Sunday, February 27, 2011


The famous & popular gift boxes Bongo always expire at 28/2 so of course we had postponed one of our gifts from last  year until this weekend where I all of a sudden started looking in the offer if there was still an activity/place that we could go to without a reservation beforehand.  Hey, nothing beats last-minute fun ;).

And so we found ourselves today at the Abbay of Stavelot behind some other people waiving with a Bongo voucher at the ticketing desk.  We've had the intention to check out the famous abbey already for a long time. It's part of the historic double abbey Stavelot-Malmédy, closeby our weekend spot.  On the grounds of the very old abbey (foundation 651!) is nowadays 3 museums:   one about the history of the Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy which was for 11 centuries a more or less independent region within the Holy (German) Empire and covered a major part of the modern Ardennes,   one about the closeby (formule 1) race circuit of Spa-Francorchamps  and one about the French poet Appolinaire. 

I must say that all 3 of the museums were smaller than I anticipated, especially the 2,5 rooms dedicated to Appolinaire are a bit far stretched to call it an independent museum and the 2 rooms about Warhol's influence on art didn't really fit in anywhere either and wasn't that impressive to call it a temporary exposition. The historic museum and the car race museum have a considerable amount of displays yet I was left hungry for more information after both.  I did learn that Saint Poppo from my hometown had been a famous and important abbot at Stavelot which was a cool discovery, but I still don't really know how this independent principality functioned with regards to the surrounding medieval powers.  All the old race cars were pretty cool to see but I'd install more multi-media in a formule 1 race museum and discuss the technology evolution in much more detail.   Oh well, I'm probably too much of a demanding museum freak but there was a lot of potential that I'd rearrange over there.

While we were sitting in the cafetaria, I played with Jan's mobile (always much more interesting than to play with my own of course)  and noticed that one of his FB friends had just posted a picture of one of the race cars in the basement.  Immediately we were looking around , checking if we did not see his friend walking around.  A phone call later we walked out to the town center to go and have a drink with one of Jan's friends that I had never met yet.   Ha, the power of mobile internet.

The entire region was clearly getting ready for carnaval in the coming weeks

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Ellen tagged me the other day, and she's such a sweetheart so here's my version of this long taglist :)

Rule #1: the tagged person must write their answers on their blog and replace any question they dislike with a new question they formulated themselves.
Rule # 2: tag 4 people to do this quiz. The tag-ee must state who tagged them.

1. If you have pets, do you see them as merely animals or are they members of your family?
hmmm tough one. I don't have pets at the moment but I'd imagine they would be very special ...yet can't ever be considered equal to a human part of the family. They would be a non-human part of the family? Let's compromise on that.

2. If you could have a dream come true, what would it be?
I'd move Canada a lot closer to Europe so that making quick visits would be a lot cheaper and more feasible  to do over the weekend or so ;)

3. What would you do with a billion dollars?

Buy a nice cottage along Kootenay Lake (and buy flight tickets to our friends & family to come & visit us there),
Buy some property at the Maledives for diving,
Make an extensive world trip,
Rent some painters to get that hallway restored in our house,
Distribute a part to family,
Save the rest

4. What helps pull you out of a bad mood?
watching some good stand-up comedy, getting into a tickle fight with my husband, have a silly chat conversation with friends, do yoga, go running or swimming, ...

5. What is your bedtime routine?
Usually I watch tv with the laptop on my lap but when I feel I start getting tired later on the evening, I lay down in the sofa a bit and snooze there.  Then I walk up and sometimes I read briefly in bed but usually I'm already too tired to concentrate and I simply curl up and enjoy the warmth and comfort of my duvet.

If I make the mistake to keep very active until just before I go to bed (or if we went out somewhere) it is best to dedicate some wind-down time if not I'll have a rather sleepless night.

6. If you are currently in a relationship, where did you meet your significant other?
We both worked abroad 10 years in the same company in The Hague and we both took the same bus home were we lived each near the beach.  We hang out together all summer with a group of expats. There were 4 Belgians....2 couples are the result and all of us are currently living in the area of Leuven still being very good friends.

7. What kind of books do you read?
I love thrillers & detectives and historic novels.  I really do not like scifi or fantasy stuff. Somehow it always needs to be quite credible but with a storyline that moves forward and drags me along and characters I can relate to.

8. What is one luxury you allow yourself to indulge in without feeling guilty?
Going out for a nice dinner occasionally, travelling a few times a year

9. What's your fear?
Having to go to the bathroom urgently when there is none in the area

10. Would you give up all junk food for the rest of your life for the opportunity to see outer space?
not at all....maybe I should add to question 9 that seeing outer space would also scare the heck out of me. Fast food doesn't at all ;)

11. What's the first thing you do when you wake up?
Snooze, turn around, moan

12. If you could change one thing about your significant other, what would it be?
He'd drop less stuff on the table & chairs where it's left laying around for a long time but things would be cleaned up and put at their correct spot immediately.

13. If you could pick a new name for yourself what would it be?
I'd pick my own.  That's who I am.  Really, it would be so odd to be someone different. (remember also what I wrote about that here)

14. If you had to choose between six months of sun or six months of rain, what would you choose?
Sun of course, this seems a very rhetoric question?

15. If you could eat only one thing for the next six months what would it be?
I'm pretty sure that anything would get boring and disgusting after 6 months.   Tortilla chips with a good dip would make a chance though.

16. What is the thing you enjoy about blogging the most?
Getting comments (hint hint hint)
Sharing what is on my mind and going on in my life to friends
Getting to know some other bloggers and becoming connected to their lives in a virtual way.
Having a log of my life

17. Do you prefer salty or sweet foods?
Definitely salty. I don't like sweets very much, I tend to skip desert constantly.  However appetizers, crackers, olives, chips, ... gosh I could live on that.

18. What items are in your purse right now?
Do you want a full list? Really?  Ok here's some incomplete list:  wallet, different little wallet for coints, phone, iPod, charging USB cables and headset for both, make-up, pens, paper, sanitary napkins and some toilet paper, tissues, chapstick, some forgotten shopping lists, paracetamol and some Immodium and Motilium,blister bandaid, a USB stick, ....

19. If you had to choose between vacationing at the beach or in the mountains, where would you go?
Beach...more chance for diving ;).  But the most beautiful beaches have mountains nearby, I must say!

20. What do you watch on television that you know you shouldn't?
Pathetic soaps

Now I tag:
Betsy at Blog Ness Monster
Carol at Northwest Ladybug
Zusjesenzo (to get her blog moving again ;) )
Calliope at A Patchwork of Daydreams

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Made in Belgium: Buurman

The first time I became aware of Buurman (='Neighbour')  was at Beleuvenissen Vlaams, the summer festival in Leuven in 2009.  I remember being quite relecant about the night's theme as I am not exactly a big fan of the traditional Flemish music, finding it usually cheap & stereotype.   But there's always room for some authentic folky, melancholic, honest non-commercial music like Eva or Bart bring.   And it turned out that the concert of Buurman falls in that category. It was a little discovery to me that evening and I was aware I should not forget their name but trusted that I'd come across this talented band soon enough.

Sure enough their name pop's up ever more often on festival billboards and their new album has been nominated for a music industry award.   I trust they'll become one of the leading dutchspeaking groups in the sector in no time if they keep going like this.  When searching for some video's to post on here, I often got goosebumps  so have a seat and enjoy the great music (and touching lyrics if you are Dutchspeaking)

Pruimelaar (plum tree)- 2009

Pas 18 (just 18)

God, ik en Marjon

Mount Everest

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New desks

It was in the newspapers here last summer: our company HQ would move to another city.   The news had come to us as quite a surprise since after 7 years of hoping for a more modern , bright building with less frequent leaks happening,  we were not expecting a change soon anymore.

For the last couple of months I've been driving by our brand new building along the highway, peeking anxiously at the progress inside, checking of contractors were running around and if there was any sight of our new furniture arriving yet. 

And then last weeks there was all of a sudden a buzz in the old office with big containers getting filled with old paper and old project documentation being checked for their future relevancy to judge what had to stay or not. Last Monday, due to a business trip to Amsterdam this week, I already packed up my boxes and left my desk & cabinet empty & clean. Weird to see it like that.

On Friday I  went to the office nervously.   Nervous to walk by the "chalet" for the last time which has been my office for a while but which turns each summer in a day-care, looking at the horse which seemed confused by all the moving vans parked around the building and thinking that I'd never walk by a horse-smith on the parking lot anymore at work.   But smiling at the thought that we'd finally be located in a beautiful modern building without continuous leaks and looking forward to driving to the new location in the afternoon where I'd spend most of the afternoon with my IT colleagues on my knees under the new desks plugging the moved computers in and of course go check out my own new desk and my own spot.

But also nervous & excited that I could finally break the news that this wasn't going to be my only new desk. That I'd spend on average 3 days a week in Amsterdam as of March 1st in a new function that I had been offered to work for the West-European region. 


Yesterday it was time again for our yearly dive club event where we all hang out together in a cosy evening, where the (not yet) divers & divers can chat outside of the swimming pool, where the parents of our youth trainees can get to know their children's club a bit better and where the divers exchange dive location tips, water temperatures and vacation feedback to each other...

After a successful spaghetti evening and a cheese & wine evening last years we spoiled  the people with a sweeter taste this time to an abundance of pancakes.  From the looks of the continuous lines at the pancake table, it was quite successful.

We also launched the first edition of a recurring club quiz...which I loved and won with my team :). Yihaaa, what a cute little trophy to harbor in our home for a year.

And then it was time for a few more drinks and talking and socialising ....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And a world record it is

249 days without a government......sad & shamefull and no hope for a quick solution at all

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Made in Belgium: The Van Jets

Nominated for a music industry award as best group and best alternative act,  The Van Jets have proven for a few years already that they own part of the Belgian music scene.  Their single "The Future" has been played most of all at the popular radio station Studio Brussel in 2010 but also their other singles cannot be missed on the radio and all reached number 1 positions. It doesn't surprise me.

down below - fall 2010

Teevee - 2010

The Future - winter 2010

what's going on

Saturday, February 12, 2011

No hablo Espagnol

The last years we got a bit of a tradition to go diving in Egypt at the start of March but we won't be able to leave at that time of the year this time and even though the year is still young I really needed a break....and so we were about to book a diving trip to Egypt just when the turmoil there started.   And we watched the news day by day and only saw things getting more unstable. 

And so my dream to take my towel and board a nice clean boat to sun at the top deck, take a dive above the beautiful corals, eat a lovely southern lunch, nap a bit more in the sun, dive, nap, eat, dive, ....and relax all for a very good price, was evaporating.  Other dive destinations were either very far and/or very expensive and/or had crappy cold weather.

We changed our plans and we headed for a few days to a soft but dry place to eat tapas and stroll across plaza's and boulevards aligned with majestic buildings and gaze at the world's finest art until we looked cross-eyed in the Spanish capital.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza de la Villa

Palacio Real


Marcel Broothaers

El Retiro

Palacio de Cristal

El Lago di Retiro

Museo Nacional del Prado

But really I don't get a word when those Spanish start mumbling and hissing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Made in Belgium: Thunderball

I heard this a few days ago on the radio and immediately I was catapulted back to high school.  I saw my classmates in black combats, skinny black jeans and colorful wide batik T-shirts  jumping around on parties screaming TataTaaTaaataaaa loudly. I saw our English teacher whom we had convinced to join us on the dance floor (don't ask me on which occasion we were dancing with our teachers in the neighbourhood.....that's weird) and who did an impression of some sort of cossack dance.

I had brought the Bonza Channel one on one of my cassette tapes to Canada during my exchange.   It brought a welcome nostalgic link to some rave music and the European house scene while being submerged in a mixture of Alanis Morissette, Loreena Mc Kennit and country music.   Gosh it felt sometimes so great to scream with a funny little voice in my room   "BONSAAAI  Ta Taaattaaa TAtaaaataa, BONSAI" from Thunderball.

Bonzai channel one - 1993

Monday, February 7, 2011

Another victory over the styrofoam tiles

Ha I take some vacation and took some other sinus medication and guess what....all of a sudden I have a burst of energy.   And I attacked the styrofoam tiles and some of the wall paper underneath in the bathroom.  We often get the question "so did you finish all your renovations?"  .  Well no we haven't finished them yet but we took a bit of a break to enjoy this little place and not only consider it as a place where we had to work.  But now I felt like things ought to start changing again.  A first step to a much more fresh looking bathroom.

aaah and now we only have one more ceiling with hideous styrofoam tiles in this house....almost styrofoam free.  Then we should party ;)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cartrip "Between lakes and peat/moor lands"

We always see the road signs getting here so we got curious and decided to follow the touristic car tour throughout the high east of Belgium to discover this area further more. Big parts we had already driven through quite frequently (not hard if the itinerary passed 3 times within 1 to 5 kms from our door)  but we passed through quite some new villages too.

It was a fun tour, but way too long for my patience to sit in the car. There was a cutting cold wind so we didn't stop too often to explore much by foot and I think that would have made the tour much more interesting (and turn it really into a half a day/ day trip which we didn't have the time for).   It was ok for once but I don't think I'll do the entire circle anymore in one afternoon.

Here's some of the stops we did do

1) The Vesder river dammed near Eupen (one of the 4 power dam lakes in the area)

2) Old convent buildings of Reichenstein just across the German border, which have passed through a long list of different (not quite so religious) functions over the last century but which have been bought by Benedictins from France in 2008 who are now restoring it and will start a new convent at this site

3) View when approaching  Kalterherberg, Germany

4) Butchenbach lake (one of the 4 power dam lakes in the area)

5) A little stop in the village of Bellevaux, just south of Malmédy where we were very disappointed to find the local brewery closed. Damn, we were so thirsty after all that driving.

6) Falise rock with view on the Warche valley

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Made in Belgium: The Kids

It's only last summer that I found out that this all time classic "There will be no next time" is in fact Belgian. Woohaaaa, awesome. I guess I didn't pay attention enough on the Belgian punkrock scene as a little toddler, but my lack of knowledge has been cleared just in time to prove to you that punk existed/exists in Belgium as well. And they're still alive and kicking!

There will be no next time - 1981

Do you wanna know -

Bloody Belgium - 2004 (in New York)