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Monthly Archives: February 2013

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Montréal had yet another snow fall in the last couple of days, meaning winter is still making itself comfortably languid in this part of the world. All these months of winter weather has changed my skin into a dysfunctional and irritable mess. I usually have the oily, shiny type and moisturizing lotion was something I used strictly below the chin. But come December, I was digging through my medicine cabinet for something to control my flaky, peeling visage. This winter I even started to experience frequent rashes and other forms of skin irritation from exposing myself to -40°C temperature. My skin demanded attention; it became red, taut, and even sported a matte texture for once. My usual grooming regimen needed an overhaul.

I admit that I already am a skincare junkie. I read news and articles concerning skincare like the way you hope your broker keeps tabs on your mutual funds. My Internet bookmark is set to various beauty sites and I peruse Sephora almost like the way Terry Richardson picks his young models — ravenous and wide-eyed though perhaps I am more restrained. I regularly scan the flyers for my local drugstores so that I know when there are sales and deals for my usual lotions and serums, leaving me no excuse for ever running low on eye cream.

This may seem odd to some people since I keep my makeup to a minimum and seem accepting of many so-called imperfections on my skin: freckles, acne, and pores so huge I could probably stock an emergency supply of water jugs for the apocalypse. I accept that I do not have “perfect” skin and even dismiss such an objective though yes, I do drink the Kool Aid of the beauty myth. That said, I do enjoy many grooming rituals, even the artistic nature of makeup, and I want to feel confident and look presentable. However, that is hard to do when my face has been invaded by an army of red bumps and blisters that the wonders of makeup can only partially address.

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Hence, this winter, I stored away my soaps and scrubs, and looked for something mild and soothing. I had a couple of thoughts on how to go about restoring my skin to a less angry state, which included some measures by two of my friends involving products meant for nursing mothers and their babies (i.e. slathering on nipple cream and lotion for eczema on baby skin — they swear by it!). Well, those options were at the back of my mind, but I decided to try some alternative options first while being as economical as possible.

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It recently came to my attention that I have been living under a rock. Despite my propensity to cook vegetarian meals and follow celebrity chefs on Twitter, how come I never heard about Yotam Ottolenghi?

The Israeli-born, London-based chef writes a column in the U.K.’s The Guardian, stars in his own cooking and travel show, and runs a restaurant empire with four restaurants in London. And here I am, falsely thinking that I am good with keeping up with current events and know about all the good cookbooks out there. Somehow, I missed the memo about Ottolenghi.

Well it is good thing that it was recently brought to my attention that Ottolenghi’s cookbooks are amazing. And by amazing, I mean that, as someone who still goes out to buy cookbooks and not just to pose as some food snob, every single Ottolenghi recipe that I have tried thus far is a winner. My sister recently brought over her copy of Ottolenghi’s sophomore effort, Plenty, and all four dishes we made were hits. Thankfully I was able to continue making more recipes after being gifted the beautifully photographed cookbook for my own use.

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Quinoa and Grilled Sourdough Salad

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La Croissanterie Figaro
5200 Rue Hutchison (west of Parc at Fairmont)
Montréal, QC H2V 4B3
(514) 278-6567
www.lacroissanteriefigaro.com

It was a cold day here in Montréal when my friend and I were walking in the Mile End neighbourhood and thought to warm up in a nice café. Did I ever mention how much I love cafés? I love visiting them for low-key outings though nowadays I am there to only do work.

We decided to revisit La Croissanterie Figaro after I dropped in during December to order their avocado and tofu sandwich, fondly recommended to me by Hilary. On this occasion, we came to sit in the popular crowded café bordering the Outremont and Mile End neighbourhoods of Montréal to try their freshly baked croissants and alcoholic coffee beverages.

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The “I Love Lisa” episode of the fourth season of The Simpsons

How is everyone’s Valentine’s Day? Or I guess I should also ask how Single’s Awareness Day is going for everyone else. Remember, overdosing on chocolate is an equal opportunity for all of us.

Personally, I eschew Valentine’s Day. I mean, I have trouble “getting” it. I know there was a Saint Valentine in there and then somehow some winged cupids manhandling bows and arrows got mixed in there too. But along with such icons as leprechauns and witches, I am not a fan of Hallmark Holidays. After passing through primary school and collecting cut-out Valentines from my classmates — did anyone else experience one their first socially insecure moments like I did back then? — I stopped paying attention to this date. Even as a person happily coupled in a relationship, I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I apologize if this sounds like vitriol I am spewing, as I recognize that I may sound like the Valentine Grinch. I think that one of the reasons why I felt ambivalent about Valentine’s Day was that I always worked on this date. While I was doing my undergraduate studies, I waited tables part-time and of course Valentine’s Day is a huge day in the restaurant business. The restaurant layout would need to be revised so that all tables can seat two, and then romantic props like flower petals, pink ribbons and mandatory candles would be arranged in the space. I was always a very polite and competent server so there was never too much of a difference in the way I dealt with customers, though it was an odd feeling being entrapped in a room surrounded by lovey dovey couples.

PDA, as long as it is not explicit (!), is not something that I frown upon at all. That is, until I moved to Montréal. I know they say that Paris is for lovers, but Montréal? Well, let us say it is also for touchy feely types.

In one of my first memories of when I initially moved to the city, I was sitting at a diner with a friend for a lazy weekend breakfast in the francophone dominated neighbourhood of the Plateau. There was a couple sitting in a booth across from us, with their hands intertwined on the table between each other, their bedroom eyes locked together. Each of them would take turns and stand up and reach across the table to lay very passionate kisses. Eventually, they moved to sit on the same side of the booth and continued a full-on makeout session while my friend I am uncomfortably tried to eat our toast and eggs.

It was during the summer that I moved to Montréal, and as I love exploring a new area by walking all over the city, I of course made regular visits to the mountain, Mont Royal, and the encompassing park. Montréal is a hilly island, and Montréalers like to sit on grassy hills to picnic, play games, or just relax. But, as I said, the city is for touchy feely types and when you look at the people sitting on the grassy hills on a beautiful day in summer, I would say about a quarter of those people in the park are sucking face. I swear, I am not kidding; try visiting la belle province, especially during the warmer months.

Montréalers just love to engage in PDA all around the city. On the mountain, by the canal, on a sidewalk bench spotlighted by a street lamp. My first visit to La Petite Italie (Little Italy) involved my friends and I dropping in to a popular pizzeria late at night while a sixty-something couple were mindlessly engaged in a hot and heavy embrace outside the restaurant. This never happens in Toronto.

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Today is the third anniversary of fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s untimely death. If there is a silver lining to this sad event it is Björk’s rendition of Gloomy Sunday, which she sang during McQueen’s funeral in London, U.K. Since the Hungarian composer Rezső Seress penned the song in 1933, many notable singers have covered the song including Billie Holiday and Elvis Costello. However, it is Björk’s version that I find the most beautiful and haunting; I feel like the song was made for her powerful and elastic vocal style. What a great tribute to an immensely talented designer and innovator.

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Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore
211 Rue Bernard Ouest
Montréal, QC H2T 2K5
(514) 279-2224
www.drawnandquarterly.com

I love leisurely visits to the bookstore. However, I am cognizant to the fact that this pleasure of mine is becoming an extinct activity — when you can get cheaper prices online and download e-books to your Kindle, what is the use of going to a bookstore? Personally, I always love holding a book; I love flipping through its pages, appreciating the cover art and layout, and feeling the weight of the cover between my hands. So it may be of surprise that while I love technology I am not converting to e-books just yet. And as long as brick and mortar retail bookstores exist, I will always be that regular patron taking up an aisle space a bit too long.

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Drawn & Quarterly is one of those bookstores that I truly appreciate and not just because it is amongst the last independent bookstores standing. It has a small storefront in the Mile End neighbourhood of Montréal although it is also a publisher that specializes in comics and literary arts. Notably, D&Q “discovered” the comic book artist Daniel Clowes and his series Ghost World, which became a motion picture in 2001 starring Thora Birch and a young Scarlett Johansson.

As expected, D&Q stocks quite a bit of graphic novels including works published in-house, such as those by Canadian cartoonist Seth; the famous Maus series by Art Spiegelman; as well as lesser known authors to discover. The store also hosts a slew of events in support of comic book and graphic novel artists in addition to other cultural gatherings. Also of note: the store is one of the few places in the city where you can grab a copy of David Chang’s (of Momofuku fame) quarterly magazine, Lucky Peach. Plus, they have a bookshelf built in the shape of a rocket to hold a whack of Tintin’s comics.

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