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March 2017

Interior happiness

Wood design

Good morning all!

Do you like being busy with your hands? I do. I don’t find it hard to admit I am not a handy-woman, but I loved this project. Again, I got the inspiration from interior magazines such as Vogue Living and from strolling through stores. I saw one of these nice painted rough blocks in a store in Antwerp, asking price was 150 Euros.  I thought, well, this is easy to do for less if you have the time. I was totally wrong. It cost me, and Oldest – he just found a job, so I’ll have to do without my little servant from now on – a lot of energy.

It was trial and error. I had the luck of getting my hands on some pine-tree cut blocks. They were left out to dry for a couple of months. We pulled off the bark and greased (smeared?) them with a product against termites. I bought a small sanding machine and sanded the surfaces with two kinds of sanding paper (one rough and one a bit finer). It took forever before they were smooth enough, but it was also kind of relaxing. Oldest painted the sides with a kind of matte white paint, and then I put some oily white paint on the top and bottom, so you still can see the grain of the wood, but it becomes a little lighter and better protected.

I put three in our living room, as small tables. And four of them got the luck to be transported to Southern Italy. They got an extra varnish coat, because they will end up under the white patio. Can’t wait to put my Aperol-Spritz on it.
Cheers and have a great weekend!




The Great Writer

Do you have any charactaristics you’re a bit embarrassed about? I do. I am a groupie–a huge fan!–of a big writer. Now, some of you might not understand. But just compare it to being a fan of a major rock star. How would you feel spending time with him in person?

I worked for an organization and had the glorious task of inviting the great worldwide admired writer to speak to us. He would be given an award from us. Writing the invitation (signed by someone else) was a challenge all by itself. But he answered yes!

It has been two years since this all happened–when I met him, the great writer, at the Brussels airport at 7 am on a sunny Monday morning, still cold for the middle of March.

I had read all his books by then, trying to get an idea of the man behind the words. This vision didn’t coincide with the high or rather weird demands his assistant required for his stay in our country and the very stringent specifications for the speech he had to give as acknowledgement for his award. He wanted to stay in a boat. No filming during his speech. He preferred not to see the audience while speeching. I had to send a picture of myself a few weeks before his visit, with the clothes I would wear then, so he would certainly recognize me.

But I had seen his picture, so with sleepy eyes I was staring at the sliding doors, scanning every human being as they arrived. I was wearing a black leather jacket, jeans and sneakers and a long woolen scarf–the same outfit in the picture. No way I was going to stand there with a banner with his name on it. I was leaning on the railing, a brown bag with a granola bar in my hand. That was what he preferred, should he be hungry.

All of a sudden I felt eyes gazing at my back. I turned around and saw him looking at me, in the middle of the big hall, one small suitcase in his hand, a bag over his shoulder and a baseball cap almost covering his eyes. I walked over to him (almost ran into his arms, I admit) and called his name, as if to check it were really him. And I started my nervous, over concerned babbling:

  • How are you?
  • Were you able to sleep on the plane?
  • Are you hungry?
  • Do you need to use the bathroom before we leave?

He answered calmly and without mocking me.

As we walked to the car, I became more nervous by the minute. When we stepped into the black Volvo I thought: how the hell am I going to drive to Ghent, with him sitting next to me? I had prepared everything to make it run smoothly. I had already put the address into the navigation system, and I had made a nice playlist on my phone, some not too commercial background music. But after alt-J’s edgy’s voice ‘triangles are my favorite shape, three points and two lines’, the connection broke off, and a noisy Radio station spoiled the atmosphere. So much for preparation.

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Interior happiness

Da Vinci at the Abbey

I was thinking: under what category should I put my magical visit at two abbeys last weekend? It sure was a special introspective experience, but no, I did not hear a religious call.

The excursion was organized by a colleague from Hubbie. It was one of those first lovely days, where you can feel spring finally bursting through. The first spot on the agenda was the Abbey of Averbode, where the monastic order from the Norbertines reign. This order was constituted by Norbertus van Xanten in 1121, and it follows the rule of Augustinus “prepared to each good deed.” Their traditional costume is white, which is why they are also called the white priests.

We were guided through the Abbey and the church by Father Eric. The fog in my head cleared out, and I suddenly remembered! When I worked at the bank in Antwerp, my first job, many, many years ago, there was this smart and handsome colleague, my age, who suddenly surprised us: He had heard the calling! He had followed his belief, and it appeared to have been a good choice: he is now Father Eric, looking happy and at peace, walking through the white corridors of the Abbey, explaining the rich history.

The first stone was placed in the 12th century, but the buildings suffered from fires and rubbing.  They received a big renovation and resurgence in the 20th century.

The Baroque church was built in the 17th century, and proudly glinting with light.

Within the walls of the Abbey, there are of course the quarters of the priests, their huge ‘dining’ room and ‘conference’ room. But there is also a wing for contemplation, where often groups of students stay. There even is room for individual guests, if you need some time for reflection. It costs about forty Euros per day, meals included, cheaper than a visit to a therapist! Of course, you have to send an application at least one week upfront and it must be accepted.  Don’t you think it sounds very appealing, being isolated from the hectic world, able to live within this beautiful surroundings? And the only sound you hear is the soft wheezing of Father Eric’s sandals. Without a doubt, Holy Sophia – prepared to do each good deed – would be admitted!

After some local beer tasting at the Abbey’s café, we headed to the  Abbey of Tongerlo, just ten minutes away. First we visited the museum within the walls of the Abbey, where we stood in awe in front of the Last Supper of Da Vinci. Like a real story teller Father Ivo explained us all about this masterpiece. This is not a copy – it is the real work painted the Master Leonardo Da Vinci himself and his disciples, representing the Last Supper of Jesus and his apostles. Though, technically it is a replica, as it was the second time he painted the same scene, but it as beautiful as the fresco of the Last Supper in Milano. You could say he had three years to practice on the first one and the second time was even better.  It was first ordered by the King of France who was so overwhelmed by the first masterpiece in Milan–“Formidable!” he exclaimed about a hundred times–so he had to have one for himself. The painting disappeared mysteriously during the French revolution and finally ended up here. It underwent a big restoration in the 60’s of last century, and is in far better shape than the fresco. Father Ivo is a man of the world, and referred to Dan Brown‘s analysis of the Last Supper, firmly stating this was proven not to be true. The apostle Johannes, sitting to the right of Jesus indeed has female features. But it was common to bring an important female figure into the painting, so Da Vinci has painted Johannes to the resemblance of a likely important woman in his life.

It was strictly forbidden to take photos, but your servant Holy Sophia secretly took a few. Here you see Jesus and Johannes.

A humorous knowledgable lady guided us through the church of the Abbey, which was new gothic, and more beautiful than the one of Averbode. We were able to still witness the evening ceremony of the priests. I burnt three candles for the good health and well being of our three children. We ended by a visit of the little cozy chapel within the church. Hallelujah!







Interior happiness

Crochet Endeavor

I am not handy. Nonetheless, handwork can ease my mind. The repetition brings peace.

Sometimes nice, simple tablecloths are hard to find, but a basic one is simple to make, just sew the border with the sewing machine. But I had an idea to do something a little more creative  I had done some crochet when I was little, but couldn’t remember how to do it at all. So my friend and I watched some Youtube videos and we started with a Granny Square. I bought all colors, and it is going to be beautiful, once finished. The thing is, it takes so much time. (I hope to write a post on my finally finished Granny Square in the Summer.)  But in the meantime I started with a single long chain, the length of the outline of the piece of fabric I bought. I added two rows so it became a small curly board. First I stitched a rim to the fabric, and afterwards I stitched the crochet border to the fabric, with a loose stitch since it is a bit stretchy.

I got a simple but pretty result, and it wasn’t expensive. But it took me more time than expected. One important advice: use cotton thread because it is easier to put in the washing machine. And one more thing, I washed the crochet border separately before I sewed it to the fabric.
It is fun though, to just try – just mingle different patterns – and be creative. As to ideas, you can find a lot on Youtube or in books and magazines on crochet.

Good luck!



Interior happiness

Jungle Fever Wallpaper

Maybe I should change the title to Wallpaper Worries. And maybe the category “interior happiness” doesn’t apply perfectly. Interior nightmare would be more honest. But after a long trek through the jungle mess, I am finally happy with my banana leaf wall, and this is what counts.

The wallpaper addiction came from many magazines, one of them Vogue Living, and I got infected by tropical vibes as I walked through our lovely yard in Puglia. There was one wall in our living room that seemed perfectly fit for a new look. I took my time, comparing, checking prices and colors … Through an interior designer I got a few samples and I finally decided to go for a chic–expensive yes–but marvelous well known French brand. Our own painter would hang the paper, as he had done so before. The thick and not so flexible (but beautiful!) wallpaper arrived with many instructions.
And then, after it was attached to the wall it looked beautiful–but only from afar.  Close up, many, many wrinkles were disturbing the vision. They will fade slowly, our dear painter promised, wait till tomorrow morning. With high hopes, I entered the living room the next morning.  All wrinkles were laughing in my face. Continue Reading

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