Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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One Week Today….

… I’ll be co-presenting a workshop in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador with my sister! I am very excited about this for a number of reasons, including (but not limited to) and in no particular order:

  • the content we are presenting on is very cool and I’m excited to share it with colleagues
  • the conference that we are presenting at is a good one – I always learn a lot, meet great people, and have a lot of fun
  • I get to hang out with my sister
  • Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province I’ve never been to, so when I go there I will have collected the entire set of provinces in my travel history

The one thing I’m not excited about is the weather forecast. St. John’s is going to be cold while we are there:

St. John's forecast

And in the meantime, I’ll be missing out on summer weather in Vancouver:

Vancouver forecast

I’ll have to make sure to pack some warm sweaters and my coat!

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Macaroons vs. Macarons

As you know, I like to cook and bake and I like to try making new things. My decision-making process for what to make usually goes something like this. “I have ingredient X that I need to use up. What can I make using ingredient X?”1 Case in point: I had leftover shredded coconut from when I made some coconut squares for a bake sale at my office2, so I decided to try making macaroons for my hockey team’s season end wrap up party. Making macaroons requires egg whites, so then I had an opened carton of egg whites that I needed to use up, so I decided to try making the thing that is sometimes confused with macaroons: French macarons – which I brought to my Arts Council Board meeting. Now I have a giant Costco-sized bag of almonds that I bought to make macarons, so I need to come up with another recipe that requires lots of almonds…. or maybe I’ll just make a lot more macarons, because omg they were delicious!

In case you are wondering what the difference is between a macaroon and a macaron:

Macaroon:

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Macaron:

Macaron

It’s easy to see how the two can be confused: their names are very similar and both are meringue-based pastries. I’ve only ever known macaroons to be made with coconut, though Wikipedia tells me that it was originally made with almonds and can also be made with other nuts. Macaron are typically made with almonds, but you can make a coconut macaron (though the recipes I’ve seen for this still use almonds as the base, but add coconut extract to flavour it). So I guess the real difference is that macaroons use big chunks of whatever nut you are using and are shaped in a mound, whereas macarons use very, very finely ground almonds, are shaped in small circles and have a smooth top with signature “crinkly feet”, and you make them into a sandwich with some sort of filling. As I was reading about this, I got to thinking “Well, what’s the difference between an almond macaroon and an amaretti?”, since an amaretti is a mound shaped cookies made from meringue mixed with almonds? And then I found this article, which actually gave a bit of a history of these cookies. In short:

  • original macaroons: almond meringue cookies similar to what we call amaretti today, believed to have been created at an Italian monastery
  • coconut macaroons: evolved over time from the almond macaroons (first by mixing almond with coconut, then coconut replaced almond completely); Italian Jews made them for Passover, since they didn’t use flour or a leavening agent
  • amaretti: invented in the mid-17th century by Francesco Moriondo, pastry chef of the Court of Savoy
  • French macarons: invented in the early 20th century by PierreDesfontaines Ladurée

The other interesting thing I read in that article was that “two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth, seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution (1789-1799), paid for their housing by baking and selling the macaroon cookies, and thus became known as the “Macaroon Sisters”” – being a Mary Elizabeth myself and having a sister named Nancy, I found this amusing!

I read quite a few different macaron recipes to figure out what I needed to do to make them and read in a few different places that they are really easy to screw up, so I was pleasantly surprised when mine turned out well. I decided to do half my batch as just plain (i.e., not coloured cookies) with buttercream icing as the filling and the other half as pink with raspberry buttercream icing (because I happened to have some raspberry jam I could use to flavour the buttercream icing). The only issue I had was that rather than split the beaten egg whites in half and put the pink food colouring in at that stage (as the recipe suggested), I made the batter, split that in half and added the food colouring to the batter – this meant that the pink batter actually ended up being mixed beyond the optimal mixing point (the recipe specifically says to fold it 35-40 strokes!), resulting in the batter losing some of its stiffly beaten egg consistency, so that when I piped the pink batter onto the cookie sheet, it spread out a lot, resulting in much bigger cookies than I intended. They still rose and got the crinkly feet, so all was not lost. And they tasted great, so no one complained about the size.

Macaron

At any rate, I’ve now added both macaroons and macaron to my list of “new foods I made in 2016” – one of my goals for 2016 is to make 16 new food or drink items that I’ve never made before. And the macarons were so freaking delicious that I think they are going to become one of my go-to fancy desserts, alongside my chocolate amaretto cheesecake and mocha cupcakes with ganache and mascarpone whipped cream topping.

  1. Another criterion I use is: “How much do I like the taste of the batter and/or the taste of an individual ingredient?” Because I often like the taste of the batter more than the actual cooked product, so licking the spoon or eating a piece of the raw dough is part of the pleasure of baking. Or, in the case of an individual ingredient, I might want to, say, lick the lid of a can of sweetened condensed milk while my mother says “You are going to cut your tongue on that! Even if she’s not there when I’m baking, I can totally hear her say that! []
  2. Coconut squares are one of my tried and true recipes from my mom. See also: cherry squares. []

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Oh How My Garden Grows

Hey, remember that time I planted an herb garden on my balcony? Well, other than the basil, which is now completely dead, my herbs are growing like gangbusters!

Before:

My new herb garden

Now:

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Before:

My new herb garden

Now:

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And the “now” photos don’t even account for the fact that I have used a bunch of the herbs!

It looks like I’ll need to take up another new hobby in addition to gardening – the hobby of drying herbs! Because omg, how much marjoram can one woman use??1

In addition to the herbs growing, my garden has also grown by one tomato plant. My friend Tig gave me this tomato seedling, which she grew from seeds given to her by our MP’s wife (true story):

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Apparently this is a heritage tomato plant, which the Internets tells me is a.k.a., a heirloom tomato.

The Internets tells me that tomato plants grow large root structures, so it’s important to put them in big pot to allow that to happen, so planted it in this:

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I also threw in some parsley seeds to see if I could grow some parsley in there too (another suggestions from the gardeners of the Internets – grow some herbs, which have shorter root structures, around your tomato to fill in the extra space):

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I decided to forgo the potato barrel (or potato bag, as I read that you can also grow potatoes in a bag on your balcony) this year because shortly after planting my garden, I got notice from the strata that they are coming around to power wash and paint all our balconies and so when they get to your condo, you need to clear off your balcony of anything that could be damaged by power washing. I figure I can bring my plant pots inside that day (I’ll have to lock them in my growlery, so that a certain pair of green vegetable-loving cats don’t each the whole garden), but bring in a soggy bag of dirt and potatoes would be less pleasant. You’ll have to wait until next year, potato bag!

  1. In related news, if you need some fresh marjoram, let me know. I can totally hook you up! []

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Another Running Season = Another New Pair of Running Shoes

Just like last year around this time, I found that my shins were kind of hurting for the first several kilometres when I went out for a run, which is a sure fire sign that I needed new running shoes! Fortunately, when I popped by the Running Room on the weekend, they were having a sale, so I did what I always do, which is try on every pair of neutral running shoes they have in my size and then end up buying a pair of Asics Nimbus. I actually told the sales guy that this was what was going to happen and he said, “That won’t happen this time! I have a pair you are going to love!” and he handed me a pair of shoes that I tried on and decidedly did not love. I have high arches and the shoes he gave me (I can’t even remember what kind they were) had completely flat soles – no arch support at all. I told him that I didn’t like them and why, and he proceeded to completely ignore more for the rest of my time there1! He handed that pair of shoes to another women, who put them on, went out to run around the block in them, came back and said “These shoes have no arch support!” Despite the sales guy abandoning me, I had a pile of shoes that he had grabbed while he was grabbing the pair that he was sure I’d love, so I tried them all on, ran up and down the street in a couple of them, and bought, as usual, the Asics Nimbus. (I wanted to buy two pairs and alternate them, which is what I did with my previous pair of pairs, but they only had one of this shoe in my size, so I couldn’t. I really should go check out other Running Room locations to see if they have sales on too!)

Unfortunately, running shoe makers having come to their senses in terms of not making every pair of shoes in garish neon colours was short-lived, so unlike the shoes I bought the last time, which were reasonable looking white-with-blue-trim and white-with-green-trim (I had two pairs I was alternating between), this time I had to buy these garish orange things:

New ugly running shoes

I guess on the plus side, at least they aren’t hot pink with neon green!

For the record, I tracked my mileage on the two pairs of running shoes that I was using and I ran 342.8 km in my Asics and 300.5 km in my Sauconey. According to my extensive research (i.e., Google search), you should be able to run about 300 miles – which is 482 km – before you need a new pair of running shoes, so just like my previous pair, these guys did not last as long as they should have.

I’ve taken this pair out twice so far and so far, they feel pretty good. Here’s hoping they last me 300 miles instead of 300 km!

  1. This was actually quite surprising. Usually the staff at the Running Room are great. []

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My Friends and I Ran A Marathon Yesterday

Yesterday was the 45th running of the Vancouver marathon and I ran in it!

Other statements that are true include:

  • My friends and I ran a marathon yesterday
  • I ran across the finish line of the Vancouver marathon yesterday.

I did not, however, run the entire 42.2 km. Instead, I took part in the marathon relay with my friends Julie, Jen, and Pam. The way the relay works is that you have 4 runners on your team – Runner A starts at the starting line with all the full marathoners, but at the 12 km mark there is a relay exchange point at which Runner A hands off a belt, which contains your team’s timing chip, to Runner B, who runs the next 12 km, and then hands the belt with the timing chip to Runner C, who runs 5 km and then hands the belt off to Runner D, who then runs the remaining 13 km of the race. There are timing points at each relay exchange area, so the time of each leg, as well as the time of the entire duration of the race, is recorded. Honestly, I think this may be the only way I’ll ever participate in a full marathon – the way where you don’t actually have to run the full 42.2 km!

IMG_2380

Our team was named the Tenacious Tempos! Props to Julie for coming up with the name!

I was Runner D – also known as the anchor. The downside of being the anchor is that you do a lot of waiting – there are shuttle buses that take the relay runners from the start area to their exchange points, but the buses got us to our exchange point at 9:15 am and by my team’s estimates, I wasn’t expecting to start until 12 pm! Also, the area where the shuttle buses dropped us off, which is also where the portapotties were located, was about eleventy billion kilometres from the actual exchange point and while many runners went over to the exchange and then had to walk all the way back to go pee before they actually ran, a small group of us decided that we had no interest in doing all that extra walking, so we hung out by the buses (where there were benches and stuff to sit on) until it was time for a pre-race pee and then we headed over to the exchange.

Happily, it was a nice sunny day and I was prepared with sunscreen and a book to read. I also spent some time chatting with my fellow anchors from the other teams and Andrew dropped by to say “hi” to me as well.

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Me, waiting for Julie (Runner C) at the exchange point. I have no idea why my hair is this terrible *before* I even started running!

The plus side of being the anchor is that you get to run over the finish line! I tend to find finish lines very motivating and usually can find some energy to put on a good kick at the end – even if I feel like I’m just barely hanging on up until the finish line is in sight, once I see it, I find a previously unavailable store of energy for a sprint to the finish! But I’m getting ahead of myself!

The route that I got to run was a lovely one – we went over the Burrard St bridge, then along Pacific, which turns into Beach, which then takes you into Stanley Park, and then we went all around the Seawall, and then along Georgia and up to Pender to the finish line. It was flat and scenic, which is just how I like my race routes to be! It was also very hot – especially since I didn’t start running until about noon! I spent a significant portion of the race  wiping the fog from my sunglasses, because I was so hot and sweaty!

As for the running itself, I was pleased with my run. As you know, I’ve only really been training for about a month due to having all the sicknesses in the early part of this year, so my fitness level is way below what it was last year. I’ve been running my zone 1 runs at about a 7:30 min/km pace and my recent blood lactate assessment1 shows all my zones to be considerably slow compared to this time last year (which is not surprising, given that this time last year I’d spent ~4 months training for the BMO half marathon). But I decided that my relay run would be a good chance to see how well I could do in a zone 2 run (as most of my training focuses on zone 1, which helps to raise my aerobic threshold, but is not the zone that you want to run a 13 km or a 21.1 km race in), and I was pleasantly surprised with what I could do! I managed to run the 13.2 km at an average pace of 6:27 mins/km – and I felt strong! The last 3 km I definitely had to work to keep up that pace – my body was tiring and wanted to slow down, but I dug deep and focused on maintaining the pace. It’s funny, because as I was running I was thinking “Wow, I can’t believe how fast I’m running this! This is awesome!”, but afterwards I realized that last year I’d run 8 km more at an average pace of 5:45 km/km! But it’s all relative and given my start to this year, I was happy with my performance. The official race results clocked my leg of the race at 1:29:51, but that includes the exchange (which necessitated a hug with Runner C before I took off on my leg) – my runner watch indicates that my actual running time was 1:26:55.

After the race, the Tenacious Tempos went for a lovely brunch – which really is the main reason that we do these races. Well, the brunch and the medal!

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The Tenacious Tempos showing off their race bling!

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My race bib has taken it’s place on my board along with its fellow race bibs. Also, this is probably the coolest race number I’ve ever had: 9900!

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A new medal for my collection. Medal #2 for 2016!

  1. A new blog posting coming on that soon! []

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Gone With The Wind

Totally thought this posted a few days ago, but just came onto my blog to write a new posting and discovered I hadn’t. Anyway, here it is now!

So it turns out that I bought my last phone a really, really long time ago. Like more than 3 years ago, which in phone-years, means my phone was 892,386 years old. It was an iPhone 5 – not even a 5S, let alone the newer 6 or a 6 Mega-Double-Plus size. A lot of features have come out on iPhones since I bought that phone – like TouchID (where you scan your fingerprint rather than typing in a passcode to unblock your phone, which is super useful),or the phone being able to count the number of steps you take (slightly less useful when you leave your phone sitting on your desk or your kitchen counter for half the day, but kinda cool when you do carry it around) or a camera that can actually take decent photos in light that is less bright than full-on sunshine at high noon). But I am cheap and I don’t like throwing out things that are useful and replacing them with a slightly newer and shinier version. The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was that my battery, after 3 years of constant use, decided that it no longer wanted to hold a charge, so it wouldn’t last me anywhere near a day (despite the fact that I put the phone into “Low Power Mode” pretty much all the time), which necessitated me constantly having to bring my charging cord with me and always needing to find a place to charge it.

My problem then became what phone to buy. I really love my iPhone, but I did *not* want a phone that is bigger than the one I had. I run a lot and when I do, I have my phone strapped to my arm. And I am a small person, so the iPhone 5 already takes up most of my upper arm – I couldn’t even imagine having something bigger – it would be so cumbersome! Fortunately, Kalev keeps abreast of all the iPhone rumours and told me a while back that Apple had a plan to bring out a phone that basically had all the feature of the iPhone 6, but in the iPhone 5 size. And so I waited and lo, the prophesy was true! The iPhone SE has basically all the features of the iPhone 6 that I wanted: TouchID, wicked good camera, Apple Pay, stuff that makes it faster than my old phone1.

While I was deciding it was time for a new phone, I also decided that it was time for a new cell phone provider. I was with Fido and while I never had any issues with their service, their price tag seemed a bit high for what I was getting. So I decided to switch over to Wind. Wind is a lower price carrier – I’m able to get everything I had in my Fido plan (unlimited calling and texting in Canada, caller ID, voicemail) plus 5 times as much data (5GB vs the 1 GB I had with Fido) for less than half the price I was paying to Fido. The trade-off is that the Wind network doesn’t have as good of coverage as Fido, though I’m so rarely out of the city, it’s not really a problem for me2.

I consulted a few people who use Wind and they all told me that they’d not had issues and one person even pointed out that since you don’t sign a contract with Wind, I could try it out and if I don’t like it, I can always go back to one of the bigger carriers. So I decided to take the plunge and sign up for Wind. After a couple of technical hiccups3, I was up and running with the new phone and am ever so happy with it.

The next step in the process was that I needed a name for my phone. I’d totally phoned4 it in one my last phone (the iPhone 5) and named her Bellatrix 2, as the previous phone (the iPhone 3G) was Bellatrix. I name my electronics, with some exceptions, after female literary characters (see: Bellatrix, Hermione, Ginny Weasley (my external hard drive), Marla, and Daenerys), and the name for my new iPhone SE just came to me as I thought about the fact that I’d “Gone with the Wind”. Everyone, meet Scarlett ((I absolutely loved the movie Gone with the Wind when I was a kid and watched it many times, as we had it on a VHS tape. Because, like my previous phone, I am 892,386 years old. I even dressed up as Scarlett O’Hara one year for Hallowe’en.)):

My new iPhone SE

I thought that since I was getting a new phone that is the exact same size as my old phone, I’d be able to keep using the same case, but my old case has a slight problem:

My new iPhone SE

As you can see in the above photo, my old case covers the home button, which was fine with the iPhone 5, as you can still press the home button through the silicone case. You cannot, however, do Touch ID through the silicone case because the home button needs to be able to scan your fingerprint, which it cannot do through silicone, and Touch ID is my favourite thing that this phone offers. So I ordered a new case that won’t have this problem. It also gave me the opportunity to buy a case with a slot on the back to put my Compass card5 in.

My new iPhone SE

I currently keep my Compass card stuck in the back of my case, but it’s a bit of a pain to have to take my card out from there, especially given that 5 days a week I have to tap my card a total of eight (!) times going to and from work and the faregates cannot read the card through the silicone case. Apparently once I set up Apple Pay, I won’t be able to leave my Compass card in my new case when I scan it (as Apply Pay interferes with the Compass Card system), but even still, it will be a lot easier to slide it out of a card slot than it will be to half remove my case every time I want to tap my Compass card. I’ve ordered a new case from Amazon – should be here next week. Hmm…. I suppose I will have to name my new case Tara.

  1. It doesn’t have 3D Touch, but I don’t really care about that. []
  2. I looked at Wind 3 year ago when I got my Fido account, but at the time I had a job where I covered the Fraser Valley and beyond and Wind didn’t have coverage out there, which would have meant that every time I went to, say, Abbotsford for a meeting, I wouldn’t be able to use my phone. Wind now has coverage there, but I don’t have that job any more, so it doesn’t actually matter to me. []
  3. First, they messed up porting my number from Fido by accidentally typing my Fido account number in wrong. Fortunately, since they typed the account number in wrong, Fido didn’t know that I’d cancelled, so they didn’t give away my number and Wind was able to port it the next day. Second, because I was on the temporary number (which was only supposed to be on my phone for ~1 hour until my original number ported) for half a day, my iMessage got all messed up and kept trying to use the temporary number (which I no longer had access to once they fixed my porting problem) instead of my real number. The Apple engineers were able to help me out with that one though. []
  4. Pun intended! []
  5. For my non-Vancouver readers: Compass card is the card you use to pay for travel on our Skytrain, buses, and Seabus in the greater Vancouver area, and you have to tap in and tap out as you enter/exit fare paid zones of the transit system. []

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I Never Promised You An Herb Garden

One of the things on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days that I achieved last year was to make an herb garden for my balcony. But “make” in that case actually meant “buy a premade one and put it on my balcony”. Now, don’t get me wrong – it was a lovely herb garden that I got at Granville Island and it was a great deal – $13 for 5 different herbs! And while I enjoyed cooking with those herbs, the winter was not kind to them (nor was my neglect) and so now that the weather has warmed up enough for me to want to be on my balcony again, I decided to actually make an herb garden this year. Where “make” means “buy some plants, buy some dirt, buy some containers, and then put said dirt and plants in said containers”. And here is what I made:

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

This year’s herbs include:

  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • marjoram
  • sage
  • oregano
  • basil
  • chives
  • cilantro
  • and a jalapeño plant

I made this three weekends ago and I’ve already made roasted potatoes with fresh rosemary; pasta sauce with fresh rosemary, thyme, marjoram, sage, oregano, and basil; guacamole with fresh cilantro; and scrambled eggs with the chives a couple of times!

My new herb garden

My new herb garden
My new herb garden

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

Several of the plants have grown significantly since I took those photos (especially the marjoram, the cilantro, and the jalapeño plant, but the basil is not looking so hot. If anyone has tips on growing basil, let me know!

I think I’d like to also get a tomato plant, and maybe some parsley. Plus, I need to investigate a thing I learned about recently: a potato barrel.

I’m going to try to be more diligent in taking care of my herb garden this year. Speaking of which, I know that I need to water it regularly in the summer, but does anyone know what I should do to keep it alive over the winter?

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Art of Spice

On Friday, I checked out this new Indian restaurant. I was a bit hesitant to go there at first because there was no one in the place – which is generally a bad sign for a restaurant – but it’s pretty new, so we decided to be adventurous and give it a go. And it did not disappoint!

We had some veggie pakoras, chicken vindaloo, and palak paneer and they were all delicious. Plus the servings were pretty big, so despite the fact that we were full when we left, there were lots of leftovers. When I first looked at the menu, I thought the prices were a bit steep, but then I realized that the dishes included rice and naan (whereas I’m used to going to Indian restaurants where you have to order the rice and naan separate), so the prices were on par with other good Indian restaurants that I’ve been to.

They unfortunately are still waiting for the liquor license which might explain, in part, the lack of customers, but I think it’s probably also that people don’t know about them. So I figured I’d blog about them, because the food really was good and the people running the place seemed so nice, and I’d hate to see the place go under for lack of people knowing about them1.The restaurant is located at 1355 Hornby Street, so if you are downtown and looking for Indian food, you might want to check them out.

  1. Not that my blog has tonnes of readers, but every little bit helps, right? I also wrote reviews on Yelp and Zomato – those will probably be more helpful! []

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Allergies

So, I think I have seasonal allergies. I’ve never had seasonal allergies before but my red, watery eyes and runny nose suggest that maybe I do now.

I first noticed my eyes being watery when I was released from quarantine and thought that my eyes were just sensitive to the cool air from having only recently become unzombified. But it also happened to coincide with when the pollen was starting to come out to play. And seasonal allergies happen when your immune system decides to treat pollen as if it were an invading virus or bacteria.

So I think what probably happened was that when my immune system returned from taking a three-month vacation, it got back and heard about all the illnesses I’d had and went ‘Holy crap! We better get immune systeming!! Attaaaaaacckk!!!” and then I had allergies.

No one knows why allergies can show up at any point in a person’s life, so I think my theory is as good as any.

Also, I can’t get this song by the Barenaked Ladies out of my head now:

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Important Hockey News

It has been brought to my attention that while I’ve been ignoring NHL hockey since none of the Canadian teams made the playoffs, an important thing happened in the world of professional hockey. The San Jose Sharks hired a male model to play in net.

For serious.

You can follow along with his sexiness on Instagram and Twitter. I know I will be!