PenRei has moved to another site!

Hello all,
This is just a little announcement to… uh announce that PenRei will no longer be writing as a strugglebot in this blog, but instead in a new one. It will chronicle her journey as an indie and aspiring writer, while struggling all along the way. You can check it out here!

Stay in touch everyone! And keep on struggling with a smile! ūüėÄ


Ariane Moffatt

by PenRei

This post is LONG overdue.

Back in June, a few friends I went to see the awesomely-stellar Ariane Moffatt in concert at The Drake Underground. Who is she? Well fellow readers, I am about to introduce you to a fantastic artist that I’m sure you will grow to love as much as I have.

Ariane Moffatt and her band

Ariane Moffatt is a canadian singer-songwriter-musician with a cathardic and poignant¬†electro-pop sound – occasionally dipping into reggae-rock and drum and bass –¬†that will become an addiction. She’s been around the at least 10 years and has seduced French-Canada and France with her amazing sound. I wonder how it is that I just found out about her last winter. Oh how I’ve been missing out. She is a bilingual artist, which means that her songs are in both French and English, but don’t let one of the languages deter you from her; all of her songs have a rich and complete sound with that will evoke pleasant and¬†visceral sensations within you. There is both an intimacy and power in her voice that you can not deny. What’s even more impressive, she sounds even better live! Her range, strength, and huskiness are not generated by a computer during the music production process of her recordings. It’s the real deal!

Ariane Moffatt

Firstly, Moffatt delivers a killer concert. The drum and bass already present in her¬†songs is amplified to a point that you can feel the music vibrate within you. I swear, my heartbeat probably synched up with it after a while. It was another one of those concerts where you HAD to dance, and luckily, the audience didn’t seem to be effected by hipster-standing-judgement syndrome. That’s right people, dance to the beat of the drums!

Ariane Moffatt, her keyboardist and bassist, and her band

Amongst some of my favourite songs that she played were Mon corps, Rules of Legal Love, In Your Body, and Sourire sincère. All of these are on her latest album MA, released in February of 2012.

“MA” par Ariane Moffatt

Other noteable songs are Réverbère, Je veux tout, and Jeudi, 17 mai from her previous 2008 album Tous les sens (which you should also check out if you enjoy MA).

“Tous les sens” par Ariane Moffatt

She prepared a special treat for us with Jeudi, 17 mai (in English: Thursday May 17th). It has been 4 years since she originally wrote the song and the lyrics were related to events that happend on Thursday May 17th 2008. This year, May 17th fell on a Thursday as well, so Moffatt explained that it seemed appropriate to rewrite the lyrics in relation to the events of the date this year. Her song focused on the new and special temporary law imposed by the Jean Charest government in Qu√©bec to help control the growing protests in Qu√©bec (especially Montreal)¬†with regards to post-secondary education, but still allow the population to have a voice¬†and continue to protest. I won’t get into that whole political scenario since I have my own very strong opinions about it, and this is not what this post is about. Instead, here is the 2012 version of the song Jeudi, 17 mai.

I can’t tie up¬†this post without mentioning that she did an¬†UNFORGETTABLE¬†cover of the Kate Bush song¬†Running Up That Hill that puts Placebo’s version to shame (and I am a big fan of Placebo’s cover). Here’s hoping that she’ll record it on her next album.

Ariane Moffatt tours a lot in Québec, so check out her website for a concert near you. As for the rest of us, here are some dates:

  • Friday September 14th @ Sudbury, Amphith√©√Ętre Grace Hartman, 7:30pm
  • Monday November 12th @ Paris, Trabendo, 7:30pm
  • Friday November¬†23rd @ Chateauguay, Salle du Pavillon de l‚Äô√ģle, 8pm
  • Friday November 30th @ Waterloo, Maison de la culture de Waterloo, 8pm
  • Saturday December 1st @ Montreal, Th√©√Ętre Corona, 8pm (for any of you thinking of travelling to Montreal during this time)

Official website:
Artist’s blog:

Click on the link below to see her music video for the song In Your Body, one of my favourites (vimeo won’t let me insert it in my post). Vive la musique!

A Super Canadian Weekend

by PenRei

Warning: It’s about to get super Canadian in this post, because this is all about the Canadian weekend I had with good company, good food, good music, and nature (which is good in every aspect).

It started off Saturday morning with Nomes, Douggy Fresh and I heading over to the Evergreen Brickworks, as mentioned in Nomes’ previous post. It is such an eco-friendly park that there is not only a garbage and recycling bin, but also a compost bin. What a brilliant idea! I believe that the option of all three separate bins should be everywhere (and I mean across the world). I’ll admit that we Canadians can seem a little self-righteous when it comes to protecting the environment, but I am partly proud of it because our environment is an incredibly important part of everyone’s lives (despite how some may disagree).

We got there a little late to take in all of the festivities, but we were able to partake in a quick look at the various Farmer’s Market stalls (to be repeated in the near future). One stall that especially interested us was a honey stand. A very nice and cheerful young woman ran it. She sold organic honey, which is FAR superior to regular¬†store-bought¬†honey. I can’t remember when it happened, but one day I tried organic honey and I couldn’t go back. To be clear, ¬†I’m not a hardcore organic grocer, but when you can taste the difference, you get my vote. She had wildflower, lavender, cranberry, and cinnamon honey. Of course, I wanted to buy ALL OF THEM, but my wallet wasn’t burning a hole through my bag, so I opted for just one wildflower honey jar. The winning side, IT CAME IN A HONEY BEAR JAR!!! Douggy Fresh pointed out that if you bought various types of honey in honey bear jars, you could make yourself a drinking glass set. She often comes up with brilliant ideas like this out of nowhere. Here is a shot of Nomes and Douggy Fresh with our purchased honey (Nomes got the cinnamon one).

Afterwards, we heard the sweet call of music from The Honeyrunners. As you may know from my previous post, I’m a fan; a fan who is impatiently waiting for them to release their EP (dated to come out in October, in case you’re wondering). We were hoping to hear their original music, but they played a cover set that was still impressive. We also discovered that they have a new drummer with beats as killer as his awesome afro. Since I’ve already gone on and on about them before, I will simply leave you with a few photos I took of their gig and you can imagine the fun time we had.

Starving Artist Jar

Also, here is a photo of them with my jar of honey. After all, I bought a jar of honey than saw The Honeyrunners. How could I not?

The Honeyrunners with my jar of honey

Since it was Douggy Fresh’s first time at the Evergreen Brickworks (and Nomes and I are nature junkies) we had to take a walk around the nature park behind the buildings. It was such a beautiful day. Words can not describe the amazing weather we had, so instead I will leave you with this picture.

On Sunday, it was Canada Day… which to anyone from Ottawa, is a BIG DEAL!!! Even when other people in your city aren’t huge into partying it up, Ottawa people will make their own party.

The three of us started off with a Pride brunch at Johnny Be Good’s apartment. He has a balcony that overlooks Yonge street, hence, the perfect place to both watch the parade and have access to running water, thus keeping at bay dehydration from heat.

Pride Flowers

I’ll start off by saying there was A LOT of bacon. There was so much bacon, that I should show you this photo I took, because you wouldn’t believe me otherwise. There are some sausages in there, but it was about 83% bacon.

Bacon Mountain

Mountain of bacon

It seemed perfect to start Canada Day with a Pride brunch. After all, Canada is awesome with its legal rights, gay marriage and openness to allow same sex couples live full and happy lives out in the open, without shame. I wish I could say that this was everywhere in Canada, but sadly, there are still some small pockets that are evolving in their mentalities. We had an awesome time, eating brunch, meeting new people while catching up with good friends, and dancing to music for 3 hours.

Afterwards, we had to leave the party to continue our Canada Day festivities. Nomes went off to celebrate a friend’s birthday party, so we said our temporary goodbyes.

In the evening, Douggy Fresh and I headed down to the Harbourfront centre. The sunset was GORGEOUS. We had to take a moment to just absorb the pinks, blues, and purples in the sky, the gentle cooling breeze, and the sound of moving water. If you live in Toronto and haven’t experienced the sunset at Harbourfront, I suggest you put it on your list of things to do during your next weekend.

We were primarily there for a free live concert of The Hidden Cameras. They are a 9 piece independent Canadian band that plays an interesting and playful mix of folk, pop, progressive, and rock. I didn’t take pictures of this event since the lighting wasn’t ideal for the type of lens I have on my camera, but I believe that this music video will give you a sufficient idea of how good they are. If you are a fan of Broken Social Scene and other Arts & Crafts bands, I know that you will love The Hidden Cameras. For those of you who are impatient. The song starts around 1:30.

I guess that’s it. HAPPY BELATED CANADA DAY!!!!

Up next, the 4th of July in Washington DC. It’s gonna be CRAZY!

Hooker Sheets and Airport Seats

by PenRei

Last weekend, I was forced to live an experience I wish to never repeat EVER again. It is an experience that has now carved deep into my soul the conviction that Air Canada is amongst the worst airlines from a first world country. It is a long and painful story, yet I have been told it’s a good one to hear, so get ready for a very wordy post.

Between June 17th and June 22nd, I was in Melville, New York, to be trained on an animation and design program used at my job. It was well worth it since this specific program had a tendency of making me feel stupid at my own job. Now, I won’t feel so pathetically slow when I’m asked to design or animate something. Hooray! The training week went well, but it was the departure that frustrated me to the point of tears.

Friday June 22nd
I arrive at Laguardia Airport, check in my luggage, take a seat in the lounge-waiting area. My plane doesn’t take off until 4:30pm, so I have plenty of time to read and watch stuff on my laptop until the plane gets here. I might even make it in time for Am√©lie et les singes bleus and Ariane Moffatt,¬†who¬†are playing a free concert¬†at Francof√™te. Plus, I’ll also get enough sleep to get to work the next day (Saturday) for the kids show I’m teching on.

One of the earlier flights gets cancelled. That’s weird, but at least it’s not mine. Sit tight, everything is going to be okay.

More flights are getting cancelled. Okay, this is weird, but mine isn’t. It’s just delayed… until 6pm. I’ll miss Am√©lie et les singes bleus, but at least I’ll still get there in time for Ariane Moffatt!

More and more flight’s are being delayed. What’s going on?

It’s official: they’re cancelling flights one by one every 30 minutes. Ugh! Now mine is only delayed until 6:45pm. Come on! Don’t cancel my flight! A migraine is starting to settle in.

A massive lineup of passengers with cancelled flights are filed one by one in front of the Air Canada travel agents desk. They are hoping to book a flight for the next day as quickly as possible to get out. It looks like at least a 1.5 hour wait. Yikes! I am now looking after a nice canadian woman’s heavy carry on while she’s in line. She told me that if my plane gets cancelled that I can just bring her bags to her then.

My flight is now delayed until 7pm. A bunch of flights around mine are being cancelled. This doesn’t look good for me.

It’s official: my flight is now cancelled! Air Canada makes an announcement that those who recently had cancelled flights shouldn’t even bother waiting in line. They should call a 1-800 number and book with an agent over the phone. This isn’t good! I immediately bring the nice lady’s luggage to her. She’s about 4 people away from talking to an agent. As a thank you, she tells me to cut in with her; she feels bad for me. I thank her profusely! It may not have been the most honest thing, but in times of great frustration, I’ll take what I can get. My brain has now gone into focussed mode. Step 1: Tell my boss. I turn on my phone to call my supervisors to let them know what’s happened. Phone call with scheduling supervisor goes as follows:
Me: Hi (name)!
Super: Hi PenRei! How are you? (she’s clearly puzzled since why would I be calling her on a Friday evening.)
Me: I’ve been better. My flight back to Toronto has just been cancelled and I’m stranded in New York.
Super: Oh no that’s terrible. Thanks for letting me know.
(Moment of silence, I’m guessing she still doesn’t entirely know why I’m calling her.)
Me: Uh, (name), I am suppose to work the kid’s show tomorrow at Francof√™te.
Super: … OH SHIT!
Me: Yeah!
Super: Okay, don’t worry PenRei. I’ll find someone to replace you. Just take care of yourself.
Me: Um… also, I have the dvd’s with all of the media. So the team will either have to use the P2 player or go through the back ups.
Super: Okay, I’ll make this work. Thanks for letting me know. Don’t worry about any of it. I’ll figure it all out.
(We say goodbye and I am glad to have such a nice and sympathetic scheduling supervisor.)
I call the technical director of the show and leave him a voicemail with what’s going on. I then proceed to call my father, who is expecting a message when I’m back in Canada, and text the friends I am meeting up with at the concert to let them know that I won’t be able to make it.
Step 1 accomplished!

Step 2: Book my flight. I get to a travel agent. They are clearly swamped with frustrated and angry customers, so I’m doing my best to stay calm and carry on. While she’s helping me, she’s also talking to someone on the phone and directing an agent to help a woman in a wheelchair. Such little dialogue is exchanged between us that at one point I’m wondering if she’s helping me at all. I decide to not be an impatient customer and trust that she’s doing her job. She tells me the earliest flight she can get me on is at 6:30pm the next day. With no better option, I take it. She makes the changes, hands me the booking information and explains that they will be booking larger planes on Saturday, so I could show up early and maybe get squeezed into an earlier flight. I thank her. Step 2 accomplished!
Lastly, Air Canada isn’t providing anyone with any accommodation information. I’m worried since Step 3 is finding a hotel room. It looks like I’m on my own. Frustrated by their lack of customer service, I leave.

Both the nice lady and I have our flights for the next day. Now for Step 3: Find a hotel room for the night. The nice lady continues her kindness and allows me to use her laptop (with internet access) to find and book a hotel. I go to and scour the website for hotels nearby. Everything is fully booked! Why am I not surprised? There are probably close to 1,000 people now stranded in New York (Air Canada flights from JFK have also been cancelled). There is an option for me to return to Long Island, but the taxi ride is so long and expensive that I’d rather find something nearby. I look for hotels in Manhattan, crossing my fingers that there will be at least one. Lucky for me, there is one hotel who’s price range fits within my work’s requirements (140$ a night) and there are only 2 rooms left. I book it without hesitation. My confirmation is sent to my email and everything looks good. The hotel is even listed as having free WiFi. Necessary Bonus! The nice lady and I separate, wishing each other good luck. Step 4: Collect my suitcase from baggage claim.

I’m waiting at baggage claim for my suitcase. As soon as I’ll get it, I’ll be off and heading to my hotel. My migraine has now accelerated to full-pain mode and all I can think about is getting some food in my system and then lying down on a bed with all the lights turned off. Come on suitcase, show your face!

The same 20 suitcases are just repeatedly spinning around in a circle. We’re about 60 people all wondering what’s going on. Where is our luggage? The conveyor belt is only about 2/3rd full. A man goes over to an airport employee and asks why there’s no new luggage. The employee says that the conveyor belt is full (not true) and they are waiting for the luggage to be claimed before putting anything new on. Um, thanks for telling us earlier! (sigh) The same man, who I found out to be Canadian (yes, Canadians are nice), puts a smile on his face and starts taking suitcases off one by one and putting them into a pile in the middle. Two others help out! I want help, but the pain in my head is so intense that I can barely stand up straight. Eventually, new suitcases begin to appear and mine finally shows up. Step 4: accomplished! Step 5: Get my ass over to my hotel.

There is a long lineup outside for a taxicab. What else can I do but take a spot in line and wait for my turn! I plant myself behind someone, massaging my temples to help alleviate some of the agony. My stomach is starting to eat itself, adding to the overall physical pain I am dealing with.

There are only 5 people in front of me. Awesome! We’re almost there. I distract myself by watching others walk out of the airport and find a place in line. I spot the nice lady from before and flag her down. She is also going to a hotel in Manhattan, so I tell her to join me in the line and split a cab. This time she is thanking me and comments that we make a good team. I am happy to have someone to share this experience with. I push back my migraine to keep a positive attitude about the situation like her. Soon, it’s our turn and we jump in a cab. During the ride, we find out that her hotel is only 5 blocks from mine. I tell her not to worry about the cab fare since my work will reimburse me and we’re so close to each other anyway. She thanks me again for the free cab ride. Before being dropped off, she extends an invitation for me to join her mother (who is still at JFK waiting for her luggage) and her for dinner. I thank her, but I am so hungry that I can’t wait another hour to eat. She says she understands and we part ways.

I get to my hotel. It’s the Pennsylvania Hotel near Times Square. There’s a diner called Lindy’s right downstairs and I note it as a place to grab some diner. I check in and make my way up to my room, incredibly happy to finally lie down. Unfortunately, the hotel room is HORRIBLE! To anyone venturing to Manhattan, DO NOT STAY IN THE PENNSYLVANIA HOTEL!!!! If I knew this would have been the state of the room, I might have taken my chances sleeping at the airport.
The carpet was dirty and made me afraid to take off my shoes.
The washrooms were cleaner at the airport than at the hotel.
The bedsheets had stains on them.
The hotel smelled like it wasn’t aired out in a decade; there was an unpleasant mix of cigarettes, dust, alcohol, bleach, and old carpet.
On top of that, there was no WiFi as promised. I asked the hotel and they said that there was none in the hotel rooms, only in the lobby, and you had to pay 10$ to get access. I showed them my booking clearly specifying “free WiFi” the clerk simply said “what do you want me to say? It’s not true.” Uh, how about the minimum customer service you could offer? Such as giving me at least free WiFi in the lobby for the evening!
Unable to stall my hunger, I went to the dinner. I was completely unprepared for the prices on the menu. The only thing I could afford within my work per-diems was a chicken sandwich and frozen vegetables on the side. Safe to say, not particularly appetizing and not worth the 22$ I gave them.

I’m back in my room with my take out container. ¬†I swallow an Advil and wait for its effects to make their way to my neck and brain while very slowly eating (I occasionally get severe nausea if my migraine is really bad). Now that I have a flight for the next day, a roof over my head, and some food in my stomach, my head steps out of ubber-focussed mode and for the first time in hours, I let everything sink in. Feeling incredibly lonely, after being disconnected from all of my friends and family in Canada for a week, I call my dad and ask him to call me through the hotel phone number so we can talk. He does and after a few tears and telling him everything that has happened, I finally begin to feel better.

After talking to my dad and watching an episode of The X-Files. I decide it’s time to go to bed. Now I’m not too sure what to do. The bed is so disgusting that I’m worried I might get crabs (that’s how bad it was), but the air conditioner (which I can’t control) is pushing too much cold air. I decide to sleep in my clothes underneath one blanket. Before falling asleep, I pray that there are no bed bugs. I don’t need more stress after this.

Saturday June 23rd
I wake up to the sounds of some very loud Portuguese  tourists next to me. Impossible to go back to sleep. I watch another episode of X-Files on my laptop while eating the other half of my sandwich from the previous night.

I can’t stay in my room for much longer. The smell and the grossness is getting to me. I’d like to go to the Metropolitan Museum, but without internet, I have no idea where it is or when they open. Also, I have to check out at noon, most likely not giving me a lot of time. I opt for just walking around Times Square. In the process, I stop by Starbucks and buy some breakfast (the only place that will fit within my per-diems). I walk, browse through stores, and try to just keep a positive attitude despite my single desire to go home.

The streets of Manhattan are getting too crowded for my taste, so I decide that it’s time for me to check out. I do so and go outside to catch a cab. I don’t have any American money in small bills, so I decide to call a cab myself and not ask for help from the bell boy. As my arm stretches up in the air at an upcoming cab, the bell boy jumps in front of me and does the same. I don’t understand what’s going on. Is he hailing a cab for somebody else? Turns out he was hailing it for me… even though I had already done that for myself. He opens the door for me and I get in. I close the door and then he yells at me “What about my tip?” I’m shocked! I never asked for his help, and all he did was hail a cab I already had. I just give him an expression saying “why would I tip you if I didn’t even want your help?”. He decides to yell at me some more through the car window and I ask the taxi driver to get me to LaGuardia.

I get to the airport and am thankful that I didn’t have a driver who wanted to talk to me. That last scene with the bellboy was just enough to set me back in my lonely mood from the previous night. I admit, I cried a bit in the cab. I walk into the Air Canada check-in station and the first nice thing happens to me all day.
I don’t want to check-in at the kiosks in the hopes of getting an earlier flight, but I couldn’t find the regular check-in counter, just the baggage line. I walk up to the woman at the business class check-in since she has no one in line and ask her where I’m suppose to go. She points to the baggage check-in counter. I sigh and am about to turn around, but she stops me and says “I can ring you through here, I don’t have anyone in line”. I am dumbfounded! Is this even real? She asks to see my passport. It is real! Friendly service from Air Canada? I decide not to question it too much and just go with it. She rings me through and says that there are seats available on the 3:30pm flight. I accept without hesitation. She also says that she can check my suitcase right there. She hands me my boarding pass and I thank her profusely. There may have even been a tear of joy.

I am back in the waiting-lounge area. Boarding for my flight starts at 2:55pm and takeoff is 3:30pm. Renewed with hope, I am convinced that today is the day that I am going. I also know that if I have to repeat this nightmare again, I might just breakdown in the airport. But no, I choose to try and stay positive! If all goes well, I’ll be back in my apartment around 6pm and will make it to Running Man’s (besty Douggy Fresh’s boyfriend) birthday party.

A later flight is delayed. Worry begins to sink in. No! I try to be positive. I will not give up hope!

An airplane docks in gate 7. My flight is departing from gate 7. That must be the plane! HOORAY! I’m going home! I continue to read my book while keeping my ears open for any announcements.

They’ve begun boarding the plane. This is happening! This is actually happening!

Everyone has boarded the plane. It’s just a matter of minutes before we take off. I can already breathe the fresh Canadian Air and see all the trees and nature again. (That’s right, I was so deprived of it that TORONTO felt like nature). I jumpstart my return to Canada by watching a NFB documentary called Cry of the Wild about wolves.

We still haven’t taken off. What’s going on?

Oh no! They’re going to ask us to get off the plane and cancel the flight. Please don’t let it be!¬†Please don’t let it be!¬†Please don’t let it be!

The captain over the intercom: “Sorry to have kept you waiting folks. We initially didn’t have any staff to put the luggage on the plane, so we were just waiting on that. Soon we’ll be closing the cargo doors and we should be ready for takeoff any minute.”
Seriously! THAT was the hold up! For crying out loud, I think most of the people on this plane would have gone out themselves to put their luggage on the plane. Air Canada, you’re disorganized ways are bringing me nothing but GRIEF!

The captain: “Thank you for waiting folks. We have now closed the cargo doors and are waiting for our turn to takeoff. It shouldn’t be much longer.”
By that do you mean 10 minutes? 15 minutes? I can handle 15 minutes.

I can’t take it anymore! What’s the holdup! Please just get me home!!!!!!

The plane is moving. Wait, the plane is moving? Yes, it is! The plane is MOVING! YES! Finally, FINALLY I can go home. There’s no way they would cancel the plane now. Shh, no, don’t say that. You’ll jinx it! Don’t say anything until you are past customs in Canada. (Can you see the slow degradation of my sanity by now?). The plane takes off. Now it feels real.

We land in Canada. Oh sweet Canadian soil! You are amazing and I love you so much. I’m soooo sorry that I left you for so long!

I pass customs. Now I really am in Canada. There’s nothing that they can do make me go back to LaGuardia. Oh LaGuardia and Air Canada, how I despise you completely!

I’m home! I’M REALLY HOME! My tiny bachelor apartment has never looked so wonderful. My neighbourhood, with a strange mix of immigrant families and drug-dealers, has never looked so welcoming. The trees outside have never been greener. Everything is WONDERFUL! I proceed to spend my evening doing my laundry (and putting everything in the dryer in case of bed bugs), buying some well-deserved sushi for dinner, skyping with my family, and reading. I told Running Man that I couldn’t make it to his birthday party. If I really wanted to, I might have made it for 10pm. I found out the next day that the party had pretty much winded down by then.

I slip under the covers of my bed and prepare for sleep. Before closing my eyes, I pray with all the energy I have left that I will not wake up tomorrow morning back in that horrible hotel room. If this whole day was just a dream, I would breakdown in that hotel right then and there.

Sunday June 24th
I wake up. I’m still in my apartment! Now it feels over.

And there you have it! 3,517 words later, the story is over. Congratulations to you if you made it to the end. This must be the longest post I’ve written so far. Despite my desperate need to leave the states by the end, I’m excited to return and visit my dear friend Gretchen in Washing DC and West Falls Church. I’ll also be taking Porter this time, an airline I have taken often in the last year and always had a great experience with. I am now convinced to ¬†use Porter whenever possible and avoid Air Canada at all costs.

Air Canada Sucks

Are You Insane Enough For Insanity?

by PenRei

Back in early June, my friend RoboMon, massage therapist and fitness enthusiast, introduced me to Insanity. She texted me one afternoon asking me if “I’d like to join her for Insanity”. I texted back saying “sure”, and then five minutes later with “What’s insanity?”. Knowing RoboMon, I was positive that she wasn’t referring to the the abnormal mental state associated with strange behavioral patterns… but still, it’s good to know what you’re getting into. She then told me it was a series of workout videos that she wanted to try. Sounded safe enough! Plus, ever since the end of the holidays, I have been trying to get back to my regular weight. It’s been a challenge that at many times makes me wonder why I even bother trying.

By mid-May, I was FINALLY starting to see some progress in my weightloss. It took a whole 5 months of exercising 4 times a week and changing my diet, but it finally happened. My potbelly was shrinking and very slowly starting to flatten out. My bootie didn’t feel as tight in my jeans anymore –¬†although I have accepted that it will always be oversized for a half-asian. It’s hard to keep track fo your progress when you don’t weigh yourself or keep track of your measurements, but as previously mentioned, I’m choosing to judge my weight based on how I feel about the way I look. For those of you who need a number description, in December I was a size 10. Now, I’m nearly a size 8 (so so close, as in I can fit in it, but there are some specific areas that are a little tight). All of this to say that¬†after seeing some of my weight shed off, I was motivated to try different types of exercises.

After trying the Fit Test and the first workout video (Plyometric cardio), I was hooked. I’m a fan of exercise routines that don’t require me to buy accessories (except yoga matts, those I accept). I think this¬†comes from my days of competitive dancing –¬†I’ve learned how to use the weight of my body in specific positions for exercising. Separately, the various exercises in Insanity aren’t that difficult (except for pushups, I SUCK at those), but when done repetitively and in sequence, you can feel your heart beating while the sweat drips down your neck.

Beach Body Insanity contains approximately 14 videos, comprised of a fit test, cardio workouts (both in intervals and marathon style), ab workouts, resistance training, and recovery (but don’t be fooled, squatting for 2 minutes at a time is part of recovery). The workouts are hard! Even the people in the video have trouble finishing them and are dead on the floor.

What I really like about Insanity is that in the videos, Shaun T mostly talks about personal goals and progress, not about weight. I for one prefer this form of encouragement, because it prevents me from focussing on my physical appearance, but more on how far I can push myself. To me, knowing that I started with only 7 half push-ups in 1 minute and am now up to 10 real push ups is something to feel good about. I also appreciate that Shaun T repeats the following statements:
1) Take a break when you need it (he even tells people in the video to stop and take a break)
2) Stay hydrated, drink water (water breaks are included and recommended)
3) Don’t compromise form over speed (despite the exercises going faster and faster, it’s more important to do it right than pick up the tempo)

I haven’t been following the program on a daily basis (nor have I adoted the nutrition guide), but I can honestly say¬†that I have felt a difference in myself. When I first started, I couldn’t complete the first workout video. By the end of the second week, I was able to do everything from beginning to end. Sure, I was still dead afterwards, but it was a good and accomplished kind of dead. Walking up 6 flights of stairs is easy now, versus when I would get winded by the 4th.

All in all, I have thoroughly been enjoying Shaun T’s Beach Body Insanity workouts and recommend it to anyone who is looking to strengthen their cardio (or even shed a few pounds). Douggy Fresh is already planning on giving it a try. I will get¬†Nomes hooked to it this weekend. Next week, I’m heading over to Falls Church in the US. Watch out Gretchen! You better be ready for the Insanity that’s about to come your way!

Beach Body Insanity Sneak Peak

Homemade Onion Pancakes… Now With Less Junk!

by PenRei

I have a problem.

I LOVE green onion pancakes. They are SO delicious! I can eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a snack. I usually buy them frozen from T&T since they’re easy to fry up when you have a strong craving or just need to eat something and soon. There is one major problem: at 13.5% of my daily fat intake, 22% of salt, and a whopping 414 calories each, well… let’s just say they don’t like me back. But still, I must believe that somewhere out there is a solution to this conundrum: continue occasionally eating onion pancakes without sacrificing my health and figure.

The answer was so obvious that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t found it earlier: make them from scratch! After all, once upon a time, they didn’t come from the frozen section of the grocery store, but from your Chinese mother’s hands in the kitchen. It was time that I continued my love for green onion pancakes without compromising my figure.


  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 3-4 stalks of long green onions
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (if you’d like to add flavour, but it’s not necessary)
Mix the salt and flour into a large bowl.
Add the hot water two tablespoons at a time while mixing.
Mix until it becomes a dough. Drop the spoon! It’s time to get your hands dirty. Knead that dough!
Once the dough is soft and even (leave no clumps of flour behind!), ball it up, place it in the bowl, and cover it with a damp towel. Let it sit between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Separate the dough into lime-sized balls. I was able to make 10 with my dough.

Roll out the dough as flat as possible. It’s very thick, so be prepared to use those arms muscles (which I don’t have). A rolling pin comes in really handy here!

Sprinkle on the green onions (and sesame seeds if desired). Squish the green onions into the dough to lodge them into place and squeeze out some of its juices to help seep it into the dough while cooking.


Roll back up into a ball.

For maximum tasting experience, repeat the last two steps. Roll out, sprinkle green onions, squish in, roll into ball.

Flatten out your pancake! The thinner the better (about 4 inches across)! That thick dough can be mighty difficult to cook all the way through if you leave it too thick.

Cook! With olive oil in a frying pan at medium heat. Flip occasionally.


Cook until both sides are slightly golden and solid.

Are you ready now? It’s time to eat!



HOORAY! That is one stamp of approval I can trust!

So, to recap what we talked about at the top, the frozen onion pancakes I buy at T&T have 414 calories each, while the homemade version only has 130 calories. Surprisingly, even though the homemade ones are smaller, they are MUCH more filling than the store bought ones. Success! Less calories for more hunger satisfaction! I brought one as a snack to work this week and it kept me surprisingly full for 3 hours before lunchtime.

As an added bonus, I know everything that went into my food, versus questioning half of the ingredients on the package. Preservative free!



Making Truffles with Chocolate Tales

by PenRei

A little while ago, bestie Douggy Fresh and I participated in a truffle making workshop offered by Chocolate Tales. We heard about it a few months ago when a Groupon emailed showed up in both of our inboxes. “Learn to make chocolate and eat it after? Uh… YES!” The answer was obvious.

Chocolate Tales

All in all, it was a good experience. I would have liked to have gotten my hands a little dirtier and gone as far as crush the beans myself, but that’s just me. The website clearly stated that it was a truffle making workshop. Plus, considering that I have never made any form of chocolate in my LIFE, I was most likely over-reaching in my expectations. (I don’t count melting baking chocolate.)

The workshop was comprised of 3 sections: learning, making, eating. I think we all know which part was decidely favoured by PenRei and Douggy Fresh (cough:: eating ::cough), but that does not undermine the other 3 sections.


We had the pleasure of having a workshop lead by David, the chocolatier du jour! He didn’t have a chef’s hat, but that can be forgiven since I don’t know if chocolatiers wear those hats. David was very articulate and explained the process from beans to chocolate in a very charismatic way. Honestly, if I had the money, I wouldn’t mind following a lesson on how to make chocolate from scratch with¬†him. Everybody wishes that at least one of their high school teachers was more charismatic… like David!

Anyway, stuff that I learned?

Did you know that cocoa beans are actually white and not brown? I had NO idea. When you open the pod collected from the tree, you’ll see white beans at the centre. CRAZY!

Cocoa Pod

Cocoa Pod

This also led to a fascinating discovery about white chocolate. When I was a kid, I thought, “chocolate is brown and milk is white, so white chocolate must be chocolate with a lot of milk”. Despite the fact that this logic didn’t make sense as I grew up, I didn’t question it too much since nothing in my life had proven otherwise. UNTIL NOW! ¬†White chocolate does not contain cocoa solids (it was separated from its brown counterparts), but is instead just cocoa butter, the fattiest, creamiest, and richest part of cocoa. Chocolatier Dave called it “the junk food of the chocolate world”. And so it is, with its delicious addictive properties. Yum yum!

Something else I learned about chocolate is that it is made up of 4 unstable molecules and 1 stable molecule. I’m not talking unstable to the point of explosion, but in the sense of culinary cuisine (don’t ask me more than that, I’m guessing it has to do with taste, texture, and combining in the end). To help turn the 4 unstable into the 1 stable, you have to heat your chocolate (always heat in a metal bowl over boiling water to heat evenly and avoid burning), pour 2/3 onto a slab of granite (granite always stays at 10 degrees celsius below room temperature) and mix it using a scraper that can be found at your local Home Depot or Canadian Tire (but please wash it first!). By using the scraper to mix the chocolate over the slab or granite, the mix between cold and hot creates a “chemical drama” (in Dave’s words) that we can’t see, but that stabilizes the molecules.

Also, random fact for you, cocoa and cacao are the same thing. It’s just different pronounciations of the same word… in case anyone was wondering.

Health benefits of chocolate:

  • Cocoa contains high levels of flavonoids, which are beneficial to your cardiovascular system. Flavonoids are naturally bitter, so the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you.
  • Continuing with your cardiovascular system, it also improves your blood vessel function and lowers blood pressure. The flavonoids slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the bad one we all try to fight or deny). It’s when LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized that it can clog your blood vessels.
  • Chocolate contains antioxidants, which strengthen your immune system to combat free radicals (molecules responsible for aging and tissue damage) in your body.

History of chocolate:

  • History says that chocolate started in Latin America where the cacao trees grow naturally. The Olmec, living in southeast Mexico around 1000 BC, called it “kakawa”. I think you can see the similarity to our “cacao”.
  • Mayans who inhabited the same general area between 250-900 AD also ate chocolate. Mayans used cacao beans as currency in a trading culture. “I’ll give you 2 rabbits for 6 cacao beans.” Unfortunately, slaves cost a mere 9 beans. Luckily, this is not the case anymore. Boo to slavery!
  • Mayans didn’t eat chocolate, but drank it. ¬†Essentially, they had thick hot chocolate for many religious rituals, such as weddings. They didn’t add sugar though, so it was a lot more bitter than the hot chocolate we know today.
  • Since cacao beans were considered currency, only the rich, who had them in abundance, ate chocolate. The rest of the population used it as money. After all, if you were poor, would you eat your money?
  • After the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, they continued the tradition of drinking chocolate. The Aztecs believed that the god Quetzalcoatl brought chocolate down to earth to share it with man. Quetzalcoatl was then cast out of paradise, for only the gods were allowed to drink chocolate.
  • In 1519, Cortez (a Spanish conquistador) tried hot chocolate, but disliked it for its extreme bitterness. With all of the conquering and ruling happening around the area, the Spanish eventually discovered the Caribbean islands where sugar cane grew. One guy decided to mix the two together and then BAM! instant awesomeness happened.
  • It wasn’t until the 1850s that an Englishman named Joseph Fry created the world’s first solid chocolate by adding more cocoa butter to the mixture instead of hot water.
  • 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle (you know which chocolate company he founded) added condensed milk to solid chocolate, creating the milk chocolate bar.
  • 1879, Rudolphe Lindt (another name dropped, boom!) invented a machine called the conch, which rotated and mixed the chocolate into a perfectly smooth consistency. Remember the hot chocolate mixed on a cold granite slab with a scraper? Think that but with a robot doing it! Okay, not a robot, just a machine. Still a big deal!
  • 1907, Milton Hershey (you all know this guy) had a factory that produced 33 million Hershey kisses per day. That’s a lot of kisses!
  • Today, over 3 billion tons of cacao supplies a 35 billion dollar chocolate industry.


There isn’t much for me to say in this section. The hands on portion of the workshop is something more so experience. Essentially, we made our own truffles by cutting or rolling the ganache block we got into the desired shapes, dipping them in delicious milk chocolate, and decorating them with white chocolate, coconut shavings and cocoa power. For practice, we got to use marshmallows to fine tune those… uh… natural?… skills we came into the workshop with. Everything was edible and VERY yummy. Chocolate Tales even provided us with lava cakes for us to decorate. They had a small oven with them to cook so the cakes would be ready by the end of the workshop.


What do you want me to say? It’s clearly the best part, but unfortunately the shortest one. I miss chocolate! *tear*

chocolate tales truffles

chocolate tales truffles

Chocolate Tales doesn’t just do open workshops to the public. They also do corporate events, kids parties and bridal showers. I know what I’ll be planning for Douggy Fresh’s bridal shower when the day comes. Knowing her, you won’t have to bring a gift, just give her all of your chocolate at the end. Ahahaha! I unfortunately found the initial price (about 70$ per person) to be quite high, but the Groupon deal I got meant that I only had to put in 37$ for the 90 minute experience. I didn’t feel that the workshop was worth 70$ (for 70$, I’d want to grind my own cocoa beans), but if you can find a Groupon deal or a group discount price, it’s a fun experience where you get to learn a lot about one of your food best friends: chocolate.


For more information, visit their website: or contact them at 1-800-905-2858. Chocolate Tales can provide services and workshops at any location between Ajax to Niagara.

The Honeyrunners and TimeGiant

by PenRei

Thursday night, Nomes and I had the pleasure to rock out to two great independent bands at Toronto’s Rivoli venue. Good times were definitely had; so good in fact that we ended up staying until 1:15am. It was quite the feat considering that I had to be at work for 8:30am and Nomes had a dance class at 8am. But I admit, IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!

I would like to start by explaining that this rock ‘n roll show was of, what I find in Toronto, to be a rare kind. Most independent music shows I’ve been to consist of the type of music where you sit or stand and just listen. Of course, there are a few exceptions (like The Balconies, which you should absolutely check out if you haven’t already), but there are few.

I will start with The Honeyrunners. This four piece rock band won my heart over the evening of Friday May 4th at the Hard Rock Cafe. First of all, the lead singer and keyboardist, Dan, came on stage barefoot. I immediately knew that this would be a good show. As soon as the first guitar riff happened, I knew what I was in for. The Honeyrunners are influenced by both American and British rock from the 70’s: an era of amazing music. Throughout their set, I could hear influences from great bands such as Boston, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Lynyrd Skynyrd… but successfully never sounding exactly like these previous big name bands. In short, The Honeyrunners know where their music is coming from while managing to build their own distinct sound. There wasn’t a single song that I found weak or didn’t enjoy, but they had a song based around the Faustian myth of Robert Johnson (unfortunately, I can’t recall the title, but it has the word “devil”) that was pure GOLD. I highly suggest checking them out when you have the chance. Here is a list of some of their upcoming shows in Toronto from the band’s website:

  • May 26th at the El Mocambo with Steve Lewin
  • June 23rd at Cherry Cola’s @ 9pm
  • June 30th at the Evergreen Brickworks from 10am to 1pm for FREE

On a more personal level, Nomes and I noticed that there is a condition spreading across spectators in Toronto. It’s called “not-dancing-because-I’m-a-judgmental-hipster-who-is-too-cool-to-be-judged-by-others”. For some odd reason, even when there is a great concert with danceable rock music, Torontonians just don’t dance anymore. When did dancing at a rock concert become uncool? At the beginning of the show, Nomes and I noticed that we were the only ones who were moving out booty. We had one of our telepathic short conversations wondering if we ended up looking like drunk idiots, or real fans of the music. We thus decided “this music is awesome and it makes me want to dance, so I’m going to dance and all you judgers be darned”. In case you haven’t noticed yet, Nomes and I aren’t afraid to make complete fools of ourselves. Luckily, we got to speak to Dan, the lead singer, at the very end of the night. He said that half of the music they wrote was so that people could dance to it and he was glad to know that there were at least two people that night rocking out. So the next time you go out to a concert and you feel a strange sensation in you to move it, listen and DO IT. Just keep it on a non-annoying-non-harassing level to the fellow spectators around you.

Here’s a YouTube clip with two of The Honeyrunners songs. Hope you enjoy!

Official website:

Now, onto TIMEGIANT! That’s right, they rocked so hard that I chose to write their name in all caps (actual spelling is TimeGiant). Their 50 minute set felt like an adrenaline-laced-gasoline-on-fire shot straight into my brain resulting in awesome overdrive! These musicians are rockers in the truest sense; I like to describe them as the type of guys who came out of the womb holding guitars and drumsticks.

Their heavy progressive rock was reminiscent of the 70’s rock music and Nomes I and found it impossible to stand still and just watch (although others further back looked like statues… how could you when THAT is on stage right in front of your face?!). Not only was the music good, but their sound was tight, polished, and well rehearsed. As I told Tyrone, the singer, guitarist, and saxophone player (that’s right, you read it clearly, saxophone in heavy rock = amazing!), it is so refreshing to hear in a day and age full of acoustic indie music that there are still bands that can go onstage, rock out, and really deliver a show. Long hair and mustaches have never been cooler!

Here’s a list of some of their upcoming concerts:

  • May 12th in Hamilton Ontario at The Underground @ 8pm
  • July 5th in Owen Sound Ontario at The Harb @8pm
  • July 6th in Toronto Ontario at The Horseshoe Tavern @8pm

Check out this video from their performance at the Rivoli from Thursday evening. (Review from T Mak World and original videos can be found here.)

Also, check out this acoustic version of their song Temple In the Sky.

Official website:

Now go forth legion of music lovers and ROCK ON!

The Hunger Games: Movie Review

by PenRei

On Tuesday night, besty¬†Douggy Fresh took me to the theaters for a belated Christmas present: The Hunger Games movie. In case any of you forgot or didn’t know that I LOVED the first book of the trilogy, you can check out my book review here. I figured since I reviewed the books, I may as well review the movie.

Douggy Fresh and I waited for the insane wave of tweens to have their movie experience first. The last thing I wanted was to hear a bunch of teenage hormone filled girls gasp every time Josh Hutcherson appeared on-screen, followed by their own running commentaries. It usually ends with me fantasizing punching them repeatedly in the back of the head.

Now, onto the review!

The Hunger GamesI will start by stating that this is a GOOD movie. It’s not a cinematic masterpiece that will propel moviemaking in a different direction: it’s a solid piece of entertainment. The running length is 2.5 hours and it didn’t feel too long. The director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit and¬†Pleasantville) and screenwriter Billy Ray took some liberties in the film, but they were all appropriate and helped to:

a) propel the story of the world¬†forward instead of just Katniss’
b) share important information with the audience that was originally shared in narration
c) create a pacing appropriate for a film

Movies and books are not the same thing. They are both different forms of storytelling, with their own narrative style, pacing, structure,¬†and expression. Straight adaptations from the books usually don’t come across very well. Therefor, it’s important to know what to cut from a film and what to change. Let’s look at the three points I listed above.

A) propel the story of the world
The book is written in first person narrative (which means it’s through Katniss’ perspective with the use of “I”). There are few movies and tv shows that can successfully use that narrative form; the only one I can think of is the show¬†Dexter, and even that isn’t purely first person narrative. The team of The Hunger Games¬†went with an omnipresent narrator that switched between Katniss, Haymitch, Seneca Crane, and the¬†population of Panhem. This allowed the viewers to see more than what Katniss¬†was going through, placing her actions in the bigger picture of what was happening in the world of the film (the beginning of the resistance). With regards to Haymitch, we witnessed the work that he did to try to¬†save Katniss¬†and Peeta, giving us more depth to his character.¬†Don’t get me wrong, I loved the first person narration in the book and wouldn’t change it. However the omnipresent narrator was key to the success of the film.

B) Sharing information
The use of Ceasar¬†Flickerman¬†as a medium to share information from the book with the audience was brilliantly done. A lot of information¬†in the book is told through Katniss’ narration, which would have been a disaster in the film (thank you Gary Ross for not having narration). A prime example are the tracker jacker¬†wasps. In order for the audience to know why they are so dangerous, Gary Ross had Ceasar¬†Flickerman speak to the camera as a host to a live show and explain what they were. Small moments such as these really helped to close the gaps of knowledge for those who haven’t read the books.
A few scenes with Seneca Crane helped to amplify the dystopic nature of the film. His conversations with President Snow, interviews with Ceasar Flickerman, and direction in the control room proved how the tributes of the Hunger Games were no more than pawns meant to please and control a population. As a result, the obstacles Katniss faced in the arena were even more painful, since someone was deliberately trying to eliminate her as if she was no more than a chess piece.
I’d like to just take a moment to give the team an applause for the action in the control room. As someone who has worked in both live and reality television, they got it spot on.

C) Pacing for the film
It’s hard to go into this section without giving away too much detail of the film, but I will do my best. A lot of small details and scenes were removed from the book to make way for new scenes outside of the arena; this saved time and kept a flow to the film. One prime example is that in the book, Katniss struggles to find water; she nearly dies of dehydration. I loved this part of the book, mostly because I’m so sick of reading about people who go on epic adventures or have to survive and never seem to hydrate or eat. Collins did a phenomenal job writing that into the book, but since it wasn’t key to the story, the filmmakers made a wise choice to scrap it. After all, this isn’t a movie about man versus nature, but of man versus man.


Let me just start by saying that Jennifer Lawrence was phenomenal! They made the best choice by casting her in the role of Katniss. She owned it!

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

What I loved so much about Jennifer Lawrence was her ability to evoke a lot of emotion subtly in the film. Lawrence portrayed a teenage girl who had to grow up fast due to the circumstances¬†surrounding her life in District 12 (such as the accidental death of her father when she was a child). Much like the excellently written exposition of the book, Lawrence’s portrayal was so credible that you knew everything you needed to know about her character before she is sent to the Capital. To name just a few, inner-strength, patience, self-reliance, resourcefulness, doubt, fear, and resentment were all present in the first part of the film with minimal dialogue. There is a reason why Lawrence won an Oscar for the film Winter’s Bone. Despite¬†Hunger Games¬†being a teenage film and not one of Oscar-hype, she delivered and worked just as hard. After seeing her in Winter’s Bone, X-Men: First Class, and The Hunger Games, I can safely say that Jennifer Lawrence is amongst the most talented young¬† American female actresses. I’m honestly not even worried about typecasting for her; she’s so talented that she’ll continue to show us just how much she can do.
Can I just say how amazing she was during the reaping? The actor for her sister was fantastic too, but Lawrence demonstrated her strengths as an actress. TEARS!
The only relationship that I didn’t fully buy from the film was the one between¬†Katniss and Rue. Yes, the film already had a running length of 2.5 hours, but there wasn’t enough time for us to feel a real friendship between them. Maybe the scenes were shot but cut due to running time. Extended edition maybe?

Alongside Jennifer Lawrence was Josh Hutcherson. He did a good job, but his acting was not on the same level of Lawrence.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark

Hutcherson¬†tried, he really did, but the acting gap between him and Lawrence was only made more obvious in the scenes where they are in the cavern. Lawrence’s reactions were¬†subtle, honest, and well-placed within the context of the film. Hutcherson¬†lacked subtlety most of all. In my opinion, I completely forgot I was watching a teenage film until Hutcherson’s puppy face and scripted love acting came into play. It wasn’t bad; it was just on the acting level of teenage romance films (while Lawrence took it a few steps further).
Not specifically related to Hutcherson, but I was upset that during the romance scenes, a very important detail regarding character relationships was omitted. Not only is Katniss pretending to be in love with Peeta to impress audiences (thus helping her survive), but during those moments she’s thinking of Gale. In the book, it makes these scenes more painful to read and amplifies that the lies do have a negative impact of her and Gale. When I mentioned this detail to a friend who hadn’t read the book, she said that she had absolutely NO IDEA that Katniss was thinking of Gale. I believe this small detail to be important for the 2nd and 3rd films to help ease into her relationship/friendship with Gale.

Woody Harrelson was a key actor to put in this film. He was the only casting choice that I initially had reservations about. It had nothing to do with his acting skills because he has done some fantastic work (Natural Born Killers, The Thin Red Line, and No Country For Old Men), but I was hoping for someone less known and more scruffy looking. I was so happy to have been proven wrong.

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch

Harrelson¬†not only did a great job (as usual), but didn’t take too much shine or screen time away from main character Katniss¬†(Lawrence). He is playing a supporting role and that is exactly what he does; he uses his skills to create a character there to support the story and main character. I have to give a hats off to the acting between Harrelson and Lawrence. They both did such a phenomenal job of never outshining each other, but also laying out all of the foundations to build the rest of the relationship between the characters. It was acting work that will give further credibility to the next films if they (including the director) can keep such high quality work.

Lastly, this section would not be complete without a special mention to Stanley Tucci.

Stanley Tucci as Ceasar Flickerman

Stanley Tucci as Ceasar Flickerman

There is not much to say about him except “Congratulations for your versatility as an actor, for your commitment to your roles, and the craft you present to us on-screen”. No one else could have played Flickerman¬†and we, the audience, completely forget that Stanley Tucci is with us. He portrayed everything that was good and bad about the Capital with an ease to be studied by those seeking a career in acting.


Now I know most people don’t really care about this stuff, but I do, so I’m going to write about it (I’m that person who watches the Oscars and asks people to shut up during all of the technical categories).
First off, what was going on with the camera in the first part of the movie? I mean, seriously guys? Handheld telephoto lens with fast editing during introductory shots of District 12? Did you really think we’d be able to fully understand what we were seeing and avoid early onsets of vertigo?! I don’t know who made this choice, or why the director and producers stuck with it. Introducing a set and atmosphere that does not require action scenes should be done with a steadier camera and give us the time to absorb the state of the people in District 12. I’m not saying that it was completely absent, but it would have benefitted from say, perhaps a handheld camera with a 35 mm lens instead. (For you non-techies out there, I basically just suggested to use the same camera technique but with a lens that won’t make you dizzy.)

However, I did find that there was merit to this style during the action scenes in the arena. One thing that I was very hesitant about was the translation of the violence in the book to the screen. To me, there is a huge difference between reading about violence among youths versus seeing it in front of me. I was apprehensive.

Luckily, Gary Ross and his camera team did a phenomenal job of keeping the violence without ever really showing it. What do I mean by that? Well, there were action scenes, but none of the killing blows were shown on screen. Gary Ross and his¬†team made the conscious decision to cut away at the moment a final blow is delivered, or use the extremely shaky-jerky camera movement so that we could never really see what happened. This allowed room in the film for violence without showing it (it’s either too fast or we cut away from it). Despite some people not enjoying the downplay of the violence in the film, I found it to be a very responsible move on behalf of the director, producers, and studio.

First of all, this is a PG rated movie. In Canada, that means that parental guidance is ADVISED, but there is no age restriction, simply a warning that some materials might not be appropriate for a younger audience. Of course, the studio knew that kids 10 years and up would probably want to see the movie, even though the book is not written for their age demographic. So their solution was to remove/hide aspects of violence. Thus, they don’t lose that audience age group and are able to make more money.
On a more social level, we already hear about violence among youths in and out of school and how it’s a serious problem. It is the parents’ responsibility to inform their kids¬†about the things they see in television and theatres. Alas, we don’t live in a perfect world and some youths are unfortunately negatively influenced by these¬†medias (even if the consequences are accidents and unintentional). To get to my point, hiding the violence without shying away from it demonstrated a level of creativity and responsibility on behalf of the filmmakers. I am 100% in agreement to their creative choices and would like to remind all those who are above 18 and who saw the movie to remember that this is a book for TEENAGERS, NOT FOR ADULTS. Deal with it!


All right, I’m done talking about this movie (not really, but this is already too long). Plus, it took me a week’s worth of breaks at work to write this, so it’s time for it to be posted.

I hope everyone had an awesome weekend!

Donating Your Hair to Cancer: Why I started and why I still do it

by PenRei

For the last 7 years, I’ve been donating my hair to cancer. It’s a very long process and does entitle an amount of work on my end, but I feel it’s worth it. Today is the 3rd time that I’m donating my hair to cancer to help patients dealing with this extremely serious disease and the repurcussions of chemotherapy.

I wish I could give you another one of my fun history lessons about how donating hair to cancer began, but I wasn’t able to find enough (reliable) information¬†on the internet to share with you. History lesson fail!

Instead, I will tell the (short) story of how and why I decided to participate.

First time:
Naturally, I was graciously born with great hair. I have the straight black Asian hair, but the soft fine texture of white hair that doesn’t get tangled. A winning combination I must say! Not many people have easy-to-deal-with hair like mine, so I am very fortunate. The major downsides: you can’t curl it (even with a perm, believe me, I tried) and you can’t dye it without an extreme amount of bleach. Essentially, my hair is like a high maintenance trophy wife: easy on the eyes, but impossible to change –¬†she knows what she wants.

Okay, back on track. For the better part of my life, I’ve heard comments such as “I love your hair” and “I wish I had hair like yours” as well as “you’re so lucky, I’m jealous“. One day, near the end of¬†high school, after one of my good friends wished she had my hair instead of her frizzy hair, I thought to myself “If my hair is so awesome, why am I the only one who gets to enjoy it? There are people out there who need my hair more than me.” In truth, it just didn’t seem fair to me. By then, my hair was already past my shoulders.¬†I was planning on trimming it, but cancelled my appointment to let it grow. A year later, my hairstylist chopped it off, but left enough to do something with what was on my head. At first, I felt kind of sad, seeing the lock of my chopped off hair tied by an elastic band. I hadn’t had short hair since the fourth grade. Luckily, I felt much better once I mailed my hair.

Second time:
As time went by, I started to feel a lot better about my short hair (even if I looked a bit like a teenage Chinese boy). It made me feel good to know that someone who actually needed hair got to enjoy mine. Okay, okay, I’ll admit the praise I got from my friends and family did help to boost my ego and make me feel like a real humanitarian. I’m only human after all. It would be a lie not to state that the shift of others’ perception of me to a more positive light did help.

I decided to do it again. A part of it was about praise, but it honestly was mostly about the fact that someone out there who didn’t have hair would have mine. It wasn’t a cure for cancer, but I figured that on a personal level for someone, it still meant a lot. So I grew out my hair again, taking just over 2 years to reach an appropriate donation length of 14 inches. I didn’t feel the need to share that I was donating it again, although some of my closest friends did ask since my hair had gotten so long.

This time around, because my hair grew straighter and less in layers, I had so much hair that my hairstylist had to make two braids to maximize the length. Twice the donation in one shot. W00t! It happened over the Christmas holidays.

In January, when I got back to work, many people were shocked by the extreme cut in my hair. This time there was even less left behind than before. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to donate it a third time, but decided to just let my hair grow for the moment and see how I felt. After all, a part of me did feel selfish and wanted to start playing around with crazy hair styles.

Third time:
That summer, I went to a friend’s barbecue party. In the span of just 8 months, my hair had gone from ear length down to my shoulders (yes, my hair grows ridiculously fast). It was a mix of old and new faces, but a good vibe and mix all around. I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen since second year university (after my first cut) and he asked me if I was still doing it. I replied that I had done it a second time and I was debating if I would do it again.

At that moment, a girl I had never met sneaked into our conversation and said to me (along these words)

Girl: I couldn’t help but overhear that you donate your hair to cancer.
Me: Yeah I do.
Girl: And you’ve done it twice already?
Me: Yeah I have, I’m thinking of doing it again, but my hair is still too short, so we’ll see.
Girl: (with extreme enthusiasm) I think it’s just so awesome that you donate your hair.
Me: (pulling back a little out of surprise) Uh… thanks! It’s just hair.
Girl: (realizing that she had leaned in too close and was holding my arm) Sorry! I should probably explain myself. I’m a camp counsellor for kids who deal with cancer. You don’t know how important this stuff is to them. They don’t wear wigs at the camp, but we talk about how looking sick makes them feel self-conscious and weak. When they wear wigs, people don’t look at them like cancer patients, but like normal kids, and it really has an effect on their mental state. I just think you should know that what you’re doing is great and that it’s not just hair.

At that moment, I knew I had to do it again. You could joke and say that I was guilt tripped into it, but I suddenly felt that my donations were more important than I had initially thought.

Whether or not I’ll do it a fourth time is up to debate. As usual, I’ll wait a year and see from there. If any of you want to lock a fourth donation¬†out of¬†me, send a couple of kid cancer patients my way and I’ll most likely cave immediately for the rest of my life.

And now, time for before and after pictures of my hair.


Before with Bunny Ears

Before with Bunny Ears


Hair Donation

Hair Donation, 14.5 inches


After with Bunny ears

After with Bunny ears

Shocker! So much is gone, but not lost!

Now that I’ve sufficiently talked about myself, I think it’s only appropriate for me to share with you the steps that I took to take care of my hair. If you’re interested in donating your hair (which I encourage full-heartedly), feel free to follow these steps to keeping your hair healthy. Just remember, everyone has different hair, so do your own research to find out what works best for you.

  1. Do not dye, perm, or put any form of chemicals in your hair. This is the biggest NO-NO you can do. Hair altered by any form of chemicals is not accepted as a donation. They will throw it out immediately. This includes the temporary dyes you can buy at the drugstore. If you’ve permed of dyed your hair, you will unfortunately have to wait until that section grows out and cut it off.
  2. Do not wash your hair more than once every 4 days. It might sound gross, but the natural oils and nutrients¬†from your scalp are suppose to make their way down your hair and keep it hydrated. Dry hair is an easy victim to split ends. If you’re use to washing it every day or two, you’ll eventually get used to the 4 day cycle.
  3. Brush your hair. Okay, this sounds lame, but it is important. Remember those natural oils I mentioned above? Well, brushing your hair actually helps to guide the oils down your hair faster. If you can, brush your hair with a wooden comb. Your natural oils will eventually be absorbed by the comb, thus every time you brush, your hair will come in contact with it.
  4. Do not blow dry your hair. Don’t listen to the commercials about shampoos that say blowdrying is healthy.¬†They are lying!¬†If anything, it damages your hair and makes you more susceptible to split ends. Stay away from blow dryers! Air dry your hair. If you feel that air drying gives you less volume, occasionally run your fingers through your hair as it dries. It makes a difference for me.
  5. Do not use 2 in 1 bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Bottles where the shampoo and conditioner are mixed together do not have the desired effect on your hair. The reason why we use conditioner is to help hydrate your hair, while shampoo washes everything away. Thus, when you put them in at the same time, the shampoo wins and you loose the long lasting hydrating effects of your conditioner.
  6. Leave your conditioner in. After you’ve applied the conditioner in your hair, leave it in as long as you can. The longer it’s in your hair, the better. Think of doing other activities in the mean time (like shaving your legs, ect). Washing out the conditioner should be the last thing.
  7. Beware of split ends. There is only so much you¬†can do with this one. In my experience, follow the steps mentioned above, and when you trim your hair, specifically say that it’s only to get rid of your split ends or else they might take off 2 inches. Eventually though, you’ll have to live with a few to allow your hair to grow. Just be aware of your hair’s state.
  8. Your hair should be in a braid or ponytail tied at both ends. The hair you donate should be clean and dry (not swept off from the floor). If your hairdresser is not familiar with the process, ask them to braid your hair (mine is so thick that it requires two) before cutting it off and to¬†tie it off at both ends with elastics. The same goes if it’s in a ponytail.
  9. The minimum length is 12″ for a donation. Length can vary depending on where you send your hair, but the shortest length listed is 12″. I try to go for 14″ as much as possible since every company I have found accepts that length. If your hair is shorter, they won’t accept it. The reason is simple. Half of the length you donate is used to sew onto the wig. That means that a 14″ donation only equals to a 7″ wig. The longer your donation is, the better.

Well, I think this post is sufficiently long at this point. If you have any questions about donating your hair, feel free to contact your country’s cancer society, or email/comment me. I’ll try to answer as best I can or send you to the appropriate information source.

As for Canada, visit the Canadian Cancer Society here for more information. I have donated my hair to Angel Hair for Kids and Locks Of Love. There are thousands of organisations around the world where you can donate your hair.

With this overly length post, I will bid you all a Happy Easter weekend full of chocolates and delights.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

PenRei (your friendly neighbourhood Easter Bunny)