Thursday, May 28, 2020

Staying home and learning about wine

The best way to learn about anything is to do it, which is exactly what I've been doing: learning about wine.

it's called learning, karen

A couple of weeks ago, during you-know-what, I set out on a journey to create a list of my favourite red wines after watching a video on YouTube called Random Empties + Rattlesnake Pasta w/ Chef Steph.

 the video in question

Immediately after watching it, I promised myself two things: I was going to learn more about wine and I was going to make rattlesnake pasta.

(Spoiler alert: I did both.

To become a true wine connoisseur, *I quickly learned, you needed to do more than just hit the bottle; you needed to hit the net too (#StayAtHome). 

*I realized this the morning after the first night of my journey, after finishing a bottle of one of my (now previously) favourite red wines, Revolution RedI really enjoyed it on the spot (with the spot being my kitchen), but less so in bed, the following morning, with my pounding head.  

So I took a Masterclass with James Suckling, binge watched Chef Steph and started using the SAQ app, to keep track of my likes and dislikes and check for additional information about the wines I was trying.

Lesson #1: sugar content matters
Revolution Red has 10 grams of sugar per litre (g/L) of wine, which is around five more than my body can handle, apparently.

Sugar content can vary anywhere from 0 g/L to 50 g/L to 100 g/L or more, and corresponds to the amount of sugar that's leftover in the wine, from the grapes, after the fermentation process is over.

Lesson #2: type matters
I like jammy wines and no matter how "good" a red wine is supposed to be, I probably won't like it unless it tastes like plum, berry, vanilla, chocolate and/or coffee.

Side note: Two weeks ago I was tricked into buying The Chocolate Block. The name (and font) on the label led me to believe that I'd love it, but I did not. Especially at $40. 

It only had 2.5 g/L of sugar but it's a syrah, so, not very jammy...

After a few hits and misses, I can now attest to the fact that I most enjoy drinking cabernet sauvignon, with carmenere a close second. 

PKNT is a Chilean carmenere that was introduced to me years ago by a friend; at $12 a bottle, and just under 5 g/L, it's still a winner.

Lesson #3: price doesn't matter
Of all the wines I tried, my two favourites were Rain Cloud, a merlot/cab sauv blend from California that goes for $8.80 (in Quebec, where I live) and Bread & Butter, another cab sauv from California, that's $20 a bottle. 

***Note to self, and the universe: wine tasting in California!!!

I also really enjoyed Francis Ford Coppola Director's Cut ($32) as well as 19 Crimes ($19), Longshot ($15) and Tom Gore ($20) Cabernet-Sauvignon. 

If I had been choosing wines based on their name/label alone, like I pretty much used to, instead of selecting them based on type and sugar content, I would have never tried Tom Gore — but it was delicious.

I didn't try any wines over $40, because, you know, #finances, but there's one that caught my attention... so maybe next month?

Lesson #4: cleansing the palate
Have you ever tried a wine and loved it only to buy it again and hate it? If so, might I suggest that your palate was to blame, and not the wine. 

According to Suckling (my new catchphrase), one of the best ways to cleanse the palate before wine tasting is with an olive, which is exactly what I did one day, after brushing my teeth, before tasting a wine.

It worked.

Lesson #5: drink responsibly and enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

ITube, YouTube, we all Tube for... you get the point

As an introvert, someone who lives alone and works from home, I spend a lot and I mean a lot of time with me, myself and I.

I'm fine with it most days, but there are those rare occasions (TBH, they aren't that rare) when I need a little company. On those days, I turn to YouTube

I started watching YouTube about a year ago when my freelance writing career "took off." Spending all that time at home, alone, writing, was difficult at times and I began looking for quick and easy (also, free) ways to distract, entertain and motivate myself.

Enter Melissa Merk.

My YouTube OG, Merk is a Vancouver native, model and content creator with her own blog and YouTube channel, with just over 460,000 followers. What I like most about her is how she hustles. 

On days when I feel like procrastinating, Merk motivates me to get down to business and do better, which is a constant struggle when you work for yourself. 

She introduced me to iHerb (no, that's not a euphemism for weed), online shopping and Chipotle, so she's pretty much the one to blame for this situation:

  exhibit A: cranium-sized burrito from Chipotle

If Merk is my longest standing girl crush, Aja Dang is my most recent. I stumbled across her (not literally, obvs) a few months ago while researching debt, and more importantly, debt repayment.

Dang used to be a TV host but now has her own website, YouTube channel and a collection of clothing called A Woman's Worth (10% of the proceeds go to Planned Parenthood, which is rad), as well as over $150,000 in student debt!

I'm not saying that to disparage her, by the way. 

She's very open about her debt and it's one of the main topics of conversation on her channel, which is why I relate to it (and her) so much. While my debt isn't quite as overwhelming as hers (praise be) it's something I've been struggling with for years. Watching her videos has helped me focus on paying it off and finally moving on.

 praise be

Side note: I first saw Dang, who's based in Los Angeles, on YouTube three or four years ago when Beyonce's 7/11 came out and she did a tribute to it. I didn't realize it was her until a few weeks ago, when she mentioned her love of Queen B and I put two and two together (hint: it makes four).

Allegra Shaw who grew up in The Beaches, in Toronto, where I lived many moons ago — is another Canadian that I follow on YouTube. Her channel is close to having 1 million subscribers. Se also has her own blog as well as a sustainable line of clothing called Uncle Studios

Shaw has a sick sense of style (including the coolest pair of Balenciaga sneakers) and a wicked sense of humour to match. Her content is really diverse, with videos about beauty, wellness, being a boss bitch and more. 

I actually contacted Shaw once, by email, for an article I was writing for Diary of a Social Gal and she replied within the hour, which I thought was pretty impressive, considering.


She also introduced me to HelloFresh (who I had the pleasure of working with two weeks ago) and Gisou, which brings me to my next influencer: Negin Mirsalehi.

Did you see how I just did that? 

Mirsalehi, who runs a bee-based hair product company as well as a blog and YouTube channel, lives in Amsterdam with her boyfriend/business partner Maurits Stibbe and their dog Moosey. She also has the cutest accent. 

She travels the world with brands like Dior and makes one of the best hair products I've ever used: a honey infused hair oil that I ordered, online, all the way from the Netherlands.

The boyf, who isn't impressed with much, still can't get over the packaging. Enough said.

Finally, Allana Davison (who recently moved from Vancouver to Toronto) and describes herself as a "vlogger, blogger and anything-ogger" is another one of my female sources of inspiration and motivation online. 

I started watching her in December, when I was going through a bit of a tough time, and can't get enough of her wacky sense of humour and super super easy to follow makeup routines. 

Thanks to her, I know what primer is (oh hey Smashbox!) and how to highlight... #skills.

I think a lot of people (ahem, men) are quick to disregard YouTube and its rising female "stars," but I for one have learned a lot from it. At 43, I realize I may not be the target demographic, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable or informative.    

I'd like to add one more YouTuber to this list, the inimitable Jakob of Jakob's thing. He's so cool he only needs one name.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

A series of unfortunate events OR Resolutions, and all that jazz

2017 was a bit of a shit show, to be honest. 

 *replace 2016 with 2017, and you get the picture

Before it rolled around, I consulted Lainey's (aka Elaine Lui of Lainey Gossip and The Social fame) trusted predictions for the Year of the Rooster. This is the first thing she had to say about being a Rabbit in the year of the Rooster: 

"For Rabbits, the Year of the Rooster is not ‘go time.’"

She wasn't kidding.

The year started off with what should have been an amazing trip but was anything but before turning into something akin to the plague. It quickly went from bad to worse and one thing turned into another; literally over and over again.

My grandmother passed away in April and in May I finally figured out why my apartment smelled so funky: it was infested with squirrels - and everything that comes along with them - and I had to move out after spending months (not to mention mucho dinero) working on the place. 

 mucho dinero

In June, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease and in September, I was told that I had experienced a mini stroke, which explained a lot about the way my brain was working not working. Also, my heart was broken.

As the year comes to a close and I think about everything that happened I can't help but be struck by how much positive transformation occurred, despite the seemingly endless series of unfortunate events.

Thanks to an amazing group of friends, as well as my family, I was able to turn lemons into lemonade (with vodka): I'm living in a great new apartment, my health is doing better than ever and I'm finally doing what I love, full time, for actual cash money. 

Also, I've met some great new people.

Since I'm a strong believer in the law of attraction, I thought I'd use this post as my wish list, or goal board, for 2018. So here goes nothing: I want to keep writing and get better at it, I want to start the book I've been talking about for years, I want to be a better friend, and daughter, and general human being and I want to visit Poland. I want to focus on myself and what's good for me, health-wise, and I want to live with love.

 true fact

Happy new year's everyone... YOLO!


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Best of beauty

I may not be the editor in chief of a beauty magazine like Glow, Fashion or Flare but at 41 years old, I know what works (for me, anyhow).

Over the years I've accumulated a collection of favourites, like Eucerin Intensive Lip Balm (made in Poland!) and Eucerin Aquaphor Ointment, Spectro Cleanser (the fragrance-free one for blemish-prone skin) and Vichy Aqualia Thermal Light Cream. Recently though, I've been seeking out new products to soothe and moisturize my winter-chapped skin and hair as well as try and look a little ... fresher. So far, this is what I've found.

First off, there's Lush's King of Skin, an ultra-buttery moisturizing bar made of banana, avocado, cocoa and shea butter plus a variety of oils, including coconut, jojoba and lavender. It smells delicious and goes on like butter, not to mention the fact that it's literally the most moisturizing body product I've ever used. The Ultrabalm made of plant waxes and jojoba oil isn't far behind.

King of Skin


I ran out of shower gel a couple of weeks ago and decided to pop into Sephora to see if they had anything special in that department. They most certainly did. Meet my new favourite shower gel and body cream: Brazilian 4 Play Moisturizing Shower Cream-Gel and Brazilian Bum Bum Cream, by Sol de Janeiro

Sol de Janeiro kit

Rich in guaraná, cupuaçu butter, açaí and coconut oil, the moisturizing duo smells incredible and helps tighten and smooth the look of skin. Also, the pot of cream looks like a bum cheek. Did I mention the smell? Mmm.

For the hair, I've been loving Phytocyane Serum, designed to promote circulation and new hair growth. According to the website, it also delays the appearance of grey hair. This stuff isn't cheap but it works. The little glass vials are pretty cool too. The ingredients include grape seed procyanidins, ginkgo biloba and tyrosine.

Phytocyane Serum

Last, but not least, there's Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum. Dubbed "the best serum" by Glamour in 2016, the miracle-worker (#truefact) is made of a variety of oils including grape seed, hazelnut, bergamot and avocado, among many, many others. Vintner's Daughter is the first beauty product I've ever bought online (it isn't available in-store in Canada) and I'm so glad I did. The customer service (and packaging) provided by Clementine Fields, the product's sole distributor, was great and the product itself is out of this world.

 Vintner's Daughter packaging and instructions



Wednesday, June 8, 2016


I didn't discover Chrissy Teigen the "classic" way; through her Sports Illustrated swimsuit modelling, Spike TV hosting duties or appearances in music videos. I discovered her through Eric Ripert, my favourite French chef.  

When I got sick with pneumonia last year and had to spend a month alone in bed, I went on the hunt for online entertainment to keep my mind occupied. I love watching food shows and since I had zero appetite I thought I'd get my gastric (as opposed to creative) juices flowing by watching him prepare a variety of meals - in his home kitchen - with celebrity guests like Stanley Tucci, Drew Barrymore, Roger Waters and, of course, Chrissy Teigen on On the Table with Eric Ripert.

Other than her beauty, I was immediately struck by Teigen's voice (which I love), her personality and her passion for cooking - not to mention her wicked sense of humour.

Teigen and Ripert prepared two dishes on the episode that featured her and I immediately decided to try one of them: Thai Jok Moo, a Thai rice porridge with pork meatballs.

I made the dish for the beau a few weeks later and he loved it, even though it was really, really different from anything he'd ever tried before. In the interim, I had explored Teigen's food blog (she has a blog too... gasp!), So Delushious, and tried a few of her personal favourites, including Spicy Sesame Noodles with Chicken, Herb Stuffed Branzino and Super Bowl Chili Frito Pie Bar.


Since then, I've delved into the rabbit hole that is Chrissy Teigen's life (that sounded a little ew!) and am proud to say that I've permanently added her to my list of celebrity crushes (hi there, Cameron Diaz, Chelsea Handler and ALL of the Kardashians!). 

And now, Teigen has her very own cookbook; Cravings

Featuring "recipes for all the food you want to eat," Cravings is perfect for a girl like me, who is always craving something (like sushi, tortilla soup, pho, hot dogs, cheeseburgers and... a whole lot more!).

I hope you enjoy Cravings, and Chrissy Teigen, as much as I do. Her Twitter feuds are pretty epic as well.

Hellz to the yeah!