Friday, February 29, 2008

Special Leap Year Day Special Blog Special

Ahhh! Everyone's saying you should do something special today because it's Leap Year Day and it only comes once every four years and it's special and omg it's too much stress and the day's already half over. What to do?


Okay so here are my five special things for the day!

1. I'm wearing a brand-new top with puff sleeves today. I ADORE puff sleeves. If I could wear puff sleeves every day I would. But I am not rich enough to afford only tops with puff sleeves, and besides then it wouldn't be special today. And I'm glad it is.

2. I've often read on other authors' blogs that because they're authors they get advanced reader copies of other authors' books, which seems to me to be the most amazing gift you could ever get in the mail. Given that I've only written one book, I never dreamed this would happen to me. And then it DID. This morning I received a huge box filled with more than a DOZEN pink, blue, green, yellow and also other more serious-colour covered books. I was in sugar-shock. And then I saw it. The book I have been looking forward to reading. In May. When it hit bookstores. Emily Giffin's Love the One You're With. It was in my hands. But I am saving it for...

3. Mexico! I am leaving in exactly one month from today for Cozumel for vacation. The countdown is on. Which means from now on I will be wearing flip-flops around the house and drinking fruity cocktails with umbrellas in them. I'm SURE my next book is going to be of extremely excellent quality as a result.

4. My dad's birthday is approaching and it's a decade-number and he is NOT excited about this. But we want to celebrate! So instead, we're having an anti-birthday celebration of the super-fabulous, kind, caring, generous, loving man that is a dad and husband. I think we shouldn't just wait for one day a year to celebrate this in the people we love. Besides, the more you celebrate the special people, the more reason you have to eat cupcakes with icing and sprinkles. Speaking of which...

5. Meg Cabot just released the first in a new series of books for kids called Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls and to coincide with the launch, she has a super cute website, including THIS CUPCAKE E-CARD MAKER!! Choose your icing, choose your sprinkles, then send to a friend! What's more special than that on Special Leap Year Day?!

Enjoy the day - however you make it special!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Shawat's Happening with Shawarma...

I know you've been wondering...what's going on in Shawarma-land. Well I'll tell you. 

A. Lot. 

First, remember this place?

Well, it went out of business.

Now, remember this place?

It went out of business too. (Apparently people don't want to have to choose between shawarma and pizza once they get to the restaurant. It's like, they're at home watching The Two Coreys* and they think, hmmm, what do I want to eat? Shawarma or pizza? Then they decide, shawarma. They head out. They think the decision is done. They're happy with the decision. Then, they get to the shawarma place and they see the sign: Shawarma or pizza? And then they get very very mad because they have already made their decision and now it's being thrown back in their faces.) 

Then there's this place.

Not only did it go out of business, but so did the entire block. I was walking by and I saw the dollar store (that really isn't a dollar store because it sells suitcases and other random items like used phones with paint on them that don't work for more than a dollar) was closed. Then the Popeye's was closed. The Felix and Norton cookie shop. The Fast Money Cash Now Before You Get Your Paycheque place. When I saw the Harvey's was also closed though, I knew something was up. Which is when I realized a condo was going in. But then I read the sign on the Falafel House door that said they'd moved RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET. I turned around and voila!

I saw this place.

This was the one that I thought was totally lying about being the original Falafel House when it mysteriously popped up last fall. Turns out it's the same place.

Which wasn't the case for Red & White Shawarma House.

Turns out there were two shawarma places with the name Red & White within a block. With very different signs. And, apparently, very different owners, because one day when we went back to the above Red & White, the sign no longer said "Red & White."

Instead, it said "& Ite".

The owner had painted over the letters "Red" and "Wh" with white paint. I would've taken a picture to show you, but I didn't get the chance, because a few weeks ago, he painted over the rest of the sign and told us he wasn't really in love with the name "& Ite" after all.

So for now, it's the very tasty nameless shawarma shop.

See...? I told you there were a lot of changes going down. But there's a reason: A few weeks ago, the Rabba launched a shawarma bar INSIDE THE STORE.

That's right. Fresh shawarmas AND fresh-made fries while you wait. Plus a chocolate bar and can of pop. All for SIX NINETY FIVE.

$6.95? It's like the price of a latte. And it's the best shawarma in the city right now.  

Which could prove to be more trouble for the remaining shawarma houses. Unless, they start serving this...

People may not want to choose between pizza and shawarma, but if you put them together...

* I just want to say, what is happening to our world when The Two Coreys is airing on A&E??

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fashion Friday

My stepmom LOVES Cityline. She loves Marilyn Denis, the host of Cityline, but she also has a deep connection to all the guests. She feels she knows them intimately - and likely she does, given that she PVR's the show daily and watches it as soon as she gets home from work. She can tell me what accent pieces Brian Gluckstein has added to his home collection, what hairstyle Bill Rowley is loving this season, what new foundation makeup artist Derek Selby is recommending. The other day, while having a normal conversation with her, she told me that Janette had moved magazines from Chocolat to Chatelaine.

I knew that she meant Janette Ewen - Janette's one of my friends and I knew she'd gotten a fab new job at Chatelaine when Chocolat folded last year - but I wondered how on earth my stepmom knew this.


On Sundays, she doesn't go to church. She catches up on any shows she missed during the week. Marilyn is her Moses.

Years and years ago, we got tickets to the show, and since word got to the 'burbs that Marilyn might not be the host of Cityline for much longer given the corporate hubbub, my stepmom was panicking that she wouldn't see Marilyn & Cityline together live.

So on Friday, as a belated birthday gift (like practically a YEAR late, I’m an awful stepdaughter!), I finally got us tickets to her favourite day on the show, Fashion Friday, and I called to tell her. Cityline tapes live at 10 am, and one of my friends who works at MuchMusic said to get there around 9:15 or 9:30 and stand in line so we'd get a good seat. I relayed the info to my stepmom.

She got up at 5:30. Drove 45 minutes to the train station. Caught the 7 am train. Was in Toronto at 8 am, where I met her. We headed to Starbucks to get lattes and people-watched since we had like an hour to spare. When she saw Sandra Pittana come in for a coffee before heading across the street, she leaned over and told me -- based on the asymmetrical hemline peeping out below Sandra's trench coat -- exactly what outfit she was wearing beneath.

I was secretly impressed.

Even though we could've been first in line, we were too wimpy and didn't want to wait in the cold, so by the time we saw everyone else lining up we were last in line. But, as though my stepmom has super-Cityline powers, they were seating back to front, so we scored front-row seats.

"We're going to be on camera the whole time," she told me knowingly.

And she made sure we were, even when the producers kept saying "Don't look at yourself on the TVs. You're there. Trust us." At one point I leaned over to her to say "Did you hear them? We're not supposed to look," but she just laughed and pointed at us.

When they picked people for makeovers, she didn't get chosen, because she's too well groomed. She takes Bill Rowley's tips to her own hairstylist every four weeks and gets a cut, lowlights in winter, highlights in summer and a cute style.

Still, we got a huge bag full of products at the end, in a large green bag, which we toted around to lunch, then shopping. People kept asking us what the bags were from.

"Cityline," she would say, beaming.

Sometimes people would think she meant a store, and they would repeat "Cityline?", looking for clarification.

To which she'd just nod and say, "Yes, with Marilyn?”

And then she'd smile, pat her bag and move on.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dum dum dee dum...

I've never been to a wedding show. Since I had a destination wedding, there was no need to look for table linen vendors. Or chair renters. Or placecard holders. And while I was happy not to have those decisions to make, I have this secret longing to go to a wedding show and get caught up in all the craziness. Which is why I'm excited to be signing copies of Stuck in Downward Dog this Saturday and Sunday at Canada's Wedding Expo.

If you're a bride-to-be, it's the perfect beach read for your honeymoon.

If you've just been dumped, you can commiserate with Mara. 

If you're a bridesmaid and don't at all care about wedding dresses and honeymoons and all you want to do is hit the wine aisle and get drunk, then maybe you will welcome the distraction of a novel to take home with you.  

If you're a groom-to-be, then you've got work to do, so you really shouldn't be distracted by non-wedding items, like books, or your bride-to-be will get very stressed out and slap you. And that would not be good. Which is why I'm going to help you lost husbands in the making. 

With every purchase of my book, I'll be giving away one of my favourite beauty products... 

...Dermaglow Lip Gloss Plumper. 

I mean, who doesn't love a pretty pink lip? So, when your bride is getting a little distraught with decisions, you can swing her by the Key Porter Books booth, and pick up a gloss for her. Free! And it's worth $45! How's that for economics? And your bride will be so happy and then she will love you and kiss you and want to marry you.

Which will work out well, given that's what you're supposed to be doing. 

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I am making banana cream pie...

I'm not sure if banana cream pie is a summery dessert or what, but I am making it in the middle of winter anyway. It's sunny and cheery yellow and also full of carbs, so it seems perfect for winter.

The trouble with banana cream pie is that a few months ago I tasted one that a friend made and it was amazing but she's a real foodie and as we were devouring it, she told us that it took like 12 hours to make. I couldn't really comprehend this. Twelve hours? Surely she was exaggerating. But it seemed really worth it, so when I was thinking of a dessert to make for our dinner guests this Friday, I thought why not banana cream pie? Which would be fine if I'd ever only had cheap banana cream pie, but because I tasted the most amazing 12-hour dream cream pie, I cannot settle for the alternative. Also the Hubs tasted it, so anything I make will be in comparison to that pie and he will not understand that I didn't want to spend 12 hours making the pie.

But when I started looking for recipes, they all seemed way too easy. Prep times of 15 minutes. And then I realized why: they all used Jell-O vanilla or banana pudding and Cool Whip. All of which I'm pretty sure are not "from scratch" ingredients and aren't going to taste like it either. But I couldn't find a recipe that didn't call for premade pudding or Cool Whip topping. Wasn't there a happy medium between 15 minutes and 12 hours? And then I found Emeril's recipe.

His banana cream pie is famous, and he's been serving it in his restaurant for years. The recipe looks easy enough until in every section you realize that you have to skip down to the bottom to make the recipe for that part. Like:

Fill the graham cracker crumb crust* with pastry cream* then top with whipped cream* and drizzle with caramel sauce* and chocolate sauce* and top with chocolate shavings.

* Each of the asterisks then point to another recipe for these steps.

And every step takes like 4 hours. Because first you make the crust and then you cook it. And then you make the pastry cream (which I discovered is custard but I think Americans don't call it custard because custard to them is ice cream. It's all very confusing).

More confusing are the parts Emeril just assumes I will understand. Such as "Cook out the cornstarch until the mixture thickens."

Thickens to what? How thick is thick?

And I was supposed to use a vanilla bean, which seems easy but where exactly does one buy a vanilla bean? So I just added extra pure vanilla extract, which is really not the answer, but it will have to do.

And it called for Heavy Cream. Do you know there's no such thing as Heavy Cream in the dairy section of the Rabba? There's table cream and whipping cream and half and half cream. I opted for table cream though I think I should've gotten whipping cream because I guess I'm supposed to use the leftover cream for the topping so now I'll have to buy whipping cream anyway because you can't whip table cream can you? Why didn't it just say Whipping Cream?

The recipe is rated Expert. At first I was like "It's not that hard," but I'm guessing a general understanding of the above terms might be why it's rated Expert. Like, maybe I'm supposed to not only know that pastry cream is custard but that Heavy Cream is Whipping Cream. So really it's just a test of my American baking terminology.

So far I've made the crust and the custard. I was supposed to put the custard through a fine mesh, but the only thing close to mesh I own is a J.Lo bra and a bee-zapper and I was pretty sure neither of those are going to work, so I skipped that step and have now whispered sweet nothings and wrapped the custard and put it in the fridge and am waiting another four hours in the hopes that it does something magical, though I'm not sure what.

The one recipe it didn't provide was chocolate shavings, so I assume I don't have to make the chocolate, but I'm not sure: can you buy chocolate shavings or are you supposed to buy a piece of chocolate and shave it yourself? I'm assuming the latter, but what kind of chocolate? Milk or semi-sweet? Surely not a Jersey Milk or a Wunderbar.

As for the caramel and chocolate sauces, I'm no fool. I'm going to Pusateri's tomorrow to buy both.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Is it wrong that I'm excited for this?

I always wanted to be a singer/dancer. Unfortunately, I can't sing. Or dance. Or look good in pleather. Back in school, my friends and I were air-band addicts. In the eighth grade, we won $100 each for our rendition of NKOTB's Hangin' Tough. I was Jordan. I fashioned a makeshift rat's tail.

In the eleventh grade, we went to all-city championships with our Janet Jackson medley: Rhythm Nation/That's the Way Love Goes/Love Will Never Do. We wore black jean-jacket vests. 

In the twelfth grade, we were the kids from the Sound of Music. Our moms made us sunflower-printed dresses. 

Hmm...this could be the reason I would never get picked to be on a show like Pussycat Dolls.

Ah well, at least now I can eat chocolate and watch this from the couch!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Top 5 Books of the Year

Ha. I've only read 5 books this year, but saying they're my Top 5 sounds so much more exciting, doesn't it?! Here they are...

1. The Memory Keeper's Daughter (5 stars)

Last year, every where I looked, someone was reading this book. Not me. Oh no, not me, Miss I Judge A Book By Its Cover. I did NOT like this cover so I didn't read it because usually I have a pretty good track record (Love the cover, love the book, hate the cover, hate the book). Maybe if I'd seen the book with this cover...

... I'd have picked it up. I like this cover. I like the veins, which I take to represent human life as well as a family tree, and how that can all be changed by decisions, secrets and lies. Anyway, I finally read it (by coercion) and I loved it. Everything about it. It may be one of my favourite books ever. 

2. The Abstinence Teacher (2 stars)

This book was NOT one of my favourite books ever. I'd read Little Children last year and loved it, so when it came time for me to choose a book for my book club, I saw this had just been released, so I chose it. Bad move. Even after discussing it at length, I'm still not clear on what the point of the book was. I still think Tom Perrotta is excellent at his portrayal of average, flawed individuals, but I thought the title was misleading. It really wasn't about The Abstinence Teacher at all. In fact, she's in about 2.5 pages of the book. It's like calling Alice in Wonderland "The Two of Hearts." Also, this book disproved my "love the cover, love the book" theory so I'm upset with it for that. Loved the cover, hated the book. Oh well. 

3. Made to Stick (2 stars)

One of my goals this year is to read more non-fiction, and I LOVED this cover (what's not to love about duct tape?) and the concept, so I picked it up. It's quite similar to The Tipping Point, which the authors used as inspiration for the book. If I hadn't read The Tipping Point I probably would've enjoyed this book more, because it's more applicable in its theories (with tips for putting theory to practice when dealing with co-workers, bosses or when networking). Oprah hasn't called yet, but when she does, this book will totally bump up to 5 stars. 

4. My Life in and out of the Rough (3 stars)

Oh John, I think I have a chubby crush on you. Or maybe I just have a soft spot for you because I have your overswing (oh, a golf club ISN'T  a baseball bat? Whatever, it is to me.) I borrowed this from my dad at Christmas. From his drinking (a bottle of JD a day) to his divorces (4 so far), this book isn't about the writing (which is so very, very bad, even though he has a co-author) but ALL about the details. So juicy. Oh, and no comment on the cover...

5. Ask Again Later (5 stars)

I picked this book up totally based on its cover last week and wasn't disappointed (hurrah! The "love the cover, love the book" theory is redeemed!) and read it in three days (which is very quick for me). Jill A. Davis used to be a writer for Letterman, and this is her second book (her first is Girls' Poker Night). It's the story of a mother-daughter-daughter-father relationship. Funny and poignant. 

In my own book cover news, here's the new (blue!) cover for Stuck in Downward Dog, for the mass-market paperback version that comes out this spring...

Do you love it or do you love it? Okay, I'm biased, but I LOVE this cover! If you weighed in on the cover-colour contest and voted blue, then I'm sharing my love with you, and will send you a free copy of this version of the book when it comes out. 

Up next on my reading list is Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler, then Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (my book club's next pick). But enough about me. So what are you reading? 

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Making money to read

In an effort to get kids to read, the mayor of Noblejas (which may be my new favourite word), Spain, is recommending to pay kids 1 euro for every hour they spend in the library.

 At first, I thought he was paying them 1 euro for every book they read, to which I didn't see what the big uproar was. I mean, if that were the case, and I were a kid in Noblejas, I'd have made 5 euro since the start of the year. Hardly a get-rich-quick scheme. 

But since it's 1 euro an hour, that's a different story. How many hours does it take to read a book? Five? Ten? I'm not sure. But here's the thing. You've got to be in the library. I wonder if there are couches in the library? Because I like to read on the couch. I've tried reading at a desk but it doesn't work for me. But if they put couches in the library, won't that just promote make-out sessions? Or do kids still prefer to do play tonsil hockey in the paleontology stacks? Or maybe that was just on Friends

In any case, at least we have a new word to say three times fast: Noblejas, Noblejas, Noblejas.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Always do your homework.

It's a good rule for life, I think.

The Hubs has been taking a wine course. He asked if I wanted to take it with him, but actually I prefer to spend my Saturday mornings drinking lattes, writing, then getting a pedicure as a reward, so I passed. Apparently, he prefers to kickstart his weekend with 8 glasses of wine before noon. To each his own. To make it up to him, I've promised to be an excellent study buddy. Even if I have to drink wine every night of the week with him, to help him. That's the kind of study buddy I am.

Because if I learned anything in school, it was to always do your homework. You'll never pass the pop (or wine) quiz if you don't. Especially in university when like 3% of what you need to know on the final exam is taught in the two-hours-a-week lecture, while the rest comes from doing your homework when everyone else is at the pub, playing cards, on youtube (I totally added that in for the sake of readers who are born in the 90s) or hooking up. The friend who forwent the trip to the liquor store (or at least, saved you a cooler) to help you memorize The Communist Manifesto was the friend for life.

So nearly every night the Hubs and I drink wine. It's homework, I tell you. Not pleasurable at all. No way. Usually the Hubs picks the wine he's studying this week, then we analyze it together. I nod a lot and wait until the point that we get to taste it. But along the way I've learned some key words, which I feel would be quite useful if you're trying to impress a date or get a job in a restaurant. I'm not attempting to get either, so I'll share them with you. As an extra tip, it helps to nod when you're identifying these aspects of the wine. Nodding is proven to make you appear smarter, though I can't promise they'll help you pass your poli-sci pop quiz.

Anyway, here are your keywords:

"Good nose."
"Big tannins."
"High acidity."
"Long finish."
"Very drinkable." - That's my favourite. What's not to like about a very drinkable wine? Especially after a day of writing.

Oh I know, it's only Monday, but how is the Hubs supposed to pass the course if he doesn't study the wines he's learning about? And how can I be a supportive study buddy if I don't drink along? is full of fruit... so it's sort of like spending the night at a spin class.

And now, it's back to writing for me, while the Hubs is mastering some classic RHCP on RockBand.

Two homework sessions in one night! Now that's dedication.