London ’09 – Stairs, Stairs and more Stairs

by on Apr.18, 2009, under London

To start off I need to say that London, United Kingdom was a great city to visit, but like a lot of European Cities, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there (with small children)”. We spent a great week visiting the city and all its tourist trappings. We stayed about 20 minutes from the center of London via the “Tube”… Our first problem… Although we are in a English speaking country, it’s the Queen’s English. Which means them damn Brit’s have a different word for everything, like “Tube” which we call a Subway (the transportation vehicle not the restaurant). Other words we found a little different were lorry (truck), busking (to play music in a public place), jacket potato (baked potato), or loo (bathroom). On the bright side it was still English and most times it wasn’t to hard to figure out, except “busking” which we asked our British friend.

Our next problem became quickly evident… The “Tube” itself. Now how could a pretty convenient underground transportation system be a problem you ask? I’ll tell you. Since it is the first subway in the world, opened in 1863, it is not really stroller accessible. Which meant that Annette and I would lug the stroller up and down and up and down and sometimes even up and down again the stairs to get from street to the platform. Now in the beginning this was not to bad, but after around a million and a half stairs, it got a little old. I know what you’re saying….take Caitlyn out of the stroller… Not really an option with her, once she’s out, she doesn’t want to get back in. So we lived with it. The other “Tube” problem was the temperature in the trains. I think we were riding in the original cars from 1863. No air conditioning so it was a little hot in there. I’ve taken subways all over the world, Brussels, Rome, London, Paris, New York, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and by far London was the worst (close only to Paris). But we were only a 8 minute walk from the Tube Station and it took us where we wanted to go reliably.

The only other problems is the weather. It rained pretty much every day. But not all day. The positive part of the weather is that we were used to it, since it ALWAYS rains in Belgium. But those were only a few small issues and that was the worst it got.

Now on to the amazing things we saw in London. We checked out the Tower Bridge (which most think is the London Bridge), Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Windsor Castle, London Tower (where the Crown Jewels are kept), Aquarium, Zoo, Transportation Museum (which was awesome), St. Paul’s Cathedral, Oxford Street (shopping), Piccadilly Circus (shopping), and Caitlyn’s favorite Big Ben. We spent an extended time shopping to get the things that make life simpler that are unavailable in Belgium or are cheaper in London.

It was a great, great, great trip. We enjoyed all that we could within the time that we were there. Please check out the gallery to see all the picutres that we shot. And you can also check out the panoramas that I took in London here.

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New Design

by on Mar.28, 2009, under Uncategorized

After long discussion and many, many, many changes. I finally uploaded the new design to the site. The previous site was run using the Drupal Content Management System and for what I was doing with it, it was overkill. The site was taking way to much time to manage and was fustrting everytime I needed to make a change. So after working with Annette on her blog, I decided to try WordPress as the content engine. I have had the site in test for a little while now and I think I have all the bugs worked out. The only remaining issue is displaying photos in the post notifications (email). I use a different gallery engine then Annette’s blog does, which is why her photos show in the content and mine don’t. But I hope to have that fixed soon.

In the mean time, bienvenue! Please feel free to comment on blogs as you see fit. You will have to comment on the blogs since you can not comment on the photos directly. If you think I’m missing something please let me know. I’m open to new ideas.

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Easter at the Brussels Childbirth Trust

by on Mar.27, 2009, under Belgium

Easter is certainly in the air in Belgium. Today Caitlyn attend her second Easter party, and I believe she has one more to go. I left work a little early for the chance to attend with Annette and Caitlyn. I took a slightly (about an hour) earlier train to Waterloo. Annette and Caitlyn surprised me by meeting me at the station saving me the walk home.

The party was about 15 minutes out of Waterloo in another town at one of the BCT member’s home. We arrived right on time, not the Belgium traditional 15 minutes late, so we thankfully got the last spot in the driveway. This will be come important later in the story.

Once settled Caitlyn and Annette completed the craft, which was an Easter card with a bunny on the front. Then off to play with all their friends, both Caitlyn and Annette. I had settled in to a grazing at the food counter (have you notice how food is always a main point in my stories?), when Annette told me one of her friends needed a little assistance outside. I assumed she needed help bringing something in, but oh was I wrong.

Now Annette has mentioned many, many, many times in her blog about the rain here. Which happens pretty much daily. While this creates a lush green lawn, it also makes it marsh like when stepping on it; spongy. So I walk out with Sandy, Annette’s friend, to assist in her delemia and found her car sunk about 3 inches in to the grass in the middle of the lawn. She had attempted to turn around at the direction of her mother and got stuck. I attempted to assist but the it was going to take more than me to get it out. As we were attempting to get Sandy out Helen (another member) also got stuck as she tried to take her minivan across a small strip of grass to a parking spot on the other side.

As luck would have it Tara, the host, had both cardboard and wood that we could use to assist in the traction, which anyone who’s been stuck in the mud in Alabama knows, you step on the gas, one tire spins, the other tire does nothing. But of course the cars were too deep to get the wood under the tires, it acted more like a scrapper cleaning the mud of the tires. Next we tried an all-hands evolution (except prego Annette). We rocked and rocked and almost got it the minivan out, but it was still stuck.

Next plan. We’ll try to “tow” it out with nylon rope. So where to you attach the rope? To the emergency tow hitches, which get screwed in to holes in the bumper. But because they hadn’t been used ever, the wholes were filled with dirt and I could only get the hitches in so far. So we threw caution to the wind and tried anyway, and to my surprise the hitch held and Helen was on her way. But sad Sandy was still stuck in the mud (literally not figuratively). So we tried rocking her much lighter BMW and it came out without a problem. Although one poor Mom choose the spot right next to the rear drive wheel and was covered in mud. Now the only thing left was for poor Tara to repair her poor lawn, a little soil and seed will do wonders.

Sadly I was assisting in the “car removal evolution” and was unable to record the event for prosperity. But I’ll work on getting copies of the pictures taken, so you might learn from their mistakes. But in the mean time, enjoy the photos I did take in the Gallery or directly to the Easter 2009 BCT gallery.

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Easter at the American Women’s Club of Brussels

by on Mar.22, 2009, under Belgium

Today we journeyed to the American Women’s where we had an egg hunt, create a craft, and ate munchies. Oh the munchies… the cookies, the cupcakes, the chips, the candy, the vegetables… wait, veggies? How would bring veggies? Yes you guessed right Annette (I will mention they were greatly received by others… Suckers!). Once placed in the crowning location, I quickly noted the spot and avoided it during my travels from our craft area to the cookies (oh the cookies) even if it took an extra steps 20 and 10 additional seconds (which just increased the anticipation of the cookies).

While I greedily munched on the food, Caitly and Annette decorated a small metal cup with stickers and color in a beautiful Easter fashion. The cup was then filled with a bulb and soil, then carefully watered. Now we have the anticipation of a beautiful flower to grace our home.

During the craft time, the Easter bunny and helpers were covering the grass outside with treats for the children to find. I use the term “find” loosely because all the children had to do was look where they stepped. The grass was COVERED with little treats. Caitlyn loved finding all the little choc-o-late eggs. She even found a large foiled wrapped bunny and jelly beans. She was in candy heaven, sneaking an egg whenever Annette and I were not watching. She had a plan… one for the basket, one to eat, one for the basket, one to eat… You get the idea.

Here in Belgium the small chocolate eggs are filled with chocolate, praline, hazelnut praline, or white chocolate. They are all really good, but I think the older kids preferred certain ones since they were looking for certain colored eggs, which is how you can tell what is in them. Fine with Caitlyn since they walked by small piles of eggs which she scooped up in to her basket.

The pictures from the day are posted in the Gallery or directly to the Easter 2009 AWCB Gallery.

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