Monday, October 26, 2009

Though I cannot physically juggle, It seems I am a juggler.

I ate this on the way to Paris, and forgot to include it in the last entry, but anyways.  It's too sweet, and the almond taste gets a little lost in that.  Perhaps this one was a little old, but it tasted kind of 'dusty'.

This weekend I worked, and partied, and worked.  Saturday morning I was at work for 7am, where essentially I run around for 8 hours, or juggle I guess.  There are a bunch of things that have to be done every day, and then there are the things that come up along the way that you have to handle as well.  Sometimes these things that come up can really mess with your ability to get all the regular things done in the amount of time you have.  This is why I say I run, because I think it's always better to take less time than to take more.  I don't actually RUN there though... that would be unsafe!  But it's safe to say I'm one of the fastest walkers you'll ever meet.

So, Saturday am was work.  I came home, showered and began to get ready.  We had a wedding reception to attend on Saturday night in Malmedy, which is about an hour away from here by car.  While getting ready we had dinner and took an apero (drink), after which we finished making ourselves pretty (we both looked smashing and I hope to have a photo come my way to show you...stupid camera batteries always trying to sabotage me!) and left.

The reception got pretty wild pretty quick, with lots of booze and dancing.  We arrived back home at 6:30am... just in time for me to go to work again!  No, thankfully since it was the evening the clocks go back here, it was actually 5:30, so I managed to squeeze in 45 minutes of sleep before waking, showering and heading into work.  I have to say that for this I am a champion... only my feet were really the wiser that I was tired I think, but then dancing for 7 hours in heels will do that to you.  At least I hope nobody was really the wiser... I had a dream last night that my boss told me he wasn't going to re-sign my contract since he wasn't sure how long I could stay in Belgium.

In the real world (not dreamland) it seems as though my contract will be re-signed.  I don't have the official word yet, but some of the signs are there... enough to make me think it's likely.  The dream I had does reflect a concern I'm dealing with though, which is about leaving.  My visa has no expiry date, and my permis de séjour (my identity card) expires in May.  So, firstly we aren't sure if I have to leave at the end of March (one year from my entry into Belgium,) or if I'd have to leave by 14th of May (end of my permis.)  This is a need to know for when my contract comes up in discussion, because a 6 month contract may be proposed, and depending on which date is my required 'leave date' I may have to say I can only sign a 3 month contract instead (not a good move to make if a 6 month contract is offered.)

We'd like to request a visa based on cohabitation for me.  In this way I could stay and work here, and we'd have the assurance that we'd never have to say goodbye again to each other unless it was by choice, rather than by circumstance as it's been up to this point.  Unfortunately to be able to request this, my divorce has to be finalized, giving me the required proof that I'm not married, and I'm not sure that this will be done in time.  Sadly, at a distance I'm not able to be much help to my spouse (who is still, my amazing friend as well,) in Toronto.  He's working, studying, trying to see his girlfriend (who lives in the US) and trying to move things along with the divorce too.

I guess a little anxiety hangs around me for the moment simply because there is so much stuff that's out of my hands, but that will determine the events of my life over the next while.  Will I have a job after Nov 18th?  Will I be able to stay in Belgium past the end of March?  Past the 14th May?  I don't know if or when I'll have to leave, and that makes it a little more challenging, if not downright difficult.  I can deal with instability, but I think in this case I'd prefer to know a little more than I do right now.  Planning anything is a little bit of impossible with so many elements up in the air.

Friday, October 23, 2009

So what's the problem?


This is what came home the other night.  Boyfriend, in a very low and booming voice, chanting this as he came through the door.  He explained to me he'd been listening to Studio Brussels (a radio station that plays mostly electronic music) and he'd heard a song that used these lyrics over and over in an almost heavy-metal style.  (He then proceeded to do his best imitation, which had me doubled over laughing.)

This morning I googled these very lyrics only to discover it was Rammstein... a German hardcore-industrial-electronic group I've known about for years and years.  In fact... Boyfriend does a pretty good imitation of the voice of the lead singer, now that I know who it is.  The song (called "Pussy",) is pretty weak lyrically (no, ...really?) and the video is plain out porn interspersed with shots of the band playing, but hey... this is Europe.  That's all I can really say.  People over here are less uptight about these kinds of things, at least when the lyrics are in English.  Personally, I have to say I find the song hilarious in it's Eurotrashiness, but I doubt it'll ever make the airwaves in N. America without a little editing.

If you want more of the "Eurotrash experience", feel free to look up a song by Tiga called "Shoes".  Tiga is Canadian by the way, of Montreal, though like many techno producers, these days he spends a great deal of time in the global hot-bed of techno production, Berlin.  If you prefer something a little tiny bit closer to home and want to know what Can-culture looks like served up through Eurofiltered lenses, then look up the video for Tiga's version of "Sunglasses at Night" (a song originally by another Canadian, Corey Hart.)  The Tiga video features a celebrity tranny by the name of Amanda Lepore.  (PS Amanda: a little less botox would do wonders for that drooping lip and eyelid you seem to have.)

Ah yes.  I've been meaning to show this to you for awhile.  I tore it out of a catalogue that came to the house just to show you.  I call it "The day Christelle decided to stop telling people she was a model":

Doesn't she just look thrilled to be part of this shoot?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

coup de fil = :D

That's what it's called when you give someone a shout on the phone.  A "touch of wire", if you will.  I did just that last night, calling the Belgian consulate in Montreal to figure out exactly what's what with my visa and my rights to come and go.  I wanted to make sure that at the very least if my visa really was that restrictive, that I wouldn't accidentally end up in the wrong country and have my visa cancelled.

Turns out that though my visa is quite restrictive, my residence permit overrides that, and since I have my residence permit, I'm all good!  I can come and go as I like!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I cannot visit home, not even for a few days.  This is because I have a single-entry visa, which could be cancelled if I return to my home country, even if it's only for a few days to visit.

Very not happy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Encounters of the unexpected kind

So we went to Paris for the Salon du Chocolat Professionel.  Left the house at 5:30am to arrive in Paris just in time for the buchon (traffic jam) at 9am.

The Salon... disappointing.  As far as information and new things to discover I was definitely underwhelmed, and felt like maybe I should have gone to check out the other major chocolate salon in Europe instead, Eurochocolate in Perugia, Italy.  The world masters of chocolate was happening though and it was neat to watch the competitors doing their thing.  By watching the competitors in their regulation kitchen-spaces, it was easy to see that the American and the Japanese felt right at home as they worked quickly and efficiently while others seemed a little more fuddled.

Shigeo Hirai of Japan won the overall title this year.  The American came in 2nd.

I was amazed at the warmth of the room.  A cool ambient temperature makes for easier tempering of the chocolate, however I did notice many competitors frequently making use of a spray-coolant provided to them as a standard issue tool for the competition, while others 'flashed' the chocolate they were moulding or shaping on acetate in their freezers.  It seems some clever little bees did their moulding earlier in the morning when the room was cooler, and left the finishing of their pastries for when the room was warmer (smart.)

Along with the Salon being a bit of a letdown, I wasn't feeling in top form, and then later in the day realized I was getting a cold-sore, which is everyone's favourite feeling.  Fortunately the pharmacy saved the day when they explained I could go for the traditional creme or ointment, or try these neato new medicated patches.  Check it out.
So there are 15 of these babies in each pack, and really... they work.  They do a pretty darn good job of taking care of all the things you worry about when you have a cold-sore (pain, gross-factor, visibility, possibility of infection & so on), and to top it off, they're almost invisible and seem to speed the healing process along.  Here's me wearing one as we walked around Paris Saturday morning (day 2 of cold-sore.)

You should know I would normally KILL anyone trying to take a picture of me with a cold-sore.  Thanks to these patches, the photographer survived!

Aside from my lip maybe looking a little swollen, you can't tell, can you?  And here's a closeup of my lips today, day 4 of coldsore.  You can't really tell but the sore has already ulcerated and without these little guys would be all burny and gross-crusty-ulcery.  Yech.  But honestly, I hardly feel a thing when I've got this lovely on.  Not the patch, nor the pain that usually accompanies a cold-sore.  Ready?

Yes, I know, I could use some lipgloss.  And you can see the patch maybe a little here, but at this point it's been on for a few hours, and I had a cup of tea.  They normally stick for about 8 hours depending on what you're doing (I generally try to drink through a straw when I have a cold-sore, and that seems to help here with retaining the adhesiveness of the patch too.)  But, for anyone who suffers from cold-sores now and then as I do, these things are a GODSEND.  A godsend made by Johnson & Johnson.  The last plus is that they take a long time to expire.  Since I get a cold-sore once every 1.5 or 2 years, and the expiry on the package is 2012, before leaving Paris I picked up another package, so I'll be ready next time!

After we left the Salon we walked around for a little while and then went to check-in at our hotel.  Very verrry nice for the scandalously good 65 euro/night price (I am the queen of finding amazing hotels at amazing prices in good locations.)  Essentially we had a furnished apartment, large by Parisian standards, fully equipped, and very clean.  (If you're making travel plans in France, check out Citea Aparthotels.  Seriously.)  Having been up so early, we napped a bit and went to locate dinner upon waking.  After a long drive and a lot of walking we were pretty bushed so it was dinner in and a movie on the canal + provided free in the apartment.  So I suppose the first day in Paris was a bit of a washout.  The next day we went to check out an exhibition of masterworks re-done using spongebob squarepants, which was pretty neat, and we both agreed that sadly it was far more satisfying than the Salon had been the day before.

We walked a little more in the moody weather (rain, sun, grey, rain, sun, rain, grey,) and then decided we were tired and bored of Paris, so we got in the car and headed for home, making a significant detour on the way to check out Reims (the home of something else I like: Champagne.)

It was a few hours out of our way but we've been curious to see what's there for awhile, and we discovered that Reims is a pretty little city, a little touristy-cute, but not too much so, and perfect for a weekend getaway.

Amusement for us: the set of wood-huts in the central walk of the city, which turned out to be a promotion of Canada.  It was a parade of all the things you've ever heard about Canada from someone who isn't Canadian: Maple syrup, native carvings, teepees, lumberjack coats (red&black), and pancakes.

 (People here are very curious about pancakes...which is weird to me since it's not really rocket-science to make one.) Even funnier still was that at the end of the row of wooden huts, off to the side there was another stand where a man was selling Liègois-waffles.  So in the end we each got a little dose of our own cultures right there in France.  Apart from the delicious quiches we had for dinner, French culture was difficult to locate in Reims that day, save this one other thing:  Stopped in a McDonalds to use the restroom.  That bastion of globalism samey-sameness, where french-fries taste the same the world over is good for washroom use since you don't normally need to pay to use the McDo's washrooms.  Here, like other McDonalds, there was no madame pipi collecting a toll for the w/c and so I entered directly, and was served up this unusual flavour:

Lol, what!?  

I've seen pictures of pedal toilets before... IN INDIA!  I really didn't expect one in the McDonalds in Reims, France.  Boyfriend informed me after I came out of the washroom and showed him this photo on the LCD screen of my camera, that in France this type of toilet is common.  Though I'm sure he's peed a lot more places than I have there, I'll say that I've peed a lot of places in France, including other McD's washrooms and have never seen one of these there, so it was an odd surprise for me.  Being the champion I am though, I negotiated the deed with no troubles, and we were on our way home.
And that's the end of that story.  We hit up La Batte (a huge outdoor Sunday market here in Liège) for some vin-chaud and saw some gorgeous fall colours yesterday, but my camera battery had nothing left when I went to make my first shot of the day, so another time perhaps.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

V for ...

Vacuuming is now officially a man-job in our house.

I'm going to try to promote the idea that it should be done shirtless.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Suckehhh Story

Do you know what sucks?  Bad design.

Know what else sucks?  Poorly designed tools.
(Tools are supposed to help you do a job.  Poorly designed tools do not help.  Poorly designed tools make you hate the job, and are generally the kind of things I, personally, want to throw from the roof.)

Do you know what really sucks?  When your vacuum cleaner breaks.  Except when it's a piece of crap to begin with, because then maybe you can replace it with something better, right?  Well, a little while ago, our vacuum cleaner broke.

It wasn't a great vacuum cleaner to begin with.  Actually it wasn't even a good vacuum cleaner at all.  I hated it.  I put up with it since it was here before I was, but boy was I happy the day it broke.  I was even happier that Boyfriend was the one vacuuming when it decided to fall apart.  Well, ok, I wasn't happy that he wasn't *done* vacuuming, and that we'd be stuck with the floor-dirt for a bit, but I was happy that I'd get to say goodbye to the horrible vacuum.

Boyfriend said "I'll have to get another vacuum cleaner."  And I said "If you're going to do that, since I'm the one who vacuums more often, and I know a thing or two about different kinds of vacuum cleaners, I'd like to have some say on choice."  We decided that we'd get one that didn't need bags and that had a hepa-filter, talked price-range, and decided that we'd go look at some vacuums together.

Then, one day not too long after, boyfriend showed up at home with a vacuum...

It looks very much like the other one.  It uses bags.  It *does* however, have a hepa filter.

I wasn't really pleased, since we'd agreed to make the selection together, and here it seemed there was clear evidence the ear-brain connection of my loved one had completely failed.  I'd explained that the design of a tool such as this can determine whether vacuuming is a relatively minor pain in the butt, or purgatory on wheels.  It seemed a little as though the man I loved hadn't really listened at all, or perhaps had had a lapse in sanity, and had brought home the younger brother of the evil thing we'd just gotten rid of!

It sat, unopened in it's box for a week, until today.

I've just finished using it for it's inaugural go at the house, I feel ready to say that I will never touch it again.  It is a torturous machine to use, and the use of irrationally and badly designed machines such as this one seems to cause me to have irrational and bad thoughts.  It makes me want to ask my boyfriend if he bought it on purpose as a way of trying to tell me he hates me.  (You still love me, right bébé?)  Today I discovered that along with road-rage and air-rage, vacuum-rage exists.  Vacuum rage is a very scary thing.

You see, this vacuum is all wrong.  The thing is designed for a midget.  And I'm saying this at my whopping stature of 5'2".  The suction, when at maximum, well, it sucks alright, but not in the way one would hope.  The design of the handle, the height, everything about it in fact causes me to suspect that it was designed by someone who had never actually vacuumed, and had never actually witnessed someone trying to vacuum ANYTHING, EVER!!!

I detest it, and knowing that for the amount of money he spent on his maverick (fail) decision that we could have had an more intelligently designed vacuum... I'm refusing to use it.  It must go back to the hell from where it came.  I'd rather sweep.  If it stays, I believe that vacuuming will be classified as something done by the clever person who decided all by themselves that this would be a nice tool to use.

That could be fun to watch, considering that Boyfriend is about 6 feet tall.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Delicious diversions

As usual, I am blogging when I should be doing something else.  But really, if I didn't procrastinate in this way, how would you lovely people know what is happening in this tiny corner of the world?

Food is definitely all over the radar for the moment.

So, first to get this out of the way: chocolate bars.  There is a little Delhaize (a type of grocery store) on the way to Boyfriend's mom's house.  We had to stop there the other day to pick up something or other, but all I was really interested by was their chocolate nook.  I walked away with these three.

Café-Tasse are based in Brussels, and make 'degustation' chocolate, meaning it's chocolate for eating, relatively unadulterated by other things save for some spices or tea with the chocolate.  The quality of their chocolate is okay, but for the price they ask, I feel they really should be conching the chocolate longer.  (Conching is the process that really affects whether or not there will be a smooth mouthfeel for the chocolate.  Longer conching results in smaller, better emulsified particles = smoother mouthfeel.)  The candied lemon peel bits in this were delightfully tart, however after having had a few varieties of their bars over the years, I'm always left feeling like this company has the right idea, but not the right means to execute the idea correctly in the world of gourmet tasting chocolates.

The name describes my sentiments after tasting it.  "Nuts, this bar kind of equals fail."  It's essentially a Snickers, but with roasted hazlenuts instead of peanuts.  Very unexciting, with the flavour of the roasted hazlenut not complimenting the caramel nearly as well as a peanut does.  Given my disappointment, after a bite or two I stuck it in the freezer to liven things up with a better chew another time when I was craving sugar and ok with absolute mediocrity.

I've been curious for some time about the filled Côte d'Or bars, since Nougatti wasn't half-bad (and is also a Côte d'Or product, along with Zero bars.)  This was awful.  Artificial super-sweet awful.  The filling is not at all creamy, in fact you can peel the chocolate off the sides of the filling and it will remain completely in-tact.  It's firmer than playdoh.  That alone made me too scared to read the label to know what I'd just ingested.  Maybe it was stale, but it'll be awhile before I dare trying another filled bar from Côte d'Or.

So why is it I take such an interest in chocolate, particularly when so much of it seems to disappoint me? Well... this is the kind of stuff I enjoy, both on personal and professional levels.

Truffles I made for Valentine's orders, 2009.  Clockwise from top-left they are: cappuccino, maple-walnut, chai, blueberry wine, raspberry, and mexican spiced (infused with chili, cinnamon, etc.)

In fact, though I enjoy getting to know the junk-market wherever I go (like candy bars,) my interest and work lies more in the realm of fine-chocolate, and I can say that my standards when it comes to 'fine chocolate' are in fact, very, very high.  I go out of my way to taste anything that comes with repute in the world, as well as to try the little guys who seem to know what they're doing but haven't been lauded yet too.  I've had the chance to work and learn alongside some amazing pastry chefs and chocolatiers, and this is something I love to do, and was doing professionally before leaving Toronto.  Not everyone gets the chance to be paid to do what they love, and I am very grateful that I've had that chance.  My plan, (once I figure out where in the world I want to build a life,) is to be my own boss; running an establishment that serves up some high-grade sweets.

Here in Belgium I'm trying to continue my professional development.  I'm learning a little more about how the markets work and about cultural preferences for taste.  I should manage to squeeze in a professional course at a world-recognized chocolate institution before my visa runs out, and next week is definitely exciting for me since I'll attend both the Salon de l'Alimentation (food expo) in Brussels, and the Salon du Chocolat Professionel (chocolat expo) in Paris.  !!!  I'm terribly excited to sit down for hours and hours of lectures about sourcing chocolate, fair trade issues, market conditions and so on.  Glee!

In fact.. this is actually what I'm supposed to be working on right now...  I'm supposed to be finding the hotel in Paris and planning the itinerary for the weekend.  I suppose I should go and do that.