Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rock, Flag and Eagle Extravaganza

To celebrate all things USofA, we threw a 4th of July bash for over 30+ neighbors and friends at our home. Needless to say, it was a huge success and even the weather cooperated beautifully. We had a typical American-style barbecue, with a few added Clough touches, such as lots of spicy Pico de Gallo, plenty of Mojitos and Margaritas, and wacky games.

Rather than just a normal spoon and egg race, we implemented an ultimate relay race through our three backyards. If someone's egg broke, they were then allowed to try and steal an opponent's egg. Needless to say, it got very interesting and I think all the Dutchies thought it was quite entertaining. We also had a traditional water balloon toss game that turned into a water balloon fight, as well as a Pinata with mini-liquor bottles inside.

My favorite part of the party was seeing so many people coming together from all over the U.S., our Dutch neighbors (at left), and even an Italian couple (below left), to celebrate something that is virtually an insignificant holiday in these foreign lands, but yet for one day, we could be as obnoxious about USA as we wanted and everyone was supportive and having fun with it. You can bet that "Livin' in America" by James Brown was our theme song for the afternoon.

The most meaningful moment was when Jon gave a mini-speech recognizing those from our host nation as well as our American friends and then proceeded to read aloud an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence. I feel so proud to be from such an amazing country, yet so blessed to be able to experience other parts of the world. It truly was an extravaganza of Rock, Flag, and Eagle!

Playing Catch-Up

So.... how's it going? After three months of non-stop entertaining, company, festivals, class and other distractions, I thought it was high time to update the blog with everything that's been going on the past three months. I'm utterly embarrassed that it's taken this long to share the many wonderful events we've been a part of, and will summarize these happenings as briefly as possible below.

Family Frenzy

We've been so blessed to have many members of the Catlin and Clough gang make it over for a visit and we've enjoyed being able to have more than two visitors at a time thanks to our new spacious house. At the beginning of May, the Catlin women ascended up the Netherlands and despite the poor weather most of the week, we enjoyed touring around Holland and Belgium in springtime.

Of course, this included meeting up in Amsterdam and a trip through the canals (posing in the Red Light district), 

A visit to the world-renown, Keukenhof Gardens, to see the tulips.
Keukenhof Gardens

Tulip fields on the edge of Keukenhof Gardens.

And two days in the medieval city of Brugges.

Enjoying a delicious Flemish meal.

An afternoon snack of waffles with cream in the adorable town of Haarlem. It was so wonderful to be able to spend this time with my sisters and mom and I can't wait to host them here again!

In early June, we welcomed David and Beckie to our home and had a fantastic time hanging around the local area and tour-guiding them through one of our favorite places in Germany, the Rhine River and Wiesbaden.

Wine-tasting in Bacharach

On a hillside above Bacharach with the Rhine River below. 

The weather was absolutely perfect and in addition to doing some traveling, they also helped us with yard work, establishing a garden and planting beautiful rose bushes. It was wonderful to get their professional expertise, now if we could only have them come help us every few months!

We greatly enjoyed hosting them and were thrilled to be able to show them our old stomping grounds of Wiesbaden as well as our new home in Sittard. While in Wiesbaden, we went to the Wilhelmstrasse Fest, our favorite festival of the year, complete with fun rides, great music, and an incredible variety of food. The strangest thing happened as we pulled off the autobahn into the city, I had the feeling of coming home. Never in my time there did I ever think I would consider Wiesbaden home, and although it will never be my home home, or Texas for that matter, it felt so comforting to be somewhere so familiar filled with such incredible memories. I hope I will someday feel that same way about our new home. All in due time, I suppose.

A mere few weeks later we had a visit from the Afri-Cloughs (Neil and his family who are now living in Africa). During their week-long layover back to the States, they visited us for four days and it was such a blast having a house full of family!

Although we did enjoy some outings to a nearby Wildpark,

some caves in Valkenburg

and shopping in Sittard, we most enjoyed quality time hanging at the house and catching up on their past year living in Niger.  When they left on July 1st, the house felt so empty and quiet. I miss those three girls and their laughter and can't wait to visit them this winter!

Music Festivals

Apparently, our new location is situated in a hotbed of nearby music festivals during the summer. I had the opportunity to see two of my all-time favorite bands, the Pixies and Aerosmith, in May and June. We are excited to see the different groups that will be playing at these festivals over the next few years.

Pinkpop Festival was the last weekend of May in Landgraaf, NL, about 30 minutes from our house. Although they mostly have big name pop bands, such as Pink, Mika, John Mayer, and Green Day, they also have some more obscure bands as well.

I was thrilled to be able to see the Pixies and though it's been 20+ years since their heyday, it was incredible to see them play live all the songs I've listened to a million times before.

Graspop in Belgium at the end of June was a completely different kind of festival who focuses more on the metal, but still has some big, mainstream names. The day we attended, we saw Stone Temple Pilots, Motorhead and Aerosmith.

Although both Frank Black and Steven Tyler are contenders for the title 'King of Scream,' I was utterly impressed with Steven's ability to sing all his songs with the same gusto as before, despite his age. The show was full of such energy and I could not wipe the goofy smile off my face the entire time they played. It was truly a dream come true!

Texas Reunion in Sweden Part II

The end of June was jam-packed with three big events; Graspop, a visit from the Afri-Cloughs and Cat's return to Sweden for another reunion with her BU exchange student pals.
Unlike my first trip to Stockholm in September of '07, the weather was superb and I was finally able to experience the gorgeous Swedish  summer I've heard so much about. The temps were in the mid-70s with crystal blue skies and I was able to make the most of the outdoors, especially since it never really gets dark there. As I was there the week of Solstice, the days were at their longest and the sun would mostly disappear at 1:00 a.m. only to start ascending again at about 3:30 a.m. I know this because I stayed out until 5:00 a.m. just to investigate.

I was able to see Maria, my friend from fall '05 at Baylor, for five straight days, which is the longest time we've spent together since our BU days.  I was also able to meet up with Richard twice, also from Fall '05, and Peter, from Spring '05. The day I arrived, Crown Princess Victoria's wedding was taking place, so although I like to think it was a "welcome to Sweden" parade and party for me, the streets were filled with spectators wanting to catch a glimpse of the royal couple.

Richard and me at the Texas Longhorn Steak House enjoying a margarita and Lone Star.

I was able to see a lot more of Stockholm this visit and enjoyed taking a boat trip out to the archipelago and dinner on the island of Vaxholm.

My friend, Rebecca, met me there three days into my trip, and while the Swedes were working, we were able to do the tourist stuff (like visiting the original Ice Bar), while still meeting up with the locals in the evening. I feel so fortunate to be able to maintain these connections and friendships with these wonderful people who are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. I can't wait for another reunion and we've all vowed that it will be a lot sooner than another three years!