Thursday, November 3, 2011

Weekly Wonders

http://99faces.org/
I've been watching the occupy movement with great interest and curiosity. For those of us who have asked "what's the point?", 99 people share their answer.

Window Wonderland
http://www.wintermagic.ca/WindowWonderland
"Rekindle the tradition of strolling through the streets of downtown visiting holiday windows. Ryerson Retail Management students pair up with Downtown Yonge business members to create magical holiday window displays on a budget of $100! This year there are 33 participating locations in Downtown Yonge."

The Mascot
http://www.themascot.ca/home_temp.php
We actually stopped in at the Mascot back in July but have talked about heading back several times since. The Mascot is a cafe and gallery space with a big selection of interesting magazines that you don't find elsewhere.  An art exhibition opens tonight, featuring paintings, prints and sculptures by Rocky & Junction Joe, both well known street artists.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

So very nice to meet you, Mr. Chagall

I haven't posted in ages. I've been up to all sorts, some of which I'll write about at some point.

I recently made the wise decision to visit the AGO for the Marc Chagall showing. I'd never even heard of Chagall, to be honest, and I absolutely love his work. His paintings have such a lush feeling about them. He uses colour incredibly well and they all seem to have originated in the dreams of the most imaginative dreamer.

In particular, I am enthralled with this painting, and I've gone to see it 4 times now:


This is called Double Portrait with Wine Glass. This image doesn't do it justice. Chagall painted this in 1918 as an homage to his marriage. 

There are some interesting things to note about this painting: 
  1. This is the first painting in which a Jewish husband is depicted on the shoulders of his wife. Critics consider this pose to be either a reference to the Jewish wedding custom of the bride and groom being carried, or it is a reference to how Chagall considered his wife to be his foundation. 
  2. Bella Rosenfeld is apparently sporting purple stockings under her wedding dress, which is just plain cool. 
  3. Above the couple, there is an angel, which is thought to be a reference to the couples' daughter.
I'd write more,  but I need to go have another look at this painting at the AGO...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

I am a reader by heart, but sometimes, something happens to me where I am unable to read more than a short article, here and there. It took me years to understand that there was actually a pattern: every time I'd read something stunning, my mind couldn't let it go. It was as if I could not read anything else for a time, out of respect for the book. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, especially when we're talking about fiction. But, sometimes, there is something about the subject matter, or the brilliance of the writing, that I simply can not let go. I used to be irritated by this, because I'd WANT to read, but couldn't. Later, I came to see this as blessing, because it meant I'd read something really fantastic. When I've been lucky, I've gone for a year, reading only a couple of books, meaning they were all incredible.

The last time this happened to me, I'd read Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood over Christmas in 2009, and I haven't read much since. Last Tuesday, I walked into a bookstore I'd never been in before, and a store clerk took one look at me, ran up to me holding a book and said "oh my GOD, YOU HAVE to read this book!" He went on to give a summary of the story, and for some reason, it did not feel like a sales pitch. It turns out he was right: I did need to read this book. Having read this story, I can feel that it will occupy my thoughts for some time, and that it will be awhile before I'll step into another book store.

In 1951, a woman Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Without her knowledge and consent, tissue was extracted from the tumor growing on her cervix. To the shock of the researchers in the hospital where she was treated, the cells from this tissue not only lived outside the body, but they thrived, and they reproduced themselves at an astounding rate, never seen before. Bought and sold over time, Henrietta Lacks cells continue to be the dominant cell strain used in all forms of tissue research around the world. Her cells helped develop the polio vaccine, went into space several times, and were instrumental in research which revealed how the HPV virus causes cervical cancer. In this manner, Mrs. Lacks lives on, probably in most of us, 60 years after her death.

The marvel of this story comes to an abrupt end when we consider that no one ever asked Henrietta, or her family, following her death, if they wanted her cells to live on and be utilized in countless experiments. They weren't even TOLD that this was happening, and they found out 20 years later, purely by accident. And certainly no one ever asked if they felt entitled to remuneration resulting from the commercialization of her cells. In fact, the Lacks family continues to face financial challenges in their lives, and can not even afford health insurance. This is but one of many indicators that the modern world was built on the backs of those considered inferior in some way.

Following decades of watching personal details of their mother's life and illness parade across the media, and of being preyed upon by various journalists, and in one case, a con artist, the Lacks family entrusted their story to journalist Rebecca Skloot. Ten years in the making, Skloot's obviously careful and extensive research, as well as the relationships she built with the Lacks family form the foundation of a book that reads like a novel you can't put down, all the while recounting the facts of this incredible story, interwoven with Skloot's reimagining of pivotal points in Henrietta's life which were recounted to her by the family.

You might think a story like this couldn't take place today, because we have laws to protect patient's rights. You would be wrong, as I was. There is no law requiring consent for storing tissues for the purposes of research and/or commercialization. Read that again. This means that whenever you have your tonsils out,  get a mole removed or just give blood during your annual physical, it doesn't belong to you anymore. Time and again, the courts have ruled that your tissues can be reserved for any medical purpose, and should your tissues have any commercial value for any purpose, you are not entitled to remuneration. This is at least the case in the United  States, and I will research the matter in Canada.

And the reason there is no law? Well, it's not exactly clear, but the biggest arguments of the scientific community seem to be that it might cost them too much, and it might be tough to keep everything organized. The origin of tissue samples is irrelevant to science, and at this time, science is at liberty to do what they will.

I'm glad I learned about Henrietta Lacks. It never once crossed my mind to consider where cell cultures come from, and I never imagined it was basically one person who enabled this whole arm of medical research.

Here's a weird thought: maybe Henrietta Lacks connects us all at the most basic level of our cells...

Learn more about Henrietta Lacks
Visit the fan page for the book on Facebook
Support the Henrietta Lacks Foundation

Friday, June 3, 2011

Oprahfication - 16 things I'm going to stop doing

  1. I will not magnify negative details, pull them out of context, or filter out the positive aspects of a situation.
  2. I will not perceive everything in extremes. 
  3. I will not to come to general conclusions about people or situations based on one or few pieces of evidence. 
  4. I will not imagine to know how others feel about me or whatever is happening.
  5. I will not expect disaster or focus on the "what ifs" of a situation. 
  6. I will not question my own worth by assuming that things people do and say are a reaction to me, and I will not compare myself to others. 
  7. I will not assume responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around me
  8. I will not imagine that everyone has the concept of "fairness" as I do. 
  9. I will not blame myself for every problem around me or think that I can change it. 
  10. I will not think that I do not have a right to assert my needs, say no, or go elsewhere for what I want. 
  11. I will not keep a list of rules about how myself and others should act all the time. 
  12. I will not believe that whatever negative thing I feel about myself is true. 
  13. I will not depend on others for my hopes and happiness. 
  14. I will not label myself. 
  15. I will not assume that being correct is more important than being caring. 
  16. I will not expect that whatever self-sacrifices and self-denials that I choose to make will pay off. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wash those fruits and veggies

We've probably all heard about the food poisoning scare with vegetables in parts of Europe, and since the source has not actually been determined, this got me wondering about precautions we can take. Summer is upon us here in Canada, and so, hopefully, we're all eating more raw fruits and vegetables, but I wonder how many of us are being mindful of proper cleaning and handling? We all get educated somewhere along the line about food safety in handling meats, but when is the last time you heard anything about food-borne illness in produce, or something about proper cleaning of fruits and vegetables.

After doing a bit of reading, it seems that raw fruits and vegetables are in fact a serious potential source of food poisoning, especially in countries like Canada where much of our produce is imported from far off places, for much of the year. It also seems that washing them does not necessarily prevent food poisoning because some bacteria can make their way through the skins and leaves. That being said, there is evidence to suggest that washing does reduce the incidence, and this article on About.com makes the icky point that by the time your produce gets to you, it's been handled by many pairs of hands.

So, wash those fruits and veggies, and then wash them again. I am a firm believer in soaking, actually. I have a very big stainless steel bowl that I use for this purpose only. I fill the bowl with cold water and a few drops of vinegar, and then I add the produce. I especially love using this method for spinach, lettuce and all kinds of greens, because while the leaves float, the dirt and grime sinks to the bottom. I soak some things like berries for up to an hour, but most things are soaked for a 5-10 minutes, rinsed in my colander under cold water, and either left in the colander to dry, or dried with paper towel. If you do this with your lettuce, wrap it in paper towel (or keep a dish towel for this purpose only which you wash in hot water and bleach after each use), your lettuce will stay fresh and crisp for over a week. I learned this from Nik Manojlovich on Savoir Faire years ago.

By the way, enjoy local produce while we've got it. Buy lots, buy often, and if you need some inspiration, Foodland Ontario has a wonderful of selection of recipes.

Happy summer!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hot Docs

The Hot Docs festival took place earlier this year, and I haven't had a chance to write about it until now. This year we finally made a point to attend; we loved both films, and we're actually thinking of getting a pass next year.

First, we saw Foreign Parts, which was an unexpectedly engrossing and emotional view into the community of Willets Point, a small area behind the New York Mets stadium, where people make a living stripping broken down cars and reselling the parts. It is interesting to see how a community has formed in a geographically unfriendly space, and the residents care for their own.

Second, we saw Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, which didn't do so well in the reviews, but I feel like it was put under a microscope due to the subject matter. There was some criticism which suggested that the film was cold and that the footage didn't feel exclusive. To me, that's partly the point of the film, which was fully intended to be a montage of lost footage, taken 30 years ago by Swedish journalists, who are known for their detailed, factual approach to the subjects they explore. Anyway, we loved it. It was visually stunning and had a great soundtrack. I can't confirm the "exclusivity" of the content, but I have been inspired by Angela Davis all my life, and have seen a great deal of video featuring her speaking, and I have never seen the piece that is included in this film. If you watch this movie for no other reason, you've got to hear Angela Davis answer the question "do you advocate violence?" It takes her a good 10 minutes of verbal brilliance to give the simplest of answers: "you're asking ME about violence?" Anyway, there's a decent review of the movie here: .The Documentary Blog » Sundance Review: Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Vegetable Tacos with Chipotle Sour Cream and Smoky Black Beans

I came across this recipe in February's O magazine. I don't read this magazine very often these days. Too much reading! Anyway, I cut a few corners, added a vegetable, and this turned out great.

  1. Slice up some radishes, plus a couple of green onions, and mix them with a bag of pre-made coleslaw mix from the grocery store.
  2. Dress this salad with a few splashes of Rice Wine Vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Mash up half a small can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce* with a fork and then mix it with a small container of light sour cream or plain yoghurt. Set aside.
  4. Mix half a bag of frozen corn, a chopped onion, a couple of chopped green peppers, a chopped Chinese eggplant and a can of rinsed black beans in a pan.
  5. Dress the mixture with the juice from a couple of limes, a good dash of ground cumin, a spoonful of chili sauce and salt and pepper. Roast at 350 for about half an hour.
  6. Warm up a package of whole wheat or corn tortillas, and wrap up the veggies and the coleslaw, topped with the sour cream mixture.
*It's a pretty spicy sauce. You can reduce the heat factor by slitting the peppers and removing the seeds. If you can't find these peppers, or you don't want the heat, you could mix the sour cream with a good salsa instead, and then I'd probably put a couple of dashes of cumin in to get the "smoky" flavour. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekly Wonders - April #2

Well, I missed a week of wonders, but if you noticed that my only post last week was about migraines, you get the picture of what my week was like. Here are a few things I've come across this week that I wanted to share. Enjoy, and happy spring.

Beauty
Spring is coming and that means we're all fixing ourselves up after a long winter of covering up. Has everyone heard of Shellac manicures? My nail tech talked me into it one day, and I'm so glad I went for it. It is a special kind of polish that is dried and cured with quick stints under a UV light. It's the most amazing thing! The durability and wearability is the same as with acrylic or gel nails, minus the filing down of your own nails, minus mandatory return trips for refills, and minus the time. And unlike a regular manicure, your nails are instantly dry, as opposed to walking around like you're prepping for surgery for 24 hours. Check it out: Say Hello to Shellac - CND

Event
There is nothing I love more at Christmas than a local craft show, and by local, I DO NOT mean One of a Kind. Other than being an alternative to a trip to the mall, there is nothing there of any real interest. Anyway, it's been months since I've gone to a craft show, and it's not exactly spring here yet, so this sounds like a great way to spend an hour or two tomorrow: Creative Heart Collective Spring Craft Show. A $2 donation at the door goes to the Corsage Project, which is a local non-profit which aims to provide no charge formal attire Toronto high school girls who can not afford dresses.

Cooking
Fans of Heidi Watts of 101 Cookbooks are very excited about the publication of her second book, Super Natural Every Day. From the website: "Heidi helps us make nutritionally packed meals part of our daily repertoire by sharing a sumptuous collection of nearly 100 of her go-to recipes." Sounds great to me! She is also offering a PDF sampler of 6 recipes here. 


Decorating 
I'm still thinking about the colour scheme of the main floor in our home. We need light and bright. After 4 years of reds and golds, we need a makeover. I came across this home featured on Design Sponge, and I absolutely love this palette. Their home is more modern than my own, but I think this scheme works beautifully. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

What happens when I get a migraine

Migraines are different for everyone, and some people refer to a bad headache as a migraine. I grew up watching my mom deal with them, and never understood how she felt until I started getting them when I was around 10. They don't really know what causes them, but there are some common triggers. Some of us are greatly affected by changes in weather, for example. Mine vary in severity, from what I think of as a Level 1, where I have a bit of pain that does not really stop me from doing anything, and does not progress. That is what I thought I had early this morning, so I went to work as per usual. However, what was really happening is that I was getting a Level 3 migraine, and here is what happened to me.

By 10:30 I was having nausea and increasing pain. I had two glasses of cold water, went outside for a minute, and then went back to my desk. At 11:20 I decided to take a Maxalt and I thought I would not get any worse so I went to my meeting. By noon, I had ringing in my ears, reduced speech function, and when I closed my eyes, I would see flashes of light. I really wanted to stay until the end of the meeting, and thankfully, it wrapped up early. I went back to my desk and then it was like my body temperature would shoot way up, and then plummet. The pain was getting much worse and I knew I had to go home.

One problem I have when it is getting bad is poor judgement. I knew enough to put my sunglasses on to block the light, but I took the streetcar home. The noise and motion were just about unbearable.
I got home, got my ice pack out of the freezer, wrapped it around my head, put the hot water bottle at back of my neck and laid in the dark. I fell asleep at some point, and when I awoke, Maxalt had worked it's wonders, and I could function again.

Why am I writing this? I guess I partly want to discredit the idea that a migraine is just a bad headache. I need people to understand that when I actually say that I have a migraine, it's pretty damn bad, because for each time I say something, there were 5 times that I didn't, because I was able handle what was happening. But there are times like today when I can not function at all. I can't think, speak or do anything at all. These are the times when people like my sister, my mother and my myself simply have to retreat. We don't want to, and we worry about what we've missed in work and life, but we really have no choice.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Found Toronto - Yonge Street's music heyday

We caught this show today and I'm so glad we did: Yonge Street - Toronto Rock n' Roll Stories. I just loved it, and I still have 50 windows open in my browser from looking up all the interesting people who came up in this show. 

My dad has made a few references to the Toronto music scene in the 60's but only now do I understand that was happening here at that time was actually quite monumental. The clubs, the music and the people of that time period here in Toronto were key components of the development of a cultural revolution in North America and Britain. In short, they were innovators who informed the construction of R&B and rock as we know it. There was a "Canadian sound," it was influential, and it was respected. 

There are a few key things that I learned in this documentary that have further cemented my love of this city: 

1. Until now, I thought Ronnie Hawkins was a quaint, local attraction, but not in the least. He had his hands in on some really huge musical undertakings. Bob Dylan's manager sent him here to be inspired by Ronnie Hawkin's band and Dylan actually hired them to play with him at Massey Hall. Hawkins also put together  what eventually became The Band, and plus, he orchestrated Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie Band. I'm sorry, Ronnie! You are The Man, and most of us seriously had  no idea. 

2. Toronto had an R&B scene? In the 60's? We sure did. John Finley, a white kid from Aurora made his way to Yonge St, sang some James Brown tunes, and suddenly, there was A Scene. I couldn't find a clip on YouTube that does him justice, but here they are doing Shotgun. How cool is that? 

3. Jackie Shane was another important part of the development of Canadian R&B. He was Canada's first openly gay and transgendered performer to record a hit song. What a voice. Check out Any Other Way. What a fantastic song. "Tell her I'm happy, tell her I'm gay, tell her I wouldn't have it any other way."

Watching this documentary has made me wonder where music would be today if none of this had happened here, but also, what would would have happened if these and other talented Canadians had the support of the American music industry? I also wonder what it would have been like to actually spend a night on Yonge St., wandering up and down the street through the clubs and hearing great music. I'll have to ask my dad. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekly Wonders - March #4

Radio
I love CBC radio. I've been listening to and enjoying Q on Radio 1 every day this week. Host Jian Ghomeshi provides smart and funny commentary with a variety of guests from the arts, culture and entertainment sphere. His guests this week included Dan Savage and Jean Paul Gaultier, plus a lively discussion of whether the proposed ban on shark fin soup is in fact racist. Q airs from 10 am to 11 am and again at 10 pm here in Toronto.

Article 
I didn't know much about Detroit, but have heard bits and peices about how the decline of the auto industry and the mortgage crisis has caused a massive drop in population over the last 10 years. I had no idea that it's actually a 25% drop in population. 25%! This article explains the fallout and gives a glimpse of the future of this interesting city. line.

Events
I've learned that few people know about the great performances put on by U of T. There is a range of theatre, music, dance and lectures which are all very affordable. $15 for a well produced play? You can't argue with that. I saw The Rocky Horror Show here a couple of weeks and it was fantastic. The next big stage production is Rent and I'm hoping to make it.  One show has sold out already, so it would seem to be a good idea to grab tickets soon. Noam Chomsky is coming in April, but sadly, this lecture is sold out. There is a full list of events on the U of T Tix web site.

Restaurant 
Those of us in the Chinatown area are excited for the opening of Ocho at Spadina and Phoebe. Ocho is a boutique hotel that is providing us with a much needed non-Asian dining for the area, plus a bar, coffee house and a hotel with 12 rooms, which opens in June.

Ocho is a beautiful space which has maintained much of what looks like the original brick interior. Huge windows bring in beautiful light, and the furnishings are all warm woods, some of which has a vintage feel.

Dark Horse's arrival last spring singalled a change in the area, and Ocho is following through by providing a clean, stylish and comfortable space in an area otherwise void of such destinations. As Dark Horse has gained a loyal following, it is often impossible to find seating, so it has unfortunately become an unreliable meeting spot. Ocho is filling the gap with their own Espresso bar and casual atmosphere in the downstairs space. Upstairs is a lovely dining room with a bar at the back. There are small lunch and dinner menus that cover range of tastes and price points. They are open at 7 every day, and they do pastries and coffee on week day mornings, with the addition of a brunch menu on the weekends. And I hope you're sitting down, because there's going to be a patio!

I'm also impressed with Ocho already demonstrating a committment to improving the community by cleaning up that dark, seedy little park that is adjacent to Ogden Public School. Ocho staff clean up the park daily, and they have installed bright lights to deter night time visitors who have concerning intentions.

Please join us in welcoming Ocho to the area by stopping in for at least a coffee.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weekly Wonders - March #3

Newsletter
In these days of RSS, Twitter, and the like, newsletters seem so quaint. But I think they still have their place, and there's still lots of good ones around. One that I was undecided about is Ref Desk's Site of the Day, because I felt like I've seen it at all, and have so much coming at me already. However, it's a great little email and one of the few that I read every day. They always remind me of a web site I haven't been to in a long time and there's always something useful to read.

Event
I've mentioned The Moth a couple of times on my blog, but if you're local, you should check out Toronto's monthly MothUp. It's a live event, held at a cute little place called No One Writes To The Colonel at 460 College near Bathurst. Basically, there is a theme each month and people sign up to tell stories on that theme at the event. I have yet to tell a story, but I love listening. I can't say all of them will be "great," but it's always a good time. NOTE: you MUST get there before 7 or you will not get in.

Movie
We saw Another Year yesterday at  Carlton Cinema, and I'm still undecided on it. I loved the main characters, but felt depressed by all the others. It's a simple story that revolves around one British couple and a year of their lives, including life events of their friends and family. Ruth Sheen does a lovely job of the Gerri character, and as my husband put it, we could all take relationship lessons from her.

Pub
We visited the Auld Spot Pub last Tuesday, and we both had the fish 'n chips. It is truly the best I've had in a long time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekly Wonders - March #2

Well, I've had a busy week and several migraines, so I didn't have a chance to read or watch much, and I didn't get out at all. Still, here a few things that I came across this week that you might find interesting.

Event
It was International Women's Day this past Tuesday. If you're wondering why we need still need this day, check out this great piece from Shameless Magazine which explains it all. If you're in Toronto, the rally and march are tomorrow. See IWD.org for more info.

Podcast
I listen to This American Life just about every week, and they are all great, but every once in awhile something very interesting pops out at me. I listened to Oh You Shouldn't Have earlier in the week, and enjoyed it greatly. In the first part of the show, there is a segment on This Is Your Life, and I never once considered that the people who were featured on that show might not have wanted to be there. A couple of old segments are discussed in this podcast, and I was amazed to learn that an airing of This Is Your Life was actually the first time a holocaust survivor's story was ever televised.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/428/oh-you-shouldnt-have

Reading
If you've ever had the experience of being sucked in to someone's drama online, whether you did or didn't know the person, this article will speak to you. It will also speak to you if you've ever watched a loved one get sucked in, because chances are, the person doing the pulling pulled your loved one away from you and your life together. I think this whole concept of people enjoying the emotional response they can elicit from people online (including via text and messaging) is worth exploring, not just in the context of faked illness. I myself have been pulled into other kinds of drama, by people I know, online. I also think the people who believe online communication is less personal than real life communication are mistaken.

Sick note: Faking illness online | M√ľnchausen by internet | Life and style | The Guardian

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Weekly Wonders - March #1

Podcast
We had the great pleasure of listening to The Moth podcast this week, which featured Jeff Simmerson telling the hilarious story A Giant Lizard Ate My Pants. Jeff's blog is equally fun, so check it out. There's a link to the podcast in the menu on the right. 

Documentary 
Have you ever wondered about the bands who played for the likes of Marvin Gaye or The Supremes? Lend your ear to the music itself, and it's amazing work. Well, it turns out, a little known band of highly talented musicians who called themselves The Funk Brothers were the backbone of many Motown greats. We came across their documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown the other night, and I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of great music. There are fantastic performances with Joan Osborne, Chaka Khan and Ben Harper. You can read more about The Funk Brothers, and order a copy of the DVD on the web site.

Movie
Jack Goes Boating is a major hidden gem. It does not have a high rating on IMDB, but the ability of the majority of IMDB voters to judge independent cinema is questionable. As one of two of Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial efforts, this film highlights his talent beautifully. He always excels in playing believable characters himself, and in this movie, he excels in mentoring other actors to do the same. 


Decorating
Spring is coming, and spring is when my thoughts turn to decorating. I just love this house. When we moved into our current home, I chose a warm colour scheme, and I totally regret it, because, at the time, I did not gather that the living room (where we spend most of our time) gets very little natural light, so warm, in this case, means dark. So I love how this home's palette is comprised of cool colours. A few of other loves:

1. I haven't yet figured out how to pair clean, modern lines with shapelier furniture. I love how she's placed simple Ikea-esque pieces so well with others that they have warmth.

2. I have been contemplating painting a few furniture pieces, so I love those green and yellow pieces.

3. It has never occurred to me to put two small carpets together to make a larger one. What a great idea.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Two quick treats for an unexpected Saturday at home

We rarely have a Saturday at home. We were supposed to be visiting family up north today, however, we did not make it due to this. High wind! High wind in downtown Toronto. It is truly bizarre. I can't go outside because I have great hair today, which no one will see. Isn't it ironic? I can be really mean sometimes, eh?

I had my bi-annual craving for Cream of Tomato soup earlier but didn't want to go outside, so I made some, in about 10 minutes, and it was excellent. A little while after that, we both had the munchies, and again, neither of us wants to go outside, so I made them. In the microwave. Really. They were great! I thought the microwave might have a fit because it normally only makes popcorn. But not commercial microwave popcorn, because that stuff will kill you. We make this instead.

Quick Cream of Tomato Soup

1 finely chopped onion
1 finely chopped clove of garlic
1 bay leaf
1 T of olive oil
1 bottle stewed, strained tomatoes
1 T of butter
1 can of 2% evaporated milk

  1. Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a large pot over low heat, just until the onion is soft. 
  2. Add the bay leaf and stir the pot for about 2 minutes. You just want the flavour. Then remove the bay leaf. Add the bottle of tomatoes to the pot, and let the pot come to a simmer. 
  3. Add the butter and let it melt.
  4. Add the can of milk and stir well. 
  5. Optional - give it a whiz with a hand blender. I might not bother next time. 
  6. Serve and enjoy. 

Microwave Potato Chips

  1. Slice 3 medium potatoes very thinly. I used my mandolin, and it took a bit of time. 
  2. Lay the slices in a single layer on a piece of parchment paper that will fit in your microwave. 
  3. Sprinkle with salt.
  4. Lay the parchment paper on the bottom of your microwave. I have a turntable and it worked fine.
  5. Microwave on high for 4 minutes, or until brown spots start to appear. You'll need to do a test batch. 
  6. Let cool and enjoy.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rearview Mirror - 2010

2010, also known by many as Year of Crap. I actually had a pretty good, and productive year, punctuated by a few sad events.

The ups
  1. Put myself back in a classroom, after many years, and it was wonderful. 
  2. Started volunteering as a tutor to newcomer kids at the library, and they continue to amaze and entertain me. 
  3. Got our darling Mister, and have thoroughly enjoyed having a kitten again. 
  4. Did not touch a significant investment for an entire year. 
  5. Saw more of our families. 
  6. Had my family, including my father, who hates pets, over for dinner.
  7. Refinished our damn stairs, which changed our lives.
  8. Convinced Sweetie that she will not be dog-napped from the backyard.
  9. Ran into an old friend, discovering that she has lived around the corner for years. 
  10. Took a break from having a cleaner, did it myself, and greatly improved our finances as a result. 
  11. Following various arguments with various doctors, I was finally diagnosed with a health issue, for which I am now medicated, and feeling better than I have in years. 
  12. Had the wonderful experience of having a visit from an online friend, who turned out to be just as amazing in person.
  13. Had a long overdue talk about family history with my uncle.
  14. Met up with a childhood friend, and was delighted to find that we still laugh like kids, at the same things we did then.
The downs, with some ups


Now, I can't close 2010 without documenting a few sad events.
  1. G20 - you were nuts, you hit us out of nowhere, and you forever changed how we feel about our city and our country, for the worse. On the upside, we're all a little more aware of how much we value our freedoms.
  2. Rob Ford - we saw you coming, Mr. Mayor, but it still felt like a punch in the stomach when the Greater Toronto Area seemed to give everyone who actually lives in Toronto the finger by voting you in. On the upside, we're all a little more aware of how much we value our lifestyle.
  3. I lost a great boss, and a couple of other fun people at work. I also had to leave the best workspace I've ever had. On the upside, I am starting to think about the future of my career.
  4. We lost our beloved yard for the entire summer, and it felt like such a ripoff. On the upside, I think we got out more.
  5. Finally, and most sadly, we lost grama. Since that night, I have realized there were a lot of conversations we should have had, and things I should have asked her to teach me to do, like knit.
So, there we have it, a year in 15 points. Let's see what my 2011 list will look like...

Scrapbook

This is a collection of things I plan to do or make.

Soft Gingersnap Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks

 







 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Uber List for 2011

UPDATED: April 4, 2011

I first came across the idea of creating an annual Uberlist when I stumbled on The Knotty Yarn blog. The blog owner told me that she was inspired by The Thrifty Knitter. I think making these lists is a great way to document your ideas, and try to keep yourself on track more throughout the year. I suspect my list will grow over the course of the year, but here's what I'm starting out with:
  1. Cooking - Go through To Cook list, and cook 5 new things
  2. Cooking - Learn to bake a decent cake from scratch
  3. Cooking - Learn to bake a great loaf of bread
  4. Cooking - Make fondue at least once
  5. Culture - Browse at the library - DONE - doing this weekly
  6. Culture - Do a couple of family/friend days at the AGO - 2 down!
  7. Culture - See 4 plays - 1 down!
  8. Culture - See more independent theatre
  9. DIY - Design and sew a simple cotton summer dress
  10. DIY - Learn to make simple sewing patterns - skirt, dress, top
  11. DIY - Make some sort of mat from scraps
  12. DIY - Try to make accessories before buying them
  13. DIY - Try to sew things with fabric I already have, or makeover old clothing, before buying new clothing
  14. Education - Take a class in collage
  15. Education - Read 1 non-fiction book a month
  16. Education - Read 5 business/productivity books
  17. Education - Take 2 remaining BA classes
  18. Education - Take a knitting class - DONE!
  19. Education - Take driving lessons
  20. Education- Write one short peice of fiction.
  21. Entertainment -Watch all The Exorcist movies
  22. Family - Call my mom more
  23. Family - Have a family picnic in the summer
  24. Family - Have a party
  25. Family - Host 3 family events - 1 down! 
  26. Family - See both sides of family more - this one was vague, but I think we've improved
  27. Health - Buy only organic makeup - so far, so good
  28. Health - Check out nutritional detox options
  29. Health - Do not consume artificial sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup - so far, so good
  30. Health - Don't buy makeup unless I'm out of something
  31. Health - Drink more water and green tea
  32. Health - Eat meat only 3 times a week - so far, so good
  33. Health - Eat more beans  - so far, so good
  34. Health - Investigate alternative therapies for migraine
  35. Health - Watch the salt
  36. Health - Find a massage therapist
  37. Home - Brush all pets once a week.
  38. Home - Create a project space at home - DONE!
  39. Home - Do the photo wall in the living room. - changed my mind, now looking for art
  40. Home - Finish upstairs rooms
  41. Home - Organize craft and sewing stuff - DONE!
  42. Home - Play wii at least a few times a week
  43. Home - Shred old mail, and figure out something to do with the shredding. Stuffing for something?
  44. Home - Take all the old clothes etc. to Goodwill.
  45. Productivity -Pair down number of email newsletters to only those I truly read regularly
  46. Travel - Plan two weekends away - one planned!
  47. Travel - Take a trip
  48. Work - Create a portfolio of past projects
  49. Work - Do not check work email after hours or on weekends
  50. Work - Learn to market myself more at work
  51. Work - Only answer email a couple of times a day at work and close it the rest of the time  - so far, so good
  52. Work - Dedicate one day per week to working - no meetings, no calls  - so far, so good
  53. Work - Go through drawer of paper and get rid of things I don't need