Friday, December 30, 2005

Wintertime once more


What would be more appropriate in these long dark days, during Christmas vacation for all the kids: true winter weather combined with snow, freezing cold etc... Well it sure was cold this week. On Thursday it was -7C in Leuven at one point. Brrrr, that is really cold for Belgium. I must I really enjoyed scratching the ice from my window shield...NOT. In the beginning of the week we also go some snow, but that 2cms look quite miserable if I look on Julia's blog and see her abundant snow pictures.

From 2 days in advance, the weather reports started warning about the weather conditions we would get today: lots of snow and in the evening rain that would freeze on the roads. Repeatedly we were asked not to go on the road if not necessary. That apparently had made a good impression on the people (and I guess also due to this week's news images of huge traffic jams in France and Germany with people being stuck and sleeping in their car on freeways) as it was fairly calm on the roads today. We did venture out at noon to go and see our parents and do some grocery shopping but we took the advice into account as in not postponing any of it. As a result we were home in the late afternoon. Nevertheless it was already snowing heavily. Well heavily in Belgian standards of course. The roads were not clear anymore and traffic was moving slowly.

I just really really wanted to go out for a big snow walk. All wrapped up with a hat, scarf, my warmest gloves, 2 sweaters, jacket, warm pants , long socks and my hiking boots I went out. First Jan joined me but since he didn't have any good shoes on he soon found it very hard to stay upright on the icy/snowy sidewalks. But I took the occasion for a good walk in the cold and to discover some roads in the neighbourhood that I had not walked in. There were not many people out and the wind was really icy but I enjoyed the crispiness of the snow under my boots. Don't you love it to step into fresh snow and to hear it crisping?? Or to watch the funny footsteps of people who have passed by there before you??? To see where a dog and a cat have run, how people have walked in a funny circle around their car before apperently driving off. All information that the streets usually don't give to you. All of a sudden, the streets tell you which roads have been neglected by visitors, which ones have been busy before you came by, ... Very interesting that is. Even if we only have a few inches of snow.

In small side roads, no government even bothers to ever put salt on the roads

not all trains were stopped, I noticed


When I came back home, soaking wet (the snow had turned into snowrain), Jan was preparing this delicious meal for me alraedy. I am so spoiled by this great cook in the house! Yummie, thanx Jan!! Kiss.


I just watched the news to see if the predicted traffic chaos had happened, but it wasn't too bad. I think indeed that most people stayed inside when it wasn't needed, because the roads were pretty bad. Fortunatly Jan and I didn't go anywhere today by train as train traffic is pretty messed up right now. It has started to rain which causes ice on the power cables for the trains. Pff isn't it weird that a country like ours can't handle a bit of winter weather, that everything slows down or comes to a stop with some snow and ice??? Other countries seem to be able to handle a lot more, or is that just an illusion? If this had not been a vacation day for a lot of people, I think our countrie truly would have been in a lot more chaos. One month ago, snow and wind caused power outages every where in Europe.

Well anyway, we should not worry anymore for the coming year or the yearend as tomorrow it'll turn 7C and everything will have melted. The wintersnap will be over before the year end. I regret it actually. I wouldn't mind it freezing a bit more so the snow could stay on the fields and roofs and the ponds could remain frozen. The Dutch must be disappointed particularly as they always start hoping with every freezing temperature to go out skating outside. They have soo many little canals and water everywhere and they honestly all seem to be bitten with a skating bug. As soon as they can, you see them skating everywhere. The coolest place to skate is downtown The Hague in front of the "Binnenhof", the old palace that still houses the government and part of the parliament. The prime ministers office faces a big pond in the city on which people skate when it freezes enough. Must be funny to be able to go and wave in front of his window. Just imagine that situation for American security officers, they would so freek out! Fortunatly the Dutch do dare to skate in front of their prime ministers office window.

Happy defrosting New Year to you all!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Freezing day

Brrrr it's a really cold week here with now and then some snow. No big amounts, don't worry, just enough to give the world a nice white look. Just to late to have a white Christmas. I've never ever had a white Christmas , ... at least as far as I can remember. I should ask my parents I suppose.

We are fortunatly spared of the bigger amounts of snow that create once more traffic chaos in our surrounding countries. Aren't we crazy: 15 cm of snow can cause the majority of Europe to come to a standstill.

We sure didn't come to a standstill. We had finished putting in the floorheating tubes yesterday and we had started making concrete to cover it up. Today we continued to do so. Jan was the victim to be outside with the turning machine to make concrete for us. He could be in the -2c temperature while we were inside with the doors closed as much as possible. Since he often had to ride in another wheel barrow of concrete. Soon we were the cold ones: temp dropped inside to 2,5 C and we were moving less. My taks was spreading out the concrete to even surfaces , more or less at the required height for tiling the floor. Jan's dad carefully evened it out.

We are almost done now and will finish it off tomorrow. That were a fruitfull couple of days here in the house: all the water pipes connected, floor heating installed and the floor concrete drying now. I can't wait until we can turn on that heating, so that we have more than 2 warm rooms (right now the 2 front rooms upstairs behind the facade remained untouched and therefore still have the old heating system on). We already noticed that heating those 2 rooms has become easier since all the insulation is in! Big difference.

Jan locked outside in the cold

our floors on the first floor, "almost ready" for tiling ;)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Floorheating




Jan and I took this week of and together with Jan's father we are working hard in our house. Since 2 weeks we have lights everywhere and now we are putting the floor heating in. Here are the results.

Merry Christmas to you all

We celebrated Christmas with our family, just like Christmas should be. Call me old-fashioned but I just believe that in this period of the year we need to spend time at home with our families. Not really to do fancy things , neither to eat great meals (although I do enjoy them very much), but just to be together, being lazy, talking, enjoying the warmth of the houses inside as contrast with the cold dark days outside.

So I hope you can all spend time with your families this week and that you can enjoy the family warmth and some time to be lazy and even better: I hope you can enjoy the warmth of an fireplace in the house :). No I seriously wish you all a Merry Christmas and great holidays.

In Belgium we tend to celebrate especially Christmas Eve , more than Christmas day itself. But if you have to split the time between two families you have to choose. Jan and I alternate Christmas Eve each year with either his family or mine. This year on Christmas Eve we went to Jan's brother were we celabrated with Jan's parents and aunt and uncle. It was the first year that we had a Christmas with babies in the family and I must admit that it makes a big difference. Obviously they steal all the attention. Jan's parents were also babysitting Renee (jan's sister's daughter) since Jan's sister has her own bakery. Christmas is a very very very busy time of the year for bakers and they have to work all weekend , even at night.




Luisa


our hosts


Piet and Renee
On Christmas day itself, we drove to Deinze to my parents where Griet, Wim and Stef were as well. Unfortunately both my mother, Stef and Jan were all a little bit ill (all different complaints and nothing serious though). We sat down once more for a big festive meal. No, no turkey! We do have other varieties of feast meals in Europe ;). And even be better tasting than turkey.
Traditionally I also played the flute in church in Deinze with the youth choir.


Stef

Monday, December 26, 2005

Stef's Baptism

The two men being celebrated: Stef on his baptism and Wim on his 40th birthday

December is really the month of family gatherings, family dinners, .... We started the series on December 18th when Stef was getting baptised. He was baptised on Wim's 40th birthday, so we had in fact a double celebration.

Stef's baptism ceremony was really nice and the little boy behaved very well. he slept through the first part of it and then followed it all very curiously. At the very end, he started "babbling" as if he wanted to have the final word of it all.



In the afternoon we had a family gathering at my sister's place with a big yummie cake and a far too abundant cold buffet. Mmmmm. Too much food.



Sunday, December 11, 2005

Babyvisit in Cologne

Today we went to visit our new German family member Benedict (9 weeks old now). It's a bit complicated to explain the exact family ties but we are in close contact with let's say "3rd degree" German cousin in Cologne. Nicole is a bit younger than my sister and had the joy to have a baby boy about 2 months ago.

We don't see each other enough, but Benedict was obviously a really good reason to drive up to Cologne in Germany. It is really only a 2 or 3 hour drive (depending if we leave from Ghent of Leuven). It was great to see them again, have a little chat about renovating houses (yep , not only a Belgian habit) and to play with the little boy. We are sure that in over a year or so Stef and Benedict can be great playmates :-).

Nicole and Benedict


Marco and Benedict

After our visit, we took the opportunity to walk down-town and visit the really famous Christmas market in Cologne. When we walked up rows of busses were waiting for the British, French and Belgian tourist to go home, so it wasn't as packed anymore, but there still was a huge very international crowd there.

The decorations were really lovely and we enjoyed getting a bit in the Christmas atmosphere while looking at all the crafts exposed, the many good smelling food stands (not only German sausage as I recall from the last time, but food from all over the world), the warm wine, the christmas decorations. Only 2 weeks anymore, it's about time we start thinking about christmas huh.

The Dom of Koln (cathedral of Cologne) and the christmas market decorations

Chocolate sinterklaas


For those of you who have not seen a chocolate Sinterklaas yet, here is a picture.

Friday, December 9, 2005

Stef last weekend

The two of us together :-). One of his rare moments that he looked to the camera

Yeah gently flying on auntie Ellens arms is funny!


Learning to sit for short moments in his special babychair... very concentrated!


His play carpet on which he can grabs noisy things, kick his feet to the side to activate songs etc. (by the way the sheep in the background does "kwek kwek"???!!!!!???)


Software life!

We did it, we switched the software in our platform this week and we survived. There were as was expected unknown errors that showed up here and there, some wrong data that needed to be changed etc, but all at all, the big chaos stayed out. The first days we had quite some delay but by the end of the week all people could start working normal days again , ..., and now we can start catching up some sleep. zzzz

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Testing

it's 22h15. A module in the system has not been working properly and we are still retesting it together with programmers in the UK. We have to improve it tonight, we have to find it. Pff, I am tired.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Sinterklaas






Last Sunday loud Sinterklaas music made me look out of my window.... and who was coming by? My street was so honored of having Saint Nicolas or Sinterklaas, the good holy man coming by. I did not expect him before tonight when he will visit all children at night to bring them presents. But there he was on his horse and with some Zwarte Pieten, "Black Piet's".

Sinterklaas or Saint Nicolas is a catholic saint (hence the clothes, ring and staff), a former bishop in Turkey in one of the first centuries who has now dedicate the rest of his eternal life to bring joy in the life of children. On his holiday (December 6th) he brings all children that have been good presents. For this he comes back from Spain where he currently lives, with a steamship that carries him, his Black Piet's who help him and his good old horse.

Tonight all children will put a shoe at the fireplace with some carrots or sugar for the horse ( ok mainly in Belgium, The Netherlands, part of France, part of the Netherlands and some other parts in the world). Tonight Sinterklaas will ride his horse faithfully on all roofs and come down the chimneys with Zwarte Piet to bring us toys. The toys are in big bags that Zwarte Piet carries and puts bad children in the bag to be taken to Spain. He has been doing this since the 12th century. Remarkably that Santa Claus started to come in New York first where a concentration of Dutch merchants lived huh. They much be relatives since they carry a similar name ;) and they share some chimney techniques .





Ah of course we wouldn't be belgians if we didn't make a lot of Chocolate sinterklaases for this big celebration. And Sinterklaas horse breads (in the shape of a horse carrying sinterklaas)

Friday, December 2, 2005

project D-day

We are almost life with the new software. All old computers have been taken out and replaced by the new modern thin clients, the new network is active, new e-mail system is enabled, the stock is counted, the necessary data has been loaded, the users have been trained until they were tried of the excercises.... tomorrow will be D-day with the first orders being treated in the new software. Finally we can go life. Let's keep our fingers crossed that all go well. But the atmosphere and expectations are good!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Our big Lebowsky

So far all our nights in Liège were the same. We really have gotten ourselves into this routine : working late, sitting in the hotel bar until everybody has arrived and came back down (eating too many peanuts because in the mean time we are starving), walking to a restaurant, eating, walking back to the hotel quite late. This routine is ok, sometimes quite fun actually.

But since weeks we are talking about doing something else. Let's do something else. But we never did until last night. We went bowling with most of the people who were staying in the hotel. It was a fun night out and just for once quite different from our other nights. :) . And the lessons learned are:

synchronised bowling on 2 lanes isn't beneficial for the results


drinking trappist is beneficial for the results


consultants are good in bowling


you can get strikes when throwing the ball in unconventional ways but not this way

Luisa 9 months

Last Sunday we went to visit Luisa (Jan's niece) again and as always she proved to be such a happy baby.

Luisa crawling since one week


Spoons are still quite magical for a 9 month old child


Luisa just loves to fly through the room

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Power outage


waking up in a winter snowland (view from one of my living room skylights)


Last night during the snow storm, I was watching tv around midnight and all of a sudden........ silence and darkness. No more tv, no more light, no more computer screen showing me the usual picture slide show, no sound, .... No electricity in the area. Also the streets were in utter darkness.

I couldn't see a thing in my appartment and it's funny how quickly you loose orientation in the dark. I know perfectly what is where in the room but yet it is a challenge to move smoothly in the darkness. Usually there is a bit of the streetlights peaking in, or under a door from the next door room. Now I found myself bumping into my table and my big bar chairs in attempt to get into the kitchen to get my lightner. Then with the lightner I found my mobile phone and this way I got to my bedroom where I could take my flash light (with of course fainting light, those batteries always start dying on me when I need them). After 10 minutes only I realised that opening my curtains did bring in a little light inside since the snow was reflecting the moonlight.

Without the possibility to do anything anymore, I went to bed in the hope to wake up a couple of hours later with the electricity back on. I couldn't help myself though for running in my head some disaster scenario's where the electricity did not turn back up in the first day. It's so scary to imagine waking up without heating and a snow blizzard outside (and you can't leave the appartment because there is at least a meter snow outside your door of course), without warm water to shower or to cook food, with a slowly (slow because there is no heating in the house) defrosting freezer full of food, without a clock, music, telephone, computer or tv, .... I really didn't feel at ease last night. I know, my thoughts were quite melodramatic but still. You know that we've become so dependent on electricity but it's only during a power outage that you feel so helpless. There is really nothing you can do anymore.
the advantage was that there was no risk that my neighbours would play loud music at night either :p. Well they haven't done that in ages so it's ok, but it did give me some ideas on action, the next time they do that....hihi the main electricity switch of each floor is in the entrance hall.

Anyway after a couple of hours I did woke up and my alarm clock projected the time again. It actually projected the correct time to me which is still a mysterie because I don't remember putting back-up batteries in it. So how can it calculate the true time if it's been out for a couple of hours?? Hmm, going to check that thing out.
Maybe it's just as mysterious as the little "thin client" computers we have on the project for the users. those little things don't have a real hard drive since they only connect to a big server on which all programs and files are stored. Well we shut those things down after giving training, but then (not always) after 1-2- ... hours, all of a sudden they start up again. They just start booting up without anybody touching them. When they do that, it's usually not just one of them, but a group of them. Quite strange when that happens. The IT helpdesk thinks we are fooling them, but we are not. oh well except for waisting electricity it's not really harmfull.

At this moment, some parts of the country are still getting snow showers, causing a lot of accidents on the road. So I didn't drive to Leuven to help Jan working in the house. Sorry about that! there are still area's without electricity, so my fear of being without it for a long time wasn't so exaggerated after all. Yikes.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Wintertime!!

My street in the snow


some brave children made this first snowman late at night!

It snows! It really snows and it snows right away big time! It was predicted but I thought it would be of that melting messy kind. This morning when I was driving to work I heard on the radio that some places had already 10 cm of snow, but I didn't see a flake, exept on some cars driving by. I must honestly admit that I was a bit disappointed. The entire day was dry and there was no snow to see until 30 km from home. And now it keeps on falling down and as you can see , my street has already been transformed in a white scenery. Very very unusual for november. Except for last year, we don't usually get a lot of snow that remains.

3 weeks ago we still had 20 C! And in the last week it all of a sudden turned into winter with freezing temperatures all week and now we got snow. Although it seems that Belgium is escaping from the worst weather: in the Netherlands they had at one point today 800 kms of traffic jam!! (I guess that average length of the netherlands is about 400 km?)

I must say I was already in the winter mood this week. With the predicted freezing temperatures I stuffed my gloves and hat and scarf in my suitcase as well. In Liège, they were putting up the Christmas decorations everywhere in the street and setting up the boots that will hold the Christmas market later on in December. That always adds to the nice atmosphere although Christmas is of course still very far away.

On Wednesday we (= my team mates that were also staying in the hotel) found this really nice little restaurant after a good walk through the cold. It wasn't very big but had a huge fireplace in the middle. You know how it goes: you go in all frozen and soon enough you are all cosy and warm with red cheeks inside. I love the warmth of a fireplace. Having a fireplace is really a must for me, it is so cosy, so warm and a very special warmth. Then it doesn't matter it's a little too hot. In that restaurant we could all table barbecue on little built in bbq's. So we were soon all hanging over the warm coles, turning our meat around on the grill , adding salads and gratinated patotoes and different sauces. It was a very nice and cosy evening. Perfect type of dining for a cold day.

Don't you think that cold weather just makes everybody feel like cocooning inside. Can't imagine now that a couple of months ago, it was hot outside and that we wanted outdoor activities and active stuff. Now I just feel like being at home, watching tv with Jan, sipping a hot milk in the sofa. Hmmm great. I might just go and sit in the coach right now.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Life seen with a thick eye

Hmm my look at the world is a little different today as my right eye is swollen today. Although I should correct myself, the world doesn't look so much different to my but sure much itchier !!! Aaaah help.

Pff must be my allergy popping up again, although it's been years ago that my eye has been swollen like this. What on earth did I do to cause this? Ok it started freezing last weekend and in winter time I am always more sensitive. But this? Let's hope my creme (that I fortunatly always carry in my suitcase) will help. It's such a burning creme that I am positively sure that I won't feel the itch the first hours :p.

Unfortunately for you Allie, I don't carry my camera with me this week, so you won't see a picture of me like this. I honestly swear that I don't have my camera with me.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Busy day

Some days I am really gratefull that I have a company car and that I am not paying for my fuel. Today was definitally one of them as I zigzagged through the country and not always in the most logical way , one would think. Appointments and priorities made us go back and forth the same area a couple of times: go to my parents in Deinze, drive back to the other side of Ghent for a kitchen appointment, drive back past Deinze to decide on our floor tiles (which we didn't , but we narrowed them down to 2 options!) , drive back past Ghent to go see another kitchen store, ... and then we drove to my sister to visit them and little Stef for a while. And in the evening we rushed once more to the shopping center to buy some clothes.

Pffew, now I am tired, but it was a good day.

Last week's concert

Last week I sung and played the flute on a concert we did with the youth choir and the youth band from a neighbour town. Here are some snapshots Jan took with his mobile phone.



Thursday, November 17, 2005

House plastered !!!

Our house is now fully plastered (except for the many many wholes in the plaster plates that we still need to fill). It now really starts to look as minimalistic and modern and straight lined as we want. cool


View from the back of the living room towards dining place and future kitchen in the back


In the back we have a 'vide'(empty space where living room goes up 2 floors ) with a little mezzanine we can sit down

We love our choice of minimalistic lights for the hallway!