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Today is the day!
I’m really happy (and a little nervous) to announce that from now on I will be blogging at http://fionalynne.com/blog/
I’ve spent the last few months working on it and getting it ready, and although I’m sure there are a few kinks to iron out, I’m ready to show you all.
So head on over and I’ll meet you there!
(Don’t forget to update your readers if you read the blog there. Also, if you get my updates by email, you’ll need to sign up again over at the new blog…)
I’ve been volunteering at the Salvation Army here in Fort Myers each morning for the last month. It gets me out of the flat, I get to actually have conversations with people other than Rasmus, and I make a teeny difference (through filing, answering the door with a smile, doing mock interviews for job-searching clients).
Each Monday I’ve come in and my wonderful colleagues have asked “how was your weekend?” and I’ve answered, “It was great, we went to Sanibel/the Everglades/Orlando/Key West”… They usually respond with something about how much we get around and how active we are. Well, we might not come back to Florida for a long time, if ever, so we gotta fit it all in now.
So I’m getting behind with the blogging again and complaints have been heard (from my dad mostly) so here is my attempt to catch up. We’ve had such a great couple of weeks, including two weekends away to Orlando and then to Key West, meeting up with old friends from Brussels and two of my cousins who live over here, getting sunburnt despite religiously applying factor 30 suncream (stupid Scottish genes), drinking a lot of margaritas and generally just enjoying every minute.
We spent the day at Universal Studios, and wandered around Downtown Disney too. The long queues combined with incredibly hot humid weather and outdated rides (five year old 3D movies now look pretty rubbish) meant it wasn’t our favourite place yet, but it was good to spend time with my cousins Hannah and Rosie who happened to be in town that weekend (Although we managed not to take any photos together: major fail).
We also happened to be in Orlando the same weekend as Jackie and Richard, old friends from Brussels who moved back to the US a couple of years ago. We had so much fun catching up with them over sushi and champagne.
We took the ferry from Fort Myers to Key West on Saturday morning, and the sea was calmest we’ve ever seen. So very beautiful!
Key West is apparently the southern most point in continental USA. As my mum asked, how can an island be part of continental USA? I’m not sure, and anyway, there is a naval base on the island that is technically further south than this spot, but we took the compulsory tourist pictures anyway!
At sunset, we headed for the seafront, bought pina coladas and sat on dock with hundreds of complete strangers enjoying the beautiful view. I loved how communal an activity this was. Literally half the island seemed to head here to witness this moment before heading off again for drinks and dinner.
Sunday was possibly my favourite day of the trip so far. We got up early and after breakfast on the front porch of our adorable bed and breakfast, we boarded a catamaran with about 20 other excited people and put put to sea. Eight miles later, we dropped anchor and spent an amazing morning snorkeling through the reef.
I’ve never snorkeled before and it was just mind-blowing to me. From above, it looked like any other patch of sea, but bob your head under the surface and you are suddenly surrounded by hundreds of brightly coloured fish, swimming through the corals. It was entirely astonishing and I loved every second. Others in our group reported sighting two sharks. I am divided over whether I would have LOVED to see that, or whether I might have been so scared I’d have swallowed half the sea and promptly drowned. Who knows, but it was a lot of fun.
Just being out on the boat was wonderful. Rasmus commented that when you’re on the island, your world ends at the dockland. But if you have access to a boat, suddenly there’s so much more to explore and see. It felt so good to be out on the boat, enjoying the large expanses of turquoise sea and blue sky. We’re now contemplating a life at sea…
The rest of the weekend was mostly margaritas, great sea food, secretly celebrating when Japan won the women’s world cup and then nursing our sunburnt skin on the way home. Trust me when I say that we are not taking a second of this for granted!
This week I have been liking…
- Soul Food. Went out with my Salvation Army colleagues to “Chicken ‘n Waffles” for um, chicken and waffles :) Although actually coming from Belgium I’m a little over waffles, so I went for the chicken, mac n’ cheese and corn bread. Yum!
- Golf. I am still very much the beginner but it was nice to feel like I was actually getting a bit better yesterday at the driving range. Small steps.
- My elderly neighbours. It’s official, little old American Grandma’s are my favourite. I have two on our floor, Ellie and Pat, and I adore them!
- Long weekends. Yes, I know I don’t really have a job at the moment. But still, I feel so much more rested come Tuesday morning when you get all three days off.
- Breakfast. I’ve found this whole grain blueberry cereal that I love. And nothing beats weekend breakfasts out with eggs, bacon, pancakes, fried potatoes…
I made this on Friday night and it was yummy. Excuse the weird colour photo – it was kinda dark and I was hungry so wasn’t about to stop and play around with the lighting and settings!
Clearly if this was an actual food blog I’d have at least taken the time to wipe away the sauce drips… :)
The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s “Express” cook book. You can find the recipe here on her website, where apparently a lot of her recipes are up, I just discovered. Actually, I copied this down in the local library. I adore libraries but not being a French or Flemish speaker, the Brussels libraries were not so interesting to me, so I’m loving have regular access to one again.
It is conveniently just three minutes drive (although I still haven’t got used to driving everywhere) and is a brand new space, so light and airy and with big armchairs everywhere to sit and read in. I go there to study because it makes me a lot more self-disciplined to be studying there, despite the free wifi. Just the aura of libraries makes me feel more studious! And also it’s nice to get out the flat and see other human beings :)
I didn’t follow the recipe exactly (hmm, that sounds familiar…). I didn’t have any sweet potato, and I used greek yoghurt instead of coconut milk coz that’s what I had. And I forgot to add the mango despite having it sitting in a wee bowl next to the cooker and Rasmus actually reminding me to add it. So it got kinda swirled around in the sauce after it’d already been half served-up, but still tasted fine!
We ate all the prawns but there was sauce and butternut left over, so I’ve frozen it together with the rest of the rice, and that can be my lunch one day this week. I might even cook some chicken to add to it. I have now perfected my rice-cooking technique so that it comes out perfectly sticky and soft each time. I’m rather proud of myself :)
It’s been a really good year in so many ways.
I have bought a sewing machine, successfully grown a chilli after killing so many other plants, brought an awesome modern leather armchair for our apartment, had enchiladas for lunch at the American diner in Brussels with Rasmus, sorted our wedding photos out and designed an album that is so close to be ready to print, watched the first two of the Godfather trilogy and declared I’ll need serious bribing to watch the last one, have tried my upmost to be more tidy in the flat (Rasmus admits I am a little better), spent a lovely day in the Ardennes with my parents, drank many bottles of champagne, read some great books and some not so good ones, been so lucky to visit three new countries and enjoyed them all (Luxembourg, Hungary and Morocco), spent a blissful day in a country spa with my mum and my sister, improved my Danish enough to have “secret” conversations with Rasmus in public (yey!), made cherry ice cream, started making more bread and rolls, organised all my printed and cut out recipes into a massive binder and cooked more of them, written a lot of letters and cards to friends around the world and enjoyed getting letters in return, got to know some amazing, strong and brave women seeking asylum in Belgium, kept writing this blog pretty much regularly with just a few longer gaps…
And finally, on the last day of my year, or the first day of my new one, Rasmus and I returned to Villers Abbey in the glorious sunshine for a picnic, naps in the sunshine and experiments in photography with our new-ish camera.
It truly has been a wonderful year, for these and so many more reasons. It was the first full year I have been married and that has added so much joy to every day. I’ve felt settled here in our life in Brussels, with great friends, an inspiring church, a good job and fantastic lifestyle.
And it’s all about to change.
I tried writing a new list for my 28th year, since I had such a good experience ticking off the things on this list. But I found it too hard, because there is so much unknown about this coming year, that I am not sure what to put on the list.
A week from today on Maundy Thursday, I will leave my office for the last time. I handed in my resignation at the end of February and am finally in the final week. It’s a little overwhelming but after three and a half years and a lot of learning and growing, it feels like the right time to move on to the next thing.
The next thing is a long trip to the USA! Rasmus is doing a three month work rotation within his company so I am of course going with him. From mid-May we’ll spend two months in Fort Myers, Florida, and then one month in San Diego, California. I know. Three months of guaranteed sunshine and warmth? I am so excited!
After that, I’m not sure what comes next. But I know that God knows and it will all work itself out at the right time. And in the meantime I am going to enjoy the luxury of four months to think and dream and imagine what I could do with my life.
Don’t worry, you’re all coming with me :) I’ll keep you updated every step of the way and promise to post many jealousy-inducing photos of me lying in the sun sipping a pina colada!
Thanks for coming along for the ride this last year – I’m looking forward to an even better 28th year…
This weekend I got to have one of those beautiful moments that you maybe only get a few times in your life (unless you are a midwife…) – snuggling with a two day old baby.
I have Afghani friends who had just moved to Antwerp. Rasmus and I had been invited to dinner by some other friends in Antwerp on Saturday night so I called up my Afghani friends earlier this week and arranged to drop by their new house in the afternoon to catch up.
Friday night I called to confirm timing and was told “well, we’re not actually going to be at home – the baby arrived at 3am this morning!” Yey!!! There is nothing I like better than the chance to hold a teeny tiny baby so I immediately got the name of the hospital and headed there yesterday.
And spent an hour and a half refusing to give her back up to her parents or proud big sister…
this wee honey has entirely stolen my heart…
Hannah and Ellie are my best friends from Uni. We met in dorms in first year and all lived together in second year (with three other girls). We tried really hard to find a weekend this summer when all three of us could get together but with busy schedules, one international move (Hannah), one national move (Ellie) and lots of holidays, it didn’t work out.
I got to see Ellie in June so this weekend Rasmus and I planned to drive the two and a half hours down to Bonn to visit Hannah and her husband Philipp. They had been in Glasgow the last year (we stayed in their flat on that Scotland trip but sadly they weren’t also there at the time) so it’s nice to have them within an easy drive again.
And I had another big reason to want to see them now, because they are expecting a BABY in October (it is exciting enough to require all caps) and although this has been known to me for many months already, I needed to see the big bump in person to really believe it :)
We had a fun weekend together, taking lots of walks through the city, along the Rhine, up the hills and chatting non stop. Well, Hannah and I talked non stop and Philipp and Rasmus did their best to keep up with the constant stream of words. They treated us to a wonderful dinner on Saturday night (when our meals arrived I realised I was the only one who hadn’t ordered the venison with mushrooms and almost regretted it coz it looked so good but then I tried my duck in blackcurrant sauce and took it back) and made us a four-star-hotel-worthy brunch on Sunday.
So glad they are back within easy visiting distance. And more excited than anything to meet the wee one in a very short time…
p.s. Hannah – all the photos are here… love you!
My mum and dad came to stay last weekend which was just lovely.
We went out for dinner to La Quincaillerie, went to Spa and the Grottes de Remouchamps on Saturday, and wandered around the Marolles antiques shops on Sunday. Also managed to fit in a couple of movies, making delicious flat bread on the griddle and spending a few lazy hours on the sofa…