Monday, May 31, 2010

Secret Dreams about Spooling

Okay. You know that I can bake a sweet thing. I can also take a decent photograph. I can even organize a film shoot and I can drive a 4 inch nail up my nose. But the one thing I CANNOT do is sew. If a button comes off a shirt or a pair of pants of mine, it's fairly likely that the shirt will end up in the "well-intentioned" drawer (where clothes go to die a slow and painful death, never to be seen again).

I know from whence this affliction came - it started with a mandatory Home Ec. class at MacDonald Drive Junior High School in St. John's, Newfoundland. We had to take Home Ec, by gum, and we had to suffer through things like "making biscuits from a Bisquick mix" and "learning how to vacuum the faux living room that lived in the corner of the classroom". It was a travesty and had as much to do with real life as reality television.

We were issued a sewing assignment. We could either "make a blouse" or "make a complete sample set of basic seams". The first option seemed akin to successfully completing brain surgery with a teaspoon, so I opted for the second assignment. However, I also opted to do it at the LAST POSSIBLE MOMENT (i.e. the night before it was due), and THAT led to a whole pile of tears and frustration and wrestling with our sewing machine. I finally had to bring my heaving sobs to the mums and ask - nay BEG for her help. Luckily she's the most understanding mother on the earth, so she gently pushed me out of the way, and finished the stinkin' homework for me as I stood by sniffling.

When we finished dinner the other night at Les Faux Bourgeois, we strolled down the street and came upon the window of a shop called Spool of Thread. As we pressed our little faces up to the window, we could see a man inside. He saw us too, and came to the door and invited us in for a look-see. It's a brand new sewing school, with some of the most beautiful contemporary fabric you've ever seen.

The counter is made up of over 50 yardsticks that he and his wife collected on ebay.

And as Sarah, Donimo, Mister Man and I puttered about the store, I had this fantastic vision of sewing something. Now, now - it wouldn't be something DIFFICULT like a blouse or a dress. But I could imagine making a funky apron. Or a pillow. A bag. A bunch of really great placemats and napkins. And then I had this vision of me with a bunch of my friends and a big ol' pot of tea taking a sewing class together one Sunday afternoon..... Surely I could make this couldn't I? Or this?

Do you think they could take a non-sewing, phobic schmuck like me, and turn me into someone who could actually MAKE something? I wonder. I really, really wonder..... I think I'd like to find out though!
Signed, your potential sewing wannabe.
(Or am I just plum delusional?)
(Also - if I loathed it, I'll bet I could sweet talk one of the nice instructors into putting the finishing touches on my bag or apron couldn't I???)
*lightbulb goes off overhead*
*gasp* Do you think I could learn well enough to SEW EVERYONE'S CHRISTMAS PRESENTS NEXT YEAR????
*eyes agog*
Okay. Clearly I need a talkin' to.......

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Folly at Les Faux Bourgeois

It was Donimo's birthday, which meant that a celebration was in order! And as we weren't available to go to her bday picnic in the park, we decided that, in celebration of her self, we'd check out the highly reputed Les Faux Bourgeois, an unpretentious French cafe on the east side of Vancouver. For anyone who hasn't had a chance to check it out, I have only 3 words for you: Fasten Your Seatbelts, because this is one sweet culinary ride.

Fabulous food at excellent prices made this such a memorable meal. We shared a couple of plates to start (Moules and Coquilles St. Jacques), and then we rolled up our sleeves and tucked into our mains. I had the beef tenderloin with fresh veggies and a potato gratin and seriously, I thought perhaps we'd all died and bounced right up to heaven.

It was busy on Friday night, and we could only get a reservation for the early sitting, so we didn't stay for dessert. But I can tell you that next time, we'll be saving room (and time) for dessert.

We gave Donimo some lovely tea from Mister Man's fave tea joint Shaktea (which is just up the street from the restaurant). I loved this image of Sarah and D giving the teas a big ol' sniff!

Hmmmm. I wonder how they could have smelled anything above the gorgeous cooking smells that wafted from the kitchen. I can hardly wait for a return visit.......

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chocolate Raspberry Tart with a Gingersnap Crust (AKA delicious and easier than you think)

Mister Man and I do love having fun folks over for meals. He is a stellar cook and together, I think we make a good team. He's on Team Savory and I'm on Team Sweet = Team Full Meal Deal.

We had some fabulous friends over this week (on a school night no less! which just goes to show you how much we love 'em!); Eileen, Allan and Big Snit. Mister Man made his soon-to-be-world-famous braised short ribs. I have to confess that we tucked into those babies so quickly and fervently, we didn't even stop for a photo. I'm a bit embarrassed to actually fess up to that one. He served the short ribs with buttery mashed taters and blanched asparagus. One of our guests brought a lovely crunchy salad, so we were happy campers. It was unbelievably delicious. Here they are now: Mister Man and Allan.

EB and Big Snit.
We were all waaaaay too full after the main course, so we actually took pause, during which time I managed to snap these photos of the dessert I made. And here's the thing about this dessert (aside from the fact that it was delicious - a beautiful combo of tart and sweet) - it's EASY to make! And I'm not even pulling your leg! The recipe comes from my favourite foodie mag: Fine Cooking - the CHOCOLATE ISSUE (I feel like there should be piles of reverb on that)

Here's what you do.


About 40 gingersnap wafers (to yield 1 1/2 cups finely ground)
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
Small pinch salt


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Smear a 9" fluted tart pan (with a removable bottom) with a bit of vegetable oil. In a food processor, grind those gingersnaps until they're the texture of sand. Transfer to a bowl, add the melted butter, and work it in by stirring the mixture or mushing it together with your hands. Press it into the sides and bottom of the oiled tart pan. Set the pan on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes to firm.

Bake the tart crust on the baking sheet until fragrant, about 13 minutes, checking and rotating if needed to make the sure the crust doesn't get too dark. Set on a rack to cool.

[Allow me to pause and show you this photo of a beautiful man holding a beautiful tart]

Meanwhile, pass 1 cup of the berries through a food mill fitted with a fine disk or force them through a fine sieve, mashing with the bottom of a measuring cup, into a medium bowl. You should end up with about 1/2 cups of puree. Set it aside and throw away the contents of the strainer. Put the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream just until boiling. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate; whisk to blend. Stir in the raspberry puree and the salt. Pour the mixture into the cooled tart shell. Refrigerate until the ganache is fairly firm, about 1 hour. Arrange the remaining raspberries on top of the ganache. Chill until the ganache is completely firm, about 30 minutes, and serve. You can even make this up to one day ahead.

I'll close by sharing a photo of the beautiful bouquet of my favourite flowers that were brought to me by Allan.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Workshopping for the Weekend

Here's the beautiful crew with whom I spent the better part of last weekend: Steph, Rick, Deborah and Khaira. (I am the one squirming on the end because someone else is holding the camera!) We were on high alert and primed for learnin'!

We worked on Friday afternoon, and then went to see a play together. It was The Vancouver Playhouse production of Dangerous Corners by JB Priestly. Our mission was to see it once, and then describe it for a handful of blind and visually impaired patrons. We prepared the pre-show notes together all day Saturday, even working through dinner.

Though there was always time to pause and chuckle.

Just before the show, I snapped this photo of Steph and Khaira in the booth. The Vancouver Playhouse is ideal for audio description because they have a sound proof booth (once used as a crying room). The theatre has been incredibly behind the audio description project from the get-go and we are so appreciative of everything they're doing to get this pilot program off the ground. Oh! Normally, there's only one of us describing at a time, but, given the fact that all four of us were going to be evaluated, we tag teamed the show. It was nice to share the booth with a colleague!

On Sunday, we re-grouped to deconstruct what we'd done the night before, and to talk about where we were going from here. It was an intense and amazing weekend, filled with learning and laughter. And at the end of the day on Sunday, we all headed back to Khaira and Steve's for a BBQ, where we dined on home-made veggie Japa Dogs, blackened tilapia, skewered scallops and veggie skewers.

Our lovely host Khaira:

Her son, Teva (the most beautiful boy in the world):

Our fearless leader, the wise and adorable Deborah:

Here's Rick and Steph watching Teva drive the bus (don't you love the computer literacy of the average 2 year old? Cuz in a year or two, when my computer crashes, Teva's the one I'm gonna call!)

And after a dessert of cupcakes and Beard Papa's cream puffs (oh lordy!), Rick said "hey - do a long exposure and shoot me spinning!" So that's precisely what we did.

A weekend of work, ended in play and all was well with the world.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Minty Chocolate Thumbprints

I had the privilege of spending the weekend in a workshop with a truly amazing and beautiful group of people. You may recall a post I did a few months back about audio description for the blind and visually impaired? This weekend, four of us we were invited to an advanced workshop to learn from our amazing and wise mentor, Deborah Lewis. I do have some photos to share with you of the weekend, but first I want to share the recipe of the cookies I baked for my friends and colleagues to enjoy as we rolled up our sleeves and dived a little deeper into the world of audio description.

I adapted this recipe from one by Martha Stewart. Here's the secret ingredient. These are from Trader Joe's. They are delectable little discs of minty dark chocolate called Mint UFO'S.

Minty Chocolate Thumbprints
(adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces semisweet chocolate chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar (plus about 6 tsp for rolling)
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
a handful of Trader Joe's Mint UFO's

Sift together four, cocoa and salt into a bowl. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and 1/4 cup granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in the yolk, vanilla and chocolate. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put about 6 teaspoons of granulated sugar into a small bowl. Form the dough into balls that are about an inch in diameter. Roll in sugar and place about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Press the centre of each ball with your thumb and gently push a Mint UFO into the indentation.

Bake until the cookies begin to crack about 10-12 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

These are quite lovely if you're fond of that delectable combo of mint and chocolate.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Fabulous Photo Shoot with Sarah

Yesterday, I had the absolute pleasure of taking photos of Wee Sarah (aka the brilliant graphic novelist, Sarah Leavitt). The cause for the photo was her soon-to-be published book "Tangles", which will feature a photo of the beautiful and talented author herself. (I'll have more on the book as the launch date approaches.)

In the meantime, here are some of the images we shot. I'm liking the colour ones best, but the inside of the back cover will be in black and white, so the image won't be running in colour. I did want to share some of them with you anyway, because it will justify the watching of a certain trashy reality show featuring Tyra Banks.

Is it not obvious how much Sarah has learned from Tyra? And I was clearly all "Nigel Barker" on the shoot. So, Mister Man, the next time you wanna lay down some strong words about us watching America's Next Top Model, I'd like you to remember this moment in time. The pay-off is totally worth it. Don't you think? Now, excuse me while I go "smize".

(Oh - and for anyone who wants to weigh in on which photo they like best, please feel free!)

By popular demand! Here is the above image in black and white! (Don't you just love the interweb machine?)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

DOXA - The Photo Essay

Mister Man and I went on a photo finding mission. We were looking for bus shelters that were sporting DOXA posters.

Mister Man totally got into the spirit of it all, and even suggested a shot or two.

The festival started at one of our favourite DOXA haunts: El Taco - land of the adult slurpee (i.e. lime margaritas) and quesadillas that could rival Cassandra's!

And from there, we just followed the crowds, which were plentiful.

Look carefully at this photo, and see if you can pick out a special someone making gestures at a certain photographer.....

And in between screenings, we moved back and forth between Subeez

And El Taco

And the theatres

And more Subeez

Where we sipped on espresso martinis and talked about the films we loved.

Such as David Christensen's beautiful "The Mirror".

We partied with some fabulous people,

rubbed shoulders with some notorious art types,

and some glamorous emerging filmmakers

We basked in the lovely glow of the amazing crew of DOXA volunteers.

And we looked forward to sharing popcorn with our pals (such as Bunkle and the Boy).

Look! It's Gina and Dorothy, aglow with the love of the doc.

There were receptions galore!
Contrary to popular belief, people CAN have fun at a documentary film festival. Allow me to present Exhibit A.

Exhibit B.

Heck, even the people in the line ups were smiling!

It was indeed a little slice of heaven. How I miss you DOXA. (How I could have included about 200 photographs in this photo essay...!)