Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year end's meme

Here's a year end's meme I stole from the Fairy Blogmother:

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?
I got surgery twice and I got married!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't make new year's resolutions... why postpone resolutions & changes to new year only to not keep them then?

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
oh yes multiple friends had a baby

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Fortunately not

5. What countries did you visit?
The Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, UK, Singapore and Bali (Indonesia)

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Euh...no idea right away

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
06/06 our wedding :)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Preparing a wedding while recovering from surgery

9. What was your biggest failure?
Being impatient

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yes on that point 2009 was a painful year...let's move on and forget.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Hmmm not sure.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
many ordinary people with their heart in the right place

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Politicians, a lot of drivers, professionals without a professional attitude, ...

14. Where did most of your money go?
the wedding celebrations

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Our wedding and honeymoon!

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Papillon from Editors

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? 
b) thinner or fatter? 
c) richer or poorer?
same same same.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
reading books

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
not sure

20. How will you be spending New Year?
with friends at home

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
oh yes

22. How many one-night stands?
None

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Van Vlees en Bloed

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
nope

25. What was the best book you read?
A thousand splendid suns - Khaled Hosseini

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Editors

27. What did you want and get?
A sweet gorgeous husband

28. What did you want and not get?
the winning lottery ticket :)

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
none, I do very very very little film watching lately

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I went to see a play directed by my cousin. I turned 32 this year.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
no infections, no open wounds

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
The Belgian political games

33. Who did you miss?
My Canadian friends whom I have not seen in such a long time

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Liefde is alles liefde is alles
Wat er blijft wanneer de rest verloren is
leg je hand in de mijne
tot we samen verdwijnen

35. I wish you all a happy satisfying healthy loving 2010. Have a good celebration and a fun start of the new year. All best wishes to you all!!!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Made in Belgium: Plastic Bertrand

It's almost New Year's Eve so it's time to party! Why not doing so on an all time party classic "Ca Plane pour moi" which doesn't get old (ok that doesn't count for this clip :p).



Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Random

* My legs & feet have been tired the last days. I wonder if I truly walk around so much more now that I work less in these vacation days? I haven't noticed before in vacation.

It's annoying to go to bed with heavy legs... any remedies?

* 1 kg red pumkin, 1 red bell pepper, 1 onion, 2 l chicken stock and 2 forks of Tesco's Balti curry makes very good soup!

*I love living in a city. I can do some Christmas shopping by foot, in one or more episodes if needed. All stores are nearby and if it gets too crowded or the feet hurt, I simply go home and try again another time when I find a spare moment. No more need of an organised city trip in which all had to be accomplished at that very moment.

* I pity VTM (commercial tv channel) news anchors and actors etc that seem to have a contractual obligation to "appear" on one of the VTM christmas parade floats.

Despite my happy escape from downtown when I saw the crowds lining up along the main shopping road (only there really, it was as busy as I would have expected) and the VTM flags waving and the Coca Cola promotion girls distributing in their little red Christmas outfits, I think the parade looked nice judging from these pictures.

But I didn't stay. After all we had already coincidently seen all the floats lining up outside their depot in the nearby business park when passing by. We had been joking about the funny trucks, huge Santa's, presents, clocks, etc being pulled outside wondering whether this company known for decor building would have prepared some kind of parade or so. ....euh yes, clearly yes they didn't have to go very far that day, I realized that when I little later I recognized the same floats lined up on the Ladeuze square downtown :p.

* The Christmas lights in Leuven are really beautiful this year

* Did a lot of chores the last couple of days and that gives a great feeling of accomplishment. Guess what: people will actually receive my Christmas/New Year's cards before the end of the year. Yeay.

* I am so out of a reading routine. After I finished my last book in November I haven't really got started in a new one....that's quite unusual for me. I can't say that the one I started (Knots & crosses - Ian Rankin) is not good, but clearly it doesn't motivate me to pick it up again. Maybe I should toss it aside for that reason? Problem is that I haven't made it to the library yet when it was open (been there for closed doors twice...I'll try to remember now that Mondays is a closing date).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Our Christmas days

Our Christmas days were traditionally filled with family visits, an abundance of excellent foods & drinks, many excited children, board games and other children games and just cosy time spent together!















Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Made in Belgium: Axelle Red

Today I want to serve you all with one of the finest Belgian artists as a Christmas present. If you don't know Axelle Red yet, please take the time to discover her. I promise, you won't regret!

The petite red headed Flemish singer scored with her first single (1) "Sensualité" a sensational hit in Belgium & France (and Canada?) in '93. From that moment she was on a roll for top hits that are still standing after 15 years. In '96 her reputation had grown so much already that she could record her second album in Memphis in cooperation with some legendary soul artists. In 1998 she sang with Youssou N’Dour the official hymn of the World Cup Soccer in Paris and soon after she won some of the most prestigious art prices in France.
Since 1997 she is an ambassador for UNICEF and she makes extensive travels through conflict zones in the world.

At university I confused studying my French course with studying the lyrics of "Rien que d'y penser" by heart and playing that over and over again. From then she has never stopped touching me with her music:
* her warm cosy relaxing songs such as "Ce matin" which is the best reflection of a cosy lazy morning song or songs to her daughters eg "Gloria"
* her songs that reflect aspects of life so accurately eg "on a besoin du temps" about the busy lives of everybody and the need to invest time for each other in a relationship or "Je me fâche" when I need to vent out :)
* her intense love songs such as "Parce que c'est toi" (see below) which will always keep giving me chills down my spine.
* her engagement & attention for refugees, conflict zones, our society... in songs such as "Manhattan-Kaboul" (see below) or "Ma Prière"


Enjoy Axelle Red :)

Parce que c'est toi - 1999



A qoui ça sert - 1997




Manhattan - Kaboul - 2002 (in the aftermath of 9/11)
see here

On a besoin de temps - 2007



Living in a suitcase - 2009

A visit to the hyperbaric chamber

Last week I did a dive to -30 meters while remaining totally dry and while chatting with the other divers :).

Together with the people taking the emergency first response course and/or Rescue Diver course, we visited the recompression room at the UZA hospital in Antwerp. In this room divers who have encountered a diving accident and suffer from decompression sickness are treated but the hyperbaric oxygen treatments are also beneficial for people with sudden deafness, blindness, CO2 poisoning, non-healing problem wounds (from diabetics,...), ....

The cabin is brought under pressure higher than the normal atmospheric pressure....which is similar to what divers experience under water. If you get to breathe pure oxygen in such circumstances, it accelerates the oxygen in the body's tissues drastically, as well as an increased oxygen transport capacity of the blood vessels.

A "descent" in the recompression room requires the same pressure adjustment techniques as with diving: frequent clearing of the ears and you cannot wear any watches or devices that cannot take this type of pressure (our diving computers even had to be left in a bucket of water in the room). The "ascent" needs to be gradual and included a safety stop , ...just as we do in a real dive.

It was fun to get a lecture on the number of dive accidents treated in Antwerp per year, their causes, their treatments etc and to tour the facilities. During the dive we experimented with balloons and plastic bottles to see the anticipated volume changes. More remarkable and new to us was our voice change......we all got a very funny high pitch :p. Our funny mood could be either explained by our voice, the company or the nitrogen narcosis at high depth or a mixture of it all.
The change in room temperature (5-6°C increase during a 30 m dive) was quite remarkable as well which caused many sweaters to go off and back on again.

Anyway, it was a fun and informative evening!








Monday, December 21, 2009

Contrast

Sunday morning

The snow crunches softly
under the soles of my shoes
breaking a new trail

Monday evening

splash slide splash slide splash
too many walk'd before me
through this dirty slush

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Noot voor Nood

or "Tunes for Need"

This organisation invites each year different choirs to sing for a good cause in the shopping streets of the major Belgian cities such as eg the child cancer fund or clini clowns or ... The freezing temperatures and snowfall couldn't stop Caminhando this year either to spend an afternoon singing.






video

video

Leuven in the snow

It snowed in Belgium the last days. And it was more than 2 cms. And it was still there 3 hours later.


That's a big deal in Belgium! So here's my set of completely redundant Belgian snow pictures.
(if not I had to create a Facebook group "I'm the only Belgian blogger not posting snow pictures" :p)



White Christmas or green Christmas, that's the question


Would we really maybe have a white Christmas again for the first time in 23 years?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Made in Belgium: dEUS

In the last year of high school our class was a bit divided into 2 groups: a group that attended a lot of parties, was listening to rock music (Metallica, Faith no More, NiN, ...) and was dressed in batik shirts, black tight jeans and high combat shoes. I guess I belonged more tot the softies who put studying on the top of their priorities, listened only to commercial hits (which was more dance music).

I remember having danced to 'Suds & Soda' on parties but I hardly knew who dEUS was and what their music was. This Antwerp rock band remained hidden to me until I got a rock compilation CD a few days later and at that moment I fell in love with 'Little Arithmetics'.

Suds & Soda - 1994 - finger in the air, head banging and let's partyyyyy




Little Arithmetics - 1997






The Architect - 2008

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's Christmas time

There's no need to be afraid
At Christmas time
We let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty
We can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world
At Christmas time......



When a few weeks ago the first bloggers started writing about Christmas shopping, I felt as if they were announcing snow in the summer, when they started posting Christmas baking recipes, I was still unpacking my bikini's from vacation.

But now the temperatures finally dropped below zero in Belgium too, the children are no longer singing Sinterklaas songs, the year end hit charts have started and the Christmas markets are in full swing. Yesterday we decorated the Christmas tree and from now on I am fully indulging the warm Christmas atmosphere.




Leuven Christmas market


Some last random thoughts after Normandy

  • Walking shoes are not handy for nature walks only ....walking through cities with "normal" comfortable city shoes end up painful as well and each edge of a cobblestone stings through the thin soles. So why did I wait 2 days before putting on my walking shoes if I had both types in my suitcase?

  • The medieval Europeans weren't very anticipative for future traffic when planning their cities. As a result the historic city centers are a true nightmare for car drivers.
    In France city planners still stubbornly allow to park in all streets , even those were there's truly not enough room for parked cars+sidewalks+ ongoing traffic. Sidewalks are usually less than a meter wide so you always have to walk behind each other and as soon as you need to cross someone one of you must step down to the street. If you find a rare sidewalk wider than 1 meter, you can make a bet that there will be cars parked on it.

    Needless to say that all mommies with a stroller are walking on the middle of the road...which isn't too dangerous as the cars can only manage to drive through the narrow streets at walking speed.

  • Gosh there's so many Renaults in France. The French have always been suspicious about foreign brands, but this time there weren't even that many Citroëns and Peugeots around...the winner is clearly Renault.

  • Wherever you are in France, there's always a road sign to Paris

  • If you've just lost your scarf , you might start searching the weird bubble in your jacket's left arm before you turn your room upside down.

  • Take 2 girl friends on vacation just before bed time and you get contagious laughter without any clear reason

  • Oysters taste like the ocean smells

Monday, December 14, 2009

Find the differences

4 Benedictine abbey churches in Normandy....so alike and yet not quite.
Which one do you prefer? Why? Let me know!
Can you see which ones are photographed in the opposite direction?




(1) Abbey aux Hommes and (2) Abbey aux Dames both in Caen




(3) Trinity Abbey in Fécamps and (4) Abbey church St Ouen in Rouen

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Normandy themes: part II

France is squattered by old historic cities and Normandy is no exception. I so love it!

IV) Very old cities with gothic lace decorating the buildings, fortresses, narrow streets with cobblestone, ...




V) Timber framed traditional houses





VI) Churches and abbeys and more churches and more abbeys.

I didn't know this was possible but in 4 days I have reached my saturation point! I didn't even know I had a saturation point in visiting churches and abbeys etc.