Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Our Second Year in Belgium

We have begun our third year here in Belgium - time flies! And I haven't blogged since the beginning of this year so it is really time to recap and catch up here on the blog!
Our last year in bullets:
  • Harald started créche in August 2014 and Isolde her second year in Belgian maternelle in September. Consequently Peter's parental leave finished and he started working for his Swedish employer but remotely from Brussels (until January 2015, more on that below).
  • Kids caught the chicken pox in autumn but luckily it didn't clash (but almost!) with our week in the sun at Lanzarote in November. We stayed in a really good hotel (resort) there, which we can really recommend. However, if you don't like black volcano sand you should choose another Canary island (we only went to the beach ones, but our kids probably prefer the pool anyway). 
  • We had mainly family visitors during the autumn - Peter's parents - and Maria and Daniel (who are practically family) and in early November we also went home for a long weekend and had the opportunity to celebrate my cousin H's 40th, which very coincidentally happened to be the same weekend. In the spring both sets of grand(parents) visited and we had brother-in-law and uncle Martin (not my brother Martin but Peter's sister's husband) here for a few hours while he was here on a work trip. Our good friend and Harald's godmother Jessica also came twice, once to spend the night and once just a few hours on her way to the airport after work meetings (it's convenient that we live so close to the airport).
  • Christmas was spent in Sweden, as usual. We stayed about two weeks, and since Peter was still working for his Swedish employer at that stage (until 31 December), we were able to stay in one of the company's apartments for parts of the stay and with my parents or in my sister-in-law's flat for the rest. As usual we had a pretty busy schedule trying to see as many family members and friends as possible, but we had time to relax as well. There was no snow at all unfortunately and especially Isolde was disappointed. Hoping for a white Christmas this year instead!
  • I did a number of work trips to Sweden, one per month on average both in the autumn and the spring. One of them was the December one mentioned above, when Peter also had a work event in Sweden, so we made a family weekend out of it. One of the trips was to Göteborg (which was nice as I could catch up with Heidi who lives there) but otherwise I always go to Stockholm, which is perfect in terms of seeing family and friends. Next year I may however go to other parts of the Sweden once or twice, and I hope it will be somewhere I haven't been before and preferably up north. I really enjoy my job, though hectic at times, and I don't mind the work trips either but sometimes once a month feels a little often. But I shouldn't complain as I often can meet up with friends and do some shopping to stock up on Swedish goodies or necessities. We are lucky that Peter was working from home earlier and now since the beginning of 2015 has been a stay-at-home dad, so we have not had many logistical issues with my work trips or work in general. Now he's applying for jobs and I hope he finds one soon for a variety of reasons, but it will of course be a bit more tricky when the kids are sick or when one of us is working a lot or travelling. Normal situation for most people of course, but we have been spoiled for a long time now. 
  • In October our good friends and neighbours the Swedish-Welsh family unfortunately moved to Wales so we had to say goodbye for now to them, but in March we went to visit them with our Swedish-Spanish and American friends, and at the end of this summer parts of the family came for a quick visit here (and to pick up items we had stored for them in our garage). On that March trip to the UK we also visited our friends Chris and Jacqui who lived here until spring 2014 (and before that in Sweden) and met very briefly - a few hours in a park - my friend Kim and her family. We also stopped by an old school friend, Nathalie, who I hadn't seen for a long time, and met her sons for the first time. 
  • Peter's grandmother passed away late winter/early spring so he went home for the funeral. It's always sad of course, but at almost 94 and suffering from dementia I'd like to believe it was only a relief for her to move on.
  • We celebrated the kids' birthdays with their little friends and families and of course mine and Peter's birthdays too, but less fuzz about ours naturally.
  • In spring we could tick off one of those "when-you-have-kids" experiences: lice! Harald only got one or two, and Peter was lucky to be unaffected, but Isolde and I had a lot! Our friendbours also caught it so we had one fun Friday evening where we were all shampooing each other and the kids :)
  • Whilst Christmas was spent in Sweden as usual, we decided not to go to Sweden for Easter and instead join our friendbours P & O for their Easter celebrations in Spain with O's family as well as P's family coming from Sweden. We flew down (with Ryanair, first time in several years) from Paris but missed out on a planned day in Paris beforehand as I caught some sort of stomach bug. It was nice to see the village where O. comes from and meet his parents and sister, and do some excursions in the area including to Zaragoza, the nearest city (also Spain's fifth largest city). I also enjoyed seeing the Catholic Easter parades, something we don't really have in Sweden. And we bought a lot of shoes, especially for the kids, as his village and the nearby villages are in a shoemaker region. 
  • In spring we also took a day trip with P & O and kids to Aachen in Germany with a shorter stop in Maastricht in the Netherlands on our way back. I love living so in the middle of Europe where it is easy to take a day trip or a weekend trip to another country, or several! We really have to make more such trips! Luxembourg is on the list, as is France and Champagne, but for the latter we'll get babysitters so we can enjoy it properly!
  • Late spring, early summer one of the kids' little friends L. was very unlucky and fractured her leg on our trampoline, poor thing (we have a safety net but she twisted her leg while jumping). Luckily she recovered quickly but is staying away from the trampoline for a while just in case.
  • In the spring Isolde got a new bike, a real bike. We would probably have got one already in the autumn if she hadn't been so short and most bikes were still too big. Her balance bike is 10 inches and we thought it was unnecessary to buy a bike of the same size. But in the spring she was a few more centimeters and a 12-inch bike worked, just. Having had the balance bike (and a scooter) has really done the trick - she could ride the bike without training/support wheels right away! She found it somewhat difficult to start by herself and also break, but we practised that during the summer, and now we can take quite long bike trips with her.
  • In May my friend and Harald's god mother Åsa visited with new baby Lily (new as in 8 months old then) for a few days. It was nice to spend some quality time with them, especially for Åsa and Harald. 
  • For the ascension weekend in May we went to Normandie to see the D-day beaches and also to Brittany where we visited Saint Malo, Mont Saint-Michel and some other picturesque towns. It was a very nice and interesting mini-break. 
  • In May (busy month!) I went to London with my mum and my aunt Bicke to do some sightseeing but most importantly, go to the Chelsea Flower Show. It was my present to my mum for her 60th birthday last year. As there was a bit of a green theme to our trip we also visited Sky Garden
  • A few weeks after Åsa's visit we went to Sweden for a long weekend to attend Lily's namegiving ceremony and to see family and friends. We finally got to meet the children's new cousin Fred (well, I had met him briefly when he was just a couple of days old in April when I was in Sweden on a work trip) and my friend Suvi's new baby boy as well as time to go out to the summer house. And have Harald's hair cut, kicking and screaming like the time before that (and after...). 
  • We have made new friends here in Brussels - an American family who are moving onto Stockholm next summer after two years here. Their son is in Isolde's class and Harald will be in the same class as their daughter next year (they also have a baby girl born in May). There are also some other mothers in the area that I have started to hang out with - Petchie started a sort of ladies' dinner club so now we meet up regularly, but we have also hung out on full family basis as some of them have children in Isolde's class or same year. 
  • Isolde has been taking rythmic classes at school for a year (and she's continuing, plus some other extra-curricular activities this year). She loved dancing and singing, however, she doesn't always like being told or instructed what to do so it took a few classes before she even wanted to participate. I think it is a mix of wanting to be free-spirited and being a bit too self-conscious.
  • We now have a (wooden) toy house in the garden, an inflatable pool and sprinklers, and Peter also got various adult "toys" for the garden, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers and what have you. So we have no excuses now not to do gardening! 
  • At the end of June, a little bit before my longer summer break, we spent one week in Nice (the apartment of my in-laws as usual) and my parents came down as well for a few days. It was nice to have a week off (with guaranteed nice weather), then work a few weeks again before to Sweden on holiday.  

A lot in a year! I'm sure I have missed half of it, but these are the highlights! I will write about the summer and about the adventures of Isolde and Harald in separate posts! I will also post some photos later, but now I just want to publish this post!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Two Years Old Today!

Celebrating Harald's 2nd birthday this morning. Celebrations will continue tonight and on Saturday.

Harald is a little "livsnjutare" (enjoying life), especially food and drink :)

Our all-inclusive holiday last autumn was a hit; unlimited access to fruit (melon), ice cream and hot dogs!

Expert on smart tools already

Happy despite completely spotty from chicken pox

Simply happy most of the time (this was before his very overdue haircut)!

Showing his fashion sense (and his big belly...)

With bestie E.

Friday, January 09, 2015

4 Years Old!

How did it happen?! Where did the time go?!

With some yellow marker on face and hands but yet so pretty! Photo credit: my friend Åsa

We woke her up this morning with "Ja må hon leva" and presents.

Spot the little gauffre...

...which Harald was quick to "steal" (with his sister's OK)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Secret Santa / Julklappsbyte! NEW Deadline / Nytt sista datum!

På svenska längre ner

Emma has organised a Christmas gift exchange among bloggers and others for a few years in a row now but this year she's a bit swamped and I have promised to substitute for her!

So how does it work?

All participants will receive and give a Christmas gift to someone still unknown person!

Email me at komheden (at) by 8 December and provide your name, address, blog url (if you have one), three things on your wish list / you like and three things that is not your cup of tea.

I will send you an email with a name and address of a person as well as the information about what s/he wishes / likes / don't like. You will then send a wrapped gift worth maximum 100 SEK and Christmas card to your designated person by 15 December.

Spread the word!

Emma har organiserat ett julklappsbyte bland bloggare och andra några år i rad nu men i år har hon lite fullt upp och jag har lovat att vikariera för henne!

Så hur fungerar det?

Alla deltagare kommer få och ge en julklapp till någon ännu okänd person!

Maila mig på komheden (at) senast  den 1 december och ange din adress, eventuell bloggadress, tre saker du önskar / gillar och tre saker som inte är du.

Du kommer sedan få tillbaka ett mail med en adress till en person samt information om vad hen önskar sig / gillar / inte gillar. Du skickar sedan en inslagen julklapp värd max 100 SEK samt ett julkort till din utvalda person senast den 10 december.

Sprid ordet!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

10 Years!!

No, it's not my anniversary with Peter. We've "only" been together for 9 years in November (and married for four). It's my blogoversary!! Yesterday on 29 September - and I forgot about it then even though I thought about last week - it was exactly ten years ago since I posted my first ever post. I only blogged two or three times that autumn and the blog really got going in the spring of 2005, but still, I think it counts. I will need to make some sort of post about what the blog has "lived through" in this decade, both in my life and the world at large. Just think of the people I have met through the blogging community, such as Petchie whom I now consider a very close friend, not just here in Brussels but in general.

I hope for at least another decade of fun and new encounters through Anna, Fair and True!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thursday in September

Almost a month since I last wrote. What have we been up to?
  • Isolde started school again. She's in the same class as little friendbours V. and E., which is very nice and convenient for drop-offs and pick-ups but also has its disadvantage, e.g if one or two of the others get picked up early but not Isolde, but that's part of learning how to deal with life I guess. Isolde likes school and has fun there but it is certainly not the super-positive attitude that we had last autumn (guess the novelty has wore off). In the morning she says she doesn't want to go but once we're on the way she's usually excited...until we reach the classroom and she doesn't want to let go and is sometimes upset (though sometimes "crocodile tears") but usually accepts to go to her teacher's arms, albeit a bit reluctantly. If E. is upset, Isolde will also start crying, or vice versa, as they trigger each other. As I said she seems to have fun and be content once there but in the morning I think that she in that moment prefers to stay on the comfy couch and watching telly. And not having to get dressed. Our little lazy girl :)
Isolde's classroom. To the left of this picture they have a playhouse and some more toys.

  • It took Harald about three weeks or so to get used to his new daily routine at the Pas à pas crèche. After about three weeks he caught a cold and was home for little over a week. The last two days before he got sick was the first days that he didn't cry when we dropped him off, but after that week away I thought we would be back to square one. But it seems that he has actually missed them and he wanted to go to one of the teachers right away and he put his head on her shoulder and cuddled for a long time. So this was really a sign that he's really happy there and also a good "grade" for them. There's such a good atmosphere there. When I dropped Harald off Wednesday this week they were playing the guitar and singing and I just wanted to stay there instead of going to work!
  • We have done some gardening, even though most weekends and evenings we have priorised other things. We have tried to get rid of some persistent weed (dandellion type) in the grass, the environmentally-friendly way, and sown new grass, but now we'll have to buy some chemicals. I have also continued the weeding of the flower beds that my mum started when she was here, and we have also evened out some parts of the grass both on the front and back of the house by putting new soil and sown grass.
  • I started studying French - two hours twice per week during work hours, one of the perks of working for the European Commission.
  • We tried online food shopping from Colruyt and we will probably continue this habit, if not every week but every other, with the usual complimentary shopping from the smaller supermarkets in the neighbourhood. Colruyt is a discount supermarket that is not really a great shopping experience if you actually go there - reminded me of Ö&B/Överskottsbolaget in Sweden - but in terms of the produce and products it sells it is very good. It has a very large range of organic products and Colruyt also has another supermarket, BioPlanet, that only sells bioproducts.

  • We bought a new table for the living room. You may remember that our old one broke... We tried to find another table we liked but in the end we bought one almost exactly the same as our old glass table, only slightly smaller. We also bought a new carpet for the kids' room. As always, Ikea is the place to go. Well, not the table as that is from Habitat.

  • We had a crayfish party together with the extended friendbour circle, including also the family we rented the flat from our first year in Brussels, who are now back in town. We ate crayfish for lunch and then had a barbeque in the evening. We actually got a babysitter to entertain the kids in the evening so we could actually have a sit-down dinner. Worked pretty well even though you are not completely off duty since they are still in the house.

  • What else? We celebrated V's third birthday and Ellna's first, and their dad turned 40. We tried to take advantage of the mild September evenings before it starts getting dark too early (though most of the time, September has been chillier than last year, but better than August) by taking walks in our lovely neighbourhood. We also visited one of those indoor playgrounds for children for the first time. We were there early so we had the place almost to ourselves. Only bad thing was that we got some sort of stomach bug but it could also have been the lunch at Pizza Hut afterwards... We made a visit to the Natural History Museum. Last week we went to three different playgrounds in the same day. You have to make the most of the weekends, especially when the weather is nice!
Pajama walk
Little palaeontologists in action

  • Peter has gone climbing twice with the husband of a colleague of mine (they came to our drink in March) and the plan is that they will go regularly. After the first session Peter's climbing shoes got mysteriously missing - we think we must have thrown them out with the rubbish, possibly with Harald's help... but luckily they were too tight and he needed new ones anyway. By funny coincidence my colleague's husband, whose name is also Peter, also went to Essex university like my Peter (he did a one-year Master's there) and it was there both of them tried climbing for the first time (and my Peter hasn't really climbed since then). Both Peters have also spent a long time at home with their children (their daughter is around the same age as Isolde) and the other Peter works 80% and is also the one who usually picks from crèche/school. We're also going to try to get the whole families together soon.
  • Oh, and there was the Swedish election of course. There is so much I would like to write about it but I haven't had time to really sit down and have a serious think. For now, I will only write that despite the disappointment of the success of the Sweden Democrats that of course bedimmed the evening, Petra and I had a good time at the election coverage event organised by the group Svenskar i Bryssel.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

To Do List on a Thursday*

  • Buy school supplies Isolde should bring with her on her first day of (pre)school on Monday and take ID photos of her that she also needs to bring (we have already checked off two things on the list - markers as well as a book to the class library). Tissues and wipes we'll get at the supermarket at the weekend.
  • Fold up and bast the curtains in the living room, dining room and guest bedrooms (I don't want to actually shorten them since we may need them to be longer in the future). In our bedroom I will however adjust them properly because they are currently at least a metre too long! 
  • Prepare for the crayfish party (crayfish lunch followed by barbeque in the evening) we're having on Saturday. Peter got the crayfish today (from IKEA) and we bought some decorations already in Sweden, but we'll need to sort out how to seat 11 adults and 9 children, especially since it looks to chilly to sit outside, and prepare some food and drink (though it's a potluck dinner so everyone is bringing something. 
  • Plan and book a holiday for October or November. We think we would like to go somewhere sunny and warm, but they are not as many charter options from Belgium as from Sweden, so we'll see where we end up. 
  • Book tickets to Sweden for the Christmas period.
  • And also very important, invite family and friends to occupy our guest rooms during the autumn! So far we only know that Peter's parents are coming for a weekend in October. 
  • Buy birthday presents for the neighbour kids V. and E.
  • Organise my wardrobe and my drawers in the bathroom. 
  • And probably lots of other things but I'll start with this...

* Not all to do this particular Thursday but the list was compiled today :)