Category Archives: 2010

Thank you 2010, Welcome 2011…

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
T. S. Eliot

As the dawn breaks over 2011 tomorrow morning, I think it is only fitting to share with you some of the things I hope to accomplish during the 365 days that will encompass the New Year.

It feels like 2010 zipped past and I really didn’t have a plan in place to try and accomplish something. This year, I am going to take a different approach. I am not one for resolutions, so these are merely “navigational beacons” to keep me focused for the next 365 days. We will check back at year end and see how things worked out!

1. Read More – I have loads of books. I sometimes get into a groove and plough through a bunch and then there are times when they seem to collect dust. This year I hope to make some headway on the books that I have in the “To Be Read” pile. I used to be better at this when I was riding the GO Train every day. Now I will have to put a little more focus on choosing a book over other options. First up will be finishing, “Street Gang” by Michael Davis.

2. See More Movies – I am a bit of a movie buff. This year I didn’t see a lot of the movies that I wanted to at the theatre. That has to change. I have always enjoyed seeing movies on the “big screen” and now that I have experienced 3D (thanks to @Strombo at #TRONTopolous in December), there are certainly some movies that need to be seen at the theatre.

3. Play Board Games – I have a collection of board games from my youth. I haven’t played them in years and that is a shame. They are tonnes of fun and a great way to interact with others. I hope to organize a couple of small parties at my house for friends to come, have a few drinks and play Monopoly or some of the others in my collection.

4. Host friends at my house more often – This goes hand in hand with my last goal. I have a great place and I spend most of my time “out” with my friends. Whether it is playing board games, a dinner party or just “hanging out”, I hope that I will be able to welcome friends into my house that I like to call, “The Fortress of Solitude”, more often this year.

5. Clean Up Clutter – Like everyone, my house has become crowed with “stuff” that I haven’t touched in years. This is the year that I am going to pare down some of this stuff and “lighten the load” of what’s around me. After years of collecting this stuff, it’s time to show some (or a lot) of it, the door!

6. Learn to cook Mexican food – I have been to areas where Mexican and South-Western food has been a staple, in my travels. I want to try making some of the items I tried there so that hopefully they can become a mainstay on my “menu”. Things like Fry Bread, Tortilla Soup, Huevos Rancheros, El Pastor and Carne Asada are all on the list of things to figure out.

7. Be more committed to the gym – I joined a gym for a number of reasons. I have had stretches in 2010 where I was very good at going. There have also been times (like, the summer) where I haven’t seen the inside of the gym for months. I am determined to find the “balance” that I will need to fit socializing, working and the gym into each 7 day stretch.

8. Use my Slow Cooker more – I have always liked using my slow cooker and I have a few recipes that I like making with it. I am hoping to make 1 meal a week using my slow cooker this year. This will hopefully increase the number of meals that I will be able to eat “at home”. Sounds like an ambitious idea, but I am sure that I can do it! I am going to use this website (thanks to @SteffieEhm for the link) for some inspiration. I also have a handful of slow cooker cookbooks to try out too!

That’s it. That’s what I am going to try and do with 2011. All of them are small things and all very easy to accomplish. I look forward to sharing my progress with you during 2011. I also look forward to sharing my thoughts with you on a variety of other topics as well.

I hope 2011 brings good health, happiness and good things to all of you and your friends and families.

Happy New Year!!

Christmas…already?!?

This year, more so than others, has dashed by so fast. I can’t believe that Friday brings Christmas Eve!! It feels like a minute ago, I was sitting down with friends and family at Christmas dinner in 2009.

So much happened this year, that it is hard to put it all into perspective!! The list is long and varied, but all of it is outstanding. The highlights were:

– Travelling to Cuba for the first time in February
– Discovering this thing called, “Twitter” in late February or early March
– Living through the shining moment that was the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games!! Who wasn’t proud to be a Canadian in February?? What moment does this song, I Believe, by Nikki Yanofsky, bring back for you?? Was it a skier winning Gold?? A speed skater winning Gold?? A figure skater overcoming personal loss and attempting to shine on the world stage in her home country?? A hockey team winning Gold?? A curling team turning the world onto a game that we already knew, “rocked”??
– April and beyond were filled with Tweetups, new friends and a chance to discover the world of food and excitement that is right here in Southern Ontario, Toronto and Hamilton.
– July was the opportunity to go to San Francisco and see the baseball team that would win the World Series (The San Francisco Giants), play on their home turf. Something that I had wanted to do for a long time. Being in San Francisco for a second visit was fantastic and I have to thank the people at Klout and Virgin America, for providing free trips to so many people in Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco this summer (#vxtoronto)
– August took me to Bristol, Tennesse for the NASCAR Night Race, which was another item on the “Bucket List”!! Seeing the 1/2 mile track and “hearing” the noise of the place was something I will never forget!! I also had the opportunity to visit Nashville for the first time and it was AWESOME!! It is my kind of town, at least the downtown area, for sure!!
– October was a family vacation with my mom and sister (and others), to Tennessee (again)!! Takes years to get somewhere and then within 3 months, I am there twice!! A return visit to Nashville was in order, seeing that I was so close!!

All in all, that is just a glimpse of all the things that happened in 2010. The people and the places I visited were all awesome. The conversations at each event were outstanding!! I would not trade any moment of 2010 and I hope that 2011 is even better!! There is so much more of the world to see and so much more to explore!!

I am looking forward to sitting down with my friends and family again at the end of this week and smiling about the year that was 2010 and celebrating the time that we get to share with each other!!

Happy Christmas Everyone!! All the best to you and your friends and family!!

Canadian88’s Fresh Salsa – The Backstory

I can only guess that some of you are wondering why a guy like me would spend his weekend making salsa while the weather was beautiful outside.  Let me start by saying this, I did still get out to enjoy the weekend.  Getting out into the garden to pick the veggies required for the salsa is part of the fun of making it and part of the reason that I started growing my own veggies.  But, I am getting ahead of myself.  Let me tell you how all the parts of the story came together to make, Salsa!!

About 3 years ago I was asked to take on a new position at work, Manager of the Garden Centre (I work for Home Depot).  I had a working knowledge of the tractors, lawn mowers and BBQs that my department was home to, but the plants and soils were all something new to me.  My only experience in a garden had been when I was a kid at my grandmother’s house.  Her garden encompassed most of her back yard and was a source of constant summer activity.  She grew anything and everything in the garden and was always sending us away with fresh peas, corn or carrots!!

Based on my experience at gram’s house and in an effort to embrace the department I was now running, I bought myself a few veggie plants in the spring that year.  I thought, “I may as well see if I can grow something.  That way if some asks ‘Is it easy to grow this’, I can say, ‘It must be, I did it’!!”.  Well, my hot pepper plant and tomato plant did very well that summer and soon I was faced with what to do with all the jalapenos, tomatoes and grape tomatoes I had on my hands.  I knew my gram had frozen whole tomatoes for use later, but I knew there must be something more to do with them.

Prior to his death in 2001, my Dad had bought a set of high quality cookware and was toying with the idea of taking some cooking classes.  I already had some basic cooking skills and I kept looking at the pots that were in my cupboards thinking, “I must be able to make tomato sauce or BBQ sauce or something with all these tomatoes”.  One day at work, I overheard one of my co-workers say that they had spent the morning canning some stewed tomatoes from their garden before coming to work.

A light bulb went off inside my head and I asked a simple question, “Is that hard to do”?? The response was, “No. Do you have tomatoes that you can’t use”??  Our conversation carried on and ended with a promise to email me a recipe for stewed tomatoes and a recipe for salsa, to try.  I was a little nervous of “canning” or properly preserving the product of my efforts but this co-worker (born and raised in the country) was completely at ease with the entire process.  They answered all of my questions, both by email and at work and encouraged me to give it a shot.  So, one September afternoon, I gave it a shot.  I pulled my Dad’s pots and pans out and took the basic knowledge of what my gram used to do (she canned pears, plums, peaches, tomato juice, etc), and the recipes I had been given and put it all to use.

My first batch of salsa and the first batch of stewed tomatoes were a long, time-consuming process, but it actually was fun to see a pot full of raw ingredients boil down and turn into something to be shared with family and friends.  Plus, I thought it was a great tribute to my Dad and his desire to cook some new and creative items with his cookware.

I was proud to have grown the tomatoes and peppers in my garden and to have turned them into something delicious.  The reward of sharing something you made with someone is unique and I now know why my gram loved cooking for others.  To get the ultimate feedback, I turned to my two main Salsa Guru’s; My sister and my friend Shannon.  I gave them each a jar of salsa and waited for their feedback.  Both immediately raved about the flavour and asked for more!!

The next year (and every year since) I have tried to grow as many of the ingredients in my garden for the salsa and tomatoes that I make.  I like to know that all of the effort I put into growing the veggies turns into something that people enjoy (including me).  This year, I have expanded my repertoire to include green, Salsa Verde, as well as the red salsa and stewed tomatoes I made in years past.  It is just as good as the first two efforts, in my opinion.

I realize this is a bit of a long story that essentially boils down to this; I wanted to use the cookware my Dad had hoped to use to make some meals and carry on some traditions my Grandmother had started.  I am sure that part of it was proving to others that even I could grow some veggies and turn them into something yummy!!

I hope that I get to share some of the Salsa I make in my kitchen with you, because I love hearing what others think and treating them to something that you just don’t get everyday, some good, quality home cooked treats!!

Here are some pictures of the process and the results:

A San Francisco Experience – Day 2

After my first day in San Francisco, I wasn’t sure what Day 2 (Friday July 30) would bring along. I knew that I was staying across the street from one of my favourite places in town, The Ferry Building, and that my stay would not be complete without a stop there each day!

I took the opportunity in the morning to wander over to the building and see what it had to offer. It was just coming to life when I got there and it was 9am! Given the location downtown, I equated it to the food court areas in Toronto which are hopping by 7am due to commuter traffic! There were people sitting on the floor sketching the building interior, there were loads of people stopping at the few places that were open for coffee and the smell of food from all the restaurants and bakeries was starting to fill the air.

After a coffee I headed for a tour at AT&T Park, to learn about the San Francisco Giants, their history and their stadium. We saw a lot of unique views in the ballpark (pressbox, dugout). If you are a fan of baseball or if you are just looking for something to do while in San Francisco, go and visit this ballpark. It is a beautiful location to see a ballgame or simply enjoy the San Francisco atmosphere.

Next up I took the opportunity to stop in at Klout and say “Hello” to some of the people I had met during their event in Toronto. It was a pleasure to talk about the merging of promotions and the people on Twitter (influencers as they are called on Klout).

My next stop was back at the Ferry Building, which was now hopping with activity for lunch! Some form of seafood was in order in my opinion! A delicious Seared Opah sandwich with Chimichuri was my selection, from the San Francisco Fish Market, and it was delicious! More coffee from Peets Coffee and I was set to face the afternoon!

The evening was filled with a baseball game that was certainly entertaining. The LA Dodgers were in town and it was “Beat LA” weekend at the ballpark! The fans were charged up and the stadium was full of electricity. The Giants won (they actually swept the three game series on the weekend) and everyone went home happy!

The evening did end with a display of some of the “underbelly” of San Francisco showing its ugly head. One of the people I met at the game actually stayed past the unpublished departure time at their parking lot and had to pay a cash “overtime” charge to the owner of the parking lot to get their keys back. They had no choice. As the note on their car said, “If you want your car back, call XXX-XXX-XXXX”. Lesson learned – Don’t park where you need to leave keys.

I met some fantastic people in all of my travels on Saturday. It was a fantastic day and it made the trip worth it. The lucky thing for me was that I still had 2 more days to go!

A San Francisco Experience – Day 1

I was lucky enough to receive a free trip to San Francisco from Klout and Virgin America, due to my influence on Twitter. This in and of itself was flattering, because for me it meant that there was some value to what I was contributing to the conversation on Twitter.

I was on the fence about taking the trip, for a number of reasons. I had to rearrange my work schedule; Lots of others were coming at other times; I already had my vacation for the summer planned and paid for later in August. I decided in-spite of all of that to still jump at the opportunity and claim my ticket.

From the moment I arrived at Pearson Airport (YYZ) in Toronto, I encountered nothing but friendly people.  The check-in staff for Virgin America was busy, but they were friendly and doing what they could to keep the lines moving.  I met a fellow “Klouter” in the departure area and had a great chat about food and San Francisco.  Erin (who is apparently getting engaged – congrats!!) and Deb on the flight crew were friendly and cheerful during our flight.  They took the time to talk about air travel and how much they like working for Virgin while I was stretching my legs and having a coffee!! They did everything they could to make sure that our flight was great!!

When I arrived in San Francisco, getting to my hotel was easy and efficient thanks to BART (their rapid transit system).  I dashed off to AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants and got into line for  a ticket the ballgame. Two scalpers were doing their best high pressure sales tactic on me when a fan walked up to the line, right beside me and said, “Who needs a single ticket for free”? After a quick, “I’ll take it for free”, I was on my way to a Club level seat in the ballpark, still not believing how my day was going!! The fan that gave me a ticket wouldn’t even let me buy them a beer!! I am forever thankful to them and their co-workers for their generosity!!

When I got back to my hotel, I got checked in and discovered that I had a fantastic room at the Harbor Court Hotel, that is right on the bay in San Francisco.  The view from my room is fantastic and I couldn’t ask for more. For being part of their “member” program I was given a mini-bar credit and for mentioning a “codeword” promo that they had mentioned on Twitter, I received a secondary credit!!

My day didn’t end there, but what more could you ask for in less that 24 hours!?!  This trip has restored my belief that all people at their core are willing to help their neighbours.  Sometimes you encounter so many angry and frustrated people, you begin to wonder why everyone is so angry.  I can’t tell you how happy I am now that I took this trip!!

The world is a much better place when the attitude you are shining out gets shone back at you.  I am not sure if it was the positive attitude of those I encountered that caused me to smile back at others.  I hope that it was my smile and “Hello” that maybe changed their attitude towards me. I don’t know and I guess it dosen’t matter.  What does matter is that there were people on the planet  all working at being kind to each other on July 29 in Canada and the United States.  My hope is that my story was repeated in other ways in other cities around the planet as well!! What more can you ask for??