It doesn't take much...

to make my man happy!

P.S. They still weren't the real dill :(














Dotson's, Meet Liege

Once back in Belgium, we needed a rest. Kelly, Stephen and I retreated back to our apartment to relax, while RP and Glenda stayed at the Bedford Hotel down the street. We met back up that night to have some appetizers, then headed to Pipers in the Carre for dinner. Stephen loves the pizza there, so we needed to introduce the Dotson's (or reintroduce them) to true Italian pizza! It's so yummy! The next morning we walked La Batte, the market that opens on our street every Sunday. We shopped around and had lunch at one of our little spots, where the fam could taste the "Boulet Liegeois," or Liege meatballs. Those of you that have visited have had the honor of these yummy treats, and I think the Dotson clan enjoyed them as well! If not the meatballs, we enjoyed the frites. You CAN have too many frites, we learned. Kelly had to leave on Monday, which was very sad. It was snowing, but she was able to take off and get back with relative ease. Yes, I said snowing! Can you believe it? Up until this point I hadn't seen it snow here, I guess I figured it would have snowed by now at least. It's Spring now, people. It should be 85 and sunny, right? Well, it was a blizzard instead. Stephen had the day off, as did everyone in Belgium, so we were trying to think of things to do. We decided to go see a movie. It was fun, and we saw 10,000 B.C. I'm sure you men out there would love it, but unless everything in your town is shut down, it's not a must see :) Tuesday RP, Glenda and I made the trek to Cologne, Germany to see the Cathedral. It was snowing the whole drive, which was gorgeous and scary at times, too! The cathedral was amazing, as usual (a must-see) and the cafe afterwards was great, too! We made it back in time to steal a nap before dinner time. Stephen got home from work and we went to Maastricht to eat at Il Giardino, this wonderful Italian restaurant. We had nice food (even truffles), nice wine, and awesome desserts! It was bittersweet knowing it was our last night, but boy was it good! Wednesday Glenda and I went shopping in Liege, doing our best to avoid the rain. For lunch we met Stephen and RP in the center before they headed to the airport. It was very sad to see them go, and I'm still a little down about not having them here, but it was such an amazing vacation...and even better memories!

Pontlevoy, France


After our vacation time in Lisbon we headed to Paris, and then drove to Pontlevoy, a small town in the Loire Valley. Upon arriving we were instructed to ask the owner of a brasserie down the street for the keys to our house. Well, it was closed. This marked the beginning of our trip...butchering French to locals in search of the keys to our "Tower." We ended up finally getting the cleaning lady on the phone, and I managed to tell her that we were looking for the keys and the bar was closed, and she told me she'd be there in ten minutes. Whew! We didn't really mind the wait, because we got to meet some interesting locals and practice our frenglish. It was fun! When we finally got into our house/tower, we were able to unwind, put our stuff away, and make a family grocery run. The house was very nice...it had four floors with plenty of bathrooms and space to spread out...although I think we spent most of our time in the kitchen near the fireplace, wine and cheese :) The grocery store was down the road and local family owned, meaning when we walked up the man and his school-aged children greeted us during their soccer match in the driveway. We picked out some grub and headed back to have a snack. The homeowner left us a guide for different restaurants, wineries, cheese manufactures and chateaus to visit...and we tried most of her recommendations. Thankfully for our GPS (although very annoying at times to hear her voice) we found these places quite easily. Most of the times we were out, it seemed as if we were the only people on the road. The town and it's surrounding villages were literally desolate. It was nice, and kind of creepy at the same time! The first day there, we decided to visit the Chambord Chateau. It was the largest chateau, and very pretty. Like most, you enter on this LONG road lined with trees...it's surreal to think that people were that important to have these luxuries way back then. Must be nice! The exterior of this one was very pretty, but it mixed a lot of different cultures (french, indian, etc.) so it looked a little quirky, too. The interior was amazing. It was done in mostly limestone with stately fireplaces (a few had lit fires, because it was freezing). We toured most of the chateau, at least all of the sections we were allowed to enter. It was awesome. That night we ate dinner at one of the suggested restaurants, and apart from confusing (seignant and a point-medium and rare) we had a great dinner! The next morning we took our time getting ready, had a nice breakfast and headed to a Goat Cheese Maker's place. Unfortunately, we had the expectation that we would be able to see the processes, and instead it was just a shop. We bought some cheese and headed to our next destination...a winery! Named after Roy, this spot was unique. It was a very small place, and our host was a little old man who, not speaking any English, was very helpful and sweet. We were able to taste some of his wines and jams, and even bought a few bottles to have with dinner. After leaving Michel Roy's Winery, we headed to another winery, Jean-Marie Presle. The GPS got it a little wrong this time, and we drove up to an "in-the-middle-of-nowhere motel" run by a man who was VERY skeptical of us walking around looking for the open door (after walking over a shotgun cover). We learned very quickly that our destination was next door, and we were happy to leave. Once we arrived at our location, we were pleasantly surprised. The owner/proprietor spoke English and was very knowledgeable and helpful. We ended up having so much fun with him (and liked his wines so much) that we came back on Friday to buy more wine and ask to use his Internet (we were desperate!). After all of the wine tasting, we were very eager to see another chateau...so we drove out to Chenonceau, a gorgeous chateau on the Cher River (no, not Cher Cher, Cher as in "dear, my sweet, my lovely"). Though smaller than Chambord, it was beautiful inside. They had decorated the mantles and entry tables with fresh cut flowers with Easter themes, which made the house smell amazing! The rooms were set up with the beds and tapestries, and the furniture was beautiful. This chateau was by far my favorite, with its ornate kitchens and butcher rooms. It was very neat. We really enjoyed this chateaus gardens as well. There were two different gardens, and both were incredible. You definitely got the "enchanted" feeling walking through them...I only wish the flowers were in full bloom...I bet it's amazing. When we left this chateau, walking down the long gravel entry lined in trees, we passed a labyrinth. I had never seen one in person, so we had to stop and take some pictures. Very cool! That night we decided to make dinner at home, and we had a great time! We drank wine, had pork chops, played Spades and random poker games and had a great time! Maybe too great a time. Kelly and I didn't feel so hot the next day, because we had a girl night after everyone went to bed. Very needed! Friday we woke up, headed out to Jean-Marie's for more wine, and headed out to our final chateau. Cheverny was a gorgeous chateau (are you tired of me saying that yet?) as well, and probably the most realistic as far as space and decor. Used as a starting place for most hunts, they had a pen with upwards of 50 hunting dogs very excited about life. They were very cute, until feeding time when they were released to "do their thing" amongst each other. I could've done without that. The chateau was set up as a walking tour, and each room was furnished with it's antiquities and you could walk by and look, but no pictures. Well, the rebel that I am took pictures...it was too pretty not to! Since this was our last night, we decided to go to a restaurant from the recommendation list. It was built inside of two caves, which were used as quarries way back when. They are famous (within the area) for their steaks, so we had to try them (and get the order right this time). It was delicious, I'm glad we made it back to eat there. Saturday was departure day...sad! We woke up early and got on the road to Paris. Our intention was to make it to the Parisian Flea Market. Glenda has always wanted to go, and she had sent me the info a while back on it, and I was excited to see it was well. When we put the address in the GPS, it gave us our location and we trusted it. Well, there are two streets with that name, and since we didn't have the postal code, we got the wrong one. We decided to throw in the white towel after the rain started, but were able to find the right one and take a picture. We made it to the train station in enough time to have lunch and relax, and then we were Belgium bound! It was an amazing trip, and I would definitely go back!

Lisbon, Portugal

On Thursday night, Stephen and I arrived in Portugal to begin our 10 day vacation. After a long day of traveling, we were very excited to enter "warm" weather. Being used to low 30's, the high 60's were welcomed. Steph Johnson had arrived earlier that day, so we unloaded our bags at the hotel and set off to have dinner together. We enjoyed some great seafood, and then made it back to get some rest before the Dotson's big arrival the next morning. After a LONG walk to the hotel, we made it to greet RP, Glenda and Kelly as they made it in. It was so nice to see familiar faces, and to get to hug them after so many months away. We decided to venture out and sight see a bit, mostly to get familiar with the race day route and where to start, etc. Portugal was a great city on most accounts, but a very seedy city in others. On our first tram ride, getting on was very hectic and RP got pick pocketed...our FIRST tram ride. He was able to find the wallet with only cash missing, and even confront the culprit (to no avail)...but we were able to get over it and enjoy the rest of the day with just a minimal amount of anger. We saw the major buildings, sculptures, stores, and plazas...and made a list of things to do the next day as well. It was just so nice to be with family. We arranged for great Italian food that night, to carb load, and had a great waiter to practice our Portuguese with! Abrigaddo :) The rest of the weekend consisted of shopping, sightseeing, great lunches, delicious pastries, naps, Portuguese beer, a wine tasting, touring the Cathedral, and awesome conversation. Sunday was race day, and I was a little nervous of the unexpected--so I got little sleep! We woke up and had breakfast, then started out to find the starting point. Good thing we left a few hours early, because it took 2 buses, a train and a lot of walking to get there...but we made it. We met a really nice German man that we befriended outside of our hotel, so we had nice conversation to get my mind off of it the whole way there. The race itself was an adventure. There were something like 30,000 people involved in the "Family run," which was a 7km run/walk race. This meant that 30,000 people were in front of us with strollers, canes, bags, costumes, people taking pictures, people posing to kiss, groups 7-wide intertwined in hugs, etc. to get past to begin our race. Needless to say, after our times started, we still had 10-20 minutes of walking, weaving, running between and knocking over people to get out of the chaos. It was beautiful, though. We started the race on the San Francisco Bridge duplicate, over the channel in Lisbon. It truly was beautiful. We then made our descent to the coastline, where we ran for the remainder of the race. After getting out of the mad masses, and going the wrong way for a while, I found myself alone, running in the sunshine. It was nice. About mile 7 I saw a huge sign that said "GO KATIE," along with the whole Dotson clan rooting me on. Glenda even went so far as to buy Gracie a jacket and sewed "Go Katie" onto the back. Of course I started crying, while Stephen videoed the whole thing. It was incredible. It definitely made the run worthwhile knowing there were people there to cheer me on to finish! And I did! I finished in great time, 10 minutes faster than I expected, and loved every minute of it! I even got sunburned...imagine that :) Following the race, we ate some amazing Brazilian food and toured some more of the city. Steph left the next morning, but we had one more day of sightseeing left in us. We were able to tour the castle erected to protect the city, which had amazing views, and ended our Lisbon trip with a beautiful dinner overlooking the city at night! It was a great trip, and I'm glad we did it in Lisbon, a place I probably never would have travelled to!

Please don't leave me...

Well, we are officially over our vacation. How sad! The race went well, I finished and loved it! It was a great first experience overall. I know I promised to try and update you all afterwards, but we didn't have the internet we thought we might. I'll blog tomorrow about our different Dotson adventures in Lisbon and France and fill you in on all the happenings, but right now I'm tired! It was a great vacation, and I'm very sad it's over and the family is gone! I hate goodbyes, it's been a sad day! Back to reality, right? Well, it stinks!

On a cute note, Stephen and I were unpacking tonight and Gracie got very nervous we were planning another trip, possibly without her. These are her attempts at making that impossible:








On Vacation...

Starting tomorrow afternoon around 11am, Stephen and I will be on vacation! YEAH! We'll do our best to update you guys throughout our trip, and I'll let you know how the race goes afterwards!

5 Days Away...

I can't believe that the race is 5 days away. To be completely honest, I'm excited and nervous. I don't really know what to expect race-wise, but I'm excited to accomplish a goal set for myself. That's always nice! Sunday was my last long run before the race, 10 miles. I was getting very bored with my route around Liege, and since Sunday is market day, the city is a little crazy anyway.

A few weeks ago Ava, a friend and coworker of Stephen's, sent us a link to a Nature Preserve/Park called Bokrijk to check out. We looked at the website (http://www1.limburg.be/bokrijk/eng/index.html) and thought it would be nice. They have various walking routes that you can take, some lead you through the open fields, some through the Arboretum, some even go along the paths of sheep, goats and cattle. I wanted to go because they had a route that was 9.5 Km, or 5.9 miles. Figured I could do it twice and be ok, even going over a bit. We headed out earlier than usual because we were expecting rain later in the day. We were stopped on our way there by a goose and her friends, which was fun. It was cold, and I wasn't feeling too confident. Once we got there, we figured out how to follow the trails (they have tiny little markers that lead you--get lost you are in the middle of the forest with no idea how to get out) and took off.

I felt good the whole time, but quickly realized that the "red" trail went through all said conditions, including wildlife, mud, gravel, grass, bridges over swamps, and even down major roadways for small stints. It was definitely cross country, but such a nice change from cobblestone and the urine smell after the city shuts down from the weekend!

At the halfway point, I realized I had run faster than usual, and the trail was longer than usual (according to my Nike+ software). I carried on, although the second lap was tougher. At the finish, I had finished 14 miles in 2:02. Now, let me assure you that I don't think this is altogether accurate. I do not think I finished the 14 miles with an average pace of 8:52...but I do know that I was booking it at times. Nor do I think I completed a full 14 miles in that time. So...we'll see how accurate good 'ole Nike+ is race day. I really don't care about time, I just want to finish. But with this past run behind me, I'm a lot more confident and excited than nervous!

Now, while running, Stephen was able to allow Gracie to be a dog...yes Dad, she was a dog today! She was off the leash and running around like a crazy lady, rolling in dead things and smelling until her heart was content! She had a blast, and crashed on the way home! We'll have to do it again soon--she needs it!




video

Hey Mona and Venus...

To celebrate March 1st, and 7 months of being here (not really, we just wanted to go) we drove to Paris to tour the Louvre and Notre Dame. I was sad we weren't able to over New Years, so since the weather was yucky here, we thought it would be fun to spend the day in a museum. Of course, when we arrived in Paris it was sunny, 55 degrees and GORGEOUS. So typical.
We parked at St. Germain, where Eva and Tony had their wedding (shout out) and walked to the gigantic complex that is the Louvre. We decided to not spend all day looking at things of little interest to us, so instead we spent about three hours looking at Roman, Greek and Italian paintings and sculptures. The place is just gorgeous...I was in awe! The ceilings and flooring, stairways and woodwork was incredible. We had our picture taken with Venus, with Mona Lisa, and I even found the crowd taking pictures of Mona funny. It's just hilarious, people fight their way to the front, take a picture (sometimes of themselves) and then leave. This crowd (notice picture) took turns taking individual pictures in front of her, blocking the view for the rest until they were done. Yes, they were from the East. Stephen showed them how its done at Venus, though. Work it!

After walking and seeing all we wanted to see, we spent an astronomical 7 euro for water and coke and decided to head over to Notre Dame. I love cathedrals, and I especially love stained glass. The rose windows in this church are unbelieveable. Throughout our tour the bells tolled, so we made our way to sit and watched the mass for a good while (in French, mind you). The priest started burning some incense, and Mr. Photographer got some pics of the smoke against the stained glass. It was gorgeous! We had a wonderful trip, did it all in an afternoon and drove back to Belgium...but not before grabbing a Starbucks! It had been a while!


*To see the full spread of pics, go to "Katie's Pics" on the left side of the blog.

Music make you lose control...

Most who know me know that I love music. When I think back at major moments, I remember songs, not the outfit I wore. I remember soundtracks, not the movie plot. I have eccentric taste, usually to fit the mood. Rainy, depressing days just call for country or girl music (cue in Plumb, Fiona Apple, or Carrie Underwood or my girl Kelly Clarkson). Days that are sunny and grand, I usually tend to like the Pop selections (cue in Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears (get over yourself, you know her songs are catchy) and Timbaland). When I'm getting ready to go out, or in the car by myself, I tend to listen to rap (cue in Missy Elliot, Outkast, Dr. Dre, 50, Eminem or Pharrell). My dad very early on told me that I needed to strive to become the world's first "White Female Rapper." I think he was on to something, seeing as it's probably my favorite and my "go-to" to get out of a slump! Maybe Liege needs a female rapper? Anywho, I love music. Whenever I hear songs from the past, I instantly am taken back to the memory, and it's usually VERY vivid. Let me give you some examples:

  1. "Just shake ya' rump" by Wreckz-N-Effect: I believe it was 4th grade, maybe 5th, but I was in a Lady Foot Locker in Red Bird Mall (Duncanville) buying my first pair of Jordan's for the upcoming basketball season on Mr. McPeek's team. They were suede with a multicolor tongue...all the peeps were jealous! I'll never forget singing along to "All I wanna do is a zoom zoom zoom and a boom boom" while my dad looked on. Hilarious!
  2. "The Dance" by Garth Brooks and "I will Remember You" by Sarah McLachlan: 10th grade cheerleading banquet (maybe at Slider and Blues?) video...such a great year! Mrs. Anderson was awesome...and ladies, watch the video again--too much!
  3. "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul: This song brings back serious memories...but the funiest to me is one of being in a Target getting school supplies, and Jeremy picked out a Paula Abdul Trapper Keeper folder to go in his binder. I remember thinking it was hilarious, even at the time. She was great, not sure about a comeback, though. Gotta let it go, crazy!
  4. "Whoop There It Is" by Tag Team: 8th grade, Brandy Sluetz birthday party at Six Flags. We did one of those videos, where you have an instrument and you are in the band? Whatev...it was great, and I've lost the video, but it was magical.
  5. "All My Exes Live in Texas" by George Strait: Getting ready for church on Sunday, living in Duncanville. I think it was on a record, I'm not even lying. I just remember dancing in my parents room while my dad sang out loud. To be honest, most country songs remind me of my Dad. He's pretty cool...
  6. "Lose Yourself" by Eminem: Almost all trips to Austin and this song is played, from my Dad's Ipod (yes, you read that correctly). He kinda loves it, mostly the "mom's spaghetti" part, it gets him laughing...super cute!
  7. "Lost in your eyes" by Debbie Gibson: Smith Elementary swingset, myself and Amy Vines singing outloud, serenading Stefani and Staci Giles. HAHAHA.

So, you see, I have funny memories with songs. And there are SO many more! The point of this blog is to say this...Belgium is bringing the memories back! While in Liege, you can usually find one or two stations that intermix current pop with French pop. While you wouldn't think French pop is that great...we actually sing along (with no idea what we are saying) to most! But...just a minute or two outside of Liege until you find another big city...stations are harder to come by. So, you surf. We have listened to so many songs we hadn't heard in ages that now, we look forward to it (or at least I do!). Sometimes, the playlists have a theme (oldies, country, only french, only dutch, etc.). Other times, I feel like they stole Kat's ipod...and I get something like Frou Frou, then Peter Cetera, then Britney. It has no rhyme or reason, and it's AWESOME! Last week I was driving to Brussels, and I mentally recorded the playlist I received: Fergie "Big Girls Don't Cry", "PRAY" by MC Hammer, "99 Balloons" by Nena, "Whiter Shade of Pale" by Annie Lennox (I had this single on tape, you're jealous), "I can't live" by Mariah Carey, and then "Ayo Technology" by Justin and 50. It's so great...I love it! I guess it's kind of like Mix 102.9 back in the day, but I didn't appreciate it then! On various car rides, we've heard "All that she wants" by Ace of Base, almost ALL Bryan Adams songs, "It wasn't me" by Shaggy, "Weak" by SWV and last night we got "Hip Hop Horrah" by Naughty by Nature--love it! All sorts of memories flood back in everytime we're in the car...it's a nice getaway!

What memories do you have with songs? Any of the same? Leave a comment...