Sunday, July 13, 2008


My writer's block has been essentially immobile for the past few months. It's not that I couldn't break it if I tried, it's just that I really haven't tried. The volunteer project is so much easier to work on that the temptation is to work on that instead. Unfortunately, the volunteer project doesn't pay any money. So, to ease the drain on my bank account, I go back to Army for additional hours. The additional hours that I spend with Army further reduce the number of hours that I spend on writing. Cue vicious cycle.

I should have known that this was coming. When working full-time, I was putting in a minimum of 60 hours per week, and in some cases 80 hours per week. Subtract a full time job that takes 40 hours per week, and you're left with... 40 hours of work, without increasing the hours I'm putting on the volunteer project or Army. Seems like starting with a full work week as my base state and piling more work on top is a good way to get myself back where I started.

I love my job with the volunteer project. I mean, capital L, full-on LOVE. I would be happy doing this work - or some variation thereof - for the rest of my life. I love the freedom, the challenges, the need for creativity, the sense of accomplishment... pretty much everything about it. This job makes me happy. Except...

Except that not only are people not exactly lining up to pay me for this job, but I question whether taking a paycheque wouldn't actually change the nature of what I'm doing. I mean, part of my credibility comes from saying, "I am not taking a salary to do this work." One of the reasons that we're an efficient organization is because no one in Canada is taking a salary. Considering we're still struggling to cover costs, I don't think I'll be taking one any time soon.

This all seems ridiculous now. It's like I said to myself, "I know, it's just too easy to become a published author. Why don't I try to manage an international charity at the same time?" Brilliant.

Don't get me wrong. I don't feel as though I've made a mistake by doing this. I do feel as though I'm on the right path. But, I'm also seriously concerned that I'll get to the end of this year without having a way to earn a living, and have to choose between giving up the charity and going back to work, or leaving my job permanently and being unable to pay the bills.

Well, at least I'll have The Fear to keep me motivated.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Restaurant Review: Big Easy Seafood and Steakhouse

This past weekend, Andrea and I went for dinner at the Big Easy Seafood and Steakhouse on Preston Street in Ottawa's Little Italy. Aside from a brief note in the Ottawa Citizen, there weren't any reviews online - so I've decided to write a brief review of our dining experience.

The Big Easy re-opened in early June 2008 to minimal fanfare at the endof Italy Week, apparently because the kitchen wasn't quite ready. There were no signs of any problems when we arrived in early July. The (apparently quite expensive) renovation looked to be worth the money, and the bar area looked particularly appealing. Not being huge fans ofthe tall chairs at the tables near the bar, we instead opted for the main dining area.

As you may have imagined, the Big Easy goes for a New Orleans feel. The restaurant still feels a little bit straight-laced and stark to belong in the real Big Easy, but the use of high-grain wood, period light fixtures and limited edition art prints are putting the restaurant on the right track. Decorating themed restaurants can be something of a slippery slope, so better that they erred on the side of caution. The noise got a bit much later in the evening, but it could've just been our location in the restaurant or the other diners.

The men's bathroom isn't particularly large, but it is well appointed. I quite liked the disposable towelettes they provided, which were so thick that I almost mistook them for cotton towels. Nice. Despite the crowded dining area, we were served promptly. Our server was friendly and engaging, but did not linger too long. The cocktail list looked a little pricey, but the wine list was quite reasonable. The steaks are built around a choose-your-sides Ruth's Chris-style, and both the choices and the prices were appropriate.

We chose to share the grilled calamari and crab cakes to start. The seasoning and sauces used in the appetizers were excellent and the portions were very good, as was the presentation. Both were moderately spicey, but I'd give higher marks to the calamari. However, you did get quite a bit of crab meat with the crab cakes, including large portions of the claw. We also shared a 2006 Waterstone Pinot Noire and a bottle of Pelegrino. The wine was good throughout the meal, and became stronger once it had the chance to breathe a little. This worked well, as it didn't overpower the seafood in the beginning.

Our entrees were 6 oz filets mignon, served with mashed potatoes, mushrooms and grilled shrimp. Mine had blue cheese as a garnish, and Andrea's had a brandy peppercorn sauce. The steaks were quite good for the price point, but had a bit more fat than usual for a filet. We'd also asked for medium rare, but received them rare. However, these are small points that will likely sort themselves out over time.

The side dishes were outstanding, and the potatoes went extremely well with the blue cheese. The mushroom serving was quite large, and were very well cooked. Both side dishes were large enough for sharing. If I had to object to anything, it would've been the shrimp - they were quite large, but not particularly seasoned and required some peeling. At $9 for three of them, they just weren't good value.

The Big Easy does not yet have a set dessert menu, but did offer choices between two desserts. We chose to share a flourless chocolate torte. Why they don't just refer to the damned things as brownies, I'll never know. In any case, it was nice, rich and came with a gourmet vanilla ice cream. Very tasty, and a great way to end an excellent meal.

Overall, we would highly recommend the Big Easy for a romantic dinner or just for drinks and appetizers.

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