Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas in Lux!

Classic Christmas Picture 2015
Andi, Kyle and Ben posed for the hat picture from Bloomington, IL
We had a European Christmas this year -- it was filled with family and so much joy! For starters, sweet Little Elizabeth was in the world, and she got to meet so many people who love her -- a true Christmas blessing! On top of that, Mollie, Kenny, sweet Evie, my dad and Ning flew all the way across the ocean to celebrate with us! It was so exciting waiting in the airport to pick up the Jacksons!

I asked the kids to tell me their favorite parts of Christmas this year, and here are a few things that they said:
  • Dancing to fun Christmas carols with Aunt Mollie and Evie
  • Lobster-eating! 
  • Jumping in the mud puddles on Christmas Eve with Poppa and Aunt Mollie
  • Playing soccer with Uncle Kenny!
  • Going to the Christmas markets
  • Wearing funny Christmas hats
  • Reading Christmas stories by the tree every night with tea and biscuits
  • Finding Skittles in Ning's purse!
Mollie and I snuck out to the Christmas market
The Jacksons arrive!!!!!
Ice skating in Place Guillome near the palace
Christmas Eve lobster!
Christmas pjs!
Nap time
Rob adores little Evie. We all do!!!
This moment encapsulated one of the kids favorite parts of the Jackson's visit
We went out for crepes and vin chaud in the Place d'Armes.
Hard to say good bye!
Bitsy meets Ning!
Poppa meets Bitsy and asks Madeline if she's married yet...
Uncle Kenny observed Madeline make a killer grilled cheese
Evie was so sweet and gentle with Elizabeth
Cousin art projects
We cooked lovely meals most nights after the kids went to bed
Mollie and Kenny are here! (We posted this on facebook to let family know they arrived safely)
Christmas carol dance party!
Charlie adored taking care of Evie

Saturday, December 13, 2014

St. Lucia, St Nick, Santa, Tinsel (the elf) and More....

It was another fabulous Christmas season!

St. Lucia Day
We loved celebrating St. Lucia Day again this year! Judging by how much the kids enjoy it and look forward to it, I think our new tradition may stick!

The kids baked Lussekatter, which are S-shaped St. Lucia buns. IKEA provided the Swedish meatballs and pepparkakor since it's only 15 minutes away in Belgium. With Bitsy only five weeks old, we've been simplifying all our fun projects.

Madeline wore her new white dress with a red sash and candle crown, and the boys eagerly got into their Starboy gear. We listened to Andrea Botticelli sing Santa Lucia while the kids delivered the buns and cookies. Funny how much preparation goes into a 20-second procession. But it's worth it!
Elizabeth was a part of the St. Lucia tradition this year!
Our interpretation of St. Lucia buns, using what we already had in the kitchen
Santa Claus Came to Town
We were delighted that Santa found us in Lux! The American Women's Club organized a holiday party at the clubhouse. John kept giving half-nibbled cookies to Santa (he accumulated a stash behind his seat) and photobombing all the families who were trying to take pictures with Santa. As my good friend, Kristine, said, "Santa in Lux be skinny."

The kids donated part of their allowance to buy gifts for children in need

Tinsel the Elf Visits!
For the last several years, we've had a special visitor during Christmastime! The kids named our elf Tinsel, and this year, he was with us for a looooong time -- the kids wrote him heartfelt notes begging him to come early, so he made his appearance before Thanksgiving. He got into the doll clothes, jumped into the glass lollipop container, and made himself a superhero cape!

Lots of Other Christmas Fun

Every night before bed, we made tea and sat under the Christmas tree for story time. I daydream about my kids continuing this tradition with their kids. There's a magic to it that I just adore. Here are some of the other fun things we did during the holiday season:
We were so touched by all the dear friends who sent our family gifts to celebrate Bitsy
Bitsy came to several Christmas parties with us!
Charlie had a darling program at school
He decorated a "Christmas jumper"

Madeline and I took a selfie while we ice skated in Place Guillome

St. Nick visited on Dec. 6 and filled everyone's shoe (even Bitsy's!)

Dance Party!!
Bouche de Noel
Sandie made a stocking for Elizabeth to add to the special collection

Monday, December 8, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2014: A Letter

What a magical year, filled with exciting change and adventure! This summer, Caterpillar transferred us to Luxembourg...that tiny country between France, Germany and Belgium. And in November, our darling Elizabeth Marion joined the Vlach ranks, multiplying our joy exponentially.

Madeline, 7, and Charlie, 5, love the International School they attend, where they take french lessons four days a week and are making friends from all over the world. Mimi lost her front tooth just in time for Christmas (now if the other one would only pop out too) and she is truly absorbing this European experience. Charlie is a Lego maniac and loves watching documentaries -- then he spouts fascinating facts at the dinner table (though he's also at that hilarious age where a good portion of what he says is actually pure imagination).

John, 3, helps take care of the baby and continues to crack us up with his giant personality. He does everything by himself (including give himself haircuts) and loves the playgroup we have found here. He's a rascal, but he's our little rascal.

And Elizabeth has every single one of us wrapped around her teeny little finger. We are absolutely head over heels in love! She's sweet and easy.

We have found terrific friendships in the expat community here, which is incredibly international. Rob enjoys his work in Caterpillar Financial's regional treasury, which works with Europe, the Middle East and Africa. And Meg jumped right into the business of setting up a home and having a baby in a foreign country (a very cool experience!). She joined the American Women's Club of Luxembourg, and takes french lessons twice a week.

Every day, living abroad has its triumphs and challenges. We're eager to begin exploring the countries around us as soon as little Elizabeth is a bit older. We have already received several special visitors in Lux, and we look forward to celebrating a European Christmas with family in our new home.

More than anything, we wish you joy and peace, and count your dear friendship among our many blessings. Please consider this your formal invitation to come visit us -- we're only two hours by train from Paris! And be sure to pop over to our little family blog every now and then to see what's new!

Meg, Rob, Madeline, Charlie, John and Elizabeth

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Christmas Markets!

It's Christmas in Luxembourg! The Christmas markets have popped up all over Europe and we had so much fun visiting our charming market right here in downtown Lux, just a few minutes from our house. We checked out the lights at night, and came back on St. Nick's day for a festive lunch. There were merry-go-rounds, accordions, school choirs, foie gras spaetzle, gromperekichelcher (potato pancakes), Mettwursct (Luxembourgish sausage), a giant Ferris wheel, hot cocoa (like melted chocolate in a mug), Santa hats, fondue, schneeballenträume (giant "snowball" donut-like things) and giant licorice stings (which the kids bought with their allowances).

How could we not love it? Everywhere we went, people wanted to peek at Elizabeth -- it's such a small, friendly community here.
Cotton candy & a merry-go-round blew their minds
Traditional potato pancakes

Grammy was still here for our first visit!