Friday, December 12, 2014

'My glass is definitely fuller here'

In this month's Gazette van Detroit I sat down with Hélène Toye to talk about her life in the Washington DC suburbs, motherhood and of course her book 'Go West'.

You can read the entire interview on my Issuu page.

In case you are hungry for more, you should definitely check Hélène's blog for more information and - often funny - stories about her life in the US. And buy her book of course! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The D's Comeback

In last weekend's issue of Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws: my piece about the comeback of the Motor City. You find the article (in Dutch) on my Issuu page

Heidelberg Street (c) LDL
Dequindre Cut (c) LDL

Interested in traveling to Detroit?  Please click here for the Visit Detroit website

Friday, November 21, 2014

Belgian LPQ opens fourth Chicago location

A lot has happened since 1990 when chef Alain Coumont opened his first Le Pain Quotidien in Brussels. LPQ is now operating over 200 restaurants in 17 countries around the globe. The first US location opened in 1997 in - of course - New York City.  Now there are numerous locations throughout NYC, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Connecticut, California and since spring of this year finally in Chicago. After openings in the West Loop, Lincoln Park and Gold Coast neighbourhoods, the fourth location on 20 North Michigan Ave opened its doors last Wednesday. 

Since the beginning, a communal table made of reclaimed wood has formed the centerpiece of every Le Pain Quotidien. Designed to bring friends, family and even strangers together, the communal table represents Le Pain Quotidien’s commitment to fostering community connections. Chicago will continue to embrace the shared tradition in each of the locations.

Each store features retail shelves filled with the brands’ favorite pantry items, which are also featured in many of their signature recipes. The organic jams and chocolate spreads (Blondie, Brunette, Noir, Noisella and Speculoos) as well as the organic cold pressed Mahjoub olive oil, balsamic vinegar, grey sea salt and black Malabar pepper mills are shared on the communal tables in every Chicago location. 

Our favorite at this time of year? A tartine +  Belgian hot chocolate to warm up after a walk in Millennium Park! 

Bon Appétit! 

Le Pain Quotidien is open seven days a week for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. Additional info can be found on the LPQ website

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dieter Naessens: "Work hard, play hard"

In this month's Gazette van Detroit I talk to Dieter Naessens, a very ambitious, succesful young Belgian in New York. You can read the article on my Issuu page

Photo: courtesy of Dieter Naessens 

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Having moved to Chicago very recently - not even two months ago - there are a so many places, people and things waiting to be discovered. And that my friends, is bloody exciting !
What I have discovered already : this city is full of great restaurants, impressive architecture, incredible music & interesting people. 

Also, Chicago has always hosted film and tv crews from all over the world. And that is what this weekend is all about: the Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice crew has arrived in the Windy City after having spent six months in Detroit.  For us, especially 5 year old León, this is something very very exciting. So yes: tomorrow we will walk to the set (only five block or so from where we live) and we will try to get a glimpse of one of the biggest blockbusters in 2016. 
Starring Ben Affleck (Batman), Henry Cavill (Superman) and Amy Adams (Lois Lane) amongst others. 

If you are in the area and want to check it out for yourself: you can follow the latest news & gossip on Twitter or follow me on social media of course :-) 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Welcome to Chicago, Shake Shack!

Finally! Shake Shack has arrived in the Windy City! Long lines of people were waiting last Tuesday to be among the first to try Danny Meyer's quality fast food.

And of course we had to go on that first day too. Boyfriend being stuck at work, I decided to take our five your old boy and leave the tasting/testing up to him. I have been a Shake Shack fan since one of my dearest New York friends took me to the original Shake Shack, in Madison Square Park. Thanks again Wouter!

Publican Pork Sausage ($5.00)
Contains an exclusively for Shake Shack made pork sausage, Shack cheddar and American cheese sauce and crispy ShackMeister Ale-marinated shallots. Absolutely delicious. But we already knew that the guys and girls of the Publican know their Quality Meats. Yummie!

Shack Burger - single  ($ 4.95)
A modern Classic. Now approved by our five year old son. No further comment.

Shack Attack Concrete ($4.30)
This was definitely the favourite. Matching and maybe even exceeding our expectations.
Dense frozen custard ice cream blended at high speed with mix-oin. This particular one contains: chocolate custard, fudge sauce, chocolate truffle cookie dough, and Vosges black salt caramel chocolate, topped with chocolate sprinkles. Ice cream heaven so to speak.

After this succulent fast food meal Shake Shack has at least one new member of the fan club. We will be back soon, and then I will finally introduce my boyfriend too ....

Please note: Although the number of calories of each item are mentioned on the menu, I have deliberately left them out. For obvious reasons. Thank you for your understanding. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pamela Peeters: Eco Hero in New York

In this month's issue of Gazette van Detroit I have a nice chat with Eco Hero Pamela Peeters. 

(c) Willie Davis 

Pamela Peeters is an environmental economist who has specialized in sustainable development for more than 15 years and advocates for sustainable living. Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the Earth's natural resources and personal resources. At its most basic, sustainable living means living a lifestyle that uses as few resources as possible and causes the least amount of environmental damage for future generations to deal with.
Ms. Peeters consults with companies and personalities on how to "Go Green" and be "Sustainable". She has produced over 200 television episodes of the lifestyle magazine, Our Planet, various short films and several radio segments. She lectures internationally and contributes in making sustainable development topics become a part of the mainstream media. Since 2005, she has produced the Sustainable Planet Film Festival.
In 2007, her first book, Urban Ecology, was released. Recently, she published, Eco Hero, a book about a little girl who travels the world solving environmental imbalances often caused by human pressure. In the first book, she visits Sweden, makes new friends and solves the problem with this group.
Visit her website,, to learn more about sustainable lifestyle solutions. For additional information on Pamela Peeters click here!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The 'Great' Chicago Fire Weekend

Last weekend Chicago was all about Fire. On Saturday we went to the first ever Great Chicago Fire Festival , brought by Redmoon, a Chicago based theater company known for 'spectacle art'. Needless to say our expectations were high. And they even went sky high when my interviews with Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney, leading actors in NBC's prime time drama 'Chicago Fire', got confirmed just days prior to the event. My first celebs in the Windy City ! 

So yes, it is Saturday afternoon and I am indeed a little nervous, anxious maybe, to interview them. I brought my two boys with me - don't all guys like fire  ? - and we make the last minute decision to find each other after the interviews. A decision that will turn out to be a huge mistake. More about that later. You are probably dying to know how my meeting with Taylor and Jesse went, right?

Of course! 

Well, I have seen my fair share of press conferences, events and junkets before but this kind of chaos: never ! We are escorted through a maze under the Michigan Avenue Bridge and me and about fifteen other reporters, camera/sound men & women end up in a place near the water of maximum 50 square feet. Add the numerous pr managers and spokesmen and women to that and you have an idea of how we members of the press are obliged to fight for a spot near the designated interview space of about 4 square feet. Since NBC is the official 'Chicago Fire' network, they are the first to interview both actors. What happens after that is a little crazy: with my camera, pen, notebook ánd iPad in my hands I move towards Mr Kinney and Mr Spencer and kindly ask them for a couple of minutes of their time for Belgian media. "No problem !", "Of course !", they say with a huge smile on their faces. Me very happy, leaving Fox, the Chicago Tribune and many others behind me. Especially Australian native Jesse was is friendly and answers all my questions with that same big smile. I find out that Jesse never wanted to become a fireman, as in Australia being a fireman means being confronted with all those terrible bush fires. Such a nice man. Taylor, AKA Lady Gaga's boyfriend (or fiancé or even husband according to some rumours...) is rather friendly too and goes on and on about the fantastic people that live in Chicago. Thank you Mr Kinney! *

                                                        (Taylor Kinney & Jesse Spencer (c) Leentje De Leeuw)

And then some PR lady interrupts me: "I think we need to wrap thing up here ! Who are you doing this for anyway?" Haha, for Belgian media of course M'am ! And so my a 3 minute interview with the guys comes to an end. Fox TV is next and they get about 30 secs with the actors. Not bad for a guerrilla interview, no ...?

But five minutes later, while I am trying to reach my boys who were on the other side of the river, apparently no press area at all, I notice a very short grey guy. Wait, is that POTUS**...? It sure is, wow: President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet himself is standing only a couple of feet from me, and so are the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel and the governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn. Wow, such big men in such a small space. I don't know how to react until one of my colleagues takes out his iPhone and tries to take a selfie with Mr Martin Sheen (who of course plays POTUS in one of my favourite tv shows The West Wing). I decide to take the photo for him, but only after he promises to take one of me and the Great Actor. And so it happens:

                                              (With the great Martin Sheen - photo taken by unknown colleague)

All of the above happens in about twenty minutes. The actors & politicians leave and we are left behind to cover of course the 'Grand Spectacle' ... No way I will be able to cross the river and find my boys ...  We are there waiting, freezing, waiting, freezing completely, ...  and the Great Fire ? Well it never comes ... Only after I will finally have left the scene to go home and join my boys who had given up the wait already, I will hear the fireworks behind me. No looking back, Leentje, no looking back! I feel really sorry for the very nice people of Redmoon that put so much time, effort and money ($ 2 million) in this 'spectacle', but even more for my two boys who were waiting in the crowd for ... nothing ...

Chicago Fire Sunday 

The next day we decide to get a ZipCar and drive to the Toyota Arena to watch the Chicago Fire play against Montréal Impact. (This is soccer people) Even though the game is kind of boring and it is rather cold out there: we have a fun time, enjoy our $2 beers and hot dogs and well: we even get to see some fire works!

Who knows what this Columbus Day weekend has in store for us  ... 

* I admit: he also talked a lot about the decent steak they serve here ...
** President of the United States

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Stromae: on the verge of becoming a global phenomenon

Brussels born and raised Paul van Haver, stage name Stromae, is well on his way to taking the world by storm. Not only the Belgians, French and German seem to love him, his Canadian and North-American fan base is growing every day.
Last week I attended his sold out show at Chicago's Metro and was an eye witness to the magic that happens when he gets on stage. FORMIDABLE!

Last Friday my review was published in Het Laatste Nieuws, Belgium's leading newspaper.

Today another piece is published in Joepie, a Belgian magazine for teens. 

Cesaria Evora

Also last week his new single, the fifth one taken from his album Racine Carrée, 'Ave Cesaria', a tribute to Cesaria Evora, was released. The video is on Vevo and YouTube and has English subtitles.
We love Cesaria, and we love Stromae!

to be continued .... 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bon vivant in the Big Easy

Last summer we were in New Orleans, the Big Easy, as a part of our 'the sound of the South' trip. We met the Belgian proprietor of one of the nicest wine bars we ever visited, Patrick's Bar Vin.
In this month's issue of Gazette van Detroit you can read more about Patrick Van Hoorebeek, one of many Belgians who have made it in the US.

(photography: Michael Slowack)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

David Bowie Is in Chicago

It seems like Chicago's museums are all over the news this week: the Art Institute was voted Best Museum in the world on Tripadvisor and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is hosting its largest and most expensive show in its 47-year history: the $2 Million, 400 pieces Bowie exhibition, opening on Tuesday Sept 23rd. We had the honor to attend the press preview yesterday.


I am not 100% sure, but I think I was the only member of the Belgian press at MCA yesterday morning. I never made it to the opening at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London (march 2013), but well: I moved to Chicago just in time to be able to see it here.

After London Bowie Is has traveled to Toronto, Sao Paolo and Berlin. But Chicago is the only US city included on the exhibition. After Chicago the show will travel to Paris, Melbourne and the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands.

David Bowie: I wouldn't call myself a die hard fan, but I have always loved the phenomenon and appreciated a lot of what Bowie the all round artist, role model and pioneer has achieved. As this exhibition* contains a selection of 400 pieces (out of the 75000 in Bowie's archive!), it is impossible to talk about them all. Besides the impressive, immersive sound & vision aspect and the costumes (check the Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat from 'Earthling') there were some really interesting things I discovered here. 


For example: the Verbasizer, a machine that cuts up sentences and was used by Bowie to write some of his lyrics. Interesting!

The estimated time you will spend at the show is 90 minutes, but bare in mind that it might be more, especially if you wish to check out the shop as well  .... We spent only $40 on all kinds of useless gadgets ... but you could spend a whole lot more if you want... 

'David Bowie Is': Sept 23rd - Jan 4th at MCA -

Reservations are strongly recommended - tickets cost $25 and include general admission to the museum

(photography: Leentje De Leeuw)

*fyi: both Michael Darling, chief curator at MCA and Geoffrey Marsh, Director of the Department of Theatre and Performance at V&A refuse to call this a retrospective, they prefer 'show' and I tend to agree with them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Chicago bucket list Fall 14

Finally, our tickets are booked!
On Sunday Sept 14th we will arrive in Chicago to start a brand new life!

Of course I will be kind of busy unpacking, arranging all kinds of paper work for myself and McLion jr, but hey: a girl needs to have fun too, right? So I have made this bucket list of TEN Chicago things I want to do this fall. And I want to share it with you to see if you have something to add (or delete!).

Here we go (in random order):

We are sooooooo gourmet! 

@ Art Institute Chicago 

And while we're there, we need to see this the Chicagoisms expo (until Jan 4th 2015) too of course! 

3. LEVEL2014 (Sep 11 - 20th)

If it is half as impressive as this photo shows, I will be taking A LOT of photos ... 

4. A Chicago Fire game 

So looking forward to attend a MLS game! 

Getting to know my new home town by walking: the best way, no?

6. Hyde Park Jazz Festival (Sep 27 - 28th)

Since we will not be in time for the Chicago Jazz Festival, we will simply have to try to at least see a couple of performances at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, right? 

7. Chicago Film Festival (Oct 9 - 23rd)

Hoping to at least attend a couple of screenings ... and parties maybe ...? 

8. Stromae

A Belgian hero coming to my new home town ... surely not to be missed! 

Free access, we should go there every weekend, right? 

10. Spa visit

To prepare for the Chicago winter, one needs at least one decent spa visit, right?

Open to any of your suggestions! 

More things to see & do: 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Chicago for foodies


My second column is online and all about food, food ... and food :-)

You can read it here (in Dutch). Smakelijk!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

First impressions of our road trip


(Broadway Oyster Bar) 


(Musicians Hall of Fame) 



(legendary Sun Studio) 

(Lorraine Motel - National Civil Rights Museum - the balcony where MLK was shot) 

(Stax Records) 


(Ground Zero Blues Club - co-owned by Morgan Freeman) 



(Melrose - one of the many antebellum homes - featured in acclaimed television series 'North & South') 


(Vicksburg battlefields) 


Photography: Michael Slowack & Leentje De Leeuw