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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Fun

First of all, happy Halloween to all who read this! Have fun tonight and don't get spooked...


To increase the fun, here are a couple of Q&A's around the topic of Halloween:

Q: What is the most important subject a witch learns in school?
A: Spelling.

Q: Why didn’t the skeleton want to go to school?
A: His heart wasn’t in it.


Q: Why didn’t the skeleton go to the ball?
A: Because he had no BODY to go with.

Q: What room does a ghost not need?
A: A living room!

Q: Why are ghosts so bad at lying?
A: Because you can see right through them!

Q: What do you get when you cross a witch with sand?
A: A sandwich!


Q: What is a vampire’s favorite fruit?
A: A nectarine!

Q: What kind of dessert does a ghost like?
A: I scream!

Q: When is it bad luck to be followed by a black cat?
A: When you’re a mouse.

Q: What do moms dress up as on Halloween?
A: Mummies!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Autumn at the coast

I love being at the seaside! Of course it is nice in summer, when the sun shines and the days are warm and long - but I even love it more in autumn.


The air has that crispy feel, there are less tourists, you have an open view over the North Sea. Also when it rains, it has a certain charm. You never stay indoors when being here, even when it rains or there is a galeforce wind.

I love spashing through puddles of water, or trying to stay upright when a southwestern is blowing with force 6 or 7. When we were kids, we especially went swimming when it was raining, because the sea water was warmer then. And how we loved to face the elements when it was stormy! We never got blown off our feet, by the way, still don't.

And then, when cruising along the board walk, picking up the scent of freshly baked waffles... with cream... Or a hot chocolate after walking a few miles along the water.

Oh yes, the coast has charms and I love being here. Any other who are fond of the seaside?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ripper Street

We all know the BBC makes good programs. One of my favorite one right now is Ripper Street, which went into its second season yesterday night.


Ripper Street is set in 19th century London, to be exact in 1889 with the start of the first series. It is six month after the last of the Ripper murders. When some young women are murdered, everyone thinks Jack the Ripper is back in business...

The leading roles are for Inspector Reid (married, had one daughter but she disappeared in mysterious circumstances, which leads to troubles in the marriage), for his Sergeant Drake (he falls in love with a former hooker) and US Captain Jackson (who has some secrets of his own). The division is home in Whitechapel, where the Ripper murders occured as well.

This first series was full of violence, but then you'd expect it because Whitechapel in those days was a place full of brothels, workhouses and poor people.

Of course, there is some romance too. Drake falls in love with a working girl, and Jackson is in love with the madam of the whorehouse. Reid has a liking for the Jewish girl who cares for lost children in her home.

I have read somewhere that Ripper Street will also be broadcasted by BBC America, or has already been. Anyway, if you have a chance to see the program you must surely do.

Each episode is rought, like life at the end of the 19th century. It gives you a great idea of how people lived then, and how good we have it now.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Summerset Abbey

Hello people! Today I’d like to introduce you to TJ Brown. This author is doing a virtual book tour right now, and please note: Summerset Abbey has been chosen for a Nook Daily Find and will be on sale for 2.99 for one day on October 28th!

To all those who read this blog and want to win a prize: please leave a comment via this code: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e43447/

The more comments you leave, the more chances to win! The author will be awarding autographed copies of books two and three of the series, A Bloom in Winter and Spring Awakening to two randomly drawn commenters during the tour (open internationally). 


Who is TJ Brown?

TJ Brown is proud of her two children but coming in a close second is the fact that she parachuted out of a plane and beat the original Legend of Zelda video game. Her young adult historical about Harry Houdini’s illegitimate daughter came out in June from Balzer+Bray. She also writes adult historicals under TJ Brown. She resides with her husband and way too many pets in Portlandia.

You can find here here:


@teribrownwrites


Plus some links for the books:




 
Blurb

Reminiscent of Downton Abbey, this first novel in a new series follows two sisters and their maid as they are suddenly separated by the rigid class divisions within a sprawling aristocratic estate and thrust into an uncertain world on the brink of WWI...

Rowena and Victoria, daughters to the second son of the Earl of Summerset, have always treated their governess’s daughter, Prudence, like a sister. But when their father dies and they move in with their uncle’s family in a much more traditional household, Prudence is relegated to the maids’ quarters, much to the girls’ shock and dismay. The impending war offers each girl hope for a more modern future, but the ever-present specter of class expectations makes it difficult for Prudence to maintain a foot in both worlds.

Vividly evoking both time and place and filled with authentic dialogue and richly detailed atmosphere, Summerset Abbey is a charming and timeless historical debut.




Excerpt

A lump rose in her throat as she caught sight of the ornate casket, draped with a full spray of lilies, carnations, and palm fronds. The only reason she was here, clutching Rowena’s and Victoria’s hands in hers instead of shrinking into the background with the other servants, was the kindness of the man who lay inside. After Prudence’s father had died, her mother, who had worked at Sir Philip’s estate as a girl, had been sent to attend to Rowena and Victoria’s ailing mother. When his wife died, Sir Philip asked her to stay on to help raise the girls, and Prudence, exactly between his daughters in age, became part of the family. Prudence, who volunteered her time at several different poorhouses in the city, knew exactly what happened to young girls left alone in the world. She would forever be grateful to Sir Philip for not allowing that to happen to her.

She blinked away her tears and occupied herself by looking at the rest of the congregation. Only a few looked familiar. Among them were Rupert Brooke, the high-strung and handsome young poet; Ben Tillett, the iron-jawed union leader; and Roger Fry, the controversial artist responsible for bringing London’s shocked attention to postimpressionism some years prior. These were some of Sir Philip’s friends, a motley collection of artists, intellectuals, and misfits.

Because the Earl had arranged the funeral, most of the people in attendance were his peers, men from the House of Lords and others from the cream of London society.

Sir Philip would have hated it.

The beautiful gold arches and polished marble of St. Bride’s Church gleamed, just as they had the few times the family had attended church. Sir Philip had chosen St. Bride’s because, as he used to say, “Sir Christopher Wren built the kind of church that God might actually enjoy.”

Gradually, Prudence became aware of a young man staring at her from across the aisle. Her eyes darted in his direction, then away. Moments later, unable to help herself, she glanced back to see whether he was still looking at her. He was. She turned slightly and stared fixedly at the bronze candelabra to the left of him, her cheeks burning.

Victoria leaned around her to whisper to Rowena. “Look, Lord Billingsly has noticed our Prudence.”

“I’m right here,” Prudence whispered, and gave both their hands a hard squeeze for emphasis.

She didn’t look his way again.

Once the service started, Prudence sank into a well of grief that threatened to drown her. The waves of it lapped at her from all sides, covered her head, and made sight almost impossible. Inside, her heart broke and a waterfall of sorrow poured from the cracks. On one side, Victoria sobbed quietly, while Rowena’s stiff resolve buoyed her from the other. She clung to their hands as the service passed in a blur of speeches.

They remained that way until it was time to get into the ornate black and gold funeral carriages that would take them back to their home in Mayfair for the reception. Behind the carriages stood a line of motorcars; most of the wealthy guests had long given up their carriages for the convenience and speed of automobiles. The Earl himself had several, and Sir Philip’s sleek Eton-blue Belsize sat idle in the carriage house, but the Earl insisted on traditional horse-drawn carriages.

“Miss Tate will ride in the staff carriage.” The Earl’s voice brooked no opposition and his square jaw firmed. Prudence knew that look. Rowena’s pretty face held the same expression when she got all stubborn about something.

Victoria’s eyes widened. “Prudence rides with us.”

“Nonsense. The Duke of Plymouth wishes to join us and there isn’t enough room.”

Prudence placed her hands on Victoria’s shoulders. Tension vibrated through the young girl’s slender body and Prudence’s stomach knotted, sure that Victoria was going to throw a fit, the kind she used to throw when the family still called her baby and she wanted the biggest sweet in the shop. Even at eighteen, Victoria wasn’t above a tantrum or two if she thought the situation warranted it. But her waiflike face suddenly fell and her lower lip trembled.

“It’ll be all right,” Prudence whispered. “I’ll go back with the staff and meet you at home.”

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Return to winter time

This night, we'll be returning to winter time. 3 am becomes 2 am - which is good, because we get to sleep one hour longer!

Still, I wonder why we still have to change from summer time to winter time. I can understand why it was invented in war time, but right now it is not really relevant anymore.

What does it change? A lot of animals and little children who don't understand time has changed - and bad tempers as a result.

It's lighter in the morning, but sooner dark in the evenings. That's kind of cozy, but it should remain this way.

What is your take on this?

Friday, October 25, 2013

FDT: Witloof in de oven

One of our tradiotional dishes in Flanders is ‘witloof in de oven’ (chicory in the oven). Everyone loves it, and it is especially served on colder days.


What do you need?

·        500 gram ground cheese

·        6 pieces of chicory

·        6 slices of cooked ham (or double, if you want more meat)

·        1 glass of water

·        Pepper, salt and nutmeg

To make the sauce:

·        50 gram of flour

·        50 gram of baking butter

·        25 deciliter of milk

·        25 deciliter cooking fluid from the chicory

·        lemon juice, if desired

 

How to go ahead:

You can start by prewarming your oven (180° Celsius). Then you clean the chicory (cut away the hard part) and fry it with butter until it get some color. Save the juice, because you’ll need it later. Season it with pepper, salt and nutmeg. When all the sides are colored, add a glass of water. Leave it on the fire for some 5 minutes. Take the chicory out of the water and dry it up; keep the water in which it boiled.

You prepare the sauce by making a white bechamel. Melt the 50 gram of butter and add the 50 gram of flour immediately. Stir and then add the milk and the cooking fluid from the chicory, and if you want to some lemon juice.

Then you place a slice of ham on your working space and place a piece of chicory on it. Wind it up.

Take a ovendish and cover the bottom with some béchamel sauce. Place the ham rolls in and cover with the rest of the bechamel.

To finish, cover up with ground cheese and put the dish for 20 minutes in the oven (180°) and afterwards 5 minutes under the grill, to get a nice brown crust.

We traditionally serve these ham rolls with mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

London Town

What is it with London, that casts such a spell? Because you can't deny it: London attracts lots of people for various reasons.


Yesterday I was listening to a radio program and someone (one or other VIP was talking about his affection for the English capital. He said he'd easily want to live there, if he won the lottery.

Now that is something I can totally agree with. If I won the lottery tomorrow I certainly would buy a flat in the London center. (BTW, I did play so I might win tomorrow's 31 million Euro, right?) I go to London as much as I can, more than once a year. When having a place there, I'd be there about as much as in Dendermonde, I suppose.

What draws me to London? Well, there is always something going on there. It is one the world's centers for music and all the best performers are sure to have a concert there. New musicals are staged in the WestEnd each season. And then all those shops.... Clothing and shoes are so much cheaper there. And better still, by now they do have decent coffee in London! Until a couple of years ago, you only found instand coffee and that tastes of nothing.

Living for half the year in London would also allow us easily to travel to other places in England (or Scotland). I love Liverpool too, and Cardiff, and Edinburgh.

The language is no problem either. I speak and write English as easily as my own mother tongue. People Always ask us where we're from, and then they don't mean we're foreigners. In England they think we come north of London, and in the US they assume we're from New England.

As it is, we already have two trips to London planned in the near future... Could you live in London?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What drives people to kill their family members?

These days, you can't read a newspaper or watch the news on tv without reading/hearing about a man or woman who killed his/her entire family

There are a few categories to distinguish.

There are those who kill their (ex) partner because she or he has betrayed them, and then they kill the children because they think they would not cope without that parent.

There are those who kill their wife/husband/son/daughter because he/she is either very ill or handicapped.

Today the main story in the newspaper was about a man who drove his car into the canal, killing himself and his invalid son. At home, the police discovered the body of the mother. Neighbors tell the parents were very concerned about their son of 17, who could not walk or speak and had very severe mental problems.

While I could never understand why you would want to kill your partner because you can't agree anymore, I can partly what drives people like this father to such a desperate action.

My sister and I took care of our mother when she had our first stroke. She was in hospital for a week, but then she had to come home. She was not able to do anything by herself. She could not wash, eat, use the bathroom. We only had to take care of her for two months, until our doctor had found a nursing home for her, but it surely took its toll. I was not able to sleep for two month, because I was afraid something would happen to my mother. I felt exhausted by the time school began once more in September. It took me until the next summer holiday before I felt fit once more.

So I can understand a little. It definitely takes its toll to look after someone who is handicapped. Some can cope, others can't. We have a friend who has a son with autism, and he already had a heart attack and more than one depression. Another friend committed suicide because he could not persuade his wife to put their severely mentally ill son into care.

There will always be controversy around this matter. Life is sacred, but can you consider it is 'life' when someone doesn't know he/she exists???

Your reactions are more than welcome.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Health care in debate

The last few days, health care is a hot topic. In the USA there is much to do about Obama Care, and here in Belgium the question is raised how to lower the costs of the social security (which is our health care).

In our country, everyone is automatically insured to receive free (or practically free) health care. Those who work, pay around 40 to 50 % of their wages to taxes and social security. Those who are unemployed and those who live from OCMW (an organisation for those in need) don't pay anything but receive health care anyway. If you want to, you can also pay an additonal amount of money (between 100 and 500 Euro) per year for a Klini Plan. That means you don't have to pay anything when you have to go into hospital. I have such a plan, just like my sister. It costs us around 120 Euro per year, but will get more expensive once we're over 65.


But recently, the questions has been raised how to cut back on the costs of health care. It cost loads and loads of money, you understand.

Now there is one group who suggest we reduce health care for the elderly and for those who are terminally ill...

Can you imagine? You're 75, you have lived  a healthy life all the time and now you get ill. So you don't get any care??? But somebody of 40, who has been smoking and living dangerously, does get care???

I really can't agree with that, and I hope most of our politicians don't either. Personally, if you have to make cuts in the health care, I would refuse free care to those who bring their life in danger. Like when you have been forbidden to smoke, and you still smoke two or three packs a day. Then, imo, you would have to pay for that new lung yourself. Or when you continue to take drugs, you can't hope to get treated for all the illnesses that generate from long abuse.

Well, that's my opion. I'm sure others would disagree. If you like to start a discussion, please do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The x-factor attraction

The last two decennia, shows like the X-Factor and (....) Got Talent have become increasingly popular.

What makes the success of these shows? Is it because people like to try their best and those who watch the show either want to support them, or have a good laugh?

Last Friday, there was nothing on tv (normally there's a detective on, but I had seen this episode already) and so we switched to VTM and watched Belgium's Got Talent. While there is al of rubbish in these shows, sometimes you can see a good act.

This time there was a magic act with ... a chicken! Quite incredible what this guy did with the stupid animal, named Chicken Curry. The chicken could pick the color one of the members of the jury had chosen (without the magician seeing what she did) and it could also count up numbers. I really don't know how he did it!


And another act was acro-gym. The couple, Nicolas and Laure, are two young people who are crazy about gymnastics. They are quite good in it as well, as they already won a medal in the Acro-Gym Champignonships. They fascinated audience and jury with their act, which was so good it got picked up by Cirque Du Soleil and the couple was offered a contract for their new show already.


But what got most attention was the act of a little guy of only 4 years old. Tristan did his version of Gangnam Style, and his act is getting attention from all over the world. It got downloaded I don't know how many times already. Quite cute, too, to see a little man do this dance!


What you also often see it that it are not the winners of these shows who make it. More than often the runners-up get the international career. In Belgium Natalia did not win the contest, but she is the one who made the big career. She has been performing internationally, and also is great friends with Anastacia.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday joke: material damage

Guys, as you know I've been painting all day long, so I really don't have the energy to write about an original blog top. (I hope this painting job willl be finished before Christmas!!! - We're only the two of us and don't have anyone to help us)

So here is another joke:



A yuppie was opening the door of his BMW when a car came along and hit the door, ripping it off completely. When the police arrived at the scene, the yuppie complained bitterly about the damage to his car.

"Officer, look what they've done to my Beemer!"

"You yuppies are so materialistic, it's ridiculous" retorted the officer. "You're so worried about your stupid BMW, you didn't even notice that your left arm was ripped off."

"Oh, my God!" screamed the yuppie, noticing the bloody stump where his arm used to be. "My Rolex!"

Saturday, October 19, 2013

You're not 'cool' as a parent when...

1. You don't know the number 1 in the charts
2. You can't use your I-Phone
3. You can't sing along with the recent hits
4. You are not wearing the right clothes
5. You drive a family car
6. You don't understand the attraction of computers
7. You don't know what a 'tweet' is
8. You don't know Spotify
9. You don't allow your kids to stay up late
10. You see to it that your kids wear their school uniform
11. You sing and dance in the house
12. You smoke
13. Your hairdo is old-fashioned
14. You want to accompany your kids to a party
15. You don't know Harry Styles
16. You forbid your kids to pierce their ears
17. You have your own Facebook account
18. You brag about Facebook
20. You don't allow your kids a cell Phone
21. You don't know how the tv works
22. You don't understand how the cable works
23. You don't allow your kids to wear what they want
24. You get along with your kids' friends
25. You forbid your offspring to have a tattoo
26. You don't know how to cook
27. You have a tattoo yourself
28. You don't want an I-Pad
29. You have no tattoo
30. You are proud of your house and your housekeeping

This is what kids answered when asked what they considered as 'not cool' with their parents. As you can see, some things contradict each other.

And what do the parents think? How cool are these kids????

I'm looking forward to some reactions!

Friday, October 18, 2013

No more credit for those in debt?

Minister Vande Lanotte (of Internal Affairs) has aired the idea of asking the banks and other credit institutions to deny credit to those people who are not able to pay back their major loans (i.e. that of their house/flat, of major renovations).

The banks already reacted by claiming this is a bad idea and that it would cost thousands of jobs.

Personally, I think it is not such a bad notion. When you can't pay your mortgage any more, do you really need to book a holiday on credit, or buy another car?

I've found out that most of the younger generations don't know what priorities are. I was raised by parents and grandparents who knew what was important. My grandmother lived through two world wars and she always said to me: "child, you're rich when you have a roof over your head and food in your tummy," - and that's a great truth.

I try to teach my students some awareness about keeping a budget. Never spend more than you can afford. And always take into account you can lose your job and could fall back on unemployment aid (which is only a quarter or less of what you'd earn)...

I'm curious to read the comments in tomorrow's newspapers. What is your take on this?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How do you plan your holidays?

I find it is always interesing to find out how people do things. This time I'd like to talk about planning a holiday.

What kind of tourist are you? Do you plan in advance, or do you act on a whimp? Do you like to spend heaps of money, or do you pick out trips that don't cost a lot?

We're all different persons, so our ways will also vary a lot. My sister and I like to act on impulse, but mostly we start out by talking and planning our future trips around a year in advance...

Last month, we already did some planning for the summer of 2014. We started out by acting on a mail I got about an event in Cardiff, Wales. We went to see it last year and we had liked it very much. So we decided to make our first trip (?) to Cardiff, some time in April. Just a weekend away. On Friday evening off to London by Eurostar, and the next morning by train to Cardiff. Back on Sunday. Nothing special, just going to see a good show and doing some shopping - because that's the UK for us: always great shopping! I buy most of my clothes and shoes there.


Then we started to think about our holiday in July. First we wanted to go to Santorini, Greece, but guess what happened - we changed it for Jersey, Channel Islands. We have been there in 2005 and liked it very much. We also got a great deal on a flight to it and found a hotel where we can stay for little money (breakfast and dinner included).  That's because you don't pay taxes in Jersey. St. Helier is also a nice town and the seafood there is super.


Because this trip doesn't cost a lot, we decided to have another trip later in summer. This time to Dublin, after having read an article about it in our weekend paper. We'll be staying in Bono's hotel, The Clarence. They had a room available in the period we'd like to stay there. Also booked the flight already, because you get the cheapest fare when booking early.


The final trip we planned ahead was one to London in May. We have a holiday then, from Wednesday to Sunday and it's just excellent for a city trip. We already booked tickets for Miss Saigon, which is having a new run in the WestEnd, and are gong to see War Horse.

And right now, we're thinking about another trip to London around Christmas - just because we received an interesting offer from Eurostar a few hours ago...


So planning goes together with acting on impulse with us. And how about you?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Getting into the mood for Halloween/All Saints

This morning, mist was rolling in and it stayed misty for the entire morning. So this afternoon, my sister and I decided to get out our Halloween decorations out. Now the house is full of pumpkins, acorns and little witches, which gives quite an atmosphere.


Although I appreciate long summer days a lot, I also have a liking for this season. Mind, here in Flanders we did not celebrate Halloween until a couple of years ago. We have it more for All Saints. In my mind, I always connect All Saints with waffles. My grandma used to bake them on this day only, and then she made a bunch for all her grandchildren and the kids of the neigborhood. We could eat until we dropped!


And I also connect All Saints with mist. My childhood fantasies were wild, as I imagined what could happen when mist rolled in.... Still it took me until much later to put that story to paper. It is revealed in Rivers of Mist, a short story included in my Halloween bundle Face in the Mirror and Other Stories (E-book version only, available from Amazon and Rogue Phoenix Press). Let's just say that mist can be quite threathening...


Face in the Mirror is a good read on days like this. This weather makes you kind of melancholy, and the stories included fit the mood. Some of them have bad endings and deal with things we can't comprehend - others are sweet fairy tales. Like Candle in the Night... or The White Horses of Ponto Corvo...

Interested? Then don't hesitate to buy the collection of short stories. It doesn't cost a lot, and I can guarantee you'll enjoy the read.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Weak at the Knees

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Jo Kessel, a British author. To launch her novel, Weak At The Knees, she is doing a virtual book tour now. On this occasion, Jo will be awarding a $50 gift certificate with either Amazon or Barnes&Noble to one randomly drawn commenter, and another will receive a bottle of the fabulous French red wine Chateauneuf-du-Pape. So don’t forget to leave a comment, and do it through his link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e43418/

There is also some exciting news! Weak At The Knees received a 4 out of 5 rating from The Sun, a UK national paper with over 2 million readers!

READ THIS: HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!! Jo Kessel is bringing the price of WEAK AT THE KNEES down to 99 cents December 22-January 6 2014.

Bio
When Jo was ten years old she wrote a short story about losing a loved one. Her mother and big sister were so moved by the tale that it made them cry. Having reduced them to tears she vowed that the next time she wrote a story it would make them smile instead. Happily she succeeded and with this success grew an addiction for wanting to reach out and touch people with words. Jo lives in London with her husband and three children where she works as a TV and print journalist. She tells life stories and can often be found travelling the globe researching the next big holiday hotspots for readers to enjoy. Since becoming a mother anything even remotely sad makes her cry. She’s a sucker for a good romance and tear-jerker movies are the worst. She’s that woman in the cinema, struggling to muffle audible wails as everyone else turns round to stare.

P.S Jo’s pretty certain one of her daughters has inherited this gene.          

 


 
Blurb

“We got so busy living life that we forgot to live our dreams.”

Danni Lewis has been playing it safe for twenty-six years, but her sheltered existence is making her feel old ahead of time. When a sudden death plunges her into a spiral of grief, she throws caution to the wind and runs away to France in search of a new beginning.

The moment ski instructor Olivier du Pape enters her shattered world she falls hard, in more ways than one.

Their mutual desire is as powerful and seductive as the mountains around them. His dark gypsy looks and piercing blue eyes are irresistible.

Only she must resist, because he has a wife – and she’d made a pact to never get involved with a married man.

But how do you choose between keeping your word and being true to your soul?

 
Weak at the Knees is Jo’s debut novel in the new adult, contemporary romance genre – a story about love, loss and relationships, set between London and the heart of the French Alps.

 


Excerpt
 
Olivier sits next to me on the piano stool. We’re even closer than that day up the mountain and it’s even more intoxicating. His body is so close to mine that the slightest adjustment would have us touching. I can feel his heat, an electrical charge which makes the side of my leg that’s almost brushing his tingle all the way down. He pulls up his woolly, navy sleeves. “Shall we?” I note the gold wedding band on his dark, manly hands as his fingers hover above the keyboard. I nod, not trusting myself to speak, thinking the sooner he starts playing piano the better, to distract me from this powerful attraction. He crashes both hands down with flair and starts playing his version of the Boogie Woogie. It’s slightly jazzier and more sophisticated than mine. I let him play by himself for a while, enjoying watching him, surprised by how good he is.

The rhythm gets to me, my upper torso unconsciously pulsing forward, toes tapping in my shoes. I put my mug down on top of the piano and start trying to improvise a Gerswhin-esque melody line, fluttering my right hand up and down the keyboard in syncopation to Olivier’s beat. For about ten minutes we thump away, cheesy grins on our faces, occasionally catching each others’ eye. We play whatever comes into our heads, changing the mood and key from time to time. Sometimes it works and sometimes it’s a discordant mess, but it doesn’t matter. By the time Olivier eventually tires and crashes a final chord, our bodies are touching all the way from our shoulders to our knees. I don’t want to move, which is exactly why I do. I stand up, to recover my senses and my drink.

Short interview with Jo

1. Any weird things you do when you’re alone?

My house is always really busy. As well as the husband and three small children we also have a live-in au pair who helps me out with childcare. It’s such a rare moment to actually have the house to myself that (I’m blushing as I write this) I find it quite liberating to just be in my birthday suit and wander around the house………………………………..is that too much information?

2. What is your favorite quote and why?

Rudyard Kipling: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.”

My father gave my siblings and I a financial incentive to learn Kipling’s famous poem “If” when we were growing up. I remember being about 8 years old and able to recite the poem verbatim. Life is never easy and is always full of ups and downs, successes and failures. This quote has always reminded me that its important to be strong in the face of adversity and that if we can face up to our failures and take positives from them, then it can only serve to make us stronger and more successful in the long term. 

3. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

 Ben & Jerry’s: cookie dough. I worked in Boston for a few months when I was just out of University and visited their factory in Vermont. That was the first time I’d tasted cookie dough and I’ve never looked back. My children are now equally as hooked. Haagen Daaz: strawberry cheesecake is a close second. I’m mad about ice-cream and can’t get enough of the stuff.


4. Which mythological creature are you most like?

 I tell my children I’m like Cyclops, with an eye on the back of my head.


5. What are four things you can’t live without?

Yoga mat

Sun lounger in the back garden (does that count as two things?)

Ice-cream

Passport

But now that I’ve written that list I realize that my answer really should have been:  my husband and three children.


Useful links




Jo loves to hear from her readers and they can connect with her on:

Her website: www.jokessel.com

Twitter: @jo_kessel


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rainy Sunday joke

As it is 'raining cats and dogs' today, I guess I'd best post an appropriate weather joke.

Here goes:


A guy gets pulled over for speeding on a rainy day.

The cop says, "Isn't it kind of stupid to be driving so fast in this weather?"

The driver says, "Who's stupid? I'm dry in my car. You're the one who's standing out in the rain."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What Belgium is proud of

The past week was a good one for Belgium. Although some claims that the state of Belgium won't last, there still is a feeling of national unity.


Especially when it concerns soccer! Our national team - the Red Devils - qualified yesterday evening for the world champignonships in Brazil 2014. It has been 12 years since they last competed in it. But now we really have a great team. Lots of the players are internationals, who play in clubs like ManU. We have Romelu Lukaku  (the maker of the two winning goals), Axel Witsel, Marouane Felaini, Christian Benteke, Thibault Courtois (one of the world's best keepers), Vincent Kompany, ... A great mix of nationalities, as most of these guys have foreign roots.

The strenght of the team is not only the good players, but also the trainer (Marc Wilmots) AND the 12th player - the public! Until a year or so ago, there was no national feeling. This was left to the Dutch, who go orange when their team plays. I don't know how it happened, but nowadays Belgium turns red-black-yellow when the Red Devils play. And masses of supporters follow their team abroad. I'm sure there will be lots of Belgian present in Brazil, even if it will cost them 2,500 Euro.


And in the wake of the soccer national team, also the national basketball team, the hockey team and the volleyball team do well.


Another feeling of being Belgian came when professor Englert got the Noble Physics Prize for discovering the Higgs part (sure, it got its name after professor Higgs, who is English and got more recognition for doing the same research... after Englert...) He also got the Noble Prize.

Friday, October 11, 2013

No Noble Prize for Malala

Today the Nobel Peace Prize was announced. And it was not the Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai who won it.


Personally, I have nothing against the organisation which won the Prize, but if ever one person deserved to get it, it was Malala.

Only 16 years old and already fighting for her right to education. That takes courage, more than you can imagine. Last year she barely survived an attack of the Taliban, who are dead set against women taking education. Just imagine, when all those girls and women would know how to read and write, they'd develop a mind of their own and soon they would say 'no' against extremism!

We don't live in the Middle Ages anymore because women were allowed to school right after World War One (well, some of them already attended schools before that, but the general public only did so later on). My own grandma (born in 1900) went to school and so they all her elder sisters, but that was an exception in those days.

We can not imagine what it is to be forced to stay at home, only do housework and care for your children. You can do that, of course, but then only because of your own free will. In big parts of the world, little girls never get the chance to go to school, only their brothers do. They stay at home and help mother with the housekeeping, learn how to weave and sew (yuk!) and cook. Often they marry very young and soon have children of their own. There is the big injustice, and it takes people like Malala to go against it, even when your life is threatened.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Brewery Malheur

Last Sunday was the day of Local Enterprises in Flanders (kept every year). Due to the fact we were painting, we could not visit any of the enterprises in our neighborhood, but some years ago we visited the brewery De Landtsheer on this day.

The brewery is just outside the town of Dendermonde and they are quite famous for their beer Malheur. If you don't know French, un malheur means an accident - which can happen when you drink too much beer!

The visit was really worthwile. A guide showed us around the brewery and we could see how the beer was made ready. Better still, after having seen the complete brewing process, we were invited to come and taste the different beers. We got a full bottle of each beer (!) together with plates of smoked ham and sausages.

The beers go from Malheur 6 to Malheur 12. The numbers stand for the percentage of alcohol.  6 is quite light, 8 already a bit stronger, 10 more so and 12 really has body. They also have sparkling beers, like champagne (and for this beer they have won more than one prize).

 Malheur 6
 Malheur 8
 Malheur 10
 Malheur 12
 
 
 
And to be really honest: even after all those glasses of beer I did not feel tipsy! The next morning I did not have a headache, so the beer must be really good.

               Malheur Cuvée Royale

After this visit we sometimes buy Malheur. It's not found anywhere, I don't know if it is already exported to the USA or UK. But if it is, I can advise you to have a taste!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Unholy Tour

Author Paul DeBlassie III is doing a virtual book tour to promote his novel, The Unholy Tour. During this tour, the author will be giving away a $50 gift certificate with either Amazon or Barnes & Noble, to one randomly drawn commenter. So the more comments you leave, the better chance you stand to win this prize!

Please note you'll have to use this Rafflecopter code to post your comment:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e43419/


Author information:

Paul DeBlassie III, Ph.D., is a psychologist and writer living in Albuquerque who has treated survivors of the dark side of religion for more than 30 years. His professional consultation practice — SoulCare — is devoted to the tending of the soul. Dr. DeBlassie writes fiction with a healing emphasis. He has been deeply influenced by the mestizo myth of Aztlan, its surreal beauty and natural magic.  He is a member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. 


Here's a little interview to get to know Paul better:

If we were to come to your house for a meal, what would you give us to eat?

Chile and beans..I live in New Mexico

Are you a romantic?


Especially when it comes to the lady next to me and my homeland New Mexico.

Do you listen to music when you're writing?


Either hard rock, metal, or correlli.

Do you ever read your stories out loud?


Definitely.

What are your future ambitions?


To write more thrillers.




Now what's the book about?

A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

 Excerpt:

Lightning streaked across a midnight dark sky, making the neck hairs of a five-year-old girl crouched beneath a cluster of twenty-foot pines in the Turquoise Mountains of Aztlan stand on end. The long wavy strands of her auburn mane floated outward with the static charge. It felt as though the world was about to end.

Seconds later, lightning struck a lone tree nearby and a crash of thunder shook the ground. Her body rocked back and forth, trembling with terror. She lost her footing, sandstone crumbling beneath her feet, and then regained it; still, she did not feel safe. There appeared to be reddish eyes watching from behind scrub oaks and mountain pines, scanning her every movement and watching her quick breaths. Then everything became silent.

The girl leaned against the trunk of the nearest tree. The night air wrapped its frigid arms tightly around her, and she wondered if she would freeze to death or, even worse, stay there through the night and by morning be nothing but the blood and bones left by hungry animals. Her breaths became quicker and were so shallow that no air seemed to reach her lungs. The dusty earth gave up quick bursts of sand from gusts of northerly winds that blew so fiercely into her nostrils that she coughed but tried to stifle the sounds because she didn’t want to be noticed.

 

Monday, October 7, 2013

How mothers can destroy their children's future

A case that takes the national interest nowadays is that of Giel - a boy of 15 who should be without worries.

But such is not the case. Giel wants to be a Buddhist monk (!) and wants to leave for India, where he'd stay for over 15 years and then return to preach buddhism.


The case has gone to court because an uncle complained about it. How did everything happen?

The mother - single, no father in view - doesn't have a good relationship with her siblings. The cause of this was that the mother went to live with Giel's mother and she kept her from seeing other members of the family. The uncle claims she also kept the money the old woman received for pension, and used it for other things. The old lady was kept inside her room on 'water and bread', according to her son. Finally the family was able to get the mother away to a nursing home, where she received all proper care. Since then, Giel's mother never ever visited.

Also son Giel was not allowed to go to school, where he'd meet other kids and have friends. He grew up with his mother, who provided education for him. Now it seems she did not do a good job, as Giel doesn't have a single degree.

The mother is a Buddhist, so Giel should become once as well. According to the mother it is Giel's dream to become a monk, but how far can you believe her???

The uncle began a courtcase against Giel's departure for India, and now there is a ruling he must stay in Belgium. Also the father comes into view. He wants to take part in Giel's education. I certainly hope the young guy will have a decent chance at finding out what he really wants.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday laughs

Due to the fact I've been painting one weekend more, I'll just post this joke about painting:

Two men contracted to paint a small community church. Being very frugal, they pinched and scraped to spend the absolute minimum onmaterials. Then, when they were only partway through the job, they determined that they did not, after all, have enough paint to complete thejob.

Not wishing to spend any more money if they didn't absolutely have to,they decided they would just dilute the water-based paint they were using sothat it would last longer. They did this a couple more times before they finished, which caused striping on the church as the paint got lighter each time it was thinned.

The painters had just about gotten to the top of the steeple, when, all of a sudden, the sky darkened, and the rain started to pour down. As the paint streamed down the sides of the church, a voice boomed from the heavens: "Repaint, you thinners! Repaint, and thin no more!"

Saturday, October 5, 2013

FDT: Konijn met pruimen


One of the Flemish classics is rabbit with plums. Meat of the rabbit is light, healthy and non-fat. You can serve it with a fresh salad of chicory (another classic) and croquettes.


What do you need for 4 persons?
4 pieces of rabbit (best take the legs), 250 gr of dried plums (with or without the stone), 2 slices of bread, a bit of mustard, 3 bottles of beer (dark and slightly sweet), 4 onions, 2 branches of thyme, 2 laurel leaves, 2 cloves, 2 eating spoons of brown sugar, 4 eating spoons of flour, a bit of vinegar, butter, pepper and salt
6 pieces of chcory, 2 spoons of mayonnaise, a bit of vinegar, parsley, pepper, salt and deep freeze croquettes

How to go ahead:
Pour some flour into a bowl. Season the pieces of rabbit on both sides with pepper and a bit of salt. Then roll the meat through the flour.

Warm up some butter in big pot. Put the rabbit in the pot and let the meat brown a little.
In the meantime, peal the onions and slice them into little cubes.

Take the meat out of the pot. Now bake the onions until they have a light brown color. Add a bit of brown sugar, so the onions can caramelize.
Cut the dried plums into parts.

As soon as the onions are ready, you put the meat into the pot once more, together with the plums, thyme, laurel and cloves.
Now pour the beer over the meat and plums. To bind the sauce, you cover a slice of bread with some mustard and then put the bread on the rabbit. Put the lid on the pot now and leave it on the stove for a hour at least (low fire).

Taste the sauce and check if the meat is completely done. Add more pepper and salt to your liking. At this stage, you can add a little bit of vinegar, this makes it extra tasty.
When the meat is nearly ready, you prepare the salad. Cut the chicory and put it in a bowl. Mix it mayonnaise, together with cut parsley, some pepper and a bit of salt. Add some vinegar and mix very well.

You can serve this dish with croquettes, which you can put into a frying pan, or in the oven.