Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Blog

http://belgiumbarb.blogspot.com/

Ok, here is the link to my new blog. It didn't make much sense to keep the old name when all of my new posts are about living in Europe. Hope you follow along to the new site. Have a super day!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Exploring The Area

I am branching out a little more into the local area. This is another view of Peer. Bikes rule the country, and they always have the right of way. The red paths along each side of the road are bike paths. You are not allowed to park on them, and you constantly have to keep an eye out for the bikes at intersections, because they don't stop. They know they have the right of way, and just assume you will stop when they cross in front of you. There are more bike paths than there are roads. You can travel anywhere you want in Belgium on a bike path.
I went to the Antique market in Tongeren on Sunday with a new friend. Russ and the kids stayed home. They aren't big into shopping for "old stuff". They have the market every Sunday. Tongeren is the oldest city in Belgium. It's beautiful. Lots of narrow roads that wrap around the city center, where you find the Basilica. This is a picture of part of the basilica. I didn't get any good pictures there, because it started to rain when we finished shopping. Good timing on that. The market is in the city center, just down a winding road from the basilica.

This is a statute of Ambiorix. He rallied his people to fight against Julius Caesar in the first century BC. I try to read a little about the areas that I get to visit. Maybe this will improve our knowledge of history. (It certainly couldn't hurt.) The statute is right across from the basilica. It's in a little open area where there are a lot of stores and cafes. The antique market is really large, and winds through the streets of the city center. There are a couple of big warehouses (one is more like an open parking garage) where they have a lot of stands set up, because it does tend to rain here a lot. We lucked out and finished our shopping before the rain really started. Then we enjoyed a cappuccino and waffle at a local cafe. (If you are curious, the waffle comes with a sprinkling of powdered sugar on it, and you can order toppings. I got fresh cherries and whipped cream.. YUM! Michelle got cherries and chocolate syrup.) I hope to go back soon and take Russ and the kids. They aren't big on the shopping, but they will love to explore the city. I'll be my normal tourist self next time and take lots of pictures. (I was trying to blend in a little more this time, and my big camera kind of gives me away. Let's just say that I learned on the second day that the word "tourist" is international. It just sounds better when they say it.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Our New Neighborhood

I guess I need to start a new blog about Belgium, but for now, I'll keep adding onto my Alaskan one. You can still click on the months on the right side and read over past posts if you want to check out those pictures.
We are slowly settling into our new neighborhood. We walked around for a bit yesterday afternoon. It's a beautiful little town. There are lots of biking/walking paths around. Because this is such a small base, there aren't a lot of Americans around. I'm sure we appear a bit strange to the locals, but everyone has been really kind to us. This is the church with the bells that we have been hearing. You can just see the tip of it from our apartment, so we knew it wouldn't be far.

You can see most of the town by just walking around a big circle. All of the signs are in Dutch, of course, but there are pictures on a lot of store fronts, so it's not too hard to figure them out. There is a bakery and deli very close to us. We've already been to the little neighborhood market to get a few essentials.

Belgiums are very conscious of appearance. They keep their homes and yards looking perfect. You don't see any long grass or weeds here.

Here is a closer view of the church. I'm told that they open it up to tours occassionally, and you can climb up narrow stairs all the way to the top of the bell tower. We'll definitely have to do that. Brandon wants to see what it looks like up there. We are going to get out and see some more of the area today. Have a beautiful day!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

GrizzlyBarb In Belgium!


video

This is what Brussels, Belgium, looks like from the air. Very cool. This is the view we got this morning when we finally reached our destination. Well, almost reached it. We still had a bit of a drive to the area where we will be living. Luckily, we didn't have to focus on the drive. Some great people from our new base picked us and our 4,000 pieces of luggage up from the airport, and brought us to our temporary apartment.
Another great surprise awaited us in the apartment. Our new friends gave us a super goodie basket with lots of local treats in it. There was everything from Belgium beer to chocolate. They also stocked the kitchen with enough food to get us through the next couple of days. How awesome is that? Their son even left a soccer ball for the kids to borrow, just in case they got bored. How sweet!
Of course, we tore into the chocolate immediately! It is delicious!!!
This is a view of our new apartment. It's Euro chic! We had no idea what to expect, and were very pleasantly surprised. The man we're renting it from is extremely nice, and met us in front of the building when we pulled up. In fact, everyone here in Belgium is really great. They are very kind people.
Here is our bathroom. There is beautiful tile throughout the apartment.
Here is our lovely kitchen. Also cool. Did you notice that there is no fridge. It's hidden on the left side and designed to blend into the other cabinets. The thing that is missing is the freezer. There isn't one at all. I guess it helps you eat fresh produce. I'll take some pictures of the area soon. We are suffering from some serious jet lag, so I didn't take any pictures when we took our little tour of the base and local area today. Today has been a blur. I'm ready for bed. A Belgium bed. How cool is that?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday In Downtown Anchorage

We decided to spend our last Sunday in Anchorage visiting the downtown area. We were happy "tourists" and had a great time today. We walked around the area, visited a lot of the local tourist shops, and bought a few things to take with us. We also went to the Bear And Raven Theater and saw a great little movie about the Iditarod. It was interactive viewing, so we also enjoyed a parting view of the northern lights on the ceiling and a light snow fall. We traveled on to City Hall, where Russ and I enjoyed reindeer sausages from the corner cart. Good times. The kids decided not to be quite so adventurous, and had lunch at Burger King. I guess they have some issues with eating Rudolph. I, on the other hand, have no problem with it. He was delicious.
Next, a quick stop at the Visitor's Center beside City Hall to check out the Anchorage sign. It shows the air mileage from Anchorage to major cities around the world. Guess what was on the sign......Brussels! How cool is that? In case you can't read it, it is 4,566 air miles from Anchorage to Brussels. (Double that if you are traveling with kids who do not sleep on planes.)

The icing on the cake today was having our family portrait taken. When we left Florida, we had our picture taken on the beach. What do you do when you leave Alaska? You have your picture taken with a moose, of course! Hank was only too happy to oblige. Thanks, Hank. We really appreciate it. We will remember you and Alaska fondly.

Last Trip Down The Seward Highway

I know that we went to Seward a few days ago, but I had to head down that direction just one more time before we leave Alaska. We only went as far as Portage yesterday, but it's not about the distance of the drive...it's all about the quality. The Seward Highway sums up all that is great about Alaska in one beautiful package. The bore tide was heading back out to sea. There was a fresh dusting of snow on the mountains. Eagles were flying in lazy circles overhead. Now here is something you don't see every day. This is a helicopter towing a plane back to Anchorage. I'd love to know the whole story about this, but for now, we'll just have to wonder what was going on.

We saw several moose along the road. This is a young bull moose getting a bite to eat on the side of the road. He's a handsome devil, isn't he? Since Bob never came back to say "good-bye", this young fellow will just have to do.

Here is a good looking porcupine. I didn't get a good shot of his teeth, but let me tell you...they were spectacular. (Someone needs a teeth whitening kit. They were bright yellow!) We won't even mention the lovely aroma that wafted up from him. I wouldn't want to undermine his confidence. Still, he was very kind to let me take his picture, and I do appreciate it.

Even with the rain and wind, it was a beautiful drive. I will definitely miss this.

At first glance, this looks like a bunch of white dots on the side of a mountain. On closer inspection, you will see that they are a family of Dall sheep, high up on rocks above the highway. You have to understand that this picture was taken with a zoom lens, through the windshield of a van traveling pretty fast on a windy road. All that taken into consideration, it's a pretty good shot. (I get my picture taking technique from my Dad. "Do you want me to pull over?" Click. "Nope, I'm good. I got it. Keep on trucking." I'm quite sure that all the famous photographers use this approach.)


Back to the big city of Anchorage. One step closer to our new adventure. The days are flying by, and it won't be long now.

Friday, May 29, 2009

AUGHHHH! NO INTERNET!!!!

I know you have been wondering what's been going on. No posts? No pictures? I've never been off of the Internet for more than a day or two at the most in the last year. (Can someone say "addiction"?) No, my hands and feet are not in casts. It's SO much worse than than. NO INTERNET AT TLF!!! We are just another victim of false advertising. They said we have it there, but this is not the case. Anyway, the family and I have been enjoying TLF for the most part (except for the Internet issues). We are also trying to make the most of our last few days here in glorious Alaska. We've been lucky enough to have had fantastic weather until the last couple of days. Now we are enjoying spring showers.


We took the opportunity last weekend to take a few scenic drives. We spent Saturday in Seward, and Sunday in Talkeetna. This is a snowplow train engine on the side of the Seward Highway just south of Anchorage. It's huge! Very cool to look at, too. We've seen it countless times, but this was the first time we actually stopped to check it out up close.

Seward is a lovely little town at the end of the Seward Highway, about 2 1/2 hours south of Anchorage. This is the most beautiful drive in the world, and we just had to head down there one more time. We always have a great time at the Sea Life Center down there, too. We enjoyed a few hours there and then headed down to a little cafe by the pier for a nice lunch with a view of the fishing boats. Sunday's trip to Talkeetna was great, too, but not quite as scenic. The best view on the whole trip is this one of Denali. When you come over a rise right before Talkeetna, you get a super view of the mountains. We also happened to arrive at the same these helicopters were heading through, so it was a double treat.
Talkeetna itself is a nice little town. It's what that old series "Northern Exposure" was based on. They do have some great little restaurants and a really nice view of Denali (Mt. McKinley) from the river beside the town. It's also the starting spot for some awesome flight seeing trips and most mountain climbers who are headed to Denali.
We haven't been roughing it nearly so much lately. We have actual beds in TLF. So much nicer than the air mattresses that we were sleeping on. We also have super friends to help us out. Kim brought us delicious goodies a couple of days ago--chocolate covered peanut butter balls and apple dumplings. I guess we've been missing home cooking more than I thought, because the kids and I landed on the goodies like a swarm of locusts and devoured most of them the first evening. Russ wasn't there when Kim delivered them, so he was lucky to get any at all.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know that we are still alive and kicking and still on American soil for the moment. Just a few more days and we are on the way to our new adventure. I hope to be able to share more pics with you soon. Have a super day!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday at Six Mile Lake

This is shaping up to be a fantastic Spring! Jess and I took a little drive out to Six Mile Lake on the back side of Elmendorf AFB this afternoon. Only a light dusting of snow is left on the Chugach Mountains, and trees are bursting with color. I know I shouldn't be playing hooky from the whole packing/cleaning thing, but it's just so hard to stay indoors on such a beautiful day! Just a little gee wiz information: Did you know that Alaska has the highest number of pilots per capita of any U.S. state: out of the estimated 663,661 residents, 8,550 are pilots, or about one in every 78. It makes perfect sense when you consider that a large number of smaller communities in Alaska can only be reached by air. Another unusual fact is that Alaska has the longest runway in the world, as the entire length of the Richardson Highway is designated an emergency landing strip.
Not only are we having the best weather, but our hours of sunlight are letting us enjoy each day a lot longer now. The sun is rising around 5:30 in the morning, and doesn't set until around 11:00 at night. The kids love the longer days. (It makes it a lot harder to keep track of bedtimes on school nights when it's still bright and sunny at 9:30 pm.) It won't be long until the Summer Solstice on June 21. They don't call this The Land of the Midnight Sun for nothing! We still get a few hours of darkness here in Anchorage, but just north of Fairbanks, the sun never really sets at this time. There are lots of festivities to help you enjoy Summer Solstice here. These include the Midnight Sun Baseball Game, the Zoolstice (celebration at the Zoo), and the AWAIC Summer Solstice Festival ...just to name a few. We'll be "on the other side of the pond" at that time, but there's no reason you can't hop on a plane and come up to enjoy the fun. Fur pelts are optional.

More Palin Pics From Friday

OK, I admit I'm more than a little freaked out to find that people actually read my blog (other than those required to because they are related to me.) Due to the tremendous response to the Palin pics I posted Friday, I'll share some more. I'm really glad that there are so many Palin fans out there. I think that it's hard to be in the same room as Sarah and not become an instant fan. The purpose of her visit to our school was to sign House Bill 137. For those of you not involved in the military, here is the official release on what this means to our kids.

"The purpose of House Bill 137 is to eliminate some of the barriers that face children of military personnel as they transition from one school system to another. The average student will move from six to nine times from kindergarten to 12th grade. While the armed services has done much to ease the transition for children of military personnel, there is much that can be done at the state and local levels to ensure that these children are afforded the same opportunities for educational success as other children. Alaska enjoys a close relationship with our service men and women and their families and recognizes the sacrifice and stress they face with frequent moves and deployment. There are 12,106 active duty children between the ages of five and 18 plus the children of active members of the guard and reserve that will benefit from this compact. Eleven states in 2008 adopted this compact and presently 22 states have pending legislation to join the compact. Passing this legislation will help remove some of that stress by providing the children timely enrollment as the children move from one school district to another."

The thing that impressed me most about Sarah was that she was just so gracious. It wasn't about adults, politics or votes. It was truly about the kids. She went through the crowd of children, handed out pencils and shook their hands. She made them feel important. They gave her flowers and pictures that they had drawn, and she really took the time to stop and thank them. Mr. Webb, our Principle, presented Sarah with a pillow to use on plane trips. It has our schools logo on it and was signed by our staff.

He also presented her with a copy of our schools cookbook. The parents and staff all contributed recipes, and the PTA had this printed to sell as a fundraiser for the school. A few of the recipes in there are mine. Just think! Sarah could be cooking my Jambalaya for Todd tomorrow night! I've made it to the big time.

Something else that impressed me about the Palins was their infinite patience. People were crowding around, all requesting their picture to be taken with them. Everyone was polite, but it was still very overwhelming. The Palins were kind to everyone and took the time to take what had to be hundreds of photographs with their adoring fans.

OK, you know you wanted another Todd Palin pic, and I will not refuse. Sorry ladies, he's taken.

There was no limo or fancy motorcade for the Palins. Just a simple SUV driven by Todd. (He was quite the gentleman and opened Sarah's door for her.) Just another shining example of how money and fame doesn't always have to change someone. Some great people will always be just that...great!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday At The Anchorage Weekend Market

Greetings once again from the beautiful, thawed out, and turning glorious green tundra. I know I've been saying it a lot lately, but what a glorious day! We ran some errands this morning, and decided to head on down to the weekend market this afternoon. This is the opening weekend for the summer market, and everyone was out enjoying the fun and sunshine. If you ever find yourself in Anchorage in the summer, wander over to the market. It's FREE. There are tons of booths filled with everything from native crafts to fantastic food. They always have live entertainment, too. Now I know that you are wondering... if it was all that and a bag of chips, where are the pictures? (I am hanging my head in shame.) I didn't take my camera. In my defense, we were going to the mall to get new jeans for the kids, so do I really need a camera for that? Apparently so. I will promise to do better in the future. To make up for my sad behavior, I am including the link to the markets so you can check that out. Apparently they remembered to take a camera with them. http://www.anchoragemarkets.com/main.html

While we were at the market, we just happened to visit the booth of our favorite comic author/illustrator, Chad Carpenter. OK, it wasn't a coincidence, Brandon headed straight for him and I was fast on his trail. Chad writes Tundra Comics. If you've never heard of him, you are definitely losing out! Brandon has all of his books, and just had to have the latest release. The Palins yesterday and Chad Carpenter today? Wow! Could I be having the best week ever or what? By the way, thanks to the people who left such nice notes for me in response to my Palin post. You guys rock. Who knew someone other than my parents, mother-in-law and Gretchen were actually reading this blog? I know you read it, too, Dajana. :0)
There is a link on the right side of this page to the home page for Tundra Comics. Click on it if you want to check them out. If you like them, notify your local newspaper and request that they carry his strip in your paper. Believe it or not, you have a voice in this decision. Help an Alaskan out. He's a really great guy and writes some really funny stuff.

I hope your Saturday was at least half as nice as mine. Maybe tomorrow I'll head out to Six Mile Lake for a few springtime pics to post. We are on the countdown now. Just a couple of weeks left before we have to leave beautiful Alaska. It makes me sad to think about it, but I am excited about seeing Europe. I have a feeling that Belgium is going to rock, too. Maybe I'll get
to meet the King...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fantastic Friday With The Palins

Now I'm not one to drop names, but I SPENT THE MORNING WITH THE PALINS! Yes, you heard me right. (OK, I am one to drop names.) How awesome is that??? I have the best non paying job in the world. :0) As the school photographer, I get to do all kinds of fun things around the school. One of those things is taking pictures of important visitors. When they asked me if I'd be interested in taking pics of the Palins, of course I jumped at the chance. Did you really think I'd say no? In case you are wondering... yes, Sarah Palin is even more beautiful in person. And yes, she is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. She is not the typical politician. She is more like a neighbor, who stopped over for a visit. She had time for everyone, answered questions, and was super with the kids.
And the answer to your next question...yes, Todd Palin is a hottie. :0) He is also a really great guy. He is very laid back, and just hangs out while Sarah does her thing.
Sarah came to our school to sign legislation that will help military kids make the transition to new schools easier. Military kids have it tough, because they change not only schools every couple of years, but also states (and sometimes countries). This program will help give kids the support they need to get settled into their new schools and new locations. She is definitely a friend of the military, and we appreciate it.

I'm not committing to anything, but this MIGHT be the official State Seal of the Governor, and they MIGHT have forgotten it and left it at the school. Someone MIGHT have borrowed it for some pictures. (And yes, they were called and came back to get it.) They also MIGHT have caught us taking goofy pictures with it. He was very polite and pretended he didn't see anything out of the ordinary. But he did make sure that nothing else was left behind. :0) Go figure.