Saturday, December 29, 2007

The gourmet cats

Pi and Finnigan are rapidly adjusting to European cuisine. They have switched from Friskies and Purina to Whiskas cat food (Mars makes both Whiskas cat food and Pedigree dog food, so I can buy them both at a discount). More importantly, they have discovered a multitude of new flavours! Both Pi and Finnigan love the rabbit cat food, and Pi also likes the sardines and the duck. Finnigan enjoys lamb. Neither of them are crazy about mussels yet, but since it is a staple of Belgian cuisine, we're sure that they'll warm up to it soon.

O Christmas Tree

This year, we didn't have a Christmas tree for several reasons - our lack of a Christmas tree stand and ornaments and our inability to effectively transport a large tree without a car amoung them (but not, it should be noted, due to any feelings of moral obligation to try to end the yearly slaughter of young pine trees -- we fully support the slaugter of both plants and animals for our consumption, comfort, and for decorative purposes).

Instead of a tree, this year our one decoration was a "creche animee". It's a little wooden ornament with candles near the base of it. The heat from the lit candles causes hot air to rise from them, and this hot air propels the fan blades at the top of the ornament. The little people who rotate around the stem are various wise men and shepherds and some angels with trumpets, and a man and woman with a little baby. According to the note that came with our creche, these ornaments were originally made in Germany and Bohemia in the 17th century, in the deep depths of the forests where there were also quite a copper mining industry. During the long winter nights, the miners and their families would keep themselves entertained by making little wooden figures and toys, and this is where the creches originated.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Felice Navidad

Here is my favorite version of Felice Navidad. Danielle on vocals and Lauren on guitar and vocals. I hope ever one out there enjoys it and has a safe and very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Feed the World this Christmas

Everyone should go now to, where you can play a fun game to test your vocabulary and donate rice to the World Food Program, which distributes rice worldwide to people in need. It is completely free to play, you don't have to enter any information about yourself whatsoever, you can play the game for as long as you want to and you can end any time. Every time you correctly identify the meaning of a word, 20 grains of rice are donated to the World Food Program, and that's really all there is to it. According to the FAQ on the FreeRice website, the money for the rice is raised from the advertising banner that you see on the bottom of the screen as you play the game. When more people visit the site and stay to play the game, more money comes in from the advertising.

As a bonus, the site keeps track of your vocabulary level and gives you words based on the level that you're at. Your vocabulary level can go up to 50. So far, my high score is 40. It's really, really worth checking out this site.

What I'm Reading...

I actually finished this book quite a while ago, but without internet at home I wasn't able to blog about it. My latest read was Martin Amis' House of Meetings, a book about two brothers who are in love with the same woman and who end up spending time together in a Russian gulag.

This book got great reviews and it is well deserving of them. This is the first novel that I've read by Amis, but it probably won't be the last. The writing is great at capturing the sense of loss and despair that the brothers feel while spending the best years of their lives in captivity.

I'm already halfway through my next book, which is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I decided to pick it up after numerous reviews described it as "simply brilliant". So far, I agree with that assessment and I'm really anxious to finish it to see how everything ends up.

Last Book: The heartbreakingly sad novel by Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones.

Up Next: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

Let there be Light!

We're finally back to the land of the living! Today's visitor was more exciting than Santa Claus will ever be -- the telenet cable guy was here to install our cable tv, internet and phone. We have wireless internet now, so we're able to communicate again, and to Michael's delight we are hooked up with the cable channel NASN - the North American Sports Network. On tv right now is hockey night in Canada (the Leafs vs. Florida just ended, and we're now watching Vancouver vs. Phoenix). Later on tonight, a few of the NFL games are going to be on - Michael is worried that he doesn't have enough beer to last him the whole night. :)

In addition to the sports channels, we have the national geographic channel, 3 discovery channels, the History channel, BBC World, Al Jazeera English, MSNBC, BBC 1 and 2 and a bunch of movie channels. So we are very happy with our English-language line-up, and Michael will continue to watch his daily shows in Dutch to help him improve his skills in that language.

We'll be posting more now that we have our link to the outside world back, so come back often!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Cats are now in Belgium

We are pleased to announce the arrival of our cats, Pi and Finnigan. They started their quest to be reunited with us on Thursday around 7am when my parents brought them to the cargo area. Where they boarded a flight to Newark from Raleigh. The Flight was delayed almost 1 hr. but arrived in Newark with almost 6 hrs until they were scheduled to depart for Brussels. There they waited at the kennel for the flight, which was delayed due to Cargo. Hmmm, wonder who that could have been?

(Pi Behind a Curtain)

Pi and Finnigan touched down in Brussels around 8 am our time (GMT +1) Friday. Jane and I had rented a car and where at the cargo area of the airport by 8 am. This being Europe we had to do some paper work. It seems the Vet was busy and then he had to go on lunch. In the mean time we had to run all over the airport and get this paper stamped and pay this fee. Then wait in this line to get yet another stamp. When everything was said and done we left with the cats around 2 pm!

(Finnigan on a Sweater)