Wednesday, January 30, 2013

day five with the cousins part 2

Troy and Matthew are safely back in Kansas, and if you heard about all of their traveling adventures, you'd know it's nothing short of a miracle!

It was such a wonderful thing to have them here. I don't know how to describe the feeling of what it's like when family is here. Seeing where I live, meeting my friends, and experiencing all kinds of stuff that is my "everyday" but foreign to them, is just really special. And even more than seeing my life here in France, for them to see what it is like in sub-sahara, francophone Africa, meant so much to me. I love France, and glad they got to see it, but Africa is home, and they were able to finally see a glimpse of what their "African cousins" have talked about all these years!

But back to their time in France. The scarves. I gave the boys each a Stade Rennais scarf with a three-fold intent:
1. I wanted to see my Kansas farmer cousins wear a scarf
2. They needed some Stade Rennais gear for the game
3. It was really cold at the game, and I wanted them to be warm!

They were so pleased and happy to get them! Troy right away said, "wow! This is great! I won't ever take it off!" Matthew actually stuck to that, and wore it everyday and even on the airplane ride back home. Troy took his off right away, but he did wear it all day on game day!

They needed a bit of help to know how to wear them. This is what they looked like when I asked them how they would wear them. Hmmm. Not baaaaad, just...a bit plain jane.

I gave them a few pointers and showed them several ways to wear them. They were loving the photo shoot at this point.

It got a bit better.

It was so fun to walk around downtown with them. People were so friendly and were constantly commenting on their scarves and the game that evening.

At one point, we were in the market at the jelly section, and Troy found the samples. He sampled one that he loved, so sheepishly (or not) looked around to see if anyone was watching, and took another little spoon to continue eating. The young lady (a very cute French girl!) who was manning the table came over and I thought she was going to say something about needing to buy the jelly he was devouring, but instead she goes, "today you can only sample red jelly! No blue jelly!" I didn't understand what she was saying at first, but then realized the soccer team we were playing that night had blue and white as their colors. She was pro-Rennes! Or, pro- "good looking American boy who loved her jelly and had a stade rennais scarf". :)

(oh, and the cute French girl I'm referring to is not the lady in the back of this picture...)

Troy needed a bit of help adjusting his scarf at different times throughout the day. Matthew snapped all of these without our knowing. Haha. 

(on campus too!)

Matthew was a natural. He put it on once in the morning, and it stayed good the whole rest of the day! Are you still wearing it, Matthew? :)

This was at the game. I had the scarf wrapped tightly around my neck as I was cooooooold!

Speaking of the game, it was awesome. For me, it was definitely one of the highlights of their short time here. We walked from my place to the stadium (about 40 minutes) and Troy was waving the flag the whole way! I said, "it looks like you're leading a charge into battle!" and without skipping a beat, Matthew goes, "yeah, but it looks like no one is following you!" 

The boys behind them were enjoying the picture taking as well! 

Hardcore fans.

I don't know who sent the pretzel m&ms along with the guys, but they are my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE (unavailable here) and were a very nice treat at the game! So thank you to whomever sent them!

As you know, after the game, we all came back to my house for pancakes. We were joined by a bunch of others, ate a lot, and played some fun games. I was so proud of the guys participating and playing, even though there was so much French being spoken. Thank you to my French friends for making them feel so welcomed!  

The time went by way too fast! It was such a special treat to have them! Hope these pictures and stories are encouraging other cousins to come! Mel, Jenny and Tracie? You're next, right? :) 

I'm currently in Rome, where I'm taking a theology class on Jesus, Humanity, and Salvation. It's SUPER SUPER interesting and I feel like I'm learning a ton! There are 24 of us (staff from various countries) taking the class and Sunday we have a final exam! It's the first time I've been to Rome, and yesterday I got to see the Sistine Chapel, and wow. Incredible. 

The pizza is also REALLY good, and I've had quite a bit of that too! :)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

day five with the cousins part 1

It's way past my bedtime, and I have to get up super early tomorrow as I'm taking the train with Halle and the boys to Paris. Halle and I are going to Rome for a week of theology class, and I'm still not completely packed!

But I know people in KS are anxiously awaiting some news, so I'll just post 3 photos, and tell you that I love having Matt and Troy here, and can't believe it's already time to send them home. :(

Troy feels the same way:

We walked all over the city, taking lots and lots of pictures. And lots of great talking! We even sat at a coffee shop and had a great time catching up and just enjoying our time together. At one point I said, "well, shall we go?" And Troy goes, "aww no, let's stay here a bit longer, shall we?" Fine by me!! What quality guys these are! They bought my coffee too :)

I laughed so hard today at multiple reprises.

The soccer game was AWESOME even though it was a tied game (2-2). But seeing 4 goals, was pretty cool! They looked pretty awesome in their scarves!

After the game, we came back to my place and some friends came over for pancakes. There were 13 of us, and I quadrupled the pancake recipe, and had no leftovers. Hungry people! :)

Part 2 (more details of our day) tomorrow!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

day four WITH the cousins!

It is so surreal to have Troy and Matthew here! It's really great, and I keep looking at them, thinking, "they're HERE!" It's so much fun!

They got to Rennes, and started telling me this story about how they had accidently jumped on the wrong train in Paris (it was also marked as going to Rennes, but was leaving an hour earlier), and when they arrived at their seats, there were 2 other guys sitting there, who kindly showed them on their tickets that they were on the wrong train. I thought they were making up the story as SURELY they couldn't have had yet another adventure like this. But it was indeed true. Thankfully, they found their right train, and made it no problem!

And Aunt Terry and Aunt Florene, you'd be very happy to know that I got GREAT hugs from both of them!

We had a bit of time to walk around before meeting some others for dinner at the BEST creperie in town.

First picture of the three of us at the parliament building

I think they liked it, but they were also very hungry, so we'll go again tomorrow when it's daytime and when they have full stomachs, so they can really appreciate these places!

They LOVED the crepes! What's not to love!?! For the main meal, they both had a "tartiflette" one that had bacon, potatoes, cheese, cream chive sauce and onions. They liked them, and Troy liked half of mine too. I had ham, cheese, onions and chive sauce.

Then came dessert. Troy got the house specialty and it was quite the creation. There is a cooked apple inside of the crepe (wrapped like a present) and then caramel ice cream, whipped cream, caramel sauce, grilled almonds... I thought he might have trouble finishing it, but I had to remind him not to lick the plate clean.

Matthew got my favorite dessert there. Salted butter caramel with cooked apples. It's soooo tasty!

Our little dinner party! You can't see very well, but it started snowing!!! Pas content Joel? :)

It is SUCH a treat to have family here. It's so so so special!

We came back to my place and played some jungle speed and dutch blitz.

Troy won 3 games in a row and then said that much winning wore him out and it was time for bed. I didn't realize it was already past midnight!

After everyone left they asked me, "well, you want to see what we brought you now?" I had completely forgotten!!! And what wonderful surprises there were! THANK YOU to all who made it so special for me! 

I told the boys I was going to wake them up at 7 if they weren't already up and that we were all going to make coffeecake together. Just kidding. We will eat coffeecake together, but maybe more like 9!

Tomorrow will be another fun day! 

Oh, and they loved their stade rennais scarves! Danae, I'll be sure to put some pictures of them wearing them -- one with how they tied them, and then one when I showed them "the normal way". :) 

Friday, January 25, 2013

in 2 hours!!!

I got a text from Matthew saying they were on the train coming to Rennes! Yippie!!! Their room is all ready! Who is going to take which mattress? :)

See the little surprise on their pillow? It's a stade rennais scarf -- so they can be warm AND have some team spirit tomorrow night at the game!

And well, let's be honest. I want to see my boy farmer cousins wearing scarves in Europe :)

day three with{out} the cousins

TOMORROW I GET TO SEE THEM!!!!! I'm SO excited! On the itinerary I made for them and their Europe trip, I put in all caps, bold, and highlighted "arrive in Rennes: GIVE MELISSA A HUGE HUG!" Do you think they're as excited as me? :)

I talked to the boys when they had just returned to their hotel room in Rome, and Matthew put me on speaker phone so we could all talk together. Fortunately, they said that they weren't tired of visiting new places yet and were still excited to come and see their favorite "French cousin". Whew! Troy reassured me that they wouldn't miss their train from Paris to Rennes, and also, that he'd be coming with a few Italian girls. I reassured him I wouldn't put that on my blog, so as not to shock his Mom.

They had a great time in Rome, but not without some adventures. But in Troy's words, "if we did things the easy way, we wouldn't have any stories to tell".

After checking into their hotel, they needed to find a way to get to downtown Rome. So, they walked outside, literally hopped on the first bus that came by and took off. After a long while, they didn't think that they were heading in the right direction, and so got off, and just happened to be next to a train stop and found someone who spoke some broken English. Troy said it was luck. Albert Einstein said, "chance is God dressed up incognito". Which do you think it was? :) They asked the man how to get to the Roman Coliseum and after taking a train and a metro, they found it. They enjoyed walking all over the city, and ate some yummy traditional Italian food at a pizzeria. Oh, and they still aren't sick of each other.

Boy oh boy do I have a great 2 days planned for them here in Rennes! Their room is almost ready, complete with a few little surprises for each of them. As I was dusting in all of the little nooks and crannies, I thought, "they probably wouldn't even notice if the room was dusted or not" but my mama raised me well, and they will have a freshly cleaned room! I have an extra single mattress and an extra double mattress that they will sleep on. I'm thinking of making them share the double, and hide the single, so they won't have to fight over who gets the bigger mattress. What do you think?

And speaking of my mama, and since I don't have very many pictures of the boys, I thought I'd put in a picture of their parents up. I looooooooove my aunts and uncles so much!

Troy's parents (my Mom's brother and sister-in-law). Hahaha, And we wonder where Troy gets his crazy side?!

And Matthew's parents (my Mom's sister and brother-in-law) 

 Wonderful and amazing people! Wish you all were coming tomorrow too! That would be such a fun surprise if you jumped out of the train in Rennes with the boys! Please please please? :)

Tomorrow I'll actually have some pictures WITH the guys!

Oh, and here's more of a normal photo of Aunt Terry and Uncle Gordon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

day two with{out} the cousins

Anybody excited to hear what the boys have been up the past 36 hours? They are relaxing in their hotel in Paris now, before hopping on a 7am flight to Rome (being their travel agent, I didn't seen any point in letting them sleep in -- they can catch up on sleep on their plane and train rides and then when they get home of course!)

I talked with Matthew as they were approaching the Paris train station, Troy pipping in every once in a while as they told me about their time in London. When I say "told me about" it makes it sound like they were chatting up a storm, but Aunt Terry and Aunt Florene, lest you think Europe is changing your boys, let me reassure you by saying that they answered my questions in generally well constructed, compound sentences, but were not chatting up a storm. :)

They had a good time! It was in the low 30s and even snowed a bit while they were there. I think they kept warm by walking around and though they both got a bit cold, "we did alright". They were able to see some of the major London sights including Big Ben, Tower Bridge (including a tour and seeing the Crown Jewels), the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, the changing of the guard, and more. Troy got his picture taken with one of the guards of Buckingham Palace (profile pic!) but wasn't so touristy as to try to make him laugh.

I, of course, wanted to know if they'd enjoyed a nice cup of starbucks coffee, as I have very fond memories of enjoying many of those last time I was in London. Matthew's response, "no! they have those all over the place!!" I thought how good it was of Matthew to only want to try local things while visiting foreign countries until he told me a bit later that they ate at mcdonalds yesterday. What!?! Good thing they also tried a hole-in-the-wall place today and had some fish and chips!

They are getting along GREAT (emphasis added by me) and are not sick of each other yet ("yet" also added by me). There apparently wasn't too much culture shock on their part and Troy said that he felt right at home. Probably especially when he was in mcdonalds, right Danae? :)

Our conversation ended much too quickly for my liking, but they were quickly approaching Paris and it was time to go. I told them to be looking forward to the best leg of their journey -- when they are on the train coming to see me in Rennes (!!!!!) Mom, you'd be happy to know that Matthew right away said, "well, can't say that it'll be the best with Niger being in the mix". And as I full-heatedly agree, I told him it would be the best part of his European vaca, not the whole 2 weeks!

I'm looking forward to hearing how their stay in Rome is. They have been warned that the pick-pocketers there are bad! :)

Oh, and Shorty -- have you seen Toucan lately, cause I sure haven't? 

day one with{out} the cousins

Have you been following my Mom's blog about Troy and Matthew being in Niger with them? She did a great job of posting everyday and keeping everyone very well informed as to their adventures abroad. And now it's my turn. They are in Europe this whole week, and while I don't actually get to be WITH them until Friday, we have texted and called a bit and they agreed to have me continue "updating the fam" with their adventures! And since I'm not with them to take loads of photos (yet!!), I'll just put up random ones that I have! :) Like this; ahhhh... Troy's work vehicle:

They have made it to London, after a very adventurous trek from the Paris airport to their train station. It's a long story, and boy oh boy did make their cousin Melissa a lot nervous that they weren't going to make their train! This is the conversation I had with Troy at 10h30 (their train left at 11hish)

Me: Troooy!!!
Troy: hey Melissa! We made it!
Me (thinking that "made it" meant "we're on the train"): oh I'm SO glad! I didn't think you guys would have enough time to get from the airport to the train station. What a relief!
Troy: well, we're not at the train station. we're in some car, and don't really know where we're going
Me: what!?! are you in a taxi?
Troy: well... I'm not sure. There isn't any sign that says taxi
Me: huh?? Is there a meter, counting how much you owe up front?
Troy: no.
Me: hmmmm, what!?! do you know where you are or where you're going?
Troy: well, I think we're heading in the right direction cause I'm following it on a map on my iphone. The driver doesn't really speak English though. Here, can you talk to him?

And he hands the phone to the driver. I talked to him, made sure they were going to the right train station and then told him to hurry because their train was leaving in 15 minutes!!

It is a crazy story! How they made it to the train station in one piece is a miracle, but the next time I talked to them, this time Matthew, they were on the train, no problem, and in Matthew's words, "oh yeah, it was fine, we even had 6 minutes to spare!" Whew!!

Since then, I've heard that they found their London hotel no problem and Matthew said they were "great" with more than one exclamation point! So I'd say things are going well!

Monday, January 21, 2013

nothing in common, really.

As my blogging has been a bit sparse the past month, I have some pictures to show, but that really don't have anything to do with each other. The only common thread being that they were all taken with my phone and well, it's my life.

We had a New Year's conference in the Pyrenees Mountains during our Christmas vacation. It's a 7-8 hour drive from Rennes.

Rick and I drove the minibus and Gabe and his Mom drove their minivan.

For lunch, we stopped at this little rest area/gas station and enjoyed our picnic lunch we had packed. After were were done eating, Peggy and I decided we needed a cup of coffee before getting back on the road. We asked for a large cup of coffee "to go", and this is what we got:

What?! Those are like sample sizes! We thought it was pretty funny and wondered what a "small" would look like. It's not bad, it's just...different!

On one of the days during the conference, we had the opportunity to go to the top of the Pyrenees and enjoy this incredible view. Absolutely breathtaking.

When I got back to Rennes, Bob asked me to cut his hair -- sooooo much fun! Aunt Marilyn, do you recognize some stuff we bought together? (sorry for the blurry picture)

There are 4 guys that live together in this apartment, and they love cookies. Love love cookies. It's one of the first things they ask me sometimes every time I go over there.

It's important to know this, aaaaand to know one other thing in order to understand this next picture.

And that other thing is this. About 4 months ago, my phone fell in the toilet. Yup, into CLEAN water, but the toilet nonetheless. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say, that even after letting it soak in rice for a week (to absorb the moisture) it's still not working quite right. I often lose service, it doesn't connect to a 3G  network anymore...issues like that. Because I bought it on amazon, there's no warranty and I'm kind of a at loss as to what to do. So for now (until something brilliant comes to mind), I'm just living with it, though it is often a major inconvenience  ANYWAY, these guys think it's hilarious that I dropped my phone in the toilet and ooooh the mockery. :)

So for Christmas, this is what they gave me:

A cookie cutter in the shape of my phone. Haha. Oh dear...what selfless thoughtfulness, eh? I pretended to be offended when they gave it to me, but deep down I think it's hilarious and so creative! :) I have yet to try it out.

A few weeks ago, I saw this street musician, standing next to the fancy macaroon shop, playing beautifully! It always seems "so French" to me, and puts a great ambiance in the quaint city streets.

Tuesday, my cousins Troy and Matthew arrive in Paris, and start their week of adventures in Europe after seeing and experiencing lots in Niger. Unfortunately, I don't get to see them until Friday but I'm soooooo excited and can't wait! For those following their adventures on my Mom's blog, have no fear, I totally intend to continue posting about their adventures this week!

The CAN is taking place right now (Africa Cup of Nations) and Burkina is playing toniiiight!!!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

scrabble + crosswords

I finally finished a project I have been wanting to do for a loooong time: a magnetic scrabble board. This summer in Kansas, while garage-saling with Abby, I found an old scrabble game marked for $1, for which I bartered and paid half price for!

Then, when my little neighborhood had their garage sale back in October, I found a bunch of old frames for about $1/piece and bought several of them, dreaming of all of the crafts I could one day use them for!

Since I don't (yet!) have a car, and craft stores are not easily accessible by public transportation, it took a little while to get all of the materials that I needed -- namely some magnets and sheet metal. But I finally had everything I needed and it was time to craft!! Oooohh my love crafting!

Here's the old frame. I spray painted it, and tore out the picture that was glued to the back of it.

There were only a few possibilities for magnets, and the cheapest ones were these rectangular sheets that I cut into little pieces and stuck on the back of the scrabble tiles. 

 I didn't know how strong they would be, or if they would hold up well enough through the layers of paper, but they seem to be working ok as of now.

I ripped pages out of a dictionary (I know I know, it's terrible, and I felt guilty the whole time!) and soaked them in coffee, and did two layers of pages. All of them are from the "m" section :)

And that was it! A magnetic scrabble board!

I love word games, crossword puzzles, boggle, this seemed like a perfect DIY project. It's standing up on one of my coffee tables for now, and has already been put to good use!