Filling in time

30 12 2012

I hate this time of year.

I’m not big on Christmas at the best of times, but once the slight excitement of even that has passed, there’s nothing but shopping and turkey sandwiches until the New Year.

To try and fill the gap, we went on a little trip to Fort Langley this afternoon. We left it a bit late though, and it was already gone 4 o’clock before we arrived. Too late to visit the fort itself (if it’s even open at this time of year). So – we just kind of mooched around, looking for a decent spot to enjoy a cup of tea. I had my camera though, so enjoyed a few shots in the failing light (and temperature… it was ‘kin cold!) Suddenly First Born yelled and called me over to see some mushrooms she’d spotted. I’d seen similar ones before, and took a few shots to try and identify them once I got home. Here’re the results.

So, as I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions, I’m a member of the Vancouver Mycological Society. They offer many resources and references for identification of fungi. One is a database of descriptions and photos called Matchmaker. This allows you to set various parameters like size, colour, shape, etc., and it’ll help you narrow down the options of what it might be.

So – not that I’d want to rely solely on this tool to decide whether to eat a ‘shroom or not, but I’m reasonably sure that what we found was Peziza repanda. Here’s a link to the California Fungi site with some more information and photos. I love the statements that (i) it’s common but (ii) its edibility is unknown. Seems the potential lethality of fungi is a pretty good deterant to people recording the edibility of many of even the most common species! No – I don’t feel the urge to settle the question, before you ask!

TIME’s Best Portraits of 2012

27 12 2012

Time magazine has pulled together what it considers to be its best portrait shots from 2012. There are some stunners in there – some of “ordinary” people (at least before their faces became published internationally!)

This is one of my favourites – David Byrne and St. Vincent. Remember them? Their excellent video can be found on YouTube (can’t everything?)

Follow the link and enjoy the rest of the photos…

TIME’s Best Portraits of 2012 - LightBox

TIME’s Best Portraits of 2012 – LightBox.

Incredible Trampled Snow Art by Simon Beck | Bored Panda

27 12 2012

Bored Panda do it again! Great find on their excellent design blog. British engineer Simon Beck now spends his winters in Les Arcs, in France. There, he gets his exercise by donning snow shoes and treading out geometric designs he’s created on his computer.

I love this kind of because I can stuff. It’s inherently temporary, in that snow melts and can be covered over, or skied through. But it is such a commitment of time and energy… all an expression of internal drive and, I suppose, love of what you’re trying to achieve. When it’s done, if it ever truly is, then it has a limited time to be appreciated before it gets altered by the wind, or more snow, or other people.

There’s something intensely human about setting out on such a grand task with no real guarantee of success or lasting result. A little like love itself.

Incredible Trampled Snow Art by Simon Beck | Bored Panda.

Too much of a good thing?

26 12 2012

So we did the whole turkey thing yesterday.

I made dinner tonight with the remnants.  Basically a melange of all the left-over vegetables (Brussels’ sprouts, yam, parsnips, carrots, russet potatoes), shredded turkey, an onion and a whole jalapeno… with all the seeds. Gently fried in some Pinot Grigio, just to stop it sticking (there was still a little olive oil from yesterday’s serving on the vegetables).

Tasty, and fixed any lingering sinus problems around the table. 🙂 Son had already eaten the remaining sausages wrapped in bacon out of the fridge, so they didn’t need dealing with.

Dessert was Christmas pudding of course – a taste of the old country, made to a family recipe passed down from St Michael. Basically just loads of dried fruit with enough other bits to hold it together, steamed for hours and then set alight with brandy. (Or rum in our case because we never do anything quite the normal way…)

This evening though (10:30-ish), the nibbles set in. First-born has always been the more adventurous offspring in the taste department and had helped me lay in some more interesting vittles for just such an occasion. We laid on a reasonably diverse platter:

Cambozola (Camembert with Gorgonzola mold – same as in Stilton on Roquefort)

Emmental – but not very good according to First-born. Apparently “proper” Swiss Emental has few to no bubbles and can even be cracked instead


Chevre – just going nicely soft. The goaty smell drove the dog mad.

Asiago – still smooth, not old enough to be crumbly yet

Castello Danish blue

Herb-covered salami

Red-pepper hummus


Wow – just typing it out has made me peckish all over again…

Wikipedia: Cambozola

Wikipedia: Castello Danish Blue

Wikipedia: Tapenade


Emily McDowell: Do you have enemies?

26 12 2012

If you haven’t yet, you might check out the quirky offerings on It’s a bit like Etsy, I suppose.

This particular piece from Emily McDowell caught my eye. Check out her other work on | Enemies 8.5×11.



Of Feta and Pennies

25 12 2012

I really struggle with Christmas.

I used to be able to “go with the flow” when the kids were smaller, yet, ironically, longer in name. Back then they were kiddies, kidlings, sprogletts or other things longer and more intricate than mere kids. Now they’re proto-adults though, the mystique has evaporated. They’re just as materialistic now as their peers – lost to the tidal wave of marketing and consumerism we wallow in, in the West.

But every now and then, I see little peeks of the great human beings they really are (despite my hand in their parenting!). The things they unexpectedly do that bucks the accepted trend of “me, me, me”. Like First-born the devout vegetarian being more than happy to take on turkey-cooking duties to give her mum a break. (I have a sneaky suspicion that her 4-month stint in Switzerland has brought her back from the Dark Side… she ate bacon yesterday!) Like second-born giving me a hug. Rare, unexpected, but so very obviously heartfelt. And third-born. Well… at least he’s not making more mess just now while he plays his festive gave of Shoot-em-up.

Second-born shared an interesting little dish with us in that never-never time between “normal lunchtime” and “Christmas lunchtime” which can be any time up to and including 6pm, on past experience. This is created by taking  slabs of Feta cheese and baking them in olive oil in the oven for 8-10minutes, then pouring a little honey on the top and grilling them for a little while to brown slightly. Eat when hot (It’s perfect for removing the roof of your mouth before the real meal begins…) with some crackers. Très yummy.

So you may recall I mentioned a local wag leaving pennies around on the park benches yesterday. I was out in the Christmas Day snow this morning, walking the dog again. I have no idea of their motivation for placing them, but today I felt a little saddened that about half of the pennies were no longer there. Then I remembered that one potential motivation was to place them there for some poor soul to whom a mere penny or two might make a difference. If that really was the motivation, then it was totally fine for the pennies to be gone. That indeed was potentially the point. Ignoring my more base instinct that some thieving sod had simply run off with them, I chose to add the few pennies in my own pocket to the missing slots as I negotiated the pathways of our little park, occasionally engaging other people in brief exchanges of potentially sincere goodwill as I did so.

It just seemed appropriate.

Us weirdos need to support each other. Even if we don’t know why. Just because it’s different. A stand against homogeneity. And especially because ultimately, it’s Quite Irrelevant.

The clatter of serving spoons on pans and dishes is beckoning me to the annual festival of gluttony. I wish you all a healthy New Year, and commend “The Random Act of Kindness” to you. Smile at a stranger. Put a tin of food in the food bank. Whatever you feel like. Something that makes a positive difference to someone else. Unexpected. And ideally anonymous.

Bugger Christmas – we should do it every day.

Santaland Diaries read by David Sedaris

25 12 2012

Happy Christmas irrelevance-seekers! We just finished our annual litter-making festival (I can tell the kids are getting older – there was only ONE black bag of recycling this year!). I just slunk off to read my WordPress feed, and saw this David Sedaris mention on Acid Free Pulp. It brought to mind a very special friend who went to see him reading some of his work in Vancouver. On the strength of their recommendation I bought and read “Squirrel seeks Chipmunk”. I enjoyed some of its dark alleys, but can’t say I found it particularly funny. Maybe the American humo(u)r is just lost on me… Anyway, check out the posting on Acid Free Pulp, and perhaps you’ll be more entertained than I! 🙂

Acid Free Pulp

Hearing David Sedaris read his excerpt about his time working as an elf at Macy’s during the holiday season is one I never tire of. Regardless of what you do on the 25 December, make sure you at least listen to the wonderful anecdotes of Sedaris as Crumpet the Elf dressed in “green velvet knickers, a forest green velvet smock and a perky little hat decorated with spangles.” Available through NPR. Enjoy!

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A penny for your thoughts

24 12 2012

Transitions are great times to be reflective. And no – that wasn’t a geek joke. OK – perhaps it was… sometimes I think physics would have been so much more fun at school if I was teaching it.

Whether it’s leaving high school; getting married; getting divorced even; having a child; losing a friend or relative; the end of a millennium… or even the drawing to a close of a “normal” year – the perceived leaving behind of one state and the contemplation of the opportunities ahead seems to be a natural time for us to be a little introspective and contemplative. But Auld Land Syne is just an excuse to drink – let’s be fair! And while we’re at it – what’s that iPhone bagpipes App all about FFS?!

As I walked the dog this morning, in the rainy We(s)t Coast of BC, I was in quite a good mood. A great friend and ex-colleague always quipped that I wasn’t truly happy unless I was miserable, so this good mood was worthy of self-exploration as the rain dripped off my nose.

2012 was certainly an eventful year. I changed jobs – leaving my old employer only a few weeks before the annual bonus was awarded. I like to think I do things because it’s right, not because it’s necessarily advantageous to me. I recently watched a TED talk about the shame question around abortion. Worth a few minutes of your life, no matter which side of the debate you stand on:

Anyway, it taught me a couple of things: (i) even great thinkers can over-simplify and (ii) the wartime king of Denmark was my kind of person!

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

Ms Cannold is very careful to show nothing but respect for Niemöller in her TED talk, but points out that though the self-preservation argument is sound (if I don’t stand up for you, why would you stand up for me?) it is not enough. She points to Pricess Di’s stance in the early days of AIDS awareness. Making a public, positive stance and embracing (literally) people who were suffering from HIV and full-blown AIDS. De-stigmatising the disease and making it acceptable to talk about. De-shaming it. Allowing sensible debate and research available to everyone.

Source BBC: 1989: Diana opens Landmark Aids Centre

And then Cannold mentioned the king of Denmark, who allegedly took a moral stance during the war. (Funny, don’t you think? “The” war! There have been so many before and since…). When Hitler demanded the Danes should force Jews to wear yellow stars, he is alleged to have said “sure – along with me and every other Dane”. According to Snopes – the myth busters, this isn’t actually true, but it is true that King Christian X of Denmark and Denmark as a nation did indeed protect many Jews during this particularly loathsome era of European history. Can you imagine the cojones it would take to do that? With no way of knowing what the reaction might be? Just because it was the right thing to do. Now that, dear reader gets my attention.

So – this walk in the park I was mentioning. It was wet and miserable this morning – hence my good mood, I suppose. The local park has several benches overlooking the duck ponds. On less damp occasions, or when people just don’t give a shit and need a rest, they are occupied by the gentle folk of White Rock watching the world go by. My dog on the other hand likes to pee up them. As she performed this doggy version of Twitter (I just went to the park – sniff me sometime!) I noticed that someone had left two pennies on the lower brace of the bench. Sure enough there were two on the other side too. I prodded with a finger to make sure they weren’t glued on (the difference between a statement and a prank).

Ha – so this got me thinking. What was the statement? I have too many coins in my pocket? If you really need a penny take it? Art? Interesting…

As I walked around the ponds I found the same “installation” on every bench but one. Here’s Spiketta the devil-dog guarding the last but one bench…

What're you looking' at?

Anyway, I returned home in fine spirits, ultimately pleased that I felt loved by those I love, and satisfied with most if not strictly all the choices I had made in 2012. And someone out there was doing weird, unexplained stuff in my manor because they felt like it. I like it that I’m not the only one.

Here’s wishing you a great 2013, and comfort in the choices you’ll make, still ahead of you…

Hanger Tea – Teabags Packaging by Soon Mo Kang » Yanko Design

22 12 2012

Hm – now I know I’ve shared stuff from Yanko Design before, but this one has EVERYTHING!

Like all good design, it actually solves a problem. In this case that issue of where to put your tea bag when it’s provided enough flavour and you don’t want to turn your drink bitter. (Of course – I wasn’t even aware of this issue before I moved to Canada. In the UK you’d make tea in a proper tea pot, even if it was only for one cup. Here, it’s often the case that the bag is placed directly in the cup).

Anyway, the problem, as well as being solved, is being solved with WIT. WIT always gets my attention. A little clothes rack to hang your hangers on. Classic. Love it. But there’s more! Word play. The bags are in the shape of (wait for it…) “Tea-shirts”! Brilliant!

Hanger Tea – Teabags Packaging by Soon Mo Kang » Yanko Design.

Book Sculptures by Guy Laramee [12 images]

22 12 2012

I’ve posted the work of Guy Laramee before, but this page had some different images. He’s Canadian, so I’m slightly more inclined to let him off for desecrating books in the name of art!

Book Sculptures by Guy Laramee [12 images].