Monday, July 7, 2014

A Genre for Every Aspect of Life

I’ve always thought I was quite eclectic in my musical tastes – my playlist tends to skip around the decades and genres a lot. I try not to be close-minded about music because I feel like it’s one of those things that transcends time and age and brings people together. If you’ve ever been to a concert, then you know what I mean.

But there have always been two genres that have, in the past, eluded me – country and classical music. People would ask me what kind of music I liked and I’d say pretty much anything but country and classical music. The former I just couldn’t relate to and it tended to annoy me more than I enjoyed it. The latter I didn’t have an ear or appreciation for when I was younger. Music is usually a soundtrack for my life and I couldn’t find a time or a place for classical music.

Country is still my least favourite genre and I won’t go out of my way to put it on, but I’ve learned to enjoy some of it when it’s playing. I do enjoy classic country like Johnny Cash, and more bluegrass country like Old Crow Medicine Show.

My foray into classical music began with The Nutcracker Ballet and trickled into other symphonies by Tchaikovsky. I love Christmas carols so I was pulled toward the Transiberian Orchestra, which is pseudo-classical music (or at least the instrument part of it) combined with rock music.

This was the gateway music.

Last year, I began to go to the symphony in my hometown – initially just for the pop culture shows like music of superheroes and villains and music from Disney movies, which introduced me to the instruments and gave me a sense of wonder at the amazing musicians who can play them so well.

This year I chose to attend some more classical performances, including the Paris Festival with music from various French composers over the centuries. And I loved it!

I found that the performances relaxed me so much and I’d leave in a more euphoric state than when I went in. So I started to check out the various classic composers at home – Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, etc. I loaded a bunch on to my phone and found that missing time and place for it – in the bath.

When T and I moved in November 2013, we gave up our hot tub but gained a Jacuzzi tub in our ensuite, so I thought I’d start embracing and enjoying that. When I’m feeling stressed or just need some alone time, I fill it up, light some candles, pour a glass of wine, and press play on my newly formed classical music playlist. There is something about the combination that is so soothing and I love listening to each layer of the music with all its instruments and nuances. I find that I lose myself in the music and any stress just melts away.

There are still some composers and songs that I enjoy more than others, but I am glad to have found a venue through which I can enjoy classical music. Now I can honestly say that I enjoy every genre of music.

What’s your favourite genre of music? Are there any genres that you don’t enjoy?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Choosing Your Business Name Wisely

Heidelberg Metal is in Kitchener.
Kitchener-Waterloo Furniture is in Heidelberg.
King Street Trio moved briefly to University Ave.
And Elmira Poultry went to Waterloo.

Sometimes your last name changes,
so your business name does too.
Or maybe the partnership has dissolved,
so your business name does too.

This is why, I think, it’s important to name your business something creative, that’s also indicative of what you do – not after something that might change if you expand and move locations or change ownership/partners.

Just an observation. That is all.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Life Acknowledgements

Do you ever read the acknowledgment pages at the end of a novel? I’m the type of person who reads every page of a book – from the introduction or forward to the afterword, and the acknowledgment page to the about the author at the very end.

I don’t know why, as sometimes these sections don’t add anything to the story, but I just have a better sense of completeness – or something – when I read every last page. Plus I know how much thought authors put in to everything they write, so I feel like even the pages not part of the story deserve respect.

Often the acknowledgments page isn’t something that a general reader will get anything from – it’s usually a personal account of the people in the author’s life who helped contribute to the book or the author’s life, in general. If you don’t know these people, it’s sort of meaningless; but I love reading it anyway because I feel like it gives me a personal glimpse into the author’s life and into the people and the things he/she deems important.

While I always save reading this page until after I’ve completed the book because, chronologically, it makes sense, I made an exception when my copy of Camelot Burning (Metal & Lace #1) by Kathryn Rose arrived in the mail on its book birthday from I hadn’t read the book yet, but I skipped right to the acknowledgments page because, for once, I’d be familiar with some of the people mentioned in it and that made it more exciting for me.

I’ve known Kathryn (or Kat, as I call her) since elementary school and we’ve been great friends since high school. She lives in L.A. now with her husband and two critters, but the distance hasn’t lessened our friendship one bit.

I had tears in my eyes as I read Kat’s acknowledgements page and she thanked her family – her Mother, her late Father, her sisters, her Papa, and her husband. I know these people and I know how important they are in Kat’s life. I went on to read paragraphs about her friends – some old from her native Canada, and some new from L.A. and her various writing groups.

I figured it was safe to assume I was part of the friend list from Canada, but as I continued to read, the watery eyes became full on tears – I had my very own paragraph! I was humbled, honoured, and wholly surprised that Kat felt I was special enough to receive my very own mention.

It’s so great that authors have this opportunity when their books are published – to acknowledge the important people in their lives. But what about the rest of us? I realize that getting a book written, edited, and published is a challenging accomplishment and not one that comes easily and perhaps other careers come easier; but even without mention of work, I believe that who we are – as employees, spouses, friends, offspring, neighbours, etc. is as a result of the people and experiences we’ve had in our lives.

We should acknowledge the people who have contributed to our lives on a regular basis anyway, or at the very least on the days dedicated to them – birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Day – but if we don’t have a published book, we don’t get an acknowledgements page.

I suppose the speech at my wedding was an acknowledgements page of sorts – but much of it was related to those who helped make the wedding day such a success. What about the rest of life? I mean, T, my parents, and closest friends and family are definitely top of the list, but if I were to thank everyone and anyone who has contributed to the person I am today, I’d also add:

  • My grade 4 and 7 teachers, and my grade 11 English teacher for encouraging my creativity more than others and telling me I could be a writer, if I wanted to be.
  • Christine – the editor who gave me my fist freelance journalism gig and who taught me a lot about writing.
  • Louise – for helping me be more mindful, self aware, and confident.
  • Matt – for the endless discussions on different perspectives of life, the universe and everything and for challenging my views and allowing me to reaffirm others.
  • And the list will continue to grow as I do.

If you got to write an acknowledgements page, who would you thank and why?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Quest for the Perfect Hot Chocolate, Round 4

I decided it was time to combine my favourite elements from the previous hot chocolate recipes I tested in an attempt to create my own. I also had a chili pepper chocolate bar taking up real estate in my snack cupboard and thought this would be the perfect application.

So, from round 1 I took honey, chili powder and a pinch of cayenne. From round 2 I borrowed unsweetened cocoa powder, instant coffee and cinnamon sticks. And from round 3, I wanted the whole milk, real vanilla extract (or vanilla bean), and chili pepper flakes (or Thai chili pepper). The chili pepper chocolate bar was a suggested alternative from round 2 in place of bittersweet chocolate, though the one I had was dark chocolate, and perhaps a tad too rich.

The result was almost perfect, but I think it still needs some work. T thought it was spicy enough, whereas I thought it could use a touch more. We’ll see who wins that battle, keeping in mind that I tend to have a higher tolerance for spice than he.

I continued to have the same issue as I’ve had in the past where the chocolate doesn’t quite fully mix with the milk; but, I also didn’t have enough whole milk and ended up using half 2% and half skim. In future, I will try milk or cream with more fat to give the chocolate something to grasp on to.

I did enjoy the consistency of this more than the other recipes and thought that the flavour, in general, was quite balanced between sweet and spicy with a hint of bitterness.

I think I’m almost there – just a couple more adjustments and I might finally be at the end of my quest! The quest shall continue when the cooler weather returns. Until then, I'll be trading my mugs of hot chocolate for frosty mugs of ice cold beer.

Carla’s Spiced Hot Chocolate I

Makes: 2 big mugs

  • 2 oz. chili pepper chocolate bar (or bittersweet chocolate), finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp. chili powder (if not using chili pepper chocolate bar)
  • 2 cups whole milk (or half milk, half cream)
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp. instant coffee granules
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • ½ tsp. real vanilla extract
  • Pinch chili flakes

  1. Mix all ingredients in a small pot over medium-low heat and whisk together until combined.
  2. Heat through, but do not boil, until chocolate is melted, whisking occasionally.
  3. You can let the ingredients steep for a few minutes for added flavour, if desired, while mixture gently simmers.
  4. When you’re ready to enjoy, remove from heat and strain into two mugs.
  5. Froth the hot chocolate with a frothing tool or a small whisk and some elbow grease.
  6. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Letter to a Bride-to-Be From a Wife

Let's just ignore the fact that I've been MIA for 2 months, shall we, and move on to the fact that I'm here...

After rocking my wedding dress at my nuptials last July, and then "trashing" it (nothing a bit of dry cleaning couldn't help) in a fun photo shoot last September, I decided that someone else should love it as much as I did(/do).

There have been many traditions with wedding dresses over the years: save it for your daughter or daughter-in-law to wear, alter pieces of it into a christening gown for your baby, and the latest trend of rolling in the mud or throwing paint at it to get some wicked photos you definitely wouldn't do on your wedding day. And some people have it preserved in a box and store it in their closet.

I respect everyone's choice to follow whichever tradition suits their life. For me, I'm not sentimental when it comes to material things. And while part of me doesn't want to part with the dress that cost me more than it should have and that I only wore twice, the practical part of me is saying: but what would you keep it for?

Even if I had a daughter and if she actually wanted to wear my dress from 20+ years prior, I'd rather she have the same exciting experience I had with finding her own dress and not be bogged down with my ancient, out-of-style rag.

I likely won't christen any future babies that I have.

I did get some wicked trash the dress photos, but I was pretty tame and it was no dirtier than after dragging it through the beer-soaked dance floor at my wedding.


And, I just couldn't justify the cost that comes with preserving it and the space it would take up when I can't foresee why I would need to keep it.

So, next week, I am taking my dress to Gina's Closet in a neighbouring town - a bridal shop that's looking for "previously loved" dresses (bride, bridesmaid, mother-of-the-bride) so they can open in the near future and sell them at a discount. But the best part? All the money will go to local cancer charities in honour of the owner's friend who passed away from cancer.

I've previously donated bridesmaid and other formal dresses to a similar charity in London (The Cinderella Project) that sells them at a discount to underprivileged students looking for prom dresses.

I've written a letter to the bride-to-be who will (hopefully) buy my dress as a personal touch, adding more life and character to what's otherwise just a piece of clothing. What do you think?

Dear bride-to-be,

Congratulations on your engagement! I hope you’re enjoying wedding planning and are getting excited for your wedding day.

If you’re reading this, I hope that means that you’ve purchased this dress, previously loved by me. I don’t want to tell you the story about my experience finding this dress, because that was my story and now you have your own. But I hope that you fell in love with it like I did.

I do want to tell you a brief story about the day I got to wear this beautiful dress to marry my best friend. I know everyone says that, but my now-husband T really is my best friend.

We met in high school when I was just in grade 9 and he was friends with my older brother, but it wasn’t until 4 years later that we started dating. Ten years (5 of them living together), a bunny, and a cat later, he proposed and we got married on a perfect day in July 2013.

This dress was just one part of our amazing wedding day and our adventure of life together. But it sure did make me feel like a rock star! Even though I don’t know you and will probably never see pictures of you wearing it, I know you’ll look gorgeous in it too.

Just remember to keep perspective while you’re planning – when the stress amounts and you’re swimming in a sea of flower choices and cake tastings and seating plans, don’t lose sight of what’s really important: that you’re marrying your best friend, and you have the rest of your lives to spend together.

Have a great wedding day and a life full of love and laughter together!

Thank you for buying this previously loved dress, and supporting local cancer charities.

All the best,