Monday, July 30, 2007

The new mister Balen?

An ex-colleague from Brussels currently works for the town of Balen. In a chat conversation today he revealed to me the spectacular news that he and some colleagues had enrolled in a mister election in some kind of moment of insanity. He's in the picture in the middle (spetter02).

It all started as a big joke for him, nevertheless now they were taking part in it, they were going for the title. He would have already had a body wax for the election day!? Ough!!! Poor you.

So since this seems to be going out of hand anyway, I offered to make some publicity on my blog for him. I had the impression he was really pleased with the offer.

So who am I to refuse that huh?

....well I could be the one whome he tried to fool/ fooled so often before. We (incl Jan) have a tradition of making up stories to each other and trying to make the other believe it. So when Wouter became a father, I actually didn't believe it until he came in the office with his first ultrasound pictures.
This time I think
  • you'll have to be in one of the official pictures of the website and have an official televoting number rather than this private mobile phone number.
  • you should be wearing also the official Miss Balen T-shirt as the other finalist rather than seeming to have borrowed the sashes to pose for a picture.
  • You are to old to take part in the Mister Balen election You can still enroll for the Sir Balen election (>30y), but you wouldn't have a "finalist" position yet.
Sorry Wouter, but I don't buy your story. Good try though ;). It was fun again, like the old days :D.... and I kept my promise. Your picture is on my blog. How do you like that??

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The great thing about having dinner guests that you can still eat the left-overs the next day(s). Mmmmm yummie.

Hurray for Tom

Woohoo after 19 years a Belgian has got the green jersay at the Tour de France again. Congratulations at our sprinter Belgian star Tom Boonen.

Google it

Sometimes it's cool to check the search terms that people use when they land via google on my blog. Most of the time it is fairly straight forward, but sometimes I really wonder how I ended up in the result list of that search!

"Nude cyclers"...huh? did I ever already use the word nude in my posts? Hmm well now I sure did. But before?
"Gent toilet with picture"? Hihi, well I guess my posts about Ghent combined with old posts about our painted toilet wall, did not really meet the searcher's expectations.
"citronella drag queen": also that must have been a combination of a post about my herbs and one about the concert of Les Truttes.

You can also see the internet hypes coming by: tour the france, the Britain got's talent show, Yves Leterme's blunder etc... All in all it's a fairly boring image. No spicy searches arriving here, I'm afraid.

What's a funny search that ended up on your sites unexpectedly ??

A cousins bbq

Until noon we had not decided whether we'd risk doing a bbq or whether we had to opt for more traditional cooking in our kitchen. When some more dry intervals were predicted, we have taken the shot after we had put up or little white tent in our garden that could keep the meat on the bbq dry if necessary. When the sun started peeking now and then through the dark clouds, we even got so optimistic as to set the table outside. And we succeeded to spend the entire evening outside. yeaaah, great. Fortunately for us, it only started raining again after we went to bed.

Only 2 of my cousins and their families could make it as well as my sister, after we had received some last minute cancellations. Too bad, it would have been fun to truly have been all together in a mini informal family reunion. Maybe next time. It was fun already now.
The children had a good time playing with the little ball, chasing each other, drawing on the toilet door or playing other games. The much younger Stef (23 months now) happely ran among the bigger kids. In a hilarious way he was trying to mimic the others and play along even if he had no clue what the game rules were. Soon he was playing along 1-2-3 piano also facing the wall and quickly turning around yelling "Pianooooo!" and also pointing to the other kids who had not moved in fact but he didn't truly know what he had to do. He simply immitated the others while we were all laughing our heads off.

When we came to his most favourite activity "eating", he was also the star of the show as always. At one point we were pointing at everybody and he had to say the name of the person:
* who's that ?
* mommy
* who's that?
* (whisper...Victor)
* Victor
* who's that
* Ellen!
* who's that (pointing at Jan who just came out of the kitchen with a dish of food)

Even with "only 8 adults and 4 children", our tiny garden was really busy

My sister's story has caught everybody's attention apparently

Casper clinging to his dad and Victor enjoying a back massage

My sister and Stef caught doing a little dance

Stef all excited about the food

Ball games...that are bound to end with the ball flying over the top of the wall in the garden of the neighbours. No worries, my sportive cousin Koen had no difficulty hopping over and recovering the ball again.

An animation film is always entertaining for young and old

Friday, July 27, 2007

Oscar the cat

Since we are so with our noses in tourist guides lately, my ears buzzed when this cat from Providence, Rhode Island came in our news! Oscar the cat lives in a ward and seems to feel when people are dying.

Yikes...I am glad we are not sleeping in Providence itself. I wouldn't want to find Oscar on my hotelbed!

PS: it is raining hard again! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, I hate it.

I am not into tropical music at Beleuvenissen

....simply because we didn't go. I am too tired. I didn't get out of the sofa anymore, although I did book another B&B near the White Mountains in Nh. aaaah laptops are so nice.
As it starts raining a bit right now, I am kinda glad that I am not downtown right now.

Good night!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


  • Flights have been booked
  • Daily itineraries have been created for New England.
  • 6 nights have final accomodation booked and 1 night has a provisional accomodation booked.
  • Car has been booked.
  • Books on New England and map from Amazon have arrived.

Hey, we're making progress! But I am neglecting my ironing pile. Oh well.

weather predictions

Woohoo one day without rain..... I actually saw the sun again today. Wow.

tomorrow: rain
Friday: most of day dry, but showers possible
Saturday: periods with rain
Sunday: cloudy ( rain?)
Monday : more chance on showers and thunderstorms

Pffffffff. Please could everyone else in the world stop blogging about heat, vacation at beaches , stop posting sunny pictures out of solidarity? I am kinda having waves of serious jealousy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Not out housewife

I am not cut out to be a housewife...or at least not to fill my days with typical household chores. Due to the rainy weather , my day of vacation ended up being a day of cleaning. And I am glad that those windows finally got washed (big difference) etc...but it sucks so much to clean a house. I hate it. It makes me stressed and it makes me depressed and I get easily irritated.

or the lousy summer is making me depressed. At least the nice spells in between the showers are scheduled in the weekends...that's already something. But I need more sun! I desperately need more sun and warmth.

Hmm it wasn't my day.

Gentse Feesten

Maybe some of you were already wondering whether I'd truly skip the Gentse Feesten this year. ..... Of course not! How could I miss the 10 day city festival in Ghent? I only went one day whereas last years (when still living in Ghent) I went a couple of days. Nevertheless, I really wanted to go at least one day!

And it was great. Ghent showed itself from its best side again. We saw street theatre, street musicians, danced on music from a cover group at the Groentemarkt, watched very very briefly the folkdances at boombal in Baudelopark, we saw the concerts of the New York Gospel experience, Yevguini and Gabriel Rios. Great day! Marvelous city!

waiting on the St-Pieters square, in front of the St-Pieters abbey church.

My good friend Sofie

Streetartists, the International Street Theatre Festival, ....

Isn't this a beautiful city!?

Cocktail time at Polé Polé fiesta tropical, with US gospel music at the background on the stage across the river

Polé Polé at night during the concert of Gabriel Rios: big crowd, beautiful setting, fun concert, lots of cute little boats coming by on the river to see the concert from the water

Our national anthem

Oh wow, my influence is so incredibly big...after typing my post about Belgian's national feeling yesterday, Yves Leterme felt the need to proof what I've written in front of the tv camera's.

For those of you who don't know Yves Leterme: he is candidate prime minister and trying to form a government coalition at the moment with his party that won the elections and with the liberals. The Frenchspeaking part of Belgium is very suspicious about him and his party though as it's known for its strong Flemish regionalistic points of view and they fear he wants to break up Belgium.

Anyway, as I stated yesterday, not many Belgians know the words of our national anthem and also not many know the exact reason as why we celebrate our national holiday on July 21st. It's the day that our first king, Leopold I took the crown in 1831 (one year after our independence).

Traditionally in Brussels (and other cities) the Te Deum is celebrated, a eucharist in which the King is praised and celebrated. All prominent politicians usually show up there and so did Yves Leterme although he's in the midst of negotiations to form our new governemnt.
A journalist asked him why we were celebrating our national holiday and he gave the wrong answer. Then they asked him to sing our national anthem ...and joke oh joke...he started singing the Marseillaise (French national anthem) rather than our Belgian Brabançonne. haha...what a blunder. Hilarious!

Hmm the Flemish think this is a good joke. He simply proofs that he's a real Belgian...but maybe he should know better if he has the ambition to become our prime minister.

Unfortunately the Frenchspeaking media see it as a provocating arrogant stunt. And the foreign media pick it up.

Oh well, this is Belgium. It'll blow over.

update: after saving this post, I remembered something from my childhood. My sister was on an exchange program in Canada...long before e-mails could be sent or blogs could be kept. We had to simply write letters and as a treat for Christmas, my sister had filled a cassette tape with stories and had mailed it to us. How great to listen to her voice again, lots of times.
At the start of her tape she intended to sing the Brabanconne....but instead she sang the tune of the Eurovision song contest :p, and she didn't realise she had made a mistake.

...maybe my sister should run for prime minister now???

Saturday, July 21, 2007

National feeling

Today is our national holiday in Belgium. I had to think about the difference in celebrations and attitude towards a national holiday and national symbols across countries.

In Belgium we do not seem to care as much about it as elsewhere. Only 2% of the population would know the words of our national anthem (I don't!...despite Rotary's efforts to teach us our national anthem before going on exchange, in order to give a good impression abroad ). You do see some houses that hang the national flag, our tri-color (black/yellow/red) outside, but 10 days ago there were more Flemish lions hanging out when it was our flemish regional holiday. For most of us it's simply a day off, a day that all stores are closed and that probably there are fireworks tonight in a lot of towns. The king makes his annual speech on tv and the army parades through Brussels, but that is truly tooo boring to watch though. In Brussels there are quite a few activities that does attract a big crowd, but regionally there is not much happening.

That does not mean though that we are not proud of our country though. I think most of us still love our country, not taking some seperatists into account, ...but we simply cannot add much value in those symbols. I think we'll all proudly tell foreigners to come and visit our beautiful historical cities...We are pissed off when North-Americans think that French fries actually originate in France (Grrrrr....haha what a joke when they called them Freedom fries in order to piss off France....hilarious). We all know we have definately the best beers and best chocolate in the world. There is simply no doubt about that. And we are all huge fans of Tom Boonen (who has already won twice in the Tour and will likely gain the green jersey) and Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin and our other sport stars. We are proud that the head of the Olympic committe is a Belgian, etc etc... But we don't wish each other a "nice Belgian holiday" today.
In Canada people all seem to know their national flower, their provinces flower, the flags are all over and they must carry a pin with their flag when they are abroad, .... On the first of July I got via msn and Facebook several "happy Canada Day " wishes.
The same happened on the 4th of July from American friends. I remember very well a post that Sari has written over at the She describes the feeling and emotions when the flag flew and the anthem was song at a boys baseball game. Those are situations that we cannot relate to I suppose, and yet I think we miss them somehow. We mock the Dutch when they all go orange nuts in big sports tournaments and dress up orange and decorate houses and offices orange etc... We mock them, but personally I also think it's cool to some degree. It wouldn't hurt if the Belgians just got a little bit more bitten by a national feeling and showing it off.

I remember a day that all the Rotary exchange students of the district 5080 were together in Colville, WA and we had to present ouselves to the other rotarians in a flag parade. While waiting, we were simply goofing around, chasing each other and running around with our flags. All of a sudden a Rotarian came in and he completely freaked out at us when he saw us because apparently part of our Belgian flag had been dragging on the floor while running around. We had not noticed, we had not done it intentionally....but it wasn't such a big deal for us either. We simply thought "ooops, it'll get dirty, we'd better be a bit careful". To that man, it meant a lot more, but we did not understand the fuss.

3 weeks ago my aunt and uncle celebrated their golden anniversary and they were celebrated at their townhall. During a part of the ceremony the Belgian national anthem was played. With a shock I realised it was the first time in my life that I had to listen to our national anthem! Can you believe that? I am sure the Belgians can believe me and the foreigners don't. I mean I've heard it often before on tv: before any speech made by the Kind, when a Belgian wins a medal at the Olympics, before our national soccer team plays, .... But never life so that I am actually asked to stand up, stand respectfully still and listen. was weird! I truly felt awkward.

I am into Belgian music at Beleuvenissen

Do you see the pattern? It's been friday night so here is a post about Beleuvenissen in Leuven. On my day off, after a full day of plunging into New England websites, a tourist guide, google maps, ....for hours, I had drafted our itinerary for our trip to New England. I was only going to look for about 2 hours and then I had plans to iron, wash the windows, move some clothes from the upper flow to our dressing (that's been ready for a couple of weeks now), ....
But the 2 hours took much longer as searching and planning turned out to be quite addictive and it takes some time to find your way in all the information, and I wanted to continue.

In the evening, my head was still buzzing with all the information and I was simply tired and happy to lay in the sofa. A lot of our friends turned out to be at the 'Gentse Feesten' , partying in Ghent, so we had no obligation to go out of the door. But after some hesitation we lifted out butts anyway and off we went to Beleuvenissen.

The theme of the third evening is always "Special", meaning that it's all popular Belgian musicians coming along. Yesterday night, Clouseau climbed on the main stage at the Oude Markt. Due to the security risk that might happen when a big crowd tries to get on the Oude Markt (there's been issues with Clouseau and overcrowded squares in the past among others at the 'Gentse Feesten'), there was no free entrance there. All 10000 free tickets had been reserved and we didn't obtain any. I don't truly dislike them, but I totally not motivated to go and stand in line at the townhall weeks before in order to get some tickets for their concert. Although I'm sure that their concerts must be good fun.

We started off at the Hogeschoolplein where Eva De Roovere was singing. We arrived at the end of her act and I didn't regret that as I am not too fond of her songs. And I feared she'd sing the horrible tune of the Emma tv show :p. We ended up listening to Gene Thomas for a while and then headed for the concert of Les Truttes. The contrast between the 2 stages was remarkable: whereas Gene Thomas started the evening by singing covers of all artists he admires (U2, Prince, ...) and bringing good artisanal and hontest songs, Les Truttes on the other side of the church also bring cover songs, but with a lot of drama, lightshow, attributes, costumes etc... I had seen them before on the Gentse Feesten so I knew what to expect.
With their catchy tunes and medleys , mixing the A-Team's tune easily to some well known disco tunes to some soccer songs, their lighted up stage stairs, the lightning guitar, the drag queen like wig from the main singer, .... they sure brought a lot of atmosphere on the square and even in the back, people were clapping and singing along. Good fun.

After the concert we went back to Gene Thomas to see the end of his concert. He seemed to have more success with is own Flemish hit songs than with his cover songs. Funny to see some teenage chicks singing passionately along :p.

Anyway, it was a pleasant night out. I am glad that we didn't stay in our sofa all night.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ostriches aren't what they used to be

What the hell: there was an ostrich walking on the highway today! Huh?

well...I guess it's good that the Tour didn't come by there today :p...what a spectacular crash that would make. Good that no accidents happened.

Poor dog, poor cycler

Today in the Tour de France! the German cycler Marcus Burghards couldn't avoid the crossing labrador anymore as it crossed the road some 50 km after the start of the stage from Val d'Isere. Both of them came out uninjured apparently but I suppose they are both a bit shaken.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Super Schmoozing me

Steadily my blogroll is growing and growing as I continue to click on other people's blogrolls or click on the blogger profiles of interesting commenters etc... Sometimes I keep on reading the blog, sometimes I visit a couple of times and then stay away and slowly forget the blog as it didn't really strike me. Nevertheless I regularly follow more and more blogs.

Whenever I see an in interesting post I am also tempted to comment. But I always hesitate on a new blog...I sometimes feel like an intruder, I wonder if my unsollicited comment will be appreciated, whether they'll wonder "who the hell is goofball?", ... But I usually go for it. Sometimes you get an answer, most of the time you don't. On blogs which I like and which I frequently read, I also become quickly a regular commentator.

Nevertheless I sometimes feel a bit like an outsider. On some blogs, you feel that the other bloggers make circles of interconnections, referrals to each other etc.... You can group blogs in communities, especially if you click from one blogroll to another one. Then you have a big chance to meet the same commentators on the new blogs etc... I seem to be reading the "bloggers from Ghent" community: a group of bloggers that also work for or live in the area of Ghent and often know each other. There's also a group of blogs of expats that I read, since I love to hear about different cultures, the foreigners view on Belgium or Europe, the difficulties of settling in a new environment etc. And thanks to Allie I started reading a lot of Canadian/American mommy/parenting blogs.

I am neither living around Ghent anymore though, I am neither an expat or a blogging mom.

I also notice that there are some unwritten structures that start ruling in those communities: Belgian bloggers (well, at least the ones I keep track off) often seem to have a passion for geeky internet stuff and follow the online communities hype (twitter this winter, the discovery of Facebook in June, Pounce is now being tested, ...) or they are renovating (hey...I said they were Belgians so that was obvious) or they seem to be pregnant. But other than a lot of common subjects that come back, they seem relatively unstructured.

English speaking blogs (both among the mommies as the expats) share a lot more structure: Wednesdays are preferably wordless, if you post a thirtheen item list on thursday, that's cool. On Saturday you are invited to go on photo hunts, etc... And meme's are thrown back and forth.
There are no obligations whatsoever but you see these patterns coming back regularly.

Another thing that you mostly see on English speaking blogs is the many awards that bloggers give to fellow bloggers. I must honestly say that I've frowned my eyes already in the past at the ease and frequency that this cyberlove got translated into a myriad of awards that pop out of nowhere. What's the value of them? They simply spread contageously (because people feel somehow obliged to spread them) and I looked at it with some envy. It made me think at the difference in European culture and Anglo-Saxon /American culture: in the latter one it is so much more common to praise each other and to give positive feedback. In Europe we seem to treasure much the economic idea that scarcity increases the value, so we don't hand out a lot of compliments.

(hmm I get a flashback : I was with a Belgian colleague on training in Chicago and my colleague got so irritated by this culture difference that he stated all of a sudden to me "if the teacher says once more "good job" during a stupid assignment, I'll kick her out of the window"...we are so not used to it that we get irritated by an abundance of compliments, that seem to become valueless to us).

Anyway, this was a very lenghty introduction just to say that I sometimes felt a bit an outsider in the blogosphere and that I had ambiguous feelings about blog awards...


yes, I wrote that in past tense. Today I was reading Jen in Holland's blog and much to my total shock and surprise, she gave me a power to schmooze award! Woooohoo I am so flattered! Someone I have never met, finds my blog and comments interesting enough to give me an award. I was seriously moved. I had never expected to get an award.

So gone are my ambigious feelings about bloggers giving each other awards: I feel simply proud. And happy that I do persist in leaving comments on lots of blogs and trying to connect and get communication going and being respectful and honest and positive encouraging (hey I did live in canada, so I do have a bit of the positive encouragement mentality in me as well :p). And maybe I am not always perceived as an outsider although I still don't fit in one blogging classification.

So here I proudly present my button:

Doesn't this rock? Here is the explanation of the button:

"Schmoozing is the natural ability “to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.” Good schmoozers effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello - all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship"

As this award is all about blogging community involvement, it is now my turn to compliment other blogges with this award.

1. Allie at Life at the Whittinghams: my dear Canadian friend that is always so honest, open, compassionate and shares all her joys, doubts,... with us. Her comments are always warm and encouraging.

2. Betsy at Blog Ness Monster: The sense of humor with which she embraces her daily challenges in parenthood and settling in a new environment are so contagious. Her posts and comments often make me smile. thanks to her I also discovered a lot of new blogs.

3. the entire team of volunteers at Gent Blogt. Not sure if the authors will ever read this, but they sure have managed to create a blogging community in Ghent and from that community they also have created a real life community in Ghent. They make people aware of activities and I am sure that they bring people together in some way. And all of this in a professional way.

4. Jenn at My life in a nutshell as she has a lot of positive energy in life and leaves sweet and nice and comments herself

Monday, July 16, 2007

New England dreams

We urgently needed to plan our vacation before our work schedules wouldn't allow us to do so anymore. Last week the Euro had twice a record height against the dollar, which means that the USA is really cheap for us to go to right now. Jan all of a sudden uttered the idea to go to Boston.

There's many many destinations that I'd like to go to on vacation e.g. a diving destination. But the east coast of the USA and Canada is also on my wishlist. I am so in love with the beauty of Britisch Columbia, but I always miss 'history' there. The eastcoast of the USA holds all these historied beauties, stories, .... and also beautiful landscapes.

So the idea attracted us. As soon as we started surfing a bit, the more enthousiastic I became about New England. First I though it'd be a pity to go to Boston, close to New York without visiting New York. We see self-drives that visit Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, ....all in 2 weeks. But we'd rather not visit 10 cities in 14 days. So it's been decided: we'll do a 2 week vacation in New England.

So our flights are booked and right now we are dreaming away with the our newly bought tourist guide of New England, the tourist websites, travelpedia, B&B websites, ... Cooo-hool, it's going to be a great trip. And it's great to dream and plan! Any tips and must do's are welcome!

My wishlist so far: white mountains, cape cod, Boston itself, Harvard, Newport, Burlington, Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, and many more......

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Auntie Ellen play ball

The entire week I had been counting down towards the weekend since they had predicted temperatures up to 30C. After weeks of 14C, 30 C sounds heavily.

After a day of working in our bathroom (Jan and his dad, not me) and cleaning the house, Jan's brother came over with his family for a bbq. The threatening thunder clouds had disappeared. Jan had as always prepared loads of food to enjoy including freshly made ice cream. Yummie. And I had a lot of time to play with the ball with Luisa in our tiny garden. Luckily she's still small enough not to throw the ball very high or far away. I think we'll need to invest in our neighbours relationships in order to retrieve the balls that fly over our wall in the future. And we'll need to find a way as to know in which garden exactly it has landed since lots of tiny gardens are all coming together behind us.

'Auntie Ellen play ball' 'Auntie Ellen play ball'...hmm it was easy entertainment, I must admit but it was fun. And it was the first time I was truly called fully 'Auntie Ellen' I think. Just for once Jan was not the only hero and I must say that I was happy to share in the toddler's attention.

And the toilet chalkboard wall turned out to be more entertaining for her than the served icecream! At the end of the evening when we were showing Jan's brother and sister-in-law the progress of the bathroom, Luisa discovered our big bed (in which we were ordered to lay down with her as well!) and the kiekeboe strips. The little girl already knows all characters by heart! Pretty amazing or maybe not when her dad and uncle are Kiekeboe freaks.

Hmm we felt like a quite popular auntie and uncle :p....

Isn't that an adorable picture??

I am....not so much into jazz at beleuvenissen

It's july and it was it was "Beleuvenissen" in Leuven. The theme at Beleuvenissen was Jazz on this second evening. I've never really been a jazz fan. I still remember my first class of 'Western Civilisation' in Canada : my teacher was playing some jazz and we had to write down associations. I had written down 'ugly screaming saxophones' on my sheet in Dutch. My teacher turned out to be a real jazz fan and ...understanding Dutch as well :p. We had a good laugh about it and Western Civ became my favourite class during my year in Canada.

Anyway despite my Jazz aversion and illiteracy 10 years ago, I wanted to see whether any of the performances could change my opinion and together with Jan and some friends, we headed downtown. After the real crappy weather we've had lately, the temperatures had finally risen to some more acceptable "summer" levels. As a result everybody seemed to be having the feeling that they had to take advantage of the good weather with an "outdoor" activity. So we were not the only ones downtown.

We first stopped at the tiny square near the Domus brewery where 'Iris and friends' where performing. The brochure predicted lots of swinging enthousiast musicians. I wonder if the author had actually seen them performing before. Iris and friends resembled more karaoke singing Mme Toussauld statues that were neither swinging or enthousiastic. Especially the contrabas player was remarkable in his unflappability. Don't get me wrong: they sounded pretty good! It was quite enjoyable to have a drink on the square and enjoy the music, with your back to the stage :p. And the basist got a lot of attention and photographs taken. When he did a little solo, the people all started clapping and cheering. It was quite funny really.

Afterwards we went to see the Brussels Jazz Orchestra. I am sure that they are excellent musicians, but they reminded me more about the ugly screaming saxophones. Hmm don't think my opinion about jazz has changed substantially.

We closed the evening at the Vismark where we finally have found some free chairs at a terrace to sit down and to listen from a distance to Doug Jay & The Blue Jays, who performed quite nice blues. I didn't obtain tickets for the Rhythm & Blues festival this weekend, but I did get to listen to some live blues :).

It was a great summer night! Finally!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

congratulations to Kim

Congratulations to Kim Clijsters who is getting married tomorrow and who apparently is pregnant as well

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

More pictures of Tour in Ghent

For those of you who liked my post yesterday,
here and here and here and here are lots of more pictures and stories of the tour in Ghent yesterday.

and if you start wondering whether I am a tour freak: not at all. I usually don't follow it at all. I like cycling classics that take one afternoon eg Paris-Roubaix, De Ronde van Vlaanderen (tour of flanders), ... But 3 weeks of cycling? nooo that is too much and gets too boring. Besides, Belgians never play a big role in it lately...although last years we make chance for the green jersey. But I must admit that being there life and seeing it all was quite exciting. Maybe this year I follow it a bit more. On the other hand, it's only the third etape today, so it might wear off quickly.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Le tour de France in Belgium!

It is not the first time that the Tour de France comes by in Belgium...but it doesn't happen each year. And the cycle frenzy sure doesn't come often through my old home towns of Deinze and Ghent (well, they did in '99...and I was in Canada at that moment).

So that was reason enough to take the day off and to go and to have a look and feel the atmosphere. We parked at 3 PM at Flanders Expo to use the P&R. It's simply the easiest thing to do. There was a lot of people out and the vibe of the event was alive in Ghent, but I had expected a bigger crowd. (there were about 100000 people, half of what the city had expected However 90 minutes before the arrival you could still easily walk the big city borders among the crowds, the food stands, the stages and the VIP villages. Many people had come by bike and were riding along, dressed in the shirts of their favourite teams.

Because it was too busy at the arrival, we walked up to 2 kms from the arrival where we could still post ourselves at the fences (because there was no big screen nearby...which left us out to guess what was happening).
One hour before the actual race, the publicity parade came by. It reminded me of the Canteclaer parade in Deinze were also candy and vegetables were handed out (the characters were farmers on their way to the market). This time the cars raced by faster and all the hostesses were in 'mountainclimbing' -like harnasses and attached to poles on the cars to make sure they could not fall off. It must be an interesting summer job: 3 weeks driving the parcours of the Tour the France, waving enthousiastically to the crowd along the road and throwing now and them some silly gadgets. My reflexes were clearly not very much trained but together with Jan we did catch 2 hats (Skoda and Le Faillitaire) , a 'La-vache-qui-rit' magnet and 2 bottels of Nestlé water. Woohoo. It was also quite funny that the entire caravan was french with all comments and publicity in French with sometimes companies or brands that were totally unknown to us. Even the French motorized police was accompagnying the caravan. Hihi funny.

"Oh la la la,, c'est la folie en Belgique"
"Profitez-en, venez venez, demain on est de nouveau partie..euuu"

After the last publicity cars had gone by, the tension started rising...where was the peleton? how far where they? Was Tom Boonen in first position?

Some phonecalls nearby learned us

* the peleton was in Deinze at 20 kms,
* 3 cyclers were 3 minutes ahead of the peleton (oh had to be a sprint in Ghent if our 2 Belgian teams wanted to have a chance to win: Tom Boonen or Robby Mc Ewen)
* it was raining in Deinze (yes threatening dark clouds were assembling above us as well!)

Another phone call

* they were now at Vosselaere Put in Deinze (hey...I know that...I swam there in the river once as a kid!)

A new phone call

* The peleton was at the edge of Ghent and they caught the head group (yes yes mass sprint ahead of minutes we'd see them during a few seconds racing by!)

Everyone was staring, everyone was leaning over the fences, everyone was looking in the air to see the broadcasting helicopter approaching, ... Cheers got louder, screams, ... I honestly had no idea what was going on.

And all of a sudden they are there. I see the first racers, have the time to step back (I was on the inner circle of a bend and at 2 km before the finish those sprinters race at 60km/h by!), I had the time to realise a little group had gone by and that there was a gap. I honestly had totally missed which runners had gone by, whether Robby or Tom or other Belgian team members were at the top.

People immediately spurted to a nearby garage that had a tv on, but I wanted to see the other cyclers rather than watching the time I was there they would have reached the finish anyway and I would have missed both.
What was confusing was the fact that instead of the expected mass sprint only about 10-30 sporters had gone by and then there was a gap. We heard rumours about a falling incident just before us, which explained it all. In the mean time a lot of cheers came out of the direction of the garage...I think a Belgian had won this etape! The cyclers that came afterwards were not in a rush or 2 extra minutes wouldn't make the difference , the sprinters were ahead , the decision had been made and those men were helpers or ... So then I had a chance to have a better look at all of them coming by.

Some of them were clearly hurt by the fall that had just happened: torn shirts, scratches, bleeding knees and elbows... The last ones got the most applause though: we had the time and they looked as if they needed the support.

A bit later we learned that Tom Boonen's helper, Gert Steegmans, who has to speed up the sprint for Tom, had actually won. With Tom coming in second, we had 2 Belgians on the stage in Gent! And a Belgian in the green jersey again. Yihaa, the Tour has started well :-). Yesterday the Belgian team Lotto-Predictor had a winner in Canterbury with their Australian ( almost Belgian) sprinter Robby and today the other Belgian team Quick-Step Ennergetic had another winner. That's good, because we can only count on some sprint wins....we don't really play along anymore once the mountains come in sight.

Ah a funny story: this morning the finish line still had to be painted in Ghent. The arriving boulevard had been completely renewed in the last months to ensure a smooth arrival for the cyclers. A French official had come to measure it all out and to decide precisely where the finish would be. That turned out to be a problem: the finish line would be across a pedestrian crossing and therefore almost invisible to see. So first the technical team of Ghent had to show up with black paint to make the crossing black, then it had to be dried especially and only afterwards the finish line could be drawn :p. Funny.

Anyway, it was a fun day, but a lot of organisation for only a few minutes that you can see the cyclers coming by. In 5 minutes they were all gone by.

the promotion caravan

the tension is rising...are they coming just around the corner??

Here are the sprinters of Quick-Step team racing for victory!

The tension was gone, the tempo got more relaxed

Rodriguez was clearly hurt in the falling. He passed by last.

all our politicians like to show up at cycling events, but our potential future prime minister came by in the team car.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

From Stella to Primus and back

Today was a really nice day out and tonight it started raining again, so we took the opportunity to go for a bike ride. Due to my pathetic physical condition, we opted for a ride along the canal. At least that would save me from grasping breath at each slight hill or bridge to cross (yes even a bridge, I am truly pathetic!!) and my legs going sour within 100 m.

It was a lovely afternoon and we enjoyed the sight of the many ducks, herons, loads of fishermen lined up (and they did catch a lot of fish so it seemed...hmm quality of water seems to be pretty good), some youth group even jumping in the water, walkers and lots of other cyclers, and some very full terrasses. Greeeaaaaat!!!
And I must say that the Flemish government has invested really well in bike roads, signalling etc... It's really nice and very easy to venture out by bike lately!

It was hard to estimate how far I could go and still be sure I made it back home. We rode up to the lock near Boortmeerbeek (12km from Leuven) where I drive by by car each day. I thought it'd be cool to come by there once by bike. Then we deserved a rest and got some new energy loaded with a pancake full of sugar and a big bitter drink just across the brewery from Haacht. So basically we started off at the canal just next to the brewery of Stella and we drowe to the home of Primus and then back. Not bad for a Maes girl huh :p.
The ride home was a lot more tiring and difficult than going up, as I had feared. Especially the last 2 km uphill to our house with legs that in the mean time were weighing 100kg, worried me. But I made it with a lot of stops at the end. And now while it's raining again I can treasure the memory of a fun day with legs weighing 1000kg in the mean time and a very sore butt!! Hmm we should do this more often :p

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Updated blogroll

I finally updated my blogroll. Check it out in the column on the right of this page.

Battle against unwanted pets

Remember my herbs? Well after all the wet weeks we've had, they are mostly gone. In a day or 2 all of a sudden the chives were gone. Disappeared. Then the basil leaves had holes in them....
Our garden is full of snails and I think they like my herbs. But I do not want to share with them :(. Fortunately they are a bit picky: they left me the rosemary that is getting flowers now, the sage, the mint and the citronella. Nevertheless they ate the koriander, basil, lettuce, chives, persil :(.
So tonight I've declared the war on the snails and I've put some "ecofriendly" snailpoison on their favourite spots.....Hope it works so I can start over with some new herbs soon!

And in the store my eye fell on a little flesh-eating plant that looked rather attractive. That ended up in the kitchen and I think its digesting its first fly already if I can see the black bulb in its partially transparant and hollow stem. Cool ! Quite an ecological measures huh. I am curious how it will continue! What if the house becomes 100% fly free...should we then feed the plant some ham or something :p . Hihi just imagine.

Shopping trip

We had quite our workout today:

1) we went up and down and back and forth on the first floor of Ikea, the ground floor of Ikea and back in the basement to the car!

2) We walked around all over the place at FACQ

3) We walked from one side to the canal to the other to see some more sanitair stores

(we are hunting for sanitair know how outrageously expensive those little toilet holder, towel holders etc are??)

4) we walked from home to the library downtown and back

5) we did the bick Carrefour and Brico slalom through all the isles.

my feet are tired now.

But it turned out a nice day and the sun was out. It wasn't hot, but it was nice. And we ate an ice cream downtown and we ate a salad outside in our garden. At least we felt a little bit like summer. Seems like they really listened to me?

I am into beleuvenissen

It's july and it was it was "Beleuvenissen" in Leuven. And traditionally the first friday is in the theme of folk.

My love to folk started during my exchange in Canada. In my ghost family Ronmark, my host dad had the habit of playing some quiet celtic music before going to bed. There were a couple of CD's that I soon knew by heart and that I learned to appreciate very much. It was also in Canada that I heard for the first time the concept "to fiddle" as opposed to playing the violin. There were a lot of fiddlers around.

Back in Belgium, I discovered Urban Trad on the festival in Ghent : I didn't knew their name then but they kept me dancing at Sint-Jacobs until the end of their concert :-). From pure celtic music I learned more about Irish folk and other folk. When I went for the first time to the folk festival in Dranouter I loved the charm of this easy going festival immediately. And in the mean time, all of Flanders is living in a "folk revival" with phenomena like 'boombals' being a real hype and a lot of excellent Belgian folk groups selling well.

So it's no surprise that I've been a regular visitor of Beleuvenissen 'folk' as well :-). How can you spend a better night than to walk around in the great historic setting of Leuven from stage to stage with everywhere international folk groups performing.

The crowd out there wasn't too big yesterday evening, probably still due to the cold weather and the uncertainty whether it would stay dry (it did). But the trough folkies showed up and at the stage of KV Express they needed no more explanation when and how to dance a "tovercirkel", "a scottish", ... Hmm the many boombals are clearly having its influence, if it continues like this those folk dances will slowly become cultural heritage ;).

Sophie Cavez is pretty amazing though. She is the accordianist of Urban Trad but started her own folkball group as well. In March she also participated in the choir concert where I played the flute as well and apparently she cannot read any music, so I heard. She would be a total auto-didact without any schooling. Wow that's amazing. That day she definately made me feel like an amateur (which obviously I am...I can only play simple things after studying a lot and cannot improvise at all, whereas she just fills in gaps with music just like just flows out of her accordion).

Anyway, it was a great evening with some big Belgian folk groups but also Irish folk etc... What I missed this year was a group of Galicia. I really like Galician folk music and there was none this year. Oh well, you can't have it all.

Urban Trad Sons of Navarone

The Oude Markt (old marketsquare) in Leuven