Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Not recommended cleaning technique

Do not try this at home: taking a full bucket and a bunch of small carpets in your arm to go downstairs on the stairs, bend (I think?) and then slip a few steps downwards from the stairs while dropping the bucket and carpets:

Advantages:
* water flows down from the stairs so less effort needed to wash the stairs.
* The carpets get shaken a little bit while falling
Disadvantages:
* you still need to wash the stairs evenly
* the shaking of the carpets was not sufficient to get the dust out.
* most of the water gets spilled over yourself, splashes down one or 2 floor

But let's say that the dark bruise on my hip and my skinless elbow are convincing me most not to try this anymore. Reminder to myself: stop carrying a 100 things at the same time up and down if you cannot see the stairs.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Verdi as you've never seen it before

My sister shared this odd version of La Traviata with me. Enjoy!

The most appropriate question

As I said, Jan and I went out for dinner last night. And we got treated on a course of heritage law. Some young first year student seemed to be dining out with her dad and was enthousiastically and LOUD applying all her knowledge to her entire family. Great! She sure has the verbal skills to make it to a lawyer already...but she might need to work still on her timing of her questions.

Just when the restaurant was a bit more quiet, it goes like this...

"So dad, when you have a very bad accident or something... can we give away your organs?...
"...And do you want to get cremated or buried in that case?"

Yep, that is definately the conversation I'd like to have with an entire restaurant as audience.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Great spring day!

Today was a great day! I really enjoyed myself.

Getting up was hard (summer time kicked in today) but then I saw the sun shining outside. I had a nice bikeride to the abbey church a bit further here for church.
After some more relaxing in the sun in the sofa Jan and I decided to go for a walk rather than finishing the plastering in the basement. We need to still work a lot in our house but we can't work all the time. He showed me some parts of Leuven that I did not know yet: the small beguinage, the Sint Geertrui church and abbey, .... Leuven is a nice city especially on a sunny day in the beginning in spring?
After the walk we cleaned the house together (thank goodness I did not have to do it on my own, .... a house in renovations is a constant battle against dust :( ) . Wonderful to be able to walk around in an almost entirly clean house!!

And then Jan took me out for dinner to the trendy Turkish mezze restaurant a bit further : Turquoise. I can recommend it, very good food and nice interior and friendly hardworking people!!!!

And now there rest us a couple of hours in the sofa to crash in front of the tv :). Nice!

Newer look

I gave Jan's website a new look yesterday.

Very unprofessional still since I don't know the slightest bit of HTML, but I hope it's improved a bit though. It used to be just a very very long list of links and now I tried to make at least some visual categories as if I'd make a schematic overview in a Word training document :p.
So now you can find all our renovation pictures together and our travels etc.... have fun

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Picture riddle: find the differences

Today I give you all a picture riddle challenge: find the differences between 2 sets of pictures. The first one is always taken one week ago and the second one today.

1) We'll start with an easy warmup:




ok that was a warm-up huh....

2) ready for the next set?



3) last one toughest one?


Friday, March 23, 2007

Happy birthday

Happy birthday to Europe! It's been 50 years that the treaty of Rome got signed. Hip hip hurray!

Currently the European union seems to have become an enormous monster that cannot move in any direction anymore efficiently. And it has created a horrendous urban development lacking all personality in Brussels. But it has brought us many good things in the last 50 years as well. Apart from good competition in a lot of markets such as airlines, more export, the Euro currency, ....
However the most important thing it has brought us is PEACE, especially between two sworn ennemies that have started 3 wars against each other in less than 100 years: France and Germany...currently the best political friends you can have. Hip hip hurray for that! :)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I'm on fire!?

In the beginning of this year we all received a mail at work whether we were interested in a short course to estinguish fire. I skipped it without much thought, without truly considering that I could do this. Later when cleaning up my mailbox, I came across the mail again and now it got a bit more attention. I realised that I had no idea how to use a fire estinguisher and that in case of fire I'd probably panic and do all the wrong things first.

As a result I was part of a very small group of colleagues yesterday taking the course. And I learned a lot: the different types of fire distinguishers with their characteristics, advantages and disadvantages! I didn't know there were different types really.
Afterwards we got the opportunity to estinguish a deep fryer with a special blanket (important skill in the country that invented French fries!), and we had to estinguish a fire in a garbage bin, a computer on fire and a big bin with a liquid on fire (picture).
And here's some lessons learned that I want to share:
* NEVER EVER EVER put even a little bit of water on a burning deep fryer. I already knew that, but now I got to see the effects of such a mistake. Impressive fire ball !!
On the other hand, slowly putting the fire out with a fire blanket is not scary at all. Behind such a special blanket you don't even feel the fire you approach. Just make sure your hands are covered by the blanket as well.
And don't lift the blanket from the fryer for at least 20 minutes if not the fire just explodes back into your face.
* Powder estinguishers are easy to use from a large distance and very effective...but they will kill all electronics in the room with some delay due to corrosion. So never accept an immediate settlement from the insurance if you have used a powder estinguisher! Carefull, a fire can restart still!
* Never enter the room more than 2 steps if you are going to use a powder estinguisher: the powder cloud takes out all visibility and you'll have a hard time leaving the room.

* Foam estinguishers work just as well also from a large distance, are more expensive but will only damage the things it has been sprayed on (so not all electronics in the room) and the fire cannot revive after the foam has touched it!
But it can freeze so don't put it in the shed, garage or car!
* CO2 estinguishers cannot estinguish vast materials that have been on fire for a while since it dissolves in the air too quickly.

E-Id

Now I feel officially an inhabitant of Leuven: I just picked up my new identity card at the town hall. And for the first time I have an electronical identity card as well. I don't know what you can do with it except consulting my official registries from the government (which is interesting for 5 minutes and then that's it) and getting an electronic signature. But I am glad that I don't have to wait anymore until 2012 when my other ID would have expired and hopefully more applications will come. At least it is smaller than the old types!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Comments

Yippee I broke my personal record: I got 6 comments on a post :p. Thank you for all you get well wishes and for responding. It is always so nice when friends and readers respond to a post.

I can assure you that I am already feeling a 200% better from last weekend and Monday. That's the good thing about colds huh: they can hit you with a blast but some of them go away quickly as well while others drag on for a couple of weeks. I got lucky this time. I am only still feeling very tired all the time. So once more not much blogging for me tonight!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Diagnosis

Running nose? Yes
Watery eyes? Yes, especially the left one
Breathing through the mouth most of the day? Yes
Red and painful edges on the nouse? Yes
Pile of wet handkerchiefs in laundry bin? Yes
Sneezing? Yes
Painful throath in the previous days? Yes in the mornings
Feeling that you are looking crosseyed? Yes


I think the diagnosis is clear: I am having a cold. Great :(

Oh well, I am greatfull that I escaped the flue and bronchitis epidemic mid february just before our diving trip. I'll have to hang in there until the coughing starts and then I know the end of my cold is almost there.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Static hair

Jan's brother and Luisa came over today. It has been a while since I had seen her so that was really cool. She was a little shy in the beginning, hiding her face in her daddy's shoulders. But after a while she checked out our house in progress (she must think our house full of tools and materials is very weird!) and ended up in the sofa where her hair got all static :)



Wow this is a big closet in which I can play hide and seek!




Wow look at my hair going wild!

Slow but steady progress

Even without Jan, we keep on progressing in our house slowly but steadily. While Jan's dad prepared all the plumbing tubes for our future shower, bath, toilet and sinks in the bathroom, I started plastering in the last part of our basement which will become our future office. No spectacular change, but there is still a lot to do and we keep on moving. It's still exciting to see change even when it's small as it holds the promise of the future rooms!
And I am so proud that we are doing it all ourselves!


my plastering work today



our bathroomsinks and tabs ready for the cabinets to get finished



Our beautiful bathroom tab waiting for a bath to come

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Relaxing smogalert

Last week there was too much "fine dust" in the air in Belgium, coming from the Ruhr in Germany. Because it was windstill, our government launched for the first time a smog alert. As a result we were only allowed to drive 90 km/h on the highways rather than 120km/h. Although it was a typical Belgian decision: in the Flemish region we had to drive 90, in the Brussels region we had to drive 50 and in the Wallonian region the minister stated that the Frenchspeaking drivers were smart enough to drive slower without a rule making it mandatory.

As good Belgians, on Wednesday morning you did not notice much difference on our highways, partly because not all the signs were in place already (296 road signs that were already in place for one year had to be manually turned around!) but also mostly because of the Belgian mentality "it doesn't hurt to break a rule as long as I don't get caught".

Consciously or unconsciously the media played a good media campaign in favor of the goverment. By noon all news editions and news papers started reporting that that a few thousands of drivers had already been fined for driving too fast and the fines could go up from 55 euro to 2500 euro and loss of drivers licence. There were debates on tv that the government did not communicate well enough, that the signs were not visible enough, etc and that those drivers should be forgiven.

The result of all the media attention was that on Thursday and Friday all of a sudden hardly any car went faster than 100km/h. Obviously we still break the rule a little, but we all had slowed down considerably. Now that we risked to pay, we slowed down because apparently we could get caught.

In the mean time the weather is changing, the wind picked up and all the technicions could turn all the road signs backwards again until the next smog alert. There is still a lot of controversy whether this rule is effective for the climate and our health or not. But I hear comments everywhere that driving on our roads on Thursday and Friday was so much less stressfull than usual and I agree! We all just went in a gentle flow, without passing by or rushing, without difficulties to merge lanes since we all drove the same speed more or less.
Maybe it is a bad rule against smog, but a good one for road safety and anti-stress??? But of course only if we fear enough to be caught otherwise we'll start speeding again.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Movie meme

I don't do a lot of meme's but today I was in a movie mood and was planning to go to the movietheatre this weekend. I guess it's not going to happen now Jan is stuck in London and i don't feel like going on my own. So Allie's meme will have to work as my movie surrogate tonight.


1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I was an absolute fan as teenager! It was never a hit in Belgium but my sister had seen it in Canada and had taped it one day. Thank you !!

2. Name a movie that you've seen multiple times in the theater.

None

3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.

Audrey Tatou, Anthony Hopkins, Julia Roberts, Helen Mirren, Brad Pitt, Jeroen Crabbé, Koen De Bouw (good Belgian actor), Jan Decleir (top Belgian actor, played already in multiple oscar nominated and oscar won movies), Antje De Boeck (top Belgian actor)

4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.


Jim Carrey, Steve Martin, Eddy Murphy, Mariah Carey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal....

5. Name a movie that CAN and DO quote from.

none

6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.

none

7. Name a movie you have been known to sing along with.

pfff no idea. In a scene in "Il ladro di bambini" at the beach they play a cool Italian hit "Imasci". Then it's fun to sing along.

8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.

Left Luggage
Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain


9. Name a movie that you own.

hmm fairly big pile of DVD's here, I am not going to list

10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.

no idea

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?

Twister and The Rock in Creston, BC!

12. Ever made out in a movie?

nope.

13. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven't yet gotten around to it.

Girl with the Pearl Earring
The Harry Potter movies
Swades and Sholay (2 good Bollywood movies, I hope)

14. Ever walked out of a movie?

Yes, during The Flinstones. Gosh that movie was boring and stupid. We had gone with a whole group of teenagers as a youth camp reunion. During the youth camp, we were woken every morning with the B52's song with a loud "Yabbedabedooooooooooooo". So the choice of the movie was quickly made, but in the end we were not so interested in the movie. Pictures were exchanged, there was a lot of talking and running back and forth until a hostess came to complain and to lecture us. As a group we all left in the middle of the movie then. I am sure the other viewers were glad at that point that we were gone.

15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.

Probably multiple ones but can't think of any specific example. Maybe at Titanic? Probably Dances With Wolves and The last of the Mohicans? Oh and probably for Daens as well.

I remember seeing Kadosh: I didn't cry but the rest of the evening I was in a strange sad intense mood. I didn't want to read books anymore, I didn't feel like watching tv, ...it all had to sink in. Very good movie. Very sad but very serene.

At home I have cried loads for The Mission, Little Women, Face on the milk carton, ....

16. Popcorn?

no...I rarely eat during movies. If I do it'll be peanuts or chips.

17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?

As a teenager or student I used to go 3-4 times a year. Now I hardly go once a year anymore but we do regularly watch movies at home.

18. What's the last movie you saw in the theater?

I don't remember honestly. The Syrian bride must be one of the last ones?

19. What's your favorite/preferred genre of movie?

Epic movies, drama, historic movies. I don't often enjoy comedies, ...Usually I find the humor too stupid.

20. What's the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?

Snowwhite. My mom took my as a kid while my dad and my sister went to see a more grown up movie at the same time.

21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?

no idea

22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?

some Japanese movie about Hiroshima during a filmfestival

23. What is the scariest movie you've seen?

No idea...If I think it'll be a scary movie, I already chicken out before I start watching.

From the slightest suspense I already close my eyes. This way I missed a lot from Foul Play, The 6th Sense, Silence of the Lambs, ...

24. What is the funniest movie you've seen?

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Foul play

Disappointed

Thanks to a little event like this , Jan is stuck in London. Since he already needs to back on Monday morning it's not going to worthwile for him to come tomorrow evening and go back immediately. So i'll spend the weekend alone in Belgium and he's going to be alone in London. And that sucks! It really sucks :(. Pfff.

And I miss him. I am used that he's not around all evenings but we usually spend our weekends together so it's weird now.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

small hartattack

For a couple of weeks I am following the reality/detective series "Wie is de Mol" on the Dutch television. the "Mol" is a Belgian tv format in which a group of people needs to do challenging assignments in a foreign setting but one of them must sabotage as much as possible the assignments without getting busted. The rest of the group needs to find out who is the "mol" in the group before they get executed. It's very thrilling. The formula was sold in more than 50 countries (long ago when reality tv was still new and refreshing ;) ) and it has won international prizes.

I absolutely loved the Mol on Belgian tv, but VRT did not broadcast it anymore in Belgian since 2003. By coincidence I stumbled on the Dutch version this winter shortly after the start and I picked it up there. I thought the final would be on March 1st, the day we left for Egypt.... No problem, I had programmed the DVD recorder so I wouldn't miss it.

Tonight I found some time to watch it and just when I think the mol will be discovered, the end titles appear! What!? I nearly had a hart attack! Did i watch it for weeks only to see that the last episode had been split up over 2 episodes and that I had missed the final probably on March 8th when we were still in Egypt with no dvd programmed. Damn damn, this could not be true! how stupid.


Then it came on the screen "final on March 15".... for some odd reason the Dutch tv programming skipped a week. So I can watch the final after all. Great!

Laundry instructions



Why do the laundry instructions on my sweater state that I can wash it at 30°C if it then shrinks to a size that I didn't have in the last 15 years?! Grrrrrr Argh. Maybe Luisa or Renée want a hairy red sweater in the coming years?

How do you like my haircut by the way? Just went to the hairdresser this weekend! Like Brianna states here: "nothing can pick up a girl like a new hair cut :p". :) Especially when it has become too long and unmanagable.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Kwimba bekoort

Last year the youth choir JKD in Deinze realised that after 20 years the choir was no longer a child and youth choir but an adult choir. And that all those adults were studying across the country, moving, marrying and having children etc which makes it hard to keep the choir going. With the disappearence of JKD, my flute didn't come out of its box very often anymore.

Fortunately our former director Jackie could not give up music and he was adopted by : Kwimba, a choir from Ghent looking for a new director. Fortunately Jackie also has not forgotten our phone numbers. For the 10th anniversary of Kwimba, a lot of old familiar JKD faces showed up as well to reinforce the concert a bit. I had the honor to play the flute again and sing even a little bit solo!

The rehearsals last weeks felt like a sort of homecoming. I had not realised how much I was missing the music already. It is soo nice to get together with a small group of people and play music together. And it's such a miracle when a group of people starts singing together and these wonderful voices melt together in strong powerful worldmusic !

The concert wasn't technically perfect but it was fun and that is what counts. Afterwards we could enjoy the friendship that such a concert brings at a reception in the sun :). I am glad I joined in today and I am sure that Jackie will find my telephone number next time again when they have a new concert. In the mean time, I think I'll look for a choir in Leuven because I enjoy making music so much and it's a good way to meet people.

Cursed by the bell

I survived last Friday in a state of sleepiness and a confused balance: I thought I still felt slightly the rocking of the boat. All of this was caused by a severe lack of sleep.

AT 1.30 AM we delighted a taxi driver at the airport by ordering to drive us to the nearby train station where we had parked our car (4km?)...he just barely didn't curse out loud for this short ride. Fortunately they are not allowed to refuse you, otherwise I fear non of them would ever give us a ride.

One hour later we could finally go to bed. Since we needed the parking space in front of our house for the carpenters, we had slid a little paper at the windshield of our neighbours car with the request to ring our doorbell when he left. Little did we know he already left at 5.30 AM for work. Yikes, not a pleasant hour to wake up by the doorbell. Hardly awake I jumped in some clothes and parked our car in front of the house. Phew, that strategy had worked and with parking space blocked by ourselves, we could go back to sleep for another couple of hours since the carpenters were not expected before 9.30 (due to traffic around Brussels).

The nasty doorbell disturbed harsly our dreams at 7.30 already. It took a while before we realised that the carpenters were already at our door a 'bit' earlier than they had predicted. So the night had ended for me and I had to jump in some clothes again and rush downstairs to open the door with my hear in lots of peaks. I don't remember what I mumbled but it must have sounded quite confused, but at least they were in and could start to work on our wardrobe in the bedroom/dressing and bathroom.

Jan poured himself full of coffee and started his day of working while I somehow passed the time, don't remember how. In the afternoon I decided I was tired enough to nap despite all the noise in the house. All cuddled up in the sofa I drifted off in a new dream when the doorbell rang again. What was wrong with that freaking doorbell today? I simply was not allowed to sleep a bit!
Anyway, it were too policemen who wanted to preach because one of the trucks was still parked on the sidewalk... I kindly called the carpenters down and disappeared again :p. And I gave up getting another nap and simply poured myself some cups of coffee as well.

In the mean time our bedroom/dressing and bathroom have been transformed and the base of all cupboards have been installed. Another step taken!

The award for our best vacation picture goes to ...

Runner up for it reflects the perfect summer relaxing atmosphere:




But the winner is definately ................




we'll publish more of our Hurghada pictures soon here.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

And some more diving

I am sorry if this gets boring but this is what our vacation was about: diving. We only took one day off to get some rest in the hotel as diving turns out to be quite tiring. And then I could enjoy 2 days of diving together with Jan and the live on board with the other divers that you start to get to know better and also the excellent food. I still need to practise a lot more on my buyancy control (read:being able to going up to 5 meters only when going up at the end), but it was always getting better. My last 3 dives were drift dives: the boat slowly goes on while all the divers jump out and then the boat leaves and we had to swim our way back to the boat a bit further. The very last dive, we went to some small cave with sharks in them! :)

















Getting my PADI open water



The next 2 days of my vacation were devoted to upgrading my Scuba diving certificate, which I got last year in India, to the PADI open water certificate.

I had the honor to have an instructor and a divemaster doing his apprenticeship as well, so I was double taken care for :). The course went fairly well except for that horrible exercise of taking my mask off under water. The thought of getting my eyes and nose in the water is somehow more problematic to me than exercises to take my regulator out of my mouth, or even taking my BCD out on the bottom of the sea. But I succeeded to do it the mandatory 5 times. Phewwww, ....but I do admit I need to practise that more until it does not freak me out anymore.

The written exam was a breeze. I did read the theory toroughly because I think it is important. Now I can proudly announce that I was the first one ever that wrote an exam at Blue Paradise with a score of 100%. Woohoo for myself!

So now I am a certified Open water diver! Yeaaaaah.

Finding Nemo...all over


Only 12 hours before I set foot on the African continent for the first time, the Belgian dive center "Blue Paradise" already picked us up for our first day of diving.

For practical reasons I didn't start my course yet on the first day but I could enjoy already 2 dives with Jan and a dive master/dive guide. This ended up being quite usefull for me as I soon experienced that diving is something you need to keep doing regularly. It all comes back soon but the first dive was still rather difficult for me due to my lack of experience. Before diving I thought sinking was one of the scary threads of diving (and not getting air), but it's actually more challenging to go down and to stay down! We all have a natural tendency to float and with a wetsuit and a tank full of air on your back, you are bound to float for sure. So my first dive was a jojo of going up and down much more than I actually wanted, needing more help than I wanted and starting to doubt a bit of what I had got myself into on this vacation. But the 2nd dive was already better and some forgotten principles like getting air out of your BCD when going up (how contradictory does that sound for the first time huh...but you need to compensate the expanding air in your tank and BCD...so very logical in the end!) got refreshed.

From the first dive onwards we already saw a lot of the fauna and flora below the Red Sea. The next time Nemo's dad is looking for his son, he should come to the Red Sea. Nemo was all over the place, as were many many butterfly fish, goldfish, goatfish, angelfish, etc...A very inspiring colorful and interesting new world!

White tailed plane

A nice white tailed plane brought Jan, me and a lot of other tourists last week to Hurghada. I guess the Tui group in Belgium keeps on having trouble with their planes after a lot of tourists got stuck in the beginning of this year. With the help of Jan's wide interest in planes and his always online phone, I got informed that we were flying with an Airbus formally used in Spain (hence all the signs still in Spanish inside) but recently sold to Sweden. So we flew with a blond Swedish crew, much to the exitment of some matcho passengers, so it seemed. Too white blond for Jan if I asked him if he was glad to be on board :p.

The meal distribution sure was a bit more chaotic with only 2 crew members talking Dutch or French and a lot of older people onboard not understanding English.

I really liked the fact that the bathrooms were downstairs! Apparenlty they had used part of the cargo space to build a line of toilets with some waiting seats which could be reached by some turning stairs downstairs. It almost gave a homy feeling, but the toilets itself were still the stereotypical claustrophobic little rooms.

The flight was long and boring, but I needed the time to study my diving course. I started reviewing the first chapters that I had taken already the previous year but I soon realised that I'd never be able to read all of the 350 pages again. So tired already after a while, I skipped to the new material to make sure I could finish at least those chapters. PADI has quite strict rules to be followed by their padi diving centers and last year in India they didn't even let me start any exercises before I had finished the book and the review questions of the chapters. I didn't want to risk not getting on the boat the next morning so I was dutifully reading my new chapters while fighting sleep.

The ecologic hype isn't very strong yet in Egypt, at least not stronger than the economics of tourism. As a result we landed first in Sharm El Sheik,Egypt, only to then fly 30 min more , 100 km across the Red Sea to land in our destination Hurghada. I suppose we all don't want to know how much kerosine this convenience has costed. At least now the passengers could clap their hands twice for a successfull landing. What is that with charter flights anyway? Should we start clapping in the bakery as well for receiving a well baked fresh bread? The pilots of scheduled flights must be so jealous that they never receive applause when they land :p.

Anyway, after a long afternoon flying and a smooth and very transfer in our hotel, we finally could crash in our hotel room and our vacation could start (since I did fill in my Padi review questions first :p).