Wednesday, February 29, 2012

karmic bank

Although there were some wonderful films celebrated at the Oscars this year, one of the categories of film that I am drawn to are documentaries.  When I go to a film festival, I usually attend the screenings of films that are unlikely to get major international distribution...put together with very little money, but a lot of passion and a powerful story to tell.  The audience gets to experience and discover raw and interesting talent that hasn't been influenced by a major Hollywood studio or big budget marketing campaigns.

One of my favourite authors is Margaret Atwood.  Her ability to write stories with such layers and depth has been an inspiration to me both as a writer, and previously as a film maker, (her stories are beautifully descriptive and cinematic in nature).


One of her non-fiction books, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth; (Anansi Press, 2008) a visionary book of essays about systems of wealth, justice, and reparation, was used as a narrative for a documentary that was previewed at this year's Sundance Film Festival.  

In her book, Atwood explores the history and meaning of debt, which is an especially poignant topic particularly for this moment in time where the economic world is in turmoil.  Her book delves into, what she considers, "the other meaning of debt, the debt of the the human spirit".  In an interview promoting her latest film collaboration, Atwood states that debt is not just financial debt, but a karmic bank...that we are indebted to those who have influenced us in the past (influenced with their help, their teachings or an emotional effect, positive or negative)

I like this idea of a karmic bank.  As much as we often feel grateful to those who have helped or taught us, sometimes we forget that we also hold on to the negative feelings inflicted on us which also influenced or shaped how we view ourselves today.  I often witness people who fixate on the negative, on the "revenge" of being done wrong...when bad karma goes around and around, it almost becomes never ending.  

But instead of allowing negative karma to continue, I like the idea that the act of forgiveness can help alleviate psychological debt or burden in that "karmic bank", and make one feel truly (debt) free.  And as difficult it is to forgive, it's like that feeling of trying something new for the first time.  You might be apprehensive at first but when once you take that leap, you'll feel the burden off your shoulders, and just might enjoy it.

Just let it go.

That's an idea that we can all bank on.

Monday, February 27, 2012

not a chilli reception

Some of the funniest things to listen to are the Oscar speeches (or any award show speech).  Besides the red carpet fashion, I also look forward to hearing the funny, moving or awkward speeches by some of the winners. Those speeches can be so cheesy sometimes!

I can't imagine what it's like to be on stage, televised in front of millions of people, receiving an award for a role of a lifetime.  When I was little, I used to rehearse my own little speech time and time again, influenced by many of the speeches I've heard.  Here's a few memorable quotes from last night and previous Oscar speeches that were either funny...or received a chilli reception.

Christopher Plummer, 2012 
(Oldest actor to win an Oscar)
(To the statue) "You're only 2 years older than me, 
where have you been all my life?" 

Christopher Plummer, 2012
(He deserves two quotes, his speech was that good!)
"To my long-suffering wife who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize 
for coming to my rescue every day of my life"

Meryl Streep, 2012
"First, I'm gonna thank Don, because when you thank your
 husband at the end of the speech they play you out with the music, 
and I want him to know that everything I value most in our lives, you've given me".

Meryl Streep, 2012
(She too, deserves two quotes, for her classy speech)
"I look out here and I see my life before my eyes. 
My old friends, my new friends and really... this is such a great honor, 
but the thing that counts the most with me is the friendships 
and the love and the sheer joy that we have shared 
making movies together. Thank you all - departed and here - 
for this inexplicable wonderful career."

Billy Crystal, 2004
“Good news, they found Nemo. The bad news is, they found 
him in one of Wolfgang Puck’s puff pastries”.

Kathy Bates, 2003
“Every time an Oscar is given out, an agent gets his wings”.

James Cameron, 1998
“I’m the king of the world!” 

Jessica Yu, 1996 
(short documentary film producer)
“What a thrill. You know you’ve entered new territory when you 
realize that your outfit cost more than your film”.

Sally Field, 1984
“I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” 

{sources: Listverse & Whyfame}

Now that I'm just a tad older, I don't really rehearse my own Oscar speech anymore. (okay, maybe once in a while...shhh, don't tell).  Funny thing I really do have the most amazing role of a lifetime: 

Mother. Wife. Sister. Daughter. Friend.  

With these strong women "roles", although we don't get to attend Wolfgang Puck luncheons, receive free designer gowns, or televised recognition on a world stage, I think our "award" is worth way more than the weight of that gold statue.  So quoting the always classy Tom Hanks, here's what my speech would be today (just imagine I'm on stage holding a little gold man, wearing a beautiful Armani, Monique Lhuillier, or Marchesa gown...oh just humour me, okay?). 

"I am standing here because the loved ones I share my life with
 has taught me, and demonstrates for me every day, just what love is."

I hope all of you with strong "roles" feel awarded too.  This simply said it all...a sentiment that I hope, is warmly received.

Slow Cooker Chicken Chilli on Nachos

I just made a simple slow cooker chilli, using ground chicken to make things a little healthier.  Great on organic nachos topped with cheese, sour cream and avocado.

  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans chili beans, drained
  • 1 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon bacon bits
  • 1/2 cup beer (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) bag corn tortilla chips/nachos
  • 2 cups of  shredded Cheddar and/or Mozzarella cheese (or more for garnish)
  • 1 avocado (for garnish)
  • 1 tub of sour cream (for garnish)

  • Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Brown the ground chicken until evenly cooked. Drain off excess grease.
  • Pour in the chili beans,diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the onion, celery, green and red bell peppers, bacon bits, and beer. 
  • Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano,  basil, salt, pepper, chilli powder, paprika, and sugar. 
  • Stir to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least 8 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat and serve
  • To serve, ladle into bowls filled with nachos and top with sour cream, shredded cheese, and avocado.


Friday, February 24, 2012

waiting for gold

The Greenroom, LA

Although there are so many luminaries nominated at this year's Academy Awards, I'm particularly interested to see Christopher Plummer win for Best Supporting Actor.  Not only is he a fellow Canadian, but I personally had the honour of working with him (in my past life when I worked in film and television).

There's a old saying in the film industry that what we did most of the day was "hurry up and wait".  Makeup artists and hairstylists quickly priming the actors for a scene.  Light and sound crews quickly setting up for the actors to arrive. This flurry of action immediately preceded a stillness...where time seemed to stop while we waited for the right quiet moment to occur before we heard the word, "action".

"Interior designer Michael S. Smith was inspired by the 1930s and ’40s
when creating his 2011 greenroom design, because it was a period of time,
he says, that “really established what we think of as Hollywood glamour.” 

Doing a film is like playing a unique "time game".  It's about "Let's see how fast you can get ready, and then let's see how long you can wait until it's your turn to do what you're paid to do".  While you're waiting, everything better be picture perfect ready.

"Dorothy and Roy Christopher described their design for the first official Architectural Digest Greenroom as “a tip of the hat to the glamorous settings from Hollywood’s Golden Age.” With a sleekness associated with the Art Deco era, the room matched the elegance of the stars that filled the space that evening."

It was an amazing experience to witness Christopher Plummer play this "time game".  His professionalism was the epitome of what the golden era of the film industry must have been like.  He was a true gentleman. He opened doors for others, spoke with a charming sense of humour, and never raised his voice even in a creative disagreement (and there were quite a few).  For someone who has worked with the best in film and television, he was very patient with those of us with less experience (or those who were obviously in awe with his film history...not a day went by when the Sound of Music's "Edelweiss" didn't play in many of our heads!).  He knew that great art couldn't be rushed.  And he modelled that patience...waiting "in character", extremely focused and being very still...until it was his moment to shine.

I love how this greenroom at the 2006 Oscars looked...neutral colours,
peaceful, but still glamourous.  It makes one feel that although you're waiting,
you really have arrived...and that moment to SHINE is just outside the door.

Mr. Plummer has waited quite a while to win an Oscar (he's been nominated, but never won), and I hope it is his moment to shine again, when he takes home gold this Sunday.

Academy Award 2012 Predictions

Here's my predictions for the top categories for the Oscar's this Sunday.

Best Picture: 
Who will win:  The Descendants
Who should win:  The Artist or Hugo (a silent film or Scorsese...that's a tough one for me)

Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Who will win:  Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady 
Who should win:  Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs (we've seen male actors win Oscars when they portrayed women, like in "Tootsie" or "Mrs. Doubtfire", but I'd like to see the reverse)

Best Actor in a Leading Role: 
Who will win: George Clooney, The Descendants 
Who should win:  Demián Bichir, A Better Life (I like rooting for the underdog!)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Who will win:  Octavia Spencer, The Help
Who should win:  Melissa McCarthy, The Bridesmaids 
(that epic bridal store/food poisoning scene had me in awe and in tears from her effortless performance, and for me, might go down in film history as one of the most disturbing female bathroom scenes)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:  
Who will win:  Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Who should win:  Christopher Plummer, Beginners (of course!)

Who do you think, will take home gold this Sunday?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

not having your cake

Sometimes I stumble upon a recipe and think to myself that it is something I NEED to make. Right. Now.  

One of these "need to try" recipes was Martha Stewart's "Three Tier Candied Pecan Cake with Brown Butter Pears".  It's one of those recipes where you stop reading and rummage through your cupboards hoping that you have the ingredients on hand so you can make the darn thing....right this moment.

Did I have pecans?  No.  Did I have pears?  Still no.  

So the ingredients went on my shopping list, and the next time I was at the store, I purchased those items.

Did you ever have a list and by the time you go grocery shopping, can't remember what the ingredients were supposed to be used for?  Yup. That's what happened here. By the time I remembered,  we ate the pears already, but I still had pecans. And still no cake.

Oh well, part of the recipe was candied pecans.  It sounded good, simple and easy to do right now, so that's what I ended up making.  At least I can say I started making the  "three tier candied pecan cake with brown butter pears".  I just made it...minus the cake part.  

Maybe some day.

Candied Pecans
(Extracted from Martha Stewart's cake recipe)

  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted 
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp.  pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Toss toasted pecans with butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg on a rimmed baking sheet
  • Roast, stirring halfway through until toasted, about 10 minutes.
  • Let cool.


Monday, February 20, 2012

baste not, want not

I often hear the phrase, "waste not, want not".  I had a general idea of what it meant, but wanted to know more, so I looked it up and found a clear definition:  "If we don't waste what we have, we'll still have it in the future and will not lack (want) it."

I usually heard this phrase over a meal, and it is often referenced to having too much left over food on the plate creating waste.  This is something that is often found in our house, especially since we have children.  Getting them to eat everything on their plate can at times be trying, and at other times, impossible.

There's nothing that grates me more than waste.  Throwing things away, to be exact.  I always have the notion that if  you spent hard earned money on something, it better be used to it's fullest, so nothing was wasted. Or at least save the remaining portion to be used at a later time.  But after a two hour excursion at Whole Foods, looking deeper into this phrase, I realized that it's the quality not quantity that needs to be re-examined.  Spending more money on smaller portions of quality food meant every bite counted (and costed), so every bite better be quality, and it forces you to eat what's on your plate.

I think "waste not, want not" however, also applies to other things in life other than food.  I think it applies to the quality in love and friendships too.  It means not taking for granted the things people do for you.  Like making an early breakfast to go or having a hot meal ready at when you come home from work. Or taking a break from your busy schedule to just sit with a coffee and an ear (or a shoulder).   Or an out-of-the-blue acknowledgement and compliment about work you've done.

So on Family Day today, enjoy spending time with those who've put love and effort into the quality into your life. In this world of time constraints, it's about the quality of time, not quantity of time that matters.  So make every minute count, and don't waste those treasured relationships you have....if you appreciate them, they will still be there for you in the future.   

Herb Butter Basted Chicken
(inspired from this Thanksgiving recipe)

I re-used a great herb butter recipe that was from our Thanksgiving turkey for this chicken.  It's really tasty and simple to make....that can be re-used over and over again, on various poultry, whole or in pieces.

  • 5 tbsp. butter, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. each chopped fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, and parsley
  • 2 tsp. garlic, chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 whole chicken (or approx. 4-6 pieces of breast, leg or thigh)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the lowest position. Make herb butter: In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons butter with chopped herbs; season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Loosen skin and rub the herb butter under the skin. 
  • Rub with remaining 3 tablespoons of herbed butter. 
  • Season generously with salt and pepper. 
  •  Roast 1 hour, then baste every 20 minutes with pan liquids.


Friday, February 17, 2012

family day

I have a fascination with the Tim Horton’s brand.  I’m not sure if the coffee is that great (I swear there most be something in it that makes people go crazy…), or if people go to Tim Horton’s because it has become synonymous with being Canadian.

Tim Hortons Coffee
I think the branding has worked.  After dropping off TheG at a classmate’s birthday party, I spent my time waiting  (and writing) at a local Tim Hortons.  For three hours, I saw the inflow of people coming in and out for a coffee.  Long line-ups at the drive through were continuous, and lineups inside were equally long.  People on a weekend grabbing something warm before they go outside (or inside a cold hockey rink) with the kids.

I know the line ups will be equally long this weekend.  This Monday is a government created holiday…Family Day.  (it coincides with President’s Day in the US).  It was created because the government felt that the public didn’t have enough “breaks” in between Christmas and March Break, so a statutory holiday was created to honour time with the family.  I’m not sure if it is something that is celebrated worldwide (or if any other country calls that particular day “Family Day”), but it speaks volumes for what kind of society I think (or hope) we Canadians represent.

It’s about coming back to our roots (a national clothing brand, ROOTS, has also been synonymous with Canada and caters to the cottage-bound set, with flannel, leather and sportswear).  It’s about family.  Maybe that’s what Tim Horton’s coffee evokes in people ….the warm comforting feeling of a hot coffee in our hands, after spending time together ice skating or skiing in the cold Canadian weather.

I love what it represents.  And although I think it’s sad that the government had to sanction a holiday to “force” people to spend time together as a family, it’s a message that I fully support.  So...taking a break from cooking, here’s a very easy recipe that cooks itself, so you can spend time together, as a Canadian family.

Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

  • 3 pieces of chicken breast
  • 1 jar of organic tomato sauce
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella 
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • 500g box of spaghetti noodles.

  • Put all (but the cheese and noodles) in the slow cooker.
  • Set on low for 8 hours.  
  • When done, stir in parmesan.  
  • Cook noodles, toss with chicken and sauce, then top with mozzarella.

Enjoy time with your family.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

soy good for you

After learning that Martha Stewart's show was cancelled (I wrote about it here), I was curious to know what was on in her place.  I guess there was a point, where daytime television was all about soap operas or gossip shock-talk shows.  And in the evening, television was saturated with celebrity reality show/soaps, so I ended up only watching TV for morning news/weather, and anything on AMC after 10pm.  

So for the sake of "research", I blocked off some time (I had laundry), and watched television in the afternoon.  What I discovered were two back to back shows about personal health (and both are on the ABC network).  

The first one was called "The Chew", which is more like a food network show with a daytime talk show platform.  Two of the five hosts are Chef Mario Batali (Food Network star and Gwyneth Paltrow's pal) and Dr. Oz's offspring Daphne Oz.   This show seemed to focus on the "inside self"...mostly what you put in your body.

The second one was "The Revolution", which is self-described as a show about "Body, Mind, Health and Style".  Two of the five hosts are Ty Pennington (of "Extreme Makeover" fame), and Tim Gunn (of "Project Runway" fame).  It seems to focus on the outside, design, fitness.

With the over-saturation of celebrity obsessed reality shows, it's nice to see that programming is starting to swing in a good direction. The types of programs on television are indicative of the social environment...we're just sick and tired of watching the corrupt get richer as we try to be better human beings, in a time crunched, financially restrictive world.  And we want to learn how to better ourselves, as simply as possible.

I'm not quite sure yet if these shows will provide the answer, but at least it shows as a society, we're making an effort.  I hope programming will continue to evolve to the positive again, so we can all get healthier, inside and out. 

Soy Smoothie
(Inspired from the Soy Strawberry Smoothie from "The Planet Organic" cookbook)

10.5 oz (300g) Silken tofu, soft
1 cup juice (of your choice)
1 cup black/blue/strawberries, frozen (instead of ice cubes)
1 banana
1 tbsp. pure honey

Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth (approx. 1-2 minutes).  

Serve immediately.  Yields 2 servings.

Monday, February 13, 2012

the cheesiest valentine's day present

For Valentines Day, I was thinking of a few things to write in my Valentine's Day card to "TheM".   Here's a few ideas I was tossing around:

  • I love you with all my make me feel complete. (insert *eye roll*...and a wink to those who like Tom Cruise know who you are).
  • You had me at "hello" (or maybe it was the honking diamond ring???...geez, another reference to Tom Cruise again...what's going on here???). 
  • I love you very much, even if you're an atrocious speller and watch too much golf.

Okay, so maybe I'm not being the most romantic (or suffering from writer's block, yea that's it!) but I do think this "holiday" can sometimes get a little cheesy.  So, in honour of Valentine's Day's two cheesy presents from me to you, to celebrate the occasion.  

Love and Romance Movie Tribute

Mini Cheesecakes

Mini cheesecakes are simple to make. Although there is an art to making full sized cheesecakes (involving bathwaters, aerating the cheese, etc.), these mini versions aren’t as labour intensive…primarily because they bake faster and don’t crack as easily.  Any little cracks can also be covered with a simple fruit spread!  And no crushing cookies (i.e. making a mess) to make cookie crumbs...oreo cookies fit perfectly at the bottom of a regular/large muffin liner.

Makes 12 mini cheesecakes


  • 6 oreo cookies, split apart (so you have 12 wafers), cream removed.
  • 1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese (softened in the microwave for about 15 seconds)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of raspberry jam (or jam of choice), warmed in the microwave for 25 seconds.
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted.


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line muffin tins with liners.
  • Place 1 oreo cookie/wafer into each muffin liner.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. Fill each muffin liner with this mixture, approx. half way.
  • Bake for 15 minutes. Cool. Top with a teaspoonful of warmed jam or drizzle with chocolate and top with berries.

Enjoy, and say cheese.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

at the heart of valentine's day



As much as I don't like the commercialization of Valentines Day, I like the idea that there's positive benefits of giving to someone you love.  And to me, that's the heart of Valentines.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

in vogue

Givenchy sketches of Madonna's Super Bowl costumes {source}

A lot was said this past week, about Madonna's halt time performance at The Super Bowl.  Twitter went off the charts during her performance (it apparently was the second highest twitter traffic that night, second to the end of the game).

I hate to admit this, but I've seen almost all the Madonna concerts (pre-Guy Ritchie) so for me, I wasn't as impressed as my friends were with her show (although I was impressed with the gorgeous Givenchy costumes and Philip Treacy hats...I loved that!).  Although the dramatics of the show was the best one I've seen for a football game, it seemed like she needed Nicky Minaj and LMFAO to help her appear relevant.

Photo courtesy of Vogue

However, one thing that is typical Madonna is her ability to be on the pulse of trends.  She might not be the trail blazing trend setter she was in the 80's and 90's, but she still knows when to spot it and flaunt it.  During her performance, she wore black and gold, the au courant colours that harken back to the era of opulence.  Her choice of Givenchy were also a throw back to an era that also heralded old world wealth and power.  A time when, the famed interior designer, Dorothy Draper was the doyenne of good taste and design.

This is the Greenbrier Hotel's Victoria Room, designed by
Dorothy Draper, one of the most photographed hotel rooms in history.
This "España Bunching Chest" is one of the hottest pieces of furniture to acquire (or DIY copy)
in the home decor industry right now.  Dorothy Draper was commissioned by the Spanish government
 to design this to raise the profile of Spanish design internationally.

You can see how modern interior designers are using this aesthetic right now, with plenty of gold and dramatic black.


Designed by David Jimenez

So although the economy is still going through difficult times, as Clint Eastwood said in Chrysler's Super Bowl ad (you can see it here), "our 2nd half is about to begin"...and we just might see more gold in our future.

And even if we only see the gold in aesthetic terms, like in fashion or furniture...Madonna, I tip my (Philip Treacy) hat to you, for still being, in vogue.