Tuesday, June 30, 2009

10 Ways to Justify a Shopping Splurge...

You know my love of the list, and so, this week I figured out how to incorporate the list into my Sweetspot blog post...

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Tale of Two Cheesecakes

My dad's birthday is only a few days after Father's Day. Which means what's normally a hard task (what to get the guy who has it all?) is even harder. Or that's my excuse. So this year, the Hubs and I decided we'd cook up a feast for my dad for Father's Day. Okay, okay, it's kind of sort of a totally selfish gift, because it meant a) we got to BBQ and b) go in the pool and hot tub at my dad's house. Still, we had to actually cook the meal.

Anyway, as it turned out, it rained all day on Father's Day, so we ended up just staying inside and drinking. Or rather, my stepmom and I did, while the Hubs and my dad manned the BBQ with beers in hand.
A few days before the BBQ/gift, the Hubs' parents told us they'd be in town for Father's Day too. So we decided, if 1 BBQ for 1 Dad = Good Idea, then 2 BBQs for 2 Dads = Even Better Idea!

We decided we'd go to my Dad's on Saturday, then drive back to the city on Sunday and host BBQ #2 at our place.

"We'll just get double of everything," The Hubs said. Which in theory sounds like a good idea, and really isn't much more work.

Except, who wants to eat the same meal two nights in a row? Not me, says the girl who really hates leftovers. So instead, I got a brilliant idea that I would do everything similar, but different.

I agreed we could have steaks on both nights, but everything else I'd make different.
The vegetable was easy. I brought broccoli for BBQ 1 and asparagus for BBQ 2.

The dip was a bit harder. I made a roasted red pepper dip for BBQ 1, then remembered my inlaws don't like peppers, so made an artichoke dip for BBQ 2.
I served the dips with potato cheese bread at BBQ 1. Multigrain at BBQ 2.

Then came dessert: I decided on cheesecake. Except, I only have one amazing cheesecake recipe (even if it is out of season).
It's tried and true (read: I've made it enough times that finally I don't screw it up). But what to do for BBQ 2?

And so the hunt began. Although cheesecake #1 is apple cinnamon and amazing, my general rule off thumb is that for a dessert to be good it must contain 2 ingredients: chocolate and caramel.

Then I found this recipe for Turtle Cheesecake.
The only trouble was, I couldn't find the Kraft caramels. And that's when the trouble began. First I improvised with caramel dip. Then I swapped the regular crust for an Oreo crust (more chocolate = more yum!).

The first cheesecake tasted amazing. It's too bad that the caramel oozed out the middle of it, so it didn't exactly look pretty. I took that cheesecake to work.

Then I tried again. But I left the caramel on the stove while I went to look at my dad's plumbing situation (enter yawn here). It burned to the bottom of the pot.

Finally, I made my own caramel sauce and cheesecake #3 turned out perfectly. By which point I was sort of sick of cheesecake altogether.

But the Dads were happy. So I guess that's all that matters.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Goodbye, MJ

I really can't believe Michael Jackson is gone.

I can't say anything that's not being said on a million other websites today, so I'll just tell you what I know. The King of Pop was my first true love.

When I was seven, my entire room was plastered with MJ posters. I loved him. I played his Thriller album on my record player and memorized every word to every song.

That same year, MJ came through on the Victory Tour with the Jackson Five. Knowing mine and my sister's love for Michael, my dad stood in line for hours to get us tickets. Then, he drove us to Buffalo to the concert, and let us see the show alone (while he probably went to have beer and wings. Or something. I don't think I ever asked what he did that night).
Unfortunately, I didn't even know Michael Jackson had brothers. So whenever a Jackson Five song came on, I would turn to my older and wiser sister and ask what was going on and why MJ wasn't just singing "Thriller" and "Billie Jean" and "Beat it" over and over again. Clearly I though "Jackson 5" was just a tribute to his favourite number, or something.

Still, the concert may be my one of my favourites ever. Unlike some concerts I've gone to where I can't even remember details a year later, I still remember that show and can picture our seats and how MJ looked on stage in his white outfit.
I still have the program and the sparkly glove pin I got at the concert that night.

As years went on, my musical tastes changed and so did my crushes, but I still always loved MJ deep down, even when I was 17 he and he was no longer cool. I was totally into Britpop and a guy in a band with very discriminating musical tastes who I knew, if he knew I still loved MJ would probably dump me on the spot. But I didn't care. I secretly bought MJ's CDs and listened to them alone in my bedroom.

Eventually, the boyfriend discovered my secret, but by that time our relationship was over anyway.

And now I'm married to a man, who, last night when I came home and asked if he heard about MJ, said in all seriousness (although he never owned a single MJ album), "Yes. I'm going to wear a black glove to work tomorrow."

Goodbye, MJ.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Up Close and Personal (ized)

Today, over at Sweetspot, I'm talking about why I can't find a single item with my name on it.

The back story: When I was born, my parents named me Chantel (surprise, I know). But my dad, even though French, knew me too well even when I was only a day old, and could see that despite multiple attempts -- a stint of French immersion, a summer in Paris as an au pair, an exchange to Quebec during my summer vacation, and a diet of poutine, I would never speak French well. Thus, he anglocized my name with an "e", giving me an out when people said "why don't you speak French?" and also, making my name unique.

Which I love. But as a result, I have had only a handful of personalized items:

1. A mug from Quebec with my name spelled "Chantal".

2. A Minnie Mouse hat from DisneyWorld. But that doesn't count, since they'll write whatever name you tell them on it.

3. A mug from my coach my first year of baseball. Ditto on the not counting, because the coach handpainted all the names herself.

4. Return address labels. Tritto.

5. Personalized stationery. Quattro. Still, I love them.

So because I could never have anything with my name on it, I became obsessed with things that sort of have my name on them. Like an item I talk about today at Sweetspot.

PS: I know what you're thinking: Why am I coming here just so that you can send me over here?

I promise only to do it on Mondays. And to update more regularly here. Girl Guide's Honour.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Boot Camp Is Hard.

Yesterday I went to the YMCA, where I work out. I use the term "work out" loosely. Basically, when I'm not too lazy to get out of bed in time to get to a class before work, I go. But since most of the classes are at 6:30 and I usually end up getting there at 7, I'm forced to create my own "workout" -- which often is centred around what TV show is on the elliptical trainer. Note: There are very few good shows on at 7 am -- on BT, Today and GMA, the good guests come on in the 8-9 hour. And MuchMusic airs French Kiss at 7 am. I like crepes...

I also like frites...

And I am obsessed with escargot...


But I do not French videos. Non-non.

So anyway, yesterday morning, I decided to drag myself out of bed and go to Boot Camp. Because as painful as it is, I keep telling myself that if I actually went regularly, I'd probably be pretty fit.

When the class started, one of the instructors said to grab the heaviest weights we could handle. Determined to give the class my full effort, I chose the heaviest weights I could handle. I figured that if they were too heavy, I could just switch to lighter ones (like um, I usually do).

Then the instructor told us we were going outside! Hurrah! I thought happily. It was so nice out yesterday morning. I was super-glad I came to the class.

Then we got outside. Then the instructor told us we were going for a run.

With the weights.

In our hands.

I thought I was going to die.

And then, we had to do some crazy boxing move. With the weights. And then tricep lifts. With the weights. And then straight-arm lifts. With the weights.

While running.

And just when I was thinking that I might be able to keep going, if I just stop doing all the crazy arm moves and instead hold the weights at my sides -- or rest them on my love handles -- the instructor yelled out: "Get your arms up! Do you want saggy arms flapping in the wind?"

Not when he put it that way. No, I didn't. But I did sort of want to chuck one of my weights at him.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bland foods can be the pitta...

Last week I went to the launch of Beauty 2.0, a must-read beauty bible, written by Kristen Ma, co-owner of Pure+Simple in Toronto. Want to know your dosha? Want to know what is a dosha? Want to read about how I failed to stick to my dosha?

I share it all over here!

Saving the World (in Sensible Shoes)

I have a friend named Nerissa. Actually, her name's Marissa, but we used to golf together in a ladies' league and the guy in the pro shop used to call us "Nerissa" and "Chanel", and now the names have stuck.

Marissa and I met at TV Guide when we both got engaged at the same time (is there anything better than bonding over tiaras and flowers?)

Now, Marissa and I are both authors. Marissa's first novel, Saving the World (in Sensible Shoes) is not only funny but also so smart, so it's almost a non-guilty pleasure, because you're learning something while laughing. I can't do the premise justice, so in Marissa's own words, here's what the book's about:

Rhiannon O’Shea, an eco-justice intern, doesn’t fit in anywhere: she’s not a vegan (despite what she’d have her eco-fascist boss believe); nor is she an upscale socialite (never mind the grandparents with the Park Avenue penthouse or the handsome oil heir suitor she’s not falling in love with). She’s also not a particularly good intern. Until she's sent to the arctic to save beluga whales from offshore drilling, and her whole world changes. This book is about choosing your own adventure in a world full of forked roads, escaping the daily grind and searching for enlightenment, figuring out what you believe in, then turfing it all to believe the unbelievable -- and finally, it’s about dressing for success and accessorizing for survival.

Doesn't it sound good? Don't you want to buy it right now? I know! Me too.

But we're all going to have to wait. Her agent is shopping the book to publishers, so hopefully the book will sell very soon! In the meantime, Marissa has started her blog, where she writes about writing, getting published, and trying to be as green as she can. And it's super funny, just like her.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Shark attack!

Don't worry. It wasn't me. (Not surprisingly, when you live near an unswimable lake, not an ocean...). Still...

I'm obsessed with sharks. And the Hubs is convinced we're going to get eaten by them.

If we have kids, it's going to make for some interesting bedtime stories. The other night we went to a wine tasting from South Africa, to prep for our vacation to South Africa later this year. A woman at our table was telling us how it's the best place to do shark dives (in a cage, however). You TOTALLY cannot go into the water by yourself, with just a wetsuit, unless you are crazy or want to get eaten.

But the Hubs was like "No one's going in a cage."

I was like "I'm TOTALLY going in a cage!"

The Hubs looked at me like I just admitted to liking sardines. Seriously, who likes sardines? Not me.

I get the risk. You could do everything you're supposed to do, but the shark could still eat you.

But if you go skydiving, the shoot could not open, and the ground would break you.

If you go ziplining, the zipline could break, and a tree could break you. So is it really all that different?

On the way home, I was thinking to myself how I still have a few months and can totally convince The Hubs that it's going to be fine for me to go in the cage.

Then we got home and as were both on our laptops, and I saw the main story on my home page: Shark-infested beaches of the world.

Of course, I gasped, then quickly closed the screen. Too late.

Unfortunately, The Hubs had the same home page.

He: "I saw it."

Me: "I'm sure South Africa isn't even on the list."

He: "It's Number 1."

Me: "Oh."

He: "You're not going."

Me: "But why?"

He: "Because I like you. I would like to keep you."

Hmph. How can I argue with that?

Monday, June 8, 2009

5 Things You Need To Work

As you probably know, I got myself a new job a few weeks ago, and this week I started my new blog over at Sweetspot.

I had to come up with an idea about what to blog about.

Since the whole mandate of Sweetspot is to talk about things we love (how hard is my job?!), we decided that my blog -- The Cherry on Top -- would cover all the pretty little things that make your outfit, hair, home, life or events that much better.

Today I'm talking about those little things that make your desk pretty (and keep you inspired to keep working)! Because seriously, don't you get totally distracted when there's ugly crap nearby?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More reasons to have (many) editors...

Since Love Struck is set in New York and I don't usually frequent Wall Street when I'm in the city, I asked my friend who lives there for the name of a good restaurant on Wall Street that bankers would go to for lunch.

He wrote back. "Does it actually have to be on Wall Street? Or do you mean that they "work on Wall Street", the way I do?"

Did you know that people who "work on Wall Street" don't actually "work" on "Wall Street"? My friend works in Times Square. Even though he works on Wall Street.

I'd make a TV reference for comparison, but there isn't one. When I say "I watch the Bachelorette", I mean it. I really do.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Why everyone needs an editor...

After finishing the latest revision of Love Struck, I asked The Hubs if he would read it over. He's very good at catching things that I just make up, but which, in reality, make no sense. In Stuck in Downward Dog, he was my go-to guy when it came to Mara's ex-boyfriend's business-y career. He knew why he was leaving and where he was going. And I trust him that when it comes to numbers and suits, it all makes sense.

The Hubs said he'd read the manuscript if I took it to Kinko's and got it double-side photocopied and bound so that the pages wouldn't go flying when we took a trip out west on the weekend. So I did, then he read the book on the plane while I drank red wine and pretended to read a book and discovered a new love for Lionel Richie on XM radio ("Hello! Is it me you're looking for?") But I couldn't focus. As soon as he pulled the top off his pen and circled a word on the page, I just had to know what he was doing.

I looked over as he circled the words "MBA" and "Cambridge". In my mind, I thought it sounded lovely that one of the characters got an MBA from Cambridge. I pictured him eating scones with clotted cream and looking very smart in an argyle v-neck over a shirt and tie.

Me: "Why did you circle that? Can't he get an MBA at Cambridge?" (I had no clue. That's why it's called fiction. I just make it up).

The Hubs: "He can. But I doubt anyone will hire him."

Yikes. I hope no one reading this has an MBA from Cambridge and a job they love. Anyway, the character in question is no longer a Cambridge student. I hope he enjoyed the ride while it lasted.