Thursday, January 27, 2011

News & Zoup

I bring you news along with the recipe for the easiest soup ever.  Not to mention cheap, and pretty tasty.

1kg zucchini, chopped.
200g fresh chevre (goat cheese), chopped.

-Put chopped zucchini into a pot, and fill with water (just enough to cover the zucchini.)
-Add a little salt into the water
-Bring to a light boil/simmer for about 20 minutes
-Take off heat and add the chevre into the pot while the water is still hot
-Let sit until cooled
-Process through blender to desired texture, season with salt and pepper to taste

In other news, I'm still tinkering with things hither and thither.  I somehow managed to disable my analytics while tricking google into thinking it was still functioning and just this morning after discovering this have either:
a) fixed the problem by inserting newer, better analytics code or
b) deleted something that may have been important in the code of my blog while inserting the newer better code ... I must now wait at least 24 hours to figure out whether it was a or b that happened.  How exciting!

Originally, the plans for this morning were to take off to the Vosges (mountains south of here, in France) to spend a weekend snowboarding, but sports are still off limits for Boyfriend, so we are taking off elsewhere for a little conciliatory evasion.  This aside, I have been working on other projects (or trying desperately to catch up on them, rather), chain-consuming episodes of Desperate Housewives with Boyfriend while he's off-work recovering, and still feel as though I'll be ringing in the new year with the Chinese.

Year of the snail sounds right to me.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ch ch ch Changes

Sometimes, when we aren't satisfied with things, we take it upon ourselves to change them.  Sometimes the results are immediately good: do you remember when I tried this lame little chocolate bar?  Yeah.  It was so disappointing that I set out to see what I could do to heal the hurt.  First results were pretty pleasing:

It doesn't always work out so smoothly in life though, does it?  Sometimes it's not so clear to us if we're heading in the right direction, and when that happens we might stop and ask for directions.

I wasn't really satisfied with the look or functionality of this blog, and so I've started to tinker with it.  While I'm confident when designing new items in chocolate, I am a complete amateur (and a nervous one at that) at designing anything on the internet.  So, I'm stopping to ask for directions, sort of.  If there is anything that makes your eyes bleed, or you find something that seems broken/buggy along the way, please feel free to let me know.   A simple thumbs ups or thumbs down are always welcome feedback too.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Encouraging signs, and a few more goals.

Boyfriend was told by the doctor to return immediately to the emergency department should he experience any chest pains, and on Tuesday, we were back in the hospital emergency ward.  After a new chest x-ray had been taken we received some good news, however.  Where before there had been 5cm of distance between the lung and the wall of the chest-cavity, the gap had narrowed by several centimetres, meaning that the problem seemed to be resolving itself, slowly but surely.  Knowing that an operating room moves further out of the picture with this news is a huge relief.  The doctor explained to us that sometimes the pain felt from the lung healing itself is quite similar to the pain experienced when the pneumothorax occurs, (but since the pain could always be the result of the one or the other, it's always better to be safe than sorry, so we did the right thing in coming in to have it checked out.)

In other areas of life, I've firmed up a few more of my goals:

--Make the maximum allowable contribution into my Tax Free Savings Account.  For non-Canadians, we are allowed to have a special account that is tax-free.  The money is completely accessible at all times without penalty, but everything that is kept in there, (along with the investment income it earns,) is not taxed.  There is a maximum allowable contribution every year, and what isn't contributed in one year can be carried forward. It's not really a retirement savings product, but it is an attractive complimentary savings-option to Canadians who aren't sure they want all of their savings locked away in a state of lesser liquidity.  I think that making the maximum contribution is the very least I can do for my financial health.

--MOAR CREDENTIALZ PLEEZ?  I'm putting together the dossier to have my previous studies assessed and evaluated for equivalency here in Belgium.  A few programs here have caught my interest enough to warrant my (possibly) willingly placing myself (ugh) back into a red-tape atmosphere.  So I'll cross my fingers and look to the heavens and hope that the Kingdom of Belgium deigns to see some value in my post-secondary art-studies, (while I suspect that they very well may not.)  If I'm worthy, and my French is deemed up to snuff, I might be able to enroll in a Belgian school.  In any case, this year should also see me doing some distance-learning, so I'm pretty sure this goal is a lock.

--Win Something.  This might sound a little odd, but I rarely engage my competitive side.  As a child, I was pretty competitive, and though this garnered awards in both academic and athletic circles, as I've matured I've realized that my competitive nature could be destructive, (I'm far too good at putting too much pressure on myself.)  But... It's been awhile since I've 'thrown my hat in the ring', and I do like a little official validation now and then.  So I've decided to try and win something.  I don't know what yet, but I'm looking around.  If any of YOU have an idea of a competition I could channel my energies into, all competitions, (both the serious and the silly,) will be considered so long as you feel I have a hope in hell of winning, or at least of having a hilarious time trying.  I've got the Eye of the Tiger, and my trophy case in Belgium is empty.  Rrrrr.

(Actually, I don't have a trophy case.  My awards have always lived in a box in the back of the closet.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A few goals for 2011

I thought, with a minimal work schedule this week that I'd have a lot of time to think and to firm up my plans and goals for 2011, but given all the lung-drama, this hasn't really happened, at all.  Instead I've been doing chores for 2, and reminding someone that going for a walk is against doctor's orders.

Instead of holding out and trying to have a nice neat start (well, on paper at least), I've simply decided that it's not going to happen and that the unplanned hurdles are something I'll need to roll with.  This said, here is my unpolished list regarding where I'd like to try and steer my 2011.

--This year I want to meet more of Belgium on my own.  It's time to buy a railpass, and take myself out a bit more.  There are places to go, people to see.  Time to start doing it "comme une grande."

--I would like to become more proficient in my internet-doings. I know a little HTML, and have been blogging here and elsewhere for years, but hopefully by the end of the year, I'll know enough to have whipped this place into better shape, and to have started working on a few other webby ideas of mine.

--I really, really should get around to looking for more English-translation, editing, and tutoring work.  Really, I've been a lazy arse about this, as in I haven't done *anything* this past year to attract work, not one thing.  Miraculously despite that I got a little work, which was honestly very fun.

--Every day I have creative ideas and impulses, and really I have no good excuse for why I don't just sit down for 15 minutes even to sketch them out before they get lost in the ether.  Even if I can get myself doing this once a week with regularity, I'd consider that a good step in the right direction.

--BE MORE ORGANIZED about the house (and force train convince Boyfriend to be too.)  I take a long time to become organized in new places, but once I am I can be rather ninja-like, with all my tools in their right places.  For me, things need well thought out homes because if they don't have them I just lose them by placing them randomly and not finding them again for 7 months.  Given that we are living in Boyfriend's Grandma's house while she is in a home, dealing with a degenerative mental disease and cancer, we haven't really felt right about putting her things in boxes.  In truth, we don't think of this place as ours at all, but we have begun to accept that in order to function better in the space, we have to put the fake flowers, crucifixes, and porcelain away, with care.

After two failed years on this one: I would like Christmas of 2011 to be the year I actually send my Christmas presents out in time for them to arrive to family before Christmas.  I used to have my presents bought or made and wrapped by the end of October.  Though most of the presents were bought by the end of November this year, they just never seemed to make it out of the house and to the Post Office.  My organization must change for the sake of my self esteem, before I start giving up, buy a set of grey track pants and stop remembering when I last brushed my teeth.

--Flossing.  I'm great at brushing my teeth, but miserable at flossing.  I believe I've found a trick though, a small way of keeping track and motivating myself to do this thing, which isn't really hard to do but for some reason I frequently do not do.  It's a stupid trick, but if it works to get me on track, I'll tell you, and then you can tell me that I'm a weirdo for being motivated by something so very lame.

And there you go, a half cooked plate of "I'm not good at" and "I'm very bad at" with a garnish of "I ought to be."  It was getting cold, so even though it wasn't ready I served it up anyhow.  Because that's how I'm rolling with things for the moment.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Right then.  First a brief anatomy lesson regarding Boyfriend's lung.  Right now it looks kind of like this:

Semi-deflated.  More deflated than that picture above, actually.

You see the hole in the lung, where the air is moving into the chest cavity?  That's a pneumothorax happening right there.  Normally the lungs are stuck to the walls of the chest cavity / thorax, but boyfriend experienced this painful separation of lung from chest-wall because he:

1) Smoked for 15 years, weakening the lung tissues, and even after 'quitting' continued to smoke occasionally at social events.
2) Is of a tall and lean build, grew like a rake as a kid.  Usually this rapid growth leads to thinner/weaker areas of lung tissue even in adulthood, which are more susceptible to damage be it from smoking, or other forces.  Being male also increases susceptibility to this problem, apparently.
3) Plays squash like a beast.  The man hits the ball with ridiculous force and snap.  He is a wound up spring, and squash was his tension release.  Unfortunately violent muscular contractions can cause a pnuemothroax, by tearing the lung away from the wall of the chest cavity and perforating it, allowing air to pass into the chest cavity.

The x-ray at the hospital showed that his lung had moved a full 5cm away from his chest-wall, resulting in pain, the feeling of pressure and breathlessness, and the risk the lung could detach itself more from the chest-wall.  It seems that 2 previous incidents of chest-pains were also smaller pneumothoraxs (which tend to resolve themselves over time.)  Though a cardiologist had been seen previously about the chest-pains, he hadn't thought to do an x-ray which is why we're just catching this now.

This (very painful) procedure was done at the hospital on Monday morning:

I know that's not the clearest drawing, that's a shoulder and arm sprouting off at the top there.  Essentially they made a hole all the way past the ribs and into the chest cavity and inserted a tube attached to a syringe with a 3 way valve.  This allowed them to suck all the errant air out with the hopes that the lung might start re-attaching itself.

But it didn't work.  It's not worse, which the doctors tell us is good, but it's not better, and so Boyfriend has been given some instructions.  He may do nothing, and I mean nothing for a month.  He may not fly for at least three months.  Within the next month, if he does very very little, the doctors are hopeful the situation will improve.  If it doesn't, a surgical intervention involving purposely irritating the outsides of the lungs is in the cards.  Any further chest pains, breathlessness and so on mean he must go directly to the hospital emergency ward.

The problem with all of this is that the reduced lung function caused by a pneumothorax can lead to oxygen deprivation, and cardiac arrest.  It's pretty important Boyfriend try to take care of this.  As there are a few factors that predispose Boyfriend to this, and as there is evidence that this has happened to Boyfriend before, there were also some more permanent instructions given by the doctor:

No smoking, ever again.
No squash, ever again.  No other explosive-force/violent sports or movements either.
And I will have to find a new dive-partner if I wish to learn SCUBA diving (which I do.)

After this month, if all is going well, he might be able to go for walks or help me carry the groceries, but we know we're staring at a quality of life change, and a big one for the next bit.  How much changes in the long run really depends on how things go, and whether his lung is willing to cooperate.  So, while we're doing our best to do very very little, if you wouldn't mind crossing your fingers for us for a second that'd be lovely.  Because really, pneumothorax?  Who the hell knew about THAT?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Scene: kitchen, this evening
"You know, I can't just say nothing at all about this... What am I allowed to write about your lung?" 
"Whatever you want." 

And so here I am, on a Wednesday night with one of the first free moments I've had since Sunday, pondering how to explain this... development.

Scene: hospital room, 58 hours before
"Madam, you can come back in the room now"
glancing at the fresh burgundy stain, is that iodine or blood?
"How are you?"
"I've been better in my life"
it's blood
"It seems it hurt a lot."
"Oh my god, it hurt so much, ugh, I feel sick."
"You're breaking a cold sweat, you're maybe a little in shock, do you feel nauseous?"
"Well, that's at least good."
"I feel like I'm going to faint, it hurts so much"
"Just try to breathe deeply"
stroking hair, gently
"I can't."
"Oh, yeah.  Um, just try to stay calm then and keep your breath even.  Try not to think too much about it."

Scene: hospital room, 57 hours before
"I have to fart, but I'm worried if I do the doctor will come back just then."
"I've had to fart for awhile now, but I've been holding it for the same reason.  He's a good doctor too, so, you know, I'd feel worse about it than if he wasn't.  You know what though?  You're already in a lot of pain, so go on, fart.  Look, I'll fan the sheet for you."
both laugh
"Ow, oh god, you can't make me laugh, it hurts."
"I'm sorry.  Ok, no laughing allowed.  You're right.  This is serious."
"Can I look at it?"
"The tube."
"Oh, ok."

All I seem to have is fragments for the moment, swimming about in a head full of doctor's instructions, wikipedia info, and accounts from people-who-know-someone-who-had-something-like-this, but I'll be back shortly with something more coherent and less cryptic soon.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In which one is the tortoise, and one is the hare.

New years are a little like newborn babies.  We consider them and their undeveloped almost non-existent personality and try to glean from this tiny beginning how things might develop.

2011 is here and it's not getting any younger, so I suppose I should say something about it, but I'm not ready to yet really.  I feel like I haven't really started.  The first few days of 2011 have involved me being incredibly busy whipping off chocolate orders (too busy in fact, to remember to take pictures,) and working my butt off at the hotel.  While doing these things I have to do, I've been thinking about what I want to do and what I ought to do in 2011.  My thoughts are really in a "laundry list" state right now.  Disorganized napkin scribbles all scrumpled up in various corners of my mind.

All I know for the moment is that 2011, even though it is still quite young, is moving way faster than me.  I have a ton of things I want to do this year, and a real need to sit down undisturbed with all these ideas, assemble them in one place, and prioritize.  That and grow about 8 more pairs of arms.

Given that I have one day off this week, who knows when I'll actually organize these thoughts?  Perhaps I should just get on-board with the Chinese and start my New Year in February?  Maybe I'll be ready then?