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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back to school joke

For all those who start school tomorrow:


Early one morning, a mother went in to wake up her son.
'Wake up, son. It's time to go to school'
'But why, Mom? I don't want to go.'
'Give me two reasons why you don't want to go.'
'Well, the kids hate me for one, and the teachers hate me, too!'
'Oh, that's no reason not to go to school. Come on now and get ready.'
'Give me two reasons why I should go to school.'
'Well, for one, you're 52 years old. And for another, you're the Head teacher!'

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The official end of summer

This weekend is the last of the long summer holidays. Kids (and teachers) had two months of freedom, but next Monday the new schoolyear will take its start once more.

There will be tears from the little ones, who go to school for the first time - and of their mothers and fathers who bring them to school.

There will also be worries for lots of parents, who will see the school bill go up. The government in making wants to raise the amount which parents have to pay for school utensils and others (like schooltrips etc.). Normally school is free, but even in state-owned schools parents (or kids) have to pay for the use of schoolbooks. In state schools books are lended for a fair price, in catholic school children have to pay for their new books.  Going to school can be quite expensive, especially when you chose for a catholic (hence, better) school.

Also there will be changes for the universities and colleges. Up to now students did not have to pay a high fee to enter uni. This will change. It is yet unknown how high the fees will be, but they will certainly be double or higher.

How is the situation in your county?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tonight, the giants dance once more

For all those who are born in Dendermonde (and also for many more), this is the best day of the year. Tonight is Katuit (no translation possible, as even we don't know where the term comes from) and it is always on the last Thursday of August.

(The finale of the event: the giants dance of the Great Place - even when it's wet with rain!)

Starting at 8 pm, a processions of folkloristic groups, fanfares and floats will march throught the streets of the old town center. The highlight of this is, of course, the three giants Mars, Indian and Goliath. There were made in the Middle Ages and were already carried around at that time. Each giant weighs around 100 kg and is not put on wheels, but carried by one man only. It takes great skill and know-how to be able to walk and even dance with such a weight on your shoulders, while seeing nearly nothing. So the carriers are men who are looke upon as heroes and they are well-respected in town. They also need to belong to one of the families that once owned the rights to empty and load the ships that docked in port.

(This is a Knaptand, styled after a big fish which was once found in the river Dender. It's used to scare the little kids.)

You see, Dendermonde is a town of tradition. Katuit and also the Ros Beiaard Ommegang go back for many centuries and so it's no wonder people cry when they view 'their' giants and mighty horse - for it may well be the last time in your life.

It's difficult to explain what these giants and horse mean to us. I was born in Dendermonde and consider myself a well-educated person, but also I get tears in my eyes when I see the approach of the giants. It just takes over at that moment. You are carried away on the tune to which they dance (also this music was composed long ago).

If you ever  happen to visit our town, do so during the last week of August or in May 2020, when Horse Bayard will walk through town once more (this event only takes place every 10 years).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Help, we're drowning!

Flanders woke up this morning to a torrent of rain. It apparently began at night, sluices full opened... and it's still pouring down with buckets.


It was dry for a short spell this morning only. I took my bike, hoping to run some errands before the next bout of rain arrived. Was I so lucky! When I left the supermarket, the rain fell like a curtain. I waited some, but it kept raining, so at long last I unlocked my bike and rode home. (That's one of the disavantages of not having a car.)

As you can well guess I was soakingly wet. Although I wore a raincoat, everything underneath was as wet as if I'd been swimming - up to my underwear! I put everything to dry (I don't own a dryer) but it takes its time.

And it's cold too. Can you imagine, I had to put on the heating yesterday. I really don't like sitting in a living room while freezing.

August has been a terrible month for the weather. Cold and very, very wet. I can't remember when we had such a bad month before, it must have been a while.

And of course there are already floodings here and there. I'm ever so glad I had my roofs fixed two summers ago, otherwise I would have been wiping the water out of my kitchen.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cleaver East in Dublin

Before we went on our trip to Dublin, I was browsing the internet to look for suitable restaurants. On one site I read that the Irish have the best beef, pork, etc. but just don't know how to prepare it. Well, the comment was by a Dutchman.... (Hereabouts they are not well known for the finer kitchen.)

When we arrived in our hotel, we had to wait about half an hour because our room was not yet ready, so we decided to have a light bite in the bar. On the menu was clam chowder and we ordered that. It tasted lovely, one of the best we've ever had. The food came from the kitchen of the restaurant located in the hotel, Cleaver East.


Cleaver East is a co-operation between The Clarence and chef Oliver Dunne, who owns a Michelin star restaurant in Malahide.

We decided to dine there that first evening. Because it was a Monday, we had a special with 3 tasting dishes for only 21€. You could chose between a variety of dishes, and they all looked very appealing. We settled for a first dish of smoked salmon, followed by a preparation with veal and lastly a delicious desert.


We also dined in Cleaver East on our last evening. Then we went into the 6-course surprise dinner by the chef, for 45€ per person. Along with a bottle of good wine, we only paid half of what we would pay in our own country. And the quality of the dishes and their ingredients was of top-notch quality. The chef knows how to prepare something and the combination of tastes is surprising.

I can really recommend dining out in this restaurant.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

City trip to Dublin

For those who missed me, I've been away on a city trip to Dublin in Ireland. We were lucky with the weather, in that it was rather cold, but mostly dry.

We stayed at The Clarence on Wellington Quay, which is now owned by Bono and The Edge from U2. (We did not see either of them, although they are said to visit from time to time.) But the personel at the hotel was overfriendly and we had a great room. What I found most astonishing was that we slept very well each night, even with all the noise coming from the Temple Bar district.


We arrived on Monday morning on a direct flight from Brussels with Aer Lingus (no, not Ryan Air!). Dublin airport is not far away from the city center, and an easy way to reach town is to take the 747 Airlink bus. It only costs 10€ for an adult return ticket and the ride takes about half an hour.

We took a day to explore the town itself (we went to see Trinity College and the Book of Kells, also went to Jameson Old Distillery to learn the difference between Scotch whisky and Irish one) and of course we also did some shopping (we're girls).


But we also took two trips out of Dublin. The first one was into the Wicklow Mountains (very rugged countryside) and the ruins at Glendalough. On our way back into Dublin we stopped in Avoca, the little village that was featured in the BBC series of Ballykissangel, if you ever saw that. We even had a drink and a bite in Fitzgerald's pub!


And the next trip was to the east coast of Ireland. We visited Malahide Castle (one of the most beautiful I've ever seen) with its resident ghost of Puck, the court jester. And believe it or not, but my sister and I felt his presence, while the rest of our group didn't - and most importantly, I don't believe in ghosts! The castle belonged for more than 800 years to the Talbot family. It only changed hands when only two Talbots were left, a brother and sister. When Milo died, his sister could not pay the death duties, so she made a deal with the Irish government and donated the castle to them. They worked in it and it has now been open to the public for two years already.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Retreat Belgian Army 1914-2014

Exactly one hundred years ago, the Belgian Army on retreat (after fighting the Germans fruitlessly) arrived in Dendermonde. In this town they stayed to defend the city, until the 5th of September 1914. Then the Germans entered the town, and the chief commander ordered the town to be burnt down.

A group of interested people now re-enacted this retreat. They worked for over two years to get every detail right. The man wear the exact same uniforms, they use the same equipment. Their retreat lasted five days, from Limburg to Dendermonde.

My sister and I were at the Grote Markt (Great Marketplace) to see the army arrive. Quite a view, and afterwards there was a chance to take pictures and talk to the men. Here are a couple of the pictures we made:


These are the guides on bike. In World War One a soldier got the one bike, and he had to keep it in working order with what he could find. Often they did not find new tires...


A company of foot soldiers, saluting our mayor.


The Minerva, the first canon used in the war.


Some example of the cavalry regiments.


And last but not least, the field kitchen.












Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fed up with the weather

I'm really getting fed up with the nasty weather we've been having since the beginning of August!

Clouds, rain, cold - it feels like autumn (or even winter, because sometimes it's warmer in December than it is now)....

The tourist trade is complaining. This morning, our local weather guy, Frank De Boosere, got complaints because he had predicted nice weather for the coast - and it was not. It was rather cold and it rained very hard.

No wonder lots of people book last-minute holidays to the sun! I really wish we could do the same, but no, we've booked a trip to Ireland... Most likely much the same, if not worse.

And be sure, the weather will turn to nice once the schools open for the new school year. It has often happened that September and October were very sunny and warm, after a miserable July and August.

How's the weather where you live?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Duke's Holiday

It's been a really long time since I could laugh out loud while reading.

I'm currently finishing The Duke's Holiday by Maggie Fenton - a recency romance. But boy, so different from the others!


In this novel, a duke named Cyril (a name he hates) is about to get married to the most boring lady in society. He doesn't particularly want to get married, but he knows it's his duty to produce an heir and spare.

One day he finds an interesting letter between his correspondence - neatly ordered, as everything in his existence. He so learns about the death of Mr. Honeywell, who has a brewery in Yorkshire. That brewery sits upon land owned by the duke, but for centuries there is a contract between the duke and the Honeywells. As long as there is a male Honeywell living, they shall be allowed to live in the castle and keep the brewery going.

The duke sends out his man of affairs to investigate, because he wants the Honeywell land back. But weeks go by and he hears nothing. So at long last he sets out to investigate himself, although he hates travelling. In Yorkshire he meets the Misses Honeywell: Aunt Annabel with her wig like Marie-Antoinette, Astrid and her three younger sisters. As the oldest, Astrid has been keeping the brewery and the affairs going long before her father died.

When the duke arrives at Rylestone Hall, he is attacked by a pig and lands in a pool of mud. And from then on, one hilarious incident follows the other.

You can imagine a fine romance flowers between Astrid and the duke, however unlikely bedfellows they make.

I shall be looking forward to the next novel of this author!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Luck of the Draw

Hello folks! Today I'd like to introduce you to Cheri Allan , who is now doing a promotional tour with Goddess Fish Promotions to bring attention to her new novel. She's doing a super book blast tour and also a standard virtual tour for Luck of the Draw.


Cheri will give away a prizes. One lucky commenter will receive a 25$ Amazon/B&N gift card and another will get a 15$ gift card. Please remember to use this link to place your comment:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e434232/


Blurb

If only life had a refresh button...

Kate Mitchell never planned to be a 31 year-old widowed single mom, but when her soon-to-be-EX husband up and dies, her dreams of finishing college and starting over are thrown in the air like a game of 52 pick-up. When she’s given a leave of absence from work and told to “quit or recommit,” Kate retreats to idyllic Sugar Falls, New Hampshire, to figure out whether she can discover her passion and pay the bills. Cue the fresh air, summer sunshine and one sexy local contractor.

Tall, dark, and handy…

Volunteer fireman and all-around hunky guy in a toolbelt, Jim Pearson has sworn off complicated women with messy baggage. They cling to his nice-guy stability and skills with a power saw just long enough to straighten out their lives and move on… but then he meets the cute single mom staying at Grams’ lake house for the summer.


While a sizzling attraction draws them together, Jim's distrust of complicated women and Kate's incredibly complicated life threaten to pull them apart.  But forces beyond their control—match-making grandmothers, the lazy backdrop of summer, and their own reckoning with the past—conspire to make them risk it all... and bet on love.

Excerpt

She could hear their breathing in the quiet room, the air a bit close from the heat of the day. She smiled.

He grimaced.

“Kate, I—”

She put her finger to his lips. “Please, don’t. I know this must seem crazy. We hardly know each other, but… I don’t want to analyze it. Not now.”

She didn’t want to talk. Didn’t want to admit her behavior was so far removed from her usual comfort zone it was like observing someone else. But Jim made her feel safe in a way she couldn’t put her finger on. Safe… and alive. No, that wasn’t right. He made her feel… hopeful. There was something about his eyes. So gentle, so kind. When she looked into his eyes, all the sad, lonely years melted away, and her heart felt light again, like a butterfly in her breast. She hadn’t felt that feeling in so very, very long. She couldn’t bear to turn it away. Not now. Not yet.

He nodded, his gaze boring into hers as he grasped her hand and pressed a kiss to her palm. His thumb brushed over her fingers as he looked at her hand. “You took off your ring,” he whispered.

She nodded, and he brought her hand to his lips again, looked her in the eyes. “Tell me what you want,” he said.

“For you to,” she managed a shaky breath, “do that again?”

He grinned against her wrist…


Author bio and links

Cheri Allan lives in a charming fixer-upper in rural New Hampshire with her husband, two children, one dog, four cats and an excessive amount of optimism. She’s a firm believer in do-it-yourself, new beginnings and happily-ever-afters, so after years of wearing suits, she’s grateful to finally put her English degree to good use writing romance. When not writing, you might find her whizzing down the slopes of a nearby mountain or inadvertently killing perennials in her garden.

Cheri loves to hear from readers! E-mail her at cheri@cheriallan.com, friend her at facebook.com/cheriallanauthor, or visit her website and blog at www.cheriallan.com. Luck of the Draw, Book 1 in the ‘Betting on Romance’ series is available now through Amazon and Smashwords.

Links



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Stormy weather

As a full-blown storm is blowing over our country, and we're due to stay inside (watching the torrent of rain clashing against our windows), I think it's time to share a joke.

Here goes:

A hurricane blew across the Caribbean. It didn't take long for the expensive yacht to be swamped by high waves, sinking without a trace. There were only two survivors: the boat's owner, Dr. Smythe and the steward, Marcus who managed to swim to the closest island.

After reaching the deserted strip of land, the steward was crying and very upset that they would never be found. Dr. Smythe on the other hand was quite calm, relaxing against a tree.

"Dr. Smythe, Dr. Smythe, how can you be so calm?" cried Marcus. "We're going to die on this lonely island. We'll never be discovered here."

"Sit down and listen to what I have to say, Marcus." began the confident Dr. Smythe.

"Five years ago, I gave the United Way $500,000 and another $500,000 to my church. I donated the same amounts four years ago. And, three years ago, I did very well in the stock market, so I contributed $750,000 to each. Last year, business was good, so the two charities each got a million dollars." stated Dr. Smythe.

"So what?" shouted Marcus.

"Well, it's time for their annual fundraising drives, and I know they're going to find me!" smiled Dr. Smythe.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hit and run... by a cat!

Especially in summer (here we call it cucumber-time) you can find funny articles in the daily newspapers. The article that made me laugh today, was this:


A group of cycling tourists was making a tour through West-Flanders yesterday morning. All at once, a cat ran over the road and an older man was not able to stop. He fell and landed on the concrete, hurting himself. Most likely he has a broken leg and other flesh wounds.

The culprit did not stay to face the music. Nothing was ever seen of this cat afterwards.

And the man can't remember if it was a black cat or not....

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Red, White and Screwed

Goddess Fish Promotions is organizing a Virtual Blurb Blitz Tour for Red, White and Screwed by Holly Bush, a Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction available July 17, 2014. The tour will run August 4 - 29, 2014.

Holly will be awarding a $20 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. So please don't forget to place a comment!
ALSO: use this Rafflecopter link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e434256/



Blurb

Political strategist Glenda Nelson is having a meltdown. Her handpicked, very married Congressional candidate was just caught climbing out of the window of the Sleepytown Motel, and her philandering ex-husband seems to have the most to gain from the colossal scandal that follows. As Glenda attempts to salvage the campaign in a hotly contested race, conservative and liberal pundits pounce on the story to further their own agendas.

Glenda’s love life is nonexistent to say the least, that is, until she meets handsome artist Chris Goodrich. Chris’s easy-going, carefree outlook on life couldn’t be more different than the 90-mph crazy train that is Glenda’s, but the more time she spends with him, the more she craves his calming presence, his sexy smile, and his steamy embraces. Is Chris the one to take a chance on?

Between the pressure of full-blown spin control mode, rapidly declining job security, refereeing two teenagers, caring for aging parents, and spending hours on her therapist’s couch trying to get past her ex’s crushing betrayal, Glenda finds love and makes the long trek back to happy.

Excerpt

(Glenda talks to the new man in her life for the first time)

I hit the End button on my phone, went to the buffet table, and filled a Styrofoam plate with carrots, dip and those little wieners with pie crust around them. The carrots were rolling around and getting stuck in the dip, but one wiener kept moving and made a break for the lip of the plate. I dipped my elbow for counter balance. “Whoa!”

The errant hors d’oeuvre caught a wave and hopped right off the edge of my dish. It landed on a plate inches away. I turned to see who was on the receiving end of my dinner. Christopher Goodwich was looking at the weenie standing upright in his spinach dip.

“Sorry,” I said.

“You couldn’t do that again in a million years.”

I laughed. “You’re probably right. . . Glenda Nelson,” I said and shook his hand. “The painting is exquisite. Well worth all the work to raise your commission. I’m with the Democratic Committee.”

“I saw you on stage.” Goodwich chuckled. “Seventy-five even.”

When he laughed, the little wrinkles around Chris Goodwich’s eyes creased. His mouth was full of even, white teeth. He pulled his lips to one side when he smiled, and it made him look boyish.

 He took a long look around the room over the heads of many of the guests as he was able to do at six feet and something. “I expected this unveiling to be filled with history types all asking me about the buttons on the uniforms.”


Author bio and links

Holly Bush was born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and has done public speaking on the subject.

Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and historical works. She writes historical romance set on the American Prairie and in Victorian England, and more recently, Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.

Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, has been an active member of her local library board and loves to spend time near the ocean. She is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior.



Twitter: @hollybushbooks



Monday, August 4, 2014

World War One remembered in Liege

Exactly one hundred years ago, the German army crossed the border with Belgium. Our country was neutral, but the German Kaiser issued an ultimatum, demanding free passage of the country to attack France.

In Belgium, everyone thought the Germans wouldn't dare to threaten our country. After all, Kaiser Wilhelm and King Albert the First shared the same ancestor. Moreover, Albert was married to a German princess, Elizabeth of Bayern.

But the Germans did not care. On August 4th 1914, they entered Belgian soil with their big army. Our own army was raised as soon as it became clear the Germans would not respect our neutrality. Among those drafted into active servive most men of adult age. Also my great-grandfather and his 17-year-old son were sent to the front line. Granddad never spoke much about this war, only he had the command over a company of men who could be his father and who did not know left from right. (Remember, the officers in that time only spoke French, while most draften men spoke Flemish and did not know French.)

The city of Liege was the first to be attacked. Surrounding it was a rind of fortresses, and in those bombardments many of our countrymen died.


Today, this was remembered. Our king, Filip, and his spouse Mathilde were present. As were the German president, the president of France and representing England Prince William and Kate.



As from now, there will be ceremonies as long as this war lasted. In Ypres (in Flanders' Fields) a daily projection of the names of all victims to this war will be posted for all to see.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What would you do?

This morning, while going to my Facebook account, I read a post by an author friend. Ken (Bruen) lives in Ireland, and has a daughter with Down syndrome. This morning, he was walking with the daughter in a wheelchair. They were accosted by a gang of hooligans.

Now Ken is not one who likes to suffer, so he turned into an agrressor himself. Also the daughter bit the guys where she could. Hooligans turned into victims. And Ken did not feel sorry for them.

What would you do?

I know how I'd react. When someone tries to hurt me, I'd defend myself with all I have. Teeth, nails, knees, keys, handbag, umbrella. I would not care if I hurt them or not. Nobody touches me without permit.

My sister is the same.

But I've seen people who allow themselves to be knocked over. They just do nothing, they appear paralysed with fear.

Alright, you won't be able to do anything when someone holds a gun. Then you just give them what they want. (And perhaps you can do something later.)

But against a knife or any other weapon you have a chance. Better go down fighting than do nothing at all, that's my motto.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cycling through the hinterland

Knokke-Heist is a nice place when you love cycling. There are lots of cycling routes going (for instance) to Bruges, to Lissewege, to Damme, to Sluis (which is technically already Holland) and Cadzand.

Because we bought new bikes we took them for a ride this afternoon. The temperature was nice (around 23° Celsius) and there was not too much wind. The sun peeped through at regular intervals. We took a route leaving the seaside behind us and weaving through the pastures and fields of Westkapelle.This route can take you either to Holland or to the Zoute (this is near the border with Holland and it's also a nature reserve).


It's a nice place, right in the middle of nature. You pass farms and can buy home-made marmelades and beer or wines. Or picke sweet cherries at another farm. At the end of this route you come into the Oosthoek, which is a parish of Knokke.

The attraction there is Marie Siska, where you can eat the best waffles in the country. The recipe is more than hundred years old and nobody knows excactly what is in the dough.  (I did a blog about Siska's waffles last year, I believe).

It was a very nice afternoon, and we will certainly sleep well tonight.