Monday, October 31, 2011

martini monday: espresso martini milan

inspiration: absolut official website
score: 7/10
1 1/2 oz absolut watkins
1/2 oz coffee-flavoured liqueur (kahlua)

i might be cheating on this one a bit, since i think you can only get absolut watkins at duty-free shops in airports, but i was a sucker for it as soon as i saw the super-cool bottle and the purported flavour (spicy coffee-almond! gimme that shit). i immediately knew i had to have a bottle for my ever-growing collection of vodkas. yes, even though i'd already dropped $45 on a bottle of effen black cherry. i think this might be becoming a sickness.

seriously, look at this thing! the bottle was fun enough to make me forget that i don't drink absolut anymore.

unfortunately, even after chilling it overnight in my freezer, it's no good as a straight sipper (which is how i'm primarily drinking vodka these days rather than in martinis, to be honest). far too harsh, and the chili part kept making my eyes water. i forlornly looked at this huge bottle of special-edition booze that i'd brought all the way back from san francisco and thought well, what now? the official website for mixing suggestions!

first off, i tried what the bottle itself recommended - "just add cola" - and added a slug of it to a glass of diet coke. not bad -- the chili part was definitely muted, and something about the mix of coke and coffee/almond gave it almost a mocha flavour. sort of like what i imagine a coke float would taste like. (i hate the concept of combining coke or pepsi with dairy products, so i've never tried one and never intend to. drinking a pearl necklace cocktail once was enough for me.) but since i try to drink pop as little as possible these days - and also, this is called martini monday, not cocktail monday - i wanted a martini recipe. because really, why bother with mixers? moar alcohol!!!11

thus: the espresso martini milan. i ought to call this "rsv" though ("revised standard version"), since the original recipe calls for a splash of brewed espresso, which i had none of. still, this turned out nicely as it was -- the kahlua both tempered and complimented the absolut watkins perfectly. the chili flavour in the vodka even gave an interesting bite to it -- almost like there was goldschlager hidden in the mix. (i kind of hate goldschlager, but anyway.) it was basically like a chocolate martini on caffeinated steroids. disappeared a lot faster than i thought it would (though i haven't dared to try it with the peppermint kahlua yet -- i feel like that'd be a few too many flavours clashing).

oh, and as for the vodka itself -- as i said last night on twitter, despite my initial horrified impressions of absolut watkins, i've basically been mixing it with everything that normally requires regular vodka. it's like some weird fascination.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


i wonder when it was that i started to cool off on halloween.

[image from strange times]

it wasn't always this way, for sure -- halloween used to be (and still sort of is) my favourite holiday. i've always loved costumes and dressing up - my hidden past as a cosplayer would attest to this - and pretending to be someone/something else for a night is totally fun. but someone, as i've gotten older, i find myself more reticent to spend money on things for a single night; if i'm going to be dropping a ton of cash on an outfit, i want it to be something i'll wear more than once. also, my cosplaying past has imbued me with a hell of a sense of competition when it comes to dressing up -- i have to be the best-looking one, and that's something you don't exactly achieve with a crappy storebought costume. that's something that requires effort, and skill, and dolla billz, y'all.

also, the cynical or wry among you (hell, even me myself) would say that i probably lost interest around the time when i began treating every saturday like halloween -- going out on the town in full pvc, schoolgirl kilts and fishnets. every weekend was slutty holiday for me! (to be fair, i was attempting to be more goth than anything else, though i suppose that's a halloween costume in itself sometimes) so yes, for a time, i only wanted to do halloween if i could wear something like a pvc nurse costume or a pvc military coat. both of which i did, obviously.

(i should probably note here that when i was nine years old, i wanted to be catwoman for halloween -- full-on michelle pfeiffer black leather style. this dream was quickly shot down by my horrified mother, who told me that it would be "inappropriate" for a prepubescent girl to go flouncing around in a skintight catsuit. i am wholly convinced that this is where my fascination and love for black pvc/leather comes from; having been denied that dream almost twenty years ago, i've spent more than enough time making up for it. just look at my fet wardrobe.)

the last big blowout i did on halloween was when i lived in vancouver, where it's actually a thing to shoot off fireworks on halloween (i know, right?). i went to a friend's house party where i literally knew like two people, and it was a big deal for me because i was really truly trying to be more social. i mean, sure, my good pal alcohol helped with that, but i remember it being a pretty great experience. worth noting that costumes are also a solid icebreaker.

since moving back to toronto in '08, though, sensibility and frugality have begun to trump my former love of the 31st. two years ago, we didn't go out (though we did give out candy to a few sparse trick-or-treaters at the shared house where we lived), and last year was just so fucking awful an experience that we're not doing anything this year. literally, the boy's band played a gig on halloween last year, and the trek home afterward - public transit never showed up, no cabs to be seen, i was wearing something very skimpy and cold with five-inch heels and we had to walk three-quarters of the way home before finally catching a stuffed-to-the-brim bus full of drunken asshole brahs - was hell. i turned to dean last week and said, "babe, did you want to go out and do anything this year?" and he said "nope." and i said "thank god, because i totally don't." the end.

it's a bit sad, because part of me still wants to do things like make pumpkin-flavoured treats and buy bags of fun-sized candies and carve a jack o' lantern (which i did two years ago, more out of stubborn determination than anything), but in reality, i know i'll probably go to work, go to the gym, head home, make dinner, watch tv, and have that be that. also, i saw this comic the other day, and yeah. my life. sigh.

two things that amused me lately, at least: photos from hallowmeme (yes, it is exactly what it sounds like; yes, you do need a rudimentary knowledge of internet memes) and guy caught in the wind costume. just to show that i'm not a complete halloween grinch.

however, i'm not yet on to the next holiday -- with the exception of finding this in the liquor store yesterday:

it absolutely tastes like christmas in a bottle. (or, well, kahlua with peppermint schnapps)

anyway! i get the feeling more than a few of you might be reading this while hungover from last night's pre-halloween celebrations; more of you might be prepping your livers for tonight or tomorrow. enjoy the witching hour, darlings -- i'll be at home maybe watching a scary movie, and i'm alright with that.

i guess i'm also sixty years old. go figure.

[ music | none ]

Monday, October 24, 2011

pacific northwest

home again, home again.

...that's sort of a lie, i've been home since friday night, but i definitely needed a couple of days to recalibrate my system, try to get my body back on eastern standard time (though i think my brain's still running on pacific, which has made for some pretty rough mornings), unpack my stuff, clean the apartment, restock my cupboards, and so on. i had a few glorious moments yesterday when i thought it was actually saturday, only to realize sadly that no, it's sunday, and it was back to the regular grind soon.  oh, well.

notes from san francisco:

- my dumb body clock turned out to be so finely tuned that i woke up around 4 a.m. almost every morning i was there, which would be about 7 a.m. eastern time, which is when i get up to start getting ready for work. also, my brain felt weirdly woozy in the evening (say, when it was 8 or 9 p.m. there, which would be 11-midnight at home), as if it knew there's something inherently weird going on. honestly, it sort of felt like sleepwalking. at least it let me get time in at the hotel gym every morning, though empty gyms at 4:30 in the morning are strange, somewhat creepy places.

- san francisco smells neat. it smells sort of clean and a bit smoky, but in a good way, like barbeque or autumn. still, my brain refused to acknowledge that i was in california, since it wasn't hot or even warm. it was actually cool, foggy and a bit rainy for most of the week.  it reminded me somewhat of new york city, though it was a bit hard to walk around and not accidentally wander into a nastier part of the neighbourhood.

- one of the first things i did was (of course) hit up the nearest trader joe's; due to it being in a less than pleasant part of town (and thus costing me almost $20 in cab fare), i only ended up making that one trip, but i definitely checked everything off my to-buy list -- including a bottle of hard-to-find trader joe's scotch for the boy, who loves the stuff. sure, i dropped about $100, but to me? 100% worth it, especially to have almond-flaxseed butter and thai chili cashews again. i would have done it multiple times, if i weren't afraid i'd get shanked on the way back to the hotel.

- despite all my searching, there were no "nice" liquor stores in san francisco -- at least, not ones with huge selections like the liquor warehouses i found in chicago. thus, sadly, no delicious cake vodka or chocolate vodka for me -- though i did spend a shameful $45 on a bottle of effen black cherry vodka, and this bottle of "traveler's edition" absolut (spicy coffee & almond flavour!) which i'm totally keeping the bottle of:

- it still felt weird to be in san francisco with work company rather than friend/band company, but i got over that pretty quickly -- especially given that work company was a hell of a lot of fun to be with. true, there was plenty of work to be done, but we did a lot of laughing at the same time. also, the event-sanctioned parties two nights in a row were such a blast that i didn't mind having to staff them. win-win.

also, there are photos:

my hotel room - sorry, "suite".  i had a living room area, two televisions (one in the living room, one in front of my bed), a massive king bed, a little kitchen area with a bar fridge, and so on.  it was a bit crazy and totally awesome.

not totally awesome is how exhausted one looks after a full day of work while trying to adjust to pacific time. ugh.

chinatown! kind of blurry because we were in mid-walk and i didn't want to look like a stupid tourist, but trust me, it's one cool neighbourhood.  loved the lanterns hanging overhead.

the view from my hotel's floor (not my room specifically, since that overlooked part of the roof and a parking lot). purdy.

kids' massive carousel that i passed by en route to the american whole foods (which i obviously ransacked).

kurt and dan getting their well-deserved party on at foley's on wednesday night.  literally, as i said on twitter, you totally had to be drunk to appreciate two dudes playing "dualing pianos" on stage in front of a roaring crowd. (i requested "beth" but didn't give them enough money, apparently)

boss kevin's really into the music while kurt goes gangsta.

drink of doom, c/o kurt.  (actually a long island iced tea, which i shouldn't have been drinking because there was tequila in it - and my stomach reacts very poorly to tequila - but i was at the point of drunk where you'll drink anything in front of you. oops.)

...and that, thankfully, wraps up all the photos i took in san fran.  a couple days later, i'd load my 34-pound checked bag at the airport, pop ativan, and try not to freak out too much as i flew home with my boss.  (i find that drinking red wine on the plane helps, even though i've been expressly told by basically every pharmacist that i shouldn't booze it up after taking ativan.  it's not my fault the stupid drugs don't work on me.)  here's one more bonus glamour shot, taken with amanda at the bovine on saturday:

and now to go lie down again, as my stomach feels like a very uncomfortable blender right now.

[ music | chameleons uk, "swamp thing" ]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

my way out

much-loved things at the moment: a list.

- the sisters of mercy live 2-DVD set i got off of ebay. yes, they're both bootlegs (one's the famed "wake" show from albert hall, absolutely as good as advertised), but as with the majority of sisters bootlegs, the production's solid and the quality ridiculously amazing. i'm a little more impressed with the london show from 1985 (even though the belgrade show from 2006 has the new songs, which i love); just watching gothy 1985 von intone the vocals turns me right the fuck on. there's a lot of annoying visual effects by whoever did the bootleg production, but holy shit, whatever. i died a hundred fangirl deaths. (and felt really weird at the fact that i wasn't even two years old when that video was filmed.)

watching the 2006 show reminded me a lot of this night, for better and worse. oh, well.

- also on the dvd front: watching 30 rock DVDs. i literally started at season one and have been working my way through; nothing helps get through a 2.5 hour train ride like watching 7-8 episodes of a tv series back to back. i'm not quite sure yet if it's one of those shows that decreases in the funny as it runs longer and longer, but i suppose i'll find out -- i'm going to likely bring the next season to distract me from my flight on sunday.

- this trailer:

cue a bob cole-style "ohhhh baby" right here. (i'm sort of turning into one of those insane loki fangirls you see on tumblr. what? i like them dark and pretty and evil.)

- these chocolate-covered espresso beans. i was eating them so quickly that i've since made office-mate brittany hide them on me so i don't devour them all before the san francisco trip. but really, espresso beans covered in chocolate? holy hell yes.

- fall. i can't help it, i love this season. the damnable heat goes away, there's birthdays to celebrate (not just mine -- my boyfriend's and my father's birthdays, as well), i get to take some time off and visit family for thanksgiving weekend, my favourite holiday halloween happens, and i'm never so much in love with toronto as i am during the fall. there's just something about the crisp air and changing leaves that make this whole city "pop" somehow. it turns into a goddamn postcard. and so i try to get out and about as much as i can at this time of year, drinking it all in before the gloomy s.a.d.s.-inducing month of shitty november. (but then comes december, which i also love, so that's not so bad.)

- thanksgiving = the usual ridiculous amounts of food, and stuffing myself stupid on turkey and mashed squash and apple crisp and booze. (as i mentioned on twitter the other night, when i'm at my mom's place, it means i'm drinking irish coffee every night.) also, i think my parents like having me around because i will eat their leftovers. seriously, they barely ever touch leftover food (but always package it up) so "will you eat this before it goes bad?" is something i hear a lot when i'm in kingston. and the answer is always yes. (i never let leftovers go to waste at home. i can count on one hand the number of times i've thrown good food out in the last five years.) my mom has salmon in the fridge that she cooked on friday night. "i don't know if that's good to eat anymore." "aw, mom, don't worry about it. i am not letting that thing go to waste."

- doing "adult things": i just got my ontario health card renewed, i've set up my credit card banking, i'm looking at tax-free savings account options, and i'm debating applying for a new birth certificate (mine is slowly crumbling into dust). all this despite feeling constant creeping horror over the fact that i'm turning thirty in two years. thirty. that's gonna be a hard one, i just know it.

- did i mention that whole sisters of mercy thing?  not only does fall in the city make me happy, it also gives me a huge ladyboner for sisters music. it's basically all i've been listening to lately, and i'm more than okay with that.  ugh, so good.

things i do not like so much:

- air travel. and guess what i'm doing tomorrow? yup.

gotta get back to packing. see you all when i hopefully get back from san francisco in a week after hopefully not dying in a fiery ball of destruction.

[ music | killing joke, "eighties" ]

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

the lives of adults

i realized yesterday that it's odd for me to be in kingston around my birthday/thanksgiving and not be dealing with some form of emotional angst.

thinking on it:

six years ago, i was in the throes of a mighty crush on one of my ex's bandmates, and was on the precipice about whether or not to throw all caution to the wind and just go for it. but you know what it's like, in those early days of infatuation? how it's totally like a drug high (and i think chemically as well, since i seem to recall scientific studies on it)? that was how i was feeling on my birthday in kingston six years ago. apprehensive, but excited. nothing turns me on like possibility. (and it did play out in very...uh...interesting ways, none of which entirely unexpected. except for the part where i got dumped. but even i sort of saw that coming.)

five years ago, i was in the same place, but with a different boy -- this time, a not-at-all-single coworker that i was in the midst of playing some very dangerous games with. i was being a flirtatious idiot in every way possible, baiting him at every opportunity, and riding high on the rush of pussy power. again, though, it was a lot darker a crush than the previous year - i'd made an ipod playlist for that weekend away and titled it "my dirty little secret" - and sure enough, the whole thing exploded (imploded?) like a supernova a couple of short weeks later. big bright flash, then destruction. (i have always loved the oblique opening line to this blog post. it summed it all up right there.)

four years ago, i wasn't in kingston for that exact weekend, but i was here for the days leading up to my exodus to vancouver. aside from a quick overnight trip to montreal spent hanging out with, respectively, my uncle and the now-sadly defunct band bionic, i came back to kingston for the week before i left for the west coast, never to return (dun dun dunnnnn). so, there was no boy this time, but it really did feel like the end of a relationship -- with toronto, that is.

three years ago, there was a bit of tumult; having been together in person (ie. not long distance) for only six months, i was hitting my first rough patch with the boy, and it wasn't pretty. i was especially unimpressed that he'd booked a band gig on the night of my birthday, convincing myself that he'd forgotten (which was kind of true but not completely), but he rectified it in the end and all was well. still, it was my first time really second-guessing things, and as usual, i took that weekend to separate myself from stuff back in toronto and try to get my head on straight. seems to have worked.

two years ago, no boy trouble!...but i was moody and emotional over my life situations, my body issues, and a whole host of other things. i got over them pretty quickly - it might have been pms or something - but being a ball of mood on my birthday happens every few years.

so this year, i think i can honestly say is the first one in a while where i haven't been escaping from some drama back in the big city and carrying around a load of ennui while in my old home. it's nice, but it does feel slightly weird; i'm a super-emotional dramatic person, and when i was younger, i definitely thrived on having some drama in my life to chew on and obsess over. when i don't have problems, it makes me feel uneasy. of course i'd never wish for anything crazy to go down, though, so i guess it's weird that it feels like something's missing when i'm in kingston on my birthday weekend and everything's okay in my life, for once. i'm walking the streets and neighbourhoods that i once walked in mental agony year after year, but this time, i'm fine.

which makes me wonder where i'll be when this time rolls around next year, or the year after that.

life is wildly unpredictable. i like still having a few constants.

[ music | the duke spirit, "everybody's under your spell" ]

Sunday, October 9, 2011

can't stop growing old

i officially got a little bit older today.

i think it was somewhere in the realm of 3 a.m., now twenty-eight years ago; according to my mother, the labour was relatively quick, and i came out with "a full head" of hair. i've seen the photos, and all the hair definitely makes me look more like a freaky alien than most newborns. (probably goes to show that i've been rather vain about my hair my entire life.)

but that was, as i said, twenty-eight years ago now, and since then i've gone from country-girl kid to city-girl teenager to video-game obsessive to rock band groupie to music journalist to editor, and here we are today. i feel like i'm on the precipice now, being at the halfway mark between 25 and 30; it all feels downhill from here. i remember being in my early twenties and unable to conceive the thought of turning 30. now, it's only two short years away. urgh.

numerous past birthdays have seen me go from kingston to toronto to vancouver and back to toronto, but i'm in kingston right now, having taken the train out of toronto last night instead of morning, or even friday -- i had to work on friday, for one, and i wanted saturday to spend with the boy as my unofficial birthday day. saturday in itself was a great time -- i was able to get in a good morning workout at the gym before heading to barque for a long-awaited weekend brunch, where nothing says awesome like candied bacon and scrambled eggs topped with bbq chicken. cavegirl style, y'all.

also, nothing like a birthday to remind you of what an awesome work team you have:

chocolate hazelnut cake from dufflet! i sliced it up and froze it when i got home, since i'd been picking at sugar all day and was very close to a diabetic coma when i was presented with this little gem. still, the preserved slices will likely come in handy next time i have a pms attack and am willing to maul things for chocolate.

gift from client: a gorgeous, glorious bottle of grey goose. someone out there obviously heard my wishes for a "good bottle of vodka" for my birthday. amazing.

also, a few minutes later, i ended up winning this book on twitter thanks to ecw press:

they'd done a callout earlier that day on twitter for people to name their top "goth as fuck" song, and i immediately jumped in with "black planet" by the sisters of mercy (which i was currently listening to, actually, though it was the "dance on glass" lyrics version). lo and behold, i won -- though the real prize was the fact that the good folks at ecw were able to dig up the original video for that song:

i'd actually never seen that one before. it's kind of hilarious and terrible and makes absolutely no sense at all, but it more or less confirmed that i could totally go as von for halloween -- i have the big dark sunglasses and long black coat and fingerless black gloves, so i would just need a long black wig and big weird hat. but then people would probably think i'm a warlock or vampire, though, so maybe not.

back on the home front, the boy got me a beautiful red-enameled, cast-iron dutch oven with matching creuset au gratin dish, which is most excellent given that all my cooking magazines are devoting a lot of their fall/winter issues to braises. (also, most creepy given that i'd literally just finished reading betsy's "damn you dutch oven" post before dean presented me with mine. weird!)

tonight is more of a family celebration, since it's both my father's 70th birthday in two days and my step-nephew's 7th birthday today (yes, we share a birthday) -- combine that with my birthday plus canadian thanksgiving, and you've got one hell of a turkey party. lots of family members coming out today, hopefully bearing birthday cards with money in them. (har har.)

i, however, am/was reticent about including myself in the joint festivities today; for one, i'm not too keen on sharing my birthday (immature, yeah, but whatevs), and for two, i get entirely awkward opening presents in front of anyone other than my parents and siblings (plus steps). this more or less stems back to a christmas when i was maybe ten, and i got the present i'd most longed for: a stuffed cat that had a stomach that opened with velcro, and inside were a bunch of tiny stuffed kittens. (i know, i know. but would you expect anything else from me?) as i joyfully pulled the kittens out - god, i wish i could remember the name of this thing, i think it was a hasbro toy - my grandmother kept scoffing loudly and proclaiming that she'd never seen something so silly in her entire life. all of a sudden, the kitty didn't seem as awesome to me, and i felt sort of ashamed of being so delighted. ever since then, i've really hated having to open presents in front of people. i hate reactions from others that might not be the same reaction i have myself. (this also extends to meals -- i absolutely can't stand people making comments about my food or what i'm eating or how good it smells/looks etc. etc.)

awkward personal stories from my past aside, it's really good to be back in my old home. and it takes my mind off the fact that one week from today, i'm going to have to be on an airplane for almost six hours, so.

as my first act of my twenty-eighth year (aside from drinking vats of coffee), i'm going to do laundry.

[ music | the sisters of mercy, "black planet" ]

Thursday, October 6, 2011

dreams are dim

depressingly, i've been spending a lot of time reading we are the 99 percent, in an effort to educate myself about what's going on with occupy wall street.

i know i can't speak from experience or know exactly how they feel. being canadian, i do feel something of a disconnect; i don't know if it's entirely because of my homeland (we don't have the health care issues in particular, and our banks are generally stable), but i am one of the exponentially lucky ones. i'm not in the 1% by any means - and i'm definitely one of the youth who got fleeced by the idea of dropping a shit-ton of money into an education that didn't really get me anywhere but a black hole of debt - but taking stock of what i've got is a list of so many haves rather than have-nots:

- i was brought up in a well-off middle class family, with both parents having steady jobs and solid income;
- i have a roof over my head and food in my cupboard;
- i'm canadian, so i have automatic health care coverage (that i probably take for granted more often than not);
- i have a well-paying job that's in no danger of being lost;
- i was generally unaffected by the recession;
- my personal (aka student) debt is manageable and under $25,000;
- my health is good; i've checked out completely fine in my last three medical exams (and i have no family history of hereditary diseases);
- my parents are getting older but are both in good health as well (and have full health coverage to boot, so i wouldn't have to support them in case of emergency);
- my partner, who's a freelancer, has had a great year of steady paying gigs that will continue right through this winter;
- i don't have children, a vehicle, a mortgage or pets to worry about;
- i have over $7500 in savings and an A1 credit rating;
- my bills and rent are always paid on time;
- i have confidence in my future, and no worries about how i'll make it through the next 5-10 years. maybe this is short-sighted and naive of me, but it's all i've ever known, and i'm aware that this naivete in itself is a privilege.

as i said, i should never take any of those things for granted. i've never experienced a world where i've been denied health care. i've never been unemployed for longer than two months. i've never had to choose between groceries and rent. also, as i've noted in past posts, for the first time in my life, i'm at the point where i don't have to budget so strictly; if i want that $10 eyeliner, i don't have to wait until next paycheque. i can buy it now. this freedom that i have, while so many of my neighbours to the south can't even support their families, is staggering to me.

so, we are the 99 percent was a definite reality check and an eye-opener for me. not to say i was ignorant about what was going on by any means, but it's not so easy to see if it's not directly on your doorstep. the protests on wall street (and spreading) are bringing these issues to everyone's doorsteps, and so much the better. at the very least, it was a good personal reminder for me to take stock of all the fortunate things i have in my life, and to stop sweating the little things.

and, always, this for ultimate perspective:

[ music | sisterhood, "giving ground" ]