Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Vive la Francais!

I spent the last couple of days in Quebec City on a press junket. It's still February there -- instead of time zone change, they just have month zone changes. There's snow on the ground. I wore cute open-toed flats. The other shoes in my bag were open-toed stilletos. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time inside the hotel.

That was, until we got a "shopping list" of stores from the publicist. All within walking distance. If you've ever been to Quebec City, though, you'll know that for every clothing store there are 15 Canadiana stores. For every shoe store there are 15 fur stores. (Apparently no one from Peta lives in Quebec City). If you have a shopping addiction, Quebec City is a good place to visit. You will save your money. Unless you like wooden canoe tchotchkes or fur-trimmed Eskimo figurines.

Still, we found a Simons.

And then a shoe store.

I managed to buy three tops and a pair of shoes. I like to think I was helping the economy in a tourist-driven town that has a tough time sustaining in the off-season.

"Don't you already have that sweater?" my friend asked me. It was argyle. I probably have about 15 argyle sweaters. Argyle is my fur.

"I have ones like it," I stressed. "But not in this colour."

"Really?" She said skeptically. We only see eachother about once every month or so, so the fact that she knew how many argyle sweaters I had was a tad disturbing. Still, I wasn't about to let it get me down. "But I like argyle. It makes me happy."

She was holding 2 jackets. "I feel like I have too many jackets," she complained. "But I love this one. But I can't even wear them all. I still have jackets with tags in my closet." She looked at me helplessly. "What should I do?" I knew what she wanted me to say.

"Jackets are your argyle. You should get it." She got the jacket. I got the sweater. We were very happy.

And then... we found the HELLO KITTY store. All Hello Kitty all the time.

"Let's take a picture." We didn't have a camera, only had my phone - which is like a girl with PMS - so I wasn't sure it was going to work out.

We did a test shot to see if we could fit us and Kitty in the shot.

Then I got in the picture.

Or so I thought. Turns out I didn't get either of us. We tried again.

Not our best shot. "Hold the camera up higher so we only have one chin each instead of two," my friend instructed.

I liked this one. "But you're only half in the shot," my friend said. "I know. I like it like that. My head doesn't look so large."

Still, we tried again.

In the end, there was no room for Kitty. Only us.

Then, exhausted from our photo shoot, she got poutine and I got creme glacee. (Note: if you refer to any food in French, it is then acceptable economy supporting and can be classified as a city experience).

Then we went back to the hotel to watch Le Speidi on La Tyra.

Bonne journee!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Girlicious Housewives in The Hills

The best part about admitting you watch reality TV is there is a small chance that your best friend/boyfriend/husband/ will start watching it with you. Because if you're going to scream at the TV, it's so much more fun when you've got your favourite person beside you to scream too. This has finally come true for me.

A few years ago, before I moved in with the Hubs, we did not discuss reality TV. I watched it, I assumed he didn't. We did not speak of it. Then I moved in, but all was not lost because he worked late hours and on the very night that most of my favourite reality TV shows aired, he was out playing some sort of sporting game with his friends. I was safe.

But then, nights changed, shows changed and there was no way to hide my love for ANTM, The Bachelor, Survivor and The Amazing Race. I think he may have known, but pretended I didn't watch these shows. Until the day I got him hooked. It started out slowly at first, with The O.C...

... which isn't reality at all, but it's a very good transition show, because it's about teens and drama and clothes and gossip. Then, we moved to Laguna Beach...

... and then to The Hills....

...and then to The Real Housewives of Orange County...

The other night, as we were watching The Hills, The Hubs suddenly pointed at the screen. "We totally KNOW that guy!" The "guy" in question was in the background of a scene in People's Revolution, where Lauren and Whitney now work. He rewound the Tivo. All I could think was, We know somebody famous? On The Hills? How is this possible?

The Hubs pressed pause on the guy. "It's the choreographer from Girlicious."

I looked at The Hubs and then at the screen. He was right. It was Mikey Minden, hanging out at People's Revolution.

"Our worlds are colliding," The Hubs confirmed.

Yes, I suppose when your "friends" from Girlicious are also on The Hills, they are.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Red shoe diary

I am coveting these shoes.

I first saw them two weekends ago.  The Hubs and I were coming up the escalator and the shoe store was at the top.

In the window was a display. There were many shoes, but I only had eyes for this pair. You know on Girlicious, how Robin and Ron kept saying that many of the girls were pretty and good singers and good dancers but that Natalie had charisma? 

These shoes had charisma.

"Why don't you have those shoes?" The Hubs asked.

He didn't point, but we both knew immediately which shoes he was talking about. 

"I have no idea."

We went inside to look at them. 

They were $330. 

It just seems like a lot for a pair of shoes. 

"But they're All Day Heels!" my girlfriend said when I showed them to her last weekend. "You can wear them all-day!"

They may be All Day Heels, but red shoes are never every-day-heels. They're special day shoes, and I really just don't think I can afford $330. 

"They're perfect author shoes," my other friend said. 

Yes, but I would have to sell like 17,000 books to afford them. 

Still, I couldn't stop thinking about them.

Then yesterday, I checked the mail.

Inside was a postcard from a very well-known credit card company. As I rode up the elevator, I glanced at the postcard. And then, there were the three little words: 

All. Day. Heels.

The card said that if you spent $1,000 on your credit card, they would give you a gift certificate for $200 off any pair of All Day Heels.

I couldn't believe my luck. Sure, $1,000 was a lot of money, but if we put all our bills on that card, it wouldn't be that hard to rack it up, right? 

And then I read the fine print. You had to spend $1,000 on All Day Heels between April 25 and May 25. Then, you get the gift card. To spend on your next purchase of All Day Heels. 

So basically, you have to buy $1,000 worth of shoes (which actually only works out to 3 pairs of shoes) in one month. And then you have to buy a fourth pair to get the discount. 

What I want to know is, Who are these people who can buy four pairs of $300 shoes in ONE MONTH? 

And would they like to buy 483,000 copies of my book so that I can get a pretty pair of author shoes? 

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

BookMooch is a dream.

Have you heard of BookMooch?

I just found out about it yesterday and already I'm hooked. Basically, it's like a chain letter but with a way better story and you don't get a hand cramp from copying out the note 10 times. AND you don't have to worry about breaking your mother's back or falling down a flight of stairs or having alien children or never kissing a guy if you don't pass it on. 

Okay, so maybe it's like swapping books with your friends, only your friends have practically every book you want to read. Oh, and they live in London and Indonesia and Niagara Falls so you have to mail the book to them. 

Since yesterday, I have sent out 9 books I have already read and didn't want to keep. And I have 25 points! In one day! I think this is very good (I'm very competitive). So I can mooch 25 books from other people FOR FREE. Except, I haven't had time to mooch any books yet because I've been so busy sending out books to moochers of my books. But it's okay. BECAUSE I HAVE 25 FREE BOOKS WAITING FOR ME TO MOOCH! 

Of course, then I will have to read these books.

So far I've mooched Town House by Tish Cohen...

And the giver has sent me an email to tell me it's en route. 

Which officially makes it quicker than buying used books from, which is where I used to post all the books I wanted to resell after reading. I do love, but I find that many of my books expire before people buy them and it's a pain to relist. Also, I never end up buying many books, since unless the seller is in Canada I find it takes several weeks to arrive and because I did not get in the lineup for patience at birth and since I walk by Indigo nightly on my way home from work, I  usually end up buying the book before it arrives, so then when it does I have two copies of the book, which really is just ridiculous (although if you leave one at home and one in your handbag you are never without your book, though you'll often find you can't remember what page you're actually on). 

So while I'm not sure BookMooch is going to be quicker and solve that "I-must-have-this-book-right-now" problem, it's FREE. Most of the time, the used books I buy on end up costing about $10-12 (cost of book plus shipping). But when you mooch on BookMooch you pay NOTHING. Not even shipping. 

You are, of course, spending money to send books to other moochers. But, some girl on BookMooch emailed me today out of the blue to explain that if you send books to people who don't live in Canada you get 3 points rather than just 1, and you can tell international moochers you'll only send the book if they mooch 3 at a time, because it will likely cost the same amount to send it but you end up getting 9 points instead of 3 which means you get 9 FREE books instead of 3 FREE books and why wouldn't the moocher pick 2 more because it doesn't COST ANYTHING to do so! 

Which is why I now have 28.4 points (I know! Five seconds ago I had 25 points and while writing this post, I just got 3.4 more points! I just looked to see how this happened, and apparently you can get Smooches from moochers who like you and I just got 4 smooches! How can anyone not love this website? It makes you feel happy!). Now I just have to mooch 28.4 books. And then find time to read them. When I'm not at the post office. 

Monday, April 21, 2008

It isn't easy getting to the top.

Today, one of my longtime girlfriends was in town, so we were supposed to meet up for lunch. She was bringing her adorable 2.5 year-old son (aka mini-man), so her only request for lunch was somewhere that wouldn't freak out about kids or SUV-size strollers. Having just read this article, I was all for avoiding unnecessary rage from restaurant owners or eaters.

Since her hotel was near the Eaton Centre, I thought I would be a good friend and try to make things simple, so she wouldn't have to walk 500 miles or get lost.

I told her we could meet at Mr. Greenjeans. I figured any place that serves popcorn shrimp in a popcorn container with popcorn had to be kid-friendly. I emailed her directions on how to find it: "Once you get inside the mall, head toward Sears. Outside the store, look up to the top level and you'll see Mr. Greenjeans and the escalator to take you there."

She wrote back to say that she loved how precise I was about how to find the restaurant.

I smiled, thinking that I was so organized. I could have a baby, I thought. I had it all figured out.

Huh. Hardly.

As I was taking the escalator up to Mr. Greenjeans I suddenly wondered if it's actually possible to take a stroller up an escalator. I had no idea. I looked back down to see my friend below.

She: "How am I going to get up?"

I went back down the escalator.

Me: "How about you take mini-man out of the stroller and then I'll take the stroller up. That way, if some catastrophe occurs, it'll just be me and the stroller that goes flying."

She: "Are you sure?"

Me: "Yes. I'll be fine. But you better go in front of me in case I fall backward."

Mini-man: "Choo-choo." Mini-man is obsessed with Thomas the Tank. He got out of his stroller and onto the escalator. I guess he thought it was a train. It was all very exciting to him.

I'm not sure what I was envisioning would happen on the escalator. She started up and I pushed the stroller forward. The front wheels started going up the stairs but me and the rest of the stroller stayed put. I kept pushing but nothing happened. "Help." I said, not loud enough for really anyone to hear. There was a backlog of people trying to get up the escalator. I yanked on the stroller and we fell backward. My friend got to the top and saw me at the bottom. She came back down.

She: "There's a sign at the top that says No Strollers on Escalator."

Me: "Apparently."

There was an elevator to the left, but while it stopped on the Level 4 (where we needed to go), it didn't stop on Level 3, which we were stuck on. We needed to go down, but how far? We went into Sears to find another elevator that would take us down to the basement so that we could get onto the elevator that would take us to the top floor. We got on. We went down. We got off and walked back through Sears to the mall to where the elevator should've been. It wasn't there. We were on the wrong level.

Me: "Should we just go to the food court?"

She: "We'll still need to go down one more floor. So we might as well just stick to the original plan."

We walked back to Sears to the elevator and went down another floor, but it wouldn't stop on that floor even though we'd pushed the button.

A maintenance guy got onto the elevator at the very bottom level.

Us: "We can't get off on -2."

He: "It doesn't stop there. You have to go to -1."

Us: "But we need to be on -2 to get to the other elevator that goes to level 4."

He: "You have to get out on -1 then walk back out toward the subway and take the elevator out there."

So that's what we did. But on that elevator, the only floor options were 1, 2 and 3.

Me: "We were on -1. We need to get to -2. Which button should we push?" I asked my friend.

She: "2?"

We pushed 2. The door opened. Apparently we were on 2.

I pushed 3, thinking maybe the numbers were in reverse. We went up. I pushed 1. We went down to the basement.

We walked back out into the mall. The place where the elevator should've been was not there. Apparently it was the elevator to nowhere.

We found another elevator on the opposite side of the mall. We tried to go up to level 4 but it only went to level 3 and then skipped the elusive level and went to the parking garages. Since we didn't want a Seinfeld episode we got off at level 3. Exactly where we'd started half an hour ago.

And then, we looked up and saw the second level to Indigo, which is right beside Mr. Greenjeans. Surely Indigo, which has an entire section devoted to kids, would have an elevator for moms with strollers. Otherwise, how would the kids ever get to the kids section?

My friend looked at me. "We can't go in there."

Me: "Why not?"

She: "When I asked the waiter at breakfast how to get to the mall, he told me I should go to Indigo because they have a train."

Mini-man: "Train! Train!"

She: "I promised mini-man we'd go play with the train after lunch. If he sees it now, we'll never make it to lunch."

Me: "But we have to. It's the only way."

I'm not sure at this point why we didn't just go to the food court, but I think neither of us could get on another elevator unless it would take us directly to Mr. Greenjeans. I wasn't sure how many more elevators mini-man could take.

Mini-man: "Lot of elevators."

Me: "Yes. Sorry."

Mini-man: "Jingle bells, jingle bells."

She: "He also likes Christmas songs."

We headed to Indigo. We found an elevator. I didn't tell my friend until we were in it that the only way out was through the kids section. When I told her she looked at me.

She: "Run."

So we ran through Indigo, past the trains, and out into the top floor, where Mr. Greenjeans let us park the stroller outside and then gave mini-man a booster seat and his own kids menu.

Forty-five minutes later after we'd first met at the mall, mini-man ordered his own cheese pizza. We ordered martinis.
Clearly I'm not ready to be a mom. At least not one with a stroller. Maybe if I ever have a baby he/she will come out ready to walk.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Aunt Jemima by any other name...

This weekend I made apple butter in my brand new crock pot. I really can't understand why Chantal (this is the person I blame for  non-sensical, evil or stupid actions) never wanted a crock pot before now. Also, is it more cool-ical to call it a crock pot or a slow cooker? I'm  not sure. I'm asking. Please tell me. Because really, the last thing I want to do is sound like I'm 82 when what I'm trying to pretend is that I do not have to be an organized housewife en apron to use a crock pot/slow cooker and can in fact wear stilettos and sip white wine (not a spritzer) while having a crafternoon in the kitchen. But calling it by the uncool name really just ruins that all, doesn't it? At the Mexicalarosa wedding, I went to a hen party. A what? I know. Apparently a hen party is to the senior set what a bachelorette party is to those under 40. My question is this: are we the hens or is the bride? 

Anyway, I think I'll call it a crock cooker. So I made apple butter. Just call me Aunt Jemima. Did Aunt Jemima make apple butter, or was she strictly a maple syrup kind of gal? Surely she couldn't make syrup every day of the year. Maybe she had a food porn show on the side. I asked one of my friends, who confirmed that's likely true. Maybe she was the Nigella of her day. I am not the Nigella of my kitchen, but the apple butter did turn out, though it only made 3 jars, which seems like a lot of work for such a little amount, but maybe that makes it more special, like a diamond. The recipe said it would take about 10 hours. It took me about 20. I like to think it was a labour of love. Maybe I'm just a slow cooker. 

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I always knew vitamins were bad for me...

It's official. Vitamins suck.

I'm not convinced I actually believe it, though it does take the stress off when I don't remember my vitamin every day. I mean, the stress alone of not taking my vitamins could cause a heart attack and now, vitamins can, too? It's not worth it, really. Somehow, though, when they were Flintstones vitamins, it wasn't such a chore to remember to be healthy.

I'm not picky - the vitamins don't need to be disguised as Pink Pebbles or Orange Barneys. They could be disguised as wine or Junior Caramels (both of which I consumed tonight as part of a well-balanced dinner). I would be happy.

In other news, I read Julie and Julia on my vacation.

I liked it but it wasn't what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be a daily account of the recipes she made (like her blog, although if that were the case, why wouldn't I feel cheated? After all, why would any reasonable reader pay $20 for something they could read for free online?) Instead the book sort of did a 1, 2, skip a few, 259, 300 type of narrative, interspersed with a story about her life and the imagined life of Paul and Julia Child. At first I was disappointed, and I'm not sure why, given that my own cooking repertoire consists of 7 recipes. Maybe I thought there would be a good crock pot recipe.

I got a crock pot for my birthday from my stepmom. I typically have a one-month before birthdays and Christmas rule never to mention anything or even passively agree that any product is pretty, nice, useful or interesting unless I really believe it for fear I will then receive said item for one of the two occasions. However, I mentioned, while shopping with my stepmom about a month before my birthday that I might have come around on the whole slow cooker idea and she jumped on it. I think she thought this was the first step. Like, FINALLY, my stepdaughter has grown up. It only took her three years of marriage to see the light: that every woman should own a crock pot.

As though this was the first step, and next, I'd announce I want a baby, too.

The crock pot is very shiny and matches my kitchen very nicely. I haven't used it yet.

I have very good intentions. The reason I actually wanted one is because while in France I bought a jar of homemade cassis butter, which reminded me how much I love apple butter and how I would like to eat apple butter in say, April, rather than only in October at a farm when I'm picking out pumpkins. But when I looked for a recipe, the only ones I could find required a slow cooker.

I haven't made apple butter yet but I'm blaming it on the annoyingness that is my requirement to go to work during the day. Yesterday I printed the recipe, but it said I had to slow cook the apples for 10 hours, and my stepmom's most important piece of advice when I opened my gift was this: Don't put anything in it before bed. You won't be able to sleep. So with that in mind, I'm thinking Saturday will be Apple Butter Day.

The Hubs is more excited about the prospect of pulled pork sandwiches in the crock pot and thinks that should be my focus. So far, in the time I've had the slow cooker, we've eaten pulled pork sandwiches at Cluck, Grunt and Low twice and tonight we ate pulled pork poutine. Apparently we really like pulled pork. I looked at the Rabba but they don't seem to have enough pork to fill a crock pot. Where do I buy pork for a crock pot? Perhaps at a grocery store with a parking lot?

I'm reading What is the What for my book club.

I'm hoping that there is a pulled pork scene. Perhaps with some apple butter on the side. Then, I could bring these items to the meeting. I'm only a few chapters in, but so far, I've only run across Fanta and peanut butter. Those probably wouldn't be as big a hit with the girls, though they would be easy to make.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I'm peeling and need a margarita.

I'm back from a week-long vacation to Mexico for my sister-in-law's wedding, which wasn't actually a week-long so I'm spending the day today physically at my desk but actually sneaking sips of fruity cocktails to get in my last day. Some highlights:

Monday, 5:37 a.m. The Hubs and I are thrilled to find there's no lineup at the airport check in. That's what we get for arriving 2 hours and 8 minutes before lift off. Then we find out why: "Your flight has been delayed until 1:25," the check-in chick says. For a moment I could not even comprehend this time. "The plane is caught in bad weather in Cuba." I wanted to say, What the hell is our plane doing in Cuba at 5 am? Isn't it supposed to be sitting on the tarmac in Toronto? And if not, shouldn't it be en route from Mexico? Apparently not. That's what we get for taking a crappy charter flight. It doesn't just make trips back and forth to one beachy destination to pick up and drop off all-inclusive package travellers. Oh no, it also has to squeeze in a few side trips to other islands. Lesson learned: Never fly SkyService.

Monday, 1:23 p.m. The Hubs and I board the plane after spending 7 hours pretending to be on vacation, drinking margaritas and eating guacamole and playing volleyball in the middle of the airport, barefoot. We are relaxed and almost forget the point of the trip. A wedding group on our plane has clearly maxed out on happy hour and are falling down drunk in the aisles. The flight attendant is crying, trying to get them to sit down while they scream at her that they don't want to sit down so that the plane can take off. They tell her that they have been sitting for 7 hours in the airport waiting for this flight to finally leave and are tired of sitting. Lesson learned: If you don't sit down, you'll never get to your destination. The pilot denies the Cuba story and tells us someone drove into the plane in Winnipeg. Another reason not to fly SkyService.

Wednesday, 6 p.m. One of the Hubs' friends, who was supposed to be a groomsmen at our wedding in Mexico 3 years ago but couldn't make the trip at the last minute, has come for this wedding instead. We're not picky about technicalities that he's at the wrong wedding and 3 years late. One Simmons wedding is as good as another. He has only been at the resort for 5 hours but is redder than the weird red shrimp tacos we're eating at dinner. 
The Hubs: "Didn't you put on sunscreen?"
He: "I didn't check my luggage. I carried on, so I couldn't bring any." 
The Hubs: "They sell it in the gift shop." 
He: "It's like 20 bucks. And I've got 3 bottles at home. I'm not going to buy another bottle."
An hour passes.
He: "Do you have some aloe?" 
The Hubs: "How much is that in the gift shop?"
He comes back to our room. I'm about to give him the bottle to take when The Hubs stops me. "You're not taking the whole bottle. Hold out your hand."
We compromise - since  a handful isn't quite enough for his entire 6'5" body -  so The Hubs finds a seashell-shaped soap dish and put some aloe in it and sends him on his way.

Thursday, noon: Our red friend is looking much more brown thanks to the aloe but is wearing sneakers since his feet are too burned and blistered to wear his flip flops. He still hasn't bought sunscreen. I take pity on him and lend him some while the Hubs isn't looking since it's either that or sneak him more aloe. "Oh, I've still got aloe," he says. Since it's clear gel in a blue dish, he was worried the maid would clean out the dish, so he's stored it in the safe for well, safe keeping. 

Thursday, 2 p.m. The flowers for the wedding arrive. I pick them up. They are supposed to be orange and yellow. They are pink. And there's no maid of honour bouquet. I point out that they need to come up with another bouquet in an hour - and since they've gone against the original color scheme, they should make this bouquet pink too. 
Florist: "We don't have any more flowers." 
Me: "None? Anywhere? What about the other 17 people who will be getting married this week?What will you do for them?"
Florist: "No more flowers."
Apparently this is not a negotiation.
So I grab my mother in law and we beg the concierge to let us steal the lilies from the floral arrangements in the lobby bar, then duck into bushes and snap off  birds of paradise and lilies from wild plants. As we're walking back to the room - where my mother in law says that she not only has scissors but also floral tape in her suitcase as though doesn't everyone carry floral tape on vacation? - people keep stopping us to tell us what a lovely bouquet we have. Then my mother in law makes a maid of honour bouquet that's 10 times better than the bridal bouquet (and likely would've cost about $100 at home), and the bride likes it so much she uses it instead of the lame pink one.
4:30 p.m. Another bouquet arrives. They not only have somehow found more flowers, but they're actually orange and yellow, as requested. Probably some bride tomorrow will be missing a bouquet.

Friday, noon: Tired of buffet food, I eat a healthy lunch of guacamole and nacho chips for the fourth day in a row. One of the ladies there for the wedding tells me that her friend (who is also at the wedding) doesn't like pink salmon, only red salmon. I realize that the restaurant smells like salmon, which must be the fish of the day that they're grilling and this is the reason the topic has arisen.
Me: "Is it red salmon or pink salmon on the buffet?"
She: "Oh I don't know."
Me: "How can you tell the difference?"
She: "Oh I don't know. But she just can't eat pink salmon."
For some reason, this seems like normal conversation. 

Friday, 4 p.m.: A new batch of vacationers arrive, including what looks like a new breed of Laguna Beach castaways, and the guys join into the beach volleyball game The Hubs and I are playing. Lucky for me there are five of them on my side, and they push me out of the way to clobber the ball. I am stuck staring at their butt cracks since they're wearing their bathing suits (and boxers underneath) so low. Grody. The Hubs gives me looks of pity from the other side of the court. I'm afraid they're going to rip my boob out of my bikini top on the way to get the ball so I put on my t-shirt. In the next game, their girlfriends arrive, clad in bikinis and fake boobs. "Guys against girls!" one guy yells and then chest-bumps one of his friends. The guys go to the other side with The Hubs and the girls join my side. There are 7 of them and 1 of me. Even though there should only be 6 players, the entertainment coordinator decides arbitrarily that they can have 7, but not 8. "You, without the bikini, you have to sit out." I skulk back to my beach chair to eat more guacamole. The Hubs joins me. "They sucked anyway." He says, which is probably just to make me feel better, and it does.