Bring it on!


It's almost 4, the munchkin's already ringing in the New Year with our neighbour's kids, and the house looks like it has imploded.

I am relaxing over a cup of tea, in the knowledge that I have to do all of the following: iron tablecloths, do table decs, iron napkins, make sure stemware is impeccable, get out the new cutlery, put ham in wine and spices to steep for a few hours, find the steamer for the sprouts and the asparagus, decide what kind of potatoes I will make, think of prepping the canapés, fry the nuts (realising that I forgot the garam masala), make parma ham bundles, have more tea, pour first cointreaupolitan, iron party dress, dress table, ... and the list goes on...

Entertaining is tough work. But when the company is good, it's more than worth it.

Tonight, we will be ringing in the New Year with old friends. Tomorrow, the family get-together, a belated Christmas.

The past year has been an interesting one, with health challenges for my significant other and the munchkin. It would seem that 2009 will be mine with a CT scan lined up on Jan. 12th. Business was brisk, and continues to be brisk (into January). Hopefully this trend will continue in the year of the downturn and credit crunch. Maybe 2009 will bring us a sibling for the munchkin. Who can tell? It has also been a year of cementing old friendships and forging new ones, as family relationships changed.

I feel ready for 2009, although I do regard it with some anxiety.

Bring it on.

I am a Christmas tree


full of baubles and fairy lights, gleaming with happiness among happy souls...

No seriously - I actually did enjoy Christmas this year. Below are some photographic impressions.

The 17 pound Guggenheim (Bilbao in the oven) turkey, in the process of receiving a basting by my aunt. Was enjoyed with (non-semolina) roast potatoes (the debate raged for two days but finally the scales tipped in favour of simply goose fat), Brussels sprouts (yes, I was allowed near the stove), peas, maple parsnips (more Nigella) and what SO and I call "snarflers". Let's face it, there is no other name for chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon. Right?

I forgot to mention that we also had bread sauce (see cousin holding dish) and home-made Cranberry sauce, which I made the night before going over. That's because I always end up leaving things too late. The fact that I was sozzled on two Cointreaupolitans did boost the cooking process. The sauce was excellent, as several family members will attest. The jar was half-empty one day after opening.

This is a family that believes in its drinks as you can see from the table. The traditional lighting of the Christmas pud. Uncle in charge, as he was the only one we trusted with matches at that point.

Later that evening, we had an excellent game of Balderdash (which I won, surprisingly, thanks to such interesting facts as the Ealing studios, Doris Day, and a sheep's fungal disease. They all fell for it, suckahs!).

I did go into Carrie Bradshaw mode this year. Managed to walk on these 3-inch heels for three days. The skirt is my Christmas skirt, not to be confused with the infamous turkey pants from the series Friends. It is black silk embroidered with striking red flowers, and I usually wear a red bead necklace with it. So you see, I am indeed a Christmas tree.

The next day we needed a breath of fresh air and some exercise.

We also met this little chap, who begged and danced for nuts.

It struck me that Christmas was over, the day after we came back, as the organ grinder, who visits our neighbourhood once-yearly before the New Year, passed through. Thus, it would seem we ended this year on a positive note.

ETA: there is a photo of me wearing an apron that reads "Her Ladyship". I thought that I'd kindly spare you the sight of that. Too much keeping up appearances...

Hot chocolate lobster?


So where do I start? I'm doggone tired, people! This is the shortest week of the year, as I rush to try to finalize everything before next week's season of excess sets in. At some point, I will have to find the time to make some chilli jam or cranberry sauce (courtesy of Nigella, of course) before we leave next Tuesday.

On Friday, I will be the glühwein dispenser extraordinaire at the school fete (never mind that I hate the stuff with a vengeance, preferring mulled cider instead). On a good note, the team also decided to serve hot chocolate. But who cares about the second-hand liquid that they are trying to pass off as hot and chocolatey when you can go to Quetzal Chocolate Bar in Antwerp instead?

After being subjected to Fresco's odes to their chocolate concoctions, I was actually on the verge of hopping into Greta (my car) and driving to Ghent last week. So imagine my glee, when dear Fres brightened up my prospects considerably last night and told me that the kind Quetzal people opened one in Antwerp?

So early this evening, I scooped up the munchkin, blackmailing her with a ride on the merry-go-round and we headed straight over to the Cathedral, to chocolate Cornucopia.
It was bliss, dear readers. Really. Worth every euro cent.

71% dark chocolate (or milk, or white as your basic ingredient), with various interpretations, including cinnamon, marshmallows and chilli. Needless to say I have a customer fidelity card now.

And then, after a brief visit to the dentist (thankfully no cavities), I came home to this:

Living with a New Englander does truly have its advantages. They tend to buy fresh lobsters, which they hide in the fridge and then cook them, with hot butter sauce and serve them with delicious potato salad and prosecco as a surprise.

All in all, a very delectable day and I didn't have to do a thing. Such a sloth I am. But I'm sure I'm worth it.

Beethoven Symphony No. 3 Eroica -- Philippe Herreweghe


On Saturday we attended a concert by the Royal Flemish Philharmonic conducted by Philippe Herreweghe.

Growing up with a Beethoven fanatic, I was immensely looking forward to their rendition of the 'Eroica'. It was a refreshing experience, as you will see/read/hear below.

This is the version I grew up with: Herbert Von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. Go to 5:45 approx. to listen to the Scherzo.

In contrast, I would like to share this version, conductor Paavo Jarvi, Deutsche KammerPhilhamonie Bremen, which resembles more closely what I heard on Saturday.

The difference between both interpretations is vast. The loaded Beethoven sound of von Karajan in contrast with the bushy-tailed energy of Jarvi's interpretation.

I would venture that Herreweghe's version (of which I could not find any info on the Internet) manages to combine the best of both: elegant, majestic, but light and genius. There is more differentiation in Herreweghe's Eroica, I feel.

An interesting, bright-eyed walk down memory lane for me.

A wall of glass

It had been some time since we indulged in a spot of DIY and what better way to torture yourself on a sunny Sunday afternoon with no child around than by finally deciding to mount some doors on your wardrobe.

Two years ago, when we acquired our behemoth of a wardrobe, we decided against the doors, because they did not meet our stringent design requirements. We half-heartedly searched for other solutions; I even volunteered to do something with Japanese paper; we thought of Venetian blinds. At the end of the day, however, we were unable to arrive at an agreement, which satisfied both parties. And so the whole world had a full view of most of our clothes, but not our undergarments mercifully, while we lived under a truce.

This week, though, the moon and the stars and a few planets collided and the forces of nature ordained that a decision could be made. So we plopped down the requisite sum to recreate our own little Versailles.

Thus it passed that the beloved and I spent 4 hours, with screwdrivers in hand, trying to assemble five doors. Does this mean that we are inept at what we were doing? I hear you all cry, women and DIY, never the twain shall meet. As one of *those* women, I am inclined to second that opinion. But the answer is no, not at all. Unfortunately though, our work required re-arranging the behemoth's innards to accommodate the hinges of our five 8ft tall mirrors.

So how does it feel to have a little Gallerie des Glaces in one's home? After the first door, the extent of the return on our investment dawned on us. The room looks positively enormous now (the high ceilings obviously help). On a more interesting note, I finally got a good look at myself in broad daylight. I think it's safe to say that if I ever need to be dissuaded from putting another forkful of apple crumble with double Cornish cream to my lips, all I need to do is walk up two flights of stairs, and stand in front of the mirror.

Ah, the power of the reality check. I wish I didn't have so many Marsala Brussels sprouts for dinner now.

The tartiest tree in town


As previously reported on FB, the munchkin has hijacked Christmas, clamouring for a pink theme (yeah!) and choosing the tree.

Needless to say, as the gullible fools that we are, we picked the tree at 5.30 p.m. on Tuesday (it was extremely dark so we just blindly assumed that when she said "That one!", all would be well. Parents should know better). Imagine my jaw dropping on Wednesday morning when the florist showed up with what is now affectively known as the hulk around these parts.
For that it was, dear readers, and although Mr Nordmann smells of delicious green pine, he also needed a good trim, before he was able to fill his corner and not my living room in his own Titanic way.

So we primped, and pushed and tarted him up. And it's safe to say that this tree should be christened Dafydd, because he is definitely the gayest tree in the city, as evidenced below.

In keeping with a request for a pink tree, he has been decked out with pink and white plumage, angel lights, stars and an assortment of weird and wonderful ornaments, which we have amassed over the years, including Hawaii Santa and a cranberry scoop.

The advent crown, which will grace our front door, was crafted using pink pepper. I left the foil on to prevent our bulimic cat from launching an ill-advised attack on it.

And there you have it. 14 days to go. So bring on Christmas, I say, because this household is about as ready as it'll ever be.

The quality of the photos is not great, but the resident flash artist is out having some up close and personal time with Gordon Brown, President Sarkozy and a bunch of cocky Irish protesters.

I, on the other hand, am about to go gorge myself on some cannoli. And you?

iPhone post



Today the munchkin and I were out and about (Wednesday half-day).

She made me burst with pride when she looked at the cathedral spire and said: it's so beautiful, mummy. I have loved that damn spire since I was a kid myself, and always remember looking for it on the Antwerp skyline.

And then she stopped and said: I hear music. The Christmas merry-go-round is back in place for the next four weeks, so we promptly bought tickets and for the first time in her short life, she did not complain that the music was scary and sat on one of the horses. And I, I was proud to sit next to her.

This is the golden age, I am sure.

The why phase


The munchkin's hit the why phase; she's a bit slow on the uptake (only two questions in one week), but the ones she does ask are deep.

Tonight's serving: mummy, why do we eat?

I have to admit I was somewhat stumped for an answer. Funnily enough, my first answer was not, because we love to, but rather, because we need fuel, much like a car. So we can jump, dance, learn, you name it.




Hence no posts. I think I need a break. Can't even begin to think about food, given that I can't swallow it either. Hope to be back soon.

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