September Bucket List

Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carol. For those who do, I’m a chocolaholic and I’m ok with that.

If there is one thing Belgium is known for, it’s chocolate. Specifically pralines. With that being said, I’d thought I’d take the opportunity to make the world famous pralines in the country they were created! I’ve never attempted to make my own chocolates before because Godiva and Russell Stover exists. Why make my own when I could buy them on sale after Halloween or Valentine’s Day? I could easily do the same here since there is a chocolatier on every street, but that wouldn’t be making the most of my time in Brussels. Next best thing to buying expensive, delicious truffles from Leonidas or Neuhaus is to learn how the pros do it.

My search started online through Viator. After scrolling my way passed “Private Transfers to Brussels City Centre” and “Belgian Beer Walking Tours”, I came across a Brussels Chocolate Workshop. The experience was described as follows:

Make over 30+ chocolates yourself, but not only:
During this 2.5-hour workshop you’ll learn how to temper chocolate and, from it, craft 2 types of Belgian chocolates. You’ll make at least 30+ chocolates, which you can either eat on the spot or take home to family and friends.

Perfect! I was sold at “Make over 30+ chocolates”. It’s funny that they think I’m going to share with my friends and family. Haha! Good one. So I signed up for the workshop.

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Finally, Chocolate Day arrived. I woke up early, quickly got ready, and ran to the bus. It felt like Christmas morning as a kid, but without the bus part… or getting ready (I never had the patience to get dressed just to open Christmas presents. PJs, all the way!) I met the chocolatier and the rest of the participants in Le Grand Place before heading over to the kitchen as a group. The workshop itself was a large room within an old office building just outside Le Grand Place. There were several tables set up with tempering machines filled with melted chocolate, and bowls of even more chocolate on the side. Yea, definitely like Christmas.

The chocolatier started class by introducing herself and what we were going to do that day. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her name. Let’s call her Coco… What?! It’s fitting! Then everyone took turns introducing themselves and where they were from. There were lots of people from the UK and Ireland, one from Australia, one other American (woot woot!), and a couple from Israel. I don’t know why I was surprised to see so many native English-speakers. Maybe after three months of hearing mostly French, I’ve just expected everyone to speak French. Thankfully, the workshop was taught in English.

IMG_7810Coco went on to explain what makes good chocolate. For this workshop, we worked with dark chocolate with 54.1% cocoa solids. If you’re wondering, we used Callebaut chocolate. Apparently, it’s very good Belgian chocolate brand. Then we went into the tricky, time-consuming part: tempering. Tempering the chocolate makes it stronger against heat and gives it a shiny appearance. Appearance is everything when making chocolates. If it’s not pretty, who is going to eat it? Answer: me. Chocolaholism is no joke.

Our first job was to cool the melted chocolate to 31ºC by stirring constantly, then reheat it slightly so it was ready to use. It takes longer than I thought to cool down chocolate. A good 10-15 minutes had gone by before it was close to being ready to use. Once the base was ready, we filled praline molds until they were coated completely, banged it up a bit to get out any air bubbles, and tipped it to create a thin shell. The shells went into the fridge for a bit as Coco prepared our ganache by adding warm cream to a mixture of honey and melted dark and milk chocolate. Simple in flavor and easy to make! Once the ganache had cooled, our shells were filled and covered in more chocolate to seal in the filling.

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With chocolate #1 chilling in the fridge, it was time to move on to chocolate #2: mendiants. Mendiants are thin chocolate disks topped with nuts and dried fruits. You might have seen it in a chocolate shop before but didn’t bother with it. Why would you bother with chocolate that had healthy stuff on top? What’s the point? Let me answer that for you: it’s delicious and really easy to make! Just take a small spoon of your tempered chocolate and spread it on a piece of parchment/ non-stick paper and top with raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, etc. Coco said to let your imagination run wild with this. When I use my imagination, I think Mickey Mouse. So I made a couple Mickey Mouse mendiants.

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As we waited for the pralines and mendiants to set in the refrigerator, we used the remaining ganache filling to make hot chocolate. Simplest recipe ever: heat up milk until hot, stir in ganache/ melted chocolate, remove from heat, enjoy. And I did enjoy it. There was time to socialize with some of the other participants. Two people I talked to were going to school in Ireland and had come to Brussels for the weekend. I tried my best to recommend places to go, but since I’ve already done so much in Brussels, it’s hard to narrow it down to a two day trip!

At the end of the course, we packaged up our 30+ chocolates in gold boxes, said our good-byes, and went home to indulge in our homemade sweet treats. After a full three hours of working with chocolate, I was still happy to get home and sample a couple of my pralines (seriously, I might need help. Is there a Chocolaholics Anonymous group in Brussels?)

Throughout the whole process, I felt very professional! It felt good using the tools of the trade to make a beautiful, edible product. Coco was there every step of the process, helping those who needed it and encouraging everyone to get involved. This experience is something I could take with me to America and show off to my family and friends! Everyone I know might be getting chocolates for Christmas this year, so word of caution: don’t plan on any holiday diets, because I will ruin it for you.

If you ever find yourself in Brussels and are looking for something fun to do either alone or with a friend, I highly recommend the Belgian Chocolate Workshop. You can book your place in their workshop on their website, www.BelgianChocolateWorkshop.com, or through Viator: Brussels Chocolate Workshop. Happy eating!

Until next month,

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Carol B

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May Bucket List

Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carol. For those of you who do, I’m the Flash. The Lead-Up to the 5K In the week leading up to the 5K, I made two mistakes: Completed a strength training … Continue reading

March Bucket List

Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carol. For those who do, I want much more than this provincial life.

For my March Bucket List, I’ve decided to audition for a part at Disney World! I’m a big fan of Disney movies, bordering on obsessed, so I thought I’d might as well give it a shot. I’ve always wanted to work at Disney as a character, but I was too afraid of rejection. But this year is different, as you already know, so I’m finally going to audition for Disney!

Earlier in March, I went onto Disney Auditions Website and looked at what auditions were being offered this month. As I scrolled down the list for auditions near me, I saw a casting call for Belle in the Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage show at the park formerly known as MGM Studios (It will never be Hollywood Studios. I’m sorry, it just won’t). Now, I have history with this show. When I was younger, my family would go to Disney at least once a year, like most families with Disney-crazy kids. My favorite part of the trip was going to see the Beauty and the Beast show (as well as meeting the characters, the Snow White ride, and eating Mickey-shaped food). There is an old home video of a 3 or 4-year-old Carol B during one such trip where I’m sitting on my Mom’s lap, singing as loud as my little voice could go to the final “Beauty and the Beast”. The whole show was a magical experience for a 3-year-old Disney fanatic. So when I saw that Disney was holding auditions for Belle, I knew it was meant to be.

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The requirements for Belle were she had to be between 5’4″ and 5’7″, had to sing and act like an 18-20 year old, and you had to look like Belle. That means type casting. Guess who is 5’6″, can sing and act, AND kinda looks like Belle? C’est moi!

For the first fews days of March, I was in the mindset that I would go to the audition and just see how far I would go (Moana reference, you’re welcome. [OMG I DID IT AGAIN AND DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE IT!!]). I didn’t expect to go too far in the type casting portion of the audition, but I thought I’d try anyway for the experience of auditioning for Disney. Because it’s Disney… and it gave me an excuse to go to Disney World. However, as the day got closer, my mentality changed from “Let’s do it for fun,” to “I’m doing this to live my childhood dream!” to “It’s my dream AND a job!!” My enthusiasm went from 0 to 100 really quickly.

The whole week prior to the audition, all I could focus on was Disney. I watched YouTubevideos of the Beauty and the Beast show, strictly listened to Disney music, I read some blogs about other Disney Audition experiences, and saw the new Beauty and the Beast movie TWICE. I got into character as much as I could while trying to remain somewhat normal. I warmed up my voice on the way to work, and practiced my audition pieces on the way home and in my room at night before going to bed. I was in the zone. Come Friday (3 days before the audition) I had convinced myself that I was the best person for that part and that I was going to get it, throwing all logic and reason out the window. It’s ok to be confident for an audition, but when you stop thinking about the alternative ending (not getting the part at all), you set yourself up for some major heartbreak.

This Disney audition had a strange way of making me self conscious about my body. I practiced smiling in the bathroom to check if I had a Belle-worthy smile. I pushed myself extra hard on my Couch to 5K routine in order to slim down a bit. I only drank smoothies for breakfast and avoided excess sugar and carbs for the same reason. I questioned whether my freckles would lose the spot for me, or my bushy eyebrows, or the shape of my nose, or even my eye color!Everything I used to love about myself was suddenly put into question because it didn’t seem Belle enough. To say I was nervous about the type casting portion of the audition would be a MASSIVE understatement. I know I can sing, but the one thing I can’t change could lose me the role of a lifetime: my appearance.

Sunday night, I pampered myself to the best version of me. I washed, shaved, exfoliated, moisturized, and all. My outfit was planned for the following day (black leggings, black and white striped shirt, pink flats), and I went to bed as early as my energized mind would let me. Everything was going to be great… at least I hoped so.

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Audition Day:

Monday morning came around, and I was a nervous wreck. I did the vocal warm ups I had IMG_6349been practicing all week, got dressed, put on my usual daily make-up, and styled my hair away from my face. My Dad and I took off work for the day so we could drive up to Orlando together. When we finally got to the Animal Kingdom Rehearsal Facility, it was about 12pm
(two hours before the audition started). My Dad dropped me off at the front and went off to go play golf. From there on out, I was on my own. I walked into the red Disney Auditions door and saw maybe 30 or so girls waiting in line for the doors to open. None of them were dressed as casually as I was.

Nice floral dresses, professional headshots, beautiful theatre make-up, hair curled/ straightened, and heels. These girls looked like the stereotypical theatre girl (not that that is a bad thing). I was definitely intimidated. I wasn’t comfortable speaking with anyone, so I kept to myself and just smiled as girls went by me. I stood at the end of the hallway, furthest from the rehearsal room and waited until 12:30, when they opened the doors for sign in.

IMG_6351I was one of the first girls to enter Rehearsal Room 6. We were lined up along the edge of the rehearsal room and were introduced to Greg. He was a nice Southern man who was there to help us sign in. He explained what characters they were auditioning to fill (Belle and Casey from the Disney Junior Show) and the height requirements. He said those who are auditioning for Belle must pass a type casting audition before they sing for the casting directors. So you could have the best voice in the world, but if you don’t look like the character they are looking for, tough luck. Casey did not need to be type cast because she wasn’t an iconic Disney Princess, so those auditioning for her went straight to the singing portion of the audition. I could have auditioned for her, but I’m too tall. Darn.

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When I walked up to the sign in table, I told Greg my height, and he gave me a sticker with 54 on it, and asked me to sign in on an iPad. Afterward, it was the waiting game. I didn’t bring anything but my phone as means of entertainment because I didn’t think I would need it. My phone was previously used for directions so the battery was at 50% when I went in. I needed to be frugal with my phone usage. Most of the time, I spent looking around the room at the other girls, sizing up the competition. I felt terrible because lots of the other girls were doing the same exact thing to me. It’s cutthroat in there, I swear. I hated myself for judging these total strangers, but my mindset was “This is my part, GRRRRR!!!” and there was no way to turn it off. To avoid the roaming eyes, I resorted to staring at my music and humming to myself. After an hour and a half, 200+ theatre girls in dresses and crazy make-up were signed in ready to audition for one of two parts. I definitely wasn’t expecting so many girls to come out for this audition! It was probably because of the new movie that just came out. Everyone had the same idea as I did when they saw the movie: I want to be her.

IMG_6355It came time to do the type casting audition. My nerves were on FIRE! The worst part about the audition process was starting. Greg had the girls with numbers between 30 and 80 (that’s me!) enter another large rehearsal room to be judged. We were placed in 5 rows of 10 in front of 2 casting directors. They introduced themselves and mentioned that they would be looking for very specific qualities that match Belle. They turned on some Disney Mania version of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?”, and looked at each row one by one. It was probably the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced. It felt like I was a prize cow on display waiting to be judged at the State Fair. I smiled the entire time (as you should always do at an audition), and when it was my row’s turn to be checked, I looked at myself in the mirror in front of me and instantly thought “I’m not going to get it… that smile is not a Belle smile. The girls next to you are so much skinnier. You look plain compared to everyone else. Why would they choose you?” It took maybe 15 seconds for the casting directors to move on to the next row. I was hopeful, but expecting the worst.

The song hadn’t even ended when the directors announced the numbers that would move on to the next stage. “41, 46, and… *PLEASE SAY 54, PLEASE SAY 54!!!* 51.” If there was an x-ray on my chest at that moment, you would have been able to see my heart stop beating, then drop to the floor. I was devastated. I wasn’t Belle enough. I kept thinking, “If they just heard me sing, maybe I could change their minds.” but that was it. Out of the 50 girls in my group, only 3 survived to the next round. They didn’t ask for my resume, they didn’t ask for me to sing. Done.

I cried the whole way home, and the whole night until I fell asleep, then a little bit the next morning. I was inconsolable. It’s a terrible feeling to be rejected because of something you can’t change. If they had turned me away because of my singing or my acting, I could have gone home, worked on it to become better, than auditioned again in a couple months. But that wasn’t the case today. There is no possible way I can change how I look. I will never have a successful Belle audition. My dream had been crushed, hastily put back together with Elmer’s glue only to be smashed into little pieces by a hammer, then a jackhammer, then a chainsaw, until it was finally buried in a sewer somewhere far, far away.

Looking back, I could have handled my rejection better, but I was so convinced I would get the part that I forgot it was possible for me to NOT get it. After a good run, some time to think, and a bit of writing, I’m finally ok with what happened. Sure it still hurts that I may never be a Disney Princess, but there are other singing parts at Disney. I’ll just audition for those, where I KNOW they will give me a chance to sing.

My tips for a Disney audition:

If you are thinking of auditioning for Disney (singing of not), here are a few things I wish I had known before going to Orlando.

What to bring:
Resume/CV and a recent headshot: Don’t worry if your entertainment resume isn’t the most diverse or full. White space is ok. They just want to see your experience and training. I also put a mini profile on the top of my resume with my age, height, eye color, and hair color for them to reference whenever. For the headshot, I just used a nice picture I had from a year ago. I haven’t changed that much and I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on a headshot, so I cropped an old picture and called it quits. Lots of girls had headshots in Macy’s or JC Penny’s envelopes (couldn’t tell which), so if you are in need of one, there are cheap options out there.

Audition sheet music: The Disney Auditions website asks that you prepare 16 bars/measures from two songs of contrasting styles. Pick something that is in your range, and if it’s not, find someone who can transpose it into a comfortable range (Thanks, Molly ^_^). I chose two songs that I thought worked well with my voice and were easy to act out for the directors. The songs resembled Belle’s personality and situation, so I chose them to show my shy side and my energetic “I want much more that this provincial life” side. I didn’t want a song from the actual show because I was worried so many other girls would choose that, and I wanted to give some variety to the directors.

Coming from someone who has been to plenty of singing auditions, organize your music so it is easier for your accompanist to read. They are sight-reading some hard music, for crying out loud. Invest in a 3-ringed binder and some sheet protectors. Photo copy the pages you will need for your audition and organize them so the first page is on the left side and the second page is on the right. That way, the accompanist doesn’t have to flip too many pages. P.S. I brought the original songbooks with me as well, just in case.

Book/ reading material: There is a lot of waiting. It’s best to be prepared with something to make the time pass (and get your mind off the nerves). Or you can just talk to people. Theatre kids are very open and love to talk to new people. Just find a group, introduce yourself, and they will do the rest. If you are an introvert like me, a book is the best way to go.

Portable charger: In the rehearsal room, there are no phone plugs. If there are, they were hijacked by other girls. I had to run outside the room and risk missing important information to charge my phone.

Snack: You never know how long an audition could take. Bring a light snack to eat outside of the rehearsal room while you wait.

What to wear:
Be comfortable!!! Lots of girls were in nice dresses, heels, and full theatre make-up. A couple were in jeans, leggings, T-shirts, and little to no make-up (me being one of them). Whatever makes you feel like yourself should be your outfit of choice. If you are looking to stand out, good luck. So is everyone else! Your outfit won’t matter in the long run. Make an impression with your personality. Had I gotten through to the singing portion, I was prepared to walk in speaking French to the casting directors! If you perform better in a dress and heels, do it! If you prefer yoga pants and a nice top, great! You do you. Whatever you do, DO NOT dress as the character you want! No Disney Bounding or Halloween costume here. Try to be a bit professional.
On another note, if you are going through a type casting audition, casting directors will mostly be looking at your body type and facial structure. I suggest wearing something semi form-fitting, hair out of your face, and minimal make-up. Casting directors want to be able to mold you into the character they need, so simplicity is best. Let your natural beauty shine through!

Top tips:

If you are thinking about auditioning for a Disney face character, I’d suggest going out with friend the night before and have everyone tell you how beautiful and amazing you are (if they are your real friends, they will do that without you having to prompt them. THANKS ACAPHILIACS FAMILY AND MOLLIE!!) This audition process makes you really self conscious and doubtful about everything you like about yourself. You need to remember that the way you see yourself is not how everyone else sees you. You may not look the part you want, but you are still a princess to someone.

With that being said, don’t take the type casting personally. They aren’t judging how beautiful or handsome you are. They are looking for a VERY specific face and body for an iconic character, which a very small number of people fit into. It’s not you, I promise. It sucks that the audition info isn’t more specific about the type of person they are looking for, but that’s Disney. Their task to find that small percentage of perfect look-a-likes is tough. They don’t like turning away people as much as you don’t like being turned away. Just remember: the millions of families that come to Disney are looking for perfection, and so must the casting directors.

Would I audition for Disney again after being turned away and going into a mini depression? Hell yes!! It’s still a dream to work at Disney. Just because I don’t look like Belle, doesn’t mean I don’t look like Snow White, or Cinderella, or Aurora, or Merida…

*fade out as Carol keeps naming a bunch of Disney characters*

Until next month,

Carol B

If you are thinking of auditioning for Disney or already finished an audition, please comment below! I’d love to hear from you and what you thought of the experience.

2017: New year, new plan of action

Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carol. For those who do, I’m also Carol.

As I’m sure you know, 2016 was a strange year for everyone, me included. I had my fair share of ups and downs. I graduated college (finally!), I had a 2 month internship in London, worked 4 different jobs (not at the same time. Don’t be silly), and just about cured myself of anxiety. I’ve been very lucky this past year, and I’m grateful for the experiences and the people who helped make them happen.

This year, I plan to do something different with my life. Every month in 2017, I’m going to do something I have either never done before or have been to scared to do before now. Remember how I mentioned I had “just about cured myself of anxiety”? For the past 7 years, I have been plagued with anxiety and the fear of panic attacks. It held me back from challenging myself, from “expanding my horizons”, as my dad would say. My main issues were performing, driving, and heights. I altered my lifestyle a bit to help ease the physical effects. For example, I started to do yoga, drank decaf coffee, ate a more organic, well-rounded diet, and took myself out of situations that I believed would cause a flair up of anxiety. If you want to know more about this journey, let me know and I’ll elaborate more in a different post.

I decided around Christmas that I was tired of being scared. I want to be able to say “Yes” more often. And why not? I’m in the prime of my life! I’m young, single, and physically able (kind of; anyone who knows me knows I’m not athletic or active in the slightest…). I shouldn’t be stuck at home all day watching Seinfeld reruns and Hallmark movies. From that feeling of self empowerment, an idea was born. Every month, I have a goal to work toward. Think of it as a mid-20s bucket list. Unfortunately, my list is looking more and more physically demanding. *sigh* Well crap… I’m going to have to work out now…

2017 BUCKET LIST: (TO BE CONTINUED…)

*More coming soon

By posting and sharing this blog, I’m hoping more people will hold me to this resolution, and it will force me to write regularly. Here’s to great new year!

Carol B