Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Update...Birthday musings

Well, it's over. I can't believe that Christmas has come and gone. We had a nice, quiet Christmas morning here in Liege. We opened presents and gave Gracie her present (shown above)...a lifesize boyfriend. We then headed over to Pierre-Francios' house for an afternoon lunch. P-F is Stephen's coworker, and he and his wife were gracious enough to host us at their family lunch since we were "all alone." Rosanna, P-F's wife, is full blood Italian, and she and her mom stayed up very late making the pasta and pesto for the delicious lasagna we had to eat. It really was good, even picky Stephen had seconds. They have three children, both P-F's parents and Rosanna's were in attendance, as well as her brother and his wife. It was a packed house, and made our Christmas loud as usual!! Of course we missed our families, but it was a great distraction.

Hayley (my sister) came in town the next morning, so it has been quite busy ever since. We've traveled to Brussels, Maastricht, and even spent yesterday in Amsterdam. It's so nice to have her around...and it gives me a running buddy! Tomorrow morning we are headed to Paris to spend New Years Eve. I can't wait. I haven't been yet, and I'm so excited to see the city of LIGHTS...even if it's only for 24 hours! Ha! We've had a little drama today...I'll explain in a later post, but all in all my birthday has been fabulous! I can't believe I'm 26, seems old. I know I'm not, but it seems old. It seems like yesterday I was reflecting on my 18th birthday how cool it would be when I'm 25. It's flown by, but I feel great, healthy, and blessed. My sis-in-law Natalie sent me some "Sprinkles" cupcakes to have for my birthday. We definitely enjoyed those with the cannaloni I made. I'm becoming quite the cook these domestic!

Thank you for all of your prayers in this adventure Stephen and I are on. We truly do feel so blessed to have each of you on our's feeling more peaceful here now--and we thank God for the opportunity and the experience. Here's wishing you and yours a blessed, peaceful and healthy 2008. I'll post Paris debauchery as soon as I have them!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Baby is 6!

No, I don't have a child I've kept secret from was GRACIE'S 6TH BIRTHDAY on the 15th. We celebrated over the weekend, and her big present was tonight! She got to have Stephen's pork chop bone...and boy was she excited! Unlike most dogs, she usually doesn't get to act like a dog, nor does she get to have normal dog "carnal instincts" because her mom keeps her on a tight leash (pun intended) and dressed like a human. But, tonight was VERY different. She was able to eat all she wanted of the bone. That's a lie. She's still crying at the trash can where the carcas lies. We had a small family dispute when mom decided she was done. However, she's fulfilled. She might need a Tums before bed, but she's one happy dog! I've attached some pics for your viewing pleasure, and a video of the feeding frenzy. Happy Birthday Sweet Girl!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Kid in candy store

That's how I felt when I walked into Schlepp's (funny name, huh?). It's a Hobby Lobby-esque store, with more artistic flair than anything else. They have easels, canvases, drafting tables, ink, brushes, mosaic tile sets, watercolor sets, and much much more! I was in heaven! I wandered all 4 floors for over an hour and finally made my purchase. An acrylic paint selection, brushes, and 8 canvases of all different shapes and sizes. I had decided early on that our walls were too bare. So, I decided to paint. All except for two were my own creations...the two knock-offs were inspired by Amy Tartar's (Steph Johnson's coworker at Antioch Berlin--where we had Thanksgiving) dining room paintings. I must say, I am no professional, nor is it even natural. But I enjoy it. It's fun! Go out, buy some canvases, and make a day of it. Have a glass of wine and don't worry about the outcome. I favor some of them more than others, but either way it's a chance to reach deep within for that "creative side." Stephen used his creative talents on the computer, researching his favorite authors' quotes on Life and Marriage. Hope you like (but secretly don't care...we like 'em.) Ha!!

There's a good and bad side to everything...

My mom left on Thursday after a week-long stint in Belgium. It was very hard to see her go. There is an unmistaken comfort in having your mom nearby, even if it's just for a short while. As you grow up you learn to have your own life, your own adventures, but you still miss your momma. You just do! It's so weird to walk into the bathroom she used while here and smell her perfume, and instantly feel safe. Mom's are a comfort. I have been blessed with an amazing mother, and I truly miss her. Of course we're normal, and we bicker and disagree. But to be fortunate enough to have a mother that has faith in me, selflessly gives and gives and GIVES for's truly a blessing from God. She's my best friend. I just hope that i fulfill her life as much as she does mine! I'm married now. And God has also blessed me with a husband that understands that bond. And he loves her just the same. And now I have a mother-in-law that I love dearly, that trusts me with her son and believes in me the same. Life is so wonderful. I can allow myself (embarrasingly too often) to sulk in the thoughts of life going on without us in the states, but what truly matters is the love of our families and matter where we are. Home is where we are together...we are here. Stephen and I are home, together. And we're going to make it.

In true Cricket fashion, we walked my mom into the ground. We visited Cologne, Monschau (Germany), Valkenburg, Maastricht (Holland), Brussels and Liege (Belgium) and were able to see all of the different Christmas Markets. We went in caves, tried on fun boots, ate waffles, tapas, and treated my mom to some good 'ole Leigeois Meatballs. I think she had a good time. I know I did just being with her (and selfishly an English speaker, ha!) AND.....GRACIE IS HERE!!!! She's already brought us so much joy in just a week. Funny how much a dog changes your life. She's so great! Although I'm excited, we still have another dog not yet on foreign pour one out for Bella in Austin. She'll get here eventually! Mom also helped us purchase our first European Christmas tree. I'm rather lazy in the "picking up pine needles" category, so it's a pre-lit fake. Guess I'm kinda lazy in lighting trees too :) We had so much fun picking out ornaments, and we all decorated the tree together. Gracie even gave moral support. Having the tree (and presents and stockings, thanks mom) helps our/my emotional state during the holiday season! Thanks mom for a wonderful trip. You made my holidays! Sometime early next year my parents will both come over, and we'll get to spend time with my dad, too. I cannot TELL you how excited I am to see his face and hear his voice in's going to be so great! What an amazing person he is, I miss my daddy :) In addition, March brings the Dotson clan over! We are going to have so much fun. We are renting a house in the French countryside. I am eagerly awaiting seeing them as well, it's been far too long! There's something to be said about being able to hug them and see them in person, not just on Skype. I completely lucked out with my in-laws. They are my family, not in-laws and a sister-in-law. They are family! So warm and caring, it will be so nice to relax and catch up with them...and long overdue! We are very blessed, and spoiled. We know!
In happier/lighter news...I got a JOB. Thanks for the prayers and support from everyone. This is truly a blessing. I have sugar-coated my personal experience here, in short because no one wants to hear someone gripe when they are in "Europe." Well kids...Europe is great, especially when fantasizing about "all the places you can go, cool things to see..." It gets old, you get cynical, the fantasy wears off. I need something of purpose. I've prayed for a long time. I need something to do with myself after I've run. I need to be busy. I now have a job. I couldn't be more excited. I'll be teaching English at a language center in the Center of Liege. The bus stop is directly in front of the building. It took me 7 minutes to bike there on Friday. I'm so blessed. God has a funny timing with things...I needed a pick me up after my mom left--I have a job. It's still setting in.

You guys are amazing for reading all of this nonsensical blabber from me...I appreciate it! My sister will be here in 10 days...she's such a breath of fresh air. Just like moms, sisters are pretty great too. I have three sister-in-laws that I adore (I got lucky, I know) and Hayley...who really is a blond extension of me. We'll definitely paint Belgium and all surrounding countries red! I can't wait...I'll need the pick-me-up after a Christmas family-less, and I can't think of another person I'd want here for my birthday and New Years. Speaking of New Years...we are going to be in Paris!!! Craig and Aimee Miller will be there we'll have some familiar faces to ring in '08! I hope all of you are doing well. We love and miss each of you! Send us an update, we'd love to hear the latest and greatest!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

For your viewing pleasure...

I've added a little compilation video of our "cheap thrill" at the Potsdam Christmas Market in Berlin! Enjoy...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Update: Parlez lentement, s'il vous plait...

Well, I must say I'm disappointed in your lack of participation in the "story-building." However, I feel I must tell you what really happened. Stephen and I were abrubtly awoken on Saturday morning by the persistent knocking of our landlord at which we ignored. When she started calling, though, we felt it must be an emergency. She regrettably informed us of our car's 'accident,' occuring in the wee hours of the morning. Once we got out of bed, we found this:

Apparantly someone under the influence ran into the car behind us, sending it over the barrier and into our back-end. Our poor minivan now has an inoperable back door...but the real delight was Stephen giving the policeman the report. There were a lot of "how do you say..." and "I don't understand..." phrases thrown out, but we got through it and have it filed for insurance. Just another experience in our journey!


The Chinese Restaurant we go to in Liege seems to be doing pretty well, it's mostly packed on weekends...but they obviously don't have enough money to complete the bathroom. Or, maybe this was intentional?!@# Frightening!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving In Berlin

This was not our first Thanksgiving away from home. Last year we had turkey and guacamole (weird, I know) in Jamaica during our Honeymoon. It wasn't bad, though, because we were going home at the end. This year was more difficult, because we weren't with our families, and we're in a foreign country. But...our wonderful friend Steph Johnson saved the day! Marc was coming in town to visit, and she invited us to spend Thanksgiving with her and the Antioch Berlin team in Berlin. We were so excited to see Berlin, and equally excited to have a somewhat normal Turkey Day. Stephen got off work on Wednesday around 5 and we headed out. After a stop for dinner in Cologne and a few accidental detours, we arrived in Berlin at 2am. Steph was such a trooper and stayed up to welcome us. We all bunked together in the "dorm" and slept like babies. Thursday morning we awoke to a great German Breakfast awaiting us. Steph was such the hostess! It was wonderful. Then the preparations began. I made my first pies, two pecans (one "B" and one "U") and one pumpkin. I'm so domestic! Around lunchtime we headed over to the Tartar's house, where we met all of Steph's team. They were all so great and inviting, making us feel so welcome! We had a feast, complete with two turkey's (Madonna and Pavarotti-one cajun and one lemon herb), stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, salad, crescent rolls, and cranberries. Then, we had my pies, cherry pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin cake, and pumpkin cookies! It was delicious! The kids (there were 7) played and the adults laughed, it was very comforting! We finished the night off watching Elf, to bring in the Christmas spirit! That movie is so great! On Friday, we woke up and caught a walking tour. Stephen and I are pro's at these! We saw all of the Berlin historical sights, including the Holocaust Memorial, Hitler's bunker, the Berlin Wall, Museum Island, and many others. You can see the pictures chronicaling our tour using the link below. It was an awesome tour. I would highly recommend it if you are in Berlin: The New Berlin Walking Tour...and it's free! Can life get better? Later that night Steph had an open house at her apartment. We ate leftover desserts and met some of their German friends that go to her church or live nearby. It was so neat to get to talk to them (don't worry, they speak better English than I do) and hear their stories of the history of Berlin, but also just to interact with people that Steph and her team hold dear! They were so nice and fun! We sang and danced and had a great time! Saturday we joined Steph and her family (Marla and Kenny) for Steph's "Neighborhood Tour." She showed us all of the cool sites, my favorite being Tacheles. It's a building taken over by artists where they display their art (inside, behind, on, EVERYWHERE). It was very ecclectic and original. We then had a very typical German lunch, schnitzels, and went sight seeing. Steph had great patience, carting us around her town. It was nice! During our walk we stumbled on an open Christmas market, so after dinner Stephen, Marc and I went back to enjoy it. I had some cider and we even participated in one of the amusement "rides." (Exclusive video coming soon!!) It was great! Sunday, we awoke to snow on the cars. So cool! We made the trek back to Liege, which took us about 6 hours and had time to unwind before the start of another week! We had SO MUCH FUN in Berlin. Definitely on the top of our list as far as cities go so far! Steph was an amazing hostess...and such a blessing in our lonely holiday slump :) We hope you all had a great Thanksgiving as well!

Our Anniversary

On November 18, Stephen and I were
married a year! I can't believe it. Time
truly flies by! We decided a while back to spend our anniversary weekend in London. I had never been, and Stephen hadn't spent extensive time there, so it would be fun for both of us. Two weeks before our departure the Eurostar was revealed, so we were able to participate in it's first few runs between Brussels and London. For those of you unfamiliar, the Eurostar is the first high-speed (200+ mph) train connecting London, Paris, and Brussels. It was very nice, although we almost missed it. We decided to leave early Saturday morning, so Stephen had time to unwind from the busy work week. Our train left Brussels (an hour away) at 6:50. It was an early morning for us. We got to the train station 20 minutes before the train left, but we were at the wrong train station. Luckily, the train running between the two stations in Brussels was arriving in minutes, so we caught that and were allowed as the "last" passengers on the Eurostar heading for London. It was hectic, but well worth it! We arrived in London at 8am, and headed to the hotel. Our hotel (in efforts to save some money) was interesting to say the least. We figured why spend the money when we'd barely be in it...we'll never do that again. The sign on the inside of door read "hotel not responsible for luggage left inside room." INSIDE the room...yes, you read that correct! Interesting! We did our best to see the bright side, but that usually meant NOT staying in the room. We then headed for Piccadilly Circus. At 8:30 am on a Saturday, not many people were out. So we were able to capture the fountain with no one sitting on it, which is a feat in and of itself. We soon found our way to the "Original Tour" office and paid for a weekend package of walking tours and bus tours. The nice thing was that you could jump on and off the buses and boats all day long for 48 hours...perfect! While in the store, the manager let us in on the Buckingham Palace "Changing of the Guards" walking tour starting we jumped in. The tour was great, as it started at the Guards barracks, where most people don't know to start. We got to see them lining up, saw the bands getting ready, and even caught the Horse Guards walking past. We walked with the "mini-parade" to the Palace and got to see the whole shebang. It was awesome! I was like a kid in a candy store. We then spent the rest of the day on the buses. The tour guides gave us all of the historical background as we passed by, and we got to stay warm--PERFECT! It was freezing and rainy all weekend, so the buses were a blessing! We saw Parliament, the London Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Chinatown, Westminster Abbey, the museums, the London eye-sore, and much more! We made lists of all the places we wanted to visit in more detail while on the bus, and we even were able to enjoy some TGI Friday's for lunch! The real deal! We had dinner reservations at the Savoy Grill, inside the Art Deco-mecca The Savoy Hotel for our anniversary dinner. We made it to the hotel after too many tube changes, and walking in the rain, and enjoyed a nice dinner together. Being one of Gordon Ramsey's restaurants (Hell's Kitchen) we were super excited and held high expectations. The dinner was nice, as we were able to sit and have a glass of wine and reflect on our year. The food, however, was very subpar and didn't meet any of our expectations. It was still a nice night! Unfortunately, when we left we realized the tubes had shut down for the night. Our adventure had begun. We tried to find a bus that would run towards our hotel, only to find out we needed change to buy a ticket. Stephen asked a guy running a hot dog stand if he could make change, but the man would only do it if Stephen bought a hot dog. No big deal, except we had just eaten and it cost us 3 POUNDS...that's $6 dollars. We finally bought a ticket, witnessed a fight while on the bus, and then get off the bus too early thinking we were "near our hotel." We began walking, witnessed another fight (this time a girl beating up her boyfriend) and a man getting literally thrown out of a bar, his shoe following in the air, only to realize we are no where near our hotel. We finally found a cab, and made it to our hotel an hour and a half after leaving dinner! Wow! The next morning we thought we were getting up at 8:30 to "seize the day" but actually were were getting up at 7:30 (Belgium time) we really seized it! We had a pow wow at Starbuck's and then set out to visit all of our places on the list. We went to the Waldorf, the Ritz, Harrod's (I could have stayed forever) and Parliament. We ended with a dinner at the train station, and headed back to Brussels. We finally arrived home at 11:30 pm, after hopping to the train station we parked at and then driving an hour to Liege. It was a long weekend, but we had the best time! My only regret was not having our cake toppers...but we'll have those at some point. I guess our next trip to Austin :) Sorry this is a novel, but I hope you caught a glimpse of our weekend, and thank you for all of your support during this first year! We are so thankful for all of you...and we look forward to many more years with you in our lives!

For the rest of the pics:


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

We are in Berlin, Germany celebrating Thanksgiving with Steph Johnson and the Antioch Berlin's beautiful here. We'll be sure to take lots of pictures and update the blog soon...with tales of a German Turkey Day, our Anniversary weekend in London, and Marc's travels in Europe!

We're thankful for all of you...hope to catch up with each of you soon!

Katie and Stephen

Friday, November 16, 2007

9.3...only 4 more to go :)

If you had asked me two weeks ago if I was a runner, I would have emphatically said NO! It's never been second nature for me to run, always a forced weight burner. I have never enjoyed running, nor have I ever enjoyed the time it takes. Today, I have a new perspective. In an hour and a half, I completed 9.3 miles. Woo hoo!! As most of you know, I have been inspired by an amazing friend to complete a 1/2 marathon. I still kind of laugh when I type that, because I just never thought it would be possible for me. Steph has accomplished so much...and she makes it all seem so easy. I have been struggling with "finding" myself here in Belgium. I'm usually alone, and for the most part out of the loop with all things "Liege," but I found that my perfect quiet time, for myself and in prayer, was running! I run along the Rhein river, I run through the city, I've found great restaurants, perfect shops, fun sculptures, great Euro hairstyles, all the while running my heart out and most of the time talking to myself or praying! It's such a release. Everything you want to achieve takes practice, and I can finally say that I'm a runner. That is until Paula Radcliffe comes on at the end of my workout (the Nike+ software) and says "Congratulations, that was your longest workout to date!" That should make me excited...but she kinda makes me want to puke :) (If you don't know who she is, look her up--you'll feel the same way I do) Please keep me in your prayers for the next few months...I have four more miles to reach the 1/2 marathon distance, but I'm confident I can do it. Then comes the Berlin 25K, and the Scotland marathon in the Fall. Anyone want to run with me?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spring Break Plans????

Steph Johnson and I will be completing the 1/2 Marathon in Lisbon, Portugal on March 16th. Come and hang out, participate, lay out with us after, drink a beer while we run...we don't care! But if you have the time/vacation...bring it! We'd love to see your faces :) I've attached the info if you want to check it out!


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

We're in our new place :)

Ok, ok...I know it's a month and a half over due, but good things come to those who wait! (This is not to say that I was patient the whole time) The apartment is beautiful, and we are completely settled in! Stephen and I worked our tails off, assembling a coat rack, dresser drawers, and an Entertainment center. As you can see, it will be a great place to relax for the rest of our stay here! Now...come visit :)