Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Every year, Mr. Baz dresses up for Halloween. And he loves it, oh YES he does. (Okay so maybe he LOATHES the costume, but he LOVES the can of tuna he gets for sitting still for the photo).

The first year, he was a skunk....

The next year, he was a cat-astrophe...

Last year, he sported a be-witchy warmup suit...

And then busted out the Isaac Mizrahi golf cat-tie costume...

Which brings us to this year...

A cat-erpillar!

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Horses, trees and amnesia

You know when you've been meaning to do something forever and you keep forgetting? Like when you finish eating your dinner and you think, hmmm oatmeal-chocolate-chip-raisin cookies would be SO good right now, but you don't have any chocolate chips or raisins so then they'd just be oatmeal cookies so you think, I'll pick up those ingredients tomorrow on my way home from work and then I'll make cookies! Only, the next day you forget because you're thinking about how you have to get home and do laundry because you have no matching socks, which is the reason you had to wear really long pants or winter boots even though it's not cold enough for boots just to hide the mismatched socks and so you have to do laundry so that you don't have to wear mismatched socks again the next day and so you can't go back out to get the cookie ingredients or you'll run out of time to do your laundry before bed and everyone knows you can't leave your wet socks in the washer until the morning unless you want it to smell like moldy horses. So you do your laundry and then the next day you remember the ingredients but when you get home you get distracted by kittens and french fries and a new episode of Dirty Sexy Money and before you know it it's time for bed and you didn't make cookies again even though you know if you'd made them you'd be so happy because you'd have cookies to eat?

Well I've been meaning to blog about Susan Juby's new YA book...

Another Kind of Cowboy for months. When I first received the advanced reader copy, I didn't want to blog* about it yet because it wasn't coming out for a few months and telling you about it is like when your friend goes to the Film Festival and tells you about the fantastic film she saw only it doesn't come out in wide distribution for months or never. What's the point?

* I actually didn't want to read the book, at first, even though I LOVE Susan Juby's writing. I would say I love her, but I don't know her so that's slightly stalkerish. The reason I didn't want to read the book is that I'm not a big horse fan, which is weird because I like to go to the racetrack (actually I like to go for the buffet) and I like to ride horses on the beach in the Caribbean while humming "Careless Whisper" to myself and I really like to use glue, too (all types - UHU, glue guns, sparkly) but that's sort of mean. But I guess I just wasn't sure I was going to like a book about horses.**

** Just to clarify, the book isn't just about horses. There are people in it, too.

But you know what? I loved the book. As Ashley Simpson would say, L.O. L.O. L.O.V.E. (D). it. It was so good. And I thought to myself, as soon as September hits, I will blog about it. And then, September came and every day I would see the book on my desk and say I will blog about it tonight, and then I would come home and then I would get distracted by the pile of socks that needed laundering instead and in my attempt to think of anything to do other than launder my socks, I would forget to blog about Susan's book.

Until now. I was reminded when I found out that Another Kind of Cowboy was nominated for a 2008 White Pine Award, which I'm assuming is some sort of tree award, where perhaps they give you a pine tree in your name (or your book's name) to save it, which would make sense given that Susan Juby lives in B.C., where people wrap ribbons 'round the old oak tree to save it from being cut down. Maybe the pines are in danger too? I'm not sure.

Or maybe, the award ceremony takes place in a white pine forest and all the judges sit in white pine trees reading the contenders and then they debate who should win while trying not to fall out of their trees because if they fall out then the book they want to win gets eliminated. Like Survivor meets Last Literary Judge Standing.

Or maybe...the white pine is a very rare type of pine tree that should be treasured, which would make total sense to name a book award after it because Another Kind of Cowboy is a unique treasurable book, too. Witty, thoughtful and fun, it's like the White Tiger *** of trees. An endangered species we have to preserve.

***When I say White Tiger I mean the furry endangered animal, not Whitesnake...

or White Lion...

...both of which are hair bands from the 80s, both of which are now extinct, rather than endangered.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's not messy, it's well-loved.

This morning, I had a couple of beauty PR girls coming in for a meeting. In our office, we have a policy, which is this:

If you need the boardroom for a meeting, you have to book the boardroom.

Seems like an easy rule, right? Except, well, I'm SO bad at booking the boardroom. It's not hard, but you have to open up this program on your computer called, strangely enough, SCHEDULE, which is in addition to the other programs I already have open every day, which include:

Internet browser (obviously)
Email (double obviously)
Filemaker (which is useful for looking up people's phone numbers)
InDesign (which I use to edit the magazine)
Adobe Reader (which I use to look at pretty pictures)
ITunes (because who can work in silence?)

This is already SIX programs, and SEVEN may be lucky, but not for me, because once you open SCHEDULE, then you have to wait until everyone's appointments load and then then you have to type in your meeting and sometimes it acccepts it and other times it gets attitude, like "Ohhh... booking your meeting at the last minute, hmm? We'll see about that!" And then it crashes the program and you have to start all over. Which isn't hard, but it's annoying and well, boring. I've got better things to do (like find a pen for the meeting that I'm trying to book, which is happening in like five minutes). So usually, I just take my chances that the boardroom is free.

So this morning my boss was having a few clients in at the same time, so I had no grounds to call shotgun without her saying understandably, for like the MILLIONTH time, "I didn't see your meeting in the SCHEDULE. Did you book it?" So instead I was forced to have the meeting in my office. My office isn't tiny, but it's not big either, and not certainly big enough to house all the beauty products that come into my office daily.

When I worked at Elle, I had a BEAUTY CLOSET.

Oh yes, just like in The Devil Wears Prada, this exists....

(The beauty closet, unlike the clothes closet though, has beauty products, not clothes. Go figure.)

At Elle, it wasn't even a closet, really. It was like the size of my first apartment. And three times the size of my itty bitty cubicle. But I had the key to the closet. It was a dream.

Now, we don't have a beauty closet. The upside is that I have an office. With a window. And a door.

But because I have to stash all my products in shelves in my office, it tends to get a little, well messy. IN OTHER PEOPLE'S opinions.

This is because, on average, I get about 10 packages delivered to me everyday. In each package there is usually a bag. Within this bag, there is usually about 5 products. It's like Russian dolls but with lipbalm as the reward. So each day I have to take these 50 products and find a home for them in one of the 13 clear storage bins like this...

Which have labels such as: Hair, Cleansers, Cosmetics, Fragrance and Nails.

But of course, some products, like this... not fall into a common category listed on the bins. So then I am forced to make other piles around the office, along with products like (ahem) this....

... which may never make it into the magazine. Because we talk about girly stuff, just not THAT girly of stuff.

And then, before I know it, with the products and the packaging and then all the stuff on my desk, like my:

Favourite hand cream (because my hands get dry!)
and tea (because I get thirsty)
and magazines (because I want to know how Nicole Richie's baby's doing too!)
and UHU sticks (sometimes I need to glue!)
and Sharpie markers (and label things)
and a candle (in case I need to be romantic)
and a nail file (to amuse me when I'm waiting for the stupid SCHEDULE program to load)...

my office may appear (IN SOME PEOPLE'S eyes) to be very messy (IN SOME PEOPLE'S opinions). But I disagree. Like a favourite book or sweater that's falling apart, I maintain that my office is just WELL-LOVED.

Still... after madly rushing around to try and tidy everyone into a respectable place: Sharpies in the pen holder! Magazines in the magazine rack! this is how my morning played out.

Me (to beauty PR girls): "I'm warning you, my office is a little messy."

"That's okay," they reply. What else could they say? "Really? In that case, we're just going to take our beauty products and go." Obviously not.

We get to my office. One of the girls looks around. "Actually, it's not that messy. It's usually much worse." Ha. Ha.

They leave (after giving me the products). One of my coworkers comes in.

She: "Wow. What happened?" As though she can't even figure it out.

Me: "Very funny. I cleaned."

She: "Wow. Why?" As though, just like some people don't wear skirts and some people don't wear makeup, I don't clean my office.

Me: "I had a meeting."

She: "Wow. You should have meetings in your office more often."

Me: "Yes, thanks. Farewell."

Five minutes later, another girl in my office stops by.

"Wowwwwwwwwww....." she draws it out, looking around. "What is going on?"

"Nothing. I cleaned."

"Wowwwww............. You should clean more often. Usually it's so...."

"Well-loved?" I suggest.

"No," she shakes her head. "I was going to say messy."


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Shawarming the neighbourhood.

A few weeks ago, I explained the theory of fast-food shops in my neighbourhood, which is this:

Business Owner #1 opens shawarma shop. People like shawarma. People go to shawarma shop.

Business Owner #2 (in the making) sees this and forgoes idea to open shoeshine shop/luggage store/umbrella depot/pizza joint/donut diner and instead thinks: Hey, the people like shawarma. I'll open a shawarma place too, right next door, and then people will come to my shawarma place too.

And the people come. Because they do like shawarma.

So then another shawarma place opens. And then another.

Until this happens: In the three weeks I was away, THREE new shawarma places opened. Three.

That's one a week, people.

This morning, I decided to document the first HALF of my 10-minute walk to work, which looks like this:

First up, the Falafel House.

Directly across the street, just opened last week: Also Falafel House. Totally unrelated owners. I guess he just thought it was a good name. (The sign says they've been making homemade food since 1996, so maybe THEY are the original Falafel House. I'm not sure.)

Next up: Halal Place.

Then, The Kabab House.

New to the neighbourhood: Juice Bar + Shawarma place. I'm not sure if this is actually the name, but it's the only sign aside from the picture menu where the typical sign is, which shows that yes, they have shawarma. And juice. Because sometimes you get thirsty eating all that wrapped meat.

Lunch Break. I'm not sure if this means they're only open midday or they just wanted to remind people that shawarma is an option at lunchtime, too.

Then, we have Pizza + Shawarma and a whole bunch of other sort of shawarma-sort of pizza type options, such as Pita Pizzano. Which may be brilliant, for those times when you just can't decide what you really want for dinner.

Then we have Best Shawarma Place. I'm not sure who decides it's the "best", but I like a place with a clean sign and a good amount of self-confidence.

And finally, we have the Wrap & Grab, which just opened where the Timothy's closed. The Timothy's that I supported every Saturday morning and would've supported Sunday mornings but it opened at like 10 am, whereas the Starbucks opened at 7. Anyway, apparently Tim's lattes couldn't compete in the world of shawarma for breakfast.

Some might complain about the number of shawarma places in a five-minute walk on one street but not me. Oh no. Do you know why? Because there is, with all these new shawarma places, a very good possibility that one of them will be offering the newfound NAAN SHAWARMA EXTRAVAGANZA that I experienced in Tours, France.

Here's how it all went down: one day, the Hubs and I are sitting in the square sipping chocolat chauds (that's Francais for hot chocolates) and reading (me: The Accidental; he: Canadian Business magazine), when the Hubs turns to me and says, in a conspiratorially voice: "There's SHAWARMA in this town."

Me: "Really, Joe Hardy?"
He: "Really, Nancy Drew. And I'm have a VERY GOOD feeling it's a VERY GOOD shawarma place."

Apparently, while I'd been reading my book, he'd been watching student after student walk by, ginormous metallic paper-wrapped shawarma in hand. As for how he deduced it was VERY GOOD shawarma was this:

Large proportion of street shwarma being favoured over street crepes (the equivalent of our street hot dogs)


Students (aka poor starving souls who are connoisseurs of good street meat for cheap)


VERY GOOD shawarma.

And so we go off to backtrack where the students are coming from. We follow them around the other side of the square, down a cobblestone alley past the Leonardo Da Vinci "Very Authentic Italian" Restaurant until we discover the source of the metallic-wrapped shawarmas: A one-man shawarma extravaganza machine in a hole in the wall. We step inside and try our best to explain we want what everyone else is eating. We make sweeping gestures with our arms and point at the metallic wrap paper on the counter. He nods, hands us both a cup of sweet tea (perhaps to shut us up), then takes a pat of fresh dough and asks if we would like cheese in it.

CHEESE in our shawarma bread? Was this heaven? Of COURSE we wanted cheese in our shawarma bread, whatever that meant. So then he takes a block of cheese and INSERTS it into the dough, then works the dough into a flat circle, and stick it in the TANDOORI oven beside him, where he bakes the bread for a few minutes, takes it out, and fills it with chicken, tomatoes, lettuce and sauces.

And then you know what he does? He piles it high with freshly-fried FRENCH FRIES, wraps it all up in metallic paper and charges us a mere FIVE EURO for one of the best meals of our trip. Of our lives, perhaps.

I mean, cheese oozing out of warm naan bread with every bite of shawarma you take? And fries on top?

And now, three weeks later, I'm still craving it.

I'm telling you, if even one of these THREE NEW shawarma places in the neighbourhood manages to pull this off, the other six are in serious trouble. Until, of course, they find out and follow suit. And really, for the love of cheese in your shawarma bread, why wouldn't they?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Yoga is so zen and all that crap.

While I was away, a new yoga studio opened in the perfect location - halfway between my home and my office - and so my friend and I thought it would be the perfect reason to start doing yoga again. So last night we went to check it out.

The class was supposed to be hot yoga, and so, remembering my hot yoga etiquette, I arrive a half-hour before the class, ready to secure my space, lie down, not talk, and become all zen-like and focused. Only the class before hasn't gotten out yet, so the guy sitting at the reception desk tell me I can wait in the lobby.
"So it's hot yoga?" I ask him.
"Oh yes," he says. "Have you done hot yoga before?"
I tell him I had.
I tell him where.
"I go to that location too. I've never seen you." He says accusatorially.
Huh. That could be because I haven't been in more than a year, I think. But AS IF I'm going to admit that to him. Besides, what kind of receptionist admits he goes to another studio?
I think about telling him I usually wear glasses (it works for Spiderman!) but instead, decide just to shrug. I look at the clock. "So when can I go up?"
"Oh! I should turn the heat up in the room so it's hot."
That seems like a good idea.
A few minutes later, after my friend arrives, the guys comes back downstairs, and so does the one person from the previous class, and the instructor. She looks very yoga-like, with her Sanskrit arm tattoo and hairy armpits.
"So it's hot yoga, right?" my friend asks.
"Oh yes. It's hot yoga, right?" the guy asks the instructor.
"No. I don't teach hot yoga," she says.
"So who's teaching the class then?" he asks. There seems to be a lot of confusion.
"Me," the instructor says. Interesting.
What about the now-hot room? I want to ask, but just then an Asian girl bustles through the door, screaming into her cellphone. She stops yelling long enough to yell at us, "Where are the changerooms?" to which we all point downstairs. Then she heads downstairs, and resumes screaming into her phone. How zen-like.
"So what's the class, then?" a girl who actually looked like she did yoga, based on her cute outfit and fit body, asks.
"It's vinyasa." She said. "We're gonna move."
"You can come up now."
So we do. Me, my friend, the screaming Asian, the yoga girl and a young girl with cute bangs, who is wearing a turtleneck and track pants.
"It's a good thing we're not doing hot yoga, dressed like that," the instructor says to Cute Bangs.
Yes, let's blame Cute Bangs for the change in class schedule.
We all unroll our mats and sat down.
"Are your cell phones turned off?"
We all nod.
"Mine's at home," I say smugly to my friend. This is, of course, because it isn't charged (as usual).
"I don't even own a cellphone," she says adding her own smugness.
"You're so OM."
"I know."
We nod at eachother and then prepare to focus.

The class begins and we start to breathe. A lot. Easy peasy.

Then, we hear large, ape-like sounds on the steps. The door to the class opens and this Richard Gere-in-Pretty Woman type guy steps in, while TALKING on his cellphone, closing some sort of deal to take over the world. What in the name of OM is that all about? The instructor stands up and tells him to shut it down. She should shut him out. Hello? I am TRYING to focus. I mean, I only do yoga once a year, I want to make the most of it! But whatever.

"Can you turn it off, too?" the instructor asks Richard Gere, who obliges and then grabs a mat and sits down beside me. We start breathing from scratch again (which worries me - we are now more than five minutes behind. Am I going to make it home in time for The Hills?). But I try not to think about that and instead regain my uber-OM-like focus, until the point where the instructor tells us to turn our hands into knives, pinkies facing down, as though we're slicing through a big cake.

Come on. You can't mention CAKE and expect us to focus. I hadn't eaten in like five hours.

So of course I start thinking about what I am going to have for dinner. I weigh the pros and cons of stopping for Hot and Sour soup (getting home even later) or fixing myself a bowl of cereal (did I have enough milk in the fridge?). I am just making the final decision when she interrupts my thoughts to tell us to bend over our pot bellies. POT BELLIES? Is that any way to help us embrace our squishy figures and feel good about ourselves? Apparently we're allowed to slice the cake, just not eat it.

So I stop thinking about cake and dinner and eating in general and start focusing on minimizing my pot belly until...

A cellphone goes off. We all look up from our bellies.

"Oh SORRY!" the Screaming Asian says and runs to her bag. Right. Because you didn't HEAR the instructor when she asked if everyone's cellphones were off? We all watch as she pulls out her Blackberry, puts it on VIBRATE and sets it beside her mat.

"Are EVERYONE ELSE'S cellphone's off?" the instructor says.

More nods and mmms.

We go back to bending over our pot bellies for a few more minutes until...

Another cellphone goes off. Only it's not the Screaming Asian's phone (because it's on VIBRATE). It's Cute Bang's phone.

"Sorry!" She singsongs and giggles, and runs to her bag to get her phone.

So I start thinking about cake again. I think we can all agree I am justified.

Friday, October 12, 2007

French hairdryers blow because they don't.

I know what you're thinking...

What in the name of Star Wars is THAT?! A new character? No, my friends, that is a French hairdryer. I only took one picture, but if I had taken a picture of each hairdryer in each of the seven hotel rooms we'd stayed in, it would just look like this picture x 7. Because that is how, apparently, all hairdryers look in French hotels.

How hard is it to install real hairdryers in hotel rooms? As far back as I can remember, I have always blow-dryed my hair with something that looks like this:

Or this:

Or even this:

This type, by the way, is NOT made for long hair. It's made for blowing a fuse within minutes of turning it on.

But this..

... is NOT a hairdryer. And I'm telling you, they're everywhere. Nice hotels, crappy hotels. We even stayed at a very famous chain that I'm sure everyone at some point in their life has stayed at. A chain that is very much American. But still, the same hairdryer.

They all looked like this, EXCEPT for the one time when our original hotel tried to bump us to a "sister" hotel "down the street" because they'd "overbooked." Whatever. I went to check out this "sister" hotel, that they swore was "exactly the same quality." I guess when they said "EXACTLY THE SAME QUALITY" they forgot about the two twin beds pushed together to make a double, the air conditioner that didn't work, the stained carpet and the hairdryer that had been ripped out of the unit! Did someone love this crazy type of hairdryer SO much that they wanted to take it with them? Maybe they didn't realize that they would get that same type of hairdryer in EVERY single hotel they stayed at in France. Or maybe, they realized that they could never ever in a million years BUY a hairdryer like this in the store because it's not 1952 anymore, so they wanted to take it with them.

In any event, I reported back to my husband and the concierge that no, we would not be moving over to this sister hotel (that by the way was not down the street but actually down the street around a corner, down another street and around another corner on a deserted street where the road had been ripped up and a jackhammer was drilling a hole to China).

Somehow they found us a room at the first hotel. Magic! And while the room was very nice, the hairdryer looked like this:

This thing is like holding a barely-charged no-name DustBuster (which as you know NEVER work as well as a real DustBuster even if you save $10) to your head, only in reverse. Like, you know how when the DustBuster needs charging and you're trying to get those few crumbs off the couch and it just won't suck enough air in quick enough to get the crumb up? Well that's what these hairdryers were like. They were blowing so little air they would barely even move a strand on my head if it was dry, let alone if it was wet, and obviously my hair was wet or I wouldn't need to use the hairdryer. I can accept that a lot of things are different in France or in any country, and I like that about travelling, but seriously, in this case, their different is not better. Haven't any of the people running these hotels ever stayed at a hotel in North American and thought, Wow, this hairdryer really works. Maybe we should upgrade our 1952 models to these. Or haven't any sales reps for any major hairdryer manufacturers ever stayed in a hotel in France and thought, wow, these hairdryers really blow. Maybe we could make a ton of money if we showed them how a real hairdryer works and get them to install them in all their bathrooms in all their hotels in this chain across the country! But no... they probably decided just to go eat crepes instead. Which, by the third hotel, is what I decided to do, while letting my hair air-dry instead.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Back from France. Let's talk about English books.

I'm back from three weeks in France and while I know what every person REALLY longs to do when someone they know returns from holiday is to look at FIVE BILLION photos of boring-ass churches, I'm not going to show any photos right now, but instead, share something I think you can appreciate more.

In 1999, when I was an "au pair girl" in France (as the French like to call it), I had a lot of free time on my hands, because whereas many of the au pair girls had like SEVEN kids to take care of, of which only three were old enough for school, leaving four at home each day to feed, change, burp and take for walks, not to mention fixing meals and ironing underwear (yes, the French like to be very pressed, even in their sous-vetements), my sole duties were to get up, make myself a cup of vanilla tea, make sure the boy I was watching managed to eat at least two bites of his cereal while staring mesmerized at the cartoons on the TV, then put him, his backpack and his lunch into the car, drive him into town for school and wait around until school was out to pick him up. Which left about eight hours of free time each day, which I would spend walking around, looking in shops, eating croissant, and buying cherries at the local market. Near the end of my stay I started to get very lonely, and very tired of getting my hand slapped when I tried to touch the fruit at the market (you're not allowed to touch the fruit!) and trying to speak French, and it was about this time that I discovered an English used bookstore run by two English-speaking women who also had a little tea shop where they'd host English conversation classes for local women who wanted to learn the language. One particularly lonely day, I found Jerry Seinfeld's book, Seinlanguage.

It was like a dream. I bought it, then went outside to sit on a bench by the carousel. Jerry Seinfeld became my BFF. I laughed out loud, so hard that tears would stream down my face. People would walk by and stare at me, but I didn't care. The book was that funny, and it got me through those last few weeks. I wanted to read the whole book in one sitting, but I made myself take days to read it all.

Years later, I bought the CD version for my car. The first time I played it I had to pull my car over because I couldn't see the road through my tears.

On this trip, I mentioned that I was bringing a few books to read. One of these was Happy Birthday or Whatever , a memoir by Annie Choi.

Meg Cabot had recommended it on her blog, and I ordered it online after searching the city for it to no avail. On the day before my trip, it still hadn't arrived, and I was panicked, but I had put a hold on it at the library weeks earlier, and by miracle, it came up and I picked it up right before we left for the airport. I saved it until I'd read all my other books, and then started it on a train ride from Burgundy to Champagne (our trip was dictated by our favourite alcoholic beverages). By the time we reached Paris (the halfway point to Champagne) I had to get off the train to stock up on napkins (oh alright it was an excuse to buy more pain au chocolat) because I had been laughing so hard my nose wouldn't stop running. Annie Choi is my new Jerry Seinfeld. I wish she were my BFF. Her book may be one of my favourite memories of this trip to France.

PS Annie has a blog that's just as funny as the stories in her book.
PPS Next post: When God was giving out hairdryers, the French were eating crepes.