Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The idea of cooking something "from scratch" freaks most people out. It certainly used to do the same to me. If a recipe had more than 3 steps, I was out. But don't be afraid. Take it one step at a time. It's not nearly as scary as it seems, and knowing you made every element of the meal is deeply satisfying. It's also a way to make a simple dish more high-impact for guests. "I made this!" 

I felt like making an easy meal. Simple. No fuss. Some ultra-skinny spaghettini with tomato and basil. Maybe a crust of bread and a quick pass with some freshly-grated parmesan. No meat. No gravy, no mashed potatoes, no crispy green bean on the side. Simple

And so it was. Some tomatoes. Basil. An onion and a few cloves of garlic. Salt.

Spaghettini with Fresh Tomato and Basil

Olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2lbs Roma tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded
1 ounce of fresh basil leaves
Salt, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a paring knife, score the end of your tomatoes with an X and toss into the boiling water. Leave them for one minute before removing to an ice bath. The skins will peel off easily. Slice, core, and seed the tomatoes. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet or stock pot. Cook the onions until translucent, and then add the minced garlic. Add the tomatoes, which you've loosely chopped, and allow the whole mix to simmer away. It really doesn't matter how long this cooks, though the whole mess becomes mushier as time goes on. Add chopped basil two minutes before serving in order to maintain its green colour. 

It was exactly as I'd hoped: Light and fresh, yet rich and aromatic. 

This dish works beautifully with fresh ingredients, of course, but it's also something that can be pulled together from the pantry for a quick midweek meal. Canned tomatoes can, arguably, be better than fresh, especially if you don't live in a place where tomatoes are grown naturally year-round. But, make sure they're San Marzano tomatoes which are grown in Italy and considered the best. Look for the official designation ("DOP") on the can, which means they've been qualified as such.  I mean, if you're going to eat from a can, it should be top notch, yes? 

Something like this can go with almost any wine. A light red or a bright white. Jeff enjoyed a glass of Flying Kiwi Pinot Noir (LCBO, $15.95) while I had a glass of my go-to, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (LCBO, $19.95).

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (April 19, 2011)
Beef Ragu with Maccheroni (March 24, 2011)

Monday, January 30, 2012

If you live in a climate like mine, you might understand what I'm about to say.

For about 3 weeks in May and another few in the fall, I love to dress. I like wearing ties and cute shoes, accessories even. I carry a bag, even if it's nearly empty. A thin coat allows for trendy layering. I wear suede shoes and take an extra 5 minutes on my hair. You see, the (oh so brief) mid-seasons allow for all of this, encourage it even. Temperate conditions and clear skies mean our shoe-choice can be controversial. What a thrill

But the rest of the time (when it's either 40°C with 90% humidity, or -40°C with a face-freezing windchill) I phone it in. Who wants to sweat through an outfit in the summer? And when we're strapping a parka over everything between November and April, it just seems pointless. And then there's the occasional melt, when the snow and ice turns into mucky slush, and traversing a sludgy-puddle in your delicate footwear is a total nightmare. It's all too much.

So in the summertime I usually wear simple shorts and a button down and in the winter it's some variation of what you see below. Some revolving combination of Pants-Sweater-Shirt-Boots

I rotate between colours and textures, keeping it comfortable and simple, no-fuss and classic. As long as everything fits, it doesn't come off looking schlubby, even though it really is. And I should point out, this particular "uniform" is pretty common right now. I'm certainly not blazing any trails in this outfit. This could be called What Men Are Wearing, Winter 2012.

I just turned 30 and I'm at a very bizarre stage in my life. Not really a medium, but definitely no longer a small. I made the grave error of trying on an extra-small shirt from my closet and then promptly shredded it with my bare hands. The shame. So, what I mean to say is, it can be tricky to find clothes that fit properly, especially if you're experiencing the sudden and severe collapse of your youthful metabolism.

If you love the pattern/colour of a shirt, but the cut isn't quite right, take it to your tailor. They can make all the necessary adjustments for very little money. In the meantime, wear the shirt under a sweater or jacket to hide the extra fabric. If you're between sizes, go up and have it taken in. Not the other way around. 

But where dress shirts can't be stretched-to-fit, shoes can - a half-size or so, depending on their constitution, so make friends with a Shoe Guy, too. 

Knitwear cannot be tailored. 

Buy pants that fit in the waist. Excess fabric can (usually) be removed at the hips and through the leg. Also, if you love the pattern/colour/fabrication of a pair of pants, but the cut is off (ie. the leg is too wide, or god forbid, boot cut) a tailor can often adjust those, too. Keep your receipt and go have a chat with your alterations person. Much like shopping for meat, a tailor will gladly take a few minutes to determine if your item is alterable. 

Do you get lazy like me? Do you have a seasonal uniform? 

Skinny Chinos, Topman, The Bay, $57
Cardigan, J. Crew, $118
Socks, J. Crew, $16
Check shirt, J. Crew, $68
Cognac chukkas, Cole Haan, $148
(Images from respective store websites.)

A Subtle Recommendation (February 7, 2008)
With My Eyes Closed (February 8, 2010)
Summer Style (February 11, 2011)

Friday, January 27, 2012

I'll be honest, this post is a bit of a repeat. The photos are fresh, and some changes made to the recipe, but déja-vu, nonetheless

But here's the thing: Everybody should have a go-to meal. Whether for that mindless mid-week dinner, or when you're hosting friends on a Saturday night, it's handy to know a dish inside out, to feel confident that the meal will come off without a hitch. Maybe it's the first time you're cooking for your new girlfriend, or perhaps a colleague is coming over. Take the pressure off and  learn to perfect one great meal.

Our friend Daniel, he heads for Coq au Vin. T.J. can do a Roast Beef Dinner like nobody's business. Paul can whip up his famous from-scratch Mac 'n Cheese in his sleep. And, Natasha, well . . . F her. She can do anything, even if it's her first run at it.

For me, the now-famous Pork Roast with Apple Chutney is my usual go-to. I'm 99% confident it'll be a hit every time, which reduces Host Related Stress Disorder by a big margin. Once you've managed one great meal, try for two, or three. 

Another from my wheelhouse? Braised Beef Short Ribs. Perfect for an icy-cold January night. Wine-soaked meat that falls off the bone. On a heap of creamed corn. With a side of crispy green beans. It's tough to get bored of this meal.

They're not brain surgeons or high school gym teachers, so no need to be intimidated. I used to be terrified to ask questions or worried I'd look like a jag if I said the wrong thing. Most butchers (while appearing surly and often with terrifying eastern-European accents) are nice guys, and happy to answer questions. It makes them feel like the Meat Masters they are. So instead of lurking at the counter searching terms on your iPhone, step up and ask, "Hey there. I want to braise some short ribs. I'm cooking for 4. What am I gonna need?" Easy.

Beef Short Ribs

2lbs beef short ribs
A cup of flour
Olive oil
2 large carrots, loosely chopped
6 small shallots, loosely chopped
2 ribs of celery, loosely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh ginger, loosely minced
6 cloves of garlic, yeah, same, hackjob. (Don't be fussy with your vegetables for this.)
2 cups red wine
½ cup of balsamic vinegar
½ cup of Woodford Reserve Bourbon (or your favourite)
3½ cups beef stock
Several sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Salt your ribs generously and dredge in flour. In a large, well-oiled dutch oven, sear the ribs all on sides. Remove and set aside. In the same pot sautée your vegetables, garlic and ginger for a few minutes, then add the liquid and the herbs. Bring to a quick boil for just a few minutes. Gently add the ribs back to the pot and place, covered, in the oven for 2 or more hours until the meat is tender. You can't F this part up. Just let 'em ride.

Remove the meat again, tenting under foil, and strain the mire poix and liquid through a fine sieve. Discard the flavoured-up bits, and carefully pour the liquid back into the pot and place on the stovetop. Bring to a boil, reducing and thickening. Let it boil for 3 or 4 minutes, lower your heat and then leave to simmer. A few minutes before you're ready to plate, add the ribs back to the pot and get 'em all juiced-up. Serve with a healthy coating of this boozy-jus. Enjoy.

2010 Villa Maria Pinot Noir. $19.95, LCBO. Light, fruity, tart. Cherries. Very tasty.

Family Dinner - Pork with Apple Ginger Mash (September 9, 2010)
Gritting my Teeth | Chili Recipe (March 14, 2011)
Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (April 19, 2011)
Beef Ragu with Maccheroni (March 24, 2011)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I get an odd number of compliments on my hair. I'm also surrounded by a slew of handsome gentleman-friends with great hair. So this might take the cake as the most-egomaniacal thing seen on my blog, but oh well. There are some dudes out there who could use the help.

a) Get your hair cut every 3 weeks. Budget for it. If it means you need to find a cheaper stylist, do that. You can even strike a deal with yours to visit twice a month (to keep your hair maintained) and agree on a price for the midway-trim.

b) Only visit a barber if you have a distinct style and know exactly what you want. If you're just a dude without a particular "look", you'll likely get a basic hack job or something that's too stylized, like that standard-issue brush top that only looks good on jacked-up blonde guys in the gay part of town.

c) Man up to your natural hair abilities. If you have thin, wispy hair, learn how to make it work for you. If you're nearly bald, go for it. If your hair is thick and coarse, you're probably going to keep it quite short. For the rest of your life. I'm sorry: No Bieber mops or surfer shags for you, pal. Talk to your stylist. Accept the limits of your hair and choose a style within them.

d) Like shopping for sunglasses, consider your face shape when choosing a haircut. I have a narrow-banana-face, sticky-outy-ears and a strong chin, so I've learned over the years that I look better with more volume on top. It helps balance the proportions of my face. If you've got a big round head, you might think about heading in the opposite direction, keeping things close-cropped to avoid adding extra volume.

d) No colour. None. Your hair should be whatever colour your hair is. And, OMG, do I have to say no perms?

e) Long hair is tricky and should be left to professional pretty boys. Models, surfers, and rakishly-thin guys in bands only. If you're carrying even 10 errant pounds, you can't pull off long hair. I'm sorry.

f) Important: If you are hell-bent on wearing a hat in the wintertime, that's okay, but make the choice to keep your hair nice and short during the colder months. Hat head is a capital crime.

a) The closer to a haircut you get, the less product you should use. If you're 3 days from a trim and your hair has that thick, puffy, rough-around-the-edges look, don't pack all sorts of clumpy wax in there. It'll weigh down your hair and look even less polished. Rule of thumb: If you want your hair to stand up and do something, smacking it with extra product isn't going to help. As your hair grows, dial back on the product and make an appointment with your stylist.

b) Unless you know what you're doing, don't use gel. Gel is not meant to be used the way guys use it. It's meant to be worked into damp hair and blown dry, or, maybe, for men who want a wet look (FIG. 1. - Fancy Boy, right). Like I said, unless you know what you're doing, avoid it.

c) Spend money on hair products. If you want a particular "style", it's going to take some work and some specific products. Ask your stylist what you need or, News Flash: buy what they use on your hair when they do it. I know hair products seem expensive, but for the average short-haired gentleman, one tub of a pricey hair cream will last for months.

d) If you choose to wear a specific style, take the time to do it properly. There's nothing worse than hair cut into a style, but not styled into it. Do your hair, gentlemen, don't just cut it.

a) My hair is not very labour-intensive. Using a narrow black comb (FIG. 3. - below), I organize freshly-showered wet hair into a limp, wet version of the final look. I meticulously arrange my part as, once dry, I'd need to rewash my hair to fix a sloppy one.

b) Learn how to use a blowdryer (FIG. 4. - below). It will take a couple weeks to get the hang of it, but there's a reason women achieve distinct hairstyles that stay in place all day - You literally force it that way using the sweet power of heat and products.

c) Use a medium setting. If you're hairdryer is too hot and too strong, you'll end up drying the outer layers and have lots of damp hair underneath, which will dry on its own and puff up. What was that? Oh, no, men don't do that thing women do where you clip your hair up in sections to dry it evenly. No, we don't do that. (See 1.e., above.)

d) Dry your hair, directing all the sections into the style-of-choice. If you're me, you'll keep your part tidy and ensure hairs don't go rogue and join the wrong side of the tracks. Build volume into the hair on either side of the part with your comb, while drying. (You know, this might've been easier as a video tutorial.)

e) Once my hair is half-dry, I run a small amount (like, less than the end of a pinky) of Kiehl's Creme with Silk Groom (FIG. 2. - below, $25.50) through my hair. This product smooths the hair and moisturizes. A must if you're hitting it with heat on a daily basis. Continue drying.  When my hair is dry, I run three fingers across the tub of Creative Cream Wax (FIG 3. - below, $23.00) rub into my hands and loosely run through my hair. This smoothes down any fried-out dry strands of hair and gives just the slightest bit of structure.

f) Let me be clear: Using the right product and taking 5 minutes to blow it dry means you'll have soft, malleable hair that stays in place. I don't have a helmet of crispy locks. I can run my hands through my hair all day long (and I do) and you should too.

Men: We are in a hair revolution. Now's your chance to have a style, a look. It's your time to get away with using a blow dryer and take a few minutes of Me Time in the bathroom. Don't be shy. Own that shit.


Behave Yourself (January 28, 2008)
Be My Guest (August 1, 2008)

Last week I shared photos of the Marshalls. In telling the story of their little family, the weight of it landed on The Littlest Buddy, leaving Tessa as the adorable girl in the photos. Let me be clear: Tessa is no wallflower. But by some well-deserved twist of luck, she's a hugely independent two-and-a-half year old, allowing Ryan and Cole to focus on LB when necessary (which is often). She's happy and well-adjusted and hysterical

One day during my visit, she was playing with a Slinky. She happily wandered off down the hall and into LB's bedroom, reappearing only seconds later after having somehow tangled herself, like a bear caught in a trap. I'll never forget her stumbling down the hall, confused as to how this happened, asking for help to get loose. Like I said: Fuckin' adorable.

The Marshalls like to play this crazy game - Hide and seek in the dark! Some people hide, and some seek, prowling around the house in the dark with nothing but a flashlight. 

I was much too fragile a kid to handle such a game, and, truth be told, playing it with them had me highly anxious. I hate being scared, I don't love the dark, and the thought of someone jumping out at me with a flashlight is totally terrifying. But since the two small children love it so much, I tried to be a bit of an adult.

There's nothing quite as cute as Tessa sitting silent and still as a mouse under a blanket, waiting to be found. She's amazing at this game! She'll tuck herself behind a door, or a chair, or next to the washing machine, and stay there, no matter how long it takes to find her. And when you turn a corner and flash that light on her adorable face she screams and laughs her beautiful laugh as if it's the very first time she's played. 

The Best is Ready to Begin (August 4, 2008)
My Little Helpers (July 4, 2010)
Eight Weeks Later (October 14, 2011)
Courting the Marshalls (January 21, 2011)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

After two weeks in Florida, I was ready for a change of scenery. Luckily Alt Summit was on the books, and after a heinous and uncomfortable series of flights through Phoenix, Arizona, I landed in the mountainous bowl that is Salt Lake City, Utah.

If you've never been, the initial reaction to this town in January might be something like, "Huh." Aside from the beauty of being cradled by gorgeous mountains, the place is dry and grey. Not entirely awe-inspiring if your plane happens to land at night. But then, of course, you see snow-capped peaks and think, for a half-second, "Maybe there is a God." before you regain your senses and remember Pangaea and the beautiful, cataclysmic collision that brought these beauties up out of the earth.

But I digress.

I left Orlando and headed west. I'd arranged to bunk with über-blogger Morgan Satterfield (of The Brick House) and her friend (and now mine, too!) fabulous photographer Laure Joliet. Although Morgan and I had become friends over the internet, we'd never met in real life. The whole thing was a summercamp-blogger-adventure, so I threw caution (and social anxiety) to the wind and dove in. I had no idea that I'd meet two of the most-excellent humans and have the greatest/grossest pillow talk sessions ever. But seriously: The three of us settled into an easy rapport and comfort that doesn't come around all that often. They made the trip for me. Déclassé Alert: I slept on a series of foam pads on the floor of the hotel room, happily-so, just to share in their company.

And then came a series of days I can't quite put into words. Alt Summit (and blogging conferences in general) attract a certain audience. Of the 500 attendees, I was one of (maybe) 20 men. And while I'm a famous lover of women, the whole thing was lacking a certain . . . balance. Lunch time in the ballroom sounded like all the TV's in Best Buy blaring the different episodes of The View (no offence) and it was bizarre to spend 5 days with so few dudes. But the quality of the speakers (Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge, Maggie Mason of Mighty Girl, Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day and Kate Woodrow of Chronicle Books, in particular) and with terrific keynotes by the likes of Pilar Guzman of Martha Stewart Magazine ("The proliferation of blogs have demanded a certain authenticity from us.") and Ben Silberman (the founder of Pinterest) made the whole thing totally inspiring.

The flood of information and stimulation meant off-site breaks were necessary to process all that energy. Among many excellent adventures, I had a wonderful dinner with Jory Dayne and his boyfriend Dave. Jory was one of my very original readers, and we've been internet pals for years. Finally meeting him in real life was a pure pleasure and we had a great time. He gave me the low-down on Salt Lake City creative culture and we gossiped like school girls. My favourite pastime. After all these online years, it's great to finally call him a friend.

We also met (finally!) Nathan (Editor of Kinfolk Magazine) and Amanda (their talented Art Director) for a great dinner. (Joined by Volume II cover girl Sarah Winward and her charm-city boyfriend!) As always, it's so strange to put a voice and a manner-of-speaking to someone you feel like you know. Nathan is as quiet and sweet as you might imagine, perhaps moreso. I was my typical brash self, treating the dinner table like an open-mic night at a small-town comedy club. But that's how I deal with awkward social situations. I say vaguely-offensive things and aim to keep everybody laughing. It usually works.

And a few more quick shout-outs to my new real-life-pals - the internet come to life!

Kathleen, in all her tall glory.
Jennifer Flores from super-Canadian-famous blog Rambling Renovators and her cohort Lindsay.
Lisa CongdonVictoria Smith, and Rena Tom - the west coast lady brigade.
Gabrielle Blair, one of the Sisters Stanley who creates this entire event.
Two super-fun chicks I met while wandering the hotel, Megan Gilger of Hitch Design Studio and Amy Anderson over at Parker, etc.
And the wonderful and effervescent Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind.
And the best little southern belle in the universe, Emily Thompson.

Really super to hang out with all of you.

(Photo by some lady at the party, though through Jennifer's camera.)

(Photo by Laure Joliet.)

My friends Ryan and Cole stayed with Heather Armstrong (Dooce), who is one of the very first bloggers to ever exist, and an all-around terrific woman. She very generously trusted Ryan and Cole to bring me around her house and her kids, and her "Recent Happenings", as they were anxious to spend time with me, and her, and Maggie, too. To combine efforts (and dance moves) under one roof was a real blessing. 

At first it felt a bit like high school, when one friend wants to bring an outsider into the fray. Awkward introductions and careful integration. Soon, after lunch and a kick-in-the-balls-anecdote from elementary school, Heather and I appeared to be fast friends.

She's warm and kind, but in a Canadian sorta way. I like to point out that Canadians almost always maintain their reputation as being "polite" and "kind", but that doesn't mean we're saccharine-sweet or overly nice. To put it simply: We behave ourselves. Heather is lovely and funny and polite. She's sarcastic and she teases and she says it like it is. She plays nicely, but she doesn't blow smoke or put it on: A woman after my own heart. 

I'll let Heather describe the last day of my trip to Utah, the "pasty" descriptor my only objection. And that banana photo. Jesus

We boozed and we talked and we just fuckin' laughed. I can't think of a better way to end my trip. A million thanks to Heather for her hospitality and her kindness. 

(Me and Ryan. Photo by Heather Armstrong. Used without permission, but that banana photo is payment enough. Bitch!)

PS: Would you believe I didn't take a single photo with my own camera? After shooting a million in Orlando, I just couldn't get it up to drag that sucker around for 5 days in Utah. Thanks to friends above for letting me snag yours. 

Real-Life Friends: (August 11, 2010)
Family Dinner - Pork Tenderloin with Apple Ginger Mash (September 9, 2010)
Kinfolk: Volume II (December 12, 2011)
A State of Bliss | Speaking at the Blissdom Conference (January 14, 2011)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There are two types of cocktail parties: The mid-week kind with your Top 6 Favourite People, and those with a more-varied group of near-strangers. The former requires less organization, elicits less stress, and happens more often. The latter deserves a bit of attention, a more extensive plan.

For your friends, it's critical you keep the bar cart stocked with their particulars. For T.J. it's a constant supply of tonic to go with his gin, and at least one bottle of beer for the part of the night when a "cleansing" is required. Mark needs spiced rum, Hannah needs champagne, and while most of our friends drink gin like me (on the rocks with a few thinly-sliced cucumbers), it's critical to have a couple bottles of red wine and some icy-cold white, too. You know, in case straight-to-hard-liquor isn't the mood.

But if you're hosting people for the first time, or a larger group of irregulars, a signature cocktail might be the way to go. While this approach doesn't replace the need for a fully-stocked bar, it's nice to spend some time concocting something special, and tailor-fit to the event you're hosting.

Nobody sets a cocktail menu like our friend John. Last year's Oscar Party deserved its own statuette, featuring drinks inspired by the nominated films. His "Blackout Swantini" involved a healthy thwack of gin and a splash of Blackberry Brandy. I can't wait to see what he'll come up with this year. Tree of Life might inspire something called "Inexplicable Dinosaur Piss". Fingers crossed.

So the next time you host, think of a drink, would you? It doesn't have to be clever or funny. In fact, it could be downright old fashioned.

Photography: Me
Recipe, Food and Prop Styling: Ashley Denton
Props Provided by: Rustica Tabletop

I'm a big, big fan of Canada's first premium gin by Victoria Spirits. By my estimation, it's the only legitimate competition for Hendricks. And, guess what: Aside from their spot-on small-batch gin, they also make oak barrel-aged gin. WHAT? You heard me. They allow the gin to rest in new barrels until it's amber-coloured and caramel-flavoured.

Now my gin can act like my bourbon.

The Victoria Old Fashioned

2 teaspoons rosemary simple syrup*
3 dashes Victoria Orange Bitters
Splash of water or club soda
2 ounces Victoria Oaken Gin

Stir together the sweetener and the bitters. Add a splash of water or club soda, ice, and your gin. Garnish as you please (orange peel or slices, rosemary for that "What the F is in my drink?!" reaction) and serve. Yum.

*Just as with regular simple syrup, bring equal parts of white sugar and water to a boil. But here, throw a few sprigs of rosemary into the mix and allow to infuse the syrup with flavour.


Be My Guest (August 1, 2008)
The Bachelorette (August 14, 2010)
Songs for Winter Cocktailing (December 11, 2011)

Monday, January 23, 2012

After three-and-a-half weeks in the United States, a few things are more obvious than ever: People love Canada, Canadians love talking about Canada, and Canada is incredible in every way.

Aside from healthcare and human rights, music comes up a lot. And Canadians are hella-proud of their music.

Kathleen Edwards is utterly Canadian. At first glance she's polite and sweet, ruminating quietly on love and landscape and hockey skates, but dig a little deeper and you'll see that she's dry and dark, with a penchant for pot and dropping F-bombs. If we're a nation of sarcastic-yet-friendly, thoughtful-yet-forthright stoners, she's our ambassador.

It doesn't get much more Canadian than that.

Her new album, Voyageur, is a perfect evolution from her previous work. This certainly isn't a departure from her usual stuff, though it is rich and lush and rollicking (at times) in a new way. It's also its own opposite, heavy and thick in a new way. (Edwards and her long-time collaborator/partner recently divorced and the impact is felt clearly.) Through headphones the depth in the details of every song makes your eyes grow wide when marching down the street to it. 

Enjoy my choices for The Essential Kathleen Edwards, a couple of favourites from each of her amazing albums. Please immediately head to the place you buy music to fill in the blanks. Every song she's ever recorded lives in my Bottomless Top 10 List.

The Essential Kathleen Edwards

  1. Mercury
  2. Change the Sheets
  3. House Full of Empty Rooms
  4. Going to Hell
  5. In State
  6. Scared at Night
  7. National Steel
  8. Good Things
  9. Away
10. A Soft Place to Land


Image by Todd V. Wolfson for Rollingstone


The Essential Fiona Apple (November 27, 2010)
Black and White (November 9, 2010)
November Rain (November 29, 2011)
The Essential Antony and the Johnsons (October 1, 2011)

Listen to her appearance on CBC Radio Q from earlier today. Jian Ghomeshi + Kathleen Edwards + the CBC = Canadian super atomic bomb of amazing. And the set starts with "A Soft Place to Land", which upon first-listen several weeks ago, became my all-time favourite track by Ms. Edwards. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

After a couple of weeks in Fort Lauderdale, I hopped a 40 minute flight to Orlando. Not for Mickey Mouse or my long-awaited dream date with the Little Mermaid, but rather a couple of days with my pals Ryan and Nicole Marshall. You know them from Ryan's massively popular blog, Pacing the Panic Room and might remember my time at Fashion Week with Ryan in September. 

It was so nice to spend a few days at their lovely home, getting to know their beautiful kids, who are bonafide internet sensations in their own right. I must admit, I was a bit nervous they wouldn't like me, even though I'm typically a pretty big hit with this demographic (and also women over 50).  If you're a follower of Ryan's blog, you know that their son (known online as The Littlest Buddy) has SMS (Smith Magenis Syndrome), a genetic disorder often mistaken for autism, but isn't. Click the link there - Ryan has become something of a spokesperson, and can tell you all about it.

I worried that my visit might overwhelm L.B., that he might not take to me or that I'd disrupt a household they work incredibly hard to maintain. I asked Ryan and Cole lots of questions - "Should I clown around and make him like me? Should I tickle him and make goofy faces and hide around corners to win him over?" Their answer was clear, "No. You should completely ignore him and he'll eventually get curious and try to figure out what you're doing here." 

Against all my Uncle-of-the-Year instincts, I took their advice. When he came home that day I sat quietly on my laptop in their dining room and waited. 

Soon I caught his little eyes peering at me from across the living room, 20 feet away. Cole (noticing him noticing me) reminded gently, "That's Jason Hudson. He's here for a visit." After only a few minutes he got a bit closer, eventually sidling-up beside me at the dining room table. Still, I was careful not to overwhelm him. So imagine my surprise when he stood just inches from my face, reached out and stroked my cheek with the softest little hand you can imagine. He rubbed the stubble on my chin and said "Nice hair. Nice nice hair." 

I'm not embarrassed to say I almost burst into tears. While we all see how clever and adorable L.B. is through Ryan's blog, no beautiful photo or perfectly-phrased anecdote from a doting father can describe the energy of this kid. His spirit. His giant heart and the kindness in his little eyes. There's a magical quality I can't quite describe, as if you're communicating through the pit of your stomach.

Ryan and Cole think this is the secret to kids with SMS - On the days when you're angry or resentful, this charming little guy shows up and you have no choice but to just love the shit out of him.


Do Fun Stuff (August 30, 2010)
New York Fashion Week (September 19, 2011)