Category Archives: Jean AAR

Sherlock, Series 2 – LOVED It


Right now, Sherlock is the only thing I watch on TV.  Name any other show, new program, serial, mini-series, and the answer is no.  (I tried Downton Abbey, but sorry folks – not interested.)  But for Sherlock, I am on tenterhooks.  For Sherlock, I could curse the 18-month wait until the next one.  I couldn’t wait until Series 2 was broadcast in Canada – the minute it was up on iTunes, I bought it.  And I loved it. Continue reading

Pop-up restaurants

rsz_1sandwich3In many ways, Toronto is a haven for foodies.  The sheer ethnic variety of the city, alone, means you can find almost anything you want, from most corners of the world in T.O.  (Heck, we even have a cafe that serves coffee New Zealand style, which is pretty random to me, but I’m not complaining.)

One of the more recent trends taking over the city is the pop-up restaurant, whereby chefs, often famous ones, offer simple, good, and cheap takeaway food in a temporary location, usually some kind of sandwich, hoagie, sub, etc.  But good stuff.  The only thing is you have to catch them when you can; often you’d only catch word by word of mouth, or if you follow them on Facebook or Twitter, or something like that.

Me, I like this trend, and I hope it stays.  Sure, some of the chefs are famous.  But there are also some that are completely unknown, but have actually had their careers made (the Fidel Gastro boys are one).  And I think it offers a terrific alternative to the city’s failed street food program (don’t ask).

Do you have pop-up restaurants where you live?  What do you think of this trend?

– Jean AAR

Summer Movies Preview


When it comes to movies, summer used to mean two things: Harry Potter and Pixar.  Now that Harry Potter’s over, I’m left with just Pixar.  I would call it religious, the way I unfailingly see the new Pixar every June and look forward to their new short, but I did skip Cars 2.  And I don’t feel I’m missing much.

This year’s Pixar is Brave, which is unusual because a) it features actual humans (the only other full-length films that did so were The Incredibles and Up), and b) the protagonist is a girl!  It seems quite fairy tale-ish, about a Scottish princess and bears and lots of humour, and features the voice talents of Kelly Macdonald (love her) and Emma Thompson.  I’m really looking forward to it.

Other movies that caught my eye: Continue reading

Ditch the penny – yea or nay?

Canadian Penny  20100526Canada’s getting rid of the penny, and all I can say is it’s about blooming time.

I’ve experienced what I consider two sides of fiscal portability – one year in France, and two years in New Zealand.  In 2004 France, post-franc, the euro coin existed as 1 centime, 2 centimes, 5 centimes, 10 centimes, 20 centimes, 50 centimes, 1 euro, and 2 euros.  And that’s just coins. I don’t know about you, but that’s just ridiculous.

Then three years ago, I went to New Zealand.  10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cent, 1 dollar, and 2 dollars.  That’s it.  So much easier on the wallet, and less of a headache at the cashier.

So the news that Canada will soon be ditching the penny, reducing the number of coins to five (nickel, dime, quarter, loonie, and toonie – that’s one and two dollar coins to any neighbours down south), came as very, very welcome.  I hate the penny.  It adds nothing but trouble.  It weighs down my wallet.  And according to the government, who announced this measure as part of federal budget cuts, it cost 60% more to make the stupid coin than it’s worth.

In this matter, I’m not afflicted by nostalgia.  Nope.  Bye-bye, penny.

Would you miss the penny if it disappeared?

– Jean AAR

Mildly bummed out now.

So, it turns out I’ve never heard the word “respite” before.  I’ve read it, seen it, understand it, heard of it, but I’ve never actually heard anyone use it.  So naturally, I’d formed my own idea of it’s pronunciation.  And now I’m boggled because, apparently, I’m wrong.

See, I looked at the word, and I saw, “spite”.  And “re-“.  Well, for every other word prefixed with “re”, the emphasis is on the second syllable, right?  Re-LEASE.  Re-DUCE.  Etc.  And spite is pronounced with a long “i”.  Right?

Wrong.  In NA, it’s pronounced REH-spit, and in the UK it’s pronounced REH-spite.  But none of this ree-SPITE business, dang it.

Oh well, could be worse.  And I’m inclined to just go on with my current pronunciation.  Anyway, I’ve done worse: For the longest time, I’d seen “indignant” and read it as in-dee-TAN-gent.  Why?  Where?  Who knows.

English is a funny language.  What linguistic bumbles have you made?

– Jean AAR

Lady Gaga (again)


I know there’s at least one massive Lady Gaga fan here at AAR (Jane, I’m looking at you).  My appreciation for her has grown very slowly; there was always respect, but it took a while for me to get beyond the makeup, controversy, eggs and 15-minute music videos.  I think what clinched it, though, was her two-minute live rendition of “Edge of Glory” on SNL, and which I found she also played for Howard Stern (above).

You know, there aren’t that many pop stars who not only write and sing their own songs, but also allow the frailties and flaws of their voices stand out, adorned and naked as she does.  There also aren’t that many songwriters whose songs allow themselves to such a variety of interpretation – but Lady Gaga’s do.  And there aren’t that many songs when, stripped down, are even better than the studio-produced, mass-accompanied ones – but I think this one qualifies in my book.  And finally, there certainly aren’t that many artists who can, and do, do all three.

Lady Gaga does.

– Jean AAR

Appliance frustration

microwaveI really, really didn’t think it would be so difficult to replace a microwave.  Honestly, all I wanted was something that works and doesn’t cost sixty million dollars, and won’t break down in 3 years.  But lo and behold, two passed in and out the door before, finally, the third stayed.

#1: The Danby

Got this one because it was cheap and on sale.  And the door was stainless steel, and it look flash and everything.  Then I checked out the reviews online, on various sites, and saw that feedback was almost universally craptastic.  Back it went.

#2: The Panasonic

We can trust Panasonic, right?  I’m pretty brand loyal, and Panasonic I would basically stand by.  Bought it, took it home, set up and plugged, and everything’s great for a day … until I read the manual.  To set the power level, I have to press “Power Level” the reverse number of times as the power level I want.  Not, “Oh, I want to set it at Power 5, so I’ll press ‘Power Level’ and number ‘5’”.  No, it’s I-have-to-press-“Power Level” five freaking times.  If I want Power 3, I press the button 7 times.  Is there ever a more inefficient process in the world?  I expected better from Panasonic.  Back it went.

#3: The GE

After using it for a few days, it’s nowhere near as powerful as the Panasonic, which wasn’t as powerful as the six-year Samsung, which wasn’t as powerful as the 20-year Toshiba.  But it’ll have to do.

What’s your take on buying appliances?  Quick and cheap, or dearer and durable?

– Jean AAR

When winter’s grey and yucky, eat food.

CiaoWinterlicious_side2eviteFebruary in Toronto means several things.  It used to mean grey skies, grey slush, grey clothing, and grey faces.  That hasn’t changed, except for the grey slush – snow has not made much of an appearance this year.

But aside from that, February in Toronto also means a potential culinary pick-me-up: Winterlicious.  Now in it’s tenth year, the city-wide festival means prix fixe meals at restaurants across the city.

Prices for 3-course meals range from $15-25 for lunches, and $25-45 for dinners.  Some of the restaurants I wouldn’t be caught dead entering, some I’d feel like a yokel if I entered, and some are comfort places.  I’ve had some very, very mediocre experiences at Winterlicious (and Summerlicious, and Veggielicious), because some restaurants use the event to offload their menus’ crappiest items on unsuspecting customers who just want a good deal.

But if you pick your venue well and do your research, then it’s a great way to get a taste of cuisines or restaurants you wouldn’t normally go to.  This year I went with a tried-and-true comfort, where the food was unoriginal but good, and where I could soak in the informal atmosphere of a restaurant I hadn’t attended in a long time.

It’s strange, the psychology of choosing a meal with friends.  Do you go spend the money, good value, on a known quantity, and risk boredom?  Or do you risk your wallet (and tax, and tip), and go somewhere new?

Does your city have something like Winterlicious?  Are you adventurous when dining out?

– Jean AAR

Meet Johnson, my 13″ MacBook Pro

apple-macbook-pro-131Before I got my beloved new MBP, I looked at my friends who actually gave their tech devices names like they were nuts. Why? Just, why? You’re going to chuck it in a few years, ten, tops. It’s only a means to access all that’s near and dear, and doesn’t hold the same sentimental value as, say, one’s first car does.  (There was a NYT article that put it well, but I can’t find it.)

That was before I got my MBP, and man, I fell in love. It can do (almost) no wrong in my eyes. Barring a major catastrophe, I’m never going back to Windows. Ever.

I decided that I needed to christian my lovely new laptop, new extensive of my mind, body and soul.  (Ha.)  I needn’t go around calling it by name, but just to acknowledge that it has become a very important part of my life. Honestly, I’m attached to this thing.

But what to call it? There’s the rub. Continue reading