UPDATE: This post was written immediately after the experience described. Since then, I've spoke to the owner of the spa as well as the manager. Both tried to offer me additional services with a different esthetician, but I said no. And they refunded my money with no fuss at all. So ... ultimately the higher-ups at Senses Spa did the right thing. As for Katie (not Katy), may we never meet again. 
Okay, perhaps that is an exaggeration. Senses Spa might not be the worst in Toronto, but it certainly employs the worst esthetician/person I've ever had the misfortune of meeting. Her name is Katy, and I will tell you all about our encounter, blow by terrible blow.
I booked a 30 minute massage and a brow shaping (threading) for today at noon. I cheaped out on the short massage, rather than going for a full hour, and thank goodness I did. (More on that later.) I arrived and the (very nice) receptionist (named Rachel) set me up with Katy (Katie? I don't know. She was awful, that's the most important thing.) 

Now, in case you've never seen me before, or have only seem me with makeup on, I should tell you: I have bad skin. It's my fault. My anxiety makes me pick at it, compulsively, and I often have broken areas and areas of hyperpigmentation as a result. This is nothing new. I've been fucking up my skin since I was 13 years old, so I'm used to people commenting on it. I'm even used to the comments from estheticians, which are inevitably the worst. (I believe many spa workers are trained to insult clients in the hope of shaming us into purchasing more of their products and services.) 

So, yeah. I was ready for the usual treatment, and was not surprised when the first thing Katy said to me was, "You have many problems with your skin. It is very bad skin. Terrible. Yes?"

This is my favourite part -- the part where the esthetician tries to get me to agree with her insults. Nonetheless, I decided to go along with it this time, tiresome as that may seem.

(I should say here that Katy spoke a sort of broken English, and rather than reproduce it exactly, I've cleaned it up a bit for the purposes of this post and because I don't want the focus to be on her accent or race.)

Yes, I admitted. My skin isn't great. In the hope of curbing her enthusiasm for insulting me, I decided to explain. "It's my own fault," I said. "I pick it. I have a compulsive disorder. Treatments won't help, but luckily I am not here for a facial, just the brow shaping."

You'd think that would have shut her up, but no. For the next 10 minutes, I had to listen to her try to sell me some sort of mystery service that would definitely "help" my hideous skin. "Your skin is very bad," she kept saying. "You must fix it. It is very important."

At first I simply smiled blankly, hoping she would exhaust herself, but eventually I had to ask, "Why is it important?" Why, exactly, is it important for me to improve my skin, Oh Katy, expert that you are? Please tell me. 

She answered, "So you can find a boyfriend, yes?"

Sigh. Well, since I'm married, I'm not really interested in getting a boyfriend, but okay, Katy. Whatever you say.
Now on to my eyebrow threading. She began working on my face with no consultation. This worried me, so I said, "Not too much, please. Not too thin." She answered, "No, no, it will be beautiful." 

This is the moment when I should have walked out. I could tell she wasn't getting it, and I should have done something, but like most women, I'm polite and I don't like to cause a fuss. So I just lay there and let her pluck my eyebrows into painful oblivion. And even better, I let her talk the whole fucking time. Guess what she talked about? My skin. My ugly, ugly skin. "You must fix it, Jennifer. It is very important!" And when I ignored her, she finally moved on to questions. "Why do you have so much stress? Why? Are you worried about your body?"

This question was another opportunity -- a way for me to show her that she was doing the wrong thing. I decided to tell the truth. "Well," I said, "I am recovering from an eating disorder and that is pretty stressful."

Any. Normal. Person. Would. Shut. Up. Now. Usually, this revelation stops people in their tracks, embarrassing them enough to keep them from saying more. BUT NOT KATY. 

"Ahhh, she said. You cannot stop eating. You cannot control it, so you gain weight. I can help you with that," she said. 

I decided to try again.

"No, actually. It's the opposite," I explain, "I don't eat enough, most of the time, and yes, I did gain weight when I started to get better, because I was actually eating, but that's a good thing. And lately, I've been losing weight, so that's bad. I'm not supposed to diet or try to lose weight."

Katy was not listening. She proceeded to go on and on about how she could help me lose weight. "Guarantee, you will lose 10 pounds!" she cried. "You cannot eat the french fries anymore," she said. "You must stop with sugar, stop with spicy food. For you, spinach, salad  and water are okay. Yes? And you must exercise at least 30 minutes a day and then your body will not be so bad."

Not that it matters, but I actually DO exercise. Probably a lot more than Katy. And I don't stuff my face with fucking French fries. I almost never eat French fries! But whatever. Let's move on.
My 30 minute massage at the hands of Katy was pure torture. Her method was painful and shitty and I tried to get her to ease up by explaining that she was hurting me. No dice. Physically speaking, the massage was literally the worst of my life, and even if Katy had kept her stupid mouth shut, I still would have spent the entire 30 minutes counting the seconds, but the physical awfulness was actually nothing compared to the psychological experience of a massage with Katy, the Jesus-loving motor-mouth. 

She talked. And talked. And talked. At first, just about my body and how she could help me "fix" it, which was bad enough, but then, she started praying. And she continued to pray for the next 10 to 15 minutes. 

"You have nice hair, you know. Maybe nobody has ever told you that. We must thank God for these blessings. You believe. You must believe. Ask him to fix weight, ask him to fix skin. God is great," she said, and then proceeded to whisper, "Love God. God is more powerful than father, than mother, than boyfriend. Ask God. Love God. God forgive your sins. God will make a miracle. We ask Jesus, we ask God.  He will make you happy, fix your skin, help you lose weight. Believe and love God and he helps. God forgives you. You have nice hair. Maybe no one told you, but your hair is beautiful. God can make your body beautiful too. God can fix you, forgive you, help you to not be sad. Ask Jesus. Ask in his holy name, to fix you. You will feel better if you love Jesus. We love Jesus. We ask. Thank you Jesus. Help Jennifer. We love you. We believe. Thank you Jesus, for helping to make Jennifer healthy. She is not alone. She has nice hair. Jesus help to make her better, help to fix, make her beautiful, make her happy. Please, we love you." 

Add about 100 repetitions, and you get the gist. It seemed to go on forever. All I could think was, "Does she do this with Jewish clients, too? Muslims?" It was literally the strangest, most offensive thing I've ever experienced.  
The moment my 30 minutes in hell were up, I hurried to the front desk and asked to speak to a manager. Rachel, the receptionist, looked concerned, and said there was no manager on site, but she could get someone to call me later. Fine. I paid the bill, because like I said, I'm polite and I hate to cause a fuss, but I did tell Rachel, in brief, what I was unhappy with. I didn't say much, because frankly, I was traumatized, and in that moment, I couldn't talk about it without crying. I left the desk in tears.

So far, no manager from Senses Spa has called me, but it's only been a couple of hours. Regardless, this "rejuvenation" session was a joke. I have tried to lighten up the tale with the amusing gifs and whatnot, but there was actually nothing funny about it. Fuck you, Katy. Senses Spa is the worst.

P.S. Here is one more gif.
So I recently started using a free online language program: Duolingo. Supposedly, it will help you learn a language in about three months. It's like Rosetta Stone, for people who don't want to drop big bucks.

Before today, I was relatively happy with it. There are some problems with the system, some odd translations and frustrating rules, but all in all, it's not a bad way to learn a language, and the fact that it's free makes it wonderfully accessible.

But wait ... there's more. 
It seems to be that the Duolingo community is not a welcoming one. As a social network, Duolingo seems just as bad as any other, specifically in the way moderators (if there are any moderators) allow sexist misogynists to run wild in the comments section. Duolingo's community appears to be populated by the sort of person many of us have come to expect when exploring the murky depths of the internet: The Troll.

This afternoon, I was working on the simple "adjectives" section of my French program when I noticed something interesting in relation to adjectives such as "fat," "round," and "large." They were only used in relation to women. For example, I was asked to translate "The woman is big" and "The woman is large" and "The girl is round." Never was the man any of these things. The man was "nice," "tall" and "handsome." I even had to type "Je suis une baliene" at one point. Want to know what that means? It means "I am a whale." 

If you read my work, you know that I'm trying to recover from an Eating Disorder. So maybe I'm more sensitive to this garbage than other people, but nonetheless, sensitive or not, it sure doesn't help.

What did I do? I decided to complain in the comments/forum. I regret it.

Here the first comment I received in response, from a fellow language-learner who calls himself "Zeimer." 
If that screen grab is too small, just click it and it should blow up. But also, let me help. His comment was: "If you don't like it you can always stop using duolingo. And if you'll [sic] continue to use it, please shut up. Normal people don't like feminists shitting about sexism, sexist insults etc." 

Here's a link to Zeimer's profile. Unfortunately, it doesn't tell me anything about him besides the fact that he's working on various language programs and doing reasonably well. Luckily, his comment tells me all I need to know about both the Duolingo community and the man himself. He's an awful person and Duolingo really doesn't care about moderating bigotry in their community. Pillars of humanity like Zeimer are allowed run wild with their offensive, ignorant nonsense.

So will Duolingo help you learn a language? Probably. But being part of the Duolingo community might not be worth it. I'd pay not to have to rub virtual shoulders with folks like Zeimer, that's for sure.
UPDATE: I have not let Mr. Troll Zeimer's comments stand and have been replying with my own snark at every opportunity. The first thing he told me to do was "please shut up" because he didn't like "feminist shitting," so in response, I haven't felt charitable and I haven't been nice. I've been super sarcastic and it's been great. I began with telling him that he could whine all he wanted, but that he wasn't going to shut me up. Here are some of his hilarious rebuttals. Remember, just click the screen grabs to blow them up.
This next one is one of my favourites. He went back to being mad about the fact that I used the fact that he'd told me to shut up as evidence of the fact that ... he'd told me to shut up. He's really riled about this.
He's really having trouble with the fact that he told me to shut up and I called him on it, so he's holding on to that as if it's the actual issue. It's adorable.
SIGH. I got tired of listening to this dude, and even of antagonizing him. At first, I felt like really pushing him with endless sarcasm, but then I started to feel a tiny bit sorry for him. I left the conversation with this final comment:
Okay, so this only KIND OF a review, in that I made a coupe of recipes I've never made before and they turned out excellently and I'm commenting on that, but since I'm no food expert, I don't even know if I'm qualified to "review a recipe" as  it were. So there you go. That's my disclaimer. And my review is this: MAKE THIS FOOD IMMEDIATELY BECAUSE IT IS EASY AND IT TASTES GOOD AND EVEN I COULD DO IT PROPERLY, SO THAT IS SAYING SOMETHING.

Recipe 1: Slow roasted pork shoulder. Easy easy easy. All you need is patience. (Also, Pork/Picnic shoulder is cheap right now. You can get a huge one for $10 where I live in Toronto.) 
Recipe 2: Roasted Cabbage by Martha. Again, easy easy easy. This time, you don't need patience. You just need salt and pepper and olive oil. And an oven. And about $0.69 for the head of cabbage. (Cabbage is crazy cheap.)
Oh. My. God. This dinner is amazing. And it feeds an army (or a Nathan, in my case). You can add another side or a starch if you want, but I didn't. Om nom nom.
Hair Play is a basic salon in my neighbourhood (St. Clair W.) that I've been to a few times now. The place is fairly reasonable, price-wise (sadly, reasonable for a women's haircut these days is about $50) and while it offers services a-plenty, the space itself feels slightly bare bones. They only ever seem to have or two staff members working at any given time, so when a friend of mine called recently in the hopes of having us get side-by-side manicures, Hair Play couldn't accommodate us.
But so what? The shop is small and they don't have many people on staff. It's not a big deal. I'm not high maintenance about such things. Besides, I have straight, easy-to-style hair. All I really want out of a salon is a decent stylist who listens and doesn't accidentally cut one side of my hair and inch shorter than the other side. (It's happened.) Hair Play has that. I have no problem at all with the cut I just got, even though I ended up paying $65 (including tax and tip) for something that wasn't exactly special. I am fine with that. Hair cuts are expensive. That's life in the big city.

Here's the thing that DID bother me, though. I had a gift certificate from a friend - a birthday present. Sadly, said gift certificate had expired. I suppose it's my fault for not visiting the salon sooner, but I feel that gift certificates SHOULDN'T expire, and before today, I'd though that in Canada it was ILLEGAL for them to expire.

I was wrong. 

Hair Play refused to honour my expired gift certificate and it turns out, by law, they're allowed to do so. MOST gift certificates that have a set dollar value can't expire, as long as the business that issues them is still operational, but salon services are exempt from this law. Certificates for specific services and lessons are allowed to expire. I have no idea why.

I'm sorry, but I think this is totally sketchy and unethical. My friend gave the company money for a service they never rendered. She paid them for nothing. Hair Play is a small place, I'm sure they could have chosen to honour the certificate, expired or not, but they didn't. In addition, I realized that the date of expiration was less than a month after my friend bought the certificate to begin with. That's a really short period. I've never used a gift certificate immediately after receiving it. Never. 

So both my previous haircuts were fine, as was the manicure I got about a year ago. The place is close by, so I was intending to become a regular, long-time customer, but after this gift certificate thing, I don't think I'll be going back. You'd think a small business would give a shit about this, but I'm not going to hold my breath. Sigh.

Hair Play Salon & Spa
638 St.Clair Avenue W.
Toronto, ON M6C 1A9
(416) 656-6600
I know, I know. Soap operas... bleh. Right? I get it. I spent many many years pretending to hate soaps. I mean, they're just so ... tacky, right? So silly? So (dare I say) girly? And we all know there's nothing more embarrassing and classless than the feminine, right? 

Yeah, I'm exaggerating, but still. The truth about soaps in that their biggest crime is being "for women." Their story lines are often silly. The acting is exaggerated. Their plot lines ridiculous. Things that never happen in the real world happen regularly in a̶c̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶m̶o̶v̶i̶e̶s̶ , I mean, h̶o̶r̶r̶o̶r̶ ̶f̶i̶l̶m̶s̶, I mean F̶a̶m̶i̶l̶y̶ ̶G̶u̶y̶.  Oops! I mean SOAPS. (Enough with the sarcasm, right? I think I've made my point. A lot of things are silly, but things that are "for men" that are silly aren't panned in the same ways soaps are. Just something to think about.) 

Anyway, I'm only two paragraphs in and I'm already way off topic.

DID YOU HEAR THAT Agnes Nixon's two classic soaps - All My Children and One Life to Live - both cancelled in 2011, have been resurrected and will begin airing again TODAY!?  In Canada, you can watch on FX Canada right on TV. In the States, I think you have to watch online via Hulu. The shows have been reformatted and will now be 30 minutes each instead of a full hour. Tonnes of original cast members have returned (though not all), and in both cases, the shows will jump into the future (5 years in the case of AMC) and only about a year in the case of OLTL, rather than picking up where we left off back in 2011. Here's more from EW, including some spoilers about the first episodes, which begin airing today. And here's a longer article about how this all came about, plus an interview with Cady McClain.
I am strangely excited about this. I don't know why. It's not like I've pined since these soaps went off the air. That said, thanks to my mum (who watched a lot of soaps when she was a new immigrant to Canada in the late 70s and early 80s) before it was cancelled, I had watched All My Children, on and off, for more than 25 years. And yes, I often found it ridiculous. But it was also familiar and fun, a constant that I could count on during vacations and sick days. And since it went away, I have felt occasional pangs off loss. Sometimes, in the middle of the day, especially if I'm feeling sort of bummed, a familiar soap is strangely comforting.

Now, I know this isn't a real review. I haven't watched the first episode of the reboot yet (it comes on in less than 15 minutes and I'll be tuning in), but frankly, I don't know that a real review is necessary here. If you used to like either of these shows, I say it'll be worth it to tune in again. And if you hate soaps and always have, you'll hate the reboots as well, whether they're updated and polished up for modern audiences or not.
What I'm really excited about here is just the fact of it - the fact that these shows have returned from the dead. Isn't the internet wonderful? I mean, back in 2011, when ABC decided to pull out, despite a major outcry of dismay from the fans, I thought... "Well, that's to be expected. I get it." I'd already experienced favourites going off the air (My So-Called Life, for example) despite massive "save our show" campaigns run by fans. I'd come to believe outcry was a waste of time.

Remember in 2011 when fans of AMC and OLTO begged people like Oprah Winfrey to step in? Ops said no. Not enough people were home during the day anymore, she said. It wasn't financially viable. But Ops was wrong. And so was I. The old rules don't apply. 

Arrested Development will return on Netfllix in less than a month. And my old friend All My Children returns today. The moral of this story is simply that you never know. And any self-respecting soap fan should be able to see just how appropriate that is. After all, soap characters come back from the dead all the time. Never lose hope.

UPDATE: I watched! It was ridiculous! And I LOVED IT. It was just like old times. Some of the acting (especially from one new young'un in particular) was decidedly awful, but I think that's part of the charm of a soap. There have always been a few less-than-talented performers (with pretty faces or hot bods) in the mix, and that's okay. The kid in question may improve with time and even if s/he doesn't, so what? My verdit: Old fans should return. They'll find the waters warm and familiar.

DOUBLE UPDATE: If anyone reading is from the States and doesn't know how to tune in online, watch this video by Cady McClain (AMC's "Dixie") as "Susie Homemaker." She'll fuckin' explain the whole thing. (Love her, by the way.) 
FINAL UPDATE: Well, despite great ratings in the first two weeks both All My Children and One Life to Live have been cut back to just two eps a week (half hour eps, so that means only one hour of each show per week, total.) Thanks to the cut back, FX Canada has stopped airing both shows and has switched to reruns of 30 Rock instead. So, basically, this seems like a pretty massive failure of a comeback. Soaps were designed to be slow moving - to allow housewives to tune in when they could and to be able to miss episodes without falling too far behind. That format wåas one of the best things about it. I don't know what this new one hour a week format is going to be like, but it sure won't be a soap. High hopes, dashed dreams. We'll see how other fans take it, but I'm not holding my breath.
So when neighbourhood Italian place Filippo's closed a few years back, I was seriously bummed. SERIOUSLY BUMMED. I kind of loved Filippo's. And I heard at the time that the location was going to be taken over be the people who owned The Rushton, a restaurant I'm not overly fond of, thanks to a few unpleasant experiences, just across the street. The rumours proved true and after a big reno, Catch opened -- a high-end seafood joint promising "sustainable" choices. (I like the idea of sustainable seafood, of course, but  skeptical of "sustainable" claims since the word seems to mean different things at different restaurants.) But enough about that. I didn't notice any issues with Catch's offerings from an environmental perspective.
The place is pretty pricey so Nate and I have only been a couple of times. The first time was last summer. I was a little disappointed. I'm not sure why. The food was good, but the prices felt too high on that occasion and I didn't love having to sit on a high stool (some tables are bar height for some reason). Maybe I was still lamenting the loss of Filippo's.

Then, we heard our food-expert friend James had been and that he'd loved it so we decided to give it another go. About a week ago, Nate and I popped in on our anniversary for the oysters I was craving. We had no reservation and the place was full, but they fit us in at the bar, which was fine (though we had to sit on those tall seats again).

Bottom line: Daaaaamn were those oysters good.
Now, if you know me, you know I'm freaking crazy about oysters and the fact that they're so expensive is one of the chief sadnesses of my life. (Clearly, I have a pretty good life, eh?)

I wrote about Biff's not too long ago, just because of their relatively cheap bivalve offerings. (They have buck a shuck!) But on this particular trip to Catch, Nate and I resolved to splash out a little and accept the $3/each price that you see at most oyster places. (At Catch, you can get a half dozen slippery wonders for $18 or a doz for $36.). We were not disappointed. First of all, compared to almost all the oysters I've ever had, the ones we had at Catch were huge. Big mouthfuls. Almost too big. 

We had a selection of three different kinds - some from Nova Scotia, some from Massachusetts and some from Washington state. All were very fresh. The Washington ones were less to my taste, being a little too... I dunno, meaty? I'm not sure. I still liked them, but they were my least favourite of the three options. With toppings like vinegar, salsa and horseradish etc., they were fine. The Massachusetts ones were lovely -- large and fresh tasting and the most salty of the bunch. The Nova Scotia ones were my overall favourite -- huge, not overly salty, and also a little sweet. Overall, the platter was excellent, and because the oysters were so big, I didn't mind the price tag. (Had the teeny little oysters we had at Biff's been $3 a piece, for example, I would have been pissed.)  

Anyway, besides oysters, we also had four raw clams on the half shell ($2.50 each) which was probably a mistake. They were a sandy and it turns out neither of us is very keen on raw clam. Maybe baked, they would have been better. They felt thick/rubbery and crunchy (because of the sand) to me, and they were a bit fishy tasting, but I really think that's a personal thing rather than a fault of the restaurant. It was an experiment.

We had an appetizer of Haddock Croquettes with a Harissa Aioli for $9, which was good. Basically they were haddock balls, falafel-sized, on a little plate with the mayo-like aioli and some arugula. Decent size for the price. (Nate, who has a huge appetite, especially liked this.)

Finally, we had two signature drinks - Ceasars - which were $13 each (a little pricey) but they were also REALLY good. Each came with a freshly pickled olive, a round pickled onion, and a large smoked mussel on a skewer. I have to say, that smoked mussel was shockingly good. It might even be the best smoked mussel I've ever had. For real. It had a light bacony taste, and it wasn't at all oily (like many smoked mussels). That mussel was amazing. 
amazing or not, mussels look kinda gross up close

So, what else can I say? Catch has sort of won me over, at least for the oysters. It's basically the only seafood option for miles around, though, so I don't have another local joint to compare it to. It's expensive, but as a once-in-awhile sort of thing, worth it, I think.

744 St. Clair W.
Toronto, ON M6C 1B3
(416) 658-0568
Have you heard of My Mad Fat Teenage Diary? It's an hour-long British TV show (a comedy/drama) that came out this past January starring Sharon Rooney. It's based on the book My Mad Fat Teenage Diary, which itself is based on the actual diaries of a person named Rae Earl. And you can watch it online for free via YouTube. Here's a link to the first episode:
The premise is simple: it's a first-person-focused show with plenty of voice-over explanations based on the angsty diaries of a teenage girl. That girl is 16 year old Rae. She's fat. She's living in a council house in chilly Stamford, Lincolnshire (or perhaps just a regular house - I'm actually not sure) and she's recovering from a recent mental health episode that left her living for a time in an in-patient facility. It's dark stuff, but its dealt with in a relatively light way. 

I'm only a few episodes in, and there are many things about the show I like. In fact, I think it might be excellent. It's serious and sort of unsettling and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. My partner Nate seems to like it too, so I don't feel like it's strictly gendered either. It's especially nice to see a non-traditional lead carrying a show. Sharon Rooney is very good - extremely believable in her role as funny, mouthy Rae. The 90s setting is fun and the soundtrack is nostalgic and wonderful. If you were a teenager in the 90s, every song will be familiar (and many many songs are featured in every episode).  And, perhaps most importantly, I think that the show means well. Focusing on a protagonist with mental health issues can be dicey, since such people are so often misrepresented, but  I think this show is being produced by folks who genuinely want to shine a light on things we don't often hear about in a meaningful, thoughtful way.
Of course, the show also has it's problems. It might be triggering to some viewers, and those with mental health issues of their own might find it hard to watch as a result. Also, sadly, My Mad Fat Diary reinforces and repeats some bullshit stereotypes about body size. For instance, it regularly implies that Rae's junk food binge-eating habits have caused her to be fat. And okay, maybe that was the real Rae Earl's personal experience. The show IS based on her diary and it's hard to argue with someone's memories. Maybe when Earl was a teenager, she was fat because she binged on junk food. Fine. But the widely-held belief that all (or even most) fat people are fat because they binge eat garbage or eat more than straight-sized people is false and it needs challenging. And I don't think the show would have to subvert Earl's actual experience to do that. One simple solution (and I can think of 10, right off the top of my head) would be to introduce a different fat character who didn't have a binge eating issue, for example, or alternately, a thin person who did. But My Mad Fat Diaries fails to do anything like that (so far, anyway) and as a result, I think there are some problematic messages at work here.

Nonetheless, I am enjoying seeing Rae navigate turbulent teenage waters, and not only because her 90s era high school experience is so familiar. Being a teenager is just so hard. So heartbreaking. And so funny. This is a show that gets that and brings a lot of it to life. And while I'm disappointed with some aspects of the representation, there are things to look forward to.  It looks like the writers are going to give Rae a romantic life that isn't limited to pairing her with an equally-weighted partner*, for one thing. So I'm going to keep watching. If you give it a try, tell me what you think.
Here are some links so you can watch My Mad Fat Diary online:

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3

Find the rest yourselves. What am I, a cable company? Geeze. 

JK. Someone has uploaded all six of the first season's episodes here. I'm not sure how long they'll remain up and the person who uploaded them probably didn't do it legally, so get crackin'! 
P.S. The notion that the protagonists of love stories have to "match" is a major problem that is easily observed in popular culture, particularly on television. While we might be shown two racialized characters paired together romantically (who are not of the same race, for example, such as an asian woman and a black man) we almost never see one racialized character paired with a white character. (The only exception I can think of is the pairing of asian women with white men, which does happen sometimes. Alas, when it does, the man is usually painted as an old pervert while the asian woman is imagined as a disposable character -- often nameless --  a sex worker or a fetishization.)  In the same vein, when a fat woman is given a romance on a show, it's almost inevitably with a fat man. Not always equally fat, but never straight-sized. Interestingly, thanks to deeply ingrained anti-feminist beliefs, this is not so when the gender dynamic is flipped. A thin wife with a fat husband is okay. It's practically standard to see such a relationship on television (see According to Jim, King of Queens, etc.). But a fat lady thin dude pairing? I've never seen such a thing except maybe as a joke (because it's sooooo funny, not). Have you?
It's been way too long since I've done a restaurant post, so today I thought I'd share a little about my recent experience at Prop, an Italian pasta-type place on St. Clair west in Toronto. 

As I say in the title, it's not bad. It opened in the neighbourhood a few years ago and seemed to thrive despite a relatively negative review from Joanne Kates. It's still open and seems to have people in it regularly, so obviously, it's got something going for it. That said, my experience was a bit blah.
When Nate and I were there, we had the Grilled Sardines appetizer, which was well-reviewed, but which we both found to very fishy, which is usually a sign of less-than-fresh ingredients. That said, it's possible that sardines are just not our thing. 

Next we had the Bucatini (with Pancetta and Spicy Tomato Sauce - $16) and the Spaghetti Nero (with Cuttlefish Ink and Squid - $18). Both were a little disappointing. Portions were a little undersized and tastes just so-so. It wasn't BAD, but neither option really lived up to my expectations. We had wine (by the glass) and our final bill landed somewhere around $100 before tip. That felt to me like a bit too much for such a casual bistro experience. (The restaurant calls itself a "caffe" after all.)
The space is minimal and a little cold, in my opinion and staffers slow to acknowledge patrons. (A lot of Yelp reviewers deem the service "rude.")  All in all, it was a very mediocre experience. With some other great pasta options in the neighbourhood, I can't really understand why Prop hasn't had to step up its game in order to stay in business, but what do I know? 

My advice is this: try it if you feel like it, but keep your expectations fairly low to avoid disappointment.

Prop Caffe
St Clair Ave W.
Toronto, ON, M6C 1B5
(416) 792-3313
As a big-time consumer of design blogs and shelter magazines, I've been familiar with Angus & Company for awhile. Merch from the shop is constantly being featured in House and Home magazine, and the owner, Michael Angus, has an awesome apartment that's also been shown in the magazine and online. (I think it's upstairs from the shop.)  Here's a video of Angus' apartment, toured for H&H online TV.
But familiar as I was, I'd never actually seen the store in person, which makes no sense since it's actually very close to me. (It's right at the corner of Christie St. and Dupont, here in Toronto, and I've passed it a million times.) 

Finally, finally, a few weeks ago, I decided to go in. The experience was a little awkward, frankly. I was the only shopper there, and the staffer on hand was busy doing some cleaning (mopping, etc.) I felt a bit like I was intruding. Even so, I loved what I saw, even though a lot of it wasn't really my taste. (I like quirky, weird decor, and Angus & Co. stocks lots of traditional stuff.) Even so, everything I saw was beautiful. Here are some pictures from the shop's website:
Antler chandelier
A sofa (and the shop all around)
A table top accessory (the gold tone foot) - only about $25
Orange lacquer boxes (which also come in white)
A display area in the shop. I believe nearly everything here is for sale, from the trays and dishes to the sofa to the sunburst mirror to the candlesticks to the vintage books.
I don't know that I'm going to become an Angus & Company regular or anything, but I'm glad I finally checked it out. It's great if you're looking for beautiful little decor pieces, especially if you like a classic or vintage vibe, but don't have the time or desire to hunt around traditionally cluttered antique/vintage shops. Everything at Angus & Co. is already perfectly curated, which is nice.  

As I said, some stuff is pretty pricey (the real antiques, for example, light fixtures, furniture), but there are lots of affordable table top pieces, barware, glassware, etc. The website has plenty of it listed online, so you don't even need to visit the store to check it out in person. 

Angus & Company: I think I recommend it.

Angus & Company
647 Dupont St.
Toronto, ON M6G 1Z4
For years people have been telling me to check out Karen Found It, a small Toronto vintage boutique. And finally, a couple of months ago, I did. I wanted to blog about it at the time, but the shop's website always seemed to be down and I wanted to be able to link to it, so I delayed. 

The truth is, my Karen Found It experience wasn't great. The shop was teeny, the wares were cool, but too pricey for my means, and the place just had a generally dusty and deserted vibe. And now I know why. 

Karen Found It was/is closing. (In fact, it might be closed already.)
Today, I decided to finally sit down to write my review of the shop, and Googling for images led me to a Blog TO post, which was followed by the following comment from shop owner  Karen Wilson:

"We are closing KFI and are having a sale! Come by and find a bargain! No reasonable offer refused. Help us move our inventory! Thanks for your patronage over the last 6 years, it has been a good run. See you at the market somewhere, sometime soon.

This news made me sort of sad. As someone who's trying to make a go of a vintage shop herself, it's a bummer to see one go under. I don't know why Karen decided to close her place. Her stuff was definitely cool, from hipster leather and vinyl bags, to funky old housewares, to jewellery made from vintage silver spoons (pieces she told me were made by her father, which is kinda cool). And after six years and so many people recommending it to me, I sort of expected the place to be thriving. Alas.

I feel like I missed the boat. 

Anyway, RIP Karen Found It. I hope Karen keeps finding stuff, wherever she ends up next.