At least I have Eton A. Holton

November historically is a month known to usher in numerous first-world problems. Darker days, pedophilic facial hair, wrist-slitting Christmas holiday music while you’re standing in a three mile line up at Walmart to buy socks…

The worst thing about November for me is that winter is so incredibly close to kicking you in the ass for the next three months. Toronto put up a brave fight last year and came out victorious, officially cutting out winter 2011-2012. The only thing Toronto is cutting this winter are the lineups at the pharmacy for anti-depression meds.

But you know me, I’m not one to waste too many words wallowing in this annual life obstacle. Obviously, I will fight the winter blues in the best way I know how: Food and listening to Taylor Swift.

T. Swift’s music is the perfect laxative for tough city girls like me who suffer from seasonal bouts of emotional constipation. The other day I was having my dinner and listening to Taylor’s new album when all of a sudden, I burst into tears for no apparent reason. Taylor is a lyrical genius, I thought to myself while sobbing into my very large bowl of vegetable casserole. 

But I know this year, the cold is coming out swinging. If my only defense mechanism is being an avid emotional eater and a proud Swiftie, then I might as well put a target on my ass and moon winter.

I needed something more concrete. In my daily routine of scouring food websites, I found it. The key to (temporary) winter happiness: a blender.

I thought about this thoroughly. The endless possibilities when you have a blender!  Just think of all the indoor culinary adventures one could engage in this winter! Elaborately made gourmet smoothies, homemade jams, chutneys, almost every home-cooked meal (you’d be surprised at how many meals need a blender),  guacamole…just about anything that requires shit loads of work, patience and washing up later on.

I trudged my way to Sears. Picking the right blender is key (to having fun at Sears). I asked one of the many salesladies who didn’t speak English about which blender would be ideal for me. After making several blender hand gestures and voicing blender sounds to the ESL saleslady, I was finally pointed to the general grinder section. I sifted through the entire family tree of food smashers until the holy Sears spotlight of kitchen appliances fell on my new BFF.

Eton A. Holton was not available at the time for a photo-op. But he’s a fine poser for Paint sketches like these.

His christened name is Eton A. Holton.

I took Eton A. Holton out of his box, gave him a bath and introduced him to his new home in my kitchen. Because I have no patience, I immediately loaded raspberries, blackberries and yogurt into Eton A. Holton. I sealed in the top, plugged him in and hit the grind button. Nothing happened. Eton A. Holton stood there staring at me silently while I stared back confused. 

I removed the berries and the yogurt which was no easy or tidy feat, dismantled everything, put everything together again and screwed the top back on. Again….NOTHING. Eton A. Holton stared at me stubbornly. Angrily. Passively. Stupidly.

What the hell was I doing wrong? I finally had the bright idea of reading the manual. Under the section “How do single girls get Eton A. Holton to work after you stuff him with berries”, it stated that I make sure Eton A. Holton is fully plugged in, stuffed with food (but not too stuffed) and most importantly: put the lid on and close this tightly the right way. 

Eton A. Holton was closed alright. I kept removing the lid and trying out a million different ways to close it, but all in vain. I wanted to cry but couldn’t because only T.Swift has that kind of power over me.

The manual had a phone number for tech support. It hit me, as I collapsed on my kitchen floor in shame, that this was the lowest point in my tough,  city girl single life: having to call tech support for a blender. 

I dropped everything, ate a cookie and thought I’d go back for one last try before I called Sanjay in Mumbai Scott in Maine for help. I must have screwed Eton A. Holton’s top on right this time because the moment I hit his buttons, he smirked and roared into gear.

In four and a half seconds, I had an expertly blended but very disgusting tasting smoothie. 

It was then that I realised how very similar me and Eton A. Holton really are. We are two perfectionists brought together by fate and Sears to teach each some important life lessons. I have learnt three so far:

1) Don’t be such a tight ass. Oftentimes there is more than one right way to do things. 

2) Enjoy the moment. Sometimes the blended fruit of your life’s labors isn’t even close to what you imagined it to be and you realize that the most fun you had was the process of putting it all together and making it work. 

3) Don’t settle. The right person will take the trouble to learn exactly how to turn you on and push the right buttons before you give away your smoothies at the yard. 

I have no more lessons because its only been a week since I’ve had Eton A. Holton. So far, we have made a six month supply of crushed garlic, spinach-chickpea fritters and one expertly blended, disgusting tasting smoothie.

Eton A. Holton hasn’t budged on the right way to turn him on, but he does push the boundaries with how much food he can take.

Lesson 4) Try as you might, you can never eat more than a Holton. (Holton= Hole-ton=Whole-ton…for those of you who didn’t catch my pathetic attempt at wordplay) 

Audience Questions: 1) What are you guys doing to beat the winter blues?

2) Does ANYONE here know how to make a decent smoothie?

Un petit morceau de Montréal

Disclaimer:

Dear French people,

Please forgive the very likely possibility that all my French words/expressions are wrong and/or misplaced. Je suis sorry :(

Last weekend I took a trip to Montreal. Granted it’s already been five eight days (I started this post on Friday)since said trip so some parts of this post might be made-up hazy on the details. The last time I went to Montreal, it was one of those single girl Eat, Pray, Run from hobos weekend.

This time it was more of an Eat, Eat, slow-comatose-jog away-from-hobos type of deal. I learnt a lot about my digestive capabilities, much like how Elizabeth Gilbert learnt how to make millions writing about hers.

Regardless, I tossed a dollar into one certain hobo`s venti Starbucks cup; he was a real entertainer. He was outside the Metro, theatrically jumping up, down and around a milk crate giving a gallant French sermon in a booming voice that would make The Tenors want to tranquilize him, steal his vocal cords and leave him with a ten dollar bill, bleeding from the neck in a ditch behind a Montreal poutineri.

Many people asked me whether I was visiting friends in Montreal or whether I was taking a trip with someone. Apparently,  the idea of going alone for no conceivable reason isn’t something that crosses the minds of normal people. This is why I never update my Twitter. It’s easier to just shrug a no then it is to type ‘Solo getaway to Montreal, bitches!! #foreversingle’.

Is it really so bad  that I find sitting awkward and alone in fancy restaurants infinitely more appealing than taking long knee-busting yet dreamy romantic walks through the cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal? #sarcasm

Speaking of fancy restaurants, I went to many! When I say many, I mean two.

It was Friday night when I had my first food experience. I was perusing online for places to eat when I stumbled on one very close to the Bed and Breakfast I was staying at. It was a tapas place. Tapas make me nervous. Who knows how the hell to order them?

The place I wanted to go to was called Confusion Tapas du Monde. The irony of its name was not lost on me while I spent the next 45 minutes goggling what is tapas and how to order it. The best answer was: Ask your waiter.

I called the restaurant. This was the actual conversation we had:

Tapas waiter: Bonjour!

Karen: Hello sir. Do you speak English?

TW: Yes ma’am. I actually speak very good English.  (Dollop of politeness with rich warm undertones of french sarcasm)

K: Great! I was just wondering….do I need to make reservations for one?

TW: You’re coming for dinner on a Friday night by yourself?

K: Yes.

TW: We can give you a table at the bar.

K: At the bar?! Can I not have a table?

TW: But the bar is actually quite pretty.

K: I’ll think about it.

I thought about it. As much I’d like to brag that I decided to have my Montreal adventure on my own terms, did I really want to sit alone at the bar of a restaurant where I’d be too culturally handicapped to properly place an order?

Of course not! But I went anyway. I have no Eat, Pray, Love reasoning behind embarrassing myself except that I was just very hungry.

Confusion Tapas du Monde. The bar (against the wall) WAS very pretty. Yes, those are swings. Genius.

I had three dishes.

Exaggeration alert: The broccoli soup was THE BEST I ever had. It came in a mason jar. 

The coolest and most ineffective way to eat soup

I also had escargo on a slice of zucchini and some grilled calamari. I couldn’t take pictures of everything on account me looking like a complete moron. So I drew you the closest thing.

I even ate the leaves.

Average rating of Tapas Confusion: 4 out of 5 maple syrup lollipops. An extra half eaten one for the smartass waiter.

_______________________________________________________________

The next restaurant I want to talk about is Verses. This is a restaurant that I stumbled on by accident which is why I’m so pleased with myself. I originally intended to go to another restaurant that I checked out on Trip Adviser  But when I got there, it was looked like a truck pit stop with penis drawings on its Closed sign.

N’importe quoi! (my cheap googled french way of saying whatevvverrr!)

I walked around hungry looking for alternatives but everything seemed unnecessarily expensive. Finally, in the heart of Old Montreal, I found a cheaper oasis called Verses. The interiors were fancy enough. And yet their prices were deceptively cheap(er). $22.00 for a two-course meal was acceptable to me.

I ordered the cream of cauliflower soup because I`m a toothless old woman at heart.

The best part of this soup was that I didn’t need my dentures to have it.

The entrée was where I had a similar conundrum to Confusion Tapas. There were three items I could pick from: 1) Boring salmon. 2) Interesting sounding beef tartare 3) Good ol` steak.

The beef tartare looked very intriguing. Mainly because I had no idea what the hell it was and this weekend was all about treading into the unknown. I had no google on my phone, so I texted one of my friends and asked her. No response. I decided to bite the bullet and asked my french waiter whether he recommended the beef tartare or the steak.

“Madamoiselle, beef tartare is raw beef.“

Steak it was. I`m all for treading into the unknown, but you have to draw the line when the unknown involves the possibility of explosive diarrhea.

My blackberry camera makes everything on this plate look rarer than it actually is

Average rating for Verses: 4 out of 5 maple syrup lollipops. And extra one for the waiter not judging me.

For the sake of this blog post not becoming 72 pages long, I will now only post some more very bad photos I took of my food from all the other places I ate at. This neither diminishes nor takes away from the fancy feel of everything.

Like this whole wheat crepe filled with walnuts, pesto and goat cheese at La Brioche Lyonnaise- a cute little cafe on St. Denis:

I endured three stares and a dramatic eye roll for taking this picture. You’re welcome.

This tiramisu that I took to go without taking a fork.

When our minds fail us, we have hands.

And the most terrible crime of manners in the history of manners: A sneaky shot of the first course of my lovely THREE COURSE homemade breakfast that our host Nathalie made for us. This was poppy-seed bread pudding.

Each following course does get bigger in portion size

And for good measure, here’s the farmer’s market where I got the best honey and maple syrup in the world.

Beautiful fall day at the farmer’s market

I just noticed that there are grapes hanging from the ceiling.

And that was my awesome food adventure in Montreal. I hope you enjoyed these photos as much I enjoyed eating whatever is in them. I have officially decided that a spring and fall trip will be a Karen tradition from now on. Where else would I get honey for my tea?

How to be thankful on Thanksgiving

It seems common belief that holidays of any sort can be hard on singles. Christmas time, the season of nauseating radio play of basterdized Christmas carols and long line-ups for the naked scanner at the airport, is usually tainted by Aunt Bossy at the annual family stroke-inducing holiday dinner.

Everyone has an Aunt Bossy. She’s the one with the candy cane earrings, a pearl necklace and a brooch that says “Jesus is the reason for the season”.  She may or may not be biologically related to you. But this doesn’t stop her from closelining you on your way to the cookie table with well-meaning insults.

“Why are you so thin, Karen? Are you on a diet? Your mother tells me you joined a dating site”, 

“Do you know your cousin Melissa just got engaged to that engineer from Winnipeg? Remember him? You know he has a brother? You’re not getting any younger”

Whether its Christmas, Easter, Sabbath, Black history month or the zombie apocalypse, Aunty Bossy’s solution to the question of the Universe is: find a man as fast as you can.
 
Of course you could shut her up by yelling ‘F*ck cousin Melissa and her goddamn engineer fiance!” promptly causing major family drama, a demotion from cousin Melissa’s wedding party and the lifelong family anecdote of ‘that time when Karen lost her cookies…just 3 seconds before she was about to stuff her empty soul with butterscotch.’
 
But of course you won’t do that. What you probably will do is sit there silently hoping cousin Melissa chokes on her half-price Easter chocolate.
 

Aunt Bossy.This is also pretty much what I will look like 30 years from now.

Apart from Easter and Christmas, there are also other obscure holidays like Labor Day, New Year’s, and if you live in Canada- Family Day and Victoria Day. Not to mention birthdays, baptisms, summer bbqs, anniversaries and of course Thanksgiving.

But for the purpose of this post not becoming any more of one of those angry, woe-is-me, single girl rants, let’s just focus on the real issue at hand: giving thanks on Thanksgiving.

In Canada, thanksgiving is celebrated a little over a month before our American neighbours. Nobody knows the reason for this; it may have something to do with the fact that every year, Canadians need a whole day in the fall to recover from the shock and panic of Environment Canada’s annual prediction that it will be a cold winter.

Thanksgiving, which is predominantly a North American holiday, was never a tradition I grew up with. My family was the kind that showed love by making dry sarcastic comments at each other’s expense. Christmas and birthday gifts were never exchanged and nobody sat around, held hands and talked about their feelings.

Usually I’m just grateful that Thanksgiving exists so I can have a day off. But after living in Canada for the past 8 years, I’m inclined to believe that North American culture dishes out public holidays in order to give malls silly excuses to hold sales so that single people with no families have something to do on their day off.

The only man I’ll ever need is Michael Kors

 But this year I wanted Thanksgiving to be different. None of this feeling sorry for myself bullshit. It was time to go back to the real reason for the holiday: Being grateful for everything.

As it so happened (like it often does), I had no real Thanksgiving plans with family or friends. But that didn’t stop me from starting my own Thanksgiving tradition: Having one day when I truly allow myself to see just how good I have it.

I thought I would go all out and have a hearty turkey dinner for one. But standing in front of the freezer section at my grocery store, I had to come to the acceptance that cooking a turkey, which weighed about the same as a three-year-old child, was perhaps not the most original or feasible idea for a gal like me.

I settled for a small chicken instead.

I’ve never cooked a full roast chicken in my life. The whole day was spent fussing over this damn bird that I had no time to think about all the things us fickle singletons fret about during holidays. To stuff…or not to stuff? (Gordon Ramsey says to pop in half a lemon wedge) How long do I preheat the oven? What if it turns out too dry? And what the hell does basting mean?

In end, I decided to go the heart attack route. No roast chicken can be dry if you cover it with 5lbs of butter and bacon stripes. And would you believe it…here are the results of a whole day’s worth of labor:

Just to drive the point further, that bread was fried in butter.

Never in my life had I ever created anything quite so fattening and delicious-looking. I sat down and said a prayer of thanksgiving. I gave thanks for the food, my life, my health, the fact that Immigratin Canada still hasn’t kicked me out of this country (just yet), the fact that I could still afford to eat a lard-laden meal without collapsing from a massive coronary (just yet), my family, my friends, and my future family, who I’m sure when they someday come along, will be thankful for the fact that there are no vegetables involved in this meal…and the few veggies there are are guiltily swimming in a tub of butter and bacon grease.

I truly had everything I needed this Thanksgiving. Even if Aunt Bossy thought otherwise.

And so this thanksgiving, whether you celebrate it today or a month and a half from now, may you always find something to be grateful for. And if you can’t, there’s always bacon.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of  you out there! :D

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Author’s Note: There were no turkeys, aunts, or cousin Melissas harmed in the making of this post. Last I heard cousin Melissa did end up marrying that putz from Winnipeg. Bitch.

Are you there Pinot? Its me, Karen

So I’ve been quite a cranky old bitch lately (read: past 3 weeks month 3 months). I’d like to think that there are a number of reasons why this strange phenomenon has come to be. I’m usually quite a sugar peach to be around. And by sugar peach I may mean cynical smartass dressed as a sugar peach. But since I sometimes give nickels to hobos (charity and kindness) and I refrain from killing people just because they are annoying (forgiveness and tolerance) its only fair to classify me as a selfless sugar peach.

The only major incident I can think of that would change my peachy personality to bitch mode is the recent denial of my Immigration application. But lets get real. One is able to cream off sympathy for major life disappointments only for so long before someone else you know one-ups you with a bigger life disappointment of their own and ruins everything. Assholes.

While most people have nervous breakdowns after major life disappointments, I tend to have  more of a slow painful release of rage which stretches itself out. It isn`t so much the major life shattering events that shake my being, rather it is the little everyday instances of non-winning moments that send me in to bursts of intense irritation. Things like missing a bus by 30 seconds, running out of shampoo, people who contribute nothing to society but coffee breath, that Nicki Minaj girl and her pink haired cronies swimming in oceans of liquid pink laxatives …don’t feel free to stop me..

Now before you all slip on your silky judgement panties and silently sentence me to life in Anger Management, I don’t burst a vein every 5 times an hour when I hear Super Bass on the radio. Usual annoyances come with the territory of living in society with other (debateably) civilized human beings. All I’m saying is, for me when life poops on my dreams, instead of losing my marbles and throwing tampons at innocent bystanders, I just internally fume and shoot superiour looks at the sillier members of the human race. I’m okay with looking like a bitch…just not a crazy one.

Anyway, where am I going with all this? I don’t know. Oh yeh, anger management. The way I deal with it is usually I stay home and spare the community of my social genocidal tendencies. Behind closed doors, I practice the art of gastronomical pretentiousness where I help myself to a crusty loaf of French bread, a slab of goat cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a glass of wine and a large plate of hateration for everything and everyone. Food  knows disappointment better than anyone else. It does not judge the fact that you complain about these silly first-world problems. It does not compare your situation to someone elses bigger life disappointment and tell you be grateful. Food knows that that’s not what you want to hear, and even if it is what you HAVE to hear, food knows that telling you that doesn’t make the slightest bit difference in how you feel. No, you have friends to defend the silver lining. Food is there to momentarily comfort you when you’re too blind to accept that there is a silver lining and your friends are too blind to see that.

So all that being said, you can imagine the pickle I was in when not only did my application get turned down but I got the worst attack of acid reflux. Not only did those immigration bastards ruin my life, they also ruined my appetite. Acid reflux is by far more frustrating than it is serious. I had to avoid everything in life that gave me the tiniest bits of delight in these dark ages. Coffee (goodbye Starbucks *tear …gut-wrenching sobs*), tea, balsamic vinegar, lime juice and every other fruit juice, fruit,  ice tea, spicy food, hot sauce, tom yum soup, chocolate, sugar, fried foods and the worst one of them all…wine.

This left me with bread, water and sushi. Not even those biblical folks sacrificed like this. Agreed they all had shittier life situations than not being able to pop into Starbucks. But at least they had wine. And when they didn’t, Jesus made it for them because even he knew that there’s only so much rejection a girl disciple can take.

And so friends, if you’re ever in a gastronomical tight spot and you feel like the world is going to end with every morsel of food, don’t fret. I have compiled a list of symptoms, some that you will find in any literature on acid reflux and some you will come across that no medical website will tell you. In addtion to not fretting, please don’t google symptoms either. Apparently, acid reflux shares the same symtoms with a rare, untreatable form of stomach cancer which renders you only two hours to live. 

  • Stomach pain: This one is the most common.
  • Burning sensation in the stomach: especially when you drink vinegar, Drain-o and other acid based drinks and food.  
  • Chest pain: Pain going down your chest area when you eat your favorite food.
  • Chest squeezing: Pain when your stomach tries to reject all of your favorite foods.
  • Heart attack: Combination of chest pain and chest squeezing.
  • Neck pain: From sleeping in an upright position to stop you favorite food from creeping up your oesophagus. Usually, it manages to break the law of gravity anyway.
  • Fear: Because you think you’re having a heart attack all the time.
  • Constipation: Usually from stress of dealing with a government who doesn’t give a shit (pun intended), heart attacks and not eating enough to form a significant amount of poo.  
  • Grunting: Because you begin to assess your life and you find that you’re a foreigner trying to sell that last functional organ to pay taxes, you have not been able to eat or drink for the last two months, your stomach hurts for no apparent reason, you’ve had 49 heart attacks and you haven’t taken a dump in a week.

This all happened back in July. Now its October. Some things are  still the same. I’m still a foreigner living pay cheque to pay cheque. But while time may not have completely healed my wounds pride, it has healed my stomach. I am now able to drink coffee. I haven’t started drinking drain-o just yet though.

What remains to be seen is if my stomach will open its acid-damaged heart to wine. I think its time.No more of this heartburn immigration government-hating nonsense. It was time to move on and stop blaming the government for my inabilty to eat and excrete. Letting someone else steal my life disappointement thunder in lieu of a glass of wine seemed like a more than fair trade off. So yesterday, I slowly made the monumental walk into LCBO and picked out a cheap French Pinot Noir. I had one glass with dinner, shed a tear or two and waited for the heartattack. None came.

I waited until I woke up this morning because defying acid reflux like that is much like having a one-night stand with a cute guy from the bar. Great idea the night before… pain, suffering and regret the next morning. When I woke up with no heart attack this morning, I was so excited I wrote a blog post about it.

 And so that is my compelling no frills story of acid reflux. Its a big problem with little that can actually be done. Most over the counter antacids work for a total of 15 minutes after you pop about seven and a half of them. The best remedy I found is Zantac and patience.  Maybe at the end of the day, that’s what I had to learn from all of this. Patience with myself, patience with others and patience with God. I know my cranky old bitch  selfless sugar peach phase required a hellova lot of patience from my friends and society. Patience I cared not to have for them in return.

Also, most problems cease to exist when you stop giving them so much attention, stop finger pointing and move on.

Sizing up the Down

This past Monday, the much anticipated Double Down Sandwich made it’s calorific debut in Canada. In case you’ve been living under a rock..or in a cave…or in a cave under a rock and you haven’t heard of the Double Down, it is basically KFC’s new move to punch out their rival heavy weights of obesity like the Wendy’s Baconator, Burger King’s triple Whopper and the ever famous Big Mac.

The Double Down is a sandwich crime which contains double of everything that is bad for you. Two pieces of bacon and two slices of processed cheese sandwiched between two slabs of KFC style chicken breast.

Doubledown

I asked a number of people if they would be willing to try out the new Double Down. The negative response came as no surprise. In fact, there were even rumours that the Ontario Health ministry had not only given KFC’s salty new business tactic  a double thumbs down, they had also banned it from making it’s way up north.

What did come as a surprise though was that there were other fat and salty monsters on the market that didn’t get nearly as much bad press as the Double Death (as I fondly like to call it):

The Big Mac: The Big Mac looks angelic with its modest showing of 590 calories, 11 grams of fat and 1070 mg of sodium.

The Double Baconmonster: Wendys’ idea of a Double clearly puts the Double Death to shame. 980 calories, 63 grams of fat and 1830 mg of sodium.

The Triple Bypass: Burger King’s Triple Whopper boasts a whopping 123o calories, 82 grams of fat and 1590 mg of sodium. Triple YIKES!

And the Double Death: 540 calories, 32 grams of fat and 1380 mg of sodium.

Clearly, the bragging rights and the health ministry’s outrage should rightfully rest of the shoulders of the King.

So then why did the Double Death get so much bad press compared to it’s nasty friends? Well, if there is anything I learnt from wasting countless hours of my life on Perez Hilton.com and watching TMZ, it is that bad press is good press…or at the very least better than no press. The fact that junk food critics and the Health ministry went so ape-shiz over this made me curious to see what the hype was all about.

So this past Friday, in the name of research for this blog post, I took a friend and waited for 20 minutes in line at KFC which was a first for me because KFC never has line-ups. The asking price for this heartattack was $6.99, with the option of making it a combo for course.

The Verdict: Disappointment. I recieved similar views from other  brave souls that tried it.  I’m not really sure what I was expecting but you would think that something so bad for you would at least taste good. And then I realised what was missing. Bread.

KFC might be trying to keep it’s head above the water but I think their new floatation device is packing on too many bags of tasteless salt to keep them from sinking. You may be winning the battle, Double Death with your 20 minute line-ups but you will not win the North American war on good health. Big  Macs and baconators will always remain the weapon for choice for sobering nightclubbers, hobos and PMSing women wordwide.

Will you be trying the Double Down anytime soon? Have you tried it? What did you think?