Friday, March 30, 2012

Mystery codes

During previous times I had been watching up.  There were plenty of warning signs then against rooftop avalanches and since I'm very obedient...I staired at the snowloads on the roofs. The visits before that I had mostly glanced in the little stores, discovering the goodies of Monschau.  Somehow I had completely missed the secret codes displayed on the majority of doors but last visit they were all of a sudden all up in my face.


They made no sense, being so similar, but yet different. Sometimes on a door, or a window or a letter box but sometimes there was no code at all.  The codes were smiling in my face, chuckling because I could not understand them.Outsider, outsider they told me. 

So I couldn't take it any more, I had to solve this puzzle.

The lady in the tourist office was puzzled that we didn't know these codes, that she had to explain to so many visitors what they are for. Don't you have this in Belgium? It is everywhere in catholic regions......Well, apparently only in Germanspeaking catholic regions.

The C+M+B stands for the latin phrase "Christus mansionem benedicat" =  "May Christ bless this house"  (or alternatively refers to the 3 Magi Caspar, Melchior & Balthazar).  the 20 and ending numbers refer to the year.  Kids go around singing at ephiphany (this happens in Belgium too but less and less) from house to house and when they're done with singing and got some donation from the people, they write this blessing on the house.   And people take very much care leaving it on there, taking this blessing very seriously.

Anyone seen these elsewhere in Germany or Switzerland?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wishful thinking

"See you next week" says the sign at the local car wash. 
Yeah sure, of course. [rolling my eyes]

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Made in Belgium: My little dictaphone

This week we cross the Belgian language border again and present an indie group from Liege.  Pretty unknown in the north still, I do like what I've found.  I hope to hear more of them on the Flemish radio stations.

What are you waiting for?

Shine on

Crazy to love

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bruges in all its glory

Spring is the best time to enjoy the Unesco world heritage of the historic city of Bruges when all the daffodiles come out at the beguinage.   Jan took these pictures this weekend when he was there. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012


The last week Spring has burst open and in a sense of over achievement rushed towards an early summer. Out of nowhere we all seemed to crawl out of our winter hidings to walk the streets, fill the terrasses, show off our still transparent white legs and make the city center buzzing with activity.  That first sun and first warmth feels so glorious!

Last Monday I stayed in the Ardennes to work there from 'home' to allow the electricians to finish their work. Somehow I ended up sitting with my back to the field and worked ignoring the cows that were let into the field for the first time after winter, acting totally goofy.   I also ignored the slimey ass of one of them since that's simply not something you'd want to zoom in on.
But then later on in the afternoon there was suddenly a giant bloody slimey membrane in the field behind me.  Did I seriously miss another calf being born just behind me? I somehow didn't expect new life in the field so soon in the year, but I guess spring couldn't wait anymore. Booohoooo, a cute little calf that could nowhere get spotted because usually the farmer wheels it away quite quickly.

At work Spring is in the air as well. On the roof terrace in Amsterdam, in one of the big plants, ...just a few meters of the smokers,...if you look really well because you wouldn't notice immediately , ...there's a mommy duck breeding. Apparently she uses this terrace as a yearly creche. Hah...Heineken cares for ducklins :)

(sorry for unclear pictures....didn't want to stress mommy too much by approaching to closely).

City park Leuven

At the city center, everyone was enjoying the sun outside.   So so great  and yet so shocking to then all of a sudden walk by flags downtown that are still all flying halfmast.  And then I must remember that where now a young couple is french kissing at the entrance stairs of the church, yesterday was a internationally broadcast of the funeral for 7 young children whose life ended too abruptly.  Despite the irritation over the media overload and the unproportional attention to the international dignitaries present at all memorial services,  the images of the many coffins, the sounds of the church bells , the many sympathising people sharing the sorrow, the texts read out at the services in Lommel & Leuven  are hard to forget and are still giving chills.

And I must think of all people that cannot enjoy this lovely spring due to health issues, grief, ...How many lifes weren't meant to be? How many people are fighting disease now and are struggling.   All of a sudden the sun seems a little less warm.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Made in Belgium: Mumbai Science

I thought I had left my electro days behind me about 15 years ago, but heard this recently on the radio during a late drive and I thought they were very fun company.  It's not like I'd listen to this all the time but it's fun enough to dedicate a post to this Belgian DJ/producer duo with the fun name "Mumbai Science".




Monday, March 19, 2012

It is a new place

  • New windows: check
  • Electricity ready to be approved with renewed earthing system: check
  • 3 car loads of renovation thrash sorted and taken away to container park: check
  • Wooden floor in guest room and hall way: check
  • Duplicate & unnecessary ugly fencing removed: check
  • Wooden beams sorted in shed that was now empty since renovation trash was gone: check
  • House cleaned: check
  • New windows cleaned: check

We're a little bit sore and tired now.   But here's some before and after pictures

The hallway floor

 Guest room before with old window and old floor

 Bathroom: before painting and old window and now the new window

Wijvenweek: writing talent

Well, Wijvenweek edition 2012 is over.  And I've read a lot of interesting post, discovered new fun blogs, recognised a lot of stories and often had a big smile on my face. I wish I could write only half as good as lot of these female bloggers. Wow, there's a lot of talented writers out there that can bring their story or opinion in an entertaining but authentic way to read.  I can learn something from them :)

Also interested to see what you missed?   You can still read al "wijven" posts  here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wijvenweek: I'm the multitasking superwife

I'm running 24h late with the Wijvenweek themes . But I hope you can forgive me. Friday, I've arranged the carpenter to come and replace 4 windows, while the electrician came to check the compliance of our electricity circuit  while I was checking budgets of several IT organisations.  Multitasking, it's easy.

Today I've pulled out a fence, cut wires, pulled out wooden beams and arranged them all in the shed, which I had cleared out before by driving off 3 cars full of plaster, cardboard, old wooden plates, glass tiles and metal sticks to the container park. In between I brought Jan some beer to reward him for the excellent job he was doing in putting in new floors. And then we cleaned the house so now I can sit and watch tv while I am posting this and glance quickly at my wordfeud screen but I don't have good letters to put down a good word.

But I'm ready for bed now because I have a busy week ahead, working at 3 different locations in 2 countries as usual as I commute between Belgium & Amsterdam since one year now. So I must remember to throw in some laundry before I'm heading north again.  And then next week I'll go and paint a room at my parent's home, since they are so impressed by all the renovations that Jan and I have accomplished ourselves, that they asked me for their help.

I'm quite proud of all the things I've accomplished, especially all the renovation works that we've done ourselves. How many wives can state that they've helped putting in the floorheating? Or plaster the walls?
Don't get my wrong: I can fill a blog with all the DIY mistakes we've made, but I hope you don't notice them so quickly.

Other than that, I'm not exactly the stereotypical super housewife, usually having a backlog in ironing, leaving the cooking to my husband and not being much of a cleaner.  But I'm proud to sometimes conciously leave the household chores aside and lazyly lay down in the sofa to relax in front of tv / laptop.  I've often seen how perfectionists have a never ending to do list and never find some rest. So I'm proud also to sometimes simply ignore the rest of my to do list. Because I find that important too. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wijvenweek: self-censorship

Day 5 of Wijvenweek is about self-censorship.    Yikes.   I apply self-censorship very often on this blog  and why would I all of a sudden publish the things I'd never want to get published here?

I do admire other bloggers than seem to have no issue to talk openly over their struggles, hopes & aspirations, issues, ... It makes their blogs so genuine, recognisable and interesting to read.  I realise that censuring makes my blog way more trivial when I post for the 100th time pictures of a walk in the woods.  And it gives a more positive image of my life as it's often negativity that I keep out:  worries about (serious) health problems of friends & relatives, professional doubts & frustrations, discussions with Jan, embarrasing situations, ....all of this is part of my daily life but not part of this blog.
I also have become more hesitant to post fun happy posts where children of friends and relatives are openly featured, since I know that the parents might not always be happy about that.

Sometimes I wish I could share more, ask for feedback, write it out of my system, get hopefully some supportive comments from online readers.  But I can't. I simply can't. Some weeks I simply refrain myself to some quick pictures and a neutral music post if I don't find the words to write anything else. I am convinced one should share negative comments on your employer on a blog if I would have any. I also don't think it is appropriate to discuss someone else's health issues on my blog (even if they are not necessarily readers).  Neither should I share fights in a moment of anger as I might regret it later.  The fact that I use an alias does not change anything to that.  And to write down controversial opinions , ...I fear too much to get offensive reactions back : I honestly would not know how to deal with them. Plus I'm convinced that the truth is not black or white but grey but I'm too lazy to research all aspects thouroughly to write them down well balanced.

So there it blog will remain as trivial as it is  ...with lots of sharing of weekend walks, renovations, vacation pictures and fun activities.   Just know that you'll never truly know me entirely by just reading this blog. I use self-censorship  and that will remain so.

Wijvenweek: Dreams dreams dreams

I was still sound asleep when my alarm sounded abruptly.  My ritual snooze simply continued the dream . Weird dream I realised a bit later.  I'd go for several days on a trip with 2 of my best friends to a tiny village in Zeeland (southern Dutch province, just across the border).  Funny enough afterwards I had promised to go with another friend and she insisted to go to the next village in Zeeland and finally Jan was planning a get-away to ...yes Zeeland. So I was frustrated that all of them would want to go to Zeeland and I'd spend there almost a month in villages where there's truly not enough to keep you busy for that long. And I was frantically searching the internet for musea, walking trails etc  to find some interesting things to do.

When I woke up , I realised that long vacations in Zeeland are clearly  not my dream :p.   But what puzzled me is why i'd dream such a weird thing.  On the rare occasions that I remember my dreams, all of them are always so bizar. I regret that I don't remember more of then as I find it utterly fascinating to see which associations & connections my brain makes when I'm asleep. How do I come up with that stuff? Why?

How about you?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Made in belgium: Love like birds

Love like birds (Elke De Mey) is a very young new mucisian from Ghent that just launched her first EP with 5 intimistic melancholic songs.

This magnificent fragile but sad song seems the only appropriate music to post tonight.

Heavy Heart

Wijvenweek: Mourning & sensation

While the bells of the downtown main church are ringing after a remembering service , I'm staring at the tv images that keep coming over and over again. I don't want to see that bus wreck over and over again anymore but tv programming got changed and I am absolutely not in the mood for a comedy or late-night show on a foreign tv channel. Like most Belgians today I feel numb by the tragedy that has happened last night in Switzerland.  I'm shocked how the majority of 2 school classes has been wiped away just like that.

This morning I clicked on the class blog of this ski vacation and saw these beautiful smiling faces staring at me, dressed up for a casino evening , taking first ski lessons and waving happily to the camera. I can't get them out of my head anymore. So wijvenweek , opinions, work & all seems so trivial today.  Should I blog? Should I blog about the accident or just post some music like I always do on a Wednesday?

Usually I'm pretty reluctant to blog about the breaking news of the day.  Somehow it often feels inappropriate. To which degree do we blog and post about it out of empathy and true emotions or to which degree are we also driven by the sensation of the day that holds us all in our grip?  On Tuesday we must all blog about the colorful cupcakes we just baked and on Wednesday we all feel obliged to state how sad we are about a tragedy that's all over the news.  And I'm not doubting that we all do feel our deepest sympathy for family and friends that have encountered a tragedy but is it appropriate that we all express that so openly.  Don't we compete (unconsciously) to write the most compassionate, empathic, nice post? Don't we want to be part of the collective grief/shock? While on Thursday we continue our daily routines again and move to the next online hype. 

There is a second reason I struggle with these public  displays of emotions & empathy.  While I can't get my mind off to think how these parents feel today, how the colleague teachers must try to deal with their grief over the loss of their colleagues & students, how little soccer players tonight ask their parents if their good friend will show up for practise next weekend, etc...  I also wonder how parents feel tonight who lost a child over a small non-mediased accident 3 weeks ago?  While these 2 impacted schools get support from psychologists, which support gets a child in another school who just lost its mommy over cancer?  Is one type of grief more worthy of public support while others go unnoticed?  Is one loss of a child worth the visit of our royal family and national condolences websites while another doesn't? Why will our government call out a day of national grief for this huge accident, but not for the shooting in Liege in December that also killed some innocent children? What is the threshold of # children that must die before we have a day of national grief?   Is there a hierarchy? Witch asked a similar question tonight.

Don't get me wrong....I think it's natural & human that an accident of this size gets the attention that it gets.  I belief we'll always be more touched when children are involved than eg when this would have been a bus of retired people.  And a lot of these public shows of compassion are deeply touching and beautiful.  I don't belief we should stop them because another accident goes more unnoticed.  But still there feels something wrong to me, although I don't know what should get changed. I don't know.  At least it can never be wrong to express our genuine condolences.  And maybe we need to ask ourselves if we are attentive enough for the daily more hidden tragedies in our environment and if we offer enough support instead of being fully absorbed in our busy lives?

While I look in the direction of the St Lambertus school a bit further, I wonder how many nearby families have lost a child, ex-teacher, friend, relative, ...Do I know them? In how many houses will people have trouble to catch sleep?  I do want to express my deepest sympathy to all of them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wijvenweek: Guilty pleasures and little weaknesses

  • In a female blogging week, I immediately think of chocolate when I see the title "guilty pleasures". It is my assumption that in most posts today, chocolate is featured.  Ha, all of you who know me , know that doesn't fit for me. I am probably the weirdest Belgian, but I hate chocolate. Yikes, the smell, Yikes, the taste. Bleh. Didn't eat it as a kid and still hate it.

    But replace chocolate (and any other sweets, deserts, cookies,...that type of stuff) by peanuts and chips and I am totally lost.  You can absolutely bribe me with chips & nachos.  If they'd hang hidden camera's at receptions, you might see me going to "the toilet" a couple of times, always passing by that empty reception table with the untouched bowl of potato chips.   Or I'll go and say hi to some friends a bit further...who happen to have totally by coincidence a bigger portion of chips.
  • I already mentioned yesterday that I do have more acne than I had ever hoped to have at my age (pooh what an illusion I had as a teenager that those pimples would disappear with adulthood. Yeah right, I wish).  But I find it utterly relaxing and mind-clearing to post myself in front of the mirror for a while and push & mess with black points and growing pimples.  The concentration it takes to check out my skin actually helps me to relax & forget about other things that were racing through my mind. And then afterwards I curse, because I usually make my acne problem bigger than it was before.
  • Years ago Jan was working abroad on most working days and I woke myself up with breakfast with the tv on.  They used to broadcast "The Bold & Beautiful" during a practical time at that time and I must honestly admit that I used to enjoy the adventures of Ridge who marries alternatively with Brooke or Taylor .   Now, when I have a day off or I am sick at home or so, I sometimes catch it again in the middle of the afternoon.  Funny how you can still keep track of the stories even if you only see one episode every 3-4 months. Very practical ;)

    I also love to sneek at the tabloid titles in the supermarket, walking slowly by the book stands...or read some of the gossip while standing in line at the fries store. I also love to click & read the celeb sections of the online newspapers.
  • I find it important to sit together for meals at the table and spend time together. But when I'm home alone, sitting at the table is so boring & lonesome. It's much nicer to camp in the sofa in front of tv & laptop and quickly chew down my meal with one eye on the tv and the other on social feeds.
  • I am really not good at listening for a long time to someone.  I prefer chat conversations because at least you can look up, quickly pick up another message on tv or on the screen and then simply join back into the conversation.   But a long oral conversation, especially at the telephone is so difficult not to lose the concentration. Due to social media, I also get more and more frustrated by people that e-mail me.  That seems to have become the medium for work or family that does not use social media.
  • I love the snooze button of my alarm clock. I love & use it up to ridiculous proportions since I need to set my alarm a lot earlier to allow for multiple snoozes.   Yet it caters for my need to slowly wake up and not do anything while slowly gaining consciousness. I cannot and will never get up immediately when my alarm goes off...even if I need to get up in the middle of the night (eg to leave on vacation) after only a few hours of sleep.  I hate immensly to be woken up by another human being....I carry a grudge for a long time if it happens.  How dare you interrupt my sleep? At least you can't be angry at the alarm clock you've set yourself .   While the first half hour that i'm up, I try to avoid most conversations, I do love to catch up on what has happened on my social feeds.
  • I hate a messy or unclean house (it makes me resteless) but I absolutely hate cleaning (up).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Wijvenweek: the beautyqueen hidden deeply most of the time

It's fun to stroll slowly through the beauty department of a super market....all those beautiful colorful shower gel bottles with such nice promised smells just make you wish you could try them all out.   And make-up....all those colors & promising effects. Ah I'm sensitive for all those promo messages that make me dream of the sophisticated beauty queen I could be with perfect smooth soft skin, radient smile and elegant make-up. I get convinced that I'd love to pamper myself with some beauty products.  So now and then I get seduced to buying some sweet smelling creme or a funky little nail polish bottle or ... Getting in a new hotel is always exciting to see which beauty products they offer to use....some have really cool products that I cannot find elsewhere. By the way, does anyone know where they sell Rituals shower gel with rice milk & figs? (they don't in the Rituals stores in Belgium where they claim such variant doesn't exist....although I have a hotel sample at home to proof they are wrong !) 

Fortunately I don't end up buying these products too often since I basically never use them. (shower gel & shampoo & deo don't apply to that former statement, just for clarification).  Most day cremes, make-up , peelings, .... irritate my allergy prone skin.  Additionally I never manage to get out of bed in time , to spend a lot of time in the bathroom in the morning  and once fatigue hits me in the evening, my brain shuts down and I walk like a zombie straight too bed.  Taking off make-up & cleansing my face isn't quite something I think off at that moment. In all honesty, I check the mirror often enough during a day, being a little obsessed with the evolution of acne hidden under my bangs, but taking care of my skin when I should do it seems a challenge.

And so it happens that recently someone looked at one of my pictures and asked "huh, were you wearing make-up in that picture?".  Clearly the non-make-up me has become the default me. When I just started my professional career I put on make-up to make me look more mature & professional, but I've left that concern behind me and avoiding allergies has become a more important driver.
At least it's pretty easy to dress up for a party: a bit of mascara & lipstick and I am an instant beauty queen compared to my day-to-day look. If I really want to go all the way, I even put on foundation and some gloss.  And I really love it at those moments. I love to add that finishing touch now and then....just not every day anymore. There's just one thing I really can't use and that is nail always looks as if I dipped my fingers directly in the bottle rather than using the brush.  Putting nail polish on is only possible with a transparent glossy color. And on my toe nails: those demand some fun color when wearing sandals in the summer. Ha, I do have some pride!

Wijvenweek edition 2012

My long-time faithful readers might remember Wijvenweek 1998....The week that many Belgian female bloggers decided to bring out the most female stereotypes on their blogs (to proof that on other weeks their female blogs weren't all that stereotypical at all).After 4 years it was itching again to pull out all our glamour, our nailpolish and bring out our inner female vamps again....or in fact not at all. This year's theme is in fact "all masks off".  Curious what that results in?

Stay tuned for "wijvenweek edition 2012".

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I was so generous to share my cold virusses with Jan (just those for the cold, not the flu). So when we arrived in the Ardennes (via Oost-Vlaanderen for a brief visit to my parents and Jan's sister) we both crashed in the sofa, sniffing and with painful sinusses. After constantly dozing off in front of the tv, we slept for over 12 hours and then spent another lazy Sunday morning in pyama.  I really needed that to catch up more energy after my first 2 days back at work after my flu attack.While all of Belgium was twittering their first spring vibes , we also ventured out for just a small walk around a nearby village.   That was enough exercise for this week.

A nice snack out of my in-law's bakery

Spring is coming, also in the Ardennes

find the red squirrel in the picture

Friday, March 9, 2012

Design & old industry: a good match

The Zollverein domain was simply too big too explore it all 2 weeks ago, even though we had dedicated more than half a day to it. But one thing that Jan and I really both wanted to see was the Red dot design museum: a display of loads of products in all categories imaginable (even a coffin on display) that have won the Red dot design award in the previous years.

It was one parade of inspiration and dreams to decorate our house further.  Who wants to sponsor us?

Above our dinner table?

Art/Light above our seating area

Just a funny picture, not for our home though ;)

Other option above our dinner table?

This closet we already we can turn the doors into loudspeakers. yeay, cool.

Plants & art combined ....for the dinner wall near our (green) kitchen?

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Waking up was hard, but that was not new. The cough that burst in was however. By noon there was a running nose and I wanted the heating a bit higher. Argh, a cold. I counted the hours before I could call it a day and head home.

In the train I tried to curl up as far as my fellow passengers as possible, trying not to cough too much into their conversation while getting irritated by their chatter on boat renovations.

Finally home after the 3h commute, time to curl up in the sofa under a little blanket until Jan was home too and then time to sleep...hopefully enough to beat that mild fever.

A night of twisting, turning, sweating and aching eyes didn't bring any relief, on the contrary. This mild fever was no longer mild and this cold had mutated into a flu.  While the doctor got the stitches out  he instructed me to rest and let the world pass by me for a couple of days.  No problem, I was not inclined to do anything else.

Shivering, shivering, ....I already turned the heating up and added a blanket, I'm still cold.  When am I going to be warm again?

Ugh, my head is glowing, my eyes hurt, I can't lift my head. Shouldn't this be better already? Is this normal that my fever keeps going up and up despite anti-fever medication? I'm worried, never had such a high fever before...doze off again with telephone number of doctor on duty next to me.

Snap, I wake up suddenly out of the depths of a feverish sleep. It's dark outside, I'm confused. What time is it? How long have I been sleeping? Where's Jan? My fever did go down, I can feel that and I've been sweating like mad. Phew. I take a warm bath  before I return to bed again.

I wake up when Jan comes home from the dive club event, where I couldn't defend my quiz cup this year :( . I'm still sweating off the fever like crazy, changing in new dry clothes regularly. It's impossible to compensate by drinking enough fluids.

The need of sick leave extension has become obvious & gets confirmed by the doctor. I guess I can get back in bed without guilt feeling. 

Slowly I start feeling better, start paying attention to the news again, think about laundry that needs to be done, but filling a machine is exhausting already.  It's so nice to simply curl up in bed again and let myself doze off.Every optimistic plan to start doing something for a few hours quickly fades. Flu isn't cured when the fever goes down, I'm told. It'll take time to build up my energy again. But I'm prepping myself to go back at work. Being home starts to be annoying.

(these are extracts from the previous week...I am trying to resurface and have started working again)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Made in Belgium: Noordkaap

Noordkaap is another group that grew famous after winning Humo's Rock Rally (in 1990).  They brought Dutch-speaking rock in the 90ies. The group, lead by Stijn Meuris, knows quite some band member switches and quits in '99 after which Stijn continues with new bands.

Their biggest commercial hit is rather atypical for Noordkaap:  "Ik hou van u " (I love you) , a simple walz that was quickly written for a Belgian movie soundtrack.  It's simplicity & happiness conquered Belgium as a big hit that became a classic.  There can't be a summer party where we don't grab our dancing partner a big closer while we walz clumsily over the dance floor singing all loud together "I love you, I love you, ...give me a kiss". 
The song was chosen as theme song for the 175 year Belgium celebrations in 2005, where it was relaunched in a bilingual text together with Marie Daulsne from Zap Mama who also gave it a little African flavour.  During the celebrations it was danced live at 12 main squares in Belgium in the same it became a little bit a new unofficial anthem ;).  There's worse anthems, don't you think?

Ik hou van u

Ik hou van u / Je t'aime tu sais

Satteliet Suzy

Wat is kunst?

Arme Joe (cover from Will Tura )