Do You Know My Neighbor’s Friend’s Cousin’s Sister’s Nephew?

While I am away, I am reposting some of my olders blogs from 2010. It is interesting to see where I have come from. This is from /2010/11/10. This blog post was Freshly Pressed on November 11, 2010. That was a huge day for me. My confidence level changed and I became better a lot of things.

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Have you ever traveled outside your country and met someone who asks you where you are from? Usually it is some guy who says, “My Neighbor’s Friend’s Cousin’s Sister’s Nephew lives in Alaska, do you happen to know them?” I always ask their name then politely answer, “No, I don’t think we’ve met. I don’t get out much!” In case you didn’t know, Canada is a large country. Oh you knew that? Well then, Canada has a smallish population about 32 million. Slightly less than the population of California, which sits at 36 million. The chances of me traveling to Belgium and meeting a family member of someone I know is slim to none. Or is it?

The last time we chatted about my travels to Europe was here, before that it was here.  This is the story about the time I went to Bruges.

The entire cast of the Muppet Show was slightly rested and full of chocolate by the time we reached Bruges. This was a place that my Mom dreamed of going. I am THRILLED she thought it was worthy of sharing it with my clan. We arrived after lunch and drove the streets looking for somewhere to park the caravan. Keep in mind, the streets were built at a time where donkey’s ruled the earth by pulling carts. The Urban planners in those days did not share the foresight that today’s planners have. They may have envisioned Oxen pulling carts, but never the Jules Vern version of a caravan.

Dad had the good fortune of negotiating the narrow streets with the cast of Muppets in the back. He found a spot and carefully just stopped where he felt like it and went to find the pay station deserted us. There was a knock on the door, and Honey answered it in the most polite possible way for a Canadian. The Police Officer said in a less than Canadian manner, “Can’t park here! MOVE!” Then his eyes caught the glitter of a Canadian pin on my Honey’s lapel. The Officer’s demeanor changed and he smiled, “Canadian?”

“YES!”, we all cheered the way only Muppets do. If you have ever met my Honey, the you know he has the gift of gab and can make friends with ANYONE. The two struck up a conversation and chatted about the trip, flight, cost of living, plight of the Tiger, parking, and then the question came… Where are you from because I have family in Sherwood Park. You know the sound a needle makes on a vinyl record as it stops? That was the sound in the caravan. The Muppets stopped the boomerang fish from flying, muzzled the chickens, and even Waldorf and Stadler eased up on the wisecracks.

THE MAN SAID SHERWOOD PARK!

Sherwood Park is a tiny little place east of Edmonton. The entire Muppet Cast, except Honey, was FROM Sherwood Park! What are the chances? SHERWOOD PARK! Suddenly, he was family, we became home sick and no…we didn’t know the brother, but it didn’t matter. We now had a friend and allies who would show us the way to parking! His directions were exemplary. We found caravan parking. We were now able to go out and explore Bruges, sample the best Belgium Waffles dripping in chocolate, eat frits and mayo, indulge in rich creamy coffee and enjoy the wonderful city of Bruges. The swans were beautiful, the Architecture was stunning, the cruise on the canal was enchanting. All because we knew a guy who had a brother that was the neighbor of the sister of someone we didn’t know.

If you ever get to Bruges, ask if you could speak to the Police Officer whose brother is a neighbor of the sister of someone the Edmonton Tourist doesn’t know, and say Hi!

HAPPY

Happy Easter all! I was inspired to write this post because of a new blogging friend. You can read her inspirational happy post here. In my quest to be happy, she makes a lot of great points, but this one in particular really struck me:

I looked for ways to celebrate and lighten up life.

I try to do that, but lately things really seem to bog me down. This weekend, paying homage to spring and re-birth, I decided to really and truly put my day to day struggles on the shelf for later and just focus on HAPPY.

My cousin was in town for the weekend to visit with Mrs. Stadler. She had sent a email earlier in the week saying she would be here and it would be great if we could catch up. First of all, I was touched that she wanted to get together! The women of my family were planning a girls only dinner. That would include 4 generations of awesome. That was taken care of. I thought it would be great to go shopping. Here in Alberta, there is no sales tax, so things are cheaper for my cousin, who enjoys shopping as much as the next gal! The shopping expedition was cousins only. My daughter and her cousin came, as well as my sister and cousin. We had a great time trying on designer shoes and sunglasses, buying clothes and just laughing. HAPPY was a huge part of yesterday. I miss Happy, but was thrilled to feel that way again!

In our quest for HAPPY, we stumbled upon the most unusual roses. HAPPY definitely described them.

HAPPY took a melancholy  turn. My offspring are now teens who sleep in. This was the first Easter where whispering didn’t happen in my ear to wake me up. There was no “Mooooommmmmmy, the Easter Bunny came..” Just soft snores from closed bedroom doors. Waiting for them as they stumbled down for breakfast was chocolate and jelly beans sitting at their spot on the counter. Included in that bundle was some lovely Bunnies from Belgium, a gift from their Grandparents who just returned from Europe…again.

I am HAPPY for my parents, being able to travel with such regularity. But deep down, that envious jealous monster rears her ugly head. I wanted to go too! My father teases me about how often I travel to Disney destinations. He says stuff like “there are other places in the world to see, you know” …Oh Really? Isn’t that a little bit of the pot calling the kettle black? How many times in the 7 months did YOU go to Belgium? Ask me how many times I have been to Disneyland in the past 7 months.  He has been twice as many times as me…just saying.

This time last year, I had no idea what the rest of my year would look like. I had no plans, no real goals, and no real direction in my life. A year later, I went to Europe, started University, decided on a career goal, training for a half marathon, changed my eating habits, engaged in social activities that I would typically say no to,  and met some incredibly amazing people along the way. Looking back, I can see I have made a real difference in my life and I know I have made a difference in other people’s lives too. I often get emails and lovely private notes about being the inspiration to certain things. That makes me HAPPY too.

I am looking forward to HAPPY being part of my daily life. I am excited to see all the new things this year will bring.

So HAPPY Easter to my 53 awesome subscribers and the 200+ people who read my blog every day. You have become my cheering section and make moving forward much easier and way more enjoyable. Let me share some Belgium Chocolate Bunnies with you. I’m not eating them either, but we can look together and be HAPPY.

xxx

Nothing Says “Netherlands Cuisine” Quite like Meatballs!

When you think about traveling to Europe, what are the things you hope to see and do? For us, the merry band of Muppets, we had hoped to see things you only read about, try new and exciting things we had never done before, and taste the most marvelous concoctions.

We left Bruges early morning on the 4th of October. We were camping in a caravan. That complication meant packing up every morning was a wee bit complicated. This was morning two of our trip so we were starting to get the routine down. Mrs. Stadler, the senior Muppet in the group, needed to eat eggs on Tuesday. This was important to her, for the rest of the Muppet cast, we could care less what we ate for breakfast as long as there was coffee. Monday morning came, and my mom made eggs. Mom makes the most fluffiest scrambled eggs you could ever imagine. Dad made coffee laced with French dairy. I thought I had died and went to heaven. Beats toast and lemon curd any day! You would think this would be a food highlight for me but the day just kept getting better.

We quickly packed up the campsite, we became very fast and would average just under an hour and a half. This may seem like an extremely long time, but that is from the moment we opened our eyes, until we were on the road. The great thing about my family of Muppets is, we don’t waste time. Sure we cause quite the ruckus trying to complete the tasks, sure there are plenty of disasters trying to complete the tasks, but that is what increases the funny and zany quality of our family vacations!

The plan that day was to drive to Bacharach, Germany and camp along the Rhine, a 432km journey that would take us through the Netherlands. This was great news! We may get a chance to try some traditional Dutch fair, like Erwtensoep, or maybe Filosoof! We crossed the border close to lunch time, so the plan was to stop and eat lunch at a cafe or bistro then move on to find a grocery store so we could make dinner in the caravan later that night. As we approached Heerlen, we were all given instructions to peer out the window and search for a possible rest stop that included a cafe of some sort. Out the window we looked, reading signs that made no sense to us. Then my Dad found it, the very place that Mrs. Stadler had been dreaming of the entire trip. Her excitement was too much for us, and the Muppet Cast shared in her enthusiastic cheer! We had found Ikea!

Oh glorious Ikea! Home to the cheapest food on earth that didn’t come out of Styrofoam. Dad pulled in, parked, while the rest of us ran to the doors and left him in a cloud of dust. The best part was, there was a SPECIAL! Two plates of Swedish meatballs for the price of one. How lucky were we?  14 Euros later my family was full and happy.

French groceries made breakfast in Belgium, Swedish lunch was consumed in the Netherlands and for dinner, it was German Schnitzel on the Rhine. 5 countries came together to provide a very international day of feasting. It tasted like we never left Canada. I guess we are very European indeed!

Do You Know My Neighbor’s Friend’s Cousin’s Sister’s Nephew?

Have you ever traveled outside your country and met someone who asks you where you are from? Usually it is some guy who says, “My Neighbor’s Friend’s Cousin’s Sister’s Nephew lives in Alaska, do you happen to know them?” I always ask their name then politely answer, “No, I don’t think we’ve met. I don’t get out much!” In case you didn’t know, Canada is a large country. Oh you knew that? Well then, Canada has a smallish population about 32 million. Slightly less than the population of California, which sits at 36 million. The chances of me traveling to Belgium and meeting a family member of someone I know is slim to none. Or is it?

The last time we chatted about my travels to Europe was here, before that it was here.  This is the story about the time I went to Bruges.

The entire cast of the Muppet Show was slightly rested and full of chocolate by the time we reached Bruges. This was a place that my Mom dreamed of going. I am THRILLED she thought it was worthy of sharing it with my clan. We arrived after lunch and drove the streets looking for somewhere to park the caravan. Keep in mind, the streets were built at a time where donkey’s ruled the earth by pulling carts. The Urban planners in those days did not share the foresight that today’s planners have. They may have envisioned Oxen pulling carts, but never the Jules Vern version of a caravan.

Dad had the good fortune of negotiating the narrow streets with the cast of Muppets in the back. He found a spot and carefully just stopped where he felt like it and went to find the pay station deserted us. There was a knock on the door, and Honey answered it in the most polite possible way for a Canadian. The Police Officer said in a less than Canadian manner, “Can’t park here! MOVE!” Then his eyes caught the glitter of a Canadian pin on my Honey’s lapel. The Officer’s demeanor changed and he smiled, “Canadian?”

“YES!”, we all cheered the way only Muppets do. If you have ever met my Honey, the you know he has the gift of gab and can make friends with ANYONE. The two struck up a conversation and chatted about the trip, flight, cost of living, plight of the Tiger, parking, and then the question came… Where are you from because I have family in Sherwood Park. You know the sound a needle makes on a vinyl record as it stops? That was the sound in the caravan. The Muppets stopped the boomerang fish from flying, muzzled the chickens, and even Waldorf and Stadler eased up on the wisecracks.

THE MAN SAID SHERWOOD PARK!

Sherwood Park is a tiny little place east of Edmonton. The entire Muppet Cast, except Honey, was FROM Sherwood Park! What are the chances? SHERWOOD PARK! Suddenly, he was family, we became home sick and no…we didn’t know the brother, but it didn’t matter. We now had a friend and allies who would show us the way to parking! His directions were exemplary. We found caravan parking. We were now able to go out and explore Bruges, sample the best Belgium Waffles dripping in chocolate, eat frits and mayo, indulge in rich creamy coffee and enjoy the wonderful city of Bruges. The swans were beautiful, the Architecture was stunning, the cruise on the canal was enchanting. All because we knew a guy who had a brother that was the neighbor of the sister of someone we didn’t know.

If you ever get to Bruges, ask if you could speak to the Police Officer whose brother is a neighbor of the sister of someone the Edmonton Tourist doesn’t know, and say Hi!

The Edmonton Tourist Goes to Belgium!

The last time we spoke of my trip to Europe, we went to Vimy Ridge.  We all slept soundly laid awake for hours in Calais that night. Several farm fields over from the camp ground was a party that sounded like a rockin’ good time! It lasted all night and finally broke up around 6:00 AM, just in time for our Muppet filled caravan to greet the new day and head to Bruges, Belgium. Over breakfast my parents commented on the noise that night – and by noise they didn’t mean Chatterbox puking on the carpet, the meant the Farmville party next door. Apparently it was quieter sleeping at the Barcelona airport where they had picked up my sister weeks before…but I digress…

On the agenda today was Dunkirk and Ypres on the way to Bruges. I had heard of Dunkirk, the great battle that slaughtered Allies by the thousands. Churchill sent a plea out to every one who had row boats, fishing boats or other water craft to sail across the English Chanel and rescue who they could. The kind of story where you expect John Wayne to show up in. Except, Hollywood didn’t have a hand in this tale.

We arrived at Dunkirk early morning. The sun was shining in the cool morning air. We walked along the road to the War Memorial and Cemetery. What got my attention was the large square stones lining the sidewalks. They represented the thousands of soldiers known only to God. It was difficult for the Offspring to walk around and look at the names and ages of the young boys buried beneath the head stones. It was clear, they were ready to see parts of Europe that did not involve any wars of the 20th Century. A difficult task considering the neighborhood we were in, as well as the rest of the Muppet Show Cast was very interested in seeing more war memorabilia. It was their Grandfather who saw the fear in Chatterboxes eyes, and said, “Sweetheart, I’m sick of war stuff too, this will be our last day looking at war things.” Thanks Dad for understanding.

We all piled into the Caravan and headed towards Ypres on a Sunday. Unlike here, most places in Europe close on a Sunday….swell. The Offspring would be so pleased…

As soon as we crossed the border into Belgium, we saw an old wooden windmill. You think anyone would stop so we could take a picture? No, sorry…maybe the next time we see one. For the record, that was THE ONLY old wooden windmill we would ever see.

The arrival into Ypres was fairly amazing. We were looking for yet another War Memorial. Only this time, we drove through it! And NO, I don’t mean my Dad crashed into it, that didn’t happen while we were in the caravan – PHEW! It was a tunnel like structure.

I remember hearing my Honey’s excited voice, “WE ARE DRIVING THROUGH IT!” Cool! So we had arrived to the Menin Gate. It was impressive! It records the soldiers of the British Empire without graves. We walked through it, looked at names and saw my son’s name. Although I knew that wasn’t really my son, it still weakened my knees. At that moment I knew I never wanted to actually see my son’s name on a wall. I was ill.

We moved our way up to the grassy park that was high above Yrpes. I needed air, I didn’t share my feelings with my family. My honey wanted to keep exploring but I needed to change my view. Like my Offspring, the time had come for me to end the War Memorial visits. It was starting to affect me.

As we climbed into the sunshine I saw the most beautiful view. It was enough to change my focus. I suggested to The Muppet Show Cast that we head down towards the street level and explore the town for a while. Besides, I needed chocolate. I was in the country where the best chocolate in the WORLD is made! (If my Boss happens to read this post, FYI it is not Guatemala!)

The street we explored was call Victor Hugo – cool name for a street. Being Sunday, everything on Victor Hugo was closed except the Church, the 16 Pubs, and the Chocolate Shop! Sweet joyous chocolate, open on a Sunday? I must have died and gone to heaven! I spotted the shop from down the street. I lost track of the Muppets around me. It was like my destiny flashed before my eyes and showed me my future. I was destined to walk into that shop.

The Owner walked in from the behind the magic curtain – likely wasn’t really magic but to me it was. She greeted us and I spoke English to her hoping she was fluent. SUCCESS! She explained to me the wondrous delights that were displayed under the glass. We talked about how she hand makes them herself in the back, no factory bulk chocolate here! IT really was heaven and I was there to experience it! I asked advice on purchasing a variety. I needed some for my team, some for honey’s office, some for my boss and an EXTRA LARGE FABULOUS BOX for me! Honey bought a small sample bag to eat instead of lunch. The total for 5 boxes of handmade, the most delicious chocolates ever, was 15 euros. 15!!!! As I sit writing this I wish I bought myself 6 more boxes. Oh well Hind sight is 20/20.

As we strolled back to the caravan with chocolate smeared all over our faces, I thought about how thankful I was that I had my family to share this experience with and how it felt not to have my son on the wall.

Next stop, Bruges.