Life update

Dear Diary,

I thought it was time I reflected back on things that changed since last year. It is immense, so I am going to be comparing life to the point when I wrote down my new year’s resolutions.

Life has changed around completely. We moved to a different country and both have different jobs. We kind of re-started our lives. What stayed the same is that we still have the cats and each other. And that, for me, is enough. For now. 😀

So let’s see my resolutions, and how they turned out:

And for the new year?

Go to a yoga class! (Okay, maybe “go to many yoga classes”…)

Smile and give thanks for everything I have.

Worry less about things that are really not that important.

Kiss the cats often. (occasionally the boyfriend, too. :-))

Let the past go fully and concentrate on the new things in my life.

Continue clean eating and cook more.

Stick with one hair color and let that be blonde eventually. 😀

Well, yoga classes kind of happened. We had office yoga with the girls twice (or 3 times?) since I am in my new job, and did yoga classes at home with the doyogawithme guy. So I definitely check this, but it could be really good if I could just go once a week or so.

I try to smile more, and it sort of happens a lot more since we moved. I try hard to be thankful for everything I get, and at the end of the day I always think about how lucky I am to have a fantastic boyfriend and the cutest cats in the world. Worrying less is kind of happening, too, but this is something I still need to work on. I can, still, get into loops when I worry about our jobs, our flat, our bills, our lives. Even now, when everything looks just fine.

I think I got to a point where my past seems to vanish. There were people in my life that I don’t need back, and there are some who I needed, and they came back. Funny, but when we moved I just figured that I missed a certain period in my life. Sometimes you feel like you miss something or someone, but you just miss the way you were at that very moment. Sometimes you link people to each other who were present at that same moment. And when you feel like you want to go back there, and be what you were, you might just need a chat with those people you were with. It did happen and it made me not miss those times anymore.

Continue clean eating, check. We go to markets, buy bio, cook bio and it is just awesome. And yes, occasionally we have a burger. And fries. And pizza. But I really think we are on the best track ever. Also, organic burgers are served just around the corner. 😉

And I am still blonde. Since january, how good is that? I didn’t think I could stick to one hair colour for this long (apart from my original one, duh).

About creativity and photography. Not a lot of progress to be fair. I am doing an online photography course on open2study and reading the book called Drawing on the right side of the brain so I really hope, that by next January I’ll be able to present some self made art and spam this blog with it completely. I also made the first photos of moving human beings, and I’m gonna show one around without their permission.

couple

The cats

They are all fine. They enjoy the space and looking out to the garden. They meet new cats through the window and eat huge spiders. Did you know, that the giant house spider is very common in Brussels? Me neither! Luckily Blacket eats all of them, so I only find legs and dead bodies in the morning. Phew!

They might even enjoy eating them. Apart from that, I booked the girls in for neutering surgery for the first week of October, and I will probably be dead worried. I don’t even think about it. Yet.

To close it, here is a picture of Blacket during work hours.

The adventures of business cat
Business Cat
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Dealing With Humidity In a Basement Flat

Basement flats are great for so many reasons. They usually have a separate entrance and their own patio plus most of them come with storage rooms, too. They are also cheap. You can get a decent 100 sqm apartment for the price of a 60 sqm one. For this same reason, if you need a well located flat, this is the one to go for. In central London with sky high rents and immense competition the only way of getting a well situated place for a reasonable price is to go down under.

On the other hand, the  common belief is that these flats are dark, damp and smell of mold. Most people try to avoid them at all costs. I admit, there are basement flats that are damp, dark and covered in mold, but this is not the target market.
To know what to look for, you have to know what to look for :). The main enemy of these properties is water. Insulation should solve the problem, but most horror stories you can hear prove the opposite.

Fact: a basement flat needs to be very well insulated.

Water from surrounding soil can make the walls soaking wet, and where’s water, there will be mold.
So why are there dozens of people complaining about wet walls and mold in flats that just have been thoroughly waterproofed?
Well, what happens if you seal a waterproof box completely with an evaporator inside?
All the water that can not escape will be on the walls once again.

But where is the water coming from?

Basically? You. Humidity is formed by breathing, cooking, washing, drying, having a bath, a shower.. Simply said, by living. So if a flat is well-insulated, it will keep the water out from the outside, but also the water in that is formed inside. Both result in wet walls.

Is there a solution for humidity?

Ventilation. Fresh air.
Being under ground kind of limits the size and quantity of windows, so getting fresh air in can pose a challenge. Any fans that are connected to the outside world can be huge help. It is a necessity in rooms where the most humidity is produced, such as the kitchen and the bathroom. During summer having all possible windows open for a few hours is a huge help.
A great solution can be a dehumidifier. It filters the air and gets the water out of it. These circulate the air inside, meaning windows don’t have to be open and you don’t end up heating the street.
Mold needs humidity levels above 75% for 72 hours, so if you make sure to have ventilation sorted out, mold will stay away.

My advice

I live in a basement flat (a duplex really, as I have rooms on the ground floor, too) so I thought sharing my daily routine could help. When we moved in we soon ended up having a whole wall completely soaked and it took me quite some time and research to dry them out and it still needs constant attention to make it stay this way.
(Buy a higrometer!)
Every morning when we get up we open all windows for at least 15 minutes downstairs. If it is warm outside we open all windows as soon as we get home and only close them when it starts to get dark outside. Every time we cook or take a bath the fan is switched on. And we also open the windows after meal or shower time.
In countries like England and Belgium sometimes simply opening windows can not help as the humidity outside is just as high. On cold and/or humid days we still open the windows for 10 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon, but before going to bed we also switch on the dehumidifier for 1-2 hours.
In the beginning, when your walls are very wet, try to have the dehumidifier on for at least 6 hours a day until the water clears off.

There are weeks when the humidity levels are lower outside and I only need to open windows to have humidity under control and there are days when the machine is needed. I learned to balance it and with a bit of attention we live in a mold-free, dry-walled basement flat. Which has the location, the size and the looks for half price. 

These are the pics I took of the apartment after the first visit with the estate agent. It was love at first sight. The kitchen and the living area are on the ground floor, 2 rooms and the bathroom are on the basement level.

kitchenlivingbathroomdownstairsdownstairs

Renting In Brussels With 3 Cats

Our experience: renting in Brussels.

For starters, you might want to know that we were considered majorly “handicapped” when it came to finding a suitable place to live, for the below reasons:

  • We are a foreign couple. We are a couple considered to be Eastern European. I am not making a discrimination case out of this, as my experiences have always been good with foreign acceptance in any countries I moved to, but it is a disadvantage. We are Hungarian. Budapest often gets confused with a Bucharest and people who have no idea that this is an existing country simply refer to the brilliant and overly creative “are you hungry?” joke. 🙂 But most landlords don’t really feel secure renting to…us.
  • We were living back in Hungary at the time when we had to find our accommodation. When you move to another country to work, you need to have a place to live, but to have a place to live you need to have a job. Flat hunt is easy on the Internet, but when you live 1400 kilometres away it is pretty time and money consuming to arrange viewings.
  • We have three cats (let me just refer to the name of the blog :)). If you have a pet, you are not an eligible tenant. If you have 3, you are insane in the eyes of a landlord.
  • Only one of us had a Belgian job, which he – matter of fact – has not even started. So when it came to showing 2 paychecks, well…
  • We don’t speak French or Dutch. I find that all people here possess some knowledge of English, but when it comes to rental matters, a lot passes.

With this said, we found our dream home in a week. Two weeks before the moving date the contract was signed. Did we experience the miracle? The impossible just decided to happen?

None. I admit, we probably were lucky on one hand. But I am pretty sure the way of doing this flat hunt helped a lot, so here is my advice on how to look for a new home when you feel like the impossible is about the happen:

  • Announce beforehand that you have pets and say the amount proudly. There is no reason to not tell, or be embarrassed about the fact that you are such a great person that 3 cats chose to live with you. This will protect you from a lot of disappointments. You will receive a lot of “no”s. People will be rude. But in fairness, would you really want to live in someone’s property who has this kind of an attitude towards your beloved pets? Do you really want to explain yourself every time you talk to your landlord?
  • If you are an expat find agencies that specialize in renting to expats. Use their property list to make sure the landlord won’t rent the apartment to someone less eligible just because they are local.
  • Don’t rush and jump on a plane every time you are invited to visit a property. Tell everything to the agent, or the landlord and make it clear that you need to schedule a certain appointment. Ask for everything they need from you for the decision and take those with you. If you go prepared they will appreciate the effort and see that you are an organized, responsible person who is ready to rent their property.
  • Expect downsides and learn to compromise. No property will ever be a hundred percent perfect. Consider your needs and adjust expectations.
  • Not everything is what is seems. Our flat is beautiful, huge and still cozy. We love it. It has a garden a fireplace and everything we can imagine. Oh, and by the way, 3 months into the contract turns out that our laundry is shared but only we are paying for the electricity plus all the common areas are connected to our meter, too. We have humidity issues on one wall, and the heating system is really loud. My point is to make sure you know every single detail about the apartment beforehand, because if something is too good to be true, it probably is. So don’t be afraid to talk about the bills, consumption estimation and the price you are going to pay for the rent. If you feel like, you can ask the landlord to adjust the price to your needs.

Are we still happy with our decision? So far, yes. Slowly everything is getting fixed and at least we learnt a lot about renting and our apartment. If we move to another place, we will know what to look for. Then again, a new place can have new hidden problems. You can never be a 100% sure, but you can be prepared. My main advice is to always have a plan, and a plan B. And C. Maybe D, too. 🙂

Living in Brussels – Pros and Cons

All the things I like and don’t like about living in Brussels 🙂

I am gonna be quick and blunt about this. First impressions – listed.

Things I do not like about Brussels:

  • People can’t drive or park
  • 5+ way junctions. “Hello, roundabouts have been invented!”
  • Pieces of pavement that move
  • Pieces of pavement that move when it rains. Water fills the hole up underneath, so when someone steps on them it is like stepping on a geysir.
  • Humidity. It’s ok that my hair looks like a mess all the time, but humidity creeps into our flat and causes wet walls. I have to have constant focus on not to have ideal conditions for mold.

Things I like about Brussels:

  • It is really calm and has a pretty good atmosphere. (I am comparing it to Budapest.)
  • Everything is walking distance. At least for us. But seriously, there are no long distances. Once I went into a tunnel in the city centre and came out on the highway out of the city. It wasn’t even that long of a tunnel.
  • Hidden parks. They are great.
  • Architecture.

Things I don’t really care about:

  • Rain. I don’t really mind rain, but I hate it when its so hot outside you cannot breathe. I don’t like any temperatures to be higher than 28 Celsius or below -5. So it is great here.