Pondering a petition about the original English muffin


Now, usually I don't get on my soapbox about anything. In fact, I can be downright lazy when I want to. But here, for the first time, I find myself startled into action for something... well, rather embarrassingly silly.

Soooo, what has raised my hackles? A few days ago I stumbled on a tidbit of information on the www; namely that a goddess was descending upon us... sorta. It so happens that Nigella Lawson was venturing from her safe UK haven to the continent, to Amsterdam to be more precise. So you will understand that a measure of excitement overtook me as I pondered the possibility of being in the same breathing space as this icon. Needless to say, my hopes were soon dashed as I realized that all the tickets had unfortunately been snapped up by a bunch of Dutch and American people, who had some kind of ESP information about this event.

After a brief mail exchange with a very kind PR person, and a number of calls to some not so kind people, I realized that it was not to be. A true Cinderella does not get to go the ball moment.

But Cinderella persevered and so will I. Thus, I have no choice now but to ponder a petition with the title: Bring Nigella to Belgium. What say you? Would there be any interest? After all, it's not because we are a small blot on the European landscape, that we should be overlooked. So come visit, all you celebrities, we'd so like to have you.


Le current mood - so not the way I feel right now!


As I sat here tapping away at yet another translation while a dull headache martyrizes and marrs my working efforts (my coffee buzz has not kicked in yet), I reflected on the current mood du jour. The video above most certainly does not represent how I feel today.
So onwards I bravely soldier, on the subject of 'Diamond Divas', an upcoming exhibition in one of Antwerp's numerous museums.

171 days of gloom and doom - whatever happened to Belgium, the surprise package of Europe?

One hundred and seventy-one days and one minute have passed since our national elections and yes, incredible as it may seem, our politicians still seem to think that they have all the time in the world to bicker about a new coalition.

The simple question of why a temporary government hasn't been put in place is so evident that one does not even dare ask it at this point.

No revolution has broken out. The people aren't screaming in the streets. No cars are being burnt (for that you have to head to the Paris banlieues these days, I am told, if it's fireworks and adrenalin that you are looking for).

In fact Belgians are going about their business as usual. Eating and drinking like true rabelaisians, preparing to spend money, etc. Incidentally, did you know that Belgium numbers 135,000 very fortunate dollar millionaires among its population? This puts it in twelfth place worldwide. Not bad for a country, whose impact in the EU was cited by MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit as being "zéro" today. Now I know that Belgium is particularly good at scoring "nul points" in the Eurovision song extravaganza, but Mr CB's comment is stretching it a tad, don't you think?

So is Belgium irrelevant? Would you miss it? Did you even know it existed?

Christmas beckons - part deux: turkey dilemmas


Hark, the herald angels are already singing again... and soon they'll be brightening up our tree. Yes, alas, Christmas decorations have started to edge their way into my field of vision when I walk down Antwerp's streets. We are only one week away from the whole chasm opening up.

This year's tree is slowly but surely shaping up in my mind with kitschy white angel lights (see above), white feathers, popcorn and cranberries, more lights, and some transparent glass ornaments. Why rein yourself in when you can go completely overboard? I've come to understand that the only way to make 'the most wonderful time of the year' bearable is to basically join in. If you can't beat them, etc., what else can you do?

So whilst our turkey is being raised organically in some green outpost in old Eire, courtesy of Jack the butcher in Brussels, we are pondering recipes, all the while hampered by the fact that my sister is on a major diet for the rest of our and her life...

All I myself can think about, pathetically but greedily, is Boxing Day, as post-turkey-syndrome sets in. Turkey tonnato, turkey and cranberry sandwiches, turkey and pomegranate salad... Gasp. What if we didn't order a bird that's big enough to warrant sufficient leftovers for snacking?

Speaking of turkeys, the best Christmas card I ever sent out featured a turkey with a Groucho Marx nose, mustache and glasses, crouching with a bazooka behind a lantern post, with a poster that read: join the turkey liberation front.
This year's venture is a much more sobering one, an endorsement of Unicef.

Because at the end of the day, however whimsical this whole shenanigan might be, we should always spare not one, but many thoughts for all those who are less fortunate than us and who live in this 'seriously f***ed up world', as my fellow blogger Siegfried put it so succinctly.



Sometimes it pays to read magazines, even if they are as inane as Vanity Fair.
How else would I have found out about Devendra Banhart and Feist?

Definitely worth listening to!

Two mommies? No spanking.


On Friday my SO came home and told me that she'd had a chat with Frances's mum. We had been expecting this for quite a while, since Frances's mum happens to be English-speaking too (US or Canada, no idea at this point) and since she'd overheard us speaking English, and we'd noticed her too (one does tend to stand out in a pack of Flemish-speaking mothers).

So the discussion launched and at some point, she asked my SO: 'so who are you?' My SO answered: 'I'm V's mum'. At which point Frances's mum fell silent for a minute, and then said: 'who did you say?'

I should explain here that we both bring our little one to school, sometimes together, most days separately (one of us will go in, while the other is at work/home). Obviously Frances's mum is trying to figure out what's going on: who's the blond one, I thought the dark-haired one was the mum...

Likewise, on one of our first visits to our pediatrician's practice, the paed ended the visit with: 'are you the nanny', and then turned all kinds of interesting shades of red (I never noticed that colour does really rise up in your face when you turn red) as she realized her blunder. This is usually inevitably followed up with the 'I have a lesbian friend, my niece is a lesbian, I have other lesbian couples in the practice, etc.' although we have yet to be confronted with the 'I am a lesbian myself' answer.

At any rate, it will be interesting to see if Frances's mum has a lesbian in her closet ;-)

Continuing on the subject, after school, many parents and their children conglomerate in the play area near the school, conveniently located in front of a café, which serves delicious hot cocoa. Zoe's mum happened to drop by our table, and out of the blue said: 'It must be nice to be two mummies.' I was momentarily flummoxed by that statement, but she immediately followed it up with: 'You know, it's quite different with a man around the house. They have a different way of dealing with kids, they're less present, less hands-on.' So much for the 'new man': I guess he hasn't landed at Zoe's house yet.

Which brings me to my next parenting subject: the debate is currently raging in Belgium on whether pedagogical spanking should or should not be prohibited.

As could be expected, most parents feel that their behaviour should not be dictated by the law, whereas the lawmakers' objective is to basically try and reduce child abuse.

Personally, I think there's a long way from one spanking to child abuse (i.e. daily boxing of a child's ears, etc.). That said, I remember being shocked when one of our daycare caregivers slapped one of her twins. I knew that she would never slap my child, but the mere fact that my munchkin was subjected to seeing that and the look of complete non-understanding on V's little face as she witnessed that incident, is still an issue for me.

As a mother of a 3-year old, I can vouch for the fact that there are times when a child can literally drive you insane with indecision and tantrums. Toddlers are the original Vickie Pollard (yeah but, no but).
But I'm always reminded of the episode of Desperate Housewives in which Lynette berates Bree for slapping her children. Finally she has to admit that it did have an effect, using the threat of a spanking from Bree to keep her children in line, without actually spanking herself.

I think that there is a very fine line when it comes to physical discipline: my cousin firmly believes in it (he's a hardliner); but where does the spanking end, when does it become humiliating, when does it influence your memories for life, and does it achieve the desired result. Considering that most people find themselves having to spank again (i.e. it becomes a routine punishment), I have a feeling it doesn't. So we continue down our path of negotiate, explain, compromise, no spankings, and wing it. Because although there are a gazillion parenting manuals out there, the only one that will work is the one endorsed by both parents, which is invented as you go along, through practice.

So here's to a new week of parenting pitfalls.

oh she was gorgeous - the girl in Leon Spilliaert's painting


Today's gorgeous girl is a bit out of the ordinary, as what makes her so gorgeous, is the fact that you can't see her face.

She is the girl running down the staircase in Léon Spilliaert's painting, Vertigo.

You can just make out her pale face behind her flowing veil.

Léon Spilliaert is a Belgian painter (early twentieth century). He has his own particular style, which he honed over time and is especially known for his works depicting Ostend, where he lived and worked (like James Ensor). Another one of his works, which is pretty amazing is La Baigneuse. The Belgian coast seems to have inspired a host of painters; another one of my favourites, who lived further along the coast is Paul Delvaux, whose pale nudes with their blond hair and grey eyes in night-time landscapes are quite captivating.

Le current mood - Proof that I'm sinking into deep 50s housewife mode

I baked cranberry muffins for breakfast this morning.

I have been humming 'The Lonely Goatherd' from the Sound of Music for two whole days now.

I depress myself.

Buttermilk chicken by Nigella Lawson


The domestic demi-goddess has conquered another hurdle on the path to goddishness. I've spatchcocked my first chicken. It felt like playing 'operation' all over again... I'll admit to being squeamish about anything that involves cutting through bones, delving into innards, etc. As you can see, I would have failed miserably in the butcher's business.

But voilà: two spatchcocked chickens are now comfortably resting in their olive oil-garlic-maple syrup-maldon salt-crushed black peppercorns-buttermilk and rosemary marinade thanks to Nigella Lawson. Hopefully they will provide a bunch of hungry lunch guests with a good lunch in combination with some butternut squash and cinnamon mash (it's the light version of the Thanksgiving turkey fiesta, as Turkey Day is X-mas here and our poor turkey is still being raised somewhere in the green pastures of Ireland).

Will report back on the outcome of this extravaganza. But as for preparation, this is an easy one.

Update 1: have had to wash my hands three times already since I keep on smelling olive oil on my wrists, every time I lift my cup of coffee (did you know by the way that vanilla syrup is an excellent way to agrement a dull coffee?).

Update 2: they loved it. Only one drumstick left. The chooks were devoured in no time at all. The meat was moist and succulent, the skin fried to a perfect crisp; the buttermilk was in fact hardly discernible, while the maple came through, as well as the garlic, pepper and rosemary. Definitely a recommend here!

And while we're on the subject of dance...


Here's Sylvie Guillem in William Forsythe's 'In the middle, somewhat elevated", one of my favourite ballets. Those breath-taking extensions, the arch of her foot, the emphasis in her movement, everything reminds me of why I love ballet so much.

Maurice Béjart 1927 - 2007

I was too young for Béjart's Sacre du Printemps, but I remember his 'Bolero' with the charismatic Jorge Donn. I should add that I am grateful for his contribution to modern dance: his Mudra school, established in Brussels, brought forth such choreographic luminaries as Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker., whose work I love and to a certain extent led me to dance (13 years of it). I think that Béjart contributed to making modern (and classic) dance a more accessible art for the general public. The rawer, more physical and even sensual style, as is evident from this clip, appealed to people, who did not always understand the magic of classical dance.
He recently completed his swansong, Tour du Monde en 80 minutes, which his company will be taking on tour.

Another day, another must-have: Claus Porto soaps


No, I'm not one of Oprah's little minions. But I happened to catch the press release regarding her favourite things list (which she gives away every year during some monster show) and my eye happened to fall on the following item.

I am by no means a label junkie; what I am instead is much worse: a packaging junkie. And these soaps are classic when it comes to packaging.

Claus Porto was founded in 1887 by two Germans near Oporto. The soap-makers soon become renowned throughout Europe and the world, for their fine soaps. The factory is still family-owned, and run by the great grandson of Achilles de Brito, who continues with the great soap making traditions that were a matter of honour for the original founders.

Only the best shea butter and the finest fragrances from the south of France are used for these soaps, which include wild pansy, poppy, honeysuckle, grapefruit & fig, etc.

But the packaging, oh the packaging...

Because age is just a number really

Quick background: Eileen is my uncle's neighbour and over the years really has become part of the family. She's our unofficial gran really. And rocking 83 years.

Last week BBC Radio London's Breakfast Show had an item about riding pillion on a motorbike. Eventually Eileen called in, discussed motorbikes, the fact that she'd been riding pillion with her husband since 1945 and her desire to ride one again (since Vic died, she's not been on a bike except her son's but he lives in the US).

Well, one thing led to another, and yesterday Eileen finally got to ride a beautifully buffed bustin' black Harley... I wish I could have been there to see that first-hand.

So here's a little shout-out to Eileen, who is never in a bad mood, who is a wonderful spritely lady and who at 83, believes in experiencing something new every week. I know a lot of people who are lots younger, and who certainly don't have this frame of mind.

To read the story and listen to Eileen, click here.

Inane ramblings of a mothership


Makka Pakka,
Akka Wakka,
Mikka Makka moo!

Makka Pakka,
Appa yakka,
Ikka akka, ooo

Hum dum,
Agga pang,
Ing, ang, ooo

Makka Pakka,
Akka wakka,
Mikka Makka moo!

(for those of you aren't in with the 3-year old in-crowd, point your mouse towards cbeebies, In the Night Garden. The only consolation that I have when being forced to watch this drivel is that my ears are at least cossetted by the dulcet tones of Derek Jacobi, who has kindly taken on the role of narrator).

Christmas wish list

It's that most wonderful time of the year when people start asking you about your wish list for Christmas. I usually have no idea what I want, so this year I'm going to put down every random item that hits my coffee-deprived brain and eventually pare it down to the one thing that I really, really want (ziggazigaaaah!).

- the Mitfords - letters, ed. Charlotte Moseley
- CD Rufus does Judy at Carnegie Hall
- Marcella Hazan cookbook
- a back massage
- Claus Porto soap
- Objekto table lamp
- good health in 2008
- to have another child

to be continued

Le current mood - the washing machine

The clip is self-explanatory, I think. Family surgery no. 2 has gone well. My mother is in slight pain, but will be able to leave the 'ospedale' tomorrow. Meanwhile, I venture onwards down the path to domestic demi-goddishness...

Mogilino - action should be taken NOW!


If you haven't seen Kate Blewett's documentary on the children's 'care' home in Mogilino in Bulgaria, then I simply urge you to please launch a query in google now, or sign any petition pertaining to the subject.
The only question that arises is: WHY? I cannot even begin to express my rage or my tears.


Someone has been kind enough to put this profoundly disturbing documentary online. You can find it under the word documentary. It is higly disturbing and thus not for the sensitive.

Oh she was gorgeous - Aishwarya Rai

OK, I'll confess. I don't really know that much about Aishwarya Rai beyond the fact that she is a L'Oreal model and I've only ever seen two of her movies. That said, I really enjoyed from Amritsar to LA or Bride and Prejudice as it is known over here. Oh wait, there was also the whole Richard Gere kiss incident, which led to warrants for her arrest and public outcries of obscenity all over India. I will refrain from commenting on the latter fact as I'm completely not au fait with India's local customs.

And so off to Wikipedia I went, where I learnt that the lovely Indian actress is younger than myself, is a former Miss World no less, an extremely popular actress in India, who married an even hotter Indian commodity, Abhishek Bachchan. The last phrase in the Wikipedia article was midly intriguing to say the least: "The actress is said to have married a peepal tree at Benaras, a banana tree at a Bangalore temple and a god’s idol in Ayodhya due to astrological reasons".

Her fans and Bollywood aficionados call her Ash.

I just call her hello gorgeous.

Hung up over being hung over - screamin' placemats

As the weekend draws to its close, we are both slowly edging out of the darkness known as a hangover of magnificent proportions. What have we learnt from this adventure? That La Grande Dame champagne, a good but killer Rueda and a bunch of Cosmopolitans will not mesh well together. On the upside, though, we had a great time on Friday evening... with some great friends, so I cannot complain too much. My mother kindly babysat our munchkin, plus smaller monster niece and when they started chortling the next morning and jumping up and down on our bed at 7.30 a.m. (ouch!) kindly stepped in and shooed them downstairs to the kitchen.

Saturday was a veggie day (with us two couch potatoes). Today we actually ventured outside and breathed in whole lungfuls of fresh air, even headed towards the playgarden. Two lattes, a brownie and a muffin later, we felt human again. We also found the kitschiest placemats ever for our kitchen table. Scream, if you will. We did, but with glee.

The moral of this story is: thou shalt not go out like Lindsey Lohan when thou aren't used to it because you will end up buying some pretty loud placemats as a result.

In other news, 35,000 Belgians actually thought it was worth coming out to march in favour of the nation that is known as Belgium. Well done, now can we have a government, pretty please?

In more other news, the first of the series of surgeries in my family (it's surgery season, watch out) took place last Wednesday. My sister will be released from the hospital as my mother enters it (the same hospital, but to treat her Dupuytren syndrome, which is a nasty disease of the hand).

And so another week awaits us. Blah.

Le current mood - It's a beautiful day...


The sun is shining outside, I'm slowly beginning to come to terms with Windows Vista and Office 2007 (and oh, the swear words that have emanated from my mouth in the past days), it's my so's birthday today (yay!), my daughter leapt into her classroom this morning merrily chatting with her little boyfriend, parents smiled at me, I didn't get a parking ticket and when I returned home there was still some hot coffee left.

All is well in the land of Lula de Montes.

Home for the holidays - part 1


Every year the debate starts raging around this time...

Should Sinterklaas (the Low Countries' equivalent of Santa Claus) be allowed three weeks of business unaffected by the whole Christmas hoopla... Do we want to already be confronted with the horror of Jingle Bells and Rudolph the red-nosed Rendeer (too much schnaps probably) by the end of November?

You will note that they introduced the Halloween concept (brilliant marketing if you ask me) to bridge the holiday gap. Just so we can spend some more money on some ridiculous decorations.
Even though the kitsch factor reaches unseen, unparalleled heights every year again. Heck, even I have already invested in some white feathers and am hunting for some transparent Christmas ornaments as I write this.

Having a child means you are obliged to go along with this whole commercial rigmarole. Gone are the days when you used to be happy just to have a tree, let alone some decorations and even one gift under the tree.

So without further ado, here is some eye candy for you to get you in that 'fantasmagorical' Christmas spirit... only in America... *sighing and shaking head in disbelief*

Quick fix - carrots/oranges/sesame seeds with salmon

Easy and tasty fix, especially now that autumn is upon us.

salmon fillets, skin left on (marinade according to taste, my so does a marvellous soy marinade, which leaves me asking for more), fry to your liking

carrots (300g or more)
ginger (5cm, shredded)
1/2 oranges
3 tbsps of cooking oil
3 tbsps of water
sesame seeds
1 tbsp of honey

- scrape the carrots and slice thinly at an angle
- heat up oil in a wok, add ginger, let simmer until the ginger aroma fills the kitchen
- add carrots, cook for 2 minutes with the ginger
- add water, let cook for 5/10 minutes
- slice oranges and add to wok
- add honey
- roast sesame seeds and sprinkle over the carrots and oranges

Such a sunny and colourful meal for those dark autumn days.

The Honourable Rebel aka Decca Mitford Treuhaft


I've been something of a Mitford 'fan' for a good five years now. I can't remember actually when I actually became interested in them. At any rate, they were a fierce bunch., which included the one who tried to do herself in when Britain declared war on Germany, the communist firebrand who launched an inquisition against the racketeering funeral industry, the beauteous Diana whose destiny is forever linked to that of Oswald Mosley, the (Dowager) Duchess (of Devonshire) whose granddaughter is fashion model Stella Tennant, the quiet one who might have been a 'you know what bian' (Decca's words) and the brilliant but tough as nails authoress Nancy Mitford (Lady Redesdale famously once pointed out that Nancy’s letters “usually contain a skillfully hidden dagger pointed straight at one’s heart").

After reading the book about this sisterhood, I landed on a book by Peter Sussman who has been kind enough to edit the youngest Mitford's letters to such luminaries as Maya Angelou, Katherine Graham, numerous Presidents of the US and even Hilary Clinton, as well as to her family members.

With two of England's most notorious anti-Semites as her sisters as well as the highly acerbic Nancy (Love in a cold Climate), it goes without saying that one would have to be quite a wit to survive in such a household. And so Decca Mitford did... starting a 'going away' account very early on in life, developing her own secret language with her sister (Boudledidge), eloping with her cousin Esmond Romilly to war-torn Spain in the 1930s, and taking on a leading role in the civil rights and Communist movement in the US. The character of this larger-than-life red sheep of a family that was related to Winston Churchill shines through in several of her letters.

Needless to say, I'm enjoying all the Mitfordiana, and look forward to discovering the polyphony of all six of the sisters, in their letters edited by Charlotte Mosley.
In the meantime, I leave you this Decca quote, which sums up her personality to a tee:
"You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty."

Belgium on the brink of civil war!

And so we are at 156 days without a government, with the negotiating parties in gridlock. Is Belgium on the verge of a civil war? If so, this is surely what the battlefield would look like. In fact, I think this is what our pols look like at the moment. A bunch of silly potatoes...

Le current mood - le jazz hot


Yes, there's a jazz singer inside of me just waiting to belt out a 30s production number...
I think I'll just go tame that urge with a cup of hot cocoa now, shall I?

Oh, she was gorgeous - Georgia O'Keeffe and others


Sooooo, another week, another beauty for you and me to feast your eyes on.

This week I found myself thinking a lot about beauty, after visiting the exhibition 'British Vision' in Ghent's Museum of Fine Arts and worshipping at the altar of 'Beata Beatrix' by D.G. Rossetti again.

The exhibition focuses on imagination and observation in British art. Somehow my mind drifted back to Ruskin and his idea that art is not a matter of taste, but that it involves the whole person. Likewise, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Who determines what is beautiful? These days beauty seems to be so highly charged and determined by what we see on TV and in the media, that I felt a breath of fresh air was needed.

So today, let's focus on atypical beauty, but still gorgeousness incarnate.

I thought of Georgia O'Keeffe first.

Famously fixed in time in all the freshness of her youth by Stieglitz, I find that her face is all the more stunning as she gets older. The wrinkles, the calmness, her hands: they tell a more interesting tale, of New Mexico, of artistic discovery and exploration and of a fascinating inner life. I love her paintings too.

Then my mind drifted on to another artist: sculptor Louise Bourgeois.

Again, a redefinition of beauty. What's not to like? She's obviously unique, a sense of harmony and balance emanates from this photo and yet her face does not correspond with today's canons of beauty.

And finally, I was reminded of this photo from a photo book by Richard Avedon.

What a difference between 'Dovima and the Elephants' (see Avedon website) and the girl with the freckles from his 'In the American West'. And yet, both are beautiful: Dovima's painted, almost kabuki-like face and the young girl's face painted with freckles.

So you see, the definition of beauty can be extremely wide-ranging... Everyone has their personal opinion of what makes a beautiful woman. In my opinion, beauty equates personality equates those unique qualities that shine through and that render a woman more than beautiful. Simply irresistible.

Surgery central


Far be it from me to bother you with inane details pertaining to my life but sometimes I seem to be able to wrap my mind better around something when I actually write it out.

For some time now, my beloved so has been acting like a fire-spewing creature straight out of the dragon's den. No, menopause has not hit with a vengeance yet, thankfully. Unfortunately she too has had to hop on to the surgery bandwagon and will have to undergo some pretty invasive muck-raking surgery in the spring, followed by 8 weeks or more of recovery.

I am trying to ignore the ramifications of this decision. However, at the end of the day I find myself being terrified by the fact that somebody who is basically a paragon of health (well, sorta) will be knocked out for such a long time. I don't like illness, I hate hospitals and I despise medical practitioners for their lack of communication skills. So, here is our bump on the road: I am terrified of the idea that she is putting her life into someone else's hands (the dreadest anaesthesia), horrified at the idea that they might find something else while they're in there, and I think of the recovery period as filled with gloom, doom and a lot of pain. I suppose that by now, you might have gleaned that I'm the half-empty glass type of personality.

So this is my current mood:

And for those who like men in drag, and a more contemporary voice singing the same lyrics:

Simply must-have no. 4 - Jensen/Jacobsen cutlery

To some of you, I must sound like some relentless coveting design junkie. The contrary is true. I simply try to find the best combination of form and function, so that my life becomes more comfortable.

This brings me to my next project: finding a set of decent cutlery. My plight became all the more obvious this week as I will be hosting the whole family on Sunday for my gran's birthday. Not only did I not have sufficient cutlery to go around (well, we have 18 people coming over) but some of it looked rather shabby (gasp!). Having searched high and low, I finally caved in and bought one of those easy Ikea sets (thus adding another different set to our current mish-mash of silver and stainless steel).

I do however passionately long, nay crave the beautiful Arne Jacobsen-designed cutlery by Georg Jensen. There is of course the slight drawback that every item costs approx. 25-65 USD (thus if one needed a full set for say, 12 diners, one would be spending the equivalent of the annual budget of a large African village, while being able to buy them a whole herd of cattle too).

But look at the sheer splendour of it. Matte stainless steel, a fork that still looks contemporary even after almost 50 years. And although the Philistines at the hotel for which Jacobsen originally developed the cutlery stopped using the cutlery shortly after its introduction (diner to waiter: young man, now bring me a 'real' fork instead of this toothpick!), it is still being lovingly manufactured today.

Of course, I could splurge on the salad set or the futuristic pie server, but this would mean that we would have to relinquish Nigella's salad hands, which we cherish so lovingly because of their cuteness.

Thus, this is a must-have, but which can only be justified by the purchase of a winning lottery ticket. Alas, no such luck, I think.

150 days and counting - the end of Belgium as you know it?


OK, I'll level with you all. I've sort of been steering clear of the subject of Belgium and the current political crisis.

For those of you who are blissfully unaware of what is going on, let me start by saying that our elections were exactly 150 days ago. To this day, the pols are still in talks to put together a coalition that will work.

So quick recap while respecting the KISS principle: Belgium straddles the boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe. This is not an easy combo, with the Flemish (who speak Dutch) and the Walloons (who speak French) and some Germans (thrown in for good measure to spice up the cocktail) all attempting to co-habit peacefully. Since 1830 they have all managed to do so more or less successfully, with the odd tiff here and there (I won't go in to the fact that for the first 100 years of Belgium's existence the Flemish were treated as second-rate citizens and that many Flemish were in cahoots with the Germans during WWII).

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the state was regionalized, which led to a federation with federal, regional and community governments. A perfect example of what Belgium is actually famous for: the compromise (and beer, and French fries, the saxophone, Magritte, etc. but that again is another matter).

Having read the above, you will undoubtedly have guessed the consequences of this interesting cocktail. Some five months ago we all did our duty and drifted off to the polling stations one Sunday morning to vote. The elections resulted in a victory for the Christian-Democrats and the Liberals, and a rather devastating defeat for the Socialist Party. (I'm leaving out the Nationalists, because they disgust me anyway). However, it being Belgium, we have Dutch-speaking CD's and Libs, and French-speaking CD's and Libs. And unfortunately they are not seeing eye to eye when it comes to the federation as it stands.

There are mainly two issues:
- the fate of Francophone voters, who live just outside of Brussels, in areas that are in Flemish territory but that have a significant French-speaking population, and who are allowed to vote for French-speaking politicians during their election. It would seem that this little set-up is illegal and thus the Flemish want to abolish it, which they did today (triggering a walk-out by the French MPs after the vote in the parliamentary committee)
- the Flemish want more powers for the regions, in part to do away with the flow of Flemish tax revenue to the poorer Walloon region.

So this whole charade drags on. Those living in Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde and the Brussels-Capital region might disagree with me when I say, oh, for f***'s sake, just get over it? But in view of the rising petrol prices, the cost of living, and a cabinet that cannot take any major decisions, as well as a country that is basically teetering on the edge of a giant abyss, I can only shake my head in disbelief. Belgium, and in this I have to agree with Belgian blogger Gerrit Six, the man who tried to sell Belgium on e-Bay, has so much to offer. I love this country, I love its people (well, most of them), its customs, its food, its beers, its architecture, its art and its museums, its cathedrals, its polders, the Atomium (!), and so much more...

So what do you think, boys and girls (I'm talking to you, Joëlle), can we just get on with it now?

* a word of thanks goes out to Raf Casert of AP, who lives in the affected region, and who also managed to explain it in a KISS way.

Oh she was gorgeous!*: Marcia Cross


OK, given the ravage on Cape Cod, Massachusetts this weekend, I thought I might do something good for the Bay State ;-) (Go Sox! and I hope power's up and running again, Mom-in-law, and that your move went well).

Today we give a shoutout to that phenomenal redhead, Marcia Cross, who is from Marlborough, MA . Most avid TV viewers will probably be familiar with her character Bree van de Kamp from Desperate Housewives (not her alter ego, I might stress, but rather a Martha Stewart on steroids). Those who are a little older, like myself, will probably remember the scene from Melrose Place in which Kimberly Shaw rips off that wig.

Then of course, there was the juicy gossip/rumour about presumed lesbianism, which started on Datalounge and took the world by storm.

Anyhow, I'm happy to report that the divine Ms Cross is since married to some stockbroker type and the mother of twin girls, Savannah and Eden.

And may I take this opportunity to express my hope that many more episodes of Desperate Housewives will follow... In the meantime, I will feast my eyes on that pumpkin mane and those wonderful curves for a while longer.

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