Sunday, January 31, 2010

A long weekend in the Vosges/Alsace

Strasbourg and Colmar (in the valley)

Pittoresque villages along the "route du vin" : Mittelbergheim , Riquewihr, ..

The Alsacian vineyards up the slopes

Up in the Vosges

On our return home, we drove through white landscapes in France, Germany and Belgium and we made another stop in Ovifat Belgium since we were early. One of the few (small) alpine ski hills in Belgium was open.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Canada jokes

I've stumbled upon this on someone's blog last year and thought it was very fun so I copied the joke on my computer. Now I don't know where I found it anymore, but I'll share with you anyway. I can't relate to all, but some are just right on!

Here is what Jeff Foxworthy has to say about Canadians:

  • If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you may live in Canada.
    (huh, didn't get this one, not where I lived)
  • If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there, you may live in Canada.
  • If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you may live in Canada.
    (oh yes, definitely...and you might be having the barbecue on in the snow)
  • If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialled a wrong number, you may live in Canada.
  • If 'Vacation' means going anywhere south of Detroit for the weekend, you may live in Canada.
  • If you measure distance in hours, you may live in Canada.
  • If you know several people who have hit a deer more than once, you may live in Canada.
    (of course, if someone had an accident you do assume it's been a road kill, right?)
  • If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day, and back again, you may live in Canada.
    (yeah for the Chinook)
  • If you can drive 90 km/hr through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you may live in Canada.
  • If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both unlocked, you may live in Canada.
    (and the car keys are under the passengers tire!)
  • If you carry jumper cables in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you may live in Canada.
  • If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you may live in Canada.
  • If the speed limit on the highway is 80 km -- You're going 95 and everybody is passing you, you may live in Canada.
    (huh...not in BC though)
  • If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you may live in Canada.
    (and some rivers can be used as road now)
  • If you know all 4 seasons: Almost winter, winter, still winter, and road construction, you may live in Canada.
  • If you have more miles on your snow blower than your car, you may live in Canada.
  • If you find -2 degrees 'a little chilly', you may live in Canada.
    (yep yep yep)
  • If you actually understand these jokes, and forward them to all your friends, you definitely are Canadian, and proud to be.
    (ok...almost then)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Made in Belgium: Daan

Since I listen the last years to Studio Brussel more regularly I noticed that I some songs I liked were from Daan. I've never seen him perform so far even though he seemed to be scheduled on all music festivals in the summer of 2008.

His latest album "Manhay" was released during the course of 2009 and all 3 singles have become hits with a lot of airplay on the radio. And I love them, especially Icon where he sounds like a Belgian Johnny Cash. It has the same pulsing rhythm as Lily Allen's 'Not Fair' which I particularly like.
Daan has just received an award because he's the most downloaded Belgian (Flemish?) artist in 2009.

Icon - 2009/2010

Crawling from the wreck 2009

Swedish designer drugs 2002

Wednesday mornings

sleepwalking robot
avoiding conversation,
thoughts and opinions

silent and dizzy
waiting for some cafeine
effect to kick in

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday mornings

It's too early
I'm still in another world
lacking conciousness

The contrast is clear
my bed inviting and warm
outside dark and cold

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday mornings

My bed is so soft,
the duvet comfy and warm,
I hate my alarm

I want to snooze 'cause
my dreams were not finish'd yet
not nearly at all

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A totally different world

Jan and I have headed out to the Ardennes & "High Fens" quite often over the last months now that we've realised that it only takes 60-90 minutes of driving for us to arrive in a totally different world full of woods, hills, creeks, fens and cute little villages, etc...

In winter you can take this quite literally. Where most of Belgium has already adjusted again to positive temperatures & green wet nature over the last 10 days, 20 km south of Li├Ęge the road climbs up and all of a sudden....all is white again. And you go down a valley : green, and up the road again: white, and down: green and higher up: white. Funny & remarkable how a small change in heigth makes such a difference in temperatures & weather!

pictures from Baraque Fraiture previous week

Friday, January 22, 2010

I just call to say....

I feel annoyed when my phone starts ringing, especially when I do not recognize the number on the little screen. Just when I'm about to finish a last e-mail at work before I go home after a long week where I've been in a constant battle against fatigue and a cold, some stranger interrups and postpones my return home. When I pick up I first think I caught a head-hunter on the phone ...they have the annoying habit to try to phone people after business hours for jobs that are usually not remotely linked to my job experience and my mind races what to say to dismiss him politely.

"..from 137"
"what excuse me, can you repeat that please?"

It turns out to be an unknown neighbour (not on 137) living in one of the studio's next doors and they got my phone number from our neighbours at the other side.

"We wanted to let you know that your smoke detector's alarm has been sounding for over an hour now. You live on number x right. "
"euh yes" [Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!! ]
"But we've been looking through the windows, it all looks fine though. But it doesn't stop, we thought we had to phone. We tried to phone your husband too but it went over on his voicemail."

I suppose it's fairly safe to assume your house is not (seriously) on fire if the detector has been sounding for over an hour and neighbours still can't notice anything at the windows.

Nevertheless Jan and I both raced home asap (and hit traffic jams obviously) and I did feel quite relieved to arrive home in a very uneventful street. But you did hear the alarm one house away and not quite remarkably none of the lights at the neighbours were on. They must have all escaped.

I guess that smoke detector is ready for garbage: it's only 3 weeks old and it's the 2nd false alarm in those 3 weeks. Fortunately the first time it happened when we were at home. I think an alarm that sets off without reason all the time is just as bad as an alarm not setting off when it should.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Made in Belgium: Won ton ton

Some eighties nostalgia: "I lie" the sole big hit (in Belgium and the Netherlands) of Won Ton Ton in '88. The best song to sing along very loud while driving!
Bea Van Der Maat, the singer, was a tv presenter for a long time and is currently teaching.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Let's help the economy

  • 1,5 Sofrasolone nose sprays
  • 10 packages of tissue
  • 1 dose of anti sinus congestion pills
  • 1 laundry load at 95°C full of dirty handkerchiefs
  • 1 bottle of coughing syrup to dissolve the slimes
  • 1 bottle of coughing syrup to suppress the coughing reflex at night and works for the sinusses as well
  • 1 tube of calming repairing cream to sooth the irritated nose wings
Colds are good for pharma-related consumption (and are usually not bad enough to take sick leave from work) !! So let's all hang out with coughing red-nosed people to catch one of those bugs and we can all give a boost to the economy!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Invader etiquette

Dear bugs,

Last Monday you've invaded my body and I admit my defeat. I surrendered to my fate of snot & slime.

But you guys are not playing by the rules. For years and years, as long as I remember, you've followed this pattern:
  • First a sore throat in the mornings
  • The a runny nose, irritated because I've blown it too much already with breathing difficulties for a couple of days
  • Coughing for a couple of days
So the sore throat was there, the clogged sinusses making me feel cross-eyed as well but my nose didn't run....Great. Then the coughing arrived as expected.

But what's up with the runny nose and the breathing difficulties and watery eyes all of a sudden when it all should be fading away? What a sneaky attack to my moral by reversing the order (or even worse, by starting over). Don't you know there's some kind of invader etiquette, a pirate code of honour? How would you guys feel if I don't play by the rules and start taking more than the maximum doses of drugs, huh? Right? So if you guys had forgotten about the runny nose, so be it. Accept that.

So I address your code of honour: you've had your game but now it's time to move on.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Made in Belgium: Praga Khan

I've started this series with Belgian's most globally known dance hit "Pump up the jam" but Belgium has exported much more dance music and is at the origin of several genres.
Maurice Engelen is an active music octopus who has produced or launched many bands/projects. One of the most well known group he belongs to is Praga Khan.

First mainly known in clubs, some of their music became well-known hits and some music was used in movie soundtracks such as Basic Instinct and Austin Powers.

Breakfast in Vegas

Power of the flower

Monday, January 11, 2010


Canada during my exchange a long time ago


I'm supposed to meet my host mom's friend in the ski hill's cafeteria. This is my very first attempt in skiing and all the other kids on the school trip are very experienced skiers. I am an alien in school for not knowing how to ski and I guess my host mom is afraid that the other kids would talk me in going up a black slope with them right away. The truth is I'm really too much a pussy to leave the bunny hill soon. Anyway, her friend whom I have never met before, is going to spend some time with me after my first ski lesson and I'm grateful to get some company.

An unfamiliar lady walks up to me in the cafeteria when I wobble awkwardly inside in my rented ski boots:

"aaaah you must be Goofball. I had no clue what you'd look like but I was told I'd recognize you by your hat and by the scarf pulled up across your mouth and nose".


On my walk home from school on a typical Canadian winter day I pass by the local drugstore to get some stuff.

"How are you doing?"
"Oh fine fine, I'm doing well"
"Are you coping ok, this cold must be so difficult for you? "
"Oh it's not too bad really"
"Yes but you've surely never experienced such low temperatures in your life before" she insists while making a distinct gesture to my hat and my scarf that I had just lowered a bit from my mouth in order to be able to have a conversation.
"Yeah the temperatures are a lot higher in the winter in Belgium, but I wear the same type of hats & scarfs there as well though."

Fast forward to 2010

Not much has changed :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winterwonderland in Belgium

Since we only get one or twice decent snowfall that lasts more than 48 hours per decade in Belgium, why not trying to enjoy it the fullest (if you don't need to drive) with a walk through the fields and woods hand in hand ?

Beauty in our garden seen from the living room

Views in and round Meerdaalwoud, just south of Leuven

the grapevines for the Chardonnay Meerdael , the local blanc des blancs sparkling wine

Brian, this snowball is yours as requested

Mc Fatty

His figure appears all of a sudden out of the white at the back of the graveyard next to the abbey church.

"Oh hey, nice to see you again"

I stop to let him approach without intimidation, but the sound of my voice only accelerates his pace into a gentle run. Clearly he thinks its nice to see me again as well. Immediately I feel his head and body pushing itself against my legs, first at the side, then behind me, and forward again. I bow down to pet his back at which an immediate loud purring starts.

We stand there for about 5 minutes while he enjoys all the attention he gets. Now and then he walks off a few meter to check out the sound a family further away is making but as soon as I dare to move he's right at my feet again.

"I must go now...bye bye, see you next time"

Decidedly he walks along.

"Oh are you coming with me? Sure about that"?

At the abbey gate he's not too sure after all. He waits hesitantly and then sits down looking out over the fields around not in the slightest bit disturbed by all the white dust falling down from the skies....the ruler looking out with pride over his domain.

Funny cat.

Here's Mc Fatty on one of our previous visits in the fall.

He's becoming a famous blogging cat as he's been featured over at Lilacspecs in the past as well.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Official cold wave

When I walk to the trunk of my parked car, another car parks next to me. While folding open my windshield cover, I see her coming out of her car with a similar cover. Side by side we're spreading the silver blanket across the front of our car and we smile to each other in recognition. Trying to prevent a 10 minute ice scratching session in the morning apparently creates a bond with total strangers.

In my outfit that only leaves my nose uncovered to sniff the icy cold I cross the street. Argh, red light, brrr. Warmth, Jan's shoes and the smell of good warm meal greet me at the door where I leave the few snowflakes sticking to my shoes to melt on the floor heating.

Ah home sweet home with no plans to venture out very far this weekend. Bring on the predicted snow, I'm ready...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Made in Belgium: Yevgueni

Before anyone starts doubting that there's also dutch speaking musicians in Belgium, it is now time to present a Flemish group in Made in Belgium.

The members of Yevgueni met each other at the university of Leuven and formed the group for an inter faculty song festival at the beginning of this century. They bring what we call in Dutch 'kleinkunst' (="little art" : more intimate performances in Dutch, with a lot of attention to the (more poetic) lyrics, influenced by caberet and musical genres).

Yevgueni participated in some music contests and were winning prices right away, catching the attention of the media. Over the last years their name became a common sight on festival billboards. Here's some of their catchy songs....

Nieuwe meisjes
About new girls appearing in spring , happy, catchy , pretending not to see him
Where do these new girls come from? Watch them go

Als ze lacht -
About a girl whose smile brings out the sun

New Year's receptions

Another Belgian tradition: every organization or social grouping must have its New Year's reception.

Tonight: choir
Saturday: dive club
(optional: city of Leuven on Saturday as well)
Next week: work


If the police really has trouble getting their alcohol control quota without making a lot of overtime, I think it would be effective to place themselves near business parks at the start of the evening these days......

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New year's letters

At the beginning of the new year, Belgian children traditionally visit their godparents, grandparents, ... and read their "New Year's letter" with their new year's wishes in rhyme which they have studied (& written) at school.

This afternoon Stef 'read' his letter to my mother.

Exchange of gifts between god mother & god child

Young enthousiasm

A Dolly Parton look-alike

A popular silly uncle who is always willing to play, blow balloons, make faces or act as a chair.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A first walk in the new year

New Year's day...traditionally a day to digest and to drag yourself along through a drowsy state of semi-consciousness. A perfect relax day so to speak :). We did manage to lift our butts out of the sofa to go on a walk to catch some fresh air.

We came by a commonwealth war cemetery not too far from here with mostly RAF pilots that have been taken down during the war in the eastern part of Belgium.

New Year's Eve in Leuven

After celebrating New Year's Eve with friends in Scheveningen the last couple of years, we turned it around this year and hosted a little party at our place.

After a way too much good food, we headed downtown to the countdown taking place at the Oude Markt (old market square) in Leuven where 10000 people had gathered to celebrate the passing of the old year and the start of the new year.



In contrast to the Netherlands were New Year is hazardous for all the fireworks flying around you in the streets , walking home in Belgium is hazardous for all the empty cava/champagne bottles rolling around on the side walks! (no kidding...If you don't believe and here to just give some examples).