Sunday, April 29, 2007

April's inventory

  • BBQ's : yes (3 of them already!)
  • Evenings late outside in top: yes
  • Days with airco on in the office: yes because it was 29C inside without it!
  • Been in a traffic jam on the highway towards the coast: yes
  • Been to the beach: yes
  • Have needed my sunglasses: yes
  • Have needed sunscreen : yes
  • Has rained: no not a single drop in 30 days!

Facts:
Average temperage this month was almost 4,5 C higher than normal up to :14,5C versus 9C. The 'high' day temperatures are even more than 7 C higher than normal. And in almost 200 years it has never , ever happened that a full month had no rain at all.

Just to confirm: I was in Belgium al along . What an absurd month, but I've enjoyed it very much.

Now released: our livingroom cupboards

Remember our difficult choice last fall? Thank you for giving feedback. With pride I can now post the pictures of the result and the choice we've made! Except for painting the MDF plates against the ceiling and around the fireplace and adding the last drawers, our livingroom is finally finished! Hurray hurray hurrray.




Summer fan

I don't get people who do not think summer is their favourite season. How can it not be? Personally i cannot doubt it at all: people go outdoors, you get to see more people, people relax more (having a drink on a terrace, going to outdoor music festivals, ...) , you get a tan, you can wear light clothes, the flowers and trees are all flourishing, ...
I simply love the sun, it gives so much energy and joy!

After a couple of meals outside in our little garden the last days, we went to look for some real garden furniture: a teak table and some chairs. It was quite busy in all garden centers and some models were even sold out due to the execptional hot weather we are still experiencing. But we found some that we really really liked from G&S teak. They look more modern than most chairs we've seen. Can't wait until they are delivered to us next Thursday.

Bloggers without make-up

Stephanie is challenging us all to post a picture from ourselves without make-up.

Actually it is not that challenging for me since I don't wear make-up most of the days. I really go in waves. There are weeks that I want to do it all the way: blush, eyeshadow, mascara, lipstick etc... But usually I don't have time at all and then it simply doesn't happen. I am always late to get out of the door and this is easily dropped. I tell my collegues that it is visible when I have been in a lot of traffic jams: when I show-up with lots of make-up , then I was stuck in traffic jam :p. Yes yes, I am one of the drivers that start putting on mascara in the car when traffic doesn't progress.

When I have to go to a party, I do always put make-up on. It does put me in a more festive mood.

But anyway, I had to pick a picture. It is one from our latest diving vacation in Egypt, when I am sitting in the sun in between 2 dives. So there is no hair brushing, no make-up, no stylish dress.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What kind of blogger am I?

When we were kids, we filled in little quizzes in magazines to know what type of ... we were. Now we are grown-ups and we do quizzes online :p :

You Are a Life Blogger!
Your blog is the story of your life - a living diary.If it happens, you blog it. And make it as entertaining as possible.

Bribing the window cleaners

My desk is currently in a side building of the brewerie's HQ , "the chalet" with view on the other buildings on one side and on a field with horses on the other. The nice view had gotten very dusty lately so it was about time some window cleaners came by.

While the windows were getting their magic transformation, I tried to eat my sandwiches as elegantly as possible at my desk. It's a bit weird to have lunch with an audience.
Afterwards I went to get some cold drinks in the cafeteria and I crossed those men again on the trail outside:

"Very nice weather, isn't it, madam" (huh...me a madam?)
"Yeah, isn't it great?"

on the way back with a supply of cold fanta in my hands

"Oh that looks great"
"you want one?? If I give you a fanta would you come wash my windows at home?"
"Oh Pete might do that, isn't it?"
...Pete just laughed and went into the building as well.

I guess next time I'll have to bribe them with something better than cold Fanta. So it remains on my urgent chore list at home.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wrong calender


Is this April? hey I am not complaining....I just wonder how much more of this great weather we can get in April? How long can we last with summer weather and no rain in Spring? 5 more days? And what about May?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Phonecall

Phonecalls late in the evening are not to be trusted, unless they come from Jan. Jan dares to phone me until midnight or after, trusting that I'll put my mobile on silent when I go to bed.

But other people that ring on the normal telephone...that is not good and it wasn't this time either. An old friend of my parent's has unexpectedly died. Someone I've know quite well myself as long as I lived at home. He was all of his life my parent's garage dealer, he has taught all of us (my dad, my mom, my sister and I) to drive a car and I often have to think about him still when driving and some lessons he taught us.

He was a huge man, I mean litterally...if he has been in the driver's seat it was all the way back! ...He was an intelligent man studying law and other subjects in his spare time and discussing multiple topics with us over a cup of coffee after our driving lessons.
He had the most impossible messy garage you can imagine but he knew the whereabouts of every document.

Some people you judge immortal, but apparently they aren't. It's hard to believe some people are all of a sudden gone.

Monday, April 23, 2007

New rooms

We've come to the stage that we could put furniture in our basements and walk freely around there without feeling in a piled up warehouse! It's not yet clutter free at all but I am proud of the transformation we did (check out the previous posts to see where we were coming from)

Hey, and probably many of the next posts will be written down there at my new desk!



Adventures in babysitting

Sunday was a sunny day full of new adventures for me:


* I tasted patoto/vegetables/chicken mash for the first time since probably 28 years? And a couple of hours later some fruitsalad.
* We waved 100 times to an invisible object in the clear blue sky "nam"...which turned out to be the moon
* We also waved to many airplanes going by high in the sky.
* We mastered the skill of putting empty toilet roles over a stick and swinging it around
* We did the spectacular activity of bird spotting
* I put a baby in bed in the middle of the afternoon without any protest
* I drove around with a toddler in my car for the very first time and had the experience of having all views commented by my little passenger. "Cow" "Car" "Car" "Sheep" "Car auntie Ellen" , alternated with some soft humming and some whining when the teddybears had fallen.
* I managed to deliver a clean, dressed up, happy toddler at his mommy and daddy at an ongoing communion party.









Sunday, April 22, 2007

The partner for hopeless cases

Some facts:

* there is an investigation ongoing against Citibank in Belgium : they would specifically target people with financial problems for more debts to get them hooked on high interests.

* The Belgian national soccer team "The Red Devils" are loosing all games lately. They are doing soo poorly that not a single Flemish tv station entered a bid for the tv rights for the coming EC selection ! They also lost their current sponsor.

....
* In the news: Citibank is interested to become the new sponsor of the Red Devils.


I don't think the investigators need more proof?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The treasure of books

Another phase in my integration in Leuven: I became member of the local city library. And that's good and bad news for my mother. She is now almost(*) dismissed from her book returning duty. I drop off my finished books at home and my mom returns them then to the library. BUt now she cannot start reading in my returned books either. Mom, you'll have to go and check yourself when a new book of Isabel Allende has arrived!

Don't you love going to libraries? All the books are there holding so many promises for many sweet or thrilling or moving hours of stories. Their titles, their looks, ... they all hold mysteries. You never know before you start reading yourself! Will I like the book, will it mesmerize me or will I get bored? The books make you dream of far destinations, heroes and interesting life stories, historic events, ... You meet new characters, etc... The section with travel guides is next to the novels, the best part of the library

Switching libraries is confusing though: exciting to enter and discover this new place and its treasures, confusing due to the new environment where I don't know immediately where Michael Connelly or Sinoué or ... other authors are standing, sad to miss the familiar library where I spent so much time (including 4 summerjobs).

I actually don't go very often to the library anymore since I am always very "bookhungry" and too enthusiastic and I usually leave with a huge pile of books :p. However I don't have the time to read many or them quickly, so despite many good intentions, I do not return regularly to the library. To be honest, the last years I went 2-3 times a year to the library, came out with the max number of books on my card (10) and then needed the full max prolonged period that I could keep them (6 months). In leuven I can max prolong my books twice so that's not even 3 months and I can take out 20 books on my card. Hmm I'll either have to speed up my reading speed by 4 or I'll have to learn to take out less books at once!

I am always reading a book though, can't be without one. And I always carry it with me in the car to work and back... you just never know that I hit a big boring non moving traffic jam. It has happened before that I've read some dozens of pages in the car! But in smooth traffic days, I do not progress in books quickly.

(*) 2 more books on its way, mom! One will arrive this weekend

The wild wild west

Euh... ok, prison escapes starts to become a trend in Belgium, but this is an incredible story. Just how absurd can this country get , I wonder.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Heaven in The Hague

Can you choose a better moment to visit good friends that live at 1 km from the beach than last weekend ? All heat records were broken...woohoo 28 C in mid april. Awesome, super cool. Excellent timing to drive to Scheveningen (the beach side of The Hague).

So all set in a little top and my white light skirt and some sunscreen we drove north to the Netherlands! Going back there always brings loads of memories and nostalgia for Jan and me, since we both lived there and we met each other over there.

As was to be expected, Scheveningen was very very crowded but we were smart enough not to attempt to drive up to the full parking lots and get stuck there in the traffic jams that lasted all day. Somehow the Dutch have the habit to go and stand in line for a parking lot that is full and they wait until sufficient people have left the parking lot , so that they can enter and park. How depressing is that on a sunny day in the morning??? Who would leave early anyway? I don't get it at all. When living in my appartment at the beach in 2001, I remember being stuck once for one hour in such a traffic jam at 100m from my garage that was just after an entry of a parking lot. I had to wait until 10 cars had left the parking, so that the cars before me could enter it. It drives you nuts!!

But now we parked in a residential area just before Scheveningen and walked in the sun towards our friends' house.

It was a fabulous day in the sun and it was HOT! Traditionally we had to finish our day at the beach in one of the many "strandtenten" as we've done so often in 2001. And traditionally we went for only a drink, but we stayed until after dinner ...until it really got too chilly to stay much longer. Unfortunately this time I still had to drive 2 hours home, rather than walking 2 minutes to my ex-closeby appartment. Some things never change, but other things do I guess. I don't think that 6 years ago Kristel and Arnaud would have thought they would be still sitting there in 2007 expecting their second child and Jan and I being a couple as well :). Would we still come all together to the beach in Scheveningen in 5 years??? Who knows?












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Picture riddle: find the differences 2

This is a tough one once more:





Not quite an office space yet, but we are getting there! Adding some colorful furniture and in a couple of weeks, I could be blogging over there!

Flashing

Friday night when taking my pants off, I noticed a hole on the back of my ass.
Oh great, I've been wearing them at work and in Ghent. I have no clue to how many people I've been flashing my white underpants and the degree that it has been visible or not. It was in the edge and the pants were not tight, so I might have been lucky. I really didn't hear anyone chuckling out loud.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Early summer

Gosh I adore summer days! I crave for summer days! Nothing can go wrong on summer days as today! My body sucks in the sun and transforms it into energy and relaxation at the same time. On those days I wonder how I survive cold grey days when it is no summer.

Can you believe that it was 25 C today! Wooohoooo. On those day's I'll almost foolishly wish that that global warming truly creates a mediterrenian climate here.

Despite the good weather, I gave myself some pep talk in the morning and then descended in the basement to start sanding the wall again. No fun job since I had plastered with too thick material before and as a result I had too many thick edges. I was frustrated with myself for not having done a good job before and for spending my day in the basement when the weather was so great. But Jan joined me downstairs and together we managed to fix everything up by noon and by 3 PM the office space got its first layer of paint. yeah, always great to see very visual progress!!

The rest of the afternoon was lazely spent in the garden in the sun with a book working on my tan, then we went shopping and had our first bbq of 2007. Hmm I have to admit it, life can be great!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Early birthday surprise

My 30th birthday is still half a year away. But I already received my first birthday present unexpectedly.

Jan has managed to buy us tickets for the 30th anniversary tour of The Police! The first concert in Antwerp on Oct 8th was sold out immediately but we didn't try to get any tickets. But I must admit that afterwards I was disappointed that we hadn't even tried although I didn't talk about it with Jan.
A couple of days later a 2nd concert was scheduled in Antwerp on October 9th. The sales of those tickets were on sales on some weekday last week, so I couldn't even try to phone or e-mail while being at work. But apparently someone else did.... We were on the waiting list but apparently a lot of people order tickets without paying for them within 4 days and as a result, Jan got confirmation today that we have bought 2 tickets. And he surprised me with this early birthday present :).

Monday, April 9, 2007

Out dining in Gent

Last Saturday we went to Ghent to meet up with some of our friends for some food and drinks. Jan had proposed this week to go dining in the Raj , a well-known Indian restaurant on the Oude Houtlei. I have walked by there so many times and it looks like a really great setting to eat. It's been there for years and most people know the restaurant so we assumed it was good. We had already tried to go in without reservation once, but it was full.

This time we had made a reservation and we got a table in a "zitput"... the table is very low near the floor and but your feet can hide in the space below the floor so that you can still sit comfortable in a western way. (well actually the floors have been raised and are full of pillows, so it's really trompe-l'oeil).

Other than the nice setting, the rest of the restaurant experience was a disappointment. The Indian food didn't taste Indian at all. It were all "sweetened" curries with hardly any spices in. The rice table was supposed to come with chapati's but after asking 3 times (and explaining that is actually on the menu and that we were supposed to get it) and waiting for a long time we were finally info that they had run out of this typical Indian bread. Huh...in an Indian restaurant at 8 Pm that has no more chapati's? Clearly they did not bake them themselves and they had simply not bought them in stock. They had never heard of Naan bread as an alternative.
Ok fine, we'll just eat more rice that we could order multiple times. We needed something to eat the sauces with ! But each time it took ages to cath the attention of the waiters and every serving of rice that came was on a smaller and smaller plate!

At 9u30 they refused new people in the restaurant even though there was space again! 10 minutes later 2 people could come in for some drinks only.

After our meal it took about 30 minutes before they took our order to get some coffees and teas! And when we wanted to order some more at only 23h15, they bluntly said "Oh we are sorry, we do not serve any drinks any more, we want to close". What the hell???? fine, just give us the bill then, we are glad to go and never come back!

Today we heard from other people that they had to wait so long to get their orders taken that they simply left. And I read some more negative feedback on the internet. I don't get it that this restaurant is always busy...they must survive on first time visitors and tourists only. Pfff. What a disgrace.

A beautiful day outside

Today Renée came with her parents to visit us and to see the renovations in our house. The bakery is only closed on Monday and since we were home for Easter monday it was a perfect day for a visit and for a walk in Leuven.

And it was the first day in 2007 that we've been able to eat outside on a terrace! I bet all the Americans spending the Easter holidays in the snow are extremely jalous.









Spring


Men will always remain boys

Guess who enjoys spending time with our nephews and nieces very much?? ... because of their toys!






Easter time with my family

We traditionally spend our holidays with our family. Very often we go for an extensive lunch first at my parents place and then we spend the late afternoon/ evening with Jan's parents. As most holidays it was a challenging day for our stomacs as we were being spoiled by both our parents with lots of good food, champagne and wine. Mmmm.




My little nephew sure still enjoys all snacks as well!



... and he loves the cats outside!

And he likes to go and watch the ducks a bit further in the street


Luisa searches for Easter eggs and chocolates


My nieces gave the fishes their Easter treat





The toys in the grandparents garden were so much fun in the first sun!

Sunday morning traditions

In many Belgian families it is a tradition to go to the bakery on Sunday morning to get fresh breakfast pastries.

.... on holidays it is even a bit busier!


Happy Easter


No matter which significance it has for you, I wish you all a Happy Easter!
(translation: "my ass hurts"...."what?")

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Good week

This week was better than last week concerning work. I managed to reduce a little bit of my backlog and at least I have now an overview at my to do's.

Secondly it's great that it's spring, sunny, with trees starting to have leaves and 2 horses jumping around outside my office window clearly influenced by their hormones.

Further we got our laundry dryer installed today and my PADI diving open water card was in the mail. yeaaah.

Finally it was great that there are still so many young people coming to celebrate together the strong moments of the year.

Otters holding hands

I've seen these otters before in the Vancouver Aquarium and now they are world famous thanx to Youtube! They are always soooo cute.





This is one of them in 2005!






Otters holding hands

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

If ancient Rome had the internet

Via some other blogs I stumbled on this post over here:

  • The destruction of Pompeii in 79AD is the most viewed video at YouTube. The first comment is..."OMG so cool! Volcanos ROCK!"
  • Attila the Hun has his own MySpace page. Nobody ever rejects his "invite a friend" emails.
  • The soothsayer's "Ides of March" email fails to get Caesar's proper attention as it's inadvertently filtered into his junk folder.
  • But at least Caesar's "Et tu Brute?" comment is available as a free ringtone download.
  • The domain gladiator.rome sells for the record sum of 1,000,000 denarii.
  • The owner of hadriansucks.rome is compelled to hand over both the domain name and selected body parts by an independent domain tribunal chaired by...Emperor Hadrian.
  • "Naked Cleopatra" is the top search term on Google.
  • Unfortunately, the Queen of Egypt dies an early death after misunderstanding IT's call to embrace an ASP solution.
  • Hannibal blogs his way across the Alps with posts like, "Whoops, lost another elephant today."
  • But he runs out of money when his PPC budget is plundered by an iberian click scam organized by Publius Cornelius Scipio.
  • Tiber.com opens, initially selling scrolls and tablets before expanding to include togas, pottery, and do-it-yourself mosaic kits.
  • Websites like handsome-literate-male-british-slave.com pollute the search listings thanks to generous commissions at the slaves.co.rome affiliate program.
  • Roman programmers moan about projects outsourced to cheap coders in Mesopotamia.
  • The Colosseum is renamed the eBay Colosseum, with free wireless hotspots outside the lark's tongue restaurant.
  • The volume of spam collapses when the penalty for not providing a working opt-out mechanism becomes equal billing with the lions at the eBay Colosseum.
  • But we still get emails featuring Brunhilda, the lonely Visigoth, and hot deals on cheap peacock livers from Gaul.
  • Nobody invents a spam filter good enough for the House of the Vestals.
  • Classical geeks wear t-shirts proclaiming, "there's no place like CXXVII.0.0.I" (bonus points if you get that one)
  • Finally, Rome burns to the ground while Emperor Nero battles online with Hakkar the Soulflayer in World of Warcraft.

Cool huh.... So I challenge you all to come of with some of these for a different time period. I am looking forward to your comments!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Update

Concerning this: the edges of the bruise are now green/yellow so it starts to fade away! :)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Marrocan hospitality

On our hike I had met some new people including Belkacem, a Marrocan man living in Leuven as well. On the hike we were supposed to bring our lunch. All us Belgians had brought our own sandwiches but Belkacem prooved to have a magic backpack out of which he brought for us packets of cookies, yoghurt drinks, dades, oranges, ....

Last Friday he invited us over for dinner. From the last experience we somehow expected to get a lot of food, but the abundance of food that we got served that night passed all our expectations.

19h30 : 5 of us arrive at a table with plates full of different types of nuts, Marrocan biscuits, dades, ... and we got served excellent sweet mint tea.

20h30: We all enjoy the nuts and biscuits and for a moment I doubt that there will be more food than this anyway since all that Belkacem prepares in his tiny kitchen is more types of tea in his beautiful silver teapots and his cute little teaglasses. But that's ok, a table full of biscuits and nuts and dades is more than enough to fill our hunger.

21h: Nele tells us that Belkacem keeps on disappearing in the hallway because his neighbour and best friend is actually cooking a full meal for us. At that moment he comes in with 2 big plates of Marrocan pancakes/bread ....too good not to eat a couple of them.

In the mean time we discuss cultural differences, get a look in the koran and we are showed some arabic sattelite channels, ...

22h: We realise we are not hungry anymore. In the mean time we've met the neighbour chef cook who is preparing the meal for us. One of us is not going to be able to catch the last train anymore and phones his sister so he can sleep over at her room in Leuven where she studies. She decides to come over as well and we invite another girl as well...that makes 7 eaters :p.

22h30: After bringing over more chairs and an extra small table from the helpfull neighbour we all serve ourselves from a huge plate with a Maroccan salad: potatoes with cumin (hey that is a recommendation!), tunasalad, avocado's, ...... and lots of fresh bread. We all take one serving and the plate is still 75% full. Our hosts disappear again after opening a couple of bottles of wine for us although they don't drink alcohol themselves.

23h: Our guests arrive with 2 huge plates of grilled fishes, deep fried scampi's and huge shrimps. While I wasn't hungry anymore , this is just too tempting so I'll squeeze a bit more and have a go at the fish and shrimps! Very good.
Our hosts disappear again and when we ask them whether they are still cooking and try to tell them that we already had plenty of food, they promise us that they are just going to do dishes.
But when they were telling that in Maroc when you have guests , you need to serve them an abundance of food and something of everything (meat, fish, ....) I realise we have not had meat yet.

Midnight: More to my despair than my joy, they both arrive with a huge plate for each of us with a chunck of lamb, couscous, ....I already give up in advance, while others start to laugh in this surreal situation. Only Jan manages to finish half of us plate, for most of us it looks like we hardly touched it. We actually don't know if it is insulting that we cannot finish or it's the goal to serve your guests much more food than they can eat. We all feel a bit embarrassed, tired and very very full!
In the end we feel too guilty and ask if we can take our portions home to enjoy it the next day;

00h30: We crash back in the sofa. We all look exhausted and the sight of us all is actually very funny. We look as if we have survived a battlefield. We are served more mint tea and .................. an enormous tray of fresh fruits (pineapple, 2 types of bananas, 2 types of grapes, plums, oranges, strawberries, ....). The conversation becomes quite absurd "who wants to share a strawberry with me?" "I am doing better, I have already eaten 3 grapes".


When we walk back home with our tupperware pot full of couscous, I realise I've just had a wonderful meeting with a new culture that I will not quickly forget. It sure makes you think on how we receive sometimes guests on a lot more formal and maybe calculated way. On the other hand, I am way too rational to cook for 20 people if you only expect 5 :p... I wonder whether we were polite to take food home or not...
"Food" for thought since I sure didn't need anything in my stomac for a while.

Tense

I hope next week will be better than last week, because I was really stressed and tense. I don't know why really: I often have a lot of work to do and last week wasn't particularly worse than others but last week stress and fatigue hit me.

With the renovations going on each weekend, the battle against dust in our house is quite hopeless. At work I had to give training sessions to new employess during the last weeks and that has been extended for the coming 2,5 weeks. In the mean time all the other work keeps arriving and piling up in a nice backlog, which starts to frustrate me more and more. Especially last Thursday I was all worked up and I even physically felt my muscles being tense. Everything worked on my nerves all of a sudden and my colleagues couldn't do much good. The irony is that on such days, you don't achieve anything really :p.

Anyway, next week will bring as much work as this one or even more.... I just I can cope with it better. Let's start with going to bed at time (after "Flikken" of course). Sleep....Nice, something to look forward to.