May 25, 2020

Corona times - Positive changes

This post is more for me than for the readers of this blog. I've been so depressed lately about not being able to physically see my friends in Luxembourg and the prospective of not being able to go to Romania this year at all and thus not seeing my parents and friends there, that I need a positivity boost.
I know people have died and are still suffering after Covid-19 and I do not mean any disrespect for them and the others in the front line, who worked hard these past three months under the threat of the disease, and being healthy and just wanting to meet other people might seem unbecoming, but this is my reality and I hope you ended up on this blog because you want to read about my very subjective reality.

1. First positive change has to be the shift in mentality towards people working from home. I am one of those people and I was long before Corona and every time I told someone I was working from home, they all without exception had the feeling that all I did all day was binge watching soap operas in my pyjamas. Well, now after three months of working from home and I don't know how many more still ahead, people got a glimpse of the challenges of working from home. Of having to be so organised not to drift towards loosing time, of forgetting to eat sometimes because no colleague messages you it is lunch time, of working long before the working hours and staying long after 6 pm and not because you have a deadline, but because as a freelancer when you have work is good, when you don't... For us Corona Times was a busy time, as communicators we were working non stop at the beginning, drafting strategies and shifting everything online. So much so, that for me, for us this time was so good we might have to consider another form of organisation, but it was done with three people working their but's off, day and night, learning along the way and adapting to the new norms to help their clients. So from a professional point of view I can't complain.

2. Second positive thing is that my husband got to see his daughter grow the first months and I did not have to do everything alone. And I'm sure this applies to a lot of families. The family time multiplied. Yes it was challenging, but it was (and still is, as I'm writing this we don't know for how long teleworking wold be a thing in Luxembourg) also very good for families, especially the ones with children. The pandemic came just after a month I gave birth to my daughter, and during this time she became very active, and now we have to keep her entertained 12 hours a day. If I had to do it all by myself, I would have hated the time and ended up hating her. So for us this time spent together was a blessing.
3. Third thing, online local shopping. There was a meme at the beginning of the lockdown which I think I've shared here, about my lifestyle being called a pandemic. So even before March 2020 I was buying most of my clothes and house stuff online. Part because I like and trust the Irish-UK style of clothing and their fabrics and the sizes are always on point, part because I hate shopping. During the pandemic I've tried as much as possible to shop locally and from small businesses who were trying to survive. And that was possible because they also adapted. When we first arrived to this area, which was only 8 years ago, they were not friendly with online anything. We had to find out about local events from posters, actual posters on the side of the road, Facebook events were unheard of and online stores were a dream from the future. Now, with the post working, there was nothing that stood in the way of helping the locals. So I've found out about a nice little book shop selling books in English, just across the border in Luxembourg, I've found nice and organic and fair groceries which got delivered to our door, I've found online children boutiques selling good quality toys and clothes.

4. Related to shopping, the large usability of cards. Everyone around me knows I don't carry cash. So every time I wanted a water from a machine I had to go to the ATM. Now even the machines selling 50 cents coffee have the possibility to pay by card, not to mention in the stores paying by card is mandatory or at least highly recommended. Now even the gas-station toilets have the card option. Need I say more?
5. Social distancing, which I do know is not the correct term, physical distancing from strangers is more to the point I want to make. I think that over the years my personal space got bigger, so on a queue for example I do not stay very close to the person in front. So much so, that here in Belgium people all the time cut in front of me, because they think I'm not queuing. Well, now that we have to be 1.5 metres apart, people hold their distance. I was dreading going to buy bred from the boulangerie (bakery) at Grand Frais Messancy. It is a small shop, with two points of entry and every time without exception people pretended I wasn't queuing and cut in front. Now one of the doors is closed, but even with it open, people respect the queue and the personal space. It is just an example, but for me this physical distancing from strangers is a good outcome.

6. Art became available online. Now that our life moved online I was able to interact with my favourite local artists and watched so many theatre plays I wasn't able to watch because they were in Bucharest or London and I was here. I think that artists (illustrators, actors, writers) were hit hard when our life moved online, but they had to adapt and I hope soon I will write a separate post about it. But illustrators opened their online stores on Etsy or on their personal webpages, they created Corona related art that I relate to and we are able to buy, they adapted and created clothing, but more about it soon. Actors turned to YouTube and improvised, entire theatre plays were streamed live. I read a novel written on Facebook posts, Instagram pictures and forums and it is genius.

7. As I've mentioned art, on the same spectrum, a lot of hands on classes had to go online and thus become available for people not living in one specific area. So one evening I was able to cook along a chef I admire in Luxembourg from my own kitchen. I've learned to take flat lays from a local photographer who never dreamed of teaching online, but had to adapt. I'm following the classes at the Fundatia Calea Victoriei in Bucharest and let me tell you, for two hours I am in another reality.

8. Maybe I should have mentioned it way up, but it only now came to mind, the process of going to a specialist simplified. Before Corona times when you needed a specialist opinion you had to go to your GP so set up an appointment which depending on how many patients the GP had could take days or weeks. Going there, explaining the thing and getting a prescription. With that you had to make another appointment to the specialist, which again could take weeks if not months. That was the procedure when there wasn't an emergency and when you still wanted to get your money back. During Corona most of the GP's worked online so in a matter of hours I had a Skype conversation with mine and had the prescription. Because it was a sort of an emergency (one of the tooth got infected or Ilinca had some nasty scabs on her head) we went directly to the specialist, online consultation on Skype, had the medicine sent to the pharmacy and we only went there and retrieved it. No unnecessary queue at the doctor's door and so on. I am aware it doesn't work like that, if you have a tooth infected you have to see a doctor, it doesn't work from Skype, but in my case I've started working on an implant before I've got pregnant, had to stop, but kept it under observation. So that is why my dentist was able to know it was infected over Skype.

9. Take away even from the snobbish and "fanciest" restaurants in Luxembourg, the restaurants where you needed 150 euros just to get through the door, now they do take away and believe me in that white or foil package if they sell you a pinch of food decorated with flowers you would see it. One of these restaurants I had my eyes on, but never justified the high prices started deliveries on the first days of the lockdown. Believe me now with just 50 euros we eat like princes. Another example, a "famous" chocolatier near Arlon, had impossible opening hours and you had to schedule way ahead a visit to his workshop next to his shop. Lockdown came and the famous chocolatier went out of hiding and personally delivered chocolate. I enjoyed his pralines over Easter, they are good, but not that great.


There are so many negatives of this time that I don'e even want to think about, but see there are some positives too. I've talked about not being able to see my family and friends, but also I was disappointed about not fitting in with my peers. I'm maybe old school, but for me the law is the law and there is no way around it. So even now I'm the village fool for not breaking the law. If the border with Luxembourg is closed to non-essential travel (that includes tourism and seeing friends) well that is what I did. Although I can go on a daily basis to Luxembourg to work and why not spent an extra time with my friends there, I've preferred to go just to retrieve my post and had a short meeting with a client.
Luxiland is renowned for turning even the purest soul into a snob, in the photo is the queue to Louis Vuitton store on the Grand Rue in Luxembourg on the first day they opened after the lockdown. I took the photo from an Expat Group. Who am I to judge what people do with their money? But this is a fine example of how the common mentality works in Luxembourg. Maybe it is a phenomenon to be studied by scientists, but for me I do not relate to that reality, I feel out of context, I do not have the same concerns as my peers. As I was enjoying my quiet family life, my peers were still thinking about the fanciest sushi, or travel, or tourism, because they were incapable of entertaining their kids without investing a lot of money. I have my like minded friends and colleagues, but they are just a few, the majority is after luxury goods, expensive fancy cars and houses, Michelin star restaurants and so on.
My reality is meeting friends at IKEA because we live in a capitalist world where people from Luxembourg can come to Ikea but not to Arlon :(
This week our life was the usual. Waking up, feeding Ilinca, working, playing, reading, working some more, walking a little in the evening, dinner and bed. This picture was from a trail we discovered just before the pandemic and went on when we were allowed to drive.
I'm not a massive fan of working out, but walking through the empty city to the Belvedere has to be considered something on the line of physical activity :) It's a plus when we get these sunsets. 
Also I don't know if I've mentioned it before here, but sine the beginning of March we had maybe five rainy days and as much as I enjoy the sunsets, I can't help thinking about the drought. Spring in the area was annoyingly moist and rainy and cold, so now I don't know what to fear most the virus or the famine? 
This is me working on Ilinca's Romanian Blouse. 
As much as I love wearing Romanian Blouses I dread making them. I know all or most of the techniques, I have the best fabrics, but I still don't find that peace in embroidery :(
Luna is fine, thanks for asking. She enjoys us being all the time at home and I fear the day when we will all be out.
The roses in the garden have bloomed. 
I must have the most unpretentious roses there are as I don't do anything to them and they have the most amazing flowers.
Sunset at Belvedere
At the rail station in Arlon along snacks there are masks and disinfectants.
So overall life is back to a sort of a normal, we still can't go to Luxembourg for non-essential stuff and the restaurants and terraces and cafes are still not open and gyms, pools and other indoor sports are yet not permitted, but soon, after June 8th they promise to loosen again the restrictions.
As usual I am more active on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

May 18, 2020

Corona times - Final week of lockdown

Things are slowly getting back to normal, the stores are open, the museums are open and the kids have re-started school. We still work from home, from May 25th the European Institutions will probably decide to give up teleworking and only allow it on a voluntary basis.

There are 3930 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Luxembourg, in Belgium there are 54.989, 173.152 in Germany and 141.356 in France (Delano). As the burden on the health systems lessens, medics and academics have started looking into other diseases and complications this virus causes and my hope is they will concentrate on a treatment and maybe a vaccine. The reports of the effects this virus had on patients cured is horrific and I do believe we still don't know what we deal with.

In the meantime wearing a mask is strongly recommended as well a washing the hands and limiting as much as possible the human contact. I went to Ikea on Saturday and although not one second I felt in danger of getting the virus, this is no way of shopping. I was not a fan of offline shopping anyway,  but now more than ever I feel that I will stick to online. And speaking of Ikea, Belgium still hasn't opened its borders and the due date is 8 June, but we are on May 17th and people living in Luxembourg are able to cross the border to go to Ikea and Decathlon and the other shops in that area, but are not allowed to see their friends in Arlon. The border controls are set right after the Ikea highway exit. If you need more prove we live in a capitalist world, well this is it.

Rant over, let's look at pictures.
I will miss the walks we had through empty Arlon. Don't get me wrong, Arlon was pretty empty even before the lockdown, but people were in their cars. During the "corona times" people started walking, greeting strangers on the street, helping other people. I am afraid these human connections will be over once we no longer face a common enemy and we will again turn on each other, people with cars against people without, people with dogs against people without, English speakers against French ones, people with kids ... you get the point.
This too shall pass rainbows filled the windows of Arlon and not only Arlon, I've seen them online all over the world.
They again started putting commercial posters all over the city, even the Bauhaus one, in Luxembourg (on the bottom right corner of the photo) even if we are not allowed to go shopping in Luxembourg, for now. But somehow the #staysafe one is still there.
A lot of people asked about Luna. She is fine, I'm sure she will miss this time with daily long walks and both of us home, but she wants to see more people. Have I've told you at one point I've asked the postman to pet her? She is a very social dog.
During the lockdown my chocolate intake was over the limits, especially Milka wafers, but somehow I did not like the chocolate eggs we bought for Easter. So this week I've mixed them with roasted nuts and biscuits and created some sticky mass which reminded me of home made chocolate back in Romania. That was the last of the chocolate, I hope to quit this habit,  will let you know how it goes.
I've restarted working on Ilinca's Romanian blouse. I like the documenting process more than the embroidery one, but I'm committed to finish it by June 24th and that gives me a deadline. It will be too big for her this year, but I will of course post pictures and maybe create a dedicated post if I have enough information.
I will surely make an Instagram story if not an entire post about things I've found on that platform for kids at the local stores. Well I will say it here, there is a small bookstore in Luxembourg called Little English Bookworm selling books in English and I've made a purchase and got the package the next day. I think it was delivered by the bookstore owner, a lovely lady. We chatted about my book choices and I'm sure we will meet again as I plan to at least visit all these local small shops I've found in the area. So if you happen to read this and live in Luxembourg or Arlon, check her bookstore.
Have I've told you enough times the stores are opened? Well one of my favourite stores in Luxembourg and Arlon is Veritas. It attracted me, when I've first arrived in Luxembourg, because it sells craft materials and in particular beads. If you remember I was into jewellery making in Dublin. Well one day I went to Veritas in Arlon and all I've bought was a mask making kit :( 
My windowsill office. 
I've got so accustomed with it that even now I'm writing on my laptop, even if the desktop is free. 
Somehow everyone I know in Romania loves these flowers, I'm not yet a fan. 
The Corona Times memes are getting better and better. Don't know about the sneaker as I was too little that time, but I do remember the dices and the dreamcatchers and I've seen a lot of people hanging their mask that way, too.
And that's it folks, hopefully the final week of lockdown. I hope the number of people getting Covid-19 will go down and we will be able to enjoy a sort of a Summer and most importantly I hope we will be able to go to Romania to visit our family. I miss my friends especially now that Luxembourg went out of lockdown two weeks before Belgium :( 
As usual you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu I am more active there.

May 11, 2020

Corona Times - Week 10 of isolation

The end is in sight. On May 11th the second phase of the lockdown exist will begin in Belgium with opening some of the other stores which were declared as non-essential in the first confinement stages. Wearing of masks is recommended in places where keeping the safe distance of 1.5 metres is not possible. At the same time, from May 11th Luxembourg will go out of lockdown completely with schools opening gradually starting with older kids.

At the moment the statistics are grim in the area, in Belgium there are 52.596 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 8581 deaths, in France there are 138.421 cases and 26230 deaths, in Germany there are 167.300 Covid confirmed cases and 7266 deaths and in Luxembourg the numbers are 3871 and 100 deaths (from Delano, statistics from May 9th). At the same time in Luxembourg they say that only 2% of the population has Covid 19 or was in contact with a confirmed case. In my small town there are 84 cases of Covid 19.

Personally I have no reason to rebel and I'm waiting patiently to see the evolution of things. I've kinda accepted that we will be very lucky if we will make it to Romania for a week during the summer and that is about it. Waiting for Christmas although they talk about reorganising even the Christmas Markets (so weird to talk about Christmas in May!). From May 15th we will be allowed to make a short one day trip in Belgium and I hope we will make it to the seaside. By now I've cancelled three planned trips, each and every one with a day of depression. But all the things are not bad, we are healthy and together and we even managed to not spend as much money as if we would go to Luxembourg everyday.
This is the moon from the bedroom window photographed with my phone. It did a decent job :)
The lilac in the garden 
The memes related to Covid-19 got better and better, but at some point I've stopped noticing and collecting them. I don't know why.
This meme is one of the most inspired I've seen this week
Life goes on in the little Grand Duchy and there is a new printed magazine, a travel one, called Lucy which is distributed free and is even send to other countries. It arrived in my mail box and I've enjoyed reading it out loud to Ilinca in the garden.
On Tuesday we went to Habay to the lake and it was so nice and empty. Only two or three other people there. Normally I would want to see people, especially now, but last time we went to Habay we could not even get out of the car because of the crowds. 
It rained a little and the atmosphere has cleared out a bit so the pictures are clearer somehow.
This 10th week of confinement marked the first time we went to buy take away. I don't know what I thought I would sense, but it was a plain burger with fries. There was a long queue and we stood a bit under this tree.
Sometimes Ilinca falls asleep in my arms. This period of time where we were both home with her is a blessing. As she is more active during the day, I don't know what I would have done without my husband.
My maternal grandmother had these plants in her garden 
The deconfinement stages in Belgium.
As usual you find me more on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

May 4, 2020

Corona Times - Week nine of isolation

It was a long weekend, have you noticed? I didn't :) I've sent emails even on May 1st cause it felt like a regular Friday.
This week I took pictures of a lot of flowers. It was a rainy week, first after two months of sun, (can you believe it?) so maybe I felt the need to see some colours...I don't know
First this door. I've always seen it from the car, but never had a chance to park and take pictures. Well, on April 28th, the day our daughter was three months old, we took a looooong walk through the empty city and came across this door. It is a sign :)
It is an art nouveau style door (I think), but its colour intrigues me. Who would paint a door this blue? Well, me, but apart from me, there is (or was) someone in Arlon that loved blue as much as I do. If you wonder, yes I could have removed the bricks in photoshop, it would have taken maybe 5 minutes, but what would be the point?
Doing dishes these days :)
At the beginning of the lockdown. I've ordered some coloured pencils and they arrived this week.
There they are. I would never justify spending money on fancy coloured pencils, but I have a kid now :) She will play with them :)
Tradition calls that on the May 1st to offer lily of the valley to your loved ones as a token of luck and prosperity for the coming year. I don't have lily of the valley and also no idea where to get them, so this is white lilac from my garden :)
I went shopping a bought tulips for my office. They changed price. It was 2,99 and now it is 3,50.
The ones in public places are free, but please don't pick them. They are gorgeous!
Queuing at the supermarket I noticed I've never took a selfie of me with a mask. Am I the only one with a big nose and a mask that gets into my eyes because the wire does not hold her in place on my nose?
Another benefit of the lockdown. Those poppies are in the middle of a busy roundabout near our house. I would never have dreamt to cross it. Now there are so few cars we walked to the middle of the roundabout and took a lot of pictures. I love poppies, especially these Turkish ones.
My white lilac
So bad you cannot smell it! Especially now that it rained and my hay fever cooled down a bit, I can smell it :)
Also because it rained the atmosphere was so clean you can see bigger distances from Belvedere. The cherry trees lost their flowers in less than a week, but the old neighbourhood still looks good and we enjoy walking up the hill. 
Iris flowers. I love the combination of colours
Last week I've talked about Dalgona Coffee Challenge, well this week I've made time to make a Turkish coffee. I've bought it from a gas station in Germany maybe half a year ago and never found enough time to make ibric coffee. Ibric is the copper pot where you boil the water and then add coffee and boil it till the right moment and then pour it into a cup and drink it. It is an art in making this sort of coffee and we used to make it every morning before those fancy coffee filters came into our lives. We sacrificed ibric coffee for less time consuming filters, but maybe, now and then we can make Turkish coffee again.
That's it, the ninth week. If you want to keep in touch you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu 

May 3, 2020

Corona times - Week eight of isolation

I keep complaining about the freedoms we lost when I should concentrate on the fact we are alive. You see, living in Luxembourg was bearable because you were in the middle of Europe with a couple of hours drive to major European cities and flights of all budgets connecting to the rest of the world. Also with the ability to shop for groceries in Belgium and toiletries in Germany we took full advantage of free movement. When all that was over, Luxembourg was left with the empty streets, bad weather, expensive supermarkets and snobbish people. 
Even more different is the life in Arlon, Belgium, at the border with Luxembourg a former province which once belonged to the country Luxembourg and which the federative government of Belgium keeps forgetting. Its people enjoy the benefits of working in Luxembourg with the ones of living in cheep Arlon, but once the borders were shut, they had to face the Arlonais reality. 
No or fewer food deliveries, no free face masks sent by post, not so many Covid-19 tests, no freedom to drive (in Belgium driving has to be limited to supermarkets or hospitals and going out should be limited to two km around the house, while in Luxembourg it seems that everyone can drive or bike everywhere), interacting with the locals who have no knowledge of English nor German. 
For me the first trip to the supermarket was like I just moved to the area, I did not know the packaging of everyday items, I did not know the way products were arranged in the aisle and everything seemed so chaotic. 
So, on the eight week of isolation we took full advantage we have a dog and a kid under 5 years and we drove to the woods and to Belvedere and because it was sunny we spent a lot of time in the garden and on the terrace.

From the woods

The Belgian de-confinement plan. Waiting patiently for it to be over so we could meet again.

It's such a privilege to walk under the cherry trees.

I might have not given the impression, but you see I am alone even without lockdown. Because I've lived in Ireland and Romania, I have different tastes in most things. And one of those things is shoes. I love Irregular Choice shoes and own a few pairs. I also buy coloured snickers from Sipet de Sidef in Romania and painted shoes from Dogo in Berlin. So when I first arrived here, 8 years ago, no one even knew what coloured shoes are, let alone what Irregular Choice is. So to find a pair of IC shoes on a window of a SH store in Arlon...well that means I am not alone :)

OMG Dalgona Coffee. If you are in lockdown and you are between 15 to 45 years old you must have encountered somewhere online this challenge, to make Dalgona Coffee, which is nothing more than something we called NesFrappe, back in the day. It was whisked instant coffee with milk and ice. And going back even more, in communist time Romania, coffee was sparse, but we had instant coffee. And one of the customs when you had guests was to mix instant coffee with sugar and whisk it till it became whiter, using a spoon, then you will put hot water and had a sort of a coffee. Growing up I liked to whisk the coffee, so much so, I always eat it like that and not put hot water. 
So seeing influencers in our days whisking instant coffee with a KitchenAid, is something to put a nostalgic smile on my face.

Do you believe those are tulips?
Granted we didn't get to go to the Netherlands or even to Floralia Brussels this year, but we found so many tulips in the city and I think I've photographed all. We stopped the car for these ones :)

First BBQ of the season

My windowsill office and with the Romanian Blouse I'm making for my daughter. I think by now I love more to document how to make a blouse than actually making it :) It will be a child blouse, different from an adult one, made from hemp and embroidered with red thread. Once it's done I will of course show it to you :)

After at least three years, I've rediscovered jeans and they became my go to outfit for walking Luna. I don't know why I've stopped wearing jeans, but now I want a Levi one, bootcut. 

The news of the week was the distribution of free face-masks in Luxembourg, as they became mandatory in public places and places where one cannot keep the 1,5m distance from another person. Well, as we work in Luxembourg, I got an e-mail that even we got masks, I'm not sure it was from the government or the company, but as I haven't checked my mail box in 8 weeks now, I can't get them.
In Arlon the budget would not allow for the authorities to distribute free face-masks, but the fabric ones were made by the local associations and made available in exchange for a donation of 3 euro. If you do not have 3 euro you can still get a mask. I liked this local spirit and for sure I will buy at least three as they are funny and different from the medical ones, still haven't found the time to see exactly where can I get them from :)
In the picture is St. Donat the patron saint of the Belvedere church wearing a locally made mask.
That's it, the eight week. As I'm writing this I'm already at the end of the ninth week. If you want to keep in touch you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu