Thursday, December 24, 2009

What Christmas Means to Me . . . .

Snowflakes, family, presents, baked goods, Santa Claus AND the premier of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus!!!!

That's right folks, Rachel McAdams and I both have huge Hollywood movies opening Christmas Day.

Granted, Rachel McAdams is famous, rich and stars in her movie.

I am famous to my mom, not rich, and play a small role in mine.

Small, but key.  Well, maybe not even that.  But I will be 20ft big and playing in Cineplex Odeons around the country.  And my name is in the credits.

So this is my plug to get you to go watch the movie - keep an eye out for a British-sounding salesgirl who gets a flower from a Russian.  That's me!

And of course, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Getting Jolly for the Holidays

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us and there are many ways to celebrate the season in Vancouver.

If you want to make the most of your holidays with local delights, here's some activities I've unearthed for you.

If you've watched my wee video, you've seen the fun that is singing Christmas carols via a karaoke machine with random people.  My advice?  Grab MANY friends and book the trolley for your private party.  Fill thermoses with Bailey's and hot chocolate, then gaze merrily at the Christmas lights of Stanley Park, VanDusen Gardens, and Canuck House all while singing badly.

Perhaps the trolley isn't your thing, but lights are.  Head up to VanDusen Botanical Gardens for their amazing lights.  Really, these lights are amazing.  There is nothing much more I can say.  Except you can also get waffles, crepes, hot dogs, cocoa, chat with Santa, watch a musical light show, and listen to the choir sing 'Silent Night'.

For kids, and big kids, Stanley Park puts on a fun light show complete with train ride through a lit up forest.  Proceeds go to the Firefighters' Burn Fund so it's a good cause. Buy your tickets online but still be prepared to stand in line, especially on weekends.  Your ticket also includes entry to the Children's Farm.  But if you don't care to see a turkey, you can always check out the raccoons running around the grounds.  Chestnuts roasting on an open fire are extra, but the hot firemen are included.

The good people at Capilano Suspension Bridge light the bridge, and surrounding area up, to create a magical winter wonderland.  Especially if snow covers the surrounding trees.  A truly beautiful experience.

Check out the free light show that plays on the sails of Canada Place timed to favorite Christmas carols.

Several Gingerbread creations line the lobby of the Hyatt.  Made by students from grade school right to pastry chefs, these edible concoctions are a fun way to spend a few moments and escape from the bustling streets of Vancouver.  I was especially blown away by the Cinderella's castle.  Oh, and you can vote on your favorite!

7.  The skating rink at Robson Square
A new addition this winter (but an old favorite from years past), Vancouverites can once again skate outdoors.  Rink is free, but skates will cost you ($3) - and it's covered so you can glide arm in arm with your sweetheart while the rain patters above you.

And last, but probably the most enchanting:

Screw the Grind, the best thing about this mountain is how it makes Christmas a truly wonderful white wonderland.  For the price of admission, you can escape the city (which is often raining and without snow) and find yourself atop a snowy haven.  You can ice skate (on a small pond but it's on the top of a mountain!), go for a sleigh ride, or snowshoe.  Top it all off with hot chocolate or wine by the blazing fire.  Even I loved going snowshoeing - it was so peaceful.  You can head up during the day, but I prefer the night when the stars are out and you don't even know a city lies before you.

I hope this inspires you to get out there and enjoy the holiday season before it's over!!

Simply French, Simply Fabulous

If you know me, and this blog, you know that I like croissants.  A LOT.  I also love cute cafes in which to write.  And I love anything French because I secretly wish I was an elegant French girl.

I was driving up 10th Ave the other day, and nearly got into an accident as an adorable cafe caught my eye.  Simply French is a newly opened cafe near the intersection of 10th and Alma.  Opened by the former owners of Truffles, the Drummonds know how to serve a good dessert.  And good pastry.  And good coffee.

Firstly, the cafe is really large, with high ceilings, chandeliers, and plug-ins for your laptop.  Secondly, it serves strong coffee.  Thirdly, the croissant was AMAZING.  Perfect and incredible.  In fact, the croissant is now number two on my list (one below a boulangerie in Paris and one above Mazzola's in Brooklyn).  Isobel Drummond bakes everything herself and let me tell you that she knows how to create a buttery perfection that is croissant.

I loved it in here so much.  The owners are so friendly and happy.  I sat in the window and wrote for hours undisturbed, letting the sky grow dark and the snow gently fall outside.  So cozy and elegant, I think next time I go I will try a Paris panini.  And wear a beret.

Je t'aime all things French.

Irish Heather and Eating Pigs

The Irish Heather, located in Gastown, is a busy hive of cosy dark interior, steamy food, and pints of Guinness.  What started as a pub overlooking a cobblestoned mews, it has now moved across the street and is linked in one building with the Salty Tongue, a delicious deli, and Shebeen a whiskey house.

Early this year, the Irish Heather started the Long Table Series which is described as "a series of meals matched to a beer/cider for low prices".  Twice a week, eaters show up to Shebeen for a drink and then are ushered into Salty Tongue where a 40ft table sits for all the guests.  The chef comes out to talk about the meal and then dinner is served, complete with a drink.  For, are you ready for this, $15!!!  Only $15!

I've gone to two now.  Once during the summer for veal that was delicious.  And then again last week for the very-much-in-demand roast suckling pig.

I definitely liked it better during the winter months, as when I came in the summer I nearly melted it was so hot.  Forty people at a table is a tad noisy and squished.  And as it's Vancouver, you don't really talk to the people next to you even though you are rubbing elbows.  Oh this city of pretention.

That aside, the food is yummy and at a great price!  Our roast pig was amazing and the serving portion was massive.  It came with braised cabbage and mashed potatoes plus a pint of cider.  We opted to have a sticky toffee pudding for dessert.  All in all, a fun event, a new way to experience food, and a great Irish meal.

Except for the braised cabbage which reared its ugly head a few hours later.  Ick.

Check out the blog to see upcoming menus and get out for a night of eating fun!

The Man in Red

As I was getting on the ferry the other day, two little girls had this conversation:

Girl 1:  Dad texted it to him.
Girl 2:  He texted him the list?
Girl 1:  Yes
Girl 2:  How do you know?
Girl 1:  He told me
Girl 2:  He told you he texted the list?
Girl 1:  (sighing) Yes, he texted the list!
Girl 2:  Are you sure?
Girl 1: (now exasperated) YES!
Girl 2:  How does dad know his number?

That's right folks, Santa's gone electronic.  I couldn't help but think of how technology has changed our lives, right down to how we get in touch with the man in red.  

When it comes to having Santa's number I almost said to them, "I think my mom has his number.  She used to call him when I was being bad."

True story - every time I did anything naughty and it was in the late part of the year (maybe starting in August) my mum would threaten to call Santa.  If that didn't work, she would get on the phone and tell him I was being bad.  I would go nuts!  I would also stop being bad.  The thought that my mum was actually talking to Santa Claus would scare all the naughty things out of me.  Note to self:  use when I am parent.

Everyone seems to have the story of when they stopped believing in Santa Claus.  For some it was traumatic, like a friend of mine who was told my his first grade teacher (and yes, his mother marched to school the next day to chew her out), for others it was perhaps a simply realization one year that their dad was the one eating the cookies and milk.

I honestly can't remember when I stopped believing.  This is going to sound corny, but I don't think I ever really stopped.  Firstly, I did believe in Santa Claus for a long time.  Well past my elementary comrades.  I remember (and my mum will dispute this) one Christmas when I was about nine. We had driven to Alberta from Winnipeg for Christmas.  We took all of our presents to open at my grandma's.  When we got back, there was another present under the tree.  I was so excited about Santa's drop-off.  But seeing as the gift (a 'Get in Shape Girl' set - remember those?) was from my parents, they wanted me to know that they were giving it to me.

My dad showed me how impossible it was for Santa to get down the chimney as the flue was shut AND he had placed a big tile thing in front of the fireplace to keep the cold out.  I wasn't persuaded.  I knew Santa had figured out a way to get in.

My grandmother always believed in Santa.  She said he was the magic of Christmas.  So if you always believe in the magic of Christmas then you believe in Santa.  That sort of stuck with me.  And I am all about creating magic around Christmas.

The other day, my friend and I watched 'Elf'.  At the end, I sighed and said, "Part of me sort of wonders".

"Wonders what? "

 "If Santa is real."

Her reply?  "You can't swallow the idea of Jesus but you think it's possible that Santa exists??"


Call me crazy.  Call me a big kid.  Or call me a girl who always believes in the possibility of magic.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year . . . .

It's that time of the year again and I made a little video showing you how things are celebrated in the Rainy City.  Well, one of the many possible fun things to do in Vancouver over the holiday season.

Vancouver Trolley Company gets us into the season every year with their 'Christmas Karaoke' trolley that takes singing riders to Stanley Park to check out Bright Lights (but only the part outside of the train), and then to VanDusen Botanical Garden for their spectacular, and I mean SPECTACULAR, lights.

Check out the video that includes chestnuts roasting on an open fire, a choir singing merrily on high, and sparkly lights.  Oh, and perhaps thermoses full of hot chocolate and Bailey's :)

If you have trouble viewing it, go directly to the You Tube Channel

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Craving More Crave

In order to emulate the ladies of 'Sex and the City', my sorority sisters started to meet for brunch about six years ago.  Back then, most of us were still single, or not engaged/married and our biggest stresses were end of term exams or bad boyfriends.

We met every week.

Fast forward six years and you get several weddings, one divorce, banished bad boyfriends giving way to awesome fiances/good boys, two kids, one more on the way, condos bought and sold, houses remodeled, and the globe travelled several times over.  Now our woes include professional problems or huge successes, husbands not sharing in housework, or kids not walking as fast as we want them to.  Needless to say, if we have brunch once a month we are in good standing.

Twice is practically a miracle.

We also move from venue to venue, trying to find the perfect eggs benedict or organic coffee.  I make a bold statement when I say that I think we may have found a winner - that we can at least stick to for a few months.


With two locations, this urban retreat of cool and cozy has quickly become a new favorite of mine.  I always always always order eggs benedict.  Therefore, I am picky about having perfectly poached eggs that dribble just the right amount of yolk on the fresh English muffin upon which they sit.  I always ask for 'soft poach'.  At Crave, I asked for this and the waitress kindly informed me that the eggs were always softly poached.

I didn't quite trust her, but she was, in fact, right.  Plus they use organic, Omega eggs so the yolk was that lovely dark yellow/golden colour.  The muffins were fresh and warm.  I had the California so the combination of ham and avocado was heaven.  Not to mention the coffee was great and the mimosas even better!  Made with fresh OJ.

Plus you feel really cool eating in here.  It's very New York.  All dark and black inside.  Teeny tiny.  Warm and cosy.  It's my new favorite spot ladies!

Oh and the trauma this week?  My poor pregger friend vomited in the bathroom so the whole restaurant could hear.  Poor thing.  Six years ago it would have been because of a hang-over.  Hell, six months ago it would have been a hang-over.  Amazing that the moment you mouth to disgusted diners 'she's pregnant' their foul mouths turn to smile and applause.

Note to self:  if ever hung-over and throw up in public, just tell 'em I'm pregnant.  It's a great excuse for all kinds of things!

The best part was the fact our whole table was dressed up.  So much so, that another table of girls came over to tell us how nice we looked.  They wondered if it was a special occasion.

Vancouver is funny that way.  If you are not wearing Lululemon than something is amiss.

Anyways, they really liked my purple rosette dress and asked that I come over and model it.  When I did, I had to open my ruffle coat to show them.  I won't lie, this was a moment of pride for me.  They actually applauded my outfit.  APPLAUSE!  I am not a stylish diva - I can't make outfits at all. Not like those cool Upper East side girls.  But I do know how to pick out a dress.  Okay, moment of narcissism over.

I highly encourage you to grab your best gal pals, zip up your favorite dress, and head out for some morning champagne!

Girl's Night Out

On my return to Rainy City, I once again bounced back into being the social director of all things fun.  I find it easier here, much less overwhelming than New York where more frequently than not, I fear leaving my house.

I found out about an event called "Girl's Night Out" which is held every month at a Granville Club.  Like one of those Christmas fairs, it's basically an event to showcase local wares and girly things to do.  For December, they offered a free SUV limo which I thought would be a fun thing for my friends to do.

So I booked the limo and got some friends on board.

Then some of my friends bailed the day of.

Leaving me, one friend, and a limo ride.

Feeling silly at taking a limo for only two, I called to cancel.  This is when I found out that the limos were supposed to be a 10-girl minimum.  Ummmmm.  No worries, he told me, just enjoy the ride for the two of you.

I tried my best to recruit new ladies but failed.  Luckily my friend was bringing one of her friends.  Perfect.  Three girls in a limo.  No problem.

Until the limo arrived.

I wouldn't call it a limo per se.  More like a bus with black windows.  Leaving my building, the three of us burst out laughing and felt quite embarrassed as we climbed into the monster.  Our driver wanted to know what we didn't have any friends.  This made us laugh harder.

Once inside the limo, I realized our terrible mistake.  This 'BUS' was built for 30 people.  It included two poles.  Oh god.  Our driver then turned on the sleaze by asking us to dance later for him. Ugh.  He also asked where our alcohol was.  Once again, I didn't quite get the message.

So here the three of us were, in a limo the size of a small Eastern European country with two poles.  By the by, I have taken pole dancing and I could barely swing on these puppies.  The vehicle was moving after all.  I suspect that the dancers that come on board during stags are much more talented than I.

The best part?  Our ride was literally five minutes.  Maybe seven.  We arrived in style, at the club, and everyone on the street was staring.  As THREE girls toddled off with a wary glance at leering driver man.

Upon entry to the event, we quickly realized that most in attendance had in fact brought alcohol aboard the beast and had driven much further than seven minutes.  We suspected many were from Surrey. Sorry, that was mean.

But true.

Anyways, the event was fun.  We got free shots of blueberry vodka, our hair did (by crazy drunk hair stylists from Gloss - and even in their state they still did an amazing job!), nails done, I won a pretty hat with a peacock feather worth $65, and talked to some pretty fun people.  We learned that there is a new dance studio near my house, called iDance, which has burlesque AND Bollywood lessons for super cheap. That we can learn how to better swing on poles at Tantra Fitness.  And that feather flowers are always a better accessory.

My first girls night out was a success, even with the lack of girls in attendance.  And next time they offer a limo ride, I will just press 'delete'.

Legally Blonde

The other day, an earnest and lovely friend stared at me in wonder and said this most horrifying sentence:

"Sarah, I never knew you weren't a natural blonde!"

I don't know what's worse:  someone asking a woman how much they weigh or simply pointing out that one is long overdue for a trip to the salon.

He didn't know what he said was a faux pas as I explained to him how intimate his statement was.  You certainly don't look at someone and say, "Wow, you got fat!" Okay, some people do actually.  In Japan.  It happened to me.

Anyways, I told Matt that no, in fact my natural colour was not blonde.  Then I promptly booked an appointment for highlights.

Truth is I haven't been my natural colour since 1993.  My mum started me young.  Back when they still did highlights with those horrible condom caps that practically made your scalp bleed!

At 18 I turned to the box when I sadly discovered blonde was, in fact, the most expensive accessory one can have.

When my hair turned a light grey and started to fall out, it was time to return to the natural.  But the stylist went overboard and I became a lovely auburn.  For about three months.   Then I missed the attention of being a blonde (there, I said it).  Back to the box.  Ummm, have you ever tried going from dark to blonde before? You can't.  The result was green, which softened to a bright yellow.  I looked like Sailor Moon.

This was when I was living in England.  My mum came to visit me, took one look at my head and took me to a proper salon.  Back to blonde.  Minus about six inches of damaged hair.

The upkeep proved to be too expensive, so I went back to the box and tried black.  Same year as 'Zorro' and I wanted to look like Catherine Zeta Jones.  Trouble being that I look nothing like Catherine Zeta Jones.  Nor did I know to colour in my eyebrows.  Therefore I looked like a sickly teenager who loved 'Dungeons and Dragons'.

On return to Canada, I went back to blonde and I have been here ever since.  Okay, there was a teeny tiny parlay into brunette last winter when I put a hair gloss on to give myself some shine and the salon boy went crazy.  But that's it.  I have been blonde for half my life.  More if you count my first year of being bald and my third as being a natural blonde.

It's who I am.  If I get it into my head to dye my hair EVER again, I will simply buy a wig.

Strange how hair can define a personality.  I'm not dumb, like the stereotype, but I am bubbly, fun and enthusiastic.  Raven heads are more brooding - I'm not a brooder.  Redheads are spicey and sexy.  Not me either.  Blonde curls is who I am, and as long as I can sit in a chair every 6-8 weeks with foils on my scalp, then forever blonde I will be.

The engineer prefers me blonde.  Not that this really matters to me.  But he has mentioned several times that he is into blondes when I suggest going dark.  I feel his opinion is slowly changing though when he found out how much this head costs every month.  Always economical that one.

It's tres difficile to keep these tresses healthy.  Are you a blonde?  Here are some tried and tested tips:

1.  Don't wash OR water your hair everyday.  Yes, on day 3 you will be a greasy wench but do as I do and stay inside wearing your PJ's.
2.  Use purple shampoo and conditioner.
3.  Trim trim trim.  I have fine hair that has to be kept on the shorter side for it to look healthy.  But I do have a few friends with long blonde hair.
3.  New Chapter Pre-Natal vitamins.  No, I am not having a baby.  I got this tip from another famous blonde:  Gwyneth Paltrow
4.  This is the biggest secret of all that was passed on to me from a top-notch NYC stylist:  CLAIROL NATURAL INSTINCTS HAIR GLOSS!!!!!

That's right ladies, you might be embarrassed being in the box aisle (I know I was) but trust me on this.  Every month or so, $10 will get you shiny, healthy hair with a tube of the best conditioner I have ever used.  And the tube lasts until your next gloss.  It's like crack for blondes.

And yes, in case you wondered, blonde is more fun.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Brotherly Love

Sometimes I wonder if my dogs actually like each other.

I know Brooklyn likes Mop.  But Brooklyn likes everything, including blowing leaves and beetles.

Mop, on the other hand, is a bit more, ummmm, of an asshole.  He is constantly biting Brooklyn's head and stealing any toys that Brooklyn wants to play with.

I do often catch them bathing each other.  Mop licks Brooklyn for hours.  Brooklyn lays back with his eyes closed and paws around Mop's neck in pure ecstasy.  When I say their names, the two break apart like guilty teenage lovers.

Therefore I suspect they really do care for each other.

My suspicions were confirmed a few weeks ago when I decided to take Brooklyn to Manhattan.  When I got a dog, I wanted to be able to take the dog with me everywhere.  Then I got two dogs and that plan went to crap.  I could possibly take my dogs everywhere if Mop wasn't such a freak.  He can't handle being in shops.  He panics and goes nuts.  It's embarrassing.  But seeing as the Engineer was home, and I wanted company, I tucked Brooklyn into my purse and we went for an 'F' train ride.

New York is a very dog friendly city.  You can take your dogs practically everywhere.  Unfortunately, Manhattan is so busy, bustling and TALL, my little 9-lb borkie had a wee problem.  In that he is wee.  I had to carry him most of the time for fear he would be trampled.  He looked around in wonderment around him as cars went honking by and people rushed past us.  On the plus side, he has never received so much attention.  Without Mop to bite his head, he was finally able to enjoy little old ladies cooing over him.

When we got back home, I wanted to play the equal parent by spending alone time with Mop.  The Engineer and I set out with Mop to go pick up dinner, leaving Brooklyn alone in the house.  He has never been left before.  He isn't the brightest of bulbs in the pack, I thought he might not notice.

The moment we left, he went barking mad at the door.  Barking and shrieking and crying.  I should have known he would do this.  Once when my mum and I were walking the dogs, I crossed the street with Mop and didn't notice that my mum was still on the other side.  People thought she was stabbing Brooklyn with the way he was carrying on.  Crying, yelping, barking - she kept getting evil eyes.  Mop didn't seem to care.

But not this time.  Mop did care.  He refused to budge an inch. I got him out of the house, but as we could still hear Brooklyn going nuts from the street, Mop planted his bum down and wouldn't move.  I tried to drag him down the street but it wasn't happening.  The Engineer went back to get Brooklyn and Mop pulled on his leash to follow.

With each cry, Mop was on his hind legs as if trying to reach Brooklyn himself.  When the Engineer and Brooklyn walked out the door, Mop flew at him and covered him in kisses.  Both the Engineer and I were so happy to see this brotherly love.  We had no idea Mop cared so much about Brooklyn.

But five minutes into our walk, Mop resumed biting Brooklyn's head and Brooklyn resumed peeing on Mop.

Monday, December 7, 2009

American Girl

No, I am not word playing with a famous Estelle song, or talking about how I am becoming an American Girl.

What my title refers to is 'American Girl'.  A doll store.  A store that sells dolls.

Have you heard of it?

Well, I hadn't until a couple of years ago when I first visited the flagship store on Fifth Ave.  And I certainly hadn't heard about it circa 1989 when I would have DIED to have an American Girl Doll.

Here's the deal:  in 1986 a woman named Pleasant Rowland was searching for dolls to give her eight-year old nieces.  She could find baby dolls for little girls, or 'cool' dolls for tweens, but nothing for the 8-12 range.  Her search for a perfect doll coincided with a visit to Colonial Williamsburg where Rowland was inspired to make history accessible.

So she started her own doll company with six 'history' dolls complete with stories about them.  For example, Felicity is a Revolutionary times doll who believes that the colonies should be free.  Or Rebecca Rubin is a little Jewish girl growing up in 1914 New York City.  All the dolls come with changes of clothing, books, movies and even matching outfits for the owner.

I am sorry.  But I am having a minor FREAAAAAAAAAAAAK out right now!!!!  OMG OMG OMG!  Is 30 too old for one of these things?

Firstly, I LOVE dolls.  I always have and I always will.  Even if I have all boys, they will be getting dolls.  Any doll, I don't care.  I love them.  I loved my 'My Child' doll:

I got her for Christmas 1987. I saw her in September at Eaton's (remember that store?) and my mum said if I was a good girl until Christmas she might be under the tree.  I was SO good for three months.  Come Christmas Eve I couldn't handle the pressure anymore and poked the box that was shaped like her.  I peeked in and there was her pretty little face looking up at me.  On Christmas morning my mum wondered why there was a hole in my present.

With complete seriousness, I looked up at her, shrugged and said "Santa must've tripped" and proceeded to rip open the box.

Then there were my Cabbage Patch dolls, Barbie dolls, Hugga-Bunch dolls.  My grandma even had these knitted dolls that I loved.  It didn't matter that they had buttons for eyes, I took them everywhere.

  One Christmas, my mum and grandma joined forces and made me a Bride doll.  She was BEAUTIFUL.  I came up Christmas morning and saw her standing on the table.  My one clear memory of my Grandfather is him sitting next to that doll and smiling at me.  I didn't want to believe she was for me because she was so beautiful.  But seeing as I was the only girl in the family she had to be mine.  He smiled and said maybe I should read the tag and see who she was for.  He peeked in the tag and read: For Sarah.  I was so happy I couldn't even talk.

Oh I loved her.  Now that I think about it, perhaps she started my obsession with weddings?  In hindsight maybe my grandma and mum should have made me a Wall Street Doll.

But I digress, back to American Girl.

So I love dolls.  I also LOVE history.  It was my minor at University.  I dragged my parents to the Plains of Abraham when we went to Quebec City. I practically lived at Lower Fort Garry every summer. Heck, I go back every time I visit Winnipeg. And I am dying to go to Colonial Williamsburg but some Engineer won't go with me.

Therefore the combination of dolls and history is a bit much for me.  I gave myself a headache when I saw this floor.  I was practically running around in glee.  Okay, fine.  I was running around in glee.  With a nine-year old girl named Lily.  At American Girl, each doll is displayed in her 'era' with little houses or street scenes.  It's too much.  I would have loved this place as a little girl.  Oh wait, I love it now.

The history dolls are just one aspect about this store.  You can also get dolls to MATCH YOU.  MATCH!  AAAAAAAAA!  They have dozens of skin tones, hair colours/styles, eye colours, etc.  So you can get a doll that ethnically matches you.  There is a beauty salon for your dolls.  That's right, you line up to have your doll's hair done (this I don't get, isn't the fun of having a doll with nice hair so that you can do it yourself?), a cafe, a doll hospital, a doll portrait gallery (so you can take family photos with the doll?), a nursery where all the baby dolls are for toddlers, a pet store so you can get Coconut, the American Girl dog, and the list goes on.

And this place is PACKED.

With Crazy Wild-Eyed Little Girls with their stressed-out, credit card bearing parents.

It's a lot to take in.  Especially on a Saturday.

I thought I would die a bit. There is nothing more terrifying that 100 9-year olds and their high-pitched squealing waiting in line to get doll stuff.

I know.  I used to be one.

 Running around with their American Doll backpacks (so that dolly stays safe I guess), freaking out over the newest PJ set for Chloe/Katy/Marsha, stuffing their faces with cupcakes (and the mini-cupcakes made in doll size), and in general overworked with excitement and the lethal combination of retail and sugar.

Oh wait.

That was me.

God I love this place.

I love it so much I wish I had thought of it.  The smallest, cheapest doll is $95.  NINTEY FIVE dollars!  Then you need the matching clothes, books, accessories, etc.  Kids come out of this store armed with the tell-tale red bags. Well, their dads are the ones with the bags.

Pleasant Rowland is a very very happy lady.  On her private island.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Dad Factor

My parents live in Calgary but come to Vancouver as often as they can.

Which is like every few weeks.

And I love it.

Mostly :)

They stagger their arrivals for some reason.  Maybe for time alone?  This last time my mum enjoyed Vancouver by herself, then my dad and I arrived together a week or so later.  Chaos ensued, as it always does when my dad is around.  Then my mum left today.  Without my dad.  Leaving him, and his chaos, with me.

I love my dad.  I would say I have a good relationship with him.  Friends always say my mum and I are alike, but I think deep down, I'm more like my dad.  Well, we have the exact same bad qualities, which is probably why chaos is always surrounds us.

Here's the thing:  my dad is a retired, Albertan farmer who worked in various high-up government positions (he would run the farm from his office).  This included a stint as a foreign diplomat in countries such as the former Soviet Union and Australia.  This is a man who would wear a suit one day, and the next would be in grease-stained overalls fixing a combine.   He has an actual redneck. I kid you not.  It is red on the back, and comes around the front to form a perfect 'V'.  He can also speak Russian, lived in outer-Mongolia,  and at one time knew some pretty powerful players.

This is the man that when I called to tell him I sold a television concept I could hear cows bellowing in the background because he was at a bull sale.  Plus he's a wine connoisseur.

He's pretty much the smartest person I know (a thing all daughters probably think about their dads but in this case I am right), with a masters and completed certificates in things like securities (I don't really know what that means.  I know it's a boring course about finance or something).  He doesn't show emotion, he is always slightly grouchy, he thinks the best jeans are the cheap ones, and I suspect he voted for Stephen Harper.

His flesh and blood, me, is the complete opposite.  I am outgoing, bubbly, I giggle, smile a lot, talk fast, think it's fun to spend money on pretty things, and am generally a non-understandable species in my father's eye.  I almost voted NDP last election but decided that was too far and settled for Liberal.

Where are we the same then?  We are both ridiculously stubborn, have short-fuse tempers, and generally have no patience for people who don't agree with us.

Lethal combination?  Yes.

Needless to say, when I see movies where the doting father calls his daughter princess and sprinkles her with kisses, I think they must be from a foreign planet.  Once I hugged my dad and he asked me what I was doing.  When I told him, he was happy, uncomfortable, but happy. So I generally don't hug him.  He tells me he loves me by putting oil in my car.  Once, when he saw me on stage, he told me he was proud of me and that I was doing what I was meant to do.  Not to my face though.  No.  He was fiddling with the blinds and then ran out of the room.

We are a non-emotional folk.

Unlike those movie dads, he is not scary to boyfriends.  Okay, he used to be, but I think now he is just desperate for a man to marry me and takeover the bills.  Ha!  And he loves the Engineer.  The son he never had.  Actually, it's the kid in business school he never had.  The fact that the Engineer is getting an MBA and has a job at Goldman Sachs is like a dream for my dad.  It's not that he sees a man who is stable and will take care of his daughter. Oh no.  He's obsessed with the world of finance.  I suspect if he could live life again, he would live it as a businessman.  He loves to talk about the Engineer's MBA.  Unfortunately, neither are big talkers so they basically grunt at each other about the economy and the pros of working for a big bank.  In fact, they can be sitting on the couch not talking and my dad is thrilled.

Anyways, the point of this entry is the fact that I am now alone with my dad.  I decided to pick a fight the other day by telling him I was considering becoming a vegetarian after I read an article about the slaughtering procedure.  I thought it would be okay to eat a cow that was killed nicely and treated with compassion.  If there is such a thing.  I think I almost gave him another heart attack.  His veins on his head were protruding. This is the man who was raised on an Albertan beef farm after all.  I once called him to ask about a cut of beef required for a recipe.  He sent me a chart of the cow and its cuts of meat to put on my wall.

Just wait until I tell him I am switching over to all-organic produce.  It will blow his mind.

We also have the weird awkward father/daughter thing when it comes to bodily functions. Namely my time of the month.  When I was 13, we were on a vacation where I made my dad pull over at every rest stop because I was terrified of having an 'accident'.  He kept grumbling and asking what my problem was.  I told him I was drinking a lot of coke.  Odd that there was no coke in the car and he didn't clue in. I was so embarrassed about him knowing.

Once, Superstore had a sale on supplies.  Well not one to pay full price, my mom wanted to stock up.  Trouble was, she was at a curling tournament (is that the most Canadian sentence or what?).  So she made my dad and me go get them.  He asked me which ones I wanted.  Burning in embarrassment I told him they were for mom.  He said he knew they were for me too.  I wanted to DIE.  And he was sort of sad.  Like I wasn't a little girl anymore.

Fast forward 17 years, and you have my father, my 30-year old self, and that time again.  Except now I suffer from dibilitating cramps. To the point where I take special drugs straight from the doctor, and lie with a 'warm buddy' on my back and tummy.  I also call the Engineer and tell him I hate him. For no other reason than my pain is so great I am mad he is a boy.  So here's my rigid father, always with a list of things to do from the moment he wakes up (isn't retirement fun?) from watching me organize my office and telling me to throw things out, to cleaning out my storage and shopping for light bulbs.

But I am still too embarrassed to tell him I hurt too much to move.  So I called my mom to tell her to tell my dad to lay off.

I'm so lucky we are such a close, openly emotional family.

My friend breast feeds in front of her father.  They even have a conversation.  I am fairly certain my dad will throw up in his mouth and then run away to his office until my child is weened.

I am quite sure the Engineer will say I tell too much information but I know I have lots of readers who (a) know my dad and/or (b) have equally awkward moments with their dad.

My last awkward moment with my dad?  When he had to pull me out of a too-small Bollywood Bridesmaid outfit.

Oh dads.  Without you us girls would have never felt sufficiently weird about reaching puberty.  Or know how to change a tire (I wasn't allowed to get in the car until I knew how.  What happened when I had a flat?  I called CAA.  Much easier).  And, in my case, drive a tractor and know the difference between a Black Angus and a Hereford.  Do you?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Last Walk

My mother has taught me much about traveling.

Rolling my clothes to pack, using Ziploc bags for odds and ends (I think she owns stocks in Ziploc) . . .

Writing down my first impressions of a new place right away because you only have first impressions once.

And taking a last walk.

No matter where in the world I have traveled, I always take a 'last walk' the day before I leave.  A leisurely stroll to take in a place that has meant something to me.  My mum taught me this and told me about her last night in Moscow after living there for two years.  It was a snowy evening and no one was around when she walked through the Red Square for the last time.  Try it next time you go somewhere, it's that walk that will stick with you the most.

I can remember being in the ocean in Thailand at sunset the evening before I left back to Canada.  Or Kyoto by the river under a full moon.  Edinburgh's Royal Mile with a soft rain and the castle all lit up.  London when the lights of Big Ben and the House of Commons turn off just after midnight.  And of course, New York City and the magic it leaves on your memory.

Obviously, I leave NYC often and now that it is my half-home, I probably don't have to do the last walk because I know I will be coming back.  But it's still nice.

Last year I did it around Bryant Park, it was snowing and skaters where twirling under the tree.  The Chrysler Building sparkled as taxi cabs honked along 42nd Street.  Manhattan is so cozy on winter nights leading to Christmas.

On Tuesday, I had an entire 'last day'.

It started at the Met.  Oh the Met, how I love thee.  The late afternoon fall light made the Met glow and the trees in Central Park were still clinging to the last of the golden leaves.  This place always makes me happy.  I got lost in the Watteau exhibit.  Sadly, I don't really know about art.  All I know is how it makes me feel.  I loved this exhibit because it's about theatre and music.  I had the accompanying music (which the Met should do for everything I think because it really takes you to that place) which magically brought the paintings alive.  I stood there for so long, listening to the music and almost seeing the painted flute player dancing a bit with his tune.

Then down to Bloomingdales for a frozen yogurt.  A friend of mine had heard about this magical yogurt at Forty Carrots which is on the seventh floor of Bloomies.  I thought this meant yogurt you eat for breakfast, but nope, it's the frozen variety.  Now that I have told you about it, you will notice girls prancing around Bloomingdales with a massive bowl of this stuff.  That is because it is AMAZING.


I had plain and chocolate with NO toppings!  No toppings! I always have toppings but this frozen yogurt is so good you don't need it.

I also checked out the Bloomies windows - one of the highlights of a New York Christmas.  My favorite were the glittering dancing bears.

Something sweet and magical about them.  Like being lost in a happy, glittering candyland for adults.  That's what the third floor of Bloomingdales feels like anyways, it's full of pretty dresses.

Then down to Grand Central to stroll past the Christmas market and finally over to Rockerfeller for one last glance at the ice rink.  The tree will be lit on December 2nd and the star is on display at our level until the big day.

And that was it.  A perfect afternoon in an almost perfect city.  It's starting to feel as if I am leaving
home.  Which means it must be becoming home.

Traveling With Dogs Part 12

I swear someday I will get this right.  In fact, this time I swear I did.

The dogs and I left New York this past Wednesday. The day before American Thanksgiving.  Sometimes I am so smart it hurts . . .

Actually, JFK wasn't the madhouse I expected.  In fact it was dead.  Here's a fun fact:  if you need to travel the day before Thanksgiving in the States, make sure your flight is mid-afternoon.  Apparently the early morning is nuts and after four will make you cry.

JFK is pretty awesome if you fly domestic.  We were flying to Seattle via American Airlines - the terminal was super big, clean and shiny.  I think if you stay in New York long enough, clean things always will amaze you.  And the service was fabulous!  I heard that AA was bad - but we had a very pleasant experience - right down to the nicest flight attendant I have ever experienced.  I thanked him when I disembarked he was so good.  (By the by, Jet Blue also has a brand new terminal, complete with dog park!!).

Here is how I prepared the boys:
- walked them for a long time
- drugged them with the proper gravol, two hours prior to leaving the apartment
- put a fluffy pillow into their crate complete with three warming pads, a towel, and two blankets.  And of course, water.
- put Mr. Mop in his snuggie as he just had a hair cut and I was scared of a Mr. Mop icicle at other end

So they were prepped and perfect to go.

We go to the airport, no line-up, check-in, pleasant man.  Then we wait at the side for the man who takes them to the plane to come.  Chat with nice AA girl who gives the boys cuddles.  Boys play with the other dogs who are also flying today.  Until Mr. Mop bites one on the head. Then he must be carried.  Brooklyn pees on the line pole thing (what do you call them, those things that map out the waiting

Finally the man comes to get them.  We are sailing so smoothly I pat myself on the back for being an awesome dog traveler.  I have mastered the chaos of our previous flights.

Mr. Man takes us to the security line.  Hmmm, interesting.  They are going in baggage and usually we don't do security together.  Whatever.

There is a long line. Oh no!

 But wait, Mr. Man takes us to a priority line!  I love American Air!

I am still walking the dogs on the leash, so Mr. Man swings the cart carrying my crate through to the security guys and then holds on to the boys while I remove my shoes, coat and take my computer out of my bag.  Awesome.  Get dogs and proceed to walk through the gate.  The bell goes off.  Oh right, Mr. Mop's dog tags.

And then the chaos begins.

The security guy insists I remove both the leash and collar from my dogs.  WHAT?

'Will they run away?' he asks.

"I don't know, maybe, but it's a dog collar." What terrorist thing does he think it could be?

As the strict security guard is insisting I NOT HOLD ON TO MY DOGS and TAKE THEIR COLLARS OFF, I notice behind me another security guy looking inside the crate, shrugging and telling Mr. Man it's okay.

Okay, let me get this straight:  they barely glance into the crate, where there sits a pillow that could be stuffed with drugs or a bomb, but they are giving me the third degree about a dog collar?  So off Mr. Mop's snuggie goes, and his collar, and his harness. Luckily, his separation anxiety and the drug induced grogginess keep him close to me.

Brooklyn, on the other hand, is running in circles.  I pass him through the gate to the massive security guard.  He grabs him and gives him a cuddle to settle him down.  It's pretty cute seeing as this guy is about 300 pounds and an ex-linebacker (I don't know what that is but I feel it's something that's big).  Nazi security guard on the other hand is examining Mop's collar.  Yes, you dumbass, I planted a bomb on the pendant that's in the shape of a bone and says 'Button' (Mr. Mop's old name).

Finally, we all pass just fine and I need to get them back in the crate.  But Brooklyn has finally realized what's going on and knows what this all means (he's a slow one).  He starts to cry and scream, which always makes me freak out.  I feel the sweat dripping down my back (a sure sign of stress) as I shove him back in the crate as he wails, all the while trying to get Mop back in the snuggie (which is not as easy as the infomercial suggests).  Mr. Man is trying to help me by telling 'little dude', aka Brooklyn, that it's okay.  I shove some cheese into the crate and then rush back to the security thing to get my belongings.

That's right, I have done all the above with no shoes.

This is when I realize I have lost my plane ticket.  So when one is feeling under pressure one does not think clearly.  If you have checked in and lost your ticket, it's not a big deal.  But with Brooklyn wailing, Mop scratching at the cage with his snuggie on upside down, and sweat trickling into my underwear, I am not thinking clearly.

Did I mention that although I arrived with plenty of time, I am now supposed to be at my gate because Mr. Man took so long to come get me?

Mr. Man retraces my steps looking for the tickets.  He says that he saw it in my bag and maybe it fell in between my books. I tell him NO!  I left it behind.  He's looking everywhere for it, in discarded bins, on the belt, generally holding up the line.  Then I find it.  It was in my pocket.  So I pretended to find it on the floor behind me.  HA!

Anyways, the dogs are now crated, they are calmed down because I gave them more cheese and I am no longer sweating.  I saw goodbye and proceed to my gate where I sail right on and find that I am seated in the first row . . . . of economy, but still, it's awesome.

In general, I have perfected the art of traveling with dogs.  We only had one tiny hiccup.

Every airline and airport is different so I must accept the fact that I can only control what happens at my end.

But not Mr. Mop or Brooklyn's end.  One of them had a nervous poop at security I noticed.  Serves Nazi man right.  That's the terrorist thing I was trying to sneak through . . .

Friday, November 27, 2009

Video Viewing!!!

Some people have commented that watching the video's off of blogger take forever. To view them faster check out my channel on YouTube

Dessert Awesomeness

It's time for another video.  And the quality keeps getting better and better.  Actually I lie.  It keeps getting worse.

My mum wondered why my clothes change throughout this particular video. I had to explain that I simply couldn't eat three desserts in one day.  I had to break it up, you know?  Well, I probably could eat three desserts but I am certain I would spend the rest of the day sick.  So that's why my outfits change.

Oh, and I also talk about Brooklyn being better.  Better than what you may ask?  I was sort of comparing in to Manhattan.  And I lied about the food being better.  It's as good, just cheaper.  Then again cheaper makes it better right there right?

Also, at Sweet Melissa's I sort of didn't have permission to film, so it's via my computer.  At the Chocolate Room I arrived, ordered and then realized I forgot my memory stick for the camera.  So it was a la computer again.  I was too lazy to walk back to my house in the rain.  Even though I might have burned some of those layer cake calories.  That cake by the way, is probably the best chocolate cake I have ever eaten.  The texture, moisture, level of sweetness.  It took a year for them to perfect it!  You can tell I like it because I have chocolate on my teeth when I talk to you.  Like a messy three year old.  I'm so elegant.

The only place I had it truly together was at Blue Marble, the best ice cream I have ever tasted.  It tastes homemade (as I say).  My dad wonders what that means.  It just means it doesn't taste like the waxy crap you get at the grocery store.

Anyways, enjoy the show.  Desserts in Cobble Hill are amazing - so you should really take my advice!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

le Croissant, le Croissant - How I LOVE le croissant!

There have been two times in my life where I have gained considerable weight.

The first time I was 19 and living in the UK - an alternative to the 'freshman fifteen' if you will.  The second, when I was playing an alien in Japan (long story) at the age of 24.  And I am possibly on the verge of another 'fat face' era.  If only I could stop myself!

It's all down to one culprit.  A buttery, flakey, perfectly light & delicious but altogether EVIL culprit.

The croissant.  Or as my friend Alex would say, le Ckkkkkhhhhhrrrraaaaaaasaaaaant.

Damn you French pastry.  Damn you straight to my hips!

In England, I worked at a cafe where we baked baguettes, croissants, and pain au chocolat every morning.  We got to take home what wasn't sold.  I was 19, living on four pounds an hour and my money was better spent on wine.  Free food it was!  Until my mum came to visit bearing some pants.  Pants that I suspected she had shrunk in the laundry.  Then I realized she hadn't shrunk them, I grew!

In Japan the assholes at Prince hotel gave us two options for breakfast: A traditional Japanese fare complete with pickled beans and fish OR fresh baked goods.  Fresh baked goods like croissants.  Well damn it, as hard as I tried I found my feet heading in the bakery direction every morning.  Butter rolls versus moldy beans?  No contest. I was told I was getting fat by one of the Japanese wives.  Apparently that's not rude there.  I comforted myself with more croissants.

Currently the problem is an amazingly lovely bakery I recently discovered a short walk from my house (short walk = exercise).  Mazzola is like a piece of heaven situated on a peaceful corner of an ordinarily busy city.  Scents of fresh breads, rolls, and yes, croissants, mixed with coffee waft out onto the street.  Fall leaves scuttle past the wrought iron tables in the warm breeze.  And New York seems to stand still for a few minutes.

Yes.  I have an obsession with this place.

The staff is wonderful and friendly (something rare here), the coffee is hot and creamy, and the croissants are INCREDIBLE.  Lovely and wonderful.  I said to myself I could only come once a week.  And then that turned into twice.  Now it's almost daily.

To be fair, it's a good morning walk for the dogs.  They too love croissants so it's not like I eat them to myself.  Mop and Brooklyn now know we are almost there when we hit Court and Union, they pull like crazy on their leash.  How can I deny them their croissant?  I must go.

This morning I convinced L'engineer to go with me.  I said we had to use up these last few nice days of fall before winter well and truly sets in.  I need an extra layer.  HA!

Anyways, we shared a croissant, a pain au chocolat (that is soooooo stuffed with chocolate it makes me cry.  Not that dinky stick that most places shove in) AND an almond croissant (that made l'engineer nearly cry.  It was that good).

On top of that, I purchased a loaf of lard bread.  Yes.  LARD bread.  Ummm, good start to weight gain?  I think so.  We had it for lunch.  WE HAD THE ENTIRE THING.  It's a loaf of bread baked with so much butter and, I suppose, lard that it simply melts in your mouth. Plus it has the added bonus of having cured meats baked inside of it.  Yes folks, a loaf of meat fat bread.

God.  It was GOOD.

I pity those who are afraid of butter, fat and carbs.  They are missing out on the joy of life.  The flakey and delightful joy of life . . .

East Village Eats

I am continuing my little videos about NYC - this one takes place in the East Village.

I went on a Food Tour of NY adventure through the East Village which is so amazingly eclectic.

If you have trouble viewing the video here, head to my You Tube channel which will give you a faster download time!!

The food in the East Village was amazing.

We had bubble tea at Saints Alp Teahouse (an import from Hong Kong), rice rolls from Sunrise Market (an amazing Japanese grocery store that sells everything from unagi to pottery), amazing fries from Pommes Frites which included dips like mango chutney and parmesan peppercorn, takayaki (octopus balls) from Otafuku an authentic Japanese street meat vendor (hmmm, except for the Mexican music perhaps), delicious and cheap falafels from Mamouns, and a perfect ending with Italian cookies and cannoli from Veniero's Pastry, an Italian bakery serving the East Village for nearly 100 years!

Candy is the owner and operator of Food Tours NY, and she is a great and very sweet guide.  When in New York, you should take a food tour not only to see a neighborhood but to taste it as well.  For $40, they are GREAT values!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Book Lovers Yipee!

When I love a book, I go to Amazon and try to find similar titles.

But now there is Book Seer which is so fun and cute.  Type in the title and author of the book you love, and then Book Seer will gather similar titles from Amazon, LibraryThing, and BookArmy.

Typing in The Matchmaker of Perigord now . . . .

The Engineer's New Job Makes it to SNL

Although the Engineer was a bit bummed at not getting his first choice job back in Calgary, I feel he can take comfort in the fact that his new place of work is famous.  SNL Weekend Update famous.

The Engineer will be working at the bank Goldman Sachs.  It's famous for lots of reasons.  I know about it because it gets a mention in the NYC Water Taxi Harbour tour.  And it's always mentioned on SNL.

Unfortunately, this clip doesn't paint it in the best light.  In fact, the Engineer points out that he now works for one of the most hated companies.  I think it's cool.
Seth and Amy's 'Really?'

If you can't view Hulu in Canada, download the hotspot shield  Now you can watch American TV in Canada!  Muhahahaaa

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Time for Tea

In the hustle and bustle of the big city, it's always nice to find a quiet retreat to take time out and drink my favorite beverage: tea.

On a lovely fall afternoon, Tara and I planned to meet on E 64th at a cute little place called Alice's Tea Cup for scones and tea.  I love love love this place.  They have three 'chapters' - one on the Upper West, one nearer to Central Park and this one (which is also near Central Park).  For $10 you get a large pot of tea (brewed to perfection), two homemade scones (which are massive) with cream and jam.  We both always get a buttermilk scone which is a staple here, and we both tried one of their daily scones:  lemon coconut.  Can you say delicious?

If you find yourself around any of these tea houses after a long day at the Met or shopping at Bloomingdales, they are a great place to pop in for some quiet relaxation.  Or if you want to host a little girl teaparty here complete with fairy wings, you can also do that . . .

The best part about days like these is how they turn out.  Tara and I were only supposed to meet for tea.  But then a walk to Madison felt appropriate.  So we trumbled off to the stores.  Walking along New York avenues at twilight is somehow cosy and comforting.  Strange how this city can feel so homey.  There is something about the early evening, the lights, the preparation for Christmas that feels nice.  Our tea turned to shopping to hot chocolate to Sephora to Rockefeller Center to chicken on rice across from the Hilton.

The best kinds of friends are the friends you don't want to leave so badly that you keep finding more places for fun.