Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Home Again

Everyone has heard the marketing quip... What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Well, it's a lie! A smelly, dirty lie. Okay, so the "smelly dirty" part is in the washer, but I am still disillusioned.
We came home with three loads of spirited laundry. Something that smells of fear, and cheer, anticipation, and earthquake-road trip survival... and none of it stayed in Vegas, baby. It's all in my laundry room.

Fortunately, before I was up to my nostrils in Vegas memories, we had the most amazing and comforting welcome home, Happy Easter ever. We drove west Sunday morning, and it was a doozy. The five 6 hour drive was plagued with high winds, and closed restaurants, then an earthquake... which, to be honest, we did not notice traveling at 67 mph in wind gusts, but still! Were we ever whooped.

But, the Bird House was open, and Ruth was in the kitchen filling the air with fragrant aromas. Holly and Rich were ahem... The Easter Bunny had just left, and eggs were hidden all over the backyard.

I am ruined forever. From now on, I will always secretly hope that after every road trip we are greeted by family or friends, and a beautiful and abundant home cooked meal. That the children will have fun awaiting them, that there will be chilled wine on the patio, cut flowers in a vase, and that all the cares of the road and long weekend will evaporate as we laugh and play.

It was nice putting off laundry. It was a relief not having to search for any open market, so I could throw together a healthy holiday dinner. It was comforting, after the melancholy of saying good-by to family, to be greeted by more family. Every detail and nicety was considered and thoughtfully planned, and our only expectation was to enjoy ourselves... and we did. Very much.

Since then, I confess, I spent an entire day doing next to nothing. Writing, downloading pictures. Trying to figure out why FB would not let me get into Lexulous... important nothings like that. What a luxury.

Then we started to reacclimate to our domestic climate. I started in on the laundry and dishes, bought cat food. Alex, Maria, and I went east to our old El Rancho neck of the prairie and we visited our favorite thrift shop. Now we have more forks, a new table cloth, shirts that fit Alex, and a little, metal Peanuts lunch pail that Maria cherishes. We also stopped at the tortilleria, and brought home some hot corn ones, and some jamaica flowers for punch.

Back home, Geoff reaffirmed his commitment to unpacking. And the first box he opened revealed something like a Christmas present! Not since 1997... that's how long it's been since our bread-maker was been out of a moving box. We packed it when the cord was destroyed, and it never came out until now. So, Geoff and Alex set to get it back in working order. All of those moves, six total, must have shaken stuff loose, because they had to do more than replace the cord. I think they kind of enjoyed themselves. And when I figure out how to crank her up and get her baking again, we will all be enjoying ourselves. Toast 'n' Jelly Days, coming soon!

I still do have chicks on the brain. It is spring, and I want chicks. But. Always with the big but. But, I have to get prepared, and time things, and be responsible... blah-blah-blah. Being an adult can be so overrated. Hopefully, signs and articles, and circumstances will align and Polish chicks, or Silkies, will be more than just hencakes on the griddle.

Now, there's nothing to stop me from making some salsa to go with those fresh corn tortillas. So I roasted one chile verde, and I have tomatoes and a jalapeņo simmering on the stove. Cilantro from the garden, a bit of white onion finely diced. Sal. Pimiento. Ajo. Blend, and go!

We're home.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We Keep Springing Forward

These are the kind of posts I enjoy stumbling across... some day in the future, I will see this and recall all kinds of things, big and small, and I will enjoy remembering them. I may wish I could go back, or I may be grateful just to have survived. In the midst of our busy days, errands, challenges, and successes... there are moments, there are ideas, feelings, and milestones that are worth noting, worth a pause.

We are doing too much, as the saying goes, but sometimes "too much" is too good to pass up, so forward we go. Pushing to get to FRC Las Vegas, and juggling to be in Atlanta too. My friend Karen was right when she said, We can do this, but it won't be pretty. I think on her wisdom and humor when I look around my home, wondering if we will ever finish moving in, if we will ever achieve the comfy-settled look of an organized and tidy home.


But only a small sigh, and not a desperate or grieving sigh. I actually feel energized and motivated by our goals and plans, the goals and plans of 2102, Robotics. The disappointment about delayed domestic settling and chick postponement is fairly fleeting. The inspiration and success of the Team is invigorating, and feels more meaningful to me than finding our Easter wreath, or pruning hedges.

So, what have we been up to? Well, we enjoyed the opportunity to give family a metal-shop and robotics tour and introduction. Alright, so it's not the typical way for families to finally make the time to hang out, but I think they had a pretty good time. Alex got a chance to share his knowledge of the robot controls, the new tower, and mecanum wheels. The team got a chance to meet Spencer, and to figure out that when they are featured on the morning news, it will be like sharing cool stuff with a friend, so no worries. I was kind of imagining Jacob, Jesse, and Maria in ten years... design, build, and marketing... 2102 Team Paradox in the year 2020.

Maria thinks she is part of the team already. And fortunately, they do find ways for her to participate, to be a Paradox. Her parrot-ox dress is ready to go to Vegas.

Her hat and apron are ready too. In San Diego she passed out about eight hundred chocolate Paradox eggs in the arena... something we call Paradox Gracious Chocolatism. She is ready and stocked to show her spirit in Vegas and Atlanta.

While Maria, Max, and Alex break down the Cupid Shuffle, I've been doing some sewing for the marketing team. My blanket stitch is getting good. And plushy parrot-ox parts are definitely part of our domestic landscape. These handmade plushies are for alliance building, and diplomacy, fundraising and team creative expression, and they are hugely popular at FRC.

Speaking of creative expression I finally unpacked a gingerbread house kit. One of the few I bought for Christmas. The ones I left in the garage, when I realized and accepted that we were never going to get around to decorating gingerbread houses for Christmas. Why not Spring, and Easter? Right? Shade the frosting pink, and sky blue, find pink sugar sprinkles and egg shaped confections, and voila! A spring cottage. Maria and William supervised me and the glue gun, and once it was assembled, they set forth with decor.

It turned in to a hectic night... Geoff trying to make Alex and Max's room in to a bedroom, Alex doing homework, Max industriously turning paper and tape in to the Grand Canyon for his Arizona state report, and me trying to be a marketing mentor-blogger-domestic queen of all... Someone should have stopped us, or intervened, or something... but Easter Gingerbread, markers, paint, laundry, bills, computer files, bed frames, vacuums, and other domestic perils happen. It's messy. It's not pretty, and yet somehow it's good. huh... It's a Paradox, really. Lots of chaos-mess-stress = good memories-humor-springing forward.

Now, don't get the wrong idea about my resilience and good humor. In the middle of the hectic-chaos-mess-stress, I was probably the messiest-stress mess of all. I don't recall dropping any f-bombs, but I am glad I was not standing near an open mic, or in the presence of rolling cameras. I do look forward to a long break, to robotic-homework liberty, to really and truly being moved in, to family time spent in the same room and time zone.

And in the meantime, thank goodness for family that willingly agrees to a get together in a greasy metal shop. And thank goodness for generous friends who make the time to bake amazing snicker-doodles and puckery sweet lemon bars, then wrap them in a dear kitty box, and send them to our home. Funny, Geoff thought the kitties were named SnickerDoodle and Lemon Square. This was one delicious moment, I will never forget... thoughtful and refreshing, giving me the steam to keep springing forward. Special thanks to Minou, Sam, and Em... those sweet, furry snicker-doodles.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Trying For Understated

Some persons want things to be quiet, reserved, low-key, understated, when it comes to their special day. I need to respect a particular person's right to come in under the radar. This is hard to do.

A birthday is personal. Mine is personal to me, and yours is personal to you. But none of us are born alone. Someone bore us, and I have understood and appreciated this since March 1, 1991. Actually, the concept was really contracted home for about twenty fours prior. His birthday is my birthday, and while I do not see this as license to take center stage, I cannot help feeling connected and responsible, involved.

I will save all my messages and affection, my deep thoughts, and other musings for him alone.

And for the record, I will talk about pie.

My mommy dreamt up a pie. It was a feeling, an emotion, an expression of culinary destiny. I think her vision's mission statement is: Pie Should Not Be Understated.

When she came in December she and I were on the lookout for varieties of chipotle jelly, jam, chutney, preserves and powder. We were going for something without dyes. Something that didn't taste pickled or overly processed. She already had great success with her developing recipe when she baked pies in Southampton, Ontario, and over Thanksgiving with the Soquel family and guests.

The pie she baked while she was here was declared "the best pie ever," by her three grandsons. "The best pie ever." This is huge. A statement like this, from the founding fathers of The Pumpkin Pie Club, children who frequently vote for pie over any other dessert... this is monumental. I probably should have a separate Chickenblog label for all of the dear, life altering, life affirming pie moments we have shared. Homemade pies, birthday pies, road trip pies, wedding pies, local pies, a tragic salted pie, Wisconsin cherry pies, Central Coast Olallieberry pies...

Seriously. Their statement about Grandma BooBoo's Chipotle Apple Pie is a landmark in the legacy of pie.

Mom found a marvelous chipotle jam and sent it to me, and the boys have waited in patient anticipation for me to attempt making Grandma BooBoo's Chipotle Apple Pie. As yet, there is not an "official" recipe, and my mom was a bit disappointed in the version she baked while she was here, using chipotle powder. She was disappointed, but the boys were clearly not. I added half this jar of jam, decreased my sugar, and proceeded to make my basic apple pie, and... Success!

I wish Delia were here so we could fine tune the recipe and make scientific measurements, but the boys are completely onboard with this spicy chipotle pie, so we must be in the right zone.

Pictures. of. finished. pie.
Uh, well sorry, but there was a bit of a pie frenzy and no one wanted to pose or look natural, so maybe next time.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Me, Like A Chickadee

How, like a chickadee?
I cannot seem to stop chattering. Maybe not out loud, but certainly on this blog. And sometimes, like a small bird, I flit from branch to branch, or from subject to subject.

I never have been sure how to categorize Chickenblog. "Random" comes to mind.

A Whatbird.
Ever seen one before?
This bird, and several shyer ones, was sitting on the top of our apricot tree. And it sounded... don't worry, I am not about to give you my audio bird call interpretation... it sounded like a chickadee. When the sky was blue, it did not look as yellow.

And when the clouds filled in, the yellow was more pronounced. Does anyone recognize our little Whatbird?

Last night it rained. It rained more than I had expected it to, which is not necessarily significant information meteorologically speaking... it's just me, chattering away. Yvette you were right about the mud at South Side Mountain, which is why I am glad I left most of the weeds alone. The weeds do a lot of good, I say.

Have you ever had a season when you were sick so frequently that you felt embarrassed? I believe I wash my hands frequently, and I have been taking vitamins. I own and use a neti pot (this might sound like a bad testimonial) and I think happy thoughts. I kind of squirm uncomfortably when I have to admit that, yes, I am sick, again. Recently I missed a very important celebration. Maria was croupy, and I was "under the weather." I thought I made a full recovery and certainly had no clue that I was headed for worse. But. Here I am. I blame Dr. Drillhappy Martin. In 2002 he found his way through my tooth, through my jaw, and into my sinus cavity. I am not sure he was going to stop, but lucky for me Alex walked in to the room and demanded to know, "Why is my mom's mouth filling with blood? Nothing sinusly has been the same since. *shakes angry fist of indignation*

Did I have point?
Maybe the picture is an extreme macro-shot of my sinus cavity?

No. Self-sinus-photography is not one of my skills.
This is Geoff's. He is the Robotics programming mentor.
I was going to make this control panel and write programs to operate the robot, but then I got this sinus thing, so I let him take over.
I would explain it all. Describe the function of that metal box with the thingy sticking out, and why when it is on it sounds like a breadmaker, but... Top Secret.

Yeah, it's pretty much classified. Technical and classified, so sorry. Please step away.

This is slightly less technical, but equally as elaborate as Geoff's programming driver station. It is one of my baking drawers, and it is decadently loaded with measuring cups and teaspoons. The wealth of this drawer makes me lightheaded and bakingly gratified. There is abundance. Disorder, only to the untrained eye. I see clean supplies, ready to go to work. I even have a tool for making raspados and two maple leaf cookie cutters... two? I do love Canada, and autumn.

Want the dish on my kitchen?
I love thrift shopping.

I love aprons.
I love table cloths, dish towels, and bowls.
I really love bowls.

I love these teeny tiny glasses... Holly, Rich, and Ruth came with a bottle of limoncello for Geoff's birthday. We enjoyed the powerful sips from larger cups, but a few weeks ago I saw these pretty five for two dollar glasses and I instantly knew what they would work for... limoncello anyone?

The cow and kitty creamers look like they are straining to get a sip. It is such a blessing to be easily amused.

Not amused.
Time's up. Kitty says so.
Enough random chattering from this Chickadee.
I am going to drink hot tea and go to bed, or the sofa, or maybe to the South Side, and nap with Betty.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Another Six Weeks of Glorious Winter

(image borrowed from the World Wide Interwebs)

In the timeless spirit of making a big deal out of nothing, we are commencing a family tradition of celebrating the fairly unremarkable calendar event known as: Groundhog Day. It is our intention to break up the monotony of a "long" winter, with frivolity, randomness, song and hoopla.

For many years the boys have inquired about this second day of February and the rumored observation of the behaviors of a certain Marmota monax, aka Punxsutawney Phil. Ironically we have consistently marked the occasion by realizing on the third day of February that we had forgotten to tune in and join in the celebration-observance-calendar event. The realization is generally followed by a discussion about the injustice of this not being a real holiday, and school break.

No more. We are taking charge and from this day forward Groundhog Day is real. It will mark the time when we look to the ground and think of the whistle-pig, the tree climbing, able swimmer, burrowing sciurid. We intend to write songs and sing them aloud, preferably around a campfire on Groundhog Eve. We will develop decorations and finalize what will henceforth be traditional Groundhog Day foods.

Ground hog has been suggested as a tasty, if somewhat insensitive, offering. We did have a vegetarian option this morning: Groundcakes: Groundhog shaped pancakes. While they did tend to resemble gophers, cats, bears and rats, we are certain that over time the form and flavor of Groundcakes will become distinctly Groundhoglicious.

I thought I might have to resort to Groundhog initials if my Groundcakes were going to look like bears.

This won't work.

Holidays don't just happen. It takes thought and effort.

So, while I was whipping up a steaming, golden platter of Groundcakes, the boys were waking up in the tent. They spent the night camping in the backyard, a few feet away from where we spent the evening before gathered around a campfire. Smiley and Junie were over for a visit and joined us roasting marshmallows and counting stars.

Real campers, winter campers, deserve Groundcakes for breakfast. And I think this groundhog profile really captures the tasty beauty of the whistle-pig.

A herd?
Flock, covey, posse?
What do they call a pack of groundhogs?
"The collective name for groundhogs is "repetition". The easiest way to remember that is to think of the movie Groundhog Day :)" This came from Jill of "Because the Alternative is Unthinkable."
Awesome, Jill. Thank you.

Yes, we have a lot to learn, a lot to work out in terms of our theme and purpose.

Or do we?

Seriously. I think we are going to accept Groundhog Day as our very own sanctioned yet uniquely personalized unserious calendar event. We have six more weeks of winter, so there may be rain in our future and there may be mornings when we cannot sit on the lawn eating our breakfast. We will bear this as best we can. Do not pity us, please. And we have a whole year ahead of us in which to anticipate the next observation of Groundhog Day... we are very excited about this. Will there be costumes, a band? Maybe just top hats... Should we always pitch a tent, no matter what, and be super obsessive and formal? Is prognostication and weather lore the emphasis, or are we all about enjoying any weather, any season? The possibilities are limitless and so is our humor. I foresee a bright and absurd calendar-event future for us to enjoy.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Here it Comes... The Christmas Extravaganza

A second storm blew in this morning and it brought with it rain and a blast of Christmas inspiration and the energy to actually accomplish a few of the things that I have been dreaming of. The rain was so beautiful. It drizzled for a long while, but in the middle of breakfast it came down in great, satisfying sheets of water. It was our first Saturday-home-eating-pancakes with the kitchen door open rainfall. What a great start to the day.

So. I washed dishes. I did laundry and took out garbage. I showered. Seriously, this has been an amazing day. Is it the weather? Is it finally being in recovery mode? I don't want to over analyze it, but it does matter. When one feels inspired, ready and able to make pancakes and tamales on the same day, it's worth figuring out what forces are at play. I even unpacked more boxes, let Maria paint with real paints, cleaned after making tamales and sewed a patchwork scarf.

And what about this bird cake? Cute.

Hencakes have been around as long as Chickenblog, but a blog friend at "A Cup of Coffee..." shared the genius idea of using a squeeze bottle. We are totally hooked on the squeeze bottle. She gave Chickenblog credit for inspiring her first Zacky-cakes. I just love it when good stuff goes around.

I passed the bottle to Geoff. I knew he would appreciate this creative outlet. Sure enough, out comes a Klein-cake. Not to be confused with a Khan-Cake. No, this is a pancake inspired by the mathematical certain non-orientable surface... you know a surface with no distinct "inner" or "outer" sides. A Klein-cake.

Yup. That's how we roll in the A.M.

Not to out do Geoff, but I too dabbled in the realm of mathematical polyphysic-calculated with integer coefficients thingy. It's pretty much a familiar yet confounding paradox of heat with doughy snowiness. Maria ate it before we could calculate it's relative parameterization. Oh well.

Back to basics. Hencakes. Hencakes, with added flax seed, will brighten your day.

But what about the Christmas Extravaganza?
I was just feeling really perky and excited, because I accomplished so much today and it kind of feels like it will all serve to make this Christmas the best ever. That is all. Thank you, and Good night.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

And Now Bruxelles!

We're here. We managed the whole Paris exit fairly well. No major problems. We had great fun in Cambrai, France and Geoff's GPS worked admirably well, getting us into Bruxelles, but now we are wiped out. Our first impression is of a very busy, bustling, narrow streeted, high traffic kind of fun park, and that's just the hotel block... there is more out there waiting for us! Hopefully we will find an Internet cafe and dinner. Hopefully we will be able to fall asleep in broad daylight. It's 20:30 and the light suggests 15:00. PLease attribute spelling errors, bad grammar and brief post to having had lots of fun our last night in Paris. More soon.

Le Quack-Pack du Cambrai

Como se dice "quack" in French?

For us, novice European travelers, barreling along a French highway is interesting, a new experience... but any good road trip calls for a detour. Detours away from the main expressway or freeway or superhighway... those deviations from the GPS sanctioned route will lead to great discoveries.

Our drive from Gare Nord to Bruxelles was going smoothly. We did see the Marche du Puces en Ouen, but unfortunately we kind of got swept up in the traffic. It was Alex that wanted to see the stalls of the rag and bone men, the curiosities and knick knacks, but wedged in to the back of our Renault, he felt the pull of forward momentum stronger than the need to try turning around to battle traffic in the opposite direction. I hope we can make it up to him... somewhere between Bruxelles and Barcelona we hope to find a flea market where an artistic, history loving, robot building, imaginative young man can bargain for Medieval curios, old coins and cool bow ties.

Happily we found ourselves on the A1, completely by chance, and it couldn't have been too much easier to follow the signs out of Paris, on our way to Belgium. Geoff got used to driving a manual transmission again. We fiddled around with the windows, adjusted the AC... the usual little things that occupy your time in a new car. Outside the windows we saw more and more open land, planted fields and forest. Cows. Wisconsin? Is that you? Ever imagine you are seeing a familiar face in an unexpected place? Well, we were seeing a familiar space in the French countryside... rolling fields, steeple topped villages, farm houses... any moment I thought we would come to Cambridge.

OKay. Other than the pleasure of thinking of Wisconsin, the fast drive and steady hum of a straight road, with only occasional cows and steeples to capture the imagination... well, it got a bit hypnotic, kind of droning, sleep-inducingly hypnotic. Maybe it was stayin up to the oui hours in Paris the night before... whatever the reason, Geoff needed a nap. The GPS protested: stay on the A2... do not digress, no. NO! U-turn, u-turn! We made the exit for Cambrai. It looked like a big enough dot on the map for a scenic nap spot. We aimed for the steeple, for the center of the Ville and we all perked up seeing the funny, blue, French pick-up truck, the ivy covered brick building, the very old homes and all the beautiful flowers. Geoff turned the car in the round-about, then we turned right where the sign said "Ville Centre," then we saw the duck pack.

Hold on.
Did you see... did you... was that a duck in a pack on the man's back?

Geoff was already stopping, pulling over on the little street, because he had seen it too, and when you see a full grown man, dressed interestingly, surrounded by a laughing crowd,and sporting a wire cage with a live duck, there is no other thing to do but stop.

I grabbed the camera (too obvious?) and set forth. A fair size crowd of young men was gathered around a man dressed as a fowl, duck or chick, whatever... he was actually still in a shell, with felt covered bird feet coming out of the bottom. Actually, I had second thoughts about approaching a rowdy crowd of strange men, and only my searing curiosity about the duck on his back propelled me forward. I had to get the picture!

The rowdy young men, handsome too, were jovial, high spirited, and obviously in league with the hatchling and even though I only wanted a picture of the duck in the wire cage back pack, I was in store for so much more! The man dressed as a newly hatched bird and wearing the duck pack approached me with a binder full of flyers and he began his talk, in French, blushing hard, laughing harder.

"Hables espaniol?" I asked hopefully. He did not, but he called out to his buddies for a Spanish speaker and it became an urgent mission of theirs to communicate their cause to me. A friend stepped forward, eager to help me understand, and in French-Spanglish he explained...

This hatchling is either

1. married to the duck and in need of a home


2. a bachelor, enjoying his last days of bachelorhood and in need of a home.

I definitely understood that this was a "gran fiesta!"

The binder was full of real estate flyers for small homes, some with gardens and views, hand painted, lovingly maintained, all for sale. I could buy a home, sign his certificate and support his bid to get a honeymoon cottage of his own, by donating a small fee and putting it in the duck decoy he wore around his neck (next to the noose.) As an added bonus one of the guys brought out a boombox from the decorated wagon they were pulling and I was treated to an embarrassed yet brave version of the chicken dance, with music. His friends called out and howled good naturedly, and he tried to remember all the steps... hatchlings aren't too coordinated and remember he did have a duck on his back!

At last we have a home of our own! He did not realize we share this common ambition, not to mention a shared interest in fowl. We have at long last bought ourselves a place to settle down. I would say it is a fixer, a bit rough around the edges. Only three bedrooms, but there is a garden and I think we can add-on. And why quibble? I got it for five Euro. He is closer to his goal too I hope.

This was the most original, funny, creative thing I have seen in a long time. If it is a tradition, if you understand it better than I do, I would love to learn more, because no matter how much was lost in translation it was still hilarious and wonderful. And yes, I am thinking of making a Betty-Pack and soliciting for a real home of our own!

If we do not return to Garage Mahal, please forward Betty, the cats and Joe the rabbit, to Cambrai, France. We are in the orange roofed house. I will plant blue lobelia in the window boxes.


I Heart Bruxelles

Our hotel, near the Grand Place is lovely and even with us spread out in three rooms, the arrangement is good. We are in a peaceful corner of a very busy city, in a very busy neighborhood, and though we were a bit overwhelmed initially, we are definitely warming up to everything quickly. The hotel clerk not only checked us in and assured us the Renault Espace would fit in the narrow courtyard, he also gave us maps and directions, suggestions, recommendations, warnings... without any inquiry from us, he kindly offered a guidebook's worth of useful information, including where we should eat.

We went to our three adjacent rooms, dropped our bags and dropped in to our beds. I think we napped or just zoned. Some of us showered. I watched some television... a lot about local culture can be picked up from a little viewing of the flat box. Then we willed ourselves to rise and go out and stretch our legs, find some food.

Gah! It was half past eight. At night! We have become night owls. The boys would have nothing to do with our plans. They needed peace and quiet. Max explained that they were happy with their time alone to think and read. Fair enough.

Maria, Geoff and I took our map and very quickly realized just how close we are to the sights. The sights include Mannequin Pis, and how a peeing statue the size of a large burrito ever came to be the emblem of a city... go figure. But we took pictures and sort of gave a nod to the local attraction, because why not? We will not be buying Mannequin Pis chocolates, frittes, cork screws (picture it if you dare,) T-shirts, ashtrays, shot glasses, tea towels or plates. I did see a cute shirt about the rain in Beligium, some pretty lace and waffles, lots and lots of waffles.

Then we came to the Grand Place and it is quite a site and sight. It's the expression and success of merchants that built the towering buidings around the main square, and all the flowers are a crowning touch that take my breath away. Hanging from baskets, in flower boxes and window boxes, in corners and every little niche are every kind of bloom, full and abundant... so lovely. We walked all around the place and up and down a few side streets.

We made a note of the shop with the strawberries and the chocolate fountain. We looked for the restaurant our hotel clerk suggested. We listened to the many languages, watched the guides leading tours, raising their umbrellas to lead the way through the milling crowds.

We owe the hotel clerk a hug, unless that would be faux pas. But he deserves a hug... he did not lead us astray. We did not get a table outside on the Place, but we walked up the stairs and inside T'Kelderke and we waited patiently. Maria was almost patient. Poor thing deserves dinner well before 21:00. It was worth the wait... we ate, as Alex said it is done in Belgium, as much as Germans and as well as the French. Our dinner was delicious and with beer and the peaceful nook with stunning views our night was complete. We'll have to sell our place in Cambrai if are going to move here and have onion soup and grilled goat cheese in honey for dinner every night.

Now it is morning and we are preparing to do laundry, not in our sink, but at the laundromat across the way, then we have got to find WIFI... so au'revoir for now.

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