Saturday, November 24, 2012

Red light, Green light

Red Light, Green Light

Have you ever played the game Red Light Green light?  I think about it every time I pass the Red Light District in Antwerp.  The picture above is the actual Red light in the Red Light District.  It is located between a few streets about 1/2 mile from where I live.  This you will love...within the district (and you can't make this up) is a street called  Oude Manstraat translation "Old Man Street".  Known as the Sailor's Quarters, the original district was for the sailors that would come into port.  This is the only area in Antwerp where prostitution is legal.  Much like Amsterdam, the ladies (for the most part) are in windows and scantily dressed.  I added "for the most part" because a friend and I cut through the district as a shortcut the other day. I am going to admit right now I am just too immature not to I look and this lovely lady is sitting on a chair in her sexy little outfit and guess what she is not?  NOT a lady.....will let you use your own imagination how I knew.

I paid $45 dollars for an 8 1/2 pound turkey for Thanksgiving.  But where do you get a turkey in Belgium?  Naturally, in Chinatown.

This is a picture of Sinterklaas. (Short for St. Nicholas).  The arrival of Sinterklaas to town is a huge public event.  An event that Marty and I could not miss.  Sinterklaas arrives by boat after spending the off season in Spain (no North Pole for this guy)  Sinterklaas, a precursor to our traditional Santa Claus is part of the holiday events here in Belgium, Holland, and other low country areas.  He is the patron saint of children and on the eve of his birth, Dec 5 he comes and delivers presents to children in sacks that are left at their house. And of course, he has helpers.  This is where Marty and I had a jaw dropping experience. Once Sinterklaas comes off the boat to the applause of the town you notice that he is surrounded by some others known as Zwarte Piets.  Translation  Black Pete (s).  Now it is clear that Sinterklaas is not so politically correct...They were all blackfaced white men. uncomfortable.

The story goes that Black Pete was a slave of Sinterklaas and he freed him.  Black Pete was so grateful that he stuck around  (How funny that this bothered me but the man in girls clothing 1/2 naked in a window did not).  The Black Pete story evolved over time to say that he was actually a white man that got soot on him when he went down the chimney to deliver the sacks.  Sinterklaas travels around on a grey horse that flies....not what normal child would believe...everyone knows only reindeer fly.  It is also traditional for children to dress up on the arrival of Sinterklaas as a Black Pete.  

The town was electric, the children were delighted and we notched another euro event on our belts topped off with a cava (my new prosecco).


I think these are the bomb!  There is a large Hasidic Jewish community in the southern part of the city.

Are they not the hippest? They are called shtreimels.
from wikipedia:
"a shtreimel is a fur hat worn by many haredi Jewishmen, particularly (although not exclusively) members of Hasidic groups, on Shabbat and Jewish holidays and other festive occasions."

And so now I bring this chat full circle.....Red Light Green Light... how many of you played that game?  Mother May?  Swinging Statues, Tag...your it!...Hope that you did.

Here is a red light that you must obey.

It is hard for Americans to stay still.  Why would you wait if a car is not coming.  Because of the bike, car and pedestrian traffic in this city, not only is it important to stop when you see the red guy because you may be hit......there is also a 75 euro fine for crossing when it is not green.   That is $96.75 USD.

Hope you are bringing out your Holiday Merriment items....mine are out.

Wishing you all a Cool Yule!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

De Kunst Van Het Snijden Haar

De Kunst Van Het Snijden Haar

Curious? ...the translation is "the art of cutting hair" in Flemish.  And I am one that has had a fair share of experiences in the hair cutting arena.  I have had my haircut in 3 countries, several states and 3 languages. 4 if you count Fayetteville GA (think Honey Boo Boo Child, she lives 2 hours away).  And don't be hating the Boo Boo child....I love me some Honey Boo Boo.

It has become easier over the years to tell a new stylist how I would like my hair cut.  Along the way, Ellen Degeneres, Halle Barry and Rhianna have all sported my do...therefore, I have always been able to give a visual to the person doing my hair.  But that has not stopped me upon occasion ending up looking more like a man than woman and have more than once felt that the dye job left  me looking more like Elvis black than Julia Roberts brown/red.  And there was the time in NYC when the girl insisted blow drying AND flat ironing my 2 inch hair.

I, by chance, located an Aveda salon here in Antwerp.  Over the years and moves I have made, they still seem to deliver the most consistent talent and cut. My new guy Enrico, from France was my new best friend for a minute.  Loved him!  He understood completely that the day before I had taken my own scissors to cut my own hair...a little over the ears, a bit on the top and blindly I cut off (what in my mind) was a full blown mullet look.  WTH was I thinking? Once again my impulsivity ruled me.  But it was nothing a little hair wax could not take care of for the 24 hours that followed.   I love Enrico and I love my new cut.

Many of you will remember the Sesame Street, "One of These Things is Not Like the Other" song....for those of you who do not I have included this link:

Are you with me?

......take a look at the next 4 pictures.

So how did you do?  Did you guess which thing is not like the other?  Did you guess Ellen?  You're right Elmo.....she is BLONDE! (you did not think that I was going to say lesbian, did you?) much has happened since I last updated.  Kate graduated from college, Maddy graduated from HS, I lived in Dewey for the summer, moved Maddy to Chapel Hill, helped get Kate an apartment in Columbus for her new job at Abercrombie and Fitch headquarters, celebrated Sharon's 50th in 4 countries, had a pap, mam and colonoscopy all in 2 weeks.....clean as a whistle (it took all I could muster not to post the pics they gave me) and it has been a swift blurr of summer memories bouncing in and out of each other.

It would be unpatriotic of me not to mention so close to the election that I pretended to run for office in Dewey Beach this summer.  Why? Why not?  My "Bootsie for the Beach" made me laugh and for my birthday I decided to present myself with Bootsie for the Beach the tune of 300+ buttons that I handed out (as always Marty was thrilled with my investment decision...).  What started out as a small joke became a daily venture as my posse of people gave out buttons and flags most of the summer to random people and took their pictures.  And in a valiant effort to outdo me, my expat girlfriends who moved back to the states, visited me in Dewey and actually had a flag made with my face on it.  (What did I run for?  Nothing and Irony.  I know I am a 53 year old with too much time.  It is okay to say that out loud and to my face).

This is just a smidge of the pictures. Sometime I will post a link to the others.

I rarely left my village this summer.  It was relaxing and for the first time in several years, the girls and I were under the same roof.  Marty made it for 2 weeks and Breana and crew made their annual beach vaca too.  Summer 2012 may be in the books but not far from my heart.  

I am glad to be back with Marty and dogs in Antwerp.  I look forward to exploring here in the land of Peter Rubens, master painter.  Fun fact?  He married a 16 year old girl after his first wife died....he was 52.  Big EW.  Lots to do and easy to get around here.  VISIT us.


I have not napped (other than on a moving vehicle which doesn't count because I have moving vehicle narcolepsy) in about a month.  Not sure what that means.  Could explain outbursts of crankiness.

Here is a store that we saw yesterday when walking around.  Did not feel a real urge to enter.

Today I went to a Sunday flea market and found these really fun old printing blocks.

And I am feeling especially Euro with my new shopping trolley.

I am reading "The Book of Mormon Girl" by Joanna Brooks.   A memoir of a girl struggling with the tenets of her faith.

  Da Da Da Da (translation...bye-bye bye-bye)  cracks me up every time I hear it.
peace and blessings from belgium.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Leaving LALA and Finding the Flemish

It is only fitting that as I spend my last few weeks in Lugano that a birthday celebration at the beautiful Principe would come on the calendar.  The Principe, is listed as one of the places to see before you die.  The view is amazing.

The food is always delish and despite the fancy pants waiters who typically don't have eye contact with Americans (we talk too loud ), I still enjoy coming here to  look at the amazing views as you sip an overpriced glass of wine.

Things that I never did here and somewhat regret are that I never learned Italian and never used the bidet.

An etching from the 18th Century of ladies using bidets.

A more modern version.

The move.....once packed up Marty and I left on the 8 hour drive to Antwerp with dogs in tow.  It was a sweet ride that we rented.  It was appropriate that we left the land of Ferraris, Bentleys and Lamborghinis driving this:

Antwerp is going to be great.  The small city is full of historic merit and new happening places to see.  I have yet to figure out how to pronounce our address let alone spell it. See if you can take a stab at it.

"Entrepotkaai 14".  The literal translation is Entrepot  water.  We live on the Entrepot Dock on the water.

Viv the touching realtor lady came over and touched me the whole time she showed me how to use the appliances...needless to say, I don't know how to use any of them because I was obsessing on her touching me.

A shocking find while leaving Lugano was that Marty had a tool drawer.  He has some tools!  He is a real man.  Here is the inventory:  11 phillip's head screwdrivers...all the same size but different lengths, one regular screwdriver, 3 hammers and 2 huge tape measures.  He is ready for everything.

I am going to love this very clean and modern apartment that overlooks  the harbor here.  The first day a cruise ship passed on the river and lots of boats are docked in front of the building.  We are on the fifth floor and I realized while I was undressing that I was, much like the Seinfeld ugly old naked guy,....I was completely naked looking out the window back at a whole building of lit up other apartments.  I fell to the floor and crawled to the bathroom.....old ugly naked gal in unit 41.

So old ugly naked gal goes to take a shower.  The shower...a treat.  We have had a 50 year old shower head that trickles for the past 4 years.  This shower rocked until I turned around and realized I have a full view of myself in the mirror.....old ugly naked gal can see herself while showering....make note to self to keep eyes shut during the rinse.

In full "me" form, I lost the keys to the apartment while unpacking the first day.  Not sure if that was before or after I flung a diet coke across the table or kicked my cup of coffee over after Marty out for that coffee.

My old chipped up comfort furniture, my clocks, my mirrors, my windows all make me smile as they fit  warmly in this modern building with the juxtaposition that the city of Antwerp seems to have mixing the very old with new.....yes I just used the word juxtaposition in a is cracking me up.

Here is a random fact for the day...for those of you who know that April 20 is the day that pot, ganja, weed, grass, jay, Mary Jane, reefer, skunk (fill in your own blank) smokers celebrate Marijuana...there are many articles and history of why but it has been tied back to a group of boys in CA  from back in the day using the phrase 420.  Never the less, the subculture has embraced the 420 affiliation and so have many people in subtle ways....and here is my fun fact.....all the clocks in the movie Pulp Fiction are set to the time 4:20.

Headed to the states tomorrow for many celebrations...Cheers to Carin Frisk as we celebrate her bd in NYC this weekend, and for the many festivities associated with my girls both graduating from Wake and St Andrews School!

I finish with the best find ever while glad Marty had saved it.   Based on what I remember  it was written when Maddy was in 6th or 7th grade.

Dear George and Terri Thomas,
My loving parents.

Only for the eyes of George and Terri Thomas (that means not you Kate)!


1.  Level three is really hard.  I do not like it at all
2.  It makes me really really tired.  I would rather take a nap.
3.  It makes me hungry.  It makes me move a lot (not that I have a problem with that) and digests all my food before I want it to be.
4.  It uses too many muscles making me ache.
5.  I am always last.  I try really hard but I still get lapped.  For example:  today we were doing kicking, I got lapped and forgot about it.  Mary made me do the rest of my laps (making me behind for the whole thing) when Robin would have let me just do the rest.
6.  I get really bored and lonely.  I get lonely because everyone has someone to talk to when we are waiting to be told something to do, but when Katie Ralston is not in my lane, I am sitting in the back of the lane alone with no one to talk to.

I hope that you learned a lot from this.  If I still have to swim please NOT on Fridays.
Thank you,
Your loving, tired, hungry, lonely daughter,
Maddy Thomas
aka Cookie

By the way, I did not let her quit....I let her pass on Fridays. (Maddy's mother is a bitch)  She is glad, however, as she just had her best year ever swimming at SAS.  My favorite line is that she would rather be napping.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Am Going Straight to Hell

I Am Going Straight to Hell

The Brabo Fountain in Market Square
Legend is that Brabo cut the hand off of the Giant that was charging large fees to ships 
coming into port and if they did not have the $ he would cut off the hands of the sailors.
It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "hand job".

No turning back now, we are moving to Antwerp, Belgium.  I am sure I will master Flemish in no time.  My new favorite thing to say is the informal goodbye.  Dag-dag, Dag-dag.  Now say it fast like you might say badonkadonk, Trace Adkins style. Dank-u very much (another new one).

After arriving at a very reputable hotel, Marty goes to check in and leaves our 2 bags and his backpack that carried among other important things, his laptop.  My the bags.  How long has he known me? I am checking out the people milling around. I mosey over to the counter behind me to check out the diamonds (Antwerp is one of the diamond capitals of the world).  I watch more people...glance at the two bags. Not a problem.  Did I say two bags?  Marty comes back and says where's my backpack.  Woops!  Gone.  WTH?  On my watch.  F-K.  Of course, I say, are you sure you didn't take it with you?  I swear I only turned away for 5 seconds.  The security guy tells us that they have the whole lobby on surveillance tape....I had to say at that point, well maybe it was more than 5 seconds....this tape is going to make or break a nice cocktail and dinner or damning silence.  Saved again!  What I will call a F---king Moroccan Terrorist or FMT came in from the street, took the bag and was gone in a total of 5 seconds.  For the record, I was turned around for a total of 9 seconds.  WELCOME TO BELGIUM.

Let's start anew.  I will be meeting a relocation specialist to show me options for living in Antwerp.  Two things that bother me are people being late and people touching me...including Marty...I don't even like breathing the same air as he does when we go to bed. (I know I am a whack job).  I am 5 minutes early to meet my new bff for the week, Viv.  Viv set the tone for me by being 55 minutes late.  AHHGG. My anxiety level was headed through the roof.  Viv, with just the right amount of excuses of a realtor type....traffic, wrong hotel, husband died, ran out of gas and my dog has cancer kind of stories, we were on our way.

That uncomfortable chit chat is work,  I tried hard to engage as we worked our way around Antwerp.  Somewhere along the line I stopped listening to the words bff Viv was saying and started counting how many times she was saying "you know".  But her you know had a little "sa" at the it all together ....youknowsa.  I can tell you how many times she said it between apartment one and apartment two....she said it 27 times.  

I have never found it hard to talk to strangers, as long as it is a conversation.  Viv is all about telling her story - not so much a conversation.  Her story was a string of all the ailments she has had in her lifetime. Her most current is that she is recovering from a virus caught in Egypt that caused her to be paralyzed from the lungs down.  This lead to taking steroids which explains, she tells me, the 35 pounds extra she is carrying.  Which also explains why she has had her lymph nodes squeezed.  I know how many bladder infections she has had in her lifetime.  She broke her leg.  She has to keep gloves on in the winter or her "hands will bleed out" (what does that even mean?) and she said her face was going to crack off if it got any colder.  I really felt like I was on a Saturday Night Live skit.  And all the while, I had nowhere to put my own words....I had lots of clever things to say.

I thought I would give Viv a break on the ailments but good Lord....she was a toucher.  Hang on your arm touch you toucher.  Maybe this is when I noticed the solid gold butterfly nail jewelry that was drilled through her fake fingernail.  

And now my friends, this is why I am going straight to hell.  My new friend, who turned out to be quite helpful and landed us a great flat (what I am told we must call our new apartment) had polio as a child and has a paralyzed right leg.  This in itself has never set her back...BUT....she drives with her left leg and drives almost as bad as me.  No wonder all my friends are afraid to be a passenger in my car!

Here is what we will see when we look at our window in Antwerp.

Looking forward to many guests.  55 min to Amsterdam, 2 hours to Paris and 2 1/2 to London, all by train.


Here is a the top of a pizza box that was served to my friend's family ..who by the way, has four boys...really?

Two book reccomendations:

White Girl Problems Babe Walker.....funny funny.

The Art of Fielding

Monday, January 23, 2012

Is it time?

Is it Time?

It wasn't the time that I ran into the median sign when I forgot I was driving and turned to play air guitar with my niece, Clare.  The shirt that I forgot to iron the second sleeve but hung up pristinely...not then either.  Leaving the water running in the sink to fill the dog bowl but head out side to get the mail and brush the dogs...the list goes on.  No, it was what occurred above that said..yes it may be time.  I went into a store over the holidays and forgot to shut the door to my car (so what's wrong with that)...
You see, I am an adult woman with ADHD....don't all women suffer from it?  Well maybe but perhaps not so much. So for the second time in my adult life I went to the doctors and was prescribed a non stimulant medication.  (REALLY????  not the ones that make you loose weight?) But this time would be different as I decided I would actually take it.

When I returned to Switzerland, with prescription in tow I nervously decided on the day to take my first dose.  I am not a good drug user.  Okay, so I am not a good drug user of prescribed medication. (In full disclosure I did survive my college years).  I am also a closet hypochondriac and drug-a-phob.....
Once I took the medication, I am certain that I had every side effect on the list.  I was hungry, I was starving, I was jittery, I was sluggish, I was sleepy, I had insomnia, I wanted sex and wanted never to have sex. I was impotent AND had trouble ejaculating. (okay that was too much even for humor's sake)  And this was in the first half hour.  

Ignoring all of these things, I decided to embrace the next few hours of my new life.  It was then I was sure that I felt my hair growing.  (In my mind clear down to my waist)....Okay snap out of it you freak (I said on the inside)...and went on to enjoy what this medication could do for me.  I was ready to conquer the world if not finish a few tasks on my list. 

Three days into this medication experiment, I decide to go on a run.  (okay it was a 3 mile trot....and maybe a little walking).  When I stopped, like a switch, I started to sneeze ...not just a little bit but could not stop.  And my nose started running (no nose jokes here...I am a little sensitive given the size and bump)....and again, not just a little bit.  Marty and I could not believe it.  I am talking dripping out of my nose when I stood up to walk.  And not just for a minute...but for days. 

Turns out I do suffer a real side effect from this med...rhinitis...and it intensifies with exercise.  I knew there were more reasons for exercise to suck.  So Strattera, not for me.

I have not tossed the idea to medicate my ADHD as there are days I am dangerous to myself by missing steps, breaking glasses and I continue to be annoying to others.  But some of those days are the ones I hold close and define me the most and in addition,  when I do my best comical work.  Speaking of which, something told me that I should go in the basement and get a 70 year old extension ladder  because I thought I could clean the cobwebs out of the corners of the 25 foot ceiling (that dang impulsive behavior).  Something stopped me...maybe the thought of falling and not getting up using this death trap while by myself.

Danger Will Robinson, step away from the ladder.

Expat tidbits:
Marty, who is a master at Italian compared to me impressed us all when Kate, Matt , he and I all went out for dinner here in Lugano.  The waiter gave us the specials in Italian...and I will paraphrase phonetically...and the special tonight is "oysrteetia"....Marty jumped on the opportunity for ostrich and we are equally impressed at his openness to try this new delicacy.  Later after our appetizers were delivered and our main dishes arrived Marty told us not to wait for him to get his ostrich..........turns out, it had already been delivered...he ordered 6 oysters...not a slab of bird.

2012 brings lots of changes as daughters and their friends graduate from high school and college and we pack up from this amazing journey in Switzerland and head to Antwerp Belgium.  I have begun the search for housing for this move and think that I can see myself living in this town full of history.  We will be less than 2 hours from Paris, London and Amsterdam (pretty sure you can still see a prostitue or two in the windows, but that weed thing not so legal anymore).......come visit.

This is a bike I saw there last week....I want to know this person.  I think we could be friends.

peace and blessings, friends.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Welcome to the crazy lady blog.  I have been called Bootsie, after my mother and maiden name, Boutin for years. My husband refused to ever call me that and fondly calls me Boots.  I thought blog and Boots combined, Bloots, would work as a must fill in slot when creating a page like this.  

It has been over a year since I have written any updates of my adventures on this side.  In part, because I found it a little too self promoting and you can only take so many stories about the Jazz (RIP....another day for that story, now riding in the Black Fox). Also, I found that I was relating much of those bits on facebook.  I admit openly that I check my facebook too much.  Perhaps, it is to feel connected to those at home, but my hope is to only be a voyeur and stalker this year and not to post as much of my business there.  Returning to writing an update or two has come from a handful (okay 5) of people requesting that I continue to tell a story.

In a nut shell the last year was filled with lots of fun times.  Many shared with family, friends, and friends of friends at Hostel Thomas.  I ran a second 1/2 marathon and it confirmed that I still hate running. Spent great times in Dewey Beach and an extended holiday with our friends, the Ralston's in WS in December.

I still struggle with my Italian and still after all this time can only muster up enough to order a green salad, soup and a vodka and grapefruit.  I try, I really do (okay I don't try).  A repair man came to my door and he heard the dogs barking.  I told them what I thought was  "come in, my dogs are in the bedroom"....what I actually said was "come in, my meat is in the bedroom"  You see dog is cane pronounced CA-NEY and meat is carne pronounced CAR-NEY.

I still am ticket and infraction free going on 4 years now.  Marty on the other hand, manages to rack up the speeding tickets.  Mr auto-strada got 3 tickets in one day in Zurich.  Speedracer, who has already lost his license here for a month for speeding, flew through 3 radar photo takers and racked up $1200 worth of fines in an hour.

Follow if you want.  Peek in when you feel like it.  Don't hurt my feelings on here because I am super sensitive and full on peri menopausal taking the nose dive into the other side.

Here are some pics of my year in review.