Monthly Archives: December 2008

New Years Resolutions: Quitting Smoking – How hard is it?

Many of you will make a New Years resolution to QUIT SMOKING.

The benefits are obvious… health and cost…

So how hard is it to quit smoking? It all depends on what angle you are looking at..

Is it possible to do it without “quitting aids”.. like nicotine gum, patches, etc, etc..?

Sure.

The best way to quit smoking is to have ONE SIMPLE CARDINAL RULE:

“Stop smoking 100%”

Sounds simplistic, but I really mean it..

1. No “can I have just a puff?”

2. No “I had a real bad argument, I just need one cigarette today.. only one”

3. No “Well if I cut back to only 1/2 a pack, its better than I was before”…

4. No “Ok, I’ll let myself have up to 4 cigarettes a day, after meals, that sort of thing, it’s better than where I was before”

5. No “I’ll only smoke when I drink. Or.. I’ll only smoke among friends”

6. No “I won’t buy my own, but if someone gives me one for free… well.. that’s a control in itself isn’t it?”

SEE.. the brain addicted to nicotine will play with your thoughts. I will rationalize a 100 ways from Friday why it is perfectly ok to have just that one puff, that one drag, that one cigarette.

Infact, your emotions will become so sensitive, and you’ll argue with people around you to the point your body cries out “just have a smoke. Look how bad things are right now. You have every right to have a cigarette at this particular point eventhough you quit”

Life is full of drama. But when you are detoxing from cigarettes and nicotene Your mind WILL play tricks on you. Your emotions WILL run wild…

Everytime I’ve managed to quit smoking, it has always been “cold turkey”, which simply means, no aids of any sort. I simply stopped putting a cigarette to my lips and inhaling.

People who don’t smoke, don’t understand. There are 3 types of people in this world:

1. Non-smokers. They have never smoked, have no desire to smoke, and secretly are disgusted and despise people who smoke. They don’t understand them, think it is a filthy habit, and “how could you”

2. Ex-smokers. These are a very specialized group of people that totally demand the upmost respect. They were non-smokers at one point. They also became totally addicted smokers. They understand both sides of the social coin that dictates that smoking is no longer socially or ethically acceptable.  Do they crave cigarettes to this day? YES THEY DO.. ALL OF THEM. There are records of people who have smoked for 10 years straight, then abstained and quit for 20 years, and then one day, out of the blue, something major in their lives has put them back to smoking again.

Ex-smokers, deserve respect.  They are fighting a day-to-day battle. Albeit, some of them are hurting more than others.. But any ex-smoker could be a smoker again tomorrow, given the right chance, opportunity, situation, and want.

Ex-smokers have it the worst of all 3 types.

Now the next type….

3. SMOKERS. These are people who are still smoking everyday. There are varying degrees of smokers. Some are up to a pack a day… some are only smoking on the weekends, or while drinking. Nonetheless, these are people who need to smoke cigarettes as part of their normal lives. The nicotine levels in their bodies dictate how often they smoke, and how much they crave to smoke.

Some of these people have quit before.. the majority have not – they have smoked all their lives, and it is the one daily routine that they have that they depend on..

Smokers who have tried to quit, and failed numerous times, have it the worst. They have not proven to themselves that they have the willpower to stop the addiction. They may admit to you, “yes, I want to, need to, and will do whatever it takes to… QUIT SMOKING”.

But some of these smokers just can’t. They’ve tried cold turkey, they’ve tried nicotine gum, they’ve tried the nicotine patch, and they’ve tried all kinds of aids.. nothing works.

———————

Unless you’ve been a smoker, successfully quit, and remain a non-smoker to this day, please don’t volunteer or suggest anything to these groups of people.

Tobacco, nicotine, tar, and 3,000 other chemicals (including formaldehyde) are prevalent in cigarettes today. It is a very ugly and terrible addiction, but the surprising part is that it is taxed and made legal by our government to this very day.

To understand who is writing this blog post. I will let you know that I had successfully quit smoking for 8 years. That’s a very long time. At some point I went on vacation where everyone smoked around me. After 8 years of abstaining I figured I had the strength and drive to be able to smoke with them, and stop when I returned home.

Guess what?
Nicotine back into my blood stream… the addiction came back just like I was a smoker yesterday.

After returning home from my “vacation” where I thought I could smoke and flirt with cigarette death and stop at my own will power.. I proceeded to keep my “high” going for another few months, to another couple years, buying cartons of cigarettes upon cartons of cigarettes.. until one day I realized “I thought I could stop it anytime, but everyday I wake up, I find myself saying “not yet”.. maybe tomorrow”.

Cigarettes, tobacco, and nictotine, are sister families to cocaine, heroine, and alcohol.

Don’t be fooled…

Cigarettes are legal

Cigarettes are $10 a pack or less, affordable in most families

Cigarettes will eventually kill or maim you

Cigarettes are a drug

Cigarettes are extremely difficult to quit

Cigarettes haunt ex-smokers everyday, and should eventually be contra-band.

The addictive nature of cigarettes is enough for people to realise that they do not smoke “because they want to”.. but instead, their bodies indirectly crave and tell them “you need another smoke”.

So what is left to be said?

It’s New Years Eve, and you want to make a New Years Resolution infront of family & friends. “I’m going to quit smoking” you say.

Well compare it to some other socially acceptable things, and see how hard, and stupid your statement sounds…

“As my New Years Resolution, I will only watch TV programs for 12 minutes and then change the channel”

DUMB? YES! HARD TO FOLLOW PERMANENTLY? YES

“As my New Years Resolution, I will only take 2 bites into any hamburger I encounter, and throw the rest in the garbage”

DUMB? YES! HARD TO FOLLOW PERMANENTLY? YES

“As my New Years Resolution, I will only sleep 3 hours every night, and eventhough I am still tired and sleepy, I will wake up and stay awake for the remaining 21 hours everyday”

DUMB? YES! HARD TO FOLLOW PERMANENTLY? YES

“As my New Years Resoluttion, I will no longer smoke cigarettes. The pleasure, relaxation and history I have smoking cigarettes as party of my daily life will now stop, like a train hitting the side of a mountain. My whole daily life will change, on a dime without any friction or problem.”

DUMB? YES! HARD TO FOLLOW PERMANENTLY? YES

Please understand what smokers who try to quit, go through. Their salvation and pain is only a toke or puff a smoke away. When your body cries out for a dose of nicotine, and it plays with your mind why “it should be ok, just this once” realize those that quit smoking cigarettes as a result of a  New Years Resolution are heroes to themselves.

Is quittting smoking important? SURE

Can everyone do it? DEFINATELY NOT

What is the problem? Unless you’ve been a regular smoker and quit for many years, there is no point in talking to you?

Are you saying that nicotine addiction is like cocaine addiction?

YES, YES, AND MORE YES!

Any addiction is exactly that — an addiction.

Stopping a cocaine, crack, or heroine addict is the EXACT SAME THING as stopping a nicotine addict. But it is never presented to people that way…  Illegal drugs seem so wrong, and the addictions that go with them make people seem like outcasts of society. But since tobacco and nicotine are legal, it is perfectly ok, for a daily smoker to have trouble quitting — thats’ our norm.

The crap they put in cigarettes — the prices they charge — the socially unacceptable situations — smokers that need to quit, want to quit, and want to do it cold turkey…

Find someone that is quitting cold turkey, pat them on the back, smile at them, and say…

“I really DO understand what you are going through”

That’s plenty it itself.

A New Years Resolution to quit smoking sounds noble and special.

But people who actually follow through, quit cold turkey, never smoke a cigarette ever again, and fight the daily thought of “maybe if I could just have one, I wouldn’t want another”

……….all of us would have a better understanding of one another……..

Smoking is more than an addiction. Smoking is more than a legal privilege. Smoking is more than an anti-social activity, and smoking is more than a health risk.

Smoking is an epidemic, and the victims of it should NEVER be shamed. The tobacco companies who profited from it, and had early research on it, should be shamed.

If you walk down a local street tomorrow — see someone puffing on a cigarette. PLEASE DO NOT hold contempt for that person, but the exact opposite. Have a feeling that you want to help. You are sorry that they are addicted, and you know how hard it is to break the habit of quitting smoking.

To be honest, New Years Resolutions sound prim and proper, but deep down inside.. all they are, are common day issues that people find a time and date to deal with them.

If anyone who has read this blog, from top to bottom, who is addicted to nicotine, who feels that they have someone out there understanding them.. who can quit cold-turkey without aids..

Can register, respond, and leave a comment..

I am totally interested in hearing from you. Typing all of this, feeling all of this, and saying it all, will not seem like a waste of time if I can reach that one person out there.

Are you that person?

New Years Eve: How to plan a decent party

Planning a New Years Eve party sounds easy. Call a bunch of people, invite them, tell them its BYOB. Buy a bunch of potato chips, make sure you have ice on hand, put up some balloons and wait.

That’s right, that is the basic steps to running a New Years Party, but there’s a lot more to it.

To make your party memorable, people aren’t happy with “potato chips”.

They’d like to see some hot appetizers.. Even if it is melted cheese on a cracker. Anything. Something different that makes it worthwhile to have come to your party, vs anyone elses.

What about music? Do you have enough of it ready?  Is it pre-mixed? Have you spent time to put all the songs in order that you want them played, so the stereo can take care of itself?

At your New Years Eve party, what television station is the countdown going to be on? Are you sure? Or are you going to be one of these common party planners who rush around at 3 minutes to midnight trying to find the best channel to watch the count down? I’ve seen so many people running for TV converters at 3 minutes to twelve.. all it shows is that you weren’t prepared or organized to be running this New Years Eve party in the first place.

I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll mention it again.

PAPER SUPPLIES are one of the first things that people run out of at parties.

How many times have you heard:

“Do you have any more paper towels? or napkins?

OR

“Where are all the paper plates?

“I can’t seem to find any more of the cups

What you will not hear is:

I was just in the washroom, and I ran out of toilet paper and couldn’t find any more in there..  Oh no, that will be a deep dark secret that no one will dare mention. Instead, you’ll find every last bit torn off of the cardboard roll. I threw a party once where one of our towels looked ideal to someone that had too much to drink. [I know, horrible thought]

The point is, make a list of items you will need. It should take 20 or 30 minutes to draw up a full list.

Consider things like:

Moving your cars 2 blocks down the street early in the day, so guests can use your driveway. Put a couple pilons or similar infront of your house. Remember, New Years Eve is a party everywhere in the neighborhood, and parking can be one of many obstacles.

Have plenty of mixes. People assume already that you will have both kids of soda pop on hand.. They won’t expect to bring their own. What about cranberry juice? How about lemons & limes?  What about marichino cherries? STRAWS? Don’t forget straws!!!

Some parties do well with an hour or two of some sort of group game, like Win, Lose, or Draw. Or other similar minded games. Even Kareoke might be fun. They sound stupid and corny now, but when people have a few drinks in them, they sound like a lot of fun!

Have plenty of snacks available. Have the number ready for some taxi cab companies incase any of your New Years party guests have too much to drink.

What about party favors, hats, noise makers, and Happy New Years signage? This isn’t just a regular party, it has to have a definate New Years theme to it. That will make it memorable throughout the year. This is a special ocassion and people aren’t just looking for a place to have a few drinks — they want happy memories!

Now… WHAT IF….

Some of your guests are too drunk to drive, want to lay down and rest somewhere, and totally unexpected, they end up spending the night.

Do you have Coffee, Tea, Eggs, Bacon and Toast for the morning? Surely you aren’t going to wake them up and make them leave without some breakfast in them in the morning?

As you can see.. being prepared, thoughtful, and on the ready, will have your guests trust you to show them a good time during future party events. You will find it will be increasingly easier each year to have guests agree to come to your party.

After all, on New Years Eve, people often will get 4 or 5 invitations from different people. They always end up picking the most favourite of the bunch.

Last minute Christmas Shopping: Xmas Eve or Xmas Day!?

About 10 years ago, I witnessed something that was totally bizarre, and since it is that time of year again, I’ll share the story with you.

On Christmas Day, almost everything in our neighborhood was closed, with the exception of the local 7-11 convenience store.  I went to the store at 10am to try and grab the last issue of any newspapers with boxing day flyers that may be left.

Inside the store, was a man who was carrying all sorts of merchandise and had a rushed look on this face. In his arms, he had really strange things, like pens, pencils, notepads, scotch tape, magazines, a novel, and other assorted items. He was at the counter asking the clerk for things, and pointing wildly at anything that caught his attention.

His conversation with the clerk went something like this:

Shopper: “What’s that, over there? A keychain?  Let me see? Ok, yes, I’ll take two of those. How about those disposable cameras, how much are they?”

Clerk: “$8.99 each sir”

Shopper: “Ok, give me one of those. How about those stuffed animals on the top shelf”

The clerk was less than amused (suppose he was paid hourly and didn’t want to work in the first place.

Clerk: “This one is $15.49 and this other one is $12.99”

Shopper: “Ok, I’ll take the one for $12.99. Do you have any other toys or anything else?”

Clerk: “Sorry, sir, no only what  you see”

Shopper: “Ok, I’ll take some lottery tickets then”

Clerk: “Which ones?”

Shopper: “Give me $50 worth of assorted ones.. Oh! Batteries, I need batteries too..”

…and on and on it went..

He was on a last minute shopping spree at 7-11 on Christmas day, at around 10am in the morning. Spending about $200 in various merchandise.

Now I wonder, what was his story?  Why would anyone wait to shop for presents at 10am Christmas Day?

Some possibilities could be:

a) His house had caught fire the day before, they were moved to a hotel Christmas Eve, and Christmas morning he ran out to try and buy whatever he could to piece together some sort of Christmas for his family.

b) In order to hide his Christmas presents from his family, he had them all stored in the trunk of his car, but on Christmas Eve after the kids were asleep, he went out to the car, but the car was no longer in the driveway. Some thief stole it, which in turn, left him without presents to give to his kids

c) He is divorced and his ex-wife told him a month ago, that he could not see the kids this Christmas because of the restraining order she has on him,  and at the last minute she broke down on Christmas morning and said “ok, the kids are asking for you. You can come over for an hour with any presents you have, see the kids, and then leave..” Which caused him to run around at the last minute buying things.

d) He was an inmate at Jail, got released Christmas Day, at 7am, and he had 3 hours to do his shopping the best he could, so he could go visit his family.

e) He took a flight, and arrived at 6pm Christmas Eve, but his luggage was missing with all the gifts.  After spending 4 or 5 hours on the phone with the airline trying to find his lost luggage, he finally gave up and went to bed. After trying to call them again in the morning, he discovered that the luggage still hadn’t been found, so he was buying whatever gifts he could, so that Christmas would still exist.

f) His family went over to visit some old long time friends of his on Christmas morning, and to their surprise, they admitted that there were no gifts under the tree for their kids. Feeling horrible, he said he would be right back, and was trying to put together some sort of last minute Christmas for this needy family.

g) He was a psycopath or mentally disturbed person who escaped a local hospital Chrismas morning, and was trying to buy a collection of last minute Christmas gifts, with the intention of having a cab bring him to his ex-wife’s home where his kids are..

The reasons for this type of  last minute Christmas Shopping could be endless..

Do you have any more scenarios that could be true for something like this? If so, I’d love to hear them!

Shoveling Driveways: The WRONG way.

Shoveling your driveway should be a simple concept, but people screw it up every year. I’m not talking about the safe way to bend with your knees and stuff like that..

Instead, I’m referring to people who don’t grasp the concept on where to put the snow!

NO, it is not polite to throw it onto your neighbor’s yard.

NO, it is not morally, ethnically and sometimes (not legally) acceptable to throw it onto the street!

It is this last point that I have a huge problem with.. I constantly see people who shovel their sidewalks and driveways and throw it onto the street.

Let’s analyze this sudden loss of common sense.  You don’t want snow on your driveway, so it is easier for you to drive on.. Yet it seems perfectly fine for you to add extra snow to the common roadway where your neighbors, and yourself included will be driving regularily on..

If you talk to one of these snow violators, they’ll say “well the snow plow will get it”.

REALLY? When? Within 2 minutes of you adding snow to the street?  Or 2 hours? or 2 days?

LEAVE THE SNOW ON YOUR OWN YARD.

Don’t give it to your neighbors to deal with. Don’t give it to the public street so we all have to drive over it.

These people are complete morons, and I cannot understand why such stupid, thoughtless, ignorant people exist in our society.

Boxing Day Deals: Where to shop, and how.

If you’re an expert shopper, you can pick up some fantastic boxing day deals. There are a few tricks I’ve learned over the years.

I’ve done everything from sit outside of an electronics store overnight, being 3rd in line, for 18 hours straight. Temperatures were down to -1 but the windchill brought them down to as low as -9 degrees celcius.

That may not sound cold, if you bring blankets, a hat, two pairs of clothing ontop of each other, double socks, and a warm thermos of coffee..

But when the coffee runs out, and all the nearby coffee shops are closed..  things get progressively worse. When you get tired, the cold gets to you fast.  What was I going after? One of the first DVD players on the market for $139 while the rest of them were priced at $549 and above.

After a long hard night, and to the point where I thought about giving up and leaving 3 separate times.. I finally made it into the store, and got my DVD player for $139.

Problem? It was a buggy low-end model that the store got ahold of at rock bottom wholesale prices to them. It only worked with about 80% of DVD’s put into it. The fast forward feature was difficult to use. I was very unimpressed that 18 hours of waiting in the cold to save $300, turned out that I ended up with a cheap clearance item.

So would I do it again? Probably not. I don’t trust these ultra low deals. There may be a reason why the store has decided to knock down that particular model.

But with any sale, you can pick up good Boxing Day bargains, because the rest of their inventory is also knocked down. Now here’ s the catch. Many stores will open at 7am boxing day. Some open at 9am, and others open at 10am.

The key is to get a list of the stores all lined up and planned out, find out their opening hours. Instead of you and 3 friends going store to store… why not split up the work load, and have all three of you in three different locations grabbing the things you all need?

Boxing Day has planning involved. In the courier business, they call it “logistics“.

So this boxing day, take the extra time to grab all the flyers, study them well in advance. Make sure you are completely ready, and then hit the stores in the right sequential order.

Oh, and please DO yourself a favor. Even if a GPS that normally costs $300 is marked down to $80 — do the research on that particular model number. You might find out that people who bought that item at full retail might have some grips and complaints about it posted on the internet.

I love the chaos of Boxing day sales.. Sometimes I go just to watch people scramble around like idiots even if I don’t feel like buying anything. But look at it from the store’s perspective. It is their opportunity to clear out overstocked inventory. Or to put things on clearance to bring in the new year’s models.

Also pay special attention to the “3 per store” in little fine print beneath the ad. Then drive there early before the store opens.. Speak to the people in line (that sat out the night before).. they will happily tell you what deal they are after, and it will be easy for you to realize what your chances are of getting that particular item.

If you have any boxing day deals you’d like to talk about, I’d love to hear them.

Christmas Gifts: Ideas on what to buy someone

Every year people always wonder what to buy their friends, family, and co-workers. There is a few gift ideas and rules of thumb that should be helpful to you:

#1: Avoid giving money. Money is often used for trivial things like paying bills, buying groceries, or filling the car with gas. Most of the time people who receive money will also use it to buy gifts for someone else. If you want to someone you care about to have a little special treat, this is the worst way to do it.

#2: Gift certificates are a good alternative to cash as long as you buy one at the right store. However the minimum amount should never be less than $50. I know $25 gift certificates exist, but these days, hardly anything worthwhile can be bought for less than $50. Also a little note that says something like “if you’re shopping on boxing day, hope you can pick up a real deal on something special for yourself”.  Boxing day is the day that everyone runs out and buys things that they had their eye on all year, but they never materialized at Christmas. Your gift card at the right store can come in very handy during this special time.

#3: Christmas ornaments for someone’s tree that are engraved, monogrammed to make them more personable are a nice cheap way of giving “a gift that keeps on giving” every year. Consider this option for certain people.

#4: Pre-pay a yearly magazine subscription to a hobby magazine or similar is something people will rarely buy themselves. When the issue comes in the mail every month, you’ll be thought of everytime. The gift of knowledge is always helpful and appreciated.

#5: Arts and crafts, if you have special talent will be treasured. For instance, making a homemade quilt, or painting a nature scene, or even carving something for someone has low cost, but high amount of time and effort. These gifts are appreciated. The key here is you must have special talent. Shabby arts and crafts can be quite embarassing for both the gift giver, as well as the gift recipient.

#6: Food, Drink, Chocolate, Specialty Coffee. These are little inexpensive gifts (generally $25 or less), but they are appreciated. Very rarely do they go to waste. Just be sure the person you’re buying for isn’t suddenly on a new diet, or recently diagnosed as a diabetic. 🙂

#7: Clothing: Try to always avoid buying clothing because this is a matter of personal taste. Nothing worse than buying a sweater for someone that they end up putting in their closet unused because it doesn’t fit their own personal style. What may look good to you, may not look good to the person receiving your gift. Not only that, but sizes may be labeled right, but when the garment is worn, it may feel too tight or too baggy on the person, and they won’t have the courage to say anything to you.

#8: Lottery tickets: Always a welcome gift. They are usually cheap too ($25 and under), but they carry the potential to win someone a lot of money. Not only that, if they do win, some of it may come back your way. Not everyone is a gambler, or will spend money on the lottery. However, if it is given to them as a freebie, I have yet to see anyone not enjoy the thrill of being able to possibly win some money.

#9: Gag gifts. Save these for April 1st / Fool’s Day. This is the worst time of year to give someone a gag gift. There are plenty of other special occassions like a stag, a bridal shower, a birthday, etc, to give a gag gift. Christmas is not one of them. Also avoid stupid gifts that are often shown on TV only this time of  year.

#10: Rare coins, rare collectables, etc. If you find something that is in your budget, that you can give to someone that will appreciate in value, they are very likely to hold onto it for a very long time. This is another gift that keeps on giving. People who aren’t collectors will still appreciate the fun and novelty of owning something that is rare and collectable. It makes a great conversation piece for them, and it’s something they normally would not expect. Depending on the person, and which item you choose, this could be a very great gift.

#11: Necessities: These are always appreciated. They could be things like DVD-R’s, or a stationery set. If the person golfs, maybe some new, high quality golf balls. Any type of consumable item that the person is always needing every few months, will be appreciated. This type of gift means that you know the person well enough to know what is useful to them, and you’re saving them the time and cost to replenish their consumables.

#12: DVD Boxed Sets: Getting the entire series of their favourite television show, or movie trilogy could give them hours of entertainment. Be sure that they don’t already own it. But these generally can be expensive… $5o to $200, but the right boxed set, at the right time, will be very appreciated to whoever is lucky enough to receive it.

Another few caveats…

If you are buying a gift for someone, do some research. Get hints and tips from the prospective person who will be getting your gift. Talk to THEIR friends and family to be absolutely sure that you aren’t going to be buying a duplicate gift that someone is already intending for them.  Nothing worse that getting two cameras on Christmas morning. One that is a cheap $60 one, and one that is an expensive $350 camera.  It causes embarassement all the way around.

Always have a gift receipt ready incase someone would like to exchange the gift for one reason or another.

Don’t over spend, but at the same time, don’t under spend either.

Good gifts are more about thoughtfulness and knowing some time and effort went into getting the proper gift. It is not about how much you spend.

Always have “a prewrapped generic gift” on hand, incase the neighbors unexpectedly come over with a gift. This way you can have something to offer them in return and it doesn’t put you at a vunerable situation. This time of year, is when people socialize together a lot, and if someone gives you a gift spur of the moment, having a gift on reserve in the trunk of your car, or in your bedroom closet (or even in your office drawer) that can be ready in an instant, is something that can come in very handy.

Hopefully this has got you brainstorming about what Christmas gift ideas are good and bad. I’m sure the best gift idea will come from your heart, just be a little creative and take your time.

Finally.. SHOP EARLY.  Nothing worse than running around trying to pick up last minute gift ideas when the stores are running out of stock on certain items.  Christmas shopping is something you can do all year long at the right time, when you see that special something.

Family Restaurants: How cooks can ruin a meal.

Ever gone out to eat, and the meal is “so-so”, and there is nothing you can put your finger on, but for some reason your clubhouse sandwich and fries, just aren’t the same?

You’re looking at the sandwich, and it “looks right”, but there is something in the taste from your plate, that just kind of doesn’t make things taste fresh or spectacular?

There are all kinds of little things that a lazy chef or short order cook will do, that translates into your plate not making your taste buds happy. I’ll talk about one meal, and we’ll see how many ways you can ruin it.

First of all, let’s quickly talk about what makes a clubhouse sandwich and fries:

Bread, lettuce, bacon, tomato, chicken (or turkey), cheese, mayo, margarine, french fries.

Simple right? Put it all together, and you have a club house and fries.

WRONG.

1) Bread — Before you toast the bread, was it fresh? Often it sits stale in a refrigerator or a counter and starts to form little white stale circles after awhile. No there is no mold on the bread, but the composition of the bread has changed, thereby changing the flavor slightly. Toast the bread, and what’s that? The toaster was set too high, or you didn’t watch it in time? Ok, scrape off the burnt parts.. the customer will never know. The problem with scraping off burnt parts, is that little flecks of the burnt bread will still be on the top layer. Thinly enough that the eye can’t see them, but the mouth and tongue zero in on them. The cook may say “hey, the sandwich looks ok” — yes, but what about the taste you idiot? If you burnt your own bread, I hardly doubt you’d eat it. You’d throw it away and make your own fresh toast again. Why doesn’t the customer, who is paying a premium for his meal get the same treatment?

2) Margarine and Mayo. Caking on the margarine, vs thinly spreading it evenly can leave gobs of margarine in your mouth, which takes away flavors from the rest of the sandwich. Just because the cook is in a hurry to get your darned sandwich outta the kitchen doesn’t mean he or she has to send substandard product out. Take the extra 1/2 second to spread the bread with margarine and mayo evenly. Almost like you are making a sandwich out of love for your spouse. Again, customers are not cows at a trough. The way something tastes is very evident. Want them to crave your clubhouse sandwich and come back for more another time? THEN MAKE IT PROPERLY, with care and attention!

3) Lettuce. Very few customers will open and dissect their sandwich and examine each individual component. So that piece of lettuce that was browning near the stem, or the unwashed lettuce with a couple of tiny bugs on it… Yes, they will end up eating it, but the flavor will be sour, taste a little off… and they won’t be able to say “hmm. that lettuce didn’t taste right”.. instead, they will say, “I don’t know what it is about this sandwich, but it doesn’t taste very good”. Each component regardless of how unimportant you may think it is.. adds to the overall taste of the entire thing. Start with fresh clean lettuce, and you instantly change a mediocre sloppy clubhouse into something to be craved and desired next time this customer thinks about coming back to your establishment.

3) Tomatoes. Many short order cooks will pre-slice tomatoes to save them time in the kitchen. These tomatos will be held in a refrigerated state. Do you realize that a tomato is a living organism? This is why a tomato will still ripen even after it is pulled from the vine. So.. when you preslice tomatoes and hold them in the refrigerator, you’ve basically killed the tomato, disrupted its organic architecture, and it begins to rot at a very slow pace. But any type of rot translates into poor taste. I’ve seen tomato slices pulled from a refrigerator that no longer have their crispness. Look at the membranes, they turn translucent and spiney. Put this partially rotting slice of tomato in your mouth, and the flavor is very pungent, over-ripe tasting, and gross. The cook saved 2 seconds by not having to give you a fresh slice, because thats how long it takes to cut a slice from a large tomato. Idiots, I have no idea why a couple extra seconds is worth ruining a sandwich.

4) Bacon. Is it fresh, or was it cooked 4 days ago? Was the bacon deep fried, or fried on a grill top? Deep fried bacon may look cooked evenly, but you’re getting extra layers of grease from the deep fryer with all other kinds of flavors that do not belong to the taste of bacon. Why not just take a teaspoon of deep fryer oil and drizzle it over the sandwich? It’s the same thing. Just because the bacon looks as being cooked — YOU’RE ADDING FLAVOR that doesn’t belong, and will ruin a sandwich.

5) Cheese. Is it processed, was it pulled out of a wrapper? Do you know how many additives and preservatives are added to pre-sliced pre-wrapped cheese? Don’t believe it? Try and melt a piece of individually wrapped processed cheese and see what happens to it. Why not have a nice brick of cheddar cheese and cut a fresh slice off it? You’d like that flavor, so don’t you think your customer would like that too?

6) Fries. Are they fresh or frozen? Every eat fresh cut NY Fries? They made a huge franchise chain out of that simple concept. No, instead, everyone wants to buy the precut precooked frozen fries because they keep longer and cook faster. But what about flavor?

If you notice how many times I use the word flavor? Flavor is EVERYTHING!

So the clubhouse & fries gets served to your customers, and if you’ve made ANY of these common mistakes in the kitchen, the customer eats the meal and when a friend or family member at the table says “so, how was yours?” ”

Ummm it wasn’t all that great. I don’t think I’d order it again” you say.

STOP BEING LAZY IN RESTAURANT KITCHENS. TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR WORK, AND MAKE THE SANDWICH AS IF IT WAS YOUR OWN!

Nothing worse than paying a premium price for a clubhouse and fries, and the chef or short order cook takes shortcuts and doesn’t pay attention to that extra tender loving care to produce an outstanding product.

By the way.. add a little salt and pepper to that freshly sliced tomato. A hint of those will make the whole sandwich come together quite nicely. Many people won’t dissect their sandwich to do it themselves. As a chef, a little spice is very nice.

Comments anyone?

Christmas Tree Ornaments and Decorations: A suggestion

One of the beautiful things about holiday or Christmas trees, is that you never will find two of them that look alike. It’s such a pleasure to see the different tree decorations. All trees look nice, but some of them really stand out more than others.

You can also tell how much time someone has spent decorating a tree. For those that don’t care, we’ve all seen the tree with some garland on it, a bunch of red & blue bulb ornaments, some tinsel, a star, and that’s it..

That is a very plain way of decorating a Christmas tree.

However, there are little things you can do to really dress up your holiday tree. One thing to note, is that while uniformity is important for the Christmas lights you put on it — NOT SO for the ornaments and decorations!

For instance, putting the odd candy cane on your tree’s branches looks nice. Covering the tree in candy canes from top to bottom in an even spread, ruins in the look. This is an example where “less” becomes MORE in the end. Carefully choosing which items to place, where you place them, and how often you place them, quickly shows if you’re an amateur or a pro…

Having a nice variety of tree ornaments looks really nice. Things like monogrammed knitted decorations. Or a little teddybear holding a small “Merry Christmas” sign. May it worthwhile for someone to step up close to your tree and search around looking at all the little things you’ve added.

If you can stand 10 feet from a tree, glance at it from top to bottom in 3 seconds and think you’ve taken it all in, then in my opinion, the tree is very simplified and the loving care that should go into it, is just not there.

Now, I am not suggesting that you go out and spend $300 to $500 worth of expensive ornaments to decorate your tree. Instead, since we are going to be decorating a tree every year that we’re still alive, this gives you a great opportunity to accumulate things over time.

Make it a point to buy 1 or 2 really nice ornaments every year. Or better yet, if you have children, and they want to buy you something for $5 or $10 as a gift to mom and dad, let them pick out an ornament to buy for the tree. After the kids grow up and leave home, the ornaments will still be there, and the special meaning that they have will be present every Christmas whether they are home for the holidays or not.

About 15 years ago, we received a monogrammed glass bulb, with our company name on it from a customer who offered us a thank you gift once. We still have that decoration and every year we hang it on our tree, because it was given to us as a gift of kindess, and it was unexpected and very appreciated.

If you really think about what a Christmas tree represents, and how much love, kindness and caring it is suppose to encourage, then I ask you.

WHY DO PEOPLE BUY A BOX OF “35” CHRISTMAS TREE ORNAMENTS.. and stick them on it, willy-nilly without having any special thought to it?

The idea is not to just decorate a tree.

The idea is to decorate a tree, from the heart, put something special into it, (and on it).. stand back, and look at all the little things that together, make a wonderful tree.

Box of 35 ornament bulbs? Not for my tree thank you.

By the way, no matter what, I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Keno vs Lotto 6/49 (Pick 6)

Keno is played with 1 to 80 numbers on the board. To win a large prize, you usually have to pick 6 or more.

On the other hand, Lotto 6/49 (Pick 6) is played with 1 to 49 numbers that are drawn. To win a large prize, you usually have to pick only 6…

So the question is: WHY WOULD ANYONE PLAY KENO?

Really.. why would they play keno if the 6/49 payouts and chance of winning are much higher? Instead of 80 numbers, you are only dealing with 49. Massive mathematical advantages to that..

So, if you are going to wager a $1 bet against 6/49 (or Pick 6), you instantly have a lot better odds of walking away with a jackpot prize vs Keno.

Now where I live, the top prize in Keno is $100,000 — However the top prize in 6/49 around $5,000,000

So why would anyone in their right frame of mind play Keno? There is only one answer.. Simply put.. Keno draws every 5 minutes, and Lotto 6/49 only draws twice week.

People love instant gratification. They love the dopamine to their brains when they have a “chance” every 5 minutes. So it is that chemical reaction in the brain that causes people to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in wasted Keno gambling.

Now I would end this blog post a certain way, but unfortunately my Keno numbers are coming up, and I have to pay attention to them… (Yes, the right side of my brain says have fun playing Keno, meanwhile my left side.. says … idiot. Just be patient and concentrate on the 6/49 draw)

Christmas Party Ideas: How to cater it yourself.

Hosting a successful Christmas / Holiday party where you cater it yourself, has some VERY important things that everyone needs to pay attention to.. Here is some hints and tips that will make those seasonal parties a complete success..

#1 Good Food

Seems like common sense, naturally you will want to provide good food — but what does that mean? For starters, you NEVER EVER want to try new recipes that you’ve downloaded off the internet, tried to make, and hope they work. This is not a time to try new things incase they don’t work. If you want to try something new, make it days in advance. Feed your family, friends, and yourself, and taste it well ahead of time. If you’re happy with how it came out, only then, should you put it on the “menu” for the Christmas party or holiday event.

There is nothing worse than someone who has a great idea, buys all the groceries to produce something they think will work, and having it become a complete flop at a party when things go wrong. Don’t risk the embarassment of trying something new at the last minute. Any new recipe, whether it is an appetizer, a main course, or even a snack, which needs some getting use to.. is a definate NO NO, when you have a large gathering of people coming to test it.

If you want to try something new, make it a week or two in advance. Eat it yourself. Serve it to your immediate friends and family. Get their opinion. Be sure that you have the preparation method completely down pat, and fully understand how long it takes, how long the item “holds” under heat lamps, or in the oven etc.

If you are hosting a Christmas or Holiday office party.. Now is NOT the time to play around and experiment, because there is a huge chance things may not go as planned.

Pre-test, and pre-sample everything way ahead of time, so you’re definately sure that come the Christmas party or event, things will work out perfectly.

#2 Mixes — Soda pop and more

If you are running a Christmas / Office party or event, you definately want to have enough mixes on hand. Everyone can bring in their own beer, or alcohol beverage, but many will depend on you having the mixes available. If you buy a couple gallons (2L) of coke, and a couple gallons of Diet Coke (2L) and hoping that it will be “enough”. You are doing your guests an unjustice. This stuff, as long as it is not opened, DOES NOT SPOIL EASILY.. So it makes sense to have extra on hand — “more than you need”… after the Christmas / Holiday office party is over — the extra remaining is still useful. It is a lot better to have double what you need, than to have “not enough” when it comes to mixes… Most people will bring a bottle, but they kind of assume you’ll have enough Coke and Diet Coke on hand.. so buy double what you think you will need.

#3 – SNACKS

Now most of you will have a dinner, or some major appetizers available. But there are many who are expecting (and wanting nothing more than) some snacks. Potato chips, pretzels, a party mix. Again, this stuff is relatively cheap. Stock up on it. Usually it comes in vaccuum sealed bags, and has a shelf life of 6 months or more, so why skimp now? Having plenty of snacks that can be ripped open “on hand” will show that you’re prepared, and will make the night go by that much more smoothly.

#4 – ENTERTAINMENT / MUSIC

Some thought has to be put into this.. Nothing worse than a bunch of people grouped together, and very little thought has been spent into the entertainment / music aspect. Have your stereo ready, willing and able to put out the tunes to keep people hopping. Do you have your CD’s, DVD’s and MP3’s on the ready? Nothing worse than dead silence in the middle of the night when someone is fooling around with the stereo. People that attend your Christmas / Holiday office party want fun. They want the music to take care of itself, and to be predominate. Don’t forget extra special attention on this point.

#5 – Washrooms and toilet paper.

I can’t begin to tell you the amount of Christmas / Office Holiday Parties I’ve been to, where the washroom becomes the after thought. It is vitally important that your washroom is fully stocked, and has a spare roll, ready to be used, so that no one has to come up to you and ask you for assistance in this area. This is one of the most last-thought of logistics of any Christmas or office holiday party, but I feel it is one of the most important. Pay special attention here.. most people treat it like an after-thought.

#6 – Parking. If you are expecting a lot of people to attend, one of the easiest things you can do is move your vehicle up the street so that the true guests and park without worry.

#7 – GET HELP or VOLUNTEERS

While you’re completely busy trying to put this Christmas / Holiday office party togther, always remember, that there is someone who is ready, willing and able, to try and help out. In this case, let them try.

With these tips and pointers, I do not doubt that your holiday / oiffice Christmas will be a success…

Trees, both real and artificial in our homes?

Has anyone taken the time to think how weird it is, that we put up both real (and artificial) trees in our house during the holiday season?

TREES IN OUR HOUSES!!

What other part of nature will be next? Rocks and stones in our homes? Mud, dirt, or Turf grass?

Leave the outside where it should be…. OUTSIDE. Many fresh Christmas trees take 5 to 7 years to grow. Then we do we do? Cut them down, throw tinsel on them and call it a holiday.

How would you feel if someone cut off your leg, threw tinsel on it, and said it was a holiday?

I think the symbolic reference of a Christmas or holiday tree is important. So use symbolic materials to do it.. In the green way of thinking, we should use the same artificial tree very year. It is not uncommon to have an artificial tree last 10 years or more.

Do you use real or artificial? Have you tried both? I’d be interested in hearing from someone that use to use real, and then switched to artificial, or vice-versa.

Osama vs Obama – Too much of a similarity?

We’re all looking for Osama bin Laden. Now everyone has elected a new President, Obama. Therefore, we have Obama looking for Osama.

Has anyone else realized how strange and ironic this is?

I have nothing against the new President-elect. Infact, I think it is way overdue that the USA have a black president or a female president.

But the Osama and Obama thing is just too strange. I haven’t heard anything in the media about it. When you listen to it this way, doesn’t it seem weird to you? An Obama looking for an Osama?

The name similarity strikes me as funny. So what is the meaning behind it? Probably nothing… Or is it?

Anyway, it’s time that we do pay attention to this phenomenon, and take the time to wonder… Is this nature taking its course, or is this some sort of weird planned event that none of us is privy to?

When will the headlines come out? Where they say “Obama targets Osama?” — See? In print it doesn’t look normal…

I totally believe it is not just me.. it’s quite obvious at that this is an issue, where life is funny, and we need to pay attention to the details. 🙂

Coalition Accord with NDP, Liberals and Bloc Québécois

Some major turmoil happening in Canada with the new Coalition accord, where a new government may form without any vote from the citizens of Canada.

In short…

It’s an opportunist moment by the scattered minority parties who are using this as a “leg up” during troubled political times.

Stephen Harper didn’t sell the country out. There is no massive trouble for Canada brewing… But on a political front, its time to try and stir the pot and start some trouble. If these 3 parties are successful, they will gain recognition for their efforts.

If they are unsuccessful, it is nothing more than old newsworthy stories that have found themselves sitting in a blue box or blue recycling bag.

Is Canada’s government in trouble?

I hardly think so… So the new accord signed by the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Québécois, sounds like major news.. but the point is to do nothing more than show that Stephan Harper should know his limits.

Think of it..

If you were a party not in power, and you put every living day towards a career in Politics… you entire future is at stake.. Any opportunity that presented itself.. wouldn’t you consider making the moment all it could be?

There is nothing wrong with the newly elected Conservatives — but the 3 remaining opposition parties have found a way to stand out, be counted, and to threaten the House of Commons itself.

Before you start reading tag lines, and begin making your own decisions.. remember one thing..

Has Canada changed majorly for you (other than GST being lowered from 7% to 5% as Prime Minister Stephan Harper promised?)

Why should any of us support this new Coalition Government/Accord? It isn’t in our countrys interest to support anyone other than the newly elected Government that were voted in during our 2008 Election.

Gas prices, and oil

I live in Canada. I’ve bought Gasonline at a whopping $1.42 a litre. Today, I bought gas at 74 cents a litre. That’s a huge savings..

I’ve watched videos that explain what “peak oil” prices are..

Gasoline (gas) is suppose to increase and cost much more as demand increases vs supply..

BUT GUESS WHAT

No it doesn’t. If a hurricane is imminent, it goes higher. If its a Friday before the long weekend, it goes higher. If the gas station down the street raises their price, the rest follow.

I’ve seen diesel (which the truckers use) be more expensive that gasoline. But from what I’ve heard the thick diesel is actually a bi-product of manufacturing gasoline! So why would gas be cheaper than diesel, ever?

Same with propane…

Propane is a natural gas that is totally unrelated to gasonline (or fossil fuels).. SO..

When the gas price goes up, so does the propane price. Why is that? As the general public, we should demand answers to this escapade..  Gas, Diesel, Propane, all different commodities.. so why is it when the price of gas goes up, so does the rest of it?

Here’s the ironic part. If you buy a litre of oil it may cost you $4.29… but when gas prices are jumping all over the place at the pump, guess what? A litre of oil still costs $4.29 while it sits on the shelf.

Has no one released this phenomenon?