Smog is beautiful

This was the view from my place this morning before I left for work.
It looks so peaceful and pretty... amazing it's actually pollution that causes it to look that good, lol!

It feels so good that the days are getting longer again, tomorrow is the last day of the year and spring is just around the corner :)

2008 was a great year in so many ways, I hope 2009 will be a great year too.

On a brighter note

Some positive things:
- I lost another 1.1 kg last week. Total loss: 4.3 kg.
- I only have 5 weeks left at work before my new life begins (whatever that will turn out to be).
- I've started reading again (or rather continued after the holidays), even if right now it's just silly chick lit.
- I've used our new exercise bike 4 times since we bought it last Monday, despite it really really hurting my bum.
- I'm at work and the bosses are all on holiday. I'm gonna wrap up my invoicing for 2008, then go home. And tomorrow we're going out for xmas lunch with the other 7 colleagues who are working over the holidays, which means we will get absolutely no work done :).

Back at work and scary thoughts

I'm back at work and the place is full of chocolate and sweets! Argh! So far I've only had one sweet, and I am going to leave it at that, but this is going to take considerable willpower. I'm so bored at my job and such a procrastinator... eating is a way of putting off working, lol.

Tomorrow I have to go to the doctor's and get blood drawn to check for diabetes. I am so hoping it hasn't come to that. I would really hate myself if I have got it because of my weight being too high for too long. I mean, I know I'm doing something about it now, I just hope it isn't too late. The reason my doctor wants to check is this bloody foot injury that isn't healing, which apparently can be a sign of diabetes. :(

I did an online test once where you inputted all your data (age, weight, if you smoke, family history, where you live, what kind of job you do, what sports you do...) and it calculates your life expectancy. Being overweight actually takes 10 years off my life. Can you imagine? It was a really freaky test, cause I did it for my dad, giving his age in as 57 and it predicted he would die at 59, which is exactly the age he had died at a few years earlier (lung cancer). Ugh!

Anyway, all these health considerations are what is really pushing me to lose weight for good this time. I am more at risk for heart disease (number one killer for women), blod clots, diabetes, problems during pregnancy, certain cancers and a sh*tload of other things. I'm afraid of taking the plane when I should be much more afraid of the crap I put in my mouth every day.

Weird Christmas

What a strange xmas this year... I have basically been gagging for a big family get-together type xmas for months now, but it just wasn't meant to be.
First my sister and her boy were going to come over, but they couldn't afford the flights.
So I tried to get my cousin and his wife to come over but they had other plans.
So I (desperate by then) invited my in-laws over for xmas dinner, but they had some lame excuse about him not being able to drink if they had to drive all the way here, not being allowed to smoke in our place, and something about the dog.

Little sis (who's living with us) didn't want to commit to anything and decided she wasn't in xmas spirit this year anyway. So with neither my husband nor my sister caring much for any of it, I boldly went and got a xmas tree, decorated it and hung up some lights... but it's not much fun when you're only doing it for yourself.

Anyway, we ended up being invited to a friend's place, for xmas eve dinner with an assorted bunch of random people (her 2 kids, her brother, her grandmother, the neighbour's kid and us) which turned out to be a nice evening, with lots of presents and good food, just not really the big family thing I really wanted.

Yesterday I decided to go to church, it being the 4 year anniversary of my father's death. But the church was closed... oh well, I know it was a bit silly, I mean, why would I feel closer to him in church than anywhere else. But I guess I wanted to do something that would mark the fact I had been thinking of him.

For me, Christmas is all about sharing moments with the people you love. And without those people, it just loses its meaning. Of course there's Bart, but he doesn't have the xmas spirit so it really just feels like any other day. The best part of xmas this year has been phoning mum in New Zealand for 40 minutes (hello phone bill) and my sister in Shetland for another half hour and chatting away to my nephew who spent at least 10 minutes just reciting all the presents he got.

So today I'm not making any special xmas meal and I'm back on my diet (went just a bit over points yesterday) and we didn't exchange presents (except for my sister who got me Amelie Poulain on DVD). Our present to each other was an exercise bike, and I think Bart was more than happy to be off the hook for present duty this year. Tonight we'll be having thaï green curry vegetable and beef stir fry and going to bed early.

I'm really going to try and organise to get over to New Zealand for xmas next year and hopefully have some sort of family gathering, as it should be.

10 days in...

After the first 10 days on Weight Watchers I had my second weigh in this morning and have lost 2.2 kilos! Total so far: 3.2 kilos down.

Of course being sick and not having much appetite have helped, but apparently so did all the changes I've made to my eating patterns.

I really want to keep this up but I guess I'm afraid there will be those inevitable moments when I won't give a damn anymore, and then who knows what will happen...

But there is definitely a sense of relief that I have finally started at least.

Weight Watchers week 1

I have just completed my first week on Weight Watchers!
I am so happy to have finally found the inspiration to lose all this weight I have been carrying around for too long already.

I felt so good during our honeymoon in Mauritius, eating lots of fruit and veg, balancing out my meals and making healthy choices when faced with massive buffets of tempting foods, that I really finally understood I could do it.
The hardest part was thinking I'd been making healthy choices and eating all the right things, then coming home to find I'd put on 3 kg.

So I decided to join Weight Watchers Online and start counting points, a system I know works for me after doing it for 7 weeks in 2004 (that attempt aborted when my father became ill, then died 6 months later). I also think they're sensible, as opposed to every other fad diet out there.

Anyway, I chalk down most of the 3 kg I gained to water retention during the flight, cause we've been home 9 days and I've already dropped them again, which I don't think can be attributed solely to 1 week of WW and the flu...

Monday is my official weigh-in day, even though I started on a Saturday, so I'll wait till then to publish my official weekly result.

Motivation CHECK
WW subscription CHECK
Fitness bike CHECK (as of tomorrow)
Diet blog CHECK

This time I'm serious :)

The beginning of the beginning

Today I resigned.

It feels good. Liberating. It feels right.

Despite the economical crisis and all the uncertainty that goes with it, I feel like I'm creating a bubble of peace and quiet. A place I can stay in for a little while, just long enough to find myself again.

Finally the future has a shape, perspective and colour, instead of the dark grey tunnel I was stuck in lately.

Today is the beginning of a new beginning :)

Just like that, three months flew by

I can't believe it's been 3 months since I last posted something.
I literally put my quest for the perfect career / life on hold while I was busying myself with wedding plans... which was more than worth it, as we had the most amazing day!

Now it's back to the real world, and back to waking up in the middle of the night with my jaws clenched tight, dreaming I'm late for meetings even at the weekend, 10-hour days with no toilet breaks or lunch pauses... and wondering: what the hell am I doing it for?

The plan wasn't much of a plan, I just started walking...

I've decided on a course, just going to their presentation day on September 9th to make sure, and I've even asked my boss if I could take time of work for it, after all it is related to my job and my objectives for this year. No answer yet, though (duh!).

But my weight is up and my morale is down, and after spending a blitz weekend in Provence (20 hours driving for 48 hours on location, must be the worst ratio yet...), I am convinced there has to be another way to enjoy this life. One that involves listening to crickets when you wake up in the morning, taking a walk with the dog on a road with no cars - and hardly any houses - and a dip in the pool every afternoon. Not to mention time to read, and taking most of your meals on the terrace in the sun.

How can anyone choose for the crappy, grey, stressful city alternative? Not that I don't like the view from our apartment - or the apartment itself, which still impresses me - but outside of this bubble, everything seems to be either too much or too little to really feel happy.

I have to remind myself every day that I own my life - at least the 16 hours a day I'm not paid to be working. Not easy when the work is piling up and you're used to being the solver off all problems. Leaving my computer at work in the evening and at weekends has not been an easy resolution to stick to, but I will. For the sake of my own sanity.

And, one day, I will resign. And that will be the end of that.

Copenhagen for 2

Tuesday June 3rd we left Oslo after breakfast for our 1 p.m. flight to Copenhagen.

Our hotel, Hotel Absalon, was again just a street away from the train station on Istegade and, despite my apprehensions, really quite decent.
We checked in and headed straight back out for an early dinner before the KISS concert that had brought us here.

500 meters down the street we sat down at the terrace of Det Gule Hus, recommended by our Rough Guide. The food - burger for Bart and grilled salmon for me - was absolutely divine, and half the price of a restaurant, and the beer was 3 times cheaper than Oslo, a nice change, but probably not surprising in the land of Carlsberg and Tuborg.

From there we walked to the Forum, the venue for the evening. Doors were already open and so we opted for a place on the balcony, giving us a great view on the stage.

After the concert, we headed off in search of a bar for a couple of drinks and a huge bowl of popcorn, then back to the hotel.

Wednesday we just couldn't get out of bed, so ended up only setting off around 1 p.m.
We stopped for brunch at the Hard Rock Café, on the other side of the station, which was hugely disappointing, although the terrace was great for people watching, and the couple sitting behind us looked strangely like my mother and her husband.

Starting from the central Radhuspladsen, we headed off along the main shopping street and shopped for a couple of hours before sitting down for a cool beer on Hojbro Plads.

Dinner was at Sticks N Sushi on Istegade, one of the three branches of this modern sushi restaurant in Copenhagen. The food was absolutely delicious, the wine - a New Zealand Marlborough - so good, especially after a week drinking beer and the whole atmosphere was really cool.

Thursday was another difficult start, and after missing the hotel breakfast we had a late brunch back at Det Gule Hus. Also really yummy and worth every kroner :)

June 5th is a national holiday in Denmark, so all the shops were closed and probably quite a few of the museums, so we headed down to the waterfront and boarded a taxi boat for a tour of the city. DFDS operates a couple of guided tour boats, but they also have 3 unguided tours with a hop on-hop off system. A day ticket for those boats costs around 6 euro and you can take as many boats as you want. So we boarded our first boat at Fisketorvet, at the South end of the city, and basically boat hopped for the rest of the day, going through the canals of the center, up and down Nyhavn, out to Trekroner lighthouse and around Christianshavn, soaking up the sun at the same time.

We ended the day with a meal on the terrace of Cap Horn restaurant on Nyhavn, listening to a jazz live band, then headed back for a drink near our hotel on Holmtorvet, also the scene of a live concert that evening.

Friday our flight wasn't until 8 p.m., so we had a full day left. We got up - relatively - early and had breakfast at the hotel, then headed out to Radhuspladsen where we decided to check out the Bodies exhibition. After seeing Korperwelten in London, it was much less impressive and even a bit disappointing (a lot less shocking, too), but nevertheless very interesting and quite informative.

Then we hit the shopping streets again, then found a really picturesque square full of terraces to have lunch. Lunch was at Huks Fluks and was very enjoyable, even though we were invaded by a busload of Icelandic old-aged tourists and had to share our table with a couple of old ladies who didn't speak a word of English.

Our last stop was the park Rosenborg Have for a lie in the sun, knowing it was raining and cold in Belgium where we would be heading a few hours later.

Oslo highlights

We were in Oslo for 4 days, the main reason to the trip being the KISS concert on May 31st.

We arrived Friday in the late afternoon, checked into our hotel, the Comfort Hotel Børsparken - close to the station and good value for money, and headed out for a meal at Asian restaurant the Golden Dragon.
We soon discovered just what our guide book meant by "expensive food and drinks". Although the meal was really good quality, compared to Chinese restaurants in Brussels, we payed about 3 times the price, with beers at 8 euro and main courses around 20 euro...

After dinner we headed down to the harbour, crossing through the park behind Akershus fort. The park was full of groups of friends picnicking, and a big trend seems to be little throw-away barbecue kits, really neat.

Saturday was spent relaxing in Tøyen Park, with the intention of going to the Munch museum, but we never actually got round to it :)
We headed off to the concert venue, Vallhall arena, a couple of metro stops away from Tøyen Park, and got there nice and early, so we were among the first to enter the venue when the doors finally opened.

We were front row at the concert and the show was impressive.
Afterwards we headed back to the hotel, stopping on the way for take-away noodles from the 7/11.

Sunday we caught the ferry to nearby Hovedoya, an island just off the coast, which we set off to explore before finding a spot on the beach under the shade of a tree - as we hadn't actually brought any sun cream. We had a late lunch at the island's only snack bar and headed back to the ferry. We had taken a day pass for the ferries, part of the public transport system, so we decided to find ourselves a spot on the top deck and enjoy a few rides around the islands, soaking up some late afternoon sun :)

Sunday evening we headed out for dinner in trendy Grynerlokka and ended up in a French restaurant, Bristo Brocante, decent but nothing amazing, especially considering the price...

Monday we awoke to more amazing sunshine, blue skies and soaring temperatures and decided to hit the shopping streets.

After a quick walk up the roof of the impressive Opera House, we walked up Prinsens Gate to the university, stopping to browse books in an amazing bookshop, followed by coffee and a cookie, then past the Slottsparken, on to Hegdehaugsveien and Bogstadveien, all the way up to Frognerparken, where the sculpture park is. There we crashed on the grass, browsing through our newly acquired books and reflecting on life...

Then we headed to the harbour to catch a late afternoon 2 hour Fjord cruise...

... before dining at "Front", on the posh waterfront Stranden... absolutely divine food (and frightfully expensive drinks).

The Police at Werchter

After seeing their Amsterdam show last October, I was really excited about The Police headlining TW Classic.

Of course, the weather was crap, so we only headed out around 7.30, parked at Leuven station and took the bus to the concert field. We arrived just in time, 5 minutes later the first notes of "Message in a Bottle" rang out and we hurriedly made our way as close to the scene as we could get without pissing off too many people as we squeezed by.

Sting with a beard... well, he reminded me of my father. I guess it makes him look more his age, but then, shouldn't he lose the see-through black top? As far as I'm concerned, he still looks sexy, though I'm not sure how much of it is nature and how much is collagen.

Andy and Stewart however really do look their age. Especially Andy. In Amsterdam he seemed to be struggling to keep up enough energy. This time he seemed much better, smiling and seemingly enjoying himself. Stewart is still impressive to watch.

Of course, there is something slightly ridiculous about a 60-something guy singing "De do do do de da da da", and I'm not sure the simplicity of the lyrics really "fits" the image of the three artists on stage any more. But the songs are catchy and the choruses easy to sing along to, which the crowd did abundantly, without being asked.

All in all it was really enjoyable, and the usually rigid Belgian crowd was especially enthusiastic, which always adds to the atmosphere.

I wish they had played just a little bit longer, a few more songs...

Relaxing in Oslo

My Scanner Daybook - May 20th

My little coffee shop

My coffee shop would have sky blue walls, red and yellow tables, a light blue floor, and wooden misfitted chairs.

It would have big comfy sofas and armchairs.

It would have a bookcase full of books you could just pick out and browse through. You could even bring in books you've read and exchange them for books in the bookcase.

There would be paintings on the walls, each month from a different, talented, upcoming artist from anywhere in the world.
The paintings would be for sale and anyone who came into the coffee shop could buy one.

We would serve delicious coffees - lattes, espressos, cappuccinos... and teas with all kinds of different flavours - we'd have a glass cabinet on the wall next to the counter with all our teas in it and customers could pick the one they want.

We would serve homemade cookies, cakes (carrot cake, banana cake) and tarts (chocolate tart, lemon meringue) for morning or afternoon tea and tortillas and dips (homemade guacamole, mmmmh), raw vegetables, olives and other finger foods for a light lunch or appetizer in the evening.

There would be a big box full of games next to the bookshelf. Chess, checkers, card games... and guests could chill out and play a game at their table.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, we'd get a jazz band or singer/songwriter in to play some music.

Every month, we'd have themed workshops, where people could come and paint, or knit, or make jewelry.

Ideally, we'd have a little garden out back where we could put some tables and chairs (those beautiful Moroccan tables with mosaic tops) on hot summer days. The garden would be full of fairy lights to give it a magical feel in the evening.

Instead of ordinary beer coasters, we could have blank cards where guests could draw something or write a thought. They would be pinned up on one of the walls and anyone who wanted to could add one.

We could develop our own line of postcards with some of the drawings or thoughts, and make badges out of them too.

We could design our own coffee mugs and tea pots, and give each one a different design.

The name of the place would be something relaxing and inspiring. Something simple. Like "Soul".

We would make our own cool website, where the past and upcoming artists' works of art would be displayed, and we could add cool new recipes on it, let customers send us postcards from around the world and advertise all the concerts and workshops.

Our clients would be mainly students, travelers, artists.

We'd let the guidebooks know about us, like the Lonely Planet and the Globetrotter, and hope they visit us and reference us.

We could have a big pin board where people could post all their ads for traveling companions or rooms for rent.

Happy Birthday to me :)

It's not every day you turn 30.
In fact, it's a once-in-a-lifetime event.
So I'm glad I have the day off work to get used to the idea, and really enjoying the fact that it's a beautiful day, we're chilling at home in our gorgeous apartment with the windows open and I'm at peace with myself and the world around me.

This year will be the year I...
... get married :)
... make peace with my body and learn to take care of it
... change careers
... travel to an exotic location for our honeymoon
... discover Rome (my birthday present!)
... get back in touch with my creativity

The truth

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” I was taught; one more lie among many. In truth words penetrate the unlidded ear and land in the spirit. Words carry hatred and passion and love and fear. Words have the power to shoot down and rise up. Sharp cutting words can whirl for years afterward like the rotating blades of a lawn mower.
- Louise M. Wisechild, The Mother I Carry

Weight issues

I went out clothes shopping today. Something I try to avoid doing and would gladly never do if it wasn't for the increasing scarcity of suitable clothes in my wardrobe. And now summer's here, I really have been forced to acknowledge I just do not have enough clothes that fit me, are comfortable, look decent and don't make me look completely out of place in the hot weather.

Clothes shopping is basically the only time in the year that I see myself near naked in a full-length mirror. And I'm usually in for a nasty surprise, as I am confronted once again with my wobbly figure.

And today I suddenly realised: I have no self-image. As in: a mental image of what I look like to other people. I basically avoid mirrors, and when I do see myself, I try to concentrate on my face and hair, not so much on my butt and stomach. And I wondered: how is it possible for me to ignore the kilos of extra fat I carry around with me every day?

I suppose I had what could be called a revelation: I never developed a healthy self-image as a child. And I learned to just block any image I did have out of my mind, as it was never a pleasant one.

As far back as I can remember - around the age of 5 - I vividly recall my weight being an issue. I was taken to the doctor because I was "overweight" and used to sneak food up to my room at night. And from the same early age, I was constantly
told by my mother that I was overweight, that I shouldn't eat this or that because I would get fat. Food became a forbidden thing. With hardly a distinction between meal times and any other time of the day. And a consistent lack of consistency when it came to reinforcing any clear message: mum would bake cookies and let us eat the dough, but watch over the cookie jar like a hawk and remark that we would get fat as soon as one of us went to eat a cookie. There was obviously some invisible limit in her mind, between what we were "allowed" and what she saw as over-indulgence, but that line was never clear to me. Nor were there any clear rules about when we were or were not allowed treats. It is highly likely she made remarks about my weight at times when I was eating out of hunger, and at other times - when I maybe wasn't even hungry - she would offer a treat. In the end, I would take any treat on offer, hungry or not, as I wasn't sure if my next request for food would be met with a negative comment or not.

My mother's nickname for me at the time was "Miss Michelin", in reference to a well-known advertising figure made out of car tires.

And so began my ongoing love-hate relationship with food.

Today I realised, thinking back to old pictures of myself: I never was a fat child. I definitely wasn't skinny, but I wasn't fat.

But as a kid, at a very early age, I was taught to think of myself as fat. And to consider food to be a bad thing. Something to feel guilty about. And a way to punish myself or to defy other people.

I defied my parents during their divorce. If they didn't love me enough to stay together, I would disrespect their request for me to stay away from "forbidden" food. I gained 20 kilos in a year at age 10. A punishment to myself for not being a "good enough" reason for them to stay together.

I defied my boyfriend after he cheated on me. He didn't deserve a good-looking me, and I wanted him to see me hurt myself because of what he'd done. Food is a great way for me to hurt myself. I gained 30 kilos in 6 months (after losing 15 in the previous 4 months in the initial shock). A punishment to myself for not being "good enough" for him to stay faithful.

In between these 2 major traumatic experiences, my weight was actually quite stable. And, again, looking back at pictures at the time, I wasn't skinny, but I wasn't fat. I varied between a size 38 and a size 44. I wasn't a model, but I was healthy. Although the image I had of myself in my head was so warped, so negative, I saw myself as a huge blubbery person. And was constantly reprimanding myself whenever I gave in to any desire for food, perpetuating my mother's criticisms even though I was no longer living with her.

Today, shopping for my size 48-52 clothes, I realised I have no idea how to build a new image of myself in my head.
I am now severely overweight, and it is damaging my health.
I need to acknowledge my body as it is today, and make the necessary changes to get back to a healthy weight. And then learn to love myself at that weight, even if I still don't look like a model.

I actually don't know what ideal image my mother had in her mind all those years ago. I do know she still makes the exact same comments now as she did then, and still "allows" me to indulge only when she has decided it was ok to, whether I feel like it or not. Luckily I am not subjected to her influence more than a couple of times a year - and in every other aspect we have a very good relationship. But she has now turned to the next generation - my sister's son - and is re-enacting with him the same things we went through in our childhood.

Just for fun - my wedding playlist

ABBA - Lovers live a little longer
ABBA - Dancing Queen
ABBA - Mama mia
Aerosmith - Crazy
Al Green - Let's stay together
Alcazar - Crying at the discotheque
Anastacia - Paid my dues
Barry White - Can't get enough of your love babe
Beatles - All you need is love
Beyoncé - Crazy in love
Bill Withers - Ain't no sunshine
Bon Jovi - Always
Boy George - Karma Chameleon
CeCe Peniston - Finally
Damien Rice - The Blower's Daughter
Deep Purple - Smoke on the water
Deep Purple - Black Night
Deep Purple - Woman from Tokyo
Dire Straits - Sultans of swing
Eagles - Hotel California
Everything but the girl - Missing (Remix)
Faith no more - Easy
Fleetwood Mac - Big love
Fugees - Killing me softly with his song
George Benson - Give me the night
George Michael - Papa was a Rolling Stone
George Michael & Queen - Somebody to love
Geri Haliwell - It's raining men
Gloria Gaynor - I will survive
Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
Guns n Roses - Knocking on heaven's door
Guns n Roses - Don't cry
Indeep - Last night a DJ saved my life
Irene Cara - Flashdance
Jamiroquai - Virtual Insanity
Jamiroquai - Cosmic Girl
Jennifer Lopez - Love don't cost a thing
Joss Stone - Jet Lag
Joss Stone - You had me
Joss Stone - Fell in love with a boy
Joss Stone - Music
Joss Stone - Don't cha wanna ride
KISS - Rock and roll all nite
KISS - I stole your love
Krezip - I would stay
Led Zeppelin - Stairway to heaven
Lenny Kravitz - Rock and roll is dead
Lenny Kravitz - Are you gonna go my way?
Lisa Stansfield (with Barry White) - Been around the world
Madonna - Like a prayer
Madonna - Into the groove
Mama's and the papa's - California Dreamin'
Massive Attack - Unfinished Sympathy
Metallica - Enter Sandman
Moby - One of these mornings
Moby - Extreme Ways
Nirvana - Come as you are
Nirvana - Smells like teen spirit
Olivia Newton John - Physical
Paula Abdul - Straight up
Pet Shop Boys - West End Girls
Phil Collins - Against All Odds
Phil Collins - Easy Lover
Phil Collins - Can't Hurry love
Pointer Sisters - I’m so excited
Police - Roxanne
Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody
Queen - We will rock you
Radiohead - Creep
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
Sade - No ordinary love
Seal - Waiting for you
Shocking Blue - Venus
Sinead O'Connor - Nothing compares to you
Sonique - Feels so good
Soulsister - The Way To Your Heart
Stevie Wonder - Superstition
Survivor - Eye of the tiger
Tavares - Heaven must be missing an angel
Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak
Thin Lizzy - Dancing in the moonlight
Thin Lizzy - Don't believe a word
Thin Lizzy - Still in love with you
U2 - Who's gonna ride your wild horses
U2 - One
UB40 - Red red wine
Union - Love (I don't need it anymore)
Village People - YMCA
Wamdue Project - King of My Castle
White Stripes - Seven nation army
The Who - Behind blue eyes


The end of another day of amazingly warm weather.


Well, I'm completely set on achieving my goal of changing jobs - and my entire career - by September 15th at the latest, just in time for all the courses starting.

Now to work out
a) what I'll do for a job while I'm studying and
b) how I'll pay for the courses with the wedding coming up and my bank account shrinking every month.

But I'm certain I have to get out of my current job and take the dive.
That's already a huge step as far as I'm concerned.

Wedding day planning - 2 months to go

10.30 Civil ceremony at the Abbaye de Dieleghem

No fancy wedding dresses or suits just yet.
We'll be accompanied by our parents, my sisters and our witnesses.
The ceremony will last 10 minutes, and we won't exchange rings.
Oh, and in true Belgian tradition, we had to choose between Flemish and French, so it'll all be in Flemish :p

11.30 Back to our place for lunch. Everyone starts getting dressed, make-up and hair.

14.30 Leave for the Kasteel de Rozerie

15.15 - 16.15 Photos in the gardens while the guests arrive

16.30 - 17.30 Ceremony, led by Jean, with readings from several friends and family members

17.30 - 18.30 Reception and more photos

19.00 - 22.00 Dinner

22.00 - ?.00 Party time!

Wedding planning: the location

The ceremony, reception, dinner and party will all be held at Kasteel de Rozerie in Aalst.

So far so good

Well, I've been quiet lately, which doesn't mean I haven't been busy.

I've taken a few steps towards finding out more about becoming a professional trainer.

I contacted an ex-colleague who is director of an agency who gives trainings on the off-chance he would accept to meet with me for an informal discussion, and he did!

I saw him yesterday and had a really good feeling about the discussion, as I felt I was really comfortable, just asking for information and trying to figure out the big picture, while he basically offered to put me in contact with one of their trainers, let me have a trial run in a fake training session so they could give me feedback and perhaps even put me on some projects if they think I have the potential.

Of course, it's going to be a huge leap of faith no matter what way I go about it, as I will have to quit my current job - there's no way in hell I can combine the two - and I wouldn't be able to work full time as a trainer from the beginning. I'd
also have to invest a lot of time and money in following trainings myself. Which I know I'll enjoy but leaves me wondering how I'll pay the mortgage at the end of the month.

Today was interesting as well as I was following a training for work on presentation techniques and got to see myself on camera as I gave a presentation. Damn, I desperately need to lose weight. Other than that I was pretty happy with the result. I also talked a bit with the woman who was giving the training, but didn't want to sound too enthusiastic or get too concrete as she is after all working for my boss, and as long as I'm not sure what I want to do I'd prefer he not know I'm looking around.

I'm pretty happy with myself for taking these (baby) steps, and at the same time extremely nervous and scared of the big unknown.

Eating out: Skievelat

Last night I met up with some friends at the Skievelat, a "brasserie" type resto-bar near the Sablon. We had a few drinks, dinner and then some more drinks and had a really enjoyable evening. I love the atmosphere at the Skievelat, with loud music and dimmed lights, and the fact they serve delicious, cheap food and know how to make a mojito.

Tom's One Man Show

Tonight I went to see "J'ai jamais compris", a one man show by a friend's brother.

The friend, who I went to high school with, has spent the last few years developing a career managing and producing upcoming comedians. His brother Tom has the same bug and recently wrote his own show. It was a really good evening, fun show and opportunity to catch up with friends I don't see enough of.

He has a few more dates planned, and I would definitely recommend going to see him!

Sunrise today

I'm up earlier than usual this morning so was able to catch the sun coming up.

The Atomium

Last week I had the opportunity to rediscover some of the more touristy areas of Brussels with my 8 year old nephew who was here for a weeks holiday.

One of the places we visited was the Atomium. This strange structure, composed of 9 huge balls representing an atom of iron, was built exactly 50 years ago, when Expo58 was held in Brussels.

You can go all the way up to the top, where there is also a restaurant - not recommended though - and look out over a good part of the north of Brussels. Interactive screens are supposed to let you zoom in for a closer view and point out landmarks, but when we were there they weren't really working.

4 other balls are open to visits, but don't really offer any interesting features, a part from a few exhibits about the construction and history of the Atomium.

What is impressive are the stairs and escalators that link the balls to one another. To reach the top ball, a lift with a see-through roof whizzes upwards at a pretty dizzying speed too.

I was glad we went on a week day, as it wasn't too crowded and we were able to enjoy the views. I wouldn't want to go there in high season, though. Lol.

Sunset over Brussels

I have an amazing view over Brussels from my apartment. The most fascinating thing about it is watching the sky change and seeing all the different colours and cloud formations. Better get used to the view cause I'll be posting a lot of pictures of it :)

The Votes on stage in VUB Kultuurkaffee

Last night the Votes performed in the VUB Kultuurkaffee, the center of student life for VUB students.

The Votes are a pretty new group - they started rehearsing about a year ago - but they've got really catchy songs and hopefully they'll go a long way.

You can check out their Myspace page to listen to their music:

Oh, and the drummer is my husband-to-be, but that doesn't mean I'm biased ;)

It was really nice being back in a student setting, weird as that may seem. The untidiness and lack of formality were so refreshing and brought me back to a simpler time, when playing card games and drinking beer were top priorities on your agenda.

I especially enjoy the way students dress. Well, I guess I still dress like that. Not really caring what you have on, as long as it's comfortable and doesn't smell too bad, lol.

Student life was perfect for me. I never went to lectures, preferring to spend my days chatting and playing cards, either in the Campouce or the Foyer, or on the lawn outside the library on a nice day. I'd basically arrive around 8, as I had to pretend I was going to class for my dad. On most days there'd be a steady flow of regular friends to chat with, and games of whist for mental exercise. Some days one of the "Cercles" would organise a "TD midi-minuit", or drinks and music from noon to midnight. Great opportunities for drinking games, passing out and arriving home drunk for dinner.

I just wish I'd chosen a more inspiring subject. Business School was nothing for me. I was attracted by the diversity of topics, but truthfully, none of them managed to captivate me. I would probably have spent more time in the auditorium if they had.

I'd love to go back to university. I'd study Psychology. And hang out in the Campouce playing cards. Of course, I'd basically be 12 years older than the other students in my year and I'm not sure anyone would be interested in hanging out with me, lol.

My Scanner Daybook - April 15th

This morning in the shower I imagined playing the stock market to make some quick money and fund my early retirement.

I have the idea that you can either play the stock market 2 ways: the scientific approach and the gut feeling approach.

Either you spend hours and hours studying fluctuations in the market, tracking historical movements in stock prices and applying complicated statistical models to diversify your risk and maximise your return (all things I learned during university but have since very much forgotten).

Or you follow your gut feeling, with minimal input, just some common sense. I definitely like this approach better and am sure the results can be just as good, if not better.

I mean, I'm sure if I was looking to invest 10 years ago, Google would have "felt" like a really good horse to bet on, and I'd be stinking rich by now. Something I'm sure no statistical model could predict. So the idea would be to identify the next Googles of the stock market and invest my money in them (not that I actually have money to invest, but I'm speaking theoretically here).

So, what would I look for? Companies just starting to make a name for themselves on the market place. Probably offering simple but effective products or services, usually creating a market for themselves by tapping into previously unrecognised needs. I mean, who can live without Google in today's world? When 10 years ago most people didn't even realise they could one day have any use for its functions.

Of course, that would imply some research, scanning the internet for articles, news, new trends and recently developed features. I firmly believe internet is the future and will see amazing developments in the very near future, so I'd probably investigate internet companies first.

I would also need to look into the best way to actually buy and sell. Would I have to pass through my bank? That seems so tedious and slow. I'd look into online services that allow small investors to manage their investments online in real time. Hopefully something like that exists and doesn't cost you a huge commission. It would be almost like a video game. Probably very intangible. Which would make it fun to do, especially starting with a small sum to limit the risk of losing everything I own :)

Bye bye Aidan

Going home!

This is me in the airport in Brussels, waiting to board. And this is the plane I will be flying to London in.

Morning market

This is Aidan getting cooked. More chocolates for you, mum!

Disneyland - The End

In the afternoon we went to Walt Disney Studios and saw a cool show with car stunts. We had dinner in the Pirates of the Caribbean cave then went on the ride 2 more times. Then it was time to in home. I slept the whole way back.