Friday, January 4, 2013

[2] #51: Ink and Thimble

I love antique shops and second hand stores, where anything you buy comes with an unknown history - a story nobody browsing will ever know, the tale of travel from its first shelf to the one heavy laden in front of you with knick-knacks and Dad mugs and brass candle holders. Every one in a while, I go into the bedding section and look for a quilt. You can always tell which blankets are grandmother-made, and the gems are hard to find. I have one on my bed, hand-stitched by one of the older women in the patchwork of my life. There is time sewn there. Care. Intention. It is beautiful.

My quilts are made with newer technology, but just as much love. The first one I made was a little blanket, with squares cut out of an old yellow skirt, a dark purple t-shirt, two retired linens and a sundress. In that single piece, Ink and Thimble was born. I have since transformed baskets full of would-be-donated clothing into artistic apparel, each with a little bit of history. This square is from Florida, this one is a pair of pants I wore all the way through high school, this is from the sheets I lived in as a child -- all washed thoroughly, I promise! There is something wonderful about seeing somebody new carrying on a little part of my life. I'm currently saving up the proceeds to fund the fixing of my own sewing machine, so I can let my Mum have hers back. My Bernina, inherited from my grandmother, will soon be the beautiful beast responsible for giving new purpose to old cloth... but until then, patch by patch, I'm domestically quilting my way from the tremors of unrest to the peaceful hum of productive tranquility.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

[2] #16: Fruit Salad

For a reason established long before I arrived on the scene and rarely explained to summer staff rookies, the Wiggles have a chart-topping hit at Camp Mini-Yo-We. In league with most of their music, the song is repetitive, instructive and disturbingly catchy... You will never see fruit salad in quite the same light after watching it through, but to get the full appreciation for the power of this tune you really need to show up in the summer, just as Boy's Camp is having their cook out. Boy oh BOY do those boys blast this song. It's boggling.
While this little anecdote definitely inspired the title of this post, the general idea came from a different era of my life. In the last days of my elementary school career, my teacher introduced me to a foreign fruit with such impact that the experience of it has been burned into my memory like a scratch-and-sniff tattoo. The durian. 

When ripened it has so pungent an odour that it is forbidden in many public transit systems, hotels and apartment buildings around this world of ours. The smell has been described politely as "distinctive" and less so, according to Wikipedia, as "rotten onions, turpentine and gym socks," which is why, of course, I am so eager to eat it again. Unfortunately, Durian is a bit hard to come by in Muskoka (as in, impossible). When spring returns, I will make my way back to the Chinese market at York and Queen, and I will most certainly invest ten-ish dollars into one of these spiky sweets... but in the meantime I have broadened this goal to one that can be accommodated north of Toronto.

For many years I have stared at boxes of pomegranates with a blend of confusion and awe. This pomme-grenade infatuates and infuriates; it is both delicious and difficult to eat. I'm glad that I began my little kitchen adventure with this video - it absolutely saved me a lot of time. Ate seeds for a few hours, juiced the rest (half and half with orange is divine), and tried adding the pulp to breakfast-for-dinner pancake mix (which did not work - SO gritty). All in all, a happy new-food experience! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

[2] #21: The Upturned Thumb

There are few attitudes of precipitation that are compatible with a long walk alone. Last year, wrapped up in the romantic idealism so often self-inflicted in my life, I decided to take myself on a wandering sort of adventure down the road and through the woods wearing a costume princess ball gown. The first ten minutes were a joy; many a confused smile from drivers as they zoomed past, a bus load of kids headed home from school, a little lighthearted music in my ear... but then the summer rain turned into a chilly drizzle and as the weather half-lifted the bugs came out. I was eaten alive and had a miserable trudge for the last half hour. Eventually I gave up and called my Dad.

With this memory running through my mind as I drove through the dripping grey world last week, I decided to pick up the sopping wet person on the side of the road. His name was Ryan, and he was on his way to work in town - about ten kilometres away from where I picked him up, which was about five from where he started. He didn't say much, but he gave me a smile and kept up his end of the conversation in exchange for the lift. All in all a decent ride... and in the future, as long as you don't look dangerous or creepy, you can count on my passenger seat.

Friday, November 2, 2012

[2] #74: Chocolate and Stamps

The recipe was one that I've adopted from camp - adopted and adapted because of my love affair with cinnamon. It is my general rule that nearly everything in the baking world can be enhanced with a sprinkling of this spice, and so nearly every recipe that passes through my fingers will be graced with an asterix, instructing a dash of the good old finely-ground.

The mixing-up of cookie dough is one of the most pleasant activities I can think of to do by one's self. Something about cracking an egg or two into a bowl and watching as it is folded into butter and sugar and flour has an almost hypnotic rhythm to it. And then, by the magic of simple chemistry, something wonderful emerges from the batter. Cookies, my dear friends, are so much more than the sum of their parts.

Half of the camp-sized batch made about seven dozen chewy, melty, delicious oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies. Some of them were gobbled up by my Dad on their way out of the oven, some by the rest of my family when the work day was through - but one dozen made its way down to Toronto, and the balance were shared between the men and women at the post office in Huntsville, and a summer friend currently out in Saskatchewan. Win-win-win-win.

It was a good day.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

[2] #53: Ride for Refuge

Everyone rolled out of bed with enough time for a bowl of cereal and a yogurt, but not much more than that. The starting line was about a half hour from the home we had gathered in, and many of us still needed to properly register. Bikes loaded and helmets in hand we drove off to the race that will, in time, change lives.

We were raising money – putting our legs and lungs to the test in trade for sponsorship pledges that pool into a fund designed to help kids get to camp. The 52.72 kilometer track nearly killed me a couple of times, but the idea of more children packing into our programs, learning about the God we love and finding a place of emotional refuge (even if only for one week) kept me pumping along. That, and a quick-paced audiobook reading away in my ears. I started the race in a sweater and tracks, and crossed the line in shorts and a tank – wild how much heat a body self-generates. It took me four hours, three water bottles, two oranges and an embarrassing number of muffins to get there, but I got there. I think I’ll train a little harder for next year.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Shovel: Scoop [2]


The Shovel: Scoop Two 26/09/12

1. Go snowboarding again

2. Take a ten-day Daniel Fast
3. Take a pottery class (slash, make and bake something out of clay)
4. Find the ruins and caves I visited as a child and explore
5. Eat a meal at Renee’s CafĂ© on the way to Mikisew
6. Take a professional icing class
7. Publish a story
8. Find and attempt a pogo-stick
9. Memorize the poem “Ladies [Ladles] and Jellybeans [Jellyspoons]”
10. Have a picnic and watch the clouds change shape (like in Up)
11. Walk around a city dressed like a superhero. Eat super-sized french-fries.
12. Learn Disney’s “Scales and Arpeggios” on the piano
13. Go to the African Lion Safari in Carlisle; get attacked by monkeys
14. Audition for a stage play or musical 17/11/12
15. Borrow somebody’s children and rock out at Santa’s Village
16. Eat a new sort of tropical or foreign fruit 30/10/12
17. Join a book club
18. Make a scavenger hunt of awesome and hand off the first clue to a complete stranger
19. Have that one conversation I've been putting off the last seven years. 08/12/12
20. Live one day completely blind
21. Pick up a hitchhiker 27/10/12
22. Volunteer to read a book for Librivox
23. Spend three consecutive days in an English accent
24. Find out if anything besides corn will pop in the microwave
25. Explore an abandoned amusement park/theatre/castle/town with Polo 14/11/12
26. Complete the story birthed from my study of Leviticus
27. Play hide-and-seek in somebody's cornfield
28. Bury a time capsule
29. Make and use tin-can-telephones
30. Go to a karaoke bar and sing a sober song
31. Go to a decent sports game of any kind. Learn how to care about sports.
32. Read through a whole newspaper
33. Volunteer at a soup kitchen
34. Baby-sit for someone I don't yet know
35. Buy a candy thermometer and use it successfully 06/12/12
36. One new, spontaneous experience
37. Visit St. Joseph's Island and walk across the bridge with Marsena
38. Roast chestnuts over an open fire
39. Play a game of chess against myself in a park - like that Pixar short :)
40. Develop a convincing Irish accent
41. Tie a swing to a tree. Swing on it.
42. Learn to juggle
43. Go skating (blades or wheels) under the stars... or city lights, depending on where I am
44. Hit the bull’s-eye on an archery target. Or a dartboard. Not picky.
45. Sell something I've made on Etsy
46. Spend one day in total silence
47. Join a yoga class
48. Write an encouragement letter to the Queen of England
49. Read every Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in my collection
50. Have someone draw a caricature of me
51. Quilt 01/11/12
52. Eat only plain oatmeal for as long as I can (to appreciate the manna experience)
53. Do something that feels impossible 29/09/12
54. Go to Catholic Mass at the huge Cathedral in Hamilton
55. Canoe from MYW/MBC to Huntsville for ice cream
56. Read the book of Philippians 100 times
57. Temporarily transform the giant tomato of North Bay into Bob
58. Go to TIFF with Missa next year
59. Write a "short, true" story to Stuart McLean (of the Vinyl Cafe)
60. Get a job doing something new or unexpected 01/12/12
61. Hunt for fossils with Justin, way down south in Windsor
62. Create some art with oil pastels
63. Buy a second-hand puzzle and find out if it has all the pieces
64. Give someone working Drive Thru a CD - like that random guy did for me
65. Handwrite all of my collected recipes onto recipe cards (find/make a cool box)
66. Mail the explosive part of a Christmas cracker to somebody as a surprise
67. Decorate a random (un-cut) tree (in a park, or in the woods) for the Holidays
68. Record a cover song and post it on YouTube, potentially with collaboration
69. Get strong enough to do "several" chin ups and not die
70. Call in to a radio show and request or dedicate a song
71. Learn more about (appraise?) my Egyptian heart scarabs
72. Build a snow quinzhee
73. Finish editing Will Author's book. Don't charge him for it.
74. Mail a double batch of cookie to Ryan out west 25/10/12
75. Help make Lor's "washing machine" dream come true
76. Push a slinky down an escalator
77. Find somebody whose favourite movie I've never seen, and watch it with him/her

[1] #70: "It's snails, Miss."

The inspiration for this challenge was birthed by a ten-second clip from the silver screen.

"Escargot, Miss Callaway?"
"Why thank you, waiter-person! I'm starvin. I mean... I'd adore one."
[Awkward pause while she takes a bite.]
"This tastes like a balloon."
"It's snails, Miss."
"Good. Nice. Chewy."
[Thumbs up and a wink from the waiter... as soon as he leaves, she spits it into her hand.]
"All this money and these people eat slugs?!"

After an introduction like that, it just had to be done.

I bought the can from the NoFrills out by Stoney Creek. It was the most direct bus route while I was in the city, and it was on a trip for other groceries that the little tin caught my eye. It was under two dollars, and sat on my shelf for a long, long time. If inanimate objects can smirk or mock, this one did. I think it thought I would eventually forget about it and it would never face the shark-toothed jaws of an opener. But I didn't forget.

I received some pretty encouraging advise about this little culinary adventure in the weeks before its execution, especially from Kylie. Butter, garlic, parmesan. I add these instructions: dice quickly before you think about it too much. Diced, snails look surprisingly similar to mushrooms. Garliced and buttered, snails also taste quite like a fungus... which, I suppose, is not necessarily an improvement. We ate it with Tostitoes, but we didn't munch much. It is snails, after all.