We drive a lot whenever we visit Saskatchewan (noteworthy since we don't own our own car in Victoria). These are some of the winter views we've recently enjoyed from my parents' car:
I'm officially a fan of Improv Everywhere. The New York group performs planned spectacles in public places, usually with the goal of making people happy.
I've seen a few videos via Color Me Katie, and I always enjoy them more than I expect. The most recent video, Guerrilla Handbell Strikeforce, is so simple and sweet. A choir of undercover agents with handbells join a Salvation Army bell ringer one at a time, play a carol together, and leave the same way:
Even though I've enjoyed the videos I've come across, I didn't become an official fan until I heard the founder, Charlie Todd, interviewed on This American Life. The Mind Games episode explores the psychological impact of a couple of the group's stranger missions. It's one of the best TAL episodes I've ever heard - high praise indeed.
The motivation to craft has been lacking lately, but last Friday I became obsessed with making pom poms. I started out by making a DIY donut-shaped tool out of two pieces of cardboard, but I quickly abandoned all that for an easier method. I wrapped the yarn around my fingers, tied the bunch together and cut the loops. This video will show you what I'm getting at. This tutorial will show you how to make pom poms with a proper tool, but it all seems much more difficult than it needs to be.
I'm using my pom poms as Christmas decorations for now, but I think I'll make a garland after the holidays have passed.
I finally saw Victoria's Truck Light Parade in its entirety; it's been on my list since I moved here.
The photos are blurry, but in a good way, I think.
My favorite was the cement mixer.
I loved standing on Dallas Road in the dark, waiting for the trucks. The parade of lights was festive as it rumbled down the road. Somehow - even with the honking and the smell of exhaust - it works.
I was working at Sellution in 2003 when I first heard The Hidden Cameras. It was pretty much the perfect job because I got to rearrange furniture and listen to the CBC all day. It's rare that a band wins me over the first time I hear them, but that's what happened when Definitely not the Opera played the song Boys of Melody (you can listen to it - and others - here).
The first time I saw the Hidden Cameras perform was shortly after I heard them on the radio. I brought Ananda, and we danced around and cheered so loudly that I think we confused the band. The second time Joel Gibb, the lead singer, was in a bad mood, but it was still fun. I still regret not buying a "Music is my boyfriend" t-shirt.
The third time was a couple of weeks ago. It's notable because I watched the concert FROM THE STAGE. I was in the "choir" thanks to an invitation from my friend Galen, who knows one of the fellows touring with the band. The Hidden Cameras invite locals to take part in their shows on occasion, and Victoria was a chosen city this time around.
Meeting Joel and practicing before the show were the best parts of the experience. I could actually hear myself sing, and I think I held my own (even though I may have been the only choir member who isn't in another band).
The actual show was a bizarre experience.
Two minutes before we went on stage, we found out that we had to put on golden ghost costumes.
As soon as Michael saw us come on stage, he knew that I was probably freaking out. I don't like wearing masks and I don't like being around people wearing masks (one of the reasons why I'm conflicted about Halloween). I couldn't recognize any of my fellow choir members, and it was actually difficult to see where we were walking. All of us were a little confused - about when we were supposed to be on stage, about whether we could remember the 10 songs that we were supposed to sing, about where we were supposed to stand, about whether anyone could hear us since we could barely hear ourselves. It was a bit of a mess, but I relaxed after the first song and tried to get into the costume.
Since I was so focused on remembering my parts, I didn't get to enjoy the show in the usual way. There were other benefits, of course. I loved singing with Galen and Kelby - I usually watch them perform in Elephant Island, so it was a treat to join them on stage. I also loved singing with the ladies of Gentleman Reg. They opened for The Hidden Cameras, and they joined us in the choir since they're familiar with the songs. They have such beautiful voices! They were angels in blond wigs who helped us remember our parts, and I love them for it.
We took off the ghost costumes eventually (they were hot, yo), so I have proof that I was on stage. In a v-neck sweater. Hey, I went to the show from work, so that's what you get.
Thanks for the invite Galen. I love this photo of you.
ALEC BALDWIN NARRATED TWO SEASONS OF THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE.
I was telling Lydia about how much my nephew Kaden loves Thomas, and she told me that Alec Baldwin and Ringo Starr were involved in the show. I didn't believe her, but YouTube confirmed it, along with Wikipedia.
While everyone in this photo is awesome, I really want to talk about Michael's make-up. Those anime eyes were
inspired by copied from the most recent issue of Colors magazine. Check out the original version here. If we had more time, we may have pursued a full Astro Boy costume, but I sort of love this look.
In addition to making last minute Halloween participation possible, this issue of Colors is interesting because it uses augmented reality: "Just find the square black-and-white codes printed on the magazine’s pages, aim them at a webcam and access ‘augmented reality’: meet the people featured in this issue through uncut interviews and behind the scenes footage."
It's fun, if slightly awkward. I recommend you get a copy and try it out!
Michael loves a graham cracker crust. I love a recipe with a good name. I also love getting advice from my mom. She told me to make Frozen Fast Forward from Company's Coming's Home for the Holidays when I asked her what to make for a dinner party. She left me the suggestion on my answering machine, telling me that the recipe was quick and that desserts in spring-form pans are always impressive. She was right.
This wasn't the kind of dessert that I would normally make (vanilla pudding and SKOR candy bars don't make many appearances in our house), but I thought it would be popular with the guests (who I don't know very well) -- especially the six-year-old in attendance; she inhaled her slice in seconds.
Michael turned 32 on Saturday. He prefers being 32 over 31, so that's good. This is the only photo that I managed to take on his birthday. He's standing outside our apartment building at the outset of a full day. Festivities involved a dutch baby pancake, a Where the Wild Things Are matinee (the plot was questionable in parts, but we loved it all the same), Prima Strada pizzas and a cake. It doesn't sound like much, but it wiped me out!
Michael celebrated his birthday on Saturday! I didn't make him a cake last year because he was supposed to be out of town, and then he came home at the last minute. I wanted to make up for it with a proper layer cake this year, so I decided to make Smitten Kitchen's best birthday cake.
This cake is so easy to make, so I highly recommend it for that reason alone. Also, it tastes just like those suspiciously good boxed cakes, as promised.
The most important part, however, is the icing. It's so simple! It doesn't involve a candy thermometer! Or beaters! Because there are so few ingredients (!), I used high quality chocolate, sour cream and vanilla, and I skipped the coffee. I also skipped the sprinkles because my striped candles were pretty festive, as was the gelato that we served with the cake.
This Taken By Trees cover of Animal Collective's My Girls is so sweet:
Taken By Trees is Victoria Bergsman's latest project (she used to be the voice of The Concretes). I read that Noah Lennox (Animal Collective's Panda Bear) adds his vocals to a track on the Taken By Trees East of Eden album; I shall buy it when I get home.
Everybody's making savory biscuits and scones. In the last two days, Posie Gets Cosy made a Chicken Stew with Biscuits; Emma Bowen made Gruyere and Herb Scones on Design*Sponge; and Smitten Kitchen made Jalapeño-Cheddar Scones. I want to make some too.
What's the difference between a biscuit and a scone? Also, do I really need biscuit cutters to make these recipes?
Michael and I got a little obsessed with this puzzle a few weeks back. It was so satisfying! Now we have no idea what to do with it. I know that we should just take it apart and start a new one (like, maybe this one), but I can't bear to do it. For the time being it's on the floor in front of our TV -- a natural place for a puzzle.
I really enjoy jigsaw puzzles, even though I've only worked on a few in my day. It seems like such a fuddy-duddy activity, but it is really addictive AND it's good for your brain.
We saw this painting -- The Birth of Venus -- when we were in Florence. Examining the details of the painting as we put the small pieces together was so satisfying, and we found ourselves doing research about Botticelli as we made progress -- wonderful side benefits to the puzzle-making!
It's not too late for a bush pie, friends. Michael and I saw some folks having a barbecue in a provincial park just yesterday, so if you don't mind a cold nose with your camp fire, you should try one. Otherwise, make a tentative plan for next summer.
When I attempted to buy a bush pie maker before a camping trip in July, I couldn't find one that I liked. I grew up with the one pictured here, and I'm so happy my parents passed it on to me when I was visiting in August. I prefer it to others I've seen because it's round (like a pie) and because it has a latch to keep it closed while in the fire.
We made this pie when we were in Tofino last month. Since it was my first try (in many years), we kept it simple: salami, cheese and tomatoes. This savory version is basically a grilled cheese sandwich, especially since you butter the outside of the bread before placing it in the mold.
After clamping the mold together and pulling off the excess bread, your pie is ready for the fire. I think ours were in for a total of five minutes, but I opened them every minute to make sure they weren't burning, so that's just a rough estimate.
There are limitless savory fillings for these things -- when I was a kid, I preferred a Hawaiian pizza bush pie -- but there are sweet options too. I haven't explored the potential here, but I'm looking forward to trying apple pie filling and cheddar cheese.
We made pumpkin swirl brownies for dinner last night.
Jen swirled the pumpkin and chocolate batter. My favorite thing was the chocolate part of the brownie (we used Cocoa Camino bittersweet chocolate). My least favorite thing was the cayenne pepper. I didn't mind the spice when the brownies were hot out of the oven, but today it through me off. We served the brownies with vanilla ice cream, so maybe that helped balance the spice. It did feel nice to have a warm feeling in my chest after lovely dinner, and cayenne is good for you (I hear it fights high blood pressure and improves circulation).
Jen sent me the link to The Big Picture's Autumn Scenes collection today, which reminded me to add the website to my RSS reader. I love that RSS allows me to follow wonderful websites with no personal effort.
The last few days have been sunny and cool, and they smell a certain way. You know what I mean? We don't always get this kind of weather on the west coast, so I'm trying to appreciate it with lots of outside time.
I spent a particularly rainy fall in Ucluelet a few years back, and I fantasized about heading to Maine for some coloured leaves. It's still a tentative plan.
Michael and I got to fulfill a long standing tentative dream a few weeks ago. We spent a night at the Wickaninnish Inn.
I've wanted to sleep in that place since I found out it's considered one of the best hotels in North America. Who wouldn't want to experience that?
When we were living in Tofino we ate a couple of brunches in the restaurant and drank a couple of drinks in the lounge, and last February we had a steam in the spa; but while amazing, these experiences didn't satisfy my curiosity.
I schemed about celebrating my university graduation with a night at the Wick, but I just couldn't justify the price. The standard rooms are almost $500 in the summer months! We also considered spending our honeymoon there, but we decided to go to Hawaii (for some much needed Vitamin D) instead.
So, how did we find ourselves at the hotel when it has such a hefty price tag?
It happened like this. We were at a dinner party in Tofino and the owner ended up sitting beside Michael. He found out we were camping. He looked out the window and noted that it was pouring rain. He confirmed that there was room at the inn. He offered us a "camping" deal. We accepted.
Not only did he help us fulfill a tentative dream, he kept our butts dry; when we returned to our tent the following afternoon, our mattress pads were soaked through.
It was hard to return to the campsite after experiencing that double jacuzzi bathtub. And the view. The private deck, king size bed and gas fire place were pretty nice too.
We lingered in the room as long as was acceptable before checking out, and I think my curiosity has been thoroughly satisfied. That said, I wouldn't say no to another night or two down the road, just to be sure.
If you want to see some actual photos of the room (to satisfy your curiosity) and some others from our trip, check out these Flickr photos.
You know how I like Jason Schwartzman? You know how I like HBO? Well...
We've watched three episodes and we really like it. It helps that I'm developing crushes on Zach Galifianakis, Ted Danson and Kristen Wiig (sadly, she only makes a guest appearance).
I also like Parker Posey, so I'm excited to see that she'll be making an appearance at some point.
Yes, it's a real love fest again. Just like with True Blood. Oh, HBO.
Look! I made my first Veganomicon recipe. I made this Almond Quinoa Muffin recipe because, as you know, I'm on a quest to find winning breakfast muffins.
Check out the ingredient list, and you'll see why I made these. The recipe calls for cooked quinoa. Woah. Also, I love apricots.
The final product was a little bland, but I think I can work with it. Since my success with the peach muffins, I'm convinced that cooking with fresh fruit is the way to go.
I should note that I used almond milk instead of soy milk. Also, almond meal is expensive!
I have one last summer event to document before I give up and get on with autumn plans: in August, our parents hosted a Saskatoon wedding open house/barbeque for us. Since we had a small wedding, it gave us a chance to celebrate with family friends and extended family. We ate potato salad. We drank sangria. We looked at photos from the big day.
Our parents took care of everything, and Michael and I had a chance to visit with folks that we only see at Christmas. It was fun! There are more photos on Flickr, including a few that I just added today.
I've been looking for a good breakfast muffin recipe, and I love the first one I tried. Sadly, it works best with fresh peaches, and they won't be around for much longer. Maybe you should make a bunch of them and freeze them for a wintery day!
Those moist peaches look a little gross in this photo, but they really are great. I followed the original recipe in my first attempt (pictured here), but the cinnamon sugar topping didn't stick. I think my modifications will please you.
One other thing: you really need to like molasses to like these muffins. If you don't like it, you're crazy.
Peach Breakfast Muffins
Adapted from Mr. Breakfast
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine oats, buttermilk, brown sugar, applesauce, molasses and eggs.
In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda and baking powder.
Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until just moistened. Fold in peaches.Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin.
Combine sugar, cinnamon and pecans for the topping. Sprinkle over muffins.
Bake for 18-20 minutes.
I admired Gordon Price when he was a Vancouver city councillor, namely because he was committed to using public transit - an important presence to have on any municipal council, but one that is often missing. Now I'm a fan of his blog Price Tags. There's something about city planning that makes my heart beat faster. I'm interested in how communites are formed, how we interact in shared spaces, how we get around, how we experience our neighbourhoods - that sort of thing. Maybe you're interested too?
As you'll see, the tentative plans that I fulfilled during the summer months weren't ambitious. Basically, they can be summed up with one tentative plan: take advantage of summer, already. I owe a lot to the amazing weather (don't be fooled by the toque in the camping photo) and a four day work week (I'm back to five days now, sadly). It also helped that I didn't have any big events looming over me (like, I don't know, a wedding or a trip to Europe).
Here's a sample of my accomplishments:
Go camping. Check.
Make a smore. Check.
Eat as much local produce as possible. Check.
Float on multiple lakes on an inflatable mattress. Check.
Go to the nude beach at Prior Lake. Check. (Lament the fact that Prior Lake is nothing like Wreck Beach. Check.)
Go to the Saanich Fair. Check.
Wear sun block, but spend enough time outside that you also get a tan. Check.
Don't worry about writing about all of these things as they are taking place; there'll be plenty of time come September. Check.
I fufilled many tentative plans these past few months, and I'm sure that has something to do with my new found passion. I'll tell you about those activities soon, but you can look at some photographic documentation over here until then.
Maybe once I write down some new tentative plans I'll remember my real true love. Who doesn't look forward to a cup of tea and a puzzle on a crisp fall evening?
Robyn celebrated her birthday while she was in town, so we made cupcakes, naturally. This is the recipe we used: Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting.
They were good, but I'm not sure I'd make them again. Instead, I'm more interested in making these babies: Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting. Yes, please.
I especially like that Smitten Kitchen says this recipe can be adapted for a breakfast muffin. If that doesn't inspire me to fulfill my tentative plans to find a quick breakfast alternative, I don't know what will.
I'm almost finished the quilt I started for my Mom and her husband that I first told you about almost a year ago. (!!!) I am currently doing the victory lap, or handstitching the binding. I have to say, this is an apt expression, so congratulations to whomever (?) coined it. There is nothing like binding a quilt. It has a two pronged attack: the first prong it that all of a sudden your layers of business become a quilt, and the second is that you are FINISHING THIS QUILT! Hallelujah!
I have taken a break from working on my crafting projects generally this summer. I think it was just too hot. Since it's cooled off a bit, I have rediscovered the soothing ecstasy that is quilting for me. I love it, you guys. It pretty much has it all.
I hand-quilted this one, and all of those hours were so worth it. It's hard to do it justice in photos, but hand-quilting really communicates, you know? In all examples of it that I've seen, there's some extra mojo* in there. I don't think I've ever been more excited about something that I've made. And it's for my mom, which makes it even better. Yay!
* Read: abiding love, for a more gooshy/accurate version of how I feel about this whole business!
"You're dumber than you think I think you are."
Jack Nicholson as J.J. Gittes in Chinatown (1974)
"In America, where anger is the most validated emotion, even the feeling that things are actually pretty good in one's life is considered best expressed as fury that they might not continue to be that way."
- Tabatha Southey in her recent Globe and Mail column: In the U.S., rage against the heart machine
"Somehow everything will be."
- My baba on my sister-in-law handling identical twin girls, due in November (she said it in Ukrainian the first time around)
We've been eating well this summer. I've just enjoyed my first fig of the season, so I'm primed to tell you about some other recent treats.
We ate at SOBO twice while we were in Tofino. Between the five of us, I think we sampled a good portion of the menu. I'm posting a photo of Ananda's beet salad because I didn't get a good shot of my favorites: the fish taco and the tofu pocket. This is one of my favourite restaurants of all time.
I finally got to eat at Pig's second location in Colwood, and I can't stop talking about it. The fried chicken was unbelievable. What is that sauce? Buttermilk? There was some citrus involved. There was also watermelon and homemade iced tea. And corn bread and coleslaw. Except for the fact that it was in Colwood (i.e. not walking distance from my house), it was perfect. I hear a new location is opening on Yates Street, and I really hope they serve the Colwood menu.
On the way to Tofino we stopped in Ladysmith for an amazing cinnamon bun. Michael and I shared an orange poppyseed version this time around, but we're also fans of the peanut butter bun.
We stopped to pick blackberries alongside the Galloping Goose Trail on the way to Thetis Lake last weekend. They were just ripe, so some were a bit sour, but the good ones were very good. I still have some scratches on my arms from reaching for the perfect berries.