Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall Review: fun with Twenty York

Photo credit:
You know how Alice, when in Wonderland, had that white rabbit that seemed to be guiding her along her adventures? We have one of those lately, too: her name is Twenty York.

Well, actually, it’s Marilou Moles, but her blog is called Twenty York Street, and her Twitter handle is 20YS (as in, 20 York Street), so we call her by her handle. Marilou is one of Ottawa’s top fashion bloggers; in fact, the Ottawa Citizen recently dubbed her so. So how did we end up meeting and then following Marilou around the city? We have Twitter to thank, actually. I’m not sure exactly when it was that I started following ML on Twitter, but anyone who’s really active late at night on there tends to catch my eye, as it’s the last thing I check in on at night. We began chatting—or tweeting, I suppose—and somewhere along the way, we connected blogger-to-blogger. Before we knew it, ML was one of the most influential people in our goal to ‘stay acquainted’ and not end up as couch potatoes.

We decided to do some reviews of the activities we got up to this fall that we didn’t have time to blog about, and realized we had quite a few Twenty York-specific adventures to share. Here’s a recap of what Marilou got us into this fall…


Jordan chatting with local celeb, Stuntman Stu
On September 10th, Marilou asked me to cover an event on her behalf. The Rhythm & Rum Ball, a gala in support of the Care Grows West Foundation, was a Caribbean-themed evening of steel drums, fantastic food, and, of course, rum punch. Some of the swankiest people in the city were there, dressed to the nines and bidding on some pretty incredible silent auction items. ML asked me to cover the event from a fashion point of view, which I initially thought would be no big deal, but two problems arose: one, I didn’t know anyone there, and two, I had no idea how to ask people about their clothes. I think people could smell the desperation because I’d sidle up to someone and just as I’d take a breath to ask them a question, they’d give me a wary look and back away. Armed with nothing but a pen and little notebook, I just didn’t feel ‘official’ enough not to look creepy when I asked the delicate question, “What are you wearing?”

Luckily, I met a fella named Rob Dupuis, from a company called Sweet Chili. Rob was on site to document the evening from behind a video camera…and he happened to have a microphone. He was looking as lost as I was, so we chatted and quickly came up with a plan. Armed with my very own cameraman and a mic to stick in people’s faces, we quickly found ourselves with plenty of people to interview. By the end of the night, we’d interviewed everyone from the CEO of the Queensway Carleton Hospital, to Erin Philips, wife of Chris Philips of the Ottawa Senators. I had a great time munching on hors d’oeuvres and talking with the various ladies about their dresses, each of which had a unique story. You can read more about the night at Twenty York, once ML gets a chance to post it!


Photo by Adam Pap
In mid-September we had another wonderful adventure as we followed our ‘white rabbit’ onwards. We were invited to attend an event called LIFEOFSTYLE (All together like that, at least for us Twitter nuts); this was a fantastic event that provided a launching platform for the rebranding of several local businesses including Twenty York, Beyond Events, and Thann Skincare…but also provided a wonderful stage for a handful of local artisans to show off their talents. Little Cakes Cupcakes made an actual tower of test tubes stuffed with cupcake and icing; Whalesbone catering showed us how to eat an oyster at their phenomenal oyster bar; Reggina pastry delighted us all with cones of fruity mousse; and ARC the Hotel hosted in their gorgeous lounge, and provided decadent little beef sliders that Brian and I haven’t stopped talking about since. ARC’s atmosphere just calls for a fete full of famous people, and that’s what LIFEOFSTYLE was. Brian and I live-tweeted the whole evening, and had a fantastic time meeting all sorts of lovely people. People are still talking about this event, but I think our third Twenty York invite is going to be the new talk of the town…

THANNMEDIA—as seen by Brian

Jordan and Fadi of Thann at THANNMEDIA
This past Thursday, We were invited to the #THANNMEDIA event at Thann’s Bank street location. This was our first time visiting this location and it was beautiful; not only was it done up for the private event but the store’s look and feel is just incredible. Clean lines, unique displays, and warm colours make the shop an inviting place you never want to leave. For the guests, there was sushi provided by Sushi Go and a chocolate fondue from Truffle Treasures. The best part of the atmosphere: the incredible scent of the all-natural products in the room, like an exotic garden.
This event for media, bloggers and tweeters was a great way for us to be reintroduced to Thann and to really see what the brand has evolved into. They started the event off in the morning with Twitter questions about Thann trivia, and Jordan won a 50 dollar gift certificate, while at the event I myself won some aromatic wood handsoap by shouting out another trivia answer.
As the night went on we mingled with all the guests, and got a chance to connect with people like the manager of ARC the. hotel, editor of the Kitchissippi times, Malorie the organizer of the Unshaven Mavens, and of course our hosts 20 York Street and Fadi, owner of Thann. These events are always so much fun because most of these people we converse with over twitter every day but never meet face to face, and THANNMEDIA was particularly incredible for networking.
Brian and Jordan, big winners for the night
The highlight of the meeting was the grand prize draw, for a weekend stay at ARC the. Hotel, with valet parking, sparkling wine, chocolates, and breakfast. How to win this incredible prize? I’ll set the scene: there were five items sitting on top of a black box, and the goal was to guess which item of the five wass in the box. Guests had to fill out the ballot and put it in the box next to it. Jordan and I both got a ballot and I filled out our names then left Jordan to write what she thought was in the box. As the draw was started, Marilou started picking out names but no one had guessed the right product…until she got to mine. My ballot was the only one in the whole box who guessed the winning product! Thanks to one of Jordan’s hunches, we have an amazing weekend ahead of us. So be sure to stay tuned for our blog post about our stay at ARC the hotel! We felt really blessed that evening, and wanted to give something 'back', so we donated our gift card prize to the Unshaven Mavens for their closing night prizes.

Additional note by Jordan:

During THANNMEDIA, Fadi Ghabi, owner of Thann, challenged all his media guests to find a way to accurately describe Thann’s products. I loved that moment when and entire room full of writers put their fingers to their chins as they contemplated the task. Fadi is a former engineer, and I think Thann’s product line is reflective of that: beautifully engineered, simple perfection, and every ingredient included for a logical reason. Made from natural products, with thought put into every aspect of the smell, texture, and feel, Thann reminds me of a finely-tuned sports car: engineered to elegant efficiency, streamlined to optimal perfection. And if I can recommend my personal favourite: Oriential Essence is the best-smelling line of products I’ve ever tried. -JK

Photo by the lovely Adam Pap

We have no idea where Marilou Moles will take us next, but we’re always excited to see what she has in store. ML loves our live tweeting and our ‘roving reporter’ blogging, but given that she recently dubbed us ‘Ottawa’s Brangelina’, I think it’s safe to say she just straight-up loves us, too! The new blog is taking on a life of its own, and you’ll find us all over the city…but keep a special eye out for the lady from Twenty York; this particular Alice and her Mad Hatter will be hot on her fluffy little tail.

And of course, if you have other events you'd like to have us cover, check out our 'Collaboration' page!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dessert before dinner: French Toast Cupcake, and Avocado Penne

As adults, I feel it is our right—nay, our duty—to occasionally spoil ourselves with dessert before dinner. As such, we have hatched a plan for a monthly blog entry: ‘Dessert Before Dinner’. This is part of our goal to ‘feed each other’, as well as our goal to support local business…for the dessert we plan to eat, once a month, before dinner, is Little Cakes Cupcakes.

Little Cakes in a nutshell: two awesome ladies who live and bake in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa. They create delicious cupcakes (mostly their signature minis) that not only taste incredible, but look fantastic, too. It’s a winning combination, and it’s harder to find than you’d think. So often, taste is sacrificed for looks…but these gals pull off perfect cupcakes every time. Little Cakes works almost entirely by special order, creating perfect batches of cupcakes for parties requiring anywhere from 2 to 200 dozen. Little Cakes donated several dozen mini cakes to our co-ed bridal shower earlier this year, and at that time we first had the honor of attending one of their tasting nights. When the ladies offered us space to come again this month, we were utterly thrilled! The tastings take place at With Love Bridal Boutique, a new and adorable shop in Stittsville, Ontario (about a 30 minute drive from central Ottawa). In this glamorous atmosphere, surrounded by pearly jewellery and rows of gowns, we munched away on ten separate varieties of cupcakes. As we chatted, high on sugar and full of chocolate, we decided the best and most awesome thing to do would be to regularly attend the monthly tasting nights, blog about our ‘favourite flavour of the hour’, and follow it up with a dinner recipe…thus, ‘dessert before dinner’. So, without further ado, let us pontificate on the heaven that is…

The Maple French Toast Cupcake

Little Cakes always does a great job with dreaming up new flavours, and this one was a quick favourite of ours. The cake itself was the usual fabulous signature bake that can be expected from all LC cakes, spongy and moist without being gluey or grainy. The perfect swirl of icing on top is what punches you in the tongue, but the cake itself carried the subtle taste of the maple. Maple can often come off very candy-like, but this maple made me think of homemade pancakes with real syrup.

The icing was amazing and complex in its flavours, first hitting you with a punch of vanilla, then finishing off with a warm burst of cinnamon. I loved the look of this cupcake, simple off-white but with the specs of cinnamon glittering in the icing. Little Cakes icing melts in your mouth, and this variety was no exception; the richness came from the icing, while the sweetness came from the cake—which you’d usually expect to be the other way ‘round. All-in-all, the whole first bite made me think of the way that Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal smells, though that stuff never tastes as good as its aroma would suggest. Not so for these cupcakes: from sniff to swallow, the maple French toast cupcake was magnifique

Now, some cupcake porn: just a few straight-up HAWT shots of the cakes, with our dinner recipe below....


Brian in heaven. He ate 13 cupcakes!

Colleen, baking goddess!

And Now, Dinner…Avocado Pasta Sauce over Penne

With a cold-weather cupcake we pair a cold-weather meal…but something dead-easy I found on the internet. Last week I had a craving (as I often do) for avocado, but didn’t want to make a salad or wraps to stick it in. What I wanted was hot, warm, carby pasta, and avocado. I’ve been told that you can’t really cook with avocado, though what exactly happens to it if you do, I don’t know; it’s mysterious, like the rule about not getting Mogwais wet after midnight. (Spoiler: they turn into Gremlins. Clarification: Mogwais turn into Gremlins, avocados do not. At least, not that I know of.) Anyway, I found arecipe, which again I pretty much ignored (adult ADD) except for the basic actions taken and the fact it used a food processor. I was so excited about this, because I got a processor at my bridal shower and I’ve been dying to use it, but had no idea what to do with it. Well, lo and behold, we have avocado penne. Here are the super-simple steps to creating a fantastic, rich dish that’s rife with good nutrients—not that I wouldn’t have made it, anyway…


Food stuffs
-one avocado
-half a box of penne

Spices and oils
-olive oil
-lemon juice
-garlic: 2 cloves, or a big spoon of pre-mushed stuff

What to do:

1. Get the avocado flesh out of the avocado. I did this by watching people on TV do it; here’s a YouTube video.
    1b. Boil water for the penne, and cook it following the instructions on the box. Drain when it’s ready. It may be ready in between the steps you take for the sauce.

2. Put the avocado flesh (meat? dough? muscle?) into the processor along with a big dash of lemon juice, about a tablespoon of cilantro, the big spoon of garlic, and about a tablespoon of olive oil.

3. Blend for a while. Push the goo down towards the blades so it all gets blended. If it’s not blending well, add a touch more lemon or olive oil. I ended up adding dashes of both. Pepper to taste (I like LOTS), and maybe there’s other spices you like…throw ‘em in. I should have added chilli pepper flakes, for instance, but I didn’t think of it.

4. When your penne is done, drained, and put back into the pot, pour the avocado over the penne and toss together like a salad. Serve hot, and eat it all that night, as apparently you can’t reheat avocado (but no one says WHY).

Advanced steps:

When I went to serve this, I found it a little bland, just because avocado is such a simple, rich creamy thing. I got creative and threw some marinated mushroom caps and artichoke chunks into the pasta—these we picked up earlier in the day at the antipasto table in La Bottega, but you can get them in jars. I also cut up and added in some marinated spicy eggplant, a recent discovery of mine that I’m obsessed with.

After eating this, both Brian and I agreed that pine nuts would have been an extraordinary addition; homemade bacon bits were also a good suggestion. However, I really just enjoyed mowing down on a big plate of creamy avocado penne. The great thing about it: it was a lot like an alfredo sauce, but without the milk…score for the lactose intolerant couple.

So there you have it: a complex cupcake, followed by a ridiculously simple pasta dish. Both items delicious and warm and buttery and rich. I’ll admit, the only thing I might have been able to eat after the cupcake feast was a green salad with vinaigrette, but I actually chose to forgo dinner altogether, instead falling into a sugar coma and waking up with a hangover that I cured with the hair of the dog that bit me: a cupcake from the ones we got to take home! ‘Like’ Little Cakes’ facebook page, and come out to the November tasting night—it’s not just for brides, because there’s always occasions upcoming for cupcakes! Try the avocado recipe, as well, and someone somewhere: tell me WHY you can’t heat up avocado. I beg you. Is it Gremlins?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pole dancing: embracing the inner sex kitten

So if you haven’t heard, I pole dance. Well, ‘dance’ seems like a strong word for the clumsy, disjointed motions I pull off each week at class, but one day, I dream, it will indeed look like dance.

Owner of 3Sixty: Corinne
I first tried pole fitness class when Project: Priceless--The Free Wedding Experiment was offered a free group lesson from 3Sixty Pole Fitness for my bachelorette party. I loved it, and thought it was tons of fun, but the reason I decided to sign up was actually because of how hard it is. I played roller derby for a couple of seasons, but gave it up for myriad reasons last January; since then, I’d been looking for my next mountain to conquer. When pole came along, I was thrilled: here was something that, no joke, was harder than getting hit by big angry women on skates. Not to mention, it was a new place to wear all the hotpants I’d bought for derby. When classes started up shortly after our wedding, I decided this definitely fit into our ‘Improve Thyself’ goal, as I would be building muscle, while also touching on the ‘Keep the fires burning’ goal as well…wink, wink. I thought I was prepared for this adventure, but sister, I was not.

Me, looking delighted
Sure, the first couple classes weren’t too bad. It was mostly review from the little bit I’d already learned, so I just kind of breezed through and had the smug satisfaction of being ahead of the class. Two of my friends who’d attended my bachelorette were also in the class, and unlike some of the newer girls, we were already diehard pole fans. I nailed the fireman pole like it was child’s play, and I did the ‘flirt’ like nobody’s business. But somewhere around class 3, things started to get a little tougher, and it wasn’t just the moves. I’d been watching myself in the mirror for three weeks now, and it wasn’t the lifts and spins that were killing me: it was any sort of a move that was supposed to be sexy. Our teacher, Corinne, introduced us to this simple little move where you hold the pole, crouch down with your knees on either side of the pole, then sort of slither back upright, bum first and bust against the pole. When Corinne does it, I think, damn, that's a foxy lady. When I watched myself do it in the mirror, I thought, That poor girl seems to have a serious inner ear problem. I truly looked more like I was falling over and grasping the pole like a drunk. At best, I looked like a very stiff old lady who has trouble unbending at the waist.

This one simple move in particular became my fixation for the rest of the course. How is it possible that I can swing myself around a pole with legs in a figure ‘S’, yet the moment I try to crawl along the ground like Britney Spears in a music video, I look like I’m searching for a contact lens? An undeniable truth came to me: I’d forgotten how to be sexy. Sometime between the raging hormonal mid-teen years, and my current age just reaching thirty, I had forgotten how to dance, sway, swagger, and stretch in any manner that didn’t resemble the motions of an inebriated orang-utan. When I first realized this, watching myself in class as I attempted to do a swing of my hips in a sensual fashion, I actually broke out in a bit of cold sweat. I’m a newlywed, for crying out loud; my entire life is supposed to be about sensuality right now. So what does it mean if I can’t even trace the contours of my body without looking like I’m doing my monthly lump screening?

Classmate Max, looking HAWT.
I was, by the end of class six, just about ready to quit. I figured I would just stop trying, because it was too scary, too hard, and too ridiculous to try looking sexy again. I’d decided I would maybe take up kickboxing, or that MMA sport people are so into—something where I’d still build my core and arms up, but where practicing my ‘stripper get-up’ would be a non-issue. It was around that time that I noticed tweets going up for End Fat Talk Week—a campaign put on by a group called TriDelta, all about women re-educating themselves to stop using ‘fat talk’…things like, “Do I look fat in this?” or “I’m so fat.” Looking through their tweets (@endfattalk and #endfattalk), I realized that my fear of the pole was an extension of my own fat talk. I’d determined from the start that I was in no way the right shape of woman to make this stuff look sexy; I hadn’t directly called myself fat, but I had, I admit, been thinking how short and stout I looked. I’d been chastising myself for being too ‘soft’ to pull off the moves, which was definitely like calling myself fat. How could I ever find my inner Sex Goddess if I had already decreed myself too short and round to be nimble and sensual? This was particularly stupid because I’ve seen pole practitioners of all shapes and sizes, and some of the hottest ones were women well beyond my dress size. It’s funny how these rules of fatness only apply to ourselves.

At our class this week, I tried to give myself more leeway. After warm-up when the music started for the first run-through of our routine, I screwed my eyes shut and decided I’d fake it ‘til I make it: I held that pole at arm’s length and walked on tip-toes like a long-legged gazelle. Those voices we all know so well tried to sneak back into my head, and I shushed them as best I could as I tried my duck-down-butt-up move. Okay, I admit it, my new attempt at confidence did not magically make me look any less like a vertigo victim, but for many of the moves, I could feel a difference: when I silenced my inner critic, my body relaxed and some of the motions did actually have a sensuality to them. By the end of the class, I was thinking, yeah, okay, there is a Sex Goddess in me somewhere. Knowing I’d be blogging this experience, I took some of the photos you see here today, and even shot some video of myself and my classmate Max; and that video showed me something I didn’t know before: I look pretty darn cool on that pole.

I’ve decided to go back for level two. I thoroughly enjoy my experiences at 3Sixty, and I recommend the studio to anyone who is considering embracing their bodies both in terms of strength, but also sensuality. There’s a natural misconception about pole fitness being sleazy or naughty in some way…I think there’s a very acceptable amount of naughtiness to it, and why shouldn’t there be? We hear so much about getting in touch with our inner selves, yet often it seems as if our inner sexuality is discounted in that exploration. I mean, I’m not at all ready for one of those workshops where we all take off our panties and sit in a circle with hand mirrors, but I am, it turns out, ready to spin myself around a pole and stick my chest out a bit.

This does mean that I will continue to be utterly dependent on Brian for 48 hours after each class, when my arms seize up from the hour of prolonged gripping and lifting; there hasn’t been a Friday evening in weeks where I’ve been able to get my own shirt off unaided. It also means that I’ll continue to develop little calluses on the pads of my hands, and bruises on my bony parts. We tried spinning pole last week, so I also expect there’s a high risk of concussion in my future, too. But come hell or high water, I’m telling you now: I am going to make that duck-down-butt-up thing look hot if it’s the last thing I do.

Brian supports my decision to stick with the class. No big surprise.

If you'd like to learn more about pole fitness, head over to 3Sixty's website by clicking here.



Corinne, looking spectacular

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ten Photos Project: I'll show you mine, you show me yours

On Canadian Thanksgiving Day, October 10th, we participated in something called the Ten Photos Project. Andrea Tomkins of A Peek Inside the Fishbowl is the mastermind behind this simple idea: capture and post a picture every hour, on the hour, for the entire Thanksgiving Day. Andrea’s done this project on previous major holidays, and I personally caught onto it this past Easter, but not in time to actually participate.

I’ve written some of my insights about #10Photos on the UsedEverywhere blog this week, so I encourage you to go read some of my observations and some of my favourite images from other #10photo participants. And you can continue to read extra blog-tasticness every Thursday-ish, where I blog for UsedEverywhere each week! So, with a great entry to send you over to read, I’ll let this post be as simple as the project itself: here are our ten photos…with a couple bonus reels.

9am: waking up.

10am: blogging while staring out window.

11am: Mr Darcy face.

12 noon: clothing crisis.

1pm squash in the Byward Market.

2pm: Eating roasted chestnuts with my family.

3pm: having a stupid giggle over Brian being at the Sausage Factory.

4pm: Squash with Bri

5pm: Starbucks merchandise contemplation.

6pm: Old church-turned senior's centre as we walk the dog.

7pm: Star Trek classics.

8pm: penne with chevre, and spicy eggplant.

10pm: Brian absorbed in a romantic comedy while he rubs my feet.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thanksgiving: poison potatoes, severed finger, and a skunk standoff.

Thanksgiving weekend ended up being full of adventures, many culinary. I threw myself into the deep end of the pool on Saturday: Mom’s family was getting twenty-five of us together and I volunteered to bring the sweet potatoes. To be fair, I hadn’t realized there would be twenty-five people when I volunteered, but when I found out the night before, I was brave and just bought more potatoes.

I had made mashed yams once before, a few weeks prior, when I attempted to make baked sweet potatoes. We had been visiting my parents, and eager to show them my new cooking interest, I had found a recipe online for a twice-baked sweet potato. The instructions were deceptively simple: bake, scoop out, mix ginger and raisins, bake again. What ended up happening was that after an hour in the oven, the damn things were still hard as a rock, so we threw them in the microwave and did them as ginger-raisin mashed potatoes instead. They turned out really delicious, and Mom was a great support; I was so frustrated that I couldn’t pull off this recipe that a certain famous Food Network chef thinks is sooooo easy. Mom just kept saying (and this is my advice to all of you): “Potatoes are funny things; sometimes they’ll cook in no time, and sometimes they’ll take hours. Don’t bother with that stupid recipe. Throw them in the microwave.” And her mantra for the evening, chanted at me so I wouldn’t throw the yams out the door: “It’s not YOU, it’s the potatoes.” In the end, we made a delicious dish, and I felt ready to try them again for the larger family.

Saturday morning, first thing we did was wash the potatoes. Then Brian volunteered to cut them up into smaller sections, as I was determined not to nuke my food in the microwave; we figured, cutting the potatoes into smaller portions would help them cook faster. We had talked with some tweeters the night before about just getting pre-cut potatoes, but a) I didn’t find them, and b) I figured my best bet was to follow my botched twice-baked recipe again, with the same modifications, because the end result had been great. After what happened next, I’ll tell you, I wish I had bought the stupid cut-up potatoes…

Brian cut his finger open. Even writing this out, three days later, I cringe. I left the room for two seconds and that’s when I heard his swearing. I knew what had happened. I thought I was ready for it. I ran in, saw the blood pouring out of him and the actual fear on his face…and I panicked. All my First Aid got jumbled in my head, like someone dropping a deck of playing cards. We managed to rinse the wound, sit him down, and apply pressure with a clean cloth. But every time we tried to look at it, it gushed again. What did I do? The only thing I knew how to do: I called my BFF MJ, who worked as a chef for fifteen years. I made her come over and assess the wound. She doesn’t live far, and she showed up, my hero, in mismatched pyjamas, running up the stairs. She suggested the Brian needed stitches, which Brian flat-out refused to do, so she suggested keeping an eye on it and seeing what happened. What happened was, it refused to seal itself, so we went to the pharmacy and got that 2nd Skin stuff to seal it.

As Brian lay down for a while, looking pale and really scary, I forged on with the potatoes. I baked them for an hour, only to find they were still rock hard. I gave them another thirty minutes, and then discovered half of them had dried out. Stress and worry got the better of both of us, and Brian and I had a seriously crabby argument for no good reason while I tried to salvage the portions of potato that were either undercooked or cooked, but not dried out. I threw the resulting pulp into the microwave, feeling like a big cheater.

After that, though, the potatoes were indeed cooked and there seemed to be a pretty good yield, though maybe not enough to feed two dozen people. I mashed and stirred the potatoes, adding some (almond) milk, butter, raisins, and ginger, but it still tasted like it needed something. In a moment of inventiveness, I grabbed the maple syrup and gooshed in a large amount: perfect. They tasted great and I was satisfied. We took the bowl to dinner and ordered everyone to eat some, as there was, literally, blood, sweat, and tears in those potatoes. I received compliments, and somehow the fact that Brian was slowly bleeding to death seemed worth it. (I kid. Mostly.) There were leftovers and my mom in particular loaded up a container with them, which made me puff up with pride.

The next morning, I crawled out of bed, went to the kitchen in search of sustenance, saw the maple syrup…and realized something terrible. It was mouldy. A thick, fuzzy-gelatinous carpet of mould was floating on the top of the syrup. I think I thought it was frothiness, the day before when I used it. I don’t know how I didn’t spot it. Brian had woken up feeling a little sick, and suddenly I was terrified. I snuck into the art room, shut the door, and called Mom. When she answered, I said, “Mom, listen to me carefully. Don’t eat the potatoes.” She asked why, and I told her. She scoffed and said not to worry about it, mould wasn’t a big deal and no one was sick; why, she’d eaten a big helping of the potatoes again for breakfast! I blanched, but pretended to find that reassuring.

I watched her the rest of the day, as we went over to my parents’ for Mom’s birthday dinner. She really was fine, and Brian’s stomach settled down so we suspect he just had too much dairy. No one else showed any signs of illness, though Mom teased me mercilessly all night. It was too ironic not to make fun of: the obsessive-compulsive food phobic weirdo managed to use mouldy ingredients to feed a small army. Har, har, har. Everyone really was fine, though, and we all enjoyed a treat that was new to me: a Chinese fondue. My parents had worked all day, cutting up the veggies, buying paper-thin steak slices, and laying out shrimp and scallops. Eight of us sat around the table for a couple hours, boiling our food in deep fryers-turned-hot pots while fighting over whose skewer was whose. It was delicious, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

It was as we were contemplating heading out into the warm, dark night that someone spotted a skunk walking across my parents’ driveway. My parents have giant picture windows along the front of their ranch-style bungalow out in Barrhaven. It was easy to watch the striped creature make his way from the koi pond all across the property to the garbage bins. Someone (and no amount of loud arguing managed to pinpoint the culprit) had left a bag of garbage on the ground instead of in the bin. Mr Skunk went over and put his pointy little jaws around the bag, gnawing through in seconds. My dad and Brian ran to the front door, which opens out to face directly at the garbage bins, but the full length of the house away. The picture windows allowed us womenfolk to watch the men, staring out at the skunk who, forty feet away, was happily gnashing at the garbage.

This skunk and my dad have a personal vendetta thing going. Mr Skunk is the white whale to my dad’s Captain Ahab. This skunk keeps my parents up all night because their neurotic puppy runs out into the dog yard (there’s a doggy door) and barks incessantly at it while it eats the garbage. This was my dad’s first face-to-face encounter with the thing, and it was obvious he couldn’t just walk away, letting this monster eat undisturbed. Something had to be done. He stomped off into another room, clearly looking for a weapon. He came back with a bottle of dishsoap, which he pitched at the animal. It struck the recycling bin with a reverberating THWONG, and the skunk paused, raising its tail. When the soap failed to jump up and attack it, Skunk went back to his meal. Seeing my dad’s angry face and damaged pride, sweet Brian decided it was time to get involved. They stood in the open doorway together, discussing the situation like military generals. Then they both headed into the back room while Mom and my queries were ignored. The men returned, their arms full of weird metal pieces. Mom asked me what they were, and it suddenly became clear: “They’re shelving brackets, those things that hold up shelves” I said, and we watched in utter confusion, until Dad took one and pitched it at the skunk.

The image of my dad and husband standing on the front step, lobbing shelving brackets at a big fat skunk, was like a modern-day parody of an illustration out of some ‘Early Man’ textbook. Like some form of rudimentary boomerang, the two hunters stood, poised, taking their best shots at their prey, silent yet seeming to communicate without language. Framed in the big windows, I wish I’d taken a photo so I could have found an old etching of early Neolithic man, hunting with crude weapons, and superimposed the two shots. The only thing that ruined the tableau was my mother’s hooting laughter because I’d pointed out the caveman thing and now she couldn’t stop laughing.

After a while, the skunk moved out of range, though neither man was convinced it had left. Dad went into the back room, perhaps to attempt inventing the wheel or making fire, while Brian slinked out into the dark night. It was the young caveman’s turn to prove his manhood, and he began his journey out to the garbage bins, shelving bracket raised high and cocked for action. It was only once he disappeared into the skunk’s shrub that I decided I had to put an end to this particular rite of passage. I went to the door and told Brian that if he got sprayed, I wasn’t helping him get cleaned up. That seemed to bring both men to their senses, and Brian returned to me, safe and scentless.

With the sweet potatoes behind us, Brian’s finger mostly staunched, and the skunk subdued, we headed home. It was a helluva weekend, with lots to be grateful for: I didn’t poison the family, Brian’s finger is healing, and I now have a permanent mental image of my dad and Brian wearing animal skins and hunting a black-and-white striped sabre tooth tiger.

Thanksgiving photo project

Twitter all-day photo project

On twitter today, we are participating in a phenomenon called '10 Photos': take a photo every hour of whatever you're doing, then post it. Follow P:P's photos at or look for the hashtag #10photos to follow EVERYONE's. Later, we will post the pics up here on the blog!