Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Life in Belgium

Belgium might be a small country but a lot happens here.
Belgian designer Raf Simons
During the second half of 2013 Dior piled up profits worth 108 million euros. CEO Sidney Toledano: "We are doing great business. These are excellent results." Dior's results are the best since Sidney Toledano took over in 1993. Mr Toledano attributes the upswing in the company's profits to the arrival at Dior of the Flemish designer Raf Simons in April 2012.

Sidney Toledano was recently quoted: "Simons possesses exceptional talent that has allowed a new and modern wind to blow through our house of fashion. He is responsible for renewal, but also retains that which made the Dior look so famous."

The year that winter forgot about us

This year will without a doubt go down as the 2d warmest winter on record. This is because temperatures are expected to stay mild at least until the end of February.

The meteorological winter runs from 1 December to the end of February. And, until now, we have hardly been confronted with temperatures below zero. We only had sub-zero temperatures in Ukkel (which is close to where we live) on 3 times, and even then it never got really cold. The night temperature only dropped to -0.1°C/31.82°F, -0.4°C/31.1°F and 0.5°C/31.28°F.  The coldest  maximum temperature we had, was 4.1°C/39.38°F.

Temperatures for today will again exceed the year-long average. Normally, maximum temperatures in the 3rd week of February are around 6°C/42.8°F, but today we could have up to 12°C/42.8°F in some areas. Temperatures are expected to stay very mild for this time of year as ocean winds will keep on dominating the weather.

The lack of frost has been good news for our heating bills, and also for the government who will have to spend less on repairing roads that suffered badly from a combination of rain, frost and salt during the last couple of winters. Gritters have hardly had to come out so far. Until now, 7,000 tons of salt have been spread on our roads, compared to 52,000 tons last year.

But as usual we find something to complain about cause even though it has been mild it has been wet and windy and grey. And I must admit, I do like getting a bit of snow.  Not that snow in March couldn't happen. In 2008 there was a 'snow storm' which left snow in the higher lying areas as late as 21 March.

Himself with the kids, look how little they were! Oh and yes, he is wearing shorts, he always wears shorts

Road signs in one or four languages?

The Senate Commission for Home Affairs has approved a bill that makes it possible to have a language on road signs other than the 3 official languages in Belgium - Dutch, French and German.

"Half of all the lorries on Belgian roads are registered abroad. Their drivers are mostly of foreign descent. They don't understand our official languages, and often don't grasp what a road sign or a message on motorway boarding means", says Mr Guido De Padt, the driving force behind the idea, argues that this is the best way to have foreign truck drivers understand our traffic signs.

The bill opens the way for traffic signs in English. "When we are doing major road works, it would be safer to make announcements in English as well. In countries like France and the Netherlands, multilingual messages are already a common sight."

But as always when it comes to language issues in this country nothing is easy and not everyone is in agreement. In the end it's the different regions (Flanders (the Dutch speaking area), Wallonia (the French speaking area) or Brussels) that will have the final decision so it might happen in one region and not in another.

An Oscar for Belgium?

The Belgian movie The Broken Circle Breakdown has been nominated for an Oscar in the category of foreign-language movies. If it wins it will be the first time that a Belgian film wins in this category. I haven't seen it yet.

These boots are made for walking ....

Okay, I don't think these boots are really made for walking, even if a Chinese model did just that a the recent Business of Design Week in Hong Kong (December 2013).


The boots which were designed by  A.F. Vandevorst, an Antwerp-based luxury designer fashion label, presented a pair of diamond ankle boots valued at $3.2 million during the Business of Design Week in Hong Kong today. The diamond boots project is a result of collaboration between A.F.Vandevorst, Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), Flanders Fashion Institute and Diarough/UNI-Design.

I'd say this takes the term bedazzling to the extreme. The boots are covered with 39,083 natural fancy colored diamonds, comprised of 1,550 carats that were supplied by Diarough/UNI-Design. 

Designers used champagne, gray and pink colored diamonds for the most part, but also added reddish-pink diamonds for defining the A.F. Vandevorst logo. The manufacturers used 4,783 grams of gold and set the stones at the UNI-Design's manufacturing plant in India. The diamond boots project required 30,000 man hours in all, according to the firm.

If you are in Belgium you can come and have a look at them in Antwerp or if you have 2.4 million Euro and wear a size 39 (European) you can buy them.

And that, is what is happening in and around Belgium.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday, Monday ...

And how was your weekend? Did you get spoilt? Romanced?

So I told you that Tiger asked to take flowers to school. Well, apparently he was mobbed the moment he walked through the gate, everyone wanted a rose. Some of the big kids got so annoyed that he wouldn’t give them any that they called him names. But, he stood his ground and gave one to each of the girls in his class and one to his teacher.

Turns out he was the only kid in the school who did anything. He did however, come home with 18 love letters. Yip, 18. He gave roses to 11 girls but some of them felt that he needed more than one letter to say thanks.

It seems he also inspired his dad who surprised Cat & I with a bunch of roses on Friday. (we never do anything for valentines so this was a really big surprise). Luckily, he wrote a note else I might have thought they were for someone else.

And the note, it was written on a piece of paper that he pulled out of on the kids school books:

Dear Cat & Jo …. just something small to tell  you we love you very much.
Love Himself and Tiger.’

We even went out for dinner. Donny his business partner and best friend rang and asked if Himself would be his valentine and would he go out with him for dinner. Well, I wasn’t planning on staying home alone so I tagged along. 

I also went to the hairdresser. Honestly, I love going to the hairdresser. If I could afford it and had the time I would go every second day. I mean, you sit there and read your book while they bring you coffee.  Plus you get a head massage and you walk out looking like a million bucks, okay a 100 000 bucks maybe.

This is not exactly what I planned on doing to my hair when I went there but I like it.
What do you think?

Not the best quality but all I could manage in the loo at work. It is also a bit light than what it looks like

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Nothing to say ...

On my walk from the station to the office this morning I was thinking to myself that I have totally lost my desire to blog. Not only that, I have nothing to blog about. I come to work, go home, take the kids to soccer and swimming and then go home, feed them, watch about 20 min of tv before I fall asleep. Repeat.  It is boring! I have a post in my draft box since Monday, my weekend recount but really it is too boring to post.

And then boom, I get to the office and discover that today I have things to post about. Random stuff but stuff none the less.

Yesterday afternoon Himself took Tiger to the florist to order 12 long stem red roses. He decided, all on his own, that he wanted to give a rose to every girl in his class, and one for his teacher. He is such a sweet kid. When I asked him why his sister and I aren't getting any roses he said it is cause he is making us something.

Speaking of Tiger, the other day I asked him what he wanted to do for a living when he grew up. 'Play football, first for Barca (Barcelona), then for Real (Madrid) and then for Portugal. And then I'll retire and let my wife work while I raise our kids and cook dinner and buy my wife flowers'. He is totally obsessed with Ronaldo which is why he wants to play for Portugal. I had to explain to him that playing for Portugal might be tough since he is Belgian and not Portuguese.

They have started filming Avengers2 in Johannesburg (South Africa). Apparently none of the stars are there but over the next 2 weeks they will be filming outdoor action stuff that will take place in Jo'burg. 

 And who doesn't need a laugh, Trevor Noah is a well know South African comedian and I for one think he is really funny.



Oh and a friend of my (he is form America, married to a local girl) started a travel blog called The Travelled Monkey so go and have a look at what he has to say.

And since I didn't post about it on Monday, I'll just add it now:

Cat (left) won a silver medal for 100m backstroke on Sunday

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The next time you are bored

you've got to watch The Intouchables. Okay, so I know this is not a new movie (2011) and you've probably watched it but if you haven't YOU HAVE TO!

And I know it is in French but it is no excuse cause you know it comes with sub-titles. 

Honestly, Himself told me about it ages ago and told me that it was a great movie and then a friend from work told me the same thing. So, Tiger & I watched it yesterday.  It is fantastic!  It is funny and touching and I'm telling everyone I see about it.