Monday, November 26, 2012

Strange things about Belgian homes

When we moved in to our house there were many things about it that I found to be very different than homes in the US.  So, I took some pictures of those oddities and I am now sharing it with you, my friends and family back home. 

Windows and Doors

Dan says that people in the US have doors like this, but I am yet to see them.  The pictures below shows the doors that are in our living room.  We have 2 sets of these doors.  The screen (which is really crappy by the way) is only behind the door that opens.  Which is really stupid, because in order to get outside you have to pull a lever on the door to the left and then swing that door open.  A lot of work to let the dogs outside to do their business if you ask me.  If you want to get some fresh air in the house you can either open the door or you can turn the knob up and pull just the top of the door will open (see picture). 

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Most of the windows (with the exception of the window in the next picture) open the same way.  The windows all either swing in or you can open just the top.  The house has huge window sills, but you can’t really use them as shelves because then you wouldn’t be able to open the window fully. 

Two rooms (the bedroom and gym) have one of these windows. 

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strange things about belgium home (20)These windows do not have screens (it would kind of be impossible).  We live next to a farm, so a fly swatter is a necessity in this house. In order to open the window you pull from the top and swing the window all the way around and latch the top of the window to the bottom of the frame (the first picture shows me opening the window and the second is of the window fully open).  As you can tell these windows are on an angle (they are actually in the roof of the house).  If you know the weather in Belgium you will understand how impractical these windows truly are, but everyone has them. 

The next picture shows the lock to our front door.  You have to lock and unlock with a key (nothing strange there), but what is strange is how many times you have to turn the dang key.  One lock controls both the lock and the deadbolt.  So, you have to turn the key about 105 times in order to lock and unlock the door.  I have lived here for almost 2 months now and I still have not gotten the hang of this, which is kind of embarrassing when someone is at the door.

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The locks on inside the house are not much different.  All of the doors have locks which only work with old fashioned skeleton-type keys. 

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Kitchen and Bathrooms

First thing is the stove.  Take a look at these burners; they remind me of hot pot burners.  I was very surprised, but this range works great.  Two of the burners are designed to heat very quickly and we can boil water in half the time that I am used to.  It is a little hard to control the heat on these, so I may or may not have almost set the house on fire making a pot of rice. 

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Second to my Easy Bake Oven, this is the smallest oven I have ever had.  I had to put all my regular sized cookie sheets in the attic, because they are too big to fit in this oven. 

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The house did not come with a dishwasher, just the hook-up.  Fortunately, we  were able to borrow one from the base.  As you can see it is not uncommon to have free-standing dishwashers.  European dishwashers require you to put a certain type of salt in a dispenser before operating. 

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Hmm…so how do you use this thing? 

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Oh, no worries.  There is a very helpful guide on the inside of the dishwasher door.  Wow, that was helpful.

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That guide is almost as helpful as the control panel for our microwave oven.

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In every house I have seen in so far the kitchen sinks are super small and instead of a double sink as you would find in the US, you have a built in dish drain.  (don’t judge my cleaning abilities, the water here is really hard).

strange things about belgium home (17) One of our toilet rooms does have a sink.  A very small sink, with only cold (very cold) water. 

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Check out the toilet flusher thingy.  Little button for number one and big button for number two.

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Random Stuff

Tiles in the garage

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Really big light switches (most have an outlet with the switch)

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Dangerous stairs

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Heating units- you set your main thermostat and then use the dial on each room’s heating unit to control the amount of heat going to that room.

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There you have it, strange things about Belgian homes.  I don’t think these things are exclusive to Belgium.  The hotel in Germany had a lot of the same features.  The next time I write should be after my visit to the Christmas Market in Nuremberg.  

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!!! XOXOXO

Monday, November 19, 2012

Travel Goals

Dan and I have set a goal to travel to a new place at least one time a month.  That is really easy right now, as everywhere I go is a new place, but will get more challenging as our time here continues.  Note that I said, at least.  I would go somewhere every weekend if I could, but that may be a little much for our budget.  Especially with me not working right now).

October was pretty easy…moving here was my new place.  But, we did also head to Brussels on day and I went with my neighbor to an incredible zoo that is just around the corner.

Pairi Daiza

According to their website, Paira Daiza means enclosed garden in ancient Persian, or the oldest name for paradise.  I would have to say this place comes pretty close.  It is truly breathtaking.  What?  A zoo breathtaking?  This is unlike any zoo you will see in the US.  I would classify this place more as gardens with animals, than your typical zoo. 

Pairi Daiza started its life as an abbey, founded in 1148.  The abbey was dissolved in 1797 and it was sold to the Counts of Val de Bealieu who owned it until its current owners purchased it in 1993.  The zoo started as a bird garden and there is still an incredible collection of unique birds (Mark and Steven, this place has you written all over it). 

Our neighbors have season passes, so Ava and I tagged along with them for the day.  The season just ended for the year, but in March Dan and I plan to get season passes for our family.  It costs 24 euro to visit for the day, or 47 Euro for the entire season.  They have a great playground, too.  Here are some pictures from our day. 

The park surrounds this beautiful lake, filled with unique birds.

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This incredible building, the home of the Counts, now is home to jellyfish, starfish, and other sea critters.  Yup, it is an aquarium.  We didn’t make it in there on this visit. aquarium

The following two pictures show one of the public bathrooms.  This was definitely a unique bathroom.  The pictures make it look dirty, but it wasn’t.  It was actually quite beautiful (for a bathroom).  It was a little cold though, so not sure I would use them:)


I had this picture on my Facebook page.  As we were leaving we saw this elephant taking a stroll through the park.

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Notice the tower in the distance.  This was part of the original Abbey.  Today, it holds hundreds of bats flying freely, and yes it is an exhibit you can enter. 

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My favorite animal.  This place had the coolest giraffe exhibit.  You can actually climb up to the decks shown in the picture and pet the giraffes.  There were a lot of exhibits that allow visitors to interact with the animals. (Lauren, you would LOVE this).

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Ava and Adelyn had a great day.  I am sure there will be a few more posts about this place in the future.

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Back to my New Place a Month goal.  For November we headed to Germany.

We went to Ramsteim AFB to get some shopping done at the PX.  We have been having a hard time finding a few things we needed for the house and wanted to get a crack at some Christmas shopping for Ava.  This is a much larger base than where we are currently, so there was a bigger selection. 


We spent our evenings in Kaiserslautern.  I was really impressed with this city.  It was beautiful and there was a great selection of restaurants. One night we ate at Spinnradl, which has fantastic traditional German food. 

.imageWe had Indian food the next night.  It was a quick trip, but it gave us a nice taste of Germany.  We plan to get more of a taste next month.  We are going to the famous Christmas market in Nuremberg.  I plan to take a ton of pictures there and I will share. 

That’s not it for November, this weekend we are going to France to check out some crazy Le Crueset sale.  Once a year they have an incredible sale where everything is close to 75% off.  Between fighting people off with cast iron pans I will try to remember to take some pictures.