Two Musical Weekends

Busy days busy days! Work is mental, the summer is starting so suddenly there are a-thousand-and-one things to do after work, and I’m still trying to go to the gym as often as possible. And I must say, it’s been a good last few weeks.

I’ve been wanting to try some new things, mostly, I’ve been wanting to get back in to culture stuff. Music, theatre, opera, and all that jazz. But Leuven isn’t really the perfect spot to do so.

For Jazz, there is a free concert every Sunday evening in the Stuk Cafe. At 9pm. I’m sorry, but Sunday evening at 9, I’m sat on  the couch in my jammies. There are two cafes that do the occasional concert. The Bebop (which is a really fun place to have a drink and play boardgames with friends too, since it’s generally nice and quiet) and the Blauwe Kater. In both, I’ve never been to a gig. Generally because it just didn’t fit into the calendar, or within our budget. The Stuk cultural centre also organises a fair bit of live music, but I never know any of the bands on and it’s kinda hard to decide to go see something if you have no idea if you’re gonna like it.

For theatre, I gave up on Leuven a long time ago. I spent two years studying theatre in Antwerp when I was still in  secondary school, and the theatre companies there, like Olympique Dramatique, are absolutely amazing. In Brussels, the KVS gives you theatre of the highest quality. The plays give you food to think, and whether they are repertoire or newly written, they are staged marvelously. In Leuven, we don’t get the big companies. Same for opera, because we simply don’t have an opera house. And also, that stuff is pricey!

So when there’s an amateur music company in town that offers cheap tickets for their yearly concert, I happily oblige. First, we went to the university alumni orchestra‘s yearly event. They played three pieces: the opening of Verdi’s Nabucco, then The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang, to finish with the 8th symphony of Dvořák. All very different kind of music, especially the Chinese middle part, but absolutely glorious to listen to. Here and there you could hear it was an amateur orchestra, mostly since some of the copper instruments (I apologise for my lack of decent music terminology, I have always enjoyed music stuff in Belgium so I don’t know the words for all the instruments and such) weren’t on top of it. But I tried not to focus on that and just enjoyed the music. It worked. I didn’t realise how much I miss a good classical concert until I experienced this one. Ah, what a lovely way to spend a Saturday evening.

Last weekend then, we went to a choir thingy. Again, an amateur company. If I would’ve googled the thing properly, I don’t think we would’ve gone. It turned out to be a church choir. But the tickets were cheap and the first half of the concert was great, so a fun evening nevertheless. The choir teamed up with a jazz big band to play Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert, a collection of jazzy church songs. Unfortunately, the acoustics of the place were a mess, and since we were sat at the side, it just didn’t sound as you would want it. Also, I didn’t particularly like the sound of the choir, and the boyfriend (being an established atheist) wasn’t too fond of all the Praise Gods. But the first half of the concert was just the big band, and that was good fun. Very cheerful. I do wish I could’ve had a little dance 😉

I hope that’s not it for our cultural events of the year. It was truly wonderful to try some new things. So far, we have two more events lined up for summer. At the end of the month we are going to watch Nina Conti perform in Brussels. She is a British comedian / ventriloquist. When the boyfriend told me about her, I have to say I wasn’t particularly fond of the idea, it sounded a bit childish / boring. But after watching a few youtube clips, I couldn’t wait to book our tickets. We’ll be sitting on the third row, I do hope she doesn’t pick us out of the audience! And not to forget, probably my favourite event of the year (nerd alert): we’re going to the Harry Potter exhibition in Brussels this summer 😀

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Our First Summer Night Out!

What to do on a Friday night when summer has finally started… Well, head out of course! We slid into some nice clothes (my first dress-with-bare-legs of the year) and decided to walk into town to try a few new places. I was in a wine mood, so we had a quick google before we went out. In Leuven, it’s always dead easy to go either for a bite, or for a beer. But just a glass of wine (and not just the house wine) can be a challenge. With our newly googled options, we were ready for the night.

Our first stop was my favourite of the night. We went to Savoye, at the side of the museum. It’s a small street connecting two bigger streets in the walking zone of Leuven, I don’t come there very often. But it was so worth it. It was very peaceful considering that the whole region was probably out for drinks in Leuven with this gorgeous weather (the Belgian’s favourite hobby on summer evenings is “een terrasje doen” or “doing a little terrace / beer garden”). And they had an amazing wine list, all wines you could order by the glass. The prices were reasonable, although I do feel that when you order wine by the glass, usually you get your glass filled quite well. Now, our glass was merely filled according to etiquette as when you have a bottle, to its widest part. But still, a lovely place to sit down for a drink. (They do food as well, I saw some of it pass by, and I definitely want to go back to try.)

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(Photo from wine-searcher.com)

I went for a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, I usually do, so of course it didn’t dissappoint. The boyfriend felt adventurous and tried an Italian moscato. He allowed me a little sip, and I have to say, not bad! As moscatos go, it was very sweet, but I think it would make a lovely desert wine. Halfway our wine, we got some company from friends who happened to be in town. He went for a Belgian (!) pinot gris, very high in minerals, but quite nice for a hot night. She went for a South-African Chenin Blanc. Not really my favourite grape, I now know.

You see, I’m not a wine specialist. But my parents have raised me with a lot of love for food and drink, and I have always asked them a lot of questions about wine, so I know what to buy for which kind of food and more importantly, which ones I like. And by now, I have to admit, I would not mind becoming a wine snob 😉

Our second stop was a bit of a failure. I went to the Schrijnmakerstraat because google told me there was a nice wine bar to be found there, but instead we found the Paris inspired bistro / bar Les Paresiennes. As cool as the interior may be inside, outside it’s quite average. But worse: the drinks were way overpriced. We went for cocktails, nine euros each. Last time I went for cocktails in Leuven (I do have to admit, it’s been a while) they used to go for six euros each. So seeing the price, I was expecting something impressive. Instead, I got a sad little cosmopolitan with the smallest piece of lime. The boyfriend went for a Pimms and Ginger Ale, supposedly served with fruit but really just a wine glass with a piece of cucumber, lemon, and some old mint. Our company’s cocktails as well were unimpressive and not very high in alcohol. Mine tasted like cranberry and lime juice really.

Off to the next stop! I mentioned I had never been in De Blauwe Kater before (one of the only Jazz cafes in town, but they don’t always have live music) so our company decided to take me there. We swapped from the fancy drinks to our usual beer, and us girls ended with a Newton Apple Beer. It’s a light white beer that tastes so deliciously like apple! A very refreshing drink. The guys went for a Tripel Karmeliet and a Kwak, what a way to end the evening! As for the venue, I can imagine it is really cool when there is music on, but apart from that it’s not too special. The beer garden is located in between a lot of other buildings, so it had the advantage that it was a lot quieter than the rest of town, and it was quite cosy with a few colourful lights here and there, but not the nicest summer place to hang out. Nevertheless, a good way to end the evening!

A Feast of a Day

Well today was a blast! Not anything special, just exactly how I like my days. To start: today was a bank holiday in Belgium. Ascension day. Thank you, good man Jesus!

Naturally, I slept in. I woke up before my alarm went off because the boyfriend cuddled me awake. I’m not complaining. After breakfast in bed, a friend came to pick me up to finish our DIY project. I’m not sure if I told you about this already, but we wanted to try some pimping of furniture. She was painting a cupboard in some fun patterns, I decided to sand down an old chair. As everyone, literally everyone had warned me, it was an impossible job. Even though we had a little machine to assist, I didn’t manage to get rid of all the paint. There were four layers of different colours of glossy paint on there! And of course as chairs go, there were a lot of curves and bends that the machine, even my sanding paper, could not handle. So after sort of finishing the top, I decided to go for an artsy effect for the bottom. Yes, I call it artsy rather than lazy.

So for our first DIY project, I learned that completely sanding down a chair to its wood is near to impossible. I also learned that if it would be possible, I probably wouldn’t have the patience to actually do it.

For the next project, I’d like to decorate two stools with a world map. If it works really well, I might do it for our coffee table in the living room. (I got the idea from Sarie.)

In the afternoon, I tackled the garden. I got it summer-ready once before, but the weather and the neighbour’s cat decided it was too early. After the neighbour’s cat had dug out the whole vegetable garden (no, I couldn’t shoe her away, she’s so cute and it’s nice to have a little furry friend), below zero temperatures did a number on our misplaced seeds. So I planted everything anew, and covered the whole thing in a maze of sticks and rope. Unless the cat (who I call Anne-Marie by the way) has Tom Cruise-like Mission Impossible Skills, no way she’s gonna get through there! I also tried to get rid of some of the weeds in our lawn, but not all of them, because then there wouldn’t be much lawn left. And I did all of this in the beautiful gorgeous sun! Ah, what a day!

And what better way to end that day with our first barbecue of the year! We don’t really have a barbecue, but we have an electric grill that we installed outside and did the trick. I made a potato salad, pasta salad, a greek salad, some grilled vegetables and garlic rolls, and we grilled meatballs, sausages and turkey skewers. With a glass (or two) of bubbly. Omnomnom.

We played Macchiavelli, a great card game to play with just two people, until the sun went down with a few citronella candles that successfully kept away the mozzies. And now it is time for bed. Tomorrow one more day of work and then it’ll be weekend once again. Ah, what a blast of a holiday-day!

My Favourite Kind of Multitasking

To me, the fact that women can multitask has always been a joke. Sometimes, I like to watch some series while I’m cooking. I can only do this for recipes I can cook with my eyes closed and still it takes me twice as long. Or when I’m browsing and someone talks to me. Sorry, I’m not hearing you. Or even skipping through a magazine with some music on. I can’t do it.

Now, there is one particular kind of multitasking, however, that I excel at. The kind of multitasking where you do that one task, but you do it outside. I call it sun-enjoyment-work. Before I was writing this post, I was sat outside in the sun working like a boss. It’s been really busy for me at work, and I haven’t really had much time for my mind to wonder off during the day the last few weeks. And usually that drives me crazy. But today it is the best.

I can just keep working and working and don’t feel this need to do something else, because at the same time, I am refuelling my batteries and soaking up the vitamin D. Some people might go crazy working when the weather is nice, but since I can work from home, summer is the most productive time of year. The only breaks I take are to fill up my water bottle and reapply my sunscreen.

That being said, time to get back to it!