The IKEA relation test

We've taken the test many times, yesterday was the toughest one so far.

Dr Livingstone suddenly decided to get the office sorted and get some bookcases in we wanted since we first moved in and got rid of the old ones. And also a sofa which turns into a bed. So I can sneak away at night if the snoring gets too loud. So we measured the available space (again) and chose the stuff we wanted (again), lent a van (again) and drove all the way to the nearest IKEA store (again). We were there about an hour before closing time, not too much people about. Time was pressing on, so we quick marched across the obligatory display route and went to look at and test the sofa-bed. It was ok, except the colour for the cover. I had already printed out the location of the bits and pieces we needed in the self-service area, so we were well prepared to get out as soon as possible. Dr Livingstone started to speed walk slightly as we navigated our way to some trolleys.

We thought we had found a short cut (and we did!) but no trolleys to be seen, so we had to walk past shelves of cutlery, rugs, cushions, greenery and candles. Which seemed to last for miles and miles. We got two trolleys and sped towards the Bedthingy. Everything was in place, bar the cover. So we got a grey one.Dr Livingstone dropped the parcel the frame was rapped in, he could get his hand in the cardboard and things were rattling inside, so we decided to change it for another one. Up to this point he was extremely annoyed at everything. From the display of the stuff in the shelves, to me wanting to verify the numbers on the boxes and the store closing in 20 minutes. Next up: the bookcases. We got a large packet on the second trolley and then proceeded to the single, smaller ones.

Empty shelves. Great. Nothing in stock, while the IKEA system promised us everything had to be there. 'That's it. I've had it with this bloody store. Leave everything. We're going.' I wasn't leaving empty handed. We had just moved heavy parcels and I wasn't going to drive back with an empty van. We didn't speak a lot on the way back. We ended up having a bite in the restaurant close to the workshop. I checked the IKEA stock on Dr Livingstone's smart phone. 14. There should be 14 ruddy pieces of plywood in stock. They must have cloaked them with an IKEA force field, because we really didn't see a single one.


Cold Cat

Mouser was very surprised today. First real snow of the season, and Kiteh stayed out for at least 10 whole minutes and spent the rest of the morning safely and snugly tucked behind the woodstove. I took a snap, the quality isn't that good, but you can see Velvet Claws™ there not planning to go anywhere soon.


Dry liver

Mouser has taken to drinking from a bucket in our bathroom.
That's right. Not from the toilet bowl (although Dr Livingstone has told me he did see Kitteh do it before).
Mouser has fresh water next to it's nomnoms bowl and still blue buckets are the preferred modus operandi.
If Mouser wants to get into the bathroom I need to open two doors which separate it from the living room. I call it 'drinky-drinky'. Yelps ensue in recognition of the sounds I make which are by now associated with drinking from large blue buckets.
I couldn't resist making a snap of Velvet Claws™ in action.


Visit to the Royal Palace Het Loo

I went on a school trip to Dutchistan on Thursday. After getting stuck in traffic and a huge detour because the bus driver decided to slavishly follow his gps, we visited the Royal Palace Het Loo in Apeldoorn. One of our professors had arranged we were able to see the carriages collection behind the glass partitions. Of course we were more than half an hour later then ETA.
One of the chief stable managers showed us around, locking and unlocking doors to rooms where the public is not allowed to come.
After the stable tour we visited the palace itself. It was the object of much discussion and controverse in the eighties when restaured. The romantic garden was demolished and a 17th century garden planted instead. A lot of the rooms that had been changed were remodelled according to the original Daniel Marot designs and contemporary accounts of visitors to the William & Mary hunting pied-a-terre.

The arrangement and furnishings of the room do give an excellent idea of the shift in styles in furniture and interiour design from the late 17th century up till the 20th.
If you're not really very versed in furniture periods etc. I recommend the audio guide, which does give a lot of context about the kings and queens who resided there too.
On the whole, we as art students enjoyed discussing the furnishings. It was an agreeable visit. Alas we didn't have time to stroll around in the forest next to the castle. I think a visit is worthwhile, but if I were to return, I'd come back in spring or summer to explore the grounds too.


Two ex chickens

The chickens didn't last very long. One of them failed to make it into the henhouse during the evening and was found the next morning nibbled to death. It was the chick I named Krimhilde.
This was about two weeks after we gave them to the neighbour. Last weekend the other hen, the one Dr Livingstone named Ingebjorg disappeared. Probably snatched by some prowling animal.
But we still get eggs, UFO's other chickens are doing what they're supposed to.


Playing catch-up

Hello my lovelies, it's been far too long since I blogged again. I'm still trying to get the hang of the new blogger dashboard interface. I tried to hold on to the old one as long as possible, but alas.

Anyway, what has been going on in my world recently:
1) As of two weeks I am now known as Mrs B, BA. Yes, I finally got that degree. With great distinction too I might smirkingly add!

2) We rented a machine to plough over the garden. It looks grand, but the grass and weeds are springing up.

3) the petanque area is finished!

4) three men are here and taking out all of the old windows and putting in new ones. They're in luck. The sun is out and it isn't raining today. So let's hope it stays that way.

5) We still have to shift the second sh*tload of wood we received over a month ago. We're both knackered and there's just not enough time to do everything we want.

6) Dr Livingstone and myself attended a wedding where strange things happened like waving about napkins (twice) and dancing something called a polonaise. If time allows I will dedicate an entire post to this... I will leave you with a picture from this morning when the lads turned up and removed the old double glazing.



Chicken(s) in a basket

No, not really. It was two chickens in a cardboard box.
Dr Livingstone and myself went to the shop this afternoon to collect the two egg-ready chickens he'd ordered earlier.
We gave them to our woo-loving neighbour and named them Ingeborg and Krimhilde.
The big black one (Ingeborg, the one Dr Livingstone named) was out and about and fended off the other chickens in the coop. It felt at home straight away, pecking at little grains and drinking some water. The other one (Krimhilde, the docile one I named), a cross between a black and a brown one was bullied by all the other hens and was pecked at several times. -_-
Seems they were not amused with the new hens.

An hour or so later we ventured into our neighbours garden again to check out the coop. All the autochthonous chickens were already nesting in the safety of the little chicken house, the two new hens were out exploring the outdoors.
We did tell them the hatch of the little house closes at dusk when the sensor decides to trigger the little motor.
They weren't really paying much attention to us.
Curious if they're still there in the morning...


A floating raspberry

I was watering the plants I had transplanted during the bulldozing and noticed a big shiny red blob suspended between some twigs.
It looked like a raspberry floating in mid air.
No, it was a huge spider with a big red abdomen with white dots over it.
It looks like it is the Araneus quadratus, or the Four-spot orb-weaver as it is commonly known.
Judging from pictures on the web they vary from green to yellow to red.
I presume the green ones aren't ripe yet.

[Yes -for all you movie buffs- that is a slight tribute to Kevin Klein in A Fish Called Wanda].


Quick round up

My apologies for the lack of posting, it's been an incredible week and a half. I'm ill, of course, and have been sleeping all day.
I want to give a brief recap on the garden and our activities in it.
We managed to shift all of the concrete rubble, the water reservoir is in (although the measurements the store gave us were not the same as the real dimensions of the thing they delivered), the petanque course is (nearly) finished and we did some weeding too.

And we managed to shift wood that was delivered three weeks ago, just in time for another load that was dumped here on Friday evening.
Last weekend we went to get rid of the railway sleepers. All 995kgs of them.
It is -very slowly- all taking shape.
Yesterday evening we even had a short inaugural throw with petanque balls!
Oh, and while digging in front of our driveway the crane hit a grey cable which apparantly was the telephone cable from our neigbours.


Barnie Rubble

20 tons of concrete rubble 20/40 was dumped on site today.
I took a ride in the truck from the load-in site 'till home to give the driver directions. Dr Livingstone was ahead of us in the van to lay down some rubber matting on the slabs to protect them. Wasn't necessary, the dumpster could move 1 meter out of the truck, so the guy nicely dumped it in two convenient piles on in the petanque area so Dr Livingstone and someone called Simon can spread it out. There's also 10 ton in front of the garage which needs to go around the house.
Don't really know if Dr Livingstone is really up to it, he had extreme pangs of pain shooting up his back, he's going to the physiotherapist tonight to see if he can make him go again.
I can help the odd hour tonight, but I have an exam (actually two) in the morning.


Green sphinx

This interesting caterpillar was munching away in the garden yesterday. A bright green fella with purple an white stripes on the side. It's a Sphinx ligustri, soon to be the Privet Hawk Moth.
When it feels threatened, it stands upright like a sphinx, hence the latin name. You can just make out the head and its six upper feeding paws all clutched together.
It feeds on nice smelling plants like lilacs and jasmin. Must get some in when replanting everything.



Another team was here on Thursday to put in the borders for the petanque area and the path around the house.
They thought they would have been done within half a day, but they left around 4 pm.
They did do a very nice job, relaxed people, they cleaned up everything very nicely. The eldest one was a bit of a chatterbox but he did know his trade.
Luckily I closed all the windows before they started slicing through the cement borders. What a load of dust!
Good thing the neigbourlady didn't have her washing out to dry.

It is a very different view now, it is all slowly taking shape.
Next week, after my exam(s) on Wednesday I'm getting stuck in, ordering more stuff to dump in there.
And we'll have to put the drainage in around the house, that is going to be a different challenge.
We also want a nice little terras to go in next to the petanque area under the cherry tree. It produces a nice speck of shade from late morning until two pm. It's ideal for the pick nick table and lazy summer brunches.
We'll give it a shot ourselves (she said bravely not realising what a cock-up this was going to be in future).
It will probably involve a lot of swearing, sore backs, some refreshing beers and more concrete slabs, but we're up for it.
It seems everyone is having some post-holiday ground activity. The asocial people from the new house down the road have also got the heavy machinery in and are digging a pool.
Alas they have pumps on all night trying to get rid of the ground water, but they are pumping away everything in the area.
My bushes will probably not make it through the scoarching heat predicted this weekend, even though I water them twice a day.
UFO-neighbour's pond level had dropped about 10 cm compared to the day before, he's afraid his fishes will emerge.


Blocked Drain Inc.

Blocked drains. We haz them.
Well, not any more.
We already found very shoddy workmanship a while back and now was the time to replace them (temporarily) until we can hook up the rain water tank.
One side has completely been done.

The second picture is the crane digging away some earth about 2 meters from the house to make a nice, broad path for walking and putting some benches in so we can sit in the shade in the afternoon.

Underneath, but not as deep as we expected are the drains from our bathroom, kitchen and the septic tank.
We replaced all of them (except the septic tank), added an extra entry for the drainage that is going in around the house and an extra entry that gives us access in future to clean the drains. Those can be seen where the white plastic bags are covering the holes.

Of course Mouser had to help and had to see if we had sloped the drains 1 cm per meter.

The worst bit is still to come. We still have to put the water tank in and remove the temp drains. We had to dig the most bit by hand because the guys with the digger couldn't be bothered any more. The first thing I insisted on was putting up a tent so we could work in the shade.

But with soaring temperatures and our bad backs Dr Livingstone called up the guy with the tractor who did the corral a while back and he had time to dig another trench to find yet another semi-blocked drain.
The people who lived here never put any filters in the pipes on the roof so for years on end all kinds of leaves and stuff have been building up inside, clogging the drain and obstructing the evacuation of water. Mind you, while Dr Livingstone was flushing out the rain pipes, a tennis ball popped out!!
Just fancy that!

Although Mouser did look very skeptical at what we were doing.
Poor puzzled kitteh!


Temperature Record so far

The mercury in the digital thermometer reached 32.2ºC today. For this weekend yet even hotter is forecast.
I hope it rains pretty soon. Everything is turning a nasty shade of brown and the anti-social people building a little bit further down the road are pumping up ground water for some shady reason.
UFO neighbour's pond level had dropped considerably and he is anxious for his fish.
I put down a bird bath just in case, but Mouser is the only one using it at the moment.


Dead but popular

Despite him being dead for over a week now, Michel Daerden is still the second most popular politician in Belgium, only losing about 3,6% compared to the week before, according to a mixture of polls on the rtbf news website.
That should get him re-elected in October, things are looking up for comrade Porsche even after his demise.

What's wrong with this poll?
Well, it's very obvious it's fake, that's what.


Tabula rasa

I found the USB cable. And therefore I am able to present to you the 'before' and 'after' pictures.
For added effect I will only show the most spectacular bits.
The first picture was taken on the drive way looking towards the neighbour who believes in UFO's. I wasn't kidding when I said we were going tabula rasa!

Then for another angle facing the other way. It's a mish-mash of several photo's which I quickly put next to eachother to make them look like a panorama pic.
This front garden will be filled up with several different bits; a wild flower & butterfly garden, an edible garden, bits of grass, a winding path, a seating area in the shade and a petanque court. Yes, you have permission to snigger.

In the third 'before' picture the second layer of concrete was still in place aroudn the house, the 'after' picture has the 2 meter wide gap that will be filled with stone debris and pebbles from the Taunus region. We've already put some planks in place because we cannot fill it up entirely. We still need to re-do the outer walls.

The fourth and final comparison is where the court is going. Some guys are going to put the concrete sides in on Thursday and once those have dried up we can order some trucks with stone rubble and dolomite for the top layer.

So there you have it. I will leave you with a picture of the site surveyor who's been keeping an eye on things, making sure the concrete waste is neatly disposed of, the workmen are have the regulated lunch breaks and little grey noms going squeak are seen to:


They test the missiles here or what?

Right, I wanted to blog a little earlier to keep every one up to speed on the stuff going on around the house. I took loads of pictures, but I can't seem to find the little USB cable I need to download them onto the computer.
We decided to go tabula rasa on the garden. Nearly everything has been pulled out and transported away to be turned into compost.
I apologized to each and every shrubbery and tree before they were plucked out of the ground.
The only things left now are two peony bushes, a cherry tree, two other trees -I don't know what they are- but they give enough shade where needed, two bushes which have white leaves in the spring, a curly hazel and something that brings forth pink flowers twice a year.
I tried to salvage as much bushes as possible, I planted them in the corral for the moment, hoping they will survive.

This weekend Dr Livingstone and I dug up drains and replaced them. What a sacré boulot. We haven't decided yet on where we are going to put the rain water harvest tank. We replaced the old rain water pipes so far, but just to evacuate the rain until we can hook them up to a solid system.
We want to use the water to flush the toilet and use the washing machine, we are now doing everything with tap water which is a) expensive b) selfish & decadent.

All the drains were delivered on Thursday, together with the concrete borders which will be placed around the house and our petanque court before the weekend.

Right now the garden looks like a tornado tore right through it.
Or, it could also be described by those epic words of the guy who gives Tom Hanks a ride home in The Money Pit: 'They test the missiles here or what?'


Goodbye Council Shrubbery

Today, the garden is getting a face lift. Goodbye to a spruce, a fancy looking spar, some bits of birch trunk, some bushes Dr Livingstone keeps referring to as 'council shrubbery', lots of Equisetum arvense (aka the dreaded ponytail) and lots of other brown, green or dead stuff.
The dirty digger is coming and all will be going into the big container in front of the driveway. Earlier this week I ordered some building materials, they are going to be delivered this afternoon.
I still don't know where they are going to put everything. The second container was left in the middle of the drive way...
The guy who is coming later on said he was able to shift it.

Mouser is all excited and wanders around the big containers, looking all puzzled and wondering what the bleep we are up to.

The plan: to get rid of all the stuff in the front garden which is way too much to keep tidy. It is teeming with weeds and it looks awful.
So we decided to go for a 15 x 4 petanque area. That's 60 square meters of non maintenance!
Some 60sm of gravel (well, not exactly gravel but some smooth looking quarts from the Taunus mountain area) is going around the house which will be excellent for getting rid of excess water against the house.
And there is going to be a terrace around the cherry tree.

Well, that's what we've got in mind. Updates will follow (I hope)!


Belgian Olympic medal winners

A very nice picture taken by bronze medallist Evi Van Acker (lazer radial sailing) with judoka Charline Van Snick (bronze) and Lionel Cox (silver medallist rifle 50m).The pic was taken in Inner Temple, converted into Belgium House for the duration of the London Olympics.
For now we are on par with Armenia and Mongolia in the medal race!


Temperature record?

Are we going to break the record today? Temperatures have been climbing. On Wednesday we had 31,1ºC, yesterday the mercury didn't make it past the 31,3ºC mark. Forecast says we might get 33ºC today. We've even had an ozon-alert.
Mouser is staying out all day, lying idle in the shade. Poor thing is shedding like mad. But with Dr Livingstone's lovely present (a nice bristle with pig hair) I can groom teh Kitteh.
I've put down little pots of fresh water everywhere outdoors, but Kitteh refuses to drink from it and prefers the yucky water in the bird bath. I refresh it every day, but the container looks dirty.

I'm indoors, all the windows and doors shut tight, working on my paper.
My professor keeps emailing me if I have already finished it and could I please send the bibliography and table of contents.
I did so and he replied: 'Wel, wel, that's looking pretty good.'
And then he returned the pdf with about ten comments. :/
Is he running low on summer reading or something? Maybe I gave him the impression that this paper is going to be the next best thing and he's got high expectations.

I will really try to finish it this weekend. I want to be ready to start studying for two more exams I have left in the next couple of weeks before I (finally) have my undergrad degree... \o/


Thomas the Unbelievable has a point

I'm currently reading a book I got as a present for my birthday from Dr Livingstone.
It's called: 'De ongelovige Thomas heeft een punt'.
Translated: Thomas the Unbelievable has a point.
It's a 'manual for critical thinking'.
Actually it goes through the very basics and explains logical fallacies, the tricks the brain plays on us like wishful thinking etc and how people use that to trick people.
Examples like the basketball-gorilla thing, a whole chapter on Randi debunking Geller, Houdini vs Conan Doyle etc.
Most of the stuff I already know through the SGU podcast. I haven't been listening for aaaages due to lack of time.
But some interesting things (so far) and some basic stuff I hadn't heard of like the hot hand fallacy.

They put up a website to illustrate some of the bits in the book. It's quite cool, it has all kinds of youtube movies, bits of lectures and so on grouped per chapter.

I've read 1/3 of the book so far. I'm going to the hairdresser in a bit, I hope to read on in there.


Dig it!

From tomorrow 'till 29th of July there is Dig the City @ Manchester. This is a picture from one of the roofs of Manchester Cathedral taken by someone setting up some lighting stuff for the festivities.

Looks like the drains are blocked. Probably the empty gin bottles and other rubbish found there are covering every possible water evacuation hole. I probably do not need to point out that this is detrimental to the building. And health in general.

Headless birds floating in the water.
I spy botulism....


Elio Di Rupo is a fictional character

I knew it all along. Elio Di Rupo, Belgian's Prime Minister, doesn't exist.
He has a flickr-page with pictures of him meeting and greeting people.
But according to his Flickr profile he has not given a real name.

Therefore he is a made-up character.
A figment of the imagination.
A ghost in the machine.
A creation of the media and the internet.



My life: an update

Tons of excuses.
I haz dem.

It's been a wild couple of months. I've been living according to following rhythm:
Sleep - get up - be amazing - sleep

Lot's of things have happened over here.
1) We had a digger in the garden to scrape away the paving around the house that was causing wet patches to emerge on the walls. It looks like a nuclear testing site now. They've not finished and they'll have to come back after their holidays.
We've worked out a scheme to remodel the garden. It will get rid of all the stupid things that have been planted by the people who lived here before and will reduce the maintenance work.
When the big digger was working in another part of the garden I heard little squeaky noises. I managed to trace the source: lo and behold: it was a little nest of mice!
They were entangled in a bush that had been removed. I replanted part of the bush and then covered them with some dry moss to shelter them from sun and Mouser.
Kitteh heard it too, but didn't seem to interested.
In the evening I did see mum or dad roaming around. The day after they were gone. This could mean two things: they were moved or they were eaten. The ground didn't look disturbed so I'm hoping for the former.

Anyway, I haven't been doing any weeding, raking or pruning as I thought they would clear away everything a little earlier.
It is now a complete and utter wilderness. It's very depressing.

2) We managed to find some people thought the intertubes that wanted to pay us to have the hideous electric blinds removed.
They needed to go because we're going to re-do the outer walls. So the ugly things have finally gone and we didn't have to do anything.

3) I finished up some exams in June, all went well, passed with flying colours. I'm still working on my paper. I managed to move the deadline forward. I need to take two exams in August/September because I wasn't able to take them the first time due to lack of time.
Work has been keeping Dr Livingstone and myself überbusy. With no time for fun and games.

4) We did manage to sneak away for two days. We visited the abbey of Himmerod in Germany.
I even bumped into a genuine Cistercian monk in the church, who greeted me on his way to prepare everything for mass.
It was a nice weekend full of Hefeweizenbeer, schnitzels and some very lovely abbey beer.
They're not trappists like the Cistercians here in Belgium, but they've got a trout farm, eco vegatables and honey.

5) The wasps nest in the spy hole in the front door had to be removed, alas. It was all hunky-dry when there was only four wasps there, building their little hive, minding their own business.
But then it was pretty warm for some weeks and I could see every hole was filled up with larvae.
Two weeks ago suddenly there were about twelve or more wasps there and every time I opened up the door they swarmed out protectively. But they were getting nervous and aggressive amongst themselves. So we decided to remove them.

6) We've got some gooseberries in the garden! Hurrah! Dr Livingstone: twenty of them in yoghurt would be very tasty. Alas the stalk is only yielding about ten berries at the moment. But still. The garden had brought forth something. Once the front has been cleared, I'm planting a whole row of the things. I want to walk through the garden and pick fruits of everything.
The cherry tree had some cherries on them, but most of them have been eaten by birds or the ones on them are not ripe yet. They do look a delicious kind of bright red already, but they were as sour as a lemon.

7) Mouser had some dealings with a weasel that it had brought in from god knows where. We managed to set it free two times so it could run away and escape. The darn thing didn't do much escaping. It just hid under a nearby bush and stayed put. We kept Mouser indoors for an hour or two, but once out it headed straight for the bush.

8) Our neighbour (the one who believes in UFO's) had been giving us lots of vegetables from his garden. We've been showered with salad, beetroot, fennel, some kind of cabbage, a couple of kilograms of big potatoes and a weekly box of freshly laid eggs.
We don't really know what to give him in return.

There's loads more, but back to work for now!


I'm not dead yet!

I'm still here my lovelies!
I've been awfully busy with... -erm- life in general.

New posts are in the pipe-line!

Big hugs,Mrs B


Bee hotel update

I promised an update on how the bee hotel bookings fared.
Well, every hotel has currently 1 to 2 holes that are filled up with mud/sand. That's not a lot.
The ones I hung near the stables were however already filled the day after. And those silly bees insisted on making the little mud pies on the stable doors. So we have about 5 of them not residing in the hotel.
My guess is I put the hotels up too late this season. And some of the shrubberies with early flowers died because of the very late frost. All my lovely smelling skimmia froze, I need to take them out.

Also, we've had some guests in the spy-hole in the front door. A threesome of paper wasps have been there for about two months now, steadily building their little paper hive.
They're not agressive, they don't mind us opening and shutting the door. They're not flying into the house by mistake.
We've decided to let them stay for as long as the door remains there, we will be replacing it anyway together with the new windows.