Monday, September 24, 2012

Farewell, Brussels...

After four months in the states, I'm back in Brussels for The Big Move. Handing over the apartment keys and leaving this historic city will be bittersweet. It's been a great 2nd place to call home and as much as I want to be closer to my family in California, it will be sad to leave the many things I've come to love about Brussels. If you've been following my bog, I think you'll agree that I succeeded in my mission to search out the array of colors this great city has to offer. This wasn't easy since gray was often the only color I'd see for days on end. The problem is, between the sights I saw, the museums I visited, the food I devoured, the flowers I admired, the parks I discovered, the winter I endured, the architecture I studied, the bookshelves I perused, the festivals I attended, the people I hosted, the dozen or so other countries I visited, and especially the good friends I made, I'm not ready to say good-bye! So, without further ado, I'll share some of the things that I'll miss most...

The flower boxes

The colorful cafes

The 100+ museums

The delicious cuisine (we love de Valera's Irish Pub)

Karma, my favorite store in Brussels

The quirky sculptures

The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

The scarf bombs (this was taken at my son's school)

The castles!

The pretty flower shops

A rare sight, the sunrise over Brussels (taken on a recent plane ride)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Colorful Cooking

One thing that many "trailing spouses" have is too much free time, especially those with teenagers (mine prefers that I stay as far away from his school as possible)! I went from being too busy in California to being not busy enough in Brussels. What helped me a tremendous amount was joining a great book club, taking a course about Belgium, traveling, visiting more museums than I thought possible, watching every episode of Dexter and The Big Bang Theory, and just recently, enrolling in cooking classes. It turns out cooking classes were fun, educational and... colorful! Where else could I prepare and eat healthy food, socialize, drink during the day, and re-learn the metric system? But with just a few days left in Brussels, I still have so many activities yet to do: catch-up on my summer reading, try yoga, become fluent in French, prepare for the Brussels Marathon, and visit the other 85 museums in town ;-)

Today's class was titled 5-Ingredient Meals

Slicing the palmiers

Sun-Dried Tomato & Chili Palmiers and Baked Chicken Goujons

Ingredients for our Turkey Larp Kha Gai

Delicious Cod with Chorizo and Beans

Japanese Duck and Rice Salad

Australian Cream Scones

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

The impressive Royal Greenhouses are situated on the beautiful Royal Property of Laeken in northern Brussels. The King and Queen of Belgium are kind enough to open their massive (270,000 sq ft) glass and iron greenhouses to the public for three weeks every year... perfect timing for my mom's recent visit! The complex was commissioned by King Leopold II, designed by Alphonse Balat (Victor Horta's teacher), and built between 1874 and 1895. Meandering along the mile-long path of beautifully landscaped gardens and colorful flora is also an excellent opportunity to admire early Art Nouveau architecture. My mom and I give the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken two (green) thumbs up!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

So Many Museums...

So many museums, so little time! There are over 100 museums in Brussels and, almost nine months in, I've barely made a dent. I should pat myself on the back because I've visited more museums (15 & counting) here than I have in the last 15 years anywhere else! So far, I've really enjoyed my neighborhood's Ixelles Museum, with its current La Belle Époque of Jules Chéret exhibit, and the MIM - Musical Instrument Museum (not to be confused with the MEM - Museum of Erotics & Mythology)! I'll pass on the Sewer Museum and even the Underpants Museum but I can't leave Brussels without visiting the Cocoa & Chocolate Museum or the Museum of the City of Brussels, where many of Manneken Pis' costumes are displayed. The more popular museums feature famous Belgian artists, Belgian history and Belgian beer but you can also find museums for medicinal plants, street lamps, trams, braille, and plastic. The longest titled museum would have to be the Big Royal Oath and Saint Georges of the Crossbowmen of Brussels Museum. There's also the Clockarium, the Experimentarium, the Parliamentarium, the Atomium, and the Aquarium. To impress my visitors, I could take them to the Museum of Fantastic Art and if we're walking down Rue de la Constitution and feeling spontaneous, we might pop into the Spontaneous Art Museum. Like I said... so many museums, so little time!

Ixelles Museum

MIM (Musical Instrument Museum) not to be confused with...

MEM (Museum of Erotics and Mythology)

Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History

Temporary exhibit at Saint-Géry Halls

Colorful wildlife at the Royal Museum for Central Africa

My favorite painting at my neighborhood museum

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Colorful Scarves

Winter, spring, summer, fall, rain, shine, male, female, young, old... everyone here wears scarves! I admit they add protection when it's cold outside but it appears scarves are so fashionably European that they're worn 365 days a year. I'm still getting the hang of this accessory. I've tried to casually drape one over my shoulder (it usually falls off) or around my neck (it looks like I can't breathe) plus it's either too time-consuming or I simply forget. Since scarves seem to be here for good and they're so photogenic, I've decided to dedicate a post to them... and even model a couple, thanks to the helpful video (below)!

Hermes scarf & bangles

My first-day-of-spring purchase

Thanks, Yves, for modeling your colorful scarf for us!

Close-up of "The Toss"

In a hurry? Pre-packaged scarves to go!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

ISB's International Festival

The International School of Brussels celebrated its 36th Annual International Festival yesterday. ISB's diverse community, which my family is proud to be a part of, goes all out on this special day! Fifty-seven countries were represented and approximately 30 booths provided mouth-watering food, delicious drinks, unique products, and entertainment (USA hosted line dancing!). The sunny day was kicked off with Scottish pipers and The Brussels Caledonian Corneymusers leading the Parade of Nations. Festival-goers were also treated to music, face painting, craft projects, a used book sale, raffles, and Frederico the Clown. I enjoyed working the USA booth, sampling food from around the world (including Swedish rökt renhjärta washed down with lingonberry vodka) and, of course, all the beautiful colors of this fantastic event!

One of the three festival areas

Kilted bagpipe players

Hand-painted wooden eggs from Poland

Spanish paella is my favorite food to photograph (& eat)!

Team USA!

2012 Olympic cupcakes at the UK booth

Turkish trivets

Traditional Korean dresses

Delicious drinks from Brazil

I left the Ouzo to the more daring festival-goers!

Colorful French macaroons

Norwegian treats and my friend, Bente, in her national costume

Beautiful Japanese kimonos