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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This is Belgian summer

This year, we're having what is called a 'typical Belgian summer'. To make it more clear, that means:

* Three days of hot and sunny weather....


The hotels, restaurants, cafés and other businesses at the coast don't complain. Because there are enough sunny and warm days, they have a lot of customers. The previous months were also fine and sunny, so they look forward to a very good season.

What is better than having an icecream while walking on the promenade, or sitting down at a terrace to have a fine Belgian beer (I think of Leffe, Grimbergen, Brugse Zot,  ....)? Or having a barbecue in the garden or on the beach?

* Four days of heavy rain


On the other hand, when you are not at the coast, you will have experienced extreme heat, followed by explosive thunderstorms and lightning. In one or two days, more rain has come down than the whole of the previous months before. A lot of villages got their feet into the water.

The problem of the floodings is man-made, of course. Belgium has 11 million inhabitants, and all of them want a place to live. So the councils have to make more grounds available for building. And which ground do they pick? Those which were not suitable at all. In the old days, every village and town near a river or brook had pastures ready to take on the overflow. In the 1950s and 1960s, I remember, we could go skating on those pastures flooded by the winter storms. Nobody in a right mind would build a house on a site that was used for overflow. But nowadays these pastures are replaced with new (high priced) housing. And then they wonder why the water comes into the garage or the living room...


Monday, July 28, 2014

The Button Legacy: Emily's Inheritance

Goddess Fish Promotions is organizing a Virtual Book Tour for The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance by Ginger Marcinkowski, a Women’s Christian Fiction book available now from Booktrope/Vox-Dei (Christian Division). 

The tour will run July 21, 2014 to August 1, 2014 and Ginger will be awarding a $10 Starbucks Card + eBook copy of The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. 

To leave a comment, please use this Rafflecopter link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e434260/


What is this book about?

Blurb

Based on the true story of one family’s spiritual saga revealed through buttons that have been secreted away in an antique box, and that ultimately hold the key to each generation’s salvation.

Ginger Marcinkowski’s first novel, Run, River Currents featured Emily Evans, who as a girl shared a special understanding with her grandfather, John Polk. Despite the scars of her father's abuse John taught her to look to the future in faith, promising Emily God's grace can be seen even in the simplest thing—a button.

Years after her grandfather John's death, the unexpected delivery of a decorated tin, still brimming with odd-colored buttons is delivered to Emily. The reappearance of the family buttons unlocks joyous memories and guides Emily to realize a secret her grandfather promised lay within the stories of that worn button box; the healing power of prayer. In The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance each button connects one generation to the next as their interrelated stories unfold across the timeless landscape of their spiritual journey.

Excerpt

She shook her head and tugged at the paper. In moments the unwrapped package revealed a cardboard box. She tore at the box until it gave way. It took Emily only a second to recognize the faded tin box tucked inside. She drew in a deep breath.

“Em? What is it?” Aaron asked, placing his hands on hers.

She turned to look at him, her eyes wide and dancing. “It’s the button box!” she whispered, her voice a singsong of joy.

“The what?”

“The button box. Gram and Grampy’s button box!”

Her hands shook as she pulled the container from the cardboard and dropped it onto her lap. The colors were just as she’d remembered them, a faded pastoral scene once alive with vivid tints of blue, green, yellow, and red. She gazed at the tin, taking in its beauty as she brushed her hands gently over the top of its raised design. She felt her eyes welling with tears.

“Honey, where did it come from?” Aaron asked, his face etched with questions.

She shook her head from side to side in tiny bursts and reached to open the box. The sound of the familiar creak as it opened took her breath away, and the light from the room slowly revealed the treasure inside. There were hundreds of buttons, all shapes and sizes, piled inside the rectangular container. A handwritten note was wrapped around a small, discolored envelope and taped inside the lid. Emily glanced at her husband, half afraid to pull the note and envelope from its place.

Author bio and links

Ginger Marcinkowski was born as one of eight siblings in northern Maine along the Canadian border, a setting that plays a prominent role in her novels, Run, River Currents and The Button Legacy-Emily’s Inheritance.

Her debut novel, Run, River Currents, was published in August 2012, was a 2012 semi-finalist in the ACFW Genesis Awards and a 2013 Kindle Book Award Finalist. The Button Legacy-Emily's Inheritance, will be released in July 2014. An interesting fact about Ginger is that she is a million-mile flier with United Airlines and had been a multi-million dollar travel agent in the past. Her travel experience will be the catalyst for a new series of mysteries whose main characters are travel agents.







Finally, here's an interview with Ginger:

You say you are following your dream now. What brought about the change?

It’s the same story you hear from a lot of women. I wanted to support my husband and my son during the years they went to school. It was never a priority for me to have an education, and we both worked toward his career. The choices we made together in our youth included traveling. It was how I learned about the world and was my education. But writing was always in me, and the desire for a formal education to help me learn the craft of writing was something I really had wanted from a young age. Now I’m more mature and realize that the support I gave was not always the support I got in return. Not on purpose, mind you, but no one expected that I would ever, at this late age, even want to start college. Getting to this point was difficult. I had given up a piece of me to everyone but me.  I just wanted it enough. It sounds a bit selfish, but now, at this point in my life, I wanted to treat “me” as well as I’ve treated others. I’m off on a new part of my life!

Your book, The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance, caught my attention from the first sentence in the description. Tell the readers about it.

I’ll give you the “back cover story” and then fill in a bit for you.

From the back cover of The Button Legacy-Emily’s Inheritance:
"My Dearest Emily...
When you were a little girl, a change occurred in you. You lost a piece of yourself somewhere....But when you were here in Plaster Rock, you bloomed. The stories we told with these buttons made you smile. With your smile came hope.
Repeat the stories you've been told to your own children, never forgetting that God was there in every situation, in every story held inside this button box..."
 Growing up, Emily Evans of Run, River Currents had always shared a special understanding with her grandfather, John Polk, even when she couldn't fully see beyond the darkness of her father's abuse. Yet John looked to the future in faith to what his God could do. 
Years after her grandfather's death, the unexpected delivery of the decorated tin, still brimming with odd-colored buttons, unlocks the joyous memories and lets Emily realize she has finally discovered the secret her grandfather promised lay within the stories of the worn button box. 
Told through the eyes of a godly grandfather, The Button Box-Emily’s Inheritance laces together a godly heritage and the power of one man's prayers, offering a lesson of how God's grace can be seen even in the simplest thing—a button.
First, Plaster Rock, New Brunswick is real and was the home of my grandparents and really was the only place I’ve ever called “home.” The times I spent in that small town are as alive and vivid to me as if I were there right now. When I smell the scent of pine or see the flow of any river, I think of that place, how I ran the logs on that river with my siblings, taking our lives in our hands and not caring a lick!
The beauty of this tender story is that throughout everything that went on in Emily’s life, she had a place of solace, and even at a young age understood a “sense of place.” That place is where the setting of this book takes place, Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. I hope people see my love for the Tobique River and the power it held in giving life and death.  I hope they understand the gentle people of this small town and see the influence that one person, Emily’s grandfather, John Polk, had on her life.  The love of just one person can be such a powerful influence, even if that influence occurred years earlier. 
This story is how one man’s faith was passed on to other generations in the form of stories told through the use of buttons. The rich and beautiful setting has a lesson of hope and forgiveness. It’s a story that once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it down until you’re done, and by the time you do, you’ll have felt a range of emotions you won’t soon forget.

You say it’s based on a true story. How did you come across this story and why tell it?

The story is based on some true events from my own life and from stories that were shared with me by various people from the town of Plaster Rock. I did take great liberties with characters and settings, but the main events were true. Why tell the story? People often tell new writers that everyone has a story inside of them that MUST be told before they can ever really write what they want to. I found that to be true. My first book, Run River Currents started out to be a humorous biography about my mother, a serial wife and mother to eight children.  Everyone loved her. But our house, like every home, had secrets. My mentor, Sara Pritchard, author of New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Crackpots, pulled that story out of me. She saw the pain in me that I had long ago distanced myself from.  With her prodding, I ended up telling the story that I had to tell. But The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance was a labor of love and a tribute to the witness of my godly grandfather. It was much easier to write.

What authors do you love to read?

Well, besides Sarah’s hysterically funny books, Lately and Crackpots, I love Jeff Talarigo’s books, The Pearl Diver and The Ginsing Hunter, both beautiful stories that were poetically written. I laugh my head off with Gail Martin’s humor with her novels, Who Killed Tom Jones?, Grace Unexpected and Don Juan in Hankey, PA. I also enjoy Laura Hillenbrand’s powerful character-driven books, Seabiscuit and  Unbroken,  any of Maeve Binchy’s Irish tales, Lenore Hart’s books—she does a fantastic job with historical characters  in Becky and The Raven’s Bride—and a host of classic writers.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

I am working on the first book of a series whose main character’s are travel agents. They are humorous cozy mysteries in a genre I am eager to explore!





Sunday, July 27, 2014

Songfestival - Contest of the Best

Yesterday evening, we went to see a variety show in the casino of Knokke. Years ago, it was a place only for the chosen few, but nowadays you can enter if you pay the fee.


We heard about this show on the radio, some weeks ago, and thought it would be nice to spend a Saturday evening at. The tickets were not very pricy - only 42 Euro for a seat on the first row of tables. For a small price you could also pre-order your bottle of red/white wine and some tapa's if  you felt like it.

The idea of organising this variety show comes from Stany Crets. Crets is a producer/actor/comedian who acquiter fame in Belgium when working together with Peter Vanden Begin. Together they formed a comic duo (dressed as women!).

The casino needed a show for the weekends, so they asked Stany if he could come up with a good idea. As he is about our age, he was and is a big fan of the Eurovision Song Contest, and so he thought of creating a show with songs from all these years of Eurovision.  A team of 6 singers would bring 25 hits (among which Waterloo from Abba, Celine Dion's winning song for Switserland, Hold me Now from Johnny Logan and many others). One of the singers was Stany's wife Ann Van Den Brouck, who is a big star in musicals. She can sing!

It was a very nice evening, with a show that lasted three hours. What was funny, was that the publigic was the jury. We all had to give 8 points, 10 points and 12 points to the songs we liked best from the show. The winner was - can you believe it? - Belgium's own Sandra Kim with J'aime la vie. And Sandra Kim herself was present to bring the song once more!

After the ending of the show, around midnight, we walked home along the beach. It took us about half an hour to reach our apartment building. Needless to say we slept well....

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A nice attention

Yesterday, we got an unexpected present. We had done something for the couple who lives two floors below our flat (we wanted nothing for it - we had two bikes we had to get rid of, and they could use them).

So yesterday they came calling with a present card from a restaurant nearby - a Sunday brunch for two.


Well, that's a nice attention. They did not have to do it, as we were glad enough we did not have to take the bikes down to the recycle center. But anyway, we appreciate their attention.

The brunch will be nice, given we are going to see a show in the Casino of Knokke tonight. It can be a bit later than usual,  but we can sleep long enough and then enjoy our brunch.

I'll tell about the show tomorrow.

How do you like unexpected presents?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kneistival

In summer, you can attend open air festivals nearly everywhere. In Belgium, some are quite big (think of Tomorrowland, Pukkelpop, Suikerrock). Of course, most of them aren't free. For some festivals you have to pay quite a lot to get an entry ticket.

Not so here in Knokke-Heist. For twenty (thirty?) odd years, the local council organises an open-air festival 'in the pit'. The 'pit' (or 'put' in Flemish) is a square in Heist, facing the sea. It's quite cosy and it was great to have bands bringing live music there. In the course of years we saw The Sweet, Mud, Cockney Rebel, Slade and most of the Belgian bands.

Even in these times, Knokke-Heist wants its festival to be free of charge. For ten days at an end, there are two bands performing night after night. Tonight, one of the biggest bands in Belgian is taking the stage - Clouseau. Formed by two brother, Koen and Kris Wauters, they bring quality songs in Flemish.


The pit will be way too small for the masses this band will draw. I wonder where they'll all find a spot to watch and listen... Anyway, we are attending too and we always manage to get in front of the stage (don't ask how, that's a trade secret!).

Until later!

Monday, July 21, 2014

One year King Filip

Today, on the 21st of July (our national day of festivities) King Filip celebrates his first year on the Belgian throne.


When Filip would have been a student in my class, I'd give him an 9 on 10 for his efforts. While noboydy expected much of the crown prince (his father did not want him too much in the spotlights) he's done way better than thought before.

As a crown prince, Filip dared to phrase his opinion - on politics, on economics, ... - and he got a lot of criticism for it. As the new king, he does perfectly what is expected of him. He keeps his opinions to himself. 

He is also way more social than his father and mother. Filip is a king you can get near to. He pays a lot of attention to visit both parts of the country, not to be accused of being too French. He also speaks better Dutch as his father and grandfather. His children go to Flemish-speaking schools (btw, Flemish and Dutch are more or less the same language) and crown princess Elizabeth will be the first one to speak our language without an accent.

Filip used to be rather shy, but that is past tense. He dares to show his emotions, helped in this by his wife, Queen Mathilde. She is the perfect wife for him. Raised in a noble family with princely Polish blood, she knows and understands what is expected of a queen.


Mathile and Filip got most popular when they cheerad on our Red Devils, the national soccer team. When Origi made his goal, Mathilde jumped up just like any other supporter - and you could see Filip thinking 'what is she doing now?)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The curse of Malaysian Airways

Sorry I did not write anything yesterday - when you literally stick to the paper (or the computer in this case) because of the humidity in the air (officially the hottest day of the year) you don't feel like doing anything but lay listless in a deck chair and catch that last breeze.

So I wasn't there to report about the news of the Air Malaysia plane, leaving from Amsterdam,  that was shot down above Ukraine. Nearly 300 innocent people dead - people who wanted to have a holiday or attend a conference about AIDS.


Is there a curse on Malaysian Airways??? First they had a flight which simply disappeared some months ago, and now this. It could mean their bankrupcy. Who wants to take a plane that can either disappear or be blown to pieces?

It will also be a major problem to find out who is responsible. Several parties already accuse the others. Rumors go around about a chief of the Ukranian rebel army who  tells another one there is 'one bird down'. They did not seem surprised a plane was shot down, only that it was a passenger plane.

The Dutch claims they'll do anything to find the culprits and bring them to justice. Most of the dead had the Dutch nationality. There are also 5 Belgians dead in the crash. One a family of three, going on a trip to Bali. The trip was a reward for the son's good report at school...  And did you read about the Malaysian air hostess who escaped the first doomed flight by switching shifts, and now her husband died because he did the same?

What would you do if terrorists killed your family? Personally, I would like to see them punished - but then the hard way. An eye for an eye. In this case, kill the family of those responsible for bringing down the plane. Make them suffer as much as they make others.

What about you?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why risk your life to be home 5 minutes earlier?

This morning, the NMBS (national society for railways in Belgium) announced its figures for the past year. These concerned people who forfaited their lives either by accident or suicide. The figures were quite high, which is astonishing in these times.


Experts could prove that most of the accidents occur with people who live near the railroads. They often think the train will come later, when crossing the rails. Or they are children, who don't look around because they are listening to their mp3 players.

Also in my home town of Dendermonde lots of people use the track near the (busy) rail to Ghent to reach the parking lot. Indeed, it saves you some minutes of walking, but you can run the risk of getting under a train.

Is that really worth it?

Although we have always lived near the railroad, we have never dared to cross the rails or walk next to them. Our dad was a railway man and he warned us against the dangers or coming too close near the rails.

What do you think?


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The importance of good neighbors

What do you do when you leave your house/flat to go away on a weekend, or on holiday? Install a good alarm system, have a watch dog in the yard?

I don't need any of these. I have a good neighbor. Some twenty years ago, the house next to ours was for sale, and the buyers were a couple with one son. Yvette and Willy, and Yvette's son Tom from a previous marriage. I knew Yvette from Kindergarten already. She had always been in class with me and is only a couple of months younger than I am.

Needless to say we got along fine from the start. So now when we are away from home, I do trust Yvette. She keeps an eye on the house, enters every day to open the shutters and see if nothing is wrong. Would anything be amiss, she calls me immediately on my mobile.

Up to now we have not had any problems. Nobody tried to break into the house, there was no damage from storms or heavy rains.

It is ever so important to get along with those who live next to you. You don't have to be on each other's laps but you should help each other when necessary. I often bring along groceries for Yvette, or buy a cute dress for her granddaughter.

How do you get along with your neighbors?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Switching between energy suppliers

Belgium is a rather conventional country - that is, until a year or so ago.

We used to be (very) faithful to our electricity and gas provider and remained with one telephone company until we died. Of course I have to mention we only had ONE company at that time...

But with the making free of the markets, we got different suppliers for telephone and internet, and several companies who dealt in electricity and gas. However, the laws of that time made it rather difficult to switch from one supplier to another. You could do so, but then you had to pay twice a month, until your first contract could be legally ended.

Minister De Lanotte however (a socialist, but sometimes they are not too bad) decided this was not very fair and the consument paid too much for what he or she was offered. So he made a law which permits the consument to switch without notice - and without costs!

Also I switched my electricity and gas supplier not so long ago. I was a client with Electrabel, but my electricity bill grew as months went by. Now I have a better offer from Eni - one in which I have a guarantee that the prices won't go up for at least three years to come. By that time, I'll see if I can't find an even better deal.

The same with telephone operators. I'm still with my old one, but that is only because I don't use my phone or mobile very often. Guess I'm a bit old-fahioned in thinking you only need it to announce you'll be late from work or something came up....

How are things in your country?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Return of summer

When we came back from our trip to Jersey, everyone told us how bad it has been over here (in Belgium, that is). Rain every day, and sometimes way too much of it!

Also the past days were not special. Rain, cloudy skies, ... how depressing can it be? But this morning we woke up to a blue sky with only some white clouds. It gives you courage to begin the day.

We made a good walk, bought ourselves a barbecue set, and had a cold drink on a terrace somewhere on the promenade.

I'll quit here, as it took me half an hour to get this written (something wrong with my keyboard).

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pics from our trip to Jersey

We're back in Belgium - feeling a bit tired of hopping on/off trains. But we did have a very nice time in Jersey - and a lot better than at home, we heard! We saw the sun most of the days, while here in Belgium it kept raining and the summer is far away.

I've downloaded the pictures from the camera and I can post some of them, to give you an idea of how the islands looks like.


This is a view from Elizathe Castle, one of the defences of the island. This castle was built in the 16th century and was named after Queen Elizabeth I. It served mainly as a military stronghold. In the barracks you can see how an 18th century surgeon treated the wounded, or how the sergeant fires the guns.


These are the Jersey War Tunnels. They were dug out by the Germans (well, in fact by the POW's they brought there) and they served as military hospital in the first place. These tunnels run for more than a kilometer underground and you could sleep there, send messages, put up your gear (there is even a sailing sloop docked), be treated as a patient, ....


Here I am in St. Aubin. Behind me is the picturesque marina, one of the many on the island. What is strange, is that these yachts and fishing vessels lay on the sand when the tide is low.


And this is Samarès Manor. It has always been inhabited by a noble family, and you can visit the house and its gardens. These gardens are very lovely, so a visit there is really worth the entrance money. The present owner has a nice collection of old carriages which he restorates himself.

Monday, July 7, 2014

More adventures in Jersey

Unfotunately, our stay in Jersey is already coming towards its ending. But I can tell you it's been wonderful every moment!

For starters, the weather has been very cooperative. The sun was out on most days and sometimes it was even warm. Up to now we've only had one day with light rain.

For the rest we have been seeing places of importance to the island. We have been to La Hogue Bie, where prehistoric findings bring you back into time. We also visited the Jersey museum, which gives you a good impression of how the island changed throughout time, and where you can also view the hoard of silver coins from the Celtic period - the biggest hoard found in the world. Another item found is a gold necklace, more than 3000 years old and still beautiful -a pity Icould not take it along....

And the food... If you love shellfish and seafood, you're in the right place. Only this afternoon we had a most excellent platters of shellfish and lobster, while sitting on an outside terrace and enjoying not only the food, but also the sun and the ambiance...

When we get back home I'll post some pictures of ourcstay here.

Friday, July 4, 2014

What to see on Jersey

This is our second day on Jersey ( CChannel Islands) and up to now the weather has been great.

The island is quite interesting, as there is enough to see and do. Yesterday we visited Elizabeth Castle, which goes back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First. It was mainly used to house a garrison and was quite active during the Napoleontic wars. Visitors can watch a 18th century surgeon practise his skills, or see how new recruits were trained and how the cannons were loaded and fired.

Today we went to see prehistoric findings at La Hogue Bie, where there is also a dolmen with a burial chamber that can be visited. From there it was only a short busdrive to Gorey, where Mont Orgueil Castle can be found. This is a medieval keep, and some English kings spent time there.

Now we are back in our hotel and already making plans for tomorrow. We want to see the war tunnels in St. Aubin and the local museum, but we have to be back in our hotel before 5 pm because we don't want to miss the soccer match Belgium-Argentina.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Channel Islands

When I was a kid, I hardly knew there were several islands surrounding Great-Britain. I knew about London and Edinburgh, but that was about all.

Growing up and because our parents took us kids always along on their trips, we learned more about the world around us.

In 2004 we took our first trip to Jersey, the biggest of the Channel Islands. I remember this very clearly, because it was the first trip after a very difficult time for us and just leaving the plane and seeing the blue sky and sniffing the pugent ocean air made us feel better already.


Although Jersey is not so big, it is large enough to spend a week making trips and being active. We rented bikes and explored. We rode from one point to another (even through pouring rain at a time) and got to see most the island can offer.

All around, the coastline is different. You have sandy beaches near St. Aubin and lava rock at another side. There also are cliffs in the north. The language is English, but the local speak a sort of dialect that is a mix between English and French. This is because the islands once belonged to France, and another time to England.

This month, we also are going to Jersey. The first time we stayed in a hotel in St. Aubin, now we are going to stay in the capital city St. Helier. When I find the time, I'll post some news about our stay there.