We've survived it

Yep, no trick or treaters because we were in the pub. And Mouser guarded the pumpkins.



According to the Belgian national newspaper De Standaard HIV stands for 'human immodeficiency virus'.


I know that the financial market has been relentlessly on home owners since this financial crisis. But apparently a defying "immobilien" (=real estate) virus is making more victims as we speak.

If you would adjust just a few words, it could have been an Onion-article.



New website to be launched shortly.
Click below for a sneak preview.

Ah come on. She does doesn't she?


The dove from above

Stuff always happens after I have finally decided to clean the windows.
It is an event, cleaning those windows but I finally managed to find a rapid, effective way to do them.
We've still got the moat running round the house and using a ladder has now been circumnavigated. I can get at the windows now with stuff mounted on poles.
Anyway, stuff always happens. Like heavy rainfall that puts streaks all over them. Or birds flying into the windows.
We used to have a lot of them flying into the conservatory, remember the big lovely Jay nursed by Dr Livingstone.
So this dove was no exception.

I didn't see it at first, but in the morning when the condensation was on the outside of the window, the imprint became quite apparent.
Caught in mid-flight. It's ghostlike appearance hovering in the line of sight.
It's on a window of the room where the administration gets done.
It's still there.
I might consider cleaning the windows again.
But twice in one month's time is a lot you know...


King of the air

I can recognize the sound of a Westland Sea King helicopter miles away. It has been in service in our Royal Air Force since 1976 so I've nearly seen and heard it on a daily basis because I used to live on the coast, about 20 kms from its home base.
So I was really surprised when we were relaxing outside our house when I suddenly heard the low, thundery noise in the distance getting louder by the minute.
'I can hear a Sea King' was the first thing I said to Dr Livingstone.
He stared at me in disbelief.
'I can really hear it, it's getting quite near'. After a minute or so it suddenly emerged from behind the tree tops and flew right over our house.
I was just in the process of taking some pictures of the garden, so I was rewarded with a nice picture of the RS02!

Last Friday was the centennial of our Belgian Air Force. There was a show at the air base of Bevekom (Beauvechain) in which the Sea King participated.


Mouser mousing

Finally we got some rain. Quite refreshing. The lawn was begging for some drops, manifesting its will by turning a lightish brown/gingery colour.
I haven't had a peek at the water tank, but I imagine it will not turn to cement powder just yet.
Mouser has been out and about, surprisingly, during the intermittent showers.
Just before I headed out to bed I opened up the front door to see if Velvet Claws™ was going to join us.
There was a flash of fur and then it stopped mid-way down the hall.
I flicked on the light switch and lo and behold: It had rescued a fluffy friend from drowning.

I saw a mouse scurry round and head into the living room.
Of course it hid under the first available book shelf. Mouser was poking about trying to coo the rodent from under there, to no avail.
It ran into the study and I closed the door.
Dr Livingstone came out to help catch it and we moved some furniture about.
Mice tend to walk along walls and never straight across open spaces.
I had been in a similar situation a couple of years ago in the old house. To jog your memories: see my blog entries Cat & Mouse & Human Game and Got Him!
I though this was going to take hours.

But to my own surprise I caught the little bugger at the first attempt, although it did try to bite me. I had to hold the plastic container down because it just moved the whole thing across the floor while under it.
I relocated the mouse to the doorstep and it disappeared into the night.
Needless to say, teh Kitteh was still hovering around the bookcase looking for its playmate.


Rubus stealus

I spotted an over-succulent raspberry on one of the bushes a couple of days ago and I just had to take a picture.

The bush is teeming with berries getting ready to turn all red and sweet.
When Dr Livingstone came home one evening I forgot to tell him all about it.
So I did the following evening.
'I know there's one. I already ate it this morning before I got in the car.'



A carrot shaped like...what exactly?

No turnips here shaped exactly like a thingy, but we have pulled out some extraordinarily shaped carrots. They look like they changed their mind half way and started growing in the opposite direction.

Dr Livingstone thinks the ground is probably too hard and they're having trouble  moving in the right direction.


Summer still here

Luckily the summer hasn't left us yet, so nice warm weather, lots of sun.

We could do with the odd shower though for the garden. And our water reservoir. It's empty. It usually holds 5000 liters.


Ph'lip ya for real.

The Belgian Postal Service has released a commemorative stamp for the 'trone swap' as it is literally translated. AKA: the abdication of Albert II.
Here's the original stamp as it will be sold in post offices across Belgium:

Here's what it actually should have looked like if it embodied the full spirit of a trone swap:

Thank you. I'll be here all night.


Make jam, not war

A perfectly heart-shaped sweet strawberry. It had to be captured in a picture and broadcast to the world.
Sweet love for everyone!


For scale's sake

The courgette plant has been supplying us with humongous vegetables for a couple of weeks now. Tried all kinds of recipes to keep enjoying them.
To give you an impression of the kind of copious amounts we have to deal with on a regular basis: here's a photo to clarify. I added my garden glove for scale's sake.
We currently have two plants doing very well and not likely to stop growing as of yet.
We are strongly considering planting just the one next year!


No cue for cats

The only difference between the two pictures is that there are no people cueing to see Mouser on top of the Waterloo Lion's Mound.


Press Conference

This weekend it's the F1 Belgian Grand Prix.
I was looking at some pictures from the press conference on Thursday and came across a funny one.
I just couldn't resist adding a few text captions.
It's probably a bit obscure if you're not following F1.


Chicken salad

Second cookery entry of this blog:

We made some more salad...
For good measure, and variety, I changed the recipe slightly.

- 150gr of couscous
- 2 slices of chicken filet

- fresh peas
- fresh beans
- fresh tomatoes
- fresh courgette (about a quarter, thinly sliced)
- fresh mint
- fresh rosemary
- olive oil to unstick the couscous
- some lemon juice
- some drops of balsamico vinegar
- curry power & chicken herbs to bake the chicken

It wasn't too bad, first time I had made couscous. It's so simple. 160ml hot water for 100grams of couscous. Just add the water, let rest for 8 minutes, done!


Mouser mushroom

Mouser is waiting for the garden gnomes to come home from a hard day's work down in the diamond mine.
Oh wait. They were dwarves. And they lived in a cottage.
Come to think of it: What did they actually do with the diamonds they found?
Is that ever explained? Do they just keep them in a vault and leave them there?
This is one of those story lines which should have been explored in the sequels.


Not popular

Judging by the reaction the same national newspaper receives from it's readers online, working for the government isn't very popular, despite reports there was a considerable increase in people wanting to apply for jobs.

In an article written for the Biz section (Biz as in short for Financial News, not Showbusiness -_-) sporting the title "The best and worst government jobs" it lists some boring stuff about boring jobs.
Anyway, in a bold font at the end of the article it says: "Should you think about applying for a government job, press the 'respond' button at the top of the page on the right."

...says the voice talking to the hand.

Subs on holiday

The subs of of one of the national newspapers are on a summer break and monkeys are filling in for them once more.

These gems were in the paper's online edition last Sunday:

First up is National News.
It reads "19 people dead in traffic accident in Egypt."

Second one from Wednesday's edition in Foreign News:
It reads: "Magnetic field of Sun about to turn."

You can't get any more foreign than that.
What happened to the Science News section by the way?


Sweet Mouser

Look at sweet little Mouser, playing nice.


Headline hegemony part 2

I've been following the World Championships Athletics in Moskow on and off for the last couple of days.
Today the Borlée brothers were running their semis.
One of them didn't make it.
Incidentally one of our national newspapers sported two pictures next to each other.
The left hand caption says: "Firstly, point to what's going wrong" where the 'loopt' could be interpreted as 'running' when translated literally.
Right hand caption says: "Jonathan Borlée through to WC final, Kevin eliminated.

I can tell what's going wrong. He's on the phone, not entirely focussed on his race. Kids these days. Can't go without their cell phones for 5 minutes these days...




I've been roaming around the garden since the weekend before last with my camera. It was a very long time since I snapped some wildlife and I went in headlong. There was a butterfly counting weekend, so we made ourselves useful. We've not too good at naming the insects so I took pictures, we compared them to others on the insecternet and hey presto; some eight different species popped out:

Polyommatus icarus (which I hoped would have been the very rare Adonis butterfly (Polyommatus bellargus).

Autographa gamma

Gonepteryx rhamni

Pieris rapae

Colias crocae

Celastrina argiolus

Maniola jurtina

Aglais io

This was more than I had expected to see in the garden.
Looks like the combination of wild flowers, a veg garden and a manicured garden with a lawn, herbs and the surrounding fruit trees are a very good combination for attracting all sorts.
What a difference compared to where we used to live. We realize what an unhealthy environment that was, notwithstanding we were in the middle of greenery and fruit trees too. But it just shows that all those pesticides they used on the fruit trees and the farmland were a complete disaster for the fauna over there.


Summer wild flowers

I'll treat you to a picture of my lovely summer border full of wild flowers and gladiolus which have finally brought forth up to five different shades of colours.


Garden delights

I was taking a break from my studying, and chanced upon the beans Dr Livingstone had sown a while back. I thought it was still just some greenery with flowers, but they are already sporting a huge amount of beans.
So as you might have already guessed, this is what we will be eating for the following couple of days, with come courgette thrown in for variety.

Much against my will, this entry will look like a cookery blog for once.
We're having a lovely salad this evening made with fresh ingredients from the garden:
- 1 red paprika
- 1/2 cucumber (from our neighbour)
- about 20 large pole snapbeans
- 1 tomato
- rosemary
- basil
- mint
- dill

And for extra spunk: pasta (farfalle), one carrot, balsamico vinegar, olive oil and some ground black pepper.


Fresh from the garden

We have been harvesting our own vegetables for some time now. The courgettes are incredible. This thing yields us a fresh, humongous piece every other day. We've been racking our brains how to prepare it. Fried, cooked, raw. We've make courgette smoothies and courgette soup.
So they're a big succes. We only planted two of them, just in case one would die or something, but against all odds it went fine.

Also the pumpkin plant is bringing forth huge pumpkins. It is slowly taking over the front garden, creeping along unnoticed. Until we eat everything in the fall.

And of course the lovely strawberries are a special treat. Once I plucked a whole bowl of them. They went down with some yoghurt.

We've also been giving away fennel, sharing bundles of raddish and Dr Livingstone has been eating lettuce in copious amounts over the past weeks. He had planted too much and everything was ready to eat at the same time. He bought some new seedlings for harvesting in 2-3 weeks time and also some rhubarb. Yum!

I also managed to harvest a handfull of green peas, haven't cooked them yet.

And our F1-tomato plant and the cherry tomato plants are giving us 2 to 3 small tomatoes a day. It will be pasta all the way for rest of the week I think.

More to come as summer progresses!


Summer blogging break

I haven't been updating the blog of late, as there is so much work to do at the shop, in the house, with the studying, in the garden.
I promise I will make some time and post some garden pictures pretty soon. I will leave you with a picture of Mouser's share of hard work.


Teh winrar!

We are the hottest place in Belgium today. We win hands down.


Some like it hot

Will we break the record today?
It sure was warm yesterday!


Motorcycle to hell

Second three weeks ago to import Dr Livingstone's motorcycle with customs.
I phoned again (a different office this time) to ask what I needed to bring, to make doubly sure.
With some additional information (Dr Livingstone's written consent I was going to act in his place) I set off for Custom's bureau nº2.

What an event.
Ok, I parked in the ginournous parking garage in front of the buildings and memorized the number I parked on. 2143. Not so hard to remember.
Then I proceeded to the building, which is the former site of the Philips factories in Louvain.
Information board telling me customs are on the first level.
I take the elevator (which has no buttons inside to indicate what floor you want to go to) in the absence of clearly indicated flight of stairs.
I exit the elevator. Four doors leading to toilets, two random doors indicating some services which are not custom related.
But a sign still telling me customs are located to the right (according to the arrow). The only door on the right leading to offices is locked.
Guy with backpack exits elevator and opens door with bagde, goes in, door closes behind him.
Lady going into Ladies says: "My badge doesn't work to open doors and I work here. Best go down to reception on the ground floor, they'll ring and then someone will come and collect you."

So I take the elevator back down. Reception calls and tells me: "Fourth floor".
So I take the buttonless elevator once more.
A hunchback awaits me, holding ajar a door to the right. "Did they ring for you?"

It somehow reminded me of a scene from Young Frankenstein.

Then I had to fill in some form. An ring a bell again when I was finished.
-'Do you have the motorcycle here with you?'
-'How could I, I don't even have a license plate yet.'
-'Well I need to have to see the amount of miles on the clock.'
-'Or do you have a picture with you of the milage.'
-'No, it don't.'
-'Then I can't complete the application.'
-'What? But why didn't you tell me I needed to bring a picture of the milage. I phoned you to know if I needed to bring anything else. Why didn't you give me the right information.'
-'I'm giving it now, aren't I?'


So still nothing. This is never going to work. Dr Livingstone tried once more to get to the customs office. They were closed before closing time!


A garden is for eating

Some vegetables we put in two weeks ago are doing all they can, seeds are bringing forth some shy buds and looking promising so far. We've been spared insect plagues up till now, so let's hope we'll be the only ones in near future to enjoy the greenery.

One big patch was transformed from being covered in weeds to an Eden like patch. Put down in nice little rows are four different kinds of salad, fennel, broccoli and sprouts.

Dr Livingstone planted some beans and we put some stalks in place for them to grow on. Also in are courgettes and pumpkins!

Raddish, red beetroot and some potatoes are doing well.

All plants which will indulge us with different kind of berries are also growing at a rapid pace (we have now spoilt them with some mushroom manure). I also put two plants of the same grape variety in (Boskoop glory), they're still waiting for warmer days I guess.

I'm also chuffed with my herbs, they're doing very well.

It's a bit tricky now to get to them, I need to take a detour around half of the garden to get to them because we can't walk on the patch because of the grass seeds. But so far I'm able to have my daily, fresh mint tea cuppa.


Iron butterfly

The radiant Jeanette MacDonald, born on June 18, 1903

Reblogged from Nitrate Diva.

Stories from the garden

Crazy neighbour told us to wait another weekend before eating our own salad. The inner heart of the salad needs to firm up, so the crops are still all in place.

We have however eaten our very first, very sweet, strawberries. They are delicious! And they look gorgeous. I'll have to make some room for them to grow and get some cuttings of the tentacles that are feeling their way around the flower beds. They keep flowering, so that's good. Every flower is a strawberry. The bees are also out in full force. We need to bind the peonies together, they are collapsing under their own weight, but I'm scared we'll get a nasty response from the honey making winged insectivores. They're fighting each other in mid air to get to all the yummy pollen.

I've impersonated a bee this week. We bought a paprika-plant that brings forth white (!) paprika's. It's already sporting a few items. But because the plant is in our conservatory I'm playing the part of the pollinator with a swab, going from flower to flower.

Anyway, last weekend was another D-Day for the garden, the next big step to completing is has been taken. The area has been tilled, levelled and the grass seeds are in place.

It's not exactly Centre Court at the All England Lawn and Croquet Club, but it'll do for us.
We're roaring to give those balls a good walloping and have Pimm's on the lawn.
We're keeping it wet, Dr Livingstone went out and bought one of those interval rain spectacle things, that move about to evenly spread out water (it does about 60 square metres at time). We wouldn't have been able to do so if we hadn't put in that rain collector of 5000 litres. It is ca. 500 square metres to keep wet.

But I've just had a call from him telling me they're expecting rain this evening or tomorrow in gigantic proportions. About as much is going to fall as we could expect in an entire month. So I think if that should happen here (chances are it will, and not some miles further on), all the seeds will wash away and it will have been in vain. That is probably what is going to happen, these things never work out the way they have been planned.
But anyway, the soil has been levelled, so that's that. In the event we will have some kind of flood we can always just go out and buy two bags of new seed and spread that out.
We've been promised if there is a good balance between the temperature and water, germination should start in about 8 to 10 days. Or even as quick as 5.

In other news: Dr Livingstone got a present from his old mentor: a motorbike!
I'm not very pleased about that, as he had promised he wouldn't rid one ever again. But now I've seen it, it's ok. I can live with it. It's a light chopper king of bike, not a heavy one. It is 'easily' manoeuvrable, better for his back too.
He has made his mind up at first getting some lessons in with the driving school to freshen up on his biking skills again.

I tried to clear the bike with customs yesterday, as it has been imported from an other EU country. We checked with customs in the other country, checked with the importer here in Belgium and then called again with customs here to make sure we had all the documents we needed.
Of course when I got there, they told me I had to have some kind of proof of ownership.
I explained to the guy we had brought everything along as we had been told to do so, and we didn't have an invoice or something as it was a gift.
'Well, you didn't listen and haven't understood what was said on the phone then' said the officer.
I was very, very angry.
But I will get my own back. The whole custom office was reeking of cigarettes. It's a federal office. They are not allowed to smoke in there.
I'm putting in a call to the appropriate services to deal with that.
Mrs B doesn't take no for an answer.