Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Divine buildings, arches, grapes and bubbles

I have a lot of stories in my head to tell you about our lovely weekend, but I'm too tired. The pictures will have to tell the tale for now.

Reims' cathedral


Château de Barives

Vallée de la Marne near Epernay (Champagne region)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

This weekend's theme is...


Do you enjoy some bubbles as well?
For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Searchlights in the water

I just got back from my first nightdive! And it went well.
I thought it would frighten me so I joined Jan and another buddy and asked them to just go under with me, make a tiny tour near the entry point and I'd go back up and let them continue on their dive.


but I never gave them the sign to go back (although apparently we did come by the stairs but I have not noticed so we went by) and I kept on floating in between their 2 bigger lights and felt calm.

Diving without sunlight is like walking in a dark wood with search lights...but swimming and you try to catch the fish in your light. We saw a lot of big pikes and many perches in all sizes.

hahaha, you know what's funny: you can see the lights of the divers from the side of the water.
And it was the first dive where I needed to search my dropped sock around the car with a flashlight!!

Cool, it's worth repeating.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The evolution of the hidden staircase

Sometimes you are reading another blog and you wonder 'hmm I could have written this myself" because they are going to similar emotions, events, ... Since a while I am reading Lies's blog and vice versa and we find a lot of similarities in our renovation stories. Yesterday she blogged about their plans to take out the little wall under the staircase and freeing up that space (while abandoning that entry to their basement).

Well...we did a similar thing and she wanted some pictures. So this is a post at request.

Before: a very narrow hallway (partially in (re)construction) with the original wooden panel forming the wall under the staircase and hiding the basement entry.

Intermediate: panels torn away leaving a big hole for the basement entrance.

Finished (ok, you were not supposed to see the still missing paint in the hallway!) (but notice our renovated staircase!)

there is space! Spaaaaaace.

Open sesame.......

Monday, September 22, 2008

Léon's Baptism

Léon got baptised last Sunday. And Jan was his proud godfather!

A sober but nice ceremony in church with an attentive curious baby

A family party with excellent food all afternoon and evening!
(see Lies , my hair isn't that much shorter?)

Excellent weather which allowed the kids to play outside

You can't believe what is hidden in the water

Requested by Jen and Snooker: some pictures

Me checking out the buswreck

A bigass zander in the bus...and one on top of the bus as wel as some perches

A buswreck, roadsigns, Nokia mobile phone models, a helicopterwrek, ....it's all there in Lac de L'Eau d'Heure.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Change of plans

What I thought my relaxing evening would look like:

18u15 finish up work "early" for once and go home to make sure I am there by the time Jan gets there
19u eat dinner leftovers , watch ER on tv, clean-up a bit, hang-out with Jan
20u45 get ready to leave for yoga
21u yoga time
22u get back from yoga totally free from worries, totally relaxed
23u go to bed

What happened instead

18u15 finish up work "early" for once and go home to make sure I am there by the time Jan gets there. In the hallway I hear my phone on my desk ringing . "too late", I thought.
18u20 One of my colleagues responsible for 2nd line helpdesk phones me while I drive of the parking lot that users don't see some data anymore on the screen. What the hell?
18u30 he phones me back with some more information
18u40 I phone supplier to check whether they were already implementing a change on our system which I had requested at this very moment
18u45 I phone a couple of more colleagues to see if any of them can log on and give me some more information and check some stuff for me
19u15 Home....attempting to log on but get connection errors
19u16- 22u : 20 phone calls later with suppliers, my ex-boss who had logged on as well to check and help, server technicians, master data team, .... we had identified the problem to a problematic upload of data this evening, we had found a workaround for the upload program not functioning as usual when launched from home and we had provisionally solved it by reloading a 2-day old download of part of the database. Pheww.
22u10...I finish my dinner leftovers

I think I could have used some yoga tonight. Oh well, fortunately these type of evenings are rare.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My weekend in pictures

For more words, read here

My mom, the birthday girl

The party music
The party hats
The caterers

Stef and me attempting to pose "angry" for the picture. Hmm don't we have the same look?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why I don't like the fall season

There's a lot of people that love the fall for the crisp air, walks in the woods, ... I don't understand them at all! I can see that the fall is not all bad, I never look forward to the transition of summer to fall for the following reasons:

  • It's really cold in the mornings, but can still warm up in the afternoon. It makes dressing choices impossible!

  • Summer festival season is over. Huh already? where did time fly? I still wanted to go to so many places this summer!

  • Invitations for BBQs at friend's places stop.
  • Breakfasts in pyama in the garden stop.

  • The calm days for students and teachers are over. Their stress starts building up.
  • It's getting crowded again in the gym.

  • My toes need to get locked up in closed shoes again while all my nice heeled sandals are boring themselves in the closet

  • The variety of summer fruits have gone. I prefer fresh strawberries, cherries, melons, ... to apples and pears.

  • I can't eat gazpacho anymore. Pumpkin soup can only partially make up for that.

  • The first times you wear wollen sweaters they sting like crazy. Makes my neck itchy and it drives me nuts.

  • It's getting darker again in the evenings. It's getting darker in the mornings.

  • The fall brings a lot more rain and foggy days. And the roads are slippery with wet leaves.

  • It gets too cold to go diving in Belgium.

  • Fashion in winter is less colorful than summer fashion.

  • Wearing jeans and corderoy pants is not as much fun as wearing shorts, tops, skirts, ...

  • It takes longer to get dressed (or changed in the sportscenter) as you need to put on a lot more layers of clothes than in summer! It also results in much more laundry to do.

  • The office doesn't turn the heating on before October, which is truly too late.

  • The true fun winter days cuddling at the fire place after a long winter walk in the freezing sun are not there yet.

  • Summer vacation trips are in the past...winter vacation trips still seem so far away.

  • Fall is the season in which we celebrate All Saints Day and All Soul's day on which we visit cemetaries.

  • In Fall the traffic jams have lenghtened dramatically after a nice smooth summer.

  • Whenever I go and take my bike out of the garden, I surely walk with my face into a spiderweb.

  • It's not cold enough to have killed all mosquitos

  • There's only 2 public holidays in fall.
  • ....

Well what I wanted to say: I always have a hard time to accept the fact that summer is over (especially if it never truly started!) and the transition to winter. From all seasons fall is my least favorite by far. Blèh, another year before it'll be summer. Sigh.

My weekend in a list

  • I don't need to flick my bangs backwards or sideways all the time anymore since I got my hair trimmed again. Aaaah no more hair in front of my eyes. Nice.
  • It's kind of sad to jump into the pool when you've just come home from the hairdresser.
  • 6 kids tried a first dive in the pool and came above water quite enthousiastically.
    wow did you know Mom that there's a blue button and it blows up your jacket and when you deflate you get all those bubbles!? Hehe, yes I knew that :p
  • Whereas last year I felt quite intimidated in the club because of my poor physical condition and I hoped nobody noticed my struggling too much, I now joked "slavedriver" to the trainer when he told us to swim 10 lapses to warm up.....I swam 6 of them and chatted the remaining time with the others about the past summer :p.
  • It sure hurts to start swimming intensely again after 3 months of inactivity. Maybe 10 lapses to warm up would not have hurt me :p. But I surely was not the only one getting leg cramps after half an hour.
  • Renée has really grown tall! She can put her arms on the table when standing next to it! Amazing for a 3 year old, no?
  • My mom celebrated her birthday today and we all cooked part of the meal for her.
  • Stef's conversations have improved greatly over the last months. He sometimes cracks me up because he picks up "adult phrases" and that sounds so funny when he says it.
  • It's even funnier when he tries to cross his legs like we do.
  • Whereas he has always loved the old piano at my parent's place and he has always "played" it by smashing his fists on the keys, he now starts to pay attention to the lower, higher keys and the variations between them while he sings some child songs along.
  • Jan and Stef started calling me "kabouter Kwebbel" (gnome Chatter). Oh thanks boys!
  • It's freaking cold in the mornings even when nice calm sunny weather has been predicted. Our heating had turned on this morning!!! Pff summer is really really over now.
  • We surely enjoyed sitting outside in the sun for cake, out of the wind.
  • Playing "catch my shadow" keeps you warm.
  • I suck at making shadow animals big time.
  • Some ducks jump up to low trees to catch and eat some of the lower leaves!
  • Drinking a lot of wine on a sunny day when you are already tired, makes you very very sleepy. Battling that in a cool wind with lots of coffee results in a pulsing headache. Thanks for paracetemol.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Damn damn , due to a fire in the Euro tunnel all train traffic between the UK and France has been suspended. Argh, why on a Thursday afternoon :( :(....I miss Jan.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

In the dark

Since a couple of weeks there's a sheet hanging up in all the toilets in our office:

"These toilets are equipped with CFLs so it's better to leave the light on all day".

I suppose they fear the lifespan of CFLs is shortened if you flip it on and out all the time. And yet that message feels so wrong. How can leaving the light on all day be a good solution to anything?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

GP Jef Scherens

The first 3 weeks of September are "Leuven kermis": the fair arrives downtown and takes in 3 squares with their multicolor attractions for young and old. In the same period there's also fireworks, special markets etc...

And traditionally the first weekend of the fair, the GP Jef Scherens gets organised: a semi-classic one-day cycling race made up of 13 tours through the city of Leuven. And it happens to come by in front of our door all afternoon, as it did last year as well.

On the one hand it had been pooring rain and it was cold, on the other hand it's hard to ignore it completely if it is happening just outside. On the one hand our house really needed cleaning and now I had some time, on the other hand Jan can't sit at home an entire day.
So when he asked to go for a walk along the circuit (and promising he'd help me clean afterwards... something he always does anyway), the dilemma was quickly solved. Dressed in our rain coats, we started walking and saw the race coming by a couple of times. There were no real big names cycling along, except for Sven Nys who is a famous cyclo-cross winner and 9th place in the Olympics for mountain bike...but known to add some road races to his list to train and keep in form all year round.

Our walk ended up a bit longer which resulted in soaked socks, sore muscles and a lot of grumpiness by the time I got home. Nothing that dry clothes and some glasses of Coke can't heal though and I enjoyed the evening in a clean house.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Beginning of September 1995

I was walking down the hill on the wide concrete sidewalk while wondering what was about to come. My host mom had given me a big hug before I went out of the door and that had made me feel even more nervous. A small part of me wished they had walked me to school...but then again I'd really would not have wanted to arrive at school with my host parents escorting me. Dugh, I was about to turn 18 so I could do this alone. But this was the first time in my life going to a school where I didn't know any familiar face at all, neither the habits and rules. And finally I'd have boys in my class!

Last week we had quickly visited the school to arrange my enrollment in school and to discuss my course scheduler with the student councellor. Weird how you can make up your own schedule. No wonder they need councellors. In Belgium you choose a "direction" which determines your main subjects (languages or more sciences or more ...) only but you can't make any combination you make up yourself.
There were only 5 classes a day but they lasted a full hour (whereas 7 to 8 times 50 min in Belgium with a free Wednesday afternoon)...so school would be out quite early in the afternoon. Schedules were organised in blocks: 8 blocks starting on Monday with block A, B, C, D, E and Tuesday F, G and H after which you get class A again followed by B and on Wednesday you started with C. A fixed order, how logical to remember. Only the 25th hour on Friday afternoon kept rotating blocks. How easy as opposed to the Belgian random schedule puzzles. When walking in the school's hallways, I felt like walking in a tv show. Those lockers....hihi, they really exist. Well I knew that, but it's still different to be in such a hallway.

Many thoughts were crossing my mind when I had reached unconciously the crossroad at the highway and I hadn't noticed that some cars had already stopped on the highway for me. Clearly I was not used to the good driving manners in Canada yet when I noticed the confused look on the driver's face because I still stood there at the side of the road. I quickly crossed.

At the school's entrance groups of kids were gathering at some sheets that were attached at the office's windows. Hmm maybe it was usefull to check out what they were about. By the time I could squeeze myself in front of them and figure out what they were about (the assignment of each student in a specific "home room"), a sort of bell was ringing and everyone started walking inside. Damn, what to do now? No playground at this school, no rows, just kids disappearing in rooms. I'd better start walking in some direction at least. Mr M's homeroom.... where would Mr M's room be? When the hallway started to be really empty, I quickly stopped the last kid running by
"Mr's M homeroom?" he asked surprised
"This door" he grinned while pointing to the open door one step to my left.

The room was a science class with high benches, sinks per 2 students and high stools. The kids in the room were of all ages and seemed to hang out a bit while nothing seemed to happen really. What was the purpose of a "home room"? Was this one of my classes? But then an intercom asked our attention for some announcements . Whaahaa cool, an intercom system in the school, how fancy .
Mr M was arranging some documents and all of a sudden asked out loud whether I was Goofball. Hmm he matched the only face with the only name he didn't know on his attendance list. Apparently homerooms are used for announcements and attendance. They formed groups across all years. Quickly I explained being an exchange student from Belgium and he complimented my English right away. Hmm he seemed nice enough and I asked right away to explain me where to go for my next class before the signal sounded to switch classes.

The entire day I managed to find the classrooms I was supposed to be in and each time I seemed to end up in a totally different group of kids. How tiring to change groups all the time. Too many faces, too many names, too easy not to fit in into any group each time, ... I felt lonely and invisible and I hoped that it'd pass soon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

1st September 1989

I was riding my bike downtown with my backpack filled with a brand new blocknote, pens and some colors,... The road was very familiar but I had never used the big green gate near the river. For years I had seen all these bikes crossing the road while I was sitting in my parents car which was stopped by a traffic ward. Often I had seen my sister being among the bikers that came out of the gate. Now I was going to go in as soon as the ward signed me that the road was free to cross.

It was not like I didn't know what was on the other side of the green gate, but nevertheless today was different. This time I wasn't waisting time while my mom was still doing some work in her classroom, I wasn't running around or bringing some classroom trash to the containers behind the gate....this time I was actually going through the gate as a high school student.

I turned right immediately into the bike parking. Whereas the other students seem to have a goal and went straight to a bike stand, I quickly looked around to check any free stands and tried to figure out where I was supposed to park. At the same time I really hoped it wasn't obvious that I was doubting where to park my bike. Quickly I stopped at a free stand, locked my bike and memorised the bike stand number before I followed the others along the L-shape bikeparking through the hallway towards the high school playground.

There I noticed I wasn't the only one hesitating. Whereas some girls clearly found their friends back and gathered in little groups, others like me where turning around a bit idly. A feeling of relief came over me when I saw the faces of some of my former classmates from grade 6. Quickly I moved in between the other girls to meet them and talk about the past summer.

All of a sudden the bell rang. Now it was very very obvious where all the newcomers were. A big movement towards one side of the play ground took place where long rows formed, whereas all the newcomers were turning idle at their spot with confusion and doubt in their eyes. Should they form a row somewhere as well? Where?

Before we could take a decision, the principal appeared in the door opening near the offices and took the microphone to welcome everybody. All first years were asked to go to the gym where we'd hear how our classes were divided. 9 first year classes had been formed and our former classmates got divided over different groups. 1A7....that was my class number for this year.
Our assigned class teacher took us to our assigned classroom in one of the aquarium rooms on the left side of the play ground. After some boring class administration such as assigining fixed bike stand numbers for those who cycle, distribution of the mandatory school agenda's, distibution of the class schedules, .... our first teacher walked in our room in the 3rd hour already and our first class had started with a promise of a first test the next day?!

Welcome to life in high school!