningful. I didn’t know what it was at first because it was in a gift bag. Once I got that open I saw the inside and I knew – my Christmas Eve pjs! Let me back track a bit. Every Christmas Eve we have dinner with my Dad’s family. And every year from as far back as I can remember – and even farther – my Grandma has made pyjamas for all the grand-kids. The styles varied when we were younger. I remember seeing pictures of one year Lisa and I in long nightgowns with cute little, frilly sleeping caps. I think the pattern was little grey mice on white. And on the front of the nightgowns were our initials in glow-in-the-dark stuff (I don’t know what it was or what to call it). We looked so cute! Some years they were one piece, but mostly they were your average pants and button down top. In these last 5-7 years or so she’s just been making the pants and buying t-shirts that match the main colour of the pants because the pants we would all wear year round, but the tops hardly ever (I know Lisa and I really only wore them around Christmas just after getting them and then we’d just wear t-shirts anyway) so they looked new and the pants were worn. This makes sense and it’s also less work for my Grandma. I think one year a while ago she had considered stopping, but we made a bit of an uproar at that. And it’s not just my sister and I, but Josh and Aaron as well. And I’m sure Nicole and Ryan love them as much as we do. I did send an email yesterday saying that as much as we love them when Grandma needs to stop she’s not to feel like she has to keep making them just to please us. We can’t be that selfish.

My pjs! My two pairs here with me are green and the first thing Adeline said was 'they're not green!'. As you can see I hadn't even taken off the size sticker yet :P.

That’s not the only part of the tradition. Sometimes it changes, but the mostly we open the stockings (all homemade my Grandma) before supper. Then we eat and once things are all cleaned up and the extra table put away we all settle into the living room by the tree. Someone gets appointed to hand out gifts and they start with the pjs. Those are obvious to spot because a few years ago Grandma made these cloth bags with Velcro and our names sewn on them to put the pjs in. Such a ‘green’ idea (they’re actually green :P)! We wait until all of us ‘kids’ (the youngest is 20 now I think…I’m the oldest) have our packages and then we run off to find a place to change. Once we’ve all changed and are back in the living room we gather for a picture. Then we let the paparazzi do their thing and we just smile and look pretty. Josh and Aaron usually like to make a fuss. I’m not sure if they actually don’t like it or if they just like to liven things up a little.  Then we get down to business exchanging the other gifts. In the past couple of years we’ve decided – now that we’re all older – to do a Secret Santa type gift exchange. So at Thanksgiving we all write a few items on pieces of paper (lately they’ve been pre-prepared by Grandma with names and price limit and stuff – so organized!), put them in a container and do a draw. The funniest part is that we all know it’s coming, but we all forget so no one ever knows what to write and we spend a lot of time humming and hawing. It’s kind of funny actually. Another constant is socks. We always get socks from Grandma in another of her cloth, labelled bags. And usually some sort of homemade household item. Like the gifts Mom brought for Adeline, Sybille, and the others. The dish carriers. There’s a round one (with a drawstring and handles) and a rectangle one that has Velcro flaps and handles as well. Perfect for carrying hot dishes, but would work with cold too. They are of course labelled with name and date. I’ve got a lot of lovely mats to put under hot dishes and all kinds of other things (including a cloth checker board). My Grandma loves to sew and he family reap all the benefits. Thanks Grandma!

And here is my 'green' pj bag. You can sort of see my name on the bottom there. She actually did the same thing with Halloween - she made a little drawstring bag with a carved pumpkin face and our names to put candy in. Of course we always had to give them back afterwards!


So I opened up the pjs, but I didn’t put them on right away. That would have been just a tad awkward. That was oddity #1 in regard to the C.E. pjs. Oddity #2 was the fact that it was still daylight when I opened them. I emailed my Dad a few pictures so he could show Grandma and the family with his Blackberry. I guess my Mom had brought the pjs with her this summer. Way to go Grandma being so ahead of the game! I am so well-loved by my family. ^_^

As far as the boys’ routines with naps and such everything was thrown out of whack today and they were super tired. They were actually fed and in bed before 7. Woah. I do know that Bastien enjoyed himself. I did too. It was a good day. I’ve enjoyed all the family gatherings. I forgot to mention that Sylvain has a fascination with cleaning supplies and accessories. He would just stand there and watch Greg vacuum (sometimes tripping over the cord, sometimes being in the way). Then he did the same when Adeline mopped. Then again I guess he’s never really been home and awake when cleaning has taken place so it would be sort of new to him. And he does like to observe things. A lot.

Being away from the usual family traditions makes me realize even more how much I miss them, but also just what is all actually tradition and we just don’t think of it that way. What are some of your family traditions that you would miss if you went away?



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