Umbrellas

Umbrellas

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Schueberfouer


I will be honest.  I have never been much of a carnival fan.  Every year, growing up in Corpus Christi, Buccaneer Days were the highlight of spring for our small beach town. Folks would head down to the bayfront and enjoy the carnival rides, parades, art exhibits and dance festivals.  Personally, I have vague memories of nauseating rides and marching in several of those parades in the Texas heat. So, when I heard that Luxembourg hosts one of the world's oldest fairs each August, I was a bit apprehensive. I knew the kids would have a blast, and being in such a small city in such a small country, I knew this would probably be as close as we would get to a Six Flags. I was also told that to really experience Luxembourg, you HAD to experience the Schueberfouer.

For a week or so we watched the trailers make their way into town. They would arrive in caravans throughout the day (according to my husband, who has a window view of the main street leading into Luxembourg from Belgium).  The carnies would work late at night, so that by morning, folks could see the transformation of the area of town just outside of the city center called the Glacis. Our commute between the apartment and the house would have us driving down one of the main streets leading towards the fair, so you could mark their progress based on how the construction was going on the large ferris wheel at the center of the fair grounds. It often felt like we were driving down the street of a movie studio with the ferris wheel peeking out between the office buildings along the way.

As for the history of this event, the fair was founded over 670 years ago by John the Blind, King of Bohemia and Count of Luxembourg. The fair always begins around St. Bartholomew's day (August 24th) and runs for 20 days. In keeping with its long history and farm origins, the carnival opens with a small parade, led by the city mayor and five sheep. Over the course of time, the fair has grown from a small country fair to a large city carnival, complete with roller coasters, midway, and food. LOTS of food.


Our family ventured out to the carnival with a couple of other families on the first weekend it opened. Our kids ranged from 2 years to 13 years, so I was thrilled to see the diversity of rides and attractions. There was everything from the Crazy Mouse ride and bumper cars, to the "barf machines." You know the ones. The rides that flip folks upside-down and in all directions, or sling them up and down on bungee cords. This ride would not just spin and swing its captive riders hundreds of feet in the air, but would actually make complete rotations, sending folks upside down and screaming. Thankfully, our kids are young, so the roller coaster, ferris wheel and fun house were the choice rides of the day.


I can't mention the fair without mentioning the food. I expected the typical cotton candy, popcorn, fried food choices, but what I loved the most were the cultural influences. There were traditional German sausages and Gromperekichelcher (my favorite - a deep fried potato, onion and parsley pancake), French mussels et frites and crepes, Belgian waffles, and Luxembourg wines and beer. Each of the stands was a brightly colored display of sugar with charming vendors dressed in their themed carnival garb. The kids loved the large cone of funnel cake sticks (think small churros if you are from Texas), served with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce. However, I think the husbands preferred the German beer stands (although they did their fair share of wolfing down the churros!)

Though we haven't made it back in the evenings, I have been told the clientele changes to a more adult crowd at night. The fair provides plenty of pub-like options with the various beer and wine booths scattered throughout the grounds, not to mention rides that provide a gorgeous evening view of the city. Besides, what could possibly be better than a 360 degree view of the city from the dizzying heights of a ferris wheel :) 



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Relocation, relocation, relocation...

I know... it's been awhile since I have posted, but this last week has been insane as we have spent it moving into our permanent residence here in Lux and have been without Internet access. I can honestly say, I am thrilled to be back in a house.  Rhe apartment was nice, but I am finally free from the washer/dryer from hell, and the dog and kids seem to dig their new space.  Our movers arrived last Tuesday with our container - about 7 guys, of which two spoke "some" English.  Thankfully, between their "some" English and our "un peu" French, we managed to get through two days of unloading and unpacking with a fair amount of success.  Okay, to be honest, out of the five moves Joe and I have made, this was actually the most seamless one with the least amount of damage.

This move-in experience was a bit different than our previous ones, as we expected it would be.  We had our walk through with our Luxembourish homeowners last Monday evening.  Customary to renting homes here, we walked through each room of the house while the owners pointed out everything notated on their inventory list.  Being a 1930's home, the list was basically a laundry list of skeleton keys, shelves, bathroom accessories (towel rack or knobs), and a few light fixtures.  They would point out any prior damage as well, but overall, the exchange was pleasant, though more formal than I anticipated.  The owner's wife was very well dressed and proper compared to my sloppy gym clothes that I had spent the day in.  I had been dealing with packing the apartment and cleaning things up for the next corporate employee, and had not had time to change.  After signing yet a few more papers, Joe and I had the unexpected surprise of receiving our keys.  Our lease wasn't starting until the next day, so given insurance red tape, we hadn't anticipated receiving them that evening.

As part of our walk through and contract terms, our owners explained the remaining contract work that would be worked on for the next few days.  The owners were in the process of painting the basement (code in Luxembourg) and replacing our antiquated garage door with one that comes with an opener.  Having a garage will be lovely as I am already tired of dealing with parking on the street, something I am learning to get used to being that this is the first time I have ever really lived "in the city".  We are one of the few single detached homes on our street with most of the buildings containing 3-6 flats. So, folks living in the flats tend to park right in front of our house.  Also, we have some sort of crab apple type tree growing in front of our house that has been dropping fruit like crazy, attracting the swarms of bees that seem to be hovering around these parts.  Worse than flies in Texas or mosquitoes in Virginia, you meet these pesky insects any day you venture to an outdoor cafe.  However, in our case, we seem to have a hive of them hovering over the fruit dropping into the street - not fun when you are trying to get out of your car.  So, the ability to park in a garage will be a terrific luxury after two months of racing through the rain and dodging the bees.

Tuesday came with deliveries from Ikea and Conforama (an electronics/furniture store here in Lux).  Apparently, when we set up the delivery order with Ikea, Joe assured them that we were on the first (or zero) floor, thinking that they were asking if we were in a flat.  So, when I told them that the wardrobe pieces (all 5 flatbed carts full) were going to the second floor, the mover kindly pointed to the paperwork that designated 0 floor and began loading all of our large wardrobe boxes into our entry way.  Thankfully, Conforama didn't have the same delivery policy.  When I told them that our large appliances were to go to the second floor, they sighed, but complied with my request.  It was bad enough moving all of the boxes from Ikea (the movers were arriving the next day with our container), but there was no way Joe and I were hefting large appliances up the stairs.

Wednesday began early as the movers arrived with our container, fresh from customs.  We arrived at the house to see a large truck towing our container, a smaller truck (presumably for supplies) and what appeared to be a ladder truck with an extension ladder and conveyor belt right behind the container.  We soon learned that all of our house contents would be conveyed up the ladder into the window of our master bedroom.  Only items going into the basement or first floor would be carried through the front door.  Also, our rugs were the first items unpacked from the truck, so they laid them in place so that they would protect the hardwoods (as opposed to the cardboard boxes or runners used in the US).  None of the guys wore belts or used upright dollies to lug the boxes in, just brute force and the occasional use of a platform on wheels to move the bigger furniture items.  Pretty impressive given most European men are smaller in stature than their American colleagues.  Of the seven or eight guys there, one was the driver who spent the whole day "watching" the others and smoking his way through a few packs of cigarettes.  One of the other older men appeared to have the cushier job of telling everyone else what to do.  He was obviously the crew leader since the others followed his orders, but his primary task was check marking off our items on the inventory list and loading small boxes on the conveyor belt while the others did the heavy lifting. It was one of the warmest days we have had since moving here, so the back of the truck had to be hitting the upper 90's given the direct sun.  The other guys would rattle off some occasional snarky remarks in French to the guy, mostly because they had little to do until the platform was full and ready to be transported upstairs.  Good thing we were told that no flammable items, etc. would be packed on the US end since we easily had a few hundred cigarette  butts we swept up after they left.  It was quite amazing watching the whole thing. Joe and I would take turns being either downstairs identifying the boxes and telling them which floor to transport it to, or in the master bedroom directing the boxes to the appropriate room.  The following day, a few of the same guys arrived to unpack our boxes and haul away the mass of cardboard and paper.  They didn't make their way through all of the boxes, but at least they managed to get most of the glass unpacked and planted on a flat surface somewhere in the house.

Now, a week later, we finally have comfy beds to sleep in, a fully functioning kitchen and a laundry room :)  Joe and I have spent the last few days working on our Ikea wardrobes (yes, days; these suckers take quite a bit of time to assemble!), but I can finally start unpacking the clothes boxes tomorrow.  I still have at least 3 other Ikea products to build, but overall, we are working our way through the chaos.  The find of the day?  The wine bottle opener :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Where did summer go?

Texas friends, I will apologize up front.  Having spent MANY summers in the so-called dry heat of both south and north Texas (including half of this summer), I completely understand the misery everyone is going through there.  In fact, I realize that most of the U.S. is enduring unusually hot days this year.  Lump on the economic problems, and my heart goes out to you (though we are by no means immune to that issue!)  But, I have to have my say on this weather in Luxembourg. I have never lived anywhere where the temperature can rise and drop 15 degrees in the time it takes to walk in and out of a grocery store, hardware store, etc.  I also have never lived in Seattle or Oregon, but I can only assume that this weather must be similar (we are somewhere close to that latitude). I can check out Weather.com every morning, rejoice in the fact that we only have a 30% chance of rain for the day, only to realize a short time later that 30% really means "yes, it will definitely rain today" and that anything greater than 30% means "continuous downpour of rain followed by chilly wind and ominous clouds."  I never imagined that I would spend most of the remainder of my summer in jeans, sweaters and rain jackets.  I have learned to dress in layers and to never go anywhere without an umbrella in my purse, because as soon as I do, I will have to walk several blocks from point A to point B with some spitting rain showering me.  I did spend about 3 years in Chicago and have had a few deja vu moments.  We moved to Chicago in the summer of 1996 and I distinctly recall a string of days in the summer where all we had was fog rolling in from Lake Michigan followed by a drizzily day of rain.  I am keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed that we don't have winters like we did there!  No, Luxembourg is not known to get a ton of snow.  Just cold, drizzily rain. *sigh*

Since Joe is working during the week and I am spending the weekdays getting ready for our upcoming move into our house, we have already begun what I have determined to be the European tradition of Sunday road trips.  Unlike the U.S., stores are not open on Sundays, so you really have no reason not to get out and sightsee.  Also, since Lux is so centrally located in Europe, it is really easy to drive an hour in any direction and often find yourself in a quaint little town, most likely in a different country.  This Sunday we ventured to Arlon, Belgium.  It only takes about 10 minutes to reach the border between Lux and Belgium (see prior posting on Ikea :), and Arlon is only a few minutes past the border.  I had read that there was a little flea market held the first Sunday of each month, so I thought it might be fun to check it out.  As far as flea markets go, it wasn't anything particularly special (I have been to one in Paris that I kept comparing it to).  There is one in Metz, France at the end of August that is supposed to be much larger, so I figure this was a good test run.  We did have a nice time checking out the local church and having a leisurely lunch at a local bistro.

We followed this venture with a short trip to the American Cemetery of Luxembourg.  Joe and I had already been there once before on our sell trip (our host for the trip is a big WWII history buff), but we thought it was about time to expose the boys to the rich history that now surrounds us.  My mom was a history major in college and I spent many years trying to understand why she was so fascinated by events that happened in the past (i.e., I thought it was boring).  In fact, the last vacation I took with her was to Virginia to visit my brother who was then stationed at Norfolk.  We did a day trip to Williamsburg on that vacation and I can remember being baffled at how excited she was to see where our country's history began.  When we moved to Richmond years later, I found myself wanting to understand that intense interest.  It didn't take much.  I learned quite a bit about U.S. history through the boys' social studies classes at their school.  A few field trips to Jamestown, Monticello and (yes) Williamsburg, I finally understood my mom's passion.  Now, I find myself in her shoes, wanting our boys to understand why we are who we are because of the wonderful, brave people who preceded us.






For those of you who might not know, George Patton is buried in the American Cemetery in Luxembourg.  His cross (grave) sits on a slight rise that overlooks the other 5,075 graves of soldiers who were killed in the fighting in the Ardennes hills just north of the cemetery's location.  The cemetery was established in December of 1944 by General Patton himself as a temporary burial ground for the soldiers.  As you walk through the rows of crosses and headstones carved in the shape of the Star of David (118 soldiers were Jewish), you can't help but notice that many of the soldiers died during the winter of 1944-45, and represented just about every state in the U.S..  Turns out, many of these brave soldiers died during the Battle of the Bulge, which was Hitler's last offensive move against the Allied Forces.  The cemetery was developed in 1946 by American labor troops and German POWs.  They built a chapel, an office building, and other structures, as well as stone pathways that wove through the then 28 plots containing the remains of over 8400 soldiers.  In 1948, the cemetery was closed and local laborers were hired to exhume the remains of those soldiers whose families had requested the repatriation of their loved ones so that they may be buried in the U.S..  Over 5000 of the dead were shipped back to the U.S., while the others were reburied in the current concentric arcs according to the revised design of the cemetery.  An additional 1700 American dead were brought to Luxembourg for reburial from other temporary cemeteries in France and Belgium.  Of the original 267 unknown soldiers, all but 101 were positively identified.  Each of the remaining unknown soldiers bears a cross that declares that his identity is "known only by God".  I can't help but get chills knowing that that poor soul's family may have little idea that he resides there.  In recognition of the unknown soldiers who lost their lives in battles near this location, there are two very large marble tablets that list the names of 371 MIAs who were never recovered or rest in unknown graves.



The boys seemed to understand the relevance of our visit, despite the chilly air and spitting drizzle.  I am actually looking forward to them starting school, not just because I am looking forward to not hearing "I'm bored" anymore (though I haven't heard it much since we arrived here), but because I look forward to learning more about the centuries of history that surrounds us.  Next weekend, I think we are heading off to Trier, Germany - the oldest city in the country.  Mom would be proud :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

(RE)Discovering Ikea

We learned this weekend that we will be able to move into our house a couple of weeks earlier than we originally thought.  Apparently our container will reach us by the end of this week, so we were able to talk the home owner into allowing us to move in earlier so that we can get settled before the kids start back to school.  Fortunately, the home owner's wife happened to be at the house yesterday when I drove my friend M by to see it. I have been wanting to get a second look at the house in order to determine what all we needed to purchase, preferably prior to our move in date.

One of the many quirky things about houses in Europe is that when you lease a home, light fixtures are not generally included.  In most cases your rooms will have a random assortment of wires dangling from either the wall or ceiling, or, in some cases, a random lightbulb hanging from a wire.  The other thing you have to note is that very few homes have closets.  Now, coming from Texas where walk-in-closets are a must for a home buyer, this can create some distress.  Suddenly you are confronted with the reality that you have either 1) collected WAY too many clothes (at my age, that generally means your skinny wardrobe and your not-so-skinny wardrobe), or 2) you are at risk of appearing on that scary hoarders show on cable.  Either way, knowing that you have a container full of "stuff" arriving in a week means you have to have some place for the said "stuff" to go.  The European solution?  Ikea.  Ikea is the ultimate storage solution, and the must-go location when you are in need of a wardrobe, cabinet, shelving, or any other item you deem necessary, but really don't want to invest your life savings in.  Remember, all things (with exception of wine and cheese) are generally more expensive here and the exchange rate between the dollar and euro never helps.

Well, after checking out the house yesterday, I determined that we need 18 light fixtures and at least enough wardrobe space for our clothes (none of our bedrooms in the house has a closet, but at least the boys have little rooms next to theirs that we can retrofit into walk-in closets with the assistance of some rolling rods we purchased at The Container Store back in Dallas).  We also happen to have an extra bedroom that we don't need for any other reason, so we are likely going to convert that into our master closet with some assistance from Ikea.

Interestingly, the closest Ikea to Luxembourg is literally less than a mile past the Belgium-Lux border.  I don't know the details, but from what I have heard, when Ikea wanted to build here in Luxembourg, the powers that be on such decisions declined the request, so Ikea built as close as they could in the closest proximity they could - Belgium.  So, after a couple of preliminary trips to Belgium this past week to scout things out, I was ready to drag the family out to Ikea for our major purchasing trip.  As much as I hate doing such things on a Saturday, we really had no choice.  Joe works late most evenings, and most stores are not open on Sundays.  So, after a quick trip to the local antique/consignment store to knock out what purchases we could, we made our trek out to Belgium.

I will be honest - I have only been in an Ikea once before about 15 or so years ago in Chicago.  We had just bought our first home and had several empty rooms that we were hoping to fill with the basics, but the store was so vast and way out in the suburbs that we never ended up purchasing anything.  I know many folks purchase their first apartment or dorm room furniture there (after browsing their prices, I can totally understand why), but coming from Corpus Christi, I had never heard of Ikea before, so that opportunity escaped me.  Also, most of their inventory is on the contemporary side of things, so once we moved out of our first home, I never thought to go there.  In Europe, however, Ikea is the equivalent of Target or WalMart.  You need some cheap dishes or glasses?  Ikea.  You need a one-stop shop for housewares and furniture? Ikea.  Need basic decorating items like candles or frames?  Ikea.  There just isn't any other equivalent at a similar price.

In the U.S., I am a very loyal Target customer.  Stores like Sam's or Costco have always overwhelmed me a bit.  I literally get tired just driving into the parking lot knowing that I will be there for at least an hour, will have walked up and down a couple of miles or so of aisles, will have to bag my own items, and will rarely leave without spending at least $100 or more.  Ikea is that same experience, times ten.  That enormous blue building on the horizon gives me a headache a mile away.  But, grin and bear it I must if I want a place to hang clothes or have overhead lighting!  If you have been to a Central Market in Texas, you will recognize the shopping process.  You enter the store in one spot, follow a serpentine route through the store that will eventually lead you to the cash registers.  However, customer beware if you forget something and must swim up river to retrieve an item.  The aisles are narrow and you will inevitably be the recipient of dirty looks for pushing your basket upstream.  Ikea is the same way.  You enter an enormous revolving door on the right hand side of the building.  If you have young children that are tantrum prone, there is a rather interesting "playroom" near the entrance where you can check in your children for the duration of your visit.  Not having young children, I have no idea if there is a cost involved, but the kids do appear rather entertained by the room full of ramps and toys, not too unlike a McDonald's play land.  However, given how long you are likely to be there, it would be well worth the investment if necessary.

Once past the entrance, you are then ushered upstairs to the showroom area of the store.  You follow the serpentine aisle around the floor, where you have the opportunity to view the various products in showrooms reflecting their usage - mini set ups of kitchens, dining rooms, offices, etc. Ikea is not unlike any other furniture store in that respect, with the exception of the throng of customers making their way through the aisles with bright yellow metal carts (similar to dollies) with large mesh bags attached to hold their treasures.  If you are a veteran Ikea shopper, you learn quickly that the dollies just don't cut it and you find the shopping or flatbed carts hidden off to the side.  Two preliminary trips and I still hadn't learned this.  The dollies are a disaster, especially with kids who are not always paying attention and clip your ankles with them, or the adults who abandon the dollies midway through the store in search of the necessary shopping cart, thus creating a maze of unwanted dollies for you to weave your cart through.  On a Saturday afternoon, when it seems half of Europe is hitting the local Ikea, this becomes a large nuisance.  The other detail you learn is that in order to know what to order, or in my case, remember what it was I liked going through the showroom, there are stands of order forms and eraser-less pencils scattered throughout the store.  You must use these order forms to write down the item and its location numbers if you hope to know where to find the item in the warehouse you will eventually reach on the bottom floor.  You also need the item number in order to look it up on the kiosks of computers in the warehouse in case you can't find the item. You search for the item's warehouse location code, or find out if you need to ask for assistance from one of the information desk employees who will inevitably inform you that the item you want is on backorder or out of stock.  On the positive side, the store layout is pretty logical (unlike the local grocery stores).  All linens are in one place, lighting in another, kitchen items in their space, and so on.

Having arrived at the store after noon, we started our visit with lunch up in the cafeteria.  Surprisingly, this was one of the cheapest family meals we have had in Europe and the kids loved it.  Again, you enter a serpentine line, make your way through a cafeteria style process, and pay the cashier at the end.  The meatballs and "frites" were the entree of choice, not to mention the free refills on soda (another great luxury!)  Following lunch, we hit the showroom.  Having made two previous trips to the store, I was on a mission to get through the showroom, choose what we needed, and make our way downstairs to the warehouse to collect our goodies.  Given the large crowd, this process still took us over an hour to accomplish.  We knew we would have to have most of what we selected delivered to our new home after our move in date, so we mostly just wrote down the item numbers, assuming that once we reached the end, any items we weren't taking with us would be tallied up, collected, and put aside for delivery.  So, once we reached the cashiers just past the warehouse, I sent Joe to the delivery/customer service desk to order the items we had not pulled from the floor.  I went through the self-checkout line with the few items that would fit in our car and met Joe up at the service counter.  Thankfully, the customer service representative who helped us was fluent in English since we were novices at this whole experience.  She was very nice (and apologetic), explaining to us that no, you do have to take carts into the warehouse and pull each part of the item from the shelves yourself, go through the cashier lines, pay, then go to the service desk to arrange for delivery. On this information, I am sure my mouth dropped open.  Two of our items were very large wardrobes that required about 50+ pieces each. We were already a bit overwhelmed knowing we would have to assemble each of our items.  It never once crossed our minds that we would have to pull the inventory of these items ourselves.  But, that's Ikea for you, and that is how they are able to keep their prices so low. Now, not having been to an Ikea in the states for years, I have no basis for comparison, but Joe and I both question whether the stores in the U.S. work the same way.  Many of the pieces to the large items weigh over 50 pounds.  I can't tell you how many times Joe had to stop what he was doing to assist some small or older woman visiting the store (on her own) with some huge item she was trying to drag onto a cart.  He generally assisted them, simply because he needed her out of the way in order to get to what he needed in the warehouse racks.  What started as a planned 2-3 hour trip, transpired into a 5 hour ordeal.  On top of all that, I will still have to trek it back out to Belgium on Monday morning for the 7 or so pieces to the wardrobes that were out of stock (and are too large to fit in our car), in hopes of getting them on our delivery shipment.  All in all, I know this was the most economical way of meeting our storage and lighting needs, but I will honestly admit that I would have happily paid a surcharge to have some strappy Belgian teenager pull the inventory for me, rather than taking the necessary 2 hours to pull the items onto the 5 flatbed carts it eventually took to get the items through the cashier lines and up to the delivery desk.  After that ordeal, it is no wonder we hit a local pizzeria for dinner and quickly downed a very nice bottle of Chianti with our friends!

PS - On a side note, our last planned visit of the day was supposed to be to the local appliance store to order our badly needed washer and dryer.  Our apartment washer/dryer from hell spewed a couple of more gallons of water onto our laundry room floor again this morning, requiring us to utilize all of the towels I had just washed yesterday to mop up the mess.  *sigh*  Washer/Dryer from hell 2, D's zip.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Small achievements...

So, we woke up this morning, only find out that our washer/dryer had decided to reciprocate on our declaration of war.  Just as I was finishing my shower, I got the urgent request from the husband to help him out in the laundry room.  Apparently, the washer/dryer decided to spew about a couple gallons of water all over the laundry room floor during the night.  *sigh*  Well, thankfully the oscillating fan had managed to dry the towels that I had hung on the drying rack the day before, because we used every last one of them to soak up the water off the floor.  Washer/Dryer 1, D's 0.

On a lighter note, I had a terrific day meeting new folks at the American Women's Club.  Our very close friends, the W's, arrived in Luxembourg last week.  We have known them for at least 12 years now and have managed to move back and forth between Dallas and Richmond during this time.  Only fate would dictate that we share this new journey in Lux!  They arrived in Lux just last week, and have managed to quickly catch up with us with regards to getting the necessary paperwork, cell phones, etc. that took us at least two weeks to get done.  Again, the guinea pig syndrome, but at least it has made their experience easier in certain aspects.  Anyway, I was eager to get M over to the club to meet these wonderful ladies I had only met myself a couple of weeks ago.  Each Wednesday, several ladies meet up at the headquarters to play board games and chat.  I learned quickly that this is a huge opportunity to go somewhere where everyone speaks fluent English :)  The members range in age and backgrounds, which has been a wonderful experience.  No matter how varied our backgrounds may be, it is so comforting knowing that everyone you meet there has been through your exact situation! You also learn about the quirky details of living in this charming (i.e., small) country.  I have heard tidbits on everything from what to expect on your first doctor's visit, to what products your are not likely to encounter at the grocery store.  Minor details, until you find yourself trying to find those must-have ingredients for a dinner you plan on serving, only to find out that the necessary ingredients will not likely be found in what you deem the "logical" location for them in the grocery store.  Unlike the U.S., where corporations pay high dollars for premium "shelf" space in the grocery store (yes, General Mills does pay for that prime location on the middle or lower shelf for those Cheerios), the same rules do not apply here in Lux.  Simple items, like nuts or crackers, can be located in a number of locations throughout the store, depending on what you think they might be used for:  snack, baking, etc.  Also, don't expect to find your eggs or milk in the back refrigerators.  Here, pasteurization is at a whole new level, so neither is refrigerated.  You will find both on their own aisles, likely somewhere near the dairy section, but don't bank on it.  You never know when the store managers may decide to relocate such items since their locations have been known to change just as you think you have their logic figured out.

My big achievement for the day, however, was getting my hair done.  I can't speak for anyone else, but finding a hairdresser after a big move has always created the greatest amount of stress for me.  I have moved about seven times now and, with the exception of moves back to Dallas (where I have always returned to the same hairdresser - Daisy), it has always taken me a year and a lot of trial and error to find someone who can highlight my hair correctly and manage my random cowlicks.  This effort has only become more complicated as the number of grey hairs have increased.  However, today I can declare that my new hairdresser Pascal nailed it on the first visit!  Luxembourgish by birth, but thankfully conversed in English, Pascal was able to figure out my hair in no time.  Although the process varied (no foils, just a large spatula-shaped comb and the necessary dyes), the outcome was exactly what I wanted.  I had been warned to expect a more drastic haircut than requested, but she also managed to hedge on the conservative side and only eliminated the unsightly split ends that had been plaguing me throughout the summer.  To top off the day, I managed to maneuver my way through the city center traffic, park in one of the incredibly narrow parking garages, and exit without a scratch on the car.  I even ended the day with a relatively easy trip to the grocery store.  Was the day perfect overall?  No, but I refuse to kill my buzz with those details.  I still proclaim today successful! :)

Our final tidbit of good news was to find out that we will be able to move into our permanent residence in the next couple of weeks.  This news required a rather labored phone call with our new Luxembourgish home owner (he was struggling a bit with my fast southern dialect), but we did manage to agree on our new move in date.  In celebration of these small victories, I think the husband and I will venture off and purchase our new washer and dryer this weekend!  If this war continues, I foresee a rather large accumulation of laundry over these last couple of weeks and will need those new appliances ASAP!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Overcoming the obstacles...

Today, I had to declare war on my washing/drying machine.  Despite the wonderful cheat sheets of German/French/English translations for appliances that are so kindly provided by the American Women's Club of Luxembourg, we still have not managed to figure out this damn thing.  I understand that many Europeans do not have dryers, let alone invest in the fancy, large dryers we are so accustomed to in the states, but even the German to English translations of the settings for these machines can be baffling.  While my oven sports some interesting hieroglyphics, the washing/drying machine has a laundry list (pun intended) of German words at each setting.  The only problem is that the manual is about 30 pages long, so it takes a bit of time to filter through the book and find what you need to translate so that you have instructions that apply to the various settings.  I also have a family that can create mountains of laundry over a weekend, so I have had to put this machine to the test no less than 3-5 times per day since we have been here. (I am still working through our laundry from our trip to Paris.)

So, you can't imagine my frustration when I went to pull out the load of kids laundry I had put in earlier this morning, only to find that all of the clothes were sopping wet.  And I mean, sopping!  I figured I must have exceeded my 2.5 kg limit on clothes, so I wrung out the access water on some of the clothes, hung those, and decided to try and dry the remaining pieces.  Now, fortunately, the dryer settings are not as complicated as your average American dryer.  There are really only two settings (dry and wrinkle release) and a time setting.  So, I set the time for an hour, ran a few errands (including a trip to the store to purchase an oscillating fan to help dry the clothes that were hanging, damp, on the enormous drying rack in our laundry room), and came home to what I was hoping to be a machine full of at least mostly dry clothes that I could hang on the said drying rack.  Instead, I came home to find that the machine door would not open.  Now, based on what I could translate of the German manual (without spending the next 5 or so hours typing or scanning in pages and feeding them through Google Translate), I did determine that the door will lock if it senses that the machine is still full of water.  So, I drained the water from the vent below the door (my machine in TX had a similar vent), and ran the dryer once again.  Still, the door would not open.  I made 4 or 5 more attempts at this before my husband arrived home from a late day at work, wondering if I had managed to break the machine. (I swear, I didn't break it!  I may have thought about it a time or two, but I didn't!)  After several more attempts of draining water, running different cycles, etc., he finally resorted to taking a clothes hanger to it and managed to free my captive laundry.  Needless to say, we have determined that the door latch is broken (again, I swear I didn't do it!)  So, with a little ingenuity, we now have the red-neck version of a washing machine - the door is now sporting a lovely white twist tie that can now be used to release the latch. *sigh* Once we move into our permanent residence, I will no doubt be purchasing machines that have manuals in English!

So, in celebration of my freed laundry, I decided to break out the new Senseo coffee machine we recently purchased and try out the new hot chocolate filters I purchased yesterday.  I popped the little filter bag into the the tray, tried to close the lid, and ALMOST broke the latch used to secure the filter into the machine.  The husband grabbed the bag of filters from me, only to point out that this particular flavor I had just purchased requires a special filter tray in order to use them in our machine.  I went to the  French Senseo website (and Google Translate) to verify that indeed, a special violet "dosette" (filter tray) is needed in order to brew the hot chocolate. *sigh*  Well, at least I didn't break the machine...