time to update your readers…

For the next little while the ‘girl with a flask’ is going to be posting over at: girlwithflask.com.

I just posted a little blurb called September Issue that describes why I made the switch, and a little bit on the process it took to get my new website up and running!

This is not good-bye to Tumblr forever!  I’ve got a few ideas in store for this space…

So hope you will join me over at my new site!  If you haven’t yet updated your email subscription yet, now is the time to do so.  And if you make room for me in your reader or blogroll, that will need to be updated too! 

So I’ll meet you over at girlwithflask.com.  There will be a cocktail waiting for you when you get there!


on forty.

Before I start, guess what?!  You can read this whole post over on my new website: girlwithflask.com!  In the next little while I’ll be moving my whole blog over there.  But if you are a little slack (like me) you can just keep reading here…

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I remember when my Mom turned 40. I was ten at the time, and remember how her closest cousin brought over a pastel-coloured novelty coffee mug that read: “I’d rather be 40 than pregnant”. My Mom and her cousin shared a hearty snort over the sentiment on that mug. I, on the other hand, had absolutely no idea what it meant or why it was funny. I remember feeling like I had stumbled upon some kind of inside joke that maybe one day I would understand.

In the days leading up to my own 40th birthday, I was in a bit of a funk. This was weird for me since I have never really had a problem with birthdays, with getting one year older or with my advancing age. I have always felt right where I’m supposed to be, and have celebrated with many good friends and many good cocktails. But for some reason, the big 4-Oh was messing with me.

Actually, it wasn’t just ‘some reason’. I know the exact reason: I was worried about my looks. There. I said it. I was worried that on the eve of my 40th birthday some kind of ‘middle age fairy’ would visit me during the night and curse me with a bad haircut and mom jeans. While this theory has not gained much sympathy from the over-40 crowd, I hope that you will forgive my vanity and will at least be impressed with my honesty - especially when I tell you that part of the funk was complicated with the guilt of being preoccupied with my post-40 appearance when I have much to be thankful for.

Talk about cognitive dissonance.

The Jock tried to make me feel better by saying reassuring things like: “Think about it: it could be much worse. You could be 40 with a toddler!”

Remembering my Mom’s mug, I thought: how very true. But not exactly what I was hoping to hear mid-way through my enumeration of VSAs (that’s visible signs of aging, for those of you still in your 30s) in the bathroom mirror. SO in the days leading up to 40, I decided that there were a few proactive things I could do that would help me ward off the mom jeans curse:

1. Go to Brachic in Westboro and get a real bra fitting (cheaper than plastic surgery). Just be ready for those uber-professional fitters to get right in the fitting room with you!

2. Get a blow-out. A blow-out always makes you feel better.

3. Buy your very first pair of Fluevog shoes. I don’t really think I need to justify that one. Apologies to those who have seen them on Facebook already.

4. Go for a night of cocktails at the Library Bar with your very handsome husband.

5. Add tinted moisturizer, concealer, and dim lighting to your arsenal of non-plastic surgery interventions against the VSA’s. My current favourite product is Bobbi Brown’s Corrector.

Wait a sec. This blog post has now gone from Jen’s Diary to Oprah’s Favourite Things! Can we go back to #4, please?

You bet.

So down in the lobby of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel is one of the best martini bars I have ever been to! We went on the eve of my birthday (Saturday July 30), which also happened to be their ‘Lounging in the Dark’ night, where (on Saturdays) they turn off all the lights (see #5, above…yesss! yesss!) and serve their ‘Lights Out’ cocktails. It kind of looks like this:

The particlar martini you see in that picture is basically what amounts to the liquid version of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. This is what arrived at our table shortly after we arrived, and before I had the chance to peruse the menu much less order (sneaky, sneaky Jock). After that, we poured over the extensive cocktail menu which is comprised of ‘historical’ and ‘classic’ cocktails that have been served at one time or another at Fairmont Hotels around the world. The menu reveals a little story with each drink (love!) and everything is mixed by craft bartenders who have probably never made a ‘Cotton-Candy Cosmopolitan’. And the drinks are served by class act waiters who have good knowledge about what they are serving, and know just when to check-in. Here’s what I chose:

The Hemingway Daiquiri - legend has it that Hemingway himself used to drink these at the El Floridita Bar. In Havana. Damn. Contains a mix of rum, maraschino liqueur, lime juice and grapefruit juice.

The ‘World’s Best LemonDrop’ ( They promise!) - Apparently a ‘party starter’ (hello!) this martini contained the best mix of vodka shaken with cointreau and then mixed with lemon juice and simple syrup. This drink apparently came on the scene in the 1980’s in San Francisco at Henry Africa’s. Back when I was at a school dance in a gym somewhere.

And when the big birthday moment came, I was brought a ‘just enough’ tray of decadence. Like this:

So very special! If you are ever in Toronto with something special to celebrate. Definitely check this place out.

So how did it end? Were there any mom jeans? What about the bad haircut? Well, I am happy to say that after our fabulous night of cockails, me and the jock went to bed like this:

And I woke up like this:

No bad haircut. No mom jeans!


jen’s horoscope for the week of aug 31

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): “My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view,” said gardener H. Fred Ale. I urge you to experiment with a similar approach in your own chosen field, Leo. Conjure up more empathy than you ever have before in your life. Use your imagination to put yourself in the place of whomever or whatever it is you hope to nurture and commune with and influence. And be perfectly willing to make productive errors as you engage in this extravagant immersion.

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From:  Free Will AstrologyBest. Horoscope Column. Ever.


this post is practically a public service announcement

If you are looking for a place to go on Fridays after work for ‘professional development’ (code word used for an off-site ‘meeting’) or to convene ‘Curse Club’ (code word used for ‘discussing’ your most famous ‘colleagues’ or ‘projects’) - don’t look any further! Go to Canvas for their ‘Friday 4 to 6’ extravaganza! Please note: ‘extravaganza' added by yours truly.

Here’s the deal: go in an order some wine/cocktails/martinis, and get a very cute plate of appies. At no extra charge!

I went this past Friday night with Caroline and Susan, and had ‘a couple’ of nice martinis like ‘The West Side’ (Vodka, Limoncello, Fresh Lemon, Fresh Mint, Citrus Rim).

And although totally gimmicky, the martini we could have downed all night long (but didn’t, because we were v. restrained) was the ‘Sex in the City’ (Vodka, Raspberry SourPuss, Cranberry Juice, Sour Rim). I stopped after two. I think.

Other drinks consumed included the ‘Canvas Martini’ and the ‘Dark and Stormy’ - but you’ll have to go in yourself to see what those are all about!

The plate of appies included some cherry tomatoes stuffed with other fresh veggies and some very delicious wraps cut up all fancy. A very sophisticated cocktail hour with enough time to let you decide between the salad or the sharing plate for supper (we chose the latter!).

And while we’re on the subject of Friday, I thought I’d attach a Katy Perry video that has been bringing me some amusement over the last couple of weeks. Check it out and seen how many ‘celebs’ you recognize - that is, if you can call Rebecca Black a celebrity. Final credits in the video reveal all.

 

T.G.I.F.!  T.G.I.F.!

Sneak peek: My summer project has been migrating martinis for breakfast over to a self-hosted WordPress blog that you can find over at:  girlwithflask.com (surprise, surprise!).  Not quite ready for the big reveal, but thought I should warn you that you’ll need to update your readers before too long.  Check it out!


a humble tribute

It wasn’t hard waking up for Tuesday’s 6 am swim practice.  Tuesday.  The day after Jack Layton died.  As I set my alarm before going to bed on Monday night, I decided that I would dedicate my early morning swim to Jack.  As much as I might groan about being a slow swimmer, having to do a big kick set with fins, or confronting negative splits, the fact is that I can do it.  And the biggest challenge I ever have to face in getting my workout in is maybe a sleepless night, a snowy driveway, or forgotten goggles.  But these are not challenges, not really.  I have the health and strength to auto-pilot myself to the pool two mornings each week to put my metres in.  And Jack’s death reminded me that I should be grateful for that. 

One of the first times I met my brother-in-law he was wearing a black t-shirt with bold white block capital letters that said:  ‘ANOTHER MAN AGAINST VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN’.  I thought back to this t-shirt after I heard the news on Monday because I am quite certain that Jack Layton played a role in that t-shirt getting on the back of my 6’ 4” tall engineer brother-in-law.  Jack Layton knew that if we wanted to make progress in the fight against violence against women, that men would of course have to be part of the solution.  And he enacted this through his white ribbon campaign.

I have unfortunately learned more biographical details about Jack Layton in his death, than in his life - which I think is typical of many public figures.  We get used to seeing them in the newspaper each day, and on the television.  We inevitably come to know the public persona, and that is how I knew Jack. 

I helped elect a large opposition NDP government this past election through voting for my local constituent, Paul Dewar, but part of that vote whole-heartedly went to Jack.  I thought that Jack was a positive force working in the House of Commons.  He was principled.  Compassionate.  A builder.  Many of his social justice beliefs were consistent with my own.  And the great thing is that his energy, and approach to ‘doing’ and ‘building’ was that it ran all through his party.  And only good leaders can do this.  I think he brought hope to many Canadian people who wanted a compassionate Canada that levelled the playing field so that we may all be builders.  That we may all have the health and strength to ‘put our metres in’.  So to speak.

The Jock delivered the news to me on Monday morning via text which prompted me to check out Twitter and Facebook to see what was going on.  My Facebook newsfeed was almost completely orange.  By Monday afternoon we had a beautiful letter from Jack delivering a final message of love, hope and optimism.  By Monday night I was gathered with other mourners in a friend’s kitchen eating vegan bundt cake and toasting Jack with a glass of red wine.  We lit a candle in the window.

On Tuesday morning, I was greeted with a headline in the Globe and Mail that read:  ‘Now, no one stands in Harper’s way’.  I sighed.  This seemed to be the complete polar opposite to what Jack had put in his last letter to Canadians.  It wasn’t hopeful at all. 

So in a positive ‘building’ type response to a negative newspaper article, I got up from the breakfast table and put some music from Michael Franti’s ‘Everyone Deserves Music’ album in my iPod for the walk to work, as you can only feel good after listening to it (please download this album if you don’t have it).  I added some ani difranco and Billy Bragg for good measure.  A social justice mix, if you will. 

It has been the music in my iPod that has been the comfort over the last couple of days when I’ve been out of sorts about losing a great leader.  That, and the very best quote from Jack Layton himself that appeared in my Facebook newsfeed posted by my friend Tanya shortly after hearing the news that he had died:  “Courage, my friends, it is never too late to build a better world”. 



damn you, Martha.

This is the post I never thought I’d ever write.  A post where I am actually promoting a Martha Stewart recipe.  Ugh.  I don’t even know what I was thinking about when I started poking around on the web looking for some interesting summer sips and ended up on the Martha Stewart website.  It began so innocently - just me looking for a summer drink that wasn’t sugar-laden or bland or Coors Light.  When I take my cocktails al fresco, I’m just looking for what everyone else is: something cold, crisp, fresh, and flavourful.  And of course, Martha Fucking Stewart has just the perfect thing.

God damn.

Before I get to the drink, I have to come clean and tell you that Martha and I have a bit of a well, long history together.  I hate crafts.  I don’t just ‘whip-up’ a carrot cake.  I cannot envision how sewing projects are ‘easy’ and/or ‘fun’.  AND - I have managed to survive just fine without a hot glue gun all these years.  I lack the patience, fine motor skills and mental fortitude to create and exectue much of that profiled in her magazine or on her website.  About the only thing I do in the same league as Martha Stewart is hang my laundry out on the line and fold like a professional.  But if you look at Martha’s website, you don’t see ‘Laundry-Folding Technique of the Day’ alongside her ‘Craft of the Day’, ‘Organizing Tip of the Day’ or ‘Cookie of the Day’.  Let’s face it:  Martha has been making me feel inadequate for years.  

A few months ago I was vindicated comforted by fellow-blogger Sid’s post on the do-it-yourself (DIY) trend and how (as Sid says) people in the DIY business are actually wickedly talented, well-trained professionals pretending to be normal people.  And yet here I am, a few months later promoting a recipe by the Queen of DIY herself, who, let’s face it, probably has a whole army of these sick people working for her.

God damn.

On Tuesday I hosted a summer solstice BBQ for my fantastic colleagues and served them Martha’s Cucumber Ginger Fizz.  What attracted me to this recipe was the use of cucumber infused vodka (which you do yourself, in advance), as well as ginger simple syrup (same deal - make it yourself, in advance).  Sparkling water (bubbles!) and a squeeze of lime (fresh!) are added to this.  And as much as it hurts me to say this, this drink was dead easy to make and loved by all.  It was beautiful!

Before you go check out the recipe, I just want to tell you that I actually infused the vodka with cucumber for much longer than the one hour recommended in the recipe.  You could probably leave it for overnight in the fridge, actually (or leave it to taste).  And also - make sure you use the full amount of ginger that the recipe calls for to make the simple syrup.  I had (what I thought was) a decent-enough sized piece of ginger at home, and just threw that into the simple syrup.  When I tasted the syrup straight up the ginger taste definitely came through, but some folks around the BBQ told me that it got a bit lost in the drink.  Others said they could totally taste it.  Ginger flavour or not, careful use of the syrup adds just the right amount of ‘sweet’ to the drink without making it taste like Kool-Aid.

Last thing I want to say about this is that when you infuse alcohol, it takes the boozy edge off (make sure you taste your vodka before and after).  The cucumber infusion makes for a nice pleasant drink.  But if you want to ‘taste’ the vodka - I would put in more than what’s recommended by the recipe (really, Jen?  You would put in more vodka?).  I would up it to 2 oz (I used 1.5 oz originally).  I also froze some mint leaves and viola into ice cubes and put them in the drink which went nice with the cucumber ribbon and lime that also go into the drink.  The only thing that would have made this drink better is if the cucumbers came from my garden.  

Scroll down and check out my pictures in the post below!

So there you have it.  A fabulous summer drink that’s easy to make, and easy to drink.  Damn you, Martha. 


Cucumber Ginger Fizz in the making!  Super delicious.


Always happy to help…

Always happy to help…


One of my favourite movies!  Ever…thanks to….moviesinframes:

The Big Lebowski, 1998 (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)
By area39

One of my favourite movies! Ever…thanks to….moviesinframes:

The Big Lebowski, 1998 (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)

By area39