Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I Love Luxembourg: Carless streets!

I know lots of European cities have these pedestrian-only zones in the city center, but it was new thing for me.  And I love it! Where else could my silly kids stand in the middle of the street without me having to worry about them getting run over?

 I would love to see some of these pedestrian only zones popping up in America someday soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Love Luxembourg: Flowers

Yet another thing I love about living somewhere with real seasons:  Each month in spring and summer, a new flower blooms, if only for a few weeks.

In late winter, the first sign of spring, snowdrops:

March brings crocuses:

In April, the tulips come out:

May brings fields and fields of brilliant yellow flowers:

And in June, red poppies everywhere:

In late summer, the sunflowers appear:

And then it's time for fall with its gorgeous colors... but that's for another post.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer baking

I couldn't resist buying an enormous tub of cherries at the supermarket last week, more cherries than even my cherry-loving children could consume, so we decided to use up all those extras in a cobbler.

One problem:  a ton of cherries to pit and no pitter.  SO we used my best friend Google to figure out how remove those pesky stones sans pitter, and discovered this fantastic method:

Center cherry over (empty) beer bottle, poke hard plastic straw down, the pit falls into the bottle.  Easy!!
 This worked amazingly well, though the cherries have to be ripe and the straw hard plastic.  We did about 4 cups of cherries in maybe 10-15 minutes.  The kids thought it was really fun, and it minimized the mess since the cherry pits all fell right into the bottle.  Of course, environmental guilt forced me to painstakingly shake all the pits out of the bottle so it could still be recycled.  But if you skipped that step, then this method is really fast.  I love Google.

Here's the finished cobbler:

With ice cream on top, of course!
Warm cherry cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream?  It doesn't get any better than that!

Friday, July 8, 2011

I Love Luxembourg: Built into the Rock

If you've ever been to Luxembourg, you probably remember the impressive old town, with its gorgeous cliffs and ancient ruined fortress, and of course, the casemates, an incredible labyrinth of tunnels carved into solid rock with windows offering spectacular views over the valley below.

While the casemates are impressive, they're public.  Everyone knows about them.  It's one of the places you have to take friends and family when they come to visit.  So, for me, they've lost a little of their impressiveness (and I have to admit I lost some of my enthusiasm for them when I learned they were closed for the winter because they provide a safe place to hibernate for thousands of bats.  Ick.  Bats.  You know how I feel about bats.)

So while I acknowledge that the casemates are pretty amazing, they pale in comparison to a few other gems I stumbled upon in my exploration of the city.

Like these houses in the Petrusse Valley:
What I wouldn't give to take a peek inside these houses.  Did the architect leave the rock exposed or conceal it behind a wall?  Doesn't it feel like a cave with an entire windowless wall?  Who lives there??

What do you do when you want to build something but are faced with a solid wall of rock?  You incorporate it into your structure, of course!  One less wall to build...

And then there's this chapel. St. Quirin, also in the Petrusse Valley.  It too is built right into the rock.  I've never gone inside this one but I definitely will someday.

Photo from :  http://www.building.am
There's another little building carved into solid rock that I just noticed the other day, despite the fact that I've driven past it twice a day for a 18 months taking the kids to and from school.  It looks a bit like the chapel above but much more dilapidated, abandoned, even.  I need to stop, take a photo and do a little exploring someday soon.

And if you don't feel like building into the rock, how about perching precariously atop it?

This house looks to me like it should be perched atop a giant sea cliff with enormous waves crashing below it.  But, no, it just overlooks an ordinary street.  Ordinary for Luxembourg, that is...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What I love about Luxembourg

I love Luxembourg.  I really do.  I think it's a beautiful, unique, utterly charming country.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here, I cherish the people I've met, the places I've visited, the experiences I've had, the little (and not so little) differences that remind me that I am in a whole new part of the world.

However, in the past few weeks I've been feeling, to put it bluntly, like I can't wait to get the hell out of this country and go back to America.

Maybe all expats feel like this at some point.  For me, I think it's a combination of a few things:  the endlessly long school year (July 15!); the constant pain of my knee injury (3 months now!) and the uncertainty about whether I'm facing surgery; a husband who travels constantly, leaving me with sole responsibility for house and kids (you try managing two kids and a 5-story house with knees that don't do stairs. 3 months of going up the stairs on my butt!); plus the fact that I haven't seen my family in an entire year.  (Note to family:  COME VISIT!!)

Last week, after nine days away, Roger came home to find me crying on the couch while the kids enjoyed a dinner of chips, crackers and day-old pastries.  It was not a pretty sight.

I know that all of this is temporary.  It's been a rough spring, brutal, I think, when I'm really feeling sorry for myself, but these feelings will pass.  I am sure that a good, long trip home will rejuvenate me, give me some perspective (really, I don't have it so bad.  I know that.), and restore my enthusiasm for life in Luxembourg.

So, to get me through these last couple of weeks before school is out and I can, in fact, get back to the good old U.S. of A. for a long visit with my family (and possibly a knee surgery or two), I thought I'd try writing about some of the things that make me love this country and my experience here.  Maybe a reminder of how lucky I am to be in this incredible place will snap me out of my self-pitying funk.

There are actually dozens of things that I love about Luxembourg not particularly things that other people would appreciate or even notice, which is why I haven't posted them here before*, but if listing them cheers me up and reminds me of why I love it here, then that's a good thing, isn't it?

So, with that said, here it is, the first thing about Luxembourg that I absolutely love, something that makes me happy every single day, without exception:


The view from my deck in early spring.
 Luxembourg is surrounded by forests, and they are glorious.  Having never lived anywhere near a real forest, I didn't realize how much I would love it.  Spring, summer, winter, fall -- it doesn't matter.  I love the forest in every single season.  In fact, I really can't decide which season I love best. Fall is spectacular, with all the magnificent colors, but then spring is so exciting with the neon green leaves, the bright color after all the months of drabness.

But then winter can also be spectacular:

Really, the forest is gorgeous in any season.  And did you know that from any point in Luxembourg City you can walk to forest in 15 minutes or less?  I'm even luckier because I don't have to travel 15 minutes, I have the forest literally in my back yard.  Even though I can't spend hours walking in the woods (because of my knees) like I used to, I can still sit on my back deck, enjoy a glass of wine and watch the birds and butterflies--and bats--swoop through the trees.

Now who could be depressed with a view like that?

Not me... :)

* Okay, so maybe I have posted about forests before, once or twice or twelve times.  But it's a big one for me.  

Springtime Summary

I know I haven't been posting much here lately but that doesn't mean we've been sitting around doing nothing.  On the contrary!  I also know that it's technically summer, but since the kids are still in school, in my mind it's still springtime.  So, with that in mind, here's a picture review of what we've been doing in the last month or two:

Hanging out at Parc Merveilleux,

where we renewed our love affair with these adorable little monkeys:

They're called Tamarins and I WANT ONE!!

Walked around the lake in Echternach where we stopped to make a few daisy chains:

and to jump on the crazy bungee trampoline:

 Took a few swimming lessons:

And visited the zoo at Amneville, France:
These two little monkeys were much cuter than the real thing.

 Made friends with the neighborhood cows:

Ate some popsicles and enjoyed their aftereffects:
Made only with natural coloring, I'm sure.

 Spent a lovely afternoon enjoying the free games and activities set up in honor of Luxembourg's National Day:

While Kate visited the face-painting booth,

Will decided to try something a little more strenuous:

He made it up about 15 feet before declaring it impossibly hard.

And stopped at a scenic point to enjoy one of Luxembourg's most beautiful views...
This picture reminds me of why I love Luxembourg so much.  Look at that view!