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


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!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Rude restaurant

Pfff I am pissed off. We just went to a restaurant we often go to in Liege after work with all those who are staying in the hotel. The food is really good there.

Today all of a sudden they were so rude to us and service was down to zero. Everything we asked seemed to annoy them, they literally told us to rush, took our plates away too quickly, didn't want to close the open door when we asked for it, ... Incredible

So we will never go to LE MOUTON BLANC again!

Advantage of it all is that I returned quicker than usual to the hotel. Some time left to log in after a very very long day at work. I worked almost to 9PM today. Pff so much work. Pity me. I even have a cold, although that one is already getting better. I did run out of my supply of tissues today but a good colleague went to buy 18 packages for me today. I hope I don't need nearly as many!!

Love from Liege from the IBIS hotel

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Shoulder operation

Last Monday, my mother had to undergo a shoulder operation. In the past one of the tendons in her left shoulder had already been torn off twice, resulting in 2 operations and lots of revalidation and physical excercises to recover.

Now the tendon in her right shoulder risked to start tearing as well, so they executed a preventive operation to avoid worse. So her arm is all wrapped up again for a couple of weeks and she'll have to start doing physiotherapy excercises again.

So mama, if you can't do anything else in the house except for reading my blog, I wish you a good recovery !!!

Bugs bugs

aaaargh, everything seems to go wrong this morning. There are bugs and we can't test them because of another problem that we don't understand and now the system went down. Aaaaaah and I have to start my training right now.... pfff :(. Can anybody help me? help?

Lets look at the bright sight: they fixed the heating yesterday. Until now we had been without heating. With the warm fall that was ok, but on monday we were all freezing in here.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Halloween and All Saints Day (and some fashion notes too)

By the beginning of November the weather gods seem to have decided that they really had to stop now the summer weather. This decision resulted in a week with weather that was already "more appropriate" to the fall although the temperatures were still quite moderate. No need for thick coats and scarfs yet. But an embralla could already be used and some gusts of wind now and then started to blow down the many leaves on all the trees.

So time to start wearing massively my boots again, as most woman were already doing so. Is boots also such a huge fasion in North America? Here it is like you can only wear boots anymore, no more shoes.... last week I bought my second pair of boots so I can alternate. I have my old but still classy black leather tight boots with high heals and now I added a pair of brown daim boots also with a small heal. And the beginning of the nineties are back : tight jeans again in Europe ( haha now I get a flash back of comments I got in PCSS in Creston during my exchange " oh my god, how did you get into those jeans" ...." poor girl, she wears pants that don't fit her anymore..." . Well figure it out, at that time Canadian teenagers were already wearing baggy trousers, they actually cut open their jeans to add a flowery stroke of textile in it to make them more baggy. The contrast with my European fashion could not have been bigger!). So anyway 10 % of the woman outside are already walking around with pale very tight jeans tucked away in big boots. 3 weeks in London I noticed it first and I thought it would take another while before we adopted it too but it was one of the first things I saw when I came back :). Well one of my friends has a clothing store and she already told me two years ago that the designers were already trying to launch the tight jeans again. So I knew it was coming. haven't bought one yet though, I am more thrilled about the abolute popularity of the skirt that has been going on for a couple of years now and that is still growing. On one of my friends birthday party recently I noticed that all girls were wearing a skirt!

hmm I titled this note Halloween and All Saints Day so I guess I am getting off track here. I hope you don't mind that I just am typing away a little bit.

I often get the question whether we celebrate Halloween in Belgium. 10 years ago during my exchange my answer was no.. In the mean time it is already quite visible in our media and streets and stores as well. It started (familiar from all the American tv shows and movies that we also watch) as pumkin decorations in stores and some students having theme parties etc.... But it's becoming more popular quite rapidly and I am not that surprised anymore to see some spider webs as decoration in pubs or stores or something. The big shopping center, shopping streets and theme parks now have Halloween days where there is scary animation and the children can get candy.
Trick or treating is not common yet though. Last year I heard the comments of some confused colleagues who all of a sudden had a coupld of kids at their door and they didn't quite know what to do. Last sunday 4 kids advantured the same thing, but at first they weren't even dressed up. Sorry, but ringing the doorbell and asking whether they can get candy sounds more like begging to me. If you copy another culture's habits, make sure you do it right. Somehow they figured that out because half an hour later I walked by again and then they had a cape and a wig on. Still the old lady that opened the door was a bit confused.

The advantage of celebrating Halloween is that it is always happening in a vacation. All Belgium schools always close that week. Not because of Halloween but because of All Saints day which is celebrated on the first of November and which is a Bank Holiday in Belgium . That is an old Catholic religious feast to remember and celebrate the saints. It used to be in the spring apparently but in the Early Middle Ages it was moved to the fall in order to replace an old pagan feast to celebrate the fall (as most Christian feasts like Christmas and Easter all somehow linked to older pagan feasts anyway) ( would we have had some type of pagan halloween ??). On the 2nd of November it's All Souls Day. That is not a bank holiday. We can't have it all huh.

On All Saints Day we have the tradition to go to the cimatories to visit the graves of our relatives and friends and to bring flowers to the grave. All my life I've been driving around on the 1st of November or in the weekend before and after to go to the graves of my grandparents, my sister and brother, my aunt etc... The tradition is fading away with young people although still quite strong for the +50. Still more than half of the Belgian population goes to the cimatories that day. Maybe the young people of now don't want to be interested in the dead but maybe they will pick it up again once they've had the experience of losing parents or loved ones and having to take care of a grave. I hope so, because it's a tradition that I think is valuable. I often hear the comment : " I don't need a fixed day to go to the cimatory, it's artificial, I can remember x at home as well, ..." . But I know myself: we all live such rushed lives and good intentions often never happen. And being at the grave is still different to me.

If the weather is ok, the cimetories are also sooo beautiful: one big sea of flowers and people walking around with flowers. I often also had the impression that it was a kind of reunion trip for my parents when going back to their birth villages and visiting my grandparents graves. Always the met old school friends, other far relatives etc... Quite boring as a little girl to wait patiently until they stopped talking to all these strangers!!

This year I couldn't go yet since I was working exceptionally on this holiday.