Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Christmas to All!

We have safely returned from our holiday visit to France, no problems at the borders either way, and it was a great visit with family there. We had a marvelous Christmas Eve feast of oysters, smoked salmon, foie gras, escargots, a Christmas goose, chestnuts, and a vegetable that looked like celery but tasted like artichokes (endemic to Lyon). Dinner lasted from 9:30 until after midnight, followed by presents and a parade of truffles and other sweets, before concluding the party at 4am. Amelia was having so much fun visiting with everyone, including her cousins and her 91 year old great-grandfather, that we couldn't get her to sleep until 2am.
Part of the joy of this trip was seeing Amelia and Michel (her great-grandfather) get to know one another. There's a large age-gap, but they seemed to get along perfectly. Papy loved to smile at her and she would always smile back. It was sad to see them have to say good-bye, but we hope to reunite them in Spain next summer. And the way Papy is still cruising along, we don't expect anything but more of the same fun and smiles.The rest of the trip was full of great food and good company, and Amelia braved the plane rides like a champ. A bit of fussing on the first flight, but completely passed out the whole ride home. Probably due to the fact that with all of the new and exciting things going on she couldn't manage to close her eyes. Of course she took a 4 hour nap when we got home yesterday afternoon, and then slept in until 11am this morning (waking up to eat of course).

For more pictures of our Christmas trip, click here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


One of the biggest thing I hear expats complain about here is the lack of activities designed with our smallest family members in mind. Of course some people in the US tend to go a bit overboard with classes and activities, but in general I think it is great for the babies to enrich their mind and meet other wee ones, and great for us parents (particularly those of us that stay home) to get out and meet other parents. So I was excited when a colleague of Dan's who has a baby 6 weeks younger than Amelia told us that a Gymboree was opening in Aveiro this month. We made it to our first class last Sunday, and we have now signed up to make it a weekly occurance. It is definitely expensive by Portuguese standards, so I wonder how successful they will be, but I hope for our sake they stick around for a while. Here are a couple of photos of Amelia's first class, so far she really seems to like it, lots of colors, music, singing, and other babies and people to look at, what's not to like?

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I learned last week that my visa that allows me to work in Portugal is the wrong visa. Apparently the company applied for the type of visa that allows me to work in Portugal but for an American company, whereas I work for a Portuguese company. What this means, in short, is that I’m here illegally at the moment (shhhh).

Our HR department has apparently known this since June and was kind enough to tell me about it in December. They’ve applied for the correct visa, but the Portuguese authorities don’t move that quickly. The locals say that if the government employees work too fast then it will be obvious that half of them aren’t needed.

The lawyers, as you might expect, chose the cautious (and law-abiding) route and told me, first, to not leave the country and, second, to go back to the US until this is resolved. The problem with the first is we have plans to go to France for X-mas, and the problems with the second are too numerous to count.

Then, by a miraculous stroke of luck, my French citizenship was granted the other day. Since my dad was born in France he recently regained his French citizenship and, as his son, I’m eligible for the same. It took many months of paperwork but I now have a French birth certificate which I took to the French consulate in Porto to apply for a passport. I can then apply for a work permit in Portugal as an EU citizen which should make all the difference.

In the short term, this means that we will get to go to France for Christmas and introduce 3-month old Amelia to her 91-year old great-grandfather. In the medium term, it means we should be able to continue living and working in Portugal for a while. And in the long term, we will now have the opportunity to live and work in any EU country without having to worry about visas (thanks, Dad!).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

November Recap

As usual, November has been a pretty quiet month. Although the weather this year, like last year, was gorgeous until late in the month. Now it’s cold and rainy again, which is our winter norm. We had three activities in the month we wanted to share with you.

First my mom came over for a visit and to meet Amelia. That was wonderful to have some family here again, and to see Amelia spending time with her grandma (aka gemma). They had some good times together and we (especially Katrin) got a little bit of a breather. We even went out on our first date since early September when Mom was nice enough to take the baby for an evening. We enjoyed some sushi in town which, while it didn’t compare to the sushi we’ve had in some far-flung parts of the world, made for a very relaxing evening.

Second we hosted some friends for an Amelia play date. This was a chance to introduce her to some of our friends who hadn’t met her yet, and for others to come over and play with her. She was on her best behavior all night and did some smiling and even laughing when Fernando was making faces at her. Our friends brought her some sweet gifts too…she’s well taken care of over here.

And third we celebrated Thanksgiving. We did it on Saturday since I naturally have to work on Thursday and the following Friday, and it worked well this way. It was a chilly rainy day, i.e. perfect to stay in and cook and eat. Katrin found a turkey this year that was small enough to fit into our European oven. We were happy to celebrate the holiday despite the fact that it makes no sense been here. Perhaps next year we’ll try to organize something and introduce our friends to it. As we've been told, it is the perfect Portuguese holiday…all about family and food.

Finally, as we are posting this on December 7, Amelia turns 3 months old today. She is alreadly looking like there are all sorts of things that she would like to do but she can't quite manage them on her own yet. She has been pulling herself from her back to her side, but can't quite get up enough umph to get all the way over to her tummy yet. She loves to have us help her sit-up and stand, and of course her all time favorite so far is nonstop kicking and babbling while on the changing table. Click here for a few more photos of Amelia from month three.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


For my birthday this year Katrin took me on a weekend excursion to visit a new part of Portugal. This was our first overnight stay with Amelia, which added to the adventure. We decided to visit some historic towns about 1.5 hours to the south. Fatima is the site of an annual pilgrimage that receives hundreds of thousands of Catholics every May 13, most of them making the journey on foot from around the country, with the last few hundred yards travelled on their knees. It was on May 13, 1917, that three young children apparently saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary in this town and since then the Church has built an enormous square (twice the size of that at Saint Peter’s) to hold the visitors.

Juxtaposed with this bastion of Catholic faith, a mere 10 kilometers south, is a valley where those of the Darwinian faith can contemplate the 100s of dinosaur tracks that have been found preserved in the stone. There is a path surrounding the area, and you can even get down and walk among some of the very large footprints. Needless to say in this country of 98 percent Catholic there were hundreds of visitors lighting candles and worshipping in Fatima, but I believe we only saw 2 other couples tracing the steps of the dinosaurs with us.

The town we visited on Sunday was Tomar, a town with an enormous monastery built in a variety of architectural styles that used to serve as the headquarters of the Knights Templar many centuries ago. It was quite a place to explore, and very easy to get lost in once we were inside. The town of Tomar itself was very pretty and quaint, right on a river with a lovely park and had some pedestrian only cobbled streets filled with shops and restaurants.

But the real story of this trip was the ease of traveling with Amelia. She’s a good car sleeper and as long as we kept her rested and fed, she seemed to take everything else in stride. We had concerns about eating meals in restaurants with her, but the Portuguese are extremely amenable to having small children in restaurants…not only the employees, but the patrons too. At lunch the first day nearly every table had a stroller alongside, and dinner had several small diners as well. We never felt even remotely uncomfortable if she started to whine, as Portuguese restaurants are usually loud and boisterous, and no one notices or cares about the added noise. However, we’ve quickly learned that new parents can’t try to stick to a schedule. Dinner will not necessarily happen at 8:00, but rather when the baby decides it’s a good time to take her out into public.

We stayed in a cute B&B on the edge of a river in the very tiny village of Dornes. It would be a great place to return to in the summer with the dogs (which they allow, one of the few places we have seen in Portugal that do). The trip was enjoyable not only because it was the first time we’ve done a trip like this in several months, but because now we get to bring our daughter along. We’re talking about doing a similar trip in a few weeks when I have a 3-day weekend. After all, we need to practice for our Christmas visit to France, which will be a longer trip and will involve plane travel.

For more pictures of our weekend and Amelia's second month of life, click here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What Bad Americans We Are

Halloween is synonymous with Trick or Treating, or at least in the US it is. Here Dan had colleagues ask if children really go from door to door and people hand out candy to them. Neither Dan nor I remember anyone coming to our door last year, though we both vaguely recall me buying candy, just in case. This year I had an almost 8 week old baby, and I had my first winter cold since last December this week, so Halloween was not on the top of my head. So I was mortified when at 7pm on Friday night the doorbell rang and 4 costumed children were at my gate with outstretched bags! I had two things going in my favor at that point, 1) I had just made some cookies earlier in the week, and 2) the Portuguese don't seem to have the paranoia that people in the US do about their children accepting homemade goods for Halloween. So I bagged them up while Tazzy kept our young visitors entertained. We had a total of 14 trick-or-treaters this year, so we learned our lesson, and if anyone is brave enough to come back next year I will be more prepared! Chalk it up to yet another American export catching on in the rest of the world.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

If Anyone is Keeping Score

Yesterday makes 3 Mondays in a row that Amelia has been mad at the world for no reason that is apparent to me. Today makes 3 Tuesdays in a row that she has been a little angel all day long. I really don't get it.

One Day Down

So Dan has left us alone for a week long trip to Ecuador for work. The first day has gone by without a hitch, and I can only hope the others will be as easy. Tomorrow a few friends are bringing dinner by for us after work, and will provide a chance for me to have some adult conversation, which will be nice. Anyway, if you don't hear from me for a while you'll know it is because I have my hands full with no one to share in the duties.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Baby's First Winery Tour

So you can't live in Portugal without doing a tour of a Port Winery. We took advantage of a visit from Amelia's Grandpa Jack to take her first daytrip up to Porto. She spent most of the day alternately napping and taking in the city with big wide eyes, and was so well behaved that it made this parenting thing look easy. Though we are a bit slower getting out of the house these days, and of course I feel like I accomplish a lot when I get one or two things crossed off my t0-do list for the day.

We don't exactly have a routine yet, though I think we are slowly moving in that direction. In general, Amelia wakes up in the morning and is in a great mood after she eats and gets changed. She hangs out and just likes to check things out an take in the world for a while. She is starting to smile at us more, and loves to look at faces and finds mirrors and bright objects very fascinating. She definitely doesn't like to sit still. When she is awake and not eating I find myself doing a lot of walking. Either with her in my arms, or in the sling, the baby bjorn, the stroller, or her new swing, she likes to be on the move, and the same thing she loved yesterday may elicit loud complaints today. Last night she slept from midnight to 5am, and went back to sleep for about 3 more hours after that, which was a first, and some nights she is up every 2 hours all night long, usually it is somewhere in between. Here is a photo we finally took of all three of us, and some more photos from Amelia's first month can be found here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Amelia Turns One Month Old Today!

Dan woke up this morning and said "Wow, she slept through the night!" To which my response was "No, YOU slept through the night." At least someone in this house is! And I am glad it is the one that has to get up and go work all day long, though he is also the one that is allowed to have coffee if it gets too unbearable.

Amelia is doing quite well. We have learned that she hates Mondays as much as the rest of the world. I have no idea why this day is any different than the rest of her days, but the last two Mondays she has been in a horrible mood, hasn't slept much at all, and just wants to comfort herself with food all day long (when she is old enough I'll teach her to enjoy a good pint of Ben and Jerry's for this purpose). Luckily she follows this act with a night of only waking up once between 11:30pm and 7:15am, and then a very peaceful Tuesday (which explains why I am able to write this blog entry). In general, she is very sweet and cuddly, and it seems she is starting to enjoy her bath time and continues to enjoy, or at least sleep through, her afternoon walks with the dogs. Speaking of the dogs...Blaze seems to have designated himself as her protector. He gets very worried when she cries, and will come and get me, or if it goes on long enough, he will howl along with her in sympathy. Very cute when it happens at 4 in the afternoon, I feel sorry for the neighbors when it happens at 4 in the morning!

Saturday, September 27, 2008


One thing we’re pretty sure of is Amelia is going to be a traveler. And for now if she wants to keep up with Mom and Dad she’s going to need a passport. So in her third week of life it was off to the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, about 2.5 hours south. In fact, this trip was necessary to register her with the U.S. government and get a U.S. birth certificate and social security number (and a passport). Unfortunately for her, she was quickly introduced to the law that passport and drivers license photos are not allowed to be flattering. Of course, having to have her head held up by Mom for the photo didn’t help.

Thankfully, she’s a good traveler so far, meaning she likes to sleep in the car. As long as the car is moving, preferably over bumpy roads. Our challenge came in finding the embassy which, to our utter amazement, does not announce itself with American flags but rather with two men carrying uzis. Welcome to the United States, dearest daughter!

After having to park a kilometer away (no cars allowed), and then having to carry her and her things another half-kilometer (the building is geniously set way back from the street), and then finally managing to push open the 4”-thick steel doors, we were able to submit her applications and announce her existence to our beloved home country.

On a positive note, this was our first encounter with American bureaucracy in some time. And what a difference! We had an appointment at 2:00 and met with the consulate at precisely 2:00. We were in and out of there in 15 minutes. We love Portugal, but there are some things that the Americans do far better. For all of you who complain about waiting at the DMV or to see the dentist, come live in Europe for a while. It will change your perspective.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Welcome Amelia Maren Moffroid

Our little Amelia arrived on Sunday, September 7 at 6:07 pm. For those of you keeping stats at home, she weighed in at 3.38 kg and was 50.5 cm long. In American terms she weighed 7 lbs 7 oz, and was 19.9 inches long. Her middle name is a combination of her grandmother's names, Mary and Karen.

While Dan and I did not know what to expect of ourselves as new parents, we were very happy to find out that it is true what they say, as soon as you see your own little one, it is love at first sight. We have lots to learn, but so far have really enjoyed the first week of getting to know our new daughter.

We will try to post more pictures between the 2am feedings, the diaper changings, and the general feeling of awe we have right now, and of course after we take the dogs out for a walk, since they haven't been forgotten and are also intrigued by the new addition to the family.
To see a few more pictures, click here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Now We Wait...

So the nursery is all ready, the hospital bag is all packed, and the official due date is tomorrow. I had hoped she would take after her father and be here right on time, but looks like she may be taking after me and procrastinating for a little while longer before she comes out to join us. Right now Dan and I both feel like we are in a holding pattern, just sort of waiting for her to arrive. I still have a few things I can do for work to keep me busy, and Dan is of course working until something happens. We have spent the last week or two assembling some nursery furniture and decorating and organizing everything. So here are a few pictures of our little girl's new home once she makes the decision to come see the world.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Our beloved cat, Tuga, died Sunday night, August 10. He wandered into the road and was hit for the second time in his short life. This time surgery wouldn’t save him as it seemed he died quite instantly. It was a tragic moment as Katrin went outside to find him and found his body on the road in front of our house. We buried him the next morning in our front yard, in one of his favorite spots to lie down and soak up the sun.

We got Tuga in January of this year and neither of us has ever known a more amazing cat. And that’s saying something considering Katrin’s former times working in a humane society. Tuga was as affectionate and friendly with people as any dog I’ve ever known. He would let me roll him over on my lap and stroke his belly; he would curl up with Katrin on the couch for naps; and he would play with Tazzy as playfully as any other kitten. They were remarkable together, as Tuga would leap onto Tazzy from behind and then they would roll to the ground, with Tazzy putting Tuga’s entire head in her mouth as Tuga playfully reared up his hind legs to kick himself out. Or he would sometimes tear around the house chasing the toy that Katrin would slowly drag around. But his cutest habit had to be his obsession with water. We weren’t sure what memories we would make here in Portugal, but one of them will be Tuga following us into the bathroom and climbing into the bidet, begging us to turn on the water so that he could bat it with his paw or try to bite it as it poured down.

He had a short life, but his affection will impact Katrin and me for a lifetime. We will miss him terribly, and mourn the loss that our daughter will never get to play with him as we had hoped. We’re happy that a few of you got to meet him, though. A cat that special should really have an opportunity to touch as many people as possible.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

37 Weeks and Counting

Katrin is now at the 37-week point and looking like a woman who’s about 37 weeks pregnant. She’s gained 11 kilos and it’s all in her belly and now some swelling in her feet. But she’s still quite active and walking with the dogs and doing stuff normally. Not bad for the ninth month. Thankfully August hasn’t been too hot here, so her comfort level isn’t too bad.

We had another doctor visit today and everything continues to look fine and dandy for both mother and child. The heartbeat is normal, the head is pointed downward, and Katrin doesn’t have any abnormalities in her health that would raise concern. We’ll get to weigh the little girl on the 19th and then meet her in-person on or around the 2nd of September.

So far we’re feeling fairly comfortable in this process. Well, I guess that’s easy for me to say…I should let Katrin speak for herself. We know life will turn topsy turvy in a few weeks, but that’s exciting. Largely thanks to our sister-in-law Jen, and with input from our other sister-in-law Megan and my cousin Julie, we are feeling relatively prepared and have a lot of little baby things now taking up space in our home. Many thanks to everyone from home who passed on advice and gifts during our recent trips to the east coast. Wish us luck in these last few weeks and we’ll keep you informed of the big event!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Our Next Visitor?

As we drive north on the highway, just a few miles from Aveiro we pass by a half mile section of stork nesting grounds. You can see close to 20 nests, most of which are on the support structures for the highway signs, a few of which have 3 or 4 nests on a single structure. It has been really neat to watch the transition the last few months from nest building and incubating through the fuzzy chick stage, and now it is starting to get difficult to tell the adults from the babies, as they seem to have all molted and I imagine it is getting close to time to leave the nest.

So, since we are expecting a delivery from a stork in September, I have found myself asking if one of these guys be our next visitor.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Friendly Faces

We’ve been lucky to meet many new friends here in Portugal, but when living so far from home it is very nice to see some familiar faces again. We’ve recently been able to host several friends and family over the last month. The first arrivals were Laura, Katrin’s cousin from Oregon, and her boyfriend Hunter. They stopped here for a few days after spending a semester abroad in Cyprus. They were able to stay for a few days, and their visit overlapped with that of Karen, Katrin’s mom, and her husband Kevin. The six of us spent a cold day (a common theme for all of our visitors, unfortunately) exploring the mountains of Serra da Freite and the town of Arouca.

Laura and Hunter then had to leave for the US, but we had Karen and Kevin for a few more days. We decided to go to the Galicia region of Spain for a long weekend. We found a great B&B outside the town of Santiago de Compostela, and from there explored the coast out to Cabo Finisterre and up to A Coruna. It was a beautiful area, kind of like Vermont but with an ocean, although we did have to brave some pretty strong hailstorms to enjoy it. Karen and Kevin were good sports and we all managed to have fun, especially at mealtime. Whether it was Katrin’s homemade stuffed squid, seafood rice at our local neighborhood restaurant, or tapas in Spain, we had some great food. This marked the end of Karen and Kevin’s round-the-world trip, but they’ll be back when our little girl is born and liked our hometown of Aveiro enough to put a deposit on an apartment for the winter so they can be closer to their granddaughter.

Soon after we got to see our friends Val and Bryan from Burlington. Val’s work took her to England so they were nice enough to add us into their plans. We only had a few days with them before they were off to see the rest of Europe, but we did have a lot of fun doing a port wine tour in Porto, exploring a nearby castle, and experiencing the local dessert of ovos moles (sweet eggs). Mostly we enjoyed catching up with some old friends again.

Our most recent visitors were my parents, Mary and Pierre, who also included Portugal in a European vacation. We picked them up at the airport in Lisbon and went straight to Sintra, a town up on a hilltop where the Portuguese royalty used to go to escape the summer heat. There we explored a Moorish castle from the 11th century, many fabulous gardens, and a Portuguese palace that seems straight out of Disneyland but without the rides. Coming back to Aveiro, we joined some friends for a typical Portuguese sardine barbecue, which is a tradition at this time of year. It was a nice opportunity to give them a taste of Portuguese culture with some locals, and the language barrier wasn’t too bad with my Dad getting by with his Spanish and Katrin and I doing some translating from Portuguese. Finally, we capped off their visit with a sunny boat ride down the Douro River, in the heart of port wine vineyard country.

We are expecting a couple more visitors in July and August, and then we’ll probably lay low for a few months after our little girl is born. But to the rest of you, we would love to see you in Portugal. And for all of you who have come to visit recently, thank you so much. It’s a wonderful way for Katrin and I to stay close to everyone and still feel connected to home.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Euro Cup 2008

We've spoken to you about the importance of soccer in Europe before, but it ramped up several notches recently. This country pays attention to Formula One and the French Open, but it's passionate about soccer. And the Euro Cup 2008 was Portugal's chance to show the world that it's a country to be reckoned with. However, it didn't turn out that way, despite the fact that Portugal had one of the more talented teams in the tournament.

In the first round we watched the first game in town with some friends at a bar. Portugal beat Turkey 2-0 and you would have thought they had won the championship with the way the celebration was carried on in the street. There was flag waving and crowds gathered outside yelling, honking, and celebrating long after the game was over. With their second win over Czech Republic, Portugal ensured their group win and a place in the quarterfinals, so they played their B squad in a 0-2 loss to the Swiss in the final game of the pool play. They were expected to beat Germany in the quarter final game, so the 2-3 loss Thursday night was taken particularly hard.

We woke up Friday morning to a very depressed country. It is hard to imagine an entire country being so affected by a single game, but the last few weeks it has been all-consuming here. Nearly every house has a Portuguese flag hanging on it, and expectations were very high. We watched the game with friends at a local Brazilian restaurant and the blood drained out of their faces with each German goal. We've since learned that they don't care about Olympic soccer around here, so the 2010 World Cup will be Portugal's next chance to prove to the world that it can be among the elite.

Belly Update

Seems like I am getting bigger daily, and it is hard to imagine that it is going to keep trending in this direction for a while still. Today marks 30 weeks, 10 more to go. I'm very lucky to have such wonderful friends and family who braved the high shipping costs and managed to get me a great maternity wardrobe, and a whole library of books to prepare us!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dinner Party

We’ve had friends over for dinner several times before, but recently we had our first full-blown 12-person dinner party. We invited people over at 8:00, which meant we didn’t see anyone until 8:50. Interestingly, the German invitees called us to tell us they’d be running late…little did they know they’d arrive before the Portuguese invitees anyway. After some socializing and caipirinhas and showing off all the tricks our dogs know, we sat down to one of Katrin’s amazing Thai meals. We decided to do an Asian meal since the folks here don’t eat much ethnic food. It was delicious and people were gobbling it down, although some weren’t quite able to handle the spiciness of the Tom Yum soup. Dinner was followed by music courtesy of a couple of friendly guitar players and singing that took us until a bit after 3:00am, at which point many of our guests decided to head to the bars. From our experience, this is a pretty typical dinner party here and it was great fun to host this time. Hopefully our neighbors didn’t mind the singing too much!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


One of the nice things about living in Portugal is that we now have a few more holidays than the US. So we took advantage of some of my time off of work to do a European vacation…possibly the last time we’ll do a big trip until the little one is big enough to join us. We decided to go to Greece, one of the destinations we’ve both wanted to get to for a long time. And it turned out that spring was a great time to be there. We had lots of sunshine and temperatures in the 70’s, and yet small crowds and off-season rates. The only disadvantage of this time of year was the water was a tad nippy, but we braved it anyway.

We headed to Athens for a couple of days, mainly to see the Acropolis. It’s a very cool cultural site to explore, being a large area of ancient temples, theaters, markets, residential areas, etc. And of course topped off (literally) with the architectural wonder the Parthenon. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to battle the crowds and heat when most visitors go in July and August. We also explored some of the cute neighborhoods surrounding the Acropolis, but there doesn’t seem to be much else to Athens, which looks more like a dilapidated sprawling South American city than a European capital. So, after a quick 1.5 day visit it was off to the islands.

We flew to Santorini, which is an incredibly picturesque ancient volcano rim surrounding an enormous caldera submerged into the Mediterranean. We were told the power of this volcano when it went off about 1500BC was 40x that of Krakatoa, and I could believe it looking at the size. But the beauty of Santorini is in its whitewashed villages that cascade down the cliffside with amazing views across the caldera. It is also known for its much photographed white churches topped with blue domes. Our hotel room was literally a cave room that was built into the cliff, which is quite common (and great for keeping warm in winter and cool in summer). The old villages are lovely to explore as they are only big enough to move around on foot, no cars, and boating out to the currently active volcano to hike around and swim in the hot springs was great fun. But Santorini is really best for the cruise crowd that wants to stay for a day, take some pictures and shop. Beyond that it’s not as adventurous an island as we are used to, so we were off to Naxos for some additional exploration and beach time.

It was a 3-hour ferry ride to Naxos, our last stop of the trip. This more unknown island is actually quite big with a lot of little mountain villages to explore. The main town of Chora is very cute, right on the seaside, with some nice beaches nearby. This was a good place for us to wind down the trip with some exploring, biking and reading on the beach. The highlight, however, was stumbling into My Big Fat Greek Picnic. On May 1, a holiday throughout Europe for Labor Day or May Day, we were exploring the island by car and decided to visit a monastery. Since the gate was open, we did not realize it was actually closed for the day. But in the parking lot was a big family celebrating the holiday with a picnic. They invited us over and plied us with the most succulent lamb off the barbecue I’ve ever had, not to mention enormous amounts of wine (none for Katrin, sorry), dolmas, feta, etc…all homemade from the families lamb, goats, vineyard, and garden. They loved having a couple of Americans around and then started playing some traditional Greek music and dancing – holding hands and dancing in a circle, the men occasionally dipping and slapping their feet and knees. They got a big kick out of putting Caesar-like laurel wreaths on our heads and including me (Dan) in their dance. It was great fun and a very lucky way for us to experience Greek culture and hospitality up close and personal. Our goal should be to try to stumble into a group like that in every place we visit.

For a much longer pictorial tour of our trip, click here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Since you've been asking

Here is a now outdated photo of my expanding was taken before we went to Greece (April 24th), so it actually looks small compared to what the last couple of weeks have done. I guess we will have to do another one soon.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Paris in Springtime

Well we have been quite busy lately. I was off to Paris to meet my good friend Antonia for a few days in mid-April, leaving Dan at home to care for our invalid cat and the pups. That was followed by a quick week at home and then we were both off to Greece (will post that trip report soon!) In Paris, Tone and I had a fabulous time sight-seeing, shopping, eating wonderful food that was in no way good for us, and generally wandering some of the lovely Parisian neighborhoods.

We had a museum pass for our first two days, so we were quite busy trying to fit in all of the sights that we wanted to see that it covered. We managed to hit the Louvre, Orsay, Orangerie, Rodin, and Army museums, plus the Arc de Triomphe, the Conciergerie, Saint Chappelle, Notre Dame, and possibly some others I have forgotten to list! We were very tired but happy girls at the end of each day. One of the highlights for both of us was climbing the tower of Notre Dame and walking amongst the gargoyles while looking out over all of the city.

The next two days we were able to slow down and enjoy Paris at a more leisurely pace. We strolled through the neighborhoods of Montmartre and the Marais, sat and observed life from several parks, cafes, and pastry shops, and made the required stop at the Eiffel Tower.

We had a fabulous time, all over Paris flowers were in full bloom, and it was so great to get to see Antonia again! For some quick photographic highlights, click here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

In Case You Were Wondering...

We are starting to make our list of names...let us know if you have favorites you want us to add to the list!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Talk about Multicultural

Last night we went to dinner at a new friend's house. It was a fun group of people, 11 of us total, and we had 5 different native languages (English (2), Portuguese (4), Spanish (1), German (3), and Turkish (1)). Not something that would happen all that often in Burlington, Vermont! That is definitely one of the interesting aspects of living in Europe. In some respects Dan and I are at an advantage, because in these situations the default language is usually English, though Portuguese and German both worked their way into conversations last night. In other ways we are at a disadvantage, because for those that have grown up in Europe, learning and using multiple languages is not something new. For example, one of the Portuguese guys at dinner has nearly perfect English, plus speaks Spanish (as most Portuguese can to some extent), some French (also very common), can get by in Finnish as a result of living there during school, and is now working on his German. In the US we consider ourselves renaissance men if we can speak one other language! Oh yeah, and he's only 27.

It helps that some of these languages are close in both structure and vocabulary, in particular, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish. A few weeks ago when Dan was in Milan for work, he said his Portuguese colleagues could speak to the Italians in Portuguese, and the Italians would respond in Italian, and everyone understood enough of the conversation to make it work. Similarly, we have heard that once we know Portuguese we will be able to understand Spanish, though our Portuguese probably won't be understood by most Spanish speakers (the Portuguese say that the Spanish have always looked down on them and see no reason to try to understand their language). The fact that many Americans have to travel thousands of miles to even have the opportunity to really try other languages is amazing to most Europeans, while for us, the fact that they are exposed to and able to speak so many is a fact we are extremely jealous of. It also seems to make them much less inhibited to try to use their language skills, while I bumble along and lose all confidence in my Portuguese if I am unsure of my verb tenses or prepositions. I know no one cares -- I realize I don't care when non-native English speakers make mistakes -- I just need to convince myself now. I'll work on it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Not much to Report

Hello again. It seems that we haven’t given you all an update in a little bit, but that’s mostly because there’s not too much to report. In many ways I think that’s a good thing. When we first got here everything was new and exciting, and as the time has passed by (7+ months now) we’ve established a life here. The last few weekends we’ve stayed in Aveiro, but always with some social plans with friends. Dinner out, dinner in, the bar scene, etc. Actually the bar scene is kind of fun here, although a bit late for us. It’s very low key and in nice weather (last weekend was summerlike) people just gather outside near the bars and hang out. They don’t drink much alcohol in this culture, so mostly people just kind of sip on a beer and chat for a few hours. So lately it seems we’ve become social, although we’ll be sure to not get too used to it since having a baby in September will surely change all that.

In other news, Tuga went in for his second surgery this past week. This one was to fix his leg as we were waiting on it until all his internal injuries were healed. So now he has another large shaved patch, another big scar, and we hope that this will get him back to being able to be a normal cat once he recovers from this one.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Here is Tuga showing off his new scar. It looked much worse before the stitches came out, now it is healing nicely, and soon the hair will grow back and hopefully we won't even know it is there. My hand and our couch can both attest to the fact that he is getting all of his old energy back.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I even get my own parking spot!

Portugal is known as a very child-friendly culture, and expectant mothers and those with small infants have reserved parking spots at most stores and offices.
So for those of you we haven't been able to tell personally, Dan and I are expecting the first non-furry (we hope) addition to our family, due to arrive around the 2nd of September. Since I haven't made it up to the proportions of the parking spot picture, I am not taking advantage of my special status yet, but I imagine come July and August I will be quite happy to have the option.
Now that I've made it through the first trimester and past the morning (or all day) sickness, I am happy to be able to eat again and get back to most of our normal activities, though my seltzer and lime doesn't look quite as yummy as the martini Dan is drinking while I write this. We are hoping to find out if we are having a boy or a girl sometime soon, and we are also in an ongoing discussion about whether we will have the baby here or back in the States, some pros and cons to both options, and lots of things to think about. So our lives will be changing in some major ways soon, though neither of us really knows what to expect yet! We will keep you all informed with any important developments.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Our First Visitor

One of the benefits of working with your family is that you sometimes get all-expenses paid visits from them. My brother Eric recently had to come to Portugal for business and he was able to stay a few extra days to play. He was our first visitor from home and it was nice to have the opportunity to give him an experience of our lifestyle here. This included a sunset on the beach and a bike ride in the mountains…all of it, of course, in brilliant sunshine even though it was the end of February.

We also introduced him to our local restaurant, Gafanhoto, which makes a great seafood rice. And took him (or I guess he took us) to a soccer game up in Porto. The game featured Leixoes (a Porto team) vs. Academica (from Coimbra) and neither team is all that great by professional European soccer standards, but it was still great soccer. We ended up siting in the visitors section, which was directly behind one of the goals, and completely fenced off from the other spectators. But it ended up being an exciting game with almost all of the action right in front of us. The home team was lucky to tie it during injury time on a penalty kick. You can be assured our neighbors in the visitors section were not pleased.

We spent Saturday touring some historical areas north of Porto. We went to Guimaraes, which is the unofficial birthplace of Portugal as it was the country’s first capital and the home of its first king, Afonso I. We then went to nearby Braga, home of supposedly 365 churches (it seemed to be true) before heading to Porto for the soccer game. All in all, it was great to see some family and a friendly face from back home. We were happy to be able to show Eric around (although he had been to Aveiro before), break in our guest bed, and look at our home and lifestyle from a different perspective. We look forward to having more such opportunities in the future as the rest of you come visit.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tuga's Home!

Tuga (or Frankenkitty now, due to the large scar down his belly) came home yesterday! He still has a ways to go for a full recovery, but he is doing really well. He spent his first afternoon home mostly lying on my lap and purring, and he got exuberant welcome back snuffles from both dogs (even Blaze seemed to have missed him). While his internal injuries have all been addressed, he does still have a fracture in his rear leg, but the vet wants to wait a couple of weeks to give him a chance to fully recover from surgery before she fixes the leg. Despite the leg, he is still trying to go back to all of his regular activities, while I am, of course, trying to keep him calm and relaxed. It is great to have him home, and we don't even mind that he is now the most expensive cat we've ever owned!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Think happy thoughts for us

When I arrived home from getting groceries this evening I took the dogs out to go to the bathroom. Tuga followed us across the road to the woods. Normally I lock him in the house when I walk the dogs, because he has tried to follow us before, but this time I told myself "I'll only be a second." I heard the car coming VERY FAST and tried to grab him, but he was scared by the loud noise of the engine, and made a dash for our yard, on the other side of the road. I rushed him to the vet and they operated on him, they told us some of his organs had been squeezed into into his lung cavity because of the tremendous pressure, making it so he couldn't expand his lungs to breathe. He came through the operation, and they told us if he makes it through the next 48 hours that he should recover fully. Though he also has a minor fracture in his back leg that may or may not need repair (they were not concerned about that for now).

I am feeling so very guilty right now, so many "if only I had's" through my head. But I can't change the past and now we can just hope he is making it through the night at the vet's office and we get to visit him in the morning. Here is a picture of our little guy enjoying the sun with Tazzy so you can have him in your thoughts for us.