Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell 2008...thanks for the memories!

Another year! Wow, I have always heard the years go by faster as you get older, and I believe that to be true!

God has really blessed me throughout this year. Living in Europe has changed me in ways I never thought possible. I am sad to see 2009 will have me leave Europe, but I am excited to start a new chapter of my life next year.

I started looking back over the past year and a half and wanted to recap my country stats.

I visited a total of 19 countries...isn't that amazing!?!:

* Belgium (Brussels, many times to Brugge, Leuven, Huy, Ghent, Antwerp)
* Croatia (Dubrovnik)
* France (Paris 6 times including 2 trips to Disneyland Paris; Giverny; Normandy Region including Utah Beach, Gold Beach, Omaha Beach; Champagne Region including Epernay and Reims; Sainte Mere-Eglise; Bayeux, Deauville; Honfleur)
* Hungary (Twice to Budapest)
* England (3 times to London, Manchester, Stoke, Crewe, Stansted)
* Scotland (Edinburgh)
* Italy (Milan, Positano and the Amalfi Coast, Venice)
* India (Twice to Mumbai, New Delhi, Agra)
* Germany (Twice to Frankfurt, Berlin, 3 times to Cologne, Aachen)
* Netherlands (Amsterdam, Lisse, Valkenburg)
* Turkey (Istanbul, Ephesus)
* United Arab Emirates (Dubai)
* Ireland (Dublin)
* Austria (Vienna)
* Denmark (Copenhagen)
* Sweden (Ostra Vemmenhog)
* Spain (Madrid and Barcelona)
* Czech Republic (Prague)
* Greece (Santorini, Corfu)

What an amazing adventure! And, it is not over yet!

Here's to 2009!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Home Sweet Home!

Being home has been really nice! The past week was busy with Christmas festivities, as I am sure you can all relate. I promise to post Christmas pictures soon!

However, first, this is what is weighing on my mind most right new house! I have been looking, looking, and looking some more at houses in a fabulous neighborhood. I am very close at choosing the house I want to build.

What do you think?
The first two are pretty much the same design; however, the one below is a little different.
I met with the builder this morning and continued to fall in love with this neighborhood! I hope to get final decisions made this week, everything picked out, and a contract signed next week before heading back to Brussels on January 11th.

I love being an overachiever!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

I am so blessed to have been surrounded by family and friends this holiday season! I hope all of your Christmas wishes came true!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Home for the Holidays

Maxie and I made it back to the States safe and sound last night. The flight was uneventful, well, besides the drunk guy who got thrown off the flight before leaving and the 2 hour delay due to a heating and air conditioning malfunction.

Maxie was an absolutely angel on the train and the flight. I never heard a whine out of her the entire time. It helped to have very dog-friendly flight attendants who petted her constantly and would walk by and get a kiss!

My family was so excited to see us at the airport! It is nice to be missed!!

I cannot wait to catch up with everyone while I am in town and make some housing decisions...yikes!

Can you believe that Christmas is in 4 days?? Where did this year go? Are you done shopping?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Maxie's European Adventures

As I started putting this together, I got a little teary eyed thinking about how much this one little pup has done while living in Europe. Also, I cannot believe her time as a Belgian pup has come to an end.

Saturday, Maxie and I will be traveling back to Memphis for the holidays. It is a bittersweet trip as Maxie is 'repatriating' and moving back to the States permanently. It was a very hard decision to leave her, but I know it is best for her as I come back to prepare and pack up our things and move back in March.

I started thinking back to when we first landed in Brussels, how scared I was, and how much Maxie helped me in those first few days and weeks. To say I could not have done this without her....well, would be an understatement of the year. She may just be a dog to many people, but to me, she is much more.

Check out Maxie's European Adventures...

It all started with our Bon Voyage party where we celebrated with all my friends and family.
Then the packing. Maxie did not want to be left behind so she decided to hang out in my suitcase in hopes that she could go along. I am not sure she had any idea what she was getting herself into!
We made it to Brussels. She was great on the plane as I was a nervous wreck!! We had to stay in a hotel for a couple of days until my things were delivered. Maxie was a little confused but enjoyed playing on the bed with her toys!!
Finally, we moved into our apartment!! Maxie was so confused as to what was going on with all of the boxes, but once I pulled out the comforter for my bed, she smelled something familiar and curled up on it. The look on her face was as if she had finally found home again! She refused to get off that comforter for hours.
Maxie was scared to death of these stairs in my apartment. I assume because they were not carpeted and she was slipping a little. It was a good day when she did not sit at the bottom of the stairs and whine for me to come get her!
YES! Mastered the stairs!!!
Finally, I started getting the place in order and she was settling in comfortably. See, here she is showing off her new living room!
Oh! This was a big day! Maxie got her passport to travel!! Yes, I said passport! She had to get a Doggie Passport!!!! It filled up pretty fast!
This is where Maxie spent a lot of her garden!
But, she spent more time in this window!! She absolutely LOVES hanging out in this window all day and greeting everyone who walks by! Seriously, people stop and wave as they walk by and Maxie wags her tail in excitement!
Maxie's European adventures got started with her first trip to Paris, France in June 2007. How about this Parisian pup!?!
Then off to Bruges, Belgium in August 2007.Back to Brussels and Parc du Cinquantenaire in September 2007.
This was our first trip back to the States in October 2007 at the Amsterdam airport!
And back to Belgium in January 2008 and a little day trip to Gent, Belgium!
She got a little taste of the famous Belgian beer in February 2008 (ok, not really, but it made a cute picture!). I love how dogs are welcome in the restaurants in Europe and Maxie does so well and is so behaved...sure does make a Mommy proud!
Off to Antwerp, Belgium in March 2008.
Then to Ch√Ęteau de Modave in Modave, Belgium in March 2008.
Maxie enjoyed a beautiful sunny day at the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Netherlands in April 2008.
Then back to Brussels and a little visit to see the Manneken Pis in June 2008. Off to Cologne, Germany in July 2008.
And back to Bruges, Belgium in December 2008.
Maxie has made a couple of friends along the way, but no one like her little best buddy, Zsa Zsa!!
Celebrating Maxie's 3rd birthday, although they really did not want to!
My girls!
On a walk around our neighborhood!
Yes, Maxie is smiling! Zsa Zsa must be on her way over!Last but certainly not least....we could have made it without these two...

Words cannot begin to show how much I love these 2 people. I have no doubt that God sent this little family to Maxie and me. Dan, Pam, and Zsa Zsa have made our experience in Brussels unbelievable. I have written about how I met them before (click here). I cannot thank them enough for taking such good care of Maxie and me and welcoming us as a member of their family. Maxie is going to miss Uncle Dan's puppy massages and Auntie Pam's chair and blanket! I have to stop there or tears will really start flowing! THANK YOU, DAN AND PAM!!!!!!
In almost 2 years, Maxie has visited 4 different countries and many cities in those countries along the way! What a lucky little Maxie!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Markets 2008 - Aachen, Germany

Our 2008 Tour of Christmas Markets came to a close this weekend.

First stop – Brussels, Belgium Christmas Market

Pam and I headed to the Brussels Christmas Market on Saturday. Would you believe that my camera's battery was dead? Well, it was and I was not happy. To be honest, you did not miss much by me being so irresponsible. :-) I did not attend the Brussels market last year but did want to at least take a peek this year although I had heard it was not the best. It was nice to walk around and pick up some last minute gifts and chocolates to take home next Saturday (can you believe that??!!). It was freezing out so we did all we wanted to do and headed home! Burrrr.

Second stop - Aachen, Germany Christmas Market

Hands down, Germany has the best Christmas markets. Pam, Beth, and I went to Aachen today and we were not disappointed at all. Seriously, many countries try to have great markets and while they are not bad, in my opinion, Germany has the best! I think it is the atmosphere, selection, and decorations, which make me lean toward the Germany markets.

I did not take many pictures today because it was too dang crowded and too dang cold to take off my gloves. I did manage to get these:

I bought a beautiful nativity that I cannot wait to display! I will have pictures soon! I hope you have enjoyed this year's Tour of Christmas Markets! I am getting excited about heading back to Memphis this Saturday for the holidays (and house hunting!)!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Markets 2008 - Valkenburg, Netherlands

Most Christmas markets are held in the town square or underneath the walls of a picturesque castle or church, and so is this one, only in this case under the castle ruins literally means ‘under’ the castle – in the tunneled out caves and grottoes of a Roman quarry. Warm light spills from the openings, revealing murals that decorate the walls adding to the magic of this unusual business address.

Actors will lead you through the tunnels towards ‘Santa’s velvet grotto’ – literally a grotto in this case – and give you an idea what it would have been like when people actually lived in these caves, allowing you to take your time over the traditional style Dutch gifts and treats on your way.
We loved this unique Christmas market. It was definitely unlike anything we have ever seen before. Seriously, a Christmas market in a cave?? It was very appealing to us since the day before we were soaked in Bruges! It is perfect when the weather conditions outside are not so nice!

The little town of Valkenburg was so quaint and really cute. They had it decked out for the holidays!
Fluweelengrot means velvet cave. This was at the entrance of the cave as you waited to get in. They only allowed a certain number of people in at a time, so you waited here.

And now we are entering...
Yep, this is a cave!
Beautiful murals were everywhere!
Then the shopping began! There were gifts from all over Europe. These little angels were from Poland!
Beautiful nativity.
Ahhh, this is the Pam and Tippa I bags in hand (not pictured is the HUGE basket Pam had to buy to hold all of her purchases!)!
This really was a fantastic Christmas market! Germany still wins as having the best Christmas markets in Europe; however, this has to be the most unique!