Friday, July 30, 2010

Too old for ?

The creative Kathleen from Verbeelding tagged me 2 weeks ago (oops time flies) with this meme:

"It doesn't matter how young or how old you are, we all do stuff that we are secretely too old for: stuff that we'd rather not want the others to know because they'd not consider it suitable for our age. So what are you too old for but what can't you stop doing because you like it that much?"

Hmmm tough question. Let me think...

I like to sit on swings. And I really believe that it's ok to be sitting on a swing as an adult, but it's just that

  • a lot of swings don't look as if they will succesfully carry our weight

  • the seat is usually so low that my feet always drag over the ground and make swinging back & forth up in the air impossible

  • the swings are usually occupied by little kiddies and I don't want to be rude as to take a spot when they want to play
Sometimes I still enjoy very much walking through a puddle instead of around it (given that I am wearing appropriate shoes at that moment).

I still love cuddling a teddy bear.

I love to rip the grass seeds through my fingers on the side of the road and throw them around

I'm still popping pimples if I get some

So that's what I came up on the top of my head.
How about you? Betsy, zusjesenzo, Allie and Snooker, consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Made in Belgium: Zornik

When I moved to my current desk 2 years ago I moved the old project radio along as nobody claimed it. Since then it's been almost none stop tuned into Studio Brussel. I remember one song coming back and back and back that summer: Backseat by Zornik. I liked its mixture of power & mesmerizing sound in the background. Slowly I became aware of the previous music of Zornik that I had known all along but never linked to this group and also noticed their omnipresence on all Belgian summer festival billboards.

But then it became quiet around Zornik for a self-claimed break. But now they are back with Walk and I welcome the powerful sound.

Walk - summer 2010

Backseat - summer 2007

Black Hope Shot down - 2007

Scared of yourself - 2004

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Beleuvenissen Tropical 2010

July was almost over and I had not attended any Beleuvenissen yet! How could I let that happen? ...I didn't let it happen. Last Friday I was ready to attend the "Tropical" edition of the yearly city festival that takes place on the first 4 Fridays in July.

Even though we've had quite a hot summer so far, the temperatures weren't exactly tropical that day. We walked downtown quite early and there weren't as many people getting out yet as I'm used to.

After some great tapas and good sangria at Los Flamencos in the Naamsestraat, we first headed to the Oude Markt to listen to Cookies & Cream. Well known covers were already audible from the access streets but there's wasn't too much atmosphere on the square yet. I guess it was just too early in the evening because they were pretty good although they didn't fit in the 'tropical' theme at all.

Our next stop was on the Mathieu de Layens square where Grasjas brought Flemish reggae. I've never heard of this group whom I kept calling Grapjas (=joker) by accident. The typical reggae rhythms and the lead singer's trombone play were quite catchy. A few little kids in front of the stage were turning around in little circles on the rhythm with their arms up and they were having the time of their life. The lead singer with his long rastas was seeing it all with a huge relax smile on his face that made me wonder which grass he was smoking. But it all sounded fresh & original .

At the Vismarkt Buscemi was playing (see Made in Belgium: Buscemi) so we had to go and check that out as well. The square was well filled and the funky latin dance music floated easily above us all. The problem with a DJ act , at least in this case, is that all the songs get mixed together and continue non-stop without much interaction or pauses which becomes a bit monotonous to watch if you're not dancing. Since Beleuvenissen is like a giant music buffet with concerts on many different squares we went on to the next performance.

In the shadow of the city hall, the famous Cuban Septeto Santiaguero was bringing a very traditional Cuban sound. It didn't take long before many couples were dancing salsa around us. Aaaah Beleuvenissen Tropical at its best!!! Excellent.

It looked from far as if Dany De Vito had found a new passion in playing guitar in this band which looked quite funny as the little guy was holding a big guitar in his stretched out arms while in contrast the tall lead player was playing on a small solo guitar. The inverse proportional size of the guitars was very comical to watch.

The tiny well-hidden Vounck square was packed with people listening to another Cuban artist Rey Cabrera. Here we learned that it surely is a Cuban rule that the biggest guys were playing the smallest guitars.

La banda de Tomas Gonzales playing on the Hogeschool square felt like a little too much of the same so we quickly moved back to the Oude Markt were Vaya Con Dios (see Made in Belgium: Vaya Con Dios) was going to start. I was really looking forward to this concert. We had seen while passing by earlier that all the fences and stewards were in place to close off the square if it would get too crowded so I really did not want to risk missing this concert. (That had been the case the week before when Kate Ryan was performing and attracted 14000 people. )

Surely enough all the side access streets to the square had already been closed so they could only be used as exit roads and we had to walk to the Grote Markt to be able to go into the sole entry road. There were big traffic lights hanging above the street for the occasion and just when we walked by, the stewards behind us pulled in the fences across the street and the lights jumped on red. Hurray, we were the last ones to get in. I had never thought the square would have truly get closed for Vaya Con Dios but clearly this group still had a load of fans even after the many years of silence.

Step by step we could advance a bit from the back of the square where the sound didn't come across very well but there was a lot of people indeed. OK, the many pubs still had all their terasses outside, which isn't the case when the Marktrock festival is taking place here so the square wasn't at it's max capacity yet, but I was glad for the organisation's timely decision to close off. With the hindsight of the Love Parade tragedy the day after, I'm quite happy for Leuven's extensive experience with mass city events. I know the university has done computer simulations on this particular square and the movement of masses & the effect of obstacles such as the fixed garbage bins in case of needed evacuation etc... There are also many camera's on the squares constantly monitoring the crowd. On a side note, I've always found that the crowd control is also very well done at the Gentse Feesten were also on a regular base squares need to get closed off when they reach the max capacity.

Vaya Con Dios didn't swing however despite the good turn-out. I know that their newest songs are much more intimate and calm but this is a big festival and in front of a 10000 people crowd, you can't play the same way as in a small club. There was little to no interaction and when there was and Dani asked if we felt like singing along to their old hit Puerto Rico...they kept fiddling the guitar for a minute as if they first needed to tune it before really launching the song and the momentum was lost again.
I still love their music very much and Dani's voice is great...but this concert was a big disappointment to me. Maybe my expectations were too hight, but after all this was a European top act a few decades ago.

We didn't stay for the full concert but left via one of the nearby exit roads to enjoy the last bit of Cuban music on the Hogeschool plein on what turned out to be a lovely summer evening after all.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Birth (...over koetjes en kalfjes)

Those young cows in the field next doors were joined by a cow that looked like a giant compared to them. We speculated why the farmer would have put the cow among the youth...would she be sick? or pregnant? There was no obvious bulging belly but it's not like we are experts on cow pregnancies.

Yesterday she was all of a sudden deserted by the youth and she wobbled a bit solo in the field and was often laying down.

And then I saw her tail up and long slimes coming out her ass......she was in labor!

A cow in labor just next to our garden, what an event for a city girl like me. Jan assured me that it could take quite a while since she was still walking around and we believed that the farmer would surely show up soon. And so we continued our dinner.

But I couldn't keep myself from peeking outside , checking on the cow that I sympathized with now. How was the big girl doing on her own there? She was laying down now and her back was moving up & down. When was the farmer going to come? Do cows still deliver a lot of calves on their own or isn't there usually human aid around?

Hmm false alarm, she was standing up again.

"The calve is born! Look there's something laying down, she's pushing it" Jan said.
And yes, it was. Mother was mowing frantically while pushing her mouth on a little pile against the hedge while the bulls on the other side of the hedge joined in the mowing concerto. And the little pile against the hedge sometimes moved without getting pushed as well.

Jan thought a calve has to get up its feet within minutes so when the mowing and licking and pushing went on and on and on and on I was standing on my tiptoes on the balcony. "Come on, come on, get up little one" I murmured nervously. Would the first birth I witness in my life end up in death?

As it was getting dark & cold and the situation didn't change, I went back inside without much optimism. I couldn't help googling my ignorance and searching in how much time a calve should be up on its feet.

After an hour while peeking in the dark again I thought I could see 2 heads moving in the air at 2 levels. The mowing and nervous gestures had stopped and now I thought I could see 8 legs calmly moving around in the field. Aaah good, this excited city girl could go to bed now :p

(much too my disappointment, the farmer had moved them inside during the night so I didn't get to see the fresh one by daylight yet).

A living room still work in progress

Slow but steady progress...

And our bedroom has a new floor!!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

At the swimming pool

After we had conquered the woods, we battled the heath at the outdoor swimming pool of the provinciedomein in kessel-lo. It was very crowded as could be expected on such a hot day but it didn't kill our fun.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Made in Belgium: Buscemi

Next Friday Buscemi is one of the acts at Beleuvenissen. Buscemi is the DJ Dirk Swartenbroeckx who brings us loungy latin dance music that makes me want to seek a hammock and a cocktail or search the nearest beach party. Excellent summer music as you can hear!
And hopefully a great act at the latin theme of Beleuvenissen.

Enjoy the summer!

Brasileras -2007

Seaside - 2003

Sahib Balkan

Monday, July 19, 2010

Filling bottles and building bridges in the woods

My little nephew is 2 days our house-guest. On a hot day as today I took him to the woods.

Not too far from us there's a known old water source in the forest, that much too my amazement sees a continuous line of people that come to fill boxes full of empty water containers. He found the idea of getting water from the woods quite amusing, so we were often in line to refill our bottles and take a drink.

(damn I read now that it is said if you drink from this water you are married within the year....maybe my nephew was a bit young to drink :p)

Where there's water....there's a little creek that needs a bridge so we started building to ensure the prince & the princess would be able to cross.

We ended up in the playground

Sleeping Beauty

My sister and her family came to visit us in the Ardennes yesterday. The predicted clouds and cooler weather have never reached the Ardennes so we enjoyed the summer to the fullest.

We went for a walk to the power dam of Robertville where we tried to memorise the looks of the empty lake (due to maintenance on the dam this summer) as we'll probably can't picture the view as such anymore in a few months when the water is high anymore.

From there we took a little walk into the woods when we all of a sudden stumbled upon the castle of Sleeping Beauty (hmm, remarkably alike the fortress of Reinhardstein as we saw it on this walk but who are we to argue the mind of a 5-year old?)

When Jan heard that this was the castle of sleeping beauty all of a sudden he fell asleep as well.
Fortunately my nephew could wake up Jan and we managed to escape the bad spell before we were all asleep!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Some of our neighbours

We have lots of curious and playful and young neighbours in the Ardennes

How I'm spending my vacation

I'm a bit quiet online lately because I'm on vacation.

I've always heard that one must take a vacation quite opposite to his daily activities. Since I work in an office, some physical work in the country side could do me well. And so we amuse ourselves by transforming our new vacation place slowly into ours. It's a lot of hard & exhausting work, demanding our our muscles , but yet very motivating to see the changes take place.

some before & after pictures as requested by Zusjesenzo:

The grassland in front that slowly returns towards civilization


Before: the smoked out, in styrofoam + multiple layers of wallpaper covered living room

Ongoing: a week's progress of uncovering layer of layer paper.

Before: a styrofoam /faded wallpaper covered bedroom


Bedroom waiting for its finishing touch

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Made in Belgium: Gabriel Rios

We praise ourselves lucky that in the mid 90ies a hot Puerto Rican boy fell in love with a girl from Ghent since he followed her to her home country. And now we proudly call him one of ours. When Gabriel Rios released his first solo album in 2004 we immediately loved the sexy latin sunshine he brought on our radio and in 2006 we already voted him Best Belgian singer.

Ironically enough his latest girlfriend from Ghent, top model Delphine Bafort , made him move back to New York with her this winter. Ugh, now I'm robbed of the illusion that I might cross him in my brother-in-laws bakery where he used to live nearby. Booohoo.

Anyway, I guess I'll have to continue swirl my imaginary big robes through the living room on his music, especially on his oldest work since I'm not too fond on his more recent jazzy sound.

Broad Daylight

Tu no me Quires

I'm gonna die tonight

Voodoo Child (with Jef Neve & Laatse Show Band)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Viva Espana!

We just got back from a long diving weekend in the Netherlands, just in time to go downtown in Leuven to watch the world cup final. We couldn't stay that long in Zeeland to watch there, which surely must have been an unforgettable experience.

But we headed to the old market square with some Dutch/Belgian friends who were completely dressed in orange instead. As expected a good crowd had gathered in front of the many many pubs and there were clear "Dutch" and " Spanish" zones although the Dutch were sure more visible with their many orange attributes.

The Orange fans

Spain scored

It was fun!

And amazingly, ...Paul the octopus has made the right prediction once again! Weird. So I think the Belgians should urgently start training Paul in order to ensure he picks the Belgian mussels in 2 years for the European Championship. Maybe we have a chance again in that case.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Facts & figures today

  • Wallpaper removed on 2,5 walls
  • Temperature outside while I was playing with a steaming tool: 30C
  • Average number of layers of wall paper on a wall : 2 - 3 (not including the styrofoam tiles on top of all)
  • Number of wooden beams (on top of the disgusting styrofoam tiles) taken down: 4
  • Number of walls with new fibre paper (ready for painting) : 4 + 1 ceiling
  • Height of grass in garden before cutting : 75cm
  • Grass cut short in 1 garden
  • Weight that our arms feel tonight : 50 kg
  • Attention span of the young playfull neighbour cat : 2 seconds
  • Number of (imaginary) insects she sees constantly to jump at : 100
  • Number of times we saw a young bull in the prairie charge at the provoking cat : 2
  • Number of people that are going to sleep soooooo well tonight: 2

sleep well :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Made in Belgium: Ialma

On Friday evening it's Beleuvenissen folk again but I have other plans so I'll miss it. Argh, why is there so much fun stuff going on in the Belgian summers so that you always miss out so much?

Anyway, to compensate my lack of folk injection this Friday I dedicate my post to a group that I've previously seen on Beleuvenissen as guests of Urban Trad.
These 5 Spanish girls from Brussels bring the folk sound from Galicia with a lot of a-capella singing accompanied by tambourine, bagpipes (although not often), flute, accordeon, etc... I really enjoy the Galician sound. It's like a sunny celtic sound. Sometimes a bit repetitive and monotonous yet it doesn't bore me as it's always energetic and full of passion and I like the harmony of the different voices.

Ialma started off after having recorded a lot of local sounds in their birth region but they have evolved to more world music and they are not too shy to bring some covers of famous songs such as "Under the bridge" from the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their last CD.

Valse de touton - 2010

Muineira de touton - 2010

Walk like an Egyptian

Lévame Live - Under the bridge

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Le Tour de France crossed Belgium again

Last Sunday, yesterday and today the Tour de France crossed Belgium again. It had been 3 years since we had seen the arrival of the French crazy cycling circus in Ghent. When we learned this winter that they would pass through the Ardennes we knew we wanted to see them pass there.

The passage through Flanders (Antwerp-Brussels) on day 2 had brought > 1 million people along the road, a spectacular 3-7 rows thick everywhere as if they drove through a spectacular standing ovation all day. Fun pictures of the passage through the towns around Antwerp here, here, here, here, here and here. I hope the tour director has noticed our enthusiasm and will remember when plotting out the future itineraries.

Thanks to the tour, the travels of Q crossed our path again and he joined us in camping at our new vacation spot before he went on again chasing the tour.

In the afternoon we left as well and drove with a big circle around Stavelot where we feared it would be too busy. We ended up in Wanne where we could park along the road as close as 350 m from the parcours.

We had just missed the publicity caravan so we continued walking to the Côte d'Aisomont, a climb of 3rd category just before the village. The line was just finished getting painted. Quite an international crowd with mainly Germans, Dutch, Luxemburgers and Belgians had gathered along the road in good atmosphere even though it started pouring just before the passage.

Finally the helicopters clearly approached and more and more tour cars & motorized police came by, rising the tension that the cyclers were approaching.

And here's the 8 men 'Tête de la course'

And 1.05 minutes later the peleton arrived and zoooooooofffed by in a blink of the eye. Fortunately I have a sport button on our camera that just keeps flicking pictures one after the other :p

A couple of famous butts in a row: '1' = Alberto Contador , '21' = Lance Armstrong, the yellow shirt belonged to Fabian Cancellara , '11' = Andy Schleck and '16'=Frank Schleck who unfortanately broke a bone in his shoulder today in a fall and is out and in the hospital at the moment.

More peleton

The number of cars in the race is insane...I wonder if they have one car per participant or so.

The tail of the race

Count the helicopters... there were 8 flying above us

We had to rush to take a picture : as you can see the finish flag for the Côte d'Aisomont is already down. Clearly no time to loose in the tour!

We followed the remaining 34 kms of the race on tv

Unfortanately a few kms from us, in the descent of the Côte de Stockeu, there was a spectacular fall where a lot of favourites smacked against the asphalt. The entire peleton was split up in groups.
For a moment the tactical dilemma's were quite interesting: would Fabian Cancellara chasing the head of the race to defend his yellow jersey and by doing so risk his team mate Frank Schleck loose a lot of precious minutes or would he slow down and allowing Schleck to rejoin the peleton while giving in fact a green card for the cyclers in front to win the race. who would decide that: himself or the team manager? How would the other teams respond?

It became the latter choice: the peleton all of a sudden clearly wasn't racing anymore but was peddling a nice slow rhythm allowing all the groups behind to steadily catch up with their hurt & bloody joints. Pretty boring to watch but to some point I understand that they don't want the tour to be decided on day 2 due to such an accident. Still remarkable that the Saxo strategy was followed by the other teams. Saxo claimed the need for "solidarity" afterwards, other teams claimed intimidation.
Falling accidents are part of the race, the turns and descents are known beforehand and it was a wet day so it's their job to take that into account. If some unknown helper instead of a favourite would have gone down, the peleton would have never waited. So it's quite discussable.

However when finally everyone was caught up ....they didn't even race for spot 2 and 3. In a big broad line with Cancellara holding his hands wide open to prevent anyone from starting to spring, they crossed the line together. How lame....I truly didn't get that at all.