Day 94: Get on Pinterest.

How many pine cones does it take to make something pinteresting?

I believe that Pinterest will be the runaway BeDazzler of the decade, since you can simply gather your already shiny objects into your own personal virtual space, rather than having to manually add sparkle to every item you own, one be-dazzling little rhinestone at a time.

R. Patts.  The other BeDazzler.

Way back in mid-April, I attempted to join Pinterest.  It did not initially go well, as I was informed that I would receive an invite just as soon as they could get around to it.  To be fair, it only took a day or so, but that is a lifetime when you have a daily blog to write.  I had to settle for making incredibly delicious Peanut Butter Bars that night instead – oh, the hardship!

So, in a nice game of proverbial tit for tat, seeing as how they couldn’t be bothered to let me join Pinterest right away, I had been neglecting them ever since, because that showed exactly, well, no one…?  Okay, to be fair, I just hadn’t had the chance to revisit the site, although I had curiously received notifications that people had started to follow me on it.  How interesting my boards of nothingness must have seemed to them.  Perhaps I should have updated my profile in there to explain that I was all about pursuing ultra-modern-minimalism, approaching zero.  Because then I could claim to be an overachiever, just to mess with their minds.  Is that wrong?

Anywho, here’s the deal with Pinterest:  as far as I can tell, it has two major talents.

First of all, it’s like an on-line dating service for attracting internet objects that are especially shiny to you.  So, you start by giving it some indication of what tickles your fancy.  It then goes out and finds people with boards that seem to jive the most with what you favour.  Similar to Twitter, you are then mysteriously following those individuals, and their pins appear on your home page, which you can then re-pin, much like the re-tweet.  If you link your account to your Facebook, it then further sets you up to follow your friends, which is, I suspect, how I gathered my most recent (no doubt unintentional) followers.

The second significant draw for Pinterest is its ability to collect as you go, as it thoughtfully provides you with a Pin It button on your toolbar in your internet browser of choice.  You can then capture and categorize all the random photos and stories into your own virtual scrapbook, complete with layouts that you can arrange, and witty remarks that you can add to keep your followers suitably entertained.

There’s no place like Home… on Pinterest.

For the real shiny object folks in the crowd, it can further act as a tool to try and train yourself to stay more focused, since it allows you to mark items that caught your eye while you were researching something else, for you to follow-up later when you have a little more time for such pleasant distractions.

Finally, word on the street has it that Pinterest’s database consists largely of f-words like forward fashion, food fetishes, and our furry friends, and it is growing much faster than Facebook and Twitter put together.  Who would have thunk it?

So, what’s in your tickle trunk?

Personally, I’ve added quite an array of contrasting characters to one of my boards, since they are all people who inspire me in very different ways.  I’ve also started a ‘gotta make this someday’ type of recipe board, which will undoubtedly have a cheese-specific sub-text.  For instance, it only contains one pin so far, which happens to be for a salted caramel cheesecake.  Who am I to fight the laws of attraction?  Happy pinning!

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Day 93: Friday Night Live @ROM.

The Mexican Loch Ness monster.

Before we get into the whole ROM thing, I have to confess that probably my favourite thing about today was finally getting to pop my Grand Electric cherry.  This Mexican restaurant in the people’s republic of Parkdale has been lined up practically since the day it opened late last November.  We lucked out in that the weather was crap, and apparently not many hipsters want to queue in the rain – maybe it messes with all the product in their hair?  Dunno.  So, even though we got there a mere 15 minutes before they opened at 6 pm, we were able to get one of their coveted tables in the first seating.  It was like winning the foodie lottery!

A platter full of happy goodness.

I am delighted to report that the spicy squid, baja fish tacos, and guacamole and chips, served with a large, salty pork rind, all lived up to the hype.  Indeed, the Colonel himself would have had to admit that the food was truly finger-licking good – as my fellow diners can attest.  The reasons I will return are several:  to try the queso fundido, some of their bourbon-based cocktails, and possibly one of their two desserts.  And, of course, simply for more of everything – I mean, who doesn’t love yummy delicious food at incredibly decent prices?!!

Okay, with that off my chest, we can now move onto my second first of the day, which was attending Friday Night Live @ROM.  The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is not just for dinosaurs anymore.  Who knew?!!?

This way to the waffles.

For 10 weeks every spring, in addition to offering discounted admission every Friday from 3-5:30 pm, the ROM re-opens its doors from 6-11 pm for adults only, where many of the exhibits become backdrops for lights, music, nibblies and drinks, not to mention a sizeable dance floor.  And all that for a measly $9!  So if you’re a bit of a hipster who has always wanted to get jiggy with a T-Rex up close and personal, this is the place for you.

Each of the ten Live Fridays has a theme.  There have already been nights centred around topics such as earth week, movies, fashion, photography, and local music, to name a few.  Tonight, however, was special:  Oh Canada, Eh?  It was a celebration of the average Canuck’s favourite pastimes.  Surprisingly, no one was serving poutine, although JK Frites was there, so really, it was my fault for not bringing the purse that I had packed with the cheese curds and gravy to make my own.  Next time… c5 did have some noodles on offer, though, which is always a crowd pleaser.

Of course, with a theme like Oh Canada, Eh? there were ginormous screens everywhere showing, what else, hockey.  On one entire wall of the main gallery, conveniently located between Fidel Gastro and Waffle Bar tasty street eats, the legendary 1972 Canada vs. USSR game 8 of the Summit Series in Moscow was being projected for all to enjoy.  As if that weren’t enough, NHL’s Greatest Goals From the Last Quarter of the 20th Century was also playing in another area, presumably because, statistically speaking, the odds were in our favour that the goals were all scored by Canadians.

On the second level, we found an entire hall that was dedicated to another one of the country’s biggest passions: comedy.  If you don’t like to laugh, then do not apply for citizenship here, because you will never fit in.  It’s as simple as that.  Live performances were held by the infamous The Second City improv troupe, interspersed with screenings of Martin Short’s latest movie.  Good times were had by all!

A couple of other galleries were open as well, with knowledgeable staff at the ready to answer any questions you may have, in addition to where can you buy ROM Bucks for the bar, which was also thoughtfully serving that all-Canadian classic cocktail, the Caesar, and finding out where the washrooms were.  The galleries closed at 9:30 pm, which resulted in an instant infusion of energy to the dance floor, that carried into last call at 11 pm, because apparently dinosaurs need their beauty sleep, too.

ElectriCITY Events provided the DJs, who were indeed keeping everyone hopping, except for the phone freaks who were following a sort of scavenger ‘trek’ around the building.  Like everything else these days, the night also had its own Twitter feed at #FNLROM.  I think you’re starting to get the gist here that it’s a very cool venue, and an even hotter event, so get your buddies together and shake your bootie over there, because it only continues on Fridays through June 22nd, with no do-overs.  Just remember to bring your steel-toed shoes in case you want to get down with Mr. T-Rex, since he is rumoured to have two left feet.

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Day 92: Chinese Tuina Massage.

The use of the elbow is an ancient Chinese secret.

Just when I thought I had tried every possible kind of massage known to man, I stumbled upon yet another new variety:  Chinese Tuina massage (or Tui Na).  And just in time for thrifty Thursday!  It is similar to Reiki, in that it tries to bring the body’s energy flows (chi) back into balance.  But that is most definitely where the similarity ends.  A Tuina practitioner will use every thumb, fist and elbow available to knead, press and rub the knots right out of the acupressure points along your body.  This was quite possibly the deepest massage I’ve ever had.  I almost cried uncle!

The voucher I bought was for a 1-hour body massage treatment at the Happy Foot Spa (I paid $35, retail value $70).  I opted to redeem it at their Yorkville Avenue location, which is just below street level on the north side, closer to Bay.  The staff is extremely courteous, and the place is very clean.  What more could you ask for, really?

My practitioner’s name was Bob.  I must admit, I have always been a teensy bit jealous of my Asian friends who were allowed to choose their own English names when they moved to the West.  It’s kind of like gaining a secret identity, or becoming an international spy.

What’s in a name? Lots of squiggly lines, apparently.

One of these days, I swear I’m going to move to the Far East, and choose a name for myself that is not just something pretty, like Lily or Daisy, or plain old LaLa (拉拉), but a name that translates into something spectacularly awesome, like ‘She Who Eats Cheese And Laughs All Day‘.  Then you could call me SWECALAD for short.  It kind of has a ring to it, don’t you think?

Anywho… Back in the treatment room, I got settled under the towel and prepared myself for a proper thumping.  Almost immediately, Bob tweaked to my weaknesses, particularly in my neck, where he proceeded to seemingly ‘push and grasp‘ my vertebrae back into alignment, which, coincidentally, is the literal translation of Tui Na.

To be fair, Bob said that the treatment I was receiving was actually a combination of Tuina, Lymphatic Drainage, and Shiatsu – the best of all possible combinations.  All I know is that I definitely got my money’s worth, as the session lasted the full hour, and after just about every single part of my body had been pounded into submission, I noticed an increase in my ability to spin my head to look at shiny objects to my right.  And that has to be a good thing.  Next time, I’m thinking of adding on the Happy Foot Spa specialty – namely, reflexology.  Because toes are people too.  Now where did all my little piggies go?  They must still be at the market.  Mmmm… market.  They sell cheese there.  Gotta go!

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Day 91: Make Butter in a Jar.

Buttery Goodness, The Masterpiece.

The three secrets to French cooking, a sultry Catherine Zeta-Jones purred in the chick flick ‘No Reservations‘, are butter, butter, and butter.  From shortbread to biscuits, and sautéed prawns to candied carrots, there are few things in life that don’t taste better with butter.  I won’t even get started on its fundamental importance to making a proper grilled cheese sandwich or caramel sauce.

For these reasons and oh so many more, you can imagine my delight when I came across this relatively simple way to make my own homemade butter in a mason jar.  It involved a whole lotta shaking, and that’s about it.  My curiosity was officially piqued.

Butter deconstructed.

I started off by pouring heavy cream into the jar, fastening the lid tightly, and then shaking for what felt like hours, but what was probably a matter of minutes.

Early on during these good vibrations, LeLa offered up what seemed to be a brilliant suggestion.  Why not let the Ultra Vibe machine do the shaking for me?  While this did prove to be an entertaining distraction for a bit, it was unfortunately insufficient in fully gyrating the cream.  Alas, back down to the kitchen we went.

Eventually, persistence did pay off, and I started to notice some changes in the cream’s texture.  As advertised, it passed through a myriad of stages, including a frothy whipped cream, a smooth and silky cream, and an almost solid jar of whipped butter.

    

And that’s when it happened.  Almost instantaneously, like a phoenix rising from sodden ashes, a lump of something faintly recognizable as yellow butter magically appeared in the jar.  It was as though it had spontaneously renounced the buttermilk, like some kind of religious exorcism where the butter was part of the holy kingdom, and the buttermilk was the devil’s juice…  Or something like that.  Overdramatic? Who, moi?

The next step involved draining the buttermilk, which proved to be fairly straightforward.

Mmmm… More buttery goodness!

Thoughts of fluffy, buttermilk pancakes immediately started dancing through my head.  A pressing question then emerged:  did we have enough maple syrup?  Oh, and buckwheat would be fantastic, as would a nice strawberry sauce.  Hmm… Local strawberries hadn’t appeared on the scene quite yet, so that would have to wait.  I hoped the buttermilk wouldn’t sour in the interim.  I wondered if it could be frozen?

…And, just like that, I was back in my butter-making reality.  I re-read the next step in the recipe.  Wash the butter?  What the?!?  Apparently, leaving any buttermilk in the butter makes it go rancid very quickly, and that is, well, bad.

My main squeeze.

So, I then undertook a process of trying to squeeze it all out with the back of a wooden spoon as I transferred it back and forth from another bowl full of chilled water.  I think I tried this a few times until the novelty had worn off and I convinced myself that we could consume the resulting amount of butter within a few days, so the rancid risk was sufficiently mitigated.  If not, well, I could always make some sugar cookies to marry the butter with something equally bad for our health and yet delightful on the palate.  I was done.

Butter I am, because eat it, I did.

The seemingly miraculous appearance of the butter had left me incredibly proud of this particular accomplishment, so I felt compelled to celebrate with a couple of slices of toast, sprinkled with a little sea salt.  The verdict?  Delicious!

Unlike Mythbusters, I encourage you all to try this at home, particularly if you have children and you’re looking for something fun yet practical to do on a rainy day.  Or maybe you just need more butter around the house because of its many other applications, like unsticking your hands after crafting, oiling a squeaky door when you’re out of WD-40, shining up your leather, swallowing your pills, moisturizing your dry hair, lathering up skin for a shave, and, of course, getting that ring off of your finger.  Or for finally getting around to carving that yoda butter statue you’ve always wanted.  Hint: you’re going to need more jars.

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Day 90: Art Battle Toronto.

Get ready to rumble!

Tonight, I witnessed the Top Chef equivalent of the emerging art world.  And it rocked the casbah!  Basically, the competition consisted of two rounds of eight artists, who battled it out head to head for twenty minutes to see which of them could produce the crowd favourite within that time frame.

To add a little excitement, six of the artists (three in each of the first two rounds), were randomly selected from a hat filled with the names of willing audience participants.  The top two from each of the first two rounds then competed in the grand finale.  And it was intense!  Luckily, there were refreshments available and entertainment provided, including a warm-up singer and DJ, to keep us all jazzed up throughout the evening, as we reminded ourselves that art truly is in the eye of the beholder.

    

Art Battle TO has taken on various formats in its 29 competitions to date, including a cage match and doubles, but the basic premise is this:  pit some local and international artists against some random amateurs, supply them with a blank canvas and acrylic paints, and give them twenty minutes to create the best possible work that they can in that timeframe.  The audience mills about during the entire event, and casts their vote for the piece they like best at the end of each round.  The top two contenders from each of the first two rounds then face off in the grand finale.  At the end of the night, all of the works are up for grabs in a silent auction.

    

It was truly fascinating, humbling, and inspiring all at the same time to witness the canvases coming to life in such a short time frame.  It was also interesting to see how your own perception of each work of art evolved with every minute that elapsed.  A scene that may have completely grabbed you early on became something that made you want to bitch-slap the artist a mere quarter of an hour later.  The weird part was that you were close enough to do so at any time.  Oh, the restraint!

    

By the time the first two rounds were over, we had seen some very unique treasures arise from this pressure cooker of a process.  The crowd’s expectations were understandably high going into the finale.  In addition to the ‘Bring Back the Soul’ yellow and black entry above, here were the other three winners that managed to secure places for their creators in the ultimate showdown.

    

The first two sets of paintings were thus put aside for the silent auction, as the easels and floors were tidied and cleared to make way for the final four.  Two of the contestants had battled before as a team in a doubles event, and chose a common muse that would make it all the more interesting for their own particular rivalry:  a rat.  Yep, true story.

    

Let them eat cheesecake.

And I have to say, it worked in their favour, as the king of the rodents did indeed wind up as the big cheese at the end of the night.

The Great Hall, in uber-trendy West Queen West, proved to be a suitable venue for the hipsters both in the crowd and at the easels.  A good time was had by all, including the volunteer artist who used his fingers, toes and cheek in his masterpiece, which, while it did not earn him a place in the final paint-off, it did seem to garner him free beer from at least one delighted fan, so he got his own happy ending.

I look forward to the next battle of live competitive painting.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even throw my own name into the hat for that one.  I’m sure I’ve got some inner stick men that are just clamouring to strut their stuff on the canvas, and battle to the death for a scrumptious piece of cheesecake… Oh, wait.  I think I might be thinking about something just a little different.  Never mind.

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