Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cruising through Sterrebeek

It was an exciting day! After months of speculation, today I got to attend a meeting at work to discuss our brand new company car policy! Most companies in Belgium offer company cars to their employees because it turns out to be a win-win situation for both employer and employee, but until just this week my company was in the minority of those not offering cars.

The cars are not free (if I choose to subscribe to the policy, a set amount will be taken from my salary every month), and there are a total of 10 models of car to choose from in 4 different price categories. But it turns out to be a very good deal. The policy includes insurance, maintenance of the car, winter tires, and best of all, a gas card! At the top of the list for me right now is the Peugeot 407 SW seen in the image here - doesn't it look like a nice, reliable family car? (airbags, check. isofix car seat attachments, check. ESP braking, don't know what it is, but check.) Other models in the running are the VW Polo & Golf, the Mini Cooper and the Audi A4.

In any case, it will be a brand-new car, a huge step up from my first car, Speedy, who was a great little 1991 Honda Civic. Once I make the decision, it will be a 4-year lease, so it's important to choose carefully. So exciting!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tut, Tut, A Visit to London

Last week Michael and I spent 3 days in London. The original purpose of our trip was to go and see Michael Jackson live in concert. Unfortunately, that didn't work out - ensuring that the best story that the baby would ever have in his life (that he saw MJ while in the womb), was destroyed before he was even born. But since we had the hotel and train reservations already, we decided to take the trip and hit up some of the London theater instead.

(As an aside, due to the cancellation of the MJ concert, we were given the option of either getting a full refund on the tickets or we could receive the original tickets in the mail. I think we should have received both.)

The first stop on our theater tour was Wicked. Michael found it a little bit scary, since there were fire-breathing dragons, flying monkeys and wicked witches in it. I loved the costumes and the sets, and the girls in the main roles were wonderful. I only wish that the music had been better - the songs all sounded the same. But the show is a really great production with some great special effects and a great story.

Our second night out was spent at Avenue Q. Michael enjoyed this one because he likes to tell people the story of how the original creators of Sesame Street all did a lot of drugs and only decided that the show should be for kids as an afterthought. I was grateful that there weren't any jokes about bodily functions. In fact, I thought it was really funny and entertaining.

Both of these shows were doing something that I have never experienced before - charging for programs! Not only for the fancy full-colour keepsake programs, but also for the regular programs full of advertising that usually get handed out on the way into the theater. Is this happening everywhere now? It made me sad, because I like to read the bios of all the actors and writers, and I feel like I'm not giving them proper credit if I don't even look at their names, but to have to pay $3 for even the basic program is way too much! They must not be making enough money off tickets. It's a sad, sad world.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Canadian Treat

Seeing as how the British tend to love their pies and tarts, I always assumed that Butter Tarts, one of my favorite treats, were a delicacy that originated in England. Their scarcity in the States had me convinced that they weren't American (although a cousin of the butter tart, pecan pie, is my favorite "southern" dessert).

So you can imagine my disappointment when after entering multiple pastry shops in London this week, there was not a single butter tart to be found! It turns out that these heavenly tarts are a uniquely Canadian food. The good news about this, is that now when I get into conversations with my friends about foods that are unique to our particular countries, I don't have to say "poutine, and that's pretty much it" any more. Now I can say "poutine and BUTTER TARTS!"

The other bit of good news to come out of this story is that although my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook is conspicuously missing a butter tarts recipe, there is a recipe in The Best of The Best of Bridge cookbook that my mom gave me. Now all I need is a pound of brown sugar...

For the Record

After my last post, Michael asked me if I could clarify to the internet that although he has occasional bouts of craziness, it is mostly attributable to the fact that he has been working so hard to make sure that I am 100% happy at all times.

He really has been wonderful, and I tell him all the time how much I love and appreciate him, which is why I can get away with teasing him. But here for the record on the internet is a sample of some of the nice things that he's been doing that give him full license to act a bit crazy from time to time:
  1. These days when I start to get hungry, I generally have about 15 minutes between "I'm starting to feel hungry" and total meltdown. So last week Michael baked some chocolate chip cookies from scratch, and then carried them all over London along with some special K bars and a variety of fruit juices so that we could have instant snack breaks no matter where we were.
  2. For the times when we are at home, Michael has been keeping a constant supply of fresh fruit, cheese and crackers, mixed nuts, ice cream and lots of juice in the house.
  3. I've been getting back rubs every night.
  4. Michael has very patiently watched every pregnancy-related movie and tv show that I decide we must watch for the sake of the baby. Although I think he is starting to regret that he showed me how to use bit-torrent.
He knows how much I love him for all these things, and now so does the internet! So when I tease him for his strange ideas (the latest one is that he's decided to blur out the baby's face in any baby photos posted on the web until he/she officially reaches the age where he/she can consent to having his/her image online... and don't even get me started on his idea to decorate the nursery in a Vampire theme), it's because he really is genuinely funny, and someone needs to share his stories with the world.

Friday, July 24, 2009

In the line of fire

With all the pregnancy hormones at work in the house over the past few weeks, there has been a fair share of irrational behaviour going on. But who is responsible for the most atrocious acts of irrationality? Here are some of the most recent incidents:

Family Member #1:

  • Hitting someone in the metro with an umbrella because they stopped to talk to someone at the bottom of the escalator.
  • Throwing a tantrum in Marks & Spencer because they have the heat on in the middle of summer.
  • Smashing chocolate chip cookies into a glass with milk and eating it with a spoon.

Family Member #2:

  • Having a fit because the lever that turns the shower on in the bathroom is corroded and hard to pull up.
  • Insisting that we walk up and down the street across from Harrod's one more time because according to Google there is a bagel shop there.
  • Shouting angrily at the family member who was almost permanently stuck inside the metro due to a lack of money on their travel card to "Just sneak out behind the next person to go through the turnstile, already!!"

But which acts can be attributed to Jane, and which ones are all Michael? Remember, one of us has the excuse of having to deal with pregnancy hormones, while the other one only has the excuse of having to deal with a hormonal wife! :)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

16 Weeks

Here I am at 16 weeks, trying to look pregnant! I still feel like I'm in an "in-between" stage, where I'm starting to look a little bit rounder, but not yet obviously pregnant.

I haven't had to adjust my wardrobe yet, but I did stop by a maternity store the other day, lured in by the 70% off signs in the window - but of course they are just getting rid of their summer stock, which reminded me that anything that I buy to fit the new me will have to be autumn/winter clothing, and the thought of shopping for a winter wardrobe right now is just too much to handle.

I tried to take a picture of myself a few weeks ago by balancing the camera on a stack of books, hitting the timer and then running into position, but they all came out badly. I'm much happier with this self-portrait method, especially since it gives me an excuse to hide my face, which always seems to ruin the picture (I'm still working on the "blissful joy of impending motherhood" look, it's not easy to master).

This photo was partly brought on by the fact that the other day Michael came across a really neat piece of videography by another expecting couple, and it has me slightly worried that I'm not doing enough to document the whole pregnancy experience. I haven't even written a letter to the unborn baby yet! My excuse is that I'm not artistic enough... instead of taking daily pictures, I've been researching the processes through which amniotic fluid is replenished in the womb, which when it comes right down to it is probably more valuable in the long run.

A special shout-out goes to the Red Pine Camp sweats I'm wearing in this picture - celebrating their 15th year in my wardrobe this summer! w00t!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Even the outfits are boring...

If this doesn't exemplify the cultural differences between Europe and North America, I don't know what does. Last week's Michael Jackson memorial was broadcast by only one network - CNN International. On the other hand, there is no mistaking the fact that the Tour de France is on in full swing. Every single day, the tour is broadcast on at least 8 different networks for a total of about 6 hours a day. Each network gets the exact same video feed from the tour organizers, so the only difference is the commentary, which you can watch in any of the following languages:
  • French (from France)
  • French (from Belgium)
  • Dutch (from Netherlands)
  • Flemish (from Belgium)
  • German (from Belgium)
  • English (from the UK)
Additionally, there are at least 3 options to watch in HD, if you aren't satisfied with the regular coverage. For some reason, Michael loves to watch the race, and insists on watching it every single day despite the fact that interesting events like crashes or breakaways are few and far between and are usually showcased in the primetime highlight shows. I've just downloaded The Business of Being Born, and I can't watch it until today's stage is done... lucky for him, Michael went and got me McDonalds for lunch, so I'm in a particularly patient mood.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Our Family is Growing!

After a long period of silence on the blog, it's only appropriate to resurrect it with some big news: Michael and I will become Dad and Mom on or about January 4th, 2010!

Here is the first picture of the baby with some key features identified (click to enlarge):

The picture in the upper left shows a nice profile of the face, and in the lower left picture the face is being partially obscured by a little arm.

I'm now 15 weeks into the pregnancy (25 more to go...) and am really happy to finally be in the second trimester. The first three months passed in a bit of a haze that seemed to last forever - I was feeling sick almost every day, no appetite, and so tired that simple activities such as taking a shower left me so exhausted that I needed a nap. Lately though, I've been getting my energy back (thanks, placenta!) and it feels great to be able to do a little exercise and play mario kart without feeling dizzy.

We're well into the baby names discusssion (currently on the table if it's a boy are Luca, Oscar, and Andreas and if it's a girl Hazel, Raphaella, and Zoe - but these are subject to almost daily change), and the pregnancy is starting to feel "real" enough that we've also started browsing the catalogues of the local baby stores - a truly intimidating experience (there are more models of strollers than cars!).

So now that I have something to talk about, I'll try to do more blogging. Up-and-coming topics to include: the joy of heartburn, the joy of elastic waistbands and of course, the joy of hotdogs.