Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Flat Allison

I have been lucky enough to participate in a project inspired by Flat Stanley. It's a book about a boy who is flattened and then sent around the world. I was paid a visit by a grade two student from Washington named Flat Allison. That's the two of us together on a field trip.

Flat Allison and I had spent some quality time together here in Montreal, but then it came time to send her home again. I put together a little package of things to accompany her, and thought I'll just pop her in the mail and that'll be that. Easy peasy, right?

Well, it turned into a crazy week as I fought a hard battle just to get this package sent.

I tried the post office first, but they said 10 days so I figured UPS would be quicker. I ended up lugging the package around the mall like a toddler on my hip. I then confirmed where the closest UPS store was after checking their website, but when I arrived I discovered they'd moved. (Hey, UPS! Heads up! You might want to update your site, guys.)

I drove to the next closest location about ten minutes away, arriving at 3:20 p.m.

Their posted hours on the door said they close at 3:00 p.m.

Next day they were closed entirely. And my car started to make strange sounds.

Achy, brake-y sounds.

It was my birthday the day after that, and we were all dining at a restaurant downtown. I discovered, there was another UPS directly across the street from the restaurant! Whoo hoo! Victory would soon be mine. The website said it was open until 7 p.m. so I - all dressed up for dinner and lugging this box - dashed across the street at 6:15 p.m. only to discover....oh yes...another sign on the door that said they CLOSED AT 6 P.M.! (Again, update the dingity dangity doo website!!)

I lugged the box into the bistro, settled it on a chair, fed it some birthday cake and pondered my next move. I would have to send it the following day. I was beginning to think UPS was conspiring against me.

When I woke the next morning and looked out onto an empty driveway i.e. no car, and remembered I'd promised my son that since it was his spring break, he could take my car skiing for the day. (My son was skiing, not the car. As far as I know.) I hoped the car would withstand the trip before it hit the repair shop the next day.

This meant yet another day in Montreal for Flat Allison, and while I enjoyed her company, I think she was getting a bit homesick.

That brought me to yesterday. This would be Send The Package and Flat Allison Home Day!

This time when I woke and looked out the window, my car was there. But, it was buried under thick, wet snow.
This was a big snow storm, intensifying by the minute. Fat flakes, some two or three inches across, were falling fast and heavy. See?
A tractor trailer jackknifed on our local highway exit which left traffic snarled. The snow plow buried the end of the driveway in heavy chunks. My son, the skier, would be conscripted into shoveling duty so I could get out. And I only had a few hours before I had to leave my car in the repair shop.

Nothing was going to stop me this time. This package cradling Flat Allison was going to get to UPS so she could make it home, no matter what.

After a slippery drive and several fishtails in my car with the wonky engine, I crossed the bridge, literally and metaphorically, and finally made it to my final UPS. This time they were open! Hip hip hoooooray.

Flat Allison is winging her way home as I write this. We had a great adventure.

Best Commercial I've Seen in Years

It takes a lot to make me laugh out loud, especially commercials. (Usually the clever ones originate in Australia or the U.K.)

When I worked at my old ad agency, back before the internet, the whole agency would hie itself to a local theatre once a year to watch the world's best commercials. Ah, good times. Now we just go to YouTube.

My niece in Colorado sent me this tongue-in-cheek gem and I've since seen it during American Idol. The last line was so deliciously random I got the full on snort-giggles.

Bon weekend!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Further knit-wittery

Oh, baby, it's a sickness. And there's no cure.

I completed another scarf, Twilight Slubby Blue Leicester, chunky and soft. It is a bit stretchy so I might have to redo it, but for now, I like it. It went from this:

To this:

It was my birthday this week. (Never mind how old. Not important. I still have my own teeth and I can get around without a walker, okay?)

And Youngest is also back home on her Spring break.

What better way to celebrate both than by a visit to the local yarn shop.

Looky looky. These are silk blends, soft and lustrous, the colours so vibrant I can't help but fondle them even though the sign said no touching. I figured it was like the stop signs here in Quebec. Merely a suggestion for the majority of drivers. (I'm probably the only one in this province who actually stops at a stop sign. I've almost been rear-ended by drivers who assume I'm not actually going to stop.)

But before I dig in, I have to finish another couple of scarves I started. This one is in Easter colours (below) because Easter can be very cold here in the Great White North. Or it can be hot enough for shorts and sandals. We never know what we're going to get, so it's best to be prepared. I could always knit a bikini with the leftover yarn. (And use it for a dishcloth...)

And I've also got this one on the go (below) which is also baby alpaca, but two colours blended together because the darker green one was kind of meh on its own. If I'm being honest, I bought it because I liked the feel of the chunky baby alpaca.

(I have since learned not to buy yarn based solely on how it feels. One cannot be ambivalent about colour. That's like Yarn 101. But seriously, if you felt this stuff, you'd want to take it home and cuddle it all night too.)

I'm trying to decide if I like the two mixed together or not. They're both the colour of grass in the spring, but together they kind of remind me of grass clippings flying out of the side of our lawn mower. Thoughts?

Too bad you can't tell from this photo how unbelievably soft this is. Baby alpaca is so soft, it's like warm buttah. Seriously, you just want to rub your face in it. Or chunks of lobster. Mmm, lobster...(Eldest's beau surprised us with a box of live lobsters one year, which he'd had couriered to our house in Montreal all the way from Nova Scotia. I wanted to adopt him. Maybe I should just knit him a scarf.)

But my favourite of all time is this stuff. It's a fine-spun mixture of wool and silk, so soft and deliciously shiny, the colours so vibrant it practically radiates energy all on its own. It almost has a chain-link quality to it, and I'm looking forward to wearing it. But first I have to finish it. Actually, I have to unravel about half of it because there's a teensy hole and I fixed it incorrectly, so it's bugging me enough that I need to go back and redo it. Perfectionists should not be knitting. (I thought it was supposed to be soothing?) This colour in the photo is actually toned down, since reds are very hard to photograph properly. But it's actually a very bright orange, red and deep purple.

Then I bought this (below) so I can make a hat. I thought I should get out of my comfort zone and try something other than scarves. I'll let you know if I abandon it and go back. Youngest said she'll help me before she goes home. She doesn't want any more panicked emails or Skype-begging for knitting help.

Don't you love the mix of colours? I don't know how they dye them this way. Maybe I'll try that next. I've dyed fabric for quilts, but never yarn. Hmm. I hardly ever use my dining room. I could set up some buckets and dye in there. How hard could it be?

And these, below? These puppies are a silk, baby alpaca and cashmere mix. Oh, my. They are the softest of the bunch, like, newborn baby bum soft. I have no idea what to do with them. If all else fails, I can pin them to the sides of my head. Hey, it worked for Princess Leia.

Help me. I can't stop...

Monday, February 22, 2010

This Is Why You're Fat

Ah, so that's what I've doing wrong!

My good friend, known in the comments section as Kathy Down The Road, sent a link to this book, THIS IS WHY YOU'RE FAT, where dreams become heart attacks by Jessica Amason and Richard Blakeley.

It's less a recipe book than an ode to junk food, featuring dishes like:


The Bodybag

Eggs Benedict Poutine (okay, I'd eat that)

Pork Skin Aspic in Jelly


The Meat Baby

Read it if you dare. We have our own contenders here in Quebec. Just stop by any roadside stand and you'll see what I mean.

Can you handle the greasy truth? Go HERE if you dare. Kathy Down The Road made it to page three before she bailed. I made it to page six before I stopped and grabbed some carrot sticks.

What's your favourite "recipe" in the bunch?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Winter Photo Competition Results

The results are in for the Winter Competition at our local camera club. As always when I enter these competitions, my goal is not to win, but simply not to embarrass myself.

I didn't win, but I was closer to the top of the list than the bottom.

If you want to look at all the photos in the competition, go HERE. There are some gorgeous shots, and they almost make one wish for a longer winter season.


Easter at the cottage, 2008

Friday, February 19, 2010

There are fans...

and there are fans.

It starts with this guy, Justin Bieber, YouTube sensation and teenage heartthrob. (By the way, I used to wear my hair like this in high school. It was considered very cool in the seventies. No. Seriously. It was.) If you have no idea who he is, ask a pre-teen or watch this:

Okay, now have a look at this little girl who is such a big fan of "Justin Beaver" she is in agony, a living example of the maxim "where there is love, there is pain." The ending is priceless. Thanks to Yutha for sending this to me. I alternated between crying at this little three-year-old's heartfelt anguish, and laughing along with the older sister.

Ah, love. It's never easy, is it?

Bon weekend à vous!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fonduroni anyone?

For years now, I've been on a quest for a good Macaroni and Cheese recipe. It's still cold and snowy and overcast here in the Great White North, so comfort food is still high on my list.

Years ago when I had three kids under the age of four, I lived in a magical world where dreams sometimes came true and I could have a morning shower before 5 p.m. And in this magical world, I was granted my one true wish - to have a cleaning lady come in once a week and help me scrape the mashed peas off the wall and therefore cling to the last vestiges of order in the swirling chaos I called home.

My cleaning lady Madame S. took pity on me after one particularly stressful week when flu reigned supreme and brought us all to our knees. We were recovering but weak, and before she left that day, even though cooking was not in her job description, she rummaged about in the cupboards and made us a simple Mac and Cheese with tomato slices and slices of Kraft cheese. It was made with love (and more than a soupçon of pity) and was therefore delicious.

I've been trying to find a good Mac and Cheese recipe ever since. Most of the ones I tried were far too rich for my palate. I wanted flavorful but simple, not too heavy but something a step above K.D.

I liked the idea of using Gruyere cheese because it gives a nice bold flavour to quiche, but I couldn't find it the day I shopped, so I improvised and used some pre-packaged fondue, the kind that comes in a foil pouch that you heat and serve. It was actually really good. The fondue gave the Mac and Cheese a richness without making you roll on the couch holding your belly for two hours after dinner.

The amounts are not rocket science. Play around and improvise. If you dare.


1 lb. or so elbow macaroni (I don't measure, I just pour)
6 TBSP butter
1/2 cup flour
5 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 cup cream (I used 15%)
1/2 package Swiss Fondue (package is 400g = 14 oz, so about a cup)
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar (I used a bag of pre-grated triple cheddar)
1 cup of grated cheese to sprinkle on top (I like spicy, so I used Tex Mex cheese for the bite it gives, but use whatever you want, like more Cheddar or even Parmesan and Cheddar mixed)
1 cup of breadcrumbs to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 400F.

Grease a 9"x13" pan. Set aside.

Cook elbow macaroni al dente, drain and set aside.

In a medium-sized, heavy saucepan melt butter and add the flour. Cook for 2 minutes without browning the flour. Add the milk and cream and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Add fondue cheese first and stir until melted, then add grated cheddar. Add cooked macaroni and stir. Pour into greased baking pan. Sprinkle with the cup of grated cheese and cup of bread crumbs.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Let it sit for ten minutes and serve.

Sorry the photo looks a bit like the dog vomited upholstery on a plate.

Food photography is a specialized profession for a reason, people.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Brief History of Pretty Much Everything

For some reason, this reminds me of Youngest. She has always doodled and is currently away at university studying Fine Arts. My favourite part is the "Critical Hit" but it's all clever and silly and fun to watch.

thanks to kc dyer for the link.

A Contest and Giveaway

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog

I read Maggie's blog regularly and I love her. Go back a few posts and check out what she did to her guitar! She's a multi-talented artist, writer, musician.... So now she's holding a contest for her latest book, and I thought I'd give you the heads up, too!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Even though Ricky Gervais confessed last week to James Lipton on INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO that "serendipity" is his least favourite word and that Brits toss it around willy-nilly, I think it applies in this case. Debby saw the Pringles of Scotland video I posted here on my blog and had a good laugh. Then she ....well, just go read her account here.

See? Serendipity, "the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way." I also learned that the word originated in 1754 with Horace Walpole in his fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” Huh. Cool beans.

Of course, when I hear the word serendipity I think back to the first meeting I attended at my local Camera Club. After the meeting, I joined the group at our local pub (where the "real" meeting takes place, I was told.) I was trying to remember names and really only knew one person. I don't do well in cocktail party type situations, but it was a friendly group so as we stood around in small clusters and chatted, I started to relax. The club consists mainly of men; some are retired and pursue photography as a hobby while others are young and artsy and doing it as a profession.

Patrick definitely fit into the artsy category, with a scraggly beard and relaxed fashion sense. As our small group discussed the difficulty of getting just the right shot at the right time, Patrick would occasionally lean into the circle and emphatically growl, "Serendipity! That's what it takes. It's just serendipity, people!" It's pretty much all he contributed, over and over, which was still more than I could add to the conversation. At one point our little group dispersed, which left me with my new friend Patrick. He turned to me, leaned in close, and pointed to my pendant.

"Thas is really nice. What is that? Ish that an aquamarine?"

"No, it's a-"

"Is it a sapphire?"

"No, it's a-"

"Is it an amethyst?"

I waited for the next question, but he just stood and stared.

"It's a blue topaz," I said.

More silence, as Patrick scratched his beard and stared at the pendant and absorbed this bit of information. Then his face turned dark. "Blue topaz? Blue topaz?! I HATE blue topaz!"


Okay doke. I excused myself and hurried off to find my friend. I asked about this Patrick guy and it turns out he isn't even in the Camera Club, he was just some random guy getting tanked up at his neighbourhood bar and he simply joined in our conversation.

And he has an aversion to blue topaz.

And a fondness for the word serendipity.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Let the Games Begin!

The flame left Greece on October 30th, 2009, traveling

106 days to reach its final destination

26,000 km by land and 18,000 km by air

12,000 torch-bearers

1,000 communities across Canada, including

100+ First Nations Communities

Opening ceremonies tonight at B.C. Place where the Olympic Cauldron will be lit to signal the opening of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games!

Whoo HOOOOOO!! Go CANADA!!!!!!!!! I have my red Olympic mitts and I'm ready to cheer!

Check out the Olympic Torch relay in photos.

Trust me. These are stunning.

Here are the first 44 days in photos.

Here are the next 73 days.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pink Glove Dance

My friend Lesley, a strong capable nurse with a heart of gold and mad cooking skills, sent me this video. It went viral some time ago but I'd never seen it before, and seeing as I just got my mammogram and received the all clear, I thought I'd post this as a reminder to you gals out there to get your gals checked.

It all started with a Medline employee looking for a way to promote its Generation Pink gloves. So the staff at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Oregon in conjunction with Medline, put together this video. Medline has donated half a million dollars to the National Breast Cancer Foundation in the U.S. to provide free mammograms and education to those who can't afford it, and they are making another $100,000 donation this coming March. (They are not donating based on the number of hits to the video. A portion of sales from the pink gloves, a dollar a box, goes to the NBCF.)

I love how some employees are joyful, some are self-conscious, but all are having fun.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

30 Chick Flicks in 30 Days

A regular guy named Nick from Pauls Valley in southern Oklahoma posed the question "How far would you go to understand the opposite sex?"

He answered with “30 Chick Flicks in 30 Days: One Guy’s Exploration of Romance Through Movies Loved by Women”.

His goal? To better understand women, in particular his wife of seven years, Nicci. (Nick and Nic, how cute is that?)

The plan? To watch a different chick flick each night for 30 days then write a review the next day.

The rules? The movies have to have been released after 2007 (why, I don't know, because there are some awesome chick flicks issued before that) and the films have to be available on DVD and ones that he hasn't seen. Five
of the films were chosen by Nick, ten by a pre-selected “panel” of women—his wife, mother-in-law, and mother - and fifteen by his readers.

The list is as follows (in no specific order):

1. Atonement
2. My Life In Ruins
3. Whip It
4. Georgia Rule
5. Its Complicated
6. Leap Year
7. Mamma Mia!
8. Bright Star
9. The Secret Life of Bees
10. 27 Dresses
11. The Women
12. (500) Days of Summer
13. Cairo Time
14. I Could Never Be Your Woman
15. Sex & The City
16. Waitress
17. Couples Retreat
18. Labor Pains
19. Music and Lyrics
20. Becoming Jane
21. The Other End Of The Line
22. The Accidental Husband
23. The Time Travelers Wife
24. Dear John
25. Nights In Rodanthe
26. Australia
27. Made of Honor
28. Evening
29. Valentines Day
30. The Ramen Girl

He's at day 27. A big party is planned for Friday. The movie VALENTINE'S DAY is opening and his local theatre is hosting a party:

“I have relearned so many things during this as it pertains to trust, communication, love and what it means to work for a marriage versus just being in a marriage,” he said. “Life is an adventure and if you can pursue that adventure with someone you love, it makes it even more memorable.”

Atonement is his favourite so far. The most popular most recommended chick flick was 27 DRESSES. I've seen twelve of the films on the list and can't say I'd recommend any of them except for ATONEMENT or WAITRESS. Some of them, like MY LIFE IN RUINS, are cringe-worthy. Still, I love the sentiment behind the gesture. And I'll bet the party on Friday is going to be a blast.

If you want to read the reviews and learn more, go check out Nick's website HERE.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Shallow Depth of Field and Bokeh

Anyone who knows me knows I heart the bokeh. Big time. And not just because it comes in handy when I'm writing a poem and want something to rhyme with mocha. (Besides polka.)

Ree Drummond AKA The Pioneer Woman, has another contest this week on her photography blog. She is asking for shallow depth-of-field photos which demonstrate something called bokeh. Bokeh is a Japanese word for haze or blur. It's that lovely, blurry, out-of-focus background you get behind a subject in sharp focus in the foreground. Well, there's aperture, focus length, foreground distance and background distance which all come into play but for the sake of this discussion, "blurry background" will do.

Apparently there is "good" and "bad" bokeh. Fie, I say. Just like chocolate, all bokeh is good bokeh.

(Hang on. White chocolate would be the bad bokeh in this scenario. I hate white chocolate.)

Because Bush Babe asked, I thought I'd share some of my shallow DOF photos. I ended up submitting the middle one below. It could be a lot sharper (okay, I just spell-checked this post, and I had originally typed "I could be a lot sharper" which is up for debate) but I didn't have my tripod, and the bug was buzzing about like crazy. Did I mention it was also windy? And hot. It was really hot and windy. Sharp was not an option that afternoon. Also, photography is not for wussies.

Pretty painterly background in this one and the colours contrast nicely.

This one is not as blurred, so I cut it, but I still like it. That's one crazy plant, no?

This is the one I used:
A closer shot of the bee and the flower, but the bokeh is only meh:

I love this one, but I thought it might be too ordinary. Also some like the white blurs in the background which suggest other blossoms, and others find them distracting. I guess that constitutes bad (white chocolate) bokeh:

Check out BB's blog to see her entry. Her photo of a rusty spur is beautiful, as is the woman who sent it to her halfway across the world.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mushroom Soup

I'd post a photo but my family ate all of it, then tipped the pot on its side and licked that clean, too. You don't really have to measure this soup all that carefully. Just use a whack of butter, an onion or two and a bunch of mushrooms, splashes of wine and cream and broth if it needs to be thickened or diluted...let your judgment and taste buds be your guide. The 35% cream makes the difference between ordinary and heroically good and it doesn't take much. Here's the basic recipe.

Mushroom Soup

1/2 stick butter (4 TBSP)
1 onion, chopped (Vidalia is my favourite)
2 packages (1 lb) mushrooms, chopped fine
1 tsp dried thyme (or more to taste) or 1 tbsp fresh
sploosh of dry white wine (about 1/2 cup)
3 cups chicken broth
4 TBSP flour mixed with a bit of cold water to make a slurry
1 cup of heavy cream (or milk, although may I say "blech")
salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in a heavy saucepan. Add chopped onion, mushrooms and thyme. Try not to faint from the heavenly aroma and at this point, expect shouts from all quarters of your house along the lines of, "Hey, what are you making?!" Stir and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes or so, then add wine, and broth. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes, then add flour and cook for another 2 minutes to thicken. Reduce heat, add cream and salt and pepper to taste. Eat with homemade bread.

Or oatmeal scones. I'll post that one next.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Silly videos and a question

I love the high fives they give each other at the end of their performance. No clue at all....

How cute is this kid? (Beware: this song has a tendency to become a brain worm.)

So, here is my question. A member of my local camera club, I'll call him 'Richard' (for that is his name) revealed that he'd done a search on my blog for all my recipes. Now, I've hardly put any up, since I didn't think people cared about such things. I love to cook all manner of things from cakes and breads, vegetarian and meat-based main meals, pretty much soup to nuts. Okay, maybe not nuts. No, hang on. I do have a recipe for spicy roasted pecans with maple syrup.

So my question is: hands up how many would be interested in me posting recipes on a regular basis?

(And Richard, I know how to make vegetable samosas with coriander chutney. You know the one I'm talking about.)


Who's for it?

Who doesn't care one way or the other?

Do you walk to work or bring a lunch?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How Canadians Spend the Winter

Someone who lives in a temperate region of the great U.S. of A. once asked me how we Canadians spend our time during the long, cold winters. I thought this might help to explain. (I have those chairs, btw. Canadian Tire. Foldable. Just throw 'em in your trunk and haul 'em down to the park for watching fireworks on July 1st. Just sayin', eh.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Scum, a few loose screws and ingenuity

For years, I'm talkin' years people, a leaky pipe underneath the aptly named Hell Gate Bridge has been causing a major disruption on a busy sidewalk in Astoria, Queens. In summer, the entire width of the sidewalk, more than a hundred square feet, is covered with a stinking cesspool. In winter it's even worse as an icy scum-rink stretches to the curb. It even has a name.

The Astoria Scum River.

Despite numerous complaints, the city has lounged on its bloated duff and done nothing to fix the problem. That is, until a guy named Jason Eppink decided to tackle the problem. Taking matters (and a hammer) into his own hands, he gathered bits and pieces of recycled materials like a discarded work bench and used screws, then he got to work. On December 30th, 2009, he built a bridge spanning seven whole feet across this frozen sludgsicle, finally offering safe passage to the innocent wayfarers of Astoria.

He called it The Astoria Scum River Bridge.

On January 25, 2010, city council was finally shamed into fixing the problem.

Jason says of himself, "my work crosses the line between art, activism and pranks."

If you want to read more and see photos of the Bridge Over The River Slime, go to Jason's post HERE and another article and followup at NO OOZE IS GOOD NEWS.

Hip, hip to the power of One!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pringle of Scotland

A brilliantly funny animated short by David Shrigley and narrated with understated elegance by Glaswegian Bridget McCann, this little gem celebrates the 195 year history of the Pringle of Scotland company. It was created for Milan Fashion Week and shows some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into making Pringle jumpers and cardigans.

Does anyone else own a Pringle jumper besides me?

Beverage alert. The dancing goat killed me, and the ending sent me into hysterics.