Facts and Tips for Foaming with Almond Milk

I don’t need to remove dairy, but I believe that moderation of any single food, except Old Dutch potato chips, is a good idea.  This year I wanted to reduce my intake of cow’s milk and introduced almond, rice and soy milks into my diet.  Reading the nutritional information and articles on these milks, there were obvious benefits, but I wanted to know how I could use these products showing them at their best.  I don’t believe that you can convince your taste buds that soy is “milk” anymore than rice, in texture and in taste, can substitute for wheat in bread.  You just always feel ripped off.  I believe you have to try new products in and of themselves.   Does that make sense?

From our local store, Organic Planet,  I bought Natur-a Original Almond Milk for my daily latte using two shots of home-brewed Starbucks Espresso with half cup* of organic 2% cow’s milk .   I wasn’t sure I liked the taste of almond milk in coffee, but was that just habit?  I was also having trouble with the flat performance during foaming and asked for help from Donna Karjalainen of Natura Foods.  She turned me onto Toronto’s Dark Horse Espresso Bar Barista Trainer, Georgia Henry, and this is what I learned.

If you were a Barista, you would know that the goals of steaming are to heat any milk to a pleasant temperature [61-63 C for most people] and to create a lush foam.  Air is introduced to the milk, so the proteins move toward it, which creates the bubbles. Foam is created by the proteins in milk trying to “escape”.  Who knew?

Fact 1 – With cow’s milk the heat breaks down lactose, making cow’s milk sweeter.   Since the sugars in almond milk are mostly sucrose (from cane sugar) this chemical change doesn’t happen.  Ah ha that’s why I couldn’t reconcile the taste.

Tip 1 – Almond milk should be steamed a bit cooler, as the extra heat it doesn’t help to increase the sweetness and ruins the bubble.

Fact 2 – There is no getting away from it, the presence of more fat, E.g. 3.25% vs 0% , creates a better bubble, a good luscious foamy bubble.  However, since most people’s goal is generally less fat, we have to accept that the foam-ability of almond milk will also be lower since it’s generally lower fat than cow’s milk.

Fact 3 – Most important is that almond milk is sensitive to heat and not only will it separate, but the foam will collapse.  Sort of like cow’s milk curdling when added to coffee that is too hot.  Georgia added, “It doesn’t mean the almond milk is off, but it gets chunky and the foam separates.  It isn’t attractive to look at and the texture is compromised.”

Tip 2 – Georgia  recommends that less air and controlled heat should be introduced to produce the best texture almond milk has to offer.  E.g. don’t leave the milk steaming and walk away to put in your toast.

Fact 4 – Georgia also said that during testing sweetened versions of almond milk performed better than unsweetened where temperature changes are concerned.  I went back and bought the natur-a Almond Vanilla and natur-a Organic Soy Cappuccino and saw an improved foaming performance.
Tip 3 – If you want a better foam, use a higher fat, sweetened version of almond milk.
It’s not surprising that when the amount of sugar, fat and calories rises … in anything, so does the pleasure.  Whether your dietary concerns are disease, weight, lactose, yeast or ethics you know what your body needs and when.  For me this experiment resulted in using unsweetened almond milk only in my oatmeal  … but, once or twice a week I’ve fallen in love with the natur-a Soy Cappuccino and an extra shot of espresso as a great way to launch my work day.

An unexpected benefit, after a taste of my steaming hot latte my 24 year old son is now dropping by daily to join me for a natur-a Cappuccino Soy or Vanilla Almond Milk latte.  It only last 15 minutes, but I’ll take it!

*half cup before foaming

Falling Back in Love with Halloween

Halloween, and the Fall in general, was always my favourite time of year.  Cosy layers of my Dad’s old cashmere and my mom’s Cowichan sweaters.  Brilliant colours of red and yellow maple leaves set against a crisp blue sky.  Freshly picked Macintosh apples with gooey Kraft caramels.  The smell of wood burning fireplaces and maple and rosemary in buttered yams.  Mmmmm.  What’s not to love?


FeeFiFoFun.ca Sponsored Toronto Zombie Walk 2014 and I found a rare moment to pose with TZW Rock Stars Thea and Adam. [L-R] Thea Munster, Franken Me, Adam Paradox.

… and Halloween, which is rooted in ancient Gaelic tradition called Samhuin literally meaning the “end of summer”.  It is a time when the veil separating the worlds of the living and dead softens and the dead can cross over.  The only way to keep your milk from going sour or from getting a wart, it is said, is to disguise yourself like the dead or demons to avoid their attention.

I love disguise and Halloween so much that I opened a costume business, FeeFiFoFun, in 2010.  Most people I meet believe that costumes are just for Halloween.  They are surprised when they find their way back to me desperately needing a costume piece for a birthday gift, a business event, but mostly for their children’s school performances.

Every day for the past four years I have lived and breathed the business of costume play.  It starts with the Halloween & Party Show every January.  There I walk miles of corridors displaying bright balloons and party table wear, gory Halloween decor and tall smiling half naked girls who are modeling the costume trends their manufacturers believe will be profitable for me.  Stock arrives weekly throughout August and September allowing me time to organize for the frantic last two weeks in October when every child changes their mind and all the Halloween business happens.

The rest of the year does pale in comparison to my Halloween sales, but I’m amazed still at the abrupt transitions into Christmas, New Years, the School Year and Fan Conventions.  Like a switch on and off.

I wake up at 3:30 a.m. every day with my mind full of ideas and my heart racing with worry and excitement.  This is normal I understand from my Mom Biz Coaches Lara and Sheila.  Normal for entrepreneurs whose  perfectionism and incredible passion clashes with our sense of self preservation.  In my case, my sleepless night’s are also the drive to find meaning in my life.

My father, mother and little sister Jo died all died around my birthday in September 1994, 2004 and 2007 respectively.  Cancer sucks.  I’ve pretty much let this ruin the Fall for me.  It came into sharp contrast when last Halloween a neighbour came to the door with his two children after the pumpkin light was put out.  I thought, how rude, but then he remarked, “We thought, you being in the costume business, that your place would be the one all dressed up and out til the wee hours.”

He was right.  I’d spent so much time on others costumes and decor that I had little energy left for myself.  I had ruined Halloween.   I love my work, but I was exhausted.  Then came my granddaughter and at four she is now able to share all of her innocence and wonder with me about dress up and Halloween.

I’m not there yet.  I’m still struggling, but the mindfulness of finding meaning in every day life and watching my granddaughter is helping me slowly get back to loving the Fall and Halloween.

Creative Collaboration in Small Business

My teeth were cut in the 80’s as an ad executive in traditional advertising and public relations and opening a costume concierge business in 2010, I embraced social media.    I’ve noted,  working with other new entrepreneurs, especially women, that cash poor and product heavy businesses choose collaboration or cross promotion to market themselves.

However, these collaborations fail or are horribly unsatisfying for the Entrepreneur and this is why.

Entrepreneurs are creative, passionate and energetic … and hopeful.  You feel if you offer a quality product for free, including your time, that the collaborating company will give you something equal in kind.  Right?  Wrong.  How could you not help but be disappointed with yourself or the result?

Here are some tips and case studies about entrepreneurial collaboration that work for different reasons.

Tip 1 – The Six W’s.  Whose going to be there that is important to me?  When am I expected to be at this event?  What do I have to provide for this event?  Where in the event am I situated?  Why am I going to this event?  HoW the hell do I get the most out of this collaboration?

Case Study 1 – Hockey School Fundraiser  – The question Where found me in a private venue for an adult-only event with lots of food, drink and dim lighting.   The challenge was how to feature my product amongst hundreds of others.  With my mannequin dressed in as Elsa [the hottest 2014 costume] beside a rotating photo frame of my product, the event coordinator said it was a total hit, attracting attention to my table while improving the overall quality of her event.

Tip 2 – Value can be measured in many ways. Contradicting myself, sometimes a charitable event meets your company’s mission statement, or free product for a photo shoot gives you lifestyle shots of your product.

Case Study 2 – Photography Collaboration – I invited my co-op students to a participate in a free photo shoot.   The goal for the photographer and myself was to break creative boredom by working in a new genre called Cosplay.  I agreed to let the students pose in their own costumes as long as they were holding/wearing at least one of my products and if I could use the photographs in social media.   I learned a great deal about Cosplay and how I might make money from these young adults and was cool by association.


Photo Shoot with Welcome Aboard Photography

Tip 3 – Ask for what you want out of the deal.  They will either say yes or no.

Case Study 3 – Library Workshop Collaboration –  I’d hoped this event would give me data on how to proceed with the development of additional teaching units for middle schools and private playgrounds.   I asked if the Mississauga Public Library would use their substantial electronic and paper distribution systems to publicize the events.  They said yes, and I thought I was a shoe-in.    After six weeks of marketing, we had only six teens attend the workshop, a total bust.  I’m still not sure why the marketing failed, but the positive outcome was testing the ideas without having to carry the entire cost. #BigGuysCanAlsobeNiceGuys

Emma-Library Sign

Costume Workshop at Local Library

Tip 4 – Don’t just value your products.  Put a value your time.

Case Study 4 – Sponsorship of The Toronto Zombie Walk & Halloween Parade.  Not exactly a “collaborative” event since I am paying for vendor space and banner placement, but with this group IF you are creative the opportunity over and above the sponsorship is substantial.  What did I get?  Sponsorship means that my advertising banner, on TZW web site, is linked to my web store for a full year.   TZW has other events all year long that I can springboard from.  TZW also pimps me in other ways.

I zombify Blindsighted Host Kelly Macdonald for TZW 2014

I zombify Blindsighted Host Kelly Macdonald for TZW 2014

For example, they introduced me to AMI whose one hour filming on site with Blindsighted Host Kelly Macdonald, airs in January 2015, not in October when I am over saturated with “opportunities”.  Finally, the buttons I give away annually at TZW have my website address.  Because the TZW event, like Cosplay, is a highly photographed event,  people with our buttons will show up in photographs until digital kingdom is done.   The bang for my buck of time is amazing value. #ExploitinaNiceway

Cole Arthur, and our 2011 button complete with web address, appears ad infinitum, thanks to photographer Henry Chan

Cole Arthur, and our 2011 button complete with web address, appears ad infinitum, thanks to photographer Henry Chan














Case Study 5 – Through Twitter I met Murder Mystery Maven, Leigh Clements.   Having made custom flapper head bands for many of her guests at a Toronto event she hosted, I impressed photographer Wales Wong.  With Wales and her team, on a rainy day in Toronto, I helped style a photo shoot published in Dark Beauty Magazine.  My credit styling this event, again, appears on the internet in multiple places giving weight to my store’s web metrics in ways I will never understand and making me feel very cool, just by association. #FollowtheThread

IMG_5621DangerousAffairs IMG_5770

Case Study 6 – St Joseph’s Health Centre HallowSuperJohnsoneen fundraising campaign in Bloor West Village.  I created looks and styled five families as super heroes.   The ad campaign would appear on a web site, posters, banners, elevator doors.  I did it because my kids went there for every major crisis, it was a challenge and it was very cool. #CommunityService #Volunteer







Tip 5 – Some people or companies may just be dicks.  If they are really all that and it’s worth riding on their coat tails, just be grateful.  If they think they are all that, you either bought into it or were naive and in either case, you’ve got to just accept it and move on.

Case Study 5 – Shall Remain Nameless Collaboration.  I was invited to do something cool, a workshop on prosthetics and make-up and I spent months designing and over $1,000 in products, staff and hotel with a promise of reciprocal social media promotion, being in the paper program, blah blah blah.  I was so excited I said yes, pulled out all the stops, created an amazing event, fizzle, burn, nadda in return.  It was humiliating.  It was embarrassing and … my ego and enthusiasm is definitely to blame.

I’m sure I will make more mistakes in this entrepreneurial journey at FeeFiFoFun Costumes and in my blogging Off the Porch, Black Oaks and In Disguise, but if I enter with my eyes wide open I can enjoy the best and throw away the rest.

Yummy Bits

My mother always said, everything in moderation.  Of late, I’m trying to reduce the amount of meat we are eating in favour of vegetables.

I’ve gotten in the habit now of roasting a chicken with onions, carrots and other veggies, but only at holidays do I use the same pan to make gravy from drippings.  Most people throw away whatever is left over in their skillet or roasting pan, but this stuff is one of the most under utilized meat seasonings and what I call yummy bits.

From a Roast Chicken, bits of yummy poultry and veggies make a great starter for other dishes.

Not much to look at, this mismash is a gold mine of flavour.

I’m already working towards healthier eating by using Maple Leaf Natural Selections bacon and this bacon, egg fiasco only happens once every couple of weeks.  All the grease goes into a waxed food container and then into the freezer.  I’ll use a small amount in dishes like fried breakfast potatoes or with ground beef to make a smoky spicy chili.  Even a poor man’s Cassoulet can be enhanced by using bacon fat with haricot beans, garlic, herbs, cloves, tomatoes and tomato puree. I admit that using bacon yummy bits in these recipes is a pathetic way of doing a non-vegetarian vegetarian meals, but it works for me.  Using yummy bits also usually means I’ve got enough flavour umph and add no extra salt.

After roasting a chicken, I remove the it and the veggies to a platter.  The pan goes into the fridge to let the fat solidify on the top.  Once solid, the fat is scraped into the composting bucket and the yummy bits go into the fridge or freezer.

This mix of fat, spices, carrots, onions, Brussels sprouts, etc and chicken makes a great starter for soup with vegetarian broth and fine noodles or a risotto with white wine.  You get all the meat flavour without the extra meat.  Now I just have to figure out a recipe for yummy bits with tofu!

Patience and The Snail

One of my nicknames is the Queen of Small Things.  I was the one on the hiking trip that stopped every couple of minutes to take a close up of plants, rocks or a slug.  Many times I like to get down on the Earth, to connect, to get perspective.  Like laying on the running path of the park next store, a) because I didn’t want the snail to get crushed on my watch and b) because I wanted to remind myself of how I can zoom zoom and forget to breathe.

There is no Hollywood ending to this clip, just the snail and his-her journey across my viewfinder.   So with me, take a 50 second break, breathe and wonder at the pace of life on all levels.


Frozen Ice Princess

Listen or read.

Last January I went to the Halloween show in Houston where there were showing the costumes for toddlers and little girls for Elsa and Anna from the movie Frozen.

I’m not really here to talk about Elsa, but I am very interested in why this blonde haired, blue eyed princess is so popular with girls ages 3-7.   Especially that since American Girls pulled several minority dolls from their line-up, parents, advocates and professionals are frothing at the mouth.

Since I opened my costume business in 2010, princesses in general were passé.  I could not give the gowns away.   Then the Frozen came out and I was asked by Disney to give away some free passes, which I did, and people [meaning mothers and teen girls] were very interested.  They liked the movie.

Then the summer came and people called asking where they could get the damn dresses for their daughter’s birthday parties. I mean not even the Disney store could keep them in stock.  I wondered if the little girls were asking for Elsa character or if the mother’s just liked the Frozen party theme.  Mostly I was wondering whether I should have carried the dresses.

As an Anthropologist, I started thinking about this princess and where the blonde interest was coming from.  A little background. Since 1989, we’d enjoyed a series of hair colours all in the brunette range.  1989, Ariel, red hair.  1991, Belle, auburn hair.  1992, Jasmine, black hair.  1995, Pocahontas, black hair.  1998 Mulan, black hair.  Then almost 10 years with no princess and we had in 2009 Tiana, black hair.  Twenty years and, excepting Rapunzel in 2010, no blonde princesses.

Keep in mind that in the past five years, even the Cinderella and Aurora princesses were not in demand.  Was there something wrong with blonde haired, blue eyed? What were the intersections of consumer, manufacturing and politics that where brunette princesses reigned for twenty years, but yet costume demand after movies was nothing like demand for Elsa.  Also keep in mind that no-one wants to be Anna, her red headed sister.

I remembered working for a major party company and that they sold lots of blonde wigs to little girls.  So when I did the purchasing for my own company, I did the same thing, bought lots of blonde wigs.  But my wigs are sitting there gathering dust and I wondered why.  It occurred to me that one of the reasons may be that the demographic of the residents of the party store were different.  I woke up and went aha they were of Southern Asian descent and that the demographic of the business I now own is far more mixed.  In other little girls with black and brown hair like the idea of blonde hair, but like me being blonde why would I buy a blonde wig.

That doesn’t explain though, Elsa popularity through all demographics.  So I am back to the consumer politics of supply and demand, but I am thinking about my own kids, born in 1990 during this reign of brunette princesses.  I have a picture of my son in nursery school .  He’s wearing a purple shirt, not bad, but also wearing a pink tutu and, on his head, a band with a tinfoil unicorn horn.  He’s holding a mirror and his smile is rapturous, saying I am beautiful.  He’s now 24 and living with his girlfriend and I’m thinking this story and photograph would be great for his wedding.

Would all parents and teachers be so open to letting a little boy explore, not necessarily his feminine side, but his beauty.  My daughter didn’t really play with dolls.  She had a couple of Barbies including Pochahantas and a black baby doll.  Both my kids are adopted and adoption ideas are enmeshed in our daily lives.  One day my daughter said, “When I become a mommy, I’m going to adopt a black baby girl.” Later on that doll showed up and I can’t remember who got for her.  She didn’t play with it either.

So I am thinking now, like the Midge Barbie doll that I had with auburn hair and freckles, I don’t know if the push comes from manufacturing, or the parents, or the children, or the Culture of politics.  Did the little girls during those 20 years free of blonde princesses, long for golden tresses.  Were little girls hushed when they reached for the blonde, but applauded when they asked for the doll of colour.  Seriously, I don’t remember if that’s all that was available or what I reached for because it was more socially appropriate or if it’s what my daughter wanted.

I guess I should, as my sister says, land the plane.  I wish … I wish I could ask Disney why 1989 to 2009 was dominated by brunettes, but in the end I think people are just fickle.  I don’t think this is political, or about a lack of affirmative action or the death of feminism.  We all want what is new ~ that is firmly entrenched in our consumer society and it’s been a blonde dry spell for princesses, so that’s new.  I also want to point out that from 1990 to around 1998, the world was reacting to the changes from the fall of the Berlin wall.  Globally speaking, there was a huge surge in international adoption from China, India, Russia including children of Germanic, Indo-Iranian, Koreans, Chechen and Turkic groups were adopted and from Romania including Roma, an ethnic group of Indian origin.  This subject was in the daily news and what mother, with a baby girl adopted from China, would not take the opportunity to buy a cool doll that looked just like her daughter.

We all also enjoy what is beautiful, what is rare in our world.  It doesn’t mean that a drab coloured wren has any less worth than a yellow house finch, yet I get excited I see those little yellow birds at the perch because they stand out and they are rare.  Elsa’s frosty blonde hair contrasts perfectly with her piercing blue eyes and sparkly gown.  Who wouldn’t want to be that, even for just one day?  Isn’t that what free play, dress-up and even Halloween is for, a space where for one moment where we can explore another self and not be judged by society.  Like my son who for one day in nursery school traded Batman for a tutu wearing unicorn and learned to appreciate beauty in a whole new way.

Halloween 2014

One of the best things about changing seasons for me is viewing new designs in consumable goods. I don’t buy them all, but I recognize how much work in getting the good ones to market for us to choose or choose not to buy. Click here for my Pinterest list of the best new products in the Toronto GTA for Halloween 2014. If you have other ideas, please comment so I can add them.