Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What a great place to live

Hey Julia, I am jealous! You live in the best city in the world to live in (source Economist Intelligence Unit)!
Hey Allie, Calgary is doing very well also in the top 10! Way to go, Canada, 3 cities in the top 10....should I get homesick again? Should we move?

Brussels is 28th place in the world, but I am sure Leuven is a better place to live than Brussels ;). And according to Mercer, Brussels is the 14th best city already. So I guess I am not too bad off either. But it probably can't beat Vancouver!

Help my tiles melted!!

I turned the heating too hot in the bathroom and look, now my tiles started melting!


Just kidding....I found them on the internet at www.blobb.us! Cool huh.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Peeking at other renovation projects

Today was "De Vlaamse Renovatiedag" (= The Flemish Renovationday). That day you can visit multiple renovation projects in the neighbourhood. 2 years ago Sofie and I went to see some renovated houses around Ghent and I really saw some cool stuff! Houses merged together, huge void spaces, intransparant glass outer walls, floating stairs, pivoting doors/walls, accordeon glass doors (which we had already chosen at that moment anyway, but nice to see it confirmed in other modern renovation projects), ....

This time we went to see some projects in Leuven. It wasn't so inspirational for me as last time, but that's probably because it was the second time and we needed less inspiration anyway.

It's funny how different people approach it in different ways: some guide you around in a construction site where your imagination still needs to work to make it all come together, others casually let all the people look around while hanging up some plans on the wall, while in other houses the architects are prominently promoting themselves with cards and photomaterial of other projects and with publications in all kinds of books, while others gave every visitor a free icecream!

What they all have in common though is: partly rebuilding the backside with lots of glass windows, big sliding doors or accordeon doors towards the garden, skylights, open staircases or at least a central (industrial) staircase, void spaces across floors bringing the light across the house, floating floors, minimalistic interior, ... I wonder if there is any classic less modernistic renovations going on, or do they simply do not take part in initiatives like these? If not, I think we Flemish have a lot of style :p.
It's all about opening up the old seperate little rooms, brining light across the entire house, connecting spaces, ...

All in all, such visits to other renovations were also a nice ego booster for myself. Because I seriously think our house would fit in the row of houses we've visited. It wouldn't be the most extravagant, but it would fit in. When I stated this, I immediately got into a discussion with Jan that I wanted people running in our house next year etc... That's not what I wanted to say, although I wouldn't mind that during a couple of hours. But I don't need to have my house in architecture books or something...I can already brag on here ;). I am just a bit proud and that's ok, isn't it?

....And it's also nice to see that other people with extravagant houses also have little painting errors :p.

Cooking weekend

Without any doubt, Jan is the chef in our house. He's a far better cook than I am, he can make up recipes from the heart, and by the time I get organised, he has already a tasty meal ready.
I don't cook very often anymore and I regret that. On the other hand when I get the chance to cook for myself on weekdays, I feel too tired and I am all to happy when I find something in to warm up: Jan's left-overs, a ready-to-go meal, something really quick to bake.

This weekend I really felt the urge to really cook a meal again. A long walk through Leuven on Saturday only increased that feeling: we snooped around in Oil & Vinigar and tasted some really good oils and got seduced by the tomato balsamic. Then on the market we couldn't walk by the olive stand without buying. Mmmm, the look alone of those piles of different olives! And afterwards Jan pointed a very good fishstore and a very good cheese store in town. Always good to know!

And then it was my turn. A spicy Thaï chicken soup, a warm Marrocan aubergine salad (I can recommend the recipe!! Very refreshing with lemon juice, koriander and cumin!) and pork chops. Tonight I really wanted to try the tajine and the Maroccan cookingbook that I received last week from my friends. The first try was already a good one: lamb tajine with dades and couscous. Mmmm tastes like more. I think Jan 'll have to get used to me cooking now and then again :-) especially now we are getting more time in weekends with less renovations to finish. It was fun, but I know myself: no extensive cooking on weekdays, I fear.

Friday, May 25, 2007

We're not minimalistic

Since we renovated an old house, it also holds some old features :)







We're minimalistic

Recently I got a comment that our bedroom looked nice minimalistic. That is actually one of the things I am most proud of in our renovations. Fortunately Jan and I share the same taste and rarely ever have discussions on the style we want to decorate our house in. When snooping around in magazines or stores we curl up our nose over the same things and we stop to look for mostly the same things. Whenever we make choice we try to consistently go for strict lines in our house.


Here's some of the cool spots in our house:










Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tags

  • I am very excited to put on some of my newly bought clothes.
  • I notice that my new pants still have the tags on.
  • I think 'I'll put them on now and when I go downstairs to the kitchen I'll cut them of with some scissors'
  • I put them on
  • I go downstairs
  • I leave the house and go to work

ok...where did I go wrong again? Thank God I was wearing a long tunique so I didn't make an eternal fool of myself.

London's burning

...a bit. Yesterday morning a bit of English history has burnt. Wow, what a pity. The Cutty Sark was a beauty and now she's gone.
This shot of the Cutty Sark fully ablaze was sent in by Elfar Ingvarsson to the BBC.

Here's some of my memories from 2005.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Prozac

I wonder: does prozac exist for birds?



This blackbird is screaming nonstop today,...very annoying after a while. I suspect that he is defending his nest from the many neighbourhood cats. Only, all the gardens are very small, so the cats are always around and therefore the blackbird remains very very noisy.

My herbs


A couple of weeks ago I planted some herbs and I see them proudly growing every day :). We've already enjoyed

* fresh mint on our strawberries and some lemon juice,

* lemon balm and mint in a cold cucumber soup,

* oregano and chives in a shrimp salad with avocado

* chicken roles with bacon and sage

...


So great to be able to pick your own fresh herbs from the garden!


Sunday day of rest

Jan caught me during a little nap this afternoon. It was a wel deserved one: the previous days my parents were here and while Jan was painting and my dad was scratching of the paint of our stairway, my mom and I cleaned out all the cabinets in the bedroom and kitchen and we cleaned touroughly the entire house. Pheew lots of work achieved!

And yesterday evening we had friends coming over for dinner. Good times!


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tired

A lot of parishes in Belgium organise on Ascension Day the First Communion of 6-7 year olds. As a result, it is a day that a lot of family parties are happening. We also had a family gathering to celebrate my cousin first removed's first Communion. The inflated castle was a big big hit for the children that were present! It was so much fun to watch them jumping around. I am sure they'll all sleep very well.

And now we are enjoying the sofa as well, with our stomacs full of BBQ and pastries and our legs tired of playing with the many children. I think I'll sleep well also.

update with some real pictures:




Delurkingweek in Belgium



In January I read this on Betsy's blog and I had no clue what she was talking about. 'Delurking' what a creepy monster was that? By the time I had consulted my dictionnaries, the delurking week was over.

And now I meet this banner on some Belgian blogs. Cool, now I am not too late to join in. Because I am very curious to know as well who visits my blog anonymously.

So all my friends, relatives, neighbours, (ex-)colleagues, shy people, passers by, fans, secret readers, ... you are very welcome to leave a comment just for once so I know you are reading along. Just a hi or hello with your (nick)name is enough although all other remarks are welcome too. It's easy to do : click on the "goofy remarks" below this post and type your comment.

And those who want to join in the delurking week, you're welcome to join Zezunja's initiative!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Too close?

Everyday when I arrive home I have the dilemma: stay in the right lane and hope there is a parking spot in front of the door, or go to the left lane and turn off for the parking lot over there. When either one is full I have to move around a full block to return to my point of arrival and make the other choice.

So I always hope that traffic is not busy and that I get a good glance in advance of the parking spaces left on either side. I make a quick visual picture and try to 'see' whether there are cars missing. Yesss, on the right just in front of our house were only 2 cars instead of 3! So I kept right and drove in front of our house to park over there. Only at that point I saw that the second car had left about 2 meters in between himself and the previous car, leaving not much space for me to park. Half pissed off I am determined to park there anyway and that anger probably helped me to squeeze in perfectly parallell at 6 cm of the previous car.

When I get out, the old driver in that car (yes he was in there reading a book!) turns his window down agitatedly "Hey, how do you think I have to get out of here?" "Eum sir, you have 2 meters behind you to back up so that should be no problem" "You are not allowed to park that close to me, you have to leave." "Sir you have 2 meters behind you, you have lots of room since you parked rather unsocial in the first place. "

Quite angry I got in our house. When I left the house for yoga class 10 minutes later, he was signalling again that I had to leave. Pheww, I really needed that yoga class by that time! And I felt sorry for the old man since he probably needed some relaxation exercises as well.

Monday, May 14, 2007

It looks like a bedroom

And we can finally move out of our guest room tonight (which means there is room for guests!)





Sunday, May 13, 2007

Go Canada

Congratulations to the Canadian ice hockey team. Apparently, they just became for the 24th time world champion. Hurray!

Doing a Christo wrapping

I was inspired by Christo today.




My mom

Because it's mother's day, here are some pictures of my mom!


In 1969 birth of my sister , in 1977 birth of myself




Mother of 2 daughters


Who grew up in the mean time


And now she is also a proud grandmother of Stef

Eurovision kitch festival final

Well after all my blogging activity on Thursday I ought maybe write something about the final as well. Only that's a bit hard since I hardly saw it. We were visiting Jan's aunt at that moment and the tv was on but we were at the table, so I could only get a few impressions.

And my impressions was: we had everything possible there: brassband music (Germany?), popdance (Russia), classical music (Latvia, Slovenia), Rhythm (Bulgaria), regional predictable stereotypes (Greece, Turkey), kitch contentless popsongs (UK), folk (Ireland), and the most horrible undefineble freak circus of Ukraine. There were some things that I liked eg the simple honest song of Hungary, the always catching Turkish rythms , ...
I totally missed the winning song of Serbia and when listening to it now on the radio it doesn't get me hot or cold.
...something that can be said of the entire show. Somehow I am always curious and at the same time bored and a bit frustrated by the uncomprehensible voting results. But it's ok to follow it just once a year. Thank God, only once a year.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

No final

Hmm it's clear that I do not have a big influence with my blog :p... We did not get enough votes to go to the final on Saturday. We are getting used to it lately.

oh well, can't say I am heartbroken since I am new to the song as well. We'll have to keep playing Sandra Kim ;).

Belgian's participant

Eurovision kitch festival

May 10th.... Eurovision time again! The Eurovision songcontest seems to be hot in the blogosphere with previews and lots of life blogging going on during the semi-finals. A good moment to join :p.

No no, don't expect life comments from me, I refer to the other links above for that or to the many newspaper comments that will be available tomorrow. I am just amused by the phenomenon of the Eurovision songfestival. As a child I was an absolute fan! Well it's not like you could swith channels in the 80ies to watch something else since almost all channels were broadcasting it. Now there are much more commercial channels that are not part of the European broadcasting unit.

As the hit of the Fikskes looks back with nostalgia to their youth, I totally agree with the sentence "Songfestival, yeah, later to bed!!". Which parent could send their children to bed before all artists had performed. And as a child you truly appreciate all kitch and glitter and show with a naieve openess. I considered it all as big Art.

(interruption of some life blogging after all: the bra of the Estonian girl is a bit tooo pushed up to look nice!! Will or will they not pop out, that's the question. Hmm no, they seem firm, no nipplegate in Europe tonight.)

After 1987 when Belgium has won the only time with Sandra Kim, I was naturally one of the many many girls imitation Sandra! And the years after I was totally into it, taping it all to video and watching my own reruns over and over. i think I am still a walking encyclopedia of groups that have playe at the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties!

But then you grow up, you notice it's always the same superficial shit, that it's full of kitch, horrendous costumes and lame dances. As adolescent and young adult you definately do not want to watch the Eurovision song contest anymore. But secretly I was waving my hands on the song of Vanessa Chinitor at my desk while studying .

(new iterruption...Belgians song is quite funky...only heard it for the first time yesterday evening)

(oh gosh what a horrible gothic woman on stage now for Slovenia...yikes, go home please).

The year that we almost won for the second time, I didn't stay home to watch it. It was Urban Trad that was representing Belgium and I am a big big fan of their folk music. But my friends where going out to a pub and who was I to stay home for the Eurovision song contest huh. But soon in the evening it became clear that we had a hit and the tv got turned on int he pub and in the end we had the most incredible exciting evening with a huge crowd cheering for our band as if we were watching the world cup. And tragedy oh tragedy, we lost with 1 point from Turkey. Tragedy oh tragedy, we had given 12 points to Turkey ourselves rather than 10.

Another special eurovision for me was in 2001 when I watched it while visiting a bbq: tv was on but the CD-player played different music. The entire show has immediately a huge comic potential when you can only watch the stereotypical dances and the mimic of the performers and you have to imagine the music that comes along :p

But now it seems to be cool again to watch the Eurovision songcontest, even the semi-finals are important enough to cause a lot of blogging activity. That's even amazing for Flanders since we basically only participate every second year. When Wallonia sends in their participant, the Flemish are usually completely ignorant about the song that is participating for our country. And then we watch our own country as if it was a foreign country "hmm I wonder what we'll bring tonight " :p. What do you expect ? We live in a schizophrenic country.
As an adult you watch it differently: you have to watch to be able to join the discussions afterwards, we watch to judge the clothes, the dances, ...and to maybe like some songs. At least, that is why I watch.

So what does it bring to us again? Usually a lot of songs that you usually would never hear on the radio. Somehow participants bring a song that is "typical" eurovision and therefore anything but regular.

Ok Televoting starts....can anyone vote for Belgium please? it was a bit out of tune, but we deserve to get in the final just once more. it's a quite cool funky song!

Crap oh Crap bis

After 10 days we had a scheduled appointment to fix our fridge. I managed to work from home because the 'nice' 'friendly' lady of customer service at our supplier, could not tell me at all when the technician would come by. 'Between 8u - 17u'. It took actually 2 days to schedule the appointment because they needed every possible number stickered inside the fridge before the appointment could be made. You wonder why foreigners hate the European customer service , huh?

Anyway shortly after noon, a young and friendly technician came by. At least he didn't share the rudeness of his telephonic colleagues. But my fear came through: he could not fix it this time. He was missing a little plastic part that had been broken off. I would think that if you have to give production date, series number, type number, .... and you tell them the hinge has broken off...I would think they'd bring all the parts. I must be an overly demanding person since it was not the case. Grrrr.

So after surviving 10 days with our little fridge in the basement and room temperature drinks, we have to wait one more week before he comes back. Pfffffffffffff. Oh well an extra week won't really matter anymore, will it?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Goodbye Kim

Our Kim quits playing professional tennis as of today :( . Noooo way to soon. We knew that Kim Clijsters would stop somewhere during this season but at least I hoped she'd play until the fall.

In Antwerp in February she played for the last time in Belgium and there was a big emotional goodbye organised. Since that moment, apparently she cannot motivate to train anymore. She's in the midst of all preparations for her upcoming marriage so that is understandable. And if you are not motivated, it's better not to play.

But it's so disappointing though, she is still so young! She could still play so many games, win so many games!!! She could if she wanted to. And we'd be so proud of her.

She turned all of Belgium into tennisfans and now we cannot cheer for her anymore. No more msn statusses "hup Kim hup", no more secret scorewatching during work or sms'ing the score to friends. I remember her first grand slam final against Jennifer Capriati in 2001 at the French Open/Roland Garros. I had visitors in The Hague so I felt obliged to showed them around downtown. But we ended up watching the game in a TV store anyway. There was a big crowd there watching but we were kicked out of the store. Then we landed in a different smaller tv store and also there a group of people was frozen in front of the tv's. The people there actually kept the store open a bit longer so we could watch until the end! The 3rd set went up to 12-10! What a thriller. Then I discovered how fun tennis could be, thanks to Kim.

I am really going to miss her. We still have Justine in Belgium, but Justine Henin has a totally different personallity. I prefer Kim's outgoing relax attitude, even when she got less dedicated to tennis because of that. It's cool that she has different interests as well. She honestly seems to like people even her opponents and that has made her such a beautiful champion.

Fortunately Justine is very very dedicated to tennis still and I suspect she'll still be the world number one for a while. So from now one...Hup Justine hup.

I am too popular

I always try to be modest but this time I have to admit it: I am extremely popular!!! I am so popular to the extent that I am getting tired of it. Tired of the signs of affection I get by my admirers.

6 incredibly itchy insect bites on my feet!!! Pff my popularity among insects is immense.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A cool white

Am I a bad person when smiling about others' problems. with Hoegaarden..or do I just have a healthy pride in my own company ands its products when I read this ?

Enjoy a nice cool Brugs white beer :). No shortage there and quality guaranteed.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Bad news better than no news?

Pfff... there is finally news for the parents and friends of Annick Van Uytsel. After 5 days of searches and fear they got news. Bad news: her corpse has been found in the canal all wrapped up with weights on. I suppose that it's better to know than not to know.

Damn such things always make me silent. Fuck who are those sick people on the world?

Gardenset



Our gardenset has arrived! Woohoo. I really love those chairs! But if we set it all out and stretch out our table to the max, our garden seems a lot smaller. I still have to get used to the fact that there is furniture now out there.
Hmm now we need to work on the design of the other few square meters ;-).




Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Brown envelop

Pfff the infamous yearly brown envelop dropped in the mail today :(.

Lets repeat out loud the following statements frequently...maybe then I'll open it up and fill it in with a smile :
* Seeing a doctor hardly costs anything...without private insurance.
* There are no (long) waiting lists for specialists or surgeries or ...
* We have access to cheap quality education and I got my university degree without debts neither for myself or my parents. I even didn't need to take a job.
Quite different story in other countries if I hear the stories of Jan's UK colleagues or here.

hmm that's all true but I am still not excited to see the brown envelop

CL in the rain.

Geez...the champions league semi-finals are being played in pouring rain at the moment. So it is true that it rains elsewhere in Europe. It almost looks weird !

Oh and Frank is the referee. Thanks to Frank we do still have a Belgian representatives in topgames :).

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Crap oh crap

Crap oh crap. That is a slight eufemism to express what we thought and said when our fridge door broke off. No I am not kidding: our fridge door BROKE OFF!

With hindsight the door started squeeking one or 2 weeks ago. And this weekend the door didn't close well anymore. We seemed to need to lift it a bit and try a couple of times before it really closed. It just got worse and worse and on Monday and it was quite visible that the hinge below was loose and the door could just wiggle and was hanging downwards when open. While Jan was checking what was wrong, all of a sudden the door came loose and he was holding it in his hands.

Crap oh crap.

So what do you do when your fridge door breaks off? You curse, you panick, you stress and you have no clue how to solve it. And you curse and stress some more.

Now we are waiting until tomorrow when we can call some technicians. Today was Labour Day so we didn't even have to try to start phoning. Fortunately we still had a little left-over fridge in the basement that after a year of inactivity was willing to help us out. All commonly needed and most temperature sensitive stuff got in there and we managed to put the solitaire door back in front of the fridge sealing it off. But I can't open it without it falling down again...so I won't.

Crap oh crap. Sigh.

Labour Day

May is an excellent month: there is Labour Day holiday, Assumption Day holiday and there is the Pentecost holiday. But today I got to turn myself in bed after Jan got up to leave for London.


In honor of the name "labour" day, I got to do some chores that don't get done due to failed plans in the past :p. May I present the before and after of my window cleaning exercise today all in one picture: left is before, right is after. Woooohooo how fantastic to see the moon right now at this moment through a very clear window.

Now I just have to learn to live with the eternal frustration that clean windows (and a clean house in general) get dirty so quickly again.

Ruchika

Last Saturday after a tiring and emotional morning when I had to play the flute on a funeral, we drove to the other side of Belgium. On a fundraising charity pasta dinner organised by friends of Jan, I got to know more about the Indian project "Ruchika". I had already heard about the project, but didn't know the details about it.

I must say that I was very impressed by it all. It was much bigger than I expected it to be and they've just won the international "The World's Children's Prize for The Rights of The Child" in Sweden. More about the price here. The concept is to bring the school to the children of the slumps if they can't go to school. 20 years ago the volunteers of Ruchika started teaching street children hanging out or working in and around the platforms of the train stations. Then they started open air in most of the slums in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India. The older children could get vocational training, so that they could get a real job later on , rather than sorting out trash.
During those last 20 years, they've also built shelters now for abused children, they setup sanitory projects together with the people from the slums and lately they are helping handicapped children to get the government help they are entitled to, the get them schooling as well, etc etc...

It really seems that they are doing a good job in Bhubaneswar and that they are reaching 4500 children in their slum schools every day with a lot of motivated volunteers.
The Belgian support branch of Ruchika is also sending out physiotherapy trainees, educational volunteers etc... One of Jan's good friends is leaving tomorrow for 3 months of volunteering work. She'll record her stories over here, so lets all support her.

For those of you who get inspired or like to donate money to services where you know what specifically will be done with your money:
For Belgians: check out this or for more international friends: here