Saturday, February 26, 2011


Today we toured the ruins of Corinth. I've never been a huge history buff but it was pretty incredible to be standing in the ruins of the city of Corinth! At one point we were standing in front of the Bema where Paul was put on trial and beaten. One of our boys read the passage about it from Acts and the emotions were very overwhelming. I was a little surprised at my reaction. Then we went to the citadel of Micinea where, yes, once again, we climbed to the top of a very high hill. The view was amazing and worth the strenuous climb. I feel that I can eat whatever I want after all the walking and climbing we are doing.

We ate lunch at a lovely little restaurant in the town. We were served bread, stuffed eggplant which was amazing!, greek salad and roast chicken and friend potatoes. Dessert was some sort of custard in phylo pastry. Very yummy. We drove back along the coast and got back to the hotel in time to walk to the plaka for dinner of gyros again. Good cheap food. I also got the gelato I'd been wanting for a couple of days. More shopping and now catching up on blogging. I'm looking forward to free internet when we get back to the facility. Tomorrow we tour Athens. Goodnight all!

50 and Counting!

Today I turned fifty years Greece. Not a bad way to start my second half a century! We ate dinner with friends, the McLaughlins, in an outdoor cafe in Athens in the Plaka. There were Cliff's Lamb in a clay pot, Debbie's moussaka, John's humus, the boys' spaghetti bolognaise, and my cheese toast (which turned out to be a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich). I was still so full from our lunch. Then we wandered the streets shopping and getting gelato and pastries. It was very chilly and we were glad to get back to our hotel.

We spent the majority of the day in Delphi at the ruins. These countries don't believe in anything on a plain so again we climbed and climbed to the top. It wasn't too bad since we stopped to listen to our guide every few feet. She, Vicki, really knows her stuff and told so many stories from history. When you are standing in a structure thousands of years old, 50 doesn't sound so bad!

We stopped for lunch at a lovely restaurant and had grilled bread with olive oil, cheese pie (several layers of various cheeses in a flaky phylo dough), greek salad, souvlaki (pork shiskabobs), fried potatoes, and vanilla and chocolate ice cream for dessert. At one point they came out with some sort of cake with a big candle that looked like the number one. The whole restaurant sang happy birthday to me with a big "OPA" at the end. The strange part about it was that after I blew the candles out, they whisked the cake away. I assumed that they were going to put it on smaller plates for my table. don't think they understood the American birthday cake thing! We laughed until we cried over that! It was a great birthday for any birthday but perfect for a milestone birthday! We have decided to repeat this celebration the same way every year!

Catching Up

Have to pay for internet at hotel in Greece. Here I am going to try to catch up for several days.

February 24
Today we left for Greece. We got the facility ready to leave and then took a train to Louven, Belgium. From there we took an airport express train to the Brussels Airport. We checked our backpacks and carried our day bags onto the plane. The flight to Athens was just over three hours during which we could BUY a meal or snack and drinks. Jon Michael and I had a coke zero for 2.50 euros because we were so thirsty. I had brought snacks so we had beef jerky, nuts or energy bars. We had eaten our lunch of sandwiches earlier on the first train.

We arrived in Athens and after the scare of one missing backpack which did finally show up, we met Fontini, our tour company manager, and the bus that took us to the Hotel Herodian. We have nice rooms and are at the foot of the Acropolis. In fact, we can see it from our balcony!

By then, we were all starved so headed down to the Plaka and had gyros of chicken or pork that had been cooked on an open spit. It had the traditional yogurt sauce and was amazing! We topped it off with baklava and sat at covered tables at a sidewalk cafe while the rain played on the tarps above our heads. Then we ambled through the streets window shopping and picture taking on the way back to the hotel. I now sit in a dark room with the Acropolis shining on the hill outside my window while my family sleeps. We start early tomorrow for a trip to Delphi so sleep is next on my agenda. Night, sweet friends.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Night Before Greece

The packing and excitement has begun. Tomorrow we catch a train for Brussels where we board a plane for Greece! The laundry is clean and ready to pack. The last class before the trip has been taught. We have served all our leftovers to the kids tonight for dinner and thrown out whatever was left. All that is left is to finish packing, clean up the last dishes from tea time and prepare the facility for being gone for 11 days. 

The past few days have just been class days where I have hardly left the facility. Between teaching and cooking, there hasn't been much time until the evening. Then, other than what we have been cooking, there wasn't much to report. A few of the favorites that we made were potato soup with bacon and onion and lunch today where we had a pasta bar and salad bar. I made a marinara sauce that we served on penne noodles and Debbie made a pesto garlic sauce we served on fettucini. The kids are still so appreciative and grateful for the food we make. The kids are spending a lot of time studying, planning free travel (which is extremely time consuming!), and making random trips to the McDonald's about ten minutes away for Speculoos McFlurries. Speculoos is a wonderful flavor that is made into a spread kind of like peanut butter and also cookies. They put it in chocolate, too, which is especially yummy. 

I was able to work on a chemo cap to relax the other night. The kids had a good time modeling it when it was done. I started on another project, a preemie cap, but I told them they would not be able to model that one. It is still on the knitting needles. Haven't had a chance to get back to it yet. 

There has been quite a bit of laughing and pranks as we settle in here and get to know each other. One of the boys that I have been "sparring" with got me back by covering my computer screen totally with yellow post it notes. There will be retribution. I just have to decide what.

Well, must be about packing and cleaning and maybe even getting a little sleep. Next entry will be from Greece! Night all!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Birthday Surprise

We prepared lunch as much as possible last night and this morning. Then we went to our own Bible class so that it would be in English. John and Arlene Galloway joined us again today. After class, we joined the congregation here for a service that was mostly in French. There was an American man that has lived here for years that translated the sermon for us. Becky had gotten sick again after class so went back to bed. When the service was over, our American translator asked if there were any birthdays this week. The majority of our group turned and looked at me so I felt I had to raise my hand. They had me stand along with a little Belgian girl and they sang "Happy Birthday" in FRENCH, no less. It was priceless!

After the services were dismissed, Debbie and I ran back upstairs to check on dinner. We had made a pasta strata with pasta, alfredo sauce, ham, mushrooms, and cheese on top. Side dishes were a fruit salad and a regular salad. and of course, baguettes. We enjoyed visiting with John and Arlene during the afternoon. After they left I took about a 30 minute nap before scrubbing potatoes. Dinner was leftover Belgian vegetable soup, baked potatoes with fixin's and assorted other leftovers that we needed to use or lose. Unfortunately, the potatoes didn't get quite done. They weren't exactly crunchy but they weren't smooth either. The unbelievable thing is the kids never even complained! This is the best group. I told them we wouldn't be hurt if they microwaved their potatoes, but only a handful did. And they were so sweet about it. I have never seen a group of college kids who were so appreciative of everything we do. It still amazes me that we have 33 people, all with different tastes and preferences and we fix one main dish and a few side dishes every meal and I have never heard the least little complaint. LOVE these kids.

Jon Michael napped almost all afternoon so he may be up with the college kids until curfew. That may have all been part of his evil plan all along. He kept falling asleep in church but so did I. Ha!

A secret project was revealed tonight after dinner by the students. More about that when the time is right. Now we have some students working their work study jobs, some studying, and well, most of them are studying. Which is what I need to do to be ready for class tomorrow. Going to let Jon Michael use the computer for a while and help Debbie prepare for tomorrow's meals. Night all!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Market Day

Yesterday was our first full day of classes (and cooking). For lunch, we served a Belgian vegetable soup with salad and bread. It was so yummy! We made beef carbonade for dinner that we cooked in the roaster all day long. It was certainly a treat. We have such a great group of kids that seem to be appreciative of everything we cook. We then spent the evening chilling out, doing homework, facebooking,  and playing games. These college kids are great about including Jon Michael in their games just like he is one of them. We also had a group watching "The Devil Wears Prada".

This morning I awoke to sounds of poles clanging and merchandise being slid along the streets and sidewalks at 5:30.  Then voices and finally blaring American music ("Celebrate! Good Times! Come ON!"). Market Day had arrived on our street. Students visited the market before leaving town for a day of free travel. Cliff left for Liege to run errands. Jon Michael and I went to the market (where he bought a cool mouse that looks like a space ship) and then on to explore the city of Verviers. We had an interesting lunch at McDonald's, his choice, where they gave us mayonnaise and ketchup to dip our fritz (fries) in. Then we stopped by the grocery and bought snacks and supplies to make Becky a chicken salad. She had stayed at the facility because she didn't feel well. Her strep throat was getting better but she needed the day to rest and recover. We had an easy afternoon of laundry, and enjoying the unusual quiet. Dinner consisted of my first venture to order food in French/English at a Chinese restaurant, no doubt. I did end up with something edible for us and we had oodles left over.

The kids all got back to the facility safely and with wonderful stories. We were also visited by our friends, Arlene and John Galloway, from Scotland. They ate their dinner with us and visited a while before taking off for their bed and breakfast in town. They will join us for church tomorrow and lunch. I'm hoping to finish loading some pictures before bed tonight. More tomorrow!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Yes, we have arrived!

On Monday, my son got his first stamp in his passport. It was a long day full of planes, trains, and lots of footwork! Exhausting and wonderful all at the same time. We arrived in Verviers, Belgium after some very smooth flights and baggage claim. Customs even went well. I'll never forget Jon Michael's face as the lady stamped his passport.  After getting off the last plane, we grabbed all our luggage and carted it to the train station and got on one train. Then we got off and switched to another train, still lugging our luggage. The final and hardest part of the journey was after the train arrived in Verviers, Belgium. We had to drag our luggage through the cobblestone streets on a 20 minute brisk parade. It was pretty hilarious when I think of what the Belgians must have thought about our wacky parade. We were very glad to get to the facility.

We pretty much just dropped our luggage off and then were taken to an Italian Pizzaria around the corner from the facility. It was a charming place down an alley. It was decided that we would pay so many Euros per person and they would keep the pizzas, coke, water (plain and sparkling) coming. They brought out an appetizer that was a yummy little ball of something. Then came the pizza with a sausage type thing, cheese and boiled eggs. Then followed margarita pizza with several kinds of cheeses and crushed tomatoes. The third pizza was an unusual salute to the Americans with tomato sauce, FRENCH FRIES covered in cheese! The last pizza had little sliced hot dog things on it. As strange as it all looked, it was marvelous. The kids ate until they couldn't hold anymore and we took about 6 leftover pizzas back to the facility. The rest of the evening was settling in. Debbie and I went to the grocery and got supplies for a snacky healthy type dinner including some of the best pears I've ever had. We had fruit, cheese, bread and sliced carrots and celery with Ranch dressing (we brought the powder with us for our American kids). We all slept well that night. Oh, we also tried to make the kids stay up long enough for an orientation session which I'm not sure the tired kiddos got much out of!

Day two had a half day of classes and then we left with our packed lunches for a short train ride to Aachen, Germany. We saw the Cathedral of Charlamaine. Absolutely beautiful stained glass! We also walked through a Medieval gate. Pictures to follow on Facebook! We got back in time for Debbie and I to make our first full meal. Breakfast is always fresh baked baguettes, cereal, yogurt, etc. For dinner we had Alfredo pasta with grilled sausages (that was the meat on sale!), salad with homemade vinaigrette or Ranch, and lots of baguettes.

Today we had another half day of classes, packed lunches and took off for Namur, Belgium. We hiked up from the bottom to the top. All 218+ stairs, not counting the many steep inclines that weren't even steps. And then we went all the way down those stairs and inclines. I feel like I'm doing the Biggest Loser workout! It was beautiful, though at the top.  Then we ate at a small restaurant known for their desserts. They stuck us in the back, only brought enough water for half the table and then never came back to the table to get our dessert crepe order. It was crazy! Another mad dash, slightly lost, back to the train station. We arrived home in time for tea time.

Many apologies for the length of this first actual trip post. I had some catching up to do.  More to come later! Caio!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Good friends

Last night we enjoyed a fun, relaxing evening with Dawn and Jason Bramblett. We wanted to get together one more time before we left as kind of a farewell. As busy as we have been getting ready to go and they have been since their daughter, Sweet Hallie, had her tonsils out this week, we knew a meal would be a challenge. I had also been talking with Dawn about how our meals were getting weird as we were down to the last of what was in the freezer, fridge, and pantry and didn't need to buy much more. Not as bad as another good friend, Lindee, who had told me about their last meal before they moved where she made the only food left in the house, a couple of cans of sauerkraut and frozen brussel sprouts (they looked at their "meal" laughed and ordered pizza!).

Our clothing is also getting a bit creative as we are trying not to wear what we will be wearing for three months solid in Europe. So, my creative friend, Dawn, had the coolest idea. We had a come as you are/wear what you have/bring what you got/eat what we have dinner. We ended up with a varied menu that we all enjoyed so much! Spinach salad with Feta, apples, and walnuts, a little chili, a little tortilla soup, Asian stirfry using up the meat and veggies we had, cream cheese with pepper jelly and Ritz crackers (she had half a block and I had half a block of cream cheese), Texas Caviar and chips, and a lemon pudding cake for dessert. Everyone enjoyed this strange array of succulent foods so much, I think we should make it a common thing when we return! Thanks for the relaxing evening!

Tonight, my daughter and her friends have arranged a night of midnight bowling...mothers vs. daughters! Another last fling before we leave. Too bad it will end with our daughters crying and the moms doing a happy dance. Yes, I went there!

Also, looking forward to a farewell fondue night on Monday with my book club and a few additional friends. We have also been treated to dinner by a faculty couple that went on this trip last fall as faculty sponsors. Plus a colleague of mine and his wife had us over for dinner. I'm liking this! This I know for sure. I have been blessed with some of the finest people on earth that I am honored to call my friends. I'm taking a bit of all of them with me. Thank you to all of you who have taken an interest in this journey of mine and send me your support and love.