Monthly Archives: October 2009

A Bitchy Guide To The Perfect Hot Chocolate

First of all the art of making an excellent hot chocolate is simple, so it surprised me when the French café/bakery/self-proclaimed-gourmet-eatery by my work was out. A blind elephant could figure it out. So I’m sitting here pissed off that I’m drinking Second Cup’s too sweet hot chocolate with one of their cardboard chocolate chip cookies, when what I wanted was a real freaking hot chocolate and a cookie pie. Freshly baked. It’s not hard people. Milk. Cocoa. Sugar.  Seriously people. Not hard. If you like the sickly sweet bullshit Starbucks palms off as hot chocolate, you can walk away now. Seriously, fuck off. If you like creepy shit that has those weird inflatable marshmallows in it for MORE than just sentimental kitsch, you can also take a hike.

Piss-easy hot chocolate for one:

1)      Heat 1.5 cups of milk (don’t boil it, it’ll taste like shit) – any kind, homo if 3.5% fat doesn’t scare you, skim if it does. Or maybe you fall somewhere in the middle. Who cares!

2)      Add two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa – once again any kind! The better the cocoa, the better the hot chocolate. But I’ve never found a cocoa I didn’t like, and that includes that yellow label no name stuff. It’s fine people.

3)       Add some sugar. I like 0.5-1 tablespoons. If you are an insane sugar maniac add more. It’s up to you! It’s your hot chocolate! Go crazy!

Now I’m not quite sure where EVERY SINGLE COFFEE SHOP EVER goes wrong. But they do. There’s all sorts of weird ass shit, and edible oil products, and crazy-ass chemicals added in. For fun! Just cos! It makes it taste, um, shittier? I have no idea. But there you go. Apparently pre-mixing some cocoa and sugar to stir in with milk is TOO COMPLICATED. Idiots.

Slightly more complicated but vastly more delicious hot chocolate:

1)      Grate or chop into messes a hunk of dark chocolate – any brand! And how much is up to you, you’re probably not that stupid, figure it out.

2)      Heat milk (don’t boil it, it’ll taste like shit)  – I like 1.5cups for my hot chocolates. You go crazy wild with however much you like! Knock yourself out!

3)      In a mug pour heated milk over grated chocolate. Wait. Stir so that everything is brown and melted and liquidy and delicious. Drink it.

Complicated I know.

The best hot chocolate I ever had was in a bar in Antwerp. Old Flemish men were smoking cigarettes and drinking beer, and I was saddled up at the bar enjoying the most delicious hot chocolate my lips had ever touched. It was made with melted, dark, Belgian chocolate and whole milk, topped with unsweetened whipped cream, drizzled with honey, then sprinkled with cinnamon, with a complimentary sugar cookie on the side. THAT my friends is how you make and serve hot chocolate.

I know it sounds fancy, but it’s not. The best things are simple, in the way that they are made from the same ingredients my great-grandmother would know what to do with. Not this creepy eight-syllable processed crap that we now consume instead.

GET IT RIGHT.

Guh.

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Spooky Scary

It’s almost Halloween, which is my most favourite time of year. Think about it, can you really beat getting dressed up and running around door to door getting free candy? No, no you can’t. Fact. Halloween TV specials rarely disappoint, and there’s nothing better than Halloween movies. Can I please get a “hell yeah” for Hocus Pocus? Also, ghosts, vampires, pirates, zombies, ninjas, robots, witches and fairies all totally kick ass.

The traditions of Halloween vary form country to country and culture to culture, but the basic principle remains the same, whatever separates the spirit world from our world breaks down for that one night and spirits, good and evil, can cross over. And with that in mind, I present to you my one and only encounter with a ghost!

It was my first year at boarding school in England. I lived in Beevor’s House, a very old building that had no doubt been around for a couple of centuries at least, as the school itself had been around since 1596. As with all old schools there were many tales of hauntings and ghosts. McGill’s House apparently had a lady ghost that was often seen descending the staircase. Riding’s and Leeman’s even had a hazing ritual for the new boys involving a midnight run to the dining hall and back. If the boy failed to return to his bedroom by the time the clock struck midnight the ghost of something-or-other would get him. Beevor’s sadly had no such stories. Maybe it was slightly newer than the rest of the buildings? I don’t know. But I felt ripped off, having come all the way to England and everything.

Beevor's House

Beevor's House

My room was a cosy, recently refurbished room on the top floor. It had 15ft ceilings, a huge beautiful window, and a fire place. I shared it with my good friend Nora. We both had loft beds with our desks below, and our heads met in the corner. Her bed faced the window, mine the door. Our room was in a separate alcove which also included a bathroom, and another bedroom shared by three other girls: Lilly, Thalia and Celia. If you left our alcove and went down the hall you would find the bedrooms of the rest of the girl boarders.

Every night Nora and I would climb up into our beds, turn off the lights, chat a little and then fall asleep. One night however, at 1am Nora woke up, having heard the sound of our door opening and closing. And apparently I also awoke, and sat bolt up in bed staring at the door. According to Nora, at the door was a small girl dressed all in white, just standing there. Nora looked at me, I looked at the girl, the girl look at both of us. Then the girl left. I lay back down and passed out. And she did too.

The next morning at breakfast Nora mentioned to me how weird it was that clearly one of the other boarders had come into our room. I, unfortunately, had only a vague memory of the incident, so I couldn’t really comment. Lilly, who slept in the room across the hall, also heard noises, and said she woke up around the same time. As Nora and Lilly discussed what they heard and saw, Nora came to realise that none of the other girls was that small, so she figured it was maybe one of Mr Boothby’s (our Housemaster) children had wandered up into our bedroom (his family’s living space was connected to ours). And then she realised that Mr Boothby only had sons. We all finally came to the conclusion that our midnight visitor was clearly a ghost. Rumours like this in a boarding school spread faster than herpes in a brothel, and by the end of first period the whole school knew, and more importantly believed, that Nora and I had been visited by a ghost.

Mr Boothby, who was a rather devout Christian, started freaking out a little, and asked Nora and I to come to his study for a chat. We arrived, and he was there with the school Chaplain. He sat us down, gave us some tea and biscuits, and then asked us to tell him the story of last night. “Are you sure it wasn’t Amy?” He pleaded.

“No, sir, the girl in our room had lighter hair.” Then Mr Boothby turned to the Chaplain, and back to us, and said, “Well girls, the Chaplain and I will call up Father So-and-So and we can get him in to do another exorcism.” Nora and I looked at each other, horrified, and then turned to Mr Boothby, and said “Another?!?!?”

Yes my friends, ANOTHER. Apparently our floor had been exorcised before by a local Catholic priest. Sadly our room was not the room that had the priviledge of being exorcised. The exorcism took place next door to our rooms where the house-tutors had their flats. Maybe 15 ft away, through the big metal alarmed door, which we affectionately called the “rape door” (it was alarmed with the intention of keep the boys out of the girls area…) Upon hearing Mr Boothby’s suggestion, Nora and I immediately decided that having our bedroom exorcised was way spookier than having a little girl ghost come visit us every once in a while.  We politely declined Mr Boothby’s generous offer. In retrospect however, it would have been interesting to see a live exorcism!

For those of you who want to geek out listening to an interview with Dan Aykroyd and his father on CBC’s Q, talking about their family’s history with the paranormal – click here! It’s the Friday October 16th edition!

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Ooooh the good in everyone!

Small kindnessnes are the best kindnesses…

Especially when they are from cute boys!

It’s been an odd but excellent week. I was going to write some vague sentences alluding to the more saddening parts of my week (heard some news, learned some stuff, inadvertently displayed behaviour similar to that of a 14-year-old meth addict?), but I’ve decided to just gloss right on over those bits and dive into the good stuff!

First off on Wednesday I got to hang out with my Sudbury (eugh) based sister for an evening. She’s not in town that often, and when she is we rarely manage to see each other. And I have never made it up to Suckbury, for, uh, obvious reasons. We went for drinks at the Cadillac lounge, she treated. She’s been writing a book of poetry. I look forward to the finished product. Also I have never noticed just how similar she looks to Sarah. The resemblance is incredible. And I realise I sound like an idiot saying that I never noticed that my two sisters look alike, but there you go.

On Saturday, Emma and I had our sewing class. That’s right ladies and gentleman I am on step number three to becoming the perfect 1950’s housewife! With cooking and baking already crossed off, now I just need to ensnare a man using my charms, and trickery, obviously. Anyway, it was drawstring bag day at sewing class. Emma and I both produced beautiful bags Betty Draper would be proud of. Mine is square shaped with yellow and black polka dots. Emma’s is a more functional wine bottle sized tote, with snowmen! We are truly women now.

After class we scurried home to change into our finery to meet up with some friends to enjoy afternoon tea at the Four Seasons. Afternoon tea is one of my most favourite events. Tiny little sandwiches and cakes and scones, oh my! We all drank fancy teas and sipped the cheapest champagne on the menu, while watching a swarm of jittering teen girls waiting outside in hopes to catch a glimpse of the Jonas brothers. Occasionally there would be a false alarm and girls would bolt off down the street, only to come back to their posts looking blanched and dejected.

Nuit Blanche happens to fall on my birthday weekend without fail, so I try to go out and see some stuff each year. But this year it just didn’t do it for me. In spite of leaving quite late, the streets were packed, and the crowds were overwhelming, and the art was subsequently lost. So we all just tramped home. Which is a shame, because there were some exhibits that sounded really neat, like the hobo hot dog roast. Its theme was small kindnesses that we would afford each other after the apocalypse. I like the idea of sharing hotdogs over a barrel fire. I also like the idea of free hot dogs and hot chocolate served to me by Jamie Kennedy. There was also a game of Monopoly being played with real money! I have a thing for Monopoly, if you have ever been to my apartment you know I have a thing. I would have liked to get in on that game, I would have cleaned up!!! But alas, my irritation with the never-ending flocks of people prevented me from seeing either of these. Maybe next year I’ll hit it alone, just me and my ipod at 3am.

Sunday I threw myself a birthday pizza party! I made the pizza dough myself and everyone got to decorate their own pizza. It was an homage to my 7th birthday party, and a complete success!

The tale of my 7th Birthday is as follows:

For my  7th birthday, my mom finally allowed me to have a big birthday party. Up until then, all my other friends were allowed to have a huge party and invite all the kids in our grade, but I was only ever allowed to invite a small group of friends. I was jealous of my classmates, and their huge parties. You may think “awww poor Maggie wanted to be popular/cool/loved”. But no, my reasons were much more greedy and diabolical. What I really wanted was more presents! All the other kids had huge parties, and then a huge pile of presents to go with them. And it was those presents my greedy little girl soul wanted.

So my mom planned a party for me. I invited all the girls in my grade, all the kids from my street, my cousins and three boys (two of which showed up – Eric was too scared to come, but he did buy me a pink radio walkman as a present – SCORE!). We played pass-the-parcel and balloon games. And I had a GIANT pile of presents! The party was a success! That was, until my mom came out with the party food. My mother is an excellent cook with a fabulous palate. Unfortunately all the guests at this party were 7 and 8 year olds. We didn’t appreciate such things, so when she brought out the two beautiful home-made pizzas covered in things other than mozzarella, the kids, well, we weren’t so impressed. My older cousin Laura started a riot, and led the chant of “WE WANT HOT DOGS”, until my sister grabbed her by the ear and dragged her into the kitchen for a good old fashioned talking-to. The pizzas were barely touched. Hot dogs were not served. And I was never allowed to have more than 10 birthday guests ever again.

Unlike my 7th birthday, my 25th birthday was really good, not a single disappointment. So thanks to everyone who wished me well and made it awesome! I hope 25 will be a good year. Filled with funtimes and happiness. Upwards and onwards!

Anyhoo, the events that propelled me to write this entry are as follows:

1. While getting dressed this morning I found $20 in my panties. Awkward and awesome!

2. D-List Canadian celebrities say “Hi” to me in the street.

3. While buying huge swaths of fabric (I swear I could fashion an elephant with a beautiful gown) on Queen street at lunchtime, the girl helping me kept fanning her face and saying how her medication was finally kicking in and apologising for how it made her loopy.  Then she handed me my purchase  in a  giant Madison Square Gardens bag. All I can say is this is why I love Toronto, and I hear you my friend, I don’t even NEED medication to make me loopy. Hah, cough cough.

4. While treating myself to my favourite mocha at Dark Horse the cute barrista-boy, who I’ve been crushing on for a while, gave me a free hot chocolate to drink while I waited for him to make my drink. Little kindnesses are the best kindnesses. Swoon!

So in spite of the downs this week, I feel things are on the up and up. I’ve mulled things over, figured some stuff out, and benefitted from the kindness of strangers. People are good, and interesting!

Up, up and away!

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