Here’s the thing about dads. They do a lot.
Sure, moms do a lot too, there’s absolutely no denying it. In fact, at this very moment I am currently running the washing machine, the dishwasher, making lunch for my son, picking up my youngest from a playdate, running lines with my other daughter, figuring out when I’m going to pick up my birthday girl’s aquarium cake. Oh, and I’m trying to fit a full day of work in.
But you see, I did all of those things, while my spouse, he did other things. He fixed the printer this morning, he ordered the birthday cake, he drove to the playdate, he cooked the lunch.
Dads do a lot.
And sometimes it’s nice to give dads the gift of a little pampering. Spa days aren’t just for the ladies, you know!
YMC and Philips teamed up to do just that—pamper one very deserving, in-need-of-a-style-upgrade dad with a makeover at Taz Hair Salon, a day at the Novo Spa in Toronto’s Yorkville—including massages, manicures and pedicures, and organix facial, lunch at in the Tea Lounge, and dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse. And to help them maintain their new look at home, they'd take home their very own Philips SensoTouch 3D Wet and Dry electric shaver
We received so many amazing entries, so many ladies who wanted to win a great prize for the special men in their lives. Many of the women admitted that their husbands—who often find themselves rushed to get to meetings or to work or to coach little league—could use some help in the grooming department and Philips is right there to help give dads’ grooming regimes a little refresh.
There was only one winner, though. And Maria Posterano’s entry was the one that took home the prize. Here is her submission:
“My hubby puts everything else first above his appearance. He knows how hard it is for me being the main caregiver with the kids, so he steps up as much as he can. Though plentiful with follicles, grooming may take a back seat and five-o'clock shadow shows up at noon. He deserves to look outside as great as he is on the inside too. He is so giving with his time and needs some time for himself.”
I busted my way in to disrupt their magical day and threw my annoying camera in their faces while they were lying comfortably on their massage tables and asked them a million questions.
“Are you absolutely loving this day?” I asked.
They both laughed.
“Of course we are. What’s not to love? A great makeover, a great massage, a great dinner—and someone else is watching the kids,” Mike says with a smile.
“I really wanted to do something for him that shows how much I appreciate all that he does. Because he does a lot for me and for our family.”
Mike, typically an outdoorsy man, readily admits that he doesn't make the time for regular self-care and grooming. During his day at the spa, he received an intensive facial to help tame pores when shaving and learned proper shaving technique to maintain his fashionable "French-Goatee" at home with his new Philips Shaver. After dressing for their night out, he and Maria were pleasantly surprised how much the subtle grooming upgrade added to his whole look for the evening. Now, he's motivated to perform one grooming session each week so that he's looking his best for him and his family.
At the end of the night, both Mike and Maria were happy. Here's what Maria had to say:
"Mike and I had a wonderful time on our Father's Day Makeover Day. We felt extremely pampered and relaxed. Everyone was soooo sweet and treated us very well. Thank you Philips and YMC for this great opportunity. Mike thoroughly enjoyed being pampered—but don't tell anyone!"
Last week I was invited by Cascade Platinum to join in on a whirlwind trip to Charlottetown and Fortune, PEI to cook and eat lunch with the amazing Chef Michael Smith.
Now, PEI is one of my most favorite places on earth, a place I fell head-over-heels in love with when I was there almost exactly two summers ago. So obviously, I jumped at the chance to go. Also, Michael told us that he had just gotten married the weekend before we arrived, so how could I pass up the chance to spend his honeymoon with him?
The first challenge, of course, was to figure out how to only pack for two days.
I'm a what-if packer. What if it's cold? I need a cardigan (or two) and a sweater (or two). What if it's hot? I need a pair of shorts I'll never wear because no matter how hard I try, I'll never make shorts happen. What if there's a pool? I need a swimsuit. What if I want to wear my hair curly..or straight? I'll need both my hair dryer and my curling iron. What if it rains? Raincoat. What if it snows? Parka. What if everyone is dressed up? Dress. What if everyone is casual? Jeans.
I don't even know how this happened, but I ended up packing in a carry-on for the first time in my 35 years on this earth. I wore my strangely Debra Morgan-esque outfit on the plane: cami, denim shirt, black skinny pants, black flats.
Inside, I packed:
Flannel pj pants, t-shirt, hoodie, socks, for sleeping.
Dress #1, for the evening.
Dress #2 + cardigan, for the day and the flight home.
2 pairs of underpants.
One curling iron.
One bag of toiletries.
One bag of make-up.
One paddle brush, one curling brush.
One pair of silver flats.
Look, I'm still in shock too.
Almost as shocked as how miniscule I look standing beside Chef Michael Smith.
Now lately, I have been having a bit of trouble in the kitchen.
I almost always default to my chef husband, because he's a chef—that's really a no-brainer right there. But between my peanut, tree nut, avocado, and certain raw fruit allergies and my ethical problems with meat of late, I have been a wee bit afraid to get down and dirty in the kitchen. I have been afraid of somehow cooking with something that contains one of my many allergens. I have been afraid to cook with any sort of meat—chicken, beef, lamb, veal. I get squicky just thinking about meat we get from the grocery store; how were the animals treated, what sort of truck did this meat sit on, how long will it take for my meat to get from farm to table (and how many time will it change hands), what are the chances of food-borne illness.
See? I'm a worry wart.
So, here's the interesting thing.
Chef Michael Smith? He knows this. He gets it. He knows that we are afraid of things in the kitchen. I'm afraid of allergies and animals. Some people are afraid of other things—making a mess, not being able to recreate the exactness of a dessert recipe (baking is exact, kids!), not being able to recreate the non-exactness of a main dish recipe (cooking is non-exact—splash of this! Pinch of this! This needs more xx! This needs less xx!), not being able to do it THE BEST, not being able to bake THE PERFECT chocolate chip cookie. His new cookbook is all about ignoring words like perfect and best, and just going out there and cooking good food, and baking good desserts. He's a dad of three—he knows what our lives are like, he lives it too. He cooks for his family, he shops for the food, he plans meals, he takes out the garbage, he cleans.
He wants to inspire us to cook.
Chef Michael got us into his test kitchen to try a few new things from his cookbook—an amazingly fresh quinoa salad (he made mine without the pine nuts!) and this amazing one-dish chicken dish with sweet potatoes and apples that my family had for dinner tonight because I am a huge fan of words like easy, good, one-dish, and delicious.
And then we made butter tarts.
We put all of our fears aside, and got down and dirty in the test kitchen.
We rolled the dough, we got excited about butter, we pinched and filled the trays, we baked.
We discussed raisins. I'm firmly in the anti-raisin camp for any and all baked goods, especially for butter tarts.
We discussed maple syrup instead of corn syrup—Chef Michael Smith AND I! believe that corn syrup belongs exactly nowhere in cooking or baking. But according to him, "It takes balls to monkey with butter tarts in Canada!" and he already fears the people believing that the addition of maple syrup might be blasphemous.
We ate some more.
And then we took some home to eat them some more. I mean to share them with our loved ones.
And now I get to share the recipe with you all.
Bake them. Don't be afraid.
From Back to Basics © Chef Michael Smith 2013
Preheat your oven to 450°F and turn on your convection fan if you have one. Lightly oil a standard muffin pan.
First make the pastry. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, nutmeg, and salt, evenly distributing the finer powders amidst the coarser ones. Grasp the butter and firmly grate it through the large holes of a box grater into the flour below. Working quickly, toss the flour and butter shards together with your fingers until the fat is evenly distributed throughout the flour. The cold, separate pieces will yield dividends in flavor and texture as the butter creates flaky layers of pastry.
Sprinkle the ice water into the works and stir into a dough mass with the handle of a wooden spoon. Working quickly so the heat of your hands doesn’t begin to melt the butter, knead the works a few times until the dough gathers up all the flour in the bowl. Fold it over a few more times to add a bit more strength to the dough and a few more flaky layers to the pastry.
Flour your hands, the dough, the work surface, and a rolling pin. Roll the pastry out into a circle about 15 inches (38 cm) wide and 1/4 inch (5 mm) thick. Using a 3-1/2-inch (9 cm) cookie cutter (or an empty 19-ounce/540 ml can with both ends removed, or the ring from a wide-mouth canning jar), cut circles from the pastry, as many as you can. Form a pleat along one side and fit the pastry into the muffin cups, evenly filling each cup right to the rim. Gather up the remaining dough, roll out, and repeat.
Now craft the filling. Brown the butter by melting it in a saucepan, then keep on cooking it, swirling gently. Eventually the moisture in the butter will heat, steam, foam, and evaporate away. Once that moisture is gone, the butter fat left behind can rise in temperature—past the boiling point of water—into the browning, flavoring zone. Take it as far as you dare—the deeper the color, the deeper the flavor—but be ready. The line between brown and burnt black is crossed quickly, and turning off the heat to stop the cooking isn’t enough. Pouring in the maple syrup will do the trick, though. Cool for 10 minutes. Whisk together the brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs then whisk into the butter as well. Lastly, stir in the flour.
Evenly divide the filling among the pastry shells. Bake until the pastry is beautifully browned and the filling partially sets but stays a bit runny, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly until you can remove the tarts from the pan. Serve and share!
Makes 24 tarts.
Note: My travel and accomodations were paid for, but I was not paid for my stories or my editorial, and as always, all opinions are 1000% my own. As for the experience of spending the day with Chef Michael Smith at his home in Fortune, PEI? That was priceless. And he certainly inspired me to cook—tomorrow I'll be making these butter tarts with my kids, and I'm not sure I'll be sharing this time.
Check out the Cascade and Dawn Facebook page for more kitchen tips from Chef Michael Smith!
I have three kids who keep doing this thing called growing.
It's true. Sigh.
Each fall, I turn around and suddenly all the pants that fit just two months ago have turned into flood pants, and all of the sleeves that were nice and long in April are now 3/4 length at best. So, in addition to buying school supplies and gear, I have three closets to fill with shirts, shoes, sweaters, hoodies, pants, and jeans.
Similarly to my approach to shopping for clothing for MYSELF, I truly believe in the hi/low concept for kids. I like to spend a little more on basics that might last for more than one season or might get a lot of wear and tear—good, sturdy jeans, shoes, coats, and I like to save money on clothing that is super trendy (likely to go out of style quickly) or clothing that won't get too much wear.
Some of my favourite places to shop for back-to-school fashions—that are all Martell kid-approved!—are:
What about you? Where do you like to shop for your kids?
(Note to the curious: I was not compensated in any way for this post. I am just a mom, a fan, and a writer—full stop. Happy back-to-school shopping to you!)