Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas cookies and counting blessings




image courtesy of peanuts.wikia.com

Oh my God do I ever love A Charlie Brown Christmas. Ah, good memories. The soundtrack alone is timeless.

The picture above highlights the overall theme of this post. We all know it's coming, and personally, I no longer dread it. That's right, I'm talking about Christmas.

I've come to the point where I love seeing Christmas trees and wreaths on doors again. All the lights, and yes, even the songs and terrible holiday movies that show up (thankfully) once a year make me smile. It's nice to fall in love again.

Now that I've written that, please don't think I've been nipping into the nog too much. That would just be an excuse to try to be funny. The truth is I really feel like it's the beginning of a love affair again. Put the barf bag away and hear me out.

It was my birthday a few weeks ago. Clearly I'm getting older, but time has also reeducated me on the importance of having family and friends around, especially at this time of year.

I've read some pretty disheartening statistics about what can happen with some families and individuals over the Christmas season. It's not all ho, ho, ho and Rudolph's red nose. There is immense pressure on everyone to be of good cheer and be generous.

I can understand that. My feelings used to be pretty anti-Christmas after Rob's death. Definitely not cheery nor generous, and I'd be spoiling for a fight if anyone said ho, ho, ho to me ..'ahem'.

But the thought of spending another Christmas with the past hovering over me like Scrooge was not something to look forward to. I reached a point where I had to just let go of Christmas' past with Rob, and remember what it used to be like for me: fun, lots of food and good times. I wanted it back, so here we are.

This year it just finally feels right to be happy about the holidays, and it was worth the journey to get here. So what is the personal reward for this change of heart? I'm going to make cookies.

I already have the kinds of cookies I plan on baking picked out (Linzer, traditional shortbread, lemon sable dipped in chocolate, and Ina Garten's Jam Thumbprints - the recipe is so damn good, check it out here) and work begins next week. Pictures will be posted.

So please everyone, raise a glass of Ch√Ęteau de Bligny Blanc de Blancs Champagne - or a glass of ginger ale if we're not drinking, and express those Christmas salutations and blessings to your family and friends.

Now please note that this is not the last post for 2013. There will be a 2013 year in review post, and I meant it when I mentioned that I'll be posting Christmas cookies pic - unless of course it turns out like crap and in that case, imagination may have to suffice.

Happy Holidays, and to really get in the spirit of Christmas, because you all know I can't resist a musical tie-in, please check out Nat King Cole's classic The Christmas Song!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The recipe is just not that into you



"What the hell was I thinking making you?"
image courtesy of foodidentitytheft.com


Raise your hand if you've made a mistake with a certain recipe. Yup, I see you, and I feel your pain. I know it hurts when a recipe just doesn't want to be committed to all the time and effort you put into creating it.

The toughest part is how to deal with the rejection. As a matter of fact, I've even written about how to handle that very situation right here. At the time of that particular posting, I sincerely believed the advice provided was pretty helpful, maybe even verging on practical. But opinions have changed since then.

There was one thing that I failed to mention in that post, and it's this: maybe, just maybe that recipe rejection may not have entirely been your fault!

That's right my friends. That recipe you tried to add to your culinary life may not have been entirely honest with you, thus making it much more likely for you to fail when you try it. I know right? If you are shocked, disappointed or even angry by this news, you have every right to be. It's not a wonderful feeling to know you may have been duped by a pretty picture in a cookbook or an online cookery site.

Recipes are fascinating creations. Without it, you couldn't make anything, unless of course you're that natural cook who can magically put anything together simply by looking and tasting - and there are people out there who can do this. I call those people ghosts, because you know they exist, yet you can never really find them. And if you do, you are utterly blown away, your life is changed forever.

Ghosts aside, you've heard the following stated over and over again: simple and easy recipes, simple and easy results. The problem is that a great deal of the 'simple' recipes your reading, have either been edited, chopped, changed or just plain wrong. So again it may not be your fault if the dish you made tastes like shit.

So how do you get over a recipe rejection? This is probably where that list I created here to get over cooking disasters may come in handy. Or you can admit that the recipe was just not that into you, pick up the pieces of that broken casserole dish or and look out for the next recipe that's waiting for a special cook like you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Attention shoppers, your food is shrinking!




image courtesy of www.thestar.com

But your grocery bill isn't.

We all know that shopping for food is either going to be tolerable to you, or a giant pain in the ass. However way you feel about it, it has to be done. But have you noticed that your food bill seems to be increasing, while the size of certain items may actually be decreasing?

Look at the packaging of bacon for example. It has definitely decreased in size, but yet the pricing remains the same. Have you noticed? If you think about what you've bought lately, are suspicious things starting to jump out at you that you disregarded at the time of purchase? The bacon example is just one of many shifts and changes being made by various food organizations. These changes are effecting the food you buy in the grocery store, and it's happening as quickly AND quietly as possible.

It's very easy to overlook what's going on right in front of your eyes in the world of food, but luckily there is a website that will help you pay attention - check it out, it's called Consumer World. I am not attached to this site, but I am doing my part to increase it's profile because I believe there is definite need for this information to be accessible for all consumers. It's a simple but effective site, not only in raising awareness of any changes to the food you enjoy, but also any changes in overall consumer practices.

Read, learn and be vigilant!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More tales from the modelling crypt* Update!



I swear I've done just about every pose found in this picture - image courtesy of freepsdfiles.net

(Scroll down for the updated info)

I can't help but notice that the posts about my modelling past attracts quite a bit of attention from readers of this blog. That's cool to know and I'm happy to write about it, occasionally.

As I've said in previous posts about modelling, time has given me a better perspective of my fashion sentencing. What's even better, is that I'm also realizing the time spent looking pretty may be playing a bigger part in my ongoing career pursuit within the world of food that I originally thought.

I suppose in some ways you could tie the two industries together in a positive way, and I think, thanks to the blog, I'm doing it, right here, right now. Ah, you just knew it was coming, the musical tie -in! Why hello there Jesus Jones, where have you been all these years?.

It must be said that the modelling industry is a total trip. Anyone who has been in it, still in it, passed through it, whatever would have to agree. When I say it's a trip, I mean it's just so out there that again, when I think about my time in it, I sometimes wished I had felt a bit more comfortable and relaxed about the whole experience.

The things you see, the things you wear. Hell, even the things you have to do to get jobs. No, nothing gross I quickly add, just really random, stupid things they'd make you to do to get a "glimpse" of your personality.

It could range from hilarious to humiliating. Hilarious, when your story about getting lost in Paris and nearly choking on a baguette actually makes people laugh and you end up landing that great campaign. Humiliating, when you're forced to make out with some random stranger and ultimately discover the reasons why some actors are paid very well to fake passion and make it look so real for an audience.

You've got to develop a very thick skin to handle the ups and downs. Of course, not literally develop a thick skin because you know, it is modelling, and any sort of weight gain is not the goal (ahem). More importantly, you have to take very, very good care of that thick/thin skin.

Here's a tip future fashion girls and boys: starving yourself is not the way to take care of yourself. Of course I have twenty years of hindsight and therapy to back me up now, but I sure didn't and wouldn't understand those words of wisdom if I was told back in the day. Hey, better to understand it later rather than never, right?

Oh modelling, what a weird world you were. It's very true when it's said that guys really aren't a big deal when it comes to that world. Ok, maybe now that's changed thanks to the incredible rise of male supermodel David Gandy, but he's like one in a million who actually makes money!

Seriously though, it is by no means a lucrative way of life for men as it is for women. So you can just imagine how small potatoes I was on that farm. Hey, did you see the food reference there? I knew I'd continue to find ways to tie the two industries together.

After leaving that insane (but fun) world behind, I began the pursuit of a career in writing, communications and food including culinary school and ended up here, in this hard to define world of whatever life throws at me. All these adventures in modelling, cooking, writing, makes me wonder what my life would have been like if I just stuck to an actual career that could be defined?

It definitely would have been easier. Having an actual word or words, or some description that defines your career really helps people relax around you. It's quite something to watch how unsure people become around you when you tell them you don't know what you're doing, but dammit you have a plan and you'll just see where it takes you. Career fluidity is not embraced as much as we'd like it to be.

I've realized, with an ounce of humour and a cup of trepidation, that I am once again in a world where you can't make any money unless you're well known. Struggling is never fun, and although it's necessary, I don't really recommend it. I will, however, say that learning about the world, whether it's been through modelling or cooking, or writing about both, has been the absolute best part of travelling down this less known world of an undefined career.

I still wonder where all this 'experience' will lead. My friend said hopefully he won't see me picking up garbage by the side of the highway. I said that if you do, I'll be the best dressed, well travelled guy doing it! Which reminds to put this little mind bender out there. I read this on my twitter feed and its stuck with me ever since. If you were given a book that was all about your life, right up to the present day, but then actually goes on to tell you how your life will end, would you read it?

Food for thought.

*UPDATE. Oh yeah, and one more old modelling pic from 1994. Man, you just couldn't escape the 'grunge' look even if you tried! Please scroll down, but before you do, I'll share a little story about the picture.

I remember this shoot the most out all the things I've done, because it was the only time I really hated modelling. The photographer was a complete asshole who kept calling me Mike no matter how many times I told him my name. Not to mention, he LOVED the model who is walking beside me in the picture. He made that very, very clear, and kept pushing me and the other model to the back. Hence, the shitty lighting on both of us, while long haired model looked amazing. To be fair, long haired model was a really nice guy and the days events were not his fault.

I sincerely didn't give a shit whom the photographer preferred, then or now, but I do recall the creative directors in charge of the shoot had to tell him to stop doing that and get us in the shots. I know. Drama. But Holy F*ck I wanted to kill the photographer (and yes I remember his name, but no snitching allowed in this story)! I must say though, that I'm pretty proud of the fact that the picture turned out ok and that I'm smiling somewhat naturally on what was a very shitty day. Oh well, I got paid for it so it's all good.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Food attack! The tangled price we pay..





image courtesy of www.mnn.com

..of where we choose to eat and play. Hey, not bad eh? I did the best I could with that old-school quote, so passing marks for trying? Since I started writing the post, I've had the song "Heart Attack" by Olivia Newton John in my head. Hey, I can't help what pops into my head! I'm changing the lyrics from heart to food attack. Why? because I can and it's fun. You try it - sing it here!

Lets get back on track here. It doesn't need to be said just how much my hometown city of Toronto is changing. Or maybe it does. It's on par with some of the top cities on the planet as one of the most expensive places to live. Particularly in the downtown core of the city where I live. Luckily, I've been (somewhat) smart about where and how I spend my money, but a recent trip to the grocery store got me thinking about the price I really pay to eat and live in a desirable part of town. Is it even worth it?

My recent grocery bill was $75.52. I know. That is crazy costs for one person for one weeks worth of food, although maybe not surprising. As you know, my dear reader, having caught a glimpse into my culinary life based on this blog, I like to eat well. And if you are surprised, get Taylor Swift in your head and shake it off because you shouldn't be surprised. At all.

Yikes, I've quoted Taylor Swift and Olivia Newtown John. In the same post. Please don't give up or leave yet, there is a point to all of this, I promise!

I know this has been written ad nauseam in various magazines, online financial editorials and newspapers, but it must be repeated often because it may not be getting though to people. If you plan on moving to Toronto, especially downtown, be prepared to pay heavily for it.

The grocery bill highlighted above would shake anyone who lives outside of the city. I can almost hear the suburban voices telling me to drive somewhere else to get cheaper items. What a great idea! I'll just plunk myself in a Zipcar, endure Toronto's notorious traffic gridlock for hours, just to potentially save myself seven cents off the total bill? No thanks.

I do agree that the costs for food is very high, but that's what happens when you choose to be in a place where everyone else wants to be. More people means more chances to make money, and that includes the food industry. It is not exempt from price gauging. Have you seen the cost of bacon lately?

I have chosen to live in a desirable spot in the city, therefore the price I pay not only to eat, but for just about everything else I need, will be quite high. That's just basic economics. I understand this,I may not like it, but I've determined that it is worth it for me to be where I am.

Can I save money on my future grocery bills living in the central part of the city? But of course! People don't blow their horns about the amazing St Lawrence Market, Chinatown or Kensington Market for nothing. Visiting these places can help you can save a ton on your purchases of fresh fruit and veggies. And yes, even the meat and fish are a bit more affordable than your regular grocery store.

My motto for downtown food lovers: "Seek and ye shall find true savings, and avoid the dreaded grocery bill shock attack."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Modelling and food: A hungry memory




images courtesy of www.betcheslovethis.com and www.boredpanda.com

Food and body image - always at war.

In a previous post, I had written about my modelling past. For any new viewers of the blog, you may read it here. In that post, I happily acknowledging that yes, I was a photo whore and finally, after years of denial, have owned it. It turned out to be a pretty popular post . Yes, I did talk about the fun it was at the time, and there are a few accompanying pics scattered within the post that I'm actually quite proud of. What I didn't mention, was what I had to do from a food perspective to be able to even stay in that business.

When I was first approached about becoming a model, I was scouted shopping in my hometown Barrie's Eaton's department store. Aw, I miss Eaton's, but I digress. I was young, just 21 years old, and in university. I was also working part-time at a catering company. When you combine all of those ingredients, it turned into a mess of excessive partying, lots of drinks, good food from work, bad food off work, late night study periods, all leading to the dreaded college weight gain. The weight gain happened to a lot of us, save for the most disciplined. I was not disciplined. I didn't take the scout seriously, and forgot about it.

It wasn't until I was stopped for the second time a few years later on the subway in Toronto, that the possibility of being a model might not actually be a joke. I took a good look at myself and thought, "Ok, if people are interested in you, and you're a bit overweight, perhaps a little diet might be a good idea before you even think about plunging into this modelling thing."

So that's what I did. But replace diet with starve.

I will say straight off the bat, that the diet idea at the time was of my own doing. The agency was not up my ass about my looks or weight. I just knew that my stomach could use some toning. I was by no means an expert on what the word 'diet' really entailed, but I certainly believed that I did at the time. I'm still uncertain to this day about it's true meaning, other than it has the word 'die' with the letter 'T' attached to it. 'Nuff said, because you really feel like you are depriving yourself of all the fabulous things you, well, maybe what I love to eat. Cake, pie, chips, greasy burgers, croque monsieurs mmm. All that great stuff, everything that was allegedly so gross and tasty? Gone.

I became consumed with cutting out meat, alcohol, cutting everything I deemed to be 'bad'. I became subsistent on a diet of a slice of bread with tuna, and maybe, maybe a banana or an orange. Or, it could be a small portion of fried rice and vegetables. Or, if I really wanted to be wild? Grapes. I started to become more vigorous with exercising, and I lost a ton of weight. I also became 'that guy'. You know whom I'm referring to. The ones who say to everything on a menu "Oh, I can't eat that, I'm a vegetarian." Or, "I can't drink that, I've stopped drinking," along with "Do you know how bad drinking is for you, and blah blah blah?" In other words, a total killjoy.

The thing was, I wasn't even close to being a real vegetarian or anything approaching healthy. Ordering a filet of fish instead of a Big Mac does not a vegetarian make. I really was completely misguided, but I suppose I can partly blame that on being young and uninformed. I mean lets be fair here, the internet did not exist and yes, I suppose a visit to the library would have been a good choice to do research, but why? Everything - from a 'diet 'perspective, at that time was working out so well. Sure, my Mother was terrified at my weight loss, as were my friends, and rumours of my having an eating disorder started to pop out of no where, which really sucked. Oh well, I was making money!

I know that the modelling industry is what you make of it. You are making decisions that you may deem worth doing or not, like anything else in life. I regret nothing about that life. Of course, now that I'm older, with an eye to possibly, maybe, potentially entering back into the world I left behind, I'm becoming a bit - ok, a LOT more aware of what I'm eating and drinking. If you think I'm cutting out the good stuff, you'd be very wrong. I love to eat and I love a good drink - he states clearly as he builds a career around those two subjects. I'm just much more disciplined about portion control and making sure I balance that with lots of exercise. That's right, I became disciplined, and yes I shocked myself but it can happen people!

As it turns out, eating well is always fantastic, but being able to eat what you like and be healthy, feel and look great while doing it is really the ultimate reward.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We are Canadians: Strong and Free




image courtesy of www.pinterest.com

I love my country, and I am very proud to be Canadian.

The horrific events that have happened today in Ottawa, and on Monday in Quebec, has truly been a shock to our country's collective system. Canadians are well aware that we are not immune from terrible events, but the shootings on Parliament Hill, in our nations capital, is so against the Canadian 'way' - if I can call it that, that I, and many, many others are deeply stunned that it actually happened here. Completely shocked.

I worry what this event could do to the country. My hope is that it pulls us together and creates an even stronger, united country. But, I also know that the safe haven in which we have always viewed our home country, has now been irrevocably compromised. Worse, I worry that this event might be used in a way that will challenge the Canadian way of life, our attitudes, our ability to empathize, all of it, in a negative way.

The majority of Canadians know how lucky we are to live in such an amazing country. We know, and we have tried to never take that for granted. If we did, are eyes are wide open now. We will get through this, and more importantly, we will work hard to ensure that this event will not be used as a political, racial, or social weapon to be used against others. In any way.

The events today will not change who we are: the truth north, strong and free.