Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Signs of life

Hey whaddya know?  I'm still alive!

Pastry school is done, superamazing stage is done, and vacation is done.  I rocked my exams:


and at the end of my stage my chef (who is one tough cookie, I'll tell you,) had some kind words for me.  Overall it was the high period of my year.  Of course vacation wasn't bad either.

 I still have a little vacation time left to use, so the boy and I are trying to figure out where and when.

In the meantime, Belgium has decided that summer is pretty much over.  While Belgium has been fairly decisive about this, I am still trying to make my decisions, about things like "what's next?"  I'm looking for work now that I have a few shiny new credentials, but also working on the "plan b" of what to do if I don't find a decent job before going mad.

It's been amost a year since I hurt my back, and the past 361 days since then have been quite the roller coaster, with great opportunities and awful surprises.  Most days my back is pretty solid, and it held up perfectly during my stage which was a huge test, and a huge relief for me.  What I'd really like now is to feel like I can have at least a year of something fairly stable, whether that be work, school, whatever.  I would like a routine please.  Ideally one that isn't as sucky as the one I have right now of checking the want-ads and trying to learn the rules for driving here in Belgium.

Like pretty much all the plan b's I've ever had for anything since showing up here, my fantasy plan b involves me fleeing the country for better education or work opportunities elsewhere.  (Don't all expats have a secret fantasy escape plan?)

It's the long stretches of day where I do very little of what I love that get to me and I now feel quite confident that it'd be easier for me to keep moving forward somewhere else.  But here I am, and I'm not a quitter, so I'm rolling up my sleeves and seeing if there's anything here for me first.  There are great things to be had and learned in Belgium, don't get me wrong... you just need to have a car if you live in Wallonia and you need to be willing to wrestle with paperwork every step of the way.  I keep trying to round off my "square peg" edges to fit into these round holes, but well... progress is slow. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Twist

Today I learned that my chef de pâtisserie represented France in the World Chocolate Masters a few years back (and came in a very respectable 5th place, despite his showpiece breaking during the competition!)  I'm kind of in awe.  Ok, I'm fully in awe.  That was a twist I didn't see coming.  Kind of like someone putting a cherry on top of the cherry of having the opportunity to stage in 'the house of fancy pastries'.

In other news my knee is still buggered despite horsepill anti-inflammatories, I have developed the ability to sleep at will (and sometimes even not when I will it,) and today was overall a better day in 'the house of fancy pastries'.  Meaning I felt ~slightly~ less goomba like, and got to do a few new things. :)

It's the hardest work I've done physically in pastry so far, as this place produces in larger quantities than anywhere I've ever worked before.  Larger batches of everything mean larger pots, larger mixer bowls (that weigh like... half what I do?) and so on.  Even though my bruised knee doesn't like it for the moment, fortunately my back is holding up through it all and I'm counting my blessings and feeling seriously grateful toward my physiotherapist.  It feels normal most of the time now, despite the strain I'm placing on it, which I guess means we did a good job bringing it back to health (yay.)

I feel like I have a lot to feel grateful for, and I'm just hoping things continue to move in this positive direction.

Now, I must sleep.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Off to a smashing start.

My stage has started.  Today was my 4th day at the "house of fancy pastries" (as we will call it,) in Verviers, and like every day I've been there, I still feel like a goomba in a place filled with ninjas.  The first days in any kitchen are always the most difficult, as you are learning how things are expected to be done, where things are kept, and how the machinery works.  Today I learned (I hope) to watch my step more carefully.

I can't bend my left knee.  A large black bruise is developing, and though I've taken a horsepill anti-inflammatory, it seems to have no effect.  Today, you see, I managed to crash to the ground while escorting a tray of creamy, crispy deliciousness designed to be hidden as a layer in a mousse-cake from the freezer to a work surface.  While carrying the tray I didn't swerve to avoid a low stack of boxes and metal in my path (which I didn't see since I was carrying the tray.)  This resulted in my falling forward, trying desperately to keep the wobbling tray upright as I fell, and then *wham*  The tray and I hit the ground.  Nothing makes you feel more competent than almost killing a tray of someone else's work by doing a belly flop in the kitchen.  Yes yes.

I'm just hoping by the end of my stage I feel slightly less like an elephant who has stumbled into the midst of a troupe of ballet dancers.

Oh, later in the day the vibration from the dishwasher sent the tray-loader (a metal insert we use to place baking pans and grills in the dishwasher,) toppling onto me from above as I dried and put back pitchers, bowls and other things.  It was totally my day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dreaming in cake.

Where were we?  Ah yes, I had just gotten into Pastry school, and then big ol' socialist Hollande became president of France, and then Angela Merkel vomited in her mouth a little.

And all the while as the news has unfolded, I've been blissfully, finally doing things I like.  Blissfully, finally.  School's been mostly awesome.  My understanding and technical execution of pastry is evolving waaaay faster than it would have if you'd left me in a room full of pastry books and food to survive on for the same period, which I think means the school is a decent one.

I'm incredibly excited and nervous for my stage (think: temporary "kitchen intern" placement.)  I kind of need to pinch myself when I think I'm going to be allowed into this kitchen.  It's exciting because it's a pâtissier and a company I really respect and that I've always wanted to see the inner workings of, but it makes me terribly nervous because well... they're awesome and ninja-like, and I'm not a ninja.  I'm a grasshopper... larva.  Please god don't let me suck.  I'm like each character in "A Chorus Line" at some point in the day when I consider my upcoming stage.  Completely insecure and absolutely hopeful that it will work out.

I dreamt of cake for the first time last night.  Normally (if I dream) I dream of working with chocolate, but last night after googling "melon garnishes" and sketching a few mentally for myself, it was a REM construction consisting of layers of Biscuit Joconde, crème bavarois, and fruit coulis/gelee.  Pastry school is having it's effects on me, it seems.  :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lost promises, loose ends, and small triumphs.

First: let me be clear that I am no pro.  I don't have a 'blogging schedule' of any kind, I don't have a fancy camera, and... I can't even come up with a third excellent thing to round out this sentence nicely about how unprofessional I am as a blogger.

However as unprofessional a blogger as I am, I do strive to be a woman of her word, and I realize that faaaar too often while zipping around doing things in real life, I leave things hanging here in the form of loose ends, mentions of things not yet elaborated upon, and as-yet-unfulfilled promises (like the recipe for that cake, which is still coming - but can I just tell you how many sweets have fallen into our lives over the past little bit and how much attention I've had to pay to other things, and while we're at it, how expensive almond-powder is here? (because the cake uses it, and our grocery store seems to have mistaken it for gold-dust.)

Anyhow, the point is there are some holes that ought to be filled in, and I'm going to spend the next little bit trying to find them and fill them in and to tidy things up around here because I hate when my deficits of attention make me look like a liar.  It's a good time to fill in the holes anyhow.  I'm trying to tie up loose ends everywhere to make sure I have enough room and organization in my life for this new thing...

(No, not a baby if that's what you were thinking.  Who are you, my mother in law?)

That pastry program I wanted to get into?  The one that ought to help give me a little 'Belgian credibility'?  I got in!  My long division and multiplication stuck by me in the math tests, I did well in the French comprehension test, and I must not have come off so badly in the interview because I'm in!  I suspect the next few months are going to be very intense, and pretty tiring, but I'm also hoping they'll be worth it and will allow me to go back to living the sort of life where I come home from work covered in splotches of flour or butter or chocolate, and more importantly: a contented smile.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Three Years.

I'm in a bit of a quiet spell here at the moment, which is really only because there is a lot going on off the computer, some of which I hope I'll remember to talk about later, and some of which will doubtlessly be lost in the crevices of my grey matter.

But, today is my expat birthday.  Today I'm three.  I'm not really sure how I feel about that although there's something about it that seems worthy of making a note of.  I'm not sure I expected that I'd still be here three years later, mind you I'm not really sure what I'd figured would happen.

I do like that I'm more comfortable here, though even with three years of experience I am reminded at least once every day by something that happens either in conversation or event that I am not from here, and that I do not "belong" here.  Perhaps I am welcome here, I don't know that for certain either, but it's not the same.  This might seem bleak but it's not.  You can have great times even when you feel as though you are not 'in your proper place', but there will always be moments where you feel that outsiderness, I think.

Right now what I can say is that after putting in three years of hard work with another language, a different job-market, and a generally different prevalent philosophy of 'how to live life', I feel like I might actually be getting somewhere, possibly, and that the advances I've made will be of worth to me regardless of where I end up in the future.  Certainly my language skills have improved.  I am more patient and a touch less serious about myself, and I may possibly have cracked the tough nut of how to become a recognized professional in the kitchen here.  Possibly.

I'm also quite tired though.  I probably wouldn't have been so much so if it weren't for the unexpected injury last September, the long road to recovering from it (still going,) and the added drama caused by one incredibly unsupportive and downright pessimistic (ex)employer.  Running back and forth from my union, my health-insurance providers, and learning the ropes of how Belgians play office politics hadn't really been an item on my list of "things to learn", but nonetheless I know much more about it now than I ever wanted to.  And I'm still learning, reluctantly, about these things.

I do feel at three years that I've got most of the basics solidly down.  I feel now that instead of trying to figure out simply how to be here, or even how to deal appropriately with what life throws at me, that the challenges are shifting toward my figuring out how to steer myself toward achieving the goals I have in mind.  Not "survive in Belgium" goals, but "get what you want out of life" goals.  After three years, I'm just starting to arrive at that similar point, mentally, where I was shortly before I left Toronto, trying to figure out the same things, no longer distracted so regularly by more basic matters of survival.

While I can't say with any certainty where I'm taking myself, I'll say that what's on the horizon looks nicer than it has ever looked before.  That, and despite the lack of a predictable trajectory, it's still very nice to feel less like a hapless passenger in my life here and more like the one with her hands on the wheel.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

City envy, relearning math

I have a little crush on Namur.  I've been there a few times now, and I was there again last week for a course.  I found myself (a few times) thinking wistfully "if only that were my apartment balcony" as I walked from the train station over into Jambes.

It's true it's superficial.  I like the way Namur looks.  I like the way all the parts I've walked in have smelled, and I like the variety of shops, bakeries and architecture I see there.  I like the fact that it's centrally located in Wallonia, but these things aside do I really know what it's like on a day to day basis?  No.  Not at all.  I don't know the real Namur, but I think I want to.  I'm back there next week, and I plan on stopping into the patisserie I had my eye on yesterday to see if what they make tastes as good as it looks.  The Boy has already agreed to spend more time visiting Namur... it seems he may finally be tiring of the Liègois soot, the heroin addicts that hang around the Place St. Lambert, and of the areas of the city that smell perpetually of urine or decaying cement, or both.  Does Namur have places and problems like these?  I don't know.  I'm very curious to know, actually.  Anyone?


I discovered the other day that I had completely forgotten how to do "long multiplication."  Upon the shocking realization that I could no longer multiply larger numbers or decimals without the assistance of a machine, I went about relearning, all while feeling a little embarrassed to have let such a basic thing slip.  I've been practicing various math skills as I have a math test coming up.  I'm not sure what sort of questions will be asked and I'm not sure if calculators will be allowed or not.  I'm a little nervous about it given that it will be the first French math test I've ever written, and the first math test I've had to write in... 15 years.  I'm pretty sure I'll have to relearn long division too.  La honte.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Don't even scratch your nose

I forgot to mention the other exciting thing!  This weekend, within walking distance from my home there will be a craaaaazy auction featuring works by Magritte, Picasso, Lichtenstein, Miro, Delvaux, Renoir, Christo, Giacometti, Modigliani, and Rodin, among other things like 1000 bottles of expensive wine, furniture, and so on.

My Grandma and I have enjoyed an auction or two together, but I have never been to anything like this.  As an art school kid (and a lover of old funky objects they don't make like they used to,) this tickles me so very much.  I think I may have started sweating after reading only half the list of artists.

We are hoping to go, view the items pre-auction, and then sit completely motionless and amazed as people with far more money than we have engage in bidding wars.  And in the unlikely event that nobody wants the Modigliani or one of the Magrittes, I happen to have a space above the mantlepiece here that could use a little something should they care to donate it to a good home.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A breath of fresh air

Good things have been happening here lately, and it feels as though I'm arriving at the more spacious and well lit end of the proverbial tunnel.  I can breathe.  *happy sigh*

What's good?

1) The great Belgian paper-chase has come to an almost-resolution.  I finally have the papers I need from my ex-employer and I finally have a "status".  It is nice to know I'm not facing starvation just yet.

2) Some super-duper educational opportunities I'd been going after have been offering themselves up via my mailbox and email inbox.  To get into the one of them, I'll have to pass a French test, a Math test, and shine in a personal interview.  It's a great opportunity, so today I went and got study materials because I just need to make sure I'm not stupid, or at least to give myself a little time to try and correct the stupid if it turns out I am.

3) We found a decent sushi place on the outskirts of Liège!  Hello maki, my old friend, I've come to omnomnom you again.

4) The Boy and Hobbes have tuned into each other and bonded, and there is very little tension in the house now that The Boy believes he has "the most beautiful kitty ever".

(To be fair, I don't think Hobbes is the most beautiful kitty ever, or the most intelligent, but the little freak makes me laugh when he's not driving me mad with his ridiculous doings, so he can stay.)

(...For the record, my kitty in Toronto is the most beautiful, sweet-tempered and intelligent kitty ever.  And the softest.)

5)  We are going to Rotterdam!  I've wanted to see Rotterdam for awhile now, so I'm pretty hyped about that.

6) My imagination has been firing more regularly and this pleases me immensely.  Good things are coming of this, I have been a busy bee, and though I'm too shy to share more about this for the moment, it'll come in time.

7) Rhubarb showed up in the grocery store!  There are baby bunnies in the park!  The air smells nicer!  Spring is springing!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Canuck Blog Love.

Sometimes, when something great comes along, I keep it to myself just for a tiny bit before sharing. I'm not sure why.  As a kid with new toys it was totally territorial and selfish.  As an adult, I have to admit it is still kind of territorial and selfish, but also a little bit "let's make sure this is actually good before we go sharing looking like a dork with no taste".

Today I'm coming out of the shadows officially on this and sharing.  This blog rocks my socks:  It's called The Art of Doing Stuff, and there's some smart DIY stuff in here without going crazy-crafter.  The writing feels honest and makes me smile with it's sense of humour that also feels pretty natural.  And in the time I've been following along, I've learned a few very practical things, and one day the blog exploded into a thesaurus providing a zillion different words for penis, so that was an interesting day.

Anyhow, I think it's good enough that I've gone and nominated it for the 2012 Canadian Weblog Awards.  Check it out!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


It's funny, after the weekend most blogs are "Look! This is the fabulous thing I did this weekend!" and I'm all: "It's Tuesday?"

I have been busy, but it's a true jumble.  I've been truly, crappily "I can't breathe" sick, and with cold sore.  I've been inching closer to the most perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, and the second edition of the cake discussed below was made, measurements recorded, and I'm pretty sure the third edition will have me feeling confident enough to put out a recipe.  That's always nice because you know what?  I'm not so good at finishing the things I start.  Or rather I am, but usually it takes me SO LONG to finish the things I start that it just seems like they will never be finished.  It's only because I have like, a zillion projects on the go at the same time, and am bad at limiting myself down to a few.  I should just add that this is in my personal sphere.  In the professional one I'm all: "woo, look at me go, done already, whatelseyougot?"  But since I'm not working at the moment...

I've believe I have managed to book myself into a training opportunity in pâtisserie, which if it happens will be very helpful, given that I have no "Belgian educational qualifications" in this field.

It's funny because the lady on the phone confirmed that I was booked in, and then a few days later I received a notice saying my request was received and I should receive confirmation shortly that I am, indeed, booked in, but I still haven't received my second letter of confirmation.  It's why I say "I believe I have managed".  I've learned after several painful experiences not to trust that anything in this country actually exists or will exist in the way everyone says it should, until it is firmly in my OWN hand.  In the meantime, I keep scanning the horizon, investigating work related things, and playing my part in the great Belgian paperchase, all while trying to keep myself from considering for too long the question "what are you doing here?"  That one's dangerous for the moment, since I'm kind of in the middle of I don't know what.

I had someone call me this week who was very interested in my chocolate abilities, and we were both very pleased because everything seemed to line up well with the nature of the job and my skills, and then we were both very dismayed because I have no means of transport right now other than public transit and my legs, and their facility is in the middle of nowhere.  So essentially a perfect job slipped just between my fingers, and caused me to realize I might finally have to suck it up and see about getting my drivers license here.  I hate driving.  Sooo much.  Can't I just ... rent a horse or something?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ghetto Hikes

While I'm tinkering in the kitchen today with that cake recipe, I will steer your attention to Ghetto Hikes,  one of my fave 'new blog' discovery of this year.

"Mr. Cody, hook me up wit a glue stick Imma cut and paste this f*ckin orange leaf into my memories book."

Some (possibly many) of you may never have had the 'opportunity' to spend time in Americas 'urban' neighbourhoods, but I will tell you that my ex grew up in one as part of a financially disadvantaged family, and the first years of our relationship saw me spending a fair amount of time visiting in 'the hood', overhearing things rather like what the kids on Ghetto Hikes say.

"Rocks, sticks, rivers needa come out here with my f*ckin art supplies, paint alllllll this beautiful sh!t"

It might seem unreal, and some things that happen in the ghetto really are unbelievable, like the (first) time the man behind the counter at the corner store placed a bunch of coins on the counter and asked me to make the change for myself, because (as he said, rather matter-of-factly,) he'd just been smoking crack and couldn't figure it out for himself.

"Crazy sh!t out here in da wild, feel likes Imma catch diabetes or some sh!t".

  I like that it's got the funny thing going for it while adding a human dimension to a section of Americas demographic that is otherwise portrayed quite one-dimensionally in the media.  The writers choice of excerpts shows not only the things these kids don't know, but also the stuff they do know and appreciate despite their lack of education.  So today Ghetto Hikes is getting a little link love from me.

Make with the clicking!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

This Cake

I'm not a big on cake.  I'll always try a piece, forever hopeful, but too often I encounter cake that isn't good enough to stand on its own.  Either the crumb is too dry or too greasy, or has too little flavour, causing it to rely on icing, jam layers, a spritz or wash of rum to give it what it lacks, to make it decent.

Not that these are in and of themselves bad things, I love great icing, jam layers and a little wash of rum, but I guess what I'm saying is that the CAKE isn't usually what "takes the cake" for me.  If a cake can stand on it's own, delicious even when unadorned, then you know you've got a really good base-recipe to work with.  You know the kind of cake that is absolutely moist, fluffy, and delicious?  That's the rarer kind in my experience, but those are the kind that cause me to never give up on cake, neither the eating nor the making.

This cake is that kind of cake.  Not only is it moist and packed with flavour, but as an added bonus it's flourless and uses no oil or butter.  In my mind, it is a real plus to add good recipes like this to your repertoire, ones that allow people to enjoy without worrying about gluten or dairy allergies.  I made this for the first time not too long ago, and the whole thing was gone within a day.  It knocked our socks off.  As you might notice from the picture above, the cake-crumb was just a tad TOO moist on the first run, and so I'll be tweaking the recipe, playing with it a bit to make it perfect, but just know I can't wait to share This Cake with you.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pinterest: Calorie-Free! Therapeutic! Prozac for the visually oriented!

Oh hello Saturday night at home.  Just you, me, what remains of my bottle of Marshmallow Fluff, and Pinterest.  Nothing but salve on top of salve to help me forget the fact that I have a unmissable "fever-blister" on my lower lip and am generally feeling too horrid to leave the house.

Pinterest is a virtual opium den.  Scrolling glassy-eyed through it is calming, and judging by some of the things I see people post, it can be addictive.  I can only spend so much time on it before the tranquility wears off, but I do find it enjoyable.  I could see it being useful for planning large things in life, like weddings, house decor and such.  I use my boards for recipe ideas, or art inspiration, there is one to collect quotes I like, but my favourite board is the one where I'm amassing a collection of things I find pleasing to look at. It's quickly becoming a little breathing space for me, a place full of good things that impart good feelings, my tiny closet filled with gentle sunshine on the web.

And why wouldn't that be addictive for some?  It's like building your own prozac.  There is certainly something to an online space where by collecting things you like, you share your 'good things' with others...  There's a positivity to the way that system functions.  Unless you decide to collect things you really don't like, but most of us aren't wired like that, are we?  Anyhow, I imagine it's the healthiest way I've found to escape for a moment or two to something more interesting, inspiring or fantastic than whatever is on hand.

Whimsical, uplifting... it's right up there with Marshmallow Fluff.  And you'll still fit into your pants no matter how much Pinterest you've been helping yourself to.  Now if only it could help me get rid of this horrid cold-sore.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

You are a chocolate nerd when...

I believe I have fully come to terms with what a chocolate nerd I am.

I don't just love chocolate because it tastes good, or because it's full of polyphenols, or because it has a terribly interesting history.

I don't just love chocolate because the chemical and physical properties of it are completely fascinating.

I don't just love chocolate because it's a food, because it can be savory or sweet, because it can be a drink, a meal, a dessert.

I don't just love chocolate because it's a food that endures, that spans ages and cultures, that has as much nuance as wine when we don't mix the beans from one farm to the next... where we can really taste the terroir and how the hands of the people working with the product at all levels influence the quality or failure of the expression of raw potential of the plant.

I love chocolate most of all because it is a medium.  An artistic medium that can engage all senses, in so many ways.  Only the "food of the gods" could present itself in such beautiful and varied forms, all with their own appeal.

Do you know I watched the complete live stream this year from the World Chocolate Masters (held at the Salon du Chocolat, in Paris.)?  I spent over 24 hours in a span of 3 days, glued to my couch, completely fascinated.  I was thrilled because I got to see (really close-up) the techniques the competitors were using to create their chocolate showpieces, entremets, plated desserts and so on.

Did I ever mention that one of the main things that got me into chocolate in the first place was using it for sculpture in art school?  Yeah.  So I was doubly excited watching the competition, because watching those people working away at this point in my life, I totally "got" how and why they were doing what they were doing.  Understanding most of the techniques for the sculpting, and being versed on the rules of the competition... well it was terribly exciting for me to see how these Masters "played the game" to the best of their abilities.  It was as exciting for me as the Superbowl is for many Americans.  It was my 3 day long Superbowl.

I dream about working with chocolate, not just in the abstract sense either.  Last night in my dreams, I was sculpting a tree using mostly milk chocolate, and was frustrated that I couldn't find the dark I needed to make textural patterns.  NERD.

It made me realize that I'm arriving at a point where my art education and my chocolate education need to start merging more.


And then, if things go well, I'll just need to practice really hard for like, 10 more years before I even think it might be possible to think of setting foot into a competition like that.  Because, whoah, have you SEEN what some of them MADE?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What do you do with a kitty like Hobbes?

As previously mentioned we have a kitty.  Like most kitties who come from shelters (as he did,) he was a sick kitty.  He had me thoroughly worried his first 3 days with us, to the point of my losing sleep and barely leaving the house, opting instead to hover, offer all manner of food, and donate a good deal of my time to provide a warm lap and any comfort possible.

He'd barely eaten for 3 days though he drank water, and all the while he'd been having sneezing fits where projections of clear kitty snot were involved.  There is nothing more pathetic than a sick kitty who doesn't want to eat, who demonstrates interest in a toy ball but obviously has zero energy to play.  He saw the vet and now that he's been here 3 weeks, he is a much healthier boy.

He is The Boys kitty, though I am occasionally blamed for his presence in the house.  Rather perplexing, that, since I have routinely and firmly said I do not want another kitty (mine lives in Toronto with my ex.)

A brief synopsis of how kitty ACTUALLY came to be here:
I had no desire to be attached emotionally to a ball of fluff, nor to deal with vet bills, cat hair, and so on.  I said I wasn't ready to deal with a kitty.  But after The Boy mentioned wanting one several times and finally guilted me by saying "you'll never be ready" going further by associating my lack of readiness for a cat with my lack of readiness (at this point) to have a child, I figured that with a guilt trip like that he must really want a cat.  So, faced with the mother of all guilt trips, I considered the matter and realized I could handle with living with a kitty, just as long as it wasn't officially MY responsibility.

I told The Boy that though I'd be ok to live with a kitty and advise about care (the boy has never been solely responsible for more than green plants,) that I did not want to be the owner, did not want to find myself drifting into the "responsible" position.  I was clear that this would be HIS.

We discussed the pros and cons of looking at litters of free kittens vs. rescuing a shelter kitty, and decided that a shelter visit would be a good idea to start as there would be a wider selection of personalities in a shelter, and also because the kitties where we decided to visit are already chipped, vaccinated, in possession of their EU pet passports, and sterilized.  Of course, it always feels right to rescue a kitty from kitty jail, too.  Off we went that weekend to the nearest shelter.

The Boy took a shine to a little striped fellow in a pen on the end, and asked me if I thought we should take him, if it was a good time, a good idea.  I said "I don't think it's ever a good time or a practical idea to get a kitty", clarifying by adding that the only time I thought it was a good idea to get one is if the potential owner feels so compelled to be around this ball of fuzz that he is entirely prepared to deal with all the other factors of cost, fur, responsibilities of vaccination and vetcare, etc.  I said that this particular kitty seemed well socialized, noted that he had obviously clean habits, and said that he seemed quite young by his size and behaviour (the boy had hoped to find a kitten.)  I added clearly after having said all of these things that ultimately whether the boy felt so compelled to leave with him or not was entirely NOT up to me.  And The Boy decided to take the little tigré.  We waited an eternity in line to adopt, and then we were on our way to a pet shop to pick up a litterbox and other various sundry kitty essentials.

The Boy seemed fine with his decision, until I realized that the kitty was unwell.  The official owner (not having had a kitty before,) didn't seem to understand that in certain cases with kitties (like with kitties who have upper respiratory issues and who barely eat for three days,) waiting and seeing can be quite dangerous, even deadly.  Finally The Boy listened to my "hey, these are very concerning signs" feedback (which honestly near the end of the three days mounted to "Hey, your cat could die.") and agreed to see the vet sooner than he'd planned - he'd been hoping to wait 2 weeks so the cat could get a check-up and his next round of vaccinations all in one appointment.  Cursing all the while about how I FORCED him to get a cat, (I What?) we stepped into the vets office.

The vet is lovely.  And fortunately after looking over the kitty, she provided a good deal of information for The Boy, including the official word that kitties who don't eat for more than 3 days should be of serious concern, and that upper respiratory infections should be promptly treated as if they are left to linger the damage can be nasty and permanent.  I was relieved that this confirmation came from a neutral and official party.

Sickness dealt with, then there were intense discussions regarding the name.  The Boy wanted something ringard (old fashioned and ugly) and pushed hard for horrible, horrible names like "Elvis", and "Hector", and "Buddy".  The absolute worst of the names the boy proposed I can't even bear to tell you, other than to say it's a french word associated with a (male) human bodily function.

I cannot, for the life of me think of why one would want to give a living thing they like an ugly name.

I suggested names like "Usagi" (japanese for rabbit), "Hobbes", and "Mr. Mistoffelees", because I think animals are great for giving names you find pleasing, but that you would never consider naming a person.

In the end I had to cede, saying that Hector was a name I could live with above all the other horrible names the boy had proposed.  And then The Boy did something very surprising and decided to name the kitty Hobbes.  I quintuple checked that he was sure he wanted to go with that name, saying I could live with Hector, and that it was after all his right to name the kitty, since it was HIS kitty.  But Hobbes it is.

They've been adjusting to one another... it's all I can really say.  You might know how cats usually pay more attention to the person who seems to wish it less?  - So The Boy has been having a bit of a complex about how Hobbes spends more time around me, and has a habit of following me when I leave the room to see what I'm up to.  I've tried to explain Hobbes' behaviour based on all I know from the kitties I've had, what I've read, and what I've observed of Hobbes himself so far, but The Boy bristles at this.  There is a bruised ego in the mix for the doesn't like that it isn't "the preferred one".  I believe the accountant has a stake in this somewhere too, fuming in a corner of The Boys mind about how this thing, this animal that he owns... isn't acting like it belongs to him.  Something winds just a little tighter in The Boy each time he tries to pick Hobbes up, and Hobbes decides not to stay for a snuggle.  He certainly doesn't like hearing hints about how to win the affections of a kitty and has told me as much.  It was only offered in the first place because I, too had the desire for The Boy and his kitty to forge a good bond.  But fine, whatever.  I'll try to bite my tongue and just watch.  So far, it's been revealing.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Speaking of more complex reading materials...

Today and the several days before it have been filled with reading; A little for pleasure, but mostly I've been reading things more complex, dry yet informative things.  It's been quiet here, and I'm happy that my focus has been good as it's letting me get things done that need to be done.

Speaking of more complex reading materials, this came a bit ago in the mail.

LE excite.

At the moment, with a big stack of other things that take priority, I'm not entirely sure when I'll have the chance to dive into it... but something tells me that this will be one of the French books I'll say I'm happiest to have read, even years and years from now.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Paint it white

There is something very relieving to me about snowfall.  Snow gives us pause.  It makes us slow down just a bit as it covers over the details and garbage, and offers another perspective, even if just for a few hours.  Snowfall to me always feels in some depth of my being like a sigh of relief.  It's something that offers us just a bit of extra time to reflect, wherever we might be when it happens.

I needed this.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wrapping around it

Kitty has seen the vet and after a jab of her needle seems to be on the mend.  He had a nasty upper respiratory infection "coryza" which causes inflammation in the throat and nose -- hence the not eating.  The needle the vet administered had an anti-inflammatory in it which had the desirable side-effect of stimulating his appetite while making it easier for him to smell food, not to mention less painful for him to swallow it.  It worked perfectly, and we've been sneaking his antibiotics into the high-calorie food she gave us to help him recover from his anorexic spell.  He's been more alert and spent some of the morning exploring the house, a very relieving sign.

The vet was lovely with him, and all-told for the consultation, the antibiotics, deworming meds, the shot, and the can of high-calorie food?  47 Euro and change.  Not bad.  We'll discover what vaccinations cost here in Belgeland when he sees her again in February for his second round of them.  Kitty belongs to The Boy, but until he has a name I'm reluctant to write about him.  This morning the names tossed around included Théo, Elvis, Peyo, Usagi, Tigrou... *sigh*  We'll see.  The Boy doesn't like Hobbes enough it seems, and it's his cat, so he'll get final say on the name.  Please hope with me that this poor cat won't end up named Elvis?  *shudders*  (My apologies if you happened to be named Elvis.)

As for my ex-job and the papers... I'm still waiting.  The oh so very Belgian game of waiting on papers as they bounce back and forth between administrative bodies continues, and I must say I'm taking it in stride, rather patiently, too.  I've found my zen in this I guess.  In the wait-time I look over documents that need looking over, scan job listings, try to whip the house and my studio space into better shape, dig into one of the 4 books I've got on my nightstand (2 French, 2 English,) keep an eye on kitty, keep up with my online language classes, annnnd.... (drumroll please) soon I'll fill some of my wait-time with a month of Bikram Yoga!  (Or, as much of it as my body can take in one month.)

At my most recent physiotherapy session we reviewed the positions in the Bikram sequence and I was given the green light (for REAL this time,) to resume (gently) with my yoga practice.  The only yoga studio that allows "drop ins" in Liège is a newish one that opened at the end of last year, and they do Bikram there.  I've always been an Ashtanga and Iyengar girl, but I do love a hot room... and my physiotherapist likes the idea that the 26 positions never change, which will allow me to focus intently on alignment and autoaggrandisement (spinal lengthening,) in each class as I continue healing my back (yoga, done correctly can do wonders for the muscles that support your spine, by the way.)  So I'm stoked to give it a go.  I'll be trying to hydrate the heck out of myself over the next few days, since my natural water-drinking abilities are generally made of suck, and spending 90 minutes in a 40 centigrade room isn't for those of the demi-sec persuasion.

image from

All said, it's a tranquil(ish) period in my life, which is saying a lot considering that waiting on papers and administrative stuff used to drive me batty.  I am rarely bored, and most days I feel like I've made positive progress in some area of my life, so this period of waiting is actually turning out to be pretty opportune, as I see it.  (I'm pretty sure my spine agrees, too, having the extra time to work on healing up well can't be bad.)  The paper will settle eventually, as it must, and until then I'm settling down to other matters needing my attention.  Who knew waiting could be such a fruitful thing?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

There's a kitty here.

I have stories about how this came to be, but right now I'm too worried to write.  He has an appointment with the vet tonight, and until then all I can do is fret over his fragile state.

Please cross your fingers for him?  He's been fighting the good fight against whatever's got him, and has been nothing but sweet and gentle, but he seems to be heading sharply downhill today, and I'm terrified he won't make it.

I think he looks like a "Hobbes".

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The sea of not knowing.

We are back and beating away the jet-lag after an incredibly turbulent flight that afforded us very little sleep.  While the flight wasn't fun, our visit was heaven.  A beautiful blink of time consisting mostly of family, with a little bit of friends and shopping tossed into the mix for good measure.  Happily, I found two new pairs of Guess Jeans, though sadly after the massive quantities of turkey, mashed potato, gravy, wine and beer, date squares, shortbread, fudge, sugar cookies, and so on, I find they fit a little more snugly than when I tried them on in the store, pre-Christmas.

I'm ok not knowing how much I weigh for the moment.  I am in a sea of not-knowing, actually, and so I figure "why bother about the number if I still fit (albeit badly) into my skinny jeans?"  There are more important things I'd like to know now, anyhow, like:

---When will I get that little piece of paper I need from my employer?  And how much of a difference will this make in my job-hunting/training plans?
---Will I receive any kind of help from the government with respect to feeding myself while I hunt down my next career move?
---Will anyone in Belgium give me an apprenticeship opportunity in chocolate or will I manage to secure some other learning opportunity here?

In the meantime I read over the pile of documents from the FOREM, partially bewildered.  I have good days and bad days with my back.  I review bank and health-insurance policy changes with furrowed brow.  I make phone calls, check websites and plan visits.  I move deliberately and methodically, carefully collecting the fragments of information I need to have a clearer idea about what direction my life might be headed in 2012.  While many people use the beginning of the year to set goals, this year I find myself making plan A and B and C, and wondering which I'll end up using, while hoping that at least one of them works.

And I drink herbal tea.  I'm trying to rehydrate.

I am the girl with the far away look in her eye, fingers crossed, counting down to the stroke of something.