Saturday, 18 April 2015

It's actually all social experiment all the time


You should see how many recipes I received.

I mean if I count the ones that came by email…

And the ones through Facebook…

And the sign-ups right here on the blog…

I have exactly…none.

(I just giggled out loud…I find the craziest things amusing)

To be fair...I am not surprised. I mean, I am working on winning the inn and I haven’t submitted my entry (and I have to get it there from another country). We live in a world where we need to be nudged along and bigger than that, we need to see who else is on board first. I actually have a few friends and a couple of Nona's lined up who will become stars in here. 

Five hours after I started the contest (about a minute after I woke up), I (very, very impulsively) sent Scott a message. I don’t know about you but I have NEVER asked a charming, dimpled host of four shows for a favor like this before so you’ll have to join me on the edge of seat while I check my email again.

[still nothing]

I wrote a précis writing exam at work last week and BOMBED it. Not because I was incapable of writing a <take a deep breath> summary on the report of the special sub-committee of the legal committee that considered the modernization of the Tokyo Convention...

I failed it because I was an idiot.

When a friend told me the test would be based on three random subjects and I couldn't prepare for it, I did ask if I should read any work-related papers...and she assured me it wouldn't help. Problem is back in the day, she had written a totally different test.

Reviewing the papers would have changed my whole game. 

As the tester explained what the three hour test would entail…as it hit me that I was at a huge disadvantage when I could have had it in the bag…I felt blocked. And then as I read farther into it than I should have, when everyone else was already pounding away at their keyboards…I knew I was cooked.

That hurt.

My editing mentor came by afterwards to see how things went and I swore it was the worst experience EVER. I have always been a comeback kid, I’m good at admitting defeat and bouncing back, so it was great when he told me he once wrote a…. I can’t for the life of me remember what the governmental test was but he went into it with twenty-five years of expert writing/editing experience…and failed it by 2%.

I took another few minutes to plot this comeback and then I shook the whole thing off (cue that Kenny Rogers song)...

I’ve been meaning (since last summer) to try to get you completely hooked on my new favorite show: Married at First Sight. If there isn't a season three I’ll…I’ll…

There HAS to be a season three.

In a nutshell, the show is an extreme social experiment. Four specialists – a sexologist, a spiritual advisor, a psychologist (my favorite, he’s impossibly charming with that raspy voice) and there’s a sociologist – they use scientific matchmaking methods to select six participants out of however many thousands of people. They match three couples who will meet each other for the first time…the moment they get married.

We (the viewers) have gotten to know them a little bit on camera so we’re already rooting for them…but they have to say “I do” based on nothing but instant chemical attraction.

You CAN NOT imagine how painful it is. There isn't always physical appeal (which brings on $%^#*&! bleeping) and sometimes there is attraction but the pull isn't mutual. The series goes on to document the relationships (through honeymoons and moving in together). After six weeks, each couple must decide whether to stay together or whether to divorce.

There are some moments when I am sitting there absolutely mortified and others when I’m incredibly hopeful. I’m a big fan of fairy tales so I am absolutely in it for the happy endings. But the show actually gets you thinking outside of their experiences and how ironic it is that sometimes everyone else can see things you don't. 

My only suggestion…if  you decided to try to give the social experiment a go…is that you have to watch it from the beginning (season one, first episode). They have two other shows airing right now: Married at First Sight - Season Two  and Married at First Sight –The First Year (of the season one couples)…but you need to start from the beginning (season one, first episode).

It just hit me...maybe one of them would enter my contest!!!

I really must devote some more time to that. 

But I have less than a month to write/edit eighteen articles. 

I am in an impossibly busy streak. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

I really will write the Queen (Kate might be too busy having the baby)

I have to interrupt your regularly scheduled blog reading with a...

In December I am throwing an exclusive party.

And I am officially auditioning recipes for it.

In a blog segment I’m calling The Quest finds the Best, I’m going to test recipes submitted by friends, family and people I’m a fan of.  They don't have to be fact simple is always appreciated. But whatever it is, if I am sold, I will serve up a huge compliment to you in here.

My plan is to find a way to keep it entertaining

And because I think I've figured out what makes the world go round…

I’m going to turn it into a contest.

You’ll have to bear with me because I've never run a reality show blog before. Or a contest for that matter. It just hit me in a moment…that can best be described as creatively creative…that this is just the sort of hair-brained idea that will bring people back for more. 

Not quite Seinfeld…

Not particularly polished.

(I'm pretending that's charming)

But it's got to be entertaining.

Flattery is key. But keeping it fun will be what makes it cool.

The thing about up-and-coming writers, is you never know who will make it big. And if ever I trip into something real, I will totally remember who was there for me from the beginning.

(I already have a soft spot for some of you)

I really am hoping for ALL types: moms, dads, singletons, grandmothers, great home-cooks, terrible ones (so long as they have this one thing nailed), professionals, Scott McGillivray…it can be as simple as just sending me a GREAT recipe (that I will give a go) or you can come over (cue the plane!) and we can make it together. I will collect the very best submissions and throw a party in December where I will invite my favorite people as judges…and we will crown winners in various categories with one person (based on popularity – not the person, the recipe) taking the BIG prize.  

Send me a message through The Quest for the Desk Facebook page if you are fun and cool and game for having your name in lights. I’ll work out the contest rules and payouts by the end of the weekend.

Did you know you can actually declare on a resume that in 2006 you, YOU were TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year? That year they paid tribute to everyone in the world who contributed to shaping our collective destinies.

This could possibly be bigger.

Because seriously, you might be one contribution away from winning an international recipe contest (I will accept entries from anywhere in the world). Everyone has a go-to, that recipe people always ask for. To think it might put your name in lights and land you serious bragging rights and make you famous even…

I am going to write the Royal Family to see if one of them wants to enter.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

I wonder if Larry, Darryl and Darryl would come

The problem with starting my health kick on Monday…

Is that this week I didn't just go out for dinner twice, I was also testing different caterers for an event. I love eating with all my heart so testing caterers is, by extension, something that brings me bliss. 

While health kicks…

(where you have to exercise all the time and think carb-carb-carbs but never eat them)

…are a struggle for me.

So my plan (for eating clean and hiring the grade-six-year-old to make me do squats and lunges) had to be adjusted for this week. If you've been around these parts might be moving that mouse to close this page because blah, blah, blah…but WAIT!!!

I did make some progress.

I started a stair-climbing club! Twice a day my club and I will climb the stairs to the 16th floor (which is actually a four minute no-brainer since just-like-that you can bring greater good to your back-side).

The food we ate during the catering tests was absolutely delicious and I am ON A MISSION to figure out how to make: a mascarpone stuffed pasta with asparagus, peas and a cream sauce that was TO DIE for…and the greatest salad with a ricotta base (I haven’t seen or tried anything like it before). I will post recipes and pictures as soon as I nail them.  


You know I could go on and on talking about food for four and a half hours but I MUST tell you about my other VERY BIG, VERY LIFE-CHANGING calling.

I am trying to win an inn.

My friend Angela, who has fantastic red hair and who takes the most stunning photographs (I just want to be a little bit as good as her) dropped the article about the inn in my life…and told me to go win the thing.

It is possible I am the most easy-peasy person you know.

Because I went from hmmm…let me read about it…

To I CANNOT IMAGINE my life without that inn in it.

It really is a contest. And I really, really will be very good at inn-keeping. I mean I’ve imagined the people who will stay there and I love them all like family already. I have to pay 125 American dollars (which will probably work out to about 800 Canadian, it’s a shame how the dollar has crashed) and I have to convince them in 200 words to give me, That Allisun, the inn.

It took me an hour to write my entry. Counting words. Deleting. Counting.

And I know I’m being a little smug...but I read what I wrote and thought…

I would pick me.

When friends came over the next night I better explained the concept and the process and handed over what I penned…

And one after another they told me it was really good…and one after another they said the same thing…what if…what if I really won???

And the day after that, in a move I decided was very Hemingway (minus the cigaretting, minus the affairs and minus Paris, which is a shame really, because I think I would write better there too)…I tossed round one in the garbage.

Because while it WAS good, I knew instinctively that it wasn’t right. The same way Angela would know the lighting was off. Or a carpenter would know the frame wasn’t level or Harry would know the kid didn’t have what it takes.

[Harry, as in Connick, who remains tied with Keith on my “List”]

Hemingway was a master of dialogue and could put simple words together in such a way that his reader could actually remember what he said, because she felt like she was living it.

If I’m going to win the inn and the life that will come with it, I have to tie the words together in such a way that she will remember me...

You want to know what I've always wanted, even more than a desk?

A barn.

The inn
a barn.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Bikini season is around the corner and I might as well take it seriously

Emmie is my eleven year old. On Saturday she came back from soccer and started making a mess with mangoes while I was…well I can’t for the life of me think what I was doing, but I was sitting at the kitchen counter for some reason when there is absolutely no time for sitting on Saturdays. EVER.

Emmie is an old, observant soul, with dry humor, who loves fruit and vegetables more than cookies. I’m pretty sure I've told you before how funny that kid is but I think you would have to live with her to appreciate her timing. There was a time when she was the easiest of my children - but she has the most layers - I know her and I don’t.

She started on her second mango when she told me, in all seriousness, that she was willing to give me another chance.

“Another chance?”

“As my manager.”


She told me she had fired me. FIRED me?

How can you fire me if I didn't know I was hired? She explained how she needed to earn pocket-change and mowing the lawn for $15 a week last summer didn't cut it. Picture of THAT thrown in here because it makes my heart melt; she has to push the mower with all her might and through the great mosquito plague even.

Emmie told me she wants to be an actress. Apparently I was her manager initially but at some point her brother told her he could get her way more gigs than I would (what with all the connections he doesn’t have) so she flushed me. But since he actually did nothing for her, he had been canned too.

I have three children. Kid #1 (most recently fired) is highly motivated and always working and invests his money in TFSAs because he wants to be rich.  Kid #2 could care less about money and blows most of what she makes babysitting on paying me back for the tutoring she wastes (because she isn’t prepared). And kid #3 (Emmie) wants to be richer than her brother and has determined the best way to fast-track things would be to become famous.

“I mean, Mom...look at me.”

It’s the eyebrow that shoots up when she states what should so obviously be obvious to me. So I’m back as a talent manager and what I think about being a movie star is…oh my…I’m not exactly sure how we could make that happen.

So while I consider options for the divine Miss Em, I might as well turn this back to me and all the naughty things I can’t stop eating and my vow to start a health kick and jog every second day of my life. I keep asking begging my family to run with me.

To be fair I can’t make people who play a crazy amount of sports exercise even more, and the snow that is out there is hardly appealing. But my thought is how much we could connect in that time together. And really, with the amount of exercise they do, what more would it take to run around four blocks with me?

When I ask them individually they have urgent homework. When I ask when they’re all together, they volunteer someone else with a smirk and scatter.

So in keeping with the theme of the month, I decided to audition everyone who lives with me as personal trainers. And though I swear I am not running my family as a business…

I decided to turn being my personal trainer into an actual paying job.

Kid #1 was an immediate absolutely not. Without a stitch of sugar coating and it wouldn't matter how many millions I paid him, he doesn't have the patience for me. My husband gave me the eyebrow and wisely kept his comments to himself. Kid #3 wanted to know how much I would pay…

(I hadn't actually thought it through)

So I said $3 a session. And while I could see her wheels turning, the middle one jumped in to say she would do it for $10. I gave her the highway robbery look (at least what I think would be the look) and eventually hired Kid #3. Kid #1 (always the entrepreneur) said there should be bonus incentives for Emmie if I reach my goal and for $20 he offered to help her draft a binding contract. She said she could take of that herself, thank you very much.

Then my aunt became part of it and without us negotiating, she threw us a discount.

So for $2.50 (beginning next Monday because I have some things I have to eat first), I will be one session closer to getting in the BEST shape of my life.

 Cue the lemon water!

And maybe even the hypnotist (I'm waiting to see how that pans out for my friends but if it works for them, I will test it too. Not for me...for the blog...of course).

Friday, 6 March 2015


I am alive.

(in case anyone has been wondering)

But I have aged.

I wrestled with how to start up my blog again after dropping off the face of the written world. I mean I wasn’t sure if I should explain every last deviation or whether I should jump right back into it as if that picture of French fries had just happened yesterday. To be fair, I always wish French fries had happened yesterday…

But it is midnight on a Thursday. And though I wonder how many other blog droppers are out there this very minute staring at a screen stumped,  I promised my Dad that I would write six weekends ago.

My first problem? I forgot my password.

My other block? I had a questionable mole on my back. If you know me, you know I’m either downright foolish and haphazard when it comes to my health or I am a total hypochondriac who experiences symptoms the very second I read about them. I couldn’t actually see the mole so I had my husband take a picture and then I matched that picture on WebMD…  

My last big panic was the “mass” last April. I survived, because I told everyone and their mother and brother and random people who worked in stores about it. I have this theory where if I throw my worries out in every other conversation, it really will end up being nothing. And maybe I should be embarrassed of being afraid of things I don’t know for sure…but so far my strategy has panned out for me and I’m always so relieved…WHO CARES!!!

So I called and left a message for my dermatologist who told me two and a half years ago to come back in six months.  Normally it takes six months to get in but you know as well as I do, I might not have six months. I repeated my phone number twelve times in my message and decided, if I didn’t have an appointment by noon the next day, I would call them and throw the extra kidneys into the conversation. I still swear (based on experience) it’s the sort of random distraction that confuses people enough to just…help. I hung up the phone and ate all the peanut m&m’s and ten year-old (purposely-aged) cheddar that crossed my path.

I know I have to bring you up to speed on how all this time played out but that isn’t how my mind works. 
  • Over the last year my father-in-law had late stage stomach cancer, daily chemo, radiation and half his stomach removed…and then right before Christmas, a week after he was given the (woo hoo!) all-clear…his gallbladder ruptured in a mess of infections. After four surgeries and six weeks of critical days, he bounced back. To be entirely honest, I think he had no clue what he went through – he’s Italian, from Italy, and he just didn’t listen to them.

  • I joined a book club and love everything about it except the all-nighters I pull trying to get the book done the night before we gather.  I read fast, thank God. So far we’ve read Boy Snow Bird, Why the Caged Birds Sing, Angry Housewives Eating BonBons, The Light Between Oceans, This is Where I leave you, Wild and The Paris Wife. When I read a book I really, truly think I’m a part of it. And when it ends, it feels wrong how life has gone on. The book club has been a gift. I had no idea how much I missed reading.

Last year, I vowed to dabble in something creative. Since we last left off I:
  • took a photography course that was more focused on the history of photography and creepy photographers than a lesson in what buttons do what on my camera. But I also;

  • took five levels of Photoshop; and

  • two levels of Adobe InDesign; and discovered (after investing $3000 in my new hobby) that I;

  • have a good eye but my talent is sketchy (though if I had time to play, I swear I would be so much better);

Where I started juggling faster was in how I…
  • was so bogged down with work-work that days became nights, became weekends. Nothing would bring me more relief than having you shake your head and tell me it’s terrible, just terrible how I’ve been taken advantage of…but what I’ve discovered is nobody actually cares. Complaining is white noise. My house went to pot. My kids got so much more mature and thankfully, remained nice, responsible people. My ability to keep up with friends was shot and I ate a lot of dark chocolate with sea salt for supper.

  • What eventually happens when you do way too much for way too long is one day you decide ENOUGH. I was DONE. Exhausted. Realizing everything that was being thrown at me was never ever going to get me ahead.

I found a hole.
A need for a job transition that would tap into what I'm best at and would actually benefit the organization. I had to present it. And be tested. And be trained.

I passed.

And they agreed.

You have to be an editor to become one. And that’s where I am today, the editor-in-training for two magazines at work. Editing, writing, proofreading, building content…while I knew writing comes easily to me, I always thought of editing as an extension and not something that could stand on its own. 

It did cross my mind how life can be cruel sometimes and how horrible it would be if the stress of the year had impacted my immune system. The precipitating factors: 1) once I had a pre-cancerous mole removed and 2) I lived ten years of my life with a suntan.

Dr. O’Brien’s receptionist called me two days later to say they had a cancellation and I loved, just loved the woman…until  she looked me up in the computer. She insisted I hadn’t been there in five years.

Impossible, I told her.  I leaned over to search for proof on my bulletin board.

Ok fine. Three years.

She explained my doctor doesn’t see patients who haven’t been there in two and they get rid of the files.


I LOVE my doctor.  And she knows every dermatological secret I have and even took pictures of them. And that terrible mole she removed, she saved my life!

I asked if there was any way I could see her.

 Impossible. She told me about the other doctor who was taking over and I asked, in a whisper, if she was a she.


Some people are fine with whipping their clothes off in front of strangers but I’ve never been particularly good at that. But I had no other ins with dermatologists so I took the appointment.

It is, what it is, I told myself.

You wouldn’t know I get the giggles at some of the most inappropriate times. I blame it on nerves and being Irish. The doctor called my name and I pulled together all the things I was reading and headed for his door…

He was very botoxed and I did not expect that. As I started to explain why I was there I got the giggles.

He looked at my mole.

He said it was okay.

And I bolted.

I couldn’t do the ol’ let’s-check-them-all-while-we’re-here inspection. I have a plan for sneaking back into the original doctor that I will share as soon as I’ve tested it. Asamatteroffact, I have a LOT of plans and things to share…

Places everyone!

Because the Quest for the Desk is about to begin. Again.