Wednesday, May 03, 2017

2016 Recap - January-June

I'm not such a good blogger, am I... Last post in February last year and now it is May of this year already. Oh well... Here comes a recap of 2016 that I started preparing a few months ago but didn't get around to posting until now. This is January-June 2016 and the rest of the year will come soon.

Birthdays, which I already wrote about here. Raclette dinner at Petchie - a very typical and fitting winter activity. Baked bread on sourdough passed onto us from Petchie's dad (we kept it alive a couple of months but then gave up...). Shot a video at work used at a Directorate Day to inform others about our work.

Baked cinnamon buns and of course, it being February, semlor, for Harald's 3rd birthday. And I made an airplane cake!

Swans on the tram track. One of many home-made pizza evenings with the friendbours. I started the work trip year with one of my many trips to Sweden (February-June and September-December I travel at least once every month). Kids visited me at work. Peter's friend T. visited for a few days.

I got a new passport, reluctantly, since I was so happy with the photo in my old one. Oh, vanity! My parents came for a long weekend and we went to Antwerpen but otherwise mostly stayed local. The weather was nice so we could even have fika in the sunshine on our terrace, though while wearing coats.

We made hamburgers from scratch (not the first time and not last either) for the friendbours and we went to Planckendael animal park with Petchie & family plus a Swedish-Danish family.

March was of course also the month of a very sad and horrible event in Brussels, which I was very lucky to narrowly escape. Now it feels a very long time ago and we don't really think about it in our daily lives (despite other attacks around the world including in Stockholm unfortunately having taken place), although it of course comes to mind sometimes as I travel on the metro to work every day. That particular day I took the metro as usual and got off at Maelbeek as usual and had just exited the metro station and walked up to my office when a colleague came and said something had happened at Maelbeek and that there were injured people. Probably my train was the one that came in just before the train with the bomb, 2-3 minutes apart. I'm not the type of person to think too much about the past (unless it is happy things) or dwell, so I have mostly thought about how lucky I was, am, and not about what could have happened. And the people who were not so lucky were in my thoughts instdad. In retrospect of course, both Peter and I agree that, even though it went well, it was stupid to go on the metro after we knew that first attack had taken place at the airport. I remember I told Peter after we had dropped off the kids at school that I felt a bit strange to take the metro, but he said that it will be fine, don't worry. Well, for me it was fine in the end, but not for others... If this ever happen again sometime somewhere I will not take public transport right there and then.

Personally for us, it was otherwise a good day, because Peter signed a job contract this very day. Actually he was supposed to take the metro a bit later than me to go and sign it at his new employer at 10 o'clock. By then the metro was for obvious reasons not running anymore, and after checking whether they still wanted him to come in, he took the car downtown. It took him a while due to many closed off streets but he made it there, signed the contract, and was then able to drive closer to my area to wait until I was let out of my building (we were not allowed to leave for the first few hours after the attacks). What is a bit funny or ironic or what you call it, is that Peter's new office is located in Molenbeek, the city district where many of the terrorists come from. Molenbeek is actually very central, not so far from Grand Place and the city centre, and Peter's work, the head office of one of Belgium's biggest banks, is located just at the beginning of Molenbeek. So on the day of a terrorist attack he drove to where they live(d) to sign the contract. Obviously, Molenbeek has many - mostly - regular people too. It actually shows how Brussels is. Many parts are very divided. One street can be very run down and with residents from a certain socio-economic group or ethnic background, and the next street over could be completely different.

The evening of 22 March we were extra grateful for our little family and for being alive.

A couple of days later, and only with a day's delay to our original plans, we managed to fly to Sweden for Easter. We were quick to re-book our flight once they announced that they were redirecting some flights from Zaventem (which after the attacks were closed for months) to other small airports. Our flight was quite empty, maybe 15-20 people, and we saw a flight leaving for Edinburgh with maximum 5 passengers. A few days later these flights were full though and the arrangements went on for at least a month before they could partly re-open Zaventem.

We stayed for about a week in Sweden for Easter, into the very beginning of April. We had some sunny and warm spring days so a lot of time outside. Good times and moments with friends and family. Harald had a haircut, the first one where he wasn't completely hysterical and didn't have to sit on my lap. We got to try pasta bolognese made of moose and wild boar for the first time.

Back in Brussels spring had arrived properly, at least for a moment, with 20 degrees. The kids went to "stage" (camp) their second week of Easter break. Isolde went to swimming camp and Harald did the usual mini club for the youngest kids.

The metro started running again after the terrorist attacks and at the end of the month "my" station Maelbeek re-opened again too.

We did some outlet shopping with A & L and we did one of many excursions with the friendbours to Ikea. Peter hired a high-pressure washer and had a go at the tiles in the front and back of our house and we discovered we had differently coloured tiles than just dirt gray.

We celebrated Peter's birthday and also his new job that he started on 18 April, both with the friendbours and with a dinner for two at a local renomed restaurant.

In April I also went to Sweden for a girls' weekend with my childhood friends to celebrate that we all, except one, were turning 40.

The month ended, as it should, even in Brussels, with Valborg celebration out at the Scandinavian school in Waterloo.

May meant more time at playgrounds and picnics in the park. Family L. visited us for a long weekend and one or two weekends after Peter's sister with family came as well. In general we had pretty bad weather all spring and early summer but these visits managed to hit some of the few days of sunny and warm weather in May. With family L we went to the Hergé or "Tintin" museum and the tivoli in our local square.

We also did a short trip to Sweden ourselves as I combined a work trip with some family and friends time. On this trip I said goodbye to my parents' house, the house which was my home between the ages of 13 and 19, and where I have stayed a lot also after that of course. The garden especially is missed, in particular of the kids, but almost a year after my parents' move, it definitely feels like the right move for them. They really like their new flat a bit nearer the centre of Södertälje, where they are very close to the shops, my mother's work, my aunt and uncle and my brother. Their new building is one of those 55+ residences so many (most) living there are retired and they have a garden club, a library, gym and sauna, weaving room, etc. and they (those who want to) meet almost every day for a meal or a coffee.

I got my own elevating desk for work to save my back. Elevating desks (the proper types, not the desk-on-desk version I got) are standard in Sweden but the European Commission is somewhat behind when it comes to the physical work environment...


Isolde made a portrait of me at school.

Three friends of Peter visited. We took many evening walks in our lovely neighbourhood and did some gardening. We could sit outside at dinner with the Stockel ladies and one of the English girls in the group hosted an Afternoon Tea.

We said goodbye to our American friends - but we will see them in Stockholm as that is where they headed next. They threw an early 4th of July party as their farewell do - S had baked all week! We also said goodbye to C & J with kids (the family we rented the flat we first lived in here in Brussels) who moved back to Sweden for good.

June was also start of the Euro 2016 football cup, which was extra fun as Sweden and Belgium were in the same group.

We of course celebrated Midsummer (and forgot about Brexit for a moment...)! We invited our American friends (before they disappeared to the US for holiday and then to Stockholm to their new home) and in addition we had Spanish guests in addition to the obligatory Swedes.

And we ended June 2016 with a date night!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

40, 5 and 3

We have celebrated two birthdays here recently and another one is coming up in less than one week's time.

Isolde was first. On 9 January she turned five. 5! How did that happen?! Her arrival feels like just now and such a long time ago at the same time. (Posts from her previous birthdays, one, two, three and four.)

They say that five is a pretty harmonious age and we have noticed that in the last few months. This time last year was really the opposite. It's quite fascinating how children follow roughly the same development patterns. There are the terrible twos - which I think are really terrible twos and threes (and the Swedish word "trotsåldern" doesn't specify the exact age) - and then there are the f***ing fours, as our American friend here in Brussels calls it. Very accurate description. Isolde was in this phase the first half of last year but it changed after the summer, after 4½. They say 6 is the next difficult phase to get through - I hope we have at least a year before that starts. I know of course that all these phases are good, they are part of children growing up, learning and developing, but it is not always fun for those involved, neither the child itself nor the parents, even if you try to ease the process.

Right now we are enjoying our happy, social, curious, full of energy (but who can also be lazy, especially when it comes to dressing herself or putting her cup or plate away), stubborn, responsible, caring and cuddly girl who loves school (her friends, her teacher and the activities) and drawing/painting and writing letters. Who can tease and annoy her brother but at the same time plays so well with him. Who is fighting about being first (up the stairs or out of the house) but is always making sure that little brother also gets an ice cream or a biscuit. Who likes riding her bike and doing balancing tricks on the scooter. Who is sucking her thumb again after the index finger was demoted but is reassuring us that she doesn't do it at school (but she doesn't want to quite just yet). Who falls asleep rather easy and quickly in the evening but wakes up at night and wants to be close to us and fuel up on love and security and most often sleep next to us the rest of the night. Who still has problem with pronouncing some sounds and gets the word order mixed up in Swedish but is otherwise speaking pretty well (she was a slow starter), and who is finally not only understanding French but speaking it willingly at school and with her little friends and often using it as her role play language (though I cannot guarantee grammatical correctness :-)

Isolde celebrated her birthday with us in the morning of her birthday and with our neighbours and friends later the same day (luckily it was a Saturday) and then she had her first real kids' birthday party, i.e. with just kids and no parents staying, the following Saturday.

Preparing the birthday tray before waking her up with Ja må hon leva (but she was already awake and waiting for us, she told us afterwards).

Happy girl!

"I want to eat  that eclair!"

Elsa! And she got Anna and Kristoff too.

Birthday celebration with our Swedish and Swedish-Spanish friendbours.

Dress-up at Isolde's kids' party

Isolde's cake - one side Ariel, the Little Mermaid, and the other side Frozen - made by Arna.
Time for cake!

Fiskdamm as the finale of course - fishing for a goodie bag

Then it was my turn. The big 4 0. That is even more of a mystery to me. How did THAT happen?! I had a bit of angst the day before, the last day in my thirties, but on the day I felt pretty good thanks to all greetings by email and Facebook and several phone calls from family and friends. Lots of love. The following a day I felt a bit angst again, but I think it's better now. Ask me again in a few months and we'll see. I think it is so strange to think that the next big birthday is 50. Half a century. My parents have just bought a flat in one of those 50+ only buildings and I was thinking "so, another ten years and I can also move there". Shocking thought!

Anyway, I celebrated 40 in style. Parties will have to wait (will probably throw a drink here in Brussels later in the spring when the weather is nicer, and we're having our very belated wedding party/moving-back-to-Sweden party autumn 2017, so that will have to do as 40th parties for us too) but Peter and I hired a babysitter and went out for a very nice meal at one of Brussels two-star restaurants, Sea Grill. Unfortunately Peter had come down with the same vicious virus as both children had had in the previous weeks, one after the other, but he was able to drug himself with some ibuprofen to last through the evening.

Card make by Isolde, flowers from my parents and a bite-size cake

All courses except two - delicious!

Brought a cake to work - managed to get a photo of the last piece

Harald's third birthday is coming up soon. 3 years old! Not a baby anymore and moving from a toddler to a big (little) boy. More about him and his birthday next week (previous birthdays here and here)!