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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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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