A Very Musical Christmas

First I need to mention something that happened at the end of the night so I don’t forget. We’re almost home. In the car is Adeline, me, and the boys. Bastien is sleeping, but because he’s in just a booster seat he’s fallen across into the middle (instead of sleeping against the door). Sylvain…is not asleep. When  we finally get home Adeline notices a soother in his mouth and one in his lap. So he either dropped his or took it out on purpose and grabbed Bastien’s from him mouth and started using it. Crazy kid!

Speaking of Sylvain, he had a rough day. I’ve never heard him cry so much. He did have some really good moments though and I was able to catch some on film. I got some pics of them in my suitcase. They both fit! I had most of my clothes in my vacuum seal bag before dumping them all out because I wanted to sort through them and re-fold everything. I’ve decided to do some purging. You know how they say that if you haven’t worn something in a year to get rid of it because you won’t wear it? Well, I’m doing some of that. I brought with me 3 pairs of jeans. 1 I never wear and might have only worn once while here simply because I was short on pants that day. Donate! My other 2 pairs are too worn in places for me to wear. Now, between my Grandmothers we could patch these up and fix them, but I’m not going to for 3 reasons: 1) I bought them both for $15 2) my suitcases aren’t getting any bigger and my spacial reckoning/visualization is horrible = I think I have more stuff than room and 3) they’re too big. I was constantly pulling them up. And since they’re those handy (but somewhat impractical) pull-up, stretchy types there are no belt loops. My Mom brought a new pair for me this summer. I wear them now, although by all accounts they shouldn’t fit because they’re way smaller than the other ones. It’s all because of the stretch. 😛 So I’m throwing those 2 pairs out. The pair of dress pants I brought (that I wore once) are way too big and look much to sloppy to be dressy…donate! There are a few other items that I’m going to donate that I didn’t pay that much for so I don’t feel anxious about it. Also, since all of my slippers I brought (including the 2 pairs Grandma Roth made me) are all ripped and are kind of useless so they’re being tossed. I’m doing everything I can to create space. I’m not sure if it’s going to work. Which means I might have to mail stuff after all. Maybe I’m jumping the gun a little. I’ll get back to you on that.

So tonight we went to Sybille’s for Christmas. It was a small affair in comparison to the other Christmases we’ve had. All the kids are sick. Actually, I think it was the girls who gave the boys their coughs ;). And of course there was champagne! It will be strange going to a family gathering and not having a bit of bubbly. After the appetizers (I had one with mushrooms, ham, and a creamy cheese with a garnish, the name of which I don’t know in English and can’t spell in French) we opened presents. I was sort of expecting one from Jean because he asked me if I had replaced my straightener yet (did I mention in broke? That’s another I might as well leave behind since it doesn’t work). I did, in fact, get a straightener. It has a rolling barrel and is a wide one which will take a little getting used to because my old one was very thin. It says it’s a 5-1 on the box – it can straighten, volumize, curl, shape the tips, and add softness and shine (it has removable combs). This is really good advertising, especially for someone who isn’t familiar with straighteners. You can do all these things with any straightener if you know or develop the techniques. But certain things work better with some than others and I already tried this one out and it can curl just like a curling iron! Plus it straightens really well too. You can change the direction the barrel rotates too. The first time I used it I startled myself – the rotating barrel makes a noise. If you put it in the centre it doesn’t rotate and therefore doesn’t make noise, but from what I’ve found you get a better result if it rotates. For Jean I got a cook book. Not just any cook book mind you, but one with around 300 recipes from around the world. He liked it a lot. I’m glad. I’m horrible and choosing gifts for people.

From Aurore and Jeff (an unexpected gift) I also got a cook book. A Belgian cook book. It has a Waterzooi recipe in it (handy!) that uses shrimp (which I don’t like), but I can always just substitute it with craw-fish. It also has the chicken version. It has everything from drinks to desserts. It serves 3 purposes – gives me even more of a reason to cook, will help me share my time in Belgium with others through food, and is in French so will help me keep up with it. I’ll definitely have to carefully read through each recipe I undertake before I even think about starting it. Another unexpected gift came from Charles. It’s an easy arrangement piano book of 12 hit songs from Adele. I was so excited! I always love getting new music (I won’t lie and say I was getting a bit tired of playing the stuff from the books I have with me) and it will be fun to learn these songs. Unfortunately I forgot Freddy, so no picture with Charles. THANK YOU EVERYONE!

Bastien, among other things, got a Spiderman costume, complete with muscles. Hilariously adorable. Him and Clémence each got a light up globe and were both shown where Belgium is and where Canada is. Jean was fiddling around on the piano and Maëline started dancing. Jean then started playing – oh my goodness…I should know this, but I can’t remember what it was! – something snappy and she continued dancing. Of course everyone got out their cameras and started filming. We also took a group photo. Well, many. The first set Charles didn’t quite make it in time, but it took maybe almost 10 before it stopped. So we all did a slightly different pose for each flash. That was started by Charles who was sort of half on the ground doing model poses. The second set was a little more serious, but with no fewer smiles.

Dinner was about as different from a Brenneman and Roth traditional Christmas dinner as you can get. There was salad – not too different – but then there was salmon (fresh, but not cooked) and lobster…from Nova Scotia! I had some lobster – Dad, Lisa, you would be proud. There was also Foie Gras (and faux gras, but that was on one of the appetizers) which I of course did not partake in. Dessert was a vanilla log cake with chocolate icing and a raspberry log cake. After eating we all (well almost all) participated in a little show. This year it was a little more planned, but I guess normally it’s more random. Everyone in the family is really musical and sang in choirs growing up so they’ll break out in 4-part harmony around the dinner table. I got to participate but realized that I sing very quietly. At least when I’m not totally confidant in what I’m singing. And with choir stuff, well in university I wasn’t the loudest and there was always way too many loud sopranos so I always sang softly (I also don’t overtax my voice that way) and I was doing that tonight. Problem was I was the only one on my part! Aurore joined me for the 2nd time. I know the song, but I still messed it up. We sang ‘I Will Follow Him’ from Sister Act. They had me sing the wailing solo part of that red-headed almost nun. Yeah, didn’t work too well. I don’t sing gospel. Not that I don’t love it and wish I could, but it’s just not where my talents lie. I might sing like that (or try to) and try different things, different styles when I’m alone (or in the shower because everything sounds better in there – it’s the steam and the acoustics), but not for other people. So I tried and warmed up to it a bit, but it was still borderline horrible. 😀 Everyone else sounded awesome though!

Sybille also bought – as a family gift – a sort of piano carpet. Basically think of a smaller (and fold-able) version of that huge keyboard on the floor in that mall in that Tom Hanks movie that was from the 80s or 90s (:P). Jean-Go, Charles, and Adeline played a version of that duet that everybody knows how to play (there are so many variations), but not many people actually know what it’s called (like me). It was hilarious! I have it on video. Greg says it should go on YouTube. They did it a second time and Greg filmed it so I don’t know if he’s going to put it up or not. I’m going to let them copy my pictures and videos so they can put it up later if they want. They did a great job and were very entertaining.

This was actually the last night I’m going to see all of them minus Jean and Val Ou. Jean’s coming with us to the airport on Tuesday and since we’re leaving at 6am he’s going to stay over Monday night so Valerie’s going to come over as well. And this time the boys are coming. Adeline was insistent. I’m glad. She said they didn’t come pick me up because they didn’t know me, but they’ll want to say goodbye (not to mention I’ll want to!). I feel like this post has actually been very vague and yet it’s over 1700 words…

I’m almost positive there was something else I wanted to say but we all know that I’ve forgotten it by now. Well, since it’s almost 2:30am it is now Christmas Eve day for me. For all you back home we’ll be sharing something in common that doesn’t make me happy – a green Christmas. I’m ok with that here because it’s normal, I just wanted snow for when I got home ;).

                                                                                                                        

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A blast from my past; nostalgia and all that goes with it.

I’m on a roll. I’m in the zone. I have the sharing bug. I want to share with you all stuff that you might not like, but I think it’s great/hilarious/heartbreaking-ly beautiful. Since yesterday I finally figured out how to/tried inserting a video right into a post (possibly ensuring increased view-age of said video) I’ve been inspired to show you more.

I’m going to take it back – way back – all the way back to the 1200s back. The first song I’m going to share is a piece I studied in first year university. I don’t remember much except that I thought it was so funny at the time. I don’t have my recordings from school with me, so I can actually find the version that I first heard (which is my favourite), but I tried my best. Sumer Is Icumen In was written by an anonymous composer in c1240 (although sometimes attributed to William de Wycombe). It is in Middle English, so don’t be alarmed that you don’t understand any of it. It’s basically about the beginning of summer or something like that. It’s fun and might make you want to hop around – or not ;). The immaturity of first year university students had us all chuckling at the ‘sing coo-coo’s’ that were happening all over the place. I like it a bit faster than this, but in this version you can actually hear the words.

                                                                                                                    

This next song is a favourite of mine for many reasons. I was first introduced to it in high school actually, we sang it in the Chamber Choir. It’s quite racy in fact. All the kissing and wandering ‘up and down’ and such. It’s super fun to sing! This is an all male version, but obviously (if I sang it) the Chamber Choir is mixed so our version was for SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). Fair Phyllis in an English madrigal by John Farmer, published in 1599. If the other one didn’t have you dancing in your seat this one might!

                                                                                                                     

Franz Biebl. I only know one of his choral works off the top of my head, but it is honestly one of the most beautifully written choral pieces I’ve ever had the joy of singing and hearing. It quite literally takes my breath away. It makes me feel similarly to the way Jupiter makes me feel, but while with Jupiter it’s all exciting and fun and jolly, Biebl’s Ave Maria transcends everything. I literally started crying (in a good way) when I looked this up tonight. Again, this version is all male, but I’m pretty sure it was originally written for 8-part, all male chorus. It’s essentially broken up into two choirs. I know when listening to it which part I sang, but I can’t remember if it was choir 1 or choir 2. I think choir 2. In my opinion it sounds better with all men, but if you have the right mix of voices it can sound beautiful mixed. I just loved singing the soaring soprano – you don’t hear some of it as well with guys, but if you don’t have the right sopranos it’s a bit painful and shrill. I think this is probably my favourite recording that I’ve found. It’s very soothing, calming and seriously, even if you hate choral music I don’t see how you couldn’t be affected by this. Then again, I’m biased because I like choral music :D.

                                                                                                                    

I had intended to stop at 3, but I can’t. I only have 5, don’t worry. Prayer of the Children by Kurt Bestor is another moving choral work. It’s a plea, a prayer, a petition for the children of the world who don’t have anything. Not even any tears left to cry. It’s a really powerful song. In high school I was part of a quartet in my one music class. I can’t remember why we originally put it together, it might have been to sing at a fundraiser concert, I’m not sure. I was the first soprano which means high G 😀 (we did SSAA – all girls ;)). At the time it was really high for me, but by the end of high school and in uni I could/can reach a Bb :). It’s hard because being a Capella if you get off track someone gets in a lot of trouble and it’s usually the 1st soprano (ie, me at the time). It can also get really low if you’re not careful. It’s one of those songs that you really have to connect with – you can’t just sing it. That doesn’t work. It feels empty and meaningless like that. It’s always good to do research on a piece when you’re going to perform it and for this song that’s especially true. Again, the version I’m putting up is all male, but again with the right soprano it can be really great. It’s the King’s Singers version and it’s a little different from what I remember. I don’t know if that’s my memory, if it’s the all male arrangement, or if it’s the King’s Singers arrangement.

                                                                                                                    

And finally I’m going to leave you with a song that is somewhat appropriate for me at this time. Homeward Bound arranged by Jay Althouse is another song I sang in high school. I actually sang the solo at the beginning and end. I just love the tenor part when the guys come in. When done right it gives me chills, just a specific set of notes. This video isn’t as polished as the others, but then again it’s not done by a professional choir! It’s a song about someone wishing to be set free, to not be chained to home. Someone wanting to experience adventure and life! And then, when the journey is over, when they’ve done what they’ve set out to do they will return. It’s basically the old ‘if you love something set it free; if it belongs to you it will return’. And while I’ve loved my time here – my experiences, my adventures (and the one’s yet to come), and everything I’ve learned – I ‘belong’ to Canada, I will return in time.

                                                                                                                    

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Rain

So today it rained. Again. 😛 This is a common occurence in Belgium, but I’ve been told it does not rain as much as in England. Good news though, it’s not supposed to rain this weekend! I have to say, my rain jacket has so far been one of my most valuable purchases for this year! (Thank you Mom ;))

Today Adeline, Sylvain, and I went to Louvain-la-Neuve. I got to see Adeline’s Dad for the first time since 1997! It was great. We talked choir stuff, lots of fun. Before that we went shopping. It is Greg’s birthday tomorrow after all ^_^. I got to try a real Belgian waffle…I forgot to take a picture! I’ll have to get one on Saturday again when we go back :D. I mean, it looks like a waffle…but the kiosk where you buy them is so cute ^_^. All the stores in the mall have these amazing sales on till the end of the month and it was nice to just take our time walking around because there weren’t that many other people there…in comparison to the first time I went!

Tonight I went up with Adeline to give the boys their baths. Adeline left because she had to go to the bathroom and when she came back I had things pretty much under control so she left again. I managed to get Bastien’s hair washed, him out of the tub, and in his pj’s with less effort than last time. He still cries when I’m helping him (only with some stuff), but we’re making good progress. He knows he has to let me help, but he’s going to let me know he doesn’t always like it! At dinner I mentioned that I had fun with the baths…it’s been a few days since I’ve helped (it’s nice to wash Sylvain because he doesn’t cry at me ;)). Greg said they were really going to enjoy this year. I hope so, that’s what I’m here for! They can go to the movies now and lots of other things. Yeah for built-in babysitters.

Bastien is a good kid, really, it’s just he’s 2 1/2 now so…you all know what that means! But really, I’m having a great time and I’m starting to be able to have more conversation with him which is good. And of course I’m learning some really cute kids songs. I need to learn more!

T-minus less than 48 hours till ‘Wine and Cheese’ party!

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