Tout Simplement

I am so excited. I just found out about a new little inn right across the street from us!! Just in case anyone needed encouragement to come for a visit, but wasn't too excited about sleeping in our living room :)



My first race.

Today was my first race. I woke up so nervous.

Here's the before picture.

The during.

And the after-running-a-13K picture.

Feeling pretty victorious (even if I can't move).

Trip well done.

Neil has come and gone, and what a week it was!

We enjoyed showing him Brussels. It's become one of our favorite cities. A great place to relax and walk around.

I always suppress giggles as we lead guests to see the Mannekin Pis. He's just so tiny. And so weird in general. Such an strange and obscure national monument. So Belgian. I love it.

The high school group did a big showing for the film they made with Clay. Dinner was classic boulettes and frites. Neil got to try some true Belgian cuisine on his trip. Yum.

This just makes me laugh. The theme for the evening was "A Night at the Oscars" so everyone was pretty dressed up. Then there's Amy and me, who decided to attend as the paparazzi with cameras and scuzzy clothes. I love this picture of here in her hobo clothes cooking frites. It's just perfect.

The next night we were off to Sirin and Xavier's for Turkish night! Oh how I love when my sweet friend cooks one of her native meals. This time I headed over early to help with the preparations.

Getting the karniyarik (stuffed eggplant) going. It was a great night.

We also made a trip to Liege so Neil could try Clay's favorite sandwich- a croque monsieur with an egg on top. He was pleased.

Off to Ali and Nada's! The boys watched youtube.

The girls chatted.

And the rest of the time we loved on that sweet baby (Mama, do you see the outfit he's wearing? They put it on him especially for you :)

We spent the rest of our days hiking though Huy.

And grilling of course :)

Kevin and Josh joined us in this grassy area up in the old part of town. We had a serious feast.

We met some kids that were up there hanging out too. They loved the brownies and potato salad... I love sharing America with people.

And after a whirlwind week, alas, it was time for Neil to return from wenst he came. It was truly a fabulous trip. We miss him already.


The brothers in Paris.

Neil's here!

Clay and I were in France for work last weekend, and Neil met us there.... under the Eiffel Tower! It was a great reunion. It's been over a year since we saw him!

We determined the must-sees for our quick trip were the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and Montmartre.

Paris is just plain awesome.

We kind of just strolled around and ate. Not a bad way to spend 24 hours in Paris :)

On several of the street corners the city supplies some of the nicest port-o-potties I have ever seen. They disinfect themselves after each use. The floors, the walls, the toilet- everything. It's pretty cool, but because you have to wait for the wash cycle to complete itself in between each person, the line moves very slowly. But not for the Sandoz brothers. Neil hopped right in after Clay as the automatic doors slid shut.

The exit:

That night we met up with Kevin and his brother and had cheese, bread, and wine overlooking the tower light show. It was kind of one of those lifetime moments. I'll never forget that.

The next day we ran around town... and ate some more.

We realized when out on a little morning walk that that day, the 16th, was our 1 year anniversary in Belgium. We then looked out over Paris, caught site of the Eiffel Tower, and kind of marveled at our life for the past year. It feels surreal. We thank God for it.

It was fun to return to Huy and introduce Neil to our life here. This is our first visit from home since last summer, and it's neat to see how things have changed in 6 months. He's joined us for dinner in 2 Belgian homes, sat in on a really neat conversation with had with a Belgian pastor, and tonight he'll experience a Huy church dinner featuring a video Clay produced for the high-schoolers.

It's been a fast, full week, but as we reflect on this time last year, we are blown away by all that God has done in our life. The people and places he has added to it. The work he has done in our hearts.

Now... let's all raise our glasses to year 2!

And while we're at it, to summer in Europe. Oh, I'm getting excited.


What a sweet, fun day with my dear friend! I met Sirin and we drove to one of her favorite spots. The lake was covered in ice, the wind was chilly, and the sun was warm. A perfect day for a picnic.

I didn't realize how much I needed this: a friend and the solitude of the forest; the ice on the water cracking, alerting us that spring is indeed a-coming. As I think it may be to my soul. I feel encouraged, rested, and taken care of.

Thanks, Friend, for the sharing, the laughter, and the sandwich and tea :)


One year ago.

I woke up this morning and was shocked.

We left home 1 year ago today. I looked back in the blog to this day in 2009. These pictures make the year-old wounds on my heart ache a little. They also make me smile.

And cry, to be honest. What dear dear sweet family (I was going to say "family and friends", but let's face it, friends, you are family) God has given us in this life. The great joy you all bring my heart, and the deep sorrow that comes from leaving you. What a year.

This year has been big for us. Our life has changed. We have changed. It happened slowly, like the morning glories that open ever-so-secretly along the fence by my parents' mailbox. But happen it did. I feel like God carried us tenderly to his workbench on March 9, 2009. He propped us up there, and I think he must have rubbed his hands together in excited expectation, ready to get to work. And work he has.

Maybe one day I will share some of what he has shown us, what he has done in us. But not today. Today is for this:

Jesus, what blessings you give.


"That's right boys, it's Dr. VENKman!"

3 weeks after returning to Huy after our last big trip, I can finally say is SO good to be back home!! Things are starting to settle in. We're back in touch with friends, and the French is improving, too. Whew. Am glad the re-adjustment is over!

Today I spent some time at the grocery store really studying labels and figuring out the best products for us (ie facewash and bathtub cleaner that don't burn our skin off). Next time you go to Walmart, please tell her I miss her. Oh, the limitless aisles of brand upon brand of toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, and goldfish! Our grocery store here is pretty great, but I do miss the options of home. When it came to facewash, I resorted to sniffing bottles and tubes, trying to find the least chemical-smelling choice. As I squeezed one bottle to puff a little scent out, a huge glob of gel shot right onto my nose and dribbled down to my shirt. Oh my gosh. I had no tissues so I used my grocery list to wipe my face as best I could. I felt kind of like Bill Murray on Ghostbusters when he gets "slimed." It was everywhere. That's what you get for being picky and smelling every bottle, I guess. So embarrassing. Why do I even try to be cool?

I got out of there fast, and ran to the craft store because I have a fun project for the weekend: Curtains. The days are getting longer and longer, and soon the sun will be coming up at 5am and setting well after 10pm. Gotta get on those window coverings! I've been gathering vintage tablecloths from 2nd-hand shops for months, and I'm finally ready. Wish me luck!

In an effort to rebuild the contents of my stolen purse, I also picked out some sunglasses at the craft store. Summer is coming, people!!! What a blessed thought. Happy Friday to you all.

Now, to the machine รก coudre!


Dear Jack Bauer,

The U.S. Embassy is not near as cool as you make it seem on T.V.

We had to run to Brussels this week to get some new pages for Clay's passport. I think we were both secretly really looking forward to the Embassy. In our minds, we would enter into a marble-floored lobby, maybe even be saluted by the guards protecting this tiny piece of our nation's soil. I even more secretly hoped that it would be like visiting "Little America" at Epcot, and all my favorite sites and restaurants would be found hidden below the streets of Brussels.

No such luck.

We were greeted at "citizens" at the front gate, which was kind of cool (I resisted the urge to cross my heart), but then we had to wait in a line outside in the cold before we could enter. So sure that there was no way we were intended to wait for our scheduled appointment OUTSIDE, Clay and I walked to the front of the line and tried the door before skulking back to the end. There is so much irony in watching a bunch of Americans waiting in line as part of procedure that they see as clearly flawed. The American nature is to try to improve things, progress them, throw out their ideas to anyone that will listen- even if that "anyone" is a locked door keeping you out of your embassy. My marble-floored lobby dreams evaporated.

It turns out the embassy is quite similar to the DMV. Except there are chairs, a T.V., and a public water cooler. We got the pages Clay needed, and got to watch CNN for half an hour.

There were times that I regretted wearing my blue and white striped shirt with red shoes. Such deep regret. Looking back, I think I really did think I was going to Epcot.