Sunday, December 31, 2006

My 2006

Recently someone asked me the question: "Geez where did 2006 go?".

Well, it went to house that has dramatically changed over the last year. One year ago we had just barely finished the floor heating system and poured some concrete on top of it that had to dry. Walls had to be painted afterwards, lights installed, tile floors in the hall and kitchen, a wooden floor in the living room, furniture that has moved down, a fire place has been installed and a basement has become a practical and clean storage space.

It went to a project that managed to successfully switch 5 drinks wholesalers to a different software, thanks to lots and lots of overtime and cursing and bug testing.

It went to a fantastic trip to India, an exotic paradise full of colors, temples, wildlife, excellent food, ... it also went to Brittany full of menhirs, cliffs and impressive medieval cities and family joy. It went to some blistered feet in London but good fun with friends and it went to the wineries and delicious dishes in Burgundy.

It went to baby nieces and nephews growing up to funny toddlers.

It went to summer festivals, to good thrillers read, to some fun TV shows, ....

Anyway it was good!!! Excited to see what 2007 will bring! hope it will be a good one for all of you as well. Have a great New Year!

Music heaven in December

2006 is ticking away and so are all the top xxxx hit parades, the best of...., the special request programs.

I don't know if it is a Flemish thing, but December is a musical heaven!
  • End of November already I think Q-music had its top 2000 or something of greatest hits.
  • 2nd week of December,4 fm had a top 100 of the 60ies on Monday, 70ies on Tuesday, ....with a top 100 all times on Friday. Fun fun fun in the office and lots of singing along. (hihi my boss loved Monday best :p).
  • The week before Christmas Studio Brussel had their hype charity action in which they sold requests for the Red Cross 6 days 24h/24h "Music For Life". Some people thought the action was a media overkill, and it was a hype indeed. All of a sudden all of Flanders seemed to be listening to StuBru or were standing in line 2 kms from our house to get a glimps of the 3 DJ's locked up without solid food in their glass house in Leuven. Well, I loved it, the more I listened to it. All this generosity and charity activities brought me in the Christmas mood and the music was damn good.
  • Around Christmas I must have missed the Radio 1's "100 op 1" , 100 top Belgian classics. Too bad, but I can still listen to it on the internet. Pheww.
  • During the last week of the year, traditionally Radio Donna plays non-stop its top 2006. A week that is just getting better and better with the top 5 on New Year's Eve.

Pff it'll be hard to adjust to normal radio again in January: to listen to one hit commercially launched dolls that try to sing :(. Why can't it always be musically December?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Miss Snowwhite

Pff I am not sure if I want to be the snowwhite plastering queen anymore. It's fun for a while but after the fourth day in a row of plastering and sanding walls, I am tired of it. Or I am just tired and sore and I feel my eyes because I've had several times dust in them (but washed it out). I swear my right arm looks thicker and more worked out already than my left arm even though I try to sand the walls with both of arms.

And I didn't even get done what I hoped to do. Pff. But with the help of Jan tomorrow morning, I hope to be able to give a first layer of paint in our bedroom tomorrow. At least that'll change the look of it again.

Jan and his dad did good work in the basement though! It has gyproc walls and a floor!!!!! Talk about a total transformation. And so when I am done on the first floor I play the plastering queen downstairs. .... One day it'll be ready. I am looking forward to next week when we have no renovations planned!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A cold winternight

It was a cold cold winternight in December. The streets were all deserted and it was very quiet in the street. A young couple had just parked in their car and had mounted the stairs to their appartment...only to arrive in an ice cold appartment.

Odd, that was very odd. The girl was certain to have programmed the heating. Yett the appartment did not felt like a cold stranger, not expecting them to come home. 13C. With a nervous feeling, she tested the water in the tap... but it remained ice cold as well. Shit, this was Christmas night. Would they have to sleep in the cold and get up in the cold and wash themselves in that temperature with cold water. Not a comforting thought at all! Visions of a similar night 2 years ago came back. Then the neighbours had come to help the next day but after half a day of checking the boiler, they had only succeeded in breaking down their own boiler as well. It took another day to get the gas company to come over and fix the problem that apparently ended up being really simple.

But now the appartment of the neighbours looked dark and deserted as well. Who could help on a Christmas night???

Of course Jan did! After surfing the web a bit and cursing at the boiler, he managed to add water to it because the boiler had locked itself into security because somehow the pressure had diminished. Wooohooo he rocks and my macho neighbours suck!!! (they don't read this so I can write it :) ). And with a bit of delay we curled up in the bed close together to keep warm while the heating started chasing the cold away.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Christmas wishes to you all

I want to wish you all a very nice Christmas period to you all!

May you all enjoy :

Some time to relax and enjoy the christmas atmosphere.

Precious time to spend with your family!

Excellent food and drinks

The magic of His Star

Getting ready voor Christmas!?

As you can see I was totally in Christmasmood on Sunday afternoon ..... :-)
And Jan has totally cleaned our house that was covered in a big layer of dust in the mean time . But not anymore. Perfect division of tasks!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Christmas street full of flashing lights

I think our neighbours should be worried. Maybe we should put a red warning light outside our house cause every time we seem to work in the bedroom on the first floor, something spectacular happens out in the street.

Last month, Jan all of a sudden noticed that a car had crashed and was laying on its roof on the street a little further. Today a lot of sirens came by, but they often do so we don't really pay much attention to it anymore. Emergency vehicles often use them for crossing the traffic lights next to our doors so it didn't even trigger my attention that the sirens stopped just in front of us. But then we realised there were 2 flashing firetrucks outside and a flashing police car. Huh? Is our house on fire?

7 fireman were walking around on the sidewalk in front of our houses and those of the neighbours with a "sniffer" whereas the policeguy was a bit nervous because he anxiously wanted to know whether he needed to evacuate. We soon realised it had to do with the gas smell we often notice outside.

Gosh when we phoned the gas company they didn't even move within a week to come and check it out !! They assured us on the phone that it was a known problem but not too bad. Next time we'll sure think about phoning the firedepartment as well. The type of reaction that is triggered was surely different!

The gas company arrived too, with flashing light, they checked out the spot where they worked last time. The sight was funny: 7 firemen and 1 policeguy in a little circle around a gas technician on his knees on the parking spot, all staring at his fingers closely, with half of the street being blocked by flashing emergency vehicles. Unfortunately the end result was not that impressive since the conclusion was that the gas smell was too faint and that the risk was too small to do anything.

I wonder if they'd all come out again if I phone tomorrow that there is a gas smell in the road? When is it bad enough to phone? Pfff tough question.

Hurray for Gyproc plates

Wow in a couple of hours we have a new ceiling and a new insolated wall. Tomorrow morning I can start plastering the joints!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Jan in Christmasmood

Jan is clearly in the Christmas mood! He transformed himself into an elf to bring you all in the same contagious spirit and to bring you all joy for the season. Come on and check it out! It's wortwhile...

You didn't click yet? Well you sure are missing something! Click click here!

Launch of our future bedroom

Yes we've started! Isolation and gyproc plates have been delivered and the old undefined-color-is-it-grey-or-has-it-been-beige carpet is gone!

Let's go....

Christmas vacation or renovation vacation?

While my colleagues have finished their christmas dinner in the cantine, I am already at home enjoying the start of my Christmas vacations. Yeaaaah! No more work I hope until next year.

Don't you think that always sounds so weird "See you next year" "ok send me that report when you're done but I won't be able to read that this year anymore ..." :p. I always sounds as if you'll be gone for ages, but I am only taking 6 days off really. But thanks to the weekends and holidays, it is almost 2 weeks.
And the best thing is: I go back to work for 2 days in the beginning of January and then I am taking once more a week off because Lisa is coming over to visit me from Canada! Yeaaaaah!

I am really looking forward to this time off. I needed it. The last days were quite stressfull at work and I just felt that I was overreacting to a lot of stuff. A simple discussion with my boss seemed to take all my energy. A disagreement with some other manager who was mad at me for not being available for giving training at her new employees (my old boss and my new boss had given her the good news that that was not my task and that I had not enough time available, something which she apparently had assumed). She unexpectedly took all her frustrations out at me and I couldn't set that discussion out of my head for the entire day and evening. And our suppliers consultants really drove me crazy. Probably I simply just still lack energy after being ill. So it'll be good being offwork for a while.

Let's just hope that I won't get much calls next week on the days that I am backup "on call" for the systems helpdesk. Grrr what a great moment to switch external helpdesks and start with a new inexperienced team but hey...who can foresee that 2 people quit at the same moment.

Only 24 hours and it all seems a totally different far away world already ;-). Our minds are already totally focussed on the coming holidays and the renovations that we want to fully boost on the first floor!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Slowly filling up

I was a little too optimistic and cheerfull on Sunday morning. And especially too enthusiastic at breakfast which I regretted in the next 24h which went downhill again until I went shivering with fever to bed.
Obviously by the time I got to see the doctor on Monday my bowles got calm and silent. What else would I have expected huh? Anyway, I caught up more sleep, started enjoying food again and today I was back at work (tired but that's often the case). I am slowly filling up again :).

And the lady in the kitchen of the cantine had the interesting news that the directors secretary, the postman, 3 people in the kitchen and someone else all had been ill. I figured you'd all want to know that news as well ;).

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I am empty

I am empty and you can take that quite literally. Some kind of bug caught me and since Friday evening my digestion system has been touroughly emptied. And also my energy is very weak after a tiring night on Friday.
Fortunately my appetite and sleep are improving so I am feeling better already.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

what the hell?

The Southern part of Belgium apparently had its own "war of the worlds" broadcast on tv tonight: the RTBF tv had interrupted their emissions for a news broadcast that Belgium had split up, Flanders had declared its independence, the king had fled the country with "real-time" images of Brussels roads getting blocked and people panicking.

It was all fiction in order to trigger some discussion in our country.....well I think they sure triggered discussion alright! Geez, what were they thinking? They could at least have indicated from the beginning that it was fiction and just announce the documentary rather than to interrupt the emissions as breaking news.
I think they have also triggered some discussion how our tax money is being used to create a great panic wave in half of the country .
In the mean time Flanders in itself was very oblivious to it all, busy watching the European soccer game here at 1 km from my door. (massive police turnout here with even a helicopter flying over! But that is to keep the Dutch fans quiet, not because of a revolution going on.).

Anyway....I'd actually want to see the emission that is now causing such a fuss...Is it on YouTube already?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Getting in the Christmas mood

Now that Sinterklaas has all settled down in Spain again, it was about time for my first attempt to decorate a Christmas tree on my own. It's my first tree since 2003! I am quite proud of the result (it looks better in real than on the picture ,I think :p). But I might add some things still later on. Not sure yet.

We choose for an artifical tree because it's easier to set up and to maintain and in the long run cheaper. And main thing for me: you don't see the tree dying over the weeks and you don't end up with an almost dead needleless tree by the time you clean it up again. Somehow I find it sad that we grow trees to cut them and let them slowly die. But the big disadvantage of the fake trees are that they don't smell like christmas trees!

Anyway, it sure was a new experience to make a Christmas tree with some kind of Ikea-like guidelines and by having the spread out all the branches ourselves.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Feeling familiar or as a stranger

This weekend Jan and I went back to The Hague to visit some of our good friends there and to go with all of us to a very good concert of Ozark Henry in het Paard van Troje. (or "Pietje" as Jan and Arnaud were screaming in their Westvlaams accent). Always fun to see a Belgian artist abroad!

Going back to The Hague is always a bit special. I've only lived there 10,5 months but there are so many memories there: being on bus 23 together with Jan, the Japanese restaurant near the Kurhaus where some of the colleagues had a sake drinking contest and got completely completely waisted, the Daendelstraat where I started my first job ever with its tiny cantine and a crazy Indonesian as cook, the many pubs and restaurant where I went with my many many French colleagues, the Mercure hotel where I lived my first hotel, my appartment near the beach where I lived for the first time on my own with the narrow parkingspace and the outside gallery to go to the front door which was always very slippery when wet, the beachrestaurants where we spent allmost all summer evenings outside, the fresh juices bar where Remi took me for lunch to comfort me on the day my aunt had passed away, the little park in Scheveningen with the pregnant goats being locked up due to foot and mouth disease, having my best friends all coming over to visit in my appartment, the train station where Melanie and I took the train for an evening in Amsterdam, ..... The city really feels like home since I have memories on most spots and I know my way around.

But on the other hand, a weekend like this does not feel like homecoming anymore. All the nostalgic feelings I used to have so strongly in the beginning seemed to have faided away. The weekend felt like what it was "a visit to good friends in a city that I know very well and that I like very much". The Hague has been a very dear part in my life because of my first job, my first time living on my own....and of course falling in love and meeting Jan!! But it's not part of my life anymore at this moment. I have now a different life that I like very much as well! And besides, I know realise with hindsight that the furniture in that apparment there was horrendous ;-).

I just wonder if in a couple of years I'll feel as much an outsider and stranger in Ghent as well?

The next generation of mucisians?....

... Who knows ? If they manage one day to convert the noise into music :p.... Keep on practising, boys, it's cute!

I've been tagged by Allie

I've been tagged for the first time, so here's the list:

A - Available or Single? - Nope, not available anymore since a while already.
B - Best Friend? - I have some great close friends that know me very well but couldn't pick out a "best" friend as in a hierarchy type of way. Just want to thank Sandra, Sofie, Katrien, Marlies, ... for their great listening capacities and for making me laugh so often!
C - Cake or Pie? - Neither of both please. I am not into sweets....why don't we start with an appetizer like peanuts or potato chips or nacho's or olives or ....
D - Drink of Choice? - Coca Cola Light
E - Essential Item you use Every Day? - Hair curling thing, brush some volume and movement in my soooo straight hairs.
F - Favorite Color? - Our olive green on the kitchen wall :)
G - Gummies or Worms? - what ???
H - Hometown? - still for 6 more weeks travelling in between Ghent and Leuven, but after that only Leuven it is! But lived in Deinze most of my life.
I - Indulgence? - see C!
J - January or February? - January! Still in the mood of the holidays!
K - Kids and Names? - No kids yet.
L - Life is Incomplete Without? - Love and hugs
M - Marriage Date? - Not married
N - Number of Siblings? - A older sister, Griet
O - Oranges or Apples? - Oranges! They are much juicier. But at work it's easier to eat an apple, but only really like Granny Smith apples.
P - Phobias or Fears? - Heights, my face covered unther a blanket and not getting enough air, lack of toilets nearby,
Q - Fav Quote? - Don't sweat the small stuff, it's all small stuff
R - Reason to Smile? - Too many to write down! I am happy.
S - Season? - Summer....without any hesitation: the summer. Give me the sun, give me the light, the heat!! Give me the music festivals, full beaches, the smell of sun screen, ...! Give me breakfast, lunch and dinner eaten outside, drinks on a terrace late at night outside, give me bike trips, ...
T - Tag Three People - hmm I fear not to have a close circle of blogger friends to send my tag to.
U - Unknown fact about me? - My punky hair when I just wake up, since I cut it short....stands up straight in all directions.
V - Vegetable you don't like? - Cooked "witloof", asparagus, salsifies, ...
W - Worst Habit? - staying up too late, sleeping in too late
X - Xtremely BIG Husker fan? - what????
Y - Your fave food? - A long long long list...but it depends on my mood. Chocolate is definately NOT on the list!
Z - Zodiac sign? Libra

Three websites I love:
1. my most frequented newssource
2. starting point of so many searches for information!

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Lobster cheese??

Belgians are said to have a Burgundian lifestyle or mentality. Well I sure loved the cuisine there!!

Mmmmmmmmmm Burgundian snails! The best!
And rabbit terrines. And coq au vin. And charcuterie....
And the wines!! And the cassis! And then things like cassis mustard and cassis butter!! Mmmm

And a assortiment of excellent cheeses at the end of each meal. There was one particular cheese that I loved with a very strong and salty taste and so I asked the name of it in the restaurant. She said " ..pice Homard de Bourgogne".
What? Lobster ? What has that cheese to do with lobster. She could not have said Homard.
Jan who was in the washroom when she told me and he didn't believe the lobster part either.

So when she came to clear the plate, I asked again and now she clearly confirmed "Epoisse Homard de Bourgogne". Ok fine, lobster cheese it is, although their is nothing in the taste that reminds me of lobster.

the next day we went to the supermarket to buy some of the local specialties. When checking out the cheeses in the store we found two that resembled the ones we liked so much. All of a sudden I cracked up when reading the label:

"Epoisse au marc de Bourgogne"... Au marc or Homard: some pronounciation but clearly something different. Mard de bourgogne is a liquor that is used int he production of the cheese! And there I stood in the store realising that the cheese had nothing to do with lobster after all. It was so funny.

We bought 2 pieces: "Epoisse au marc de bourgogne" and "Amis de Chambertins" which we had eaten in the restaurant. Something we soon regretted because the smell in the car was ...well lets simply say "very strong". Everytime we had stopped somewhere it took our breath for a minute when getting back in :p.

Fortunately we seem to be able to contain the smell at home due to a special cheese boll. So visitors should have no fear !! At least we have a hell of yummie cheese at home! Yeah.

A tour guided by the hunchback of Burgundy

A little bit frustrated that the entire morning we only found closed doors at châtaux and abbeys, we arrived on a walk in the village of Chambertin. The local castle/winefarm had also tours without appointments, so we gave it a try. A bell with a thick cord had to be rung to indicate our presence at a small gate.

The bell rang but only silence followed. The place looked very deserted and we already wanted to leave when all of a sudden a door opened behind us and a tourguide I did not expect at all descended. "Vous voulez faire la visite?" he asked and I must honestly admit that there were some seconds of doubt in my mind. In front of me I stood a hunchback whose face I could not see and whose mumbling I could hardly understand. This was not at all the castle's son or daughter I had expected who'd proudly start explaining their excellent wineyards in a marketing approved manner in order to end with a tasting to get some sales going.

As soon as I could say "oui", he waved to follow him and so we did. He strongly smelled like earth and grapes and ... and we surely had to get used to his talking. It is very very strange to get a tour by someone whose face is invisible and who seemed to be poking in his eye unstoppingly as if he needed to keep it open with his finger. And he didn't walk very smoothly either, and it did not seem to be cause by his rubber boots. When leading us up the stairs, Jan thought at one point that he would stop breathing.

The tour was not about the vineyards but about the history of the castly where he now seemed to live: the furniture, the old floors, the tiles, the windows, the ruins of disappeared towers, .... I must admit it ended up being more interesting than I first thought and the tower had a nice view. In the end I was happy to have had the tour of the hunchback of Burgundy.

Some advice for foreign drivers in France

Gas stations in France don't take foreign credit cards , even if they are full of stickers with logo's of "VISA" or "MasterCard" or ..... The newest gas stations along the high way that are fully automatic are hence inaccessible for foreign tourists! Same counts for gas stations at supermarkets on a Sunday!

And drivers along Metz: there are more rader camera's on the ringway than indicated on the roadside panels or on the internet itineraries.

A well-deserved visit to Burgundy

Both Jan and I have apparently worked so hard in the last years, that we are blessed with still quite some vacation days left by the end of the year.

So we took a long weekend, jumped in the car and drove south. That's what I adore about France: it is so closeby, it has nature, culture, food!!! And this time Burgundy would be our final destination: a medieval wine country with whome Flanders shares part of its history.

After a short stop in a roadparking in Luxemburg, where I was the only one buying some sugar waffles rather than numerous 'almost without taxes sigarettes' (I was an outsider there with my little waffles!!), we hit the French border. We were stopped by a Luxemburg police car that raced by and that came to an impressive standstill with a big U-turn in front of us while we were crossing the border. I swear I did not know until then that not buying sigarettes in Luxemburg was an offense ;). I am innocent!

The agent did not seem interested in us though and let us drive by while he jumped out with an impressive automatic weapon in his hands. It looked quite sensational but I don't know how that story ended since we happily drove on into France.

Our first visit was Nancy, the capital of Lorraine and a city that I had driven by so many times on the highways without knowing which beauty it holds. I can surely recommand to other people to make the stop next time as well! Especially the "Royal square" was breathtakingly beautiful. The fact that it was sunny all brightened it up even more and I bravely sat on an outside terrace in my sweater only although I regretted that in the end because the wind ruined my '1st december in a sweater outside experience' a bit. But I was stubborn and managed to finish my meal without putting my jacket on.

As true tourist, we had to eat Quiche Lorraine there. What else could we have chosen, huh?

A few hours later we arrived at our destination, ready for an evening walk through the little wine village and then ready for a delicious big meal with the appropriate wines of course.

The next day we explored the "Hautes côtes" and the "Côtes de Nuits", the local area where we were staying. Unforatunatly we were there very very off season and so not many wine châteaus wanted to give a tour of their domain and winery and also the famous abbey of Citeaux kept its doors quite closed, except for their store. Pfff.

In one château we had an 'interesting tour' but that story is coming up in a seperate post. Although we remained in the area, all our little loops from village to village, from château to local products store, to historical site kept us pretty busy for the entire day! At one point we were on a hill top looking for some ruins when from the surrounding woods, the sound of hunters with their horns and their barking dogs. I head never heard that before and it sounded great!!

On Sunday we drove one hour south to visit the remains of the once most powerful abbey of the middle ages: Cluny. For all of you who are ever interested in doing so: apparently from December to somewhere in spring, the entrence is free on the first Sunday of the month! We didn't know so that was a happy surprise to us. It was really disappointing that only so little of it was left as it must have been a very impressive abbey in the past!

Currently a technical school is housed in the buildings and we arrived in the middle of the initiation of new students, which involved a big parade through the village of chanting people holding each others shoulders. Cool to see.

In the afternoon we drove all the way back to visit Dijon, the capital of the Dukes of Burgundy where we also could see some Flemish artifacts.

We left Monday this beautiful region to head for the Champagne region including a tour in the famous house of Moët & Chandon and their caves. Mmmm

Gas smell

For weeks we have a faint gas small on the sidewalk and parking lane next to our house already. When we phoned to report it, the gas company said "yes it is a known problem there, but we do not have the authorisation to start digging there from the city". Huh? What a shockker was that? How come they cannot dig to investigate if there could be a gas leak??????? Geeez

Anyway, today apparently they have received the authority (maybe some more neighbours phoned) and now they are happily digging in the parking lane a man deep hole to check it out.
So far so good, but one of the guys is smoking there! Is it just me who thinks that is worrying? I am not sure, but in my mind a gas smell and smoking are not 2 things that go together well! Seeing that gives me a very very creepy feeling!

On the other hand it's been there for a while now and I'm sure lots of pedestrians walked by with a sigaret in their mouth and there are all the time cars pulling up here at the traffic lights as well. but it does not really reassure me.