Happy 365!

What a short, interesting trip it’s been

A year already. It’s a continuous theme in my blog posts: time flies. Now is the time to seize the day, carpe noctem, et cetera and on & on and so on and so forth.

Perhaps you’re a little confused, but in case you haven’t been paying attention (and in your defence, I haven’t been either):

HAPPY ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY!

Now THAT's an anniversary cake!

It’s been one year since I started this blog and today’s post is the first post of year two. Woo!  So technically I missed the anniversary date (September 27th) but just like in my relationships, I’m not one to pay particular attention to big dates (We’ve been together a year already? Are you sure?)  and this one-year mark is another milestone date that came by surprise.

I looked back at my first and still favourite post: the 3-way conundrum; which openly mocked the aftermath of the dissolution of a relationship. This took me more than 3 weeks to compose; it went through several different edits and rewrites and it had no accompanying photos (to protect the guilty). I had the simple goals at the time of keeping it simple, clever, clean and under 500 words (official word count: 512). Reading it again for the first time in over a year, I still like it for its brevity, hilarity, and clarity. It even had its corresponding facebook promotional post:

Going to lunch with an ex. I need to wear something that says ‘I’ve moved on”, “I’m happy with my life right now”, and “Your new girlfriend is probably a whore.” Hmmmm. I’m thinking something in a pattern perhaps? 😉

I’ll admit it’s slightly petty (and over a year later, I’m still totally okay with that), but it was also liberating at the time. It was writing therapy and I suggest you try it sometime (shake out those dusty skeletons).

Moving on, I moved on from there to write about anything, everything and all the fun little in-between activities that came along.

In the beginning

I had no real goal or direction. ‘Living’ is pretty general (just requires breathing – artificial or not) and could relate to many things. Whatever whim, activity or invitation came my way, I would quickly RSVP Y-E-S.  I may have only showed up to about half the events and arrived late to the rest of them (more fashionable that way, of course) but I have accomplished, experienced and been a part of the most random sampling of ‘living’ this side of the hereafter:

– There was my continuous, internal struggle for my love of food men manly food.

– Followed by my deep, outwardly struggle against the battle of the bulge (here’s a hint, I kicked its ASS!)

– A reason to settle for Mr. Right Now: Be my anti-valentine

– Reasons why you shouldn’t (or maybe I shouldn’t) drink and shop

Free booze + shopping =$60 cheap "gold" earrings

– How the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics took over my life. Then a second time. Then again.

-I’m telling the world: What really happens in Vegas

My second home

– Would you like to go salsa dancing with me? Great. Be ready @ 3AM to go.

– Spilling the beans on a great girl’s night out

– My limited number of good deeds (unfortunately just wanting to be good doesn’t count. Humph) Maybe giving up my car counts?

– How I joined the polar bear club (kind of like the mile high club but totally different)

– The time I became a degenerate gambler (bet you 5 to 1 and my right kidney that it won’t happen again!)

…etc, and on & on and so on and so forth. 52 weeks and 52 posts and its getting more fun by the week. I’m even considering changing to a more than once a week format but I think that kind of radical thinking should be saved for year three (crazy hippie thinking!).

Where we go from here

Year one was about trying different activities, living through new experiences, taking part in unusual events and being open minded to everything (especially this).

In year two, I still want to try new things (so much to try, taste and do!) but I’ll be going to the people this time. Confused? Perfect. That’s how I like my audience – highly expectant and in the dark.

Curious? Great! That’s even better.

Stay tuned. 😉

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Ok fine, here are a couple hints:

  • Gastronomic Anomalies: with so much good food out there, why do people feel the need to make this stuff??
  • Happy Sexy You
  • How am I supposed to eat THAT?
  • The bartering system: the real oldest profession

Anniversary cake image

In Vegas

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What a day!

Justice Rocks in the beautiful open fields of Strathcona park and the Latin Festival situated at picturesque Trout Lake nearby. Also on the agenda– the Salsa Fest in downtown Vancouver, the Blueberry Festival and the Chariot Parade Festival of India a few cities over. From 11 am to 11pm – my Sunday was planned!

Shame about the sleeping in part though. I’ve learned that you can’t plan for 11am events and stay out way past 3am the night before. No matter how good the music is and no matter how much fun the people are and especially ESPECIALLY no matter how freely the drinks are flowing. 11am will still come @ 11am. Sigh. Waking up at the crack of 1:37pm, I eventually headed out to seize the day at around 3pm (after stopping for a coffee first).

Bring on the day! First up, Justice Rocks:

Justice Rocks: Featuring live music shows, interactive social justice presentations and festival fun. A park shakedown in the sunshine

As penance for my previous night’s overindulgences, Justice Rocks was the perfect place to go. Although touted as a fun summer event, its various booths and presentations stirred your emotions from shame to guilt, and from passion for change to anger -not what I’d call ‘fun Sunday feelings’ (if I wanted to feel guilt, shame and remorse on a Sunday, I’d still go to church!).

The two issues that caught my eye the most were homelessness and poverty.  I liked that each booth directed you to do something if you wanted to assist the organization. Whether it was to simply sign a petition to be sent to the powers that be (Santa?) or donating to their cause and joining and supporting their action group, they had something for everyone to do at any level.

Most surprising to me – an amnesty international booth that showcased a small, 10 by 10 shack (or smaller!) which serves as a home for several people in poorer nations. These shacks lack electricity and plumbing and any other basic necessities.


Funny enough, if this shack were placed in Yaletown (an upscale area in downtown Vancouver) it would go for $800! So what this all really means is location, location, location.

with a little paint...

My Solution: Simply move these shacks to upscale neighbourhoods and their values will increase exponentially!

Amnesty’s Solution: Housing is a right. Donate, join or take action today

Next, walking past the Redtents.org booth, I was immediately taken aback by their banner:  Ending homelessness would save Canada more than 2 Billion per year. As a business major, this definitely caught my eye and I searched further for proof of their claims.

Red Tent is national campaign that invites the participation of all persons and organizations wishing to end homelessness in Canada.

From the RedTent.org website, we learn how they get to the $2billion amount: According to a 2001 study, the combined service and shelter costs for an average homeless person in Canada are $10,000 higher than the combined service and housing costs for an average housed person.

Thus,

$10,000 per homeless person per year
X                 200,000 homeless in Canada (very low estimate)
=$2 billion spent needlessly per year

Hmmm. Interesting theory. It would be cool if we had a couple billion dollars hanging around and could just make it happen. Homes for everyone! I’ll take a Yaletown shack please. I hear they’re very popular in other countries…

Latin Summer Fest: To Promote Latin Culture in a one-day outdoor festival, through its colourful spirit, arts, culture and food

As a reward for my previous night’s overindulgences, the Latin Festival was the perfect place to go. Walking up to it from several blocks away, I could already hear the staccato beats of Spanish music in the air. This festival featured 2 stages and 2 dance floors because they know their audience well – we like to dance.  Unfortunately it was so hot out that the dance floors, which were poorly located in the hot, hot sun, remained vacant. People were still dancing of course – just from under the cool shade of nearby trees or under the awnings of various food vendors.

After checking out the many booths (clothing, jewelery, knick knacks, etc.) I finally got into the spirit by ingesting as much Latin food as possible: corn tortillas, chips and salsa, tacos, carne asada, pupusas, quesadillas, churros, and of course the always popular and well known Latin dessert – fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Mmmmm.

pupusas!

Belly full, we waddled to the presentation stage where Mexican dancers performed the traditional hat dance. Their dancing was great but I was more impressed by their ability to do it in full Mexican dress and in 26+degree weather. Ay dios mio.

muy caliente!

By this hour there was no time (or desire) to visit any other festivals/events/causes for the day.  The two festivals I did get to attend were interesting in their own rights but complete opposites. Where one focused on social issues and empowerment, the other focused on food and fun. Justice Rocks tried to create a light mood within a summer festival atmosphere but no matter how hard you try, it’s hard to make homelessness and poverty fun…

Even in a great location.

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Pupusas Images: http://www.wpclipart.com

Spammed ham & a lotta corny beef

A great idea?

Joking with friends about the relative virtues of canned meat (cheap? versatile? meatless?), the idea of recreating a canned meat dish from our youth is brought up. Unanimous, alcohol fueled agreement ensued and canned meat night is born.

The contents of corned beef and canned ham are pretty obvious, but what the heck is spam made from? My guess was ham but the official definition is: a canned meat made largely from pork. Unfortunately it doesn’t mention what the rest of it is made from so we’ll just have to assume more pork… Right? Yikes. This meat off was going to be more interesting then we thought. I’ve never had pig snout before.

My plan? To make a simple corned beef and cabbage dish I used to make in my cooking heyday. I was prepared to do so too, right up until the day of our dinner buffet when it happened.

Ok, what was ‘it’?

Rumour had it (via Facebook) that one of my now competitors was stepping up her game and creating a new canned meat dish. Although it wasn’t really a competition (we’re good friends after all!), it was totally a competition, and I don’t like to lose.

Brainstorming corned beef recipes, I debate between making a corned beef chili, a corned beef tourtière (inspired from the award winning one from last week) or even cheese topped corned beef stuffed peppers. Tossing those ideas aside, I decide to bring together my love of perogies, with my fond memories of corned beef.
Dish #1 – corned beef stew served over rice. Dish #2 – Corned beef perogies (c).

Great beginnings in the kitchen

As I open the can of corned beef, a glob of something (gelatinous meat fat? meat juice?) slops onto my fingers and I nearly gag at the sight and smell of it. With only 2 hours to go until the meat off, I still have to make fresh perogy shells, boil, mash and roast potatoes, boil rice, then chop and perfectly stir-fry various vegetables to culinary perfection. I’ll also need to figure out a way to do it all without having to actually smell or touch the meat. Gag.

90 minutes in, I realize why my mother was laughing on the phone when I told her I was going to make perogy shells for the first time. Those little bastards are tough to master in one try.  The dough I made was too thick and sticky and then I added flour and then they were too dry and falling apart so I added more water but then they got sticky again and then argh!! Plus, I couldn’t roll them as thin as they were supposed to be and they looked very yellow (aren’t perogy shells white?). A glance at the clock tells me I don’t have time to fill all the things I’m now going to call dumplings at the pace I was going at. As I begin to shove mounds of filling into large balls of malformed dough, I decide what I’m really making are meat patties.  I was originally planning to boil some water and cook them as I would a perogy but I realize that they would need alot more help than that. Turning to every questionable chef’s fall back, I decide to add the only thing that could save these sorry excuses for what I’m now going to call empanadas would be fat, and lots of it. Combining melted butter, olive oil and coconut oil to a deep dish pan, I plan to pan fry my way to the top.

For the remaining 30 minutes, I chop, saute and season everything as best I can, hoping it will all taste better at judging (my friends’ place). Throwing it all together and tossing it into Tupperware containers, I pack up and head to the judges table.

Judges, for your consideration please

Contestant #1: Canned ham

Tag line: Do the green eggs come in a can too?
The dish: Asian style ham & eggs
Wok style green onion and garlic fried rice, served with pan-fried ham, seaweed and sunny side eggs

Eating instructions: crack the egg yolk and mix into the rice, eat with seaweed, ham and soy sauce.

Am I eating it right?

Reasons to win:

  • Creative eating style
  • Great presentation
  • Mmmm yum!

Contestant #2: Corned Beef

Tag line: There’s nothing corny about this delicious dish
The dishes:

  1. Corned beef and vegetable medley (red pepper, cabbage, green pepper, onion, garlic, carrot, green onion)served over flavoured organic brown rice
  2. Corned beef, potato and rosemary empanadas

Reasons to win:

  • Yummy empanadas
  • Fresh tasting stir fry
  • Mmmm yum!

Contestant #3: Spam

Tag line: you’d definitely accept this in your inbox
The dishes:

  1. Spamosas with a mango chutney
  2. Musubi (spam sushi) with a pineapple soy teriyaki sauce

Reasons to win:

  • Creative dishes
  • We kept repeating, “This is spam?”
  • Mmmm yum!

And the winner is…


When it comes to canned beef, there are no winners. High in sodium and fat content, canned meat should not be included in anyone’s diet should they want to live past middle age. Taste wise, everything tasted delicious. As it should since canned meat may as well be called pork bacon or beef bacon in a can. Once you fry it up (as all of us did), the flavour of the meat product comes out and makes each dish wonderfully tasty.

Best presentation: Asian style ham & eggs

Best tasting: Musubi (spam sushi)

Overall winner: ?????

the aftermath

With no impartial judges in the bunch, it was next to impossible to pick a best dish as we would each pick our own if given the chance. After seeing the raw contents of the canned meat (gag) and then indulging in 5 dishes of canned meat madness, there’s only one thing I know for sure: I will not be ready to eat any kind of meat or canned meat for a long time. Also, I should have gone with the chili.

Rematch!

Pie Times

Date:    Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Time:   3pm till…

What:   The 32nd annual Pie Championship & Symposium

Where: Vancouver, BC at what was described as the ‘big yellow house’ in East Van

Who:    Any food enthusiast with $5 to spare or who can make a pie for the competition

Who doesn't like pie?

Organized by the Association of Very Good Ideas, this pie championship brought out some of the more creative bakers in the city. Judged by a panel of 5 expert (pastry chefs, etc) and non-expert judges (a 9 year old boy, etc), the pies on display looked delectable, smelled wonderful and tasted… well, you’ll see…

I was excited from the moment I passed by the flyer on the street. They grabbed my attention with ‘pie’, sweetened the deal with  ‘tasting’ and won me over with ‘$5’. With no obligation to consume as much pie as possible, but with plans to do exactly that, I followed the online link and excitedly RSVP’d yes.

Eclectic and artistic types populated this event so the competition was fierce and there were no lame ‘apple’ pies (so last season!) polluting the creative concoctions laid before us.

The contenders please:

1. Rhubarb strawberry crumble pie –Yum! ©

2. Blackberry half-rent pie

3. Chardakopita (Savory ) -Yum! ©

4. Deep midnight chocolate truffle pie (Vegan ) – Yum! ©

5. Perfectly peachy best blueberry with spicy ginger chunks

6. Key Lime pie – Yum! ©

7. Pineapple & pine nut pie – Yum! ©

8. Provencale (Savory )

9. Wild Blackberry blueberry banana pie

10. Black bottom strawberry sateen pie – (Vegan)

11. Raspberry crust pie – Yum! ©

12. Rhubarb meringue pie – Yum! ©

13. Blueberry coconut cream – Vegan – Yum! ©

14. Blackberry mud pie – Yum! ©

15. Strawberry rhubarb pie  – Yum! ©

16. Salsa ‘ouch my face’ pie – Yum! ©

17. Kabuki coconut banana cocoa bliss cream pie

18. Decadent chocolate pie

19. Peach walnut brandy pie with lemon ginger crust

20. Pecan Brûlée – Yum! ©

21. No name, “Awesome” pie

22. Tourtière (savory)– Yum! ©

The event was set to start at 3pm. Arriving promptly at 3:45, I was handed a fork and a voting slip and was ready to taste some pies. I brought cash for cover, my appetite and a wheel barrel (to be carried home in, of course). Unfortunately at that time, only 7 (of 22) pies had arrived, with others still on the way and a few others baking away in a nearby oven. For over an hour we milled around temptation, only allowed to look at the untouchable pies as more arrived and even more still baked away in the ovens, their delicious aromas wafting over the crowd and adding to our ravenous hunger. Later, as I wandered wistfully past the pies once more, a beautiful and wonderful saint of a woman in front of the pie I was admiring, loudly asked the very obvious question:

Who wants to try my pie?

Without hesitation, I stepped up and accepted her challenge: I will try your pie.
At long last, the life-long pie related dream I didn’t know I had until today was about to be fulfilled. Unlimited pie tasting with no guilt (unlike at the grocery store with their “Miss you can’t do that here, we’re going to have to ask you to leave.” Humph.)

The best of the best

  • Pineapple & pine nut pie

Still warm from the oven (or maybe just the beating sun), this pie tasted heavenly. Tangy but still sweet, the filling was creamy and smooth with pops of pineapple and the crunch of pine nuts and the crust was buttery crisp.

  • Chardakopita

A savory pie made with crisp phyllo pastry filled with a mixture of swiss chard, feta, caramelized onion, dill, cream, garlic & various spices. Wow. It fell apart on my plate but was well worth the mess. Wonderful flavour and a recipe I will emulate when I have the need to eat a high calorie pie (perhaps prior to running a marathon…or 2)

  • Key Lime pie

I’ve had key lime pie before but never as good as this. Yum! My #1 pick along with the pineapple pine nut pie. It’ll be a difficult decision at the judging table.

  • Blueberry coconut creamVegan

Beautiful presentation and a light, fresh tasting pie. The kind of pie you can eat a lot of and not realize how many calories you’re consuming (hint: vegan does not equal low calorie).
This pie has a delicious crust and a thick, creamy, whipped cream tasting filling.

  • Deep midnight chocolate truffle pie -Vegan

Never really a chocolate fan when it comes to dessert, this pie was one of my favourites of the competition. A smooth, velvety rich chocolate taste, great presentation and bonus points for being a vegan pie and still being delicious. (sorry vegans but it’s true – vegan items have a tendency to taste…unique.)

  • Tourtière

Pies made with meat? This is always a must do. I tried this delicious,late entry, meat filled pie after I had already handed in my ballot. Phyllo pastry filled with free-range bison and seasonings, this delectable tourtière had a wonderful flavour and even though I was already stuffed, I still wanted more. Mmmm

  • Blackberry mud pie

Ingredients: dirt, blackberries, mud, sea shells, leafs and tree bark (wink, wink).
Creative presentation and accompanied by a cute back story (about being a kid on the beach and ‘baking’ with rocks and sea water and sand). This chocolate oreo crumble, dried mango bits, mint leaves, blackberries and more chocolate was a wonderful mix that evoked images of the beach without all that sand-in-my-food taste.

The rest of the rest

  • Coconut banana cocoa bliss cream pie

While contestant # 14 jokingly listed mud as an ingredient, ‘baker’ #17 may have actually included it. Yack! The consistency was similar to runny jello pudding with floating coconut, banana and blueberry chunks. Not to my liking at all but bonus points for creativity – pie soup (slop?).

  • Peach walnut brandy pie with lemon ginger crust vs. Perfectly peachy best blueberry with spicy ginger chunks

Ginger? Mmmm. These pies sounded so promising but where I felt they should have been sweet or at least spicy from the ginger, they both tasted bland (needed more sugar or perhaps a listing in the savory category…). Where the Perfectly Peachy wins points for presentation and a delicious crust, the Peach Walnut Pie had an unappealing heavy, doughy crust. On their own, they would be heaven a la mode, but sitting amongst several better tasting pies, any and all flaws were easy to taste.

  • Wild Blackberry blueberry banana pie

I hate blackberries. In fact I hate any berry with hard seeds that get stuck in your teeth (yah raspberries, I’m looking at you). With this bias in place, any pie that includes any of these offending fruits gets an automatic Nelleytimes ‘heck no!’ (#14 being the only and surprising exception to this rule). However this pie was a bigger offender than others. Even without blackberries, I thought the flavour was lacking and I didn’t bother to finish my sample.

It might have been a raw pie, which made it worse as heating/baking brings out the sweetness in all fruits and blends the ingredients together harmoniously. Unfortunately, this discord pie was in the listing for my choice for ‘worst pie’.

Creativity Counts

  • Salsa ‘ouch my face’ pie

Self explanatory. This type of pie won’t be in any pie eating contests any time soon. The homemade salsa looked and tasted great and fresh. However, I cannot in good conscious vote this as a best pie. Best salsa – yes! Best pie – not on my watch.

After tasting 21 different pies (#1-20, & #22), contestant #21 finally appeared with their unique interpretation of a pie. When I asked them the name of it, they paused and said “awesome pie”?

  • Contestant #21: No name, “Awesome” pie

They had pre-made little sample size pie cups and at the tasting competition, filled them up with a creamy concoction and served it to you so:

The baker's messy shirt is foreshadowing..

Lemme me help you with that...

Yes. Shoved right into your face whilst accidentally getting some in your mouth. People were signing up for this. Willingly too. I told you it was an eclectic crowd. Having already stuffed my own face with pie 21 times, I didn’t feel the need to get someone else to do it for me (where were you 21 pie samples ago??). Kudos to all those who liked getting pie smashed into their mouths. You only live once!

And the winner is….

At blog posting time, the official winners weren’t posted yet. I’ll update the blog with the official winners once available but for now:

Nelleytimes’ Pie Tasting Selections:

Best Sweet pie: #6 – Key lime pie

Best Savory pie: # 3 – Chardakopita (I actually liked the Tourtière- #22- best but it arrived after I had already cast my vote. Sigh.)

Best Vegan pie: #4 – Deep midnight chocolate truffle pie

Best overall: #6 – key lime pie

Worst overall (sorry but better luck next time…but hopefully you never make this ‘pie’ again): #17 – coconut banana cocoa bliss cream pie

*UPDATE (AUG 3)-  the Official Results are in:

BEST SWEET PIE –> Key Lime Pie with Vanilla Whip

BEST SAVORY PIE –> Bison Tourtière

BEST VEGAN PIE –> Vegan Black Bottom Strawberry Sateen Pie

BEST OVERALL –> Pecan Brûlée

WORST OVERALL BEST ALMOST CONTENDER (they renamed it to protect the sensitive creative types) –> the ‘awesome’ pie which was also renamed later to ‘Pie Smoothies’

Out of 22 pies, 13 got my Nelleytimes patented ‘Yum!’ © seal of approval. These are pies I would happily serve to my family and friends and would willingly marry and/or make love to – in a pinch. As I waddled home to a more than likely water and garden salad filled evening, I decided that it must have been glorious fate that led me to the flyer that led me to the facebook page which, in turn, led me to the blog (that I immediately bookmarked) which will keep me updated on any upcoming food related events in the near future.

The organizers host events like this all the time, using the proceeds towards rent and funding for other fun and original events. Hot sun, cool drinks (beer – yuck, and lemonade – yum!©), friendly people and all the yummy pie you could stuff down your gullet. All in all…

A very good idea.

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Homage to the snubbed apple pie:

Want to make it unique? Bake it in a paper bag

Also, wow – only 145 minutes to make, woo. Anyone have 2.5 hours to spare tonight that you’ll never get back? 😉

Hi Melissa,

I received both your voicemail message and 2 emails today earlier today. Thank you for your interest in me. I would be more than happy to provide you with more details for this process.

Janelle @ Work

In a work setting, I am goal oriented, focused, and I pride myself on producing high quality work at all times. I have been volunteered to write and/or edit all internal and external communications from our group and nominated to plan and organize any and all internal events. My peers seek out my assistance for any escalation issues and our director has pointed out my peer appointed and respected leadership role. My ability to think outside the box has enabled me to create unique events and source original solutions.  Although I do appreciate managerial support and some direction/ status review, I excel when given a project with minimal parameters, some set expectations, a few goals as well as deadlines. Essentially, I care about all the projects I commit to and want to feel that empathy from those I work with and those I work for.

Corporate Marketing Experience

Event Planning

o Organized monthly and quarterly company meetings (nation wide)

o Designed and planned store events that increased awareness and generated increased foot traffic to our store

o Trade shows and store level events

Worked with vendors and suppliers on product promotion and integration

Reviewed and analyzed event data to produce detailed analysis for upcoming events

Analyzed weekly sales results for Store Directors and provided competitive analysis and comparison

Scripted 30-second radio advertisements

Communications to the company via daily emails/internal memos

Wrote content for, generated ideas from others and produced a quarterly newsletter

Wrote presidential speeches for public and internal events

Created store advertisements and special offers

Press releases

Janelle in 2 years

Travelling and working with a varied customer base. Working independently with one or several companies that rely on my flexibility and ability to produce stellar results with minimal direction. My career would be deeply entrenched in marketing, social media, events and public relations.

My experience is so varied and my knowledge so well rounded that I’m seeking a position to funnel my unlimited energy and drive into.

Janelle @ Play

I’m high energy and have issue with sitting still for too long in my spare time. To allay this excess, I frequent the gym and take several exercise classes such as boxing, spinning, an outdoor athletics class, as well as my new personal favourite– hot yoga, which is a 90-minute meditative class for the mind.

Social activities are important to me so I attend marketing and networking events and organize weekend trips away with my female friends as well as group outings to festivals and events in and around the city.

I’m also a freelance music editor for the online publication D.A.M. Magazine (www.Dammagazine.com), a fun role that allows me to source, connect and interview musicians from around the world. (Latest issue here, where I am a contributing writer)

In October 2009, I focused my love of writing and zest for life into a weekly blog that details fun events and activities from my optimistic point of view. Via various social marketing methods and positive word of mouth, it has since had over 11,000 hits and now averages 200 views/week.

Some example posts are:

  1. At a recent pie eating competition (it was delicious!)
  2. Reviewing a locally produced play and performance
  3. At a charity sporting event (complete with firefighters)
  4. Attending a food styling photography class

I have travelled to many countries around the world (in Europe, North America, and within the Caribbean) and these vacations have only fuelled my desire to see more of our vast world and to experience the many cultures within. My next top destinations include Australia, Japan, South Africa (definitely FIFA world cup influenced), and a trip back to France.

In answer to your specific questions:

What would your expected hourly rate be:

Ideally I would like $25 to $35/hour dependent on hours required and expenses covered by the company

What is your availability per day (between 4 and 8 hours):

Full time would be at least 8 hours/day of availability but as a part time position I would dedicate at least 20 hours a week or 4 hours/day to this exciting role

Please could you elaborate on your software / programming experience

Moderate to expert knowledge of all Microsoft office applications including Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint (beginner knowledge of MS Access)

Microsoft NetMeeting

Moderate skills in FrontPage, Adobe Acrobat, PhotoShop & InDesign (basic editing and page creation)

Moderate knowledge of Social Media Marketing Web 2.0 online tools (research, content optimization, SEO)

SalesForce.com – online sales and product management software

SAP – Financial and accounting software

Citrix/Ensemble: Customer Service software and database

Also, I’m a quick learner and recognize that most applications employ similar user interfaces to maximize accessibility

Where do you reside:

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Pacific Standard Time) but I am originally from Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Eastern Standard Time) and am willing to relocate if required

Are you reliant on a fixed monthly income:

I have fixed monthly expenses that need to be covered each month (ex. rent, retirement savings contributions, provincial health care and utilities) but I purposely have no debt (no mortgage or credit card debt). However, a base monthly income is preferable to a potential of $0 income over a few months period if this is the case.

Do you have a home office set up:

Currently it consists of a desktop computer, printer, scanner, copier, laptop (for working away from home), with high-speed Internet access

My questions for you please:

  1. This position is listed as contract, what is the length of the contract and is there a potential for full time employment in the future?
  2. The position details mention Chicago, Montreal and a few other cities in North America. Would this position require any travel within Canada, the United States and South Africa?

Re-reading the job description, I am more excited than ever by the role and the possibility that this is the right career choice for myself and am assured that I’m the right candidate for Ventureweb.

Again, thank you for your interest and I hope to speak to you soon to discuss this position further.

Sincerely,

Janelle Carter

C: +17782298818

@: Carterjj@shaw.ca

UFC 116 – Fighting to Win

Who:     Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin

What:  UFC 116 (the 116th battle/match of the Ultimate Fighting Championship)
When:  Saturday, July 3, 2010

Where:  Friend’s house

Why:  The food darlings, the food!

The invite, via text, was simply this:

“Hey everyone, having people over for the UFC fight/drinks/eats/good times. Let me know if you’re coming!”

I would go for the eats, definitely enjoy the drinks and of course stay for the good times.

I’ve only seen highlights of UFC fights when flipping through sports channels on TV and in the background at sports bars but I’ve never paid much attention. Now, in the face of and with the added bonuses of booze, BBQ meats and good times, I felt it was finally time to become an expert in UFC fighting and watch my first one. Heck, maybe I’d even become a UFC commentator one day the likes of Joe Rogan.

Yes, from Fear Factor fame

With a pack of friends in tow, we head over to our local UFC headquarters (friend’s apartment). I trained well for this event and arrive with an empty stomach and a 26er of Russia’s finest mid-to-low priced vodka (to share…maybe…).

To kick things off there was The pre-card (preliminary card): This is the event that takes place before the main event. The crowd is excited for it but it’s really just there to prepare everyone for the main events coming up.

The pre-card consisted of:

  • Homemade 7 layer dip & tortilla chips
  • Deep fried Zucchini sticks
  • Spinach dip, pico de gallo
  • Vegetable platter
  • Homemade tztziki with feta and cucumbers
  • Hummus and pita bread

As I begin to stuff my face (they would have to pry me away from the 7 layer dip later), in the background Joe Rogan is interviewing some guys about the fighting and the winning and or losing of something or other. While I wipe spinach dip off my chin, I learn that we had also apparently moved into the ‘co main’ events.  A Chris Leben beat a lovely Japanese fellow by knocking him out cold (so mean!) and a Stephan Bonner defeated a nice Canadian boy by TKO (technical knock out) which is an interesting term, because technically, it means no one was actually knocked out but someone has to be the winner (I picture it being an eenie, meenie, miny, moe type judgment call). Officially for me, the award goes to the hostesses for the sheer amount of homemade fare at the event.

TKO!

——–Intermission———-

Cool things I learned during UFC 116:

  1. Tapout is not just a brand but refers to the fact that the fighters have to ‘tap out’ 3 times for the ref to end the match
  2. When asked why they give up and tapout (hee hee hee) when in a headlock, I was told that otherwise they would pass out cold or worse, have their necks snapped (aren’t sports fun?)
  3. The main event is not always the last event of the night. Time permitting, they throw in an additional match which I take from the empty seats in the stands, few people watch or seem to care about

———————————————————————–

Back to the Fights!

The Main Event: At long last, it’s arrived.  The preliminaries and the co-main were lovely, but the main event is what we all really came for. There’s an appreciative hush and silence from the crowd in desperate anticipation.

We could smell the main event all through the appetizers and when it was finally announced, we were more than ready for it :

Meat’s ready!!:

  • BBQ chicken wings
  • Cheese and garlic Smokies
  • Sirloin beef hamburgers with all the fixings
  • This was shortly followed by another co main event – oven roasted spicy Tandoori chicken

In the background: Big Brock Lesnar knocks out Big Shane Carwin by submission, which in this case means Lesnar nearly chokes him to death. So in order for Carwin to not die by lack of air, he has to tapout 3 times (woo -tapout! Learning new terms is fun).

Look like a couple of momma's boys to me

Post Main Event/Filler: After the anticipation and the lead up to the main event, everyone’s had their fill and can take in no more. Whatever comes next is not going to be nearly as exciting or be half as interesting.

Filler/ (aka dessert): Mini chocolate éclairs, cream puff pastries, chocolate brownies and various sweet breads.

By this time I was already in a food coma and can only remember vague tastes (something definitely had chocolate in or on it) and mumbled sounds (why is she licking the chocolate sauce off the plate?).

At this point the ‘drinks’ promised portion of the evening came into full swing. By the amount of shots that were served (all cool concoctions created by the hosts) I wasn’t sure if we were celebrating Lesnar‘s win (drinks in his honour!) or trying to emulate the loser by trying to knock ourselves out (KO’s for everybody!). Luckily, by the 8th concoction, I realized we were trying to do both.

Final Verdict: I have no interest in ‘sports’ where the object is to knock the other person out by sheer power, steroid induced force and an inordinate amount of kicks to the face. Choosing the better between boxing or a UFC fight, I would give points to UFC because I definitely see more skill required in that arena (martial arts, jiu jitsu, etc) than I do in the hit-face-as-hard-as-you-can then repeat style of standard boxing.

In any case, the party was a lot of fun, the fights took place (yay?), the people were great (as promised) and the good times did flow. The next match up – UFC 117 is right around the corner and as I hinted to the hosts, I’m hoping to get an invite to that one too. Not because it’ll be Silva vs. Sonnen for the main event (whoever they are). No, mainly because…

I heard they’ll be serving a Mexican themed buffet. Mmmmm.

Joe Rogan image source
Tapout image source
Lesnar/Carwin image source

Food(?), for thought

Fake boobs

Fake hair

You mean that's NOT real??

Fake teeth

Fake person

This one's about as fake as they come

I’ve seen it all over the years and feel virtually blind to the many falsities that exist in this world. Those shiny pearls in your mouth aren’t your real teeth? Not surprised. Your skin wasn’t always that smooth and taut? Well it certainly looks that way now. Too scared to get a real tattoo and instead went for the henna version? Good for you. What? You weren’t born with that booty? Then those doctors in Mexico did some amazing work.

Say it ain’t so.

An avid fan and regular watcher of The Food Network, favouring shows Chopped and The Iron Chef, I’m accustomed to seeing basic raw ingredients transformed into tantalizing gourmet dishes. Appetizing plates of food that look crisp, vibrant and so delicious you’d swear you can almost taste them through the TV looking- glass.

Well this can't be right. Why's it so blurry?

For another side project of mine (I swear if it wasn’t for side projects, I’d have nothing to do) I wanted to improve my photography skills when taking still pictures of this subject. I’d already figured out a few basics on my own (the camera works better when powered on) but knew, with proper instruction, I could be doing a way better job.

With fate on my side, a good friend passed on the info for a photography course that focused not only on the subject I was interested in but was also going to teach me to do it better. Sweet. As I always do when I get an invite to something (you should see what I said I’m going to attend on April 17th!), I R.S.V.P.’d yes.

My goal was simple:  Learn to take a better picture

The requirements were easy enough – a camera (preferably a DSLR one), a tri pod and the camera’s user manual. The fact that I actually owned none of these items wasn’t a deterrent either. Scouring my friendship network for favours (I now owe everybody), I rounded up the necessary materials and off to class I went.

The lies they told

As it goes in most coming of age stories, it all started off innocently enough. We learned about how to light your subject (never use flash and natural light is always best); optional products we could buy or make (diffusers and black boxes to control the light); apertures and shutter speeds (for this subject slower shutter speed is better); as well as camera lenses and what they could do. Once the basics were completed, we were whisked off to another area where we were going to prepare our subject for picture taking.

Something’s not right here…

It was right after they brushed liquid wax onto the hamburger bun but long before they poured corn syrup into the spaghetti sauce that I realized my food world was crumbling and another falsity was being added.

Advertising is another word for lie

The woman preparing this toxic dish was a Food Stylist. She prepares and creates picture perfect dishes for photography, by profession. These images are used online, in magazines, in commercials and in other advertising media. We were to take pictures of 2 subjects today –a pasta dish and a hamburger dish and we were about to prepare them now.

Years ago in school (not too many years ago, of course) I learned that milk looks blue on camera so a mixture of white glue and water is used in its place in commercials and the big one – that McDonalds’ used fake product to make their burgers look good (gluing sesame seeds in place, etc). However, this wasn’t really news because as a young adult, you easily recognize that the large, perfectly prepared Big Mac on the TV commercial or billboard poster looks nothing like the squished, sloppily put together mess you get in store (no complaints though, still tasty). This I expected from the mass produced giant, not from almost every food and drink online and print magazine out there.

Apparently real food, when cooked correctly, doesn’t look ‘real’.

How to make real (fake) Pasta:

  • Step 1: Boil the pasta noodles and add lots of oil so the noodles don’t stick. Cook them just enough to be manipulated but do not fully cook them. Once drained, dip them in cold water immediately and toss with lots more oil to ensure, again, that they don’t stick together.
  • Step 2: Sauce. Pick a good quality, thick sauce and drain out most of the liquid (use paper towels or a reusable cheesecloth). To make the sauce stick to the pasta, add corn syrup (or glycerine) and mix until well blended. Combine the pasta and sauce as needed and place on your presentation plate/dish.
  • Step 3: Fake it higher: All food tends to sink when left so be sure to add mashed potatoes or Styrofoam pieces to the bottom of the dish to add and maintain its height.
  • Step 4: Garnishes. Sliced basil leaves or parmesan cheese (grated or shaved curls) work well. Chopped olives sprinkled on top the dish add to a rustic look and should be placed individually by hand in order to make the perfect shot.

And voila! There you have it: a wonderful pasta dish of lies.

 

 

Attempt #1

Final shot

Next we moved onto the hamburger. As they slowly desecrated any food related beliefs I held dear, I remembered back to a time when ice cream was made of cream and sugar and not the lard, icing sugar and strawberry jam concoction they laid before me.

Food styling is a very artistic and contradictory endeavour. Your role is to make the product look as fresh and natural and as mouth-watering as possible but in doing so, you actually make the food inedible. There’s also a lot of waste that goes into each dish. Extra product is typically purchased and backup food is made at every step. All the food they purchase and create cannot be consumed and gets tossed out at the end of the photo shoot. For the hamburger shot alone, there were 5 extra buns, 3 extra tomatoes, 2 extra onions (of which only the prettiest purple sections were used, the rest discarded), a few extra burger patties and an extra package of lettuce.

I prefer my wax on the side, please.

The food stylist also commented that once you start styling, you start to shop differently (always looking for perfection) and you begin to look at food differently too. She was 100% correct. Looking at this hamburger dish more objectively, I know now that wax was spread on the inside layer of the bun to maintain its shape and add to the height of the burger. I know the burger patty is rock hard, ice cold and brushed with oil to make it appear moist and fresh off the grill. The tomatoes and the onions were smeared with Vaseline then sprayed with water to give them a fresh looking sheen and the oil/water mixture creates droplets of water that stay on the product. I also know the whole thing is being held together with carefully hidden toothpicks. I know all this so when I look at this faked pile of product that was once edible foodstuffs and is now masquerading as a hamburger, I can’t help thinking to myself how truly un-…oh who am I kidding…

I still think it looks delicious. mmmm

More food lies, exposed:

–          Roast turkeys and chickens:  are actually kept raw to keep them nice and plump looking. The beautiful golden colour is achieved using molasses and a blowtorch

–          To give onions that caramelized look, simply use a hot iron to add grill marks

–          To keep syrup from sinking into pancakes, the pancakes are first sprayed with scotch guard/fabric protector

–          Pies are stuffed with instant mashed potatoes and then the filling is pinned into place on the tops and onto the sides

–          You can buy fake steam in a little container that you hide in your dish and it emits a stream of steam to your dish that resembles smoke from a cigarette

Photo credits: Fake boobsFake hair, Fake teeth

 

And the winner is…

In this corner, weighing in @ a 20% drop in weight is…Nelley!

1000’s of workout hours, 100’s of healthy meals carefully planned out, dozens of supportive friends and family members, 9 health-minded gals, 6 month timeline, goal setting of 1-2lbs per week, 1 cash prize, 0 excuses.

Nelley - Up & coming rapper

Thank you scale, thank you girls and thank you dear, sweet motivating $$$.

This award means so much to me. First of all, I would like to thank God, without whom I never would have had the courage to launch my rapping career – oh wait. Wrong speech. That’s my 2011 best new artist Grammy award speech. Stay tuned for that one but in the meantime…(shuffling papers)

Ok, here we go:

First of all, I’d like to thank water, of which I drank 9+ glasses per day for the past 6 months. In addition – I’d like to thank readily available restrooms for your support with this endeavour.

I’d also like to thank Taco Bell the other night and my body’s resulting reaction to it as a reminder that cheap, greasy food in large quantities (although delectably delicious) is not made for a healthier body. I would also like to apologize to my good friend who was literally trapped in the enclosed ‘Taco Bell reaction space’ with me as we traveled up to Whistler, BC. You truly are a trooper and I thank you for that.

Thank you to the hardcore trainers @ crossfitwestside for repeatedly kicking my arse twice a week and making me lift weights heavier than I imagined (they made me dead lift 225lbs!) and doing workouts I never thought possible (150 squats followed by 75 sit-ups in under 5 minutes- say what??)

Peace out to the naturalistic dietitian and health foods specialist @ Dynamic By Nature who finally confirmed my belief that diet and processed low fat foods are crap and that organic, all natural full fat foods (in smaller portions) are the way to go.

Our house was just past the 2nd mountain over there

Of course, I can’t forget to thank my dear, sweet parents for this past summer. Although they did rent a wonderful home for us to use, they opted to go carless AND chose a rental home that was a 35 minute walk from EVERYTHING in Lahti, Finland. This forced me to walk everywhere and anywhere up to 3 times a day for several weeks. Yah. Thanks for that. Thanks a lot.

Namaste to the hot yoga folks @ Bikram Yoga who generously extended the 7 x90 minute remaining sessions I had for another 6 months. No I haven’t gone since they extended my membership but I’m sure the stress I put on myself to go and then the guilt I felt for not going surely resulted in some burnt calories.

I’d also like to thank that grossly overweight woman walking with a cane at the Cinnabon shop in the Las Vegas airport for reminding me that the perfect topper to a weekend filled with booze, burgers, pizza and fries was the grilled chicken sandwich I had and not the 6 pack of frosting covered thigh-busters she was devouring… right?? As a compromise I considered incorporating frosting in the salad somehow.  Luckily sanity won out. Darn sanity.

Props to my favourite British reality TV show – You Are What You Eat as the repeated clips of participants during an actual colonoscopy coupled with bloated, stretched out unhealthy bellies being rubbed and prodded really motivates you to move your butt…and to cringe and look away. Then to peek back again because it’s so gross you can’t believe what they let you see on British TV. Then look away again until you think it’s safe. Then peak and squeal in horror as you see there’s even more flesh to goggle at and prod and squeeze. Then rinse eyeballs and repeat.

Another big thank you to the gross Chinese food restaurant on my block for proving that greasy, shiny Chinese food isn’t always delicious and is sometimes better left to die and rot in the shiny metal chafing dishes from whence it came. Gawd bless.

Shout out to liciousliving, a healthy eating delivery/take out shop based in Toronto and Vancouver from where, early on,  I purchased several meals a week and who inspired me to create several favourites such as:

Maple Smoked Salmon salad;

Maple smoked salmon, red/yellow peppers, spiced walnuts

Dill & Crab Cake Salad;

Organic Crab Cakes, fresh dill, red grapes & sliced strawberries

and my famous (to me at least) Shrimp Caesar Salad:

Shrimp, avocado, red peppers & celery

Big ups to Dr. Phil who recommends as you slim down to remove all your larger sized clothing so there’s nothing to fall back into. Great advice but I must have missed the episode on who pays for the new stuff you need to replace the old stuff.  I should ask his pal Maury Povich. If he can track down the 20th man who might be the father, surely he can easily find one who might pay for my new wardrobe.  DNA test optional.

Which brings me to ‘3 Cheers!’ to my roomie, a trend-spotting, highly fashionable shopper whose closet, mostly unbeknownst to her, I have raided on numerous occasions. Her extensive wardrobe of hip and beautiful items seriously bulked up my own baggy and dowdy duds.  Stylish blazers and carefully tailored shirts can go a long way to improve the look of pants that are several sizes too big.  Were she ever to peruse my Facebook photos she would surely note that half my outfits look strangely familiar, hee hee hee.

And a final thank you to the wad of cash. Woo!  It’s not a whole lot but enough to cover my purchase of new runners, workout tops, jogging pants, jeans that fit, work pants that fit (yee gads this is 9-1-1!),  a winter jacket, a workout hoodie, a leather weekend bag, a few winter sweaters from Old Navy, winter boots, rain boots,  a new belt, a blazer from Banana Republic (on sale of course), a couple new shirts, a few blouses and anything else I held off buying for the last 6 months. To put it in perspective, for the past 3 weeks I’ve been using safety pins, a $9 belt on its tightest rung, a dash of hope and a heap-load of prayers to keep my work pants up.

I think it’s finally time to go shopping.

The Final STATS:

Height: 5’7” (no change, heh heh)
% weight loss: 20%
In lbs: 44lbs
In kilos: 20kg

Inches lost
Bust: 3.5″
Waist/abdomen: 5″
Hips: 4″ (still got that booty, woo!)

Exercise Program
Crossfit total body workouts- 2x/week
Cardio and/or weightlifting workouts @ the local gym 4x/week
Other- boxing, spin classes, yoga, walking, dance classes: 1x/week
Healthy Eating:
– Lots of water, minimal sodas/sugary drinks
– 1 salad with a protein and a fiber source as a meal EVERYDAY
– Healthy eating 6 to 7 days/week…usually.  😉
Photo credit: middle of nowhere