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.