Saturday, December 1, 2012

Grandma Melrose's 1st trip to Belgium.

Marion came over for Jacob's 10th birthday and stayed for 10 days. We had fun exploring the area over the two weekends that she was here. I also had fun taking her out and about while the kids were at school and Allen at work. It was Remebrance Day while she was here and she came along to the service. She also experienced a family's happy hour and did lots of knitting with Abi. We went out to a town called Binche to go to a mask museum. It had been recommended on a web site that SHAPE families use. It was very interesting and we toured the museum with a headset finding out about the town's traditions with dressing up as Gilles. A strange custom but one we will want to go and witness. Have a look at the varierty of photos from the afternoon! I've also added one of Abi and Grandma knitting. Marion and I went to Brugges and had a wonderful day. I drove, we could have gone on the train but there was a strike! The shops were great, the town was beautiful and the weather was lovely and sunny. We found lots of presents and had a superb lunch in a busy little restaurant. We got back in time for the end of school so an excellent trip out. We also had another trip out to a local market in a town called Soignies. It was lots of local vendors and we came away with home made quiches and homegrown garden produce. We also found an excellent bakery that served coffee and cake so Marion was happy. My Mum and Dad are coming out for a couple of days so we're going to revisit Brugges as the ice sculptures are now there as are the Christmas markets. Marion did manage to go to the Canadian and Norwegian ones on base and got a few bits. There has been a Christmas market on base each week since! The British one was pretty good but I have to say the German one has been the best so far.

Jacob's 10th Birthday

Jacob was lucky enough to celebrate his birthday on a Saturday and have Grandma Melrose here too! He didn't get up too early, which was handy as he and Abi had gone with Allen to get Marion the night before, so they had a late night. We only live 25mins from Charleroi airport, a lot easier than before.
Jacob had already had a treat for his birthday. I had managed to get last minute tickets to WWE in Brussels. He went with Allen and they had a brilliant time. He had also had a party back in The Netherlands as we weren't sure what was on offer here.
So for his actual birthday we went bowling and then Grandma, Jacob and Abi went to the cinema. We had cake when they returned and an easy evening. Abi had chosen a wrestling ring as his present and they both played with that for ages. His main present was a Kindle, he got lots of Amazon vouchers too which he will be using to buy books to put on his kindle. The library here also lets you borrow books to put on your kindle for a few weeks so he'll be using that too.

I've included some photos from the day.

SHAPE, Mons.

We have moved into a house right next to the base of SHAPE. We are living on the border of Casteau and Mons. Jacob and Abi are going to the British School on SHAPE. This school does take other Nations but priority goes to British children. Some classes are very mixed others are mainly Brits. Both Jacob and Abi have made a variety of friends and have settled in well. Abi won an award on Friday for high achievement and settling quickly. Jacob's taking it all in his stride and has his first invite to a party next week. I've included a photo of them on our doorstep on their first day of school. They now own proper school sweatshirts with a very nice International logo on them.
We also went into school, as Abi had been away on an overnight trip, and they did a presentation on this. She went to Ypres and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was impressed that she went as she'd only been in school a week. She did her presentation with great confidence.
I have also had my first day of supply. It went extremely well and I have a couple more days booked for Decemeber. Hoping I get something quite regularly, I am volunteering in school as well.

I have included a couple of photos from Abi's trip away.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

2nd half term and Halloween

Jacob and Abi were very lucky, they ended up having two half terms as Brunssum's and SHAPE's were different. They did go into school to visit on the Friday of their 1st half term. So their 2nd half term started without Allen as he was still in Poland. We carried on unpacking but also did a little exploring. We found an excellent ice cream and coffee shop which I'm sure we'll visit regularly. I also drove into Mons to have a look at the centre. We popped into a cafe and enjoyed yet more ice cream! The centre on Mons is a little like Sittard but no where near as pretty. I think this is my impression of this area in the whole, it's no where near as pretty as where we have come from. The up side though is our house is 100% better and we can walk to the base and school. There is a lot to offer on the base, a bowling alley, cinema, a cafe and restaurant plus a Carrefour supermarket. It's good to be able to walk to all of these. Cycling is going to be harder here. We were really spoilt in The Netherlands with all of the safe cycling paths. You're lucky to get a walking pavement here let alone a bike path! I have cycled to school with the kids but their road sense is not the greatest. We will give it another go as they are opening a gate much closer to our house so it will mean a much safer cycle to school, it will also knock 15mins off the walking time so that's great too. Jacob and Abi can go on the bus but, for some reason, they are enjoying walking so I'm not arguing.
We went back over to Brunssum to pick up Allen on the Tuesday, staying once again at Chris and Matt's. We had a pizza from the pizza bus, our favourite. We celebrated Halloween on the American base walking around with the Mertes. I've inlcuded a photo of Allen with our kids and then one of Jacob, Abi, Haley and Kaden. They had loads of fun and Jacob met up with a friend there so he was very happy. We drove back to SHAPE that night as we were off to the UK the next day.
We popped back to the UK for a day and a night to pick up our new car. We are trying a Superb Estate. Personally I can't see much difference but I suppose I'll only be able to tell when we go on a skiing trip to see how mcuh I can fit in! It did well with all of the shopping I did in the UK, still room for more!

October half term - Playmobil Germany


We had a fun half term, first we moved out of our house in Munstergeleen and into our new house in Casteau, Mons. This was not the easy move I had planned as Jacob came down with a chest infection on the day I was meant to be cleaning. All of the furniture left Thursday morning and I spent the morning taking Jacob to the doctors, dropping him at school and then picking him up 45mins later as they thought he was too ill to be there. The doctor had said he could go but he was tired from being up in the night coughing. Luckily my next door neighbour, Chris, took him in and he slept around there while I cleaned. I was going to let them go to school in Brunssum on the Friday but, as Jacob wasn't allowed back, I decided to drive over and join Allen in our new house. Again my kind neighbours, Chris and Matt fed us before we left and it was straight to bed once we got to our new house.
The rest of the weekend was spent unpacking and then we made our way back over to Munstergeleen to finish the cleaning for the march out on the Monday. We stayed next door and they fed us again! The march out was fine, I'm glad I'd cleaned behind the radiators as he used his torch to check them - it had taken me about 2 hours to do this and I had had enough by the end.
Allen went off on exercise to Poland for ten days and Jacob, Abi and me went to the South of Germany to the Playmobil funpark. Nadine drove us, she'd booked it all too. We stayed in a great Holiday Inn Express and had a brilliant time at the Playmobil place. I've included a variety of photos from the day there. Abi and Haley enjoyed the panning for jewels the best and Jacob loved the throwing balls at bottles activity!
After two nights here we moved a little further south of Nuremberg to visit Nadine's Grandma. I've included a photo of Jacob next to a Jacob beer truck - it was parked in the car park of the hotel we were staying. So we had a brilliant first half term.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Early 10th Birthday for Jacob

Jacob decided to do his 10th Birthday party here as we will have just moved for his actual birthday on the 10th November. He would have only  have been in school for a week so we thought it would be best all round to have his current friends to celebrate.

He has wanted to do laser tag for a while so we booked for 10 people at the Valkenburg caves. You get a game of laser tag in the caves, then a ride up on a chair lift to the Toboggan run. Then 4 goes on the toboggan, back down int he chair lift and pizza back in the caves. This all takes 2 and a half hours. They had a great time, Jacob would do it all again. Allen took part in the laser tag as one boy didn't turn up. He enjoyed it but said it was very hot! I had a go on the toboggan with Abi but wouldn't let her go as fast as she wanted to!

We finished off with cookies, a brilliant early birthday!

Berlin Swim Meet

Jacob and Abi are both in the Orcas swim team here. They go to swim meets every other weekend and a month ago we had a swim meet in Berlin. We chose to go by train whoch took about 5 hours. Most of the rest of the team, 70 people, that included parents and sibblings too, went by coach - overnight. I'm glad we took our option as an over night on a coach with kids can't be all that fun! We then addred an extra day on too so had a great time exploring Berlin. It's not a pretty city but there was loads to do. We stayed in a good location and bought a travel card that meant we could use any form of public transport for the three days we were there.
From the photos you will see we went up the TV tower, went to a large piece of the wall that had an exhibition along with it, saw the World Clock, visited the Holocaust Memorial and the Brandenburg Gate. We did a bus tour too, so a busy but fun weekend in Berlin.

Brussels in August

Before school started back we went to Brussels with Nadine, Kaden and Haley. They took us to Little Europe and Atonium, two places that we will now take visitors to as well. It was about an hour from where we live at the moment and will be just under an hour from where we are moving to. The children prefered Little Europe, I think that was because they recognised a lot of the places there. I thought it was handy as it showed where I would still like to visit in Europe! I've included a variety of photos from the day:

Atonium is that atom looking thing in the background of the mini Eiffel tower, you can go up some of the tubes and get a good view out.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Up to Scotland

So after a week with the Blunks down South we headed up North for another week of fun. We drove up in two cars, my Dad had kindly lent me his for the week. We had a girls car and a boys car - which worked very well all week. We stopped in North Allerton to have lunch with Allen's Auntie Rosemary. The sun was shining when we got there so we had a lovely lunch in the garden. I'd not seen Rosemary's house, even though she moved a few years ago! It's great, lots of character and a superb garden too.

We had managed to get tickets for Brazil versus Honduras, Olympic football at St James's Park so Allen took Tim, Betsy, Will and Jacob while I drove the girls up to Allen's Mum's. We arrived and got sorted and they all agot there around 9.30pm, so not bad at all.

We then had a week exploring Scotland. We did a day in Edinburgh with the children, it was very wet so we'd booked the underground cave visit - Allen and I dropped everyone off and then came right to the door to pick them up as it was raining very hard! Edinburgh was extremely busy due to the festival. The adults got to come back again as Allen and Tim played golf with Ernie so Betsy and I got to shop and have a look around for the day. Marion and Louise had the children for us, a lovely relaxing day for me and Betsy!

While in Scotand we had a night away on Loch Lomond, luckily the weather improved so we walked up Connick Hill - not something you should do in Fit Flops, I ended up taking them off to get down! We also took a boat out to a little island on the Loch and spent some time on the beach. It was beautiful, I've included a photo looking down on the Loch with Abi in the for ground and me and Jacob down below - we did make it up to the top too! There are also photos from the grounds of a historic house near Melrose and one in Marion's garden.

We also celebrated my birthday with a pub supper and pedicures for Betsy and myself!

After a great week we drove down to Birmingham and stayed in a huge Hilton. Betsy and Tim managed to get on the executive floor so we had access to the drinks and snacks happy hour, which we took full advantage of. The pool was great for the kids so it was a relaxing end to our holiday. Allen then dropped the Blunks at the airport. The two weeks flew past but it was a trip of a lifetime. Can't wait to get out to Denver for a bit of skiing and to catch up with the Blunks again.

We then dropped Dad's car back, had a BBQ at Holwell and made our way down to Ashford. Stayed in our first Premier Inn and was very impressed, so much that we've booked another one for when we swop our car next month!

Now we are getting ready for our move to SHAPE in two weeks. We've got rid of loads of rubbish that we have been carrying around for years, still lots to sort though! Visitors welcome, we have a lovely new build house, garden is all a bit open as there's nothing in it and it looks directly onto base but I have ensuite so I don't care. See you in Belgium, Rachael x

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The London Eye

Well after three days of being in London we were getting a little tired! It was Tim's birthday so we went off for lunch in Covent Garden. Had a lovely lunch at an Italian and sat outside. I've put in a photo of the kids showing off their face paints that they had done for free at Earls Court in the morning. You should definitely see which country Jacob favours!

After lunch we headed off to the London Eye, no queuing and straight on. It was good to see the views of London, I did worry a little as it's very exposed but I also enjoyed it. I've put in a variety of photos from this experience.

After this we then did a bit of a walk and a bit on the bus to get to Tower bridge. Unfortunately the rings were not down but it was still good to see the bridge and tower, it was very windy.

We thought about doing a bus and boat tour, but by this point we were knackered and went home to enjoy the cake Mum had made!

We had one more day down South before we headed up to Scotland. We had to get our car sorted and then did a bit of shopping too. Mum cooked us a nice leaving meal. We had an excellent time at the Olympics made better by having brilliant friends with us. Thank you to Mum and Dad for putting us up and ferrying us to the train station and also for feeding us all. A big thank you to Katharine, Steve, Matthew and Amy for vacating the house by going on holiday!

Up North next.

Our Olympics

We managed to get tickets for ladies hockey, ladies basketball and men's volleyball. Tim and Betsy also got swimming tickets.

The first day we took just the boys into London for the hockey. The girls stayed with mum and went to the cinema and made Tim a cake! It was very exciting going into London, everyone was very friendly. It's the first time ever people have talked to me on the train and underground. The Olympic volunteers were everywhere and were extremely helpful.

We started our day by popping in to see Stuart, Allen's brother in law and Finn, our nephew, at Scotland house in London. I've included a photo of Tim, Betsy, Will and Jacob walking to Scotland House. The streets were all decorated with flags. London was quite empty - very strange. I think people had stayed away as they were told it was going to be really busy! There's also a photo of a blurred Allen and Jacob in the hockey stadium. I put that one in as you can see the weird structure they had built to go in the Olympic park. It also gives a sense of how big the Olympic park is, you can see the swim building too. The actual park was huge and extremely busy. We had quite a walk to get there. They built it next to a huge shopping centre, very posh. We didn't really had time to explore the stadium and should have given more time for this as the garden areas were really pretty and there was lots of things going on within the park. Beer and food were expensive so we took lots of snacks! We saw Team GB ladies in the hockey and they won their game. It was very exciting and the crowd were brilliant, it was full too. We took the boys home and Tim and Betsy stayed for the swimming which they thoroughly enjoyed.

The next day it was the basketball, the girls came in too as Betsy and I were having time shopping, Mum came with us as I'd booked tickets for Buckingham Palace. Tim and Allen went off to enjoy a few bars on the river while the rest of us enjoyed a tour around Buckingham Palace. We all had the kids plug in tour, you just pop the headphones on and off you go! The tour was excellent and I learnt a lot, I'd definitely go again. I've added a photo of us outside the front of the Palace. We all went off to the Olympic Park, so Mum could see what it was like, and we had lunch too. Then the Dad's took the kids off to the basketball and Betsy and I  went to the American bank hospitality place to enjoy free snacks and drinks. Mum went home! They all said the basketball was excellent, they saw Team GB ladies play, although they lost. Abi said the dancers inbetween time outs were the best and Jacob agreed! I've included a photo of Jacob and Abi at the basketball stadium waving their Union Jack's. Betsy and I had fun shopping in Harrods and met up with everyone back at Kings Cross for dinner.

Day three and it was everyone in for Volleyball. We went early and had a cooked breakfast near Earls Court. This was the only event that we didn't see Team GB and it did feel different. It was still exciting but not as good as when we saw GB play. There was lots going on with the cheer leaders so the kids were kept entertained the whole time. They also got their faces painted although you'll notice Jacob changed allegiance and got the Stars and Stripes! I've included a photo outside Earls Court. We bumped into Anne and Pete and girls outside too.

Next post London Eye.

Blunks in England

Our main reason from coming to the UK this summer was for the Olympics. We arranged, two years ago, while on a skiing trip to Denver, for our neighbours, The Blunks, to come over. Two years past pretty quickly and luckily I managed to get us tickets for 4 events, yes the online draw thing worked for us.

So the weekend the Olympics started and the Blunks arrived at Heathrow for two weeks of fun. Mum and Dad started their weekend off with a great BBQ and friends from the area come too. It was lovely seeing everyone, no photos - sorry!

We gave them a day or so to get sorted and then did a day trip out to Cambridge. I took the boys on the train and Allen drove. We met up with Jacqueline and co and went punting. We did a punt tour as there were 12 of us. The yound man punting us let all of the kids have a go - if they wanted. I've included a photo in the punt. We had a little look around Cambridge too. Jacqueline kindly took the girls back to her house and they had fun playing with their new puppy and kitten - see photo.

While we were in Holwell Dad also got his train out, I've added a photo of the kids enjoying a ride around the garden.

Next stop the Olympics.

UK visit Summer 2012

A few months have past since I have posted anything, sorry. We are very busy at the moment sorting out our house ready for the impending move. However, due to Jacob's birthday coming up, I thought I'd better get it up to date! We had a fabulous summer, mainly due to the Olympics. Although friends and family came into that equation too! I drove over to the UK with the children two weeks before the Olympics so that I could do some visiting and spend some time with the family.

I started our trip by stopping off to see the Bullements. It was lovely to catch up with Tim, Helen, Will, Issy, Sam and Alice. We spent two nights and had lots of fun. We also managed to stop in and see friends from the Netherlands who had recently moved back - The Lofts. Great to catch up with them too and see their beautiful house. I've included a photo on Helen's doorstep, unfortunately Will had already gone to school!

Next stop was Anne's in Knutsford. Again a two night stop. We had fun with Vicky and Emily. It was good to catch up. There is a photo of the children on the settee.

A drive down south took us to Janine and Paul's, just outside Gloucester. Also managed to catch up with friends Bill and Gemma, who we knew when we lived there 10 years ago. We had just one night at Janine's as I had to get back to Mum and Dad's to enjoy a girls weekend away. I also didn't take any photos while in Gloucestershire!

Mum and Dad kindly had Jacob and Abi so I could enjoy a weekend in Birmingham with Ali and Ruth. We stayed in a brilliant hotel, excellent breakfast that was really cheap. Went and saw a strange, but good, production of what happened next in Romeo and Juliet, shopped, ate and drank and had a good catch up. We saw some of the American Olympic team, their base was Birmingham, unfortunately, at the time, we didn't know any of the team as it was before the Olympics!

Back in Holwell we then had time at camp - my sister was running a guide camp nearby, which we all enjoyed helping at and also spent time with my Aunt and cousins. I love living all over the world but I also love meeting up with family and friends.

Allen then trained it over to arrive in time for our 15th Wedding Anniversary, we spent it back in Oxford - where we got married. It was a relaxing night and great to be back where it all started. Again, thank you to Mum and Dad for looking after J & A!

Next post The Blunks arrival.