So, our stuff arrived pre-Christmas as hoped. Unfortunately, it came sans Christmas ornaments, which admittedly made me very sad at first. But, not for long because I am learning to count my blessings. Our stuff came and the only thing that didn't come were the bits and baubles we needed to make our home Christmas-y. But everything that did come made our house "home," which is vastly more important. Now, as I sit here on my huge, luscious, cushy couch and I look at my cookbooks and candlesticks and artwork and I know that when I go to cook dinner, everything I need will be there, I feel... elated. Now, we LIVE in Brussels and so many of the things that seemed daunting and miserable three weeks ago now seem exciting and accessible.
Life is good.
But, I would be lying if I didn't say that while the last two weeks have been incredible and heart-warming in ways unimaginable, they have also been really, really hard.
Dec. 22, 2010: Our shipment of household goods arrive! My husband's cousin and aunt from Germany arrive too.
Dec. 23, 2010: Unpacking continues. My mother and father-in-law arrive too.
Dec. 24, 2010: Christmas Eve. Unpacking continues. Christmas Eve is celebrated (both in Europe and at the senior Whitney household, Christmas Eve is the "high" holiday). We ate homemade Sauerbraten, Braised Red Cabbage, Potato Dumplings and for dessert, homemade "German" Christmas cookies. At night, after the children went to sleep, we built a miniature IKEA kitchen, a toddler-sized table and chairs and wrapped some miscellaneous kitchen accoutrement. Most of our gifts didn't arrive in time for Christmas, due mostly to poor planning and really, really bad weather).
Dec. 25, 2010: Unpacking continues. Christmas morning is celebrated and my brother and stepmother arrive. We all (10 of us) head out to the largest Christmas market in Brussels at St. Catherine's Place. We drank Gluwhein while Addy rode the awesomest Carousel ever. Then we slogged through the slush and snow to get home. I made truffle totoloni, followed by Leg of lamb with mint sauce, pureed Parsnip and Roasted Purple Potatoes. We bought two heavenly Buche de Noel from our local (Japanese) Patisserie. Next year, I vow to make them myself, but this year, corners HAD to be cut.
Dec. 26, 2010: Christmas is over but the entertaining continues.
Dec. 27, 2010: My brother and I decide to make good on an earlier conversation to go to Amsterdam together. He's 19 to my 33 and in his first year of college. I decided. given my constant proximity to the Netherlands (2.5 hours by train), that I would defer to his agenda. You can imagine what that included. Here's the thing: we snuck out of the house in the wee hours, before the babies were up and came home long after they'd gone to bed. Therefore, I didn't really care what we did. It was so nice to feel light and free and without responsibility, if only for a 15 hour day. No, we didn't see the Van Gogh museum and we didn't see Anne Frank's Huis. The Rembrandt Museum was closed. But instead of those more culturally demanding activities, we walked all around town together chatting and bonding, with snowflakes falling on our heads and shoulders, taking in its charm and beauty-- the canals, the architecture, the incredible design shops! Then we ate Chinese food (I know- huh? I had a craving, what can I say?) We finished the day by walking some more and eating a local favorite-- Dutch Pancakes.
It was a good day. And a blessing to get to spend that amount of uninterrupted time with my brother, during a period when we both need to be reminded of the importance of having one another. Though so many years separate us, our experience is much the same and there is no substitute for a sibling. I love my little brother very much and I am sorry that his life is hard.
I could keep going with the list, but you get the point. It's been a very busy time-- lots of guests, lots of activity and very little time for quiet reflection. So when New Year's Eve rolled around and we hadn't any plans, I had no problem whipping up a a quiche and a salad and drinking wine instead of Champagne with my husband and stepmother. It was quiet, but lovely.
As 2011 unrolls, I feel I have a lot to be thankful for, but I also feel I have a lot of work to do on myself. I suppose there will always be that-- a list of things you want to change and/or improve. But for me, this year, that list seems particularly long and I think it's because this lifestyle really highlights some of my biggest shortcomings. I am disorganized and bad at keeping in touch with the people I love when they are far away. To those of you who might be reading this and have been the victim of my terrible correspondence, I want to apologize and acknowledge that I will do better. That's my resolution. Well, one of them.
Most of the boxes are unpacked and the house is coming together. As soon as I get the final pieces put away, I will photograph the entire house and post the pictures. When we were contemplating the Foreign Service, I searched every blog I could for pictures of the housing and now that I have my own Foreign Service housing, I want to share. Stay tuned for that.
Little House in the Big Tokyo
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