Sunday 27 December 2020

Goodbye 2020 , hello 2021.

2020 is almost over. 2021 is just around the corner. 2020 has been unlike any year I have ever lived through. 
I remember the day Belgium went into lockdown like it was yesterday. 

A few weeks before the lockdown Covid19 had appeared in Italy and a colleague sitting at the desk next to me who had been to Italy for a meeting was told to go home and quarantine herself for at least 2 weeks.

I am happy to say that during her quarantine she didn't get sick and neither did I. So we were probably not infected.

2 weeks later on Friday the 13th of March we were all told to work from home.

On Friday 13th I went to the local supermarket. It was absolutely swarming with customers. 
Inside it looked like people were expecting a war to break out any minute.

Flour and sugar had almost sold out.

Coffee , just a few brands left. 

Toilet paper : nothing left. Spaghetti and canned tomatoes and canned tomato sauces : empty shelves.

I had visions of people living on nothing but pasta and tomato sauce and coffee and sugar ( and pancakes) for the next few months and looking for places to stack their mountains of toilet rolls.

For some unfathomable reason, more than half of the champagne in cartons of six bottles had been sold (see photo below). Not the single bottles though. And the wine shelves looked as full as ever. 

I found that rather comforting. At least some people were trying to stay positive and preparing for the celebrations that would happen when the lockdown and Covid would end.   

There was still plenty of beer, wine and fresh vegetables and fruit. I stocked up on fresh veggies and fruit , cheese and meat and fish and a crate of one of my favourite beers. Just the necessary things to keep me going for the next two or three weeks.  Not having a car keeps you from overbuying stuff you don't really need.

Working from home does have a few advantages. 
I don't need to drive to work every morning and I also get to eat as much recipes with garlic as I like
during the week, because the next day I won't be bothering anyone. 

My cat of course thinks the lockdown is great! Her personal butler (me) is now available 24 / 7.
Heaven !

Because traffic is much less and there are less people on the street, the local wildlife has grown bolder and I see more of them in my garden.
I don't have a lawn and a lot of the garden near the fruit trees is pretty uncared for, except for my vegetable garden at the back. 
I dug a hole for a large pond once, somewhere in the distant past and put a plastic sheet in it to keep weeds from growing. It fills up every time it rains and every day dozens of birds come to wash and drink there.

In autumn and winter when food get scarce I hang up seeds and dried insects for the birds.
One of my regular customers is a robin who's been living nearby for a few years.

He's particularly keen on the dried insects.

One day he got into the house and I had a hard time persuading him to leave until I threatened charging him rent if he staid indoors. He was out the front door in a flash. 


Once I got a visit from a pheasant, which is a bit strange, because there is at least 400 metres of streets and houses between me and the nearest woods, which he has to cross to get to my garden. Maybe the birds tell each other which garden has food ?

He was looking for seeds and so close to my back window, which made it actually hard to take decent pictures. I had to sit up against the pane to get a good view and keep him from spotting me :)
I think he nearly spotted me in the photo below.

A wild garden has of course massive amounts of snails and this young hedgehog was hunting his favorite snacks (snails) right in front of my front door one evening. 

This year I have also had success with my citrus plants. Each year I transfer them to a larger pot and
now that I have potted them in larger pots (12 and 14 liter) they're big enough to produce large fruits. 

My lemon tree is now bearing full size fruit.

My two Yuzu trees. The yuzu fruits are not full size yet but very fragrant.

and finally my Satsuma tree. It has lost quite a few leaves and some branches dried out in the hottest June we ever had, but it is now big enough to have complete fruits and the fruits are OK. They have turned a nice orange by now, so I will be eating extremely fresh mikan on New Year '21, straight from the tree.  

Best wishes for the end of year and all the best for 2021.

Sunday 19 June 2016

Spring 2015 Hanami in Hasselt

Hasselt is home to one of the largest real Japanese gardens (built by Japanese gardeners) in Europe and I'm lucky to live an hour or so away from it.
Traditionally every Spring the garden holds a Hanami.

What better place to wear a kimono ?

Lucky for us the weather was splendid : lots of sun, no rainclouds anywhere ( very unusual here in Belgium !).

 The Japanese garden has a large waterfall cascading down into the upper lake ,

 from where the water flows through a winding stream , with paths alongside it.



Several plants and shrubs were already in bloom , thanks to the warm weather. 
Ofcourse we were here for one blossom only : sakura !

And we weren't disappointed : the sakura were in blossom everywhere around us.

First to arrive : Maaike and Ben, as always impeccably dressed.

Maaike's musubi.

Meeting up with their friends from the tea ceremony , that was held in the tea house later on.

Joining us from the Netherlands : Thirsa , Amy and Jody.

Our party settles down in a choice spot underneath the sakura trees.

And while we're getting comfortable in the sun,
below us in the square, the taiko drummers are getting ready for their performance.


Amy, watching the drummers play.

Thirsa , who's here for the first time, is a professional photographer. She also loves to pose for photographs.

 That's a very dignified look. Stern almost :)

Lovely smile, though :)

Amy and Jody , showing off their sleeves.

Amy at the entrance to the teahouse.

Posing by the tea-house : Thirsa, Amy and Jody.
Personally I prefer not to pose people in the sun, because of the shadows on their face, but here I had no choice.


 What a lovely surprise : Caroline (in kimono) and her sister.

That's a wonderful plushy ! Oh, it's a pirate ?

Everyone posing at the bridge.

The traditional tabi shot ( well at least three are tabi ! ).

When you visit a hanami in kimono, people are always curious and ask what you're wearing :)

and want to have a picture posing together as a memento. It's lots of fun.

 Before we go back to the lower lake by the tea-house , everyone poses
fearlessly on the narrow bridge by the waterfall.

And while Jody is trying to lure the koi and get some free sashimi,

we're taking pictures in the setting sun by the lake.

Tip of the day :) : use a flash or a reflector for this shot, when the sun is behind your model, otherwise this side will be too dark.

Another day over, one last look at the waterfall and we're headed for home.

Till next time, sakura !