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He’s… engaged

Melissa Ramos, CNP, D.Ac, is founder of SexyFoodTherapy and is a reknowned nutritionist.

The other morning I opened my Facebook, mindlessly scrolled through videos of people’s pets doing tricks and people’s party photos from the evening before. And that’s when I saw it…

“Congrats on your engagement! I’m sooooo happy for you too!!!”

The Ex-Fiance was engaged.

It’s tough when your ex gets hitched with the person he starting dating just weeks after you. So was I suffering from a bruised ego considering he asked her three years into it versus the four and a half it took with me? Yes. Did I do a quick Facebook stalk to see if I could get a glimpse of the ring? Absofuckinglutely.

I was acting like a crazy woman.

I had to get some perspective. I was confined to suburban depots rather than urban boutiques and most importantly, I wasn’t in love. My life was monotonous and I fear monotony as much as I fear Walmart or Ikea on a Sunday afternoon. So why care and what really is the point of asking, what if?

So, I went into the kitchen to emotionally eating, the right way.

SWEET & SAVOURY STUFFED PORTOBELLOS
4 large portobellos
2 packages herbed goat cheese
1 small package of black mission figs
1 bunch fresh spinach.
1/4 cup walnuts chopped
1/4 cup pecans chopped
1 red onion minced
4 garlic cloves minced
1 tbsp honey
Panko crumbs as topping
Salt & pepper
Pinch of chili flakes

Preheat oven to 350.

Sautee onions and garlic until caramelized. Set aside.

Blanch spinach, drain excess water and chop fine. Place into a large mixing bowl with 2 packages of goat cheese, onions, garlic, nuts (but leave some aside for topping), chilli flakes, honey and salt. Gently fold in figs.

With a damp cloth brush mushrooms to remove dirt. Place on a parchment paper baking sheet and begin to fill with mixture and top with panko crumbs and left over nuts. Place in oven for 10-15 minutes until panko nut mixture browns.

In Chinese Medicine mushrooms have a lot of therapeutic benefits including boosting the immune system. Goat cheese is also easier to digest than regular dairy due to its smaller molecular size. Its creamy taste is yin-building and may help to calm those with an overactive, racing mind. Perfect!

As for the engagement? I’m happy for him. As for me? I have The Gentleman, and despite our growing pains, we’re doing great. I have Sexy Food Therapy that never would have existed had I not have left the Ex-Fiancé. So instead of looking back and wondering what if, look forward, and you’ll be able to realize that it all happened for a reason.

And, looking back to blue light specials and Swedish meat balls, it becomes clear as day…yes, we were really never meant to be.

RECIPE: Pot roast with carrots and pearl onions

Makes 6 main-course servings

1 chuck blade roast, about 5 pounds
Salt
Pepper
1 piece fatback with rind, about 2 pounds, optional
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped, if larding roast
4 cloves garlic, minced and then crushed to a paste, if larding roast
1 large onion, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
Bouquet garni
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth (page 316), reduced to 2 cups
3 slender carrots, peeled and sliced
One 10-ounce package pearl onions, blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, drained, rinsed under cold water, and peeled

Trim away the silver skin and excess fat from the roast. Season all over with salt and pepper and set aside. Cut away the rind from the fatback and reserve the rind. Cut the fatback into sheets about 1/4 inch thick, then cut the sheets lengthwise into strips, or lardons, about 1/4 inch on each side. In a bowl, mix together the lardons, parsley, and minced garlic; cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 or 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Place the roast in a shallow bowl and add the sliced onion, sliced large carrot, bouquet garni, crushed garlic, and wine. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 or 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Remove the meat and vegetables from the marinade; reserve the wine and bouquet garni. Using a hinged larding needle, lard the roast with the lardons as shown on page 15.

Select a heavy ovenproof pot just large enough to hold the meat and line the bottom with the fatback rind, skin side up. Place the vegetables from the marinade on top of the rind, and put the roast on top of the vegetables. Place the pot in the oven and roast, uncovered, for about 11/2 hours, or until the meat releases juices that caramelize (but don’t burn) on the bottom of the pot.

Remove the pot from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 275°F. Remove any fat from the pot with a bulb baster or large spoon, and then add the broth and the wine and bouquet garni from the marinade. Bring to a gentle simmer on the stove top. Cover the pot with a sheet of aluminum foil, pressing it down slightly in the middle so that moisture will condense on its underside and drip down onto the exposed parts of the meat, and then with a lid.

Return the pot to the oven and braise the roast for 11/2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure the liquid is not boiling, and if it is, turn down the heat. Turn the roast over gently, so the meat that was above the liquid is now submerged, re-cover the pot with the foil and the lid, and continue to braise for about 1 hour longer, or until the roast is easily penetrated with a knife.

Transfer the roast to a smaller ovenproof pot, moving it gently so it doesn’t fall apart. Strain the braising liquid into a glass pitcher and skim off the fat with a ladle. Or, ideally, refrigerate the braising liquid at this point and then lift off the congealed fat in a single layer. Pour the degreased liquid into a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer, skimming off any fat or froth that rises to the surface, for about 30 minutes, or until reduced by about half. Meanwhile, raise the oven temperature to 450°F.

Pour the reduced liquid over the meat, and add the sliced slender carrots and pearl onions. Slide the pot, uncovered, into the oven and cook the roast, basting it every 10 minutes with the liquid, for about 30 minutes, or until the roast is covered with a shiny glaze and the carrot slices and pearl onions are tender.

Remove the roast from the oven. Using two spoons, serve in warmed soup plates surrounded with the braising liquid and topped with the carrot slices and pearl onions.

Variations: You can vary this recipe by using additional or different aromatic vegetables, such as onions or turnips; using cider, beer, or broth in  place of the wine for the braising liquid; trading out the thyme for marjoram in the bouquet garni; or garnishing with mushrooms, haricots verts, leeks, or other vegetables in place of the carrot slices and pearl onions.

Reprinted with permission from Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photo credit: James Peterson © 2010

 

Just who and what are angel investors?

by Jacoline Loewen

If you are feeling down about your business fortunes, keep in mind Cirque du Soleil, Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the World. Not bad for a former street performer, Guy Laliberté, who walked on stilts across Quebec asking for money to get his business going. Guess what – people gave him cash.

If you want to grow your business, keep Guy in mind and watch those entrepreneurs who have the guts to go on Dragons’ Den. They made the decision to get a professional financial partner, even though they may just as well get a bull’s eye painted on their butts for Kevin O’Leary to kick.
But this is the risk: reward – payoff or humiliation of life as an entrepreneur.

Besides the Dragons, who are the Angels? Angel Investors come from a wide variety of backgrounds and careers. They love business and want to share this passion for information technology, manufacturing, alternative energy, finance, services areas, etc. Angels will bring $250,000 to $500,000 in capital, their skills, and the sheer joy of helping your company. In addition, at the early stages, so much of business is who you know and angels can introduce you to their large networks, getting you in front of the right people to grow your business.

Angels will assume financial risk that would send your average banker screaming for cover. At the toughest time of the business, angels usually get involved, often before there are even a few clients. The money at this stage is unsecured, which means there is no building to claim. The angel is lucky if there is anything to recoup.

There is also no registered claim on assets, which leaves the assets unencumbered in case the owner needs to get debt from the bank. In other words, your company has a positive bank balance and no debt owed because the angel is part owner of the business putting in capital. The more equity you have, the higher your ability to get loans – banks are comforted that you have $500,000 in the company and will lend you more.

Angel investors: Who are they?

Family Members
The first angel or individual willing to invest is probably your mother or other family member. Your parents may give you the money as they think, “This will be good for our boy, Billy.” But Jane Austen said, “Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does.” I’m with Jane; it’s better to get a professional partner.

Corporate Angels
This category of investor probably sold their business to Telus and now have money to burn. The one thing to know about these angels is that they are not ready to retire. Some corporate angels may be thinking about how to get your business sold off to the first interested company, making them risky. At first, they seem like a saviour, but morph into Agent Smith in dark glasses, shoving you down a Matrix highway. Google their past company investments. Are the companies still around? Are the founders happy?

The Retired Executive Angels    
They love the challenge of business and are an old war horse – give him a whiff of the battle of getting a business up and running: it stirs up his blood to get back in the game but without the day-to-day responsibility.

The Old Money Angels
There are wealthy families looking to fund companies. They sometimes give away money to achieve something philanthropic at the same time. They support pet interests. Social Capital – run by Bill Young, a family member of the founder of Red Hat – funded the start-up company called Evergreen that focused on hiring at-risk youths and supporting the development of the new Toronto neighbourhood called Brickworks. If you are doing something green or improving the world, then these funds may help.

There are the less obvious angels all around your business right now. Look up and down your business chain and talk to suppliers and customers and see how you can optimize your cash flows. You can delay payments (with suppliers knowing or not) using them as your float.

 

Ami McKay: the Birth House

By Karolina Bialkowska

This past week, CBC’s Canada Reads hit Toronto with heated debates, namely: Which book should be crowned the must-read of the decade?

Ami McKay’s The Birth Housemade it to the final showdown. Although McKay’s work was not bestowed the coveted title, the author’s first novel has been a resounding success across the country.

The Birth House embodies a plethora of contemporary themes. While the central focus is midwifery, the influx of technology to the East coast that changed community dynamics and women’s positions in new Canadian society are also brought to focus.

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with McKay – a first-time novelist, new Canadian, and mother of two small children – and she surpassed all my expectations. She’s definitely no stodgy, haughty, literary superstar.

McKay moved with her husband to Canada’s East coast from Chicago. Living in a small community with the local history indicative of small-town Canadiana, she found herself being greeted with open arms and good ol’ Canadian hospitality. Her new home held within its wooden heart a bevy of cultural anecdotes and its own seductive past. Inspiration was borne upon coastal winds. What was it exactly for McKay? “The house, the area, the people, the community itself. Getting to know my neighbours; hearing the stories that came out of the people that had live there all of their lives.”

What Ami McKay has accomplished is near unimaginable. With a penchant for the written word, she wrote almost exclusively for herself as a way of making sense of the world around her. Eventually, her husband, the lucky man that he is, was privy to this internal world and encouraged her to start writing for the public.

The Birth House has been a critical and popular success. When asked her thoughts on the novel’s success, McKay provides a surprising answer: “Women’s circles…women in their kitchens, groups of friends, they just loved it and it went flying off the shelves. [It spoke to] women supporting women and really connecting with the story.”

And she credits Canada in her success, too. Musing about the differences between Canada and the US, she reveals, “In Canada it feels a little bit more like you can make your way. Not that it’s any easier, but it feels easier. You have community, friends, neighbours, everyone’s supporting you in your dreams and wishing you the best. They’re there to help and cheer you on.”

I couldn’t agree more. The Canadian ideology is much less individualistic than that of our American counterpart. For those Torontonians who don’t agree, I encourage you to spend a week in a small-town community and learn about Canada away from Bay Street.

For anyone interested in the foundations of our great country, Ami McKay’s The Birth House will leave you mentally and emotionally fulfilled, and transformed.

How to help your house sell

By Jelena Djurkic

We’ve all seen television shows on selling your house. We’ve watched wary couples re-paint and renovate their homes in a bid to get them sold. Not to mention the shows on people flipping homes for profit. But reality shows aren’t always reality. If you’re in the market to sell, what are some easy steps you can take to maximize your house’s showings and minimize the time it spends on the market? In our Agent Moms five-part series, I take a look at five questions every mom should ask herself before taking the real estate plunge.

This week: How to help your house sell?

So, you’ve found the perfect agent, you know how to keep your house search on track, and you know how much it’ll cost you to sell. But how can you help your house sell fast?

START PACKING

If you’re selling your house that means you’ll be packing up soon. Get a head start and startpacking all the things you don’t need access to. Store them offsite or at a friend’s place. This is also a perfect opportunity to depersonalize the space. The whole point of a showing is get potential buyers to feel like it’s their future home, not your current one. Get rid of personal photos and knickknacks that can distract the eye.

“They need to see themselves in the house,” says Samantha Fortin, a Royal LePage realtor in Ottawa. “You don’t want them stopping to look at your pictures.”

CLEAN IT UP

Hoarders aren’t pretty. If there’s one thing you can do yourself, it’s to clean your house. A simple dusting and good ol’ scrubbing will return that sparkle to your house. Declutter every room in the house, not just the main floor. Address everything, from your kid’s closets that are jam-packed with toys, clothes and who knows what else (that’s where that book went) to the extra couches you have in your basement. If you haven’t used it in the last six months, toss it or, better yet, donate it.

“If you’ve got children, pick a spot where you’re going to live while you’re showing the house,” says Fortin. Everything else has to stay tidy. You don’t want to be saying no to a showing because your kid’s underwear is on the living room floor.

SPRUCE UP THE PLACE

Paint touchups (trims, baseboards, outlets) are a quick and cheap way to spruce up a room. Buyers don’t want to see themselves having to fix the place up after you’re gone, says Fortin. If you feel it’s needed, re-paint the rooms but stick to neutral colours. If bright fuchsia is your idea of neutral, ask your real estate agent for advice. Replace old faucets and if you’re going to shell out some cash, fix the carpeting in all of the rooms (doing only one room may cost you more money in the long run – your house might sell for less.) Finish up those half-finished home projects and only spring for major renovations if they’re really needed.

“The first couple of weeks have to be fresh for every person who walks in the door,” says Fortin. Don’t forget the outside of the house too. Cut grass in the spring and summer and shovel walkways in the winter.

STAGE IT WELL

We’ve all heard of baking fresh cookies or playing soft music to create an enticing atmosphere for buyers. But Fortin advises that you tread lightly when it comes to scents. Scent plug-ins can be distracting and overpowering. It might also send the wrong message – that you’re trying to mask something. What is necessary is that you stage your home well. Don’t be scared to move around furniture, add in fresh flowers and turn your lights on for a nicer ambiance.

Your real estate agent can offer tips on staging or recommend a professional stager. If anything, make sure your agent takes nice photos for the property listing and avoid words like “cozy” in the listing. It could mean two very different things, says Fortin.

KEEP AN EYE ON IT, JUST DON’T BE THERE

I remember being 10 years old, having a couple of buyers enter my home to see the place one night. Too bad I didn’t know they were coming (and awkwardly retreated to my room.) This is a big no-no, says Fortin. You should make sure that you’re not there during the showing. Why? Buyers are likely to feel that they’re disturbing your life and will not stay long. It’s best to be flexible and get out of the way when people come to see your house. This may make the difference in giving your house the fair showing it deserves. Keep your kids in the loop and send away pets to Grandma’s house.

“I look for the dancing eyes,” says Fortin. If eyes are moving around the home and potential buyers are already talking about where their couch would fit in your living room, that’s a good sign you’ll soon be receiving a cheque.

RECIPE: Try making Dodol, a traditional Goan treat that is a sinch to make

Recipe by 22catch, photo by santi_andrini.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups black rice flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  •  400 mL coconut cream
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (or butter as a substitution)
  • Slivered almonds

Method

  1. Mix the flour, sugar, cream and ghee in a microwave safe bowl.
  2. Cook on high for 8 minutes.
  3. Stir.
  4. Cook on high for 8 minutes.
  5. Add slivered almonds.
  6. Stir.
  7. Cook on high for 8 minutes, until it becomes like a sticky ball.
  8. Smooth out onto a greased dish, garnish with almonds, and let cool.

 

Bon appétit!

 

Viral video pokes fun at parents trying to bargain when gay kids come out of the closet

For a lot of gay people this scenario rings true: coming out to parents and facing a barrage of bargaining from them in hopes that you’ll choose something — or anything — else for your orientation.

This video by Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal highlights the absurdity of trying to tell someone not to be gay by adding some options like “were-gay” (being mostly straight but doing some gay stuff once in a while) to the mix, and even stringing up people who are okay with gays but only because they appreciate cartoonish stereotypes like fashion sense.

Tell us what you think, does this video hit the nail on the head?

How do you pick the right real estate agent for your family?

By Jelena Djurki

Deciding to move can be a stressful decision. Picking the right house, finding the right neighbourhood and being able to afford it all can take its toll, not to mention the actual moving day. It can be even harder on mothers who often have to take extra consideration in making sure the house they buy suits their family. In our Agent Moms five-part series, I take a look at five questions every mom should ask herself before taking the real estate plunge.

This week: How do you pick the right real estate agent for your family?

WHAT DO YOU WANT

Figuring out what you want in a house is key to finding an agent that will help you find it. You have to be clear about what you’re looking for before you even start searching. How does your family live? Do you like to entertain and need a formal dining room? Do you want an open kitchen so you can supervise the kids while they do homework? As your children grow up and become teens, will you want bedrooms for them in the basement? A good agent will ask you these questions and find you a house that fits your needs.

“I have (had to) talk more people into buying a house that works for them 362 days of the year rather than the three days that company comes to visit,” said Karen Salmon, a real estate agent with Royal LePage in Calgary.

It’s best to find an agent that suits your personality. Remember: You will be working with this person for up to months at a time. “It’s all about relationships,” said Salmon, who has been an agent for five years. “You’re going to be forming a relationship and you have to communicate with each other.”

WHAT TO ASK

Don’t be afraid to research their background and interview potential agents to find the one that suits your needs. Five questions you should be asking are:

1. What are you going to do? What’s your approach to selling my house? 
2. What is included in  your service?
3. How often am I going to hear from you?
4. How can I get a hold of you?
5. Will you be the person I’m talking to on a regular basis? (If they work in a team)

Salmon says your agent should be communicating with you on a weekly basis, even when there are no offerings. This can help nip things in the bud in case the houses your agent and you are looking at aren’t meshing.

WHAT DO AGENTS WANT

It’s important to realize that your agent is a person too. An agent may be working with 10 to 20 listings at any time, so being clear about what you’re looking for could help your agent find you your new humble abode sooner.

Salmon says knowing your lifestyle, being able to agree to an appropriate price, and cooperating in showcasing your house is crucial. Buyers often go into homes and get swept up in how well they’re decorated, suddenly picking a house that doesn’t match what they were first looking for. A good agent will help remind you of your original “non-negotiables,” such as the floor plan or location you wanted, and steer you back on track. “It’s my job to force them to revaluate their needs and wants,” said Salmon.

WHERE TO FIND THEM

Seventy-five per cent of Salmon’s business comes from referrals. Still do your research even if a friend recommends someone. Maybe the son of your co-worker is a nice kid but not the right real estate agent for you.

Trawling through listings and real estate agents on the internet can be an excellent way to find out what’s out there. Crack open a real estate magazine or look through your local newspaper. There are always listings and you can find real estate agents through them. Also, don’t be afraid to visit open houses, even if you’re not yet looking for a house. Walking into an open house is a great way to meet an agent informally and see how they work with potential clients.

 

#WhaleFail: Lessons in digital marketing

By Murtaza Adamjee

In its simplest definition, digital marketing is defined as the promoting of a brand through the use of digital distribution channels to reach consumers in a timely, relevant, and personal manner.

Although similar to internet marketing in many aspects, digital marketing extends beyond the traditional practices; digital marketing includes a multitude of elements that today predominantly encompasses social media, mobile marketing, and social networking.

In recent years, there has been an apparent explosion in digital marketing creating major shifts in marketing opportunities. It has reshaped communication, creating in essence, an easily accessible, global network. However, despite the buzz, there remains a certain degree of resistance to its applications. Simply put, the idea of implementing digital marketing as a valid business application seems ineffective at the surface; quite possibly because businesses don’t immediately see how they can extend their reach to potential customers in 140 characters or less.

In order to fully understand digital marketing’s potential impact on the return on investment (ROI), I have decided to take a look at companies who have employed its practices, not for better, but more importantly, for worse.

Case Study: Nestlé

One of the biggest elements of digital marketing, social media campaigns are now widely used by companies to create buzz, network with customers, and create an online presence. Essentially, social media campaigns focus on the grouping of individuals into specific networks that share common interests. Over time, these networks gain social credibility, and become platforms for interactive networking where business can share information, connect with consumers, and target specific aspects of everyday life.

In March 2010, Greenpeace changed its home page to a photo-shopped version of the Kit Kat logo that read ‘Nestlé Killer’ in an attempt to increase awareness of Nestlé destroying rainforests for palm oil.

To support Greenpeace, a handful of Nestlé’s 90, 000 fans on Facebook decided to change their profile pictures to the Photoshopped mock-up. In response, Nestlé requested fans remove the altered version of the company’s logo or be subject to having their comments deleted. The reaction from a few fans was something along the lines of “What ever happened to freedom of speech and expression?” This embarked a series of sarcastic and hostile remarks from whoever was in charge of Nestlé’s public relations. The individual proclaimed that the logo was Nestlé’s intellectual property and as a result, went on the offensive (talking about missing your morning cup of coffee). Lesson #1: don’t insult your customers; in a matter of minutes, Nestlé landed itself in a PR nightmare.

Case Study: Pepsi

With the emergence of digital marketing, mobile marketing has also become an increasingly popular channel to reach customers. With the advanced browsers of the iPhone and smartphones, a number of companies are now turning to the iPhone/iTunes platform; 90 per cent of North Americans are within three feet of their cell phones 24 hours per day. Through mobile marketing, companies have a way to reach their target market wherever they are, at any time of the day.

In 2009, Pepsi introduced an iPhone application (app) by the name of AMP UP Before You Score in an attempt to promote its AMP energy drink. The iPhone app was specifically designed to help men ‘score’ in their quests to pick up women by offering a sheet of information and pick-up lines for 24 stereotypes of women (sounds handy).

The iTunes description read: “Know what makes her tick before you open your mouth, so she’ll like what she hears when you do.” The mobile application promised to be a “roadmap of success with your favorite kinds of women.”

The release of the app was met with a roar of criticism, and forced Pepsi and AMP to offer an apology via Twitter – “Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it’s in bad taste & appreciate your feedback. #pepsifail.”

Despite the apology, the damage had been done. Undoubtedly, a number of customers’ reverted to boycotting Pepsi’s products.

Just a few of the responses:

@metroidbaby: Though I appreciate the(non-)apology, @ampwhatsnext, damage is done. I won’t be buying Pepsi products for a very long time.

@cobra_DeEtta: @AMPwhatsnext Your campaign is thoughtless and offensive despite the guise of juvenile humor to excuse it. Lame apology not accepted.

@gsborealtor: @AMPwhatsnext #pepsifail You need more than to give a half-hearted apology, pull the app

Case Study: Skittles

Social networking campaigns are often used by companies as platforms for communicating with clients. In particular, Twitter is an effective medium that can be used by companies to target customers in the same digital media community. In a sense, Twitter helps humanize a brand.

In 2009, Skittles launched a social networking campaign that would rock the social media world. The home page was converted into a Twitter panel that captured an uncensored feed of tweets with the word “skittles.” Some argued that the stunt was a success as Skittles would benefit from the increase in publicity. However, social networking is about engaging with your customers; something Skittles failed to do in its entirety. According to social media consultant Joanne Jacobs, essentially all Skittles did was “set up a doorway…to nothing. Give users a mirror and they tend to make funny faces in front of it. Give users some content, and a context in which ideas can be explored, and they engage.”

Skittles failed to provide content of its own, and most importantly, failed to interact with its customers. Ultimately, the Skittles Twitter experiment was a bust; all that was accomplished was a stream of invaluable jargon without any relevant context for productive engagement.

With the number of digital marketing tools readily available, the challenge for companies is realizing this trend and using it to their advantage. Social networking platforms are powerful tools for communicating with clients. However, Nestlé, Pepsi, and Skittles are classic case studies of companies trying to impose its rules and censorship on social networking platforms for which they actually have no control. If used correctly, digital marketing platforms can provide businesses with a host of effective tools that can be utilized to build quality relationships within their target market. Lesson learned. Case closed.