Friday, October 26, 2007

Rude Belgian Chocolates

Belgian chocolates are famous the world over but forget dainty shaped pralines, have you ever seen chocs like these?

I saw them in Hasselt.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Poster for Women

Ijust saw this cheeky poster aimed at women. The caption means,
"Ladies, save for your pension."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hasselt Genever Festival

20 and 21 October 2007 are the dates to be in Hasselt, Limburg for the 18th Genever (Jenever in Dutch) Festival. Hasselt is the Belgian capital for this strong schnapps type drink. The National Genever Museum in Witte Nonnenstraat 19 produces Hasselt genever in the authentic 19th century distillery and after official approval by the Mayor at 3pm on the Saturday, everybody is invited to taste in the museum courtyard.

The Borrelmanneke's treat
True to annual tradition, the "Borrelmanneke" statue, the symbol of genever production in Hasselt, buys a drink on Saturday. At 4:30 p.m. the water of the fountain becomes genever.

There is a full weekend programme of activities for the whole family to enjoy. The Waiters Race (Kelnerwedloop) will run through the town centre at 3pm on Sunday from the Molenpoort, the winner receiving his weight in genever.

Pub "Den Ossekop" (The Ox Head) on the Fruitmarkt welcomes visitors to entertainment in a tent from 1 to 8pm on Saturday and 1 to 7pm on Sunday.

There will be several sites of street animation and music. The Dramglasses Fair (Stoopkeskermis) on the grote Markt offers a fair with a carrousel, music and of course a bar. The Genever Fair (Jeneverkermis) on Jeneverplein will be organized by the Rotary Club offering ambiance and folk games.

Exhibitions and Sales
National Genever Museum - 25 years of Genever (free entry)
Antiques and flea market on Kolonel Dusartpein from 8 to 1 on Saturday along with a trade fair for drink-related publicity and advertising articles.
Second-hand book fair on Molenpoortplein from 10 to 6 on Saturday.

Free guided walking tours of Hasselt - book with the tourist office.
Genever cruise with Rederij Limburgia
Rollerskating on Sunday from 10.30 on the Kolonel Dusartplein.

Culinary Highlights
Taste Speculaas (local cinnamon based biscuits) and geneverpaté
Genever dinner with various dishes based on genever - book at the tourist office

Travel by train
The railways are offering a B-Daytrip to Hasselt (nr 355) from any Belgian station from €12.90. Otherwise I suggest travelling by local bus and leave the car at home.

Hasselt Genever Festival website
Hasselt Tourism
Belgian railways

Monday, October 8, 2007

Affordable Housework Help with Diensten Cheques - Titres de Service

Dienstencheques or Titres-service provide a useful system whereby reliable housework help can be found. Agencies hire the staff, train them and check references then accompany them to the employer's house to brief them on what work is to be done. They ensure that the employer and employee are both happy with the service. The employer can allow a stranger into their home to do chores without worrying.

Workers can be hired for the following chores:
Inside the home: cleaning, window-cleaning, laundry and ironing, preparation of meals, small sewing repairs.

Outside the home: shopping errands, ironing and sewing elsewhere, driving elderly or handicapped people in offical transport. (Excluded: delivery of hot meals, furniture, household appliancs, AV equipment, newspapers and magazines.)

Not allowed: plumbing, electrical repairs, painting and decorating, gardening, babysitting or childminding.

The cheques can only be used in the private domain, not for commercial cleaning or work within companies.

The hours worked are paid with cheques, one per hour. The price of each cheque is 6,70 € but 30% of this may be offset against personal taxes so that each cheque has a real cost of 4,69 €. There is a limit of 2.310 € per year. For example,
Exemple 1 : Exemple 2 :
Purchase: 120 cheques
Total cost: 804 €
Tax saving: 30% of 804 €, = 241,20 €

The agencies are subsidised by the government receiving the difference between 6,70 € and 20 € per cheque. By so doing, they help to control work in the black economy. The workers receive an indefinite work contract and social security is paid thereby providing the benefits not available to those who work in the black. They are also covered for work accidents and receive holiday pay.

Here are the statistics for the system in 2006:
- 420.000 users of the system
- 35.000.000 cheques were ordered
- 1.450 recognised agency employers
- 32.000.000 hours worked
- nearly 29.000 workers benefitted from a work contract (2005, source : enquête Idea Consult).

You can find out full details here.

I think it is an excellent system which benefits all parties involved.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Studio Job Exhibition in Hasselt

"Studio Job is a love-'em-or-hate-'em Belgian-Dutch design duo". - Time Magazine, in an article about the 100 top most influential interior designers. The International Herald Tribune wrote, "A Dutch duo that rejects function, with flair". The New York Times has also followed the work of Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel, so called Studio Job.

They have designed commissions for Bisazza, Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum and Swarovski. Their work is to be found in the Groningen Museum, Stedelijk Museeum in Antwerpen and the Centraal Museum in Utrecht. Exhibitions have also been held in The Museum of Modern Art/MOMA, New York; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Dutch Textile Museum, Tilburg; Paris, Milan, Basel and now Hasselt in Z33 until 7 October.

Simply stated, their work is design of household objects, mainly in bronze, wood and glass, usually oversized and probably impractical due to their size and weight. The items are one-off or limited edition of a few. The Studio Job couple see themselves as designers due to their design school background but rather of collection pieces than items in mass production. The question to the viewer is whether this is art? Certainly iconographic.

Here are some more links about Studio Job:

My photos of Z33 exhibition on Flickr
International Herald Tribune
Vivid Vormgeving (English)
Design Sponge Online
Vivid Vormgeving (Dutch)
Milan 2007
Milan Preview (English)
More photos of Studio Job on Flickr

© Antonia Stuart-James 2007

Friday, October 5, 2007

Scouting in Belgium

Scouting in Belgium is 100 years young in 2007. My sons have joined the local Scouts in Bolderberg, where there are 180 members. They meet every Saturday from 08.30 to 12.00 and my 6 year old cub cannot wait for the next Saturday. They came home muddy from an obstacle course in the woods, swinging on a rope over a stream, building a logs bridge and walking over a beaver's dam. In Summer 2007 they took 75 kids on camp.

For those who understand Dutch, here is what they say on the local Bolderberg website:
Scouts Bolderberg is opgericht circa 1979. Het scoutslokaal is gelegen in de kluisstraat, achter de basisschool en is te bereiken via de parking links van de school. Momenteel hebben we onze intrek genomen in de nieuwe materiaalloods langs het Nieuwe kerkhof en in de toekomst zou daar ook een nieuw lokaal moeten komen want ons huidig lokaal is te klein geworden. Meer hierover bij 'vzw' op scoutswebsite. De Scouts is de enige jeugdvereniging van Bolderberg en heeft elk jaar weer een groeiend aantal leden, momenteel zijn dit er zo'n 160. Achter deze werking staat een dynamische en enthousiaste leidingsploeg van meer dan 20 personen. Er is iedere zaterdag een activiteit van 8u30 tot 12u. Het scoutsjaar start eind september en eindigt half mei en in juli gaan we als afsluiter van het scoutsjaar met de volledige groep op tentenkamp. Welke zijn zoal onze activiteiten? Pleinspelen, stadsspelen, bosspelen, dropping, para-commandocross, knutselen, trektochten (ook in het buitenland voor de oudere tak), vlottentocht, bekentocht, verschrikkingstocht, survivaltocht,... Scouting, da's durven! Ben je geïnteresseerd of zit je met vragen, aarzel niet en contacteer ons!

Mission Statement on Scouts UK website:
"The aim of the Association is to promote the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, social and spiritual potential, as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international communities.

The Method of achieving the Aim of the Association is by providing an enjoyable and attractive scheme of progressive training, based on the Scout Promise and Law, and guided by adult leadership."

They go on to say:
"The Scout Association provides adventurous activities and personal development opportunities for 400,000 young people aged 6-25. Internationally, we have over 28 million young people enjoying the benefits of Scouting across 218 countries.

Personal development means promoting the physical, intellectual, social and spiritual well-being of the individual, helping them achieve their full potential. In Scouting, we believe that young people develop most when they are 'learning by doing,' when they are given responsibility, work in teams, take acceptable risks and think for themselves."

My older son said scouting will help him to overcome his fears of heights and the dark. I believe scouting will be a valuable development path for both boys.