Sunday, December 20, 2009

Twenty-five days of Christmas: Day #15



Vitamins


Well things are picking up for me and I find myself getting very busy — I should have seen it coming! I vow to continue my countdown to Christmas. The posts might be short and sweet, but do you have time to read these anyway?


Today I’d like to impart my little vitamin regimen that I swear fends off all sorts of ailments, including flus, colds, stress and aboulia: Korean (or Canadian) ginseng, echinacea and Tylenol.


The second I feel like I’m “coming down with something,” I take two ginseng tablets, a dose of echinacea (in any form, see below) and a couple Tylenols. Basically I’m concocting a poor man’s Cold FX (with an added all-around painkiller). While Cold FX claims to be a proprietary formula, I’m skeptical. I looked at the ingredient list and it’s just good-quality ginseng and echinacea, so I decided to buy them separately — way cheaper and just as good in my medical opinion.


I am somewhat loyal to Jamieson vitamins, but I’m sure most any brand is quite good unless you’re buying them at the dollar store. The only word of advice I have is don’t buy Siberian ginseng — it’s quality isn’t as high as the Korean or Canadian varieties. Don’t ask me how I know this, I just DO. It’s a lot cheaper, so that should tell you something right there.







As for the echinacea, the stuff tastes terrible. I made the mistake of buying the chewable form once and never again! I wince at the thought. I’ve found a swallowable Jamieson product with echinacea, ginger and garlic. It might be overkill, but hey, those added ingredients can’t hurt, can they? (Shopper’s Drug Mart makes a cherry-flavoured echinacea tincture that is pretty good, too.)





My BFF N. always takes Tylenol when she’s getting sick and always seems to beat it, so I’ve I’ve adopted this ritual too, not knowing why, really.


Dosage: Take two capsuled each of ginseng and echinacea three times a day for two or three days and then reduce to one capsule of each three times a day until you’re the picture of health. Believe it will work, and it will work. 


(p.s. it’s ok to get sick once in a while, though. We need to fight sickness once in a while to regulate our immune systems, right? More sound medical advice.)


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Twenty-five days of Christmas: Day #14



Luggage


I love the feeling of looking chic while I’m traveling. I make it a point to dress up a bit — you never know who you’ll see. For instance, I once saw Ron Sexsmith at Terminal 1 in Toronto. That was life changing, indeed:





I also like to carry nice luggage. I used to use an Air Canada set in hunter green that I received from my parents when I graduated from high school. It looked good for many years, but then — as all luggage should — it started to show its age. I replaced the rather large pieces with a much smaller carry on hard-shell by Heys. It’s the perfect stand in until the day I can afford a set of Tumi.


To compliment the set, I have two leather and nylon bags from Club Monaco that can pass for Prada any day (to the far-and-near sighted). There is nothing like the feeling of walking into the Principe di Savoia in Milan and feeling like you belong. As my good friend Karenista always says, “Good clothes [and in this case luggage] open all doors.”


Which brings me to today’s entry on my countdown to Christmas. Consider buying someone you love a piece of luggage or a travel accessory. Here are a few of my suggestions:


Heys 4WD 20” Spinner Carry-On





Face it, we tend to over pack. Encourage healthy travel habits, and quick getaways from the airport with this ever-so-chic luggage essential. I’ve traveled around the world with this piece and it’s deceptively roomy — more than enough for a week away. It can be done! Best part is the price — $99. 


Club Monaco Weekender Bag





I have the nylon version of the bag pictured above, and I love it! Club Monaco does a version of it every year and it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s the perfect size for a short getaway or as a second carry-on. I never travel without it.


Louis Vuitton Toiletry Pouch 19 in Monogram Canvas





I would travel with all Louis Vuitton luggage if I could afford it. Unfortunately I can’t, but if I were to inject some luxury into my existing line up, I’d choose this toiletry pouch. And at around $300, it’s not verging on splurge territory.


Any of the Klein Tool Bags


These amazing canvas, leather and vinyl tool bags moonlight as ridiculously chic weekender bags. I want one in every colour and size. They’re built to carry hammers and wrenches, so I’m quite confident they’ll handle my jeans and t-shirts for years to come. Any stylish man or woman would love this one (and they’re only around the $80 range). I can only imagine they get better looking with age.














Don’t forget to stock up on their cute canvas envelops, perfect for pictures, documents, books and toiletries ($10-$20!!!)








Mulberry MacBook Sleeves








My style-savvy friend G. (as she’ll now be called on this blog) alerted me to the fabulous line of MacBook cases Mulberry has rolled out this year. Aren’t they great? I’d imagine most people travel with their computer — why not sheath it in luxury? It’s all in the details. Imagine you’re sitting beside a potential client or employer? These things matter my friends. (They’re pricey and sold out around the world, so this is just for inspiration anyway.)


Cris Notti Sleeping Masks











I’m not 100% sure I could pull this off (I’ll stick to my blue one from KLM), but I really do think it’s essential to travel with a sleeping mask. Along with a set of ear plugs, blocking the light in the cabin makes for a restful sleep (perhaps too restful — I’m terrified of what I probably do when I’m sleeping in public). I think these silk masks from designer Cris Notti are very chic. Perfect for a traveler’s stocking. 


p.s. It's ok to be eccentric while traveling, as long as you're stylish.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Twenty-five days of Christmas: Day #13



Dainties


Every year my mom would ask her three wise boys what their favorite Christmas treats were. I would always request her wonderful butterscotch marshmallow squares. They are so simple and so amazing. As I grew older I garnered an appreciation for her shortbread as well — they are whipped and melt in your mouth! I’ve decided to share her recipes with you (there are two other ones included here, a yummy popcorn cake and no bake date cookies). In Saskatchewan we call the following recipes dainties. They’re not quite desserts, yet more than merely snacks. They’re dainties. These recipes would make even Jean Pare blush.


Butterscotch Marshmallow Squares

1/4 cup marg or butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup butterscotch chips 
1 bag small coloured marshmallows 


Melt butter and peanut butter in a large saucepan over low heat. stir in chips until melted. Cool until you can hold your hand on the bottom of pot. Add marshmallows and stir until coated. Pack in 9x9 pan lined with wax paper. Refrigerate to set.


Whipped Shortbread


1 lb butter
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 cups flour
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla


Cream butter well with electric mixer, add vanilla. Mix in sugar, flour and cornstarch. Continue to beat with until the consistency of whipped cream. Drop from teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes — but watch them carefully because they will burn easily.


Fantasy Cake


1 cup butter
1 bag marshmallows
2 quarts popped corn (place in a deep baking dish and keep warm in 250 oven until ready to use)
1 cup peanuts
1 cup m&m's or smarties (I prefer smarties)
1 cup gumdrops


In large saucepan, melt butter and marshmallows together over low heat (be careful not to overheat). In deep bowl, mix all dry ingredients together. Pour marshmallow mixture over ingredients. Stir well. Pack in an 8 inch square baking dish, cool and cut in squares.


Frying Pan Cookies


2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dates
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup coconut, 1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp almond flavouring


Mix in order given and place in a well-greased frying pan. Cook for 20 minutes, until thick. Remove from heat and add 2 cups Rice Krispies. Cool and roll into balls, then in coconut.


These are simple crowd pleaser. This year my mom and I are going to make them all and take them to Vernon to have on hand as we visit my brother and his family. I want my niece and nephew to garner an appreciation for these time-tested family favorites. What dainty (you have to use the terminology) do you most crave at Christmas?


p.s. I’ll post pictures of our results.

Twenty-five days of Christmas: Day #12



Diabetic’s Christmas


In honour of my popular Christmas chocolate blog, I would like to post a song my friend Cecile Butt and I wrote about the angst of having type one diabetes during the holidays (she has it, not me). If anyone is baffled at the arrangement I dreamt up one chilly night in a Garageband haze, it is made to sound like I’m accompanying Cecile on my childhood Yamaha Electone Organ.


Here are the lyrics:


Christmastime is just around the bend
Time for gathering with family and friends
They stop by with candies and cakes
With hopes that everyone will partake


But there’s one thing they should know for my sake


Candy canes and Christmas puddings are fun
But not when your glycemic index is 12.1
Stockings really lose their appeal
When the candy inside isn’t real


I’d watch my sister eating Ferrero Rochers
And I’d get the Planters Peanuts and a bag of Lays
Give sugar plum faeries and gingerbread men
Made with Splenda, you’ll lose all your friends


I had a dream that I was just like any other girl
I ate some chocolate cake and washed it down with chocolate milk
And polished off a candy apple
Then I ate a box of Fudgee Os
Then I downed a pint of Häagen-Dazs
It was caramel cone explosion.
Candy. Sugar. Chocolate. I want candy


I get up it’s almost three I realize I have to pee
I’m cranky and I’m so thirsty
The night light’s on, what do I see?
It’s old St. Nick in front of me saying, 
“Watch your sugars, my dear Cece!”


Sixteen years have passed since that fateful night
I’m beginning to think that something wasn’t right
That man I saw wasn’t Mr. Claus
It was just my dad pointing out all my flaws


If you are a guest this Christmas Eve.
Take my advice and save yourself lots of grief
Before you pack all those sugary treat
Please check if your hostess has diabetes


Ahh, now we can all sit down and eat in peace

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Twenty-five days of Christmas: Day #11



Chocolates


Christmas is a time for chocolate. If your family was anything like mine, you had boxes and boxes for every type of candy laying around the house. My parents were very up-to-date on chocolate trends and they always bought the varieties their three wise boys loved best; however, guests of the house were not always as savvy. As a child, I thought I could rank how much somebody loved my family by the price point and deliciousness of the candy they would be-gift us. I figured the old adage of “it’s the thought that counts” didn’t apply because there is virtually no thought put into buying 50 boxes of Pot of Golds and giving them to EVERYone at Christmas. I also used to think it was odd when an adult would give me, a little kid, a box of chocolates. It filled my heart with holiday rage. Here is the ranking, as best as I can remember it (from true love to true loathe):


Ferrero Rocher





If you were up on what the Zayshley family really liked around the holiday season, you would have given us Ferrero Rocher chocolates and you would have been genuinely thanked for it. We continue to devour them at any chance we get. The tally would be in the thousands, I’m sure. Who doesn’t love these hazelnut confections? Sometimes when we’re feeling very elegant and fancy we will even eat Raffaellos. I used to imagine they were what Liz Taylor would have eaten at Christmas in her all-white bedroom. 


Lindt





Lindt chocolates come in a close second to Ferrero Rochers. Even as a child I knew these ones were pricey and indeed very tasty — the quality of the chocolate blew the other brands out of the water. Anybody who would spend this type of money on my family would have been a class act indeed. (I highly doubt anyone did, though.) Thankfully my dad’s pockets were deep when it came to season’s eatings so we never went without. My favorite were the milk chocolate variety. Any responsible adult would have cut me off — in the 5th grade I played Johann, a young boy who is visited by Christkindl and learns the true meaning of Christmas. I was growing my hair out from a perm and had to wear capri pants. I do remember I gave a tour de force performance, but I was chubby!


Toblerone





I don’t remember when my family first discovered the novelty and heavenly flavour of Toblerone, but we were avid fans ever since. We often used it as the chocolate in our epic fondue parties. I miss that! I think I am going to organize a doozy of a fondue this Christmas and use Toblerone in it. The triangular shape was always a dead giveaway when it was wrapped up. 


Turtles





I used to love Turtles — their ranking would be higher up on this list if it wasn’t for their price point. (I’m factoring how much people had to spend on us AND how much I liked the candy for this list.) That freaky mascot didn’t even deter me from enjoying these brilliant candies. I’m a huge fan of caramel and chocolate! Luckily, for several years this was one of the most popular varieties of gifted chocolates, so even if they weren’t as expensive as Lindt or Ferrero Rocher, I would appreciate them and hold the giver in relatively high regard. BUT... I think that the makers of Turtles use different chocolate now. Inferior chocolate. I can’t even stomach the modern version.


Toffifee





These things are addictive! And I love them, but, like Turtles, as a child I considered them to be a cheap gift. I was very cut-throat back then. Sorry to hurt anyone’s feelings, but it’s the truth.


After Eight Mints





Ok, now we’re getting into murky territory. Anyone who thought preteen children would enjoy chocolate covered mints was delusional. Sure, I enjoy the flavour combination now, but as an overweight tween this was pure rubbish. I would have given you the cold shoulder all evening if this was what you brought our family. And I wasn’t subtle.


Pot of Gold, various varieties





Could the Pot of Gold line of chocolates be any less exciting? Even Turtles had a creepy gentlemanly mascot, but these chocolates were BO-RING. The only excitement was trying to pick the least disgusting flavour from the guide — chocolate covered brazil nuts? Are you kidding me? Lemon centres? I’m sorry, I can’t even write about this without getting angry.


Queen Anne Chocolate Covered Cherries





Truth be told, Queen Annes are — and always have been — my FAVORITE chocolate of the holiday season. But even as a child I knew that I only represented about 0.5% of the population who actually liked these things. And I also knew that I might have been the only kid in Canada who ate them willingly. So, intellectually I knew that, while I was happy to receive them as a gift, the person who was giving them was so out of touch with trends and what was cool that I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them. Oh yeah, and these chocolates were $1.99 at Zellers, so I knew nobody was breaking the bank to buy them for us, either.


Quality Street





This is a vying for last place. There was something about receiving a tin of Quality Street chocolates that always depressed me. They never seemed to be fresh and the presentation was geared towards senior citizens. But I think I have pinpointed the main reason why I dislike them so much: Since nobody ate them right away (who would eat Quality Street chocolates when there were Lindts in the house?), they would still around when it was time to go back to school. So I associate Quality Street chocolates with school and January, the most depressing month of the year.


Liquorice Allsorts, various brands





How could any sane person stand in the aisle at Shoppers and stock up on allsorts liquorices as their gift of choice during the holiday season? This is your chance to get some browning points with other families and relatives, not solidify your positions as the crustiest person on the face of the earth. I have to admit that as an adult I really love these things, but as a kid. They were. The worst. Candy. Ever. Made. I used to wish the person who gave my family a tin of Bassett’s would just give us the cash instead (cut throat). Wow, I just looked at the box and realized there is an allsorts mascot, too. He’s no turtle, but at least they’re trying. But are they aiming this product at adults or kids? Maybe chimney sweeps in Victorian era England would have gobbled them up, but I might have even started to cry if I were to open up a present on Christmas Eve hoping it was a toy or at very least Ferrero Rochers to only find a tin of Bassett’s Allsorts in my hands.


I know that was a Dr. Phil-style portrayal of my thoughts on chocolates. I hope I haven’t offended anyone. What are your most loved and most despised Christmas chocolates?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Twenty-five days of Christmas: Day #10



The Ultimate Shave


Men are the HARDEST demographic to shop for. Kids will actually make lists of things they want for Christmas and women usually long for certain items and make subtle hints, but men? Men are stone cold. How many hours are wasted at the mall trying to match a gift to the man? Gift cards are usually the answer, but this year why don’t you get him my fail-proof gift? The Ultimate Shave!


This is one of those gifts that takes a humdrum routine and transforms it into something special. And truth be known, if the man you’re shopping for actually shaves with a razor (meaning he doesn’t have a full beard or use an electric razor), he will appreciate this gift very much and actually use it every day.


The key to a good shave is obviously the razor. Nothing beats Gillette in this field. I remember the days when they introduced the twin blade. It was so revolutionary, I didn’t know how it could be improved upon. Well, eventually they released the triple blade and now the latest is the Gillette Fusion Power Phenom:





Luckily the razor lives up to its mega-name. It features five blades, a precision trimmer for sideburns AND it vibrates. I was skeptical of the vibration thing, but low and behold it really works. The vibration decreases friction on the skin resulting in a smoother, less irritating shave.


The blade lasts for several shaves, which is a good thing since they tend to be quite expensive... making this an even better gift idea. Why not give him enough blades to last a whole year? I know I'd appreciate that. Just don't try to check them in your carry-on baggage.


Of course the best razor blade deserves the best shaving cream. My pick is Kiehl’s Close-Shavers Squadron in either Blue Eagle or White Eagle formulae:





White Eagle contains menthol and camphor to give the skin a cooling effect. I prefer the Blue Eagle formula, which is fragrance free and contains aloe for sensitive skin. I’m not sure what it is about these products that results in a perfect shave, but the proof is in the pudding so to speak. I have used a plethora of other products and these ones stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of comfort and effectiveness. Note: Kiehl’s boutiques often prepackage really nice gift sets for men, women and kids during the holidays.


If your man uses aftershave, I recommend ClarinsMen After Shave Energizer:






I’ve always been a big fan of Clarins and their mens products are really amazing. This after shave soothes razor burn and leaves behind a non-offensive citrus scent (I really hate those generic manly smells drugstore products have). But perhaps the thing I like most about the After Shave Energizer is its old-school glass bottle. Looks really good beside the sink.


Have I missed anything? Are there any elements to the perfect shave that I forgot? I figured this post is definitely gender specific — could you imagine the disaster if you got the woman in your life a gift themed “The Ultimate Shave?” The horror!


Twenty-five days of Christmas: Day #9



Magic Bullet





Today’s entry for the countdown to Christmas is short and sweet. (In all actuality I have to catch up on a few posts — I had the seasonal and h1n1 flu shots yesterday and they knocked me out!)


Do you know someone who drinks energy shakes at home? Perhaps a health fanatic, or a mom who wants to get her kids to eat something nutritious? Consider buying him or her a Magic Bullet for Christmas this year. I know, I know, how do I go from endorsing the notebook of Hemingway and Tiffany&Co. key rings to infomercial products? Because, my dear readers, this one really works! Well, theoretically it works.


My roommate J. purchased one over a year ago and it revolutionized our morning routines. I was a shake addict. But then I got creative with it. Turned out the Magic Bullet was really good at pulverizing parmesan cheese. Everything was going well until I tried to grate one of those hard chunks of parm. The blade totally broke. Ok, that was my fault (don’t do what I did). So I recently bought another Magic Bullet for $40 at Canadian  Tire. I took it out of the box and prepped a blueberry shake, plugged it it, and nothing. It didn’t work at all. 


So why am I recommending that you buy one of these things? Simple. When it works, it’s an ingenious idea. You blend right into the cup you will be drinking your beverage out of. Clean up is way more convenient than a blender — less clunky. The machine also has a small footprint, so it doesn’t clutter up the kitchen too much. 


Tip: Cut up ripe banana into small pieces and freeze on parchment paper overnight and add them to your shake in the morning. Tastes just like ice cream!


www.canadiantire.ca