10 people, living or dead, I want to have dinner with – Part I

Yes, that question that I always hoped no one would ever ask me. And this morning in my bed, still half asleep, it dawned on me. I want to have dinner with Tiziano Terzani! Last week I started reading my favourite book for the umpteenth time: A Fortune-Teller told me  – Earthbound Travels in the Far East.

The first sentence of the book says it all: Life is full of opportunities. Of course, you have to recognize them and then take the challenge. Which he did. What really marked the story, is his discovery the a fearful wave of materialism is engulfing everything and everyone. But where is happiness in all this? Tiziano Terzano was a German correspondent living in the Far East. I discovered his book many years ago on a trip to Singapore & Thailand. And I’ve been promoting it ever since! Since my original copy disappeared, my advice now is: Buy your own copy!  He also wrote the very controversial book: “Letters against the war” after spending time in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The book was born as a response to the anti-Islamic invectives published by the Italian journalist and author Oriana Fallaci on the daily Il Corriere Della Sera on 29 September 2001. It was so controversial that no publishing house in the Anglo-Saxon  world wanted to touch it, because they are so pro-war… Only a publisher in New Delhi decided to take it on. But you can download the book for free (legally!) Letters against the war. I believe it is a must read. Unfortunately Tiziano died in 2004. But I would have loved to meet him and talk with about, yes, how this world is changing. How we are losing values and traditions, replaced by greed and materialism.

 Paul Theroux who wrote “The Great Railway Bazaar”, is the next one on my list. He was away for all those months, writing his first travel book, making a fabulous journey, and he came home to an unfaithful wife with a live-in lover who refused to leave. Aiai. When he decided to go back in his own foots steps, 33 years later, in Ghost Train to the Eastern Star he had a faithful wife, happily waiting for him at home while he had his adventure (traveling, not cheating!). I love this quote from the book:

“So what do you think?”
“I think if you’re a good person, you don’t need religion.”

A famous fiction book he wrote is “The Mosquito Coast” about a totally whacky, increasingly erratic and agressive father, who moves his family from the US to find a happier and simpler life in the jungle of South America. The man is an inventor. Harrison Ford stars in the movie, alongside Hellen Mirren and River Phoenix. But honestly, don’t bother with the movie. Read the book! It will keep you enthralled. 

Paul Theroux’s 5 year plan is one I like: “What has been foretold probably won’t happen. What is going to happen is something unimaginable. Either much better or much worse or stranger than you ever ever imagined. In Africa they say: What comes doesn’t beat a drum.” Which brings me to a quote from the movie: The Exotic Marigold Hotel:

“Will you stay?”
“I’m not sure what I should do,  nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.”
“Most things don’t, so sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.”

Life is never what you expect it to be. But remember: what happens in stead could be the good stuff! So yes, I want Paul Theroux at my table.

Nelson Mandela
is my next guest. My children are South African, but even without that fact, this man is an icon, a hero, an inspiration to all.

“If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness. ”

Just imagine what a great place the world would be if we all practiced Goodness and Forgiveness! I hope his legacy will live on long after he will be gone. And that he keeps on inspiring people of what great things are possible if we work together.

Maya Angelou What an amazing woman! If you have never heard her speak, you must listen to her on Youtube: Still I rise
Still I Rise is about overcoming oppression with grace and pride, having no sympathy for the oppressors and giving to validity to the reasons for oppression. I just loooove how she laughs while she recites the poem, how she laughs at her own sassiness. Because that is what the oppressor doesn’t like: a sassy person! Oh yes, I still kick ass, just try and stop me! You don’t like it? Too bad, because I will gladly turn my back to you. Maya Angelou is a great voice, spreading legendary wisdom.  She has so much charisma. I think I could just listen in awe all night!

maya-angelou song

Audrey Hepburn Leading female actor of the 1950s and 60s. Audrey Hepburn defined feminine glamour and dignity, and was later voted as most beautiful women of the twentieth century. After her acting career ended in the mid 1960s, she devoted the remaining period of her life to humanitarian work with UNICEF. She was such a humble, simple person with a huge heart. I would have loved to work by her side on UNICEF projects.

But also, Audrey Hepburn was an introvert, just as I am. And this extroverted world, we are not always understood.

“I’m an introvert… I love being by myself, love being outdoors, love taking a long walk with my dogs and looking at the trees, flowers, the sky.”

audrey alone
I would have loved to work by her side on UNICEF projects. and as true introverts, this would be done in total silence. Or with just the necessary amount of words. 

Well, there is room for 5 more people at my dinner table. As usual, the names will come to me when I am in between a dream & reality. The magical moment of inspiration. In the mean time, continue to be amazing. And please let me know who you would like at your dinner table. I promise I will come & cook the dinner for you and your guests. (It’s pretty safe, someone once told me I should get a Michelin star ***)

maya amazing

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From scrap to awesome

In September 2011 I wrote: Is scrap crap? So here I am: No, it’s not! This is the second year I am taking woodworking classes. At the end of class, I always dive in the big wood waste bin and collect whatever is in there for my fire place. Then I started looking at those pieces of wood, and some are actually quite nice. My student collegues have now started donating their scrap wood: “We thought you would like this!” Wonderful oak. And all of a sudden, in my mind, I had a small table with imperfect pieces of wood that no one wanted. Because they want perfect furniture… I aligned the pieces, made sure the sides were properly planed so I could glue them.

DSCN0721 IMG_3234

Once glued, I cut it straight and started sanding. A smooth top, just enough to put a glass on it (of course!) but still showing all the imperfections of the saw blades, cracks, torn pieces, … I want this table to be really glam. And as I have a big stock of lead-free pewter, ready to be recycled, I decided to give sand casting another try.






The set up was not easy. The pewter needed to fit around the wooden edge, so I had to make space, not only on the side, but also underneath in my big tub of sand. As I work alone, and do not have a helper to hold the piece whilst I am pouring liquid pewter, I had to invent a set up that would keep it just floating above the sand.

The result was great!

A few hours of sanding & polishing this to a smooth and shiny semi-precious metal gave this awesome result:

5 4






As you can imagine, I am very happy with my most perfect imperfect table! Just remember, it’s the little flaws that make you unique.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out” – Dr Seuss

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Weird is a side effect of awesome!

I have a secret. I’m supposed to be this perfect person without any flaws, never making any mistakes. Living life in a straight line. Of course I have never done this. What were you thinking? But if you can’t keep a straight line, you shouldn’t talk about it.  And I find myself now too trying to paint the perfect picture of my little family, of myself. Hiding things that happen because we are not allowed to be flawed. Not allowed to have problems. Not allowed to have weaknesses. I am starting to think: why am I doing this? Honestly, who is perfect? People who are my friends, people who love me, they should accept me and my kids as we are. Everything seems to get a label these days. And that label seems to be a stigma. You know what I am having a hard time with at the moment? I have Tourette Syndrome. There, I said it. I have only told one very good friend. She told me she never noticed anything weird about me. But I am good at hiding my tics (I think at least…) Perhaps she is just such a good friend she doesn’t notice my weirdness :)
It’s only about 4 years ago that I realised my weird tics were actually a neurological disorder, that I couldn’t do anything about it. This was such a relief, to put a name to this condition that had quietly dominated my entire life. Being ridiculed when I was younger (and when under severe stress the tics got really bad and obvious) hurt so badly that I learned how to hide them. It’s not easy to suppress something that just wants to come out. I haven’t talked to my doctor about it, not to my kids, only this one friend recently. It’s like a secret. A secret my mother would keep. And I don’t want to be my mother. I just came from the chiropractor where I get treatment for my neck hernia. As neck & shoulder jerking is one of my serious tics, it hurts my hernia more. I just so want to tell and ask questions. But I can’t because I feel my mother’s eyes on me that something must be wrong with me and the outside world should not know. It’s stressful to hide the tics. If my best friend says I am not weird, perhaps it is time for me to believe this… I have to stop my mother’s voice in my head!



Thanks Angie, for telling me I am not weirder than anyone else 

Thanks Rayne, for helping me unfold the puzzle of my life. 

And yes, I just remind myself: Weird is a side effect of awesome!



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The story of a ring

Design has been my passion for many years now. I started with my first designs of salad sets in 2000, and had them produced in Indonesia. Being new to this design world, I had no idea how to promote myself, but I thought it would be fairly easy. So I took a stand at Maison & Objet in Paris in January 2002. My self confidence was at an all time low, as not even my family supported me in this project.

Thankfully I’ve always had wonderful friends who believed in me (and still do). At the trade show I had an offer to start working as a designer for a Parisian silverware company. I told the owner I’d think about it. But I had no idea how this would work: a fee for my work, a commission? And stubbornly, I still believed I could make it on my own. A request came from an architects office in Saoudi Arabia.  Why would someone from those oil rich company be interested in my designs? I never answered.  Oh silly me.

Over the years, being very unhappy in my office job, design was on my mind again. But I realized I should concentrate more on the design part, and leave the commercial part to someone else. I had to learn how to make prototypes to present. This is how I started a silversmithing course with a retired goldsmith. And after that I started a “lost wax” technique course. I first heard about this while walking around at the Salon  Maison et Objet. Intrigued I stopped by the stand of Roux Marquiand where I started chatting with one of the sales people, explaining about my design work. He told me all about lost wax: http://www.porterouge.biz/about/Roux-MarquiandProductPage.htm

I was very intrigued by this technique, and when I found a course to study this in Antwerp, I signed up!

For a ring you start with a wax tube, off which you cut a piece. And then you carve the ring you were dreaming of…


My first carved ring. The black spots are just small repairs. Nice thing about wax is, when you screw up, you can always fix again by melting some wax on top and starting over.

The wax tree. All rings will be put on this tree, with a canal connected to the tree.

Next to the tree stands the cover which will go over it. Then plaster will be poured in it. When it is dry, the tree will go in the oven for many many hours and many many different temperatures (as high as 900°C) to make the wax melt, and escape from the plaster cast. Hence the “lost wax”. After this silver will be poured in the plaster mould.

 This is my ring, warts and pox and all. Due to a cold wave in Belgium at that time, the plaster was too thick and created air bubbles.

After the rough filing work, this was the result:

On the back of the ring was a hole that had to be filled up again. After this the ring needs to be cleaned.

A cleaned ring ready for polishing

After some sandblasting

Polishing with special wax

The black stuff is just polish residue that will be polished away with toothpaste (and an old toothbrush)

The final result: a hefty 17.4 gr of silver. 20 gr is considered the wearable limit. 8,7€ of silver, time spent on it: priceless 😉

And yes, I am proudly wearing this ring!

I’m looking for a sandcasting workshop now… Next week I am starting a pottery class in Johannesburg. That is something I am really looking forward to. Something I have wanted to do since I was a teenager. I’ll keep you posted!

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“Never give up. When your heart becomes tired, just walk with your legs – but move on.”

These days I go biking. To get fit, spend calories, the best excuse to eat afterwards. But also to let my mind run wild riding against the wind, between the trees, through puddles,…

We have some lovely days. But other days it just pours rain. And then there are the cloudy days. What will it be? Today was such a day. Dark angry clouds.

I so wanted to go for a bike ride. Last week I discovered a wonderful route. 6 km along the bicycle path, straight and quite boring between the trees. And then along the river Demer, into the forest, the fields, along farms. Lots of small country roads and dirt roads. It’s the season of the wild poppy flower. And there around one bend is a magnificent field of wheat with lots and lots of lovely red poppies.

This must be my favourite wild flower. Not only because red is my favourite color. But also because it’s beauty is so fragile. You cannot pick them for a bouquet. The petals will start falling. They are just there to be admired. I biked along these fields already 5 times now, 25 km each time, a 1.5h bike ride. The colors just wow me every time.

So I look at the clouds. They are very threatening. Where is the sun? Will I risk it? What is life without taking risk? Do you stay home when it thunders? Does life stop when it rains? Or do you just go on? So I jumped on my bike and I was gone…

 And yes, I encountered a few drops of rain, and a few tears for times of joy and times of sorrow. The dark clouds kept on pressing down, with a ray of sunshine once in a while. Have faith in fate.





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