Sunday, March 29, 2015

Where on earth is Spring hiding?

Gosh this weekend the weather was depressing.  As was previous weeks and the predictions of next week to be honest.  Cold, windy,  non-stop rain.  ugh.

We were in the Ardennes but the weather didn't allow us to get out really.

But then our Kabouter 'discovered' his snow boots that he has resented so much in the winter, on the shoe rack and he carried them up to us all the time to put them on. Much to our surprise this time he seemed to love them right away.  No more awkward heavy steps followed by crying as 2-3 months ago.....nope, this time the boots resulted in an endless hyper happy running around.   Ha, well, we can't say anymore that we bought them for nothing.   I guess they are now better sized and he's more used through his other pair of daily shoes to the weight of a decent sole?

And then we had to load something in the car and he escaped outside and we couldn't get him inside anymore.   With his rain jacket and boots, he confronted the weather.
"hey mom, why else do I have a rain jacket & good boots? let me play outside!".   Ugh...great, I think it is important for kids to play outside, but it meant that we had to confront the rain & cold as well to keep an eye on him.    (we did order a garden closure & railing to protect the edge of the garden with height drop this weekend too so our garden should become safe to him).

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kabouter random things

  • Kabouter has learned so much new things in the last 2-3 weeks. So often I can phone Jan (when he's traveling) and tell him "guess what Kabouter is doing now...".
         - He is singing lately.  He was already chanting the name "Bumba" along with a theme song of his favourite friend, yet now he adds imaginary lines to it or plane out "lalalalaaaa" melodies. 

       - Since 3 weeks he makes more or less successful attempts to climb in the sofa with us. Usually he needs some support. But 2 days ago he climbed without any issue on a foot support ...and then onwards on the coffee table.  Ha, excellent new skill to him: I can simply climb & reach anything on the table and sit on the middle of the table. Sigh....great?

       - He speaks much more. No idea what stories he's telling us, but he's telling them.   His vocabulary is enlarging though.

      - He insists more on climbing the stairs with us, rather than being carried up

      - He is playing purposefully with his toys. Whereas the tower cups were fun for months to run around with, throw down the towers that we had built for him, hand out, etc...he now manages to actually build correctly the tower himself.    He also figured out this week how to make a simple puzzle.  And he amuses himself practicing these skills. 

     - he manages to do things with our phones or computers that we have no clue how he achieves them. Unfortunately enough if he manages to eg freeze our screen half swiped away, he can't explain us either how to get it back (although he sometimes manages just as well to undo it). 

  • This week I noticed some rolling movement next to me while sleeping. In a flash moment of panic I realised I had forgotten somehow to bring Kabouter up to his bed the previous evening and that he was now going to roll and drop out of our bed.  In a swift rescue turn, I tried to grab him & save him from falling.
         "What!?   Huh?  What's wrong, what are you doing?"   Jan grumbled 
         At that point I woke up more, realising that Kabouter had either grown incredibly much taller in just a few hours of sleep or either Kabouter was simply sleeping nicely in his own room as always and I had startled Jan who had turned around in his sleep.   Oooops.

  • After a banana hype for almost 2 months where he'd live only on bananas if he had a choice, this week his preference seemed to tune down again to more normal proportions and his interest in eating bread & sandwiches is back.
          For vegetables or fruit, he can be quite picky...which he is not in daycare.  Hmm clearly testing us. That's not fun as I am very conscious of the amounts he eats since he is so tiny & light. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Made in Belgium: Urban Trad (updated)

For years I've been a great fan of Urban Trad and I've seen them half a dozen times live...each time they made me dance (although less that last time in Leuven). Unlike many other folk bands they are always full of rhythm, energy and love to combine the traditional sounds with new sounds.

I was very disappointed to hear that the group quit in 2012. I'd miss them.
So the good news is that the rest of the band members decided to continue after the lead singer had left and they had recruited some new band members and had a new single last fall. Yippeeee....hopefully it is the start of a new wave of inspiration and successes.  They seem quite active touring around again and they are scheduled to play at the folk festival in Dranouter. yeay! Hopefully they come back to Leuven quite soon again.

Original post here

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Music Flashback: Berdien Stenberg

I was just starting in elementary school when a Dutch flutist had a hit on the radio with a popular classical song.  And Berdien changed the rest of my youth...  My mom and my sister had taken music classes in their youth and could play an instrument.  Without particularly idolizing Berdien Stenberg  (I even disliked the cassette tape from Berdien Stenberg I had received once as a present. It was too much of the same), "Rondo Russo" had triggered my interest for a flute and from that moment on, it seemed clear that I'd go to the music academy as soon as I was allowed (in grade 3) and then start playing the flute as of grade 4 after my first mandatory year of learning to read music scores...and so I did.

For the next 10 years, I played about 30 to 60 min the flute per day, practising at home.  I started in the beginning in September, with the windows of my room wide open...which I stopped soon after my neighbour boy had joked to other people about the 3 tones I could play already.  (it became winter anyway, to cold to open the window...).   The music academy became the place where I spent most of my free time  peaking probably around grade 9-10 where I took music theory, flute, band & drama classes  and completing my amateur music degree in grade 12 with flute & chamber music.

Unfortunately my flute has now been dusting away in the closet for years...I guess I should pick it up to entertain Kabouter a bit and get my rusty fingers moving again on something else than a keyboard.

Anyway,... hearing Berdien Stenberg gives me flashbacks to all the classrooms in the music academy, the playground where we hang around, my different teachers over the years, ... Nice memories.

Friday, March 20, 2015

An attic ready for some further renovations

There's not been any progress on our attic in the last 2 years since this and this...the arrival of a little Kabouter is a good excuse.   But now we had the beams in the floor reinforced and a frame ready  to continue... Now only we need to figure out how we can best make some rooms in here and closet room etc...

Or maybe we should just leave it one big open space, as Kabouter seemed to have a ball running around in the newly discovered space. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Made in Belgium: The Neon judgement

This iconic Belgian New Wave band from Leuven has announced to stop at the end of this year and is now making it's goodbye tour through Belgium.  Sad to see such icons go...but then again, their music is especially remembered for it's early work which has a very dated 80ies song. Dated...but very cool though.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Vienna Zoo (part I)

A few years ago I would have never considered going to the local zoo, when doing a city trip. After all, I might as well watch an elephant in a Belgian zoo: they are not really different at a different location. So paying abroad to go to a zoo, seemed like a waste of time and money ,...2 things I used to prefer for very typical local things I could not find or see in my own country.

...but once you have a little kid, you change and visiting the zoo in Vienna seemed like the most perfect trip to do last week. The weather was nice and sunny and the "Tiergarten" was next to one of the marvellous palaces & parks, so we could combine the visit.

Our little Kabouter sure enjoyed the animals more than the palace (garden) ;) and refused to fall asleep until he was over 8 hours awake and simply crashed forward in his stroller 20 min before we left the zoo again to bring him back to the hotel room for a decent nap.

The "tiroler" section of the Vienna zoo with very exciting animals for Kabouter, such as the chickens ;)

And the more exotic animals

Monday, March 16, 2015

A new young Amadeus in Vienna?

In a local pub, next to a long table where an international group of mucisians seemed to have gathered , our Kabouter was having a ball running around and stealing everyone's attention.

And then the waiter plucked him in the air and posted him in front of the piano at the end of the restaurant.

And so Kabouter entertained the restaurant for a while until I returned him back to our table before the mucisian's ear's were too damaged...although some of them were mom's that were polite and amused enough to congratulate him with his talent.  Of course , I am biased enough to also think he was pretty good in exploring the tones and not just banging the keys with his fists alone.

oh one more thing...didn't Amadeus wear white curly wigs??

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My Life hacks

A lot of Flemish bloggers were taking part in a #boostyourpositivity blogging challenge and 1 of the assignments was to blog about their life hacks.

Initially that assignment annoyed me.  We don't need more people that show off their perfectly organised life,  giving pressure & guilt to others who don't seem to pull of the same order in their life.  We are all trying to keep enough balls in the air, let's not add any more pressure. Not quite a positivity boost.  I in the first place do not strive for perfection as I don't think it'll make me happy.

But when I was reading many of the participants's posts in my feed, I realised that   a) they don't necessarily run a perfect life, neither do they all strive to do so   b) I also have a lot of "life hacks" to that we use in some way to keep our lives running more smoothly.   So here are mine.

a) Google calendar: 
Jan, Kabouter, I, ...we all have an own google calendar that we each can view and edit and sync to our mobile devices.  If we all keep it up to date (key word is "if") then it's easy to keep track of who's where, when will there be potential conflicts and when do we need a babysit booked or so.  It can be updated and consulted at any moment , any place.

I check the calendar quite regularly so I usually have it well memorised in my mind. For that reason I do get quite frustrated when there's all of a sudden surprises that had not been put in the agenda.

b) Wunderlist shopping list
After trying out a chalk board in our kitchen many years ago, we suffered from memory loss once in the store (and we were too lazy to copy the board on a piece of paper each time...that's so inefficient).   On top of that, you seem to realize that you need to buy something, mostly when you are not near the chalk board.
Since x years we now use the app "Wunderlist".  It has a list on which we type all our shopping list items as soon as we think of something...and once in the store we walk through the isles with our phone open on the app and we cross off what we take. Once again, easy since synchronization happens on any mobile device instantaneously and we share the same lists.
When I'm home and Jan crosses of my things, I get notifications so I can sometimes follow in real-time how he's walking through the isles  (and then I'm tempted to quickly add some new things to the shopping list :p).   But in reality he often phones me after work "I'm going to the store now, if you still think of something we need, add it quickly to Wunderlist".

We also have a to do list on there that is less used, but also functions quite well and can be added with reminder notifications before a deadline.   We had a good "after birth" list with the to do's like getting the announcement cards confirmed at the printer,  confirming the first appointment for maternity help at home, etc... as I assumed that our minds would be blurred with emotion and fatigue. It worked like a charm.

c) Cleaning lady
Like many Belgians we have a cleaning lady with "service cheques" (subsidized by the government) who comes every 2 weeks. That's not nearly enough but it's good enough.   In the first 2 years we kept getting new cleaners and one was more unreliable than the other. For years now we have the same Maroccan sweet lady and I don't want to loose her. But she can only come every 2nd week, so it stays as it is.

Other than that I don't strive to have a floor on which you can eat.

d) Grocery shopping for multiple days
A lot of people seem to work with week menu's.  It sounds so rigid to me and so pressuring on Saturday or Sunday to define the entire menu for the week.  ugh, goodness no.....but then again, who am I to complain when I hardly do any cooking at all (Jan's the cook at home).   When I still lived in my apartment in Ghent, I did intentionally cook plenty on Saturday and Sunday to ensure left-overs for Monday, Tuesday and potentially also Wednesday.  Other than that I loved to have a stacked freezer in which I could "shop" for what I felt like eating in the 2nd half of the week.

If Jan is traveling a lot and I need to provide for my own food in the week, I tend to slip back to such a rhythm. I don't plan a "week menu" at all, but I try to go to the store beforehand and I pack up lots of easy quick things that can still be kept for a few days in the fridge:  schnitzels and some sausages to bake, a lasagna to heat,  a piece of meat to bake in the oven (on the evening before I might want to eat it: those things take too much time for a quick meal),   lots of tomatoes, cucumber and salad, a broccoli that steams quickly, ... Key is that I choose easy and quick things without much fantasy.  Good sauces and sophisticated menu's is not something I'll do (after a working day). So I stack up several things in the fridge to try to avoid last minute shopping.  The final choice what I eat is at the moment itself though.

Since this year we are experimenting with several pick-up grocery services where we order online and just drive by to pick up the prepared groceries.  That's easier now that we have to meet a day-care closure deadline each day.   Experience is that for a new webshop, it takes a lot of time to select and choose all items: the entire process doesn't make you win time. But you can "shop" more flexibly at a convenient moment.  Once you repeat the process, you can copy typical grocery lists which speeds up the process a lot. It's harder to get inspiration for food though while staring at a screen.

e) Multiple laundry baskets
I've always seen my mom sorting laundry each Saturday when I grew up: we all piled our dirty laundry in one or 2 laundry baskets and those got sorted to different loads of laundry runs.  When our closets got designed at home, Jan and I made room for 3 laundry baskets in the closets next to the bathroom:  30°, 40° and 60/90°  (and specialties like wool are thrown next to the basket into that closet).  That way nobody has the task to resort all the items anymore: it has to be thrown right away in the correct basket and that's your own responsibility.   Now it's easy: when a basket is full, it can be taken downstairs and thrown in the laundry machine and afterwards in the drier.  No fixed laundry depends on the state of the baskets  (although 1/2 basket of 30° and 1/2 basket of 40°  just before a trip will get combined in 1 load of 30°).

f) each irons his/her own clothes
After clothes have been in the drier, they are piled up in the basement on 2 piles: one for my clothes and one for Jans clothes.  And we both are responsible to iron our own clothes.  Since we were both travelling a lot for work,  I don't think it would have been fair if either one of us had the burden to do this chore for the other in the precious time home.  When just living together I was frustrated to see Jan's pile grow big so often,...but got over that when I was travelling more as well and having mine pile up just as much.  And then it was also a choice to not use the precious time home together, to be ironing.

But now and then 1 or 2 hours of speed ironing can fix a lot!

g) don't strive for perfection, it doesn't make you happy
it's ok if some dirty dishes are still in the sink now and then or the windows really should be washed. It's ok if you intended to cook a new meal but you didn't manage to go to the store and then you have to eat one evening some bread with cheese or go for some take-out fries (yeaay ;) ).

If I should wash the windows but it's a really lovely day and we'd feel to go for a walk...I'll do the latter.  I can wash the windows later too, right? It's important to take time for yourself and your family.  That's maybe the most important life hack.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Das Riesenrad

We might not have visited Sisi's palace or listened to a classical concert or saw the Lipizaner horses or any other typical tourist thing in Vienna, as these are a bit hard to do with a small toddler

but we did go in the historic ferris wheel and enjoyed the nighly Vienna skyline. Hell, we even went all the way and had our family picture taken in front of some fake backdrop and bought it as a souvenir :p.  Sometimes you just need to be wild ;)