Thursday, 27 September 2007

My Favourite Toys Catalogue

This is just a plug for one of my favourite mail order companies who will ship worldwide.

Hawkin's Bazaar offer a bizarre selection of toys and curiousities, from pocket money toys for pennies to more substantial items. Just receiving the brochure is a delight as there are so many items from days gone by and funny joke items.

At Hawkin’s Bazaar they source unusual toys, gifts, gadgets and curiosities that appeal to all ages and tastes. There is something for everyone, even the most difficult to buy for: from retro space hoppers, wooden toys, clockwork toys and musical instruments, to games, puzzles, science kits, party paraphernalia and grown-up gifts/gadgets… the list is endless!

Christmas is 89 days away!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Largest Indoor Skipiste in Europe

Last weekend, Snow Valley in Peer, Limburg, Belgium held an open-door weekend when children and adults could enjoy one hour FREE ski-ing including hire of equipment. This was an offer too good to resist.

Apparently the indoor skipiste in Snow Valley, Peer has a piste of 235 m long by 30m wide served by 3 poma style lifts and a kids' piste of 100m with a conveyor belt.

For snowboarders, there are kicks with rails, big air, fun box and quarterpipes.

Visit the site of SnowValley, Belgium

My photos of Snow Valley on Flickr

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Kids and Advertising

In case anyone doubts the effect of advertising on kids, mine can be heard chanting,

"L'Oreal Kids Shampoo, because we're worth it too".

My 6 year old also asks me why I am not interested in Sheila's Wheels car Insurance, the one with all the women in the stretch pink limo.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Scots Weekend in Alden Biesen, Belgium

I was astonished that over 20,000 people visited for the 21st annual Scots Weekend (7-9 September 2007) in Alden Biesen, a sort of castle in Limburg, Belgium. Even the lousy weather we are having did not put people off.

We visited on Saturday and heard various pipe bands (bagpipes), shopped for Scottish produce on the market, drank Gordon beer, sampled Scotch whiskies and the children tried their hand at archery before burning off energy on the proverbial bouncy castle.

My photos of the Scots Weekend on Flickr

I met a group of young men in matching T-shirts and kilts, one of whom was dressed up with toy armour. I asked them where they were from and discovered they were Belgians on a stag party weekend. Apparently it is traditional for Belgians to do this! I saw a group of women in matching costume when we were leaving so maybe they were on a hen party.

I was pleased to hear that the Belgian group of monitors at my fitness club, Olympia in Hasselt, won first prize in the Highland Games. The trophy is proudly on display.

Antonia Stuart-James is an English Hypnotherapist in Belgium.

Economist Pocket World in Figures 2008

This is the new edition of this annual bestseller of fascinating facts and figures about the world we live in. The 2008 edition has been completely updated, revised, refreshed and expanded. It contains rankings on more than 200 topics in subject areas as wide-ranging as geography, population, business, the economy, trade, transport, finance, industry, demographics, the environment, society, culture and crime. This annual bestseller has the answers to all these questions and more. It contains data on 182 countries and profiles of more than 65 of the world's major economies, together with special profiles on the Euro Zone and the World.

The best level of human development and quality of life overall is to be found in:
1. Norway
2. Iceland
3. Australia
4. Ireland
5. Sweden
6. Canada
7. Japan
8. USA
9. Netherlands, Finland & Switzerland
12.Belgium & Luxembourg
17. UK
Worst quality of life:
Bottom 5: Niger, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau.

Standard of living
1. Luxembourg
2. Bermuda
3. Norway
4. Iceland
5. Switzerland
6. Ireland

The Economist uses the Human Development Report 2006 that looks beyond GDP to a broader definition of well-being. The HDI provides a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life (measured by life expectancy), being educated (measured by adult literacy and enrolment at the primary, secondary and tertiary level) and having a decent standard of living measured by purchasing power parity, PPP, income).

If you want to know:
- the highest mountain or longest river
- where economic growth is fastest or inflation is highest
- who consumes the most energy
- where innovation is highest
- where computer and mobile phone ownership is highest
- which countries have the most asylum seekers
- who spends most, and who the least, on healthcare
- the heaviest drinkers and smokers
- who recycles most
- facts about obesity

Besides quality of life, South Africa has the highest house price inflation and Ecuador the most murders per capita.

Australians drink the most alcohol, Greeks smoke the most cigarettes, Japan reads the most newspapers. Japan also has the world's largest proportion of elderly people with 26% of its population over 60, while European country Luxembourg has the highest GDP per capita - because part of its workforce lives in neighbouring countries.

While the USA and Japan remain the biggest economies, they come in at 8th and 7th respectively on the quality of life stakes. The UK which is the world's fifth biggest economy, has a 17th ranking in the "human development" index.

The United States heads the rankings of the world's biggest producers of carbon emissions with about 4,800 million tonnes, followed by China on 4,140 million. Russia comes in third place on 1,500 million tonnes.

The book, which is put together by the influential British magazine, also reveals a string of interesting facts about lifestyle trends:

* Crime, Ecuador has 18.3 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Swaziland on 13.6 and Mongolia on 12.8.
* The USA has by far the biggest prison population with 2.2 million behind bars, while China carries out by the far the most executions - 3,400 in 2004.
* Belgium scores best for children's schooling.

Some of the economic figures could raise eyebrows, especially in the Economist's home country:
* House price inflation is highest in South Africa, where prices rose 351% from 1997-2006, followed by Ireland on 253% and the UK on 191%.

The publication also includes an update of the Economist's so-called Big Mac Index, which attempts to reflect purchasing power by the cost of a McDonald's burger.
* The cheapest BigMac can be found in China at US$1.41, with Hong Kong on US$1.54 and Malaysia on $US1.57, while the most expensive Big Mac in the world is to be found in Iceland, at nearly US$7.5.

Some figures:
Alcohol consumption (litres per head of population per year)
Most: 1. Australia 99.2; 2. Czech Republic 98.2; 3. Germany 96.2; 4. Finland 92; 5 Austria 87.8.

Life expectancy (years)
Highest: Andorra 83.5; Japan 82.6; Hong Kong 82.2; Iceland 81.8; Switzerland 81.7.

Newspaper readership (copies read per thousand of population)
Most: 1. Japan, 546; 2. Norway 514; Sweden 488; Finland 436; Singapore 380.

Music sales (dollars spent per head on music)
Most: UK 36.2; Japan 29; Norway 28.9; Switzerland 28.2; United States 23.5.

No well-informed person can afford to be without it.

Schooling in Belgium

From 1 September 2007, junior schools in Belgium are to be "kosteloos", ie without costs.

Children receive the following items from the school:
- books, atlases, dictionaries, notebooks, diary
- reading books,picture books
- pencils, ballpoint pens, rubbers (erasers in US)
- paint, art paper
- glue, scissors, ruler
- compasses, set square, protractor, calculator, compass
- photocopies
- balls, rope, tricycles, climbing equipment
- cardboard, wood, tools, building blocks, puzzles
- computers, internet, software
- musical instruments.

What is not free ie for what must parents pay?
- Swimming costs (except first years who receive free lessons, the 6 year olds)
- Trips out such as theatre, walks in the wood, sports activities, school journeys.
- Sport clothing, newspapers (if necessary).
The school may ask a maximum annual contribution of 20€ in nursery and 60€ in the junior school.

The school may also request payment for activities and services outside normal school hours but children are not obliged to take part:
- drinks, midday lunch, surveillance before and after school, bus transport, new year letters, T-shirt and class photos.

Parents must provide:
- books bag, lunch box, pencil case, outdoor clothing, gym shoes.

In the recently published "Pocket World in Figures 2008" recently published by The Economist, Belgium scored the highest ranking for children's schooling.

I am very happy with the schooling that my boys, aged 6 and 9, receive in the local Flemish school and can compare this with both state and private schools in the UK and Spain.

Antonia Stuart-James is an English Hypnotherapist in Belgium helping people to make positive change.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Are You Blessed?

- If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the people of this world!

- If you have money in the bank and in the purse, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy persons!

- If you wake up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than one million who will not survive this week!

- If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are more blessed than three billion people in the world!

- If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are more blessed because you can offer healing touch!

- If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all!

Count your blessings and pass this message to remind everyone else how blessed they are.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Some Blonde Jokes

Two blondes living in Oklahoma were sitting on a bench talking, and one blonde says to the other, 'Which do you think is farther away...Florida or the moon?'
The other blonde turns and says 'Helloooooooooo, can you see Florida?????'

A blonde pushes her BMW into a gas station. She tells the mechanic it died. After he works on it for a few minutes, it is idling smoothly.
She says, 'What's the story?'
He replies, 'Just crap in the carburetor'
She asks, 'How often do I have to do that?'

A police officer stops a blonde for speeding and asks her very nicely if he could see her license.
She replied in a huff, 'I wish you guys would get your act together. Just yesterday you take away my license and then today you expect me to show it to you!'

There's this blonde out for a walk. She comes to a river and sees another blonde on the opposite bank. 'Yoo-hoo!' she shouts, 'How can I get to the other side?'
The second blonde looks up the river then down the river and shouts back,
'You ARE on the other side.'

A gorgeous young redhead goes into the doctor's office and says that her body hurt wherever she touched it.
'Impossible!' says the doctor. 'Show me.'
The redhead took her finger, pushed on her left shoulder and screamed,then she pushed her elbow and screamed even more. She pushed her knee and screamed; likewise she pushed her ankle and screamed. Everywhere she touched made her scream.
The doctor said, 'You're not really a redhead, are you?
'Well, no' she said, 'I'm actually a blonde.'
'I thought so,' the doctor said. 'Your finger is broken.'

A highway patrolman pulled alongside a speeding car on the freeway. Glancing at the car, he was astounded to see that the blonde behind the wheel was knitting! Realizing that she was oblivious to his flashing lights and siren, the trooper cranked down his window, turned on his bullhorn and yelled,
'NO!' the blonde yelled back, 'IT'S A SCARF!'

A Russian, an American, and a Blonde were talking one day. The Russian said, 'We were the first in space!'
The American said, 'We were the first on the moon!'
The Blonde said, 'So what? We're going to be the first on the sun!'
The Russian and the American looked at each other and shook their heads. 'You can't land on the sun, you idiot! You'll burn up!' said the Russian.
To which the Blonde replied, 'We're not stupid, you know. We're going at night!'

A blonde was playing Trivial Pursuit one night. It was her turn. She rolled the dice and she landed on Science & Nature. Her question was,
'If you are in a vacuum and someone calls your name, can you hear it?'
She thought for a time and then asked, 'Is it on or off?'

A girl was visiting her blonde friend, who had acquired two new dogs, and asked her what their names were. The blonde responded by saying that one was named Rolex and one was named Timex.
Her friend said, 'Whoever heard of someone naming dogs like that?'
'HELLLOOOOOOO......,' answered the blond. 'They're watch dogs.'