Friday, December 31, 2010

Time to say goodbye.

Dear 2010, I'm leaving you.

The fact is, what we had wasn't great to begin with, and now that we've been together awhile I realize that you really haven't been very kind, not just to me but to most of my friends as well.  You may not want to hear this, but I think you need to realize that a lot of people are calling you "bleak", "chaotic" and "depressing", and I'd have to agree with them... you've been a bit of a downer and I'm not the only one who's tired of your antics.

It's not that we haven't had our good times, and our laughs, and it's not that I don't value all the things I've learned from the time I've spent with you, (I do,) it's just that I need to move on to a year that is better suited to my interests and goals, one that is a little more balanced and optimistic than you've been.

I promise you that our time together is something I'll never forget, but it's time now for me to say goodbye.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beauty and the Beast

It snowed here the other day.  I woke up, looked out the window, and a very large grin crept across my face as I saw this:

A proper snowfall.  A real and proper one, requiring boots that go above the ankle, causing cars to skid about like errant toboggans.  Like most Canadians who live in countries where snow is sparse, I was elated.  So elated in fact, that I happily went to shovel the walk, and then found we had no shovel.  Hmmm.  Looking around I noticed that everyone else seemed to favour sweeping the snow off the sidewalk, so I grabbed two brooms from the garage and got sweeping.

I then industriously salted my walk, helped a neighbour spread grit (because our street is notorious for NEVER seeing the ploughs,) and then helped another neighbour to stop furiously spinning her tires as she tried to leave her parking place, offering a qualified winter driving tip or two that absolutely worked the trick.

Filled with the gaiety that snow brings, I gathered up all of my finest excuses to be out of the house, put on my boots and went walking about, camera in tow.  Things always look so much prettier with a fresh dusting of snow I think, and it was a real pleasure for me to see my neighbourhood (not the most attractive in my opinion,) in a new light:

On the way to the supermarket, I spotted another person spinning his tires, and I offered him the same tip about how to get unstuck.  Eventually, after he realized that I really meant "very little gas", he stopped spinning and got out ok.  Not only a gorgeous day, but I got a pile of errands done, took some photos, got a bit of sunshine, and managed to help a few people out along the way.  Beautiful.  Only one tiny complaint...

Here are the ugly beasts that arrived with the snow:

 Ugh *shudders*
"Les Santas qui grimpent"
The army of climbing Santas.

The first one I saw last year was cute, and the idea is cute, like a one-liner that draws a chuckle.  Unfortunately the fun of a one-liner doesn't last long and this one went viral all over our neighbourhood.  Every few houses one could be spotted, hanging precariously.  I wondered how very tiny children who still believed in Santa might take this.  Many became dirty, and tangled and much more tacky looking than they had already been.  Some, (like this one we were lucky enough to see every day from our dressing room,) remained part of the neighbourhood landscape until as late as April.

This year I hadn't seen too many, until it snowed.  Am I the only person who thinks these are not only ugly, but a little creepy?

"He's climbin' in yo' windows, he's snatchin' yo' people up."
Antoine Dodson.

EDIT: 6pm here, and it's snowing again!  Like the Dickens!  Go snow go!  (I am soo dreaming of a white Christmas.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fury on the Freeway

There I was, all 158 cm of me standing outdoors on the exit ramp, with clenched fists, yelling at a man I did not know.
How on earth did this happen?

I'm going to tell you a true story, a story I debated about sharing.  It might give you an insight into the locale where I hang my hat.

This happened just a few days ago.  The scene: Boyfriend is driving me to work.  It is around 7am.  There has been a light dusting of snow the night previous, and so we've left early knowing that people will be driving a little more cautiously.  We are about half-way to our destination, and just after making our way through a turnabout (rondpoint), we find ourselves behind a car that is moving at about 15 kilometres per hour, brake-lights on every 20 metres or so.  My first thought is that it's a very old person... (Because did you know that before a certain date here in Belgium a DRIVING TEST was NOT part of the licensing process?  Yeah, you just showed up, paid, and got a license that doesn't expire... which means that there are still people on the roads today who never had to take a test here in Belgium... explains some of the notoriously crazy driving here a bit, doesn't it?)  Old people driving slow don't bother me much.  They should be extra careful; studies show their reaction times are slower, and I won't hold it against someone if they are a little nervous driving.

But... you should pick a lane at the very least.  The car in front of us was in the right lane, and we were in the left as we approached a turn onto a bridge.  As we turned onto the bridge, the car in front decided to occupy the centre of the two lanes, which didn't give us enough space to complete the turn in our lane without moving over into the path of an oncoming transport truck.  Boyfriend was not amused.  Boyfriend finished the turn (thankfully the truck saw what was going on and stopped before squishing us,) and then honked the horn.  He doesn't like slow drivers, but he likes even less incompetent ones that almost get us killed.  I was not impressed, as at this point the slow-car was blocking us, driving in the middle of two lanes, and moving slower than most people do in a parking lot.  Boyfriend leaned on the horn.

The DRIVER... while rolling along at an incredibly slow speed, opened his door and looked backward to stare us down... so he wasn't looking at the road at all at this point though he was still moving.  We both gesticulted for him to carry on driving but to pick a lane.  He kept staring us down menacingly, rolling now at about 5km per hour.  At this point I was getting a little ticked off.  I was going to be late for work because some guy wanted to posture after getting 'called' on his poor driving and lack of concern for others sharing the same road.

The man closed his car door, looking forward again and kept rolling, increasing to maybe 10km per hour.  We were almost at the other side of the bridge, and he moved over to the left, seeming to pick a lane (albiet the wrong one since you are supposed to stick to the right if you are rolling slowly and pass on the left here.)  Boyfriend and I were relieved.  At least we could pass him and be on our way.  Whew.

Except it turns out that this wasn't what the driver had in mind.  As we moved from the left lane to the right to pass, the driver suddenly and quickly swerved his car to block us.  My mind at this point was something like WTF ARE YOU TRYING TO DO?!?!  Quickly, it dawned on me that this had turned into an issue of bruised ego and testosterone.  Man in the car ahead was trying to show man in my car (Boyfriend) who was boss, and to let him know that he was pissed off about being honked at... enough to pick a fight.

What he didn't count on was that now I was SERIOUSLY ANGERED, and testosterone had nothing to do with it.  You do NOT use your car as a tool for THREAT or as a WEAPON... ever.   I got out of the car, and began storming, fury crackling off of every part of my small frame, toward the car.  I could see now there were others in the car.  I didn't care if I had to take on 4 people.  I knew that at the very least a woman leaving the passenger side of our vehicle might take the "cockfight" energy of this confrontation down a notch, and confuse the driver.  It did.

The men in the back seemed alarmed at my angry face as I approached the car.  The car began to roll forward, and I continued walking toward it.  It rolled a little faster, and I took a few jogging steps to indicate that this was no joke, that I had something to say to the driver and that either he'd have to drive off and F-off, or deal with me...  which meant choosing to break the law further by harming me with his vehicle deliberately, or taking things down to a human level and dealing with me face to face.  The car slowed to a stop and I approached the driver's window.

He seemed surprised, that I, a well-dressed and made up woman at 7am on a weekend morning could be possibly be standing outside his door, on the offramp, raging.  I yelled (in French) WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?  He unrolled his window as I yelled the same again, looking at me with cowish glazed eyes, and then I got a waft of his problem: alcohol.  I paused slightly as the air from the car hit me, becoming even angrier at the realization that a man who was obviously heavily drunk had decided to get in his car, endangering everyone on the road enough BEFORE he'd taken things further by deciding to pick a fight using his ton of metal as his weapon of choice.  My face twisted "You're DRUNK!?!?"  The man, still a little surprised by my fury shook his head and muttered "Non, non."

This is the point where my fury and language skills mixed things up a little.  I wanted to say "It's obvious you're driving drunk, you reek of alcohol!"  Instead of saying "Ç'est clair" I made an old mistake I haven't made in awhile and said "Ç'est obvieux tu roules tout saoul, tu pues l'alcool!"  (The "tu" was deliberate... I wasn't going to use the more respectful "vous" to address him.)

At this point I became aware that boyfriend had left the vehicle after me, and was standing just behind me to my side, trying to make sure nothing really scary happened.  He said "It's true, man, I can smell you from here, you stink of alcohol."

French brain kicked in just then and I added "Ç'est clair".  The driver's friends get out of the back-seat, on the other side of the car, and for a moment I didn't know if it was for good or bad.  To be honest in the moment though it worried me a little I was furious enough not to be too concerned...  I may be small, but during my 30 years in and around Toronto, there have been one or two men I've encountered who have understood after trying to back me into a corner that I am quite capable of defending myself.  I'm not violent by nature, but at this point my adrenaline was pumping like crazy and I was ready to defend myself if things turned ugly.  I didn't move, other than to acknowledge with a quick glance that I saw the friends.  Their body language was tentative, it was clear they were on edge but weren't looking for a fight.  They seemed worried.

I yelled at the driver that he'd made a few big mistakes.  First: deciding to drive, while drunk.  Second: deciding to try and cause an accident because he didn't like someone honking at him and his f-ed up drunken antics behind the wheel.

I will say to you, the reader at this point in the story that though I am not a mother, I understood a little better the fury behind all the mothers who have lost their children or had the lives of their families forever changed for the worse due to drivers like this.  I thought in that split second of all the damage this man in the state he was in could cause to others, us aside.  You hear sometimes of people walking or cycling along the shoulder or even on the sidewalk who get hit by irresponsible people like this.  Lives of other people and their families get changed forever thanks to idiots like the one who was in front of me. With these thoughts in my head, my fury mounted further.  I could have decked him I was sooo angry (though I did not.)

The jerk, realizing his friends had left the car, must have figured that it was because they were ready to back him up.  He got out of the vehicle, and looked over at boyfriend.  "It's you who's going to talk to me now, IN FRENCH" the man said.  (He probably figured from my mistake and accent that perhaps we were Flemish... which given the tensions between the two linguistic regions in this country didn't help.)  He lurched toward boyfriend to push him.  Boyfriend stood his ground, and the friends advanced, grabbing the man, and another getting between he and boyfriend.  One friend told us he didn't want a fight.  The driver had a confused look, somewhere between betrayal and rage as he fought against the hold of his friends, yelling at us to "go home."  I mouthed a "merci" to the friend who made eye-contact with me and who'd spoken up in all of this scuffling about.  It was written all over his face that he knew why I was pissed off, he was worried about the whole situation, and he just wanted it to be over.

I yelled at the driver "You've obviously been drinking all night, and you're an IDIOT for getting into a car to DRIVE after that.  My problem is people like YOU, who aren't just a danger, but who are also frustrating as F*&% when people like ME who have to be at WORK on time get stuck ANYWHERE NEAR you on the road!"   I continued yelling "NOW... YOU are going to SHUT your MOUTH, and get BACK in your CAR, and MOVE to the SIDE of the road so WE and EVERYONE ELSE can pass you, because the LEAST you can do after BEING SUCH AN A$$ is to get the F*&% out of our WAY and LET ME get to WORK ON TIME!"

And, seeing his friends weren't going to back him up, and that we weren't going to back down, grumbling, it's what he did.  One of his friends even reminded us as we got back into our cars that the trunk of our car was open.  They moved to the correct side of the road and let us pass along with the others who'd got stuck behind this little scene.

I'll stop again here for a moment in the story to say that I've never left a vehicle before in this manner.  The only other time in my life I've ever left a car in the middle of the road was to jump out of my car arriving at an accident, because I was worried someone might be hurt.

As we drove away, I was a little shocked at myself, but I also knew why I'd done what I'd done.  It was a calculated risk to think that a lady leaving the passenger side of the vehicle might give everyone a second to think about how messed up the situation was.  I don't think that if it had been a direct confrontation between Boyfriend and the driver that it would have ended with nobody hurt.  You may think it was dumb, and yes... it's definitely dumb to get out of a car on the autoroute, and to approach a strangers vehicle to yell at them after they've been driving in a threatening manner.  But given that we were already in the thick of a confrontation that was rapidly amping its way up to something that could have been dangerous for everyone involved, and given that I just generally have little regard for my safety when the safety of others is at stake, it's what I did.  Boyfriend was definitely shocked, asking me later what was going through my mind, why I would possibly think to leave the car in a situation such as that.  That's the answer he got.

The drive the rest of the way to work was fairly silent.  Boyfriend kept looking at me with concern as I sat, fuming.  "Are you mad at me?" he said.  I said that no, I wasn't, that I was just mad, period, and that I was trying to calm down before getting to work where I must try to be nothing but flowery speech and relaxed smiles.

I arrived at work 3 minutes early, saying a quick hello to my colleague.  It was only as I took off my coat and scarf that I noted my legs and hands were still trembling as a result of all the adrenaline.

Though I'm not shaking-mad anymore, I am mad.  I've been bothered the entire time I've been here, knowing that around Liège the police are so infrequent in their checks for drunk drivers, and that *somehow* everyone knows where and when they'll be doing these checks on the odd occasions that they do.  I'm mad that drunk driving is something that is seen by so many as almost normal here after a night out, rather than a disgusting lack of regard for others.  I am glad that there is the push for designated drivers (what is called a "Bob") here, it's a fine social effort but I'm mad that it's not well connected to the idea of what horrific things can happen when a "Bob" isn't used, and I'm mad that there isn't a two pronged approach with a real (enforced) penalty that causes drunk drivers to seriously reconsider getting in their cars drunk.  On the books in Belgium the alcohol limit is low, and the penalties are harsh.  That looks great on paper but it means nothing if I can, EVERY Saturday morning in the span of 15 minutes, spot at least one drunk driver trying (erratically) to make their way home while I and the rest of the more responsible world are on our way to breakfast, or work, or whatever.

After this face to face, and already knowing that there are so many otherwise responsible people here in the area who are irresponsible when it comes to this, I believe I'll be looking for a lobby organization here in Belgium like M.A.D.D to support.  While the "Bob" (designated driver) campaign has had some success here, I really feel that this country needs more than just rewards for designated drivers to cause people to realize it's really unacceptable to drive under the influence, that it's not acceptable to be so drunk that you have no regard for others.

In a place that is supposed to be more socialist in mindset... why are people here NOT thinking about each other when they get in their cars?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Festive Karma Tree

Yes, I may have been too smug in my last post, and I'm sorry for that.  Don't worry though, karma jumped right in there to teach me my lesson.  Within an hour of posting, I went over to the tree to switch on it's lights, thinking I'd take a photo.  The darned thing decided at that very moment to lurch right over on top of me!  Never mind that it had already stood stoic and still for 13 days previous while we decorated it, and that it weathered multiple occasions of the sometimes maladroit Boyfriend snagging himself on it, (without incident.)

Looking on the tree last night we acknowledged that post-tumble, it has become rather creepy.  It leans toward the centre of the room, spindly black branches curved like fingers ready to snatch anyone that comes too close.  The thing is fairy-tale-sinister-forest spoooooky, with ironic shiny baubles.  So we'll be adjusting it tonight hoping it can resume it's former, more festive posture.  From this I've learned two lessons: 1-there are better ways to secure and anchor a tree made from tree-branches, and 2-don't F with Christmas.  Boasting isn't part of the Season Of Giving, even if it is for the only true holiday success in your home amongst piles of Fail, Late, and Unfinished.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wound up while winding down

Hello world,
I am not dead, I just happen to be drowning in Christmas preparations.  My dining room table is covered in wrapped presents, unwritten Christmas cards, stamps, ribbons, and so on.  Rather than bemoaning the chaos at length, I will tell you about the one clear-cut Christmas success this year.

Our Christmas tree is up, and has been since December 1st.  This, I count as a huge victory considering we came to a stylish solution that also happened to fit my ethics (don't want to kill a tree just for decorative purposes, also don't want to support the petrol industry by buying a plastic tree and having to store it the other 11 months of each year.)  I wrestled with this problem of what to do about a tree, and didn't have one for almost 10 years as a result of my ethical dilemma.  Last year Belle-Mère brought us two real trees because she thought it would make me feel more at home, and I felt pretty guilty as I watched them die, though I appreciated the sentiment that was behind them.  This year, I had an idea.  We drove to the closest bit of forest and walked around, looking for fallen branches.  At first boyfriend didn't quite get the idea:

(approaching me carrying a branch) "Here, this one's good looking, don't you think?"
"Yes, it's ... hey, wait.... this is... did you BREAK this off a LIVING tree to bring it here?"
"Yeah, well... it was kind of the whole tree.  It was young."
"DUDE!  Not the point of coming here!  Go put that thing back on the ground where you killed it."
"But it's already dead now, are you telling me I killed this thing for nothing?"
"Yes.  Now stop killing trees and help me find stuff that's dead already."

It's rather minimal, and we both like the look of it.  I like that when Christmas is all done we can remove the decorations and put the branches back in the forest.  Easy, and guilt free.  No fallen needles to deal with either!

As for the rest... oh my.  Where, oh where is my motivation?  A week and a bit until Christmas, and I haven't sent out the parcels for my family yet despite having finished all my shopping for them in November.

I've got a ton of sweets to make after already having made a bunch, and between this sort of work, work at the hotel, and the general social obligations of the fêtes I'm just feeling a little like I would rather put my feet up, and do nothing but drink tea, be massaged and sleep during my days off.  Even my new chocolate moulds haven't been enough to get me really excited.  It will get done, of course.  The family parcels will make their way out, the sweets will be finished and delivered on time, but I'm really hard-pressed to feel great about this all at this very moment, as I battle along in the alcove of doom (and procrastinate here on the internet.)  It's just not possible to gracefully handle all the sweet-making in that little space without something being sacrificed along the way.  And given that I'm not the kind of girl to sacrifice the quality of what I make... It's my holiday cheer that's been worn down instead as I swear and contort my way through making sure everything is just so.

Fortunately it will not always be like this.  We have decided upon the room that I will convert into my atelier.  A dedicated space where I can really work, rather than fight my way through.  YAY.  2011 is already looking so very much brighter for this.

So, this week:  Final sugary push in the alcove.  A crapton of stuff to do, and somehow it'll get done.  Hopefully at some point I'll stop and take pictures.  How are you faring in this final stretch of the year?

Monday, November 29, 2010

The tortoise probably knew love better than the hare.

I think I finally get it.  I think maybe we do, or at least are starting to.  This thing we have butted heads over forever, always ending with exasperated cries of "you just don't get it!"

After years of our fighting over what I thought was money and respect, I realize it's not really one or the other... it's something kind of in between which gets tangled up with cultural differences and customs regarding reciprocity, value and so on.  I could not for the life of me explain it since really, last night sitting on the couch and talking was the first time I felt the veil starting to lift on this one, this tough nut of a problem we have as yet been utterly unable to crack.

I'm not saying it's solved, because it's not.  Things in a relationship usually don't change overnight or get fixed up in a snap, but really, in order to solve a problem you must first understand it, and given that neither of us felt at all understood on this one prior, these little steps forward are both encouraging, and kind of terrifying given that letting anyone in on my innermost thinking is always kind of terrifying.

I have a feeling, that possibly, after this long talk we had on the couch last night, that boyfriend maybe understands a little better the things that matter to me as I do the things that matter to him.  I'm really hoping that there will be more talks like this one; constructive, calm, restrained, honest, loving, and respectful.

It wasn't easy, but we were both calm, and for the first time in a long time when discussing these matters, I really felt as though there was someone sitting across from me who was trying, very hard, to be a supportive partner.  I felt like I had a person sitting across from me who really wanted as much as I did to smooth this wrinkle out, who was tired of hurting from it, and who was ready to try and put in the hard work to get past this, to figure it out so we can get better at being with each other.

It's always easier said than done of course, and I don't think for a moment we've cleared this hurdle, there will be a lot of work we have to do before I could confidently feel we've laid this problem to rest.  I'm relieved however, that finally we both see it a little more clearly, that we are closer to agreement on where the problems lie, and that we've realized there isn't any other way to clear these hurdles than as partners if we hope to finish that way.

Here's to talking, patience, and persistence.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"... and there's gunna be trouble"

Guess who's back?

Everything was fabulous for the first 32 hours.  We were happy to see each other, to talk, to snuggle and catch up.  Because he'd eaten horrible sickening things all week, (roadside "chicken" in the desert?  Warm tuna from a can eaten with car-keys anyone?) Boyfriend decided he wanted to take us out to enjoy a properly delicious dinner.

And it was SO Good.  People, if you are in Liège and hungry, find "Cuccinella" on rue du Casquette.  You can thank me later.  Everything, including dessert was house made and was scrumptious, fresh, delicious.  It is the very best restaurant I've eaten at in Liège to date.

Unfortunately what I hadn't realized, and perhaps boyfriend hadn't either, was that somehow the accountant hitched a ride back in boyfriend's suitcase, emerging the day following the fabulous supper to gripe about money and respect and what I should be doing with my money to the effects of being respectful and so on.

Anyone who tries to make me feel bad about my financial needs or goals, in my books moves down a notch or three if they're trying to impose themselves on something that is not at all a domain they have any rights to.  So, I lost my cool, and things were rather loud and argumentative, there was yelling.  I am not proud.  The accountant shouldn't be either, if he has any logical (or humane) bone in his body.

I did not sleep well.  I went to work this morning, and fretted, and thought and worked.  Perhaps it's a very North American thing of me to say, but being occupied with work is normally calming for me, so fretting while working means I'm very bothered by whatever it is outside of work, enough for my detachment to slip.

I came home a little less amped up, and I'm grateful the house is empty for the moment.  I have time to work on things that are of greater importance than this stupid (and it is stupid,) argument.  I'm trying to finish things I started working on while boyfriend was in Arabia, in the moments I've got the same quiet and calm I had while he was there.

Everything is still up in the air for the moment, though I've said my bit that if there is something the accountant honestly feels needs discussing that he should take another approach.  Not sure that I can say much else at the moment, so the situation is breathing, I suppose.

Other than that, it's me trying to figure out where my holiday spirit ran off to in the midst of all yesterday's angry yelling.  It's probably cowering in the furthest corner of the basement.  I suppose I'm going to have to try and coax it out with the scent of freshly baked gingerbread or something.  I need it to remind me how full of love my heart is, and how that is so very much more important than the crap communications of yesterday.  Without it, the motivation to progress through the preparation of gifts and cards just isn't going to be there.  Man, fighting during the fêtes is just that extra little bit worse.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Everything counts (in large amounts.)

I'm just now able to piece together, somewhat coherently, a sentence.  I rolled out of bed at 10am, and struggled to find my will to live, eat, and drink water up until about now.  What a hangover.

Yes.  We broke detox yesterday and drank.  We figured it was the nice thing to do while spending the day together considering where boyfriend is off to... Today he's jetting off for a little fun (not really) and frolic (none, actually,) in a factory in the middle of the Arabian desert.  He was called two days prior to leaving by the electrician who arrived first and told there was no soap, there were no utensils, towels or toilet paper, and that the area of the factory where they would be sleeping was very dirty.  So we broke the detox for a day, running errands, lunching and relishing creature comforts together, and probably went just a tad overboard with the wine.  Definitely, actually.  The shot of 4 year old Belgian Owl certainly couldn't have helped matters either, though it was very tasty.

I was in the perfect mood, mind you, as I collected myself this afternoon, to call the twits at Euromut and give them a hard time (in French no less,) about their having LOST one of my important papers.  Almost 6 months after depositing the stupid thing in their little dropbox at the Liège office, I received a notice in the post stating they'd never received it.  I have been with this mutualité for less than a year, and they are truly beginning to annoy me with their little incompetencies to the point where I'm considering switching.  We'll see how they handle this.  I was not at all amused by their suggestion that I sign a letter stating I'D lost the form as a way to 'speed up' their getting another copy of it from the relevant gov't office that issues them.  No way am I going to sign a document saying I lost something when I bloody well didn't!  Boyfriend will have at them when he gets back, as it essentially ended in stalemate this afternoon with my telling the lady on the other end of the phone that I didn't find their organization at all organized, that I would not sign a document stating I'd lost something when I hadn't, and informing her that it was neither here nor there that French and Flemish are Belgium's "two most important languages"... that they shouldn't advertise in English stating they will communicate with expats in English when clearly they can't (every single document I've received has been in French despite my indication that I preferred communications in English.)  Rrrrr.

And so now it's just me, trying to limp back aboard the detox train and make the best of having the house to myself for a week.  Shouldn't be too hard though, considering I've a million things to do.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Somehow this used to be easier.

So yes, the detox.  We are now a week in, and already asking ourselves why exactly we decided it was a good idea.

This is not the royal "we", in fact.  Boyfriend decided (surprisingly,) to join me on this.  Mind you, he believes that honey does not count as a sugar, and thusly pours massive quantities of it on whatever he is eating in the morning.

What are we supposed to be doing for this detox?  Well... for 4 weeks we are trying very hard not to drink any alcohol, not to eat any saturated fats, not to consume any refined carbs, to drink 8 glasses of water a day, consume mostly lean protein, plenty of fruit, veg, and very little red meat.  Ah yes, and no caffeine other than from our morning green tea.  This whole ritual used to be much easier for me.  I would do it at least once a year back home.  Mind you, in Toronto I had the luxury of organic fruit and veg delivered to my doorstep every other week, an unreal selection of grains, flours, and cereals at the supermarket, not to mention a plethora of nearby restaurants from a profusion of cultures offering tasty, healthy and inexpensive food.  I was so spoiled.  Here the choice mostly boils down to barbequed, melted, or fried, and because of that barbarian diet, my body was begging for a break.

I now have the pleasure of starting my day with this:
I have used greens+ before, and love what it does.  It actually does make a significant difference to how I feel throughout the day mentally and physically, to my running performances, and I find I rarely fall ill when taking it.  There are only good things in it like spirulina, milk thistle, cracked chorella, wheatgrass and red beet powders, lactobacilli, royal jelly, ground hippies, and so on.  I will never love how it tastes, (mmm, planty,) or how the very last gulp of the bottle of water I mix it into always makes me shudder like a teen taking their first whisky shot.  But it works, and so I always end up coming back to it.  This time I went out of my way to hunt it down in Toronto and bring a stash back in my suitcase.

And here we are now, with three weeks left to go.  I have just wrestled a spaghetti squash into submission in the kitchen and it is cooking now.  Nightly, boyfriend craves crêpes mikado.  I have the occasional sweet craving, but the only thing I have been craving regularly is a glass of wine with dinner.  My resolve wavers on this as part of me pleads that the polyphenols in a glass of red would be good for me.

Sipping 100% grape juice just isn't the same.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Back and on the mend

Toronto was awesome.  Short, but satisfying nonetheless.  I'll share more about it but this is just a pop-in to mention that upon returning I discovered it'll be another few days with my face firmly pressed to the grindstone at work before I'll surface with anything resembling full health, energy, and motivation to write.

This evening I'm taking some time to myself to just do ... pretty much nothing actually, other than eat healthy food, listen to music, do a little laundry, and tidy up a few bits and bobs.  Nothing significant, but enough to keep me relaxed and provide me with the much needed impression that I'm progressing at something.  Alone time is what I want, and thankfully it's what I've gotten.  It'd be nicer with a glass of wine, but I've committed to detoxing myself for a month before all the Saint Nick and Noël ridiculousness begins to press down upon us so tant pis for me.  Who's fun idea was that anyways?  Oh yeah, mine.  I'll tell you more about they psychotic list of things I'm supposed to be doing a bit later.  Today has been a catastrophic water-drinking failure.  As in, zero mL of water.  Catching up will certainly mean interrupted sleep tonight but I suppose I'll try.

In the meantime, try not to let November swallow you.  It's a tricky month that way.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Excuses, Excuses.

I'm sick.  It is my one day off after working very hard all week to make sure the hotel was in sparklingly great shape for our annual inspection and now my overtired body has given up.  My throat is on fire, my ears are plugged, and I wear a turtleneck, yoga leggings, and a generally dour expression.

It's also one of the last days I'll have off before heading to Canada, which means I should be finishing off presents and doing chocolatey things and whatnot.  I had also hoped to do a long run today.  Hah.  NONE of that is happening right now since I can't summon the energy to get off the couch and do ANYTHING.

Even this blog entry was an effort but I figured I've been missing in action so much lately I owe an excuse at the very least.

(If you're wondering how the hotel inspection went, it went well and the stuff I handle got perfect scores.)

I'm off to bed to die now.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I ate it.

Milka is one of the lower-quality milk chocolates available at consumer level here in Belgium.  Daim is a sort of toffee of scandinavian origin, I'm told.

As you can see, this bar isn't nearly as full of toffee bits as the package would indicate.  There wasn't really a "crunch factor" involved when eating the bar because of this scarcity.

Though I'd say the Daim bits did lift the flavour of Milka's chocolate, (making this bar more palatable than most of the overly-sweet-and-somewhat-waxy-in-texture Milka products,) at the end of the day there just wasn't enough Daim to make this bar live up to the promise of the package.

Though they changed their formula about 10 years ago; using cheaper chocolate and toffee, I'd still put a Skor bar above the Milka & Daim bar.

This said, the Heath bar remains my first choice for toffee-chocolate combos.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I have two days where I should be less busy and so I'm taking the time when I've got it to update here with something slightly less crap and cursory.  There are a lot of things I'm feeling thankful for right now, including this 2-day break.  A little time to breathe and do whatever I feel like is really, really nice.  A few other things I'm feeling pretty grateful for:

"Thanksgiving dinner" was served the day before yesterday to a table of 7.  The house managed only to look as though 2 tasmanian devils had taken up residence, the alcove of doom was benevolent, and it was by and large a good dinner.  Of course, I forgot to take pictures of pretty much everything.  I did snap one of the pumpkin pie, but it hadn't yet been garnished so the photo is nothing special.  It was a very good pumpkin pie too; silky texture, mellow, sweetly spiced taste... and it paired nicely with the vanilla ice cream I made.

Yesterday I ran 21Km.  6 years ago I could do twice as much, and at a faster pace but I'm beyond glad it's even possible for me to do this now.  It's been 6 years due to a nasty knee injury that put me right back to square one as a runner.  I've had my frustrating setbacks, re-injuries, and piles of physio and cross-training.  Finally, I feel like I'm really starting to get somewhere.  It's not advisable to make jumps in training distances like I have been, but yesterday was a bit of an isolated incident; a test.  I used my run yesterday as a way to preview the areas of my body I'll have to do more training for, and to get a "worst-case" scenario kind of time for the half-marathon.  Considering my last marathon-run was 4:12, I'm not proud to have come in at 2:22 for a half yesterday, but then again, I'd thought it might be as much as 3 hours and I'm still incredibly thankful that I've gotten this far in rehabilitating my knee.  I was all smiles afterwards.

Today I'm thankful for hot showers, anti-inflammatory cream, tea and napping.  Though I'm in cocoon-mode, the sky is beckoning with a lovely shade of light-indigo and so I believe I'll be trying to shuffle myself out the door for a walk in a bit.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tales from the couch

I am still partially busy, but here we continue to dégage some of the backlog of trivial nothings, dear internets.

I ran another 16km.  All I know is it took me somewhere between 1.5 and 2 hours, but not actually 2 hours... less.  I also know that I need to bring water with me next time I decide to do that.

We didn't go to Paris after all, because we are dinks and had an argument.  We did sort it out rather quickly though, learned one or two things along the way and I don't think either of us suffers any lasting emotional wounds from it.  Things continue in what I'd consider a good direction and we are both happy.

Because I've been busy and boyfriend is a sporadic-at-best hooverer, the house looks like 10 Tasmanian devils have taken to nesting in it, which is always great when you're expecting company, which we are this weekend.  How can I get them not to notice that our house looks like Bagdhad?  Maybe if I ply them with alcohol?... lots and lots of alcohol?

I have somehow managed to put myself in the position of making a quasi-Thanksgiving dinner for 7 this upcoming weekend (Yes, I know I'm a week late and obviously out of my mind for taking this on, but whatever.)  There will be turkey, though I have not yet worked up the courage to attempt a whole roasted turkey in the alcove of doom so this year it'll be a rôti de dindonneau en croute Boursin.  The whole thing bakes on a bed of rosemary, has an accompanying sauce, is delicious and will probably not be the dish that causes me stress or agony.  I have bought a ton of pumpkin and am busy roasting and pureeing thinking (laughably) that my first attempt at a pumpkin pie completely from scratch in the alcove of DOOM my tiny kitchen will work out.  (I may have gotten overconfident after it allowed me to make chocolates the last time.)  I'm not worried.  Nope.  Not at all.  I'll just make an offering of burnt sugar before I start, and everything will be fine, right? *glancing nervously toward... the alcove*

Monday, October 11, 2010


I have been missing in action, and there is much catching up to do.  I am still stupidly busy though which means I'm going to have to dole out the catching up in bite size pieces.

Today I am hung over and gastrointestinally ruined from a dinner that (in fine Belgian fashion,) ended around 2:30am, and so the bite size pieces will really be bite-sized today.  And kind of crappy.  Sorry in advance for that.

Look!  I made mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Look!  When I shrug I resemble a scary female bodybuilder.
Yeah.  I'm kind of uncomfortable with that, particularly since i've done ZERO arm-exercise in like, forever, and ever.  Fortunately they are "stealth guns", and if I don't shrug, they remain totally hidden and I look normal and womanly, and not at all like I've been injecting anabolic steroids.

This is as far as my pinot grigio pickled brain will take us today.  This must be the best blog entry I've ever written.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Worst quality post ever.

I have not abandoned ship.  I will come back soon.  I'm just pretty busy for the moment.

Boyfriend came back from the land of the souk, bearing superfine-ground coffee, special soaps and teas.   That, and gastrointestinal upset that had him RUNNING like Usain Bolt at times for the nearest restroom.  It was funny, except the one time I really was worried that he might dirty his pants in the car.  (He didn't.)

More thinking and talking about real life and adult things has been happening.  This is a good thing I think.  If everything that I was thinking about before could have been described as formless ether, now it's like a foggy day where you see something coming out of the fog at you, but it's not fully defined yet.  Kind of a smudgy blob slowly approaching.  It looks friendly though.

Ah yes.  Anyone who wants a brief primer on Belgium and just a few of it's "eccentricities", click here.  I showed it to boyfriend last night and he laughed.  I wasn't sure he'd laugh, given he's Belgian and spends a lot of his time trying to defend his country remind me that I should try to be more open-minded.  But he laughed and I like to think that it's because most of what's in this video is both ridiculous, and true.

Annnd now I'm back to being busy.  Oh, wait - I bought new running shoes, did a 16k run one day, and am off to Paris this weekend.  Didn't know how else to squish that in there but these are all things I'm glad about.  Now I'm done.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Re:working: creativity

If you hate art, music, tv, and culture in general, move along.  Otherwise...

Most of you probably don't have 24 minutes to spare right now, but you really should click this link, bookmark it, and watch it when you do find yourself with that much time to spare.  It is a great piece of film regarding how art is a dialogue, and how a huge part of the creative process is the act of referencing, in order to push that dialogue further.  Food and fashion have known this for years... that it's not really about who does it first, rather who does it best, and that nothing gets anywhere very quickly if everyone is spending more time concerned with copyrights than creating.  Here we have not only visual and musical artists but also lawyers and academics saying something similar.  High time.  Who controls creativity anyway?  Nobody and everyone.  It's not predictable or controllable and that's why it's beautiful, because it's one of the only really free things left in the modern world, isn't it?

Alright, who put this soapbox appear under me then?

Right.  I'm supposed to be working on something else today, but I couldn't resist sharing this with the other creative and/or culture-interested peeps out there.  Hope you enjoy!

Love this video.

I love that Google makes efforts to run on clean/cleaner energy sources.
I posted this to my facebook ... I'm wondering if it'll get censored there.

Without further ado, I give you the 2 minute long
"Facebook: Unfriend coal."

Go on, you've got 2 minutes, and it's not only informative, it's adorable.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Today Boyfriend left on a work-trip to a (kind of) scary country.  No, no, it's not Luxembourg this time.  It's the kind of country where you take vaccinations before going, and try to avoid malarial mosquitos, and try not to think about being next door to Iraq.

He was already gone by the time I got home, but I've been finding these around the house:

Placed right where I normally leave my keys.

Taped up in the bathroom.

Atop the laptop.  (Whatever could have given him the idea I'd see it here?)

My acid-green pillow.  I did not buy these sheets.

I'm not sure if I'll find others, but I'm going to let these guys hang around with me until he gets back.

I miss him already.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Chocolate porn, as promised.

The alcove and I have spent faarrr too much time together recently, and just looking at these photos gives me uncomfortable sugar-coma like feelings and flashbacks.

Boxes of 8 waiting for closure and ribbons

Amaretto with toasted pine-nut garnish

"Apricette" (apricot stuffed with candied orange peel.)


Garden Mint


Fleur de sel Caramel

Roasted Hazlenut Solid

Believe it or not, there is more.  But I just can't go any further today with... this.
And now, I need to go lie down.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The alcove of doom and I have brokered a truce...

An outpouring of chocolate love has resulted.  Poorly lit sneak-peek photo below.  Proper food porn to follow.

:)  That is all.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Little bits of news, falling like fish-flakes in an aquarium:

As we have returned to the season of eternal greyness here in Belgium, I feel it's fitting to announce that after at least 4 months of hope and prayer, the trench fell into my life a few weekends ago, around the end of July / start of August.  And you know what?  It came at a great price too - he really does save!  He even threw in a few stylish leather belts for about 3 euro a piece, what a great guy!  I haven't worn it outside of the house yet, and haven't had a chance to take a picture of me sporting it, but you know, the news is just getting older, so...there.  Plus, for my sacrilege I will likely be struck by lightening while wearing it so I may as well tell you now before the smiting.

An update on the ankle: it now sees fit to start complaining after 7.5 kilometres.  One the one hand it's progress and I suppose I should be glad for that.  On the other hand I'm still not back up in the 10k+ range, and I'm impatient to get back there.

I have a plane ticket for Toronto, (happiness!)  It's a short visit, but still I'm psyched.  This time I'll be taking all my vitamins before, and will probably eat 3 cloves of garlic daily the week leading up to the flight.  There will be no getting sick and losing time on the ground there this time.  I'm sure the people on the plane will love my fresh mediterranean aroma.

I have successfully quit coffee (trumpet sounds in the distance.)  It has been quite the battle this time, but I've done it.  I had 2 decafs today to try and trick my brain into thinking it was still getting something, and my chocolate consumption has been ridiculous this week (partly due to compensation I think, but mostly due to the fact that Belle-Mère brought back some REALLY good stuff from her vacation in Switzerland.)  Anyways, all the chocolate I like is gone now, and I don't eat the stuff I use for professional purposes, (it's not good for business if you eat your supplies, you know,) so there.  Tomorrow will be my first caffeine-free day in... a very long time.

And now it is time to sleep because I'm pooped.  No caffeine will do that to you, along with preparations at the hotel for the crowd that comes with the Formula 1 races in Spa this weekend.  Usually all the hotels in Liège are booked full for this event, and by the looks of it, this year is no exception for the hotel.  Off to catch some Zzzzzzs.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dancing with a partner after dancing solo.

Given that there are no suitable adult-sized cupboards to hang out in (at least not that I've found, yet,) I've come out, and am hunched over my usual coffee-table, on my usual couch.

There has been some very intelligent talking here, which isn't so bad at all, and boyfriend seems to be aware that I left for a little not as some way to try and make him feel punishe, but rather because I am a spazz who used to hide in her bathroom cupboard to think more clearly as a child, and who as an adult still needs to take herself out of a situation like that now and then for the same reasons.  Sometimes when I feel 'too close to something' I can't think about it clearly.  Crap like Friday just pressurizes and scrambles me, so I left to regroup and to try and continue thinking about these big things:

I am 32, and have interrupted the successful direction of my life in Toronto to be here with Boyfriend, which has left me asking myself how I am going to give myself that same sense of positive forward momentum I was rolling along with before coming here.  Now that I can survive here and the basics aren't so overwhelming, and now that my status here is a little more solidified, it's time to look at these things.  I have been thinking about them, albeit more abstractly (as you may have picked up on,) for awhile now.  Slowly, things are coming into focus and I'd prefer to arrive at some conclusions sooner than later.  Time slows for no person, after all.

There are things I have realized I could do here more easily than there (in TO) and there are things I've realized I'd be much better off doing in TO as originally planned.  There are things I realize I or we want to do, but I'm not sure that they are actually do-able, or if they are do-able that they are really advisable.  There are new opportunities I didn't have available to me before that I do now here, too, and I guess I'm trying to figure out how to make the best of all of these things, in the smartest way possible, while closing as few doors for me and us as possible.

Some things are best done before others, some choices limit others.  It's kind of a big thing, trying to figure out how to retain that sense of freedom and trying to figure out how to be supportive of each other's efforts while not losing anyone or having anyone 'lose it' or have to give up something really important to them in the process.  We don't want either of us to end up with regrets.  This is really important for both of us on a heartfelt level.  Unfortunately, while it is a noble desire it is no simple affair.

I'd already made decisions and plotted them out in a timeline for myself in Toronto, I knew I could do them where I was and they were happening.  He was doing the same here in Belgium, and now that we are 'we', and we are here... figuring out how to make that satisfying and to still be able to both do what we want to do is about as cool as re-writing a 20 page essay after a hard-drive crash when you've lost your notes all on the night before the damned thing is due.  Actually, to be more accurate, it's like already having solved a labyrinth to find your life-path, and then having someone lay a completely new one in front of you that is 3 times as complicated, handing you a partner to solve it with (who sometimes has their own, differing ideas about which direction you should take,) and having to start all over again.  You really have to like your partner a whole lot to go through all that bother, particularly when you've already found a perfectly good solution to that other labyrinth and solving this new one is completely optional.

Fortunately we like each other a whole lot.  Even more than a whole lot, and we are crazy enough to think we may actually be clever enough to do this eventually, possibly even in style.  That is, once all the swearing and foot stomping has died down a little more and we've grown up a bit.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Never share a cupboard.

So my 'metaphorical cupboard' is actually just somewhere where I can be kind of alone if I want.  But there are of course other people here so I am not alone, it isn't quiet, and people being people are prone to being social, which I get and think isn't bad at all except this isn't the best space for me to hear my own thoughts clearly.  Virginia Woolf was spot on.

Do you know what never fails to distract me hopelessly, and instantly makes me mildly stabby?  Any person or thing that makes too much noise with their mouth.  This doesn't really include talking so much as all the other noises like lip-licking, excessive spit-in-the-mouth while speaking, noisy eaters and so on.  These small noises stir big feelings in me.  It's completely irrational and a little scary how I react to it when I'm near some otherwise innocent person who is guilty of just this.  Every time their mouth moves I have to remind myself that they are not bad and that it would be bad to hurt them.  It's truly a primal impulse.

Know what else does that?  Balloons.  When someone is rubbing their hand over the surface of a balloon, I could literally appear from nowhere behind them, and snap their neck just to stop them from making me feel so weird with *that sound*.  It is my 'nails on a chalkboard'.  Obviously I'm not always good at birthday parties.  Mylar balloons would be advisable.  You don't even know how much restraint is involved for me around those people who make balloon-animals.

SO as you may have inferred, I am not getting much thinking done here, and with all the distraction the thinking I'm doing isn't really high-quality.  I've had one completely horrifying dream, and another that was quite unpleasant, and some interesting conversations, but am I clearer on what I need to be clearer on?  Not much.  As they say in French: ç'est déja ça, but I can't help but feel that I am kind of acting like an ostrich here.  I haven't found my adult-sized cupboard.  My head is hidden, but the rest of me is comically still there, and clearly not solving much.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

When I was little

I grew up in a turbulent household.  When things became too much for me to sort out, I used to hide my very little self in the cupboard of the bathroom.  Curled up there in the back behind the shampoo bottles, bars of soap and toilet paper, nobody could find me, and I felt like I was removed from the situation enough to think, to breathe a little and to be sure that the thoughts I had were really mine without influence from the pressures of the situation.

I put myself in a metaphorical cupboard last night.  I haven't many places I can go to breathe here in Belgium, but there are some I've found, and last night I put myself in one because chez moi, everywhere I looked there were more questions, more doubts, and the inescapable pressure of questions about where all this (my life) is going.  All the things at once set before me like an intimidating parfait, and feeling the way I did it was a little much.

There isn't much to do here but think like I used to in the cupboard.  And breathe.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Circling, hovering.

Do you know what this is?

It's my mango sorbet, churning into delicious cold-treat goodness this very moment.  We got the ice-cream maker.  I made a delicious bitter chocolate (last week,) as the inaugural flavour.

Like the first time I made my own truffles, I was too excited to remember to take pictures of the first batch of ice cream, but I'll try to photograph a scoop or two of the flavours I make from now on.

Anyhoo, I'm just killing time trying not to think about drinking the mango sorbet base before it turns into sorbet, or eating the tartiflette preparations boyfriend has made (and forbidden me to touch,) in the fridge.  If he doesn't get here soon, all bets are off though.  We're supposed to be going to his sister's, where he'll put the finishing touches on what he's already prepped in advance, stick it in the oven, and then we'll pretend for the evening as though it's not summer, because tartiflette, for those who don't know, is pretty much what makes your arteries tremble even when you think about it.  It is essentially pieces of potato smothered in cheese, cream, bacon, sautéed onions that have soaked up all the bacon-fat, and more cheese (a different kind than the first.)  Most sensible people eat this during ski-trips, or at least during the winter.  But boyfriend's sister and her boyfriend made a specific request for boyfriend's tartiflette.


I must say, now that boyfriend is late to come home and I've had a(hem) few spoonfuls of what he's prepped, he does make it very well.  Maybe I should have a little feature here called "cooking with boyfriend"?  I can hover around him taking photos and give you the recipe.  He doesn't cook often, and he doesn't have that big of a repertoire of dishes... but those he makes are really very good.

If he doesn't come home soon though, there will be a large crater in his tartiflette.  I'm starving, it's past 7, and he's not answering his cell.  As it is I'll probably inhale a whole bag of chips at belle-soeur's while we wait for the damned thing in the oven and drink.  *sigh*  Time to see what kind of 'snack' I can scavenge in the kitchen so I don't turn into a velociraptor and attack the neighbour's dog out of hunger.

(even later)

Ok.  So that was f-ed up.  After making everyone wait on him, boyfriend showed up later than the time we said we'd already be at his sister's (it takes a half-hour to get there,) and he had an armful of empty beer cans.  It took me a minute to put two and two together (because I was STARVING,) that he and his coworker had been drinking and not working late.  Which means that apparently when family and girlfriend are already waiting on you, drinking with your coworker is a priority, more than showing up on time for previously made plans?  He was drunk.  So I just told him to go.  Because I don't even care if his sister finds that kind of behaviour disgusting, but I do.  Who in their right mind does that?  And now it's just me, and the neighbour's dog won't stop barking.  Rrrrr.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Of rain, running, corn and Bieber.

Around the 10th of August, I declared summer to be over for Belgium after we had a day of grey, wet, and 15 degrees.  Those around me gasped as though in speaking these words I'd just set a curse on the sky.  Only now are people around me beginning to agree with me that our only chance of more nice weather is an Indian summer.  Even if the weather picks up a bit, summer is over for me either way, since it's not summer in my eyes if it's not above 27 degrees Celsius, and this is quite unlikely to happen here.

It hasn't stopped raining for 3 days.  The first day I tried to pretend that nothing was happening, and went running at the track.  Of course, I was the only one there in the downpour.  It was crucial for me, however, to see how my ankle has been healing up since that crappy sprain 4 weeks back.  I wasn't willing to wait for dry weather, and I needed a good flat surface to give it a go.  After sploshing through 5k at a moderate pace, the ankle began to hurt and I chose not to push my luck.  It seems if I'm doing anything on the 5th September (if I even have that day off from work,) it will be the 7k.  I was hoping for better a greater distance after 4 weeks of healing, but I've learned the hard way to listen to my body and respect the signs it gives me, no matter how impatient I am.  I'm pretty hopeful that I'll be back to 10+km runs in a few weeks.

After running in the downpour, I must say this: My lululemon running jacket is amazing.  I said this about it after running in the winter, in the Canadian snowfalls and so on, that "they thought of everything." and really I can say now after running in the pouring rain, they really did.  The drips of water coming from my chin didn't trickle into the interior of the jacket because of how the closure at the neck works.  The long sleeve-shields allowed my hands to remain dry, and still offered the choice of warmer or cooler ventilation.  The vents on the sides of the jacket don't really let water in when open, though let's face it... you're sweating and hot, so eventually you'll still be damp inside even if you open them to let some of the heat out.  The hood stays put while running, and because of the design, running in the rain with an ipod in one of the pockets was no problem.  It's neither too hot nor cold.  It works like it should.  Go lululemon!  I think I've been happy with everything of theirs I've bought so far, and I really hope they keep designing intelligent garments like this one.

And now I'm going to talk about eating corn, and Justin Beiber.  Crucial stuff, so brace yourselves people.

Firstly: I understand this may make me decidedly easy to label as a N. American, but I love this time of year because the corn harvest begins.  For me, this means I'll be tasting all the sunshine of summer packed into little golden kernals, in neat rows on a cob.  My boyfriend, and most Europeans I know are, well... kind of grossed out when they hear that many of us in North America enjoy eating corn on the cob.  I wonder if they can't get over the idea that corn on the cob is fed to livestock, and therefore think it mustn't be fit for people.  Thing is, cows and pigs can't select a ripe cob from the green ones, boil or grill them to the perfect consistency, put sea-salted butter on them, and then sprinkle them with black pepper - and that makes a world of difference.

Despite the disdain it meets here, millions of people do know that corn on the cob is delicious, evidenced by the many forms of "corn skewers" available on the market, and even by the fact that my euro-grocery store now offers a (very limited) selection of corn cobs along with their seasonal produce.  I don't care if the girl at the cash register in Delhaize looks at me funny when I'm buying it, and I don't care if you want to judge me for it (since it's mostly European readers on this blog.)  You must not know what you're missing... or maybe you have never had a properly selected, cooked, and seasoned cob, so when you tried it it was crap to you.  Or maybe you did have it, and just didn't like it.  Either way, I'll profit from that: more for me. :)  I had my first cobs of the season for lunch today, and mmmm, they were good.

Last up: Justin Bieber.  A Canadian cultural export I sincerely do not like.  Mind you, today I stumbled across this.  One of his songs time-stretched to be 8 times longer in duration than normal.  It's like Sigur Ros meets Dead Can Dance.  In working with sound I have recycled things I hate (Backstreet Boys, Mariah Carey,) slowing them down, cutting them up, and inverting them in order to turn them into loops and beats I like, but I have to say that the simple act of time-stretching the song (slowing it down without the downward pitch-shift that normally accompanies the slowing down of sound,) turns it quite impressively into something entirely different, pretty epic, (and much better) than the original.  Go on, give it a go.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


After seeing the announcement in the paper today, I can't stop thinking about this:

Monday, August 9, 2010

Église abandonnée

Sunday, after visiting boyfriend's gran in the nursing home, we stopped on the way back to (finally) take a closer look at this place and shoot some pictures.  This abandoned church in Ombret had tree canopy puffing out of the non-existent roof the first time I spotted it.  The trees were removed some time in the last 6 months, and rumour has it the building is going to be converted into apartments after all the red-tape is sorted through.